What I Did on my Summer Vacation


It’s not the beach, but it’ll do.

Since we last left our hero aspiring author …

I started writing this update the first week of August. Since I’m just getting around to posting it, I think we can all agree this bodes well for the future. But my time away has not been completely unproductive.

June began with a minor surgery. That’s right, folks. I no longer have all of my original parts. Who needs a gallbladder or appendix anyway? On the sunny side, I earned a whole week off. Unfortunately I was too busy enjoying the good drugs and sleeping them off to take advantage of the time. From that auspicious start, the summer could only get better.

The highlights for my clan this summer have been camp, art classes, swimming, Mimi’s visit, and museum trips galore. (Blue Star Museums is a wonderful program!)

I managed to complete the sequel to Recycled, tentatively titled Reused, and sent it off to my editor and friend, Max. She wowed me with her lightning fast turnaround, so I’m working on editing and revising that now. This was a HUGE deal for me. It’s the first book I’ve written solo since the twinions were born. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could meet a deadline (even a self-imposed one) and balance life at home. My juggling could use some work, but with the support of my amazing family, I did it! Now I’ve got to work up my courage to publish again …

We homeschool year-round, but our summer schedule is much more lax. With school starting back up here in the north and our co-op and various clubs kicking in gear, we’ll be buckling down this week. I’m super excited about the new opportunities coming up and slightly intimidated by our calendar. It’s going to be a great academic year!

What about you? Anything you feel like sharing with the class?

Not my Birthday

Life sometimes takes us to strange places, ground we were sure we would never have to tread upon.

For the first time ever, I played Magic the Gathering outside of our home.

“How did this happen?” I asked myself several times during the tournament surrounded by men speaking a foreign language recognizable only to other serious players.

A few years ago, my husband and I decided that instead of gifts for birthdays to clutter our already cluttered home, we would give “experiences”. Usually this amounts to a trip somewhere with something we think the birthday kid will enjoy. This year’s offerings were a 1st concert, a day trip to NYC for the Empire State Building and a Broadway show culminating in dinner at Guy’s restaurant, and a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.  After they complete a quest and put together a puzzle, the birthday boy gets to choose which parent he wants to accompany him. It’s a great opportunity to spend one-on-one time with the minions and get to introduce them to something we enjoy or we think they will or just experience something new together.

My husband’s birthday was last week. For his gift, the boys and I decided to pack him off to the TCG State Championship. Half-jokingly, my tallest (who also happens to play MTG competitively) asked my husband who he was taking. He quickly said, “Mom.”

I laughed.

I stopped as the boys excitedly turned to me.

I tried not to panic.

Early in our marriage, I decided that my husband and I needed to share some common ground outside of our children. Since he’s not down with the scrapbooking or cross-stitching, I picked up a controller and learned to hold my own in his favorite games. Now that the kids are older, they think it’s cool when I join them killing grunts or fight in epic Jedi vs Sith battles on Battlefront 2. I have my own Yugioh deck and now I have a modern MTG deck as well. But the problem is that I don’t play anything very often.

And I really don’t like situations where I don’t know what to expect and everyone else in the room does. I despise being ignorant and vulnerable in a big group of strangers. I’m funny that way.

But every spare moment in the two days between my husband’s birthday and the tournament was spent absorbing the rules and customs of MTG and telling myself that I was doing this because I love him. My understanding of the game is sparse, bare-minimum. My tutelage was like trying to catch fish with a hula hoop− information goes in, flops around frantically, and then swims away happily, leaving me staring in confusion, often certain I had something a second ago.

I knew it was going to be a slaughter.

I was right.

"What's that say?"

“What’s that say again?”

So there I was, sitting across from an opponent who really wants to win and is totally willing to go through me to get there. The only thing in his way was a borrowed deck that I didn’t know how to play, a very pretty (but hardly intimidating) playmat, and a sparkly dice. The most common phrases heard by my opponents: “Ummm, I’m gonna have to read that …” along with “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” I imagine that gets annoying for men who have these cards, their abilities memorized, and cash on the line.

Much to everyone’s surprise, I did win 2 hands−just not against the same opponent.

I’m also pretty sure the last guy who sat across from me cheated after I won the first round. I’d like to gird up some righteous anger (and I admit that I was very tempted to call the judge to count his side-deck), but I was there for fun. This is a big part of his life. I get that he didn’t want to lose to me of all people.

The end result was a kid-free, slightly stressful day of fun, sharing something else with my best friend, and a better understanding of all of the card talk that dominates my dinner table. So worth it!

And for those of you wondering, the hubs ranked 9th! I was … barely not last and I’m pretty sure that’s only because someone left after their first round loss. At some point, I’m afraid I might have to go again  in order to redeem myself.

Cover Revealed!

The cover is here!

My amazing editor and friend Maxann Dobson from The Polished Pen referred me to artist Paul Copello, founder of Designistrate.com, for an original cover to match my latest venture into insanity Recycled.  This is the end product of our collaboration, his genius, and a few email chains.

recycled thumbnail 600dpi

The back cover is even better, but I can’t go spoiling everything.

New Release

Well, my time of internet silence hasn’t been for naught.

I’m happy, nauseous, thrilled, ecstatic to announce that my new book Recycled will be available for sale in paperback and ebook March 19th!

The blurb:

When a small town psychiatric patient is hunted by a leather-clad Reaper, she must decide if she can trust her heart to the only man who might be able to save her life.

The docs say seventeen year old Michale Morgan is a schizophrenic. Her parents agree, and then ship her off to live with her eccentric great aunt. When immortal pacifist Lysander and his smart-mouthed watcher crash Michale’s group therapy session, Michale discovers she’s stuck in a reincarnation loop.

Reaper Fate is not satisfied to simply end Michale’s current life, but strives to entrap her soul, breaking this unnatural cycle of death and rebirth forever. Michale becomes desperate to prevent her very essence from being pickled and left to rot in a dusty corner of some cosmic pantry for the rest of eternity.  Clearly everyone can’t have their way.

While Fate chases them across country, through a casino, a life insurance seminar, and a backwoods honkytonk, Michale must learn to trust Lysander enough to save her life— and maybe even her heart. Meanwhile, Lysander must choose between his vow of peace and the love of his immortal life.

If they fail in this life, there may not be another.

I’ll be posting the cover here in the next few days. I hope that y’all are as stoked as I am! (Minus the nausea…)

And I’m back…

No, really! Except for the ones below.

No, really! Except for the ones below.

Activate your most shrill, Molly Weasleyish voice.


Deactivate and end the necessity for shouty caps. Now that I’m properly chastened, allow me to explain.

Thankfully October ended. I wasn’t able to complete my These Things challenge for two reasons. The first being that family drama (of the insane variety) drowned out any happy juju I’d manage to summon through my positive thinking, which admittedly was not a lot.

The second reason is that I honestly couldn’t think of more good things to write about my father, which was depressing. I’m hoping this blockage is due more to my emotional tsunami than the actual lack of positive memories from my relationship with my father. I guess I’ll know in time…

November was Nanowrimo. I’m always going to be MIA when I participate. For those of you who care, I’ll be posting about my experience and takeaways with that next week.

December was crazy and flew by waaaaaaaaaay too fast. Seriously, I blinked and it went poof−even the smoke flitted away with unnatural speed. The only exception to this weird time vortex was the 46 hours I spent in a car with my equally sleep deprived husband, my three minimen, and the twinions, who get terribly carsick and have a love for Barney that’s bordering on the obsessive. (Aforementioned trip led to a true love/hate relationship between me and the portable DVD player.)

But now it’s January, and we’re getting back to real life!

I have a good feeling about this year. How about you?

This Time Last Year

Having never been a blogger or even really kept a diary (I lost the key to my sparkly unicorn one when I was 7 and never quite recovered …) I’m often completely unsure hesitant about what to post on this site. In a perfect world, I’d have killer parenting tips or funny stories accompanied by even funnier drawings or something that would benefit the web community as a whole. But lacking that, I always wonder is anyone going to read this? Would it be a waste of their valuable time if they did? And lastly, is this too personal? The answers to those questions tonight are maybe, probably, and yes. But writing is cheaper than therapy and you’re not required to keep reading, so here we go.

One night around this time last year, I had just gone to sleep, when I realized my phone was buzzing and I actually answered it. (Anyone who’s ever tried to call me, especially before the twins’ first birthday, should know what a miracle this sequence of events actually was. Seriously, it’s up there with the fish and loaves.)

My aunt was on the other end.

“Baby, I’m calling about your Daddy. He’s in the hospital and … it’s not good.” She always calls me baby, no matter how many years it’s been since we spoke. Normally I get warm fuzzies with a hint of longing that lingers from my childhood. My aunt had a wonderful family, and as a little girl, I always wanted to be part of it. But that night, I just felt cold dread.

I’d received variations of this call for over a decade. When my father first started having heart trouble, I still lived close enough to sit in the hard backed chairs of the waiting room all night to hear word. Over the years we’d been gone, I’ve made trips back when he had a bad attack or it seemed more serious. But there’s also been times when his significant other (whoever that happened to be at the time) didn’t call, so I’d find out too late to even worry.

In fact, when my father’s father died, no one told me until a week after the funeral, because we lived 900 miles away and they just assumed I couldn’t make it. I always feared the same would happen with Daddy.

He’d been driving his latest girlfriend and her kids out of town for dinner when it happened. The details were sketchy but his heart stopped, his pace maker fired once, twice, three times, and 911 was called. He’d been airlifted back to our local hospital by then and was in the ICU. It’s not good was an understatement.

For once, I didn’t ask if I needed to come home. I knew I did.

I rushed downstairs to tell my husband but all I accomplished was a sobbing babble. After a few minutes, he simply handed me my phone and told me to call my mother. After all, if she can understand my never-ending voicemails, she might be able to crack this code as well.

My mother and my father were teenagers when she got pregnant and they got hitched. But they were young, and he was a bit wild. They divorced not much later and he drove a truck nearly all of my life. I’d see him maybe once a year with few exceptions. They tried to give it another go when I was about 6, but that time was shorter and more painful and thankfully ended real quick. So you’ll understand when I say, my mother (and her family) were the only constants in my life until I started a family of my own.

I calmed down as we talked and made a rough plan to go south as soon as possible, crash with my grandmother who had more room available, and felt like it was all going to be okay by the time I ended the call. I just needed to get back home.

Since my husband is USAF and I was in no condition to drive 22 hours with five kids by myself, we contacted the Red Cross as he called his superior officer. They were incredible and we were on our way about 3 hours after my Aunt’s first call.

The drive was miserable. I swung between anger at myself for not making more of an effort to keep in touch with Daddy and old bitterness that he didn’t either, which then left guilt for being so petty when he could be dying. Then I’d think I was being silly for rushing down, putting my family through the physical and financial stress when he’d probably be in step-down by the time we hit the city limits.

We’d only been in New Jersey about 3 months, so I worried about my husband’s job. What if he used all of his emergency leave? What happened next time? But eventually we made it. I got a quick shower, because I always feel nasty after a long car trip, and then went straight to the hospital, leaving my tired kids and exhausted husband to fend for themselves.

Over the next 3 weeks, I sat by his bed for hours, switching out with my aunt or his girlfriend. I didn’t do anything. I was just there. But most days, I’m thankful I was.

There were many times I asked myself how long we could stay. My boys were missing school. My twins were off their schedule and beyond fussy. My milk supply dropped. We were broke; we’d have to borrow money to even get home. The doctors wouldn’t give firm answers, just “we hope” and “if this works, then we’ll-”. But I just couldn’t seem to leave.

Finally, my husband had to go back to work. So we planned to leave in 5 days with only hours to spare for him to get back to report to duty. My grandmother said she didn’t think I needed to return for the funeral, if there was to be one. I’d done enough. I didn’t think there was such a thing, but I held my tongue. She meant well, after all.

That night when I was cooking supper for my people, my aunt called. She said it was time to take him off everything but the pain meds. We weren’t sure how long it’d take but if I wanted to be there tonight, they were letting all of the family in.

I stood by his bedside until he passed away that night surrounded by his family and his friends and bandmates, and I tried to be happy he’d had such a full life. I tried to be thankful I’d gotten the time I did−my half brothers and sisters scattered all over the continental US weren’t able to be there at all. I tried to be strong as cousins, who knew him better and had claimed more of his time and heart, sobbed when his breathing stuttered, pausing for so long we thought he was gone, only to draw yet another rattling breath. And ever since this time last year, I’ve tried to forget his desperate, panicked gaze when he knew the end was near. But I failed then and I fail tonight as I type this … whatever this is supposed to be.

I wish he had been a better father and that I had been a better daughter. I wish that he was able to keep all of those well-meaning promises over the years and that I’d stopped believing everything he said at a much younger age. But mostly, I wish it didn’t still hurt to think about him, but then sometimes I feel guilty that it doesn’t hurt more−that his loss didn’t make more of an impact on my day-to-day.

It sneaks up on me at the strangest times though.

On my way to Walmart in the middle of a Wednesday, I picked up my phone to call because everyone else I know was either busy or working and then I remembered he’s not there anymore.

Daddy never remembered my birthday. Sometimes he’d forget altogether or get it confused with my mother’s, but usually I’d get a call sometime in November. I waited for that random call last year, and I’m afraid this year will be no different.

I forgot his birthday this summer−I never really knew it or was able to celebrate it with him− but Father’s Day was rough. Even more so because my husband doesn’t understand how I can mourn a man I didn’t really know, one who hurt me time and time again through his unintentional neglect and thoughtlessness. On the way home from the emotionally disastrous funeral, my husband said to just forget my father and all of those people, their opinions don’t matter anymore. So how could I possibly explain that to me they do and probably always will?

So I hope you’ll forgive me for oversharing, for expressing my grief rather plainly here, and for the next time I’m in a maudlin mood and repeat the offense. I guess I just need someone to talk to tonight and congratulations, internet peeps, you’re it.

Date Night

In the queue: Jimmy Eat World and All-American Rejects with a dash of Adele in the mix.

Words written: zero. (I thought it’d look better spelled out … I was wrong.) But I did make it through about 10K first draft edits, so that’s something.

Moving on!

I’ve been a wee bit stressed, and my hubby has been TDY more often than not the last few months. In fact, after being home a whole week, he’s deserting us again on Monday. So last night, after the twins were in bed and my mini-men returned from karate, I experienced first hand the rare and often elusive date night.

It does exist, and man, it was awesome.

Honestly, we just grabbed a quick bite and caught a late movie, but yeah … heaven! And since we were the only irresponsible adults out late on a weeknight at the beginning of the school year, we got a private screening.

The hubs has already seen The Guardians of the Galaxy three times, so we chose The Giver, which is the actual reason for this post for those of you wondering. I went into the theater, expecting nothing but a quiet, dark room with nobody “MOM!”ing me, and then discovered the flick is an adaptation of the 1994 book by Lois Lowry. I’ve never read the book –and now I won’t because I liked the movie– but I couldn’t help but notice similarities to a few other movies in the past twenty years. Actually, my hubby couldn’t help pointing out each and every similarity. (The downsides to being alone in the theater: I couldn’t shush him without being more rude, thus losing the courteous high ground, and if I gave into the temptation to strangle him,  there were no suspicious chaps about to blame or even create a little reasonable doubt.)

***Spoiler Alert***

The Giver: Matrix style, starring Meryl Strep as Agent Smith.  The giver-in-training is like a less flexible Neo: he does what no one else can do by getting info uploaded directly into his brain.  But  Jeff  Bridges as Morpheus is where this one falls apart.

What about The Village? I mean, you have the all-knowing, all-concealing council of elders, a town secluded from the rest of the world, and a hero who has to leave the boundaries of his world, which he thought was perfect mere days ago, in order to save a life. 

But Equilibrium was the most obvious comparison that came to mind. First of all, the citizens get meds that take away their emotions, everyone is the same, no artwork or music, no color to life. There’s one scene in particular when both main characters basically get their emotions back and start seeing color again. Maybe the scenes standout because they’re so touching–the restoration of something so vital and  essential to what makes us human–but I still got that deja vu  vibe.

And within the first ten minutes of the movie, I exclaimed, “Oh! This is like Matched!”

If imitation is the truest form of flattery, then surely Lois Lowry has been inundated  with Facebook pokes,  #Friday follows, and Be Mine, frilly pink hearts filled with chocolate caramel clusters for years. But accepting that there’s nothing new under the sun, (Yep, I just went all Biblical on y’all.) where is the line between inspiration and imitation?

This is the question I will be pondering when I should be doing something productive tomorrow.