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Strange New Year

January 19th, 2013











Luckily, I’m not superstitious. So just because there’s that “13” in this  brand-new year, I’m not worried. However, if I did suffer from Triskaidekaphobia, I would have plenty of reasons to think that this would be a strange year.

Here we are, not quite three weeks in and:

– Our five-year old Prius, which up until now I have loved, has been in the shop three times, for a total of six days and finally, the mechanics had to call on Toyota engineers to figure out what the problem was. It’s healed now – fingers crossed. Oh, wait, I can’t cross my fingers if I’m not superstitious. My theory is that the Prius wanted attention. We just hadn’t been showing it the love. Lesson learned. Have you hugged your car today?

-I got locked OUT of my office for the better part of a day – which is very difficult for me because my life is in that office! This was due to the Prius unexpectedly spending the night in the shop – along with one key to my office. AND I’d locked my other key IN the office, thus locking me OUT. Needless to say, we now have a lot of extra keys.

-I got locked IN my office two days later. That’s right, I couldn’t get out because the doorknob was broken. I suffered some mild panic, because my office is wonderful and cozy but it doesn’t have a bathroom! Luckily, the locksmith came quickly and I was relieved – in more than one way. And of course, there were plenty of people suggesting I need a lock-that-doesn’t-lock for my office. My husband is convinced I could have gotten out through the window, but the window is small and high and there are those windowboxes ….

My mother always told us that whatever you do on January 1, you’ll be doing the rest of the year. For all my life, that’s made me be careful about what happens on New Year’s Day. This January 1, I wrote all day. I imagine that is what I’ll be doing the rest of the year – though I have quite a bit of travel coming up. Anyway, I’m not superstitious.

I also didn’t make any resolutions this year, which is a first for me. (My mother also used to make resolutions FOR her husband and children.) It’s still not too late, is it?

And another strange thing: it really was cold here in Southern California, but the warm temps have returned and I am grateful.

I hope 2013 turns out to be a lucky day for one and all. Bring on the strangeness!




[Note: Humphrey asked me to tell you that if you’re a fan, he’d be unsqueakably happy if you “Liked” his Facebook page at]

  Mom, me, Janet


I once knew a woman who had an unusual daughter.  Many parents panic if they notice anything about a child’s behavior that falls into uncharted territory, but this stay-at-home mom was unflappable.

While her daughter played outside endlessly by herself, way, way  back in the yard – weaving in and out of the row of evergreens that lined the back wall – the mother glanced out the window from time to time. Her daughter talked to herself in a highly animated manner, acting out some kind of a story but the mother was merely bemused. When the girl came back in the house to get ready for dinner, the mother never, ever asked her what she was doing in the backyard. (I’m not sure whether she had to bite her tongue.) Once the girl told her about the little hotel that was back there -each evergreen was a door to a different room – and her mother accepted it without question.

Without question.

When the weather was bad, the girl played in her room. She lined her dolls up on the bed and pretended she was their teacher. It was a small house and the mother couldn’t help overhearing the girl’s monologue, but the mother didn’t questions, although from time to time, she could be heard telling other family members, “I know everything that happened in school today from listening to her play. I knew who got in trouble, who got a bad grade, who talked out of turn.” On Sundays, her daughter returned from church and re-enacted Sunday School.

The girl also spent long hours at her desk, drawing and writing. The mother surely noticed the accumulation of drawings of an endless cast of characters in the wastebasket and the wadded-up pieces of writing, but she didn’t let on. Her mother let her type on the old upright typewriter on the back porch as soon as she could form words.

Sometimes, the girl showed her parents a story or poem she had written. Her writing got good grades at school. The mother was pleased, but she when she saw her daughter scribbling away for hours, she didn’t ask what she was writing.

The unusual daughter had a father, too. He was tolerant, as well. The parents were already used to a daughter who loved to read. After all, their older girl was a devoted reader and when she was very young, they’d take her to three or four libraries at a time. The libraries only allowed children to check out a few books, and their first daughter needed more to get her through a week.

It didn’t bother the father when his younger daughter followed him around while he worked in the yard, her nose stuck in a book, spelling out words she didn’t know so he’d tell her what they were.  It didn’t bother him when she’d call out at night (the family all read in bed every night) and spell out words. He’d just call back down the hall with the word and they all went on reading. No one ever told her she was reading too much, even when she tripped over furniture as she walked through the house reading.

At seven, the younger girl wrote a book (with pictures) and when she  gave it to her parents, she told them she wanted to be a writer. They were surprised but proud. The father, who was an excellent amateur artist, took a shoe box and made a little diorama of her book, with cardboard cut-out figures of her hero, Teddy Bear, and his girlfriend, Tallulah.

When the family converted from an old coal furnace to gas, they painted the old coal bin in the basement, with its thick walls and the little window for loading the coal, and made it into an office for their writerly daughter. She had a desk, a blackboard, a chair, a little china cabinet. She carried a pitcher of water down there and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was her first office, the first of many and one of the best.

Perhaps if the little girl had been a loner, her parents might have worried, but she had loads of friends and in addition to playing alone, she loved to play jump rope, hopscotch, roller skate, ride her bicycle, play with her dog, play piano, play board games (and jacks and pick-up-sticks), watch TV and giggle.

Still …. still …. she spent a lot of time in some kind of imaginary world that they didn’t know. And they never tried to know.

Somehow, this girl’s parents knew that even a child has a right to privacy … the right to grow and change and create without intervention. A decade or two before people started saying, “I need my space,” they already knew it.

I can never thank these parents enough, for I was this girl, and these were my parents and I am grateful.



March Madness

March 28th, 2010

Mind Your Head I should take this excellent advice from England!

March madness: I’m not talking about basketball … I’m talking about living life like a hamster spinning on a hamster wheel!

What have I been doing lately?

1) answering fan mail
2) writing and rewriting Humphrey book 7
3)answering fan mail
4) writing and rewriting the first of the younger Humphrey books, aimed at kids 5-7
5)answering fan mail
6)negotiating with agents and lawyers on two potential TV series (one Humphrey, one not)
7)dealing with ridiculous time-devouring tech problems with my Blackberry (finally healed) and printer (finally healed)
8)neglecting everything else, like fun, friends and family

I’m HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY that Humphrey makes so many people HAPPY-HAPPY-HAPPY. But I still haven’t found that balance.

I miss my travels to schools throughout the country, but I traveled so much over the past few years that I’m only now getting used to the fact that it’s Sunday and I don’t have to catch a plane! I recently drove a friend to Burbank airport on a Sunday afternoon and I was amazed to think that I wasn’t the one getting on a plane. However, I will be traveling to the UK in August/September and next March and that makes me unsqueakably happy.

Okay, so I have nothing to complain about. I need to mind my head!


December 19th, 2009

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings

Things have been hectic as the holidays are bearing down on us … and I still haven’t finished Humphrey book seven. Eerk!

Hopefully in 2010, I’ll be back to blogging.

Meanwhile, thanks so much and Season’s Greetings to Humphrey’s friends and to the entire Sassafras Springs community!

That sinking feeling…

September 8th, 2009

A fire truck caught in a sink hole near our neighborhood ….more fallout from the water main break back home – amazing video.  Our neighbor Mary called to give us an update but all is okay at our house – we’re just missing out on monumental traffic jams.

We spent a great day in NY yesterday, seeing our son’s new apartment and touring really cool Long Island City, looking at the best view of Manhattan you’ll ever see, and kayakers, seaplanes, barges and sailboats on the river. Then dinner with friends Betty and Alex in town … a perfect day.

Today, celebrating the first day of school in Glenridge, NJ with 3rd grader Rita and kindergartener Josie.

Tomorrow: up at the crack o’ dawn for our trip to London!