Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It is the night before we return to America, so my husband exchanges every EU dollar minus the small amount needed for the taxi ride to the bus stop and train tickets to the airport in Amsterdam. The bus tickets that will take us to the train station were already purchased in an economical book of ten fares.

We have come to Holland to bike the tulip season and to celebrate more than two decades of marriage and my forty-fifth birthday. Our home base is Noordwijk aan zee. We have a beautiful room with doors that open to the sea.
Each day we pedal to a different destination; Haarlem, the home of Carrie Ten Boom, Keukenhof, the garden with millions of tulips; Leiden, the ancient village with the oldest running outdoor market.

Each day is series of discoveries or take-your-breath-away moments such as when we turn a corner and see an unexpected ocean of yellow and red tulips. However, it is the morning that our taxi pulls up to the bus stop that I have the most enjoyable surprise; for travel is as much a discovery of self, as it is of people, of culture, and land.

Through a series of unfortunate events led by a national holiday that closes banks, and changes bus schedules, my husband and I are stranded at the train station without Eu dollars. Our carefully calculated money was spent on the taxi that agreed to bring us farther than expected and for less than the charge.
The train ticket vendors will take neither credit cards, nor American dollars. We have one commodity: our unused bus tickets. There is only one option and after a moment of self-reflection, I am standing outside the station trying to sell our tickets. The comedy is that today is my birthday and I couldn’t have imagined a scenario like this.

A wonderful thing happens when you reach the mid-life meridian, or so I’ve been told. Well-wishing friends expressed this in tenets such as: “I love middle aged women because they know what they want and they are not afraid to get it,” or “When I turned forty-five I finally didn’t care what other people thought.” These are words of encouragement as I stand in a foreign country desperate to sell some bus tickets.

Finally, a young woman allows me to tell my story. She recognizes the bargain, and hands me enough euro for two train tickets.

With relief, we board the train.

It is almost fate’s purpose to remind or reward me for this forty five year old awakening. As I previously wrote, we left Holland on my birthday. When we arrive home the next morning, with the change in time zones, we have gained a day and it is my birthday all over again!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Speaking to Children

An author must always ask him/herself if she is really speaking to children, middle graders or young adults.

I like the liberties that A.A. Milne has taken with language. I've included two excerpts for study from the classic Winnie the Pooh series:

"They both listened...and they heard a deep gruff voice saying in a singing voice that the more it snowed the more it went on snowing and a small high voice tiddely-pomming in between."

"Winnie the pooh woke up suddenly in the middle of the night and listened. Then he got out of bed, and lit his candle, and stumped across the room to see if anybody was trying to get into his honyecupboard, and they weren't, so he stumped back again , blew out his candle, and got into bed. Then he heard the noise again."

One more beautifully written paragraph: "Owl coughed in an unadmiring sort of way, and said that, if Pooh was sure that was all, they could now give their minds to the Problem of Escape."

It's the LITTLE ways he has written that make his writing so uniquely childlike. And so timely. And such a classic.

Last night, I delivered a tiny container of a dessert, cherry rice, to a neighbor girl who needs to be reached out to. Perhaps ten years ago, she had this dessert at our house and loved it. Over the years she always asks for it and I always tell her that if we make it I'll bring her some. It's been at least 3 years since we've taken her any. As I walked towards her house, I thought how silly it was because it is such a little thing--but was reminded that from small things come great things.

Apply that to your writing language-the new word you coin, the original simile, the unique syntax of a sentence. Put those little things together with a great plot and it may be what elevates a manuscript to publishing level. Now, think how uniquely children can use language. And perhaps that is what makes it child-language-the experimentation-the childlike use of language.

Bottom line: Pay attention to the little way you use words.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Memorable Los Angeles

I had an amazing short week in LA. A significant editor gave me her card and asked to see my revised manuscript. But that was the little stuff. The funnest experience was meeting Ruth's daughter and son-in-law:

One morning while returning to the hotel, I felt an immediate impression to cross the street at a certain point. It was Olympic Blvd., an incredibly busy 4 laner that resembles more of a freeway as it passes under Century City. But there was a lull in traffic; I looked both ways several times and ran across. At the exact spot where I crossed, there was a wallet laying in the middle of the road. There is no center island, just a small in-between the passing lanes. A wallet. Yippee, a chance to return it to its owner. The contents held a driver's license, an American Express credit card, a social security card and an insurance card. Ruth, the woman whose picture I looked at was born in 1925, and I could feel her anxiety over her lost wallet. Sort of the same way I felt with the lost dog Kolo. Remember that one girls?

Her address was posted on everything but not a phone number in sight. Called Tony to search the internet for her number, enlisted the help of the concierge, searched the LA phone book. Called a phone number with the same initial. Wrong person. There was the number of the insurance agent who insured Ruth. I gave him a call, no answer, left a message. I knew everything would be ok, because I could always send Ruth her wallet, but again, I could feel her angst.

Later that day: an ecstatic phone call from Jeff, Ruth's son-in-law. They shared the same insurance agent and he had contacted Jeff. Ruth had been extremely worried about her lost identification.

Later that night, Jeff and Ruth's daughter met me in the lobby of the Century Plaza Hotel. They were so grateful. We talked for a short while. Jeff moved toward me and I thought he was going to hug me but instead he was trying to give me money. pfffff.

Silly man! I told him to put it in Ruth's wallet and surprise her.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In every book is a little vacation. This was quoted at a talk today that I heard on literacy.

Other important thoughts about reading:
*Reading is to the mind like exercise is for the body.
*Children that are read to have 4000 to 5000 more words in their vocabulary.
*Nursery rhymes are very important and rhyming words are the beginning recognitions of the flow of language and rhymes are critical to language acquisition.
*Implement a strict bedtime but allow child to stay up another half hour to hour for reading.
*Give books for birthdays and holidays.
*Listen to CD's instead of watching DVD's in the car and at home to foster imagination.
*Do library and bookstore story time.
* Get children their own library card when age eligible.
*keep books in the car-reachable from child's car seat.
*Child should have own place for books or bookshelf.
*REaders are 300% more likely to: attend plays, museums, exercise, volunteer, not pick their nose (chuckle-not really).
*Two book recommendations on the importance of reading to children: Read to Your Bunny by Rosemary Wells and Reading Magic: Why Reading aloud to our children will change their lives forever-I haven't read either yet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Violin Kindling

My friend went to school at the U of U and lived on the Avenues in an old house with a giant fireplace. One of her roommates worked at Peter Prier violins. When anyone made a violin that was the slightest, (even 1 millimeter) off, in measurement, it didn't sound right and was scrapped. She brought these home to burn in the fireplace. There were times when you would walk into the room and the fireplace would be full of perfectly looking, good violins--but they were not.

They weren't in tune or didn't have the capacity to be in tune and therefore were considered worthless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

May All Your Fences Have Gates

“Meet me at the fence,” was the most common telephone phrase shared between our neighbor, Helen, and the baking members of our family. During the 1960’s, last minute shopping wasn’t always an option as our family had one car and dad had taken it to work. We met our neighbor at the fence for a cube of butter or an egg and the conversations that I took for granted as a child, but remember fondly as an adult.

When one sister inquired of the other, “Where’s mom?” the other would answer “check the fence.” More often than not, mom was standing at the low fence talking and laughing with Helen. My grandfather, a mason by trade, built our fence, creating this knee-high meeting place where pathways from each house greeted each other naturally. He learned his skills in Switzerland where fences were built to last centuries. The rest of the fence was a six foot high wall of cinderblock that surrounded our house like a fortress. And perhaps it was to my parents, the protectors of their three little girls.

I hadn’t thought about my childhood fence until last spring when I discovered a neighbor building his own fence. I was moved by the beauty of his design and was reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Fences. The poem describes the author and his New England neighbor meeting in the spring to mend the stone fence between their properties. On the surface, it is a joyful retelling of a necessary chore, but the poem has become a metaphor for a myriad of human relationships and experiences. President John F. Kennedy is said to have quoted the first line from Mending Fences when he visited the Berlin wall in 1963, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

A fence is a part of our language as well as our landscape. To mend a fence means to resolve a conflict. To put up a fence describes an emotional barrier. To hurdle a fence defines a success. August Wilson wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning play about racism that was entitled Fences. As an African American man born in 1945, Wilson encountered the fences of prejudice first hand. Disgusted by the racist treatment he endured in school, he dropped out but was determined to educate himself in the local library. Wilson knew it was possible to overcome fences that others may erect, and to dissolve the fences that we may create. When asked to sign a copy of his play, he wished his young fan well by writing, May all your fences have gates.

Years ago, I followed a pathway along the cliffs of the Scottish coast. It was an enchanting world of vibrant green grass, grazing sheep and baby lambs. Along the way, I climbed on the ruins of an ancient castle and ate my sack lunch on its stone steps overlooking the North Sea. The sky was overcast and every breeze carried the scent of the sea. Every half-mile or so, my hiking companions and I would come to a fence. Fences are an integral part of the Scottish landscape given that grazing and farming at one time covered three quarters of the land and boundaries were an important part of building good relationships. But in spite of the fences, the hike was possible because there was either a gate or a rough wooden step to hop over.

In the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about fences. I cannot drive my car or ride my bike without noticing fences. Fences can be works of art or expressions of creativity, but mostly they serve as boundaries, to keep children safe or to keep the dog confined. Fences have shown me the kindness of strangers who allowed me to enter their yard, take a photograph and hear the story of their fence. Given the prevalence and power of fences, whether they are mental or physical, whether they hold back, hold in, divide, unite, or inspire, I think of Wilson’s phrase and try to implement it often. To you, the reader, I pass along the wish: may all your fences have gates.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Writer is a Synonym for Optimism (You Just Didn't Know This)

Let me begin today's post by setting up the scene...Here I am typing in front of my screen. It is 9:25 and I am still in my pajamas and robe with a large bowl full of buttery (repeat for Becca), buttery popcorn, melted with Kraft parmesan cheese. I can hear your moans but it really is a deeeeeelicious combination. Anyway. I am especially happy, because I got up the nerve to email current editor and ask her what has happened to my manuscript. Never expecting a reply, I was shocked when minutes later she wrote back that she has it, has been busy, but will get back to me soon. But,,,, what does soon mean? And that is the point of today's post. Writers are optimists: We can write better, come up with more ideas tomorrow, someone, someday will love what we write. And we can never ever lose this! The day we do, we can no longer call ourselves WRITERS.

Also, I am looking forward to Becca's book signing on Saturday the 14th. It will be the first time I have supported her and I can't wait. I have to buy her book for my current shelf.

I also have come to the conclusion that I have been missing how important the query is-It needs to be as well crafted as a manuscripts. We really ought to start critiquing queries.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Truly Happiest When...

I'm reading 6 or 7 books at a time. Currently I'm reading 4 very different YA and MG novels. I want to highlight a bit from each.

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti. A first novel, picked up by Egmont or Elizabeth Law. I'm not sure who discovered it though. A really cute, strange, unique family with a butler who plans to leave the family after 200 years of of his family's service. It's an Adam's Family meets Matilda.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate-by Jacqueline Kelly. A first novel by a woman who is a physician and a lawyer. So far beautifully written. Opening paragraph: "By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat. We arose in the dark , hours before sunrise, when there was barely a smudge of indigo along the eastern sky and the rest of the horizon was still pure pitch. We lit our kerosene lamps and carried them before us in the dark like our own tiny wavering suns."

Another sweet line: "The little boys actually managed to sleep at midday sometimes even piled atop one another like damp, steaming puppies."

Guys Write For Guys Read-presented by Jon Scieszka/ A compilation of stories or experiences by the most prolific male writers. A few stories in, I'm a little stunned by the the retelling of vomiting, farting and ...what can I say never having a son, a brother or being a female my entire life. It helps me understand why I can't write in the male first person. Hopefully this will get better.

The Luxe (series). Really, a steamy, bad rich privileged girl book of the 19th century. It's YA, and even though it intonates some risque behavior, the writer doesn't include the actual sex. So it's clean enough for YA but don't kid yourself.

Given the variety of these books--I know there is room out there for all kinds of writing and stories. Keep writing and your writing will find a home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Take it Easy...Write a Novel

I have no idea where I got this-I don't even know if the credits are right. But I wanted to post it to reemphasize the importance of persistence in this endeavor.

Ron Empress/Lilianamama
Author of about 15 drafts of Mourn Their Courage

A friend of mine who used to write a lot wrote this in reply to someone who was vaguely wondering if he should start writing the next best-seller. I thought it was amusing and thought I would share:

Morning Russ: All you gotta do to become the great writer is one step at a time, same as the other. First step's to cogitate for a week, then write a single page plot summary.

Second step is to use that plot summary to turn out a single page chapter summary for each chapter, say one per week if that suits your schedule.

Third step is generating all your characters, one page per character, one character per week, say, learning everything about each one, whether what you're learning has anything to do with the book or plot at all. Just becoming intimately acquainted with each character and everything God would know about them and their neighbors and best friends don't.

Fourth step is knowing that chapter summary, characters and plot well enough to write, say, chapter 5, ten pages of first draft. Then the rest in any order that suits you.

Fifth step is to put down the first draft and let it mellow for six weeks while your immortal prose turns to trash.

Sixth step is to take that first draft up after six weeks and read it, faint and revive yourself, shrug, and begin the first re-write. Cutting and pasting, firming up the plot, inserting mechanisms in chapter three to allow things to happen or explain them in chapter seven, etc, firming up dialogue, characters, maybe removing some and adding others.

Seventh step is putting all that into a second, clean draft, then putting it down six weeks and letting it turn to garbage.

Eighth step is picking it up again and beginning the final draft.

Ninth step is sending out queries to publishers trying to get someone willing to read sample chapters.

Nothing to it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Voice is Being Yourself

I've had my students do quite a bit of writing and from their work, I have gotten a clearer feel for voice. There is one student named Elisabeth who is so funny but she doesn't even mean to be funny. I told her how naturally funny she is and asked if she meant to be. She answered no. I'm a little worried that it might have been the tiniest of insults.

A few postulations about voice: Be yourself! But what if your protagonist is a 12 year old? The beauty of being old! Some of us more than others...we've been every YA/MG age. We know what it's like. Is all you need to do is look back to your youth.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When meeting different people in LA, one of the common questions was, "Did you go to sCBWI new york? A lot of people answered yes and there was an instant, "What's the difference?"

*New York is cold in Jan. and everyone is dressed in winter black clothes
*NY is about the business. The editors tell you exactly what they are looking for, what's on their lists, how to query, etc...
*California is more about craft.
* And the biggest difference besides summer clothes and the carefreeness that comes with summer is also a California thing. Call it hippies, flower power, spiritual energy, new age..etc. The obvious difference between riding around in perfect weather in your convertible versus walking the cold inhospitable streets of NY. You just feeeel better in California. So the biggest difference in California was the theme...

WRite what's in your heart, and as famous Arthur Levine, a big gun at Scholastic,"Just write the story it needs to be."

I promise you will not hear that in New York.

So, just write the story that needs to be AND the underlying thread was that a story has a life and personality of its own. You just have to tune in with the vibes of the story. Lisa Yee, author of the Millicent Min stories said that she was working on a book that started with an 11 year old protagonist that evolved to 12 and eventually 17 because that is what age she was meant to be.

So meditate, light candles, put on ocean music, and let the energy flow.

**In Lisa Yee's book, there is a character named Dr. Kuglmeier. My real life true friend. And she really is a doctor only she now goes by her married name. Funny connection.


***I'm tired and I know I've written poorly. Forgive me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I am flipping through notes trying to glean some valuable tidbits from the LA conference. There is nothing earth shattering or absolutely necessary here for you to become a great writer, but hopefully a few kernels of wisdom that will pop in the heat of your brain.

*Capture the experience-don't mimic

*teen outlook vs. adult outlook-there is a different way of reporting and hearing

*Look out for that word you overuse

*Ask, "Why is this a story I have to tell?"

*Be careful with physical descriptions: trust the reader to know "she is smiling."

*details are what make a story.

*Titles don't need to be concrete-they're getting more sophisticated. I saw a query where the author wrote, "my working title is..." I thought that perfect if you are unsure of your title.

*Ingrid Law suggested that writers shouldn't be too careful. What does that mean?

More tidbits next week.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Painting Over the Mistake

I read something today that made a lot of sense about writing or at least getting started on writing. Ann Lamott tells the story of being a young writer and talking to an old painter about how he came to be a painter. "He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. He's make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he imagined, he'd paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn't, he was one step closer to finding out what it was."

I'm standing on the precipice of my new novel that I'm excited and afraid of. I wrote a first beginning, which you've read and which I scratched, and it wasn't until I read the above that I realized: I'm in that beginning exploration of trying to answer, what will this novel be? And sometimes I have to paint a quadrant to find out what it isn't. I do this a lot and finally I see that it has purpose and is part of the evolution and creation of thoughts, story, and eventually a good book.

I am re-phrasing a line to fit my analogy:"You have to make mistakes to find out who or what your novel isn't; you take the action and the insight follows."

I've discovered that instead of knowing what the novel is, I will have to search for what it is supposed to be-through trial and error or painting over- and won't it be fun?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


The Cove with the riptide

PJ and I were collecting an amazing kind of stone for Mandi. The best place to find the stone was at the shoreline. It was a constant battle against the strong wave that consistently hit the shore. We had our masks and snorkels and I was using a colander to scoop up sand and sift it for Mandi's stones.

Completely immersed in my work, I was surprised when my foot hit coral. I hadn't realized that I had drifted over to one of the reefs that surrounded our beach. I kicked away but without success. I wasn't wearing my flippers so I knew I had to get away from the coral because I didn't want to get cut. I kept trying but I couldn't get away and then I realized that not only was I in a current that kept me against the coral, I was also in a rip tide that was pulling me out to sea. I watched PJ at the shoreline get smaller and smaller. I figured I would just let it carry me out and away from the coral current and then I would be able to swim parallel to the shore, and out of the riptide. I called out to PJ to let her know I was in a rip tide. She sort of rolled her eyes at me and said she was coming out to get me. Though I didn't want her stuck too, I was relieved she was coming out to share my peril. She took the colander and my mask and snorkel so I could swim easier, but then she turned around and said, "Mom, I can't swim out of this either. I'm going to have to drop these." (the colander and snorkel/mask). I did a split second calculation: colander-$3.00, mask and snorkel can be replaced. "Drop them." She did and immediately made progress out of the current. Though I didn't get out as quickly, I followed her to shore.

I can't help but compare the current/rip tide peril to life situations. Sometimes we have to drop what we're doing immediately to save ourselves. Be it friends, situations, habits etc. Fill in the blank. And sometimes it's just the little things that keep us from getting back to shore. Drop 'em.

Though we never saw the mask and snorkel again, later that day I saw the green plastic colander bobbing at the peak where I assumed the riptide met the current against the coral. It was trapped for a short time...

before it sunk.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On my list of "to-do's" is Kayak the NaPali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii.
It was a 17-mile 6:00 a.m to 9:30 p.m. endeavor. Actual paddle time was apprx. 9 hours. The scenery was breathtaking and when I look at these photos, I can hardly believe we were there.

It was also an accomplishment for which I am proud--accomplished with the best person in the world--Tony. And like everything else, is another life metaphor.

While paddling we hit a horrific head wind and we sought refuge in this cave. The memory is surreal. This photo will always remind me of what happened when we came out of the cave. The wind had reversed and we had a magnificent tail wind. I took my sarong and tied one length to the kayak. I stretched the entire sarong out and held the other end with my paddle. The wind filled it and Tony and I were sailing! We joyfully coasted along the coast. We could see the distant shore that we would be landing on and were sad that the trip would end so soon. We couldn't have been fifteen minutes away But...
Another head wind. Almost two hours later we beached--worn but exhilarated by the accomplishment.

Not owning a waterproof camera, I didn't take any pictures. Providence reigned when the next day I found Kerry Oda's photos of the pristine magical places we'd been.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Be All That You Can Be

Tonight we went to dinner and I met three women-a molecular biologist whose interest lies in gene therapy, -a computer scientist with a master's degree who was one of the first women in the field in 1971 and -a woman who is a mother of seven children. They were all equally vital, intelligent women. We've come a long way baby. (A rather famous jingle for a Virginia Slims cigarette commercial that espoused the advancement of women. The cigarettes of course don't work, but the jingle does).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Clear Memory

Tonight, while Tony and I were changing/preparing to go out for dinner and the basketball game, PJ came in and sat on our bed. She's fifteen and a half now, and I don't think she's come in and sat on our bed like that since she was a little girl.

It took me back to memories of sitting in my dad's and mom's room while they got ready to go out for the night. I'm not sure it was the anticipation and excitement of having them gone for the evening or the magic that happens when mom transforms from a mom to a woman who goes out for fun. A woman with a different life. Mom would put on make-up and a fur trimmed outfit and high-heeled, even slingback shoes. Dad put on a tie, some cologne and re-combed his hair.

Even as kids, we pause for the ritual or maybe we're drawn into our parent's subtle anticipation. It's just a memory that is so clear and dear-from two angles.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another Endeavor Almost Over

Tomorrow, I start my last week of school. It has been a growing, wonderful, trying and humbling experience.

A year ago, I met the minister of education for the country of Uganda at a soiree at Glenda's house. Glenda asked her to come and tell the story of becoming the head of education for her country. It was a wonderful evening and at the end of the night I asked the woman if I could come and teach English in Africa for a summer. She was quite pleased when she heard I would do it as a volunteer.

I have thought of this teaching certificate as more than becoming a high school English teacher, but a skill that will allow all types of new adventures. Where will this take me? What will I learn? What will I be able to give?

Education is so much more than a degree and a job, it is a way of life.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I have never been described as an athlete. At 48 years old I am honored. I also want you to know that I laughed rather hysterically at this. I threw in a picture to show my amusing athleticism. Enjoy. Recipe not included.

Daily Herald 1-13-09
Karen Hoag-Lifestyle Editor

Besides being a wife, mom and grandma, Orem's Pat Martinez is a student teacher, writer and athlete.
Presently, Pat is focusing on student teaching because she's so impressed with the students at Spanish Fork High School. She has five classes there. "The kids are wonderful, intelligent and dedicated to their education," says Pat. "I am very impressed with the feeling at Spanish Fork High. ...

"I recently sat poolside with a woman who said teenagers no longer had respect for education, but I was able to tell her my experience was different. Kids are still great in 2009."

She said substituting for a friend at Timpanogos High School a few years ago gave her the same great experience and "in part was what inspired me to go into education."

With English degree in hand, Pat returned to Brigham Young University for her teaching certification. "I will be 49 when I have my own classes," she says. "I would encourage women like myself, who have raised a family and have great experience with their children and other children, to consider this mid-life career change."

Pat and her husband, Tony, have four children and two grandchildren. One daughter, Paloma, age 15, is still at home. "Deciding to teach was, in part, to prepare me for when everyone leaves home," says Pat.

In addition to all these roles, Pat writes historical fiction. And Pat's personality really comes out when she talks about her passions: ocean and surf kayaking.

And yes, she cooks for her family. The basis for the dish she shares is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), a high-protein grain available at health food stores or health food sections of most supermarkets.

"This is a tremendously healthy meal and can be made with any variety of vegetables," Pat says. "For the kind of demands and the kind of lifestyle I want to live, I want optimum nutrition.

"I like to make food that allows for flexibility and spontaneity -- what happens to be in the fridge or what is fresh from the market.

"My daughter requested this recipe just yesterday!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two months before my mother's 68th birthday, she mentioned to my niece and me, that her neighbor rode her bike everywhere and she was thinking how much fun that would be. My response was, "Let's get you a bike!" Whereas, my niece, who has only known her grandmother as an older woman responded, "Grandma, you'd never ride it." I watched my mother deflate faster than a slashed tire.

When my sisters and I gathered for her birthday, I remembered her previous wish. So while one sister stayed home to occupy our unsuspecting mom, my little sister and I set out for the bike shop. The variety of beach cruisers made us giddy. Should we get mom an electric pink bike with a flowered plastic basket? Or an emerald green with racing stripes? We settled on a bright red bike, embellished with white plumerias, and white wall tires that rivaled a Cadillac.
In the dark, I rode the bike home. As I passed the pharmacy, I had an idea. I purchased a string of Christmas lights. It was, after all, December 21st. Only after mom and dad were soundly asleep did we roll the bike into the living room.
About 5:00 a.m. the next morning I awoke with excited anticipation. I checked on the Christmas-lit bike. The next day, I learned my sister had done the same. When dad woke the next morning, he reported back to mom still in bed, "It looks like Christmas."
And so it was, but more for my sisters and me than anyone else. The five of us had made a life shift and in doing so my sisters and I had also fulfilled three of the four stages of life: 1. You believe in Santa Claus. 2. You don't believe in Santa Claus. 3. You are Santa Claus. 4. You look like Santa Claus.