19 Oct

The Rockwood Files Book Launch: Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile

It’s here! My first book is now available on Amazon and in Nightbird Books. Woo-hoooo!

You can order a copy by clicking HERE.

Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection is a compilation of my best newspaper columns over the past 17 years. In it you’ll find chapters titled “The Marriage Files,” “The Firstborn Files,” “The Middle Child Files,” “The Girl Child Files,” “The Soapbox Files,” “The Pets & Pests Files,” “The Holiday Files,” and the “Just-for-Fun Files.”

This book has been a long time in the making, but I’m thrilled with the finished product. I hope you will be, too. The amazing Lisa McSpadden of Lisa Mac Photography did the photos for this book, and Greg Moody of Moody Image did the incredible design work. I’m indebted to both of them for making the collection look so good.

Now, this next part is really important: We’re having a book launch party! And it won’t be a very good party if you don’t come.

So please come by the book launch event on November 2, 2012 at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Ark. This is a drop-in event between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. I’ll read a selection from the book around 7 p.m., and I’ll be signing books as well.

If you’d like to buy a book as a gift, the bookstore offers free gift wrapping.

There’ll be lots of books, snacks and tasty beverages, so I hope you can make it. I’d love to see you there. Nightbird Books is at 205 W. Dickson Street in Fayetteville. Park in the front or back parking lots. If you can make it to the book bash, let us know by posting a comment here or by sending a quick email by clicking HERE.

Here’s a one-minute video preview of the new book. Click the play arrow below to check it out.

19 Oct

The Big “What if…?”

Last night we heard the familiar sound of footsteps on the stairs well past bedtime. From the living room, I heard Tom talking in the kitchen to the kid who couldn’t sleep. Over the years, we’ve heard every “I can’t sleep” excuse in the book – not tired, too thirsty, too dark, monster under the bed – but this time was different.

This time it was a question, one of the biggest we’ve faced: “Dad, I know that people die sometimes. And I know we believe in God and Heaven and everything… but what if we’re wrong?”

We probably should have seen it coming. In the past six weeks, we’ve been to two out-of-town funerals for family members. The kids didn’t attend the funerals with us, but they knew why we were leaving them with a sitter.

So there it was, hanging in the air: “What if we’re wrong?” But unlike the proverbial monster under the bed, this fear is all too real.

His innocent question echoed the same one I’ve had myself, the same one millions of us have, if only for a split second. But the question brings with it a familiar stab of shame for what feels like a lack of faith. I’ve grown up in church. I know better. At my core, I believe I’m a child of God. I believe in Heaven, even though my human mind is ill-equipped to imagine it.

Tom believes these things, too, and he did a good job of explaining it last night. He told him it’s okay to have questions and it’s normal to wonder if it’s all really real. It’s okay to talk about it with us and with Sunday school teachers, he said. And it’s even okay to talk to God about it. He knows what we’re thinking, and He can handle it.

After they’d talked for a few minutes, I heard a quiet voice ask, “Is it okay if I sleep in your bed tonight?” Sure. That would be fine, Tom said. Our boy fell asleep quickly after that, with his dad’s reassuring hand resting on his back.

As the two of them drifted off to sleep, I laid awake thinking about how kids eventually get old enough to realize that grown-ups sometimes get things wrong. And if we can be wrong about little things then it means we can be wrong about big things, too. It’s a scary feeling. I pray we’ll be able to assure our kids of the things we know in our hearts to be true. But I also know they’ll have to find their own ways of knowing that God is real.

For me, I see spiritual assurance almost everywhere, when I get out of my own way. It practically demands attention. It’s in the skies and the trees. It’s in massive whales and tiny insects. It’s sunlight and mountains and expansive fields. Oceans and lightning. It’s the fine-tuned complexity of the human body. It’s kindness. Compassion. And love. I felt it so strongly the first moment I looked into the face of our newborn baby – that miracles like this can only come from God, certainly not some grand accident.

All of it convinces me and convicts me of what I know to be true – that a world this creative can only come from a Creator. It’s the reassuring hand of a Heavenly Father resting gently on our backs. And if His first act is this amazing, I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for us next.

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17 Oct

Why I still don’t feel like a grown-up

By now, I expected to feel like a grown-up. And sometimes I do, like when we sign tax returns or go to a funeral, which is certainly not a ringing endorsement for adulthood. But most of the time, I feel like an imposter – like a kid who somehow ended up in a grown-up’s body and is still trying to figure out what she’s doing. Part of me wonders if it all comes down to coffee.

I don’t like it. Never have. I want to like it – badly. I love the way it smells. I love the quaint little coffee shops where it’s served. I love the warmth of the coffee cups and the way the steam rises and curls off its mocha-colored surface.

I like its friendly nicknames, like java and cup of joe. When a waiter comes to the table after dinner and says, “Coffee, Miss?” I want to say, “Yes, I’d love some.” It would be wonderful to cradle the cup in my hand and say intelligent things about coffee beans and what a fine roast it is. But somehow I just never acquired the taste for it. My taste buds never got the memo that coffee is delicious, even though it looks and smells that way.

Sometimes a business associate will suggest we meet for coffee, and I always hope he or she won’t secretly judge me when I order a hot chocolate instead of a fancy cappuccino that the other people in line are waiting for. I barely understand the menu at coffee houses. I have no idea what a Cinnamon Dolce Latte is but it sounds, looks and smells divine. If it didn’t have espresso in it, it would probably taste that way, too.

Of course, there’s a big upside to not drinking coffee. If I calculate the cost of a daily trip to Starbucks and multiply that figure over the past 20 years, I’ve probably saved close to a trillion dollars. But that extra money isn’t sitting in my bank account because I’ve funneled it into other addictions, like shoes, smartphones and far too much Dr. Pepper.

Maybe what I’m missing out on most is the sense of community coffee brings with it. Coffee drinkers are in a club, of sorts, and they understand each other. “I haven’t had my coffee yet,” they joke, and their fellow coffee lovers chuckle and nod. They get it because they’re in the club, too.

I do know exactly one other alleged grown-up who, like me, doesn’t drink coffee. His name is Tom, and I married him. There were other factors involved in that decision beyond our mutual dislike of coffee. But we both remember the exact moment of our first date, when the waiter came to the table to offer us coffee, and we both declined. I mumbled under my breath that I never acquired a taste for it, and he said he didn’t like it either. It was one of the first things we had in common.

But we know our little non-coffee drinking club of two is an anomaly. After we got married, we bought a coffee maker so we can properly entertain houseguests and visitors. It sits in the far reaches of a kitchen cabinet most of the time, and I wash the dust off of it anytime someone comes over who might want a cup. I still have to read the owner’s manual just to use the thing.

After all, I’m not really a grown-up – just a kid trying to make her way in a “good to the last drop” kind of world.

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10 Oct

Running with scissors

Women are known for our ability to form deep and meaningful relationships. And perhaps no relationship is as complex and multi-layered as the one we have with our hair.

Most men don’t understand it and have been heard saying ridiculous things such as “It’s just hair.” Or the ever popular “It’ll grow back.” But they miss the whole point. Because our feelings about hair are rooted way down deep. No other part of our bodies has this kind of power over us.

Bad hair can set the tone for the day. A woman wailing “I hate my hair!” while standing in front of the bathroom mirror won’t emerge from that bathroom in a great mood. And bad hair makes the difference between a snapshot that gets deleted and one that becomes a Facebook profile picture. It all comes down to hair.

Right now I’m growing out my bangs, which basically means I’m almost crazy. Ask any woman and she’ll agree that the tricky growing-out process has caused many of us to do irrational things. When bangs begin to grow out, they reach a maddening stage where they’re too long to wear as bangs but too short to tuck behind an ear. I’ve battled mine with hair clips, a flat iron and hairspray but they cannot be tamed. They are a thick, angry hedge, begging to be trimmed.

Many women in this position will lose patience and take scissors into their own hands. They think if they do just a few small snips, it’ll make everything better. But it never works. It’s hair suicide, with one snip leading to another and another until pretty soon you’re standing over a sink full of hair, horrified at the reflection staring back at you.

The beauty industry should set up some kind of hair hotline, staffed by professional stylists trained to talk a woman off the ledge. “Put down the scissors, honey. It’ll look better in the morning. You’re going to be okay.”

I’m hanging in there through these bad hair days because I have a hair dream, as almost all women do. When we want a new look, we comb through magazines until we find celebrity hair that we love. Then we cut out that photo and carry it around in our purse so we can show it to our stylist at the next appointment. Right now I’ve got Katie Couric and Jenny McCarthy’s head in my handbag, hoping one day I, too, will have those long side-swept bangs they wear so well. I have a friend who’s carrying around the head of Victoria Beckham.

Hair is so important to women that we can narrate our personal history via hairstyles. In elementary school, I had an unfortunate affection for yarn-like ribbons used as headbands. Then I went through a Farrah Fawcett feathered bangs period, followed by a horrific perm during the 80s. And one time my mother thought I’d look adorable with a Dorothy Hamill wedge haircut, which, as far as I know, has only looked good on exactly one person – who happens to be Dorothy Hamill.

Then I went through a long-hair hot-roller phase, followed by a super short style that seemed like a good idea when I was pregnant with our third baby. (Women cut their hair when they’re pregnant because it’s the only part of their bodies they can control during those nine months. Plus they’re hormonally insane.)

And now I’m back to my good-old layered bob cut, with bangs that will hopefully grow out soon. Because if they don’t, I may find the hedge trimmer and take care of business. Pass the hairspray.

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