We Get to Carry Each Other

“I’m almost stopped by your house this morning to cry.” A friend told me the other day as we waited to pick up our daughters after school.

“You should have,” I said without thinking, “what’s going on?”

My friend has another child with a multiplicity of special needs who is struggling to make a big transition at school. My friend had a meeting scheduled that day with the principal, but right before it she discovered something else that concerned her and decided to schedule a meeting with the school counselor too.

After these back-to-back meetings she was exhausted and feeling overwhelmed. Raising a kid with special needs can be so arduous. The school is just around the corner from my house and she thought about stopping by to tell me all about it and have a good cry.

“Why didn’t you?” I asked.

The short story is she talked herself out of it because she wanted to save me for a real emergency. I mean you can’t just show up at your friend’s fixing to cry willy nilly, can you?

The funny thing is, with me you can and I’m really good at it.

Years ago a friend stopped by and I winced when I saw her car because her home is always immaculate and mine is not but I opened the door with a smile and was surprised to see her face wet with tears.

“What’s wrong!” I asked.

“I GAINED TEN POUNDS!” She was in the later days of her first pregnancy and had just been to the O.B.

Without a word I opened my arms wide and she fell into them, sobbing.

I was pregnant too, with our second child, Lydia, and managing to keep my weight gain at the lower end of normal. But with my firstborn, Christopher, I gained more than 50 pounds and had one devastating month towards the end where I gained nine pounds alone. This was the month after I told my midwife I was probably going to have this baby early because I couldn’t imagine getting any bigger.

She just smiled and nodded but now I know she was almost certainly thinking, “You sweet, simple thing.”

I was aghast when I gained nine pounds the next month and my friend remembered this when confronted by her own horrific weigh-in two years later. She knew I would understand. And, of course, I did. Soon I had her laughing and she went back to work feeling so much better.

I don’t want to simplify this: my house may not be perfect, but I’m open and friendly: so there! I’m not always open and I struggle with keeping my house as tidy as I’d like, although it’s not the burden that it was. I have some projects I need to do, but most of the time my house is organized and clean “enough.”

Our new house is beautiful and pretty much in shape, but I’m tired.   Except with family and friends I find the hospitality part of the equation to be the heavier one right now. I’m thinking about this summer and what I want to do. Paul has a lot of travel coming up so that needs to be taken into consideration.

But drive-by crying? Yeah, I’m up for that.

This week on Houzz, I’m talking about not allowing the imperfections of your home hold you back from opening it to others.

Where do you fall on the entertaining/hospitality/good times spectrum?

Writers: A Blog You Should Really Read. Please.

Have you ever fallen in love with someone online?

I have. Twice.

My first cyber romance was with a pug named Tonka, a fat and jolly fellow whose picture I saw on the local Pug Rescue and he stole.my.heart. but Paul opposed adopting a second dog. It would take someone burning our house down and our little girl working her heart out  to get Paul to change his mind.

My second online romance was unknowingly match made by Michael Hyatt whom I follow on Twitter and Facebook. He wrote the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World which is a helpful guide for aspiring writers as well as those who are already published.

Mr. Hyatt advocates intentional leadership and constructs clear action plans for his readers. He’s very encouraging and upbeat but, for someone whose default action plan is: 1. Make coffee  2. Read  3. Slip into the fetal position, I have found Mr. Hyatt’s information—on occasion—to be the teensiest bit overwhelming.

If you keep up with the publishing industry, the news can be grim. Everything is changing and most will tell you, not for the better. Many blog posts from professionals in book publishing could be illustrated by  Edvard Munch and as much as I want to stay current and keep learning, it becomes disheartening.

Last year Hyatt retweeted  an editor who worked on Platform, Jamie Chavez, with a post titled, “Words I Never Want to See in Your Novel. Please.” It was the “Please.” that got me. Short story: I clicked on the link and fell in love with Jamie’s mix of brilliance, bossiness and fun!

I was expecting a list of 15 impossibles things to do today to make my writing dreams come true…maybe…probably not!—and instead I found language and LOVE. I read and read and then I tracked her down on Facebook—something I never do—and asked her to be my Friend…if she didn’t keep FB private—which I completely understood—not that she was asking for my understanding.

I’m so glad this made her laugh and she said yes because we’ve been having a good time online ever since.

Jamie is a developmental editor, a book doctor, if you will, someone who understands the art, as well as the craft, of writing and the lady knows her stuff. Her blog is full of helpful advice for writers and she’s a voracious reader so there’s so much for anyone who loves language and books.

Do yourself a favor and check out my lovely friend’s blog HERE.

Filers vs. Pilers: Finding A Way To Organize Paper

Piles of books are a thing of beauty. Piles of papers, though? Not so much. Those are a load of mess and stress but some of us can’t seem to get our act together. My latest is up on Houzz in which I share an epiphany I had and hundreds of people are having their own. And yes, it was about filing papers. I know that may seem banal, and in the face of life and death who cares about a mess of paper, but in day in day out living, it matters a lot. Here it is:

I read an article in a magazine years ago that changed my life. In an interview a professional organizer essentially said, “There are filers and there are pilers. Too often pilers try to turn themselves into filers, and they shouldn’t.” I was astonished. Cue the heavenly chorus; it was as if I’d been given permission to be myself after years of trying — and failing — to organize my papers….to read more click HERE.

Do you know how hard it is to photograph two black dogs? I’m happy to say I don’t let the challenge stop me.  I’m on a mission to make the world a better place and with every picture of my dogs online, I know I’m reaching my goal.

Yesterday Jack and Oliver hit the big time in an article I wrote for Houzz called, “So You’re Thinking about Getting a Dog.” We’ve invited readers to add pictures of their own beloved dogs. It’s a love fest.

Come join the fun.


How to Give Your Children a Love of Reading

About a month or so ago Eden came to me with a problem.

“Mom, I need your help.” Catching a whiff of tension, I set down whatever I was doing and looked up, all hands on deck.

“It’s Daddy,” This was a surprise since I couldn’t think of why she would be this tentative with Paul, “You know how we’re reading The Fellowship of the Rings? I want to stop but I don’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings. Would you talk to him for me?”

My kid wanted me to break up with her dad and his book on her behalf. This was a new one.

“Why do you want to quit reading the book? I thought you liked it. You loved The Hobbit.”

To be honest, I had found this surprising. The only reason I read The Hobbit was because of her father’s love for it and my love for him. It took me another 20 years to read the The Lord of the Rings and I only did that when I knew the movies were being made. I far preferred the trilogy to The Hobbit and assumed if Eden liked the latter, she would definitely enjoy the former.

“I did love The Hobbit but The Fellowship goes on and on. They keep getting into trouble after trouble after trouble; it just gets to be too much.”

Eden and I are in a sweet spot with reading. She is a strong girl and can be resistant to things I suggest. Last summer I recommended she try, Caddie Woodlawn, an all time favorite of mine and my mother’s before me. Eden turned up her nose and I let it go until Christmas when I decided—that’s it—we’re reading it together. By Chapter Two she was hooked and we read it several nights over the holiday. It was wonderful.

Paul did the same thing with The Fellowship of the Ring: he just kept reading it and very soon they got to a better part and Eden was engaged in the story again  and they moved onto Two Towers without skipping a beat. Paul and I have jokingly fought over who gets to read to Eden and I think she loves all of it.

It’s my turn now and we’re reading The Great Brain, another favorite from my childhood.

What books did you love as a kid? What are some you’ve enjoyed reading with your own children?