Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Christmas Card

I'm procrastinating -- I'll admit that readily. I've already written and addressed sixty or so cards, and I've barely started the U.S. part of the address list. That was just family and the friends and relatives overseas.

I collect old post cards and some old Christmas cards. I love the nostalgia, the old stamps, the beautiful lithographs, the corny jokes. I thought I'd share some of these with you -- not my own collection, which I haven't photographed, but vintage cards and postcards I found online. These are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Glitter Graphics -

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My (Virtual) Life

What's In a Name?

Some of you know me as Becke Davis. Some know me as Becke Martin. Neither is the name I was born with, but I’ve been Becke Davis since I got married at age 19.

Becke Martin was born in 2007 when I first tried my hand at fiction. I had been a garden writer for many years, with five books published under my real name, Becke Davis. I write for a lot of trade magazines in the landscape industry – a very male-oriented business. I worked hard and long to develop a reputation in that industry, and didn’t want to be laughed off the trade-magazine-page by letting it be known that I also wrote (gasp!) romance.

Becke Martin wasn’t my first pen name. I wrote a Backstreet Boys fan fiction story for my daughter’s 16th birthday and sent it to my garden editor as a joke. She called the day it arrived (those were the days of snail mail), and hired me to write a book about ‘N Sync on the spot. My daughter co-wrote it with me, and I went with the pen name Lexi Martin so the readers wouldn’t realize one of the authors was writing it with her mom.

I might have kept Lexi alive if I’d been writing YA, but I didn’t think she’d work for romance. After some hilarious early ideas, an author friend said the most important thing was to pick a pen name I’d remember to answer to – assuming I’d get published, some day. That’s when I decided to keep my real first name and reclaim the “Martin” surname (which, confusingly, happens to be my husband’s first name).

Becke Martin – I liked it. I could live with that. And, even allowing for senior moments, I was sure to answer to it.


Writing has always been a career for me, so even when I really, really sucked at fiction, I always worked with the assumption that I could and would learn and improve. It wasn’t the thrilling idea of seeing my (pen)name on a book that drove me, or that drives me still. It’s just that I will keep writing, and working at it, until I get it right. So.

I created a website for my alter ego: Created a MySpace page. Earlier this year, I created a Facebook page using “Becke Martin” because – again – I wanted to keep my professional life as a garden writer separate from my world of writing friends.

I underestimated the power of social networking. Big time.

My husband is on Facebook. My kids are on Facebook. My sisters and one of my brothers are on Facebook. Hell – my dad is on Facebook. So much for anonymity: old school friends, neighbors, friends from my days as a PTO mom – all are finding me here, through my other connections.

The pivotal moment for me happened at my son’s college graduation in June. A young woman came up to me and said, “Hi – you’re Becke Martin, aren’t you? We’re friends on Facebook!” Then she turned to my husband and said, “Hi, Mr. Martin!”

Turns out Amanda – a friend of my son’s – heard I was a writer, and friended me out of that mutual interest. She knew my son’s last name was Davis, but since she only knew me from Facebook, Becke Martin was the name she remembered. It was a very strange feeling – the first time anyone called me by my pen name – but it only struck me as kind of cool.

Then I went to the Romance Writers national convention in Washington, DC in July. Apparently my hair and glasses make me easy to identify, because more people than I could begin to count came up to me and said, “Becke Martin! We’re friends on Facebook!” It was wild – fun and disorienting and overwhelming, like the whole conference was – but mainly fun.

For awhile. The thing is, I have another day job: I moderate the Mystery and Garden book clubs at Barnes & Noble (, and in July I also started writing a blog for them called Garden Variety. Also in July, I joined Michelle Buonfiglio’s team at Romance B(u)y the Book, where I blog about contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Michelle also blogs at B&N’s Unabashedly Bookish and Heart to Heart, so we have this double connection – that Barnes & Noble was aware of when I joined her RBTB team – and both at RBTB and B&N, I use my real name.

At National, I had business cards promoting my unpublished book, business cards promoting B&N’s Mystery book club (since romantic suspense and mystery often overlap) and I had cards for Romance B(u)y the Book. Some people got my “Becke Martin” business cards, some got my “Becke Davis” business cards. Even Michelle sometimes forgets which is my real name.

At National, the amazing Hank Phillippi Ryan generously introduced me to her agent, not realizing she had already rejected my story. I was thrilled and nervous in equal parts, which made me babble more than usual. I’m sure Hank’s agent has me down as a total lunatic now! Anyway, Hank said, “This is Becke Davis – I mean Becke Martin,” and then asked which I preferred.

I hardly knew how to respond at that point – the movie Sybil with Sally Field came to mind. The whole strange moment became even more bizarre when I said, “Becke Davis,” and, moments later, Hank’s agent introduced me to a friend who said, “Oh, you’re Becke Martin – we’re friends on Facebook!” That whole incident brought home to me the fact that my alter ego has taken on a life of her own – and I think it’s a lot more exciting than my real one.

I now have over 2,500 friends on Facebook. I don’t think I have close to that many friends in real life. Becke Martin has over 700 friends on MySpace while Becke Davis has roughly 150 friends there. I’m on Twitter as both Becke Martin and Becke Davis, too. I’ve met a lot of these virtual friends in real life now, which has made this whole online parallel universe feel even more bizarre. I answer to both names, and have even wondered if I should start hyphenating the two.

As if this wasn't confusing enough, I use yet another pen name, Anya Davis, for my hot paranormals and dark romantic suspense stories. "She" is on MySpace and Twitter and has her own blog, which gets more hits than my real blog. I really relate to Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick, but at least she's published!

Your name is the first blank to fill in on a job application or a questionnaire, and you’d think it would be dead easy to answer. It shows how much my virtual life has spilled over into my real life, when I realize the answer for me is: it depends.

Words for Women to Live By

Thanks to my sister for sending me this:

1. Aspire to be Barbie - the bitch has everything.

2. If the shoe fits - buy them in every color.

3. Take life with a pinch of salt... A wedge of lime, and a shot of tequila.

4. In need of a support group? - Cocktail hour with the girls!

5. Go on the 30 day diet. (I'm on it and so far I've lost 15 days).

6. When life gets you down - just put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

7. Let your greatest fear be that there is no PMS and this is just your personality.

8. I know I'm in my own little world, but it's ok. They know me here.

9. Lead me not into temptation, I can find it myself.

10. Don't get your knickers in a knot; it solves nothing and makes you walk funny.

11. When life gives you lemons turn it into lemonade then mix it with vodka.

12. Remember wherever there is a good looking, sweet, single or married man there is some woman tired of his bullshit!

13. Keep your chin up, only the first 40 years of parenthood are hard.

14. If it has tires or testicles it's gonna give you trouble.

15. By the time a woman realizes her mother was right, she has a daughter who thinks she's wrong.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Insanity that is NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo?

From the NaNoWriMo website:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

On NanoWrimo

This appeared at Maria Schneider's Editor Unleashed website on November 21, 2008:

Nano is…

by Becke Martin

NaNo is panic, followed by sleepless nights, dreaming of your characters, and waking up in the middle of the night (if you aren’t still up writing) to jot down notes for the next scene.

NaNo is making friends, or getting to know old ones better, as you rediscover highs and lows you thought vanished with Clearasil many years ago. (In my case, many, many years ago!)

NaNo is coming up with long ways to say short things, as in this quote from our NaNo loop:
“Dumb as a stump” = 4 words. “Dumb as a box of rocks” = 6 words.

NaNo is sprints, challenges, silly word-use contests, plots that make no sense (Plot? Yours has a plot?), characters who don’t know what they’re doing—much less why—and often live with names like “Hero” and “Heroine” for way too many pages.

NaNo is forming a close, warm relationship with your computer chair, which you sincerely hope will not grow around your butt like that gross toilet-seat story we all read about this summer.

NaNo is rarely cleaning your house (OK, never) during the month of November, considering serving your family Swanson’s Hungry Man Turkey Dinners for Thanksgiving, and wondering what new position you can come up with to keep your husband from a) killing you or b) moving out before the end of the month.

NaNo is wishing someone would invent a waterproof laptop so you can write down the great ideas that come to you in the shower and vanish the second you sit down at your computer.

NaNo is wondering if it’s worth disconnecting your desktop and bringing it out of town with you because, even though you have a flash drive, you still don’t have a laptop.

NaNo is learning that you must back up your story every night. Let’s say that again: Back. It. Up. Every. Damn. Night. Because, in my buddy group alone, two people lost a total of about six thousand words.

NaNo is learning to appreciate the recuperative properties of alcohol, as well as caffeine of all kinds. And chocolate. Especially chocolate.

NaNo is discovering that a lot of freaking weird people are living in your head, and every one of them wants to be in this story.

NaNo is hitting the wall and not being able to write a single damn word, coherent or not.

NaNo is sitting back down at the computer, anyway, and forcing yourself to start writing again.

NaNo is going back to your support groups, again and again, to find the strength to keep pushing forward. And gaining a greater appreciation of all your buddies who are doing this in spite of flu, full time jobs, crashing computers and little children.

NaNo is thinking you are writing a romance, only to end up with a suspense story about werewolves, only not really.

NaNo is hitting 40K and thinking maybe—just maybe—you’re going to be able to pull this thing off after all.

Becke Martin can be found here, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Want to join the mass insanity? Here's a link to the NaNoWriMo website:

Add me as a writing buddy:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Men in Kilts

My critique partner has a thing about guys in kilts. Now I, of course, am above all that. I can resist those bare-chested, kilt-wearing hotties on the covers of the latest romance novels -- for at least a minute or two.

But I don't draw the line at the Gerry Butler types. I think it may go back to my Scottish ancestry, but I must admit a certain fascination with Scottish literati of the talk show variety. My husband and I are both hooked on Craig Ferguson, in part because my husband also moved to the U.S. as a young man. Unlike Ferguson, who recently became an American citizen, my husband has steadfastly clung to his British roots.

Still, it was no surprise that when Ferguson's new book AMERICAN ON PURPOSE came out, that my husband and I would want to read it. We bought the book on a trip to Chicago and I read aloud from it for a good part of the drive home. We liked it so much that, in addition to the book, we've downloaded the audio version (read by Ferguson) to listen to on our next long drive.

So what is it about Scots and kilts, anyway? Are you smitten by Scots? What are your favorite books (or book covers) about Scottish heroes?

Friday, September 25, 2009

12-Step Program for the Bookaholic (Who Has No Desire to be “Cured!”)

1. Visit the book club boards at no more than five times a day. Ten at most.

2. Talk about books (or to authors) on Twitter no more than five times a day. Ten at most.

3. Talk about books (or to authors) on Facebook no more than an hour a day. Five at most.

4. Go to bookstores no more than twice a week. (Used bookstores don’t count.)

5. Order books online no more than five times per week. (Combined orders and pre-orders don’t count.)

6. Remember to check pre-orders before ordering a new release. (Think of all the duplicate books you’ve received because you forgot to do this!)

7. Just because you love the author’s new book, this does not necessitate buying every book on this author’s backlist. (Recent releases are enough – for now.)

8. Do not let friends who read only literature make you defensive about whatever genre you are currently reading. All reading improves the mind. (And books in the romance genre have added benefits!)

9. Remember that buying books written by authors who are friends doesn’t count.

10. And buying books written by RWA chapter members is sort of a business expense.

11. In fact, for writers, all books should count as business expenses – it’s research, after all. Someone should talk to the IRS about this flaw in their regulations.

12. Visit no more than five author blogs a day. Ten at the most. You’re only enabling them – they should be working on their next book, not talking to people like you!

The lovely illustration comes from this site:

I hope they don't mind me borrowing it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Birthday Madness

I admit it: I go a little nuts over birthdays. Not my own, God forbid -- I'd just as soon forget those.

And not my husband's, either -- I've learned my lesson after two surprise parties. They were fun for everyone except the birthday boy, who would, if his life had turned out differently, have chosen to live as a monk in a cave somewhere.

But with my kids, all bets were off. I'd put up banners, tape their birthday cards to the door, get party plates and napkins, silly hats and horns and "I'm the Birthday Boy/Girl" badges. And that was only the beginning.

Birthdays were always events -- the kids didn't just have parties, they had theme parties. (I know, I know.) Clown parties. Magician parties. Decorate-the-sun-visor parties. Roller-rink parties, parties at the gymnastics center, Chuck-E-Cheese, Q-Zar, the Family Fun Center, slumber parties, surprise parties -- you name it, we did it.

Several of my daughter's birthdays stand out: on her second birthday, we had just moved to New Jersey and were living in a Sheraton hotel until the movers arrived with our furniture. While I was on the phone with the moving company, Jessica wrote all over her body with a pen -- I do mean ALL OVER. She looked like the Tattooed Baby -- I worried about her getting ink poisoning!

Then there was her 11th birthday, where I let her invite 11 friends for a sleepover (I think my hair started to turn white that night). The year she turned 13, Jessica had a pen pal who lived in New York City. After much begging on her part and much angst on mine, we flew to New York the weekend of her birthday. We met her friend Thyrza -- who turned out to be very sweet -- and visited Tower Records, a retro record store in Greenwich Village, Strawberry Fields and Times Square. We saw "Grease" and went to an Ani DiFranco concert in Central Park. In other words, we had a blast.

Jonathan had several memorable birthdays, too. Around the time of his 11th birthday, he was into challenges and puzzles, so I wrapped several gifts and hid them around the house. Then I made up riddles that he had to decipher in order to find them. I kept a copy of the list -- and the answers -- for myself, remembering how we'd lost a few Easter eggs that way. When we found them, months later, it wasn't pleasant.

His first birthday was memorable, too. My sister was about to move into a new house -- they had closed on the old house, but the new one wasn't quite ready. In the meantime, my husband and I, our two kids and two cats shared the house with my sister and her husband, their three girls and their dog.

And then her kids got chicken pox. Somehow, my kids -- who were sharing beds/cribs with their cousins -- didn't get sick, but Jonathan was still colicky and cried a lot at night. NONE of us got much sleep. My main memory of his first birthday was four adults in zombie-mode, surrounded by a gaggle of kids and animals. It was a memorable birthday, even if it passed in a blur.

The first time my kids spent their birthdays away from home, I felt a little lost. Today is my daughter's 26th birthday, and she's spending it in New York City with her boyfriend. My son came home for the weekend closest to his birthday to keep my husband company while I was at RWA National, and we went out for birthday dinner on our way back from the airport on my return. Right after dinner, he headed back to Chicago and spent his actual birthday partying with friends three days later.

Yes, I went way too far with my kids' birthdays when they were young. Too many presents, too many parties, too much of everything. But my kids didn't turn out too badly and, you know, I'd probably do it again. Relatively speaking, there's only a short time when birthdays are fun, and you might as well make the most of it.

What about you -- your own birthdays, your husband/significant other's, your kids? Are you a party animal, or do you try to hide until the day is past? Do you tell the truth about your age when people ask? Or are your birthdays stuck at 29?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Put Up Your Dukes!

I've read Pride and Prejudice. Hell, I've even seen the movie. I love Jane Eyre, but prefer Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights to Emily Bronte's book. Still, until about a year and a half ago, I scorned historical romances.

Those books have had their revenge, because I seem to be hooked.

I blame Anna Campbell and Eloisa James. When I bought CLAIMING THE COURTESAN and AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS it was because I'd come across the authors at Barnes & Noble's website, and I was curious. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was pretty sure the books would be filled with foppish men and fussily dressed women, dastardly dukes and blushing duchesses and priggish period language. You would have thought those book covers might have given me a clue, but no -- I was the prig with my preconceived ideas. The books, on the other hand, left me breathless and eager for more.

Anna, with her favorite historicals listed on her website, and Eloisa, who writes a monthly column for Barnes & Noble which always includes book recommendations, led me into temptation. How can I explain this? I thought I was immune. I read mysteries first, and, being a slow learner, it took me awhile to realize my favorite mysteries included a romance. Think Mary Stewart, Evelyn Anthony, Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt. Romantic suspense, contemporary romance - that was one thing. Historicals? Too girly.

Even when I admitted my addiction to romance and began subscribing to Harlequin and Silhouette, I hid the covers when I read them on the train and in the break room at work. They were a secret pleasure. When I hit fifty, I stopped worrying what other people thought about my book choices, and gave myself up to the pleasure of reading whatever I damn well felt like. But I was still a little embarrassed about reading historicals. For some reason, I felt as if I was falling too far over onto the feminine side -- as if any minute I'd break out in corsets and petticoats.

Then Melanie Murray and the regulars at Barnes & Noble's Romantic Reads board keep urging me to read more historical authors, and I found it increasingly hard to refuse their suggestions. When I met affirmed historical addict Michelle Buonfiglio, that clinched it. My name is Becke and I have an addiction to historical romance . . .

Once I fell, I fell hard. I've discovered so many great authors, I can't begin to list them all -- Loretta Chase, Lorraine Heath, Joanna Bourne, Madeline Hunter, Eva Ibbotson, Lisa Kleypas, Connie Brockway, Christina Dodd, Anne Gracie, Donna MacMeans, Christine Wells, Victoria Dahl, Julia Quinn, Vanessa Kelly, Nicola Cornick, Mary Balogh, Tessa Dare, Carolyn Jewel, Lisa Valdez, Robyn DeHart, Jennifer Ashley, Jennifer Haymore, Teresa Medeiros, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Karen Hawkins, Kathryn Kennedy, Meredith Duran, Judith Ivory, Maya Rodale, Stephanie Laurens, Anne Stuart, Christine Merrill, Sophie Jordan, Sabrina Jeffries, Delilah Marvelle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Laura Lee Guhrke, Liz Carlyle, Suzanne Enoch, Julie Anne Long, Johanna Lindsey, Claudia Dain -- oh, I give up. Let's just say my to-be-read pile is now overflowing with historicals.

Damn those dukes, anyway. I'm all about the contemporary era -- I live in jeans and sandals, for Pete's sake! I would have hated to live in Regency England, or any time in the past. Except . . . there is something about a reformed rake.

Which reminds me -- I have a hundred pages to go in the story I'm reading. Regency England is calling and I must heed the call! But, all you authors of historical romances? If you're saying, "I told you so," you're right. I was wrong, and I'm here to admit it. Those books are wonderful, and I'm so glad I've discovered them, even if the TBR pile is a little scary these days. Now I have to go finish reading my book!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm in Patricia McLinn's Reader Hall of Fame!

I've been a fan of Patricia McLinn's for many years. We met at the Lori Foster Reader and Writer Get Together in Cincinnati this year -- she now lives in my area and is in the Ohio Valley romance writers chapter, too. She's just updated her website, and I'm honored to be in her Reader Hall of Fame! Here's the link:

It came as no surprise to me that Patricia is a dog lover, too. My dog died two years ago, and I still miss her. With my son in Chicago and my daughter in Orlando, I'm traveling a lot right now. My husband and I both want a dog, but we don't think it would be fair when we're gone so much. But I love reading stories like this:

Here's Patricia's book list. I've read them all, and I love them (as you've figured out by now):

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Eloisa James' Fun Paper Doll Contest

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nature, Nurture and the Power of No

My name is Becke and I am a pleaser. I can't help it -- I try to avoid it, and since I hit 50 some years back, I've really been working on releasing my inner bitch. But it's darn hard to teach this old dog new tricks.

There's a Jim Carrey movie called "Yes Man" about a guy who changes his life by saying "yes" to everything. "Yes" has always been my default response, along with "Sure, why not?" and "Well, okay . . . if no one else will do it." Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes I really enjoy these things. I strongly believe in the volunteer ethic, and I've spent a good part of my life volunteering at church, at work, at school, in the neighborhood and anywhere else it's possible to volunteer.

But sometimes, I just have to say "no." I don't like conflict, and have been known to get physically ill when I've been caught in the middle of unavoidable family nasties. I will lose sleep if I think I might have inadvertently offended someone. If you look up "wimp" in the dictionary, you'll probably find a picture of me.

This is not to say I don't stand up for what I believe in, and if anything threatened my kids when they were little (or now, for that matter) I would morph into a force of nature. But normally, in my day-to-day life, I don't just bend with the wind, I let it toss me around like a puff of dandelion seeds.

Like I said, I'm trying to change this, but it's an uphill battle. "No" doesn't come easy, even though all years of trying to please everyone has only brought trouble. Every disfunctional relationship I've ever been stuck in came from my inability to say a simple two-letter word, the first word most babies learn: No.

So how did I come to have two kids who are most excellent at standing up for themselves, and have been for most of their lives? My son took a little longer to find the confidence at his core, but my daughter was a firecracker from day one. The other day, I found a journal I'd kept when my kids were little. I laughed so hard at some scenes that my mascara was running down my cheeks.

I have a feeling only a mother would find those things as funny as I did, though -- I discerned a pained expression on my husband's face as his eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape route, when I started reading those selections to him. Even my daughter sighed a few times, AND THE SCENES WERE ABOUT HER.

Still, this one really made me think. It took place when she was about three years old:

Jessica was so funny in the store today. She was standing in front of the shopping cart while we were in line, and the lady in front of us bumped into her. "Excuse me, sweetheart," the lady said. Jessica stood up real straight and replied, "I'm not your sweetheart. I'm only Mommy and Daddy's sweetheart."

The lady said, "You're right -- my grandson is really my sweetheart, but you're so cute I could eat you up!" A most offended Jessica announced loudly, "I'm not
food -- you can't eat me up!"

I added a note: "My goodness! She certainly stands up for herself!"

When I read this to my daughter, who is now an adult, she didn't see anything unusual about it. But then, she never has had trouble standing up for herself. My son was a little shy when he was young -- something that will come as a shock to anyone who only knew him in high school and college. My husband certainly has no problem saying "no" -- in no uncertain terms -- in any situation, so maybe they learned this from him.

I remember reading that parents should be careful what they say, because their children will be listening, and taking notes. In this family, I'm the one taking notes, learning from them how to stand up for myself. You'd think by my age, saying "no" would come easier, but . . . no.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tales of the Tooth Fairy

The tooth fairy doesn't cast a long shadow at most houses. Her saga was a little different at our place.

My daughter lost her first tooth at church, walking up some stairs. There was a major panic when she thought it was gone forever, but we did find it and, later that night, the tooth fairy took it from under her pillow and left a dollar. (She left a quarter when I was a kid, but times have changed.)

When my daughter lost her second tooth, we were at a hotel in Orlando, Florida, on our first visit to Disney World. My daughter nearly went into hysterics because her tooth fairy was back home in Illinois. I thought fast and invented a cousin for her tooth fairy -- clearly, I didn't think fast enough or I would have given her tooth fairy a Lear jet or super-powers. But, no, I had to get clever.

Jessica always loved a good story, so she demanded to know all about this mysterious cousin. And that led to questions about her own personal tooth fairy. Thus Tatiana was born, along with her Florida-based cousin, Desiree. Later, Jonathan got his own tooth fairy, too -- I'd forgotten her name was Clea until I recently found my notes. What I should have done was create a freaking spreadsheet.

The thing about teeth is that months -- even years -- can go by before another one falls out. And when two kids are involved, the whole tooth fairy saga can go on for years. When Jessica lost her third tooth, I'd all but forgotten about Tatiana and Desiree. Thank the lord, I'd kept the long letter Jessica wrote to them while we were in Florida, and she'd mentioned them both by name, as well as some details of their history. I kept that letter in her baby book for future reference, until it was dog-eared.

But that's only part of the story. The thing is, the tooth fairy looked an awful lot like Mom, and occasionally Dad. But usually it was night owl Mom who did the honors, since both kids slept with half an eye open, hoping to catch the tooth fairy in the act. This meant that I lived in dread of being caught -- dollar and/or tooth in hand -- by a tearful, disillusioned child. After one memorable night when I couldn't find the damn tooth and had to explain why the tooth fairy left a buck AND the tooth, I insisted they put the tooth in a Baggie before placing it under the pillow.

One night, I was more tired than usual and completely forgot. The tooth fairy was so remorseful, she left two dollar bills the following night. And then there was the night the Dad tooth fairy pulled what he thought was a dollar bill from his wallet, in the darkened bedroom, only to be awakened in the morning by a thrilled child shrieking that the tooth fairy had left twenty bucks under the pillow!

After that, our crafty son starting looking at every tooth as a potential windfall. He tried bargaining with the tooth fairy, suggesting she might leave bags of Skittles in place of money. And then there was the time Jonathan made an extremely realistic tooth out of bits of Dixie cup smooshed up with toothpaste. Luckily, the Dad tooth fairy overheard the commotion in the hall bathroom and left Monopoly money under the pillow in place of the fake tooth.

Every time a tooth came out, it seemed the ante went up -- Jessica wrote long, heartfelt letters and required letters back in response, while Jonathan wrote letters asking what the tooth fairy did with all those teeth, probably with the view of selling his teeth elsewhere and cutting out the middle man. Did I mention he's got an Economics degree now?

And Jessica works at Disney World. If she loses any more teeth, I'm passing the job on to Tinkerbelle.

(My daughter just read this and, in the way of the modern world, posted this to me on Facebook: "TIANA!!!! OMG, Mom, how could you forget her name??? This must be amended pronto! And pssst, it's Tinker Bell."

All I can say is my notes say Tatiana, but I will admit that my memory leaves a lot to be desired. And there were probably other notes. But, seriously? Tinkerbelle is Tinker Bell? That is so unfeminine! What was Disney thinking?)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Raccoon Lodge

I like raccoons. Some people might think of them as roadkill or a source of hats, but at our house, they are our cat's best friends. We used to have a dog, three cats, two gerbils and two kids who lived at home. The animals have all died except Casper, our fat orange cat who is -- I think -- 13 years old now. The kids are grown up and live in different states, and Casper gets lonely. It's just him and us. Well, and a whole lot of raccoons.

It's not as weird as it sounds. About two years ago, a litter of raccoons was born under our deck. Our cats used to play with the little ones. Heck, even our dog hung out with them. Although, I admit, the night I followed my dog onto the deck and realized we were not alone, it was a little hard on my nerves: two of our cats, a possum and two raccoons were on the deck with us. Luckily, my dog was too stunned to react, and I got her inside before she could wreak havoc.

Most of those raccoons moved on, but at least one -- possibly two -- stuck around. The female had babies of her own this spring, plus she seems to have adopted a little one recently. Mama raccoon -- my husband has dubbed her "Raquel" -- has a tiny bite out of her ear, which makes her easy to recognize. Casper also has a tiny bite out of one ear. Hmmm. Coincidence? Maybe they called a truce.

Anyway, mama raccoon comes and taps on the patio door when she wants Casper to come out and play. He instantly runs to the door when he hears her, and it's gotten to the point where he's not interested in going out unless the raccoons are there. Sometimes a little possum joins the fun. The deer can't manage the stairs to the deck, or I'm sure they'd be up there, too.

We'd been blaming the raccoons for knocking over some plant containers, until my husband caught a squirrel in the act. It was a logical mistake -- when the four toddler raccoons play on the deck, it's like raccoon bumper cars. They crash into each other, bounce back, run away and come back for more. Casper stands well out of the way when the little ones are around.

The mama raccoon likes us. She will let us take her picture, and when she spots us through the window she goes up on her hind legs. Last night, the young ones were being more rambunctious than usual, and my husband went over and opened the patio door. "Keep it down, you guys," he reprimanded. And then cracked up at the sight of four little raccoons, lined up in a row, standing on their hind legs and watching him solemnly. Yeah, it still makes me smile.

So, while some people may gripe about raccoons in their gardens, they are welcome guests at our house -- part of our extended family. Not that I plan on letting them in the house, at least not intentionally. The other full grown raccoon that we think is from the original litter has a nickname -- Smarty Pants. That guy will hide next to the door and try to sneak in when we open it. He will also jump up and hang from the door handle, trying to open it. I don't think he's smart enough to figure out how to undo the latch.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Photographic Memories

This was first published by my church magazine in about 1988. A few years later, it was published in the now defunct Beautiful Gardens magazine. It has the distinction of being my first published garden-related article. It's out of date both seasonally and every other way, since my son graduated from college this year, so I've updated it a little at the end. I still kind of like this one, even if it lacks some writing skill.


by Becke Davis

Today the yellow forsythia by my gate burst into bloom, and my first impulse was to grab a camera. Spring is transient, as God planned it, but my instincts rebel and I try to freeze the season on film.

I have an unreasonable need to document people and things on film, a kind of insecurity – a need to make time stand still. Even as a child, photographs were special to me: from magazine photos, garish and larger than LIFE, to the wedding album with my mother as a giggling girl, and my dad with hair. Old black-and-whites in awkward sizes, strips of pictures from 50-cent photo machines, and sepia portraits of strangers. The people in those pictures became my extended family.

Photographs are a confirmation of existence, a constant in the face of earthly mortality, the slow stream of age. I try to take mental pictures of my children, fleeting images of their childhood. My parents did the same: posing us for Christmas pictures year after year, youngest to oldest, sitting on the stairs. But memory does not focus and click on demand, and the constant changes in my garden remind me that this is all God’s plan. Photographs collect dust, curl up and fade, frozen in time. In the garden, there is movement, even when it is hidden. Life goes on.

Photographs tend to reflect my life only as I’d like to remember it – a Kodak Christmas card with pretty, dimpled children in their Sunday best. I try to freeze perfection whenever it comes close, whispering in my photographer’s voice, “Work with me; stay with me.”

Reality is unposed and often not photogenic. In my mind, I have mental pictures of periods of my life I would just as soon forget, when hours would stretch into months, and months into years. These were not flashes of time; often, they were a steady, unstoppable clockwork movement that I thought would never end.

It’s hard to remember now that my son, Jonathan, has grown, but when he was an infant and toddler, his colic defined my life for nearly two years. For hours, night after day after night, my baby would cry, seemingly without pause – his body tense and tormented, his stomach hard as a rock. I was told it would pass at three months, at six. At a year.

Every moment was another nightmare, frozen in time. I felt that I was a terrible mother, that I was missing something important, doing something wrong. As I look back, those mental pictures are either in black-and-white, cloudy with depression, or colored in the bright, swirling reds of panic and fear.

There is the picture of me sitting on the floor, zombie-like, desperate for sleep, while my four-year-old daughter runs around me, shrieking for attention, jealous of the baby screaming and writhing in my lap.

There is the picture of me in the emergency room at midnight – not for the first time – certain that they could show me a way to fix this, some undiscovered medical problem that would prove this isn’t my fault, that he isn’t crying because I’m a miserable excuse for a mother. The emergency room is starting to feel like a second home as I, the person who prides herself on never needing to ask for help, plead in vain. At night, everything is always worse.

“It’s just colic,” I’m told again by a bored, reproachful nurse, who asks if I have ever considered going to the doctor during normal office hours.

“But that’s not when he screams like he’s in agony!” I want to say it, but I don’t.

There is the picture of me at Jonathan’s six-week check-up, trying to laugh, but closer to tears.

“I’m not kidding,” I say to his pediatrician. “Make him stop crying, give him something to make him sleep. Or give me something so I can sleep. I can’t do this anymore; you said it would have stopped by now.”

And her gentle reply: “Don’t worry, some babies just take longer. He’ll be fine in a few months, you’ll see.” In a few months, he was the same.

Mostly it is just a blur: a montage of images, one on top of another. Not knowing if it was night or day, if I’d gotten dressed, or cooked dinner. Only in touch with his screams. Wrestling with the guilt that mothers are supposed to know how to make things better. Trying to find my husband and daughter, who were out there somewhere, beyond the endless crying and the dead buzz of sleeplessness. Feeling that my life, like the cycles of the tides are tied to the moon, was defined by the waking or sleeping, crying or silence of the child in my arms. Wanting to live again. Praying, and hearing no response.

There is one picture, however, that sticks in my mind. It is winter, edged in frost. My baby – my nemesis – is older now and, in fact, a little better. Sometimes, he smiles. Mostly, he still cries and does not sleep. He is crying again, and his screams echo off the winter walls; we go for a walk. The snow piled on the sidewalks prevents me from taking a stroller. In his snowsuit, my son is zipped inside my parka, and we walk and walk. He is heavy and the day is cold, and we struggle through the snow. But he sleeps. On the way home, I notice my garden. It is also sleeping; dormant, a black-and-white negative with no hint of the colors to come.

That is how the deep winter days passed. Walking and waiting, longing for hope that I could not see.

Spring developed like a Polaroid that year; a season of rebirth and wonder. Every bud on every tree was a message to me that seasons change, that life goes on. I planted a cherry tree, flush with bloom, and rushed to capture it on film. The photograph sits in an album, while the tree grows and changes, as does my child. If I were to die today, the tree would remain, tended by God’s hand. The garden will continue to unfold, season upon season, some plants thriving and others dying in their turn.

Before my birth and after my death, and in every year of my life, the change of seasons will be an eternal constant. The changes are meant to be. I look at the wild exuberance of springtime and wonder how this could ever be allowed to pass with nonchalance. Jonathan emerged like a new shoot, bright and full of life, and we entered the next season of our lives.

This year, looking for a photograph to enclose with the Christmas cards, I studied a picture of my two grown children and thought of my dormant garden. Jonathan is about to graduate from college, and is speaking of marriage. One day, he may come to me for advice about dealing with a colicky baby. What will I tell him – this, too, will pass? They do, of course. Things change. There are times we want our lives to fast-forward, and times we want to freeze the moment forever. I’ve learned not to worry so much about making time stand still.

I still take mental photographs, but now I see my life and the people I love more in terms of a garden. Some are hardy, and thrive where they are planted; others are tender and require special care. Some continue to grow and thrive, while others die in their turn.

Outside my gate, the forsythia shimmers with its golden light, but I will leave my camera on the shelf. Life goes on, I remind myself, even when the branches are bare.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Mystery of the Candy Thief

This story was written by my son, many moons ago. It's still one of my favorite mystery stories!

It was a slow day at the detective’s office down at the police station. But it wasn’t at the Indian Bluff Detective Club. There was a criminal on the loose that they needed to catch. This crook was stealing pounds of candy from the candy store that the kids made. They would loose $25.00 of candy if they didn’t find out who was stealing their candy. They knew it wasn’t their moms because they were against eating sugar. But it could be the paperboy because he trying to start a candy store, too but he has $100.00 to spend on candy. It also could be the clown girl she was caught snooping around the candy shop but her mom made her go a diet.

They all wanted to be fair so they went out to investigate. This was a serious mystery they could have to pay $50.00 to start there store again. So first they went over to the paperboy’s house to see if he has $150.00 worth of candy. If he does he will be punished by having to go threw there obstacle course. If he makes it through with a 100 points he doesn’t have to take the punishment but he has to be a detective for them and give him back the candy but if he doesn’t he has to give them back the candy and a $10.00 fine on top of it and he still has to be one of their detectives. So they counted the candy and there was only $100.00 worth of candy.

So then they went to clown girl’s house but she didn’t have any candy so for sure it wasn’t her so she was marked off their list. Since they were out of suspects they went back to their office and tried to figure out who could possibly want $50.00 worth of candy. And getting higher by the minute. This time they put down everyone they knows name on the suspect list from most possible to most impossible suspects. Their first person to investigate was Mr. Blueberry he’s the fat guy down the street that owns the biggest candy store in the village.

So they ran over to his house to see how much candy he’s got in two weeks. But he only got $25.00 worth of candy in the last 2 weeks. So he was marked off the list. And then they went to the second person on their list. The Rapid Tigers, a club of kids that are criminals trying to earn themselves money. They did have $100.00 dollars worth of candy but it was the kind of candy they would never sell in their store. Because it tastes terrible. But they probably would have to escape the Rapid Tigers clubhouse somehow without getting shot by one of them. So they saw one of the tigers holding a gun. So they knew it would be hard to escape the tigers. So they just started running as fast as they possibly could so they wouldn’t have to die.

Then after they escaped the tigers they checked to see who was next on their list. It was Mrs. Diamond the richest person in the county. She runs the sugar free club that their moms are in. If you get in her machine you have to pour her 50 glasses of wine so they did but for some reason she wouldn’t let them go to the ice bucket. So she didn’t have any candy but she had gained 5 pounds in 1 week her butler said. So she was not crossed of the list.

After they did her house they went back to their office and played on the obstacle course. But there was a scary note at the bottom of the long slide at the end of their obstacle course. It said, “If you don’t stop doing the detective work you will be murdered.”

They saw smudges in the writing so they knew the person had a left hand. So Mrs. Diamond had left and right hand, Mr. Blueberry had right hand and most the kids in the Rapid Tiger club have left hands. So it can’t be Mr. Blueberry. But it could be the Rapid Tigers or Mrs. Diamond. It’s most likely to be the Rapid Tigers. But they still have to investigate those two because they didn’t know anybody else who had a left hand. So they called the real detective to tell him someone was threatening to kill them. And the detective said he would come over in about five minutes. But they heard the doorbell on their clubhouse ringing after about 30 seconds.

It was a short person with a black mask holding a gun and pointing it at them. They slammed the door as quick as possible. And he started busting out the door and they jumped out their emergency exit. A few seconds after he saw them jump out the emergency exit he started chasing after them. Then he started shooting at them and their only escape was to dive into a deep lake. Then the evil villian, the black masked phantom like person jumped into the water and tried to drown them all. But they kicked him in the stomach and jumped on him and started acting like he was a dolphin. But he dived into the air and ran out of the water as fast as he could. And ran away from them. “You little midgets, I’m going to make sure that next time you’re going to drown in a second -- I’m going to find you and kill you!” So he ran off then they got out of the water too in the opposite direction of him and they ran off.

Then it was exactly 30 seconds until the detective was to show up at their detective office so they ran as fast as they could and they got there right when he was arriving. And they told the detective all about their chase. He said he would take it back to the police station and have cops be on guard at their house at 8 o’clock that night. And he says if there is any problems to call Mrs. Diamond and notify her. Then a few minutes after the detective left they saw the black masked guy snooping around their clubhouse again. So they hid in their emergency escape box. As the black masked criminal was snooping around he was checking out their clubhouse to check if they were in it. And right when he checked the emergency escape box they let go of the rope that held it up and they fell to the ground and ran to their mom told their mom all about the masked guy and she said she might know who it is. But she also said it was very unlikely that it was the person she was thinking of. She said it could be her ex-husband because he was arresting for robbing 300 banks and he had about 80 black masks. After they checked his records he was still in prison so he wasn’t for sure a suspect.

But the strange thing was every time the detective wasn’t around the black masked guy would snoop around, so he must be watching them. Their mom said they should take a break from detective work and stay in their room for the day. And it was 7:58 p.m. and they were hoping that the police officers would show up. And they waited till 11 o’clock but they still didn’t show up. So they gave in and fell asleep.

But when they woke up in the morning there was police officers being tied up and whipped. Except when they checked it, it was just a robotic scene that someone must have set up. And right when they started checking to see if there was cords on it, the black masked criminal jumped on top of the whipper and grabbed the whip and started whipping them. Except that called for a fight, they wouldn’t let him whip them without a fight. He was surrounded by air and ground so he couldn’t escape. He didn’t know he was covered by air though so he started climbing the ladder to their clubhouse. But one of the kids jumped on his head and he fell to he ground. The black masked guy was in a coma and they needed to see who he was. But right when they touched his mask their hand got electrocuted. So right at that moment they knew they would never find who the black masked guy was unless they saw him put on his mask. But after three minutes of staring at him to see if he would wake up he kicked and them and tripped them and after they were on the ground he ran miles away.

Then they called Mrs. Diamond because that was what the detective told them to do if there was trouble. She just said don’t worry about it the cops were already sent there and they were on duty. They thought something suspicious was going on with Mrs. Diamond, the detectives and those cops because they all were centered around money and the government and that is exactly what their missing candy case was about. So they were practically positive they knew who the crooks are. So they called the real police and they found out why they got that police detective because his number was 811 and they were dialling that number on accident.

Then when the police arrived at Mrs. Diamond’s house she got all the black masked cops and got on a plane and prepared an escape. The plane driver prepared the engine to fly right when the cops were about to grab the criminals; the plane took off and went hundreds of feet in the air. Then the police officers drove their car to the police station and got a jet to follow that plane. And for sure those detective’s kids were right when they said this was a serious mystery! But then when they found out the jet had track of them, they had to start the search.

The escape helicopter had already flown from Los Angeles, California to New York. And the jet notified that the helicopter was landing and that was very bad news to the police officers. To prevent the criminals from getting into the crowd of New York they called the NYPD to surround them. And then the NYPD bursted into their helicopter and arrested the police officers, Mrs. Diamond and the detective at a 20 year sentence, and they got their candy back and also got a $10,000 reward for catching one of California’s most wanted criminals. And then they started an even bigger candy store with for sure locks on the candy. But they still wondered why Mrs. Diamond and the detectives and the cops wanted the candy. And so they asked them and they said it was because Mr. Blueberry was running low of candy and he was offering them $50 million to get $50 worth of candy. And they also found out that the candy was solid gold.

The End

The family - that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape, nor, in our inmost hearts, ever quite wish to. ~Dodie Smith

I wanted to title this blog The Family Octopus but, surprisingly, that name was taken. Since I'll be blogging here about my family tree and a lot of you know me as Treethyme, this seemed like a good alternative. Haven't figured out what I'm going to write yet, but this is a start.