Mama Bear

Not Kristan

Not Kristan

When I was in sixth grade, my best friend was this wonderful girl named Amy. She was everything I wasn’t: adorable, petite, a snappy dresser…and a gifted gymnast. We were definitely the odd couple, me with my thick glasses and bad hair, awkward at best. Nevertheless, we were besties.

Gymnastics were very in at that time, and with Amy, who could do back flips and full splits, I found myself doing cartwheels on the front lawn. I never mastered a back walkover, but with Amy’s help, I improved a little bit.

Our gym teacher came up with the idea of having a gymnastics demonstration for the entire school. You’d have to audition to be in the demonstration; Mrs. Goldfarb didn’t want an afternoon of somersaults and ineptitude.

A word about Mrs. Goldfarb.

You may have noticed a few gym teachers in my books, and how they don’t like children. Mrs. Goldfarb, I’m looking at you.

Nope.

Nope.

She wore her whistle like a weapon. She was rail-thin and intolerant of awkward, overweight, bookish children (me, for example). We played dodgeball far too often, and we geeks often left gym class with red marks from balls whipped at our exposed legs and arms. She had no patience for the kids who weren’t athletically inclined, and indeed, often made fun of us.

In sixth grade, I was already five-foot-seven and wore a C cup bra. I towered over Mrs. Goldfarb, outweighed her, and already I knew that I would never be lean and athletic and coordinated. I felt incredibly wrong around her, with her cool stare and impatient voice. Auditioning to perform in front of the entire middle school? In a leotard? I’m getting hives just typing this.

Still nope.

Still nope.

But Amy was my friend, and very optimistic and upbeat about me participating (love you, Amy!). She helped me design a gymastics routine, and we practiced and practiced in my front yard after school for weeks. In the end, I still couldn’t do a back walkover, but I could do a diving somersault, and I thought that was pretty good.

The day of the auditions came. Amy was a shoe-in, obviously. Same with my friend Laurie, who could do a back and front walk-over. Mrs. Goldfarb called us girls to try out, watching with her shark-like eyes, and made notes on her clipboard. I waited and waited for my turn to audition. But the hour grew late, and finally, she blew her whistle and said, “That’s it. We’re out of time. We have too many people as it is.” Ten or twelve of us hadn’t auditioned yet.

In a rare show of spine, I left Mrs. Goldfarb a note, which I remember almost word-for-word still. “I practiced for weeks and you didn’t even give me a chance. THANKS A LOT!!! Kristan Higgins.” She came into the locker room while I was still there, read the note and looked at me. “Too bad,” she said. With that, she left.

Never.

Never.

When I got home, my mom asked how things went. “I didn’t get to try out,” I said, and burst into tears. “There were too many girls.”

My mom was then and is still a pretty mellow person. Her advice to her kids was generally, “Work it out.” She was as opposite a helicopter parent as could be. If she couldn’t see or hear us and we weren’t lying in a puddle of arterial blood, she’d assume we were fine. We played in the woods, talked to strangers, inflicted physical harm upon each other and rode bikes and horses without helmets. Mom didn’t care if we had a mean teacher, because our mean teachers weren’t as mean as the mean nuns shehad as a kid. If there was a bully on the school bus, we were told to avoid him. Fail a test? Study harder next time. I didn’t expect a lot of sympathy about the gymnastics things.

If I hadn’t made the cut, I think Mom would’ve patted my hand and told me “Good try.” But she’d seen me out there with my much more talented friend, working on those cartwheels and pikes. She knew exactly how untalented I was.

Without another word, Mom picked up the phone, called the school and proceeded to tear Mrs. Goldfarb another orifice. How dare she deprive a dozen girls the chance even to try? How was that fair? Her poor time management skills were her own problem. What kind of a message was she sending?

The next day, Mrs. Goldfarb did something completely unexpected. She apologized. Of course, every girl would get a chance to audition for the demonstration. There would be another afternoon of try-outs. It was her own mistake; she had underestimated the amount of interest, and she was very sorry if anyone felt bad. She met my eyes, and I knew: my gentle, funny, hippie-style mother had kicked some serious ass.

That's more like it.

That’s more like it.

The rest of us got to audition. I made the cut. The day of the demonstration, my mom came to school and watched from the back. I was terrified (why had I wanted to do this? why?). When my turn came, I was pretty bad. Amy was magnificent.

As she drove me home, my mom said, “I thought you were the best one there.”

Thanks, Mom. Thanks for lying, but even more, thanks for sticking up for me.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lovely Canada

 

elk!I’m leaving Alberta today after five lovely days here…three on my own in Banff National Park, and two with the Calgary Romance Writers.

I love Canada. I’d move here, I think, though I’m attached to the US in all its messy glory. But Canada feels easier, and more relaxed. People are happier, it seems. There’s less overt racism. National health care, which saves households a lot of money. It’s a cleaner nation, and Canadians take a civic pride in making sure it’s that way. Today, for example, schoolchildren were picking up trash along the highways in Alberta. People don’t speed, because fines are whopping huge. We should do that in the U.S., I think. Really enforce those speed limits. It’s much nicer driving in Canada without maniacs and trash on the road.

hotelCanadians are really proud of being Canadian, whether they immigrated or were born here. All are delighted that I was visiting. I imagine tourism is a huge economic contributor, but even more than that, it felt like every Canadian was saying, “It’s great here, eh?”

I did love the accent, and found myself sounding more and more Canadian as the days passed. My vowel sounds rounded, and yes, I said aboot a couple of times.

The natural beauty is utterly glorious, and something that Canadians might take for granted. When I told one woman about my love of elk, she said, “They’re like mice to us…everywhere and kind of a nuisance.” When I admired the Rockies, another said, “Oh, yeah, if you like white, they’re beautiful.” But she smiled and winked, almost as if she knew how lucky she was to live in such an area, but it would unCanadian to brag about it.

sheep!

Canadians these days view us Americans as unfortunate, with our political division, gun violence and racism issues. A lot of people asked me how I voted in the last election. Not all of them are thrilled with their Mr. Trudeau, but there’s not the polarity and anger we see in America. (Everyone agrees that Justin is super handsome.)

There are so many Aussies in Canada! Being part of the British Commonwealth, they have an easy time getting a two-year work visa. You’re just as likely to hear an Oz accent as you are a Canadian. Irish, too. No complaints here! At my hotel, the staff wore kilts. I liked that a lot.

mooseThe air was so clean and pure in the mountains, and I filled my lungs as much as possible, feeling like it would make me healthier.  When I finally saw my first elk, I got a little teary-eyed, and sat there, watching them for a good hour or so. They’re really big. Mellow at this time of year, but don’t get near them in October, I was told. More elk kill people than grizzly bears. If a black bear attacks you, it’s decided to kill you, whereas if a grizzly attacks you, it “might only want to maul you.” Moose are the most dangerous. Go figure. If you see a big footprint without claws, it’s a cat. Look up. Mountain lions like to pounce from above.

Everyone wanted to know how I liked their country. They were all pretty confident of the answer.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lovely Canada

Unsung talents

 

Even the cat was impressed.

Even the cat was impressed.

This morning, as I was heading out for the porch with my laptop, phone and coffee whilst also negotiating the in-and-out of three animals, I closed the door with my foot, timing it perfectly so no human or animal or electronic device was harmed. Not one drop of coffee was spilled.

This, my friends, takes talent. And since I’ve been sitting in a chair or sleeping the past three days, sidelined with a disgusting stomach virus McIrish lovingly passed onto me, I figured I’d write about underappreciated talents. In other words, my life has been really quiet and I have nothing to tell you. : )

And so, my unsung talents.

My patronus (right)

My patronus (right)

Carrying in all the grocery bags at once and also unlocking the door without putting anything down. I am the human pack mule (see above). Bonus points: I can do this with a baby on my hip as well.

Psychically knowing who’s calling. Sure, it’s not as fun as in the days of yore, when there was no caller ID, but when the phone rings and I tell McIrish, “It’s your mother!” there is still a deep satisfaction in hearing him say, “Hi, Mom” seconds later.

Finding lost items. The kids and I used to have an agreement. If they lost something and couldn’t find it, they’d have to pay me a dollar if I could find it in under a minute.

"Mommy? Where's my--" "Found it!"

“Mommy? Where’s my–“
“Found it!”

Boom! Mommy’s rich! I can still find the cell phone charger when all hope is gone.

Waking up without an alarm. If I have to get up at a designated time, I will, without fail, wake up two minutes before that time, lie smugly in bed and wait for the alarm to go off 120 seconds later. I also don’t require a timer when baking. And speaking of…

Baking without measuring stuff. “Baking is precise,” people say. “You have to be so exacting.” I do not understand these words. To me, baking is all about the hallowed advice of my grandmother—until it’s right. No recipe is ever made exactly the same way twice, and yet I never fail (unless I’m using gluten-free flour, which doesn’t count).

Time for more saltines and ginger ale! Thanks for tuning in, gang.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Unsung talents

Eating Out Alone

steve martinBecause I travel a lot, I often eat out alone. This habit began a long time ago, back in the days when I was single. I’d bring a book and ask for a table for one and sit back and read, eat and eavesdrop. Hey. It’s kind of how I make a living.

I remember a Steve Martin movie called The Lonely Guy…he goes out to eat by himself and feels so self-conscious, like all the other people are looking at him. An imaginary spotlight shines on him, and he doesn’t enjoy the meal.

new friendI’ve never felt like that. Instead, I feel happy, kind of cool and slightly invisible, but in the best way. I love watching the interaction of the servers, since I used to be a waitress, and I make up stories for them—she’s in love with the bartender, but he’s got a honey, and she sits at the bar, glaring. The maître d’ hates the rude customer who just demanded a different table and whispers to a server. Foolish customer! These people are in charge of your food. Be nice! Some of the customers give me the best ideas for books. The older couple still so in love. The younger couple not speaking, both staring at their phones. Mental notes are taken by this author.

happy and aloneSometimes, I have to open my laptop while I’m eating alone, to check a flight or, say, write a blog. I’d rather read, but it’s fine. Kind of lovely, to have that convenience. While I might take a picture of my meal (see last night’s dessert), I don’t text or check social media while I’m eating. I’d rather try to enjoy the moment.

On this book club tour I’ve been on for GOOD LUCK WITH THAT, a lot of us have talked about things we’ve felt too self conscious to do, and how it’s time to get over that. Several readers have said eating out alone was one of them, and after reading the book, and talking with other readers, they’re going out alone, damn it. And eating dessert. And loving it.

That’s what I’m talking about. Girl power. Not letting social conventions tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Ladies, I hope you pick a fabulous restaurant, and have the best time!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Eating Out Alone

Ten Ways to be a Good Wife

I’ve waxed poetic about McIrish’s excellence as a husband many times, and there will undoubtedly be more of the same, because he is the love of my life. But today, I thought I’d share some of the ways I try to give that love back. And so…

loveKristan’s List of Wifely Devotions

(Note to my children: feel free to stop reading here.)

Be happy to see your spouse when you or he or she walks through the door. Get off the phone, put the kids down, stop staring at your laptop and give your honey a hug and a kiss. Even if your day has been hellish, remember that you have someone to come home to, which isn’t a blessing everyone has.

Compliments. “You look very handsome today.” “This is the best broccoli I’ve ever had.” “Your butt looks great in those jeans.” It’s always a wonderful feeling to know you’ve been seen—make sure your partner gets that.

cookiesSpontaneity. The other day I left the house and was just thinking about my sweetie and how much I loved him, and even though I had seen him seven minutes before, I called him and told him I loved him. No other reason for the call. He was quite delighted. Maybe you bake a cake or cookies for no reason. Maybe you fold the laundry whilst unclothed. Just throwing out ideas.

Nooky. (Sorry, Princess and Dearest Son, but I told you to stop reading!) This is a major reason you got married, right? As the years pass, don’t forget to connect this way. It’s the thing that sets marriage apart from all your other relationships.

flowersMake sure your home is a pleasant place to spend time. I’m not talking about neatness or home décor, though yes, yes, I’m a clean freak and we all know it. What I mean is, this is the place where you two have built your life. Have that place reflect your happiness. I’m a big fan of flowers, photos of the family and good smells (and Clorox Cleanup, but I’ll stop now).

Respect the aging process. When McIrish and I met, he had a full head of the most beautiful black hair you’ve ever seen. Now, it’s silver, and he has what I call the lucky bald spot. I love that bald spot. I love his silver hair, because it means we’ve spent 26+ years together. Is he the young hottie I married? Nope. He’s the middle aged hottie I married.

toesBe confident. This is something that just popped out of my fingertips as I was writing. I guess what I mean is, don’t be an insecure wreck in constant need of validation. Own your intelligence, humor, good heart, adorable toes. Be your best self with your best person more than half of the time. You’re fabulous. Own it.

Make time for each other. If you don’t, you’ll end up divorced. Date night, whether it’s home or in a restaurant or taking a walk, is you showing your honey that you love spending time, just the two of you.

hugCompromise. Here’s a secret: I hate all the Jason Bourne movies. Guess how many times I’ve watched them? 10,853, that’s how many. I don’t even complain. I let my honey watch his man-crush because it makes him happy.

Believe in your honey. When they’re feeling insecure, blue, frustrated, be the person who reminds them just how wonderful they are. Look them in the eye and say, “I love you.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Ten Ways to be a Good Wife

Being social

 

From my Pinterest board...

From my Pinterest board…

As you know, I’m pretty active on social media. I like it, because I love you guys, and it’s so easy to connect these days. Granted, I sometimes forget to check visitor posts on my Facebook page, and there’s this mysterious black hole where some of my messages go, and I only find them months later…

But I’m pretty good at checking in. So I figured I’d let you know exactly where you can find me and hear from me.

A tweet just last night…

A tweet just last night…

For example, did you know you can subscribe to this blog? You can! If you got it via email, you’re already subscribed; if you see it on my website, just look to the right, and you’ll see “Subscribe to My Posts via Email” and voila! You’ll never miss a post.

If you haven’t liked my author page on Facebook, please do. It’s where I post 90% of my stuff. I’m at  www.Facebook.com/KristanHigginsBooks You can hover over the “following” tab and click “see first” to make sure my posts will pop up in your feed.

On Twitter… https://twitter.com/Kristan_Higgins

On Pinterest, I do boards of each book, so you can get a visual of what I was thinking when I wrote them. www.Pinterest.com/KristanHiggins

On Instagram, where I’m relatively new, www.instagram.com/kristan.higgins

From the podcast…

From the podcast…

I also do a podcast with my great friend, author Joss Dey, called Crappy Friends, in which we discuss female friendships (the good, the bad, the ugly) as well as embarrassing personal problems. Visit us at www.crappyfriends.net. We have a blast! We also have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts there, too, so give us a look-see.

It's never wrong to try to be positive.

It’s never wrong to try to be positive.

Social media definitely has its drawbacks—it’s so easy for people to be nasty or angry, and there’s a lot of yelling. I try to steer clear of that and am successful 99% of the time. So pop over and hang out. It’s always so nice to visit with you.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Being social

Closet shopping

 

But it's so pretty!

But it’s so pretty!

I accidentally made a New Year’s resolution…not sure exactly how, but I decided not to buy any new shoes or clothes in 2018.  You heard me.

I’m kind of a clothes whore, to be honest. I have plenty of sweaters, pants and dresses. I’m susceptible to every fad that passes…wardrobe by color, Tim Gunn’s wardrobe essentials, clothes that don’t need ironing.

Oooh! I love this!

Oooh! I could work this! Right?

Something happens to me when I’m shopping for clothes. I see a garment (usually a dress, because I love dresses) and I decide that having this dress is going to make me feel fabulous, more so than any of the other dresses I have. Doesn’t matter if I’m at Target or Marshall’s or Nordstrom’s or an indie boutique…this piece is a game-changer. I try to remember if I have an item in this color, and decide that no, I don’t.

Inevitably, I do. I just forgot about it. I get home and try to make room in my closet for this new dress (or shirt, or pants). Sometimes, I forget to wear the thing, ever. Or I try it on and find it looked better in the store than in my bedroom. The shoes that would look so cute with the dress are uncomfortable. I end up not wearing it and go with the old faded t-shirt dress I’ve had for eleven years and my battered Converse sneakers.

So what if I'm not pregnant? I love this dress!

So what if I’m not pregnant? I love this dress!

So I decided to enact a new-clothes ban (McIrish is wildly enthusiastic about this idea). Instead, I’ll shop from my closet. Try on that black skirt I haven’t worn in twelve years. Pair a different shirt with those pants. Play with scarves and jewelry and the like to jazz things up. Wear what I have, like a French woman who buys one great piece every few years and knows what will last.

This is my dream, anyway. Will let you know how it goes.

(Obviously, pajamas and socks don’t count. And bunny slippers.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Closet shopping

Dating McIrish

 

IMG_6576As you may know, I’ve been here in Southern California, working furiously on a book, failing at the occasional yoga class (there is no fail, Kristan, there is simply limber and not-limber) and yes, even cooking myself meals.

Today, McIrish arrives.

Absence is good for the soul, right? And, er, other parts, too.

I feel like we’re dating. Right now, for the first time in days, for example, I got dressed in something other than pajamas. I vacuumed my tiny little rented house. I went to the farmer’s market and bought spicy hummus, avocados (when in California…) and flowers. In fact, I now have four flower arrangements in the place and should probably stop buying flowers. I washed the sheets and towels. I agonized over how to place the throw pillows on the bed. I swept the walk and emptied the trash.

IMG_6574Not that he will notice, mind you, though I will probably say, “Did you see how nice and empty the bathroom trash is?” and “Smell these flowers! Smell them!” and “Please note how precisely I folded these towels.” He knows me well, of course. Better than anyone.

It’s been a little lonely here in the best possible way…I’ve gotten so much done, and I’ve taken bike rides and walks. I got to see my friend Heidi, who lives near Los Angeles. But mostly, it’s been quiet, and the only people I’ve talked to are dog owners who tolerate me for a minute or two (shout-out to Reynaldo, who put up with me for 10). To demonstrate my mood, today I held up flowers to woo a hummingbird. I keep going to the window, like my dogs do, to see if he’s here, even though I know he’s somewhere over Colorado right about now.

IMG_6575I’ve made a reservation at a nice restaurant for dinner one day this week. We’re going to go kayaking and snorkeling. Our friends have invited us to their house. It will be a lovely time, I’m sure, but mostly, I’m just so happy to have my person back. When you’re the daughter of a widow, and your husband is a fire fighter, it’s not something you take for granted.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dating McIrish

The Snake People

nope

Never gonna happen

Here I am in La Jolla, California, trying to finish a book whilst also escaping the cold and gray New England winter. “Higgins,” I said, “don’t just sit on your butt out there. That big yellow thing in the sky? It’s the sun, and your vitamin D levels are sub-human, so get out there twice a day.”

 

Dear God, no.

Dear God, no.

So I did. Not only do I stroll down to the beach with my coffee each morning (because I’m on East Coast time and therefore very confused), I signed up to take a yoga class here. I take yoga in Connecticut. A lovely class called Gentle Yoga in which the teacher doesn’t make me do anything that might hurt my wonky knee. Sometimes, I almost fall asleep.

Hell no.

Hell no.

That’s what yoga is for, right?

Apparently not. I went to a “drop in” yoga class taught by a very lean man named Gerhardt (his real name). Hey, I figured. I take yoga! How hard can it be?

Oh, my God, peeps. I had walked into a class NOT geared toward my wonky knee, “cuddly” tummy and tight hamstrings. Within seconds, Gerhardt had spotted me as the weak link in the mix and felt it was his yogic duty to correct my form. “Yes, yes, a little deeper, turn your foot upside down, touch the back of your head to your heels, that’s it.” His accent did little to allay my fears that he would kill me in a slow, deliberate manner.

Within ninety seconds, I was drenched in sweat, shaking and praying to God and Buddha that Gerhardt’s eyes would pass over me. Both God and Buddha were busy, alas, so G. and I were engaged in this sort of battle; him wanting me to be limber and, uh, strong, and me wanting to be dead.

My classmate

My classmate

Meanwhile, my classmates were doing all sorts of boneless, weird, twisty things. They were like snake people. The young man next to me (who was shirtless, and sure, he was pretty), could balance on his head with all four limbs in the air. Soon, I thought as I tried not to grunt, he would levitate and turn into an eagle. The women in front all seemed to belong the US Gymnastics team and were balancing on one hand and there I was, trying not to have my knee crumble into dust.

Ouch

Ouch

But guess what, gang? I made it through all 75 horrible minutes of the class, the only one not clad in LuLu Lemon but instead in the yoga pants I bought from Target twenty years ago and my precious Blackbeard’s Bait & Tackle t-shirt from Cape Cod. I did it. I showed those lean Californians that what we Yankees lack in muscle tone, we make up for in grit.

However, I had ridden my bike to class, as I am car-less here. And maybe the yoga had taken more of a toll than I thought, because as I was stopped at a red light, I was suddenly lying on the sidewalk. “Hm,” I thought. “How did I get here?”

Say what you will about Yankees and our curmudgeonly ways, we stop when someone falls to the ground. La Jolla-ians do not. (Tsk tsk!) I bet if Dr. Seuss were still alive, he would’ve definitely stopped. Alas, he is not.

And so I righted myself, checked to make sure nothing other than my ass and pride were bruised, and headed home. Drank four glasses of water and went to bed at 7:30.

Namaste.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Snake People

Running away

 

IMG_6172Yes, I cracked. Couldn’t take the New England winter any more, so I ditched and ran to sunny California. I regret nothing. Back home, it’s gray and frigid, then gray and raw, then white and frigid, then…well, you get the idea. Also, renting a teeny little house with a fairy-sized garden is very good for the old imagination.

IMG_6269Sometimes writers talk about refilling the well—an image I don’t like, because I picture myself hauling woodend buckets of water up from a great depth, my hands raw from rope burn, then, inevitably, falling down like Baby Jessica and either dying or finding rotting zombies. I’m pretty sure that’s not what my fellow writers mean.

I think they mean this. Going somewhere new, somewhere quiet and lovely. Being able to open windows and smell flowers, and listen to the waves at night. My teeny house is hidden from the road, down this little maze flanked by shrubbery and flowers. It’s what I call Ikea chic—nothing irreplaceable, everything clean and functional.

IMG_6259This morning, I went to the farmer’s market and bought some veggies. And flowers! And maybe a dog (surprise, McIrish!). No, I didn’t steal the dog, but it was close. I hauled my stuff the mile back and am now happy as can be, sitting on the comfy couch, looking at the palm fronds just outside.

I’ll be writing and writing, gang, so if I’m a little sparse on social media, know that I’m hard at work, hoping you’ll like the end result. xox

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Running away