They Need Me, They Need Me Not: Parenting Adult Children

lovesmenot I watched my youngest son drive away, his car packed for college. I was sad and empty and raw. I was lost.

“Well, I guess you’re not a mother anymore,” said the tall, usually very wonderful person standing beside me.

Grabbing the nearest butter knife, I pointed it at him and growled, “Take it back.” That, I must admit, was one of the lowest points in my 25 years of motherhood.

But days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and I’m proud to say I grew more rational and less emotional. My husband and I began settling into our quiet, empty nest and I started thinking about what he had said. I had to admit: I did have a number of questions about my new role, or lack of one, as a mother of three. Yes, of course I was still their mother, but how involved in their lives should I now be? Should I still offer my opinions and provide guidance? Should I speak up if something bothered me? Was it still my responsibility to fill those Easter baskets and Christmas stockings? As I rolled these questions around and searched for an answer, I found it necessary to consider several more.

When is a child an adult? The answer to this question, like most that involve parenting, is subjective. At 16, a person can legally travel alone. At 17, they can legally go to an R-rated movie. At 18, they can vote, register for the draft, and enter into a legally binding contract. At 21, they can drink and smoke pot and gamble, legally. But most states in the U.S. consider a person an adult at age 18, which is tied to the voting age, which is tied to the Vietnam War. But while this is what our government has decreed, I would beg to differ. I think we would all agree that becoming an adult is a process that doesn’t conclude on one’s 18th birthday. So the question remains—when should a parent consider their child an adult? My thought is that when a person is able to take care of him or herself completely, including and especially financially, they’ve arrived at adulthood. Clearly, the age will be different for every person, and there are always exceptions to any rule, but in general, when a person becomes self-sufficient, childhood is over.

Now that my child is an adult, what is my role? After getting the answer to this question wrong a (high) number of times in recent months, I think I may have found an acceptable answer—let the adult children define and decide what their parents’ role should be. Too one-sided? Maybe. But I think in order to rip that Band Aid of control off, we parents have to take an enormous step back from our adult children’s lives, at least in the area of decision making. Will our children make bad decisions? Yes, and so did we. Will they screw up financially from time to time? Yes, and so did we. Will they have regrets? Yes, and so do we. But that, my friends, is called life. And thankfully, we humans do learn from our mistakes and that learning leads to something wonderful. It’s called wisdom.

zipper-mouth_face_emojiBut what about my adult child’s decisions that oppose mine morally, politically or religiously? Okay, this is a tough one. We’ve all raised our children according to our belief system or lack of one. But what if we’ve brought up our son to be an open-minded liberal and the next thing you know, he’s joined the Young Republicans? Or what if we’ve raised our daughter to believe in conservative values and as an adult, she takes a hard left and refers to herself as a nasty woman? What if our children choose the very things we’ve taught them were unacceptable? Then too bad. For us, not for them. It’s their life now, not ours, and it’s not acceptable to judge them or shake our heads while clicking our tongues. How they live their life is suddenly, drum roll please, their decision. So while we don’t have to agree with all their choices (and we’ll never agree with all their choices—I guarantee our parents didn’t/don’t agree with all of ours either), we are still responsible for loving them unconditionally and making sure they are confident of that love.

What if they want guidance/advice/direction? Then by all means, give it! Just wait to be asked. And if you’re not asked, zip it, Grandma Gilmore. If your daughter wants to talk to you three times a day, then bully for you. But if she only wants to talk to you occasionally, then you’ll have to make the most of that very important occasion. I’m quite sure that the more we support and love our kids, the more conversations they’ll want to have with us.


So, if you’re joining the ranks of mothers-of-adults, put down the butter knife, rip off the Band Aid, and calmly enter this new and fascinating phase. Remember—bad decisions, screw-ups, and regrets will turn our children into lovely, mature adults. And how beautiful it is to watch these new adults create for themselves the most wonderful kind of lives: lives of their own.

This post was previously published on

Five Books That Will Make You Feel Better-Worth The Read three

In light of the past months (year) of political turmoil, I recently began looking for something to read that would provide a distraction and make me feel better. I needed to fill that social media shaped hole I’d created several weeks ago by stepping away from all things negative. In the past, I’ve been more of a novel reader, but in hopes of lightening my mood, I decided to turn toward nonfiction, specifically memoir. Since I was going for humor, I sought out books written by women comedians, because comedians are funny, right? The one word answer to that question, I discovered, is sometimes. Sometimes, but not always. Although all comedians are funny in one way or another, not all of them are successful in writing humorous books, and after reading one-too-many of these unfunny books that had been mistakenly assigned to the humor section, I was forced to expand my search. I stayed with memoir, but explored those that had been written by female actors in addition to comedians. And what do you know; I found what I was looking for.

So if you, too, are in need of a pick-me-up because your side lost and you feel battered, or because your side won and you feel battered, or because of the impending and inevitable recount–Good Grief, here are some books that are interesting and funny and uplifting. Go ahead. Escape for a moment to the lighter side of life. You’ll be glad you did.

Note: Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking makes my list as well, but I read it so long ago, I didn’t feel I could write an accurate recommendation. And I’m eagerly awaiting Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Melissa McCarthy to get busy writing, but so far—nyet. Oh, and Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can comes out today, so there’s that nugget for all us Lorelai fans to add to our Christmas list. Let me know if you’ve read a worthwhile memoir I haven’t mentioned. I’m hoping there are many.



Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick

Touchstone 2016


What a delight this book was! Anna Kendrick (not to be confused with Kate Mara) is pleasantly entertaining and fun to read in this well-ordered collection of stories about her life. She opens with a retelling of her first performance in front of a live audience as a five-year-old, when she forgot the words halfway through her rendition of Shirley Temple’s On The Good Ship Lollipop. I won’t tell you what happened, but three pages later I was still laughing. She went on to perform in a Broadway show at the age of twelve and later, opting out of college, she moved to New York before ending up in LA.  As young Hollywood does, Kendrick reveals a plethora of information about her sexual experiences, but unlike some of the others, she doesn’t seem angry or entitled or out to prove anything to anyone but herself. She takes the reader on a fascinating backstage tour through her experiences as an actor. From her on-set work, to dealing with the press, to the inner workings of awards shows, she covers it all. Kendrick’s talent has landed her roles in Pitch Perfect, Twilight, Up in the Air with George Clooney, and the recently released The Accountant with Ben Affleck. She works hard, doesn’t take her success for granted, and seems wise beyond her thirty-one years. She’s a fresh voice, the kind of person you wish success, and her book will leave you entertained, uplifted, and hopeful for the younger Hollywood generation. Brava Anna!



Why Not Me

Mindy Kaling

Penguin Random House 2016


Like many of you, I first met Mindy Kaling in one of my favorite shows of all time The Office. She played the needy but optimistic Kelly Kapoor who was nothing if not relentless in her persistent pursuit of poor Ryan Howard. I loved her in that show, and I love her even more now that I know she wrote twenty-four of its episodes and was nominated for an Emmy in the process. The woman is brilliant, but in an unassuming, unimposing way. As proof of her intelligence, she attended Dartmouth, and she didn’t get in because she was a star, she got in before she was a star. Yes, she probably could have been the doctor she now plays on TV in The Mindy Project if she’d wanted (her mother was an OB/GYN), but she chose the entertainment industry instead. Opening with Maybe you accidentally bought this thinking it was the Malala book, she sold me from page one. She writes, she creates, she produces, she acts. She laughs at herself and believes in herself. She deals with her non-traditional looks and non-skinny body in a business that loves skin and bones. And she succeeds. She works long hours every single day, frequents McDonald’s, and hopes to find true love along the way. The last chapter of her book addresses confidence. And here’s the simple but wise insight: work hard, know your stuff, show your stuff, and then feel entitled. Only listen to the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn’t always mean your parents. It’s simple but sage advice, and it’s certainly working for her.



Yes Please

Amy Poehler

HarperCollins 2014


I chose this book because I wasn’t sure why Amy Poehler had become so wildly popular in recent years. Sure, I’d seen her on Saturday Night Live, and yes, I’d caught snippets of her sitcom Parks and Rec because my boys love that show and for some reason, it’s always on, but I’d never really stopped to give her a chance. Then she went and wrote a book, so suddenly I had motivation to find out what made her tick. After reading her book, I understood the draw. In it, Poehler introduces us to the world of improvisational comedy, which is foreign to most people (me). Improv is all my biggest fears rolled into one: public speaking, thinking on your feet, and a bright spotlight bathing you in vulnerability. But to comedians, it’s heaven. And also a lot of work. But what I learned about Poehler was that she is soft and strong and insecure and confident and most of all wildly passionate about most everything in her life. From her wonderful family (her mom: you’re the prettiest and the best), to her co-workers (they always wind up being her best friends), to her drive to succeed (this woman has worked and worked and worked her way tirelessly up the ladder), and her head-over-heels love for her two boys (Archie and Abel-how cute are those names); Amy Poehler is a down-to-earth superstar who deserves every ounce of success she gets.




Tina Fey

Reagan Arthur Books 2011


It’s been awhile since I read this book, but I remember that it made me not only laugh out loud more than any of the others, but it made me like and respect Tina Fey even more than I already did. She opens with a story about how she responded the first time some jerk catcalled her. I won’t ruin it for you, but I’m sitting here laughing as I type. Fey is whip-smart, she’s powerful, she’s ferociously feminist, she’s sarcastic, and she’s hilarious. She was head writer on Saturday Night Live for six years and has since gone on to successfully create, produce, write, and act. She’s won Emmys, SAGs, Golden Globes, and Writer’s Guild awards. And she can toss out a zinger like no other. She explains the scar on her face only by saying that she was slashed by a stranger in an alley when she was in kindergarten–how horrific–but Fey doesn’t dwell on obstacles, she thrives on them. She seems determined, relatable, and likable and her book is both intriguing and hilarious. Enjoy.



Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty

Diane Keaton

Random House 2014


I fell in love with Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Diane Keaton while watching her years ago in Something’s Gotta Give. She stole my heart with her hilarious, heartbreaking portrayal of an aging playwright who reluctantly opens her heart to her daughter’s ex-boyfriend (Jack Nicholson) and proceeds to have it predictably and thoroughly stomped. Ah—my kind of movie, part comedy, part tragedy—what more does one need? To me, she was perfect. When someone asks the question: if you could choose anyone in the world, past or present, you’d like to have dinner with, who would it be? I would not say Mother Teresa or Maya Angelou or Amelia Earhart, no. I’d say, you guessed it, Diane Keaton. So, I’ll admit, I’d pretty much decided I loved this book before I read it. But then I read it, and I really did love it. Keaton is one of the most beautifully neurotic people I’ve ever read and she’s not ashamed. She’s talented and endearing and humble and strong and just trying to make it through another day like most women. She’s quirky and unique and her own brand of superstar. She wears her Annie Hall style clothes to hide her body, and wide-brimmed hats to hide her self-proclaimed disappearing hair. But somehow it always works on her, and she never fails to portray a picture of lovely elegance. Why? Because, as she explains, beauty is more than your face in the mirror, it is a combination of your flaws, your ineptness, and mostly, finding whatever works for you to get out the door every day. Preach.

Five Things That Surprised Me About Public School

Back-to-school-e1409684957982 It’s that time of year again. Time to buy new pens and pencils, time to wake up early, and time to get that brain back in gear. It’s time to start school.

For me, as a mom, this year’s start of school meant picking up a six-pack of new socks for one of my sons. Honestly, that was the extent of my back-to-school preparations. How things have changed now that I have two in college and one already out. It seems like just yesterday I was busy worrying about my boys as they embarked on new adventures. Oh wait, that was yesterday. But new clothes and books and backpacks aside, it’s also that time of year for us parents to place trust in our children’s schools to provide them with an excellent education.

Nearly twenty-five years ago my husband and I became parents for the first time. It’s hard to remember exactly what that day felt like after all these years, but the words exhilarating, overwhelming and one-of-the-four-happiest-days-of-my-life come to mind. It was a day I’d been dreaming of and longing for and it was truly heaven. But after the Sheer Bliss wore off and the all-encompassing Fatigue and Worry set in, it was time to start pondering our new baby’s life. What would he do? Where would he go? Who would he be? And more importantly, what on God’s green earth were we supposed to do to get him there?

baby drakeOne of the biggest decisions we make as parents involves our children’s education, and these days there are many, many options. Deciding between public school and private is probably the first and easiest choice most people make. But for my husband and me, it was complicated. You see growing up I spent most of my years educated in private school and he spent all of his years educated in public. And while we had very different school backgrounds, both were excellent. We each look back on high school as a great experience that neither of us would change. So you can imagine our dilemma. Should we head down that public school road my husband had traveled or that private school road of mine? And so the discussion began, and continued, and stretched on and on and on. Round and round we went. Finally, after much debate, we decided to compromise. We would start our boys in private school and later move them to public. It seemed to be the perfect solution, or at least the perfect solution for us.

Having attended fourth through twelfth grades in private school, I pretty much knew what to expect, so those early years were easy. However, I didn’t know what to expect from the public schools. I’d heard rumors and stories and example after example of the horrors that fill our public school system. They force your kids to watch R-rated movies, they pack the classrooms like sardines, they hand out condoms like candy. The voices were constant, loud, and terrifying. It would surely prove an epic nightmare where my children would be required to take untold numbers of grueling standardized tests, no one would care about them, and they would be nothing but a number. I couldn’t wait.

But as you might have already guessed, none of the aforementioned rumors turned out to be true, and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by our children’s public school experience. Let me pause for a moment and be clear, I’m not trying to convince anyone to choose public school over private or vice versa. Every child is different and each has his or her own set of needs. In my opinion, there really is no right or wrong decision. I just want to share a few things that surprised me, in a good way, about our public school system.

Drake, bottom left and his friend Coach Brown, top right
Drake, bottom left and his friend Coach B., top right

1. The Teachers. The teachers, most of who held master’s degrees and some doctorates, were wonderful people who enjoyed their jobs and their students. And while there were a few bad apples, there were only a few. Each of my three children had teachers who took a special interest in them during high school. My youngest son had such a great experience with his French teacher, he decided to minor in French. C’est fantastique! My oldest son had such an amazing chemistry teacher, he came out of high school wanting to major in chemistry. Now that’s something. My middle son had such a fondness for and camaraderie with his basketball coach that I think he would have preferred to consider him a friend rather than a teacher.

2. The Students. We were lucky on this front. Our public school system is diverse: racially, religiously, and economically. If you walked into the school, you would get a fairly accurate cross section of our country right there under one roof. All of the students were exposed to others who looked nothing like them on the outside, but were very much like them on the inside. The result was a wonderful lack of misunderstanding, judgment and fear that can sometimes result from limited exposure to people with different backgrounds.

3. The Education. Aside from the politics and the sharp parental opinions, which are always present at every school (and which I tried to stay far away from), the education my children received was top-notch. Their school had more options for core curriculum classes than the students could ever need, more Advanced Placement and college classes than they could possibly take, and more electives than they had time for. The high number of students led to a high number of choices. Excellent.first-day-2014_whitney-update-900x697

4. The Overall Experience. As far as extracurricular opportunities, there was something for everyone. It didn’t matter if the students were athletic, artistic, academic, or none of the above or all of the above. There was a club, team, or some kind of group where they could fit in. If they were willing to put out a little effort, they could find their place and be a part of something bigger. It never felt too large or too impersonal for my boys to feel like they belonged.

5. The Result. Now that my oldest and his public school friends are out in the real world, I’m happy to report they are all (yes all) finding jobs with great success. They are business people, engineers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, and maybe most importantly teachers. In addition, many are involved in charity work and religious groups. These public school kids have turned into fine young adults and I’m having fun watching them live fulfilling lives.

YoungPro1-1507Over time, I’ve heard a lot of negative chatter about public school, so I wanted to give a shout out, a thumbs up, and kudos to all those involved in the system. After experiencing our boys’ twenty-seven combined years in six public schools, I can say this: while ever changing and hopefully always improving, public school has provided an excellent educational foundation for our children. For everyone whose child is headed down this road, I hope you’ll sit back, take a breath, and rest assured that although his or her experience will never be perfect, it may not only meet your expectations, but it may soar above and beyond them. It certainly did mine.

It’s Been a Year and I Need to Apologize

It’s been a year since it happened.
And it’s taken a year for me to apologize.

It was the beginning of last summer, Memorial Day weekend, and I was at Lake Martin, near Auburn, Alabama, probably my favorite place on earth. This is where my family goes to slow down, catch up, and put a flame to that green egg. We’ve been lake people for fifteen years and it feels like home. But one year ago, something curious happened while we were there.

Leelee got sick.


Allow me to back up. Ten years ago, my youngest son asked for a dog. I was not surprised, all little boys want a puppy, don’t they? No worries, I thought, I knew how to handle this. He was my third son and I was an expert on boys. We’d get a fish or a turtle or a hermit crab and all would be well. I was strong. I could say no, or so I thought. But I thought wrong. I couldn’t resist this time, and I couldn’t resist this son. He was convinced, he was persistent, and he was perfectly relentless—he still is, by the way–and he wore me down like an old tire.  He won.

Enter Leelee.

Let me tell you about Leelee. She was a nine-year-old (my husband says she was eight, but that’s not important) miniature schnauzer. At eleven pounds, eight inches tall, she wasn’t the cutest dog ever (yes, schnauzers are the ones with the beard/mustache combo), or the smartest dog ever (sit and shake-yes, rollover-not on your life), but we thought she was the best dog ever. She was a tiny, black ball of soft, furry love.

Leelee was a survivor.

She lived in five different houses with us-we’ve moved an awful lot-and somehow survived the doggy perils that came with each. She survived the ground-shaking wrestling matches of three small boys and one large dad. She survived falling off a Sea-Doo before she could swim. She survived Dobermans and German Shepherds and a Rottweiler. She survived a face-to-face confrontation with a snake, thanks to my uncle in Mobile. She survived the ALLIGATORS IN DOG RIVER (also in Mobile), and most recently, she survived the COYOTES THAT LURK AROUND THE CHATTAHOOCHEE. And her good fortune was not because I was a good doggy mom. I probably was not. But I always made sure my cellphone number was attached to her person in case of emergency. That’s something, right? So you see, Leelee was a survivor. She was a soft bundle of needy love who somehow, for nine years (eight?) trotted away from danger unconcerned and unscathed. All she required was food, a round bed, and love. And that was what she got.

But then Leelee got sick.

To be clear, it was not unusual for Leelee, to get sick. From the moment she joined our family, she would get car sick, she would eat things out of the yard and get sick, and she would especially get sick if we fed her off the table. So when Leelee became sick at the lake last May, I thought nothing of it. Just put her on the hardwoods if she starts to throw up, I constantly reminded my family. Cleanup is much easier that way, am I right? But one day of sick stretched into several and I was concerned. We came back to Atlanta and I took her to the vet where they performed test after test after expensive test, none of which showed any IMG_0523type of problem. She was perfectly healthy. There was nothing wrong and no explanation for her illness. Long, painful story short, less than a week later she died. Just like that, she was gone. And I was a wreck. Talk about an ugly cry. I’d watched her suffer, unable to help her, unable to fix her, and it crushed me. It was, in a word, excruciating. For Leelee, and for me.

Fast-forward a full year, and here’s where the apology comes in. I had no idea that losing a pet was so painful. That’s crazy, right? Definitely. I’ve actually wondered in the past how someone could get so upset over a dog passing away. It’s just an animal, not a person, correct? Incorrect, and as I now know, completely and totally wrong. I know that precious pup is a living, breathing creature that becomes part of your family and your life, and that has intelligence and emotion and can love and be loved. I didn’t before, but I realize all of this now. So, I’m sorry I didn’t understand the importance of a beloved pet, and I’m sorry I didn’t get the pain of losing one. Believe me, I get it now. And to all you dog lovers out there, I get you now. And I love that you love your dogs. And mostly I love that you are brave and optimistic enough to adopt another dog after the former one is gone. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.

What really happened to Leelee?

Here’s my best I’m-no-veterinarian guess: I believe she swallowed a shard of glass that tasted good to her and that didn’t show on the x-rays or scans, and it perforated her esophagus/trachea. At first she couldn’t eat, then she couldn’t drink, and finally she couldn’t breathe. It was pitiful, brutally so and it still hurts to revisit what she went through. But thankfully, time does heal, at least with the loss of a dog, and after twelve months I feel better.cardinal-perched-on-branch-pc-wallpaper

Now, exactly one year later, I sit watching a bright red cardinal outside my window and I have to wonder if the legend is true, the one that says this striking bird represents the spirit of a lost loved one. Who really knows, but if nothing else, it’s a lovely coincidence that makes me smile. So today, I send respect out to all you dog lovers, and I hope you’re enjoying those sand-papery or slobbery licks to the face, because as I now understand, dogs are loved ones too.

Worth the Read two

If you love to read, or want to love to read, this recurring section of my blog is for you.

old books background

Here’s how it works:  I’ll recommend five books that contain something unique, interesting, or worthwhile.  In short, each book was worth the time it took to read.  Then you decide which ones interest you.  In a read it forward kind of way, I’m hoping you’ll benefit, as I have, from one or more of these suggestions.

So prop up your feet and enjoy this spring pollen weather.  But more importantly, pick up a book, open your mind to something new, and enjoy.


still alice

STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova

Gallery Books 2007

Contemporary fiction

It is no secret that Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. This is a fact we all know. But in STILL ALICE, Lisa Genova depicts the disease from the inside, from the patient’s perspective. Genova, a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard, unfolds a beautiful yet haunting story about a psychology professor who discovers, at age fifty, that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. Alice’s discovery is jolting and the creeping progression of the disease is heartbreaking. Books don’t typically make my cry, but this one, because the disease is so cruel and so slow and so much a possibility for all of us, this one made me weep. If I could, I would require everyone I know to read this eye-opening novel before turning thirty. We would all do well to gain a greater understanding and empathy for the victim’s of this brutal disease to which there is currently no prevention or cure. And no matter how much spinach or how many blueberries we eat, every one of us is still at risk. This is not a lighthearted beach read by any means, but it is fascinating, enjoyable, and important in an inspirational sort of way.




DRY by Augusten Burroughs

St. Martin’s Press 2003


With a name like Augusten Burroughs, I knew this writer had to be interesting. And I was correct. Burroughs is not only interesting, but he is hilarious, magnetic and extremely entertaining. And his story is powerful; I’m talking how is he still alive powerful. Burroughs (RUNNING WITH SCISSORS) is a master of memoir and storytelling extraordinaire and he wastes no time drawing the reader into the world of a downward spiraling alcoholic. Coupling raw, honest writing with a fascinating, horrifying story of his ten-year road to sobriety, the result is a memoir that is as engaging as any I’ve ever read. In the words of Burrough’s agent (and husband) Christopher Schelling after he read the first draft, “It’s funny and sad and effed-up and crazy and completely riveting.” What he said, and more. If you are of the opinion that alcoholism is a personality flaw that can be fixed with a little self-control, I urge you to read this memoir, reconsider your position, and see me after class. The CDC defines alcoholism as a chronic disease, and health professionals agree that alcoholics may require a lifetime of ongoing treatment. This one is not for the kids, but if you are looking to be fully enveloped in a book while gaining insight on a very real and debilitating disease, DRY is well worth the read.




Lake Union Publishing, 2016

Psychological thriller, Southern Gothic suspense

Buckle up, buttercup, and hang on tight because this story is going to take you on a ride like you’ve never experienced. From page one, the plot twists and turns are surprising at least, jarring and haunting at most. Carpenter pulls the reader toward questions surrounding her main character Althea’s ominous 30th birthday, but the more answers Althea gets, the more questions she has. This multi-generational mystery races around the state of Alabama toward a weighty resolution that will leave you both exhausted and relieved. But don’t think you’ll be able to guess the ending; you won’t even be able to predict what’s going to happen on the next page. This treasure hunt for the truth has a GONE GIRL type of urgency sprinkled with a ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST kind of crazy. Carpenter’s debut novel couples a fresh, smart voice with a unique, multi-layered story and the result is nothing less than startling. Something tells me we’ll be hearing more from this inventive author and her gloriously wild imagination in the future.





Anchor Books, 2004


When a friend of my husband’s, a lawyer and former district attorney, recommended this book to me, I should have known. I should’ve known it would be literary, I should’ve known it would be historical, and I should’ve known it would be a book that would require me to put on my proverbial thinking cap and pull it down tight. And it was. In his wildly popular memoir turned movie, INTO THIN AIR, Krakauer writes about extreme physical adventure, but in UTBOH, he turns to the extreme religious practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the book’s heart is a double murder carried out by two members of the FLDS church who claim that God has instructed them to kill. And kill they do. Krakauer uses the murders as a thread which weaves its way through his study of the history of the FLDS church. And let me tell you, his revelations ain’t pretty. From sexual and emotional abuse to murderous violence to a special strain of religious crazy, this book reveals atrocities you’ll wish you’d never known had taken place anywhere, much less in the US of A. That said, the church of LDS’s response to this book is, as you might imagine, harsh. It includes phrases like full-frontal assault on the veracity of the modern church, poor command of the subject matter, and a disservice to his readers. So it would be appropriate to consider the church’s response when deciding about the accuracy of the information presented. But if you are interested in learning one author’s fascinating take on America’s fastest growing religion–albeit a challenge–this one is worth the read.



1984 by George Orwell

Secker and Warburg, 1949

Dystopian fiction, political fiction

I am uncomfortably aware how very late I am to the Big Brother party, but at least I made it. I finally picked up this novel because my good friend told me it was her son’s favorite book, EVER. And from what I gather, her twenty-something year old son is of Zuckerberg-level intelligence. So that was it, the gauntlet was laid. I was forced to read this once futuristic, modern classic that somehow I had managed to avoid. And what I found was surprising. The premise is simple, the characters and dystopian setting are intriguing, and the end is wonderfully creepy. The themes of control, manipulation, and governmental totalitarianism are ingeniously addressed in Orwell’s fast-moving story. Some might even feel his ideas translate to today’s world–I won’t be commenting on that. But I will say, if you’ve missed this one, read it for yourself and draw parallels if you dare. Either way, it’s quick, significant, and worth the read.

Turning Fifty-Here’s the Catch



Like many of my family members and friends before me, I recently turned fifty. I was a big girl: I put on a smile, covered my wrinkles fine lines with makeup, and partied like it was 1999. Well, sort of. In reality, my family took me out to a nice dinner and gave me a beautiful necklace, which I love. It was a wonderful and special evening, but after the celebration was over it was time to face reality.

There are a number of realities a person must face upon turning fifty. Among them is a medical procedure called a colonoscopy which is a diagnostic measure used in the early detection of colorectal cancer. The first time I heard about a colonoscopy, I was thirty-something and watched a very brave Katie Couric undergo the procedure on live national television. What a trooper she was. So I knew a little about the test, I knew my time was coming, and I knew it would be awful, however, I didn’t understand the full scale of the upcoming awfulness. I mean there would be propofol involved, how bad could it be? But the reality of that pesky cancer issue was lingering, so I really had no choice but to move forward. And so I did.

The first order of business was to choose my physician. I chose my doctor in part because she’s good, and in part because she’s a woman. I love female doctors, but good women gastroenterologists are hard to find. So after some checking around coupled with advice from my husband who works in healthcare, I found her. After meeting with her, I liked her and I trusted her and she agreed to perform my colonoscopy.

Next it was time for my prep work, as they call it. Now let me tell you, although I’m sure you’ve already heard, preparing for a colonoscopy is UNPLEASANT. I knew about the clear liquid diet, I’d heard about the way-too-many fluids I would have to drink, and I dreaded the ensuing cleansing of the colon. But if Katie Couric could do it, then so could I. And with some difficulty, I’m proud to say, I made it through all the unpleasantness.

On the morning of the big day, I got to the outpatient surgery center as scheduled. I felt like hell, I looked like hell, and I had been through twelve hours of hell. I just wanted to do this thing and have it behind me. The nice receptionist called my name and I proceeded, in my emptied-out state, to complete the paperwork and sign the forms. Next, the kind insurance clerk called my name and we filled out more paperwork and signed more forms. Finally, a wonderfully compassionate nurse called me back to the room where I put on a hospital gown, answered a few more questions, and signed a few more forms. And frantically ran to the restroom a hundred more times.


Now it was go-time. I was lying on the table weak and scared. “Are you nervous?” the CRNA asked. “Unreasonably,” I responded. She went on to promise they would take good care of me and not to worry, it would all be over soon. But still, I continued my fretting. I mean there was a scope about to be inserted into a place the sun will never shine, a slight risk of colon perforation, a chance they might find cancer. Not to mention the horrifying possibility that I would blurt out something wildly inappropriate while I was under anesthesia. But all that didn’t matter now, this thing was happening. My doctor came in the room and I signed one last form. I said a quick prayer and thought about my husband and kids. And then, there it was—hypnotic bliss. I was out.

But three seconds later I was awake and it was over. Whether it was good, bad, or God-forbid ugly, the procedure was over. Whatever happened in that room, happened.  And it happened fast. The staff rolled me down the hall to recovery and I wondered. I wondered how the procedure went, I wondered if I had said anything crazy, and of course I wondered if I had cancer.

The answer to that last question took me by surprise. My doctor told me she had removed a large polyp from my colon, which had likely been there for some time. After the lab work came back, she further explained the polyp was the type that would have turned into cancer. Gulp. Cancer. That was not the news I had expected. But it was indeed the news I got. “Thank you,” I told my doctor, “Thank you for getting that thing out of me.”

So, in three short years, I will again face the same uncomfortable, unpredictable, and downright unpleasant procedure. The large precancerous polyp my doctor removed from my colon that day has ensured it. I will go back as instructed and have another colonoscopy and trust those kind, amazing, wonderful people to save my life again if necessary.

Consider for a moment your own health. If you’ve turned fifty, it’s time to be brave and schedule that horrible, wonderful, life-saving colonoscopy. If I can do it and Katie Couric can do it, then so can you. It may seem too unpleasant to face, but I assure you, the alternative could be worse. In my case, it most certainly would have been worse. I’m encouraging you (begging you really) to make the call, because although this procedure may be inconvenient and difficult, it’s truly about so much more than that. It’s about people, and lives, and saving people’s lives. And I, for one, am grateful to my doctor and her team of professionals for saving mine.

Worth The Read

“You read too much!” I hear this at least once a week from a certain someone who shall remain unnamed. The thing is, it could be true. I love to read. And I do read all the time. I’ll read anywhere, and just about anything. I’m open to all genres, fiction or non. Because the thing is, I just love a good book.


I’d like to say I’ve always been a reader, but that wouldn’t be true. To be honest, I didn’t want to have anything to do with books as a child. Or a teenager. Or a young adult. Growing up, I’d always felt my life was full, why would I want to read about someone else’s? But then came my early thirties. A stay-at-home-mom ready for some intellectual stimulation, I began my journey into the world of books. And what a wonderful journey it has been. Now, twenty years later, I’m every bit as hungry for the next book as I was the first.

“Have you read anything good lately?” I hear this a lot. If you are a reader, you probably do, too. And my answer is always an emphatic YES. Most of the books I read are “good” in some way.  It might be the unique characters, it might be the intriguing plot, or it might be the beautiful prose. But usually there is something specific that makes a book worth the time it takes to read.

With this in mind, below are five books I’ve read recently that made an impact on me.  Each one might not be the best book I’ve ever read, but all of them contain something that is unique, interesting, or worthwhile.

So go ahead, pick up a book, open your mind to something new, and most of all enjoy. And please, never let anyone tell you that you read too much.



THE DANISH GIRL by David Ebershoff

Viking Penguin 2000

literary fiction

“Set against the glitz and decadence of 1920’s Copenhagen, Dresden, and Paris, this stunning first novel explores the boundaries of sex and gender, love and marriage.”

Elegantly written, this novel loosely based on the life of artist Einar Wegener and his wife “Greta” exposes the dilemma of a woman who has been born in a man’s body. Set in the early 1900’s, Ebershoff’s characters gently invite the reader into a marriage where the love is real but the pain is intense. His careful and respectful handling of the subject of life as a transgender is both eye opening and intriguing. If you know little about the transgender condition, and watching I Am Cait doesn’t count for much, this book serves as an effective guide to understanding the community of people who are faced with a very real struggle everyday of their lives. Kudos to Ebershoff who helped open a conversation many have been reluctant to join. When Hollywood picks you up, you know you’ve written something special.



DISCLAIMER by Renee Knight

Transworld Publishers 2015

psychological thriller, domestic noir

“What if you realized the terrifying book you were reading was all about you?”


The premise of this debut novel is one of the best I’ve heard.  Ever. The main character finds a book in her home and after she begins to read it realizes it’s based on a deep, dark secret she’s been hiding for twenty years. Now that’s downright awesome. I had to know more. Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of books in this genre because I either figure out the end before I get to it, or I’m disappointed in it, but this book surprised me. I’ll leave it at that, but if you’re a fan of GONE GIRL or THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you will most certainly like this book. For the unexpected twist and the excellent premise, DISCLAIMER is worth the read.

big little lies


BIG LITTLE LIES by Liane Moriarty

Berkley Books 2014

contemporary women’s fiction, suburban noir, psychological suspense

“Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal.”


“A hell of a good book. Funny and scary.” The great Stephen King’s quote on the front cover of this book convinced me to pick it up. I mean talk about an endorsement. And I was not disappointed. Moriarty creates the surprising juxtaposition (I love that word) of a murder set against the backdrop of a kindergarten. Who would do that? But she does and it works well to create a satirical feel of humor slapping danger in the face. The characters in this small Australian town are flawed yet likable, and respected yet despicable. Moriarty completes a story filled with love and hate, courage and fear, truth and lies. For the unique way she sets light against darkness while building intriguing suspense, BIG LITTLE LIES is worth the read.




New Hope Publishers 2016

Non-fiction, inspirational, religious

“God teaches and refines us through pain and suffering.”


Okay, I’ll admit, I was not looking forward to reading this book like I look forward to a juicy novel. I knew it would be heavy, I knew it would be sad, and I knew it would be difficult to process. Burgess has written a heartbreaking, heart-healing book about losing her two-year-old son. The book’s purpose, Burgess explains, is to provide a biblical explanation for pain and suffering. Bronner, the toddler her husband nicknamed “Cornbread” tragically drowned in the family’s backyard swimming pool on a cold January night in 2008. This book chronicles Burgess’s struggle to come to terms with the age-old question of why God would allow something as unthinkable as this to happen. The answer comes in the form of another question: why are we put here on earth? The conclusion: life is not about us, it is about God. Burgess and her family have resolutely set themselves to be about the business of God in the face of their pain and they have determined not to let Satan keep them from living their lives accordingly. Reading like a Bible-study at times, BRONNER is filled with scripture passages that guide the reader to discover his/her role on earth as a follower of Christ. For anyone struggling with loss, this book is worth the read.



Dr. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson

Longmans, Green, & Co. 1886

Victorian gothic novella

“Good. Evil. Together.”


STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, the original title of this long, short story, is a quick but fascinating read. Stevenson is said to have written the first draft in less than a week while in poor health, and was thought to have been under the influence of some pretty heavy “medication” at the time. The result of his outpouring is an intense character study of a terribly tortured individual. Although the language is difficult (I had to read a number of those nineteenth century sentences more than once), and the setting is dark, the characters exude an irresistible angst and pull you into their impossible predicaments. Stevenson had me at: “My devil had long been caged; he came out roaring.” Whoa, I feel you, Dr. Jekyll.  Stevenson’s tale is summed up in his revelation that “all humans are commingled out of good and evil,” and he pushes this concept to its furthest limits. If you’ve somehow missed this classic, for its originality and timelessness, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is still after all these years, worth the read.




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