Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Cricket in Our House

Six years ago when I was told I probably could not have more children, I thought, "That's fine."
Because I was holding the cutest baby I'd ever seen and my heart was full and life was wonderful.
And now that baby is getting bigger.
And she left me to go to half day kindergarten.
And I started feeling lonely in the afternoons. Yes, I have my stories and my characters to fill up my thoughts and my time, but they aren't warm.
They aren't fuzzy.
They aren't adorable.
I needed a cat. A cat to sit on my desk while I typed and sit on my lap when I watched the news.
So I started looking.
And the Artist kept saying, "We're not getting a cat. You're stressed out enough as it is. It's just one more thing to clean up. It will scratch the furniture."
Intelligent and valid points, but I was too busy scouring petfinder to listen.
For weeks I took the girls to shelters where they promptly fell in love with everything with fur.
"That's not the one," I'd tell them. "We don't want a cat. We want the cat. The perfect cat for our family."
Last weekend we finally made the plunge. As we were driving across the city to rescue a special shelter cat the Artist pointed out, "Did anyone ask me if we could get a cat?"
Good point.
"Darling, can we get the cat we are driving to get?"
We are now the proud owners of a Rex/shorthair mix who is two years old and weighs only six pounds. She sleeps on the girls' bed every night and didn't meow once on the forty five minute drive to her new home. She is currently curled up in the Artist's studio while he works because she loves him. And the feeling is completely mutual.
She is even kind to the rats. One scurried into the same room as her unattended and she didn't take the smallest taste. She is one of the tamest, best natured cats I've ever met.
Friends, meet Cricket- the newest addition to our family.

I don't charge admission if you need a snuggle. Just bring a piece of tuna.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The kids I can't forget...

I just got home from one of the biggest literary adventures of my life.
I went to the Chicago area to be on a panel for Anderson's Bookshop YA literature conference.
I was invited alongside hugely successful authors.
Authors whose books are movies and have their own shelves in bookstores.
For two days we ate together, worked together, laughed together, and talked to many, many people  about young adult literature together.
And now that I am home and the exhausting blur of the weekend in behind me, do you know who I keep thinking about?

The kids.
The kids in the schools that I was fortunate enough to go visit.
The kids with their big eyes and smart-alec comments and loud laughter and wiggling bodies.
The kids who listened and contributed and made me want to sit down and just listen to them.

The ones who said they wanted to be writers.
The ones who said they hate to write.

The ones who stole the show and the ones who never said a word.
They were, by far, the highlight of my trip.

Every author I met was funny and successful and sharp and talented, every publicist committed, every speaker captivating. Truly I was humbled to be grouped anywhere near them- but the kids...
The kids made me feel the sheer joy of words. They reminded me how hard it is to get words right and how okay that is. They know you just keep trying and keep learning. They accept imperfections. They laugh about them. Maybe even prefer them.
And speaking of kids, my two favorite girls came to the schools with me and listened to mom, but during the conference when I was on panels and working hard they went exploring around Chicago with my favorite guy.

They now think business trips are nothing but awesome!

So after five exhausting days of travel and work and play, I want to say to every teacher I met who gives his/her all for the children, to every librarian I met who inspires the children, to all the students I met who opened their ears and their minds and let the words in-
I say to each of you, Thank you for letting be a part of your life for just a window of time.
I truly think you are magical.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Day After

Not talking about a hangover.
At least not from alcohol.

It is the day after one of the busiest weekends I can remember. I taught two classes at the Midwest Storymakers writers conference and had the honor of being a keynote speaker, along with Janette Rallison. It was thrilling. And depleting. As most of the best things are.
To add to the fun my writing partner, the author Jaima Fixsen, came all the way from Alberta Canada to stay with my family and attend the conference.
What's that? You're writing partner wouldn't do that for you?
I'm so sorry.
But with all the compassion I can muster- You can't have her. She's mine!

We spent all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday exploring our city with our daughters, eating the best hamburgers on earth, staying up too late and talking writing, life, society, family and fountain pens.
And today- today when I need to get back to work and finish all five loads of laundry that managed to sneak up on me in one tiny weekend, and send emails and prepare for the Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference in Chicago this weekend, all I really want to do is sneak into the backyard with my copy of Moby Dick:

And I am trying to edit and write and work and be a grown up, but the Dancer emptied her backpack for me this morning and made a pile of stones on my desk as she told me about each one.
"This one is speckled and this one is smooth and this one is pink and this one is broken..."

And now, in all honesty, all I can think is how beautiful those little rocks are.
Except for just now. I thought of how you can't end a sentence with "are" and that totally wrecked the moment.
I'm not sure that there is anything I can write more special than that haphazard collection.
So maybe I'll just go grab Moby and meet you outside...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My 9/11 promise

The hardest post of every year is always September 11th.
I vowed never to let a year go by without recording my feelings of that day in a journal. That was back before we had public journals.
But a promise is a promise.

So short and sweet- because this day is not about me. It's about them. All of them.
The man who tried to cling to the window sill, but couldn't.
The fireman who vowed to find his men, but couldn't.
The wife who waited for her husband to come home through the smoke, but he didn't.
The child who wrote a letter to her mother, and had nowhere to send it.

I will simply say that that twelve years ago, in this very hour, my belief turned to absolute knowledge.
I always believed we were children of God.
I always believed I loved my neighbors.
And in a moment, what I always thought I knew, I suddenly knew I knew.
When those dust-caked faces with baffled eyes ran past the cameras, my heart screamed, "My brother! My sister!"
When the tower of rubble echoed with the locator beeps of hundreds of fallen firefighters who gave their lives for strangers, I knew there was a power deeper, stronger, better, purer than mere mortals.
There is something that changes people into angels. There is One who elevates us above ourselves and our circumstances. This I know.

To my brothers and sisters who are not here, but should be- I would have wept with gratitude to trade places with just one of you.
But you wouldn't have let me, would you? Which is why the world will always honor you.
Which is why I will never, never forget you.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear children, be total rebels!

Dear Child of Mine,

I am writing this letter to encourage you to be an all-out, no-holds-barred rebel.
A person who doesn't give a second thought about someone else's judgement.
A person who defies the entire world and walks their own way.
A person who is startling brave about being different in every way.
I want you, my child, the work of my life, to be the best rebel that you can be.

I want you to be the ultimate outsider. 
A leader who needs no followers.
A person that doesn't just march to a different beat, but to an entirely different drum.

I look back on my childhood and everything I did to try to be a rebel and then I take a moment to snore at myself. 
I wasn't rebelling. I was picking up the playbook and following it word by predictable word.
I was doing everything possible to be exactly like every idiotic person around me.
I was not a rebel. I was a lemming.

But you- I want more for you. No running over a cliff into the cold, raging ocean for my child.
You are in every way too awesome for that.

Pierce everything?
Curse like a sailor?
Parade yourself as sex object?
Spend eight hours on youtube laughing at morons?
Get drunk with your friends?
Shoplift something you didn't even want from Walmart?

Snooze fest.
Cookie cutter of every 
wannabe who tried to be a rebel.
If you did everything on that list
 it would make you like millions of other kids.
You are describing a coward. 
Someone so scared to be different
 they go straight to the middle of the pack
 where they get trampled.

You don't fit that box.

A rebel shocks people.
A rebel is something they are not expecting.
Something they can't stomach or accept.

I look at the people around me and I see the rebels. I notice them.
They stand up in a crowd, never knowing if anyone else will stand with them, and say what they believe.
They don't laugh and nod at a story that makes them uncomfortable. They express an opinion.
You know, an opinion is one of those things that brave people, and only brave people have, even when it is monumentally inconvenient.
They don't spare themselves ridicule or take the easy way.
A rebel believes in something.
A rebel stands out from the world.

Today a rebel is a young man or woman who puts down his/her phone and talks to someone who looks lonely.
A rebel is a student in a class who asks a questions when they don't understand because they want to be smart.
Or who answers a question when the protocol is to look bored and make the teacher feel stupid.
You want to see a rebel? Find me a young person who respects his parents. Find me one who helps at home. Who protects his siblings. Who serves his community.
Find me a kid who isn't in bed holding his phone, but kneeling beside his bed saying a prayer.
Can you imagine the stares? If people knew?!
Can you imagine the faces of teenagers if one of their friends said, "I love my family. My parents are great."

A rebel today is a clear face, intelligent eyes, and hands busy with meaningful work.
A rebel is someone who questions their motives, examines their heart, and tries to do what is good, even when it feels very bad.
A rebel believes that they have control over their life.
A rebel owns their choices.
A rebel doesn't care what they are handed- only what they make out of it.
A rebel won't be a victim.

Dear Child of Mine,
I've trained you to be one thing. From the time you were little and I wouldn't let you watch the Disney channel because I didn't want you to learn to sassy and sarcastic.
Since the moment I told you that I knew everyone else was going to the skating party but we were still going to church.
Or that you couldn't wear a short skirt even if every other girl had one.
I was giving you the tools to be a rebel.
Not a shallow, stupid, rebel wannabe.
A real one.
A strong one.
A life-changing one.

And then in kindergarten, when you left the pack of cheerleaders to walk with the girl who had Spina Bifida because you didn't want her to walk alone, and it took so long to get around the block that all the popsicles were gone by the time we got back to the school parking lot, I knew what I had on my hands.

A rebel.
You go, Child of Mine. You show 'em. 
They will laugh at you, exclude you, pick you apart, and in the end-
wish they were you.
My rebel.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Motherhood needs no subsidy

I'm driving down the road of my life, pretty certain of the route and destination until a roadblock, a street not on the map, a detour.
For the past year I thought that I was helping to inspire moms by showing them that I could love my job as a mother and chase big, creative dreams at the same time.
I thought that my book popping up on bookshelves would make mothers feel bigger or more possible.

I think I got it wrong. Maybe just by a little, but by enough.
Motherhood doesn't need a subsidy of "other" accomplishments.
I don't need to say I am a homemaker and an author.
You don't need to say I am a mother and a caterer.
Or I am a mother and I volunteer at the hospital.
You are a mother.
I am a mother.
And the world had never, ever needed us like it needs us now.
It has never needed us to stand more proud of our roles as mothers.

So many mothers conquer so many mountains. So many fight the battles alone.
Find me a stronger person than a mother who weeps in loneliness at night and wakes her children with a smile in the morning. I defy you to discover the equal of her courage.

While some people gather medals for their victories in careers and accomplishments, a mother never leaves the trenches.
She doesn't have time to tack a badge to her uniform because she is working.
I don't have time to write out a fancy resume of everything I can do and everything I am worth because I am busy holding up the entire world.
The entire world.
The weight of disappointment, discovery, knowledge, rejection, self-worth, self-doubt, faith and skepticism is crashing down on my children every day.
Every day they see the news and need to understand why the people are crying, why the children are hungry, why their friends got mad, why their homework is hard, why they can't have the lead in the play, why we all believe different things, why someone is poor, why someone is famous, why the bad people seem happy, or the good people don't get the help they need.
Huge, crippling, exciting questions. Crashing. Crashing down on their tender, innocent heads.
And I am their mother.
And it is not just the tough things. They need me as desperately for the wonderful things. They would fight their way through jungles and soldiers to show me what they painted. They yell for me to come look whenever something is cute or funny or beautiful. They need my smile, my nod, my comment, my approval. Not want it. Need it to understand what is great about life.
I am their tour guide through this madness.

I must teach them to fight for  joy because it is a struggle.
I must be an example of courage when I am scared.
I must stay calm when they need stitches and stay in control when the toilet overfloweth.
In every situation, at every movie, every conversation, every interaction, their little faces turn to me and watch for cues. Is this good? Is this bad? How does Mom feel about it?
And I must pick up this entire world that I don't understand and I must keep it from crushing them. I must hand it to them answer by answer, moment by moment until they are strong enough to carry it themselves.
When the confusion and exhaustion overwhelm me I cannot quit, retire, go on vacation or take time off.
I am a mother.
We are mothers.
I am not a writer who followed her dream and caught it when I published a book. I am a mother who followed her dream and caught it when I first held my children.
I am a mother who wrote her daughters a story.
I am a mother who will keep writing her daughters stories.
How wonderful for me that a few people have joined our storytime and let me read to them, as well.
And when they drift away and lose interest, that is all right because I have two little girls and I am their coach and we have a lot to get done. Every day is non-stop, intense training as they learn how to lift up the entire world.
They will need it someday soon when they are mothers.
I am not an author raising two children.
I am a mother telling stories.
I am a mother.
Destination reached.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tapper Unplugged

Let me first confess that I am not a "roughing it" it kind of gal.
I like hot meals and toilet paper and curling irons.
I spray my house four times a year not because I have bugs, but because I never want to see a bug.
But I just got home from the most incredible vacation.
We went to the Middle of Nowhere.
(Out west they call it Altamont, Utah- but trust me, if you address a letter to the Middle of Nowhere, it will get there. At least it would if they had postal service.)
We had no phone reception, no wifi, no television and no problems.
I'm not exaggerating. When I turned off everything, I forgot about everything.
Or even better- I didn't care. I didn't care about what reviewers were saying or what was selling or what I needed to do, clean, wipe up, wipe out, update, overhaul, patch up, look over, tweak or tweet.
The world melted into the hot desert dirt, into the smell of sage bush burning the air, into the flat buttes of the ancient mountains, into the sound of stars falling out of the sky because it was too crowded with lights.
This became our playground:

For three days we just looked. We looked at the sky and the earth and the mountains that stand somewhere in between the two. We looked at each other. I looked at the reflections in my daughters' golden hair, at the way my husband's brown eyes soften when he sees something wonderful. We looked into ponds and streams to find shining rocks and fish.

The Cowgirl spent almost six hours one day pulling crawdads out of a lake and then releasing them. After she gave them a good-natured scare, of course.

We didn't eat at fancy restaurants. We didn't tour grand museums. We didn't feel the pulse and life of a city. But we felt the pulse and life of each other. A family. All beating in one rhythm as if we found the spot where mother nature's heart pounds and we laid down on top of it just to feel it throb. It was an incredible sensation of quiet.
A quiet so exhilarating I felt foolish for not chasing it long ago.
As we neared civilization, we did some hiking with friends, trekking up Mount Timpanogos to explore a cave. Toward the top my phone started working again and my agent texted me. And I texted back that I was on the side of a mountain and would have to chat later. And I sighed because I knew I would have to text back later and good news and bad news would spill back in and there would be work to do and plans to make.

And I wanted to stay right here- right in the moment where there was no failure or success. Just breathing and seeing and being.

I had no idea how much I needed this moment, until I got it. No idea what it meant to rest. To use up your muscles and wear out your feet and exhaust your body and yet, rest, in every way that truly matters.

Back in Salt Lake City I had the honor to do a reading and booksigning at the King's English Bookshop. It was a lovely event and as I look through my pictures I know that if I tried to live the life of a happy hermit, loneliness would set in in two weeks. I need people. I need to grab their hands and hug them and hear them. I love them. But I look at this girl and I see her happiness and her gratitude at the opportunity to share words with others.

But I see something else, too. I see her worry and the pressures on her shoulders and the way she tries to plow ahead without caring what the outcomes is... but you do care. When you try with all your heart to do something well, you care a great deal.

So I am grateful that I had an entire week entirely unplugged.
I am grateful for the experience so I can tell that girl who worries and feels small and overwhelmed, "Remember the quiet."
I'm glad there are places in the middle of nowhere.
I am glad there are wild squirrels who will beg for peanuts.
I am glad that the mountains I climb, I do not climb alone.

I am glad there is quiet.

Monday, July 8, 2013

13 is their lucky number

The Artist and I celebrated our 13th anniversary this week.
Don't worry- I won't mush or gush on you.
He nudged my shoulder and said, "I still kinda like you."
I nudged him back and said, "I still kinda like you, too."
Then we high fived went for a bike ride.
We felt that the beginning of our family deserved a celebration so we got a present for our entire family.
Okay, half our family.
But they are the loud half and they screamed loud enough for all four of us.

I know- it's a monstrosity. But it's a really fun monstrosity. We led them outside and they dove straight in.

So, what was Tapper doing while the girls enjoyed her anniversary?
I was enjoying it, too, from ten feet away- thinking about that boy I still kind of like...
and wondering about all the years ahead of us.
Right now the best future I can imagine is having decades more time to nudge his shoulder, and enjoy quiet views like this

Happy Anniversary to my entire family. The Artist and I might have started it, but we're all in it together now.
Which means we can all do the laundry and dishes together, right?

Or not.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

That's great, Mom, but...

Today started in the most surreal way.
I got an email from a friend in Seattle (what were you doing awake at 5am, anyway? I forgot to ask...) saying, "I saw you on Amazon."
Which meant I wasn't dreaming last night when I got an email from Amazon saying they were going to feature me on their front page.
I slept all night thinking, "Silly Regina, you have such an imagination..."
But this morning, I woke up and those strange dreams happened.
Luckily those were my only strange dreams that happened, because I also dreamed about flashes of light blowing semi trucks off the road right in front of a horse farm, but I digress...
Anyhoo, I opened and saw:

I know. I was befuddled and baffled, too.
My daughter, the Cowgirl, walked in and saw me staring at the screen. She saw my picture up there and I said,

"This is the front page of Amazon. Like, all of Amazon."

She gave a little grin and a funny little noise and then said,

"OOOh, I want a Kindle Fire!"

Which made my husband and I laugh and we both said simultaneously, "There's the blog post!"
I am so grateful there is no unexpected success that can impress them, because there is also no failure that will ever disappoint them. I am forever and ever "Mom."
I will never want a better, more beautiful title than that. And you can put that on the front page of any site!

p.s. They feature two authors at a time, so every other click on Amazon today will show me. If you go and see a tattooed man, I promise I don't lead a double life. Just hit refresh once or twice

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When Giving Up Is Awesome

So you might not know that I am really pathetic.
Right down to the core of me I am so riddled with "quirks" (lets call all of my flaws "quirks") that I am like a swiss cheese of humanity.
And these "quirks" seem to blossom in the hot and humid air of summer.
The first two weeks without school almost did me in. I was trying to keep up my writing schedule with two giddy and active girls running circles around my rolling chair.
Which made me cranky.
Which made me irritable.
Which made me rude.
Which made me feel guilty.
Which made me feel worthless.
Which made me wish that I believed in drinking alcohol because I had quite a few days when I was wiping tears off my face and wishing I could saunter up to a bar and tell the keep to give me one straight.
In fact, the whole bottle.
I've never had a drop of alcohol, but trust me, a few days had me daydreaming...

So summer nearly turned me
 from a functioning human being into a 
whiskey-drowning bar hopper.

Luckily, I came up with a better plan.
I gave up.
I completely gave up on trying to to accomplish anything. Which felt awful. For three days.
And then it felt great. And then I couldn't remember why I was trying to fit in a career in the middle of being a homemaker, house manager, caretaker and business partner to my husband.
And I made a deal with my children.
We wake up, we clean up, we tidy up and when the house looks great (which only takes about half an hour) we are free to play.
Every day we go to the zoo or the movies or swimming or shopping or exploring and I can't for the life of me figure out why it was so hard to let go.

I'm grateful that when I cannot accomplish everything all at once, all the time, it doesn't matter.
The world didn't stop spinning through space.
The sun didn't stop slathering us with its fierce summer heat.
My career didn't fall apart when I left it to simmer on the back burner.
At least, I don't think so.
And if it did, if I can't stir it back up and get it going in six weeks when I have a few hours a day to work, then I'm glad my family doesn't attach my worth with what I publish.
And if it tanks and I feel sad, my family will take me to the zoo.
And buy me a ticket for the tram.
Double Score!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flamingos, Coyotes and Books. Oh, my....

In the last three days:
I walked downstairs to find this:
(the kicker is that big sis tied the string too tight and we had trouble getting it off her face)

I packed a picnic to enjoy some calm family time at the park and instead got this:

Pulled out of my driveway yesterday to find this guy waiting at the end of my street:
(It's a wild coyote, people! But that is probably redundant. I don't think there are tame coyotes)

And to add to all this madness, today is my book's birthday. Today, boxes in little bookstores, in little towns, will open and someone will reach down, pull out my little book and set it on a little shelf.

Isn't it amazing how so many little things put together can feel so big?

But just to clarify- My daughter turned into a flamingo and it was a coyote, people!