What Really Matters

All my life I’ve heard how impressionable children are. I never knew how true that is until I became a parent. Lots of things in our house are off limits to our children, particularly my computer, cell phone and tablet. My girls do not have the liberty to watch certain movies or shows enjoyed by my husband and I. They are also not allowed to wear my jewelry. I came home from work the other day and one daughter had on my Iolite, trillion–cut ring, while the other was wearing my ankle bracelet around her wrist. I’m the heavy at our house, the party of no. I say no more than John Boehner. I’m more than aware there are things I need to flex on, but when it comes to things that influence the behavior and attitude of my children, right now the answer is no.

My oldest daughter is older than her seven years. I’ve always said she’s advanced and to me, seems very much in the world. She has seen expansive and expensive homes on television decorated with granite counter tops and marble floors, open air living spaces and shapely, lagoon-like pools surround by stone, rather than concrete; the ocean steps away. She wants to be a princess and often complains that I treat her like Cinderella. In my defense, the child exaggerates. The only thing she has to do is pick up the toys she carelessly leaves in almost every room, pick up her drawings, clean up her art supplies, and keep her room tidy.

The homes she has seen on television is what she wants when she grows up, she says.

“You can’t have that unless you get a good education. You have to study hard and graduate college,” said her Grammy, my mother.

“I want to have lots of money and be famous,” Lauryn continues.

“Not without that college education.” Grammy presses.

Then off she twirls through the house, without a care, wearing her tiara. And I am envious. I wish I could have those years back…the many things I’d do differently.

My youngest daughter watches her older sister and lingers on my lap, the back of her head pressed against my chest.

“I’m going to be a hair fixer, Grammy.” She announces.

Grammy smiles and says, “You are? Hair dressers have to work hard and sometimes don’t make a lot of money.”

“Lauryn wants to be rich, Grammy, I just want to be happy,” Lindsey says as she squirms off my lap and runs to the other room with her sister.

The wisdom of this five-year old amazed me and my eyes began to dampen.

Money and possessions can bring happiness for a season. Big houses and fame can tumble and fade and in all reality, have no place in the big picture.

Having character and values, sweetness and compassion are worth more than any home or occupation. Being humble, grounded and uncompromising in truth and goodness will go further than any dollar.

Me too, Lindsey, me too. I just want to be happy and I think I am. Just remember the next time we go out and you ask for a new toy, the answer will probably be no.

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The Next FoodNetwork Star

Walking toward my car I heard voices.  I didn’t see anyone, but I know I heard talking.  The closer I got to my car the louder the voices became.  Then I heard…

“Shhh.  I think someone’s coming.”

Then silence.

I stopped and looked around.  I was alone.  Everyone had left for the day and I wasn’t far behind.

“That was a close one.”  A voice said from behind my car.

I tip-toed toward the driver’s side door, squatted, then duck-walked to the rear of my vehicle.  There they were.  Two cats enthralled in a conversation.  A medium gray and white short hair and a longer haired, sleek, black feline with a fluffy tail.

They were nose to nose conversing softly, sure they were alone.

“I’m not sure.”  The black one said.

“Oh, come on, don’t be chicken.  It’ll be fun.”  The gray and white said, convincingly.

“I have a boyfriend.” The apparent female retorted.

“Some boyfriend, he left you stranded here.  He’s nothing but a scraggly, homeless, tom-cat.”

“He’s in a band,” the black one said, trying her best to make him sound cool.

“Lemme guess, he’s in The Stray Cats.”  The gray and white laughed as he rolled onto his back, clutching his stomach.

My knees began to ache as I eavesdropped.  I shifted my position, and when I did, my knee popped.  Both of them turned in my direction.  They looked toward me, but not seeing me, they shrugged then turned back to each other.

“You’re hilarious.” The black one said as she turned and swished her tail under the gray and white’s nose then slithered through the weeds.

“Hey, where you going?  I was just joking.”  The gray and white asked, scampering after her, jumping through the tall grass.  “I know where to score some cat-nip.”

“Not interested.”  The black one said her nose in the air.

“Okay, not really.  I just didn’t want you to think I’m a square.”

“A square’s a shape.  I like shapes.”  She flirted.

“I have my library card; you wanna go check out some books about the solar system?”

“Negative.  Let’s get some books about exotic cuisine.  I’m going to be the next Food Network Star.  Besides, if rats can cook, so can I.  Speaking of rats, I’m hungry; let’s go see what the special is at the Chinese restaurant.”

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A Priceless Lesson

I had lunch with my best friend last week.  Since she lives in Florida, I considered it a treat.  Rarely do we get to sit and talk face to face, look each other’s expressions and know what’s really going on beneath the surface.  Like my mother, she knows when something is going on with me without my having to say a word.  The thing about people you know well, and vice versa, is they know whole truth about you and the fact that they love you anyway is priceless.    

Our talk drifted from the typical how are you’s and what’s been going on, to kids and family, then to the more everyday stuff.  Eventually we began talking about a circle of people we both know, but haven’t seen in years.  She asked me if I remembered a particular girl we went to high school with.  

“Of course,” I said. 

“When was the last time you saw her?”  She asked. 

“I don’t know, senior year, I guess.  Why?” 

She explained this girl friended her on Facebook.  I’m not on Facebook and those close to me know why.  The mention of this girls name, brought back memories of a nice, quiet, mannerly girl.  A cheerleader with full blond hair that hung past her shoulders, blue eyes and a perfect smile.  She was pretty it seemed on the inside and out.  I wasn’t especially close to her and I don’t remember much about her or her circle of friends and nothing really stands out to me about her, except she was nice.  She was, as it seemed, like everyone else, just wanting to graduate.  I had one class with her during high school.  I remember she kept her herself, did her work and like the rest of us, was uncomfortable when she had to get up in front of the class to give her speeches.  She gave me her senior year photo, which I still have. 

After taking a bite, my friend told me this girl was a dancer.  My mind began tumbling.  Dancer… ballerina, hip-hop, fly-girl, a Rockette?  Then it hit me.  I looked at my friend as soup dripped from my chin. 

“A stripper-dancer?”  I asked. 

She nodded giving me confirmation. 

Then the cynical me took over.  Judgment crept onto my face and overtook my mind.  Thoughtless words escaped my mouth.  I was in disbelief that this girl-next-door could be that.  

Then late that evening, I began thinking about her.  It occurred to me that I know nothing about the events of this girls life.  I know nothing of what happened to her after high school, as we grew from teenagers to adults.  I’m clueless as to the places life has or hasn’t taken her.  I felt ashamed for thinking badly of her.  Who am I?  I’m not exactly living my dream.  

Life is about choices and sometimes when we’re backed into a corner and we feel there is no way out, maybe we do things we ordinarily wouldn’t.  At the end of the day, all that matters is you feel you’ve done your best in whatever world you live in.  

It is unfair to hold others to my expectations.  I’m sure when she sits in the glow of those she knows best, she has that priceless feeling of being loved anyway.

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Kitchen Chaos

The machine choked and coughed as liquid poured out of it. The watery substance mixed with the rough granules crept over the machine. The appliance hissed and spit as the runny mess made its way onto the counter slowly creeping toward the screaming bananas; laughing its ominous laugh.
“We’re going to burn!” One of them shouted in fear.
“What the…this way, let’s go this way!” Another said, trying to pull the others as it closed its eyes, trembling.
The brown steamy fluid flowed toward the prescription drugs, finally overtaking them.
“Ah, dude, I don’t feel a thing,” one said.
“It’s like a hot-tub, man,” another announced. “Feels good.”
“I hate getting wet!” yet another yelled. Its cardboard body, losing its shape, as it began to warp.
The lava-like liquid continued and rolled under toaster. It giggled as the now cooling goo tickled its feet.
The cupcakes, tucked safely in a zip lock bag, squealed with delight as they flowed along the counter as if white water rafting; laughing and enjoying the ride.
I walked in the kitchen, turned on the light and nearly lost my mind. The coffee flowed out of the coffee maker and was everywhere. It poured between the counter and stove before I was able to mop it up. It was under the toaster, the fruit, the pill bottles, the cupcakes.
In my haste the night before, I neglected to place the carafe on the coffee pot, creating panic in the kitchen and a volcanic java spill the bananas and cupcakes will never forget. Until they’ve been eaten, of course. The prescription pills may have dissolved, giving the coffee a high of its own, without my rescue efforts
Still, the best part of waking up is Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in my cup. What’s in yours?

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Welcome Spring

Not long from now I’ll look out my sliding glass door and will no longer be able to see the forest floor blanketed with snow.   The barren trees will be but a memory as a thicket of leaves, full and lush will overcome the hillside.  The crisp, chilly air will be replaced with warm, subtle breezes smelling like sunshine and carrying along with it the faint scent of just cut grass.  Welcome Spring.

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Getting A Late Start

I finished college late, got married late, and had kids late; later than all of my then friends.  Maybe late isn’t the right word.  I guess Older is more appropriate.  I was older when I accomplished all of the aforementioned.  When I was single, all of my girlfriends were married and starting families.  When I finally got married, these girlfriends were no longer my friends and all of them were single mothers.

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was eight years old.  I didn’t know at eighteen, entering college.  At twenty-eight it struck me I knew what I wanted to be but I was already grown up.  I wanted to be a writer yet I did nothing about it.  I wanted to write a book, but suppressed the desire.  I went on about my life as a still-single, mortgage-paying, working-girl looking for the perfect job and perfect man.  These don’t exist by the way.  I found something close but close, as they say, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The job was with a small company.  Seven employees total, including me.  I worked that job for six years, the longest I had ever been with a company.  I was able to move up and grow within the organization.  During this time, I gained a confidence I never knew I had.  I finally found a job where I could flourish and thrive.  It was at this job the book idea began growing again and where I started writing it.  I found I could suppress it no longer and when a thought struck me or an idea came to mind, I pulled out my flash drive, plugged it into my computer and started typing.  In no time I had two chapters.

The man came along too and we eventually married.  Looking back, I’m grateful for those single years and I wouldn’t change a thing.  That time helped shape and define who I am today: strong-minded, independent, capable, and able to care for myself without the help of a man.   My husband and I found each other when we were supposed to.  Our first daughter was born two years after we wed.  Almost two years after that our second daughter came along.

I went back to my job after the birth of my second child, knowing I’d be leaving my position.  The company I once loved was changing; a merger occurred and management went through an overhaul.  People were put into leadership positions without knowledge of company practices or policy.  Respected board members resigned along with several of the original staff, as did I.

I became a stay-at-home mom.  I took care of my two-year old and four month old daughters.  The first eighteen months were welcoming and restful, as crazy as it sounds.  I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm blaring in my ear or put up with silly office shenanigans, which weren’t much fun given the change in hierarchy.  Gone were the days of defending my work and jockeying for certain positions, proving myself.  Rather, I took naps with the kids and cooked meals I saw on the cooking channel.  All the while this book I had started clawed and scratched its way to the surface.

On a cold January morning, I got up before the sun and the kids to get the words down, without the help of that annoying alarm clock, amazing.  Soon I had four chapters.  Scrapped it and four new chapters flowed from my finger tips.  It took twenty-one months then bam, I finished.  Then the edits started and seemed to be unending.

I bought books on query letters, publishers and agents.  I subscribed to blogs

about the industry, feverishly read emails from editors and learned about platforms.  I created a publishing resource guide, devouring all the information I could find.  I met with others who have been successful in the business desperate to learn what they already knew. 

One thing I learned is publishing is ridiculously hard, opinions on the subject are across the board, it is elusive and ever changing sort of like trying to find that man or job, except it’s possible.  It exists.  Even though rejection is rampant, it’s out there. 

In this digital day and age, some say the book is dead.  It’s all about e-books and electronic media.  All say you must have thousands of followers on social media.  Social media is obscure and overrated.  I don’t like it and I don’t use it.  It is a deep well of mindless chatter, thoughts, and opinions.  Facebook is a digital ticker tape of bitching, bragging, bullying and the occasional bible verse.  It breeds some of the seven deadly’s.  Envy, lust and pride are the first to come to mind.  When I say mindless chatter, I mean this:  Do I really care why you are in the OBGYN office again?  That you were stopped by every red light on your way home from work?  What you’re having for dinner?  That, that pesky rash is back?  Or that you are once again contemplating a divorce but you don’t have the guts to go through with it?   No, not really.  I knew a girl who left a ten year marriage and two young children to be with a former lover she looked up on Facebook.  It’s the devil.

I learned the other day that publishers are looking for saleable books, not good books.  This means if you have thousands of followers on social media you will have a better chance at a publishing deal, you have what they call cred.  Well, just because you have six thousand friends on social media doesn’t mean you’ll sell six thousand books. 

I have a fan base; a list of hundreds of actual people that I actually know personally by building and sustaining real friendships.  These people are not an acquaintance that sent me a friend request because we have some person in common on social media. They aren’t people I haven’t seen in twenty years and stupidly call them friends.  I’m talking about real, true people that I am blessed to call real true friends.  That should mean something.  People that would buy my book simply because I wrote it and they want to support me.

Once again I feel like I’ve started and finished something too late.  Instead of writing my book at twenty-eight, when I first felt the gnawing, I wrote it twelve years later when all that matters is how many social media followers I don’t have.  I sometimes wonder if I have composed a saleable book and a good book.  Deep down I believe I have.

Had I started this journey at twenty-eight, I wouldn’t have had to worry about social media and e-books and friends that aren’t really friends leaving meaningless posts on my wall.

So that brings us back to the sixty-four million dollar question:  What happens when you get a late start?  Scrap it all or trudge forward trying to find a place? 

I don’t consider myself a quitter; my parents didn’t raise me that way.  I was taught to see things through, to finish.  That said; I know I’m only half finished with this project.  Some days I feel like quitting and giving up and walking away from it all; deleting all the chapters and all the edits, trashing all the books on the subject.  For me, the easy part was to write the novel.  The hard part towers before me, the mammoth monster known as publishing.  It is Goliath and I am David.  It is big and terrifying while I am small and meek. 

But today I have a renewed perspective.  I’ve decided to prepare my mind and my sling shot.  I will finalize what needs to be finalized and hurl my book into the monster’s hands and wait; again and again and again.  I have to or I’ll never know.  If I don’t I’ll always be sorry for not continuing to try; I’ll always wonder what if.

 I came across this quote the other day:  “Life is a choice.  Are you going to surf the wave or let it knock you down all day?”  For me publishing is that wave, pummeling me into the sand battering and beating me against the shore.  Yes, I’ve started everything in my life late, but at least I started.  Now I’m ready to finish.  I’ve got my board.  Surf’s up. 

           

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The Lost Son

“Everyone, thank you for the lovely gifts,” Grandpa said.  “I love you all, Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Dad,” my Mom told him getting up to hug him.  “Who wants coffee?”

“I do,” several said.

Grandpa stared into the fire, as if in a trance, a quietness enveloping him.

“You okay, Grandpa?”  I asked, climbing on his lap.

“Of course, sweetie, of course.”

“You miss Danny, don’t you?”

“I miss him most at Christmas; it was his favorite time of year.”

As we sat gazing into the fire, a shadowy figure appeared, Danny had made it after all.

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