The Four Word Press Conference

Hamlet ProgramIt’s been a tough week for actor, Benedict Cumberbatch. After a recent performance of Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre, star Cumberbatch made an eloquent plea to fans to put away their electronic devices and watch the play. Simple enough? Well, in the days that followed, he found himself in the middle of a fat storm cloud of controversy, one my family followed with keen interest.

You see, at the time we were in London on holiday. In fact, we had in our possession four of the hottest tickets of the summer – Hamlet at the Barbican was the fastest sell out Britain had ever seen ­– and we had tickets for the August 20th performance. A flurry of newspaper articles that week addressed Cumberbatch’s request and the actions the theatre was taking to ensure a tech-free experience for the actors and audience. They were posting reminders on signs outside the Barbican, flashing a reminder gobo on the curtain inside, stationing vigilant ushers throughout and threatening to use tech-jamming devices as a final resort. The mainstream media made it seem like Cumberbatch was quirky and controlling in their stories, and my family joked about purchasing Google goggles to skirt the rules.

Barbican ExteriorFinally the big night arrived. We dressed in our Sunday best and took a cab to the Barbican. The box office was surrounded by hopefuls, people that had camped out for over twelve hours in hopes of purchasing a returned ticket. We snapped pictures of the anti-tech signage that littered the lobby and then made our way to our seats. We were seven rows back from the stage, smack dab in the middle of the row. We watched the audience clamor and settle, most turning off their mobile devices immediately, a few taking quick pictures of the curtain with its glowing reminder and two bold people that only tucked their phones away after being prompted by ushers a handful of times.

Barbican Sandwich BoardMy daughters, seventeen and twelve, were whispering excitedly to one another, the older reminding the younger of the major plot lines when the theater lights flickered. It was time.

To the sounds of a haunting Nat King Cole song, the curtain rose. A single light illuminated a seated Cumberbatch/Hamlet. The old record spun on a gold record player.

For the next three hours we sat mesmerized. The sets were lush, the acting perfect and Cumberbatch more than delivered in the starring role. The entire ensemble was fantastic. Ophelia, played by Sian Brooke, brought me to tears. As her heart broke, the audience sniffed into their tissues. Ciaran Hinds as Claudius was pure brilliance and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes was fantastic. We didn’t need cell phones or cameras, this night would stay in our memories forever.

In Act Two, Cumberbatch’s blue eyes sparkled as though he was withholding a secret as he spoke the line, “The play’s the thing.” Goosebumps erupted down my neck and arms as I realized I was in on the secret. I was witness to Cumberbatch’s four word press conference as he addressed the technology controversy. Using Shakespeare’s own words, Cumberbatch delivered his argument. Together, the actors, crew and audience, we created a space where it was safe to dwell in imagination. For three hours we agreed to suspend real life and explore a story, feel the pain of the characters and as a result, bear witness to something greater than the sum of its parts. The play’s the thing, indeed.

Better than any post or tweet, the memories I have of this special night will never fade. Afterward, as we noshed on snacks in a bistro across the street from the Barbican, I listened to my twelve-year old discuss mortality and revenge and love, and it hit me that she had herself fallen in love. No, the object of her adoration wasn’t Mr. Cumberbatch, but with Shakespeare’s words, his play. Four hundred and sixteen years after he wrote Hamlet, he’d made a fan.  What tweet could ever capture the enormity of that life event?

In closing, this special run of Hamlet more than lives up to the hype. But, fret not. If you haven’t the chance to see the play live, it will be broadcast in movie theaters throughout the world in October 2015. If you go, just remember to turn off your phone and experience it fully.

Haunted by Ladybugs

ladybug copySince the blue moon last week, ladybugs have been haunting me. They’ve pitter pattered across my window, clung to my shirt sleeve, and hung onto the rearview mirror of the car.

It’s not the first time I’ve been haunted by ladybugs, though. The first time was after the murder of my friend and co-worker, Sissy.

Sissy worked at the same small company where I was a marketing assistant. Like all people employed by a small company, Sissy and I wore many hats. Our job descriptions changed hourly. Straight out of college with my two degrees, I was willing to do anything, and that’s what I did. I made Costco runs, secured paint color approvals, dropped sample kits at the post office, made client calls and helped create ads.

Sissy was working in the manufacturing end of the business when I started. She was the only woman in the factory, small of stature but big in presence. I liked her immediately. She not only kept up with the production, she pushed the line. She had a positive attitude and cared about the quality of the work.

butterfliesThe company owner noticed her contribution and when Sissy mentioned she’d like to earn her GED and then work towards a college degree, he did all he could to support her. He brought her into the office as the receptionist where the schedule was more predictable than the factory floor. Being in the office, she’d also have the chance to learn the business-side of things, since what she ultimately wanted was to be a business professional.

Sissy and I shared the same small office space. Between phone calls, errands and daily tasks, we became friends. She confided in me her dream to complete her education. She told me of her greatest joy, being a mother to an eight-year old daughter. And she shared the ugliness of her failed marriage, the details of an alcoholic man that was rough around the edges. He made life hard on her as a wife, but hadn’t improved much as an ex. She told me about her little apartment down the road and about a friendly neighbor that helped her keep her car running for free. She called him, “Turtle.”

I need to tell you something here.  I describe myself as the psychic of small things. I can tell you seconds before the phone rings,  who will be on the other end. I can feel a fight a day before it happens and help you to avoid it. I know the time without ever looking at a clock. I predict silly things, not life-saving moments. Yes, admittedly, I had a two-day migraine before the World Trade Center was attacked. I had no life-saving details, though. That day when Sissy said the name, “Turtle,” my arms should’ve broken out in goosebumps at the very least. But, nothing happened.

The Friday before President’s Day weekend, Sissy came to work wearing an adorable dress, red with black polka dots. The dress, her shiny high heels, her darling glasses, well I told her she was cute as a ladybug. The rest of the company noticed Sissy, too. Every vendor and client flirted, every factory worker made up an excuse to come in the office to ask a question, faces blushed pink and studying the tops of their shoes, they snuck peeks at Sissy – their Sissy – all beautiful and professional. When she left work that day she waved goodbye to me through the cut out window in the office wall. I waved back, wishing her a wonderful weekend.

I wish I’d known then. I would’ve followed her to the parking lot, dogged her to grab her daughter and sleep over at my apartment, stay up too late to watch junk TV and nosh on mini-mart snacks. But, I didn’t know. I’m the psychic of small things, remember? And what happened next is something I think about every day. It could never be classified as small.

Monday morning, Sissy was noticeably absent. The office manager was concerned enough to call Sissy’s home a few times, but no one answered. I took over the phones in her absence, but every caller sounded disappointed to hear me on the other end instead of Sissy. I tried to sweeten my voice as I answered the next call. The person sputtered,  “Is my mom there?” It was a little girl.

“Are you looking for Sissy? Is this her daughter?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I think Mom was confused. I don’t have school today and she went to work. Can I talk to her?”

I tried to answer, but the words log-jammed in my throat. The office manager slipped the phone from my hand and spoke in a calm, quiet voice. “Hi, Megan? I’m going to call your dad. He’ll come pick you up soon, okay?”

Her next two calls were to the police and then to Sissy’s ex.

At work the next morning we gathered for our daily sales meeting. The office manager explained about Sissy. She was brutally murdered. Her daughter survived by hiding in a closet. Through sniffles and choking sobs, we talked about Sissy and as we grieved her, the lights in the office dimmed. I stared up at the cheap ceiling fixture above her empty desk and the surface of it was covered with ladybugs. Thousands of them crawled across the fixture and blocked out the fluorescent glow. At first it scared me, but then instead of thinking of my murdered friend, I remembered Sissy that last day in her red dress with black polka dots, beautiful and happy. And I knew she was telling us to remember her that way, not as a victim, but as a woman excited about her future.

Fast-forward twenty years. Not a day’s gone by that I don’t think of my friend Sissy and her daughter the survivor. I always hope that life will put us on a collision course, that I will meet Megan and be able to help her in some way. Maybe she doesn’t need help. She proved that she’s a fighter a long time ago. Anyhow, as the blue moon shone down on Seattle last week, I stood in the light of it and asked the universe, asked God, to use the magic of this night to illuminate my life path. “What am I supposed to do next?” And because I’m a writer, I asked specifically, “What am I supposed to write next?”

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I’ll remember Sissy that day, happy and hopeful

It’s a no-brainer if you know me. I’m in the throes of drafting book three of my trilogy, but I’ve had another series brewing for the last year. It’s a series of adult mysteries, and the first story would be written in honor of my friend, Sissy. Because I’m a mother and a volunteer fundraiser, I don’t have much time to write. I asked the blue moon to clarify my intentions. And that’s when a ladybug landed on my shoulder. As I always do, I thought of my friend. “Do you want me to write your story?” The ladybug crawled down my arm and flew away.

I took a walk and when I returned to the house, I tried unlocking the front door with my key. But, the key lodged in the front door and wouldn’t turn. As I jiggled and fussed, a ladybug crawled across the door. Impatient, I entered the code into the garage key pad. Once inside, I found the door still wouldn’t unlock. Frustrated, I went outside again and tried to turn the key. It turned easily and the door swung open. Was it all my imagination? No.

I’ve thought about it for a few days and I think Sissy was telling me it was okay to write her story, but to wait. Write the last book in the trilogy first and then write her novel. Her story would be waiting for me to tell later.

Today, as I drove my daughter to her riding lesson, a ladybug crawled across my rearview mirror. It made both of us smile. I miss you, Sissy.

A Visit to Bayview Cemetery

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Deathbed grave. It is rumored if you lie across the grave and say “Gaudette” three times you will die within a day.

I love to walk cemeteries. It doesn’t matter where I travel, I make it a point to find a local cemetery and walk through the graves. I read the names, touch the tombstones and spend some time contemplating the lives beneath my feet. Taking time for the dead fills me with a sense of renewed purpose and resolve.

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Named, ‘Angel Eyes,’ locals swear tears fall down her stone cheeks

My visit to Bellingham, Washington’s Bayview Cemetery was no different. The grounds are kept in perfect condition. A creek splits the property in two. And rumors abound about two graves. I went to visit both rumor-riddled graves and found so much more. I encountered the most moving tribute and the most poignant children’s cemetery I have ever seen.

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She grieves for the children buried all around her. What a moving tribute.

Bayview Cemetery filled me with the hope and fight I needed to complete my second book. If you are ever in northern Washington, I encourage you to  walk this cemetery. Then, share with me how it inspired your actions!

If you still want to know more about this amazing location, I found a fantastic blog about it when I was trying to research Edmund Gaudette for reader, Jan. Enjoy!

 

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Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch CoverIf you’re interested in reading my second novel, Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, I’m happy to announce its release! Find it on Amazon.com here.

 

A Cover Reveal and Giveaway – Oh My!

Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch CoverThanks to designer, Greg Simanson, the new cover hints to the stone witch that plays a heavy role in the story. Not wanting to crush the imagination of readers, we kept her face hidden in the hood of her cloak.

Here’s the book description:

In author Jennifer L. Hotes’ YA thriller novel, Josie Jameson and the Stone Witch, readers meet a teen that’s been struggling since childhood to fill the shoes of her dead mother. Josie is a caregiver to her little brother, a confidante to her grieving dad, and the backbone of her tight-knit group of friends.

But always being the strong, responsible one has taken its toll on Josie, now fourteen. After stumbling upon the grave of a witch, she’s been plagued with nightmares, dark visions, and fainting spells that leave her feeling like a freak. And then suddenly her faulty heart gives out and for 5.4 seconds Josie is technically dead.

The second book in the Stone Witch series takes readers along with Josie who, with the help of her friends and clinging to the final memories of her mother, must face the challenges of her future as the past battles for her soul. Will she be strong enough to face her fate?

GIVEAWAY! Win a signed copy of the new book by clicking here!

Buy Link! Can’t wait to see if you won a copy on July 24th? Click here!

The Daily Sketch

The last few weeks have been emotionally bankrupting for me. In an effort to change my attitude and overall energy, I shook up my work routine.  Now, I start the day with a half-hour sketch session. I get my creative juices going, something for which there is no right or wrong way, and after that, dive into work!

I don’t know if it’s the shake up of the routine, the creative pursuit or both, but after three days, I’m feeling great. No matter what obstacles come up after the sketch session, I find it easier to remain upbeat and optimistic.  It’s been a gentle reminder f to nurture all sides of myself in order to thrive. I hope you’ll follow me on Instagram and Twitter where I’ll continue my experiment called #dailysketch.

Sending you love, this week and always, Jennifer

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Maneki Neko the Japanese Lucky Cat
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Metal Turtle
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Sunflowers

 

Objects That Hate Women

tanita-2-lgIt began with a simple readout from a body fat measuring scale. It was week seven of my self-imposed weight loss regimen and as I stood on the scale, feeling healthier than I had in years, my body fat remained exactly the same as it had before my thirty-pound weight loss. The paper slip the scale spit out claimed that I’d lost muscle mass, not body fat that week, three pounds of it.

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OMG! Do I look sixty? Really!?!

I shook with frustration. How could this be true? I’d stepped up my weight loss efforts in the weeks prior adding strength training to my cardio. Running 2.5 miles in the morning, doing bursts of weight training throughout the day, and enjoying a 2 mile walk after supper, I’d never been more health-conscious in my adult life. Paired with a diet that excluded carbs and totaled one-third of my normal daily calories, my pants were loosening, my energy was up and yet, the paper slip said I’d lost 3.0 pounds of muscle mass that week. Not fat. The woman that weighed me shook her head and said, “Oh, those numbers change dramatically. I’ve seen them flip flop in a week. Take heart.” Oh, did I mention that at the beginning of this program my metabolic age was sixty? And on this week’s read out – having shed thirty pounds and reducing my blood pressure to teenage levels it still said I was a metabolic sixty years of age. Driving home, I sulked, but then somewhere past the halfway point, my depression calcified into anger.

cookies
They’re waiting in my freezer until June when I’ll be through with this drastic diet

Home again, I pushed work to the side and dove into the interwebs. I googled, “body fat scales” and read review after review. My favorite was one woman’s assessment, ‘Body fat scales are misogynistic ***holes. They don’t recognize that women can actually have muscles.’ My pulse raced with love for this woman who outed the fat scale industry. Hells yeah, they’re misogynists! Feeling satisfied as though I’d eaten half a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, I closed my computer to work in earnest.

bras
We don’t need no freaking bras, do we?

As I sketched, my mind replayed the review. Could objects be misogynistic? I rubbed my shoulder where my bra cut into my arm meat and grumbled. Well, bras definitely hate women. There’s a reason women burned them in the 1960s. No, it wasn’t a political statement, they were done wearing torture devices. Bras are expensive, too, robbing women of their hard-earned (don’t get me started on wage inequality) money. They cut into armpits and shoulders. Oprah lied when she said a properly-sized bra is the best investment a woman can make. Bah. I say, let them hang low and wobble to and fro. Did you realize that bras originally began in ancient Greece? Women bound their breasts tight to their ribs to appear more like men. Sounds like the origins of a truly woman-detesting object, doesn’t it?

o-RECLINING-SEAT-facebookAirplane seats freaking hate women also. All a woman has to do is sit in one and compare where the curvatures hit, then visually compare it to a neighboring man to see what I’m complaining about. The curve before the headrest hits women at the worst possible place, the back of our heads! If we actually try to rest our heads, they bob around in the chair void which results in an instant headache. If we try to keep our heads  from falling into the seat void for the entirety of a flight, we’ll be thanked with shoulder and neck fatigue. Suckage, any way you measure it.

MV5BMjAwODgyMDQyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDIzMTgyMQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_Hair salon sinks. They really really don’t like women. Similar to airplane seats, it stems from the difference in height between men and women. My stylist makes me sit on a booster seat when he washes my hair. It’s demeaning. I feel like Lily Tomlin in the Incredible Shrinking Woman as my legs dangle off the ground and my stylist urges me to, “sit up as tall as you can.” Even with the booster, my head barely reaches the sink bowl. Salon sinks should be designed for the gender that spends the most time there, women! We visit  the salon 10:1 over men (yes, I made up this statistic) and deserve furniture that makes us feel comfortable.

Ear buds. I tried to research if anyone had conducted some sort of scientific study of men’s ear hole size versus women’s, but surprisingly found none. But, I know that 99% of ear buds hurt. It’s like twisting a gumball into my ear cavity and then afterward, my ears ache. If this bothers you, I found a company that’s designing ear buds just for women. They rock. Their product is called Yurbuds and I’ve included the Amazon link here.

Finally, no list of misogynist objects would be complete without the television remote. It’s not just the size of the thing that matters, though television remotes are grossly oversized for my diminutive hands, it’s the mosaic of buttons across the face that somehow leave me feeling like remotes hate women. There are the color-coded buttons, unreadable fonts, menus, sub-menus, batteries that fail. I suspect that remote designers have morphed futuristic technology into the plastics, look for a story about it in the Huffington Post soon. The plastic remote exterior senses the Y chromosome and is programmed to pause or exit instead of select for all women. In frustration, female users will toss the remote to a man so he can rescue us. Knights in shining armor? No. It’s a conspiracy baby.

As I go about my week, I’m sure I’ll come across more woman-hating objects and add them. In the meantime, tell me what I’ve missed in the comments section.

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As always, I marvel at the cleverness and savvy of my readers. We’re adding high heels, top shelf at the grocery store, tight jar lids and car visors to the list. Keep it coming brilliant readers.

high heelsHigh heels - I can’t make this stuff up. Research always makes the most interesting content. Look at that! High heels were meant for men AND women. The trend led us to the expression, ‘well-heeled.’ Dang.

Top shelf at the grocery store – We can’t freaking reach it. And if you’re as short as me, you can’t see it either. Why don’t we urge grocers to shelve condoms, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues and shave cream here? I feel a grass-roots campaign coming to life. Here’s a Smithsonian Magazine article on the growing trend to market groceries to men!

Car visors – Author, Ina Zajac, pointed out that the visors in our cars are all but worthless to women who tend to be shorter than male drivers. Car manufacturers take note. Add an extension for female drivers please. I have to point out that in spite of this design flaw, we’re still superior behind the wheel. (wink!)

Jar lids – Torqued on too tightly so women will have to ask men for assistance? Is it the ultimate silly conspiracy or did we just out a huge tactic to erode the confidence of women everywhere? Hmm. Well, click here and find seven ways to loosen a jar lid that don’t require man hands.

Mammography machines – Author, Mary J. Rowen had a harrowing experience. Read her comment and you’ll see why these machines need to be redesigned with all women in mind.

 

An Open Letter to New Father, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks

My son sure does know how to make an entrance!  2/5/15… Is it a coincidence or is he just that clever?! Either way I’m ecstatic

— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 5, 2015


 

Dear Mr. Sherman.

It’s been a little over five weeks since you became a father. Warmest congratulations to you and Ashley! The world already knows what a clever boy he is to make his entrance on the date that echoes your jersey number, but as an old veteran of parenthood, I wanted to speed up your learning curve as you navigate the first year of Rayden’s life.

My husband and I are raising two girls, 11 and 17. We didn’t have family around us as we struggled through those first weeks of babyhood. Eyes wide in shock, two days after our first baby was born the nurse nudged us out the door with a smile and a wave, “You’re ready to go home,” and I really wondered if we were.

baby-on-board-signLesson One: Don’t Mock Other Parents

Lord have mercy! That ten minute drive home was our first endurance test. The other cars sped and juked around us like they were playing MarioKart. With our new baby tucked into the backseat, we’d never felt more vulnerable. I don’t think we went over twenty miles per hour on that drive. Holding my hand over the baby’s chest, I remember asking God to forgive me for all the times I mocked drivers that hung a “Baby on Board!” sign in their rearview window.

Lesson Two: Three Really is the Magic Number

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Three is a magic number!

In the days that followed we learned the ugly truth no one tells you about newborns. Their internal clocks are flipped. Nights are days and days are nights. In a coherent moment one of us, probably my husband, remembered our pediatrician telling us that newborns can learn any new routine in three days. Dr. Eichner told us that if we kept our baby up for 30 minutes before the last feeding of the night and repeated this for three nights in a row, the baby’s internal clock would switch. As you know by now, a half hour of wakefulness for newborns is code for crying. Reluctantly, we obeyed. We played Chopin and walked with the baby, jiggling her when she nodded off. She cried. And we cried. But on that third night the magic happened. She slept. Yes, Chopin is ruined forever for me, but she slept.

**Note: This works for changes in sleeping arrangements, feeding routines, etc.

Lesson Three: You and Ashley Came First

big heartThe other piece of advice Dr. Eichner gave us was this, “Your baby joined your family. The two of you came first. Don’t forget that” He reminded us to keep doing what we loved and bring the baby along. Well, we loved hiking, traveling and eating at restaurants – all cringe-worthy activities to attempt with a newborn and we did them. Yes, some of our adventures had to be cut short because of a diaper blow out, but most were wildly successful. Dr. Eichner was right. The babies joined our family and made delightful additions.

So, in the weeks to come when you feel like your house has become a bunker, remind yourself to get out with baby and breathe the fresh air.

Lesson Four: Don’t Wait to Travel with Rayden

t-birdBack to the travel, Mr. Sherman. Travel with Rayden now, next month and throughout next year’s football season. Don’t wait to introduce him to planes, trains and cars. I’ve seen the parents that waited until their child was a year old, they’ve been seated next to me struggling to keep their child seated, belted and content. Our kids have been traveling on planes since they were five months old. To this day they are complimented by the flight attendants for their exceptional behavior. They grew up learning how to travel and it shows.

Lesson Five: Start Reading to Rayden Today

the-snowy-day1Don’t wait to share books with your son. Make reading a daily habit and have fun with it for heaven’s sake. Find books that are colorful and rhyme. Do your craziest, funniest voices and make grand facial expressions as you read to Rayden because you’ll bring language to life for your son. The result? You are raising a boy that will love reading his whole life.

Two of my favorites are Ezra Jack Keats’, A Snowy Day and Sandra Boyton’s, Barnyard Dance. To this day, I can still repeat them by heart.

Boynton-Books Lesson Five: Your Instincts Are Perfect!

You are a cerebral man. Stanford doesn’t abide anything but brilliance. So, I’m pretty sure you’ve purchased your fair share of books about raising babies, you’ve maybe even bought that minefield of self-diagnosis, The Mayo Clinic Handbook, but I’m here to tell you, your instincts are perfect. The instruction books, online sites and even the Mayo Clinic Handbook have a place, they do. But, your gut knows when something’s not quite right. Listen to it. Check your resources only to give weight to your hunch, that’s fine. But, we all we need. Yes, the Seahawks’ saying even applies to parenthood.

Lesson Six: When You’ve Made it Six Weeks, Things Get Exponentially Easier

Six weeks is a miracle in the development of babies. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing. At six weeks new parents have a handle on the everyday routine. That leads to feeling confident and relaxed. Then maybe, baby responds, becoming more relaxed himself. I’m not sure. But I do know that at six weeks, babies smile. They giggle. They explore the world with hungry eyes. It makes us fall in love with them all over again.

So, in closing, enjoy this time. I’m sure tells you this, but the years fly by. I can’t believe my first-born will be going off to college next year when I can still remember the milky smell of her onesie like it was only yesterday. Embrace each day and savor the blessing of your new, bigger, family.

With kindness,

Jennifer


JIMG_3488ennifer L. Hotes is a Seattle author and illustrator.  Mother to two daughters, she is the surrogate mother to the four teens in her first mystery novel, Four Rubbings. Jennifer volunteers time with Providence Hospice of Seattle to raise money for grieving and bereaved children. Even though her sixth grader squirms, she hugs and kisses her everyday.

#InternationalWomensDay

girlsruleIt’s International Women’s Day. Though I’m happy that we received a Sunday in March, I can’t help but notice that even in this, our holiday, we’re receiving less than men. It’s also the day we set the clocks forward an hour. Yes, #InternationalWomensDay is one hour less than every other day of the year. (insert grumbling and mild cursing here)

This week I was talking with my teen daughter about women’s issues. My kid is bright, artistic and a science nut. I call her a hybrid. She worked hard on her final project for a stage craft class. The next day in the final minutes of her presentation, she was asked to grade herself. She gave herself 22 out of 25 points. The class erupted in argument and she finally upped the score to 23. My cheeks burned pink as she relayed the story.

IMG_5292I know from my days as a psych major at the University of Washington that studies show females tend to under-score themselves in these situations and men give themselves a more generous grade. My daughter must’ve sensed a preaching coming on, because she said, “I could’ve done more. It’s not perfect, Mom. It’s not.”

This, coming from a girl that speaks out about sexism daily. No matter who is within ear shot, she argues when someone says, “Oh, you’re such a girl,” (actually the phrase is cruder and involves genitalia.) She will point out how women have the babies, and that fact alone proves we are genetically stronger than men. Nature chose women to have the babies because we were the gender that could handle it. Boom.

But, I felt like she was missing that secret dialogue, the one that we may not even be aware of ourselves. Women are raised to be modest, humble, unassuming and that works against us in self-grading as well as in our professions. I got on my apple crate and preached. She gave herself a modest grade to appear modest and humble in front of her classmates. That’s not okay. It’s one thing to be a perfectionist and admit there were flaws in her project. But, if she was to compare her work to her classmates, she’d have to give herself a higher score. She felt uncomfortable doing that. I don’t blame her there because I’ve got 45 years of social training working against me.

Today, I found this article about how bright girls struggle. I thought it was well-written and points out that bright girls are afraid to take risks. They are raised to believe their intelligence is innate and in that way, won’t grow. Boys are raised to see intelligence as something you earn by researching, testing, trying and failing. Intelligence is a continuous pursuit. In this one thing, I believe we need to mimic boys. Here’s the link to the article!

So, on today of all days, I think it’s time to roar, women. I think it is well past time that we push past our comfort zones and own our strengths. Not comfortable crowing about your strengths and achievements? Then, just try not to downplay or dismiss them. Maybe that’s why our holiday is an hour shorter than all the others? We’re changing ourselves from within, and that feat alone deserves an hour break.

“The Mind of a Child” by Marshanne Mishoe

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Marshanne Mishoe

Marshanne Mishoe is an author, wife and mother who makes her home just north of Atlanta, GA. Her new book called, “The Mind of a Child,” is a dual story line, with a woman who gets a job as an assistant teacher in a Special Needs classroom with absolutely no experience, leading to often comical results. The other part of the book tells the fictional story of a woman who has a Down Syndrome baby in 1940. The story delves into how the child’s disability affects his whole family, and the drastic step the family takes when they feel they have no options. This story is based on her grandmother’s life. But there were other family members who were also affected by this special child’s life. Read on.

Imagine being a little boy with a brother who has special needs? What if we are talking about 1940 when not much was known about the genetic ailment, eventually called, Down Syndrome?

Well this was my father’s life. He was older by two years than his brother, called “Bubba.” They were close in some ways because all they had was each other for friends. Their parents were loving but busy working and Dad and Bubba had to keep each other entertained.

Now imagine that you had grown very resentful of your brother, whose latest stunt involved man-handling your 10th birthday cake, tearing down the decorations and causing the guests to leave the party early. You were sick and tired of Bubba getting away with all sorts of bad behavior and you let your parents know about it.

Blog 4Then, one day, your parents call you in and sit you down. They tearfully say that they have decided to send your only brother away, to a “school” for children like Bubba. How would you feel? This is where I have to make my best guess, because my father has never spoken to me or anyone else that I know of, about this very important happening in his childhood.

I imagine my father, as a 10-year-old boy, felt a mix of feelings. He probably felt scared about the change, he probably was curious about where his brother was going. He probably felt excitement to have the little pain-in-the-neck gone. But mostly, I imagine he felt guilt. Heavy guilt. Like the kind a child stuffs down so that he can put forth a brave face. He probably thought the impetus for the decision was his birthday party. And since it was his party, it had to be his fault.

I can imagine my father going with his parents to drop his brother off at the school, which was a five-hour car ride away from home, and wondering how his parents could just leave his brother there.   Except for hospital stays, Bubba would never leave the school again. This could have made my father angry. And I can imagine his scared, tear-stained face in the rear window of the family car as they drove away, now as a family of only three.

Fast forward thirty or so years, and my dad is a grown man, of course, with a family of his own. He was paralyzed with fear when his first daughter was born looking so beat up, with a squished head. The doctors had to reassure him repeatedly that it was the forceps that caused this appearance and that his daughter was fine.

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Her new novel. This would make an amazing book club selection, don’t you think?

As his daughter grew, she would relish the visits from her grandparents. They lavished love and attention on her like no one else. But many times, during these visits, her grandparents and her father got very sad and had to make a mysterious trip to visit an uncle, with the mind of a child. Plead as she might, they never let her go with them. So now the daughter starts storing away misconceptions.

Finally, as an adult, the daughter realizes that this uncle has Down Syndrome. She even meets him, twice before his death.

My father’s birthday is February 26th, and he will be 79 years old. But I know, for a fact, although he has never told me, that he still thinks about and longs for that kid brother who suddenly went away.

 

Final Tour Banner——- Editor’s note——

“The Mind of a Child” is available now on Amazon.com. I’m putting it on my must read list and I hope you do the same!

Did you know?

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A tombstone from Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetery, one of the locations that inspired Four Rubbings

Because #funfactfriday isn’t a thing yet, or least that I’m aware of, I hope this post starts a trend.

As I sat in my art loft working on edits to the second book in the Josie Jameson series, I thought about you the readers of Four Rubbings. I have a crate of research behind that first book, and I wanted to share some interesting facts, some of which you might already know, but a couple may surprise you! Some are about the book, but others are about me. (cringe) Soon though, Spring 2015, the new book in the series will be out which I’m dying to share with you.

  • Author, Jennifer L. Hotes visited and researched over forty cemeteries before writing the book. She’s visited another 20 since then.
  • The novel originally had five teens, but Hotes dropped one after a developmental edit. She’s keeping the fifth storyline tucked away for her first adult mystery which will be published in early 2016.
  • The elusive Bain McLaren is an Irish orphan with a Scottish name. She took her husband’s name when they married, but her adopted name was Bain O’Reilly.
  • As a University of Washington grad, the author knew early on she wanted to feature a few quirky UW campus locales in the book. Look for the reference to the medicinal herb garden in the pages.
  • The cat featured in Four Rubbings is a devon rex. It is a rare Celtic breed with even rarer curly fur and beloved for its batty ears.
  • Recently, the author found out that her grandfather professed to have faced Death – yes, in person. When Death came for his mother, Vincent Snezeck told Death to go away saying he needed her on earth a little longer.
  • This is the author’s third year of serving on the board for Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation and her third year as chair of the organization’s annual luncheon. This was the first pediatric hospice in the northwest!
  • Her first paid job was stuffing envelopes for Cal State University Fresno. She was fourteen and got paid $800 for two weeks of work. This is where she picked up her rubberband shooting skills and obsession with Good-n-Plenty candy.
  • Most readers assume Four Rubbings is set in historic Lakesview Cemetery. Though it provided inspiration for the book, Lakefront Cemetery in the novel is an amalgam of many locations.
  • Hotes won an art contest in third grade, for her depiction of an Easter egg.
  • She won a writing award in fourth grade for a book based on the life of a fictional raccoon.
Quincy growling at a squirrel
My pal, Quincy. He died as Four Rubbings neared completion. His death nearly kept me from finishing the novel.