Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lauri Robinson: Happy Birthday!

To me. Today, October 18th, is my birthday. I’m the seventh of eight children, six boys and two girls. When my parents learned they were expecting again, my father told the doctor to make sure this one was a girl. (My sister is eleven years older than me.) The doctor then gave my mother pre-natal vitamins (tablets that were half blue/half pink) and told her to swallow the pink end first. Until the day he died, my father claimed he wasn’t surprised I was a girl.

He wasn’t ‘big’ on being surprised.

I inherited that from him.

Picture explanation—this was taken at my granddaughter’s birthday. Our family is ‘big’ on birthday parties and everyone is expected to dress accordingly. That year it was a princess party, I was dressed as a snow queen. I believe this picture was snapped when the cake almost hit the floor. 

This year I plan on celebrating quietly. Dinner out is all I need. I’ve had the big parties. The pajama parties when I was young. Years later, the ones where it hurt to open my eyes the next morning. After that came the sentimental ones, like the time my hubby and sons forgot about the ice cream cake on the backseat of the van. And then there were the surprise parties. Oh, who could forget them? As if hitting those monumental BIG O’s wasn’t enough.

I’ve had three such events. Three. Not to scorn the people who worked so hard to pull them off, but to be frank, I loathe surprise birthday parties. The last one, just two years ago, I innocently agreed to ride to town for a short errand, only to end up in a banquet room (my sons and their wives went all out) in comfortable clothes—which means nothing was being held in or up—and no make-up, surrounded by a horde of people ready to party the night away. I didn’t even have my glasses so couldn’t read the cards everyone else was laughing their behinds off while reading. (My youngest drove home and got my glasses for me, bless his heart.)

To me, surprise parties are like that moment when you step out of the shower and discover someone else in the bathroom. Startled, you attempt to jump back over the rim of the tub and get tangled in the shower curtain. The rod lets loose, hitting your head before the sharp metal end lands on your big toe, right after it managed to hit the water knob—the cold one—which blasts you in the face.

That is exactly how I feel when entering a room full of people shouting, “Surprise!” Like a turtle on its back, arms and leg flaying. Butt naked.

In the bathroom you ultimately come to the realization the other person isn’t a mass murderer ready to stab you with a kitchen knife, it’s just your husband looking for the dental floss. However, at the party, you’re stuck with people describing their impression of how your face looked when you entered the room. Or sharing the pictures they’d snapped like the one above. (That one made its debut on facebook before the party was even over.)

Don’t get me wrong, the birthday parties have all been fun. I feel blessed to have such a thoughtful family and honored so many chose to celebrate birthday milestones with me. BUT, I have told my family, no more surprise parties.

On the other hand, I like small surprises. A bouquet of flowers, or unexpected phone call. A REAL letter in the mailbox. Finding money in the dryer, or in a coat pocket you haven’t worn for years.
My hubby is good at little ones. While I was in Texas this summer for the RWA conference, I discovered an envelope in an obscure zipper of my suitcase (one of those top one you never use). It held a Hershey’s Kiss and a sweet note saying he hoped I was having fun. Along with a post-it note that said, “Go shopping” stuck to a hundred dollar bill. (Yeah, he’s good at little surprises and knows me well.)

I love those kinds of surprises. It’s the caught-naked-with-nothing-but-a-shower-curtain ones I don’t like.    

How about you? Do you like to be surprised or not?

The heroine, Marie Hall, in The Wrong Cowboy which will be released November 1st, isn’t fond of surprises, but is determined to do anything for the six children in her care.

Here’s a short snippet when she meets Stafford Burleson—not Mick Wagner as she’d expected:

Tipping the edge of his hat back, and giving her a very penetrating stare from eyes that looked to be as gray as a storm cloud, the man acted as if he wasn’t going to answer her questions.
Marie’s nerves started jumping faster than the grasshoppers the twins had been chasing. She’d been charging things in Mr. Wagner’s name since leaving Chicago. Soon the bills would be more than she’d be able to repay. That wasn’t her major concern—the children were—but with each day that passed, their financial situation had started to trouble her more and more.
Finally, when the air in her lungs had built up a tremendous pressure from his stare, Mr. Burleson said, “I’m here to take you to Mick’s place.”
It wasn’t the answer she’d expected, but her sigh was so long she wondered if her toes had been holding air. When it was all out, she nodded. “Well, thank you. We’ve been expecting he’d send someone.” In truth she’d been praying Mick Wagner would come to collect them, or send someone, but she’d never allow the children to know she’d been worrying about the outcome of their adventure.
The man nodded. “We can head out in an hour.”
“An hour?” Still shaky with relief, it took Marie a moment to process his statement. Her thoughts shifted to everything that needed to be done before they left, and she shook her head. “That’s not possible. We’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
Mr. Burleson’s stormy eyes glared again. “We’ll leave in an hour.”
“No, we won’t.” She spun about, gestured to the children. “Gather your playthings. It’s time to return to our hotel rooms.”
They minded without question, for once, and she turned back to the man. “We’ll be ready to leave tomorrow morning, after breakfast.”
“It’s barely noon,” he said. “We can get a good number of miles under our belt yet today.”
“Tonight is bath night, Mr. Burleson,” she said, holding her ground. When it came to the children and their needs she’d argue until the sun set—dealing with the solicitor back in Chicago had taught her to not back down. No matter how frightening it was. “I will not have the children’s schedule upset.”
“You will not—”
“That’s correct,” she interrupted. “I will not.” No good nursemaid would, and she was the best nursemaid that had ever come out of Miss Wentworth’s training course. The owner herself had said as much. Marie had a document that proclaimed it in writing. She’d used it as a testimonial when interviewing for positions. Not that she’d need it anymore. Abandoning the Meeker children was something she’d never do. That’s what she’d told Mr. Phillips, the solicitor, back in Chicago, as well as several other people who’d suggested such a thing. She’d been hired as their nursemaid, and she would fulfill her duties.
The children had gathered around again, holding their toys and looking at her expectantly. So was Mr. Burleson. With so much to do, Marie couldn’t waste any time. “You can see to the hotel bill and the train fares, Mr. Burleson, and then bring the wagon around. A large number of our possessions can be loaded this afternoon.”
“Hotel bill? Train fares?”

Marie and Stafford are in for several more surprises before their story ends.

I have two advance copies of The Wrong Cowboy to give away. Just leave a comment telling me about one of your best—or most startling—surprises to be entered in the drawing. There may be a little something extra that goes along with the books. (One thing I didn’t mention is that I do like instigating surprises. I inherited that from my father, too. April Fool’s Day was his favorite.) Be sure to include your email address along with your comment. Our wonderful host, Lee, will randomly draw the winners and their names will be posted at the bottom of this post.

Thanks for joining me here today! If you’d like to, I’d be honored to connect with you elsewhere:

***Lauri's winner is erin!  Please email with your mailing details!***


erin said...

Oh wow... I've been racking my brain and I really can't think of any good surprises. I'm not easily surprised, so maybe that's it.But, I don't think I'd like it anyway. Thanks for sharing and Happy Birthday!

traveler said...

Your post was so uplifting, realistic and wonderful. What a delightful family you have. Lucky and enjoy. I haven't been surprised very much during my life. Two years ago I did have an awful surprise, a breast cancer diagnosis, but am now recovering. Wishing you much happiness and great health. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

I loved reading about your surprise experience. It sounds very emotional and very special. I never did experience a surprise but can imagine the joy, and unforgettable time. Best wishes. Many more years of surprises.

Lil said...

Some surprises could be uncomfortable but the only surprise I can think of was a good one. My boyfriend and I were hiking on a beautiful day but it was cold and icy on the mountain. I considered asking that we turn back a couple of times but didn't. When we reached the top there was a gorgeous panoramic view of mountains. I turned back to my boyfriend to see him on bended knee, and then he asked me to marry him. I was thrilled and my answer was yes. He had also hidden baguette, brie, ham, fruit and a bottle of champagne in his rucksack for a celebratory picnic lunch.

Mary Preston said...

Happy Birthday!!

I am one of 7 children. There were the six girls before my brother turned up.

Apparently there was a sigh of relief, and a touch of disbelief, at his arrival. All I know is that I was 6 years old, woke up one morning and my mother had disappeared. A week later she turns up with a baby in tow. No, I did NOT want to hold the baby thank you very much.

Can you tell I do not like surprises?

Lauri said...

Thanks, Erin! Sometimes I'm too easily surprised! Thanks for stopping by!

Lauri said...

Hi Traveler. Thank you, I do have a wonderful family. I'm so glad you are recovering! I had one of those surprises myself years ago, and they aren't fun! Blessings!

Lauri said...

Thank you, Petite. Best wishes to you, too, and for new surprises! You'll never know when they'll happen. :)

Lauri said...

Oh, Lil! What a wonderful surprise! That had to be the best one ever!!!! How romantic!

Lauri said...

Thank you, Mary, and LOL! That was a surprise, one a six year probably would not have liked! But what a great tale!!!