A Stubborn Grandpa

My grandpa had a hole in his nose.

It was a fairly little hole, dark black, on the left side. You couldn’t miss it.

The doctor dug the skin cancer out of Thomas Cecil’s nose and told him to come back and get the hole filled. Who wouldn’t get a hole in their nose filled?

Well now, that would be my grandpa.

He refused to go back in. He didn’t like doctors. He wasn’t quite sure he trusted them and their quackery to begin with and he sure as heck didn’t like their bills.

When he didn’t return, the doctor called and begged him to come back. Offered to fill the hole for free. My grandpa said, “Hell no.”

So the hole in his nose stayed right where it was. To understand his decision, you might need to understand him.

My grandpa grew up poor on a farm in Arkansas. He was one of eleven. There were three wives who all died before his father. After finishing an eighth grade education, he continued the back breaking work on the farm, then he and his brothers took off for Los Angeles and built solid, strong houses.

His childhood was so difficult that he changed his name from Cecil Thomas to Thomas Cecil on the way to Los Angeles. Shed the name, shed the pain.

Thomas Cecil married my nana, Mary Kathleen, and couldn’t stay in one place. By the time my mother was seventeen years old, she’d moved eighteen times. He would buy a house, flip it, and move on.

In the construction business it was boom or bust for them. Sometimes my grandpa made a lot of money building homes. The first thing he did with that pile of cash? He bought an expensive, flashy car.

My mother hated the attention they received riding in those sleek cars. Hated when people turned to point at their car. Hated when he flashed his wealth. My grandpa loved those cars. He wasn’t poor anymore. He wasn’t the farmer’s son with an eighth grade education feeding pigs at dawn and milking cows. He was someone.

But a couple of times, at least, my grandpa went bust. He built homes, the market crashed, and he was left with the homes and a financial disaster. They would be wiped out and the flashy car would go.

He was again that poor, desperate boy on the farm, scratching out a living.

To complicate it further, my grandpa suffered from depression.

Genetics? Maybe. A chemical imbalance? Maybe. His mother died when he was four. Lost in a crush of kids, no mother, maybe it started then. Maybe it started on the farm, poverty hanging like a scythe over the property.

My mother remembered her father’s depression. Remembered how down he would get, how the blackness would cover him.

And yet.

He still worked. Still built homes. Still provided. Still did the best he could do. He worked despite the emotional storm in his head, the thunder and lightning crashing in on him, the claws that were pulling him down.

And that hole in his nose he refused to fix? That tells you a lot about his personality. He didn’t care what anyone thought of him or his nose.

He didn’t like doctors, so he wasn’t going back and that was that.

At the end of his life, cancer eating him alive from decades of smoking, my mother practically had to drag that stubborn, sick man to the hospital. By then it was too late, cancer’s tentacles everywhere. My nana had been dead for years by then, he was terribly lonely, and ready to go.

Thomas Cecil dearly loved his family, his wife, his daughter, and his grandkids. He worked hard, despite the depression that wanted to shut him down and out. He dug his way out of poverty. He saved and sent his daughter to college, something he never had.

And when he lost it all, he went back out and started over, again and again.

My grandpa had a hole in his nose. It is only one of many, many important memories and life lessons I have from him.

*** Photo of my grandpa, nana, oldest sister and me.


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Talking To Insomnia

Insomnia has plagued me off and on since I was eighteen.

This is a recent conversation I created with Insomnia late one night. Yes, I have personified Insomnia. Insomnia is now a being. An it. And I talked to It. It talked back. Clearly I am losing my mind.

“Hello, Insomnia. Three in the morning. I can’t say I’m surprised to see your sorry self here.”

“Greetings, Cathy. It’s a pleasure to see you again, my friend.”

“Insomnia, you are not my friend. Let’s get that straight. Do you know how exhausted I’ve been over the decades because of you?”

“I apologize. But you’re worrying, as usual, which is what keeps you up, not me, so I came in for a short visit to see if I could offer any comfort or solace.”

“There’s a lot to worry about in the world. Shootings. ISIS. Maniacs. I get really upset when other people are upset.”

“The world is making all normal people really upset right now. I know. I’m Insomnia. I’m with them at night, too.”

“Plus, I’m worrying about my kids.”

“The children have always been your main worry focus. If I may make a polite suggestion? You worry about things that aren’t happening and probably won’t happen when it comes to Adventurous Singing Daughter, Rebel Dancing Daughter and Darling Laughing Son. Your mind takes off in unnecessary catastrophic directions. I’ve seen where your mind goes. Worry about a problem if and when it arrives, not beforehand.”

“I can’t help it. They’re flying off into the world so I envision all the disasters that might get them including earthquakes, large spiders that bite, and rabid wolves.”

“The slimmest of slim chances that any of those things will happen to the children, so why worry now?”

“Because it’s what I do. I worry.”

“It keeps you up at night. Then I come to keep you company.”

“You’re not very good company.”

“I will endeavor to become better.”

“And I’m also worried about my book.”

“Do share. What’s the problem?”

“It’s hard. The characters are all over the place. They all want to be wild and rebellious. I think they’re picking my energy up. I want to be wild and rebellious, too, but I’m a mother so I can’t. I have to have dinner on the table by six. Two characters are angry and I can only have one angry character. My main character wants to have up against the wall sex with the stud in the book but I won’t let her and she’s throwing fits about the whole thing. I don’t blame her. It does sound like fun.”

“Let them be themselves. Like you are yourself.”

“I’m not a character, Insomnia. I’m a person. Don’t confuse me. It’s already hard enough for me to keep the real people in my life separated from the characters in my head. They all start to blur.”

“Maybe you should try yoga before bed. You’re quite tightly wound.”

“I hate yoga. All that quiet time where I’m supposed to find Zen. Who is Zen? It’s very frustrating.”

“Perhaps a straight shot of whiskey before bed, Cathy?”

“Very funny. You know I don’t drink the devil’s vinegar.”

“May I suggest that you start?”

“No, Insomnia, you shouldn’t. I like to be in control as much as possible.”

“People have very little control over their lives. It’s an illusion. Trust me.”

“You’re annoying me, Insomnia.”

“You’re often annoyed. You’re Type A, Cathy. You’re impatient. You still have a temper even though you’re getting older. I was hoping that you would mellow out a bit at your age and that would help you sleep.”

“I have mellowed out! How dare you tell me I haven’t mellowed out. What’s wrong with you? I’m mellow. And I don’t need you reminding me of my age because then I’ll worry about old things happening to me like bladder leaks, unnecessary flatulence, and uncontrolled burping.”

“Ah. You’re again worrying about possible medical challenges in the future that will probably not actually appear.”

“Why not? Someone has to do it. You’re not being helpful, Insomnia. I think I’ll try to go to sleep now.”

“Well then, I’ll head on to the next insomniac. It’s almost four, you should be fine. Around four your body finally collapses.”

“Please don’t use the words, ‘your body’ and ‘collapse’ in the same sentence. It triggers my very slight problem with hypochondria.”

“Forgive me. Goodnight, Cathy. Pleasant dreams, friend.”

“Goodnight, Insomnia. And we’re not friends. Remember? I already said that.”

“Pardon me. Pleasant dreams, person.”

“Goodnight, Insomnia.”

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That Mean Woman

I saw a woman the other day that I don’t like.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen her, but I recognized her. I was in my car, she was walking along the sidewalk.

No, I did not try to hit her, that would have been uncalled for. Plus, I would have gone to jail and my coloring clashes mightily with orange. I also don’t like jumpsuits, communal showers, or anyone telling me what to do.

Knowing all this, I drove on by. She didn’t see me, and she wouldn’t have recognized me anyhow. I am quite sure that when we met nineteen years ago I didn’t make the slightest imprint on her little brain.

So who was this woman? She was a checker at our local grocery store.

I was a young mother then, three kids under the age of three, and had quit my job as a teacher to stay home. I was delighted to be at home with the kids but financially it was like a cyclone hit.

We had a 1450 square foot home, a car payment, and my husband’s student loan.

We were check to check, each month, and the slightest surprise – car repairs, dish washer breaking, etc. threw us off a mini financial cliff.

I cut coupons religiously, planned all meals around the coupons, then headed up to the grocery store.

One rainy Oregon day, after carefully buying all my groceries, the kids in the cart, coupons ready to go, I headed to the checkout lanes.

I handed this woman my coupons and she all but rolled her eyes straight back into her head. It was as if I’d handed her a dead possum and asked her to stuff it and get it ready for a funeral.

She put all my coupons, one by one, in a pile, then crossed her fingers, as if she was praying, and said in a condescending voice, “Well, let’s begin.”

The line was long, it got longer, as she methodically, and with arrogant glee, rejected one coupon after another, about half of them. The cereal I bought was four ounces too small. This coupon didn’t apply because I didn’t buy something else.

Now, clearly, I made a mistake with the products and the coupons. Tired mother, hardly thinking/sleeping with twin babies and a three year old. My fault.

I should have noticed the cereal coupon was for the twenty ounce box only and that one coupon had expired yesterday.

But it was her patronizing voice and how slowly she processed the coupons, as if to deliberately embarrass me in front of everyone in that line. It was her simmering anger that I had brought coupons in, as if I was trying to rip off the store, as if I was nothing.

I was so humiliated I could hardly speak. We finally left, the kids fussing, the line longer still, our groceries in the bags, my checkbook crushed, as usual.

I was exhausted from taking care of three kids under three, I was tired of having to hunt for spare change under the car seats, so I was extra sensitive then, and I realized this, but I cried in the car that day.

I really didn’t need anyone making me feel poorer and more desperate than I already felt.

Innocent Husband and I are in a different place now. We moved to a new house, the student loan and car payment are long gone.

But when I saw that woman walking along it all came back – how she treated me with such disdain, a mother juggling young children, using coupons because that was the way she was going to make the food budget work that week.

You remember how people treat you especially when you’re in a tough place in life, don’t you?

I didn’t run her over when I saw her. I didn’t stop to say anything. I don’t wish her ill at all. But I have learned two things from her. One, an act of meanness can last a long time in someone else’s life.

And two – I’ll share this wisdom with you, friends – when you see someone you don’t like refrain from hitting them with your car.

You’re not gonna look good in an orange jumpsuit, either, and you so know it, you do.

Wishing you a happy day, as always.

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Such A Pretty Face On Sale

Hello everyone,

Such A Pretty Face is on sale for a short and sweet amount of time for $2.99.



An excerpt:

Written by Stevie Barrett.

I am going to plant a garden this summer.

With the exception of two pink cherry trees, one white cherry tree, and one pink tulip tree, all huge, I have a barren, dry backyard and I’m tired of looking at it. I almost see it as a metaphor for my whole life, and I think if I can fix this, I can fix my life. Simplistic, silly, I know, but I can’t get past it.

So I’m going to garden even if my hands shake as if there are live circuits inside of them and a floppy yellow hat dances ominously through my mind.

I’m going to build upraised beds, a whole bunch of them, and fill them with tomatoes, squash, zucchini, radishes, lettuce, carrots, peas, and beans. But not corn.

I’m not emotionally able to do corn yet – too many memories – but I am going to plant marigolds around the borders, pink and purple petunias, rose bushes and clematis and grapevines.

I’m going to stick two small crosses at the back fence, but not for who you think. I’m going to build a grape arbor with a deck beneath it, and then I’m going to add a table so I can paint there, as I used to, before my memories took that away.

Silverton Tulips 020I’m also going to build three trellises for climbing roses over a rock pathway, one arch for me, Grandma, and Grandpa, which will lead to another garden, with cracked china plates in a mosaic pattern in the middle of a concrete circle, for Sunshine.

This may sound way too ambitious.

It is. But I see this as my last chance to get control of my mind before it blows.

I can wield any type of saw out there, and I have to do this, even if it takes me years. That I can even think in terms of a future is a miracle.


Because two and a half years ago, when I was thirty two years old, I had a heart attack.

I used to be the size of a small, depressed cow.

Silverton Tulips 017The heart attack led to my stomach strangling operation, and I lost 170 pounds. Now I am less than half myself, in more ways than one.

My name is Stevie Barrett.

This is a story of why I was the way I was and how I am now me.

I am going to plant a garden.


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Chatting With Author Katie Rose Guest Pryal. Is She Bionic?

Hello everyone,

Today I’m chatting with Katie Rose Guest Pryal. She might secretly be a bionic woman. I am still investigating this possibility.

Why do I think she might be hiding super natural abilities? Because this is a woman who writes novels and textbooks, zillions of articles and columns, and works as a writing teacher and writing tutor. She has also been a law professor. Plus she has two kids.

When I think of her schedule I want to lay down, eat chocolate, and read a good book. Like, say, one of Katie’s. So here we go…

Katie, I love the tagline for your new novel, Chasing Chaos: “Love, friendship and betrayal in glamorous, yet often vicious, Hollywood.” Whew! I’m there with ya, already. Tell us about your latest book.

Chasing Chaos is about a woman in her late twenties, Daphne Saito, who believes she isn’t worthy of love. She realizes over five life-changing days, filled with surprises, betrayal, and tragedy, that she is wrong.

You’ve obviously researched Hollywood. Give us some of the scoop. Let us live vicariously through you. I need it. What have you learned?

I lived in Hollywood after college for a very brief time, and it had a very powerful effect on me. It’s not a perfect place, not at all, but it is unique, and its ugliness is as appealing as the glitz. I take that back. Its ugliness is more appealing.

The cheap bars, the thrift stores, everything you need to live there on twenty thousand a year like I did. I loved all of that. I still have people I can reach out to to help me fact-check details about neighborhoods and locations, which helps, and one of them reads each book in the Entanglement Series before my publisher sees it.

Tell us about your main character Daphne Saito. You always create really strong female characters. How did you develop that character? Is she based on anyone? Based on a part of your personality?

Do you think it’s true that authors put a bit of themselves, consciously or sub consciously, into each of their characters?

I wrote a piece on how I develop characters, in which I explained that every character should be half of you, and the other half should contain things you wish were you. Daphne, for example, has many qualities of mine, but she has other qualities that I wish I had, qualities that I admire in other people.

Note: I always write very detailed character sketches before I start a book, per Elizabeth George’s instructions.

Revenge and a vendetta play a part in this book. Can I say I love those topics without sounding too evil? Implementing those elements must have been fun to write. What appeals to you about both?

I believe humans desire revenge more than we think we do. We just don’t act on it. In a book, you get to turn people loose to act in ways we would never act in real life. It can be very satisfying both to write and to read.

I agree.  When I watch my characters doing all sorts of things while I’m writing a book, it’s like I’m watching a movie. I have little control over them. 

Did you know how the book was going to end before you started writing it? What is your writing process for a book?

Naturally I moved to Los Angeles because I thought I was going to write screenplays. Learning to write screenplays taught me to think in scenes, which has been immensely helpful in planning novels. I don’t write a typical outline, but I do outline by scenes. I block out the major scenes that will happen in each chapter before I start writing, or, at least, I get far enough in that I can start. I do expect things to shift as I go, though.

Everyone is always curious about authors’ lives. Tell us about yours. Where do you live, with who, your day job, your writing life. How do you juggle all of your work and your family? (Even though I do know you’re a secret bionic woman. Just admit it.)

Do you separate your day into times where you work on one project, then move to the next?

My day job is writer. I’m very lucky. I write other things that are not nearly as glamorous as novels, such as textbooks, but they are fun to write, and I’m good at it, and they pay the bills. I’m also a journalist, and I teach creative writing. I also work as a private editor. Between all of these different jobs, I manage to put together a living.

I do have two small children, and I struggle with balancing time with them and balancing time for my work, just like every other working mom. For me, the solution has been to figure out how to work in small chunks of time. Ten minutes here, while waiting for swim practice to finish. Another twenty minutes there, while waiting for the school bus. I have a tiny laptop, and I bring it with me everywhere. I’m not multi-tasking—I believe multi-tasking is terrible for my brain. Instead, I’ve trained myself to find focus quickly. And so, those pockets of time add up to a day’s work for me.

What are you working on now? What do you love about it and what challenges are you facing with this new book as an author?

I just finished revising my next novel, and it is out to my final set of readers. When I get it back, I will revise it once more and out it will go. I also have two more novels after that already in different stages. I feel lucky—at this point, I’m not running out of ideas for novels.

I cannot imagine you EVER running out of ideas.

Thank you, Katie, for joining us today! 



Bio: Katie is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, NC. She is the author of the Entanglement Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT, LOVE AND ENTROPY, and CHASING CHAOS, all from Velvet Morning Press. As a journalist, Katie contributes regularly to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late, lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE, and more. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship. When not writing books, she teaches creative writing through Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and works as a writing coach and editor.

Chat with Katie!


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Rebel Dancing Daughter Strikes Again

I had an argument with Rebel Dancing Daughter yesterday, and I swear I could hear my late mother’s voice channeling through me.

Here’s what happened: Rebel Dancing Daughter came downstairs in a cheetah bra and a skimpy red dress.

The dress had spaghetti straps and a low neckline. Too much bust.

The hem was way too high. Too much leg.

We were going to the mall. I crossed my arms and glared like Godzilla then said to her, keeping in mind Excellent Mothering Techniques, “Oh, HELL no! You are not wearing that.”

(My mother used to say that to me, too, minus the ‘hell.’)

Rebel Dancing Daughter shot back with, “Yes, I am!”

And I said, eyeing an outfit that was barely more than what a stripper would fling herself around a pole in, “You are not going out in public like that.”

(Those were my mother’s words, too!)

Rebel Dancing Daughter huffed and puffed and said, “Yes I am! It’s fine! This is what I’m wearing.” (I said this when I was her age, too.)

Then she crossed her arms, like mine.

And I said, “You are not.”

“You know you’re a control freak, right, mom?”

“I know it and I like it. Change.”

She sighed. It was the sigh that says, “You are an utter and ridiculous pain, mom. You are out of date and out of style. You are old.”

Fortunately, I do not care that my children think this of me.

Rebel Dancing Daughter tried to make her case. “This dress is long enough. Look! The hem comes to my fingertips.”

I peered down at her, her arms now straight and defiant by her side. “If you wear that dress and an ant coughs underneath you your dress will fly up and someone will see your va jay jay.”

“Mom!” She said that, ‘mom!’ in a loud and admonishing tone. “No one uses that word, ‘va jay jay.’”

“I just did and I am someone.”

(My mother would not have used the word ‘va jay jay,’ just to clarify, out of respect to her. Her parents were from the South so, obviously.)

“Mom!” Again, loud and admonishing. As if I needed to be admonished. I am the boss here. I am The Mother.

“You are not wearing that. You know my rules.” I put my palm to my chest, above my boobs. “Boobs in. Your boobs are not in. Your dress is too low on top, too high on the bottom. No one needs to be flashed by your bottom. Change or we don’t go.”

“Fine, fine!” Stomp, stomp, up the stairs. “Fine!”

“So,” I thought to my little self, “She will change into a new outfit now. She will be dressed appropriately.”

Rebel Dancing Daughter stomped back down. She was wearing pajama bottoms under her skimpy spaghetti strap dress. “There! I’m covered.”

We began yet again and I had to use Excellent Mothering Techniques. I rolled my eyes. “You look silly. I am not taking you out in your pajamas. What? You’re going to sleep in the mall? You’re going to take a nap at Macy’s? I’m leaving. Get dressed or I’m driving off without you.”

Rebel Dancing daughter can be rebellious. She likes to dance in high heels and go to parties. But she knows when a fight is lost. She knows when Boss Mother is not changing her mind.

Stomp, stomp, stomp. She got re – dressed. All parts covered this time around. She looked very nice.

I laughed to myself as we drove to the mall.

I swear, I have become my mother, who I still miss so much, all these years later. Not so polite, not so gentle, but I open my mouth and my momma’s words fall straight out, as if she’s in there, in me, her love still there, her impact on my life eternal.

I snuck a peek at beautiful Rebel Dancing Daughter, my mother’s granddaughter. One day, years ahead, when she has an argument with her daughter, and my words fall out of her mouth, she will laugh, too.

I reached for her hand. She held it. I do adore that kid.

My momma would be so proud of her.

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Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz Survivor

From the New York Times, a quote from the late Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor, and the author of Night, one of the most brilliant, heart wrenching books I have ever read:

“If I survived, it must be for some reason,” he told Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times in an interview in 1981. “I must do something with my life. It is too serious to play games with anymore, because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person. On the other hand, I know I cannot.”

He spoke, we listened, the world has lost one of its very best people.

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Three Books On Sale, Cheap And Sweet

Well, this was a bit of a surprise to me, but three of my books are on sale, cheap and sweet, on Amazon kindle for a tiny bit of time. My Very Best Friend is $4.99. Such A Pretty Face is $2.99, and The Last Time I Was Me is $6.99.

That would be a grand total of $14.97 if you bought all three if you need some summer reads. Books, beach, beer. Maybe not in that order.

Anyhow, in one book the women ride their bikes, in their negligees, at midnight. There’s a colorful secret hiding in a shed in the second, and in the third Jeanne Stewart runs naked along a river because her anger management counselor told her to do so to get rid of her – wait for it – anger.

Cheers, all.

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Eating Spiders, Wild Streaks And Raising Children

Even after raising three kids I can’t confidently advise anyone else on how to parent.

I do believe, though, that there are three absolute rules to follow:

One, make sure they are fed and watered. You would feed and water cattle, wouldn’t you? Children are no different.

Two, clothe them even if they throw fits and insist on wearing only a frilly yellow tutu and nothing else when they are two years old.

Three, do not let them grab and eat the goldfish straight out of the tank.

Other than that I have often found parenting baffling.

For example, when Adventurous Singing Daughter was young why did she like to eat sand so much? That could not have been tasty. Why did she repeatedly try to eat spiders? How many spiders did she eat when I glanced away for just ONE second?

Why did Rebel Dancing Daughter wear the same two dresses over and over for years when she was a little girl? I bought them at garage sales. One had fruits, the other flowers. Why did I bother buying her other clothes when she wouldn’t wear them anyhow?

And Darling Laughing Son. What was the fascination with carrying around a metal spatula when he was two? Why did he have to stubbornly wield my long wooden spoon like a sword when he was in the stroller?

So many years have gone by since then.

Rebel Dancing Daughter is now trotting around Europe and has been offered a job in the Ukraine after graduation. I want her to go to the Ukraine about as much as I want my left arm to fall off my body and start hitting innocent people.

Adventurous Singing Daughter is heading to college in the fall but what she would really like to do is circle the globe and have – wait for it – adventures. She is going to college because we will not fund such globetrotting, so off she slogs.

And Darling Laughing Son? Well, that kid has a wild streak. He wants to keep his wild streak. We want to beat it out of him.

It is in these parenting moments, sometimes hard, sometimes hotly argumentative, sometimes baffling, that I often remember holding their hands when they were little.

I held their hands when we went to the zoo, the library, the park, the river. I held their hands when we danced, when they cried, when we played in a pool or read stories. Those sweet, tiny, warm hands.

Now I feel those sweet hands slipping away. They’re older. They are often gone, away at school, away in a different country.

I am older, too. I tire easily. I want to put my feet up and drink coffee. I want to daydream by my garden.

Sometimes it truly saddens me, that that part of life, the raising the kids part, is going.

And yet. As the kids are flying off, I feel myself flying, too. I have been working and raising children for twenty two years.

And now, finally, there is time. Time for me. Time for Innocent Husband. Time for change.

Time to love the kids as they get older and become themselves.

Time to travel, read, do something new.

Time to hold hands.

I love you Adventurous Singing Daughter, Darling Laughing Son, and Rebel Dancing Daughter.

No matter where you fly off to, I will always be here, my hand outstretched, a hug waiting for you. Be safe, be kind, be you.

Do not eat sand or spiders. Wear more than two dresses. Be careful with that wild streak. And call yo momma.


















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Need A Beach Read? Beach Season Is On Sale For $1.99

Need a beach read?

Need a little romance?

Our anthology, Beach Season, is on sale for $1.99, on kindle. That’s one hundred and ninety nine pennies for four fun stories from Lisa Jackson, Holly Chamberlin and Rosalind Noonan.


Here are chapters one and two from my story, June’s Lace.

Chapter One

Ten Things I’m Worried About:

  1. Too many wedding dresses
  2. Not enough wedding dresses
  3. Grayson
  4. Going broke
  5. Losing my home
  6. Never finding an unbroken, black butterfly shell
  7. The upcoming interview with the fashion writer.
  8. Not having peppermint sticks in my life
  9. Turning back into the person I used to be
  10. Always being worried


Chapter Two

“No. Absolutely not.” I gripped the phone with white knuckles as I paced around my yellow studio. “I will never agree to that.”

“Ha. I knew you wouldn’t accept those unacceptable terms, June,” Cherie Poitras, my divorce attorney, cackled.  “Your soon to be ex-husband has a monstrous addiction to being a jerk but don’t worry, we’re not quitting. Quitting causes my hot flashes to flare.”

“I don’t want your hot flashes to flare, Cherie. And I’m not quitting, either. I can’t.”  I yanked opened the French doors to my second story deck as lightning zigged and zagged across the night sky through the bubbling, black clouds, the waves of the Pacific ocean crashing down the hill from my blue home. “If I could catch a lightning strike, I’d pitch it at him.”

“It would be thrilling to see that,” Cherie declared. “So vengefully Mother Nature – ish.”

“What a rat.” I shut the doors with a bang, then thought of my other life, the life before this one, and shuddered. I could not go back to it, and I was working as hard as I could to ensure that that wouldn’t happen.  There wasn’t enough silk and satin in that other life. There wasn’t any kindness, either. Or softness. “I so want this to end.”

“He’s sadistically stubborn. I have been buried in motions, requests for mediation, time for him to recover from his fake illness, his counseling appointments, attempts to reconcile…he’s tried everything. The paperwork alone could reach from Oregon to Arkansas and flip over two bulls and a tractor.”

“That’s what we’re dealing with, Cherie, bull.” I ran a hand through my long, blonde, messy hair. It got stuck in a tangle.

“Sure are, sweets.”

“He’s doing this so I’ll come back to him.”

“That’s true. He’s a tenacious, rabid bull dog.”

“I don’t ever want anything to do with the rabid bull dog again.” I was so mad, even my bones seemed to ache. Cherie wished me a, “Happy wedding dress sewing evening,” and I wished her the best of luck being a ferocious attorney who scares the pants off all the male attorneys in Portland and went back to stomping around my studio.

My studio is filled with odd and found things. I need the color and creativity for inspiration for the non – traditional wedding dresses I sew. Weathered, light blue shutters from a demolished house are nailed to a wall.  Two foot tall pink letters spell out my name, June.

On a huge canvas, I painted six foot tall purple tulips with eyes, smiles and pink tutus. I propped that painting against a wall next to a collection of mailboxes in the shapes of a pig, elephant, dragon, dog, and monkey.  The monkey mailbox scares me.

I dipped a strawberry into melted chocolate and kept stomping about.  I eat when I get upset or stressed, and this had not proved to be good for the size of my bottom. Fifteen extra pounds in two years. After only four more strawberries, okay seven, and more pacing, I took a deep breath and tried to wrestle myself away from my past and back into who I am now, who I am trying most desperately to become.

“Remember, June,” I said aloud  as my anger and worry surged, like the waves of the Oregon coast below me. “You are in your sky lighted studio. Not a cold, beige home in the city. You are living amidst stacks of colorful and slinky fabrics, buttons, flowers, faux pearls and gems, and lace. You are not living amidst legal briefs and crammed courtrooms working as an attorney with other stressed out, maniac attorneys hyped up on their massive egos.”

My tired eyes rested, as they so often did, on my Scottish tartan, our ancestor’s tartan, which I’d hung vertically on my wall.  When I’d hung it in our modern home in Portland, he’d ripped it down and hid it from me for a month. “Tacky June, it’s tacky. We’re not kilt wearing heathens.”

I am a wedding dress designer in the middle of a soul-crushing divorce. I am a wedding dress designer who will never again marry.  I am a wedding dress designer who has about as much faith in marriage as I do that the Oregon coast will never see another drop of rain.

A blast of wind, then a hail of rain pummeled my French doors.I ate yet another chocolate strawberry. I have been told my eyes are the color of dark chocolate. Not a bad analogy.  I washed the strawberry down with lemonade, then a carrot.

No, I have no faith in marriage.


It was a bad day. It became worse after the next phone call.


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Cathy Lamb
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