Review: Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying by Betsy Kerekes


The messy-dirty-diaper-on-the-floor-years and the wonders and miracles of chaos are hilariously present in Betsy Kerekes’ Be a Happier Parent or Laugh Trying ( And, at the heart of this parenting book is the following lesson: “There are probably many more parent saints than we know of. They just never had time to write anything down for the sainthood committee” (92). In other words, imperfection is more than okay. It’s the intention behind our actions, the striving towards peace and happiness that count, knowing that we fail along the way.

Throughout the book, Kerekes uses the art of exaggeration to tell humorous stories: “Lord knows you’ve already received advice . . . from everyone and the cousin’s half-sister’s babysitter’s free-range chicken inspector” (10) and sometimes, the floor “looks like the streets in New Orleans after Mardi Gras” (16). These exaggerations, of course, are interspersed with practical and comforting advice. For instance, in a world where parents are constantly competing, Kerekes says to “do what works for you” (10) and to not compare your child to others, which as I reflect on my child’s younger years, would have been a really good reminder. In those days, comparing children often led to disappointment and not seeing the unique gifts that my own child had instead. Also, in this book, there are plenty of stories of children misbehaving during mass that will have you rolling the aisles (pun intended).

Other great ideas abound:

–creating game nights to “trick” children into cleaning the house.

–sharing pictures of mishaps and messes on social media for sympathy and laughter. (To use one of Kerekes’ techniques that also pops up in her book (the “pro tip”), here is a Pro Tip: Follow Kerekes’ blog: Fun and hilarity ensue.)

–encouraging service and charitable acts with children. (I have fond memories of regularly visiting a nursing home with my mom. We would take some of the residents out for McDonald’s and share a meal. We just had to make sure we didn’t lose any of the residents along the way.)

–uplifting children’s feelings, rather than dismissing them.

–making paper airplanes with lists of chores and flying them into children’s/spouse’s rooms. (Oh, the fun I could have with that!)

–imparting a sense of “detachment,” so that things and objects don’t take too much importance.

–starting the day by asking, “What does God want me to do today?” This would work for any age, but when I do it, I believe God always answers, “Nothing. Take the day off,” which can’t be right, but maybe it is. (I hope it is!)

–ignoring temper tantrums: “When you act oblivious to screaming children, it deflates that misbehaving balloon and teaches them that temper tantrums get them nowhere” (46). (This may be a tactic that is also starting to work with a certain ex-president, thanks to Twitter.)

So, for me, this book reconfirmed my faith in mistakes, fun, and chaos. Laughter is something that can unite us all, and Kerekes’ book is full of hilarious opportunities. 

The Places We Haunt: Live Reading on Facebook

Places We Haunt eBook Cover

Restless spirits with stories to tell lurk in the everyday spaces of The Places we Haunt—and now—they will be given a voice in a live Facebook reading. Join in on the fun as the author, Cecilia Kennedy, reads selections from her short story collection of dark tales. The live Facebook reading will take place Wednesday, October 21st at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time (8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time). The author will read at least 2-3 selections, depending on time. She is aiming for an hour-long reading but is willing to stay longer for participants who want to chat—or hear a few more stories read aloud.

How to attend:

Please RSVP by Monday, October 19th to You can join the reading even if you are not a member of Facebook. In the RSVP, include either your Facebook link (if you would like to connect through Facebook) or your email where the author can send a link.

–Include a request for a story you want the author to read out loud from the collection, if you wish.

Since Facebook Rooms are limited to 50 people, the author will limit this reading to 49 participants. If there are more who would like to join, the author can schedule another reading for more participants on another day/time.

For more information about The Places We Haunt, or to buy a copy, please click on the following link: The Places We Haunt.

Starfish and a Quick Update

Purple starfish found near Bellingham, Washington. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

It’s dangerous to leave glass objects on my desk when I’m working.  Writing gets messy; I push notebooks and reference manuals around, sending knickknacks flying.  (A plastic wind-up crab is severely cracked, and my Wallace and Gromit figures may never want to look at me again.) However, I make one exception for the glass starfish pieces I’ve begun to collect.  I take extra care not to knock them over.  Typically, I’m not one to collect objects or figurines of any kind, but lately I’ve been drawn to starfish.  I look for them whenever I get a chance to walk along a pier or the shoreline of cities near the Puget Sound.  Of course, I capture a photo, but the urge to hold something solid and colorful is strong, so I settle for sparkling glass representations.

Glass starfish on my desk. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

Starfish, with their ability to regenerate their own limbs–and bring such joy in color and shape, are uniquely inspiring to me.  Starfish remind me to create something new—and to count my blessings.  This year in particular, I’m grateful for the following:

New Work:

–Recently, I’ve enjoyed translating brochures and letters into Spanish for the Safe Crossings Foundation, an organization that supports Providence Hospital of Seattle’s Safe Crossings Program.  When children lose loved ones, such as parents and siblings, they need resources to help them heal.  Currently, those resources are in English, but I’ve been translating them into Spanish and have learned a lot about the grieving process in general.

–A promotion at my part-time gig as a writing tutor for an educational publishing company has led to new opportunities. I’m now training writing tutors and helping them effectively serve students.


–In 2018, I published nine short stories in various literary magazines/journals, so my goal was to meet that number of short story publications in 2019. I succeeded—and may have exceeded that goal.  (Some stories have been accepted a few weeks ago and may be published in the coming months.)  My most recent publications are on the following web link:

–My DIY humor blog, Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks ( is in its third year.  Laughing while writing is therapeutic.  I’ve managed to post once a week and gain a following of over 1,300 readers.  I’m absolutely amazed by the support of the blogging/writing community.

–I’ve finished the outline and plot for a new novel.  Two completed novels need to be revised, but I can’t wait to get started on the newest one. My goal is to complete half of it by December break.

Running and Reading Projects:

–It has been three years since I’ve moved to the Greater Seattle area and I can’t believe I haven’t really met or interacted with the wonderful neighbors in my neighborhood, so I started a book club.  Several of us women in the neighborhood get together once a month over lots of wine, books, and laughter. So far, we have read:  All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doer), The Last Tudor (Philippa Gregory), and The Red Tent (Anita Diamant).  Currently we are reading, Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison).

–For years, running has been my favorite sport/hobby, though I don’t like to do marathons.  A 5K is fine with me.  I rarely do 5K races, but I’ve just found out about “virtual 5K” races and challenges—and now I’m hooked.  These races are run anywhere/any time within a certain number of months or weeks. The miles are logged online, and medals come in the mail.  Currently, I’m doing the Run Motivators’ “Run Like a Woman 100 Mile Challenge.”  With this challenge, I have between July 1 and September 30th to run, walk, bike, swim, canoe/kayak, etc. 100 miles.  So far, I estimate that I’ve done 240 miles, 115 of them running. My medal will come in the mail and I get to interact with all kinds of runners all over the country who are doing the same thing.  Very inspiring!

What about you?  What are your achievements—writing or otherwise? What goals have you set for the year?  Feel free to share in the comments section below.







Fall Schedule: Paper/Rock Writing Consultations

A slightly cooler breeze floats in just under the sunlit skies of August–and I’m reminded that carefree summer days will soon give way to more steady routines.  I’m happy to welcome them back with my schedule book open. For those of you who would like to meet with me for writing consultations, I’ve included my fall schedule below. Feel free to click on the “Services” link from the menu above to see the full list of the kinds of writing consultations I can offer.  Cheers!

Cecilia Kennedy (

In-person times available, starting Thursday, September 6th-Thursday, December 13th


*Please note:  Emailed essays/writing questions are accepted any time or day at the following address: Turn-around time for comments/instruction/replies is usually 24-72 hours, but could take longer for larger projects.


9 a.m.-1p.m. (In my Snohomish home office or through videoconferencing)

3 p.m.-4 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Special Evening Hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays:

6 p.m.-8 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)


9 a.m.-1 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)


September 7th-October 26th:  3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

November 3rd-December 7th:  3 p.m.-6 p.m. (Home office or videoconferencing)

Holiday Closings:

Wednesday, November 21-Friday, November 23rd

December 14-December 23, I will only accept emailed questions/essays. No in-person sessions will be held.

December 24-January 1, I will be on holiday with my family and will not be able to answer emails regularly.





The Places in Which I Write

Smooth, dark wood-grained surfaces of tables or desks have cast their spell on me since the age of four, which is when I can first remember having a tiny table of my own. I used it to color and cut out shapes—busying my mind for hours with imaginative tasks. The classroom desk later became the place where I wrote most assignments during my elementary and middle school years—followed by a writing desk I picked out for my bedroom during my high school years. Even in college and in graduate school, I believed that a desk in a quiet place would be most conducive to and appropriate for the act of writing. I thought that the space around me needed to be absolutely quiet and distraction free—contemplative even—and this kind of environment served me quite well for many years.

However, even during those years, there were other places where my writing took shape. In high school, I wrote one of my best speeches for “grandparents’ day” on a bus ride back from a Shakespeare festival in Canada. I was surrounded by loud, boisterous friends, while landscapes filled with green and gold-leafed trees and farm fields whirled quickly past the windows. In my mind, as I wrote, I was in Tucson, Arizona in my grandmother’s garden, wishing I could spend more time in the drier landscapes with bright pink cactus flowers and soft brown mountains in the background. These colors and shapes materialized before my eyes as I wrote, desk free on a bus bound for more Midwestern views. I guess I just needed the trees outside and the jovial laughter of friends to help me fully picture the desert sands of the Southwest, emptying out onto sheets of notebook paper.

My first scholarly publication took shape in several places: a library, my apartment, and a spare bedroom in my husband’s parents’ home in rural Ohio, where I was visiting for the weekend. These quiet spaces all added up to a well-researched piece that wove together a legend of St. Genesius, the patron saint of theater, and the power of a transformation that takes place during a theatrical production within the legend itself. The piece attempted to trace the various theatrical elements that took place under the direction of St. Genesius in the legend, and each piece of the larger picture became clearer in every new space in which I wrote: the library, my apartment, the quilt on the edge of the bed in the country.

Nowadays, I still prefer to write in a quiet space, such as the office inside my home, but I don’t always have that luxury. Sometimes I’m at my son’s swim meets—surrounded by noise—writing horror stories that take place in and out of the water. Sometimes I’m in an art museum or a restaurant or coffee house. Distracting sounds lift my eyes from the page, but they return with some new insight or information I frantically write down before the idea goes away. All the time I spend in noisy places away from a beloved desk—waiting on my son or other loved ones—never goes to waste. It just gets transferred—disappearing and reappearing as ink on paper.