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Feb 28, 2010

Lena's Baptism

Our sweet baby girl was baptized today, an outward symbol of an inward grace. Baptisms are so special, even though they are purely ceremonial. I believe that every child is born with God’s grace already in them, and they carry that gift with them until they reach their individual age of enlightenment (which is different for everyone). Then they become an intelligent person capable of making decisions, so they must rediscover and reaccept the gift of God’s grace.

But that makes baptisms even more significant. Because it is our way, as parents and family, of celebrating and promising God and our families and friends that we intend to nurture that grace as best we can so our child can have the knowledge and wisdom and heart to find God for themselves. We did that for our baby girl today and it felt so good.

Lena wore what looked like “a little tiny wedding dress”, as the Winger boys described it in their high pitched, I’m-talking-to-a-baby-or-puppy voices. The gown my parents bought for Lena was the most precious I’ve ever seen. She couldn’t have looked more adorable it. She also wore the bracelet and ring that Lori and I both wore at our baptisms and a beautiful delicate cross from Aunt Lori around her neck. She was so laid back about the whole thing, staring up at Pastor Aaron with her big blue eyes as he sprinkled her head with water, and then looking back at me all sweetly. She never made a peep.

Sam was so cute, dressed up in his robot tie and linen blazer sporting his Cons and spiked hair. He never made a peep up front either, just stood there holding Rich’s hand looking at the congregation and up at me a few times. He’s such a loving, sweet boy, so kind to Lena. He of course had no idea what was going on. He was just psyched that Grammy and Papa Barker and the Wingers were here. Imagine his delight if Grammy and Papa Cole hadn’t been snowed in up there in the tundra and were able to join our little party…well, Sam might have just busted at his seams.

Then we all came home and ate cheese ball and brisket and cupcakes and had a quick but fun visit. God bless our loving family. And God bless Lena on her baptism day!

Feb 24, 2010

Amusingly Painful Idea

I’m attempting to write something. Be it a short story or a novel or a convoluted mess, I can’t say. I’m basing it on the time I spent living with my Papa before he died. The story may or may not have some supernatural twists about aging and death. It may or may not get finished. It may or may not suck. I’m hoping it will be amusing and painful, because it was an amusing and painful time for me, and because it was an amusing and painful time for my Nan and Papa. They were two of the greatest characters I’ve ever known and, though I don’t know if either would appreciate being immortalized in this way, I’m going to take a shot at it. Wish me luck.

Prayers for Jackie-Boy

God bless Jack and his bone marrow test today. Please guide the doctor's mind and hands, give the doctors and nurses compassion, heap your calming strength on Jack and the whole Winger crew so they can rest assured that Jack is firmly in your hands, and let the results come back with something wholly manageable. Thank you for giving us a family so tight-knit and loving. Thank you for loving Jack and the rest of us, too. Amen.

Feb 23, 2010

Catching Up

Below are some pictures of the Cole family happenings for February.

Making pizza with cousin Grant. I had to tell them there was a bird outside the window to get them to get them to look at the camera.

Baby girl sucking on her toes. I don't know why that's so precious, but I love it.

Playdoughing with Daddy. Rich loves being crafty with Sam - it's so sweet. Look at their matching bare feet. Neither of them can stand having socks on.

Sam practicing his reading, showing Lena his toot toot book with the horn that works. She loves her brother, leaning against his shoulder...I love that shot.

Proof that Momma exists...and I had to ask Rich to take this one. Without the few shots of me with them, Sam and Lena are going to look back at all of their pictures some day and wonder where the hell I was.

Lena nestled in the stuffed animal basket. It actually works quite well to keep her propped up and busy at the same time. She sat in there forever.

COSI for Valentine's Day! Sam was playing with a ball suspended in air here.

The kids loved the water area. And, amazingly, both stayed fairly dry.

Rich and Sam in front of the Snot, Snot, Snot exhibit in the Grossology area. It kind of freaked Sam out a little - and grossed us out a lot.

It's been a fun month so far, to be bookended by Lena's baptism this Sunday. Can't believe that's here already...where does the time go?

Feb 22, 2010

Feed Me

I recently read an author’s blog about books that feed her soul. Her imagination is stirred by the books on her list, and she reads them throughout her own writing process for inspiration.

That got me thinking about mediums that feed me as a wannabe writer and as just plain old me. Countless books nourish me, most currently Stephen King’s “On Writing”, which I’m reading now. This memoir/textbook is scary good on both counts. Among many, some others are “This Present Darkness”, “It”, “The Secret Life of Bees”, feeding my hunger for spiritual imagery, character development, and strong eccentric southern women respectively.

Almost more so than books, movies are the other medium that truly feeds me. Maybe it’s because movies are a more tangible, direct route to my emotions and imagination. Maybe I just like seeing massive, 20’ tall heads of beautiful people. Maybe it’s the acting. Whatever the case, I’m in the midst of watching one of my favorites, “Finding Neverland”, when I find a few spare moments. This morning while on the treadmill, two of my favorite scenes, two that feed me to my core:

In the first, JM Barrie pretends that his dog, Porthos, is a bear he is taming for the audience (four boys and their mother). Peter, the young boy who inspired Barrie's “Peter Pan”, says the whole thing is silly, that it is just a dog, to which Barrie answers:

“Porthos dreams of being a bear, and you want to shatter those dreams by saying he's *just* a dog? What a horrible candle-snuffing word, *just*. That's like saying, "He can't climb that mountain, he's just a man", or "That's not a diamond, it's just a rock." *Just*…”

Another favorite scene is when his sad wife, Mary, who is a listless, insipid social ladder climber and Barrie, who is a colorful rainbow shining through his wife’s gray cloud, each retreat to their separate bedrooms for the night. As Mary opens her bedroom door, inside it’s just a bedroom. When Barrie opens his bedroom door, it’s a bright green forest with birds singing and a blue sky and spring all around him.

Scenes like that feed me.

Feb 20, 2010

Guess Who Peed!

I’m a terrible mother. I have yet to attempt to put my Sam on the potty, as the mere thought of potty training exhausts me. But, could it be, that’s he’s the one telling me he’s ready?

Last night before bed, after Sam had stripped off his own clothes (a new trick he’s mastered – dressing and undressing himself), and during a naked jag around the living room, he exclaimed “Pee?” I was nursing Lena at the time, but I jumped so fast out of that chair and put her into her saucer that she didn’t even have time to protest. In a flash naked-Sam and I were in the bathroom: Sam hovering above the potty doubled in half so he could watch himself go; me with one hand holding his little body up so he wouldn’t fall into the depths of the toilet and, with the other hand, holding his winker southward so he wouldn’t squirt me in my elated face. Just when we both looked at each other, eye-to-eye, grinning, quietly wondering if anything would happen, our wonders were interrupted by the soft tinkle of a few drops of, you guessed it, pee! I cried out, “You PEED, you PEED!” and he just proudly nodded like, “Yeah, I did, didn’t I”. Then, naked-Sam and I danced around the living room in celebration of a new milestone he’s marked, Lena heartily laughing at us all the while.

I tell you, when I heard that tiny tinkle, I started to cry a little. How stupid, right? But behind my jubilation, all I could think was, “It’s going too fast”…

Feb 19, 2010

I’m Baking…I Bake…I’m a Baker

In the vein of What About Bob’s exclamation that ‘he sails, he’s a sailor’; I join him in my own declaration: I BAKE. I’M A BAKER!

I’m a good cook. I can follow a recipe, and I have a good grasp of how to mingle savory ingredients to create good food. And I enjoy cooking. But I’ve never baked. Until now, that is.

After many years of professing my non-baker status to the world, and a few more years of shamefully baking only pre-made cookie dough, I am proud to announce that I’ve tapped out my first bottle of vanilla from actual baking as opposed to expiration. So far I’ve only made cookies from scratch - peanut butter chocolate chip, regular chocolate chip, sugar cookies – no muffins or brownies or anything fancy like that. But the fact that my cookies are turning out this well is giving me confidence that I could possibly venture farther into the realm of from-scratch baked goods such as cakes or, dare I say, pies. I mean, I made icing today. And it was good. I’m tooting my own horn here but, whatever – I should have my own show already. TOOT TOOT!

Feb 17, 2010

Jesus and Bacon

Ash Wednesday to me is the beginning of Lent; the first day of a forty-day fast in a grossly insufficient attempt to honor Jesus’ sacrifice; a time to recognize my sinfulness, my repentance, my saving grace; a time to contemplate God’s unabashed love for me and pray about what that means for me and my family; a time of hope that ushers in Easter and the awareness that God is forgiving and good and committed to me; and, truthfully, a time of confusion as I wrestle with the necessity of the excruciating pain Jesus endured because of me.

In theology class, I learned that scholars throughout time have argued the requirement of the crucifixion as the means by which we are saved. It is in God’s power to forgive us without Jesus’ blood, without sacrificing his son/himself for us. So why the crucifixion? The reason that stuck with me is this: it was not the only way God could forgive us (he’s God, he can do anything); it was the only way we would receive the message.

Think about it. Humans are beyond imperfect creatures, two sides of a crazy coin. We hate/love, destroy/create, judge/accept. We're vain/humble, ignorant/wise, angry/joyful, numb/alive, stubborn/soft, prideful/meek, evil/good, cowardly/courageous. In a collection of people who can produce Hitler and Mother Teresa in the same breath, how the hell else would we get the message other than the shock of the crucifixion?

I hate it. I don’t understand it. It shames me. But I believe it. Its truthfulness permeates me. Because I know the truth isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, although they’re in there. The truth can be visceral and sharp-edged and hard to swallow. But once you get it down, brother, that’s when the sunshine and rainbows are revealed. That’s when the joy sets in. Because once we accept what God was willing to endure as a man in Jesus and as a father (who among us wouldn’t sacrifice ourselves to save our children) to save us, then we truly feel his love and the peace and forgiveness and grace that it brings.

So in honoring that love, that sacrifice, I’m giving up bacon for Lent. Yes, you read correctly. BACON. “No, Nicole, that’s too much”, you might caution. “It’s dangerous to set the bar so high”, you might plead. But I refuse to heed your warnings as I march into Lent with this sacrificial surrender of the best cured meat ever created. Will God be pleased with my choice? Maybe, because he knows all too well my torrid love affair with bacon and how difficult it will be for me to fast from it for forty days. Maybe he will be ashamed of me because it is so little in honor of so much (but wouldn’t anything I choose be too little)? Maybe he will laugh and say “Well, it’s something”. I like the last option the best. I like to think of God laughing. I’m sure he does plenty of it. Because, seriously, if you could see all and hear all and know all, once you got past the people who made you say, “What in the hell is wrong with that guy”, you would have to laugh at the rest of us.

Blessed Lent to all…have a BLT for me.

Feb 15, 2010


Tulips are my favorite flower. Their blooms usher in spring and Easter and the smell of warming earth as the days get longer and green returns to our world. They are also one of my mom’s favorite flowers – she planted them around the outskirts of our lawn so that they pop up splendid splashes of color when the weather turns temperate. I carried all colors of them, long-stemmed and wrapped with ribbon, on my wedding day as I let go of my father’s arm and took my husband’s. And Rich gets them for me sometimes, like yesterday for Valentine’s Day, because he remembers they are my favorite…

With the myriad things he has on his mind, on his schedule, he always remembers that tulips are my favorite. He always tells me he loves me. He always plays when Sam wants to, even for the 1000th time. He always smiles at Lena when she’s gazing at him, even when he’s exhausted from a long day. He always kisses me goodbye in the morning and hello in the evening. He always cooks scallops perfectly. He always spends his time with us. He’s always patient with me and my neuroses. He always does the laundry when I just don’t have the energy. He always feeds Sam his dinner. He always works hard to provide for us. And he always has enough of himself left for us afterward. He always loves us.

He’s the most compassionate and doting dad. He’s the most loving and respectful husband. He’s Rich. He’s the greatest.

Three Beautiful Things

1. Memories, photos, videos and lingering Bob Evan’s heartburn from a perfect Valentine’s Day spent with my favorite three people in the world – Rich, Sam and Lena.
2. The cheapo gas station coffee that I only allow myself to have on work mornings and car trips: tastes like hot chocolate, is fat free and is 77¢ - the antithesis of Starbucks.
3. Ghetto nachos.

Feb 14, 2010

Great New Booking Coming Out - Followup to Shiver

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.
Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog

We Heart Cosi

Happy Valentine's Day!

We're off to Cosi this afternoon - kind of a Valentine's Day tradition for us. I'll fill you in on our scientific discoveries later.

Hope you're surrounded by loved ones today!

Feb 13, 2010

Walk a Mile in My Chucks

These worn out black Cons of mine have trekked many miles with me. Among my collection, they’re my oldest pair, my favorite pair. They accompany every outfit I own from dresses to jeans and, no matter how torn and sodden and battered they get, I will keep them. It’s the bleach spots from scrubbing down my grandparents’ shower, the doodling I drew on the soles during theology class, the dirt and grime from countless travels over sidewalks and yards and parking lots and fields and amusement parks and airports and beaches from Columbus to Maui…it’s these things that make them my favorite.

This is not to say that I don’t adore all of my other Chucks – the flame pair that my nephews think make me run faster, the pink pair I wore ‘walking in Memphis’ with Jen, the red pair Rich got me for Christmas, the blue camo pair I bought at Marshalls just because they were my size...they all hold a special place in my heart and always will.

I picture myself as an old woman, gray hair piled on top of my head and Chucks on my feet. It’s not vanity or an attempt to cling to my youth that fans my flames for Chucks. It’s that I feel most like me, like the woman I most enjoy being – quirky, a little eccentric, joyful – when my Cons are snug on my feet. There’s power in those shoes, surely imagined, but potent nonetheless. I think every woman has a material object she feels that way about, be it a necklace, dress, shirt, ring, high heels, jeans, husband’s shirt…some thing that projects their inward self to the world, that pulls confidence or comfort or sensuality from them as soon as they put it on. My Chucks are that some thing for me and, thus, my ode to Chucks.

Feb 10, 2010

When Did I Have Twins?

Is there a medical explanation, some genetic mutation, as to why my kids are 21 months apart but look like twins? Clarification - they don't look like twins right now. But look at these pictures of Sam at 5 months and Lena at 5 months. It's kind of freaking me out.

Three Beautiful Things

This is a tough task today, as we had a long night with Lena and I’m grumpy and tired. But what better time to remind myself of beautiful things…

1. The sun is shining on the trees outside my boss’s window, making their snow covered branches glisten in its light.
2. The roads were fairly clear today, despite the barrage of snow, which allowed Sam and Lena to arrive at the sitter’s safe and sound, where they’re surely having fun with Tyler and Krista.
3. Lori’s blog made me laugh this morning, on a day when I didn’t think I’d be doing much of that.

Feb 9, 2010

Today’s Pros/Cons of Being a Mother

Con: Voluminous baskets overflowing with dirty baby clothes. How can two such tiny creatures create this magnitude of laundry within a few days? It should be studied by scientists.

Pro: Fat baby feet. Oh, how I love them – even the stinky ones. And when their fat baby hands grab their fat baby feet, I melt into a fat blob of mother loving goo and forget all about the fat pile of laundry those stinky feet have generated.

Feb 8, 2010

My Life as a Penguin

In college I signed up for a creative writing class. Among the painfully mundane classes I chose to endure (the knowledge from which I have yet to drawn upon), it was the only class on my schedule that should have helped form me. It should have ushered me into a change of major, from Criminology to English. It should have been the springboard from which I jumped into Stephen King’s well-described "language pool...where we all go down to drink." Should’a, would’a, could’a...

Instead, I dropped the class and immersed myself in the pool of inhibitions, drowning in those murky waters for a long time. I remember the exact moment that my inhibitions pulled me under.

The class was small. I took my place in a circle of pale yellow, cold, plastic chair-desks, secretly feeling as synthetic and fake as the wood grain veneered on their tops. As we waited for the professor, the other students oozed relaxed creativity – it was falling from their lips like beautiful flower petals as they discussed books and politics and philosophy. My lips, however, stayed tightly shut, trussed by inadequacy and fear. These kids weren’t ordinary, like me. They weren’t scared they might say something stupid and look like an idiot, like me. They didn’t care if someone disagreed with their opinions, like me. They were not tethered firmly to the earth by self-consciousness, like me. They were magnificent birds soaring through the air of originality and confidence. I, on the other hand, was a flightless bird. I was a penguin.

The professor finally came in and took her place among us, completing the circle and rescuing me from the students’ glares that clearly communicated their suspicions that I, looking oxymoronic with my poufy hair and grunge clothes, didn’t belong. Upon her instruction, we opened our books and began reading aloud. My defenses went down a little as I settled into the story, just in time for the in-class assignment to sucker punch me square in the jaw.

“Close your eyes and think of the color red”, she instructed. After a minute of peeking through my closed eyes insecurely to check if I was the only one with them shut, she continued, “Now open them and write about what you saw, how it made you feel, what imagery it brought to mind”. Terror. That’s what I felt. Not because the color red summoned that emotion (although it sometimes does today, latched on to that memory like a blood-sucking leech). No, I felt terror because the other kids started feverishly writing while I was frozen with a blank mind.

When the professor started to go around the circle asking people to read what they wrote, panic joined terror and the two bounced off the walls of my stomach like bad seafood. I was staring at a blank white sheet of paper, a mirror reflecting what my mind looked like at that moment. What would I say when my turn came? I obviously couldn’t be honest and explain my terror and panic. Once I did that, they would surely stone me to death (so I imagined). Or worse yet, they would affirm my suspicion – that I was an ordinary fool with no creativity, no imagination, no talent, no gifts, no color…just a boring brown-eyed cliché walking around her gray world with nothing to offer.

The professor dismissed class before the others had finished, again rescuing me from their judgmental stares. I raced over to the registrar’s office and dropped that class like a hot potato. Whew, dodged a bullet there, one that certainly would have shattered the façade I had spent years buffing to a high shine, a brightly polished icy finish that deceptively projected a cool, fun-loving, free-spirited extrovert who didn’t care what people thought. Why face my fears, acknowledge a passion, let go, and perhaps grow when I could safely live behind that glossy veneer, drowning in my own insecurities.

The dark waters of inhibition eventually poured into nearly every aspect of my life. That’s not to say that I was a miserable person. I wasn’t. I loved and lost and laughed and cried – lived as real of a life as I allowed myself. But I was still a penguin waddling around a gray iceberg, watching the soaring birds above me from the perch of my flightless, personal prison.

So the question begs, how did I become so self-conscious, so scared? My life has been abundantly blessed – loving parents, the best of friends, strong relationships, good grades, faith. But sometime during adolescence, I became very concerned with how people saw me and, through the years, I allowed that to become a ruling authority in my life.

With an ever-increasing collection of years piling up behind me, however, I am discovering the power of rebellion and am plucking out those heavy feathers, preparing for flight. I’ve started molting, I guess. I’m a scruffy molting penguin – not pretty, but essential for growth. And while I’m no soaring bird, I do get some good air under my penguin wings sometimes.

Feb 6, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

Sound of Music sing along:

Girls in gray onesies with pink fleece-y sweat pants;

Sons and their daddies, finger paint on their hands;

Silver white winters so cold that they sting…

These are a few of my favorite things...

Play dough playing;

Sweet girl laughing;

Oh, the fun we have;

I’ll always remember my favorite things.

With them, how could I feel sad?