Weekend Update

storefrontJosh and I went on a sequel date where we continued to explore Ann Arbor. If you missed the first installment, it’s here. This time around, Josh introduced me to Krazy Jim’s  Blimpy Burger. Workers yell at you if you sit down before  you have your food and you have to be very careful to order your food the right way. I made Josh do all the ordering. We shared a triple burger (you can get up to five patties) with egg, bacon, and cheddar cheese along with an order of deep fried veggies. It was awesome. Not quite as awesome were the frat boys in line who were yelling a whole lot about nads.  We also went over to the Full Moon Bar, where I had my first mule. Who would have thought that a drink called a mule could be so tasty? In sum, it was another great date.

I overheard the girls planning their weddings today, too. It always fascinates me that the groom makes no difference to the scenery. Whoever he is, he never gets mentioned. Possibly they both plan on getting married without him even being there. However, details like ‘the flower girl will carry my veil but will not have braces’ are not overlooked. What is it with little girls and planning weddings?

If you haven’t seen it yet, Eleanor wrote a fantastic blog post about finding a raccoon in the yard and calling the humane society.

Magnolia had her second soccer game in which she actually made a couple impressive defensive moves and in which I found myself more excited than I’d like to admit. I can sort of  see why parents go nuts over kids sports; it’s waaaaaaay more emotional than I would have thought! (I screamed a little. In the nice go! go! go! kind of way, but still. I got caught up in…a sporting event.)

Josh got his first residency interview invitation. It’s in Kentucky. He starts his Dermatology rotation tomorrow. I’m trying to decide what to call him once he’s a full fledged doctor. So far I like Dr. J. Doesn’t it seem like he should get a new nickname? Anyone have other thoughts? Perhaps I’ll collect a few and then take a poll. I’ve wanted to try that blog feature and haven’t had a good reason yet.

Who Would Play You In a Movie?

My family has this ongoing game of trying to decide who would play particular family members if there was a movie about our life. Which, of course there will be some day.  Josh has always been a little tricky to cast. Well, I’m very excited because I think I’ve found the guy!  John Kasinski! Check this out.



I think I’m going to make this a regular feature on my blog. I’ll just pick a friend or relative now and then and match them with a celebrity.  Ya know, for when Hollywood comes a’ calling.

I’m not the Goalie; I’m the Net

Eleanor, my 11-year-old, has recently been coming into the office and looking at my book shelf and exclaiming, “I didn’t know you had this book!” And then she takes it and is gone for the day. And she is satisfied. This makes me want to have more children. Josh jokes that Eleanor and I are on the same reading level. He’s so precious. Anyway, I realize that she’s always done this, but something is different now. Now, she’s actually at the reading level to really enjoy the book rather than just explore it. I’ve always let my girls read anything they want. This may be shocking, but I even let her read “The Lovely Bones” when she was ten. I worried a little because I found the book by her bed and didn’t get to “prepare” her for what kind of book it was. But then I thought about it. What was I going to tell her: rape and murder are bad and scary and I just wanted to warn you? It was too late anyway. I asked what she thought about the book. Honestly, I don’t remember her answer exactly. She had some questions which I answered, but I do remember that she basically understood what was happening and wasn’t scared. She got the concept, but not the enormity of the story. In fact, she put the book down for about six months before trying it again. She didn’t finish it that time either.  The point is, she learned what rape and murder are; and it didn’t damage her.

Similarly: When I was student teaching (eighth grade), I had a group of four girls that wanted to read “The Lovely Bones.” My mentor teacher contacted the parents and told them that she’d facilitate a group reading situation so they and she could talk about it. One mother said no. The girl wasn’t upset, which surprised me. That’s just downright un-teenager-y, no? Then the girl went to my mentor teacher and said, “Will you read it for me and tell me all about it?” It was endearing, and I was sad for the girl, too. I thought about  just telling her to sneak it for crying out loud, though I didn’t. But isn’t that one of the most wonderful parts of reading–when we can go become part of a story that is outside of our reality and we can explore things that aren’t safe? It’s the safest thing of all, really. Having the experience without the experience. We had another group of girls (the bad group–I’ll just say it) that year who read “Crank” and passed that book around school like crazy. My mentor teacher and I were both excited that they were reading at all. I may be naive, but I believe that they wanted the experience of a drug user without doing it themselves.

So, I’m not going to hold my kids back from reading about the  world. I’m their mom; I’m here for them. When the world gets to be too much for them, they can fall into my arms, cry it out, and know that they are loved. When they read things that are confusing and difficult–when Eleanor does finish “The Lovely Bones,”– I’ll be here to tell her how our family values fit or don’t fit with what she’s exploring, and what in the world we can do about it. Because I think that if we parents act like goalies now and block them from it, then they’ll grow up and the ball will smack them in the face.

Along the same lines, a friend of mine just turned me on to FreeRangeKids. There is an wonderful post about an author who was going to do a school visit via Skype, but couldn’t because of guidelines about the kids being seen on the Internet. A comment about that post led to a response about how the kids were losing out on an wonderful opportunity for a wild “what if” scenario. As a parent, and as a hopeful author, I loved it.

A Few Things About my Sister

il_430xN.65913514Our family has this sort of odd legacy of sisters being best friends. My mom and her only sibling, her sister, were best friends. Then Amy and I grew up as best friends. Now my two girls are following suit. I’m really not sure how it started with my mom and her sister and I’m also not sure how it started with us; I only know I love her.

As kids playing in the neighborhood, we’d get scared when the neighbor girls, another set of sisters, would scream and even hit each other. We’d run home and Amy would offer me her favorite Western Barbie that winked when you pushed the button in her back. And I’d hand over my puppy that did somersaults. I’d ask her if I could sleepover in her room. Most of the time she’d say yes.

In high school, she was the kind of girl who sat alone in the cafeteria while I flirted with boys and gossiped with friends but who wouldn’t hesitate to dump her lunch tray on guy who said something mean–cough, cough michael price cough, cough–I can’t even remember what it was and we’re facebook friends now, so apparently we all got over it.

I cried like a baby when Amy went to college. Three years later we ended up back together again when I joined her. I think it was at this point we vowed to live in adjoining homes with our husbands some day. Well, that didn’t happen, but the four of us sure do enjoy our time together up at the lakehouse.

What is the point of all this, you ask?  Well, partly I’m feeling sentimental and emotional, but partly I want you to check out her Etsy shop where she makes these cool little keepsake books for storing memories like the ones above. Also, if you are a digital scrapbooking kind of person or a sewing person or knitter or a collage kind of gal or if you like canning and gardening and reading or you have a peculiar desire for photographing your feet, then you will relate to her blog, Confessions.

P.S. She did not promise to pimp my novel some day in return. But, I’m open to that.

One Great Date

If there’s one thing that I lucked into in life, it’s my husband. After twelve years of marriage I can say that I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got married and it could’ve gone so many ways of crazy. But it didn’t. Or at least, hasn’t. One of the things I love about our relationship is that we still date each other. For us being together is still about getting to know each other and finding a way to make each other laugh or remember that when the rest of the world sees that you are plainly human that there’s someone out there who sees something beautiful in you. And it’s about having a new experience together, something to look back on and claim as ours and ours alone. Last night, for me, our date was all of that.

Because Josh and I may not live in Michigan much longer, I’ve been wondering what I haven’t experienced in Ann Arbor. It’s almost like a doctor saying, “Well, you may not survive this city. Could be as little as nine months, or you could live a long a healthy life here.” So, instead of our usual movie night, Josh and I did a small tour of Ann Arbor.

locations_annarbor_smallFirst stop:  Great Lakes Coffee, because according to Josh they have the best hot cocoa and lattes–and because we’re getting tired earlier these days and wanted to avoid falling asleep on our date. We didn’t eat any chocolate this time, wanting to save some appetite for whatever else would come our way.

pennantSecond stop: M Den, because we were thinking that Michigan Medical School paraphernalia would make good Christmas presents for some of our family, but once we got in there we realized we had the wrong kind of school spirit for this store. The school song (at least I assume that’s what it was) was blasting through the store and the standee of coach (at least I assume that’s who he was) looked menacing even just on cardboard and we ducked out of there like the good little gaming nerds we are. Sorry, family, if you were looking forward to U of M gear, prepare for a disappointing Christmas.

mummyThird stop: Dawn Treader Used Book Store, where I found two books–Uglies and If I Stay. I’ve noticed it’s hard to find the kind of YA I want in the Ann Arbor used book stores and I wonder if it has  more to with the kind of reputation these stores want, or if it’s because YA is still kind of a newish genre and book buyers aren’t sure what to take in.

CupcakesFourth stop: The Cupcake Station, where we shared a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese icing. Yum.

At this point Josh decided he wanted a slice of pie. We walked and walked and walked. We finally found apple pie over at Sweetwaters, but Josh didn’t want apple pie. Where in Ann Arbor can you go for a good slice of pie? Grand Traverse Pie Company closes shop way too early and it’s not downtown, so don’t bother suggesting that. We gave up on pie.

lFifth stop: Fleetwood Diner, because this is landmark in Ann Arbor and I’d never been. It’s punk, Josh informed me last night, yet as we sat at the teeny bar, we ordered the Hippie Hash, which consists of hash browns, green peppers, onion, broccoli, and feta cheese. We also shared B.E.L.T.O., a distant cousin to the B.L.T.  The E. is for egg and the O is for onion. Both dishes were great. The atmosphere was interesting too. We sat next to a homeless man at the bar sipping his coffee. On the other side of us was a chain-smoker playing chess with the cook. This spot is going into one of my books some day.

41QuPZsNPxL._SL500_AA240_Sixth stop: West Side Book Shop, another used book store where I bought my first erotica book–a collection of short stories. Stovall, if you happen to be reading this, this is the book you want to find (or set down) on your wife’s nightstand. Trust me. You gotta love some of the authors names. My favorite is Lisa LaBia. This book has it all including some intergalactic hanky-panky, which I haven’t read yet. The less sexy part of me actually found the introduction interesting because it talked about how long it took women to begin writing their own erotica rather than relying on men. My favorite line from the intro says this book is “From the clit’s point of view.”

3890369Last stop: The quad, our favorite place to people watch. I can’t find a good photo, but we did walk by the spinning cube, so I used that photo; it’s similar in setting. We played games like, which of these students is getting laid tonight? And yes, there may have been a little pointing and laughing. And then we talked about us–our fears (like becoming one of those couples that runs out of things to talk about), our regrets (like not researching colleges more thoroughly), our near future (where in the hell will we live next year), our kids (will we encourage our girls to have careers before marriage and kids?), etc.

And that was one hell of a good date.

The First Day of School

I’ll be honest: I wait all summer for the first day of school. Trying to juggle working full time, a (hopeful) writing career, and a husband in Medical School is no picnic. The routine of the school year makes it all slightly more manageable. And I do mean only slightly, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Take today for instance: Josh leaves for his Anesthesiology rotation at 5:30 a.m. which means it’s up to me to make sure the girls know their routine for school and get over $100 of school supplies packed (really?) while finishing the laundry I’d put Josh in charge of while I was at the lakehouse squeezing out my day off as long as humanly possible. There were dishes to be done, as well. The trash needed to be taken out–in the rain. Eleanor checks for toads under the handle because she loves me. Of course there was something unidentifiably sticky at the bottom of the trash bin along with three wads of gum and the shampoo bottles that never make it into the recycling. Where did my deoderant go? I must have mixed it up with Eleanor’s during the trip, so I borrow Josh’s because I have to get myself ready for work. I skip the shower and don’t bother with my hair because it will get ruined in the rain while I walk the kids to the bus stop. I bid a tearful goodbye as Magnolia catches the bus for the first time–her black converse sneakers thumping against the huge steps as she climbs in and her tiny smile as she waves to me from inside.  Just before we hugged goodbye she said, “I hope you get a promotion at work.” I have no idea where that came from, but she seems all grown up now. I run home to get ready for work while the little girl across the street, neighborhood informant–nothing escapes her attention–informs me that Phillip Marlowe, the beagle, is whining and doesn’t like to be left outside in the rain.  I let him in, get ready for work, sit down to do half an hour of revisions for my agent, but do this blog post instead.

This is good start. Seriously.

YA Book Covers: Fun Fakery

I saw this new meme over on YA author Anna Jarzab‘s site, which she found over on 100 Scope Notes (both great sites). You make a YA book cover for yourself with a fake book and fake title. You see, it’s fake. Just want to be clear on that.

Here are the instructions if you want to make one:


1 – Go to Fake Name Generator. The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to Random Word Generator. The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to FlickrCC. Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.

5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

This was so fun that I got carried away! Here’s my first one:

grumble copy

I totally dig it that my fake author name is Jean Slack and that I wrote a YA book named Grumble.

So then I got to thinking about my YA book title (my real one), which most of you know I’m not totally in love with. And, working at a graphic design/web design firm has shown me how copy can lead design. So, I thought I’d put all three of my title possibilities to the test. How would each title affect the choice of graphics a designer might look for? Authors don’t get much (if any) say in their cover, so this is all just for fun. But it did lead me to love one of the titles above the others.

Here are the choices:

Breaking Rank
Breaking Rank
Hard Lines copy
Hard Lines and Mabyes
The USS Podunk
The USS Podunk

I’m kind of loving seeing my name on faux book covers! If you want to vote on the one you like best in the comments, please do. I’d love feedback.

Future Schmuture

stethoscopeHoly shit, it’s finally happened. Josh applied to Residency programs.

If you are a follower of his blog, then you’ve seen this list. It is the final list. One of these bulleted points is my family’s future.  We don’t get to pick. Not really. Isn’t that INSANE? Seriously, there will be some interviews, possibly some rejections (by us or by them), and then we’ll rank the remaining programs and get matched to one of them. There are 15 different states on this list. FIFTEEN!!! Interviews begin like Nov/Dec. Match day takes place in March. We’ll have about 3 months to pick up and move because you may have noticed there are only two programs on this list that are in Michigan. This is why most people go through Med School while they are unmarried and child free. What can I say, apparently we like do things the hard way.

  • Alameda County Medical Center/Highland General Hospital Program, Oakland, CA
  • University of California (Davis) Program, Sacramento, CA
  • University of California (San Francisco) Program, San Francisco, CA
  • University of Chicago Program, Chicago, IL
  • Indiana University School of Medicine Program, Indianapolis, IN
  • University of Kentucky Medical Center Program, Lexington, KY
  • Maine Medical Center Program, Portland, ME
  • Henry Ford Hospital Program, Detroit, MI
  • University of Michigan Program, Ann Arbor, MI
  • Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Rochester, MN
  • Carolinas Medical Center Program, Charlotte, NC
  • University of North Carolina Hospitals Program, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Program, Winston-Salem, NC
  • University of New Mexico Program, Albuquerque, NM
  • SUNY Upstate Medical University Program, Syracuse, NY
  • University of Rochester Program, Rochester, NY
  • Oregon Health & Science University Program, Portland, OR
  • Penn State University College of Medicine Program, Hershey, PA
  • UPMC Medical Education Program, Pittsburgh, PA
  • University of Tennessee College of Medicine at Chattanooga Program, Chattanooga, TN
  • Vanderbilt University Program, Nashville, TN
  • Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University Program, Richmond, VA
  • University of Virginia Program, Charlottesville, VA
  • The University of Wisconsin Emergency Medicine Program, Madison, WI

Chuck Taylors: A Tradition Continues

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School Shopping with the girls–they dig it!  Me, not so much. But today…oh, today was a good shopping day. As we passed the Chuck Taylor display at Kohl’s, my kiddos squealed in delight and asked if they could try them on. Truth be told, I got a little misty. Those who knew me in high school may remember I had very nearly every color of Chuck Taylor tennis shoes ever created (including the super-duper high tops, you know with the bright yellow that folded over the electric orange. God, I loved those.). Those of you who didn’t know me then, may have guessed from my blog header that I’m a fan. Oh, am I.  My girls went with classic black high tops.

Feast Your Eyes!

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I swear they asked me if they could be all matchy-matchy. I would never encourage it! But won’t my mom be pleased!

Happy Go Lucky

Poppy Thanks in part to my Facebook friends, I did not go see The Time Traveler’s Wife. I loved the book. This means, I know, that I should preserve that sentiment and not see the movie. The problem is that I love movies. I mean I LOVE them. So often times that trumps all reason and off I go.  But last night, I resisted. And I’m glad.

Josh and I watched Happy Go Lucky. I was thinking it would be a love story like Amalie, only less stylized and more formulaic. I was wrong. The love story aspect was only one small piece. It had a lot to do with love, though. Loving life. I asked Josh, “What do you think that movie was about?” He goes, “It was about that girl. That scene where Poppy (the main character, in that photo to the left she’s learning the Flamenco) goes to see her big sister.” The sister character is severe, controlling, and pregnant. The sister tells Poppy (she’s 30) that she needs to grow up, get a mortgage, and find someone to have babies with. Poppy laughs and smiles as she does throughout the entire movie and says something to the effect of “I’m happy, I’m lucky, I enjoy my freedom.” And she does. But what I really liked about  this character is that she faces head on the difficulties and harshness of life (caring for and helping one of her students who’s a bully, engaging in a delicate conversation with a homeless crazy man, confronting her violent driving instructor). These things clearly weigh on her, even endanger her, and she still chooses happiness.

I felt the same way about Julia Child in the movie Julie and Julia. My favorite moment in that movie was when Julia Child is reading a letter aloud to her husband. It’s from her sister and she tells Julia that she’s pregnant. Julia begins to cry and it’s clear how much she wishes she could have had babies, yet through her noisy crying she’s saying how happy she is for her sister while her husband comforts her. Again, fighting to choose the happiness in life.

These kinds of characters are so lovable to me and they make me want to be a better person. I relate so much.  Happiness is hard to get a handle on long-term. It’s slippery or something. Josh and I have often have a conversation that goes like this:

Josh: Are you happy in life?

Me: (quickly because I’m happy to being paid attention at that moment) Yeah. Are you?

Josh: (slowly because he’s deep like that) That’s such a hard question.

And then I think, man, our kids are going to be so confused. Well, today, Magnolia was listening to our conversation about the Happy Go Lucky movie. (She’s eight.) And as Josh was talking about how Poppy loved life, Magnolia said, “When I think about death, I love my life.” I was like, um, holy crap I don’t know what to say to that. So I just nodded and said, “That’s good.” I don’t think she’s confused at all. And if you ask anyone that knows us, I bet they’d say she’s the happiest one in the family. They’d be right.