Sometimes We Find Family Along The Way

DPhiE Reunion Large group
Delta Phi Epsilon sorority Delta Omega chapter at Monmouth University. The entire group in attendance at the recent reunion.

Family are the people who love you when you need them whether you’re born to them or pick them up along the way. That is the heart of all my books whether it’s my middle-grade series or my women’s fiction series.

Last week I spent some time with my sorority sisters. My sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, celebrated its 100th year anniversary and my college’s chapter, Delta Omega at Monmouth University, held an event for all sisters current and alumni. Because when you become a D Phi E sister, it’s for life.

I was a commuter student when I went to Monmouth. There are some great things about being a commuter, but it’s hard to make friends if you don’t get involved with something. As a Freshman, I kept to myself mostly. I’m an outgoing introvert (a personality trait that quarrels with itself often) so I needed some friends and fast. I’d already known a couple of the girls in the sorority and a friend at the time encouraged me to pledge. I’m so glad I did.

D Phi E reunion Just Us
These are some of the special ladies I went to school with. I love them all. 

I met the Coffee King because of that sorority. And I made some fantastic friends. Here’s what’s so great about the girls I went to school with, years can go by and we won’t see each other or talk outside of Facebook, but all it takes is to be in the same room with them and it’s like no time has gone by at all. I walked into that event and saw women I haven’t seen in 25 years. The hugs were fierce and the tears were real. That’s friendship. That’s sisterhood.

I’ve been asked often how could I have joined a sorority. (I don’t adhere to conformity well) but my sorority wasn’t like that. Our motto translated is “To be rather than to seem to be.” We believed in everyone being an individual. There was plenty of room for all personality types. Those girls accepted me for who I was and still am. They let me be me and I let them be them.

Those girls were strangers to me all those years ago. It was scary at that first pledge class meeting with nine other girls I didn’t know, but was about to be thrown together with twenty-four hours a day for six weeks. We had to learn to get along, learn to work together, learn to respect each other and we did it. That doesn’t mean we didn’t fight, because you always fight with family. We had a lot of fun together too. Mostly, it was fun. (I’d tell you some stories, but then you’d need to go into the Witness Protection Program.)

My sisters are there for me whenever I need them. I don’t even have to ask. They only have to hear that one of us is in trouble, sick, or celebrating and they are right there beside you holding your hand or cheering you on too. (Who else would help you bury the bodies??) When my first book came out my sisters applauded the loudest. I am eternally grateful for that. (Ladies, I’ll need you again soon. Stay tuned. wink wink)

 

D Phi E reunion My Family
My family tree. My Grand-Big Sister, Big Sister, and Little Sister. 

These amazing women are my family. The family I picked up along the way. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Joanna Gaines Taught Me a Lesson

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever watched HGTV‘s show Fixer Upper? Fixer Upper is a home renovation show hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. They fix up homes in Waco, TX. Chip is the brawn and Joanna is the design brains and beauty. I’m in awe of Joanna Gaines.

She is a mother of four, has a successful television show, a design business, a bed and breakfast, is a devout Christian and is younger than I am.  I have two kids. Compared to her I’m not really a parent. I don’t have the kind of successful business she has, I don’t feel at home in any religion, and I’m getting older by the second.

I’m not saying I would trade places with Joanna. I don’t know what her life is really like behind the cameras. Her kids might hate that she’s not around or their whole lives might revolve around the business and just once they’d like it to be different. She seems super nice, but maybe she’s a good actress. I don’t want to live on a farm with all those animals. Some days I’m not even sure I want the dog. But she sure does make life look clean, neat, and well-adjusted.

It’s hard not to compare myself to her when the laundry is piled taller than I am, dog hair tumbles across the hardwood floor, the mail needs to be sorted, kids need to be driven to a thousand places (that’s not much of an exaggeration) and I have words to write, clients to appease and appearances to be at. Joanna makes it look easy.

But it ain’t easy. In fact, even as I write this the laundry needs attention, again, I’m out of shampoo, I have to figure out how to grab both kids today at the exact same time from two different places, this blog post has been a thorn in my side for days, I need to write a blog post for my client, and I have a word count for the new novel I must hit. I did manage to brush my teeth, cleanup last night’s dinner, and set the house alarm before I left to go to the Starbucks and write. It’s a win, ladies and gents! It’s a win.

We all know social media and television make life look like it’s all homemade food and hand sewn clothes. It isn’t. Life is messy. I don’t believe half the posts I see from moms who go on and on about how proud they are of their children and how amazing this kid is and this mom can’t believe how lucky they are. Every parent (okay, not every) feels that way about their kid. We all love our children with such a fierceness it could blow up the universe. These same moms also want to pull their hair out of their heads from time to time, imagine a vacation alone on a sunny beach with no one yelling “MOM!!!” and have at some point wondered why they thought being a mother was a good idea in the first place. Oh, trust me, it’s true. (If you don’t have teenagers, don’t weigh in on that comment. Come back to me in a few years. We’ll talk then.) Doesn’t make anyone bad for thinking that. Perhaps our Joanna has glimmered that thought too.

Last night I was talking to a friend who had suffered the rampage of Hurricane Sandy. Long story short, she and her family recently moved back into their home. She’s expecting baby number two and the house isn’t ready, the room isn’t ready, boxes everywhere. I said, “It will all get done in time. Don’t worry about it.”

Why do women feel such pressure to be perfect? Me included. Is it because women before us burned their bras and fought for our opportunities to hold great jobs and raise families and own homes and not need the help of another human being while doing all of this, least of all a man? Or is it because the Joanna Gaineses of the world paint a picture we try to strive for? It would be easier to climb Mt. Everest than keep our stuff together in a picture perfect way without help. Heck, even the climbers of Everest have help. They don’t go to the top alone, why should we?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in this whole it takes a village to raise a child business. No, your child is your responsibility. You raise him or her. The occasional car pool is one thing, but the constant watch my child so I can work and go on vacation in Disney mumbo jumbo doesn’t fly with me. Sorry, my opinion. (Before someone goes nuts, I’m not referring to the single mother working three jobs and living in a studio apartment trying to make ends meet. She needs the help. So, help her.)

But it is okay to say, I can’t do that right now. I can’t volunteer for one more group, or wash the car, or dinner is just going to have to be cereal. It’s okay to say to our partners, I need your help with the kids, the food, the horses, the bodies I’m trying to bury. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Our home, children, job, and appearance don’t have to be perfect. And while we’re busy perfecting all these things we’re forgetting to better our souls. We should strive for more kindness, compassion, and generosity. We need to perfect our listening skills, because as a former Speech, Theater, Commmunications major I can tell you with assurance listening is a skill that can be learned. We need to experience things that make us feel better. Yoga, long walk in the parks, sunsets, coloring books, laughter.

When our souls are running over with warmth and peace we’ll be the better mother, wife, friend, business woman. Then and only then can we become the Joanna Gaineses of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

A New Adventure

I’m always up for an adventure. Well, almost always and it depends on the adventure. I’m not sleeping in the woods for all the chocolate in the factory. But when it comes to writing adventures, I’m pretty much in.

Pull up a seat. I’m going to tell you a little story. A long time ago, in a place not so far away, I worked for a mobile DJ company. It was one of my favorite jobs. I got to play music, dance, and eat at the weddings of total strangers and they paid me to be there! I worked with some fantastic people and have kept in touch with a few of them over the years. Decades, in fact. I am eternally grateful for that opportunity.

djs1994
So here I am with the guys I DJ’d with circa 1994. Yes, I was the only girl. It was cool. And yes, I took a picture of a picture. This one is framed. Wasn’t even going to try and remove it. 

Recently, I was asked to be a part of NJs Best DJs owned and operated by my friend and amazing DJ, Dave Nase! Dave has asked me to come on board and handle the writing of his blog. This was an adventure I couldn’t pass up. I’m thrilled to be included.

meanddavenasesmaller
Dave and I hanging out, present day, and getting the blog ready. Excuse my deer in the headlights look. 

NJs Best DJs offers a very personal approach to event entertainment. The blog will be dedicated to not just information about DJs and music, but help and advice on all areas of the wedding industry. And of course, we’re going to have a little fun while doing it.

Once the blog is live, I hope you’ll stop by and say hi just so I can see a few friendly faces even if you aren’t planning any event at the moment. (I’ll let you know exactly when that’s happening.) But if you or someone you know are in those planning stages, poke around. We might just have the information you’re looking for. And between you and me, you won’t find a better entertainer than Dave.

I’ll still be blogging here with my editing tips and adventures in motherhood. And don’t forget, my next book, A Second Chance House will be out soon. I won’t be neglecting my editing clients, but like I said, I couldn’t say no to Dave.

Are you ready for a new adventure? What’s on your bucket list for the new year?

 

Weird Relatives

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. I can’t believe it really. I’m not sure where October went. I know I showed up everyday for the entire month, but I didn’t do anything exciting like jet off to Europe and walk the runway. (They won’t let me on the runway. One, I’m too short. Two, I’m too old, and Three, well, let’s just say I had to do a lot of fancy foot work to get the records expunged.)

I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Probably because it’s the one time of year I make stuffing and everyone loves my stuffing. How that happened, I have no idea, but far be it for me to argue when I’m getting a compliment. I also love the Macy’s Parade. I have a thing for parades. Probably dates back to my baton twirling days. But I digress.

Here’s the thing about Thanksgiving. The weird relatives have to come out. We can hide them all year long and pretend Aunt Sally doesn’t exist, but on Thanksgiving we have to unlock the attic door and allow her to see the light. We can handle Aunt Sally for one day, right? Yeah right. Until she yanks the turkey leg straight from the body of the bird and starts chasing Uncle Arthur around the table spewing those chants she thinks keep turkey spirits away. Yeah, you know what I mean.

I like to think of weird relatives as characters in a play. Everyone has a role. We have the director. That’s usually me. We have the carver. The carver likes to play with knives and has a hidden fetish for Sweeney Todd. There’s the sensible one. Her food isn’t allowed to touch on the plate which means several trips back and forth into the kitchen where she carefully washes her plate before she tries the mashed potatoes and the corn. And of course there’s Aunt Sally. I try to cast her as an understudy, but there’s no stopping that woman once she gets her hands on that bird.

How boring would Thanksgiving be if we didn’t break bread with our weird relatives? I mean, come one, no one actually plays football on the front lawn while the food is cooking like normal people do they?

And what about the stragglers? Or as I lovingly refer to them, the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys. There’s Bob. We love Bob. Bob has no partner, no children, no relatives anyone can identify. He belongs to no social groups and the one he tried to join asked him politely to leave. He comes to Thanksgiving dinner every year in his plaid suit jacket complete with elbow patches. He sports the infamous comb over now beginning under his ear instead of above it. What I can’t figure out is why he brings his briefcase with him. I don’t ask. I just show him to his spot next to Aunt Sally. At least he doesn’t eat with his hands. Though he does allow the gravy to touch the cranberry sauce so he can’t sit next to the sensible one. We tried that once. It ended badly.

I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving’s display of weird relatives. It’s only at Thanksgiving that I am serenaded by the constant sucking of one’s teeth. I’ll keep that relative nameless. They read the blog.

So, faithful reader, who will be sitting at your Thanksgiving table this year? And please provide pictures.

Is Being Older Irrelevant?

23917309952_de5cbd4619_kI miss being young. I don’t miss everything about it, but I long for the time when my entire future was out in front of me. When I had every possibility in the palm of my hand like the first snowflake of the season.

There are certainly plenty of years still ahead of me and every day my eyes open is another opportunity to accomplish all I’ve wanted to. But those years of being young were simpler times. I miss the ease in which the days passed only bombarded by the trivial mishaps being a teen brings. Of course, there isn’t a teen on the planet that will tell you their lives are easy and I was no different. It is only with the filter of age and time that we can look back at the rough edges of teen life and see only the soft smooth picture that remains.

Things that were important then no longer matter now. I suppose what matters to me today will not matter five years from now either. Or perhaps matter less. The present moment leaves its sting like no other.

If I knew then, walking the halls of my small high school the smell of wax, cooked food and sweat in my nose, what I know now, I would have made different decisions. Not all the decisions. Some were good ones, but others I wouldn’t do again. Even armed with knowledge I’d be bound to make mistakes. We can’t eliminate risk all together though I’ve certainly tried often enough.

There is a level of fun associated with being young that no other time in our lives allows for. Somewhere along the path while I wasn’t paying attention fun slipped away. It wanted to play hide and seek and I was too busy to join in. Shooing it away, telling it to come back later. Fun has found a younger person to play with now.

I may miss being young because our society reveres youth. We disregard the older generation as passe; a burden to contend with. Their stories are thread bare and time wasters. Their skin folded and creased with years of living and not smooth and firm and dewy. They are easily manipulated, not adept with technology. They walk too slowly, drive badly, can’t hear or see you. We are told to fight getting older as if years of wisdom is a war to battle instead an honor to bestow. Society has decided an air brush yields more power than knowledge.

My class reunion is next year. I’m looking forward to it. Many people aren’t interested in returning to the place where they had pimples on their skin, awkward words stuck in their mouths, and two left feet. I think I want to go just to be near the people who knew me when I was young. It was with these people I grew up. We hear music that transports us back to football games on Friday nights, we remember parties on the beach, we wore clothes in neon colors and jeans washed in acid, we read books about children locked in attics and scary clowns. We went to movies on Monday nights with a date.

These were the people in my life long before I had teenagers of my own. My classmates don’t think I’m wrong because I’m old and out dated. Won’t tell me I don’t understand them because they know I was once that age. They won’t roll their eyes at me when I share my memories because those memories are theirs too. My stories aren’t boring and tired because they played a roll in them.

I am not young. That burden is for someone else to carry now. I need to read with glasses when the light is dim, I have eliminated cheese fries from my diet, I hung up my baton a long time ago. I am older, wiser in some ways. I have done some living and have plenty more to do. I have a lot to learn because the older we get we realize we don’t know everything. But I will tell you this:

I am not irrelevant.

 

To My Stoneware

11695229244_c4f9e93b07_kI often say friendships are like paper plates because they are disposable. Let me be clear right off the bat because I’ve been yelled at before for this. Friendships are disposable. Not people. Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. Friendships serve a purpose and when that purpose is over the friendship ends. Like paper plates.

Some friendships are like stoneware. Strong, durable, chip-resistant, reusable, dishwasher safe and decorative. I was hanging with a piece of my stoneware recently and was reminded how grateful I am for her.

My stoneware doesn’t judge me and I don’t judge it. It helps that I picked it out, but some stoneware isn’t made as well and breaks fooling me into thinking it was better quality. (It’s best to read the labels first.) The lifetime stoneware, the unbreakable, lets me vent when I need to, sit quietly if I have to, reminds me to laugh and offers sage advice.

Stoneware is there when you need it for the parties and the lonely dinners for one. Stoneware doesn’t leak through when you’re sick. It’s probably grateful for the cycle in the dishwasher, but it won’t ditch you.

Having stoneware doesn’t mean you won’t argue with it, disagree with it or even misplace it for a while. Believe me, I lost a very important piece to the set and it took me years to locate it, but when I did that dish slid right back into rotation like it never left. That is what stoneware does. A paper plate would’ve been mush by then.

You know, I chose a plate way back when I was ten. I thought for sure it was stoneware. We walked to school together, rode bikes together, laughed, kept secrets, double dated. We understood each other. The connection lasted a long time. But, I misplaced it and it took nearly twenty years to locate it. When I did, I was sad to find out my dish wasn’t stoneware at all. It was a paper plate without any coating. Unsalvageable. How could I have been so wrong about my choice?

I have very few pieces of stoneware. I’m okay with that. If you get two good dishes in your life, you’re lucky. I’m grateful for my stoneware and I probably don’t tell them enough. So, thank you, stoneware for our years together. For the laughter. And the tears. Thank you for letting me be me, chipped, dented, less vibrant than I once was, my design not so much decorative, but loud.

What do you like best about your stoneware?