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Monday, March 31, 2014

Coming Soon - American Angst

A new post by Lucy will be out this Friday, but for now, read on for a preview of American Angst, which will be available on Amazon soon!

American Angst is about love, family, self-discovery, and the crazy society we live in. These stand-alone stories follow Lucy and Robin Bricker, characters from The Holdout and November Surprise, as they simultaneously search for freedom and for the ties that bind.

Within Earshot – Can 7-month pregnant Lucy make it through her first Bricker family Thanksgiving? Not without Robin’s help!

An Elaborate Truth – For Robin, love has never been about lies or revenge. Until now.

History Lesson – Lucy learns that the joy of motherhood is accompanied by pain.

Underwater – What led Robin to audition for the reality show The Holdout? Find out!

Talking Points – Read all of Lucy’s blog entries during the 2012 election, with new, additional material! (Spoiler:  Obama still wins)

American Angst – On a trip to LA, Robin gets caught up in a celebrity murder scandal. How will she use her charm and wit to get out of it?

Emotional, shocking, humorous and profound, American Angst is a collection of stirring tales that you won’t want to miss, whether you’re new to these characters or you think of them as old friends. Watch for it this spring on Amazon!


Friday, March 7, 2014

Cold Medicine and a New Cold War

It’s been a very long winter – unusually cold and harsh, and the darkest days had only just passed when there seemed to be a respite.  At least with the Olympics we could celebrate the ice and snow, and while there were problems and controversies in the buildup to Sochi games, the execution turned out okay.

So I, along with the rest of the world, got used to seeing Putin in the audience during those skating events, and while I still wasn’t his biggest fan, I started to think of him like a co-worker. He became that higher-up guy who I would never go to happy hour with, but I could revere him and possibly say hi when I passed him in the hall, and I was slightly less afraid of him than I had been a week before.

And I was lulled into a feeling of complacency, so much so that I was actually shocked when Putin condemned the actions that led to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's overthrow as an illegal takeover. His refusal to acknowledge the new Ukrainian government places Russia and Ukraine in a showdown over control of Crimea, and meanwhile Obama is in an impossible situation as he faces the reality of a new cold war.

But that’s how it works. Things can seem fine, until something dramatic happens and everyone gets heated and upset, and suddenly there’s no visible way to overcome the obstacles that yesterday hadn’t seemed so bad. It was easy enough for the rest of the world to ignore the Ukraine’s new anti-protest laws and the wave of violence and police-brutality that they spurred, but now we can’t just close our eyes and wish it all away.

And it was easy enough for me to ignore the less than perfect aspects of my own life. My father, who suffered from a massive stroke last summer, has become angry and depressed. I was the one who insisted that we move back home so I could help take care of him, but every time I go over there, he lashes out and says terrible things: I’m a disappointment, I messed up my own life and wasted my potential, he wishes I had stayed in Seattle.

“He says that because he feels trapped and frustrated,” my mother told me. “He’s so proud of you. You know that. And he couldn’t love you more.”

I do know that. But his criticisms tapped a nerve that has pulsated into everything else. There was a time when I was devoted to my career, publishing and working to become an authority in my field. Now I'm a mother and I work part-time at a Des Moines community college, and in between that and caring for my dad, my highest ambition is a nap.

So I was looking forward to going to this political science conference in Baltimore next week. I wouldn’t be presenting but I could spend several days hearing other presentations, talking and thinking about my work, and pampering myself a little. I was consoled with the idea of this the other night, as I drove back from a particularly bad evening with my dad.

"I don't want you here!" he had yelled, when he saw  it was me making his dinner and not my mom. "Go do something constructive with your time."

He hadn't warmed up to me after that, and I spent two hours cajoling him while I wondered why the heck I had moved my family, uprooted my life, and radically changed my career if he didn't want me around. I know he never asked me to move back home, but I guess I thought I'd be rewarded with some amount of gratitude.

When I got home the kids were in bed and I went and checked on them, kissing their damp, sleeping little heads good night. Monty was still down in his office. Since he mostly works from home he’s liable to be at his computer, writing emails or writing policy or whatever it is he does (I should have a better idea, but the details get lost on me) at any hour of the day or night.

“Hey,” I said, standing in the doorway to his office. A single lamp was on, and other than the glow of his computer, it was the only thing illuminating the room. He looked up, his face both in shadows and in need of a shave. “How did it go tonight? Is Noah still sniffly?”

He yawned. “A little. I gave him some cold medicine.”

“What?” I walked closer towards his desk. “You’re not supposed to do that. Kids need to be four before they get that stuff. How much did you give him?”

“Half a teaspoon.” I stared at Monty, my mouth firm, and he rolled his eyes. “The regular dosage is two teaspoons. Noah will be fine. We want him to sleep tonight, don’t we?”

I squeezed the bridge of my nose. I wanted both of us to sleep tonight, but all the headlines I’d ever seen, of babies dying from an overdose of cold medication, went roaring through my mind.

“You look exhausted,” Monty said. “How did it go with your dad?”

I shook my head. I’d told Monty about my dad’s Jekyll and Hyde personality shift before, and Monty had consoled more than once already. “About the same,” I said. “You know.”

“Yeah.” Monty started tapping his fingers against his desk. “You should go to bed. Get some rest.”

“Okay. When do you think you’ll be up?”

“In an hour, maybe?” he yawned as he answered. “I need to get all this done before I fly out to DC next week.”

I stopped cold in my tracks. “You’re not going to DC next week. My conference is next week.”

Monty’s face went blank. He turned to his computer and called up his calendar. “Oh,” he said with a rough swallow. “Yeah, sorry. For some reason I thought your conference wasn’t until the 28th.”

“Well, it’s next week.” My pulse began to race in panic. Suddenly this conference felt less like a break or more like my salvation. I had to go. “So can you change your plans? I already have my plane ticket and everything.”

“I already have my plane ticket too.” He spoke slowly, his eyes darting around the room and his jaw crooked. “And Jake Goodall is flying in so we can coordinate the new family planning initiative.”

I took a deep inhale through my nose. “So you’re saying no. You just went ahead and bought a ticket to DC without consulting me, and now you can’t change your plans?”

He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry. But they’re already hinting I should be in DC more. If we want this to work I need to accommodate them.”

“But why didn’t you check with me first?”

With his brisk tap-tap-taping of his fingers against the desk I could see Monty’s temper flare. “I can’t always check with you, Lucy. This is my job and if I want to keep it I have to jump when they tell me to.”

“Well, what about my job? You’re saying that your career is the only one that matters here?”

His chest expanded and contracted, and he sighed, answering in a tightly controlled voice. “My career is what keeps us financially afloat. Look, I know you were looking forward to this conference thing, but it’s not like it’s a required part of your job. It was more for fun, right?”

I was so angry that I slapped his desk, for lack of a better thing to slap. “Monty, you’re being a self-important prick.”

He stood. “Excuse me? How is any of this my fault?”

“It’s totally your fault!” I yelled.

Monty’s cheeks flushed with anger. “I agreed to move here FOR YOU. I took this job so we could keep our family together. But now everything’s my fault and I’m the prick? You’re being incredibly unfair!”

I could see the logic in his point. Both emotionally I was blind to it. “It’s your fault that I can’t go to the conference.”

He threw his arms out and spoke in this overly patient way, like I was too dumb to understand. “So call your mom. Call my mom. Maybe one of them can watch the kids.”

“For four whole days?” I shook my head vigorously.

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Yes it would, at least since my dad's stroke."

"Then what about my mom?"

I sighed. "I’m not asking your mother for another favor.”

He reached back and rubbed the back of his head while he frowned. “Do you want me to ask her?”

Why couldn’t he just offer to ask her? Why did he have to sound so sanctimonious?

“No. Never mind. I’ll  just skip the conference.”


I could feel my tears starting to build. “I mean it. I don’t want to leave the kids alone with your mom for that long. She and Abby will fight and I’ll feel bad. Just never mind.”

He rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. “Fine. If you want to be defeatist about this I’m not going to try and stop you.”

"Good." Then I turned around and hustled upstairs. I had to be away from him before I completely lost it. If he actually saw how angry and upset I was, if I cried and howled in front of him the way I wanted to, he would turn nice and then I’d have to forgive him. And I'd have to vocalize how tired I am, how much I need a break and just a little time away, and Monty would think he understands, but he won't. He gets time to himself all the time - probably too much, and I'll sound like a broken record playing an already annoying song.

And there was no way I was doing that. So began our own little cold war.

Here’s the thing about cold wars: they stem from vulnerability and stubbornness and contempt. And though they might get triggered by a sudden event, the resolution is rarely anything but slow. Employing sanctions and threatening retaliation will only increase the conflict, so the only recourse possible is to wait for a thaw.