These words are:

Hung on doorknobs

Sticking out of newly planted grass or flowers

Taped to the door of a classroom

Whispered while the baby or child falls asleep

Written in the atmosphere at the library

And the exact words I feel when I watch my family

Exactly what I think when I finish a book

Do not disturb me.

“I’m absorbing my family right now. I’m watching them laugh. I’m trying to memorize the sound of their giggles, the way the sun flashes across their faces, the way the breeze wrestles their hair into knots.”

After I read a book that has touched something deep inside me, I feel much the same way. Like I’ve taken a drink from something holy and to open another book right away would be something disgraceful and unforgivable.

In those Do Not Disturb moments I know that I have touched magic, that grace has seeped into my skin.

Of course, I must move out of the moment because there are more moments waiting for me.

And I must shelve the book and pull a new one from off the shelf so I can experience magic once more.

But for now. For this moment.

Do not disturb.

Jan 6

Tea

I chose a word for this year…or rather, I feel, the word chose me. I was thinking and contemplating on what mine could possibly be, when I felt a word tug at the hem of my shirt. Rest. I shrugged and nodded, saying, “Okay, that’s good, but wait, I’m not finished thinking about it. I need to make sure. What if it’s something exciting like passion, or adventure, or possibility?”

But no other word tugged so hard or so persistently, and no other word seemed to lay gently around my shoulders.

Rest.

And so it makes sense that this week I’ve discovered tea.

This café-latte-girl-on-the-go found the delicateness and beauty and gentleness of tea.

Tea requires time.

Heating water to a bubbling boil.

Measuring the leaves.

Cooling the water slightly.

Steeping. The leaves, bits of flowers, and dried fruit swirling gently in the water

Removing the leaves.

Sipping.

You cannot force water to boil.

You cannot shorten the measurement.

You cannot hurry the steeping.

You cannot guzzle down the drink.

Tea cannot be rushed.

It requires time,

and paying attention,

and awareness

and rest.

Life should not be rushed.

The art of writing should not be hurried.

And rest does not mean that life is not enjoyed to the fullest.

Instead, paying attention, awareness, and rest allows you to fully enjoy life.

Nov 27

November 27th

Right now I am sitting upstairs on the bed, my legs stretched out in front of me, my computer resting on my lap, and the sun piercing through the window blinds making long, bright lines on the carpet. The sky is a brilliant blue–a blue so deep and rich that it makes you squint your eyes and search for stars.

The kids are outside sledding in the backyard–laughing, squealing, and yelling in turn. Their cheeks are pink and so are the tips of their noses.

John is working on his computer downstairs, designing a house that he hopes to build for us someday. He says that maybe it’ll never happen. He says it’s just for fun. But I know him. I can see the spark of a dream lit up in his eyes. And I don’t wonder “if”….I just wonder when.

And my heart is up here in the bedroom as I type these words, and it’s outside sledding, and it’s downstairs dreaming.

I think at first, how can that be? That I can be in three different places at once.

But then I realize it’s more than just three. So many more.

My heart is also in Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, and Texas, and Florida, and Oregon. Pieces of my heart–of myself–that I have given to family, and friends, those close-by and those all over the world.

And you’d think logically that the more pieces you gave away the less you would have. That’s just the way things work. But that isn’t the case. My heart has only been made more complete now that so many of the pieces are gone. I’ve realized that when it comes to love and family and friends, one minus one equals two.

Sometimes life works backwards and sometimes things don’t work logically.

Sometimes you can be upstairs, and outside, and downstairs, and all across the United States all at once and never be happier.

Oct 19

Little Things

Okay, so I’ve become ever-so-slightly obsessed with pintrest (Thank you Suzanne, and Alisa–my beloved sisters. Keep pinning!). If you don’t know what pintrest is yet, well then, my only advice for you is to log in and start pinning…because I need new style ideas and I only have 200 crockpot ideas and could use one more.

Anyway, there is a quote that I found on there. It’s not a mind-bending quote, nor is it one that makes me tear up like the quote from Pride and Prejudice does. I’ve even heard the quote before, so it wasn’t even a surprise to read.

But it’s a quote that helps me. It helps little old-run-around-like-a-chicken-with-it’s-head-cut-off (which, by the way, is a pretty disgusting old saying. Maybe I could think of something different like “run-around-like-a-wind-up-toy?…hmmm, doesn’t have quite the ring to it.) Anyhoo, this quote helps little old run-around-like-fill-in-the-blank-here-me stop for a moment, sit back, and enjoy the little things.

The quote is: Enjoy the little things. Because one day you will look back on your life and realize they were the big things.

So here are my little things for today:

*the quiet creaking of the house and the gentle rhythm of my heart inside my chest just before I pop in Jillian Micheals Ripped in 30 and throw myself into a pool of painful squats and those oh-so-horrid plank-to-squat-to-plank thingys that I loathe but do anyway.

*When I eject that DVD

*Taking my dogs on a little walk. The early morning is so silent and the moon is still hanging in the sky, and then there is the delicious crunch of the snow underneath my boots (snow? you say. Yes,  my dears. At 10,400 ft, rain in October turns to fluffy white flakes.)

*Gracie, Isaac, Ella, and Noah stumbling into the bathroom, hair wild, stretching, yawning, still groggy with sleep.

*Calling them down for breakfast. The pounding of their feet on the stairs and then watching them sit down together at the table my husband built and giggle to each other about inside jokes, or books, or the sound a balloon makes when you squeeze out the air.

*sipping coffee at the corner table in Starbucks. My manuscript pulled up on the screen and my headphones in playing instrumental music with the volume as high as I can get it.

*seeing my sister or my mom’s name pop up on my phone when it rings

*being greeted by wagging tales and joyful whines when I come home

*John popping home unexpected. “No, of course I wasn’t watching Pride and Prejudice again. Not with that load of laundry piled upstairs in the middle of our floor. Absolutely not.” His clunky boots and the high whistle he gives to let me know he’s there. The whistle I always give in return. And then when he leaves, pressing play on the DVD again

*seeing the kids run out of school and tackle me with a hug and a smile, coats flying, backpacks flailing, shoes untied. Noah always trying to trick me by sneaking around and standing behind me until I say “Where in the world is Noah?”

*the sound of their constant chatter on the way home from school telling me about this or that or what this person said or did.

*leaving soccer practice (notice I did not say, going to soccer practice. I love watching my kids play as much as the next person, but driving a half-hour to Silverthorne four days a week and not getting home until 7:30 can start to wear on a person)

*coming home to water boiling because John is such a sweetheart to come home and start it up (yes, because of said soccer practices, we have some form of pasta concoction 4 out of 7 times a week)

*watching the kids run around, bounce off the couches, ride the skateboard through the kitchen, and laugh with each other

*watching kids run around and scream with John (okay, this is a little bit of a point of contention since it’s always a teeny-bit counter-productive in my humble opinion to get four kids wound up right before bed, but I’ll sigh, clench my teeth, smile, and count it.)

*hanging out with John. Talking, watching a movie, or playing a game (unfortunately, last night was one of those depressing ‘let’s look at the money and how much we DON’T have’ nights…which does NOT fall under this category.)

*kissing the kids goodnight after they’ve fallen asleep, and finding Gracie still awake reading

*turning off the lights, snuggling in next to John, and drifting off to sleep.

And now, I pass the pen to you. It’s your turn to look at and enjoy the little things.

Sep 9

Picture Book

I LOVE picture books. I love their glossy pages. I adore their colorful illustrations. And I go crazy over their lilting, rhythmic style.

And even though my kiddos are starting to move beyond those 32 shiny pages, we still read them together. Some of the books still make me laugh, others make me cry, and some feel like old friends, reminding me of when I had four teeny kiddos nestled around me on the couch with a stack of books two feet high to read.

When I first began writing, I started, as a lot of us do, by writing picture books. I loved writing them, and even won a few contests with some of my attempts. Today, I was browsing through some of those old manuscripts. Miss Franny’s Purse. Charlie’s Monkey Suit. A Piece of Heaven. Some of them made me blush at their utter awfulness, while others made me smile and remember writing it…sort of like an old friend.

So, I’ve decided to post one of my old attempts at a picture book. I hope you enjoy. (Oh, and remember, most often picture book writers do NOT create their own illustrations…hence, no illustrations here)

So without further ado…I give you:

LITTLEPAGE FARM

The day the chickens found the box of hats in the barn was the day that trouble began at Littlepage Farm.

They sang like opera divas in their fine hats.

They trilled out melodies, and clucked out harmonies, so much so, that Farmer Littlepage sauntered down to the coop to see what all the ruckus was about.

He said to himself, “Jumping barley beans! This will never do. How can I have chickens wearing hats and singing around the farm? They’re sure to never lay eggs again.”

Farmer Littlepage tried to take the chickens’ hats off, but he learned quickly enough not to mess with a chicken in the middle of her operetta.

The horses weren’t fond of the noise the chickens were making, but they could see they were having fun. The horses looked in the box where the chickens found their hats and saw an endless supply of paints and brushes, and smocks.

At once they began painting.

Farmer Littlepage, who was still trying to figure out a way to get the hats off the chicken’s, huffed and puffed his way down to the barn the minute he saw the Mo-niegh painted on the side.

“Flying flea circus! This will never do,” he thought. “No one can ride a horse while he’s painting.”

He tried to remove the hats and the smocks and to throw away the paints and the brushes. But the farmer learned quickly enough to never interrupt a class on self-portraits.

The cows couldn’t stand the singing and were annoyed by the painting, but it looked like fun. So they burrowed their snouts into the  same box and the cows found the snazziest dance costumes they’d ever seen.

Once they’d squeezed themselves into the costumes, they were amazed at how fun it was tap on the barn floor, not to mention how beautiful they looked.

And so they tapped. They click-clacked on the fence. They shimmied in their stalls and made quite a commotion while doing it.

The farmer, who was wondering how to get the hats off the chickens, and the paints from the horses, couldn’t believe what he saw when he went to milk the cows the next morning.

“Great Goat’s tail!” he thought. “Cows that dance around in costumes? This is ridiculous. I can’t milk cows while they’re tapping on their toes.” And so he tried to take their tutus off, but he learned quickly enough to never interrupt a Barnway performance.

“This just won’t do,” he said. “I’ve got to put a stop to this once and for all.”

That night while all the animals were asleep, Farmer Littlepage took the hats and the paints and the costumes and hid them where he was sure they would never be found. “Now there won’t be any more of this nonsense.”

But the next morning, he was awakened by a lot of singing, tapping, and nieghing. He peered through the barn door. The animals had found their hats, and their paints, and their costumes. It was quite a commotion.

When Farmer Littlepage tried to settle his animals down, a harmonica, and an old straw hat fell on his head.

“Hopping Hogwash,” Farmer Littlepage yelled and grabbed the harmonica, ready to pitch it.

Then he stopped.

He stared down at the small golden instrument. He turned it over in his hands. Then he put that harmonica to his lips and played a jingle-jangle tune that got his feet tapping and his legs wiggling.

But a harmonica-playing, two-step-dancing farmer would never do.

So the chickens, horses, and cows tried to take the harmonica and the hat from Farmer Littlepage.

But they learned quick enough to never interrupt a harmonica-playing-farmer in the middle of his Mountain Top Jig.

Aug 8

Socks

I love socks. Especially when I first slip them onto my tootsies and they feel warm, and soft, and comfy-cozy-fuzzy. Then, it’s time to put them in the wash. I toss them into the laundry basket excited for the time when they’ll come out of the dryer warm and soft and comfy-cozy-fuzzy again. And they’ll both come out of the wash together, right? Where else could they go? They are inanimate objects after all.

Or are they?

Perhaps they are more than just…socks.

Perhaps there is a side of socks that we’ve never thought to imagine.

I fear that all socks have a darker side to them…and not just on the bottom where they get dirty and worn…a darker side. You know what I speak of.

Once they are tossed into the laundry basket, their evil desires awaken.

Ah, those formidable foes of the laundry, those sly little articles of footwear. The pair of them speak silently to each other in the basket. They give each other a secret handshake, and then slink off to unknown parts of the house.

Oh yes, one of them is always found. Oh yes. If they disappeared completely, well then, maybe we would know of their treachery. But no, just one sock secrets itself away in a place where no hand can reach and no eye can see and no flashlight can illuminate.

The renegade sock peeks out from it’s place in the shadows and laughs. It winks at it’s partner who gets tossed aside in frustration. “Now where is that other sock?” Oh, they love to hear those famous words, words that to them hold the same relish and delight as “Let’s watch Pride and Prejudice and eat the chocolate cake I made this afternoon” holds for us.

And then the evil pair meet up amidst the dusty darkness and stalk us in silence. Watching…waiting.

Okay…perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps I’m over-reacting and my imagination has run away from me again.

Maybe that pair of blue running socks are really what they seem:  just plain, inanimate…socks. Innocent, cozy, warm.

But I think not.

I think there is a darker side to socks…

Jun 30

Pool Days

I’ve been back in Pennsylvania for the past two weeks enjoying the house I grew up in, sifting through old pictures, visiting those places that for most of the year are only in my memory. I love coming back home. The hills roll with the land, everything is greener than green, and the grass is soft and thick, perfect for bare feet.

Me and my kids have ventured a few times to the pool I used to walk to almost every single summer day. My friend Lauren and I would meet up right when the pool opened, spread out our towels by the picnic table near the snack bar, dive off the sides, and leave the water only for adult swim or when we knew dinner was getting put on the table.

The pool looks much different this summer. They renovated it, putting in two slides, a mini lazy river, cabanas, and a new bathroom (though that looks a lot the same: bits of toilet paper stuck to the wet concrete…ewww).

But despite the different look, the sounds, the smells, and the sights are the same. Chlorine, grass, cement, ice cream, candy bars, chips, laughter, shouting, lifeguard whistles, giddy girls, show-off boys, toddlers, babies, moms, dads, grandparents, bathing suits, tan lines, white skin, black skin, red skin, lot’s of skin.

And its an amazing thing that you do not need to be at the pool off of Westerly Parkway  to see this, or to smell it, or to hear it, even though your pool looks different than this one, and may be a thousand miles away from the one I’m standing in.

You know. You can see it, you can smell it, you can hear it.

I love how there is always a bit of sameness in experiences between all of us humans. Love, heartbreak, death, mystery, shame, sadness, redemption, and joy.

And that is part of the job for us writers. To find the small splash of sameness, however insignificant, in our beautiful human differences. And it’s in infusing stories with this bit of sameness that we are able to identify with a character that is so different than us, or a place so foreign to what we know. We see a little piece of ourselves among the words and the pages and at the end of the story, we can find hope for our own story.

Back to Top