Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

LIfe is a lot like an ocean’s wave. We wait with anticipation as the wave rises out of the water’s surface hoping the wave will climb and climb. All the while, the white foam curls around the top like a lip. The wave is smiling at us. But the wave is going to crash and you’d better not be standing under it because it will flip you, toss you, and drag you. And if you’re not careful it will drown you.

I grew up at the beach. I learned at an early age how to handle the waves. You can jump them or swim through them. You can even ride them. But it only takes one time for the wave to grab you and turn you upside down; salt-water rushing up your nose. You can’t tell where the sky is and you don’t know how long it’s going to be before the wave slams you on the ground and when it does dump you at the edge you’ll be covered in sand in places you didn’t even know existed.

Life is all about how we handle the waves. Our ocean is a little rough right now. Our puppy had surgery and the surgery caused a complication.It’s going to be weeks before we know if he’s totally healed. Plus we have a few family members who insist on getting caught in the undertow. Some want to be dragged out and one, well, she thinks she’s surfing so I guess it doesn’t matter, in her world she’s having fun.

I want to grab a good book, a beach chair and plop myself down in the sun. I want to listen to the roar of the ocean and smell the salt air. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a few pieces of blue and green sea glass. I have no interest in riding the waves today. I want to spend time with my children before they get to the other end of the beach and I’m nothing more than a glance over their tanned shoulders.

But the ocean is calling and its wrapping its cold hands around my ankles. My toes sink deeply into the pebbled sand. Will I jump or dive? Or will the ocean win this round? Nope, not today.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com  CLICK PHOTO to learn more.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
CLICK PHOTO to learn more about the Super Summer Reading Program.

Everyone should be a reader because reading is magic. For those who tell me they aren’t readers, they just haven’t found the right book or genre or author or magazine or whatever. It’s out there. I promise. Don’t give up.

I like to promote just about anything that has to do with reading. MyCentralJersey.com is sponsoring a Super Summer Reader Program. Anyone can participate and you get a chance to win two free tickets to a Somerset Patriots game on August 10. Plus, the best part, in my opinion, is you get the chance to meet over a dozen local authors. (I bet you can guess who one of them will be!)

Summer is a great time to catch up on all that pleasure reading. Click on the MyCentralJersey link and find out how you can be a part of the Super Summer Reading Program. Hope to see you there!!

I took Noodge 2 to see the Disney Pixar film Inside Out the other day. She asked if I’d go with her and when your thirteen year-old daughter wants to do something with you, you drop everything and go.

When I asked Noodge 2 if she liked the movie, she replied with a shrug of her shoulder and a wrinkle of her nose. “I guess. It was a one and done for me.” I think she was trying to be nice for my sake.

You see, I loved it.

Here is the synopsis from Fandango.com: Emotions run wild in the mind of a little girl who is uprooted from her peaceful life in the Midwest and forced to move to San Francisco in this Pixar adventure from director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.). Young Riley was perfectly content with her life when her father landed a new job in San Francisco, and the family moved across the country. Now, as Riley prepares to navigate a new city and attend a new school, her emotional headquarters becomes a hot bed of activity. As Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) attempts to keep Riley feeling happy and positive about the move, other emotions like Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) make the transition a bit more complicated. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Lately, my emotions have been running wild too. I have teenagers and having teenagers sends your emotions on a roller coaster ride. We all know I don’t like rides. Don’t get me wrong, having teenagers is a wonderful thing. They can dress and feed themselves, most of the time, you can have real conversations with them, as long as you don’t give advice or embarrass them in any way, you can leave them home alone and not worry about the house burning down, well, you can leave them for short periods of time, anyway.

Sometimes, though, it’s frustrating having teenagers. They want to sleep late. They think you were born yesterday and at the same time you’re old. They’re messy. We all know how I handle that.

But other times having a teenager is bitter sweet. You’re baby is growing up at the speed of light and you can’t slow it down and yet, you know you aren’t supposed to. The things that once made them laugh only get eye rolls and grunts now. You are no longer their hero, but their nemesis. They don’t want to bake with you, make crafts with you, play trains with you. In fact, their favorite thing to do is either sit in their room with the door closed or sit on the computer with headphones in so they can’t hear you calling them.

And yet, it wasn’t so long ago I was holding them in my arms reading them stories and tickling their bellies. They have forgotten the memories I still hold dear. Many times Noodge 2 clucks at pictures when she was a toddler embarrassed by her hair or her pose. I tell her to be quiet. Those pictures are for me. They are the reminders of my little girl who used to climb into my lap with stories and adventure of her Little People. Sometimes, I miss that.

Let’s get back to, Joy. In the movie, Joy tries to keep Riley happy by using her memories. Every one of Riley’s pleasant memories made me think of a time with my Noodges. Those memories no longer worked for Riley and it occurred to me sitting in the movie theater next to my teenager, those memories no longer work for her or her brother either.

That’s when I began to cry. Yup, I’m a crier. It’s awful. I cry at commercials, movies, stupid cards, songs, and the memories of my children when they were little. (I also cried the other day when Noodge 2 performed at her voice recital. So, their ages really have nothing to do with it. I’m pitiful.)

The writers at Disney Pixar hit it on the head. The character Joy wasn’t only Riley’s emotion, she represented the emotion of every mother on the planet. (Okay, not every mother.) Joy held Riley’s memories with love. Joy longed for the time when Riley was little and giggling with her parents, playing with her friend, or winning a hockey game. I can’t hold a memory in my hand, but I have photos and videos of a time when life was simpler and the time when my children would leave me was way out in front of us. Untouchable. Like a cloud. Yeah, well, now we’re smack in the middle of that cloud and it’s turbulence all around.

So, what’s the point of all this besides the fact I’m a crier? Live in the moment, maybe. Hug your kids every chance you get. And hug them tightly. Inhale their smell. Tell them you love them. Cherish the memories because they make you who you are even if those memories have faded for your kids. Maybe those memories make your kids who they are too.

So, my faithful reader, I challenge you. Go see Inside Out. Bring your kids or bring the friend you aren’t afraid to shed a tear in front of. I promise it will be a joyful memory.

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

What are your neighbors like? Not to brag, but I have wonderful neighbors. That doesn’t always happen and we’ve been lucky enough to experience it twice. The first house the Coffee King and I bought, many years ago, we had fantastic neighbors. We moved out of that house ten years ago and we still keep in touch with many of them. The second house we bought, well, let’s just say during the six years we lived there we never said two words to the people who lived next door to us. And believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. In fact, the more they ignored us, the more fun it was to say hello.

But out here in the country, we struck gold again. Let me tell you a story….

It was a warm, June morning. The kids had made it to their destinations without a hitch. The morning was looking good and I needed exercise. Who better to go with me than my furry monster? Munson and I headed into the neighborhood.

Now, I don’t know what it is with this dog, but three minutes into every walk he has business to do. I’m always prepared. But on this particular walk, Munson had more business and I was out of bags. We were almost home and I tried to make him run the rest of the way. Poor dog. He must’ve been thinking, “Lady, I’ve got to go! Are you crazy???”

I couldn’t let my dog make a mess all over the street. Well guess what? Dogs and toddlers can’t hold it.

I was faced with a dilemma: Did I leave the mess and come back with bags?  Or just leave the mess? In all honesty, bags weren’t going to work here, more like a fire hose. Maybe I could wait for a good rain to come along?

Instead, I called my neighbor Bobbie. She lives across the street from the crime scene. Frantically, I searched for Bobbie’s number. “Are you home? I need help,” I said to the voice mail. I figured a similar text might get me an answer.

But when Bobbie didn’t respond to my overwrought request for help I decided to wait for a good rain and went home. (Don’t judge me.) That’s when I decided to pull my phone from my pocket. And there were four texts from Bobbie. She’d sent the neighborhood watch to my house.

Charlie, who lives across the street, was searching in my windows. You see, he saw the garage door closing and assumed someone was in the truck holding me at gunpoint. He watches the same television shows I do.  I would’ve assumed the exact same thing was happening had I received the desperate message I’d left Bobbie. Plus, my overactive imagination and the fact I write thriller type novels, always has me assuming there’s a dead body in need of hiding in every scenario.

While Charlie and I were having a good laugh over the mishap, another neighbor pulled up. He was coming to see if I needed an ambulance. Bobbie had called him too.

And that’s when I read the rest of the four texts. Bobbie was coming back from wherever she was! I didn’t get to her in time. She too pulled into my driveway ready to rescue me.

The lesson here? Be more specific on your voice mail messages. Unless kidnapping is involved, “I need help” might not be the way to go.

But I know I have great neighbors. Who Watch. And you can’t beat that.

grave stone

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I’ll tell you what my tombstone is going to say. “She Kept It Clean.” That’s it. You know why it’s going to say that? Because I’m out of my mind. I’ll tell you what happened, but before I begin, let me explain a little about the life of a writer. I don’t sit down each day before my computer and watch as my fingers dance across the keyboard creating flowery words that best describe the thoughts of my characters. Not even close. I often sit at my computer and want to pull my hair out of my head because the ideas that float around there, don’t make sense once they’re on the page. I spend hours doubting I have any talent and why would anyone want to read what I wrote anyway. When I’m not writing I have to do my own marketing, keep track of my expenses and income, set up all my own gigs like school and library visits in hopes of meeting new people who haven’t read my book and will want to read the next one I’m still struggling to finish. It’s not glamorous. No one takes me to lunch in fancy restaurants, I don’t get to meet exciting people, well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve met some very exciting people but they’re other authors.

But let’s get back to the cleaning. My original plan for the day was to leave the house to write. I accomplish much more when I can’t hear the calling of laundry and dirty floors. But Noodge 2, who destroyed her phone and I mean unusable, wanted me to go to the Apple store for her. “Please,” she begged. “I don’t have a phone.” Tragedy.

So, I thought, I could go up to the mall, which isn’t close to my house, take the stupid phone to the store and work at the Starbucks. Yeah, well, that idea lasted about as long as a cup of tea. Instead,  I would sit outside and write. The phone could wait.

I love being outside. And being in nature is just as good for writing as sitting in Starbucks. In fact, better.  I’m not tempted by the 400 calorie brownie in the window when I sit outside.

Except when I went to sit outside, the table was filthy. It was covered in bubble solution, because the Coffee King thought it would be a good idea for the dog to have a bubble machine so he could chase bubbles. Yeah, don’t ask. Well, it appears Noodge 2 had the dog out last weekend playing with bubbles and she spilled the solution on the table. She always cleans up after herself and this time she must have forgotten. I also have a bridge for sale if you believe that. So, what do I do? I CLEAN! I should have went to Starbucks.

But why, Stacey? Why clean? Why not ignore it? Why not sit somewhere else? Because I am insane. And because I’m a writer it proves I’m insane. I sit down at my desk every day trying to write a 200 page novel from nothing but an idea and I don’t even get paid that much. I quit every other day, but the next day I find myself back at my desk trying to write something new. I’m doing it right now. (With elbows that keep sliding in the soap bubbles I didn’t get up very well.)

I can’t walk away from the dirt. I know lots of writers who let the house go while they’re trying to meet deadlines. they don’t shower, they don’t come up for air to see their families, but that’s not me. Showering a must. Wiping up a spill a must. Seeing my family….okay, okay, a must.

My tombstone might read, mother, wife, friend, tried to be a writer, out of her mind, but it will read: She Kept It Clean.

There’s something wrong with me.

Tell me you can't read here?

Tell me you can’t read here?

Summer is my favorite season. It’s the time of year where we can give ourselves permission to slow down. The hot days dictate we sit by the lake, or pool, or ocean and wait for a cool breeze with a tall glass of iced tea in our hands. Summer is the time to let worries fly away with the lightning bugs. It’s town fairs and cotton candy. It’s Italian ice and fireworks.

Summer is also the time for reading! I love taking my kids to the bookstore and piling promising books full of adventure into our arms. It’s a great opportunity for them to discover the types of stories they like to read instead of books they are required to read. When a child finds an author or a genre they like you will make a reader out of them.

But how do we make readers out of our kids? The first thing we must do is be readers ourselves. It doesn’t matter what you read. Books, magazines, the newspaper or any and all of these things on your tablet. Show them what you’re reading. Talk to them about it too.

Help them choose books. What kinds of interests do they have outside of reading? A child who likes puzzles or figuring things out might like mysteries. If you can’t recommend an author or book in the genre ask the librarian or the person at the bookstore for help. Or, grab the book with the cover you like. Yes, I know, we’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but the publishing world understands that that is exactly what happens so book covers are designed to grab your attention. But then, flip it over and read the back. If you like the premise, open the book and read the first several pages. If the author hooks you right away, you’ll most likely enjoy the rest of the book. And when you find an author you like, read all their stuff.

If your child likes non-fiction, encourage that. Or if they want to read comic books, that’s good too. Reading is reading and when you find something you love you’ll go back to it again and again.

Challenge them. Create a contest to see if they can read more books than you by the end of the summer. The prize can be whatever you choose, but if you’re kids are competitive or really want something, this would be a great motivator. Libraries usually hold similar events during the summer, but teens may not want to participate in something so public. If it’s going on at home, they won’t have to admit it to anyone else. wink wink.

The school year is wrapping up and I can’t wait to see what books the Noodges will read.

What books will you be reading this summer?

If you’re looking for a fast-paced fantasy adventure, Welcome To Kata-Tartaroo for Kindle is on sale June 8-10th for $.99. http://www.amazon.com/author/staceywilk

cat-landing-plates-pistoulet

 

I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But your stoneware comes out every day, sometimes three times a day and is probably in your favorite color. Stoneware helps you, supports you, is reliable, loyal, accepts you for the cook you are, and heats up like a hot flash for you. You might buy thousands of paper plates over your lifetime, but you’ll only have a setting for twelve of that stoneware.

You don’t know when in your life you’re going to find that perfect set of stoneware. You might have to buy it in pieces. Some during high school, some during college, maybe even a piece you picked up along the way. But don’t look for a bargain. Stoneware is worth the price you pay. And if you do get it on sale, well, then, lucky you.

Paper plates are easy to find. They’re every where you look and they’re cheap. But they will always and forever be only paper plates. Don’t hold any grudges over them, though. I’ve had some paper plates I’ve loved over the years, but they still had to go when their purpose was served. I trashed paper plates in middle school, high school, college, from the countless jobs I’ve held, neighbors, committee groups, the list goes on and on. The best thing about paper plates is when you’re done with the package another package miraculously shows up in your cabinets. Right when you needed them the most. Paper plates are great-fill ins when you don’t have time to wash your stoneware. But when you’re making lasagna for dinner and the cheese won’t stick together and is running off the spatula nothing will do, but your favorite stoneware dish.

My stoneware set is much smaller than twelve, but I’m okay with that. We’ve been together a long time. My stoneware never disappoints me and is as vibrant as ever. It’s always there when I need it, shares secrets with me, makes me laugh, and reminds me why I bought it in the first place.

I’m thankful for the paper plates too. They’re quick and easy. They’re fun.

I often wonder if my Noodges have started buying pieces of their stoneware. Many times I look at the selection in their hands and think, “Dear Lord, that is a paper plate if I ever saw one. Put it down.” And sometimes I think, “that could be a keeper.” But that will be for them to decide. And I know for myself, there have been times when paper plates were disguised as my favorite stoneware. It wasn’t until the bottom leaked that I realized I’d been holding an imposter. I guess that will happen to my kids too.

How about you, faithful reader? What’s in your cabinet?