Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Retreat

Yesterday, the chickens took my keyboard out of my office, wrapped it in Christmas paper, tagged it for their cousins, and put it under the tree.

There are several ways I could interpret this situation. Combined with the fact that my harddrive crashed last week, I think maybe I'll choose to treat the chickens' gift idea for my niece and nephew as a sign that I should take a break from keyboard-related, harddrive-related activities for awhile.
Say, until after the holidays.
Toodle-oo, and ho ho!
P.S. Don't worry, O&R--you aren't really getting a keyboard for Christmas.
P.P.S. Santa, can I have a Mac?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quote of the Day

Chicken Noodle (Distraught, after a lengthy time out for kicking her sister in the head):
"Mom, I know I need to listen to my heart, but my heart said beat Maris up."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hey, Kimo

Last week, I took seven days off of everything to help my mother through her first chemo treatment—or, as they say in Hawaii, her first date with “my friend Kimo.”

It was my first experience as witness to chemo. I imagine chemo looks the same anywhere, but here are my notes on Hawaiian Kimo. It’s all I’ve got to offer y’all this week, so take it or leave it, babies.

Should one travel to Hawaii for something un-fun, small talk on the plane becomes more awkward than usual. “Are you going home or on vacation?” asked the nice man next to me as he sipped on his Mai Tai. “Neither. Well, both. Well, neither,” I replied. Then I had to tell him the truth, which, turns out, from the look on his face, wasn’t really what he was after.

On the morning of Mom’s first date with Kimo, long before dawn, I watched a girl cross the parking lot below her condo, climb a fence, pluck a plumeria blossom from a tree and tuck it behind her ear. As she stepped lightly away into the darkness, somehow I was filled with the most delicate beginnings of hope.

A bit later on the morning, the most stunning, multilayered, salmon-pink-scarlet sunrise appeared on the horizon. I attempted to interpret this sunset as hope, too, but the detailed lecture I simultaneously absorbed about why I must immediately schedule a colonoscopy dampened my enthusiasm.

While we waited in the mauve-colored waiting room at the hospital, we were treated to the local news. “Home devoured by lava on the Big Island,” intoned the announcer. A rather ominous cloud descended on me. (Though lava, live, is rather pretty, even as it consumes valuable real estate.)

The blood on the floor of the Kimo room didn’t help, either.

The hospital food looked exotic—rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg, gravy (plate lunch, ya); or sushi—but still managed, as does hospital food everywhere, to taste hideous.

The hospital staff ranged in race from Samoan to Philipino, hardly a haole (white person) in sight. Somehow, this diversity of faces brought the hope back again.

And speaking of hope, Obama’s favorite breakfast place from when he was a kid is now a boarded up spot in a strip mall, I was told as we drove past. Poor guy—and that, too.

When I held my mother’s hand as she met Kimo, it felt small and warm, like a seashell on the beach that I wouldn’t visit once all week.

When I finished watching chemicals drip for six hours in my mother’s veins, got her back to her place, and put her down for her nap, I collapsed by the pool under the most stunning plum-colored bougainvillea bush and a handful of palm trees wafting in the breeze. This, I realize, should have been pleasurable.

And yet it is true that taking care of one mother is easier than taking care of two small children and a husband.

When I called home, Chicken Noodle refused to talk to me. Chicken Little got on the phone only briefly, to say, “You are taking care of Grandma. I love you, now, bye!”

Love—Thank you, Little—love. Love is where the hope lives, and there is so very much of it, and that’s why everything is going to be okay. (And Obama probably has a new favorite breakfast spot, anyhow.)

When I got home, I tried to make Kimo into a funny blog post. I find that most of the time I can make just about anything into a funny blog post, and the process even helps make hard life stuff easier.
But I failed. Because Kimo isn’t funny. Kimo sucks. Even Kimo in Hawaii.

Stay tuned—next week, lost sense of humor rediscovered while wading through masses at the mall!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Literacy Begins At Home

When you know your word-nerdly ways have been successfully passed on to the next generation:

Chicken Little, aged 3:

“Mom, I tooted twice. Hey, an alliteration! Tooted twice! (giggle)”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's a Wrap

Well, I did it. I wrote a book in nine weeks. I knocked out a 250-page, 65,000 word book in 60-odd days. Sent off to editor-land yesterday.

(Actually, apparently I got a little carried away, because I accidentally wrote 75,000 words. Dammit. Would this not have been a fine opportunity to taste the strange fruit of underachievement?)

Here’s what I learned in the process:

Writing is easy.

Writing is the best job in the whole world.

Writing sucks ass.

Writing is a hateful, evil, miserable affliction. Why didn’t I become an accountant, or an anesthesiologist, or an exotic dancer? Why, why, why?!

Stress brings out my over-dramatic side.

Writing a book in nine weeks will kick your ass six ways from Sunday, but nothing on earth is harder than parenting, which is what I had been doing with the majority of my time prior this project. Therefore, writing is easy.

Thinking—thinking is what is bad. Must stop thinking.

You might believe that for you to pull this off, everything extraneous will have to get out of the way. But life will just keep on coming.

My God, does this truly have to be this hard?

I really like almond butter and honey sandwiches.

There is a dust bunny the size of Texas under my desk.

There are a lot of really, really bad websites out there.

There isn’t much that can’t be cured with a dvd of Entourage, coral-colored toenail polish and vodka.

(However) Drinking and writing is not a good idea. No wonder Hemingway shot himself.

This is a piece of cake! Hell, I could have done this in six weeks!

My kids rock. Instead of resenting that Mommy was irritable and totally out to lunch, they bragged about me on the playground.

Capt. Daddy is a superhero. Of course, we already knew that. That’s why he wears tight shirts and funny shoes with toes.

It is totally possible to write a book in nine weeks, keep the children alive, turn 40, throw yourself a big-ass party, navigate your mother’s cancer diagnosis, talk your husband down from several mid-life crises, launch your eldest into Kindergarten, spend a week in NYC pretending you are a rock star, question the entire structure on which your adult life is based, and, in a strange finale, get locked out of your house by your three-year-old when you are in the hot tub.
But I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Still—once you’ve run the gauntlet, wow, what a rush!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go slip into a coma for several days. Or at least until the school bus comes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Completely Freak Out the Trader Joe's Checker

Checker: You girls are so cute!

Chicken Noodle and Chicken Little (preening): Thanks!

Checker: Do you have any other brothers or sisters?

CN: We had a brother.

CL: But he died.

CN: Yeah, he’s dead.

CL: Really, really dead.

CN: Super dead.

Checker: Oh. (begins to shove grocery items very quickly into bags, avoiding eye contact)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trick or Treat

When I was young, Halloween was my very favorite holiday. No big surprise for a kid who was always yearning to be anyone but herself. Even if it was a fantasy, this was my one chance a year to be wilder, freer, happier, better.

The last few weeks have been pretty darned real, as was this Halloween night. No rock and roll fantasies this year. I felt exactly like myself.

This meant I wandered around after two gorgeous princesses, drinking a beer straight from the bottle in the middle of street with no shame whatsoever, wearing a fresh pair of Rod Lavers, an oversized witch hat and some cherry chapstick.

With me were some of my very favorite people in the whole world and a pig on a leash. Iron Man was there, too, masked and ready to protect us all. He ran with the frilly girls from house to house and only once asked the Spanish Dancer if maybe she would touch the giant spider first.

There was camaraderie and laughter and love. For at least one brief moment late in the dark and starry evening, the whole world sat centered in the palm of perfection.

Right about then, The Pumpkin Princess climbed on my back, tucked her cheek into the nape of my neck and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

Why would I want to be anyone else?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let Me Entertain You

Chicken Little, three-going-on-four, has learned a new word. She’s been working hard to insert it in as many sentences as possible.

I need to go to bed right now, dammit.

Where is my ducky blanket, dammit?

Dammit, I hate oatmeal.

Dammit, I want to catch a butterfly!

Meanwhile, Chicken Noodle, five-going-on-six, is writing her own songs. She coins lyrics and a tune in her head before requiring us, her family and built-in fan-base, to sit raptly while she sings. She uses a red rake as a guitar. Occasionally, like so many rock stars, she performs half-naked.

Her lyrics, like her, are dark. Except for when they are inspiring.

We love the sun/the sun/the sun/but not the ocean/because sometimes you bonk your head/and get ate-en by a shark.

Wouldn’t it be great/if we had a cat cat cat/who didn’t bite us/and make us bleed bleed bleed/when we picked him up?

And we know in our hearts we are helpful and kind/sometimes we just make mistakes!

We can find the secrets in our minds/we can find the secrets in the stars/we can do it/we can!

I don’t know why anyone thinks they need amusement parks, or Wii, or heroin. Children are the world’s best entertainment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Yo, Pumpkin

Check out Hunting For Pumpkins in Central Oregon, in Travel Oregon.

(and just look at those cute chickens!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Same As It Ever Was

For all the thematic tension I managed to milk from my looming 40th birthday in the course of this blog, as it actually loomed large, I barely mentioned it.

(Can anyone say denial?)

Well, anyway, it was yesterday.

Tra la la!

As for how it feels and all of that, I will only say, you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here? You may ask yourself, am I right or am I wrong? You may ask yourself, how do I work this? And the days go by…

Friday, October 1, 2010


Me: Today, we listen to 80s music.

Chicken Little: What is that?

Chicken Noodle: I don't know.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Did You Do Today, Mom?

After school, one day this week:

Chicken Noodle: Mom, you be me and I’ll be you.

Me: Okay.

Chicken Noodle: What did you do today, sweetie?

Me: I went to Kindergarten. It was so cool! I love it I love it I love it!

CN: Oh, that’s nice, honey.

Me: What did you do today, Mom?

CN: I wrote a book.

Me: Oh yeah? What’s it about?

CN: Courage and love.

Me: Wow. I really want to read that one.

CN: You have to learn to read first, honey.

Me: Oh.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blooming Eventually on Bend Moms For Moms!

This very blog is now feeding onto Bend Moms For Moms, a cool new site for those of you lucky enough to be mothering in Bend. Check it out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Phoenix Rising

I suppose it’s about time to tell you all I got another book deal.

I know, huh?

Three weeks ago, I received an e-mail from an acquisitions editor at a press back east. He’d been searching for someone to write a travel guidebook about Oregon for one of their series. He came across my bio on the Willamette Writer’s website. Then he “followed me around the internet.” He read various essays and articles posted on my website, my Travel Oregon blog postings, and this blog. He thought I’d be perfect. He thought I was funny. He’d like to talk to me about offering me a contract.

I sat there in front of the screen for a long, stunned, surreal moment. Then I forwarded the e-mail to Capt. Daddy, adding a few excitable expletives. Capt. responded instantly and wisely—“call him.”

A week later I traded my signature on a contract for an advance. Now I have to write the book by Nov. 15. Not even kidding. But never mind about that. I’ve been writing professionally for ten years. Surely I can churn out 65,000 words in eight weeks. No problem.

The amazing part is that for years all I’ve been told is that to get a book deal, writers have to burn up the keyboard relentlessly pitching agents, chase after editors with finely-tuned elevator pitch in pocket, be willing to offer publishers one’s first-born child and grandma’s gold coins. I did all of that. For years. It didn’t work. (I even sacrificed the first-born child—ha, and ouch). But something must have worked. Because ten years into this little song-and-dance, two publishers in a year came to me.

Because of the tight turnaround on the travel book, both it and my memoir (about growing up in Oregon—how coincidental) will be out at the same time—next spring.

Far out.

This photo is of a painting my dear friend and fellow writer Suzanne Burns made for me three years ago, after I set fire to my first memoir and pretty much figured my dreams of publishing a book were dead. It’s been hanging in my office since, guiding me to places I couldn’t see coming. Suzanne saw what I couldn’t yet—with work and faith, something new would come along.

Someone suggested that with two books coming out, I should change the name of my blog. Nah. Lots more blooming to do. I might have to update my bio again, though. That book fire really is starting to feel like it harbored the Phoenix instead of defeat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby Takes Flight

Actual dialogue between my husband and myself, two weeks ago:

Me (troubled): You know what I think it is? I think I am anxious about Kindergarten.

Capt. Daddy: You are going to do fine in Kindergarten, honey.

If anyone needs me this morning, I’ll be that middle-aged blonde dripping tears in the parking lot of M. Elementary. I swear just yesterday Noodle was a little package of love with a dimple in her nose who screamed like a pterodactyl when she was angry and got me up eight times a night to breastfeed.

Mama’s so proud. Her little pterodactyl’s going off to public school. Still got that dimple in her nose, though. Sniff…

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A year ago yesterday, the chickens did this to their heads.

Yesterday, I discovered this.

Coincidence? I think not.

From now on, Sept. 1 shall be National Scissors-In-The-Closet Day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Week's Pop Quiz

(answers below)

1. If you take the waffle iron out of the cupboard on a Saturday morning, open it up and discover an old petrified waffle inside, is it misguided to immediately turn an accusatory eye to the only man who lives in the house?

2. Should an (almost) 40-year-old woman really be expected to fit sheets on the top bunk? (“Mom, I can’t believe you came up here and didn’t break it!”)

3. If you’re at the public pool and one of your children tries to drown the other one, isn’t that really the lifeguard’s problem?

4. If you open your purse and find a half-sucked, half-melted lollipop embedded in its interior, would it be wrong to just throw the whole thing in the trash and buy a new one?

5. If you’re looking for a little stress release after a hell of a week, is happy hour with a three-year-old and a five-year-old the answer?

1. He’ll just deny it
2. Darn kids should clean their own rooms, already
3. The mother is always responsible. Haven’t you figured that out yet?
4. Take the money out first
5. Hell no

Monday, August 16, 2010

Family Vacation

Scenes from our camping vacation to the Redwoods, also the celebration of our ten-year wedding anniversary.
(As we greet a blackberry bramble enveloped in fog and mislabeled by California State Parks as our campsite)
Me: Honey! It’s where I always dreamed we’d awake on our ten-year anniversary!
Chicken Noodle: I am afraid all of these trees are going to fall on my head.
Chicken Little: I don’t want to hike. Carry me.
Chicken Noodle: You start hiking down the trail this instant or I’ll put you in time out!
Captain Daddy: Do you think this fog is a metaphor for our marriage?
Chicken Noodle: I am afraid a bear is going to eat us up.
(I come around from the backside of the truck to find Captain Daddy violently shaking a water jug over open flames burning in green grass five feet from the fire pit but two feet from the tent. His face is the color of chalk.)
Me: What did I miss?
Chicken Noodle: Daddy started us a fire.
Me: So, what do you think of your vacation so far?
Captain Daddy: I think it’s a good thing I didn’t have any expectations.
Chicken Noodle: I am afraid the ocean is going to drown us.
Me: So, the way I see it, we could pack up, hug one more big tree, and blow this joint.
Captain Daddy: Oh, baby, you turn me on with your words.
(At one more big tree)
Chicken Noodle: I am not getting out of this car until we get to a motel!
(In the pool of a motel on the freeway in Grants Pass)
Chicken Little: This is my very favorite part of our whole trip!
(Back at home)
Me: Next time I guess we’ll just skip the whole national park thing and go straight to a Best Western on I-5.

For a similar story, see My Hawaiian Vacation in Quotes

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Ghost in the Machine

I went to a writing conference over the weekend. The chickens stayed home with Captain Daddy. Mysterious incidents ensued.

Each time I braced myself and called home, not one person screamed at me from the other end.

No one called me screaming. Not once.

In fact, at one point, someone sounding a lot like Captain Daddy called me, reporting to be in a jewelry store, and asked me what kind of ring I might have in mind for our ten-year wedding anniversary, which is this Thursday. After I hung up, I stared at the phone for a long while, wondering about that three-planets-in-a-triangle thing from last week which I didn’t really pay attention to. Had it opened up some kind of freakish space warp, and if so, how long it would last?

When I got home, my grocery list had suspiciously vanished from the countertop. The items that had been on it were in the cupboards and refrigerator.

The chickens reported that they’d gone swimming, taken a bath and consumed at least one vegetable in the previous 48 hours.

The tear in my favorite yoga pants had been mended.

My hot tub had been drained, scrubbed, refilled and reheated.

Gear and food for our vacation, to commence today, had been packed.

Hmmm, I wondered. Curious. But I couldn’t ask Captain Daddy about all of this odd business, because he’d left for his day job, saving the world.

I was left alone to ponder whether I would have to hire a special kind of exorcist to deal with ghosts who know what kind of hot dog buns I like, love my children, are good at sewing and wish to buy me jewelry.

Then I came to my senses.

PS Is this picture predictive these things? Or anything else that’s happened in the last decade, for that matter? I think not.

PPS No, of course we were not drunk at our own wedding.

PPPS Okay, just a little.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chapter 59, In Which My Family Legacy of Tree Hugging Veers Off the Tracks

Chicken Little on camping:

"Mom, do you think nature is beautiful?"

"Yes. I think nature is very beautiful."

"Well, nature is not beautiful to me. Stupid trees."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shades of Blue

A piece I wrote about Summer Lake is on the Travel Oregon blog.
Click here to see more of my Travel Oregon posts...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For the Bird(er)s

A new story of mine, The Way of the Wing Watchers, is in the current issue of Oregon Lakes and Rivers Magazine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It Was Fun While It Lasted

Chicken Noodle’s obsession with death continues. Here are some of the latest utterances from my five-year-old Mistress of Doom.

On the couch, cuddling
Chicken Noodle: Mom, I don’t want to grow up.
Me: I know, baby. But you know what’s the best part?
CN: I am going to get old and die?
Me: Umm, no, baby.

At the park
CN: When people are alive, it’s way more cozier to be outside than to be underground, like later when you’re dead.

On the deck, eating dinner
CN: What if a tree fell on our house right now?
Captain Daddy: It’s not going to happen.
Me: You are totally safe.
CN: But what if it fell right here on my chair and then hit my dinner plate? What if it smashed my macaroni?

At Grandpa’s house
Grandpa, to Chicken Little: You’re getting so tall!
Chicken Noodle: I’m taller!
Grandpa: Yes, but you’ll probably always be taller, until you’re grown.
CN: Yeah, but I’ll die first.

In the backyard
CN to my mother: What if a meteor hit our yard while we were outside playing?
(My mother shoots me an alarmed look.)
Me: What can I say? She’s got a little Armageddon in her.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy New You Part IV

Long overdue for an update to my blog profile. I've been confusing people with the whole book burning thing.

So here's me, modestly refreshed:

Me: mother, wife and writer watching 40 climb the front steps like a peddler pushing time and me with nowhere to hide. The writer part used to come first, the 40 used to be a 30, and marriage and motherhood were abstract activities I thought I’d try someday. Ah, growing up. If only it was the thrill promised when we were six.

I started this blog to chronicle my quest to publish a book. I’ve published all sorts of other things—articles, essays, even poetry. I wrote a first book. Then I set it on fire. I am now neck-deep in edits on a second book, and have a publisher interested. But as my mother says, “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

So the question remains—will I bloom, eventually? Or will I ditch the whole writing thing, adopt a xanax habit, abandon my own identity and live the rest of my life vicariously through my children? Hmm, let’s find out.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Need You Like a Donut Needs a Hole

Barry Louis Polisar emailed me yesterday. He saw my post here yesterday and sent me a message to tell me he’s glad he cracks me up.

It was like my childhood hero turned up on my front porch.

I stared at his name in my in-box while my brain did spastic flip-flops between 1978, when I listened to Barry constantly on a small black cassette player in my tiny yellow bedroom, and now, when I play Naughty Songs For Boys and Girls on the Ipod in my kitchen for my girls while I make breakfast.

But Barry turns out to be a real person living in Maryland who actually takes the time to email me because I posted the lyrics to his song?

Hot damn.

I was grinning like a fool.

I ran outside to tell my husband, who was raised Catholic in the 60s in a small rural town by a mother and father who were well into adulthood when he was born. He grew up watching Lawrence Welk and listening to big band and had never heard of Barry until we had kids. But even he thought this was extremely cool.

I emailed Barry back and said, “Is that really you?”

Those of you who had a deprived childhood may not know Barry’s songs and stories. But there’s a good chance you heard him sing "All I Want is You" in the opening credits of the hit film Juno. You know, when she's walking around with a big jug of Sunny D? That song was actually recorded on his second album in 1977.

Polisar has been making smart, witty, deep, funny, silly music for kids for over three decades. Kids like me, who grew up listening to "Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan" and "My Brother Threw Up on My Stuffed Toy Bunny.”

And only ended up only the most deliciously sort of warped because of it.

After he was censored, Barry started putting stickers on his albums that read “Warning: the songs on this recording may be offensive to some people. Children are advised to use discretion in exposing adults to this material. Exposure may result in a sense of humor.”

My pal Barry wants everyone to know that some of the rebellious children he used to entertain recently banded together and released a 2-CD, 60-song tribute album of his songs called We're Not Kidding! A Tribute to Barry Louis Polisar. Hear free samples at http://www.barrylou.com/.

Barry Louis Polisar emailed me! Made my whole stinkin’ day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


My mother ran away today
She walked right out the door,
Packed her tooth brush and pajamas
Said, "I can't take any more."

She said that she was tired,
She said she had her fill
Of cooking our meals, washing our clothes
And cleaning up all our spills.

She said she'd write us letters
With no return address,
She said she'd come back someday
But now she has to rest.

She took the plants, she took the cats,
Took our pictures from the wall,
And though it's just been two hours ago,
I wish that she would call.

I never thought I'd miss her,
Isn't that the way?
You don’t know how much Mom means to you,
Until she runs away.

Barry Louis Polisar. He cracked me up in 1975. He cracks me up now. Anyone remember the Man and the Chicken? I'll post it next...

Thursday, June 17, 2010


A couple of weeks ago while I was tutoring at the college, my blood sugar crashed. I emptied my wallet of quarters and headed for the vending machine, wondering if I would find any sugar-free, protein-laden options.

Yay—Smokehouse almonds. $1.25. I plunked my five quarters in and watched the little metal corkscrew arm make its slow rotation…and then stop. My almonds dangled there, caught on their own packaging. Then, strangely, a nickel dropped into the coin return.

I gazed at it in my palm for a moment, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it. Was five cents the returnable deposit on my risk? And how was it that I hadn’t realized that I was taking a risk in the first place?

Stubbornly, I went back to my bag and got more coins. I didn’t really want to pay $2.50 for almonds, but if I don’t eat, it’s possible that I’ll suddenly begin to stab my students with their own writing utensils. In went another $1.25 in quarters. This time, the twisty arm rotated, making its low whir, and two bags of almonds dropped to the bin.

Out of curiosity, I pressed the “coin return” button, and received two dimes and a nickel.

I scooped up my loot and headed back to my post, unable to shake the feeling that the whole experience was metaphorical somehow. Sometimes the world withholds your almonds. You do what you’ve been asked to do and get jack in return. Sometimes you get unexplained gifts that you’re not sure even you understand. Other times you get everything you’ve asked for and much more. And sometimes, you just get caught on your own packaging.

Vending machine as karma.

This week, the almonds are good and stuck. But I am waiting for the coins. I know they’re coming, sooner or later.

Monday, June 7, 2010

I Entered A Contest!

I know, it’s so *exciting*! I can barely contain myself.

But to truly feel the thrilling highs and lows of the absurdly-optimistic contest slut, I need your help.

Will you to vote for my entry in the 365 Days of Adventure in Bend contest held by trazzler.com before June 15 when the voting period ends? Here are some reasons why you might consider doing so:

A) You love me, you really love me!
B) Your Monday-morning brain isn’t working yet, and a new but totally manageable task is just what you need to kick it into gear.
C) You hate your job and/or boss and want to spend as much time as humanly possible not actually working.
D) You are drunk-Facebooking (some Mondays are like that).
E) You like helping strangers.
F) Your cat or three-year-old accidentally click on all the right places in sequence.
G) The voices in your head tell you to.
H) You really think my entry is the best (hmm, concept).

Here’s how it works:
Click here (or http://www.trazzler.com/, or Soaking Up Solitude at Shevlin Park)
click sign up on the upper-right corner of the page
log in with your facebook login (so easy!)
click the big green box that says SAVE

Takes 30 seconds. Budda bing badda ding! I win fabulous prizes and/or a writing contract. It could happen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

5 a.m. Returns

Chicken Little typically appears at my bedside between 5 and 5:30 a.m. “Mommy!” she says exuberantly, as if she herself has already had several cups of coffee and can’t understand my languor. “Is it wake-up time?”

I always have a hard time answering this question. Primarily, because I am in a coma.

But also because no, of course it isn’t wake-up time, it’s clearly and obviously still sleeping and dreaming-of-a-Hawaiian-beach time.

But on the other hand, yes, simply the arrival of this small person grinning and shaking her mop of crumpled white-blonde hair and boinging up and down like a cross between Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Tigger means that, by definition, it’s wake-up time.

Usually I just grunt and haul her into bed next to me with hopes that she’ll go back to sleep, or at least allow me to lay there like a drunken sailor for five more minutes.

This morning she curled up under my arm. “We picked our mommy and daddy at the store,” she announced matter-of-factly. “We said: not that one, not that one, not that one. Yes, you. And, you.” She punctuated these last two statements with tiny jabs at my arm.

“Ummm,” I murmured. “We are so lucky.”

“And you and daddy picked us at the store. You said: not that one, not that one, not that one. Oh yes, THAT one.”

“Mmmm.” I was starting to come to. “Boo boo,” which is what we’ve called her since she was little-bitty, “why did you pick me?”

She put her cheek to my chest. “Because you have the softest, warmest skin in the whole world.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If You Live Through It, Turn It Into a Story

Back by popular demand and repeated request…published in High Desert Journal last year…the story of our ill-fated rafting trip down Hell’s Canyon...my essay Passing Through the Green Room…alternately titled, The Time My Husband Tried to Kill Me.

(well, he didn’t mean to, and it did turn out to be a good story, after all)

Click here or see http://www.kimcooperfindling.com/, “Chef’s Special”

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Perils of Working From Home

So, just a few minutes ago I was diving into today’s projects here in my home office—gearing up for some magazine copy editing, prepping for a phone interview with a college prof at 10, trying to think of what the heck I am going to write about fly fishing, when I heard the doorbell.

Obediently I padded down the hall in my bare feet, glad I'd gotten around to getting dressed. I opened the door and was greeted by a tall fellow in a suit. He handed me this.

I can't really pass on all of the “happy news” he intended to share, because quite quickly I scurried him away by informing him that I actually WORK here, and not just the laundry-and-scraping-crayon-off-the-walls kind of work.

But I just had to take a minute and share this with you all right away, despite my deadlines, because isn’t it such good news? All suffering soon to end. It’s about time, really. Suffering is so Dark Ages. Personally, I am completely over it.
I’m not entirely sure what the moose has to do with it, but I suppose we’ll find out when we get there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Super Moms, Unite!

Happy Mother's Day to all you super mamas! This card came from my own superhero mother. She's awesome.

Since Captain Daddy is working today, I'll be performing all stunts myself. Now--faster than two small children high on maple syrup! More powerful than a mile-high pile of useless plastic toys! Able to tranform a disaster area into a functioning kitchen!

Wait...is that a cup of coffee I see? And the newspaper?
Hmm...come to think of it, no one but me will see the kitchen until Tuesday...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Seven Candles, Burning Bright

Today is the seventh anniversary of the birth and death of my first child. There was a time when I thought it would get easier each year. Now I think, it doesn't.

First comes a frantic stemming of the tide. But it comes anyway—a massive tidal wave of grief. I cry for days. I mean, really, why not?

One of the most challenging aspects of this whole affair (yes, there are many) has been the inherent loneliness that comes with being the bearer of something so miserable that most people won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. From the get-go, the edges and depths of this experience were something only a few of my contemporaries even tried to comprehend, let alone address. I can count on one-and-a-half hands those who have really gone there with me in seven years, and several of them are bound to me by blood, married to me, or I had to pay.

Perhaps the death of a baby is just one of those life-situations irrevocably fraught with peril. I’ve always known that everyone did what they were able. But that didn’t make it any less lonely.

One silver lining of this whole affair (yes, there are many) is my chickens. Not just their blessed existence, of course, but their reaction to this day. I always intended for our family history to be something that was out in the open for them—not overly dramatic, but truthful. So once a year we go to the cemetery to visit the brother they never knew. And each year, I am surprised and delighted by the ways that Noodle and Little transform the experience for us all.

Last weekend, Chicken Noodle began the planning. “What will we bring to him? Ooo—candy,” she moaned, like it was crack cocaine.

“How about a bouquet?” said Chicken Little, who is three and prides herself on her growing vocabulary.

“Candy,” sighed Noodle, still lost in an imaginary-sugar-induced fantasy.

“Candy,” agreed Little with a reverent whisper.

“No, I know,” said Noodle, who is five and has to have the last word, even if it means trumping her own idea. “We’ll bake him a cake. But we’ll eat it! At his cemetery! And we’ll leave him one piece right there by his name. And we’ll put heart candles on it! And we’ll sing”—she broke into a warbling tune—“’Happy birthday, lovey boy!’”

All I’ve wanted was for someone to validate his existence, honor my pain, love me there, and make me laugh. I could never have guessed that it would be my own children who would do this the very best of all.

Off to bake a cake…

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How's Saturday Night, Tom?

When I was a kid, I thought that all of the bands were actually at the radio station, playing live music that was then somehow funneled into our living room hi-fi.

It seemed rather complicated—difficult logistically. I couldn’t quite figure out how they switched to a new band between songs so quickly. Multiple studios? And wasn’t it kind of a bother to set up a whole stage for one song? I mean, each group was only at the station for, like, four minutes!

I recalled this last weekend, when Tom Petty, for whom I nurture a small obsession, turned up on the cover of Parade Magazine.

“Guess who this is?” I asked the chickens. Expectant grins. I threw them a hint. “He sings to us in our kitchen.”

“Tom Petty!” yelled Chicken Noodle. We’ve spent many a pajama-d morning dancing to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Noodle can identify a Petty song in about two measures (Ah, the joys of indoctrinating one’s young in our own sweet obsessions).

Noodle greeted Tom’s image appropriately. She began kissing the page, landing passionate smacks all over his grizzled 59-year-old face.

Then she became puzzled. “Is he playing the music right now?” she asked, pointing at the Ipod and screwing up her face.

“Here’s how it works,” I said confidently, proud to explain what I’d finally figured out all of those years ago. “He plays the music in a studio and records it so that we can listen to it anytime, without him here, which is handy, because he’s famous and probably wouldn’t come to our house.”

“Oh!” said Noodle, missing the main point of my little soliloquy and instead clinging to a much better idea. “I know! Someday can he come and be our babysitter?”

Just putting this out there, Tom. I pay $8/hour. For you, I’d go $10. I know you’re busy, so you pick the night. We’re flexible.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Snakes Are For Girls

Last weekend I encountered a mom who was having a bad day at the festival. We were in line for face painting, and her daughter wanted to be a tiger. She was fretting.

“I’ve been trying to talk her out of it for the last half-hour,” she confided. “I said, wouldn’t you rather be a princess, sweetie? How about a fairy?”

I nodded sympathetically, holding my tongue. I couldn’t relate to her plight, but neither did I want to be impolite.

Captain Daddy had no such similar nagging inner voice. “She wants to be a snake,” he said, pointing at Chicken Noodle. “I think it’s awesome.”

I thought it was awesome, too. I take it as a sign of victory that in this princess-saturated world, my five-year old chooses of her own free will to have a gigantic blue snake painted on her face. She climbed up into the hot seat after the tiger was led away by her mournful mother. Ten minutes later Noodle had a life-sized reptile winding from her forehead to her mouth. Then she got up on stage and learned to belly dance with Rasha. It was beautiful.

My father was the sort to haul my sister and me into the woods and expect us to love it. We did. Mostly. If we complained, he told us that hardship in the outdoors built character. It did.

Now I want the exact same thing for my daughters.

Yesterday, we took a big long walk in the woods. There was dirt and discovery and rain and crying and running and falling and exploring and laughing and bugs. When we got home, Chicken Little put a fairy and a snake in a chariot. They were on their way to the ball. The fairy’s name was Rainbow Butterfly and the snake’s name was Lola Rose. They were best friends.

After the ball, everyone went to bed happy. Especially me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


On Monday, I walked to a meeting. The route was a stretch of Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. The destination was a local pub. The person I was meeting was my publisher. On my back, I carried 160 pages of paper—my book manuscript, completed last week and fresh from the printer.

The sun shone brilliantly, there was barely a breeze. I was all alone. Two miles of packed sand, open Oregon air and exercise lay between our rented beach house and my fate.

Of course, fate doesn’t work like that. There isn’t really one defining moment that sets a course of everlasting glory in a regular life. Glory comes and goes, is persistently fickle. Every happy ending is interwoven with the beginning of another new challenge.

I thought about a lot of things on that two-mile journey. How much outside validation I need from my writing, and if I can learn to just enjoy its creation and appreciate the successes that appear. My family, and what really matters. How rooting around in your past and trying to craft it into something salable is as dangerous and messy as my friend Jessica said it would be when I started this project. And, just what the heck might happen during the next two hours.

But when I quit thinking and looked up into the stunning sky, at the powerful surf, breathed the sea air, I thought about how lucky I am. How incredibly metaphorical this walk was! My story about growing up on the Oregon Coast was literally on my back as I marched down the Oregon Coast to deliver it to someone who would decide its worth. Sort of like the pearly gates, but with kites and sandcastles.

Judgment is still to come. But on the walk back, after a great discussion, with a pint of Oregon ale in my belly and my backpack much lighter, when the beach glowed even more marvelously and I felt like skipping over the sand, when I located my chickens chasing seagulls and Captain Daddy ready to hear my story, I simply chose to revel in the glory for however long it lasts.

I knew the true worth of that paper-bound journey, and almost didn’t care what anyone else thought of it at all.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Angels are lovely, but they take so long to get here

Anyone heard of angel cards? They are a product of the woo-woo culture, a novelty I’ve kept by my bedside since college (which was a long time ago, btw). Like a deck of cards, you draw one to take as your daily inspiration. They each read one word—Strength, Healing, Purpose etc.

I don’t pay the angels much mind anymore, except to poke fun at Captain Daddy when he’s grumpy. Nothing like selecting a card reading “Peace” and thrusting it under your over-stimulated spouse’s nose to drive him completely off the dock. And sometimes I use them as bookmarks. And sometimes the chickens use them as confetti, as in, to throw a ticker tape parade for their Groovy Girls.

Anyway, I was at Powell’s Books on Sunday selling off some old reading material. The clerk pulled an angel card from the pages of “Blindness,” a book I started like eight years ago and never finished. (I thought it was depressing and unforgivably bleak, but what do I know, they made it into a movie last year). The card read “Freedom.”

“Thanks,” I said to the clerk, smiling. I felt downright gifted with my own personal allotment of freedom. So that’s where it’s been. I stuck it in my back pocket and went on my merry way.

Flash-forward to yesterday, when I pulled clean laundry from the dryer and discovered the shredded remnants of “Freedom,” washed to destruction before I could even enjoy its blissful sweetness. Drat.

I had quite the little self-pitying episode there in my laundry room, mourning the freedom I’d have to live my entire life without (as well as my inability to master the art of laundry), before truth smacked me in the head. Duh. You don’t need a small inspirational card in hand to stake claim on a little freedom, or any other longed-for life state, for that matter. These things are yours for the taking. Don’t you get it yet? Make them yours, for God’s sake. You’re almost forty. It’s about time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chapter 238...

...in which our heroine is nearly finished with final edits on her book. In between fits of terror, she is quite jublilant.

Honestly, she is.

(Well, she's sure it's coming, anyway.)

Up next:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Tax season mournful thought for the day:

“No one can stop you from writing. They can only stop you from getting paid for it.”

--Bobby Moresco, Hawaii Writer’s Conference, 2009

Silver lining: writing off this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Try Die

It has been said that all fear is fear of death.

I’ve managed to get my head around the fact that all negative emotions are fear. Envy is fear. Anger is fear. Anxiety is fear.

But I hadn’t gotten my head around all fear being fear of death until I came to live with a kid obsessed with death.

Two weeks ago: after a half-hour lost to the ephemeral delights of Screaming Flailing Crazyland on account of who-remembers-what transition, probably that it was time to go to gymnastics, I finally cornered Noodle, gave her a fierce hug, got down in her face, and said gently, “I know you have a hard time when things change when you aren’t ready for them to change.”

Her face crumpled. “I don’t want to grow up! I don’t want to die! I want to be five forever!”

Whoa, dude. And I thought I was existential.

Yesterday, on the way to swimming lessons, apropos of nothing: “Is everybody going to die, the whole world, everybody?”

I’ve learned to just cut to the chase. “Yes.”

“But that’s sad! I don’t want to die.”

“You aren’t going to die for a long, long time.”

“But, actually,” she brightly reconsidered, “ I want to try die, like, die for a minute and come alive again.”

“Well, sweetie, it doesn’t work that way.”

“Why not? I want to. Then I would know what it would be like, you know, for later.”

Before I could respond to this (who knows how) we arrived at our destination (“Land Ho!” hollered Chicken Little) and I was off the hook until next time.

Surely, if not before then, in May, when her brother’s birth/deathday rolls around. Unsurprisingly, Noodle thinks his cemetery plot is the most fascinating place on earth (“Is he really in there?”).

She recently told her entire preschool class about the cemetery (“We go and visit him at the place where all people go to die”) and her brother (“he lives there, but not really lives, because he’s dead”) with an enthusiasm akin to if he were, say, a newly acquired guinea pig.

To Noodle, the whole dead-sibling thing is like, seriously cool.

It’s given me a totally refreshing take on that particular situation, I must say.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Interesting Things That Have Happened Recently

A postcard I sent to my parents from New York City to Oregon in October, 2008, turned up in their mailbox. (Where it has been in the interim might make an excellent plot for a novel. Or not.)

My husband presented me with a tube of bacon chapstick. (Note to the manufacturer—An appealing food does not necessarily translate well into an appealing personal care product)

Chicken Noodle burst into a near-perfect rendition of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” at the dinner table, a song I am fairly certain she has heard only a few times in her life and not at all recently. (I am considering the possibility of her reincarnation. Do you think she was at Woodstock? Do you think she died at Woodstock?)

Someone put $3000 on my credit card in a restaurant in Beverly Hills. (Sounds fun. Wish I'd been there.)

I rewrote and saved an essay three times, each of which the changes were not there when I reopened the document. (God? Are you trying to tell me something? Is it about my writing? Or Windows Office?)

I did a four-day no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no corn, no wheat cleanse, and felt strangely non-plussed about the whole experience. (Wasn’t I supposed to be transformed instantly into a younger, more vibrant me? Made to levitate? Or at least lightened by a few pounds?)

Someone offered me a leech. (OK, this was in a dream. I declined. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it means something. Is there bloodletting in my future?)

I went to Kindergarten orientation but failed to realize I was supposed to take my future Kindergartner with me. (No one tells you anything, apparently. You have to figure it all out yourself).

Captain Daddy went in the women’s restroom of a new local restaurant, peed and washed his hands before a woman came in and interrupted his reverie. (He was completely unbothered by the whole affair. This is why I love him.)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rockin' the Bard

Of particular interest to anyone who has ever made-out in the back of a school bus...or wished they had...

An essay from my upcoming book, Chance of Sun: A Perfectly Imperfect Oregon Upbringing, is in this month's Oregon Quarterly Magazine.

Rockin' the Bard

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy New You! Part IV

The chickens turned three and five last week. I am still not sure how we all got here, let alone in one piece. But I suppose every parent feels that way.

At the park over the weekend, a father, while pushing his 20-month-old son in the swing, asked, “How old are your girls?” After my answer, he said, “Oh, so you’re on easy street now, huh?”

Easy street? Is that where I am? I do vaguely remember things being more difficult even just a year ago. But I wouldn’t say parenthood has morphed into a day at the spa.

Yes, there is very little ambiguous, ear-piercing crying in my life anymore. I gave away my stroller two weeks ago. If you hand the chickens a hairbrush, they just might brush their own hair. And never again in this lifetime shall I wear breast pads.

But these days, when Chicken Noodle finds my actions disagreeable, she lets me know with an ear-piercing and entirely unambiguous insult. “You stupid pooty booty head Mommy!”

And when I haul her off to her room for a time-out, she brings to the battle new advantages—40 pounds of muscle and a strong left hook.

And this morning after I started the bread maker and left the room, Chicken Little got into the cabinet, climbed up on the counter, and added several new ingredients, including dishwater.

And if I leave them alone together for too long, the scene inevitably transforms into four-star girl-on-girl wrestling, complete with biting, scratching and occasional nudity.

I suspected that Park Dad didn’t want to hear any of this.
I finally answered, “Things are pretty great, yeah. But they just change. Some pieces get easier, some get harder.”
He looked at me like I was a three-headed alien bearing news of the world’s imminent demise. Then he chose to treat me as an unfortunate anomaly. “I can’t wait until he’s four!” he proclaimed.
The one thing I hope I’m learning after five years of motherhood is to quit waiting for the perfect tomorrow and start living the imperfect today. There’s always frosting somewhere, if you look for it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"God It’s Such a Drag to Have to Live in the Past"

The other night I dreamt I was pregnant with my ex-boyfriend’s baby. This is impossible for many reasons, not the least of which is I haven’t laid eyes on him since 1996. (Oh, and my ten years of marriage, though I guess that doesn’t stop everybody from getting into this particular pickle).

No matter—in the dream, this situation was very real and posed many problems in my current life. Did I shun the boyfriend, stay with Captain Daddy and hope he’d agree to raise my love child? Did I ditch my family and go live with this baby’s father, to raise our illicit bundle of joy together? Maybe a baby was what we always needed. Maybe a baby would make him faithful, magically force him to appreciate me and love me as he never did all of those years ago. Maybe a baby would encourage us to put aside the self-destructive behavior towards which we’d been so prone.

In the dream, my boyfriend held me, spoke soothingly in my ear. He promised me everything. Of course we would raise this baby together. Of course there would be love, joy—all of my heart’s desires and more.

I awoke with Captain Daddy on my left and Chicken Little on my right in the bed I’ve slept in for well over a decade—far from Portland and the past. Far from pregnant, for that matter. I knew immediately the meaning behind the dream. The baby is my book. My ex-boyfriend makes a small but illustrious appearance in my story—the chapter he dominates marks the arc of the narrative. It was the lowest, most dangerous and chilling time of my life. And I do feel like, by writing about it, by publishing it, I am giving birth to it again. I am bringing events long-ago put to rest back to life. It’s unsettling, to say the least.
But as Chicken Little woke beside me in bed, threw an arm around me and kissed me a sloppy good morning, I knew the answer to the dream’s central question. Of course I would stay here. To write about the past, to unearth it, to put it on display is to bring it back from the dead. But I don’t have to go back and live with it. I can pull those things out of my personal history and still keep my feet firmly planted in the life I crafted from the Phoenix’s flames.
Still, for the better part of the morning, I couldn’t shake the image of my ex holding me so tenderly, gazing fondly into my eyes. Everything was going to be okay, he seemed to say. This time, there would be a happy ending.