Monsters Under My Head

Mads MikkelsonA long, long time ago, I was a teenager. I stayed up late, I ate at Red Robin a LOT, and I played very loud music on my very lovely clarinet* for hours every day. I could watch horror movies with my friends, I LOVED Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter books, and I had only just discovered alternative rock music. I didn’t think I’d ever have kids, mostly because I thought I would suck at being a mother. I thought I’d get my master’s and be a therapist for the rest of my life.

Obviously, life turned out a bit different than I thought it would.

What interests me the most is that somewhere between graduation and parenthood, I lost the ability to stomach horror in any form. Movies, books, even spooky songs. They all affect me now in a way they never did before.

I remember seeing the original Saw movie in the theater with a bunch of guy friends. We had a blast! Now, though, I can’t imagine anything worse than being forced to fill my brain with any of those images.

Wes and I recently gave the show Hannibal a try, thinking it might be worth a shot thanks to my lifelong love of Thomas Harris’s books. We made it six episodes before I had no choice but to cry off and ask Wes if he’d be averse to stopping the show. It’s a gory, horrific show and, while the characters had started growing on me, I just couldn’t get the images out of my head. Walking down the dark hall to go help one of my kids became skin-crawlingly terrifying. Turning off the light to go to sleep filled my room with unseen phantoms waiting to hurt me. I suddenly felt unsafe in my quiet suburban neighborhood, thinking there was an insane psychopath lying in wait just around the corner.

Wes can watch scary movies and, as soon as the TV is gone, so are the images. I don’t know why, but they linger in my head and jump out at inopportune times. I have no idea how I was able to do this kind of thing in my youth, or what changed that now I can’t. All I know is, I’m now a huge wuss. My head in imprintable like carbon paper and I have to be careful what I watch.

After all, how am I supposed to comfort my kids when they have nightmares if I can’t even assure myself there aren’t monsters out there?

*Anyone who knows clarinets well will know this is a joke. Clarinets are among the more quiet instruments in a band, largely thanks to their small bells, which are pointed right at the ground. This might not be the case with professional musicians, but I remember a few times in high school where our whole section of clarinets could barely be heard over the other, louder sections.

Halp? Please?

Coming up with a good title for a book is an art form. Truly, it’s a gift some people have and some people don’t. Personally, I can write an entire novel and yet when it comes to coming up with a title I’m stymied by the worst writer’s block of my life.

I’ve been trying to come up with a title for my new book, pestering my close friends for days with various possibilities. They’ve all been fabulous sports, thank goodness, but I thought it might be time to open this up to the public a bit.

Feel like helping me figure out a title for my book? Of course, it’s subject to my publisher’s approval so we can’t just call it Silly Pudding Noodle Face or something, but if you see a title here that speaks to you, please cast a vote.

Or, better yet, leave a comment with an entirely new idea! Do my job for me!

Again, here’s the gist of the plot:

It’s about an inexperienced CIA case officer whose boring assignment gets complicated by a North Korean plot to bomb South Korea. Rather than allow the North Koreans to irradiate the entire Korean peninsula by mistake, Bai has to flip a North Korean operative to help him destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

[poll id=”24″]

Eric Carle Set Me Up

I was trying to explain to my son the other night why it wasn’t possible to reach the moon for him, and for that I blame Eric Carle. You know who Eric Carle is, he’s the author who penned “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” among many other dozens of childrens books.

51CADHJBDSL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Eric Carle wrote a book called “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me” and it’s about this father who uses a very tall ladder to reach the moon for his daughter, who plays with the moon until it gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears altogether.

I had no idea my son took the book so entirely to heart until his earnest little face was imploring me to please PLEASE get a tall ladder and reach the moon for him. I stood there perplexed, trying to figure out the exact best way to explain how far away the moon is, how large it is in comparison to our family room, and how woefully inadequate a ladder would be in the task of trying to reach it.

It felt like shuffling a giant Rolodex in my brain. What to explain first? How the moon orbits the Earth and is 27% its size? Should I illustrate this with a marble and a soccer ball? Is it possible to explain the endless vacuum of space to a preschool-aged child? What about astronauts, is now the time to discuss space shuttles and space suits? It seems like it might be a bit morbid to explain what would happen to me if I tried to climb a ladder into space, how I’d die, frozen to death, my body draped across the rungs of the ladder far short of ever even reaching the moon. Plus, how a ladder that long would break under its own weight.

space-shuttle-launch3aWhen I’d stared at my child for a good long time, I finally arrived at an approach I deemed suitable for my child’s stage of mental development: I told him I couldn’t reach the moon because I didn’t have a spaceship. When he asked why, I explained how you need a vehicle appropriate for the terrain you’re traveling and used the example of how you wouldn’t try to fly with a dump truck. Likewise, you wouldn’t try to reach the moon without a space ship.

He seemed satisfied, we watched a few YouTube videos of space shuttle launches, and everyone was happy.

Still, his questions reminded me of why I never did as well on tests in school as I should have, given my intelligence (this isn’t boasting. I really am quite intelligent). I over-think almost everything. My child’s simple question exploded my head into a debate about whether it was too soon to explain Newtonian physics to him, when all I needed to do was show him a space shuttle and explain that I didn’t have one.

One of these days, my son is going to realize that I over-think and perhaps over-explain everything and he’s going to start shepherding my answers. He’ll roll his eyes and tell me, “Mom. Short answer” and have no idea the pretzels he’s twisting my brain into as I try to condense all the thoughts clattering through my head into small, cogent responses.

For now, though, I’ll just try to remember that the best answers for preschool-aged boys usually tend to contain trucks or vehicles of some sort.

Deep Breaths and a Well Charged Cell Phone

My husband is in San Francisco right now. Right at this second, he and his company‘s CEO are presenting their technology at the CloudBeat 2013 Innovation Showdown to a room full of experts and investors. If they win the showdown, it’ll completely change our life and the future of their company.

So, you know, no big deal.

So what am I doing? I’m sitting on the couch typing while my children sleep upstairs. It’s so weird to think that my husband is hundreds of miles away, doing what is arguably the most important presentation of his life, and I have no idea how it’s going. My ears are pricked up like an outsized Corgi’s, waiting for the phone to ring, but it probably won’t ring for a few hours because Wes will be caught up in a whirlwind after the presentation and then the award ceremony shortly after.

Hours. Hours I’ll have to wait, wondering and conjuring every sort of outlandish outcome in my overly imaginative brain.

It’s not that I don’t have other stuff to do. I entered my book, Blood Money, in a contest today and I’m revising my newest book (since I haven’t touched it since April). My parents will be here tomorrow and I have surgery on Thursday. Believe me, there’s plenty to occupy my mind and yet all I can think about is Wes, standing on a stage while his friend (the company’s CEO) delivers the speech I helped write.

Are you tired of thinking about it yet? I could keep typing about it but I suppose I should go back to my revisions and stop fixating out loud on my blog.

Deep breaths are called for here. Deep breaths and a well charged cell phone.

Insect Granny

In all my born days, I never thought I’d be the kind of person who would wax rhapsodic about something as inane as sunglasses. Surely the Erika of yore, back in her nascent blogger days, would have hung up her keyboard for good had she known it would lead to such dizzying heights of pointless navel gazing.

And yet, here we are.

My sunglasses story starts at the age of sixteen. I’d just been awarded my driver’s license and my mom and step father were taking me for a wee shopping spree to celebrate my birthday. I picked out a pair of rose-colored sunglasses and drove off into the sunset.

Now, most people lose their sunglasses or replace them in a year or two. Not me. I kept mine. They traveled to six different countries with me, from home to college to house, and shaded my eyes from the sun of a thousand summer days. I love my sunglasses.

They are, however, getting old. Faded. Maybe even dated. They don’t block out the sun as well as they used to, and I’m getting ever so tired of squinting outside.

The funny thing is, I think I hate squinting in the sun less than I hate shopping for sunglasses. What was once so easy is now the bain of my existence.

Why are all the sunglasses so large these days? Egads, they cover half your face! And the frames! You could club a man with those frames! They all make me look like either an insect or an old lady. I don’t know about you, but I do my best every day not to look like an octogenarian.

Hello, dear. Can I interest you in a Werther's?

Hello, dear. Can I interest you in a Werther’s?

I tried driving in a pair of fashionable large sunglasses and was dismayed to realize that the sides of the sunglasses were so thick that it was effectively like driving with blinders on. It was potential injury added to insult, in my opinion.

No, I don't have a carapace. How rude of you to ask.

No, I don’t have a carapace. How rude of you to ask.

I’m sticking with my old sunglasses for now. I figure in about ten more years, the fashion will swing back in a more practical direction and I’ll scoop up some new frames then. For now, though, I’ll be the hopelessly unhip woman walking around squinting behind sunglasses that haven’t been cool since the hipsters were wearing diapers.

(Assuming, of course, that the hipsters are all in high school.)