Tome of the Mommy: The Fighting of the Tree

RetroChristmas For some of us, holiday rituals are our happiest memories. For others, they are the flint that sparks our greatest fears.

Perhaps memories of unhappy holidays past haunt us. Or maybe we stress out at the pressure to project "happiness" during this time of year.

If something truly important is bothering us, faking some form of cheeriness isn't going to keep us from gnashing our teeth when another ornament falls and shatters, or when your son yanks a candy cane off your decorated tree —

And the tree tipples over, too.

In my novel, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, my heroine, Lyssa Harper, knows her husband, Ted, is angry at her because she refuses to drop her friendship with Harry, one of the neighborhood's stay-at-home dads. She thinks his request is irrational, that he has no reason to be jealous . . .

And yet, it's certainly flattering that he is upset.

But that shouldn't get in the way of the Harpers' annual holiday tree-cutting expedition, should it?

As you'll read in this excerpt, of course it does . . .

Finding the
perfect tree is the Douglas fir is the equivalent of taking down the great
white whale. It must have a thick petticoat of branches rising from the base,
its layers coquettishly shorter albeit in proportion all the way up to its
needled crown. As if projecting his own fears of a thinning pate, Ted cannot
tolerate bald spots between layers. I, on the other hand, abhor crooked bases.
Between three rambunctious kiddies and a clumsy dog the size of a Shetland
pony, our tree can’t have the posture of a tilt-n-whirl. The one thing we both
agree on is that it must stand at least 13 feet tall, so that it is not dwarfed
by the double height of our entryway: the place of honor.

The search for
the tree is a highly charged competition. The winner is the first to be
photographed with it. The photo is then mounted on the first page of this
year’s Christmas photo album, validating a full year of bragging rights.

Tanner is old
enough to carry the bowed safety saw, while Mickey drags the tall PVC pole that
is marked a measuring stick. Every now and then he attempts to pole vault from
one row to another. Olivia is charged with holding the twine that Ted will use
to tie the tree to the sleigh that hauls the tree back to the cashier,
who will ply our children with Christmas cookies, candy canes, and warmed cider
while I peruse the wreaths on display. Eventually I’ll settle on three: one for
the front gate, and two for our doublewide front door.

“Mommy, why not
this one . . .or this one?” Olivia loses all sense of discretion when she’s
within sniffing distance of gingerbread men.

“No, sweetie.
That one is not tall enough, and the other is much too bare on the back side.”

“Hey, Mom! MOM!
OVER HERE!” For this task, Mickey has always had a great sense of focus that consistently
leads him to the right tree. When he was younger, it frustrated him to lose to
his brother. Ted’s way of mitigating it was to lead our youngest son to a
potential winning candidate. Now that Mickey’s developed a connoisseur’s eye,
Ted no longer has to do that.

The tree Mickey
has spotted for us has all the necessary criteria. Ted whistles for Tanner to
trot on over with the saw, but Tanner tries for an end-run. “Wait, wait . .
.what about this one over here? It’s hella taller . . .”

Ted looks down
at his cell phone, for the time. “Nope, we’ve got to call it a day. Warriors
and Lakers tonight, remember?”

“Wait . . .
aren’t we going to decorate the tree when we get home?” Mickey’s look is
incredulous. We all look up and over at Ted.

He knows he's outnumbered.
He smiles weakly. “Sure! Of course! It’s our tradition, right?”

As we head back
to the cashier with our find, I give him a kiss on the cheek. He stops short in
order to draw me to him and give me a real kiss, the kind that should melt away
any lingering doubts about love and fidelity.

His doubts, not

Copyright © 2010 by Josie Brown

Are the holidays a happy time for you, or just more added stress to a life that seems already too flustered, too out of control?

If so, have you figured out why that's the case?

I'd like to hear from you, be it ho ho ho, or boo hoo hoo,


SLHW fauxsmall

  Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

Tome of the Mommy: Husbands Who Flirt

Flrtinghusband Having respect for one's partner is the only way a relationship can
survive, let alone thrive. I've watched too many of my friends'
marriages crumble because either a husband or wife didn't understand
that, or just didn't care to deliver it. Their need to be admired by the opposite sex was much more important to them at the time.

In my book SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, my heroine, Lyssa,
realizes her husband, Ted, thrives on flirting. As you'll read here,
her reaction — and I'm sure it would be the same for a lot of us — is
threefold: denial, resignation, and anger

"Whoa, Tammy, look at those muscles! Flex 'em for me, babe, go on."

Tammy accommodates Ted's demand by taking off the sheer blouse
she wears over her tight tank top, and curling a taut sinewy arm. When
he rewards her with a wolf whistle, she feigns bashfulness by covering
her eyes.

But no one is fooled. This is why she curls 10-pound barbells in
12 reps, four times each arm: so that other women's husbands will
admire her.

Including mine. I hate it when Ted flirts.

It wouldn't be so bad if he wasn't so good at it. Or if he only flirted with me.

But no, that would be too much to ask.

Unlike some husbands who feel awkward in a room full of women,
Ted loves being the cock of the walk. And because he knows I am
completely and utterly assured of his loyalty, he openly flirts with my

He does it with a certain smile on his face. You know the one. It promises more than he can deliver. I know this first hand.

But Tammy doesn't—until she sees the loving manner in which he
unconsciously strokes my hair while complimenting Brooke on her last
tennis game.

As Tammy follows the other women out the door, she sighs in my ear: "You are sooooooo lucky."

Whereas she is not. Her Charlie's bank account may be humongous, but his sperm bank is all but empty.

This gives her something else to whine about.

It also gives her the audacity to graze up against Ted on her way out the door.

If she thinks I didn't see her, she's crazy. Okay, now I have to be president. Just so I can kick her off the board…

Copyright © 2010 by Josie Brown

Bottom line: it hurts when a significant other flirts.

A gut reaction would be to throw a hissy fit. If Lyssa had, no other wife in the room would have blamed her . . .

But no. She realizes she is not necessarily surrounded by friends.
Had she made a scene, it would give her frenemies something very juicy
to gossip about.

So instead she feigns indifference. Why? Because the sharks are
circling, and she knows it. No way is she going to rock her tiny boat
in this sea of humanity.

What would I have done in this situation? Glad you asked. I would
have waited until we were alone, then honestly and openly told him how
much it had hurt me.

And yes, I would ask him to refrain from doing it again.

And if he forgot, I'd remind him again, in private.

But this time, I'd have a nutcracker in my hand. 'Tis the season, right?

Have you ever been in a situation where your SI flirted in front of
you? If so, how do you handle it? Feel free to comment below…

Inquiring minds want to know,


SLHW fauxsmall Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Amazon)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Borders)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Your Local Independent Bookstore)

Simon & Schuster/Pocket

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

Trailer Smash: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY – Hope the Book Lives up to the Trailer

P2 Girls I'll admit it: I hate bastardizing classics. Especially those of dead authors who can't defend themselves and their labors of love and hard work.

Lately Jane Austen has gotten the brunt of these types of sequels, mashups, whatever. Some of the authors take wonderful care to get it right: the voice, the cadence, the mannerisms the stories. Yes, alright, the sense and the sensibility of Miss Austen's books. Sharon Lathan is a perfect example of this.

Not to mention that composer Rita Abrams has put Pride and Prejudice to song, in our musical version of it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Get outta here.

Having sold enough units of that weak-kneed high concept, now the same pub hosue is mashing up Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters .



Okay, I gotta admit: the book trailer (see below) is well done. And yeah, I'd see the movie if it came out.

But buy the book? Not on your life.

Although, I'm sure, enough people will.

Poor Jane.

Poor us.


SLHW fauxsmall Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Pocket

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

Tome of the Mommy: “You Know I Hate to Gossip, But…”

GossipGirls Everyone does it, right? We diss on our best buds, tell tales out of school.

When we're asked to keep a secret, we cross our hearts, hope to die . . .

Instead we spill our guts.

I've always been a social animal. In the human jungle, gossip is the best bait, a tasty fodder that shows we're in the know.

That we're somebody, because we know everyone else's business.

PEOPLE magazine has the highest circulation for a good reason: we are fascinated with others' lives.

Lindsey and Britney are train wrecks which we all craned our necks
over. The divorces of others (friends, exes, celebs) fascinate us. Is
it because our own are so boring—or is it because it's much easier to
pass judgment on others than to critique ourselves and assess our own

And yet, if we heard others were talking about us, we'd be mortified.

Magnifying mirrors make us wince. Every little wrinkle and pore is
exposed. Is gossip a mirror into our souls? Is what we say of others
really our fears about ourselves?

Brooke, the best friend of my heroine, Lyssa, always has the scoop on
everyone else in their tony community, Paradise Heights. Lyssa is just
slightly annoyed by this . . .

But she puts up with it because she would much prefer to be on the
receiving end of the gossip grapevine, as opposed to the topic of

Wouldn't we all?

What Brooke has to tell her is that the neighborhood's "perfect couple"
has just broken up. Both are enigmas: gorgeous, but aloof. Their
children are adorable and popular . . .

But when the divorce gets ugly, the gossip gets even more vicious.

Needless to say, everyone suffers—including Lyssa, who has befriended
the husband, Harry. He has put his career on pause and has become a
stay-at-home dad in order to prove he deserves custody of the kids.

One of the best lines in STEEL MAGNOLIAS belonged to Olympia Dukakis: "If you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me."

That says it all: impress me with your knowledge. Titillate me. Scandalize me.

Even if it hurts someone. Even if it may not be true. Because that's entertainment . . .

Have you ever been hurt by gossip? If so, I'm all ears,


SLHW fauxsmall Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Amazon)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Borders)

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives (From Barnes & Noble)

Simon & Schuster/Pocket

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010