Love Showed Up

My wedding was everything I wanted it to be and more.–Newly Married Isky

I’ve been thinking about my daughter’s wedding since we packed up the last box of lights and drove away from the outdoor pavilion the morning of July 31. How did it end up such a beautiful occasion when planned for a mere four months by two women almost continually at odds?

I should explain this. Isky is my second child, my first daughter. She came into the world with a puffball of bright red hair and a high-pitched wail. That kid was not one day in her childhood a pushover. She tried my patience at every turn. She wanted to know “why” and “how come” and “when” and “how” and “why not” from the time she could speak, and folks, she said, “I’m gignoring you” and “that’s ridicurus” when she wasn’t quite a year old.

She wasn’t an easy child, no, but I’ve always known that in the long run, she would be okay. I created a mantra of sorts when I told myself and anyone else who would listen, “She’s a pain in the ass now, but she is going to be one helluva’n adult.” Isky knew how to stand up for herself; no one was going to push her around. And God help them if they tried. At 5 ft tall–with a low center of gravity–she doesn’t push easy. Just ask her dad about the time he tried to push her into the lake.

Three years ago, in St. Louis, her dad and I watched her leave us at 3AM. She was moving to Georgia, with a backpack and a suitcase, following a man she’d known less than two months (they just got married), and while we both wondered if she was making the right decision, we admired her spunk. She strode off on those short little legs like she’d been flying to Georgia her entire life–and this was only her third time on a plane. We waved until she was out of sight, but she never waved back because she didn’t turn around, not once. She was full steam ahead into her new life.

Her sheer bullheadedness, insistence on a vision, and sharp tongue made our planning activities tense-ish. She knew what she wanted, and she expected to butt heads with me. I knew what I wanted too–and it was to not be planning a wedding in four months time. I will say it again although I have said it before, I am not designer-ish. I am not decoratey. I don’t see the point in pretty invitations or table runners or expensive flowers when you have hydrangea bushes bent over with blooms. And to be honest she didn’t want too much if you’re not the sort of woman who gets married in a hotel room in front of a murphy bed.

So Isky and I grumbled at each other while we planned. She felt disappointment many a time over because I didn’t pay attention to what she said–this is not a new complaint from any of my children as I tend to be a little dreamy and not-listeny. In my defense, if you give birth to four children and don’t learn how to tune them out, then you aren’t going to have any time to think about books or words or songs you want to remember, but my ability to tune people out could be called high art–subversive style. I, on the other hand, was disappointed she couldn’t see that even though I appeared dazed, confused, and slightly angry, I was, in fact, listening and planning.

How did this thing turn out so well?

Love showed up.

Love showed up in the hands of my four margarita-drinking, funny-as-fuck, talented and gracious cousins who called one day and offered their hands unasked. Hands that made table-tents and mason jar tags, hands that brought love and tiny lights and wire, picture frames, hand-painted signs, and big doors. and then hung these offerings in a wide-open outdoor pavilion that hours before had housed golf carts. My cousins’  hands turned that place into a shabby chic reception hall. And then those same hands stacked chairs and packed boxes when it was over.

Love showed up in the hands of my sisters from other mothers who drove from far-flung states. Those hands took pictures I couldn’t take myself, poured wine on my back porch before the wedding, and brought me ice-cold water to counter the flow of champagne. Those women were my Sister Sledgehammer and Attila the Nun. They were my motherofthebride’s maidens and they came with extra diapers for little Wonder and a pack of cigarettes for you know who. They watched for things I might not see and will remember all I might forget–like living journals those gals.

Love showed up in the strong, capable hands of my sister from my husband’s mother. She took my Isky under her warm and loving wing. And you better believe it, she has the best all-time wings. She did all the hard stuff Isky’s mother didn’t know how or just refused to do–like discussing table decorations and creating wonderful bridal party brunches. She texted pictures of flowers and listened, really listened to what Isky wanted. Loved showed up in her boundless basket of bride’s goodies–body tape and safety pins and needles, thread, and chalk–and in her cadre of beauty grandkids.

Love showed up in my sister’s hands too. Hands that held my own. Hands that carried flowers and hung lights and sheets of white to create a fake wall. Hands that took those same things down the next day. Hands that wrapped jars with twine and poured glasses (whole bottles) of wine. Hands that were and are so strong and present that I barely need hands of my own. In fact, I can say that there were times when I couldn’t tell where my hands ended and hers began. Her hands were and are my hands.

Love showed up in the hands of my parents, in those petunias that my mother carefully nurtured to their cascading brilliance on the wedding day. Love showed up in my parents’ carefully manicured lawn and the porch bedecked in tulle. Love always shows up in my dad’s hands, in the hankie he has at the ready and in his insistence that he buy your drink. Love showed up in his graceful and slow dance with my mom at the reception, in the way they love each other and have taught all of us how to love. The truth is that love shows up wherever they are, always.

Love showed up in the hands and the person of Fr. Bill who blessed the beginning of a life together for Isky and Chris, who took the kids’ promises and held them up before all of us, whose faith in love and goodness shone brighter than the late July sun.

Love showed up in the hands that prepared the food. In the hands that raised the groom. In the women and men who gathered round Isky and Chris. In the dancing and the music and in little Joy and Wonder who did 100 jigs at their parents’ wedding.

Love showed up.

Love showed up.

Love showed up because it was there all along. There for the taking just like those beautiful hands.

I didn’t have to ask for help one time, but it was given over and over and over. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to ask for a hand–but when I looked around during Isky’s wedding, I saw what all those hands can do.  If this is the lesson I am doomed to learn over and over, well, I guess I lucked the hell out.


Me and the Beautiful Bride Photo by Sara Finney Photography


Thank God, Amy Krouse Rosenthal is NOT a Man!

No, I am not surprised by Amy’s gender. I have known it all along; Amy is, after all, one of my favorite authors. I am just glad that I could read her newest book for adults, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal (hereafter to be referred to as Textbook AKR because Amy has a long-ass last name) this summer. A couple of months ago, I picked up Late One Night by Lee Martin, another favorite author of mine, and charged through one chapter before I remembered my New Year’s vow–only books written by women this year.

Textbook AKR, Amy’s newest book, will be released next Tuesday, August 9th. I’m feeling a little braggy here, but I received an advance copy. I’ve read it three times already. I was lucky enough to see a call for a group of advance readers who love Amy’s books, and I applied with a hearty “Pick Me! Pick Me!” And they did.

This means that in June, when the rest of the world was without Textbook AKR, I had a copy in my hot little hands. And my hands were hot because I was on the beach.

I want to tell  you why I love Amy’s books and why I love her-no I’ve never met her, but if you’ve met me, you know that I am ultra-lovey and like to throw love around in all directions.

Ten years ago, I discovered Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It’s fair to say that I had never before been so delighted, enchanted, and enthralled with a book. I have given hundreds (okay, exaggeration) of copies away, and if I were to give you mine, I would have another in two days thanks to Prime shipping. When I teach creative writing classes, I use the basic structure of the book–encyclopedic listings–to help students find structure and a way into their own lives. Hell, I used the structure myself in a blog post a couple of months ago.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, my 500th copy of this book, is always close to me. It is one of the only books I never have to look for–I do not have an impeccable shelving system for books in my house. Books are everywhere, tucked onto bookshelves or beside bookshelves, on shelves in closets, in stacks on the coffee table and on the end tables, in big plastic bins in the garage, in a staggeringly high pile on the back of the toilet. When I need to find a book, I might be searching for hours (not an exaggeration). This isn’t the case with Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. I have been unable to find it only one time because the biggest book thief of all time, my husband Eric, stole it from my bedside and took it to work.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand just how freaking happy, how filled with joy, how jumped up with anticipation I was when I found out that Textbook AKR would be in my hands before it was even released. I’d been waiting for new Amy for a long time.


Because this book is a gift, folks. That is why I love it. It’s a gift. All of Amy’s books are gifts, but this one feels even giftier than the rest. Maybe it was the beach, but I don’t think so. In fact, I know it wasn’t the beach. It’s the gift of connection.

I had a bad teacher with some kick-ass red boots one semester. (I mention the boots because they were so red and so kick-ass that I was shocked she didn’t live up to them.) However, self-involved as she was, she taught me something about writing that I have carried with me ever since. While lots of other instructors and writers were talking about tension, she talked about connection. She contended that connection could be the beating heart of any piece of nonfiction. I believe she was and is right. I believe connection is why I can’t get enough of Textbook AKR.


page 121, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I have read this page so many times, to remind myself that we are, all of us (maybe not Donald Trump) doing our best at this very moment. I need the reminder. I love the reminder. The reminder is a gift.

If that were the only page in the book, it would be enough. But thankfully, it’s not!

The book is a textbook,  and who doesn’t love a textbook? Okay, lots of you don’t love textbooks, but I do. There is nothing better than a big hard-covered textbook filled with words and pictures and graphs and multiple choice pre-and post tests. There is little better than a new book period.

I love imposed structures. I love the way Amy brings her life together under the headings of Geography, Social Studies, Art, Science, Romance Language, History, Music, Math, and Language Arts. Every page is a surprise. And there’s a ton of white space for notes and thinking.

This book is also a textbook because it is a book with a texting component. I didn’t think I would love this. I don’t really like texting all that much. And I’ll tell you that you don’t have to text to enjoy Textbook AKR, but do text. It’s so much fun. The texting component is about connecting.  It’s immediate connection. It’s cool and fun and unique. I texted on the beach, and I felt like I was talking to Amy while watching the waves come in.  It made me happy. In fact, I smiled all the way through this book. I am still smiling.

And that is why I have pre-ordered two extra copies.

I want to be part of the gifting of this book. I want to be a force of connection between this book and two readers. I want to be generous because generosity too beats in the heart of Textbook AKR. 

All you have to do is share this post, and I will enter your name into a drawing for one of two copies of Textbook AKR. In the meantime, I suggest you pre-order your own copy because if you win one of mine, you can be generous too and give yours to someone who needs love and connection–hell, we all need love and connection, right.

Here’s something else: if you haven’t read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Lifeyou are in for a treat because the two lucky winners will also receive it–a double set. Again, all you have to do is share this post on Facebook.

If you are interested in reading more about Amy or Textbook AKR, here are a few links you might want to check out:

John Green on Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s home on the web.

Chicago Tribune on Textbook AKR

Amy Krouse Rosenthal all day 8/9 in Chicago’s Millennium Park


There’s something else about this wonderful book. It’s about getting older. It’s about how precious each and every day/person/connection/chance encounter is. It’s about standing still and racing towards the future, grabbing up each moment like the gems or flowers they are.

And so I leave you with another page from Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal.


page 47 Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal



Read This! Mack Memo #3: Love Trumps Hate by Stacy Pratt McDermott

My good friend, Stacy Pratt McDermott, writes at Being Mack’s Momma Bear. Every time she posts a new blog, I am blown away by her grace and determination to walk with the grief of losing her youngest daughter, Mackenzie. The thought of losing a beloved daughter terrifies any parent. Stacy, her husband, and their older daughter live with this loss every minute of every day.

Each essay posted on Being Mack’s Momma Bear, shimmers with love, loss, and hope–yes hope. Hope doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, or even that it should be. I believe that hope is, as Václav Havel wrote, “a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.” This is what Stacy does each and every time she posts an essay about her beautiful daughter Mackenzie McDermott–she hopes. I suggest that you go to Being Mack’s Momma Bear now and read all the posts, but first I would like to direct you to her most recent post.

I had dinner with Stacy the other evening, and we talked about her love of Facebook and her belief that Facebook is a place to connect with friends and look at pictures, to forget political differences and just rejoice in each other’s lives. However this weekend, she broke her political silence on Facebook to direct folks to her newest post. I implore you to read it. Like all of Stacy’s blog posts, it is measured and generous. It is, without a doubt, my favorite political essay during this election season, not because a person I love and admire deeply is the author, but rather because the author has hope in the great possibilities we can achieve together as citizens of the United States.

This is important friends. Read it, and then share it, and when you are done, go back and read the rest of the blog. I love you all!

Mack Memo #3:  Love Trumps Hate