Author Archives: Jenn Castro

About Jenn Castro

I have always written -- on napkins, backs of envelopes, and in newspapers, diaries, and journals. In May, 2013, HIPPOWLPRESS published MOM*ME, my debut children's picture book about being a mom and being a kid. When I'm not writing books, I'm homeschooling my children and urban homesteading with my husband in California.

All Ages Welcome – How I Plan to Welcome Every New Age

Happy Birthday.

Happy, Birthday, grow old(er) gracefully, curiously

Watching Wrinkles

I want to grow old(er) gracefully, curiously, perhaps watchfully, responding with reactions like, “Hmmmm, that’s an interesting new addition,” and “That was sure a crazy yoga tree pose sway,” and ”What a captivating movement my body just used to adjust to that bend.”

I don’t want to become a woman who agonizes as each new spot crawls onto her neck, another new bump puffs onto her upper cheek bone, and a new row of wrinkles wind up beneath and to the right of her left nose nostril. Instead, I want to welcome these facial accumulations.

Jeunesse-Instantly-Agelesss-Functions Happy, Birthday, grow old(er) gracefully, curiously

Welcoming Age

I don’t want to become a woman who, when she gathers a whim to balance in public, doesn’t. I want to be always willing to walk foot to toe along the sidewalk curbs. I want to lose all self-consciousness when I stumble and falls out of eagle at yoga.

But, I’m curious. Is it obvious from these descriptions that I am actually extremely aware of these growths and small balance challenges? That perhaps I’m not completely accepting?

Well, phooey, I accept that too. Indeed, I accept the un-acceptance.

It is complicated. Our culture encourages us to deny humans age. It encourages us to cover it, color it, drape it, and conceal it.

I want to grow old this way because I want to enjoy becoming my older self. I want to join that group of humans who carry a that %$&#-it attitude. I want to ride (not coast) along a relaxing road to aging rather than cover or deny these spots, grey hairs, and bumps, and imbalances.

28MEMORY-TOMMASINI-master768, Happy, Birthday, grow old(er) gracefully, curiously

Flamboyant Spotlight

Ahhhhhh, but I also want to age with fun and frivolousness. Kind of like that lady who wants to wear purple when she grows old.

I’ve never been afraid to wear purple while I am young (I am still young right?), but I can be quite serious.

So as this birthday approaches, and no, it’s not a big one, I plan to steal a page from my mother-in-law’s 2001 New Year’s Resolutions and “Live More Gregariously.” And my mom’s 80th birthday wisdom words, “Say it, and then wait.”

Am I allowed? Would it be permitted to behave a bit loud and flamboyant?

“Of course” and “Why not?” When others shout out and draw attention to themselves, I’m either jealous, or I want to cheer them on. And life is the best when I want the latter and can smile authentically from the inside out that they are saying it and living it brightly and rightly. I want to follow Marianne Williamson’s advice in her speech about our deepest fear.

So here’s to living it up and aging this month, and in the year to come.

Here’s a question. Young, old, and, in the middle, do you notice yourself aging? And if so, how do you do it?

clipart-yoga-pose-royalty-free-vector-design-Qfonej-clipart Happy, Birthday, Acting, Age, Welcome, Birthday, Spots, Wrinkles, Balance

Aging in Tree Pose

Long Distance Connection – Tech Talk and Customer Support

Long Distance Connection - Talk Tech/Customer Support

Make A Long Distance Connection

Want a long distance connection? Make one! Strike up a conversation with tech support and customer service reps.

Now days most tech and customer support jobs are remote. Everyone is from somewhere else. Why not take a minute and learn a bit about a fellow citizen and their hometown. I sprinkle in the asking while I’m learning why my Macbook Pro won’t share pictures with my phone (not very polite those machines), or my Visa bill has an unexplained service charge.

By asking fellow humans about their whereabouts, I’ve learned about swamp animals in Florida, the nice weather and scenery in Taos, New Mexico. I already knew about Taos, but it was fun to remember it for a minute while the man was describing his town. Also how hot it’s becoming in Phoenix, Arizona. Sometimes on a Friday, I venture away from weather questions and ask about weekend plans.

And I don’t only talk to people in the U.S. I’ve struck it rich in conversations with people from the Philippines, Central America, some of the islands. Once while straightening out a false charge on a credit card bill, the customer service rep’s government had recently elected a new president. I’d just read or heard about the new official. So I seized the chance to ask the Visa rep what he thought of the new president.

Here’s how I start a conversation:

“May I have your first name please,” the customer service person says.

I provide.

The rep asks how she can help. He begins to provide assistance. Then during a lull moment, and there always is — I’m restarting my computer, or they’re checking identifying information — I grab it and say, “Can I ask you a question?”

And no one’s ever said, “No.”

Then I say, “Do you mind my asking what state or country I’m calling?”

And they tell me. Next I ask my other questions, “How are things there?” If I heard of a storm in their area, I inquire, “Has your city been affected?” If I know of a tradition or famous animal in that state, I ask about that. Some day, if the moment arises, I might ask about job safety or climate changes or political leanings.

My best story involved an alligator encounter. I was talking to technical support from Costco. We’d been on the phone for at least 30 minutes. It seemed we were nearly starting a friendship. After learning she lives in Florida, I asked her if she ever sees alligators. She does. Once on her way to the trashcan, one surprised her, and she had to fend it one off with an umbrella.

I love umbrellas.

“How’d you do that?” I asked.

“I pushed at him with the point.”

Was she fibbing me? Maybe, but I didn’t mind.

I know we are told not to, but I talk to strangers. Any chance I get, I start a conversation. And I learn a bit more about people inside and outside my country, and where they live and sometimes even a bit about their lives. And then two more humans that day share a moment and connect across a phone line.

Strike up any interesting long distance cross-state or international conversations lately? Try it sometime and report back here!

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

Barnes & Noble presents MOM ME! As guest author at Barnes & Noble’s last week, I got to meet and tell many many parents, kids, grandparents, and aunts about MOM ME. This colorful picture book is the story of a kid who wants to play with mom but doesn’t always know how (They figure it out!).

Barnes & Noble Showcases MOM ME

MOM ME and Son

I met toddlers marching confidently around the store while I autographed a book for their mom. infants snuggled in father front packs reached for the story in their daddy’s hand. Grand dads and grandmothers shopped for birthday and Mother’s day gifts. Aspiring writers – young and old asked questions about writing MOM ME. New moms with young ones in strollers stopped for a look at the MOM ME table. My favorite shopper was a mom-to-be planning to read MOM ME to her belly during the next four months of pregnancy.

Michelle, the mom in waiting, quoted her favorite online review of MOM ME, written by my sister. It said, “Totally impressed with my sister Jenn’s new book, Mom*Me … It’s really great, the kind of book I’d buy even if she wasn’t my sister. Course she is, so that means I get to buy a couple of copies.”

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

Baby Walker hears MOM ME!

If you’re in the Bay Area and looking for a Mother’s Day gift, MOM ME is available at Wooden Horse, Los Gatos, Compass Books, San Francisco, and Leigh’s Favorite Books, Sunnyvale. You can also order from, If you’d like a signed copy, buy direct from my website,, or the publisher, MOM ME is also carried at Books Link, in Northampton, MA, Ashfield Hardware Store, Ashfield, MA, Buffalo Books, Ithaca, NY, and Hearthfire Books of Evergreen, Evergreen, CO.

It was fabulously fun to sign for Jane Rae, Josiah, Thea, Arya, Sasha, Alek, Charlotte, Aadhya, Berlin, Jonathan, Angelina, Emmanuel, Parker, Luis, Miguel, Jocelyn, Sofia, Saul, Sarah, Amelia, Ava Grace, Michelle, Baby Walker, Nevi, La Li, Leah Marie, Brooklyn, Clay, and Jonathan.

Typing these names here, I can still picture many of you participating in a great day of Barnes & Noble bookstore connecting! Thank you for being a part of my afternoon!

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

MOM ME at Barnes&Noble

Barnes & Noble Presents MOM ME

Family of 3 Reads MOM ME

Got Time? Bike Ride

Bike Riding for Earth

Beautiful Blue Earth


“Do you bike ride or take the bus to church?” a bike-riding friend asks.

“We drive.” I say. “Buses take too much time,” assuming she’ll commiserate about the inconvenient transit connections.

But she doesn’t.

“Too much time?” she scoffs. “We’re out of time, “ she hardens. “The earth is out of time.”

Bike Riding Reduces Carbon

Carbon Cycle

Hoping your eyes won’t glaze over, here’s more.

In the beginning

When human civilization began, the earth’s carbon atmosphere was 275 parts per million (the ratio of carbon molecules to all the other molecules in the atmosphere).

At the start of the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and well, stuff. At first Co2 levels rose slowly, then more quickly.

Bike Riding Reduces Co2

Co2 Rise Chart

Today, the earth Co2 levels are 400 parts per million.

If we don’t reverse this rapid rise, we risk triggering a “tipping point” that mean irreversible changes to our earth’s climate.


Evidence of earth changes already happening:

Melting Glaciers

Bike riding reduces Co2

Top 2004 Bottom 1909

Sea Level Rise

Mosquitoes breading in new areas spreading malaria and dengue fever and possibly zika.

Bike riding stops sea rise

Sea Rise


Increased Extreme Weather

Increased human conflict ,



What you notice. Wind blowing hair away from your face, sun on your shoulder.

What you learn. To shop carefully, how much bulk fits in a small backpack — did you know that if you let the air out of a pre-bagged package of kale, it will fit in a shoulder pack?

How you feel. Alert! You focus on real stuff like bumps, gravel, and glass on the road.

Secret passages. Bikes fit when cars don’t. On a bike, you can ride through parks, down narrow one-way streets, and between cement-blocked passages.

How long it takes to bike rather than drive short distances. Biking to our neighborhood park takes 15 minutes to drive and about 20 to ride a bike.

fixing helmets-preparing-for-bike-ride-pv

biking businesswoman-businessman-riding-bike-city-park-close-up-smiling-40096921

learning to ride





Safe Ride

And riding is becoming easier and safer. There are:

mom on bike

  1. More green bike lanes.
  2. Dedicated bike lanes
  3. Light Rail stations provide bike boxes
  4. Bike-hanging racks
  5. Racks on bus (Beware, only two per bus)
  6. Share a Bikes


So, while transit connections in our area are abysmal, and it was harsh to hear my friend scolding me for complaining about them, she got me thinking about using my time to ride a bike.



man riding to work





And what’s cool is the number of bike riders in my tiny community is growing. Here’s a tribute to all the people I know who commute to work, shop, parks, play and other places. It’s a shout to Tessa, Cat, Marshall, and Sophia, Richard, Deb, and Soph, Andrea, Frank, Elizabeth, Elena, and Jamie, Heather, Keith, Sarah, and Michelle, Melanie, John, Spencer, and Aiden, John, Marge, Zeke, and Jake, Mary Ann, Mateo, and Alyssa, Sebastian, Walter and Henry, and Doug, Alexander, Andy, and me, among many others.

Are we a movement? And if not, let’s start one. Now is the time.

Free FIY Flow Fumble Fix Dishwasher

Like traveling solo to Morocco, most of my adventures begin from the inside out.


Bread Ties Clog Sink Flow

Take me, a mom, fixing my dishwasher. Starting backwards, the story ends with a chat on Facebook.

Cousin: What are you working on?

Me: Dishwasher.

Backing up (me, not my dishwasher), the problem started simply, Water wouldn’t leave the basin and YouTube said, “Clear the screen”. So twice I found and used a #15 hex nut to unscrew the cover and empty the gunk below the screen enclosure basin.

Cousin: Did you get the job done?

Me: We spent Saturday researching then shutting off this, unplugging that, removing a cover, labeling screws, lifting machinery, undoing another cover, not undoing another cover, driving to hardware store for a smaller wrench, removing again, photographing wire orientation. Then we manually bailed out water, drained the hose, rebalanced the washer, fitted the machine back into place la, la, la.

Cousin: Did you get the job done?

Me: Still not working. Basin fills up. Won’t drain.

DIY Dishwasher Fix better after bike ride

Bike Ride Break

Partner: Let’s leave this, and take a bike ride (smart guy).

Waiting in the front yard, I share with my neighbor, who suggests, “Check the sink overflow.”

The sink overflow. And do you know that silver cylinder stared at me all afternoon. Our contractor’s voice from nine years ago replaying, “I put this here so that, in case your dishwasher ever over flows, the water will have someplace to go.”

Always listen to your inner DIY voice.

After the bike ride, we open the top of the overflow. Actually, I timidly pull off the silver cylinder. Worried I’ll break the plastic cover, I shy away. He unsnaps the plastic cover, and I remove a wad of something or other sitting on the in-air pipe.

I run the short (dishwasher) cycle (again), but the basin still doesn’t empty.

He bends a coat hanger into a narrow hook. I fish out more scum and stuff. Then staring down the pipe. I spy something red, a piece of pepper? Nope, like food caught in the trachea, a quarter piece of a plastic bread clip, the thing used to hold the plastic bag closed, lodges in the interior of the pipe.

I’m the motivator in my family for DIY fixing and repairs. Sometimes it’s to save money, but more often it’s my constant drive to independently know how to fix machines. Demystify them, conquer the fear that I’ll “do it wrong,” or “break it,” or “flood the kitchen or living room.”

But in spite of fear, I can’t stop myself from not calling the repair service. The do-it-myself satisfaction exhilarates me. The dishwasher fixing high lasted three. In fact, I’m still reveling.

Me: I did it!

Cousin: Amen cousin!

Cousin: Amen cousin!

Me: Set me loose and maybe there isn’t much I can’t do!

How ‘bout you, any DIY machine fixing projects you’d care to share?

Tax Day 2017

horse“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I asked one of my kids what that means and he said, “If everyone got what they wanted, even the poorest wouldn’t have any problems.”

His answer made me wonder Am I poor and is that why I wish? More importantly, is my country poor, are we all beggars, and is that why we beggars don’t ride?

Cause sometimes I feel like a beggar, or that small child in Oliver Twist bravely asking, “Please sir (and I do sadly mean sir and not happily mean Ma am), could we have some more?”

And I know that some of us are poor, but I am not, and my country isn’t either. But as April 15 (April 18), our tax deadline day approaches, it seems some of our so-called leaders are poor and not just in money, but in respect, logic, and imagination.

So, if I am a beggar, here’s what I wish:

That the National Endowment for the Arts was as important as our so-called president’s 13 golfing trips to his resort in Florida.

That the men chosen to work at our Environmental Protection Agency would actually protect our environment rather than justify why a government agency should “deregulate” mines and allow owners of these companies to dump wastewater into our rivers.

That the men chosen to head our Environmental Protection Agency, would fund systems to stop climate change: a national recycling, solar, and wind power agency; connect to the Department of Transportation to create national, state, and local electric public transportation that’s convenient, inexpensive, and reliable; connect to the Department of Agriculture to educate our citizens about the benefits of eating grains, legumes, beans over meat.

That our Department of Education, could actually educate all our kids, use its power to teach our youth in all the of the ways we already know work: free and inexpensive college tuition, retraining programs in vocational schools, high expectations, interesting literary discussions, hands on learning, field trips, internships. Imagine what our country could be.

That our national defense agency could try, how ’bout for one year, to actually be a defense agency, rather than the national offense agency that it’s become. We could charge our brigades to wage peace.

National Tax Day is April 15 (April 18). It’s that one-day each year when all Americans have to do the same thing — well, all but the top one percent and our so-called president — pay taxes. And yet, like a beggar, my wishes are not horses and so I won’t get to ride. Instead, my money and the money of 300 million or so Americans will fall into a big piechart and get used to pay for golf trips, wastewater polluters, educational mayhem, and military posturing and fights.

If wishes were horses beggars would ride, and wishing I had a say, I realized I do. Wanna join me and include in your tax payment envelope next Saturday a message that says, “This money is for my country to fund an art-filled and musically inspired citizenry, a healthy environment, and an educated and peaceful nation.”

That message might stave me for another week while I muster the effort to climb back onto the letter-writing, sign-making/marching, phone-calling resistance wagon. Wanna join me?




Communicate Without Words

communicate without words

He handed me my pencil and smiled.

A stranger and I communicate without words.

An operation affected his speech, but even so, I understood when he asked for a ride to the bus stop, and he understood when I asked where he lived, and together we figured out he lived minutes away from the neighborhood I was driving to, so I gave him a ride home. Together we communicate without words.

Then while he was maneuvering into the backseat, I figured out that he needed help getting in. It clicked when, again and again, he looked at me while saying garbled words.


“Help,” he said. Together we communicate without words.

Unsure about how; I physically picked up the heavy foot of a man I’d just met and move it so it could rest on the floor of my car; I did my best. In moving his foot, which at times I was afraid I was mangling, because I had to force it through a small space between the door and the seat, I touched the bottom of his shoe. Rather intimate, considering we’d met only an hour before, to touch the bottom of someone else’s shoe. While I was waiting for him to buckle his seatbelt – he told me he didn’t need help with that – I thought briefly about the bottom of his shoe, and all things considered, decided I didn’t care.

From the backseat, tire on the road noise, the GPS lady giving directions, and air conditioning on, and then turned down cause I was straining to hear, I learned what Tom had done for a living. We communicate without words.

“Tour bus operator.”


“San Francisco.”

He’d never had children. He has a grand niece. And he lives in a lovely older house on a tree lined street, which by the way he directed me to when, I prematurely changed to the right lane so to take his exit. And once on surface streets, he guided me to his home, replacing the GPS lady, who was also telling me where to go.

When we arrived at his driveway, he could tell me he couldn’t open the door because a plant blocked his way, and when I pulled forward to the spot I thought was convenient, he directed me to stop earlier, where, he knew the door could easily open. We communicate without words.

To get out, he slowly turned his body. Using two hands, one at a time he lifted each foot, placed them sideways onto the pavement and then hoisted his full frame out the back seat of my car. He stood. Then with a firm and deliberate intention, he shut the door. We communicate without words.

The best part happened when, before maneuvering out of the backseat, he picked up the mechanical pencil on the floor of my backseat, and, smiling, he handed it to me.

“Thank you,” I said, and I smiled too.

When humans can’t use words to communicate, we find out how deeply we can speak without them. Any minimal or wordless conversations you’ve had lately? Please subscribe to my blog and write about them.


Slow Down: Front Yard Wild Animal

While out watering and picking strawberries (not many) front yard wild animal scampered onto the edge of my garden cage. At first I thought the — bear with me — small, narrow, brown, bumpy, being was a grasshopper. I don’t like grasshoppers. They remind me of cockroaches, which I also detest, so seeing the tiny tail, two tiny front, and two tiny rear legs and less than two-inch body wiz across the wooden boarder was a relief and almost got an out loud audible “Awwwww,” and urge to scurry in and gather my family to rush out to see the baby reptile.

Instead I ran for my camera. Of course the battery was dead, it always is, but the lizard did not leave while I was away.

Settled atop the frame, it pumped its front and hind legs, the way they do. Me, I carried on a silent and sometimes quiet out loud conversation with it,. “Hey there little guy. Yup, picking fruit today. Think I’ll boost this dirt around the neck of the plant. Just lifting this wood a bit here. Not to worry.”

The lizard remained.

Still intent on clicking the camera, I circled the garden plot to find the best angle and also avoid the sun and shadows pressing from above.

Then I settled into my work. It’s good to appreciate life in the (not so) wild front yard.

Any wild life you appreciate lately?

Slow own for front yard wild animal

Baby Wild Animal



DIY Decision


Leave driveway.


Return to driveway.

Leave family note, “Flat tire. Took grey car.”

Return home. “Don’t worry, we put on spare,” my husband says. “And I found the guarantee. The hole is not in the sidewall, so the tire’s covered!”

It’s Monday morning, I drive to tire store.

Tire salesman pokes, prods, and then tries to ram his finger and pen into the sidewall.

He motions to me, and it’s not to show me my guarantee.

I brace myself and follow him to my car.

“Looks like you need to replace all four.”

“But this one was replaced just two years ago,” I point, defending my nearly new tire. And isn’t the flat one covered by the guarantee?”

“It’s too worn to repair,” he says. “And this one,” he shows the uneven wear of a second tire,” needs to be replaced too.

“Course you could change out just the,” he continues, planting doubt. “But I wouldn’t. By the time the rainy season comes, you’ll need to change those two too.”

“But it’s not going to rain,” I protest, smiling at my joke.

“It’s up to you,” he says.

I hate when they say, “It’s up to you,” like I’m in the hospital and he can make me sign an (Against Tire Advice) “but I’d replace all four.” he repeats.

Anxious, I take the bait. “What’s the cost?”

He tells me.

“Any other options?” I protest.

“Well you could replace three.” He tells me that cost, which is nearly the same. My nerves are fraying.

I leave.

I ponder. I fume. I thought we had a guarantee.

I return.

“Ok,” I say resolved to calmly start over. “What are my options?”

Not missing a beat, he leads me to the tread chart. “Anytime you have 1/16” (1.6mm), you need to replace your tire.

We return to the tires. He re-explains the tread.

I look myself.

I scrutinize the tire opposite the flat one and agree. That tread is worn.

I re-examine the other two. One is good, the other – not too bad. I don’t see the same wear the salesman describes.

While alone, I re-evaluate and return to the counter.

“I’ll take two new at the front.”

“Ok,” he says writing the order.

Relief. He doesn’t try to talk me out of my decision.

A new customer enters the shop. He too has a flat. “Replace all four,” the salesman advises. With in minutes the man is buying $600.00 tires.

The minute I see my two new, I know I made the right decison.

It’s a DIY Tire Decision.

And as for tread, so far so good.

Just curious, did you ever walk into a tire store and hear, “Your tire is covered by the guarantee. Please sit down, it will just take a minute to fix it.

I haven’t.

When I need to buy tires, it’s time for a DIY decision.

Whether it’s about tires or another purchase, have you got a DIY decision to share?


IMG_0593One sunny Sunday, a mom, dad, two teen boys, and a boomerang went to the park. It was hot and shade was small. The middle of the field baked, so, seeking shadows the family pushed their throwing game to the edge of the grass near a tall wide-branched tree. Beneath that tree picnicked a small boy, his dad, and pregnant mom.

Boomerangs are supposed to return to their tosser. But sometimes they don’t.

On that Sunday one sailed out and kept sailing till it landed in that tall tree.

“Oh well. Let’s leave it,” one teen said.

“We can’t get it out,” agreed the other.

“What could we use?” I said, turning to Doug.

“What do we have?” he said, looking at me.

The small boy who had been sitting under the tree began tossing his soccer ball into the air.

The boomerang smiled from above.

Opening my backpack, I pulled out a water bottle.

“Let’s leave it,” the first teen repeated.

“We need rope,” said Doug, walking to the nearby railroad roundhouse tool area to borrow some.

Waiting mom tossed her water bottle into the air.

Doug returned with rope.

Using his knot knowledge, he tied the rope to the water bottle strap,

No longer beneath the tree, the small boy and his family watched my family while the dad kicked the soccer ball to his child who received it and tossed it into the air.

My teen who’d said, “Leave it,” tossed the roped-water bottle into the air too. The bottle missed the tree.

My other teen moved closer. “Throw it straight up.”

“Leave it kid” threw again, this time knocking the boomerang down a branch.

“Throw higher,” my other teen instructed.

Another toss nudged the boomerang lower.

A third scooted it further down.

About five tosses later, the boomerang sailed back and “Leave it kid” caught it.

Me, I philosophized.

What did we learn today? Did we teach something to our kids? What did the small boy learn? What about his parents? What would have happened if my family had left the boomerang stuck in the tree?

Were the responses generational? I wondered why Doug and I turned first to problem solving. It never occurred to me to leave the boomerang in the tree. I wondered why at first our kids wanted only to walk away. I noticed that when we stayed, eventually our kids (and maybe that small boy) caught on.

Sometime ago Doug and I, from our parents perhaps, learned to stick with finding a solution. On Sunday American ingenuity became the mother (and father) of invention.

I think today we showed our kids they could stay,  dig in their backpacks, borrow things from others, try, and not give up.

I don’t think there was a right way to solve that stuck boomerang situation. Leaving was an option and could have taught the kids that sometimes it’s good to cut your losses and walk away.

But I’ll admit I’m happy we stayed, and that because we did, the boomerang (and it doesn’t always) came back.

Any boomerang-stick-to-it-don’t-walk-away-until-you-try-learning happening in your life? Send me a story. I’ll write one back.