Writers at Work Fiction Prize

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I have some great news, Dear Ones! I recently found out that  my novel, The Rattlesnake Princess, received the Second Place Fiction Prize from the 2016 Writers At Work Fellowship Competition. This is absolutely thrilling, and makes me crazy excited for all of you to read the first chapter of my yet-unpublished novel, which I am including in this blog post for your literary enjoyment!

If you have the time, and are so inclined, I encourage you to take a trip to Utah in June so you can experience for yourself one of the most celebrated writing conferences in the Midwest. Writers At Work is a prestigious writing organization that has been offering master classes and workshops for thirty-two years. They have a week-long intensive conference, where writers meet up at the remote Alta Lodge in the Wasatch Mountains. Instructors at the conference offer classes in Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction. Past conferences have featured writers like Amy Tan and Sherman Alexie. This year, the featured fiction writer is Peter Ho Davies! If you have never read his book, The Welsh Girl,you must pick up a copy immediately. Also, his book, The Ugliest House in the World is one of my favorite short story collections.

Each year, WOW offers prizes in Fiction, Poetry, and NonFiction, so if you have something you would like to submit, gear up for the 2017 Fellowship! Submissions begin in November.

Great things are on the horizon for Jurassic Mom. Feel free to read, share, and enjoy the opening of this novel, which is so very close to my heart.

 

THE RATTLESNAKE PRINCESS

BY Amy Bridges

Chapter 1

Haley Monroe burned her Daddy alive one cool West Texas night. Right after Johnny Carson’s opening monologue, but before his first celebrity guest, Haley’s Momma gave Daniel Monroe a gasoline baptism while he was passed out spread-eagle in his La-Z-Boy. Then, Haley threw the match.

With the remote control in his right hand, and a warm Bud nestled snug between his thighs, he didn’t smell it, didn’t know a thing was different, until the flames enveloped his highly combustible liver and he blew up from the inside out.

He ran a drunk man’s sprint onto the front lawn, swearing four-lettered revenge, his dying breath a curse on the two women responsible for his undoing. Then, he dropped his charred remains atop a Texas tumbleweed, that blazed up like a firebomb, starting a small grass fire, his fat sizzling up like bacon, right there between the gladiolas and the morning glories.

It was the middle of October, and Mrs. Kirkley across the way, erased it as nothing more than a Halloween prank, nothing more than “a couple of hellions setting cow pies on fire.”

Haley Monroe sat shotgun in the front seat of her Momma’s green Thunderbird, and with dry-eyed determination, watched the events unfold, breathing in the smell of death, the flames reflected in her brown southern eyes.

The final memory of her father carried with it the flavor of embers and campfire, of ash and bone.

As her mother locked the car into drive, the grisly scene transforming to dust in the distance, Haley Monroe, popped the lid on a warm Coca-Cola. The sticky-sweet syrup coating the back of her throat went down like an unholy communion, shared only with the woman beside her.

Both women agreed. The hot carbonation was almost enough to cover the after-taste of the corpse. In that moment, they washed away the flavor of Daniel Monroe.

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That is how Mrs. Beaumont told it to Momma and me that June afternoon over jalapeno corn bread and red beans.

“The Monroe’s are nothing more than pure Texas trash,” she said soaking up bean juice with corn bread cut in a perfect triangle, her cranberry-colored lipstick leaving traces around the corners of it. “Nothing but trash. And you mark my word. Haley Monroe will be pregnant before she’s out of high school.”

“Oh, Loubelle,” Nancy Chronister piped up, grabbing Mrs. Beaumont’s sleeve with her two inch Lee Press On’s. “You do love to tell that story. It’s such a nasty thing to tell at a Pounding. You’re gonna scare Babe.”

The Womens Missionary Union, or the WMU as they called themselves, were a group of sixteen concerned Southern Baptist women who got together once a week to discuss all the lost souls in South America, Africa; all the countries where children walked around with un-wiped runny noses and ate rice for every meal. In line with their mission to reach out to strangers, they had given Momma what they liked to call a Pounding, which was a storage closet full of canned foods and cleaning supplies to start our new life at the parsonage.

That past Sunday, the WMU put an announcement in the bulletin, inviting all the ladies in the church to welcome the pastor’s wife.

When we’d arrived at Mrs. Beaumont’s that Saturday afternoon for the Pounding, we’d walked into a living room that had more canned goods than a Piggly Wiggly. Square in the center of the room, the ladies had erected a green bean pyramid, which they’d surrounded with smaller pyramids of carrots, black-eyed peas, and stewed tomatoes. Fresh jars of chow-chow and sweet pickles lined the window ledges. The coffee table was a Betty Crocker fantasy full of cake mixes, popcorn kernels and semi-sweet chocolate chips. There were even small jars of decorator sprinkles, and yellow stars, their pink caps sealed tight with plastic wrap. Towers of Comet and toilet paper surrounded the television, with about every cleaning supply imaginable. I squealed with excitement as we walked in the door, feeling like the first prize winner on The Price Is Right.

It looked to me like we’d be eating green bean casserole until the day I graduated high school. And, we’d be drinking sweetened, condensed Hawaiian Punch right along with it.

Momma stood in her pink pumps and checkered sundress, surrounded by cream corn, and thanked the ladies, the Lord, and the Jolly Green Giant.

Then, we’d all retired to the backyard for lunch.

“Babe’s old enough to know about Haley Monroe,” Mrs. Beaumont said, looking my way, with a crooked smile. “Why, this whole thing took place five years ago. Haley was all of twelve years when it happened. How old are you honey?”

“Thirteen years and a month,” I told her.

“Thirteen and a month,” she chuckled back. “You’ll quit counting months soon enough. You’ll quit counting years, too.”

“Not everybody counts backward like you do, Loubelle,” Nancy Chronister smiled.

Loubelle Beaumont’s backyard smelled like honeysuckle and looked like something featured in Better Homes and Gardens, the southern mansion issue. We were sitting right up next to a fountain that had a swan spraying water out its beak into a pool filled with goldfish, and four live bullfrogs. During the chatter, I’d managed to get a hold of a frog’s hind legs and stuck the thing deep in the pocket of my skirt. I was attempting to feed it a pecan, when Momma, between clenched teeth, told me to “let it loose.”

Then, she crossed her two forefingers together.

Whenever Momma crossed her two forefingers together, it was a secret and silent signal for me to cross my legs because I was sitting spread out like a boy. Momma said the perfect way to sit is to cross your legs behind you in an S, just like Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy used to. There was nothing in this wide world more uncomfortable than sitting like that. It burned me a good one the way boys got to throw themselves around and spread out whichever way they chose, and I cursed Jackie O. every time I thought of it.

“I’m gonna turn you into a lady if it kills me, Leah Simmons,” Momma said at least twice a day.

Momma only called me by my full name when she was burning mad because she knew how much I hated hearing it. Leah was an ugly four-eyed girl in the Bible that somebody was tricked into marrying. When I first heard about where my name came from in Sunday school, I nearly marched myself to the courthouse and got it changed. I was adamant everybody call me Babe.

“Haley Monroe was last year’s Rattlesnake Princess,” Mrs. Beaumont said, interrupting my thought. “Not a one of us knows how she got the title, but you can be sure, not a thing like that will happen again.”

“They had those outside judges, that’s why, Loubelle. Plain and simple,” Nancy Chronister said. “Had that Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader judging. Didn’t know talent.”

“That won’t happen again,” Mrs. Beaumont said once more for emphasis. “The Rattlesnake Princess is only the greatest honor bestowed on any young girl in this town. Stillwater prides itself on its world-famous Rattlesnake Roundup. Why, it’s the largest extermination of rattlesnakes the wide world over.”

“Nearly ten-thousand a year,” Nancy Taylor piped up. “All of them dumped wild and hissing inside a pit the Junior Chamber of Commerce calls Satan’s Closet. It’s something all right, quite a sight to behold. Nothing a person will ever forget, that’s for sure.”

I felt myself growing queasy at the thought of ten thousand rattlesnakes.

“What do they do with the snakes at the end of the roundup?” I asked.

“At the end of the roundup, the snakes are all slaughtered,” Mrs. Beaumont said, as though the answer was obvious. “They chop off their heads, and use the venom in research facilities all over Texas. Without question, it’s a very important event, and certainly, nothing short of a Texas-sized embarrassment to have Haley Monroe parading her butt around like she owns the place. If you ask me, those two women ought to have turned the fire on themselves while they were at it.”

“What an awful thing to say,” Momma said almost as instinct.

At that, the ladies grew quiet as Mrs. Beaumont stared Momma straight through.

“You’re sensitive,” she said, her eyes squaring off with Momma. “You’ll see soon enough. There isn’t a place for that here.”

Silence was thick in the air, before Mrs. Beaumont continued with the same tone as before.

“Daniel Monroe was a notorious drunk. He used to stand outside the bathroom door and watch Haley Monroe urinate. Used to have his way with her on those nights. Her mother worked late at the hospital.”

I cringed, unable to imagine a person so horrible as Daniel Monroe.

“Trash. Shot up the house, even killed that yellow lab of theirs,” Mrs. Beaumont said.

“That dog Herman gave them,” Nancy Chronister chimed in.

“That’s the one. Cutest little thing. Haley’d lope around with it down by the railroad tracks. Couldn’t tell which one was the dirtier. Barked its guts out. That’s why he shot it.”

“That’s not a reason.”

“Of course it’s not a reason, Nancy. I wasn’t justifying it. Daniel Monroe got his, didn’t he? He got set on fire. “

And for a moment, the clinking of teaspoons and the soft chatter among the ladies settled.

“They weren’t gonna charge Haley, not as a juvenile, with that kind of abuse hanging over her. And when it came to Cheryl, Haley’s Momma, why, the jury didn’t think twice, didn’t deliberate more than thirty minutes, before they marched in with ‘not guilty by reason of insanity.’ After that, Haley moved in with her grandmother up on Bluebonnet Street, and Cheryl got her own room in the nut house outside of Big Springs.”

This is where Mrs. Beaumont leaned in real close to Momma and me, like she was telling us the biggest secret in the wide world over. “Thing is, not a person alive, save Haley and her Momma that coulda testified to that. Sure, they got John Stevens to say Daniel Monroe hot rodded cars back in high school. They got Stuart Reynolds to attest to the fact that Daniel Monroe drove drunk. But not a soul came forward and said the kinds of things those two women claimed. Not a soul.”

I looked over at Momma, whose back was arched in just the slightest way. I could see the rising of her chest moving up and down beneath the picnic blanket print on her sundress, moving like her mind was running the hundred yard dash, and her body was feeling the effects of it; breathing the way she does before she lays one into me for “sassing back.”

“The truth was consumed in the same fire that incinerated the heart of Daniel Monroe.” Mrs. Beaumont sat back in her chair, and ran her tongue across her lips, as though she were cleaning them off from the story.

Almost as an afterthought, Mrs. Beaumont looked over at Momma.

“The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil,” she said. “Proverbs 8:13. You have to watch where you step foot in this town, Sara. Some folks say Stillwater, Texas exists solely for the purpose of ridding the county of rattlesnakes. There are rattlesnakes lurking in every corner here. You have to watch where you step.”

Momma said nothing. She crossed her legs behind her in an S, and took a bite of her pecan pie.

The Force Awakens Me- BEWARE!!! Spoilers!!!

Jurassic Mom has been away doing many things, dear ones. For starters, I’ve been working at a travel site, writing many things involving fun and frolicking. Soon enough, I will link some of them here, and we can all celebrate my adventures around these continental United States.

But, without a doubt, 2016 will bring back more blogging, and what better way to start than with a celebration of my new favorite movie, The Force Awakens.

Almost two years ago, when I first began writing this blog, I began by relating my love for the timeless classic, Jurassic Park. I spoke of a lover I once took many years ago at a Renaissance Fair, and the comradery we found watching Jurassic Park together. Though the romance didn’t last, my love for the timeless classic has never ended, and I remember it here, along with my life as a mother, and more-and-more, my adventures on this lonely globe.

Which brings me to my latest most favorite adventure!

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I was always in love with Luke Skywalker. While other girls would melt over Han Solo, who was clearly the chosen Romeo of the series… Luke always made my heart go pitter pat. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for nice guys… Or perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for orphans… But whatever the reason, I was always deeply connected to Luke Skywalker. As a young girl playing in cotton fields in West Texas, I would often find myself stomping through the dirt holding onto a tumbleweed that I would pretend was R2, and I’d imagine I was Luke Skywalker’s bride.

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I would write love notes to Luke Skywalker on the pages inside my three-ring-binders.  I would scroll my name out… Amy Skywalker… or Amy Lee Skywalker… Or sometimes Mrs. Skywalker… I would pretend I’d mothered his twins who I’d given the boring names: Roger and Rachel …. I would wrap two cabbage patch kids in blankets and climb trees with them. I’d pretend we were all on the Millennium Falcon, but we weren’t fighting as much as we were just traveling around space and professing our love to one another. Sometimes I’d take a large brown bear into the tree that I’d pretend was Chewbacca.  Sometimes I would imagine Leia was there. But I never included Han Solo because I thought he was an asshole. I would occasionally jump from the tree and pretend I was running from Darth Vader, but eventually I’d end up on the Millennium Falcon again changing a diaper.

My Dad was a Baptist Minister at the time, and when I wasn’t space traveling to Tatooine, I spent hours of my life with my butt glued to a church pew, singing hymns and throwing back shots of grape-juice communion. It was during those years that I would get bored of the hymn lyrics and make lyrics of my own. I distinctly remember rewriting a popular song we all sang weekly called ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB… about the blood of the crucified savior … To these lyrics….

Are you washed in the Force? In the life-giving blood of the Force?  Is your saber polished? Does it shine like fire? Are you washed in the blood of The Force? 

If you want to really enjoy that timeless classic, and add The Force lyrics yourself, Willie Nelson does it justice here:

I would sing Are you Washed in the Force as loud as I could on Sunday morning and no one was the wiser. Or perhaps they knew I was singing it, but they didn’t care because they were all pretending to be Luke Skywalker’s wife, and singing these lyrics along with me. Even to this day, when I hear the simple Baptist ballad, I don’t think of the blood-washed image it’s meant to convey, but instead I am brought back once again to a time when I was married to Luke Skywalker, and we spent our time loving one another and caring for our twins, while evading the Death Star.

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You can imagine, then, my delight as the release of The Force Awakens approached. The trailers represented the presence of Leia, her idiot boyfriend, and Chewbacca. But none of them represented a good wide-shot of Luke Skywalker.

Nerds on sites I  frequent had plenty of opinions on Master Skywalker. There was quite a pre-release consensus that he had fallen into the grips of the dark side, and would be returning to do the work of Darth Vader. On these sites, I was diligent in my support of Skywalker’s ethics, defending a man who had killed his own father in defense of the Force, and who as a direct student of the greatest Jedi ever to have lived (Obi-Wan), would NEVER go to the dark side. “Could a man who carried Yoda on his back and faced his greatest fear in the Darkside Cave where he confronted his destiny and didn’t run from it ever go to the dark side? NO!!!” I wrote to a moron named StarFace22  who thought Skywalker would be the Dark Lord over Kylo Ren in Force Awakens.

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Trust me, I hope everyone who harbored any thoughts that Luke Skywalker would go into the “family business” and rebuild a Death Star, feels like an idiot now that they’ve seen The Force Awakens.  HERE THAT, STARFACE22????  I THINK YOU’RE AN IDIOT, AND NOW THERE’S PROOF!!!!

But to an adult woman like me, who felt nervous about coming face-to-face (or seat-to-screen) with the beloved husband of my youth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could Master Skywalker live up to all that I’d remembered as a young pastor’s daughter with innocent dreams in a cotton field? I’d seen pictures of Mark Hamill the actor online, and while at first glance, I thought he looked like a plumber… I was still excited to see my love once again in the world in which we’d first met so many years ago.

My eight-year-old daughter, Harper, was of course going to go along with me and my husband to see The Force Awakens. We had shown Harper the original trilogy and gotten her up-to-speed on the prequels (we would never force those on her).

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Before the movie started, I looked over at Harper and told her… “You know, when I was your age, I had the biggest crush on Luke Skywalker. I was soooo in love with him.” She got a repulsed look on her face and said… “Really? Why? I hate all boys.. But if I was going to love any of them, I’d pick Han Solo. I would never pick Luke.” And then the lights went down, the movie started, and I sat shamed in the dark.

To say I loved The Force Awakens would be an understatement. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT IT… I cried when Rey and Finn first entered the Millennium Falcon, and I cried when Han Solo and Chewbacca walked on board it. I had a deep and emotional connection with that space ship that I never realized and so did both men sitting next to me, as I noticed them wipe away tears when that star freighter took flight… The moment Rey takes Luke’s old light saber into her hands, I cried, and of course the unforgettable scene with Han Solo and Kylo Ren hit me like a train, and I needed time to recover from it…

But that final moment, when Luke is standing at the highest point atop his hidden cavern in the galaxy, and he turns those blue eyes toward the screen… I saw the boyish love of my youth, wearing the robes of a seasoned Jedi but carrying within him the spiritual countenance of Obi-Wan, and I totally melted… And then felt utterly justified in loving him all those years ago.

And then I saw the greatest difference of the Star Wars of my childhood, and the Star Wars of Harper’s. In her Star Wars, the Jedi is a woman who insists on taking care of herself… Who shoves past the attempts of others to save her… Who doesn’t beg for help and cry out for someone else in the galaxy during her moment of greatest need…

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All of this made me wonder… If young pastor’s sons across Texas, are now hanging onto the tumbleweeds that they’ve named BB8, singing Are You Washed in The Force… And imagining themselves married to Rey…  Maybe they are planning their weddings in their grandparents old barn, using quilts and cow milking stools, and thinking of how many children they will father, and what they will name the boys. And if I happen into a small southern church, and I hear the familiar ballad I once sung as a child, I’ll know… Such is the force of cultural programming.

That final moment, when Rey meets Skywalker at the top of the cliff, and he turns around… His salt-and-pepper hair long and perfectly styled… His beard is rough and his countenance is that not of a plumber, but of a Jedi Master that could still go one good round… He looks at her, like he almost doesn’t want to accept his old light saber, like maybe the responsibility it carries is a little too much. Defending the Force is hard work, after all… Not just anyone can do it.

I couldn’t help but ask myself… If the Jedi had been a woman so many years ago, would I have pretended to marry a Jedi, or would I have pretended to be one?

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AN OBEDIENT GIRL

I’ve been away for awhile, it is true! Jurassic Mom has been busy with numerous deadlines.

But! I am happy to report my essay AN OBEDIENT GIRL, which was originally published by THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, was the First Runner Up for the SEQUESTRUM Editor’s Reprint Award! I am thrilled. It tells the story of a very special luncheon I shared with a lobotomy survivor back when I was a cute chubby pastor’s child living in Texas!

You can look for it in the July issue of SEQUESTRUM, or you can always check it out here now: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/abridges/2013/11/an-obedient-girl/

Blessings and love! Thanks for hanging with me. Much more will be forthcoming soon!

A Good Christmas Lie

I start off today’s post with a humble brag of sorts. You know the crazy Santa Pic of my daughter, Harper, shooting gang signs with Santa that was taken here in Los Angeles? If not, let me refresh your memory:
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Well… After the big sit down, I thought somebody else must see this. How often does Santa Claus do something like this? And so… I entered it in a number of Santa pic contests ranging from Ellen to The Red Tricycle, who never responded… But guess what? The Lebanon Enterprise, a small local newspaper, that services Marion County, Kentucky picked it up! I’ve never been to Kentucky, and I’ve never heard of Marion County. But after receiving this honor, I did a Wikipedia search and found that Marion County contains 19,820 people, was founded in 1834, and was named after a revolutionary officer named Francis Marion, who went by the nickname “Swamp Fox,” and was considered to be the father of guerrilla warfare.

In reading some of the requests and letters to the editor from those folks out in Lebanon, Kentucky, it appears that they would “like more WiFi service,” and would also like to see more “bowling alleys” and “movie theaters” in their area. I hear you. I hope your local city council does. In any case, I hope this picture helps amuse you until such a time that you receive the long-awaited and much requested bowling alleys.

Congrats to Harper and congrats to those folks out in Kentucky that got to see this hilarious portrait of “Santa and Child” on Christmas Eve.

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Before this hilarious, bone splitting, photo was taken, I encouraged Harper to ask Santa for her number one request… A bike. Which she did… And I did what most people do that have a small child, which was plant the seed of “the bike” in her mind and keep repeating it, so she wouldn’t go asking Santa for anything else. The last thing I need is a laundry list of crap I haven’t bought to contend with.

I was as calculating as Swamp Fox when she would start mentioning things like a Nintendo 3DS, and I would say things like, “Remember… You asked Santa for the pink bike. Don’t be wishy washy about it.” She would agree, and grew to a frenzy closer to Christmas when she would talk about the bike.

Cut to Christmas Eve. The bike is a gorgeous and pink. It’s been ordered off Amazon. The hubs (Erin) takes it out of the box and starts to assemble when the realization is made that the brakes are busted and the bike is a wash.

Great… What to do, now… I suggest we simply put the broken bike beneath the Christmas tree, then write a letter to Harper from Santa, telling her how Prancer is really clumsy and is always stepping on things, and so Prancer stepped on her bike and broke the brakes on it. “Then, we send this back, and get another one,” I tell Erin.

Erin thinks this is a bad idea, and says, “it would be better to tell Harper there is no Santa at all, then to fabricate this lie about a reindeer stepping on her stuff, which would make her feel unimportant.”

“Telling her there is no Santa on Christmas Day isn’t an option,” I tell him, and he agrees.

In the end, we found a bike at Toys R Us, that Erin was able to assemble. This took all of Christmas Eve, and gave me a bad feeling about Santa, who isn’t nearly as much fun as he seems in the picture of him that is currently being celebrated by the state of Kentucky.

Next year… I don’t know… If Santa is still a thing around here, he’s going to have to step up his game a little bit. He can’t just be the fun gang-sign-flashing Santa. He’s going to have to actually do some stuff… Like give us some better Wifi Connections. Some Movie Theaters. Some Bowling Alleys.

Waiting for Santa Claus… The Existential Crisis of a 7-year-old

This week, I took my seven-year-old daughter, Harper, to see Santa Claus. It was a Wednesday night, and because Christmas is still almost two weeks away, there was barely a line. I wasn’t standing too close, but I heard her tell him she wanted a pink bike, and then they sat down together and took this picture:

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As you can see, in this picture, they are acting like a couple of old friends… But secretly, she’s been questioning him.

A few days ago, I asked her what she wanted from Santa.

“Why do YOU want to know?” she asked me pointedly. “I thought it was just between me and him.”

“Because,” I told her, “I’m your mother and I want to know all about you. I like to know your Christmas list.”

Normally, the answer would’ve satisfied her, but this time, it didn’t…

“I’m not sure about Santa anymore,” she told me.

“Why not?”

“Because a boy at school said he’s made up. He said there’s no Santa.”

“That’s terrible,” I told her. “Why would he do that?”

“It made me think,” she said skeptically… “I remembered the time you told me about the Easter Bunny, and that really got to me.”

Ugh… the Easter Bunny. How I hate that stupid rabbit. I make no apologies about it. To the dismay and angry stares of honest adoring parents that want their children to believe in the magic of the Easter Bunny, I told Harper he was fake from the beginning.

“Look,” I told her at the time. “The Easter Bunny is creepy. He’s weird. His head is too big for his body. What does he do? Does he lay eggs? Does he hide eggs? Is there a chicken involved? He’s a creature invented solely for marketing… He’s not so much a hero as he is the manufacturer for Peeps.”

I thought I was being smart keeping her away from the dumb rabbit. But instead, it caused this deep existential crisis within her regarding holiday mascots.

“If the Easter Bunny isn’t real,” she told me this week, “I don’t see how Santa is real.”

It was like having Charles Darwin in a Sunday School class.

“They are nothing alike,” I told Harper, frantically searching for the right words. “Santa takes toys to kids. He cares about all children. The Easter Bunny just sits in malls and shows up at random parties to scare adults like me with his big weird head and his eyes that don’t blink.”

Harper looked at me with the same puzzled expression that other mothers have given me when I’ve explained my dislike for the Easter Bunny.

“Do YOU believe in Santa Claus?” she asked me. “Do YOU think he’s real?”

And here is where some people might take issue with my answer… Because instead of doling out a great explanation like… “Well, Santa might not be a real guy, but the spirit of giving is real, and so as we give and receive with open and thankful hearts, we keep his spirit alive…”

Instead of saying that… I decided to go the Jim Jones route and answer her this way:

“Yes, Harper. Santa Claus is completely real. I don’t doubt it for a second. I believe it completely and I can’t wait to put out the cookies and milk and the reindeer food on Christmas Eve…”

“Okay,” Harper said quietly. “I believe you.”

But as I stepped away from our conversation, I had to ask myself… Was I telling her Santa was real for her or was it for me?

One of the best things about being a parent is that you get the opportunity to remember what it was like to be a child. There are many magical moments in childhood that you forget or you overlook… Until you have your own child… And then you remember them.

Sitting at the table with her on Christmas Eve while she drafts a letter to Santa…. We bake cookies and put out milk… Then she falls asleep while Erin and I stay up until two in the morning wrapping presents and putting toys together…

It has given us some crazy memories… Once we put together an over two-hundred piece doll house… It required Double-A Batteries and an engineering degree to assemble… The hubs and I nearly killed each other. I threatened to load the doll house into the car and drive it back to Toys R Us at three in the morning. But when Harper woke up one hour later, and the doll house was waiting for her… The look on her face made it worth it…

Sneaking around and watching Harper’s surprise on Christmas morning is fun and sweet. As excited as she is, though, I think I am more excited… And in a world that is grossly missing kindness and sweetness, it is a breath of joy.

My husband told me he felt I should’ve told her the truth when she asked. And really, I think I should’ve as well.

But… I wasn’t ready to let Santa go yet. I wasn’t ready to let “Tiny Harper” go either.

I was talking to my friend, Jolene, the other day… Jolene has three kids, and they are officially old enough now, so that they all know the truth about Santa… As I lamented this story to Jolene, she had this to say… “No one ever tells you when the last day of adventure will come. You have to make the most of those moments while they last.”

And she’s right… There is a last day for everything…. A final baby tooth to be pulled… A final day for the doll house… And of course, there is a final day for Santa Claus.

The French call the seventh year of a child’s life L’Age de Raison, or THE AGE OF REASON… This is where the questioning all begins, and Harper is right on track.

There are some tough questions around Santa and this might be his last year… So I will enjoy him greatly. Of course, our Christmas-to-comes will be filled with joy and excitement…. But, it’s hard for parents when they learn the truth about Santa.

 

Woman Inherits the Earth (or) What Happens When the Dinosaurs are all Women

“We tend to refer to some of the dinosaurs as male – Such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex; we call it a ‘him’ – but in fact they’re all female. And believe me, they can’t breed.”  –  Dr. Henry Wu, Chief Geneticist (Jurassic Park)

“We are becoming the men we always wanted to marry.”  – Gloria Steinem

 

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Today, dear students, we return to the text by which this blog originated… It has been some time since I’ve written from the source that serves as our ultimate parenting model here on this site, the great parenting classic, JURASSIC PARK, which was where this blog originated.

After viewing the recently released trailer for JURASSIC WORLD, I knew a post about our holy text was due.

I encourage you to take moment and view the JURASSIC WORLD trailer in all its glory, paying particular attention to the fierce dinosaur and the gorgeous nerd-girl magnet, Chris Pratt.

I know very little about the new movie, JURASSIC WORLD, but I was excited by Chris Pratt’s line: “She’s a highly intelligent animal. She will kill anything that moves.’

This lets me know that JURASSIC WORLD will continue the tradition of the previous volumes with an all-female park, where the most vicious and beautiful creatures are ALL WOMEN.

This is the formula for Jurassic Park… The scientists involved in planning the paradise park always underestimate the power of the female dinosaurs. They think they can control them.

In the end, though, not only are these women smart enough to figure their way out of the park… But they actually find a way around the breeding, and create more and more dinosaurs… Effectively making Jurassic Park a lovely community of single mothers, defending their young, and carving a place outside of the smart and methodical men controlling them.

This is why today we will focus on the strength of the Single Mother.

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I was reminded of the most memorable single-mother I ever knew when I was a kid. Her name was Jolene Dickson. She had a small house on the outskirts of Rotan, Texas, Population 1,547.

I befriended her daughter, Tammy, when I was eleven. Tammy and I would ride our bikes around town. We’d watch Friday Night Videos and deep-fry canned biscuits, dip them in sugar, dance around the house to Boy George, then practice French Kissing on pillows.

Jolene or Tammy never really talked about Tammy’s Dad, and I never met him. I remember one time Jolene was sitting with my mother in our house talking, and she said:

“People always tell me they’re sorry about my divorce. I tell them, you ought to be sorry about my wedding. That divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I could re-do it, I would’ve set up a receiving table and served thin mints and Devils Food Cake the day of that divorce, but I was too damn exhausted from the marriage. So, I just ate pizza and thanked God for my freedom.”

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Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen a number of my friends move in-and-out of marriages. I have several friends who are single moms. So… When I decided to do this blog post, I contacted a few them and they were happy to talk to me.

When I spoke to these awesome moms, what I found was not only a recipe for success as a single parent… But a recipe for success in life. I will share the wisdom I’ve garnered with you now, and you can pass it on to your young.

1) It is okay to ask for help.

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My friend, Susan, who is a trial attorney, was in a tough spot when she became the primary custodian of her seven-year-old. Up until that time, she had been self-sufficient, but when she had to financially support her home with little to no help from her ex-husband, the cost of a full-time nanny to help her out with last-minute problems was too much.

“I had to rely on my friends and my mom,” she said. “I was always a person that was in charge… Could do everything myself. I felt helpless and embarrassed at first, like I was a burden on my friends.”

Susan said one day she had a revelation that changed the way she viewed her life. “I became a person who needed help. I had really always needed help, I just never admitted it. And I provided something for someone else… The opportunity to give… If a person tells me ‘no’ I can accept that. But many people are looking for ways to give, and I offered them an opportunity to do that. I think I got caught up in my marriage, not realizing how much I needed other people. When I became a single mom, I couldn’t help but need them.”

Reading Susan’s story I was reminded of the security breach in Jurassic Park. When Dennis Nedry, the duplicitous computer scientist, shuts down the park’s security system, and drives in a rainstorm to deliver dinosaur embryos to a competitor, he wrecks his jeep, and faces off with one Dilophosaurus.

He laughs at it, backing up slowly… In fear, the creature spits goo in his eyes…

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What Nedry doesn’t realize is that Dilophosauruses understand the mentality of single motherhood. Quickly two others appear to the aid of the first, and with little effort, they gut him using their sharp hook-like talons.

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There’s strength in numbers. Asking for help is a good thing.

2) Create your own identity

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One of the most interesting women I spoke to about this was a friend of mine from college named Spider. Interestingly enough, when I knew Spider some years ago, that wasn’t her name. Her name was something more girly and I’m not going to use it, as she doesn’t use it anymore. Spider changed her name after her divorce, and I always wondered if it had to do with her new role as a single parent, and she told me it did.

“The decision to change my name is very much connected to being a single parent. When my husband left, without warning, it felt like an end; an end to my life as I knew it. I knew I wanted to – had to start a new life, a life of being strong and independent, of being the mother my children needed and the woman I wanted to become. Spider embodied all that I wanted to be; strong, but playful.”

Spider took on her new role fiercely.

“I am always, always on. I am the only person responsible for dealing with kid raising, which means a great deal more pressure to always make the right choice or have the right response…to which eventually I have had to acknowledge that I am human, and will make mistakes. I make a habit of apologizing to my kids when I do fail to handle things perfectly all the time….Having the kids all the time, on my own, means that I have to forgive myself for sometimes falling down – because I’m sick, or tired, or emotionally done – and forgive that in those times, the kids have more electronic time than I would prefer, and the chores don’t get done. In addition, there are a lot of things I did as the stay-at-home mother that have simply had to fall off my list or become less frequent– baking, hosting parties for the kids, helping out other mothers.”

Asking for help… Forgiving yourself… So far, these are life lessons I can use.

3) Be proud of who you are:

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My friend Jennifer, a brilliantly witty writer who divorced after fifteen years of marriage and two kids had this to say:

“After my divorce, a part of me was excited about dating again… But suddenly, I began to panic. I wasn’t twenty-years-old anymore. My body didn’t feel the way it used to. A lot of the confidence I’d had was gone. I wasn’t tan or in great shape. I’d spent years singing Old MacDonald in the dark, and rarely shaving my legs… I faced a large and expensive battle with my ex-husband and I emerged like a shriveled white cave worm, crawling to light… I’d even developed something called a Uterine Hernia… My Uterus was literally starting to fall out of my body… I was reminded of the words of actress Olivia Wilde, who lamented her first marriage publicly, when she announced… ‘That man has killed my vagina.’

I remember saying at the time… ‘I married a Tax Attorney who murdered my vagina and then used it as a home-office tax write-off.’

But I got back on my feet. I bought a new razor, pulled up my uterus, and started to meditate and drink more green tea.

I am proud of who I am now. I may not be twenty-two anymore… But I have some things most twenty-two year-olds don’t have… And I’m NOT talking about my stretch marks or my sagging uterus. I have a sense of humor. I have a LOT of common sense and also book sense. I know I’m not as neurotic as I used to be. I know what is really important in life. I still sing Old MacDonald in the dark. But this cave worm has become a butterfly… Or at least a moth.”

4) Don’t let someone else determine your worth.

I’ve been close to my friend Johanna since childhood. Johanna became the primary parent for both her children when they were still toddlers and she faced most of her battles alone.

“Most teachers/daycare employees always treated me like I was some dumb pregnant teen that had no clue. There were undertones in conversations… Like here’s the mom who isn’t going to pay her bill on time or remember her kids’ lunch money. I hated that! With time, most of them realized they had stereotyped me. Let’s face it, you can look at any parent, single or not, and name at least a few things wrong with their parenting style.”

In fact, three of the five mothers I interviewed expressed this same obstacle when dealing with childcare workers underestimating them.

Johanna goes on to say… “But really, at the end of the day, it’s made me a stronger more confident person. It’s made me better… more appreciative of the little things.”

5) Endure the race.

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My friend, and fellow Jurassic Mom, Jessica, caught my eye last month when she successfully completed a half-marathon. It wasn’t any average race, though, this was a twelve-and-a-half mile zombie run… A run where zombies chased her all the way to the finish line.

Years ago, when Jessica’s marriage ended unexpectedly, she was left as the near sole-custodian of her two elementary-school-aged boys. Jessica had never finished her degree, and when she became a single parent she felt the need to finish it more than ever. The amount of endurance was intense.

“I had to keep pushing forward regardless of no money and no support. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about a myriad of problems that most people take for granted. I just kept going, regardless of whether or not I was tired. I had papers due. I was working one full-time job, and one part-time job. My son had entered his teenage years, and once I got a call at three AM and had to go hit the streets looking for him. The next morning, I got up after an hour of sleep, took a test, and went to work. I was proud of myself the day I graduated with a degree in Justice Administration.”

I asked her if she thought about any of those thing when she completed her Zombie Run.

“It was incredibly cathartic for me. I was never a runner, or a person who had time to exercise. But when I started running… I had to concentrate, to focus. I thought of so many things I’d accomplished as I ran. I thought of the endurance it took and how I had taken the challenge and succeeded. Running a long distance is 90% mind and 10% body. So is single parenting. At some points you feel like you are going to break, but you have to keep going. You have to move onto the next day… I’ve outrun a lot of zombies in my life.”

In THE LOST WORLD, the second volume in the JURASSIC PARK series, Michael Crichton writes, “For our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt.”

Outrunning zombies. Establishing a powerful super-identity. Laughing at yourself and appreciating who you are. Refusing to let another person determine your worth… Some of these innovations might be unique, but these are the ingredients for a powerful and adventurous life.

In closing, let me just say:

God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs. Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth.

Amen.

The Blog Tour: My Writing Process

 

Thanks to my friend, and amazing writer, Alia Yunis, I have been asked to be part of The Blog Tour, where I get to share a little bit about my own writing process as well as talk about three writers whom I love, and who each have blogs that you should check out!

In 2006, I went to the Hedgebrook Writers Colony off the coast of Washington on Whitbey Island.

Hedgebrook is the kind of writer’s Fantasy Land people dream about. It is built on about fifty acres. Each of six female writers, gets her own cottage, complete with wood burning stove, kitchenette, and loft.

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The days at Hedgebrook are private and filled with solitude. In the evenings, the writers get together in the large farmhouse. We would talk about our writing, about politics, religion, and life. All the writers come from different backgrounds, each with her own story to tell. I met a few of the smartest people I have ever known at Hedgebrook.

One of the best writers I met was Alia Yunis.

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Alia was working on a novel at Hedgebrook titled The Night Counter.

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The Night Counter is a wonderfully rich and hilarious modernization of The Arabian Nights. Alia quickly found a publisher for her book.  Currently, she resides in the United Arab Emirates where she teaches film and is working on a documentary.  You can check out her blog,  http://nightcounter.wordpress.com/

The other two writers I want to highlight are a couple of people I have known for some years.  Tanisha Wallace Porath’s blog, http://lifeinthewidowhood.com/, is a blog based on the loss of her husband.  Tanisha’s blog has a strong level of pathos and determination, with unbelievable comedy in the face of adversity.  I highly recommend this unconventional and well written blog.

My other good friend, Tracy Simmons, is a pastor in Anchorage, Alaska.  I have known Tracy and enjoyed his writing for many years.  He has a unique and original voice in the Christian community.  There is something in his blog for everyone and he comes to it with deep honesty and a great poetic voice.  Check out his blog here:   http://tracyblog.c3ak.com/

Please read more about Tanisha and Tracy’s blogs at the end of the article!

1) What are you working on?

Right now, I am managing a few different projects.  I am working on a Young Adult novel as well as a book of essays about growing up as a pastor’s daughter.  I am also refining one screenplay and working on a new one.  I am focusing attention on blog development and feeding the endless Twitter machine.

 

2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I’m a quirky girl.  I love funny stories and I am drawn to characters that look at life differently.  I love to laugh and I try to bring that out in my writing, though I’m not always successful.  🙂

 

3)  Why do you write what you do?

I think I write for the same reason anyone writes, which is to be heard.  I was raised in a very religious culture in Texas, and I was surrounded by some sweet and kind people, and certainly some delicious pies… But, it wasn’t necessarily always the most accepting upbringing.  Certain opinions or ideas, or lifestyles were automatically shut down.

I remember the first time I wrote something that felt honest to me.  It was a play called The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head. It is a metaphysical play that takes place in heaven, where a young woman who is trapped on an Elliptical Trainer is facing the final judgement after she commits suicide.  I was nervous about some of the ideas in the play, but I was determined to tell the truth.  In the end, the experience was positive.  I had so many people approach me and say they identified with the play on a deep level and they were comforted by it, which was comforting to me.

 

4)  How does your writing process work?

Each project is different.  Sometimes I begin with a specific conclusion in mind, and other times, I start with a character that I find compelling and see where the writing will take me.

I am trying to outline more and have a better roadmap as to where I’m going, but honestly, I always find the best stuff comes when you least expect it, and that’s where the story is made.

 

Look for these blogs next week:

 

Tracy Simmons:  www.c3ak.com                                                      10678436_10204806223054976_6450775474650014244_n

Tracy Simmons is an ordained Baptist minister who has lived in Alaska for forty-two years. He currently pastors Christ Community Church, Alaska (www.c3ak.com) in Anchorage, and has been a pastor there for seventeen years. He loves making and writing music, and has been featured as an artist on A&E’s “Sister Wives”, and as a performer at the Alaska State Fair, the Anchorage Folk Festival, and numerous other venues around Alaska and the Lower 48. His original music had been featured in local theatrical productions, including Erin Williams and Amy Bridges, “The Unraveling of Edison P. Rupright”. Tracy is sometimes seen on the local theatre stage, with TBA Theatre (www.tbatheatre.org), most recently as Dr. Seward in TBA’s production of “Dracula”, adapted by P. Shane Mitchell. His current projects include casting vision and leading Christ Community Church, scoring original music for another P. Shane Mitchell original play called “Shadow Hour”, two book projects, a novel and a handbook for parents in the digital age, and a feature length documentary project. But, his best, and most important time, is spent with his beautiful wife of 26 years, Karen, his two sons Stephen and Kristofer, and their four pound Maltese puppy, Haleakala. You can find Tracy on various social media platforms such as FaceBook, Instagram at “Mortis_Alaska”, Twitter @CasualHeretic, and YouTube at TracySimmonAK. Finally, his personal blog is hosted at TracyBlog.c3ak.com. As wonderful as all of that makes Tracy out to be, please keep expectations at a moderate level.

 

Tanisha Wallace Porath

http://www.lifeinthewidowhood.com

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I was born a poor black girl in…well actually I had a pretty middle class existence in Anchorage, Alaska where I was born and raised.  I studied photography at an art college in Seattle, the name of which, try as I might, I can’t quite remember. Soon after I graduated I moved to Portland, Oregon, with my husband and started my career as an editorial photographer. Some of my clients have included: Willamette Week, The Oregonian and several other periodicals. I have two roommates that I happen to have given birth to, my daughter 11 and my son 14. I became a widow on April 2, 2013. I became a writer on April 3, 2013.

Behind the Yellow Wallpaper: New Tales of Madness

This week is an exciting week because an essay that I wrote entitled  An Obedient Girl, is being published as part of a feminist anthology by New Lit Salon Press.  The anthology is titled, Behind the Yellow Wallpaper:  New Tales of Madness.  The publication is available as an ebook in June, and will receive a print addition in July.

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I encourage you to pick up a copy.  For more information, look here:

http://newlitsalonpress.com/behind-the-yellow-wallpaper-new-tales-of-madness/

I read the complete anthology and it contains some compelling essays and short stories written by women from across the globe.

In addition to my piece, An Obedient Girl, which deals with a lunch date I had many years ago in Texas with a woman who survived a lobotomy…

There is a short story by Tracie Orsi, entitled Waiting for Jordan, which is a haunting piece about a military wife that is reminiscent of Kate Chopin or Virginia Woolf.

One of my favorite essays in the anthology is Laura Hartenberger’s, The Ideal Customer, which details her decision to tattoo her face.  The essay is both intriguing and disturbing.  It captures well the elements of this anthology and its inspiration.

 

Visual artist, Loreal Prystaj has also contributed multiple pieces to the anthology.  Her work is inspired and beautiful, and is reason alone to pick up a copy.

Check out more of Loreal’s work here:  http://www.lorealprystaj.com/

 

I Am An Expert On Everything

“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox…”  Jurassic Park (Dr. Ian Malcolm)

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When I first started this holy and sacred blog some weeks ago, I began with a simple thesis to apply motherhood and mothers to the book, Jurassic Park.  And, as I’ve explored various topics ranging from the care-taking of a child to human connection with other mothers…My sphere has grown substantially from not only the application of this true and worthy text, to also bragging about random celebrities I encounter… to telling quirky stories about myself, my daughter, and my dog.

I am a blogger now.  And that means I need to give advice, which is what I will do today.  In some professions you need to have academics or certificates, or some type of credentials to do that.  Not so of blogging.  Your life experience is enough.

I mean it’s not like I’m a big NOBODY…  I mean, sure…  I could brag and say I’ve written the menus for an out-of-business theme restaurant.  I could tell you that I helped name the caskets in my Dad’s casket store…. There is a blue casket that I named ETERNAL SKY.  Not only is it the highest selling casket among men ages eighty- and- over… Users love it, and he has received no complaints or returns on it yet.

What started me on this lesson to give you some pointed advice began yesterday when I left my food journal at Starbucks.  I was in a hurry to get Harper to school so I could get to my office, which is actually a table at Starbucks. This is the office of every writer in Los Angeles, and good luck ever finding a seat at any Starbucks in this city because of all the writers working there.

Anyway, when I left, I walked out without my food journal, and quite obviously… I will NEVER EVER go back for it.

Keeping journals is a thing I have always done, and being on a diet is also something I have always done… So inevitably, I buy a new journal that I determine with be a food journal… And I write things like…

1/2 cup Raisin Bran.

1/2 Cup Milk.

Apple.

String Cheese.

Then eventually, I quit keeping my food journal… And I start writing other things in it like goals, or thoughts, or ideas for projects… I like to write down goals I have for Harper as well… And also little snippets of inspirational books. I also record dreams I’ve had.  And if there is a particular song that I connect with, which I call my Personal Life Theme Song, I will write it down, so that when future generations review my journal they will have a soundtrack to play while they are doing it.

That’s also something I would advise you to do as well.  Find a good Personal Life Theme Song.

Right now, my Personal  Life Theme Song is:  This Is The Best Day Of My Life by American Authors.  This is a GREAT Life Theme Song because, as the title explains… It’s a song that declares whatever day it’s played on, the best day of a persons life.

I like to play it in the morning, every day as I start my day…

Lately, though, the title of the song reminds me of that saying… This could be the LAST day of your life… So whenever I start singing about how this could be the BEST day of my life… I quietly think, it could also be the LAST day of my life…

I find that thought depressing, so I don’t know how much longer I can use it as my theme song.  I may have to go back to my old standby,  We Will Rock You.

My mother is a highly accomplished person who speaks four languages, has written a book, has a doctorate degree, teaches piano lessons, plays in a harp ensemble, and also does a lot of volunteer work.  She was the daughter of a West Texas cotton farmer, and I remember her rising early every morning when I was a child and saying, “Whenever I wake up, I say a prayer, drink my coffee, and greet each day knowing it could be the last one I’m given.  Then, I make a decision to do my best.”

This is why she has done so much… And it’s a great motivator, looking at the big picture like that.

I would like to think that way, but in all honestly, if I were to wake up and deeply believe this was my last day on earth, I would end up eating bananna splits all day…Or  I would  be nervous like a person on Death Row, sick to my stomach and running back and forth to the restroom and crying a lot. Nothing would get done.

I prefer denial.

Here’s my process… Every morning, I like to get up late, rush around like crazy, barely make it out the door.  I find this helps me avoid thoughts of death and the exestential uncertainty of the unknown.

Also, I choose a Personal Life Theme Song, and I suggest that for you as well.

If you have never chosen  a Personal Life Theme Song for yourself, here are some ideas for you to choose from (Note:  I’ve used all of these at some point myself):

1)  We are the Champions (Queen)

2) I will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)

3) The Distance (Cake)

4) Eye of the Tiger (Some Guy in the 80s)

These are songs that will really motivate you and get you on a fast track to success.

And success is something I know a thing-or-two about, having just been declared the winner of a Forrest Gump Trivia Contest at the famous Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. last week.

But… Be warned… Choosing an effective Personal Theme Song is a slippery slope.  You can’t just choose anything.  It’s not about picking your favorite song….  Just because you had the hit song Always by Atlantic Starr sung at your wedding and you really like it….  So what?  Thats a song about a bunch of people just saying they love each other over- and- over.  It means nothing and will get you nowhere.  Use it to put yourself to sleep, not succeed, move, and shake the way I do each day taking my dog for walks, and journaling my food intake.

Look, I don’t want to make you feel bad… It’s okay to admire some songs because they are good, and it’s even okay to listen to them…  But don’t ever make them your theme songs.  For example…  The song Imagine by John Lennon is great song, and considered by some the best one written in the 20th Century… But if you make it your theme song, you might end up starting a cult or shooting yourself.

Here is a list of good songs that I would NOT recommend using for Motivational Life Theme Songs:

1)  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2)… – Too Confusing

2) Smoking in the Boys Room (Motley Crue) – Too Sneaky

3) Stairway to Heaven (Led Zepplin) – The Devil.

Having a Personal Life Theme Song is a good thing to teach your children as well.  I encourage this of Harper and you should consider doing the same with your little ones.

Let them choose their own song at first, even though you know in your heart it might not be the best.  You don’t want to discourage success or motivational thought in your child.

Harper chose Baby Beluga.  This wasn’t my favorite song for her… I would’ve preferred something like I’m a Little Teapot (more goal oriented) or Itsy Bitsy Spider (encourages persistence in the face of adversity), but Baby Beluga will work for now.

Also… Other bloggers and blog guides have told me I need to start asking you more questions, and this will help me succeed more at this.

So, I pose this question to you:  Going forward, what will be your Personal Life Theme Song and what are your secret hopes for your child’s?

Write them here.

Or do what I did… Write them in a food journal, and then leave them at Starbucks.

 

 

He Died Doing What He Loved… “Rolying and Polying.”

“Life finds a way…”  – (Michael Crichton) Jurassic Park

 

This morning my six-year-old daughter, Harper, and I took our dog Pickles on a walk around the neighborhood.

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Pickles is a small terrier/spaniel mix that is full grown at eight pounds.  He’s afraid of everything, and once hid under a bush when a squirrel sat on a tree branch and squeaked at him.

Pickles has to be walked every morning as he refuses to do his business anywhere but on a walk… Usually my husband has the honor of walking him, and I take Harper to school.  But this morning… Harper and I were up quite early, so I agreed to walk the dog.

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This is the drill with walking this dog… Pickles has to wander about, sticking his head in every plant, taking tiny pees on everything, which is called “marking his territory…”  I’ve learned this fact about dogs, having never been a dog owner until a month ago.

Harper explained the process to me by saying, “Whenever  Pickles goes number one, Dad says he’s sending a P-mail… But whenever Pickles goes Number 2, Dad says he’s sending a FedEx.”

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I won’t pretend to understand that analogy, but it thrilled Harper, and as we walked, she would comment… “Look another P-mail!”  or “Here comes the FedEx Truck!”

At some point along the way, Harper came into possession of a roly poly, which delighted her.  She had big plans for this bug, promising to get a jar for it when we got home, get some grass on which it could feed, collect more, and try to create a farm of them.  She was thrilled… And was literally talking non-stop about it.

I shook my head and said, “Sounds like a plan,”  but inside, I thought, ‘we are getting rid of that bug at some point on this walk.’

Then the dog and I walked ahead while Harper decided to sit in the middle of the sidewalk and play with her bug, which had taken a “rolled up” position, I’m assuming out of fear for his life.  She was rolling him back and forth and saying, “no other animal can do this!  He’s like a tiny marble!”

As Pickles  lifted his leg against a large tree to send his fiftieth P-mail, I remember thinking maybe Harper had a future as an entomologist, as I’d never witnessed a person get THAT excited about a bug.

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Perhaps this is how scientific minds start out, I thought, feeling hopeful about her future… First with radical interest in something as mundane as a bug… Then, they whizz all their math assignments, and end up captaining a spaceship.

I was feeling hopeful for her having a future in something besides the arts… Which is what every artist really wants for her child…

It was then that I noticed Harper rise slowly…. Look down… Make the sign of the cross…. Before walking solemnly over in my direction.

“Oh well,” she said, forcing a smile.  “The roly poly went to heaven.  I guess I’ll see him again one day when I’m dead.”

“You’re being dramatic,” I told her.  “He’s probably not dead…  Just being still.  He’s scared.”

“No,” she said.  “I accidentally stepped on him and saw him there on the bottom of my shoe.   Look…” she said lifting her foot…  “He’s gone forever.”

Then, she looked to the heavens, and with her fists clenched like an Italian widow said, “I miss him soooo much!  He was soooo special to me!”

Dear Lord…

She’s definitely an artist, I thought, kneeling down in front of her.

“Look Harper,” I said, “Little bugs often have short and hard lives.  They don’t live long.. But we need to take comfort that this special little guy had some fun with you rolling around before he died.  No one lives forever, but even the smallest moments are the ones that are the most important.  And that time you spent with him was special for him… And it was special for me because I got to watch how happy you were.”

Harper looked into the middle-distance, and I felt a strange and deep connection with her over something so bizarre.

“Look mom,” she said, pointing ahead of her.  “Pickles just delivered another FedEx!”

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