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.

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?

 

Why Do We Stop Sending Christmas Cards?

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that time of year again, the time when you scour your photos in your phone for a decent one of you and the kids that you can upload to some stationery company like Shutterfly, VistaPrint, etc, and order Christmas or Holiday cards to send to people you know. Every year I vow I’m not going to do it again.

I was always under the impression Christmas cards were sent to people you didn’t speak with on a regular basis as a way to keep in touch. I’ve found over the years the people I don’t speak with stop sending cards. Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or is it, well, I have to see her in the supermarket, so I better send her another card. People move away, change jobs, whatever. Why would you stop sending cards just because we don’t live around the corner from each other anymore? I mean, if I do run into you at the CVS and we catch up about your sick dog do I really need the card? Yes, I do!

Christmas cards were first sent in the 1800’s by Henry Cole. He was a very busy man and didn’t have the time to answer the letters sent to him at Christmas time. Letters that were filled with stories from friends about their lives during the year. (See, letters from people he didn’t see often.) He had an idea to create a card with the same thing written inside each one and send that instead. Voila!

So, the cards I receive each year are dwindling. I like going to the mailbox at Christmas time in hopes of finding a jewel-toned envelope waiting for me. Let’s face it, cards are way more fun than a bill, no? I’ve lived in five towns in my married life. I should be getting a boat load of cards this late in my life. But that’s not the case. Friends I no longer work with or live near have stopped sending and here’s my hard and fast rule: if you don’t send to me two years in a row I stop sending to you.

Does that sound harsh?  Am I perpetuating my own demise? Could there be some rational explanation as to why someone’s card no longer arrives in the post for me? Could the budget be stretched too tightly that cards are no longer an option? (Have you seen the price of some of these cards?) Are these people boycotting Christmas? Is it pure laziness? And there’s always the famous, “I’m too busy!” (Which is my least favorite excuse for anything. We’re all busy. Take a seat.)

Though I said it myself, each year I consider not sending. Why? Well, for one, uploading photos to those sites isn’t as easy as it sounds. It never goes smoothly. I spend hours trying to get the right photo, upload it, edit it, pick a card. Oh, the picking of a card! That’s torture all by itself. We’re an interfaith family. I try to be respectful of the fact we celebrate Hanukkah as well as Christmas and the people I send to might also celebrate more than one holiday. It isn’t easy trying to find a middle of the road holiday card that I like and that has the appropriate number of photo slots, let me tell you.

If I’m going to get fewer and fewer cards in the mail, is it worth it to break a sweat every year over sending these cards? I could go back to the boxed cards bought in the stores. Eventually, my kids are going to get too old to stick on those cards anyway. It’s cute for a while, but how long can you drag out a good thing?

That might be the answer. Boxed cards! I still get a couple of those each year from people whose children are grown and sending out photo cards of their own. I used to send boxed cards before I had kids and my mailbox was filled with cards of other people’s children. Yes, filled. Where have all those people gone?

I would like to still find those cards waiting for me each cold afternoon as I walk the mile to my mailbox. Okay, it’s not that far. Give me a break, I’m a fiction writer after all. I would like to think those people from years ago still pull my name up on a list and say, “hey, I wonder how her year went? Let’s send her a card.”

I am grateful for the cards that continue to arrive from friends from high school, college, old neighbors, and new friends. Thank you for sending those cards. Keep them coming.

 

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?

 

Some Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

cat-landing-plates-pistoulet

 

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?

 

 

 

How Do You Handle Confrontation?

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?

Unorthodox Passover 2015

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?