Thursday, September 8, 2016

Green Thumb

A year ago tonight, we got the call that my uncle (and godfather) lost his battle to esophageal cancer. Prior to his diagnosis 19 months earlier, he'd been the picture of health. One of the best things I can say about him is the absolute passion and zeal with which he lived his much too short life. The list of his accomplishments is extensive, but tonight I want to share a story about this great man.

My uncle loved to garden. Each spring, he planted thousands of seedlings. At one time, he had three gardens going, in addition to tending the church garden. Among many other things, growing food from the earth was certainly a passion that he shared. As such, he was a wealth of knowledge about all things plants and was the guy we asked whenever we had a question.

When Sophia was in pre-school (I think 4 year-old, but it could have even been 3 year-old), they read the story of Johnny Appleseed. Her wheels are always turning, and she started pilfering apple seeds to plant because she wanted an apple tree to grow in our yard. Knowing that planting trees from seeds outside is not always successful, we told her we'd have to ask Uncle Andy the best thing to do. And he, being the generous soul that he was, gave Sophia her own sapling that he cut from one of his apple trees. It was about 18" tall. Sophia and my dad planted it in our backyard, and then we waited. We prepared her that for the tree to really have apples would take years, and that she would probably be in high school before it happened. There are a few crab apple trees in our neighborhood, but not many apple trees for pollination.

The first year, a deer took a several nibbles out of her tree. We weren't sure it would make it.

But it did.

Then last summer, as we knew it would be Uncle Andy's last summer, Sophia discovered three apples growing on her tree. I didn't believe her when she told me. But she was right. Her tree had apples. Almost unbelievable, considering the tree is only about 4 years old.

The last time we went to see Uncle Andy, Sophia picked the apples, and we made applesauce for him. He wasn't able to swallow much, and I don't know that he actually got to eat it. He passed away about a week later.

This year, we had an unusually warm winter that caused the fruit trees to bud early, only to be damaged by a heavy frost. There are no apples this year.

I really felt that the apples last year were a fluke and had something to do with Uncle Andy. The lack of apples this year reinforces it.

To a great man, our own personal Johnny Appleseed... may we all have such a passion in life and for life.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Oh, Ryan Lochte

In 2012, I developed a little crush on swimmer Ryan Lochte. I mean, who wouldn't?

I was even sort of excited when I found out he was going to have his own reality show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do? I never ended up watching the shows because it became apparent in some of Ryan's post-Olympic interviews that while he certainly is pretty, perhaps his personality and brain power is not at the same caliber as his swimming.

I'm not sure how much of it is an act, but he appears rather dim. I don't think it's an act.

I wondered in this Olympics how much media attention he would get, seeing as how it is pretty clear that he's not the best character story. He doesn't interview well, and some of his waters tend to be on the shallow side. It didn't stop me from rooting for him, even with the hair debacle.

Again, it sort of shows the caliber of intellect. He's spent his whole life in the pool and didn't realize that chlorine would change the bleach color...

And then there's that night. The story of the robbery, being held at gun point. The "over exaggerated details." The drunken shenanigans.

I watched the Matt Lauer interview last night.

And I got mad. Now before you go thinking that I'm blinded by the pretty smile (and the much better hair), think about these things.

  1. Ryan and the boys had a night of partying. They were drunk. There was public peeing. A poster was ripped from the wall. Good conduct? No. Were they being drunken idiots? Yes. How is that different from rock stars and movie stars and other athletes? I mean, Lamar Odom OD'd after a WEEK long coke fest in a brothel (complete with hookers), but that's okay. 
  2. Inflating the story was a douche move, no question. He was probably still drunk. Still a douche. We also need to remember we're not dealing with a Mensa scholar here. And still, he (they) didn't do anything Justin Beiber or a hundred other celebrities haven't done.
  3. Ryan and the boys claimed to have been robbed at gun point. Now they are being called liars. The security guards (who were not police officers) pulled their guns, threatening to call the police. These rent-a-cops pulled their guns. No, they were not put to Ryan's head and cocked, but how rational are you when a gun is drawn in your general direction (and you're drunk off your ass)? What would we be saying if a security guard pulled a gun on an intoxicated individual in this country? Hell, police can't even pull their guns anymore.
  4. To "pay for the damages," all four swimmers had to give the security guards (not police, not gas station owner) all the money they had. Huh. That sort of sounds like armed robbery to me. These security guards actually have no legal authority, yet then demanded all their money. If the poster cost $50, that would be a lot. I'd guess Ryan and the boys turned over a lot more than that.
  5. Jimmy Feigan had to pay $11,000 in order to settle this case and get his passport back. How in the hell does reporting a false incident result in $11,000 in restitution? Extortion is more like it.
  6. Matt Lauer is a prick. Ryan Lochte may be a douche (you wonder how much Tums his agent and publicist go through). Matt Lauer did nothing but bully Ryan Lochte in that interview. It's a case of someone who has more power (in this case intellectual power) brow-beating someone who is not equipped to hold his own. 
In summary, Ryan Lochte is not bright. He did a stupid thing (for which he has apologized). However, he and his teammates were actually robbed at gunpoint, and Jimmy Feigan was extorted, and we all seem to be okay with it. Oh, and Matt Lauer is a bully.

Let's look into the shady corruption of the security guards and Brazilian government, and let Ryan Lochte go away for a while. I think that might be best for all of us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Inevitable

For some, it happens during. For others, it occurs just after. For us, it's been 22 years. The passage of time doesn't make it any easier though. It just leads to more "if onlys" and "should haves."

Yesterday, I learned of the passing of a high school classmate. She's the first. And when your class is only about 120 people, everyone knows everyone. The news has been shooting through my former classmates like wildfire.

But time happens and life happens and you drift and go your separate ways. I wasn't particularly close with Katie, although I met her before high school, attending cheerleading camp with her when I was about 12 and 13. I certainly wasn't in her inner circle, nor she in mine. In all honesty, I've only spoken with her twice since we graduated 22 years ago, both times at reunions.

It's still hard, so I know her close circle of high school friends must be hurting.

There has been something positive though. Old friends reaching out. Messages and phone calls exchanged. We finally make time for conversations that we've been putting on the back burner for years.

I know this was inevitable. But it doesn't make it any easier.

Rest in peace, Katie. You will be missed.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

In the blink of an eye...

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, then it will come as no secret that I'm a HUGE fan of the Olympics. Like quasi-addicted.

Okay, maybe not quasi...

In fact, I remember being in high school and spending my entire February break watching the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. Remember when the Winter Olympics were just 2 years apart that time? Totally aside.

Anyway, they keep referring to the 2012 London Olympics. And I have to shake my head. Didn't that just happen? How could that be four years ago? Four years? Four years ago, my kids were getting ready to enter 3rd grade and Kindergarten. We were in Disney for the first time. I'd yet to publish my first book. So much has happened in the past four years.

I mean, it's been four years since we had this jem...

Aaaah, that Ryan Lochte ...

So then, as I'm watching all sorts of things I never dreamed of (Hello, Rugby!), they mention the next Olympics. In 2020.


I know it shouldn't come as a shock. 2016+4=2020 afterall. But what hit me is that my son graduates from high school in 2022. He only has one more Summer Olympics at home. I know it's a silly way to measure time, but I can't help but think of how fast these last 4 years have gone.

So, I'm going to spend the next few weeks watching the world unite, admiring the skill and talent of the athletes, and holding onto my kids a little tighter. Afterall, in the blink of an eye, they'll be gone.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cover Reveal!

I know I've woefully abandoned this blog this summer. But listen--I've got good reasons.

First, and least important, I was reading. Reading is important for me because well, I love it. I started reading the Outlander series. I'm two and a half books in. I'm reading the hardcover versions and they do require significant upper body strength. For those of you not familiar, each book is 700-800 pages, so in hardcover, it's quite the heft.

The real reason I ignored blogging--I was writing!

After hemming and hawing and overall procrastinating since February, I finally set a goal and buckled down to finish my seventh full-length novel, Made for Me. This time last year, I was trying to write Live for This when I became distracted with the idea of writing a Christmas novella. I'd had the idea for quite a while, so with the timing being right, I wrote Completions and Connections: A Romantic Holiday Novella. It's a cute little story, and came out exactly how I'd imagined. However, some of the feedback that I received was that people wished there was more--that it was a full novel rather than a novella.

Which got me to thinking. And then, eventually writing. Michele, Christine's best friend seemed like she had a story to tell. Hence, my latest book, Made for Me. This is my first totally chick lit book--a fun, funny read that I can't wait to share with you.

Here's the blurb:

Michele's lack of focus in life hasn't bothered her, until the day she finds herself with mounting credit card debt, unable to afford her rent, and without a job. While her meddling family questions how she can end up in this predicament, at the age of 29, and single to boot, Michele doesn't want to admit the truth. All she wants to do is sew.
Faced with the prospect of moving back into her parents' house, Michele throws a Hail Mary pass and applies for a TV design contest, Made for Me. In order to win the contest, Michele will have to compete with nine other contestants to design the new wardrobe for Duchess Maryn Medrovovich, who's about to marry Prince Stephan of the United Republic of Montabago. 
While in the seclusion of the show, Michele starts to realize where her focus in life should  be, and what's truly important to her. However, a dashing competitor might just cause her to lose her focus once and for all. Can Michele keep her eye on the prize while being true to herself?
Okay, without further ado, here's the cover for Made for Me!

 It releases October 4, 2016, and is available for pre-order now!

Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Am I Missing Something?

I am a marketer's dream. I come by it honestly. I inherited it from my parents. My mom likes to buy vacuums and cleaning implements (and has single handedly supported Shark). My dad is a serious junkie. I can't tell you how many infomercial products he's bought. His latest is an electric pressure cooker. He bought it while in the hospital. I guess there wasn't much on late night TV. In his defense, he does use it every week, and hasn't blown up anything yet.

Frequently, my parents will mention a product advertised in an infomercial. And I have to tell them again that I don't watch infomercials. Not because I don't have time, or because I'm above it. But because I'm susceptible. I will become convinced, long before that 30 minutes is up, that I need that product. I don't know what it is, I will need it.

I am a marketer's dream. Years later, I will still associate songs with the product they represented. Commercials for food make me want to cook that or visit that restaurant.

But, there's something I don't get.

Watch this commercial. It's only 30 seconds.

So, am I missing something?

I get the purpose of toilet paper. Obviously. I use toilet paper. Obviously. I even like 2-ply.

But it has nothing to do with why I wear underwear.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that the purpose of wearing underwear is not because I don't wipe well enough. Even if I were intrigued by the ripples and plushness, this whole premise makes me scratch my head and make this face:

Cottonelle, I'm an easy target. And you totally missed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Thank you, Sandra Boynton!

The year was 1991.

(Please give me a moment while I sob uncontrollably that 1991 was 25 years ago. Holy crap, where did that go?).

I was a freshman in high school with a big perm and a crush on a Sophomore. I was on a field trip to Boston with Math Club. We were in Quincy Market when I decided that I should probably get a birthday card for my dad, seeing as how it was his birthday and all. I'd already bought myself a Goofy watch at the Disney store. I remember going up to a small booth and spinning the rack of cards around. Then I saw it. The birthday card for my dad. This is what it looked like:

Copyright Sandra Boynton.
The card was a big hit. Like a really big hit. So much so that the next year, on that same trip to Boston, I found the same vendor in Quincy Market and bough another version of that birthday card. Best birthday card ever.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and I had my first child. My friend Amy gave me some board books for my shower. Included in that was The Going to Bed Book. As my son grew, he loved to be read to, and that was one of his favorites. I can still recite it. "The sun has set, not long ago, and everybody goes below. To take a bath in one big tub, with soap all over, scrub scrub scrub."
Copyright Sandra Boynton
Based on the awesomeness of that book, we slowly expanded my son's library to include many, many Sandra Boynton books. My dad was my son's primary babysitter when I worked. They've had a special bond since my son's birth. He spent just at much time reading these books to my son as I did. His favorite was Hippos Go Berserk.
Copyright Sandra Boynton
We also had one of the Sandra Boynton CD's (Philadelphia Chickens). It was set as a Broadway musical, which really struck a chord with our family. I still have trouble driving through farmland without this song running through my head.

But as children do, my son (and then my daughter) aged past their Boynton phases, though my dad and I have always held her close to our hearts, mostly for the memories with the kids. When we learned that our favorite children's author was also the author of the best birthday card ever, it was like for a moment, the world was perfect.

Fast forward another dozen years. This past year has been difficult for my dad, and this birthday was not guaranteed. So, what I really wanted was to find the Hippo Birdie card. Even 25 years later, everyone in our family remembers it. I had to find this card.

I follow Sandra Boynton on Facebook, and often share her drawings, especially on my author page. I decided to reach out to her to see if there was any way to get a personalized card or something special for my dad. I mean, she has to have a store, right? Does she sell autographed things?

Instead of being directed to her store, Sandra's daughter Darcy reached out to me and offered to send something for my dad for his birthday. I was floored, and then even more so when I received it in the mail. I cried.

How this woman (and her daughter who handles this sort of thing) could be so kind and generous to me--it just blew my mind. She had already impacted our lives in such great ways, and then here she was, doing it again. I've waited weeks for this day to come. My dad's 70th birthday.

I brought down the presents to him. Upon initiating opening the card, without even knowing what the card was, my dad started singing, "Hippo birdie two ewe." I told you, this card had an impact.

 And then when he realized that it was his card. And his new birthday mug.

Then to his personalized book. He kept asking me, "How did you do this? Did you send away for it? Do you know her? How did you do this?"

There's not much my dad needs in life right now, other than quality time with loved ones. Spending time with us makes him happy (I hope). Having some mementos of some of the greatest years of our lives--when the kids were little--is the cake. Having it personalized by someone who played an integral part in shaping it is the best icing ever. Chocolate, in case you're wondering.

And Sandra Boynton does have a place to buy this card (and other things too). You can click here to get the best birthday card ever.

Thanks, Dad for everything, and happy birthday.

And thank you Sandra Boynton for yet again touching our lives.