Bursting With Pride….But Pennies In Our Pockets

This time of year always has mothers stressed out about sending their oldest child off to college. We’ve all read articles about the pain and suffering of packing up our first born with way too much stuff (the extra set of twin XL sheets they’ll never use, the cleaning products that will still have an unbroken seal the following May), and bringing them to a white-walled room full of boxy, wooden furniture and unpacking those boxes as said child alternately clings to us, and can’t wait to get rid of us. I was right there with the rest of the first-time moms. Even worse, mine went 1,300 miles and an airplane ride away. I’m not going to lie…I cried when I left him, waving to us, trying to look brave, at the same time looking much too young for that kind of independence.

But this isn’t about leaving your first born. This is much more important. This is about sending your youngest off to their senior year of college. That’s right. It’s about the other end of the journey. The tears of separation have long dried up and the notion of financial freedom teases you like a sneeze that won’t come. The thought that, after all those years, you’re left with only two tuition payments, is like being the first one through the doors of Walmart at midnight on Thanksgiving. You can visualize it. There is Ms. Financial Freedom, standing at the graduation podium, with her tiara slightly askew, beckoning you with a tiny wave and a smile. And you want to, no, you must, run to her, with the speed and agility of a gazelle, because once you reach her, its nirvana. No more tuition. No more room and board. No more meal plans for food they don’t eat because Domino’s delivers. No more books priced at a 500% mark up by the book store that your child doesn’t read because Brad takes good notes. The same books that the book store will buy back from you at the end of the semester for $.05 on the dollar. No more loading the “Insert Your Mascot Here” power card that can be used to do laundry, buy snacks, or, on some campuses, book a manicure. (Be sure to read the fine print.)

Parent’s Weekend, which started freshman year as a four-day long festival filled with precious memories, endless photo ops, and roommate family bonding, has been reduced to a quick lunch off campus only “if I’m up before noon, Mom.” And, like all senior parents, you take whatever crumbs you can get. You treasure the opportunity to take them for a meal and a subsequent shopping trip to the grocery store and then of course, a detour to the gas station where you fill up their tank. Then you drop them off with a quick hug and kiss, if you’re lucky, and, if no one is watching.

That’s all you’re allowed. And it’s okay. This is what you’ve been parenting their whole lives for, self-sufficiency. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. They don’t need your input, opinion, or insight unless they ask for it. But really? It means you’ve done a good job. They feel confident enough to make their way in the world. Pat yourself on the back and don’t whine about how they don’t call you anymore. You did it!

Finally, it’s important to celebrate this milestone. No, not a graduation party, although that will happen too. I’m talking about the big bash that will be thrown next summer. The guest list will include family, friends, parents we’ve met along the way, frankly, anyone who, in any way had an impact on our kids. It will be epic. And the invitation will read, “They’re FINALLY off our payroll. Help us celebrate!” You’re all invited….


There’s A Giraffe On My Bucket List

I have a bucket list. Right now, it’s probably eight pages long. That’s because life interferes and all the things that we mean to do or want to do get pushed to the end of the priority list. This year, in particular, real life took over my schedule, leaving very little time for a bucket. Frankly, there wasn’t even room for a Dixie cup. Sometime in March, a post to my Facebook news feed showed a picture of a giraffe named April. I barely gave her a glance, but she continued to haunt my feed for several days and finally, I read her story. She lived at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and it seems she was knocked up. Yup, pregnant. Oliver, a much younger giraffe, who shared a barn with April, was guilty of a little giraffe canoodling and the result was he left her with child. Technically, he left her with calf as baby giraffes are called calves.

Jordan Patch, the owner of the park, ingeniously decided to live stream April and Oliver while they waited for their calf to be born. April got fatter and fatter as she walked her stall in circles and we waited and waited and waited some more. Word traveled fast and viewers by the hundreds of thousands turned on their computers to see if “today was the day.”  Well, like many mothers, April was going to have her baby when she was good and ready, and not a moment before. As the weeks passed, I found myself inexplicably besotted with both of them. Then, on Saturday morning, April 15th, I casually turned on my computer and there, on the live stream, were a pair of hooves poking out of April!! I screamed, I cried (I literally cried), as for the next hour I watched her baby boy, later named Tajiri, make his way into the world and take his first tenuous steps. I held my breath as he stood for a few seconds and promptly face planted into the floor. I wanted to reach through the computer screen and steady his little body, and shield him from everything wrong with the world.

Starstruck with Jordan Patch.

It was at that moment that I decided I would go see MY giraffe family. My partner in crime would be my sister and this would be our pioneer adventure, just the two of us. Thankfully, she agreed and we filled the car with luggage, coolers and selfie sticks and off we went. We checked into a nearby hotel and made plans to be at the park before it opened the next day. I wanted a good parking spot and to be one of the first inside so that I could really spend quality time with MY giraffe family. While we waited, a huge silver pickup truck roared into the lot and came to a halt behind our car. As I turned my head, out of the truck jumped Jordan Patch. I was star struck! Here was the man I had watched for months on the computer, in the flesh! So I did what any normal person would do and I screamed to my sister “THERE’S JORDAN!!” while simultaneously diving under the dashboard. I have no idea why I felt the need to hide; maybe I thought the scream was a little stalkerish?? Well, after driving more than five hours to see MY giraffe family, I was not leaving without a selfie with Jordan. “Come on.” I grabbed my sister’s hand and silently told myself there was no time for decorum or dignity. It was Jordan, after all! I’m happy to report that he couldn’t have been more gracious and I got my picture.

We entered the park, purchased a bright orange plastic cup filled with feed pellets and headed straight for the giraffe barn. Oh, wait a minute, who were these cute, furry things in front of us as began our walk? Turns out they were Gobi and Kara, Bactrian camels (meaning two humps) and they wanted our pellets. They even said so or at least that’s what I was guessing as they snorted and snuffled at us. We obliged their demands, because they were irresistible, and then, after a few handfuls of pellets, we went on our way. The giraffe barn is huge and has two pens; one for April and Tajiri and one for Oliver. We peeked inside and came face to face with Oliver. First order of business, we purchased handfuls of carrots to feed him. As I lifted a carrot stalk high into the air, Oliver leaned over the pen and took it right from my hand. I was inches from his face and I can tell you this with certainty; giraffes have the most beautiful, mile long eyelashes that frame the most exquisitely, gorgeous eyes and their coats are softer than velvet.

Giraffe whispering to Tajiri

After bonding with Oliver and promising to exchange Christmas cards this year, we headed outside to see April and her baby. There is a viewing deck where we purchased more carrots and standing right at the deck fence was the star of the show. April ate carrots from our hands and I shared with her my best parenting tips. Tajiri, I learned, was sometimes interactive and sometimes kept to himself, depending on his mood. On this day, he followed his mom and gobbled up the carrot sticks. If you look at the picture provided, you can tell I was smitten. Just call me the giraffe whisperer. I want to note that when we were there, Tajiri measured 8’6” and weighed 350pounds.

Do you think she’ll fit in my purse?

When we finally pulled ourselves away from the giraffe barn, we spent the next three hours bonding with all the other animals. I caught my breath when we got to the Sicilian donkeys. There, before us, was a two day old baby girl, who looked like a fuzzy steel wool pad balanced precariously on four legs the width of a clothespin. I wondered, briefly, if anyone would notice if I hopped the fence and tucked her in my purse. Her mother was having none of it, as I watched her give the stink eye to the rest of the herd when they got too close. I cut my losses and moved on.

Black bears, goats, wolves, zebras, monkeys, deer…..the list goes on and on. It was the most enjoyable day! My sister wants me to be sure to tell you that water buffalo get a bum rap. The park has two, and they stood shoulder to shoulder at the fence, big soulful eyes staring at anyone who was willing to stop, looking for a little love. The problem was, they really should be called mud buffaloes because they live in water and dirt. So, while she extended her hand filled with pellets, she was slimed for her efforts, her palm and wrist coated in mud.

Making new friends with April.

We left, after purchasing t-shirts and raving to the staff, with a profound sense of happiness and fulfillment. On the ride home, we relived every interaction. While I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Animal Adventure Park, this was really about checking something off my bucket list. It made me realize a couple of things. Don’t wait; life goes by really quickly and complications hide around every corner. No one has a crystal ball. Most importantly, it’s about shared experiences and for my sister and I, for reasons that are dear to our hearts, it was everything.

Catch Us If You Can!

11cb130f-1abe-4514-a91f-fc473a1ded20Cooler temps and colorful foliage can only mean one thing: Fall is upon us.  We’re ready! This season is chock full of wonderful events and book signings to help you find that perfect, ‘curl up with a good book,’ read, or a thoughtful Holiday Gift Set for the readers on your holiday shopping list. Check the listings below for an event near you, and come see us.

September 10–Books & Beer Pawtucket Brewery, Pawtucket, RI 6-9 P.M.
September 17–Big E Springfield, MA 10 A.M.-9 P.M.
September 24 & 25–Naples Grape Festival, Naples, NY 9 A.M.-5 P.M
October 8 & 9–Scituate Art Festival, North Scituate, RI 9 A.M-5 P.M
October 15–Boston Book Festival, Boston MA, 10 A.M.-5 P.M.
November 25 & 26–Ocean State Artisans Craft Show, Community College of RI, Warwick, RI 10 A.M.-5 P.M.
December 3–Fourth Annual ARIA Expo, Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, Cranston, RI 11 A.M.-5 P.M.

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation

According to some, summer is over. How do they know? Maybe it’s seeing the fleets of yellow school buses filled with precious cargo traveling the roads again; or maybe, it’s the sad sight of local pool clubs locking their doors against the threatening chill of Fall, and worse still, winter snow. But if you listen carefully, you might still hear echoes of fireworks, laughter, sizzling grills, and clinking glasses from recent Labor Day celebrations. That, and the ninety degree temps we’re experiencing today, make us a little nostalgic for the time that was the Summer of 2016.

Our summer began with an anniversary party at the Tiverton Public Library in Tiverton, RI. This gorgeous literary resource invited 20 members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA), to join them in celebrating one year of serving the Tiverton community, and we were lucky enough to be two of them. There was cake, costumed characters for the kids, and us, bearing books of all genres. Strategically placed inside the library, and out on their scenic veranda, it was hard for the visiting patrons to miss us, and impossible for us not to enjoy the view and the company.

In July, we packed our bags and headed upstate to Naples, New York, and Canandaigua Lake where The Pie Sisters is set. This was our second visit to Joseph’s Wayside Market, a true farmers market extraordinaire. Last summer, we had a wonderful time at the market introducing local and visiting readers to The Pie Sisters, and the Joseph family was kind enough to have us back again this year.  We saw a few familiar faces on this visit, and met even more new ones during our two days at the market. We met sisters looking to ‘share a good read’ with each other; we met families picking up ‘welcome back to the lake’ reunion gifts, as well as B&B owners stocking up on reading materials for their guests.  The company was abundant and the conversation flowed endlessly. It probably didn’t hurt either that our signing table was right next to the scrumptious bakery table overloaded with pies, cookies, doughnuts, and more. Location, location, location; books always read better with pie.

Where better to close out the summer than Mystic, Connecticut, which is exactly what we did in August. Bank Square Books brought us a boatload (pun intended) of new readers and new friends from Texas to South Dakota, Virginia to Maine. We met more sisters and girlfriends, more mothers and daughters, with sometimes touching, often funny stories of their own to share.

Like the ladies of Mystic, each one of the readers we met this summer helped make the Summer of 2016 one we will never forget. Thank you!

Don’t Blink

mortar boardKenny Chesney once cautioned in song, ‘Don’t blink, you just might miss your babies growing,’ and was he ever right. In a  few short weeks, both Leigh and I will bear witness to our respective sons’ graduations from college, and their entry into  the ‘real world.’ We are proud and happy for them, to be sure, but honestly, we’re a little stunned as well. Where did the time go?

I swear, yesterday I was standing at the bus stop watching my five-year-old wave gleefully good-bye to me as he boarded the magical yellow chariot that would take him to an exciting new world that didn’t include me.  He thrived and I adapted, staying connected with him through field days, reading weeks, and PTOs, even helping him with his homework.  Middle school brought an entirely new set of challenges; lockers and changing classes were cause for some initial anxiety, but again, he settled in quickly. It was a little harder for me. Overwhelmed by 7th grade math, I threw in the homework towel and took to cheering encouragement from the sidelines of the kitchen table.

By high school, my baby’s twitching wings had started showing some serious flap; honors classes, sports, school trips, after-school jobs, girls. He was in a perpetual state of motion further accelerated by a driver’s license and an upgrade to horsepower, with an occasional pause to think about his future. To that end, we spent countless weekends and school vacations visiting prospective colleges, twenty-two in total, before choosing his top ten.  We survived the dreaded essay writing and applications process, then all we could do was wait while offering fingers-crossed assurances that everyone would love him as much as his dad and I do.

Sure enough, they did, but ultimately his heart belonged to the University of South Carolina. His time there has truly been the best four years of his life…so far. He’ll soon discover that so many more wonderful experiences, incredible people, and character-building challenges await him. But time waits for no one, sang the Rolling Stones, so when my son crosses the stage  to receive his diploma on May 6th, he will walk swiftly with purpose and pride, and with both beautiful blue eyes focused on the brilliant future ahead of him. I just hope he doesn’t blink.

Badass Women of March

wonder woman‘In like a lion, out like a lamb,’ is a familiar idiom used to describe the weather of March. But we prefer to think of it this way: March is Winter’s bouncer, effectively melting away the last vestiges of snow and ice, and Spring’s escort to the garden party filled with beautiful flower blossoms and brilliant green grass. March is also National Women’s History Month, a time of special recognition highlighting the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The list of inspiring women is long, but many of our favorites just happen to have been born in March as well.

We begin with Wonder Woman. Yes, we know she is a fictional character, but the Amazon warrior princess created in March, 1941, by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, first came to life during World War II. Depicted as a heroine fighting for justice, love, peace, and gender equality, she is considered one of the nation’s earliest feminine icons. Plus, she had cool weapons, including the Lasso of Truth, indestructible bracelets, and a tiara that doubled as a projectile.

Before Wonder Woman came Fannie Farmer, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1857. An American culinary expert and author, Fannie published her best known work, The  Boston Cooking-School Cook Book in 1896. The ground-breaking cooking guide introduced using standardized recipe ingredients and measurements for first time. It was so popular and so comprehensive that cooks everywhere referred to later editions simply as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, and it is still available in print today.

Bonnie Kathleen Blair, the accomplished U.S. women’s speedskater, glided into this world on March 18, 1964, and into the hearts of millions at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Olympics. One of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history, Blair competed for the U.S. in three Olympics, winning five gold medals and one bronze medal.

By the age of 16, Geraldyn (“Jerrie”) M. Cobb, an American aviator, was barnstorming around the Great Plains in a Piper J-3 Cub, dropping leaflets over little towns announcing the arrival of circuses. By age 19, she was teaching men to fly. At 21, she was delivering military fighters and four-engine bombers to foreign Air Forces worldwide. In 1959, at the age of 28, Cobb joined the “Mercury 13,” a group of women selected to undergo physiological screening tests at the same time as the original Mercury Seven astronauts, as part of a private, non-NASA program. She later applied to but was denied entry into the astronaut program due to NASA requirements at that time.

These four women, their feats and accomplishments give new meaning to ‘In like a lion..” And they represent just the tip of the iceberg we call March.  So many strong, creative, innovative, and fearless women were born in the third month of the calendar year: Sandra Day O’Connor, Aretha Franklin, Liz Claiborne, Harper Lee, J.K. Rowling, Anne Bonny, and Dorothy Schiff to name just a few.  Badasses, all of them.


Growing up With Little House

6c84d49eb737e4ba5f48b625c94aa5c8On February 10, 1957, the Little House on the Prairie went dark, forever, marking the passing of its creator and beloved author, Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Twelve years later, at the age of five, and on the brink of becoming an avid reader, I moved to Europe with my family.

We spent six wonderful years in Switzerland, highlighted by coming home every summer for a month-long leave filled with friends and family reunions, back-to-school shopping trips, and magical visits to the book section of Sibley’s department store. My sister, Maureen, and I spent hours browsing the book-lined walls, seeking out new adventures in reading, our arms filling like overflowing baskets until we couldn’t hold anymore.

Maureen, who loved everything horses, favored two series in particular: The Silver Brumby, and Flicka. But I was drawn to the stories of a little girl growing up in the Midwest in the 1870s; Pa, Ma, and Laura’s sisters Mary and Carrie, became my family, too. I hated the bully, Nellie Olson, and loved the farmer boy, Almanzo Wilder, the author’s future husband. I was never happier than when I was reading a Little House story, and it crushed me to close the book on Laura and her family after reading all eight titles in the series; they were far too precious to donate to a library or hawk at a yard sale, instead I read them again, repeatedly.

Fifty-nine years after her passing, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories live on. The original Little House books have remained continuously in print since their publication in the 1930s and early 1940s. In a 2012 survey published by School Library Journal, Little House in the Big Woods was ranked number 19 among all-time best children’s novels.  Wilder’s stories have been adapted for television and stage as well.  As for me, the Little House books hold a place of honor, front and center, on my bookcase where the reading light never goes out.

Heart To Heart

February is National Heart Month, 28 days (29 in a Leap Year), dedicated to promoting and keeping our hearts healthy.  Nestled beneath a fortress-like rib cage, we protect our most important organ like a precious Valentine, but sadly, our hearts are not always safe.  In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U. S. today, responsible for a staggering 2,200 deaths per day.

But the American Heart Association (AHA) is working to change that with a few simple tips for keeping our hearts beating strong and true.

  1. Healthy eating.  You don’t have to be a professional chef to prepare healthy and tasty foods for you and your family to enjoy.  Start by picking up fresh, wholesome ingredients at the grocery store, and delicious, nutritious recipes will follow.
  2. Get physical. Walk, jog, hike, bike, swim,  or dance; it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it gets you moving and your heart pumping.  Calculate your target heart rate, then get set, ready, go!
  3. Weigh In. As the AHA says, ‘Master the Scale!’ by reducing the number of calories you take in eating and drinking, and increasing the number of calories burned by being active. Managing your weight is easier when you think of it as a team effort.
  4. Don’t Stress. No one is immune to it, but stress affects us all in different ways. Fortunately, there are also many means to managing stress when it strikes. Exercise, enjoy a hot bath, get a relaxing massage, or dare we suggest, read a good book?

At Brown Corliss Books, we’re also working to bring special attention to National Heart month, and keeping our readers heart-healthy. Please join us, Thursday, February 11th at The Copper Pelican gift shop in Tiverton, Rhode Island, for an evening of ‘Wine, Chocolate & Good Books.’ Enjoy wine tasting, and sample locally-made chocolates while shopping for the perfect gift for your Valentine; on this night, a portion of all sales will benefit The American Heart Association.   We hope to see you there.



The Exciting Road to Authors’ Expo 2015: Day 30

ARIA’s signature event, the Authors’ Expo will be here before you know it, Saturday, December 5th, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI.  More than 100 local authors, including headliners Claudine Pepin, John Land, and Thomas Cobb will be part of this book bonanza extraordinaire.  And, if that’s not enough to get you in the literary browsing mood, our friend and fellow ARIA member, Martha Reynolds, is providing an added treat; each day in November, Martha’s blog will profile a featured ARIA author who will be at the Expo to chat, sign books, and help you with your holiday shopping needs. Check here daily to read the Featured Author profile or go to http://marthareynoldswrites.com.

Meet today’s featured author, Mark Perry: http://marthareynoldswrites.com

The Exciting Road to Authors’ Expo 2015: Day 29

ARIA’s signature event, the Authors’ Expo will be here before you know it, Saturday, December 5th, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Lincoln Mall in Lincoln, RI.  More than 100 local authors, including headliners Claudine Pepin, John Land, and Thomas Cobb will be part of this book bonanza extraordinaire.  And, if that’s not enough to get you in the literary browsing mood, our friend and fellow ARIA member, Martha Reynolds, is providing an added treat; each day in November, Martha’s blog will profile a featured ARIA author who will be at the Expo to chat, sign books, and help you with your holiday shopping needs. Check here daily to read the Featured Author profile or go to http://marthareynoldswrites.com.

Meet today’s featured author, Claremary Sweeney: http://marthareynoldswrites.com