Settling Your Palate

As parents, it is our jobs to worry. My oldest child hated to read. Every word that made it from paper to his brain was a fight. Oh, he’d listen to me read all day long, but getting him to pick up a book on his own was akin to torture. One exception was C.S. Lewis and other classics like White Fang. Tough books for a little boy with dyslexia.

But this wasn’t the first time I’d had to worry extensively about him or my other kids. Like any good mom, my kids’ eating habits were of utmost concern.

When Eldest was about a year and a half old, all he ate were strawberry Poptarts and bananas. And I do mean this literally. My lovely doctor assured me it was just a phase and that Poptarts were heavily fortified enough to see him through to the next love. My Dear Daughter, on the other hand, was a yogurt fanatic. She loved all things dairy to the point of refusing infant formula. She went straight from mama’s milk to moo milk at six months old–and Lord, did that cause a stir. Seven years later Youngest devoured oatmeal by the gobs. He had a bowl every morning and one every night before bed, often times supplementing his daily menu with a snack or two in between. If I had a penny for every time someone told me he would get fat from all the carbs, my Dear Hubby could retire

The only one who didn’t have a phase was our Middle son. At about eight months old, Middle had gotten so sick that he nearly didn’t make it through the severe dehydration caused by his multiple-infection diagnosis. For the next few years, he subsisted off of McDonalds’ shakes just to keep his calorie intake up and help close the growth gap created by the side-effects of his illness. Doctor’s orders. As you can imagine, he was a seriously picky eater. (Right, Dave Homann?) Not to mention, we were seriously concerned parents. All despite having other children with quirky eating habits not only survive, but thrive.

I have no idea if Eldest eats Poptarts or bananas, though I suspect many of the former and few of the latter. He is a college kid, after all. DD can’t stand the texture of yogurt, and Youngest still uses oatmeal as a bedtime snack more often than not. Middle likes anything not from McDonalds–with lemon peppered asparagus & brussel sprouts as a current fave.

Tastes change. Or not. And that’s okay. But what we don’t’ have to do is stress over the evolution. Change can be good. The journey even better.

We are blessed with a lifetime to try new flavors and textures. Opportunities abound to stretch our experiences and fall in love with new foods. So, too, are readers capable of changing literary loves.

As a voracious reader of mysteries in my childhood, I still appreciate a good thriller with a tangled web of deceit and a healthy dose of red herrings. I’ve also grown to love nonfiction. But only medical or history based nonfiction. Give me a 1,000 page tome on the history of rabies and I’m like a kid with the whole candy store at my disposal…or should I say consumption?!

Crime novels were once my Poptarts and bananas. While most romance novels are akin to the goopy texture of Greek yogurt.

My bookshelves are filled with a  vast palate of literature ranging from the classics to YA to pulp fiction. And that’s better than okay. Diversity is good, even if we have to go through picky phases to get there.

So, don’t be too harsh on your children for not eating their peas or not loving to read. Tastes change. It is our job to support the journey and expose ourselves and our  kids to unique and continuous opportunity, be it music, food, athletics or literature.

Once upon a time, Eldest struggled to read. Now, he is rarely without a book.

How has your palate changed? What are your current faves (of anything) and why? If you are a writer, how has this affected your writing journey?

Curious minds want to know.

Inspiration + Giveaways= A Great Day

Yesterday, a neighbor and I were chatting. She’d gone overseas to visit her daughter who is in the Peace Corps. We both agreed that seeing how others live is a humbling experience…particularly when we live in a county with so much. Yet, even some in our own country struggle with daily life way more than they should, and we, the average citizen, take our lives for granted.

I take that back. We, the average American Joe, focus on the negatives, on the lack of, on the trifling little quibbles that are meaningless to so many other of our fellow humans.

My first real exposure to this came from a book back in my preteen years. A little novel titled Mrs. Mike highlighted the inequities that some may face and the perseverance and joy with which they face them while others can only focus on the minutiae. Case in point, Mrs. Mike lost her children in the Canadian wilderness only to return to find her mother’s boarders quibbling over burnt toast.

I wonder how many times a day I quibble over things as small and inconsequential as burnt toast. Scratch that, I don’t want to know.

Especially after receiving a beautiful email chock full of inspiration and giveaways for readers and writers.

Queena is a young lady vibrant and full of life. She had her future in the palm of her hand. Then, she was brutally attacked, a senseless act that left her blind and broken. Physically broken. Her spirit, however, is kept alive through the love of her family and the generosity of many she has never met.

You see, Queena had just dropped off a stack of books at the library when she was raped and beaten. And in the true kindness and community that is beloved by the literary community, both readers and writers, Queena has inspired a literary giveaway of epic proportions.

All writers and aspiring writers can bid on writerly services from big name agents and editors to techy stuff that make writing easier or more manageable. Readers can find amazing books and book packages by gifted authors or their publishers.

In the workforce, a common phrase is often bandied about: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

In the writerly world, our phrase is pay it forward. The writing community is truly inspiration in the generous way we reach a hand backwards to help pull up the writers behind us. We share wisdom, experience, services and hope.

Please head over to NA Alley and see Queena’s story of survival and perseverance. Then, check on the list of items up for bid in this legendary auction.

How do you focus on the important things in life and steer clear of burn toast quibbles?

Curious minds want to know.

Is Facebook Dead? & other Techy Stuff for Parents and Writers

It’s evident that most kids have emigrated from Facebook to cyber sites less-frequented-by-adults. This mass exodus has caused the extinction of previous social network sites, and I can’t help but wonder if Facebook is the next dinosaur of the cyber world.

For parents, this constant migration away from adult eyes means chasing down vines, instagrams and snap chats–an exhausting endeavor at best.

Yet for writers, it means one more way to date our writing. And that is never a good thing unless we pen historical fiction.

The bunchy phone cords of my childhood were replaced by cordless phones, then bag phones then cell phones that now know exactly where you are, what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with on any given day. It’s terrifying and could have been a sci-fi novel a handful of years back.

So what does the future hold for the written word in regards to technology?

Do we follow the trend of the day and pray that by the time our novels are published the tech hasn’t left our words behind?

Or, do we create our own, similar technology and use it as stand ins for the real thing?

And what is this social media thing all about anyways, and how will it continue to evolve? Is Candy Crush the future? Will we be wified from birth so that every thought, every memory, every sight we see will be instantly networked to curious onlookers? Will fiction become fact sooner than we think? How do you handle this and other techy conundrums in your life and your writing?

Curious  minds want to know!

Tales from the Bully Box Now Available

BullyBox_FrontCover-3I am pleased to announce the release of Tales from the Bully Box, a middle grade anthology of super awesome stories for the super awesome kids in your life. If you know a kid, have a kid or love a kid, please check out this new book which aims to open communication between kids and their parents/peers/teachers.

Excerpt: Bullying stinks, but knowing what to do about it can make things better. In Tales from the Bully Box, you will find short stories about kids just like you. They get bullied, and sometimes they even bully. But most of the time, they are bystanders who have to figure out what to do when they witness the bullying all around them. In “Hailey’s Shooting Star,” one-handed Hailey proves her worth on the basketball court and as a friend. In “The Eyes on the Back of My Head,” you’ll get to stare straight into Mike Mansky’s soul with a pair of super-secret laser eyes. Filled with stories that take readers on a journey from the classroom to summer camp and the basketball court to the mall, Tales from the Bully Box inspires kids to be the best friends they can be.

Questions from the authors are included for each story to help parents, teachers or caregivers engage in discussion with the children they love.

This is the first book in a the Colors for Causes series by Elephant’s Bookshelf Press. EBP will donate proceeds to organizations that support bully prevention.

To find out how you can help stop bullying, check out The Bully Box or PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed editing them.

Cat~

P.S. Did I mention I have 3 short stories included as well? Lucky for me, my publisher edited those!

Baking in the Fall Flavors: with a bonus pumpkin bread recipe

Confession time: I’m not a baker. I don’t do cookies, cakes or pies as a general rule–not because I don’t know how–but because we don’t eat them. In fact, my mom is an amazing cook who taught me well, but her lessons can’t undo the following equation.

Desserts + my fam = uneaten waste.

Except in the fall. I could eat pumpkin anything until I passed out. I make a mean pumpkin muffin with delicious cream cheese filling. I have been in charge of baking the family pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving from the wee age of about 10–homemade crust included. My kindergarten teacher first hooked me on pumpkin cookies with raisins decades ago…her recipe is heavenly and has been passed on numerous times over the years. More recently, we’ve adopted a pumpkin cheesecake recipe, and for early morning appetites there’s pumpkin bread. I even think that eating baked squash for dinner is sinfully divine and should be classified as a treat.

Beyond that, I make apple crisp whenever someone passes along extra apples.

That’s it. Maybe it’s something about the fall and harvesting fresh produce that makes me love pumpkin so much, or maybe it’s my body naturally wanting to fatten up for the winter. Personally, I don’t care about the reason behind it, because nothing in the world is as delicious as the scent and flavor of fall baking.

And so I give you a touch of my childhood via my mom’s pumpkin bread which was handed down from her mom. Where the original recipe came from, I can only guess, so cannot attribute it properly if such attribution exists.

1. Place raisins in a large mixing bowl, cover with hot water and set aside to cool.

  • 1 1/4 cup chopped raisins
  • 1 cup hot water

2. Sift together the following ingredients and set aside.

  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt

Mix together the following ingredients with the raisin mixture.

  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup oil (I personally use olive oil)
  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into 3 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees 1 hour (until done). Cool in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

As an added bonus, here’s my mom’s personal notes: Flavor improves after a couple of days. Also, loaves will keep for several weeks when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

What are your favorite fall flavors, and why?

Curious minds want to know.

Wear Orange On Wednesday

Yes, you. Tomorrow morning, don your orange and unite against bullying. Use this color to visibly stand up for kindness and community and compassion.

What Unity Means to Me

  • I believe that all people are equal. We all deserve respect, love and acceptance regardless of where we came from, what we have, what we do or why we do it.
  • I believe there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Acceptance implies compassion and understanding. Tolerance implies self-import and civil disdain.
  • I believe that kids deserve a safe educational environment free from harassment and intolerance–certainly they deserve one free from bullying. I believe the same goes for adults whether at work or in the home.
  • I believe that many bullies are often victims of bad circumstances, and their behaviors are learned as a reaction to those life stresses. While this doesn’t make it right, it does make it easier to deal with.
  • I believe that teaching is better than punishment. If we understand the why, we are more apt to respond positively than if we view things through a negative lens based strictly on the what.
  • I believe that learning the intention behind the action is more important than knee-jerk reactions to things that seem cruel, odd, disgusting or rude. If we never understand something we can’t ever hope to help.
  • I believe there is no such thing as common sense. The world is so big and the population so vast that there isn’t one common experience to rightfully base our assumptions and expectations.
  • I believe that I have no right to judge others based on my moral compass. We all earn our compasses through our own personal experiences, therefore the things I hold dear might be meaningless to someone who lives a vastly different life than myself and vice-versa.
  • I believe the only thing strong enough to bring peace to this world is a communal desire to accept and care for others different than ourselves.
  • I believe we are all equal, and as such, we all deserve a life of hope, compassion and respect.

I know, I sound a little like Miss America, but without the slim stems, the luscious locks and the poetic prose. I’m just an average mom with big beliefs, and tomorrow, October 22, I will wear orange in honor of PACER’s Unity Day. I hope you will, too.

What does unity mean to  you?

Curious minds want to know.

It’s almost that time of year again…

Taking on the world, one novel at a time!

Crazy, I know, but super fun and dream-worthy, none-the-less!

In fact, just this morning, I ran across my high school graduation invitation. Our class motto is far more meaningful to me now than it was two and a half decades ago…

I didn’t always dream of writing, but once the bug bit me, I’ve never been able to shake it. NaNo, while crazy and intense, is an amazing annual event that inspires and motivates me. It’s like a runner’s high. Only better because my thighs don’t burn and I don’t have snot running down my face.

Since I started participating in NaNo, I’ve had nearly a dozen short stories, several articles and a novel (with a second one coming out next year) published, as well as edited a short story anthology and served on the acquisitions board for five others. I am firmly wrapped up in the beauty of my dreams.

And the hard work…

Once November hits, I’ll batten down the hatches and come up for coffee, kids and Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what my writing project will be, but I’m actually thinking of something a little lighter this year.

If anyone wants to join me in writing (or attempting to write) 50,000 words in 30 days, I make a great cheerleader. I also make a mean pumpkin cheesecake that I plan to bake for a local write-in. What could be better than good company, beautiful dreams and divine desserts?

Go ahead, click on the National Novel Writing Month icon above and sign up for a unique adventure. If you do, drop a line and let me know what your user name is, so we can get through the month together. If you live close enough, I might even throw in a margarita and homemade guacamole for incentive!

Share your dreams. What motivates you to reach them? Do you ever feel as if your dreams are so wild and crazy they are not worth pursuing? If so, how do you push on despite the devil on your shoulder?

Curious minds want to know.