Tag Archives: This Book Will Change Your Life

Big Books

This post is dedicated to the lovely Sara at Laments and Lullabies. 

She is the Salt to my Pepa, the DJ Jazzy Jeff to my Fresh Prince.  


Last week I was in the car with my girls and their friends, two older girls from down the street. Butt jokes were being made.  Naturally.  One of Emily’s pals says “I like big butts and I can not lie!”  Emily, too young to have ever heard Sir Mix-A-Lot at her eighth grade formal, began to guffaw. I am not certain where her friend had heard it but before I could stop myself the rest of the song was tumbling out of my mouth “You other brothers can’t deny that when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung!!”  I may or may not have been dancing in my seat.  The girls in the backseat were laughing.  But her friend in the front seat was giving me the side eye.

“I love that song,” I said.  I hit play on my CD player and because Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back is the first track on Monster Booty Jams and because that CD has lived permanently in my car for a decade I knew it would immediately begin to play.   The girls got quiet and listened.  “This song is the best,” I said.

“They only talk to her, because, she looks like a total…” and I hit stop.  “Actually, this song might not be a listen-to-it-with-someone-else’s-mother kind of song.”

So when the picture above came through my Facebook feed I was primed and ready for a Baby’s Got Back inspired giggle.

And just like those kids in my car I really need only the smallest amount of encouragement.

My friend, Sara, said “You other readers can’t deny.” (Yeah, that’s right.  My pal, Sara, of Laments & Lullabies fame!) And we were off to the races.

Day 97 of This Book Will Change Your Life told me to become a rapper.  Ummm.  Done.  Check, Checkity check check… the MIC!

Me: When a book walks in with a nitty gritty theme and puts those word things in my face I get sprung!

Sara:  ‘Cause you notice that book was stuffed, Deep in the shelves of learnin’, I’m hooked and I can’t stop turning, Pages, I wanna get with ’em … And take their ISBNs

Me:  Oh. My. God. Becky, look at that book. It’s SO good. It’s, like, on the best seller list. But who even reads, anyway? They only buy it because Oprah said so.

Sara: Slow in the middle but it’s got a lot of plot.

Me:  I’m tired of magazines. Saying paperbacks are the thing. Take a librarian and ask her that – she says microfiche are where it’s at!

Sara: So, readers! (Yeah!) Readers! (Yeah!) Has your library got the book? (Hell yeah!) Tell ’em to stock it! (Stock it!) Shelve it! (Shelve it!) Check out that hefty book! ‘Brary got books!

Me: So you can’t put down that novel, to get fed your kids got to grovel. But the novel don’t care if your house is a hovel. My intellect don’t want none unless you’re classic lit, hon!

Sara:  But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna *read* Till the break of dawn Book’s got it goin’ on…

How to Spot a Mom

I was naked when she asked me the question.  Maybe that was why it hurt my feelings.  “You have kids?” She was smiling, maybe in her late 70s.  There was no reason for me to find the question off putting, I suppose.  It was casual chit-chat.

In the locker room at the gym there are lots of different kinds of women.  I am envious of the older women that stroll nonchalantly from the shower to their locker.  They are free,  maybe even confident,  certainly at peace with the body they live in.  There are the younger women and the quiet gals that change in the “dressing rooms,” the awkward spaces with shower curtains that don’t quite close all the way.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I have given birth twice.  I came of age in a theatrical dressing room. I can surely get my bathing suit off in a locker room without demonstrating something just short of a magic trick to get my bra and underwear on before my towel drops to the floor.

But I am not yet free.  I am not yet at peace with this body.  It still feels new.  I am not embarrassed, not really.  “You have kids?” she asked me.  Why?  Is it my stretch marks?  I thought they were fading, maybe there are some I don’t even know I have.  Maybe it’s my stomach.  But then I never really had much in the way of a flat stomach before I even had kids.

It took me by surprise, my reaction to such a simple question.  Immediately, I wondered if my body was telling a story that I could not even see.  Fresh from a long swim I was feeling long and lean and that three word question brought me  to a place where I begin to wonder if I need to just settle in to a new normal and accept that this body ain’t all that bad.

I smiled and said “I do.  Girls.  One and seven.  Lucky mama gets to shower today in peace.”  She smiled warmly, turning back to her locker, unaware the spiral her innocent question had started.

I pulled my jeans on and ran a brush through my too short hair.  I took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, knowing I was going to walk by a long mirror on my way out the door.  I would smile at the woman in the mirror, maybe take it easy on her.

And smile I did when I saw her.  Yes. This woman has kids.  This woman with the Cinderella towel. She keeps her goggles and her shampoo in a hot pink  Yo Gabba Gabba tote bag.  Perhaps it wasn’t my stretch marks that gave me away after all.


Day  95 of This Book Will Change Your Life has me on the look out for aliens.  It gives a helpful list of how to spot the extraterrestrials among us.  I wish it would tell me how to spot the moms at the gym.  Evidently Disney towels and Nickelodeon tote bags aren’t enough to make it obvious for me.


In my underwear, in the parking lot, 1993.  High school was weird.  I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.

In my underwear, in the parking lot, May 8, 1993. I had turned 17 the day before. I was not always uncomfortable in my underwear.


Hermit Crab Love


Sleeping in her chick and bunny pajamas my little girl looks so vulnerable.  Babies, by design, are fairly dependent little creatures.  But when they are asleep I think they look like hermit crabs without their shells.  Any moment she will rise up on to her knees and crawl in to a painted shell.  She will cling to the side of a cage in the hopes that a 9-year-old girl on vacation will pick her to take home.

I watch my hermit crab baby sleeping and I think about how lucky I am. I watch my big girl ride down the street on her bicycle and I think about how quickly the time goes by.   Almost 18 years ago I met a boy in a bar and then it turned out he was the cook at the restaurant where I got my first job as a bartender.  Ten years after that my wondrous Emily June came in to my life.  I moved to Chapel Hill and got reacquainted with some old friends who happened to meet a boy at a dog park.  A year after that I needed a smile and they sent me out to dinner with that boy from the dog park.  He became the man that would be by my side forever.  I dreamt of the little boy that would join our family.  And that little boy was Lucy Quinn. (!)

The world is so huge.  Today’s challenge reminds us that there is 1 chance in 89 billion that life would have involved into mankind. There is 1 chance in 6 billion that your parents would have met. The book reminds us that we are all lucky to be here and suggests we show “cosmic humility.”

I am surrounded by reminders of cosmic humility.  My three biggest reminders are walking, breathing, loving examples of luck.  I want to believe that my children chose me.  I want to believe that MQD is my soul mate.  But in my heart of hearts I know that it was chance.  In this great big, huge world these three are mine.  They flesh out the living, breathing organism that is my house, my family, me.

Today I am in awe.  Cosmic humility doesn’t even start to sum it up.

No jokes about whether or not I am of “sound mind”

And to my oldest daughter I leave my shoe collection.

Day 92 suggests you go ahead and write a will right there on the pages of the book.  It is silly, listing your prized possessions, your CD collection, your tupperware, your debt, your secrets…

Once again this ridiculous book is synced up with my “real life” in a way that I was not prepared to think about.  Sometimes I move through a day and I consciously choose not to think about it, not to write about it, not to process it.  This is still a step ahead from the Ignore This Necessary Part of Life Altogether method of my youth.

A few weeks ago we sat down at the kitchen table and we filled in the blanks. What will happen to our kids if something happens to us?  Our life insurance policy would cover our house, right? None of this is fun.  None of it is “best case scenario.” None of it is “happily ever after.”

I still don’t want to write about it.  It took me two weeks to open the legal envelope from the lawyer’s office and review the final draft.  I did it this morning.  With a princess pencil.  It didn’t make it any easier.


Keep it simple, stupid.

I have a knack for making things more difficult than they need to be.  I imagine conversations that will probably never take place.  When I drive I am thinking about what I will say when I arrive if I am late (even though I will be toting along the finest excuse for running late there ever was, a 20 pound machine that ejects bodily fluids at random intervals.) When I nurse my baby in public I prepare clever responses to judgey looks, even though I am one of few women that has actually never been on the receiving end of one.

Lately, as I keep putting one foot in front of the other aimlessly, I am mentally preparing some kind of justification.  Lucy is 13 months old.  Emily would rather be with her pals than with me after school.  But what I am doing here, at home, is important.  It is maybe even more special to me to be home with the girls now as they get older than it was in the early days.  And I like being available to volunteer at school.  I have the time to shop sales for the things we need.  And we save a lot of money on groceries with me being home, cooking every day. And and and … I could go on. But no one ever asks me “So, when are you going back to work? Why are you still home?’

Probably more important than the nameless, faceless strangers that I imagine asking me that question is that my husband, the one person who has an opinion that counts, he isn’t pushing me.  I shot him a line the other day “Don’t forget I have that committee meeting tonight.”  It was his second day at his brand new job.  And I was nagging him about when he would be home.  His reply was short and sweet.  But it has eclipsed all of the imaginary nay-sayers in my mind.  “No problem.  I am glad you’re doing these things.”

I don’t know what I am going to do in the next few years.  I am still running in place.  Two miles today.  And a 1600 yard swim.  I’m not even all that anxious about the fact that I don’t know where I am going.  Because when I get to the finish line MQD will be there.

I can’t see the path but the finish line is crystal clear.   With tears in my eyes I’ll say “I did it!” and with his signature smirk, that one that drives me nuts in every sense of the word he’ll say “Of course, you did.”


20130228-134803.jpgToday’s challenge – Invent a new way to peel a potato.  I am a red bliss potato, leave the skins on kind of girl.  But when I have to peel them I have a gadget, of course.  I am a lover of the kitchen gadget.  This obsession is fed  by my mother-in-law, another lover of the kitchen gadget.  A peeler that slips over your finger.  And like all great deals in the kitchen store, you can’t just have one, you need two.  One of them is serrated, for my serrated peeling needs.


Last night I peeled potatoes.  (And then I spent quite some time trying to take a picture of mashed potatoes that looked appetizing.) I didn’t invent a new way.  But I didn’t use my kitchen gadget, either.  I just grabbed a paring knife and peeled those bad boys.  You know, it was really simple.  Making things more complicated than necessary might be one of those things I used to do when I was young if I keep this up.  I could get used to it.

So, day 91 – I am not going to reinvent potato peeling, motherhood or marriage.  I am just going to keep doing what I am doing.  Because it’s working.

Because I said I would…

The act of making a plan is sometimes all it takes to get shit done.  Put it on the calendar.  Say it out loud.  Commit.  It makes following through that much easier.

I said I’d keep on keeping on with This Book Will Change Your Life.  Dammit all, only three days in and it is the kind of challenge that makes me roll my eyes and wanna skip it altogether.    Day 90: Help Collapse a Currency…. The Bangladeshi Taka.  The book suggests that everyone reading the book invest in the taka and then sell them on December 31 for a fraction of what they are worth (which is only one penny according to Google.) For every clever challenge – discretely giving people the finger all day, or be on the lookout for the paranormal, or my all time favorite How symmetrical is your face? – there is a challenge that shits the bed.  Collapse a currency?  Pffft.  Not happening.

I am left feeling like I need to do all the other things I told myself I would do today instead.  So, I ate breakfast.  But only because I prepared it last night.  Overnight oatmeal with homemade almond milk and chia seeds. And two Hershey’s kisses, but who is counting?


And I am heading to the gym. Because my calendar says I need to ride the stationary bike for 40 minutes.  And because I can take a shower all alone while I am there.  Well, not totally alone. I will be in the company of a dozen senior citizens fresh out of water aerobics class but none of those women will cry if I don’t hold them.  If I don’t screw around and spend too much time washing my face I could even blow my hair dry in the hand dryer.

It’s a glamorous life, y’all.  A glamorous life.

This post was brought to you by Guilt.  I said I was gonna write every day for a while just to keep the quiet at bay.  Here’s hoping tomorrow will be more interesting than oatmeal.

Day 89: Primal Scream

Day 89: Primal Scream – Get it out if your system. Go on. Let loose.

The way I understand things the primal scream is part of Arthur Janov’s primal therapy.  The theory states that neurosis is a product of repressed pain from childhood.  Releasing the primal scream greases the gears to eventually free the pain we have repressed, thereby processing it and integrating these painful childhood experiences into our adult selves.

Fundamental to Janov’s theory is the idea that we have three levels to our conscious and unconscious mind.  We have our survival mind.  We have our feeling mind.  And lastly we have our thinking mind.

I don’t think I would be a good candidate for Primal Therapy.  To begin with, I do not think there is any division between my feeling and thinking mind.  And second – I am just not big on screaming anymore.  Years ago I struggled with this.  Emily tried my patience.  I read Unconditional Parenting and I worked my ass off to stay committed to a path of gentle discipline.  But toddlers are wicked little creatures.  And I had so much anger in me.  So, I yelled.

Don't let the sweet face fool you.  She was maddening.

Don’t let the sweet face fool you. She was maddening.

I did not yell all of the time.  But I yelled more than I wanted to. As my life straightened out and I let go of the anger that had been holding me back, I stopped yelling.  It didn’t hurt that Emily grew up a little and left the incendiary behavior of toddlerhood behind.

Today I let out a few screams for the sake of the challenge.

I guess it remains to be seen if I can blame all of my yelling on misplaced aggression and pain  or if it was really just the torturous toddler years taking their toll on me. As great as it may have felt today to let my primal self holler – it feels better to keep a lid on my volume.   I have every reason to believe that Lucy will drive me bonkers, too, over the next couple of years.  And if I survive her toddlerhood without going apeshit I will have a teenager right around the corner.    Here’s hoping my screaming ship has sailed. Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Day 88: Measure your biceps

Sometimes the only way to break the silence it to just start jabbering.

I am back to the book. I started the working my way through This Book Will Change Your Life as a way to force myself to write. Write a paragraph. Take a picture. Put myself out there. Nobody was reading, anyway, what difference does it make, right?

But now you’re here and you’re reading and I feel like a twelve year old girl that might get her braces off any minute. I am excited but I am nervous. What if I go back to school after my orthodontist appointment and no one even notices? What if I am the only one that can tell that something is different?

So, back to the book. To break the silence. To put a little bit of me out there even if what I have to say today is contradictory to what I might say tomorrow.

Today my biceps are 12 inches around. Well, my left one. My right is 12 1/4 inches. But who’s counting?

I registered for a sprint triathlon. I have swum 2600 yards in the last week. And I have ridden a stationary bike for more than 120 minutes. And I have run a little over eleven miles. I haven’t been writing. But I haven’t just been sitting around on my ass all day.


Day 87: Morse Code

Tonight, send a message in Morse code from your window.  See if anyone responds.

This was a fairly simple task. I wake up anywhere from four to nine billion times in a night so a couple of days ago I looked up a Morse Code translator  and saved a quick message to my phone.  Saturday night was a tough night for me what with the freaky dream and impending hormonal meltdown so when I woke up Saturday night it didn’t seem like the right time to bang out a This Book Will Change Your Life challenge.  And for some reason I had made up my mind that this would be a late night missive.  I think everything that happens in the middle of the night is open to greater interpretation.  No one plays Bloody Mary or Light as  Feather Stiff as a Board (with any success anyway) in the middle of the day.   Where is the fun in that?

Sunday night I woke up several times.  My neighbors across the parking lot  had decided that Sunday, the night before the first full day of school, would be a most excellent night to sit on the porch and drink cognac and listen to their car stereos.  And since I hadn’t saved the Morse Code message “For fuck’s sake, can you turn down the bass!” or “Remy Martin from a brandy snifter beats the shit out of Hennessy from an orange juice glass!!” I didn’t really have an appropriate message planned out.  On the off chance they even heard my message, tapped out on my bedroom window.  But really…. if you were ever inclined to think someone was sending you a Morse code message –  half lit on cheap cognac and three blunts deep is the time.

(And lest you think I am being presumptuous with regards to their choice of beverage, our walk to the bus stop takes us right past my neighbor’s recycling bin.  They make keep late hours and have little regard for potential noise violations, but they seem to take their recycling quite seriously.)

So, Monday night.  It was on.  I hopped in bed with MQD at a reasonable hour. Fish snuggled between us both, his head in MQD’s armpit.  I read for a short while, the snoring from their side of the bed a kind of lullaby, I quickly decided to hit the hay.  It usually takes me in the neighborhood of 45 minutes to fall asleep but last night I was out by about 9:30.

Pregnancy Wake Up Round One was not until almost 1 am.  Almost a full four hour sleep cycle, who is the luckiest girl!!??

Standard routine:  Wake up, assess need to pee.  Need to pee is urgent.  Wiggle feet around until I am free from the shackles of dogs and cats sleeping on the blankets between my legs and stumble in to the bathroom.   Pee.  Flush. (This is a change to the routine.  (We were formerly an “If it’s yellow let it mellow household”  but the cat pee frenzy of 2011 has put a temporary ban on that plan.)  Throw the animals out of the bed.  Reclaim some bedding and my Snoopy if MQD was sneaky enough to snag it.  Assess level of sleepiness.    Check email or read RSS feeds.  Listen to a chapter of current audio book if that doesn’t do the trick.

Last night’s routine:  Wake up, assess need to pee.  Need to pee is urgent.  Note that Fisher is still in the middle of the bed.  Quick trip to the bathroom, throw the animals out of the bed.  Wide awake.  Remember I am not listening to any kind of a book right now and wonder what I am going to do to kill time for the next half an hour.    Remember the Morse Code message.

(600+ words later and I got to the point of my story!  Record time, Kelly.)

..  .-.. — …- .  -.– — ..- I tap out on the window.  Morse Code for “I love you.”  A good positive message to send out to the Universe.

I waited, let my mind wander.  Mentally wrote an outline for this scintillating post in my head.  And just before I fell back to sleep.  BOOM!  That incredibly loud one note blast of a sound that I generally associate with a big power generator blowing or a single clap of thunder.  As I wondered to myself if that was Universe Morse Code shorthand for “Go Fuck Yourself” I got distracted.

……………  Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap, parental Morse Code for tiny kid woken from sound sleep by loud ass noise hauling ass down the stairs to your bedroom.  “Mom?”

I pulled my covers back.  She climbed in.  The Universe did not respond to my message exactly as I had hoped.  But I got a late night snuggle with a little lady that is growing up way too fast for my liking.  So, I am calling Day 87 a success.

Emily June, six weeks old. You know the sappy hormonal woman is going through old pictures lately, right? That was predictable.

Day 86: Go to the wrong side of the tracks

I have not abandoned This Book Will Change Your Life contrary to the way it might appear.  But I have had my heart set on Day 85 playing out in a certain way.  Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to properly execute Day 85’s challenge… so I have made a heretofore unprecedented choice.  I am gonna skip it and come back to it.  A wild life, I lead, I tell you.

Day 86 is a simple challenge.  Simple by design and in execution.  “Go to the wrong side of the tracks.”

I quite literally cross a set of train tracks almost daily on my ride to work if I go through Carrboro.  And lately I have been driving through town whenever I have the chance. But I don’t know that there is a “wrong side” of the tracks in Carrboro.

The wrong side of the tracks…. One could say when I moved to Chapel Hill and in to the apartment with Em we lived on the wrong side of the tracks.  I tried to tell myself that I should feel safer because the cops drove by all the time, right?  This plan didn’t always work.  And after our place was broken in to one terrible afternoon I never really felt safe there, again.

It was home.  Em slept with me more often than not, because that was how I preferred it.  And I kicked a charlie bar under my front door handle and made do.

So, in the spirit of this challenge I drove by our old place today.  And while there were still quite a few ne’er-do-wells hanging around… it didn’t look so bad to me.  My life started anew right there.

But even there wasn’t really the wrong side of the tracks.  It was just a neighborhood full of hard working people.  Some of whom happened to be hard at work within… alternative  industries.

My favorite “side of the tracks” in Chapel Hill… the side of the tracks that was so wrong so many nights but always felt so right?       The Station, of course.  As a single mother I didn’t get out too awful much.  And then MQD and I started dating hot and heavy so going out seemed superfluous.   But when we went “out” there was only place we were headed.  Across the train tracks and to The Station.  Where you can laugh at the hipster kids and dance and drink PBR and shots of jaeger and bum a smoke on the deck until you are blue in the face and no one will mind.  MQD and I had plenty of sloppy nights at The Station.  And a few afternoons. My day drinkathon bachelorette party stopped at The Station.  MQD and I spent New Year’s there one year. We had our rehearsal dinner next door at The Southern Rail.

So, I think I have spent plenty of time on both “sides of the tracks” while here in Chapel Hill.   And in a few short weeks we’ll go clear across town to a new place.  Here’s hoping we end up on the right side over there in Hillsborough.  Because right or wrong, I am ready to stay put for a good long while.