Lies I've Told


My dad is a movie star
pretty soon he’ll come get me
we’ll go to Hollywood
and I’ll be on his TV show.
Want my autograph?

He’s a spy
an astronaut
a famous scientist working on a cure for polio

I can’t come to your party
because my dad is taking me
to the zoo.
We always go to the monkey house first.

Right now my dad is asleep
so we have to play at your house.
(Can’t you hear him snoring?)

My dad travels a lot.
but he taught me how to tie my shoes
ride a bike
and how to speak Pig-Latin
so we could share secrets just between us.

Last week he gave me his lucky silver dollar
and promised to buy me a pony
for my birthday.

He’ll be home soon
and you can ask him yourself.

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

Picture This


I never thought about my dad (much)
at holidays like Easter or Christmas or Thanksgiving
when my grandparent’s house overflowed
with aunts and uncles and cousins
and loud family noises ricocheted
throughout the house like a parade of auditory hugs.
But birthdays
usually a quieter time
always made me wish for him
wondering if I blew out all the candles
if there might be a present, a card
some acknowledgment
of his connection to my birth.

He saw me only once
still a baby in a crib
and then no more
but an uncle from his side of the family
came to ask about me
my mother said she showed him
my school picture
my hair pulled back with plastic barrettes
my white shirt with the Peter Pan collar
and I like to imagine him studying it
memorizing my face so he could describe it
to my dad.

Last year
I found my father’s death notice
and I saw that uncle’s name.
I wondered if he remembered asking
about me
and did he carry back stories to my dad
about me
or did he just tuck them into some secret place of his own
knowing that my father
didn’t want to know?

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

A Haiku

Nana often said

good riddance to bad rubbish

her junk, my treasure

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

Will Blood Tell?

Will Blood Tell?

I can count the stories told about my father
on just one hand
and none of them have happy endings.
He broke my mother’s heart, her trust,
yet his blood runs in my veins.

I know the ways I am most like my mom
but what do I get from this man
I do not know?

As a child, every night after dinner,
my grandfather and I would play Go Fish
at the big dining room table.
I liked to straighten the cards into neat little piles
on Nana’s white lace tablecloth
while Papa chewed on a toothpick and
contemplated his next move.

The day he caught me cheating
he put the cards away
without saying a word.

All night long
he wouldn’t speak to me
and the shame I felt sat in my stomach
like a lead cannonball
until I cried myself to sleep.

For days afterward I wondered
what it meant that I would
jeopardize my grandfather’s trust
to cheat at a silly game of cards.

Even now, I find it hard to see the best in me
so when they say
blood will tell
the truth of evil
which cannot be concealed
I am frightened
of the sleeping monster I imagine that waits within me
the monster that makes me wonder
if I am more like my father
than I might want to know?

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

The Child I Was


The child I was had
long blonde hair (combing optional)
freckles that multiplied in the summer
dirty fingernails from playing in the mud
scabs on her knees and elbows
baby dolls and a green bicycle and a room of her own at the top of the stairs
a grandmother who taught her to sew
a grandfather who taught her to hammer
a mother that loved her with all that she had in her
and a daddy-sized hole in her heart

divorce wasn’t talked about
support groups for single moms didn’t exist
and unfeeling teachers forced me
to make cards for Father’s Day
filled with words of love for a man I didn’t know
cards I wanted to save for someday
when I met him
cards I would throw in the garbage
on the way home from school
before my mother could find them

long before I learned about genetics
I wondered what parts of him
made up what parts of me
and why just being me
was never enough

when people ask me how I came to be a writer
I often tell them it’s because I had no father
and all my life I’ve been making up stories about who is
and why he never came back for me
pretending he was off adventuring
pretending he would someday return to claim me
righting my upside-down world
pretending anything
was easier than accepting that maybe
he was never coming back
because he never wanted me at all

the child I was
wanted so much to believe
that anything was possible
that all fathers love their daughters
that all families belong together
but fairy tales don’t often come true
and little girls grow up to learn
that some holes are best left alone
before they swallow you whole
and you lose yourself
to what you never knew
and forget
who you have become

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

National Poetry Month Celebrations & My Poetry Project

Tomorrow starts a month long celebration of poetry for National Poetry Month. There are going to be all sorts of wonderful poetic activities going on around the Kidlitosphere all month long. I’ll keep a master list here and if you find others or decide to start one yourself, leave a note in the comments and I’ll add you to the list.

Last year I was inspired by my new native plant garden and I wrote a haiku a day for 30 days all about California Native plants. This year I was struggling with how and where to focus my April poetry project. I thought about focusing on just one poetic form again but decided I wanted the chance to play around with different forms if the mood suited me. I know myself well enough to know that with poetry, constraints help me focus and stretch. That left me scrambling for a suitable topic. I poked around inside myself until I came up against something that hurt, a topic that was deep and emotional and would force me to peel back the layers of myself, which is where some of the best poetry comes from. A few months ago I posted about finding my father’s obituary before ever getting the chance to meet him. I’ve made contact with one cousin since then and the process of knowing, for sure, that he is dead and now talking a little bit with a new member of my family, well it’s stirred up all sorts of things.

So for National Poetry Month I’ve decided to explore my thoughts about my father. I’m not promising perfect poems but I am promising emotional honesty.

Here’s a look at what else is happening around the Kidlitosphere.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010|Categories: Family, National Poetry Month 2010|Tags: , |6 Comments

My Saturday adventure

I realize not everyone reads my stuff over on Facebook so I thought I would post a couple of my favorite pictures from the weekend. I got to spend some time with my adorable grandson and my son and my daughter.

They grow too darn fast.

Monday, October 12, 2009|Categories: Family|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Six on Saturday

There is still a little bit of Saturday left and since I didn’t do a Friday Five, here’s my Six on Saturday.

1. I bought 25 new plants today. Another 20 or so are being delivered next week. I have lots of digging ahead of me.

2. It’s raining again. That means most of my digging will be in mud. Clay mud to be exact.

3. There is no way I am going to meet all my deadlines for next week. I just have to figure out which balls are plastic and therefore okay to drop and which ones are glass that I need to keep juggling.

4. Carpos hamburgers in Capitola for dinner. Yum. Yum.

5. You can still enter to win a copy of SAY THE WORD by Jeannine Garsee, aka onegrapeshy  . Tonight’s the last chance. All the details here.

6. Some of you know that my son Ryan has Muscular Dystrophy. It wasn’t diagnosed until he was a young adult already living on his own and working a job he loved. Today he blogged a bit about his life with MD and he said something he discovered to be true for himself that I think we can apply to our writing. He was talking about how he had managed to find a way to continue to do his job as a mechanic in spite of the limitations of his body.

He said, "I was doing things I should not have been able to do simply because I did not know that I should not be able to do them."

What if we wrote without thinking about limits? What if we simply wrote the story we wanted to tell without thinking about all the parts of writing we don’t know how to do? What if we just let the story be the guide? I bet we might all find out, as Ryan has, that we are capable of much more than we ever realized.

Ryan is new to blogging and this is the first time he has shared so much about his disease with so many strangers. If you’re so inclined, perhaps you’ll pop over and read the entire post here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009|Categories: Family|Tags: , |4 Comments

New tech toy

After months of research I picked up my new cell phone today. A Samsung i760 Smart Phone. Isn’t it pretty?

It’s nice but the bluetooth headset I got is going back. I need to find one that fits my ear better. I am still getting acquainted with it but I can make calls and send text messages (which is the best way to stay in touch with my daughter) and I managed to synch my calendar and my contacts and my task list. Way cool! The little slide-out keyboard is sooooo much easier for text messaging or entering a task or contact. Best part (so far) is that my husband has the same phone so all those annoying things I can’t figure out, he will learn first and then show me!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008|Categories: Family|Tags: |3 Comments

Thankful Thursday

It’s still Thursday so I still have time to post a thankful thought. 

I am very thankful for some good news my son received today – he found out today that he was accepted into the impacted major of his choice at UCSC (Santa Cruz.).

I am quite sure that college acceptances are something all parents cheer about but I’m cheering especially loud. Until recently, my 28-year-old son never had any intention of going to college. But a few years ago, when he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, he had to give up a job he loved as a mechanic at a car dealership. His body was no long able to keep up the pace.

So he is starting over. 

It isn’t easy for him but he knows he has to learn a new skill in order to support himself and continue to be self-sufficient. And he needs to do it right now before his body begins to give out even more.

Like any parent who is hit with the news that something is wrong with their child, I wanted to fix it for him. I wanted to make it better or make it go away. But I can’t fight Muscular Dystrophy for him. He has to fight that battle on his own.

I cut my writing teeth on articles for the regional parenting publications. They were a new industry. I was a new writer. We grew up together. I had young kids and I often wrote about them. Tonight I was reminded of the first parenting article I ever sold. It was about Ryan and how determined he was fight his own battles in his own way.


“Mom, I want to quit karate.”

With those few words, Ryan, my thirteen-year-old son, declared war.

For two solid years, four times a week, I had willingly driven thirty miles to the nearest karate dojo. In that short amount of time, Ryan exhibited a natural ability that quickly moved him up the ranks. He had earned the first black stripe on his Brown Belt. Only two more tests until he would have his Black Belt. And now, he wanted to quit.

The lessons had been Ryan’s idea, not mine. To me, karate implied violence. To Ryan, they represented power.

“Mom, I’m a wimp. I’m tired of all the bullies picking on me. I need to learn how to defend myself.”

I resisted. My excuses ranged from, “I don’t want you to get hurt. You’ll never practice.” And that parental favorite, “We can’t afford it.”

I didn’t give in until the day he came home with a bloody nose because of a bully who made him kiss the pavement, nose first.

Karate lessons began the very next day.

From the beginning, I sensed something special about the school. His Sensi, (teacher) did more than just teach the kids how to defend themselves against an enemy. He taught survival skills for life.

“Keep your eyes open,” Sensi told them. “Be aware of what’s going on around you. Set goals. Learn the skills needed to meet your goals.”

Once Sensi asked a class of thirty-five kids, “How many of you consider yourselves average?” To his dismay, almost every hand went up.

“Put your hands down,” he yelled. “Never, ever admit that you are average. You have within you the ability to be anything you want, as long as you’re willing to work at it.”

Even sitting on the sidelines, his words touched me, infusing me with a hidden strength. He made me feel like I could do anything. And as adamantly as I’d been against karate in the first place, I suddenly became its biggest advocate.

Ryan never missed a class or a test. With the rest of the students, he performed monthly demonstrations in parades, shopping malls and fairs. When special seminars came around, I always made sure he attended. I bought him books and videos, then quizzed him on the material. In my mind, the more opportunities he took advantage of, the quicker he would advance to that all-important Black Belt.

But along the way, I forgot to ask Ryan what he wanted. So I felt shocked and disappointed when he told me earning a Black Belt no longer mattered to him.

“I’m going to quit,” he said. “It’s no fun anymore. Baseball season starts soon and I’d rather practice baseball than karate.”

“But you’re so close to becoming a Black Belt,” I insisted. “Why give up before you reach your goal? Haven’t you listened to anything Sensi has tried to teach you?”

“Yes, Mom, I have. Sensi said anything is possible if you’re not afraid of hard work. I want to play in the Major Leagues someday. That means I have to devote my time to improving my baseball skills. I’d like to try out for the High School team, and maybe play winter ball, but I need to practice hard if I hope to make the cuts.”

“Couldn’t you stay with karate for just one more year,” I begged, still clinging to the vision of  his Black Belt.

Ryan stood his ground and shook his head. “I learned what I wanted to from karate. I know how to defend myself, even against people bigger than me. I’m not afraid of bullies or a gang with knife, because I know what to do and how to get away.”

His only other comment was, “If getting a Black Belt is so important to you, Mom, maybe you’re the one who should be taking karate instead of me.”

His words shocked me, much like a bucket of cold water jolts your system awake. That’s when I stepped back and took a good look at my son. There had been no whining. He hadn’t raised his voice or lost his temper. He had come to a decision based on the goals he had set for himself. Then he presented the facts to me in a calm and grown-up manner.

No longer my little baby, but not quite a young man, Ryan had taken the first step toward adulthood by taking control of his own life. Which, I think, was exactly what Sensi wanted to teach him all along.  

Nothing’s changed much in the 15 years since I wrote that. Ryan is still fighting his own battles in his own way. And I couldn’t be more proud.
Way to go, Ryan.

Thursday, November 29, 2007|Categories: Family|Tags: , |39 Comments

5 things about my grandfather

A friend offered up a meme of 5 things about her grandfather. My mom and I lived with my grandparents for more years than we lived alone so this one struck a chord with me.

1. My grandfather was an alcoholic who quit drinking many years before I was born, before my mom was born even. As a result he had several oral fixations like sucking on hard candies and chomping on the end of toothpicks.

2. He worked for county roads doing survey work. This mean he got to come home for lunch a lot. He always started off the day with his lunch packed in his black lunch box. I loved it when he would come home and still eat what my grandmother had packed. It was almost always the same. The red thermos filled with coffee that had turned golden when he added milk. A couple of sandwiched wrapped in waxed paper. A pair of cookies, usually sugar cookies. Sometimes chocolate chip. Always store bought. His favorite sandwich? Spam.

3. He was a hunter and a fisherman and we always had a freezer full of catfish and ducks and pheasant. I was no good at cleaning fish but sometimes he’d let me pluck the ducks.

4. I love to watch him shave. Sometimes he would let me help. I would stand on the toilet seat so I could reach and dab the brush into the shaving cream and help smear it all over his face. When he was done he would pat on the Old Spice aftershave and lift me down.

5. He died when I was 10 years old. I remember his giant body sagging against the nubby red couch and growing smaller and smaller as the cancer ate away at him. I didn’t go to his funeral. I don’t know why my mom and my grandmother didn’t make me. I wish they had. An argument about prayer and my grandfather is what inspired my first picture book, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?

Sunday, October 21, 2007|Categories: Family|Tags: |17 Comments

Newbery needs a license plate

edited to add that the favorite plate is NOT available. Sigh. Open for suggestions.

Okay, so I’ve named my new car Newbery but now, in keeping with the literary tradition, it’s time to work on a vanity plate. I have 7 letters and have to make them all count. Any suggestions?

I came up with: I RYT BKS

I like it but some people have been against the idea of spelling writing with the “Y”. Other thoughts are:

I WRT BKS (Plate is NOT available.)
I RYT BKS (edited to add this one I forgot)

Anyone else?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005|Categories: Family|Tags: |22 Comments

up for air

Okay, yes, it has been more than a couple of weeks since I last tried to resurface. Boy how time flies when you are running 8 directions at once. Do you have any idea how long it takes to print and fold 3000 brochures, 3000 flyers, 3000 address labels, 3000 mailing labels? And then put those labels and stamps on 3000 envelopes? And then stuff the brochure, the flyer, AND 3 postcards into each of 3000 envelopes? And THEN seal all 3000 envelopes? Well I thought I knew how long it would take, but I was wrong. Triple any time estimates you might have and you’ll probably be close. I still have about 500 envelopes to seal but had to stop for a while as I had the second round of revisions due on my novel. So yes, I’m spinning in circles. The revisions are due Thursday and I should make that okay, then back to the envelopes, all going out much later than I had planned.

In other news, I DID get my new car. (Honda Civic Coupe, EX, beautiful Atomic Blue) Yahoo! That’s the good news. It’s beautiful and smooth and quite intimidating right now because it is so different from my tin can Kia that I used to drive. The bad news is that I am having head rest issues. Actually they are called “head restraints” and are supposed to help protect against whiplash except that for me, at 5′ tall, they push my head forward at an unnatural angle. So yes, I have a new car but it hurts to drive it. We’re trying other things to fix it, like trying an Accord head rest and turning the current head rest backwards and if needs, taking it off all together. Sigh. But other than that, I love it. Lot to get used to. So much window that the visibility is good but weird. Hard to see out of the back and I have no idea where the end of the car is so that will just take time to get to know it. The online navigation is awesome and can be controlled with a touch screen or voice command. Actually all the audio can be controlled with voice commands too, which is pretty darn cool!

I drove it to work for the first time yesterday and at lunch there were a bunch of guys gathered around it. That’s never happened with any car I’ve owned.

Now all it needs is a name. A literary name, of course. Suggestions, anyone?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005|Categories: Family|Tags: |53 Comments

In which I go shopping for a car when I'd rather be writing

Even though I plan to buy the car via Internet or do at least get all the out-the-door quotes via email, get my financing ahead of time and just go in to sign the papers and pick up the key, well, one does have to make sure one is buying the perfect car, right?

I thought I knew just what car I wanted, the Honda Accord Coupe. Then I saw one and it looked SO big that I went back online to look at the dimensions. It would be a foot and a half longer than my current car. Not good for me. I wanted to go smaller not larger. Plus the hood was too long for my preferences. So back to the Honda site online to check the dimensions of the Civic Coupe which turns out to only be a 1/2 inch longer than my current car. Much better. And the nice thing is that since the Civic costs less than the Accord I can upgrade the trim level of the car to the EX with the online navigation system. Yippee!

So after work yesterday I headed over to dealership #1 to make sure that visibility was okay, that I really liked the car up close, and to pick a color. Actually what I wanted to see was the new Atomic Blue. It’s the first year for the color and you just can’t tell online. I didn’t want the blue that looked Navy and I didn’t want a blue that looked purple. Anyway, off to the dealership where I guarded myself against connecting with any salesperson and hoped to vibe “keep away I have cooties” or something so they would leave me alone. Uh huh. Right. The sales guy jumped me as soon as I got out of my car. I waved my hand and shook my head. He kept on coming.

“I’m just looking,” I told him and turned away.

“Let me give you my card,” he said in one of those cajoling voices parents use when they are trying to get you to do something you just don’t want to do.

I walked faster in the opposite direction but being undertall he quickly caught up with and forced the card in my hand. After which I had to shake his hand. Grr.

“I won’t bite,” said the big bad wolf to the little girl. “I just want to talk to you.”

Politely, from behind my frozen smile, I ask him to point me to the Civic coupes. Big mistake. His eyes lit up and I’m sure I heard him cackle as he turned on what he thought was charm.

“Why they’re so new we don’t even have them on the main lot yet. They’re just going to be flying out of here. You better get what you want before it’s gone.”  Standard salesman bullshit and I didn’t have the patience to listen to him. He won’t get a penny of commission from me. I tried willing him to go away but of course he didn’t.

“All the movers and shakers will be driving these babies,” he added.

I so don’t want to do this. I don’t comment. Obviously he didn’t look at the car I drove in, a dirty, faded ’96 Kia. I was dressed in crummy weekend clothes that should have been screaming “I have no money for food and I’m just looking at cars I can’t really afford” which I had hoped would put off salespeople from approaching me. Sigh.

I spied a car, opened the door, and plopped in. He grinned at me through the windshield. The seat was too far back so I reached under to pull it forward and it wouldn’t move. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t budge. Sigh. I got out of the car and he was right there, waiting for me to tell him how wonderful it is.

“The seat’s broken. It won’t move.” The words slipped out before I could stop them and I wanted to kick myself. Never, ever speak to a salesman. It gives them permission to talk back to you. He moved in for the kill. Big bad wolf to the rescue of the poor, defenseless little girl who couldn’t even manage to move the seat forward.

“Let me just take care of that for you.” He sat down, reached under for the bar, and surprise surprise, it still wouldn’t move. I barely contained myself from jumping up and down and telling him “I told you so.”

I wandered off, looking for another Civic and still looking for the Atomic Blue. Alas, he followed me, guided me to another car (not blue) and opened the door with a flourish worthy of a guy wearing a cape and a top hat. He shut the door and I sat in it long enough to be able to tell that I could see out of it and that I’m not sure if the way the seat backs curve will work for me. They’re supposed to “hug” the body which is great if you’ve got a shoulder width of about 12″ which would probably make you a kid too young to drive the car.

I got out. Again he waited for me to say something and I, stupidly asked him if he had any in the Atomic Blue. I just wanted to see the color. That’s all. He walked me right past one on the lot but when I stopped to look he grabbed my arm and said, “You don’t want to look at that one sitting outside. You need to see the one in the showroom.” He was wrong. I wanted to see what one sitting out in the sun and the dirt and the real world looked liked. I didn’t care what it looked like on the showroom because it would never look like that at home. Heck, this car won’t even be able to sleep in the garage. I am too nice because I went ahead and went to the showroom and sat for a minute in the car while he droned on about how THIS car had the fancy stuff in it, etc, etc. Yawn. I knew all that. I just wanted to see the frigging color.

My cell phone rang and I finally escaped to my car, driving off as fast as I dared. Buying a new car should be fun, right? It’s not, not for me. I don’t do change well and it’s a ton of money that you don’t want to make a mistake spending on the wrong thing. And then of course there’s still the internal struggle I’m having about whether or not I should have the new car for a variety of reasons, most of which are based on my being a very insecure person. I headed toward home still not sure about the blue and that really bugged me. I would have picked white but the white has this tan interior that just doesn’t work for me. Okay, it’s ugly. Really ugly. And Honda offers no other interior colors on the white which seems so stupid. The blue comes with gray which is nice. I like the red (black interior) but the red won’t even start to ship until January and I imagine it will be a popular color and hard to dicker on the price. So I’m still thinking blue which meant I really needed to look at it again without some sales guy breathing down my neck. A few blocks from home I said screw it and turned the car in the opposite direction to drive across town and tried to prepare myself for the pain of visiting another car dealership.

Car dealership #2 was about 4 times the size of dealership #1 so I was hopeful I could wander around alone. Which I could have if I could only find the new cars. The two front lots were filled with “certified pre-owned” cars and I couldn’t find a new one to save my life. I actually had to ask someone to show me to the “hidden” lot where they kept the new cars. I picked a salesman who was eating his lunch, told him I just wanted to see the blue, I didn’t care what model because I wasn’t buying anything. Points to this guy, he actually listened to me, showed me to the lot and then (gasp) LEFT ME ALONE.

The Atomic Blue is different. Good different or bad different? Good, I think. It’s not navy and it doesn’t have that purple tint to it. I wish the car had a touch of white on it because that would really set it off but I think the blue will be good. I spent some time just sitting in a car trying to imagine myself driving it. Like I said, I don’t do change well and this will be a big change. It’s very cozy. Not a car for claustrophobics. And all the controls on the dash and the navigation system make it look a bit like a spaceship. But I think this is the car. Now time to get fresh quotes from everyone for a purchase to be made in the next few weeks.

An aside, if you think I’m extreme about car dealerships I have to tell you that I was practically born in a car dealership parking lot. My mom was the office manager for a huge dealership that carried 7 different lines of cars. I grew up playing on the new car showroom, had my pictures with Santa Claus taken in front of the Christmas tree in the new car showroom, earned extra money in Junior High stuffing billing statements into envelopes, babysat for salesman’s kids, wrote up warranty repair tickets and met my first husband working side-by-side taking inventory in the parts room. It’s a world with laws unto itself.

In my writing life I printed and folded 250 brochures. I have another 750 to go plus 800 Traveling Oliver flyers to print and then I’ll be ready to do my big mailing. And speaking of Oliver, check out his blog,  for info about a peanut butter sandwich contest for kids.

I had a dream about Frankie last night, several times, and every dream he told me he was hungry. Sigh.

Saturday, October 29, 2005|Categories: Family|Tags: , |3 Comments