Saturday, March 31, 2012

Teach us to Make the Days Count

I was taught not to hate.  I teach my children not to hate.  I work daily not to hate.  At my core, I am human, and I loathe of something so vile and evil that I cannot stomach it anymore.  Cancer.

     My son Ryan came pounding on my door last night; hurried and manic.  “Mom!  Mom I have to talk with you!  Mom, please can I come in, please!”

     I couldn’t open the door quickly enough to my bedroom and fumbled with the knob.  I was already asking questions while working it open.  “Ryan, what’s wrong buddy?  What is the matter?”

     When I finally saw his face; pale, with his glasses off, I knew that it was something urgent.  Something had happened and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to know what it was.

     “Mom.  I think Jake’s mom died tonight.  I think I saw something on Facebook, but I’m not sure…”
     Ryan was getting tongue tied and I reached for him to pull him in close to me.  I held him close for just a moment.  Any longer and we both would have fallen to pieces.  I pulled way while talking with him, cradling his cheeks in my hands. “Ry, let me find out what is going on and I promise I will come talk with you in a few minutes.”

     Then the search began to see if Trish’s battle was over.  I sat at my computer; staring at it, conflicted.  I fought with myself to turn the power on, yet if I didn’t then I might not find out what I already knew in my bones.  Then, my heart versus head battle began as well.  You have this innate need to hear that the news is not true, yet your mind tells you it must be.  You feel a stab so deep in your heart, yet your mind tells you she no longer suffers.  You tear up for her husband and children, yet you are thankful that she walks whole and beautiful with God.  You think of the last time you hugged her and are pissed off, yet you are thankful you had that moment to hug her.  You add this death to your questions you have for God about how life makes no sense, yet you know the answer will be there waiting for you when you see Trish again in Heaven.

     I sent Mike downstairs to tell Ryan it was true.  I couldn’t do it.  Instead, I covered up in our bed with my comforter over my head.  I thought about what my best friend, Nancy, shared with me after her son, Max, died.  Her words flooded my body.  Nancy shared with me that she floated through the funeral, feeling out of her body; dreamlike.  That week for her remains a blur.  There is not much she remembers from that time, but she retained this.  One of her friends, who had also lost a child, waited her turn in the line of mourners to embrace Nancy.  Looking into Nancy’s eyes, holding both of her cold hands, she said, “Nancy, you are not the first of your friends that this has happened too, and you will not be the last.  You are going to have people say stupid, stupid things to you but you have to understand that they do not know any better.  You forgive them.  Ignore them.  You will come out the other side.”

     I think I want to say a little of that to Tony, Alexis, Molly, Hannah and Jake this morning.  Honestly, I would rather be taking Trish some Starbucks in a few minutes, but that is not a choice anymore.  Trish would want me to tell you to hold your babies a little closer today.  Reach out to friends and make memories.  Live your life big.  Move on from petty worries and do something important for others.  Life your life because you only get one shot.  So go do it!  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Share and Share Alike!

Happy Friday all ya'll!  I wanted to let you know of a few things going on in the land of princesses and pens before the weekend rolls on through.  I am so excited to share my blog with some amazing people and I want to introduce them to you.

On the first Wednesday of each month, we will welcome the fabulous Pj Schott to the blog.  Pj is a marvel, a sweetheart, and great friend.  She is  a self-made business tycoon and has the coolest haircut on the planet!  Make sure you stop by next week and say hello to her, and read about her determination, as well as her favorite story book character to quote.

Isn't she gorgeous?

I am going to be stopping by Pj's blog to be her guest on the same day, so I hope you will stop by both of our sites, say hello, and join in the fun.  


Starting next week, Tuesday, I will be joined by popular blogger, Michelle Bell, as well as talented Blame it on the Fame author, Tracie Banister.  We are going to talk Dancing with the Stars with you!  In full disclosure, you need to know I am a novice at watching this show.  *GULP*  This will be my first season to be a viewer.  Michelle and Tracie are my seasoned veterans and cohorts in Twitter crimes.  My journey to this point was kismet.  I'll fill you in.

Make sure you read Tracie's book.  It's red carpet delicious! 

It all started innocently enough with the announcement that singer and soap-a-licious star, Jack Wagner, would be a contestant on the hit television show.  The same day, my buddy and fellow author, Erik Atwell, ran a contest in which he begged for assistance and wanted your 80's song submissions.  Erik would then sing your song choice, acapella, while cradling his son to dreamland.  Erik tracked the time it took for Little Man Atwell to count sheep.  Well, guess who won the contest after her song submission of All I Need took down that sleepy baby in record time?  Thank you.  Thank you very much. 

To sum it up.  I owe Jack Wagner for the win.  To make things square with Jack, I am so excited to watch with Tracie and Michelle and bring you our thoughts.  My daughter, Gracie, will also appear from time to time with her thoughts.  Scary; I know.  She might keep asking why Matt Lauer isn't a contestant.  In case you didn't know, she has mad love for him.  I have no further explanation.

Have a marvelous weekend!  GO BIG TEN!  GO BUCKEYES!!!!



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Q & A With James Goertel

     One of the things I love about being a writer, is meeting new people.  One of those amazing finds, is James Goertel.  I just finished his book, Carry Each His Burden, and was overtaken by the characters, and their lives, in each of the five short stories.  I told James, that I would have finished this book in one sitting if it were not due to the fact that I have three children who want me to clothe and feed them incessantly.  You know the books that stick with you?  That is this book.  You are in for a treat, because James was so fabulous to stop by and chat with me! 

     James was born in North Dakota, and spent twenty years working in television for ABC,  NBC, and ESPN, among others.  He currently teaches writing at Penn State Erie.  His writing has appeared in Ascent Aspirations, LucidPlay, Manifold, and TNBBC.  "Carry Each His Burden" is his debut fiction collection and was published in September of 2011. His debut poetry collection "Each Year an Anthem" was published in early 2012 and will be followed by "With No Need for a Name" later this year. He is currently working on his debut novel "Let the Power Fall" which is slated for early 2013. He lives with his wife Rachel and son Henry on Lake Erie in Western New York.  Can I just say, Henry has the most gorgeous curls?  Future ladykiller... 

Jen:  Carry Each His Burden, gave me so much food for thought.  So much so, that I could not shake it, or stop dwelling on it, while watching Mad Men with my hubby last night (shh… don’t tell him).  I never want to be a “spoiler” for those who haven’t read the book yet, but you deal with some “meaty issues” in each of the five stories, and do it with finesse.  What was it like for you living with these gritty, and flawed, people when trying to move them from your head and onto the paper?

James: I always say that if the characters aren't speaking to you, the story isn't working. Once the characters, such as King, Charles, etc., begin chatting to me in my head, I know I better get it down. I will get up in the middle of the night to write if King wakes me up and lets me know he needs to go into the bathroom at the bar to sniff some meth. That kind of thing. The characters need to tell you what they are going to do, not the opposite. Otherwise, I would have told King to go home because he's already done enough meth and we're both tired.

With love from "The Windy City"

Jen: I would love to hear about teaching at Pennsylvania State University and how working with college students came to be. 

James: I spent twenty years in journalism - working all over the country for ABC, NBC, ESPN, and many others. After my wife Rachel and I had our son Henry a few years ago, I decided it was time to get off the road. So, I went back and got my masters degree and we moved from Pennsylvania to New York to be near family here on Lake Erie. Working and teaching at the Erie campus for Penn State has been as thrilling as the time I spent in the trenches of journalism. I could have never guessed how much I would enjoy working with students.

Jen: Do you have an established writing routine?  I am afraid you might cheat, so I am not telling you what mine is.   

James: I have no routine. Once I'm into it, I'm off to the races and will write whenever LIFE allows. Everywhere and anywhere. The road maps in my car's glove compartment are all written over. I'm more dangerous than people who text while driving - I've been known to jot notes while out on the road... but that's a secret. Shhhhhh.

James other amazing work, Each Year An Anthem

Jen: Would you like to share a little bit about your current work in progress?  I know it has to be fabulous, because I had to talk you into just taking a moment for a brief “beer break” on St Patrick’s Day. 

James: I'm currently working on my debut novel, Let the Power Fall. It's a piece of historical fiction that moves back and forth between the past and current times. I've been reticent to talk too much in detail about it, mainly because I think it's a unique subject matter and although historical in nature, the novel-in-progress speaks directly to the present and our place in it. I have also compiled a second book of poetry, With No Need for a Name, which I culled from my time in the masters program. I stopped writing for the most part when I went back to school, but allowed myself a few lines every few nights or weeks. Upon reflection they really seemed to capture something unique for that period of time. They are stills or snapshots really. I'm hoping to have the novel out in 2013. I am currently in a PhD program as well, so all timelines are subject to change. The second book of poetry is ready to go. I'm actually proofing it today, but I have no idea when it will drop.

Jen: The Hunger Games, and the young adult genre in general, is sweeping the nation.  What book first swept you away as an early reader? 

James: Probably The Martian Chronicles - but honestly, I read a biography about Willie Mays when I was in grade school that knocked my socks off. Some things were ruined for me as a young adult, I was made to read Faulkner too early. You have to live a little before you tackle him. I loved Jaws when it came out - uh, '75, I think. My mother cut the sex scene out with a scissors. Classic Catholic upbringing. Love it.

Jen: Is the book you mentioned the one that led you to want to be a writer?  

James: Jaws to some extent, maybe, thinking back now. I have always thought that commercial literature and films are just as valid as the classics which maybe aren't necessarily commercial. My first serious writing was screenplays. I have always thought of the connection between films and books. I actually approach my fiction more as a movie maker than an author. I have a script being read in Hollywood now, but that's just fun to think about and nothing to dwell on. L.A. can love your script to death - I mean that literally. I'm more vested in my novel at the moment. To answer, though, Charles Bukowski and Jim Harrison's work made me want to be a poet and James Dickey's Deliverance made me want to be an author.

Jen: I can see your approach in writing the book with a script feel, because as I read it I saw it "play out" in movie form in my head.  When I reach that place as a reader, I am sucked in.    

Jen: Okay, last question…  You have the entire Ryba’s Fudge Shop at your disposal on Mackinac Island, MI.  In what flavor-order do you devour the goods? 

James: Haystacks - the coconut and milk chocolate type. But the classic go-to one for me is the milk chocolate covered pretzel.

Thanks so much for stopping by, James!  You can find out more about James by clicking on James Goertel / website  To check out his phenomenal work, head to  James Goertel / on Amazon

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm Mad! So Mad!

     I am so stinking late to the party!  Let me tell you what I watched last night.  I bet it's not what you watched *Jen says smirking*  Hubby and I watched the first two episodes of the FIRST season of Mad Men.  I know!  I told you I was late to the party, but at least I showed up, right?

     Mike, my bald and loving husband, and I have wanted to watch Mad Men since its premier on AMC.  The problem was that our DVR was already hopelessly devoted to other shows airing on the same night and at the same time.  If you mix in the busyness of life, with a dash of children and work, we were running out of hours in the day to watch the shows already piling up.  And, there was nothing to cut from the list.  Not one show could be canned!  I mean, you cannot expect Mike to sacrifice his episodes of Judge Judy, now can you?

Don Draper, the sky is falling...

     My only real experience with John Hamm as an actor, was in last summer's blockbuster, Bridesmaids.  The pee-your-pants-laughing movie of the summer!  His role in the comedy was that of tall, dark and JERK!  If someone had to play the bad guy, Hamm played it to the top of the heap.

"Annie, I know I am a sleaze, but there's a cop waiting around the corner to pull you over and change your life!"

          True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead.  Those are the Sunday evening staples we record, then watch during the week.  Currently, none of those series are on-air.  The nerve of some TV shows giving their stars some time away; it's beyond me.  So what better time to jump into the Netflix vault than now?!?  NONE I SAY!  NONE!  Please give a special round of applause to my dear friend, Kisti, for if it were not for her excitement about last night's season premier of Mad Men, this love affair between The Tuckers and Sterling Cooper Advertising may not have some to pass for years to come!

Welcome to my world, Donnie Boy!



Saturday, March 24, 2012

This is your captain speaking...

     My five-year-old munchkin, Gracie, is having a love affair with the Junie B. Jones series of books, written by Barbara Park.  After begging, whining, and gnashing of teeth, Gracie finally let me buy this book for her at her school's book fair. 

Don't tell us how it ends!  We are on chapter 6, and so far, so good...

     Here is the quick play-by-play.  Junie B. has just survived a plane ride to Hawaii with her parents.  Adventure finds this little lady everywhere, even in the friendly skies.  She just survived sitting on the plane sandwiched between two crabby ladies; sitting in front and behind her respectively.  These ladies were not amused by Junie B.'s antics.  Gracie and me?  We laughed and laughed!  
     The same day Gracie and I began reading about Junie B. Jones and her interesting plane ride, an email was sent to me that also had something to do with how to occupy your time in the air.  Here, take a look at what they wanted to sell me...

Isn't this great?!?!  Megan can smoke ANYWHERE!!!  YAY MEGAN!!!  Good for you!!!

     Believe it or not, I do not want to focus on Megan, or her smokey smokerton habit with electronic cigarettes.  I want to talk about Megan, herself.  Can I ask you a question?  Who looks like this on a plane? NO ONE looks like this on a plane!  She looks phenomenal! I never see anyone look phenomenal when airborne!  Do you?  Notice that they do not show the gentleman sitting next to her in this advertisement.  That is because he looks like this...

He's so night-night! 

     His buddy, E (that's what his hat says, so we will call him that) is more than happy to point out to sleepy man that while he is catching some winks, that he and Megan will be happy to make acquaintances.  E and Megan will talk about their common love for backgammon, Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks, long walks on the beach, and the entire Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series of books.  It's true love!  Isn't that sweet?




Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring into Good Habits

     Spring has sprung!  Although we have had sunny days, and high temperatures for the past three weeks in Indiana, the calender has officially declared spring is here.  I love being outside when the weather turns for the better.  You will find me blowing bubbles and playing sidewalk chalk with my Gracie Girl, eating Freezie Pops with my teenagers on our back deck, and chatting up neighbors that I haven't seen since we went into hibernation.  I love digging in the flower beds or just sitting outside with one of the books I am currently reading.  All wonderful ways to spend time outside.  However, these wonderful  days also lead to the demise in my writing life.  When it is cold and grey outside, I have no problem typing the day away in my office.  I welcome my golden retrievers to lay on my feet in January and keep me company as I write 2 to 3 thousand words in a day (sometimes more).  The birds are not chirping, the sun is taking a holiday away, and eating Freezie Pops outside just doesn't sound like much fun to me when you have to bundle up to do it.  Do you struggle with the inevitable Spring Fever as well? I would love to hear what your favorite warm weather ways to spend a day, and how you keep it all in check with the business of life.

     You see, I am the easily distracted fish, Dory, of Finding Nemo fame.  Pretty shiny things catch my eye.  Fun adventures easily woo me away from what I should be doing. I really try to embrace my inner Dory, yet keep her tied to a chair when required.  For me, it's about balance and incentives.  I need to carve out time in my day to write in the spring and summer.  It is not a choice.  Yes, that is a self-imposed pep talk.  With a new book being released this summer waiting for me to edit, a new memoir I am jumping into, and taking on a first work of women's fiction that I am co-writing with a friend, it is important that I hold myself accountable.  However, it's beautiful outside, for crying out loud!  It's okay for us to get outside and enjoy the chirping birds and flowering tress.  I think the key for me is scheduling that time in my day, yet keeping it flexible.  If I want to write in the morning and enjoy a sunny afternoon walk with a friend, then that will be my plan.  Sipping coffee outside with friends in the morning will be great, as long as I get busy in the afternoon and whittle away at the keyboard.  Again, balance and rewards.  It's funny how we use that game with ourselves as we might our pets and children, isn't it?     

Enjoy this beautiful day!  Bless and be blessed!



Monday, March 19, 2012

A Change in the Roster

“Mom… I am going to have to do something I never thought that I would do…” Ryan said to me as I drove him to a “repair” haircut. My stylist needed to repair what someone at a walk-in hair salon had crafted unsuccessfully. Can you picture Johhny Depp in his role as Willy Wonka? That would be my son’s current look, and it wasn’t by choice. He wasn’t so keen on another trim to fix said hair disaster, until his older brother confirmed that Ryan’s coif was similar to my mother’s “old lady hair.” Ouch!

“What is that buddy?” Yeah, it was 50/50 whether or not I wanted to know the answer to this question. You never know what will pop out of a thirteen-year-old’s mouth.

“I am going to have to reorganize my football teams. You know, which ones I like and in what order they’re a priority to me to cheer for...” It amazes me that my middle child can push every button my van’s dashboard, using every finger on his two hands, at the same time, and still carry on a coherent thought. “You know, it’s a lot to consider.”

“Ry, you can still like the Colts buddy. It is going to take a while for them to re-establish, but in time they will be back. We shouldn’t abandon ship just because Peyton has left the team.” I thought it might be a great time to introduce that lesson about not being a “Bandwagon Betty.” Stick with your teams; be loyal through thick and thin.

“But they abandoned Peyton, Mom. He didn’t leave them!” Oh the convictions a teen can lay on you. “He should have been able to stick it out mom. Stay in Indy. Play until he was done, like done for good and retires. I don’t think that I can cheer for the Colts. Not right now anyway. It hurts too bad that they let Peyton go, Mom. I mean, he was crying, Mom! Where’s your compassion?!?”

“I know he was upset, Ry. He spent more years here in Indy than really any one place probably. At least as a man; a grown-up. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for him to stand on that podium and speak from the heart today.” Suddenly, I felt my seat warm to an uncomfortable temperature. It was not a hot-flash, nor a moment of warm emotion for our dismissed quarterback. Ryan is infamous for turning on the air condition and also my seat heater without me noticing; at first. I only notice after one set of my cheeks freeze, or sweat depending on which set you are referring to. “Hey! Turn that stuff off, Ding Dong! My butt is on fire!”

Ryan’s laughs and makes amends for his prank. We passed through several stop lights in silence. I was reflecting on the years Peyton Manning has spent as an Indianapolis Colt. What he and his wife, Ashley, have contributed to the city philanthropically. And he is a funny, funny guy. His commercials and SNL appearance are always tops when it comes to laughs.

Peyton doesn’t want to retire. He wants to play. I have no idea what it is like to have the competitive NFL blood that runs through Peyton’s veins. I can’t judge his choice to look for another city to suit up for; I will have a difficult time seeing another jersey on his back. If it were me after several neck surgeries, I would be home with my twins as much as possible and continue to sell the snot out of products on commercials. That’s a pretty great life. That is not the life Peyton wants, and I respect that. I do not like it, but I get it, Peyton. I get it. We are going to miss you. Know that with each day that passes, we wait like anxious children on Christmas Eve to hear about your new location. There is no way I could ever call it your new hometown. I just can't.

“Mom, so I am thinking it is gonna go Packers and Saints as my 1-2 teams. There might be room for the Ravens in there, but the Patsies (also known as, excuse me while I clear my throat – The New England Patriots – ahem) are totally last on the list.”

“Why are they even on the list, Ryan? They should be off the grid!” And with that battle cry, it seems as if football season, in my house at least, has begun.

Peyton, thank you.

Photo by Jeffery Beall