How to Have a Great Summer

When I was 12 years old I created my own library. I called it, Samson Public Library, and I operated it right out of my own bedroom. Diligently I taped card catalogue forms into the backs of every children’s book in our house. Then I arranged all the books on my shelves by authors’ last names. And lastly I waited for my family members to come “check out books” from my library. I waited… And I waited…
My two children think this is the saddest, funniest thing they’ve ever heard. “Did your brother and sisters actually check out books from you?” Ace asks with a tone that reveals he no longer thinks his mom was ever cool. Nope, I smile. Not one book. Iris is gentler, “Oh poor Mommy. I feel sad for you.”
She pats my shoulder like you would to a drooling old woman in the nursing home. “But you have to admit, Mommy. It was a little weird to make your own library.” And then my two children let loose their giggles at my expense.
They aren’t wrong, either. It was weird of me. But things that make you weird as a child are usually still true of you deep down as an adult. We just forget. Or we get better at hiding these parts of ourselves.
I still love books. I love owning them, holding them. I love re-reading books and running my hands over the pages or binding as I contemplate the characters and plot. I love and miss libraries. I hope our libraries open up again soon.
A few weeks ago I ran into an acquaintance. To my delight she immediately asked me, “What are you
reading these days?” It’s a great question that I feel like people don’t ask enough anymore.
“I just finished a fun novel, so I don’t know what to do with myself.”
She nodded. “Same. When I finish a book I’m lost all over again.”
I thought about that as I drove home that night. How the dog-earned page of a book is like a compass—reading an engaging book keeps you straight. If you’ve got a good book then you have an evening. Or a great weekend. Or a perfect bubble bath. A smooth flight. Better than a glass of wine after a long day. Slip into my cool sheets and pick up with the story where I left off. How being in the middle of a riveting book is one of the best things this side of heaven.
My neighbor friend, Mary told me that one time, when she was single, she was supposed to meet a guy for date but she never showed because she couldn’t put her book down. “I figured there’d be other dates. But I had to keep reading. I was at the best part.” I love that story. And sadly, I feel like some of us have lost that romance with books.
In 2021 it appears that our self-awareness has turned on itself. We scroll through our social media news feed, hoping for a post that will ignite the same endorphins we used to get from books—a well-crafted
story that is both particular and universal, lifting us from reality while also validating it. But social media can’t give us that. Social media is not literature. You can’t be lost in a book and take a selfie at the same
time. More than ever we need authors. Not “influencers” but authors.
This summer I will do better because I haven’t forgotten that a good book feeds the soul. I’m heading over to Half Price Books, and I’m not leaving till I’ve got a stack. Classics, poetry, cookbooks and best of all, novels I’ve been meaning to read for years.
The months of biting our nails over Covid numbers, distance learning woes and vicious elections are thankfully a little bit in retrograde. Warm summer days are head. Don’t miss the opportunity to reignite that romance with literature again. Your inner child-librarian will thank you.

Mom, You’re Ready.

Yesterday was the first day of school for both of my kids. Ace in 2nd grade. Iris in Kindergarten. I’ve been wrestling with all kinds of feelings about this milestone. For months I’ve been taking stock. I’ve been marking lasts.
The day Iris was born I lay in that skinny hospital bed with her on my chest. And I did some life math. How old would I be when both my kids go off to school? I’ll be 42. And here I am, 42. 42 was a good joke at 16 years old. A fiction. At 20, it was still an impossibility that would never find me. I didn’t know my children’s faces then. Even with Iris as a newborn in my arms that day in the hospital it didn’t seem relevant. It wasn’t relevant. I had a 3 year old and a newborn. Potty training and clean diapers with a wish to write again some day was as far as I could see.
Time talks slowly, but her hands move fast. It’s a magic trick. I’m often dull and miss the secret.
In my memory I treasured all the times in the rocking glider with them. I think I said a prayer of gratitude every time I nursed them. Nursing was the clearest communication I’ve ever had with another person that didn’t require words. Or a thousand bath-time moments, sweet music of water and washing. Dusk is a lavender hue in which I soften my children’s legs and arms with lotion. Pull on their jammies. Breathe a sigh. My mothering failures of high noon recede. God in the last light on the lawn. Rub my face. Poor wine. Right in the square middle of life. The thick of it, it was.
And now the truth is, I am ready for this new stage. I cried about it to God in bed the other night. I felt sorry that I didn’t want little children underfoot anymore. It felt like a confession He already knew of and just wanted to hear me say aloud so that he could attend to my heart.
The day before my kids went to school, I called my mom. I love it when she has a story that I’ve never heard before. Little bits of mystery in every woman. She said, “When we lived in Rochester, New York, Allison went to Kindergarten, which of course meant all four of you kids were in school. Then she laughed at the memory, “I’ll never forget how good it felt that first day of school. On that first day, after I dropped you kids off, I went home, packed a lunch for myself and then rode my bike all the way down to the lake. And I sat there on some big boulders and ate my lunch and looked out at the water. It felt so good to sit there by myself.” Mom laughed as she told me, “And it felt like such a big deal to have gotten you all to that point. I felt like someone should give me a trophy!“
I cried a little when I imagined it. My mom, her maroon Schwinn bike with basket propped on its kickstand by the rocks. Mom’s black hair pulled up in a bouncy ponytail. Mom pulling out a turkey sandwich and chips to eat. Breathing a big sigh. Sunglasses on, looking out at the already chilly water, autumn in upstate New York.
I was in 4th grade. I didn’t know Mom was at the beach that day. I didn’t know what a Mom needs. How could I? I didn’t know a mom has a complete inner life of her own apart from her children. A mother’s lines don’t intertwine with her children’s, they run parallel. And that’s a good thing.
I like knowing that my young mom needed to enter a new stage of life, like her kids needed to. I can say it now. I need to be a mom of a new age bracket. I need to be a mom of school-age kids. They’re ready. I’m going to pack a lunch and take it to Ladybird Lake and sit by the water.
Because I’m ready.

Behind Every Great Man is a Woman Rolling her Eyes

This month my husband, B. Sterling turned 40. He had an odd request for his birthday dinner: “Gather together a whole bunch of people who know and love me and let them roast me all evening long!” So that is what I did. I arranged a Roast and Toast dinner for B. with about 20 new and old friends that are dear to his heart.  Of course, I partook in the roasting too. What wife of 13 years doesn’t have mounds of material for roasting her husband?!  When it came my time to speak at the dinner, I first presented him with a plaque that said this quote by Jim Carrey:

Then I stood up, held my wine glass aloft and said this:
“B. Sterling we met 16 years ago.
And I’ve been rolling my eyes ever since.
I rolled my eyes the first time we met and when I mentioned casually that my father had worked for Billy Graham, you interrupted to inform me that you knew everything there is to know about BG because you went to Wheaton and they have the BG center there, you see.
I rolled my eyes when we were obviously dating but you wanted to keep calling us “special friends” to anyone that asked.
I rolled my eyes when the night before we were to be married you called me in a panic at midnight because you couldn’t find a pair of socks to wear at our wedding ceremony the next day.
I rolled my eyes during the years you were obsessed with conspiracy theories. And you bought over 200 dollars worth of canned goods to store in our garage in case the world economic system collapsed.
I rolled my eyes when you invested in gold. And when we lost money on that investment.
I’ve rolled my eyes each time you’ve bought the worst used cars on the lot.
I roll my eyes every time you refer to the responsibility of watching your own children as “babysitting.”
I roll my eyes when I mention something in the house that’s broken and you say, “Oh, don’t worry babe, I can fix that.”
I roll my eyes when you say one day you’ll learn to cook.
Or when you dance at weddings.
But in everything, and in all the years I’ve known you, I have never rolled my eyes at your dreams… at your musical ambitions… at your tenacity in the arts. I stare wide eyed and in love at your softness, kindness and gentleness with our children, and at your stubborn refusal to believe that I am mean and unworthy of love, even though I cry that I am and can’t believe you could love me sometimes. I never roll my eyes at your persistence at loving me.
B. Sterling, here’s to 40 more years of eye rolls and tears!
Happy 40th birthday!”

A late Summer Update

Hi all,
Maybe you’re rubbing the beach sand from your eyes or once and for all rinsing the chlorine from your pool hair. Summer is drawing to a close. I’m actually not sad about that.  But I am somewhat dreading the accelerated pace that the school calendar brings.  So, since I’m finally opening my calendar again, I thought I’d take a just a few minutes to update you on my writing endeavors.
Refugee is Not My Name has experienced huge success this summer. Ashley St.Clair (photos), Aaron Weiss (film) and I exhibited the the show at the brand new downtown Austin central library all summer long.  Hundreds and hundreds of people saw and experienced the exhibit.  We heard and felt their positive reactions all over social media.  The Austin American Statesman ran an article about it.–theater/real-women-have-curves-play-comes-austin/dGbJCsILo2xdmM4Wn4jQnO/

In addition, Aaron and I were guests at the KOOP Austin radio station this July.  Ashley couldn’t make it that day for the interview, but Aaron and I talked about our inspiration in creating the exhibit, as well as personal highlights. You can listen to that interview here:
This summer a fellow creative, Nelson Guda also hosted Ashley, Aaron and myself on his podcast, Unbound.  We invited one of the participants from the project, Jasmin Kalic to join the podcast interview.  Jasmin is a refugee from Bosnia.  He adds a distinctive voice to the project, as he has now lived in Austin longer than he lived in Bosnia. He added humor and insight to that podcast.
The next stop for Refugee is Not My Name is on the EAST tour.
EAST is held in Austin Nov. 10-11 and then again from Nov. 17-18. Refugee is Not My Name will be open and accessible to the public during those two weekends that celebrate Austin art.
And then finally, Ashley, Aaron and I got confirmation that Refugee is Not My Name will be on display at the Texas State Capitol building in March, 2019!  This is an incredible honor.  Here you can see our exhibit listed on the official capitol calendar.
I cannot over emphasis what an honor this is for the three of us.  To have the faces and stories of these refugees seen before Texas lawmakers  and tourists will be a dream come true.
This fall, I am writing for various local magazines and doing some speaking engagements.  Keep in touch on social media. Or better yet, drop me a hand-written note in the mailbox.  I will treasure it.  Thanks for the love and support.