Friday, December 12, 2014

So, Miami?


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I treated my husband to a short walk down my memory lane this morning. It is to his credit that he didn’t allow his eyes to glaze over or his snoring to interrupt my story. I told a tale of visiting Miami as a child, actually Hialeah, but we might have driven through fancy Miami beach--just to see it. I helpfully listed the Florida relatives we visited and their relations: Uncle Bert, who married Minnie and had sons Clayton, who married Norma and Junior, who married Betty. Also, Aunt Mabel who never married after her husband went down in a plane during WWII . . . and on and on like that. I know--you’re about to snooze, too. I’ll move on.

The detour came up while I was talking about taking a trip to Miami.  I think I’ve only been the one time and that memory is dim, but I may have been trying to justify my plans. None of those relatives even live there anymore, although there’s an aunt I’d love to catch up with in North Palm Beach. My parents and several cousins live over on the west coast of Florida and inland, but for some reason I had Miami Beach in my sights.  As I talked out loud about it, I began to understand why: I really don’t know anyone there.

Of course I love to visit friends and family, particularly when they live in warm, sunny places and have guest bedrooms. What’s better than that? However, my brain kept dragging me off to warm, sunny places in which I couldn’t send a friendly email to anyone suggesting they might enjoy my company for a few days.  I think I began looking up airfares the day I came across a rant on a woman’s Facebook page that complained quite dramatically that she had been drained dry of giving to others and was going to, basically, run away because she was sick of all the takers around her. (No worries, dear readers, it wasn’t any of you. I was creeping strangers' Facebook pages. I know. It's a problem.) I thought she was quite melodramatic about the whole thing and naturally her tirade garnered dozens of messages from her friends, ranging from the sympathetic (“Don’t forget to be good to yourself”) to the equally dramatic (“Don’t move! I’ll be right there! Please be safe!!”) “Ho-hum”, I thought to myself, “so self-serving” and I moved on to the pages of other people I don’t know who might be more positive and entertaining.

Soon after, though, I began visiting Expedia on a daily basis and getting familiar with Google maps-Miami. But it wasn’t until this morning, when I hijacked my husband’s usually solo morning coffee to share with him my plans for a trip, that I realized what I was doing. Depletion from giving my all was showing itself, and hopefully not in as whiny a way as the Facebook lady’s did.  My subconscious, savvy vacation planner that it is, was nudging me to flee to places where I didn’t know anyone so I could take a break.

Life may be a little more stressful than usual, but it’s not like there is anything unmanageable happening. Much of it is wonderful stuff--like I get to have my grandson living with us again for a while. Plus, I like doing things for my family and my friends. But stress is stress; it takes energy to do even the fun and wonderful things.  And, not that men can’t be givers, but it’s usually women who end up providing the support, legwork, comfort and hors d’oeuvres in any given situation. So, I guess I don’t have to go to Miami to take care of myself, but I do have to remember to take a little vacation every once in a while to recharge myself.  Not just remember, but actually do it. Close the door to my room and read for a half an hour. Stay a little longer at the office and creep strangers’ Facebook pages. Take a drive all by myself.  (And don’t offer to pick up milk and eggs! Wine is okay though.) 

Sneaky subconscious. 

Aunt Minnie, Nana (Helen) and Aunt Mabel formerly of Florida, currently in Heaven (most likely).


Monday, November 10, 2014

Fifty is the new Fifty: The Flip-Flop Philosophy


A while back, I expressed my feelings about a continuing education postcard I received with the promise that 50 is the new 30!  Personally, I am fine with being 50 and I wouldn’t want to be 30 again, new or otherwise. Being 30 for me was fraught with difficult decisions and the fear of the unknown.  Being 50--or over 50 like I am--is like finally getting past a bad traffic jam and onto the wide-open highway.

The reason this blog (and my book) is titled Flip-Flops After 50 is because I am exploring the evolving attitudes and perspectives of aging...as I age. The main theme seems to be: life is different at 50. (I know. That sounds obvious, but bear with me for a minute . . .)  Call us what you like--baby boomers, seniors, slow drivers--we older folk make decisions based on an entirely different perspective than someone in their 30s.  We have the breadth of our decision-making history to consult which contains a whole lot more information than those young whippersnappers who think buying a car without 4-wheel drive in New England is a good idea. (Why yes, my daughter is looking for a new car, why do you ask?) Our decision-making history has the span of time and experience to inform us--whether we heed it or not. We have the ability to make extremely insightful and well-thought out decisions and we have the freedom to make dumb mistakes over and over.  How we handle those decisions is part of the beauty of our age; we accept the responsibility and deal with it or we simply forget about it.

I remember how angry I used to get when applying for a job or some other responsibility and the phrase, “you don’t have enough experience” would slap me in the face. It was the ultimate Catch-22; how was I ever going to get any experience if no one would give me any? I actually still think it’s a stupid rationale for young job seekers, but now I understand the concept a little more clearly. It’s not experience in knowing about a particular field that matters, but experience in knowing about yourself.  Why spend years educating a teacher or an accountant only to tell them at their first job interview, “You don’t have enough experience.” What were all those classes and tests for? I have known enough young teachers who are more than adequately prepared to do the job of teaching; some even better than a veteran teacher. The experience they need, of course,  is not how to plan a lesson or deliver content - that’s fresh knowledge they possess. It’s the knowing how to finesse a parent-teacher conference or navigate a new administration where they are wet behind the ears.  And that only comes with experience...of age.

I’ve always said, “maturity is a wonderful thing.” (Just ask my kids. They’re sick of hearing it.) But it’s true. There are times when there is nothing you can do with a 20-something except sit back and wait for a few months or years to go by. Then watch those youngsters figure out how to make sure they have insurance or buy the car with 4-wheel drive.  At 50+ we’ve probably got all those things taken care of. Now we can just enjoy the ride.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Baba-Day

“You seem a little bit mad.”

Words from a slightly worried spouse? Nope. An inquiry from a concerned friend? Nah. These six little words came from the mouth of my nearly-three-year-old grandson, Luca.  The setting: his bedroom. The task: getting him to take a nap. My response? Well, never mind what my response was. When he utters phrases that should be coming out of the mouths of much older--and perceptive-- people (I’m not naming names here...) I can’t help but fight back a chuckle. But quick as I think I am at masking my amusement at his constant pokes at my reserve, I know the jig is up. He’s on to me. He always has been. He always will be. I guess I’m just fine with that.

Let me back up. I began the day bathing with diaper wipes. (Honestly? It wasn’t horrible.) Luca had an in-school field trip at his school, but it wasn’t his regular school day so he was invited to come anyway and bring a family member of his choice. Me, obviously. We had to be out of the house by 9:45 a.m., hence the improvised shower.   Actually, my usual Wednesday toilette consists of a lot less attention because Wednesday (formerly known as Baba-day when Baba was my nickname) is the day I babysit Luca while his mom does her one full day at the office. Typically we start the day with a relaxing breakfast of chocolate chip cookies and milk served in a tiny espresso cup while everyone else scurries around us trying to get out the door. We stay in our comfies until an orange juice spill or the lure of digging for worms outside prompts us to change our clothes.

But I have to tell you, a day is about as much as I can do alone these days with this often non-stop toddler. I heard tell of a woman who is babysitting her toddler granddaughter 5 days a week and she is as old as I am. I don’t know how she does it unless she’s mastered the Jedi mind trick. (“These are not the toys you’re looking for.”) On a day like today, when I had to be dressed and somewhat odor-free in order to go out and be among other adults, it can be slightly draining. I can’t believe that we got out of the house, over to school for the Critter Caravan, ate a little yogurt in the car, made a quick stop at Canfield Corner for a bouncy ball, picked up Papa from work, drove to the playground for a few spins around the new playscape and headed back home for lunch.  So far, so good. Until I set a bowl of buttered pasta in front of Luca. He put both hands on it, swiftly raised it above his head and dumped it on the counter.  Suddenly it was naptime and he became the most intuitive child in the world. 
"Shhh...don't tell Mom I was in the front seat!"
However, I still don’t think I am as stressed as I was raising my own kids, because Luca isn’t my kid. His parents can stress about whether or not he gets into a good school (he better) or plays football (over my dead body).  Children need parents to set boundaries, make the right decisions and help them become fine, upstanding citizens. Grandparents, still parents by definition, have a certain latitude that is intrinsic to the kind of parenting that we get to do. I don’t think it’s simply aging that has changed my parenting energy; I still have boundaries and expectations, but I’m definitely more relaxed about it all. Luca and I have a kind of intuitive friendship as well that I cherish, and hope will continue on throughout our relationship.  So, when, from his carseat, Luca insists that I send a text to his Mom to come and rescue him, as I drive home the long way in an effort to get him to nod off, I realize that maybe a nap might be good for both of us.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

As Is


On Saturday our garage sale was a washout. We had to hold it anyway because we had signed up...and paid...to be included in the Town-wide Tag Sale announced in all the papers. It was apparently rain or shine. We decided to extend it to Sunday, which dawned cool and sunny; a brisk, early fall day. I took the first shift at 8am since I had been AWOL at my "day job" the day before. I pulled on my thick gray sweater and grabbed a mug of pumpkin spice coffee, my phone (of course) and stepped outside to the garage. I was on the job.  After a week of all kinds of more demanding work; day job, peddling my book, babysitting my grandson, this was a job I could handle. A responsibility with no responsibility, and it suited me just fine. I was "As Is." 

That's how we were selling all our stuff: As is. Meaning of course that we weren't going to repair the VCR or buy a lampshade for the brass floor lamp. I did go around with a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex to symbolically clean some of the really grimy stuff. The seatbelts on Luca's old stroller seat ("It's a travel system!" insisted Annie) had some unidentifiable schmutz on them, but it wiped away pretty easily. The bed tray needed two paper towels and several spritzes of cleaner, but the books looked just like almost-new with one swift pass. Here it is folks: As is. We took care of it as well as we could, but now we offer it for your consideration. Like it or not, take it or leave it. Well, buy it or leave it. 

It's kind of like how I think about myself these days. As is. This is how I am folks; take me or leave me. When I went out to the garage it occured to me that I should make more signs or rearrange the 400 shovels and rakes we have propped up against the garage wall. As I looked around I saw 10 different areas that needed 20 different fixes, all of which would require my attention, endurance and coordination. I took note of all the plastic crates that still needed to be sorted out and designated to yet another storage area or the trash and I acknowledged (to myself) that many of the projects I had started over the years now sit in various forms of completion in this very garage. It was a Sunday, I was up early and I had the day in front of me. There were dozens of things I could do. 

Instead, I did just one. I sat down in a chair (for sale), enjoyed my pumpkin spice coffee and checked my Words with Friends games. I watched nobody pull up to buy anything and I smiled as a couple of squirrels tumbled out of the long-neglected garden on the side of the driveway and scurry across the street, where they ended up yelling at us for the rest of the day for encroaching on their territory.  The rest of the family roamed in and out of the house throughout the morning; Annie put up more signs for our sale and managed the cash box, Luca set up his cookie and cider stand and Angelo and Tony started the fall clean up in the backyard. The sun moved around the house to shine a little more directly on the driveway, so I gave up the sweater for sunshine and found a different chair and I continued to be as is into the afternoon.

We made a couple of sales and then we packed it in for the day. There's only so much selling off of one's household that can be done in one weekend. (So we went to Target afterwards to buy more stuff.) I enjoyed selling off some of our unused furniture and household goods, but the best thing that happened was having that time to myself where I didn't feel beholden to some demanding task that only exists in my own sense of responsibility. I was able to direct my sense of responsibility to take a break for once and just be in the moment of the day. I'll be honest, it was a lot of moments, but being as is was nice for a change.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Rude and Oblivious


There are days when I can’t handle going outside. It’s the rudeness of others that really ticks me off and it is getting so that I am not sure I can be counted on to not say something to the offenders.  This is why I love getting older...I can consider reprimanding people and not feel bad about it. Does that make me rude? I don’t think so. I think I would be doing all of society a favor.

Today’s offender put both Angelo and I in a bad mood.  Here’s what happened: Deciding to get some fresh fruits and veggies into our house, we happily pulled into the Adams grocery store parking lot.  (We decided about the fresh fruits and veggies because we had just eaten lunch at  G’s Burgers and were feeling a little...uncomfortable.) Spotting a space close enough for carrying the bags back without a cart, but far enough away to count the distance as a “walk” in our fitness plan, Angelo began to edge our van into the space.  He slowed because the woman driving the Acura next to us was still closing her door and needed to move her cart out of our way. But she didn’t move the cart...she left it in the middle of the space and walked around to the driver’s side and got in. We were stuck partway in and partway out, thinking she would certainly notice an enormous silver van pulling in next to her, but her head was crooked downward tractor-beamed by her smartphone’s screen and she didn’t budge. I jumped out and moved the cart, but between Angelo stubbornly staying where he was and the proximity of all the other cars around the space, I had to push the cart down a row before I could get it out and put it in the corral, right next to the Acura. I made a bunch of noisy ahems and coughs so the lady could see the error of her ways and apologize. I even walked right past her window and looked in, but she was glued to whatever important information was coming at her through her phone. Once on the other side of her car, I opened my door and said, maybe just a little loudly, “she didn’t even look up!” to Angelo. (These are the kinds of statements that make my daughter cringe when we’re out together. I am learning to only act this way in the company of others who are 50 or older.) Still nothing from the Acura driver until she pulled out of her parking space and zoomed off.  

Angelo parked and we walked into the store but this microscopic little incident had the power to irritate us both to the point of crabbiness. To be honest, he was crabbier than I was and I realized this when he objected to my choice of pasta for the evening.  
“Really? I have to get a different pasta?” I asked since I was now three aisles away from pasta.
“That one won’t go with my sauce,” he said.
“We’re not having sauce, just olive oil, broccoli and parm,” I said.
“We’re not having sauce...?” he said with a slight pout and I knew I was changing our dinner menu.

I don’t know why I let the oblivion of others get to me. Of course I think it’s gotten worse in the smartphone era. When I was waiting for a flight one day last week, I looked around and nearly every single head was angled downward and a sea of forefingers flicked here and there navigating screens.  But I do that...take the opportunity to check my mail (mostly spam), the weather (still warm!), my book sales (plummeting), and Words with Friends (their move) whenever I have a free five, ten minutes or so.  But I hope I don’t do it to the exclusion of the rest of the human race.  I’ve seen people walk through doors without holding it open for the person behind them or leave wads of dirty napkins on coffee shop tables because they are oblivious to the world around them and the idea that someone else might want to bring their coffee to a table without having to clean up after someone else’s who-knows-what kind of schmutz crumpled up in a napkin is an idea that occurs to very few these days.

As usual, the lesson here is that I can’t change anyone but myself. Fine.  Then, I guess the key is to remember to not let myself get so caught up in my virtual world that I forget that I am a part of a bigger, human and, let’s face it, more interesting world around me that I can hear, touch, smell, see and taste. Or yell at.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What makes it all worthwhile

I am going to try very hard to not sound like I'm bragging or being otherwise obnoxious, but I have to write a little bit about something that happened yesterday.

There I was, minding my own business at a local winery (Connecticut Valley Winery if you must know. And you should because they have wonderful wines there) hovering about with my fellow AAPG authors at an event called Wine Stories. The winery paired their wines with our books and we had a chance to talk about them when each wine was introduced.
It wasn't a difficult way to spend a potentially rainy Saturday afternoon, particularly because we were encouraged to try out the wines that our books were paired with. Which we did. (Mine was Olè Sangria. Yum.)

Of course, most of the folks who showed up, including a bus tour and a bachelorette party, were there to sample and purchase wines, not books, so I wasn't terribly busy. However, I enjoyed chatting with the other authors, meeting the vintners and checking out which wine I might have to bring home after I was done for the day.

About halfway through the afternoon, a woman walked up to my table and introduced herself. She told me she had picked up my book at a bookstore in Kent, Conn. (House of Books...another charming place to visit - and not just because evidently they sell my book) She told me that she had come from her home almost an hour away because she read that I'd be at the winery that day. She came specifically to meet me because she wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my book and how easily she had identified with the topics I covered in my essays. She said that she enjoyed the humor and, quite honestly, she said a whole bunch of other really wonderful and lovely things but I was so astounded and flattered it was all I could do to keep my jaw from dropping to the floor. I think I had this stupefied look on my face and I was slightly aware of trying not to sound like an idiot as I tried to convey to her how much it meant to me that she had made such an effort to come and tell me these very meaningful things.

I mean, seriously. How lucky can I be to have had an experience like this? But wait. It gets even more astounding.  A little bit later, a friend of mine showed up with a crew of five wine-loving friends in tow. That in itself was a huge gift to my authorly aspirations. Places like wineries and bookstores like  it when an author can bring in customers.  On their way out after their tasting and book-buying (because they supported the other authors, too. It's a good crew) one of the women hung back and came to speak to me. She told me that after she attended one of my readings and heard me speak about publishing my book--something I had always wanted to do--she was inspired to begin taking the music lessons she had always dreamed of and is now playing the violin. Again, I hoped that the look I had on my face conveyed gratitude rather than flabbergasted as she shared this very personal accomplishment.

When I published my first book I imagined Ellen or Oprah would call, but in reality I knew they wouldn't; they don't have my phone number. I guess I thought I'd sell some books, visit some bookstores and then write another book. Or something like that. I'm not much of a business-person, and I didn't really have much of a business plan. Or any realistic business expectations at all. I suppose I thought my reward would be the financial one, if there even was a financial reward after all the costs associated with this little venture of mine.

But as always happens in life, there is often a very different reward in store when you embark upon your heart's desire. Nothing could have prepared me for the depth of appreciation and gratitude I feel when someone tells me that reading my book has given them pleasure. Or made them laugh, or think. I don't know about other writers, but hearing that the words I pull out of my heart have the ability to ring true with others is a gift I have yet to come to terms with.

So, business-wise, my day ended in a loss. I only sold two books--to other authors--and bought another author's book myself. And some wine, obviously.  But writer-wise, my day was right up there in the top ten.

Thank you Terri, Heather and Nancy for one of the best days ever. 









Monday, August 25, 2014

Running Scared

A few weeks ago, my daughter Annie mentioned a local 5K run that was coming up.  She said, "It's at the end of September" and I replied, "That sounds like fun."

I am still not convinced that I actually said that as I am not aware of ever thinking running in a 5K would be fun. The only time I recall running on purpose was when I was in my early 20s and chased a would-be  burglar out of my Hallmark store on Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Since running after a drug-crazed robber is not a very intelligent decision, I suppose I've associated running with dangerous activities ever since. 

For the last few months, however, Annie and I have been walking...walking...in an effort to get some exercise and have a few calories left over at the end of the day for our glasses of wine per our fitness app.  Annie straps  Luca in the stroller, walks over to get me and we take various routes so as to eventually end up at Starbuck's for tea or Adam's grocery store for milk or veggies. As far as I could see, there was no reason to change this routine at all and I thought we were all very happy with it. But then,  Annie began running a little bit here and there. I stayed with Luca pushing the stroller and she would run ahead and double back, catch up with us and run ahead some more. All along the way she would exhort, "Come on, Gramma! Run a little bit!"I pretended I didn't hear her.

Then, one day, I trotted a bit. Annie had purchased one of those weird looking jogging strollers and it made me feel like I could possibly pick up the pace. A little. It wasn't horrible and Annie still literally ran circles around me, and I began to feel slightly more healthy. Then Annie got the brilliant idea of running--with Luca in the stroller -- in a 5K the next town over.  For some reason (and this is the reason I began to wonder if she was actually my child) she was incredibly successful at it wanted to do another one. Hence the above-mentioned 5K discussion. And we signed up.

Now of course I needed actual running clothes. (Although, I didn't plan on running very much. I was going to maintain my usual job of wheeling Luca around the course. Thank god.) If I was going to be a part of a field of runners, I had to at least wear something other than my 20-year-old bicycle shorts and a large sleeveless white tunic. I needed to go to Marshall's. Annie has been picking up her adorable and colorful running clothes there with major success. I assumed I would have a similar experience, but after about 30 minutes of walking around and around the racks of polyester netted tanks and teeny little shorts, I came home with one pair of black and gray shorts. Actually, it looked like a little tennis skirt and I was pleased it would hide my, well, you know, anything. (And I posted the 30 minutes of walking to my fitness app.)

The problem was that even though it looked on the hanger like it would fit me, it really didn't when I got home. Back to Marshall's I went to return the skirt and pick up the next larger size. But, there weren't any. Not the style I wanted anyway. In fact, there were very few shorts, skirts or skorts in my size at all. Did a bunch of Large women decide to run that week? At that moment, a woman pardoned herself past me and headed to the fitting rooms. There, hanging from her arm, were about seven pairs of Large running shorts, including the pair I wanted! I hovered near the fitting room for a few minutes and then felt self-conscious so I moved over to Fall Sweaters and hovered there. Finally, the lady come out...and modeled each pair for her husband. (I personally prefer the privacy of a closed dressing room--or my home--to a public mirror when trying on Large running shorts.) Stalking her for my shorts might take some time.

Believe it or not, when she finally came out, she took the whole bunch with her. I went to ask the Fitting Room lady if she had left any behind and sadly, she had decided against only the purple ones. I was left with only an exchange for credit and no shorts. Of course this means I'll have to trek out again for appropriate running attire. Now that I'm signed up to run, it's a requirement. At least I was able to use the Marshall's credit for a new fanny pack. Fanny packs are necessary running equipment since I need to bring my phone with me with all my apps on it. And I need to bring my glasses with me because I can't read my apps without them. And I need tissues because apparently when I run, so does my nose.

I'm not even really going to run, anyway. But it will be good to be properly outfitted. 


Friday, August 8, 2014

Wrong is the new Right

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Nothing is the new anything. Except Orange. Orange is still the new Black. Thank god.

When one is trying to motivate herself to get back into a more regular writing schedule, she may occasionally dig back into her old work to fortify her confidence and give her some ideas. (I'll stop with the third person, now, too. It gets old, doesn't it? And confusing.) 

The current trend in business these days, if you believe TED, seems to be about how Failure is the new Success. (whoops! It's just too darn easy!) Learning from failure, teaching from failure, etc. It reminded me of an essay I wrote years ago about being wrong. I submitted it to NPR's This I Believe segment and it is posted still on their website - here. I wrote about being singled out as someone who could be counted on to put my foot in my mouth and say the wrong thing. Regularly. This is not something that many of you are just now discovering.  But go ahead...click on the link. Read for yourself. I'll wait....

Done? Good. The thing about being wrong (as I wrote in the essay, in case you didn't really read it) is that it gives you 100% of the possibilities of any given situation. And if you are comfortable with being wrong, as I am, then you don't feel so badly if you've made the wrong--or other--decision. The consequences after either decision, right or wrong, are just information for the next decision. Learning happens, or it doesn't, so the lesson comes around again and gives you opportunities to sharpen, or ignore, your instincts. That's what's so fun about life.

I had to learn to be comfortable with being wrong. Besides having been criticized for many years about my choices as a wife and a parent, I also really do make a lot of "other" choices. Quitting school to get married, quitting a job at the beginning of a recession, quitting lots of things I probably should have stuck with longer, but didn't for what seemed like a good idea at the time. Except smoking. Buying a used transmission for my used Mercury station wagon. Twice. There are more, but that's enough.

I could have made better...I mean... different choices, but those were the choices I made and I'm sticking with them. Whether I realized it at the time, I always learned something from my decisions. Sometimes I learned that I wished I had kept my mouth shut, spent more money (or less),  stayed home instead of going out, wore more clothes or left earlier. But where's the fun in doing everything right all the time. Or, thinking you do?

Seriously, if you can't be comfortable with being wrong at my age, then getting even older is going to be a much harder process.  Happily, also at this age, you don't remember half the things you do, so who's to say who's wrong and who's right anyway?
(Maybe not a plastic dress for Easter...)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

50 is the new 50


An oversized postcard from our local community college arrived in my mail the other day. Among other exciting announcements, it encouraged the +50 residents in the community to consider getting new career skills because, “50 is the new 30!” To use a phrase my daughter used to say when she was a toddler, the announcement “didn’t feel me better.”

I am in my 50s. At 56, I’m closer to 60 than to 50. When I think about my thirties, I cringe a little. For me, the thirties included some of the most difficult and challenging times of my life.  Fun was not a word I used often. To begin with, I was supposedly at my sexual peak, depending on whose study you believe (Cosmo or Kinsey). For most of my 30s, I was a divorcing, single parent of two young children. There was no sexual peaking for me. At all. (Although I did meet the man who eventually became my husband later in my 30s; there was some peaking then.)

There is a popular graphic going around online that acknowledges: “The best part about being over 40 is that we did most of our stupid stuff before the Internet.” Ain’t that the truth. I absolutely did some stupid stuff in my 30s and hopefully most of the evidence rests in the foggy memory of long forgotten acquaintances. I was getting divorced in a very small town; nothing I did went unnoticed. Or got reported back to my ex. Toeing the line became my main hobby.  And most of the time, I was successful. Other times, I was let go with a warning.

My 30s were marked with stress, financial desolation, ostracism and tons of wine. Learning how to navigate through that uncharted sea took all of my energy plus skills I didn’t have, but had to learn quickly. I don’t think I always did the best job as a parent; I made the bulk of my parenting mistakes in my 30s. Every recurring nightmare my kids report to their therapists today probably happened during this time. It is ironic that my current day job is being a parent educator; what gives me authority now are all the mistakes that I myself made then.

No, I am quite happy with where I am right now. Certainly society has changed, jobs have changed, retirement has changed. People are doing things in their 50s, 60s and beyond that people like my parents hadn’t even considered: living in other countries, starting new careers, raising a second family.  My 30s were a training ground; I’d like to think I’ve gotten a little wiser as I’ve gotten a little older and hopefully I won’t make the same mistakes again. No, I know I won’t. I might make different ones, but with a foundation of experience and a much different outlook.  I don’t want to be 30 again. I say 50 is the new 50. And I’m keeping the wine. 

*Author's note: I liked writing about this topic. I think I'll revisit it from time to time in the next few months. Please feel free to contribute your ideas or thoughts - here on the blog or via email and I'll incorporate them into the subsequent essays. As long as you're nice about it... 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where does the time go?

Whew! It has been some time since my last post and I can't even come up with a reasonable explanation why! It has been a busy summer, for sure, but it's always busy, isn't it? Work, family, travel to Italy.

What? I didn't tell you about my trip to Italy? Well, I will - soon! I am working on another post for the very near future and after that I will gather up all of my pictures and thoughts and share them with you. It was a wonderful trip and we have plans to go back soon. (Well, next year anyway...that's soon.)

I hope you all are haaving a wonderful summer and are spending lots of itme with family, books, barbeques and gardens. Be back soon!
Cindy


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Long and Winding Road

I don’t remember why, but I was the only one visiting my parents at their cottage in Maine for the July 4th holiday weekend a couple of years ago. And, naturally, we were going to do what everyone always does on Frye Island on 4th of July weekend – go up to Long Beach and watch the fireworks show. We had been enjoying a streak of picture-perfect, Maine summer sunniness – so it was on.

The beach is about a mile down Leisure Lane, but we usually drive because my parents don’t really want to walk about a mile down Leisure Lane. Not when we have a golf cart. We acquired the golf cart several years earlier after we sold the Boston Whaler that came with the cottage. We tried to be boaters, we really did, but boating just wasn’t in us. So, off went the Whaler and in came the cart.

Now that was a vehicle that got some use. You could buzz down to the store for a paper, run up to the community center for a ceramics class or get rid of a couple of bags of garbage without so much as disturbing the dust on anyone’s car. My son Christopher spent two summers on the island as an Ice Cream Engineer (that means he scooped ice cream cones at the little store) and the golf cart was his preferred and constant mode of transportation. Even if he wasn’t exactly street legal. Once he got a real driver’s license though, the golf cart was as neglected as the Velveteen Rabbit. And as my parents got older, they preferred taking the car for quick trips; it had windows…and air-conditioning. But, every year when we opened the cottage, we hauled it out, cleaned it off and gassed it up. We had it registered it and ready for service only to be covered up in the fall and returned to its place in the shed with very little use in between.

So, it was a bit of a surprise that Saturday morning when my Dad drove it up to the front of the house and announced, “We’ll take it up to the fireworks.” He started futzing around with the lights, cleaning pine needles off the seat and testing the battery. My mother and I just looked at each other, thinking, I’m sure, 'who did he think was going to drive?' Over the years, due to complications of his diabetes, my dad’s eyesight had grown more and more compromised. One of the worst side effects – for him - had been that he had to give up driving. The man who had driven all of us from Maine to Florida, west to the Mississippi and up and down the Eastern Seaboard was now relegated to the passenger seat. But, there he was, getting the cart ready for Saturday night like a teenager anticipating his first date.

After the detailing, my dad came into the kitchen and announced to no one in particular, “I’m just going to take it down the road and back – see how it’s working” and he grabbed his sun visor off the rack and was off. I wondered how many hazards there could possibly be in the rutted, rock-strewn dirt road up to the corner and back, so after he left, I went to sit on the front porch. The better to hear any loud crashes or shrieks of terror that way.

About six hours later he returned. Or maybe it was six minutes. Either way, I let out my breath, not realizing I’d been holding it. “All set!”, he said, and he walked back into the back bedroom he used as his office, as if taking the cart for a spin was something he did every afternoon. He seemed so confident, more than he had been in a long time, for having gotten the cart ready, that I decided, if my dad wanted to take it up to the fireworks, then we would take it to the fireworks – and I assumed that I would be driving.

It wasn’t until I heard him shout from outside, “Everyone ready to go?” a couple of hours later that I realized that that wouldn’t be the case. There sat my dad, in the driveway, in the driver’s seat, waiting for us. Just like all those Sunday mornings when we were growing up and he would go out and start the car while my mom made sure we were all brushed and dressed for Sunday School before shepherding us out behind him. At the last minute, my mom stayed back. “Something at dinner didn’t agree with me”, she said with her hand on her belly. To this day, I don’t believe it was nerves at my dad’s being behind the wheel – I think she just didn’t want to sit on my lap all the way to Long Beach. In any case, she begged off, promising to come later if she felt better.

“Okay, I guess it’s just us”, I said, and I took my place on the passenger side. My dad turned the key, kicked off the brake and hit the gas. We were off. Down the driveway – great. Up to the corner – well he had already practiced that one, hadn’t he? Right onto Leisure Lane and the open road. Should I keep my eyes open or squeeze them shut? Leisure Lane is a narrow dirt mile of sharp turns, gallon-sized pot holes and gravel bordered by boulders of varying sizes, large and small recreational vehicles and occasionally, small children. I am suddenly reminded of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. At first I tried to be a helpful navigator.

“Family of six up on the right”, I say.

“See it”, my Dad replied and easily veered left.

“Enormous truck bearing down on the left”, I warn—and I don’t think I scream at all.

“Got it”, he says and he scoots by it with room to spare.

And then, as we took each turn and steered past cars parked along side the road, I realized we were doing just fine. Compromised eyesight or not, the one thing my Dad has always been is responsible. He wouldn’t do anything he didn’t think he could do, especially if it meant that it might put me – or any one of us – in harm’s way. That’s why he took his test drive earlier. We wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think he could do it. And here we were…we did do it. Or rather,  he did it. We parked as close to the beach as we could possibly get. It didn’t occur to me to feel relieved, but I’ll be he was.

We unpacked our folding chairs, made the short walk to the beach and planted them into the sand right by the water. My mom showed up--by car--about 20 minutes later, gastrointestinal issues settled. But she had to park about a half mile away. On the return trip, I drove and Dad navigated. In the dark, with all the dust kicked up by departing fireworks-watchers, seeing was difficult enough for 50-something-year-old eyes, much less for nearly-80-year-old eyes dimmed by diabetes. But he was an able co-pilot and we not only made it home without incident, but we beat my Mom by three minutes.

I went down by the water as my parents fixed coffee and dessert in preparation for our next fun thing to do--watching a video together. I looked up into a sky plastered with stars--which made the fireworks display I had just attended pale in comparison. I stuck my feet in the water and about 10 feet in front of me, hovering in the low branches of a pine tree, a firefly twinkled. Sometimes, the little things are really the most impressive.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The New Reader


These days, in the new world of book publishing (and if you didn’t know there was a new world, look here and here) things are a little different. As a writer and newly published author who chose the so-called “partnership” route, my world has become all about building a digital platform, promotion, marketing and social media. I am getting a new education in publishing; the old world, the one I dreamed about when I was young where Mr. Big Publishing House came along and scooped me up, printed my words and set me up to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson no longer exists. Yes, because Johnny Carson is dead, but also because of the new way books are published.  

It is an exciting time for people in the book biz. Authors are getting their work out there like no other time before due to independent publishers, self-publishing, partnership publishing - whatever you want to call it. It’s out there and it’s exciting. But most of the education is aimed toward the new author-- all the how-to articles, websites and other new books help the author stick her or his toes into the fast running current of self-publishing and keep their heads above water.  I myself have been treading water as fast as I can. Dory from Finding Nemo is my new muse: “Just keep swimming!” All that help and support is well and good for me and all my new peers and colleagues, because it’s a big learning curve. But I wonder who is going to tell the public how to navigate in this new world, because as it stands now, I don’t think they’ve noticed the change. 

This occurred to me this morning as I sat down to check on my platform architecture - just to see how it’s holding up. Last night I posted another plea to my Facebook friends and followers to write a review of my book. “If you review it, it will sell,” I said cleverly to my friends and one of them responded within minutes and my Amazon reviews grew to seven.  I was overjoyed, as I am every time anyone says anything nice about my book.  Writing and publishing a book (aka having a dream come true) is not exactly like leaving your first born child on the first day of school with a bunch of other people you don’t know and learning how to stay away for the whole day, but it’s a little like that. Obviously, you want people to like it and it feels good when people say nice things, but in this new world, it matters that they do for more vital reasons and not just to make you feel good. In the old days, publishers sent the books out to stores and libraries, and people would buy them, read them, love them (hopefully) and didn’t worry whether or not the author was feeding his family or making the insurance payment on her car.  The publisher took care of the author. The reader took care of the reader. 

It’s a little more symbiotic than that now, but nobody told them. Readers are still behaving like they always have (god bless ‘em) reading voraciously until their next favorite author comes out or finding some new author through a friend. The advance of technology has given readers a little more connection with the authors they were reading. One didn’t have to wait for a university or a library to have a Famous Author come and give a talk; just pop on the internet and check out Famous Author’s website.  Even as Amazon carved its own enormous space in the market and allowed members to “review” their book purchases, I don’t think anyone really realized that their review made a difference. As with Goodreads, which is solely an online community of readers and encourages member reviews, I think the typical reader feels like their review “won’t count”. How in the world can Ms. Jane Smith’s review impact anything except her book group’s next novel or her mother’s next birthday gift, not when Publishers Weekly, The New York Times or Kirkus are out there with their authority and clout.

I think it surprises most people to learn that writing a review about a book makes a difference to the author.  Reading behavior, like writing behavior, is an individual and solitary experience. Even if you belong to a book group, the actual reading of a book is an intimate process, much like writing it. To transfer that experience to one that is written and public in larger community is part of the learning curve. It’s part of the learning for the writer, and, I also believe, for the new reader.

When I talked to my husband about it, he said, “Be direct. Just ask people to write a review.”  So I said, “Will you write a review?” It didn’t even occur to him that he could write one. Everyone can write one. My family, my friends. Even with the disclaimer that a review was written by a friend, family member or colleague, a review will help to guide the next reader to choose your book. And then tell another reader, and another. And that, boys and girls, is how to be a part of the new book publishing world.  Come on in. The water's fine.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch

The following is an essay I wrote for the Friend's of the Watertown Library's annual Spring Luncheon, at which I was honored to be the guest speaker. I decided to post it here for two reasons: One, many people should know about the work that is done "behind the scenes" for our library, not the least of which is raising funds for improvements. And, two, there are hundreds of Friends groups all over the state and country who are doing the same thing. The Friends groups are mainly retired folks who give of their time and expertise. If you haven't joined your local Friends group, it's a good idea. Our membership dues are $10 a year. Yours are probably equally affordable! 

And if you haven't dropped in lately, go visit your public library and see what's going on there these days. I'll bet that it's more than you realize! So, in honor of the Friends of our town library, here's to the ladies who lunch...

Ladies who lunch is a phrase often used to describe well-off, well-dressed women who meet for social luncheons, usually during the week. Typically, the women involved are married and non-working. Normally the lunch is in a high-class restaurant, but could also take place in a department store during a shopping trip. Sometimes the lunch takes place under the pretext of raising money for charity.

The phrase "ladies who lunch" was introduced in the January 19, 1970 issue of New York magazine by the writer Merle Rubine, and she was describing ladies with enough fashion sense to buy at half-price but not admit it to anyone.

It was later popularized by a song of the same name in Stephen Sondheim's Company. The character Joanne, a cynical, middle-aged woman, makes a drunken toast to "The Ladies Who Lunch." Her song offers a harsh criticism of rich women who waste their time with frivolous things like luncheons and parties. At the end of the song, Joanne realizes that she is one of the "ladies who lunch." She spends her time criticizing the lives of other women, but she never does anything to improve her own life.

That is what Ladies who lunch used to mean. Now, at least for me, it means this:
A veritable army of women who, upon seeing a need, rally to address it in the most effective and efficient way possible.

In the summer of 2008, I had left a full time job without so much as a Plan B. While I looked around for other jobs, part-time or otherwise, I found myself in early September at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Watertown Library, held in the basement of the Oakville Branch.  There was a presentation from a local businessperson and following that, the annual meeting. After that; refreshments. Some of the faces in the room I recognized from around town, but I didn’t know anyone well nor did anyone know me. One thing was certain: everyone knew I was fresh blood. You will not be surprised to hear that I was roped in to membership and a job before I even had my cake.

“Edit the newsletter? Sure!” I agreed and suddenly I was in. This may or may not have been when I also agreed to head up the annual Poetry Contest held for the grade 1-5 students in town. I left the meeting that day full of cake, and several new items on my once-empty calendar. I was a Friend of the Watertown Library Association.

Since my memory isn’t what it once was, (obviously, or I would have remembered to say “well, let me think that over” to those job offers instead of “sure, I’ll do that!”) there is not a clear trajectory to my involvement with the Friends. I do know that each time I attended a board meeting or popped in to the Book Nook, there were people getting things done. Much of the time it was women, but occasionally one of the Misters could be found in various stages of heavy lifting.  But the work didn’t stop at volunteering to carry, clean, and cashier books. The opportunities of the Internet did not daunt this group and an Ebay store and Facebook page were quickly created and managed. Fascinating speakers and authors came to town with their books - old favorites or newly published - and offered personal glimpses into the writing process and story creation.  Programs were developed, considered, improved and promoted. The Farmer’s Market added summer hours to the Book Nook and more opportunities for Watertown residents to discover its value. Thinking up ways to involve more members into attending the annual meeting were successful: Now why didn’t we think of lunch at the Miranda vineyard before?

Each Friend has a gift of her or his own which they bring to the organization that in turn builds it from simply a group of women connecting around books, to an intrepid operation whose forward motion is rarely stopped.  The Friends consistently contribute to the Library Association at the Annual Spring Luncheon every year.
However, it is the love of books that brings us all together. Whether or not our Friends job is to clean, write or bake, what we really love to do is read. And talk about what we’re reading and compare authors and series and genres. Talking about what we love makes working together pretty much fun. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the Book Nook when there wasn’t someone laughing at someone else’s story or smiling at pictures of grandkids. Or at our actual grandkids.  The first time I brought Luca to the Book Nook, we came down the dark, steep stairs and opened that heavy door into a world he still refers to when he comes over to my house. He remembers his first visit to the Book Nook (because we bought him over a dozen books) but also because it was like coming upon a wonderland.  And the Friends are the keepers of that wonderland.

So, here’s to the Friends. Of this library and countless others across the country. Your quiet strength and relentless commitment is what gets things done. Thank goodness for ladies who lunch.




Friday, May 9, 2014

Time for Mother's Day


 This one is from the vaults...it reminds me how grateful I am to be where I am and have the friends and family who make up my life. Have a beautiful day all you Moms and children of Moms! xo



One Mother’s Day morning a few years back, I went outside on my sunny back porch to write in my journal. I hadn’t made an effort to do that that in a while and it felt good to get back to some “me” time. I began to write the words, “My life is in pretty good shape right now…” when suddenly the image of one of our former clients popped into my head. Along with her image, sitting on the brown leather sofa in our office expectantly awaiting the arrival of her two young children, came a flood of thoughts about spending so much time writing--and examining--my life.  Layered on top of the thoughts about how much time I am able to spend processing the thoughts and events that make up my life was the question about whether or not this woman did the same thing. At all. Ever. 

I am a visitation supervisor. I spend hours with each of the families that the Connecticut Judicial Department’s Family Services division refers to us for visitation. These families are in the throes of custodial and familial turmoil and one of the parents has been deemed unfit to spend time with his or her children alone. The reasons are many; drug abuse, neglect, prison time, abandonment, alleged sexual molestation or a mere “he said-she said” dispute. The visiting and custodial parents are rarely amicable, always defensive and just as likely to be a visiting mom as a visiting dad. Regardless of the circumstances, the clear and unavoidable losers in all of these cases are the children. It takes from just a few visits to up to a year of weekly, one-hour visits to settle these cases and our work with the families is just one component of all the issues that are finally (and hopefully) settled by a judge.

The young woman who popped into my thoughts that morning had been one of our visiting moms. I first met her on a cold, dark day in November and as I walked into the waiting room to ask her in, I was met by a wave of pungent odor, the kind of odor one might find in a VW van at an outdoor rock concert. She looked nervous, albeit calm; due possibly to the obvious self-medication right before her arrival. Our typical intake involves getting a history of the client and as she spoke, I heard of her struggles with drug dependence, a series of failed visitation experiences, a history of her own childhood neglect and an overall suspicion of the program she was being asked to begin. I tried to allay her fears, be understanding about her concerns and at the end of it all, assure her that our program has had lots of success with visitations and I was sure that her experience would be no different. After she left, my husband, Angelo (with whom I work) and I looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, “How is this woman ever going to manage this?” But we set up appointments, met her children (a 6 year old girl and a 4 year old boy) and put the process in motion.

The first thing that struck me about this woman was that she was a month younger than my own daughter. I could be her mother. I could be a grandmother, as she already had four children under the age of ten. The other two were from two other separate relationships and they didn’t live with her, either. The two she was going to visit with in our program were from her latest marriage, now dissolved. She worked two jobs, lived with yet another man and although she initially expressed doubt and distrust about the success of “this time” she showed up on time each week for her hour-long visit, carrying a bag from the dollar store with an activity or craft for the kids. Her manner was coarse, but her love genuine as she spent 55 minutes greeting, catching up with and “parenting” her children. At times, after the visit, I would ask her to stay and debrief--how did she feel it was going? Were there any concerns? Did she have any questions? Most of the time these sessions ended with her bursting into tears, complaining about her fate at the hands of a diabolical ex-husband and storming off with little hope of it ever working out.

And yet, she came back. Week after week, month after month. With her bags and snacks and juice boxes and encouragement, despite her own skepticism and the roadblocks put up by her ex. (For example, Dad would insist that the daughter’s homework be done during the visit because she was doing poorly at school--which took about half of the visit time and required Mom’s focus solely on the daughter, while the son had to busy himself with one or another of the toys in the room. Unfair? Certainly. But she did it anyway.) After the first meeting, the only pungent odor I ever noticed was that of hours-old grease from the diner grill where she worked five days a week. One time, she missed the visit completely. The dad was there with the kids, but no mom. This was unusual because she was always at least 10 minutes early. We called the only number we had for her--her current boyfriend’s cell phone. He said she was on her way for her six o’clock visit, but the visit this week had been at five o’clock. I told Dad he had the option of waiting so the kids could have a shortened visit, which I often recommend as the best option because of the disappointment experienced by the kids, but he chose to leave. When Mom showed up, Angelo and I braced for the maelstrom--anticipating a flood of protestations about how it must have been everyone else’s fault but her own. 
But that didn’t happen. She came in and sat down on the sofa and said, “I can’t believe I messed this up. I put it down on my calendar wrong.” I suggested that we place a phone call to the kids and she agreed. I put the call on the speaker (required) and let Mom explain to them what happened. I almost cried at the way she spoke soothingly to her children, explaining that she had made a mistake and understood if they were disappointed in her. The kids seemed glad to have been able to speak to her and when they hung up, she was visibly upset. But upset in a way that she knew that she was at fault and that she had done the best she could to address the issue. I was astounded. And so happy that she was able to deal with this in such a mature and responsible way--and both Angelo and I told her so. She left then and we hoped that this wouldn’t send her back to her old ways of dealing with slip-ups, but she was back the next week with the supplies for a tea party and a make-a-frame activity for the kids to do.

And so I wondered, on that quiet Mother’s Day morning with a few hours to myself, my kids off on an errand and a Mimosa at my fingertips, did that Mom have the luxury of reflection? Socrates said that a life unexamined is not worth living and until I met this woman, and so many others like her, I might have agreed. For her--and them--too much examination might be just too painful. How much time can she ruminate on her life and the choices she’s made without going crazy? Can she only put one foot in front of the other, day in and day out, hoping for the best, expecting the worst? Leaving work, dashing into the Dollar Store, making a 45 minute trip to an office where she can see her kids for a lousy hour, only to get back into the car for a return trip back to work or making arrangements to see her other kids or finally falling exhausted into bed? I can’t imagine what Mother’s Days for her are like; does she get to see her kids after an exhaustive negotiation with their fathers or does she instead spend the day numbing herself, avoiding the tented flower stands and ads for champagne brunches and the picked over greeting card display at the grocery store. The only way I can process my life is to spend time with my thoughts and sometimes that isn’t even enough. In addition, I am lucky to have countless other resources in my life to keep me going, to feel supported, to feel loved. So on Mother’s Day, I try to remember that. I count my blessings and put in writing that I am grateful for a life full of opportunities.  I am lucky for the people in my life who force me to examine my life. And make it worth living.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What to do, what to do...?

So, I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to let everyone know about all the cool and exciting things that are coming up just because I decided to publish a book! I could compose an email and send it out to everyone I know and hope that the people who really don't want to hear from me don't get mad. I have two Facebook pages to post events on, but minutes after I post almost anything it disappears into the ether. (Does that make it the ethernet?) I would have to keep at it, posting, reposting, checking my page, posting again. If there were only a place on the internet to which I could direct folks via email or Facebook that would stay put long enough for people to visit it at their leisure. 

Wait a minute. I have a blog! (and a website, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.) And, on my to do list is an insistent #2 entry to update my blog. That loud sound you hear is me smacking my forehead: Two birds, one post. Without further ado, my upcoming two weeks: 


It’s a CAPA weekend! Authors from the CT Authors andPublishers Association is involved in two events this weekend and yours truly will be at both of them!

April 26th - NewBritain Art Museum Family Day.  Visit CT authors in Stanley Works Center between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m..

April 27th - TheMark Twain House 3rd Annual Writers' Weekend!  Sunday morning will feature an expo and book signing of the members of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.

May 1st - FirstThursdays are back! Woodbury Park & Rec is thrilled to bring Hi5netTV's First Thursday back to Woodbury on May 1st 2014 from Woodbury's Historic Town Hall.

May 2nd - Byrd’sBooks in Bethel. Join us at Flip-Flop Night on Friday May 2nd at 6:30p.m. at Byrd’s Books!

May 10th - House of Books in Kent, CT. A lovely afternoon book signing in even lovelier Kent, Conn.

Also, for now, Sandi KahnShelton has featured my book on her BooksNewHaven blog. I feel like I just won the Pulitzer.

And for anyone who has ever suffered the pangs of rejection, here is my latestblog post on She Writes, where my publisher She Writes Press lives.

Well, that should take care of you for awhile, yes? Please enjoy any or all of these events and posts. If you have to pick one, pick the one that supports a local, independent bookstore. I am learning a great deal about the brave and hearty souls who own and run these shops. Thank God for them, every day. 

And, as always, thank you for your support. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Launched

Dear Everyone,
This is my love letter to you. On Monday night I had the opportunity to experience one of the most wonderful nights of my life thanks to you. I could have never imagined the impact seeing all of you stream in to the Watertown Library would have on my heart. It is almost indescribable. But, as a newly published writer, I should at least give it a shot.

People traveled over distance and time to be there on Monday night. Friends and colleagues I hadn't seen in years--lots of years--were seated in the hard, wooden chairs to listen to me read from my book. My brother flew in from California. In-laws drove in from Buffalo.  Every member of my family within driving distance was there to help out and make the evening beautiful and smooth-running. And memorable.

But it wasn't just the folks who showed up on Monday. It has been all the messages of congratulations and other well-wishing from the friends and family who couldn't be there that have contributed to this elation that has kept me walking several feet off the ground. I got texts, emails, Facebook messages, and notes. Every word is like a pat on the back, a smile, a "well done."

And you bought my book! Let's not forget that! People stood in line to buy my book! People logged on to Amazon or contacted me directly to get a copy. If that isn't a great feeling, then I don't know what is. Of course I figured that my parents would buy a copy and, hopefully, my husband and kids and best friends. But there are hundreds of books being sold and I don't even know how to understand that. By smiling, that's how.

To be honest, I haven't actually been all that fun to be around the last couple of days, though. A little bit of insanity sets in after such a momentous event. At least it did for me. A feeling a little bit like post-partum depression or how it feels to finish a play sets in; as if something is missing. I've been advised that it is the reality of everything going back to normal and it could be partly that. I did sit at my desk all day on Tuesday, writing reports and monitoring visits, but I had anticipated that. I was pretty sure that the Lear jet wasn't waiting to whisk me away to be inteviewed by Ellen or Jimmy. I haven't even been interviewed by any local media! (Yet!)

No, it's more like a combination of all of the above with a little exhaustion thrown in. But do not, for one moment, think that it means that the euphoric and thrilling feelings and emotions that made my book launch a singularly affirming and significant event in my life have dissipated. No way. The realization of a dream, the achievement of a goal, finding another piece of one's self; that doesn't go away too quickly. It sticks around and becomes the Way Things Are Now; different than the Way Things Were Before. Now, I am a published author and I didn't get here alone. I got here with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the encouragement and support. It is immeasurable and profound to experience utter joy like this. Thank you for such a gift.
Sincerely,
Cindy

Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's go to the Hop!

 My friend, Steve Parlato, was kind enough to invite me to his latest project: a blog hop. I did not know at the time what the heck he was talking about, but I know Steve to be a mostly trustworthy person, so I signed on. Actually, Steve is a completely trustworthy person and I am happy to be included in anything he suggests doing. We became friends when I was teaching with him at Naugatuck Valley Community College and remained friends after I left. Lucky for me. Here's a little more about him:

Steven Parlato is a writer, illustrator and Assistant Professor of English at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut. An occasional actor, he’s played roles including MacBeth, The Scarecrow and Bambi’s dad, the Great Prince of the Forest. Steve’s poetry appears in journals including MARGIE, Borderlands, Freshwater, CT River Review and Peregrine. His debut YA manuscript, winner of the 2011 Tassy Walden Award for New Voices, was released January 18, 2013 by Merit Press as The Namesake. Recently, Kirkus called the novel a “memorable, disturbing story, carefully wrought.” Represented for fiction by Victoria Marini of Gelfman-Schneider Literary Agency, Steven is at work on his next YA novel. He’s a member of a YA author collective, Uncommon YA. Find him online at http://www.stevenparlato.com or on Twitter: @parlatowrites

Thank you, Steve, for this invitation! It gave me a wonderful opportunity to remember that connecting with my fellow (and sister) writers is a good thing to do. Please visit the three writers' blogs following the Q&A and please visit Steve at his next author appearance on Saturday, April 12th at House of Books in Kent, CT. He’ll be signing copies of THE NAMESAKE from 2:00-4:00 pm.

There is, of course, a Question and Answer portion of the Hop:

1. What am I working on?
Technically, I am "working on" my second collection of essays. But actually, I am working on promoting and maintaining a platform for my first book. (A platform is basically an author's digital presence, without which he or she would fall into an abyss of anonymity.)  I'm not complaining; far from it! (Someone should slap me if I do.) It takes a lot of time and energy to act as your own publicist, again--not complaining, and finding time to write between promotion, platform building, my day job and sleeping is challenging. 

But, writers gonna write and that is my daily, intentional goal. Back in January, I joined a Facebook group that challenged me to write 500 words every day. Last month, I applied for the Amtrak residency because I dreamed of having long, interrupted time to gather my thoughts, words and notes and put a dent in my second book. I have my title worked out and a selection of topics that I want to write about, continuing with my theme of life after 50; navigating it and enjoying it. I'm also posting to the She Writes website each month and trying to keep up with this blog--at least bi-weekly.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I don't know that it differs too much from others...maybe funnier?

3. Why do I write what I do?
Mostly because of my attention span. I write short form essays because I can pay attention long enough to start and finish one in one sitting. I wrote a screenplay once and I shared it with some people who said, "Wellll...not so much a screenplay, but maybe a novel?" The thought of writing a novel was dautning to me. Even though I had already written a whole story from start to finish in "screenplay" form, I couldn't imagine writing it all over again. I put it aside and there it sits. (Anyone want to read a screenplay?)

I enjoy writing in this form for many reasons. With my particular work there is a challenge to get my point across within a specific length or amount of words. When I was teaching English, I taught this form to my students and that has helped me immensely to organize and be more clear. Hopefully. I have tried my hand at fiction and poetry, but I continue to be drawn to the essay for its elegance and simplicity. Except for veering off course with that screenplay, I will probably stick with writing essays as long as anyone will read them. Even if its just me. And my husband.  

4. How does your writing process work?
If only I had a process!
Typically, I do most of my pre-writing in my head. Often an idea will come to me and I will "write" it in my head for days, sometimes weeks. Sometimes I will begin a Word document with notes pertaining to the essay I'm composing in my head, so that when I sit down to write it, I write it from start to finish in one sitting. Start to finish, however, doesn't necessarily mean coherent. There are many times when I get stuck in the middle, so I skip that part and keep writing.  

Once I get to the end, I reread, adding in the parts I skipped and sometimes, moving paragraphs around. I have been known to exchange the beginning paragraph for the end and vice versa. Depending on whether or not there is a deadline, I will let it sit for a few hours or a day or so, and go back to it to see if it makes sense. Or I make someone related to me read it to see if it makes sense. When (and if) it does, I send it along to its eventual home; blog, contest, book. 

As unorganized as it can be, my writing is one of the things I do that I can count on. I know I can write, I enjoy writing and I rely on its ability to center me. For example, this blog hop assignment landed in the middle of preparation for my book launch, a yearly meeting I had to host and a weekend full of company and yet I accepted it anyway. Writing is my comfort zone even if everything else around me is swirling in chaos or confusion.


And now for something completely different:
Allow me to introduce the three writers who graciously accepted the challenge to join me in this hop. Please visit their blogs and spread the word. (Writers love when you spread the word!)

Chuck Miceli

My text, Fire Behind Bars, (co-authored with Alton P. Golden), was the first book in the U.S. to deal with the issue of deadly fires in secure institutions and put me on the national stage as a speaker and consultant. That experience played a significant role in my novel, Amanda's Room.
I chair the Editorial Committee for "Voices and Visions," the annual literary and arts review of the University of Connecticut's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. I'm also a columnist for StoryChip.com and WTNH's weather information website: WXedge.com. 

I spend much of my free time in civic, social, and religious volunteer work. I'm past chair of Every Dollar Feeds Kids, (http://www.edfk.org), which provides money to feed hungry children, and a portion of my book sales go to the organization. I co-created The Passion Play, in Southington CT, (now in its 36th year) and co-directed it for the first 14 years. I've also directed productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Godspell.  I currently run a bi-weekly poetry group at the Southington Care Center. 

I am the proud son of a coal miner from Pittston Pennsylvania. I grew up one of eleven children in the tough East New York section of Brooklyn New York and served as Staff Sargent and rifle platoon leader in the Marine Corps Reserves. I now live with my wife, Judy, in suburban Connecticut.


Elizabeth Thomas
Elizabeth Thomas is a published poet, performer and educator.  The author of two poetry collections and a book on writing, she has read her work throughout the United States and in 2009 taught ‘Poetry as Theater’ in the United Arab Emirates at a women’s university.  Much of her energy and time is devoted to designing and teaching writing programs for all ages. These programs promote literacy and the power of written and spoken word. As an outstanding advocate of youth in the arts, Elizabeth Thomas is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival.   She believes poetry is meant to be heard out loud and in person.  She hosts a blog at www.stillwriting2.wordpress.com.
LG O'Connor 

L.G. O’Connor is a member of the Romance Writers of America. A corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company, she writes adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Trinity Stones, the first book in her Angelorum Twelve Chronicles urban fantasy / paranormal romance series published by She Writes Press, launches on April 22 and will be available wherever books are sold. She is currently preparing the second book in the Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, The Wanderer’s Children, for publication at the end of 2014. In addition, her adult contemporary romance will launch later this year. A native New Jersey girl, she lives a life of adventure, navigating her way through dog toys and soccer balls and loaning herself out for the occasional decorating project. When she’s feeling particularly brave, she enters the kitchen . . .



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