Phasing Out the Blog

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To my faithful reader,

Thank you for walking the path of this blog with me, but it’s almost time for the road to change. The blog has been a lot of fun to write and I’ve enjoyed spending time with you, but my social interactions online have shifted. I need to find where that road leads.

I hope you’ll follow me in that other direction. I’ve started a private Facebook group which I named Stacey’s Novel Family. (Because, hey, it’s all about creating the family you want.) If you have Facebook, and would like to be a part of that group you can either click on the link or reach out to me on Facebook. I’ll give away swag, share inside writing stuff like deleted scenes, and who knows what else, but I promise we’ll have fun.

Or you can follow my newsletter, if you already don’t. That’s where I will continue to share stories about the Noodges, the Coffee King, and my struggles or antics with aging.

The website will remain right here so you can always contact me, check out new releases, and find spots where I’ll be signing.

I hope to see you soon. The door is always open. Just walk right in and make yourself at home. Oh, don’t forget to bring the cannolis. Wink. 

All the best,

Stacey

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Who’s In Your Backyard?

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Not the Jersey Shore. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I grew up at the Jersey Shore. The shore consists of the hundred fifty miles (roughly) from Perth Amboy to Cape May. That’s a lot of space and many shore towns in there. We had the boardwalk and the pier that housed the famous Haunted Mansion, an arcade, fair style games, and a bar at the end of the pier. Pier Pub. Clever enough name I suppose. I rode my bike to the boardwalk almost every day. I didn’t even realize I lived in a shore town even though after every Labor Day the streets emptied out. The shops closed up. As teens, we didn’t have a lot of places to go besides the movies and the parks to drink. In 1987, the pier burned down and my shore town wasn’t the same for many years.

The Coffee King and I bought our first house two miles from the beach. We sold that house during the housing boom in 2005 for a lot more than we paid and bought another house five miles from the beach. We lived down at the shore for fifteen years.

I loved both of my houses. The second house was in a pretty neighborhood with sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and mailboxes at the end of the driveway. The neighbors took care of their lawns, planted flowers in the spring, and parked in their garages. I never saw them. In fact, the people who lived to my right never said a word to us for the six years we lived there until a large tree that sat right on the property line fell into their yard after Hurricane Irene. Then the wife came running over to see who the tree belonged to. (Here’s a tip sweetheart, in NJ it doesn’t matter where the tree sits. Whose property it falls on has the responsibility to remove it.) We didn’t take that approach. We split the cost with her. You know if we wanted to put a fence up around our property she would have insisted that tree belonged to her and she wouldn’t be able to part with it. And on an aside, I used to wave and say hello to her every chance I had to just to aggravate her. Ha!

That town was what some call a backyard community. Kids didn’t play in the front yard because they were at sport practice, dance class, gymnastics, painting, and science club. No one sat on their front porch to watch the neighborhood spill out onto the streets like an old fashioned game of jacks. Including me. I had a deck and a privacy fence on two sides thanks to the people on my left and behind me. (Oh, the guy behind us was in his seventies and he swam naked. My house sat higher than his so I could stand in my kitchen or on my deck and see over the fence. Not pretty. Let me tell you.)

My readers have told me they like the town of Heritage River in A Second Chance House. (By the way, I came up with that town name because a Heritage River is a tree that grows in Tennessee where my fake town is located.) Someone asked, was there a specific town I had based Heritage River on. The answer – no. I wanted Heritage River to be the opposite of a backyard town.

Isn’t the charm of a small town that you know everyone? Of course, some times that’s not so charming. I wanted Heritage River to be a place where you can knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for sugar. Or where you can fall in love. Where the townspeople have your back. Here’s a tiny spoiler: in book three of this series The Essence Of Whiskey and Tea, the hero, J.T. Davies, isn’t very well liked by the people of Heritage River. He has a reputation he can’t shake even though he’s been gone for twenty-four years. He doesn’t appreciate the charm of the town very much, but he does know it’s a good place to finish raising his daughter and his father recently died so no matter what, Heritage River is home. And of course, there’s Savannah.

Heritage River is a place I could live. To me, it’s an extension of the Savage family. A family I would also like to be a part of. Hey, I kind of get to be a part of that family since I’m writing them. I love what I do. And I love my characters and my little southern town. I hope you will too.

I hope you’ll allow me to share a video with you. I held my Book Launch Concert on March 28 where Patrick’s Pub so graciously allowed me to be a part of the open-mic night and do a reading from A Second Chance House. There’s some noise in the background, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 

The 5 am Work Out

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Happy New Year! Another calendar is turned to January. When I worked in an office, I always loved those desk calendars. I’d make notes all over it. By the end of the month, the page would be covered in notations, squiggles, or whatever. But when I ripped the page off and found a blank month waiting for me, all possibilities were open again. I’m in love with the blank page. Hence, my career choice as an author.

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We all know I like to exercise. Naturally, I try to encourage the Noodges to exercise too. Noodge 2 does. She works out with a personal trainer for fitness reasons and to help with a medical condition she has. Noodge 1 will exercise, but usually with a little persuasion from me. I want them both to be healthy and happy. Exercise aids in both of those things.

Teens today have pretty tight schedules. The advanced classes they take so their college applications look good require hours of homework. They have extra curricular activities, jobs, and a social life. Noodge 2 wanted to increase her cardio time, but didn’t know how to fit the workouts into her busy schedule. I suggested to workout before school.

I’m an early morning exerciser. In fact, I’m a morning person. My best time for everything is early. Noodge 2 is a night owl like the Coffee King. My early morning exercise suggestion was met with an eye roll.

We belong to the local YMCA. I offered to go to the Y twice a week with her at 5. She agreed. A new habit was formed, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’m honored my teenage daughter wants to work out with me. Teens usually want nothing to do with their parents unless money is involved.

I will say, getting up at 4:45 (the Y is three minutes from our house, thankfully) to the alarm clock in winter is no easy task. I might do mornings, but I don’t do cold and dark very well. But I won’t bail on her or on Noodge 1 on the days he joins us. (When both of my kids come to the gym, my heart swells.) If they want to skip the gym, that’s fine, but I won’t cancel.

I’ve made encouraging my children’s interests part of my mothering goals. I attend the opera because Noodge 1 wants to go. I’ve attended the Pride Parade in NYC with Noodge 2 and three of her friends because she wanted to see that parade. Have you ever been to the Pride Parade? I have certain images burned on the back of eyelids I can’t unsee. Growing up in my house our whims weren’t exactly indulged. I wanted to do things differently for my kids.

Hence, the 5 a.m. workout.

aruba2018beachchairsRecently, we vacationed in Aruba. I love Aruba. “One Happy Island.” Put a visit there on your bucket list if you haven’t been. You won’t be sorry. Of course, the resort had a gym. And Noodge 2 and I found ourselves on the treadmill several times that week. Me and my girl. I grew ten feet tall when I looked over and saw her working out – with me.

That’s the key. She wants to be with me. My children are about to embark on the real world. Noodge 1 is only months away now. Even though he must go, I will miss him dearly. In the meantime, while they are still mine, I get to soak up the small moments in their company. And if that company is 5 a.m. in the gym, bring it on.

With this new year in front of us, remember to hug your kids a little more. Make time for the things they like to do even if you don’t. Tell them they are amazing, because they are. And if you have to, set the alarm clock and go to the gym. At 5 a.m.

Happy New Year. Love to all.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Jackass

Have you ever seen the movie Serendipity? The movie stars John Cusack as Jonathan Trager and Kate Beckinsale as Sara Thomas. I love that film. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. It’s a rom-com about a couple who met by accident, and felt an instant attraction to each other. Four years later, days before his wedding to someone else, Trager begins a search for this mysterious woman, Sara, because he has to know for sure if she’s the one. At the same time, Sara searches for Jonathan.

serendipityimageDean Kansky, played by Jeremy Piven, is Trager’s best friend. (Piven also happens to be Cusack’s best friend in real life.) While searching for the mystery woman, Kansky tells Trager he’s a jackass  and goes on to quote Epictetus; “be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” Trager doesn’t care how searching for a strange woman on the eve of his wedding appears. His heart leads the mission logic cannot defy.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live our lives as jackasses? Not to worry about what other people think or how they might be judging us. A benefit to getting older is having the ability to care less about the opinions of others; to throw caution to the wind, to coin a phrase, and finally understand life is what we make of it. To live a fulfilled life, we must not worry about being foolish or stupid, but run through the sprinklers with wild abandon, with the sun on our backs, the grass between our toes, and laughter in the air.

Guess who can’t follow Epictetus’ advice? Teenagers. (And a few adults, but let’s talk about the teens for a moment because they can’t help themselves. The adults – well, that’s another story.)

I’m in the thick of raising teens, and like every stage of parenthood, this one has its pluses and challenges. Here’s one of the challenges: teens spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying how others perceive their behavior. They believe the whole world is watching them, because they have magnifiers and bright lights pointed on themselves. They worry that the world around them will judge them; tell them they aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, strong enough.

Truth is, no one is paying that much attention because they’re busy worrying about what other people think of them. One of my favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do. 

Teens just don’t understand that. I feel badly for them. They worry about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, but matter a whole lot to them. If they could let go of the fear, they’d probably enjoy the ride a lot more. (Again, same applies to adults.)

But teens have to be teens. They make decisions based on emotion and not logic or reasoning. So, when I’m trying to be logical with my teens about something that is purely emotional to them, I lose.

I’m learning not to argue. They have to come to their decisions in their own way, and that’s a life lesson for them. Soon they will be out in the world all by themselves and I won’t be there to wave logic in their faces like pom-poms. “This way. Look over here. Pay attention to my wisdom.” I want to shout, but can’t. Their lives. Their choices. I’m only the GPS if they need me. And they need me less and less.

Often I find myself thinking, I’d love to go back to being a teenager with the knowledge I have now. I’d have the great time I was too afraid to have back then. And often, I find myself wanting to say to my teens, “don’t be afraid to be a jackass.”

Since I can’t go back, alas, then I have to live the example now that I want for my teens. Be fearless in the face of fear. Be willing to be thought foolish and stupid. Have a blast.

Are you a jackass?

Why You Should Go to Your High School Reunion

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Not my class. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

I recently attended my thirtieth high school reunion. I can’t believe how much time has gone by since I threw my white mortarboard into the air; my insides filled with the helium of elation and the possibilities life would unfold at my feet.

I went to a small high school. There were only 210 graduates in my class in a school that accommodated four shore towns. You can imagine having a small class brings good things and bad; you know everyone in your class and most of the school. Wherever you land in the popularity hierarchy is pretty much where you stay until the end. For teens, your status is often very important. Even though I really didn’t care what people thought of me (still don’t) and my big mouth was proof of that, I still wanted to find the place where I fit in. Four years is a mighty long time to wander the halls staring at the same faces. I was absolutely not popular in high school – I was a baton twirler – need I say more? No one was looking to follow me anywhere, but I did have “friends” in many of the cliques. And thankfully I had a few good friends who let me sit with them at lunch.

Despite my lack of popularity and boyfriends (someone at my twentieth reunion asked me why we didn’t date in high school. Really???? I wasn’t on your radar, dude. You never asked.) I didn’t have the worst time in high school. Sure, while I was there I hated it. I begged my mother to let me go to a new school which only garnished her squealing laughter in reply. But with the benefit of the beautiful and powerful hindsight, I realized high school wasn’t so bad. No one tied me to the flag pole during gym class. Yup, that happened. I bet that kid doesn’t attend his reunions.

Sure, I had people who didn’t like me, and made sure to tell me on a daily basis. I’ll leave them nameless. Thanks to the healing powers of time and Facebook, I’m now “friends” with them. I got into a few fights – all verbal. I knew I could never win a fist fight, but I absolutely could outsmart someone with my big, scary, mouth. Which was the tactic I employed when Paulette wanted to fight me in the bathroom because my guy friend beat up her guy friend on my behalf. As if I had anything to do with that – and just for the record; her guy friend was a jerk.

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My classmates 30 years later!

So, I look forward to attending my class reunions. Who cares what happened thirty years ago? It’s time to get over it, seriously. We’re all adults now and every one of us has realized whatever we made a big deal out of then doesn’t mean squat now. We’ve all been in the path of mistakes, bad choices, life’s sense of humor. We understand what’s important, and if we don’t, well sucks to be you, I guess.

You know what else is great about reunions, you get to see everyone still has the same personality just with less hair, more weight, and highlights. It was nice to watch my classmates interact with the same flair and genuine caring of each other they displayed long ago.

Okay, not everyone was caring back then. I’m sure I wasn’t either. (I should apologize to everyone’s head I bit off during 1983-1987. Forgive my immature, hormonal, over reactive, no filter comments.) But those of us that repeatedly show up to our reunions, who are excited to catch up with each other, were basically all friends back then too. My sister’s grade has never been able to pull off a reunion. I really do believe those of us who show up all got along. It’s special.

Reunions are for forgiveness. Forgive yourself for worrying so much about everything back then. Forgive those that said stupid things that hurt your feelings because they were trapped in brains that hadn’t developed logic or reasoning yet. Forgive yourself for not doing things that weren’t cool because you didn’t want to be judged, but really wanted to do.

Find the moments of joy; football games on Friday nights, parties, good friends, the prom; hanging in the Wind Mill parking lot (okay, you’d have to have been from my area). Focus on those times and forget the rest. The less than pleasant stuff doesn’t matter thirty, twenty or even one year later. Really, it doesn’t and it had nothing to do with you anyway. Let it go. (Unless you were the kid tied to the flag pole. That mattered, but you still need to work on getting past it. Don’t continue to give the bullies the power. They suck. Not you.)

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Jennifer, Betsy, Me, and Ginger – still friends!

I will tell you: I walked into the reunion with my BFF. Almost immediately, she dashed off to speak with someone and I stood there in the middle of the room alone. For a brief moment, fear dragged its cold hand down my back. I was back in high school sticking out like a sore thumb. I didn’t know what to do. Run for the bathroom? I took a deep breath and shook it off. Hell, it was thirty years later. I might look older, have a few more wrinkles, but I had this. I marched over to Ginger and we hugged as if no time had passed at all.

I was home and this crew shared some of my best times.

Thanks for the memories, Shore Regional Class of ’87. I love you tons!

 

 

 

Every Wrinkle Tells a Story

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Google “fight the signs of aging.” Go ahead. I’ll wait. Okay, if you Googled it then you saw the 379,000 results that came up. Most of which are geared toward women. In other words, women, don’t grow old you won’t be attractive any longer.

I buy into this whole anti-aging game. I hate what’s happening to my skin. I hate the lines on my forehead. I’m paranoid my chin will drop. I spend lots of money on products that are supposed to reverse the sun damage I did as teen when the only thing between me and the UV rays was baby oil. My family has blocked all paths to Botox websites.

I want my twenty-five year old complexion back. I miss my natural hair color – black. I know I’m not supposed to care I’m getting older. We want the years to pile up because the alternative is far worse. With age comes experience and wisdom you can’t handle as a younger person. I get it. I really do. I just don’t want to look old. Old should be a four letter word.

Staying in shape is harder than it was even ten years ago. My body creaks and groans in sounds I’ve never heard before. And if listening to my mother’s generation is any indication, those sounds only get worse. I tell myself that won’t be me. My hamstrings tell me something else.

Am I victim of societal norms? Well, if the fact I remove all unwanted hair from my body says anything, then yes I am! Society tells me hairless and young is attractive. I don’t want to be excluded from the popular kids’ table. Unfortunately, old people sit by the bathrooms and there’s a space open at that table. Spaces are always open at the old people’s table.

I need to turn my head around on this one. I may have found the way. Someone said to me, “every wrinkle tells your story.” You know how I love a good story. That phrase resonated with me. Our wrinkles and gray hair are the stories of our lives.

How many times have you said, “my kids gave me gray hair?” Could you imagine your life without your children in it? Not me. If kids equal gray hair, then I guess the gray is okay. (I’m still going to cover mine up, but I’ll try not to get so freaked out about the amount of them.)

We can’t navigate through life without a road map. (Have you ever seen me when I get lost? Probably best you don’t.) Bummer the road map is on our faces, but isn’t the journey more important than the destination? All the roads I’ve traveled have led me here. Sometimes the road was bumpy, sometimes smooth.

The lines around our eyes are paths filled with laughter.  I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the times I bent over laughing so hard I cried. There are countless memories etched into those lines on my face. I’d take everyone of them all over again.

I also have frown lines. Bummer again, but with the good comes the not so good. I’ve worried over the health of a loved one. I worried about school, money, love. I worry about my children every day. Noodge 1 drives in less than two weeks. I’ll be worrying a lot more. But I would never change his growing up. That is the cycle of life.

I’m not ready to toss my anti-aging serums in the trash. Instead, I’ll look at my wrinkles with kindness and give them space to tell my story.

 

In Honor of Best Friends Day: Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

  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 […]

In honor of National Best Friends Day, one of my favorite blog posts is making a return visit. To all my stoneware: Thank you for your beauty, integrity, and taking up space in my cabinets. I love you all! S. 

 

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My senior prom. Thirty years ago. (Time flies.) These girls were my besties back then. Betsy, on the left, is stoneware. Loren, on the right, also stoneware. I love them both dearly. Meredith, the one next to me, paper plate. Her plate got tossed thirty years ago. Just the way it goes. 

 

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?