"Who doesn't love me?"

“Who doesn’t love me?”

I read in the Art Of Raising A Puppy, that puppies don’t do things to please you. They do things because they like how they feel when you praise them. They keep doing things you ask because they want to feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I mean have you ever seen a puppy lie on his back so you can rub his belly? Super cute and they know it plus it feels great to them.

Munson doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to. I have to trick him into thinking he wants to go back in his house and if you trick him enough times it becomes a habit. Kind of like with kids. And spouses.

He tells me when he wants to eat even though I put the food out and take it away after it sat there and he hadn’t touched it. He pretty much looks at me and says, “lady, you can’t make me.” And he’s right.

He barks to let me know his ball rolled under the couch and then looks at me like, “well, you moving to get my ball, or what?” Who’s raising this over-indulged furry monster?

Let me tell you what I like about Munson, though. When I walk in the door he charges from wherever he his, even if he’s napping, and greets me with a hardy hello. No one else in my house does that. He runs around my legs, forgetting he’s 70 pounds and not 14, practically knocking me over. All that spinning in circles is probably a ruse to knock me over so he can lick my face which he knows I don’t love, but he does.

But here’s my favorite thing about Munson, don’t let a stranger come near his family. He goes from being our cute, silly, self-centered puppy to a full-blown German shepherd on a mission. His fur stands up, his tail curls toward the sky, he growls under his breath and then barks deep and loud and long. He scared the living day lights out of the painter the other day. Poor guy.

I wonder if this “life in the key of me” business will ever end with Munson. Or will he some day simply lift his head and sniff in my direction when I walk in as if to say, “oh, you again. Rub my belly.”

Will he pack his bags and go off to college forgetting about all the treats I gave him? Forgetting about all the fun times we had running in the yard chasing balls? Probably. But until then I’ll just have to try and enjoy the occasional face lick.

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So you’ve finished writing your book or have you? What revision work still needs to be done? Where can you go for feedback? How will you know when it’s ready to send out, and where should you try first? Join New Jersey Authors,Stacey Wilk (moderator) Brian McKinley, Ilene Schneider, Keith Fritz, and M. Kate Quinn,

at Moorestown Public Library, 111 West 2nd St., #1, Moorestown, NJ 08057 on Thursday, May 21st at 7 pm.

for a fun, informative discussion on getting published in today’s market, and find out why typing ‘THE END’ is really just the beginning.

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This view should inspire you to read.

This view should inspire you to read.

I was at a book signing recently, where I had the opportunity to talk with lots of parents. Many were concerned about their child’s lukewarm feelings toward reading. Well, I have a theory on why many kids don’t like to read. They are forced to read books they don’t like and they start thinking, if all books are this boring, stupid, dull, who cares, I’m never reading another thing again. And yes, there is the whole competition with video games, apps, social media, and movies, but believe me when I tell you, find a book a kid likes to read and you’ll make a reader out of them. Because reading is magic.

When the Noodges were in elementary school I watched the school librarian discourage a few kids from reading and that was only the times I saw. How many other times did she do that? She’d say at a book fair, “don’t waste your parents money by purchasing books you can’t read.” Really??? Are you kidding me? If a child has any interest in a book, cultivate that interest. And don’t give me the, “they’ll be frustrated if they can’t read it,” that’s what parents are for. And yes, some kids don’t have parents who care enough to read with them, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Noodge 1 was an early reader and if I can brag for a second, an advanced reader which made finding books that were appropriate for him in elementary school difficult. I didn’t want him to lose his love of reading because he didn’t have choices. That same elementary school librarian apparently didn’t feel the way I did. When he was in the third grade, he had grabbed Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien off the shelf. The librarian said, “You can’t check that out,” and laughed at him. He said, “why is it here if I can’t take it out?” (Yup, that’s the Italian in him.) He put the book back. He came home from school and told me. I’m sure you can guess how this played out. I told her he could take out whatever he wanted from the library and she could keep her mouth shut. I was a little nicer than that. I think.

But then we have teachers who inspire the love of reading in their students and I applaud them. Recently, I was at Anthony Wayne Middle School where I presented a creative writing workshop to eighth graders. Their teacher chose my book and had them read it ahead of my appearance so we could discuss it while I was there. One student told her she thought the book was stupid because of the cover, but Mrs. R. wouldn’t be dismayed . She encouraged the student to keep at it and guess what? She was my biggest fan that day! You know what I’m most grateful for? That young lady learned that amazing stories await inside the covers of books if you just give them a try. She felt the magic of reading for herself. So imagine if she loved the cover, but a teacher said, “You? Read that?” Insert villainous laugh here. 

Applause for Mrs. R.

Applause for Mrs. R.

I assure you, if you find an author or a genre your child likes you’ll make a reader out of them. Encourage them to stretch and try books that might be a little challenging. If they don’t know a word, the can look them up. And they can use an app for that.

Feel the magic. Read a book.

 

wolfThere is something inherently wrong with my internal wiring. I can’t walk away from a confrontation. All the years of yoga and all the spirituality books I’ve read go right out the window when I’m staring into the face of a fight. I don’t know why. I think I like it. I can let the anger go, but I need to have the last word. It’s just that simple.

Maybe it’s because I come from a long line of hot-headed, opinionated, loud, but lovely people. Well, that’s not even true. Some of my relatives aren’t very nice. (And I’m not referring to my mother. Okay, ma? You can take a deep breath.)  See? Poison runs deep in my blood.

I’m especially confrontational when it comes to my children. When Noodge 2 was no more than 3 we were at the mall. She stopped to look at these colorful, fake aquariums. A young man working the kiosk patted her on the head to which I replied, “don’t touch my child.” We all know I skeeve everything. Especially some stranger’s hand near my kid. Had he just said, “sorry” that would have been the end of it. He decided instead to tell me to go do something to myself which I believe is impossible and possibly immoral.

I don’t like being spoken to that way about as much as I don’t like strangers within inches of my kids. I think I scared my sister Kiki because she tried to drag me away from the scene I was causing. But I had the last word.

I could bore you with a long list of times I grew out of my 5’1″ frame into a firebreathing, beast with long claws, a purple cloak and gold crown. (I didn’t want to be a dragon.) Like the time I was pretty sure I was going to have to knock over the old guy with a cane who told my 2  year-old daughter he loved her.

Recently, I had a run in with a neighbor. (Ironically, Noodge 2 was involved again. I’m noticing a pattern here.) I wanted so badly to send a scathing text message to her. Who was she to speak to me like that? No one tells me what to do. But I didn’t send the scathing text I so desperately wanted to. The Coffee King pleaded with me not to. “Trust me,” he said. I stormed out of the house quite certain my blood pressure was high enough to cause a stroke and chewing off the head of my meaningful husband like the firebreathing beast I repeatedly turn into.

Who did that woman think she was talking to me like that? I couldn’t let her get away with it. But I did. And I’m not happy about it. Not even now, even though I know it might be better to stay quiet. I should’ve said something. I should’ve had the last word.

Even when friends tell me stories about walking away from a situation without telling someone how they feel, I see it as letting someone get something over on you. You’re sister-in-law yells at your middle-school aged kids for having a different opinion than she does about something completely innocuous and you don’t say something? Not this girl.

Do we get to a point in our lives when we finally accept who we are without judgement?  I spent my twenties and thirties trying to tame my personality. Think first and speak later. Speaking without thinking isn’t right. No good can come from expressing every emotion I have. What does it solve by telling someone I think they’re an idiot except that I feel better? Why is it so important for me to have the last word?

How do you handle confrontation? Do you shy away from it? Or do you face it head on?

Piglet and Me

Piglet and me. Happy together.

So, recently we took a family vacation to Disney. Did you know the average family saves for five years to take a trip to Disney? “The happiest place on earth.” That’s their slogan. I beg to differ. I saw a lot of unhappy people. None that worked there because if that happened the Mouse would have your head, but lots of unhappy visitors. I’d think if it took five years to get there you’d try and make the most of it, no? Maybe no.

Because I’m a writer or because I’m a little nuts, I like to people watch. I can get some good stuff for my stories by watching people and because I don’t do roller coaster type rides, or the tea cups because I’ll puke, I’m so much fun in an amusement park, ask my sister Kiki, I have plenty of time to sit and watch people go by while my family members brave the FastPass lines for the rides. I saw some interesting stuff.

Let’s start with it’s almost ten o’clock at night, we’re in Magic Kingdom and the place is still bursting at the seams with “guests”. A man pushes an empty stroller at a brisk pace. Was he racing to the next ride before the park closes? Looking for a prime spot to watch the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle? Determined to get his money’s worth since it took him five years of over-time putting up with his good for nothing boss, being under-appreciated at his dead-end job and his wife nagging the heck out of him to take her and their baby on a trip to Disney some time this decade? Where is the wife, you say? Racing behind him. Holding her baby in one arm, a blanket thrown over her shoulder while she tries to attach the baby to her breast so she can breastfeed while power-walking. I’m might write fiction, but I’m not making this up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I wanted to offer her a seat.

She didn’t look so happy, this lady attempting to keep up with her husband. Pardon, my old-fashioned assumption he was the husband. I’ve been accused lately of having deep rooted gender messages. Who am I to say the man she was chasing was her husband at all? Maybe they weren’t even together. Maybe she and her baby were stalking him. Hey, maybe that wasn’t even her baby. Maybe she was running because she had scooped up the baby from the thousands of strollers parked around Disney and they only thing she could do to quiet the kid down was attempt to feed the poor thing because a woman breastfeeding while power-walking isn’t a strange sight in the least. See how the mind of a writer works? Sick, I know.

I met a seven-year old girl wearing more make-up than I own. I was relieved to find out, after having a conversation with her and her mother, she was headed to a cheering competition. The little girl was very happy holding onto her American Girl doll and telling me all about her. The mom, well, she was frustrated over the bow required to be in her daughter’s hair and probably a multitude of other things, but I was busy listening to the young lady.

I also met a woman while standing in line for ice cream. Did you know calories don’t count on vacation? This woman I met was from Indiana and had never been to Disney before. She wasn’t jumping up and down at her good fortune. She was hot in the sun, and didn’t want to stand in the long line for an ice cream cone for her daughter who I found out wasn’t the smartest of her four children. Her words. Not mine.

Nope, not the happiest place on earth.

But for us? Well, we had breakfast with Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh. Can’t beat that. We saw Noodge 1 march in a parade down Main Street in Magic Kingdom. How my mother’s heart swelled. The Coffee King and I bought a caramel apple in Germany and watched the fireworks in Epcot. I spent an entire morning with Noodge 2 in Universal Studios where she met up with a Minion from Despicable Me. We saw a free concert, ate too much, walked a lot in the beautiful Florida sun, laughed, went on rides (them more than me), and made memories. You bet Disney is the happiest place on earth.

 

Unfortunately, I can only handle rides of this speed.

Unfortunately, I can only handle rides of this speed.

Passover 2015

I don’t like people telling me what to do. Often times, I’ll do the opposite just to prove a point. Probably not one of my better features, but hey, we can’t all be perfect. Since we’re an Interfaith family we like to make up the rules on how to observe our faiths as we go along. The Coffee King doesn’t like to be told what to do either. We’re a good match.

One of the things I’m most proud of is our Unorthodox Passover. That simply means, I serve whatever suits me, usually the catered Passover meal from Wegmans and whatever appetizers and desserts I want. You bet I’m making chocolate cake with flour. No offense, to my Jewish friends out there, but your food is plain old yukky and I say that with love. But who really eats gefilte fish? Have you seen that stuff? When our guests ask what to bring, I say, “whatever you want. No rules.” You bet I was extremely grateful when someone brought cannolis.

While I was cleaning up, a taxing job and one I’m learning to break into two parts: half immediately, and half the next morning, not something I would’ve been capable of ten years ago, I’m starting to break my own rules, I thought about the importance of gatherings like Passover. Holidays are a time to come together with the people you care about and want to spend time with. It doesn’t matter if you’re related to them by blood and sometimes it’s better if  you aren’t. Holidays are about making memories, about sharing good times and good food. (Which of course, is next to impossible at Passover and why I mess up the menu with things like sushi.)

I had soap suds up to my elbows scrubbing the turkey roasting pan, dirty wine glasses on the counter leaving stains in the Corian, and crumbs from the Matzah covering my floor, but I thought about how lucky we are to have people around us who want to spend time with us. It’s important to mess up your house once in awhile for that.

I’m going to try and have friends over more often this year and worry less about how messy the house is. I’m not going to care about how many hours I vacuumed when I get to the end of my road and I’m looking back. Okay, I might care, but I’ll make time for the things that matter. Like serving shrimp at Passover dinner and only because you told me I couldn’t.

What does spending time with loved ones mean to you?

Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series

Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series

The wait is over! Welcome To Skull Mountain, book three in the Gabriel Hunter series, is available for pre-order for your Kindle. All you have to do is click HERE and I’ll take  you to the place for sign-up. Or just go to Amazon and type my name in the search bar. Publication date for Kindle and print is June 9th.

And if you’re in the area, stop by and say hi. I’ll be appearing at these places:

April 25 Children’s Authors Day, Hillsborough Public Library, Hillsborough, NJ 1-4 pm  Reading at 2pm.

MAY

2 & 3 Vine To Wine Spring Festival, Old York Cellars, Ringoes, NJ 12 – 5 pm
11 Washington Twp Public Library, Long Valley, NJ 7 pm. Author’s Panel: The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing
21 Moorestown Public Library, Moorestown, NJ, 7-9pm Author’s Panel: You Finished Your Novel, Now What?