From Your Mini Mogul

I was a stupid girl when we moved to New York, so convinced that I knew how to handle myself in a city packed with millions of people. Wide-eyed, filled with wonder—like a perpetual tourist seeing everything through the lens of a camera. I had no realistic idea of what life would, should, or could be like.

My first job in the city was an absolute nightmare. Save for one man, the team members treated me like the outsider I was. The reception pool leader was the type of heinous you seem to only find in teen movies. I didn’t stay long. They fired me on my birthday.

I didn’t think I even wanted to work in the city anymore. The excitement of taking the train in, walking the remaining nine blocks (past the Empire State Building every single day!) just lost its luster. But I kept at it, and just a few short weeks later, I found myself in the office of United Staffing Systems.

My first interview was brief but seemed positive. I’d been called in to talk about a position as the Human Resources Assistant. I had no Human Resources experience. I had little experience in anything beyond working in my dad’s real estate office and being shunned by the Sex in the City girls at my previous job. When the staffing agent asked me if I had time to meet the owner, I figured I had nothing to lose but probably wouldn’t gain anything, either.

I waited in an empty office devoid of much personality. Scattered papers covered the desk and one of the doors to a cabinet hung open. The room obviously wasn’t someone’s home away from home but rather a place to meet or maybe yell at people in private.

And then this…force walked in. His suit, I could tell, cost more than all the money I’d ever seen, but he wore it over a fuchsia V-neck sweater. No collared shirt. No tie. He shook my hand, waved me back to my seat, and then plopped down behind the desk. There weren’t many questions. He seemed to have already made up his mind about something. Instead, he just talked. He told me about his business, how it had been decimated since 9/11 but was back on track to grow exponentially. He told me about his deceased business partner, using such glowing terms that his respect for her was palpable. He told me about the job, little more than filing and faxing forms for disability, unemployment, and workers’ compensation. He propped his foot up on the desk, showing off the black Chucks he wore with his thousands-of-dollars suit, and I knew I wanted a job in Manhattan again. I wanted it so badly I didn’t know how to tell him.

Then he walked me back to meet the Director of Human resources, who was also his wife, and told her he’d found her new assistant. I was to start the next day.

After three weeks, he called me back into that little office, which hadn’t changed one bit since my interview, and asked if he could give me more responsibility. Slowly, I became something like his right-hand man, gathering all the bills and presenting them to him for payment. If I handed him one that didn’t have red ink at the top, wasn’t set to be sent to collections, he’d do something crazy, like set the bill on fire and drop it into the trash can or take his gum out of his mouth and wrap it in the paper. He was nuts. Crazy. The best kind of off-his-rocker.

The reward system in the office was a little slapdash, but he always knew what was going on. Everyone received “doobie points” when they went above and beyond. Those points could be used every other week to bid on some incredible prizes. Every day before the auction, he’d put me in a cab with the company credit card and send me on a mission to find those prizes. One day, I was in Tiffany, the next at the Apple Store, picking up huge gift cards, iPods, and other amazing things for people to win. He always suggested that I take my time while I was out. That I get some lunch, or walk to some cool New York thing that was nearby so I could see it before grabbing my cab back to the office. I never actually won any of the things I picked up, but that’s okay. That iPod would have broken by now. I still have the memories.

He called me mini-mogul and promised me that someday I’d make more money than he’d ever seen. It hasn’t happened yet. And if it does, he won’t get to see it. Yesterday, this boss—this man who convinced me that I did have a place in Manhattan, who reminded me that I could do more than sing on a stage, who professed such confidence in my abilities that I actually started to believe him—passed away.

I only saw him once in the twelve years since we moved from New York. By that time, it had been eight years, and I was afraid he might not recognize me. But he did. He walked over, gave me a hug, and asked how his mini mogul was doing. He told me how he’d just been having a conversation with someone while he was in the stall in the bathroom, but he didn’t even know who he’d been talking to. Then he charged off in those Chucks, waving over his shoulder, probably secure in the knowledge that we’d see each other again.

Maybe we will.

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Introducing Side Effects…Again

Just in time for the holidays, I’ve released the second edition of Side Effects. This version has been polished and includes material from the forthcoming follow-up novel, Soundtrack.

I’m so excited about this new edition for several reasons. The first should be overwhelmingly obvious. Check out this amazing cover! My friend, genius designer Jordan Veirs, read the book and produced this masterpiece. I couldn’t have imagined anything better for this book. If you already know Isaac and Grace, then you know they deserve it.

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Second, because I published this second edition on my own, I was able to set lower prices. I can’t give it away, as much as I’d love to, but I can make sure I sell them for the lowest price Amazon allows.

The print version is already available on Amazon. I’ve included some links on the Side Effects page and the Buy the Books page. Just be sure to check the cover before you buy so that you get the second edition. If you prefer Kindle, that version will be available December 5, but you can pre-order now.

Keep an eye on the site, because I have two giveaways scheduled through GoodReads and Amazon. I’ll link to the sweepstakes from here as soon as they’re live.

As always, thank you to all who supported during the creation and publishing of Side Effects. The follow-up is coming soon! So soon that I’ll be sharing the first chapter here on the site within a few days. Until then, please enjoy the second edition of Side Effects.

 

Where I Come From – Part I

When we think about where we come from, the timeline is relatively short. My basic bio includes cities and towns like Chattanooga, Nashville, Oakdale, and New York. If you ask me where I come from, I’ll probably answer Oakdale, even though I’ve now lived a majority of my life in Nashville. I come from Oakdale because that’s where I spent weekends and summers while growing up, where I finished high school, and where my church membership still resides.

My mom used to track our genealogy and share the stories she found, but that had to stop when I was around twelve or thirteen. She was hired on as a nursing director, and most of her free time disappeared. I still remember some of the stories, though the details are fuzzy. My maiden name McBay, from my dad’s side of the family, obviously, developed because my ancestors ran a ferry on, around, or to the Hebrides Islands in Scotland. We were, literally, sons of the bay. The Langleys, her side of the family, trace back to England (a fact that irritates the piss out of my very Irish husband).

Her research gave me a slightly larger picture of where I come from. It’s not just the town I’ve lived most of my life in. It’s not where I had my first kiss or went to the prom. Where I come from is actually a sweeping epic—where everyone comes from is, really. Our ancestors MADE the history we study today.

Now that my mom has retired, she’s returned to her passion for genealogy—this time with the assistance of some amazing technology. Her gift for Christmas was a monthly membership to Ancestry.com, and with this powerful tool, she has traced some of our family back to the years Christ walked the Earth.

That is a staggering realization, isn’t it? We think of biblical times as remote, distant, and in no way connected to us except through faith. But these things did happen. And our ancestors were a part of that history. Maybe they weren’t present with Jesus, but they were in a world about to be changed by one man. Some day she’ll trace even further back, and I’ll have another surreal moment or ten.

The timeline that has now been added to the “where I come from” mystery is enormous, and still not even close to reaching the very beginning. The characters she’s uncovered in my ancestry are numerous and deserve to be remembered, just as your own ancestors do. For that reason, I’m planning to blog—probably sporadically—about the discoveries she’s made.

I’ll focus on one or two people at a time, mostly as a record of her discoveries that will live on outside of her website. Also, I think, as a gift to my niece and nephew, who may someday also want to know where they come from. Mostly, though, I’m sharing here because it’s cool. It’s history. It’s me.

Just to give you a little taste of the characters in my family history that I’ll cover, so far we’ve tracked down Richard Warren, a passenger on the first voyage of the Mayflower to America, and also a signer of the Mayflower Compact. That’s super cool, of course, but then she discovered we’re also descended from Óengus mac Nad Froích, believed to be the first Christian King of Munster in Ireland. Legend has it he was baptized by St. Patrick, himself. (Uh-oh, Liam. Who’s Irish now?) Even more amazing, another branch on our family tree just might lead to Charlemagne. Obviously, I have my work cut out for me if I really want to discover where I come from.

What about you? Where do you come from?

The Greenest Green I’ve Ever Seen

We’ve been back for almost a month now. I’m always on top of these things, you know. Here are the photos we took in Ireland. You may have already seen some of them if you follow me on Instagram. Enjoy!

Crosshaven
Crosshaven
Myrtleville
Myrtleville
Kinsale
Kinsale with the kiddos
Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle
Blackrock Castle
Blackrock Castle
Three generations of Barry boys
Three generations of Barry boys
Bunratty Castle and Durty Nelly's
Bunratty Castle and Durty Nelly’s
Galway Bay
Galway Bay
Thatched roof on Inishmore
Thatched roof on Inishmore
Ruins on Inishmore
Ruins on Inishmore
Rock walls of Aran Islands
Rock walls of Aran Islands
Irish heather
Irish heather
Barren landscape
Barren landscape on Inishmore
Cliffs of Dún Aonghasa
Cliffs of Dún Aonghasa
Cliff view from Dún Aonghasa
Cliff view from Dún Aonghasa
Curious cow
Curious cow
Father Ted caravan
Father Ted caravan
Ger and Rosie
Ger and Rosie
Low tide in Youghal
Low tide in Youghal
Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle
Wooden sculpture
Wooden sculpture
Michael Collins
Michael Collins
Michael Collins home
Michael Collins home
Inchydoney Beach
Inchydoney Beach
Michael Collins assassination location
Location of Michael Collins’ assassination

We also spent time in Dublin celebrating the Easter Rising Centenary, but apparently I was having so much fun, I forgot to take pictures. The whole trip was amazing, but I’ll never forget hearing the proclamation read aloud in Irish and English in front of the GPO. Definite high point, though choosing just one would be nearly impossible. (Yes, Katie, afternoon tea. Without a doubt, afternoon tea was the highest.)

Can’t wait to go back!

 

How a Husband Handles Heartbreak

I spend a lot of time telling stories about my husband that make people laugh. Fortunately, he’s fine with it. In fact, he kind of loves being “internet famous.” But this man is so much more than a laugh factory.

When Hurley nabbed a baby bird in our back yard last month, I figured the poor thing was dead. I shooed the dog away and ran back inside for some shoes and my glasses. With the ability to see properly, I could tell the little guy was probably injured, but I didn’t know how much. He could still hop around the yard, but the tree branches were out of his reach. Still, he was safe enough without the dog menacing his every move, so I left him to his parents.

Later, I ran to the car to grab something and found the little guy just underneath the driver’s side door. He didn’t move a muscle while I was there, so I left him again. The next time I let the dog out, I’d nearly forgotten the tiny bird. Hurley had not. Within moments, he was chasing the poor thing around the yard.

Liam and I decided to act. We snatched the dog back and put him inside the house. Then we set up a makeshift nest in the bottom of a cooler. The walls were too high for the bird to get out, which was reassurance for us that he wouldn’t inadvertently jump to his death on the hard ground or inside my dog’s mouth.

I visited the Walden’s Puddle website (a wildlife rescue near Nashville) and learned how to care for the injured bird until we could get an appointment to turn him over to smarter and more experienced people. Every hour, for twelve hours, I hand-fed the bird mushy cat food by tweezers.

When I woke the next morning, I ran out to check on the bird first thing. Liam wasn’t far behind. My heart skipped a beat when the bird jumped up to greet us—or probably to escape, but I’m sentimental. Liam brought out the cat food mush and herded Hurley into the yard so I could get the bird fed. I couldn’t believe he’d made it through the night! We just had to keep him alive until 4:30 for our appointment with Walden’s Puddle.

Every hour, I fed the bird, but then we had to leave him alone for a bit. We timed our trip to the wildlife sanctuary perfectly. When I rushed through the house to grab the cooler for our trip, I was so excited that we’d saved this bird. Until I reached the cooler and found that our tiny new friend had slipped away while we weren’t looking.

His little body lay limp on the nest we’d made, his bright eyes once filled with trust now glazed. Just thirty minutes away from salvation, he’d given up. He didn’t know, of course, that we were working hard to keep him alive so that he could be healed at the hands of wildlife experts.

The first tears slipped out as I ran back to tell Liam we’d lost the bird. I expected him to think I was silly for crying. It was just a bird, right? Instead, that funny man of mine took my hand and led me back to the cooler where we stood in silence for just a few moments.

Then he grabbed a shovel and dug a small grave next to Rosie, and we laid the little guy to rest. As I cried, Liam just held me. Before we walked away, he said a short prayer. That bird wasn’t our pet and never could have been, but Liam gave him a final resting place of honor. And he’d never admit it, but I saw him shed a tear or two, as well.

And that’s how a good, loving, respectful husband handles heartbreak.

I wrote this just after we lost our little friend but waited until now to post for reasons I can’t really explain. Mostly, I couldn’t proofread without crying. :-\