2018 archive

My Grown-Up Kitchen

When we moved in this house 20 years ago, I fell in love. I was supposed to keep a poker face in front of the realtor, but I couldn’t help myself. My excitement got the best of me. After losing bids on 2 other homes and an ugly home inspection, we were finally home. A split-level, 3 bedroom home with 2 1/2 baths and french doors leading outside to a beautiful deck overlooking a nice fenced I

The Ritual of Voting

vote“We should do something to right the wrongs that we see and not just complain about them,” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Growing up in the 1980’s, I was always taught that my vote is my voice. I was raised knowing that it is our right and our civic duty to vote and it should never be taken for granted. I know that on Election Day, I show up and vote. Not only did Mom and Dad teach this, but they led by example. Back then, my sister and I accompanied our parents religiously to the voting booth. We entered the gym/cafeteria of my elementary school as a family. We watched them sign their names into the log. They took us by the hand and led us to the back of the line with a tight grip on our small hands and their punch cards. Small talk was common as we stood in line. No matter what your political party, there was still a sense of community. We followed our parents into the booth and they reminded us not to shout out the name they picked on the ballot. Our job was to quietly close the curtain behind them and observe. In that booth, my parents conducted the smallest civics class known to mankind. They explained each of the races to us with great importance, whether it was electing our next president or selecting the next local school board members. We stood on our tiptoes to see what name they moved the lever towards. Before they made their selection, they carefully checked to make sure the ballot and the lever lined up to the candidate of their choice. Once or twice, we helped them punch in the hole. Afterwards, we piled back into the car and drove home satisfied to know that we did our part to make a difference. Just like learning to tie my shoes, blow my nose and make change, I grew up knowing the importance of voting. And since turning 18, I’ve rarely missed an election. Now that I have kids of my own, the tradition continues. When they were little, they came with me to vote. Of course, now there are no more paper ballots. Everything is computerized, but the rituals are still the same. They watched me register. They stood in line and talked to the neighbors. They pulled the curtain closed behind me and watched as I cast my vote. When it was all over, they ran to the desk and asked for an “I voted” sticker to show their teachers at school. Now, my oldest is close to turning 18, but unfortunately not in enough time to vote in this election. But, she has been taught well. She knows the issues that face our country today and she has her strong opinions. She is more than ready to cast her vote in 2020. “Don’t boo – vote!” – Barack Obama

What I Really Want

“I want a million dollars and a Lamborghini.” This is a line that my son always offers up when I ask him what he wants for dinner, for his birthday or in life. “A million dollars and a Lamborghini,” he declares with his big metallic grin. He thinks this is so funny. It was cute the first few times he said it. Then, it started to get a little old. These days, I give in and say it along with him, so now it’s our thing. I too want a million dollars and a Lamborghini. Actually, I want a BMW, but I have to admit that a Lamborghini sounds way cooler. We played the lottery last night and lost, but it allowed me to dream a bit about what I would do with the million dollars. I would definitely worry less about how to send 2 kids to college in the next few years. Maybe I would allow myself an early retirement to travel the world, sit in cafes in exotic locations, drink fabulous coffee and become a full time writer. God knows there are a million ideas for books and blogs inside of me that have yet to come to fruition. But, if I’m being completely honest with you, I want the intangible things even more, like:

  • I want my kids to not be almost 18 and almost 15 years old.
  • I want to take them back to Disney World, go on all their favorite rides and listen to them squeal in delight.
  • I want to sit on the floor with them, play games and sing along with the Wiggles on TV.
  • I want to go to the mall and treat them to ice cream and a ride on the carousel.
  • I want to take more home videos of their childhood milestones.
  • I want to be the tooth fairy.
  • I want one night to sit in that comfy rocking chair, read their favorite bedtime stories, and sing The Rainbow Connection.
  • I want them to hold my hand and not let it go.

I’d take all of the above over a Lamborghini any day of the week, but these are things that money just can’t buy.

What to Expect – The Teenage Years

One of my co-workers gave birth to a beautiful baby girl recently. A pretty pink card was passed around the office so that we could all write words of congratulations to her and her husband on becoming parents. Most of my colleagues signed the card with cute sayings like – “Welcome to the world” and “Can’t wait to meet the little bundle of joy.” I, on the other hand, really wanted to pass along my words of wisdom. (I didn’t – but I wanted to). I’ll never forget what a good friend of mine wrote to me right before I was about to give birth to my daughter: “First the pain, then the pleasure, then the patience.” At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about – but 17+ years into this parenting gig and now I get it. In case I need to spell it out for anyone – The pain is childbirth. The pleasure is all the cuddles and cuteness that babies and toddlers bring. The patience, well that would be the teenage years. The God’s honest truth is that I love this stage of their lives when they become young adults and see their individual gifts they will soon contribute to make the world a better place. But, let’s face it. We parents need a lot of patience when it comes to raising teenagers. And full disclaimer–patience has never been my strong suit. I remember when those “What to Expect” books were helpful for potty training, sleeping schedules and socializing. Unfortunately, those books stop at the second year of their lives–which is a real shame.If there was a “What to Expect” book for raising teenagers, I think this is what the table of contents would look like. Chapter 1 – Patience – Get Some. You are Going to Need It. Chapter 2 – The Front Seat – Birds, Bees, Smoking, Drinking, Drugs, Politics – and other conversations you will have with your child when you are driving them somewhere. Chapter 3 – The Passenger Seat – Where you sit, hold tight and pray while you teach them how to drive. Chapter 4 – Clean Your Room – Is this worth the battle? Chapter 5 – Grounded! – Discipline beyond timeouts and swear jars Chapter 6 – Cell phones and Social Media – Necessary evil or perfect parenting tool? Chapter 7 – Friends – Fights and Forgiveness Chapter 8 – Dating – Need I say more? Chapter 9 – The Tough Stuff (Part I) – Teen depression, anxiety, bullying and so much more. Chapter 10 – The Tough Stuff (Part II) – Love and limits. Roots and wings big kidIt ain’t easy. It’s quite a journey, But, I’ll say one thing – it’s all worth it.

Baseball Movie Season

“This is a simple game: You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.” If you asked me what my favorite kind of movie is, I wouldn’t say comedy, romance, or drama. I definitely wouldn’t say horror or violent either. If you asked me what my favorite kind of movie is, I’d say baseball movies. From Damn Yankees to Bad News Bears to 42, baseball movies make me smile, cry and feel things that no other movie genre has been able to do. Damn Yankees is the story of a die-hard Washington Senators fan who sells his soul to the devil to help his team beat the Yankees.

Day Camp – The End of An Era

Some of my favorite childhood memories came from attending day camp. I made many friends there; many of whom I still talk to over Facebook to this day. I was a camper, a C.I.T., a senior counselor, and a bus counselor. I took countless trips to the Jersey shore with my fellow campers where we walked the boardwalk and rode the amusements at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier until the sun went down. And then there were the boys–first crushes, first loves, summer romances and a great soundtrack of ’80s and ’90s music to embrace it all. I remember it like it was yesterday. elbowlane3When I grew up and had kids of my own, I wanted to enroll them in summer camp as soon as possible. I may have been more excited on their first day of camp than they were. Jenna started when she was just 4 years old. She went for half a day at first, came home happy and exhausted. She loved it so much that she asked if she could go back during the school year. It was an easy decision to switch her to a full day the following summer. A few years after that Andrew joined her there. For the longest time, I schlepped the two of them to and from camp because I thought they were too young to take the bus. Soon enough, they got on the bus, learned to swim, played every kind of sport imaginable, created artistic “treasures” in pottery class, danced in camp music videos, conquered the rock wall and the zip line and made s’mores, friends and memories. Both kids looked forward to extra swims on hot afternoons. Fridays brought Carnival Day, County Fairs, Water Fun Day, and sometimes sleepovers on the campgrounds. Even the parents flocked to camp to see what the kids were up to on Visitors Day and Family Fun Night. elbowlane5I can’t believe that 13 years have flown by and just like that, my kids have outgrown their beloved day camp. When the reminder email to register for this summer came the other day, I had to send a heartfelt goodbye to the camp director. “After over a decade of day camp at Elbow Lane, our kids will sadly not be returning this year. Jenna and Andrew have truly enjoyed their experience as campers from the time they were Munchkins through Senior Camp and as C.I.T.s. They learned to swim (thanks to your wonderful instructors), made many friends and had a lot of fun along the way. Please remove us from your mailing list.” I received the following reply back from the camp director within minutes:

elbowlane2“Thank you for the kind words. Its been many years together and I value your support and loyalty for every one of those years! Best Wishes to both Jenna and Andrew as they grow into young adulthood! We will take you off our list.” And just like that, another childhood milestone passed me by…and a very fond one at that. Fortunately, the kids remain in touch with their friends outside of camp and I hope that stays that way along with memories that I’m sure will last a lifetime. We will miss you Elbow Lane!

Write Every Day? Really?

Hear me out.There are two schools of thought on how to be a great writer. Write every day. Don’t write every day. In writing workshops, this argument can get intense. For those who have never experienced this heated conversation, it can be compared to the ongoing breastfeeding or bottle-feeding debate. It’s a personal decision. People typically pick a side and remain adamant about their choices. I’ve tried writing both ways and I still can’t decide. Here is what I have discovered. Writing every day is something that I can absolutely do, when I really commit to it. For me, this means I must wake up at the crack of dawn to write a blog post. Why so early in the morning? Because I have a day job and a family and a dog that begs for my attention. And laundry and dishes and…and…and…you get the idea. Plus, I’m a morning person so it is truly the best time for me to write. Once I get something down on paper (yes paper!), I have a cup of coffee and type it up. Then I walk away from my laptop and allow myself time to think about what I want to add or change. This is also when I decide whether or not I really want to share what I’ve just written with the world. I make edits, proofread it one more time and then hit publish. The entire process takes about 1-2 hours–for one blog post–because I care about what I write. Because I want you to read it and like it or at least have it resonate with you in some way. I take that responsibility to heart and I hope I deliver. But, maintaining this routine every day is a lot of pressure. I sign up for blog challenges (like the one I’m doing now) with the best of intentions. But usually by the second week, I fizzle out and then I gain momentum again. Does this mean I’m not committed to writing? Certainly not! (How could you ask me that? 🙂 ) What it means though is that sometimes I like to let the writing come naturally. I often believe I do my best work that way. Sure, if I was writing a novel, my ass would be in a chair all day, every day until my deadline. Perhaps, there are different rules for bloggers. If not, there should be because there are some days where I have nothing to offer. I know the ultimate goal is to develop good writing habits and get into a routine. Since, I write and edit every day at work, I think that should count towards my writing time–even if it isn’t for my own blog. Clearly I’m torn so I do a hybrid of both methods when I write. But I think I’m still developing good habits. Quite honestly, I could beat myself up about this or I could just sleep in.  

A Kinder Killer Instinct

In a fairly recent 1-1 with my boss, I asked what I needed to do to get to the next level. His answer was to develop a killer instinct. I knew the term, but I never really considered it necessary to succeed. My professional toolbox consists of being a hard worker, a willingness to learn from others, a good listener and having the self-confidence to share my experiences, be persuasive where needed and conciliatory when required. Months later, I still can’t get this comment out of my head. So, I recently looked up the phrase just to be sure I knew what he meant.

  • A ruthless determination to succeed or win; competitive
  • A way of behaving in order to achieve an advantage for yourself without considering or worrying if it hurts other people

Well, I’m determined, but I’m certainly not ruthless. I look to achieve great things, but I’m not going to push others down to get there. Let’s face it. I’m no tough cookie, but, I’m not a doormat either. So, where does that leave me? Is there happy medium? And then I thought, maybe there is. Why can’t I develop my own brand of killer instinct? Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Setting a goal and then work backwards – For instance, I have a goal of losing 25 pounds by the end of the year. It isn’t going to happen overnight. so I’ve broken this down into much smaller and manageable goals of a pound or two a week. This allows me to focus on small victories and not allow myself to be overwhelmed by the big picture.
  • Being accountable – When I was looking for a new job a few years ago, I hired a career coach. Every week, we would sit down for a meaningful discussion and he would give me homework for the week. The following week, we would talk about what I worked on, what was stopping me from moving forward and eventually inching towards my goal. Having someone to report to about my progress is essential to my success.
  • Putting in the work – No one else is going to do it but me. If I don’t do it, it isn’t going to happen.
  • Embrace setbacks – Not every day is going to be perfect. The fact that I tried has to account for something. The past is the past and I’ll keep going until I get where I want to be.
  • Keep going – My resilience is much stronger than my need to win. When I fall down, I think about what I can learn from my mistakes and then pick myself back up. I don’t quit.
  • Be true to myself – I’m not someone that needs to win at all costs. We are all in this together. I’ll be your mentor, your friend, or your biggest cheerleader for you and I hope you will be for me as well.

What does your brand of “killer instinct” look like?

Judging A Book By Its Library

library shelvesI still remember standing on my tiptoes to reach the higher drawers of the card catalog in the library. If there was no step stool nearby, I’d walk over to the front desk and ask the librarian for help. She would help me look up what I needed and then take me to the right spot in the library to find my book. While there, I was free to search the stacks to my heart’s content for other books on the same topic or by the same author or discover something completely different that might interest me. Those were the good ol’ days. When I was a college student, things were a little more high-tech. I sat in front of a computer monitor and typed in the subject, author or title of the book. No step stool necessary. Within seconds, the computer would cough up the names of all the books with similar titles and authors. I’d print out the list on the dot-matrix printer on the other side of the library and then walk up the stairs to peruse the shelves for my book. Today–25 years later–I learned about the latest in library technology on a college tour. Students walk up to a kiosk, type in the book they want, and WAIT FOR IT…a robotic arm will find the book and deliver it to a central location where a staff member will place it on a pickup shelf for convenience. l_bookbot_1 Yes, you read that right…a robotic arm. The official name for this is BookBot–a book retrieval and delivery system which apparently saves on shelf space and opens up the opportunity for more classrooms and meeting spaces on campus. Or maybe just another Starbucks. The tour guide likened this state-of-the-art system to ordering a hoagie at a Wawa. Just walk up to the counter and make your selection from countless options on the screen and hit enter. Within minutes, someone makes your hoagie, wraps it up and delivers it right to you. But in this scenario, the hoagie is a book and the person who is waiting on you is replaced with a robotic arm. As a self-proclaimed book nerd and now library geek, I find this whole thing rather depressing. This truly takes all the fun out of discovering other literary treasures in the library. And honestly, where does it end? Will an army of robots soon be deployed around campus hunting students down for their overdue library books? Will a robot stay at her doorway and hold her hostage until she uses her iPay app to pay the fine? Of course, when I asked her if she thought this was creepy or cool, she thought it was awesome. I, on the other hand, miss the card catalog.

Reading Material

I’ll be honest. I’ve had a long day and night and all I want to do is curl up with a good book. But, I promised myself, I’d write 31 days in a row and I’m sticking to it. After yesterday’s more serious post, it’s time to have some fun. I have plenty of books to choose from in my TBR pile which is why I banned myself from Barnes and Noble. My pile is way too big and I don’t think I should buy any more books until I read the ones I already have. So what’s a girl who loves to read and write do to fill the void? I am on the hunt for merchandise about reading and writing–coffee mugs, earrings, tote bags. They aren’t books, so it is perfectly legal in my own mind. But it may be getting out of hand. It started with a pair of earring that were a must have. These made me smile so I bought them. earrings               (BUY HERE) Next, I added a coffee mug to my already full cabinets of mugs. I try to be selective when it comes to coffee mugs. Lots of the sayings speak to me; this one screamed BUY ME. My co-workers agreed this one was worth every penny. coffee mug                 Then the mug, led me to this t-shirt. t-shirts-i-m-silently-correcting-your-grammar-2                 What can I say? And now, I am eyeing up the next “must have” on my list. It is the perfect accessory for when I go to the movies with my friends to see A Wrinkle In Time. pin               I may have taken this too far. Maybe I should just go back to Barnes and Noble where I belong. What is your favorite book/writer merch? Share in the comments section – along with the link where I can buy it! 🙂        

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