Monday, October 16, 2017

What Makes A Good Mom?

If there's one thing I've learned about parenting, it's that the internet is an endless abyss of people telling you what you are and aren't doing right. We search Pinterest for ways to make our child's room fantastically unique. We scroll through Facebook seeing the Halloween costumes that are way out of our price range and yet call us to purchase so our kid isn't ridiculed. We read articles about how to give our kids the best organic lunch, shaped into an artistic outdoor scene sculpted in the late hours of the evening.
And if I really stop to think about it, my kids don't really care about any of that stuff. Sure, they'd love new paint in their room - but they'd rather be painting a big piece of paper with mom or dad. Because that's what they're really looking for - quality time.

I've said it before but unfortunately, it needs to be a constant reminder for me. I don't have a lot of time with them between work and other responsibilities, and sometimes I lose sight of the need to spend some quality time with each of them. Today, amid the muck of Facebook, I came across this article and it gave me a new bucket-list to do before the end of this year: 30 Little Things That Mean A Lot to Kids.

My mom did a lot for me growing up. Laundry, taking us to practices, cleaning the house, shopping for school clothes. I don't remember any of those things though, at least not in the sense of a memory of her actually doing them. What I do remember, though, is her waking me up for high school at 6 a.m. with a sock she made into a duck puppet, just being goofy. I remember her helping me to make pies the right way when I wanted to experiment with baking. I remember that on Tuesdays, she would "sleep over" in my room and we'd talk about school or boys or troubles until we were both too tired to talk.

I think about my beautiful girl and how many times I tell her I'm too tired. (Which, by the way, is far too many.) We do lots of things together, but I'm starting to think she has a far better grasp on how precious the time we have together is than I do. Or perhaps she just appreciates it more. Some days, when I'm really tired, I think Oh my goodness, I wish she would learn to play on her own! Then there are days like today, when I look at her get up, get dressed, make her own breakfast, pack her own lunch, and head out the door to school that I am blindsided by the fact that in a very short time, she won't be asking me to color with her anymore. She won't be asking me to do her makeup or make up a dance or listen to the song she wrote. 

We do a lot for our kids, but I think we can always do more. Not in terms of buying them more or taking them more places, but rather in giving them time and attention in the comfort of our own homes and neighborhoods. Sure, she loves heading out to mini-golf or shop, but she'd be just as happy coloring a few pictures from the big coloring book she bought herself at the school book fair. I hardly remember vacations we went on or going to a pumpkin patch, but I will forever remember that ridiculous sock puppet and the beautiful woman who made something so inane and silly one of the dearest pieces of my memory.

What is your favorite memory from growing up?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Missing the Old Times

Writing this novel has definitely brought back some memories for me. Part of writing any story is research. If it's set back in history, you need to know every detail and every aspect of that time, from politics to what a button on a jacket looked like. This makes your story more authentic.

So as I wrote this one, I definitely spent a lot of time reminiscing on my own experience of being a teenager way back when: the emotions, the highs, the lows, the friends, the broken hearts, the laughter of sleepovers. I spent many hours speaking to people around the age of my characters and their high school experiences, as well as their hopes, dreams and regrets from then and today. 

Needless to say, all the reminiscing definitely made me nostalgic for those days. I don't want to go back (I think living through my dramatic teenage years once was enough, and I love watching my kids build their own lives in the here and now!) but I definitely miss the people from those days. College was okay and I have some wonderful friends from my college years, but it just wasn't the same. I spent my college years testing boundaries and in many aspects, hanging around some people I should have distanced myself from, searching for whatever I felt I was lacking in my life at that time. (Don't get me wrong - I also had some amazingly awesome college buddies!) Every day there was something and someone new, so it was a rotating door of new and unfamiliar, which I don't particularly do well with. 

High school was never like that - there was familiarity. There were the same people, eight hours a day (and sometimes more), weekends filled with no responsibility and no jobs but rather just fun and camaraderie. I definitely miss the lesser responsibilities sometimes as I'm drowning in work and running kids to ten different activities, but, I know someday I'll miss what I'm doing now just as much. 

My dad has a hard time remembering current affairs, so often, what we talk about is those years around when I was a teen. He likes remembering some of the friends that came through our doors and laughter that would infiltrate the entire house. Perhaps that is why I am feeling so nostalgic lately; they were indeed good (and easier) times, and I really miss some of the people I knew and loved.

I think that's one of the hardest parts of growing up. These amazing human beings come into our lives for a little bit but they stay in our hearts forever. Life is like a big apple pie where each slice is something important to us. We get older, get jobs, get bills, get families, get homes, get more responsibility and as the pie is sliced yet again, it cuts back on that slice of time we have available for the people outside our immediate circle, no matter how important they are to us. 

And perhaps that is why getting a note or email or social media message from one of those familiar faces just saying "Hi, thinking about you, wishing you the best" is one of the sweetest parts of my day. No matter how much time and distance comes between us, know that I am thinking about you - and that you made my life better just by being in it. 

It's been a very long, very trying week, and I find myself hoping for one of those messages. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Red Thread of Fate

As a romance writer, I tend to focus a lot on the idea of fate - someone ending up exactly where they are supposed to be and who they are supposed to be with. It's sort of the idea from Japanese legend, the Red Thread of Fate: the idea that two people are tied together because they need to be a part of the other's life.

Writer Lucia Ortiz Monasterio says: "For the Japanese, who know so much and intuit more, human relations are predestined by a red string that the gods tie to the pinky fingers of those who find each other in life. Legend has it that the two people connected by this thread will have an important story, regardless of the time, place or circumstances. The red string might get tangled, contracted or stretched, as surely often happens, but it can never break. This legend, so much more aesthetic than that of the twin souls, occurs when it is discovered that the ulnar artery connects the heart with the pinky finger (which is the same reason why in many cultures promises are made by two people crossing their pinkies). The thin vein running from heart to hand extends through the invisible world, to end its course in someone else’s heart. But unlike other amorous superstitions, the Japanese one isn’t limited to couples, or a single person who one is destined to find. It speaks of a type of arterial ramification that emerges from a finger toward all those with whom we will make history and all those whom we will help in one way or another."
This is true for many of my characters - not just in love, but in life. In The Touch, AJ is pulled towards a town he's never been to before, and ends up finding that he needed to be there for both love and for paving a future for his kind. In my newest book Fifiteen Years, coming out soon, the main characters are tied together by a red thread of fate. No matter how far away their lives have taken them, they can never quite lose sight of one another, as though they were destined to meet again.

While the romantic background of the red thread of fate is the stuff romance novels are made of, to me the most interesting part is that idea that we are tied to other people for a while or a lifetime. When we stop to think about all of those who have made a difference in our lives and how we came to know them, we are reminded yet again that our paths intersect with those we are destined to meet. Perhaps it is a love, perhaps a friend, or perhaps a perfect stranger who touches our lives for just a moment.

It's a pretty incredible concept to think about, isn't it? That people don't randomly enter our lives, but rather, we are destined to meet them for one reason or another; that we get close and then grow apart but are still connected somehow in the grand scheme of life.

And as a romantic at heart, I believe in the idea of destiny; that no matter how twisted or damaged the string gets, you are still connected to the person you are tied to.

Do you believe in the red thread of fate? Have you ever felt that connected to someone?

(From Pinterest)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New book coming soon!

I am so, so, so very excited!! It has been a few years since I've published, and truth be told, I needed the break to renew my creativity! I have five manuscripts sitting here, waiting for editing, and I just couldn't find the time or the energy to get it done. 

Until now.

While there are still four awaiting their turn at editing, one is in the final stages of publishing and I could not be more excited about it! Add in the fact that my friend's beautiful daughter is the cover model, and I am just ecstatic to have it be out and in people's hands. 

So, what are you reading right now? Finish it up, because Fifteen Years will be out soon!



Friday, September 29, 2017

A Lesson From My Son

This week has been one of those weeks. What are those weeks, you ask? Well, I just told my daughter to go take a bath and her response was "Mom, I already took a bath this week." Yes, this week.

#ParentOfTheYear

Life's been a little overwhelming lately to say the least. My full-time job is full speed ahead and we have more work than time it seems. Hubs and I (and sometimes my wonderful mother-in-law) are running kids to dance classes, cross country, and drama practice. I'm visiting Dad as many days as I can, and handling all of his affairs. And tonight, when I asked my hubs what I should blog about, he said "The impossibility of us keeping the house clean. Or Hugh Hefner." So yeah, it's one of those weeks.

But right smack in the middle of this week, my son presented me with a life lesson. I'd woken them up early because it was either wake up early so I could run to Jewel before school and pick up a Lunchable or something, or they were going to be eating crackers and stale chips for lunch. He was already tired from a lot of homework and drama and running two miles the day before, but he got up and moving as he always does without a complaint.

Then, he goes to a full day of school and back to drama practice for two hours (where he is eleven, mind you, and memorizing SHAKESPEARE lines for the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream). When hubs picked him up at five, he still needed to run two miles since he'd had to miss cross country practice that day, and hubs gave him a choice: run the neighborhood, or pick where he wants to go.

You know what he chose? A park near the house with hills. HILLS. One of the last days of our 90+ degree heat in September, tired from a long day, and given the choice to take the easy route or the hard one and he picks the hard one.

He's eleven. Did I mention that?

  


I'm not gonna lie. I would have picked the neighborhood. It's close, it's flat, it's comfortable, and there's no travel time there and back. Which would mean more time for homework and relaxing before bed. 

He never ceases to amaze me. He ran two miles up and down a hill, just because he wanted the challenge. He is determined to help his team get to state, and he's working so hard to make that happen. (Side note: there wasn't even cake at the end. Or bacon. Or wine. He ran for fun. I don't understand this concept, but he doesn't understand how I write something longer than a page for fun so we'll call it a tie.)

I guess I needed the reminder, because lately I haven't been pushing myself to take the road less traveled, as written by my favorite poet Robert Frost. Things have gotten done, kids get where they need to be, lunch food finally got purchased, but that's really just skating by. So instead of watching a ton of television (except the debut of Will and Grace and This Is Us), I took his example and pushed myself to go a little further this week. 

Thanks to my little buddy, I finally finished the manuscript I've been picking at for four years. It meant a few late nights, hours of writing and editing, and a little bit of sleep loss, but a book I fell in love with writing years ago now has an ending that feels right. Instead of watching six hours of reruns of Friends (no judging here, because there are definitely weeks where a Friends binge is the most productive thing I do and that is a perfectly acceptable thing), I finally got something finished that I've been wanting to complete.

Now, I don't fully consider this week a victory because somehow my daughter bamboozled us every night into thinking she'd already taken a bath per direction of the other one, BUT, I'm just going to write that off as her enhancing her acting capabilities. 

Hopefully you can "run some hills" this week and check something off your "I want to do this" list.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sights and Scents

Have you ever stopped in your tracks, your sense of smell infiltrated by something both recognizable and unrecognizable at the same time? You can't quite figure out in that moment - or, maybe you can - why it's familiar, but with it comes a sense of peace? Or perhaps something you catch a glance of sends you into a sort of deja vu?

Sometimes it's the scent of a certain detergent or a memorable cologne that sends you on a trip down memory lane. I've certainly experienced that sensation. Moments of closeness brought back to the surface of my memory from nothing more than laundry. It's in these sweet moments that I gather material for my writing. These memories rise to the surface of my thoughts and become one more character trait for someone I'll write down the line. 

Every story needs a hero; that person who makes you forget all the pain and the suffering and overcome all obstacles in one's path. Each character has unique traits, but as I've mentioned before, each one I write houses just a sliver of someone I know or knew once upon a time. Instead of being housed only in a photograph or the recesses of my mind, the joy that they brought to my life for however long is captured and shared. I still walk past someone in a crowded place once every few years and a scent catches me off-guard, and I find myself twenty years younger in the middle of a smile.
I guess the same could be said for the sights and scents that bring back the bad memories. If you know me or follow my social media, you know that I love flowers. LOVE THEM. I buy fresh ones for my desk every week (although I've been slacking on that a bit lately), because they just bring a little bit of cheer to my day. Hubs, bless his heart, doesn't do the flower thing very often and that's okay - he does plenty of other sweet things. So I pick them out one morning after I drop the kids at school, arrange them in a pretty vase, and set them out to glance at when the day gets a little tired.
Often, it's roses sitting in that vase. Pink, yellow, peach, white - they're all so beautiful. But the one flower you will never see in there is a red rose (except, on occasion, when someone gets them for me and I don't want to be rude!)
You see, I don't like red roses. Once upon a time, red roses symbolized romance and love and butterflies in the stomach. They were something I looked forward to on a monthly basis from a beau who, looking back, hid his negative traits behind a blinding array of red roses and gifts. At that time in my life, I knew that those flowers would arrive in the middle of the month and I lived for it. Naive and lonely, I adored that symbol because it meant that I mattered to a boy. All the beauty they possessed, though, didn't make up for the ugliness that hid underneath, tucked away until something brought it out.

It's odd how something as simple as a flower or a scent can take you back to a place you either loved being or wished you could forget. What is something that brings you back to another time?


Monday, August 28, 2017

Violence, Media, and Kids

Sometimes, I love phones and iPods and tablets and laptops. Those glorious little devices often make me wonder how on earth my family managed to get ahold of me or get anything done before they existed.

And sometimes I hate them. Like today.

Today, a tragedy struck our town, and worse it seems, our school community. The details aren't known, but unfortunately, some that may or may not be true have become known to our kids.

My 11-year-old received a text message that provided a pretty detailed story about what happened and it hit him pretty hard (and mama bear is very unhappy about how this happened). He had a lot of questions about how something like that occurs, and then opened up a bit about what he was feeling. He is like his mama: he wears his heart on his sleeve. He worries about things. He's been worried the past week about Texas and everyone in it, asking for updates on if they're rescuing people, are they getting to the nursing homes, and so on. He's wondering if another country drops a nuclear bomb near Chicago, would it's devastation reach us? His heart is just about the biggest I have ever seen in a kid. (Don't get me wrong, he can be a pain in the butt sometimes. But his heart is still huge.) Then something so very pertinent and honest and telling came out of his mouth:

"Mom, I just don't understand it. Every time you turn on the news, there is another shooting in the Chicago area. Why are so many people dying? There's one story after another with bad news. It seems like it's all bad news." Then later came his next question: "How do we help to stop the violence?"

He's 11 and he sees it. He hears about the violence going on in the city and state he loves, and unfortunately, sometimes a little closer to home. He sees the news and the shock value the media go for, filling every half hour newscast with as much tragedy as their teleprompters can handle. He's carrying a weight that I don't think at 11 I even knew existed. He wants the world to be a better place, and he wants to make it a better place. 

I wish we could shelter him from all of it. We could take away all electronics, we could sell the television, but as today has taught me, he will still hear about it somewhere. And it probably will only be a shred of the truth, regardless of whether he hears it from little mouths at school or big mouths on the television. What is most difficult is that we have to have these conversations far earlier than I ever imagined. When I was 11, I didn't really know about storms unless they were hitting our neighborhood. I didn't know about how many people were hurt or injured daily in Chicago. It boggles my mind that kids today know about these things and have to grow up far sooner than they should.

I wish I could give him a step-by-step plan on how to fix everything, but I can't. We talked about the importance of being the best person you can, of helping others, of listening, of being there for people. We talked about how he can go into a career where he can build opportunities for kids to get on a better path in life. We talked about how from now on, we're going to start our day and end our day with good news, and that at least one of those should be something we did to make the world a better place that day.

Tonight, I had one of the hardest, most honest conversations I've ever had to have with one of my children. I couldn't hold back the tears as the tragedy of the situation behind the need for our talk really sank in. There has always been violence and always been tragedy, and I couldn't tell you if it's gotten worse over time or if it's just more reported thanks to mass media. And, I don't have answers for how to fix it, other than we need to start loving each other a little more and stop spreading gossip and hating a little bit less. I plan to hug my children just a little bit tighter from now on, that's for certain. 

Remember how they edited the Wyle E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons so that our children wouldn't be scarred? 

I WISH the worst thing my kids heard about was that crazy coyote getting blown up by ACME.

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