A Full Plate


This month’s editor’s letter in Bon Appetit is about Adam Rapaport’s habit of taking himself out for a long lunch once a month, with a cocktail, to find inspiration. He sits at the bar, takes his time, and gets a ton of work done—all while savoring food at his own pace.

There is something so luxurious about dining alone. I love the idea of a lunch date with my work.

If you’ve noticed a lack of sewing, knitting, and baking around here it is because I made a decision in early 2016 to focus on writing. I’m reading books for research (with a bit of fluff in between) and trying to spend a least an hour a day writing. This included the business of getting the last novel out the door, too.

Time to write, to throw dialog and plot ideas against the page without worrying about editing, is my favorite part. I make up crazy characters with wild hair and bad attitudes. I make the next door neighbor an unexpected thief, the priest a murderer and the chef a brilliant recluse. I play with fodder from my word-a-day email, just to try them out on the page.

It’s working. I’m 40,000 words into this novel, which is about half-way. I’ve set up the conflict and the characters and am in the thick of it. This is where the research has to be right, the observations keen and the storytelling lyrical. The reader has already enjoyed a nice salad and piece of thick cut bread with salted butter, and the main course is coming out with cheese bubbling on top. There is promise of a great slice of chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream and a hot cup of coffee for dessert, too.

Today, between appointments and traveling across the state to speak on suicide prevention, I’m going to find a bar, a glass of sadly-I’m-still-on-the-clock seltzer, and work through lunch.

Thanks for the idea, Adam. And thank you for hanging around here where there are fewer tutorials and recipes, but still the same heart (and appetite.)


Raising the Modern Family: A Stepchild’s View

In this entry in the series, Raising a Modern Family, Ashley talks about being raised by a stepfather, and how this has influenced her marriage with Nick—and the raising of their two boys. She also talks about how her relationship with Christ changed her life, and brought her to forgiving her stepfather.

{I’ve known Ashley for a dozen years, and she has the most incredible real life hair of any woman I’ve ever met.}

Modern Family

Tell me about you, and your family. How long have you been married? How old are your kids? 

My name is Ashley.  I am a cake decorator and teachers aide—but my two boys would say I’m a ninja mom because of my ability to sneak up behind them when they least expect it!  I’m married to an amazing man who is also a wonderful father.  We celebrated our 11th year of marriage this past May.  Our boys are ages 9 and 5 and keep us very busy between baseball, school, broken bones, lego building, and sword fights. We are followers of Jesus and teach our children to love others, even when nobody is watching and give generously because nothing here is really ours anyway.

How long have you been a stepkid?

I became a step kid when I was in the 8th grade.  Trying not to age myself here, it’s been roughly 22 years.

Did you have a good relationship with your stepparents? Are they still married today? Are you in contact? 

No. Not at first, anyway.  To me, my step father was the reason my parents divorced. It took a very long time for me to just forgive him and learn to let him in emotionally.  Before that, I acted out, getting arrested, skipping school, and in general being a horrible person. It was a rough 4 years before I graduated high school and moved out.  When I was 19, I asked Jesus to take control.  It was life changing.  Letting go of the bitterness, forgiving both of them, really helped grow our relationship into what it is today.  They are still married and I do get to see him quite often.  

I also have a step mother, which was a totally different experience…but for sanity purposes, I’ll keep these comments about my step father, since that’s who I lived with primarily.

How has this experience changed you? 

My parent’s had nearly divorced a few times.  I can remember them sitting us down and having the “talk” with us, and then nothing would happen.  Then we’d have another talk.  And then nothing.  Then one day, when my dad was away on a business trip, she moved us to a new house.  It was so life changing, that I never want my own kids to go through that if I can avoid it.  I know that there are MANY different reasons and way to become a step child or step parent.  My story is through divorce.  And it broke our family for a long time.  So for us, divorce is not an option.  We don’t speak the word.  We don’t give any life to it if it enters our thoughts.  We have had many ups and downs, but our promise was not only to each other, but also to God.  I think going through that experience made me a better wife and mother.   

What would you have done differently?

Oh gosh.  I would have stopped being such a brat and just listened to him!  He had two grown kids of his own and knew a thing or two about how to raise us.  I just didn’t want to hear it then.  I will say, he did a very good job of just hanging back until I was ready to let him in.  

Has your parenting style been influenced by this experience? 

I’m sure it has in some way.  I just never really stopped to say, hey, I do this because I was a step kid. 

What advice would you give to someone new to either the stepkid or stepparent game? 

To stepkids I’d say, be open.  Let your step parent in. Talk to them; let them know if you’re having a hard time. Be respectful and share some of your favorite family memories, and make new memories together!

Is there a story about your childhood you’d like to share? 

My step father knew our family for years before he became a part of it.  He was a magician.  I can remember him sitting us down as kids and teaching us magic tricks.  We each got to learn one.  We were sworn to secrecy about how it was done.  To this day I can not reveal how the trick he taught me is done. 

Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about your experience? 

Only recently did I learn that my stepfather actually struggled with forgiving HIMSELF for how everything happened with my mom.  Out of respect for him and my mom, I won’t list details, but I will say that it made me look at him with much more sympathy.   Over 22 years living with guilt is no way to live life.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive your step parents.  And step parents: forgive your step kids.  One day they WILL come around! 

Thank you Ashley!

Checking In and Recent Reads

self portrait, June assignment

Oh, hi there. Life has been rather chaotic around these parts, in the best of ways. We are planning a wedding, the kids started high school this week, and I’ve finished up final (no, really) edits on Basket Baby.

Now, for cover design, and continued work on the next book. I’m also developing an author website. 

I read books differently these days, with deep curiosity to structure, character development and conflict resolution. Reading will always remain one of my favorite past times, but today it also feels like a valuable form of research.

A few things I’ve read/listened to as an audiobook lately that are worthy of discussion:

  1. Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets Whoooo boy, does this one take a darn turn. Have you read this book? If you like creepy stories, dive in. If you have any fear of large lizards, this isn’t the read for you. 2 bananas, absoloodle.
  2. No Baggage This memoir is about a young woman coming to terms with her mental health issues and transitioning to adulthood, all while traveling across Europe with a new boyfriend for three weeks without luggage. She literally only took a small purse, which becomes a problem when her one tampon doesn’t suffice. I really enjoyed listening to it. 2 bananas, absoloodle
  3. Girl on a Train I am excited to see they are making this book a movie, because if I am a sucker for these sorts of thrillers. I did enjoy this book, although as a friend said—my major issue was by the end of the story, there wasn’t a single character I was rooting for. They were all so horribly flawed that they were unlikeable. That’s a problem. It will be very interesting to see how this is adapted to the big screen. 2.5 bananas, absoloodle
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Of course, I loved this classic. It is a great slice of American history and reminded me so much of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love stories told about perseverance and female leads. Winner, winner. 4 out of 5 bananas, absoloodle.


I’m currently reading, Evicted, which is important for my public health work. (I’m trying to read more nonfiction.) What have you read lately?