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I write novels, eat dark chocolate, raise three children, love my husband, scrub toilets, ignore the laundry, and love a good story, but hardly ever in that order.

OPERATION BONNET

STRETCH MARKS

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ACT TWO

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BALANCING ACT

Friday, May 27, 2016

Field Day


Today is field day at our elementary school.
So I feel this is the time you should know these two things about me:

One: In first grade, I jumped the farthest in the long jump competition. I jumped six feet. I can feel through the Interweb your respect for me. And let's face it: I deserve it.

Two: For years, I was the record holder at my junior high for longest SHOT PUT THROW.

Did you hear that?

I threw shot put.

Have you met me?

I'm not exactly the prototype for the shot putters among us.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
But I went to a junior high where the track team consisted of roughly 8.5 people, and that was when I wasn't faking sick and staying home.

So at track meets, we all did everything. Our coach would insist it didn't matter where we placed, just that we participated. We got points just for participating. It was track and field socialism.

At one meet, I remember doing long jump, throwing the shot put, running in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays, AND running the 200m hurdles. Prior to that afternoon, I had never run a hurdle in my lifetime. Coach just took me out to the middle of the field and showed me how, emphasizing the socialism piece and assuring me that it didn't matter if I tripped in my spikes or when clearing a hurdle. My dad was a dentist and he would fix me all up, lickety split.

We did it all. It was a small school. We also had homemade uniforms, which were certainly intimidating to the other teams. That and our hair.
This is how I ended up throwing shot, getting a school record in shot, and then being harassed and ridiculed for roughly a decade about my shot record. Of course, now I really wish I would have stuck with it. I could use a little less mom-jiggle in ye olde upper arms these days.

So track and field day. Word on the street is that Thea is a speedster. Mitch has my man-calves, which will help him in all sorts of ways. 

May the wind be at your back this weekend, dear readers. And may you get lots and lots of participation points for your team.

P.S. Hey! The print editions of my books are all up and rocking. They're really pretty. I have some at my house. For instant cool factor, click on the images to the right. Summer is upon us, people, and it's time for a good read by the pool. OR you could buy all five and do some bicep curls, since you're no longer throwing shot put. Read AND tone! What a deal!


Friday, May 20, 2016

Foxy Lady


I used to have lots of interests. I used to be well-rounded and interesting at parties. I used to be nuanced.

OK, that's not true. I was never nuanced. And I've never been much for parties.

But I DID used to have a life that did not revolve around wildlife. Remember Chuckles? And Da Poss? Well, they have cousins. Or step-cousins. Or rival gang members. And now they are living under our deck.

Meet Mrs. Fox.
Yep. A fox. She moved in right after we got back from our trip to New York. Right as I was feeling all self-righteous about how we Iowans don't have rats hanging out in our streets and licking up the subway sludge, these were the events in chronological order:

1. My mom calls me as I'm sitting in La Guardia and tells me she has called Animal Control because there is a rabid raccoon in our backyard. Scout the mini-Schnauzer, she says, is safe. No mention of the kids, but I assume they're safe too.

2. Our first morning back, we find the remains of an opossum on our deck. And by "remains," I mean fur and a kidney. The poor 'poss met his demise. ON OUR DECK.

3. We come home from school that very day and this animal was preening on a bench. ON OUR DECK. OUR DECK IS THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL.

What does a girl do when she has a mama fox and three baby foxes living in proximity to human children and a mini-Schnauzer? She calls this woman. Let's call her Deb, and let's also call her The Fox Whisperer.

Deb is a licensed wildlife rehab worker, and she has rescued all sorts of animals, from baby squirrels and raccoons to bald eagles and pelicans. Last year she rescued a bobcat who was hanging around a school playground. When she told us that particular story, I asked her if she would be open to moving in and protecting our family as her full-time occupation. Deb looked nervous at that suggestion, so I let it drop.



I know, I know. They're really cute. And they are wild animals. They are both these things.

So Deb caught three of the baby foxes and was trying her darnedest to catch the mama fox. Our plan was to relocate this little family to another penthouse suite, one that was not as close to our house but still had a doorman and amenities. I thought South Dakota sounded like a good option.

Deb was phenomenal. She even used a live chicken for bait at one point. (Note: No chickens were harmed in the process of living this blog post. Please do not sic chicken activists on me. I'm busy.)

The chicken didn't work. And then we realized that there were not just two or three baby foxes. There were six baby foxes. And there was a reason the mama fox kept looking at me like this. 

SHE WAS EXHAUSTED. Her little fox nipples had had just about enough. She hadn't slept in days, she was sick of all the barking and the bickering and the crawling all over her to get to dinner. She needed help and a nap and a really big glass of wine that she didn't want to pump out later. And also, where the heck was the male who got this whole ball rolling?!
Perhaps I was projecting. 

So we just left the foxes alone. We are coexisting. We are Discovery Channel-ing. And we are trying not to think about the rabbit's head, single furry rabbit's foot, and unnamed internal organ that Mrs. Fox left on our front step. Perhaps she thinks it's a kind gesture, like zucchini bread.

I hope you're proud of me. I chose to live in THE CITY, a city of around 400,000 people. And yet, I am like that Australian guy who died who loved animals. I'm a lot like him. 

Happy weekend, friends. And may the only wild animals you encounter this weekend be the ones who who share your gene pool.

 P.S. For your viewing pleasure, THIS, it turns out, is what the fox says. (This noise is a lot cuter during waking hours. Three in the morning, there is no such thing as cute anything.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

New York, New York 2016


Marc and I went to New York a couple of weeks ago. 

I have security clearance to talk about this now because we are no longer out of town and you can't come rob our house. When you live with a conspiracy theorist, you have rules.

But he's a very cute conspiracy theorist, so I play along.

Here are the highlights. And you don't even have to come over for dinner and watch the slideshow! 

1. I met my publisher. New York is the home of my new publisher, Skyhorse, so I was able to meet my team! I prepared for the meeting by working on blending in to New York culture. I'm pretty sure I nailed it.
I told the Skyhorse folks they would know me by my fanny pack. Because I'm from Iowa. I'm pretty sure they knew I was joking. (P.S. If you read this post, you will be relieved to know I did not take along my magenta portable urinal. I have my standards, people, and they are high.)

Here's the team! Two Nicoles and one Bri, all of them delightful. I am old enough to be any of their mothers. They were polite enough to pretend not to notice and to carry my walker to the coffee shop.

For those of you wondering what the inside of a publishing house looks like, here you go. Two smiling editorial types and not one ounce of stress. I'm sure this was completely typical.
2. I renewed my hatred for Times Square. For those of you thinking about walking through this part of New York, do not. You'll need to shower afterward. And join an monastery to clear your mind. The Naked Cowboy is always a bit jarring. I worry about him during New England cold snaps.

Also, word on the street is that Elmo tries to cop feels when taking photos. I kept my distance, though Marc was readying his ninja moves just in case.
 But then he got distracted from protecting my honor and found great pants instead.
 3. We went to some great shows. Here's how we felt when we got rush tickets for The Color Purple
Jennifer Hudson was delightful in her last week with the show, but can I tell you about Cynthia Erivo? 
Photo by Norman Jean Roy
I don't have enough ethereal adjectives to describe this woman. She is up for the Tony for best actress and she should win or there is no justice in the world. I want you to know Marc and I had to sit in the theater for about ten minutes AFTER the show to compose ourselves, we were so moved by her performance. I have never seen anything like it in all my days. 
We also heard some ridiculously good jazz in Brooklyn. We love this guy, John Pizzarelli, and we are pretty much groupies. We also enjoyed meeting a Brooklynite named Babs (not joking) who wanted to tell us lots of things, and of course we listened and loved it and appreciated her pronouncement at the end that we were "a lovely couple." Hand swish, toss of the wig, and she was gone. 
4. We got some tips about real estate hunting in NYC. "Outdoor space" is a little different there. 
5. We ate very, very well. Here, here, here, but let's talk about The Food Sermon in Brooklyn. Um, I could crave this food every day of my life. The owner/chef, Rawlston Williams, is a theology-school drop-out, and I could write a bit about how his coconut-ginger sauce did something to my soul, but you probably won't believe me.
At one point, the gentlemen who had talked us through what to order saw me swooning on my stool by the window. And they nodded, like they see The Swoon every day and not to worry about it. Comes with the Sermon.
Such a great trip. I do love that city. And I also love coming home. Because WE ARE HOME NOW. No need to try robbing us, okay? Marc is back and ninja-ish, so just be warned. And he's wearing his new NYC palazzo pants, so if you weren't deterred before, consider that visual.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Show Choir: No, we're not kidding.


We are in show choir season around here.
You heard me. Show choir season. Kind of like lacrosse season or volleyball season only with lots of sparkles and jazz hands.
I used to be in show choir, before the turn of the century.

I loved it. We sang, we danced, we ratted our hair, we all used the same startling color of lipstick. It was pretty much amazing.

Now my daughter is participating in this odd social ritual, and I feel like I'm watching my life play out again. Only now I'm trying to record still photos and video at the same time and whispering furiously with my mom, who looks almost eerily happy to be back in the saddle. I'm positive she will want to order a sweatshirt and she'll probably start making posters to hold up during the ballad.

If you are not from the Show Choir Belt (a term I just made up and want to trademark immediately), perhaps this entire idea is foreign to you. Marc, who went to high school in South Dakota and Minnesota, finds this whole show choir idea to be slightly obscene, certainly a little sketch. Marc was in jazz band in high school, which means, among other things, that he was smarter, more thoughtful and less shallow. OR SO HE THINKS.

Did he and his band nerd friends get to look like this?!
(PLEASE NOTE: This is not a self-portrait. Though I surely did own these Trump-orange tights back in the day. AND I ROCKED THEM.)

And did he get to shimmy and smile and emote and dance in weird Helen Keller-era shoes in front of hundreds of people while stage make-up made a slow slide down his face? No, no, he didn't. He just played "A Train" and "Take Five" and "Girl From Ipanema" hour after hour and tried to look disinterested and ironic, which is WAY more work.

So here I am again, watching my daughter sing and dance and try to sound as much like the girls in "Pitch Perfect" as possible, though this is only a vague idea to her since her mother will not let her watch that movie because of all the sexual innuendo. Sing "Shut Up and Dance," yes. Watch movies about shutting up and dancing, no. It's a complicated system but it makes perfect sense to me.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Work on those facial expressions, perfect that jazz square, and do your best to get that jazz saxaphonist in your life to just shut up and dance with you.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Travel Products for The Savvy Among Us


Guys! Marc and I are going on a trip! Without the children! I'm so excited and also COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY EXHAUSTED from getting ready to keep my children alive from a distance. I want you to know that when I itemize all the duties I would have been doing while gone, it is clear that I should be making roughly $560,000 a year after taxes. I am amazing. I know this because I am needing to involve no fewer than EIGHT (8!!) friends over the course of three days to help keep my children alive. And this is only carpool! This is not food or water or putting kids to bed or feeding and walking the dog or general wellbeing. I'm talking transportation only.

So to the parents among us: GOOD JOB RUNNING WORLDS. You are fantastic and grossly, obscenely underpaid. Go itemize.

When I finish the last four loads of laundry, clean the guest bedroom and bathroom, pack, buy two birthday presents and a package of tortillas, and print out the three-page document for the babysitter, I'm going to go on a trip with Marc. I love him and I love travel, so I expect great things. I also expect him to be sweating when he finally sits down on the plane because Marc tends to get a little whipped up about travel. Happily for him, I have done a little research and have found some travel products that will make him the coolest Midwesterner in any exotic locale. First, I give you...

1. The Ostrich Pillow
 Right. So. This is a great option for those of us who want to blend into our new environment. Also practical if you want to have a head Koozie while you sleep. That can of Schlitz will be ready for you right when you wake up!

2. The Super Cool Fanny Pack
Because the fanny was only the beginning! Strap one of these bad boys around your breasts, under the armpit, up your back and over your shoulder. It's that easy! And tourniquets are ALWAYS in vogue!

3. The UpRight Pillow
This also comes with a drool cup. I'm kidding. But it does double as a neck brace after severe spinal cord injuries. It's that comfortable!

4. Laptop privacy hood
Listen, no one needs to see what you're typing. Or that you're watching The Gilmore Girls again. Or that you sweat when you wear wool head wraps. All of these things are very private and your business alone. No peeking, sicko business traveller sitting next to me. And stop staring!

5. And when you get on the plane....
 ...put away the wool Sneed hood and slap up one of these babies. No need to interact with your seat mate (even your spouse!), and no need for anyone to see your facial expressions during a plane ride. Because transportation should be isolating, and sometime I just need some ME TIME.

6. The Face-Kini
Break out that Midwest winter skin with confidence. No need to char when you can look like a terrorist AND keep wearing your goggles!

7. The portable spa


So sleek! So streamlined! You can be on Instagram while steaming those pores. And you can pop that squat right in the middle of Terminal B! Gwyneth Paltrow ALWAYS saunas after she flies. She probably uses this.

8. And finally, what every woman needs: a portable urine funnel.
Do you see that dancing girl on the box? She feels this light-hearted because she is no longer peeing down her leg AND she gets a snappy fuchsia carrying case. Skiing down a mountain and no restroom in sight? Climbing a rock wall and no potty in view? No prob! Just disrobe entirely on the slope or cliff face, put this bad boy into position, and you're good! Then carry the refuse with you for the next six hours! It's as simple as that!

I feel I have done you all a great service. Bon voyage, Godspeed, and enjoy your adventure!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince


Let's talk about Prince.

He was a genius.
Also, the hair. 
(Please note: This is Prince's most recent passport photo. MY most recent passport photo was taken when I was pregnant. I'm so happy I get to use it for a decade!)
But Prince. And the high heels.
And the fact that for awhile he was "the artist formerly known as Prince." 

Is it too soon to make fun of that? Yes? Too soon? 

When I was a young girl and my revered teenaged Aunt Jana was getting ready for her prom, she wore a purple dress. And the theme was Purple Rain. So Prince has always been associated with glamour and nail polish and Aqua Net for me. The trifecta of happiness.

Prince lived in Chanhassen, which is a suburb of Minneapolis. This endears me to him. No offense to L.A. and New York, but any alarmingly petite musical icon who chooses to spend his time in Minnesota gets a point or two for swimming upstream.

So I've been seeing the tributes, the odes, the love for Prince, the Spike Lee dance party. And I just have to wonder how people will remember me when I'm dead. I vote dance party after a really lovely unaccompanied Bach cello number. And man, do I hope there's some laughter. And lots of making fun of my bad hair years. Too soon? I don't think so.

I feel to the fiber of my being that this is not all there is, this life, this time. I love the spot in Ecclesiastes that says God has put eternity in a person's heart. We aren't wired for short gigs but for the long haul, for the after, for the real life and freedom God gives with open hands.  

I may or may not have made my junior high daughter listen to "Let's Go Crazy" this morning on the way to school. She seemed considerably less moved than I was. She's a little wary of a mother who can turn the death of a rock star into a discussion of mortality and God's goodness. 

She'll come around. I'll hit her up with "Raspberry Beret" and "Kiss" after school. Pretty sure that before long, I'll get her to dance.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Fashion Report 2016


Spring has sprung! The buds on my viburnum smell delicious, my daffodils are in full bloom, and this sentence sounds like I know what to do in a yard. That's the prerogative of a blog writer. You get to lie at will.

To help you get the most out of your life, I here offer you a guide to this year's spring fashion. You're probably going to want to take notes.

**NOTE: I want you to know that I found these items when I searched "wearable spring fashion." 

Let's let that sink in a little bit. 

OK. Here we go:

1. The practical neckline. 
Listen, I love me some checked and I love me some plaid. But in my life, I do need to tie my shoes, pick up toys, and walk. I can't see the groceries staying put with any of those activities if I'm wearing this particular V-to-navel cut.


2. Face masks. They're not just for Spidey anymore! Think of the approving looks you'll get in the carpool lane. Nothing says "school safety" like the minivan mom rocking this look!

3. Florals and sadness. I just want to include this person, not only because of her winsome pairing of florals, but also because her tired and naked face was the one image with which I totally identified. This is the exact look I typically sport when hauling my daughter to 6:30 am choir practice. I also grab my beaded face mask because I don't want to be recognized. It never works.

4. Breast mesh. Again with the practical! I love this look! Perfect for book club!

4. Bows. I really do love these shoes. But I chose this photo for the pink bows. Pink bows of any size are VERY FLATTERING, but when they span the width of a woman's torso, you know you're on to something.

5. No comment.

6. Sometimes I worry about whether I should wear boots with a particular outfit. I can see I have been over-thinking. Also, let's be humanitarians and get this woman some lip gloss.

7. Everyone needs highlights in the spring. Please remember this. Also, everyone needs to trust bang cutting with the professionals. Also, Thea wants you to know she's worried about the eye make-up.

8. And finally, boob cut-outs. Just to remind the boobs where they need to land. Middle age is tough, friends, and sometimes we need direction.

Happy spring! Now go shop!