Maternal recognition

urlYou know those mothers who just sense when their child is near? My mom is not one of them. No, she  is completely unable to hear or recognize me in public. It’s quite something, this habit of hers.

For example, this morning, Dearest Son and I went grocery shopping. On the way into the parking lot, we saw my mom leaving in her cute little car with her cute little vanity plate and half a dozen Yankees stickers. I was coming into the parking lot; she was going out. “It’s Grammy!” I said, and called, “Mom! Hi, Mom!” Her windows were open; so were mine. I waved my long gorilla-like arm. “Mom! Mom!”

“Grammy! Hi, Grammy!” Dearest yelled.

Nothing Nada. She didn’t even flick an eyelash in our direction. I’m telling you, I could’ve touched her car.

vtifz2duvlajw9kd7haf“Ouch,” Dearest said. “She is stone cold!” There was quite a bit of admiration in his voice, as if his little grammy could be an assassin—just neutralize the target and walk away. “She looked like a robot.”

This is not the first time my mom has missed seeing me. A few years ago, she nearly ran me off the road during a run. “You didn’t see me?” I asked.

“There are so many runners these days,” she said. “How can I tell you all apart?”

“Because I’m your daughter? A tall brunette with glasses wearing a Yankees hat and a firefighting t-shirt running with a black dog who looks hauntingly like Willow because she is Willow? No? Nothing? Didn’t ring any bells?”

Another time, I was Christmas shopping at a mall and spotted a beloved little figure clutching her purse and bags. “Mom!” I called. Nothing. “Ma! Ma!” Nope. “Noel!” I yelled. Still nothing. So I ran over to her, about fifty feet, the whole time laughing and saying, “Mom! It’s me, your child!” She was oblivious until I touched her shoulder. “Jesus, Kristan, what are you doing here?” she yelped, clutching her purchases a little closer, as if I was going to mug her. (I wasn’t. Not that time.)

imgresOh, I know she loves me. She just invited me to have dinner sometime this week. Galushga, too. My favorite. I think she’s feeling guilty.

I’ll take it.

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The Universe of Fair

IMG_2258Today, I went to our town’s fair, the biggest agricultural in the state. It’s great—cows and chickens and baby goats and giant donuts and little kids getting their faces painted. The weather was perfect; cool enough for a jacket in the morning, which was wrapped around my waist by the afternoon.

But there were a few things that were just completely wrong for the day, the venue, the spirit of the fair.

For example…As McIrish and I walked down the big hill, eating our giant donuts, we saw something terribly out-of-place and, indeed, ridiculous.

pitchforksA yoga demonstration. Listen, you yoga people. We’re here to eat blooming onions and pulled pork sandwiches and funnel cakes and drink blue liquid! Take your limberness and green tea and get out! How dare you remind us that we’ve just eaten 1200 calories! I’m surprised they were even allowed in. Never again, if I have anything to say about it.

Hot tubs. Do people say, “You know what I’d love as a souvenir from today? A hot tub!” I don’t get the appeal of buying a hot tub at a fair, but there are the hot tub dealers, year after year.

Llamas. Fine, fine, they’re considered farm animals. Just not in my book. In my book, they’re terrifying nightmare animals who bite and spit. And my God, the smell.


A walking stick! Or is it?

That Weird Thing Everyone Buys That Year. One year, it was the rubber broom. My mother bought one. Supposedly, it would sweep up dog hair in a way that a mere broom-broom could only dream of doing. Mom bought two. “These don’t work as well as I thought,” she confessed the next week. Shocking. This year, it was walking sticks. I thought they were broom handles (perhaps from the rejected rubber brooms), but apparently not. These were special and different from broom handles because they had a loop on one end. Someone is getting very rich off this idea.

Oh, but it was a wonderful few hours! There’s nothing like our fair. (By the way, the title of this blog was swiped from my friend’s book: The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion. A great story for middle-grade readers!)

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The greatest love of all

pocketsThis weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Pockets, this overjoyed cat. No, seriously, the cat was very happy. Apparently, Pockets’s daddy—an adorable hipster with a skateboard—took his best friend with him everywhere. I know this because I asked. “He’s my best bud,” said adorable hipster skateboarder. “We go everywhere together.”

birthday presentAt last, I know what to get McIrish for his birthday! See, Huck, our cat, is something of a loner. He likes me a little bit (if McIrish isn’t home) and will occasionally grace me with his presence by lying on my keyboard. Sometimes, he’ll sit on my lap (if he’s cold, and McIrish isn’t home), but if I pet him, he generally jumps off and gives me a disgusted look. He likes the children (I tell them that, at any rate)
, and demonstrates this by allowing them to feed him, and occasionally gnawing on their fingers.

niceyandhuckBut for my husband, this cat is a total slut. I’m serious. Every night, when McIrish sits in his chair, Huck jumps up and—yes—presses his little kitty face against McIrish and breathes in the wonder of it all. He purrs. He gazes deeply into McIrish’s eyes. He will leap from the floor into my husband’s arms. If McIrish is working in the garden (which he usually is), Huck is there too. If McIrish is in the basement, Huck is lying on the hot water heater. If McIrish is in the barn, Huck is sitting on the tractor seat. If McIrish is sitting in his office, the cat is sprawled across his lap.

headcatAm I jealous? Yes! First of all, I would like to be a cat, napping all day, rising only once in a while to be worshipped, fed and petted. Secondly, McIrish didn’t even want Huck! The children and I did an end-run around him and went to the shelter when he was working. If anyone should be worshipped, it’s clearly the kids and me.

article-2572856-1C06E00900000578-393_634x424But cats are cats. They choose people, not the other way around. So if Huck and McIrish have a love that cannot be denied, I’m just gonna sit back and watch them, hiking off in the woods, best friends forever.

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Beauty Tricks!


Based on the number of hours and dollars I’ve spent in the beauty aisle of CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Target and every department store ever built, I hereby decree myself a beauty expert. Well, a beauty trick expert. Let’s get right to it, shall we? Note: I also hereby declare myself free from liability if these tricks don’t work.

Preparation H for bags under your eyes/puffy eyes. This is a no. A no! Don’t do this. It’s hemorrhoid cream, people. Let’s just think about that for a moment. It’s gross. (To a certain beloved person in my life: I’m talking to you.)

imgresVicks VapoRub for bags under your eyes/puffy eyes. Yes! But beware! A little goes a long way, and if you get this IN your eyes…well, let’s just an eye patch or two will come in handy. Keep it on for a minute or two, then carefully wash the Vicks off. Life has shown me that Vicks Vapo-Rub is in fact the only thing I’ll ever need—moisturizer, cough medicine, beauty product, aromatherapy. Probably, if you were trying to survive on Everest, you can eat it, too. Do not try this unless you’re stranded on Everest.

slappingBrisk slapping. Listen. It works. Under the chin, on the cheeks, on the eyes. Does the effect last? No. But it’ll wake you up, at least. The slightly swollen skin makes your face look young and firm and, well, slightly abused if you don’t restrain yourself.


wrinkiesWrinkle prevention via Scotch tape. Okay, I actually haven’t tried this…but I did see these at the Vermont Country Store. Same thing, sort of. Next time McIrish is at the firehouse, I’m gonna give old Scotch tape a whirl. It may be the next Vicks VapoRub.

Have a great week, guys!

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Book Tour


At Schuler’s Books in Michigan

Just a quick blog this week, gang, to say a huge, mushy, heartfelt thanks to all of you who made IF YOU ONLY KNEW a smashing success this week. Thanks to all of you who bought the book, who borrowed it, who wrote to me about it. And special thanks to those of you who’ve come out to see me on book tour. I always live in fear that no one will come (if you look up “middle child syndrome,” you’ll see my picture next to the definition). And then when I see you…well. I get a lump in my throat, honest and true. The fact that you take time out of your busy lives to come see me…it’s one of the great honors of my life.


First time that I’ve seen one of my books at the airport! And in Hotlanta, no less, the nation’s biggest!

Three of my flights were late this week; one was canceled; I’ve spent at least 15 hours in the past six days at airports, and who even CARES? I love traveling. I love hotels. I even love airports. But mostly, I love meeting my readers. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart.

Phoenix, Boston and Fairfield, I’ll see you soon! Dates are under the Calendar section of my website, in case you need to double-check.

Don’t forget: my publisher is sending one of you and a friend to New York City! Four days and three nights at the beautiful Tribeca Grand Hotel (as featured in IF YOU ONLY KNEW!), travel and a thousand bucks to spend! Plus, if you want, I’ll pop down to the city and take you out to dinner. Make sure you’re on my mailing list! Enter on the home page of my website. Good luck!

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Got everything?

iyok coverI’m on book tour this week, gang—Michigan, St. Louis and Georgia, with Phoenix, Natick, MA and Fairfield, CT to come the week after. Check the calendar section of my website if you’re interested in coming out to see me. I promise we’ll have fun!

Anyway, I thought I’d tell you about some of the goofy things I do to get ready for traveling as an author.

I panic-pack. Say I’m going away for 36 hours. I generally have enough supplies and clothing to last a week in the Arctic Circle (plus moisturizer to protect against those frigid winds). Last week, when I was going to be away for the day, I packed three outfits, five hair-care products, four pairs of shoes and my bunny slippers.

IMG_1999I beautify. I wrote in a previous post about how I’ll buy any skincare product. Here’s proof: the Hannibal Lecter Facial Beauty Mask. Listen. I want my pores to be squeaky clean for you guys. (Also, I went upstairs and scared Dearest Son with this on. It was just another great moment in motherhood.)

I make McIrish pay. I have this weird agita about going to the ATM. I’ll do it if I have t, but generally, I ask McIrish seconds before I have to leave, “Do you have any money?” I make sure to sound stressed and panic-stricken so he doesn’t say “Just get some cash at the airport,” and sure enough, it works. He gives me his patented I’m such a great guy look and forks over the cash.

I write my children notes. You know. Just in case the old plane goes down, they have that one last note from me under their pillow (or, now that Princess is in college, on her phone). If possible, I watch a plane crash movie during my flight. I feel that it lessens the odds of said crash. (This makes my mother crazy, for the record.)

UnknownI pray. My dad once told me that he said a Hail Mary on every takeoff and landing. He traveled a lot for work. So now that I also travel a lot, I do the same thing. Not because I think that one prayer is going to save me (though it can’t hurt), but because it makes me feel connected to my late father. I like to think that he can see me, his awkward little girl all grown up and with clean pores and mascara, going off with a happy and grateful heart to meet her readers.

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The Bittersweets

iyok coverIt’s a big week for me, gang! If You Only Knew comes out on Tuesday, and I’m dying for you to read it (and a little nervous, too). My book tour starts on Tuesday as well; I’ll be starting here in Connecticut, then zipping out to Chicago. I’m pretty good at traveling, though as I was telling my family today, I inevitably envision my death in a crash. I’m Hungarian. It’s what we do to pass the time. (I want you to know I’m very brave and comforting to those around me till the very end in these scenarios, not to worry.)

And then Dearest Son starts school. He’ll be a junior. Once in a while, he’ll still sit on my lap, but I find myself looking at pictures of him when he was a little guy, and missing that sweet voice. He’s a baritone now. He no longer lets me draw cartoons on his napkins, but he does keep the notes I tuck under his pillow if I’m going to be away. Still lets me walk him down our driveway for our morning chat. He’s very tolerant that way.

IMG_1707Princess returns to college this week, also. That’s a little harder, because I won’t see her for a month. She’s had a great summer, though, and it’s been wonderful, having her around. We’ve had many special times, both of us knowing that it might be the last summer that she spends entirely at home.

And my cousin got married this weekend! She always looked a bit like a fairy child to me, so delicate and beautiful as a child, a girl who loved when I gave her piggybacks and let her play with my Barbie Dream Van. I think she and her husband will have a lot of fun in their lives; they’re both so funny, and that’s such a great sign for a couple, don’t you think?

imagesI hope you’ll rush right out and buy my book this week, gang. Proceeds from preorders and first week sales will go to Fisher House Foundation, as usual. When I was in the hospital for a sting a long time ago, I remember the worst part was the loneliness and worry. Fisher House lets families be together at such times, and because these families are military families, well. They deserve it. If you have to be in the hospital, at least you can have your family staying nearby in a gorgeous home for free.

Most of all, I hope you love the book—Jenny and Leo, Rachel and the triplets, little Evander. Let me know what you think, okay? After all, I wrote this book for you.

With gratitude and boundless affection,


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The Dress

8305d9343a6344731cf15e709edd79f6Jenny Tate, one of the sisters in If You Only Knew, is a wedding dress designer. Honestly, can you imagine how fun that would be? Surrounded every day by gorgeous fabric and lace, having the talent to make such a beautiful garment. I’m sure it’s not all lace and satin…you have to deal with brides and families and high emotions, but still. What a job!

Shows like Say Yes to the Dress and the general hubbub around weddings have made wedding dress shopping quite the event. Women rent limos and take their friends and sisters, mothers and aunties to the store and try on dress after dress after dress.

This was not my experience at all. Granted, this was back in the olden days, almost 24 years ago. McIrish and I had gotten engaged after a mere six weeks of dating, and my mother was not convinced it would last (she’s getting there, I’m happy to report).

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 11.36.39 AMAnyway, I was the first bride in our family, the first of my generation to marry. We didn’t know how to do it, luckily. My sister was my only bridesmaid and she lived in Seattle at the time, so she couldn’t come. One Saturday, my mom and I got into the car and went to the bridal boutique nearest to our town. “I’d like to try on dresses,” I said to the woman who greeted us.

“Do you have an appointment?” she asked.


“When’s your wedding?”

“December.” (It was March-ish).

The woman looked stricken. “Brides usually start shopping about a year out.”

I shrugged. “We just met. Can I just try on one or two?”

smiley“You need an appointment.”

“Oh, come on,” I said. “No one’s here right now. Please? Pretty please?”

So she acquiesced, reluctantly, and told me to make it quick. I hadn’t done any homework on what kind of dress I wanted, so I just pointed three that looked nice. Into the dressing room I went. My mother commented that a black bra was probably not the best choice of the day and zipped me up.

“What do you think?” I asked my mom, who was not sobbing into a hankie or making snide comments…she was just sitting there, smiling…like a normal person. In hindsight, I know she was trying hard to keep it together. My father had died two years before, and going through her first daughter’s wedding without him was incredibly hard.

“They’re all beautiful,” Mom said. “What do you think?”

I really had no preference, to be honest. My wedding day was just a day, after all. What I was really excited about was not getting married; it was being married, all the days and years to come after December 14th. “Give me a second,” I told my mom, and she left the dressing room.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought of my dad.

On the big day, he wouldn’t be walking me down the aisle; my brother would be doing that in his place. He had never met the tender-hearted Irish boy I’d be marrying. We wouldn’t have the father-daughter dance that I knew would’ve reduced him to tears. We never got to pick our song.

“Which one do you like best, Daddy?” I asked.


About to marry my honey!

So the one I picked was outrageously romantic, because Dad was like that. I picked the one with the Cinderella silhouette, the same as my mother’s wedding dress. I imagined my father, his clear blue eyes teary, walking me down the aisle.

On the big day, McIrish obliged me by getting choked up at the sight of me, and his voice was husky during our vows. Me, I was all smiles that day.

During the reception, I dedicated a song to my grandfather from all his daughters and granddaughters. It was Bette Midler’s “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” and as Poppy and I danced, he listened to the lyrics. “This song is really about your father,” he said.

“It’s about you, too, Poppy,” I said. “But yes.”

My new book comes out next week, and I hope you’ll love reading about the wedding dresses (and everything else) in If You Only Knew! And I hope that all the weddings you go to will be remembered for the  happiness and love, rather than the dress.

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Why my children actually became black-belts

Oh, Hiddles, how I adore you!

Leo Killian, the hero of IF YOU ONLY KNEW teaches piano. Children love him, mothers bring him pies, Jenny, our heroine, spies on him from her kitchen window. And who wouldn’t? He’s got it going on.

Which brings me to a somewhat embarrassing confession of mine—I’m not sure my kids would be black-belts today if Sensei Tom hadn’t looked like a young Brad Pitt.


Picture a karate studio. The moms (and the occasional dad, but mostly the moms) would sit in horribly uncomfortable chairs, their other children ignored, their cell phones silenced, so we could watch the wonder of Sensei Tom. Oh, how the heart leapt when Tom would retie a belt or pat a child on the head! How we cherished the photos of our little ones with Tom kneeling next to them every time they advanced a level!

Occasionally, Tom would come out to speak to a parent. “He’s doing great,” he might say, and the mom would blush a little (or swoon).

brad-pitt-in-wrangler-long-sleeve-with-belted-jeans-all-people-photo-u1Me, well, you know me. “God, you’re good-looking!” I may have said the first time we met. Once, Dearest Son told Tom that “My mommy thinks you move like Spiderman.” (In my defense, there was little more thrilling than seeing Sensei Tom demonstrate a flying sidekick or whatever you call it.)

As my kids got older, they whined in the great tradition of whining adolescents everywhere. “I’m tired of karate!” or “I have so much homework!” I didn’t care. I didn’t care one little bit! Sensei Tom was waiting. He was eye-candy and a great teacher. And he really loved my kids, a quality I adore in any human.

So both my kids became black-belts, God love ‘em. And once in a while, we run into Sensei Tom at the local coffee shop, and he always gives us a hug. All of us. Just sayin’.

UnknownAs for Leo Killian…if the kids’ piano teacher had looked like him, we’d be heading for Carnegie Hall.

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That slightly tragic air

victorian-widow-7Here’s a secret: I imagine being widowed all the time.

Don’t worry. McIrish knows. He understands. First, he’s a firefighter, so he puts himself in harm’s way all the time. One time, he was late coming home, and he didn’t bother calling. His phone was off, so obviously, I assumed the chief would be pulling up the driveway any second to deliver the tragic news. When McIrish finally did walk in, I didn’t look up from my computer, as I had reached the “You’d better be dead or I WILL KILL YOU” phase of grieving. “What are you working on?” he asked, all innocent-like.

“Your eulogy!” I said and burst into tears. (Fun fact: He’s never forgotten to call again.)

Also, my dad died when he was 47, so for more than half my life, I’ve see my mom dealing with widowhood. Two of my friends have been widowed far, far too young. And I’m writing a character who’s a widow right now. it’s only natural that I think about these things myself. I’ve teased McIrish about the things I’ll do if he dies before I do: I’ll buy an electric griddle to make pancakes and use the 15-pound cast-iron monstrosity we have now as his headstone. I’ll paint the living room wall electric blue. I’ll travel to lots of great places, but I’ll always have an air of sad mystery about me. Men will find me more attractive than they do now, drawn to that slightly tragic (but still so brave) vibe I give off. I’ll lose those pesky ten extra pounds and dress better to, uh, honor his memory (or something, but I’m always turned out very nicely in these imaginings). I’ll buy a horse and ride elegantly across the grounds of Pemberley. I’ll date, but I’ll never marry again, because who could ever take his place?

hbbugles01McIrish listens to these tales with a slightly sardonic expression. He doesn’t come out and say what he’s really thinking—that I’ll become a hoarder, eat only orange food and adopt far too many dogs.

It goes without saying that I hope to die in my sleep at the same exact second as my beloved husband, holding hands in our old age. I guess it’s the curse of the writer’s imagination to picture all those other things. As for me dying first, well, let’s just say I’ve already picked out his second wife. No mysterious air of tragedy for him.

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