My daughter, known online as Little Miss R, is out of school early this week because of parent-teacher conferences. Since we have extra time together, I asked if she wanted to do an interview. But we could never decide if she was going to interview me or if I would interview her, so…this is what we wound up with. I transcribed, and she made sure I got all the spelling and punctuation just the way she wanted it.
Me: Hi, Little Miss R. How are you?
LMR: Purty good. My back still hurts.
Me: Why does your back hurt?
LMR: Who knows?? [extravagant arm gesture]
Me: What was the most fun thing you did today?
LMR: Recess. I played with my friends. What was your most fun thing you did today?
Me: Hmmm. Maybe when I took a nap. Or maybe when we sat together and ate popcorn while you watched Adventure Time and I read my book.
LMR: That was purty fun.
Me: Do you want to ask another question?
LMR: No, your turn.
Me: Ok. Who do you want to be for Halloween?
LMR: Prolly Fiona or something [an Adventure Time character]. [very clear on use of “purdy” and “prolly” as preferred spellings] What’s your favorite food?
Me: Noodles. Noodles pretty much always sound good. And they can be part of spaghetti or pho or really any kind of food. How about you?
LMR: BACON. [caps lock required]
Me: I could have guessed that. 🙂 What do you think is the best part of being a writer?
LMR: Staying home all day. Cause you can take a nap or read a book or play a game any time of the day.
Me: BUSTED. [LMR was off early today, so I took a nap when she was home at a time I wouldn’t have been working anyway. Does that make it better or worse?] You don’t think you would get lonely if you were home all the time? You like to be around people a lot.
LMR: Yeah, but when I get old, I can have a phone and I can have Skype. So I can do that whenever I want. (I am creative.) [parentheses specified]
Me: If you wrote books, what kind would they be? Wait, you have already written some books.
LMR: They were pirates who love underwear* and I’m writing one about a weird horse. You know about the pirates who love underwear book? I’m writing one about pirates who love pants. Purple pants.
Me: Why purple?
LMR: I don’t know. It’s just a weird color. And underpants is weird so the pants have got to be weird.
Me: And what do you think about the books I write? Are they weird too?
LMR: No, they’re just kind of boring because it’s only about love and presents and mysteries. Wait, not the mystery thing. Just love and presents are boring. Also, it’s kind of weird that you’re writing a book about love and presents, because the presents mostly just love cards and flowers.** And there’s kissing. Don’t forget kissing. Blaaaaeeeeeggggghhhhhh. [she spelled that last word out herself]
Me: You’re eight. It’s fine that you don’t like my books! They’re for grown-ups. And your stories are for kids, so that’s cool.
LMR: Yeah. What’s your favorite color?
Me: Gray. Do you want to go watch some more Adventure Time?
LMR: SHYAHHH. [typed by LMR. It means “yeah,” but more so.]
Uh, ok, that kind of wound up being an ad for Adventure Time. Anything else you would want to ask either of us? She’ll be home early again, so I can run questions by her.
*Yes, this is a comic book she wrote and drew. It is called, not surprisingly, “Pirates Who Love Underwear.” In the story, two pirates dig up a solid gold pair of underwear, then fight over who gets it and repeatedly steal it from each other. First in a series, apparently. I can’t wait for the pants story.
**Is she thinking of Valentine’s Day here? I’m not sure.
I’m a bit scattered this week working toward two deadlines and preparing to leave for a visit to Louisiana. Ok, “a bit” is a massive understatement. So I’ll take refuge in a list. Here are some things I’ve been loving lately:
*My nieces! About four weeks ago, one was born, and two weeks ago, another turned two years old. Last week, my six-year-old niece had her first meeting as a Daisy Scout. They’re all such cute and fun little people. I would love to see them more often.
*Baking with pumpkin and applesauce. Does that sound like a toddler’s playdate? It’s really good, I swear. Turns out the old baking trick of substituting applesauce for oil is extra-excellent when you’re baking pumpkin goodies. The flavors and spices work beautifully together.
*Wi-fi hotspots. I used my phone as one on our trip to California in July, and it felt like living in the future. “How am I on the Internet when we’re zooming through mountain roads at 60 miles per hour?” Actually, the mountains blocked my cell phone signal, so that was the one place the hotspot did not work well. But you know what I mean. I just got set up with a stand-alone hotspot for my drive to Louisiana. Now that’s the way to handle a road trip (when you’re not the one driving, that is).
*Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. I like Schumer’s comedy (though it’s definitely not safe for watching when Little Miss R is around), and I thought this book would be in the same vein. It is, but it’s also much more. In some truly poignant essays, she talks about everything from domestic partner violence to family-of-origin infidelity. I expected this book to make me laugh, but I didn’t also expect it to punch me in the feelings.
*Library book sales. Our Friends of the Library organization puts on a huge book sale twice a year, and the fall sale is tonight. I can NOT WAIT. Besides hitting the romance section, I’m going to look for large print for my grandparents, some chapter books for Little Miss R, the Twilight books for Mr. R…nah, just kidding about that last one. He already got all the Twilight books at the *last* library book sale.
What’s something you’ve been enjoying lately? Do tell, because positive news is the coolest and best.
I’m on deadline until November, and this past weekend I got annoyed with Little Miss R when she kept busting into my office with random questions. She was supposed to be having an afternoon quiet time, staying in her room and above all, Not Interrupting Me. So I fussed at her.
A few minutes later, this art installation appeared on a light switch in the hallway outside my office.
In case you can’t read the note, it says, “Bearie doesn’t like you.” A masterpiece of passive-aggression if I ever saw one.
Of course she’s written me some really cute notes too. This is one she wrote to Mr. R and me, after we enrolled her in gymnastics at age 5. She was, to say the least, pleased about that.
Hmm. I must have been on deadline when she wrote this next one too. I was kind of impressed by her self-awareness. The pitiful tear stain on the corner was a nice touch.
Then there was the time she almost apologized for something she’d done. At this point in time, I don’t remember what it was. But the mysterious crossed-out word makes me laugh. What could it possibly say?? So sneaky.
Most of her notes are really nice, though. After she wrote me this one, I kept it above my computer for months.
And even the nastygram featuring Bearie turned out ok. I eventually (and heroically, and with great maturity) wrote her a reply, and she wrote back.
Her reply says “I like you and so does Bearie now. I’m writing a chapter book.” Thank goodness I am back in “Bearie’s” good graces. The chapter book, by the way, is called “Olivia and the Wierd [sic] Horse.” I’m pretty interested to see what it’s all about.
Have you ever gotten a note or letter that took you by surprise, or made you laugh–or roll your eyes? To one random commenter, I’ll send a print copy of my historical romance It Takes Two to Tangle, which features some significant letter-writing. Winner announced on Sunday. International entries welcome.
On my birthday last Tuesday, my birthplace of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was 90 percent underwater. My grandparents’ house in Baton Rouge—to which my parents took me when I was only a few hours old—was empty and destroyed, filled with feet of mudflow and floodwater.
My grandparents were safe. In the boat of a neighbor escaping his own home along the flooded street, they evacuated the house they’d lived in for almost 50 years, leaving just as water began to flow across its floors. When the floodwaters receded several days later, they entered their house only to learn that they had lost almost everything they owned.
This past Sunday, my grandmother called me at my home in the Midwest and together we worked through her online FEMA disaster assistance application. One of the first questions to answer was something along the lines of, “where are you staying?” I knew the answer: she and my grandfather are staying with one of their daughters, an aunt of mine whose home didn’t flood. But my grandmother had a slightly different answer. “With family,” she said. “And we couldn’t be better taken care of.”
I was floored that she could think of her situation so positively. But that sort of resilience, gratitude, and generosity has marked the response to the recent natural disaster in Louisiana. As tens of thousands of homes were destroyed by rising floodwater, civilians with boats—the so-called “Cajun Navy”—have rescued thousands of neighbors and friends and strangers. They’ve brought supplies where cars couldn’t go, traveling in the flat-bottomed boats that seemingly every sporting household owns. (My dad hasn’t lived in Louisiana since 1990, but he still has his pirogue.) And then there’s the response from the people of New Orleans, who know better than anyone about the heartbreak of a flooded city. The headline of this article—“Dear Baton Rouge: New Orleans has your back”—says it all.
Louisiana will recover. It always does. But the process will be long and difficult, and people will be leaning on one another, because there’s no other way to survive when you don’t have power for weeks and there aren’t any groceries in the stores. Or when power returns and store shelves are stocked, but you have four feet of black mold in your house. And so on.
The day after my grandmother and I went through the disaster assistance application, my brother’s wife (who does not live in Louisiana) delivered a healthy baby girl. My aunt in Baton Rouge, exhausted from helping my similarly-exhausted grandparents figure out the process of recovery, said upon hearing of the birth: “Wonderful news to welcome new life in this old tired world.”
It does seem tired. Tired and numb. I’m so sad for my relatives, and all the thousands who lost everything, and for the people who even lost their lives. But when I saw pictures of my baby niece, sleeping in the arms of her loving mother and father, it didn’t seem so tired anymore.
The state song of Louisiana is “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s melancholy and hopeful at once—and so it seems as good a way as any to end this post. I haven’t been thinking of much lately except for my first home state, so there was nothing else I could write about today. Thanks for reading. And thanks, always, for being here.
August is almost over and I for one am not ready for it. I think I may have said that about a few other months this year. 2016 is kicking my butt. I seem to running behind every month. But since it’s the end of the month its time for my Five Things.
- Sunshine.I used to take a nice sunny day for granted and if I still lived in Florida or Texas I’d be complaining about the heat and the sun, but in the UK we don’t get as many super sunny days and while August has had it’s share of overcast and rainy days we’ve had some really great sunny ones. In fact I even was able to sneak in a trip to the pub on a sunny day with my kiddos.
My daughter has been visiting us this summer before she goes back to Florida and starts a new job and my son has been home from university and I’ve been very aware that this might
be my last summer with both of them in the house with me where we can just enjoy being us. I’ve had books to finish and deadlines to meet but I have enjoyed the long summer days where I can take walks with the kids after I’m done with my pages—we’re all playing Pokemon Go.
- Peaches.It’s ridiculous how much I just love peaches. I’m not sure if we have these in the US (I’m sure we do!) but I am a huge fan of “donut” peaches. They are smaller, easier to eat and I don’t end up with a chin covered in juice when I bite into the peach.
- Friends.This is a big one. Because everyone is on a slower schedule it’s much easier to talk with my friends. I use FaceTime pretty much to keep in touch with everyone back in the States and I have been video chatting with two of my very best friends almost every week in August. I think of these things as Artist Dates. It makes me happy to laugh, talk about writing, talking our kids and just be myself. These calls are a gift to myself and I cherish every one of them.
- Olympics.I enjoyed watching the competition every day while it was one. My kiddos and I watched the Olympic recap on BBC during our lunch every day, which was great. I was a competitive swimmer from 7th grade through high school and really swimming is my favorite sport. I love watching all of the heats and then the finals. I also love that it gives me and my old swim team friends, especially my childhood bestie—Tina!—a chance to relive our ‘glory days’ when we were swimming.
That’s it! My Five Things For August. Tell me your top five and I’ll enter you to win one of five copies of NO LIMITS. The first book in my Space Cowboys series, which will be available on September 1st.