Saturday, December 13, 2014

December. Maybe SUP is not meant to BE.

A quick trip to a Florida beach. Arriving at sunset, we ponder the posted rates for Stand Up Paddleboarding lessons and think, Do we need lessons? Don't we just Stand Up and Paddle The Board? Still, we decide to bite the bullet the next day.

However, on the beach the next morning, seeing no one swimming at 10:30 AM -- not one soul, not even the birds-- my husband decides maybe he should wade in before we rent anything.

His teeth chatter on the chaise lonque next to me. "Freezing," he says.
And when a Yankee man says freezing, I know he is not exaggerating. (If it was merely cold, he would have said "Brisk.")

No paddleboarding, I say. Absolutely not, he replies.

Still, beyond the beach, beyond the golf course, there is a beautiful pool complex. Swimming, however, is not a sport we can agree on either.

I am one of those weird people who actually likes to swim laps, alternating between crawl, breast stroke, and backstroke. My father was a championship high school swimmer, and we spent every day of every summer at a pool. My husband's idea of swimming is jumping in after sunbathing, then going back to sunbathing.

In the early days of our dating, I challenged him to a lap race and beat the shit out of him. I suspect he has never quite gotten over it.

When we arrive at the pool each day, I say, "want to swim some laps?" and he says, "want to drink some beer?"
We look for chairs where one of us can be in the shade and the other one can be in the sun. We continue my quest to taste every fish taco in the state of Florida.

On the last day, we realize that at the children's pool, there is a water slide.

As we walk by, I say, "I appreciate a good water slide."
"Me too," he says. "Me too."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Empty Nest November Activity Challenge: Adopt a Team.

When the kids leave the nest, we miss the rituals, the traditions we built around them. For some, this is smiley face pancakes on Saturday mornings. Wednesday night pizza after band practice. Or maybe, for the clinically insane, helping with homework. What I feel most sharply is the loss of being a spectator, of cheering on a team.

Those brisk days spent on canvas chairs or rickety metal bleachers represent my favorite kind of parenting -- being present, being loud, having plenty of snacks available. Seriously, what's not to love about that?

Since none of my kids will be playing a sport in college, I'm starting to find myself with an abundance, a complete overflow, of freaking cheer. It pours out of me when I pass a little league ball field, the way breast milk used to rise up when I saw a baby. What will I do with this? Where are the over 40 cheerleading squads, people, and when are the tryouts?

Last week, a friend invited me and my husband to watch a women's college volleyball team play my eldest daughter's alma mater. "You can cheer on your daughter's behalf," she said, knowing she was spending the semester abroad.

I was under the weather, and we couldn't go, but I told my husband that's what we need to do. Find another amateur team, in another sport, and support them. There are dozens of colleges in the area -- we'll find one this year, and adopt them.

"I think it should be a men's team," I add. "Possibly soccer."

"But you miss watching our daughters," he replies.

"But the men are um, more, uh . . . faster, and more accomplished."

"But the women are underfunded and need more support."

"The men wear shorts."

He sighs. We are at a standstill. And in the meantime, I contemplate my friends with younger children still playing on teams. Which one do we feel like embarrassing? And who needs orange slices and Vitamin water?

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Nest Empties. The Phone Rings.

I realized yesterday how seldom the phone rings. How we jump now, just a little, when it does. Is this the urgency people felt when it was first invented? Perhaps.

For me, losing both of my parents in the last few years took the shrill edge off that ringing phone. The fear of it breaking the stillness of the night. The worst has already happened. The calls have already come. And the children were home or accounted for, tucked in.

But just when you feel that sense of relaxation and release -- someone leaves. Someone travels. There is always someone to worry over, now, again. And bad news never comes in a text. (Unless you're fifteen.)

People shake their heads and wonder over women who keep having more children. But this is why, I think. This is why. So they can stave off being alone with a ringing phone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Empty Nest October Activity Challenge: Denied.

The next plan was for both of us to try a new sport that we both agreed upon. We settled for Stand Up Paddleboarding. I had already rejected Surfing and Ultimate Frisbee as Things He Would Be Good At That I Would Suck At. And the look on his face when I suggested Aerial Yoga was PRICELESS. So SUP it was, and serendipitously, his brother had bought a board and left it at the family vacation house for all to enjoy, thus eliminating Husband Obstacle Number One: Rental Rip-Offs.

But nature had other plans, and neither one of us could motivate to try this in the cold and rain.

So instead, I taught him to knit. Just kidding, haha! But he did drive me to the knitting store in the rain, and then helped me ball the yarn. As he patiently unwrapped
it around his wrists, he said, "This is just like untangling fishing line."

And you know what that means? That means some afternoon while the striped bass is marinating, I can help him untangle his fishing line.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Not-So-Empty Nest, September Challenge: Golf

To me, golf is not a sport. Golf is a divisive activity that separates families and empties wallets. Golf requires a lot of equipment, takes all damned day, and apparently requires drinking and eating a burger afterwards. Golf is an excuse for business trips that fall on the weekend and go to sunny places while your wife stays home and shovels snow and eats the leftover mac and cheese that sticks to the bottom of the pot. "A quick 18 holes" is not conducive to putting babies down for naps, to helping kids with homework, to grabbing a half-hour of exercise while your daughter is taking a dance lesson. NO. Golf is a SORE SUBJECT, and if I start playing golf to spend more time with my husband , well, then, the TERRORISTS WILL HAVE WON.

So, yes, I have a big chip on my shoulder (golf term). And yet -- many of my friends love to golf. We have access to nice courses around the area, my husband has clubs I can borrow, my brother-in-law is a golf pro, and my dad played a mean game his whole life. (Who knows, maybe I have his swing.)

So my friend Karen and I took our first lesson today. We both confessed to each other that we like to learn new things, and hate being bored. We were NOT BORED for one second.

I was outside in a beautiful place on a lovely day, laughing with my friend, bombing around in a cart, making things go thwack and whoosh and ping, SURROUNDED BY YOUNG MEN.

This did not suck.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Blog hop! And then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thanks to Beth Kephart via Caroline Leavitt via Bill Wolfe. I think. (Tempted to use the word begat.)Their answers wildly different from mine, you'll enjoy reading!

1.What are you working on?
Revisions on my new book, ONE MORE DAY, tentatively scheduled for Oct 2015 from Sourcebooks. It’s about kidnapping, marriage, religion, and seeing ghosts. But it’s really about trusting people. About being believed. And about being different. Then I go back to writing CHARMED LIFE, about a divorced woman still in love with her ex, who goes bankrupt and is forced to care for her cold and distant elderly mother. And my blog posts will go back to my quest for filling my almost-empty nest with wild hobbies.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

As the reviewers always say -- “it’s surprisingly dark.” Not surprising to anyone who knows me ☺ -- Readers, though, at book clubs I visit, always seem most surprised by beautiful writing. They hunger for it, and not all women’s fiction gives it to them. I try.

2.Why do you write what you do?

All kinds of crazy-ass sh—t fascinates me. I see plot everywhere. But I have to write it my way – and not everything matches up. So I try to find a good mesh between my writing style and my conjured ideas.

4.How does your writing process work?

A combination of knowing when to sit, and knowing when to take a walk.

And . . . I throw the baton over to Merry Jones. If you love mystery, you'll love Merry!

Saturday, September 6, 2014


We’ve finished dinner, and the last pans are soaking. I’m sitting on the couch, eating chocolate, staring at an e-Harmony commercial, waiting for Unsolved Mysteries to come on. My youngest daughter, a senior in high school, is upstairs doing her homework so she can get into college and get the hell away from a mother who is so obsessed with Unsolved Mysteries that she is constantly telling her never to go to the mall at night, because that is when all abductions occur. My husband is behind me, sorting the mail, ignoring the e-Harmony commercial, but prepared to mock any investigative show that comes on before his beloved network programming.
“Hey,” I say suddenly, “do you think e-Harmony would match the two of us up?”
“No,” he replies instantly.
“No?!” I turn around. “You don’t even want to think about it for a second?”
“No,” he says. “We don’t have any of the same interests.”
We met while working in the same industry while playing the same sport on the same team. Those are things in common right there, I point out.
“Kelly,” he sighs, “you love to read, write, knit, and dance. I love to hunt, fish, golf, and ride horses.”
Could he have made me sound any more un-cool and girly and prissy? And made himself sound any more outdoorsy, fit, and Marlboro-Man-y? Those are not really good descriptions of the types of people we present to the world. He runs a company, travels widely on business, but mostly sits in meetings and watches a lot of television. I’m an author and a relatively humorous public speaker who runs around making television commercials to pay the bills. Does that sound like a bookish knitter married to a Marlboro man? Huh?
“We’re both Episcopalian,” I say.
I know for a fact this is the only thing his mother likes about me, since I was not born blonde or listed in the Social Register.
“So we’d be matched on Christian Mingle, but not e-Harmony.”
“You read books occasionally. And we both like movies and we like each other’s friends.”
He exhibit-As me by calling out one of my friends by his nickname for her: “Head case.”
The program comes on and I realize after a few minutes that I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen them all, probably, at this point. The show my husband is waiting for is on in half an hour. My knitting sits in a bag on the table, next to the book I’m reading. I refuse to pick either of these items up; I have no wish to underscore what he has just said. There are busy days coming up: we have volleyball games to watch, a college essay to edit, schools to visit for one child, Parent Visiting Day at college for another. The rest of this month and the next will be jam-packed with kid-related activities.
But what about when they aren’t?
What about in one year from now, when every last kid related activity is gone? What about after that, retirement, when the days are completely open?
Am I gonna read books and knit while waiting for my dance class while he gallops on a tall steed headed to a duck blind somewhere?
Don’t those two people sound like they live in two completely different places?
Jesus, I think. I need to come up with a plan.
And so here it is: Try Something New At Least Once A Month For A Year, until I find something my hubby and I can do TOGETHER. (It should be noted that if it were up to him, we could simply take up a new sexual hobby and he would be happy. But I say we need MORE.) To show that I am a loving, giving person, I am starting by trying something I HATE that he LOVES. I am doing the hardest thing first. Stay tuned. I am dreading it ALREADY.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Changing it up. A tad.

My friends know that for a couple of years now, the words "empty nest" have been on my mind. Where to live, what to do, how to be. Three children are a REALLY big, um, hobby. So having them all gone, as they will be soon? WHOA. I've threatened before to embark on a one-year mission -- a kind of search for a new hobby or cause -- for something to balance all the writing in my life -- and for greater connection with my husband, who has a zillion hobbies I don't share. Still writing novels of course -- and hopefully news on that front very soon (emoticon for crossed fingers is -- X) but I'm thinking that it would also be fun to chronicle my hobby search, here. So stay tuned for some slightly different silliness, soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day.

Every once in a while, I write something on my microblog that seems to want to live here, too.
Here you go. See what you think.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who's on firsts.

When your children are small, there are nothing but firsts. First word, first steps, first day on the bus. But senior year of high school, there are nothing, it seems, but lasts. The last time I'll hear her in a school concert. The last time I'll see her playing a sport. This spring, there is a ball field on every corner, each filled with parents, coolers, younger siblings with their fingers looped through the back stop fence. I want to roll down my window and call out to those younger parents: Enjoy those metal bleachers. Don't complain about the cost of juice boxes. You never know how much you'll miss cutting up orange smiles for the team, until you stop cutting up orange smiles for the team.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


There is nothing like looking at colleges with three daughters and burying two parents to make you think about the things you are left with. The things left behind.

Maybe that's why I've been reading so obsessively about the Minimalism movement. That, and the fact that I grew up in a spare modern little house where everything was put away and organized. (Even my books were alphabetized.) But add in a husband who grew up in the opposite way -- where nothing was thrown away -- where tag sales were frequented and inherited objects were cherished and the garage, basement and attic were chock-full of bargains that someone might need some day. Add in children and toys and teenagers and prom dresses.
Despite two massive, orchestrated, order-a-dumpster cleanups, stuff is creeping back in.

Although I make pilgrimages to Goodwill throughout the year, I decided to challenge myself to get rid of more. I do this while my husband is out of town so he doesn't hyperventilate at the thought of parting with a chipped coffee mug. This has led to some interesting self-examination: Do we need more than 5 vases? Am I poised to take up gardening? Do I aspire to becoming a professional flower organizer?

Another project was culling my wardrobe. I chose things I wear everyday, and a few nice things I should wear and don't (would it kill me to wear a skirt?) -- hid the off season stuff, then gave the rest away. So now all I do is look in one 18" span, and grab. Everything in there seems to go together. And go together in ways I never thought of.

Simpler. Less.

And proof that I am obsessed with gray, blue and purple.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jump start.

When I was young and struggling, I owned a car that was struggling too. A faded red VW Beetle, a car with smiling curves and winking headlights that despite its rust, radiated cheer and light. A car that wasn't really meant to hold up to a Midwestern winter.

Every winter night I parked it at the top of a sloping snowy hill, and hurried down to the house I shared with 4 roommates. And every morning I got up and ran four or five miles through the icy streets, getting in my workout, knowing if my hair froze at the edge of my hat, my car would not start. Again.

I sometimes think I started running that year just so I could find a way to stay warm.

I would come home, shower, change clothes. Then head up the hill, where I sprayed the door lock with de-icer, lowered the brake, and jumpstarted the battery by letting it roll downhill and catch. My battery, dead every morning, yet brought back to life by gravity every day.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say my roommates and I did this for perhaps 40 days in a row one winter. I couldn't afford a new car. I couldn't afford a new battery. I couldn't afford to live somewhere with a garage. And so, our cars froze.

This winter, when it seems to have snowed on the East Coast every other day for months, I am reminded of that winter in Illinois. I am reminded of how cold I was growing up there, how my eyelashes crystallized if I dared to cry, how my knees looked blue when I pulled off my tights, how I would walk home from ice skating at the pond without being able to feel my toes.

I am reminded of the snow drifts so high and so heavy, you couldn't open your front door. My father had to jump out a second floor window to get out to shovel snow.

And, most importantly, I am reminded how my roommates helped me with my car, teaching me that technique. And I remember that when I was out jogging in the worst weather, I would spend half my time pushing cars out of snow drifts when they got stuck.

You can hate winter all you want. But you can't ignore it. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum, it forces you to pay attention. Deal with me, it says. It will build character. It will help you help each other.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Valentine Book Bundles! Shipped FREE from a top indie bookstore.

Seriously, how cool is this? A perfect valentine for a reader -- books, tea, a journal -- "Read, Restore, Remember." And they have another one called "Blood & Chocolate" with mysteries.

All shipped FREE from a very cool indie store, Doylestown Books. ORDER a couple now and cross it off your list!

AND -- my novel THE BIRD HOUSE is in one! A great gift for mom, grandmom, sister, wife, or your FAVORITE teacher. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Being a Monica.

I think it starts with taking down the Christmas things. Every year, I'm seized by the idea of straitening up and getting rid of stuff. I've been reading lots of minimalist blogs for inspiration. And after digging around this one I've become kinda obsessed with the phrase "capsule wardrobe." This is a whole movement, grounded in the idea of shopping less, wasting less, reusing what you already have, and only wearing what you truly love. And never buying anything that you don't love just as much, even if it's on sale.

Just last week my friend and I were discussing how I wear the same 10 items of clothing over and over and over -- the same jeans, t-shirts and sweaters constantly. Right now my clothes fill two closets -- and if I narrowed it down to what I actually wore -- I could probably do something cool with the other closet. Like a fold-away office. Or a washer/dryer. Who knows?

What can I say, I grew up in an orderly house. I'm probably related to Monica and Ross.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Book clubbing.

When I go to a book club, I usually bring the gifts but occasionally these groups of sweet women -- almost always complete strangers -- insist on giving me a gift. Last Friday up in Newtown this gorgeous bird house was bestowed upon me. LOVE. Thanks Tina and the girls!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cancer style.

Lots being said over the last couple of days about people tweeting about terminal illness. Just days after I had breast cancer surgery, a video of another surgery went viral: a woman asking her surgeon, nurse and team to do a dance with her in their scrubs. Since I am known as a "happy dancer" everyone remarked on how I should have done the same. But here's the thing: everyone handles illness, fear, and death differently. I was meditating, not dancing. Not filming. But there is no right or wrong way to be sick. You don't have to be giggly just as you don't have to be noble. You can tell the world or tell no one. Everyone needs to find their own way to feel better about feeling bad.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Recently I told a friend who was contemplating a tattoo about the experience I had being tattooed during radiation treatment. I felt branded, marked, numbered. I realize women decorate themselves for many positive, life-affirming reasons. But I felt the weight of all the negative ones as the ink entered my skin.

You are a specimen. You do not belong to yourself anymore.

And the permanence, ugh, the permanence. Before that day, the possibility of change was always there, floating in the air. Scars heal. Pain lessens. Even numbness might fade.

But there they are, always. The pinpricks of dark at the end of the tunnel full of light.
There is the black forever.

Friday, January 10, 2014

On being vindictive. On being a woman. On being a vindictive woman.

Bridget Anne Kelly's traffic snarling payback is being parlayed as evidence of a bullying mentality in Chris Christie's organization. A swagger that we see in him, and fear in him. It has to do with his size, his confidence. It probably has to do with New Jersey, and the mob. It has to do with a lot of things. But that's not what I see.

I see a pretty little girl with two rough-and-tumble brothers who learned how to put them in their place. I see a smart girl who wasn't taken seriously because she was short and she was blonde. I see a woman who learned how to be tough and play with the big boys in New Jersey, and sometimes that meant taking chances. I see the men around her saying admiringly, "Damn that took balls."

I've known a thousand women who would have done the same thing she did. Just to get the boys to slap her on the back.

Ah, but that's why I write novels. I make shit up about everything I see. But this time, I feel like I'm right.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Questions We Ask that We Never Used to Ask

1. Text me your number?
2. Is she your Facebook friend or your real friend?
3. Can I borrow your glasses?
4. I don't have any bars. Do you have any bars?
5. Are both your parents living?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New year, new things.

Some people are teachers and some people are learners. I'm a learner. It comes from being a read-the-encyclopedia kid. It comes from being bored a lot. And it extends into my exercise life. I don't think there is a form of exercise or sport that I haven't tried.

I've developed some strong opinions along the way. I love downhill skiing but don't like cross-country. I love to tool around on my bicycle, but HATE being trapped in a room with an instructor screaming at me during a spin class. I don't mind Nautilus machines but HATE other machines, like Pilates Reformers. I would rather be stretched on a rack in a dungeon than do Pilates again. And Pilates mat? I call them "yoga, minus the joy."

An injury plus surgery recently necessitated rethinking my routine. Vinyasa yoga, Nautilus, weight lifting classes, and even TRX classes are all too difficult now. That left Pilates -- NO! Or . . .Barre. Why not, I thought? The pictures look like dance classes! I love dance classes! I love plies, I know first and second and third position, I love music!!

And I guess what? I HATE BARRE. Every instructor, every class, every time of day. HATE THEM ALL.

There are, without fail, 3 kinds of women in the room -- 1) thin, quiet, serious older women 2) thin, quiet, serious younger women and 3) chubby, quiet, serious younger women.

Ah, I see the problem now.


No one speaks. No one smiles.

There is no time for that crap! We are here to perform a dizzying array of weird exercises that don't resemble anything in nature without pausing for anything, even one ounce of fun!

Which brings me to the only thing I like about them: They go by fast. And damned if they don't seem to be working. But is that enough? NO.

Yesterday I decided to arrive first and smile at everyone who entered the room. 12 people. Only 2 smiled back.

Still, that's 2. Maybe tomorrow there will be 3.

And next week, I might try laughing. Maybe they'll kick me out.