Tomorrow is my favorite day of the year. The day my favorite
people and I get together and focus on what we're thankful for. But this year,
I'm having trouble focusing on all the good when there is so much turmoil in our
As a white American, I feel awkward posting about this
subject. Not because I don't care. I care. A lot. But because I have no idea
what it feels like to be a young black man or a black parent who fears for her
child's safety. And it doesn't feel like "my place" to talk about it.
But somebody has to. Because we, as Americans, have a serious
The facts show that in our country, young black men are
being killed and incarcerated at alarming rates. This is not a black issue or a
white issue, a political issue or a cop issue. This is an American issue.
Fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Freedom
Riders and all of those who stood up for equal rights, we're still seeing
incidents that are eerily reminiscent of those times. It almost feels like
we've made no progress at all. And I think we need to step back and ask ourselves
why. What is it within the American culture that conditions us to fear young
Because it all comes down to fear. You might be thinking,
"It's hate too." But hate is just fear wrapped in an angry box.
So, what are we so afraid of?
It's easy to see what black people might be afraid of. Imagine
what it would be like to be the happy parents of a black baby boy. How long
until you start fearing that he might get shot because someone else is afraid?
And when does he start to become someone to be afraid of? When he's 5' 8"?
After his growth spurt at 13?
But what are the rest of us afraid of? Why are we fearing
children? And why aren't Americans coming together in a fabric of mutual
support and love for each other instead of cracking along a divide of fear?
Because it's all cracking - that's for sure. And as scary as
it is, that's a good thing. Nothing changes until everything bursts open and we're forced to do something about it. And while looting and violence are terrible strategies to get the
world's attention, they definitely have my attention. And my support and
Because this mentality has got to change.
We need to stop focusing on who's right or who's wrong or
left or right and look into who we are and what we're teaching each other. We
need to ask ourselves what messages we send each other every day. We need to
think twice before we speak and think 10 times before we post.
So, today's question is are we sending messages of kindness
and love? Because without them, we're going nowhere.
This morning, I prayed during my walk on the beach path. I thanked God for the warm day, the sunshine on my skin, the dolphins in the ocean and the ability to walk beside it and take it all in.
Then I heard a woman's voice behind me.
"Her bank account is overdrawn, her rent is past due and she's buying tea cups!" The woman bitched as she passed me on a beach cruiser. She pedaled along side a man. He stared straight ahead at the sparkling water.
A moment passed. Then she yelled, "Where did she get the money for f&cking tea cups?!"
He continued to stare ahead.
This is what she wasn't paying attention to:
All I have to say is take a look around people. Take a look around.
What are you missing out on while you bitch about stupid stuff?
This weekend, I worked on another TV pilot. This whole experience has been very strange because I've never written in that format before. I'm sort of guessing my way through it. But it's fun and everything is just rushing out. So, I'm going with it.
What about you? What new format have you tried lately? Could be anything - from a gardening technique to a style of cooking or painting or photography.
My friend, Stacie, LOVES birthdays. Yesterday was hers. When I called in the morning, she answered the phone by saying, "It's my birthday!" All day, she sent texts about how excited she was for her birthday dinner. And when we arrived, she was wearing a sash that read, "It's my birthday!"
"Why do you love birthdays so much?" I asked.
"Because when we were growing up, my mama made our birthdays into the biggest holiday of the year. We got to choose our meal. We got to choose what kind of cake we wanted and we didn't have to do any chores!" she said.
She practically squealed. That made me giggle because there's something fabulous about feeling the magic of your birthday even after 40.
Do you know anyone who goes bananas for their big day?
The coolest kid on the planet (well, my planet, anyway) is having his 9th birthday party on Friday. He is a voracious reader and I'm willing to bet cold hard cash that he's going to be an author someday. Even though when I said that, he tried to convince me I'm crazy and that he's going to an MLB star. That was right before he described the three book series he's already written.
I would like to get him a book for his birthday, but I feel like he's read everything. He devoured the hits, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Judy Moody books long ago. His reading level is much higher than your average nine year old, but I don't want to get too crazy and cross over into YA yet. There's something magically innocent but cautiously curious about the stage he's in right now.
So, I look to you, my fabulous writer friends and parents. What book might you recommend for the kid who has read everything?
I went dark for a few days because I've been busy writing a TV pilot. This is strange because I write books, articles, how-to's and stuff like that. Not TV pilots.
But last week, I ran into a friend who inspired me to give it a try. Once I started writing, it flowed. Words came from somewhere else. It's like I never heard or thought the words until I saw them on the screen.
I laughed aloud and stopped several times. I even said, "Wow. I'm funny!" once or twice. The things that came out surprised and delighted me.
It's been a long time since I simply channeled a story. It was awesome.
When was the last time your writing, art, music or whatever awesome thing that makes you, YOU, just flowed?
I live in LA, in a mobile home park across the street from the ocean. About half of the residents have lived here forever and about half are new or newish like me. (I've been here 5 years.) Living near the ocean is amazing. We can hear waves crash at night. At any time, we can walk across the street and put our feet in the sand. It really is like paradise.
Yet some of my neighbors seem angry.
I don't know why you'd be grumpy all the time in a place like this, but some of them are MAD. There was the time I was slowly getting out of a friend's car in front of my place. It was after my back injury. A neighbor pulled up and started honking. I said, "I'm sorry, I'm moving slowly. I have a back injury."
She heard me. Yet, she honked again, longer and louder.
I got out of the car as quickly as I could and my friend drove off. The honker pulled up next to me.
"I have a back injury. I'm moving really slowly," I said.
"You should know better than to park in a blind spot!" She yelled.
"This is my place." I pointed at my gate, right where my friend had been parked. "Why are you yelling at me?" I asked, my voice now raised.
"How long have you lived here?" She yelled.
"FIVE YEARS," I yelled back.
"Well then you should know not to park in that blind spot!" She yelled.
"Well you don't have to be such a f*cking bitch about it." I yelled back. (What can I say? Apparently, anger is contagious.)
She drove off.
Other things have happened. On another day when I couldn't make it up to the pool, I sent a couple of my friends there on their own. The rule is guests must be with a resident. This is to ensure that strangers don't come off the beach and use the pool.
The next day, I got a call from my landlord, who got a call from the park owner, who got a call from a grumpy resident that my friends were in the pool without me.
Really? If you know they're not strangers and that they're my friends, do you really have to try and get me in trouble?
I bring this up because I just found out that my neighbors who are building the fence and blocking out their ocean view are doing this because some other grumps have complained that their patio was a mess. The guy is a woodworker and has lots of tools. Frankly, I never noticed a mess, but someone else did.
And that person complained so much that my neighbors feel like the only way to stop the complaints and avoid conflict is to block their view of the Pacific.
This is sad commentary on humanity. We would rather put up walls than compromise. Some people would rather yell than listen. Complain rather than ask, "Is Suzanne okay? Why couldn't she come to the pool with you?"
I discussed this with an awesome neighbor earlier today. We tossed around ideas on how to start some kind of kindness campaign. We talked about posting the words "Be Kind" on our fences.
Do you have any ideas? How would you subtly infuse some kindness in a community riddled with grumps?
I recently met up with my brother, his wife and their three little ones at my father's house in Sonoma, California. My nieces are 5, 3 1/2 and 2 years old. So, Grandpa's pool was a big hit.
After getting everyone into the their swimmies, we played Marco Polo. Shouting out, "Marco" and hearing a chorus of "Polo" in return was adorable. We also hit the Sonoma County Fair, where the girls saw cows, pigs and goats and rode a rollercoaster that looked like a caterpillar.
Once we got the little ones to bed, we enjoyed the local flavor. And by that, I mean wine. (This vineyard is down the road from Dad's.)
All in all, it was a great little summer vacation packed with family and fun. Did you go on a vacation this summer? If so, what was it like?
My friend, James, went to visit his family in his hometown. As a fun, special event, they decided to go on a ghost hunt at Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. That's it, in the picture above.
When my family gets together, we cook big meals, have happy hour, go hiking, play games and generally hang out together. I am pretty darn sure that the majority of my family members would vote against a ghost tour in an insane asylum. But that's just us.
I promised a free copy of Fingerprints to one lucky commenter and that commenter is Pearl! Not only because she showed up and left a lovely message, but because she is HILARIOUS. I'm kind of obsessed with her blog. (Creepy? Oh no. Go ahead, read it. You'll be obsessed too.) I'm so excited to have discovered her!
Speaking of discovery, this week, many of you attempted to guess what the heck this is:
Contrary to your creative guesses like "a large earring tree," "beef jerky dryer," and "a deranged music stand," this thing was used to circulate air during haymaking.
My mother says she plans to put it in the room I like to sleep in when I visit. I told her I won't be visiting anymore. (Can you imagine bumping into that thing on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night?!)
So, as for discoveries, there you have it. But what about you? What cool thing have you discovered lately?
So, at this stop on the blog tour, I get to share a little bit about myself. I started writing for teen magazines like Seventeen and Teen in my 20's - when I was close to my teenage years. Now that I'm far from my teenage years, I still write books about teenagers. I just love how that period of life is so crucial to who we are and who we become.
My first novel, Fingerprints, is loosely based on my own life. When I was a teenager, my mother remarried. Shortly after, my stepbrother and stepsister moved in with me, my mom, my stepfather and my biological brother. It was nuts. Let's just say that our household was anything but harmonious.
The first story I ever sold to Seventeen, the StepPeople, was about our struggle to "blend" our families.Years later, I realized I could help other families figure out how to merge by writing a novel about our experiences. But I needed another storyline.
Thankfully, my past provided more inspiration. Around the same time my mother remarried, I had started dating a guy who was verbally and physically abusive.
The two stories work so well together because the StepPeople scenes are hilarious. (We still recount those stories around the dinner table.) The comedy in Fingerprints balances the dark subject matter of abuse. So, while the reader may become aware of dating abuse red flags and warning signs, they don't feel horribly depressed as they read.
Savanna is the main character in Fingerprints. She has two best friends, Tally and Jane. So it only made sense to tell Tally's story next. Tally is sort of a forgotten child, left behind by two wealthy parents who are more concerned with their social lives than with their daughter.
Tally drinks. A lot. (They all do. So, if partying teenagers make you uncomfortable, these are not the books for you.) In her effort to be cool and "fine" through her desperate loneliness, Tally dances. At first, it's hip hop. Sexy, grinding hip hop. Usually on her stage of a kitchen island during one of her massive summer bashes. But when she ends up humiliated beyond her imagination, she goes back to her roots and seeks the structure and discipline of ballet.
I've just started writing Jane's story. Which I'm not going to spoil here. But I will tell you that the goal is to once again balance darkness with humor and hope.
We'll see how that goes.
Meanwhile, this Friday, two lucky commenters will be chosen to receive a free copy of one of my books. So, please comment for a chance to win!
As for the next stop on the Worldwide Blog Tour, I've got something for everyone. Next Monday, August 4, visit these fine authors to learn what they're up to!
Kelly Polark, author of two picture books, Rockabet and Hold the Mustard, a middle grade novel, Rock and Roll Princesses Wear Black and most recently, a non-fiction picture book, Words on Birds.
I recently injured my back. It kind of exploded, actually. Without warning, it went into crazy spasms. The pain was so intense that I couldn't move. I'd never felt pain like that. I didn't even know people could feel that kind of pain.
At the hospital, I was prescribed prednisone, muscle relaxants and pain killers. For two weeks, I was high. But I still couldn't move. I couldn't drive. I couldn't sit up for any length of time. I spent most of my time on my back crying. I'd figured out that a traumatic experience had triggered the event, but I didn't know what to do about it. I called the doctor and asked for help. But they told me the treatment was the steriods and pain killers.
My friends had been driving me to a trusted chiropractor who was helping me do physical therapy. Slowly, I started to move a bit.
After about six weeks, for the first time (other than doctor visits), I went out. I met with my critique group. The first hug sent me spiraling into tears. And one of my fellow writers said she knew a therapist who specialized in healing trauma.
I started seeing that therapist. She gave me a surge of hope. I then met with a chinese herbalist who mashed up a brew of herbs that controlled the crying, anxiety and stress and minimized the inflammation. Next, I visited a neuromuscular re-education massage therapist who's been working every muscle in my body every week since. Seeking some more hope, I got a psychic reading. Then I had my chakras and energy cleansed by a reiki master. Just a few days ago, I had my first rehabilitative Pilates lesson. I couldn't do much of a workout yet, but we did identify the areas we really need to work on.
I still can't sit up for long periods of time. But I can walk. I can do the dishes and I can drive. I'm not crying all day every day anymore. I have hope.
But what if I had stayed with the doctor's plan of prednisone and pain killers? What if I hadn't tried multiple types of therapies? Where would I be?
How do you feel about alternative healing? What types of nontraditional healing have you tried? How did it work out for you?
When I was younger, I loved scary movies. I still remember the night in 1984 when my BFF and I held onto each other screaming through The Exorcist. Throughout my teens, I loved the suspense of Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and every other spine tingling, terror inducing horror flick I could watch.
Now that I'm older, you couldn't pay me to watch that stuff. The real world is scary enough. Why would I want to add to it?
Last night, I saw a trailer for Into the Storm. I've never seen a tornado and I never want to. In fact, I'll take an earthquake over a tornado any day.
What about you? How do you feel about scary movies?
When I began drafting Fingerprints, one of my critique group members, Sarah, pointed out that I had used the word "bolt" 67 times.
After doing a "find" in Word, I discovered Sarah was right! My MC, Savanna, had bolted out of bed, down the hall, across the street, out of David's house, into the salon, into the ocean and about 100 million other places.
Since then, I've learned to use my thesaurus and choose my verbs very carefully.