Monday, November 17, 2014

All the Grape Wants for Christmas is a Little Sister

This is the second year in a row the Grape (age five) wants to ask Santa for a little sister.

It's always a little sister.

Even last year, I think he intuited that a younger brother could constitute some kind of direct and unwelcome competition.

Last year I told him Santa doesn't traffic in human children.

He seemed okay with that answer.

This year he's not buying it, and he's so insistent, he's making me cry.

"But why?" he wants to know.

I've explained more than once that Mamma's belly is broken. He accepted that response until last week. More than once, I've heard him explain his status as an only child to his friends in these terms.

But I knew he'd eventually do more math.

"But you had me," the Grape said Friday, on the way home from swimming lessons.

"I did, but I had lots of very big problems. The doctors—many doctors—and Mamma agreed that Mamma's belly shouldn't make any more babies."

The pregnancy and its aftermath were so bad, that I knew, from about month five, that I would never go through that again.

I never pictured myself as an only child kind of mother, but if a second meant another ordeal like the first, I was going to be grateful for my one healthy kid and call my family complete.

For years, I was content with my decision, not least because it was based on the advice of multiple doctors.

The Grape folded his arms over his chest. "Get another opinion. That's what you did with your hand."

He paused to think. "And that's when your hand started getting better. Look. You can even drive now."

I turned and gaped at him, smugly strapped in his car seat, clutching a juice box, brimming with confidence.

He yowled at me to watch the road.

He's not wrong. I've got a new hand doctor, who issued a smaller, tighter fitting brace, along with a shot of cortisone. My hand does feel a whole lot better.

A surgery exists today, a procedure that did not exist five or six years ago, that could fix my major medical issue with pregnancy—the one that triggered everything else that went wrong.

Unsurprisingly, one of the handful of doctors doing the procedure is here in Boston.

I'm not going to go into an analysis of my medical records—I know lots of writers do, in painstaking clinical detail. That's fine, but that level of sharing doesn't feel right for me.

My basic conundrum boils down to this: Even if I have the surgery, I am likely out of "time," which is a euphemism used by endocrinologists to mean "good eggs."

In this I'm no different from tens of thousands of women in their early forties.

I'm a terrible sleeper, but I don't lie awake at night wondering why I waited so long.

I waited so long because my mind was made up. No more hellish, dangerous pregnancies. Period.

What keeps me up is that suddenly the entire game changed.

For me, it probably changed too late.

Either way, the Grape isn't getting what he really wants from Santa.

Not this year.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Invisible Identity Crisis

Many of my mom friends and I found ourselves with kids in school full time for the first time this fall.

Trigger massive identity crises.

Compound with the old trope that a woman turns forty and becomes invisible.

It's true. I'm 41. When I walk around the hood with Julian and/or Lila the Dog, dozens of neighbors say hello, stop to chat.

If I leave the house solo, I might as well be wearing some king of magic invisibility cloak. I can slip past the very same neighbors, totally under the radar.

Once in a while someone will actually do a double take, and say, "Oh! It's you. I didn't recognize you without your entourage."

Female friends of similar age report near identical experiences.

Sometimes, if I'm in a hurry, it's not so bad. But usually it's demoralizing.

Some of my friends experienced a back-to-school season panic along the lines of: "Oh my God, I need to get back into the career I ignored for ten years." MUCH easier said than done.

Others wander around looking shell-shocked by the sudden block of unstructured time during daylight hours, and throw themselves into charities and cooking and re-decorating their homes.

A couple of women I know were smart enough to see the problem coming, and nimble enough to react. They had so called "luxury babies," infants they never originally planned on, but decided they wanted as their little ones grew past preschool age.

There's a plus side of full time kindergarten for me: more time to write, which I'm putting to good use.

And still. I can't help lying awake at night and thinking BIG midlife crisis type thoughts.

Should I have another baby (if that ship hasn't sailed)?

I know I should have contemplated a second kid sooner, but I've spent five years with some version of medically induced PTSD from the hellacious pregnancy and aftermath that produced the Grape.

And honestly, until right before he turned five, I was content. One happy, healthy child is more than many people have, and I am grateful every day. Maybe he was my one good egg. Maybe the fact that I almost died should give me pause (it does).

Or should I get new boobs? Nothing crazy. Tasteful C's.

Or is the fact that I'm contemplating the new baby versus new boobs question in the same breath an indication that what I really should do is have a glass of wine, book a nice beach holiday somewhere, and get a grip?

Do I get points for self awareness? I mean, at least I recognize a midlife crisis when I have one. That should count for something.

Oh, yeah. Happy Halloween, all!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adventures in Busing

The wackiest thing about kindergarten so far? The school bus. Hands down.

The Grape LOVES riding the bus, so much so that his angst about starting a new school almost evaporated when he heard there would be a yellow school bus involved. This is unsurprising. I think the Grape's first full sentence might have been, "This is bus," in reference to this toy (for which I still have a back up or two stashed in the closet under the stairs):

I'd heard buzz over the summer that the bus takes a few weeks to shake out its glitches. But we were eager. So the morning of the first full day of school, we arrived at the bus stop and waited with eight other kids and moms. The appointed moment passed. No bus. Across town in Beacon Hill, the school day started. No bus.

The kids had a blast racing up and down the block and pelting acorns at passing cars on Columbus Avenue—evidently a time honored bus stop tradition, with which I am not going to interfere, because I'd like to be friends with these women.

One of the moms offered to drive the whole gang. She piled nine kids and all their lunches and backpacks into her SUV.

Me (crouching to his level and invoking calm but cheerful tone): This nice mommy (whom I very vaguely know from the dog park) is going to drive you all to school, and then this nice sixth grade girl is going to walk you to your classroom, okay?

Grape: Okay.

I'll say this about the Grape. He can be a major fusspot, but he's a great traveler, and I guess the school commute falls under the umbrella of travel.

So off he went in the clown car of kids.

I walked him to and from school for a few days. The following Monday, the Grape begged to try again. The bus showed up. The system worked.

As we moms smiled and waved at the bus bumping away, I started to think it's sort of strange to send a five-year-old off on the roads with some random public employee.

Especially one who freely admitted to getting lost on the day of the clown car episode.

"I think his name is Warner. Or maybe Werner," one of the moms said.

"Is that his first or last name?" someone asked.

Shrugs all around.

"I like that he wears a bow tie," someone else said.

And that was it. He may not know the city too well, but he brings it, fashion-wise, so we are going with it.

As the week wore on, the morning party grew to a dozen and then maybe fifteen kids. The Grape loves it.

Every afternoon, I take Lila the Dog and stake out the bus, which spews the kids out outside Charlie's. Or what used to be, and perhaps will be again, Charlie's. All went smoothly for weeks. One afternoon, the troop of kids marches off.

No Grape.

Heart misses beat.

Lila and I climb onto bus to find the Grape and his little School Bus Girlfriend trying to reassemble the Grape's belongings into his empty backpack.

He has unpacked his lunch box all over the seat, taken the lids off three pieces of tupperware,  lost his jacket under the seat, lost his drink bottle and library book entirely, and (apparently) attempted to hang up at least a dozen crumpled drawings for display. He is, for some unknowable reason, in the process of removing his shoes.

Also School Bus Girlfriend is making a huge mess with graham crackers, which I decide to ignore.

Meanwhile Lila (eighty pounds of dog), crazed with the excitement of actually boarding the bus, tries her best to stand on her head, jump on the seats, hoover up the graham cracker detritus, and generally turn herself inside out, while I hold her leash in the hand with the cast and try to reassemble the Grape's belongings with my left hand.

This is one of those procedures, like having blood drawn, that may only take a couple of minutes, but feels as if it lags on forever.

I finally manage to usher my kid and his dog and maybe eighty percent of his stuff off the bus.

I apologize profusely to the driver, who looks really put upon, but says nothing, because Werner/Warner is a man of few words. The Grape says he doesn't speak English, but I'm not sure that's correct.

I make a mental note to double Werner/Warner's holiday tip.

The next day, the schedule changes without notice. Lila and I see the flashing lights on Columbus from the southwest corridor, a full fifteen minutes early. We set a sprint record down Holyoke Street and greet a sobbing Grape.

His original School Bus Girlfriend, apparently enraged by a rival, has clocked him hard enough to leave a bruise. To the Grape's great credit, he didn't whack her back, but I suspect this is only because he's smart enough to know that she is way taller and must have twenty-plus pounds on him.

Sobbing Grape and I wait with a few kids spewed out with nobody to greet them, because, you know, nobody told us the schedule had changed. Lila and I were close because of dumb luck.

After handing off his friends, I call the school and freak out, which I immediately regret, because like every other mom, I live in terror of what they decide to write in the Permanent Record.

Head of School calls me back and assures me they are dealing with this matter and explaining to all the little savages (my word, not hers) that the school rules regarding treatment of classmates apply on the bus. As if it never occurred to anyone to mention that before.

Nobody complains about the lack of warning on the schedule change, because the kids get home fifteen minutes earlier, which is nice.

The next afternoon, the bus tracker app (yes, there's an app for that) shows the bus at one of the remote lots at Logan Airport.

Not encouraging.

Someone calls the school and informs us the bus broke down and the children have been packed onto a back up bus, which arrives promptly, but "smells like the men's room at Penn Station," according to one of the second grade boys.

In good news, the Grape and School Bus Girlfriend have made up. Or out. Evidently she tried (a second time) to French kiss him, and did succeed this time, in getting her tongue past his loose tooth.

Tuesday morning, our devoted Werner/Warner encounters a road closure somewhere between the South End and Beacon Hill. The bus makes a detour.  He ends up crossing the river and driving the children around Cambridge. By some accounts, they drive in circles behind MIT, but at least one girl claims they traveled as far afield as the Harvard Yard.

The children report that two of the older girls navigated Werner/Warner back to Beacon Hill, where they disembarked thirty to forty-five minutes late for school, depending on whose account you believe.

That night at dinner, I once again ask the Grape if he wants me to start walking him to and from school.

He looks at me as if I've lost my mind. "I love the bus, Mamma."

(Side note: If anyone knows the right amount to tip the bus driver at the holidays, send me a message. I'm thinking a nice bottle of scotch is not the way to go.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Parenting Advice from Strangers/Childless: Like Sex Advice from Celibate Clergy?

Years ago when I was pregnant, my mother tried to teach me to respond to complete strangers who offered unsolicited advice with, "I have an OB. I don't need any advice. Thank you."

She said that statement had a nicer ring than my go to, which at the time was, "Fuck yourself."

On one occasion I got creative, and told an unusually intrusive and obnoxious stranger in a pedicure chair what she should stick in her privates. Mom wasn't proud, but she laughed. That tale is here.

I foolishly thought the advice from random busy bodies would stop once we emerged from the pregnancy/new infant stage. Wrong.

A close friend of mine (incidentally one of the best moms I know, the kind who glows with happiness while four kids climb all over her, and makes running a big household look easy) lets her early and middle elementary aged children climb trees.

Not the outside of the Hancock Tower.


She's given up on counting the number of strangers, some nearly apoplectic, who come running up to alert her that her children are, indeed, up in trees, and who refuse to accept that as their mother, she's okay with this. She smiles sagely, thanks them for their concern, and watches her little monkeys climb higher.

Back in the dark ages, my mom let us run and play, not only in trees, but in the woods.

One day, when I was five and my brother was two, we took it upon ourselves to walk a path through the woods behind our house to visit neighbors who had just moved in. We rang the doorbell, introduced ourselves, and asked for a snack. My mom had no idea where we'd gone until we reported that Mrs. S was nice, and she gave us cookies and made us lemonade.

Her reaction: dial up Mrs. S on the old school rotary phone and apologize for the intrusion.

Back then, we passed for precocious. These days, my mom would probably end up on the nightly news. The village has gotten mighty paranoid.

I think every mother I know has started to walk away from a tantrum throwing toddler—the tried and true "I'm leaving now. Bye."—which in my experience has about a fifty to sixty per cent success rate in eliciting the desired behavior. Most of the time passersby smile knowingly.

Not always. The girlfriend who allows the tree climbing once walked fifty feet ahead of her screaming four-year-old on the sidewalk in the middle of the day and got a screaming lecture from a middle aged man that she was giving her child "permanent abandonment issues."

That time, she couldn't resist. She told him something along the lines of, "If you want to give me parenting advice, I'm going to give you some weight loss tips." (Apparently he was quite fat.)

A childless friend suggested the other day, that maybe the Grape needs more boundaries. (The Grape had picked up my phone without asking.) I snapped back that this friend has no business telling me how to raise my child.

I'm happy to discuss most subjects and most of my beliefs with friends, but I don't take mothering advice from the childless.

I view it on par with getting advice on improving one's sex life from a celibate priest.

That said, I get that it takes a village. I am grateful every day to be blessed with dozens of great women friends who have fallen down the Mommyland rabbit hole with me. I'm grateful for the moms at the playground, because we all keep an eye on each other's kids.

I'm grateful I have a mom I can call for advice when I'm out of ideas.

I'm grateful to live in a city where the emergency services show up in under two minutes when I call 911 because my baby is seizing.

But, for better or worse, I've started to view my day-to-day village as more of a sorority.

Nothing makes my blood boil like some previously unknown person holding forth on his or her "parenting philosophy" without invitation.

Pro tip to new-ish parent at park: Lecturing the moms who have known each other and each other's kids for years, about how you, a complete stranger, think we're disciplining our kids wrong does not get you and your kid invited to indoor play dates with wine and treats during the dead of winter.

I can see you believe you're being helpful. You're not. You're being a sanctimonious twit.

And by the way, while you're telling me how important it is never to raise one's voice, your kid is whacking someone in the face with a stick.

I don't have all the answers. Like my mom friends, I do the best I can. I know the Grape and I are lucky. Still, some days with a five-year-old are frustrating. Other moments are filled with such joy and wonder I want to freeze them forever.

Kind of like the above mentioned pedicure/colonoscopy incident.

And to prove I'm actually not all cranky this morning, I offer this moment from August:

I wish I could freeze that afternoon forever. Even though a stranger told me not to let him sit on the rocks (while I was four feet away).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Needs Improvement

"We need to talk," R. said to me upon his arrival home from work last night.

Never good words.

He swallowed hard, heaved a put upon sigh. "We need to figure out a way to get through the morning shuffle without behaving like we belong on the Jerry Springer show."

I nodded.

"I'm embarrassed to see the neighbors," he said. "Maybe we should go around and apologize."

I shook my head doubtfully. "An apology includes an implicit suggestion that it won't happen again."

I think at this point he walked upstairs to change.

"We could send everyone booze at the holidays," I yelled upstairs hopefully. "Or something from Harry and  David."

"If you can't get this under control, we are going to have to move to the suburbs."

Of course his complaint has merit.

First, I'd like to take this moment to apologize publicly to any mothers with whom I worked in an office during my single days.

I had no idea. I am so sorry for ever rolling my eyes or wondering what the big deal was with getting a five-year-old dressed, fed, teeth brushed, shoes on, and out the door at some appointed time. Or wondering why you showed up with wet hair or looking hung over, when you weren't going out and tying one on after work.

The Grape is just like his mom in three ways: he has what one might politely call a Latin temperament, he slumps in the afternoon and gets a maddening second wind at bedtime, and he likes to lounge in the mornings.

In his perfect world, he'd play with Legos for an hour, take another forty-five minutes to an hour to eat, and then get on with the day.

In my perfect world, I'd let him do that, and spend the time reading and sucking down coffee. In a perfect world, he'd go to bed before 7:30.

In the real world, I can put him in bed by then, but he won't fall asleep before nine anyway.

In the real world, we also need to leave for the school bus stop by 7:45 a.m.

(Aside: Why is school so damned early? Because the issue isn't going to school. The Grape LOVES school. The issue is the start time.)

Every morning this week, I dragged the Grape's reluctant, bawling, sobbing, begging, protesting form down from the top bunk by 7:15, my chest heavy with mom guilt because my kid wasn't sleeping enough. I couldn't bring myself to rouse him earlier, but a half hour pushes our luck in terms of leaving the house with any semblance of order or calm.

Every morning this week, I pleaded, begged, bribed, cajoled, threatened and ultimately yelled like an escapee from a lunatic asylum, about every step. Take off pajamas. Put on clothes. Eat. Eat. Eat. Please, for the love of God, eat one bite of Cheerios. Good. Now eat another. Please. Please. You will lose your Legos and/or play dates for the week if you don't eat another bite right now. I mean it. Right now. Brush teeth. Brush hair. Repeat threats in shriller voice. Find shoes. Put on shoes.

The Grape yells right back. I'll say this for him, the kid has a will of steel and he can give as good as he gets.

Thursday and Friday mornings were extra special.

We left the house at a jog at 7:48, the Grape wailing in such a way that might provoke a new neighbor to call the police, and screaming that I was hurting his arm by pulling him along, me in tears because I was "that mom" who sends her child to school on an empty stomach, and Lila the Dog straining on her leash, doing her canine best to pretend not to know us.

This needs improvement.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I've taken to telling my close girlfriends that I almost wish I could've frozen the Grape at age 4 1/2.

Because while he's a happy five-year-old, his Mamma is feeling the first stirrings of alarm.

Over the past few weeks, he's started his slow but steady march away from me.

Which I understand is healthy, for him at least.

He wakes up in the morning and no longer wants to clamber into bed next to me. Please note that this doesn't mean R. and I get to sleep more. The Grape always announces—loud and clear—that he's awake before proceeding to play quietly with Legos in his room. At which point, I'm up for the day.

Then there's this whole Kindergarten business. It's sweet and play based, but somehow still feels like "real" school. He still wants to hug and kiss me goodbye, but some of his classmates already shrug their moms away in embarrassment, and I know we're within ten years of the phase when the fact of having parents at all will be a source of tremendous mortification. (I.e. "Can you drop me off a block away from the movie theater?")

Here he is, getting on the school bus for the first time ever. Note that he's visibly worried that the bus might leave him behind while Mamma fumbles, thumb less, with the camera:

Yes, thumb less. I crashed a bike on a rocky downhill slope on Block Island. Among various injuries which consisted mainly of losing much of the skin on my left side extremities,  I tore the ligament in my thumb. Of course the right thumb. Of course I'm right handed.

The thumb is NOT an over-rated appendage. Among the things I can't do: wield a knife or a pen. Typing is awkward. Personal grooming a challenge.

I didn't fully appreciate the magnitude of the problem until the end of the trip, when we stopped taking every meal in restaurants or from sandwich counters.

I have a surgical consult scheduled this week. Good times.

But I digress.

The Grape announced, out of nowhere, on the eve of his fifth birthday, "Mamma, I'm growing up."

As if to underscore his point, a bunk bed arrived two weeks later.

While R. dismantled the crib-turned-toddler bed, the Grape informed me, "Now that I have a big boy bed, a baby sister will grow in your belly."

"That's not exactly how it works," I said. (Though I know where he got this idea: from a Berenstain Bears book, circa 1983, he found lying around my mom's house.)

"You never know," the Grape shrugged.

I felt pangs of guilt over my lonely only, because he often asks for a little sister. Always a sister. As if he's processed that a child of the same sex would constitute unwelcome competition. Of course he has no idea how much any infant would constitute a reduction in services as far as the Grape is concerned. This is a kid who still prefers that his mother help him put on his pants.

I don't want another one. I had a horrendous pregnancy, and wouldn't repeat the experience for anything, even if I weren't too old. Which I think I am.

Perhaps more importantly, I'm content.

I don't have that baby twinge for another newborn experienced by so many of my friends. A newborn takes a family back to start, and I love that with one, we're fairly nimble; we can once again undertake last minute trips, such as the aforementioned mini-break to Block Island (so worth it despite my unfortunate injury).

We can go somewhere for the day without paying the consequences of the blown off nap. With the Grape in school, I can work without paying for child care.

But there's no escaping the fact that he is indeed growing up. Which makes me wonder how much longer I should keep writing about him. I feel like ridiculous baby and toddler incidents (such as Bye, bye vacation, hello trip or Winter wonderland or Baking with a toddler )are fair game. For the most part, those posts are about me and my naive expectations of how things should run. The goofy challenges of parenting small children, such as taking forty-five minutes to exit the house, are in many ways universal.

Now that the Grape is making memories he is likely to remember, is it fair to use him as material?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Got Tagged in the Writing Process Chain Letter (I Mean Blog Hop)

I don't write about writing often, since I don't find the nuts and bolts of my work day very interesting. Short version: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, eyes on clock so as not to be late for school pick up. But when the enchanting Laura Kenyon tagged me in this summer's writing process blog hop, I couldn't say no. 

Laura created the lighthearted and witty series Desperately Ever After. Her novels drop in on a group of well known fairy tale princesses—after their honeymoons are over—and shows the reader that it’s not all sunshine and roses after the first kiss. I’m delighted and honored that Laura thought of me for this interview.

What am I working on?

I’m working on a third novel, tentatively titled DO NO HARM.
DO NO HARM follows three women whose lives intersect, due to their connection to a massive pharmaceutical trial in Malawi. Stella is married to George, the celebrated humanitarian and infectious disease specialist who runs the trial. She puts her impressive career on hold to support her husband’s. In writing Stella, I was interested in exploring the question of whether a family can survive two hyper-ambitious personalities, or will one always need to yield? The second woman, Melody, is young doctor from a poor family in Boston. The more she accomplishes, the more she disconnects from her roots. Melody works for George, and her plot explores the line between aid and exploitation. The third voice is a teenager named Princess, a village girl George and Melody hire to work in their clinic. Princess dreams of education and escape, but her father, a powerful and conservative clergyman, has other plans for her. Princess’s story line looks at stereotypes and expectations, and the steep personal costs of unorthodox ambitions.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hard question!
I struggle with the idea of genre, though I suppose all my work could be classified as contemporary women’s fiction. I write mostly about young to middle aged professional women who find themselves in wacky situations.

My first novel, THE HAZARDS OF HUNTING WHILE HEARTBROKEN, fits the chick lit category, albeit with an unusual twist at the end.

I call my second book, THE K STREET AFFAIR, as a political suspense novel, but it’s also an adventure caper, in that my heroine—like James Bond, for example, or some of the earlier John Grisham heroes— stays alive much longer under her circumstances than a similarly situated lawyer in real life would expect to survive. THE K STREET AFFAIR delves into political corruption and the idea that multinational corporations are eclipsing governments as the power brokers of the world.

But unlike most thriller protagonists, Lena has to contend with friendships and family relationships, which tilts the novel back into women’s fiction territory. I knew when I wrote THE K STREET AFFAIR that I was writing a really quirky novel. While I think that makes it a more interesting read than THE HAZARDS, I never shopped the manuscript to traditional publishers, because the novel didn’t fit any genre pigeon hole. Looking back, I admit that was a big mistake—especially every time a reader tells me she or he would love to see the movie.

Maybe the third time will be the charm, because DO NO HARM fits the contemporary women’s fiction, or book club, genre. It’s also a much more “literary” project than my first two books, which could both be classified as “commercial fiction.”

See? Hard question.

Why Do I Write What I Write?
I write about characters, places, situations, and questions that interest me. My books differ wildly from each other, because I think I suffer from some bizarre form of attention deficit disorder. I love to lose myself completely in the world of a group of characters for a year or two, and then move on to another world.

That said, both THE HAZARDS and K STREET ended on notes that left the door open for sequels, without demanding them. It might be fun to revisit those characters and story lines in the future.

How does my writing process work?
In my perfect rhythm, I’d work for three or four hours in the morning, then take a break for a few hours to eat, exercise, rest, go outdoors, etc., and then work another three or four hours from afternoon into early evening.

But that’s not how my life works, because I have a little kid whose routine conflicts directly with my natural working rhythm. For now, I write while he’s at school. I’m much more of a morning person than a night owl, so if I need to find extra hours, I am more likely to get up early than to try to create anything after his bedtime.

I like to work in large (at least an hour, preferably more) chunks of time. I work at my desk at a window in a small office in our apartment, an alcove gated off and accessible only to me and the more agile of our two cats. I don’t write with music playing, and I envy the legions of mom writers who can pen brilliant scenes in their minivans, or at Starbucks, or at Chuck E. Cheese.

I don’t write from an outline, but I create a chapter by chapter summary in a separate document as I work. I write a messy, over sized draft from start to finish, then go back and revise, then solicit opinions from beta readers, then revise again, before showing my editor the more polished draft.

Now it’s my turn to point you towards two other writers. I chose them because I know their processes differ wildly from mine. 

You may not know the name Richard Fifield yet, but look for his debut novel, The Flood Girls, soon.  If I had to bet, I'd say that one day in the not too distant future, he'll be every bit as much a household name as that Franzen fellow. 

Wendy Walker is one of those supermom writers who writes novels in her minivan. Her books, Four Wives and Social Lives, examine the fallout of the sexual divisions of society we create when one partner earns and the other stays home. Wendy encouraged me to keep writing years ago, when all I had was a messy first draft of a first novel and no knowledge of the publishing industry whatsoever.