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Category Archives: Writing

Here I am again with nothing to say

I’ve been staring at the screen for five full minutes, zoning out to such an extent I may have actually fallen asleep. But my new goal is to write something once a week until it clicks and starts to come naturally again. Unfortunately, that’s not happening yet, so right now I just need to sit here and suffer through this exercise and take all ten of you poor readers with me.

My thoughts are random and jumping from one topic to another… should I write about the end of school year crazy, my revelation that no matter how much I pretend it won’t happen, I will probably be having a party for my son on his bar mitzvah, or the fact that my son’s kitten has now matured to a teen cat with a rebellious streak, and even though I bought the jumbo litter box and the expensive litter, enjoys nothing more than taking a good poop behind the printer in my office.  After successfully potty training three boys, I take this failing personally.

Maybe I should just shower. None of these topics seem remotely interesting and I am rank from the exercise class I powered through on zero energy this morning. I barely slept last night but forced myself to go because I was feeling pretty good about my body in the morning and made the mistake of getting on the scale. Immediately, I realized that I had no right to feel good about myself, which is amazing since if the number would have registered 3 pounds lower I would have been strutting around. I hate the freaking scale.

So there would be no riding on coattails today. Thankfully, the class was a good one and I occupied my brain by looking around at a room full of the women I see on a regular basis. They are varying sizes but all fit and committed. No matter what the scales say, or our brains say or how we slept (or didn’t sleep) the night before, we all keep on showing up. I am proud to be among them. Happier to be done and leave them, of course, but tomorrow we will sweat each other again. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Welcome to the hamster wheel. Come sit with me and fold some laundry.

Now food is on my mind. Why not, since nothing else seems to be. I’m trying to be good but that always works against me. Trying to be good almost automatically results in being bad. Evidence A – a cleaned out jar of peanut butter in the trash. Evidence B –  a ripped open bag of semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate chips. Don’t judge me. It will only send me straight to the freezer.

I might as well shower. This is clearly just rambling down to nowhere. Still, I sat here again and pretended to write something. Hopefully soon I’ll get into it. Creative productivity is just a click click click away! Until then I’ll just keep stinking up the page. And the room.

But I’ll check behind the printer just in case.

 

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Nope. It’s me.

I’m still here. Only with lower standards.

Don’t expect much. I’m only sitting here typing because I made a deal with myself. I would write something, anything, and if I did then I could have a spoonful of peanut butter. Of course, who am I kidding, I’ve already had three already today. But I’m using this contrived bargaining chip, and low and behold, results! I have completed four and a half lines so far.

It has been so long since I have even attempted to write that my mind has lost the feel for it. My thoughts are slow to form and my fingers are equally lethargic. I took both a voluntary and involuntary break this past January.  Involuntary because my husband was in the process of switching offices and while he waited for his new offices to be finished, he commandeered my work space. Voluntary because I had just completed a new fiction novel. One that I was – I mean am – pretty excited about. Jam packed with sex, murder and little league baseball politics, it’s a total homerun. (My apologies for the lame humor. The brain isn’t quite sharpened yet.) Anyway, after finishing it, I was spent, and didn’t mind the brief reprieve, until days turned into weeks which turned into months. Soon my office had multiple screens up, projecting law documents and memorandum. His files overtook my random papers of creative thought and soon I couldn’t find a bit of myself in the corporate takeover of my writing space.

At about the same time, my father took a dip in the deep end of the depression pool, and while this is far from uncommon, sometimes when my guard is lowered, my resistance down and my hormones up, it weighs on me as heavily as the ice cream I wind up eating too much of. Each trip to the pool is unique and this time he wasn’t flailing around as usual, grasping at anyone (me) to save him. No, this time he sank slowly, barely making a wave. I stopped reading, and it being winter, confined myself to hibernation, keeping busy with all the uber-important details that a mom of three growing boys must tend to, mainly doing the laundry for them to kick across their floors, schlepping them to and from school and fields while they ignore me on their phones, and preparing meals for their lackluster review. With the husband busier than ever and no mental stimulation to distract, the water seemed to rise around me as well.

But that was then. Now, I’ve spent the last few weeks diligently nudging myself toward a better frame of mind. I’ve embraced the sun (when it shines) and use it to lure me from my shell. I have started reading again. First a book called, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, a truly lovely romantic fable with so much sweetness that it gave my dark brain an attack of the eye rolls. But then a friend handed me, I Am Pilgrim, a detective thriller that has me electrified and turning pages at lightning speed. It has been a gift, offering both escape and inspiration.

I now occasionally catch myself contemplating what to do with my new manuscript, while mulling over potential freelance essays on the new dynamic of parenting my first born teenaged son, the recent birthday of my mother (No she’s not 70!) or how the girl next to me in my gym class achieved such an amazing ass. I mean really people, it’s essay worthy.

I even remembered that I have a blog. So you see, I’m slowly wading over to a safer place. But I don’t want to overexert myself. I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I sat here, rubbed the sleep from my brain and rambled on a bit. It’s a start. I think I earned my reward.

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Okay, so I took two spoons. But it’s kind of like therapy. Protein is good for the brain, right?! I actually think I’m going to need another one to hit publish. I forgot how stressful this was! Okay, here goes… 

From smother mother to pick up your sh*t

I was a bit of control freak right from the beginning, never bottle feeding any of my children, always latching them to me like they were attached to me, which I guess they were. I reveled in that time where I wandered covered in milk stains, barely able to keep my eyes open, children dripping off of me. I wanted no help, embracing the martyr’s way and spending my days soothing, rocking, and strolling with a child on my hip, or on my back, or in my lap.

As they grew, I was always nostalgic for the year past – for when my four year-old was three, for when my six year-old was five, before my one year old could walk, zipping from one room to another instead of lying lazily in my arms. I worried that they were growing too fast. I was the ultimate smother mother, wallowing in the sap, working on five hours broken sleep a night, and kind of loving it.

It’s because of the mother I was then, one who stalked the nursery school halls, who volunteered for every single class project and trip, who baked cupcakes for reasons as nonsensical as, ‘It’s Tuesday!’,  that I am still amazed at how I’ve changed.

My boys are now 14, 11 and 8 years-olds. They are in high school, middle school and third grade. They still need me to do a million mommy things for them, but now I also expect them to help themselves a lot more. And when they don’t I am no longer the sweet loving mama, I am the nagging, cranky mama.

“Move your asses,” I’ll say when it’s time to shower and they’ve procrastinated too long. “Pick up you shit” and “Get it yourself” are other favorites. I don’t sugar coat things. I expect things done and my patience is minimal.

Maybe it sounds selfish and maybe it is, but I have turned a corner. Things are starting to be about me again and I am embracing this new cycle in my life. I am writing and loving it. But like any job, it takes time, and if I’m constantly nagging I am not sitting on my fabulous chair in my computer room tapping away.

I no longer want them hanging off of me (although a good hug is always appreciated). I want them to be more independent so I can be more independent as well.  I want them to do more for themselves so I can do less. It makes me feel like a bad mother sometimes when I remember how emotional I was when my oldest gave up his stuffed animals or when my youngest went to school without crying for me. But I’ve changed. The mother who always had the play dates at her house because she wanted the children near, now doesn’t mind so much when the boys are all engaged at a friend’s. Back then, I needed them to need me, but now there are many days where I just want to be left alone, not doing anything for anyone but myself.

I know there will be a time in the not too distant future when my beautiful boys are no longer always underfoot, and I will long for them to ask me to make them an egg sandwich, find their baseball pants, or pick them up at a friend’s. I will remember how lucky I was to be so present in their lives and so available to them.

But for now, I’d just like them to pick up their shit.

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It’s really not that hard.

And – shameless plug – if you haven’t checked out my books, Secrets of the Suburbs or Murder Across the Street, you can find them HERE. They make great holiday gifts!! You can even gift for  Kindle!! 🙂

Why I finally published my book

I find myself in a place of genuine discomfort.

After years gaining confidence and finally growing comfortable sharing my real life journey freelancing online and here on my blog , I have decided to start publishing some of my fiction. It’s harder than I expected.

But it’s not like coming to the conclusion to publish was easy either. I spent years – years – writing fiction. I remember finishing my first book in my mid-twenties, a romantic suspense novel of love, murder and revenge. I was so proud to have completed it but then came the problem of selling it. I sent it out to agents and editors and then sent it out some more, receiving mostly form letter rejections but also an occasional personal letter (they wrote letters back then!) offering some kind, positive feedback before crushing my dreams and my soul.

I pretty much had the exact same experience with my next book and my next. So I edited and revised, continuing to write and submit to those agents and editors, thinking that I wasn’t good enough, but hoping that maybe one of them would think I was.

But then a funny thing happened. Or a few funny things. I somehow became middle-aged and started giving a shit less about being traditionally accepted. I realized that I, someone who could barely turn on a computer, had somehow managed to build a social media platform. That many of my fellow online writer friends were self-publishing and just maybe I could too. And that while my fiction wasn’t going to win any literary prizes, it was fun, engaging and entertaining; and many people would like it.

The idea started to take shape and grow, slowly and carefully, like a bubble, until finally one day I said, I’m doing it. I’m going to put a book or two or maybe even three out there in the summer sun and let it fly, because I did it and because I’m proud, and then I’m going to move on, start fresh and write something completely new.

Still, writing fun, sexy beach reads presents a challenge in small town suburbia. I worry about what people will think of me. Even worse, I worry that people won’t like it; that judging eyes are everywhere whispering about my craft, my character and my content. But as difficult as that is, I know it’s part of the gig.

So I need to remind myself to be brave, to keep putting myself out there and to stand behind my work; that I can’t worry what people think of me, only what I think of myself. Because pushing beyond our comfort levels is often what makes us better.

It’s not an easy lesson, but like my writing, I’m a work in progress.

Secrets of the Suburbs. Now available on Amazon. Click here. 

Also available for the Nook and Ibook.

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So hot, you’ll think it’s summer!! Oh, wait…

 

Murder Across the Street. Coming Soon….

Order Here! 

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Time For My Big Girl Pants

 

From my storm door I fog up the glass watching my middle son race around on the neighbor’s lawn. Our neighbor’s daughter is with him, but of course she’s in long pants and a winter coat and he’s in a pair of shorts, beaming as he crunch, crunch, crunches over the frozen grass.  Last winter of course, we went through the same. It’s a thing, my older sons tell me, but looking around all I notice are appropriately dressed kids. Not that this is something I stress over. They wear their hoodies. And if they’re cold, well, they know the draw to pull.

My youngest boy wearing pants and a jacket (clearly the smart one) lingers in the house with me, timidly watching the cold from the inside and waiting for that strip of yellow to rumble up the block. Usually my middle son screams, “Bus!” and on his signal we bolt through the door, out into the street where the belabored vehicle idles, creaking its doors open, panting exhaust fumes.

They step on and I follow their little faces and wave, almost immediately losing my 5th grader to his posse in the back seats. But my 2nd grader hangs with me, his brave smile pressed up against the tinted or possibly just very dirty windows, barely concealing his anxiety at leaving his home and me before the bus heaves up, heavily turns and makes its way to the next stop.

On a cold day like today, I am back in my house within seconds, relieved, closing the door to the outside, hunkering down in the quiet and sweet comforts of my steaming coffee, a pile of clean laundry to fold and hopefully a warm voice on the other end of my phone. I spend a lot of time hiding myself away. I used to say that I needed the time and space to write and while that’s true, a writer needs to write, life’s injustices have kept me on hiatus for months keeping a steady force field between me and my computer.

I haven’t been happy about it, although my son has. He is now free to play his Minecraft while I am free of his long faced, soulful pleading. It’s been a relief of sorts, to not feel the pressure of myself to perform. In the beginning with all the other stresses going on, I welcomed it. But quickly that free space got gobbled up with new and old problems and people…  cousins with BRACA diagnosis, one fighting cancer and the other going thru a preventative double mastectomy and hysterectomy, friends who needed an ear and of course my unwell father. And just like that, day after day slowly slipped through my fingers and I lost myself as I focused on others.

So I guess that’s where I’ve been all these months, if you’re even wondering, fogging it up on the inside. But lately I feel the crushing weight of my father’s immeasurable needs has lessened because I lessened them, and here and there the inklings of misplaced energy and discontent sparkle through me. It’s time, my dulled senses snap, to say hello again and find my focus; to get invigorated, get out and feel the fresh air.

But I’ll be doing it in pants.

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That’s my boy!

 

And in case you missed, here’s the essay that secured that my middle son will never wear anything but shorts in winter. Read What’s up with Boys and Shorts in Winter.

And also, if interested, here’s the last article I wrote for On Parenting on Washpo. They Grow Up so Fast, so What’s my Rush?

Yay! I wrote something. 🙂

 

Reflections and Ramblings

Staring out my kitchen’s sliding glass doors; I see the house behind us. Snow drapes off its roof and rises in small sloping drifts up the blue grey aluminum siding. A few months ago, I wouldn’t even have seen the house because of the fence, but the owners, two retired sisters who are looking to move, discovered that one of our fence poles was 6 inches on their property, and those 6 inches may as well have been 6 feet as far as the town was concerned. Yet instead of easily inching over the one pole, my husband, in one impulsive sweep, decided it was time for a backyard makeover. He removed the entire fence along with all the trees lining our yard, leaving nothing but mounds of dirt, which are now covered by mounds of snow, in between us and our soon to be ex-neighbors.

I am staring too long and the house turns ugly. I never really noticed the small windows, jutting air-conditioner or sad siding. I guess because it was never staring me in the face before. Or maybe it’s like when you say a word over and over and all of sudden it sounds ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.

It’s been a mixed blessings kind of day. Like, we played Bingo at the temple and two out of three of my boys won! Two of three. And although there were no complaints from my two boys at their basketball games where both played well, there were many from the one who had to sit and watch both games. And lastly, my brother called to say he briefly spoke with my father who told him to call him back in a ½ hour but if he didn’t answer to call 911. When we called back, he answered. So the day was like that, kind of up and down, and I rolled along with it.

Out the window I follow a trail of little footprints stamped in the snow that lead off into nowhere. I’m relieved to see them. We’ve been feeding a stray for months now and worried whether he’d make it through the last big snow. Now I’m worried if he’ll make it through the snow predicted this evening. Being a stray isn’t easy.

Sometimes I feel astray. Especially in moods and moments like this, staring out windows, feeding my melancholy.  But then the chimes ring, my family barrels in and there is no longer time for musing and melancholy, or as my grandmother would say, “My head up my own ass.” My husband has made a special trip to KFC for Super Bowl Sunday and now it’s time to feed my family instead.

The kids are digging in, grease shining off their smiling lips. Well at least two out of three of them. One is a vegetarian, more accurately a ‘carbetarian’ and he is already scrunching up his face just from the smell.

I take a last glimpse of my demolished back yard that we’ll hopefully redo sometime, but the kitchen comes first and we were supposed to start that project two years ago. I no longer see the neighbor’s house. I see my family’s reflection in the glass; a bucket of chicken on the table, my husband at the head, my animated boys doing what they do; one singing, one laughing and one about to storm off in outrage.

It’s a typical evening in a typical life that is never typical, but perfect and imperfect, ordinary and extraordinary, and where at any given moment two out three ain’t bad.

All I need to be looking at.

The best view

Exposure. And my moment in the sun

My house was as clean as it was going to be, but of course I was a wreck. Why did I agree to do an interview for the Today Show? Why?!

Well first off, it’s the TODAY SHOW! Not to discount my crucial role as the Tornado in my fourth grade production of the Wizard of Oz, but I never had any opportunity to feel famous for a minute. As nervous as I was, I wanted my minute.

A car pulled up to my house and a young cameraman and another producer got out. Neither looked like Kathy Lee or Hoda.  Damn.

“Mommy, we’re going to be on TV!” My middle son chirped, green eyes bright.

His excitement was adorable and I smiled at him until he said, “Now you’ll make more money, right?”

Hmm. Not as adorable.

But who had time for childish nonsense? I was going to be on television! So it was for writing an article about dressing my kids inappropriately in winter. Whatevs.

The camera guy set up, and finally a bright light stared me in the face.“Ready?” he asked.

Uh no. I’ve made a mistake. A big mistake. Definitely not. No way.

“Great!” He smiled, sporting an adorable dimple, “I’m going to ask you questions but don’t look at the camera or me when you answer. Look to the side.” He pointed to where the other producer stood.

“Um, I’ll try,” I said but when I started answering questions, I’m pretty sure I looked like I had tourrets since I kept twitching to keep myself from turning toward the sound of his voice. Still I babbled on, as I generally do, smiling too much, even playing to the camera. All of a sudden I was a 20 year-old flirt in a 44 year-old face that didn’t even have enough sense to put on any makeup.

Why didn’t I put on makeup??! I was so not ready for my close up.

Typically just saying my name aloud to a group gives me heart palpitations. The last time I put myself in a high pressure situation was at the Algonquin Writers’ Conference to pitch my novel to editors. There I felt like I was going to throw up, but right now I couldn’t seem to shut up.

Apparently I had become an attention whore.

On Monday I was happy enough to have a piece in the Washington Post on the bizarre trend of boys wearing shorts in the winter and when it started getting traction, I was thrilled. Then the editor at the Post emailed me that the piece was going viral. I never really understood exactly what that meant until the TODAY show called for an interview, even writing a copycat article citing me. Citing me!!

‘You’re famous!” a friend from another state texted after one of her friends unknowingly shared my article with her. And really I felt a little famous, lunching and taking calls, prepping for my interview and freaking out with friends.

My mouth hung in a perpetual state of fascination and for days my fingers also seemed stunned because I couldn’t write a word. I was too busy chatting and laughing, checking stats and appreciating my moment. I couldn’t focus on anything but my shining self.

By Friday, the article had run its course and the interview had aired. Even though I cringed watching and listening to myself – all 20 seconds of me – I’m proud that I did it and wrote it, and that my words sparked a conversation that led to a segment on a national television show.

It’s been a whirl, but I am happy to be yesterday’s news; once again in my chair in front of my computer, a blank page staring back at me.

It’s time to start again.

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Next time girl. I’ve got ice cream.

Especially if I hope to ever meet Kathy Lee and Hoda.