Sunday, June 12, 2011

Parents by Julie Hyzy

Anthony and Barry Award winning author Julie Hyzy writes two national bestselling mystery series: the White House Chef Mysteries (fourth in the series, Buffalo West Wing, came out in January), and the Manor House Mysteries (the second book, Grace Interrupted, just came out last week). She recently entered the eBook arena with her first harder edged novel - about a Chicago-based female private investigator. Playing With Matches is written under the N.C. Hyzy pseudonym. Julie lives in the Chicago area with her husband, three daughters, and two cats. Learn more about her at



by Julie Hyzy

I have a brand-new new book out, Grace Interrupted. It was released June 7th, so it’s not just new, it’s shiny-new. I’m excited to talk about it, of course, and I’m still in high-power promotion mode, but I’ve decided not to use my visit here to Kaye’s wonderful community to talk about it. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or if you’re one of my newsletter recipients, you already know it’s out. You may even be sick of hearing about it because I’ve been chatting it up for weeks.

So, what’s the topic of today’s post?

Parents. Specifically, mine.

According to news articles, I’m part of the sandwich generation—busy raising kids while caring for elderly parents. Squeezed in the middle, like bologna and cheese. Pick up a women’s magazine and you’ll find strategies to cope with a parent’s dementia, or unwillingness to give up a driver’s license.

That’s not me. I do have kids, but my folks aren’t around any longer. Both my parents are deceased. It’s been quite a while, in fact. My dad died in 1995, my mom in 1998. Not only were they not all that old, they both looked and acted much younger than they  actually were. Both were vibrant, fun, busy, involved-with-their-kids-and-grandkids kind of people and I miss them every single day.

Bear with me. I don’t intend to turn this into a sob fest. In fact, just the opposite.

Over time, I’ve come to appreciate just how indulgent my parents were. I don’t mean with material goods. I came from a family (and a neighborhood) where no one got a car at age sixteen unless it was a used clunker you paid for yourself.

Heck, my parents could barely afford the one car we had. We lived on a busy street, on the edge between residential and industrial. We were constantly in the market for a new used car, either because our Ford (always a Ford) parked out front got smashed by a drunk driver, or because someone stole it. Our house was small, and our vacations were always by car. Usually to a Wisconsin or Michigan family resort.

Long car trips equaled boredom. Back then there were no portable DVD players, and reading in the car usually resulted in car sickness. So what were we to do for those four or five hours? My younger brother and I shared the back seat (no seatbelts back then), desperately trying to make the time pass by playing games.  Instead of naming license plates, or animals, or birds, like normal kids might, Paul and I would pretend we had a swimming pool in the back seat of the car.  We’d jump and dive,  while holding our noses, or mimicking breaststrokes across the back of the car. Did we believe we’d fooled the people behind us? Oh yeah.  Did we really? Oh no. But it was fun.

Other parents may have ordered us to sit down, to behave, to not jump around like little lunatics. But our parents laughed and even encouraged us. At the time I thought nothing of it, but I realize now they were indulging our imaginations.

Worse (or better?) was when characters jumped into the car with us. That was my forte. We’d pass a town with an interesting sounding name and… boom… a new character was born. For days, and sometimes weeks, my parents and brother would have to deal with my antics as a crazy lady who sampled everyone else’s food, or a wacky man who waxed poetic about my mom, or a little kid whose name was pronounced backwards. And you know what they did? They laughed. And encouraged me to do more.

Yeah, I was a little bit of an odd kid. I guess that’s why I’m a little bit of an odd adult.

You’ve heard of coloring outside the lines and thinking outside the box. I’m more of a act-out-of-the-bounds- of-normalcy sort of person. If you’ve met me at Bouchercon or Malice, or another mystery conference, you’ll think I’m completely sane. Don’t worry, I’ve learned to curb my craziness in polite company. But I’ve come to realize that my parents’ willingness to tolerate my weirdness has probably been the single greatest gift they gave me. They nurtured my young imagination. They allowed me to believe I could do/be/try anything.  Because of them I believed in myself and I felt strong, relying on my imagination for fun, interesting, and exciting ways to play.

I think about my parents every day, but every year in this brief period between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, I spend a little extra time remembering and sharing these wacky stories with my kids. I’m so, so grateful that my folks lived long enough to get to know my kids, and to see that I’ve adopted their parenting style, but I can’t help but wish they’d seen me become a published author too, because then they’d be able to see how all those years of my goofiness have paid off. I’m doing what I love and having fun. What’s better than that?  And it’s all thanks to my mom and dad.


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Julie - Welcome!!!!! I always love spending a little time with you, sweetie - even if it is just virtually.

What a wonderful story. Thank you.

Can't wait to read the newest Manor House Mystery. AND - I think I already told you, I have Playing with Matches set back to take on vacation in a couple weeks. oh boy oh boy.

Julia Buckley said...

What a fun family you had! I love stories of family vacations, and it sounds like you and Paul have much to reminisce about.

Looking forward to the new book!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Great story Julie! And nice that you and your brother weren't FIGHTING in the back seat:)

Hope the new book does very well!

Mason Canyon said...

What a wonderful story Julie. Sometimes I think kids of this generation miss out pretending.

Kaye, thanks for hosting Julie.

Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Patty said...

Wonderful story Julie. Parents who encourage imagination are few and far between any more, they would rather stick in a DVD and forget they have children.

Your parents are a bit like mine, although mine encouraged the reading (yes, even in a car -- no motions sickness here). For me it developed my strong curiosity, thus being a librarian who specializes in reference.

cathy said...

Enjoyed your guest-blog, Julie. How wonderful to have had such great parents. I'm fortunate that mine are still with me and are also wonderful. Reading stories like yours reminds me to treasure them every day. Thank you.

jenny milchman said...

Your parents sound great, Julie--you put your finger on something I strive to do with my own kids, prioritize imagination over almost anything else, including peace & quiet--and I too wish you'd had them longer. But it sounds like you had them long enough to grow into just the person they wanted you to be.

Congrats on the new book! I love checking out Kaye's picks :)

Julie Hyzy said...

Thank you, Kaye, for inviting me to blog here. I love this wonderful community on the blogosphere. Always so warm and inviting!

Julie Hyzy said...

Hey, Julia! I did have a fun family. A little weird, a little nuts, but always fun. Paul and I do reminisce often... we did yesterday, as a matter of fact, at the book launch party (which is why I'm so late commenting here today... recovering!) and we wound up going down a fun tangent that was all about inside jokes and my brother's partner and one of my daughters looked at each other and said, "There they go again!"

Roberta - We had our occasional fights, of course. What sibs don't. But most of them have now become our favorite stories... like the time Paul "ran into my fists." He did. I swear.

Thanks Mason! I've tried to encourage imaginative play for my kids. I think it worked. Maybe too well. Two of them are (or will be) in the creative field. I love it!

Julie Hyzy said...

Patty - I would have loved to read in the car. I did, a bit, until it got to be too much. Hard to put some books down, so I hear you!

Cathy - yes, exactly. Parents are a treasure, and I'm so happy to know you're able to enjoy time with yours.

Thanks, Jenny - we do try. My husband's family was a bit more staid. Not a complaint, just an observation, so it was a bit eye-opening for him when our family played together rather than just visited. I love the fact that he's always eager to keep that spirit of play up with our kids. Thanks for checking out the new book. Hope you enjoy!

Peggy Webb a.k.a Anna Michaels said...

Julie, thanks for that lovely tribute to your parents. Mine were wonderful, too. They taught me to work, to pray, to respect people and Nature, and to love music and books. Daddy died before my first book was published, but Mama was so proud. She always introduced me by saying, "This is my daughter. She's a writer." I still miss them.

Julie Hyzy said...

Peggy - I know just how you feel.