Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Birthdays

My book birthday is coming up and I’m trying to figure out what to do. Skin Deep was published in November of 2011. Actually, my first book’s birthday came and went (shhhh) and I missed it, but that’s okay; its sales are better than Skin Deep’s, so it doesn’t need as much lingering publicity.

Authors do a variety of things to commemorate the date of a published book. For some reason, I’ve yet to find anyone who celebrates with cake. I may have to rectify that situation. However, the authors I know run contests and have giveaways.

I’m considering doing something similar during the month of November, and perhaps tying it in with something that helps prevent domestic violence. The heroine of Skin Deep escaped from that situation and I like to make a donation with some of the proceeds of my book to organizations that help victims of domestic violence.

I’d like to do a different kind of giveaway—something that’s new and exciting and will make people want to participate. The heroine is a makeup artist, so perhaps a basket of makeup goodies? And maybe a massage gift certificate? Of course, it would have to be tied to buying the book. J

This is the fun part of book marketing. I get to use my creativity in all kinds of different ways.

And if I’m lucky, it might even include cake! J

Monday, September 23, 2013


Do you make resolutions? I’m going to be kind of wishy-washy in my answer here and say “sort of.” But I’ll explain.

Being Jewish, I have two new years—the secular one in January and the Jewish one in the fall. Typically, I distinguish between the two by using the one in January to make external resolutions and the one in the fall to make internal ones.

The external resolutions are easy to make, and equally easy to break, which is why I haven’t made any in several years. For me, they tend to be things like eating healthier (chocolate is healthy, right?), getting more exercise, organizing closets, etc.

Making those resolutions are important, sure, but I can make them at any time, and usually do. They end up morphing themselves into to-do lists, which I post on my fridge and tackle as I get to them—my saving grace is that I don’t date them, so no one really knows when I wrote it. J

The internal resolutions are significantly harder to make, but just as easy to break. I make them every year. The period between our Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, we have to acknowledge our sins and apologize for them—to ourselves, to God and to others. To me, part of that apology is trying to not repeat the sin; apologizing for being mean to someone and then being mean to them again (or others) negates that apology, in my opinion. So I, and many, many others, try to do better.

Taking stock of yourself and determining what you’ve done well and what you haven’t is a difficult process and fills me with guilt. I often say I hate this time of year. It’s not because I don’t want to be nicer (I do) or even that I’m embarrassed to apologize (I’m not). It’s just that constantly telling myself all the things I’m doing wrong is not something that helps my self-confidence.

And maybe that’s why I make to-do lists rather than secular resolutions. I save my energy for the internal changes I need to make. I’m a work in progress, and those resolutions might take awhile.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors

Last week was fun, and I got to read some great entries and meet some very nice writers. So, I'm doing it again. Below are eight more lines from The Seduction of Esther. In case you were wondering, it's one of the reasons the hero is such a great guy!

“Watch where you’re going, lady,” the produce guy shouted as he ran and surveyed the damage.

Samara’s face heated even more. She resisted the urge to press her palm to her cheek to make sure she wasn’t about to burst into flame, and backed away. Her heel caught on a potato
and her leg slid forward. A tanned hand grabbed her arm and held her up. Too mortified to do anything, she gripped the grocery cart and closed her eyes. His next words made them fly open.

“Sorry, it was my fault.” He bent down and picked up the runaway potatoes.  

The Seduction of Esther is available now through AmazonBarnes & NobleAllRomance and Bookstrand. Let me know what you think!

Check out the other participating authors here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Writing Warriors

For the first time, I'm participating in the Weekend Writing Warriors. Here are eight sentences from The Seduction of Esther. This is when the heroine, Samara, first meets (and literally runs into) the hero, Nathaniel.

Slate-blue eyes twinkled at her. She yanked her arm out of his grasp.
“Let go of me, please!”
“Sorry, didn’t want you to run
me over.”
She tilted her head--did his eyes always twinkle this much?
was sure she’d never seen him before; his eyes alone would have been enough to spark
a glimmer of recognition if they’d ever crossed paths.
And his voice? His voice was unforgettable. 

The Seduction of Esther is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomance and Bookstrand. Let me know what you think!

Check out the other participating authors here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Anticipation…Is Keeping Me Waitin’*

We have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the first day of school and it’s finally arrived! This year, we started a week later than almost everyone else; I don’t know if it’s because of that or because one of my kids is starting high school and the other one thinks this year is going to be stressful, but the anticipation almost killed us.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but seriously, school couldn’t have taken any longer to get here!

Princess is starting High School today. I’m so excited for her! Yes, of course I’m a bit nostalgic for the kindergarten days, and I have a hard time believing that she’s actually in High School, but I really think it’s going to be great.

She, however, is not convinced. Despite going to two walk-throughs and two orientations, she believes that her high school has hidden corridors and hallways and stairwells that move, similar to Hogwarts.

I think that would be cool, and I’ve instructed her to call or text me as soon as that happens because I want to run over and see it. In reality, I happen to think that whoever built the school might have had a bit too much to drink, as the first floor of the A wing is actually the second floor of the rest of the school; if you go upstairs in the B wing you end up in the D wing; and apparently there is a hidden hallway in the B wing that looks like a supply closet, but isn’t (how much fun would it be to leave a few brooms outside the doors, just to mess with people?).

Now, I get that she’s nervous, and I was really lenient in the days leading up to today. Once we got past the discussion about how, even though everyone says there is no dress code, there actually is one and you don’t want to be THAT girl the first day of school, and once my husband had the discussion about being in school with 17 and 18-year-old boys/men, and how, therefore, you don’t want to be THAT girl either, I pretty much let her do whatever she needed to be less nervous.

Unfortunately, that included my getting up with her at the crack of dawn. See, my kids have always had an alarm clock and they have always been responsible for getting up on time. With two girls, I see no reason why I should have to get up with them just so they can have an extra 45 minutes to do their hair and makeup. I get up early enough to make their breakfast and their lunch and see them off. Anything earlier than that is up to them. But I offered a “one time only, first day of school special” and agreed to get up with Princess at 5:45 a.m.

Uch, even writing those numbers makes me yawn. Do you know that it’s still DARK then? 5:45 was actually a compromise. Her alarm went off at 5:30 and she wanted me up then with her, but I told her since she’s just going to lay in bed for ten minutes and then refuse to talk to me because she’s not a morning person, there’s no reason why I should have to suffer for an extra 15 minutes—please, I have things I’ve been dying to do today and I don’t want to be too tired to get them done!

So we got up, I said a lot of bad words related to it being so early and so dark, and we made it through the morning. I even convinced her to eat breakfast and drink some orange juice. I’m not sure if she was tired (due to the ridiculously early time that it was—have I complained about that enough yet?) or just resigned to the tradition, but we even got pictures of her! Of course, she looks like she’s about to be led to the guillotine…

Once she got out the door, it was time to kick Banana Girl out of bed—I said they have alarm clocks; I didn’t say they respond to them, and since I was already up…I walked into her room and she informed me that she has decided to be a bear and is going to hibernate. She pulled up the covers and turned over.

Well, I’ll give her points for creativity. Additional points for the growl (yes, it was actually a growl) she gave me when I told her she had to get up anyway.

Based on all of her nerves, I’m surprised she didn’t choose a bird, since she’s convinced she needs wings in order to get to her classes on time. And having seen her schedule and her classroom locations on the map, I can’t exactly say I disagree with her.

But, she ate, she got dressed and ready to go. And she, too, let us take her picture—the threat of doing it publically at the bus stop rather than in the privacy of our own home is an amazing incentive—and went to the bus.

They’ll have lots of adjustments to make in the coming days and weeks, as will I. In the meantime, however, I’m going to enjoy the fact the for the first time in more than six weeks, my house is EMPTY!

*Lyrics from Carly Simon’s Anticipation

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Here's What You Missed (Archived Blogs)

Are you a loyal follower who wants to reread any of my old posts? Are you a new follower who wants to check out what I've written in the past? Well, by transferring my blog from Wordpress to Blogger, I lost access to all my old posts. However, I copied them and am posting them here in this entry. If you're interested, take a look. Sorry, it's the best I could do. New posts will resume Monday.

She’s All Grown Up 8/26/13

Miley Cyrus. Ugh.

Her latest song, “Don’t Stop,” has become one of my kids’ favorite songs to listen to. While the tune is catchy, I hate the message, which is, drugs are okay. I had to explain to my kids what exactly the song was about and why—it may not have been my best “mom moment,” but I was going for teachable moments. Now, I know my kids are not the type to take a song’s message like this to heart, I still object to it.

And then we got to the VMAs. None of us actually watched it. But I was online last night and actually on Twitter while it was airing and my feed blew up with all of the comments about Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and what she did. For those of you who don’t know, you can do a search online—I’d post a link, but really, the spam I’ll get from that will be enough to make my blog blow up and that’s not the kind of readers I want to deal with. Suffice it to say that her tongue, twerking and actions with a foam finger showed the world that she’s come a long way from Hannah Montana.

To put it bluntly, it was porn. And being alerted to that fact by my 14-year-old daughter is not the way I like to start my morning. Now, while she didn’t actually watch it, she follows people on twitter and watched videos from the night before that, in her words, were “disturbing and not something she can ever unsee.” In her own dramatic fashion, she’s been “scarred for life.”


But here’s the thing. I’ve spent a lot of today following the comments, news stories and video reactions of people. I refused to watch the actual video, but I’ve gotten the gist. And I wonder about something. Would Miley Cyrus have gotten the reaction she has if she wasn’t a former Disney star? If her Hannah Montana character hadn’t been such a wholesome one?

Those of us with children who watched that show have watched her grow up and separate herself from that wholesome Disney image. We’ve seen the growing pains. But stars like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and others have done equally offensive videos. And they’ve gotten past the reaction and made millions off of it.

I’m not defending her. She seems to have gone out of her way to make drugs sound cool and to show off parts of her body that really shouldn’t be seen by anyone other than her. She’s trying to prove she’s grown up, she’s going for the shock value and frankly, she’s achieved it.

I’m just not sure that’s anything new, or anything we should be helping her achieve publicity for.

Goodbye, Summer! 8/19/13

It’s the last week of summer. Well, actually, not really. My kids go back to school late this year; their first day of school is September 9. But this week is the last official vacation week, at least as I see it.

Next week starts orientation activities for high school. The following week is the beginning of the Jewish holidays. Therefore, this week, with nothing official on the calendar, is the last week of summer.

My younger daughter is going to day camp for the week. She’s been asking a lot of questions about it and wondering what to wear and what they’ll do. I was a bit puzzled about this; she’s been going to sleep away camp for five years now, she knows camp! But as I was driving her to camp this morning, I realized something. She hasn’t been to day camp since she was a toddler. Although I kind of think camp is camp, there is a big difference between the two. No wonder she doesn’t know what to expect!

Summer has not sped by, nor has it dragged. It’s gone at a perfect pace for us. We’ve had easy mornings, a light schedule and pretty much done what we’ve wanted to do. The best part for me has been the lack of traffic and the lack of advanced planning. As I sit putting together our fall schedule and adding all of the activities to the calendar, I realize how much I’m going to miss this.

Enjoy the rest of your summer! And remember, there's still time to get in one last book !

Summer Vacation 8/15/13

Welcome to the Rebel Ink Press Summer Lovin’ Anniversary Blog Hop! Whew, what a mouthful! :) My publisher is turning 3 and this is one of the ways we’re celebrating and giving away a lot of really good stuff (read on for more info)! Since I’m a new Rebel Ink author, I jumped at the chance to participate. So thanks for stopping by and read on for my blog hop contribution...

Can you believe the summer is almost over? My kids are home from camp, we’ve started back-to-school shopping (gulp) and high school orientation starts in two weeks (double gulp)! I don’t know about you, but I’ve really enjoyed my summer vacation. Actually, I should call it my summer job, because I’ve been really productive. In addition to the everyday things—house, volunteer work, kids—I’ve gotten a lot of writing done. More so when my kids were gone, but even while they’ve been home.

I’m currently working on a summer romance, title as yet to be determined, and so far, I’m up to 51,000+ words. I wrote an awful lot while the kids were gone, but more importantly, I figured out a way to write while they’ve been around. The progress is slow, but steady, and I hope the manuscript will be ready for the October writing conference I’m attending. I’ve also been working on the next book in my series that started with The Seduction ofEsther. That one is moving a bit more slowly, but it’s going, and as soon as the kids go back to school, I’m digging into the major plot issues that I have, and have solved (I hope).

All of this leaves me with about three weeks left of summer vacation. For me, summer means kicking back, sleeping late, throwing away the schedule and having fun. It means reading, learning how to be bored, swimming, fighting with your sibling, laughing, cooking and day trips. It currently means an inability to find things right in front of you, but that’s not a summer exclusive. :)

The books that I write are perfect for summer reading—light, funny (I hope) and fun. They’re beach reads, things to pick up when you want to escape reality for a bit. They’ve got spunky heroines who always seem to have exactly the right comeback for every situation (man, I wish I did!); heroes who will do anything for their women (even if they don’t know it yet); cute kids who facilitate situations and in The Seduction of Esther, a matchmaker or two.

So, use the rest of your summer to pick at least one fun book to read, whether it’s a tried and true, favorite author or a brand new one. You never know, you just might get hooked!

There are some great Rebel authors participating in this blog hop. You can meet them here

Enjoy your summer, thanks for stopping by, and keep hopping!

What Have I Done? 8/12/13

I think I’ve created a pair of monsters.

One of the things I love doing is walking through interesting homes. Usually, the ones I find interesting are old or oddly shaped or different in some way from the cookie cutter houses I find around me.  And I usually take my kids with me.

They love open houses and would be happy spending the entire day going from one to another, picking out their bedrooms, imagining what it would be like to live there and getting design ideas.

This past weekend, my husband was gone for the day. We went on some errands and then we went exploring. This might have been a mistake.

First, we checked out some estates on the way to Basking Ridge. They were huge. We couldn’t see their insides because even the ones that were for sale were by appointment only and didn’t offer open houses. My current house, which is a nice size, could fit in their garage and still have room for three or four cars. They were gorgeous. I could have spent hours driving up and down the road and admiring the houses from the outside.

But my kids got bored and wanted to go inside, so we found a few open houses nearby and checked them out. The two we looked at were pretty bad; although my opinion could be skewed after seeing the luxurious estates we’d driven past. It got my kids thinking about moving though.

And their thoughts were contagious.

I like my house, but it’s not as great as I used to think it was. There are definitely things about it that I wish I could change. And if I found a house I liked better, I’d consider moving.

My kids have their own wish lists. Banana Girl wants a two-story living room that she can look down from the second floor. Of course, she wants to be able to yell down to me, “Mom! I’m hungry!” And that pretty much guarantees I’ll never buy a house like that. Princess has a better shot; she wants bigger everything and a fresh start.

I keep telling them we’re not moving. But then they show me houses they’ve found online and it’s really hard to act like I don’t want to move when I find beautiful kitchens and dining rooms and stairwells.

It’s just a pipe dream right now. But man, it’s tempting.

Hearts & Flowers 7/29/13

Thinking about boyfriends today.

When I was in second grade, the school “bad boy” had a crush on me, which was pretty funny in itself because I was such a “goody two shoes.” His name was David Strasser and he lovvvvved me. J He used to write me love notes, many of which I saved. He also gave me three gifts that I still remember to this day.

One was a birthstone necklace. I don’t remember what the stone was, but it was in the center of a gold heart inside a white box. Another was perfume. This was my favorite, because the bottle was a white and pink princess castle. And the last was a little squirrel with clip arms that could attach to a backpack.

He brought these to school, wrapped, and gave them to me on the playground. I brought them home and showed my mom. We admired the items and then she called his mom. You see, he hadn’t bought any of these presents; he’d taken them from his sister.

His mother was very grateful that my mom called and my mom offered to return the items. Mrs. Strasser begged her not to do that. She said she’d replace her daughter’s things, but didn’t want David’s feelings hurt.

I’m not sure if I remember the presents because they were given to me by a boy, or because his mom and my mom were so concerned about everybody’s feelings..

As my girls deal with boyfriends, I hope everyone is equally concerned with each other’s feelings.

My Love/Hate Affair With The Phone 7/19/13

I hate bothering people. I hate putting people on the spot. I hate even the potential of causing someone any discomfort. I’m the person who will ask you to do something, but will also provide you with the potential excuse to get out of doing it (I know you’re really busy right now, but would you mind…).

That’s why I love email. Email is an introvert’s dream. It allows me to interact with people and know that I’m not bothering them, because they can read it at any time and respond whenever they like. Sure, I might sit by my computer and tap my fingers in frustration while I wait for a response (because I’m an ANAL introvert), but I take great comfort in the distance that email gives me.

I also like it because it gives me the chance to craft the perfect message or response, which is especially helpful when my snark gets the best of me and I just HAVE to respond. It provides a good screen to hide behind and makes me a bit braver than I actually am.

But today, I had to use the phone. The actual telephone. The one that gives me about three seconds, while it’s ringing, to wonder what the person’s reaction is going to be and whether or not I might be bothering them—three seconds is not enough time for that, by the way. The phone through which I listen to someone’s voice and try to determine from their tone how happy they are to talk to me—and tone, through the phone, is not always accurate. The device that allows people to still do something else while talking to me, lets me hear that they’re distracted, and makes me wonder if it’s me or them who’s doing the wrong thing.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t like the phone. I used to love it as a teenager and begged my parents for my own. But that was when I was young and stupid. I vowed in college never to have a cell phone because I didn’t want to be able to be reached in my car. I insist that my family members carry one at all times so that they can be reached in an emergency—one too many emergencies with them unavailable will do that. I even make fun of my kids for wanting a phone to text (!!!), when I use mine for the same thing.

But for myself? I'd really rather not use one--and don't even get me started on the people who call my house at 3:00 just as my kids are getting home from school!

However, today, I needed to use my phone. I had to apologize to someone, and ask a few others for money, all of which were work related, and none of which could be done via email, unless I’m stuck in Nigeria and someone has taken all of my money and can you please send me $1,000? And by the way, apologies via email, well, they don’t always work.

So I called a bunch of people. And guess what? I didn’t mind it. In fact, it was a nice change. My call to apologize was well received and it led to some very nice compliments, which made my morning. My calls to ask for money were very pleasant. No one yelled at me, they were very receptive and it was actually nice having a real conversation or two. That’s not to say I’ll be volunteering for fundraising calls—I hate them. But these calls were for specific circumstances and I survived. They were also a good kick in the butt for me to get me out of my email rut and into the real world. The world where people interact in real time, have actual conversations and behave like normal (or relatively normal) human beings.

I still dislike the phone. And I still don’t like bothering people. But I do like talking, and might even do it more often.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat 7/15/13

It’s entirely too hot today. I know, it’s summer. It’s July. It’s supposed to be hot. I hate listening to people complain about the weather. You want to complain about snow in June or a heat wave in December, go for it. Anything else, though, is pretty much as expected. But today, I’m joining them.

It’s like a sauna out there, only, not the good kind. The kind with lots of people you don’t particularly want to talk to, much less look at in a towel. It’s the kind of day where you sweat just walking from the front door to the mailbox. Have I mentioned I hate sweating?

I know I did a few times early this morning on my walk with a friend. We took our dogs for a walk around the lake, but in order to spare them and us the oppressive heat, we left at 6:30 in the morning. It seemed like a great idea last night. When the alarm went off this morning, not so much. I love my dog, but she better appreciate that I got up at 6:15 to walk her in relative comfort, when I could have been sleeping.

And even then it was hot. Usually, I complain when my friend makes me walk up hills. I complain that I’m tired. Yeah, I’m a joy to be around early in the morning. I guess maybe it was a treat to listen to different complaining? Maybe? I probably owe her chocolate.

When I wasn’t complaining on our walk this morning, I did bring up a few items of interest, one of which was why, when we stay indoors during the winter, does it feel like we’re cooped up, but when we stay indoors during the summer, it doesn’t? Maybe it requires less planning to go outside in the summer. You don’t need to bundle up or worry about icy roads. Maybe it’s the blue sky shining through the tightly closed window—the summer robin’s egg blue, not the winter watery blue. Maybe it’s the pockets of shade that provide relief if you do venture outdoors, or the ability to jump into the water to cool off. Or it could be the longer daylight hours give me a feeling of accomplishment—even if I’m home all day, I can get a lot done.

Especially when I’m out of the house at 6:30 a.m.!

My Done List 7/8/13

My kids have been gone 18 days (yikes!) and in that time I have gotten a lot accomplished.

1)   I have gotten approximately 54 extra hours of sleep. That doesn’t mean I’m any less tired, but it’s definitely nothing to complain about!

2)   I’ve read and finished two books and have just started a third and fourth. Two of those books are on my “Jewish book list” and two of those are from my “summer reading list.”

3)   I completed my daughter’s elementary scrapbook. She’s going into 7<sup>th</sup> grade.

4)   I’ve made some progress in getting rid of school clutter. There’s still a nightmarish pile of school supplies in the guest room that I need to tackle (the pile fell over in the middle of the night and scared the wits out of me), but I’m procrastinating.

5)   I’ve written more than 15,000 words on two manuscripts that I’m trying to finish for October.

6)   I’ve cooked dinner almost every night—itself a major accomplishment. It’s a lot more fun to cook for adults than it is for children.

7)   I weeded my front garden. Don’t knock it; I suspect my neighbors were trying to figure out which were weeds and which were plants. I’m hopeful I pulled out the correct vegetation.

8)   I prepped my daughter’s room for the painter to repaint it. It hasn’t been redone since she was five (and the clutter I removed proves that). I would paint it myself, but then I wouldn’t have accomplished #5.

9)   I have played 19 games of Rummy Q with my husband. It’s our camp tradition and we play while we eat. I’ve beaten him eight times. He usually beats me at almost every game, so I’m improving. He’s not happy.

10)   I’ve relaxed, which, if you knew how stressed I was prior to camp, you’d fully appreciate. I know my kids are having a great time, they’re actually at camp (I assume) and I’ve decided not to worry about them until they get home.

Thirteen more days until they’re home. Time to work on the second half of my list!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year 7/1/13

The kids are gone, the kids are gone, the kids are gone! Sorry, had to get the obligatory crowing out of the way.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I love my kids. If you don’t, trust me, I do. But this 3.5-week separation is essential to my family’s mental health.

The girls need the time away from us to bond with friends, develop their independence and learn to become their own selves—insert every article on the “benefits of camp” here. :)

My husband and I need the time away from them to remember who we are as a couple, to get things done around the house, to reminisce back to the days prior to 1999 and to just be adults. Oh, and to play our nightly Rummy-Q games (Of which I am currently the reigning champ—this NEVER happens, so please allow me time to gloat; it will be short-lived, I’m sure.)

Additionally, I need the time to be by myself in order to protect my mental health, so that by the time they return, I am calmer, more relaxed and better able to deal with them than when they left.

And of course, the extra time to myself gives me lots of time to write!

However, I’ve noticed a few things that have changed this year. For one, three of the four of us were WAY more relaxed about getting ready for camp than usual. Usually, I start getting ready in April—put away the Passover things and bring out the camp things. This year, I didn’t. The camp drawers didn’t come out of the basement until a week before the girls left. A week! For an anal person like me, that’s like...I don’t even know what that’s like! But that’s unheard of! Guess what? It was no big deal. We were shopping right up until three days before the girls left. Again, I never do that. And you know what, it was exhausting, but also not horrible. Oh, and labeling. That was done the week before. In one day. By them and me. And it got finished. Even the god-forsaken socks that multiply. Amazing!

Everyone was calm in the car on the way to camp also. Now, that could have been because we’d spent the night before at a One Direction concert, the adult ears had been blasted and no one had gotten much sleep before having to get up very early the next morning to leave. Or it could have just been that while the girls were excited, they finally figured out that bouncing in the seat and squealing will not get us to camp any faster (and may result in packed items falling on top of them—we still have not learned to “pack light”).

Because we left so early in the morning, we were one of the first ones there. Camp changed its check-in procedure, so we zoomed through everything and had two kids at different ends of camp unpacked and ready to go, with an extra return to one bunk to say last goodbyes in an hour and fifteen minutes. That’s a record. No one forgot anything, no one raced up for one last hug, no one asked us to do anything (except maybe leave a little sooner and stop taking pictures).

And now that they’re gone? Well, we’re getting a lot done around the house. And I’m writing a lot. The days are not zooming by, but are progressing at a nice, quiet pace. I miss them, but know they’re having fun, as the first letter proves.

So excuse me, but for the next 20 days, I’m going to party like it’s 1998. :)

This is Why Words Matter 6/24/13

I took my daughter to my salon the other day to get her hair and nails done for her moving-up ceremony from 8the grade into high school (yes, I know most would call it a graduation, but I refuse, and that’s a blog topic for a different day). I’ve been going there for years, my parents both go there and I bring my children on important occasions.

When we were finished, I went up to the receptionist and asked how much I owed. She was young and I’d never seen her before, but she gave me an amount, which I paid. A few minutes after we arrived home, she called me.

“You forgot to pay for the nails,” she told me. I apologized and asked if it was okay if I came in the next day, since I didn’t have time to go back and to get to the ceremony in time. She said yes, and I hung up the phone.

My stomach clenched. “You forgot to pay for the nails.” Seven words. Seven words which bothered me, and still irk me today.

You see, I didn’t forget to pay for the nails. I asked how much I owed, and when she told me the amount, I assumed that it covered everything. In point of fact, she forgot to include the charge for the nails in the total charge.

Now, I’m not arguing over who forgot what. I forget things all the time. I have no problem with her forgetting something.

I do, however, have a problem with her telling me I forgot to pay for something. To me, “you forgot to pay” is a euphemism for “you snuck out without paying.” It’s what you say to someone whom you suspect tried to get away with something, but you don’t want to accuse him or her outright.

It left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

I know she doesn’t think I tried to sneak out. I suspect she doesn’t think I forgot, either. I think she made a mistake and was trying to cover for it. Maybe she’s insecure, maybe she’s embarrassed, maybe she’s afraid she’ll get fired. All of those things are understandable.

But laying the blame on someone else, even for something as trivial as this, is not right. Even when you try to couch what you say in nice terms.

It’s not always the use of nice words. Sure, nice words are better than nasty ones. But incorrect nice words can still make people feel badly, can still make them question whether or not they want to continue to be a part of something.

Truth matters. Owning up to mistakes matter. Words matter.

Virtual Blog Tour 6/10/13

Today marks the first day of my official virtual blog tour. For the next eleven days, I’ll be visiting blogs and sharing a unique excerpt from The Seduction of Esther.

What makes this virtual blog tour different is that it was set up by a promotional company called Goddess Fish. Basically, I pay them and they find bloggers who are willing to host me. I learned of them through a few different writer friends and I decided to give them a try. Because they have far more connections with bloggers than I do, the hope is that I’ll gain greater exposure to readers I otherwise wouldn’t have reached.

I’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, my schedule is as follows:

I’ll let you know how it goes, and I hope you’ll stop by to visit me on my tour!

Release Day! 6/3/13

My book is out! Actually, my publisher released it on Saturday, which was a great surprise. I spent all weekend publicizing it on Facebook and Twitter. On Sunday, I participated in a virtual release day party with a whole bunch of other authors. We talked about our books, and gave blurbs and excerpts throughout the day. I’m now going to be going on a bunch of blog tours—check my Facebookpage for details.

Blurb: Samara Goldberg has a problem even the most beautiful singing voice can’t fix. She’s a walking disaster, especially when she’s around handsome men. To make matters worse, she’s in desperate need of someone to play the character of Mordecai for the Purim spiel she’s producing and the new congregant, Nathaniel Abramson, is a perfect fit. Nathaniel is a divorced dad who’s recovering from the biggest public scandal of his life. The last thing he needs is a relationship with the choir director at his new synagogue, who also happens to be playing the lead female role of Esther in the very play he’s been coerced into joining.

Woven around the Jewish holiday of Purim, The Seduction of Esther is a story of two people whose lives mirror the plot of the Purim story. Like Esther, who had to hide her Jewish identity from the King of Persia, Samara and Nathaniel are hiding key pieces of themselves. Evil Haman wanted to destroy the Jews, and the nasty Josh will do anything to keep Samara and Nathaniel apart. Will their love survive, like the Jewish people in Shushan, Persia, or will their fear keep them apart?

I hope you’ll check it out and if you’d like, leave a review on the site where you purchased it.

Happy Mother’s Day 5/13/13

I’m exhausted. Actually, exhausted would be an improvement. My daughter woke me up last night and unfortunately when I’m woken up in the middle of the night, I don’t fall back asleep. It’s like pulling an all-nighter from my college days, minus the studying or the fun awake people around me.

Now, I’m a mom and my job is to get up with them when they wake up at night. Especially when it’s a nightmare and their door swings open, their feet pound down the hall and their breath comes out as a series of pants. I remember having that happen to me as a child. I remember being convinced that not only was a monster hiding under my bed, but a boogie man was lurking in the shadows somewhere between my room and my parents’, and I was convinced it was going to come out and grab me.

What I don’t get, however, is the silent entrance into my room, the light tap on my shoulder, the whispered, “Mom, I had a bad dream,” with the same tone that one would utter their name or the weather. That’s what I don’t understand. If they’re scared, please, wake me up. But if all they’re doing is alerting me to the news, honestly, that can wait until morning. Especially since I’ll probably give them a better reaction after having had a good night’s sleep!

Despite my never-ending quest for more sleep, and my desire for my children to finally, someday, figure out how/when/why to wake me up, on this Mother’s Day, I’d like to be perfectly clear about one key thing: I don’t begrudge my children anything.

For the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of essays and blogs talking about how the best Mother’s Day gift would be a day without our children. They’re funny and I can definitely relate to some of the feelings.

I get the frustration. I get the lack of sleep. I get the desire to be appreciated and the desire to pamper yourself. But what I don’t get is the desire to spend Mother’s Day alone, nor do I get the celebratory status of those who claim that spending the day childless is the epitome of the perfect celebration.

Am I in need of a vacation? Yes. Would I like some time to myself? Of course. Would I like someone to plan my day for me? Definitely. But Mother’s Day is not the day for it, at least in my opinion. Mother’s Day is the time to celebrate mothers. And mothers, in the truest sense, are supposed to be self-sacrificing. No, I’m not suggesting that we completely erase ourselves in order to serve our families. No one benefits from that. But our families are essential to the celebration of the day. Without us, our own mothers would not be able to celebrate; without our children, neither would we.

Mother’s Day is meant to be a day of positivity. Let’s focus on the good parts of motherhood. Let’s use the day to rejuvenate us so that when those frustrating days occur, and you know they will, we are a bit better prepared to handle them. Let’s save the spa days and the days by ourselves for our birthdays, the first day of school, or the first day of summer camp. All too soon, our kids will be gone and we’ll be missing spending the time with them.

However, if my child decides its no longer necessary to play her French horn in the bathroom for me while I take a shower, I probably won’t mind.

Changing It Up 5/6/13

The countdown has begun, and for the next several weeks, you’re going to notice some changes on my blog.

Usually, I write about funny things my kids do, things around me that annoy me, and occasionally, the writing process itself. Well, yes, my kids are still doing funny things and people still annoy me on a regular basis. But, I have a book coming out June 3, and between now and then (and even a bit after then), I need to promote it.

No, I’m not going to walk around shouting, “Buy my book!” That’s the sledgehammer approach and not really me. Instead, I’m going on a number of blog tours.

Blog tours are like book tours, but they’re virtual. They consist of visiting other people’s blogs and talking about your book, your writing process, etc. The goal is to get their readers to pay attention to your book. Make sense?

Well, in order for me to visit other people’s blogs, I have to reciprocate—think of a dinner invitation. If you eat at someone’s house, but never invite them to yours, you’re not going to get too many invitations.

Most of my own visits are taking place right around the time my book comes out. So between now and then, I’m hosting a variety of other authors on my blog. Usually, they visit on Wednesdays—I like having visitors that day. But occasionally, they’ll visit on a Monday, giving me a break from blogging, or on any other day they choose.

It’s up to you whether or not you read my guests’ posts, although I hope you will. They provide a number of different perspectives on writing and they write a variety of different books. Who knows, you might find an author you like! Read their blog posts and ask questions, you’ll learn things and you might even win something.

Happy Earth Day! 4/21/13

This weekend, my daughter and her friends participated in our temple’s “Make A Difference Day” by putting together a presentation on “Going Green.” The girls worked hard, divided up the work and put a lot of effort into coming up with ways to save the environment. It was awesome, except...

They used paper! Lots of paper! There was a cardboard (I hope, recycled) tri-fold. There was pretty scrapbook paper glued on the background. There were photos printed out and cut with pretty borders. And there was a survey—the best was the survey. The survey was printed on paper. Two pages. Not double sided. Enough for fifty people.

I’m sorry trees.

My husband and I, and even the parents of one of the girls who worked with her on the project, suggested ways to make the project itself greener—use a computer rather than a tri-fold; print the survey double sided; give the survey orally and tally the results directly on the display. Nope, they were having none of it. They wanted their project to be exactly as they envisioned it, and they didn’t notice or care about the irony.

Their desire to keep their vision pure reminded me a bit of what it’s like publishing a book. As an author, I write what I want. If I’m lucky, I find a publisher and an editor who like it enough to publish it. But then the changes come—edits, covers and printing. And I don't want changes. I want it exactly as I wrote it. Only, really, it benefits from changes. It needs a lot of other sets of eyes to make sure it's the best it can be.

I was lucky. Rebel Ink has been so great to work with. They’ve provided meaningful edits that make my book better. Their cover design, as I’ve said earlier, is awesome! And they’re willing to publish my book, The Seduction of Esther, as an e-book and as a print book. Not so great when it comes to Earth Day, but definitely great when it comes to being able to sign copies for people.

To whet your appetite for my June 3 release, here’s a blurb:

Samara Goldberg has a problem even the most beautiful singing voice can’t fix. She’s a walking disaster, especially when she’s around handsome men. To make matters worse, she’s in desperate need of someone to play the character of Mordecai for the Purim spiel she’s producing and the new congregant, Nathaniel Abramson, is a perfect fit. Nathaniel is a divorced dad who’s recovering from the biggest public scandal of his life. The last thing he needs is a relationship with the choir director at his new synagogue, who also happens to be playing the lead female role of Esther in the very play he’s been coerced into joining.

Woven around the Jewish holiday of Purim, The Seduction of Esther is a story of two people whose lives mirror the plot of the Purim story. Like Esther, who had to hide her Jewish identity from the King of Persia, Samara and Nathaniel are hiding key pieces of themselves. Evil Haman wanted to destroy the Jews, and the nasty Josh will do anything to keep Samara and Nathaniel apart. Will their love survive, like the Jewish people in Shushan, Persia, or will their fear keep them apart?

On this Earth Day 2013, as you consider ways you can go green and help the environment, please take some time out to stop by our amazing Rebel Ink Press, who have some great books coming out. You can get to their blog posts by following the link below. And what’s more, by clicking on that link, you’ll be entered into a giveaway for a Kindle paperwhite, as well as some other awesome prized. So click, hop and good luck!

I Have A Desk 4/15/13

I have a desk, which means I have a clean house. Ha, I know this doesn’t make sense, but trust me, it will.

See, prior to this weekend, I’ve done all my writing and paperwork from the dining room table. It was a nice place to work with lots of space to spread out and a set of French doors to look outside. But it’s also where we eat every night, and so anything I put on the table had to be moved constantly. And there is no way I can write there with other people around because it’s too distracting. Plus, there was no place to keep my stuff.

I kept piles of my papers in the kitchen on the counter and in letterboxes there as well. While I’d love to be a super-organized person with everything filed neatly away, I’m not. If I file something away, I forget about it. So my organization consists of piles—a “to-do this week” pile, a “to-do today” pile and a “to-do soon” pile.  It’s not a bad system for me, since it works, but it made my kitchen counter messy.

Then there were the files. Despite my not being a “math person,” I’m the one who handles investments and taxes in my family—don’t knock it; I get us nice sized refunds every single year! My files for this were in the office. The office is my husband’s man-cave. It’s dominated by a roll-top desk big enough for me to sleep in (seriously), decorated with antique maps, Phillies baseball stuff and Star Wars paraphernalia. The desk is his. He does not like piles. He does not like my system of organization. So he gave me a stack of letterboxes to keep things in. I put one or two items in each box and promptly forgot about them. I made a small stack of things I need and tried to hide it in the corner.

I never go in there. It’s dark and cold. The heat continuously blasts cold air and frankly, I’ve been too lazy to call the heating people. The office chair was uncomfortable, so my husband bought a new one, but I still avoid the place if possible.

I finally got around to complaining. Sure, it’s his office, but I’m the one who works from home. It didn’t make sense to me why we’d set it up that way. So, my husband suggested we make me my own office—after finding out all the reasons why I don’t like his.

We bought a huge desk. I love it. It’s solid. It’s got drawers. It’s mine. And it came in a flat box with a gazillion pieces. Trust me, I counted. But I am woman and I decided I could assemble it myself (with some help from quickly disinterested children). My husband said okay and wisely stayed out of the way.

It took me two days and a reorder of some hardware (I ran out of the correct screws since I mistakenly used them somewhere else), but I made it! It’s big. It’s solid. It’s got drawers. And when I put things in it, on it and sit at it, it does not fall apart! Ha!

I’m almost finished cleaning out the dining room. It now looks like someplace where we eat. I cleaned out my stuff from the kitchen. I now have counter space. I pulled out my files from the office. I hardly have to go in there anymore.

As I said before, I have a desk, which means I have a clean house.

Oh, by the way, I’m writing this from the living room sofa! Some things never change.

My Cover 4/2/13

I have a cover! Want to see it? Check out my blog post today at HeroinesWith Hearts. And tell me what you think.

The Path To My Book 4/1/13

If you follow my author site on Facebook, you probably know that I’ve got a release date (!) for my next book (The Seduction of Esther), I’m proofing the edits my editor sent back to me, and that I have a gorgeous cover! What you might not know, aside from why there are so many exclamation points, is why I’m so excited.

Getting accepted by a publisher (also known as getting “The Call”) is awesome. If a book is compared, as it often is, to your baby, then finding out that someone wants to publish your book is similar to your kid getting into the college of their choice. It’s justification for how brilliant you’ve always known they are. “See, my kid IS as smart as I’ve always bragged about!”=”Wow, someone else other than me thinks this is a great story and that others will want to read it!!”

So you go around telling everyone you know that you’ve written a book and it’s getting published. Everyone tells you how happy they are for you.

And then you wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

Because even though the editor and publisher love your book and want to put it into print, there are a ton of other authors on their list in front of you. And you have to wait your turn.

And waiting is boring.

If you’re smart, you’ll get to work on the next book. But you still check your email box multiple times every day to see if they’ve contacted you again. You still check their website in case there’s news about you there (I’m listed as a Rebel author <a href="">here</a>). You still hem and haw about asking questions.

Which is why, when my new editor sent me back my manuscript for me to review, I was so excited. Actually, it was one of the reasons. The other reason is that she edited it! One of the things I’ve been told about Rebel Ink Press, and one of the key reasons I’m so excited to work with them, is that they edit the heck out of your work. I love that. I want an editor to love my manuscript enough to publish it, but not so much that they don’t touch it at all.

When I was a senior in high school, I had an English teacher who used to give me an A++++ on every single paper I wrote. She was a real teacher, with a PhD and everything, but for some reason, she was under the delusion that my papers were perfect. I was 17. Perfect wasn’t possible. And after the first 10 seconds, those extra ++++s were meaningless.

I want an editor not only to show me she’s read what I submitted, but also to find ways of making my writing better—"Hello, Jennifer, let me introduce you to a Thesaurus, brush up on Strunk & White and please, for the love of God, work on your commas!" Something, anything.

I spent this weekend reviewing her changes and I have pages and pages and pages of things she changed. Yay! And everything she changed is for the better. She’s great—and not just because we share a name. As soon as I finish writing this blog, I’ll be going back to the manuscript and going over it again, making sure I try to catch any lingering mistakes.

As for my release date, I was given a choice of dates, and ultimately decided on June 3. I love summer releases and this one gives me just enough time to start promoting it without interfering too much with end of school year chaos and packing for camp. I’m trying a few different things this time around, so we’ll see what happens—more on that later.

But the most exciting part of all of this is that I have a cover (and it is GORGEOUS). The cover artist is a genius. Really, he is. When Rebel Ink first accepted my manuscript, they had me fill out a cover art form. The form asked questions about my book, offered a stock photo site for me to peruse and enabled me to provide as much guidance as I wanted for the cover. And believe me, I provided a lot of guidance. I spent hours picking out multiple photos—women who reminded me of my heroine; men who reminded me of my hero; alternative photos and ideas that could be used in place of a specific person. I gave color schemes, themes, textures. You name it, I provided it.

The cover artist created something completely different and it’s perfect. Somehow, he weeded through everything I thought I wanted, determined I was wrong, figured out what I actually wanted and gave it to me. How many people can do that???

I’m still waiting on final word before I reveal it, so if you’re not already a fan of my author page, like it (link is at the top) and you can see it there. You can also check my webpage, where I’ll post it soon.

Please, when you eventually see it, let me know what you think!

The Four Hour Window 3/18/13

I can’t make this stuff up. I’m just not that creative.

My husband has an elliptical machine. He uses it everyday. Six weeks ago, it broke. Well, the console broke. The elliptical itself still works, but you can’t program it. Without hills, speeds and times, it’s kind of the equivalent of walking in place or pacing around the house. Burns calories, but you look like an idiot.

So I called the store that manufactured it (I’m being nice and not naming them) and they told me we had a protection plan, which meant we got free repairs. Awesome! Or so I thought. What that protection plan really means is that I’m at their mercy. Without the prospect of payment, they have no incentive to do anything. Except I didn’t learn that until later.

The lady asked me what the problem was, I described it to her and she said, “Oh, you need a new console.” She ordered it and set a date for the repairman to come fix it, within a four-hour window. The day before he was scheduled to arrive, I received an automated call from them that the part wasn’t in stock and I’d have to wait for it to arrive and then reschedule the appointment.

A few days later, a coffin was delivered to my house. Seriously, the box was big enough to fit a body inside of it. The console is the size of a book. So I dragged the box into the house, opened it and found the post that the console sits on. This was not what I ordered.

I called the manufacturer and spoke to the same woman as before. I told her I had received the wrong part and I wanted to reorder the correct part before scheduling an appointment. She told me she couldn’t reorder the part, the technician had to do it and therefore, he had to come out to my house anyway. She ordered the part originally based on my description of the problem; she couldn’t just do the same thing again? Apparently not.

She gave me a day and a four-hour window.

The repairman arrived, looked at the box, looked at the part and agreed that it was the wrong one. Because apparently I need someone to confirm what I already knew. He reordered the part I needed and told me that it was simple enough to install so that we could do it ourselves. I gave a dubious okay and he left, taking the wrong part with him and asking me to fill out a survey. Hah!

A bit annoyed, I took to Twitter. With an @ and a #, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the service I’d received. Within minutes, I received a tweet and later that day, I received a phone call from a different lady. She listened to what happened and scheduled a repair appointment with a four-hour window so that my protection plan wouldn’t be voided if I messed up in attaching the new part. Because while my husband is pretty handy, and I can follow directions, you just never know.

A few days later another coffin arrived. Once again, the wrong part had arrived. The SAME wrong part. Had I been thinking ahead, I would have kept the box and used it to bury a body or two. I mean really, at this point, it was almost like a sign that someone wanted me to bury someone. They certainly didn’t want me using the elliptical!

So I called the new lady and yelled. I’m usually pretty non-confrontational, but I hate stupidity, and this one put me over the edge. She was not helpful. She told me the technician would have to come out—during a four-hour window, and reorder the part. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She said she didn’t have one. Flabbergasted, I asked how that was possible. She said, “Some of us are just lucky that way.”

There are no words to describe how angry I was. I would have cursed, but none of the existing curse words are strong enough. So I got on the Internet, looked up the company headquarters, found a phone number and asked for customer service.

I am now capable of anything. In the world. Because despite how angry I was, I did not yell at the woman on the phone.

I explained the problem, tattled on the rude woman I’d spoken to previously, and asked for help. She apologized and spent 30 minutes on the phone with me, researching the part, double checking with a technician and ordering it for me, along with confirming my appointment within a four-hour window.

The box arrived. It was not a coffin, but it was big. I opened it and found a smaller box inside. I opened the second box and found a console.

If and when this company files for Chapter 11, it will be because they spend way too much money on boxes.

The technician arrived. He went downstairs, I went upstairs. I waited.

“Mrs. Wilck?”
“The part’s broken.”

I can’t print the rest of the conversation.

He reordered the part and scheduled another appointment with a four-hour window. He asked me NOT to fill out a survey.

In the meantime, I tattled some more to the rude lady, who called the check up on me. And laughed. I tweeted some more too.

The new part arrived in a smaller box. I didn’t even bother opening it.

The technician came back again. You’d think by now I’d know his name. I do remember how he smelled though.

He went downstairs, I went upstairs. I waited. There was silence. Too much silence. No one makes that little noise when they use tools. He walked outside without speaking to me. He sat in his van for 20 minutes. He came back inside. This time, I heard him talking on the phone. Also, not a good sign. A few words filtered upstairs, the most important one being, “broken.”

I called the rude lady again. I told her wanted a new machine. She said okay.

The new machine is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. I suspect it will be a lawn mower. Perhaps even a broken one at that.

Tantrums 3/11/13

My husband tells me I’m not good with change and I laugh at him. But after this weekend, I have to admit (dammit) that he’s right.

I’ve been complaining about my computer for months. It’s old and slow and the battery dies after about ten minutes. If I happen to have my calendar open at the time the computer shuts down, it messes up the sync with our phones and my husband has to spend hours fixing it. It freezes every time I copy something and try to paste it somewhere else. Word randomly stops working, only to restart and randomly still have my saved work. Shockwave doesn’t work and makes my computer freeze—have you any idea how many ads on the Internet use Shockwave? It’s a bit ridiculous.

I’ve tried to fix the problems. I took it to the Geek Squad and they fixed most of the problems, only they came back a few weeks later. I bought a new battery and it’s definitely an improvement, but, well, it’s only a matter of time until that one runs out too. And honestly, if I mess up the calendar one more time, my husband might actually explode.

Apparently, my parents heard my complaints (or maybe my husband muttering) and decided to get me a new computer for my birthday—the old computer is preventing the writer from writing, horrors!—which was awesome! Truly it was! Except that they got me a Mac.

I like Macs, or I did before I got one. They’re sleek and light and do cool stuff. I know this because The Princess got one for her birthday and has been showing me all the neat things it does. Since most of what she shows me, however, involves putting One Direction screensavers on it, identifying every One Direction member by sight in her photos, listening to One Direction music while supposedly doing her homework, etc., I’ve only paid attention with a teeny part of my brain (the rest is busy trying to figure out when this phase will pass and how to survive until it does), so I’m not an expert, by any means.

When I opened my present, I was shocked. My husband was thrilled—not only would I not complain anymore, but I wouldn’t kill the calendar and he wouldn’t have to be involved with helping me, since he doesn’t have a Mac—it was like the trifecta of perfect for him. The Princess was excited because now she could show me how to work everything and all the cool features. And Banana Girl started scheming how to get my old computer.

Everyone was thrilled, until I actually started using it. Because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I didn’t know how to use the track pad, I couldn’t figure out how to get the Migration Assistant to work—my old computer kept losing the connection, I didn’t know how to move my email or my folders or my pictures and I didn’t know any of the Mac shortcuts that supposedly make Macs so much easier to use.

So, I threw a tantrum. All. Day. Long.

“I can’t dooooooo this!”
“I want a magic fairy to wave her wand and make this work!”—(I think this was my husband’s favorite)
“Why the bleep isn’t this working?”

The last time I threw a tantrum, I was two. There was something in a store that I wanted, my mother said no, I ran down the aisle, fell and split my head open. It was the last time I ever threw one. And I was pretty proud of that fact; I’d learned my lesson. Until Saturday.

I threw such a tantrum that no one yelled at me or asked me to do anything. They all looked at me, then looked around for the easiest way to disappear. When they couldn’t find any, they sat there and waited for me to stop. They didn't complain that I was preventing them from watching TV (I was a bit noisy). They fed themselves. My husband answered whatever questions he could and then happily went off to do errands. He didn’t call once to ask about something on the list. The Princess volunteered to transfer things from one computer to another. Banana Girl invited friends over to do homework and snuck them into the basement, shut the door, and didn’t ask for anything the entire day.

It was a bit embarrassing. I did not throw anything (or anyone), I did not break anything and I did not split my head open (although I did give myself a headache). By the end of the day, I hated the Mac a bit less than I did in the morning. And by the end of the weekend, I had figured out most of what I wanted to do—my husband still won’t let me touch the calendar.

And The Princess was awesome. She came over every time I asked for help, even if she’d already shown me how to do something.

I learned a few things this weekend.

1. I owe my family an apology, because I did not give them the best weekend. And they were wonderful despite my behavior.
2. My parents really do pick out great presents.
3. Apple needs to learn from Samsung’s technology and invent something so we can bump computers together and magically transfer all info from one to the other (I'm thinking I have a better chance of that happening then a magic fairy.).
4. While tantrums are less dangerous than they used to be (for me), they’re still stupid.
5. The Mac is pretty cool.
6. I am not good with change.

I’m Back 3/4/13

You might have noticed, hopefully, that I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. I’m sorry to say, I ran out of words. Hard to believe, I know. According to my dad, Banana Girl is supposed to run out of words by the time she’s twelve—she my daughter who talks non-stop and is convinced that if she stops talking, she’ll stop breathing. We’ve five months to go, and frankly, I’m not hopeful.

But I’m a writer. I’m not supposed to run out of words! We just don’t do that. Apparently, I do. Or, at least, I ran out of some words.

I’ve spent the past month participating in a 30,000-word challenge (manuscripts only, no blogs) with my local Romance Writers of America chapter. It was fun and exhausting (a bit stressful too, but that could just be me) and I made great progress on two manuscripts. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum going.

In order to participate in this challenge, I sequestered myself in my house for most of the month. I tore up my usual to-do list and put “writing” on the top of the list each day. That meant that all my regular duties, including things for my family, chores around the house, errands and even volunteer work that I do took a back seat to writing. I still got most things done, I just took longer to do them (and some days, my fridge and cupboards were a bit bare). My brainstorming time was filled with ideas for the next thousand words I had to write.

Without any brainstorming time, and without getting out of the house much, my inspiration for my blog suffered a bit.

But now I’m back and while I’ll continue my fiction writing, my blog writing will get back to normal—every Monday. In the meantime, I have an announcement!

My new publisher, Rebel Ink Press, is publishing a cookbook as their 2013 charitable project and I’m in it!

Through the ages food has been seen as a way to commune with others, bringing fellowship to the table while nourishing the body. Food is key in celebration and in honoring. It’s also been commonly widespread everything from asparagus to honey to chocolate and oysters hold aphrodisiacal properties. But we at Rebel Ink Press believe not only is food nourishment for the body and fuel for romance, cooking is one of the sexiest and most nurturing things one can do for another.
 It’s the way to the heart.
 Rebel Ink Press presents The Way to the Heart, a collection of recipes from twenty-six Rebel writers, our charitable project for 2013. For every copy sold a charitable donation will be made to help nurture families and communities around the world through Heifer International.
 Thank you for your purchase. By opening your heart, you’ll find the way to someone else’s.

It’s coming out in paper and e-book on April 17. I hope you’ll check it out!

Peer Pressure 2/10/13

Can someone tell me when, exactly, peer pressure ends? Because at this point, I have visions of all the old people in the nursing home congregating around me in their wheelchairs and walkers and trying to dissuade me from playing bingo because, well, the bingo caller is tough, or trying to convince me to go to the early seating at meals because that’s when all the “cool” residents eat—and by the way, what exactly is a “cool resident”? Is it one who has all his/her hair and teeth? And what color is that hair? And I could go on and on, but I hope you get my point.

Growing up, I tended to avoid a lot of the kids trying to convince me to do what I didn’t feel was right. Moving between middle school and high school helped; once I got away from the middle school I hated, I just tried to keep a low profile and not make any waves. Apparently, a bunch of us had the same philosophy, because I ended up in a group of really nice boys and girls who didn’t much care about the same things I didn’t care about either.

I thought I’d gotten past it. Then I became a mom and I found out how wrong I was. Because I experienced a whole new form of peer pressure. It wasn’t about buying the right baby clothes or attending the cool kiddie classes. This form of peer pressure seems to be about making people worry and stress over everything.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say this. I am the Queen of Stress. There is NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE who stresses better than I. I stress when I have nothing to stress about because obviously I must have forgotten something to stress about! So I value friends who don’t help me add to that stress.

But I’m not talking about my friends. I’m talking about the acquaintances. You know, the ones I meet in the grocery store (when I’m just running in for 1 or 2 things and my hair is everywhere and I’m wearing clothes that I wouldn’t be caught dead in otherwise), or while waiting for an activity to end, or in the carpool lane.

There must be something in my expression or another blinking light over my head (other than the Sucker Light) that tells these people that I want to hear about how much they hate something that I’m about to do, or how difficult something my child is going to do is. Because they tell it to me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

In January of my oldest daughter’s kindergarten year (JANUARY!), moms came up to me and started telling me how hard 1st grade was, and what a huge adjustment it was going to be and how much homework there was and on, and on, and on. I started out by blowing them off—well, I listened politely and then ignored everything they said. Because seriously, how hard can 1st grade be? 1+1 = 2 and “cat,” “sat” and “hat” all rhyme. It’s not like she was going to jump from kindergarten to middle school! But after six months of being barraged by ridiculous people’s ridiculous worries (see my note above on stress—for me to say their worries are ridiculous is obviously saying something), even I started to worry.

As I suspected, it was no big deal.

When my daughter was the only girl on her T-ball team (I know nothing about baseball, I had no clue there was a girls’ team and a boys’ team, and it’s not like the town refused to take my money), all the moms came up to me and suggested I might want to move my daughter to the girls’ T-ball team. Other than the first day, when we showed up and the Princess said, “Mom, I’m the only girl,” she didn’t have any issue with it. All the boys ran up to her, asked her to play catch with them, and sat on the bench and discussed Star Wars with her. And I had an easy time spotting her because she was the only one with a pink batting helmet.

When we started middle school, again, all the experienced moms (not my friends!) came up to me and told me how hard it was, what teams to avoid and what teachers to avoid. I might as well have homeschooled my kids, because I think there might have been two teachers who weren’t trashed.

Both my kids have loved middle school and with few exceptions, have had great teachers—there have been a couple of doozies, but hey, it’s good experience for life.*

Parents have called me to ask if I’m stressed about my daughter’s upcoming test. Um, no, I’m not taking it. Other parents have called asking me if I’d like to set up a study group for my daughter. Really? The goal is to get her to study, and I’m pretty sure if I set up anything resembling a study group, she’d turn around and burn her books. That’s her job, not mine. I stopped setting up “play dates” a long time ago.

Now that we’re heading to high school, it’s more of the same. Your child has to stand out. Your child has to do this or that. Watch out, the teachers in this subject are awful! Everything is so hard! She'll never get into college!

The best is when we went for orientation and the administration warned us about the block schedule they follow and how they know we’re going to stress about it, but not to worry, our kids will get it eventually. Why would I stress over not understanding my child’s schedule? I’m not the one who has to follow it, she is. If she wants to discuss it with me, or brainstorm ways to remember how it goes or where she has to be when, I’m happy to sit down with her. But she’s pretty smart. She handled that transition from kindergarten to 1st grade pretty well. I’m pretty sure she will be able to figure out her schedule within a couple of hours, if not days. I haven’t run across any kids at this point who don’t know their schedule—it’s February. And if there are any, well, maybe that’s Darwinism at work.

Now if only Darwin could get rid of all my these people who try to make me worry for nothing!

*If I’ve freaked anyone else out, or turned into one of these moms for you, I sincerely apologize. :)

Book Number Three 2/4/13

Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a contract for my third book! The story, currently titled The Seduction of Esther, is another contemporary romance, but what makes it different is that it’s Jewish. I love reading all kinds of books, but what I’ve noticed is that there are few romances, other than chick lit, that have Jewish characters. The default is always Christian. I don’t mind reading those books and usually enjoy them very much. But there’s something about having a character or a group of characters that I can relate to that appealed to me. So, when coming up with this story, I decided to make the characters Jewish. They’re still relatable to everyone else, and you won’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the story, just like I don’t have to be Christian to enjoy other romances. :)

Additionally, I came up with an idea that works great in my head (don’t they all) to make this a series. This first book revolves around the holiday of Purim. One of the many themes in this holiday is hiding one’s identity, at least temporarily. That theme also makes a great one for a romance! Other books in the series will revolve around other Jewish holidays and celebrations, which have equally good themes.

Of course, I have to write them first. To that end, I’m participating in my local RWA chapters JeRoWriMo, which is a 30K word challenge in 30 days. For the month of February, I’m burying myself behind my computer and writing. The words have to be for a manuscript, not a blog. So hopefully, this challenge will get me a jump start on book two!

In the meantime, I’m also filling out a cover art sheet for Esther, getting to know the amazing authors and editors at my new publisher and thinking about marketing ideas (again!).
If you want to keep up with my progress, be sure to like my Facebook author page.

I'd also like to thank the group of writer friends that I've made who have been so helpful and welcoming to me. Whether you're blog partners, Facebook friends, RWA members or fellow authors at the publisher, your advice and friendship has been invaluable.

Looking forward to the new adventure!

Popularity 1/24/13

Welcome to my blog today! I’m hosting blog hop this week, which means I get to be the boss and make everyone write about MY topic—cool! :) I encourage you all to click on the link below to check out the other awesome writers’ takes on my topic.

This week, the topic is POPULARITY. There are many different ways to look at popularity—what is it? How does one achieve it? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does popularity mean valuable? Are there different ways to “be” popular? Does it even matter? These are my prompts. You can examine yourself, cultural trends, and societal pressures; really anything that can relate in some way back to POPULARITY. So, read my take below, get inspired to write your own, and again, click on the link below for more participating writers!

I have to say, I hate the word, “popular.” It could very well be due to my own insecurities, but whenever I hear that something is popular, I automatically take a step back and want to know why. It shouldn’t be that way. According to Google, the word “popular” means “liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people or by a particular person or group.” Sounds harmless enough.

In fact, I like that definition. Popular means liked by many people. Great. So a popular hotel is one that many people enjoyed. It’s probably clean, the staff is probably nice, and it’s probably convenient to lots of places. A popular restaurant most likely has a friendly wait-staff and serves good food. Popular music is played often on the radio and is known by many people. Popular books have been read by many people and have probably gotten favorable reviews. Popular people are liked by many people—they have many friends.

But when I look at things through the “popular” lens, I start to get uncomfortable. I’m not most people. I’m my own person. Sure, I like many things that others do, but I also like different things. Along with popularity comes the pressure to conform. <em>50 Shades of Gray</em> was a popular book last year. Great. Plenty of friends suggested I read it. I didn’t. I love romance, and I write it, but that kind of book is not my style. Just because everyone is talking about it doesn’t mean I’m going to read it, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy it.

I remember getting a stomach ache every September when I was a teenager. I subscribed to <em>Seventeen Magazine</em> and every fall they published their back-to-school fashion issue. I hated most of the clothes they claimed would be popular. I immediately had to deal with the problem of how to deal with not wearing what “everyone else” would be wearing. Looking back, very few of my friends or classmates actually wore those fashions, so it really wasn’t a big deal.

As an adult, I’ve surrounded myself with people who are nice and kind. They don’t judge me by external factors, they value me for who I am on the inside. So while I’m still leery of the word, I am willing to consider that there are many contexts to it.

My daughter has a very different definition of “popularity.” To her, popularity equals mean. She speaks derisively about the “popular girls” and their antics at school. She has no desire to be part of their group and in fact, declaring something to be “popular” has the exact opposite effect—she won’t want it if it’s “popular.” While I applaud her individuality, I wish she’d at least consider the actual definition of the word and realize that it doesn’t always mean “mean.”

I’d actually consider her popular because she has a lot of friends. She’s friendly to everyone and for the most part, my understanding is that quite a few people like her. That seems like the definition to me. Perhaps she just needs to get a bit older and wiser.

Free Pass 1/14/13

Some days, you just need to tell everyone to go jump in a lake. To go away. To leave you alone.

Some days, you need the freedom to speak without editing. To forget about feelings. To ignore the consequences.

Some days, you need to do what you want. When you want. However you want.

Some days, I want to move to Wyoming, where there are more horses than people, where there is more sky than big buildings, where there is freedom to breathe. It’s where I dream of running away (Of course, now I’ll have to find a new place, since you’ll all know where to find me! :)).

When I worked in New York, I would wonder what would happen if, instead of walking from the train to my office, I kept walking. What would happen if I turned left, rather than right. Knowing me, I’d get hopelessly lost and never find my way back (Yes, I know NYC is a big grid, but trust me, I can get lost anywhere). I never actually did it, because there were too many consequences, but I always did wonder.

These days, I don’t often wonder about disappearing into the ether. I’m too invested in my life to want to leave it behind. But there are days that I wish I could disappear for just a short while, where I could get a “Free Pass” for a day. I could use my “Free Pass” to say and do whatever I wanted, without consequences. I could think only of myself, but nothing I did would affect anyone else. I could finally say what’s on my mind without worrying about how it sounds.

I suspect it wouldn’t be nearly as liberating as I imagine it to be. I suspect I’d feel guilty, get lonely and get bored. And no matter how “free” that pass is, I’d pay for it later, in ways I can’t even begin to imagine. So, rather than take a “Free Pass” for a day, I’ll hug my kids, kiss my husband, do what I’m supposed to do, consider others as best I can and bite my tongue. And find a LOT of chocolate.

How Meetings And Dealing With Teenagers Are Similar 1/4/13

I have a board meeting tonight. Now, don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy going to them because I have many friends on this board and it’s a great chance to see them. We do good work, when we’re efficient, and when we’re not efficient, we certainly mean well. Our hearts are in the right place. But our mouths sometimes get us into trouble (and if not our mouths, other people’s). Kind of reminds me of dealing with my children. They are both wonderful and they have the best of intentions, but sometimes, well…

And so, I thought I’d make a list of how board meetings and dealing with teenagers (or almost-teenagers) are similar. Here goes:

They’re loud. When my daughters are together, the decibel level increases substantially. Each one tries to out-talk the other, and if they feel they are not being listened to, they get louder. They tell us more about school and their friends than probably most kids tell their parents, but their motivation is the chance to get attention. One hears the other telling a story and wants to get in on the action. There is rarely a day that they are quiet, and when they are, it’s never a good thing.

The same is true at board meetings. We start off well at the meetings, paying attention to whomever is speaking, raising our hands when we want to be heard and contributing to the conversations as necessary. But inevitably, as the meeting drags on, and the agenda seems to get longer, we splinter off into smaller conversations. The soft droning buzz permeates the room and everyone talks louder.

They text. Despite all the warnings made by my husband and myself, my kids spend the majority of their home time texting their friends, non-stop. It doesn’t matter what else is going on—watching TV, reading, even doing homework, they are using their phones and electronic devices to have constant conversations with their friends (I swear mom, I was asking her about homework!). We’ve implemented limits—not during dinner, not while we’re talking to them, etc.—but at times it does seem like a losing battle.

Everyone at our board meeting has at least one other job. We’re all busy people and our time is precious to us. We don’t mean to be rude, and we do try to limit ourselves, but texting during the meetings has become somewhat of a necessary evil. Whether it’s to text our spouse that we’re running late, text a colleague to ask a question, or text someone across the table so that we can cut down on the chatter, we’re constantly connected.

They’re passionate. My daughters are very different from each other. I have often joked that when we wanted a second child, God knew what he/she was doing by making sure to give us a very different child than our first, because honestly, I don’t think I could handle two of the same of either of them! They quite often take different positions on things that matter to them, and they are always convinced that they are right. Not only is each of them right, exclusively, but the other one is absolutely wrong. Trying to point out the fallacies in their statements usually results in tears. I’ve learned to wait until they’ve calmed down before pointing out that perhaps the sister is not completely wrong and perhaps there might actually be some similarities between their two arguments. Blushing and sheepish agreement usually follows. Until the next time, when the other can’t possibly be right.

Our committee chairs are passionate about what they do as well. They are convinced that the needs of their committee are important and must be addressed, and rightfully so. They will argue for their committee and the affected congregants, usually with well-thought out reasons and back-up information. Each chair has different methods of doing this, but the end result is usually what’s best for everyone as a whole, although the sparks do make things interesting.

Fairness counts. If my husband hears one of my daughters say “but that’s not fair” one more time, I think he might actually explode. We’ve always prided ourselves on recognizing the differences between our two daughters and parenting them as individuals, rather than as clones. That sometimes means that one gets to do something the other one doesn’t, or one gets to do something before the other one (and not always the oldest first). In general, if you were to keep a tally (and I’m sure both of my daughters have one somewhere), over time everything would even out. But in the heat of the moment, that’s not always obvious and man, do we hear about it.

There is no board member more important than another, and no committee with more importance than any other either. However, it is inevitable that some groups are given more attention at one time or another, or more money to implement programs at a particular time. While our board members are too mature to actually yell “that’s not fair,” there are times when it does seem that way.

But I NEED this! As my daughters get older, they come over to talk to me slightly less than they used to, unless they want something. Then they are all smiles and chatty and polite while they make their case for whatever it is that they absolutely can’t live without. You know that fairness tally they’re keeping? Well, they’re really lucky I’m not keeping a request tally (or maybe I should). I’ve received PowerPoint presentations about the benefits of a laptop and the reasons they wanted a rabbit. I’ve listened to why they need more allowance and had my weekends interrupted with trips to the mall because they have “nothing to wear.” I’ve started quoting words from a song, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” And hiding.

Our board has a limited budget from which to work and no built-in cushion for anything extra. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and we’re constantly having to do more with less. At budget time, our meetings go for hours as we haggle over every cent, trying to keep costs down but still have money for the programs we need. If my children ever attended these meetings, they’d learn some valuable begging lessons. I’ll never let them accompany me. Ever.

And so, when my husband looks at me and says, “Another meeting tonight?” and lists all the things I’ll be missing by leaving—arguments about bedtimes, arguments about dinner, arguments about homework—as if I’m going off on a vacation, I just smile and roll my eyes (my kids have taught me well). Because while I might be avoiding those arguments, I’m still walking into a room of people who want to discuss money allotment, time allotment and resource allotment. Not that much of a difference.

Tuning In and Turning It Off 12/31/12

I did not want to come home from vacation yesterday. In fact, I dreaded it, but not for the reasons you might expect.

I did not dread returning home to the freezing cold New Jersey weather from the warm, sunny Bahamian weather, even though I loved the sun and hate being cold. Although I do wish my tan had lasted a wee bit longer.

I did not dread having to do a ton of laundry when we got home—that’s what happens when three out of the four of us bring almost every clothing item (and shoes) we own on the off chance we might have needed them. Call it the price of being prepared.

I did not even dread returning home to regular food from a cruise filled with more food than I could eat in a lifetime, although we certainly did try!

No, what I dreaded most was returning to the “constantly plugged in” status my life was before our vacation.

My email is on from the minute my kids step out the door until I go to bed. Same with my Facebook account. Yes, I’m one of THOSE people. And I used to feel guilty about it. I used to slink around and not respond to people’s posts immediately so they wouldn’t know I was there. I’ve hidden (I think!) my profile so most people can’t tell when I’m logged on. But then I realized something important.

See, I’m a mom and a writer. I spend most of my days at home by myself. When I’m not taking care of my house or my kids, I’m writing. I don’t have the benefit of working in an office, surrounded by people whom I can talk to whenever I need a break. I can’t hang out with my friends all day long—they have busy lives too, and if we spent all our time “doing lunch,” we’d never get anything done. And believe me, we’re a lot busier than you think we are. So, my connection to the outside world is through email, Facebook and other forms of social media.

One of the other things I do is volunteer with my Temple. That requires me to converse with many people, answer questions and help out with projects. Most of these things are done through email. Because my email is open all the time, I see most emails as they come in, enabling me to respond quickly and be productive. That’s not a bad thing!

But, this vacation, I decided to do something different. My family was traveling for a week with my parents. Since that’s kind of like stepping back in time, I decided to truly make it an “80’s vacation”—minus the clothes and the hair—and sever all ties to my computer for the entire week.

It was daunting, but I thought it was important. First of all, if I can’t stay away from my computer for a week, I have a bigger problem! Second, no one is irreplaceable. There are other people on my committees who can fill in for me. Third, it’s a slow week. And fourth, and maybe most important, I wanted to be truly present with my family the entire time we were together. I didn’t want to be listening with half an ear while I was checking my email. I didn’t want to post pictures of my vacation for others to enjoy, rather than enjoying my time myself.

So, I shipped my computer off to the Geek Squad for a much needed tune-up, changed the settings on my iPhone so that I couldn’t connect to WiFi even if I wanted to, and brought my iPad only for reading (I swear!!!).

The first day was hard. Partly because we were home and out of habit I kept looking for my computer. But after that, it was so relaxing! I couldn’t stress over nasty emails or emails that asked me to do something. I didn’t have to make sure to forward information to anyone. No one online stalked me or knew what I was doing every minute of every day. And my family and I shared jokes and laughs without constantly posting about it (although I’ll admit to writing down a funny thing my 11-year-old said, just so that I could remember it in the future), allowing us to respond to each other and have an even better time. I didn’t post my pictures immediately—I doubt in the long run whether it will matter if I post my pictures the second they were taken or a few days later. I’ll still have the memories, and my friends will appreciate my limiting the number of pictures I actually post.

I learned several things about myself on vacation. Number one, I had a lot more fun interacting with people in person than I ever do online. Number two, my stress levels decreased drastically and I was able to relax. And number three, I can survive without my computer. So much so that I dreaded coming home and turning it on.

You can see how long THAT lasted!

It Is Time 12/17/12

This is most definitely NOT what our forefathers meant. Say what you want about them—all male, slave owners, etc.—they were brilliant when it came to drafting our Constitution. They recognized that it would have to be a document that would last and could adapt to changing times. A document that could stand to be interpreted by many voices, many views, through many lenses, by different people.

The right to bear arms, for them, meant the ability of citizens to arm themselves against the government if it tried to abuse the rights of citizens. It meant the right to defend against an assailant. It meant the right to protect your family. Constitutional scholars can argue with me all they want, but I guarantee you it does NOT mean the right to take a gun and shoot anyone you feel like and it was never meant to allow someone to gun down children like ducks in a shooting gallery carnival game.

The guns in the 1700s were ridiculously ineffective when compared to those of today. Most of them couldn’t hit a target. There is no way our forefathers could have imagined a gun that shoots 100 bullets in a few seconds. If they did, I’m confident they wouldn’t have EVER included the amendment in our Constitution, certainly not without a LOT more clarity.

Anyone who tries to make the argument that gun ownership is a fundamental right needs to remember these words from the Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—the unalienable rights endowed by our Creator and for whose protection we enable our government. A well-regulated militia may be necessary to ensure the security of a free state, but children who live to grow up are necessary to ensure humanity continues.

Gun ownership does not trump life. It does not trump the rights of a six year old to go out and play, to build a Lego fort, to kiss her mommy good night, to grow up.

I don’t want to hear your arguments about how guns don’t kill people, people kill people. To quote my husband, we can’t get rid of people.

Something has to change. Our country has a gun problem and the answer is not more guns.

I’m sure there are people who can express their pro-gun feelings in reasonable and logical ways. I’m sure they can cite examples and statistics that support their argument. Anyone who wants to argue the benefits of owning guns needs to picture this: someday in the future, the rest of the world will move past the immediate horror of the tragedy in Newtown. The rest of the world will return to our ordinary lives. The rest of the world will be able to look at our children without our eyes filling with tears. But in Newtown, a mother or a father is going to stumble across a forgotten shoe, a hairband left under a bed, a beloved stuffed animal tossed to the side. And every time that happens, the grief will be fresh, the horror renewed.

And no argument about gun rights will change that.

Eight Things I Like About Christmas* 12/10/12

‘Tis the season, so everyone says. And sometimes, those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas can feel a little left out. Sure, wishes of Happy Holidays can give us the illusion that people are trying to be inclusive, and in some cases, they totally are, but in my experience, the majority of people get Christmas on the brain from mid-October until the New Year. It used to bother me. It still does sometimes. But I’ve also discovered that there are a lot of things that I like about the Christmas season.

1.         People wishing me “Merry Christmas”: Okay, I’ll admit that in front of my kids, I do correct people, gently, by saying, “Thank you, but we celebrate Chanukah.” I have to set a good example for them and I want them to be proud of their religion and not feel like they have to hide it. But honestly, it truly doesn’t bother me, especially when I’m alone. To me, there are parts of Christmas that have gotten so commercialized, that having a salesperson say this to me seems like more of a marketing ploy than a religious statement and I realize that Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a store’s biggest sales time of year. If they want to wish me Merry Christmas, fine with me. It’s nice to have people being friendly. Besides, each time they do, I get a tiny bit of revenge (one of those nyah-nyah moments, if you will) on that nasty girl named Joan in my middle school who made fun of me for “looking” Jewish.

2.         Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree: For some reason, people have started calling them “Holiday” trees. Totally not necessary (and more than slightly ridiculous). The only holiday that uses a tree is Christmas. Call it what it is. That would be like me calling a Chanukah Menorah a Holiday Candelabra.

3.         Christmas songs in stores: If the store wants to play them, that’s fine with me. I tune out most music anyway—hello, I’m the mother of a 13 year old and an 11 year old. It’s the ONLY way I stay sane. Yes, they get stuck in my head, and I recognize the irony of a nice Jewish girl singing Christmas songs, but then, so do my kids’ songs—One Direction is going to be the death of me!

4.         Christmas decorations: I actually really like them. I think they’re pretty and festive. There are some I prefer more than others (and I do wish people would stick to a single theme), but then, I think most people have preferences. My current favorite, and that of my daughter as well, is the “Santa pig,” although I just saw a purple hippo dressed up for Christmas that is a really close second. The running lights, though, make me nauseous. What I dislike are Chanukah decorations that look too much like Christmas ones. Each holiday has its own identity and just because something is blue and white does not make it less Christmassy. 

5.         The feeling that Christmas is EVERYWHERE: It is. There’s no getting around that fact. And you know what? That’s okay. There is something very special about having a holiday that not everyone celebrates. I like that it hasn’t been commercialized as much as Christmas has, although I’ll admit to it taking a lot of work to turn it into something more than eight days’ worth of presents. And it makes the few stores that do decorate for Chanukah all the more appreciated.

6.         My grocery store’s total confusion over all Jewish holidays: Okay, this honestly goes for any holiday, but I’m putting it on this list. I really appreciate my grocery store putting together a Chanukah display. It truly does make me feel welcome. I appreciate the effort. And I get a huge laugh out of some of the foods they choose to display as Chanukah foods, which I really need sometimes!

7.         Christmas sales: Of course, this one only works when Chanukah falls late enough to coincide with, or close enough to, Christmas. I love getting deals on things I’m planning to buy. Sure, I wish they’d start earlier, or have gift boxes about a month before they usually carry them, and I wish the lines were shorter, but the sales, when I can get them, are awesome.

8.         People’s friendliness: Cynics may say they’re only being friendly because they want you to remember them and give them a gift, but I like it when people are friendly, regardless of the reason. It makes the crowds easier to deal with and the long lines more bearable. And honestly, who wouldn’t prefer friendliness to grumpiness? Is the friendliness fake? Could be. But who hasn’t faked being nice occasionally. Perhaps if more of us did that more often, we’d forget how to be mean.

*I’m sure I could come up with more, but then it wouldn’t fit in with the eight days of Chanukah

Playing Ostrich 12/3/12

Inside my mailbox today was a flier. Two, actually. Without going into details, neither one had anything good to say, and after totally panicking, I decided to make a phone call. I figured that if I asked questions, I might get answers that would reassure me. I did get answers, but none of them reassured me. In fact, having more knowledge almost made me feel worse.

The gist of the conversation, and the piece of advice the woman on the other end of the phone line was trying to give me, was “at least you know.”

Sir Francis Bacon said “knowledge is power.” I think it’s what you do with that knowledge that determines how much power you actually have. Do you give in? Do you give up? Do you fight back? Do you inform others?

Think about what you do with the knowledge you’re given. Knowledge about a particular subject can be used to help you become a leader in your chosen field, an expert in a particular area. Doctors use their knowledge of medicine to cure people’s illnesses. Teachers use their knowledge to educate our children. Scientists use their knowledge to prove and discover things.

Knowledge about a person in your life can help you better relate to them—what do they like or dislike, what makes them tick? If you’re a sibling, you can use your knowledge to drive the other person crazy. :) You can also make a decision when or if to reveal that knowledge. Politicians do this all the time, and are expert manipulators of knowledge.

Usually, knowledge is helpful. But sometimes, all it does is make you worry. How many people search the Internet for medical information, and how many of us don’t?

Sometimes knowledge spoils things. My daughter loves to find out what’s going to happen on her favorite shows before they even air, yet she thinks I’m crazy for reading the last page of a book first.

When the boogie man is a figment of your imagination, he’s somehow less terrifying than when he is an actual person with a face. At the same time, if we know who he is, we can protect ourselves from him.

Yes, at least I know. But sometimes, I wish I didn’t.

Musings 11/26/12

Sometimes we have to do what scares us. Sometimes we have to break out of the box, go beyond our comfort zone.
We need to let people in, let people go. We need to open up and trust. Have a little faith. Exhale.
I’ve had some wonderful people in my life, and some not so wonderful people, too. But I’m lucky enough to maybe get a second chance with someone I’ve missed for a very long time. I could sit back and count all the reasons why this might not work; why this might be a very bad idea. Or I can go for it and see what happens. It’s not in my nature to be reckless when it comes to people. I’d prefer to hang back where it’s safe. But sometimes, the greatest reward can only be achieved by taking a chance.
So I will. Cautiously.

You’ve Got The LOOK 11/15/12

Thanks to a fellow author, Paula Martin, for tagging me with the ziggy zig zag tag—“You've got the LOOK!"

As part of this tag, I have to take my most recent work in progress or my current manuscript and search for the word "look," then post the surrounding paragraphs/text.

My current ‘work in progress’ is as yet untitled, but is meant to be Book 2 of a series I'm hoping to write and publish. Book 1, The Seduction of Esther is a contemporary romance with a Jewish theme, and revolves around the holiday of Purim. Book 2 moves onto Passover and continues the story of two characters featured in Book 1--Miriam, the heroine's sister, and Josh, the antagonist, who's going to be turned into a good guy. This is the first draft and is very rough, so bear with me please! I used the word 'look' in the opening of the book, so these are the first three opening paragraphs, starting with Josh. Let me know what you think!

He threw his pen across the room. It sailed in an arc over the two sleek black chairs on the other side of his black marble desk, banged against the dove grey wall and landed behind the steel and black credenza. A splotch of ink, resembling a Rorschach pattern, marred the formerly perfect wall. Josh swore to himself and ran his hand down his face. Of all the ridiculous, unbelievable, annoying coincidences, this one was by far, the worst.

He swung around in his chair and stared out the window of his Manhattan office. Marvels of steel and concrete filled his view, and as an architect, he usually found solace, inspiration and satisfaction from looking at them. Even a little pride, when he identified ones he’d helped to design. But today, he didn’t see them. He saw her face and he clenched his jaw in aggravation.

The line from Casablanca flitted through his head. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world...” He fisted his hands at his side, flared his nostrils and closed his eyes.

Keys To My Happiness 11/12/12

What makes you happy? I’ve done a lot of thinking about that during the past few weeks as we’ve battled with Hurricane Sandy and all the upheaval she brought.

Helping others makes me happy: We were very fortunate. The storm did not cause us any damage. We didn’t lose power. We didn’t even lose any trees. But others around us weren’t as lucky. Our friends were without power for more than a week. So were my parents. We opened our home to them—our friends stayed over for three days, my parents used our house during the day, and eventually gave in and stayed with us after our friends left. It was hectic and crazy, and I’m pretty sure neither my husband nor I have added “Open a B&B” to our retirement list ideas, but I loved being able to help the people I care about.

We’ve known our friends for almost 13 years. Our kids grew up together. After spending the first week after the storm stuck in the house and staring at each other, it was nice to have some new people to talk to (and stare at). We celebrated Halloween together, we talked and we checked in with one another each day. My parents provided lots of laughs and my kids had more time to spend with their grandparents. My dad even channeled his inner Danny Tanner and cleaned my vacuum (I put my foot down at the idea of dust busting the vacuum to remove the dust).

Time with my family makes me happy: As much as I loved having everyone over our house, it was also nice to get back to just the four of us. Routines are comforting, as is knowing what each person needs or wants without having to ask. Spending so much time with others made me appreciate the time I get to spend with my family even more.

Alone time makes me happy: I’m an only child. These past two weeks made me realize that in order for me to recharge and be even semi-human, I need some time to myself. Luckily, I was able to get at least an hour or two each day, where I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I could be alone with my own thoughts as I did whatever needed doing. Even trips to the grocery store by myself were sufficient, though not ideal, for me to get my sanity back.

Writing makes me happy: Unfortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to write. Hosting people takes work and used up much of the time I would have spent writing. At first, I didn’t miss it—I was probably too busy! But after everyone left and I was able to sit at my computer and think (rather than play on Facebook), I realized how much I really did miss it! I’m glad to be back.

This post is part of a Blog Hop. 

I Think I’m Turning Into A Curmudgeon 10/29/12

I’m sitting here watching Hurricane Sandy updates, which is so much better than watching political updates at this point, and I have to say, I’m confused.

Meteorology is the only profession that I know of where you can be wrong 50% of the time and still be taken seriously. They can create the most technologically advanced models and trackers and whatever; they’re still competing against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature is unpredictable.

We know this. We see this all the time. From predictions about huge blizzards where we end up getting a sunny day, to predictions of sunny skies where it rains for hours, the weather reports are often wrong. I’m not trying to bash meteorologists; they’ll be the first ones to tell you how much of a guessing game it is. And yet, we fall for it every time.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about the storm; we should. Forecasts show catastrophic damage. But, I think we need perspective. Showing damage to South American countries, which don’t have the building infrastructure that we do, does not demonstrate the amount of damage we will suffer.

There are other stories that need to be told. Like this one: <a href=""></a>

I think we need balance. There has to be a way to prepare people for the worst without scaring people unnecessarily. We need to leave politics out of it. It would be nice to see preparations based on what the public actually needs, rather than the idea of limiting the amount of voter anger. And I’m going to take warnings from experts a lot faster than I will from politicians, no matter how well-meaning.

“Hurricane Sandy is a powerful storm,” says President Obama. Really? Thanks.

Mitt Romney's campaign canceled his event in Wisconsin tonight "out of sensitivity for the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy." Really? More likely because fewer people will be able to watch.

I don’t need unnecessary updates that rehash old information and fill the gaps with irrelevant old storm information. I don’t need my area compare to third world countries where a ¼ inch of rain causes massive mud slides—that’s not relevant. Silence, as long as it doesn’t last too long, is not the end of the world. My youngest daughter, who talks non-stop, is in the process of learning that talking and breathing are not interconnected. You can be silent and still breathe. The news media and politicians would do well to learn that lesson.

We’ve been hearing about the potential of this storm since Thursday. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be. I’ve bought supplies, I’ve secured my home, my kids are home and I’m going to hunker down with my family. And more importantly, I’m going to manage expectations and fears. We’re going to do the best we can. The end of the world is not coming, no matter what the media says. We’ve survived storms before and we will do so again.

I wish my friends and family the best through this storm. Stay safe.

Hear Her Roar 10/22/12

Yes, this one is going to be political, but no, I’m not planning on lauding one side or the other, so even if you’re sick of politics, you might want to stick around to see how I do! :)

My kids are studying about the upcoming presidential election in school, and I’m pleased to say that my eighth grader is putting a lot of time and effort into it. Watching her start out with an opinion, do some research, and come to a different opinion, has been fascinating.

The school is planning to hold real elections, register kids to vote and give them an insight into what happens in a real election. But most importantly, I think they’re actually learning that a presidential election is more than a popularity contest, and it’s a wonderful lesson for them to learn.

My kids know how I lean politically, although, until now, they haven’t really understood it. Although I have registered with one particular political party in order to be able to vote in primary elections, I consider myself an Independent voter. There have been many Republican candidates that I’ve liked and there have been many Democratic candidates that I’ve liked. In a perfect world, I’d love to be able to vote for the most qualified candidate, regardless of political affiliation. As that world does not yet exist, my vote goes to the candidate who, in my opinion, has the best record, and the best belief in, women’s rights. I hate voting that way. It feels narrow minded, naïve and stupid, but until women’s rights are guaranteed to be protected, that’s just the way it is for me.

When my daughter came home and was tasked with picking a candidate she thought she would vote for, watching the debates, picking two issues to research and then determine who she would actually vote for, she made it VERY clear to me that while she would need my help in understanding things, she was totally uninterested in hearing any bias from me (she used a lot more attitude and eye rolls than I’ve just described). I promised her I’d do my best. But man, was it hard.

To start with, she was picking the candidate that I don’t support. I could not wrap my head around how my child, who has had very intelligent and mature conversations with me about equal rights for all people, and how important that is to her, could like someone who to me, seems to be against that. She claimed that all of her friends also liked her candidate and she didn’t understand how I didn’t like him. Since she wasn’t at the research phase of her project yet, and therefore, was not receptive to my providing information about voting records, etc to support my claims, I held my tongue, did not reply, and consoled myself with two thoughts. Number one, I’d be able to provide her with evidence when she got to her research phase and number two, she’s only thirteen. She’s supposed to be enticed by her friends’ opinions, she’s supposed to fight me when I try to convince her otherwise.

And in a way, she is, unfortunately, like a lot of voters out there, who latch onto a statement that they hear, or an experience that they have, or a social media comment, and don’t bother to do research to find out if that statement is true. For the record, I’m referring to both Democratic and Republican voters here.

But here’s where she differs, and here’s where, I hope, many voters do too. She watched the debates with me and made me pause every three minutes to explain what was going on. It was difficult, I admit, for me to explain and remain neutral. In some cases, I couldn’t even point out the fiction in what each candidate was saying, because part of our agreement (she would talk to me only if I didn’t try to sway her) was that I had to remain neutral. Other than a few gasps and snorts, I think I did okay for the most part (although she did give me a few eye rolls). Then she picked her two issues to research. She let me help her find unbiased sites to do the research on and she had very interesting discussions with me about these issues. By the end of her research, she came to the conclusion that her initial preference for the candidate was no longer valid and that she would be voting for the other candidate, despite what “all of my friends” say.

I’m proud of her. Not because she is now “voting” for the same candidate that I am. She’s entitled to her own opinions and her own preferences, just as I am mine. And if, after doing research, she still liked the other guy, I’d still be proud of her, because she’s shown herself to be mature enough to step away from the influences around her. Despite the fact that she’s thirteen, she has come to her own conclusions, regardless of my feelings or her friends’. She put in the time and effort to determine what issues matter to her and to research how the candidates stand on those issues. She wasn’t afraid to say she made the wrong initial choice. And she’s not being swayed by people around her.

Additionally, she was willing to discuss the issues with me. We were able to have a good discussion about morals and values together. She understood that while I will instruct her on the right way to be a decent human being, and I will try to change her mind when it comes to certain values and morals, ultimately, we each have to make our own decisions. We had a respectful discussion. There were spots where we disagreed and spots where we agreed. It was enlightening and even fun. We were able to put aside the politics and get a better understanding of what we each believe.

She can’t vote for a long time. But when she can, watch out. Her voice will be powerful and she will make sure it’s heard.

The Manicure 10/15/12

My youngest daughter painted my nails. It was not the best manicure I’ve ever gotten, and it was definitely the cheapest, but additionally, it became quite a conversation piece and a chance for me to observe some interesting reactions.

You see, it was Yom Kippur afternoon, and we were hungry and tired and trying not to be cranky. My oldest daughter and husband were in the process of making a bargain so that she could paint his nails. Rather than say, “No way,” like he usually would, he decided to use the request as a chance to be allowed to take pictures of her whenever he wanted—anyone with a 13-year-old girl with an attitude will understand how difficult it is to get pictures of them. So, while they were bargaining back and forth about how long the nail polish would stay on (less than five minutes), who would be allowed to see pictures of his nails (no one) and what he could do with any pictures he took of her (pretty much nothing, but at least we have photographic proof that we have a teenaged-daughter), my youngest used the opportunity to ask me if she could paint my nails.

Well, when the only male in the house is allowing his nails to be painted, I can’t exactly say no, can I? So I said yes. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of getting my nails done. I find the hand massages painful and most of the colors look better in the bottle than on my nails, but I do occasionally get them done. Even less occasionally, I do them myself. And if my kids want to paint them, I’ll almost always say yes—it gives them pleasure and it’s harmless.

My mistake was thinking that she meant to paint them all one color. No, she brought ten different nail polish colors in multiple shades of the rainbow, plus nail art colors to paint on top. She put a lot of thought into the order of the colors on my hands and the design she would add when they’d dried. It made her happy and allowed her to be a part of the nail activity for the afternoon.

When she’d finished, I looked at my hands. To say it was not a professional job would be an understatement. The color wasn’t even, the stripes were crooked, there was paint on my skin and some of the colors were gloppier than others. But I smiled and thanked her and honestly, forgot about it.

Until, of course, I went to several meetings and got together with friends. Apparently, people have noticed my typical lack of nail polish, because they certainly noticed my new manicure! But what I found most interesting was their reactions. Sure, my nails looked funny—my daughter has many talents, but painting nails is not one of them. While I was definitely in public, I was not anywhere that required me to dress to impress anyone or to dress professionally. No one that I saw was supposed to judge me based on the fact that I let my daughter paint my nails. Yet, the first question everyone asked me (after “What happened?”) was when I planned to take it off.

Now, I’ll admit, another reason I don’t like painting my nails is that I have to remember to take it off before it starts chipping horribly. Honestly, I’m a pretty neat and put together person, but I don’t like the extra fuss. But seriously? My daughter painted my nails. I was as likely to take it all off immediately as I would be to throw away a picture she made me. I was very clearly not making a fashion statement; I readily admitted to being blindsided with the rainbow plan. The fact that my nails were less than perfect for a few days was not the end of the world.

I didn’t want to be the cause of the look of disappointment on my daughter’s face if I had removed the polish immediately. I didn’t want to make her think I didn’t like what she’d done. I didn’t want to erase the smile of satisfaction she got every time she looked at my hands.

Would any of those things be the end of the world either? No. Was she aware that her attempt wasn’t as professional as when we get manicures from salons? Of course. But that wasn’t the point.

We had fun together and it was an easy way to give her some pleasure. I laughed every time I looked at my nails. And it helped to make it one of the easiest fasts I’ve ever done. That’s why I left the nail polish on my fingers.

And you know what? I’d do it again!

Tips For Exhibiting 10/17/12

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Collingswood Book Festival. Picture, if you will, six blocks of books. Six blocks of writers, publishers, book sellers and book collectors, in addition to special guests, speakers and lots of food. For anyone who likes to read, it’s heaven. And for authors, well, it’s a chance to meet lots of potential readers, enjoy the fresh air and even sell a few books.

Having done this event two years in a row, I’ve learned a few things from watching fellow authors and listening to my husband (as much as it kills me to admit that). I thought I’d share them:

1)        Good signage is important. Six blocks of books means there are a ton of authors around and tents tend to look the same. Passersby need a quick and easy way of finding you and of figuring out what kinds of books you are selling. Blown up cover shots and back cover blurbs are a great way for people to find out a bit about your book from afar.

2)        Display frames are a great way to showcase that cover art.

3)        Wire racks are a great way to display your books—the guy 2 tents down from me did this and it was a really creative way of showcasing his work.

4)        Dog bones might be better than chocolate. Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that! It was a beautiful day and anytime you have a beautiful day, you have people walking their dogs. I think I saw about 100 of them and all but two of them were well-behaved (Those 2 didn’t stop barking for the 15 minutes their owners were taking a break on the bench across from me.). Next year, I’m going to offer everyone who passes me a bone for their dog—it will give people an excuse to stop by my tent, and me a chance to talk to even more people.

5)        The coolest thing I saw was a retractable banner. It looked like a retractable movie screen, only it had the book cover on it. It stood inside the author’s tent and was a colorful way of showcasing books.

6)        Sitting in a tent for six hours makes you hungry. At least, it did me. And while there’s lots of food for festival attendees, I can’t go get it and talk to people at the same time. While my husband was great at being my errand guy and making sure I was fed and hydrated, next year, I’m bringing a cooler with fruit and cold water—festival food is a bit heavy.

7)        This one is courtesy of my husband—next year, I’m making a big sign offering author signings. A lot of the exhibitors were publishers. People who stopped by my tent, and others’, were pleasantly surprised that we were the actual authors and were eager to talk to us and get us to sign the copies of the books they bought. It’s another draw.

8)        Offer a “festival-day” discount. Attendees like to feel like they’re getting a bargain, and it’s a great way to convince them to buy your book right then, rather than later, when they may or may not remember to do so.

9)        I need a money box. This might sound silly, but I was working out of my wallet and purse, which was a bit unwieldy. Next year, I’m bringing a box with plenty of change (in the correct denominations for the cost of my books).

10)      Weights. It was sunny with a bit of a breeze. While that’s great weather for walking, it’s not so great for exhibiting and there were at least two times that my tent threatened to fly away. Again, this is probably a no-brainer, but it was my first time with my own tent (last year, I borrowed one).

Anyone have any other pointers?

Why I Don’t Use My Office 10/1/12

I am a mom and I stay home with my kids. So, yes, I’m a “stay-at-home” mom. I raised my kids full-time; played with them, fed them, got them to nap, arranged play dates and carpools. Now that they’re older, I oversee homework and afterschool activities, often schlepping them back and forth multiple times a day. I’m also a working mom. In addition to the work I do for my family, I write. And sometimes I even get paid for it (I know, it surprises the heck out of me too). So, having seen life from both sides of the fence, I feel perfectly qualified to weigh in on the debate between stay-at-home moms and “working” moms. ;)

I’ve read many articles and blogs written by both overworked groups. We’re all tired. No one sleeps and everyone feels guilty. I’ve even read the materials written by the underappreciated stay-at-home dads and working dads. They’re feeling left out. But no one, no one, has addressed one very important, and completely overlooked issue: who gets the home office. Believe me, this is HUGE!

In my house, we have an extra room on the main floor of our house that we’ve made into the home office. This was my husband’s favorite (read, “only”) room to set up and he long ago claimed it as his. The justification? He should, rightfully, be allowed final say in at least one room of the house when it comes to decorating, especially since at the time, he was the one using it the most often. I agreed. And he started out well. He agonized for days until he found the perfect desk. It’s a roll-top, and is big enough to fit a person inside—trust me, I’ve tried it (as has my daughter).  But it’s very nice looking. He’s a collector of antique maps, and when we first decorated the office, he hung a bunch of them up and made it look very refined. With deep red walls and built-in bookshelves, it had that old-timey feel to it. If you walked into our office, you might think we were super-sophisticated. Erudite even.

And then, other things took over. He’s a big Philadelphia fan, so Phillies and Eagles paraphernalia have crept in. Banners, autographed memorabilia, photos of the kids in their various fan clothes. He also loves Star Wars, and since I don’t want the rest of my house to look like something out of Tatoine (hah!), all his Star Wars stuff has found a home there.
Now, I wouldn’t mind that the office is his. Really, he deserves a place that’s his own. He puts up with a lot of crap from me and everyone needs an oasis in their home where they can relax. But, um, did I mention that I’m a “stay-at-home” mom who also works? And gets paid (still can’t believe that one)? Well, I kind of need a place to do that. So I’ve tried using the office. I mean, think about it. It’s a home office. I’m the one who’s home. Seems kind of a no-brainer that I should work there.

That desk that’s big enough to hide a person? Well, my husband is kind enough to let me use it. He even lets me keep a pile of stuff on it—providing my pile remains neat and orderly and out of his way. It’s the one and only time my husband says anything about being neat, so I really have to comply. Except that when it comes to paperwork and writing and doing work, I’m not neat at all. The rest of my house is, but for some reason I can’t manage it in a work environment. So I spread. And he moves my piles. And I try to make them neat and I fail. So I moved my paperwork out of the office and into the kitchen.

The office has two lovely chairs. One is a desk chair that I insisted on us buying after the old one nearly decimated my back. It’s great. Only I never use it. The other is a recliner chair that was coined “mine.” I rarely use that either. Instead, I sit at the dining room table or on the family room sofa. I’ve found I am more productive when I move back and forth between the two. Both of the locations give me a great view out the window, enabling me to procrastinate and dream.

I’ve tried suggesting that I should get to decorate it to my liking, now that I’m the one who can potentially use it more. Two main problems with that—one, all the stuff that’s been relegated to the office would have to spread to the rest of the house and two, I’ve just published publically that I don’t really use the office at all.

So, for now, I’m giving the office to my husband. It can be his man cave (I’m not sure man caves have Star Wars action figures, but...). I’ll wander the rest of the house, finding the most comfortable spots to write. Besides, it just means I’ve got one less room to actually clean!

The Next Big Thing: The Seduction of Esther, contemporary romance  9/25/12

10 Interview questions for The Next Big Thing.

Stephanie Burkhart tagged me for “The Next Big Thing” blog hop. Thanks Steph! You can find her blog here.

The Rules: I answer 10 questions about my next work in progress. I tag 3-5 other authors and if they choose to participate, they post their interview on their own blogs on October 3.

So, here goes!

What is the working title of your book?

The Seduction of Esther

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wanted to write a romance with Jewish characters that wasn’t chick lit. Since I centered the book around the Jewish holiday of Purim, the title just worked (Esther is the heroine of Purim).

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

Mark Feuerstein for the character of Nathaniel—I watch Royal Pains and pictured him from the very beginning as the hero. I think for the heroine, it would be Amy Irving, but from years ago (Crossing Delancey), not now. She’s who I picture for my character, Samara.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

It’s the story of two people who are so busy keeping their inner selves hidden from others, they need to learn that love can only flourish out in the open.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

I’m hoping to get an agent to represent it. If not, I’ll send it to publishers myself. I don’t plan to self-publish—I want to have more time to focus on writing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About 8 months, I think.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not sure exactly. There don’t seem to be a lot of contemporary romances with Jewish themes and characters, which is one of the reasons I wanted to write this book. Outside of my genre, I'd compare it to Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve read and seen a lot of books centered around Christmas, or with weddings that take place in a church. They’re not necessarily religious, but they are definitely written with Christian characters as the “normal.” I’ve enjoyed them, but as a Jewish woman, I wanted to read a different perspective. I didn’t necessarily want the religion of the characters to stand out, but to seem normal or natural. I was watching my kids perform in our temple’s Purim play and realized that the holiday would be a great one to write about, because one of the themes of the holiday is hiding one’s identity. That’s a great theme for a romance, regardless of religion, because you’ve got a built-in conflict.

What else about your book might interest the reader?

My characters are fun and have great chemistry together. Samara Goldberg is the choir director of a large synagogue in New York City. Her voice has power and grace and is filled with emotion. When she sings, she commands everyone who listens to her. When she’s attracted to a man, however, she’s a klutz. She tries to hide this flaw from everyone, and doesn’t think anyone will be attracted to her if they see the real her. Nathaniel Abramson is a divorced, single dad and lawyer. His first wife cheated on him and created a public scandal when she had an affair with the president of his former temple. He hates being made a spectacle of and will do anything to keep himself out of the limelight. He won’t let another woman make a fool of him again. Plus, the holiday of Purim is a joyous celebration and there’s even a play within the story. So there’s a lot going on and it’s a great read!

Sunshine Blog Award 9/23/12

Paula Martin asked me to answer a set of questions as part of the Sunshine Blog award. With all the Jewish holidays and craziness from the start of school, I’d love to have an easy blog post! Besides, she’s the one who invited me to be part of the Heroines WithHearts blog, and it always pays to listen to your fellow writers ;) So, here are 8 things you may or may not have ever wanted to know about me:

What is your favorite Christmas/festive movie?
Ha, this question is a little ironic if you know me. Well, I don’t really watch Christmas movies—I used to watch the kiddie ones when I was little, and my kids enjoy them. I get very excited when I see Chanukah specials on kid shows (like Blues Clues, etc.) because we never had them when I was little. I’m a big fan of old movies, so if I have to pick a movie in this category, I’d have to say It’s A Wonderful Life.

What is your favorite flower?
My favorite flower is anything my husband brings home :) I like carnations, because my dad always used to buy them for me on my birthday. Otherwise, I really like hydrangeas. Oh, and I hate lilies.

What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?
That’s easy—Diet Coke. It’s my whole reason for eating lunch.

What is your passion?
I’d have to say writing, but some days it’s so hard that I can’t imagine doing anything but throwing my computer against a wall. But on the good days, yeah, writing.

What is your favorite time of year?
I like spring and fall the best. The weather is beautiful and the colors of fall and spring are vibrant. I always feel more hopeful and energetic at those times of year.

What is your favorite time of day?
My newly discovered favorite time of day is the half hour right before my kids get up. I’ve started getting up early and sitting with a cup of tea to relax before the day starts. While I’m definitely tired, it really makes a difference in my stress levels and the day seems so much longer and more productive when I do this.

What is your favorite physical activity?
Horseback riding and dancing, both of which I did as a child.

What is your favorite vacation?
I don’t have a particular favorite. Any break from the routine is nice, and if my family is with me, it’s even better!

I’m not passing this along to anyone in particular, but if you’re reading this and would like to answer these questions and link to your own blog, go for it!

Before You Hit That “Send” Button 9/10/12

A classmate of my daughter has cancer. I received an email. Someone died after a long illness. I received a text. An acquaintance made a “pseudo-sexual” joke with/about me. I read it on Facebook.

We are busier than ever, more social than ever. Between our personal lives, our professional lives and the demands created by both, we barely have time to breathe, let alone talk to people. The time we do have is precious and we prioritize how we wish to spend it. Many of us fill that limited time with family and good friends. Others fill it by volunteering or by trying to make the world a better place. Still others fill it with sleep. Connections, real ones, are hard to make.

As a child, I spent hours on the phone with my friends. I spent summer days and evenings with those same people. We filled our time together. My daughters spend their time texting their friends. Texting enables them to keep in touch with camp friends around the country, but it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, replace face-to-face communication and bonding. They get that in the summer, during their “no-phones-allowed-at-summer-camp-time.”

 In some ways, computers have made it easier to connect to people. Think of how many old friends and acquaintances you’ve rediscovered on Facebook; how many new people you’ve met via Twitter. At the same time, social media has made people so aware of each others’ lives that there is no longer any need for small talk. In some cases, social interaction is becoming more awkward—we know almost too much about each other and we know it immediately. We follow them and assume that by doing so, we’re best friends.

We are becoming dependent on instant gratification. There is less expectation to slowly learn about people, to gradually reveal ourselves to each other, to enjoy the puzzle that each person is. And with that increased speed, comes carelessness.

Everyone learns to mind their tongues, to think before they speak. We’re not all perfect at it; far from it. But when we talk to people, we see the affect our words have by the looks on their faces. We can modulate our tones and we have more time to dig ourselves out of any hole we might inadvertently have dug ourselves.

Some of us are better with the written word than the spoken word. I, for one, am. I can never think of appropriate comebacks when engaged in a verbal argument with someone. Put me in front of the keyboard, though, and my fingers fly. And that is a definite benefit of using computers (or their equivalent) to converse with people. In theory, we have more time to consider what we want to say. We have a delete key to get rid of mistakes. We can rewrite multiple times until it’s just right.

But too often, we don’t do that. We assume that because we’re friends with someone via social media, we “know” them and know them well enough to joke with them in ways that may be inappropriate. Only the best of the best writers can convey tone in their written words, and I’ve yet to see anyone do it well when confined to 140 characters or less. We spread news via email or text because it’s faster and we can reach more people concurrently. I get that. I appreciate being kept informed. But sometimes, instead of humanizing a situation, texting and emails can actually dehumanize it.  It takes away some of the emotion, some of the dimension.

People need to learn when, how and why to communicate. It’s not as easy as it sounds. We have to second and even third guess ourselves. We have to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, consider all possible reactions, and then pause before we hit send. Immediacy is great. Group information is great. Jokes, when handled well, are funny. But not everything that enters one’s head should pass immediately through our fingertips and into cyberspace.

Sometimes, our words need our voice.

Peace…For Now 8/27/12

Remember when you were a kid and you’d play outside? Well, my friends and I used to love to find a big grassy hill, trudge to the top of it and roll down it. We’d do this over and over and over again, until the soft, cool grass was trampled beneath us, grass stains were ground into our clothes (sorry Mom), and our equilibrium was completely lost. We’d laugh together and race each other to the bottom. As we tumbled down, we’d go faster and faster, barely noticing the rocks and twigs beneath us, until we collapsed into a heap at the bottom.

Well, it’s now the end of the summer, school starts in a week, and I feel once again like I’m rolling down a hill. Only this time, I’m not rolling faster and faster. No, for some reason, I’m defying the laws of physics and my rate of rolling increases and decreases for no apparent reason. I don’t know, maybe this hill is more like a terrace, a big decline broken up by plateaus.

The summer is definitely racing by us and I find myself equally happy and sad. It’s been a wonderfully relaxing one. My kids’ time at camp flew and before I knew it they were home. Without many plans for the second half, I anticipated the time dragging. Sometimes it did, but more often than not, the weeks still flew. We relaxed at the pool, went shopping and took some day trips. Some days dragged (the plateaus) and some didn’t, even if we did nothing. And now, suddenly, we’re at the end.

We’ve done very little to prepare for the upcoming school year, yet I don’t feel pressured to do it. Our supply shopping is done (for now; there will be many more trips once classes actually start) and they have enough clothes to at least not show up that first week or so naked. But the list I made of things to accomplish this summer never really got tackled. Maybe I didn’t want to listen to complaints as I made my kids do things—there will be enough of that during the school year. Maybe I was too lazy to do any of it on my own. Whatever the reason, the list still exists; I’ll just have to change the title from “Summer List” to “Back to School List.”

There are a lot of things that will start up again this fall and the anticipation is building. Yet, most of those things can’t be done yet. I’ve started booking afterschool activities, although I can’t finalize many of them until I know more information—again, the fits and starts.

I haven’t done much writing since my kids have gotten home. There are lots of ideas floating in my head, and I know exactly what I have to tackle, but until they’re out of the house for a productive amount of time, I just can’t sit down and concentrate. And by the time they go to bed, I’m too tired to think.

My organizational/volunteer work is also starting to ramp up, but again, in fits and starts, as some people’s summer vacations have not yet ended and once again, it’s a “hurry up and wait” mode for a lot of it. And even if I’m more of the “hurry up” rather than the “and wait” kind of person, my kids and their needs prevent me from doing much.

It’s nice having the freedom of rolling down that hill more slowly. It’s less stressful and provides just enough variety to keep me interested. It almost reminds me of the freedom I had as a child to do basically what I wanted when I wanted, like my kids do now. Only, like them, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. Back then, I remember being bored if I didn’t have exciting adventures planned all the time. Sleep was something I avoided as much as possible, and just “being” was not for me.

Today, I’m planning to take advantage of the last remnants of free time I have left. And the next time my kids say, “I’m bored,” I may just say, “Me too,” smile, and walk away.

I Hate Idiots 8/20/12

When I was growing up, I was taught to work hard, no matter how much I might have been made fun of for being smart. My friends and I were shown that intelligence was valued, good grades ensured success, and smart was sexy (well, when we got older :) ). Looking around, reading the news, listening to the politicians, I have to say I’m not sure any of that is true anymore.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m tired of the stupid people running the world. Even more than that, though, I’m tired of the smart people hiding out and letting the idiots run the show.

•          If you don’t understand the human body, you shouldn’t be allowed to regulate it.
•          Women are people, not blow-up dolls that can be taken out for your pleasure and thrust back in the closet when you’re tired of looking at us.
•          Just because someone has a different belief system than you do, does not mean they are wrong.
•          Political debate is healthy; vitriol is not.
•          If you don’t stop worrying about getting elected, rather than doing what’s right, pretty soon, it won’t matter anymore.
•          There is no such thing as killing in the name of God. Killing is wrong, no matter what.
•          Politicians who spend all their time attacking their political enemies have neither the energy nor the resources to develop policies that are beneficial to anyone.
•          Finger pointing is immature and distracting.
•          There can never be enough medical research or education. Ever.
•          Balancing budgets—personal, organizational, state or federal, is important. Very.

It’s time we stopped letting the idiots take control. It’s time we stopped following the loud ones, and started following the smart ones. It’s time for the smart people to step out of the shadows. This isn’t a popularity contest. This isn’t a “wisdom will come later” situation. The “right time” for the smart people to step up is now.

My Last Word on Camp 8/13/12

Now that the summer is over and the kids have not only returned home from Jewish sleepaway camp, but adjusted to life at home, I’ve had a chance to look back at their experience—or what I’ve heard of it—and draw some conclusions.

Home adjustment takes some time. They miss their camp friends and their school friends are in the middle of their own summer activities. They have been busy with activities 24 hours a day, and now have to come up with things to do on their own. The countdown to next year begins.

My kids, both girls, tell me a lot of what goes on at camp. The first weeks home are filled with stories about their friends, their counselors and their experiences. They write me lots of letters (although honestly, they don’t say a whole lot) and therefore, I have lots of questions—I’ve learned that most of the things in their letters that fill me with anxiety are a lot less serious when heard in person. They compete with each other to tell the most stories, in some cases, multiple times.

Despite the fact that I, personally, am not a camp person, I have seen that camp has been a wonderful experience for my children. They’d grown emotionally, religiously and socially. They’ve learned about the importance of taking care of others, of their environment and each other (at least temporarily—the fighting will commence in three, two, one…). They’ve adjusted to being away from home, figured out ways to alleviate homesickness, and crafted letters that I will keep forever (some of those I plan to pull out and show to whomever decides to marry them). They’ve survived for a month without cell phones, email or texting (and managed to understand FINALLY that the US Postal Service takes longer than Verizon Wireless).

However, despite all of these wonderful lessons, there are a few that I truly believe they could do without. In no particular order:

Piercings: My 13 year old would like a double piercing in her ear. I’ve informed her that I won’t allow it until she’s on her own (yes, I’m mean; no, I don’t care). I thought that was the end of it. I was wrong. A new girl at camp this year had multiple body piercings—tongue, cartilage, wrist, etc. While my daughter doesn’t want all of those, she now has several more that she does want. This I could have done without.

Boyfriends: My 11 year old’s friends all had them. Now, I’m not quite sure what one does with a boyfriend when you’re 11. I probably don’t want to know. But really, 11? I’ve heard many stories about what older camp kids do, and they make me shudder. I don’t want to send my daughters to an all-girls camp and I want them to have great relationships with kids, regardless of gender. I just am not quite sure I want to start the “boyfriend” thing so early.

Boobs: Yes, you read that right. There’s much I could say on this topic. Let me JUST say that I received a letter from one of my daughters saying, “You’d like my counselors this year, Mom. None of them have talked about, or shown us, their boobs.” Now that’s a GREAT recommendation!

Cursing: I’m a little confused here. The brochures and DVDs highlighting the camp did not show sailors, longshoremen or construction workers. They showed a beautiful campus in the Poconos with hundreds of children engaging in all kinds of great activities. So why, WHY are my children returning home talking like them?

They continue to tell me all sorts of stories, and ninety-nine percent of them are positive about their time at camp. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m sending them back next year. I do have one question though: There have been many studies about the benefits of Jewish sleepaway camp. I wonder how many studies have been done about the relationship between attending Jewish sleepaway camp and being subsequently sent to a convent?

A Hero’s Blog Hop 7/26/12

Okay everyone, it's blog hop day. All participants are writing about their story heroes or what they think makes a good hero. My contribution is an excerpt from my latest book, Skin Deep, but written from the perspective of the hero. We have a ton of authors participating, so make sure to click on the link at the side (the one that matches the hunky picture below) or on the link at the end, to check out the other blogs and their heroes. It's fun, it's easy, and there are a bunch of great prizes offered! 1st Grand Prize: A Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet; 2nd Grand Prize: A $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card; 3rd Grand Prize: Swag Pack! My prize will be an Amazon gift card and a signed copy of my book. In order to win ANY prizes (all participating authors are offering them), make sure to comment on the blogs (as many as you read) and leave your email address so we can contact you. Are you ready?

We have a new makeup artist on our TV show. Her name is Valerie. She’s seems sweet and tonight a bunch of us from the cast and crew are going out after work. I heard she won’t be joining us, so I thought I’d see if I could change her mind.


“Oh, hi, John. Do you need something?”

“No.” I think I might have startled her because she jumped when I knocked. I’m sorry about that, but not surprised. I’m large, six-foot-three. I grew up on a farm and my current role requires me to work out, so I can be pretty intimidating. I hate that, and I hate makeup trailers, so I’m staying by the door. Maybe if I give her more space, she won’t be afraid of me. “Michelle told me you were not joining us tonight. I thought I would see if I could change your mind.”

“She is persistent.”

Valerie rolled her eyes when she said that—it’s cute and makes her look like a teenager. She’ll get along well with the rest of the crew. She’s amusing.

 “So, what can I say to make you join us?”

She’s staring at me. I can’t tell if she’s still scared of me or not, but it’s embarrassing. I should be used to stares, but she’s blushing. I wonder what she’s thinking. She’s balled her hands into fists at her stomach. Is it because she doesn’t want to go out tonight, or is it me?
“Tonight, not even chocolate will change my mind.”

She’s a chocolate lover. Hmmm, good to know. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

 “I will remember that. But next time you will not get off so easy.” There’s something about her that makes me want to stay here and talk to her, despite the cramped trailer, but I have to join my friends. Another time.

* * * *

We’re a social cast and crew that hangs out a lot. Last night was fun and tonight we are going out for pizza. This time, I’m going to make sure Valerie joins us. I’ve come prepared.

“We are going out for pizza. I will pick you up in ten minutes.” I’m dangling a bag of M&Ms in front of her. She grabs for them, but I won’t let her have them yet. Not until she comes with us. I leave before she can get them.

It’s ten minutes later, and I’m back. She’s ready, so I accompany her out of the makeup trailer and down the steps. I won’t touch her, she wouldn’t like that, but just having her close to me is enough. I like walking next to her. She comes up to my shoulder and if I turn my head, I can smell her shampoo. It’s fruity. I’m taking her to meet the others in the parking lot. She seems happy to follow my lead. I’m glad, but I can’t tell her that.

I’m not sure what to say to her, so I remain quiet. Besides, it’s dark out and I want to make sure she’s safe. I’m so busy scanning our surroundings, I don’t notice she’s grabbed the bag of M&Ms out of my pocket until she’s opened them and stuck some in her mouth. 

 “Hey, those are mine!” I reach for the bag, but she’s quick and dances away from me.

“Not anymore.” She’s graceful and I can’t stop watching her. She’s mischievous and I want to smile. No one’s ever acted like this with me before. If I play along, will I scare her away?
I bring my hand up to my heart. I’m an actor and I pretend what she’s done has wounded me deeply. It would be an Oscar-worthy performance, except I can’t seem to hide my amusement. That’s never happened to me before. I can see her trying not to laugh. I’m glad she thinks this is funny, but I wish she’d laugh. I wonder what it would sound like.

“You did not have to take them, you know. I was planning to give them to you later.” I pout—Me? I never pout!—and I have all I can do not to smile.

“Oh really? When?”

“After dinner, of course. I would not want to spoil your appetite.”

She thinks I’m funny. She’s laughing, and her laugh is better than I could have dreamed. Sincere, not contrived, warm and rich. As I listen to her, all I can manage is a grunt. She doesn’t seem bothered.

“What’s so funny?” Lara, from editing, asks us as we join the group of friends clustered outside the lot. All other conversation stops as everyone waits for the answer.

I know this sounds crazy, but I hate being the center of attention off camera. Any amusement I felt disappears. I look at Valerie and back up, unable to answer Lara. Lara rolled her eyes—I don’t find her eye roll as attractive as Valerie’s yesterday—and walks ahead. Valerie bends over to massage her stomach. I leave her talking to Michelle, another makeup artist, and I walk ahead.

We reach the pub. It’s dark and noisy, but makes the best pizza around. I hold open the door for the rest of the group and everyone enters. Everyone, that is, except Valerie. She stands in front of the open door and sways. Her face gets pale and she leans against the brick wall. She stares down the street and I can tell, in that moment, she wants to run. I don’t know what’s wrong, but I want to help her.

I walk up to her and stand behind her, close enough to talk without being overheard, yet far enough away to give her air. 

“Don’t back out on me now,” I whisper. “I already gave you the M&Ms.” I hear her take a shaky breath and I wait.

She turns toward me and raises her hand. I can’t help it, I back up. I can’t let her touch me. I stare into her blue eyes and hold her gaze. I hear her swallow, watch her tongue drag across her lips, see her close her eyes and sway again.

She is afraid.

I don’t know why, but she’s afraid here, in this place. I frown and placed myself between her and the crowd at the bar. She breathes a little easier. I walk with her, nodding to fans as they smile at me, but not stopping to talk to any of them. As much as I appreciate them, I have to help Valerie. We pass the band and reach our table in the back. I pull out her chair and sit next to her. I hear her release a breath, as if she’d been holding it the entire time.

I turn to her and lean forward, holding her gaze until I can see her relax. Her color comes back and she seems better. Good. I want her to enjoy herself. “So, how do you like things so far, Valerie?”


“Well, I actually meant at work, but here too.”

She blushes again. She does that a lot and I like it. “Oh, well, I love working on the show. I was a huge fan before I got the job, so it’s amazing to be a part of it now.”

I smile as she babbles a bit. “What may I order for you?” I flag down our waitress. Everyone orders beers. Valerie orders a diet soda.

“Not ready to let loose yet, huh, Valerie?” asks Miguel, one of the crew, with a soft chuckle.

Valerie smiles and looks away. I catch her eye and smile to reassure her. It’s a new feeling to be the one to reassure someone. I actually make someone feel good. I relax into my chair and join the conversation.

The waitress returns with our drinks and takes our orders. Her ballpoint pen scratches across her pad as each person orders a personal pizza, but changes the sauce, type of crust, and combination of toppings.

When the waitress turns to Valerie, she orders a mushroom pie and a house salad. She’s unassuming and satisfied with things as they are. She’s not the typical LA girl. I like that.

The waitress pauses, raises an eyebrow and asks, “Is that it?”

“Yes,” Valerie answers.

“Are you sure?”

Valerie furrows her brow. “Of course.”

The waitress shakes of her head and turns to me. She asks me for my autograph at the same time. I scrawl my name across a napkin and give her my order—two personal pepperoni pizzas.

During the course of the evening, I keep an eye on Valerie, made sure her drink never runs out, and that she participates in the conversation. I fill her in on things she might not understand. She’s new; I want her to be comfortable with us.

When we finally leave, Valerie takes her first deep breath of the evening outside in the muggy night air. I don’t know how she can stand it, but she seems more comfortable here than inside. I walk with her back to her car.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” she asks me as we cross the street.

“No one should walk by themselves at night.”

“Thanks, that’s really nice of you.”

We walk next to each other, but as usual, I keep my distance. I don’t want to crowd her or scare her. We reach her blue Honda Civic and she thanks me for walking her out.

“See you tomorrow.” I wait while she starts the engine. She waves and drives away. I’m unable to drag my gaze away from her until her car’s taillights fade into the distance. Something about her intrigues me—more than just her nerves or her simple pizza order, although those things contribute to it. She’s different from the people who usually surround me. She has a vulnerability that arouses a protective urge in me. I know she’d never ask for my protection. She’d never want me to take care of her, no one would. But still...

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that insight into my hero from SkinDeep. Don't forget to leave a comment (with your email) if you want to win a prize. 

Where Are The Superheroes 7/23/12

I’m going to get heavy, so if you’re in the mood for a laugh, come back next week. Last week’s shooting in the Aurora, CO movie theater, during the premier of “The Dark Knight Rises,” has created a myriad of discussions about gun control. While I understand that argument, and agree with it, I think we are looking at this wrong.

Let me be very clear. I don’t like guns. I am all in favor of gun control. I would like us to have the strictest controls in the world when it comes to guns. In fact, if you’re not military or law enforcement, I’d really prefer you not own a gun, Constitution aside. But I don’t believe that the issue here is just stricter gun control.

I believe the issue is that people need to take care of each other better. I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend. I have ties that bind me to many others around me. It is my responsibility to take care of my children. Regardless of how old they are, I need to know where they are, what they’re doing, what they’re thinking. The parents who say their kids don’t talk to them—they’re not asking the right questions. The parents who raise their hands in exasperation or roll their eyes helplessly—they need to take a breath and re-engage. Whether my child is five, 15 or 45, I have a responsibility to him or her. I can’t just bring them into the world and release them into society for everyone else to handle. I’m sorry, but parents ARE responsible for their children. And that responsibility does not end when they are of legal age. There has to be a happy medium between the helicopter parent and the negligent one.

My parents are young enough that I don’t have to take care of them yet. But I do have to remain involved in their lives, to maintain that connection with them, not just to check up and make sure they’re okay (which is really important) but to model for my own children the importance of family responsibility. My job is to keep those family bonds strong. And you know what? My parents are the first ones to tell me when they think I’m doing something wrong, making the wrong choice, or making them proud. My being an adult has not absolved them of involvement in my life.

My husband, while not my responsibility per se, is someone I love more than anyone else in the world. What kind of a wife would I be if I didn’t know when he is troubled, stressed, tired, happy? I promised to love him for better or for worse—it’s understood that I need to pay attention to that “better” or “worse” and be there for support, encouragement, love. Just as he is always there for me. If there were something wrong with me and I refused to help myself, I hope he would step in and try to get it for me.

And my friends? Well, I may not be the best one ever, but I try really hard. I try to keep up with their lives, to know what they like or don’t like, to realize when they need a shoulder to cry on or someone to make them laugh. I do, occasionally, express my opinions unasked, but they know it’s because I care. And they do the same for me.

Sometimes, all that responsibility means we have to be willing to be the bad guy. We have to turn someone in, report the bully, ask for help with someone or something. We have to recognize our own weaknesses and make sure others are there to double up on that protection. We must stand up for someone weaker than we are, offer help to those who need it, and swallow our pride, shame and embarrassment in order to do the right thing.

People who say that we need better gun control laws are right. But if that’s the only thing anyone takes away from this tragedy, then they are taking the easy way out. It’s so much easier to blame a lack of stringent laws, because no one has to take personal responsibility for the gunman’s actions. Parents, friends and family should have seen signs that he was disturbed or recognized potential trouble. No one is perfect, and nothing can be stopped 100%. But if no one recognized the signs, or if people ignored that niggling feeling that something wasn’t right, then they are just as guilty as weak gun laws for failing to stop this tragedy.

I don’t mean to imply that the blame for this horrible incident lies at the feet of the perpetrator’s parents. Their suffering is inconceivable. There is no one thing we can point our finger to and say, “that’s the reason.” There does come a time in a child’s life when we have to let them find their wings and soar or sink on their own. That’s how they learn. But we can’t cut the ties completely. No one can, or should. We have to remain connected, even if only from a distance.  We need to form that village to raise our children (while appointing ourselves as mayor), reach out, step up, butt in.

We are so willing to take credit and boast when our children do something well, when we know someone famous, when we were there when something incredible happens. The flip side of that is we have to be willing to take responsibility when things go wrong—even horribly wrong.

Our jobs as humans are to be superheroes. Superheroes are not perfect—Superman had his kryptonite; Batman was vulnerable without his armor; Spiderman underestimated his foes and lacked foresight. But superheroes felt a responsibility to the rest of society and an urge to protect others. They acted on those feelings and urges. And when united, they were virtually unstoppable.

Yes, gun laws need to be strengthened. But more so than that, and more immediately especially, is people need to remember that we have a responsibility to one another. We are not living in a bubble and we cannot coast on the comfort that the distance of social media provides us. We have to interact with each other, work with one another, defend each other and help each other.

Only then will we truly be safe and protected.

Revisiting My Teenage Years 7/12/12

I swear I’m no better than a teenager. Coming from an adult, that’s a scary thought. Especially when I think that I’m pretty terrified of teenagers. The only difference between me and them is that I’m too old to keep up the angst for long before I get tired.

Case in point, an announcement via email, that the new school year schedules were available online for middle school. Now, just to remind you, my kids are both at sleep-away camp for another 10 days or so. They have no access to anything electronic; the only way we have to communicate is by good old fashioned letter writing. Camp mail being less reliable than the US Postal Service, it takes about a week or so for letters to arrive, in either direction. At this point, I could probably wait to tell them the information until they get home. But, knowing how anxious they are to find out their teachers, classmates, etc., I don’t.

The first thing I do is log onto the computer site where the schedules are posted. I scan the schedules. My oldest is going into eighth grade. I have no knowledge of any teachers, so looking at the names is about as helpful as reading a Chinese menu—in Chinese. But, I do recognize one teacher’s name, and I think she was hoping to get him, so okay, I’m happy.

Now I look at the other schedule. I recognize one of the teacher’s that my older child had, so I’m happy. Then I look again at the subjects. Spanish. Oh, okay. No, wait. She requested French. In fact, she wanted to take French so badly that she didn’t even put Spanish as her second choice. Hmm.

So now I have dilemma number one. Do I ask to have Spanish changed to French, but risk messing up her entire schedule, possibly moving her to a different team in order to accommodate that change, or leave it as is? I risk it. I email the guidance counselor, as the original email requests, only to receive an automated message that she’s gone for the summer. I call the guidance office, only to be directed to the voice mail of the secretary who retired.

Suddenly, my stress level, which had disappeared for the most part with the absence of my children—funny how that works—returns. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Being the nice mom that I occasionally am, I then start trying to figure out which of my daughters’ friends are on their respective teams. This is where I revert back to being a teenager. Except a really, uncool, old fashioned one. First, I call my older daughter’s friends moms (the ones I know). On the actual phone. No texting. I leave an message for some, have real conversations with others. I contemplate taking my daughter’s phone and texting her friends, but I’m afraid of being creepy, if I could actually figure out how to use her phone. I hack her Facebook account—maybe hack isn’t the right word. She knows I log in as her occasionally to monitor usage—and check out the status updates of her Facebook friends, trying to ignore/decipher/avoid the messages. I compile a list of people and teams. Now I’m starting to panic. She’s not with her best friends. Last year, all of them were on one team; she was on another. It was not a good year. This year, they seem to be spread out a little more. Still not great, but better. I’m trying to figure out if I’ve got enough guts to request a team transfer. I rarely request teachers, transfers, etc. I’m the one whose lies can always be seen; I’m also the one whose requests are always denied. Her guidance counselor is not the type to be swayed by the “but all her friends are on another team” argument. I look at the teachers on the other team; never heard of any of them. Luckily, before I have to make any decisions, I find a few friends who are on her team. I contact a friend of mine and ask her to find out what team my daughter’s nemesis is on—can we say teenager? I might as well pass notes! She humors me and I find out her nemesis is not! Suddenly, life is looking up.

I move onto my second daughter, whom I realize I’ve been neglecting—is that even possible when she’s not around to know it? I send out a mass email—see, I’m getting tech savvy. I find out that most of her friends as well, are spread out. I try not to be too happy about this. She’s entering middle school for the first time, and while I want her to be happy and comfortable, I’d like her to make new friends. I check my email multiple times an hour, looking for parent responses and hoping for a guidance response. I get an actual phone call from her one of her friends, and keep said friend on the phone while I rattle off my list, unasked, of other girls’ teams. I’m sure she really appreciated that.

Maybe I should go redo my hair while I wait for more information today. Eye roll.

Time To Recharge 7/2/12

Summer has officially arrived and my children have left the house. It is silent, with only the whir of the refrigerator and the jumpstart of the air conditioning to interrupt my solitude. I like the silence. After an incredibly stressful 8 months, I need it to recharge. Not that I don’t want to talk to people; I do, but the “Mom, mom, mom” calls, incessant chatter, teenaged squeals and squabbles will not be missed for the next three weeks.

It is clean, five days after the cleaning people left—exhaustion and relief on their faces after their once-yearly clean-up of my children’s rooms—and the only items out of place are the dog’s toys, which she strategically places around the house to show ownership and an “I dare you to move it” attitude. The only person I have to pick up after is myself, and my husband now becomes the recipient of my nagging to put something away, usually phrased as “Why is this here?”

The panic I usually feel at 2:45 when I realize the kids will be home from school and I haven’t gotten nearly enough day has disappeared, replaced with, “Wow, it’s only 3:30. I still have so much time.” I’m not sure I’ll be any more productive, but just knowing that I can be is enough for now. And I’m ridiculously pleased with myself when I complete some tiny, but often postponed chore, like cleaning out my coupon box—I told you it was ridiculous.

I now wait eagerly for the mail and watch the camp photo website, looking for some letter or photographic proof that my children are at camp and happy. I’ve gotten letters, fill-in-the-blank postcards (initiated by camp, not me) and seen pictures, and even received a text or two from friends who report with assurance that my children are not wandering aimlessly through the Poconos, nor have they been eaten by bears. Frankly, I think I’m more worried for the bears—my girls are loud, kind of bony and probably more difficult to take care of than the bear cubs.

My “To Be Done While The Children Are At Camp List” is very unorganized and resides mostly in my head. Items jostle for attention and are constantly examined and thrown away—seriously, how badly does that cabinet need to be reorganized? I’d much rather read or write. I’ve gotten over my fear of the new vacuum cleaner, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually going to use it. The box came with instructions on how to open it—imagine the instructions for actually using the thing! The furniture I’m planning to refinish has been sitting in the garage for so long, a few more days, weeks or even months, won’t matter. The basement needs cleaning, but I so rarely go down there, I’m not sure I’ve got the energy or motivation to do it.

So, for the next three weeks, I’m on “Jennifer Time.” It’s weird, it’s quiet and it’s often unproductive, but I think I’m going to like it.

Waiting to Exhale (or even inhale) 6/18/12

I’m sitting in the car dealer, again, waiting for my car to be ready, again (yes, those two “agains” were on purpose). Between car accidents, car repairs, car rentals and regularly scheduled maintenance (which had to be postponed until after all the car repairs were complete), I’ve spent a lot of time waiting for cars to be ready.

Come to think of it, I’ve spent a lot of time recently waiting for many things.

The Princess is on a personal quest to accumulate as many plastic body parts at one time as possible, so I’ve spent a huge amount of time in doctor’s waiting rooms, waiting for diagnoses, and physical and occupational therapists waiting rooms, waiting for exercises to be completed. Am considering renaming her “Exoskeleton.”

Banana Girl is wrapping up her last year in elementary school, watching all the flurry of medical activity around the Princess, dealing with her peers and preparing for middle school. She’s waiting to get in on the attention action, so I’ve spent even more time with her waiting for her life-changing activities to occur. And dreading the future.

The Husband is crazy busy at work, so in between feeling, at times, like a single mom, I spend my evenings waiting to hear how late he’ll be home, whether or not I should make him dinner, if he’s making it on time for our evening activities and for goodnight calls to the kiddos. And I have a countdown going until this craziness is over (as does he, I’m sure).

Sleep-away camp is quickly approaching—9 days at last count. My packing lists have been sitting on the counter for weeks, but despite everyone’s enthusiasm about going, I have not been able to convince anyone to start packing. I can’t figure out what the heck I’m waiting for, but I think the kiddos are waiting to see if I’ll follow through on my threats. So tempted…

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for those three and a half weeks of bliss, when the kiddos will be away and my husband will be back from employment hell. If the car breaks down it won’t matter, because I won’t have anyone to carpool anywhere. The Princess and all of her plastic body parts will be someone else’s responsibility. Banana Girl will be in a different environment with friends who have been dying to see her for an entire year. The Husband will be around and able to have an entire conversation without the crackberry beeping every 20 seconds. And regardless of what packing has been completed or not, and who has ultimately chosen the clothes that are brought, I won’t have to listen to any clothing complaints.

And that alone is worth the wait!

Cars Hate Me 6/4/12

I am not a car person. My dad tried to make me into one by showing me how to change a flat tire and explaining what’s under the hood, but I resisted. I’m not convinced the car wouldn’t fall off the jack onto my head and I’ve seen too many scary movies about women fixing their cars alone on the side of the road to do anything other than call AAA.

If I ever thought I was a car person, I quickly learned the error of my ways a few weeks ago when my friend, Cory, asked me to move her car from one parking spot to another. Picture a parking lot with multiple rows to park. I had to move her van, a Town & Country, from a spot in one row to a diagonal spot in the next row. Maybe 50 feet? So I caught the keys and unlocked her door. That was where my confidence stopped. Because it wasn’t actually a car key, it was one of those fobs. Okay, I’ve used them before, no big deal. Except this one actually had to be stuck into something in order for the car to turn on, unlike the ones I’ve used in the past which only require it to be in your pocket or purse while you press the brake for the car to magically start. Until I figured out that I needed to put the weird looking fob into the funny-looking indent, I was pressing pedals and trying to figure out what to do. But, okay, I turned on the car. Now, I’m used to driving a Toyota, so an American one has all of the gears and everything else in totally crazy places (in my opinion). But, I figured out where the drive shaft was and put the car in gear. Remember, I only had to move it forward (not even back it up) a few feet into the next spot. Suddenly, I get nervous. First of all, the car’s not mine. Second of all, it’s a van and I haven’t driven one of those in a long time. Third of all, there is a parking lot full of parents waiting to pick up their kids sitting behind and all around me to witness this. I briefly consider moving her car into the parking spot straight ahead of me (because it’s so much easier to do that), except that the spot straight ahead of me is designated the Rabbi’s spot in the parking lot, and while I know he wouldn’t mind (especially since he was away that day and wouldn’t need it, or know about it, to begin with), all those witnesses behind me would see what I did. So I crept forward and diagonally slowly and moved her car into the correct parking spot. Then I put it in park and removed the fob, except the car wouldn’t turn off. Now I’m totally panicking, thinking I broke her car. I stick the fob back into the funny-looking indent again and remove it and still can’t turn the darn car off. Resigning myself to being seriously made fun of, I open the car to tell Cory my problem when the car turns off. Apparently the ignition is tied to the opening of the car door. Who knew?

Now that you’ve heard this story, you’ll understand my hesitation when I was offered a Town & Country van to rent today. My car is in the shop and my insurance company offers me a rental car. Of course, the amount of money I’m allowed to spend on that rental car is usually enough for a cardboard box on wheels, but since all of the boxes were apparently out, he offered me a free upgrade to the minivan. This minivan happened to be fairly luxurious, with touch screens, video to show you what’s behind you (I so could have used that last week) and automatic everything. After the guy inspected the car and showed me how to work all the fancy stuff, he gave me the fob (again!) and left. I figured out where all the basics were and turned the heat to 70 degrees (it’s a cold rainy day here, even though it’s June and I needed to take the chill out of the car). I started to drive. Cold air blasted out of the vents. I played with some of the knobs and buttons, made it so the air only came out at my feet, and increased the temperature to 75. Still freezing.

I’m the wrong person to have freezing cold air blowing on her in the car. I’m cold 10 out of the 12 months of the year. My fingers are stiffening, my nails are turning blue and my teeth are chattering as I’m trying to drive this new car that I’m not familiar with to do my errands. Even the mall with its air conditioning running was warmer than my car. I pull out the car manual and read everything I can find on how to work the heating and cooling system. I search for buttons that I’m missing (but will feel really stupid about if I ask for help). I even consider calling my friend, Cory, for a tutorial on how to work her car, deciding that the endless teasing I’ll get for not knowing how to turn on the darn heat is almost worth it. Almost, but not quite.

I decide to just suck it up and deal with being cold, until I realize that I’m going to have this car for a week, and while I might be willing to quietly suck it up, my kids won’t. So I go back to the rental place, turn in the old van (which is actually brand new) for a new van (which is actually an older and more basic model) and drive home nice and toasty. Only to pull into my driveway and realize I left my garage door opener in the other rental van.

Did I mention I’m not a car person?

I Need An Exorcism 5/31/12

When your phone rings at 7:43 a.m., you know it’s going to be a bad day.

It started with a phone call from the middle school nurse. “Hi, this is the nurse. Your daughter was injured during a bus evacuation. Would you like to speak with her?”

Okay, so I’m slightly groggy, but if you use the words bus evacuation and injury, do you really think I DON’T want to speak with her? What the heck? Of course I want to speak with her! She gets on the phone and informs me it was a drill (whew) but that she hurt her ankle and she’ll call me if it gets worse.

Being the Princess, I know it’s going to get worse. It always does. This child has a raincloud over her head. Any injury that can possibly happen, happens to her. She drinks at least a gallon of milk a week and still, every bone that can break, does. No, this is not the time to play the one-up game and ask if we’ve had X illness or Y injury. Don’t tell me about them. I don’t want to know about them, and I certainly don’t want to take the chance of jinxing anything and having them happen to her. Just trust me, we get them all!

At 9:00 a.m., I get the follow-up phone call. I go to school, pick her up, call the orthopedist (whose number I should have memorized, or at least on speed dial) and take her to their office. We arrive and they all greet me with giggles of glee.

“Oh, it’s you again! Nice to see you. What, you couldn’t stay away? Did you miss us?” You see, we were just there three weeks ago; not for a broken bone, but still. I smile and follow them to the examining room. It feels like home.

The doctor walks in and actually offers me a wall in our name in his office. Seriously. I’m not sure if it’s a Wall of Distinction or a Wall of Shame. I’m not sure I want to know. My husband isn’t sure why he’s not offering us a frequent patient discount.

X-rays, exam, boot and crutches later (Wouldn’t you know that she grew since the last time we needed these things and doesn’t fit the ones I already have at home—the boot and crutches, not the x-ray machine. I don’t have one of those. Yet.) we leave the office and I drive her home, giving her the rest of the day off—I’m not sure if I’m doing it to be nice or if I’m afraid of her doing something else to herself.

She’s starting to look bionic to me—she’s got so much hardware/braces on her, there’s very little actual flesh showing these days. Although we were both encouraged that she didn’t look like the other girl we saw leaving the office, with two boots! But I digress…

I drop her off at home and go on the errand I had originally intended to make today:  taking the lawn mower in to be fixed…again! Somehow, despite being tuned up before the season started, something came back broken. And since my husband is so busy at work he barely has time to breathe, let alone do anything else, I told him I’d do it for him.

So I go to the lawn mower place. They unload it from my car, tell me they’ll be done in a minute, then come back out and tell me it will take longer so I should go and they’ll call me when it’s ready. I get into my car and back into a telephone pole. Actually, I banged into the hard plastic, bright orange bumper that surrounds the pole and that is supposed to warn everyone about the location of the pole. Everyone except me.

I move away from the pole, see that the pole is still standing, see that there are no remnants of my car on the ground and drive home, yelling words that I am supposedly too well bred to say (sorry, Mom!). I go home and call my husband, who has the good grace not to complain (or laugh). I call the insurance company guy, who does laugh when I explain about how I’m apparently the only person who doesn’t actually see the bright orange plastic warning bumper, but redeems himself by sympathizing with me when he hears the Princess making fun of me (apparently the obnoxious bone has survived intact).

The lawn mower place calls me to tell me the lawn mower is ready. I’m now too afraid to go back there to pick it up—sorry neighbors, our grass is going to have to grow a bit.

Now it’s time for Banana Girl to arrive home. She does and takes the Princess’ injuries in stride. She also doesn’t comment on the car. Her mood is greatly improved when I inform her that the old crutches are now hers and she can play with them. However, by the time we sit down for dinner, she’s complaining about how everything is now going to center around her sister and she will be ignored. I go to great lengths to explain how that’s not going to happen and that really, the Princess’ foot is only bruised, so really, while it’s inconvenient, it’s not going to cause the Earth to move off of its axis and start revolving around her. She starts to feel better.

At which point, Princess starts feeling around her mouth and informs me, for the first time ever, her brace wire has popped out. Banana Girl grimaces and my husband laughs (brave man).

If anyone knows of an exorcist, please send him or her my way.

Who I Am 5/21/12

I am me, but sometimes I want to be like you. I don’t do things just because others do. I don’t listen to “They.” I’m not sure I know who “They” are. I learned I’ll never look, act or be popular, so I’ve given up trying and learned to be comfortable in my own skin. Except when I’m not. Sometimes I want to be like who I am in my head. In my head, I live in “Jennifer-world” and it’s awesome.

I slide under the radar, unless I want to stand out. I only reveal the things I want you to know and I never reveal all of myself. I am fully aware of when people are taking advantage of me; I determine how much of it I’ll stand. If you’re smart, you’ll stop before I reach my breaking point. The sweeter I get, the faster you should run.

I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a Jew, a Jersey girl, a writer, a friend. Don’t ask me to be a representative of any of your groups, I will only disappoint you. I am loyal to a fault and will stand up for those I love. Or even like. I believe in honor, grace and dignity. I have little tolerance for stupidity and I lack patience. I try to do the right thing.

I have forgiven, but never forgotten. I am thankful for those who have hurt me, because they have made me stronger than I’ve ever thought possible. I am rarely as “fine” as I say I am, but sometimes, I’m wonderful. I am in awe of possibilities.

I am a word warrior. I love the sound of the letters, the turn of a phrase, creative analogies, a well-placed snarky comment. I know that words hurt and sometimes, I’m not as careful as I should be. I like listening better than talking, although I can make conversation with anyone if I have to. I think better with my fingers typing on my keyboard. I have a response for most things. And in my head, I always win the argument, battle and war.

There is more to me than you’ll ever fully know. Get to know me, but never make the mistake of assuming you know everything about me.

Goal, Motivation, Conflict  5/14/12

There are many rules that writers are instructed to follow. Some are important, such as grammar; others are less so, such as sticking to a certain character’s point of view. Many rules depend on the genre you’re writing—romance writers have rules to follow that mystery writers or fiction writers might not have, and vice versa.

Despite the fact that in my personal life I am a huge rule follower (I think it has to do with the Only Child Syndrome—if something goes wrong there’s no one else to blame), in my writing, I look at rules a little differently. I’m more likely to stretch them, or consider that some of the rules are subjective, rather than objective. There is one rule, however, that I do try to follow, and that’s GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Simply put, your characters have to have clearly defined goals (what they want), motivation (why they want it) and conflict (what prevents them from getting what they want). GMC makes a story interesting.

This morning, as I was waiting for Banana Girl to get ready for school, I started thinking about GMC and realized that it also applies to real life and in fact, is something I should think about more often, especially when it comes to my children. See, this was not one of our better mornings. The weekend was busy and involved a lot of jam-packed days and late nights. Add in the fact that I’m not a morning person and well, we were kind of the opposite of a well-oiled machine. The Cleaver family, we were not.

Now, the exact nature of our issues this morning is unimportant. What is important is that we have these issues often enough that I should know better. I should know better than to fall into the same darned trap every few days. It’s like those stupid shows on TV—you hear the spooky music, the lights are out, the woman is by herself, she hears a noise and SHE RUNS TOWARD THE NOISE. Has she never seen a movie or TV show in her life? Does she not know better? Of course she does. But she does it anyway and ends up dead. Apparently, in the mornings, I’m no better than she is. Wonderful.

So, as I was laying in bed, watching the ceiling fan spin and taking deep breaths in order to try to get us out of the mess and ready for school, GMC popped into my head. Don’t know why, and frankly, sometimes it’s better not to question what goes on in my head. Trust me. But it did pop into my head and I realized that it’s a very useful tool for mornings in my house. In fact, if I paid more attention to it, I think we’d have calmer starts to our days. Here it is:

The Goal is to get my kids to school, and preferably as cheerfully as possible, although that may be impossible. They need to go on their own, make the bus on time and have all their things with them. They need to be dressed. The Motivation is because for the next several years, school is their job. They have to go. They need an education in order to be a productive member of society. Their mother also needs them to go to school so that she can get a little peace and perhaps get her own work done. The Conflict is anything that prevents them from leaving the house—tears, wrong clothes, too many of them in the bathroom at one time, moving too slowly, forgetting something, etc.

In a book, there is no story without Conflict. Conflict is what makes a story interesting. No one wants to read a story where nothing happens (Seinfeld excluded). However, in my house, boring is good. Boring is what we strive for, especially in the mornings. Boring means that everyone does what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to do it. Boring means we make it to the bus on time.

So, while I attack my current manuscript with three different colored highlighters to make sure each scene and the overarching story has GMC, I plan to remove all conflict from my family’s morning routine, even if it means biting my tongue and keeping my mouth shut. Boring is good!

The Mom Rant 5/7/12

Salutatory Caveat: The “Moms” to whom this letter is addressed are two separate strangers who happened to be shopping in the same stores at the same time as I was yesterday. Chances are, they’re not my readers (they probably wouldn’t recognize themselves in this anyway). You don’t have to be a mom to read this post—any human will do. And this is also not addressed to either of MY Moms—I don’t rant about them in public (they know where the bodies are buried) and that’s what the Swiss Bank Accounts of Writing are for! :)

Dear Moms,

I realize my daughter looks a little “different” these days, but please stop staring at her. You’re curious, I know. I even understand that curiosity. But there’s a difference between a quick glance or frown and flat out staring. You’re no longer seven years old; you should know better. Your daughter standing next to you does. She at least had the grace to look away when I turned around. You didn’t. Great role modeling.

I know, in that constant desire to look young, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re not young anymore, no matter how often you try to dress like your child. But looking young and acting young are two different things, especially when it comes to manners. Manners, grace and dignity never go out of style.

Check-out lines are boring; I get that. But there are other ways to entertain yourself. For one, you could try talking to your daughter. As the mother of a 13 year old, I know that unless they’re making sure you’re planning to pay for something, or asking for something else, they’re not the most talkative creatures on the planet. But start a conversation anyway. You never know, she just might start talking to you.

You know that smart phone you’re constantly buried in, to the exclusion of all else? The check-out line is the perfect time to use it (especially when we’re standing in front of you and your only other option is to stare). Read your emails, find coupons, play Angry Birds. Anything!

It can be really difficult in some stores to find something appropriate to look at – I know, I was in Victoria’s Secret with you and had the same problem. But my daughter is no substitute. Use the opportunity to distract yourself with something productive, like how to fix a problem you or someone else might be having; come up with the next great idea and figure out how to implement it; draft a memo or article in your head. I’m big on distractions these days and trust me; boring stretches of time with nothing else to do are the perfect opportunity to come up with something.

When you do get caught, at least have the grace to look embarrassed. This would be the perfect time to learn how to blush. Since you’re so busy emulating your own daughter, take a page from her book and do what she does. Look away!


Me (who is saving all her understanding for her family and has none left over for stupid people)

Bippity Boppity Boo 4/30/12

I’m starting to feel like the cartoon character from Lil’ Abner. He was the character that was followed by his very own personal raincloud wherever he went. Lucky him. I’ll admit to having to look up who he was, since I’ve never been a fan/follower of Lil’ Abner. In my head, I was picturing Pig Pen, from the Peanuts, but apparently, he had a dust cloud, rather than a rain cloud. And while my house is definitely dirtier than normal due to a lack of time, I don’t think I’ve reached the point of having my own dust cloud. Ew.

Seriously, my life has become ridiculous. First it was planning for a Bat Mitzvah 24/7 and dealing with everything related to that, while at the same time trying to prevent the daughter from thinking that the world would continue to revolve around her afterwards. The wonderful, but stressful, milestone was followed immediately by same daughter’s broken thumb, requiring doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments and multiple conversations with the school in order to make adjustments to her schedule and workload (because, of course, it was her writing thumb). So much for my conversation about the Earth revolving around the Sun. Just as that is easing up and I thought I’d be able to relax, she had periodontal surgery to help her 12-year-old molars grow in (she’s 13) so that her braces can come off. She looks like a chipmunk, is only eating soft foods and is easing off of pain meds.

My husband has been crazy at work, resulting in his crackberry going off at all hours of the day and night. His stress is ongoing and there’s no end in sight. The younger daughter, who I vowed would never be a middle child, has become the middle child, because everything that’s been going on has been happening to everyone around her and she seems to get shuffled to the side (cue the Mommy Guilt). I’m busier than ever shuttling the daughter around, trying to pick up some of the slack at home while creating my own in the process, proving to the younger daughter she hasn’t been forgotten, adding numerous hats to my head in my “volunteer work” and trying to finish my current manuscript so I can submit it for possible publication. Forget about marketing my current books. That has slipped by the wayside, until I start to feel bad and do a rash of publicity, hoping it will make up for everything that I let slide.

And this doesn’t even cover other things that are going on that I’ve promised not to blog about here. So, yes, life is busy and I’m a little stressed (I’m also the Queen of Understatement). My parents want to send my husband and me on a weekend away. They’ve promised to watch the kids and the dog. I love the idea. Unfortunately, the thought of planning that weekend—determining where we want to go that’s within driving range of our house, what we want to do that will please both of us, and figuring out when we are both available at the same time (ha!)—only adds to the stress that we’re both feeling. So I actually have to say no. Seriously? Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth. Oh, and the awesome gift card for a massage that I was given for my birthday to relieve stress—still can’t find the time to get to it (same goes for my shopping trip).

People have asked what I want for Mother’s Day. I want a wife who can take over all the chores my husband and I haven’t had time to do and won’t be getting to in the foreseeable future. I want a chauffeur who can schlep my kids to the various places they need to go so I don’t have to inconvenience anyone who’s currently doing it. I want a fairy godmother who can listen to all my worries without getting stressed or concerned for me and make them magically disappear. And I want to get rid of this stupid raincloud that’s following me around. Because seriously, enough is enough.

*Public apology: If you're one of the wonderful people who have listened to me (or tried to get me to talk to you), assisted with anything, given me those great gift cards, or married me, I am not in any way complaining about you. It's not any of you--it's the damn raincloud! :)

Early Bird 4/23/12

When it comes to school, November and April are my least favorite months, because my kids are never there—holidays, vacations and conferences (I think I added up the days of school in November once and it came to something in the single digits) ensure that my daughter is home more than she’s in school. It’s not that I don’t love her; I do. It’s not that I don’t love spending time with her; I do. It’s just that the less time she’s in school, the less she’s learning and the less I can get done in a day. And I have to confess feeling a little pressure now that she’s moving onto middle school in the fall; there’s a certain level of knowledge/performance expected to be reached and, if she’s not in school, she’s not going to reach it. She’s incredibly smart, but she performs better for teachers than she does for me, which is one of the many reasons I don’t home-school her.

I was going to write today about all the reasons why those two months drive me crazy. But then, a funny thing happened. I actually got enough sleep last night, the first time in a very long time. I woke up, packed the kids off to school, said goodbye to the husband and walked the dog really fast (she hates rain and it’s raining today—yay!). Basically, I was done by 8:30. Even futzing around on the computer only sucked up 30 minutes of my time, so I was all ready for my day at least an hour earlier than normal. I decided to try something new and actually get things done early today. And you know what? I found out a few cool things that I thought I’d share:

1.         I have once again joined the ranks of the “preschool moms.” You know, the ones who get exactly 104 minutes every morning to themselves while their child is in preschool and therefore have to pack in as much as possible into those minutes. You’ll easily recognize them (and me, during these half days of school conferences) by the look on their faces—one part “ahhhhh, freedom,” one part “get out of my way!” and one part “I’m going to go crazy if I don’t get more time to myself.” And if you see us in the grocery store, we’re the ones who are singing because we’re so darn glad to be listening to any music that isn’t made for four-year-olds.

2.         Thanks to stupid drivers, I can actually make friends with people in other cars. I bonded with the guy next to me as we watched the car in front of him and next to me make a left on red. Yes, you read that right, a LEFT on red. I watched her stop and turn. I checked the traffic light three times. I even checked my hands to guarantee that I knew my left from my right (you know, your left hand thumb and forefinger make the L for left, while the right hand doesn’t?). I glanced back at the guy behind the insane driver and he threw his hands up at me in amazement.

3.         Apparently, I made some guy’s day by giving him my shopping cart for free, rather than accepting the quarter he wanted to pay me for it. Mah jongg winnings aside, I see no reason to charge someone 25 cents for the use of a cart. Really. And if that makes that man a little happier, glad to help.

4.         If I time it just right, I can get to the grocery store when there’s no one there, and get through check out right before the senior bus arrives! I’m not telling you what grocery store, or what time, because there are only so many good deeds I’m willing to do per day. But it’s amazing how fast I can get through the grocery store when I don’t have to break for old people lugging oxygen tanks, or five carts blocking every aisle!

So, maybe there is a benefit to April and November. I get things done and discover all kinds of neat things along the way. Although I still would like my kids to spend the days in school. Please.

Springtime 4/16/12

A while ago, when I promoting my first book, I participated in a number of blog tours, where I was a guest on someone else’s blog and was exposed to their readers. Sometimes I wrote about a topic of my choosing, and sometimes I was interviewed. One of the questions that I was asked in several different interviews was about my writing space.

I don’t have a particular writing space. Sure, we have a home office. But even though I’m the one who’s home the most and therefore, would use it the most, it’s my husband’s. It’s the one room of the house that he’s designated as his. It’s decorated his way, which means a combination of Phillies items and Star Wars (with some antique maps thrown in to make it look like a grown-up’s space). It gets cleaned up when he wants it to be and it’s organized his way. I have my space carved out of it where I’m able to leave my things and I can use the desk anytime I want, but it’s not my office.

I tend to write in the dining room or family room. Even though they’re in the center of the house and where all the activity takes place, I find I’m most often there. If I think of something, I can easily stop what I’m doing, write it down, and continue with whatever else is occupying me. During the day, when no one is home, I can spread out and move from room to room as I please. I could sit in the office, but I prefer the light and comfort of the other rooms.

But today, my writing space is outside. This is new for me. Despite my having a laptop, I tend to stick to places that I’m used to and frankly, I’m not much of an outdoor kind of person. I’m cold most of the time and like the warmth of my house. Conversely, when it’s warm out, I like my air-conditioned house (if you think this is complicated, you should pity my husband—he’s the one who has to live with me!). I don’t like to sweat and I hate the glare on my monitor (I just lost my mouse, proving my point).

But today is the first day that it’s more than 80 degrees and it’s only April. It’s sunny and warm and the birds are louder than my kids, which is quite a feat, believe me. Since they’re not yelling “Mom!” or yelling at each other (from what I can tell, anyway) and they don’t roll their eyes at me when I move around or talk to myself, they’re a lot less disruptive and I can block out the noise if I want. I’m wearing new spring clothes and like the season, I feel rejuvenated. I want to be outside taking advantage of this weather. So for today, or at least this moment, my writing space is my deck.

And while I’m on the subject of rejuvenation, I tend to make lists of things I want to do, similar to resolutions, when the seasons change. I’m not a big fan of doing it in January—too many people do it and no one expects you to keep them, so it seems like a waste of time to me. I do it every Jewish New Year, because, well, I’m told to do it and there’s still that little bit of fear in me that is afraid of not doing it. And those resolutions tend to be big, life-altering ones But the seasonal ones are fun, easy, no-pressure kind of plans. Like walking the dog more or trying to cook more exciting meals (when I figure out how to do that without causing kid tantrums, I’ll let you know).

Or, you know, taking advantage of the nice weather and writing outside! Made it through today...let’s see how long this lasts! Happy springtime everyone!

That’s My Chair! 4/9/12

I spent a lot of time this weekend around a dinner table due to the holidays. And it made me think, as I often do when participating in dinner rituals, about the dynamics of table seating—who sits where and why.

When there is a formal occasion that requires place cards, people spend hours figuring out who should or should not sit with whom. They create tables for kids who are old enough to sit by themselves; tables for families with young kids; tables for relatives; tables for friends; tables for orphans (you know, the people NO ONE wants to sit with). Usually, when you attend one of these events, you can look around at your tablemates and know why you’re there. For most of my family events, I’m seated at the cousins table, guaranteeing that I’ll have plenty of people to talk to and laugh with. I’ve apparently behaved well enough, and embarrassed few enough people that I’m not relegated to the orphans table. My snarky comments are either dead on or extremely forgettable. My husband will also have fun because he’ll hear stories of us from when we were kids (no, the embarrassment NEVER ends) and he’ll have enough experience with the cousins to participate in the storytelling.

At his family events, we usually sit with our immediate family—parents, siblings, etc. Occasionally there are some random people thrown in, but the mixture usually works. There’s always someone to talk to and because we know each other so well, it’s comfortable. And there are always enough lawyers at the table to ensure the legal conversation never lags, the beginning of which is usually my cue to get up and dance.

When we attend events for friends, there’s a core group of us who sit together. We laugh and joke around and have a great time. Everyone is comfortable and the snarky comments fly. Whether we get up to dance or choose to sit at the table the entire time, we leave the event knowing we had fun.

At these types of events, it’s not just who sits at your table that is of concern, but where in the room your table is placed. Are you close to the kitchen? That can be good, if you like to be the first to sample the food, or bad, if you don’t like traffic. Close to the music? There are lots more to talk about if you’re confident no one is going to hear you. :) Close to the door—how soon do you want to sneak out? Are you near other similar tables where you can make friends with the surrounding tables, or join in with your friends who aren’t sitting directly next to you?

In my own home, though, as well as in the homes of others, the arrangement around the table never ceases to fascinate me. Who sits closest to the kitchen so that they can help the host/hostess? Who makes sure to sit farthest away, ensuring they can spend the entire time sitting? Who sits closest to the kids—is it the mother, ensuring her kids behave or is it the grandparent, who delights in the proximity of his grandchildren and loves letting them get away with things that make their parents cringe? Some people choose their seats based on the chair; others by the placement. I know I tend to steer my dad and my daughter to the folding chairs, knowing their penchant for spilling (the dog likes to follow them, too).

So the next time you’re at the table, look around and give it some thought. Where do you sit?

A First For Everything 4/2/12

Yesterday I attended a program at my temple and listened to the first female Rabbi in the Reform movement speak. She was ordained forty years ago. I went to the program because I’m intrigued by “firsts”—the first day of school, the first mark in the newly swept sand on the beach, the first scoop out of the peanut butter jar, the first star in the night sky. There’s something about witnessing the end of the space before that “first.” I’m not sure exactly how to explain it. I guess to me it’s similar to when something important happens and I look at the event and say, “Wow, yesterday, I had no idea that life would change in this way.” Looking at the “firsts” gives me a glimpse of the before and after.

Sometimes that “first” is no big deal. While the first day of school is exciting, it will happen again each year. Being the first to scoop out the peanut butter jar is satisfying, but meaningless. Other times, that “first” shouldn’t be a big deal, but is, like the first African American President, or the first female Rabbi. How nice would it be to know that people are treated equally and we don’t have to recognize a “first” based on gender or race or religion?

With all that in mind, I attended the program, expecting to marvel at this “first” for women. I guess I wanted the opportunity to gaze into the fishbowl, to find out what makes her tick, to witness a part of history. And I got that. She was interesting, funny and intelligent. I’m glad she was the first, because she’s a great example that others can learn from, a terrific role model for our children. But if I have to be honest, I almost found the other attendees even more interesting.

As I looked around the room at the fifty-or-so people seated in the room, I was fascinated to see that there were many men in attendance. They weren’t there because their wives forced them to go; they were engaged and asked questions afterward. I wonder if she took notice of this, and if it has any meaning to her? She had mentioned that male Rabbis and students often sought her out because of the publicity value at the time. Yesterday, the only benefit anyone in that room received, male or female, was knowledge. I think if I were the first woman speaking to a room full of people and men were there listening to me, I’d take it as a sign of progress.

I was most interested, though, to see the variety of generations present in the room, and how differently those generations reacted to her presentation. The Rabbi was in her 60s or 70s, I think. Many attendees were of a similar age, or at least, the same generation. As I watched them watch her, I could see them nodding and responding in ways that the rest of us couldn’t do. No matter how approachable her story, the rest of the room couldn’t relate first hand to the anathema of a female Rabbi and what that meant to the rest of the Reform movement. We could understand it from a distance, but we hadn’t lived it.

Those of us in the room who were around my age grew up when women were doing more and more things. While definitely not equal, we know that’s the goal and quite frankly, we look with bewilderment and anger upon anyone who doesn’t feel that way. The necessity to fight for change is there, but to a lesser extent (that is, until we hear politicians making stupid statements) and it’s more situational. We weren’t there for the “first” and we didn’t see what life was like before that change. We’ve only seen how it’s changed since then.

My daughter’s class was also in that room. They behaved well and were respectful (a huge feat when you have a group of 13-year-olds in the front row), but they didn’t connect in the way the rest of us did. To them, she was interesting, a piece of history. They haven’t experienced people telling them they can’t do something and they haven’t taken a huge notice of “firsts.” When I talk to my kids about equal rights for a group of people, it makes perfect sense to them. Of course that should be the case. What kind of an idiot would think otherwise (it’s all in the eye-roll)? The importance of the issue is part of their “normal.”

I’m glad I attended the program; I enjoyed listening to the Rabbi; and the surprising interest I took in watching those around me makes me look forward to other events in the future.

Mirror Mirror 3/26/12

What do you hide and what do you reveal about yourself? To whom? From whom? I tend to be fairly reserved in front of people (apart from my snarky comments), so it sometimes takes a while for people to know me. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, although it sometimes is, and I find it funny when people are surprised at something they learn about me, especially when they’re people who have known me for a long time. Just last week, a few friends were surprised by my skills at black jack.

In the blogosphere, people seem to want to find out a lot about the blog writers (or maybe it’s just the writer bloggers). Every few weeks, I receive another tag requesting that I answer questions about myself. I didn’t make them up, but I do have to answer them. So, here goes:

What is the one book you couldn’t live without?

Other than my own? That’s a surprisingly hard question, because every time I think I know which book, another one pops into my head. Hmm, if I could only have one book, that means I’m going to need something that lets me escape from reality. Therefore, I’ll have to pick any of Lynn Kurland’s McLeod or DePiaget romances. They’re all amazing and I’d be happy with any of them.

What can you see out your window at the moment?

Argh. I’m sitting at my dining room table looking out into my backyard and staring at my neighbor’s ugly shed and gravel walkway. Several years ago, he cut down all of the beautiful trees in his yard and separating our property from each other, giving me a great view of his white, black and moss-covered shed. He also somehow convinced me to take down the brush between our yards. While that decision may have been a good one, it resulted in the DEP coming and threatening to fine us for $10,000 for removing trees from wetlands. Luckily, the guy was cute, so I flirted, blamed my neighbor and promised that everything we removed was already dead. Not sure which tactic worked, but we didn’t get fined. However, every time I look out my back window, that’s what I think of.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

I don’t know that any of these would qualify as weird. When I lived in France with a French family, they served rabbit. The entire thing on a platter. They had to cover the head and face for me before I’d eat it, because it looked too much like my pet bunny from when I was a kid. Oh, and when I was 3 and 4 years old, I’d go out to dinner with my grandparents and my grandfather would let me pick anything on the menu and we’d eat it together. It was a seafood restaurant, so we ate shark and bluefish and a bunch of other sea monsters not normally chosen by toddlers.

What fictional character would you most like to marry?

Oh come on, a girl’s got to keep some fantasies to herself! ;) But I guess if forced to choose, I’d pick either Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre or one of the McLeod or dePiaget men (see Lynn Kurland answer, above).

If ever a fictional villain was going to win, who would you like it to be?

I’d have to say Severus Snape. I hated him up until he died. Then, I wanted him to be saved.

How many types of cheese can you name off the top of your head?

Gruyere, brie, cheddar, swiss, American (doesn’t really count), goat, bleu, provolone, mozzarella, gouda

If you didn’t want to be a writer, what would you want to be?

The first thing I ever remember wanting to be was a marine biologist so I could work with dolphins. But I have a perforated ear drum, so water and I don’t get along. But I always regretted not being able to do that.

Can you play a musical instrument?

Not well, but I can play the flute and the piano.

Do you own an e-reader or a Kindle?

My parents bought me an iPad when I got my first publishing contract. I have the Nook and the Kindle on it.

If so, how many books do you have on it?

Probably about 15 or so? Not very many, but I’m building my library slowly.

You just got published. In a glowing review, someone calls you the next (insert name). Which author has to watch their back now that you’re on the scene?

Seriously, I’m not competitive when it comes to writing and writers. There are so many tastes out there and so many books, I don’t feel the need to compete with anyone. I’m happy just with the glowing review part.

So, now that that's done, thank you to Paula Martin for tagging me. 

Up On My Soapbox 3/19/12

It’s been an interesting and “naval staring” kind of week. Once again, I’m writing about politics (sort of) and social issues (vaguely), not my strong suite. So, I’m a little bit all over the map today. I’ll try to tie everything together. If I don’t, feel free to let me know.

While my leanings on social issues are obvious to anyone who follows me on Facebook, Twitter, etc., I try to keep my political affiliation private (until now). In point of fact, I’m actually Independent. In the past, my votes have gone along issue lines, supporting whichever candidate will uphold the issues about which I care the most. Yes, I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans. I’ve always tried to vote for the most qualified candidate. That has gotten harder and harder to do. Most recently and it seems, for the foreseeable future, I’ll be voting for the least idiotic candidate—maybe we can start a new party?

All of the above being said, I’ve come across a variety of interesting articles recently, which have made me think. The first is this article in The NationalJournal, which talks about liberals and social media and a Pew Research study. <a href=""></a>. I have to say that this study has made me a little uncomfortable, because I’ve always thought of myself as pretty tolerant of people. I have many friends on Facebook, etc. who don’t share my views. Some of those people surprise me, others don’t. I tend to read their opinions, ignore what I don’t like, accept what I do, and move on. Occasionally, if I am confident that a discussion won’t become offensive, I’ll comment on something and enjoy the back and forth argument. I find it enlightening, usually. However, I am guilty of unfriending people on Facebook for differing views, but only when I find those views so offensive that I can’t stand to look at them. I don’t find religious intolerance acceptable, and the fact that I might be defined as liberal by some (although not by me) does not make me more likely to unfriend someone just because I disagree with them.

The next article I read was this awesome blog by someone I follow on Twitter. <a href=""></a>. I can’t begin to describe how amazing this entry is, so go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. Seriously. Done? Okay, I agree with everything she says. Everything. Morals are my responsibility; education is my school’s. Nothing beats education.

But then there was another article, also a blog from someone I follow on Twitter (actually, retweeted by someone I follow). I’m not putting the link here, but her point was that when people use social media to complain about someone, and then others pile on and add their two cents, we’re in effect, bullying that original person about whom we’re complaining. The writer also claims that since social media bloggers represent the political left, write about the political right and have followers who comment, we’re similar to the bullies. I see her point, to an extent. But does the fact that I blog, and follow blogs, that try to make a point and obviously try to convince others to agree with me, make me a bully? I don’t think so. Just because I add my two cents to the piggy bank does not mean I’m entitled to the entire savings account. Those of us with opinions are entitled to air them. Those who agree and who disagree are also entitled to say so. Jumping on the bandwagon does not make us bullies. Being intolerant of others’ opinions makes us bullies. And anyone who states their opinions publically has to be able to take the disagreements from others in stride. Being disagreed with is healthy and keeps us honest. Personal attacks are not, and that is bullying.

And then there was this, the Goldman Sachs resignation letter. <a href=""></a>. While I admire his feelings of integrity, I think he needs to show a little more dignity, a little more grace, and keep his opinions to himself. Public humiliation is never okay.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I’m a pretty tolerant person, to an extent. I don’t support personal attacks, ever, by anyone. Public humiliation is never okay. Intolerance, whether racial, religious, political, is also never okay and should never be displayed in social media of any kind. But rational expressions of opinions are key to keeping social media useful and to keeping everyone honest. Unfriending, while not ideal, is sometimes necessary. Bullying isn’t. And education is always the answer, every time.

Always the Bridesmaid 3/12/12

I walked out of my local grocery store the other day and saw a poster on the bulletin board: “Customer of the Month!” It had a picture of a woman and her name. Neither the picture, nor the name, was mine. I find this very confusing.

When we were first married, and were really into dividing all chores up equally, my husband volunteered to do the grocery shopping. Great! He created a list, brought it to the grocery store, ordered it according to the shopping aisles, put it on the computer, and printed it out every week. He even set up the paper so that one page held four lists, so we wouldn’t waste paper. I’d then add specifics to the list and he’d take care of it. He called me from the store every week asking what brands and sizes I wanted, and although it took up a lot of time, he got the job done.

As life got busy and we had kids and I had more time at home, I took over the grocery shopping. I tend to wander the aisles, looking at everything and seeing what we need/want. So that pre-printed list no longer exists.

I am in that store every single day. Not because I want to be, but because, as my husband says, I’m horrible with grocery lists. Sure, I make grocery lists. On good days, I even buy everything on them. But I always seem to forget to put something on them, or don’t think about a particular recipe I want to make, or one of my kids suddenly hates a dietary staple and I need to find a replacement.

My grocery store has apparently put a huge effort into being friendly—maybe they think that will make up for their high prices? Everyone who works there says hello to you the second they see you. With me, they call me by name. Seriously. I have more friends in the grocery store than I ever did in high school. I’ve even been complimented on by bagging abilities.

So why am I not customer of the month? Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to see is my picture and name plastered on the grocery store bulletin board. It’s bad enough that I have to put makeup on to go there because I inevitably run into people I know. The last thing I want is the added attention. But I really do want to know what their criteria are. Because by my calculations, I own that award!

Pink Elephants 3/5/12

My two kids are completely different from each other. One logical and organized; one is creative and emotional. As they get older, those characteristics have become more apparent. But when they were young, the difference didn’t seem so apparent. I was looking at a project my oldest made in kindergarten or maybe first grade to celebrate 100 days of school. The assignment was to find 100 things to represent the 100 days. She took a wooden plaque, glued a large wooden 100 on it and then painted and decorated it with 100 things, such as pompoms, stickers, painted designs and Q-tips. If you count everything on the plaque, you’ll find 100 items. But the 100 items are different.

If she were to do the same project today, I’m sure she’d put 100 of the same items on the plaque. She’d probably choose things that were the same color, or at least colors that blended together. I’m not sure at what age this change occurred. I’m not even sure that the “change” didn’t already exist in some part of her, and is just now showing more clearly. If my younger child suddenly changed like this, I’d have noticed it more because the difference would have been more pronounced. But the fact that the change occurs makes me a little sad.

We all start out with the desire to do our own thing. Some of us have that desire confined within certain parameters. Others of us are freer in our choices. As we get older, we try to conform to what others want us to do, think or say. But I think our responsibility as adults is to temper that conformity with independence and to foster it in others.

That’s one reason why, as a writer, I find it so frustrating to hear other writers constantly talking about “the rules.” Yes, I firmly believe in grammar rules (this blog aside), but the seemingly arbitrary rules of whose point of view HAS to come first in a book, or how many pages MUST be devoted to the hero, seems to me a little ridiculous. I understand that there are trends. I also understand that when you see a book published, it automatically creates a desire to copy that format so that you, too, will be published. But some of the best books were published just because they were different!

One of the best pieces of advice that I was given by an editor (maybe an agent) was for writing a query letter. She said, “Tell me how your book compares to something I know, and then tell me how it’s different.” For example, it’s like Beauty and the Beast, but with aliens. Okay, while I doubt that would ever work, and it’s certainly not something I’d be interested in writing, the point is, different is good.

The world is boring without a variety of people. Art is boring without a variety of different styles. Books are boring without a variety of different stories. And the only way we can have different stories is if we learn the rules, understand them, and then know when to bend them.

So, color outside the lines, find the most different person from yourself and befriend them, and write a romance from the dog’s perspective!

Words to Live By 2/27/12

Banana Girl got her palate expander today. Apparently, her mouth is too small for her teeth. It is not, however, too small for speech. The child has been speaking non-stop since she was 10 months old. I know I have friends out there with non-verbal children or children whose speech was delayed and therefore, they won’t understand what I’m saying, but speech is a little overrated in my house.

For the first four years of her life, she honestly thought speaking and breathing were connected; if she stopped talking, she’d die. I know this, because despite her arguments to the contrary, when I asked her to stop for a minute, she’d hold her breath. Therefore, my telling her to stop talking was the greatest horror a mother could possibly do, in her opinion. She would go to sleep midsentence and pick up where she left off when she woke up. If I told her I had to do something else, or concentrate on something else, she’d say, “That’s okay, Mommy” and talk to herself. My dad thinks she’ll run out of words by the time she’s 12. I think she’ll just invent new ones.

The good thing about her constant chatter is that she’s the only one who understands when or why I talk to myself. Although I do crave silence when I’m alone, I talk to myself. Some people listen to music, some people rely on phone conversations, I talk. Occasionally, I’ll mutter something under my breath while the kids are around. The Princess looks at me like I’ve lost it (not far from the truth), the husband laughs at me, but Banana Girl nods in understanding.

This makes me a little nervous. I’m not sure I want to pass along my neuroses to her—although I find it very cool that she shares my sense of humor—and I’m not sure that I want to recognize my neuroses in her. It’s all very well to tell myself I’m crazy and joke about it. It’s a whole different ball of crazy to witness it as others see it.

Of course, most of what I say to myself ends up on paper somewhere—current work-in-progress, idea file, blog, Facebook post or Twitter update. Most of what Banana Girl says remains out in the atmosphere. But she is creative and she does like to write, so maybe the non-stop talking is a precursor to a quieter future.

In the meantime, I’ll stock up on the Advil. Whether it’s for me or for her, though, will remain a mystery.

Thank You 2/20/12

I belong to a bunch of blog-writing groups online and periodically, members of these groups pass along awards to writers. These awards are cute and informal and are usually given as a way to start a dialog about the writer. Usually, the point is to talk about yourself and then tag other writers so that they will talk about themselves. As you hop among the various blogs, you get to meet other writers and find blogs of interest along the way.

Well, my friend Paula has decided to give me two such awards—the Liebster Award and the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award (I had nothing to do with either name). I’m most appreciative of these awards, but I hope she won’t be offended if I change the rules a bit. I’m starting to get a little self conscious with all this talking about myself.

Instead, I’m going to suggest a few ways to get to know me: read my previous blog posts, check out my website (<a href=""></a>) or better yet, ask me a question in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to answer. You see, one of the reasons I write a blog is to interact with people. Just like social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, these things work best when there is a sharing of ideas and information. And I’d be much more comfortable sharing things about myself with other people, rather than just “the blogosphere.”

And once again, thank you Paula, for thinking of me (twice)!

Should I Kiss Him or Should I Shoot Him? 2/13/12

I’ve been away for a few weeks—not physically, but mentally. In that time, some lovely things have happened, and I’d planned to thank a bunch of people here. But then, Rick Santorum spoke.

I always vowed to stay away from politics in this blog. I mean, the blog is called Fried Oreos. It’s meant to talk about things that are fun, yummy and totally extraneous to everyday life. You know, like a splurge. It’s not the place for political talk. I tend to keep my politics fairly quiet. Those who know me, know which way I lean and which things I stand for, but I’m not one to rant and this is not my platform for political discussion (one too many Thanksgiving meals as a child kind of soured me on that).

However, last week, Rick Santorum said that women should not serve in combat roles in the military. His comments were in response to the announcement by the Pentagon stating it wants to open up thousands of jobs, allowing more women on the front lines in combat zones. Most people in the military see this as clarifying and formalizing what’s already happening.

According to Santorum, who spoke on The Today Show, "When you have men and women together in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way. I think it's something that's natural that's very much in our culture to be protective. That was my concern, and I think that's a concern with all the military.''

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he goes on to say, "The issue…is how men would react to seeing women in harm's way or potentially being injured or in a vulnerable position and not being concerned about accomplishing the mission," Santorum said.

Later, he tried to clarify by saying he was more concerned about men’s emotions than women’s, and that his concerns also had to do with physical strength and capability.

Really? I have my own way of looking at politics and women’s rights. Personally, I have no problem with people referring to “man” rather than “humans;” in my mind, it’s an abbreviation and I look to the meaning of what’s being said, rather than the exact words being used. I don’t mind men holding doors for me; I think it’s polite—frankly, I think it’s polite for the first person through the door to hold it for the people behind you, whether you’re male or female. And if my unfriendly male neighbor across the street ever decided to come over and help me while I’m struggling with the snow blower, I’d never say no or think he was being sexist (I’d probably think he was insane since he’s never done it in the 11 years we’ve lived here, not even after I saved his house from burning down, but that’s another story). 

I do think that everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, skin color, food preference, etc., should have equal rights and should be able to make their own decisions. I am not a second-class citizen.

Maybe I just have faith in the common decency of people around me; maybe I’m naïve; maybe I just don’t see why things have to be broken down into “male” and “female” roles. Whatever my reasons may be, I also have faith that the U.S. military is not going to let poorly trained people, regardless of their gender, on the front lines.

For Rick Santorum to say what he did shows how insensitive he is to women AND men. Does he really think women are so weak and ineffectual that even after being trained for a combat role in the military, we’re not going to be able to perform our job? Does he really think men, under fire, are going to try to protect their fellow female officers by throwing themselves on top of them, rather than firing back at the enemy? I could be wrong, but with bullets flying all around, I don’t think anyone’s first thought is, “Gee, can I have sex with my fellow officer right now?” And more importantly, does he really think the military is going to let poorly trained soldiers on the front lines? If that’s what he thinks of the military, perhaps he should rethink his candidacy.

If you want to read a really funny article in response to Santorum’s comments, check out the link below.

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No, No Don’t Tell Me 1/25/12

I’ve run into a lot of people lately saying things I wish they wouldn’t say. Now, before I point any fingers at others, I’ll admit I’m guilty of it too. I’ll walk into the kitchen, see my husband has washed some of the dishes, and instead of saying, “Thank you,” I’ll say, “Why didn’t you do the rest of them?” Sorry honey! Luckily for me, he’s kind enough to let most of those words slide and attribute it to Bat Mitzvah stress—I am really going to have to come up with another excuse pretty soon. :)

But I do think there is a difference between what one says by mistake due to stress and what one says when offering advice, especially unasked-for advice. For example, I remember when I was pregnant. Apparently, having a baby belly creates some sort of magical magnet that draws women with horrible pregnancy or delivery stories to you. As a non-pregnant woman, I can go to a hundred different places without a single person coming up to me and offering me advice; when pregnant, however, everyone had a story to share.

They were not cute stories. They were not funny stories. They were scary and gross stories. There was not a single piece of advice given that I wanted to hear. Believe me, I could make a list of advice I wish people had offered me when I was pregnant; none of the things I was told however, makes that list. I didn’t need to hear how you were in labor for 178 hours or how you’ve never experienced anything as painful as when your child was born sideways or how you had a 50 pound baby and looked just as pregnant as I did. Really.

The only benefit to those stories was that it taught me that sometimes it’s better to avoid certain conversations entirely. For example, I go to great lengths to avoid any conversations about Bat Mitzvahs. I’m afraid at this point, half my congregation thinks I’m rude as they see me running the other way, and my friends probably think I’m nuts. But really, it’s the only way I can keep even marginally sane at this point. Some of my best friends have already experienced their children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and I know that they have excellent advice to share (none of which include 50-pound newborns or any other form of horror story). The problem is that when they were going through their own mitzvahs, I listened as they talked about it.

I was hoping to learn pointers for my own, and I definitely did. I’m grateful for what I did learn and I’ve used their advice, even if I haven’t actually told them about it. But I also found that my heart started pounding and my palms got sweaty just listening to them. And that doesn’t include the horror stories the people around them were retelling. Biggest snowstorm of the century. Food poisoning. Red wine spilling on The Dress. I. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. About. It.

So, for all those well-meaning (?) people who feel the need to share their own horror stories with me—don’t. And to all my amazing friends who are ready and willing to offer me any advice that I might need, and who are trying to show interest in my process—thank you, I appreciate it. But I can’t talk about it.

Pet Peeve 1/16/12

I’ve tried to write this blog every week and for the most part, I’ve done it. But this week, my mind is occupied with remembering a gazillion different things I need to get done before the Princess’ Bat Mitzvah, my body is busy taking care of two children with colds—better now than during the Bat Mitzvah, and my heart is filled with memories of the Princess as she’s been growing up. Needless to say, I’ve got nothing left with which to create a blog post today.

But luckily, I belong to some awesome groups on Facebook, both of which create weekly prompts for blog writing! So, this week, I’m taking advantage of that and writing about “Pet Peeves.”

I have lots of pet peeves, but I hate listing them because it makes me sound like a cranky old man (and for the record, I’m a snarky youngish woman, and there’s a BIG difference!). I relate to those funny lists that people post about grammar pet peeves, pet peeves about men, pet peeves about women, pet peeves about children, etc. They make me laugh and usually there are at least two or three with which I agree. However, given that I’ve been occupied with the above-mentioned Bat Mitzvah, I’m going to choose one pet peeve that I’ve noticed a lot recently: other people’s inability to be on time.

I’m sorry, but that really bothers me. Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with a friend who is running late meeting me for a meal—life happens and it’s not a big deal. Since having kids, I also run late. But I have a huge problem with professional people who make appointments with me and then either cancel them or can’t manage to appear on time. It’s unprofessional and gives the impression that they think their time is more valuable than mine. You know that saying, “the customer is always right”? Well, for once, I’d really like to be that customer. Make an appointment with me and have the decency to keep it. Don’t make excuses or act like it’s no big deal. I’m the customer. Your job should be to please me. And cancelling on me or showing up late is not pleasing to me. Not at all. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, you will when it comes time to tip you. That is all.

There. I’ve ranted about my pet peeve. Hope I don't sound too much like a cranky old man. Thank you, Beth!

Mind Your Mouths And Your Manners 1/9/12

My friend, Raellen, is a pretty great person. Nice, funny and smart. She also hosts amazing book clubs. :) I know her from my Temple, which is going through a rough patch right now. People are saying things they probably will regret and because of the ease and distance of the Internet, a lot of those messages are being sent via email.

Anyway, she is also a friend of mine on Facebook and posted a thought-provoking comment on her page. I’m going to reproduce it here:  Years ago, during a discussion about personalities, etc within a church community, a wise friend remarked, "people get so caught up in 'church work' that they forget about the work of the church." Although this discussion was directed at one community in particular, I've since seen this exact problem affect many other communities, including my synagogue. It seems to me that we all should remember the reasons we have joined our particular faith community. Sure, perhaps we might do things differently, or we may disagree with our clergy or lay leaders, but we should be supportive of one another. We should build folks up, treat them with respect, not try to force our own issues onto an entire community and cause derision.

Her status update has been liked, commented on and shared multiple times and it got me to thinking. So many of our arguments—both good and bad—are removed from the presence of people and put on the Internet. They start with a discussion between people, face to face. And whether it’s because people want the time to think their argument through, or the anonymity of the Internet, the arguments spill over to emails and Facebook messages. They get passed around, distorted and in some cases, publicly ridiculed.

The Internet makes it so easy to do this. Even on my blog, it’s so much easier to write something on a computer screen then to say something to someone in person. It’s a lot easier to be witty when I can craft the sentences and work on the timing, rather than having to do it in a split second. I’m horrible at comebacks in person, but give me a keyboard and some time and I’m pretty darn good.

The upside to that is that I can hit the delete button. I can take the time to think about whether or not to put my words out there. The downside is that it is so much easier to speak your mind when you don’t have to look at the person you’re speaking to; you don’t have to see the hurt in their eyes or the blush on their face. We don’t have to contend with the social cues that tell us when we’ve gone too far. Even nice things are easier to say in writing.

I love Raellen’s comment and I’m glad she posted it on Facebook. In point of fact, it’s not that much different from a conversation she had with me in person, so I want to be clear that I’m not saying she shouldn’t have done it. Out of all the emails and comments I’ve seen posted this past week, hers is the one I wish EVERYONE would post. And then, after posting, think about, take to heart and maybe live.

It’s the nasty ones I’m talking about. Words can’t be taken back. Once they’re spoken, or posted on the Internet or in emails or wherever, they’re out there. There’s an old Jewish story that’s told about the harm words can cause. I’m going to mess it up, but it has to do with comparing words to the wind or maybe feathers that are contained and then released. Just like the wind or feathers released from their container, once words are spoken, there’s no way to get them all back. There’s no way to undo the damage completely.

The Internet and email just makes it easier to say these things without taking responsibility for them. And if we don’t have to assume responsibility for our rudeness, then we’re basically giving each other permission to be as awful as we want.

In closing, I’m linking to <a href="">“The Nicest Place on the Internet.”</a> I’m not sure I buy this, or the benefit of it. I’m not sure I don’t think it’s cheesy. But after the past week or so that my friends and I have suffered through, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Day Off 1/2/12

I'm taking this week off from this blog, for a few reasons:

a) My husband is home and my kids are not--VACATION!!
b) I'm all over the web today and tomorrow and frankly, I'm tired of myself.
c) If you'd like to visit me elsewhere, please check out the extensive interview Victoria Valentine did with me <a href="">here</a> or you can check out my book blurb (as well as those of 63 other writers) at Lila Munro's re-opening of her <a href="">Realmantic Moments website</a>--click through the warning. My stuff won't blind you and you might find some authors you really, really like! I'll be there from 2:00 p.m. on.
d) Tomorrow (1/3/12) I'm posting 7 things about me on my other blog <a href="">Heroines With Hearts</a>, the one I'm a weekly contributor to. I tried to come up with things that you might not know about me, or haven't been talked about 25 million times.

So, enjoy and I'll see you here next week!

What I’ve Learned From Chanukah This Year 12/26/11

My kids get that it’s not about the gifts, but the giving.

The looks on their face when they open the crazy boxes I hide things in (waffle boxes, tissue boxes, etc.) is almost as good as their look of joy when they actually find their present.

If Charlie Brown had a menorah, it would look like mine. I’m using all the old, orphaned, faded and crooked candles this year, since my kids refuse.

I will never run out of wrapping paper or candles. Ever. If you ever see me trying to buy some, stop me.

Eating fried oreos is much more enjoyable when I don’t have to look at the oil in the pan.

However, having friends over to share the fried oreos is the best!

It is possible, although difficult, to decorate my house for Chanukah without making it look like the Maccabees threw up in it.

There are almost as many ways to spell the holiday as there are to celebrate it. And I still think I have it wrong.

Making  A List 12/19/11

Every year I get closer to the wire at holiday time, but this year has to be my worst. Tomorrow night is the first night of Chanukah, and I still have to decorate the house and wrap all the presents. I’ll admit it, I procrastinated, but the holiday snuck up on me. In my defense, going by the non-Jewish calendar, the holiday changes dates each year (yes, it always falls on the same day according to the Jewish calendar, but until the rest of the world uses the Jewish calendar regularly, I’m sticking to my story).

But this leads me to my big question. Can someone please explain to me why, every year, I run across Christmas shoppers in a state of panic, who scream, “OH MY GOD, CHRISTMAS IS ONLY DAYS AWAY AND I’M NOT READY!”? I don’t mean the shoppers trying to take advantage of holiday sales. I’m only talking about the ones who are overwhelmed by the fast-approaching holiday. I truly mean no offense here (my husband claims that if I say that, I really do mean offense, but I swear, in this particular case, I’m merely very confused). Christmas falls on the same date every year. Never changes. Ever. It’s not like the holiday sneaks up on you. Even if the weather goes all haywire and it doesn’t get cold or snow, there are clear hints that it’s coming.

Commercials on TV start at least a month beforehand. Stores other than Nordstrom decorate for the holidays in October.

Coupons and fliers with the words “Christmas sales” splayed all over them start arriving even before that. You even get Thanksgiving as a prelude.

So I really don’t understand how this holiday can creep up and surprise you. Maybe I’m just observing a few, super-disorganized and forgetful people. Maybe these panicked shoppers are the same ones who forget their spouse’s birthday or anniversary. Maybe it’s just because the rest of the people have all completed their shopping in September, and the only ones left are the ones who “forget.”

I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t have time to stick around and find out—I just remembered I forgot the Chanukah candles! :)

Happy holidays everyone!

Déjà vu Blog Fest 12/16/11

DL Hammons, who writes a blog "Cruising Altitude 2.0, suggested a blogfest, where we repost an old blog that we wrote. I thought it was a great idea, so I'm participating. 

Jumping Off the Bandwagon (originally published in November 2010)

I make a lot of mistakes, but if there is one thing I’m proud of, it’s not following the crowd. I don’t listen to other people’s advice about school and my kids. In fact, I’ve found that I do a much better job of raising my kids when I ignore what other people say. This teacher is great? Okay, we’ll see. That teacher is horrible? Okay, we’ll see. This grade is impossibly hard? Okay, we’ll see. I’ve found that usually, the people who are the first to offer me unsolicited advice are usually the ones who are completely wrong. The bad teachers are good, the good not so impressive, and the grade remarkably doable.

I’ve never been comfortable following the crowd. I can’t pull off the “in” look; I don’t fit in with the “in” people. I’m much more comfortable being me and surrounding myself with people who appreciate me for who I am, and who have their own unique qualities that I love and appreciate just as much. So it dismays me when I see people taking serious issues and suddenly making them “popular”—not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will somehow benefit them, either by making them look cool or popular. Take, for example, the political outcry surrounding the Tyler Clementi bullying case. It was a horrible thing that happened, people should definitely do something about it and I support anything that will help stop bullying and keep our kids safe. But people should have been working just as hard to stop bullying before this teenager killed himself, not only after it happened. The politicians who have made it their cause give me the impression that they are championing it because it will win them votes from both sides of the aisle—who’s NOT going to back an anti-bullying law? Bullying has been around forever. What did the politicians do about it before and how many of them will continue to involve themselves in the issue after the bill is signed? Will they work to actually stop kids from being bullied, or will they move onto the next hot-button issue and forget all about it? How will that honor Tyler’s name?

Social media does much to increase awareness of things, but it also turns everything into a popularity contest. How many of us “like” a cause because all of our friends do? During the week prior to Thanksgiving, everyone starts listing things they’re thankful for in their status updates. Well, that’s great. Being thankful is important. Buy why is it only “popular” to do so then? What about the rest of the year? Are we simply not thankful, or too embarrassed to say we are? It’s easy to do so when all of our “friends” are; less so during the rest of the year. Does declaring it publically to 547 friends make us more thankful than those who truly feel it, but keep it to themselves (or only tell a few people in private)?

I’m tired of being told to support causes, declare my love for my child, or be thankful because everyone else is doing it. I’d much rather support a cause because I feel it’s important; declare my love for my child with an actual hug (rather than a virtual one); and tell the people I love why exactly I am thankful for them individually. Public support of causes can be a great thing, but only when done for the right reason.

Book Clubs—Not Just For “Oprah” Books 12/12/11

Anyone who knows me will tell you I hate talking about myself, I hate speaking in public, and I’m incredibly embarrassed when it comes to talking about my books. I probably should have thought about those things before I decided to write books, and certainly before I decided to write romance. But, I didn’t.

So the first time someone suggested that I speak at their book club, I flat out refused. Luckily, that person was my sister-in-law and she forgave me :). However, I have this one friend who not only belongs to a book club, but is the fastest reader of my books ever. I think she’d read my first book within three days of it being released by the publisher, and my second one within a week. And she told me she loved it. So I was smiley and feeling warm and fuzzy toward her when she suggested that I speak to her book club about Skin Deep—not that I don’t smile and feel warm and fuzzy with my sister-in-law, but my friend caught me at a weak moment.

This is also the same friend who volunteers to help with every single committee that we’re on together, including parking lot duty in the cold and the rain (okay, she’s starting to sound like a stalker, but really, she’s not!). In other words, I couldn’t say no. Besides, there was a small part of my conscience that was telling me to step up and get over myself (not nearly as nicely or politely though). 

After a few bracing deep breaths and gulps, I said yes, via email. I had a moment of panic after I hit the “Send” button, and for anyone wondering, there still doesn’t seem to be a way to retract emails that you send into cyberspace. Sigh. But I braved my second, third and fourth thoughts, put the date on the calendar, and promptly began to panic.

My books are NOT Oprah books. They’re not book club books. They don’t have questions in the back. They’re romances. I’m not knocking them—I think they’re quite good—but they definitely have their niche and I’ve never thought a book club was it. So what was I to talk about? My friend told me to just be myself, answer their questions and not to worry. Hah!

She lives in the back of beyond. There are no lights, but lots of bears. It was a great drive, because I had to focus on where I was going, rather than what I was going to say. And, guess what? Book clubs are AWESOME! The people were so friendly and curious about writing; they loved my book (yay!) and were kind enough to buy it (double yay!). They were interested in everything I had to say and kept my water glass filled. Their questions ranged from how and when I come up with titles (usually in the beginning, although sometimes they change part way through) to who I envision playing the lead if it became a movie (Jeff Kober). They laughed when I told them how I forgot to put any sex scenes in my current work-in-progress because I was too busy following a stupid outline I’d created, and I laughed as I listened to them go off on tangents about friends and events in their lives (don’t all book clubs do that?).

I left her house realizing that I could do this again and that it was fun. And with one piece of advice to give to anyone who might be thinking of doing the same thing—if you have a tendency to blush, don’t wear red!

The Shopping Nightmare 12/5/11

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I have two girls. When some people hear this (usually older men), they smile knowingly and express sympathy over the costs of paying for two weddings sometime in the future. Aside from being somewhat old-fashioned, and sexist, it’s mind-boggling. Not the idea of paying for two weddings, but the idea that a wedding is the first thing that comes to their minds.

While I wish great things for my daughters, I have no idea what they will decide to do with their futures, so, to be honest, weddings are some of the furthest things from my mind. I’d love to have my head filled with wedding fantasies, but the few times I do actually allow myself to think of them, I can’t get past the idea of shopping for gowns, shoes and accessories.

No, I’m not having a fantasy dream; more like a nightmare. The thought of shopping with either of them is enough to make me shake. The reality isn’t much better. The Princess has had definite ideas of what to buy since she was two. I still remember how she’d walk into the store, pull a set of bottoms from one display shelf, a set of tops from another, lay them out on the floor and declare, “I want this!” It didn’t matter if the colors didn’t match (they rarely did) or the patterns clashed (they usually did). If I was lucky, I could convince her to at least let me buy them in the correct size. She had very definite opinions and since I’d decided that clothes were a fairly harmless outlet for letting her have her own way, I usually went along with her choices. While the shopping was difficult, letting her choose most of her clothes made getting dressed in the morning easier.

Not so with Banana Girl. She was fairly reasonable in the stores. She knew what she wanted, but was more pliable. She’d try on anything I gave her, decide that she loved everything and looked beautiful in it all, and have no problem letting me buy what we needed. When we got home, though, well, that was another story. Suddenly, everything was itchy and necessitated my having to remove every label from every piece of clothing. The few items that weren’t itchy were ugly and she’d refuse to wear them. Unfortunately, she’d already removed the tags, making it very difficult to return them.

When they started school, I would take the two of them shopping together. We’d spend four or five hours at a time shopping for school clothes. We’d arrive with a plan of how to best make the most of our time and my money and leave exhausted. One child would start picking things out, the other would join in just because her sister was getting things, and I’d end up leaving with bags of clothes that would have to be returned and two tired and cranky kids. The salespeople would give me sympathetic looks and I’d want to scream.

So then I started shopping with the girls separately. I’m not sure this did anything other than doubling my work load. I still had to deal with one child’s definite opinions and the other’s desire to buy lots of stuff. I still spent hours in the stores, only this time, I got double takes from the salespeople, since I was often in the same stores twice. While the clothes were no longer pulled onto the floor, I still had to deal with dark stores, loud music and enough perfume sprayed in the stores to make me want to gag. I still had to ask Banana Girl four times if she was sure she’d actually wear the clothes she was asking me to buy, and then remove all tags and labels the second I got home.

The Princess is now old enough to begin shopping at the mall with her friends. While this gets me out of some of the shopping, I still have to go to the mall and pretend I’m not following her around (usually with Banana Girl in tow, which means I’m still shopping!) and then approve (or not) the clothes she ultimately buys. I’m not sure this solution is any better.

All I do know, is that by the time my daughters are old enough to get married, I sincerely hope their shopping habits have changed. Otherwise The Princess is going to be wearing a wedding dress from a Tim Burton movie and Banana Girl is going to scratch her way down the aisle.

Announcing My Giveaway Winner 11/28/11

This month's giveaway was about being thankful. Popular topic; look around any of the blogs, on Facebook or Twitter, and everyone was talking about what they were thankful for. Some people participated in a countdown of sorts--every day, listing something that made them thankful. Others simply used it as a status update on Thanksgiving.

Borrowing from a friend (thank you, Donna!), my family and I have a tradition at Thanksgiving. Everyone at the table is given a construction-paper feather. On one side we write our names; on the other, what we're thankful for. We collect all the feathers, read them and try to guess who is thankful for what. Some are easy (like my husband being thankful to my publisher for making my dreams come true). Some are funny (like my daughter giving thanks for not being a turkey). Afterwards, I paste them all on a paper turkey and save it. It's fun to look back on previous years to see what's changed and what's stayed the same.

All of my giveaway entrants had wonderful things to be thankful for--family, friends, CHOCOLATE! In order to be fair, I wrote everyone's name on slips of paper and had my daughter pick one randomly from a bowl. The winner, who receives a signed copy of my newest book, Skin Deep, is Kathryn Elliott. Although what people were thankful for did not influence the choice in any way, I wanted to reprint what she said she's thankful for--it's a lovely sentiment and one for which we should all give thanks:

Choices. That may seem an odd thing to be thankful for, but my life would not be the joy it is today without the privilege. I live in a country where I am free to choose my faith, who to marry, where to live, how many children to have and who to vote for. We take that for granted sometimes – Thanksgiving is a great time to remember.

One Lovely Blog Award 11/26/11

I'm delighted to accept this "One Lovely Blog Award" from Elizabeth Grace, She's a great writer, blogger and friend and I'm very appreciative.

Now, I'd like to pass it along!

<a href="">Jenn Duffy Pearson/Kathy Winans</a>
<a href="">The Giggling Truckers Wife/Kathy Thompson Combs</a>
<a href="">Casa del Hansen/Laura Hansen</a>

Their blogs are fun, sweet, well-written and so enjoyable, no matter how busy I am! Ladies, please stop by to pick up your award, and my readers, check them out!

Bait And Switch—AKA Leave My Apple Pie Alone 11/21/11

It’s almost Thanksgiving and that means cooking! But while most people assume I’m talking about turkey, I’m actually talking about dessert. And I have a unique challenge, albeit one that I face every year. I need to pick a dessert that everyone will LOVE. Do we have picky eaters? Nope. Do we have people who hate sweets? Absolutely not. Do we have a variety of tastes to accommodate? No. What do we have? My mom’s apple pie.

My mom’s apple pie is amazing. Outrageous. The most delicious thing ever. And I’m a chocolate lover. With the exception of this dish, if it’s not chocolate, well, why bother? What is the point of non-chocolate desserts? Okay, maybe they’re useful for those poor souls allergic to chocolate, but for the rest of the world, well, if you don’t like chocolate, you’re obviously on the wrong planet. ;)

So, knowing my feelings, can you now understand how wonderful this apple pie is? And she only makes it once a year. Once. As in for one day a year. The rest of the 364 days, nada. Thus, my unique challenge. I need to make the world’s best dessert so that everyone at my table will want to eat it and leave the apple pie to me (and my dad).

If you have a favorite dessert, I’d love to hear about it. And, don’t forget my giveaway. Tell me what you’re thankful for and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a free copy of my book, Skin Deep.

Happy Thanksgiving! And hands off my apple pie!

Vacation 11/14/11

As a kid, every September my teachers would ask us to write about what we did on our summer vacation. I’m sure at one time, they thought they were being creative; by the third or fourth September, however, we were pretty prepared for the request. I’d write about where I had gone with my family—visiting relatives, Disneyworld, weekend getaways, occasionally a “big” vacation. It was all about me. What I’d done, what I’d seen, how lucky I was (although at the time I doubt I realized it).

As a parent, vacations are about entertaining my own kids. Where can we take them, what can we do with them and will they enjoy it? Is there a chance we can add something in that we’ll enjoy? Visiting fun relatives, extended family trips to Disneyworld, weekend trips to amusement parks, last summer’s trip to Europe. Vacations involve advanced strategic planning similar to the Defense Department’s plans for mass invasion, explaining to the kids that there might be things they won’t enjoy and they’ll just have to deal, preparing the kids for new foods and sleep patterns. They’re the lucky ones, although they don’t always realize it.

As a wife, vacations are stolen moments with my husband, some planned, some not. A weekend away that occurs too infrequently; a breakfast “date” while the kids are in religious school (together!!!!); a day off from work where we spend too much time doing errands; the month during the summer while the kids are at sleep-away camp. Sometimes it’s a sudden double sleepover, when both kids are away for the night spontaneously. Usually, by that time, we’re too tired to do much more than smile at each other; certainly too tired to “get lucky.” :)

As me, my vacations are in my mind. They’re the places I drift off to when I’m not paying attention to what’s happening around me. They’re my dreams at night—the ones that I don’t want to awaken from, but reluctantly do. Often, they’re the worlds I create in the stories I write—an escape from reality for a little while. No laundry, no responsibilities and plenty of chocolate. But as the real world intrudes and the kids come home from school, and the phone rings, and the husband comes home and wants to discuss things with me, I look around at my family and realize how lucky I am. My life is not perfect, and I’d LOVE a vacation, but these are the people I want to come home to.

Don't forget--if you're interested in winning a free copy of my book, Skin Deep, tell me what you're thankful for. All respondents will be entered in a drawing. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30.

Friends 11/7/11

A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be.—Douglas Pagels

I’ve had a lot of really nice things happen in my life recently. I’ve sold a lot of books, I released a new one, I’ve celebrated milestones with wonderful friends and I’ve caught up with people who I see, but haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with due to other commitments. And all of those things have made me think about the friends I have in my life. It’s made me appreciate how wonderful they are to me, and to examine how much I give back to them.

I tend to be quiet and fairly introverted. I don’t talk about myself a lot, I rarely ask for help even when I need it and I really do enjoy spending time by myself. It’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I love to spend time with my friends, to laugh and joke around, and I truly enjoy listening to what others have to say and helping people work out problems. But when it comes to me, I tend to play things close to the vest. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, but I really need time to myself.

That need to be by myself makes it easy to lose touch with people. Luckily, social media like Facebook makes it easier to keep in touch. The contact might be superficial—there’s only so much you can say in a status update, but at least you can keep up with each other. And it’s a great venue to perfect one’s snark! :)

I hate the question, “How are you?” I never know what to say; consequently, my standard answer is “Fine” even when I’m not. Especially when I’m not. There are a few people that I will talk to, and I greatly appreciate their listening to me and their pursuit of me when I appear to have pulled away. I value their friendship most of all. They’re the ones who have figured out that “fine” doesn’t really mean “fine.” They’re the ones who offer support when I don’t even know I need it. And they’re the ones who can always cheer me up, just by being there. You know who you are; thank you.

That’s one of the reasons why marketing my books is so difficult for me. It requires me to get in people’s faces, to announce that I’ve done something, to step into the spotlight, when I’d rather stand back in the shadows. It’s a necessary evil, so I grit my teeth and do it. As a result, a whole lot of my friends know about my books. Some of them have even read them (gulp). And I have to say, their comments to me about my books mean more to me than those of strangers. Yes, I want to run the other way when they come up to me and say, “I just read your book,” but some of those same friends have made me so happy with just a few words. I’m not sure if they realize it, but “I read your book and loved it” or “I’m so proud of you,” even from people I would have just considered acquaintances, make all my angst worthwhile. So, to everyone who’s said anything at all to me about my books, ignore my red face and know that you have made me feel really good. Thank you!

This weekend, my family and I shared an important celebration with friends that we’ve known for almost 12 years. It was wonderful to share in their joy and to look back and remember all the times we’ve spent together, all the things we’ve done for each other. And as I looked around the room, I saw other friends who mean as much. We all stood there, celebrating together, helping to provide some of the joy and spirit for that day. And it made me excited for our turn, in a few months, when some of those same people will be there for me and my family, and will share the joy we feel and will help to make the day special. To my friends whose celebration was this weekend, thank you so much for inviting me (us). We loved being there. And to my friends who were there and will be at ours, I can’t wait to share the day with you.

Giveaway #2  11/3/11

To celebrate the release of my book, I’m offering another giveaway. In preparation for Thanksgiving and that wonderful (or dreaded) tradition of announcing what we’re thankful for, I want to know what YOU’RE thankful for! Tell me and you will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of my newest book, Skin Deep. There are many ways to enter:

1. Send me a comment via my website.
2. Comment on this blog post
3. “Like” my Facebook page and then write it on my wall.
4. “Follow” me on Twitter and tweet it to me @JWilck

Deadline to enter is November 25. Have fun!

Female Failing #1  10/24/11

I have a confession to make. I am a failure as a female. Nope, not contemplating a sex change and yup, stereotyping (and if you really needed that clarification, perhaps this blog isn’t for you). The failure I’m talking about is my ability to describe dresses.

See, last week I went dress shopping. I’m not going to describe the actual shopping experience. No, I’m talking about the after-shopping experience. The part when I’m super excited at finding something (actually, several somethings) and call people to tell them and then have to explain what I bought.

Now, if you’re my mom, mother-in-law or any other female related to me, you’re rolling your eyes right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Despite the fact that I’m a writer, despite the fact that I’m female, despite the fact that sometimes I’m even staring right at the damn dress, I can’t for the life of me describe it. I can handle the color and the type of fabric (usually) but beyond that, what comes out of my mouth has no relation whatsoever to the actual dress.

It’s not even that I don’t know the terms or the differences. I know the difference between an A-line and a pencil skirt, I know what ruching and gathering is. But when it comes to actually describing the dress, I’m hopeless.

So much so that when I try on the dress for people, people for whom I’ve previously described said dress, they stare at it open-mouthed. At first I thought it was because I looked stunning. Then I started thinking I looked horrible. Apparently, how I look has little to do with their opinion of how I look in the dress. Their resemblance to a guppy has more to do with the discrepancy between my description and the actual dress and is usually followed by a “Wow, that looks nothing like you’ve described.”

You’d think I’d learn, especially after the number of dresses I bring home—this last shopping trip resulted in the purchase of six dresses, knowing full well that four will be returned. You’d think my army of dress advisors would learn not to trust any description I offer—maybe they have; at this point, I’m just grateful they don’t refuse to help me.

You might think that, but you’d be wrong. After umpteen years of being unable to describe my dresses sufficiently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to have to resign myself to being a failure. It could be worse, I guess. At least I can wear them!

The Choice 10/17/11

So I’m going to start off this post by saying right away that there’s nothing wrong. I’m not ill, I’m not dying. I don’t want anyone thinking something is horribly wrong or wondering if I’m exaggerating things. Something isn’t and I’m not. But I do have a medical/health decision to make and quite frankly, my three choices suck.

Choice A involves minor surgery, which would make my surgery-happy doctor happy, but I’m hesitant to please someone and help their surgery stats when they call me a freak of nature. I’d rather he work on his bedside manner than dream of the medical journals in which he can be published.

Choice B involves doing nothing. Have I mentioned I’m not particularly patient? Should I wait for you to figure that out on your own or should I just tell you?

Choice C involves my becoming bionic. Partially. Think Lindsay Wagner, but without the sex symbol status.

This isn’t a new issue for me and I’m not surprised that I have to make a decision. I just had hoped not to have to actually make it. Certainly not at this age. Apparently, I’m a lot more vain than I thought I was. And I’d kind of hoped for other, more appealing choices. Like a magical solution to heredity.

But there isn’t. So I’m making my choice, reluctantly. And until it’s finalized and there’s no turning back, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Choice D—a solution involving chocolate!

Road Blocks 10/3/11

Trying to get anywhere in my town these days is impossible. The amount of construction being done ensures that I either sit in traffic for twenty minutes or have to drive twenty minutes out of my way in order to get somewhere that should only take five. Now, if you’ve read my previous GPS post, you’re probably assuming that the REAL thing preventing me from getting anywhere is my lack of directional sense, and okay, you may be partially right (but only partially).

Regardless of the cause, it takes me a lot longer to get anywhere and any traveling I do requires lots of advance planning. It reminds me of when my kids were infants and I had to make sure I never left the house without enough supplies for any emergency. I need to stop and think about everywhere I want to go, how I can best get there and how I can be most efficient in my traveling so that I don’t have to sit through the delays or drive through detours any longer than necessary. At least I don’t have to pack diapers!

While the process is tedious and frustrating, I’m starting to see some unexpected benefits. One, I’m discovering parts of my town, or surrounding towns, that I’ve never seen. The back roads are pretty and the houses are interesting. In a couple of weeks, the foliage will make driving a pleasure.

Two, I’m paying more attention to my surroundings. No, I don’t typically drive around in a fog, but I do tend to move on autopilot and with all the detours and cops, that’s just not possible now. I may even remember some of these alternate routes to use in the future (although I’m not holding my breath).

Three, I’m forced to slow down. While that’s probably the hardest thing for me to accept, not being able to zoom through my errands gives me more time to think and forces me to relax, something I rarely let myself do. I still have to schlep everywhere, but there’s nothing I can do about the length of time it takes me, so why bother stressing about it?

Four, now when I can’t get somewhere, I can blame it on construction, rather than my poor sense of direction! Yippee!

I Love You and You’re Perfect 9/26/11

So I’m writing this post about judgment (a prompt from the Facebook GBE 2: Blog On) the week of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Which might not be the best idea in the world, considering my Rabbi is going to be giving his best sermons this week and um, do I really want to compete with him? Nope, really don’t. But, the coincidence of the blog prompt and the holiday were too much for me to pass up. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been feeling guilty for not participating in the blog prompts for a very long time.

I’ve noticed lately that it has gotten much harder for me as a mom to offer my opinion about things. My kids are very savvy when it comes to what I say to them and most times, tell me, “Well of course you like it, you’re my mother.” I try to give my honest opinions about things, whether it’s how they look or what they wrote or what they did. I try to step away and look at things, not as their mother, but as an outside observer.

My kids’ first pediatrician gave me a great piece of advice when my oldest turned two and she was trying to guide me through the Terrible Twos (which, really, began before and lasted longer than two, but…). She said to take a step back and look at your child like an interesting scientific experiment. Pretend you’re observing their behavior, rather than suffering through it or fighting it. And while that does sound a bit cold, it was extremely helpful and made the tantrums bearable and sometimes downright funny.

As they’ve gotten older, though, that distance has become harder to achieve. Maybe I’m just more tired, or maybe they’re becoming better at discerning when my comments and my face disagree. I’m not the kind of mother to kvel over every little thing they do. Yes, I think they’re wonderful; yes, I think they’re amazing; but how many people are actually interested in my thoughts about my own children? So I tend to keep my bragging to a minimum.

But I feel more of an urgency to make sure that they know how special they are, how smart, beautiful and strong they are, how much they are trusted and loved. Because while I know I feel that way, and I’m sure I’ve shown that to them, I need to make sure they KNOW it. And so, sometimes when I compliment them, I overdo it, or I repeat myself too often. Then I get “that look.” You know, the eye roll coupled with the set of their shoulders that says, “Yeah, right.” And I know I’ve overdone it. But I hope they remember it. I hope when they’re frustrated at how “stupid” their mother is, or how annoying or whatever, that my overdoing it occasionally with them (for good or for bad) is memorable enough that it will stick in their heads. I need it to!

I need to make that when a “friend” tells them they look ugly, they have the confidence to know that a) they’re beautiful, and b) she’s not really their friend. I need to be sure that when their best friend gets a better grade than they do, they still know they’re smart and that they only need to compete with themselves, not everyone around them. I need them to know that no matter how uncomfortable they are, they can tell me anything. And if my overdoing it occasionally helps them to know that, then I’m thrilled.

GPS-God Please Save (Me) 9/19/11

I really, truly believe that GPS devices were made with me in mind. I think God looked at me, realized I hadn’t a prayer in the world of getting anywhere, ever, and enabled someone to come up with the idea so that one day, I’d be able to use them and actually get where I needed to go. And then, God laughed and made sure I’d never get anywhere.

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I have no sense of direction. It’s genetic. My one set of grandparents traveled through Europe relying on my grandmother’s sense of direction—whatever direction she said, my grandfather went the opposite way—and they never got lost once. My other grandmother drove into the El (elevated train) in NYC—not sure if that’s a reflection of her directional sense or her driving abilities, though. So really, I never had a chance.

This past weekend, my daughter and I had to drive from New Jersey to visit friends in Virginia and Maryland. So, I grabbed the GPS. To be on the safe side, I printed out directions from Googlemaps for each leg of our journey, including all the alternate routes, just in case those stupid solar flares acted up and the GPS loses its signal (AGAIN!). You’d think I’d be set. Well, actually, if you know me, you’d realize I wouldn’t be…and unfortunately, you’d be right.

We dropped off my younger daughter at her friend’s house, which is on the other side of our fairly large town, I turned on the GPS, and I followed the directions. This was after having reprogrammed the thing to get rid of the darn Darth Vader voice (which is deep and scary, has no street names, and frankly, fills me with guilt whenever I turn the wrong way and it demands, “Do NOT fail me again!”). Now, I’ve been to Maryland many, many times and I know you take the Turnpike South. But I’ve never been there from my friend’s house and by the time I realized it WASN’T taking me some back way to the Turnpike, it was too late to turn back. And it’s really hard to shuffle through loads of paper to figure out if I can use alternate directions while driving.

Two rush-hour-filled hours later, I was at the exit on Rt. 95 to my in-laws’ house, in Pennsylvania. I’ve never driven through Pennsylvania to get to Maryland before (much less, Virginia), but I’m using the GPS, it must know what it’s doing, even though when I drive to my in-laws’ without the GPS, it only takes me 1.25 hours. Then, it told me there was major traffic up ahead, so I pushed some magic buttons and told it to avoid the traffic.  Suddenly, the “highlighted route” that it commands me to take is looking like the spirals of a slinky and I find myself in Camden, NJ.

Now, Camden has the highest crime rate in the entire state and due to budget issues, the mayor just released 50% of its police force. I’m driving alone with my daughter without a clue where to go. There’s no way I’m stopping to ask for directions or even to try to figure out where I’m going. You’d think a GPS that “helpfully” offers to go into “Pedestrian Mode” when I’m caught in traffic and not moving fast enough would offer a “Woman Driving Alone Mode” and avoid areas such as this. But no.

FOUR hours later, I finally reach Delaware. You can drive through the entire state of New Jersey in two. But somehow, this wonderful GPS made it take FOUR hours. Ultimately, after driving more than six hours, I made it to Virginia. I made it through a variety of locations in Maryland the next day. And I even made it back home to New Jersey—ignoring the GPS. In four hours. Ha!

September 11 9/11/11

I don’t want to remember how scared I was. I don’t want to remember the smoking buildings I saw as I drove down the hill at 9:00 a.m., and the smoky space I saw as I drove back down the same hill at 11:30 a.m. I don’t want to remember the songs that played on the radio, or the list of names and ages that scrolled by on the bottom of the TV screen--the victims on the planes, in the buildings. I don’t want to remember being unable to look up at the sky at airplanes flying by and feeling the terror in the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to remember apologizing to my baby for bringing her into this horrible world one month earlier.

For the longest time I felt guilty for looking forward to that day, just like the terrorists had. Except that I looked forward to it because it was my daughter’s first day of preschool. I was launching her into the world, and they were intent on destroying it. But I don’t want to forget either. I don’t want to forget my pride in seeing our flag flying. I don’t want to forget the kindness of strangers and how we all pulled together. Friends who I hadn’t spoken to in years called just to make sure that I was okay. I don’t want to forget how the smallest things became acts of bravery. Just getting up and living another day was something to celebrate, to be proud of, to show that they couldn’t beat us completely.

And now, when I look at my daughter, on every first day of school, regardless of the actual date, I smile. Because they didn’t win. We did. I did. Yes, I looked forward to that day too, and I planned for it too. But I made sure that every day after it was worthy of her future. I showed her love and compassion and humor and how to be a good person. A strong person and an intelligent person. She lives, she thrives  and she is an example of everything we want our future to be.

And they are pitiful remnants of a broken, insane, twisted interpretation of reality. And they lost.

And for that, I’m thankful. When I think about it, I’m thankful for so much on this day. I’m thankful I changed jobs, or I would have been in those twin towers, and I wouldn’t be here today. I’m thankful my sister-in-law got home safely. I’m thankful my cousin’s nanny was late that day and he never left. I’m thankful I got to share my friend’s amazing smile for four years of high school. She was smart and witty and her smile could light up the world—it’s a little darker now, but her memory shines brightly.

I remember.

The Liebster Blog Award 9/9/11

The Liebster Award is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. It works on the principle of "paying it forward." Once you get it, you're supposed to pass it on to five others. Thanks to Daphne Steinberg for awarding it to me! It's great fun and she's a college friend of mine, so do it!

Anyway, now it's my turn. I belong to several writers groups on Facebook and they're filled with talented, funny, smart, though-provoking writers. Here are my five who I think are worthy of the award:

Kim Iverson (, Jo Heroux (, Julia Warrender (, Kathy Thompson Combs ( and Langley Watts Cornwell (

So check them out and enjoy!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year 9/5/11

Several years ago, Staples ran a commercial advertising their back-to-school supplies featuring a parent dancing with a shopping cart up and down the aisles, singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” With school starting in two days, I’ll admit I’ve had visions of that commercial flitting through my head and the song on the tip of my tongue for a while now. I actually have a friend who’s re-enacted that commercial with her kids; someday I want to go shopping with her!

Although stressful, the summer has been fun and I’ve enjoyed having the girls home. But now it’s time for them to get back to school. I need to get work done. Somehow, I lost the ability to do anything while the kids are around. Not sure why or how that happened, but I need my routine back so that the disaster zone transforms back into my house; my to-do list goes back to being just a list and not a living, breathing monster; and maybe, just maybe, I can get some writing done.

So it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I took the kids school supply shopping. Excitement because that means school is just about to start. Dread because I’m never able to do this just once. Last year I went to the store so often, the salespeople started calling me by name—if I still recognize them, do I have to put them on my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah list?

I suspect I sound a lot like my dad when I look at the list and reminisce back to the good old days when schools actually gave their students paper and pencils. But I also remember loving to go shopping after the first day of school and buying the new assignment pads, notebooks and lunch boxes.

We started off with supplies for middle school. The actual list of things she needs is fairly small. For the moment. Having done this last year, I’m no longer stupid enough to be deceived into thinking that the list actually lists what she needs. Nope. She’ll be adding to that list daily for the first three weeks of school. I can beg, plead and threaten, but there’s nothing I can do to change that. So instead, I’m going to use that energy planning disguises—the Bat Mitzvah guest list is long enough!

Then there are the cool locker “necessities.” And since her locker is bigger this year, she “needs” more of them. Shelving, a mirror, magnets, dry erase board. And yes, I fell for it all. But hey, I had this neat little card that the store convinced me to buy that would save me 15% on all school supplies through the middle of September. So we lugged the cart to the check-out line, waited, paid and carried everything to the car, where we transported it home to have it sit in the middle of the bedroom floor. Sigh.

With school only days away, we moved onto the elementary list. Which is much longer and was taken from a manufacturer’s supply list, so that everything was written backwards:  Notebook, wide-rule, 100 page. The hassle of trying to decipher the list was lifted by the pleasure of watching the youngest walk around the store sounding like Yoda as she read each item loudly (and made even more fun by seeing the embarrassment of the older one as she cringed and made sure no one she knew was watching).

She agonized over binder colors and folder patterns. She searched the store for YELLOW pencils, not orange. I followed, grumbling, and passing other equally bleary-eyed parents trailing their kids around. The customer service and the coupons and discount cards are great. They were very nice and saved me a ton of money and almost made me forget about how the huge taxes I pay for public schools should get me school supplies for free. However, if Staples was really smart, they’d offer sofas and snacks to the weary parents and a concierge service so the kids could get what they need while the parents could relax and dream about beautiful yellow buses arriving in two days…

Birthday Presents 8/15/11

Banana Girl’s birthday just passed. She spent months looking forward to it (longer if you include the countdown on her dry erase board). Determining who to celebrate it with, how to celebrate, designing the invitation, figuring out when to have me mail it (since she’d be away), keeping track of the RSVPs and even considering what to wear.

Then, of course, came the all important “schedule of events.” What to do when, how to do it, how long to do each thing, where everyone would be, who would sit next to whom. I think she has a future as a military strategist.

Within that schedule, was “opening presents”, or as I like to call it, “finding out who my friends are.” No, I don’t mean her friends, I mean mine! Because if you look at the gifts your child is given, you can immediately tell who likes you, the parent, and who is using the opportunity to get revenge.

One year, when my oldest turned one, a really good family friend gave her the Bumble Ball. It’s a ball with thick plastic spikes all over it. Very colorful and easy to grasp. Until you turn it on, at which point it rolls all over the floor, uncontrollably, making noise, frustrating the child and scaring the dog. The very good family friend didn’t have children yet. Three years later, they had twins. Hee hee hee.

Board games are safe and show that the giver appreciates family time and thinks you will too. Electronic games can be a lifesaver in helping the child to entertain him or herself, especially during long car rides or on days when things have to get done around the house. Books are great and help promote imagination. Gift cards are terrific, especially when the recipient is known to be particular (yeah, I have two of those!) and enjoyable for all. Parents who give your child those gifts like you. Or at least understand that we’re all in this together, so we might as well support each other.

Then we get to the tricky ones. Like clothes. If they are ordinary clothes, sure, the parents like you. They’re even helping you out by saving you hours in the clothing stores. Sequins and glitter—the parents are out to get you. You know all those art projects that come home covered in glitter? You know all the months spent vacuuming up that glitter? Try sticking that glitter in the washing machine.  Yup, those parents hate you.

Art projects are similar. I should know—my daughters love them. I do too. I like my kids to be creative and I want to foster that creativity. Within my very careful Type A-personality boundaries. Crayons, pencils, sewing, glue is fine. Certain kinds of paint are also fine. Those parents feel like I do. Glitter (see above), finger paint, tye dye, super small beads—what did I ever do to you?

The worst offender, which we are thankfully long past, is Polly Pockets. Polly Pockets are miniature Barbie-like dolls, with minute shoes, clothing and accessories made of rubber. Those parents have a deep-seated hatred of me. I think I must have knocked over their grandmother, smacked their dog and told them their child is ugly. Multiple times. Have you ever tried to put on a wet bathing suit without using your fingers or thumbs? Now you know what it’s like to dress these pint-sized demons, while your young child, whose manual dexterity has not yet reached the point where they can do this themselves, watches impatiently.

So the next time your child is invited to a birthday party, don’t worry about what the kid wants. Think about how much you like the parents and whether you have a need for revenge. Then go and have fun!

Bat Mitzvah Blues 8/9/11

I know I’m not the first person to go through this, but as the mother of a child preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, I really wish that instead of all the advice on how to plan the most amazing party, someone would come up with advice about how to make Bat Mitzvah studying slightly easier than disarming Iran.


All of my friends are probably nodding their heads and hiding their smiles as they remember what their kids went through. Yet I don’t recall any email forwards or suggestions or lists of ways to convince their child that complaining about studying only prolongs the agony. And trust me, I have a Bat Mitzvah email file filled with everything I have received and it’s not in there!

Not that I’m blaming them. I’m not. I’ve found that many of life’s milestones have hidden secrets that no one tells you about. Think about childbirth. Sure, there are tons of books and websites out there that take you step by step through the process, but even with all of the books and websites, there are still things people don’t tell you. Like how someone who was never seasick can no longer even look at a boat without turning green. I’m not going into details about body changes, because I know some of my readers and I’ll never be able to look them in the face again. But many of you know what I’m talking about, and if anyone had told us all the gory details, no one would have children ever again. And the well-meaning friends who do try to tell you things are hushed by everyone around them and labeled cruel, because who really wants to know EXACTLY what giving birth feels like?

So, jumping ahead 12.5 years, I’m in the same predicament again. And instead of blogs with pictures of events that look like a Hollywood movie premiere, complete with red carpet, limousines and jewels, I could really use a blog with studying tips. Instead of vendors who tell me why I need to spend thousands of dollars on a cake that people are going to look at for 10 minutes and then EAT, or on invitations that people are going to toss in the TRASH (recycle if I’m lucky), I’d love someone to tell me the best way to convince my child that having to study more than 10 minutes at a time will not kill her. Instead of a DJ offering naked dancers, how about one that provides catchy tunes to study to.

Seems to me the mothers and fathers should band together and pass along how they twisted their kids’ arms to do the work required. A book like that would be way more helpful than the “How to throw such an extravagant party that you’ll be paying it off long after your kid graduates from college” books!

Me VS. My Car 8/1/11

I had an “I am woman, hear me roar” moment the other day…sort of.  The tire pressure light in my car was lit. Car lights always freak me out. When I see them, they immediately get larger, turn brighter, flash and occasionally (in my head) add sirens, making me think that my car is going to explode any moment. No matter how many times my husband or the car people tell me the light is no big deal (and even, in some cases, turn it off), I am convinced that this time, they are wrong.

I’m pretty self-sufficient and pride myself on being able to do most things myself. Either that, or I’m too stupid to know when I need help—I’m going with the self-sufficient theory (and if you disagree, feel free NOT to comment).  However, when it comes to cars, I’m quite happy to leave them to those who know better.

My dad tried to help me out when I learned to drive. He opened the hood of my car and pointed out all kinds of things under there.  I nodded and mmm hmm’d in all the right pauses, but I have to confess, it all looked like a mess under there. I can pick out the battery as long as they NEVER change its shape. I  can usually find the wiper fluid, providing they don’t EVER change the blue color, and I can occasionally find the oil dipstick (no comment). But other than the battery, why am I messing with anything under there? There are people whose jobs are to take care of cars. They go through extensive training to learn exactly what all that stuff is under the hood. In fact, if I went to a car service station and asked for a job, even volunteered to work for free, they’d turn me away! So if THEY won’t let me near the insides of a car, why would I want to go there myself?

My dad also showed me how to change a tire. I admit I paid very close attention to this. I know how to change the tire. I just refuse to do it. Not being difficult, not trying to sound like a helpless girl. I’m simply afraid that if I mess up, the car is going to land on my head. Seriously. And I’m not willing to see if I’m right or not.

On a family road trip, he also showed me how to pump gas. Considering I live in New Jersey, where it’s ILLEGAL to pump your own gas, I’m not sure why he even bothered. Did he have some secret dream of turning me into a delinquent? Was he encouraging me to buck authority? Or maybe he just wanted me to move far away from him and thereby be able to pump my own gas? I’m not sure. Whatever his reasoning, yes, I know how to do it, and yes, I occasionally do it when out of state. But honestly, gas stations smell and are filthy. It’s not something I really want to do. And in this economy, why deprive someone else of a job?

However, the one thing I’m AMAZING at is tire pressure. The do-hicky gadgety thingy that checks the pressure? I have one of those. I even know how to use it. So when the light came on in my car, I swallowed my panic, found the do-hicky gadgety thingy, which was, by the way, a minor miracle given the state of my glove compartment, and checked all four tires. I then drove to the gas station, figured out how to use the air pressure nozzle and inflated my tires. I even figured out how to deflate the one tire that I inflated too much. The light went off and I drove home.

I am woman, hear me roar.

Blogfest 7/24/11

As one of the contributors to the Heroines With Hearts blog, I'm participating in our blogfest celebrating our first 100 followers. The topic? The first adult book we've read. No, not THAT kind of adult book. Adult book as in not a kid book.

Supposedly, this is a topic that's easy and fun for everyone. Well, yeah, but the topic is a lot harder for me than I first thought. I read a gazillion books. Seriously. Okay, maybe not quite that many, and admittedly less at the moment, but I've had my face buried in books since I was about five. And I moved on to older books when I was still pretty young. So, which do I choose?

Do I choose my favorite classic that I read when I was a preteen? That would be Jane Eyre. I loved the mystery, wounded hero and romance (surprise!). Do I choose the multitudes of Harlequins that I read in high school (probably no surprise either)?  Or what about the Maeve Binchy books my mom suggested (probably as an alternative to the Harlequins). Do I choose the Agatha Christie mysteries that I devoured? What about the English lit books I read in college (and actually enjoyed)?

I honestly have no idea which was my "first" adult book. But if forced to choose, and I suspect that my fellow HWH bloggers might be upset if I skirt this issue, I'm going to have to go with Jane Eyre. It's my all-time favorite book, the one I come back to over and over again, the one I list as my favorite when asked.

What was yours? You can comment below, even if you don't have your own blog. If you do, link to this one and put it in your own. You can also visit some of our blogfest participants by clicking on this link: <a href=""></a>.

Thanks for reading!

Midnight 7/18/11

As I get older, the meaning of midnight changes.

As a child, it was this magical time that I was never allowed to stay up to see. It had to be shimmery, spectacular and like nothing I could possibly imagine. Cinderella turned into a pumpkin; the twelve sisters turned into dancing princesses (or something like that); Father Time turned back into a baby (how creepy is that?); and good little girls were long asleep. If I was awake, I was sick or suffering from insomnia.

In college, midnight was just the time when all the action started. There had to be music blasting, lights flickering, voices laughing and calling. Frat parties swung into high gear; friends would decide where to go; studying in earnest would begin. No one slept unless they were sick.

As a young adult, midnight was relegated to weekends (preferably Fridays, due to more recovery time, but some Saturdays as well). Skies were starless, lights punched in the darkness by headlights, streetlights and apartment buildings. Hanging out with friends; laughing at the “old people” who headed home while we struggled to maintain the energy of our college years; returning from late night movies. During the week, it was spent worrying about work and being able to function productively the next day.

As a pregnant woman, midnight was one of the many times we got up to pee. Outside, most houses were dark, with only a random light shining here and there. Laughing about it with our new expectant mom friends; consoling our “morning sick” friends who started at feeling ill at that time; and munching crackers quietly in bed to stave off the actual morning sickness while trying not to awaken our husbands.

As a new mother, it was one of the many (many, many) times we rose to feed and change the wailing bundle of joy. Yawning as we struggled to see which side of the diaper was the front (never mind the outside); trying not to fall asleep while nursing; trying not to let the baby fall back asleep while nursing. If we slept past midnight, it was an accomplishment worthy of lengthy phone calls the next day to every person we knew.

And now? Now it’s a 25-pound rescue mutt from the shelter, whose completely uncreative name came from the two “bundles of joy” after a lengthy discussion of at least 32 others. Midnight was the only one upon which they could agree.  And as they roll on the floor laughing with the dog and begging to stay up until midnight, I look at the clock and count the hours until I can go to bed—way before midnight. 

The Art of Letter Writing 7/4/11

It’s July, and in our house, that means two things. One, the kids are away at camp. Two, the mail cannot come fast enough.

Camp is great, and after five years, I’ve finally relaxed enough to enjoy the time alone with my husband, without kids (as he says, welcome back to 1998), and to be confident that my kids are having a blast. And even though they might not always show up in all the pictures the camp posts on the website, they are not, as I originally feared, wandering around lost in the Poconos, trying to figure out how to get back home.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear from them, though. Often. I’m not alone in this desire, and the camp is quite aware that parents who don’t hear from their kids periodically get antsy. And when we get antsy, we call camp. And we’re annoying. So the camp ensures that the kids write at least 1 or 2 times per week by requiring them to show evidence of a letter in order to get into dinner.

I however, have taken that requirement even further. Even bribing them with food, I realize that writing letters is not a pleasurable experience for my kids. Who wants to write when they can play or hang out with their friends? So I’ve tried to make things as easy as possible for them.
To start with, my kids and I have a conversation about who they’re going to write to while away at camp. Once we know who is getting a letter, and how many letters they’re getting, I make up address labels. One set of labels with everyone’s names and addresses on them; one set (equal number) of my kids’ return addresses on them; and an equal number of peel-and-stick stamps. Even the envelopes are peel and stick. Couldn’t be easier. Hah!

The first year my oldest went to camp, I didn’t receive any letters for 5 days. When they finally arrived, my bald head and I took the stack of letters that did come, ran into the house (didn’t want all my neighbors to see all the hair I’d lost worrying) and opened them. And wished I didn’t. While the camp had obviously mailed letters in bulk, I received several letters complaining about camp, missing me and wishing to come home. I received a couple that sounded okay. Counting the letters, it was obvious that the Princess had written more than one per day to us. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Was she faced with so much time on her hands that she had nothing better to do than write to me? Was she so homesick that she skipped activities and spent the entire day writing? And were the good letters the first or the last she’d written? I poured over each word, looking for hidden clues to determine when each one was written so that I could try to figure out if things were getting better or worse. I called the camp, which assured me that she was fine, smiling, laughing and loving camp. Finally, after a week of this, I stopped opening letters until my husband got home and prescreened them. I read the good ones and skipped the bad ones.

The next year, my delighted-to-be-returning-to-camp daughter was given time and date instructions. Under penalty of not returning to camp, each letter was to have a time and a date on the top of the page. Don’t know what time it is? Look at a clock. Not sure what day it is? Ask someone. Now at least I could put the letters in order and know if she was enjoying herself more or less as the days and weeks went on. Great! Except that still didn’t stop her from complaining about things—homesickness, activities she didn’t like, kids she was angry at, etc. Or my favorite, “Mom, can you help me with my problem.” Uh, what problem is that? “Mom, why haven’t you fixed the problem yet?” Because I still don’t know what it is. By the time we used Houdini-like contortions to figure out what “the problem” was, she was due to return home in three days.

Now it’s the third year, and armed with labels and instructions about times and dates, she’s back at camp with another set of instructions: 1) all letters with complaints must mention at least an equal number of things that you enjoy (since she’s been raving about how wonderful camp was for the past 11 months) and 2) if you want me to do something, you have to give me details. In addition to these instructions, she’s accompanied by one additional thing. Her sister.

Her sister has the same kinds of address labels, as well as a sample envelope that instructs her where every label and stamp goes (just to be safe). She’s witnessed the issues I’ve had with the Princess, and Banana Girl is pretty confident about “The Rules of Letter Writing According to Mom.” Even still, we go over them (and over and over and over them). By the time we drop her off, she’s so sick of hearing those rules, she’s glad to get rid of us, and is one of the only kids not in tears as we pull away. Perfect. Or not.

The first group of letters we get from her, written several times each day, include a list of things she forgot. The first letter (timed and dated successfully) tells me what she forgot. The second letter, written later that afternoon, reminds me to send her the items she forgot. The third letter, written the following day, asks why I haven’t sent the items yet.

Apparently, I’d forgotten one key piece of information: handwritten letters, mailed in an actual post office, are not instantaneous!

So, as we enter July of the 5th year that a child of mine has been at camp, and I run to the mailbox each day looking for letters that realistically won’t start to arrive for another day or two, I’m anxiously awaiting news about camp activities, friends, counselors, etc. But I’m also curious to learn what I forgot to tell my kids about the art of letter writing!

Grandma Genes 6/27/11

This time of year always makes me cognizant of how fast time is passing. I watch my kids finish school and realize how quickly the year flew. I help prepare them for camp and wonder what new personality traits they’ll come home with after being away. I’m more interested in the things that can’t be measured—more mature senses of humor, behavior changes that signal they’re growing up, willingness to try things that were previously never dreamed of. They are more interested in the things that can be measured.

The Princess is gleeful because she’s almost taller than I am. Every day, she finds some excuse to measure herself against me or someone else in the family to see how she compares. I remember doing the same thing at her age, although my attempts to grow taller than either of my parents were unsuccessful. While I started out fairly tall, and was usually the tallest girl in my class, once I hit middle school, I stopped while everyone else soared above me. It seems I have been the recipient of the Short Grandma Genes. My grandmothers were maybe five feet tall. On a good day. While I’m taller than they ever were, even when they wore heels, I’m still rather short. I’ve been able to hide that fairly well with good posture—it’s amazing what fear of an alcoholic ballet teacher carrying a really big stick, or of falling off one’s horse, will do to get you to stand or sit up straight!

It used to be, when my kids were little, I could tell how tall they were growing by what things they bumped their heads on. “Oh, she’s never conked her head on the counter before, she must have grown!” There were probably more effective (and certainly less painful) ways of measuring them; however, it provided a reasonably accurate way of keeping track of how fast they were growing.

Now that the Princess is encroaching on my turf, she takes great joy in predicting how much taller she will be than I am when she finishes growing. She can’t wait to look down on me from her lofty height. I remember growing up and hearing stories of my grandmother, who, when my uncle passed her in height, would drag him over to the stairs to reprimand him. She’d climb up one, two or three steps and smack him. As a kid, I would laugh about it and look forward to the day when my mom would be shorter than I was. Obviously, that never happened. But now, I have to wonder. If my uncle was rebellious enough to do something that warranted getting a smack, why wasn’t he rebellious enough to refuse to go over to the stairs with her? It’s not like he didn’t know what was coming!

The Princess is also very excited that her feet are bigger than mine. I have to admit, I’m excited too. She hasn’t thought this one all the way through yet, but if her feet are bigger than mine, I no longer have to worry about her borrowing my shoes! Hmm, maybe there are advantages to being shorter than my children…

Countdown to Camp 6/21/11

It’s almost time for camp and I’m way behind! You’d think by now, the fifth year that a child of mine is going to sleep away camp, I’d have the process down to a science. Well, I do, except it’s kind of like making a to-do list: they’re only useful if you actually look at it (or in this case, follow it)!

Usually, I start making my camp list in April, right after Passover. Clean out the traif food and utensils, put out the Passover food and utensils, clean out the Passover food  and utensils and put out the camp stuff. It’s a system that has worked for me for years, so don’t ask me why I decided to procrastinate this year!

When packing for camp, I’ve always tried to get my kids involved in the process. It’s not that I’m trying to make my life more difficult (that seems to come naturally), it’s that for me, in the long run, it’s going to be easier (or at least, that’s what I tell myself). So, if the camp list says pack 10 shirts, I tell the girls to pick out 10 shirts and give them to me for the camp pile. If I picked them out myself, they’d just come along and change those 10 shirts four times anyway, so this way, they get to pick their clothes and my piles stay neat.

Yeah, right. See, we also have this rule: what goes in the camp pile, stays in the camp pile. Every year we discuss this rule. Ask my kids what the number one camp packing rule is and they’ll say it in unison. And every year, our conversation goes something like this:

Me: Pick out your camp clothes. And remember, once you give it to me, you don’t get it back until camp.
Children: Yeah mom, we KNOW! (insert appropriate eye roll here)
Banana Girl: Mom, where are my blue shorts?
Mom: In the camp pile. Wear your green ones.
Banana Girl: I don’t want to wear the green ones. I want the blue ones.
Mom: Sorry, they’re in the camp pile.
Banana Girl: Please can I just take it out of the camp pile and wear it once? You can wash it right afterwards.
Mom: Oh can I? No, sorry, nothing comes out of the camp pile. (because I just LOVE doing laundry)
The Princess: But mom!!! Why can’t we wear those clothes? We have nothing else to wear! (standing next to a dresser filled to bursting with all the other non-camp clothes)
Mom: I don’t care if you have to go to school naked, you’re not touching the clothes in the camp pile!

Like I said, we’ve been doing sleep away camp for a long time. I know what the kids needs. My kids know what they need. Yet this year, apparently, they decided to forget that. They are at camp for 4 weeks. Laundry gets done weekly. The camp list says pack 10-12 shirts. The Princess came to me with 24. 24! That doesn’t even include special shirts to wear on field trips or on Shabbat. Banana Girl came to me with layers. Layers? It’s going to be a gazillion degrees, you’re going to be running around in the heat, and there’s no air conditioning.

So after much head bashing (my own) and cajoling (also me!), we finally pared the shirts down to somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12. If you round up. A lot. But then, we had to address the Color War clothes.

Children: Mom, we need 5 shirts in each of the four colors.
The Princess: Oh, and mine need to be fitted.
Banana Girl: Mine have to be stylish.
Mom: But Color War only lasts for 4 days! And you’re only going to be 1 color! And you don’t even like the colors of Color War!

I’ve got 8 days and ¾ of the list left to pick out, label and pack. Who’s bright idea was this anyway???

Blogfest 6/18/11

Okay, here goes. I'm participating in my first blogfest and I hope you'll join me. What's a blogfest, you ask? Well, if I understand this correctly, it's where a bunch of different blogs participate in the same activity or topic. In this case, the blog that I write with four other amazing writers (Heroines With Hearts) is starting a blogfest to celebrate that we've reached 100 followers. To do that, on July 24-25 we are all posting the name of the first adult book (as opposed to children's book) we've ever read. 

Think Before You Speak 6/6/11

Okay, really need to be snarky now. Can’t control it any longer…I love running into people and hearing their reactions to what I’m doing with my life. The words that come out of peoples’ mouths never cease to amaze me.

For example, when I first got married, I attended a cousin’s bridal shower. The sister of my cousin’s fiancé (yes, can you tell that we were close?) came up to me and introduced herself to me. When I told her I was recently married, her first response was, “Oh, are you planning to have kids soon? Have you started trying yet?” Why yes I am, actually, I thought my husband and I would try tonight—would you like to watch? Seriously, I’ve never met you before; why do you think I’d discuss my sex life with you?

When we did have our first child, and my plan to return to work fizzled after my first visit to daycare (nothing wrong with the place, but my hormones wouldn’t let me do this), people who hadn’t met me would ask me what I did. I would reply that I stay home and take care of my daughter. “Oh, that must be so nice to have so much free time.” Have you ever taken care of a baby? How about a toddler? How about a baby and a toddler? Tell me, how much free time did YOU have?

Now let’s jump ahead to present day. I think my favorite response so far to finding out that I write, and that I write romance, has been, “Wow, I didn’t know you had it in you!” Followed by the close second, “What do YOU know about romance?”

Putting the “ouches” aside, I have a few questions of my own. Exactly what didn’t you know I had in me? You didn’t know I could write? We’ve been talking periodically for 15 years and you must have known that I’ve been writing for a good portion of that (even if you didn’t know about my creative writing, I’ve actually been able to con people into paying me for what I write for about 12 of those years). You didn’t know I could write romance? Well, let’s see. Most of the time I’ve been writing, I’ve written about subjects I’m completely unfamiliar with—the chemical makeup of soap and road lines, patent law, Jewish funerals. The cool thing about writing is that if the topic is unfamiliar, you can research it! While my books are NOT autobiographical (do I need to repeat that?), you’re actually insulting my husband if you think I’m unfamiliar with romance in some way, shape or form (and in this particular case, I can honestly say that the research could be quite fun ;)).  What do I know about romance? Really? I know enough to appreciate it and to know what I like. I may not be perfect, and my writing may not appeal to everyone, but I’m pretty confident that I can tell a good story to at least a few people.

The responses don’t offend me, but they do make me laugh. If I’m lucky, I can wait until I get away from the person before I burst out laughing. And I have a suggestion for anyone tempted to react before they think. Careful, or you might just find yourself the subject of what I write! :)

Author Giveaway 6/1/11

To celebrate the upcoming release of my book this month, AHeart of Little Faith, I'm offering a giveaway. Here's how you enter:
1)        Comment on this or any of my blog posts this month.
2)        Provide me with your name, address, birth date and email. Tell me your favorite thing to do in the summer.
3)        All information will be collected throughout the month of June.
4)        One will be randomly selected on June 30.
5)        The winner will receive a free copy of A Heart of Little Faith (paperback) and a $10 Amazon gift card.

Remember Our Soldiers 5/30/11

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Know a soldier? Thank them for their service and talk to them (if they’re willing) about their experiences—I know some of my dad’s are hilarious (especially if you know him). Know of a soldier who died? Call their family, offer companionship, visit the grave if you’re so inclined.

Most of all, appreciate the sacrifices they’ve made for us and our country. Be patriotic, if only for a day (but hopefully longer). Read the news—check out the changes occurring in countries around the world and appreciate the freedom we have. Check out the changes occurring in our country and be a part of it.

Read a book or watch a movie, like Band of Brothers. Find songs by your favorite artists honoring our soldiers. Out driving? Check out how many roads and bridges and towns and monuments are named for soldiers who have fought for our country.

Remember our soldiers. And dad, I’ll burn some cookies for you! :)

Chocolate 5/23/11

My day was just made by the most ridiculous thing—free chocolate. Specifically, free Godiva chocolate.

It all started with a dress (and yes, I’m going to tell my story the way my husband hates, all the way from the very unrelated, but necessary, beginning—honey, feel free to skip ahead to the *). We were going to a gala and I needed a cocktail dress. I have lots of long dresses, but nothing that would fit this occasion. So, I went dress shopping.

Now, despite the fact that stores never have what I need when I need them and that dressing room lighting was created by some misogynistic person whose goal in life is to give women eating disorders, I actually found dresses. Yes, dresses. Three of them. Twice. Because of course, my husband hated the first group of dresses that I brought home. And since I was already making him get dressed up in a suit and tie, the least I could do was wear something that he might like (I’d suggest he comment about how beautiful I looked, but he’s probably skipped this whole section). But after two amazingly lucky dress-shopping experiences, my husband and I actually agreed on a dress.

Unfortunately, that left me with five others that had to be returned. To the mall. In the rain. Because, in New Jersey, it’s been raining for weeks. Seriously, today I woke up and really thought for a moment that I had been transported to Seattle. Sigh. But, I needed to return the dresses and pick up a gift for a teacher.

*And that’s when I discovered the free chocolate! Godiva has the frequent chocolate program (seriously, how cool is that!!!). Give them your phone number and email address and you can stop in and get a free piece of chocolate every month. You don’t even have to buy anything! And, for signing up, I got an extra free piece of chocolate. Both truffles, one peach, one double dark, both super yummy.

Maybe next month, when I stop in to get my free piece of chocolate, it won't even be raining...

Perfect Days 5/9/11

I’m kind of in a “love everybody” kind of mood today (so if you’re reading this hoping for snark, check back another time). After a really tough week, I got to spend the weekend with some of my favorite people, both friends and family. We celebrated my friends’ son’s Bar Mitzvah and I got a taste of the pride I’ll feel at my own child’s nine months from now. My children feted me for Mother’s Day and their handmade gifts are better than anything they could ever buy me (and Banana Girl’s card was hilarious!). My husband didn’t complain once about all the stuff he had to do (twice as much, stuffed into one day) and still offered to help out and let me relax. And my family celebrated with us and we all got a chance to hang out and talk and laugh together. It was exactly what I needed, and the best part was, I didn’t even know I needed it! I love when that happens.

He’s Dead 5/2/11

For years I thought I’d rejoice when I heard the news Osama Bin Laden was dead.  He was this generation’s personification of evil, the boogey man and the devil, rolled into one. He made it okay to show hatred for someone. He was the mastermind behind one of the worst attacks on American civilians and he taught his followers that human life was worth nothing. He justified killing in the name of God, when no God would condone those actions.

But as much as I know I should be glad, the only emotion I feel is sadness. Not for him. Never for him. I feel sadness for the way of life he destroyed, for the fact that he’s made it okay to hate, for never being able to look at a plane in the air in the same way again. I looked forward to that September 11 because it was the first day of school ever for my preschool daughter; he looked forward to it for a horrible, inconceivable reason. First days of school are forever changed for me. I mourn; not him, but my friend who died that day; for the thousands of others who died with her.

He’s responsible for all of that. But every time I think to rejoice, I picture the Anti-American crowds that day ten years ago, shouting, “Death to America,” and burning our flag. I can’t be one of them, and rejoicing makes me feel like I am. I’m proud of our citizens, who gathered in front of the White House and in New York and sang the national anthem and shouted, “USA!” They had a choice, and they chose wisely. I can’t join them, but they make me proud.

His hatred fueled the world. May his death change it.

Freedom 4/25/11

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom this past week. It should be because of the time of year –Passover, freeing of the slaves, what that means, etc. But, I’ll admit, my thoughts of freedom have been a lot less lofty. They’ve been running more toward freedom from all the cooking and cleaning I’ve had to do for the holiday. I feel like I’ve jumped back into the 1800’s—prepare breakfast and start figuring out what to make for lunch; prepare lunch and then move on immediately to getting dinner ready. With a whole lot less cookware that I can use for Passover, I’m constantly cleaning and reusing the same things over again.

I’ve got a freedom fantasy that I retreat to when I’ve had enough. My fantasy is to disappear somewhere like Wyoming—lots of land and animals, few people and in my head, few responsibilities. I know that’s completely unrealistic—fewer people probably mean more responsibility and my vision of Wyoming is probably nowhere close to reality. Not to mention the fact that the first thing I’d do when I got there was call home and complain how much I missed everyone! And then think about how much more fun I’d be having if I had my family with me.

My kids have their own ideas of freedom. Banana Girl is a big proponent of freedom of speech. Of course, she thinks freedom of speech means you can say anything; she’s less aware of the responsibility that comes with freedom. “I have freedom of speech! You can’t tell me to be quiet!” And the Princess, well, I think she’d like freedom from all of us—freedom from being bugged, from being told what to do.  I think my husband’s freedom fantasy is similar to mine, although I doubt it involves Wyoming. His probably involves a room with a big TV, Star Wars, and freedom from anyone whining, arguing or telling him what to do.

Whatever your freedom fantasy is, I hope you get it. Now, back to the kitchen...

New Opportunities 4/11/11

It’s been a weekend of opportunities.

I started this blog to force me to write. Sometimes that’s hard because I don’t always have a topic that interests me, much less one that I think will interest others.

When my book was accepted, my blog also became a way to help market myself. I’m horrible at promoting myself—I hate being in the spotlight or having attention drawn to me (just the thought of having to be introduced at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah months from now brings me to tears). Luckily, I’ve run into a variety of people who understand my problem and face similar ones themselves.

Through a variety of online groups, I’ve met published and soon-to-be published authors who help each other get the word out about themselves and their books. One of the ways this is done is with a blog tour. It’s like traveling to different places for interviews without actually leaving the comfort of your own computer. Which is great for someone like me who prefers to fly under the radar.

So I started putting feelers out to different people whose blogs and websites featured interviews with other writers. I have to say that everyone I’ve “met” so far has been so friendly and welcoming. It’s nice meeting other people in similar circumstances. Before I knew it, I had several interviews set up on other people’s websites. That opens me up to all of their readers and followers in a non-intimidating way. I answer their questions or write an article of their choosing and then answer whatever comments that their readers give.

It also allows me the chance to reciprocate occasionally. I love being able to ask people questions about how or why they write what they do. I love finding out about their writing life and learning about what makes them tick. It also gives me a break from talking about myself! :)

An unexpected opportunity which arose from this, however, was the chance to join a group of women on their regular blog. Starting next week, I’ll be the Tuesday contributor on Heroines with Hearts. I was a guest blogger there in February, and when one of their regular contributors dropped out, they offered me the chance to take over.

I’ll admit it’s pretty daunting. It’s hard enough finding time to write one blog a week, much less two. And, will I be able to write about their topics? I sure hope so. It’s also exciting, though, and after a lot of thought, I’m really looking forward to it.

So, next week, check out this blog for my first guest, Bethann Buehler (my regular postings will continue the following week). And starting next Tuesday, also look for me here. I hope you like it!

Pollyanna VS The Cynic 3/28/11

How do you judge someone? I’m not talking about superficial ways, like by what someone wears, or how someone looks. I hope we’re better than that at this age. What we see on the outside is not what forms the person on the inside. We all know that. We’re told to dig deeper, to look at the whole person, at what they’ve done, how they act, whether they do what they say.

But what happens if that person makes a mistake? What if they’ve done something wrong, really wrong. Do we let that one mistake color our judgment of them? I’m incredibly hard on myself and more willing to forgive others (mostly) than myself. Remember that one time a long time ago when you and I were together and I said that really stupid thing? You don’t remember? I do! And I’m still embarrassed about it.

There are some mistakes that can be overlooked, easily wiped away. Others are more difficult to ignore. Each of our thresholds for determining how bad a mistake is may be different. Our moral code is subjective and our ability to forgive is unique.

But what if we have to make a decision about whether or not to trust another person? Usually, we ask ourselves or others how well we or they know that person. We use our knowledge of that person to determine if they are trustworthy. We weigh the good things they’ve done versus the bad things they’ve done.

If we only know about one bad thing, is it fair to let that one mistake color our judgment of them? One mistake doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. If we only know about one good thing, is it naïve to say they’re a good person?

Then how do you decide?

What is Normal 3/17/11

I was talking to a friend the other day and she said she’s looking forward to life returning to normal.

My older daughter just came back from a weekend away with a bunch of middle school kids her age and I was a little disturbed that the conversations they were having are considered normal.

My younger daughter did not enjoy the behaviors of a classmate, which were different from what she was expecting.

Three very different scenarios, with one thing that unites them. Our perception of “normal.”

According to Webster’s, normal means conforming, adhering to, or constituting a typical or usual standard, pattern, level or type.

Huh. Well, personally, I don’t think that exists, and trying to conform to normal, whether it is dress, activity, or whatever, creates even more stress than we already face on any given day.

Normal is a boring, plain box, too small for all of us to fit in and too big for us to be able to see out of when we’re in it. We can’t appreciate our unique qualities, or others’. We sit and let things happen, rather than try to change it. We worry about how “they” will judge us (Have you ever met “they”? Because, really, I’d like someone to introduce me to them.). We spend so much time trying to make everything normal, that we forget to look around and laugh at the wackiness occurring right in front of us.

Now, I’m not knocking my friend. I understand what my friend is looking for and sympathize with her. I, too, like some semblance of routine to my days. It makes life easier and more manageable.

I’m not criticizing my children. I need to lighten up as my children grow up and I need to understand that my so-called wisdom when it comes to handling things comes from years of experience as a grownup. They’ve got many years to go before they get there, and their wisdom will, hopefully, be very different from mine.

But I do think we could all (me included) benefit from stepping back, taking a deep breath, and being gentle with ourselves and with others. Everyone’s “normal” is different, and until we accept that, we’ll never achieve it.

Worms! 3/7/11

I saw worms today! They were awesome! For those who know me and are scratching their heads, no, I have not lost my mind.

I don’t like to complain about the weather. To me, complaining that it’s cold in the winter or hot in the summer is like saying that water is wet. Duh! That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Now, if it started snowing in July, or reached 90 in January, that’s a different story. But typical weather in a typical month or season is not a reason for me to complain.

That being said, this winter has been filled with more snow than any I can remember. You know we’ve had too much when my kids groan at the thought of another snow day and the snow remains pristine for days after a snow storm. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to see the ground until June.

So, I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was to see worms on the driveway! They’re ugly and squiggly and squishy and, while I know they’re not bugs, I like them about as much as I like bugs, which is to say, not at all. But their appearance means that the ground has thawed enough to let them crawl out of it. The snow has melted (well, not all of it, but like I said, I doubt that will happen until June) and I think spring might actually come sometime soon!

Of course, with spring will come bugs and rain and mud and wind and probably another snow storm and changeable weather, but you won’t hear me complain. It’s spring (almost)—that’s what’s supposed to happen.

Embarrassing Dilemma 2/28/11

I gave birth to both of my children in a big hospital. Given my own preference, however, I would have given birth alone, hidden in a closet somewhere, only to re-emerge when the deed was done. Birth, no matter how beautiful and miraculous, is undignified and messy and I really don’t want people hearing me scream. My husband, practicality, and my overwhelming desire for those magical drugs, won out. Now, the hospital, despite my best efforts, won’t let you give birth alone in a room (apparently they’re immune to the irrational requests of women in labor). And they certainly won’t give you those magical drugs without a doctor. And that doctor needs a nurse to assist, even if all she does is jump on your stomach in the hopes that the recalcitrant baby will somehow pop out—said recalcitrant baby has grown into a just-as-recalcitrant child. And the husband who got me into this mess in the first place had to be there too. So, while I was happy afterwards to have shared this amazing moment with him, honestly, there were three people too many in that room with me.

In case you can’t tell, I like my privacy. I don’t like talking about myself and I especially don’t like showing people what I’ve done, made or written. This wasn’t a big deal when all I was doing was writing because it gave me something to do, was fun, and was purely for my own entertainment. But now that other people will potentially read what I’ve written, I am potentially facing my most embarrassing moment ever.

This is not a complaint. I’m excited that I’ll be published soon and never would have submitted anything if I didn’t want someone to read it. I’m just not sure I want to know that someone is reading it, or what they think about it. Cowardly, I admit, but I write because it’s something I enjoy doing. If I worry about what other people think, it takes away my enjoyment of it. If I write based on what others like, I’m not doing it for myself. Writing is the one place I can be selfish—I can write what makes me happy, what I like, for my own reasons—and not have that selfishness harm anyone else.

But, I’m lucky enough to have gotten a contract, and as my release date draws near and I have to think about marketing my book and myself, I have to find a way to get over my embarrassment.

I’ve heard Lady Gaga started out as an incredibly shy person. Maybe I can borrow her meat dress…

The Mean Moms Club 2/15/11

A letter to my daughters:

Dear Princess and Banana Girl,

When you were born, I looked at you and told you I loved you. I couldn’t wait for you to be able to tell me those words too. I thought that hearing those words would be the most wonderful thing ever. And when you said them for the first time, my heart melted. But I failed to realize that there are five other words that are just as good, if not better. They are, “Mommy, you are so mean!”

I had to wait longer to hear them, but now that I hear them almost all the time, I want to thank you. You might think I’m joking, but truly, I’m not. It means I’m finally in the Mean Mom Club and it’s one of the best compliments you could give me. I’m not sure why Hallmark hasn’t come out with a line of Mean Mom cards—they’re missing out on a tremendous business opportunity.

I’m proud to be a member of the Mean Mom Club. It means I’m doing my job. I know you won’t understand it now, but someday, you will.

Someday, you’ll remember all the times I said no and know I loved you.

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you do your homework before watching TV or playing with your friends, and know that I helped you develop into the amazingly intelligent person I know you will become.

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you go to bed on time, even on the weekends (gasp), and know I was looking out for your health (trust me, when your children are cranky after staying up late, you’ll REALLY appreciate this one).

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you do long division by hand (NOT with a calculator), and thank me for saving you the embarrassment of turning into an adult who can’t divide a check among her friends.

Someday, you’ll remember how I kept track of your emails, texts and Facebook posts, and know that I kept you safe.

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you take a shower EVERY DAY and know that I saved you from embarrassment.

Someday, you’ll remember how I wouldn’t let you go to unchaperoned parties (hasn’t happened yet, but it’s something else for you to look forward to) and you’ll know that I was looking out for you.

Someday, you’ll remember how I couldn’t have cared less that EVERYONE was doing something and appreciate your own individuality.

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you eat all the food you didn’t want to eat, and appreciate your diverse palate.

Someday, you’ll remember how I made you apologize (repeatedly) until it sounded like you meant it, and know that I helped you take responsibility for your actions.

Someday, you’ll remember how I insisted that we hug each other, even when you were too embarrassed to be near me, and know that I loved you.

Someday, you’ll realize that having a mean mom means having a mom who loves you.


Mom, president, Mean Moms Club

Hurry Up and Wait 1/28/11

 I have the patience of a flea. On a good day. Ask anyone who is supposed to meet my deadlines and inevitably fails. Ask my children or my husband who have to live with me. Ask my friends who put up with my rapidly fired questions when I don’t understand something and I want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing, right now. So, to them, and anyone else who gets between me and my goals, I’m sorry.

 While it probably won’t make anyone else feel any better, I will admit to being equally hard, if not harder, on myself. My to-do list is long. It’s probably made longer, however, by all the extra things I put on it. Things that probably don’t have to be done right now, but should be. Things that I owe to other people. Things that I’m working on ahead of time so that I don’t stress about them later. My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is just about a year away, yet the things on my immediate list don’t need to be done for another six months. Why am I bothering to give myself all this extra work? Two reasons. Number one, along with a lack of patience comes a whole lot of stress. I stress over everything, and then stress if I’m not stressing about something. By doing things early, I can control that stress and stop what I’m doing if I become overwhelmed. My goal is to be the calmest Bat Mitzvah mother ever. Husband and children laughed, but I'm determined to prove them wrong. Number two, an added benefit which I didn’t realize at the time, is the ability to get 2010 recession prices for a 2012 event. It’s kind of nice to come in consistently under budget! :) 

But I will admit that at some point, I’m going to have to learn at least a little patience. I’ve got a book coming out in June; another one in November. I signed the contracts this past September and October. The deadlines for signing those contracts were seven days. I met them. And then had to sit back and wait. The publishers contacted me with more information in December. I filled out the forms right away. And then had to sit back and wait. Supposedly I won’t hear about edits, cover art, etc., until three months prior to my release dates. This is not something I can do on my own time. I can’t set my own timetable or deadlines. I have to follow someone else’s. The deadlines won’t be the problem; the wait time until the deadlines might be.

 As I see it, I have two choices. I can learn patience or I can bug everyone else. Here goes!

A Boy and A Girl 1/10/11

This was the story of a little boy, born 22 years ago. He probably had parents, played with fire trucks and smiled at least once.

This was the story of a little girl, born 9 years ago. She had parents and a brother, liked animals, dance and gymnastics. She was happy.

This was the story of that same young man, who somewhere along the way got lost. His mind became cloudy with drugs, his ears filled with the hateful rhetoric of a few, loud people. He threatened, mumbled, scared people.

Maybe people tried to help him. Or maybe they did nothing.

This was the story of that same young girl, who was elected to her elementary student government. She wanted to meet a Congresswoman.

People encouraged her.

This could have been the story of that young man: he could have gotten an education. He could have made his voice heard, with rational debate, persuasive argument and people to help him.

He could have changed the world.

This could have been the story of that young girl: she could have grown up. She could have made her voice heard, with rational debate, persuasive argument and people to help her.

She could have changed the world.

Both of their lives have ended with the same set of bullets.

Silence 1/4/11

I’m not making New Year’s resolutions this year. It’s not that I don’t believe in them; I do. I believe in resolving to be a better person; to change things that are wrong; to fix what is broken. But I don’t believe resolutions are possible simply by declaration. I’m going to be a better person and *poof* I’m a better person. Declaring it, writing it, speaking it, doesn’t make it so; it just makes noise and creates an empty echo.

Sometimes it’s the silence that most powerful, such as the silence before a storm, when the atmosphere is heavy with unfallen rain. The angry words I don’t speak. The ten beats I count, and then the twenty more, before I react to someone. The time it takes me to reframe what I see or hear, and think, “What if?”

Words are easy. Snarky, obnoxious, rude, overbearing words. The ones with double meanings; the ones with hidden meanings. But taking the time to listen to the silence, to the words I might speak or want to speak, is hard. It’s easy to say “sorry,” “love ya,” “whatever.” It’s harder to recognize why I'm saying those things and what those words mean.

So I’m going to speak less and listen more. And maybe in my silence, I’ll find a way to keep my resolutions.

Crazy For Brick And Mortar 12/20/10

I love old buildings. There’s something about the idea that they’ve stood where they are for hundreds of years, been inhabited by people long dead, withstood a changing world, that speaks to me. I’ve always loved touring old houses and imagining the families who lived there. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my husband and I drove through the old Greystone Park and I was fascinated by the abandoned hospital buildings.

We were searching for a newly built dog park that we’d read about and wanted to try with our dog. We drove through the grounds, but couldn’t find the park. We did find the old psychiatric buildings, built in the 1800s. In the past few years, they’ve been boarded up, the patients transferred to the newer, more secure, building nearby. If you watch the TV show, House, this is the hospital whose outside façade was used for Gregory House’s commitment.

The Victorian-style architecture rises up above the trees; the boarded up or broken windows and doors are foreboding. When the skies are grey and crows fly through the trees, it looks like it stepped off the pages of an Edward Allan Poe story. As I stared at the buildings then, and when I returned to photograph them, I could practically hear the patients screaming (okay, my imagination may be a little overdramatic here). Ever since I was a very little girl, psychiatric hospitals have scared me. I want nothing to do with them. But these old buildings are different. I love the lines of the building, the large stones and tall windows. I’m also intrigued by the parallel between these empty, abandoned buildings and the empty minds of the lost souls who were committed here. I’d rather not spend too much time imagining what the lives of the patients were like, but the buildings intrigue me.

The modern hospital across the street may be more patient-friendly, have more amenities and state-of-the-art medical treatment, and certainly meets all the modern codes, but I doubt that hundreds of years from now, it will speak to anyone.

Star Wars = Girl Power 12/9/10

My husband loves Star Wars. He’s got the movies, books, random paraphernalia and has hooked our daughters on it as well. Usually, I just smile and roll my eyes; occasionally, I make fun of him for it (I’m sorry!). I’ve always looked upon his fascination with it as a leftover remnant of his childhood. However, an article on the CNN website <a href=""></a> made me realize that I’ve been blind to a very important positive message—one of many—that it conveys.

That message is the power of being unique and celebrating differences. Too often, my children come home and bemoan the fact that they can’t be exactly like “everybody else” at school. We sit and we talk and ultimately, we make them understand that different is good. They are bombarded by images of conformity everywhere—on TV, at the mall, in movies. Yet Star Wars, which my husband talks about, cheers for and quotes, celebrates individuality. My children like it and one of their favorite things to do is to watch it with their dad.

After reading the article, learning about Katie, and the response she’s gotten from fans, schools, friends and strangers, I realize that as the parent of two girls, I should be encouraging their love of Star Wars. I also need to point out how lucky they are to have a father who not only loves Star Wars, but who can share its very important messages with them, including how wonderful and powerful it is to be unique. I should probably stop making fun of him too (sigh).

Jumping Off The Bandwagon 11/22/10

I make a lot of mistakes, but if there is one thing I’m proud of, it’s not following the crowd. I don’t listen to other people’s advice about school and my kids. In fact, I’ve found that I do a much better job of raising my kids when I ignore what other people say. This teacher is great? Okay, we’ll see. That teacher is horrible? Okay, we’ll see. This grade is impossibly hard? Okay, we’ll see. I’ve found that usually, the people who are the first to offer me unsolicited advice are usually the ones who are completely wrong. The bad teachers are good, the good not so impressive, and the grade remarkably doable.

I’ve never been comfortable following the crowd. I can’t pull off the “in” look; I don’t fit in with the “in” people. I’m much more comfortable being me and surrounding myself with people who appreciate me for who I am, and who have their own unique qualities that I love and appreciate just as much. So it dismays me when I see people taking serious issues and suddenly making them “popular”—not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will somehow benefit them, either by making them look cool or popular. Take, for example, the political outcry surrounding the Tyler Clementi bullying case. It was a horrible thing that happened, people should definitely do something about it and I support anything that will help stop bullying and keep our kids safe. But people should have been working just as hard to stop bullying before this teenager killed himself, not only after it happened. The politicians who have made it their cause give me the impression that they are championing it because it will win them votes from both sides of the aisle—who’s NOT going to back an anti-bullying law? Bullying has been around forever. What did the politicians do about it before and how many of them will continue to involve themselves in the issue after the bill is signed? Will they work to actually stop kids from being bullied, or will they move onto the next hot-button issue and forget all about it? How will that honor Tyler’s name?

Social media does much to increase awareness of things, but it also turns everything into a popularity contest. How many of us “like” a cause because all of our friends do? During the week prior to Thanksgiving, everyone starts listing things they’re thankful for in their status updates. Well, that’s great. Being thankful is important. Buy why is it only “popular” to do so then? What about the rest of the year? Are we simply not thankful, or too embarrassed to say we are? It’s easy to do so when all of our “friends” are; less so during the rest of the year. Does declaring it publically to 547 friends make us more thankful than those who truly feel it, but keep it to themselves (or only tell a few people in private)?

I’m tired of being told to support causes, declare my love for my child, or be thankful because everyone else is doing it. I’d much rather support a cause because I feel it’s important; declare my love for my child with an actual hug (rather than a virtual one); and tell the people I love why exactly I am thankful for them individually. Public support of causes can be a great thing, but only when done for the right reason.

Old Friends 11/10/10

 You know those people in our lives whose friendship was vitally important at one point, but who, along the way, got dropped? We all have them. I have a few. I don’t know if that makes me a shallow person or just perfectly normal. But one of them, a girl whose friendship meant everything to me in high school, college and even afterwards, decided around the time I had kids that we no longer had anything in common and stopped being my friend. If the truth be told, we never had much in common—she came from a dysfunctional family, went to a local college that was way below her intelligence level, had sex with a variety of guys to make herself feel better, married an uneducated guy who was ashamed of his heritage, and can’t have children because of a medical condition. My family life was stable, I went away to a school that was challenging, married a guy I met there and learned to be proud of my own heritage in part because of him. She was the nicest, friendliest person in the world, but also the most mixed up. I used her as my mental gage. Not that I used her only for that, but when I started relating too much to her mental state of mind, I knew it was time to get help. Otherwise, we were best friends. We supported each other, told each other our hopes, dreams and secrets, and genuinely liked each other. I suspect she stopped being my friend out of disappointment with her own inability to have kids. I can’t even begin to understand how painful that must have been for her. I wish she’d discussed it with me, like we discussed all her problems and mine too. But she didn’t. She pulled away, and then refused my overtures. It’s always bothered me. So a few weeks ago, I did something about it. I wrote her a letter and dropped it off in her parents’ mailbox. I know she used to live there. I don’t know if she still does, but I think so. I hope she gets it. I hope she really gets it. I hope she gets in touch with me and that we can at least talk once more. I doubt we’ll be able to go back to being friends—I’m not even sure I want to at this point. But there’s something missing when you lose contact with your best friend, and I’m hoping to get it back.

Living In The Moment 10/26/10

I’m feeling reflective today after learning that a local child’s parent died.  If it happened to my family, what would my children remember? Would they remember how much I love them? The feel of my hugs, the sounds of our laughter, the little details that I try to add to things? Would they remember how many times I said no, when I was cranky?

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain the family is going through—wife without her husband, children without their father, best friend without the best friend. And because I can’t imagine the pain, I think about how lucky my family and I are not to have to go through this experience. Because our lives are so busy and we’re constantly rushing from one thing to another, we don’t often take the time to appreciate what we have. We let the little things, the things we think matter but really don’t, get in the way and don’t stop to think about what would happen if everything I know now, right now, changed?

And then something like this happens, and we hug a little tighter, add in an extra “I love you,” put down our work or turn off the TV and spend a few more minutes together. All of that is great, until we move on. Our lives continue and we forget to add in the extra “I love you.” We snap at one another because we’re over-worked or over-tired and don’t bother to apologize because we know we can do it later.

I start out with the best of intentions—I’m going to be patient, smile more, yell less. I’m going to be silly and goofy and treasure every moment. Those intentions soon give way to reality and my guilt sets in. I should have done this, I shouldn’t have said that. Occasions such as the death of someone make me take a step back and I realize something important. What will &lt;strong&gt;I&amp;lt;strongremember? As my children get older and busier, will I remember the fun times we had, the kisses and hugs, the smell of them sleeping? Or will I remember all the times I felt guilty for not living up to my expectations?

I think I’d rather enjoy the moment, while doing the best I can to make moments last a lifetime. And if I’m not perfect, oh well. No one is. And maybe my children will learn that perfection isn’t necessary. That we try as hard as we can, we fail often, but we always keep trying. That “no” is not the end of the world. And we have as much fun along the way as we can.

Food And Car Salespeople 10/19/10

If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s that my two girls will not like the same food. No matter what I make, if one likes it, the other hates it, and for the exact opposite reason. Especially regarding spices. One likes things spicy hot, the other likes it so bland as to be tasteless. Now, I’ve been on a “cook new food” kick lately, and their opposing tastes just add a new level of complication to the mix. Since I’m not a short-order cook, what I make is what everyone eats. I do try to accommodate their tastes, as well as my husband’s, but what I’ve begun to find is that the key to getting everyone to like the same meal is in the positioning. For example, when my husband calls at the end of the day to tell me he’s on his way home and to ask what’s for dinner, I tell him the basic ingredients—meat, tomato sauce, noodles, etc. I see no reason to tell him specific ingredients that I suspect will just raise his suspicions (did I mention that he’s picky too?). As I’m cooking, my youngest will walk in and take a look at the stove or ask what she smells. Again, I’ll give her the basics—meat, noodles and spice—and leave out the ingredients I know she doesn’t like. That’s the key with her—highlight the spice and her face lights up. Unfortunately, that’s precisely the word that my oldest keys into, resulting in faces, whining and groans. So, then, trying not to miss a beat, I’ll inform her that spice does not necessarily mean spicy, and look, there’s noodles. By the time everyone sits down at the table, they all have their own ideas about what’s for dinner and feel pretty sure that I cooked especially for them. I feel slightly like a car salesperson—this car is PERFECT for you, no matter what your needs are—but everyone sits, tantrums are kept at a minimum, and if I’m lucky, everyone eats at least half of what’s on their plate. I’ll deal with wasted food issues another day!

Falling For Fall 10/13/10

I ran into a friend in the grocery store the other day. This is not extraordinary. I can’t NOT run into someone I know at the grocery store. In fact, the number of people I run into there is inversely proportional to how well I’m dressed. I didn’t look too bad, except for the lack of makeup, which explains why I only saw one person I knew. She, of course, was wearing a skirt.

We started talking and we both commented on how gorgeous the leaves are this fall. I don’t know if it’s the Crayola blue sky (after so many days of rain) as a backdrop or if the leaves are just extra colorful this year, but I can’t stop staring at them. This may explain my current lack of productivity. It certainly contributes to my inability to get anywhere lately without almost missing at least one turn. My directional skills are abysmal. Some mornings, it’s all I can do to get from the bedroom to the kitchen without going the wrong way (due to my morning crankiness, I’m sure some members of my family wish I’d get lost along the way). However, with proper amounts of concentration, I can usually manage to get from here to there on a daily basis. Now, instead of focusing on the best route to take to get from point A to point B, I’m distracted by leaves of vibrant yellow, burnt orange and bright red.

The crisp air, the crackle of leaves underfoot, the welcoming warmth of the house after being outside—this just might be my favorite time of year. So, friends and family, please forgive my current lack of productivity and the extra five minutes it may take me to get somewhere. A few days from now, the leaves will have faded and I’ll be back to my old self. I make no promises that it will be an improvement, though!

The Teacher Is Always Right…Usually 10/5/10

Last night, as I was flipping through channels before going to bed, I saw a local news story about a teenaged girl and her English homework assignment. The passage she was asked to read and write about contained sexually explicit material, some of it bordering on violent. The parents were outraged, the girl was disturbed and I was horrified. However, my horror was not over the reading assignment; my horror was due to the parents’ response. The homework assignment was given on Monday. The news broadcast occurred Monday evening. What happened to contacting the teacher, principal, school board or superintendent and giving them a chance to investigate and respond? What happened to finding out why the assignment was given? What happened to respect for the teacher and the chain of command? The news media is not the first line of defense.

Growing up, my parents taught me that the teacher was always right. ALWAYS. When I was in second grade, we were learning about the solar system. My teacher asked the class what planet we lived on. The boy behind me raised his hand and responded, “Mars.” To this little Goody Two Shoes girl, the answer was wrong. Completely wrong. Not necessarily surprising coming from the child who answered, because he was never known as particularly smart (and certainly not as smart as I thought I was), but still completely unacceptable. I smiled as my hand shot up with the correct answer and was stopped in my tracks. My teacher did not shoot down his answer as the moronic response I knew it to be. She said some encouraging blather and left open, in my mind, the possibility that his answer could be correct. Hello! Mars? Are you kidding me? By the time I got home, I was filled with all the righteous indignation an eight-year-old could muster and immediately told my mom everything Mrs. So-and-So said (Goody Two Shoes, remember?). And got the second shock of the day. My parents, who I’d always considered the smartest people I knew on Earth (not Mars!)—I hadn’t yet entered the teenaged, “my parents are dumber than dirt” phase—said, “She must have had a good reason for what she did.” Are you kidding me? From that moment on, I knew that no matter what happened in school, my parents would always support my teacher.

As an adult—having successfully passed through the “dumber than dirt” phase and recognizing again that my parents actually are intelligent—I have come to realize that their party line was public. What they did and thought in private, away from me, were probably quite different. But I was never privy to their personal thoughts about my teachers. They found a way to support me without disrespecting my teachers. As a parent myself, I have tried to instill respect for teachers into my own children. I don’t go as far as my own parents did. Depending on the needs of my children, I may commiserate with them, or even say that I don’t particularly agree with a choice the teacher made. But I always follow that up with the idea that people can make mistakes, and in spite of that, teachers deserve our respect. You don’t have to like them or agree with them, but you have to show them the respect their position deserves.

By going to the news media before the school system had a chance to sufficiently investigate and respond to their concerns, those parents are teaching their daughter disrespect for the very teachers responsible for her education. They are backing the school up against a wall and making any positive outcome impossible. They are squandering a perfect opportunity to show their daughter the proper way to voice a concern and lodge a complaint. Instead of demonstrating patience, they are taking advantage of their fifteen minutes of fame. And in the long run, they are making things more difficult for her—how many future teachers are going to judge her because of her parents’ actions and not treat her fairly?

I don’t always do the right thing. My infrequent moments of “brilliance” are surrounded by many moments of idiocy. But I do know the importance of respect. Just like I know the difference between Earth and Mars.

Happy Endings 9/29/10

I like them. They’re rejuvenating. They’re why I escape from day-to-day life and create stories in my head, or on paper. They’re what I think about before I go to sleep and what I try to get in real life. Some people call it “Jennifer-world” and I’m fine with that. In “Jennifer-world” I’m always right and everything works out perfectly. People listen to me and do what I ask, without whining and without endless questions. I have patience, I always say the right thing and I’m remarkably funny. I am never afraid. The four food groups all have chocolate ingredients, there’s a different pair of shoes (with a matching purse) for every day of the week and there is ALWAYS a happy ending.

Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work like that. Mines collapse and trap miners for months; oil spills destroy the environment and the local economy; politicians do stupid things because they’re greedy or just plain stupid. Schedules are crazy and make me cranky; my children don’t understand why they can’t have what they want when they want it; the car makes noises that no mechanic can hear or fix. My “Calgon, take me away” pleas are made too often and go unheard.

Those are the catalysts that send me to my computer, to rewrite life the way I want to live it. In my head, the girl is always brilliant, funny and strong. The guy is always understanding, challenging and not afraid to show a little vulnerability. They work together and save each other. And always, always, ALWAYS find their way to a happy ending. That is why I love romance and that is why I write it.

The Call 9/13/10

Every writer has heard stories about “THE CALL.” Whether it’s a phone call or an email, it’s the contact from the publisher that they like your work and they want to publish it. The ultimate acceptance of the writer’s worth, the validation of their craft, the justification for all the hours put into writing. It’s kind of like getting to hold your baby after long hours of labor. Recipients of  “THE CALL” can tell you exactly where they were, what they were doing, and yes, even what they were wearing, when they received the good news.

I am no exception. Yup, I got “THE CALL” on Saturday. Only, I didn’t believe it. For some reason, I thought they only happened during the week—who works on weekends? Okay, well, as a writer, I do, but nobody else does. Apparently, I’m wrong (shh, don’t tell my husband). And even though I knew it could come in an email, I’d gotten so many emailed rejections, when the name and subject line popped into my mailbox, I just assumed it was another one to add to my list—believe me, four years of sending queries and partials and synopses and getting them all rejected makes a very long list. Even the cute little paperclip symbol for an attachment didn’t clue me in that this email was different. So, I opened all my other emails first. Postponed the disappointment for as long as I could. Until...I opened it.


I stared at it. Read the letter, stared some more. Thought it was a joke. Read the letter again. Took a phone call from my friend and talked to her while I reread the letter. Hung up the phone and stared at the computer screen again. I’d always imagined screaming into the phone at my husband. Unfortunately, I’d never imagined him at a bachelor party at the time I got “THE CALL.” And no matter how excited he’d be at my news, it’s tough to compete with Hooters.

Well, the good news is that I was able to reach my husband while he was still in the car. He was thrilled, my kids were thrilled, my family was thrilled. When the numbness wore off, I was thrilled.

It wasn’t anything like I’d imagined it. But it was perfect.

Back To School 9/7/10

Ahh, the house is quiet. Finally! Kids are off to school; husband to work. We’re back into the routine. As much as I like the freedom of summer, there’s something reassuring about knowing what’s coming next—where I have to be, what I have to do. Time moves in set increments, rather than stretching ahead aimlessly. I can manage those small pieces of time. I know what to expect and I know how to get from point A to point B. So, while I may not like the pressure that a schedule gives me, I do like the order. I like knowing that for a set amount of time, what I do is determined by me. There will be time to be the mother, the wife, later. For a certain number of hours almost every day, I’m me.

Language That Lasts 7/21/10

I love the idea that a 3,000-year-old language can be decoded. Makes me wonder how much of what we write today will exist thousands of years from now (and will we want it to?).

&lt;a href=&quot;http://<a href="">Simple computer program decodes lost Biblical language </a>"&gt;

Lost 7/15/10

Note to self: Don’t go exploring until your husband purchases a portable GPS. Too bad I didn’t think of that before I took my car and went off in search of this cool-sounding store I’d read about in a magazine. I planned ahead and printed out directions to get there; unfortunately, I didn’t print out directions to get home. Silly me, I assumed I could just take them backwards. Forty-five minutes later I was still circling the same three towns trying to find the highway. Now, this is not a new experience for me. I have no sense of direction. It’s not that I’m stupid—I graduated from a very good college in the mid-west. And I’m perfectly able to follow directions, which is why I found the store in the 45 minutes that my directions allowed me. No, I’ve discovered that my internal compass point perpetually north. I could be staring at the sun setting (because for darn sure I’m not getting out of bed early enough to see it rise) right in front of me, knowing full well that the sun sets in the west, and still feel as if I were facing north. I constantly take wrong turns and have to backtrack in order to find something—welcome to my world. But I haven’t been this lost since high school, only back then I would have enjoyed it way more. I would have stopped to ask directions, except, you know that line (usually a couple of blocks, sometimes less) between “really cute town” and “sketchy”? Well, that’s where I was, and the thought of stopping didn’t really make me feel good. So I continued driving, searching for highway signs, landmarks, anything that would give me an idea of where I was. I mean seriously, the George Washington Bridge is huge; how difficult can it be to spot? Apparently, very. Eventually I found signs to the highway, took it in the right direction (yay me!) and made it home. Note to husband: Please buy one soon!

Ghosts And Nirvana 7/13/10

I saw two amazing exhibits at the Morris Museum this week. One was pure temptation; the other a hidden treasure. The first exhibit was The Shoe Must Go On. For a small museum, it was a great collection. Baby, designer, historical, sports. There were representations of the earliest forms of shoes in various parts of the world, to shoes of famous people—even the “boot” that Sonya Sotomayor wore around the Capitol building while meeting with various Senators during her nomination period. I saw shoes with feathers, beads, jewels and silk. There were shoes that were used with foot binding in China. For a shoe lover like me, every possible type of shoe was there to be drooled over. But the best pair of shoes, hands down, were the chocolate ones. That’s right. Shoes. Made. Of . Chocolate. Filled with chocolate too. Scrumptiously amazing.

As I wandered, in awe, out of that exhibit, I walked into another gallery that left me speechless. It was a photography exhibit entitled, Shadow and Memory: Ellis Island’s Unrestored Buildings, and featured the photography of Christopher Barnes. He photographed the deserted hospital buildings on the island in the 1980s and again twenty years later, when a few of them had been cleaned and stabilized. His photographs were awesome. As I walked around the gallery, I could almost hear the patients, doctors and nurses who inhabited those buildings so long ago. I could almost imagine the fear of my relatives who arrived on Ellis Island and hoped not to be sent there. The photographs lived and breathed. What struck me the most was how alive those photos seemed in comparison to the historical photos that were next to them of actual patients, doctors and nurses. None of those subjects had as much vitality as an abandoned desk, a peeling window, an ivy-covered toilet.

 The exhibits were truly a juxtaposition of life and art.