Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Reading Harry Potter

When Harry Potter first came out, I didn't read them. Not because I didn't think they'd be good - after all, Katrina read them all and raved. But even without reading them, seeing children lined up around the block for a 700+ page book made me realize they were magic. I decided there were plenty of books for me to read and that I'd buy them to read with my future children.

We read the first book together when Joseph was in first grade. While he struggled to remember twenty-five sight words, I read it to both him and his sister, moving my finger along like Aticus to Scout and hoping something would click and he'd have his "water" moment.

Months later, as we inched our way through the book, it was Harry Potter that I heard him reading out loud after ten weeks in tutoring, his voice barely stammering as he spoke the words.


He shifted to Percy Jackson and Jurassic Park after that and then, last year, we started listening to the audio books. As we drove the deep green highways of Washington and Oregon, hugging cliffs that opened to stunning vistas, we listened as Harry, Hermione, and Ron grew and struggled. We drove under overhanging trees blocking out the sun as Harry and Cedric went deeper into the maze and cried together as the senselessness of it all became apparent.

We pushed pause and spoke of the Dementors. Joseph pondered how the story would be different from Hermione's point of view and wondered if Ron would ever understand that he was as bad as anyone for not noticing the plight of the house elves.


When we got home, life got busy and we struggled to listen to Order of the Phoneix. Joseph pushed ahead of me, finally getting frustrated with the slow pace and grabbing the book off his shelf to finish it.

He read it while camping, curled up on the air mattress, reading some aloud to Holden, apologizing that it might not make sense to his little friend. He read it sitting at the picnic table and under the branches of a eucalyptus fort.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and sleeping


He almost finished it last night, snuggled up on the couch and awake until nearly midnight when he finally fell asleep, holding the book in his arms. He woke up this morning, reading the rest, whispering the whole time, "Oh no."


He handed it to me this morning and said, "It gets grim." He's starting Half-Blood Prince tonight and is excited for me to catch up.

Liz still isn't a fan, maybe later when she's a bit older, she'll understand the appeal and while I'd have loved to have waited until she was ready, I am so very glad I am experiencing these stories now for the first time with Joseph.

There will be so many books and movies and things Liz and I will bond over simply because we're mother and daughter, the two ladies in the family. As it is, we shop together, grabbing Starbucks as we wander the aisles of Target, chatting about school while she tells me that no, I can't pull off the boho look anymore. We curl up on the couch together and watch old movies, black and whites being her favorites, both of us getting teary eyed at the endings of sappy romances. We share looks, sometimes, the looks of women shaking their heads over the man in their lives as we ponder why Joseph can't seem to ever find his socks.

With Joseph, though, I'm glad I waited to read them with him. I'm glad we're both shocked, surprised, excited, and discovering characters at the same time. I'm glad I don't know everything that happens, that we can both be childlike in our newfound wonder as we dive deeper into the Potter world.

I'm glad he's ahead of me. I'm glad he's able to pat me on the shoulder and tell me it's going to be okay as he hands me the book. I'm glad we're staying up late to finish them together, each of us sharing space while also sharing the same magical world.

I could have never imagined what a fantastic decision it was, all those years ago, to put off reading a book. At the time, I felt somewhat silly and overly romantic. I wasn't even dating anyone, let alone someone I thought I'd have children with.

Having a family was a dream. Putting off reading the book was a down payment on that dream, an action that said, someday, one day, I'll be sitting on the couch with my child, reading the stories that have entranced millions and sharing the same wonder.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Uncommonly Good

I know I'm supposed to be thinking about Christmas presents right now, but I've also got a few birthdays and one very important anniversary niggling at my brain.

Birthdays in December and January are tough - or so I've been told by my dear friends who were Christmas and New Year's babies.  I'm so guilty of focusing more on Joy and Peace than Carrie and Ray.

Mates For LifeMost of December is a crazy whirlwind of crafting - even though I keep saying I'm going to start in September, we all know I never do. Every year, I focus on a particular Fantastic Craft Project and get to work only to remember, usually at midnight, that I've forgotten to think of something for my friend. Thank God for Uncommon Goods where I can get my friends something unique and awesome and won't be burning my fingers with a glue gun.

On top of that, my parents made the stellar decision to get married on New Year's Eve. In our family, we traditionally get our parents a gift for their anniversary. When we were kids, we made them things like storage boxes made of yard sticks or hand beaded jewelry. We usually included a kid-made dinner (I shudder to think). This was all before Pinterest, people. We were crafting rock stars.

Tea from Around the World SetWhile I'm sure that they'd love anything we sent them, I'm thinking we're all old enough now to buy them something they wouldn't ever get themselves. Something that maybe celebrates their love - because seriously...those two are ridiculously in love. Or maybe something to put all the treasures their grandkids and children send them.

Of course, the danger is that I get side tracked with gifts for me. Because seriously... In case you're wondering...that's TEA from around the WORLD.  *hint hint*

We won't even get started on the sea glass ring or sea glass necklace. I mean, it's not like I don't have enough sea glass around my house. (There is no such thing as enough sea glass.)

*sigh* I'm just going to leave this post and that and head over to Uncommon Goods and fall happily down the rabbit hole. Because right now? My OCD heart is singing for this ticket stub diary.

This post was sponsored and compensated by Uncommon Goods. The views, however, are completely my own because even before they contacted me, I looked forward to the days their catalogs would fall into my hot little hands and I could drool and dream over their gorgeous goods.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Street Teams Rock

Interrupting this poor languishing blog to cross post from my author page. While I've left you hanging with my summer road trip, I've been busy finishing up my debut novel, drafting a sequel and all sorts of crazy stuff....
(Trust me. I'll catch you up soon. Promise. There are about four more posts in draft for the road trip, something about camping with 32 people, a fun bit for E's birthday, stuff about school, two hamsters, a chicken who on the attack, and books. Like honest-to-God books. In the meantime...I wanted to post this here in case you're interested.)


I’m so excited to announce that I’m currently seeking members for my street team, Elementally Awesome!
(If you’re a long time reader, you knew I’d have to go cheesy with my team name. It’s what I do. New readers, it’s okay. I’m a dork and I’m totally fine with that.)
Between the release of Merry Little Christmas and my debut novel, Elemental Awakening, coming out soon, plus working on the sequel and an outline prepped for another Christmas serial this year, this little blog is starting to pick up speed and I’m so excited to share it with you all. If you feel that you’re someone who would get a kick out of being a bigger part of this world, take a moment and fill out the form. (And if you don’t, it’s totally okay. I mean, I’ll just be standing over here on the side of the gym as team captain while everyone avoids my eyes and pretends they can’t hear me when I try to pick them. Not that that has ever happened. Because, you know, I’ve always been super cool and stuff.)
Oh! And I should also explain. You don’t actually have to walk literal streets. You can do most anything from the comfort of your own home while wearing pajamas and drinking wine. Or whiskey. I won’t judge.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Road Trip: Slug Bug

My first car was a bright yellow, 1960-something VW bug. It rumbled down the roads, stalled on steep hills, and had a particular smell: upholstery, mildew, and gas mixed with decades of tree shaped air fresheners. My dad bought it for around $500 and I was thrilled. It was, after all, the most average car at my high school.

Every day, I pulled in and parked beside Chris's baby blue bug or Rondee's red convertible bug. There were white bugs and dark blue bugs. They were cheap and forgiving of teenage drivers.

My first job - my first real job - was as a delivery driver for the local florist. I'd pick up my deliveries and pack them into the backseat of my car, balloons obscuring the tiny oval rear window. On sunny days, I rolled down my window and popped open the tiny corner window, putting my elbow on the door and zipping along at speeds upwards of 45 mph.

It was the car in which I learned to drive a stick shift, my mom and I yelling at each other until I cried and she threw her hands in the air taking up the neighbor's offer to teach me to drive himself.

It was the car in which I was in my first accident, inexperience and a tricky break resulting in a slow roll into the slough, a bruised hip, a screaming friend, and the knowledge my mom was going to kill me.

It was the car my dad towed to California where I used it to drive to work, buckling my cousin in the back seat in such a manner that I wonder my aunt and uncle didn't have daily heart attacks.

The death of that car - on a hot summer day as I tried to drive on the freeway at a speed that was good to avoid being smooshed by semis but not good for an air cooled vehicle - resulted in my first clandestine under aged drink bought by a friend: a sickly sweet screwdriver bought at the Circle K I now go to pick up Redbox movies and fill my gas tank.

Don had told me he bought a bug, a grown up model without tears in the seats or an old traffic sign welded to the floor boards. When I showed up, I saw it sitting in all its round and lovely glory and felt an ache to drive it like I've never felt with another car.

After a day in Portland, Don suggested we take it for a spin. I sat in the passenger seat, giddy with excitement. He started the engine and I was seventeen again.

The sound and smell and slight pause as it shifted into gear jolted me to rainy days with the windshield wipers barely big enough to clear the glass, to stuffed animals lining the rear ledge, to a black and red tassel hanging on the mirror, the '93 mottling from silver to a dull gold.

We roared along the back roads. I held on the handle and laughed at the sheer joy of it, my mind jumbled by the time we got to the store. My past and my present mixed until I wasn't sure if I was a middle aged mom running errands or an awkward teenage girl wandering the grocery aisles wondering if she can sneak a box of Captain Crunch into the cart.

Then, Don handed me the keys.

It's been years since I've driven a stick. More years since I've driven four on the floor with reverse positioned sneakily by second. It didn't take long - and thankfully Don didn't yell like Mom did - but pretty soon I was driving over the hills of a country road edged in greens and pines and the transformation to seventeen was complete.

I wanted to keep driving.

I wanted to let the years disappear with the miles. I wanted responsibility to fade to nothing. I buy my own bug.

At some point, I will.

The Road Trip: Lazying About Town

Sometimes, you arrive someplace you've long left and it's as if you've never been gone. As if the two years were mere days or hours and the familiarity surrounding you is pleasingly comfortable, like sinking into a soft chair on a cool day.

That's how I would describe the days we spent with our friends.

Our first day was all about Portland.

We went to Powell's where we once again walked out with more books than we could imagine reading. Elizabeth has recently been introduced to graphic novels, devouring every one she can get her hands on. Lucky for her, her friend Frankie loves them too. They huddled over the books, looking for used copies and creating a pile that threatened to topple with every addition.

Joseph stuck to the Goosebumps collection where he painstakingly looked for the least expensive copy so he could get at least fifteen books for his $40 limit. I stood on a handy step stool on tip toe, running my fingers across the spines of childhood classics, books that sang as I touched them: Little House in the Big Woods, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Heidi.

I made my choices and then spent a happy hour wandering the stacks and floors, stepping over the outstretched legs of readers, and remembering to keep a bit of an eye on my kids though they assured me bad guys never go to bookstores. (And I stymied them with, "How else can they learn to be bad?" Until they reminded me, "Google.")

We walked over to a pizza place where the slices were delicious and the cider was crisp with deep pours. We walked to a fountain, my shoulders dropped to relaxation. Don somehow managed to procure three more ciders in to-go cups and we sat with our feet in the water while the girls splashed in shirts wrapped and tucked into midriff tops. The boys lay in the shade, their books pressed open as they left us behind and entered another world.

Don started a conversation with a couple and discovered they were newly transplanted from California. They talked a bit about the weather, the beer, and then in one of those quirks of fate discovered their neighbor in LA had gone to high school with Don and I.

To put this in perspective, Portland is ninety minutes from Cathlamet which hosts a population of around 800. There were only 150 students in our high school, bused in from around Wahkiakum County. And there, at a fountain in Portland, two decades after we graduated, we met Californians who had known our classmate.

It was one of those moments of such universe alignment it could only happen in Portland.

Or New York City, I suppose.

After a couple of hours, we decided to start heading in the general direction of Salt & Straw, an ice cream parlor I was told was worth the 45 minute waits.

They were right.

When I lived in the PNW, it was the 80s and early 90s. I still remember not knowing what a bagel was and when Mexican food came from Taco Time. At dinner before senior prom, my friends and I stared at a pile of artichoke leaves and wondered what they were.

The world was smaller then. Especially if you lived in a tiny community. Our staples were salmon, sturgeon, elk, goose. We ate crab and dug for gooey ducks. We caught crawdads in the creek and picked huckleberries, salmon berries, loganberries, blackberries, and raspberries. We had tayberry jam and marionberry pie.

Before I realized what a treat smoked salmon and crab cakes were, I didn't really know how seriously we took our food. For a while I was seduced by the international buffet of California. I devoured Mexican food spicy enough to make my lips tingle, I feasted on dolmas and pitas, I happily ate San Francisco sourdough and grilled tri tip.

Going home, I realized that not only has the world become so much smaller, but Oregon and Washington has become a foodie's dream.

Or maybe it always was.

After all, we were eating local and fresh before it was a catch phrase. We were catching fish in the morning and smoking it at night with chipped apple wood. We were baking berries the size of a bumblebee into pies. We were drinking milk from a dairy ten miles away and eating what could be the best cheddar I've ever had before or since.

But I forgot.

Until I went back, tumbling into gastronomical paradise.

Like the Salt & Straw where I had roasted berry ice cream with white chocolate and sea salt.

Tummies full, we wandered fabric stores and went back home where Makensy and I spent the evening hunched over sewing machines making small skirts, glasses of wine nearby and laughter mixing with curses and the sound of ripping seams as we struggled with elastic bands.

It truly is amazing to be able to sink into a space as if you were a treasured friend who had never really left.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Road Trip: Mt. Hood to Washougal

Everyone told me the drive between Bend and Portland was one of the prettiest they've done.

Everyone was right.

The mountains sat in the distance, silent giants watching over the golden valley below. I don't quite know when the valley turned to forest. If I had to guess, it would have been right around the time Hermoine saved Harry's life when we traded open space for forest so dark and dense it turned the road into a canyon with only a strip of blue sky showing ahead. The green hurt my eyes, the colors so deep and vibrant I wanted to use a filter to tone them down to the dusty browns and greens of my drought stricken home.

The twists and tangles of the road took us deeper up the mountain. I turned off Harry as Joseph fell asleep and drove in silence, the hum of the car lulling the memories from my brain.

Mt. Hood is one of my mountains. Growing up, it was Hood, St. Helens, Adams, and Rainier who stood guard over the stretches of road and river where I spent my childhood. While Adams and Rainier were content to sit silently, Hood and St. Helens made themselves known - one with an eruption, both with death.

When I was in elementary school, a tragedy ensnared my imagination, forever painting Mt. Hood with a slightly sinister shadow. A group of high school students, teachers, and a guide embarked on a climb. Of those who pushed to the summit, four survived: two who were found alive on top of a pile of six bodies in a snow cave they built to protect themselves from the sudden spring storm and two who made their way down the mountain, searching for help.

As I drove up the mountain on a warm summer day, I couldn't help but think of those students, their families, and the time that's passed. Thirty years since I pored over The Oregonian and the daily news from the top of the mountain. Thirty years.

It's shocking to realize those sixteen and seventeen year old students would now be older than the adults who led the expedition. It's more shocking still to realize that I'm older than all but one teacher and a decade older the guide was at the time.

I flipped on the radio, drowning dark thoughts that had no place in the magic that was Highway 26. We drove through small towns, past campgrounds, and, finally, Portland and civilization.

My cell phone died, the only charger in the back of the car. We crossed the river on remembered directions and finally pulled off in a parking where I let the phone charge and we stretched our legs, so close to our destination, we could almost walk.


We drove through the back roads, getting lost only once before arriving at the vaguely familiar home of the Byrums. I had a momentary panic that the amazing visit we'd had two years before had been a fluke and we were about to embark on an awkward holiday weekend.

I was, of course, wrong.

They opened their door and it was as if twenty four months had been days. In a few short minutes, the kids were in their suits, swimming under the trees while the adults caught up on the changes of the last couple of years.

The sun sets late in Washington in the summer. Late enough that by the time the kids changed out of their suits and got ready to eat dinner, I realized they'd been swimming far past their bedtime. While we waited for Makenzy to get back from work, Don and I sent the kids to bed and opened a bottle of wine, turning our conversation to people we knew, people we remembered.

Every visit, it seems, comes with news. And every visit, I realize yet again how far away I am. Makenzy came home and we finished our conversations in the quiet starlight. I went to bed that night in a pretty nook of a room, excited for the adventures still to come.