Life

Guest Post: To My Mom, Who Taught Me Not to Wait (and a Novel Giveaway)

A guest post by writer Janet Fox:

I want to write this post about my mom.

She died young. Correction – she died at an age that I now consider too young to die, since she was only fifteen years older than I am now when she died. And frankly, fifteen years is going to go by like – click – that.

She didn’t have the chance to be the grandmother I longed for her to be for my son. She didn’t have the chance to see my first (or second…) novel published. She died suddenly and without warning, and as in all things in my life, she taught me something very important.

She taught me not to wait.

Among her papers as I was sorting them – because my father couldn’t – I found a pile of unpublished children’s stories. They were sweet, old-fashioned, lyrical. I read them and thought, huh. These are wonderful. What if I could do that. What if I could write something like that. What if…

I’ve always been a cautious person. Wait and see. Take it one step at a time. Consider the plan. But when Mom died she gave me the courage to open up my creative heart and let it all pour out. There’s no question that my first novel was written for and about her (a girl loses her mother, tries to find her, and instead finds herself).

In fact, all my writing now is about reaching out to my mother, finding the girl to woman connection, letting myself grow into the woman that she would admire.

I’m burning with stories now, stories that I must get down on paper, stories that are bursting to be told, characters that are reaching for the light, and this is all because she taught me to let them out, taught me not to wait.

What if we didn’t wait? What if we never waited for the right moment, the settled-downness, the quiet? What if we didn’t wait for the nudge of death to drive us to action? What if, as women, we shifted into the fullness of our lives right from the start?

If you are a cautious person, the time is now. Don’t wait. Take my mom’s lesson to heart. Find your stories and let them pour out like honey. Give them to the page, to your daughters, to the world.

Give them to yourself.

And, to my mom, I give my sweetest thanks.

Janet Fox is the author of award-winning books for children and young adults. FAITHFUL (Speak/Penguin Young Readers 2010), set in Yellowstone National Park in 1904, is a YALSA Best Fiction for YA nominee and an Amelia Bloomer List pick, 2011. FORGIVEN (Speak 2011), set in 1906 San Francisco during the great earthquake, is a Junior Library Guild selection 2011, and a 2012 WILLA Literary Awards Finalist.

Her most recent novel, SIRENS (Speak 2012), is set in 1925 New York and is told from alternating points of view of two girls who must confront a gangster and uncover dark secrets.

Janet is a former high school English teacher and received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults in 2010 (Vermont College of Fine Arts). Janet lives in Bozeman, Montana but you can also find her at www.janetsfox.com and   http://about.me/janetfox.  She blogs at: www.kidswriterjfox.blogspot.com.

Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of Sirens, simply enter a comment by December 5 saying you’d like to win.  I’m giving away two copies!

Life

French Lessons: Create Your World Claude’s Way

 

On our trip to France  last month, my friends Judy, Lisa, and I took a jaunt to Giverny, to the whimsical gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet.

At  his Giverny home, our tour guide explained, the artist set the scenes.

Claude didn’t sit around hoping sunflowers would pop up  outside his windows.

He planted the bold beauties.

Claude didn’t just dream about the grace of water lilies.

He created water gardens.

Monet didn’t simply wish his world would turn brilliant with yellows and blues and purples and reds.

He put them there!

Lesson here is that while it’s way cool to stumble on what you need and want in life, sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes you need to plant it yourself before you can capture it on canvas.

Congrats to Donnie, who won the lovely Marylou Falstreau gift cards.

Life

French Lessons: Il Pleut/It Rains!

Reflections on our trip to Paris, written by Judy Brown. This is Post Two in a series titled “French Lessons.”

It rains.  Adapt.  Be flexible.  Despite lugging our rain coats and umbrellas around, Barbara, Lisa and I coped quite well with the drizzle and downpours during our fall Paris trip.

The light sprinkle on the water surface at the garden (Jardins des Nymphaes) at Giverny actually enhanced the visual experience.  The willows were still weeping, the autumn flowers still splashed with color, and the pond now had movement that mesmerized the eye.

Life calls us to adapt to the daily drizzles and to the heavier monsoons. I recall how soon after my first child was born that she unknowingly taught me how to be flexible.  Go on a trip, cook a nice dinner, meet friends at exactly 2 pm.  Forget it.  But it was ok.

Francois, our French tour guide in Paris, took us on a whirlwind trip of the Louvre and Notre Dame. He was well versed in history, a character, and could put any chatty woman to shame.

I often directed the side conversations to learn more about French life and his life.

Francois is happily married to a younger woman from Spain, and they are hoping for their first child very soon.  They even have the conception date planned for December 24!  Hmmmm….will he also learn the same lesson?

I think he might be on a good path to being adaptable, however.

He shared with us that because his small household has 2 native languages, they split the day.  During the day they speak Spanish.  At night they switch to French.  How fair!  How flexible.  How creative! Francois did bemoan, however, that when they argue, the language agreement often fails!

The other man in our life while on our French trip was Frederic–very stately, proper, and I must say, quite good looking!

Our two hour round trip car ride with Frederic provided lots of talking time. I tried not to get too personal, but when I probed about his personal life and asked how long he had been married, he said, “Oh we forgot to get married, but we have been together for 4 years.”

Adapt.  Be creative.  Find spunky new umbrellas, buy fancy rain coats, get plaid vinyl boots. Il pleut.  It could  always rain on your plans.

Photo Above:  Lisa, Judy, and Frederic in Monet’s garden.

Below:  Barbara in her raincoat.

Life

Getting an A in Macaroni and Cheese

With the approach of the holidays, I thought you might like this old standby, made extra delicious with a secret ingredient.

In my English composition class, Tarlisha Lipscomb faced her writing assignments with determination. I read Tarlisha’s essays with enthusiasm, especially her  how-to essay on making macaroni and cheese.

Perhaps it was the A she received on the paper that inspired her to bring in a whole pan of mac and cheese for the class to sample. (She admitted to some help from her mom. Thanks, Tarlisha’s mom!)

And sample we did. Yum in English 090!

Switch now from Piedmont Community College to Hillsborough Presbyterian Church.

I’m not one to garner many praises at church suppers.

But when I brought Tarlisha’s mac and cheese, I began to hear, “Whose mac and cheese is this?”

Yes!

Finally, an A for Barbara Younger in Potluck Supper 101.

Secret ingredient: sour cream, lots of it.

Here’s how to make Tarlisha’s  macaroni and cheese:

Cook one pound of macaroni. Drain.

Mix in two pounds shredded cheese (you can save some to sprinkle on the top), one tablespoon flour, 1/4 cup milk,and two cups of sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for forty minutes in 350 degree oven. Freezes well.

Let me know if you get an A!

Photo Above:  Tarlisha’s mac and cheese went to Charolottesville with me when Mazen was born.

Photo Below:  Tarlisha Lipscomb.  When she sent me this photo, she kindly wrote  she enjoyed my class because there was never a dull moment. That’s because we got to eat mac and cheese!  But thanks, Tarlisha. Sometimes, it’s the students who are the teachers.