Kristan Higgins's Blog

October 16, 2016

In writing romance and women’s fiction, I try to create heroes who are everything I’d want in a man. Men who are like my husband. Men like my father and grandfathers.


2007-025And I’ve always loved being the mother of a son. Dearest was so different from his sister, who is of course also delightful. But this little boy who learned to run an hour after he learned to walk, who sat in mud puddles for hours, who loved construction equipment and bugs, collected bent nails and screws and would go to great lengths to pretend he brushed his teeth…he was utterly surprising. He was such a boy. So wriggly and fast-moving, so cheerfully grimy and scraped up from climbing trees and kneeling in gravel.


When Dearest was about six, the school bully—a boy named Sam—stole the eyeglasses of a girl with a learning disability and threw them across the cafeteria. My son ran to get Caitlyn’s glasses, and he cried when he told me about the event. “I hate Sam,” he sobbed. “I hate him.” That moment confirmed what I already knew—my boy understood decency. He would act in the face of a bigger, stronger bully. And even at six, I knew girls could count on him.


june-2010-018McIrish and I have done our best to teach both kids to respect others based on their character. Not who is the fastest runner or the best quarterback. Not who is the most popular or drives the coolest car or lives in the biggest house.


But in recent weeks, we’ve had to have other conversations, and they hurt my heart, because I always hoped that some things go without saying.


I’ve had to talk to my son about how to treat women. Not just people in general, but girls. Women. Females of all ages, sizes and races. Because all of a sudden—after fifty-one years on earth where I’ve assumed that this goes without saying—disrespect, crudity and even violence against women in particular—is being normalized. And I cannot let my son, my boy whom I love with all my heart, to even consider the idea that this behavior is normal. That all guys do this.


dscn6716I’ve had to tell him, specifically, what to do and say when he sees or hears a woman being victimized, threatened or mocked. I told him about my friend’s son, who was uninvited to join a fraternity because he called out a fellow student on being predatory with a girl who’d already turned him down, a girl who’d had too much to drink.


“When you run into that situation,” I said to my son, “and you will—think of that girl as your sister. As Hayley or Maddie.” Girls he grew up with, girls who have been his friends since before he could remember meeting them. “You look after every girl that way, even if she’s a stranger. You protect her. She is your responsibility, and you have to be the one to do the right thing. Are we clear, Declan?”


unknown-1

“Would you expect me to behave any other way?” he asked, rightfully indignant, and again, my heart hurt.


“No,” I said. “But it has to be said just the same. Not all boys are like you. Not all men are like you. There are men are out there saying it’s normal to talk this way and do these things, I have to say this out loud. It’s not normal. It’s not okay. And because you’re the one of the good guys, it’s on you to be the protector.” Be like your father, I tell him. Be like Mike, the Princess’s boyfriend, who is gentle and kind but has shoved a boy against a wall when my daughter was threatened. Be that guy.


declanMy son is not quite 18. I’ve given him a charge he will never be able to fulfill. Protect all women. See the predators, the haters, the bullies. Intervene, even when being honorable could lead to getting hurt, being bullied, being victimized yourself. Do it anyway.


I don’t want my son, the boy with the big heart and quiet ways, to live in a world where his female friends can be felt up or insulted or raped  because a man has an ugly urge. I don’t want him to live in a world where his sister is vulnerable all the time, simply because she is female. Where my son has to be on alert, always, since he is one of the good guys.


But this is our world today, and this is the burden he carries.


36 likes ·   •  5 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 16, 2016 12:05 • 374 views

October 8, 2016

atlas

I always love seeing Rockefeller Center. My agent’s office is in one of these buildings, and it’s just so cool to visit her.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


rockies

I had my nose glued to the plane window flying over the Rockies. Flying never gets old for me. Waiting in airports..different story.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


salt-lake

The sun was setting over the Great Salt Lake as I flew into Utah. It’s ringed by mountains and so, so beautiful!


danny

I got to meet Daniel Craig! Well, a cardboard cutout of Danny. Good enough for me!


mountains-outside-davis

The mountains around our conference center. Stunning to this flatlander.


4 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 08, 2016 10:27 • 180 views

October 2, 2016

I read an article on family traditions recently…things like the youngest child getting to open the first present on Christmas morning, or having a bonfire on the Winter Solstice, or cultural traditions, like setting a place for Elijah at Passover.


They all sounded so nice. So much more meaningful than my own family traditions…


bxbg2mlkThe Returning of the Tupperware. In the Kristan family, it is required that Tupperware be returned when visiting relatives. Apparently, Tupperware was once as valuable as gold bulion in my family, because it must be returned! Doesn’t matter what the occasion is—a wedding, a christening, a visit to a newborn baby in the hospital… “Could you bring this Tupperware back to your mother? It’s from dinner three years ago, when she sent me home with some chicken paprikas.”


screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-6-08-17-pm

This was my mom’s final Jeopardy question. She bet big and won!


The Watching of Jeopardy. Okay, I admit I don’t watch Jeopardy, which leaves me out of about 40% of all family conversations. I’m actually pretty good at Jeopardy. My mother, however, is a Jeopardy champion. That’s right. She was on TV and everything, and she WON! That was a long time ago, but I’m going to have it carved into her headstone just the same. At any rate, most of my blood relatives watch the show, discuss it in great detail, and sometimes call each other to complain when someone wins too many games in a row. Unless it’s my mother, that is.


 


o

Modern Apizza, New Haven. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten here.


The Insufficient Ordering of the Pizza. We’re from the New Haven area. We love pizza. We go out en masse, 15 or 25 of us, and we stink-eye the hostess until she gives us a huge table, and my aunt Rita, who is a saintly woman, takes it upon herself to write up our order, because it’s too complicated for someone who is not related to us and/or lacks Stephen Hawking’s IQ. Tradition demands at least one veggie pizza for the one vegetarian in our family; a cheese-only pizza for the person who favors the other side of the family; the no-cheese pizza for the freaks who like that; the meat-bomb for those looking to shorten their lifespans. Rita also orders that one perfect pie—the best pizza combo in the history of mankind. Eggplant-bacon-extra-garlic pizza, no tomato sauce, and we fall on that thing like feral animals, and it’s gone in seconds. Then we sit around and mourn that we only ordered one eggplant-bacon-extra-garlic pie and resentfully eat the vegetarian pizza.


The Kissing Goodbye of Every Single Person. It doesn’t matter that you’ll see them tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that there are 75 people at the gathering. Everyone shall get a kiss, oh, yes, and the germ-swapping will make us stronger! My littlest relative gave me a big wet smooch the other day, and I was glad his mama is raising him right.


4 likes ·   •  1 comment  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 02, 2016 15:14 • 100 views

September 25, 2016

img_2932The Princess and I have a little thing we do—we talk about when we’ll live together, just the two of us. She hasn’t yet had a place of her own, being a college student, and so far, she’s come home each summer. But the time is not that far away from when she’ll be a real adult. Someday, I hope, she’ll be married and have children of her own. But before that happens, we share a little dream.


Because we share our home with gross boys—Dearest Son and McIrish, that is—we like to talk about how neat and clean “our” place will be. How there will be no clods of dirt on the floor from work boots, or strange smells wafting across the upstairs thanks to a once-wet towel that has now hardened into a concrete mass on the floor of a certain teenage boy’s closet. We talk about the delicate wine glasses we’ll have (McIrish breaks things a lot, so we currently buy sturdy stuff).


But pink-chairPrincess and I will have adorable hedgehog-shaped creamers and retro flowery aprons. Our place will be a townhouse, perhaps, with a tiny, adorable garden. We’ll have pretty, pastel couches where we can read, complete with fluffy decorative pillows. We’ll have a lot of cats, and they’ll all have wonderful names like Kifli and Uncle Rico.


Our little nest will have plants, too—succulents and potted herbs, roses and hydrangea and lilac trees. Wind chimes will hang in the garden. I will make lavender martinis, and Princess will have a collection of teapots. No one will snore or forget to flush. We’ll make French toast every Sunday.


img_3128It has occurred to me that the odds of me living with my adult daughter, just us two, are perhaps small. It may have occurred to her as well. But we both love to think about this happy, girly, tea-filled time, when we can be together every day.


7 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 25, 2016 12:02 • 121 views

September 11, 2016

Of all the stories from September 11, the one that gets me the most is of Abe Zelmanowitz and Ed Beyea, computer programmers in the World Trade Center. They were friends and colleagues. Ed used a wheelchair; he was quadriplegic. Abe had designed him a tray so he could read in bed. Ed loved to laugh and tell jokes.


On this worst day when the sky was so blue, when the planes hit, when there was fire and terror and horror all around them, when the first tower came down and the elevators in the second tower stopped working, three people had nowhere to go. Ed couldn’t go down the stairs. Abe told Ed’s assistant to go. He would stay with Ed until the firefighters got them out, but she should get out while she could.


She left. She lived.


Ed told Abe to go. Abe didn’t listen.


Firefighter Billy Burke came up the stairs, knowing the building was about to fall. Ed and Abe had called their families, assuring them they were fine, and they were together. Billy Burke assessed the situation and gave the command that saved his men’s lives and made him a legend, a hero among heroes. He ordered his men out, then told a lie. “I’ll be right behind you.”


Billy stayed. Firefighters don’t leave the helpless, and he knew they had no chance. He probably could’ve gotten out, but Abe wouldn’t leave Ed.


I picture these two friends, maybe holding hands, heads bowed. The firefighter, too, maybe turning off his radio and taking a knee. I think of those last few minutes, knowing what was about to happen, praying that their friends and coworkers made it out, praying for their families. I think they must’ve felt a little better with Billy there, that they hadn’t been left all alone. I think of their friendship and love, and that when the unspeakable roar came, that these three looked into each other’s eyes and smiled, and that peace came over them. Friends till the end. The best of humanity in the face of the worst.


5 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 11, 2016 13:44 • 168 views

September 4, 2016

 


Some of my friends keep a gratitude journal, which sounds very lovely to me, and very old-fashioned—I picture my friend Nancy sitting in a pool of sunshine, writing with a fountain pen as the breeze caresses her tousled curls. Her handwriting is lovely, her journal is beautiful and contains odes to her daughter, muses about her travels, drawings of birds and flowers and, um, other pretty things. Nancy is like that.


Me, I’m more of a list-maker. I often do think of the things I’m grateful for, but I get superstitious. It always goes like this:



Healthy children (please, God, keep the kids healthy forever and ever, Amen. Also, happy. And their future children, ditto. Amen.).
Wonderful husband (Please, God, ditto, plus also that he never leaves me, Amen).
Cozy home (Please, God, don’t let the house burn down or explode, Amen Especially if I’m the cause of the fire and/or explosion. Amen.).
Lovely mother (Please, God, don’t let her fall down the stairs and break her leg and lie in a pool of blood for three days before I find her, because she’ll be so mad, and then I’ll never be her favorite, Amen).

So you can see, it does more to fuel my neurosis than make me grateful.


But the other day, I had a moment. It was the first day this year when I felt fall was in the air. Dearest was at school, Princess back at her college, McIrish was at the firehouse, and it was so peaceful and quiet here. The leaves are still bright green, and the wind was just enough to get a few quiet notes from the wind chimes. I was sitting on the porch—my outdoor office—and the hours of writing stretched in front of me.


It was one of those perfect moments that I want to press into my heart.


You, my dear readers, gave me the gift of this career, these moments of working on the porch, or in my office on a rainy day, or in my comfy chair with a dog at my side. And while I really did love being a cleaning lady, writing wins hands-down. Thank you. Thank you so, so much.


 


8 likes ·   •  1 comment  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 04, 2016 12:14 • 130 views

August 21, 2016

fireworks

The kids and pals at the Fourth of July neighborhood party.


I hate the last week of summer.


Summer, as we all know, truly ends when the kids go back to school. Forget September 21. It’s meaningless. Fall means new notebooks and pencils. Dearest Son will have to clean his room so his desk has actual workspace. Princess has to pack.


Every day is imbued with melancholy and love. On the blackboard in our kitchen, I wrote “What a beautiful summer we’ve had!” and the Princess drew flowers and swirls all around it. I took one godchild shopping for clothes; my niece left for orientation at her college, which is ten hours away. Dearest will be a senior. A senior in high school! We’ve been discussing The Walking Dead, a sure sign of the changing of the seasons.


My littlest nephew, vacuuming the cellar. Hey, he had a great time!

My littlest nephew, vacuuming the cellar. Hey, he had a great time!


But this last week…oh, it hurts! I don’t want summer to end. We’ve had so many guests, so many lovely little trips, a few days in Maine. So much sitting on the porch, so many dinners cooked on the grill in the backyard. Every day I wake up thinking, “Just a few more days. Please.”


By mid-September, when the weather starts to change and I’m used to the quieter house, I’ll be fine. By October, when I can wear sweaters, I’ll be in love with fall, posting pictures of our trees and getting leaf-drunk.


 


F&D maine mansion


But for now, that old maternal yearning—to have my kids around me—is awfully strong, and I resent their schools for taking them away. I don’t want to go back to looking at the calendar every day, calculating where Dearest is and when he’ll get home. I don’t want to count the days till Parents Weekend at Princess’s school. I want this week to last forever.


 


flannery & mommyAnd the damned thing just won’t. The eternal conundrum of parents—go off into this big world, be kind, do well, live your life…and know that Mommy can’t wait till she can hug you again.


5 likes ·   •  1 comment  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on August 21, 2016 12:03 • 105 views

August 14, 2016

8768bfab38b310e2b0a2002fa9cf3282_crop_northAs you might know, I was in a car accident a week ago, resulting in my car (which is named Derek Jeter) going in the shop. The repairs have taken longer than I expected, which was a bit of a problem, since in the past five days, I had three trips planned—Philly with a couple of cousins and the Princess; the Princess’s college so she could visit with her sweetheart, who’s in football camp (I’m sucker for love, what can I say?); and today, to Maine.


We had to rent a car. I asked for a sedan, since that’s what Derek Jeter is, but they didn’t have one. Instead, they gave me a hybrid luxury SUV thingie. Black. Tinted windows. I hated it. But then… “Oh,” breathed the Princess. “It’s a Secret Service mobile.”


ssMy hate changed to love. Suddenly, my coolness factor jumped a thousandfold (it was pretty low to begin with, but hey). I did look like a Secret Service agent, just by putting on sunglasses and pretending to talk into my fist! “The Princess is in motion,” I could say. “On our way to intercept the package.” Or something equally mysterious and confusing.


Being higher up than usual gave me a sense of power. The tinted windows gave my daughter a sense of celebrity. Driving home from both Philadelphia and Princess’s college, we encountered biblical downpours and highway flooding. Not a problem. Not in the Secret Service mobile, heck no! We went through those waters like a modern-day ark. We were so full of awesome.


american-eagles-picsI’ll be driving to Maine today. McIrish will have to sit in the passenger seat. I’m assigning us all Secret Service nicknames. Snacky Cat. Potatoes. Pork chop. Me, I’ll be Eagle One. Obviously. If you get to make up your own Secret Service nickname, it’s going to be Eagle One.


1 like ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on August 14, 2016 12:03 • 29 views

8768bfab38b310e2b0a2002fa9cf3282_crop_northAs you might know, I was in a car accident a week ago, resulting in my car (which is named Derek Jeter) going in the shop. The repairs have taken longer than I expected, which was a bit of a problem, since in the past five days, I had three trips planned—Philly with a couple of cousins and the Princess; the Princess’s college so she could visit with her sweetheart, who’s in football camp (I’m sucker for love, what can I say?); and today, to Maine.


We had to rent a car. I asked for a sedan, since that’s what Derek Jeter is, but they didn’t have one. Instead, they gave me a hybrid luxury SUV thingie. Black. Tinted windows. I hated it. But then… “Oh,” breathed the Princess. “It’s a Secret Service mobile.”


ssMy hate changed to love. Suddenly, my coolness factor jumped a thousandfold (it was pretty low to begin with, but hey). I did look like a Secret Service agent, just by putting on sunglasses and pretending to talk into my fist! “The Princess is in motion,” I could say. “On our way to intercept the package.” Or something equally mysterious and confusing.


Being higher up than usual gave me a sense of power. The tinted windows gave my daughter a sense of celebrity. Driving home from both Philadelphia and Princess’s college, we encountered biblical downpours and highway flooding. Not a problem. Not in the Secret Service mobile, heck no! We went through those waters like a modern-day ark. We were so full of awesome.


american-eagles-picsI’ll be driving to Maine today. McIrish will have to sit in the passenger seat. I’m assigning us all Secret Service nicknames. Snacky Cat. Potatoes. Pork chop. Me, I’ll be Eagle One. Obviously. If you get to make up your own Secret Service nickname, it’s going to be Eagle One.


10 likes ·   •  1 comment  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on August 14, 2016 12:03 • 158 views

August 7, 2016

DSCN0143


This has been a very full and lovely summer, and quite old-fashioned in some ways. We’ve done a lot of porch-sitting—we do have the most wonderful front porch, with hanging baskets and a couch that was purchased specifically so McIrish could nap on it. My great-aunt’s bouncy old metal chairs suck you in so you don’t want to get up, and iced coffee, a house specialty, is often served. In the afternoon, we crank DSCN0036down the porch shades so the sun doesn’t drive us inside. A few hours later, we roll them back up, watch the bats fly out of the barn and listen to the wood thrush sing the last song of the evening. Dearest Son runs around the field with the dogs, and Princess reads.


My oldest friend came over yesterday—we grew up next door to each other. She brought her mom and her younger daughter. Princess braided the little girl’s hair, and my nieces and son went swimming. Today, my best friend from college will visit with her triplets—I visited them in the hospital when they were born; in a few weeks, they’ll start their first year of college.


DSCN0027My sister-in-law came up the other day with her three, bringing along my beloved mother-in-law, Polly, and my brother-in-law. My friend Stacia is a frequent guest here, being a lover of both iced coffee and porches. My mom walks over sometimes, too, and my friend Shaunee is always game to come for an evening, so long as I make her a well-crafted martini. The Princess and her sweetheart have spent many hours reading here; he was not a reader when they started dated, but she’s converted him via Harry Potter.


The dogs too love the porch. While Willow was recovering from her leg surgery (she is such a delicate flower), we blocked the stairs, so she could be outside without straining her legs. Once in a while, one of the dogs will sneak up on McIrish’s couch. The cat doesn’t have to sneak. He owns us all.


DSCN8614Since I overcame my fear of hummingbirds, we bought two feeders, and I watch and listen to their busy wings. McIrish, as he seems to have some magic in him, held up a flower one day, and a hummingbird drank from it. Perhaps, the kids surmised, the hummingbird community remembered about how he rescued the baby hummingbird last summer from the pool, and word had spread that he was to be trusted. I’ve tried to get the hummingbirds to do the same with me, but to no avail. Maybe next year.


IMG_3834Next summer at this time, we’ll be getting ready to send Dearest Son to college, and Princess will be in her final year. But for now, I’ll just enjoy the last few weeks of this peaceful, happy, friend-filled time, listen to my kids laugh, pet my dogs and get another glass of iced coffee.


5 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on August 07, 2016 12:03 • 140 views