Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Welcome to Cyndie Zahner

The inspiration behind my writing… 

From childhood…
I love words. As a child, I dawdled over words too long and, consequently, was a slow reader.
I grew up and still live in Erie, Pennsylvania. My parents were hard workers. My dad had three jobs and owned a small paint distributorship. My mother managed that store. I had one sibling, a brother eleven years older than me, who married when I was nine. So, a good part of my younger years I spent alone. Creating characters and writing stories was my solution to lonely rainy summer days when kids in the neighborhood stayed inside.
In high school, an English teacher, Mrs. Patricia Root, introduced me to the classics and after that, reading and writing became my passion. I enrolled in college as an English major, yet the summer before my freshman year, I worked at a local store as a sales clerk alongside four women with English degrees. Worried I’d still be working retail after graduation, I changed my major from English to Accounting but never lost my love of words. While working in the business world, I wrote grants and contributed occasional financial and women’s articles to local magazines and newspapers.
As an adult… 
I fell in love and married my soul mate, Jeff, and now we have three adult children and one grandchild. They are my life, but they live far from Jeff and I. Hence, I have fallen back to spending time creating characters and stories.
In 2015 I began looking at life differently after my brother and his wife were diagnosed with early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s. They moved into a nursing home and I realized just how precious and fleeting life can be. During that very emotional time, my wonderful husband pulled me aside and said, “Quit your job. You’re a writer.” So. I did. After twenty years of working for the City of Erie, I picked up my purse one day and quietly walked away. I never went back. I began my career as a novelist.
Other inspirations for my novel, The Suicide Gene
First, my grandfather Frank Gifford (Frank Merle Gifford, not THE Frank Gifford) suffered from depression. His wife underwent surgery for a growth on her spine and after the procedure, she was paralyzed. (I actually patterned a part of my second book, Dream Wide Awake, after this incident.) After six years of being bedridden, my grandmother passed away and my grandfather became so depressed he attempted suicide. Because we had so much depression in my mother’s family, I began to wonder: Is there a suicide gene?   
Second, my brother and sister-in-law’s situation inspired me to have Emma’s mother suffer from Alzheimer’s. I simply wanted to shine a faint light on how hard this disease is.   
Third, small pieces of my life are entwined in this book:
Sharon, the secretary, is patterned after a sweet, wonderful secretary in my hometown. Her name is actually Sharon and she is one of the most giving people I know. I thought she would make the perfect mothering secretary for Emma.
One of Emma’s running friends, Carol, grew from the personality of one of my own running friends—also named Carol. She is our running pack’s go-to person. Smart, sensible, Christian, and everyone’s sounding board. She is a minor character. 
Finally, while he was named Gifford after my grandfather, Attorney Gifford John Johnson was patterned after my own son, Attorney Zachary John Zahner. I intended for Giff to be a minor character—someone for the main character’s best friend to fall in love with. But of course, I liked him so much I thought Emma would certainly fall in love with him. (I will never again pattern a character after a child or grandchild. You love them too much and can’t allow anything bad to happen to them.)  
The touchy suicide topic…
More than three years ago, I had the idea of beginning a novel with the suicide of an identical twin. Since then the suicide topic has grown. As if Thirteen Reasons Why wasn’t controversial enough, on September 26th, one week after my book hit the market, another TV series, A Million Little Things, began with a suicide.
This new show has the premise: friendship isn’t one thing, it’s a million little things, and friends may be the one thing to save them from themselves. While The Suicide Gene is totally fictional and was inspired mostly by my crazy imagination and a little by my life, it suggests a similar idea that environmental factors (certainly friendships) can influence depression. 

I do believe my novel will generate questions about genetic links. Today, our DNA secrets seem to be as close as a stroke on our keyboard and $69 bucks. We need more research, compassion, and funding for mental health issues in our nation. What a better world we would live in if we could eliminate this horrid problem that strikes so many families.

Author Bio

Cyndie "CJ" Zahner is a digital-book hoarder, lover of can't-put-down books, runner, author, and Mensa wannabe. That last trait explains the inspiration for her first novel, The Suicide Gene. Her second book, Dream Wide Awake, was inspired during long runs on Presque Isle State Park in her hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. She is a proud mother of three and an even prouder grandmother of one.

Before becoming a novelist, CJ worked as a grant and freelance writer. Her articles varied from business to women’s health to the paranormal. Her most popular articles can be found on her website at 
www.cjzahner.com
In 2015, she resigned from her full- and part-time jobs to write novels. Now, she rises before dawn, writes, runs, and smiles much. She completed The Suicide Gene and Dream Wide Awake, and is nearing completion of two other novels, Within the Setting Sun and The Dream Snatchers. 

A hard worker and story lover, CJ Zahner is determined to read, write, and run happily ever after.

Links

Author Links:
Author website:                                   www.cjzahner.comor www.cyndiezahner.com
Facebook:                              https://www.facebook.com/authorcjzahner/
Twitter:                                                      https://twitter.com/TweetyZ
Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/cjzahner/
Amazon:                                  https://www.amazon.com/CJ-Zahner/e/B07G9KLT5L/
Goodreads:                           https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18283247.C_J_Zahner
BookBub:                                https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cj-zahner
Athletchic.com blog:      https://athletchic.com/
Purchase Links:
Author website:                                   www.cjzahner.comor https://cyndiezahner.com/
The Wild Rose Press:      http://bit.ly/WRPCJZSG
Amazon:                                  http://bit.ly/AMSGene
Barnes and Noble             http://bit.ly/BandNSGene

Blurb

She thought they were her siblings. By the time she realized they weren’t, one of them was dead.

Doctor Emma Kerr had no right counseling them. Adopted and her birth records lost, she believed she was born a McKinney. Her face, intelligence, and depression resembled theirs. For years people mistook her for their sister. So, she devised a plan. What begins as a scheme to counsel the McKinney family and determine if they are blood relatives, quickly causes Emma to wonder if she had truly done the manipulating. Is someone following her?
Now Emma clamors to escape the McKinney world of domination and deception.
Is she Mathew McKinney’s sister? She can’t be. Is he in love with her? He can’t be. Then how do he and his sisters know more about her than she knows herself? This is a game to them. Is the game Suicide? Or Murder?

Excerpt

Chapter 1
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Funeral Parlor.

The face in the casket was her own. It nearly freaked her out.
She stood between her brother and sister, knees wobbling. Her high-necked dress clung to her skin, choking her throat, squeezing her long, slender body tighter and tighter until she felt her lungs might explode. Damn panic attacks.
Her siblings moved closer, tightening their grip on her when they heard her struggling to breathe. Together their tall frames—movie-star handsome—melded into a dark mass at the foot of the casket. It took all the energy the three of them could muster to keep her upright.
“Are you okay?” Melanie asked her.
She nodded.
“Try not to embarrass yourself,” Matt whispered.
Again, a nod.
She wasn’t sure she could get through the day without fainting. There were no breaks at a funeral, and she just wanted to get away from the grim whispery-whirrs of the bereaved and the sickeningly-sweet waft of the flowers. But she couldn’t leave. Matt would kill her and, besides, she had no cigarettes. Her sister was her supplier. Now she’s dead.
The parade of mourners stretched out of the room and down the hall and it was only 2:05. Some faces in line she didn’t recognize, which infuriated her. Her sister had no real friends. Nosy bastards. They just want to know what happened.
She tried to ignore surrounding conversations and remain composed. But like Medusa’s venomous mane, muffled words of hand-covered comments serpentined toward her from all directions. She couldn’t block them. They echoed in her head like garbled phrases over a worn intercom. “Why did she do it?” “Like her mother.” “Was it suicide?”
That last question nearly sent her to her knees. Her body sagged. Melanie caught her and Matt pulled her close, so she could lean on him until it passed.
“Don’t look if looking makes you queasy,” Melanie told her, but her glance drifted back to her sister’s pasty face. That’s what I would look like if I were dead.
She, herself, had considered suicide for so long it was hard to believe she still feared death. She hated funerals, could barely walk through the front door of a funeral home without hyperventilating. Yet, she had to go to this one. Her own identical twin sister lie in that ugly copper box, her head sunk low in billowing white silk.
“I’m sorry for the three of you.” Her aunt Carol’s hoarse voice coaxed her attention from the coffin. Notably thinner—grief now topping her midmorning chemotherapy cocktail,— her aunt dabbed a tissue at tear-stained cheeks. She was in the third round with breast cancer and getting her butt kicked. “I can’t believe this is happening to our family again. Did you know she was that bad?”
“Well.” Melanie paused. “She’s always had those tendencies, but we thought—with the counseling—she was doing better.”
“Counseling?” Aunt Carol’s cheeks pinked.
“Yes,” Matt said. “Six months ago we started seeing a psychiatrist—all four of us.”
“We thought a counselor might help,” sweet Melanie continued. “We decided maybe we did have some baggage about Mom’s—” She took a deep breath. Her gaze moved to her sister.
Don’t say it, Mel, don’t say suicide.
“Death.” Melanie looked away.
“How horrible.” Aunt Carol straightened. She appeared appalled. “You should sue him—that counselor.”
“Her.” Matt shook his head, eyes glaring. “She’s a psychiatrist.”
“We will sue her.” The twin’s voice rose, but she stopped, glanced at Matt, and tightened her jaw. “She didn’t give a damn about us. Now my sister is dead. She’ll pay.”
It happened then—at 2:10 p.m. She felt Matt’s piercing gaze and watched as he released his grip on her arm. Her aunt Carol became so emotional that Matt had to help her to the back of the room. Family members congregated there amidst her wild sobs while Matt held her, and a rush of people came toward her and Melanie at the casket. One after another. Melanie let go of her, too, and she had to stand on her own.
For the first time in her life, she was alone.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Girls' Weekend

For the first time in forever, I’m going away for a girls’ weekend. I’m excited, nervous and a bit concerned I’m stepping into a women’s fiction novel—and considering the current book I’m reading is about three women who go away for a weekend, and then decide to stay away and reevaluate their entire lives, my concerns might be justified. However, as I’ve assured my husband, it’s four days (the term “weekend” is used loosely and only because one happens to occur during the time I’m away) and I have a round-trip plane ticket, so I’m definitely coming back. He may or may not have been slightly disappointed, and has already asked Banana Girl what kind of cookies she’d like for breakfast. 

I’ll be spending the time with my two best friends from college. While I’ve seen them on and off over the years, this is the first time the three of us are going away together since we graduated a very long time ago. We’re going to one of my friend’s lake house. This lake house has taken on the status of nirvana. Anytime anyone has had a crisis or a “Calgon, take me away” moment, she’s said, “Let’s go to my lake house.” She lives for the weekends during the summer when it’s her turn to go there—she shares it with multiple members of her extended family—and when I suggested the three of us get together, she cleared her family lake house calendar and that became our destination.

Apparently, I’ve been to this mystical place, but other than a memory of really badly marinated steak (hey, the directions say marinate for an hour, so lets marinate it overnight and see what happens), I can’t picture it at all. I don’t even remember going there or why. I’m told there was an argument over my desire to buy too much ice cream and that we watched Cary Grant and Robert Downey, Jr. movies. No clue, but who ever heard of too much ice cream? I’m going to blame my complete lack of memory on the mystical aura surrounding this place, rather than my being old. Go with it.

The lake house has no Wi-Fi or cell service for my phone, unless I want to walk a few hundred yards down the road, where I’ll probably be eaten by bears—did I mention this lake house is in the middle of Missouri? There’s a house phone and after begging, I was given the number. I’ve passed it along to my husband, and kindly suggested that unless there is blood or death, he shouldn’t use it. The Princess thinks I’m crazy and stepping into a horror movie, where I’m going to end up murdered. Banana Girl thinks this sounds awesome—I’m hoping she’s talking about my getting a chance to hang out with my friends, rather than being murdered. Or maybe she’s just excited about cookies for breakfast.

What I do know is that the snark is going to fly—we are experts. There is no problem we won’t be able to solve with chocolate, ice cream and wine. And powering down for four days is probably a good thing.

Oh, and now that I’m older and wiser, NO ONE is telling me I’m buying too much ice cream.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Who Am I?

On this cloudy Monday, after a busy weekend and a bad night’s sleep, I’m sitting here staring at my mug of coffee. It’s not much different than any other mug of coffee, except this one has my name on it. It was given to me by an old boyfriend a long time ago and I keep it because it’s useful. I’m not sentimentally attached to the mug, or to the boyfriend, really. But it’s a nice size and it holds coffee, so I use it.

This morning, because I am tired, I posted on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/authorjenniferwilck/) that the name on the mug was helping me to remember who I am. While I am tired, I’m not THAT tired. I know who I am. But this time of year always makes me think about who I am inside, and who I want to be. I’m pretty self-aware. For the most part, I know my strengths and my weaknesses. I make lots of mistakes, and I definitely need to improve things about myself. But I’m a work in progress, so that’s okay.

Thinking about myself inevitably leads me to think about the characters I create. While my characters are never me or my husband, there are times I’ll let a character borrow one of my traits, or I’ll use my own experiences in dealing with people to influence how my characters will react—sometimes they’ll react as I might, but more often than not, I’ll have them react differently (it’s much more fun).

My favorite part of creating the characters I write is their internal conflicts. What makes them tick and why? How can they grow? Where will they fail? Sometimes it’s cathartic to have them work out something I wish I could work out. Other times it’s fun to get my revenge. Still other times they have absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s fiction, that’s my right. 

In my upcoming book, Learning to Love, I was able to play with misconceptions. Adam, the hero, gives off this vibe of perfection—handsome, wealthy and successful. Or is he? Underneath, he’s not, and he will do anything to make sure no one finds out. So of course my heroine, Dina, not only had to be the opposite of him, but had to be able to see inside him too. She’s brilliant and awkward with frizzy hair, and she can tell he’s not all he seems on the outside. Creating two flawed characters who have to work to accept not only the other person’s imperfections, but their own, was challenging and rewarding.

Now, if they can do it, I certainly can! But first, coffee.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Secondary Characters by Jana Richards

Please welcome Jana Richards, a fellow Wild Rose Press author, talking about secondary characters:

My Favorite Secondary Characters in the Love at Solace Lake Series
I love secondary characters. They can provide comic relief or be the villain of the story. They are trusted friends, someone the main character can confide in and use as a sounding board. They can do or say outrageous things that the main characters may not be able to. 
And they are necessary to the story. I believe secondary characters help give color and depth to a story. Just as in real life, our fictional main characters don’t want to live in the world alone. They too have family and friends they love and depend on. 
I recently released my Love at Solace Lake series about three sisters who inherit their grandfather’s decaying fishing lodge in Minnesota. They work together to try to bring it back to life. There are several secondary characters in the three books; some appear in all three books and some in only one. Here are three of my favorite characters.
Abby Hansonfirst appears in LIES AND SOLACE, book 1 of the series. She’s also an important character in book 2 (SECRETS AND SOLACE) and book 3 (TRUTH AND SOLACE). Abby was best friends with the Lindquist sisters’ deceased mother, and she’s always been someone the sisters have trusted and confided in. But Abby has secrets. She knows things, things she’s kept from Harper, Scarlet and Maggie. When she finally divulges her secrets, she’ll shake their world. 
The kitchen was sunny and warm, though not terribly big. While Abby put the kettle on to boil, Harper took off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair. 
“What made you and Reese decide to come back to Minnewasta?”
Abby placed a couple of teabags into a pot. “It was time to come home. This is where we belong.”
Harper blinked at her enigmatic answer. What did ‘it was time’ mean? Time for what?

Tessa Hainstockalso appears in all three books, but we learn a lot about her and her relationship with her father in book 2, SECRETS AND SOLACE. Tessa is the five-year-old daughter of Cameron Hainstock, the hero of book 2. Tessa is sunny and bright, and Cameron would do anything for her. Through her, we discover that tough-guy Cameron has a big, kind heart, even when some of the things he says might make us, and Scarlet, think otherwise. Tessa is also important in showing Scarlet that she really could love a child and be a mother, something she never thought possible. 
He scooped Tessa into his arms and held her securely against his shoulder with one arm. She woke, her eyes at half-mast. “Love you, Daddy. To the moon and back.”
He kissed her forehead and repeated the mantra they used every night she spent with him. “To the moon and back, pumpkin.” 
She went back to sleep, once more as limp as a ragdoll.

Phyllis Carlssonwas a hoot to write. She appears only in book 3, TRUTH AND SOLACE, Maggie Lindquist and Luke Carlsson’s story. She’s Luke Carlsson’s grandmother and Abby Hanson’s mother. She can come out with funny, sometimes irreverent things that make Luke want to laugh. Or cry. Phyllis has been Luke’s rock since childhood and she continues to support him through the difficult times he’s facing now. But Phyllis is no pushover; if she thinks Luke needs to do better, you can believe she’ll let him know. 
“Your mother says you haven’t been to see her in a couple of days.”
The wrench slipped and clanked against the copper pipe. Luke had no answer for her. The truth was he’d been hiding, either at the lodge or with chores at his grandmother’s house. He couldn’t make himself go to her.
“I know it hurts. I know you feel powerless because I feel that way myself. And I’m angry, angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m so angry that Abby is leaving me that I want to spit. I want to hit someone. I want to break something. It’s not supposed to be this way.”
Luke’s heart thumped painfully in his chest. He didn’t want to hear about his grandmother’s pain. His own grief tore at him like a wild animal, consuming him piece by piece. He couldn’t deal with her grief as well. He fitted the wrench carefully on the pipe once more.
“But you know what, Luke? Every day I put on my big girl panties, and I suck it up to walk the two blocks to my daughter’s house. I help her wash her hair or take a bath, and I make tea and chat. Whatever she needs. But I always make sure I share a laugh with her. Because right now, it’s not about me and my suffering. It’s about Abby.”

Secondary characters are a necessary part of romance fiction. They add color and life, provide reality checks for the main characters, and offer a shoulder to lean on. And they are definitely fun to write. Who are some of your favorite secondary characters from favorite books and movies?


 Buy Links: 

Series Blurb:
Love is worth the risk…
 As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.  

Blurb for Lies and Solace:
She can’t live with one more lie. He can’t tell the truth.
Harper Lindquist is convinced she’s found the answer to her financial prayers. Unless she pours cash into crumbling Solace Lake Lodge, she’ll lose her family’s legacy. Her would-be savior arrives in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard and she’s determined to prove to her reluctant, and trapped, financier the lodge is a sound investment. But Harper isn’t completely honest with him. And she has no idea the lake is hiding secrets of its own.

Ethan James is a liar, but his money is very real. He isn’t convinced a broken-down inn is a smart investment opportunity. But the more he understands Harper’s dreams and desires, the more he wants to be the man to make them come true. The trauma in both their pasts means neither can fully trust the other. They must find the courage to love, to trust, and to accept, or yesterday’s sorrows will keep them apart.

Excerpt:
She’d just placed the last dish onthe drain board when Ethan entered the kitchen, his hair still damp from his shower. He’d shaved with the razor she’d found for him and was wearing his own clothes again.Once more the elegant, well-dressed businessman. The chasm grewbetween them even as he stood in her kitchen. She was stupid to believe there could ever be anything aside from business between them.
She lifted her chin, determined not to let her fa├žade slip. “I’ve gathered all my estimates and drawings and put them in a bag so you can take them with you.”
“I appreciate that.”
They walked together to the front door,and Harper lifted his beautiful overcoat from the coat tree. It still held the scent of his after-shave,and she had to resist the urge to raise it to her nose and breathe it in. Instead,she held it out to him with a forced smile. “Have a safe trip back to Minneapolis, Ethan.”
“Thanks.” He took the coat from her and slipped it on. “I want to thank you for your hospitality.”
“It was my pleasure.”
So formal. But it was the only way she could get through the next few minutes. 
He picked up the cloth bag with all her information on the renovation project. “Goodbye, Harper. I’ll be in touch soon.”
“Goodbye.”She shook his outstretched hand briefly.
He opened the front door and headed toward his truck. Harper grabbed a sweater from the coat tree and stood in the open doorway watching him leave, not quite able to shut the door on him despite the biting cold. 
Halfway to the truck, Ethan stopped. For a second,he stood completely still, his head bowed. Then he dropped the bag, turned on his heel, and walked back to her, his steps full of purpose. 
“Did you forget something?”
“Yeah.”
He pulled her into his arms, his mouth descending on hers with an urgency that set her blood on fire. She moaned as she molded herself against him, her arms winding around his neck, her fingers tangling in his damp hair. He swept her mouth with his tongue, demanding a response. She gave herself over to his kiss, loving the sweet taste of his mouth, the clean smell of his skin, the solid feel of his body.
All too soon he broke the kiss. He grasped her shoulders and pushedaway from her, breathing hard. She searched his facefor answers. 
“I have to go,” he said. “I’ll call you soon.”
She nodded, unable to speak. He released her and walked backto his truck. No longer sheltered in his arms, the bitter cold swept through her. She pulled her sweater more securely around her shoulders.
Harper watched Ethan pull out of the driveway, her heart racing. When she could no longer see his truck, she closed the front door and leaned against it. The taste of him remained on her tongue and she could still smell his clean scent. Excitement and fear danced up and down her spine, fighting a duel inside her to decide which one ruled supreme. 
Fear won. In one way or another, everyone she’d ever cared about had left her. She couldn’t bear for Ethan to be one more person on that list.

Bio:
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist. 
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Seventeen Years

Seventeen years ago was The Princess’ first day of pre-school.

Seventeen years ago, They carried out a plan. I did too.

With military-like precision, my husband and I woke at the crack of dawn, he for work and I for getting ready for the day. A two-and-a-half year old and a six week old did not make for leaving things to chance. In a bathroom barely big enough for one person—and one in which I had been unable to fit in while pregnant—my husband and I took turns, one showering and getting ready and the other feeding the baby and making sure the big sister didn’t overly love her to death. We dressed in clothes already laid out and gave out last minute advice. We made sure to eat a healthy breakfast—still being newbies, we assumed that was the only way to start the day.

Seventeen years ago, They shopped for supplies. I did too.

The Princess and I bought school clothes. She’d always had specific ideas of what she would and wouldn’t wear, and I went along with it because it wasn’t a battle I was planning to fight. We picked out dresses and pants and tops that matched (and in some cases, really, really didn’t). And hair bows and barrettes. We chose a colorful book bag and marveled at what a big girl she was. We couldn’t wait for this day and counted down to it.

Seventeen years ago, They left on their journey. We did too.

We strapped into car seats and infant seats and seat belts on a bright sunny morning and drove to preschool, listening to our Music Together tapes and singing along. The sky was a bright blue and so clear we could see the New York City skyline from the top of the hill. I pointed it out.

Seventeen years ago, we accomplished the first of many goals. They did not.

The buildings fell while The Princess was at school and while I sat rocking my new baby and wondering what kind of world I’d brought her into, They danced, hoping to see us fail. But we didn’t. We got knocked down then, and some might say we’ve been knocked down—or are seriously wobbling—now, but their dream didn’t happen. 

Mine did. 

The Princess started school and her journey to becoming a successful human. I don’t remember the specifics of what she did that day. I know she colored, because it’s preschool, and glitter became a part of my house, as much as the mirrors and furniture that inhabited it. I know she bossed the other kids around, because it’s in her DNA and she still does that. I know she asked a ton of questions. And I know she loved it. In the years since, she and her sister have carried on their school journeys, learning the value of education over ignorance, hope over fear—even though sometimes that wobbles, too—and kindness, love and compassion over hatred. All mixed in with a healthy dose of humor, snark and yes, a little back-talk, because, well, we’re human, not perfect.

They learned the rules of the sandbox. They navigate the evil world of girls. They study hard. They laugh and have fun. And they have big plans to change the world, not by knocking down buildings or crashing airplanes, but by finding their voices and using them.

The Princess is loud. Her voice WILL be heard, regardless of how you feel about it.

I will never forget that day. In between the crayons and the hair bows, I will always remember the sounds and the looks and the terror (as well as the kindness). I will never forget the near misses and the friends who were lost. But this time around, instead of feeling ashamed of how much I looked forward to this day seventeen years ago, I’m going to feel proud. 

Because ultimately, they failed. We didn’t.

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Last First

Tomorrow, school starts. Banana Girl will be a senior, so the year will be filled with “lasts.” But whereas I could console myself when The Princess was a senior going through her lasts, because I’d still get one more shot, now, I don’t. It’s the last of the “lasts.”

I found Banana Girl’s first, first day of school pic, and I’ll post it tomorrow along with her last, first day of school pic. And while I might be able to recreate the less-than-smiley look (I mean, she is a teenager, after all), I can’t recreate her tiny size, or her ability to fit inside her school bag. 

She already purchased her school supplies—without me. Loving her new independence now that she can drive, she decided to go to Staples to buy what she assumed she’d need, beating the crowds and ensuring a good selection. Great idea, in theory. Except I didn’t get to walk through the store with her, embarrassing her with my glee that she was going back to school. That’s probably why she did it, come to think of it. 

I’ve been congratulating her along the way for things she completes, such as, “Yay, your last band camp is over!” She smiles and nods and I suspect it’s going to get old for her soon. But I need to have some enjoyment. Plus, acknowledging the “last” brings a little more attention to it, and perhaps provides a little more appreciation for it.

Pretty soon we’ll move onto new firsts—first college application sent, first response, etc. 

But for now, I’m treasuring the lasts.