Saturday, November 22, 2014

What Sort of Resolutions Do You Make?

Earlier this week one of my students asked me if I make New Year's Resolutions. I can't believe we are that close to the end of the year, but really we are. In just a few weeks we will kiss 2014 goodbye and 2015 with a slew of good intentions.

In the past I have made the usual type of resolutions- lose weight, save money, get more organized. I always fall short of my goal- about eleven months short and so for a couple of years I didn't bother with making myself promises I knew I would never keep. For 2014 I decided to take a different approach. Instead of declaring I would be a happier person if I lost twenty pounds or finally learned to control the piles of papers and such that have been my trademark my entire life (it doesn't look organized to the lay person, but I know exactly where everything is), I decided to try anew tactic.
My 2014 resolution was to learn to accept and love myself EXACTLY THE WAY I AM.

Yes, I said it- exactly the way I am.

I have spent so many years of my life not liking myself that this seemed even more insurmountable than getting organized. It was the only goal I made for myself and for once I didn't drop it after a couple of weeks. I have made a point of finding positive things about myself to focus on rather than the negative. Sure, I really could stand to drop a few pounds but after forty some odd years, a couple dozen fad diets and an eating disorder I still look the same. Perhaps, genetically, I will not ever be able to achieve that goal of perfection the media says I should. I know there are people out there who cringe when they enter my classroom or my kitchen but hey, it's my classroom and my kitchen, right?

So, I determined that I would treat myself kindly instead of beating myself up constantly. After all, I am a pretty O.K. person. I am married to a good man, we are raising two amazing boys, I have a job I enjoy, I've got great hair and I am merely a week away from being a professionally published author. Things are looking pretty good over here- no reason at all to be unhappy. Why did I spend so much of my life not realizing this?

I am not exactly sure how or when my mindset changed but sometime over the past eleven months, things have changed. When I look in the mirror now I smile instead of scowl. I may not be figure perfect but that doesn't mean I have to hide behind shapeless black clothing all the time. I have branched out into the land of color and I like it over there! Even the new glasses I picked out a couple of weeks ago are more a reflection of the me on the inside rather than the old me I never thought worthy of cute or trendy things. Somewhere along the way I have learned to like myself and appreciate myself and I am happier now than I have ever been because I don't have all that self loathing weighing me down all the time.

As we go enter into the holiday season and you start thinking a lot about others please remember to also take care of yourself.

A friend who writes devotions posted something on FB today about the miracle of God's ability to meet our needs even when we think the odds against us are impossible to overcome. I know we all know this but do we really know it on a daily basis? Part of my self revolution was to learn to let Him handle some of the details. Once I started doing that, my life changed completely. I am now, what many would say, a believer. God does handle the details if you let him.

Have a great weekend all.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hot Mug Shot Guys...Seriously?

There's a new trend sweeping the mug shots. I just saw an article revering the Hot Mug Shot Guy.


Mug shots,of course, are the photos taken when someone is arrested and booked for a crime. They are pictures of criminals, ladies.

So, why is it that the female population seems to be enamored by these men, often violent criminals and sexual predators?

It bothers me that as a society we are willing to give  criminals notoriety, raving over how hot they look and how sexy they are. I am almost ashamed to admit that I took the time to read some of the comments on a recent article. Women were throwing themselves at the guy in the mug shot, making promises that I would only make to my husband in the privacy of our bedroom. I don't understand the appeal of a guy with a rap sheet a mile long filled with violence. Putting those pictures in the news and on social media give them the sort of notoriety I don't believe they are entitled to.

How have they earned their fame? By breaking the law.

It is not hot to break the law. It is not sexy to hurt others, steal from others or in anyway harm the person or possessions of another.

Ladies of the world, we need to value ourselves a whole lot more than that. We all grew up with fairy tales of Prince Charming and knights in shining armor. Fairy tales give us hope and their is nothing wrong with that but I am the first to admit that the fairy tale sort of falls apart when life kicks in. It is a sad fact that most criminals are recidivists. They commit crimes- often the same type of crimes- over and over and over again. It is not likely that love or sex are going to change a person- male or female- if they have determined they like the path they travel.

 Movies make it look good for the good girl to fall in love with the bad guy. Books are full of happily ever after tales. Humans like happy endings. I write romance novels- I LOVE a happy ending. I love to see the guy get the girl or girl get the guy but I also like to see the bad guy/gal pay the price of their actions or crimes.

The bad guy/ gal should not get a free pass just because they look good in a mug shot. They should not be revered on social media and it is my opnion that stories such as these are not news. They are not human interest stories. It is absolutely unacceptable to turn a criminal into a hero because he or she photographs well.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Paying It Forward

While standing on line at the Dollar Tree this afternoon, there was a young couple checking out that were obviously doing their grocery shopping. They were watching the items go into the bags one at a time and the girl was counting them. The two of them were debating whether they had this amount or that amount of money in the bank. She started worrying that they were going to run out of money so she asked the cashier to remove an item. He said "But it's only a dollar." She responded with a smile, "I know but I don't have the dollar."

Annoyed at the cashier I opened my wallet and pulled out $5. I leaned over and handed it to the girl and said "Will this be enough to get you what you need?" She was shocked but thanked me profusely as did her companion. I just smiled and stepped back to my spot in line pleased that I could do a little something to help someone else. I don't often have money in my wallet and I run a pretty tight budget of my own but the two things I can not stand are people not having food and children not having gifts on Christmas. I honestly didn't think anything of it until my youngest son asked me what I had just done. I started to explain that I had given the girl a little money to help with her groceries when the lady next to us interrupted me and told my son "Your momma was being Jesus today. If you want to know what He looks like, just look at her."

She made me cry. Her words humbled me in a way I simply cannot describe. I did not feel holy and my intentions were not all that just. I just wanted to help a fellow human being and maybe showing my kids a little act of kindness in hopes that one day they might do the same for someone. Children learn by example, right? The woman and I chatted a moment and I discovered she was the daughter of a local pastor before she paid for her purchases and we said our goodbyes. As the boys and I loaded our purchases into the trunk of our little car, the couple found us in the parking lot. The young man said "God Bless You" with tears in his eyes and the girl just kept saying thank you. I smiled and simply replied, "Just pay it forward one day when you can." They assured me they would and you know, I believe them.

One the way to our next errand, one of the kids asked me what "pay it forward" meant. I explained that if someone does something nice for you then you do something nice for someone else and they will hopefully do something for someone else and then eventually you have a whole world of people being kind to each other. They seemed enamored by the idea.

Imagine if every person in this country did one nice thing for someone else tomorrow. The next day those folks would pay it forward and pretty soon instead of evil and unrest we might be surrounded by kindness and love.

Please understand that my initial action of giving them the money was not something I had thought through or planned to do it just hit me that it was the right thing to do. I had no idea that anyone would think anything of it. Really. On my home tonight I kept thinking, "It was only $5." Then I remembered a couple of years ago, around this time of year actually when I was at the supermarket. My two boys were in a tae kwon do class and I was in the store trying to squeeze in some grocery shopping with my fussy one year old nephew whom I was babysitting sat in the cart. I had worked all day and even now I remember how exhausted and stressed I was. The woman in front of me was buying a bottle of wine. She paid for it and then turned to me, handed me the bottle and said, "I think you need this more than I do." She was gone in a flash and I barely got to say thank you but I the gift was something I will never forget. A simple $8 bottle of wine changed my outlook because it reminded that the world was still good and people still care about each other.

I have felt so blessed lately with so many people in my life that love and support me. My dream of being a published writer is being realized, my boys are becoming amazing young men and I have the sort of husband every woman should have. I don't make much money and the house needs a little work but I have a home and food to eat and there will be gifts under the Christmas tree. Our cars aren't fabulous but they start up every day and I do have a sunroof to enjoy the warm southern sun. It is time for me to really start paying attention to the little things in life because those are the things that truly matter.

I would like to offer up one of my challenges to my readers. Find one person that you can do one kind thing for tomorrow. It doesn't matter who or what you do- offer a smile to someone who looks sad or angry, buy a cup of coffee for the person in line behind you or leave the good parking space for the mother with the two babies. I promise you it will mean something to someone and this world will be just that much brighter for a few seconds.

God Bless.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jewel Of Ramstone- Cover Release and The Book That Is Keeping Me Up At Night

It's finally the weekend!

I can now stay up as late as I want to read this amazing book I have been working on all week.  I was privy to a preview of the soon to be released Jewel of Ramstone by author JM Powers and let me tell you, it has kept me up nights. I can't put it down. I was up until after midnight most nights this week and if I didn't have to go to work I probably wouldn't even have slept until I finished it.

If you are a fan of historical romance you can't miss with this book. I tend to prefer contemporary romance and I'm telling you I was drawn in from the first page. Remember, this amazing story will be available in its entirety on November 14, 2014 from

I'm sure you are dying to know what it's about so here's a little teaser:
           "Ask me anything. Mayhap I can help." His deep voice broke the silence.
          How was he to help? "Pray tell, how did we come to share the forest?"

          "I shall explain." He bent and picked up a twig, then proceeded to peel the bark off. With each curl he tossed aside, she grew more frustrated.

'Twas better to allow mistrust. Stand strong. She gasped. Unexpected, the thought rang with such clarity, it seemed someone else had spoken. "Perchance you should be honest. Did you drug me? Spell me?"
         He tossed the twig aside. Though his eyes remained on her face, her whole body felt his scrutiny. "'Twould do you well to hold your tongue."

"I am beginning to dislike you," she said, knowing full well the opposite was true. She truly wished her insides would cease…prickling? And her head. Damn, it ached so. Tingles and pain aside, she tried to focus. "Do you intend to explain or not?"
           "I seek a means to tell you gently."

 With a slight shrug, she said, "No need for gentleness. You already tossed me about." She grinned despite the truth in her statement.

He sighed. "It appears you are lost."

"God's eyes, knight!" She shook her head. "You must be a great sorcerer to possess such insight."

"Your tongue shall be your undoing. Best you still it."

Twice he attempted to stifle her. She clenched her teeth. "Still it?"

Galeron's jaw twitched and she wondered if he were quelling a smile. "I found you here in the woodlands. I did not hold you captive, drug you, or harm you." He blinked slowly. "Hold to that."

She nodded. "Forgive—"

"Nay need. I understand. You now stand a day's ride from Ramstone. Have you heard of it?"

He pushed off the tree and came to sit beside her, his thigh nearly touching her own. Nearly. It took a moment for her answer. "Nay, I do not recall Ramstone." The fact she did not recall much of anything choked off the rest of her response.

"Odd," he said, more to himself than her.

Sighing, she realized how badly her masquerade of bravery was faltering. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his hand come toward her. Surprised at the urge to lean into his touch, she remained still and allowed him to brush back the wisps of hair from her brow. His hand lowered in a fist, yet his voice was laced with tenderness.

"It pains me that I cannot give you answers." His gaze strayed from her face, lowering to her neck.

Covering the neckline of her tunic with both hands, she glared at him. "Focus elsewhere." He sees me as a woman after all. She dashed the thought away. Almost.

"I intend nay disrespect. The bruising on your neck concerns me." Gently brushing her hand aside, he took a closer look. "Fingerprints."

It took all she had not to cry out. Who harmed her?

"When we discovered you, there was nay sign of anyone else."

She glanced around. "We?"

"I sent my men home."

She blinked. Then blinked again. "Your men."

"My brother, a healer, assured me your wounds were not serious, so I decided to wait—"

She put up her hand. "Why not leave me under the care of your healer? Or leave me in the nearest village?"

He swallowed hard. "It matters not! Are you always so…so…inquisitive?"

Ah, this man was not used to being questioned. She tried to ease his surly mood. "A shame your men were sent on their way. No one laid witness when I kicked you and bashed your comely face before you so unceremoniously dropped a maiden to the ground."

He blew a long breath. "You insist on repeating that. Had you dressed appropriately, I would not have thought you a lad." His chuckle made her grin. "Although you certainly fight like a maiden."

She swiped her hand through the air. "Carry on."

"Carry on," he muttered. "I fear you shall interrupt again." He looked up through the trees, ignoring her huff. "We still had several days before reaching our destination when we found you. With that in mind, I postponed the journey and sent my men back to Ramstone."

"I see." She studied the frayed edge of her tunic. "How long have I been here?"

"I watched over you a single night. How long you were here remains a mystery. I was only gone a short time for I needed to boil meat into a broth to sustain you. Had I known you were a maiden, I never would have left you alone."

Her head snapped up. "Yet you would a lad? I am not defenseless simply because I am a female."

Galeron's eyes hardened. "Aye, 'tis so. I returned to find you brandishing a dagger. I left it in case you awoke and felt unsafe, not to use against me."

She ran her hands through the leaves and shrugged a silent apology, too stubborn to utter it out loud.

"Fair one?"

Damnation, she hated when he addressed her with those words, and yet it awoke something in her, for he said it with tenderness. She glared at his smiling face. "Why are you calling me that?" To her chagrin, what she'd meant as snide came out as quite curious.

 He splayed his hands in question, "Would you prefer I call you lad?" Two furrows appeared on his brow at her silent glare. "Because, you have yet to give your name."

Disarmed, she swallowed her spiteful attitude. "If I only could." She locked away her tears, her dismay, and did her best to keep her voice steady. "I hoped you would know…would say it by now. Sir Galeron, I…I recall naught before I saw you standing before me."

Seeming to battle with her revelation, Galeron's expression flitted from stunned to confused. Then his gaze bore into her with such tenderness it nearly undid her. "Nay memory?" he finally whispered.

She shook her head. He guided her head to his shoulder. Barely a moment passed before he released her, rose to his feet, and strode away. Unsure of why he left so abruptly, she frowned when he looked back.

"I regret I cannot ease your uncertainty." He stooped to gather twigs. "However, I am able to ease your hunger. After breaking our fast, we shall take leave."

She dabbed her impending tears as soon as his back was turned.

"We should arrive at Ramstone by nightfall."

"I am to stay at your home? What shall your wife think?"

"There is nay wife." He grabbed a branch and added it to his arms. "But there is plentiful family about."

Holding the tree for support, she stood, waiting for the dizziness to subside before she followed. When he turned, she picked up a branch, embarrassed at how silly she looked traipsing on his heels. Gathering an armload of kindling, she stole glances at him, each time wondering how it would feel to remain in his arms. She piled the branches then watched him arrange them.

"Building a fire?" Hark, she was a fool.

"Nay, I am building an abode." And he solidified the fact.

"I want my own chamber then." Several paces away, she sat. Sunlight peeked through the forest canopy. She closed her eyes and raised her face to the warmth. Like a constant itch, she felt his gaze. She slowly peered through her lashes. Aye, he was staring—no—studying her face. Her gash. Her ugly face. She sighed and looked to the sky instead.

"God's eyes," he muttered.

She turned to him. Very well, if he finds a need to gawk, I shall give him a full view of my battered face. "Sir Galeron, what worries you so? Has my plight delayed your duties?"

"Nay." He jammed the skinned carcasses on a sharpened branch.

"I heard your curse. Was it in frustration of not reaching your destination?" Oh, how she wished to smirk at his rudeness, but she kept her poise.

"I was not delayed from anything that could not wait." Keeping his eyes shielded, he placed the meat across the spit before offering a weak smile. "I pray forgiveness for my curse reaching your ears."

Wrapping her arms around her legs, she rested her unscathed cheek on her knees. "Curses are naught. I am simply thankful you helped me, Sir Galeron." Apparently he was too kind to mention her affliction. She hated the pity. 

Seemingly distracted, he arranged kindling then retrieved a piece of hammered steel and flint from a pouch on his belt.

"I pray you can forgive my initial rudeness." When he didn't respond, she added, "Ah, I gather forgiveness shall come with time."

Galeron struck the steel with a bit of flint. "I never held ill will. I understood the reason you lashed out." He blew on the kindling until it caught. "You are forgiven for bashing your head into mine as well."

"Ha!" She rose and strode to the fire. Her gaze flitted over his body. He looked up, catching her stare, and alas, stared back. Heat crept up her neck, spreading to her face. Surely, 'twas the fire's heat causing her flush—she hoped he believed the same lie.

 Galeron grinned. His demeanor was infuriating. And endearing. And more confusing than her loss of memory.

"Sit." He continued to tend the fire.

She paid no heed to his demand, and thrust her hands toward the fire. To her dismay, the sharp smell of the rabbit caused her stomach to roar with hunger.

Galeron's blue eyes sparked with mischievousness. "I gather 'tis been some time since you ate?"

"Apparently." She plunked down on a fallen log, certain her face turned countless shades of crimson.

Taking a seat beside her, Galeron chuckled and poked at the fire. He was so close she could smell the woodsy scent on his skin. She inhaled deeper, tucking the fragrance into her mind to savor when she was left to her own.

He cleared his throat. "Allow me to tend to that cut."

Inwardly cringing, she changed the subject. "How long before we eat?"

With a quick wink, he leaned back and rummaged in his saddle pack. Taking her hand, he placed an apple in it, keeping one for himself. His smile highlighted the dimple in his chin and she found herself offering a genuine smile in return.
"Ah, glorious," she said, grateful he didn't see how his touch affected her. Waving his offer to use his dagger, she bit heartily into the fruit, and moaned, relishing the explosion of juice across her tongue. "Naught could taste sweeter in this moment."

Oh, but she did know one thing that might. Tasting the nectar on his lips would certainly qualify. She sensed his tension when she took a bite. Mayhap he had the same thought? He grunted and crunched into the apple, mumbling something about a damn green-eyed mystery.

Were her eyes green? Damnation. Her mind was truly addled.

J.M. Powers harbors an alter ego of a normal woman named Jeannie. (Her editor is still on the fence about the whole 'normal' thing.) Jeannie's proficient at research, gluten-free cooking and embarrassing her teenagers by wearing her skinny jeans to the grocery store. J.M., the author-ego, plunges so deep into her writing; she forgets life outside her creations still goes on. More often than not, J.M. answers with a glassy stare when her family asks what's for dinner. Despite the craziness between reality and the world of writing, life falls together without broken bones or hearts.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

How His Job Has Changed Me

As the title of this blog includes the three things I am most proud of in my life- raising my sons, being a law enforcement wife and my writing career- I have decided to dedicate one weekly post to each of those three things. Today, Sunday, will be "Badges" day.

When I met my husband all those years ago, he let me know right away that it was his dream to be a municipal police officer. It was a bit of trek down the path but a decade ago he realized his dream and we became a law enforcement family. I never gave any thought as to how his career choice would affect me beyond the fact that he would work nights,weekends and holidays- not so different from the schedule we already kept with his previous job. When I look back now though I see that I am a completely different person.

People often ask me questions about what it is like having a husband work nights. They want to know if I am afraid of something happening to him and someone once asked me if he had a lot of life insurance. Occasionally, someone will comment on how much I have changed over the years and wonder if his job is the reason. I used to get upset over these questions. I mean, of course I worry about him. All night long in fact and life insurance is a necessity for all families. Now though, as a seasoned wife, I understand the sort of curiosity some might have about the job. I guess you could say I have mellowed over the years in a lot of ways. On the other hand, I have become a lot less mellow.

Prior to the job I never worried about where I parked my car. Any old spot would do. Now I look for parking spots near street lights that I can pull through or back into. I wouldn't say I am afraid of the things that lurk in the dark I am just much more aware of them now.

I used to be trusting and rather naïve, I guess. Now, I trust no one. My kids don't hang out in the neighborhood without one of us keeping an eye out and they are forbidden to go in anyone's house that we don't know. I like our neighbors, I feel fairly safe here but I don't trust a soul. That is probably one of the biggest changes.

There is evil in the world. I don't dwell on it but I am overtly aware of it. We don't let the kids hang out online. They don't have gaming systems with internet connections and I view all strangers in the "stranger danger" kind of mode. Like I said above, I trust no one- especially people in the virtual world.

Growing up I can't imagine that we ever really locked our doors. Now, when I go to bed or leave the house our place is locked down like a fortress. There are nights I don't sleep at all because I am listening to the sounds of the dark to make sure the kids are safe and no one is lurking beyond the security lights. I suppose I feel a lot less safe in the world now that I know a little bit more about it.

Sometimes I really miss the innocence of my youth but I know I can't go back, in part because the world is a different place now than when I was young. It was okay to leave the doors unlocked then- home invasions were virtually unheard of. The fact is the world has changed- for the better and for the worse. If I hadn't married a cop, I probably wouldn't be so aware of those changes but the fact is they exist.

So, I guess the answer to that last wondering question if have I changed because I married a cop is yes, I have. I am far more untrusting but twice as empathetic. I won't think twice about helping someone in need nor would I turn a blind eye to a crime being committed. I have a much better understanding of the way a student in my class may act as a result of their home life and I respect life and the law and the property of others far more than I ever did in my youth. I understand the sacrifice of first responders and I honor their memory when they give all where others might not give any. I am the first to admit there are bad cops and there are good cops and even the good ones aren't perfect. I get even angrier than a regular citizen when a cop does something bad because I expect them to live to a higher standard if they intend to enforce the law.

I was once asked if I knew then what I know now would I still have married a cop. Everyone's walk in this life is different and mine just happens to include sleepless nights. It was during these sleepless nights that I started writing and now am beginning an amazing career as a mystery author. So, yes, I would still do exactly the same thing. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Surprise For My Readers!

After being away for so long, I have so many things I want to write about today so please forgive this post as I am certain that it is about to become a rambling, mixed bag of stories!

We are finally wrapping up fall baseball. Both of our boys play two games a week and they each have a practice in between the games. That means on a bad week, I am at the ball park six out of seven days. On a good week, we will have two games going on at the same time on two different fields. Our only goal on those days is to be sure to see each of the boys up at bat and catch a couple of good plays. In less than a week we will be done for a few months and I will have time to breath. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing I love more than to watch them play ball. This has been a phenomenal season for both of them with great coaches, supportive teammates and a whole lot of learning and growing going on. My older son is in middle school and catcher is his favorite position. He owns home plate when he puts that gear on and for the first time in many seasons he had coaches who helped him really excell in the position. He also makes a pretty good third baseman. The younger boy struggled a little with moving up from coach pitch to kid pitch. Coaches sort of lob the ball toward the batter, generally in the strike zone and my boy had a reputation for knocking a ball good and hard into the outfield. When kids first learn to pitch, there is no such thing as a strike zone. Those balls fly everywhere and it scared a kid who has never really ever been afraid of anything. He spent half the season jumping out of the way of the ball and the other half swinging and missing. We finally convinced him to stay in the batter's box but his hitting record has frustrated him. I am certain we will spend some time at the cages in the off season.

Life is good. My kids are growing and learning and becoming young men. I couldn't be prouder of either of them. They are so much alike yet so different. One is organized and self motivated and the other is a complete hot mess all the time. Yet they are both smart and talented and athletic. They are kind, appropriately sensitive and they love their mother! Oh, and the oldest one is starting to notice girls.

As I mentioned above, my oldest has started middle school this year. He has also had a huge growth spurt and lost so much weight I can feel his collar bones and shoulder blades when I give him a hug. It's unnerving. Last night a mom at his ball game commented that his uniform was hanging on him. He is also asking alot of questions. Questions about dating and umm...*cough* Only he doesn't yet realize that is what he is asking. I am slowly laying out the necessary information to warm him up to the big "talk". You know, the one we all had at some point with our own parents. I would love to postpone it a bit but the girls have already gone boy crazy. I am not kidding. They giggle and flirt and act all silly around my boy and his friends. I am not ready to share my boy with other girls. Fortunately his interests still linger with baseball, mincraft and legos. For a little while longer anyway.

Now for the surprise. I have been sitting on this for awhile, not quite sure how to share it. I finally decided to just go ahead and do it. Sooo...drumroll please....It's....


I am also excited to announce that my first professionally published novel, Witness Protection is due to be released on or around November 28th in ebook and on January 20, 2015 in paperback. The journey to publication has been long and arduous but the closer I come to that date, the less I remember the journey.  For those of you anxious to put a face to the name, here is my very first professionally crafted cover art:

If you are reading this blog, you are among the very first to see the cover of my first book! Witness Protection is the first in a series. I am currently mid way through the second book, Homeland Security and a third is in the works. The series is a contempory romance series with action packed intrigue.  As we get closer to release day I will post excerpts and links to the Facebook release party here and on my facebook page

When the ebook is released it will be available at (the publisher offers a rewards system sort of like major retailers where you can earn points towards free books), Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. I will have more information on the print version closer to the end of 2014.

I want to take a moment to thank every one of you for supporting me through the years that have led up to this moment. Many of you have read and edited and offered comments on bits and pieces of my stories and I appreciate it more than I can ever say in words. Please feel free to share this blog anywhere you wish.

Thank you readers! Have a very blessed day. I know I feel blessed beyond measure.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

God, Family, That Order

I come from a really big family...I mean really big.  My dad was one of eight and I have twenty something cousins, many of whom have already had two or three children of their own. They are a close knit group and I often wish I didn't live so far away so that I could have a little of that cousin friendship on a regular basis. When I was younger, I didn't give it much thought as I was always off doing my own thing. School, travelling around New England, getting married, raising kids, etc.

My dad was the oldest in the gaggle of children my grandparents raised. He was sometimes the ring leader and sometimes the role model. When I was young and he owned a roofing business, he employed his brothers. We had great Christmas cabin parties and summer beach parties. Our clan would move in and fill a space with love and laughter and joy and more than enough beer and wine to keep that laughter and joy alive. They are a family that plays as hard as they work.

Since I refuse to accept the passage of time, I am guilty of assuming things would be this way forever. No matter how far I moved or how much time passed between visits, I always assumed that when I returned for a visit that the family would remain intact, the way I remember it from my childhood. And then one of my uncles passed away unexpectedly and much too young in his very early 50's. A few years later, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor and left us, again way too soon.  Not long after that my cousin, whom I was great friends with when I was very young became ill and left behind a wife and two small children. Barely half a year later, his father, another one of my uncles left the world and this week, a second cousin was taken from us.

Thanks to the evolution of social networking I have been able to keep up with my extended family quite well in recent years. I love reading of their joys and excitement, watching their children grow, "meeting" spouses and cultivating relationships that had grown stagnant for a time. This summer, when my brother got married, my boys and my husband finally got to meet many of my aunts, uncles and cousin and I am glad for that.

There are all sorts of memes and quotes about family circulating the internet. Some celebrating family and some not so much. We all laugh and share and click "like" on them but probably don't pay a lot of attention. I know I am guilty of it as much as anyone but I tell you what, my father would have and did give his siblings the shirt or coat off his back on many of an occasion. In his youth, I know he took on many a fight to protect his brothers and sisters and no matter what happened between them over the years, he still loved all of them dearly. My own siblings and I would do just about anything for each other and we have been raised to value family. I have been working hard to pass that on to my own children. When I see how excited they are to see their grandparents, how much they love their aunts and uncles and cousins I feel like we have been successful.

I think I mentioned in the previous post that a friend posed the seven day gratitude challenge to me this week. I took a break yesterday, my heart wasn't feeling all that grateful after hearing about my cousin but today I will be back at it. I am thankful to have been related to a pretty great guy who will be missed by so many people. I am thankful that my father lived by example, teaching us that your family may not be perfect and they may not always be perfect but blood is definitely thicker than water. I am also grateful for a mother who raised us with values and priorities that we could pass on to our children.

Yesterday morning I was standing around with some other parents complaining about how early we had to show up to run the baseball field's concession stand. The dreaded concessions duty is required by every parent of every player of every team, one time during the season. It's not so bad really but who wants to rise and shine at six a.m. on a Saturday after working all week? So we were complaining and moaning and groaning when I received that text message from my sister asking me if I had heard the news. The news that a cousin I had always adored had passed suddenly, leaving his mother and sister and brother devastated. Concessions didn't seem so bad after all. Maybe that should be on my gratitude list- I am grateful for yet another day to complain. Ironically, the last time I saw this favorite cousin it was at my father's memorial service where he hugged and told me how much he had loved my dad. We talked about how short life was...much, much too short for some. I asked him to join our cousin group on line and he adamantly swore to me he would never be on that "Face Page." We laughed and when the time came I bid him farewell.

Today I bid him farewell again although the sadness has abated some from yesterday as it occurred to me this morning that when he enters Heaven he will be in the best of company. I had a dream when my dad died that it was my cousin's father that met Dad and showed him the way...carrying a couple of fishing poles and a cooler. I am fairly certain that the two of them, Dad and his brother, my uncle, met my cousin on his way up and tossed him a line and a tub of worms.  What a way to go.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Gratitude Challenge

Now that the new school year is in full swing and I actually have a few minutes to sit and write, I would like to reflect on a few things.

My oldest has started middle school this year. After a few bussing complications we have finally into a decent morning routine. Big man now showers before school every day. This is a huge step from last year when I had to all but threaten a coup to get him in the shower. He fixes his hair and picks his tee shirts by some mathematical formula I will never understand. You see, this summer he discovered that he likes a little attention from the fairer sex. Apparently middle school girls are worth showering for.

He's gotten taller too. In just the few months since leaving intermediate school, his feet are now as big as mine (and I have some BIG feet- size 11W!) and I don't have to lean down to hug him anymore. He now looks me in the eye...

With age, comes the desire for independence. He doesn't want me to walk him to the bus stop any more. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes sit in my car and watch from a distance but I am trying hard to remember that at his age I was babysitting so he should be able to handle walking three houses down to catch the bus.

I am struggling with his growing up. As much as I want him to stay as my baby, I love to see him changing and maturing. Much the way his younger brother suddenly lost his "baby face" this summer and became a "boy". I have held back more than a few tears in recent months, the struggle to let my babies grow up tearing me up inside some days and making me so very proud on others.

When school started so did baseball season. Again, more changes. The little one moved up from coach pitch to "big boy" baseball- children his age with little training and almost no control now throw balls at him that he tries very hard to hit. After spending last season as one of the top hitters on his team, he now struggles to manage a foul hit let alone those triples he is used to. The older boy landed himself on a fabulous team this season. They work together, the coaches coach and he is excelling in his favorite position of catcher. I now look at pictures of him from his very first season and wonder what happened to that little boy who had no idea you were supposed to get out of the way when the pitch is aiming straight for your stomach.

A friend challenged me to the 7 day gratitude challenge this week. List three things you are thankful for each day for seven days. So far I have covered the usual friends, family, children etc. For the next several days I am going to dig deep and try to find things I take for granted without even thinking about. Such as the fact that my boys may be growing up too quickly but they are turning into smart, caring and kind young men or that they are able to grow and become independent because my husband and I have done our job in teaching them to do so.

We are off to a very busy start. This is the time of year where I feel like I am running around constantly. Some nights I don't sit down until after 9pm. I will be grateful from now on that I have the means and the ability to do all the things we do. Not all are as fortunate.

What sort of things are you most grateful for?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Special Edition: A Tribute to My Teacher Friends

So, this is it...the final countdown.  In a mere twelve hours I will be standing in my classroom in front of twenty seven new faces as unhappy as I am to end their summer and begin the rigor of a new school year.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I enjoy my job and once the school year gets going I will be fine. It's the transition from bathing suits, flip flops and days at the pool to "real" clothes, "real shoes" and days in a windowless classroom that always gets me. Luckily, I have two giant goldfish who are anxiously awaiting new faces to drop food in their tank.  I am unnaturally attached to my goldfish.  They have names and personalities and I talk to them like they are going to talk back to me. I have missed them and I hope they help with my transition.. Hey, don't judge...I don't have any windows in my room, I have to have something to look at during the day!

Many people have told me that last school year was one if the toughest ever with new evaluation procedures, dwindling budgets and paychecks and lack of support for education from those in office. I couldn't agree more.  Last year was a tough one and I was absolutely and completely emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

This year is going to be better. I insist that it will be better! My goldfish agree.  They told me so...

Tonight, on the eve of a brand new school year, I would like to wish all of my colleagues well in the new year. May your and your students' successes far outweigh the pressures of intensive evaluation procedures. I pray that you stay safe, that lockdown drills remain drills and the police never have to visit your classroom in search of one of your students...or anyone else. May the air conditioning and later the heat system work the way it should and may all your lessons turn out as fabulous as you envision them. Most of all, may this year be your best ever.

This calling you have answered is as noble as they come. The lives you touch will be too numerous to count and the blessings you will receive by giving of yourself in ways that only you know how will be eternal. You will give 110% each and every day, even when you have nothing left to give. You will invest your time, your money and your emotions into everything you do and will go largely unrecognized.  You may not see it now but your efforts will not be in vain. Just be sure to take care of yourself along the way, your students really do depend on you and need you, no matter what anyone says.

To those of you I have had the pleasure and the honor of working with over the years, I know how much you give of yourself to your students. I have seen your hearts break and your spirits waver just as much as I have seen you open yourself and your pocketbook to a student or a teacher in need in a time when everyone seems to be in need anymore. It is because of each and every one of you that I go back year after year knowing that together we do make a difference.

May your year be once of peace and may your classes be easy to manage.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Respect, Fear, Chivalry

I am an old fashioned girl and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I still believe in manners and respect and I am a die hard fan of chivalry.

That does not mean I feel women should walk in the shadow of their men but I do feel that a please, a thank you or a holding of a door shows respect and ladies, we deserve respect. (Of course, this goes both ways.  If we want respect we must show it.) It confuses me and makes me a little sad that our society has evolved in such a way that this even has to be said.

When my oldest son was in preschool, we went to the mall.  Even at that young age, he stopped and held a door open for a woman walking in with us.

I kid you not- she turned to me and said "I can hold my own door open!"

Shocked but not into silence (I am a native New Yorker who was not raised to take verbal abuse from anyone), I responded "I am sure you can but I am trying to teach my son to be a gentleman."

She spouted something about the twenty first century and walked away.

Twenty first century or not, when did manners and being polite go out of style?

Today, a half dozen years later, we were at the mall again and my youngest son was walking with me.  Three teen girls attempted to leave a store at the same time so I stopped my son and said "Let the girls go first, honey. Remember, ladies before gentlemen." 

He stopped in his tracks and waited for them to pass without question. As they walked by, one of the girls looked at me over her shoulder and said something to her friends about how I had called them ladies.  They then proceeded to giggle like teenage girls do as they walked away. They were surprised that I had stopped my boy and let them go and I guess that surprised me.

There are plenty of memes and jokes on the internet about how kids were raised in different generations. Backtalk was punished, kids had curfews and rules and- gasp- they followed them. I know times are different but are they so different that we no longer have to offer each other common courtesy? Part of me wonders if that is not a bit of what is wrong with this world.  People throw around the world respect like its a football but I don't think many really know the true meaning of the word.  Respect is not fear and I think many of our younger generations equate the two in an unhealthy way.  You do not earn respect by bullying or hurting others feelings or even physically hurting someone.  Respect is better earned by stopping the bully, saying kind words and, believe it or not even saying things like please and thank you.

It is NOT calling each other "Ho's", "Bitches" or "Sluts".  It is NOT having a man expect certain "favors" because of a nice dinner out. Most importantly, it is NOT fear.

I will continue to teach my sons to hold a door, let a lady pass and pick up things when someone drops them.  They need to know that when they one day fall in love and maybe marry that the object of their affections deserves to be treated in a way that shows true respect. The good Lord had better help them if I ever once hear them call a woman any of the above mentioned names- nothing short of divine intervention will protect them from the wrath of their mother!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Weighing In On The "Sexy Selfie"

I know that I am in the massive minority when I admit this but I am going to go ahead and bare my soul anyway.

I do not have a smart phone.

No iPhone, no Samsung, no anything...and I am actually very happy with my texting and calling only capabilities.  No data plan for me.  At least not right now.  My friend keeps telling me that as a published writer I am going to need a smartphone with a huge data plan to rule my book empire - and she is probably right.  Eventually. If there is an empire.  For now though, I am perfectly happy with my ancient, next best thing to Morse code slide phone.

With all the mess about aps and personal security going around, I am happy to be data plan free right now.

One of the things that bothers me most is how willing people are to report every move they make on social networking sites. When I see someone post on my favorite site that they are eating dinner at such and such restaurant or shopping at a certain store, I cringe- they have just announced to the entire world that their house may be sitting empty and available. 

Posting pictures while on vacation also frightens me- they say "empty house, gone for a week, help yourself!" 

Let's not forget all the "selfies" out there.  It's great to post pics of yourself having fun with friends and family but be mindful of what shows up in the background.  House numbers, license plates on vehicles and even bumper stickers will clue in the wrong person a whole lot about you and your home. 

A common fad especially among young people has been the "sexy selfie".  Teenagers trying to hard to be attractive often end up posting pictures that will one day live to regret all in the name of appearing "sexy". What if the person on the other end of those "selfies" is a sexual predator pretending to be a teenager?  In this world, sexual predators abound.

I have many a conversation with my students about being mindful of what they post- colleges and employers have become more technology savvy, looking online for potential students and employees.  My friend's son recently applied to and was accepted to pharmacy school.  For four years of undergraduate school he was vigilant about not putting anything incriminating on the internet and a good thing too- they did extensive background checks.

My eleven year old recently asked me when he could have his own cell phone.  I am not ashamed to admit that I laughed at him. What does an eleven year old need with a cell phone?  He has access to the internet by other means and if he really needs to call a friend, we have a house phone.  And it doesn't even have the hundred foot coiled phone cord I had to drag around the house when I was his age! A cell phone is not necessary for an eleven year old.  When he is sixteen and drives I will probably make sure he has one but you can be darn sure it won't be nicer than mine and I will be very vigilant in checking up on exactly what he does on that phone.

Parents, it is our duty to be nosey and get into our kids' business. They need us to do this!  They don't have the skills or emotional tools necessary to make wise choices all the time- or even most of the time- so we have to teach them.  We need to check up on those "selfies" and text messages and make sure they don't do anything they might regret for a lifetime.  It is our job to protect them, teach them and discipline them.  They have plenty of friends, they need parents.

I realize that mine is not the popular opinion when it comes to how much technology we need in our home and I can live with that.  Many times I have been accused of being overly protective and I own that rightfully.  I am overprotective but I can live with that. Thoughts?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chemical Free Food- Myth or Reality?

In preparation for the dreaded return to work and school in a couple of weeks, I was going through coupons and fliers looking for good lunch box foods.

If you know me well, you know that my recent obsession has been with the quality of foods available to us to feed our families. In the last year we have switched our children over to a slightly better way of eating by eliminating the majority of processed foods from their diet.  Not all, but enough that I feel a little better about the things that they ingest.

No more packaged cookies.  Chips only on a special occasion.  Never packaged dinners or frozen meals.  They resisted for a while- my youngest is obsessed with the useless, fruitless fruit snacks- but when they discovered just how good other snacks could be they have slowly given in to mom's new way of doing things.

We now have our milk and other dairy products delivered from a dairy that doesn't use antibiotics or hormones and they do not heat process their milk.  A child who previously avoided milk due an uncomfortable allergic reaction now drinks milk by the tall cupful.  I had to start having an extra half gallon delivered each week just for him. They don't even like supermarket milk anymore-they swear there is a taste difference.

I have sort of established a standard for myself for purchasing food.  I am a trained chemist with a huge chemical vocabulary.  I know what all those ethyls and methyls mean and I can sort of decipher what is in the food based on this knowledge.  Basically if I used it in a lab, I don't want to eat it.  I tell my sister, who is not a chemist to look at the ingredients list.  If it is a mile long, it's too long.  Less is best.  Regular sugar over high fructose corn syrup.  NEVER, EVER eat aspartame or feed it to your kids.

Aspartame.  That's my newest soapbox.  I am a die hard, diet soda drinker.  It has been my drink of choice for twenty years.  At least it was until about six months ago when I read up on all the affects it might have on one's nervous system.  One day my husband, also a former die hard diet soda drinker, decided he was going off soda.  I decided to join him.  Some of you already know his story but for those of you who don't I am going to share it again. 

My husband has struggled with an usual case of severe rosacea for several years.  He has seen several dermatologists and taken a myriad of medicines all to no avail.  Exactly six weeks after going aspartame free his rosacea completely cleared up. 
Every so often I fall off the wagon and have a glass of soda.  I miss the cold bubbly drink once in a while so I indulge myself.  He, however, doesn't touch the stuff at all anymore.
The drink of choice in our home, aside from that delicious milk, is water.  Ice cold water.  Occasionally I will buy a bottle of cranberry or grape or apple juice- 100% juice only.  The boys play baseball so once in while I will give them a sports drink but never red.  Certain red dyes have been suggested to affect some children in negative ways.

Since our transition to a less chemical way of life, I have developed certain food habits that are easy, adaptable to a busy lifestyle and much healthier than a package of cookies. Here are just a few of the easiest:

1. This one I stole from my neighbor- watermelon and cantaloupe make great sweet snacks.  I buy one, cut it up or use my ice cream scoop to make melon balls and put in a bowl in the fridge.  The boys have free reign to help themselves whenever they are hungry
2. Another favorite- anything that can be dipped in Nutella.  Carrots, celery, cucumbers (best from my mother's garden!) and even pretzels or crackers.
3. On suggestion from my mother- instead of buying previously shredded cheeses that use preservatives like cellulose to keep it from sticking I buy bricks of cheese that are minus the cellulose and cost less per pound and shred them myself.

As I poured over coupons and fliers this morning I was discouraged to see that the majority of the coupons available were for processed, packaged items intended to go into the lunch box.  I started thinking about other ways to satisfy my boys' appetites on a busy school day and came up with at least one idea.  Next week I plan to make several batches of cookies- chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin- and store them in the deep freezer.  Each week I will pull out a bag and use it for their lunches.  One small thing, with about an hour of time invested, will keep the preservatives out of their lunch box and some money in my pocketbook.  Even with coupons, it is far more cost effective to back cookies than to buy them. 

I know I have a long way to go before fully accomplishing my goal.  I am not even sure it will ever be possible to completely go chemical free but I will keep trying.

Do you have healthy snack ideas or recipes to share?  Please post any suggestions in the comments below.  I know we can all use new ideas.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Month of Sundays

I saw one of those cute little e-cards the other night that said "The month of August is like one long Sunday night for teachers."  As I laughed, I was forced to recognize the glaring truth in that statement.  Whereas the month of July was spent traveling, going to ballgames and just having a good time, August has so far brought with it school supply lists, back to school shopping and an overwhelming feeling of dread that my freedom is about to be gone for another ten months.

I am not the stay at home mom type. This I have known about myself for most of my life.  I like having a job, being part of something good in this world and as far as teaching goes, it makes me feel needed.  I like to feel needed. I also like sleeping in, not getting dressed up everyday and letting my long hair go wild in the sun and breeze.  So, I am at a crossroads.  Hide in my house and pretend like summer will never end or seize the life out of summer and have a blast right until they drag me kicking and screaming back into the building for in-service week.

Knowing myself, I suspect I will go for a healthy mix of those two options.  With the start of school comes the fall baseball season- a time of year I truly love but it is also a very busy season with practices and games for two boys on two different teams.  I feel like I should hoard hours of peace and quiet and HGTV watching knowing that it will all be gone again for a long, long time.

Of course, I have also added deadlines and edits to my schedule (and no, I wouldn't trade that for anything!) so I have to get even better at balancing my time.  Thankfully, my mother buys me a new agenda each summer as a back to school gift. This year I am supersizing!

We have also decided that it is time to begin the process of giving our boys their own bedrooms.  In their younger years I have kept them together for ease and safety.  If there were ever an emergency when I was home alone with them I wanted them easy to get to and easy to get out of the house.  Now that they are older, that need is not as prevalent.  The move will take a good deal of rearranging and organizing but in the process I hope to purge a whole lot of items we no longer need.

I hate to see summer come to an end but in another week swimming lessons wrap up, I will be forced to buy a few back to school clothing items for the boys and myself and we will have less time to do nothing and more things to fill those hours with. 

Fall isn't all bad though.  This fall will mark the official release of my first professionally published book. I have worked many years for that accomplishment and might even have a party to celebrate!  Fall also brings with it middle school for my oldest.  A whole new world of pre-pubescence is about to descend upon us!  Then of course, little league ball games, football Sundays with the family at our local sports pub and a myriad of family birthdays culminating with our traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas family dinners.  As much as I hate to let summer go, I love the food of fall and the cool temperatures and long skirts with cozy sweaters.

Maybe the end of summer won't be as bad as I think.  I have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for.  I am excited to add a new class to my teaching schedule and getting back to a routine will make me far more productive.  For now, I will hold onto summer tightly but when the time comes I will let her pass peacefully.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Dog Days of Summer

I have been unintentionally neglectful of this blog this week.  I was completely and totally consumed with my first editing deadline on my soon to be published romantic intrigue.  My editor says the ebook is set to be released at the end of November.  I have had to nearly pinch myself on several occasions to make sure that all of this is actually real.  I have worked so many years to achieve what is just a mere four months away.

In the interim it has, of course, been summer vacation around here.  Swimming lessons, trips to see friends and family, dinners out, barbeque at the neighbors and of course tax free shopping weekend have kept this family hopping.  In a great way.

One of the things I like best about summer is the freedom I have to be a mom and a wife without worrying about all the other roles I play.  We eat better, the house gets cleaned up more frequently and I have time to think about all the little details that constantly escape me during the school year.  I would love nothing more than to be able to stay home and write my books for a living so that I can make the great homemade meals and keep the laundry at a manageable level.  I wait for the day when I no longer have to set an alarm clock for some un-Godly hour.

Do you realize that I have only "done" my hair a handful of times this summer?  Buns and the summer beach look, accomplished in part by my constantly open windows and sunroof in my car.  I wore a long braid to the pool this week and one of the little girls we know told me I looked like Elsa... I can live with looking like the world's most loved princess!

With the advent of tax-free weekend (the three glorious days when the state lifts all taxes on clothes and school supplies) comes the final countdown to the end of summer.  I feel the race to get in as much fun as possible.  We live thirty minutes from a beautiful ocean beach and we have yet to see it this summer.  Not that we haven't been to any beaches, we have....there is just not enough days in the summer months to see and do everything I want.

We have managed many great things in the month of July.  Like visit my sister in law and her family at their beautiful vacation home in North Carolina.  Then there was the trip to NY to see my baby brother finally marry.  Add in a couple of local minor league ball games with great hot dogs, fries and cotton candy and getting to know new neighbors moving to our block from a far away country and things have been pretty exciting.  Let's not forget the night we decided to drive forty five minutes over the river and through the woods to enjoy all you can eat chicken wings at a favorite restaurant- after a pit stop at a delightful donut shop when that "Hot Donuts Now" sign came on as we drove be.  Why not?  It's called making memories, folks.

Four years ago, my father passed away in the month of July.  It was a tough, emotional roller coaster of a summer that lead into an exhausting school year.  Just when I started to recover some, my mother in law passed away the next summer, coincidentally on the same day at exactly the same time that little sister was getting married.  I remember standing on the beach as she and her husband said their vows thinking I needed to call my husband who was at his mother's bedside.  As soon as the ceremony was over I called him and found out that she had indeed passed at the very time my sister was marrying.  That was another tough summer followed by an exhausting school year.  It has taken us since then to finally regain our carefree, suck the juice out of summer watermelon approach to life.

It is because of that reason, I am reluctant to see this summer come to an end.  Where I was once counting the holiday in terms of weeks, I am down to counting it by days.  I am happy, relaxed and sporting a killer tan that perfectly accentuates my princess braid.

Of course, with the end of summer comes fall baseball and I absolutely love watching my boys play ball.  My oldest son once had a coach who opened the season who told us he sincerely believed world peace could be achieved on a baseball field.   I couldn't agree more.  Teamwork, dedication, self control and maintaining a positive attitude are all a part of the recipe for success.  Success on the ball field may translate to success in school and later on in college and their future.  So, as much as I love the carefree summer months, I think we all crave a little stability and routine by the time September rolls around.

I'm not throwing in the towel just yet though.  We have more swimming lessons, plenty of days at the pool with the cousins and a lot of restaurants to try out.  I have books full of recipes I still want to try and the warm southern sunshine beckons me to the beach.  In between edits and loads of laundry and making memories I will work hard to check back in and see how you all are doing. 

Go forth and make summer memories!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Living In a Technology World

I am on the hunt for a new laptop.   I love the one I have but after being used for hours and hours every single day of the last three years, she is tired and has begun to complain.  Last week my display driver failed, leaving me with the blue screen of death.  Talk about fear...all of my writing and all of our family photos are stored on my laptop.  Yes, most of it is backed up elsewhere but not all of it.  Working on that now...just in case that blue screen reappears.

What I have learned in my search?  There are way too many to choose from.  Brands, processors, displays, memory, hard drives, PC or Mac...I am overwhelmed by all the choices. 

I remember the days when no one had computers.  Only big businesses and probably the government invested the thousands of dollars in automation.  Now, every home seems to be wired with desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones and music players that we as a nation, can not seem to live without.

It may be cliche' but I remember a day when kids made their fun outside.  We didn't carry around $500 electronics in our pockets or spend our days texting and face-timing.  We rode our bikes to our friend's house and played a board game or went for a walk or toted a fishing pole to the nearest fishing hole.  Yes, I grew up in the country but we weren't "backwoods", we just didn't know the joys- or tribulations- of technology. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the convenience of my cell phone when I am separated from my children and husband. I know that I am only a call a way with no phone tag necessary to reach me.  I do not, however, believe my eleven year old needs an iPhone or even a Trac phone for that matter.  If he wants to call a friend or even- gasp- a young lady, he can do it from the house phone in the kitchen like I had to.  There is no need for secret text chats at two in the morning. 

I read an article once about how teenagers lose hours and hours of precious sleep that they need for their bodies to grow and develop by answering phone calls and text messages in the wee hours of the night.  Why on earth would any sixteen year old NEED to communicate with anyone at two thirty in the morning?

Technology has opened the world for me.  I publish books and blogs online, keep in touch with my friends, cousins and even my editor who are in distant places through email and social networking and even indulge in the occasional game of Candy Crush.  I wouldn't give all that back for anything.  On the flip side, I would give almost anything for the simplicity of life before online predators, identity theft and the easy accessibility to pornography became a regular part of daily life.

A while back I posted a blog titled Are You Tactically Sound? about ways we have found to help keep our family safe. Please add monitoring technology use to your list of daily activities of protecting your family.  We have rules in our house about technology and internet use and I suggest that all parents take the time to check out what their kids are up to in the world of the internet.  You might be horribly surprised.  Young people are surprisingly adept at figuring out technology and since it is such an integral part of their childhood- computers and smartboards and ipads are used regularly in the classroom now- it's almost like they are born with the natural ability so many of us have had to learn and adapt to.  With knowledge comes power and young people don't often have the skill set to use power appropriately.  Help your child learn and understand that even though the entire world is open to them, they don't have to explore it all now.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ramblings of A Night Without Sleep

    Last night I watched, or rather listened to, an end of watch video online.  To say the very least, this was a huge mistake an hour after my husband began his eleven hour night shift.  Instead of sleeping I spent the many wee hours of the night obsessing over the various scenarios in which a police officer receives an end of watch call.

    May God bless and be with the family of that fallen officer and the others that went before him. There are no words of appreciation for the sacrifice those families have made.

    Nine years ago, when he accepted the call to duty, I spent night after night worrying for his safety...waiting for that call and praying it never came.  We have always been on the midnight shift so I spend a lot of nights home alone. With my writer's mind I used to lay in bed concocting situations and events that would result in a middle of the night phone call. 

   I don't tend to do that anymore.  In fact, most nights I sleep pretty well when he is gone.  Unless I do something like I did last night.  Those are the moments that keep me humble.  They remind me that life is precious and I need to value and appreciate the time we have together and as a family because you never know when it might come to a screeching halt.

  My dad passed away four years ago.  It seemed like one minute he was fine and the next a hungry tumor devastated his brain.  He lived a little over five weeks following his diagnosis.  We talked a lot in that time.  He  shared story after story of his youth with me.  Sometimes I would dial the phone to ask mom a question and an hour and a half later I would hang up the phone without ever hearing my mother's voice.  I learned a lot about my dad in those conversations- about him as a person and not just as my father.  In the months and years that have followed his passing I have reviewed those stories in my mind and compiled them in a book for my mom.  I wanted her to hang on to those memories. 

   If I learned anything from my father's passing, I learned that the people we love are the most important thing in life.  I also learned that I can spend night after night fearing the worst or I can seize each day we have together and make memories that will last long into the dark hours of the night and beyond. 

   I could go on and on about the challenges of being married to a police officer and how our life is so different but so could a military spouse or the spouse of an emergency room physician.  There are challenges in every relationship- marriage or otherwise.  Two of my siblings live almost a thousand miles away.  We maybe see each other once a year and we definitely miss out on the day to day changes of each other's children.  So, we send pictures and videos and emails and FB status updates and work hard to maintain contact.  We don't stop being family because we are not in proximity.

    The video I listened to last night was beautiful.  The dispatcher paid homage to a man who sounded pretty amazing. He was obviously loved and respected by many.  Such a legacy to leave behind in the wake of so much tragedy.  He will forever be remembered not only as a hero but as a great man who influenced the lives of many.  I could hear it in the dispatcher's voice.  Material possessions are fine to have and they may bring us joy in the short term- I personally can not make it through a day without my laptop and I really adore my little red car with its sunroof- however possessions are finite.  They do not comfort our loved ones in our absence and no one will really care about my car or my laptop when I am gone.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Be It Ever So Humble...There's No Place Like Home

I apologize for the long absence but it was not without good reason...

My "baby" brother is now a married man!

Last week we made the twelve hour pilgrimage to Upstate New York via rented minivan and followed by my sister and her family.  Driving through the night, we stopped periodically to switch drivers, down a little caffeine and stretch our legs.  Five adults, one teenager, three kids and a toddler- we sure owned those rest stops! (Don't worry, my LEOW friends and readers, we were tactically sound during the entire trip!)

Although I live by the beach now, I grew up in a place where they really, really know how to make good food.  We showed up at my other sister's house with a list of must eat food and must visit restaurants.  Let me tell you something....did we ever eat... and eat....

True to her word, the New York sister had a fridge stocked with delightful treats and a bag of NY bagels on the counter.   We wasted no time at all fulfilling our must eat needs.   By the time we checked into our hotel, we had crossed several important foods off the list.  By the way, we stayed at a Hampton Inn.  If ever you must travel, especially with children, stay at a Hampton Inn.  They had a pool and hot tub, a continental breakfast that was amazing and everything was clean.  It made the hotel we stayed at during a previous trip look like a brothel.

Not that we spent all that much time at the hotel.  There was a wedding going on!

My brother is now someone's husband...pretty amazing stuff...

Seeing aunts, uncles and cousins that I hadn't seen in four years was great.  My boys finally met some of the huge clan that I come from and I even met a few new cousins myself.  The highlight of the day (aside from the "I do's" of course) was the huge bear hug from a cousin I hadn't seen in at least two decades, probably longer.  (I've missed you Charlie!)  Thanks to the beauty of social networking, I have kept in touch with my many, many cousins in recent years but it was amazing to see such a large representation of our clan in one place. We are a handsome group, I must say.  There is not one ugly gene in our gene pool.  I am proud to come from such good looking stock. 

Watching my brother watch his bride walk the aisle made me cry.  As did watching a little girl ask my eleven year old son to dance.  It was an emotional, exciting, busy day.  The only downside was the absence of my dad.  The physical absence anyway.  There is no doubt he was there spiritually.  I felt him everywhere and knew he was proud of his only son for the man he had grown into.
On the way home,  we detoured to Massachusetts to visit my husband's family.  His dad threw a great family BBQ with all the aunts, uncles and cousins.  It was wonderful to have everyone in the same place for an afternoon.  I had the privilege of meeting my first great-nephew.  An adorable, squirmy little two month old who definitely won my heart.  It was a great detour before the ten hour drive back to the beach.

We made it home in record time, without speeding and without a speck of traffic in NYC.  If you have ever passed over the George Washington Bridge you understand the magnitude of this declaration.  It was the icing on the cake...the cherry on the our amazing week of family and celebration.

Excuse me for a moment while I get nostalgic.  When I was very young, my best friend was my cousin Jason.  We spent our toddler hood together and there are some adorable photos floating around out there as evidence.  As adults, Jason and I lived less than three hours away from each other.  We talked often through email about getting together, introducing our families only to never have the never make the opportunity.... Jason passed away three years ago and to this day I regret not making the time to take a road trip and say hello. 

Our large family is missing three uncles and one cousin...their absences were duly felt this weekend.  Especially that of the uncle I call Dad.  The drive was long and the trip has left me exhausted but I am so thankful for the opportunity to see so many loved ones and make some new memories.   I can't lie- I am very happy to be home however it was a vacation well spent in many, many ways.

Congratulations to my brother and new sister in law.  I wish you many, many years of joy and happiness.  Your southern family loves you dearly.