Christmas Pajama Breakfast: The Birth of Embarrassing Traditions

In my family, you’re never too old for matching pajamas on Christmas morning (and you’re never safe from Mom’s carefully planned pajama theme, no matter how new you are to the Ockler family scene).

It started quite accidentally, way back in the eighties…

Read the whole tale at Reading is Bliss, complete with photographic evidence and a contest to win a hardcover copy of Twenty Boy Summer!

Today’s Post Brought To You By: Love!

I’m crawling out of the cave of revisions again to share a little love with the world because hey, it’s fall in upstate New York, the heat is on, I’ve got a hot cup of tea, I’m wearing my fuzzy slippers, and life is good! Especially for some of our friends that got married this month — two couples in as many weeks. One wedding, we photographed professionally. The other, we just ran around taking pictures for fun while appearing to be professional, which is tough to do. And though I have to duck back into the cave in a moment, I want to share a shot from each wedding with you in honor of all that love I’m talking about!

For my friend, Amybeth:

I’ve known Amybeth for about twenty years. She was hands down the coolest girl at summer camp, and she’s still pretty much the coolest lady I know. It was an honor and a joy to photograph her wedding. So here’s one of my favorite shots from the day — totally accidental. I’d lowered my camera to adjust a setting when I noticed the groom dropping the bride for a dip, so I quick hit the shutter button and hoped for the best. I just love the expressions on their faces!

First Dance

For my friend, Steve:

Steve is literally “the boy next door” — my old childhood pal. My family lived in the house on the left side of his house for a few years, then we moved to the house on the right. I was excited to celebrate his wedding with our families — we’ve all known each other more than 30 years! Anyway, during the cake cutting, apparently someone (*cough* the GROOM *cough*) didn’t get the memo about the no-smashing-cake-in-the-face thing. His bride was not happy. In fact, some of us began to wonder whether Steve might end sleeping on the couch at the honeymoon suite! But when repeated apologies proved ineffective, he just grabbed her and shut her up with a big fat smooch. Again, one of my favorites from the day!

Cake Memo

Congratulations to all, and best wishes for a lifetime of happiness and love!

Speaking of families and love… I’m wrapping up the final revisions on Fixing Delilah, my second book, due out next fall from Little, Brown. I’ll be sharing more about it soon, but for now… it’s a story about families, about mothers and daughters, the secrets we carry, the things that tear us apart as well as unite us, and of course, love. Stay tuned for more details next week!

For now, happy fall and lots of hot tea, wedding cake, fuzzy slippers, and love to you all!

Creative Mojo: Incense & the Potential for Great Things

When I was sixteen, I had a friend who burned incense in her car. My parents were convinced that she was covering something up, like drugs or alcohol, but honestly, she just liked the smell of it. So did I. To me, its musky smoke hinted at faraway things that were beyond the realm of our understanding. Things like fairies and magick and mysticism and secret messages from the universe. I don’t know why it conjured such thoughts and images, but it did and I started burning it in my bedroom at night. Of course, my little brothers (who at that time would die a slow and torturous death before they’d see me happy) staged elaborate coughing fits until my parents finally ordered me to stop. My fascination with incense lived a short life under that roof.

Years later, after college, I entered a somewhat tumultuous time in my life. I was unhappy, but beyond the obvious things that keep people up at night, I couldn’t quite figure out the root issue. I just knew that there was something else — something I hadn’t yet explored enough to identify, to name, to face, and to work through.

And then… it hit me. I had let all the creativity leak out of my life.

After nearly a decade of keeping a journal, I had completely stopped writing. Wasn’t reading much. My job was of the automatonish, soul-sucking nature, and my commute stole hours from my day. I was in a bad relationship. Money was problematic. And I just didn’t know what to do about any of it. I felt trapped, alone, afraid, and utterly blank… though I never admitted it to my friends or family.

During those years, I made several trips to a friend’s house in the woods outside of Woodstock, NY. I remember it being mostly in the fall, when the air was crisp as an apple and the sun bright. The dried leaves and sticks crunched under our feet. There were animals about the property — horses and emu and others — and at night, their breath turned white like steam from a kettle. I could smell the wood of stove fires and inside, the air was infused with incense and music and the cooking of fresh things. In the town of Woodstock itself, there was more incense. In the book store and gift store and other unique little shops and outdoor booths. The sky was sapphire blue and the trees were on fire with autumn’s reds and oranges and during those weekends, those brief respites from life in the city, I’d unwind and let the universe speak to me. Somehow, I came at first to hope, and then finally to believe, that whatever was holding me back, I’d hunt it down and break it. I didn’t know how or when, but change was coming. I was on the edge of something new and frightening and amazing and quite possibly great. And amidst all those thoughts, there was always the sweet smokiness of burning incense and all of the faraway pictures it drew in my mind.

Eventually, I did break it, that thing holding me back, and a lot of stuff happened after that — really awesome stuff. It was ten years ago.

My friend no longer has that place in the woods, but I guess I no longer need it — not in the same way. Still, the smell of incense takes me there, right back to Woodstock and the way I felt when I breathed in the chilly air and prepared for something new.

Now, incense reminds me of the potential for great things, and how each of us lives always on the precipice of possibility. I burn it when I write at home to find that feeling again, even subconsciously — the feeling that something different and frightening and amazing is right around the corner, waiting to be discovered and explored through creativity. I just picked up a few new packs from a candle maker at the Elmwood Art Festival in my neighborhood last weekend. I don’t have little brothers in my house anymore. I can burn it whenever I want. 🙂

What about you? Do you have any special rituals or objects that bring out your creativity or inspire you to do something great?

Red Sea Glass

Readers of Twenty Boy Summer often ask me if I’ve ever found red sea glass, which is featured on the book cover and throughout the story (and is truly the rarest and most difficult to find). Like Anna Reiley in the book, I have an extensive collection of sea glass in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors in mason jars on my desk.

But red?

Stop by The Word Ninjas for the answer!