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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
It’s funny how adoption works, you see families with kids that look just like their adoptive parents. For our family, I’ve certainly had people tell me that both of my daughters favor me – I don’t see it, but I know that the stuff underneath, there’s a whole lot in common. Yeah, we could say it’s all nurture, but I don’t think that explains all of it. Some of it is simply divine matching – the way The Professor and I found our girls – out of all the couples in the world and all the kids in the world, we somehow found each other. And they are OUR kids. Sometimes I even forget they aren’t of our blood.
For example, Busybee, well, she and I aren’t a lot alike. She’s an extrovert and full of energy and smiles and joy. I’m not saying I’m a grump, but I’m more quiet and reflective. But there’s this one way in which we are totally alike and it kinda cracks me up. I noticed it first a few years ago when I bought them the Thanksgiving Little People play set. The box they came in is a reusable one so we keep them in there and on the top is a picture of the playset all set up. Busybee would look at the box and set everything up just so and get kind of anxious if her sister came along and changed things. More recently this has manifested itself in play with her sister – Babybee is a free spirit in many ways and has an imagination a mile long – so she will try to correct and manage how her sister is playing to make sure she does it the “right” way. I can totally relate to this, I get it, I’m the same way, but Babybee, she’s not like that – she does her own thing. So I try to remind Busybee that her sister can play however she wants even if that means pretending her mermaid is actually a blue elephant.
So I don’t have the same outlandish imagination that Babybee has, but we have other similarities. She’s an introvert, doesn’t care for crowds. But she’s also really precise. Even when she was really little, she was very specific about the way she did things. Where her creative play is bold and colors outside the lines, if you will, her artistic techniques are linear and clear. I can give her and Busybee the same art project, leave the room and come back and know just which one Babybee has done, all of her stickers will be perfect aligned. She’s the only kiddo in her classroom at Mother’s Day Out who is allowed to do the glueing herself on her art projects because she does it just so. She even sits like me, with her legs crossed over one another just like I do, just like my grandmother sat. They have similarities with The Professor too.
It’s crazy to me how perfectly they match us, how perfectly the fit in our family, how they create our family. Family life is messy and hectic and amazing and exhausting and everything in between. But family, no matter how you create yours, is a miracle and I am one blessed mama.
Hey, Jaunties! I have a special guest for you today. Unfortunately, our scheduled guest couldn’t make an appearance, but I managed to persuade my husband, Mr. Galen, to step in. Okay, I sort of cornered him and started asking him questions, but he was a good sport in the end. So, welcome Mr. Galen—the Ultimate Sportsfan himself.
Shana: Welcome. I think the first question readers will have is what’s it like to be married to a romance author?
USF: I’m not sure what it’s like to be married to all romance authors, but the one I’m married to in particular I would have to describe as determined. I don’t think that there’s anyone who works harder at her craft or who is more dedicated to writing better and better books. I’d also add sacrifice as a way to describe her because there are many hours of lost sleep and long nights toiling at the stories that swirl around in her head.
Shana: Aww! Thanks. Tell us a bit about you and what you do.
USF: I’m your average, every day romance hero. Or maybe not exactly. I work for a large safety-net health care organization in the health care administration field. I work with physicians, management, and leadership to try and improve the health care delivery system within our organization. It can be very challenging and rewarding when work that I do impacts patients in a positive way.
As for my secret, double life as a romance hero, I’m a rogue who likes the sporting life. And as much as I would like to take credit for the love scenes in my wife’s books, I’ll leave it up to everyone’s imagination if they are based on real life or not. I have, however, had to turn down opportunities to be on the covers because I didn’t think it would be a good opportunity.
Shana: Readers, if only you could see my eyes rolling since none of that last paragraph is true. USF, do you read your wife’s books? How do you know of these love scenes you speak of?
USF: I have read several of them, but not all, I’m ashamed to say. As in many of my wife’s books, I feel that opposites attract. My wife is a voracious reader, but I would have to say that my wife’s release is the last novel I read.
Shana: That would be my 2006 release.
USF: No comment.
Shana: Why do I call you USF?
USF: As all romance husbands have cool nicknames, the natural one that came to mind was Ultimate Sportsfan, or USF, because I enjoy sports. I like to watch in person and on television as a hobby.
Shana: Are there any sports you don’t enjoy?
USF: (Long pause) I’ve been asked this question before and had only seen plane racing once and thought I didn’t like it. But then I was flipping through the channels a few months later, caught it again, and decided I do like plane racing. So, no, I’ve never met a sport I didn’t like.
Shana: Last question. What’s the best thing about having a 4-year-old daughter, Princess Galen?
USF: The best thing is her excitement at learning new things, the unbridled joy that she shows when she’s having fun, and her capacity for loving in the way that only a child can. Plus, she’s the only 4-year-old I know that has a romance bookmark collection and a social media pseudonym. She’s brought great joy to my life, and I’m thankful every day that we have her.
Shana: Thanks for joining us today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a new blog!
Here’s a quick look at CELEBRATION’S FAMILY’S first scene (Q&A and contest follow):
A bachelor auction?
Dr. Liam Thayer waited for Cullen Dunlevy, Celebration Memorial’s chief of staff, to crack a smile, or indicate he and the pretty blonde in the business suit at his side were delivering a bad joke to lighten up the impromptu staff meeting.
Please. He could use a little levity to jolt him out of his bad mood. It had been one of those mornings. The twins, Amanda and Calee, hadn’t wanted to get out of bed. Five minutes before they were supposed to walk out the door, Amanda remembered that she was supposed to bring cupcakes for an after-school club meeting.
To spur the girls along, he’d said, if they left on time, they could stop at the grocery store on the way. But then the dog got out, running several victory laps around the neighborhood, before Liam had been able to wrangle, harness and deliver him home.
They didn’t have time to stop for cupcakes, and by the time he’d deposited the girls at Celebration Middle School, they were all out of sorts. Well, he and Amanda were. Not Calee, who lived in her own little world of sugar-plum fairies and nutcracker princes. As long as Calee was dancing, the world was a beautiful place. She was so much like her mother, who had also been a ballerina, before she’d given it all up to marry Liam and start a family.
He and Amanda, on the other hand, seemed to be cast from the same mold. This morning he’d left her with a promise that their housekeeper, Rosalinda, would leave a dozen cupcakes at the school’s front desk in time for this afternoon’s club meeting—which Amanda would have to cut short because she and her sister couldn’t be late for their dance class.
Amanda had been dubious and a little surly. She hadn’t wanted to go to dance class today.
“Why can’t Rosie take Calee while I stay at the club meeting? Then Rosie can come back and get me. Or better yet, why can’t I skip dance altogether?”
“Because you have a commitment, and Rosie doesn’t need to be running herself ragged to accommodate you. She’s already going out of her way to make sure you get the cupcakes.”
It had only made matters worse when Liam had snapped, “Next time maybe you’ll remember to tell me these things before we’re walking out the door.”
He shouldn’t have said it. Not like that, dammit. Even if it was true and a lesson she needed to learn. Now, as he sat there in the conference room trying to change gears from dad mode to doctor, he couldn’t get the image of Amanda’s sad face out of his head.
At that moment he missed his wife, Joy, so much it almost leveled him. She’d always taken care of things like cupcakes, permission slips and new ballet shoes. She’d had an uncanny ability to almost read their daughters’ minds or, on the off chance when they did end up in a bind—like they had this morning—she’d always been able to pull a rabbit out of her hat and make things work.
Liam didn’t know how she’d managed it. She had been perfect like that. Tiny, intuitive and good-natured, Joy had always been all about her family.
A series of sickening flashbacks transported Liam to that night when the cop had stood on their front porch and asked, “Is this the residence of Joy Thayer?” He’d told Liam that there’d been an accident but wouldn’t give him much information, just asked if he would come to the hospital. When he’d identified his wife’s body, his life and the lives of their daughters had shattered into a million irreparable pieces.
Liam scrubbed a hand over his eyes, trying to erase the memory. It had been two years. When would life without Joy get easier? When would the numbness give way to the manageable ache that the grief counselor had promised would come in time? Maybe never. Because part of his soul had died right along with his wife that night. The part that lived and laughed and felt.
Now his daughters kept him going. Because life didn’t stop to mourn. Hell, it didn’t even slow down to regroup. It kept marching forward, and, if you didn’t get on your feet fast, it would drag you right along behind it.
He refocused, irritated that he had to waste time this morning listening to the chief and this woman rattle on about…bachelor auctions? For God’s sake.
This had to be a joke.
But a sinking feeling warned him not to bank on Dunlevy delivering the punch line. Especially when his boss glanced over at the blonde and uncharacteristic warmth drew up the edges of his mouth.
“This is Kate Macintyre of the Macintyre Family Foundation,” said Dunlevy. “She and her staff have been working tirelessly to raise money for the new pediatric surgical wing here at Celebration Memorial Hospital. I’ll turn the meeting over to her and let her tell you more.”
The new surgical wing—Joy had been excited about it. In fact she’d been one of the first volunteers to organize a kick-starter fund-raiser.
“Good morning,” said the blonde.
What was her name again?
“Thank you, Dr. Dunlevy. I appreciate you letting me attend your meeting today. Even more I am grateful that each of you has agreed to help raise money for the final leg of funding for this very special project. This pediatric wing is extremely near and dear to my family and me. I appreciate you all taking an active role in making it a reality.”
Near and dear to her family? Liam glanced at her left hand. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Reflexively his thumb found the back of the band he still wore. It was the touchstone that kept him grounded, and reminded him of what was and always would be important in life. Family.
The blonde smiled at Liam’s colleague, Charlie Benton, an internist, who was seated to her left. She held out a stack of pamphlets. “Would you mind taking one of these and passing them around, please?”
Eagerly Charlie obeyed.
Great. Judging by the look on his coworker’s face, Liam would bet, if she’d asked Charlie to run out to fetch her a bagel and a cappuccino, he would’ve fallen all over himself to oblige. Liam glanced around at the other men in the room. They all seemed transfixed, too. Apparently Liam was the only one immune to a pretty face and a great pair of legs.
“For the past three years, the Macintyre Family Foundation has partnered with the hospital to raise money to build a much-needed pediatric surgical wing,” she said. “During this time we’ve been diligently working with the hospital’s Department of Charitable Giving. They’ve been amazing. We only need 5 percent more to reach our two-million-dollar goal.
“That’s why we were delighted when Dr. Dunlevy agreed to the idea of giving you all, the doctors of Celebration Memorial, the opportunity to play a key role in raising part of the remaining funds. When I learned that I’d be working with seven single male doctors, I thought, what was the chance of that?”
Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked from one face to the next, radiating enthusiasm and sincerity. She was doing a credible job.
“With seven eligible men, it only seemed natural to hold a bachelor auction. So, everyone, please save the date—one week from Saturday—for our first-ever In Celebration of Bachelors auction.”
Liam shifted in his seat, resisting the urge to excuse himself. This bachelor auction was not a joke, but there was no way in hell that he was going to subject himself to the humiliation of being sold off to the highest bidder. Even if the shenanigan would raise money for a good cause.
As a pediatric hospitalist and a single father to two teenagers, he didn’t have enough time to devote to his daughters on a good day. He certainly didn’t want to waste a night going out on a date with a woman who’d bid on him like a steer in a cattle sale. He might have been providing all the necessities, but he hadn’t been able to give his children as much of himself as he wished he could. Not like his wife, who had always been there for them emotionally.
And, he had to admit, at the root of everything, participating in something like this felt disrespectful to Joy. Even if she was gone, it didn’t mean he felt any less married. Certainly not single.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Thayer?” Cullen asked. “You look like you smell something.”
Liam clicked his ink pen. He wanted to say, There’s nothing like the stench of a bad idea first thing in the morning. But one glance at Kate Macintyre’s hopeful expression—Kate Macintyre, that was her name—and he was weighing his words. “Is this bachelor auction idea a done deal? Do we have any other options?”
Q: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY has been getting some nice reviews!
Nancy Robards Thompson: I’m so grateful that it has been well received! RT Book Reviews Magazine gave it four stars and said, “Thompson’s broken, heartwarming couple are engrossing as they find love after tragedy in this terrific installment in the Celebrations miniseries. Supporting characters like the chocolatier/matchmaker will charm, and the doctor’s twin girls add the perfect “aww!” factor.”
Q: That’s great news! Where did you get the idea for CELEBRATION’S FAMILY?
NRT: Liam and Kate’s story is the fifth book in the Celebration’s, Inc. series. My heroine, Kate Macintyre, has been featured in a couple of other books in the series and it was high time she found her soulmate. I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of a bachelor auction. What could be more fun than an auction full of eligible doctor bachelors?
Q: Tell us about the hero of the book? Why will we fall in love with him?
NRT: Dr. Liam Thayer believes true love only happens once in a lifetime. He fell in love with and married his high school sweetheart. They had two perfect decades together before she died in a tragic accident. The loss turned life upside down for Liam and his thirteen-year-old twins.
Q: Tell us about the heroine. Why is she the absolute perfect woman for the hero?
NRT: Kate Macintyre would like to believe in true love and happily ever after, but she’s never experienced anything remotely like it. Well, until she falls in love with the grieving Dr. Thayer and his adorable daughters.
Q: What life-lesson do your Hero and Heroine have to learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
NRT: Liam believes that true love happens only once in a lifetime and Kate has never been in love. To reach their happily ever after, Liam has to believe that looking to the future doesn’t mean he has to forget about or devalue his first marriage. Kate has to allow herself to be vulnerable and open to love. Together, as they become a family, they heal each others’ wounds and become whole again.
Q: What was your favorite scene to write?
NRT: That’s a toss-up between two scenes: the bachelor auction, because, of course, Kate’s seemingly foolproof plan to get Liam off the hook by placing the winning bid for the date with Liam goes absolutely awry; and the Doctor’s Ball, which takes place in the ballroom of a swanky Dallas hotel. I love writing scenes like the Doctor’s Ball because they’re so glamorous and romantic.
Q: Is there an underlying theme to the story?
NRT: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY is about the bond of family and second chances at love. Those are powerful themes to which so many of us can relate, and that’s why I believe readers will enjoy this book.
Now, I have a question for you: What themes do you like to read about? Family? Love at first sight? Friends to lovers? Reunion stories? In “celebration” of her new release, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky person who posts. Check back on Sunday when I post the winner’s name.
This is Nancy’s eighteenth book for Harlequin and the fifth book in her Celebrations, Inc. mini-series. For more information please check out her website NancyRobardsThompson.com or connect with her on Facebook (Nancy Robards Thompson Author) and Twitter @NRTWrites.
My son’s fate was sealed at birth. His uncle is a SuperBooster for the University of Central Florida, and from Boychild’s first Christmas (a month after he was born) he began receiving UCF Knights-themed presents. Shirts, jammies, booties, footballs…I don’t remember a black-and-gold pacifier, but if one had been available SuperUncle would have provided it.
The die was cast. He would be a UCF Knight–in spite of the fact that, among us, we’ve got the state of Florida covered, college-wise. His Highness and I got our undergrad degrees at USF in Tampa. My dad went to law school at the University of Florida. My mother went to Florida State back when it was Florida State College for Women, and Girlchild followed in her footsteps. Plus, we lived for years in Miami, which has to count for something with the University of Miami, right?
We couldn’t compete. SuperUncle maintained an impressive, unbeatable campaign for eighteen unbroken years–and won. Long after getting his undergrad degree at UCF, Boychild still owns a treasure trove of Knights paraphernalia. The shirts, the tailgating tent, the tailgating chairs, the decals, the pennants, the pacifier. No, wait…there never was a pacifier.
So you can imagine what it’s like when football season starts, as it did this past week. Boychild has several season tickets…thanks to guess who? But friends and family clamor to be invited, so there’s always a group in front of the TV at our house, too, for every Knights or Seminole game.
Unless I get very, very unlucky, I’m in the home group. No offense to the teams, but Florida Septembers are unbearably hot and muggy. I like my air conditioning, my mute button, and the joy of a bathroom that isn’t four staircases away.
Plus, at home I can enjoy football my way—100% biased, and 100% sappy.
By “biased,” I mean screaming “Pass interference!” every time our receiver drops the ball. (True pass interference is not required.)
By “sappy,” I mean falling for every human-interest story the commentators serve me. I cry more at TV sports than probably is normal. Sometimes, when the cameras zoom in on the losers, I have to cover my eyes.
This week, watching FSU’s new quarterback, Jameis Winston, was the emotional thrill. The kid was touched by magic, and when I saw him tiny-dancing with sheer happiness on the sidelines….Yep. I teared up, and my night was complete!
How about you? Does your family get football fever? Who’s your team? Do you like to be there, or do you prefer watching at home?