About fourteen years ago, I stood in the copy room of the corporate office that I worked at and started barking like a dog.Read More
At least once a week I get asked one of these three questions (if not all three): How did you get published?
When did you find the time to write?
Can you help me/my wife/brother/cousin/aunt/niece/etc., get published?Read More
Reading. Ah. Yes. That moment when you open the book find your place on the page and fall right into the world you left off on before sleep stole it you from you, your lunch break ended, or your kids called up from the basement moaning in hunger.Read More
Train's popular song "Calling On Angels" begins with a universal cry for help:
"I need a sign to let me know you're here...
...I need to know things are gonna look up"
It's no wonder that the song struck a chord with so many. You don't have to be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, spiritual, or religious to cry out for help in the darkness for someone to help you in your moment of need or feel the need to have someone assuage your worries, you just have to be human.
And we've all been there. (I was there this morning. And last night. And five minutes ago...). Sometimes I don't know who or what I am talking to when I cry out into the darkness, but I do it anyway. "Just help me get through the next five minutes."
"Help me get through this tough conversation."
"Help me get through this job."
"Help me get through to my daughter."
"Help me be a better mother. Friend. Writer. Wife. Daughter."
"Help me be better."
And though I often cry out into the ether, more often than not, I actually call on my arsenal of angels here on earth, too. My husband. My parents. My sisters. My best friends. My neighbors. Other parents. And I know I am not the only one. What's fascinating to me is that when I ask people who their angels are (not "if" they have them or not, which seems to go without saying), no one needs more than a second to reply:
My sister. My husband.
My best friend.
Many, however, will have difficulty choosing just one. (I know I couldn't). They could sit and talk with me for hours about just how many of these angels they've had in their lives, or how one in particular changed the entire trajectory of their life. Now mind you, many will tell me their angels are still alive and well. Others will say, "My grandmother passed away, but I know she is with me and watching over me." The term angel simply means that someone touched them profoundly, deeply, and transformed them in some way. And what I find fascinating is what they don't call the people who they seem somehow indebted to.
Oh that daughter of mine, she is my mentor.
Oh that husband of mine, he's my guide.
Oh that BFF, she's my hero.
That EMT was my Savior.
No, the word they use to sum up someone who saved their life or steered them back on course during a difficult struggle or stood by them during moments of despair or have just been a steadfast presence in their life is quite simply: An angel.
And let's face it, we all have them. There isn't one person on the planet who doesn't have someone whose got their back or had their back at some point. (Whether we choose to acknowledge it is up to us, not the angel(s).) None of us is alone or gets where we are in life without them. In the beginning, the angels are our parents. Our mothers, in particular, who carried us in their wombs and who brought us into the world, and the ones who fed us, and cared for us and made sure we slept, ate, and were changed. These seemingly simple acts ensured our survival, for that alone we owe a lifetime of gratitude, despite whatever transpired between that birth and death. Then there are all the people, the siblings, the grandparents, the cousins, the teachers, the playmates, the coaches, the infinite number of people who affected us in someway on our journeys to adulthood. I think of my friend P.J. in kindergarten. I still remember her approaching me in the mock mini-kitchenette of Mrs. Roach's classroom and suddenly feeling all the anxiety and fear of starting a new school and being away from my mother for the first time in my life dissipate with her friendly smile. Her twin boys are about the same age now that P.J. and I were when we first met and I have to say, whenever I see pictures of her boys and see their smiles, which are all hers, I can't help but feel gratitude for their mother's friendship. I think of my third grade teacher (also my Kindergarten teacher), Mrs. Roach, and how she read my essay aloud to the class and cracked up laughing while she did it and said, as she handed me the paper back, "Good job." It is because of that angel, I kept writing. And then there are all angels that came into and out of my life--far too soon--and left holes and giant, full-body-not-just-heart-aches, but who I never felt far away from, even when they were gone. Somehow they lived inside me anyway. Their voices guiding me long after they were gone from this earth. And I think of all the ones who came in not-so-benign forms. The ones that yelled, cajoled, and forced me into uncomfortable spots, who pushed me, and made me tougher, stronger, more resilient--not because they were mean, but because they loved me and knew what was best for me when I was too far in the dark to find my way out without them. I think of all the second chance angels, who despite my worst days, my lowest lows, opened their arms and let me back in. Gave me a second shot. Forgave me. Loved me. There are merciful angels who I never got their names, but they pulled me out of smashed cars, let me hitch rides, wrapped my wounds in ERs, sewed me up in ORs, resuscitated me in ambulances, held my hand in lonely waiting rooms. Sometimes their actions were as small as letting me and my wailing baby cut in line at the grocery store so I could get home to feed him. Sometimes their actions were as monumental as driving all night to get me in my darkest hour. Sometimes they were anonymous. The bearers of 500 singles in an unmarked envelope left at my door so that I could pay my rent and avoid eviction. The maker of a sandwich left at my doorstep when I was pregnant and hungry and had no money for food. Sometimes they were all but invisible--the missed traffic light, a moment's hesitation, that helped me avoid a wreck. Sometimes they were the wreck, the lesson learned. Slow down. Pay attention. Be better.
And maybe that's why I wrote Proof of Heaven, and then Proof of Angels. Maybe, I have always known that I would be nothing without them, and I could spend my whole life saying thank you, thank you, thank you to all of them,these angels, and it would never be enough. No book would be enough. No blog post would be enough. And in the end maybe that's the point. Or maybe it's so I take a moment every day to not only say thank you to an angel, but to be an angel to someone else as well.
And so I ask who are your angels? And what kind of angel are you?
Comment below. I will pick a winner at random next week to receive a free copy of my next novel: Proof of Angels.
So here's the situation. I have no vacation time. None. Nada. Between this past winter's many blizzards, the inexplicable days off given to children throughout the school year, random illnesses and my kids' innumerable school activities that required my attendance, I used every last stitch of vacation for the year that I have. And, to be honest, I don't regret it. I wouldn't have missed being my son's "Mystery Reader" or helping him and his second grade classmates build gingerbread houses for the world. Nor would I have been able to live with myself if I missed out on all of my daughter's eighth grade year festivities...all 9,000 of them (yes, I am using my God-given right as a mother to insert hyperbole whenever I see fit).
But, I have to say, when I woke this morning to a crystal clear blue sky, the sun blazing already, birds chirping, and the sounds of my kids laughing in the living room, it killed me a little to get up, get dressed in work clothes, and leave the house for a full day shut up in a meat-locker of an office (the air conditioning has only one setting: Subzero) and stare at a computer screen all day (though occasionally I do get up and walk over to the kitchenette to fill up my teacup just to spice things up a bit).
Working during the summer is brutal. No way to get around it. And not just for me. My kids are stuck home till I arrive at 4 p.m. to take them to the library, pool, friends' houses, wherever. They manage. Lucky for me, my daughter loves to read and the days fly by for her. My son keeps himself busy with Legos and summer reading, but I know that they are bored and the days are just as long for them as they are for me. And there is no better tell than the fact that even my teenage daughter comes running out of the house every day to greet me when my car pulls in the drive: "Yeah, you're home! Now we can do something fun!"
And the fun I intend to bring. No doubt about it. I love the summer. Always have. As a child it meant endless hours of free play, trips in my mom's station wagon to Mt. Tom in Connecticut to swim in the lake all day with my siblings, visit with our grandfather, and climb the surrounding hills. It meant evenings at my Aunt Linda's pool with my sisters, brothers, and my cousins. Sometimes our parents would even get hot enough to jump in and chase us around or toss us in the air. But, mostly it was us kids screaming at the adults, who were trying desperately to sip their wine in peace and quiet, to "Look at me!" every five seconds to make sure they could see all of our cool tricks as we jumped in. The pencil. The flip. The cannonball. "The Triple Lindy." It meant red, white, and blue bomb-pops from the ice cream truck at sundown. It meant my dad hitting us balls out into the yard when he got off duty. It meant pick-up baseball games in the middle of the street with the Rendas, Kohuts, Saunders, and other neighborhood kids. It meant forts in the woods. Tree houses. Taking off our shoes and walking into the Still River and filling up buckets with crayfish. It meant climbing under the train bridge downstream and waiting for the train to come barreling over us. It meant walks to the store with my sisters to buy a piece of Bazooka gum for a nickel. It meant trips to the library. The woods. My grandfather's house. Strawberry picking in Southbury. The Morris family annual Fourth of July picnic. It also meant at some point all ten of us would steal away together to the Cape to visit our Massachusetts family or head south to see our cousins in Virginia. It meant the Connecticut seashore. Lake Candlewood. Lake Kenosia. The Farmington River. It meant day trips (sometimes middle of the night trips--long story for another time) to the city. Yankee games. Visits to LI for the NY relatives. It always, always included some large body of water. Sandcastles. Boats. (Someone always had a boat.) Burnt shoulders and noses. Sticky fingers. Scratched knees. Dirty fingernails. Heavy sleeps. And lazy mornings.
We weren't rich. Did I mention there were eight of us? That my father was a firefighter? That my mom was a teacher? But, we didn't need to be to have the fun we did. The good old-fashioned, pile-in-the-car-sweat- your- ass-off-and-sing-Neil Diamond-"Forever in Blue Jeans"- at- the- top- of- your- lungs-until- some- jackass-cuts-your-dad-off-on-the-Mass-Pike-and-he-yells-and-everyone- gets-quiet-and-scared- for-two-seconds-before-laughing kind of fun. There were no iPads, Wiis, flatscreens, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, pool memberships, enrichment camps, summer theater programs, or even supervision. But, somehow, we survived.
So though no beach is on the horizon. No trips to the city. And not even a day off to call my own, I will do my best and all to give my kids some bit of summer I remember so fondly.
And here's the 5 things I plan to do:
1. We're gonna light it up!
Yup, we're going to burn some stuff. (Spoken like a daughter of a firefighter). What's summer without sitting outside around a fire with friends and just doing nothing, but keeping warm and filling up on processed sugary goodness of marshmallows and Hershey bars between graham crackers? We don't do it every night, and there are nights in July that are so ungodly hot here in Cincinnati, sitting by a fire is just stupid. But, there are plenty of great nights that it totally makes sense, and so we're going to do it. (Props to my husband and son for building this pit. We previously just had a hole in the ground that we used. But, we classed it up last year when they built an actual pit with 30 dollars worth of pavers from Home Depot.)
2. We're going to cook and eat together whenever we can.
God bless the grill! The herb pot garden! The produce section at the super Kroger! I LOVE SUMMER FOOD. Nothing better than a nice glass of wine, some fresh veggies from the garden, and some fish or meat that is freshly grilled. And there is no better feeling to sit down to a meal and know that there is absolutely no place to be. No time schedule to keep, no homework that needs to be done, no meeting that needs to be attended, no practice that a child needs to be dashed to. Long live the long, summer meal on the patio! (And in the air conditioning--when it gets really gross out). This is a pic of my favorite summer meal: Grilled veggies, fresh basil, goat cheese, on a grilled baguette with a bit of a balsamic glaze. Easy and ready in less than 10 minutes!
3. We're going to plant and tend a garden.
Seems simple enough. Dig hole. Drop seed. Water. Watch grow. But, turns out gardening is a hell of a lot more involved. You need the right soil. The right amount of sun. The right amount of space to grow, and on, and on. You need to weed out the bad stuff. Feed your flowers nourishing food. Separate them when they start to crowd each other out. Sounds a lot like parenting, no? Cuz it is. And it happens to be one of the best things we do together as a family. Colm is my go-to guy with the spade and shovel. He'll do anything for a chance to dig. Brigid will take any chance she gets to spray water at her brother--and the flowers. Greg is my weed man. He can spot them a mile away and spends far too much time thinking about ways to prevent them in the garden and the grass, but I digress. And me, I just know what looks pretty and where to put everything. (Rule Number One of Motherhood: Delegate. Rule 2. Delegate some more. ) So together we make a great team. And there is nothing better than sitting back and watching everything bloom and grow. And I am not just talking about the flowers. (This is a Ranunculus. One of my Spring favorites. It means "radiant.")
4. Read. Read. Read.
Goes without saying, this is a must. We take weekly trips to the library, Joseph-Beth Booksellers (our favorite indie) and even Target's book section. I have a stack about two feet high next to bed, and it is growing every day. While I am gone at work Brigid reads on her iPad. (We don't judge how people like to read their books, just if they do or don't. I kid. I kid. Ok, not really. I can be sorta judgy.) She's downloaded a list of 100 books every kid in high school should read, and she is hacking away at the list one page of Gatsby at a time. Colm picks his books out at the library. One at a time. He likes the sense of accomplishment. And he likes to hold a book in his hand. He is on an E.B. White kick. We finished Charlotte's Web together last week, and he had to read the last few lines aloud for me, because I was too overcome and weepy. "It's OK, mom. It's OK. Charlotte left lots of babies." What he didn't know was I was crying because E.B. White wrote some of the most beautiful sentences in the world, and because Wilbur, like Colm, was all grown up. He got another White book out yesterday. Meanwhile, I am finally getting around to reading Bossypants by Tina Fey (hysterical), and bought several anthologies so I have quick lunch-hour reads. (More on my summer reading later). Needless to say, a summer without books, is no summer at all.
5. We're going to get outside.
Seems simple enough. There are hikes to take. Backyards to explore. The Y pool to swim in. The neighbors' front yards to loiter. The cul-de-sac to scooter circles in. I'll do my best to make sure there is more time spent out than in. But, I have to admit it's not always easy. There are so many distractions--shows to watch, games to play, Lego Death Stars to build, books to read (my kids prefer to read on their beds), that I sometimes have to beg and plead for outdoor time. Sometimes, I admit it, I am heard in the neighborhood "GET IN THE DAMN CAR! WE'RE GOING TO HAVE FUN DAMMIT!" (Nice.) Door slams. I hate you. You're the worst mother ever. And everything else follows that is expected, but twenty minutes later someone is laughing about something they saw or heard, or someone notices a cool tree or a bird on a hike, or someone is getting ready to jump into an irresistible looking cool pool, and then I don't seem like such a terrible mother after all (at least for five minutes).
Happy Summer! And those of you, in my family especially, headed out for vacation--enjoy every second, have a margarita (or two, okay let's be honest, three, but eat some carbs with it so you don't get sick) by the seaside, and think of me sitting in a parka in an office sipping hot tea and thinking only this: At 4 p.m. I am so outta here...
Today is my first official day posting to the new website. (I hope you like it. I did it all on my own. Yes, I can hardly believe it myself.) The years since I wrote my first book and launched my first website have been life-changing, and so I thought it only appropriate I change things up a bit here as well.
And now for my true confession: While I typically write every day, it is atypical for me to do it in such a public forum (Facebook/Twitter notwithstanding). And I am scared to death to do it. What if no one reads it? What if everyone I know reads it? What if I say something I'll regret (Not impossible...)? What if it interferes with my other writing? My parenting? My life? What if I fail?
So here goes nothing. My blog. I know it won't be completely unlike the times I begin to write a novel or attempt to build a website or try out a new camera. It will be ugly at first. F-bombs will drop. Tea will be sipped in mass quantities. I will sit up at night obsessing over just the right angle, the right word choice, the right picture. And most of the time I will have no idea what I am doing. But, like all those other things I seem to figure out eventually, I know that I will only know how to do it, if I just start. And the best time and place to begin is right here and right now. No safety net. No operating manual. No outline. No end destination in mind. Just me. A keyboard. An idea or two. And place to share them.
Here goes nothing.