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

 

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Are you a crock pot?

I hate to cook. Yup, hate it. I eat because I have to. I rarely enjoy a meal and I never crave anything. Not even while I was pregnant. You might think eating only when one has to is a good thing, but believe me, it isn’t. Why? Because I live with three other people and they seem to think I’m the head chef around here. How that happened is beyond me, except for the fact I’m the only one who can find anything in the refrigerator. It’s hard to plan for meals when you’re never in the mood for anything. A bowl of cereal for dinner would be fine by me, but there is the dilemna of those three people again.

With the start of the school year only days away, I’m going to be faced with having to plan for meals in advance again. Truthfully, planning for meals is a giant pain in my butt. However, I prefer the Noodges eat dinner as close to the dinner hour as possible and not at nine o’clock at night. (No offense to those of you who use that 9pm method, but that’s not a good fit for my house.) So, in order to eat at a reasonable time I must be prepared. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to throw something together in between driving back and forth to their activities. There is a solution to this. It’s called the crock pot. Do you use one? I do. Scary, I know.

The crock pot is a great invention. A little history from Wikipedia: The Naxon Utilities Corporation of Chicago, under the leadership of Irving Naxon, developed the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. Naxon was inspired by a story his Jewish grandmother told about how back in her native Lithuanian shtetl, her mother made a stew called cholent, which took several hours to cook in an oven.[2] The Rival Companybought Naxon in 1970 and reintroduced it under the Crock-Pot name in 1971. Slow cookers achieved popularity in the US during the 1970s when many women began to work outside the home. They could start dinner cooking in the morning before going to work and finish preparing the meal in the evening when they came home.[citation needed] In 1974, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts[3] making the appliance easier to clean. The brand now belongs to Sunbeam Products, a subsidiary of Jarden Corporation. Other brands of this appliance include Hamilton Beach, West Bend Housewares, GE, Magic Chef, and former American Electric Corporation.

I don’t mind preparing a meal in the morning when my energy level is still high as opposed to the dinner hour when I’d rather take a nap, but can’t because my chauffeur hat is on. Knowing that my dinner is cooking while I’m busy writing and the Noodges are at school brings me a sense of peace. No, “what the heck am I going to make for dinner?” No funny looks from my family because we’re eating pasta with butter again. (Which by the way, is one of my favorite meals.) If I could, I’d use that stupid crock pot every night. Here’s the problem. I only have three recipes I know how to make and that the family will eat.

A call for help! I’m asking you, my faithful reader, no begging you in fact, to please help this pathetic mother/head chef and share with me your crock pot recipes. They must be easy because I don’t have the patience for anything with too many steps. And I have a small caveat, I can’t make pork. Noodge 1 and his father practice the part of their religion that states not to eat pork. I know…can they make this any harder?

In return, I will share baking tips with you. You see, I may hate to cook, but I love to bake. I took after my Italian grandfather who came to this country and became a baker. He made pastries and cookies like nobody’s business.

Please, join forces with me so my Noodges will have a variety of foods to eat and I can continue to be the kind of mother they still want to speak with. And you can dazzle your family and friends with sweet delicacies right from your oven. What do you say, faithful reader? Are you a Crock Pot?

willy-wonka

Recently, I wrote about the 5 lessons I’ve learned from Willy Wonka. You can read about that here if you missed it. As you know, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite movies. Has been since the fourth grade. They don’t make movies like that anymore. A shame really, but you can’t stop Mr. Wonka’s message. It continues to be heard. You’ll find a few examples below. Sweet reading.

1. Avoid temptation.  Unless you have great willpower which none of the children in the movie seem to display. Augustus with food, Violet with the gum chewing contest, Veruca and her need to own everything, and Mike TeeVee and the TV. Even Charlie couldn’t stay away from the Fizzy Lifting Drink. And what about Mr. Wonka? What was his greatest temptation? Yours? Can you stay away from it?

2. Grandparents rock. Only a grandparent is going to hop out of bed after 20 years of lying down and take you to the Chocolate Factory. And it’s only a grandparent who will use their last quarter to buy you a bar of chocolate in hopes to make your dreams come true. Your parent will use their last quarter to buy you something practical. Like broccoli.

3. Chewing gum is a bad habit.  Unless you have bad breath, but don’t crack it and chomp like a cow. No one likes that.

4. Never give up. Even when times are bad, and they are for Charlie’s family. Heck, you’ve got six people living in one room and four in one bed, (a quick aside; you’ll notice in the 1971 Gene Wilder version Charlie doesn’t have a dad. That script implies their poverty is directly related to the missing male figure in the house. Not the case in the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roahl Dahl.)

5. Beware of orange men with green hair who sing and dance. Especially if they show up just at the moment you’ve given into your biggest temptation. No chocolate for you.