Wednesday, December 23, 2009


My daughter found this coloring sheet in her desk from last year's Christmas visit to Bass Pro. After complimenting herself on her mad coloring skills, she asked, "How come for a Christmas picture they show a kid with a gun?"

I told her, "Because this is Texas, darlin.'"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lunch Lessons

I lunched yesterday with the What Women Write group plus Kim's mom, Deb (who is closer to my age than Kim--humbling...). As always, we talked more than we ate, although the chicken crepes were one giant leap into awesomeness as compared to my usual lunch, which typically begins with What doesn't have fuzz on it? and ends with Didn't I just eat this yesterday?

Over lunch I learned:

procrastination must be a common trait among creative types and this applies, not only to writing deadlines, but holiday decorating too. Five of us (including me) do not have our trees up yet.

that we all have our own ideas about how to conduct a gift exchange, but ultimately the loudest (*Elizabeth*) set the rules. I ended up with a much-needed lotion set. Thank you, Kim.

that the best gift to take into a restaurant known for their desserts is probably not a holiday plate with a homemade cake on it. Fortunately Julie did some fast talking and kept me from getting kicked out of the place. And, coincidentally, she wound up with my cake.

the value in sharing about your children's life experiences with others. Not only can you compare your child (who is so similar in personality with a friend's), you can gather wisdom of what she learned parenting him through similar obstacles.

that time flies when you're having lunch and that no matter how many times we meet, we never run out of things to share--although we've reached the point where pretty much nothing is too personal. And it's just fun to see Joan squirm.

about the shots you have to take to travel to South Africa (Susan leaves in January with the Touch a Life Foundation.), and that one side effect is the feeling of loose teeth. Hmmm.

the legalities of taxes and working abroad as an expatriate. (Kim's dad designs golf courses for Robert Trent Jones and lives overseas most of the year.)

that I am abundantly blessed to have such amazing friends and cohorts who share my fondness of writing, reading and experiencing this crazy journey we've embarked upon. And although you might work at home alone, you can still reach out and form a community that makes you feel connected. Even enough to have an "office" Christmas party.

(and that I have an extremely high forehead and should not wear my hair this way.)

I'm Yours

If you ever wondered what Jason Mraz would look and sound like if he were four and Asian, here goes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A found treasure

About eleven years ago, I found a list that had fallen behind a drawer in the bathroom vanity of a house we had purchased. It was handwritten in at least seven different colors of marker on two pieces of paper. The author would be about 24 years old now, and I'd love to return this to her. I should have hunted down the previous owners and given it to her mom. I'm reproducing it here, with her words and emphasis as she wrote them. I'm betting Katie is a gorgeous, well-groomed confident woman today. Let's hope her boyfriend appreciates all her early efforts.

Rules and exercises for getting a decent boyfriend, to do every day.

1. Brush teeth after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and after snacks.
2. Gargle with your Listerine at all times specified above.
3. Wash and condition your hair every day in the shower, occasionally bath.
4. Wash your skin, top to bottom, every day in the shower, occasionally bath.
5. Brush your hair before, during and after going out or doing anything, but don’t look obsessed with it, so use hair spray, gel and mousse.
6. Wash your face often.
7. Astringent your face morning and night, following directions.
8. Use the Water Pik three times daily.
9. Lotion your face very often with Mama Toto lotion.
10. Powder your face often, but not at night (before you go to bed).
11. Use good eye shadow, mascara, blush, etc.
12. Lotion your entire body, including your neck, morning, afternoon, etc.
13. Wear sensible clothing and always wear a bra, except for in bed.
14. Do not pick any scabs, etc.
15. Keep room very clean all of the time.
16. Eat from all five food groups, and take your vitamins, medicine, etc.
17. Show a positive attitude for everything, even work and waking up.
18. Get plenty of exercise and play, but don’t get dirty.
19. Keep your voice nice and practice.
20. Keep all of your shoes clean.
21. Do not act snobbish.
22. Throw yourself into your schoolwork.
23. Wear your glasses at the appropriate times.
24. Listen to your Classic 99, and keep Titanic music to a minimum.
25. Paint and do your art with fashion, expression, and don’t get mad at it.
26. Lotion your hands like heck every day.
27. Don’t fight with sisters.
28. Go to sleep at 9:30 and wake promptly at 6:00.
29. Keep your head elevated while sleeping and keep cool while sleeping.
30. Always blow your nose and stuff like that. (manners)
31. Practice that darn clarinet a whole ton.
32. Lipstuff your lips often.
33. Get good smelling and clean with perfume, deodorant, etc.
34. Floss, floss, floss your teeth to make your mouth feel clean........
35. Do not break your brackets.
36. Drink tons of water and milk.
37. Save lots of your money.
38. When seeing boys, be not too energetic, but a little laid back and very beautiful.
39. Be only bits flirty, like puffing your hair and look radiant.
40. Give them incessant glances and do help them with things.
41. Practice kissing some.
42. Don’t go too fast.
43. Grow your nails out and don’t bite them.
44. Be kind to everyone and everything.
45. Affectiondize for things.
46. Learn ahead for seventh grade.
47. Do what is needed for your period.
48. Do all of your chores.
49. Work well with your breasts and stuff.
50. Have fun.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

And this is how it started

It starts on a walk through the neighborhood. You bring along a bag of carrots to feed the horses that occupy a nearby lot and notice a connection. Daughter and horse. She should be a little afraid given their big feet and huge teeth, the aggressive way they bite and stomp when a new horse comes close, threatening to take the carrot she offers. But she isn’t.

One day she inquired about ballet and tap and tae kwon do and you figured, maybe someday. And then she asks about riding a horse, and you think, I can see that. Together you read Black Beauty and talk about what it means to care for a horse. You buy more books that explain tack and hands-high, and she spends hours in a virtual world playing Let’s Ride Dreamer, but it’s not the same.

Then she spends a Saturday with her daddy, visiting some stables and asking about riding lessons. They form a connection with a trainer named Kate and want you to check out some of the stables too. Like Goldilocks choosing her lot, you find one stable too fancy, one too stinky and a third that feels just right. Kate’s place.

And so you sign her up.

But first you need the accessories. Like a dancer with the right shoes or a martial artist with the right gear, she needs stuff—helmet and boots and gloves. You take her to a tack store and a teenage equestrian, with years of riding experience, shows your daughter her choices. Two helmets. One that’s good. Another that’s better. Because this is your daughter’s head and not just anyone else’s head, you figure this is not the time to save twenty dollars. The boots with zippers make the cut and choosing the gloves is easy. Only one pair in the store is small enough.

On the first day of lessons, you take her to the stable and meet Kate. You knew about Kate’s condition, that she’s a paraplegic who was patching a barn roof in the middle of a storm and fell through. You immediately admire this woman who has not let adversity keep her from her passion and can’t think of a better role model for your young girl.

Then you see the massive beast your daughter is to ride. Where’s the pony? The gentle little guy who has to be bribed with food in order to trot? And then you see the way your daughter walks up and pets this huge animal, talks to Crissy and laughs as the horse nibbles at her helmet. You relax just a little and try not to think about the caveat someone offered you yesterday: She’s not a true horsewoman until she’s been stepped on, bitten, kicked and thrown. Please, not today, you think.

As she mounts the horse in the center of a sawdusty ring, you take your cue to step aside. Kate’s got this. You watch this orchestration: trainer and child and beast while they form a bond. You watch the little girl you sometimes consider obstinate and argumentative and hear Kate compliment her assertiveness and confidence and think, Well, yes. That’s another way to look at it.

Thoughts of dance recitals and martial arts competitions fade away to images of future riding shows. Of one day, your daughter spending time in a barn, mucking stalls and offering apples to her best friend instead of riding in cars with boys of questionable character. You watch a beautiful teenage girl at the barn one day, long legs tucked into tall boots, her hair in a sloppy ponytail as she washes down her horse. Her boyfriend stands nearby, holding a piece of tack, clearly taking a backseat to her true love.

You can see that. You can totally see that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fail to compete but find inspiration

My son is starting to write his own music. He's worked out the melodies of quite a few songs, but the lyrics seem to stump him. At seventeen, he's admitted that his pocketful of angst to draw from is pretty empty. (Thankfully, I suppose!)

This week, he sidled up to me in the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and said, "I thought I had a pretty cool song written, and then I listened to 'Ain't No Sunshine' by Bill Withers and decided mine sucked."

I told him I could relate. I just finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett and felt the same way. I read her wonderful story and decided I needed to take up meter-reading or burger-flipping—some line of work where my woefully inadequate story-telling skills wouldn't be as apparent. Then, after some mutual ego-stroking, my son and I both decided that we don't have to try and compete with greatness--only aspire to it.

If you haven't read The Help, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy today. Just make sure you have nothing else planned for the next few days. You won't want to put it down. And if it’s been a while since you’ve listened to Mr. Withers, enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Visions of Halloweens Past

The year was 1997. The child: Benjamin. My sister bought him this suit and then I bought a back-up so one was always clean. He called me Meg and his dad, Zeus. He truly believed he was Hercules and demanded to be addressed as such. Even when I went to the grocery, Herc came along.

When Halloween rolled around, it was clear that he would wear the suit--whichever one happened to be clean. And in case you couldn't tell, he is showing off his "mus-kles."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Girls go fishing

When I was a kid, I spent many happy summers at my grandparents' house in northern Indiana. They lived on a small lake--big enough for fishing, too small for water skiing. Perfect for a kid to spend a week with her cousins.

You learned to be careful when you opened up a container of cottage cheese from the refrigerator at the lakes. Chances are it held red worms or nightcrawlers. Since those summers, I've never been good at fishing with anything more sophisticated. Artificial bait just doesn't seem quite authentic to me. Real girls use worms!

I logged so many hours fishing with my grandfather that, lying in the bunk at night, a red and white bobber floated behind my eyelids. The image was burned into my brain. By about the age of eight, I was filleting my own catches and Grandma would fry up fish for supper after dredging them through milk-and-egg then cornmeal. We always kept a slice of Wonder bread nearby in case stray bones became lodged in our throats.

This summer my six-year-old daughter caught the fishing bug and proved to be a capable fisherwoman. She caught this bass from the neighborhood pond and hauled it in herself.

The photo of me was taken the summer after I turned six but, given the size of her catch, my daughter is proving to be a better fisherwoman than I. (At least I was better at losing my teeth!) She still makes me take her fish off the hook, and I'm no where near letting her fillet her own catch, but I'm sure one day she will.

I know her Great Grandpa Wilson would have been so proud of her. I can hear him say, "Mia, that's a dandy!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I exercise early in the morning before anyone else is up

I’m working out to Tae Bo on Saturday while my six-year-old daughter watches from the comfortable chair behind me, breakfast of milk and banana in hand.

She: She doesn’t look like his daughter.
Me: I’ve told you before, he adopted her. That’s why their skin colors are different.
She: No, she doesn’t look like she used to. Her hair’s curly in this video.
Me: It’s always curly, just sometimes she pulls it back.
She: So is this a new video or an old one?
Me: It’s one of the newer ones, I think.
She: Why is everyone wearing the same kind of outfit?
Me: It’s a boot camp video where they do military-type exercises so everyone has on camo.
She: What’s camo?
Me: (Saw this one coming) It’s short for camouflage. Like animals. Like lizards are green so they blend in with the grass.
She: I know what camouflage is.
Me: I thought so.
She: Why doesn’t that one girl have those stretchy things?
Me: She’s showing people who don’t use bands how they can still follow this video. Like me.
She: But you have weights.
Me: Yes, since I don’t have bands, I’m using weights.
She: Then why isn’t she using weights?
Me: I guess some people might not have bands or weights.
She: Why don’t you have on camo?
Me: Because I’m not in the video.
She: He’s saying ‘right arm up’ and that’s your left.
Me: I ignore him because it’s like looking in the mirror and everything’s reversed. Why don’t you get down here and work out with me?
She: I just like yoga.
Me: But this is good exercise.
She: Not without a mat.
Me: You can use your mat.
She: They’re not using them. Why do she and her dad have on belts?
Me: Those are for their battery packs.
She: Why do they have those?
Me: For their wireless microphones. He’s talking and she’s counting.
She: Why doesn’t everyone get a microphone?
Me: Because we don’t need to hear everyone as they’re counting.
She: I’d want to wear a microphone.
Me: (thinking: God help us all…)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My story has been wordled

I found a cool Web site: You can enter your blog address, Web site or a selection of words. Then you press enter and this cool collage of word appears. I did this with a short story I recently completed. The result is pretty cool.

Wordle: waiting

If you click on the image, you can see it larger and get directed to their site.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Blind Side

The other day I went to see All About Steve. I almost lost faith in Sandra Bullock. (It was painfully reminiscent of Miss Congeniality.) But this weekend I saw a trailer for her new film, coming in November. I think I’m going to love it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What we know of Columbine

It became one of those moments. One of the “I remember where I was when I heard the news” times.

I remember where I was when: the Challenger exploded (at my first real job in Indianapolis); Oklahoma City was bombed (in my office in Alabama); the Twin Towers fell (getting kids off to school in Illinois); and Columbine High School came under fire (in my car in St. Louis).

Columbine quickly became a household name. It was no longer an affluent community in Colorado or a high school of roughly 2000 kids. It became synonymous with every parent’s worst nightmare: that you might one day send your child to school and later be asked to identify his or her body.

I first learned about Dave Cullen’s book, Columbine, through a literary agent’s Web site. Later I bought the book and couldn’t put it down.

What we learned from the media turned out to be so far removed from the truth. The boys, Eric and Dylan, didn’t target jocks or Christians. They weren’t bullied or outcasts. Dylan attended prom just days before he would place bombs beside his classmates. Dylan was a depressed, suicidal kid easily influenced by others. Eric was a homicidal psychopath. Their friendship proved lethal.

They spent more than a year plotting their assault. On April 20, 1999, they didn’t plan to shoot kids in their school library; they planned to blow the place up. The body count would have been staggering. Fortunately, they were lousy at building bombs. Regrettably, they had a backup plan. Before they would shoot themselves, they would murder 12 students and one teacher, injure 24 and stun a nation.

I won’t attempt to summarize Cullen’s story here. You can watch this short video below and then I urge you to visit his Web site. Then read his book. If you do read it, I suggest you flip back to the Notes portion (beginning on page 363) to help you understand the research behind the findings.

Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene and spent the next ten years reviewing evidence and interviewing survivors and the community.

What I learned was this: As parents we have every right to know what our kids are doing—who they socialize with, what they stash in their closets, what they write in their journals. The amount of evidence both boys left behind is staggering.

We also must persevere to right any injustice we see. A classmate’s mother repeatedly complained to police about Eric Harris—kids knew the boys were making bombs and amassing artillery. A search warrant for Eric’s house was written up and then never executed. So many police blunders and cover-ups would ensue. The boys’ antics slipped through the cracks and people died.

Columbine is a riveting story you’ll never forget. And one I hope to never read again.

Columbine: Dave Cullen

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Top Ten Reasons I will de-friend you on Facebook

10. You play Mafia Wars, FarmVille, Heart-giving or some other mindless past-time that leads me to believe you have no life. (If you see me on FarmVille, it's my daughter--she's sabotaged my password. Again.)

9. You brag about your sex life. Really. I don't want to know. If you got a great haircut or found a fabulous pair of shoes, then I'd love to hear about it. What you and your significant other did last night? Not so much.

8. You expound about your religious views. I know we have a right to believe whatever we choose and good for you for having a strong faith. I just don't care to see posts about it each day.

7. You expound about your political views. Again, as in 8, but worse, in my opinion. Varying religious views tend to make me introspective, and I appreciate learning about different beliefs. But political rants can quickly get ugly. Just like armpits--I know you have them, I just don't want to be exposed to them.

6. Your profile picture isn't you. Okay, I might not de-friend you for this, but it is annoying. If I wanted to check in with a monkey, I'd call the zoo. Or my sister. And your two-year-old is adorable, but again, it's not you. Think of your profile pic as a chance to show your friends how well you've aged. If you haven't aged well, then get someone to PhotoShop your picture.

5. You somehow sent me a friend request based on our mutual interests or other friends. I might have accepted you because I was distracted at the time or you looked harmless. If you post something a little weird, bye-bye.

4. You take endless quizzes. If every day I learn what TV mom you are, which Sex and the City character you are, what medieval warrior you are, what era you're from, which '80s hair band you are...what annoying Facebook quiz you are most likely to take...

3. You collect friends like a hooker collects STFs (sexually transmitted funk). If you have 785 friends, honestly, do you really need me? I'm a writer with a fragile ego--I need to be needed.

2. You tell me what you eat. Incessant, trivial updates make me want to introduce you to a life coach. "Just had three donuts and a soda for breakfast!" Well, you shouldn't have! Do you really want me to comment on that? I can't click on a "dislike" button to give you a thumbs down, but I can remove you if it gets really scary to witness.

1. You keep reminding me of things I'd rather forget. "Remember when we were in high school and you wore that yellow shirt that made you look like a goober and then everyone called you Bananarama and made you cry?" Well, no, but thanks for dredging up that horrible memory. Who are you, Satan?

Special thanks to my sister, Amy, and her friends pictured here (Amy, Rosie, Jennifer and Caitlin) who weighed in on this post. I usually try not to post negative stuff on my blog. I just felt a little bit snarky today. Sorry, Mom.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How to come back from vacation exhausted

I knew it wasn't going to be easy.

Last year's family vacation involved six days lolling about on a white sandy beach on Florida's panhandle. This year...not so much.

After much putting off, we finally committed to going home. At least for me. With the exception of my sister who crossed the state line and ventured into Ohio, my entire family remains firmly planted in Indiana. I, on the other hand, have spent my adult life living out of state. Alabama, LA, Illinois, Texas (once before and now)'s a bit of an effort to get back to visit.

This year we spent nine days getting from North Texas to Indiana and back. Over two thousand miles. I think. I printed the maps out; my husband did 99 percent of the driving.

We ran the legs off our three kids and no one really complained much. This is what we saw:

Silver Dollar City in Branson
First time for me to witness a grown man with both tattoos and a hickey, pushing a stroller. Another first: The motel we stayed in had a fly-swatter in the room. Hmmm...

The City Museum in St. Louis
Hands-down my favorite place to spend a day. We had a membership when we lived in the area. Check out their Web site and I think you'll see why.

The Magic House in St. Louis
Big expansion made this place twice and much fun as the last time we were there. Loved the Poet Tree!

The Gateway Arch
Fun to see it again through the eyes of my daughter who said "I've never seen it in color before!" (A black-and-white photo of it hangs in our house.)

Busch Stadium
Under construction when we moved, we promised our kids we'd come back one day for a game. And, not only did the Cards win, but Pujols hit a home run!

Pizza King
My high school hang-out and always a fav. Thin crust pizza and I had to have the pepperoni and baked ham with BBQ sauce. Yum!

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Loved the carousel and took a much-needed nap in the planetarium. Had to drag dino-loving daughter out of the dinosaur area, where she got to dig for a dinosaur while asking tons of questions to patient paleontologists. The stumper: How did God make dinosaurs?

Ball State University
My alma mater has grown a lot since I graduated. Lots of new buildings (all red-brick which is a tradition there) including the David Letterman Communication and Media Building and the Sursa Performance Hall. It would be neat to see my son attend there next year.

Family & Friends
For all the sites we took in, nothing compared to catching up with friends and family. From dinners at the homes of friends (where we compared how kids seem to grow overnight) to those who let us or our kids bunk under their roofs, we most enjoyed getting to hug close those we love but rarely get the chance to see. E-mail is great and texting, Facebook and phone calls keep me up-to-date with what's going on in everyone's lives, but they're no substitute for holding close a child whom you've never met but share DNA with. Or listening to a familiar laugh behind you, then turning to see that it's not your brother, but your nephew who sounds eerily the same.

I hope you were able to visit those you love this summer. If not, plan a trip really soon. Some things are too important to put off until later.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What can you do with perler beads?

My son Jacob's creation: Obama done in perler beads.
Either it's time for school to start or someone deserves an art scholarship.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Win a great book

I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing best-selling author Jacquelyn Mitchard about her upcoming book No Time to Wave Goodbye. A mother of seven (who is adopting two more from Ethiopia), she is an inspiration to us all, especially those of us who say we don't have time to write. Stop by my other blog and leave a comment. You might win a copy of her new book. If not, you can still read about this great woman. Just click HERE.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Falling in Love

Recently my friend, Elizabeth, wrote about falling in love with reading. I could certainly relate. Along with remembering my own long-term relationships with school librarians, I also recalled the first books that converted my children.

My three have always been read to and were intent listeners, carrying around their favorite picture books so much they literally loved the covers off. But each of them has had one book that transformed them into passionate bibliophiles. For my oldest, I would say it was discovering Harry Potter in second grade. (He said his earliest memory is my “yelling at him to put down The Boxcar Children books and go to sleep.”) For my middle child, his love came a little later, when his fifth grade teacher introduced him to The Poppy Stories by Avi.

This week, my daughter, just a few days shy of her sixth birthday, fell in love and fell hard.

We read each night at bedtime and had picked up a library book by an author my friend, Jennifer, had recommended. A chapter book without pictures, it was a little out of the ordinary for us, but Mia had listened to others before, and I just encouraged her to use her imagination to fill in the blanks where the illustrations might have been, sometimes closing her eyes to do so, and pretty soon she’s asleep.

I noticed something unusual with this book: The Magic Half by Annie Barrows. Typically Mia asks for another book or chapter, mainly as a stall tactic to keep me in the room. But this time, her hand clutched my arm and a desperate look passed over her face as I started to close the book. “No, Mom,” she begged. “Don’t stop. Please read another chapter.” I offered to let her read it on her own or told her that we’d read in the morning over breakfast, but she wouldn’t be consoled. I would offer to read one more page, which nearly always led us to finish another chapter because how do you stop, really, in the middle of one?

When the two girls in the story, Miri and Molly, were in danger of being caught by Molly’s evil cousin, Horst, my daughter would bury her head against my shoulder and squeal. She’d interrupt me periodically to ask the definition of words such as outhouse and exquisite, impatience and pathetically. And just when I worried that the time-travel plot was too complicated for her to follow, she pricked up her head with discovery and shouted, “Three sets of twins!” She got it, all right!

With about ten pages to go, Mia panicked. This was a library book that would have to be returned. She held it tightly to her lap and conspired. “What if we said we lost it?” I told her, no. “Maybe they won’t miss it if we don’t return it.” I told her other children will want to read it, too. But she wasn’t convinced. I even told her that I had checked and could buy one for her to keep. “But what if it’s not the exact same book?” she feared.

After we read the last line, with Molly and Miri safely back in their room, she took the book from me, clutched it to her chest and sighed. “There should be more.” I knew the feeling, when the author so completely sucks you in that you can’t bear to read the last page, knowing the gig is up and reality awaits you. So, for her birthday, I bought her a copy of The Magic Half. She unwrapped it and held it up to me and said, “Let’s read it again!”

Friday, July 24, 2009

JK Wedding Entrance Dance

What a way to begin!

(Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing this!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Putting the Va back in Vacations

Last summer, when gas prices skyrocketed, we were all encouraged to conserve fuel and money and enjoy ‘stay-cations’—kinda like a vacation except you never really went anywhere. And consequently, didn’t really have much fun. Because honestly, who wants to be a tourist in your own town? Isn’t the whole idea behind ‘getting away from it all’ actually getting away? Far away?

On the ride to soccer practice the other evening, my son and I started musing about other vacations-that-aren’t-really-vacations. This is what we came up with.

Destination: any place that has a barn, some chickens and maybe pigs or a cow or two. Possibly some goats.
Pack: overalls, work boots, chewin’ tobaccy and a trucker hat.
Car-tunes: Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts and Kellie Pickler

Destination: anywhere you can escape to within a day’s drive.
Pack: a cooler of food for lunch. No need for a suitcase; you’ll be home before bedtime.
Car-tunes: a book on CD, abridged.

Destination: pricey antique stores, quaint independent booksellers, trendy bars and coffee shops in either Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire.
Pack: anything designer and expensive, but not a lot because you’ll be shopping extensively.
Car-tunes: Cher: The Farewell Concert, Girl in a Coma and Coldplay

Destination: Game Preserve
Pack: pith helmet, khakis, OFF! and a 12-gauge.
Car-tunes: The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Destination: Tent Revivals in the Deep South
Pack: Bible—King James version, a fan courtesy of a local funeral home and snake-proof gloves.
Car-tunes: Pat Boone (before he went Metal) and The Winans

Destination: BINGO halls, casinos, cemeteries and Miami, Florida
Pack: muumuus, high-waist trousers, support hose, Depends, orthopedic shoes, Aqua Net and Fixodent.
Car-tunes: Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey

Destination: Six Flags, Disney World and Silver Dollar City
Pack: sunscreen, tennis shoes, running shorts and matching brightly colored T-shirts (in case y’all get separated)
Car-tunes: Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers

So, what did you do to escape this summer?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Career planning

I often read the classics to my daughter. You know, by authors such as Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, Theo. LeSieg. It's a blast to see her love the same books I did as a child: Put Me in the Zoo, Are You My Mother?, The Cat in the Hat, Yertle the Turtle.

The other day we were reading Maybe you should fly a jet! Maybe you should be a vet! It's basically an early career planner, giving you options for determining the perfect job for your future.

We were reading the page where it lists the writer. My daughter pointed to the page and said, "She doesn't look like a writer."

I said, "Well, people used to write at typewriters. Now we have computers. This is kind of an old book."

She agreed. "Yeah, but I meant that if she were a writer like you, she'd be wearing her pajamas."

Everyone's a comedienne....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Prey or predator?

The box the bird feeder came in advised adding bird seed and attracting birds. Somebody (a squirrel, I suppose) emptied out the feeder the other day, and this morning this little guy decided to hang out for a while. Not sure if he's scoping out something below to pounce on, or if he should look skyward and watch for something poised to carry him off.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What a great idea

So, today I picked up a magazine and began reading a parenting article. Get your kids to help with chores, the writer encouraged. Even little kids can help. Before long, you won't have to do anything but sit around and watch reality TV while the kids clean, cook and wait on you hand-and-foot.

Brilliant! Who comes up with this stuff? I wrote the article but I've yet to figure out how to adopt my own great advice. I'm working on it. Right now, number one son has number two son and only daughter at the dollar theater. And I'm writing like a woman possessed, trying to meet deadlines before they return. Oh, and I've saved a load of laundry for them to fold when they get home. See, it's working!

Here's a link to the amazing article. Maybe you will be more receptive to my suggestions than I am!

Monday, June 29, 2009

I spy something new

Nearly four years ago I moved with my family to north Texas from the St. Louis area. We'd lived there for seven years, and I had accumulated friends whom I treasured as lifelong companions.

So, when we arrived here, I was in no hurry to make new friends. My old ones would do just fine and, with emails and phone calls and annual girls' weekends planned, I felt connected still.

But then I started attending writing groups and, at my third attempt at finding one that best suited me, I sat inconspicuously in the back row. Right behind two women. I overheard their mentioning how they sent chapters of their manuscripts to each other for comments via email and hesitantly asked if I could also weigh-in. They (reluctantly, I later learned) agreed to take me on. Those two women still speak to me today--Kim writing her great grandfather's colorful life story and Joan becoming my writing partner in a novel, with another one in the works.

From Joan I met Elizabeth (we carpooled to a conference), and Julie found me via this blog. I picked up Susan in the restroom at a conference just this past May. We find time to meet for lunch or coffee and send countless emails back and forth, sharing comments on each other's works and musings about the writing industry.

One day about a month ago, it occurred to me that we all have learned so much about the business of writing, that it might be fun to have an account of our shared experiences. At this point in our lives, we are all either finishing up manuscripts and/or seeking agents to help us find publishers. So today we kick off a new blog (or glog--for group blog) with the six of us alternately posting, three days a week.

And just as a mother's heart grows with each child she has, my life has benefited exponentially with each new friend I meet. I hope you'll stop by and see what we have to say at What Women Write. (click here for the link)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

As Seen on TV

My daughter has become a constant source of information. Or rather, info-mation.

Unlike her brothers who zip past commercials while watching television (how did we manage before the DVR?), she sits mesmerized by every ad that comes her way.

Her favorite show du jour is The Magic School Bus. For some reason, Discovery Kids seems to be widely sponsored by those annoying mini-infomercials. Every time she watches an episode, I’m hit with, “Mom, can I have some Bendaroos? They come in magical colors and you can make Bendaroos do almost anything.”

My response: “Put it on your birthday list.” Since her birthday is in July, half the year I tell her to put useless crap on her Christmas list, the other half it goes on the birthday list. The Lists are mostly kept mentally, since, until recently, she couldn’t write them herself, and she’s usually too lazy to get up and find a pencil and paper.

For Mother’s Day, I was gifted with AquaGlobes and a knock-off Slap Chop. Now my plants have a constant source of hydration (when we remember to keep the Globes filled), and anything that was once too big to be chewed safely, can now be chopped into a powdery consistency prior to consumption.

This week she tried to convince me that we needed to book a vacation to a Beaches resort “Before the end of June to take advantage of their special offer,” she said. I told her we’d already been to a Beaches resort. “Yeah, but I was too young to remember it,” she retorted. Not my fault you were born a few years before the economy tanked.

I did break down and buy her a pair of Fun Slides Carpet Skates. I looked them up online, checked the reviews and only one person reported her child’s sliding out of control across the den and crashing through a window. I figure we have some old skateboard padding in the garage we can strap on her. Plus her bike helmet. She should be good for a few rounds through the house.

My only hope is maybe the Fun Slides will keep her too busy to watch TV.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Inspiration in the dark

Last night as I was putting my daughter to bed, she said, "Please, Momma, leave the lamp on so my imagination won't run wild."

Her comment makes me wonder if there's something mysteriously creative about the dark.

I've had friends tell me they've turned their dreams into stories or scenes for their books. And the opening scene of my first manuscript came to me one night just as I was falling asleep. I closed my eyes and, for some reason, pictured the lobby area of a building at my college. I saw this girl, studying her schedule and then a young man rolled up to her in his wheelchair and asked if she needed help. I spent the next month writing their story.

This week I had a dream about a woman who dies and meets God. During my dream, I pictured myself getting out of bed and writing down their conversation. When I awoke the next morning, I was surprised to learn that I hadn't written anything down. Luckily I remembered much of it and now have the first half of a short story titled: "Margaret's Last Day."

Another dream I had this week involved a family dinner. Present were my grandparents (both deceased) and assorted family members. When I went to a closet to get something for the table, there sat my great-grandparents (both deceased for a really long time) in ladder-back chairs, just waiting to be discovered as surprise dinner guests. Unfortunately I don't remember anything more, but I'll bet that was some family gathering.

So, perhaps there's something eerily inspirational that happens once the light goes out, and the brain enters its shut-down mode. Maybe neurons fire and the imagination runs wild. But unlike my daughter, I'm not about to leave the lamp on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I'm your biggest little fan

My daughter is a huge Beyonce fan. Or at least as huge as you can get when you're only 45 inches tall. Upon hearing she was coming to our area for a concert, Mia asked if I would take her. So, with her on my lap, we looked up tickets.

As the page loaded, I asked, "So, you want to see Beyonce?" (The price: $118 a ticket. The security word to enter was, no joke, "sybil." I'm sure you'd have to be crazy to take a five-year-old to see Beyonce.)

"No, I don't want to just see her, I want to meet her," she said. (And, yes, for only $1000 we could fulfil that dream and purchase a meet and greet.)

Secretly, I think she wants to show BK her take on "Single Ladies." She calls it "Naked Men." And the lyrics are: "All the naked men, all the naked men, all the naked men, all the naked men, put your hands down! Uh oh oh, Uh oh oh oh oh oh, Uh oh oh."

If you have to ask why she says for them to put their hands down, you get an eye roll and a, "Because...they're naked?"

So, I closed the Ticketmaster site and instead switched the screen to Webkinz. After a few minutes of Smoothie Moves, she forgot all about B-Town and started shooting ice cream onto a conveyor belt.

I'll just have to keep listening to the radio and see if someone gives away tickets. I'm sure Beyonce is looking for a follow-up hit.

"All the naked men, all the naked men..."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Word Play

I had an assignment to write an article about survival skills--teaching kids basics so they can one day live on their own.

Eventually I went with a nautical/sailing/ship theme and reached out to a few writing friends for ideas. Susan led me to Wikipedia's Glossary of Nautical Terms, and I spent at least 30 minutes sorting through the jargon. Who knew so many of our figures of speech had nautical origins?

For instance, my new favorite is "There's not enough room in here to swing a cat." (Very useful for spouting off when you enter my son's room that is overflowing with musical equipment, books and dirty clothes.) Apparently unruly sailors were often flogged with a "cat-o'-nine-tails," a short nine-tailed whip. Everyone on board was brought on deck to witness the beatings and often there was not much room to "swing the cat" without hitting a bystander. Also, getting the "cat out of the bag" came from taking the whip from its baize bag, where it was kept when not in use. And here I thought someone had routinely taken an actual cat by its tail and circled it overhead, people ducking to get out of the way.

Other terms such as chock-a-block, cut and run, pitch in, nipper (a small boy), and footloose had nautical origins. Or so says Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

French Homework...

...was never like this when I was in high school, c'est la vie.

The assignment: write a commercial in French.

The product: this video by my son and his two classmates.

The gist: girl can't get guy until she is transformed via Jean Jean Sexy Wear.

Jean Jean (aka Jacob) also wrote the music for the jingle and played all the instruments. Très bien!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wake me when it's over

Wiping sleep from his eyes in the kitchen...

Ben: Did I dream this or did you tell me that Aunt Jemima died?

Me: Uh, pretty sure you dreamed it. Aunt Jemima isn't even a real person.

Ben: Oh. Okay. Just seemed real.

(Did I mention the kid fell off the kitchen cabinet when he was little?

...those head injuries can be sneaky--13 years later.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perfect timing

Once there was a boy who loved music. He started guitar lessons when he was 11 and taught himself drums, keyboard and other instruments including a half-hearted attempt at the harmonica.

One day his friend Brianna asked him to accompany her at the Black History Month celebration/competition at an area high school. His guitar playing got noticed by a gentleman in attendance, and the boy gave this man his name and phone number. Later the boy got a call and was asked to play at an upcoming Gospel Brunch at The House of Blues in Dallas. Oh, and by the way, BB King will be there later that day.

So, the boy is excited, his parents are proud and just purchased four tickets for The Gospel Brunch on May 31.

They don't even care if BB King is there or not.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I can imagine...

This scenario:

Officer: We have a report of a missing person?

17-year-old son: Yeah. Our mom. Have you seen my keys? And when you find her, tell her we have like nothing to eat in this house.

Officer: Son, I have no idea where your keys are. Have you checked your jeans pocket?

14-year-old son: Hey, I need a ride to soccer practice.

Officer: Maybe if you help me locate your mom, she can take you?

14-year-old: Maybe, or I could just ride with you.

Officer (taking out a pad of paper): How about you tell me where you last saw her.

14-year-old: I dunno. Probably when she dropped me off at school.

Officer: Isn't it close enough for you to walk?

14-year-old: I guess. She doesn't mind driving me though.

Officer (noticing young girl tugging on his gun holster): Hey, don't touch that.

5-year-old daughter: Is that real? Can you shoot people like they do on Bones?

Officer: Yes, it's real and I only shoot people when I have to. Can you help me find your mom?

5-year-old: Sure.

Officer (with pen poised above his tablet): What does she look like?

5-year-old: She's 66 inches tall and weighs 118 pounds. She has hazel eyes and brown hair.

Officer: Her eyes are hazel?

5-year-old: Yes, I look in them every day. I know what color they are.

Officer: Any idea where she might be?

5-year-old: She's always home, but you might find her eating lasagna and wearing purple. Please find her. She's very lovable.

Officer: I'll do my best.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Old friends

I started a new book the other day, and yesterday I finished it. Well, I quit after the second chapter. It just didn't pull me in and time is a precious commodity to me. Instead I'm now reading one I read years ago, and I'm enjoying it all over again. It's The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. It has nothing to do with wearing hip-waders or shooting a rifle. But it's funny and still feels fresh years later.

I also got a much-needed pick-me-up yesterday when I noticed on FaceBook that another author I love, Celia Rivenbark, just renewed her wedding vows. In Vegas. By an Elvis impersonator. I wasn't a bit surprised since her latest book was titled: Belle Weather--mostly sunny with a scattered chance of hissy fits. On her Web site you can read her latest newspaper column or watch a funny video of her explaining the title of another book she wrote: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank. Her definition of a skank? It's like a slut with both shoes.

So, like old friends, favorite books and favorite authors can make you feel better, cheer you up when you've had a bad day, or sometimes they'll just sit quietly and let you be.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In honor of my mother, a tribute for Mother's Day

My mom taught me many things while growing up. At her knee I learned to sew. It’s not a skill people pay me for like they do her, but it has served me well. I’ve been able to make curtains and drapes, recover furniture and make Halloween costumes. I still haven’t mastered her hand-sewing talent of smocking, but I’m sure if I wanted to, she would teach me.

She taught me how to bake and even let me eat raw cookie dough and lick cake batter straight from the beaters. When I wanted to learn to decorate cakes, she stood by my side and encouraged me as I mastered new techniques.

I don’t remember her ever telling me that something was too hard or too messy or too much trouble for me to learn. Whatever I wanted—within reason—she made available to me. And it wasn’t the material things that come easier for me with my kids. She wasn’t able to buy me everything I wanted, but she provided everything I needed. And that was plenty.

Several pearls of wisdom she also imparted:
Don’t open someone else’s mail.
Just because someone asks you a question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it.
It’s not good to be boy-crazy.
Even though you can’t see the back of your hair, other people can.
It’s much better to give than to receive.
Knock before opening a closed door.
A good deed feels even better if you keep it to yourself.
Something broken can almost always be fixed.
If you can find a way to make it or do it yourself and spend less money, then do.
Never put in writing what you don’t want everyone to read.
You’re always prettier when you smile.
Never correct an adult in front of other people.
Less is better—in terms of makeup, accessories, etc.
It’s better to miss curfew than to drive recklessly to get home.
You’ll never know how much you are loved until you have kids of your own.

And now that I am a mother of three, I know what she means. The other day my daughter, who is nearly six, asked me what Grandma’s name is. I told her it is Marianne.

“Marianne?” she asked. “That’s such a pretty name! I think I’ll name my daughter that.”
I hope one day she does.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bad timing

Since I have documented proof that the dog likes to lie on the stairs, you'd think I'd remember to step over him--just out of habit. But Thursday night after putting my daughter to bed, I stepped on him. It was dark, he was sleeping and I forgot. He let out a yelp and flipped to get out from under me, slicing the bottom of my foot with his dew claw in the process.

The next morning, I endured three stitches and a tetanus shot plus the doctor gave me a supply of antibiotics and some handy dandy Vicodin. The cut is not a big deal, but it makes it difficult to walk and drive. Plus I planned to attend a writers' conference the next two days.

So, Joan had to drive me to the conference, and I spent the weekend hobbling around from room to room, propping my foot up whenever possible. Other than breaking out in hives from a reaction to the antibiotic, things went pretty smoothly. I pitched our book and got permission from the agent to submit a sample, so we'll see what happens. Plus I met some really nice people (including Susan, a writer in the area) and gathered some helpful information.

And the dog no longer runs from me when he sees me coming. Did I mention he's not very smart?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


...needs me to take them shopping. Honestly, John. Call me. What you lack in discretion, I'm sure you make up for with your charming personality. But really. We can do better.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't open that

I've developed a type of mail-phobia. It came about fairly innocently. And it doesn't involve packages. I love getting boxes in the mail, especially those with Amazon on them.

My fear is of large envelopes. Large envelopes that contain flat people in them. Flat Stanley. Flat Will. It doesn't matter how you spin it. Don't send me Flat Child in the mail and ask me to tote him around town and take pictures of him. I've done my time.

Actually, if you don't care what he's wearing, I can do a Flat Stanley or even your child, if he resembles my nephew Will. You don't even have to mail me anything. Just send me an email or call and I'll send you off a packet of Flat Stan or Flat Will or Flat Joe (if he looks like Will). I've got the Publisher file saved in my computer. It just might take me a day or two to get it put together and in the mail.

All I ask is that the next time you see me, you take me out for a drink--tea, wine, doesn't matter. And you consider yourself fair game for when my daughter reads Flat Stanley at school and she needs you to reciprocate. I promise to give you advance notice.

But if you decide to send me--unannounced--a Flat Child in the mail, I don't accept responsibility for possibly feeding your Flat Child to the horses. I'm currently out of carrots.

Monday, April 20, 2009

School Pics

This is what happens when:

a) your mom forgets that it's picture day,

b) and the photographer figures it's best to cover your plain white polo by buttoning up your pretty pink cardigan to your neck, librarian-lady-style,

c) only after you've had recess and your once kinda cute ponytail is now coming down in clumps,

d) then the photographer person (who also works parttime at Taco Bell) makes you hold your arms in an awkward position best reserved for tantrums or rappers,

e) then asks you to say some word such as Walrus! in order to elicit the most unnatural smile you've ever expressed,

f) then prints off $44 worth of pictures, sending them home via your classroom folder, knowing your mom will buy some because, who can stand to think of her baby's pictures going through a shredder?

A scam? I'd say so.

Monday, April 6, 2009

New Look

Every year I get together with my girlfriends. Lucky for us, Leanna happens to be a professional photographer. This year she asked us to bring along jeans and a black turtleneck. (You can see by the picture, some of us don't follow directions as well as others. She didn't mind.) Sure beats trying to cram us all into one of those booths at the mall!

We've been friends for years and range in profession from attorney to accountant, photographer to teacher and everything in between. Of those pictured, we have a total of 23 children, which made traveling in the same vehicle a little scary. The bonds that unite us are many, the memories are vast, and we stay connected via emails and phone calls throughout the year. We all eagerly anticipate the annual weekend when we can get together, bridging the distance between us that now spans both coasts. (Traci, we sure missed you!)

I wish every woman could be as fortunate as I am to have such great friends.

Pictured, l to r: (front row) Trisha, Jennifer, Sonya, Terri, Leanna (back row) Lori and me.

PS: Leanna also graciously took a photo of me so I could update my blog mugshot. So I decided to update my blog look as well. Thanks, Leanna!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Walk the line

After you have kids, you become a line walker.

You want them to do well in school but not obsess over grades so much that they develop ulcers and become social outcasts who can’t carry on a conversation without throwing in words such as congruent or onomatopoeia.

You hope they eat healthful foods, exercise and drink water without one day developing an eating disorder that has them spitting out half-chewed M&Ms in between marathon jumping jack sessions.

You also hope they develop their own sense of style—wearing clothes and hair styles that not necessarily define them but suit their personalities and interests.

But you walk the line that represents a normal, well-adjusted human being and on either side lies a child who obsesses over every test answer or just doesn’t give a flip.

On our walk home from school yesterday, my kindergartener fell abnormally quiet. I could tell she was distracted.

Me: What’s up?

She: (with a pained expression, leans into me and whispers) What is she wearing?

Me: (looking at the girl ahead of us—probably a fourth grader) Looks like a white shirt and white shorts.

She: Well, it looks weird.

Me: It’s just a shirt and a pair of shorts. What’s so weird?

She: (still frowning) It just is.

Me: Well, maybe her mom hasn’t done laundry lately and that’s all she had to wear. Or maybe it’s her favorite outfit. (her brothers have been casualties of both)

She: Well, she shouldn’t wear it. Doesn’t it look like she has on boy’s underwear?

Me: (wondering why she cares so much about this girl’s choice of clothes) I don’t think so. Besides, you shouldn’t worry about what she’s wearing. I’m sure she’s not.

She: I think she should worry if people think she’s going to school in boy’s underwear.

Me: (deciding this conversation needs diverting) Wow, look, Mia. A butterfly. I’ll bet that’s one you raised last year and released in the back yard.

She: It is. I recognize her. That’s Giselle.

Some time in the night, the child got out of bed and went through her closet and picked out clothing options for today. When I got her up and presented her with a dress to wear, she said, “That’s not what I’m wearing today. I already picked out my clothes.” She had two outfits beside the bed. A yellow skirt and top combo with horses on it and a pair of khakis and a shirt. We went with the horse ensemble.

Now I just hope if someone tells her she looks nice today, she says ‘thank you’ and then goes about getting her school work done. And if she happens to spot the fourth grade girl we saw yesterday, she realizes that the clothes don’t define the girl any more than the grades or the weight or the hair. And if she starts in again on the walk home from school, I can create a diversion. “Look, Mia. A lizard. Isn’t that the one that we see every night on the bathroom window…”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who is more delusional?

Michael Vick who estimates his annual income next year to be a cool $10 million?


My son who told me this morning he could so be an underwear model?

I'd say it's an even toss up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thanks for voting

We appreciate all who took the time to weigh in on our choosing the best line for Center Court Seats and a Pair of Jimmy Choos--a story about two sisters, one bet and a mix of heartache and laughter along the way, causing them to ask, "If you can't trust your sister, can you trust anyone?"

The results proved the clear winner as: She loved a man who could appreciate a new pair of shoes, even if she thought he might like to try them on himself.

Hopefully it won't be too long before someone picks up the story, publishes it and you can read all 90,000 words of the book!

Thanks again for voting!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Which line do you like best?

Joan and I are trying to choose our favorite line from our story, Center Court Seats and a Pair of Jimmy Choos. Some of our favorite parts of the book involve dialog between two characters, but an agent we are querying asks for us to list our one, favorite line. It's a little like choosing your favorite child. Or your favorite dessert. So, how about helping us out. To the left is a poll. We've narrowed it down to five lines. Please take the time to vote for your favorite. And while you're at it, forward the post to your friends and ask them to vote too. Thanks!

Friday Night Lights

I watch very little television, and if it weren’t for DVR, I’d watch practically none. But one show I never miss is Friday Night Lights. Now nearing the end of its third season, this amazingly well-written show almost didn’t make it on this year but loyal fans—including someone at DirectTV—managed to revive it for another season. I couldn’t be happier.

Loosely based on the movie (which was based on the novel) and set in fictional small town Dillon, Texas, the show sports an ensemble cast of actors you’ve probably never seen before but who work so well together. Along with being perfectly cast, it’s also the best written show by far. With characters you care about and relevant subject matter, it’s become a great show for me to watch with my teenage sons. Last week’s episode included teenage sex and every episode shows teens drinking. They don’t preach about it or condone it, but the shows open up great dialog between me and my boys. And there’s just enough high school football in it to tie in to the movie/book.

If you don’t watch it, you can see full episodes on or rent the videos. I think you’ll agree that it’s great television.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday musing

I just returned home from my annual girls' weekend extraordinaire. While bragging to my daughter about how much fun St. Louis was, she asked, "Can we go to St. Louis on vacation?" I told her sure, forgetting that today was the first day of Spring Break. "Well, we're on vacation now," she said. "Why can't we go today?" I thought for a second and said, "Not today. Maybe some time this summer." After a short pause, she said, "Dammit." I'm guessing someone watched a little too much (inappropriate) television while I was gone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Two weeks ago Jamie Ford came to the Crow in Dallas to share his new book. Not long ago Jamie was a writer of short stories, trying to find an agent for his first manuscript. Today his debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a NY Times bestseller. Julie and Joan were able to hear Jamie talk about his novel at the Crow, and Joan picked up a copy of his book for me, which he autographed.

Here's a Tuesday Teaser of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet:

As she slowly turned toward Henry, he noticed her slender cheekbones, her perfect skin, smooth and lacking in the freckles that mottled the faces of the other girls at the school. But most of all he noticed her chestnut-brown eyes. For a brief moment Henry swore he smelled something, like jasmine, sweet and mysterious, lost in the greasy odors of the kitchen. (page 19)