Washing My Inheritance

My then soon-to-be-husband stated (3rd date, my Echo Park, Los Angeles apartment with the spectacular view I couldn’t afford without working 2 jobs, the last apartment I ever lived in alone): You have a lot of rocks.


I recommend the stacking method. So very Big Sur.

My Echo Park patio hosted rocks of all sizes, the largest, most impressive rocks inside–flanking the clawed-legs of my inherited piano, the clawed feet of my inherited bed (smashing my toes as I made for my inherited desk before the bedroom window and that spectacular view). Some rocks I placed around the inherited toaster oven, or the inherited tea kettle’s counter-spot, some decorated the back of the pink toilet and many were clustered on the apartment’s 2 windowsills. My favorite rock, Ms. Mesa, the rock with presence in any light, I kept next to my keyboard and desktop monitor (laptops weren’t a normal invention yet), where I could place a lit candle on Ms. Mesa’s mesa (often).


Ms. Mesa. I believe she likes her indoor palm frond forever kowtowing.

I inherited my rocks from my great aunt and uncle, retired Lockheed engineers living in a modest ranch house with a dazzling view of ocean spreading from Laguna Beach. Summers? They took my sisters and I on moonlit grunion runs, taught us the names of planets and stars, sipped 5 o’ clock martinis in patio chairs as they watched us hurl ourselves down the home’s backyard hill of cushy iceplant, cheered when we rolled to the vegetable garden below.

Our great-relatives patio was bordered in countless rocks. when our aunt and uncle died,  the rocks were a way for my sisters and I to remember our elders. Also their ashtrays from Ireland. But mostly the rocks. I loaded up (and will always wish I’d loaded more).

Last May, my personal little family moved. Our new digs are larger, prettier, and more fun. Most inherited rocks made the moving-cut–although we left a half-dozen or so behind–those by the rosemary and agave bushes, for instance, so seemingly ‘at home’ (I hope the new owners think so, too). There were still plenty of rocks to transport. What the hell is in here? my husband said, hefting a cardboard box into the moving van. Oh, he said, when I gave him a look. Of course, he said.


Only and best use for an Irish, inherited ashtray in a non-smoking house.

3 months after moving in, we’re still moving in. Many rocks remain in baskets, boxes, piled on the BBQ’s warming dish area.

What? I asked my husband when he returned from work last night. I was scrubbing rocks in our sink. Oh, nothing, he said and helped me dry.


All clean.



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Death & Reckonings

I’m told change can’t arrive without grief.

‘Change’ was my middle name when I was a child. I begged for change. It fueled my drive for: self-preservation, better school grades, to hunt for goals my parents lectured me were good goals, before they both completely fell apart.

‘You’ve always known more than me,’ my mother said to her 4 girls. By then, we were all in our 20’s, except for the youngest, who was maybe 18, maybe. ‘I rely on you for advice,’ she told us.

She didn’t mean it.

I wish she had.



Mother of 4, Oxford, England: 1971-ish









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Peace To You


Minster Lovell, Oxford, England 197-.

When I was seven to ten years old, I begged her to let me stay home from school so I could hang out with her, picnic in the park behind our house (she made cheese and tomato sandwiches), just be nearby as she read the New Yorker and I played with my toy farm animal collection–or I’d accompany her on errands, to the department store so she could purchase more Estee Lauder perfume or Laura Ashley skirts.

And, sometimes, she let me skip school.

RIP Mom.

Neither fire, nor wind, birth, nor death can erase our good deeds. 


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Festival Weekend (creativity-obsessed edition)

Saturday morning, my husband and my middle-grade son zoomed to the Los Angeles Convention Center for its uber-serving of Minefaire. Minecraft. All. Day.


While up the street at USC I attended the Los Angeles Festival Of Books. Mostly I hung out at the SCBWI booth, supporting writers such as S. Jones Rogan, a writer of many hats, including that of my son’s school librarian, as well as regional director for the Los Angeles chapter of SCBWI. She is also a kid magnet. Kind! And a font of interesting and humorous stories she’s happy to share. I love talking with her.


You can follow her on Twitter: @Sjonesrogan


I have to say I was inspired by the thousands of people browsing the festival booths, all interested in books in this crazy digital age. The SCBWI booth had MANY visitors, children and adults and adults interested in writing for children. Heartening.

But somehow I don’t think I had as one particular kid at the convention center. I don’t think that’s possible, much as I’d like it to be and much as I wanted him at the festival with his dear old mom. (He did read a novel for 45 minutes when he finally returned home–to my great relief.)



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Shazamski (Goodbye Stress Version)

IMG_3449We are selling our home.

I’ve read that the 3 greatest causes of stress in a relationship can be:




Antidote(s)=deep breaths, low-salt diet, always the ocean, ordering at least 3 crispy tacos from a food truck on Chatsworth Blvd. Stopping everything and going outside and scrutinizing sky. Slicing strawberries for the box turtle and sprinkling them around her outdoor condo. Walking my kid to the school gates mornings. Tucking my kid into bed nights. Helping my kid make a bust of an early colonial, despite neither of us being very crafty. Reading. Walking the dogs with my spouse. Writing. Writing. Writing.

Yours in all things wise and wonderful, like pets and tacos,


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Window Out Of Revision

As I continue revising, it’s good to take breaks, even if only for a few minutes, as you probably know. If I’m working in a Starbucks or a library, I bring up pictures on my laptop that are gaze-inducing and help my mind wander.

Here’s one for today.


Photo credit: Me (wish I was walking there now!)




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Kitchen Fire: A Tiny PSA

You probably already know this–I should have, but did not. DON’T turn your back, not even for 3 seconds, on pre-made taco shells you think you can warm up in your toaster oven. Because when you do turn around, you might see flames leaping out of said toaster oven–not flickers, flames. DON’T call loudly for your child, only to have him arrive in the kitchen just as you are tossing contents from the filtered water pitcher on flames. “You’re not supposed to do that, Mom,” your son might say in a remarkably calm voice–and he will be right. DO tell your son: “Grab the dog’s towel from outside,” in your own calm voice as flames lick up the front of your cabinets (and knowing somewhere in the back of your mind that the only reason you sound calm is because you MUST sound calm in front of your child during a crisis, all the books say so, plus–YOUR SON sounds calm, so…). “Quick,” you might add and you don’t mean to maybe calmly snap the word QUICK at your son–he is easily offended these day–it’s just that (or because) he is very pre-teen, so he moves slowly if anything is asked of him by his parents. MAYBE unplug the toaster oven, which your son will chide you for doing when he appears with the towel, and he will be right, again, because you could electrocute yourself thanks to all the filtered water you threw on the toaster oven to no avail, or you could have set your sweater-sleeve on fire as you reached around flames for the plug. I got away with the unplugging portion of the crisis–clearly. Tough call–I guess (!), although probably DON’T DO IT. DO beat flames with the dog’s towel. They will go out. Or your towel will catch fire, something else your son calmly (!) lets you know as you are in the process of beating the flames. DO review–now, today, this instant–how to use your fire extinguisher. I did not want to stop beating the flames with the towel and reach under the sink for the extinguisher because things were happening quickly and I didn’t have my reading glasses handy and would have had to squint at any print and…NO TIME!!!


New kitchen cabinet in holding pattern in living room as it awaits installation. Who knew you can’t just buy the cabinet doors on their own? Um–not me.

DO agree to make burritos instead of tacos after the fire. When your significant other returns home from work, DO listen closely as your son relates the fire tale–you might hear a little enthusiastic praise, such as you haven’t heard since your son became a pre-teen.  IT’S OKAY to complain about the ruination of Taco Wednesday to your significant other after your son is in bed and maybe even cry a little into your SO’s shoulder, but not so your son can hear–even if you think he’s asleep, he’s probably not. DO expand upon the kitchen fire teaching moment for your family by having future discussions about how else the situation might have been handled, such as: KNOWING HOW THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER WORKS. And: Isn’t flour supposed to snuff flames? FIND OUT. DO banish possessed toaster oven from your kitchen. Our toaster oven was a sentimental keepsake that secretly horrified me from the day it was brought home, but I made an honorary space for it on the kitchen counter as I am not dictator of all I survey. I wish, though, I’d made an honorary space for it in the shed, instead. With, possibly, if Target sells them, a plastic flower-crown. Daisies would have sufficed.

Note: Pre-made taco shells are like lace. Tinder-lace. I wouldn’t even trust them in a real oven. Will make my own in the future.

Note: Toaster oven was pretty damn old.

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Birthday Alarms

I was wide awake before Monday’s morning alarm chimed, plotting what errands I would accomplish, in what order–


RBG action figure b’day present. Right. On.

when my brain was hit with edits to my novel-in-progress.

I threw back the covers and staggered for the dining room table, where my laptop currently resides.

And there I stayed, auditioning edits until it was time to wake my son for breakfast.

“How’s your writing going, Mom?” my son asked as I placed his pancakes before him.

He is 11, severely pre-adolescent, forbids me to sing along to the minivan’s radio on the way to school,won’t let me give him even the quickest goodbye-kiss/peck at the school’s entrance, is mortified by his dad and I standing next to him in public, etc.

But he asked.

“Well, I like what I’m writing, so–I think that means my novel is progressing nicely,” I responded. “Thanks for asking.”

My son shrugged as he devoured a chicken and apple sausage link.

And then he said: “Why wouldn’t I ask?”

Best. Birthday present. Ever.



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IMG_7060Faced with views custom-made to inspire writers, I didn’t. Write. Or edit the 50 pages I’d brought with me. Instead, I continued reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. Occasionally I glanced up from the book and gaped at the storm–then I’d consciously try to slow down my reading instead of zooming to the last page. It’s a novel I didn’t want to end.

Sometimes my husband and I, on our own for the first time since our son was born 11 years ago, took walks, giddy from the altitude, soaked when the rain returned–but we didn’t mind: the mountains were too interesting. Ours was one of the only houses with a car out front and lights on–we explored a tree-lined ghost-town of tall, beautiful homes, playing the ‘which one would we live in’ game, whooping when the rain pelted us and the wind whipped our hoods from our faces. If anyone was home in any of those houses, I’m sure they thought we were crazy.

On one walk, my husband returned after only 10 minutes–our lab had growled at something up the road. Our lab never growls. My husband didn’t wait tIMG_6969o find out if it was a bear. On another walk, we came upon a trail leading to a snow-covered meadow filled with oak trees. We slipped and lumbered and created oversized snowballs and oohed and ahhed at the views of the lake when the clouds lifted their skirts briefly.

Mostly, my husband wrote at the farmhouse table and I sat on the couch before the fire and read and paused and read. I wasn’t fighting writing or revising–my gut ordered me to read, not work, or create. And I obeyed. And returned home from reading, walking in the rain and snow, the views, feeling clearer about my work, armed in fresh ideas for meeting my goals.

IMG_7024If you haven’t read Becoming, I can’t recommend it enough. Same rec goes for a mountain get-away–especially one with more than one cozy place to relax with an inspiring book. And, of course, a retreat that welcomes dogs.

Yours in vital escapes,


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Octopus Garden

Because of my love for the ocean and its creatures, I aspire to hosting this kind of ocean-themed party (thus avoiding my fear of scuba diving, while still having a great time, and without attracting great white sharks–no matter their fascinating layers of teeth).


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tfunnyI sing-songed like Snow White as I whisked open his curtains. I raved about the smell of cinnamon pancakes filling the house as I jumped on his bed. I hit him with a pillow as I encouraged him to seize the day.

“Oh my GOD, Mom,” my son hissed. “Really? STOP, Mom,” he ordered. “Just…STOP…”

He is only 11. Granted, the jumping and pillow throwing was pushing it, but I thought this sort of vehement disgust for his mother wouldn’t kick in until—what, 13?

At school, my lips just missed his freshly washed hair as I attempted to kiss him goodbye. I waved madly as he fled into territory parents are not allowed to tread without security clearance. He traversed the quad hunched, embarrassed, telegraphing to his peers that he didn’t know the lady shouting, “HAVE A FANTASTIC DAY!”, at the gate.

I returned home and sipped my coffee. “Oh my GOD, where does he get it from?” I muttered, automatically blaming my husband, promptly phoning my husband and apologizing for blaming him. tlego

“We had such a nice time together during the strike,” I complained bitterly. “Marching with the teachers, bribing him with hot chocolate in the afternoons so he’d play chess with me–he even let me build Lego things with him!”

“It’s starting,” my husband said ominously. “Prepare yourself, babe.”

But when I retrieved my son from school six hours later?



And just like that I had my sweet, funny 11-year-old again. The prep I did while he was in school—the Googling of pre-teen behavior and how parents should cope and guide their children during that difficult time—I shelved all information for the future (possibly as soon as the next morning).


A great day indeed!


I’m so thankful for teachers and definitely all of the teachers at my son’s school. I was happy we could support them during the strike. We’d do it again! But hooray for school, man, hooray for school being up and running again. Like the government.

Yours in a very relieved manner,



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Rain Or Shine: Strike On

img_6695A couple of weeks before the strike, I was John Snow: I knew nothing.

There are always excuses I can credit a busy mother. But everyone is busy. I simply wish I had paid any attention to events leading up to this strike. I was not clued in.

But I am now.

Beutner has in his employ those responsible for privatizing education in, for instance, New Orleans. Is Beutner attempting to privatize the LA Public schools?

I’d say all arrows point to: YES.

Is this what I want?


Do I support the pay raise, smaller class sizes, more nurses, counselors, librarians (our school is lucky to have a fulltime librarian and this should be a given for all schools IMO): A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

If you, like me, were John Snow–you are probably, like me, caught up by now. If not, do a little research. Because A LITTLE research is ALL it takes.

Protest in the rain? Oh heck yes!

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Never Forget


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beachMay the year be merry and bright and productive. And may I acquire a new laptop. And definitely completion of the current novel and definitely long before the end of this shiny new year. And may I continue to exercise brain and body. And remember to live in the moment, such as appreciating the time my son reads a book by sitting down with a book of my own and reading alongside him. I wish only the best for everyone, such as: beachwalks, good dreams coming true, and homemade spaghetti pie. PS. That’s a coat I’m holding, not my stomach. I’ve been asked.

Yours in a fresh year of creativity,


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octo1Busy keeping my butt in a seat this week before Christmas (see everything Anne Lamott has ever written about the writing process). My son is under-the-weather, and while his feeling sick is not great, we are taking advantage of the downtime: he is reading A BOOK, I am writing page 45 of my 3rd MG novel. Keeping on with the keeping on as Christmas looms with, hopefully, Christmas Eve tamales, Christmas crackers stuffed in paper hats and wind-up toys, copious amounts of gingerbread coffee, beach time, and a new pair of slippers (the kind with backs on them–I don’t understand backless slippers–what about frozen heels?).

Yours in procuring writing time before holiday madness fully arrives,


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13 Years: Grateful


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dig2230am, the dog’s nose a wet Q-tip on my ear, his drunk-carny’s breath. I rise, stumble to the patio door, let him out. Waiting, I realize my right foot is wet. I panic:  blood? Cat vomit. I stumble to the kitchen, use paper towels and water until I’m pretty sure my foot can touch our sheets again. The dog leads the way to the bedroom. I burrow under the comforter. Toss and turn. The kits scale my body, even when I switch sides, one touches a paw to my eye. I rise and stumble to the laundry room, fill cat bowls, mutter screw it, serve them a can, too. I stumble to bed, burrow. And obsess on the sequel I’m writing. 4am. I should just rise for the day, brew coffee, write, but even 5 is better than 4. I toss and turn. Big Boy bangs on the front door. I rise, let him in. He lopes by me, his creamsicle coat a beacon, he is that fabulous. I escort him to the laundry room and listen to him eat and purr simultaneously. It’s closer to 5, but I burrow anyway and plummet into a dream in which I am Mary Louise Parker in a movie with Tom Selleck who is helpless on a runaway gurney and I launch onto a gurney of my own and am about to fix everything, but my husband’s hand thumps my stomach. He mumbles something I will never ask him to clarify. 8am. We rise. I make coffee. Our son stumbles into the kitchen. I make pancakes. We’re going house hunting and I’m writing this before we leave because if I don’t write something, anything, I’ll forget why it is I am cranky. I’ll forget to catch myself when I snap an order, forget to apologize for not remembering: If I don’t write at all during the day, even if I’m blocked, 230am will torture me. Not to mention the pets.

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Dav Pilkey in Redondo Beach

Whenever it was tickets first went on sale for this event? Stayed up until 12:01a.m. soIMG_5516 that I could be one of the first to nab them. Can I just say–I’m glad I was a night owl as the event did sell out and, because I bought tix so early, we weren’t #1,005 for our turn to meet and greet the author–we were #21.

The Redondo Beach Civic Center is a trek for us valley dwellers, so as soon as I picked up my son from school, we zoomed down the coast (as much as you can zoom on the 405 Freeway), rendezvousing with my husband as he made his way there from work. We were early, so we had a tailgate Pilkey Picnic before lining up to go inside the civic center.


If you can ever attend a Dav Pilkey author event, I (as a writer of kidlit, as a parent of a kid who loves Captain Underpants and Dog Man), super strongly urge you to GO. DP is humble, engaging, and he imparts positive messages, such as: practice what you love to do, especially when life feels extremely hard.

When it was our turn for the meet and greet, DP welcomed my son, shook his hand, looked him in the eye as he asked him a few questions about himself, offered to answer any questions my son might have, then high-fived him–all before picture taking started. My son, shy as he was, came away from that encounter feeling asIMG_5537 if he’d been acknowledged and seen and heard by a hero slash rockstar. Our 11 year old teenager dropped any moodiness in order to gush to his parents for the next couple of days about meeting Dav Pilkey. The event truly meant a lot to him.

Which meant a lot to his parents.

Can I just say: TRA LA LA!!! (Captain Underpants reference, as if you didn’t know)

Yours in secretly high-fiving-each-other parents,



Thank you, Dav Pilkey, for a memorable evening!

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O Europa!

Volunteering at my son’s school library means I get to help kids discover books they didn’t even know they wanted to read–and also means I can check out books without exceeding my son’s 5th grade (3 books per student) limit.

I get my own limit of books to check out. Because I’m a volunteer.

As a writer of kidlit: HOW HELPFUL IS THAT. blog1

Currently, I’ve checked out a little stack of books on the planet Jupiter and one of Jupiter’s many moons, Europa, perhaps the most important moon, because it might harbor life in its ice-blanketed ocean, which suits my sequel perfectly.

Yours in planets, infinite possibilities and what is, so far, fun research,


PS. an arm of my prescription reading glasses broke off. I find it no easy feat to read, turn pages and hold glasses steady. Reminds me of my juggling days, only now I’m not as coordinated…

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The Sequel Begins

My novel is completed (as previously blog-blurted) and sent to the interested party.
And now I wait.

Sort of.

I’m halfway through writing chapter two of the sequel. My husband read chapter one aloud to our son at bedtime the other night and I received uber-positive feedback–my anchors (spouse and 5th grader) are my most welcome and formidable (therefore most welcome) middle-grade writing critiquers…nee oracles…

I also entered novel #1, the novel being read by the interested party, in a couple of 2019 middle grade writing contests. Felt very proactive.

I did stray from kid-lit to revise my adult novel, but it felt too much like Little Red RidingIMG_5364 Hood meeting the wolf, or Goldilocks annoyed by the wrong beds, so my focus returned to my sequel. I love being back in the world of novel #1, although dealing with exposition is challenging. However, dealing with exposition is forcing me to make my characters grow/evolve as they guide me through the sequel. I like that!

Today? A break from writing–we are going biking/rollerblading in Santa Monica. Can’t wait to gaze at my ocean and breathe it in.

Yours in challenging writing experiences and sparkling vistas,


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I finished my novel. All the writing, beach walks, and kitten-breaks seem to have paid off.

I’m finished.


Let the revising begin.

Actually I’ve been revising all along. I adopted a habit of backing up a few chapters, reading/revising them before going forward. This ‘backing up’ has worked well for me, helped clarify and inspire. And now revision commences as though I’ve never read a book in my life. Yes, the old book-as-unicorn trick as I approach revising with as fresh and bright and wide-awake a critical eye as I can muster–or beg the universe for.

I can honestly say I’m enjoying the revision. I wish the read-it-out-loud-to-self part went a little faster, but it’s okay. I’m not hurrying, panicking, putting pressure where it doesn’t belong–this book deserves this time, no matter what my brain says. My gut wins.

I’m constantly reminded (especially before that first cup of coffee) that I keep on keeping on. And I’m pleased about that, very pleased. Om.

Keep on keeping on,


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Lost Time

Yesterday I was driving home from Trader Joe’s, my mind deep in my novel. I am SO close to finishing it I can see the end and I was excited about what I was seeing. Then a street sign yanked me from my thoughts: I was crossing Roscoe, but Roscoe didn’t look like Roscoe. My breath came a little fast. Why is the world weird? I wondered, passing the street I usually take to cut over to my house, but because that street didn’t look like itself either, I refused to turn. My worry accelerated to panic. I’m a mother! I thought. I don’t have time for a brain tumor! Luckily, the main thoroughfare appeared. I turned down it and my little pocket of suburbia promptly normalized. Figuring it out only took a few seconds: I’d simply turned down the street prior to the street I normally turn down, but my brain, rummaging through my novel, obsessing on certain ends, sent no confirmation of this move. If I hadn’t seen the Roscoe sign, perhaps I’d still be driving.

Regardless–I’ve got my ending.

Yours in dire conclusions,




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Crucial Weekends (Moaning Myrtle Edition)



Always necessary to visit Moaning Myrtle at the park.

There is still only finishing my middle-grade novel (see previous post).


However, life outside writing continues to happen– my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday AND Mother’s Day, during which I was presented with a Hufflepuff hoodie, a Mother’s Day card from my son, we had breakfast at Three Broomsticks, hot butterbeer and time with my MIL who made it clear to her family that Hogsmeade was her birthday venue of choice.


80 and we had to trot to keep up with her all day. Furthermore, unlike me, she doesn’t require naps.

No wonder I adore her so.

Yours in writing-frenzies, revision-rappels, gratitude for extraordinary MIL’s, and luck,


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How It Is

There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.

Getting my son to school, helping him finish his science project and get it to school; hurtling towards summer–school, science projects, math tests, helping at the school book fair, end-of-school-year requirements and the usual at home with the small zoo. And kittens.

There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.

Stretching my limbs on the yoga mat each morning. Maybe jogging. Maybe driving up the hill to the YMCA and it’s treadmill with TV attached. Because the stretching must be done.

There is only finishing my middle-grade novel.

With brain breaks.

You know?

I’m SO close. Thrillingly close. With a tinge of bittersweet.

Your’s in not freaking out when writing the climax of a book, remembering to enjoy as many writing moments as possible,



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This Happened (Dolphin Edition)


Searching for sealife.

The last day of my son’s Spring Break, I took him whale watching. The only thing missing from this cloudy + exceptional day was my husband, who had to work, but he was adamant that my son and I get on that boat and have an adventure.

So we did.

Everything-ocean has everything to do with the novel I’m finishing up. To be on a 36ft  Boston Whaler with family and see spouting whales,  to be surrounded by hundreds of common dolphins (nothing common about them, pure magic!), animals so close to us they splashed our faces as they leapt from the water, riding the bow? A lovely way to end Spring Break and great research material for my novel.


We could have touched this dolphin. That close.

My son and I shared video and pictures with The Dadda that evening, after a grueling return from Newport Beach on the 405 Freeway. But–although the drive home was slow, I didn’t mind the delay, not really. Because, like so much else it fixes, the ocean fixes freeway gridlock. Especially if you’re fresh off of a whale watching trip.


Leading the way.

His dinner devoured, in his PJ’s, ready for bed and the beginning of his last few months of 4th grade–our son announced he might have a 7 page Oregon Trail project due the next day at school.



Buoy snoozers.

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