Thursday, December 31, 2009

And The Winner Is...

MATT! Kid 2 did the drawing (and I only put his name in once, even though he commented twice, because we're all about fairness around here) and Matt, you are the winner.

I will get a copy of RRO out to you in the mail as soon as you email me with your address. (that's becca (at sign) whisperingvoice (dot) com)

And for the rest of you? Here's a little excerpt for your reading pleasure.

"You," she says, pointing her straw at my face, "are an idiot. One of these days, young lady, you are going to have to learn to believe that you're good enough." She looks like my mom when she says that. Like she's humoring me into something. Like she has some stash of Great Wisdom that someday, if I'm extremely lucky, I may get to glimpse. That is so annoying.
Okay, there you have it. So happy New Year, everyone!

XO
B

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grandma Wright

My little Grandma Wright died today.

She was always Grandma Wright, even before we were related. She was my Grandma Jennie's best friend, and every time I went to Oakland to see Grandma Jennie, we visited Grandma Wright, too. She'd lean over the counter at the distribution center and kiss my face. She smelled perfect - Oil of Olay, I discovered later.

She loves to laugh and watch old musicals and play games.

And drive fast.

And eat dessert first. (Life is short, she says.)

Mixed nuts and See's chocolates and a freezer full of ice cream, that is Grandma.

Not so much the vegetables.

Sweaters and jackets all summer long, because she doesn't like how her skinny arms look. But really nice sweaters and jackets. There's no such thing as a bargain if it's not beautiful.

Jewelry. Lipstick. And dignity.

Once she came with me to visit my great-Aunt Ruth in a care center. She said, "Oh, Becca. Close her mouth while she sleeps. Give her that, at least." These past couple of years, as Grandma has fallen asleep with her mouth open, I still think she's beautiful. But I help her shift her head so her mouth closes. Because I can give her that, at least.

I bring my daughter to play her violin for Grandma. Not often, not often enough. But it thrills our little Grandma, and she closes her eyes and clasps her hands and sways with the music. And laughs and gets a little groovy with the fiddle tunes. And experiences some sort of private worship with the hymns. And then opens, unclasps, and reaches. "Thank you, dear." Dear works when she no longer remembers our names.

But.

When my cousin was visiting Grandma and catching up on our family, Grandma said, "Oh, Becca. She's the fun one." Clearly selective memory, but I'll take it.

My little Grandma has gone Home. She's left behind the body that grounded her for ninety-two years. Four wonderful grown children and piles of grands and greats. Her sweetheart, whose hearing aid always whistles for the pretty girls. A counter covered in mixed nuts and See's candies and a freezer full of ice cream. And our cracked hearts. And our memories.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holding the Happy

Hey, guess what? I've got something to tell you... I received a small box of small books. Really pretty books with a cute swoony redhead on the cover. And also on the cover? My name. Right down there in the lower right corner.

And I discovered something about myself, about how I work. Something about my M.O., my style, my heart. I am a giver-away-er. I want to give a book to everyone I know. Also strangers. And Libraries. And set them in public places, like waiting rooms and bus stops and grocery lines.

Husband laughs.

I laugh, too, because I know it's silly to give away all the twenty books Mr. Publisher gave me.*

But.

I want to give one. Just one. Here's the deal. You leave me a comment, telling me either:
1. The best book you've ever read that's a romance but not a Romance, if you know what I mean, or
2. Your most embarrassing slip-up regarding a "person of interest" of the opposite gender, or
3. Who you will share "My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions" with (after you read it) if you win a copy (bonus points if they blog)**

Easy, right? I'll choose a random winner on, um, let's see... Thursday morning. Yes, dear, I know that's a holiday. But I'll be home, and you can check in anytime. Please don't let me disturb your busy social schedule.

As for softening your despair if you aren't the random winner... I hear rumors. See, this book is published by Shadow Mountain, who is owned by Deseret Book. So even though the official release date is March 4th or something (I only know that because in a fit of insanity I checked on Barnes&Noble's website), books are being spotted at Deseret Book stores near you.*** And if I were less lazy, I'd go check the Shadow Mountain website to see if you can order online. Oh, all right. Hold on, please.

(Hm, hm, hm....****)

Yeah, okay. Maybe not online yet. But soon. Soon, I tell you! (as far as I know)

OH, YEAH - also, my toe is mending. Thank you. I can sleep. I can breathe in and out. I can hobble. I have to put on shoes later this morning. Pray for me.

So have a happy day, please. And if you want to be a winner, just know that you already are, in my book. But not necessarily OF my book. You know what I mean.

*There aren't twenty left. Because... well, haven't you heard what I've been saying?
**That is a lie. This will be random. Because I'm feeling sort of random, you know?
***I mean, if you live near a Deseret Book Store. You understand.
***That's your hold music. Hope you enjoyed it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Justifying the Lazy

Once upon a time*, Husband made great hamburgers for dinner**. Yum. I prefer mine bunless (saving my calories for buttered popcorn, you know) and I finished first. So like a polite and well-adjusted person I went to rinse and stack my plate.

But.

I managed to kick Husband's chair*** and say only "owie-owie," as opposed to the many fine blue words bouncing in my head. I walked it off. It didn't feel better. I put ice on it. I elevated. I sat around. I watched it swell. Right around the weird, hard bump. That was a bone.

Yup. I broke my toe.

Awesome, right?

I've had worse timing in my life, because there's no need for me to, say, drive anywhere in the next few days. But walking? Hurts. Sleeping? Also. Sitting around? Ditto. Plus, I've been really, really good about working out in the past week. I'm talking an hour at a time on the elliptical. That's over for a minute. The one bonus? The cute and generous BIL and SIL gave us wii-Fit for Christmas, and I didn't fight the Kids for a turn (because I know they'll tire of it by the time they go back to school, and it will be all mine) and now when I feel all better, no small cartoon man will berate me for my long lazy-stretch. Because, really, how do you justify the broken toe to the cartoon trainer?

* Saturday
**He often does this. He prefers to do it when it's positive degrees outside, but he'll agree to do it whenever I buy meat and buns.
***This was not pent-up agression. Just random stupidity.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Publishing Is Like Giving Birth. And Also Not.

Like: There's this beautiful new thing, and I want everyone to see it.

Not Like: I invite a whole lot more people to come around at delivery when it's a book.

Like: There's that gasp of surprise and delight to see it whole and shiny.

Not Like: Much less mess.

Like: I find myself telling people all kinds of details they SO don't care about.

Not Like: Nobody really even pretends to be interested*.

Like: I just know someday, someone is going to say mean things about it. And it will hurt.

Not Like: I don't have to listen to critics. I can pretend they don't exist. (But bullies are real. Forever.)

Like: There will be mistakes, and I might be embarrassed.

Not Like: They're all MY mistakes. (Worse, right?)

Like: I love this new thing.

Not Like: It doesn't need me - my work is done.

Like: It still keeps me up at night.

Not Like: I can't rock it back to sleep.

Like: I find myself in there, when I peer. (Does anyone else love that word? Peer. Try it. Peer. Mmm.)

Not Like: Chances aren't good that it will take care of me when I'm old.

*This is a complete lie. Everyone is interested. Or pretending to be. And that is fun, fun.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Uncap the Pen

Just do it, I tell myself. Open the notebook. Scratch out the words. Sit down at the desk. Let fingers find keys.

A dozen words. A hundred. A thousand.

Uncover the characters. Discover voices. Let them tell their stories. Listen to their dialog. Shake your head over their mistakes. Let them try. Let them fail. Let them try again.

Keep going, I tell myself. Don't stop when it gets hard, or stupid, or off-track. Don't let complications get in the way. Don't find excuses. Wake earlier. Exercise later. Write quietly, so as not to wake the restless ones, the demanding ones, the precious needy ones.

No. It's not too hard. It's certainly not impossible, I tell myself. Try.

But it's hard.

Yes, I tell myself. Yes, it is hard. And remember this: You've done harder things, I tell myself. But the only way it's impossible is if you never uncap the pen.

Go. Sit. Write. Words. Phrases and sentences. Conversations, turning points, actions, conflicts, resolutions.

But, but, but... But what? I ask. But what if it's awful? What if the words won't come? What if the words I write are useless? What if I've used up my allotment of good / funny / poignant / meaningful words? What if nobody ever reads it?

What if nobody ever reads it?

Write it, I tell myself. Uncap the pen. Nobody will ever, ever read the words you don't write. And most people will never read the words you do write, and is that really, really why you do it?

No, I answer. The words are there, inside me. They want to be set free, to get out, to taste the air.

Uncap the pen.

Set the words free.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Clean It Like You Mean It

I belong to a church of volunteers, which means that
when something needs doing,
it gets done by the congregation.
Teaching, music, all those sermons and talks, all of it.
By the people and for the people.

And also the bathrooms.

I just got home from cleaning the church with my family.
And I may have witnessed a miracle.
Kids were scrubbing toilets polishing sinks and mirrors,
vacuuming, washing windows. Washing windows, I tell you.

And then? I heard these words. "What should I do next?"

So how do I harness this? They worked hard, fast, and willingly *
because they were cleaning God's house.
Any chance they'd believe He lives here?

*at least for the first hour

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bring Home the Turtle


Here's photographic proof of the Pet Solution.



You can't really tell, but this is my big pasta serving bowl. Grande. And so is the turtle. So one more round of applause to Kid 2's brilliance.
(clap, clap, clap)

Also, this reminds Husband of that part in the great movie "Cinderella Man" when Russell Crowe's character talks about "bring home the turtle/title" - have you seen that movie? You should. Apologies in advance for the mouth on the agent. I wasn't involved with the dialog. Or anything else, you know. Ron Howard didn't consult me on this one, even though he was my first crush. Some people's memories are just a little shorter than others.

Weekend Book-Buying Fun

So come, and shop, and visit! I'll be at the Fort Union Deseret Book this Saturday (tomorrow, people) from 12:00 until 2:00.

They have a bakery.

Yes. Books and breads. You're welcome.

Also, I will be joined by Mr. John Bytheway from noon till 2, and Mr. James Dashner and Mr. Jeff/Scott Savage at 1:00. In case you're into quality humor or Random House's Rock-Star Golden Boy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Pet Solution

My brilliant and lovely Kid 2 to the rescue, petwise.

She found Kid 4 a turtle that carries no salmonella (until he bathes it in egg - we hope that doesn't happen soon) and is virtually stink-free. Also, it doesn't die if you forget to feed it.

Introducing the grow-in-water pet turtle.

(Okay, I can't find a photo. But it's actually very cute.)

It should grow up to 6 times its size in 72 hours in a bowl of water. Or a series of progressively larger bowls of water, if you're us. So there it is. One happy boy, one superhero sister, one stinkless pet, and one relieved me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crossing Stones

I found this book at the library. This may not seem like such a surprise to you, but it's always a thrill. I live in a small town that houses a small county library, and although it has a fireplace (+), it also has a huge metal staircase running directly through the main room (-). I tell you this to illustrate that some of the choices made in relation to the library are... weird.

But.

Crossing Stones by Helen Frost.

This is a beautiful piece of historical fiction/poetry. (Dont' be scared. It's easy poetry to handle.) It takes place between April 1917 and January 1918 and blasts right into the US involvement in World War I and the women's suffrage movement. Three characters tell the story chapter by chapter. Muriel's words flow physically and aurally like the stream that separates her home from the Norman's. Her brother Ollie and her best friend Emma narrate in (you won't even know it when you're reading it) sonnets that represent the stones in the creek - the crossing stones that get the families from one side to the other.

Muriel pushes the boundaries of society's expectations, but in a gentle way. "Maybe you won't rock a cradle, Muriel. / Some women prefer to rock the boat." There is joy and pain, aching and resilience, comfort and the unknown.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go read it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kid 4!


Sweet boy. Those words are used on lots of kids, but meant just for you.

I love the way you laugh, you smile, you sing, you play. I love the way you care and tend. I love your responsibility, your willingness, your obedience. I love the gap where your front teeth should be. I love the workings of your brain. I love your inclusiveness. I love to see you get excited about things like tomato soup, and skateboard toys, and play-doh. I love the way you do your jobs quickly, with a smile - especially the one that's called "give Mom hugs and kisses." I love the freckles across your whole face. I love to help you practice the piano, even on the days when hands-together makes you frustrated. I love listening to you read, and seeing your eyes light up when the words are funny. I love your gentle, your kind, your tender ways.

Six years ago today, you made our family complete. Every day since, you've brought us an armful of joy. Happy birthday, little buddy. I love you!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Relative Utility of Sinatra and Brando

Ironing. I hate it. Not the doing of it, precisely, but the time it takes away from anything really fulfilling. Like eating marshmallows right out of the bag, or reading a book, or painting my toenails.*

But, hey - I'm not one to complain about an unpleasant task when instead I can make said task more enjoyable.

Enter Sinatra and Brando. Specifically, "Guys and Dolls" on DVD. There is such an abundance of goodness there that I find myself singing along (especially Miss Adelaide's "A Person Could Develop a Cold") only to find that several shirts are ready for Husband to wear to work. In fact, I go looking for more ironing options. Like Kid 4's little churchy button-downs, and the girls' scarves, and maybe even kitchen towels. (Okay, that was a lie. I do not iron towels. Ever. But you get the idea.)

This also works well for wrapping Christmas gifts.

Yes, you're welcome. I'm only here to help you.

* I have discovered, though, that if I do a coat of toe-polish and then iron a shirt, it's just about time to do another coat. But that's multi-tasking to a ridiculous extent, so let's never speak of it again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Comprises A Good Day Around Here


FACT: Husband loves him some basketball. He's not the kind of Husband who watches games on TV (ever, really) or spends lots of dollars to go to games. But he loves, loves to play. And there are days when he's still got it. I'm just saying.
Also, he's still hanging on to his thirties.

Barely.

FACT: the Kids love to razz their dad about being old. Like Kid 4, who wanted to draw a picture of Dad, but couldn't, because there were no silver crayons for his hair. (So he drew him on the iPhone, making every other line for his sticky-uppy hair white. White. Every other one. Hilarious. I know.)

FACT: Yesterday was a red-letter day for Husband at 5:30 basketball. He made, in a fairly uncomplicated and totally unexpected shot-streak, nineteen points in a row. Nineteen. That's a lot of points.* It doesn't happen like that very often. In fact, he was so delighted and surprised that he mentioned it, oh, fifty or sixty times between 6:30 and 7:25 a.m.

So I tell you all that background info to present the following nugget of Wilhite Kid Hilarity:

Husband: And did I mention that I made nineteen points in a row this morning?
Kid 3 (she's 8): Wow, Dad. That's awesome. That must make you feel great. Something like that takes lots of practice, huh?
Husband: Yeah. Lots. (Sensing a teaching moment) You have to practice for the things you want.
Kid 3: Years of practice, right?
Husband: Years.
Kid 4 (he's 5): Years. Lots and lots of years.
Me: (Trying not to wet my pants laughing silently)
Kid 3: Yeah. Lots of years.

This went on and on, until eventually Husband figured out that the kids were digging at him, at which point he looked to me for support (because some people never learn) and found me gasping for air, bent over the kitchen sink with eyes streaming (but bladder firmly in control).

FACT: I love my little family.

*And if his team still lost, well, that's totally not the message here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let's Get Together, Yeah-Yeah-Yeah

Are you Christmas shopping in Utah? Come see me!

I'll be at the Orem University Village Deseret Book (that's by University Mall) on Friday December 11th with the lovely Ally Condie and Lisa Mangum from 6:00 until 8:00. After 8:00 we'll be going out to dinner, and you're welcome to join us. But. Only. If you promise not to be offended by our humor or wet yourself in direct relation to our comedy. (Hey, I understand, it could happen - I'm just asking for your effort. )

Also, because I'm an equal-opportunity DB signer, I'll be at the Deseret Book at Fort Union from noon till 2 on Saturday, December 19th. Other exciting authors (maybe some who have been tearing up the Kirkus review, just maybe) will also be there. Plus, there's a bakery. I'm just saying.

And if not? I just stumbled upon the fact that Bright Blue Miracle is now available for your Kindle. Who knew? Click on the cover over there in my sidebar and you can find all manner of information about it. (I think you should know that I don't have a Kindle, or any other kind of e-Reader. I am a bookie. No, not like that. Like I'm a foodie. I love me a real, page-y book. But if you're a Kindle sort of person {or know someone who is} that there's another easy gift idea...)

Happy Shopping, friends!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pets? Probably Not.

Once I talked about pets. Now, Kid 4 is at it again. As his birthday approaches, he's asking for a turtle. Ick. They smell, I think. Husband agrees.

Advise me, wise ones. Does Kid 4 actually need a pet to become a well-rounded, upright, employable adult at some point?

And is there anything as easy as a turtle that smells less... um, stinky?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Once Was Lost (an Interview with Sara Zarr)


"Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles.

She used to believe in a lot of things.

But where there was once faith...
there are now only questions."

Sara Zarr's "Once Was Lost" (Published by Little, Brown in October 2009) is the entwining of a personal crisis of faith and a community's shared crisis - a missing teenage girl. Sam, the main character, feels abandoned - left behind by her mom, who is doing a stint in a rehab unit, and emotionally abandoned by her pastor father. And the faith that used to come so easily? It seems to be lost, too.

Sara recently agreed to answer a few questions for me (even though she's officially on a blog-vacation), so you could all see a little behind the scenes of her book and her world. Awesome, right?

Here goes:
Becca: I want to be really nosy and ask you how this book reflects some of your personal faith. How do you tap into your faith to carry you through your own struggles? Are you a reader? A pray-er? A counselor?

Sara: I don't have a ritual or routine related my faith or religious practice. Generally, the way my faith carries me through goes something like this: I go through an independent, self-sufficient stage, mostly ignoring my spiritual practices; life gets harder to manage; I hit a wall/have a crisis/sink into despair; I return to my spiritual practices, find a state of relative peace and think, "Oh yeah, why did I neglect this for so long?". I stick with it awhile, feel better, and go back to stage one. Et cetera. My goal for growth is to learn to not wait for despair before returning to my faith, but I seem to have not figured that out yet.

Becca: That sounds incredibly familiar. I think that sort of cycle is universal, until we may someday achieve that sort of mental/spiritual/emotional growth that we all strive for. So now, I want to know which of the characters you identify with most. I have an assumption, having followed your blog for quite a while - but do you appear anywhere in this book?

Sara: Not to be cryptic, but I appear everywhere in all my books. For me, it's necessary to identify with every character in some way. Otherwise, I can't do them justice and make them live on the page. So of course I identify very much with the narrator, Sam---especially her frustration with and anger at God or at what she's grown up believing about God. I also identify with Erin, the youth group leader, though maybe that's more about her backstory that's not part of this novel. Sam's dad, too, is someone I understand. There is a lot of pressure on him to be all things to all people, and in trying to juggle that he's bound to drop something. As a classic people-pleaser, I get that.

Becca: (Is anyone surprised that I connect with this woman? I've already embroidered that last couple sentences on a pillow and printed in in vinyl letters for my bathroom wall. Okay. That was a lie, but you know what I mean.) Sam's view of the world (and of God) shifts in this book. Do you think she's settled? Or will her views continue to change? (Not to sound like I think your characters are alive in a weird, creepy way...)

Sara: Ha - I understand. They are alive to me and, I hope, to the reader. I do picture the characters moving forward in their lives without my help. Sam's view changes, but subtly, and I don't think she's settled. I don't think any of us are ever settled, and definitely not at age fifteen. Young adult fiction is so much about firsts. This is about another first---a first crisis of faith, a first dark night of the soul. I'm sure there are more ahead. In my books, change tends to come in tiny but significant movements rather than in big dramatic epiphanies. I think life is made up of those tiny changes by degree.

Becca: (Because I can't help it, this has to be a little about me...) I grew up as a non-Catholic kid in a very Catholic town, and I understand what it means to be "other". You have written about being an "other" in a fairly Mormon city. Does that distinction affect your worship? Your writing? Your politics? Your passions?

Sara: Where you live affects everything. Moving to Utah from San Francisco was definitely a big change, but it's been good in that it makes me think more specifically about what I believe, and I'm constantly being confronted by some of the assumptions and I make about others and the stereotypes I buy into. I have a lot of LDS friends now and know you can never say, "Mormons think X, Mormons believe Y." My politics are the same but the context puts me on different places on the spectrum. In San Francisco my politics seemed a little more conservative, but put the exact same politics in Utah and suddenly I'm aware that many here would describe me as a liberal. Labels are popular here, and I resist them more than ever.

Becca: I understand. Labels are dangerous - once I said on your blog something like a label is never enough, and sometimes too much. But I feel inclined to label myself sometimes. Maybe it's a way to ground (attach) myself to something. But, you know, back to you... Now that the book is finished and out there in the hands of readers, what are you working on? Do you take a break when a book is finished, or do you work every day?

Sara: I'm working on another YA novel for Little, Brown. If I feel like I need a break, I take one, but generally the break I need isn't from writing itself, more from the career end of being published...the being "on," being public, reading reviews, the editorial process. Writing a new book and being in that stage when I'm the only one who knows what it is, the only one who sees it, is enough of a break. And right now I'm on hiatus from social networking, blog reading, industry news, and all of that, and enjoying it immensely. I've been traveling a lot since September and didn't get much work done other than promoting Once Was Lost, so now that I'm home I try to work every weekday.

Becca: (Isn't she an inspiration?) Thanks a ton for taking time to answer these questions, for being approachable. I appreciate the beautiful thing you've created. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Sara: Thanks for having me!

(Applause, Applause)

And when you're ready to get to know Sara, be sure to read this post. When I did, I loved her even more.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Go, Now. Find "Once Was Lost."

Monday we'll be doing a blog interview with Sara Zarr, author of the newly-released "Once Was Lost" - giving you time to run out and purchase/borrow/locate/steal a copy to read over the weekend. You won't be sorry. Unless you steal. Then your conscience will peck at you like an angry duck. So don't steal it. But do find it.

See you Monday!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A List, Again.

Easy for Me:
Reading a good book fast.

Hard for Me:
Reading a good book once.

Easy for Me:
Proofreading.

Hard for Me:
Editing.

Easy for Me:
Waking up at 5:30 a.m.

Hard for Me:
Staying up past 9:30 p.m.

Easy for Me:
Cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Hard for Me:
Coming up with an idea for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.

Easy for Me:
Dealing with a fussy newborn.

Hard for Me:
Dealing with a fussy 12-year-old.

Easy for Me:
Buying Christmas gifts.

Hard for Me:
Making a Christmas wish list.

Easy for Me:
Starting to write a book.

Hard for Me:
Finishing a book I'm writing.

Easy for Me:
Being grateful.

Hard for Me:
Writing Thank-You notes.

Easy for Me:
Opening my heart.

Hard for Me:
Closing my mouth.

Easy for Me:
Doing things myself.

Hard for Me:
Delegating.

Easy for Me:
Reading a good book to my kids.

Hard for Me:
Reading a lame book to my kids.

Easy for Me:
Getting over it.

Hard for Me:
Helping anyone else to get over it.

Easy for Me:
Start crying (lately).

Hard for Me:
Recognize why, exactly.

Easy for Me:
Watching a movie.

Hard for Me:
Staying awake through it.

Easy for Me:
Making and keeping blog friends.

Hard for Me:
Being there on a daily basis for "physical" friends.

Easy for Me:
Ice cream.

Hard for Me:
Whole-wheat pasta.

Easy for Me:
Blending in.

Hard for Me:
Dealing with the fact of being invisible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo

1. I can write half a novel in half a month. *
2. I am better at beginnings than middles or endings.
3. There is a community out there for pretty much whatever it is you want to do.
4. Dialog is fun.
5. 2,500 words a day is possible.
6. Or, I can have a shower and clean the kitchen.
7. "Fail" is relative. I have more words than I used to, and that is a kind of success.
8. To write something, even if it's c-r-a-p, is better than to not write at all. **
9. Deadlines, helpful for some writers, give me the creeps.
10. If I weren't doing anything else, I could probably have finished a novel in November. However, the other things (see #6) are important, too.
11. Writing from my brain is not as effective as writing from my heart. This may not be true for everyone, but that's okay. I have more success when I write what I love, as opposed to what I tell myself I should.
12. I like to edit as I go. This is not a good practice for NaNo.
13. November might be the second stupidest month to dedicate to anything other than survival.
14. I may actually use this book I've been working on (someday), but for now, it's okay to set it aside.
15. There's always something to write about.
16. Yes. That means I've started something new. (See #2.)
17. A woman of character would have finished the Nano book before starting another.
18. Duh. I'm not a woman of character. We should all know this by now.
19. I can't actually remember what we've been talking about, because...
20. I just pulled 3 loaves of bread out of the oven. Mmmm.

So, here's the thing: This was a great exercise. I did not manage to finish a novel in November (oh, but I read a few...) but I worked hard for several weeks, and I could do it again. And there is a great deal to write, so I should go do it.

After I have a piece of bread.***

*This should mean, at least theoretically, that I can write a whole novel in a whole month. I can hold on to the dream...
**I am, and plan to always be, a fan of the split infinitive. Just saying.
***With a great deal of butter, natch.

Official Author Website

I just tried it. It works!


Of course, all it does is take you here, but hey - here is where the action is, anyway, right? Yea, Husband for being a little bit Hacker among all the other talents!

So, someday, BeccaWilhite.com will be the place to be, and now it begins!

Really? It's just fun to say it. And type it. And click on the note to come right back here. Really, it is. Fun. (Yes, that's my kind of fun. Thanks for asking.)

XO

Monday, November 30, 2009

You're Right, Life is Totally Not Fair.

Poor Kid 1.

Let me back up. Kid 1 is not a whiner. She is not a complainer. She understands things, she does. But she's still sad about not having a cell phone.

She doesn't mention it above a couple times a month, so it's not even obnoxious. More like "Hey, if I get a real job, can I get a phone?" (Did you catch that? She wants to "get" a phone, not "have" a phone. The difference is that she knows that she will be paying for it. Thing of beauty, that is.)

So you know how some kids will use the "everybody else" line? "Everybody else gets to go to the Midnight Movie on a school night" or "Everybody else gets to take Driver's Ed this year" or "Everybody else has channels and a DVR" -- You know this phrase? Well, I never actually hear the words "Everybody else has a cell phone" (because she knows it won't crack my rock-hard resolve, but will probably end in mockery). But know what?

It's true.

She is the only one of her friends without a phone.

If I were to list her five, her ten best buds at school, I think it would be true. She's the only one. Now, this is not to say that I think she needs one. She doesn't drive. There are telephones at school, and at every house that she may find herself in, and clearly, in the bags, pockets, or backpacks of all her friends. There are phones everywhere. This logic is infallible.

But.

It's not just about her being able to call home, or receive texts, or check her facebook status during lunch break. The problem is, her friends won't call her at home.

Because anybody might answer the phone. Anybody. Like... your Mom. Eww.

May I be clear once again? Kid 1's friends rather like me. I'm Mama Becca. I'm the good cook, the one who knows all the lyrics to all the cheesy musicals. I'm the driver. I don't mean to sound vain, here, but I'm the Cool Mom.

But they won't call our house, because someone else (not Kid 1) might answer the phone.

This leads to sadness. Unfair sadness. Like not getting called about the sold-out show. Like not getting called about the Girls' Night In. Like not getting called.

And what can I do? She's right. It's not fair.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Un-Apology

My Christmas Tree has been up for 2 weeks. Eleven or twelve years ago we bought a really pretty artificial tree. Yes, that can happen. We have certainly gotten our money's worth from it, but I worry just a little that ten more years will mean all the poly-plastic needles have gone the way of the vacuum cleaner. But it's holding on. Hanging tough.

It's lit with all white lights (non-blinking, natch) and silver ornaments. Husband is a careful light putter-onner. I? Drape. He carefully wraps each branch so there are no visible cords. I? Want to see hundreds of tiny white lights. We worked together this year. The effect is lovely. Just don't step too close.

Gifts are purchased/ordered/made/wrapped, and today, they go on display under the tree. I sort of can't wait for this part. I love to see the pile. It's not huge (partly because the Kids are growing out of the Big Gifts - like anything made by Little Tykes or Fisher Price, and we all know those things take some real estate under there) but it's (*throat-clear*) color coordinated and matching.

So let it begin, really begin. Merry Christmas, friends!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Husband!

Today is Husband's birthday. Husband, the loving, the talented, the hard-working, the early-rising, the studious, the gentle, the appreciative, the concerned, the love of my heart. Want to know what? I love birthdays. And want to know what else? I love presents. Mine, or anybody else's. Buying gifts, planning gifts, making gifts, wrapping gifts... it all makes me really happy.

And also, I couldn't wait until today to do the birthday present thing.

So we came home from Grandma and Grandpa's house yesterday afternoon (it really was afternoon, even though it was almost dark) and busted out the presents. I had a good excuse, really, because Husband was threatening to put on the Netflix show of the moment, which happens to be Jurassic Park. It's not that I don't like Jurassic Park, it's more like I just... hate it.

So we suggested presents, and after some new windshield wipers and some vanity shelving for the beautiful photos he takes and also Coldstone Ice Cream, which is available now in my very own market's freezer, there was UP. You may recall that I liked this show every time I saw it in theaters. (I think 3 times. Maybe more.) Somehow, I liked it even more snuggled up in the basement with the fireplace going and the Kids all piled around each other. And not only because I could fall asleep for twenty minutes without getting that crunch in my neck when my unfortunate sleep patterns manifest themselves in a movie theater. I just really love the act of filling my home with something good. And this movie is good.

But, I have to say that if I had never seen it and I just read the back jacket copy, I would never have bought this DVD. Listen to this: "Carl Fredricksen, a retired balloon salesman, is part rascal, part dreamer who is ready for his last chance at high-flying excitement. Tying thousands of balloons to his house, Carl sets off to the lost world of his childhood dreams. Unbeknownst to Carl, Russell, an overeager 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer who has never ventured beyond his backyard, is in the wrong place at the wrong time - Carl's front porch!" Yes, the exclamation point is theirs. The copy only gets worse after that. I mean, really? Really? You can make a movie THIS wonderful, and here's what you say about it? It reminds me the importance of a great query letter. But this is not about writing, not really. This is about Husband, and birthdays, and days off school and work and post-holiday relaxing.

So Husband is a year older* and our fridge is full of a Honeybaked Ham that we totally did not bring to the Thanksgiving gathering yesterday (on purpose, because I'm selfish, not like Nathan - who just forgot to put everything that's not pie in his car, I'm just saying) and we have three more days of nothing planned. That would be my idea of a vacation. All the Kids here, no work schedule, the house is already clean, no school, no plans. Except a photo shoot, because that's what Husband really wants for his birthday - to take pictures without anyone moaning or melting in protest. I'll let you know how that turns out. The pictures. And the moaning.

*not a year older than me. He's three years older than me. Just so we're straight on that.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Honestly, today it's all about the white flour. I'm off to the kitchen to make Many Fine Rolls. Enjoy your day, won't you?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Still Feeling Thankful

So today, I'm feeling really grateful for forgiveness. In the big ways, and also in the small ways. I'm thankful for God's way of accepting my too-small offerings. His mercy. His generosity. His continuousness.

And I'm grateful for others who forgive my constant, stupid, small and huge offenses.

For instance, my adorable friend had a baby this week. In a fit of resourcefulness, I managed to leave my little valley to visit her and her perfect son in the hospital. We snuggled her baby, we laughed, we visited, and it was great. I, being the kind of girl I am, offered to bring her family dinner after she got home. Which would be last night. Last night. The night I did not remember to feed anyone who lives outside my own kitchen.

*Gulp*

I am an idiot. This is clear over and over, to anyone who knows me even a little bit. But I know that my friend's family did not starve. At least I'm pretty sure, and I'll call to make completely sure as soon as the sun is over the mountain. And then I'll bring actual dinner, and she'll forgive my stupidity, and everything will be okay (even if she never *quite* trusts me again to feed her children).

And I'm grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Funny Thing

My friend Cindy just sent me this. If you're a New Moon fan (or if you're not, but know the story) this is a good way to spend five minutes laughing.

More Thanks

I'm grateful for my talents. I'm not talking about writing, don't worry. I'm talking about home talents that make my life easier.

I'm grateful to know how to budget. If this were a superpower, I'd be Wonder Woman, stretching dollars all over the town. The most amazing facet of my superpower is determining the difference between a want and a need. No idea how this came about (because my Dad, bless his heart, needs Double Stuff Oreos and Lemon Drops. But only whenever he's at the store. Or the gas station*) but I'm glad to have it.

I'm grateful to know how to cook. I love food. I love really good food above all. I dream about food. Japanese Soba noodles, last night. I've never actually eaten Japanese Soba noodles, but I read "Garlic and Sapphires" a few years ago, and that chapter absolutely hooked me. So in my dream, I was on a noodle quest. Don't judge. Also I love white flour. I know that's not chic. It's not fashionable to like it, but hot, white, buttered starch is my kind of nirvana. Pardon me while I dream of pasta. Pretzels. Popcorn. Rice. Crusty, rich artisan bread.

Mmmm. Bread.

Okay, I'm back (she says, wiping drool from the keyboard). And while we're on the subject of good things I can cook, I sort of dare you to name it. There are some things I choose not to make (anything deep-fried and Chinese - I do it, and I do it well, but I can't eat it after I see how the oil reserve sinks. I'll take my Sesame Chicken from Shoots or PF Chang's.) But the only thing I've ever tried to make that totally flopped? Mozzarella sticks (we were newlyweds, and too poor to hit Denny's to satisfy a craving. That was the last time I ever even craved mozzarella sticks. Just don't even try to imagine the damage.) I love food, and I'm grateful that I can make myself whatever I want to eat.

I'm thankful to be able to prioritize the little things. One load of laundry every day makes me able to handle my life a lot easier than being a slave to Mr. Maytag all day every Thursday. Multi-tasking is a great blessing (ironing while I watch "Guys and Dolls" or painting my toenails while I read to the Kids or letting the Lysol disinfect the toilets while I reread "Guernsey" in the bathtub).

I'm thankful for a decent sense of organization. I've got several things to arrange and deal with, when I think about my 4 Kids on their 4 school schedules, plus practices and lessons, homework, chores, and music practicing, and sometimes the thought of it makes me roll up in a ball. You moms who work? I don't know how you do it. I'm thankful that I stay home (that's code for "run around for everyone else") so I can keep myself and my family in order. Which brings me to:

I'm grateful for my newfound ability to say the word No. This came in my middle thirties. And it is a gift, let me tell you. I'd heard of it before, but I'd never dared try it. But now? I'm a No pro. Want a free sample?

Becca, can you...? NO.
Becca, would you like to...? No.
Pardon me, miss, could I have a moment of your time? NO.
Mom, may I please...? No.
Honey, could I...? No.
Becca, would you...? No.
Do you want to...? No.

Wait. Maybe I'll rethink that last one.

*Oh, come on. He also taught me the fine art of exaggeration. He should be proud.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Gratitude Week

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Here at my blog, we'll be jumping on the Grateful train* and talking about all manner of things to feel grateful about.

And what am I thankful for? Today, and increasingly over the years, I am grateful for my family. I have a really, really good Husband. He's a kind, hard-working, funny, talented, handsome, generous guy. He hands over compliments like Halloween candy. He'd rather be at home, with us, than anywhere in the world. He uses his talents to make the world beautiful**.



And then there are the Kids. The healthy, happy, smart and adjusted Kids. They like each other. They love each other. They grow their talents and they are obedient and they are kind.


Kid 1, quiet and reserved in normal life, lights up like a sparkler when she's on stage.

Kid 2 is self-motivated and hard-working, and makes lovely music.

Kid 3 keeps me laughing*** with her diva ways.
Kid 4, totally not a baby anymore by the way, shares his love, spreading his friendship all over the kindergarten and beyond.

This family, it's my greatest blessing. I thank God every day for them, for their goodness and their sweetness.


*which, naturally, reminds me of my favorite scene from "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" where the 3 convicts, still in ankle chains, leap onto the train car and then fall off. Priceless comedy.
**Kind of like these pictures.
***you know, when I'm not beating her

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today

Standing at the circulation desk, filing cards grown soft at the corners, I heard the phone ring. Eager for a change of pace, even if it meant I'd be doing someone's research over the phone, I grabbed up the receiver.

"Batesville Public Library, can I help you?"

It was my dad. Calling from the hospital room in Chicago where my mom had been admitted during their getaway weekend. He just wanted to check in on me - he'd missed me when he called home to talk to the boys.

"I'm good. Work is fine. I'm excited to go to Cincinnati this afternoon. Can I talk to Mom?"

Pause.

Now, I should explain that pauses in telephone conversations with my dad are not unusual. There is always... a great deal... of... white space... in talking with him. So why was I suddenly hot around my eyes, and tight in the back of my throat?

"Dad?"

Throat-clearing. "No. You can't. Mom's in a coma, Bec."

Did I know that? Was there some conversation in the past few days where this information was given to me, and did I somehow forget about it? Is that even possible? But if not, how could he have neglected to mention such a vital fact to me?

The library, quiet anyway, went fuzzy like cotton around me. Even the whispers were muffled, and I felt wrapped up in the familiar. I didn't even sit down. I tipped my chin to roll the tears back into my head, and finished the conversation like a well-bred teenager. Which I was.

Maybe years of living with a mom who spent a week every year in the hospital calloused me. Maybe the idea of her in the ICU was just part of my childhood. I'd lived with it my whole life, you know. So maybe you won't find me a completely unfeeling ingrate when I tell you that the rest of the day was more than fine - it was fun.

After a rowdy drive into Cincinnati, Missy and I got dropped off downtown, scoured a few ballet supply stores (for her) and a bookstore (for me). We ate at Taco Bell. For a skinny person, Missy could really eat. She ordered no less than five menu items, and I watched, impressed, as she downed every bite. We met at the rendezvous point to get picked up for the dance.

The dance.

Here was where I belonged, in this under-decorated church-building-turned-social-hall. With these kids, from towns and cities an hour from my home -- this was where I felt like me. Good kids, and all so different. Different from what I saw every day at school, and different from each other. I felt loved there, not judged, not watched, not weird. This was a place for a great deal of hugging.

Dance, dance, dance. Cute boys and happy girls and jokes and laughter and music. Forgive me for forgetting, for a couple of hours, what was going on a few hundred miles to the northwest.

After the dance, Pizza. As ever. Mr. G's pizza, breadsticks, and root beer. More laughing. More talk. More teasing. Gentle teasing from the others, and more pointed teasing from my brother. I shook it off, like I'd learned to do (not like the years and years that I would scream and yell and then get in trouble for overreacting).

Somehow on the long drive home, I didn't know. I had no premonitions. The earth didn't shift. Air wasn't sucked from the atmosphere. I just rode home, laughing and not sleepy and not afraid.

I checked on Marc. He was sleeping in the parent's big bed, elbows and knees everywhere. Good. Wash face. Brush teeth. Change into jammies. Lights off. Climb into bed.

Knock at the door.

Blood runs cold.

Ignore it. It will go away. My fear of the dark, fueled by far too many Stephen King novels that first year I worked at the library, overtook all logic.

More knocking. Monsters. Axe murderers. Doorbell. Vampires. Psychotic animals. More knocking. Another doorbell.

I picked up the phone in my room and called our own number. I don't know if this works anymore, technologically speaking, but that night, I hung up quickly and the phone began to ring. Once, twice, three times. It stopped. I grabbed the receiver.

"Nathan?"
"What?"
"There's someone at the door."

Only the intervention of a benevolent God prevented him from reminding me that axe murderers do not ring doorbells.

"Okay. Coming." The bravest words of a brave big brother.

I stood, shivering at my bedroom door. Saw him walk from the basement stairs across the small family room. He turned and I heard the door open. Heard the Rockwoods' voices, hushed appropriately for the time of night and the delicacy of their mission.

I didn't wonder if we'd left something in their car. I didn't wonder if anything terrible had happened to their kids between dropping us off and getting themselves home. I didn't wonder anything. Because I knew.

I knew.

I walked to the front door. They'd come in, but only just. Their backs were pressed against the door, and I knew again. There were no jokes, and if the Rockwoods weren't telling jokes, this was more serious than anything I'd ever experienced with them. Jolene, tall and stricken, held her arms out to me. I shook my head, not because I didn't want her comfort, not because I didn't believe, but because my head would shake. Back and forth as I was folded into her arms.

Whispered words: "Your mom..." Head shake, back and forth.

"... dad called..." Head shake.

"Come home with us, sleep at our house..." And then I could nod. Yes. Your house. That is the right thing to do. Because we shouldn't be here alone. And we should give you the thing you need, too. We should allow you to do the only thing to do when there is nothing, nothing anyone can do.

Before getting in the car, I did the only thing I could do when there was nothing else to do. I went back into my room, picked up the phone again, and listened as the buttons sang Jorja's song - the eleven-note jingle that meant I could reconnect with my far-far-away best friend.

Her mom told me she was asleep.

"Please."
"I need her."
"My mom died."

Gasp. "Oh, Becca." A quick waking, and there it was. The comfort I needed, across a thousand miles. The words, just right.

Will you be shocked, or will you understand when I tell you we laughed? Will you know what it is to share a heart, and to realize that there is a time for tears, and a time for laughter? And, sometimes, will you understand the need for both at once? Will you know that both, in equal measure, are required in order to heal?

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Not You, It's Me

It may not be clear from the words appearing on my post and all, but I am taking a little break from writing today. Not like breaking up, exactly, just taking a break. I'll say it - I'm going through a selfish phase. It's not you, it's me. I need some time. Let's still be friends*.

But really, seriously now, I am reconnecting with the other parts of me, the little lost parts.

There's no Christmas-shopper part. There's no good-sister part. There's no good-friend part. There's only a sliver of a good-server part. There's not much of a cooker or a cleaner or a book-reader part.

But I will relocate my Wife pieces and my Mama pieces, and I will polish them till they shine. (And if, purely by coincidence, bathrooms also happen to shine today, that will be a bonus.) I want to recover something that has started to slip in all the bustle of the past couple of months. If that means I disappear from some of the other roles I've been playing, at least I'll know I'm focusing on the pieces that matter most.

*If I had been responsible for more breakups in my past, I could probably come up with more lines. But, whatever, I guess I was always on the other end...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Come See Me!

Hey, Y'all in Utah County! I have a little event in Orem tomorrow. I'll be at the new Deseret Book (by Five Guys Burgers and Fries, just north of University Mall) from 1:00-3:00. I have good, good news to share with anyone who comes...

I Absolutely Almost Remember Doing That Already (I Think)

I am losing my mind.

Not in the slow, graceful way of the aging woman of character. Fast and loud.

For instance: I do things, regular house-y things or different elsewhere things, only to check progress and find that I didn't do them at all. Like? Oh, how about the laundry that should be dry by now but instead is moldering in the washing machine EVEN THOUGH I PERFECTLY WELL REMEMBER SWITCHING IT OVER. Or the bed, that I absolutely remember making this morning when I got out of it, now rumpled and messy, with all the covers on my side. Or that bread I bought at the store, because who has time to NaNo and bake bread? But where is it? Not in the cupboard. Not in the fridge. Not in the freezer. Not in the pantry. So I fervently check my receipt so I can call the market and righteously demand they return the hostage bread I bought... which is not listed on the receipt.

This works both ways with writing. One morning I wake early, check the draft from yesterday, find where I was working and look for that funny paragraph. You know, that one that made me laugh while I was typing. That one where the guy goes to the place with the thing? Lost. Can't find it. So I read the entire manuscript, which is up to 22,000 words by now, searching for that funny paragraph.

It does not exist.

But want to know what does? A different scene, written with only slight variations, in at least three places. That scene that seemed so easy to write, so natural (maybe because I've written it seven times before). Ack.

Bye, Sanity. I enjoyed your stay, brief as it was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Good Advice

Hey, it's a quote from Husband!*

"Discover what each character needs."

Great writing advice, right? Even though he uses it for films, it's the same sort of idea. And it can help get me out of a NaNo slump. Because my characters will always need something (a drink of water, a slap, to find the key to the hidden garden door**, whatever). And if I give them what they need, the story will be over. So, naturally, I give them (or allow them to take) what they think they need, insuring all manner of mayhem.

What does your character need? A quest? Love? A job? Comedy? Some kind of Personal Knowledge? If you know what they need, you're well on your way to denying them for a few chapters (or a lot of chapters, if you happen to be a long-form, dedicated, non-flighty sort of writer). Let's get back to the writing.***

*When I hit that, the "!" didn't come out, because I was sliding off of the shift key. It said Husband1, but only for a second. He is Husband 1, you know, but also HusbandForever.
**What? That's been done? Why didn't someone tell me that 20,000 words ago? Come on, people!
***As opposed to the writing about writing, which is nice, but doesn't add to my climbing word-count. So, bye.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post # 250. No Kidding.

In honor of the fact that this is my 250th post, I am absolutely not going to tell you 250 possibly interesting (or possibly not) things. I am not going to give away 250 random items I have sitting around my house. I am not going to spam 250 people and ask them to read my blog (because I don't know how). I am not going to do any of that. I am going to give you... (drumroll, please) another RRO mini-excerpt.


Mom pulls her new toy, a talking GPS directions-thingie up close to her eyes. “Turn right here. No, here. Sarah, you missed it. Now Mildred’s recalibrating.” I swear if I hear the polite British GPS voice, which, yes – Mom named, tell me one more time that she’s recalibrating, I’ll chuck her right out the window.
“It’s okay, Mom. There’s another entrance to the parking lot.” I point ahead half a block and turn into the lot between two huge trees.
It’s almost over, I tell myself. And then somehow you’ll miss this.
Try me, I respond.
"My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions" Chapter 1


I know, right? We can hardly wait. So, I have some good news about that. The Lovely Editor (whom we shall call Lids because I have a small typing handicap and it feels so much like Lisa - she understands and so should you) has recently let me know that My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions is at press this week. THIS WEEK, people.

I know.

So it looks like we might have an earlier-than-expected release date, too. Yip!

Also, 19,000 words as of today. Yip, yip!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fighting Style

I've been writing a fight - not physical, and not even an argument. It's a silent avoidance, and sometimes those can be the most painful. Someone is keeping a secret. Someone else makes (totally incorrect) assumptions. Everyone feels bad, bad.

Are you a confronter? Or an avoider? What about the people in your house? Same as you, or different?

And, if you care: Here's a little NaNo update: I'm at 15, 771 this morning!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Together Again

Husband flew home through the night. He's been on a work trip to Hawaii. Before you get too disgusted, you should know that he didn't even get in the water once. He worked his tail off (even though "work" has a little different connotation when you're a filmmaker - he had to do some location scouting where they shot "Jurassic ParK" and "Lost," along with a little shopping in Chinatown).

And now he's home. Currently trying to sleep over the sounds of Kids 3 and 4 dancing to "The Final Countdown" by Europe, which (by the way) has been much overplayed this week.

But it is so good to have him home. It's just right for him to be here, you know? Good. Safe. Complete.

In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, "Hey, it's good to be together again."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Seen Around Town

A person who would leave the house like this:





must have either very high self-esteem, or none at all. Is there a third option?

(the turban is covering curlers for the Play tonight. Made from a very pretty scarf Husband bought in Ecuador last fall.)

Who Knew?

Blog O' Random, coming at you.

* Bathrooms don't actually clean themselves. However, the amount of time you spend in your house in inversely proportional to the number of times someone says, "Hey, what's that smell?"

* 2500 words in a day is a lot to write. But dialog makes those words come faster.

* Sick little boys who would rather be coughing in Kindergarten than watching "Newsies" in my bed = Massive Cuteness.

* It would be cool to have Personal Assistants/ Vice-Beccas / Counselors for every aspect of my life.

* The community theater production of "Annie, Get Your Gun" premiers tonight. I have to put some curlers in my hair.

* Husband is emailing occasional photos of handsome Islander men from his work trip to Hawaii. The photos are not directed to me. But I still manage to find them. Because I routinely read the Kids' email.

* I haven't had a professional haircut in more than 19 months. This should probably be remedied.

* Contrary to popular opinion, I am not addicted to edamame. I could quit any time I wanted to.

* My dad's birthday (64) is later this month. I have no good ideas for gifts, and only partly because he's not a "things" kind of guy.

* NaNoWriMo is not conducive to exercise. Or maybe it's just the valid excuse I've been looking for.

*Okay, time to tackle those bathrooms. And those 2500 words. (And go read some blogs - later. Maybe.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mom Memories

I made my mom's carrot casserole for dinner last night. I came close to crying. It's seldom that missing my mom feels so direct. And it almost always surprises me. Like when my youngest (step)brother took pictures of his precious family at my mom's gravestone in Indiana. This sweet brother and his wife, neither of whom ever met my mom, paying tribute to her with their babies, telling them that this is where "Grandma Janet" is buried. And like when I opened a box of sheet music, found "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl," started to sing it to my kids, and got all choked, because that is a Mom Song. Like seeing my sweet dad, still handsome in his sixties, and realizing that the last time he saw my mom, twenty years ago this month, she was not much older than I am now.

So I made the carrot casserole.

It was so pretty, and it smelled so... right. You know how smells will take you right back to a time and place? Yes. That. And it reminded me of so many things I loved about my mom -- her ways in the kitchen, how she always tasted right off the mixing spoon, and how hot breakfast was non-negotiable (even if it was apple crisp, because really, how different is that from apple-cinnamon oatmeal?), and how sugar cereal was for camping trips. My mom had a spagetti sauce that would bring kids from town. I'm not kidding. My friends would fill up cups with it and eat it with spoons. And once, she burned pork chops. In the microwave.* But that carrot casserole. I loved that stuff.

Here's the recipe, if you're so inclined.
2 and 1/2 cups grated carrots
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups cooked rice
1 Tablespoon grated onion**
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 cups grated cheese (Knowing how I grew up, this probably meant cheddar cheese, medium. But now that I've become a cheese snob, I made it half and half with Gruyere. Mmmm. Gruyere.)

Blanch carrots in 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes. Drain, and save the juice. Combine carrots with eggs, butter, rice, salt, onions and cheese(s). Mix it up.*** Press into a greased 8x8 pan, place that pan into a 9x13 pan with a cup or two of hot water in it. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Next, you make a white sauce, using the carrot juice for half the liquid. Like so: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan. Stir in 4 Tablespoons of flour and stir over medium-high heat for a minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Then add carrot juice and about 3/4 cup of milk, whisking constantly until the sauce has thickened. Don't let it boil. Then you add a cup or 2 of really good-quality frozen peas. If you don't know the difference between good peas and the other kind, give me a call. We'll talk.

Serve casserole with cream sauce over the top. See if it makes you miss my mom, too.

*This may be where I get my aversion to microwave cooking.
**But why stop at 1? I used 2.
***My Kid 3 said at this point, "It looks just like chopped candy corns!"