I told you not to wear your hair like that.

I told you not to wear your hair like that.

Did you see that movie Sleeping With the Enemy starring Julia Roberts? I think it was made in the early ’90s. It has a few plot holes, okay, a lot of plot holes, but I identify with the antagonist. Her crazy husband. I know, weird, right? Maybe not. Let me give a quick summary: Julia’s husband is completely anal retentive. Julia must keep the hand towels hanging on the rack with the stripes matching, the house spotless and all her cans in the cabinets must be lined up neatly, with the labels pointing out or her crazy hubby with the bad mustache will get angry. I have to confess. I have a bad mustache. It’s the curse of being an Italian woman. No, no. Just kidding. I do the same thing with my cans and their labels too. I didn’t even think that was weird until my friend Robin laughed at me. At least she’s still my friend.

My sister Kiki also accused me of being the Sleeping With the Enemy character when she opened my cup cabinet. I like to keep the mugs from the same set together and they all face the same way. I know. Okay, I know. I just can’t help it.

Aahh...peace and serenity. Or craziness. Either works for me.

Aahh…peace and serenity. Or craziness. Either works for me.

Try and follow my logic. I have a decent size pantry. They must grow them bigger in the country. Anyway, I want to be able to find what I’m looking for when I need it so I keep similar food items near each other and I turn out all the labels of the cans so I can quickly identity what’s in them. And if someone puts away the crackers where the cereal goes I move it back. What’s wrong with that? Really?

The thing with the mugs? They go in the cabinet better if they’re lined up right. Do you really want to open your cabinet and your favorite mug falls out, lands at your feet, and breaks into a hundred pieces? Now you have a mess to clean up and it will probably be before you had your coffee. See? Look what I avoided. You know you want your cabinets to look like mine.

It really doesn’t stop there. My kitchen drawers are organized too. I have a drawer for cooking utensils I use often and another for the ones I don’t need as much. Just the other day I cleaned out the desk drawer in the kitchen the Noodges use. I happily grabbed plastic storage bags with the zip-lock top and put crayons in one, colored pencils in the other, and miscellaneous non-matching writing instruments in a third. Then I wiped the drawer clean with my one of my favorite cleaning products: Clorox Wipes. That put a smile on my face.

Now here’s something interesting. My desk, where I write my books, and write to you at, looks like a bomb went off and dropped paper, notebooks, pens, and magazines on it. I try to make piles, clear away space so I can see the wood top, put things in drawers, but before I know it the papers are back, the notebooks are bullying their way toward my chair, and the piles are growing higher. The Enemy does not sleep in my office. Let me tell you.

I can justify a messy desk. That’s the home of my creative mind. I think I’m afraid if I surrender my whole house to the muse living in my office then they’ll come for me in the padded truck. Then I’ll be sleeping with a whole different enemy.

 

 

 

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Aaahhh…clean. When something is clean it brings me peace. I didn’t say I was normal.

There is something wrong with me. I don’t have clutter around the house. I was reading an excerpt in a book and the author mentions her fridge is covered in stuff at least twelve years old. Things like her twenty-four year-old daughter’s 7th grade report card. What?? Not in my house. There’s nothing on my fridge. Now maybe because it’s stainless steel or maybe because I’m more concerned about being neat than being sweet. Sorry. Had to go there.

Now please understand, when the Noodges were younger I hung up art work from school, but on the inside of the pantry door. What can I say? Clutter makes me twitch. It’s the way I was raised. We lived in a museum. Now I’m the prison warden – I mean the museum curator – I mean the mom.

After a while I took the art work down, because how many pieces can you hang, and put them in storage boxes in the attic. The box did come with us when we moved to the country so you can see I’m sentimental just a little compulsive. Have I mentioned I’m Italian? And let’s be honest for a second, when the Noodges grow up, move out, maybe have kids of their own and I decide to bestow on them all their artwork from elementary school what do you think they’re going to say? Try: “My crazy mother kept all this junk. What am I supposed to do with a cut out turkey missing half its feathers I made in the first grade?” See. I’m just being proactive.

The worst thing that could have happened was report cards going paperless. Call me old-fashioned or just plain old, but I liked the report cards coming home in a small manila envelope I had to sign to prove I looked at it. Now, I’m lucky I go on-line to see it at all. Forget printing it out. Why? Just so I can shove it in the attic. You know how I feel about grades anyway.

Now, please don’t misunderstand my need to keep order as not being a big mush. I’ll hug you until you burst if you let me. (Small disclaimer: I have to know you and not sceeve you for me to get close enough to touch you.) I prepared time capsules for both Noodges from the year they were born respectively. Those capsules are filled with newspapers, magazines, a letter from me, sonogram pictures (’cause they’re really gonna want that!) I made baby books with pictures and stories. I video tape all their concerts, performances, and games. I’m the loudest cheerer in the stands. But I can’t clutter up my fridge with twelve year-old report cards. I’m twitching just thinking about it.

You know how each year near Christmas all the cards start arriving stuffed inside jeweled tone envelopes of red, green and gold? I love getting those cards with pictures of happy faces. I’m honored that each person thought enough of us to send them. I display them prominently for everyone who comes into my home to see, but when January 1 rolls around I take them down and I toss them. I hope you won’t hold it against me. I don’t see it as tossing away my friends and family. They are more to me than cards. Clean spaces just keep the ticks away.

Maybe some day I’ll change and take peace in the objects that fill in the clean places, but until then know that even though I don’t keep your Christmas cards or hang up all the report cards, I love you.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Communicating is an art. It can be learned, but some people are better at it than others. You might even say for some it’s a gift.

My family is Italian and when we speak to each other it’s usually very loud. It’s easy to mistake what we’re doing as yelling. We’re not yelling, but we think if we raise our voices to make our point you’ll agree with us. We’re also stubborn, opinionated, and usually right. I promise you’ll never have more fun than around our Thanksgiving dinner table.  I enjoy sitting back and listening as the sound decibels shake the ceiling. My family has the gift, or not.

Then there’s Nan, my 88 year-old grandmother. Don’t be fooled by her 4’9″ frame. She can be as loud as the best of them. That might be because she can’t hear. I’m not entirely sure her hearing is going, but it might explain what happened when I called her last week to wish her a happy birthday. The conversation went something like this:

Nan: “Hello?”

Me: “Hi, Nan. It’s Stacey.” Mind you she only has two grandchildren I shouldn’t have to identify myself, but I do anyway.

Nan: “Who? Julie? I don’t know anyone with that name.”

Me, louder, because what’s the first thing I do? Yell: “Nan, it’s Stacey.”

Nan: “Who?” She’s an owl in her spare time.

Me, still yelling: “Nan, it’s STAY SEE!” Kind of hard to drag out a two syllable name.

Nan: “I don’t know you.” And she hangs up.

Redial, try again. “Nan, it’s your granddaughter.”

“Oh, Stacey! I thought you were someone trying to play a trick on me.” Yeah, that’s exactly what I was trying to do. Can’t you hear me laughing?

You know how I say you can’t pick your family because if we could we’d all pick Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward for parents or Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause? If we could choose we’d avoid conversations that go like this:

Nan: “Your son is smart because he’s Jewish.”

Me: “What about me, Nan. Aren’t I smart?”

Nan: “You’re sweet.”

The art of communicating.

 

Things happen. Roll with it.

Things happen. Roll with it. I did. 

I’m not good with the phrase: “things happen.” I don’t like variables. I’m a planner and things happening mess up my plans. Let me give you an example: When our new puppy has to go out and do his business he has a designated spot. Everyone in the house abides by this rule. Except of course, the puppy who sometimes decides he’s going and he’s going right now and too bad we’re not near his spot. He’s a dog. Things happen. I need to roll with it. Here’s what I can’t roll with. Cleaning up his mess. Now why do you think I clean up after this puppy? So no one will step in it since they won’t know to look because he went in a place we said wasn’t okay and so my entire yard isn’t a toilet.

Well, guess what happened to me? And at the one time I accidentally wore my best sneakers. It wasn’t until I was already outside with the puppy that I realized in my absent-minded way I’d even put those sneakers on. I must have confused taking the dog out with taking the kids to the bus. I’m always taking someone somewhere, but I digress.

Now I have to throw my sneakers in the garbage because even an OCD cleaner like me has limits. It’s a shame, I like those sneakers, but they are a year and half old. I’ve probably walked enough miles in them they can’t do their job well anymore. This is really an excuse to go out and buy a new pair of sneakers.

The Noodges will tell me the sneakers are a fair trade for the dog. I guess they could be right. And let’s face it. Things happen. 

A boy and his dog.

A boy and his dog.

I’ve accomplished another stage in my life. I’ve sent my first Noodge to high school and I survived. It’s a major step for him, but one for me too. He’s closer to adulthood, that time where he will pack his bags and leave for good. I know it’s supposed to happen. I don’t have to like it. I thought about tying him up and keeping him locked in his room and maybe he’d forget about going to high school, but then I realized people get arrested for actions like that so I had to let him go.

That’s what this parenting thing is really all about, isn’t it? Letting go. You let go of their hands the first time they walk, and you let go of the back of the bicycle the first time they peddle their feet like crazy. You let them go to a friend’s house for the first time and even though you might sit outside in the car waiting and watching, you know, just in case a mass murderer shows up or a fire starts or something, you have to let them do it. Just like I had to let him go to high school. But do I have to let him drive? Okay, okay, I do. I know it. But I don’t have to like that either.

It’s scary to let go because it means something is going to change. You’re either going to soar into the sky or fall on your face. We all hope for the first and worry about the latter. How will I be when my Noodge, this amazing young man who I am in constant awe of, who brings a joy into my life I didn’t know possible until I met him, walks out the front door for good? Who will I become? How will our relationship change? Will he call his old mother to say hello and share how his day was? Perhaps or perhaps not. I’m suddenly glad there’s high school. It’s the training period for parents so we’re ready for the big departure some day.

Thankfully, I have Noodge 2 to pour all my attention on when Noodge 1 goes off to college, but from the looks of it, she’s already got one foot out the door. Girls are very different from boys. No one can prepare you for that.

In the meantime, I will hug my Noodges as much as they will allow, I’ll cheer from the sides in my big, Italian voice, I will guide, I will remind and not a minute before I’m ready, I’ll let go.

 

 

 

Doing laundry here would be easier that writing a novel.  Image courtesy of morguefile.com

Doing laundry here would be easier that writing a novel.
Image courtesy of morguefile.com

I should be working on book three in my Gabriel Hunter series right now. Yes, right this second, but instead I’m procrastinating. Writing a blog entry shouldn’t seem like procrastinating and please don’t take it personally, I love hanging out with you, but I’m really try to avoid the hard work that waits for me like a burglar in the bushes. Yes, I just compared writing novels to being robbed. Well, really, the comparison should be me having to fight off the burglar because trying to get words onto paper is just about as painful as having to punch someone in the nose. Ask any of my writer friends. They’ll attest to this.

I don’t like to think of myself as a procrastinator. I’m typically very organized. I make lots of lists and cross off each task as I complete it. Crossing off lists gives me some kind of weird pleasure. Don’t judge, you have weird pleasures too. I’m sure of it. I watch television. I see what goes on in the world.

Why do we put off the very thing we don’t want to do when after we finally finish the task that’s been hanging over our heads we breathe a sigh of relief. “That’s done. Thank God.” Instead of pulling up my word document and digging deep, I’m here. It’s the digging deep part. I don’t think I’m in the mood to get messy.

Even now I’m fighting the urge to leave my desk, walk downstairs, and make my third cup of tea. The real thing stopping me? The puppy. If he hears me, he’s bound to bark and say, he lady, I need to use the bathroom. I don’t have time for bathroom breaks. I’m busy procrastinating. And let me tell you what, when I finally do get rolling with my work in progress, that will be the time the poor puppy has to pee and I’ll get mad I wasted so much time when I could have been writing. See the viscous circle? Good. Now explain it to me.

I could force myself to write. Or I could do a load of laundry. That’s always fun. Frasier is on Netflix. I’m sure there are one or two episodes I haven’t seen yet. But none of those activities are going to get my novel completed, are they? So, why procrastinate? Why not type until the end?

Have you ever written a novel? All the way through? Don’t try it alone. That’s all I’m saying.

Writing a novel is akin to spending time in Kata-Tartaroo. The sun never shines, the forest moves of its own accord, scary Demon Owls will eat you whole if you try and leave. Yeah, that’s a little like writing a novel. Now I know why I procrastinate.

How do you handle procrastination? I’d love to hear your ideas. Do you persevere anyway? Do you put it off until tomorrow? Are you a list maker? Do you hide inside your laundry basket? Please share. Or wait and tell us later.

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com

I’m going to be at a few places this fall signing my books, doing readings, and holding a Halloween Hunt. I’d love to see you. Let me know if you’re going to be there. We can share an Italian pastry together.

SEPTEMBER

  • 27-28 Old York Cellars Harvest Festival Ringoes, NJ 12-5 each day

The Harvest Festival is a fun day for families with pumpkin carving (my table will be near there), hay rides, petting zoo, music, and local food vendors. Old York Cellars is a local winery. Don’t miss out on the wine tasting and tours of the vineyards. Fun for all.

OCTOBER

  • 11 Warren County Library Northeast Branch, Hackettstown, NJ 1-2:30pm Halloween Hunt
  • 26 NJASL Conference, Ocean Place Resort, Long Branch, NJ 2-5pm

 

NOVEMBER

FEBRUARY 2015

  • 5 Twice Told Tales Bookstore, Flemington, NJ