The Magic of Seven



This weekend, Bug and I went to the 52nd  Annual Sand Castle Competition at our old beach. We love the sand castle competition. We call it the Sand Castle Festival because to us, it is.

I’ve been going to it for years. There was that one year we actually entered with my whole family before Bug was born…. Even my Grandpa was there helping us dig and bring up buckets of water from the beach. Then there was that one year when I couldn’t stop crying and that was the day I decided to end my marriage. Bug didn’t know. (You guys didn’t know.)  She was so busy looking at all the castles she didn’t notice my tears. I have so many memories of the sand castles…good and bad all mixed up. It’s just been part of our lives for so long. We can’t skip it.

We were a bit late this time. We shuffled along with all the other people crowding around the entries, trying to get a good angle to take a decent photo without all the people-miscellany in the background. I don’t know why the people who build the castles always set up the messiest of camps right behind their works of art. Buckets, tables, sweatshirts, coolers, stereos…It’s just a mess.  It makes it impossible to get a great shot of the amazing castles. I wish they’d turn the contest around and then we could have the ocean in the background. That would make a whole lot more sense.  I don’t know where they’d put their camp but whatever. I’m not the king of the Sand Castle Festival. Surely they can come up with some kind of rule about beach crap.

So when I sat down today to look through my photos and put together some kind of post about the Sand Castle Festival (because, you know, it’s so important to me) I went through every single photo and discarded it until I got to these shots of Bug.

Oh Bug. Beautiful, Silly, Bug.

She can not wash her hair for a week, have zits on her face because I don’t make her wash it regularly. (Bad momming on my part. I know.)  She can make monkey faces and roll her eyes into the back of her head and still my camera adores her. I’m sorry. I know she’s my kid and it’s normal to think your kid is the most amazing thing on earth. But she brings me so much happiness from the inside and out. This wasn’t a photo shoot. We were just walking back from the beach and we sat down on a bench outside a store. The light was soft and reflected from the buildings across the street. It was the perfect lighting condition.

I should remember this spot and bring people here for professional portraits. Not that I’m saying these are professional portraits or I’m a professional photographer. Far from it. Most of these shots are blurry. But I just snapped. And snapped and snapped and snapped . (My camera, not my voice. I’m doing much better on that front!) And she didn’t mind.  She’s used to it. She’s my little ham.

I’m so thankful for my photographic kid who cracks me up. She might frustrate me to no end on other days but then we have days like this and it all works out in the end.

It all works out. I’m so thankful.



Then I thought, maybe the light is so good it will make me look good too. Heh! Not so flattering to me but then again this is what I look like. I look like my mom and I would love love love to have a picture of my mom when she was 41. She was beautiful. I might not think I look so beautiful right now but I’m sure when I’m 80 I will think so. And I know Bug thinks so. This is what her mom looks like.


Black and Gold



The other day Lubna and I made the invitations for my big launch party for my new book coming out on November 8th. I wanted to save costs so I had a friend with a black and white lazer printer print them out on some kraft card stock I bought at the local paper store. Then we hand painted them with round dabs of gold paint. And on a whim I spray painted the backside with gold paint. It was labor intensive but I’ve got more time than money so I’m really happy with it. I think the gold touches make it more glamorous than a bunch of black and white copies.



We had a lot of fun making them. I tell Lubna all the time that she is like my apprentice and I should be paying her. She shrugs. She loves to help. If I’m cleaning she will get out the vacuum cleaner and start vacuuming for me. She rearranges knic knacks on my shelves. She scrubs drips off my stove without asking me. Normally, that would bug me but I know she’s doing it because she really truly just loves to help. It would hurt her feelings if I made her stop. It’s been a real learning experience for me living next to my Iraqi neighbors.

In their country neighbors are family. Often they really are. Aunts, uncles, cousins…they all live together in a compound. That means that anyone can discipline your child because an aunt is as good as a mom, an uncle is as good as a dad. Everyone pitches in together because everyone is family.  You can have dinner at anyone’s house. You can come in unannounced at any hour of the day and plop yourself down on their couch for a long talk and some very strong tea.

At first this really caught me off guard. Lubna and her brother would just barge in during dinner and sit on my couch while we ate. Of course I invited them to join us and they did. Night after night after night. Sometimes I didn’t cook very much and I didn’t know how one chicken breast was going to stretch to feed four people. But it was okay. They took less. It was a little like the story of Jesus and the loaves and the fishes. There was magically always enough.

I admit it was a little wearing to this American who’s used to planning dinner parties months in advance.  But I learned. I learned that it worked both ways. They invited me to their house and I learned really quick that it’s rude not to accept. It’s a good thing I liked Iraqui food because they  invited me often and fed me a lot. And when I told them I was too busy to come over, Lubna’s mom, Raffa, would bring me over plates heaping with food. Nuts, candy, cookies. She always has an offering of some kind.  Bug wasn’t so thrilled with all the unfamiliar food but she’s learned a lot about loving her neighbors and manners.

Lubna’s dad always asks me if I want to buy a big house with him so that we can all live together. I laugh and tell him that is not possible because we would fight and I don’t want to fight. He laughs and nods his head.  It’s sort of an inside joke for us.  They fit five people into a one-bedroom apartment and I’m sure moving in with me and Bug in a great big house would be great. But I don’t think I could do it. I love my village but I still need my space.



But this post is not about my Iraqi neighbors (or is it?), it’s about my big launch party and my fancy invites. Can you come? It would be great. It’s just going to be an open-house style party with two readings, light wine and cheese, macarons and madeleines…maybe a bottle of champagne. I’m still day dreaming about an accordion player but I’ll probably just put together a jamming French playlist instead. Who knows, maybe Raffa will break out a plate of seasoned rice and beef wrapped in grape leaves!  I’m pretty sure they’ll be there. After all, even a book launch takes a village.