Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, Same Me...

Tired eyes stare back at me in the foggy mirror. I shake my head, lean in, hands firm on the edge of the bathroom counter and say out loud to my frustrated self: “quit being so damn hard on yourself.”

And there it is. My New Year’s Resolution.

It’s that time of year again. Intent on becoming a “better” version of ourselves, we vow to eat healthier, work out more, scream less, get along, donate, listen, learn, try… and on and on.

This I do not need. Granted, I can definitely stand to make improvements, just like anyone else. But, I was right that morning I spoke to myself in the mirror. I am too hard on myself. If I say nothing else about my thirties, it’s that I have become the woman I was meant to be all along. I am a better friend, a better mother, daughter, sister, ex-wife, employee, writer, student, teacher… I also eat better than ever before. None of my meals is picked up from a “drive through” window. I attend boot camp three times a week. I have spent the past year working hard to get published, and have succeeded – times three.

Nevertheless, I constantly berate myself. I question my actions, my words, my work ethic and my parenting skills. And I wonder. Whether I’m making the right decisions, whether I’m too lenient or too strict. And I am consumed by a mother’s guilt compounded by my Catholic upbringing. I feel guilty about not making it to Mass every week, and every so often, missing one of my son’s many soccer games. I’ll say it one more time: I’m too hard on myself. I need to learn to be content with who I am.

Every day, I get three children out of bed and off to school. I give 100% at work, and then some, fielding calls and emails from my own clients at lunch time for freelance writing work. After work, I pick up kids, sign papers, get homework started, shuffle kids to soccer practices and religion classes and prepare dinner. I run the washer the dryer, and the dishwasher. If it’s cold, I start a fire in the fireplace (yes, a real fire, no flipping of a gas switch in my home), make hot cocoa, and sometimes cookies and milk. I give baths, kiss boo-boos, rake leaves (or mow the lawn or shovel the snow), read bedtime stories, and pat backs as my children drift off to sleep.

I might spend a few stolen minutes writing, and after a few weeks, I’ve got another article or essay ready to send out for possible publication. It’s not a boring life. In fact, I should be damn proud of what I accomplish every day. It’s about time I start realizing that, instead of worrying about how I could have handled a fight between my kids better, or finished a freelance assignment quicker, or got to work a few minutes earlier.

This year, I will try to smile when I see that fiercely independent, healthy, successful, 38-year old woman eyeing me in the bathroom mirror. This year, I will reach my own arm around and pat myself on the back for a job well done. This year, I simply resolve to be.

Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? Or do you simply resolve to avoid them altogether?

Here’s to a healthy, joyful New Year at the end of which we can look in the mirror and be damn proud of the person looking back ; )

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Footsteps in the Dark

I just love a good book.

I’ve seen this one in the bookstore on several occasions, but for whatever reason, passed it up for different titles. Finally, after weeks on the Best Seller table, I bought a copy of “The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo.”

This is a good book.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stayed up past midnight reading, but I simply could not put this one down. If any of you have read it, there are a few awful parts. The other night, I was reading one of these, and decided I’d better close the book and get some sleep before I gave myself nightmares. I turned off my bedroom light, slid under the covers, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. There is an alarm key pad right next to my bedroom door. And I noticed, the minute I lie down, that the light went from green to red. Mind you, I am a single mom with three kids, but it was midnight. They were nestled all snug in their beds (sorry, couldn’t help giving a little nod to the season), right?

A split second later, there was a shadow looming over me, and as my eyes adjusted the shadow turned into the shape of a man. I screamed. I didn’t yell, I didn’t cry for help, or grab the bedside lamp and knock it over his head. I screamed. Just like a pitiful, helpless creature in a B-roll horror flick.

“Mom, it’s me!” Yes, it was my thirteen year-old son. Who stands 5’8” now, and in the dark, looks like a man (where did my baby go?!).

It took me a few minutes to recover from that one.

Last night, I skipped the reading and went straight to bed. I was in a deep sleep when I thought I heard footsteps. I opened my eyes to see my son, his head peering cautiously around the corner of my bedroom door. “Mom. It’s me,” he whispered as loud as possible, “don’t scream!”

I belted out a laugh instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas = Love

An old highschool friend posted something the other day on Facebook. It touched me.

Actually, she’s not an “old friend” although I do know her from highschool. We weren’t really friends, in fact we barely knew each other. Which isn’t saying much, because at that time in my life, I barely knew myself. But, as time does, we both became the people we were meant to be (I suppose I can’t speak for her. As a matter of fact, I see the same girl in her that I saw those 20 some odd years ago), and now I see her through a grown woman’s eyes. And I like what I see.

But I digress…she posted a video on Facebook of a young woman and her father singing and playing piano, respectively. They had written a Christmas Song entitled “Where’s the line for Jesus?” It’s a very touching song about all the children waiting in line to see Santa. But if Christmas is the day of Jesus’ birth, then, where, the little boy wonders aloud in the video, is the line to see the birthday boy? Isn’t it He whom we should be lining up to see?

I feel frustrated in the weeks leading up to Christmas when I see the stores putting up all the Christmas trees, jolly Santa Claus decorations, twinkling lights, etc. And the throngs of people who celebrate the holiday, yet have no religious ties to the season. How dare they, I think. They don’t even care about the real reason for all of these decorations.

But something occurred to me this morning…All these people are excited. They are buying gifts for loved one, looking forward to seeing the surprise and (hopefully) delight in the eyes of the receivers. They are preparing food, making Christmas cookies with their children and extended families. They are decorating their homes together, spending time together as a family. And on Christmas day, whether they believe that it’s the day of our Lord’s birth or not, they will come together, sharing gifts, enjoying each other’s company. They will be reminded, for a short time at least, the joy in giving, the joy in sharing. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll feel grateful, and thankful, for the family and friends in their lives.

The reason for this season can be culled down to one word: Love.

Looks like God might know what he’s doing after all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bittersweet News

I've been having some good luck with getting published recently. Yesterday I found out that my story "A Healing Friendship" will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life. The book will be out in stores next April. It's an essay about the profoundly special relationship between my middle child, Jack, and our dog, Biscuit.

Jack was thrilled, and actually got a little chocked up, over the news. It's bittersweet for me.

Biscuit has been through so much in her 8 years. She was injured at the age of one, had two surgeries by age two, and then, due to a life-threatening infection, had to have her left, hind leg removed. Since then, she's had several additional surgeries...infections, skin cancer, a cancerous tumor and a procedure to flush out a severe case of pancreatitis.

A few weeks ago, she began falling down every time she'd get up to walk. Her one remaining hind leg seemed to have lost all its strength. Over the past few weeks, her condition has gotten progressively worse. A visit to the vet yesterday confirmed that the problem is neurological. She won't get better. In fact, she'll get progressively worse. I can't put Biscuit through any more surgery. And her quality of life is nowhere near what it should be.

Dr. Mike (her vet) told me I have a tough decision to make. Biscuit can't run (or even walk without help), she can't play, she can't even stand at her food dish to eat without me holding her up. My heart is breaking, but I know that I can't let Biscuit continue to suffer. Talking to my kids - especially Jack - is going to be difficult, to say the least. I pray that we'll all get through this, and find peace in the knowledge that we love Biscuit enough to let her go.

I will be taking lots of pictures of our beloved Biscuit this week. A black and white close up of Biscuit and Jack, along with a copy of the story of their friendship will make a great Christmas gift.

The news from Chicken Soup couldn't have come at a better time. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and getting a piece published brings with it a great feeling of accomplishment. This time, it's a blessing. Not just for me, but for our whole family.

If you've got any words of wisdom, advice or prayers...I'll gladly accept them this week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

3.3 Weeks and Counting…

As per usual, the past couple weeks have been full of ups and downs. But, I think, more ups than downs have been recorded, so I am feeling good today. On a personal note, yesterday was tough, but worth the fight, and I finally feel as though I’m in a good place. I’ll leave it at that. AND… Lots of shopping accomplished, thanks to that miracle invention…the Internet.

UPS delivered 10 copies of Chicken Soup: Shaping the New You to my door last night. My essay “Taking Care of Me” is on page 346. That’s the second CS book this year. My good friend, Linda O'Connell, also has an essay in this book. I am very proud to be in such incredibly talented company! Linda, I met you at a time in my life where everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was changing. You have been such a role model to me. I value your advice, your wisdom and your friendship always.

And this morning, the December issue of Sasee Magazine came out, featuring my latest article, “Empty Case, Full Life.” You can read it here:

Sasee is a women’s magazine distributed throughout South Carolina. Another shout-out to Linda for introducing me to this magazine. The Editor is very selective, but if you’re interested in publishing credits, and want your articles read by more women… visit the website, request the editorial calendar and get writing! They look for feel good pieces written by women, for women.

But I digress… back to shopping. Just a few things left to buy for the kids, and then on to the rest of the family and I’ll be done!

Don’t forget to carve out a little time for yourself in all the hectic preparations for your holiday.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I got so much accomplished today! I did have to work, but had the pleasure of working from my home office. So nice and quiet. Wrote up a few documents, made some notes, double checked my calendar for afternoon appointments, set up a third conference call, and then decided to run to a store or two…

I haven’t shopped on Black Friday in years, but I have to admit, this wasn’t bad at all. No trouble parking at the first store, and found two gifts for each of my three kids, and only two people ahead of me in line! Then, realized I had an email for said store that offered not one, but TWO of my chosen items at 40% off!

Tried my hand at the toy store, but declared it a zoo upon arrival…there were so many KIDS! What are these parents thinking! I should be nicer – maybe there were no babysitters available…or no budget for babysitters…but still, those poor kids were miserable. They were tired, hungry, bored, over exited, over stimulated…it made for many a breakdown in the aisles, I’m sure. One look at that mess, and I was out the door!

I decided one good store experience was enough for one day, headed home to meet the cable guy (who was right on time!), ordered four more gifts online (two of which were on sale, all of which offered free shipping), got myself through three back-to-back conference calls, and called it a day.

Maybe Black Friday isn’t so bad, after all. I think I’ll go put up the tree…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Digress...

Wouldn’t it be great if we just knew.

Knew where our lives were headed? If we could unfold a map, smooth out the folds right on the dining room table, heads bent over, under a pool of light. And just point, say, look here – if you take that road…or, now, here’s an option that’ll get you there a bit faster.

But, no. No such thing. "Not me!" You proclaim. You don’t want to know. “Where’s the fun in that?” you ask me.

Where’s the fun in this, though, I wonder.

Each time I am approached, each time a man even strikes up a conversation with me, I’m immediately on guard. He asks me for my number, he asks if he can take me out for a drink, he asks if he can…whatever…, and I, with no hesitation, no preamble, say “I’m seeing someone.”

That is, I lie. Boldface and outright.

The only “someone” I’m seeing is my sorry face in the bathroom mirror.

I have the Seinfeld complex. There is something terribly, horribly wrong with every man I meet. Not just a little annoying, but truly BAD. This one is married (yep, happens all the time), that one just sucked down four beers in the time it took me to order my glass of wine, this one is loud. Just plain loud – he makes a scene and a ruckus! Who needs that? I’ve got three kids – we create our own scenes! Oh and that one, that one’s just a few fries short of a Happy Meal.

No thanks. I'm looking for something else. He must have a brain. And he must be creative. I am just not attracted to introverted types who spend their days behind a cubicle wall, connecting wires, or whatever it is those types do all day. And he must have children. And he must – and this one really should be more obvious than it is – He really must be single.

That’s it. It’s a short list. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t (upon meeting said man), immediately conjure up “the list,” frown at the boxes sans checkmark and sadly shake my head. No, I follow my gut. My instincts know me better than I know myself. They wouldn’t steer me wrong. So if “I’m seeing someone” is the first thing that pops out of my mouth, then there must be a reason for it.

My subconscious is my dating guide.

There have been times that I’ve shushed her. All but threw her out. She is very attracted to fine looking, smooth talking men. They shut down her “jerk-o-meter” however, which does not help me in the least.

For I have known some jerks. Do I need any more of those taking up the few precious hours a week I have to myself? HELL-to-the-NO.

But I digress…I’m supposed to be Christmas shopping…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

T – 6 weeks…

Happy Birthday to my son, Jack, who turned 11 yesterday. I took him to Innsbrook with 3 friends for a sleep over party. So rather than Christmas shopping, I spent last week preparing for the birthday party, shopping for bday gifts, and getting my oldest son, Connor, through his 5th surgery. But, I Digress…

I am trying to get myself back in the holiday spirit, but even the thought of Thanksgiving is overwhelming me.

I did find some success last week. Sold an article to Sasee Magazine that will appear in the December issue. Apparently, third time is, in fact, a charm (at least in this instance).

I am feeling very bah-humbug. Let’s see what this next week brings…

Monday, November 8, 2010

7 Weeks and Counting...

I had big plans for this weekend. An entire Saturday all to myself. These "kid free" weekends happen every other week. And it goes the same way every time. By Wednesday of KFW, I have a list of all the things I can finally get done. It usually includes catching up with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. It always includes catching up on laundry, dusting, sweeping, scrubbing toilets... you get the picture. This weekend though, I had added shopping to the list. Christmas shopping and birthday shopping. My sweet Jack is turning 11 on the 13th.

My KFW did start off as planned. Friday night, I had dinner and a much-needed glass of wine with a friend I hadn't seen in awhile. Saturday morning I checked birthday shopping off my list, started the laundry, cleaned the carpets (well, I didn't have much choice, as my dog got sick all over them), took said dog to the vet (where I dropped another $110 - which was most definitely NOT on my list), and made it to Jack's indoor soccer game. Still no Christmas shopping, but there was still Sunday...

It started out with my very talented friend Linda, who always inspires me - and who, especially this time, reminded me that I'm not the only lonely writer who understands how hard it is to write honestly and still entertain. Afterwards, I ran by the mall, thinking I could scope out a few Christmas gift ideas. But, Lord, the minute I walked into that winter wonderland, I was ready to run..Santa’s Christmas area was all set up, complete with faux snow and red, velvet throne, all the little kiosks were being set up - the calendars, the stockings, the Christmas tree ornaments. I'm just not ready for this. I ran back to my car and headed home.

I did get to see Kathleen Turner in "High" at the REP. I highly recommend it - it was very intense, but the acting was outstanding. And if you haven't been to the REP, I highly recommend it, as well.

My weekend did end on a Christmas note, of sorts. The December EVERLAST catalogue was delivered yesterday. My (almost) 11 year old, Jack, is fascinated with all things boxing. He went through that catalog faster than I read People magazine and circled all the things he wanted for Christmas. One of these is a 16-foot square boxing ring. Oh yes! Complete with the ropes. This can be his for a mere $16,000.00. Plus shipping and handling. Hmmm…

He told me he’d happily get rid of all his bedroom furniture, including the bed and the PS2. "Where will you sleep?" I asked. He raised an eyebrow, lifted his hands, palms up, and said (exhasperated) “in the ring!” Of course! What was I thinking?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

8 Weeks and Counting

I just heard that there are only 8 weeks until Christmas. I panicked. I need to start shopping! I need to start planning! I need to cook, clean, make lists, send Christmas cards, buy, wrap…!

For me, the first purchase is always the hardest. Once I’ve “cut the ribbon” on gift purchasing, it’s all down hill. So, in the spirit of ribbon-cutting, I bought two gifts the other night.

Truth be told, I don’t feel any better.

In an effort to keep myself grounded, and on task for the next 8 weeks – no, wait, 7.3 weeks now (damn, it’s already closer…) I’ve decided to chronicle my preparations here. Should be eventful. I can promise you a laugh or two, and some holiday stress. Maybe it will help propel me forward. I hope that it keeps you sane, and motivates you to tackle one thing at a time, and along the way, I’ll try to remind us both that there is a REASON for this holiday that is far more important than gifts, food, decorations and parties. I’m going to center myself to this reality right now.

Happy shopping!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thanks (again) St. Anthony

A typical weekday morning, this: running around my house in the half-light of morning, hair wet, robe haphazardly tied. I shake large lumps snoring under blankets. Grumbling figures wake, shower, dress and prepare for their school days.

I am finally dressed, fingers tapping the counter as I wait for my coffee to brew. Just the scent is enough to get me going.

Miraculously, we are headed out the door at 7:30 on the nose, when my son says, "Mom, where are your keys?"
"On the stairs?" I reply, hoping they are where I normally leave them.
"Uh...Nope. Not here."

So begins another search for car keys - I swear this is a ritual that takes place at least twice a week in my house. Yesterday, Jack realized he'd left his tennis shoes at his dad's. We had to drive over to get them, and when we finally made it to school, he realized he'd left his back pack at home. At least he comes by it honestly.

So, I am standing in my kitchen, hand on hips, travel mug of hot coffee in other hand, twirling around, and praying. "Okay, St. Anthony. You know the drill, I really need those car keys. I'd like to be on time at least ONCE this week!" I walk down the hall, and see that my oldest son left his bedroom light on. Grumbling about electric bills (Lord, do I sound like my mother!), I march down the hall, high heels click-clacking, and flip the switch. I walk past my office towards the front hall, and turn in. And see my laptop sitting on my desk. Good Lord - I almost left my laptop at home today! Jack and I sure do make a pair, I think to myself. I shut the laptop, slide it into its case, turn around...and there are my car keys.

If I'd grabbed the spare keys and left the house, if Connor had remembered to turn off his light, I'd have certainly left my laptop at home. Everything happens for a reason. Really. Sound familiar? What was your most recent experience that brought you to this realization?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thankful for the simple things

I've been traveling quite a bit for work lately. So, this past weekend I couldn't wait to get home and have a "normal" weekend with my kids. No unpacking, doing laundry till all hours of the night and then repacking for another trip. I was determined to enjoy our time together.

Jack had a soccer tournament that started Friday night. They won their first game, and Saturday morning we headed back out to Sport Port for the first of two more games. The good guys won 3-2, and were excited about their standings. As we loaded back into the car - Jack, Ella, and Jack's teammate Nick - I called my oldest son, Connor to tell him I'd be home in 20 minutes. I was hoping to spend a few minutes with him before he headed off to the Cardinal's game with a friend.

We turned onto the expressway and I came to a slow stop behind three cars at a red light. I glanced in my rearview mirror (a habit I'd picked up since I'd been rear-ended almost 10 years before), and had a moment of horrible deja vu'... A Ford Excursion was barreling down on us. It all happened within seconds - I turned my head to the right, and shot my arm out in front of Jack, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. I had no way to warn them, could do nothing to protect them. And then the squeal of tears, the impact, and all six air bags erupted in my Saturn Vue. The car filled with smoke from the airbags, and OnStar came over the speakers asking if everyone was okay.
I can't imagine how Connor felt when I called to tell him that I wouldn't make it home in time to see him after all. I imagine the same thought that went through my mind, went through his as well. What if? What if I hadn't been able to call? What if we just hadn't come home? While I talked to police officers, Jack stood on the side of the road holding his little sister. As I walked over to him, he leaned down, kissed the top of her head and whispered, "I'm so glad you're okay." Me too, buddy. Me too.

Thank God, my kids were okay. Minor scraps, a sprained wrist, a mild concussion, and sore neck were all the damage we sustained. The car was another matter - a total loss, the insurance adjuster told us later. I didn't care. Cars can be replaced.

This morning, five days after the accident, I stopped by my 10-year old's school for the Fall Fitness Day Pep Rally. I walked into a sea of red, white and blue. 700 kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade were dressed in their "team" colors. My son Jack, a fifth grader, wore blue from head to toe. Blue face paint, hair color and nail polish completed the look. The middle school band came over to play during the pep rally, which added to my pleasure, as my oldest son is in the band. Their little sister's Pre-K's class was also invited to join the festivities. She sat wide-eyed with her peers, hands clapping along to the music, looking around for her two older brothers, whom she knew were there - somewhere.

I stood with the other parents, watching each of my kids in turn. Connor, playing the clarinet, who knew I was there, but at 13, was not about to acknowledge me. Jack, who, when he saw that I was pointing my camera his way, lit up in a big grin, eager to show off his team spirit. And Ella, who waved me over every time our eyes met across the room.

As we all marched outside, Connor back to his middle school, Ella over to the PreK playground, and Jack, headed outside to battle the white and red teams, I soaked in the autumn sun, the cool breeze, and children's voices rising to a cloudless, blue sky. I raised my eyes upwards and whispered a "thank you." For the simple things, for the normalcy of it all. I am so blessed.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Little Bites of a Big Apple

How I wish I’d been braver in my early twenties. I would have loved to live in Manhattan, darting in and out of subway stations, perching on the steps of an old brownstone balancing my laptop and dreaming about tomorrow. A mid-90s Carrie Bradshaw.

Each time I return to New York, I am filled with an overwhelming desire to go back twenty years. I want to take my younger self by the shoulders, look her in the eye and tell her it’s okay to dream, it’s okay to go after what you want in life, even if it seems impossible, even if you don’t think you’ve got what it takes. Now is the time to try! Be brave! There’s so much out there! But, knowing myself as long as I have (almost 38 years now), I know that I’d have looked my current self in the eye and said “yeah, okay, whatever,” shrugged her off, rolled my eyes and kept walking.

Now when I walk down 5th Avenue, up 42nd street, across Times Square I think about how far I’ve come and I realize that while I have gained the intelligence and self-confidence to do it, no way in hell would I move to a city where my current mortgage payment would get me about 450 square feet of space. Where I’d have to take two subway rides and a train to and from work every day…

Those Big Apple dreams I have for my younger self aren’t going to come true for her. She was afraid to step outside her comfort zone. She wasn’t sure that she had what it takes to make something of herself and she was afraid to try. Maybe, at 18, that girl had no desire to see the world. Not like I do now. And while it took some time, she did find herself. ..right here in West St. Louis County. She’s still got big dreams – to wander through Paris, to write a novel, to afford a little luxury in her life.

I wonder if, twenty years from now, I’ll look back on this time in my life and wish for something more. Something different. I hope not. I hope this path I’m on is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If You Are A Dreamer...

I just received my second acceptance letter from Chicken Soup. Apparently my story “A Healing Friendship” has made it to the final round for the “Dog’s Life” Anthology coming out next spring. It’s a story of our three-legged dog, Biscuit, and my middle son, Jack (yep, that's him in the picture). I wrote it several months and many stories ago, so I went back to read it this morning. It made my own eyes misty (PMS mood notwithstanding), so I guess that’s a good thing.

In his book of poems, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” Shel Silverstein writes: If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

Speaking of Jack, this child of mine is a dreamer (not unlike his mom). A day-dream believer, if you will. At ten and a half he still has all the faith in the world that Santa will shoot down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, Jack came into my bedroom as I was getting dressed for work, holding up a tooth he’d just lost.

“Gotta put it under my pillow!” he said, showing me the most recent tooth-sized space in his smile.

The next morning he came into my room (looking just a bit dejected) holding up the little snack-sized ziplock bag with the lonely little tooth inside.

“She forgot.” I said, mentally kicking myself. Damn, damn, damn! I always forget! Damn Tooth Fairy! I decided that at 10, Jack was old enough to know the truth. I’d just have to tell him that I was the tooth fairy. I went to the kitchen to grab my purse, and called out to Jack as I pulled out a couple ones from my wallet. He came in, saw the money, and asked, “What’s that for?”

I sighed. Here goes, I thought. “Well. I’m gonna buy your tooth off you.” I waited for the questions, the disbelief.

“Cool!” He grabbed the dollar bills, flashing the hole in his mouth yet again and started out of the room. “Hey mom?” Okay, now it’s coming. “Yes?”

“Maybe I’m just too old for the tooth fairy now,” he decided. “Would you buy all the rest of my teeth from me?”

“Sure, buddy.”


On the way to school, he turned to me from the passenger seat, one eyebrow raised, “Mom? Are you the Tooth Fairy?”

“Well, Jack,” I answered matter-of-factly, “If I am, I’m not a very good one.”

He smiled, leaned in to kiss my cheek, and that was that.

…If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire, for we have some flax golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!

I love my little day-dream believer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18, 1997 - May 18, 2010

I am lucky enough to have a few very dear friends and a handful of incredibly supportive, family members. Today, I am thinking about one of them in particular. He is kind and generous. He is quiet and thoughtful. He has a wicked good sense of humor, great taste in books, and a talent he doesn’t yet realize with the written word. He is blessed with a great amount of patience that serves him well in life – and on the golf course.

He is my son.

Happy Birthday, Connor! Thirteen years ago today, I became a mom for the first time. As the first born, Connor has had to grow up with a mom who didn’t quite know what she was doing. I held him a little closer, rocked him a little longer, expected more, questioned everything, and made what I am sure were a great many mistakes. But Connor has exceeded every expectation I ever had in a son. And has given me more joy, more love, more happiness than I ever dreamed possible. Watching him grow from a quiet, timid child into a thoughtful, kind, generous young man has been nothing short of amazing.

Where has the time gone?! I’m looking forward to watching you mature as a teenager. You’ll make mistakes along the way. But it isn’t the mistakes that will shape you, but what you learn from them, that makes all the difference. Once again, your brother and sister have the advantage (or disadvantage?) of watching you go through these years first. So, we’ll learn together. I think we’ve done okay so far…

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Letter to my Children

Dear Connor, Jack & Ella,
I promise to give everything I have to each one of you. I promise to walk ahead of you, creating the most calm, nurturing path to adulthood that I possibly can, so that you have a strong foundation on which to build your very individual lives. I promise to walk beside you, holding your hand for as long as you’ll let me, to be there always. And I promise to stand behind you, to catch you if ever you start to fall.
I will fight to instill in each of you strong morals, integrity and compassion. I will work twice as hard to prove that honesty is always the best policy. That family is the most important thing. That sentimental value is worth so much more than monetary value. That even when bad things happen – and they will – that it is the way we handle those situations that builds true character, and over time, shows our true selves.
I will teach you through my actions, much more so than my words, that taking care of yourselves and one another is vital to your own health and peace of mind. And that building relationships based on mutual respect, trust and love - while hard work - is worth every moment and will see you through even the worst of times.
I will show you through my actions that kindness, compassion and understanding fosters love and acceptance, while violence and anger can only grow more of the same.
I will love and respect each of you always. For you are each such beautiful people, inside and out. Watching you grow is the most incredible of joys. I am honored to be your mom.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rehab, Schmehab

This just in: Jesse James has checked himself into REHAB. Seriously? First Tiger (okay, not FIRST, but you get the point), now Jesse James. So now, every time someone has an affair, we should assume therein lies a sex addiction? Every time someone screws up royally, or does something they know they should absolutely not do, they must have a “problem” – there must be a “name” for that problem, and it will take a week (heck, maybe a month) at a spa, possibly even an appropriately named pill, to cure it?

Everyone these days looks for an excuse, someone or something else to blame for their own decisions. When did we decide that we don’t need to hold ourselves accountable for our own actions?

C’mon folks. How big a collective fool are we? If that’s the case, then I am closing my MacBook right now and heading off to my own Rehab – shopping addict’s rehab, that is. I admit it. I can’t go a full week without at least logging onto Ann Taylor, J Crew, Gap, DSW…you name it, I’ve got a bookmark for it. I know I shouldn’t. I know I’ve promised myself that I won’t. I know that my bank account is begging me to STOP ALREADY! And yet, I am still unable to pass up that perfect pair of Lucky Brand jeans that – for the LOVE OF GOD – are on SALE – Today Only! How could I NOT? What right do I have to TURN AWAY from a deal like that? And oh, the SHOES! Don’t even get me started!

Let me get this straight: a day’s worth of shopping followed by a half-hearted apology and a week at a spa on the coast? Hmmm…somebody’s on to something here…

Hi, my name is Beth and I’m a shopaholic.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rap Lyrics I love (no, seriously!)...

My oldest son, Connor, introduced me to a new song by Fort Minor the other day. I usually play along - sometimes I like the song, sometimes not. But rarely do I enjoy the actual lyrics. I must admit though, that this one is totally stuck in my head. I was sitting at a red light this morning singing along, and realized that the bass coming from my car was attracting attention. Oops. I promptly turned it down and donned my sunglasses.

The song is "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor. The chorus:

10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will. 5% pleasure, 50% pain. And 100% reason to remember the name.

I love this! And so true about anything in life worth fighting for. I've come up with a revised version for us writers:

5% luck, 50% skill, 20% concentrated power of will. 10% timing, 15% pain. And 100% reason to remember the name. Yes, I took out the pleasure. There are those writers who might say the writing IS the pleasure.

B.S. The pleasure comes from the recognition, the contracts, the publishing credits, the by lines. Am I right?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Award...fact or fiction?

To the inimitable Linda O'Connell, I offer a heartfelt "thank you!" for bestowing upon me the above prestigious award.

As I understand it, this great honor is a license to be creative which, as all writers know, is akin to putting a Labrador Retriever in a room full of rawhide and commanding him to "Chew!"

Rules of acceptance require me to list seven wild and wacky little known facts about myself, at least one of which must be true (all may be true if I decide to let you in on my deep, dark secrets). You, buttercup, will have to decide for yourself which, if any, of the facts below are crazy truths or creative fiction:

1. When I was 17 (before cell phones!) I got lost driving alone out to a friend's farm house for a party. Scared out of my mind, and puffing on cigarette after cigarette, I almost drove into a swamp, backed out of a corn field and knocked on a trailer door at midnight. A grumpy old man in a wife-beater answered the door, holding a shot gun. I calmly told him I was lost, and he shut the door in my face. I found a black top road and stood in the middle of it waving my arms above my head frantically until a union worker on his way to work stopped and offered to lead me to the nearest highway.
2. At the age of three, I visited Universal Studios with my family. I was standing outside the men's restroom waiting for my dad & older brother, when a young Robert Redford walked by, patted me on the head and smiled before continuing on his way. I don't think my mom washed my hair for a week...
3. I saw Billy Squire in concert at the American Theater. He was dressed head to toe in pink leather. He saw me dancing on my table and pulled me up onto the stage. "Stroke Me" still brings tears to my eyes...
4. When I was 20 years old, I danced on the bar at a local sports bar, and had dollar bills stuffed in my jeans
5. Walking down Rush street in Chicago, I ran right into David Schwimmer and another actor (the first year "friends" was on tv). I didn't know his "real" name, so I just pointed at him and said "Hey! You're ROSS!" He rolled his eyes and kept walking.
6. The first time I flew overseas, I sat next to a very attractive guy a few years older than me. Unfortunately, I got very motion sick going through some turbulence, and went through four airline "puke" bags. Despite my unattractive behavior, my seat-mate asked me to dinner.
7. I've edited two books by local authors (a "how to" on sales, and a history of Ballwin).
Tag, Jean. You're It! Cut and paste the image and instructions to your blog and pass it on.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Treasure in Atlanta

Browsing through an antique store (aptly named “Classy Clutter”) in Atlanta today, I came across a typewriter. It was a 1920 Remington Portable with solid, round keys. I am a huge fan of antique typewriters. And first edition books. Journals and fountain pens. Anything to do with writing, really. I think I’m much more in love with the craft than it is with me. But that’s a story for another time. I have a dream of pounding out my first novel on round keys such as these. The clunk-ca-clunk cadence is so romantic to me. It has a “dark and stormy night” quality all its own.
I love the way a typewriter feels under my hands. The unmistakable outline of each letter, wrapped in a perfect circle. I love what a typewriter produces. Not the mind that creates what ends up on the page (although that, too, is a dreamy wonder to me), but literally, what it produces. The black letters that, if the buttons are not pressed just so, will create uneven print, the ink lighter by degrees in various curves and lines on the page.
Running my hands over its solid lines, I imagine a writer resting his own travel-weary hands on this one. Head bent, eyes closed, willing his fingers to capture the thoughts in his mind. I picture late nights in his one-room apartment over the corner grocery store pounding out short stories to sell to the local paper - light reading to offset the heavy economic news of the times (such as it is 90 years later...).
The sticker price asked for a reasonable $65. The sales clerk came down to $50. This isn’t the one I’ll use to write that novel. But it will have a place of honor in my living room/library. The worn case and broken leather handle a testament to its slow decay from over almost a century of bent heads and nimble fingers.
And so my collection begins.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

School really IS fun!

When I was 28 years old, I went back to school for the Bachelor’s degree I had only earned about 20 credits towards when I quit school to work full time. Then comes love, then comes marriage… well, you get the picture. The good news is that by the time I did go back, I really did know exactly what I wanted to do. A degree in Professional Writing (under the English department) at Webster University allowed me to study all the writing disciplines I could; sports journalism, entertainment journalism, business writing, creative writing… my dream education!

In my Senior year, I took a class called Writing for Advertising with a very talented writer and fantastic instructor named Sally Howald (props to you, Sally – you buy the first round next happy hour). Anyway, she had us write print ads, tvs spots and radio spots for various fictional and non-fictional brands. I was going through old files on my laptop today and found a few of them.

Like this one I wrote for a fictional preschool:

Title: “The Screaming Toddler”

Medium: :60 Radio

Producer: Beth M. Wood

Educated Man (in quiet voice): And now…a special warning brought to you by the educators at Smarty Pants Academy.

Sfx: toddler screaming/crying


Educated Man (in quiet voice): According to educational psychologist Maurice Fisher, "If the gifted child is not stimulated in infancy, preschool and early elementary education, they may lose their potential.

Screaming Toddler: STUPID CAR! AHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO! NO! NO! NO! STUPID HEAD!

Sfx: sniffling, snotty nose

Educated Man (in quiet voice): “Age 3-5 is a critical period in which children develop their brains to their maximum ability.”

Screaming Toddler: DUMMY HEAD! AHHHHHHH!

Educated Man (in quiet voice): Send your little angel to Smarty Pants Academy. Think of how they might turn out if you don’t.

And this one, a :60 fictional spot for Goodwill:

Client: Goodwill Industries

Title: Capone’s Hat

Medium: :60 second radio spot

Producer: Beth M. Wood

Gangster: The year…1929. The head…Al Capone.

The three sounds of music were jazz, jazz and jazz. And the king was Duke Ellington.

Young Male: Hang on, you’re Al Capone?

Gangster: No, his hat.

Young male: His hat?

Gangster: That’s right. The wide-brim, black fedora.

Young Male (sarcastically): Your Capone’s hat.

Ga ngst er: Gangster: Okay, fine. I’m not actually Capone’s hat. But I am a wide-brim fedora. And at Goodwill you can find me, and a lot more vintage stuff from the 20s. Like those flapper dresses the dames used to wear in my day…

Young male: Dames?

Gangster: And stuff from the 30s and 40s…gabardine suites and sling backs. At Goodwill you can find Capri pants and leather jackets from the 50s and 60s, bellbottoms and ponchos from the hippy 70s…you get the picture.

Young Male: So, Goodwill has all those cool vintage clothes that are so expensive at the mall?

Gangster: That’s right, kid. Goodwill has the real McCoy, too – no fake vintage here. And Goodwill has nine locations in the St. Louis area. So scram to your nearest Goodwill store for the hippest vintage clothing…

Young Male: Scram?

Gangster: Scram, get lost, head out… to Goodwill.

Goodwill. Make it your own.

No wonder I miss being in school so much! I’ve been giving a great deal of thought lately to going back for my Masters in Creative Writing. I wonder if it’d be half as much fun...