Elle Cosimano

Guest Blogging: Chicklets in the Kitchen

Today I’m guest blogging with the awesome chicks over at Chicklets in the Kitchen.  Stop by for the story behind my family’s favorite Sweet Onion Spoonbread recipe, with a little romance dished up on the side.  See you there!

Aug

29, 2011 |

Filed in:

Uncategorized |

TALK:

comment

A Matter of Perspective

I took art class in 9th grade.  I don’t remember the name of the class or even the name of the teacher.  I just remember this one project.

The medium was pencil and the assignment was to illustrate perspective using a horizon line. Those were the only guidelines I recall.  I came up with a sort of contemporary fantasy — a dolphin jumping out of an ocean composed of Tron-like lines.  There were ripples in the grid where the dolphin breached the surface and mountains in the background. (Don’t ask why my dolphin was surfing the Rockies in outer space… I don’t have an answer.)

I spent weeks on the damn thing.  I agonized over the contours of the dolphin.  Was he precise in size, shape, and shadow?  Were my lines technically accurate as far as measurement and proportion?  I kept my pencil lines to a whisper, so I could fix mistakes without anyone knowing I’d made them.  When I turned it in, I was sure it was perfect.

The teacher didn’t agree.  I got a B minus.

I was crushed. (Yeah, I was one of those kids.  Total Type A Brian Johnson “…and when you pull the trunk the light was s’posed to go on. My light didn’t go on…” kind of kid. Doesn’t ring a bell?  Google it.)

When I asked my teacher why my project wasn’t good enough for an A, he told me my drawing was too light.  That I didn’t push hard enough with my pencil, and while it was technically accurate, my picture felt flat.  He pointed to it and said, “What you’ve drawn is a dolphin jumping on paper, but your assignment was to make him leap off the page.”

I walked away from the conversation never really understanding what he meant.

Fast forward twenty-three years.  I’m revising my manuscript for DEAD BLUE for the third time when Brian’s damn elephant light comes on!  I get it now.

See, when I was drawing that dolphin scene, I kept my pencil tip dull.  At the time, I told myself it was intentional.  That my light hand gave the picture a gauzy mysterious feel.  But in hindsight — this post is about perspective after all — I wasn’t being honest with myself.

I wasn’t pushing that pencil hard enough because I was too chicken-shit to take the risk. Deep dark marks are hard to erase.  They reveal mistakes, and I didn’t trust myself enough to sharpen the damn pencil and really cut in.  No part of my picture really scratched below the surface.  It lacked depth and contrast.  My teacher was right.  It wasn’t airy and mood-driven. It was flat.

And I think that’s what’s been missing in all these words on the cutting room floor.  Trust.  And maybe a little fearlessness.

It’s round three and I’ve got my chewed up pencil.  My eraser’s worn down to the metal and I finally sharpened the tip.  No matter which way I hold it, it’ll cut deep.

So thanks, Brian and your elephant trunk light.

What Makes You Tic? — Part I

Yesterday marked the beginning of Tourette Syndrome Awareness month.

I was sad to see James Durbin leave American Idol last week. His talent has opened so many eyes to Tourette’s, but I’m optimistic that he’s peaked some curiosity out there, and that his fans will take a step deeper into his world by learning more and spreading awareness.

If you know me, or you’ve followed my blog, then you know Tourette’s awareness has a special place in my heart.  I thought long and hard about the kind of contribution I could make toward TS education.  Book recommendations seemed like the obvious choice.

So this month, I’ll share a few of my favorites books featuring characters who suffer from Tourette’s (Children’s, MG, and YA), as well as links to organizations that provide resources for families, teachers, and friends of children suffering from tic disorders.

(Click on the blue banner below to learn more about the Tourette Syndrome Association.)

What Makes You Tic?

 

My first recommendation this month is an outstanding fictional novel for young adult (and adult) readers.

Jerk California

JERK, CALIFORNIA by Jonathan Friesen– Available from Penguin/Speak

Winner, ALA 2009 Schneider Family Book Award~”Best Book for Teens”

 

“Sam Carrier is one confused kid. The high-school senior has Tourette’s Syndrome messing with his body, Naomi Archer messing with his heart, and a dead dad messing with his mind.

Sam takes off on a road-trip to California looking for some peace. Each stop brings Sam and Naomi (yep, she comes along) closer to a truth Sam doesn’t want to face, but can’t run from anymore. It’s the adventure of a lifetime, and his last chance to find out whose he really is.”  — http://www.jonathanfriesen.com/


I’m not going to spoil the book by revealing too much of the plot, except to say that the author takes his character on a remarkable and inspiring journey of self-discovery.  Sam Carrier’s cross-country search to uncover his family history mirrors an internal journey as he grapples to understand and come to terms with his Tourette’s.

There are two reasons I love this book. First, Sam’s symptoms are woven into a broader plot arc. His tics (and all the baggage that come with them) are part of him, as they are part of the story.  But they are neither all of him, nor all of his story.  There is a greater overarching story than a boy overcoming the challenges of his TS. It’s about families and love, secrets and acceptance. Sam’s character and his journey are layered deeper than you might expect.  The same is true of people with TS.

Which brings me to the second reason I love this book.  Sam’s voice is compelling and believable. The author drew me straight into his character’s mind and heart.  Too often, people recognize Tourette Syndrome by what we see on the outside.  But so much of TS happens on the inside.  Friesen takes us, through stunning prose and poignant memorable scenes, into Sam’s head — his obsessive thoughts, reactions, frustrations, and shame.  Not just the physical pain, but the battles inside as he struggles to find happiness and sense of belonging. Through them, we discover a bright, courageous and likable young man… who happens to have Tourette Syndrome.

Jerk, California is high on  my list of favorite YA novels. It’s thoughtfully crafted, emotionally evocative, and tells a beautiful story.


Some Kind of Wonderful

“I think Carson might like me,” my son says. “I paid Blake fifty cents to ask her. She said she needs some time to think about it.”

“Do you like Carson?” I ask.

“Yeah, I think I want her to be my girlfriend. Everyone tells me I should. She has blue eyes, just like me.”

Thoughtful pause.

“Mom, if someone has eyes that are brown and green and gray, all mixed up, what’s that color called?”

“Hazel,” I reply.

Another pause.

“Grace’s eyes are hazel. I think they’re really pretty. And her hair kind of shines in the sun. Yeah,” he smiles, “hazel is my favorite color.”

I scratch my head, trying to keep up.

“Are we talking about Grace or Carson? Which one is your girlfriend?”

“Carson might be my girlfriend. Grace is just my best friend.”

“Grace sounds pretty special,” I say.

“Yeah, she always likes me and she’s always my friend, no matter what. She makes me laugh. I have a lot of fun with Grace.”

“What about Carson?” I wonder, fighting back a smile.

“I’m not really sure. She’s not sure if she likes me or not. Sometimes she’s nice… sort of.” He shakes his head. “I don’t really understand girls.”

“Yeah,” I say, “I guess we can be tough to figure out.”

I consider pointing out the obvious truth.

But I don’t.

He’s only nine. He’s got plenty of time to fall in love with girls who won’t love him back… and to finally understand what it is about those hazel eyes that makes them so beautiful.

He’ll figure girls out on his own.

It’s my anniversary. We’ve been married for thirteen years, though we’ve been together for nearly twenty.

My son asks, “Why did it take so long for Dad to marry you?”

I shrug and say, “I don’t know. I guess boys can be tough to figure out.”

He laughs and surprises me when he says, “I bet Dad’s favorite color is brown.”

Yeah, he’s only nine. But he just might have this all figured out.

May

02, 2011 |

Filed in:

Uncategorized |

TALK:

5 comments

Special Guest Post: Do What You Love

BeckyHollee

 

By Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple

Authors, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding  Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood

 

 

We have both always known that we feel most alive when we write.

Which isn’t to say that the words always come easily, or that they sing the moment they hit the page, or even that they’re all destined to sing. Sometimes, we struggle. No—often we struggle, as individual writers and as a team.

But in a good way. A really good, energizing, soul-nourishing way. This may not make sense, but putting our thoughts into words, and then editing and tinkering until they say exactly what we want them to say, is a blissful sort of pain. And it sure beats the other kind of pain, the one that we feel when we pour our energy into something that isn’t, well, us.

Over the years, we’ve both done work that inspired us, and we’ve both done work that most definitely didn’t. Both types have given us good days and bad; even work that inspired us has, at times, made us feel frustrated and lost.  And the soul-sucking work has had moments that didn’t completely … suck.

As a result, it’s taken us some years to figure out what truly makes us happy professionally; it isn’t always obvious. After all, there are an awful lot of messages out there about what should qualify as success.

But we each found our groove writing Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood (Harlequin, April 2011). As we delved into how critical it is to define our own success as mothers and professionals — to write our own rules, to reject ideas of greatness that don’t fit our own priorities — we each found ourselves on a journey. We became more sure than ever that the only way to live is to pursue our dreams.

And that’s what this book is to us: a dream. The passion we felt for the topic swelled within us as we wrote — and, somehow, that made the sacrifices less painful. It was easier to balance family life and writing because we were driven by a purpose other than “It’s my job” or “I’ll feel guilty if I don’t.”

That purpose fueled us in the same way that other jobs have drained us. Hollee was able to pull herself out of bed each morning at 5 a.m. to write; Becky (who’s more of a night person) would sit down after the kids went to bed at 8 p.m. and write until 2 a.m.

We couldn’t have done this if the topic and the writing didn’t stir something inside us, if the process didn’t nourish us along the way.

And that’s the greatest lesson of the New Perfect: Do what you love.

 

Good EnoughBecky and Hollee’s new book, Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood, is available at http://amzn.to/newperfect . They blog about parenting and work/life balance at http://TheNewPerfect.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD ENOUGH IS THE NEW PERFECT

Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood

This is not a book about settling.

Women today earn more than half of all bachelor’s degrees, hold more managerial positions than men, are earning higher and higher salaries and doing all of this while having families on their timeline.  It would only make sense that this generation of girls born to Have It All would be the happiest in history. So why is it that study after study shows that women’s happiness levels have been decreasing—and what can they do about it?

Based on exclusive data, more than 100 in-depth interviews, and the latest research, Good Enough Is the New Perfect builds on the growing “anti-perfection parenting” movement by being the first book to present empirical evidence that this philosophy offers an advantage. Drawing on their groundbreaking original survey of 905 working mothers, authors Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple have discovered a paradigm shift in motherhood today: More and more mothers are losing their Never Enough attitude and embracing a Good Enough mindset to be happier, more confident and more successful.

Some surprising findings from the authors’ survey, which included working mothers  from a broad range of professions and from nearly every state in the nation:

 

 

 

 

Told through the inspiring stories of real moms—executives and entrepreneurs, doctors and lawyers—Good Enough is the New Perfect blends expert advice and solid research to offer a true roadmap for the incredible balancing act we call motherhood.

The book will be released by Harlequin Nonfiction in April 2011.

 

About the authors

Becky and Hollee are the work/life balance columnists for the ABA Journal, the nation’s premiere lawyer magazine. Both graduates of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, they first worked together in the early 1990s, when Becky was Hollee’s first editor at The Daily Northwestern. Like so many of the working mothers they interviewed, they forged non-linear career paths, taking detours in their quests to balance work and family. They blog about work/life and parenting issues at TheNewPerfect.com.

Becky is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Chicago Sun-Times, The Detroit News, USA Today and the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester, N.Y. In 2001, while on staff at the Sun-Times, she co-wrote a groundbreaking investigative series on “failing teachers” that led to statewide reforms in teacher testing and a crackdown on teacher quality in the Chicago Public Schools. The three-day series, which began one week after the birth of her first child, gave Becky her first experience at balancing motherhood and career. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Pete, an employment litigator, and their two daughters.

Hollee is a journalist-turned-lawyer-turned-professor at West Virginia University College of Law. After graduating at the top of her class with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Hollee headed to Duke University School of Law. She graduated in 1999, and then began a four-year stint as a litigation associate at an international law firm. After her first son was born in 2002, Temple returned to her firm on a part-time basis before joining the WVU faculty the next year. Hollee lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, with her husband, John, an author and journalism professor, and their two sons, Gideon and Henry.

 

 

Apr

18, 2011 |

Filed in:

Uncategorized |

TALK:

1 comment

Drop Everything!

teen lit day

Drop everything!

It’s Teen Lit Day!

In celebration, readers everywhere will be “dropping” donated YA books in random public places. Book plates in the front cover will let you know if you were lucky enough to find a donated book.

HINT: I’m dropping FOUR books at the King George Family YMCA today.

Look for the bookplates inside!

Will you be lucky enough to find one?

If you do, post or send a pic of yourself with your new book and respond with the title of the book in the comments.

Read the book and tell us how you liked it.

Then pay it forward by passing it on.

Apr

14, 2011 |

Filed in:

Uncategorized |

TALK:

comment

Tale of a Reluctant Reader

My 8 year old son was a reluctant reader. A VERY reluctant reader. But he also has some VERY unique challenges.

My son has Tourette Syndrome, which causes his body to experience frequent motor and verbal tics. He is unable to control or stop the blinking, facial grimaces, eye rolling, loud and persistent sniffing, shoulder shrugs, leg squats, hand motions, toe curls, and abdominal crunches. Nor is he able to silence the constant repetitive counting and intrusive thoughts inside his head.

Given all that, could you really blame him for not wanting to sit still over even the best of books?

I was beginning to wonder if he would ever enjoy reading. If he would ever curl up in a sunny window with a favorite book and escape for hours into his imagination, as I often do. Or if he would always dread it as though it were some torturous punishment he was forced to endure. The very thought of all he’d be missing broke my heart.

One day, on a whim, I picked up the first three books of The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. The chapters were short, the print was large, and the subjects were fascinating and diverse. The covers promised intriguing tales of mummies, dinosaurs, and knights. Magic and mystery all woven into simple stories with likable heroes. He read the first one — reluctant and slow — and actually came back for more… on his own!

Eureka! I’d found books he liked enough, even for all his discomfort, to READ!

As luck would have it, he’d just been assigned his very first book report. He chose to do his report about The Knight At Dawn (Book 2 of the Magic Tree House series). My mother spent hours laboring over his book report with him. We made him color-coded flashcards, and colorful props, and listened while he practiced in front of our family. Speaking in front of a group (as you can imagine) is no small challenge, but he was proud of his book report and tackled the presentation with a knight’s poise and a hero’s courage.

Bag and Props

And he still wanted to READ!

I decided to strike while the iron was hot. I googled the author, the series, and even fanned them on Facebook. We found the tour dates for The Magic Tree House Passport to Adventure. It was coming soon to our state! So I did what any overzealous Type A mother would do… I scheduled a field trip.

It was a long journey to the big city where Jack and Annie, the main characters in the series, were scheduled to appear. In preparation, we downloaded four of the Audiobooks so we could listen together in the car. And we drove two hours to Fairfax, VA, to meet Jack and Annie in person!

Jack and Annie

Connor and his Book

The actors performed a few musical numbers for the kids, and talked with them about the joys and benefits of reading. The children were told they could all take a Secret Oath, committing to do three simple things in order to become Reading Ambassadors:

  1. Read 5 books in the next 30 days
  2. Carry their reading passports with them and record the books they’ve read
  3. And help someone else learn to read

 

Great lessons, even for adults. What I heard was:

  1. Set a goal for yourself
  2. Measure and keep track of your progress toward that goal
  3. And help others along the way

 

Suddenly, reading was full of texture and color and sound and movement. It was meaningful! There were real faces he could associate with the story, and they were standing close enough to touch him!

At the event, I purchased my son the newest release in the series, a beautiful hardback book with a colorful jacket. The actors signed his book, presented him his passport, and allowed us to photograph him with them. He was so thrilled (and not just because he thought Annie was beautiful or because he thought Jack was actually Daniel Radcliffe!)

Signing

My son has since informed me that he plans to read the entire series… all 45+ books… himself. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

He loves to READ!

There is hope for even the most reluctant reader. And I am eternally thankful to the children’s authors whose creativity makes reading an enchanting experience for my kids. Extra special thanks to Mary Pope Osborne, Jack and Annie, and the bookstores who support events like the Passport Adventure! You truly put the magic in the Tree House stories!

On Selflessness and Sacrifice

It was a blistering cold day, that Valentine’s in 2006.  But I was shivering with excitement. Not from the weather. I’d spent days planning it. Coordinating and negotiating it to the smallest detail.

I’d bought a car.

And not just any car.

I’d ordered the ultimate “I Love You” present. I’d secretly purchased my husband the 2006 World Car of the Year — the BMW 330xi — brand new in sparkling graphite metallic finish, with every imaginable option. Did I mention it was new?

BMW

Per my instructions, it was waiting for him on the dealer lot, dressed with an obnoxious (and none-too-masculine) red ribbon and a sign in the windshield that said “SOLD to Cosimano.”

I’ll never forget the look on his face.

The scared-shitless one, when he turned to me and whispered “What the hell did you do?”

You see, I’d just gone back to work after four years of Stay-Home-Motherhood. I’d dieted my way back into my executive clothes, and clawed my way through 12 hour work days while juggling day care and bedtime. Because I wanted to. Because I needed to.

And he’d supported me, without hesitation or question or judgement. When I’d wanted to be home with them, he’d said we’d make it work. And now that I was ready to go back, his response was the same. He diapered and changed, bathed and fed, medicated and cuddled our children without once complaining that I should be home doing it. He gave me the freedom to climb my way back up the ladder. And climb I did.

And when I wanted to show him how much I loved him for it — in a grossly indulgent over-expression of my gratitude and admiration — I did.

He’s been driving his dream car for five years.

Until last night… when he waved good bye to that car without hesitation or question or judgement, so that we can afford to pursue my dream — my dream — for one more year.

Sometimes our love isn’t measured by what we give to each other, but rather by what we’re willing to give up.

Mar

31, 2011 |

Filed in:

Elle's Life,Writing |

TALK:

2 comments

| TAGS:

, ,

Angry Airplane Lady

Today’s post is about accountability.

And airplane bathrooms. But mostly about accountability.

On a recent flight, my five year old son tugged on my sleeve and told me he had to go to the bathroom. I glanced down the aisle. It was empty of passengers awaiting the “necessary” so I said, sure. No problem.

I followed Little Man to the front of the plane. Then made him wait while I checked the “Vacant” sign. Yep, the sign said the bathroom was empty, so I let him reach for the handle.

Whoooopps!

There was Angry Airplane Lady, still doing her business, and not very happy with my son. Little Man was very polite and immediately shut the door. He turned as red as she did, and I assured him he’d done nothing wrong. Angry Airplane Lady had simply forgotten to lock the door.

Hey. It happens.

Eventually, Angry Airplane Lady emerged, and she glared daggers at my little boy. She mumbled something at him under her breath and proceeded to huff and puff and glower at him through the rest of the flight. (She happened to have the seat right behind us… just our luck.)

As much as I tried, she wouldn’t look me in the eyes, because I am old enough to know and she is old enough to know — despite her behavior suggesting the contrary — who was actually responsible for the bathroom door debacle. It wasn’t the five year old’s fault. So why lay the blame on him?

We all make mistakes sometimes. If it hadn’t been my son, it would have been the next person to barge in on her business. And yet, she made it a point to show everyone, through her behavior, that she was not woman enough to take responsibility for her own embarrassing oversight.

I’m not sure where I was going with this post. But I guess my message is, remember to lock the door. And don’t point fingers at someone else who is smaller and incapable of defending himself if you know in your heart the mistake was your own.

And if you happen to walk in on Angry Airplane Lady, on a flight to or from Dulles International or Cancun, send her my warmest regards and a copy of my post.

Writing Like Real Estate

In my previous life, I sold houses. Lots of them. I guess you could say I was pretty good at it. The more time I spend immersed in the writing world, the more parallels I find between selling a book and selling a house. It’s just a different kind of property.

Lindsey For Sale Sign

This month, I’ve worked closely with my agent to determine the new direction for my book. As we explore new tones, new themes, new characters, and new plotlines, we’ve come to the decision that the book will be… well… entirely new.

I’ve survived the emotional loss and mourning process after the burial of my first completed draft. I am starting my novel again… nearly from scratch… knowing it will be stronger, tighter, and more gripping for the changes.

As I’ve shared this news with friends and family, people have asked questions, like why didn’t you just choose an agent that likes your book the way it is? Or why not just ask your agent to submit it in “as is” condition? Maybe it will sell?

I didn’t even have to think about the answer; it came as easy as breathing. Because if I think of my book in terms of real estate — it’s my property, and it’s extremely valuable to me, so it’s a reasonable analogy — my answer is no.

Here’s why…

Let’s say you have a house, and you want to sell it. You want to list it for the best possible asking price, and you want it to show well. Not only that, but you want the listing agent to be savvy, aggressive, and honest in their counsel. You want more than just a lop-sided “for sale” sign in the yard and a half-assed ad in the Sunday paper. You want the best possible contract with the best possible terms. So you interview and hire the most professional agent to list your home.

That über-agent will walk through your home, show you the comps, present a comprehensive marketing plan, and tell you what you need to do to make your home show-ready. If they’re good at what they do, they’ll be honest with their feedback. If the house really sparkles, then it will demand a higher asking price from the market, and maybe even yield multiple offers.

In my case, my agent told me the house has incredible potential, but it needs work. We can make it better… and this will involve a few pretty significant repairs. I had a choice. I could go with an agent who might be willing to slap a for sale sign on it and throw it out into the market without much due diligence. It would be a numbers game, a gamble on the possibility of a sale. Or I could choose the savvy agent (who’s going to expect some elbow grease from me) to make sure the property sells for the best possible price.

No contest. I chose Agent #2.

So this is me… stripping ugly wallpaper and threadbare carpeting, remodeling kitchens and baths, giving my story a stronger foundation with crisp decor and a shiny coat of paint. This story is a reflection of me and my choices. So, this is me… working harder, putting my best foot forward, even if it means taking a step back. Because anything worth having is worth working for.

 

Mar

18, 2011 |

Filed in:

Dead Blue,Elle's Life,Writing |

TALK:

9 comments