I’ve been wondering…Is there a double standard when it comes to celebrity crushes?

I think there might be.  I’m not at all shy about sharing my celebrity crushes.  It never crosses my mind that His Highness would be “jealous” because I swoon over https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvL1IjU43I0 Tom Hiddleston reading my favorite W. H. Auden poem on YouTube. 

It never occurs to me he’d mind a bit that I find David Tennant’s eyes dreamy, or that I think Daniel Day Lewis’s deep, strange angst is wonderfully romantic. 

Why should His Highness care?  We’ve been married a zillion years, and he knows I adore him.  These fantasy crushes are hardly a risk to him.

First of all, I’m not delusional, and I do understand that the only time I could actually catch David Tennant’s attention would be when I was about 20, having a great hair day, wearing something fab…and DREAMING.  The fun of crushing on him is absolutely, entirely dependent on his never, ever, ever actually meeting the real me.

girl sleeping free from morguefile 

And quite possibly vice versa!  Before my marriage, I was briefly a television critic for the Tampa paper, and I did actually meet some real life celebrities.  One or two of them were delightful  (Mike Farrell of MASH was a sweetheart, and Bernadette Peters, whom I saw only in a group interview, was so gorgeous she didn’t look real) but many of them were major disappointments.  They were nervous, or a little boring, not always brilliant or refined, and often not quite as glamorous as they appeared onscreen.  They were so… human.  You know?  Just people, after all.

In fact, it’s often the fictional characters I’m keen on, not the actors themselves. Day-Lewis didn’t quite register for me until LAST OF THE MOHICANS, but then it was full-on crazy time. ;-) I actually thought David Tennant was too skinny to be fascinating…until my daughter finally persuaded me to watch his amazing Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who.

David Tennant signed card from Kristin  

 And my number one fictional crush is Francis Crawford of Lymond, the hero of the Dorothy Dunnett books, who, to my knowledge, has never been played on any screen by anyone.

Dorothy Dunnett books on shelf

But this is the weird thing—the reason I think there might be a double standard.  His Highness never confesses to any crushes of his own.  Never.  In fact, here’s how it is at our house.  Gorgeous actress shows up on a talk show, or trailer for her new movie, and I say, “Gosh, she’s beautiful, isn’t she?”  His Highness inevitably shrugs and says, “Eh.  I don’t know.  Not really.”

beautiful celebrity free from morguefile

What’s up with that?  Is he blind?  Does he have crazy-bad taste in females?  (And what, exactly, would that say about his having chosen me…?)

Probably he’s just being gallant.  But why is that necessary?  Does he think I’m so insecure I’ll go green with jealousy if he admits the mere existence of beautiful women in the world? 

green with envy free from morguefile

 Or does he think it’s immature for people to have celebrity crushes?  Maybe, but still…I’m not suggesting he drop to his knees and drool.  (That’s my job!) Surely it’s not juvenile simply to admit that, yeah, in a totally objective I-have-no-personal-stake-in-this way, Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington and Penelope Cruz are nice-looking women.

goofy kid free from morguefile

What’s it like at your house?  Do you admit it when you think celeb men are sizzly?  Does your SO admit the same?  Or is there a double-standard? 

I’m giving away a ten-dollar Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen person commenting today, so come on…fess up! 


Clever kid

I’m a writer, so obviously I’d love to be able to pose as a language prodigy and tell everyone I was born with a copy of Hamlet in my hand, delighting my parents with my fluid crib readings of the Bard.

 Unfortunately, that’s not the real story.  In the real story, I’m a second child, and, as so often happens, my mother had already purged all that maternal “must teach daughter to read ASAP or will be failure as parent” anxiety from her psyche with my older sister.  Mom adopted a far more laissez faire attitude with me.  She read TO me, but she obviously figured hey, the nuns can handle the phonics-reading thing… the tuition is high enough, for heaven’s sake.

Even at six, it really nettled me that my sister could read, and I couldn’t.  But for some reason I accepted that we had to wait till I started first grade.  Word is, I was like a horse fidgeting at the starting gate.  When the school bell went off, and the gate opened, I picked up a book, and from that moment until I conquered reading, no one saw my face.  They saw only an open book with my convent-school uniform extending below it. 

K and Daddy in Library

 I ate with one hand, walked around bumping into things, bathed holding the pages above the water.  It took me forever to put on my socks, because I had to dangle them out with my free hand, then wiggle my toes around like blind newborn kittens until they found the opening and wormed their way in.

 Maybe because I waited so long, or because it was so exciting to teach myself, the books I read back then will always be extra special to me.  Or maybe they were just terrific books.  I made a point of buying as many of them as I could for my own kids—either vintage or reprints—and they loved the stories, too.

 Here are a few I’ll never outgrow:

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson.  This, I’m sure, is the book I’m holding in this picture, taken when I had just turned seven.  I don’t know if Ferdinand made me a peace-maker personality, or if I loved Ferdinand because I already had that personality, but it felt as if this book had been written specifically for me.

k in bayshore bedroom


 The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Wisegard.  The bunny trying to figure out what will hatch from an egg he discovers enchanted me, because both he and the duck are so uninhibited and natural.  They kick each other and roll each other down hills.  They get impatient, and then get bored.  It’s childhood in a nutshell…I mean, eggshell.   :-D

 The Golden Egg Book cover

Golden Egg Book inside pages


 I Can Fly, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair.  Though I didn’t know it, this book introduced us to all kinds of poetic tricks, like rhyme and onomatopoeia.  And we always acted it out, which was awesome.

.I Can Fly cover

I Can Fly inside pages

 The Bumper Book, a collection of stories and poems.  Mostly, I adored the colorful pictures.  The stories were too hard for me that year, but I’d heard the poems so often I learned to read the letters by matching them to the words I knew by heart.  I remember reading aloud the lines “Hush! Hush!  Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers” with exactly the same intonation my mom had always used.  Very grave, very reverent.

Bumper Book cover

Bumper Book inside pages

 McElligot’s Pool, by Dr. Seuss.  To this day, the opening line of this darling book is one of my favorites in all fiction.  “Young man,” laughed the farmer, “you’re sort of a fool!  You’ll never catch fish in McElligot’s Pool!”  What kid doesn’t love to see the grumpy old pessimist realize he might be the fool?

McElligot's Pool coverMcElligot's Pool inside pages

 What about you?  Do you remember learning to read?  Do you still own any of your favorite childhood books?  Did you read any of them with your own children?  I’m giving away a ten dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com to one randomly chosen poster today, so I hope you’ll take a minute so share!



Long ago, one of my heroines was getting involved with an old love, and she cautioned herself about over-glamorizing the past, using a piece of wisdom adapted from her car’s side view mirror: 

Warning:  Objects seen in memory are less romantic than they appear.

It’s advice I have to give myself regularly.  I’m not seeking out old loves (His Highness is all I can handle, thanks!), but I definitely wear my rose-colored glasses when I reminisce.

Maybe that’s because I was born sentimental, with a personality tilt toward happiness. I gloss over the unpleasant bits of the past and dress up the good times in rainbows and glitter.  You know how Robert Redford’s home run looks in The Natural, with the stadium lights exploding, and slow motion, and great music?  That’s how my Kathleen’s Happy Days Video looks in my head.  

But maybe it’s also because sometimes the past really was awesome.  Maybe even a tiny bit cooler than the present?lucy red horse clipping

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that my journalist mother reinvented herself mid-life as an antiques dealer.  She specialized in collectible paper ephemera—things that weren’t designed to last, but somehow did.   She had her store for years and became fairly well known in Tampa.  So when locals were ready to part with things like that, they tended to bring them to her.

Occasionally she loved the items she bought so much she couldn’t bear to resell them.  Once, when she showed a treasure to me, I fell in love, too.  It was an old Tampan’s bookkeeping journal, with hand-written entries beginning in the late 1800s. That person had used up the journal and then had apparently donated it to someone else, maybe a daughter or granddaughter, who turned it into a scrapbook.

ads journal 1891ad journal exterior

In the journal, the girl had pasted magazine pictures and ads she particularly liked.  The pictures are glued right over the bookkeeping entries, which she didn’t even try to blot out.  She didn’t always cut carefully, and the arrangement is casual, occasionally haphazard.  The glue’s rippled.  The pictures are sometimes faded or ripped.  This wasn’t a journal she kept for show, clearly.  It was just a record of images that made her happy.  

ad journal 13 ad journal 12


To me, the book is endlessly fascinating.  The pictures are wonderful, of course–beautiful, romantic glimpses of the early 20th Century, of war and romance, cars and fashion and fantasy.  It’s filled with rich color, gorgeous designs, women with fairy tale hair, and noble-jawed men.

ad journal 8ad journal 5

 But I also love feeling I can intuit this girl’s personality from the pictures she chose to keep. I imagine I glimpse her dad’s pragmatic affection as he gave her his journal to reuse. 

adj journal ration ticket

 On a deeper layer, every page recreates another time, and offers a morality tale, with its gilded-age scenes pasted over its grimmer realities, the entries of “ration ticket,” “3 undershirts,” and “bottle blood medicine.”

 I wonder if, using the magazines stacked in my office today, I could assemble a collection even half as delightful. Would my scrapbook “speak” to someone 90 years in the future the way this journal speaks to me?


It  makes me want to try.  But what would I include?  What culturally iconic ads, people, themes, etc., ought to be pasted in as the best of our best?  Got MilkJoe Camel?

modern ads conan got milkmodern ads joe camel

 I found those two famous ads in the office magazines tonight, but I don’t smoke, and to tell the truth I’m not really a fan of milk, either.  (Sorry, Mom…)  So…maybe I should follow this young woman’s example and just choose whatever makes me smile?  Posterity might not be impressed, but at least I’d have fun!

How about you?  Do you make scrapbooks?  How do you pick what to keep, and what to let go?  I’d love to hear what you think.  I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon to one randomly chosen person who posts today, so I hope you’ll take a minute to share.







How do you feel about birthdays?

Chances are, you either love them or hate them. I’ve had friends who growled every time I suggested marking their day with even a small celebration. And I’ve had friends who gloried in every milestone, embracing the candles, the cake, the off-key singing and the gifts as wholeheartedly as a child.

Me with daddy, first birthday

But I don’t remember ever knowing anyone who was honestly indifferent.

I fall in the “love-em” category. I’m sure of that, because I just got a refresher course yesterday, when I turned {{mumble, mumble}} years old. Love, love, love them.

And it’s not because I believe birthdays are some kind of Pollyanna-perfect Sure Thing. I’ve had my share of celebrations that fell flat, viruses that attacked me at the worst possible moment, gifts that made me think, “Huh?” I even spent one unforgettable birthday sitting on a jury all day, deciding what should happen to a young man accused of disturbing acts of domestic violence, and then coming home that night to a phone call announcing a family tragedy.

And hey, I’m human. I definitely don’t relish the thought of being mumble years old.

So last night, after everyone left, I gave the issue some thought.  And here’s what I decided my top three reasons are for love-love-loving birthday celebrations.

1) Not everyone gets lucky enough to reach Mumbleage. This is a cliche, and once upon a time I would have groaned to hear anyone say it. But I’ve lost too many pieces of my heart–lost them early, and lost them in great grief–to take even one birthday for granted any more.

2) The rituals we create are like a thread that runs through years, through changes, even through generations, and holds us together. Our customs are small and silly, like the pictures I scrawl on the kitchen whiteboard, which inevitably draw giggles, as I’m entirely devoid of artistic talent. But I love the ritual of laughter. As the Irish poet Yeats said in his lovely A Prayer For My Daughter, “how but in custom and ceremony/Are innocence and beauty born?”


Renie 13 birthday crepe myrtle


whiteboard mike's birthday 2010 

whiteboard daddys birthday

Renie Bday, Father's Day 2014

3) We celebrate as family. From the years when the adults blow out the candles for the baby, to the years when the adult children blow out the candles for their grandmother, we share these days with the people we love. We get off work early, or stay up late to get our jobs done, and we come together to say, “Let’s have a party, because we’re happy there’s such a person as you!”

Garmy Rene 28

Oh, and…duh.  4) PRESENTS. ;-) Woman does not live on love and poetry alone. Sometimes she needs Stuff.

K 10th birthday with presents

How about you? What do you love/hate about birthdays? Do you have any birthday horror stories? Parties gone hilariously wrong? What was your best birthday–or birthday present–ever?

I’ll be giving away a ten dollar Amazon gift certificate to one person–chosen at random–who comments today!

When I got the invitation to write THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE, one of the “Big Wedding Giveaway” bride novellas for Tule Publishing, I jumped at the chance. I’m a sucker for weddings, and most of all wedding dresses.

Probably that’s because…well, okay, there doesn’t have to be a “because” for this, does there? Millions of people are in suckers for wedding dresses–which can be more like works of art than mere garments. More like magical sugar-spun dreams than clothes.

For me, the most gorgeous wedding dresses in the past century belong to Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, and Grace Kelly. And my mother. :)

My mother’s dress was a WWII-time piece of simplicity, compared to the other three.

Lucy wedding dress

All cotton-lace, a softly tailored shirtwaist that fit her looks, and her personality, perfectly. She was a liberated, working journalist who made her own decisions and didn’t put on frou-frou to suit anyone else’s definition of “female.” She was way ahead of her time, really.

Still…it was understood that, when I married, I’d wear the same gown….even though it didn’t really fit my figure, or my girly personality, as well. I was curvier, shorter…with far less WWII-time dignity. But I wore it, rather than risk hurting my mom’s feelings.

k wedding day with daddy

My sister wore it with great joy, too, when she married. She never considered anything else, and she looked beautiful. The trio-tradition feels nice, and if I could turn back time, I wouldn’t change a thing.

But when it came time for my daughter to marry, I made certain she understood she was not tied to that dress, which suited her even less than it had suited me.

It was a tough decision for her. She deeply honors family, loves rituals and traditions and keepsakes passed down through the generations. But she’s also a free spirit, a creative soul. She has an independent turn of mind I’m quite sure she inherited straight from my mother. She knew it was her wedding, and it should reflect who she was. In the end, she chose a dress that made her shine.

irene wedding dress for blog

And though my mother had been gone for ten years at that point, when my daughter walked down the aisle in that lovely gown, I knew that, somewhere, she was smiling.

Look at my daughter here, dancing with some of the wedding guests. Who wouldn’t smile, to see a bride that happy and free? :)

Irene's wedding from shannon's flash 140

What about you? Are you enchanted by wedding gowns, or bored by all the fuss and frill? Was your own wedding dress the dress of your dreams? And do you love reading about brides–even one who hocks her wedding dress, like mine? ;-)

I’ll be giving away free ebooks of THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE today to two posters chosen at random.

And Kate, the last giveaway winner, please email me at KOBrien@aol.com today! I had a problem with mailing your book and have been trying to reach you!

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