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Category Archives: Writing

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.

 

 

Take This Blog and Love It

Today a friend called me a name and I was insulted.

She dropped it casually into conversation, tossing it out like a flick of a cigarette and even over the phone I jumped back singed.

She called me a… Blogger.

A blogger. Can you believe it? Every day I slave at this computer writing essays and editing manuscripts. I am a contributor to Huff Post and What to Expect. I’ve been on the NYTimes Motherlode for crap’s sake. Every day I’m grinding my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut as I press send on submissions to Slate, Brain, Child and Modern Love.

A blogger? I felt categorized and marginalized. I felt defensive.  She may as well have stepped on my face in a pile of mud.

Wait. I am a blogger. And I love not only blogging but the essays that I write.

Why did I have such an immediate and negative reaction?

Could it be because my friend is a ‘legitimate’ author and I’m a bit competitive and sensitive? Probably.

Was she being a little condescending? Probably.

It’s like the article by the debate editor of Brain, Child Magazine, Lauren Apfel that I just read in Time, I’m a Mommy Blogger and Proud of it about the old negative stereotypes associated with mom bloggers as overly confessional, full rants and vents, grumbles and gripes. And a bunch of us are, and a bunch of us aren’t. Either way, most of the bloggers that I know are damn good writers who are at their craft daily. If we rant or overshare, you can bet it will be a well written and well-structured essay.

These days, many mommy bloggers use their words and their blogging platforms to reach a larger audience, to open doors that otherwise might remain closed and to network. We are freelance writers, aspiring novelists, bloggers who strategize and monetize.

Back a hundred years ago, I wanted to be a writer and I wrote essays, short stories and manuscripts that I placed lovingly under my bed. Yet I didn’t push hard enough for what I wanted. I let it go, accepting a career in advertising that I ultimately let go of as well to stay home with my children.

Now that they have grown just enough that I can tell them to go play in the basement and they do, I am re-discovering myself and my passion. On my blog I have written hundreds of essays, most of which I am extremely proud. Yes I write about being a mother. That’s who I am. I also write about being a daughter, a friend, a human; the heartbreak and the heartfelt; the ridiculous and the pain of the every day.

I don’t want to be in any way embarrassed or perpetuate a negative perception about something that has offered me so much personal and professional, if not exactly financial, satisfaction. I want to own it – strut my blog around the block in stilettos shouting “I’m a blogger!” instead of holding back and hedging, “I want to be writer and I have a blog.”

Actually what I want to say is that I am a writer and a blogger and I’d like to be appreciated as both.

icescreammama

Sick days, Blue days and Birthdays

I really want to write something right now but I think I may be getting sick. My throat is scratchy and I’m feeling so tired. No matter that I got up at 5:45am because the cat was crying loudly again at the foot of my bed.

She’s old, pushing 18, and it’s like every morning she’s announcing, “I’m still here!” I’d like to toss her across the room and throw her the hell over there, but instead I get up with a heavy sigh and pad downstairs alongside her. We are both a little slower and more creaky than we were just a few years ago.

I give her fresh food as she twists through my legs. This used to be no big deal, but now half the time I almost trip on her. My cat’s cat reflexes have also gone to the dogs and she is no longer adept at darting out of my way.  We are two clumsy old broads.

My throat really is sore and I grab a piece of cantaloupe from the fridge, hoping the juiciness will soothe it. It does for an eighth of a second and then I’m back where I started, but now I’m thinking I need some Advil. I know it’s bad to take on an empty stomach but it’s barely 6am and I can’t think of putting anything in there except my coffee, irritating or fruit, acidic.

I take another piece of cantaloupe, sip my coffee and consider it all while I rest my head on my desk instead of typing brilliant, entertaining prose like I’m supposed to be.

When I pick my head up it is 7am and my middle son is looming over me. He wants a morning hug, pancakes and to know whether he needs to wear his blue or white shirt for his baseball game later.

I check the calendar and confirm that it is in fact a blue day and then realize the date. July 10th.  And now I feel a little sicker. It is my grandmother’s birthday. She died two and a half years ago and would have been 93.

I know she’s hovering around, watching me, tsking when she sees my boys running outside without shoes, invisibly rubbing my hand in that circular comforting way that she had when I’m on the phone with my father, wishing she could send over some lobster Cantonese, fried rice and an egg roll because right now I know she wants to fatten me up.

She took such joy in life and in the challenge of life. She was a lawyer without a license, a psychologist without a degree. A lover of babies, a card shark, a chicken soup maker, a shoe thrower, a piece of work, a force to reckon with, a giver of jewels, words of wisdom and tough love; a matriarch, a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother.

From her first “Helloooeee” to her last “I love you more” and every affectionate “You rotten bitch” in between she captivated you with her commanding tone and raspy voice.

I wish I could do her justice but no one could.

I still hear her and think of her and wish she was here with me to enjoy my boys and tell me in person everything I’m doing wrong and how exactly I should be doing it. We would laugh over a bagel and lox, a good cup of coffee and lick our lips before we dove into our bowls of chocolate ice cream. We would talk for hours, but mostly I would listen, because she was a fascinating woman who led a fascinating life.

It’s July 10th and it’s a blue day. My throat hurts and now so does my heart.

Damn I miss this woman

Damn I miss this woman