Friday, May 26, 2017

Worth the effort.

I get my blog post ideas from the AnnDee Ellis 8 Minute Memoir and she never fails to give me something to write about. She has quickly become one of my favorite blogs to follow.

Today I am writing about something that is tiring, exhausting, and difficult...but utterly worth the effort. At first I considered writing about something super poignant. Like marriage, motherhood, family life, or my career. And while these things are absolutely worthwhile...I wanted to keep things light today. So I chose.....

Chicken and Dumplings. American style.

Not this:


Oh, yes. My family loves my chicken and dumplings. I do, too. I'm not an especially good cook. And most of the time, I simply cook to sustain life. But occasionally I cook something that really rocks. I've got about five recipes that I keep in my rotation, and the one I usually go for when someone gets sick and my chicken and dumplings. First, because it's amazing. And second, because it feeds a lot of people. And third, because it's all homey and delicious, and it makes people feel all warm and fuzzy. It's like a trip to grandma's house. Back at the farm. You see where I'm going with this...

The only thing about chicken and dumplings takes forever to make. (It it's made correctly.) You have to boil a whole chicken for no less than two hours. You have to cook it with an onion (skins and all,) and celery and carrots. Then you have to let it cool, and pick all the yummy meat off of the bones. Then you thicken the delicious broth (referred to as "liquid gold" in our house) and boil the dollops of bisquick....and ahhhhhhhh....perfection. But only after about three hours of work.

In a nutshell: it's a pain in the a** to make.

But totally worth the effort.

I'm pretty sure it will cure cancer. Maybe not. But in case I get any more butt tumors the size of wine corks in my rectum.............I'll keep the recipe on hand. :)

What do you make that is a total pain in the keister, but totally worth the effort?

Brooke Moss

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Still haven't read...

Apples & Oranges? Check out an excerpt here:

“I think he’s gay.” I threw a handful of shelled peas into the bowl with more strength than I anticipated, and they rolled back out the other side.
            “Easy there, turbo.” Lexie looked at me with raised eyebrows.
When I’d marched into work three hours later than promised, she’d been ready to live up to her redheaded reputation. I could practically smell the curse words in the air. But one look at my blackened feet and sweat-soaked blouse, and her anger quickly melted into amusement. Apparently riding a city bus back to work without shoes or my blessed iPhone was punishment enough, and she’d promptly handed me a water bottle. Now we were working into the evening to get ready for an event the next day.
“You know, just because a man doesn’t roll over and let you scratch his belly the minute you look at him doesn’t make him gay,” Candace said, picking up the stray peas.
I raised an eyebrow. “It wasn’t his belly I was planning on scratching.”
She was usually the voice of reason between the three of us, mostly because she was the mother of three kids and constantly broke up fights between the little buggers. But she had the whole cooperation thing down pat, compared to Lexie and me. You see, Lexie had only been married to Fletcher about a year, and she and her husband had a blended family with two kids. The closest I’d ever been to an altar was standing in as my mother’s maid-of-honor in her fourth wedding.
Or was that her sixth? Oh, well. It didn’t really matter.
Usually at the first sign of contention in a relationship, I was out the door, a habit Candace had been trying to break me of for years. Especially when I dated Lexie’s husband, Fletcher. Yeah. I dated Doctor Fletcher Haybee before Lexie married him. It sounds weirder than it actually was. The man wouldn’t lay a hand on me, because he was so obsessed with my waif-like friend, and by the time we broke up, I was so sexually frustrated, I would’ve made out with a bum.
I didn’t. But I could have.
Lexie plopped another basket of fresh sugar snap peas in front of me. “Maybe he just wasn’t interested.”
“That never happens.” I pointed an empty pod at her. When she smiled innocently at me over her shoulder, I added, “Until Fletcher came along. Damn him.”
            She giggled. “He threw off your mojo.”

Tossing a handful of pods over my head, I groaned dramatically. I was good at dramatic. “He did! Don’t you understand how frustrating that is?”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Someday it will all make sense.

It's been a weird few years. Starting with the loss of our daughter, followed quickly by alopecia and then moving abroad, and then topping it all off with my dad's death last winter and a cancer scare....things in my life have been discombobulating, to put it mildly. I've often found myself looking around at my surroundings and thinking "What the hell is going on?? When will I catch my breath?"

As I've mentioned before, I have a lot of trepidation about going back to the USA for the summer. It is always very stressful and expensive, not to mention melodramatic and mentally exhausting. This summer is fixing to be a doozy. Thanks, Life. Much appreciated.

Needless to say, I've been feeling the uncomfortable under-skin itch of stress and anxiety niggling at me. I still function. Put on hair and makeup every day. Get up, teach seminary, make breakfast and lunch for my kids, get them out the door on time, get to work and put in a full day of writing, editing, and social media time. I would say that I have "high functioning anxiety," if that is an actual thing. And impending summers always make it worse.

But on Sunday of this last week, something happened that gave me just a wee bit of reassurance. You see, when we moved abroad, it was only going to be for three years. I didn't bring very many books at all. Mostly just scriptures, and church based materials I might need--which turned out to be smart, as I wound up being called as a seminary teacher, but, I digress...

I also packed a sexual education book. I bought it when my teenagers were little, and would sit down with them individually. We would read the book together, then answer questions, and have a conversation about sex, where babies come from, good touch/bad touch, etc. My teenagers hated being forced to read the books when they were 9 and 10, but were ultimately grateful that I'd opened up communication about things they'd previously considered too taboo to speak about out loud. As they grew older, and their kid brother, Charlie, my ten year old, grew and developed, they would tease him about the inevitable "book" and how mom would eventually get him and trap him and force him to read it.

As we'd been packing to move abroad, I'd grabbed that book out of my bedroom drawer, and thrown it into one of our suitcases to bring to South Korea, knowing that my two youngest boys would come of age while we were there--and that I would likely need to read the dreaded book with them. When we arrived in our apartment abroad, I'd unpacked it and slid it into a drawer for safekeeping. I hadn't even cracked that book open since reading it to my daughter at age nine, who is now nearly sixteen.

So when I pulled out the book this past Sunday, and a picture fell out of it and fluttered to the floor, my heart caught. I hadn't physically opened that book, not even to casually look at the pictures (cartoon drawings of dancing eggs, sperm, uteruses, and penises aren't my thing,) in many years, and I certainly hadn't tucked any photographs between its pages. In fact, the picture tucked in there was a photograph of my father, fly fishing (of course) with a catch on his line. He's smiling--something he didn't do much at all, which is sad, because he had such a great grin--and dressed just as I remembered him. Jeans and a worn flannel shirt. :)

When we'd packed up our house in Spokane, Washington, I'd packed that photograph with all of our others. It had been in a small metal frame for as long as I can remember, probably since I was in my teens, and I'd tossed it into a box with all our hundreds of other framed photographs. I remember doing it. And yet, somehow it wound up in that stupid book my kids hate, out of its frame.

Let me back up even further....about a week or two ago, I was talking to my dad. Yes, I realize he's dead, but I enjoy talking to him as if he's in the room every once in a while. Sometimes when my kids are acting like animals I will make a Jim Halpert face at one of the corners of the room, like this:

Because I like to think my dad in Spirit form can see me, and is sniggering at how poorly my children are behaving, (Paybacks, and all that) I will make the face and occasionally joke around with him when I am alone in our apartment. Well, the other day, I decided to offer him a challenge. I asked him to haunt me a little. To turn a lamp on, or to move a throw pillow. To do something to let me know he's still around. Because while I know he is...I still sometimes crave reassurance. When nothing happened, I jokingly called him an "amateur" and went on about my business, not thinking much about it.

And then the picture fluttered out of the book. See?? Proof. Exactly as I'd asked for it. But rather than turning a light on and off or making "wwwwwoooooooooooooooo......" sounds as I'm trying to go to sleep, my dad just sent my favorite picture to me to remind me that yes, he's here. And no, he's no amateur. It felt to me like he was saying "Hi, Bear. I'm still here. Hang in there."

(Bear was his nickname for me. It caught on, and most of the grown ups in my life called me Bear as I was growing up. As a teenager, I hated it, because teenagers hate everything about their parents, but as a 41 year old woman who misses her dad, I like it now.)


Sometimes I cannot wrap my head around some of the things I've been through in my adult life. Divorce, custody battles, dealing with someone who is mentally ill, raising kids alone, poverty, remarriage, having an autistic child, being a foster parent, losing a child, PTSD, career setbacks, alopecia, moving abroad, racism, prejudice against my political and religious beliefs, losing an estranged parent, having a cancer scare... So much to process, so  much to be strong for, so many people relying on me. It's all very heavy. Occasionally the weight makes my knees buckle.

And then these little things happen, and I am reminded that:

And--if even for just a little while--I am strengthened enough to go on. This time it came in the form of an old photograph that fell out of an old sex ed book my children detest. It makes me laugh. My dad knows just how to make me laugh.

Oh, and I've also learned not to challenge a dead person to haunt you. Because they will.


The Carny

I adore my book, The Carny.

It was published a few years ago through InkSpell Publishing, and my journey with ISP was lovely. They're still supportive of me, even though I've moved on to self publishing. Which is more than an author can ask for.

I adore the characters of Vincent and Charlotte. This story was so tender to write. It covered some sensitive topics, and was set in one of my favorite places. I still get a fluttery-heart and misty eyed when I read through it's pages...

Have you read The Carny yet? If not, here's an excerpt to wet your whistle....

“The lighthouses close at sunset. Don’t they?” I pointed out as Vin took my hand and helped me out of the truck. The wind lilted up from the surf a few hundred feet below the lighthouse, blowing a tendril of my unruly hair across my face.
Vin caught my hair on the wind and tucked it behind my ear. “The sun hasn’t gone down yet.”
Glancing westward, I scrunched up my face. “I’d say we’ve got about forty five minutes.”
“Ah, yes. But I know the groundskeeper. His name is Hal, and his son, Logan, runs the cotton candy booth for me.” Vin put his arm around my shoulders and guided me towards the sloping sidewalk that led to the lighthouse. “Let’s just say that Logan has been caught skipping off early on his shifts, and Hal’s begged me to keep him on staff. So he owes me a favor.”
I looked up towards him. “What do you mean?”
Vin smiled, the skin on the sides of his eyes crinkling happily. “I get to stay here after sunset. All night, if I want to.”
I looked down at my shoes as we walked. “Sounds like he’s a good person to have owing you favors.”
“I won’t complain. I like escaping from my dad’s place once in a while.” He chuckled. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
I followed Vin down the walk and around the lighthouse. Its white paint gleamed in contrast to its black roof. I couldn’t help smiling. This really was a picturesque setting for a date, but where were we going to eat?
“Oh, wow…” All of the air hissed from my lungs as soon as we crossed around to the front of the structure.
There, on the tiny bit of earth before the rocky slope down to ocean below, was a tiny round table topped with a white tablecloth. There were several candles flickering in the center, and a bud vase bearing one single stem of bright blue delphinium that shuddered in the wind. The two folding chairs on either side of the table were covered in white cloth, and then tied back with strips of bright red fabric, which I recognized from the windows of the ticket booth at the carnival. On one of the plates, there sat a small box, ornately wrapped and tied with a silver bow.
“Vin! You didn’t have to go to this much trouble!” Tears pricked at the backs of my eyes. “I…you…I mean….I…”
He kissed my knuckles. “You deserve it. Just say thank you, Charlotte.”
“Thank you, Charlotte.” I smirked at him. “This is spectacular. How did you manage to light those candles in the wind?”
Vin scooped one of the candles off of the table, and touched the inside. There was a tiny bulb flickering on and off inside. “Check it out. Electric candles.”
“Well played, sir.” I pulled out a chair. “May I sit?”
“Wait.” He dashed around the table to pull out my chair. “Here you go.”
I sat down, grinning to myself. “Thank you. So what’s for dinner?”
“Actually, I borrowed a recipe from my stepdad.” He went over to the foil hot and cold bags that were sitting nearby. “I made smoked salmon risotto, and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.”
I nearly swallowed my tongue. He’d just blown my chicken salad out of the water, and upped the ante all in one. “Wow.” I cleared my throat. “You went to some serious effort. I’m really impressed.”
“My stepdad hired me in his kitchen when I was in college.” He set a warm dish between our two plates. “I started off washing dishes, then worked my way up to a line cook. That’s how I paid for my first apartment. I would have become a chef if I’d not had a fondness for medicine.”
I breathed in the heavenly aroma. “Is this local salmon?”
He winked at me. “Of course. I bought it off of a guy on the reservation. He makes the best smoked salmon around.”
At the mention of the reservation, my stomach pitched. The look on Martha’s face earlier flashed through my mind, and I took a deep breath. “Have you spoken to Martha today?”
“Um, no. It was her day off.” Vin dished the risotto onto our plates. “Why?”
“I ran into her today. She was with her granddaughter.”
He served a couple stalks of asparagus to me. “Loralei? She’s a cute kid.”
Nodding, I began to slice the vegetable thoughtfully. “That she is. I ran into an old friend while I was with Martha, too.”
“Did Martha give everyone free passes to the carnival?” He asked, passing me a roll. “She’s always doing that. She’s too nice for her own good.”
“I agree.” I took a bite and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “Holy cow. This is incredible.”
“It’s nothing compared to my stepdad’s. His will make you weep with joy.”
I tilted my head at him. “Just say thank you, Vin.”

The corner of his mouth tugged upward. “Thank you, Vin.”