Are You Passionate?

JoshCymbals

“Persistence prevails when all else fails.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. I have it on a plaque. Persistence is one of the few things you can control and we all know how Italian women want control.

Recently, I put together a new workshop for writers. This one is about – you guessed it – persistence. The writer’s journey is a long one and without a little persistence and a few good laughs you’ll give up. Planning the workshop got me to thinking about Noodge 1.

He started playing the drums at the age of 8. He’s 15 now, (I am so not old enough to have a fifteen year-old) and has learned a valuable lesson about persistence. It pays off. He tried out for the marching band drum line last year as a Freshman. He made the cymbals. Cymbals is the place where most kids start. You have to work your way up to a more coveted spot like Tenor drum or Snare drum. There is also the Bass drum, which a Freshman can make. Noodge was disappointed he landed on the cymbal line. He wasn’t even going to be holding a drum.

He worked hard; never missing a practice or game. He rehearsed his part as a cymbal player and he continued to work on playing his snare drum. He knew his marks on the field during the halftime show. He had a difficult person on the cymbal line he needed to learn to deal with.

Auditions rolled around for the 2015 fall season. He practiced that audition piece and when it was time to show the judges what he knew he was ready. He made the Snare drum. This is what he said to me, “I worked hard and it paid off.” That was the best lesson he could’ve learned and I didn’t have to do a thing. Persistence.

Parents need to be persistent. As a parent, you’re going to have to say “No!” more than once. You’re going to have to remind them to do their homework, to choose the right friends, to be active, to read. The list goes on and on. It’s exhausting. It would be much easier to give in to your child’s demands, to let them do what they want, but you must stay strong. You know what’s best for them.

Writers need to be persistent. You have to show up every day. Write something. The first draft will stink. I promise you that, so forgive yourself now and get the work done. Your gem will shine in the editing, but you have to show up to do that too. You need to learn your craft and meet other writers who can be a support to you.

But it’s also about passion. You can’t show up every day if you don’t love what you do. Noodge 1 wouldn’t have practiced, even under the threat of bodily harm, (which no one was going to suggest, by the way) if he didn’t love to play the drums. There have been many times along my writer’s journey where I woke at 5 am to write. Someone said to me once they could never get up at 5. They hadn’t found their passion yet. The only reason I could be up at that hour was because of my love of writing. I have to write. I can’t imagine not writing. I would never get up at 5 am to make a three-course meal. I’d rather starve. Passion is what got me to be a published author. Passion will take you where you want to go too.

If you could be anything at all, what would that look like?

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Feel the Magic. Read a Book.

This view should inspire you to read.
This view should inspire you to read.

I was at a book signing recently, where I had the opportunity to talk with lots of parents. Many were concerned about their child’s lukewarm feelings toward reading. Well, I have a theory on why many kids don’t like to read. They are forced to read books they don’t like and they start thinking, if all books are this boring, stupid, dull, who cares, I’m never reading another thing again. And yes, there is the whole competition with video games, apps, social media, and movies, but believe me when I tell you, find a book a kid likes to read and you’ll make a reader out of them. Because reading is magic.

When the Noodges were in elementary school I watched the school librarian discourage a few kids from reading and that was only the times I saw. How many other times did she do that? She’d say at a book fair, “don’t waste your parents money by purchasing books you can’t read.” Really??? Are you kidding me? If a child has any interest in a book, cultivate that interest. And don’t give me the, “they’ll be frustrated if they can’t read it,” that’s what parents are for. And yes, some kids don’t have parents who care enough to read with them, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Noodge 1 was an early reader and if I can brag for a second, an advanced reader which made finding books that were appropriate for him in elementary school difficult. I didn’t want him to lose his love of reading because he didn’t have choices. That same elementary school librarian apparently didn’t feel the way I did. When he was in the third grade, he had grabbed Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien off the shelf. The librarian said, “You can’t check that out,” and laughed at him. He said, “why is it here if I can’t take it out?” (Yup, that’s the Italian in him.) He put the book back. He came home from school and told me. I’m sure you can guess how this played out. I told her he could take out whatever he wanted from the library and she could keep her mouth shut. I was a little nicer than that. I think.

But then we have teachers who inspire the love of reading in their students and I applaud them. Recently, I was at Anthony Wayne Middle School where I presented a creative writing workshop to eighth graders. Their teacher chose my book and had them read it ahead of my appearance so we could discuss it while I was there. One student told her she thought the book was stupid because of the cover, but Mrs. R. wouldn’t be dismayed . She encouraged the student to keep at it and guess what? She was my biggest fan that day! You know what I’m most grateful for? That young lady learned that amazing stories await inside the covers of books if you just give them a try. She felt the magic of reading for herself. So imagine if she loved the cover, but a teacher said, “You? Read that?” Insert villainous laugh here. 

Applause for Mrs. R.
Applause for Mrs. R.

I assure you, if you find an author or a genre your child likes you’ll make a reader out of them. Encourage them to stretch and try books that might be a little challenging. If they don’t know a word, the can look them up. And they can use an app for that.

Feel the magic. Read a book.

 

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?

Busy, Busy, Busy

Professorhinkle frosty the snowmanDo you remember the animated 1969 Christmas show, Frosty The Snowman? I love that one. Professor Hinkle was the magician who chased Frosty for his magical hat. In the end, Santa Claus shows up and tells Professor Hinkle he’s on the naughty list and he better get his act together before Christmas Eve otherwise the mean magician is getting coal. Professor Hinkle, in his relief to still please Santa lists all the things he needs to do in time. Then follows up with, “busy, busy, busy” before he runs off.

That’s the kind of week I’m having.

Noodge 2 is making her Bat Mitzvah. Bat Mitzvah means “Daughter to the commandments,” and it signifies that a Jewish, young lady has reached the age of religious majority. A Bat Mitzvah is entitled to all the rights and privileges of religious adulthood and of course, to all its obligations and responsibilities.  In other words, it’s a big deal for her and especially for her Italian Catholic mother. I have a party to plan.

This is the week of last minute details. I’ve made my lists and checked them twice. I’m off and running with my goals in sight. And when we arrive at our final moment, hugging good-bye to our guests, thanking them for sharing in her special day, I’ll need a nap. For a month.

In the mean time, I wish you all health, joy and happy reading. Preferably, one of my books. Wink, wink.

See you next week.

Get ready. It's coming in April 2015.
Get ready. It’s coming in April 2015.

 

14 Things Never To Say To Your Kids

I recently read an article about 13 things you should stop saying to your child immediately, well, it’s not really an article, it was 13 photos of cute children under the age of 7 and a caption under each photo. I’m including the link to the web page here if you want to take a look. (It won’t take long.) I try to understand this new world we live in with the need for instant gratification and shorter attention spans, but come on, you mean to tell me people can’t sit through an entire article any longer? I think humans are smarter than we’re given credit for. But I digress. Back to the article, I mean, photos.

I know as a parent I’m always looking for better ways to handle any situation so when I saw this “article” I decided to pull up a seat and see what it was all about. Well, since I read it before I even sat down, I thought we’d have a little fun.

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Courtesy of Morguefile

1. “Here. I’ll do it.” When you’re trying to get out of the house in a hurry because your Mommy and Me Music Class starts in 10 minutes and you have to get there early to wipe all the snotty toys off with a Clorox wipe before Little Johnny gets his hands on them you just have to drop on the ground and tie his shoes for him. He’ll figure out how to do it before he goes off to college. Don’t worry.

2. “Don’t cry.” Listen, I’m a big crier. I cry at those Hallmark commercials so I totally get the whole go ahead and have yourself a good cry thing. But there are times when you need to tell your little darling to suck it up like when Susie from across the street tells your little girl she’s stupid. There’s no crying for that. Don’t give Susie that much power. Hold your chin up high and walk away. Save the tears for the Hallmark commercial.

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Courtesy of Morguefile

3. “Why can’t you be more like ___?” I think that fill in the blank would refer to a sibling. Yeah, I guess that’s a bad thing to say. I’ll give you that one.

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4. “Are you sure you want to eat that?” I say take it up a notch and say, “don’t eat that.” What if it fell on the floor or your little love bug comes into the kitchen and decides cheese doodles would make a nice appetizer before dinner? Why does everything have to be a choice? Who’s in charge here?

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Courtesy of Morguefile

5. “Wait until your ____ gets home.” I love fill in the blanks. What if you tell them wait until your guinea pig gets home? Guinea pigs are fun. (as long as it’s not in my house. Just saying.)

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Courtesy of Morguefile

6. “You’re fine.” Sometimes they are and that’s exactly what they need to hear otherwise they learn to cry over everything including mean old Susie on the playground and Hallmark commercials.

7. “I promise.” You don’t want your little darling to have trust issues so you’re never to say that. I suppose you should also forgo the whole Santa Claus and Easter Bunny thing too since you’re lying. What’s worse: lying or breaking a promise?

8. “Your ___ is an idiot.” What if the blank is? Just saying.

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Courtesy of Morguefile

9. “There’s no reason to be scared.” Are we walking down a dark, deserted street in Detroit at 2 am? Or are we going to bed in our home with Mommy and Daddy just down the hall?

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Courtesy of Morguefile

10. “I hate you too.” Yeah, that’s a bad one. Worse than #3. Don’t say it to your kid. But you have to be told this? Come on.

11. “Because I said so.” Ma, you reading this? What have I been saying all these years?

12. “I hope you have kids just like you.” And that’s a bad thing?

13. “Shut up.” I’m not saying a thing.

The article/photo shoot only had 13 things to stop saying. I thought I’d add one of my own.

14. “I’m not sharing my cannolis with you and if you ask again I’m going to sell you to the gypsies.” It’s an Italian thing.

Need I say more? Photo courtesy of Morguefile
Need I say more? Photo courtesy of Morguefile

Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving!

 

It’s that time of year again. The time to food shop for all the relatives coming to your house to eat. And you don’t even have to be Italian for this holiday which is lucky for you because Italians eat around every occasion. We even make up occasions so we can feed you. Just ask my mother.

I was in the grocery store the other day getting all stocked up on Prosciutto, cheese already cut into little cute cubes so I don’t have to do it, chocolate cake because what’s a holiday without chocolate, and of course the turkey, that no one will really eat because we all like the side dishes better, but the Coffee King looks good holding a carving knife so why stop a good thing?

I loaded up my shopping cart to resemble a volcano about to erupt and dragged the cart into the check out line. I’ll be honest here for a second. I always check to see who the cashier is. I’ve shopped at the same food store for three years now. I’m getting to know who works the registers and who packs a mean bag. In other words, if I don’t like the way you bag I don’t stand in your line. Got it?

So many registers were open and I was tired of pushing and shoving my massive load around so I only checked the first few registers I passed and then settled on an older woman with curly hair not much taller than the belt. I figured that could me in a few years so why not stop? Her name was Mary. Hey, like my mother’s and they were the same size. I wonder if Mary the cashier was Italian too? I should’ve asked. Well, hang on a second, if she was Italian she wasn’t from my group because Mary was a terrible bagger.

We know I’m slightly OCD and I like my things lined up neatly in a row, so I put my groceries on the belt grouped by category. Freezer stuff together, non-food items together, bread together. Follow me? Good. I do this because it makes putting the groceries away easier and it keeps the ice cream from turning to cold soup in July. Most cashiers understand this. Some even compliment  me on it which means they have the same disorder I do. Not our friend Mary.

Mary put the carrots with the crackers. What? Carrots go with the other fruits and vegetables. Didn’t she notice where on the belt they were? The carrots can’t stay cold next to a box of Wheat Thins. And she put the meat with the milk. Now I know my Jewish readers are cringing right about now. Meat should be in a separate bag in case it bleeds on the other groceries. No one wants to be bled on. Trust me. She put the box of garbage bags with the bread. Do I really have to explain this?

Typically, I rearrange the bags when people like Mary drop items into the plastic all whilly nilly, but I controlled myself. It’s Thanksgiving. Maybe she was having a bad day or maybe it was her first day on the job or maybe she hates her job and was taking it on my dinner rolls. Either way, it didn’t matter.

What matters is I’m able to load up my cart with all the things my family wants to eat like mushrooms shoved into the stuffing or mashed potatoes and gravy and buy it for them. What matters is the Coffee King gets to carve our turkey again. What matters are my Noodges. I pushed my cart through the parking lot and to my car hoping Mary has a nice Thanksgiving even if she can’t bag groceries.

And I’m wishing all of you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving too. Just beware of Mary.

 

 

 

What’s On Your Bucket List?

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The Coffee King and I were out to dinner the other night with friends. A cute, little hole in the wall, where the owner takes your order and brings your food. The menu? Italian, of course. Talking over baked ravioli smothered with mozzarella cheese you can stretch and twirl around your fork, my friend Lisa and I were discussing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I told her, “I’ve always wanted to go to that. It’s on my bucket list.” We’re going next year.

Do you want to see the world? Learn another language? Play an instrument? Write a book, perhaps?

My list is long and strange at times. I want to sing in front of thousands of people while wearing leather pants. I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, but I can’t sing and I don’t play an instrument and at my age, no one wants to see me on stage if they couldn’t benefit from watching me in my twenties.

On my list is take singing lessons and learn to play the drums, piano and violin. It might not be too late to go on tour. Heck, if the Van Halen brothers can still do it pushing 60 why can’t I? Who cares if they didn’t see me in my twenties. I’m still cute. Just older. (I can talk myself in and out of anything. I think it’s a disorder.)

I want to learn to speak Italian fluently and not the dialect from the village of my crazy family. Though, how can’t you love a word like “Zingada?” You’re not getting that in any Italian text book, let me tell you.

I always wanted a dog. Check. photo 1 (7)

Graduate school. Check.

Publish a book. Double Check.

Book Two in the Gabriel Hunter Series
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Be a best selling author. No check, but I’m not out of the game yet, though I do need the help of others on this one.

One of the things on my list was learn to drive a stick shift. I bought a car with manual transmission in 1997. That forced me to get good at it because now my car and the Coffee King’s car were both sticks. I felt like the cool kid in the cool club. And my heart swells a little with pride when someone slides into the passenger seat next to me for the first time and says, “you can drive a stick?” Yup, I’m that cool. I sold that stick shift in 2001. Noodge 1 was 8  months old and my car was too small for all his stuff. Plus Noodge 2 showed up about a year after. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children. But the Coffee King holds true to himself. His car today is a stick so I can still be cool from time to time.

I like checking things off my list too. Feels like I’m accomplishing something. My life is fuller, my mind broader, anything is possible.

So tell me, faithful reader, what’s on your list?