a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Wednesday, July 3rd, was my 35th birthday.  To celebrate, I compiled a list of 35 things to be happy about from the past week:

1.  a finished book

2.  a new book begun
3.  a humbling tribute (via blog post) from a dear friend
4.  a birthday wish from Google (!)
on my birthday, this is what my google page looked like!
5.  a homemade birthday present
my dad is building me a patio table
6.  a dinner with Mom
7.  a winning Chicago FIRE soccer game
they played (and won) on my birthday
8.  a thoughtful gift from my niece
9.  a surprise gift for my niece
my niece with her charity auction jersey being signed by the player (Steve Kinney)
10.  an old photo discovery
dad, grandpa, and grandma (the only photo I have of grandpa)
11.  finished Annie Sloan Chalk Paint projects
12.  more Annie Sloan chalk paint projects in the works
antique metal tray to be turned into magnetic chalkboard with Annie Sloan chalk paint border
13.  a breakfast meeting at Starbucks with my favorite librarian
14.  a brand new bicycle
a spontaneous purchase from this awesome shop in Indiana (post-All-Write)
15.  a bicycle ride (see #14) to an antique shop with Mark
I am in love with how adorable my bicycle looks at this little shop by the lake
16.  getting caught up on my One Little Word projects
my notes to self for May's One Little Word project
17.  a visit to a yarn shop
a yummy wall of texture and color
18.  a chocolate shake (first one in well over a year)
me with a chocolate shake (and my husband Mark)
19.  a surprise package in the mail
my dad's girlfriend (of MANY years) sent me birthday gifts from one of my favorite places: sundance
20.  building blogging momentum
21.  a walking buddy
my friend joins me on this beautiful path
22.  an author event date with Mark
the AMAZING Katherine Applegate (and plain old me)
me with the AMAZING Katherine Applegate's pretty cool husband Michael Grant
23.  a surprise gift from my usually unsentimental sister
included in the package was this old photo of her holding me in her lap
24.  plans to open an Etsy shop with Mark
25.  too many ideas for writing and not enough time
26.  new lesson planning ideas
27.  another amazing season of So You Think You Can Dance (this is not a reality show, it is a cultural experience)
28.  an entire month off stretched out ahead of me
29.  weather warm enough to justify ice in my drinks
love the way ice clinks against glass
30.  time to enjoy the new homemade patio
not perfect, but made with love
31.  a family reunion with in-laws
me, Mark, and my father-in-law Lee
32.  Fiddler on the Roof in an outdoor theater
33.  a new audiobook for my road trip
read by Nick Podehl
34.  winning a raffle prize, then giving it away
Mark and I won a 50/50 raffle and passed the prize on to this former student of ours who leaves for the military in 10 days
35.  a brand new camera {of my own} to document these things (thank you, Mark)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Although I still have lots of reflecting to do on all I took in at the All-Write Summer Institute, I just can’t let the week I spent post-conference with our nieces and their friends at my dad’s lake house go undocumented. 

As usual, I put together “swag bags” for each teenager, filled with the kind of junk I refer to as aunt crap.  This year, however, instead of a “Bass Lake Hilton Swag Bag” label on each bag, I decided to do some teasing. 

You see, last year I included a book for each of them, thinking they might each need an excuse for some quiet time away from one another.  Three of the four picked up their books and read during last summer’s trip to the lake.  I counted the book choices as a success.

However, I recently found out that they have spent the year telling T (the one who didn’t read), “You know Aunt Christy hates you because you didn’t read your book, right?”  Well, this kind of teasing is too delicious not to take part in (after all, I teach middle school students—sometimes you have to be game enough to play along).  So, this year each teenager’s swag bag was labeled with a photo of him/her from last year.  Three of the four were pics of them reading from last summer.  Except for T, who had a pic of him making a silly face instead. 

Again this year, I gave each teenager a book.  Each was chosen even more carefully knowing their reactions and personalities a bit better from spending the week together last year.  Kadie got My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend (a book every young woman should read), Niki (who is dating a farm boy) got Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, K got Looking for Alaska by John Green (after devouring The Fault in Our Stars last year, it was the next logical choice), and T (who didn’t read last year and talks nearly nonstop about boobies) got The Downside of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (I was pretty sure if he wouldn’t pick up this book, he wouldn’t read any book). 

Then something magical happened.  On day one, all four teens decided to start…reading.  Of course I collected proof—you can even see the lake in the background to reinforce how amazing it is that they chose reading as a pastime (not even as an escape from each other, which is why I originally thought to get them books).

In fact, T was so amused by his book that after trying to read on his own, removed from the group, he joined us at the table to read the entire first chapter of his book aloud for our entertainment.  After not reading last year at all, he finished his book the same day he started!  This is the stuff reading lives are built on. 

At one point during the trip, my niece got up from the lakeside table, grabbed her book and beach towel and said, “I am going to get my READ on.”  Yep, she actually invented slang to describe her reading habit.  Why would I need sunshine when I had words like those to warm me up?