Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Stigma of the Stay-At-Home Mother

After my first novel, This Little Mommy Stayed Home, came out, I went to a number of book groups. The women in the groups were both working and stay-at-home mothers, bright and educated, warm and welcoming. I still remember what a woman said to me at one of those special gatherings:

"I was embarassed to read the book in public. I didn't want anyone to see the cover."

The woman loved the book; that wasn't the problem. She simply felt ashamed to have others know she was reading it! It's pretty scandalous, as you can see.

People often say to me, "I wouldn't read it. I don't stay home." Or, "I won't read it. I'm not a mother."
But if that is how we choose books than who in the world would read about vampires? We don't have any of those and yet vampire books top the charts. And what of the popularity of the 50 Shades books? Does that mean that the US has a massive population of S&M devotees?

Shall we give up reading Shakespeare since men don't any longer wear tights? Will all the murder mystery addicts stop reading such books unless they plan on murdering themselves? And the women who devour romance novels, they do it because they have so much romance in their own lives, right?

Of course not! Reading opens worlds to people and people love to read outside of their own immediate experience. We don't read about SAHMs because we think they aren't worth reading about.

At a recent book talk for my second novel, I'll Take What She Has, a woman said to her friend at the end of the talk that she would not buy the book for her daughter--as she had planned--because the book has a happy stay at home mother. "It's too upsetting. My daughter just went through it. I can't get it for her."

How can it be that people, men and women, can read novels about war, rape, abduction, crimes, disasters, blood-suckers, violence, alcoholism, and tragedy, and yet few of the same people can face the dreaded STAY-AT-HOME mother?

Occasionally, people like to tell me that no stigma exists for the SAHM. I completely disagree. Recent news coverage and the conversation about "opting-out" make it seem as if at-home mothering belongs exclusively to the owning class. This isn't true. There are SAHM in every single social and economic bracket. Some mothers stay home voluntarily, and some involuntarily. Some mothers can't find work, and some mothers could find work that wouldn't cover the cost of daycare, and some mothers could find work that would but choose to stay home and live on less.

SAHMs exist in a world that others are not interested in. The work of the mother possesses a tremendous invisibility. Mothers labor in solidarity with other invisible workers, like day-care providers and cleaners and manual laborers. The now cliched question of the SAHM, "What did you do all day?" raises the central issue of how we place value.

Money=value. It's a cultural truism. The less you get paid, the less your work is worth.
Rocking your child to sleep? Zero.
Someone else rocking your child to sleep? $8 an hour.
Spending a week with your children teaching them to camp, swim, bike and hike. Zero.
Sending your kids to a week of outdoor camp: $350.
(I'm sure you could come up with more and better examples.)

The work of SAHMs garnishes no wages, but this does not mean it has no worth. The problem dwells with our thinking about worth and value. Changing how we think about work has the potential to change how we treat all kinds of people, including the most impoverished, and gives us the opportunity to properly restore to each individual their due sense of inherent worth and value.

If someone handed me a novel and said, "Read this. It's really funny, and uplifting and entertaining" and I said, "What's it about?" and they said, "A potato farmer," and I said, "No, thanks. I'm not a potato farmer," then I would have a problem.

We have a cultural problem. Even--and maybe especially--mothers and at-home mothers carry this stigma and apply it to one another. If you don't feel valuable, it's hard not to be embarrassed by your work in the world. Sometimes, the at-home mothers I know will comment about how difficult it is not to "be someone." When they had paid work, even if it wasn't particularly life-changing, they mattered. Now taking care of children, they don't.

This isn't famine. As my husband likes to point out, I get to take the kids to the beach while he goes to work. I'm not complaining; I'm illustrating something true that can change and when it does, can bring improvement to all of our lives.

It seems like from a journalistic perspective, the working versus at-home issue has exhausted itself. It has! And it never was the right issue to begin with. We need to dig down and repair the underlying and destructive beliefs that have led us to be more upset by a book about a happy at-home mother than one about a serial rapist. In that process, we need to transform our thinking about value, work, and children. We need to take the god of money off of his throne and not merely give hot air to certain ideas--"the greatest things in life aren't things"--but illuminate the dark corners of our prejudice and uncover new ways of being people in the world.

We need to read more books about stay-at-home mothers.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What are women for?

I checked in with my blog and discovered that I hadn't visited in several weeks which always begs the question: what WAS I doing?

Well, I planted a vegetable garden and got six chicks and changed 213 diapers and attempted to potty train and worked on a new novel, taught some yoga classes, officiated at a wedding, preached a sermon, read three books and washed my kitchen floor.

I also blogged for some other places. I'm up today to support the amazing organization MotherWoman in their 'Advocating for Mothers' campaign, at Huffington Post with a piece called, "What Are Women For?" I love this piece and wonder what other mothers think.

I also made a confession at She Reads in my Tell Me Something True piece. This is another one of my favorite posts--and favorite sites--close to my heart and my work.

So while I am ambitiously under-achieving in the blogosphere, I have done something!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What Does A Mother Know?

Let's start with the envy. That's always a good place to begin. I envy the perfectly compelling, intriguing, spot-on title of Leslie Lehr's latest novel, What a Mother Knows. What does a mother know? It's such a meaty question.

Lehr is the prizewinning author of the novels, What A Mother Knows, 66 Laps and Wife Goes On, plus three nonfiction books, including Welcome to Club Mom, must know something. Her essays have appeared in anthologies such as Mommy Wars, The Honeymoon's Over, and On Becoming Fearless. She was the screenwriter of the romantic thriller, "Heartless" and wrote "Club Divorce" for Lifetime. She has a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, an MFA from Antioch, and teaches in the world renowned Writers Program.

Here's the story:
How far will a mother go to protect her daughter?
Michelle Mason can’t remember that day, that drive, that horrible crash that killed the young man in her car. All she knows is she’s being held responsible, and her daughter is missing.
Despite a shaky marriage, a threatening lawsuit, and troubling flashbacks pressing in on her, Michelle throws herself into searching. Her daughter is the one person who might know what really happened that day, but the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of those closest to her, even herself. As her search hurtles towards a shattering revelation, Michelle must face the biggest challenge of her life.

I'm so excited to have Lehr visiting for my Mothers' Month and giving away a copy of the novel. I asked her a few questions.

You write a lot about mothers, from Welcome to Club Mom, to Nesting, to What A Mother Knows. Why?
There is so much to write about! I have two daughters. I thought I was ready going into it, but no. Motherhood is overwhelming. 

What’s the first book you remember reading?
Are You My Mother  - the one where the little bird asks everyone, even a tractor, if it his mother. So sad – and so happy when he finds her. Hmm, maybe that’s why I write about mothers so much. Wanting one, being one, needing one.

What would you say is your biggest writing quirk?
I have to have popcorn and Diet Pepsi, no matter what time of day it is.

What does success mean to you?
Gong to bed with a smile on my face.

Where are you from and what do you love best about your hometown?
I’m from Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, and the best part of growing up there is the Fourth of July. Every neighborhood has a float for the parade and a van goes around in the morning with a loud speaker waking everyone up in time. Then there are neighborhood BBQ’s and town swimming races and ice cream socials, and of course, fireworks. I moved to LA on purpose, but I wish my kids could experience that. Excuse me while I get plane tickets…

What is the best part of your web site? 
I like that book clubs can contact me for a Skype visit. Most people like the lemon bar recipe.  They’re in the story, so my friend Cathy made four dozen for my launch party this week. They were gone in minutes.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
You can’t fail until you quit. Thanks, Dad!

To win a copy of What A Mother Knows leave a comment here on the blog or on my Facebook author site. What does a mother know? Tell me one thing in your comment!

And visit Leslie on her website
Find her on Facebook
Tweet with her on twitter @leslielehr1 
and get your book group together for a Skype visit with her. Sounds awesome! Thanks, Leslie. I can’t wait to read it.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Save The Happy Mother!

I read this article today in the Puffington Post and it alarmed me so much that I am starting my own  campaign to save the happy mothers. Read the facts below. I think you'll agree that this is a pressing (and depressing) problem we all need to immediately address.

Happy Mothers Join The Endangered Species List
by Materna Ty

The latest news from the Hew Center for Public Research indicates a alarming reduction in the number of happy mothers. The numbers have declined so significantly over the past decade that studies suggest only one hundred such mothers are left in existence. This means, for the first time in human history, the happy mother has become an endangered species.

"How can this be?" asks researcher Pilly Fussle of Serious University, home to the Mother Think Tank, Yo, Mama. "Truthfully, none of us are surprised. For nearly a century, maternal satisfaction has been in steady decline. Women continue to become mothers, but the existence of the happy mother occurs less and less often."

In order to locate happy mothers, a team of fifty researchers had to search the globe for six months. "We found the fewest number of Happy Mothers (HM) in the U.S.," says Fussle. "The greatest number live in Australia."

But Yo, Mama only studies the existence of such mothers. They refuse to draw conclusions as to the reasons. For that, you have to turn to sociologist and psychologist Bernafrette Muddleton, the preeminent doctor of theories of human endangerment. "There's a lot of pressure to be a happy mother," wrote Muddleton in a official press release. "What's so funny about poopy diapers, fear of kidnapping, teenage drinking and laundry? Nothing. That's what. I haven't been a happy mother since my children weren't born. The only truly happy mother I know had a lobotomy." Later, she retracted her statements, explaining that she'd forgotten to take her anti-depressant that morning and that none of her conclusions had to do with her findings as a professional.

"Motherhood can be isolating, dehumanizing, exhausting and confusion," said the famous novelist of mother fiction, Samantha Wilde. "This is a cultural problem that demands a cultural solution. Happy motherhood isn't an impossibility. Motherhood contains a preponderance of joy. What needs to change is our definition of the successful life. Devoting at least some of our years to nurturing children is in the best interest of the whole human community; mothers need to be elevated and supported. When that happens, the happy mother will roam free on the planet."

Other mothers didn't express such a positive attitude or use four syllable words to show off. "Who has time to be happy?" said mother of four Ruru Newstick. "I don't even have time to read your silly article." Said Oprah, "This is a national tragedy. And I'm really glad I never had any kids myself. Because I like being happy. It really sells my magazine."

In the wake of the shocking news, a Nebraska mother of twelve, Sunester Sunnyside, has created an organization called, Save The Mothers, that has already raised a million dollars, proving that, while they might not be a happy people, no one gets more done than a busy mother.

We asked Sunnyside if she's one of the few HM alive today. "I am," she told the Puffington Post in an exclusive interview that lasted six hours on account of her being constantly interrupted by her multitude of children. What's the secret to her joy? "Kids are fun," she said while nursing. "I laugh with them. I lowered my expectations about other stuff, a clean house, professional success, material wealth. We spend lots of time together just playing. I also taught my children to pick up after themselves. My husband supports me. And when it gets rough, I take a time-out in my bedroom, lock my door, and eat a bon-bon. It's a good life. Children bring out the care-free child-like side in me. I skip and hug and kiss and cry every day. What other adult can say that?"

Sunnyside confirmed her status as the exception by serving the entire Puffington Post media time home-squeezed lemonade and brownies her teenagers made. She seemed virtually unbelievable. "Look," she said, "go see how dirty my bathroom is. We all have to make choices, set priorities. I can't wait to help other mothers reclaim their natural joy."

To accomplish those efforts, Sunnyside is using the funds raised to start a Happy Mother Commune where families will live together and share childcare responsibilities. "You know why a mother is depressed? Because she can't leave her house to buy a stick of butter without an ordeal! Freedom and joy will come with community, connection, and sharing the burden. Now, if you don't mind, I need to go change a diaper." To reach Sunnyside, drive to Nebraska. She doesn't get internet yet.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

This Stuff Makes Me Crazy!

Okay, mothers, what I'd really like to do for you for my Mothers' Month is come and help you clean your house. Wouldn't that be an awesome gift? Since I can't, here's the next best thing, the permission to live with less mess.

Well, I can't possibly be the only mother overwhelmed by STUFF. And by stuff I mean: toys, clothes, books, and treasures (otherwise known as rocks, dirt, small pieces of paper and tiny, plastic objects). Where did all this stuff come from? I have probably, in seven years, bought my children collectively one toy and ten outfits and yet my house teems with it.

Photo by Bill Longshaw courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
Here's my problem with stuff: it consumes way more of my time than I want it to. I love playing with my children, reading to them, dancing with them, cooking with them, making art with them, running around the yard with them and having them give me back rubs (just kidding on that last one). I do spend time doing those things. The trouble is I spend an awful lot of time cleaning up their toys, tripping over their toys, putting books back on shelves, trying to find homes for random objects, and feeling, occasionally, defeated by the sheer quantity in our house.

I wish I could look away. I wish it didn't bother me so much. I wish I didn't want to live in the 1850s when kids had three toys and all slept together in one bedroom. But let's be honest, life with children IS different now than it has been for, essentially, the entire length of human history. The kind of product rich lives even children with parents of modest incomes enjoy didn't exists one hundred years ago. Sometimes I think about how hard it must have been for women without washing machines and dishwashers. On the other hand, they had a two room house and instead of ten balls for the kids to toss, they had one. Also, how hard was it to clean the outhouse? Just let it stink!

All of us have to spend some time cleaning up and putting away and taking care of the things we possess and love. And it's great for kids to have toys and enjoy them. But I'd venture to guess that a lot of women's lives--mother's lives--would be easier if the house didn't froth with objects. Can we give ourselves permission to have less? Can we begin to redefine a good life? Can we pass on what we don't need, get rid of what's broken, and let children enjoy the best and simplest of toys: boxes and blankets?

I don't know about you, but I need permission to free myself from some of this stuff, and if you need it too, Mama, I want to give it to you. Your life is good and full of love. Let's fill our houses with the stuff that doesn't get dusty, use batteries quickly, break under pressure, or end up forgotten on the floor. All that good stuff: love and time and laughter and peace.

Now there's some good, free advice that won't clog your toy box! Are you with me?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mother's Day? Mother's Month! May is for Mothers.

This is the mother of all months, the month for all mothers. It's May and I am dedicating my online presence for the month of May to the millions upon millions of mothers on the planet. Every day in May, either on my Facebook author site or on the blog, I will post about mothers and for mothers. I'll also be giving away books, a book bag, chocolate and maybe a few surprises. Join me by subscribing to this blog or liking me on Facebook so you don't miss a post! Then share me with mothers in your life--especially the ones who need a boost.

I'm kicking off the month with a live performance tomorrow at the MotherWoman fundraising breakfast of my Motherhood Is Meaningful Manifesto, which I'll perform with the amazing artist, minister writer and radio host, Alysia Crosby. For those who aren't at the breakfast, a link to a video of the piece will be available soon after and it WILL empower you.

I'm up from some reader participation, too. If you make something or have something that mothers would enjoy or benefit from, how about giving a few away this month to other mothers? Just leave me a comment or send off an email and help me to nurture the mothers.

As a prelude to my mothers month, here's my own mother, author Nancy Thayer, with a few words about cheese in what has become The Cheese Wars on Chick Lit Chit Chat.

A mother's love is always cheesy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Read about my cheese!

I am with the amazing Julie Valerie today at Chick Lit Chit Chat talking cheese. Something I know nothing about. And doesn't that make a great post?

I'm also giving away a signed copy on her site of I'll Take What She Has. Click the link below, enjoy the cheese talk and enter to win a copy.

Here it is!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Oh, Mama, you can't say the F-word!

I'm talking about mamas, motherhood, writing about women's issues, and that dreaded F-word, Feminism, with the wonderful women of Yeah, What She Said.

"Yeah, What She Said is Calgary’s only feminist/women’s radio program. Each week your hosts Jennie, Allison, Cherise and Emily explore various issues that affect women locally, nationally and globally.
As the voice of Calgary’s feminist community we inform you about upcoming events and interview local women who are doing amazing things. We also bring you women’s stories and news from around the globe, exploring a wide range of feminist topics from serious issues like prostitution to fun shows on pop culture.
Most importantly, we give a voice to women, introduce the public to feminist ideas, and hopefully leave you questioning, thinking and wanting to know more!"

Listen in.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Am Trying To Say Something About What Matters

Where have I been this past week?

I made a mini-movie. I want you to share it with every mother you know.

I got to visit the awesome Luxury Reading site with a guest post: Monsters, Dragons, Castles, And Other Things I Don’t (Really) Write About. 
When you visit, stay awhile. There is so much to read. It's a wonderful resources for book lovers.

You can find out five things you probably didn't know about me at the lovely Shelf Pleasures site. I just love their web decor. I also wrote a piece for them about the journey I'll Take What She Had took to get to publication called The Little Book That Could.

I got truly gleeful seeing my book on the new release table at Amherst Books, my favorite local store where I order all my books.

I spent my blogging April Fool's day with the fabulous women's fiction writer Marilyn Brant on her Brant Flakes blog. If you need a laugh, read this!

Tomorrow I go for an interview for the Boston television program The Literati Scene. 
It will air in May and I'll keep everyone posted for that!

I can't wait to visit Book Ends in Winchester, MA for a reading and signing April 29 at 7 p.m. I hope all my Boston area friends will come out and have a book party with me!

In all this doing, I really am trying to say something about what matters to me, that in my work and life I can speak into the lives of other mothers and women with humor and honesty.  Let me know if I can come talk to your book group or your local bookstore. Book groups that are far away can have a virtual/Skype visit. Help keep me busy, please! My children certainly don't ;-)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Size Has Nothing To Do With It

So the Duggars are back on TV which means I have something to watch and all my friends have some ammunition for making fun of me.

I have been open and honest about my love for the Duggars for years. I think it could make a great headline: "Feminist Liberal Loves Conservative, Republican Clan-Family." It's also nice to give my friends and family a reason to think I'm crazy because then they can feel better about themselves and, as everyone knows, I'm all about helping people feel good.

Quick re-cap for the Duggar-trivia impaired. They are a family with 19 children born from the same woman. They have fans (for their TLC show and two books), and they have detractors. When I first learned about them my husband said to me, "Google 'my vagina is a clown car.'" The kind of outrage they inspire is not hard to imagine.

One of the criticisms against the family comes from those who say that no child in a family of that size can receive the love and care he or she needs. Often those who oppose the "Duggar lifestyle" go on to describe their own experience coming from a large family and how terrible it was.

I have a friend who came from a family of eight--neglect, alcoholism, abuse. She hates large families. I have another friend who came from a similar family of eight (similar in culture, religion, age), and she loves large families. She felt cherished and enjoyed having so many siblings. I constantly ask the people I meet who come from larger families: what was it like? My conclusion based on this very casual research: size has nothing to do with family happiness.

Do you know anyone from a small family who had a bad childhood? Who felt unloved? Neglected? Overlooked? Ignored? That their parents didn't have time for them? It is very clear to me that what matters is not, in any way, the number of children, but the parents and family culture (as well as the personality of the child).

Recently I read the fascinating memoir, Call The Midwife, about a midwife working in the London dock community in the 1950s. Family size, in that area at that time, averaged six or seven. She even writes of a mother of 25 children. Yes, 25! And she says that this was a happy family full of happy children who she never heard argue!

The revelation to me (and confirmation) in the book came around family-size. Most of the families she served endured such unthinkable, impoverished living conditions that you shudder just to read it. Families with the exact same circumstances had wildly different attitudes to life, happiness, children, the world.

Frankly, I don't think a child feels loved or unloved based on the number of siblings. And if you don't believe me, go talk to your only children friends. By that theory, all only children ought to grow up feeling the most loved, secure, confident and cared-for of any children. We all know how untrue that is! Only children grow up to experience sorrow, depression, frustration and anger at their parents (um, just like people from every other family size). The Duggars are an exceptional family, but not simply in their number. The kind of industry, ambition, collaboration and ethic they live (whether you agree with it or not) justifies their popularity. They really are unique.

What do you think about family size? What was your experience in your family? I'm collecting date, so please tell me! I truly want to know.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wake Up, Celebrity! You Are Trending.

During my photo shoot I looked like this:

Mostly, I look like this:

Actually, this is a staged photo. I gathered up every source of chocolate in the house. But even if it wasn't a real moment in time, it captures a real feeling.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself mentioned on Celebrity Balla next to the words, "celebrity" and "trending." Looking at this, made my day.

10 Updates

I’ll Take What She Has

Source: 5 Minutes for Books, Mar 7 2013, 1:24pm CST
The grass is always greener on the other side, so the saying goes. For the boarding school staff characters in Samantha Wilde’s new novel, , this is sometimes more than just a passing thought, especially as they see others getting just what the ...
Continue reading on: 5 Minutes for Books

My book is celebrity trending news! I heart this idea.

The link comes from a wonderful review of the novel by Dawn Mooney of 5 Minutes for Books who writes: "Wilde clearly has given a lot of thought to the whole stay-at-home vs. work-outside-the-home roles moms can take, and I like how she even has her characters show conflicting thoughts on what works best for individuals. I’ll Take What She Has entertains and perhaps even helps provide some perspective– that grass might not always be as green as we imagine!"
And thanks also to the wonderful women of Novel Escapes. They reviewed I'll Take What She Has and gave it 4.5 stars: "I loved Samantha Wilde’s first novel This Little Mommy Stayed Home so I was eager to get stuck into her new novel and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll Take What She Has felt original, fresh and honest in both the characters and the plot so I was completely hooked."

So am I a celebrity making trending news or WHAT?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Six Chanes to Win the Book, I'm on the Radio, and I'm Admitting All Kinds of Things

What am I so excited about in this picture? Is it how I'm strengthening my belly muscles in that pose? No, it's my Media Madness Saturday. I am EVERYWHERE today. Oprah called and I said, "Lady, I can't do another thing." Six chances to win my novel! I'm on the radio! And I'm making all sorts of confessions. Check it out:

Find out who I envy when I wish I could kill one of my characters (but I can't) at Jungle Red Writers. Today I give away a book to the best envy story.

 I'm having my coming out at the Debutante Ball. I will publicly announce what animal I want to be.

Over at Free Book Friday they are giving away FIVE autographed copies of my book. And I say outrageous things like: "Show me a woman who hasn't envied and I'll show you a mannequin!"

And do not miss my interview with the wonderful Julie Joyce of Book Talk Radio. I love that woman! I could have talked to her all day. Find out why she wanted to talk to me about poop, my mother, Michelle Duggar and my own awakening. Listen in live at noon today at WMRN where it will also air again later in the day. If you miss it, you can listen anytime to the archived version at Book Talk Radio.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sex-Therapy, Missing Grandmothers, Infertility, Proper Foot Wear, and Your Inner Child

I wrote a book. Some people would classify it as "chick lit." I love chick lit. I like hens, too. But what's the problem with that title? People think a book classified as "chick lit" isn't about anything of substance. Or maybe they think it's about chickens lit on fire. Either way, not helpful.

I'll Take What She Has covers many topics in it's enthralling plot, among them, missing grandmothers, infertility, sex-therapy, and proper foot wear. If that isn't the stuff of The National Book Award, I don't know what is.

But one heart in the book, one thread of substance, concerns a mother, Annie, struggling with how to parent her energetic, strong willed daughter Hannah. My friends, there is nothing romantic about parenting a candidate for the World Wrestling Entertainment Network. Any parent of a powerful tycoon-tot knows that trying to mother a difficult child has many adjectives tied to it--chick and lit do not apply.

I like to tell a story in a funny way. Otherwise, we might as well all cry. And I don't like crying. In the words of an old friend of mine, "it makes me feel sad." I want to infuse the world with joyfulness and so I wrote a funny book about the agonizing struggle of coming to terms with the dreadful, appalling, and alarming fact (if you are not a parent yet, don't read these words): YOU CANNOT CONTROL YOUR CHILDREN.

The only thing a person can do, in the end, is find a way to make sure that your child, and your child's maniacal moods, don't control you.

Annie is sparked into delving deeper into the issues of her mothering by a book on her shelf: Parenting From the Inside Out. I actually own this book. I even read the first page. The book explores the idea that our own childhood effects our parenting. No lightening bulbs there, naturally, still how many of us simultaneously parent our children and re-parent ourselves? As in, get out your inner child and give her some lovin'!

I love the plot thread of Annie and Hannah. Annie complains a lot. She's funny and sassy and angry. Yet in her relationship with her daughter, in her dedication to figure out how to best mother her unique little girl, her best self gets revealed. Driven by her desire to mother better she examines her own life (who has done this? This is not easy!), her own childhood, her own motivations, and ultimately reckons with her imperfect parents and discovers a way to make peace with them (and those parts inside herself that are not perfect).

"Motherhood is so failure oriented," Annie says in one conversation with her good friend, Suze. That's two mother hens talking, but not about anything lite. Motherhood's messes are a real thing that matter very much, at least to two important people: the mother and the child.

Pulitzer Prize in Mommy Lit? Give it to me, people. I nursed a baby while I wrote the first three chapters of that book! And that's only the beginning.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Give-Away: I'll Take What She Has book trailer

Tell me what you think!
Less than two weeks until the I'll Take What She Has hits the shelves.

If you share the trailer on FB, Tweeter or with your email circles, leave a comment to let me know and you'll be entered to win one of 3 copies of the book. Winner announced on my author Facebook site next week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


In another reality, I am the writer who looks at a bad review of her book, rolls her eyes, says, "that reviewer has no taste," and goes on with her life.

In this one, OUCH!

No matter how many times I see a negative online review of one of my books, I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has never been easy for me to feel un-liked but to do so publically? Ah! Picture me screaming all the way to the Pennsylvania Amish. No secret that I love those people and they are a community for whom fame and celebrity do not exist--on purpose taken out of the social environment.

The interesting thing about putting yourself out there in any form, which I do with my writing and in ministry and in teaching (as opposed to mothering where at least my failures are private), is how the contours of emotion change with the wider audience. If I have a bad day with my children and don't feel I'm the super-mom I long to be, I take a bath, read a book, say a prayer, and try again the next day with renewed intentions. If I get a bad review for a book I've already written by a random reader?

It is important to me, since I wrote a novel about envy and am talking a lot about envy now online, to share this dismal, unhappy piece of writing and publication because I do actually believe--as I hope my newest novel ultimately conveys--that green grass proves itself a myth. Those with one hundred likes on facebook want two hundred. Those with one thousand want two thousand those with fifty thousand want a hundred thousand. When I struggle with that sense of dejection and rejection, I get to bring my spiritual practice into my writing life, haul up the work of letting go into the work of self-promo.

At the end of the day, I actually like the book I wrote. Is it the best book I could ever write? I don't think so, but it is funny and it is true, and for many years I created and recreated (for 4 editors!) a story that means something to most people. Here it is:

You will not get everything you want. You will not get what she has. You will get this imperfect life and if you pay attention you may find a way to love it. And that will be enough.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Mother-Religion

The spiritual teacher Byron Katie says that if she had a religion when she was raising her four children it would have been: clean up your socks. Because, of course, that's all she said, all the time (or so it seemed) and because of how much it mattered to her.

I have a mother-religion, too. I know you're all guessing, eat more chocolate, but alas, that's simply my personal coping mechanism, and I hardly ever share my best chocolate with my children, anyway.

No, my religion when it comes to children is this: GO outside.

My angel. This morning.
 I could probably count on two hand the days, since I first gave birth to my first son six-and-a-half years ago, we stayed inside. I have a clear memory of taking my two oldest children, before my third was born, out to the woods behind our house. The thick snow encrusted in ice barely gave below our feet. They must have been two and four years old. I bundled them, took a camera, and let them play in the frozen magic of the trees. I let them use the camera and discover the separate shades of white the sun reveals in the snow. How cold was that day? Bitter cold. We had a good time.

I am the mother who says to a cold child wanting to go in, "Move around. Five more minutes." I hadn't realized the strength of my religion until my husband pointed it out a few months ago. Our lazy Saturday morning drawing in toward lunch time began to give me hives (as tends to happen any day we haven't been out by noon). We needed the fresh air. Children belong outside! They're like dogs! They need to be out, running, every day. My husband said to me: "You're really intense about going outside."

Ah. So I am.

In her book, Raising Happiness, Christine Carter writes: "All told, over the last two decades chidlren hae lost eight hours per week of free, unstructured, and spontaneous play." When I am outside with my children, something I do every day with few exceptions (I even have sick children play outside. When my sick children play outside they "magically" act all better. Hmmm...), I play with them. I don't think about or do the laundry or the cooking or try to tidy the toys while they un-tidy them faster. I watch them climb trees or practice skipping or play soccer or find a slug or a rock or a stick or a cloud or a bird.

Perhaps, it is ME who needs this time. Outside, I recover my senses. Even in the cold, even in the rain, even in the sweltering heat, I am more human outside, more free, and most importantly more like a child. So much of my own childhood memories come from being in nature (and this despite the fact that I watched a great deal of TV as a child)...that could be it. Or it could be more profound and more universal, the elemental power of the natural world, the scope of the yard so much greater than the interior of the house. I consider the outside our real play room. When I can't stand the kids for squabbling, when the energy is thick with hostility, when there are hints of boredom, I say: "Let's go."

Yesterday, as the first flakes flew onto our yard, we headed out for a bike/scooter ride/lion hunt. I listened to the sounds of my boots on the newly fallen snow. My daughter wanted to go in before the boys, and I pressed to keep her out. Well, it is my religion. And, in the scheme of things, I consider it a very good one. When we came back inside, we were not the same people. Cheeks pink, hair damp with melting snowflakes, the house itself felt new and welcoming, and I, for one, felt more truly alive.  

What's your mother-religion? I'd love to know!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

This Hand Rocks the Cultural Cradle

Andrea O'Reilly and her daughters
Erin and Casey Oreilly-Conlin at the first slut walk 
in toronto, april 2011.
Do you recognize this feminist mother?

A few years ago, while working on a book about motherhood, I discovered Andrea O'Reilly and the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement. It actually blew my mind. Did YOU know that there is an organization out there studying mothering? The breadth, scope, creativity, originality, compassion and innovation of O'Reilly's work and vision amazes and inspire me. In addition to being an Associate Professor in the School of Women's Studies at York University, she founded the Motherhood Initiative, is herself the editor or co-editor of 14 books, the author of Rocking the Cradle, not to mention the mother of three. I encourage you to spend some time looking at the Initiative's site. Their sister organization Demeter Press is continuously putting out fascinating material, and I truly can't do justice to O'Reilly's achievements here.

All of O'Reilly's work and effort focuses on empowering mothers. This problem I keep coming up against, that the words feminist and mother can't go together, she has worked to fix in scholarly, public, community and academic ways. She even created a course on Motherhood.

Since I became a mother it has been one of my favorite gripes that the role of mother, the work of mothers, the name of mothers, the worries and concerns of mothers, the effort of mothers, the contribution of mothers and the vocation/calling/gift of mothering are all dismissed. It's not simply that they aren't taken seriously, they aren't taken into account at all. Many of the mothers I know personally feel that the LEAST important thing they do is mother. This is a cultural mistake and it makes my heart glad to know that O'Reilly and others are working to correct this perception with the empowering stance of feminism--which, just to remind you, simply means a belief in the equality of the sexes.

In my novels, I have tried to affirm and celebrate motherhood as well as to offer a investigation of the profound, personal, and familial issues that arise with mothering--but in the context of plot and humor and wit and sass. Mothering is deep but it is also very funny--and writing about the truth of a woman's or a mother's experience with levity and laughs in a way that legitimizes the work of the mother is what I have hoped to achieve.

I still want to see what your feminist mothering looks like. Send me a picture for a chance to win both of my novels. And tell me what happens when you start to talk to friends about this issue. Is feminism the "F" word among good mothers?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Next Big Thing

Welcome to the Next Big Thing blog hope where today I am your humble hop host.

This blog hop is a giant game of virtual tag to help readers discover new authors and books to love. For this hop, I was asked to answer 10 question about my next big project. I do have a brand new novel near completion but with 27 days to go until the publication of I'll Take What She Has, there is only one thing on my mind!
Have you ever felt envious and wished you had what *she* does?

Brenda Janowitz tagged me. Check her out because she's awesome. I've tagged three other writers for next week. You can follow their links at the bottom.


1.What's it called?
I'll Take What She Has

2. Where did the idea for I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS come from.
My mother.
I wish this were a joke. But it's not. In the middle of the contract negotiation with Bantam Books (way back in 2007, I think), BB showed interest in a two-book deal. I didn't have a second idea let alone a book. I called my mother. She said write about newlyweds and envy. I said, "I'll call it I'll Take What She Has." I came up with the Cynthia Cypress character (although in the published version she's way toned down) and the rest is history.

3. What genre does your book come under?
Bad-ass hilarious fiction about women's real lives and issues. Is that a genre?

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
If someone is asking me this question, I want to see a six figure check and a red carpet.
Seriously? Oh, man. I haven't watched a movie in ten years. How about Minnie Driver does Nora, I get to play Annie (hey, I'm an excellent actress) Barbie plays Cynthia and Bradley Cooper plays David Hayworth. Betty White can do the MIA grandma. Tina Fey can play the outrageous and disturbed cousin Elle.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Captures the oozing, molten core of American life with profundity and grace.
Oh, woops. Sorry. That was someone else's book AND it was really bad.
My book for real this time: Read it or I will un-friend you on Facebook.
Ha! Just kidding. That was my evil twin. Last time: I'll Take What She Has explores friendship, envy, motherhood and marriage with humor and sass, taking on feminism, working versus at-home motherhood, infertility, married and family love with hilarity, insight, verve and wit.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
Bantam Books, man! All the way. Random House rocks!

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Maybe 6 months. But then I revised it for four different editors for years.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is hard to answer. There is so much women's fiction out there, but this book is funny. It wants to be funny and people think it's funny which makes it different from the women's romance fiction and women's fiction that centers around trauma, death, etc. I usually find books like it, but they are often memoirs. Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette? may be the closest in that it's funny but about serious stuff too, except the NYTs reviewed her and they won't review me unless I dance for them first. I told them I only dance for Facebook fans. They cried.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My running joke is that I wrote a book about envy and had to do a lot of research on the topic. Wanting what others have is almost as human as breathing. And what happens when you envy your friends? Or when you finally get to be friends with the popular girl, but it threatens to ruin your oldest, closest friendship?

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It's full of naked pictures of...my dog. Just kidding! I would never take advantage of a canine like that. One plot line I love in the book is about finding home, a sense of belonging, and Annie and Nora both look for it and find different ways to make it, which includes making peace with imperfect childhoods and zany family members. Annie, in fact, goes to therapy to help with raising a "spirited" child and in the process confronts her own ambivalence about her choices.

Okay, next week's hoppers, consider yourselves tagged!
Nancy Thayer
Jamie Cat Callen
Jordan Rosenfeld

Check out their Next Big Thing posts next Wednesday. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and New Releases.

Happy Writing and Reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Have an old friend? Win a Book

Annie and Nora, the two main characters in my soon-to-be released second novel (called "thoroughly entertaining," "honest, unflinching" and "smart and funny" in early praise) I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS, have been friends since kindergarten and their twenty-five year friendship is at the heart of the novel.

Here's my five-year old best friend. A woman who has known every one of my hairstyles. As children, we loved the Frog and Toad books and somehow, I became Frog and she Toad. Today, she is my sister (I don't have one by blood) and our shared history has an incalculable value.

In celebration of lifetime friendships, I am giving away my last ARC (advanced reader's copy) of I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS, signed and shipped (US only), to one lucky person who leaves a comment either here or on my facebook site and tells me a line or two (or more if you wish) about YOUR Annie/Nora friendship of a lifetime.

Sara's college graduation.
Stay tuned for more historical photos!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How Facebook makes me feel Unsuccesful, Unpopular and (probably) Fat

I want you to know that I never wanted to join Facebook. I wanted to join the Amish but they wouldn't have me since I look bad in a bonnett. But my mother made me do it. She basically said, "I won't send you those weekly six dozen homemade cookies unless you get yourself on Facebook and start making something of yourself!" So let's be honest with each other: I didn't join Facebook to find my lost loves, to spy on my worst enemy or to show anyone cute photos of my kids, I joined to help promote my second novel, I'll Take What She Has, which (according to my publicist, since I've never read the thing), is the best, funniest, most heart-felt and entertaining novel you'll ever read.
Face Book. Of course.

And you know what's happened to me since I became the last American to join Facebook? My self-esteem has plummeted into the earth's core and I have LOST not gained money by having to see a shrink every other day. I know this hasn't happened to you because I've looked you up on Facebook and read all your old blog posts so I know everything about you and your children and the awesome birthday party you threw where you took six thousand photos--so cute, can't wait to get more, :-), LOL!!!, so I'll go ahead and tell you why Facebook has ruined my life.

First, until Facebook, I thought I was pretty popular, doing pretty well in the friendship category. I could host a party and at least two people would show up and if I met an old friend in the grocery store she always said, "Oh, yeah, I think I remember you," so imagine my surprise when I got on Facebook and realized how totally, completely, profoundly unpopular I actually am. How do people get hundreds of friends? I mean, I guess I know how. I thought, if I just look up all my old lovers and get them to be friends with me, then I'll have at least one thousand friends, except I couldn't remember any of their last names which is why I'm going to teach my children NOT to have one-night stands with strangers who leave before sunrise so that when they grow up they won't have to feel like a virtual loser. (Kids: know the name before you do the deed!)

Second, Facebook exposes you to all the people from your past who you couldn't stand the first time around because they were so much better than you only now, because you're friends with them so that at least you don't look like the world's most unloveable human on the planet, you have to be reminded of this fact every time you turn on your computer (which is why after I finish this blog post I'm going to through this computer out the window). I mean, who needs to see messages like this: "I'm so happy! The larger dose of Prozac is amazing!" Or, "Finally kicked my crack addiction, now I can use my billions to buy some stuff I saw on Pinterest" or "My book just hit number one on the bestseller list and yours didn't!" Look, if I wanted to get depressed, I'd read Sylvia Plath. And she'll never unfriend me because she's dead.

Third, I am not fat, but Facebook makes me feel fat. I'll tell you why, because I can hear the intrigue in your silence (and by the way, it's so great that we could have this special moment together, a real heart-to-heart), get ready for it (drum roll, please): it vaporizes your time! And before you know it, once you've read every entry in your newsfeed, looked up every person you ever kissed, your worst enemy, your husband's new secretary (thank God, she's fat, except you had to guess based on her chin because she doesn't have a single picture of herself from the waist down), and all the most unpopular kids you knew in high school (to make yourself feel better, of course, which it doesn't, because it turns out they have more friends than you now), that you have been sitting at the computer for EIGHTEEN HOURS! And during that time, you have done nothing but mindlessly eat Cheez-Its (comfort food, natch), also your toddler has died of starvation and your six year old got stuck in a tree and couldn't come down and your husband run off with a woman who actually engages with him (and what's up with that? You did "like" his latest post, after all), and your mother called to say she's sorry she can't friend you on Facebook but she doesn't want to make herself look bad because she's next in line to be the Best Selling novelist of all time and you'll only drag her down (but she's sure you don't mind and she's sending cookies so your fat ass can just get even bigger!).

Ah, well. Envy. What a good topic for a novel. I should write something about it....
Oh, right, I already did.
And really, normally, I wouldn't ask you to buy my new novel. I'm not that kind of girl. But if you don't go and buy it, I will not be able to continue seeing my therapist for help with my Facebookphrenia. Won't you please help a good cause?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Will Dance for Book Sales

Hello, wonderful blog readers. I'm into my count down for the publication of I'LL TAKE WHAT SHE HAS, and boy, is this an exciting time. I am so thrilled, in fact, that I am dancing, in my mother's words, "like an insane housewife." You can't miss it!
What's all the hoop-la about? The publication of my second novel, which has gone through 5 (!) editors and four years!

Read the first chapter here. And while you're at it, you can pre-order a copy from your favorite book seller (unless you plan to make the book launch and party on February 27 at Odyssey Books, then you can save it for the DAY!).

There will be many opportunities to win the book for free in the upcoming weeks. You can enter for a copy on Library Thing and soon on Goodreads. I will be holding my own giveaway of an advanced reader's copy, and I there is still time to enter the I AM A FEMINIST MOTHER PHOTO CONTEXT AND EXHIBIT, inspired by one of the main characters, Annie.

I hope you laugh!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dear Vice President Biden,

My six year old son woke me up last night after having a bad dream. Soon after I hugged him and got him back to sleep, I feel asleep myself only to wake a short while later from a nightmare about an armed man entering a large wedding reception ready to open fire.

I could not say to myself when I awoke, "don't worry, it's only a dream."

Regardless of the interpretation of the Second Amendment, we can be certain that our forefathers could not imagine the level of violence possible with modern gun technology. Moreover, ours is a country where the safety of many is ALWAYS more important than the rights of a few to recreation.

Take, for example, smoking. If my son's first grade teacher loved to smoke (and, of course, has a right to smoke), and chained smoked while she taught, she would be told that she cannot smoke on school grounds. In fact, we now have rules that smoking is not allowed in most public spaces. Does this inconvenience smokers? Yes. Does it rub up against their freedom? Sure. But is her love of smoking more important than the health of a group of children? Is there anyone who wouldn't answer yes?

You could do the same with drunk driving. Some people might be just fine driving around drunk and if their drunk driving only injured themselves, it wouldn't be a problem. But it doesn't. And so, our rights to drink and drive have been curtailed. Or let's take anthrax. Do I have a right to make it? Or to conjure up some biological weapons of mass destruction in my husband's lab--just in case the end of the world arrives? Or just because I think it's fun? Obviously not.

The right to bear arms is no different. I don't personally like guns, but I don't doubt that some decent human beings think it's great to shoot a gun for fun. But that person is confused if they think that their right to own a weapon that could murder another person is a more important right than my child's right to live when he goes to school. (That person may say, "I would never harm someone else," but then the majority of mass shootings have been committed by legal gun owners and your neighbor's kid could always come steal your gun. I have to say it: it's just not all about YOU.) I'm not saying people can't have guns, just like we're not saying people can't drink or smoke or ride ATVs. I'm saying, guns belong ONLY in shooting galleries. We say that ATVs can go on paths, backroads, open fields, but for the safety of all, they can't go down the highway.

What can't this logic be applied to this issue? If the gun companies are worried about the loss of sales money (and boo-hoo! some people have lost children!), then perhaps they could learn from the car companies and adapt. Car companies faced a crises and responded by making more fuel efficient cars appropriate for this time. The gun companies could start making recreational Nerf guns, because, hey, if you're doing something for fun it really doesn't need to be something that could kill someone else, now does it?

On the day of the Newtown shooting a man stabbed twenty children in a Chinese school, but they all lived. In truth, crazy people will always be around. This is a gun issue and you and the President must be visionaries and leaders to make a permanent change. We have the most gun violence in this country, not because we need MORE guns, but because we have too many. This is not merely opinion. Statistics back it up: "The United States has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations. That's not a coincidence. Looking at developed nations, the U.S. is the end point of a staggering trend where the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds."

I have three young children. If my two year old runs around with a spoon in his mouth, I take it away, not because a spoon is wrong, but because he could hurt himself and spoons belong at the table. Guns belong in the shooting range and nowhere else. I challenge any person to tell me that their right to a massive assault weapon is in the best interest of ANYONE. I won't say the word selfish, but I'll think it.

Thank you for taking firm, revolutionary, history making action which rests upon strong, established policy precedent in this country to preserve the right of each of us to live in peace. You can be brave and stand up against the NRA and if your courage falters, then you can remember the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary. I am sure that will be inspiration enough.

Yours sincerely,