Archive for May, 2011

“Lyrical, Beautiful, Beastly and Brilliant!”

10/30/08,  a few hours into being 30

As I start to type this, my 20s are 38 minutes departed.

Now, for the first time, I say:
I’m 30.

I’ve looked forward to this birthday for years. Striving for Gandalf-like wisdom and awesomeness, I have dismayed in my youngness and lack of gray hairs. 

To answer your questions before you ask them, no. No, I do not possess a magical staff the likes of which to defeat mad, powerful, and mad powerful wizards with. No, I have never defeated a balrog. And finally, yes, 30’s a far cry from 400… 

…but it’s a step in the right direction!

I no longer wish to actually be Gandalf, but I remain excited by this birthday. I’m excited to know not only that I made it this far, which given my childhood was not a certainty, but that I made it. 

I haven’t just lived to 30, which alone would have stunned me half my life ago to foresee. I’ve lived.

5/24/11, about halfway between 32 and 33

Yesterday, author Rusty Fischer gave my novel The Monster’s Daughter a five-star review, the title of which I’ve borrowed for this entry.

Even if I’d navigated away after taking in the stars and the title, I would have been exuberant.

I absolutely did not stop with the title. That’s a good thing, too, because the review itself was even better. See, for example:

Often funny, majorly sad, equally scary and powerfully poignant, Ginny is such a great character; one of the most realistic I’ve read in YA fiction — and I’m not just talking YA vamp fiction, either! It struck me as I read The Monster’s Daughter how without the vampire parts it would still be a riveting, dark and lyrical tale of one dysfunctional family; almost any dysfunctional family.

To me, this said: Your book accomplished exactly what you hoped it would. That’s exhilarating stuff.

As I drove home twenty minutes later, I reflected on that review. I thought of how, because of my childhood, my hopes have always exceeded my expectations for my life.

Every time something wonderful happens, I recall my birthday letters to my friends. In those letters, I’ve thanked my friends for helping my life become more full of wonder by far than I ever allowed myself to believe it might. What could be a better time to reflect on the came-before and the yet-to-come than a birthday, after all?

My next birthday email will include a few new bullets. As I type out those bullets one October to come, I’ll be thinking of where I came from. Where I’m going. All the people whose actions and words have helped get me there. And I’ll be thankful, as always, for people taking time out to lend a hand or share a kind word. It’s those graces that get me through the hard times . . . and make the already good ones, those such as I am blessed to live right now, a millionfold brighter.

ETA: I’ve added a few date references to clarify it’s not actually my birthday today, though this entry refers to a personal birthday tradition. I’m loving the preview of the warm wishes I can expect for my 33rd birthday! 🙂


A woman’s strength

What makes a strong female protagonist? Is it her sexy curve-hugging leather garb? Her knack for downing a half-dozen opponents with her sword, all in the same amount of time it takes for you to reach for another mug of coffee? Or is it her snark as she tells the bad guys just how little she’s fazed by their mediocre-at-best badness?

If you’re like me, physical ass-kicking capacity might be a part of the strength of some women you know. In such cases, it’s likely also not the determinative strength.

Sarah and Julie, who enhanced my strength by sharing their own

Sarah and Julie, who enhanced my strength by sharing their own

Picture a strong woman you know. What is it that makes her strong? Is it the way she kicks butt physically, or is it something else?

No, it’s not the physicality that makes the strength. So what is it? Is it:

  • the way she stands up to her abusive husband, despite his threats to her and her children?
  • the way she teaches her children to believe that life will be better, even if it’s hard now?
  • the way she unflinchingly holds her dying mom in her mom’s last breath and tells her she’ll remember her light?
  • the way she fights fiercely for what she believes, even if she trembles as she does so?
  • the way she tells her abusive father that she’ll always love him, but that she’ll never be able to have a relationship with him as long as he denies he ever did anything wrong?
  • the way she reaches out to her friends as they are struggling to say goodbye to a dying loved one, despite not knowing what exactly to say, because she knows it’s the reach, not the words, that count?
  • the way she sets aside what pennies she can spare to make sure the neighbors’ kids have enough to eat?
  • the way she holds herself together to comfort a friend who grieves, even though her friends’ sorrow feels like her own?
  • the way she decides to have children, even knowing the personal risks to her?
  • the way she intervenes on behalf of a stranger in a terrifying situation because she knows the stranger needs her?
  • the way she walks away from a relationship that’s bad for her because she finally understands she deserves better?
  • the way she forgives because she understands that we all make mistakes, and that failure to forgive will only hurt her soul?
  • the way she works four jobs to make sure her son will never know the hardships she’s known?
  • the way she adopts her friend’s children as her godkids and helps mitigate the impact of their poverty?
  • the way she helps push her friends toward the greatness she knows they’re capable of, even when they grumble at her?
  • the way she always says what needs to be said, in just the right way to make her friends feel comfortable hearing even the hardest of truths?
  • the way she looks at herself in the mirror and sees all the bruises, breaks and bitterness she’s been subjected to over the years and yet smiles, knowing there is so much light yet to come?

Read more…

Dow gobba gesk to you, too!

Airplane. Awesome! Chopper. No! Gabba. Mine!

What do these words have in common? They’re my 19-month-old son’s favorite words right now.

Every day, I’m delighted to hear my son, Li’l D, learn and use more words. Most of these are nouns, but occasionally they express more abstract concepts like feelings. En route to visit his dad last week, for example, he exclaimed loudly and repeatedly how “happy!” he was.

I was a little surprised to turn around two minutes later and find him fast asleep. Apparently being happy is a seriously “seepy”-making endeavor! Read more…

Freshly Pressed

Freshly Pressed Deb was at least twenty times crazier than blonde Deb

I was in the middle of walking my dog and reading Bumped by Megan McCafferty when my phone beeped. I glanced at it to make sure it wasn’t a “HALP PLS!” message from my S.O., Ba.D., who was back at our apartment with our sick toddler, Li’l D.

I tucked my book under my elbow and checked my phone. Nope, no text message–just a WordPress new comment notification on my Reading While Walking post. I returned my phone to my purse and prepared to read again.

“Morning!” Two men sitting and smoking on their apartment’s steps called as I neared them.

“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked.

“Pretty well,” the skinnier of the two said with a smile. “We are having the weirdest conversation! How about you?”

“Doing pretty well. My toddler’s sick, so these are my few minutes of peace today.”

“Aw,” the skinny one said sympathetically. “I hope he feels better soon!”

“Thanks!” I said as I moseyed past them. “I hope your conversation gets, um, less weird? Or is at least pleasing if it stays weird!”

Both men laughed. I, too, was smiling as my phone beeped yet again. I extracted it from my purse and saw it was another new comment notification from a stranger. I tried to recall what comments I’d posted on blog buddies’ journals recently to lead these folks to me but drew a blank. I returned my phone to my purse and tried focusing on my book for the ninety seconds remaining on my walk.

My phone beeped again twice in that short window back to the apartment. “What the?” I wondered, my book forgotten.

Back in the apartment, I went straight to Sancho the Second, my trusty iMac. I checked my blog’s site stats page. “How the heck do I have 87 hits already?” I mused. “Wait . . . could it be . . . ?!”

I was in the middle of waiting for to load when I got a comment congratulating me on being Freshly Pressed.

Hellz yes!” I shouted. I ran back to the bedroom, where Ba.D. was reading to Li’l D.

“Can I get a high five?! No, wait! I need a high ten!”

Ba.D. assented, then gave me another high ten when one proved unsatisfactory. “What the heck am I giving you ten for?”

I wasn’t ready to answer yet. I ran around the bedroom whooping and hollering, which led even my feverish son to giggle and shriek with delight.

After I’d mostly gotten it out of my system, I went back to the living room, calling back to Ba.D. an explanation of what it meant to be  Freshly Pressed. “Congrats!” he hollered at me while our son continued to giggle at his crazy mom’s antics.

I refreshed the page and oohed to see 87 hits had turned into 150, just that quickly. My son ran up to me, still giggling at all the excitement, and threw open his arms for me to pick him up.

It was a little while longer before I’d calmed down from the high of realizing I’d been Freshly Pressed. After I had mellowed, I reflected aloud to Ba.D., “You know what’s funny? That was a ‘filler’ post. I didn’t want to have two totally serious posts back to back, so I typed that one up in twenty minutes, all the while planning my Very Serious Post about the importance of kind words . . . and apologies.” Since I posted my humorous reflections on road rage alternatives (Road rage takes a spill! (or: “How parenting is making me a better driver”), I’d meant to follow it up with a more contemplative second part. On Monday morning, I’d finally found my path to those words, but I wanted to delay them a little lest folks mistake me for the 100% cactus* I used to be.

Perhaps the lesson in all this is that a little levity pays. Sure, it’s good to be thoughtful and to practice shaping the world into a better place with kind, gentle words. Occasionally, though? It’s good to say something silly, and rejoice in all the interesting people you might never have encountered but for that silliness!

* Back in college, I was very briefly a Tri-Delt. In one evening of “fun and” games, I was unanimously and probably not wrongly voted the sister most like a cactus. I’ve gotten a lot less prickly since.

Reading While Walking

Not ready for readwalking in an outdoor setting

If you’ve ever seen someone reading while walking (“readwalking”), you might’ve made any number of reasonable assumptions:

  • They’re reading a really good book
  • They’re probably lacking a little in safety consciousness
  • They spend a lot of time walking every day and have realized that reading while walking maximizes their reading time
  • They spend a lot of time taking care of day-to-day life and realized that reading while walking (the dog) maximizes their reading time

Most of the folks who’ve approached me about my readwalking habit have assumed there’s a direct correlation between the awesomeness of a book and my readwalking: “Wow, that must be a fantabulous book!” Numerous times in my youth, I’d smile and reply, “No, this book is actually pretty awful. I hope the next one’s better!” Then I’d bury my nose in my book and continue on my merry way.

In other words, in my youth, there was very little correlation between the awesomeness of a book and the fact I was readwalking.

Now that I’m an octogenarian, you’re less apt to see me reading a book I’d deem “awful.” There’s definitely a clearer correlation between me liking a book and readwalking, but it’s not a causal one. Instead, it’s a reflection of the fact I spend about fourteen hours a day engaged in working, driving or caring for my (delightful) little one. If you see me readwalking these days, you can assume the book I’m reading is captivating because I wouldn’t waste scarce reading time on anything else.

With time, a reader becomes skilled in the art of checking for traffic, obstacles and other external bars to readwalking, performing these split-second checks without even being conscious of them. A skilled readwalker might occasionally experience readwalking hiccups, such as eating a mouthful of leaves or realizing they’re on the opposite side of a busy street from where they performed their last check.

Such incidents become rarer with practice, which is why an unskilled readwalker should practice the art only in small bursts on empty walkways.

These days, if you see me wandering the streets in half-darkness, leash (hopefully still affixed to a dog) in one hand and book in the other, you’d probably be right to assume the book in my hand is a good one. Still, you shouldn’t necessarily rush down to your local bookseller to buy that book.

As is true of a book’s cover, you can’t necessarily judge a book by its readwalker!

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