Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the Season (dammit)

If there is one thing I'm betting all single moms can agree on, it's this:

Putting up Christmas lights is one of the most heinous activities of the entire year, let alone Christmas.  Listen, I realize in most dual-parent families that it's the husband/father to whom this task is relegated.  Let me tell you, I feel your pain.  Every year, since 2007, I have been single-handedly decorating my house for Christmas.  And every year I swear my neighbors close their windows, lock their doors and turn the televisions up a little louder.  Because really, who wants to hear the poor, crazy, single mom across the street cussing her brains out as she attempts to hang a few hundred strands off lights?

Mind you, I don't even attempt to hang lights on the house.  God knows, that would be a task straight from hell.  It's bad enough to adorn bushes.  Every year it's the same thing.  I've learned to test the lights, which is good, but inevitably there are a few strands that don't work.  And every year I promise myself I'll do a better job next year: more lights, more merriment, faster, easier, smarter.

So this year, I bought an extra 400 feet of lights.  I have no idea how many I already had.  Oh, and last year I got the bright idea to buy "those easy net lights you just throw over a bush."  Not.  Unless you have midget bushes, they only cover the top third of the damn thing, which makes me look like an incompetent ass.  I may have a bit of a complex, but I refuse to not give my kids a decorated house for Christmas.  And just because I am a chick, doesn't mean that I can't do this.  And do it well.  I'm doing it up right this year if it kills me.

I come home from the store and lay out all the lights.  And remember the cute plastic candy canes that lined the walkway last year.  That was a last-minute desperate purchase to make the half-ass bushes look a little better.  I pull them out of the box to find half of them broken, the stakes torn from the plastic.  Now I remember: last year, on December 26th, I was so ready to get those damn things down, that I gave the first one a yank and they all came flying, leaving mud-caked stakes in the ground.

I spend ten minutes trying to fix the lights and then with a great big four-letter crash, I dump them in the trash.  Enough of that.

I plug in the first outdoor extension cord and begin stringing the lights over the bushes on the front of the house.  I make it around 2 medium-sized bushes by the walkway, then turn the corner to the front of the house and start on the first evergreen tree (okay, bush, but it's very tall).  I run out of lights, grab the next 200 foot strand, plug the male into the female and start on the first of four smaller bushes that run across the landscaping before making it to the matching tall evergreen tree (bush) on the other side.  I get one fourth of the way up that bush... and run out of lights.

This is where I take a very deep breath.  Throw up my hands and stomp away. Funny that on the day I decide to take on this Godforsaken project, it's a balmy 72 degrees.  I am sweating.  Profusely.  I am pissed.  Granted, usually it's 45 degrees and my four-letter words fly out of my chapped laps in a puffy white cloud.  I should be glad.  I'm not.  I need a break.

I move my car and begin sweeping out the garage.  This feels good.  I can do this.  I organize, throw away, sweep and straighten until my garage is fairly clean.

Back to the lights. This time I start on the other side of the garage.  I've got two small bushes and another tree.  There are two "crappy ass net lights" and two 100 foot strands of lights.  Easy-peasy.  I'll connect them to the other extension cord and run that wire over the garage door later (Oh, yeah, that's some foreshadowing...).

I head back to the BS other side of my house and unwrap most of those f'ing lights.  Since I don't have any additional lights, and I'll be Damned if I'm going back to the store, I decide to wrap the lights just around the front of the bushes.  Hell, you can't see the back anyway!  This is what I call "poor decorating."  But hey, don't knock it 'till you've tried it (or you're desperate).  Finally, I'm finished.
Except that now I can't find the other f*ing extension cord.  Luckily, I have a very kind elf who brings me several of these so that I don't have to spend more money.

I get home after work tonight, run my kids to physical therapy, stop to pick up a "lost" phone charger, and make a run to the bank, then stop for carry-out pizza (mom of the year award, here I come!) before finally getting home at 6:45pm.  I eat, announce that it's homework time and head back outside.  All I have to do is plug those lights in on the "easy" side of the garage, and then run that extension cord over the door so that it doesn't catch on the opener, and plug the sucker in.

Twenty minutes later, I've hit my head on a light fixture and taught the neighbor kids a few new "sailor" words before I say, quite loudly, "Screw This," and run the damn cord along the floor of the garage and plug the f*ing thing in.

Done.  Merry &*%^ Christmas!

Author's note:  
I LOVE Christmas, it's just this one task that I despise.  So, what about you?  Is there one thing you hate doing, despite your love of the season?  Go on, share it, it'll make me feel better...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Official...

Well, the press release is out.  And low and behold, it looks like I'll be collecting cans and signing copies of Chicken Soup: Finding My Faith, in which one of my stories is published. I'd love for you to stop by The Book House on December 8th, between 4-6pm ... see below for more information.

A shout-out to my fellow WWWPs - TammyLinda and Sioux (Sioux - we are going to have so much fun!) who will also be signing copies of the Chicken Soup books in which they are featured, and Lynn, who received a contract from the "50 Shades of Santa" anthology for her story!  I am so proud to be a member of such an amazing, talented group of writers!!

But I digress... here's the press release.  Hope to see you there!

Fourth Annual “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Soup for the Body” Book Signing

Ten local Chicken Soup for the Soul writers will sign books at three independent bookstores in the St. Charles/St. Louis area on Saturday, December 8, 2012. The annual combination book signing and canned food drive has expanded this year from its original venue at Main Street Books in St. Charles to include the other two stores in honor of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s upcoming twenty-year anniversary. Customers may bring in a canned good to be donated to area food pantries and receive 20% off their entire purchase that day. Participating stores and authors are:
10-12 AM, All on the Same Page (Contact: Robin Tidwell, owner)
11052 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur, MO 314-567-4144

Nina Miller, former Children's Area Specialist at Borders Creve Coeur, has just finished The Ultimate Storytime Guide, to be published soon by McFarland & Co. This book will offer parents, teachers, booksellers and librarians information on creating a complete story time experience that includes music, art, movement, food and literature.

Theresa Sanders is a frequent Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, with fifteen stories published by the series. An award-winning technical writer and former manager of a documentation and training department, she is currently completing a novel.

T’Mara Goodsell is an award-winning multi-genre writer who has six stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as other anthologies and newspapers. More of her writing can be found at

1-3 PM, Main Street Books (Contact: Vicki Erwin, owner)
307 South Main Street, St. Charles, MO 636-949-0105

Cathi LaMarche is the author of the novel While the Daffodils Danced. Her stories appear in eight Chicken Soup for the Soul books, as well as other anthologies. She currently teaches composition and literature, and she writes in her spare time.
Linda O'Connell has been published in seventeen Chicken Soup for the Soul books and many other anthologies, magazines and books.
Lynn Cahoon is an Alton, IL contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined-ranging from rogue witch hunters to modern cowboys. She blogs at her website ( about writing, lessons learned while surviving breast cancer, and living the dream.
Pat Wahler resides in St. Peters with her husband, dog, and cat. She is a grant writer by day and freelance writer by night and has been published in dozens of local and national venues. A life-long animal lover, Pat ponders critters, writing, and life's little mysteries at

4-6 PM, The Book House (Contact: Michelle Barron, owner)
9719 Manchester Rd., St. Louis, MO 314-968-4491

Beth M. Wood is a mom of three, marketing VP and freelance writer. She is a devout reader, semi-fanatic editor, and not so great golfer. Follow along at
First-place winner of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Writing Competition, Donna Duly Volkenannt lives in St. Peters with her husband and grandchildren, who inspire her and fill her with joy. Learn more about Donna at
Sioux Roslawski is a 3rd grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District. A freelance writer, she also rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue. Her writing can be found at

Since 1993, more than 112 million copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies have been sold in the United States and Canada alone, with titles translated into more than 40 languages. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, is a world leader in life improvement. For more information, please visit:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I've got your back (and your pen)

Last night, I attended a book signing for my friend, Jean Whatley.  She was signing copies of her first (of many, I am sure) book, "Off The Leash."  The event was held at Subterranean Books in the Loop (for those of you out of town, it's a trendy, eclectic neighborhood in St. Louis).

But I digress, I went for two reasons.

One: I wanted to meet Jean.  While I consider her a friend we've never met - not in person anyway.  We met through a writer friend we have in common - Linda O'Connell.  Of the I-write-every-day-and-everything-gets-accepted O'Connell's (okay, I'm kidding, but she's GOOD folks!). And someday, I hope to finish my own novel and stand behind that podium. And maybe, just maybe, Jean will be there to hand me a pen.

Anyway, I arrived just a few minutes late, and walked into a darling little book shop.  Ya know those books shops that just ooze character? It could be in a movie, this book store.  You know, like the one in "You've Got Mail"?  It's that quaint.

So, I walk in, and Jean's voice floats down from the second-floor loft (okay it didn't float - she has a much more commanding voice that that). People stand on every step of the staircase, lean over railings, and crowd around listening to Jean read from her book.

When she finishes, someone from upstairs calls down, "we need pens!"  Someone from the store pulls one out of her purse, and since I am standing right there, I say, "I'll take it up to her." I do.  I am like Moses walking up those stairs, people parting to the left and right (boy, I'm on a role today, huh?) and as I reach the second floor landing, I see a swarm of people.  Men, women, kids - even a dog!  Sitting, standing, waiting to talk with Jean.  I walk through the throngs, and past a tv camera and stand in front of Jean and her podium, holding up the pen.  "Jean," I smile.

"You're Beth Wood!" She recognizes me - I guess from my facebook or blog profile picture.  We hug like old friends. And because she thinks I'm even "cuter in person" I think I like her even more. I truly feel like I've known this woman for a great many years.

Writing will do that to you.  It brings like-minded artists together.  We share the misery, the stress, the defeat, the joys, the understanding, man that it's what we gotta do.  Like it or not.  Good or bad, blood on the keyboard or no, we just get it.  We stick together.  Like my WWWPs and me.

Which is Reason #2 for me attending last night.  Because we writers have to support each other, dream for each other, critique, help, motivate, each other.

But I digress.  Again.  Jean is, how do you say? One. Hell. Of. A. Writer.  Really.  She is.  She had me from the very first blog post I read of hers.  She has a way of getting right to the heart of things with no drama (and believe you me,  she has reason to be dramatic if she wants to), no pity, just real, raw emotion.  But the real reason I am in awe of her writing is because she can DIGRESS like nobody's business.  The woman can swing from north to south and back again and we're just ... along for the ride.  Nodding our heads, like yeah.  

One of my favorite things to write about on my blog is books.  I'm my own little book review club over here.  I've just finished Jennifer Niven's "Becoming Clementine" and am working on that review.  And now I've got our very own Jean Ellen Whatley's book to enjoy, and review.

Jean, I hope I do ya proud, because I've just started reading, and I am hooked.

So proud of you.  So happy for you.  And looking forward to buying you a margarita over at Nacho Mama's very soon...

Friday, October 26, 2012

crazy coaches and throwed rolls.

We drove to Memphis this past weekend for my son's soccer tournament.  This is the same tournament my oldest son played in years ago, so as we neared the city, those memories came flooding back to me.  In fact, we stayed at the very same hotel.  That was about 6 years ago, and much has changed since then.  Jack's dad and I have been divorced for more than five years now.  So we drove in separately, with our respective partners.

But while some things have changed dramatically, others have, sadly, remained much the same.  Back when Connor played (mind you, he was about 9 years old), his team took first place in their age bracket.  Back then, the boys had raced over to the brick enclosure to receive their trophies.  The team they'd beaten was there too, they'd come in 2nd place and would receive trophies, as well.  We all circled around the tournament director's table, kids sitting on the ground, parents behind, beaming.  The two teams sat next to each other.  All dirty, tired boys. Happy.  Proud of their achievements.  The 2nd place team's coach stood up to accept their trophies.  He thanked our team for a game well-played.  But that wasn't enough.  In front of his own players, he went on to say how much better our boys played.  He told our players that they deserved to win - they'd played a much better game of soccer.  And then told his own players that he was disappointed.  That they should be taking a lesson from our boys...and on and on.  It was, in a word, sad.

Whether or not his players had played their hearts out or given up halfway through the game, did these fourth graders deserve to have their hearts trampled on in front of the competition? In front of their parents?  Was it not enough that they'd lost?  That they'd taken 2nd place? I was embarassed.  For that coach.  For the players.  Really, for everyone within ear shot.  Those boys were already smarting enough to take 2nd place.  I don't think our players took any pleasure in that coach's verbal abuse of his own team.

This time around, Jack's team didn't fare as well.  They did make it to the semi-finals, and got to play on the stadium field - a treat in and of itself.  But they got beat.  And as we sat and watched the game, I wondered about this other coach.  He stood on the sidelines screaming at his players.  Mind you, they were winning.  In fact they were up 2-0 at the half, but that coach was literally jumping up and down, waving a shirt (or a towel - something) in the air and screaming.  At the players, at the refs, hell, probably at God himself.

I watched our coach (who happens to be Jack's dad), hands behind his back, pacing the sidelines.  Occasionally he'd yell a player's name, and as the player looked over, he'd use a silent motion to get his thought across.  A point to his head might have meant "get your head in the game,"  Both hands waving towards himself, meant "move back," you get the idea.  As the players were subbed out, he'd hive five each one.  As one came off the field after a less than stellar performance, he'd stop him, hands on small shoulders, and talk for a moment, eye to eye.
Maybe you think this wasn't enough.  Maybe, you think, this is why your team lost.  I don't think so.  Not for a minute.  This team won one of their toughest games this weekend with this same coaching style.

Maybe it was a good thing that the other team went on to the finals (and won, by the way).  I can't imagine how their coach would have acted had they lost.

But I digress.  Parents are still coaching from the sidelines.  Screaming at refs.  Fighting amongst each other.

To what end?

Are they afraid of what will become of their child if they lose?  Do they feel so much pressure to update their facebook status with a "win" that they would make a scene in front everyone?  I'd like to know how many players on the field are listening to the parents over their coach.  I wonder how many coaches wish the parents would just shut up already and let them do their jobs.

One year, when Connor was playing select ball, his team picked up a new player.  Nice kid.  Good ball skills.  His father, on the other hand, was another story.  This guy was a screamer.  If his son missed a goal, he'd scream.  If he lost a 50-50 ball, he'd scream.  And when his son got hurt?  He'd scream at him to quit being a wuss, pick up his purse and get up already (I shit you not).  The man would frequently bring his older son to games, and wouldn't you know it?  The poor kid's older brother would scream at him, too.  The coach let him go at the end of the season.  Not because of the boy's performance, but because his father was so incredibly disruptive on the sidelines.  It made all the parents nervous.  Hell, not only did he fight (loudly) with parents on the opposing team, but he'd yell at us, too.  Not what you'd call good sportsmanship.

I'll take this just one step further into insanity. True Story:  My 1st grade daughter is taking her first soccer camp through the same select club for which her older brother plays.  I did not sign her up for select ball...I signed her up for a learning camp, and did so through this club because it allows her to practice on the same night as her older brother, on the field right next to him and her dad (who is his coach).  It also allows her oldest brother to help coach the team, and assist other coaches and staff.  A win-win for all.  The night of their second game, sweet Ella served as goalie.  She was adorable, alternately waving to me on the sidelines, and shouting encouragements to her teammates.

She made some great saves, and let in a few, too.  At one point, after the second ball sailed past her into the goal, the mom sitting next to me said loudly to no one in particular, "can we change goalies!?"  This out-of-shape hoosier then proceeded to tell the people around her that she had played select soccer in high school and college.  Enough said.

Refs are going to make bad calls (football, anyone?).  Players are going to make mistakes on the field.  Every team will win some and lose some.  So if you're sitting on the sidelines and have the urge to scream at a ref, a coach, a player, stop and think.  What good will this do?  Is the ref going to hear you screaming and reverse the call?  Is he going to be afraid and call the game in favor of your son's team.  Does he care?  Or are you just modeling atrocious behavior that your child will certainly pick up later in life?

But I digress.  On the way home from the tournament, we stopped at Lambert's...home of the throwed rolls (you know the place, right?).  Fun atmosphere, great food, and yes, hot rolls thrown right to you.  My daughter stood up in her seat and held her hands high over her head.  The server saw her and launched a hot roll right to her.  It was one hell of a throw.  Of course, as soon as it started sailing towards her, Ella did what most seven year old girls would do...she ducked.

So I screamed and yelled at her for not keeping her eye on the roll.

KIDDING!  We caught the roll and handed it over.

(author's note: Listen, I'm not saying that the losing team should get trophies, too.  While that might be nice when they're little, at some point, and especially if kids choose to play at a select level, they are going to know what it feels like to lose.  And guess what? That's okay!  It makes the victories that much sweeter. And pushes them to work harder.  I just don't think parents - and even coaches of young kids - need to be quite so... ignorant.)

Ever witnessed an out of control coach or parent?

Friday, September 21, 2012

And now in a scene right out of Sixteen Candles...

Jake Ryan knocks on the door, only to be told (by Long Duck Dong), that she got married.
The unforgettable Jake Ryan (married?)

Good Stuff. You can watch it here:

But I digress.  The other day, the news reported that an historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School had identified a scrap of papyrus on which is written, in Coptic (a fourth century greek language), “Jesus said to them, `My wife ...’ ” 

Is it so incredible to think that Jesus might have been married?  Was he not a man?  Did he not live among us? Breathe, eat, sleep, God forbid... poop, like the rest of us?   And why should we think he didn't also fall in love, get married even?  

I realize that every religion picks and chooses portions of scripture around which to build their business model (yes, that's what it is, it's a business with a model, just like anything else.  That doesn't make it bad, or good, by the way.  It just is).  What is the travesty in considering that Jesus may have had female disciples?  

That maybe there was something to that theory in "The Divinci Code" - that right there in the painting of The Last Supper, was a woman, seated at the table, among the 12 Disciples chosen by Jesus.  Well, surely, he was born of Mary, right?  She's pretty spectacular, no?  And if there is a God, and He is, in fact, Man, as we understand that term to mean, well then, he came from somewhere, did he not?  And let me tell you folks, he sure as heck didn't come from another man.  I guess you could argue that if Jesus can be born of a virgin, then God can be born of... what? Nothing?  
It's a crap shoot, I'm telling ya, because we just don't know.  We can all proselytize till we're blue in the face, but: We. Just. Don't. Know.  Ya know? 

Ah, but what we do have is Faith.  Can't see it.  Can't smell it, touch it, hear it even.  But, it's there, man.  Because if there is one sense we can engage to find faith, it's touch... because we can feel it.  

Faith that what?  What's important here?  Do you need the knowledge that God is a man to have faith? Do you need to know for a fact that no way, no how, did Jesus allow women at that table? Is that what you need to believe?  Or is it the idea that something much greater than you - God - as we call Him - is out there...somewhere.  That He holds you in his palm.  That He loves you as you love your own children. That in times of great sorrow, great need, great joy even, you can call out to Him, pray to Him, talk with Him?  

Does it matter, really, whether or not the people around him that last night of his life on earth could pee standing up?  Does it?  

Do you think in your heart that if Jesus promised to devote all he had to God, that he couldn't possibly love someone here on earth, too?  'Cause I don't.  Not for a minute.  It's part of what really gets me about the Catholic church.  And I can say that because I was raised Catholic.  Baptized into the faith, received all the necessary sacraments, the whole ball of wax.  And it's how I raise my own kids, too.  Not because I need them to have some organized religion making rules for them.  But because I believe they need a foundation from which to someday be able to make their own decisions re: religion.  And, more importantly, I want them to have Faith.  That illusive creature, that helps them through the bad times, picks them up off the floor, crying, bleeding, broken, and helps them get on with the business of living.  I want them to know that there is something greater out there than themselves.  That they are loved.  That there is good in the world.  

But I digress (again).  I suppose the knowledge that Jesus really did have a wife would change the whole foundation on which the Catholic church was built.  Why, they might even have to allow priests to get married and let women become priests. 

I don't know a whole lot about the business of religion, but I do know that I can sit in church and listen to a man (the priest) speak eloquently about our God, about Jesus and his disciples and feel that faith.  But I'll tell ya what, I could just as easily sit in that pew and listen to a female speak to me about my God.  What difference does it make?  Didn't God create EACH OF US in his OWN LIKENESS?  Well, then, I ask you, does it matter?  

We were having this discussion at dinner last night, my kids and I.  And my oldest was telling me about how they discussed this news of Jesus possibly having a wife in his religion class.  Connor was adamant that it does not matter.  But he also struggles with the idea of faith.  "How do you know He's real," he was saying, "if you can't see Him, talk to Him..." As he was saying this, my daughter (age 7) piped up, saying in her sweet voice, "But you can talk to God, Connor.  Like when you're feeling sad, or you need help with something..."

Leave it to the little ones, right? Truer words, my friends... God love her ; )

But I'm very curious, what's your take on this bit of news? 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall In!

This summer was a hot one.  If I remember correctly we went from the wet, cool days of early spring right into three digit temps, nothing gradual about it.  At first, I sighed with relief as I threw those fuzzy boots to the back of my closet, slipped on my coveted flip flops and pulled my hair into a ponytail.  But after many months of this sweaty, oppressive heat, we are finally feeling some relief and I couldn't be happier.  Mid-September, how I've longed for you!  

My favorite time of year is on its way my friends.  And with the arrival of Autumn comes those glorious colors, like a brand new 64-pack of Crayola crayons.  While Mother Nature makes her changes, I'll make a few of my own. Starting with my closet:  I'll cram flip flops, summer sandals and open-toe heels into the back and bring forth the shoes of Fall:  Hello, Boots!  The tall, black leather heeled ones, the brown suede mid-calf, oh... my furry uggs, how I've missed you!  I'll line them all up right in front, little soldiers standing at attention for their turn to step out.  Then I'll move up to the hangers, sliding halter tops, tanks and sleeveless blouses to the far side, and bring forward the hoodies, long sleeve tees and soft sweaters and cardigans. 

While Mother Nature is blowing in cooler temps, I'll throw open the windows.  And as she puts a slight haze over the strong, summer sun, I'll switch my bottle of white wine for red.

But I digress.  I'm so looking forward to cooler temps, comfortable days, and cozy nights in front of a fire.  Okay, okay.  I've got this grandiose image of myself in a long, soft sweater, leggings and furry boots, curled up in front of a fire with a pumpkin spice latte and a good book (or maybe a glass of Cabernet and the two-part finale of Sex and the City).  And I realize, Autumn also brings some not-so-fabulous reality...

Like  the sneezing, coughing and itchy eyes of fall allergies.  And while watching the trees turn from green to bright copper and gold really is beautiful, those leaves will eventually turn brown and fall slowly, deliberately to the ground where I will be forced to undertake the back-breaking labor of raking said leaves into humongous piles.  But, oh, those piles are fun to jump in if you're 7 years old!  And I'm sure there'll be some great photo ops there.

The simple truth is, Mother Nature's not going anywhere.  And every few months she throws us a curve ball - no avoiding the seasons if you're in the Lou, that's for sure.  So, enjoy every day, every season, everything she throws at you, because believe it or not, it won’t last forever...Case in point: At the end of a very long, miserable winter a few years ago, I wrote about my burning desire for a spring thaw, here.

Happy Autumn!  What's your favorite season?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

8 Months and Counting

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to visit Paris.  I can't remember exactly when the desire hit me, although I think it was the first time I saw the movie "Sabrina."

 You know, the one with Julia Ormond, Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear?  Sabrina (Ormond) has a terrible crush on Ford's younger brother, played by Kinnear.  She is a bit of an ugly duckling - a wallflower, but spends a summer in France finding herself, growing up, and comes back completely changed.  Beautiful, confident.  When the movie came out in 1995, I was 23 years old.  A newlywed who, by all appearances, was all grown up.  But maybe it was this desire to be transformed myself that began my love affair with the city of lights.

Ten years later, in 2005, I finally realized my goal of earning my writing degree.  And once I'd checked that off my bucket list, I started thinking of other dreams and goals, started believing that I could achieve those, too.  Being a published writer was one of them.  I was published online for the first in 2007.  On a whim, I went down to the post office one day at work, and applied for a passport.  It arrived a few weeks later, and I stowed it in my night stand drawer.

Over the next few years, I'd come across it as I searched for other things or attempted to clean out drawers and "get organized."  I'd always put it right back in its place, under my journals and homemade Mother's Day cards from years past.  2009 brought my first publication in a regional print magazine.  And 2010 saw my first of several essays published in national anthologies.

So, while these dreams of mine were beginning to come true, this trip to Paris was stored away in the back of my mind.  A few years ago, I decided that I would take that trip by the time I was 40.  Well, I turned 40 in July, and thought, okay, I've got 12 months...

A few weeks ago, I found out that I will get to make that dream a reality.  On May 1, 2013 (2 1/2 months before my 41st birthday), I'll be going to Paris.  I've already checked the weather for that time of year (upper 50s is the norm), checked out advise on what and how to pack, and scoured the Taulk Tours website to learn more about this "Taste of France" River Cruise on which I'll spend the majority of the trip.

But I digress.  Until then, I'll be counting down the months, weeks and days until I depart.  And maybe even give thought to other dreams...  I've always wanted to visit Ireland.  Drink beer in a little pub while the fog swirls outside.  And I've always wanted to write my own book, walk into some little out-of-the-way bookstore and see my name on the cover of a paperback.  No sense in thinking that can't happen.  Of course it can.  

What's on your bucket list?  And what one dream or goal have you achieved that you weren't sure would ever come true?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Summertime Memories OR 1 Bourbon, 1 Scotch & 1 Beer...

Now that summer's over (at least as it pertains to being out of school), I thought I'd take a few minutes to reminisce about the past few months.  Those carefree, lazy days of sipping cold lemonade... okay, okay, who am I kidding?  All of you working parents out there know as well as I do that those Country Time Lemonade commericials, while sweetly nostalgic, are for the most part a load of... fantasy.  We still have to go into the office everyday even when our kids throw their backpacks to the bottom of the stairs, stay up late and sleep in later.  We've got to hire sitters, plan camps, juggle carpools and hope for the best.

But I digress.  Despite the added stress, and screaming hot temperatures these last few months have given us, hopefully you've all made a few summer memories to take with you into the cooler, homework-laden days ahead.  Which brings me back to the liquor that titles this blog post.  One Bourbon. One Scotch. And One Beer (you know the tune).  It's how I describe one of my favorite weekend memories from this summer.  Okay, not all three.  But the bourbon's true enough....

Family friends, floating, swimming, dancing, talking, laughing.  What a fantastic weekend!  I headed down to our family lake house on a Saturday morning to visit with dear friends (family, really) from Atlanta.  We climbed aboard the boat and made our way to the middle of the lake, dropped anchor and jumped in to cool off and splash around.  When I realized I forgot the rafts I'd wanted to lie on, my cousin Maren and I decided we could swim all the way back to the house to get them.  It was about a mile, so we took along a life jacket, just in case.  We made it to the house, climbed out among the muck, mud and seaweed at the dock and ran all the way up the steep steps to the house to grab the rafts (still in their package).  Ran back down the steps, untied one of the kayaks and jumped in, the two of us trying to row, our legs hanging over the side.  Each attempt had us floating in circles, it took us about a 1/4 mile to figure out how to work as a team, "left, right, left, left!" we'd yell, trying to stay in sync, and then we'd dissolve in a fit of laughter that had us turning in another wide circle.  Neither one of us is ever going to make a rowing team, that's for sure.  But I'm thinking we could make an olympic swimming team - we made record time!

That night, we headed down to the stables for an outdoor motown concert.  Hundreds of people hanging out on blankets or in lawn chairs.  As the sun set, and the stars hung low overhead, the music heated up and people left their seats to join the throngs of dancers around the stage.  When the first notes of "My Girl" began, my dad took my hand and we danced. My dad is still my favorite person to slow dance with.  Then Carmen and I moved a few chairs and danced right at our seats to all the oldies. I had a crowd doing the "sprinkler" the "grocery cart" and the "lawn mower" ... at one point we were laughing so hard we fell to the ground (although I think the wine may have had something to do with that).

"So what about the bourbon," you ask?  Ah, well, that came later.  With the cigar.

Your Turn: What's one of your favorite memories from this summer? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Raising Jackson: School Days and Consequences

It's that time of year again.  Sharpened pencils, pristine notebooks, folders and books with not so much as a crease.  Growing up, I loved this time of year.  Still do.  But with Jack, I know the change isn't easy.  Summers are much more calm around our house.  There are less demands on his time, fewer rules, not as much responsibility.  So, when school starts, and suddenly he's got to get to bed on time, wake up on time, get homework done...well, it's not an easy transition.

Here's a question for ya:  How long does it take to get the first call from a teacher?
Answer: ummm... about 6 hours

Yep, I got a call on the very first day.  This is not to say that Jack is a bad kid.  Quite to the contrary.  He's incredibly dynamic: kind, funny, outgoing, laid back, loves to laugh, stands up for those who can't (or don't) stand up for themselves.  He just doesn't like to be told what to do.  But, hey, that's life, right?  Best get used to it, kid.  I know, I know... but it's not as simple as it sounds.  According to his teacher, Jack was "wound up" in her class that first afternoon.  Unfocused, and distracted the entire class.  For the entire hour.  Hmmm....

When Jack got home after school, I asked him how his day went.  "Fine," (oh, I can just see all you parents nodding your heads right now - you get the same answer, right?).  Jack said "fine" the day a kid pushed him on the bus.  He said "fine" the day he stepped in and protected a classmate from a group of girls who had surrounded her and were teasing and pushing her.
But, as parents, we need to ask deeper questions.  Or ask them in a different way.  I happened to ask Jack that day what he had for lunch.  "Nothing, I wasn't hungry," he shrugged at me.  Hmmm... You ate nothing? I asked.  "Well, I had a Gatorade."  Ah.  Gatorade.  So, he'd had about 14 grams of sugar on an empty stomach. No wonder he was hyper in his afternoon class.

Ask your kids: How have you taken care of yourself today?  If we can teach them to take a look back at their day, evaluate it a little, maybe they will begin to see how their actions affect them in other areas.

But I digress.  It was a rough first couple week.  Jack was quick to anger.  Couldn't find half his uniform for his first outdoor soccer game of the season.  Was so angry that he took a hockey stick to the white, six panel door of his bedroom.  Oh yes, he did.  So... I did what any good parent would do... I removed the door.  I also had his cell phone turned off.  The next day, he punched a hole in the wall of my office.  My first thought was:  I hope he's not getting sick (he used to get like this right before he came down with a flu).  The thought entered and exited my mind within seconds.  The next morning, he started throwing up.  See?  There is usually a cause for their actions.  Doesn't make them right, but it helps to know there is a reason.

Jack will get his phone back when he's purchased the materials and fixed the hole in the wall.  He's planning on doing that after school today.  This punishment is two fold:
1. It fits the crime.
And B. He'll learn how to fix drywall - a good skill for anyone to learn, I think.

Your turn: Please share, won't you? How have you learned to read into your kids' behaviors? And what lessons do you use to teach them?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Everyone's a writer

Stop with me for a moment and look at the all the channels (beyond in-person, of course) we have at our disposal in which to communicate with one another: facebook, twitter, linkedin, foursquare, email, youtube, a phone call, a text, face time, skype, even letters written and sent via snail mail (a lost art, for sure).

With the advent of social media and especially blogs, everyone's a writer.  Everyone has a voice.  I guess that's a good thing.  But you wouldn't become a doctor just because someone gave you an office in which to practice, would you?  You'd need the right experience, the right training, the correct tools.  And even if you do have the latest, greatest tools, you'd have to know the correct way in which to use them, right?  Right.

Companies need writers.  Brands need writers.  Newspapers, magazines, ad agencies... they all need writers.  Which is why authors have editors.  To correct grammar, check spelling and ensure they  "write tight."  Not everyone is a writer, for sure.  But, if you're going to rely on the written form of communication, keep in mind two things:

1. People think/read/see/hear differently.
Case in point: a professor wrote the following sentence on the board:
"Woman without her man is nothing" and asked his class to punctuate it.
Half the class wrote this:
Woman: without her, man is nothing.

The other half wrote:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.


And #2. Grammatical faux pas can create major misunderstandings...


But I digress. Communication is vital.  To relationships. To business. To life. Not everyone is blessed with this ability.  Some excel at verbal communication, some at written, and still others speak volumes with their body language.  But I do believe that most (not all, most) problems are the result of poor communication.  Maybe it's Mars vs. Venus.  Maybe it's just lost in translation.  But if we can realize that, and learn to work with it, instead of fighting it, maybe there'd be a lot fewer fights in the first place.  More understanding.  And that's cool, no?

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hell With It, Let's Go!

I just came across a venn diagram that I love:

And it made me think.  Well, really, I'm always thinking.  Too much, as it were.  Constantly asking myself questions like:

What if... (it doesn't work out, someone gets hurt, something goes wrong, someone says no, no one agrees with me/likes it /understands ...)?
How will this affect my... (kids, relationships, career, family, life, future...) ?
What will my... (family/friends/kids...) think?

I have an alter ego in my head, and she is continually screaming at/to me.

She is alternately my voice of reason and my reason for drinking.

I simply must shut her up.

But I digress.  That venn diagram represents the two parts of me that, more often than not, are at war.

My Heart vs. My Mind

Why, oh why, are they never in sync? And why do I have such trouble saying, "Let's Go!"?
(author's note: this is not about right vs. wrong - big difference!)

If my twenties were all about trying to grow up (accomplished, thank you), and my thirties were all about trying to figure out who I am (again, good to go), then my forties, God willing, will be about becoming comfortable with all I've learned in the past, and just... LIVING.

A week or so ago, my very wise writer friend, Lynn, wrote these words to me:

Does it really matter if you get hurt? or disappointed? or angry? or whatever? Isn't that what life is - that we learn from those things and just make the best of it?

Then I ran into my good friend, Mary Lou, this past weekend and was lamenting another birthday, especially one that starts with a "4," when she said to me...

"Well, Beth, it's better than the alternative."

Wiser words, I tell ya.

So, on this, the eve of my fortieth birthday, I've decided to go ahead and let that loud-mouth, opinionated, do-gooder in my head rule for One. More. Day.  And that's it.   I'm done with her.  This decade I'm going to say, "Let's Go!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can We 'Have It All'?

Why Women Still Can't Have It All is an article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic.  The article is written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a women who by all appearances does have it all.  But it got me thinking.  Can we?

I was raised by a woman born in the mid 1940s.  A woman who came of age during the 60s, hearing Gloria Steinam tell her that yes, she could have it all.  I am woman! She cried.  And so did my mom.  Her career choice?  Teaching.  A noble profession.  But, it is interesting to me, because it is one that, especially at that time, was "a woman's job."  I imagine many of her classmates didn't go to college, but instead went from their father's home to their husband's. Mom married right out of college and had two kids in five years.  I, her only daughter, grew up in the 70s and 80s.  And watched her wear that green pin with the white bubble letters: E.R.A. every day. To work, to the grocery store, hell even out to dinner.  If it wasn't on her chest, it was pinned to her purse.  Equal Rights.  It was only fair, wasn't it?

Recently I've read many articles in both the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times about the numbers of women getting their masters and doctorate degrees.  How more women than men are graduating, getting promoted, etc.  So this article came as a surprise.  But I agree with Ms. Slaughter's assessment.  that only certain women among us can truly "have it all."  Those who have everything in place: a nanny or fantastic, reliable sitter, a wonderful spouse who carries 1/2 the load - and sometimes more.

After my oldest son was born, I tried to continue working.  But as I rushed in a few minutes late each morning, with spit-up stains on my blouse and ran out the door as soon as the clock struck 5 so that I could make it home to my baby, I was overlooked.  When I returned from maternity leave, my male counterpart, who'd started in his position the same day I started in mine, was promoted.  I was left behind.  So I gave up the day job and stayed home with my son. I did go back to school and by the time I earned my B.A. in Writing, I was pregnant with my third child.  A girl.  And I began to wonder...will it be any different for her?  I was working part-time as a freelance writer and spending most of my time with my kids.  I wouldn't trade that time for the world.  But now here I am, single, raising three kids mostly on my own, and I've got to work full time.  Something has to give. Sometimes we eat dinner on the run.  Many times I have to ask for help to get the kids to and from their respective practices, games, and activities.  And without my family, specifically my parents, I most certainly would not be able to make it.  Especially during the summer.

But I digress.  Let's define what "having it all" really means.  In my mind, it means really being present for my kids - being the best mom I can be, knowing all their crazy schedules, getting them there (maybe even on time!), knowing their friends, helping them with homework, making dinner, disciplining, raising, loving... AND at the same time, having a fulfilling career... a job I love, that rewards me, fulfills me, challenges me - one where I am making a difference, one where I am successful. Necessary.

Is it possible?  I think so, yes.  Without stress? Uh, no.  For most of us reaching the pinnacle of our career and being a great mom is mutually exclusive.   One of my neighbors is a grade school teacher. We spent a few minutes at the local pool together a few weeks ago and she shared her feelings with me on "having it all" even before I'd read the article.  "I've got the best of both worlds," she smiled, "great job I love during the school year.  And in the summer?  I get to be a stay-at-home's perfect!"

But what about the writers, photographers, financial advisors, government officials, human resources or advertising professionals, scientists or doctors?  Can we all really "have it all"?  I think it depends on our individual definitions of the term.  And the fact that, at least for me, that definition changes as we grow.  If I were asking my 20-year old self, she'd say, Hell Yes!  I've got it all!  But, here I am, weeks away from turning 40, and I realize that my idea of this has grown as I've matured.

Don't get me wrong - I could not be happier with my beautiful kids, my wonderful family and dear friends.  And if I were only speaking of this part of my life, well, I'd have to say, yes, I've pretty much got it all.  No complaints here.

But, I'm talking about career, too.  Because I continue to dream.

The biggest problem, for many working moms, is that our work hours far exceed school hours.  We're on a totally different timetable.  This is 2012, folks!  What worked in 1950 doesn't work anymore.

To wit: My company's work hours are 8:30 to 5:30.  But by 8:30, two of my three kids have already been in school for an hour and a half.  I could have gotten a lot done in those 90 minutes!  Instead, I'm commuting to the office and just beginning my day.  And all three of my kids are finished with their day and home by 3:30.  At 3:30, I still have two more hours of work, and then an hour's drive home (I have to note here that I have reached a point in my career where I am able to work from home 2 days/week, and have shortened my hours just enough to get home at a decent hour).

So let's do something about that.  We change our work hours to coincide with our clients' schedules, right?  At least in my field we do.  We have more clients on the east coast, so we start and end 30 minutes later.  Why not start and end an hour sooner?  If I could work 7:30 - 4:30, I'd be home at a decent hour.  I would be there for my kids.  I would be in the office when they are at school.  It makes perfect sense.

But I digress.  What do you think? Can women "have it all"? How do you define this? And if you are managing to juggle all those balls, what's worked for you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Raising Jackson: 2 much txting mks u 1 bad splr

I'm gonna tell you something now that you're going to have a hard time believing.  But I promise...what  I'm going to tell you is the God's honest truth.

My son's grammar improved from texting.  So did his spelling.  Shut UP!  You say.  BS! You Cry.  No, YOU shut up!  Just kidding.  But, it's true.  Here's how.

I'm a word nerd.  And although I'm loathe to admit it, I've been called a grammer nazi more than once.  Which surprises me just a bit, because, really, it's my friend and fellow WWWP, Tammy, who is the REAL grammer nazi...actually not a nazi, she's quite kind, but she can dissect a sentence like nobody's business.

But I digress.

I fell in love with texting from my first text back in 2007.  It stands to reason... all forms of written communication interest me. Anyway, a few years later, my boys had phones of their own, and texting became their favorite form of communication, too.  I'd heard the rumors though, and as a grammar natzi, I was determined not to let my kids' english skills go to hell with the help of a device the size of an ampersand.  I die a little inside when I see texts like this:

how r u

wat u doin?

Ugh. Seriously?  And I don't want to hear that crap about character count.  Buy a vowel, for God's sake (see what I mean by Grammar nazi?).

I think I've digressed again.  Reading and Writing were Jack's least favorite subjects in school.  He is a very bright kid, but he couldn't spell to save his life.  When he got his phone and started texting me, I was appalled.  I mean, I knew my little angel wasn't a solid speller, but this was ridiculous.  I started correcting his texts in my replies.  Our text conversations looked like this:

Jack:  "Hey Mom! Can I go 2 Bens huose? Pleeze?"

Me:  "Ben's house?  Please?  And yes, if you send the text again with all the words spelled out correctly."

There were actually times when I refused to respond until he resent the message using "The Queen's English."  Believe me, when they need an answer quick, they're willing to work a little harder.

Jack: "if ur home, can u get my stuf and bring it over 2 dads"
Me: "I'm home.  If you're home, you could get your stuff. But, I'll get it and bring it to your dad's."

I honestly wasn't thinking about some great lesson taught through text message.  At the time, I was just frustrated with the spelling errors, and my grammar nazi alter ego shuddered at the shortcuts.

Slowly, over the course of a year, I noticed changes in his text messages.  He began spelling out words, and spelling them correctly.  He began using the correct form of a word.  No more did he confuse their, they're and there (my biggest pet peeve, thank you very much) or your and you're.  His writing at school improved markedly this year, too.  I'm sure it had more to do with his teachers than my text message "lessons" but I'm very proud of how far he's come.

There is one message, though, that I've never corrected.  Anytime I get any form of "I love you" like:
luv u
luv u 2
luv u

I've always just been happy to get the message, and didn't want him to think I was more concerned with the way it was delivered than the fact that it was delivered at all.

But, recently, jack has been spelling that out, too.  When he started, it looked like this: "I love you to"
my response:  "I love you, too!" It was enough.  And now I get "I love you, too."  Even the comma!  But, I'd take it any way he wanted to tell me.

Contrary to popular belief, texting can help, rather than hinder, spelling and grammar. Try it at home.  Really!  Texting doesn't have to suck every last grammar lesson from our kids' heads.  It can actually be another vehicle for learning... if we just go about it the right way.

(Author's note: I am fully aware that Jack still uses his own text language with his friends.  That's okay. At least I know that he can use proper grammar and spelling when it's necessary!)

Friday, June 8, 2012

On the Radio

I attended a fundraiser about a month ago for SLMOSF.  It's a fantastic organization, founded by my good friend, Keath Hausher, who also runs Shark Fitness (boot camp).  I was bidding on a basket from radio station 106.5 (the arch!), that included an hour on-air.  I would get to pick the music and serve as the guest DJ...SWEET!

I didn't think I'd do well off-the-cuff, so rather than tape the show live, I opted to pre-record my segment.

On Wednesday, I showed up at the radio station, stepped into the booth and had a microphone shoved under my nose.  Actually, that's not true.  Rick Wallace was incredibly kind and helpful.  At first I though I could wing it with just a few notes (just get the call sign right, I kept thinking), but, hey, I'm a writer, not a speaker.  So, I took Rick's offer of a notepad and pen, and I wrote - word for word - what I wanted to say each of the 7 times I was on-air.

Let's get this straight - I'm no DJ. But I do love music. I pulled together a list of my top 30 songs, which was cut down to about 12.  I won't divulge them here, as that would kill the spontaneity and joy of listening in.  Geez, the 70s and 80s were such great decades for music, weren't they?

But I digress.

I sweated through the first 20-second intro, and then got a little more confident with each reading.  Poor Rick - he kept trying to get me to bring my voice up a few octaves, but I was having none of that.  I hate the sound of my voice.  Most of us would say the same, I think.  It has something to do with our ear drums, and the vibration of our jaw.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I don't have a great voice - jaw vibrations notwithstanding.

At the end of my hour, Rick was kind enough to tell me I wasn't half bad.  Even thought I had a "cool" voice. (um, really? No, my new friend, you have the voice, which is why you have the day job!).  But, who knows? Maybe I've got a second career ahead of me... if the full time gig, the three kids, and the freelance writing thing are just not keeping me busy enough, (I've got a plethora of responsibilities as it is - that was for you, Rick) maybe Kevin'll want to put me on-air!  You know, during the holidays, 5am on Saturday, or hey, Sunday nights at 8:00.  I could have my own show...

"Just Beth!  Comin' atchya from Beautiful Downtown Ballwin!  Shakin' things up and slowin' things down... Turn it up and get down! Don't you go changin' (that dial)...we'll be right back with more of your favorites right after these messages..."

Ha, ha.  Reminds me of an awesome tv show from back in the day...

Les and Johnny on WKRP in Cincinnati
I'm thinking I can bring back old-school radio.  It must have been quite a feat for those DJs back in the 70s who had to cue up a song, drop the needle, talk the talk, answer the phone (hey! you're the fifth caller!) and read the news, weather and traffic updates.  Whew!  I barely got through 7 taped segments that all together added up to only about 2 1/2 minutes.  And I gotta tell ya...I was mentally exhausted!

But... it sure was fun.  Listen in if you get a chance.  This Sunday night at 8pm.  On... you guessed it...

Kevin? Rick? Whaddya think?  Good stuff, eh?