Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Beauty Queens Goes Ga-Ga for Girl Power

It's this simple.

If you have a daughter, you should read Beauty Queens. Libba Bray's new YA book is the rare find that manages to float nicely along on the froth of popular culture while being simultaneously subversive.

The premise is an airplane full of Beauty Queens crash land on an (almost) deserted island. There are the familiar survivoresque moments made humorous  by the girl's forced reliance on beauty queen paraphenalia that has washed up on the beach.

That's the frothy part.

Underneath the fun and froth is an in-depth exploration of the toxic culture that surrounds our daughters. In a series of 'commercial breaks' the author pokes fun at ways corporate America attempts to manipulate girls. It would be funnier if it wasn't so true.

Be pretty, but don't be too proud of it. Be strong, but don't be intimidating. Strive to be smart because being smart is a means to a really good paying job that will allow you to buy lots of cool stuff.

Most important of all, make sure you look really, really sexy while slathering on your cleverly packaged and cutely named sunscreen with the hand that proudly sports a chastity ring proclaiming your intent to save your virginity for your husband because good girls shouldn't experiment with sex although they should strive to look supermodel hot in size 0 low-cut super skinny jeans.

Bray does an amazing job, much better than I did above, at pointing out the constant barrage of inconsistent messages targeted at the teen market. Beauty Queens also cleverly lampoons consumer oriented culture and enviromentalism repacked as guilt-free, green consumerism.

Those statements hit home but the portrayal that hit hardest was the one of the teenage girl. Brain not yet fully developed, at the mercy of hundreds of different conflicting messages and courted by every kind of media.

In three years my daughter will be a teenager. After reading this book I have the sudden urge to hide out with her on our own deserted island. I could write, she could continue on her path to strong amazingness. Girl, uninterrupted.

Maybe, instead, I'll just tuck this book away and hand it to her in a couple of years. After all, even if we lived on an island, she'd have to face the real world at some point. I guess I'll take comfort in the knowledge that, if you look hard enough, there are other messages out there too. Beauty Queens encourages young girls to figure out who they are on their own terms. And really, there's no better message than that.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Girls Selling Crack

Did I say crack? What I really meant to say is cookies. Girls selling cookies, Girl Scout Cookies to be exact.

Child #1 is a Girl Scout which means that, as I write this post, I have over twenty boxes of Girl Scout Cookies hibernating in my freezer. The presence of all those cookies combined with my fondness for them has led me to think about my own close relationship with those rectangular boxes of prepackaged goodness.

I was a Girl Scout only briefly and I never got to the cookie stage. My love of Girl Scout Cookies didn't hit its stride until after my freshman year in college when I took a job as Camp Counselor/Windsurfing Instructor at a Girl Scout Camp located in a small cove on Catalina Island.

The cove was accessible only by boat or foot (a long hot hike over the island's mountains). What I didn't know when I took the job was that the 'adult' running the place was going to be a twenty-four year old grad student.

Just me and one of the island buffalos
 The majority of the other counselors were students at Smith College, members of a well-known and popular subculture on that campus.

I say well-known, but at the time I was absolutely clueless. It took me half the summer to figure out why almost NONE of my co-counselors ever mentioned past, present or future boyfriends.

That summer was a little like Lord of the Flies. An all girl Lord of the Flies, minus a head on a stick and violence.

In its place we had a couple of speed boats and the California state surplus of Girl Scout Cookies. They were kept in an enormous shed under lock and key. The security system didn't prevent the camp cook from serving cookies for dessert at both lunch and dinner time. In fact, every hike, every walk along the beach and every campfire was accompanied by Samoas, Do Si Dos and Trefoils.

Me and my campers, at least the girls had on hiking gear!
During the day I taught young girls how to windsurf. 'Tuck your tail, bend your knees.'

On breaks I windsurfed out past the cove, weaving in between the moored yachts. The yachties, very old men, most of them practically forty!, would hand out beer and I would make unfulfilled promises to come back later and hang out.

But later never came. Instead we would board the big motor boat. Skipper, her camp name I don't remember her real one, would gun the engine. The boat would hit the waves hard. To sit down was to risk being thrown overboard. We clung to the boat's rails, knees bent and water spraying in our face.

Mid-ocean, past where the yachts were moored, Skipper would cut the motor. We would float on the water and I would share my day's collection of bottles and cans, proving my worth by supplying beer. We ate Girl Scout Cookies, a box for each of us and washed them down with Coors Light and Corona. When we'd gone through all of our rations we'd head back to camp. The bravest of us, those who didn't mind cold water or the feeling of a sand shark slithering out from under your feet when you could touch sand, would dive off the boat and swim into shore.

Recently, I did some research and discovered that camp no longer exists. It was sold. I'm guessing there's a hotel on that particular stretch of beach now. It's okay. It's not really the kind of place you can revisit. As for my daughter, she'll have to develop her own inappropriate relationship with Girl Scout Cookies.

Friday, February 24, 2012

alpha BETA gamma delta epsilon

Nope, I'm not singing the Go Greek song this morning. Instead I'm talking about a writer's best friend.

Beta readers.

Many writers say these two words reverently, like they are mythical, with the power to bring dead people back to life.

Of course, they're not. Our beta readers are usually our friends. They are people we trust with our awkward newborns. The ones with red faces and smelly diapers that only look beautiful to the person who created them.

My beta readers are kind. Kind enough that I trust them not to kill any of the babies I send them via email. Who are my beta readers? Their most interesting trait is probably their lack of diversity. They're all well-educated, mothers, intelligent, competent, opinionated and successful in their chosen careers.

The other thing they are is busy. Yet, they still find time to put aside anywhere from twenty minutes to novel length hours to read my work. Because they are kind they never rip my work to shreds.

What they will say however is, "I'm sure that chapter was fine but I just kind of skimmed over it."

Or, "That discussion in the bar seemed a little odd. Wouldn't they have more questions"

Or, "The title bugs me."

Okay, the last one is harsher than the rest but I've never been particularly good at titles and they all know that (and are probably tired of getting texts from me with new titles).

The most valuable thing about my beta readers is their ability to pinpoint what is lacking in my work. If I listen carefully and cut out the chapters they skim through, fix the discussions that are 'odd' and address any other concern (no matter how nicely worded) the book is better.

I've learned the hard way what happens when I don't carefully parse and address my beta reader's every comment. My other readers, the ones who read the book after it's been structurally edited, line edited, combed for typos and groomed for mass consumption invariably have the same comments.

So no, my beta readers can't raise the dead. But they do have an uncanny feel for what the reading public will like. The good news is my beta readers loved Losing Beauty. The bad news is they get to read Losing Hope before you do.

But in the long run waiting isn't such a bad thing. After all, if the betas readers like it then I'm pretty sure you'll like it too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Importance of an Unbiased Eye

The inspiration for this week's series of posts came from my daughter. More precisely, it came from an essay she wrote for school. The essay was supposed to be about a challenge she'd encountered in her life.

She spent some time moaning about the impossibility of the assignment and about the general pain and suffering of her life. Then she sat down and typed up her essay, 236 words in all.

"Okay, mom. You can read it," she said.

I sat down, read her paragraphs and was blown away. When I finished I sat at my desk for a moment in awe of the genius that had poured forth from my child's fingertips.  I re-read it. Yep, still genius. Maybe I would have changed a few things but, overall, the essay had pathos, tension and a clear talent for manipulation of the written word.

Later that evening I told my husband to read the essay. "Amazing, right!" I said when he'd finished.

"Yeah, it's nice," he said in the same way he might say tulips in a vase on the breakfast room table are nice.

That's when it hit me.

You would think I would be a good editor. Me, the person who makes a point to read every fiction book on the best works of the year lists. The person who ruthlessly rips out chapters, characters, pretty prose and plot points in search of her own best writing. This person should be a good judge of writing, right?


You know how people in the writing industry advise aspiring writers to seek feedback from people other than their mother? Shockingly, there appears to be some truth to that nugget of advice. In the tone of my husband's voice, I could hear my daughter's writing was not genius, perfect, destined for greatness. I sat down and re-read her essay, all 236 words. I still couldn't see it. It was pure perfection in prose.

Apparently, where my children are concerned I lose all ability to read critically.

This is an important discovery. It tells me something crucial about those amazing readers who spend time slogging through my fresh work. First of all, those people can't be my mother. Much as my mother would happily volunteer to read my early drafts, my own inability to critique my daughter's work tells me this wouldn't be productive.

And productivity is important.

Writers need to be critiqued in a way that's productive. Readers who see genius in our every phrase aren't helpful. Reader's who can't find any redeeming value in our work aren't helpful either. In an ideal world, our first readers will push us to grow without cutting us down to the ground.

This is the writer's happy medium, the bowl of porridge that is just right (or write). Many of you commented on Monday about ways you've found constructive feedback through critique groups or other means. On Friday I'll talk a little bit about my first readers and the importance of careful listening.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Goldlilocks of Critique Groups

A lot of writers post about writing. I don't. Not because I don't enjoy talking or reading about writing but because, after spending hours upon hours immersed in any given WIP, I need a break.

But this week I'm going to talk shop. Non-writers beware!

And to kick off the week I'm going to make what, might possibly be, a controversial statement.

I'm allergic to critique groups. That is, I'm allergic in exactly the same way my oldest child is allergic to broccoli. In short, I hate them. Passionately!

Right now some of you are thinking, "She's just never had a good critique group." And the rest of you are thinking, "What's a critique group?" For the rest of you, here's a quick explanation. A lot of writers give their unfinished WIP's to other writers who then provide feedback. Many, many writers swear by this process. And, in theory, I can see how sharing your fledgling baby bird could have a tremendous amount of value.

Unfortunately, I went to law school. It was those (not so) hallowed halls that sparked my critique group allergy. Even though in law school we called it a study group, the net result was the same.

There was the jockeying for position, the quoting of arcane rules and cases to make equally arcane points. There were different study styles accompanied by protracted arguments about which study style was the most effective, the most certain to guarantee success.

Outlines of the course material were shared and then picked apart. One person thought the outlines needed more case background, another thought they should be focused only on rules of law.

Sound familiar?

Let me rewrite the above paragraphs with a twist.

There was the jockeying for position, the quoting of arcane rules of grammar and punctuation to make equally arcane points. There were different writing styles accompanied by protracted arguments about which writing style was the most effective, the most certain to guarantee success.

Works in progress were shared and then picked apart. One person thought each WIP needed more world building, another thought they should focus on the characters and their internal motivations.

At some point during my first year of law school I decided squabbling study groups were a waste of time. It seemed more efficient to just prepare my own outlines and then swap the finished product with a friend, so we could make sure our Torts were elemented and our Contracts analyzed.

After reading other writer's blog I've realized my novels are written just like my law school outlines. First I write then I edit. When I've built the whole book I send it out to the Betas.

But I'm curious.

I want to hear about all of your writerly processes. Do you forge to "The End" on your own or do you get your feedback chapter by chapter? Have I got it all wrong about critique groups?

Do the writer's who read this blog found that if the writing styles are too far apart the critique group melts down? If they're too similar does it end up being less valuable? Which bring me back to Goldilocks

Stop by on Wednesday and I'll tell you about the chair that fits just right.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Are Tech-Gurus the New OB-GYN's?

As much as I am a Non-listener, my husband is a listener. He does an excellent job listening and lately what he's had to listen to most is complaints about my phone. It's old. It's slow. It takes a LONG time for my Starbucks app to load. I know!  Can you believe the hardships I suffer!?!

So, because he is sweet and kind he recently surprised me with a new phone.

The only problem was all the tweeting, buzzing, beeping, second-level security type things in my life. Their combined effect was one that made my phone more difficult to set up.

A lot more difficult to set up. After several syncs, data wipes and rounds of swearing I capitulated. It was clear I needed to make a trip to the Apple store to visit with one of their uber-cool techies, made even more uber-cool because they live in the heart of hipsterville.

Once there I experienced the rare thrill of technovindication. It took my tech guru thirty minutes and lots of research to figure out the interface bugs. In order to get everything working the way God Apple intended he needed access to my email, my Twitter app, my calendar and my grocery list app.
As my Apple techie inspected my grocery list (napkins, gummibear vitamins, salmon) and commented on my large amount of Twitter followers I couldn't help but mentally compare my in-person visit with tech support to my yearly gynecological exam.

There was the same imbalance of power. One person was poking, prodding, making quick notes and doing a little research. The other person was doing the cyber-equivelant of putting their legs up in stirrups and attempting to make polite conversation about the weather.

In both tech support and gynecological exams there is an implied social contract where the examiner makes a point not to comment on personal details of the examinee's life, such as who gets the gummi vitamins or an unusually shaped birthmark.

The good news is that after the exam, I mean visit to the Apple store, was over there was the familiar sense of relief.

Everything was in working order.

Together, my tech guru and I had conquered a necessary evil. It will now be another year (or two) before I have to face it again. More importantly, I'm sure everyone will be relieved to hear my Starbucks app is loading lickety split.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Let them eat (ice cream) cake.

It was good to read all your comments and realize I keep good company with lots of other Non-Listeners. The first thing a Non-Listener needs to do is listen. And I was determined to do just that.

My daughter celebrated her birthday last weekend with, among other things, an ice cream cake. Not just any ice cream cake but a rainbow sherbet cake, decorated with orange roses and frosted in her favorite colors of aqua blue with red trim.

Are you done making gagging noises?  Good. Now you can finish reading this post.

Throughout the weekend my husband made little comments about our daughter's cake.

The comments focused on, for example, his deep and abiding fondness for the genre of ice cream cakes. Or how the best flavor for ice cream cake is chocolate chip mint. He made these comments and expected to be ignored. Not just because his wife is a Non-Listener but because ice cream cake has a sordid history in our household.

An ice cream cake from Baskin & Robbins was the trigger to our very first fight. You know the kind, where one innocuous act leads to seven hours of tearful conversation, handwringing and questioning whether or not this relationship is really going to work out. It was our first Valentine's Day and my husband (then boyfriend) showed up carrying a big box.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he said handing me the box.

"Oh, it's...."

"Ice cream cake!" I still remember the tone of his voice. He was so very excited!


I opened the box and discovered that, yes, it was true. It contained an enormous sheet of ice cream cake.

"So what flavor is it?" I asked as I inspected the box looking for some deeper meaning.

"Chocolate chip mint." His eyes held the manic glaze that I now recognize as his Pavlovian response to all forms and shapes of ice cream.

"Did you have it made specially?"

"No, no. I just stopped by after work and picked it up."

"Is there a card?"

"Oh yeah, I forgot to get a card. But the cake has hearts on it."

There you have it. My first Valentine's Day gift from my husband was an enormous ice cream cake in his favorite flavor with no card. The conversation went downhill from there. I think the low point was when he realized there would be NO ice cream cake served that evening.

Since that time he's steered clear of ice cream cakes as gifts. But actions speak louder than words. And what about words? They speak too. Anyone who was paying attention, doing some listening, would agree my husband wants, no needs, an ice cream cake of his very own.

After two kids and thirteen years of marriage, it seemed like the perfect time to come full circle and present him with his very own ice cream cake on Valentine's Day. Although, I did tweak the gift slightly. Instead of my favorite flavor I made sure to get his. I think this is a step in the right direction for an avowed Non-Listener.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Operation Be My Valentine

The week before last I promised to devote myself, and by extension, this blog to love. Specifically, I wanted to focus on all the ways I could be more loving to the people in my life. This seems like a fitting goal for February, the month of hearts, cupids and flowers.

In Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project she focuses on her habit of nagging. I thought about this for a long time and realized that, whatever you might say about me, I'm not a nagger. In fact I'm the opposite of a nagger.

I'm a Not-listener. Which, as I considered it, seems like the unacknowledged step-child of nagging.

We don't have a tidy little phrase for the Not-listener but I would guess that Not-listening is just as pervasive as nagging. I'm careful to say Not-listening because it's something completely different than ignoring. Not-listening is the phenomonen where, in good Carol Brady style, when my husband arrives home from work I say,"Hi honey, how was your day?" 

And the moment he begins to answer I stop listening. It's not that I don't want to listen. My intentions are always good, but while my husband is telling me about the details of his day, any of the following things can be happening (and usually three of them are happening simultaneously).

1. Anywhere from two to five children are sliding down the basement stairs on pillows, shrieking with the kind of delight that is the verbal foreshadowing of injury.

2. My cell phone is pinging with texts, emails, tweets and DMs.

3. Someone can't find a sock.

4. Somewhere in the house, something is burning.

5. My mother is calling the house phone, then my cell phone, then my husband's phone, then texting.

6. I've just noticed someone has tracked peanut butter from the breakfast room all the way to the hall.

7. Someone is injured (see item #1).

8. It's occuring to me that decorations for Halloween/Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Christmas/Valentine's Day/Birthdays/St Patrick's Day/Passover/Easter/Fourth of Freaking July need to be either put up or taken down.

9. The doorbell is ringing and people are wanting me to sign a petition, buy a magazine or wondering whether Child #1 or #2 can play.

10. Someone is running through the house without pants, giggling wildly.

Okay, I confess to being the main offender in item #10. But in spite of this list, I started to wonder if there wasn't some way I could do a better job of listening.

If I manage to listen and respond to my children, friends, blogger buddies and the small village that follows me on G+, it seems like I should be able to do the same thing for the man I married.


Stop by on Wednesday for the full scoop on operation "Be My Valentine"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ten Things I Know at Ten.

February 11 is Child #1's tenth birthday and here are a sampling of the things I've learned in the ten years since she entered my life.

1. This is the cutest baby Christmas card picture ever taken in the history of the world. And it underscores an important fact about Child #1.

2. Which is that she's a New Yorker. If I had known what that meant before she was born I might have arranged to give birth across state lines. In New Jersey or Conneticut perhaps, because Child #1 is:

3. Fierce. Unstoppable. A Force of Nature.

4. Which are amazing qualities to have, unless you happen to be the parent of someone with those qualities. I don't mind too much because I know that someday Child #1 will be, well, whatever she wants to be. If you don't believe me, just try standing in her way.

5. I know Child #1 will never want for money. This fact is born out by the abundance of one dollar bills shoved into her purple Wildlife Safari wallet and her reluctance to part with ANY of them.

6. Or candy. She's one of the only kids I know who is completely Atkinesque in her dietary choices. Rare steak and bacon, yes please. Noodles or Nerds, how disgusting!

7.  I also know that someday Child #1 will grow up and get married, or she won't. Whatever she decides she'll be the one in control because according to her, "Boys are good as long as they're under control. That's what I'm good at, keeping them under control."

8. At her first date, wedding, commitment ceremony or future gig as a dominatrix she'll wear something amazing.

9. None of her friends will be annoyed by her innate and infallible sense of style because they will have been longterm beneficiaries of Item # 3 above. Don't mess with her friends. She'll break your knees or argue with you until you want to break your own knees.

10. She still adores her brother, plays with legos, makes up stories about Pygmy Puffs, turns cartwheels instead of walking, laughs until she falls out of her chair, mispronounces big words and kinda, sorta believes in Santa Claus. I know the days for this kind of silly, wonderful behavior are numbered, so I'm making a point to treasure every one.

Happy Tenth Birthday Child #1

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name

I've had names on the brain lately. Maybe it's because I just wrote a short story where the main character's name is Maisy. Maybe it's because names are something I struggle with (but you already guessed that when you read what I named my poor MC).

Whatever the reason, it seems I'm not alone in my struggle with the name game. In the last two weeks I've read no less than four different blog posts about people struggling to name both babies and characters.

My name is the subject of rampant mispronuciation. A colleague and friend of mine once called me YoHannah for an entire year before I corrected her.

"You know it's actually Johanna, like Joe and hanna put together," I said after she'd used the Swedish version once too often in casual conversation.

"No," she gasped. "I didn't know. Why didn't you tell me?"

"I always thought you were joking."

And this little exchange underscores the problem with names. Too exotic and you risk sentencing your child or main character to a lifetime of correcting people's pronunciation. Too boring and you risk them having to differentiate themselves with a last initial.

But back to the intial thought. Why is it so difficult to pick names and how important is a name.

Or more precisely, does the person make the name or does the name make the person? Watching Madonna perform in the Superbowl this weekend, I realized that until she stepped into the spotlight with her lace gloves and crosses, the only other Madonna I knew was the religious variety.

Would Madonna, as we know her, have become an icon if she'd chosen a different name?

I think the answer is yes.

Maybe the true power of a name doesn't lie in its combination of verbs and consonants but in the person behind it. I'll take comfort in that thought every time my daughter rolls her eyes at her own name (so carefully selected, so clearly despised).

And on a final side note to the many, many slightly stoned men in bars who have asked me whether I'm familiar with the Bob Dylan song that features my name in a title role.

Yes, I do know that song.

But wait! Just because I know it and was, in fact, named after it doesn't give me automatic hippie cred. If you're looking for someone to hit on you should probably go find my mother. After all, she's the one who picked the name in the first place. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Day in the Life

Last Friday my kids were out of school, no sickness, just one of the ubiquitous teacher planning days that sprinkle the calendar this time of year.

I had a bee in my bonnet that Child #1 needed new sneakers. We went to our favorite Hawthorne district shoe store where, to everyone's dismay, we learned her favorite sneaker maker had gone out of business. Child #1 loudly bemoaned this fact while Child #2 began to writhe underneath tables and knock over boxes of shoes.

I glanced at the well-behaved toddlers playing in the front of the store and then back at my own children and came to a decision. Child #1 wasn't going to get new shoes. The children were hustled back into the car where they proceeded to ennumerate all the ways they hadn't done anything wrong. I modeled mature adult problem-solving skills by refusing to speak to them.

My speechlessness and mature behavior lasted through our trip to the library. I checked out books and pretended the two children begging me to speak were not, in fact, my own. After the library I took pity on them and we went to the park.

The park was outside the twenty block sphere that contains our life. It's old-fashioned. The kind with real swings and a merry-go-round (a.k.a. Skull Crusher). I watched them jumping on and off, surfing with their eyes shut and gave my best impression of not being THAT mom. You know, the kind who shrieks warnings and mentally calculates whether, if someone slips off and rolls under the merry-go-round, it will in fact, crush their skull.

On the way home I remembered a shoe store in the neighborhood. On a hunch, I made the nine block detour and was rewarded by a sale sign in the window. Inside were the perfect boots, on sale and my size. Child #1 took charge. "Do you like these boots, mom?" she asked pushing her little fingers into the toe to judge whether I had room to grow.

"I love them."

"I think I'm going to buy them for you."

"Do you have any money?" I asked her.

"Yes," she pulled a quarter out of her pocket.

"You'll have better luck with this," I said and handed her my credit card.

It was at that moment I realized we'd come full circle. Mother, daughter, daughter, mother, sometimes there's very little difference. And of course, I wore my new boots out of the store. Because that's what you do when you're nine...or forty.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy 40th Birthday Rick Hardy!

There I was, trying to think about ways to do a better job loving my loved ones (being more Lovey and less Bitey penguin) when I remembered my dear friend Birdie asked me to send a fortieth birthday card to her husband and I forgot.

Here's the birthday boy! That's not his kid or his cow.
Let me tell you a little bit about Birdie. She's the kind of person who regularly inspires me.

In any moral quandry all I have to do is channel Birdie, what would Birdie do or WWBD and invariably, her wisdom leads me to the right decision. She's the kind of person who effortlessly makes me think about the eventual resting place of the little plastic baggies I used to use in Child 1 and 2's lunch boxes and many other important things like volunteerism, community, kindness and respect.

And lest I'm starting to make her sound like a drag, I should add she does all of this without ever prostelytizing or making me feel guilty. She leads by example and I'm happy to follow because my friendship with Birdie fills my soul and makes me a better person.

So here's a little hypothetical for you, if I asked Birdie to send my husband a birthday card for his fortieth birthday what do you think she would do or WWBD? One thing is certain. She would not say to herself, "Yes, that's a great idea," and then forget about it completely until the day after said birthday had passed.

There are a few women in my life who I refer to as my sister wives. Birdie, as I'm sure you've guessed, is a founding member of this group. And I use the word group, lightly. We don't live on a compound and only wear our hair in braids on occasion, and ironically.
I should probably add we hardly ever wear matching clothes.

But we have made dinners for each other, held each other's hands during the toddler years, had our children throw up in each other's cars  and shared way more about the intimate details of our respective marriages than any of the brother husbands would like.

And there you have it.

For better or worse, our husbands (or brother husbands as we refer to them) have been dragged into the whole Big Love analogy.
Brother husbands playing blindfolded water gun war against their offspring.

The brother husband in question today, husband to Birdie, father of two, builder of cool backyard treehouses, assistant soccer coach, maker of the world's best gin and tonic, and hopefully good sport about being featured on a blog, has just turned forty!

Although I oopsed on the fortieth birthday card maybe this blog post will make up for it! After all, according to the sister wives, I'm on an authorial path to worldwide domination of the print industry. Surely a few of my readers will be more than happy to send a little love in the direction of my favorite Minnesota brother husband! And for added insurance, I'll spend a chunk of my day tweeting, G+ing and blogging the message to make sure it gets out!

Happy 40th Birthday Rick Hardy!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Proof of Love

It's February and it's time to get back to my Fulfillment Project. Remember, the one based on Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project where I try to make my pretty good life better.

The other night we had family movie night. There was a bit of a tussle about what to watch but we finally settled on Mr. Popper's Penguins. And even though I hated the book (I know, I know, the rest of you loved it, there's something wrong with me) I LOVED this movie. In fact, not being a fan of the book or Jim Carrey, it took me by surprise how much I loved this movie. Child #1 and I laughed so hard we almost fell off the couch, which was perfect for the laugh more part of my project.

After the movie was over the kids asked the standard question. "Mom, if you had to choose, which penguin would you be?"

"That's easy," I said. "I'd be Lovey Penguin." And it was easy at that moment when we were all snuggled up under a blanket.

The next morning Child #2 decided to pretend to be Loudy Penguin. He came to my side of the bed before the sun was up and squawked, LOUDLY in my ear, which is the point, I guess, of being Loudy Penguin.

My regular readers know I'm, well, not what you'd call a morning person. My reaction to Child #2's Loudy Penguin impression was not in character with Lovey Penguin. In fact, for the next hour and a half I was definitely Bitey Penguin.

As I stopped to think about it I realized that, even though I like to say I'm Lovey Penguin, the sad truth is more often than not, I'm Bitey.

And here we are, in February, the month known for hearts, cupids and Lovey Penguins. I've decided this will be my month to make an effort to be less Bitey and more Lovey. It will be difficult. This is something I know for sure. Juggling homework, piano, swimming, choir, writing, chess club, book club, social networking, playdates, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts and a second book on the way is enough to make anyone Bitey. Be that as it may, I'm striving for Lovey!

And I've got a plan. Stop by on Friday to read about phase one of Operation Lovey Penguin.