Thursday, August 30, 2018

School Daze

It's 90 degrees out here in Pennsylvania and many of the kiddos have headed back to school. Summer seems a million years past already. For me it flew by despite my attempts to hold on tight. Normally, I'm okay with the start of school. I'll even admit that by the end of August, I'm usually looking forward to it. But not this year.

This year I was kind of dreading it. My youngest son was starting 7th grade, which for us is the beginning of middle school. I don't know know why this affected me so much. Maybe it was because it meant two years until high school and driving and graduation and … wasn't he just two years old? Yes he was! And today, TODAY, he turned TWELVE. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I love you infinity plus infinity even though you don't want me walking with you to the bus stop anymore.

As if that wasn't traumatic enough, this year my daughter graduated high school, and she was accepted to her dream college. The one that checked all of her boxes, the one that barely squeezed into our budget, the one that was ELEVEN hours away. It was the one that started in the middle of August. I knew the goodbye would be hard. I did. But I didn't think it would be so hard. As a divorced mom, she lived with her dad part of the time. I was used to her sometimes being away. But "away" had meant around the corner, and I still saw her on my "off" days when I picked her up from high school.

I'm not going to lie - the first few (several) days after she left were really hard, and I cried (a lot.) Nobody prepares you for hard it's going to be. At least nobody prepared me. But a few things got me through:

1. Knowing my daughter was/is so happy in her new home. Thank you FaceTime for letting me see her smiling face!

2. My friends who put up with my daily crying updates. I owe you!

3. The timing of having to revise my manuscript for my agent. Nothing helps take your mind off the blues like a hairy-handed, piano-playing, white-van driving, werewolf alien kidnapper!

Both kids are now settled into their school routines and my school daze is starting to lift. We are adjusting to new normals with our own unique and creative spirit … going after dreams and navigating new territory. And we're celebrating milestones. We have back to back birthdays in my crew. Yesterday my daughter turned 18. And yes, I cried. Happy Birthday!!! I love you and am in awe of the strong, independent woman you've become.

Hugs to all the caregivers lost in a school daze, and I hope all of the big and small children in your life have an awesome school year!


Monday, July 23, 2018

My Monday Mind

All day I've been itching to blog. There are a million things swirling around in my head, all trying to push their way to the front, demanding attention on the page. In the past, I wrote a blog feature called the Friday Five. It was organized and concise and limited to five things. But that's Friday's deal. Mondays are so very different. 

For starters, did you know I've been blogging on and off for seven years now? I realized this when it occurred to me that my daughter is leaving for college in three weeks. You may be wondering how that's related. Welcome to my Monday Mind...  Seven years ago when I started blogging, my kids were little, and I was blogging about toddler diets and boy bands and the possibility of keeping a zebra in my front yard as a pet. But on Saturday, I took apart my eleven year old's race car bed and replaced it with a standard wooden frame. I spent the entire afternoon building it. Thank goodness for power tools ... and ice cream, especially the kind with the crushed peanut butter cups. Am I rambling again? Monday Mind. Maybe I do need that concise and organized list after all.

1. College Bound

I am not going to be sappy, I am not going to be sappy, I am not going to be sappy ... but people, my daughter leaves in three weeks!! Yes, I'm totally counting. And she's going several states away. As sad as I am to have her be so far, I'm even more excited for the adventures and opportunities she's about to discover. The world awaits, and I truly hopes she finds what makes her heart sing. 

That was a little sappy, right? Okay, what if I tell you I'm going to take up some of her empty closet space. Does that help? Ugh, I'm going to miss this child!! 

2. New Bed

As if having my daughter leave for school isn't bad enough, the other day, my BABY, my eleven year old, told me he was TIRED of his race car bed. Okay, I might have asked him. (What was I thinking?!) He's had it since he was a toddler. It's one of those ones that fits both a crib mattress and a twin mattress. Anyhoo... I waited until Prime Day and then went on Amazon and bought the one bed that WASN'T on sale because, whatever. I put it together over the weekend. My son slept in it last night, and he looks five years older, and I don't want to talk about it anymore.

3. Books News

If you follow me on social media then you probably already know this news (and if you don't and you want to ... the links are above) but ... I'm thrilled to announce that I'm now a client of Olswanger Literary! Up until now I've published all of my children's titles on my own. Having a literary agent opens the doors to so many new opportunities. Stay tuned! I can't wait to tell you more and hope to do a blog post soon about my journey. Did I mention I'm super excited?

4. Shake 'n Break

By now you all know I broke both of my ankles last October in a not so graceful whirly twirly stumble down my bottom two steps of my staircase (that's all it took!!) In total there were three fractures and two torn ligaments. Some of you may also know that in January, apparently because I was walking funny #funnynotfunny I also wound up with a fracture in my left tibia. Nine months later, I'm finally out of my aircast! I still have a torn ligament, but that's like whatever! I'm in an ankle brace, but I can wear real shoes. And I'm allowed to take small walks. I've been going about a half-mile at a time. This is huge - all I have to do is NOT fall again. Oh wait that happened yesterday. Yeah,  but DON'T PANIC - I'M FINE. It was more of a slide and dive in a mud patch. Not a full on tumble. My pride was broken, but nothing else. Just a little bruise on the knee. Still, if anyone knows where I can order a bubble wrap jumpsuit, hit me up okay?

5.  Headlines

Don't worry, this isn't political, but ... one headline did ruffle my feathers a little yesterday. Forbes Magazine wrote an article about how Amazon should replace public libraries to save taxpayers money and well, Twitter (myself included) did its thing, thank goodness. I mean you just don't mess with public libraries. You just don't. My son has read over ten books just this past month. And I've read my fair share as well. I love to  support our local indie bookstore (Shoutout to Open Book Bookstore) but there's no way, I can afford to keep up with my son's insatiable reading habit. Not to mention the wonderful events, the quiet space for working, and the SMELL, oh the smell of all those books. I tried to find the article so I could link it here, but it looks like Forbes took it down... thank you.

Our latest library haul

6.  Speaking of Books  ... Yes! There's a #6 on this list. It's Monday after all!

These are three of my favorite new Middle Grade finds (from my local public library) that should be on your middle grade reader's must read list (and yours too!)

Oh yeah, I forgot about the ice cream. I guess that's #7. 

Hope you all have a great week!



Friday, January 26, 2018

Books and Baubles ... Oh My!

Hello Friends and Happy 2018!

If you've visited my blog before (thank you) you know that I usually post about books or my kids or some combination of the two. But today, I have something completely different, and I'm sure very unexpected. Today, I'm pleased to share with you my newest venture ~

Here are the deets:

You all know me as Karen Pokras Toz, author, but several months ago, I also began making bracelets.

It all began in October of 2017 when I had a not so graceful tumble down my stairs and broke both of my ankles - yup, major ouch! It was even more of a bummer, because as a writer I liked to start each day with a walk (when both the weather and my arthritis cooperated) to clear my head and get my creative juices flowing. After a few weeks, I was going absolutely NUTS and my writing stalled. I needed a replacement for my walks.

That's when I started beading. I beaded and I beaded, and I beaded some more. Soon, I was completely addicted and found myself with a hearty inventory and a new hobby -- again, when my Rheumatoid Arthritis permitted it. It's a frustrating disease, but I do the best I can to find ways around it.

So, I've decided to start a little side business, and since these bracelets were made with love by my swoopy arthritic fingers (yes, the actual words my doctor used), I've decided to donate 10% of my proceeds to The Arthritis Foundation.

Don't worry, I'm still writing, but now I'm both a book and bauble maker. I've put a small sampling below. All of my bracelets are listed for sale on Etsy at Feel free to stop by, browse, and if you're so inclined, click on the little heart to like my shop! I'm excited about the pieces I've created. I hope you are, too. And as always, thank you for your support!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

About that Boy Tweet

A few weeks ago these tweets were going around, and I’d been meaning to comment on them. Forgive the messy editing, art was not my best subject in school. If you want to see who said what, or if you want to re-tweet (even better), feel free to dig around my Twitter feed.

Most boys don't read? What? Of course they do! My eleven year old reads non-stop! This is his bookshelf.

I normally don’t post pics of my kids' messes, but I straighten this out almost weekly. It’s a mess because he’s constantly taking books out to read (and not putting them back properly, but that’s another blog post). Then there’s my twenty year old who put a book on his holiday gift list this year. But let’s move away from the boys who share my DNA.

Because other boys read, too!

Can we talk about NATE ROCKS?

Okay. So admittedly, one of the reasons I wrote Nate Rocks was because my oldest son wasn't the greatest reader at the time, and I wanted to write a series for reluctant readers - boys and girls - because boys aren't the only ones who read Nate. But since I want to address the tweet about boys and reading … BOYS DO READ, and boy oh boy do boys love Nate. I have proof:

1. They write to me - especially when their name is also Nathan, or when they also have annoying older sisters (this seems to be the case in a LOT of households).

2. Their parents write to me. Particularly when they do something funny, like hiding behind the couch hoping to sneak in one more chapter when they're supposed to be getting ready for bed. Then there was the mom who begged me not to end the series on behalf of her son. The circumstances sounded dire. ... Sorry.

3. Pictures! I have them. On my website. Parents send me photos of their awesome kids reading Nate. They've also drawn their own adventures. Check them out at They rock.

But, it's not about Nate!

There are TONS (and tons) of other great books, and boys love to read them. Are there reluctant readers? Absolutely and guess what? Reluctant readers find books they love and often turn into avid readers. Does this happen every time? No, but "Most boys don't read at all?" I don't believe that for a second.

Do they need encouraging? YES!
Should we be taking them to bookstores and libraries on a regular basis? YES!
Do they need exciting, challenging, adventurous, funny, educational, creative, inspirational, thoughtful, mind-provoking books to read? YES!
Does the above apply to ALL children? YES!

Give the gift of reading. Nurture your child's creative soul.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Little Holiday Poem

Hello friends and readers!! It's me .. remember me? I know it's been a looong while since I've posted (so long that it took me a while to find the new post button). Every time I come back, I always say I'm going to start posting more regularly, but you and I both know the truth, so I'm not going there...

I do however, want to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING! And I want to share a little holiday poem that I sent out with my newsletter this morning. Are you signed up to receive my newsletter? The link is below this post. I promise I  won't share your email address or clog up your mailbox since I send newsletters about as often as I blog! 

But back to the poem!! I thought it was the easiest way to update you on what I've been up to the last seven weeks...

‘Twas the night before Monday, the October wind blew,
The cat had been sick, and I knew what to do.
To the vet in the morning is where we must head,
He stared at me blankly and curled up for bed.
As the clouds rolled in and rain poured down,
I pulled out his carrier and then looked around.
To the closet my furry friend had run up to hide,
Seemed I'd need treats to get him inside.
“Come on,” I begged, “just behave, please?”
He peeked out and smirked. Oh what a tease.
I reached out and grabbed him. My lucky day!
Down the steps toward the carrier, everyone out of my way!
When all of a sudden there arose such a clatter,
The cat sprang away, and I fell with a SPLATTER!
Down the stairs I had tumbled, well really just two,
But enough to have gotten quite a nasty boo-boo.
We went to the vet, me banged up and bruised.
That’s what us pet-lovers do when we’re dazed and confused.
To sum up the story, the cat is just fine.
Myself, I now claim two broken ankles as mine.
Now seven weeks later, I’m still healing away,
But wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays!



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Friday, May 19, 2017

The Friday Five 5-19-17

No, your eyes do not deceive you! I decided to do a Friday Five  -- it's been a busy week, so why not? It's my blog, I can blog if I want to, blog if I want to, blog if I want to,  ... I've had a little extra coffee today, sorry.

Anyway - let's get right to it!

1. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!  I know this can be a tough day for some. For those - my heart goes out to you - I hope the day was easy and peaceful. For me, I had a lovely and relaxing day with my three kids. My sixteen year old made breakfast (and did the dishes after - thank you, daughter!) My oldest bought flowers and helped clean the patio, and my youngest let me sleep with his giant teddy bear for the night - a definite treat! But my favorite part of the day was when we all went on a walk together … nature, family photos, and perfect weather.  I ended the night with a fab dinner, great company, and a relaxing glass of wine on my newly cleaned patio. All in all it was a perfect day. I hope yours was, too.

2.  Blue Toes.  I don't normally talk about my feet (as in never) but back in February I received a gift certificate for a mani/pedi that I hadn't used yet. Anyway, the temp hit 90, and I needed to break out the sandals, so it was time for a Me Day! Exciting right? It was for me because to be honest, I don't get them very often, and it was heaven. I enjoyed every minute of my pampering.  And, I'm not just going to talk about my feet, I'm actually going to post a picture (Cue the horror music!)

But then … I totally jinxed myself. I got into my car and thought to myself, "I feel sooo relaxed."
Yup. Big mistake. My phone rang on cue … it was my son's school.  

3. Call From School  So I answered the phone, knowing it wouldn't be good news. It never was. "Hello? It's the school nurse." Ugh. "Your son is okay, but …" No! Not "but!" You said he was OK. You're not allowed to use "but" and "OK" in the same sentence. Seriously. It turned out, my son was stung by a bee. He's not allergic so it wasn't a huge deal, at least it wouldn't have been if he wasn't already terrified of bees. He gave an oscar-worthy performance over the phone as to why I had to come pick him up that very second, which of course I did because #momlife. He's fine. He spent the rest of the day playing video games and forgetting all about the bee sting. 

4. Newsletter. On Saturday I put out a newsletter. It was the first one I had done since November. I know what you're thinking. A Friday Five and a newsletter all in one week? Who are you?  I don't know what came over me, but I'm sure it will be another six months before either happens again, so if you'd like a copy of the newsletter, sign up at the bottom of this post (or in the margin if you're on a PC or leave me a comment if you can't find it - I'll get it to you!) There's a cute story about my 10 year old for those who enjoy his funny conversations.

5. Garden. Since my oldest was kind enough to clean off my patio, I decided I should probably plant some plant things. I haven't had a lot of luck at this house because of deer and bunnies, but I figured it was worth another shot. Plus, my friend Kate Brandes gave away seed packets at her book release party (best swag ever!) and I'm always up for a challenge. PS - I'm a third through her book, The Promise of Pierson Orchard, and loving it ... check it out! So far it's five days in and I haven't killed anything! Yay me. I'll  keep you posted.

That's five! I hope you have a great weekend!



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Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Am Woman Hear Me ... Eep?

Once upon a time there was a woman brave and strong. She thought she'd been through it all, surviving everything from health issues (I am a warrior), relationship failures (Oh the Internet dating disaster stories I could tell), financial stuff (That costs how much?), teen drama (Does this ever go away?), wasp infestation (I'm a pro at killing those suckers), and the list goes on. She (did I say I? Oh, okay, fine) was infallible … until one night, last night in fact, an itty bitty, teensy, weensy, furry little mouse ran across her bedroom floor at 11:00pm. I know!! 

Here's what happened. 

I was peacefully lying in bed, almost asleep, when I heard growling and hissing coming from my two cats. Expecting to see them fighting over a toy, I turned on the light to shush them, but instead screamed bloody murder at the sight of a little mouse scurrying across my floor. Somehow my 10 year old in the next room slept through this! 

"Get it!" I yelled to my cats. I had no doubt "Frick and Frack", protectors of the freshly folded clean laundry, would be on the case.  Look at them, they're fierce!

I know what you're thinking. I should have tried to catch the poor little guy (or gal), so I could set it free. I love animals and all, but, are you kidding? I was thinking more along the lines of burning my house down. Okay so maybe not  -- that's a little extreme crazy and illegal - plus I need a place to live and there's the hassle of replacing all my stuff. Instead I decided to quickly and quietly sprint down the stairs to my living room in order to allow my cats the privacy to do what they're supposed to do.  Yeah, sure, that's why I left.

I sat on my couch - reduced to a trembling ball of nerves wrapped in a blanket - and watched the 11:00 news (which stressed me out even more) as I listened to a ton of pitter-pattering overhead. And then ... silence. Did they get it? Was it gone? Could I reclaim my bedroom?

Be brave woman! I crept back upstairs, wrapping my blanket around my shoulders like a super-hero's cape and peeked through my doorway. One cat was under the bed while the other paced in a stalking-like manner. Ugh! Then, I did the unthinkable. I got into bed! It was midnight, and I had given myself a "Are you really going to let this tiny thing that's probably more afraid of you, rule your roost?" pep talk. "Besides," I continued, "it's quiet in here. It's probably dead by now anyway." 

It sounded good until I heard the cats start growling again. I pulled the sheets up over my head and tried to think of happy things like my kids, and daisies, and a fresh canister of Pringles. At some point it got quiet and I nodded off, but then the chasing resumed. This was my night: a constant stream of growls, quiet, sleep, and commotion, that was light on the sleep and heavy on the commotion. But I was too tired and annoyed to get up and move to the couch. 

Then, at around 5:00am a cat jumped on the bed. WHAT? Please don't let there be a mouse in my bed, I prayed. I cautiously looked around while he made himself comfortable. No mouse. A moment later cat number two jumped on the bed, also mouseless. They both curled up and went to sleep. 

"Wait - that's it? You're giving up?" I demanded. "Or does this mean you caught it? And if so where is it? Why are you two just lying there sleeping? Why can't you tell me what's going on? "

And so, I did what any sane(?) person would do in this situation at 5:00 on a Sunday morning. I got up and made coffee. And my Frick and Frack, worn out from a night of hunting haven't moved since. As for the mouse, it's still a big mystery.


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