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It’s My Cow’s Birthday Today

Sam frantically searches over and under his bed. “Mommy? Have you seen my cow? I need him.”

I pluck the blue and white stuffed animal from under the night stand and hand him over, grinning as Sam squeezes him tight.

“It’s his birthday today!” he singsongs.

“It is?”

“Uh huh. And now he can say ‘Ma Ma’ and ‘Da Da’, and…” he pauses, thinking. “…And last night he walked.”


“Uh huh. All the way up my bed.” He presses the cow to his ear, listening, then bursts into giggles. “Oh, man,” he says. “He sure is a funny one.”

Yes, he certainly is that. I make my way down the hall to check on the tooth-brushing progress and am waylaid by Tom at the bottom of the stairs. “Mom, tomorrow is Friday. And it’s a school day. But it’s my stuffed animals’ birthday. And Frankenweenie opens. And we have to go to school.” He ends on a somber note with downcast eyes.

It’s all I can do to keep a straight face — what with coming straight from the cow incident and all.

“Oh my goodness, baby! There’s so much really good stuff going on and school is just getting in the way, isn’t it?”

He looks up at me, and a grin breaks through his very deliberate frown. “I wish it was a Saturday is all.”

I squeeze him hard enough his eyes may have bugged out ever so slightly, and think about what a wonderful day this random Thursday is shaping up to be. And wonder how I ever made it without stuffed animal birthdays on my calendar.

Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids, Parenting, Uncategorized.

A Round of Words in 80 Days

My friend Natalie just turned me on to this alternative to NaNoWriMo (in which I participated last year, and ultimately face planted during).

A Round of Words is more is more manageable than NaNoWriMo for one very big reason: where NaNo encourages you to ignore your “real” life for a month, ROW recognizes that for some of us that would mean a visit from Child Protective Services. Also, with ROW, you set your own goals. Something that matches where you are at the time. So I’m stating out loud and in public, that my goal for the next 78 days (yes, I’m tardy to the party. SURPRISE!) is to write 500 words per day and not skip more than 2 days in a row. A bit of a stretch from the big fat NOTHING I’ve been writing, but still a lot more manageable than a full sized book — especially for a mom of 4.

So there, world at large, now you know. Who’s with me on this one?

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Everything that Rises

In my never ending quest to self-educate, I’m reading Flannery O’Connor. Everything That Rises Must Converge — depressing. A Good Man Is Hard To Find — Horrifying and depressing. And the one where the traveling salesman steals the girl’s prosthetic leg — absurd and depressing.

Ditto for Kurt Vonnegut. Incredibly well-written, but — once again — depressing. Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Nabakov? It’s painful. And can I get a witness that Finnegan’s Wake is a steaming pile? Reading Joyce is like viewing the Emporer’s New Clothes. If you point out there’s nothing there, it supposedly proves your inability to appreciate great literature. Guilty as charged.

Why is it that to be truly “enlightened” I need to feel that the world and everything in it is pointless? Even Shakespeare (although not above a bit of potty humor every now and again) jumped on the bandwagon with his “…tale. Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” Okay, I’ll give that one to Old Will. That entire passage is beautiful and poignant and makes you heave a deep sigh of delicious sadness…right before you reach for your coat and wonder if it’s too late for an appetizer and a nightcap before you go home.

But back to the sad sacks listed above — the best part is they never stopped at one depressing book or one soul-sucking story painting the entire range of existence as a short jaunt between banal and senselessly violent. No! They had to keep going back to that cesspool again and again for one more scum-encrusted sip. Is the whole point to continually harp on the fact that there is no point?

I’m confused. And disgusted. And ultimately fed up.

I’m going to go read some Dr. Seuss. Because of all the thinks I can think, I’ll choose the hopeful, helpful ones every day of the week.

Posted in Books.

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Expect the Unexpected

I just finished my first real short story. I say it’s real because it has a beginning, middle and an end. AND, most importantly, I’m actually going to have it published. In a book. WHERE OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE IT!! *gags, chokes, sobs*

I’m so proud of it. I want to take it out and pet it. I want to revisit my characters because they’ve just been so much fun to meet and get to know. It’s great!

And it’s terrible. Because it’s not what you’re expecting. By you, I mean people who actually know me In Real Life.

Throughout my writing life I’ve been told I’ll be “the next Harper Lee.” That my style is “elegant.” When a good friend read The Night Circus, he said he thought of me the whole time because he thought it sounded just like something I’d write. And, oh my goodness was I flattered by all this praise and expectation. Oh wait…I mean flattened.

Flattened to the point that I couldn’t finish anything. I’d start something that sounded promising, then scrap it because it wasn’t intellectual enough. I’d start another story with high flying THEMES and SYMBOLS, then abandon it because it wasn’t fun to write — or fun to read, for that matter.

But sometimes opportunities come along you haven’t planned. Sometimes they make you uncomfortable. Edgy. Some may even send you running the other direction as fast as you can. Believe me, I was tempted so many times these last few months to say, “I don’t think this is a good fit. I should pull back. I should wait.” But I just couldn’t let it go. After 20 years of waiting for perfect, I decided to make the most I could of almost perfect.

The end result is the shiny, lovely short story I mentioned above. It’s not great literature. It’s not high art. It’s a fun story about a birthday party for a teenage girl.

Why’m I writing this blog post? Maybe it’s to help me fight the urge to apologize for my sweet little story. To describe it as “fluff” that’s just a space-holder until I write the Great American Novel.

Not that I don’t still harbor aspirations to bigger things. But those bigger things might just be a longer version of my sweet little story. Something novel length I could shop to agents and maybe — someday — see my name on the cover of my very own book-shaped thing.

Is it what I expected? No. Probably not. But what’s most important to me is that something I wrote will find its way to eyes other than mine. Writers write to be read. Don’t let anyone tell you different. And I’m thrilled that my chance at being read — maybe even liked — is moving closer.

Goodness knows there are plenty of things in my life that didn’t go quite as I thought they would. Triplets anyone? Yet those surprises are what make our short time on this spinning rock worthwhile.

Can’t wait to share the finished product. I’ll update with details as I get them.



Posted in Uncategorized, Writing.

Not Fair

I have a bug. Not a bad one, but one that makes my head feel like it might split with even slight movement. So I’m in bed, and the boys are coping well without me.

Up to a point.

Will came to me in tears because Sam ate his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Of course, will had told everyone who would listen that he hadn’t asked for peanut butter and jelly. Didn’t want peanut butter and jelly. Wasn’t, under any circumstances, going to eat peanut butter and jelly. But lo and behold, once it was no longer an option, it turns out he really, really wanted “just one bite” for his snack.

“Baby, it’s gone, and I’m sorry. But mommy ordered cheese pizza and it’ll be here soon.”

“I know,” he sniffed, ” but everybody else got a snack and I didn’t.”

“Here,” I said reaching for the 6-pack of peanut butter crackers I had planned for lunch, “you can snack on these until the pizza comes. Mommy’s going to have one so she doesn’t feel sick, and you can have 3. The rest you can save for snack later.”

Satisfied, he marched off to the kitchen and I didn’t think anything else of it until…

“Mommy, it’s not fair,” Will said, as he climbed up on my bed. His previous tears were still fresh in evidence as dried streaks down his cheeks.

Now, as a mom of 4 boys, I hear “It’s not fair!” more than a few times each day. So, I braced myself for a lengthy recount of some brotherly injustice.

“It’s not fair that I got 3 crackers and you only got 1, mom,” he continues, handing me the cracker package twisted shut around the 2remaining crackers. “So you have these 2.”

Maybe it’s because I’m sick and emotional, but I hugged him to me and tearfully blabbered quite a bit about what a wonderful boy he was and how kind he was without being told.

No sooner had Will bounced away grinning when Jack strode in to inform me that he’d emptied the dishwasher and was about to move the wet clothes into the dryer.

I felt the tears well again as I realized life really isn’t fair. Sometimes unworthy people like me get a cup filled with grace, heaped up and running over. But I’m so thankful.


Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids.

What’s Cooler Than A Cape?

Western Chief: Maker of Cool Things

Jason: Tell me you don’t intend for him wear this to school.

Jodi: Um, yay-yuh…it’s the coolest raincoat ever.

Jason: It has a cape.

Jodi: Exactly.

But now the seed of doubt has been planted. Is this too cute for a kindergarten boy to wear to school? I could take off the cape, but it would kill a little piece of my soul.

Feedback needed. Leave a comment and tell me if I’m in the wrong here. Or better yet, just how right I am. No pressure.


Posted in Family & Relationships, Kids.

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Crazy Easy Corn on the Cob

This is the neatest trick I’ve come across lately. And I owe it all to my Mother-in-law. Simply take 2 ears of corn in the husk. Place them in the microwave and nuke for 10 minutes. Remove and cut off an inch or 2 of the bottom — enough to remove the section where the husks attach. Give it a few good shakes to loosen things up and help the cob start moving out the opening you’ve made. Then just push and squeeze it out the bottom — almost like you’re emptying a tube of toothpaste.

I tried this with week-old corn. I knew it would have very little natural sweetness left if I boiled it, but honest to goodness it tasted like fresh picked using this microwave method.

My husband thought it was great, too. “You know what this means, right? You’ll have to admit my mom was right about something.” Oh well, it’s worth it. Head to the farmer’s market and try this today!

Posted in Recipes, Uncategorized.

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Auburn Writer’s Conference

So, I’ve been thinking of attending another AuburnWriter’s Conference, but this time the really temptation is the fact that the lovely and amazing Robin O’Bryant is on the speaker list. But I’m having a hard time committing, and I’m not sure why.

I’ve been making some headway in my own writing lately. Primarily realizing I’m character driven and not plot driven. This explains why all my lovely plot skeletons have amounted to a whole lot of nothing whenever I tried to hang characters on them.

Part of me thinks I came to this bit of self-discovery through simply DOING. I’m writing a lot more than before and making it a priority, rather than the very last item on the agenda (sadly, that’s exercise). But then I recall a fantastic keynote speech given by Joshilyn Jackson at the 2011 Auburn Conference. In it, she said she’d never written a novel containing a character that she hadn’t thoroughly gotten to know for at least 6 years. How did she do this? She wrote short stories about them, little windows into their lives, that gave her the insight she needed to take them through a book-length adventure.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I think I’m going to hold off on my registration until the boys start school in August. For whatever reason, the thought of triplets starting kindergarten is kind of providing a “planning roadblock” for me. I need to jump that hurdle before I can even consider anything else. Is that normal? I dunno, but it’s how I’ve got to play it.

Anyone else going to Auburn this year? Give me a shout!

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I shared a couple of things with FB friends, but didn’t write them down here. And since this is my virtual brain/memory book, I thought I’d recap:

Sam found a cardboard box and spent ages drawing all over it. Finally, he stepped back, gave me a big Sam grin and said, “I did it! My very own spaceship (it’s Sam, so actually it was Thpathethip). It took a long time, but now it’s all mine!” With that he stepped inside, sat down and began furiously tapping at a set of circles drawn on the front flap.

“Whatcha doin’, buddy?” I asked after he’d been tapping away for ages.

He didn’t even look up, just kept pounding away. “Oh, just seein’ what all the buttons do.”


Yesterday, Sam did not get things exactly his way and it resulted in a HUGE blow up. He declared that he just didn’t want to live with us anymore.

We offered to pack him a bag.

In the end, he decided he’d better just go spend some time in his room. On his way down the stairs, Sam turned and screamed, “Thith ith the Worthtetht day of my LIFE!”

Later, when he’d calmed down enough to munch on some goldfish crackers in the kitchen, I sat down beside him and said, “I’m glad you decided not to run away, Sam. I would have missed you.”

He nodded as he finished chewing, then said with a shrug, “Yeah…I couldn’t remember Maw Maw’s phone number.”

Posted in Kids, Uncategorized.

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What VBS means to me

My children are having a great time at VBS. They’re making new friends. They’re learning fun songs with hilarious gestures. They may even be taking home the idea that God is always with them. I hope so. But I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them. Why? Because they won’t have MY Bible School experience.

Notice I say Bible School. I’m from the generation before acronyms. When KFC was still Kentucky Fried Chicken and Bible School still started with the Pledge of Allegiance and a rousing chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers. My classmates always included at least one cousin, usually more. And I could count on spotting older or younger cousins as we moved from one station to the next. My little, round Bible School pin, with the red, white and blue color scheme and the MURDEROUSLY sharp point was one of my most treasured possessions from June through August. And it might randomly be used to accessorize any outfit, including my nightgown.

There was one big project we worked on all week — usually a separate one for boys and another for girls. One of my favorites was a round piece of wood with a painted a face and long braids of yarn for hair. You could clip your hair barrettes to the braids and not lose them; one of life’s major frustrations solved. My cousin Carolyn was the teacher that year, and she made me plait my yarn a half dozen times before the finished product was deemed even enough to pass muster. I can still plait a mean braid even today.

But without a doubt, the most undeniably wonderful part of Bible School was my Uncle George Lee Gardner. To describe my Uncle George as taciturn would be a disservice. While he was slow to speak and rarely inclined to any great show of emotion, there was something in his eyes that drew children to him like a moth to a flame. At almost 20 years my mother’s senior, he assumed the role of stand-in grandfather, and I worshipped him accordingly, marveling at the wood-working projects — such as gun racks and shoe-shine boxes — he instructed the older boys in assembling.

He did everything circumspectly, no word or gesture wasted. But if you were patient and bided your time, a cousin or older member of the congregation would set the stage. “George!” some grown-up would begin. “Do you reckon these kids know anything about…” and that’s how the stories would start. Stories of  a young George Lee “riding the rails” to see the cherry blossoms bloom in front of the White House in Washington. Stories of dangerous jobs, near misses, and fantastical happenings. Another voice would chime in, “Did you really kill a snake with your bare hands?” And Uncle George would reluctantly explain how a person could kill a rattlesnake by grabbing it’s tail and cracking its body like a whip. I remember my jaw hanging open as I pictured its severed head flying free with a SNAP! Several kids wondered what would happen if the head hit you after the snake was dead. It was a staggering thought and one that made us even more mindful of the state of our eternal soul. Because the severed snakehead of life was no respecter of persons, and it just seemed wiser to go ahead and get things right with God while the gettin’ was good. Repeat attendance was rarely a problem with Uncle George on the scene.

Another wonder was that my birthday always, always fell during Bible School week. And every year, Uncle George would bring me a frozen coconut cake to celebrate on the grounds after everyone else had gone home. Thinking back, the flavors still mingle in my sense memory — coconut, cool whip and cardboard. I imagine I liked coconut about as well as the next kid, meaning not at all. But that didn’t stop it from tasting like ambrosia on my tongue. Simply because it came from Uncle George.

Many birthdays meld into one. The hot June sun, the stickiness of the icing, the rasp of the concrete picnic table against the bottom of my paper plate. Uncle George’s soft murmur, mama’s answering laughter and my own feeling of perfect rightness in God’s world. It’s a memory I revisit often, then carefully tuck back in my treasure box of remembrances.

I hope my boys find something this week they can hold onto. Better yet, I pray for them to consistently experience something wonderful, like I did every year in Vacation Bible School. Because that’s where the deep teaching can be found. But still, I feel a little sorry for them. Not because they don’t sing Onward Christian Soldiers in anymore, but because God broke the mold when he made my Uncle George.


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