Thursday, December 31, 2009


We arrived home Monday evening to find a large wet spot on our front porch. "That's weird," I said. "None of the rest of the porch or driveway is wet. Why just that spot?"

Closer examination revealed lots and lots of bird droppings on top of the wet spot, which itself I now suspected of being bird droppings of a related sort.

Paul, who is very tall, lifted a camera up into the eaves to reveal this bad-ass hanging out over our front door.

Apparently he took up residence while we were out of town and shows no signs of vacating the premises. He is completely unintimidated by our comings and goings.

Team mascot naming conventions are interesting things. In real life, how would a White Sock fare against a Cub?

But I think we can all agree that this Cardinal would be happy to peck anyone's eyes out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nice, Naughty

Occasionally my mom will come to visit for the weekend and say, "You and Paul should go out and see a movie tonight." We like to do that and always appreciate the invitation. Unfortunately, her visits don't always correspond with movies we want to see. But this Christmas there are four movies in the theater that we (that's Paul and I collectively) want to see.

Thanks to my mother for putting the girls to bed at her house Sunday night and wonderful friend Jessica bathing the girls and putting them to bed at home tonight, Paul and I have actually been to two movies this week!

Tonight we saw Up in the Air at the Moolah Theater & Lounge in the city. The Moolah bills itself as "the civilized alternative to the multiplex," and it certainly is that (see below). Paul and I snuggled on a leather loveseat with our drinks on a little table nearby as we watched all the St. Louis landmarks in the film.

It was a lovely evening and the movie was very good, poignant, touching, not what I expected. After dinner we stopped by Maggiano's for dinner. It's ridiculous that sharing one half of an appetizer salad was enough to fill me up. I brought my dinner home in a bag for tomorrow, so I'm not complaining!

Sunday night we went to see Sherlock Holmes at a theater near my parents' house. From the previews, I feared they might have completely ditched the original Holmes and Watson in favor of classic action heros, but found a nice balance of new and original character traits instead.

I went to the restroom in the middle of the movie and found it quite nice. The restroom, I mean. The whole theater was lovely, actually, and pretty new. ("Lovely" here is compared to the old multiplex in my parents' town, not compared to the actual loveliness of, say, The Moolah.) But the restroom in particular was bright, clean, well-stocked, and nice-smelling.

I made a return visit to the facility at the conclusion of the film. This time the floor was scattered with refuse, a giant trash can was locked inside the handicapped stall, a large yellow wet floor - caution! cone was upended into a toilet, and the contents of the paper seat liner dispensers were shoved into other toilet bowls.

Who does this? And why?! I felt for the poor kids making minimum wage to clean up the mess.

But not enough to put my date night on hold and help them out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Divine Misdemeanors

Over my long Christmas weekend I read two books just for fun. Not because I know the authors, am planning to review them for anything, or think I might learn something. Not because they are market research, are in a genre I've ever written in, or were chosen by one of my book clubs.

I did not write. I did not blog. I did not use my cell phone or pull my laptop out of its satchel. I hung out with my family, played Nintendo, went to see a movie, and read.

Both novels I completed were the latest in long-running fantasy series. Besides that similarity, the two books differed greatly.

And I found myself thinking: at which stage in an author's career does the editor stop editing? Is it deadline pressure - the market demand for a book every six or twelve months pushing novels to the printer before they've had the appropriate amount of development? Or is it authorial pressure - I've become way too important for you to touch my beautiful prose? Or is it something else entirely?

I've always enjoyed Laurell K. Hamilton's story telling. She creates fantastic worlds and then teases me with just enough of a glimpse that I want more more more. But I frequently want more of some bits and less of others. The stories themselves are fabulous and compelling fantasies. But the writing does get in the way sometimes.

Early on in the Anita Blake series, the reader was subjected to lengthy examinations of the need to match the swoosh on one's black Nikes to one's t-shirts. And in one novel every single character used the phrase "ass deep in alligators" so frequently I thought it might make a dangerous drinking game.

But the books move quickly and the first person point of view - even though the narrator frequently frustrates me - puts me front and center in scenes that feel all too real. I just wish the characters would stop bickering so much. Some dialogue can remain internal. And quite a lot of internal dialog can be excised altogether without losing substance or voice. (Yes, I get the need for the characters to argue. But how often in real life do people really ask the police to step aside and put their investigations on hold so witnesses can have lengthy discussions about their personal lives, feelings, and relationships?)

So. The new Merry book. There's some of the writing style stuff that always takes me out of the story - the constant bickering, overly sensitive characters, and too-frequent pauses in the plot for exposition.

But there's also a compelling mystery and intriguing developments in the over-arching series plot. I finished the book feeling like I was just getting started. I wanted the rest of the story, the one that was picking up steam as the novel ended. So of course I'll buy the next book, and the author's strategy works very well.

I just wish there'd been less "telling" throughout, especially in dialogue - both internal and external. (This particular narrator tends to talk directly to the reader and over-explain her world to us.)

But additional editing could have smoothed over some of the rougher bits and reduced quite a bit of the repetition. (You've already explained that "thank you" is a deadly insult to the fey twice in this novel. I think readers get it without a third full explanation.)

In the end, I buy the books. In hardcover. And I'm only one of many who does so. So what the author's doing is working; each of her novels is an instant New York Times Bestseller. But in the interest of making the best book possible, it would be nice if there was a little more editorial oversight. (I'd like to point out here that Hamilton is FAR from the only successful author whose down-series titles seem to suffer from a lack of editorial guidance.)

For instance, did I really have to learn that the main character would like to go wash her face and brush her teeth, planned to go wash her face and brush her teeth, did go wash her face and brush her teeth, and HOW she washed her face and brushed her teeth four times in less than a page? Perhaps not. (Sadly, this is a real example.) Perhaps that could have been cut altogether and the author could have given me a little more information about the new faery sithen in Los Angeles.

Or perhaps it's a sign of a good story-teller that I - a mere reader and fan - am so engrossed in the story that I want to control its direction.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Season of Belated Giving

I still haven't started shopping and I can't post pictures of the "big" (as in time-consuming, not as in perceived value or size) thing I'm making - ruins the surprise, you see! - but here are some of our gifts this year:

(The picture on the left is hard to make out, but we made scented gel candles in wine glasses for the girls' teachers et al.)

Also, my favorite Christmas card postmark this year:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On First Drafts

I've written four novels in the last three years. Wow, that sounds cool when I add it all up. Especially when I reread and see that I'm improving and getting faster with each novel I write. Some things I used to have to concentrate on now come naturally. (Other things, well . . . it's a work in progress. Literally.)

But I didn't set out to write four "practice" novels before I started polishing even one for submission to agents.

It makes sense, that I'd have to practice, learn, improve before being ready to create something worth publishing.

But I can't think about that and still write.

When I put everything on hold one November to draft my first novel, I refused to let myself edit or revise. I set aside all my fears and my internal editor. I told myself - as I typed furiously - that my prose sang. I told myself that I was writing The Great American Novel. I told myself that it would sell immediately after I finished it, before the end of the year, certainly. I told myself I'd be on Oprah and The Today Show and I'd make buckets of money faster than I could spend them.

That's what I had to do in order to get the story down.

Later there was plenty of time for doubt. Too much time, probably. I grew afraid to go back and reread. What if it's really really bad? And, of course, some of it is. But some of it is not!

Every step of the way, I have doubts. Is this the right direction for this story to take? Have I chosen the right perspective, style, character to tell the story? Would anybody want to actually read this? I know what's going to happen next; is it obvious to everyone? Does this suck?

One of my critique partners has a very different writing style from mine, and a different taste in reading materials to go along with it.

Earlier this week she told me, "I really like your story, your plot, your characters. I just think you need to work on your prose." She can't stand my pacing, my descriptions, my sentence length patterns, my sentence structures.

Maybe she's right, or maybe we just have different tastes. Either way, it's a bit disheartening to hear that your story and characters are good, if only you could just write.

Best not to think about that during a first draft. During the first draft, every time your fingers hit the keyboard, magic happens. Genius is transcribed. Something is created from nothing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Never Call, I Never Write

So, decent blogging has been sparse around here, lately. And my "drafts" folder is filling up with the clutter of posts I start but lack time to develop and finish. The time problem isn't just due to the busyness of the holiday season - by which I mean the holiday season, Thanksgiving to Advent, Christmas, and New Year's, and that's just what we celebrate/observe in our house from late November through the end of the year.

The problem isn't just due to parenting two young children, each of whom has her own "special needs." (Ada with her fabulous two-year-old's desire for attention and lap time, Ellie with her academics and monthly "team meetings" at school.)

The problem isn't just due to my writing and the time it takes away from my family. (That bit of guilt courtesy of my mother.)

The problem is also due to the fact that I've been doing a lot of freelance work for pay lately. I appreciate the work. I don't mind doing it (mostly). And I really enjoy earning money. But this one last thing on top of the pile makes the whole thing wobbly and threatening to fall over. It's an important thing, so I've jettisoned other things to make room for it (Christmas cards, big Christmas open house, exercise).

This is just an adjustment period. And until I get the balance settled again, well, boring and irregular blogging. Alas.

When I write again, some things I want to talk about include Ellie's latest round of assessments and her IEP, a "cure" for Down syndrome, managing finances, what I'm reading and why, what I'm writing and why, and my opinions on the SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE finale. No, wait. I don't want to blog about that; I just want to watch the finale! Nighty night.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How It All Ends

Global climate destabilization or bah humbug? Politics aside, a risk management view assessment of the situation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ho Ho Ho!

My mom made the girls a new advent calendar. Isn't it the coolest?!

And we've been busy celebrating all month. The girls are both really into the whole Christmas season this year - all of it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mario Brothers Are Back

Sure, I've said that I don't sleep. I've said I'm busy. But I've also suggested that all work and no play makes Sarahlynn a sad, dull girl. So I play, too!

When dinner's in the oven and the girls spontaneously go downstairs to play for a few minutes, I break out the Wiimotes. When the girls go to bed on time and I want to goof around before picking up my freelance project, I break out the wiimotes.

Paul and I are playing the new Super Mario Brothers for Wii. We got it on vacation over Thanksgiving and our first experiences were with four person cooperative play with Paul's sister and her husband. Chaos! Impossible! Also, hilarious. My throat began to hurt from laughing so hard.

Since we've been home, Paul and I are questing together. This is both good and bad. In the hard stretches, it's really nice to be able to rely on someone else. If your character dies, your partner can pop your little safety bubble and bring you back into active play. And when you feel like you can't stand to fight through a stupid dungeon one more time, maybe your partner will stomp the monster and complete it for you.

On the other hand, I tend to play worse in cooperative play because I know I'm not fully responsible.  And with the way the game's set up, your partner tends to kill you a lot.  Inadvertantly, of course.  But say I'm jumping up through a series of sliding ledges.  If I stop or slow, I'll fall off.  But if my partner isn't keeping up and he falls off the bottom of the screen as it scrolls upwards with me?  He dies.

Paul (aka Luigi) also tends to jump on my head and shove me off cliffs a lot.  This problem happens much less frequently now that we've acknowledged that he simply must lead.  I don't mind following a lot of the time.  And here we are back at my review for The Surrendered Wife!

Seriously, I think it's great for couples to play together, whether it's tennis or board games or Nintendo.   And home-based games are fabulous once schedules are tied to wee ones.  (That was a tiny wiittle pun.)  Maybe this is WHY my freelance project is dragging on so long and WHY it takes me forever to finish editing a completed novel.

Or maybe it's what keeps me sane so that I can continue working.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Is it the weekend?

No, I'm not complaining about a long Monday. Quite the opposite. I feel like it must be the weekend soon. I have that fabulous Thursday night feeling.

Thursday nights are great because there's only one work day between you and the promise of unstructured, fabulous weekend. (By Friday night I'm sometimes too exhausted to experience the excitement fully. And let's not face the fact that weekends are simply not as unstructured and carefree in reality as each looms in my fantasies.)

But back to tonight and my Thursday night/weekend feeling. Yesterday I was exhausted and depleted. I'm no more caught up on sleep tonight, and I'm still tired but I'm rejuvenated. What's the difference?

Book club.

I had dinner one-on-one with a fabulous friend tonight. Then we walked next door to my favorite coffee shop for our book club. A group of wonderful women sitting on couches, talking about a book, sipping hot drinks.

I hadn't even read this particular book (though I will!). It didn't matter. I feel . . . better.

Last week I found myself in an unpleasant conversation with a woman who Does Too Much. We all know this woman, I believe, or perhaps we know her brother. This woman feels guilty if she sits down to watch TV with her husband in the evening because she's not doing something productive. She does a lot of good and useful things in her community. But she's also frazzled, burned out, resentful, and negative.

A few of us were trying to explain the importance of taking care of oneself, saying "yes" to volunteer gigs that rejuvenate but setting down burdens that we're tired of carrying.

"Your group of younger moms is better at that, which is why so much falls on the rest of us," she replied.

Yowch. In this case, her criticism was poorly aimed. (She was talking to a group of very active and involved volunteers.) And I know that her problem is internal rather than external: being unable to say no, taking on too much, carrying others' burdens needlessly at times, and not taking time to replenish her reservoirs.

So tonight I'd like to thank my loving husband for encouraging me to do the things that make me feel whole, and thank my friends who help me relax, refill, restore. I am grateful, and I am well.

Letting Go

I'm not good at letting go. I'm not good at giving up anything . . . except, possibly, sleep and other good habits.

I know my sense of depletion is due to being one week out from NaNoWriMo. I know it, intellectually. After all, this happens to me every year. I hit the ground running in December, frantically trying to catch up with all the things I should have been doing last month but wasn't.

My to-do list this weekend was huge. I worked hard. And I barely dented it. I didn't finish as many chapters of my freelance project as I hoped. I didn't get my novel sent off to an online critique partner as I'd have liked to do. I did a fair amount of holiday baking, but didn't get my mom's birthday cookies baked or shipped. (Her birthday is tomorrow. No, today.)

I did dusting and tidying and decorating, but none of those things are completely done. (Are they ever completely done? Of course not! Because no sooner do you stop dusting than you really should start all over again, especially when there's a soft, gorgeous fir in the middle of your living room.) The tree is up and it looks fabulous. The kids have been into the whole experience this year, from the Christmas story to the advent calendar to the tree finding/cutting/decorating to the baking.

Bathrooms will have to wait another couple of days. (I might be an enemy of the earth, but I sure do love Clorox wipes!) Budgeting will have to wait, too. Holy cow, we're a week into December and still working off November's budget. And December's hardly a typical month! At least we're still OK . . . because I certainly haven't been doing any Christmas shopping!

As we tell Ellie: Stop. Take a deep breath. Relax.

I know I'm depleted from writing an entire novel in November. I know that this is a crazy-busy time of year at the best of times. And I know that it seems unmanageable now because I am (and will continue to be) sleep deprived.

We aren't having a big Christmas open house this year. I've let go of the Christmas cards, too. (We usually send a hundred.) But there's still Christmas present list-making and planning, crafts, things to ship all over the place, and a ton of yard work left to do.

Book club's tomorrow. Today. And I'm supposed to be teaching the Christmas Story to kindergartners and first graders at Bible study Wednesday night.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Relax.

Focus on: Ada coming home from preschool last week and explaining the advent wreath to me. (They took a little field trip down the hall to the sanctuary.) Last week at LOGOS the kindergartners and first graders listened to James Taylor's Some Children See Him and drew pictures of how they "see" baby Jesus. Most of the babies were white, often with blond hair and blue eyes. Ellie's picture was green with polka dots.


Friday, December 04, 2009


Last Tuesday, Paul called home from work at noon. "I forgot to bring anything for lunch and I'm really dragging today so I'm going to run over to Qdoba to grab something to eat."

"Mmmmm, I'm jealous," I said, sliding a frozen meal into the microwave. We were planning to leave town early the next day and Ada and I had spent the morning cleaning and packing.

"Why don't you come meet me?"

"We'll be there in twenty minutes!"

I walked into the restaurant carrying Ada and Paul burst out laughing. What? What?! Was I wearing slippers out in public again? Did I forget to finger comb my hair?

No, apparently Paul was reacting to the way Ada dressed for the occasion. (Here she is faux-texting Nana after lunch. Note the Halloween candy necklace, which really makes the look.)

And here's how she modified the outfit a few hours later when she was done being a cowgirl and ready to be a fairy princess.

I think Ellie might be fighting off a cold; her cheeks have been really rosy this week. Here she is, just relaxing in bed, reading a tabloid. (Actually, it's Women's World, which I'm checking out as a potential market for a short mystery story.)

Why is playing "sleep" so much more fun than the real thing for my children?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle

This month for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club, I'm discussing The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.  When I decided to tackle this project, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

It happened so simply.  I was clicking around on the web and stumbled upon a link to the author's website.  "I remember when that book came out," I thought.  "It sounded absolutely crazy and got tons of negative attention. I wonder what ever happened with all that."  Feeling in the mood to gawk, I clicked over.

The first thing I noticed was that the author considers herself a feminist and says the approach is about surrendering inappropriate control over one's husband (and others) rather than returning to the 50's or rebelling against feminism. Huh. That didn't sound so bad.  But why didn't she just say that, then?  The title of the book must really be misleading.  ("I adopted the world 'surrender' as my mantra, because it was shorter and more to the point than saying, 'stop trying to control everything.'" P. 19.)

I decided to read the book and review it.  I went into it with an open mind, reassured by what I'd discovered online.  What I discovered within the pages of the book was that the negative reviews I'd read were justified, the charges I'd discounted were true, and the approach really is about surrendering to your husband.

But also.  There's a TON of great stuff in here.  I've never read a book that gets so much wrong and so much right at the same time.  In the same chapter.  On the same page.  I'll be reading along, thinking, "Yes, right, good point, that's a good reminder, I really could be doing better at that."  Then, all of a sudden, KAPOW!  Did she really just say that?  Oh, yes, she did!  And since the book is extremely repetitive, there's no chance of quickly skimming over or pretending that you just misread the crazy extreme to which Doyle takes her advice.

 So I'm reading along, reading about the principles of a surrendered wife:
  • Relinquishes inappropriate control of her husband
  • Respects her husband's thinking
  • Receives his gifts graciously and expresses gratitude for him
  • Expresses what she wants without trying to control him
  • Relies on him to handle household finances
  • Focuses on her own self-care and fulfillment.
Right, good, OK, yeah, uh-huh, wait. Back up a minute.  Yes, the husband must ALWAYS control the money.  Completely.  The wife should not participate in household budgeting, check bank statements, determine how her bonus check will be spent, carry a credit card, etc.  She should tell her husband what she wants to pay for groceries, gas, going out with girlfriends, massages, etc.  He gives her what he decides is appropriate in cash.  Repeat process monthly.  He manages the accounts and pays the bills, even if they are a two-income family.  Finances are never discussed.  She just expresses her wants and he gives her the money or he doesn't.

Now, Paul and I have managed our finances various ways with various degrees of success.  (Separate post on this later.)  For us, by far the healthiest method - meaning that it works the best and makes BOTH of us happiest - is when we have a financial plan that we create and maintain together.  Not so, says Doyle.  We're sacrificing intimacy (?!) and missing out on the best part of surrendering by my participation in household finances.  As long as a husband is not physically abusive (if he's emotionally abusive he will stop once his wife starts "surrendering") or struggling with an active addiction, he must handle all the money.

In Doyle's case, she was a competent professional woman who managed the family finances with financial planning software.  Her husband, on the other hand, doesn't plan ahead for how each paycheck will be spent.  He pays bills as they come due . . . most of the time.  (Once their electricity was shut off because he didn't get around to paying the bill for a while.)  He snapped at her when she commented about retirement.  Later, he admitted that he snapped because he was feeling guilty that he hadn't contributed anything to their retirement account "in a long time."  Doyle explains that this is a very good thing!  He opened up to her and shared his vulnerability!  Yay!  Surely that's worth more than, say, a plan for financial security.  I was never able to determine why she was certain that a couple can't have both, just because it didn't work for her.

Back to the benefits of surrendering financially.  One is perpetual dating.  A wife expresses her "wants" and allows her husband to please her by addressing her desires as he sees fit.  This allows for them to go out for dinner or take vacations without her worrying about whether or not they can afford it.  It also allows her to be pampered and taken care of.

There's a lot about that in the book, all the gracious receiving of sweet, beautiful, luxurious things.  A wife NEVER offers advice (or her own opinion about anything to do with him, his job, his decision to move the family, his buying a new car, etc.) even if asked.  She never asks how her husband is feeling.  She is given an allowance.  She is taken care of and given gifts.  She focuses on her own needs and fullfillment.  Any problem or issue she doesn't want to deal with herself she turns over to him.  In many but not all ways she sounds like . . . a child.  This impression was driven home for me in one of the sample exercises at the end of the book.  The wife should write a list of things she is grateful for about her husband and give it to him as a gift (great idea!).  She should write one item from her list on each page of a small notebook and then decorate the pages with crayons.  I'm sure Daddy will appreciate that thoughtful touch!  (For a more adult version, I've hidden notes with things I appreciate about my husband in his computer bag or suitcase. He appreciates and enjoys this, especially when I include chocolate.)  

This review is already too long and still barely scratches the surface.  (For example, Doyle acknowledges that husbands frequently will not be excited by taking over all these responsibilities, and she offers strategies to ignore his objections.)  I will say that I've gotten a lot out of the book and am using some of what I've learned, to good effect.  But not all of it. 

Yes, it's important to relax in the car and stop gasping, suggesting alternate routes, and slamming your foot down on the imaginary right-side brake all the time.  But not mentioning it when you know your husband has gotten on the interstate headed the wrong direction even if he doesn't notice his mistake until you've gone a hundred miles out of your way?  That's not just crazy, it's disrespectful, like NOT pointing out the spinach in a good friend's teeth and letting her walk around like that all night.

In addition to an incredible amount of repitition and some seriously wacky advice, Doyle also does a ton of generalization.  Men are like X, Women are like Y, for true intimacy to develop relationships need a huge difference between X and Y, if you do this then he WILL do that, etc.  This type of lazy pseudo-psychology drives me batty, but apparently it sells books.  It also makes people who don't fit these so-called norms feel like something's wrong with them.

Doyle's husband apparently hates to talk about his feelings.  So, according to her, ALL men hate to talk about how they're feeling and we should never ask how they're feeling since we're not their mothers or their therapists.  Of course some men don't like to talk about their feelings.  Some women don't either.  And probably most people dislike being grilled and interrogated the way she reports talking to her husband before "surrendering" to him.  And of course it is possible to ask someone how they're feeling in a caring and nonjudgmental way that doesn't make you seem like their mother or their therapist.  The problem isn't with the topic, it's with the approach and underlying intent.

In conclusion (finally!) I found this book a good read.  I'm glad I read it.  I plan to keep referring to it.  But all the wacky and offensive things in it made the good things harder to trust and accept.  Perhaps in revision Doyle could write a mainstream version that leaves out some of her more extreme ideas about how in order for a marriage to succeed, one must lead ALL the time and the other must follow in EVERYTHING.  Or maybe someone else should write that book.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

The NaNoWriMo Song

Woo hoo!

Special congrats to my husband and youngest sister, both of whom also won NaNoWriMo . . . and beat me to the finish line!

(For my Facebook friends, I know the embedded video doesn't come through so here's the link: )

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

And special thanks to our Maryland family for hosting us so delightfully.

(Gratuitous piece of information: the girls LOVED the plane trip.)

As for me, I'm finishing up NaNoWriMo (note sidebar).  Back soon!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's Not Time

Earlier today a good friend sent me an email with the subject: It's Time.

She linked to a article called "How to Look (at least) Ten Years Younger" and said:

Look at photo 2 before and after...this is what you should do with your hair!!!  Today!!! 

Here's the image:

She does look fabulous.  Of course, according to the text accompanying the photo, she's also 54 years old, with a dull complexion and coarse, gray hair.


I turned thirty-five this fall and have been thinking unhappy thoughts about aging.  And it's true that my hair has more gray in it than it had a couple of years ago.  (The gray is made more obvious by the fact that my hair is dark and very long.)  This brings up the awkward question of coloring.  I have never colored my hair.  Never!  And I don't want to!  I like natural hair.  I like my natural hair.  I like the idea of growing old naturally and celebrating that.  And yet.

I am not ready to go gray.

But I don't want to further damage my hair.  I don't want the expense and time commitment of maintaining a coloring regimen.  I don't want to stain my towels or pillowcases or even to have to think about staining towels or pillowcase (or shirts since I frequent dress and leave the house with wet hair).  Plus, my naturally aging mother will be very disappointed.  And yet.

I'd rather not have long, scraggly gray hair.  Yet.

I told my friend that it's not yet time for me, because:
  1. I still like my long hair
  2. I can't presently afford to color my hair, and
  3. I need a cut with wash-and-go capability.  Or, as I wrote her back, "My hair might look like crap when I don't style it, but it's a simple cut so it's functional. I've had shorter/layered/styled hair before and it requires daily maintenance.  We can pretend that I'm going to become a person who gets up an hour early to style her hair every time she washes it, but it's unrealistic and simply not going to happen.
    I've made that decision before and it just sets me up for failure and extremely crappy hair." 

(I'm arching my back in this picture to make my hair look longer. The picture was taken a few months ago, so my hair really is this long now but perhaps due to winter humidity is no longer quite as curly.  Anyway, the arched back and tipped head are why I seem to have no neck or waist in the photo.)

      Sunday, November 22, 2009

      Because We Can

      I'm adamant that we not start celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving. Ellie's choir is working on their Christmas show, but other than that we don't sing Christmas music or watch Christmas videos. And our house is still decorated with pumpkins and turkeys and leaves, browns and oranges and yellows.

      But this year . . . I don't know. I'm feeling a little ready.

      Today we watched Shrek the Halls for the first time - but certainly not the last - of the the season.

      As always, I wonder what's the song at the beginning of the Christmas Eve dance party in the swamp. I'm taking about the very first hard beat followed by, "Yipee yah yah yah yah yah-oo! o-o!"

      Shockingly enough, googling the lyrics didn't get me very far.

      So I did what any curious and competitive wife might do: I challenged my husband to a Google-off!

      It was much harder than you might think the find the answer.

      And I won!

      Of course, by the time I solved the puzzle, Paul had moved on to playing Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii (the girls were playing downstairs and we a few minutes before dinner was ready). So it wasn't really much of a competition. But still: success!

      (For the curious, the song is Because We Can by Fatboy Slim. I've never seen Moulin Rouge.)

      Credit to AvatarsDB for the image.

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      They Call this Soccer

      And it's fabulous.

      Wednesday, November 18, 2009

      Take, Eat

      A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment. Each student was instructed to bring in an object to share with the class that represented their religion. The first student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David.”

      The second student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is a Rosary.”

      The third student got in up front of the class and said, “My name is Tommy. I am a Presbyterian, and this is a casserole."

      I found this here.

      The congregation to which we currently belong does less with casseroles than others I've attended, but I like the spirit of this joke. This is where Christian community is for me, for my family of faith. In sharing a meal together. In smothering a hurting/mourning/celebrating/busy family with hot dishes. When a new baby is born, we take over a blanket and a casserole and the message is this: when things get rough, we are here for warmth and comfort and nourishment. We learn together, worship together, play together. And we always bring food.

      As we serve, we say: "Come, share this bread with me."

      Tuesday, November 17, 2009

      Monday, November 16, 2009

      The Talker Teacher

      Ellie's classmates like Hannah Montana and super heroes. Ellie is less interested than she used to be in Pixar movies and early morning cartoons (Dora the Explorer is apparently so preschool). But I won't let her watch Hannah Montana or super hero movies.

      Lately, the girls have been into The Little Mermaid. We talk about how Ariel wanted to be human before she even met Prince Eric; the human world always held a strong draw for her. We talk about how she rescued him, then he rescued her, then they fought the evil Sea Witch together. It's an imperfect movie but it's not so bad and they're having fun with it.

      Two of the scenes the girls are most interested in this week are the wedding scenes. So Paul and I brought out our wedding album and showed the girls. I can't believe we'd never done that! Ada's been walking around for days, saying, "You got married, Mommy? You got married, Daddy? Mommy, you married Daddy? Daddy, you have a pretty ring."

      They loved looking at the pictures and recognizing our church, their aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

      "That's Grandpa!" Ada said, looking at a picture of my dad officiating at the wedding ceremony, wearing his robe and stole. "He's the Talker Teacher!"

      Out of the mouths of babes.

      Sunday, November 15, 2009


      First: Low Income Women Can't Get Abortions, But RNC Staffers Can
      The Republican National Committee's health insurance plan covers elective abortion - a procedure the party's own platform calls "a fundamental assault on innocent human life."

      Federal Election Commission Records show the RNC purchases its insurance from Cigna. Two sales agents for the company said that the RNC's policy covers elective abortion.


      Leading up to passage of the House health care reform bill last week, 176 House Republicans joined 64 Democrats in voting for the so-called Stupak amendment, a measure that prohibits federal funds from being used to buy health insurance that covers elective abortions.

      So, abortion's OK if you work for the RNC but not if you don't? Makes no sense. Now that the policy - which has been in place since 1991 - has come to light, the RNC says it will change its plan to stop covering elective abortion.

      Second: Homeless Held Hostage by Catholic Church in D.C. Fight for Gay Marriage

      If gay couples are allowed to marry in our nation's capitol, the Catholic Diocese of D.C. will cut off social services to the city's homeless.


      According to the Post, roughly one-third of the city's homeless population currently receive services from Catholic Charities, the Church's charity arm. That's about 68,000 people who will be cut off from shelters, medical services, food programs.

      I understand that the Roman Catholic Church feels strongly about the issue of gay marriage. But what do gay marriage and hunger and homelessness have to do with each other? Is it worth letting people go hungry and cold - in the winter! - because the city in which they live holds a political position the Church finds problematic? Are starving, freezing people less important than a political position?

      Thursday, November 12, 2009

      Tuesday, November 10, 2009

      What's Sexy?

      What's sexy?  Sharing NaNoWriMo with a writing spouse.  Taking a break to watch our favorite TV show.  Writing some more.

      What's not sexy?  Snotty noses.  Toenails long and sharp enough to draw blood. 

      But I still love you, honey.  From a slight distance, but I still love you.

      Sunday, November 08, 2009

      How Women Look

      Unhealthy body images abound. There are women in magazines vs. women in real life. On one hand, the women in magazines are often extremely thin or unnaturally proportioned (more on that in a moment). On the other hand, women in real life are often overweight.

      I'm sure that many of you have seen this video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It's always worth a look:

      Have you also been following the flap over professional model Phillipa Hamilton? She says she was fired by Ralph Lauren for being too fat ("You no longer fit into our clothes") despite the fact that she says her weight has not fluctuated over the 8 years of her employment.

      Maybe that's not so wrong in the fashion industry. And she hasn't sued her former employer for wrongful termination. The way the situation became public was when Ralph Lauren released an advertisement featuring Hamilton in which she was photoshopped to humanly impossible proportions. Her head was bigger than her pelvis.

      I've heard graphic artists defend this sort of photoshopping by talking about the difference between art and reality. But when it comes to marketing images, it seems obvious to me that the line is less fluid. If you want to create interesting conceptual art depicting humanoid creatures and display it on the wall of a gallery, have at it, man. But if you want to sell actual clothes to actual women and the picture proports to a photograph of a woman wearing the clothes, well it should probably do so!

      In the process of manufacturing images from photographs and blurring the line between art and marketing, the artist is shaping what we as a society see as attractive.

      Shouldn't a marketing campaign show the product itself in its most flattering light, rather than creating a product that does not - and can not - exist? Does that not come dangerously close to the idea of false marketing? In fashion, make great clothes and show them on tall skinny models, we get that. But to take those tall, skinny models and digitally alter them still further? This crosses a line, in my opinion.

      For the record, this is how Ralph Lauren photoshopped Phillipa Hamilton.  And this is how she looks in another photo.  (Google her or watch the video below for more.)

      Hamilton is 5'10" tall and 120 pounds, which gives her a BMI of 17.2 - officially underweight. "Healthy" starts at a BMI of 18.5. (In order to hit the bottom of a healthy BMI range, Hamilton would have to gain nine pounds.)

      There are problems with BMI as a tool for determining if one is overweight or obese in part because it doesn't take muscle mass or frame size into consideration. My husband and I often joke that if he achieved what our Wii Fit suggests as a healthy weight for him, he'd no longer be capable of performing all the exercises it offers.

      Similarly, when I am at what is - for me - a very healthy, strong, fit, attractive weight, my BMI is on the cusp between "healthy" and "overweight." Yet at that weight I am by no stretch of the imagination "fat" and if I were to lose additional weight, much of it would be muscle!

      "In the developed world anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic condition of adolescence."

      Yet the vast majority of "health" coverage in the media related to children and weight is about obesity. And the media reports themselves are fueled by advertisements promoting unhealthily thin women and girls.

      So what is fair? Surely, companies should be allowed to use create artwork to sell their products. My suggestion is that when photos are edited beyond the retouching of blemishes, there should be a disclaimer on the image itself.

      And we consumers need to be more conscientious about voting against these practices with our dollars.

      Thursday, November 05, 2009

      Ellie's Peter Pan Birthday Party

      Photo Legends: Paul's map of Neverland in the foyer, Indian Camp in the family room, part of Pirate's Cove/Mermaid Lagoon in the basement (lagoon itself not pictured at other end of "plank"), fairy flower treasure hunt, playing outside, You Can Fly game in the living room, pirate ship/Neverland Island cakes in Tinker's Nook.

      Wednesday, November 04, 2009

      Contest Winner and Sneak Preview

      First, thanks to everyone who participated in The Stiletto Gang's Hallopalooza scavenger hunt!

      Since there were 22 entrants for the drawing at Yeah, but Houdini Didn't Have these Hips, I did a an actual write names on paper, cut, and have disinterested third party select a slip of paper drawing.

      I mean "disinterested" very seriously; I pulled my husband away from PragProWriMo to choose a winner.

      Congratulations to LibraryMom! An email is coming your way.

      In other news, please check back here on December 2nd for the next meeting of Barrie Summy's Book Review Club. I plan to review The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle.

      You heard me right!

      An Apple Pie for Dinner

      This month, for Barrie Summy's Book Review Club, I'm writing about An Apple Pie for Dinner retold by Susan Vanhecke and illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee.

      This is my first "sponsored" review, by which I mean that the publisher sent me a copy of the book to review. At first I was excited! Then I was worried. What if I didn't like the book? Worse, what if my kids didn't like it?

      They're sort of "off" new things, lately. And they each definitely have favorite books they like to read. Over. And over. And over. We have three bookcases, each with 3-4 shelves, stuffed full of children's picture books and board books. Additional children's books are stashed on bedside tables, busy bags in the car, and beside nearly every chair in the house. (Adult books are largely confined to the floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the basement and one small bookcase in Paul's and my bedroom.) We are readers. But we are very opinionated readers.

      So I introduced An Apple Pie for Dinner with some trepidation.

      Our first time through the new book, Ada (age 2-1/2) and Ellie (age 6) listened quietly then requested Where the Wild Things Are.

      The second day, I included An Apple Pie for Dinner in my stack of suggested books for naptime (Ada) and bedtime (Ellie). They both picked it first. And we've read it at least once a day all week.

      This is a rousing endorsement, indeed! But what do they actually like about the book? Is it the illustrations? The story itself? The idea of the quest? I asked Ellie, who walked away shaking her head.

      I asked Ada, who also looked at me like I was crazy. "Apple pie. For dinner."

      Oh, that.

      So let me tell you why I like the book, instead.

      The illustrations caught me first. "This is a fabulous graphics program," I thought. "I had no idea you could make this sort of thing with computers. I wonder how it's done. It looks so real! But no way did the illustrator create textured diorama/mural art pieces for every single page." Oh, but she did. From the endpages:

      Carol Baiker-McKee created three-dimensional, mixed-media bas-reliefs to illustrate this book. Carol explains: "Mixed media is just a fancy way of saying that I created the artwork from lots of things, including fabric scraps sewn into clothing, embroidery, baked polymer clay, pipe cleaners, pieces of wood, and interesting things rescued from the trash and bought at rummage sales."

      The art makes the book worthwhile, all by itself.

      But the story is great, too. It's based on an old English folktale (The Apple Dumpling) which might be why the plot seemed slightly familiar to me. But I'd never heard the story told quite this way.

      Granny Smith wanted to make apple pie, and she had everything she needed, except apples. She did, however, have plums. So she packed a basket full of plums and set off to find someone who wanted plums and had apples. Instead, she found a woman who wanted plums but had feathers. And so it went until Granny finally found a man with an apple orchard who just happened to need what she had in her basket at the time.

      I don't want to spoil the ending, but the story winds up with every character in the story eating apple pie for dinner at old Granny Smith's house.

      Click on over to the author's website to see some of the artwork and decide if a journey through the book isn't worthwhile, even knowing that there's a Happily Ever After ending.

      I'm still having fun after twice daily readings for a week. Our current challenge is to find all the hidden ladybugs. Because a good children's book entertains the reader as well as the listener and this one does that.

      Click icon for more
      book review blogs
      @Barrie Summy

      Sunday, November 01, 2009

      Balls in the Air

      I'm a deadline person. As a due date approaches it draws my full attention like a beacon and I focus until I've met my goal. This process has worked well for me for 35 years, but I'm currently finding myself with quite a lot of beacons causing light pollution in my brain.

      First and foremost, I'm a mother, now. And not just a mother, but a mother of children who have activities and responsibilities. School, classes, meetings, conferences, therapies, sports, commitments, stuff, junk, and above all, PAPERWORK. Keeping on top of all that could easily be a full-time job.

      But it's not because there's no time for it to be!

      There's the need to exercise. And eat right. I find focusing on those two activities much easier when I can let other things go. Like housework, which I can't let slide too far because it seems I'm having people over a lot lately. So there's hosting/event organizing for the list, too.

      And editing my work in progress. And freelancing to pay the bills. And, oh, look at the date! November is National Novel Writing Month and I'm nearly 2000 words into my new novel.

      Plus we have this influenza A/H1N1/swine flu joy, which hobbles us all. (Ellie's the one who's sickest at this point, but she's on Tamiflu and she's doing OK. I'm trying to embrace the required quarantine and see it as an excuse to loosen the schedule a bit.)

      Despite all the more immediate activities, I can't forget that Christmas is coming and homemade gifts don't make themselves the week of December 20th.

      So forget fun things like reading novels and watching television and playing Nintendo. Perhaps I'll work them back into the rotation in January!

      Friday, October 30, 2009

      Hallopalooza Is Here!

      Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips – post #8

      According to legend, it only took Harry Houdini 2 minutes and 27 seconds to escape a straightjacket while being suspended from a crane being used to build the New York City Subway. Mattie, Milla's brother, had tried to copy the renowned magician's feats when they were kids. He had Milla tie him up in their Dad's old bathrobe, but it still took Mattie more than 10 minutes to escape. He finally had just wriggled out of the contraption. But Mattie's fighting weight was 97 pounds and he had the hips of a snake.

      The Amazing Harry, topping 240 pounds and hired by G. Winston Howard to entertain his guests, couldn't have wriggled his way out of a paper bag.

      In fact, the most amazing part of Harry was the size of the ketchup stain on his starched white shirt. Milla assumed it was ketchup because the Amazing Harry hadn't missed a bite during the entire interview, sloppily dipping handfuls of French Fries into the condiment bowl on the table.

      "Is that what you wore to the party?" Milla still needed to find someone in a warlock costume – even if it was just to eliminate him/her as a suspect.

      He nodded. "Black tux. My normal costume."

      Milla noticed that the color of the ketchup and the color of the shirt stain weren't the same red, and she didn't think the difference was made by Heinz. She'd have to ask Fletcher to collect the shirt and have the stain analyzed. Whoever stabbed Carla Jordan probably got a splattering of the assistant's blood.

      Milla looked at her barely-touched plate. The hamburger was going cold, the French Fries limp. G. Winston Howard was providing lunch for all of his guests that were still detained on the estate awaiting interviews. Even though it had been more than twelve hours since she'd had any food, she couldn't eat. Sitting at a table with Amazing Harry had killed her appetite.

      Next Clue Location -


      Welcome to Yeah, But Houdini Didn't Have These Hips! I'm a member of the St. Louis chapter of Sisters in Crime. Leave a comment on this post to be entered into a drawing to win a recent book from one of our members! In your comment, be sure to mention whether you prefer noir, craft cozies, thrillers, or paranormal romances. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck on The Stiletto Gang's Hallopalooza Scavenger Hunt!

      It's Hallopalooza!

      Welcome to Hallopalooza, the fabulous Halloween scavenger hunt from The Stiletto Gang!

      The clues will be posted early Friday morning, so pop over to The Stiletto Gang for the first clue and find your way back here as soon as possible!

      Join the Hunt!
      Follow the Clues!
      Solve the Mystery!
      Win Great Prizes!

      Tuesday, October 27, 2009

      To Make a Living

      In order to finish my freelance project on budget, I need to complete about 2 chapters an hour. No biggie, right? I'm mostly just updating page numbers from one edition to the next. Except - HOLY CRAP - some of the chapters are long. With tons of new information to research. Gulp. I just finished a single chapter that took me 3 HOURS. Not that I'm stressed out or anything.

      So that's why I'm not blogging this week. Wait.

      Sunday, October 25, 2009

      Peter Pan Party

      "Sarahlynn has really outdone herself this year. What is she going to do to top this next year?" my sister asked my mother after Ellie's 6th birthday party this weekend.

      I don't plan to try to top myself next year. After all, I didn't plan to do much this year. Just a simple party, inexpensive, few activities, mostly free play, maybe cupcakes.

      Here's how it went down.

      Ellie's been into the movie Peter Pan lately, so that became our theme. I typed the invitations and printed them on card stock along with a few images (Tinkerbell, a crocodile, Peter and the Darlings flying over London, a map of Neverland). Then I burned the pages into fun shapes and crisped the invitations in the oven. We hand delivered them. Cost: free! So far, so good.

      As Ellie's 8 guests arrived (6 because she's turning 6 plus a couple siblings, ages 1-8, girls and boys, some with Down syndrome and some without) they ran around the house and got acquainted with one another.

      The weather was lovely, a perfectly crisp, blue autumn day. So for our first activity we went outside and had a "Fairy Flower Treasure Hunt" in the front yard. I showed each child a silk flower, they ran off to find one like it, then brought it back for the next "clue" and so forth. I bound each child's bouquet with floral tape and attached a nametag. Presto: party favors!

      Then all the kids sneaked to the backyard to play on the wooden swings/rockwall/slide playset. Eventually a few children started looking around for something else to do, but no worries! I had a few more tricks up my sleeve.

      Paul was in charge of decorating and he did a great job with the house. There was a "Welcome to Neverland!" banner beside the front door and a large hand-drawn map of Neverland Island in the foyer. The family room was "Indian Camp," the dining room was "Tinker's Nook," and the basement playroom was Pirate's Cove/Mermaid Lagoon.

      The children filed into the living room, where I sprinkled imaginary pixie dust on their heads and asked them to hold out their arms. "You Can Fly!" played on the computer as the guests swooped around the room, stopping on small maps of Neverland when the music stopped. Each round, one child found him or herself without a map upon which to stand and was "out." They didn't mind, though! Because I sent them straight downstairs to Walk the Plank.

      Paul was waiting in the basement with the next activity. Kids bounced on the mini trampoline, walked down a low balance beam, then jumped off onto a blue blanket (the lagoon) where Paul waited for them with fairy glitter and temporary tattoos (fairies or pirates).

      After getting their ink, guests came back upstairs to me, where I waited by the tee pee in the family room with a hot glue gun, more colored card stock, and some feathers. "What's your favorite animal? What's your favorite activity?" Each child discovered his or her Indian name and got a fancy nametag. (I particularly enjoyed "Singing Chicken.")

      Soon, it was time for cake. My parents were here to help this weekend (bless them!) and my mom thoughtfully baked the cakes so all I had to do on Saturday afternoon was decorate them. We had a strawberry Neverland Island iced green (two small inverted pyrex bowl shapes with cupcakes embracing a blue lagoon) and a chocolate pirate ship.

      My second best moment of the day came when one guest's mother said, "Look, the cake is just like a pirate ship!" and her daughter replied, "No, Mom, it IS a pirate ship!"

      My first favorite moment of the day was seeing how happy and excited Ellie was the whole time. She doesn't open gifts and is easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation. She didn't want to play the games, though she loves to watch. And she looked forward to the party with such excitement and had SO MUCH FUN having her friends over, playing outside, and walking the plank to jump into the lagoon. Most especially, she loved the whole cake/candles/ice cream/singing part of the party.

      How can I top this next year? By showing up. Ellie is a child who is impossible to spoil. She is so generous with her smiles and hugs and praise. She appreciated every aspect of the party, but she would have been thrilled to have just family and a a simple cupcake, too. Her attitude takes the pressure off, though I can never resist trying to design an afternoon that's so perfect for her she didn't even know to wish for it. I'm sure I'll try again next year. (I'm thinking: The Little Mermaid at the swimming pool.)

      I'll post the pictures for my Friday Photoblogging this week.

      Thursday, October 22, 2009

      I was just grateful the girls were playing quietly together. (Hint: this is not the normal decor for our dining room table.)

      Halloween practice (neither is her costume):

      Sorry, Charter

      The first team from Charter who responded to our distress call was . . . largely useless. Very polite, though!

      As a follow-up, a crew-of-one came out the next week. It was the end of the workday and unscheduled; he just dropped by. And he was professional and thorough as he quickly diagnosed and fixed the true problem.

      User Error.


      (There was a loose cable behind our television from when we used to have a VCR upstairs. It presented no problem until we stressed the system by adding cable internet.)

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Pastors

      I'm a PK (preacher's kid).

      "Pastors are easy to love, but they're hard to get home. From the minds that brought you Before He Speaks comes a new offering of musical satire."

      Thanks to Rob for the link!

      Sunday, October 18, 2009

      Limited Access

      We're not extravagant people. We like to eat and we like to travel, but we don't own high-end electronics and we drive Hondas.

      We do watch our money carefully, and we're trying to pay off ALL of our debt and increase our savings. (Unless it rains - and of course it will rain; we'll need to do home improvements or replace our cars or whatever - we'll be out of debt completely in ten years. That includes our mortgage, cars, student loans, everything.) We've carried debt for too long. Our budget is tight.

      Every month I am annoyed by how much it costs to have a land line, but I'm unwilling to get rid of it. Last month we realized that we could save a lot of money if we go with one of the Charter bundles. By getting our basic cable, high speed internet access, and home phone through one package price we'll spend much less each month. Cool!

      Except not really.

      Because our internet connection SUCKS now. It's not just slow, oh no, we'd love slow. The connection fails every few seconds and takes forever to come back up. So we can write emails offline and just hope they have time to send in the next brief online cycle.

      We've been waiting over a week for Charter to fix the problem. (It's your computer settings. No, cables? No, modem? No, it's a problem with our lines outside. And we don't go up on the poles. Another crew will have to come out later sometime within the next week.)

      I am a blogger and freelance writer. I NEED MY INTERNET. Until then.

      Thursday, October 15, 2009

      Tuesday, October 13, 2009

      SinC Into Great Writing

      I'm off! Early in the morning I'm heading for Indianapolis for a writing workshop:

      SinC into Great Writing!

      This event is FULL
      Sisters in Crime is pleased to present "SinC Into Great Writing!" on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, featuring New York literary agent Donald Maass and dinner keynote speaker Nancy Pickard along with seminars by Hallie Ephron and Chris Roerden. The program runs from 1:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

      Presenters: New York literary agent Donald Maass is the author of Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.

      Hallie Ephron is an author, writing teacher, and award-winning Boston Globe book reviewer. Her latest psychological suspense novel, Never Tell a Lie, received a starred review in PW and was an Indie NEXT pick for 1/09. She is also the author of Edgar-nominated Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel: How to Knock 'Em Dead with Style.

      Nancy Pickard, four-time Edgar Nominee and winner of Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, and Macavity awards, is the author of 17 novels and dozens of short stories. She is a founding member and former national president of Sisters In Crime.

      Chris Roerden is the Agatha-winning, Macavity- and Anthony-nominated author of Don't Murder Your Mystery and its all-genre version, Don't Sabotage Your Submission. She edits authors published by St. Martin's, Berkley Prime Crime, Midnight Ink, and more.

      Risky Behavior

      Is it dangerous to post pictures of children on the Internet?

      I was in an online conversation with someone who suggested that it is "stupid" to post pictures of children online. So how do I justify the fact that I share pictures of my children?

      First: is it really dangerous? I do think there's some risk involved with living a public life, and with sharing any sort of personal information publicly. So, is it dangerous to share pictures of my children online? Possibly. Why do it, then?

      I have a daughter with Down syndrome. One of the reasons I blog is to raise awareness about the disability and what it's REALLY like, rather than the stereotypes with which we're all familiar. I can't count the number of people who've written to me that my blogging slices of our family life and sharing of family pictures - including my children interacting with each other - have changed the way they think/feel about people with disabilities. Writing the way I write and sharing the pictures I share makes my family's experiences feel personal for hundreds of people on the web who wouldn't otherwise know us.

      Second: is the internet really more dangerous than other public places? Perhaps. I think that people do and say things online they wouldn't do or say in person, and sometimes we tend to forget that there are real live people on the other end of the wireless connection. But does that translate into a significant real world risk? I think this increased risk is relatively small.

      It's true that someone could take a picture I post on my blog, save it to his own computer, and look at it with unpleasant thoughts running through his head. Such a guy is sick and probably does the same thing with pictures found in any source (advertisements, newspapers, old yearbooks, others' photos of our family taken in public places). Or he sits behind his window and watches children walk home from school. It's disturbing but doesn't actually touch/hurt/endanger my family in any way.

      The fear is that someone could move from thought to action, become fixated on one of my children, and seek her out in person.

      If a scary internet criminal was determined to find me physically he could do so. It's possible to guess where we go to church, where my children attend school, where we exercise, etc. from the anecdotes I share. And that does worry me when I'm getting increased traffic and attention due to a controversial position I've taken. The world holds people who get angry and irrational and violent.

      But I think there's real danger to always expecting the worst of others, to always living in fear. It makes sense to take precautions. And everyone will draw their own lines in different places. (I feel safe with this, not that. I will blog but not post pictures. I will blog and post pictures but do so anonymously. I will not share any personal information on the internet and will not attend events where cameras are likely to be present.)

      I see the internet as a community. There might be scary people lurking in the corners (thieves, terrorists, pedophiles). I'll have my eyes open. But I'm not going to hold back from participating fully in community and building real relationships with people because of a small risk that someone with ill-intent might overhear.

      Additional Reading.

      Sunday, October 11, 2009


      "It's MY birthday today!" At 5:45 this morning, Ellie burst from her room, delighted to be alive. "Happy Birthday to MEEEE!"

      Soon, all of us were awake and bundled into the dark, cold car for a special birthday doughnut run. (Doughnuts might be the very best thing about birthdays at our house.)

      "How old are you, Ellie?" asked Paul.

      "I'm six!"

      She told us she wanted spaghetti (p-bsketti) and garlic cheesy bread for dinner. "And milk!" She let us know, periodically, when she wanted us to sing to her. She absolutely gets the whole birthday experience. Of course she loves it! And she's really looking forward to her party.

      Kindergarten is hard for Ellie. But it's so good for her, too. Over the last month and a half, Ellie's made huge strides physically (gross motor, fine motor, speech) and emotionally (independence, making cool connections all over the place).

      Reasons to celebrate abound.

      In addition to my delight with my beloved daughter, I'm also healthier than I've been in a long time. I don't mean physically; I have a terrible cough that refuses to heal. But for a month and a half, Ellie has been going to bed at bedtime. And sleeping all night. It's been SIX YEARS since we've been able to have stress-free bedtimes and parents-only evenings. (I've also lost 20 pounds. Coincidence? Perhaps.)

      Have I mentioned that I love Kindergarten?

      (Picture legend: Above, Ellie relaxing at the end of a long, wonderful birthday. She's watching The Little Mermaid before bed.)