Here’s the rough draft beginning of my new novel – does it hook you or leave you limp?
In retrospect I should have asked Kai if the dogs prefer cheddar or peanut butter flavored treats before he stopped talking to me and moved to California. Because now I have this job interview–the most amazing, thank my lucky stars job interview–and I can’t decide which treats to line my pockets with. Kai could easily tell me which flavor the pups like best. But he won’t answer my texts. Or phone calls. Probably because I was such a hysterical shrew about everything that happened between us. So I’m stuck standing here in my interview outfit with a bag of dog treats in each hand, wishing I hadn’t burned the flavor preference bridge.
Stressed and indecisive, I step away from the treat bags and dial Tami’s number on my cell. She answers all cheerful and unstressed, baby Henry’s cooing noises audible in the background.
“Hey Tam, should I take cheddar or PB treats?”
She laughs at me. I’m an hour away from a life-defining job interview and my best friend is laughing at my inability to make a decision.
“Take some of both, Bryn. This is not heart-valve replacement surgery. I mean, it’s super amazing that you’re about to meet someone so rich and famous, and I’m rooting for you one hundred percent. But at the end of the day it’s just an interview.”
“I know, I know. But I need the dogs to really like me.”
“All dogs like you. Including the human male variety, which is already an advantage if this guy is anything like his tabloid image. And you’ve already met these dogs, remember?”
“Yes, but it’s been months since I’ve seen them and Neel Singh has no idea I already know them. I have to pretend like I’m meeting them for the first time. So in my mind right now they are dog-strangers I have to impress. There’s a lot riding on this first impression and I have to program myself to get it right.”
I imagine the eye roll that accompanies the next moment of silence from my closest friend. “I think you might be over-complicating this, Bryn. Please, please do me a favor and stop stressing. Are you wearing the gray silk suit?”
I sigh, glancing at my reflection in the full length mirror on the back of my bedroom door. “Yes. But you know it’s gonna get slobbered on.”
“You can buy two more silk suits with what you get paid if you get this job. Best foot forward! What have you done with your crazy hair?”
My blonde curls, inherited from my Austrian grandmother, are not unlike Medusa’s serpentine locks. Though admittedly when the humidity is just right they can accidentally look pretty fantastic. “French twist, hairsprayed into submission.”
“Sounds like you’re ready! Take both treat flavors and calm the hell down.”
“Right. Okay. Cheddar and PB. Thanks Tam.”
“Henry and I wish you luck. We’ll be crossing our fingers for you. Call me when the interview’s over! We want to hear all about it, don’t we baby boy…yes, yes we do!” Her voice is all sing-song when she talks to Henry. Like how some people do with dogs. Even though I’ve only met Tami’s baby son once, I can imagine her sitting there on the carpet with him in her house in Portland, kissing his chubby hands and feet and chanting sing-song nonsense to amuse him.
Then she’s talking to me again. “Oh, and remember to think before you talk!”
Yes, definitely good advice. “I will, I promise.”
I am giving away Kindle copies of Pronouncing Enzo * Enter to win!
Moms. We look nothing alike. Yet we all know the fierce love that comes with the territory. We don’t always give birth to our children. Sometimes they come to us in other ways. These children of ours. Whether we birthed them or not, there are times they piss us off so royally we can’t see straight. Other times they make us so happy and proud we’re brought to tears of gratitude that they are ours.
When our babies are small we hold them close, make them laugh, nurture them with food, attention, love, music. We share with them what is important to us so they will appreciate the people we are and embrace our values.
Our children get all of us. Our love, our anger, our admiration, our courage, our passion, our irritation; the best and worst we have to offer. They know us in ways we don’t know ourselves. If you want a reality check, ask your kids what they see when they look at you. You will learn that they sense your sadness when you’re going through a hard time. They share your joy when you’re feeling on top of the world. Kids will tell it to you straight, man. Don’t ask unless you’re ready to get real.
We moms are like reverse-Terminators, relentless in our quest to raise our children into humans we can be proud of. We feel the unending responsibility to keep them safe, fed, warm, comforted, educated, happy. But they better say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and use their words, dammit. We taught them that. And you know the thing they do where they’re better behaved around other people than around us? Well, all I can say is, thank God for that!
To every mom who has stayed up all night with a barfing child. To the moms who remember where blankie is when the kid has a melt-down at bedtime and can’t sleep without it. Who have put that sixth band aid on because that darn kid keeps pulling them off so he can get a new band aid. To moms everywhere who keep preparing food for their children, every day, not because they feel like cooking, but because they care too much about their children’s health not to. For the moms who are struggling to provide food for their kids and go without so the little ones will have enough.
To all the moms who get up and keep doing this mom thing every, every day: you are the ultimate gift to your children. Please never forget that this mom thing you do means the world to the people who are most precious to you. They’ll never tell you, of course. You have to remember this for them also. Still, carry in your heart the knowledge of the mom super power you wield: you make your children feel loved like no one else on earth ever will.
I love spring: the birds, the flowers, the gorgeous budding trees. But it heralds the start of my least favorite season: yardworking.
I hate it. I hate the tools. I hate the sweat. I hate the mulch and dirt.
When my husband and I first purchased our home, filled with delight over the concepts of planting flowerbeds, chopping firewood, and growing our own vegetables, we were childless, young, full of energy and romance. I lovingly created flowerbed after flowerbed. Hubby built me a beautiful wooden arbor and enclosure for our vegetable patch. We loved it. We bought a ride-on mower for our acre of lawn – hubby thrilled it boasted a drink-holder. It was fun, it was enchanting, it was new.
Lord, were we foolish. Now each spring arrives with the promise of near-constant weeding, endless lawn mowing, more tree-trimming and shrub-taming. Why did I dig all those damn flowerbeds?? What was once fun and romantic is now dreaded drudgery. I begin each spring by trying to psych myself up into a state of enthusiasm about making the gardens beautiful. Think how lovely the flowers will be if they’re not choked with weeds! It’s a hell of a mental effort. It takes a while, too. I avert my eyes from the poor, neglected front garden as I park in the driveway and ferry grocery bags from trunk to kitchen, deliver children home from school.
I have wonderful memories of playing in the yard with my children when they were small. Racing up and down the lawn, Easter egg hunts, my daughter with her trowel and watering can. My son with his shovel and the hose. They helped me plant and harvest peas, potatoes, bush beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets. They ate veggies sun-warm, straight from the stalks. It was idyllic. It was beautiful. It was a lot of damn work.
Now the children have to be bribed and threatened in order to even consider shifting any dirt to make room for a tomato seedling. I think perhaps we’ve all entered a state of disenchantment with the garden. Yes, we love for it to be beautiful, but can we please pay someone else to maintain it?
We’re too cheap for that, so the trick – as with most dreaded tasks – is just to get started with it already. Crank some music on the Ipod, stick the earbuds in, don the work gloves and get digging, mowing, hacking, chopping, and try not to fantasize about that day in the future when you’ll live in a yardless condo. Yes, that day will be awesome. But right here, right now, enjoy pulling the damn weeds while you’re still young enough to do it.
And the thing is, once I give in and start working, it’s kinda okay. Maybe even a little satisfying and therapeutic. Maybe. And I love when the local nursery is finally stocked up with annuals and we force the kids into the car to go there and we let them each pick out a bunch of flowers. We bring the blooms home and cajole the kids into planting their choices in pots, watering them, and standing back to survey their efforts. And I love that smile my soil-smudged children wear when they agree that yes, the colorful beauty was worth the trouble after all.
“How am I going to pack my cobra?” A question I never thought I’d hear from my dear friend and travel companion, much less have a ready answer for.
“Give it to me, I’ll pack it in with mine.”
Snakes in my suitcase. Only in India would I find myself attempting to pack two cobras into my luggage. Okay, they are made of wood, gifts for my son and hers. Still, we did see a live cobra in Jaipur. A sad and lonely looking creature captive to a ‘snake charmer’ who kept jostling it back into position in hopes of getting more rupees from his audience.
India, a land whose culture I am only beginning to understand after two weeks in-country. People I respect and am baffled by. Animals I admire and feel compassion for.
I am grateful for the constant feast for my senses, the smells, the spices, the rich colors, the vibrant and friendly people. The beautiful landscape and stunning architectural gems, both ancient and modern.
Seeing barefoot children at school, grateful and excited.
Knowing this is their lunch:
And this is their playground:
Yet taking in the happy faces of both children and teachers.
A place of contradiction, where one can meet scrappy eight-year-old kids hawking souvenirs to tourists during school hours; beggars clutching scrawny, naked babies; skinny puppies dead by the roadside, and men sitting in the dirt in a hot, dark room working long hours cutting sheets of aluminum with a bare spinning blade and no safety equipment.
Or beautifully accomplished swirling dancers, friendly tour guides filled with hospitality and kindness, spice merchants haggling merrily with local customers, or excited fans waiting outside the homes of Bollywood stars for their idols to appear.
Inspiring and desolate, generous and cruel, hospitable and unforgiving. I know there is much more to India than I will ever see or experience. I am grateful for what it has given me, for my time spent appreciating the many puzzles and gifts of this gem of a country. And for the many unusual questions I never thought I’d hear or give voice to.
India has never been on my top ten list of places I want to visit. It’s not that I’m against it, I just have so many other places I want to go.
So why am I leaving for India in two days?
One, the new novel I’m writing includes Indian characters and takes place largely in Mumbai, India.
Two, the trip fell into my lap in a way that made it more affordable to go.
Three, when I started researching Mumbai for my book, I realized their cultural differences are fascinating. So the chance to go investigate first-hand is irresistible.
My generous husband is aiding and abetting me by taking two weeks off work to be Daddy-Mom.
I might also never get another chance to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Or ride an elephant. See a ‘pink city’. Experience a camel safari in the desert. Or get jam-packed into a bustling, polluted city of 22 million energetic souls where holy cows can stop traffic.
To do all this I will have to avoid the dreaded ‘Delhi-belly’ foreigners can get from drinking water or eating foods contaminated with bacteria and germs our bodies can’t handle. While that alone might be reason enough to be wary of visiting India, hopefully the reward will outweigh the risk.
So Monday I’m flying to India…and praying I stay healthy enough to enjoy it.
Six days left to enter the Pronouncing Enzo Book Giveaway on Goodreads!
In case you’ve never checked out Goodreads, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Book Giveaways going on there at any given moment. If there’s a chance you might get one that looks good for free, why not throw your hat in the ring?
To those of you who have already read Pronouncing Enzo, many many thanks, and I’d love to hear what you thought!
To celebrate my birthday I am throwing a Book Giveaway on Goodreads for the month of February!