I recently came back from a family cruise to the Mexican Riviera with my entire family. My dad, mom, brothers, sister, all the in laws and the all the grandchildren. It was so many shades of fabulous that i could gush for several pages, but I will spare you all that gushing by simply saying, “Wow!”
It was fun. Yes, of course it was fun, but more than that it was wonderful to reconnect with my family that way. We had no distractions of our regular lives to take us away from each other. We ate meals together, went on walks on the track that overlooked the pacific ocean and watched the sun sink into its watery bed, and simply *enjoyed* the world around us.
I’m home now and though I hated the laundry mountain that had to be tackled at the end of the trip–I regret absolutely nothing (except not being able to finish that last chocolate melting cake on the last night of the cruise)
My boys have the Klondike Derby today for scouts where they will be sleeping out in the snow capped mountains over night. They left me the stuff they wanted to take in huge piles on the living room floor so I could organize the stuff into something manageable–no one packs like I do. I was in the midst of writing little Mom-Loves-You notes and tucking them into various pockets of their rucksacks when I was thinking about all the really beautiful things I’d seen on the cruise and on shore.
The rain forests, the sunsets, the pod of dolphins, the whales, the caves by the sea, the way the waves would swell before crashing on the shore and as each wave crested, it revealed schools of colorful fish that I hadn’t noticed before. Beaches of sand so light, you almost felt you were sinking into it, the simple joy of feeding an orange to a parrot.
Each little bit of uncovered beauty felt like a note carefully hidden in one of the pockets of my life for me to find at some unexpected moment saying that God loves me. I don’t what your religious affiliations are and don’t know that you don’t think I am intensely corny for feeling this way, but regardless of your beliefs, you have to admit, we live in a truly wonderful world.
It’s nice to get little reminders that the world is good and there are great people in it. Family is awesome.
I have been asked this question a LOT over the last several months. I’ve received more fan mail for Romania Brown’s quotes in the book CROSS MY HEART than I have for the actual book.
People have Googled her, quoted her, and laughed out loud at her. And they want to know who she is. So I’m telling all. I will meta-tag this post so it comes up in a Google search. I want the world to know.
She’s my grandma.
Her full name is Julia Romania Brown Peterson. She is the person who I was named for. She was my very best friend growing up. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again–she was everything awesome in my life. I miss her sometimes more than I can stand. I hide bits and pieces of her in pretty much everything I write. It’s my way of keeping her with me. It takes away some of the ache, and I know she’d love the joke of it all. Grandma loved a good joke.
Now, the confession part is that Grandma didn’t write all those quotes. A couple of them are things she told me, but most of them are things I made up. I couldn’t credit myself because . . . well, it looks tacky to credit a quote to yourself. I tried using quotes from real people, but had to rely on things my friends would let me quote them in a book saying, or things that are over a hundred (or whatever) years old so I didn’t accidentally break any copyright laws. After using up my friends and classic works, I still needed a few quotes. It was then that I turned to my journal–my memories of grandma and my snarky personal commentary on love in general while I was in my dating years. I drew from that to come up with the quotes and the poem about love at the beginning of the book CROSS MY HEART.
So now you know.
Julia Romania Brown Peterson was hilarious. She loved to laugh. She was brilliant. Even without formal higher education, she never ceased to learn, to expand her mind, to grow her knowledge. She loved archaeology, which might be the reason I had such a fixation with Indiana Jones and that blasted hat of his. She planted all the seeds that created the person I am today.
And I do miss her . . . every day. But every day, I am also filled with gratitude that she existed, and she was *my* grandma. I am grateful that she was such a huge part of my life, and glad to share her with all of you even in this small part.
So now you know. Isn’t she wonderful?
My husband planned a date night last weekend. One that would particularly interest me because it involved tickets to the Christmas folk dance festival at BYU. I love those sorts of things. I love dance and music, and once–long ago in my past–I was a pretty good dancer myself. Those days are so over, but it’s nice to know they existed.
We left the kids in charge of the store and commenced to enjoy an evening OUT. Rae called to get a little help with the gas pumps since they weren’t cooperating. And while Mr. Wright was on the phone with her, having a calm, rational conversation about how to fix things, she screamed into the phone, “Copper’s dead!”
Copper is the family dog. More specifically, Copper is *Rae’s* dog. More specifically, Copper has very much become *my* dog. I love that animal like crazy.
Copper was hit by a car. Merks carried her broken little body into the store. And on the phone, an hour and a half away, Mr. Wright and I listened to our children’s anguish, and there was nothing we could do. We cried with them, but we also had to calm down the hysterics, the shrieking, the wailing, the begging for us to fix what isn’t fixable.
They’re all so little still–at least, they *seem* little to me. One’s already driving, the others are fast approaching that, but I hated they were dealing with traumatic grown-up problems on their own. I hated not being there to hold them, rock them, cry with them in person.
But they did deal with it. Bing asked for a prayer for Copper. The three of them closed the store, wrapped her in a blanket, joined together and prayed for their little dog. Rae, realizing she was in charge until we could get home, really took charge–in a way I don’t think I could have when I was her age. She had them say their goodbyes, and herded the boys home to put up the Christmas tree (an act of service for me, since I’d had hand surgery the day previous and couldn’t decorate), and spend an evening comforting each other.
Being the adult sucks muddy rocks sometimes. You have to do things that are hard. You have to do things you don’t want to do–things you want to pawn off on somebody, anybody, else.
And my three little children did the adult thing that night. They handled it and were really there for each other. So while it’s hard losing a little dog that became so much a member of our family, it’s good to know that the kids can come through a crisis without adult supervision.
They’re growing up. So. Fast. I blink, and they’re taller. I blink, and they’re driving, stretching, growing. And they’ve proven they’ll be able to handle growing up–even when it’s hard. Even as I’m blinking away tears.
My son saw an advertisement for a KISS concert and I made the comment that KISS had been around when I was his age and even longer than that. He squinted up at me, his face twisted in disbelief. “They’re old guys?”
“Yep . . . really old guys.”
“What are a bunch of old guys gonna sing about? Is their title song going to be Get Off My Lawn?”
One of our neighbors was in the store at the time of this conversation and we laughed at him. Encouraged, he titled the rest of the songs in the album. I wish I was as quick witted as this kid, but since I’m not, I’ll content myself to share his wit:
- Get Off My Lawn
- My Walker’s Broken
- Dentures Really Bite
- Wheelchair Races
- Got a New Hip Today
- Don’t Slap my Bald Spot
- WhipperSnapper Brats
- My Achey Brakey Back
- Turn Down That Radio!
- Don’t Rush Me; I Don’t Walk That Fast
Because it’s pie and it’s a book, and Josi Kilpack is awesome.
Now that I’m done writing a book (and putting off editing that book) I am in read-and-review other books mode. It won’t be long before I have to get back to the grind, so go ahead and be shocked that I’m posting more than once a month and know that the once a month schedule could pop up again at any moment.
The only thing more awesome than me loving a book, is one of my kids loving a book. I’ve read Key Lime Pie twice now (once before and once after publication) My daughter decided she liked mystery books about a year and a half ago. She finished Key Lime Pie about a week ago. Now I want it stated for the record that it totally ticks me off that my daughter reads and loves the books my friends write, but would rather drink anti-freeze than read one of my books. Kids . . . pssshhhh!
Because my daughter is going to school in a different city, we spend a LOT of time on the phone (because even if she won’t read my books, she still likes to chat with me on the phone). Some of our conversations went like this:
Rae: I am so dang mad at Josi. She’s making everything go wrong in this book! Why didn’t you stop her before it got published?
Me: Just keep reading, honey. You’ll like the ending.
Rae: No, I won’t! Everyone I like is either a bad guy or written off at this point.
Me (smiling): I promise. Just keep reading.
Rae: Well of course I’m going to keep reading. I have to know what happens.
The conversation after she finished the book went like this:
Rae: Well I’m done! (you can hear in her voice, she is grinning)
Rae: It was awesome! Tell Josi I forgive her for driving me crazy. It ended exactly like it should have.
And so it did. Josi has done it once again, and it makes me happy to see my daughter get so emotionally invested in the story. Sadie Hoffmiller and her insatiable curiosity lands her in the middle of another mystery, one that means life or death, and hunger or starvation. Sadie finds herself in Florida–trying to help a friend, but also trying to discover what really happened to his daughter. What she finds is a web of lies, cover-ups, and of course–food.
The plot is great, the setting delicious, and the characters are as fun as ever as Josi ramps up the series with a romantic twist I never saw coming.
I loved it!
As a child, every memorial day centered on the town of Oak City where my grandfather was buried. It was the town my father, aunts, and uncles had grown up. It was the town my grandma had spent the majority of her adult life. For them it was home.
For me . . . it was home too. Though I didn’t live there (not yet) and only visited a handful of times every year. For me, Oak City was the place of four wheelers and frog catching. It was getting lost in fields of rye grass taller than me. It was the candy store, the camp fires, the moon rising over the mountains, taking walks without anyone worrying over where I’d gone and when I’d be back. It was childhood freedom.
And it was the cemetery.
We always went to the cemetery. We’d walk with grandma, taking our place in the family pilgrimage to the edge of town. Grandma always shed tears at the graveside of my grandfather. I hadn’t known him. He’d died before I was born. But I knew her, loved her, wanted to be everything she was, and if grandma was sad, then the moment needed to be respected. But I was young, and had never lost anyone I’d loved. The sadness was hard to understand even while it was being respected. I had no attachment to any of the people under the grass and stone markers. Memorial Day was festive, bright, and filled with flowers. The tears didn’t make sense.
When it was me standing at Grandma’s graveside, when one of the biggest reasons Oak City felt like home was gone.
Today–twenty years later from that time I’d been forced to say goodbye, the tears felt fresh, the wound felt new instead of scabbed and scarred over with time. My aunt had bought little plant markers for when someone plants a garden patch so they remember where they put everything. She’d also bought a ton of flowers ready for planting. She put every child, grandchild, and great grandchild along with their respective spouses that had all blossomed under the love of my grandparents on those markers and placed the markers in the flower pots.
I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight.
Grandma would have loved it.
So on this day where we honor our dead, I just want to say hello to my grandmother. Hello, and I still miss you every day.
I know I am the least consistent blogger on the planet, but it’s been a busy month. I’m finishing up a book, attending children’s school programs, preparing presentations for writing conferences, and have recently returned from New York.
New York was awesome. Aside from an absolutely terrifying subway ride with a crazy racist (is there any other kind?), the trip was delightful. Honestly, in my 38 years on this planet, I’ve never once witnessed racism and hate to that degree. I always knew it existed in the world, but it has never been so in my face before. Since it was the most frightening and ugly experience of my life (and I’m old and desensitized), you can imagine what it might have been like for my 14 year old daughter.
She wept for the lack of humanity in humans for quite a long time after we’d departed the train. It broke my heart to see her belief in basic goodness stripped from her so completely. But to my husband’s credit, he stood up for the four young men who were under attack by that horrible angry man. Since he did take a stand, he became the center of the man’s attack for the rest of the train ride. But he bore it well, and cracked the joke that he bet our daughter had never heard her dad called names like that before. It was genuinely awful and unfortunately the bright lights of the big city were dimmed just a bit.
But the rest of the trip was great. Mary Poppins was delightful, the park beautiful as ever, and the subway musicians on key and awesome. My street vendor in Washington Square who has great curry was still there and the food was worth the return trip. And really, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing, it’s just fun to be with my family. Due to the recent unpleasantness regarding terrorism in NYC, security was heightened to an amazing degree. I haven’t seen that much visible policing since just after 9/11. We even had an armed escort from the coast guard while we rode the Staten Island Ferry.
My daughter said she’d be willing to go again, but only if her dad was with her.
Over the last few weeks I’ve written 100 new pages in my work in progress, which fills me with glee and a wee bit of vexation since it should be a higher page count, but I’m glad to be moving forward. Great things are on the horizon for publishing; stay tuned for more news which should be coming in the next couple of months.
And something I’ve taken away from my trip to the big city is that we all have opportunities every day to offer kindness to one another. I hope to waste fewer of those opportunities in the future, because in spite of a crazy man on the subway, I believe there is greatness in humanity. There really is.
. . . my kids.
Mr. Wright is out of town tonight, so it’s just the Wright brothers and me. Already we’ve argued about what will be on the television while I make dinner. The argument was over whether we’d watch the Disney Channel or Unwrapped on the food channel. I lost.
So guess what we’re watching . . .
Yep. Unwrapped on the food channel. I swear these children are not mine. Why would they want to learn something on TV when they can have mindless entertainment? So, instead of a silly but fun show about teenage wizards, we’re learning about how the PEZ dispenser came into being and about some odd new pancake product called Batter Blaster.
The elder Wright Brother wants Batter Blaster bad. He is our family pancake maker and the Batter Blaster apparently is the newest rage in pancake making. I hadn’t made my first pancake until I was in college, and here is my ten year old, scoping out new ways to fine tune his breakfast making experiences.
The younger Wright brother has determined he wants an edible bouquet instead of cake for his birthday because it’s healthier (fruit instead of pastries), and he no longer drinks soda pop because he thinks soda pop is bad for you. Honestly! I did not teach them any of this. They are totally on their own when it comes to this total weirdness. I now get lectures about my Dr. Pepper habits.
The kids teach me a lot as we move through our time together, but I’ve taught them some pretty valuable things too, such as:
- How to cuss in traffic
- How to brush teeth
- How to critique the dialogue in movies out loud in the theater
- How to throw tantrums
- How to read
- How to irritate people with semantics
- How to pick up litter
- How to be a sore loser at Monopoly (which I refuse to play with them anymore because they gang up on me)
As you can see from the list, some of the stuff they learned from me is actually useful. I miss the daughter a lot and, in spite of teaching mostly less than useful life skills, still wish she was around for me to teach. She’ll be home for the summer in just two and a half months. Yay! This whole child rearing business is one well worth taking on.
Oh and I finished writing the manuscript, Spell Check, last month and have already started my new WIP tentatively called Dream Writers. I’m into it nearly fifty pages and so far loving the manuscript.