I’ve always been an outgoing person. I love to be involved—so much so I often tend to stretch myself thin with people and projects. My oldest son is nothing like this. A true introvert, he prefers to stay home than go out with friends. To say this drives me crazy would be an understatement. I keep telling him you only get one shot at this high school experience—soak up all you can. He smiles and nods than goes right back into that proverbial shell of his.

This week there was a dance after the football game, so of course I hounded him about attending. The after game dances were some of my favorite high school memories. “You’re a junior,” I said, “you need to get out there. You’re high school experience is already halfway over—”

“Mom.” He put up his hand, his tone begging me to stop. “I’m sorry I didn’t come out just like you, but I don’t come with an upgrade.”

His words silenced me and I’ve been reflecting on them ever since. I had never considered myself to be one of those parents who lived vicariously through their children—I just wanted them to be happy. Yet, I now realize I’ve been pushing my version of happiness on them. Maybe the things that I enjoy, they never will. Does that mean they will never be happy? Of course the answer is no, but I’m not sure where to go from here. How do I guide this teenager who has nothing in common with me other than the misfortune of having this outspoken person as their mother?

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I guess you’re never too old to experience another “first” in life

I’ve watched a ton of football games over the years, but for the first time, I witnessed one of my own children actually carry the ball for a touchdown. I just gotta say, “Holy cow—what a nerve wracking five-seconds that was.” It felt more like five minutes of torture to my body. He was clear back around the five yard line when the punted ball landed in his hands, so he had a very long run ahead of him to get it into the end zone. I’m pretty sure my heart stayed lodged in my throat the entire distance, yet I still managed to scream, “Go, go, go.” What made it even funnier—I had been asked to take care of the down marker as part of the chain help for the game. I don’t even know when I started running, but I was about halfway down the field with the down marker still in my hand when he scored.  Which is a big no, no, since I’m supposed to keep track of where the line of scrimmage is, in case there’s a penalty that gets the ball called back. Good thing we’re talking ten-year-olds and not high school football, because the referee didn’t chew me out when I walked over to place the marker for the extra point.

“Well,” he said with a wink, “I think I’ve figured out which one of them is yours.”

I burst out laughing, having made a spectacle of myself again. Good thing I do it so often it no longer bothers me.

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Stuffed Souls insights

With my latest novel, Stuffed Souls, coming out in the next few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about my teenage years. My mother always said she admired my fearlessness, but when it came to this particular classmate, my I-don’t-care-what-you-think-of-me persona struggled. She was beautiful, popular and excelled at torturing me. Oh, she could push my buttons, make my well-buried insecurities rise. As writers we’re always told to write what we know—so I did. In the first chapter you’ll discover I took that horrible girl and stuffed her soul into a doll. It was great therapy, but by doing so, something happened. My imagination just couldn’t leave her be. My mind nagged and nagged until I went back, taking what I thought was just a short story and creating a full-length novel. More than any of the other books I have written, this one stems from a piece of my own past, which is scary and exciting at the same time.

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I spend a lot of time driving my involved kids from one destination to another. I love music, so the radio is always playing in the background no matter what vehicle I’m in. This week, one of the radio personalities talked about a new psychological finding for those who talk to themselves. My oldest son, who at the time was with me in the car, gave me one of those and-that-would-be-you gloating looks of his.

Sadly, he is not wrong. My kids walk in on me talking to myself all the time. I can’t seem to help myself. Most of the time, I don’t even realize I’m doing it—though it seems to be my preferred method for working out problems, big or small. I even do it when writing, which has been known to wake up my husband in the wee hours of the morning while I’m working. Whoops. Sorry, honey. I love you. 🙂

Then the radio announcer says the study shows people who talk to themselves are not crazy after all, but cognitive geniuses.

I punch my son in the shoulder. “See…this is why you should always listen to your mother.”

“I kind of have to,” he said, rubbing his arm, “you’re always talking.”

Okay, I guess my son deserves a nod for his perfectly timed burn, but I still found it exciting to be called a cognitive genius—if even for just a moment. In reality, I’m probably the exception to the “self-talker” study, since I’m the queen of misplacing things.

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The rare zinger

As a general rule, I’m not the funniest person in my house. The awesome one-liners that have everyone doubled over in laughter around here often belong to my oldest son and husband, but that in-the-moment quick wit is a talent I just don’t have. For me, I need time and lots of a delete button to come up with killer zingers for my characters. So, I’m pretty excited this week’s funny moment came from me.

I had just sat down on the couch after a long day of writing, to rest my head before I stood back up to start dinner. I was mindlessly flipping through foreign film options on Netflix when my youngest son came hopping into the room. In his sock covered feet, He jumped from beside a potted plant to the hearthstone, then to the rug in the middle of the room. He gave a few more hops on the rug, only to have his sock covered feet slide out from underneath him. Falling to his butt, one of his feet struck the underside edge of the couch I sat on.

“What were you doing?” I slid off the couch to where he sat holding his foot, examining the damage.

“I was trying to be a spy,” he said between gulps of breath, trying not to cry.

The comment was so unexpected, yet the perfect one-liner came to me as I peeled back his sock. “Well, Agent Pants,” I said, proud I managed to even throw in the nickname that embarrassed him the most, “I would say you failed.”

His near-tears turned into laughter, and we both had a good chuckle there on the floor. Oh yeah, I nailed it.

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Chasing the mighty dollar

How much do you make as writer is something I often get asked. You’d think this question would raise my hackles, but it doesn’t. I see it as an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson I learned more than a decade ago.

My husband and I had become close friends with a successful lawyer in the city where we lived. The house, the cars, the lavish vacations, this guy had it all in terms of wealth.

While out to dinner one evening he mentioned how much he hated his job.

I couldn’t keep quiet after hearing that. “Then, why did you become lawyer?”

“I figured it was the career path that would make me the most money—and it does—but being a lawyer doesn’t make me happy. I hate speaking in public, but what do you think I do in court all day? I’m a quiet man that doesn’t like confrontations, yet the money I make comes from fighting with people or faceless corporations. No, if I could go back to my early twenties, I would do things differently. Money wouldn’t be my top priority. I’ve spent a lifetime chasing it, and only made myself miserable in the process.”

His words really affected me. I know he would be happy to hear that I can say with confidence, “I choose to write, not because I expect it to bring me lots of money, but because it gives me a fulfilling purpose to my life that wasn’t there until I started.” Whatever you choose to do with your life, may you be able to say the same.

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Order of operations: yes, it matters.

The importance of order of operations hit home this week for my husband and I. We have begun the long process of finishing our unfinished basement. I’ve seen my father do it to the homes I grew up in, my husband had seen and helped his father, but neither of us have actually ever done this ourselves.

Thank goodness for YouTube!

My husband is also a smart, engineering-perfectionist, so I had every confidence the basement would be done well when we finished. We decide the best thing in this framing process would be to tackle the hardest wall in the room. My husband takes his sweet time, calculating every angle and measurement we need, going over YouTube videos until I’m pretty darn sure I could build the wall myself. We lay the boards together on the floor using the framing-nail gun to put it all together. It looks like absolute perfection on the floor, then we lift it into place, and it fits perfectly. I go to bed that night fist-bumping everyone in the house, thinking we so got this framing business down.

However, with the light of day, we realized by putting the hardest wall in first, we no longer had enough space on the floor with which to build two much easier walls. After what we’d been through the night before, neither of us wanted to take the harder wall down, so we built what should have been easy walls board-by-board, placing them upright against the wall between a top and bottom plate. Keeping everything level was such a bugger, it made those easy walls seem even harder than first wall we put in. It’s a lesson I don’t mind sharing with others, when framing, maintaining floor space is paramount. 🙂

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