7 entries from the year: April 2018

How to be More Like Leslie

April 3rd

Remember in the 1990s when the song, “I wanna be like Mike!” was popular? My brother and I had the cassette single, which we played on the boom box on repeat for a summer. As children, we never stopped to wonder why we wouldn’t want to be a rich, famous athlete with his own Bugs Bunny cartoon movie and line of eponymous tennis shoes.

Fast forward twenty years, and two years since my favorite television show of all time went off the air: Parks and Rec. The lead character, Leslie Knope, plays a determined, feisty city government worker who both loves her friends and coworkers, and also has no problem overriding their thoughts and feelings to do what she thinks is best. She is also insanely competitive, and the most thoughtful gift-giver in the history of television.

I wanna be like Leslie. I identify with some of her charming and all of her annoying characteristics.

On my desk, I have a Leslie Knope doll and a candle. The shrine made more sense at my previous job working in government, but it has helped me make friends in my new corporate cubicle farm too. In my first week, several people stopped by to chat about their favorite episodes and commiserate how our Knope-Wyatts would be doing today in DC. (Not well.)

There are days when I am discouraged and I look to that little shrine and sincerely wonder, “What would Leslie do?” (The answer surely involves binders, Joe Biden, Lil’ Sebastian, and waffles with extra whipped cream.) But seriously, Leslie Knope’s unending good attitude is something I admire most about the character. There are a handful of episodes where she is knocked on her butt, sometimes literally, and she still finds a way to make the situation fun.

A few life lessons we can all learn from Leslie Barbara Knope:

  1. Give it your all. Having a hard day at work? Lock yourself in a conference room and read the materials again. Ask more questions.
  2. Don’t let what others think about you rain on your day. “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring really loudly about me.”
  3. Be a good friend. “Uteruses before duderuses.”
  4. Be proud of where you are from … even if you were technically born in Eagleton.
  5. Love hard.

And when these don’t work, I go back and watch the Tammy II episodes and laugh until I pee. Or, the episode where she takes Tom to the strip club and tells him if she were an exotic dancer, her name would be “Equality.”

I hope all you beautiful tropical land fishes are having a good week,

~K

Posted in
Journal
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In the thick of it

March 21st

“Counting Coup” launched this weekend, with a handful of friends gathered at Dobson Ranch Library in Mesa. My brother and his longtime girlfriend Jessica came from Colorado, too. A girlfriend came to play assistant, running book sales outside and taking photos. The community newspaper included a blurb about a “local girl” returning to her childhood stomping grounds. (If only they knew how many summer library reading hours I’d booked under that roof.)  In the community room, where I took babysitting classes 25 years prior, I talked about the spark that made me want to write this story.

It was simply put one of the best days. I got hug and see a handful of people who mean the world to me.

Yesterday, I spent my lunch hour meeting with a man who is interested in publishing nonfiction. He is a friend of a friend and wanted advice on formatting, get into local bookstores, etc. The hour flew by and during the conversation, I realized how much I’ve been able to learn from trial and error since “Under the Same Moon” was published in 2011. I’ve fallen on my face many, many times. I’ve also built a tribe of helpers: the writing group, the editors, the cover artist, the friends who have day jobs but also act as my publicists and marketers.

There is a great unknown about writing and publishing for the first and second time. But I promise if you want to be an author, the process from first draft to holding a printed novel gets exponentially easier with time. You know who to trust, what to expect, and with luck—how to make your art better.

~K

Posted in
Writing
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Weighted Blanket Sewing Tutorial

February 28th

Weighted blankets for the kids

A few weeks back, a girlfriend posted about an Instagram contest to win a homemade weighted blanket. I’d had my eye on a weighted blanket after hearing from another girlfriend how much better she was sleeping. There is a good bit of research to show the weight helps with anxiety and promotes more restful sleep.

I’d never thought of sewing one myself. I did a bit of poking around on the Interwebs and found a simple sewing tutorial. I reviewed the weighted pellets on Amazon and bought 50 pounds. I’d use a vintage sheet and some denim, to add to the weight, to sew three blankets for me and the kids. The weight worked out perfectly. My stepson and I would each have a 20 pound blanket (they recommend about a pound per person, although friends mentioned slightly heavier was also comfortable) and my stepdaughter would get the remaining. She is a sprite, and I’m pretty sure does not weigh 100 pounds, if she ever will.

Weighted blankets for the kids

What I didn’t consider was how difficult it would be to sew these blankets once you start adding the pellets. First, the pellets move. You are sewing the pockets around them as you go and it was tricky to keep them all where they were supposed to be. And second, the blanket of course becomes heavier and harder to maneuver the farther along you go.

Weighted blankets for the kids

The end results were not perfectly sewn, but they worked. With fabric and the pellets, I spent $180 for the three blankets. Considering one sells for $130-$200, it was a deal. And the kids are happy! I will report back if I find the extra weight helps with sleep.

~K

Posted in
CAOK, Domestic Art, handmade
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Counting Coup — Book Launch

February 13th

At 11:30 am, Saturday, March 17th at Dobson Ranch Library in Mesa, “Counting Coup” will be out in the world.

Basket Baby signing

Dobson Ranch Library is my childhood library. I spent most of my elementary school summers on the bean bags, collecting stickers from the summer reading program. I remember finding an entire shelf of Sue Grafton’s mysteries, and meticulously reading them in alphabetic order. There was the arduous conversation I had with a saintly librarian about “War and Peace,” after I’d hauled it home on my Huffy only to find out it was way, way too complicated. Why hadn’t she warned me. (She had.) And what did it all mean anyway? (She tried her best to explain.)

And it was the place where I spent hours on the floor in the children’s section on my belly, resting on my elbows, trying to learn sign language out of a book full of diagrams. (That didn’t go so well either.) It was also the place where I felt my curiosities celebrated and encouraged at every turn.

signing

“Counting Coup” is my third book.

Happily consumed with her academic career, Professor Avery Wainwright never planned on becoming sole guardian of her octogenarian Aunt Birdie. Forced to move Birdie—and her failing memory—into her tiny apartment, Avery’s precariously balanced life loses its footing.

Unearthed in the chaos is a stack of sixty-year-old letters. Written in 1951, the letters tell of a year Avery’s grandmother, Alma Jean, spent teaching in the Indian school system, in the high desert town of Winslow, Arizona. The letters are addressed to Birdie, who was teaching at the Phoenix Indian School. The ghostly yet familiar voices in the letters tell of a dark time in her grandmother’s life, a time no one has ever spoken of.

Torn between caring for the old woman who cannot remember, and her very different memories of a grandmother no longer alive to explain, Avery searches for answers. But the scandal and loss she finds, the revelations about abuses, atrocities, and cover-ups at the Indian schools, threaten far more than she’s bargained for.

I’ll have books available for sale, a reading, and will talk shop about writing and publishing.

I hope to see you there!

~K

Posted in
Novel, Writing
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Sweethearts

February 6th

Valentines Sewing

My cousin died unexpectedly two years ago. He was just shy of his 37th birthday. He’d lived a hard, brief life, and most of us still struggle to say his name today with crying. One of his great joys were his children. He had two young daughters with a beautiful woman.

Valentines Sewing

The girls and their mama live on the east coast, close to her family. I haven’t seen them in more than six years, and they have grown in leaps and bounds. I keep up with them through their mom and her generosity; she doesn’t have to share the details of their childhoods with me, but she chooses to. I know it is hard for her to talk about their father, but she does. She send me his poems on occasion when she runs across them in the house.

Valentines Sewing

I don’t have a large family. My cousin’s death left a hole. Maintaining a relationship with his daughters is important to me, in part because my Aunt Karen did so from afar with me. My dad’s much younger siblings lived on the east coast and on occasion would come to Arizona for Mexican food and a dip in the pool. My Aunt Karen made a point of writing me long letters on yellow legal pad paper, even when she was in college on a basketball scholarship and I’m sure had other things she’d rather be doing.

Today, I consider her a friend and someone I admire greatly. She, nor her mother — my grandmother Astra — let the distance be a barrier for having a relationship.

Valentines Sewing

I added some cactus fabric to these valentine pouches for the girls because I want them to always know there are many who love them in Arizona.

Family is often not easy. We don’t chose the branches of our genetic trees, but we can look beyond the political and religious differences and be loving. I’ve got a good example of how to do that.

~K

Posted in
handmade
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The February Garden

February 5th

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

February in the garden

We are enjoying this beautiful, temperate spring weather. Everything is blooming and happy. Even the avocado tree is sprouting new leaves and growing. The acacia trees, with their yellow pom poms of pollen are making the entire neighborhood smell heavenly.

Our raised bed garden, fondly referred to as the “dong garden” because of its vulgar shape, is not thriving. We need to pull everything out, turn the soil, add amendments and replant. I have to remind myself it took years for the garden in Tempe to take off. While this is year 3 in this garden space, it still isn’t quite right.

Gardening is a hobby for those who need help with patience. With a few free hours next weekend, we’ll have new tomato and squash transplants in the ground, and hopefully a booming garden come summer.

What are you planting?

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Domestic Art, Flora and Fauna
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Why Can’t We Talk About This?

January 22nd

Baby Quilt for Nonnie

A former coworker, who upon meeting for the first time, asked both my age and if I had children. I was 35, and no, “not yet.” She then pressed her hand into mine, looked me square in the eye, and said, “Well, don’t you worry. Older women have babies all the time.”

It was in that moment I began to despise her. This dislike would grow like cancerous mold during the next few years. She saw what I didn’t want to discuss, my most vulnerable spot, and poked at it.

I saw her again just last week. We no longer work together. The first words out of her unpolished mouth were, “Oh, no baby bump yet? Well, keep trying!”  No longer bound to the rules of the workplace, I replied, “I don’t miss that.” I swallowed the less kind words that also came to mind.

My close friends and family know I’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while. There have been doctor appointments, one minor but very expensive surgery, and countless ovulation tests. There is still no baby. My mother, girlfriends, and anyone else who sees the exhausted anguish on my face, regularly reassure me, “Don’t worry. It will happen.”

Will it? Can we for a moment talk about the fact that it might not, and that this reality will have to be okay, too? My husband has adult children, and one turning 16 next week. He is not interested in adoption or fostering, even though I’ve long wanted to go this route. Either this pregnancy thing happens, or we move on as a married couple without children together.

And that will have to be okay.

The reason I’m sharing my frustration is multifaceted. I’m tired of having people pat my hand, especially friends with children. Sure, tell me again how it will happen because it happened for you. That isn’t the way biology works. I’m also tired of having relative strangers say things like, “Oh, so you didn’t want children?” or worse, “Well, you’d better hurry!” when they hear I’m married and don’t have kids. I’m certain I said these sorts of stupid comments when I was younger and without understanding of how terrible they were.

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was given my first baby doll. I have no regrets that this didn’t come to be before I met my husband. I love my stepchildren, and yes—I am fortunate to have them in my lives, but again: do not reassure me that “at least I have them.” They have a mother who they adore. I do not fill that role. And also, they aren’t ever to be put in the “at least” category.

My advice is this: if you have a woman in your life who is trying to get pregnant, ask her if she wants to talk about it. Let her vent, if she wants to. And if she doesn’t, let her be. Try your hardest not to put your story on her if she doesn’t ask for advice. If she doesn’t want to attend your baby shower, or hold your baby, understand it has nothing to do with you.

There is also the superstition that a woman trying to get pregnant, or newly pregnant, shouldn’t talk about it. That’s crap. Her words aren’t going to make it be anything other than it is, but the chance to speak about what she is feeling very well may be her saving grace.

I’ve never felt more emotionally fragile, or wanted something more. Thank you for handling me, and others in my spot, with care.

~K

 

 

 

 

Posted in
2018
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