Let’s hear it for B+ Moms!

Let’s hear it for B+ Moms!.

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Let’s hear it for B+ Moms!

I first knew I was in trouble when I was only a few months pregnant.   “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was my bible, and it helped me through endless hiccups, heartburn, and insomnia.   But that book also scared the daylights out of me.    A section in the book discussed nutrition, and the authors were all about making every calorie count.     But when they recommended that that I carry a vial of wheat germ in my purse for when I’m at a restaurant and there aren’t any whole grain dinner rolls…I knew that that I was never going to measure up.   It took me a long time to realize that maybe that’s OK.

So here’s to the B+ moms–you know who you are.   I recognize you at the grocery story, rearranging your cart to get your token bag of baby carrots and Greek yogurt to cover the stack of frozen pizzas and sugared cereals.   B+ moms buy good food, but we also balance that with a generous dose of Ramen and fruit snacks because sometimes it’s just easier.

B+ moms take their kids to the park and push them on the swings, fighting the urge to play Words with Friends while our kids build rock piles.   We know our kids need our attention, so we smile and nod at every pretty pebble. Sometimes I’ll grab a picture of that triumphant backwards climb to the top of the slide and we’ll put it on facebook, evidence of time spent outdoors with mom.   But I’m often relieved when park time is over and we can head home to righteously flip on netflix and heat up dinner.

There’s too much screen time at many B+ households.     Homework is done, bug collections completed, and permission slips are eventually signed–usually in lime green marker because regular pens are as scarce as homemade spaghetti sauce.     But then the TV goes on and our kids laugh at Joey and Chandler until one of the Friends pushes the TV14 guideline a little too far for even a B+ mom, and it’s back to the dreaded Disney Channel for the rest of the night.

The problem with being a B+ mom (or a B+ anything for that matter) is that we don’t share those regular days.   My facebook page is full of smiling, joyful, proud moments, so I’m as guilty as the rest.   I don’t think that anyone really wants to hear about how I snapped at my family about the dirty dishes piled in the sink, and then I plopped on the couch, ignored the half-folded laundry and ordered pizza.   We don’t usually talk about the mundane, or the times that I know that everyone else is having an instagram-worthy moment but me.

So rest assured B+ moms, you are not alone.  We all love our kids and are doing the best we can every day.  But I hope we can remember for every giggly Easter egg hunt or expertly carved pumpkin that makes Facebook, there are just as many families that almost throttle each other trying to put up the Christmas tree.     Luckily, our children leading B+ lives are a forgiving bunch, having learned that it’s possible to laugh about the big Christmas tree fight later, and that life is full of ho-hum, non-facebook worthy days sprinkled with random, healthy doses of joy.

my mom and me 1973

my mom and me 1973

And Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven to my mom, who was always a solid A in my book.

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When I grow up I want to wear sensible shoes (said no one, ever)

When I grow up I want to wear sensible shoes (said no one, ever).

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When I grow up I want to wear sensible shoes (said no one, ever)

This week my third grader was supposed to dress like she would for her career some day. She has had a few ideas in her 9 years but ultimately decided she would wear cool clothes and a tape measure around her neck–the uniform of a fashion designer.

How many 9 year olds aspire to be child protection workers? In her class there was a construction worker, a scientist, and professional balloon animal maker, but no social workers.

Child protection was never my plan either.   Until about three months before college graduation, my plan had been to go straight to grad school for psychology.   But as the graduate program catalogs piled up on my desk and my completed applications didn’t, it became clear that I wasn’t ready to go to grad school.   So a month before graduation, I took (and barely passed) the Minnesota Merit Test which would make me eligible to be a social worker in a county agency.

When I applied for my current job in child protection, I had to admit that I had never interviewed a child, never been to court, and didn’t have a clue how the system worked.   I really didn’t know that child protection existed.   It was in my plans to Help People, but that’s where my big idea ended.

Then I was hired, and within days I was interviewing children, attending court, and figuring out how this mysterious system worked.    I talked to kids about sexual abuse, and they told me things that made my stomach churn. I forced myself to be able to say all the words for genitals.     I had to confront people on their drug use, their violence, and their houses full of hoarded stuff.   I needed to wear clothes that would go from house to car easily, tromping through snow and clutter, professional but comfortable enough to make a quick getaway on the rare occasions it was necessary.

sensible shoes

I didn’t love my job, but I didn’t hate it either.   Within a year, I was married and bought a house, got a dog and I was pregnant.   We settled into our new home, and I got as comfortable as I could in a job in which people screamed, swore, and lunged at me with regularity.   There were bright spots too–the families who got stronger, the kids who were relieved to move to grandma’s home where they were finally safe, and the coworkers who laughed and groaned along with me.

And that, kids, is how a career is made.

I’m sure there are plenty of kids who dream about being a teacher, or a doctor, or a fashion designer, and they grow up to become exactly what they had planned to be.   But there are plenty of soon-to-be-grads who aren’t sure what comes next, and hopefully enough of them will want to Help People too.     And if they find themselves in child protection, somehow they will suit up in comfortable shoes, clothes that might get dirty, and enough emotional body armor to stumble into a career that they almost, sometimes love.

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TOP 5 Questions I have been asked about writing a novel

TOP 5 Questions I have been asked about writing a novel.

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TOP 5 Questions I have been asked about writing a novel

1.   Are you going to quit your job and just write books?

This is probably the question I get most often, and my writer friends are laughing right now. Reading for pleasure is on the decline, and overall reading ability is declining with it.   In the era of binge-watching Netflix, social media, and youtube at your fingertips, books can’t keep up.   Even if they could, there’s very little money in book publishing for all but the handful of super successful authors.     I was very grateful to earn enough with the sales of my last book to buy a new laptop and pay for a few nights in a hotel as I traveled for book promotions. So, no. I will happily be keeping my day job.

  1. Which character are you? (or worse: Am I in your book?)

unprotected was fiction, as is my new novel unattached.   Neither of the main characters is me. The social workers, cops, foster parents, and attorneys in the book aren’t based on anyone I know.       And the clients in the book are definitely not based on any of my former clients.   Data privacy laws are strict and I didn’t want to do anything that would put me in HIPAA jail.

  1.  How did you come up with the story?

I never know how to answer this.   I wish I could say that I had a grand plan with an elaborate outline, but I didn’t have anything of the sort.   It took me 12 years to write unprotected and three years to write unattached, and both times I had only a vague idea of where I was going with the story.    The fun times were when an idea spilled out, landed on the page, and worked.

  1. Do you enjoy book signings?

I will say this as graciously as I can: no.   I expected book signings to be exciting, but the truth is that I feel like the salespeople at mall kiosks selling perfume or cell phones.   Book store customers know what they are looking for, and they recognize that I’m there to sell them something they never intended to buy.    Honestly that’s fine with me.   We all work hard for our money, and if someone doesn’t want to buy my book then I don’t want him to.    But publishing is a business, so selling books is part of the deal.   Most of the time at book signings people avoid eye contact and shuffle by my little table at the front of the store.   At one of my signings, another author was there with 3 large boxes full of books. He huffed at me that he would sell out in two hours, and the jerk was right.   He approached (accosted) everyone who entered the store saying, “Are you a mystery reader? Do you enjoy reading about local settings?”   Some people wandered away, but his pushiness worked as his pile dwindled while few of my books moved.   So I am learning to stretch myself, plaster on an uncomfortable smile, and have awkward conversations in order to sell a few books.

  1. I’ve always wanted to write a book….do you think I could get published?

I have been surprised by how many people have confessed to me that they have a secret, half-written novel on a laptop at home.   Usually when people ask me this question they are stuck either because they aren’t sure how to finish, or they don’t think what they have written is good enough.   My answer is always the same (borrowed from Dory in the movie Finding Nemo):   Just keep writing!

That's me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble

That’s me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble

For most of us amateur writers, the fear of it not being good enough is what keeps us from moving forward.      I’ll be honest:   there are parts of both of my books that make me cringe.   I am well aware that I will never be known for my lyrical prose, and a writing instructor would put her red pen to work with my overuse of adverbs.     Lyrical prose was never my goal.   I write because I have stories in my head that I want to get on paper, and the process of writing is what I truly enjoy.

And in that spirit, stay tuned.   My second novel, unattached, will be released in September, 2015 by North Star Press.

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An Announcement

The first time around it took twelve years.

I wrote paragraph by paragraph with only the vaguest sense of where it as all going. I was eighty percent done without realizing it, and forced myself to finish because I actually thought I could.

And so my first novel, unprotected was released in September, 2012. I have never forgotten the great privilege and honor it is to have my novel published, and to have people actually buy it and read it. unprotected can be found on Goodreads and Amazon, and at select local book stores. When it was released, I had an incredible book launch, held book signings at half a dozen book stores, attended scores of book clubs, talked at libraries, and gave a few newspaper interviews. While book promotion has been a crazy ride, the part I really enjoy is the writing.

So I got to work on my Next Book.

I was attached to the social workers at Terrance County, but I wasn’t sure how much more I could add to Amanda’s story. She had her happy ending, and I wanted it to stay that way. So I turned my attention to another worker at Terrance County–Leah.

Leah is a little older than Amanda, but I’m not sure I could say that she’s wiser. She’s only been at Terrance County for about 5 years after spending her early 20s in a drunken haze. She sobered up by attending AA meetings with her anxious, needy mom, and then got her social work degree and found herself a place at Terrance County Social Services as a child protection investigator. Leah is edgier than Amanda, cynical and lonely, but also a fiercely loyal friend. Leah is also a gifted, intuitive interviewer who helps kids feel safe enough to tell their stories, and can coax an admission out of the most reluctant abuser.

But outside of work, Leah is a hot mess. She doesn’t trust anyone but her closest friends, and sometimes not even them. She insists on being alone, refusing to get to close or trust anyone. She is desperate to remain unattached, despite the best efforts of her friends, family, and a certain police investigator named Pete Kemper.

Unattached….not a great approach to life, but it makes a pretty cool book title.

I am thrilled to announce that my second novel, unattached, will be released by North Star Press in September, 2015.

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