Showing posts with label Dan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dan. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Painful Breakup

This summer, I've decided to end a relationship that has meant the world to me for most of my life. Through summers on the beach and my parents' boat, to vacations in Florida and the Caribbean, I've carried on a life-long love affair with the sun. And now, it's over... Sob...

I'm in my mid-forties and am suffering from what my friend Chris calls LIS Disease: Lousy Irish Skin Disease. In short, my skin in a disaster area, and I really have only myself (and Mr. Sun) to blame. For years during my misspent youth, I was under the impression that the fifty percent of me that is Portuguese would eventually trump the 50 percent of me that is Irish. No such luck. My brother, who got the Portuguese skin, tans like a God. We'd go on family vacations when we were in high school, and he would return to school brown as a berry while I was red, scabby and peeling. People would ask if we went to the same place. Hardy har har! Not much has changed since then except for the sudden onset of wrinkles and ripples and other stuff that just doesn't belong on anyone's skin. I've already had several "suspicious" moles removed. After one such removal, the dermatologist said, "Congratulations. Now you'll live to see your grandchildren." Great...

Remember the baby oil and iodine years before we all knew that the sun could be bad bad bad for us? Remember the scorching sunburns of childhood before everyone had SPF 250 in their beach bags? Yep, that was me. Burnt to a crisp for most of my life. My parents used to talk about the time my mother took me to the beach as a baby, had me in a playpen under an umbrella and I STILL got burnt. My father was apparently beside himself over this incident, to which my mom said, "SHE WAS NEVER IN THE SUN!" They decided the sun reflecting off the sand had gotten to me. It was an ominous start to my relationship with Mr. Sun... I once had a blistering sunburn on my arm as a kid. Every dermatologist I've ever been to as an adult points to that spot on my arm and asks, "What happened here?" During my five years of working on the docks at a marina, I wore a Panama Jack-style hat that was tied to my belt loop with a shoelace. I'm convinced that hat is the only reason I don't look 90 years old now.

In the ultimate irony of life, my late mother (who also got the Portuguese skin) hated to lay in the sun but tanned effortlessly nonetheless. Traversing from the house to her car, from the car to the boat, from the car to the grocery store, she'd get in five minutes the tan I spent a summer cultivating. Over time, I managed to convince (or perhaps SHOCK) my skin into believing that it could in fact tan. But this past winter, I couldn't deny any longer that the damage I've done over the years is getting worse, and if I don't break up with Mr. Sun NOW, I'm going to look 80 when I'm 50. One of my dad's best friends, a gorgeous red head who has studiously avoided the sun her entire life, looks better at 85 than I do at 46. She says that's ridiculous. I say it's TRUE.

As a mother, I've been MILITANT with my kids about sunscreen. Last year, my son and husband attended the Indy 500 and Jake got a wicked sunburn on his neck--the one spot they missed with the sunscreen. It was an ugly, blistery mess by the time they left Indiana to come home. Knowing this is one of my pet issues, my son called me from the airport to give me advance warning about the ugly burn and to tell me, "It wasn't Dad's fault." (Haha, of course it was his fault! LOL) The warning didn't stop me from SHRIEKING when I saw just how badly he was burnt. Whenever one of my kids gets even the slightest sunburn, they apologize to me because they know how crazy I am about them avoiding the same mistakes I made with my skin. Sadly, their skin is fairer than mine, if that's possible. Poor kids. When attending sailing camp in the summer, Jake's EYES get sunburned even with SPF-protecting sunglasses on all day. Their dad, however, tans like a brown berry. When Emily was younger and drew pictures of our family, Dan was always drawn with a brown crayon to reflect his perpetual year-round tan. I'm after him ALWAYS about using sunscreen so he doesn't look like shoe leather by the time he's 60. He's starting to get a clue, but it might be too late to save him from a leathery fate.

So my dear friend, Mr. Sun, we had a good run, you and I. I had lots of fabulous days on the water basking in your glow. I spent lots of days hiding my now-wrinkled toes from your wrath by burying them in warm sand. But the sunscreen people have yet to make the SPF that will protect my disastrous skin from your mean side. Now, just because you and I are through doesn't mean I'm forsaking the beach or the boat. No way! Before my first trip to the beach (and day now), I'll be purchasing a large umbrella and a sledgehammer that will live forever in my beach bag to make sure I can get that sucker deep enough that I won't be chasing it down the beach at the first strong gust.

I'll miss you, dear friend.

Have any of you broken up with Mr. Sun?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear Diary: This is Why I Read Romance

Another crazy day in house renovation land. Have I mentioned that I'll be glad when this is all over? Yes, I thought so! I need to compliment the speedy customer service of the furniture company, which set my mind at easy that they can send us a new drawer to replace the damaged one. As a result, we were able to complete the furniture set up and get the old stuff ready for pick up by the Salvation Army today. It pains me to get rid of a bed and dresser that belong to my grandmother, but you can't keep everything. If I had a bigger house, I'd stash it away, but I know it would stay stashed for many years to come, so why do that when someone can be using it? Sigh... The new mattress will be delivered later today, allowing us to move back upstairs to our regular bedroom. Last on the renovation list is new doors for all the rooms. The guy came to measure them yesterday. I think of the doors as the "final frontier" before we're back to normal around here.

The upside of the "some-assembly-required" bed was that while Dan was putting it together last night, I did Jake's basketball practice drop off and pick-up (normally handled by Dad), which is how I managed to be standing five feet from him when he sank a perfect three-pointer in a scrimmage game. The basket was so perfect, it didn't even touch the rim and went through the basket with an audible "swish." He doesn't score many baskets, so his entire team (along with his friends on the other team) went crazy congratulating him on the perfect shot. His grin spread from ear to ear. I was very glad I got to witness such a great moment for him, and it was all because of the house project from hell. There's always an upside, right?

Yesterday was a day of nonstop interruptions. After the gym, one thing after another kept me from writing. By about 3 p.m. I realized it just wasn't going to happen with so much chaos going on around me, so I put up the white flag and surrendered. I decided to read the first chapter of "Fairy Tale Interrupted," by RoseMarie Terenzio, who was JFK Jr.'s assistant for the last five years of his life. Of course, one chapter turned into the whole book, which I finished at 1:30 a.m., feeling unbearably sad at the terrible grief described by the author upon the loss of her boss and good friend, as well as his wife, who had also become her close friend. I liked this book a lot because it felt like a love letter to John and Carolyn, and not at all like the self-promotional stuff some of their inner circle has done since their deaths. 


RoseMarie said in People magazine that it took her 10 years to even be able to talk about it let alone write about it. She gave them her whole life for five years, and when they were gone she was left literally with nothing. She couldn't even get a job. As she put it, when you've been the assistant to the most famous man in the world, where do you go from there? I was awake for a long time thinking about the book, about the terrible waste of three young lives, and wondering about what might've been for JFK Jr. had he lived. Would he be president today instead of Obama? They would be roughly the same age, so it's very possible he may have turned his attention to elected office in the next decade of his life. I so vividly remember the details of that awful weekend in July of 1999. Having grown up in Kennedy country, I've always been interested in their family. That weekend, we held our collective breath waiting to hear the unimaginable. It was the weekend of Emily's fourth birthday, and I recall forcing merriment for her sake in the midst of terrible sorrow. I also remember the poignant words spoken at John's funeral by his Uncle Ted: "Like his father before him, John had every gift but length of life." 


This is the first non-romance I've read in ages. As I sobbed my way through the retelling of the accident that took the lives of John, Carolyn and her sister Lauren, I was yearning for the happily ever after that wasn't to be for them.


What was the last non-romance you read? Did you feel the same way afterward?


Thanks to all the new members of Marie Force Book Talk who've joined after reading about our merry group here on the blog. It's great to have you! Off to write! Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dear Diary: Best Laid Plans

The furniture I ordered on the Internet arrived yesterday in five boxes so heavy we couldn't budge them when they were placed in our dining room. We had put Brandy on the back deck for the delivery since she would've been totally underfoot greeting the delivery men if we'd let her run free. So now we have five stupendously heavy boxes blocking the sliding door. Dog is trapped, quickly figures that out and begins to panic! Thirteen-year-old son to the rescue! Jake devised a plan to bring her in through one of the windows that face the back porch. Success! Brandy was none to keen about being hauled through a window, however. The Brandy rescue was the good news. The bad news was that the dresser and part of the bed arrived damaged. Of course we discovered this just as the California-based retailer was closing for the evening. Hoping to get resolution—quickly—today since Dan and I are cellar-dwellers until our new bedroom furniture is set up. Jake said last night that he's tired of all this house stuff. I'm with you there, buddy! This is what happens when you put it off for years and then decide to do it all at once!

I totally forgot to mention that I hit the gym on Monday. Now why is this a big deal, you ask? Well, let me tell you... It's the first time I've gone on my own without a date with the trainer. I see her on Wednesdays and Fridays. Adding the third day on my own has been the goal, so this week I started adding that extra day. Of course after lugging furniture around last night, I'm sore as hell, but I'm still going today. Damn it. LOL

Yesterday I mentioned the very fun groups we've formed on Facebook and membership exploded, especially in Marie Force Book Talk. It's great to have so many new members hanging out over there, and I hope more of you will come join the fun! We're also having some great chats on the Falling for Love group about important topics, such as whether David Lawrence, who cheated on Janey McCarthy in Fool for Love and does something downright heroic in Falling for Love, deserves a HEA in a future book. Hmm, what do you think?

The writing of Hoping for Love continues to go well with the word count almost to 43,000. I can "see" the finish line in my mind, and I'm looking forward to writing the last half of the book. I'm having fun, as always, with the Gansett Island crew! I also want to say thank you to everyone who gave Falling for Love such a terrific launch week. I've been so excited by the reader response to book 4. Thank you all so much!

In other news from yesterday, I've agreed to be the President-Elect of the Romance Writers of America's (RWA) Published Author Special Interest Chapter. Gulp. This is my first leadership position within RWA, and it's something I felt I could take on now that I no longer have the day job to contend with. I'm looking forward to getting more involved with PASIC!

So what are you up to this week? Anything fun or crazy?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude

How did it get to be Thanksgiving week already? In my mind, it's still Fourth of July, but the calendar tells me I need to get caught up. One of the things I love best about Thanksgiving—other than the apple pie, pumpkin bread and STUFFING—is the opportunity it gives us all to take a moment remember all the reasons we have to be grateful. My gratitude list this year is a cornucopia of family, friends, readers, books, community and a darling puppy named Brandy who has brought such joy and laughter to my life this year. So without further ado, here is my 2010 gratitude list. Please give me your list in the comments. I'd love to hear it!

1. My Family
This one is rather obvious, of course, but I have been blessed with the loveliest of families. This past weekend, Dan and I had the supreme joy of watching our Emily shine once again on stage. At 15, she is a gifted actress, and I believe her talent is going to take her as far as she wants to go. As she races toward adulthood, there's not a single thing about her we would change (well, except for the landfill she calls a bedroom). And then there is our buddy Jake, 12 years old and into every sport there is. He's recently taken on hockey and is turning into quite the skater. We're proud of him for working harder in school and taking on new challenges for himself by venturing into hockey. We feel very lucky to have two outgoing, personable kids who make us laugh (often inappropriately—they get that from their father, I swear!) and make us proud every day. Dan will tell you that I got lucky in the husband department with "one of the good ones." Don't tell him that I agree. I do have to live with him, you know! In addition to my fabulous foursome here at home, I also am grateful for the continued good health of my dad, who as many of you know is truly one of my BFFs. We are also surrounded by an enormous extended family on both sides, including my unruly posse of cousins (speaking of inappropriate laughter: churches, funeral homes, weddings—nothing is off limits).

2. My Friends
I have the best-est friends—the ones I see every day, the ones I keep up with from afar and all the new ones I've never met in person but who've become such a big part of my life. I'm grateful for the group of high school classmates who've become later-in-life friends, and I so enjoy the time we get to spend together with our families. I said to one of them recently: old friends who are new friends are the best friends, and that is SO true.

3. My Job
I love my day job! In January, I'll mark 15 years as the communications director for AGA. I work with and for great people promoting the worthwhile cause of advancing government accountability. I get to work on all sorts of fun stuff every day, and it's still interesting and challenging after all these years.

4. My Books
Well, 2010 has been quite the year! Did I really sign three contracts with Harlequin or did I dream that? I'm so very pleased and grateful for the success of my Fatal Series. After a tumultuous run (read more about that here) the Fatal Series has a found a home at Harlequin's Carina Press. I'm delighted that Fatal Affair will be released in print by Harlequin in July 2011. Also coming in 2011:
Jan. 3: Fatal Justice
Feb. 1: Everyone Loves a Hero
July 1: Fatal Affair in print
July: Fatal Consequences
October: Fatal Destiny
In addition, I've begun offering some of my other books to readers via Amazon and Smashwords. The first of these is True North, which I posted this week. Here's a brief synopsis:
The first time Travis North lays eyes on Liana McDermott, she’s wearing the most hideous bridesmaid dress he’s ever seen. He doesn't immediately recognize the world-famous super model who is attending her cousin Enid's wedding at the country club he owns. Thanks to Enid's shameless matchmaking, Travis and Liana become acquainted and later embark on a two-week fling intended to be free of emotion and entanglement. As Liana's return to work gets closer, however, Travis wonders how he'll ever let her go when the time comes while Liana considers whether he might be her true north. Two high-powered careers, two amazing weeks and a love that comes along just once in a lifetime. Is she ready to give up her career for a different kind of life? Does he want the same things she does? After insisting on an emotionless affair, she can't very well ask him. Or can she?

5. My Readers
I can't say enough about how much I love my readers. So many of you have become close friends and provide me with endless entertainment and laughter. Hanging out on Facebook with y'all has been so much fun, and I'm thrilled that we formed the book club so we can dish on our favorite subjects, romance and Oreos, every week. It's not lost on me that 2010 turned into such a great year because of so many of you and your support of my books. I KNEW there were readers out there who would love a romance series featuring the same couple in every book. Thank you for proving I was right about that and for embracing Sam and Nick the way you have. I hope you'll enjoy the next books in the series, coming soon!

6. My Dog
Brandy came to live with us on March 16, and for a while there we wondered if she'd blend into our family. Well, rest assured she has more than blended in. She has become an essential part of us, and I couldn't love her more. After losing Consuela last year, I wondered if I could ever love another dog. When Brandy was first here, I tried to protect myself from falling in love again. That didn't work out so well, to say the least. She has wormed her way into my heart (and my bed) and now I can't imagine life without the little devil. One of my favorite things about Brandy is how besotted my dad is with her. She brings him joy. That brings me joy.

7. Oreos
I don't drink. I don't smoke. I probably eat too many Oreos. I'm okay with that.

Now, let me hear your list! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Friday, June 4, 2010

End of An Era

This month, my youngest child will finish elementary school. While we're all more than ready to see him move on up to the middle school, I face the bittersweet end of an era in my life as a mom. You all know that I work full-time from home on the day job. What that means is not all that much happens around here during the day. In the morning, the elementary bus picks up at the end of my front walk and then drops off in the afternoon. For the seven school years we have lived in this house, my day has been framed by those pick ups and drop offs. The bus monitor has faithfully fed biscuits first to Consuela and Roscoe and now to Brandy. In fact, when Consuela died, Dan joked that maybe now Bernice, the elderly monitor who has seen my kids safely to school for seven years and provides AWESOME dog biscuits, could afford to go out to dinner once in a while.

I remember our first year in this house, the only school year my kids were ever in the same school. They squabbled daily over whose turn it was to stand on the rock that used to sit at the end of our sidewalk where the bus picks them up. Last fall when we had our front yard remodeled, Emily asked if I was really going to get rid of the bus rock. I admit that gave me pause, but we did get rid of the big monstrosity! After all, once his sister wasn't there to squabble with anymore, Jake lost interest in standing on the bus rock.

My school mornings begin at 7:30 when I get Jake up and moving for the 8:30 bus pick up. Dan handles the early shift with Emily, which these days consists of a little bit of yelling when she runs late. But otherwise, she pretty much takes care of herself in the morning and has for some time now. Next year, Jake moves to the early shift with Dad, who will drop him at school on his way to work. This gives Jake an extra half hour in the morning that my tortoise desperately needs.

So where will that leave me? Without a kid to put on a morning school bus for the first time in 10 years. I make jokes about what will get me out of bed in the morning if I don't have a kid to put on a bus or a boss expecting me in an office at a certain time. Of course my job will still beckon as it does every day and I will get up and get to it, but my days will begin much differently without that hour with Jake. I'd be lying if I said I won't miss that one-on-one time with him, even if most of it is about me saying HURRY UP will you? Even in 5th grade I have to remind him every day to brush his hair AND his teeth and wash his face with something other than spit on the ends of his fingers. Can you see why I'm concerned about Dad taking over the early shift?

In the 12 years I've worked from home, summer vacation has been the toughest time of the year for me. This year, however, I'm really looking forward to it as both my kids have had their struggles in school this year. We all need a break. But as June 22 approaches, I'm acutely aware of the ending of a era. When you're in the midst of these school years, it feels like they will go on forever. And then you wake up one day and your oldest is in high school and your "baby" is heading for middle school and you know it won't last forever. I'll miss those bus pickups and so will Brandy. But most of all, I'll miss my mornings with Jake.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Husband Says He Invented the Y.M.C.A. Dance... What Do You Think?

Here, in his own words...is Dan:

Jeffersonville ( "Jeff") High School, Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The date was January 12, 1979. It was a Friday. It was the first week back to school after the Christmas break. The unique "modular scheduling" that governed class periods at Jeff often presented students with an extended lunch period. After eating, there was usually time for roaming the halls, hanging out with friends, shooting baskets in the gym, or actually going to a study hall. This day was no different. And like most lunch periods at Jeff in those days, an impromptu dance party would happen on the balcony landing in the gymnasium. A student would plug-in his or her "boom box" and a DJ would proceed to play the latest pop and disco singles on eight-track, or the new cassette tapes. Dancing would last throughout the lunchtime period.

Jeff was, and is, a large school. During the 1978-1979 school year the student population was more than two thousand. The lunchtime dance party would generally take on the mood of an episode of SOUL TRAIN, with one student playing the part of Don Cornelius. In all, there were nearly a hundred students taking part.

But the innocent and unsuspecting actions that day by a couple of students would have a significant and lasting affect on dance culture.

Senior Dan Force (class of 79) had just finished eating his lunch. Upon leaving the cafeteria he strolled through the halls looking for his good friend and teammate Steve Hensley (class of 79) to discuss social activities for later that evening and plan which parties would be attended. Dan and Steve had spent their years at Jeff as members of the cross-country team and distance runners on the track team. They had become good friends and often spent time away from the track together as well.

After looking for, but unable to find Steve at all the usual hangout areas in the halls, Dan decided to check in the gym. Sure enough Steve was there. He was engaged in a pickup game of basketball.

Dan had entered the gym through the doors onto the landing where the dance party was taking place. It was a crowded day for the dance and Dan had to work his way through the dancers over to the balcony railing where he could look down 25 or 30 feet onto the basketball court where Steve was playing.

During a break in the action on the basketball court, Dan attempted to get Steve's attention but was unsuccessful. The dance party's boom box was too loud, blaring out a new hit single by the Village People called Y.M.C.A. The song had just recently started getting significant air time on the radio and from the cheers of the dancers when it began playing, this was probably its first time being heard there at the lunchtime dance.

So, since Steve couldn't hear Dan yelling over the music, Dan began to wave his arms over his head to try to get Steve's attention. Finally, Steve noticed Dan waiving his arms and pointed to himself to question if Dan was trying to get his attention. Of course Dan was and in turn pointed to himself, with both hands still over his head, in response to Steve. Now, with Steve's attention, and again using both hands, Dan gestured toward their usual hangout area in the hallway...it was to Dan's left. And just then Steve threw the basketball up to Dan at which point Dan caught the ball over his head.

By now the song Y.M.C.A. was finishing on the boom box. One of the regular dancers, Craig Miles (class of 79) ...a sprinter on the track team...approached Dan and asked a question that puzzled Dan: "Did you just make up that dance or did you see it somewhere else?" Dan said he had no idea what Craig was talking about and told him that he was only trying to get Steve's attention down on the basketball court. Craig said "But all those moves...they were in perfect rhythm to the song. The Y, the M, the C, the A." As Dan had gestured to Steve, and caught the basketball, he unknowingly spelled out Y-M-C-A with his arms. Still puzzled, Dan replied "What moves are you talking about?" Craig explained that as the lyrics to the song said "Y-M-C-A," Dan was forming the letters Y-M-C-A with his arms. Dan told Craig that any dance moves he executed were completely inadvertent. Nevertheless Craig was fascinated with Dan's moves and asked if he could use them. "They're all yours buddy." Dan said.

The dance craze was an instant sensation. At some of the parties over the weekend kids were already gyrating to the music and waving their arms to the new song spelling out Y-M-C-A. The following Monday at school, during the lunchtime dance party every other song played was the Y.M.C.A.

Over the years, ageless teenager and pop music critic Dick Clark tried to take credit for the Y.M.C.A. chorography. He claimed that a week earlier on his January 6 American Bandstand show that featured The Village People, the teenage dancers were using the moves after he had suggested to them during a TV commercial break. But the only footage that could be produced showed only a shadowy figure on the fringes of the American Bandstand TV set waiving his arms in an unrecognizable sequence. It was later discovered that this individual was a dancing extra arguing with the show's producer because he was not being allowed to return to the dance floor after a TV commercial break.

Today, more than 30 years later, the Y.M.C.A. remains extremely popular and is played and choreographed regularly where dancing enthusiast gather. But it was the inadvertent acts of two Indiana teenagers in 1979 that set the dance craze in motion.

That's his story. What do you think? Is he full of it or did he invent the Y.M.C.A. dance? I like to joke that the kid he "gave" the dance to, Craig Miles, is probably living large in the Hamptons while we've got this old house in Rhode Island.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Lately, I've become acutely aware of how fast time is going by. In the last year, my father turned 75, I celebrated (and I use that word loosely) my 25th high school reunion and sent my oldest child to high school. Dan and I were talking the other night about how fast Emily's childhood has gone by for us. She'll be FIFTEEN this summer, she has a job lined up, she'll be taking driver's ed in the next year. And to us, she's still that three-year-old with the vocabulary of an adult and the attitude to match who used to love to watch for purple cars on our street. Luckily, Jake, who will be 12 in October, is bringing up the rear in fine fashion and we don't feel like the time with him is marching by quite so quickly. It helps that we held him out of school an extra year and will have him with us until he's almost 19. Our kids represent the classic tale of the tortoise and the hare.

The passing of many of the critical adults in my life hasn't helped to ease this mid-life crisis. My mother, my in-laws, two aunts, an uncle, the parents of close friends, and not for nothing, my two beloved dogs. All of that in the last six years. We like to refer to the last decade as the shitstorm of misery.

I remember almost 12 years ago when I hired my coworker Jenn right out of college and discovered she was ten years younger than me. When had that happened? Now the new "kids" in my office are 22 years younger than me, which is all the more shocking. Last week, when I was in Washington, I spent some time getting to know my boss's new assistant, a nice "kid" named Louise, whose father is a longtime member of our association. I liked Louise right out of the gate because she makes me laugh with her witty retorts. In the course of our conversation, I realized she is only going to be 25 this year. Cripes, I said, I've been out of high school 26 years this year. You know what that means? To which she replied in her typical witty fashion, Hello, Mommy. ACK! She's a brat, but that's another story. She calls me Mom now, which is kind of funny—and not funny at the same time.

HOW did this happen? WHEN did this happen? WHERE WAS I when this was happening? I'm staring down the double 4s this spring and I don't feel 44. Well, somedays I do, but for the most part I feel maybe 30. Then my taller-than-me daughter prances through the house at almost 15, a shocking reminder that I'm not 30 anymore. Hell, I'm not even 40 anymore. I'm in my *gasp* MID-FORTIES. ACK! (Are you sensing my theme word today?)

So what makes me feel better about all this getting older business? Well, Dan did me a huge favor by turning 49 last weekend, which reminded me that it could be worse. Much, much worse. :-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Missing Gene

I didn't get it. You know the gene I'm talking about, the one that requires women to fuss with their houses. My HDTV-addicted friends are forever painting, redecorating, rearranging, redoing. It's a really big week for me when my house gets cleaned. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't be doing stuff to my house, but then I realize I am quite all right with it just the way it is. I've also been relieved of my paint roller after an unfortunate paint vs carpet disaster (the paint won) in our Florida house. I was told I was no longer "allowed" to paint (oh PUNISH ME, honey, PLEASE). Shortly after the disaster, I saw the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray teaches soon-to-be groom Robert that if you screw something up, SHE won't ask you do it again. Works both ways, and I wish I had seen that episode earlier in my career as painter.

You see, at one time, before the writing bug bit hard, I did have the fuss-with-my-house gene. I once attempted sponge painting a wall to match the red flowers in a new sofa. We tried five or six different shades, but just couldn't get it right. After an entire day of sponging paint onto my wall, my cousin walked in and asked who'd been shot. My mother, who was supposed to be on my side, laughed her booty off. It was not funny! However, I can't deny there was a St. Valentine's Massacre-esque feel to it. My sponge was soon revoked, never to be seen again. Dan got so frustrated by the many paint purchases that he poured them all together and created a Pepto Bismal pink living room that the new owner insisted we paint over before he would sign on the dotted line at closing. Can't say I blame him. People walking by the house would double take in horror when they saw the hideous color of our living room.

Prior to the disaster that ended my interior painting career, I once painted the 10-foot walls in my Florida family room with two toddlers (aka ankle biters) underfoot while their father was at sea in the Navy. I remember starting on Friday afternoon and about an hour later, the idea was looking really bad to me. I had to use a roller on a LONG pole to reach the top and it was brutal. My neck and shoulders were tin man stiff for days afterward. My neighbor Bob came in hallway through the project from hell and recoiled, calling my color "standing-on-the-sun-yellow." I can't deny it was bright. My eyes were hurting from looking at it. Many future visitors (including the guy who lived there between Navy deployments) recoiled from the brightness, but once I had the crown molding done and added furniture that matched, people said it was clear I'd had a "vision" all along. Not really, but if they wanted to believe that, I was okay with it. Martha Stewart I am not.

In our current house, we're still living with the walls three of us painted during a frantic "the-furniture-is-coming-Monday-and-this-all-has-to-be-done-before-it-arrives" weekend with one dimly lit lamp lighting our way. We painted the ENTIRE HOUSE in one weekend. The entire house. One weekend. The same weekend Dan ended up with stitches in his hand (not my fault). Keep painting, I cried. Turpentine will prevent infection! Needless to say, our walls are slightly "less than." Guess what? Seven years of looking at them, and I couldn't care less if I tried. If there's anything great about living in this old house it's that it can be a bit beat up and no one really cares. It's old. It's supposed to be beat up. That's not to say I wouldn't move back to my brand new fabulous Florida house in a New York minute if I could just have the house re-located to Rhode Island. However, I don't miss the pressure of keeping that sparkly new house looking new and well, sparkly. This old house often looks crappy. I'm okay with that.

I'd rather be writing. That's one gene I did get, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, especially a sponge or roller.

(After reading this, Emily noted I used the word "recoiled" several times. I was glad she recognized the theme. That's my English honors girl!)

What about you? Did you get the fuss gene? Had any disasters? Roller or sponge?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Proof That I Am Losing It!

People who know me well won't be surprised to hear I'm turning into a bit of a glue bag lately. My once legendary memory certainly isn't what it used to be, and sometimes I do stupid things. (To any family members reading this, I say: SHUT UP.) Ahem, anyway, where was I? Ah yes, I remember now. We were talking about how dopey I've been lately. Here are two recent examples:

Thanksgiving 09. My dad, who LOVES turkey more than any other food on earth, informs me he wants to pay for the turkey. Knowing he likes to contribute, I say fine. I buy the biggest bird in the store and wrestle it home to the fridge. (Emily was gagging over the clear plastic wrap, but that's another whole story.) I tell my dad $42 for the turkey. Of course he gives me a check for $50. I point out that it's $8 more than it is supposed to be, and he says the extra is for shipping and handling. Isn't he cute? Okay, so my house is ground zero for Turkey Day festivities. We have my immediate family during the day and the raucous extended family (the same ones who need that SHUT UP referred to above) for sandwiches in the evening. One of the ways I prepare for this invasion is to take all those stacks of paper that accumulate in the kitchen and move them to my bedroom, also known as the staging area when we entertain. I figured I'd get back to the stacks the next week. Thanksgiving was great, the turkey was yummy, my dad was happy. All was well.

Now, since my mother died, he has gotten very anal about that checkbook. He is proud of his ability to balance it down to the last penny every month. So I figured I'd better cash that check and be done with it. Except, I couldn't find it. It had totally VAPORIZED. GONE. I figured I'd put it somewhere for safekeeping and it would turn up. Only it wasn't in any of my usual safekeeping spots. Uh oh. End of part 1 of the story.

SIDEBAR: Also around Thanksgiving, Jake's school sent home the forms for their after school enrichment programs. I signed him up for basketball four Thursdays in March, wrote the $20 check, and sent it back to school. They had sent a nice note saying they wouldn't cash any of the checks until the first week in January so as not to tax anyone's funds during the holidays. Nice of them, huh?

Resuming part 1, after a thorough search, I had to confess to my dad that I had somehow lost the check he'd given me for the turkey. Of course he said no big deal, wrote me a new one, which I promptly cashed, and that was that. Like Amelia Earhardt, the Bermuda Triangle and other enduring mysteries, I figured I'd never figure out what had become of that check during the holiday madness. Ahhh, but then it gets better...

First week in January I get a phone call from a volunteer at Jake's school. Thank you very much, she says, we received Jake's registration for basketball and he's all set. Except. . . there wasn't a check for $20 in the envelope. No, there was a $50 check made out to you from a George Sullivan. . . That's my dad. Oh my God. I laughed and laughed and laughed and then I laughed some more. I don't know the woman who called but chances are she won't soon forget my hysterical laughter.

Mystery solved. I am mental. I have NO memory of how this could have happened. It's all a blur. People ask me how I can juggle a full-time job, a demanding writing career, two kids, a house, a husband, etc. The breakdown apparently occurs in the small details of everyday life.

Second example. . . Near disaster at work. . .

This week I discovered a free online software product called Log Me In.com. It allows me to network all three of my computers so I can access any of them from any of the others. This is very exciting for a number of reasons, but mostly because it allows me access to my home computers from my laptop when I'm traveling. It's hard to explain how this will revolutionize my life. Trust me when I tell you it will. Big time.

Okay so yesterday I was testing out my ability to make updates to our website via this new groovy connection. Normally, I use the PC in my basement to make web updates. So I am upstairs on my Mac laptop, logged into the PC and clicking away on updates to my company's home page. To say it's pretty cool to be using a Mac to make updates using a program that is available only for the PC is putting it mildly. It's revolutionary. My friend April, who works with me, agrees, so I am not the only geek in town. Anyway, I digress....

So I make the updates, click on the link to publish and voila. I punch in the URL for my company's website and get THIS.

Just to be clear, I work for an English-speaking company. If you clicked on the link, you will see that I immediately thought I had overwritten my company's home page with what looks to be Chinese. Can you spell total FREAK OUT??? Since our webmaster is in France this week, if I had overwritten, we would have had an even bigger problem than usual. I ran downstairs to the PC, but couldn't do a thing because it was still being controlled by my laptop upstairs. Ran back upstairs, closed down the browser. Ran back to the basement, hands shaking profusely, and republished the page and checked it. Phew. Everything was where it was supposed to be. Came back upstairs, took another look at what I had typed into the browser.

OH.

MY.

GOD.

I left a very important G out of our web address: http://www.agacGfm.org. That is our address. Leave out the G and you get a trip to the Orient. My hands shook for an hour after this incident. After hearing about my self-made near-catastrophe, Dan said G is for GEEK in this case. Suffice to say my excitement over this new software was short lived.

I am losing it. There's no doubt about it!

But hey, at least I'm not John Edwards, right? :-)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Up With Squeamish Men?

As my cousin David would say, I "took" a surgery this week. After years of horrible monthly events that led to at least two days on the sofa and more Advil than any human should ingest on a regular basis, I finally let the doctor do something about it in an effort to prevent more drastic hysterectomy-like measures. The surgery itself was no big deal, but all the drugs made me really sick for a couple of days. Three days later, I'm still tired but on the mend.

What I've found amusing since the surgery is the reaction of men who hear you had surgery to deal with "the girl parts." They'll start off by politely asking, what did you have done? To which I reply, girl stuff. The hands immediately go up, the international sign of SAY NO MORE. I find this so funny! I mean, for one thing, do they remember they all once LIVED inside the uterine vessel? Not to mention they've spent much of their adult lives trying to get a certain part of themselves as CLOSE to said vessel as humanly possible. So why all the squeamishness? I've decided the girl parts are only appealing to them when they are functioning properly. Any indication of malfunction is a signal to them to RUN as far and as fast from the trouble as they can.

My husband is definitely the exception to this rule. As always, he wanted every detail. This is the guy who begged to be allowed to watch two C-sections. If possible, he'd have been in the gallery with a box of Junior Mints watching this week's proceedings if they would've let him. My friend Debby puts it best: He ain't right.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Living La Vida Mediocre

My husband Dan and I have a running joke with my friend Dawn. She is one of my oldest and best friends, and during the time I dated Dan, she was my roommate. The two of them have always been buddies. A few years ago, in a moment of supreme misguidedness on her part Dawn told me—IN FRONT OF DAN—that I got one of the good ones. I'm sure some of you are saying, awwww, isn't that nice? Well, if that's your reaction, you aren't married to one of the good ones! If you are, you know what I know: he'll never let me FORGET that I'm married to one of the good ones once he's been TOLD by a WOMAN who is not his WIFE that he is one of the good ones. You with me?

Okay, ladies, think about this for a minute. One of your best friends, who has had some experience with a few of the bad ones, gives your husband that kind of compliment right to his face. Say it with me now: Noooooooo! It's a violation of the supreme girlfriend code of conduct, and I've never let her live it down. Sadly for me, HE has never let EITHER of us forget it!

On a recent Saturday morning—before coffee—I was talking to him (he would call it badgering) about something or other, and he reminded me that I'd gotten one of the good ones. It was 9:15 on a Saturday morning! I emailed her to let her know her special brand of magic was once again at work in my life! I teasingly tell her all the time that she's lucky I still talk to her. Dan takes issue with the word "lucky" in that statement. On a recent night out with my high school friends, of which Dawn is one, I discovered an envelope in my purse with $20 and a note to buy the girls a drink from "one of the good ones." Do you see what I'm dealing with?

Last week, I changed plans to accommodate something he wanted to do. When I pointed out to him that I been amazingly thoughtful on his behalf, I reminded him that HE got one of the good ones. Oh no, he says, you are not allowed to give that title and neither am I. Only Dawn has that power. So he appealed to her and was granted her approval to refer to me as one of the good ones. But then it hit me: a lot of responsibility and expectations come with that title. Did I really want to take that on? In the end, I declined the promotion to one of the good ones and decided to continue my nearly 17-year run as one of the mediocre ones.

There is, after all, only so much room in the house the GOOD one and HIS ego! What about you? Are you one of the good ones or one of the mediocre ones?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Getting Up and Getting Going

I used to be a pretty decent runner. I could do three or four miles without too much trouble. But as life and work and kids happened, somewhere along the way I quit running. It's the only form of exercise that has ever truly worked for me, meaning it's the only thing that truly shaves off the pounds. Another thing that's kept me grounded is my writing career. Writing, editing, marketing and selling books is a time-consuming proposition. I've often thought that if I could only spend a quarter of the time I spend writing on the running trail, I'd be fit enough for my liking. So all these things have gotten in the way and doing something to change that dynamic has been on my mind for some time now.

My husband Dan is a huge runner, although he's on hiatus right now recovering from achilles tendonitis. He told me a while back about a program called Couch to 5K, which takes you from couch potato to 5K runner in eight weeks. It's an interesting concept that involves intervals of running and walking, increasing time and distance over the course of the program. I decided to give it a whirl. Best of all, my kids decided to do it with me. Yay! They are at the ages now (Emily is 14 and Jake is almost 11) where it's difficult to find things we can do together where everyone is having fun. We did the first workout today and it was so fun. There was lots of laughing, especially when Emily was running circles around me. She's such a show off! Jake did really well, and kept right up with us, surging far ahead of me during the running portions. And I heard lots of details about their school days that I might've missed if we hadn't taken that half hour to spend together.

We made a pinky promise to not tell Dan that we'd started the program because he's been a total NUDGE asking when are we going to do it and how are we going to do it and where are we going to do it. He's too needy. The pinky promise lasted until dinner when Emily blew it. And she thought Jake would blab on his way to baseball practice with Dan driving him. NOT! SHE was the weakest link! Now he's going to be all up in our grill wanting to know every detail!

So, we're off and running. I'll let you know how it goes! If you've been looking for a magic bullet, check out the link. Maybe we can all do it together!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Boats, Kids, Books, TV and Sports

How does it get to be two weeks since I last posted? And yet I still have readers loyal enough to nominate my blog for one of the top 100 romance blogs on The Daily Reviewer. Thanks to whomever submitted my blog to these folks! I'm glad you find something worth coming back for despite my spotty posting. I promise to get better this fall. Honestly, I will!!

So what have I been up to? Well, you all know I love nothing more than spending time out on the water on my dad's boat. This month I've been stymied by other commitments that have kept me off the boat! I've been out exactly twice despite the gorgeous September weather--weather I might add that we were denied for most of June and July this year. The first time I went out, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I slept most of the time as I was in full-on high school reunion recovery mode. I had stayed out until 2 am, I had drank like I drink a lot normally (I do not), and had partied, literally, like it was 1999. And I paid the next day. Big time. So that boat trip really didn't count. This past Saturday, I scored my second ride of the month, but again, it was an unconventional outing. My son had a 1 p.m. baseball game in another part of the state, about 30 minutes from home. After they got spanked 20-3, we hustled home, grabbed the daughter and the bathing suits, and rushed into Newport to meet my dad. We left the dock at 4:15, about four hours later than normal. Jake and Dan went swimming, the rest of us shivered just watching them, and we put-putted around for a couple of hours. It was great, and just what I needed. Hopefully, we can get a few more such outings in before the boat goes to bed for the winter on Oct. 19. My son Jake is famous for swimming from May to October, so we'll see if his record continues!

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, too. I devoured Lisa Kleypas's new Hathaway book, Tempt Me at Twilight. I didn't love it quite as much as some of the other Hathaway books, but that didn't stop me from reading it in 24 hours. I finally read my chapter mate Loretta Chase's classic, Lord of Scoundrels and LOVED it. I can see why it's so often talked about. Now I am reading Eloisa James' Pleasure for Pleasure. If you are seeing a pattern, you're not mistaken. My historical reading phase continues! I've been actually thinking lately that it would be fun to write one. Or not. I've also been reading my friend Cheryl Brooks' next release, Hero, and enjoying it very much. It's fun to get a sneak peek at her next book and to make all the gals on her blog jealous at the same time! In the midst of all this reading, I'm also tweaking one of my own books, See You Next Time. More to come on that soon, I hope!

TV is back! I loved the season premieres of Grey's Anatomy and Brothers & Sisters. Gasp! Kitty has cancer! Didn't see that coming! Looking forward to Private Practice this week, and must get caught up on the TiVO'd episodes of Glee, the only new show I've taken on lately. Just like every year, the TV season returns just as baseball is winding down. NY clinched the AL East yesterday after sweeping my Red Sox, but luckily the Sox are still leading the American League Wild Card race and look good to make the playoffs. And the Patriots won yesterday after a rough loss last week, so all is well in football land, too. For now anyway.

On top of all this, the kids are BUSY! WHEW!!! Teenager life continues to be an interesting experience with the Divine Ms. Em who is 14. I never knew I was so damned stupid until I had a teenager! Last week the newly minted class president was trying to organize a bake sale for open house at school by calling as many classmates as she could reach. I suggested she hit them all with one Facebook message. "That is a very inefficient way to communicate," she replied. Hmmm, as the communications director for a 15,000-member national organization, I found that humorous to say the least. I mean, seriously, what the hell do I know?

Have a great Monday!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

T Minus 29

I meant to write a T Minus 30 posting yesterday, as we are now in the 30-day countdown to the launch of Love at First Flight! However, I was felled by my annual spring sinus event over the weekend, and yesterday was a bit of a lost day. Sooooo much has been going on around here that I've had zero time for anything. I'm sorry to have been out of touch lately. Since we last chatted, my father-in-law passed away in Indiana. He was 86, and it was expected, but it still came as a surprise to us when we got the call two weeks ago today—and yes, that was two weeks to the day after Consuela died. His funeral was held the Friday before Memorial Day, the one weekend of the year when something really big happens in Indiana: The Indy 500. We got some major sticker shock when we looked into flying. So we ended up driving. Before we left, however, we had to make a mad dash to the mall to outfit two kids who grew a foot this winter and had not a funeral-worthy stitch of clothing between them.

Here's a little something I wrote about my father-in-law for the Casablanca blog:

As writers we strive to create unforgettable characters, and sometimes we meet people who are so unique, so singular that we realize we could never make up something better than what’s right in front of us. Richard Force was just that kind of person. His life spanned many adventures—including a stint as a carnival worker and service to his country in World War II as a member of the prestigious Flying Tigers, during which he was shot down over occupied China and spent a month hiding in rice fields until he was rescued. He never ate rice again.

After the war that took the life of his older brother, Richard returned home to Indiana, married his childhood sweetheart, fathered six children (mine is the fifth Force of nature), and went to work building bridges for the railroad in the Midwest. He took great joy in his ten grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was one of the funniest, most outrageous people I’ve ever met—a true character in every sense of the word. And when I think of him, I’ll remember living near them in Florida and how he came running any time I needed help with my kids when my husband was deployed with the Navy. Our relationship was all about razzing each other on a wide variety of topics, ranging from who was a better Euchre player (definitely him, but I can only admit that now that he’s gone) to whether the Cubs or the Red Sox were baseball’s most cursed team (I finally prevailed on that one thanks the 2004 Sox). I’ll never forget mentioning that I was the only woman in the Force family who can’t sew like a professional. “You,” he said, “have other talents.” I certainly hope he was referring to my writing, but knowing his wicked sense of humor, I was afraid to ask! I loved him, and I’ll miss him.

The road trip out and back was fairly smooth. The kids are great travelers as they've been road-tripping with us since they were babies. Back in the day, we had to bring car seats and pack-n-plays as well as two rowdy dogs. These days, it's all about electronics: iPods, iTouches, PSPs, cell phones and a huge bag of chargers to keep all the gadgets going. We also took along my dad's Garmen, the first time we've traveled with the aide of GPS technology. We named her Lola, and Dan finally found a woman who bitches at him more than I do. He argued with her all the way to Indiana and back again! I got wife of the year points by allowing him to listen to the Indy 500 on the radio for FOUR HOURS. Zoom, zoom, zoom...

It was great to spend time with our Indiana family as well as the large group of cousins and friends that six siblings accumulate along the way. I also enjoyed watching my son Jake, the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family, chase his older cousin's babies. He loved that he finally got the chance to play the role of the BIG cousin. On the way back, we drove the full 16-hour, 950-mile trek in one very long day. What seemed like a great idea in eastern Pennsylvania became a bit precarious by eastern Connecticut. But we made it safe and sound and were glad to be home.

For those of you keeping track, yes this has really been a hell of a year for my family. But while we were away, my father got a clean bill of health from his neurologist, closing the final loop on his January head injury. And July 1 marks the start of the second half of the year, the same day Love at First Flight hits stores. Let's hope it's the start of a positive, productive, PEACEFUL second half of 2009! Nowhere to go but up!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thanks for all the love and support...

Thanks everyone for the outpouring over my lovely Consuela and her failing health. Things are more or less the same right now. She's definitely weaker, still not eating, but still interested in us and in what's going on around her. Since she doesn't seem to be in any pain and can get outside when she needs to, we are hoping nature will take its course in due time. Thanks again for all your love and support!! I know that many of you have been through this and it's so very difficult. I wanted to share with you this message Dan posted to his running forum:

One of my former running mates is about to die. Consuela, my dog. She’s 17 years old and we’ve had her since she was about 4-6 months old…just a little more than a month after my wife and I were married in 1992. We got her when I was in the Navy and stationed in Spain. She was in a kennel for strays on the Navy base and was just one day away from being euthanized. She’s a mutt but she’s 100% pure loyal and loving. We’ve had her years longer than we’ve had our kids…13 and 10 years old. She was the original canine member of what we refer to as “The Consuela Pack”…our family.

When she became a part of our family I immediately realized that she was a playful and athletic dog. She loved to play fetch and would literally be waiting for me when I got home from work with a stick or ball in her mouth. She was full of energy and we’d play for hours. In a very short time just playing fetch wasn’t enough. So, I started taking her on short runs with me through the Spanish neighborhoods and countryside. Her mileage continued to increase and eventually I was taking her on runs as long as 10 miles. The great thing about it is that Consuela didn’t need a leash. She wasn’t “trained” but she’d stay right at my side for the entire run. I’d look down and say “How ya doin’ girl?” and she’d just look up at me, with her tongue flapping and a smile on her face as if to say “This is the life!”…and it was…“Thank you so much.” Every runner needs a partner like that.

A year or so later we added to our family. Still no kids, but we welcomed another dog into our home. Roscoe, the second canine member of The Consuela Pack. He was about the same age as “Consy” and every bit an athlete. Now we had a running group. Except that Roscoe like to “roam” as the three of us would progress through a run. Of course Consuela would follow him. So, I resorted to using a leash for both of them. Roscoe was a great dog too. Sadly, we lost him a few years ago at about 14 years old.

But now it’s Consuela’s time to go. The years and illness have gotten to her. There are probably treatments or procedures the veterinarian could do for her to briefly prolong the inevitable. But at 17 years old how much time would it really give us? She’s not in pain and she still gets about enough to go outside and relieve herself. But that won’t last. Her appetite had tapered significantly over the past several months. Then, about ten days ago she essentially stopped eating altogether and now only drinks water. She even turns her nose at the most delectable table scraps that just a few weeks ago she would have devoured in no time. She’s gotten very skinny. Where there was once thick, lean muscle that enabled her to run the miles with me there is now pretty much just skin and bone. She was once a lean, healthy dog that could run and jump with the best of them. I took a little pride in knowing that I helped make her what she was.

My last run with Consuela was probably back in the fall of 2008. It was only a mile or so and by the end of it she wanted to walk. Like most of the runs in recent years, it did her in for the rest of the evening. But she always looked forward to her next run or game of fetch. And although that last run was a short one in comparison to those in her early years, I guess I subconsciously realized what was happening but refused to acknowledge it.

So now she’s clearly at the end of her life. It’s imminent. But we can tell she’s not in pain. We would do the humane thing if she were. Now, our runs together are just a fond memory…as they will always be. But she was more than just a running partner to me. She’s been the sister to my two human children. She’s been a companion when I was home alone. I could talk and she would listen. And with just the right receptive attitude I think she would offer advice to me. But now she just lays there and looks at us as if to say “I’m going. I don’t have long. I’ve given you all I have to give. Please say your goodbyes.”

It makes me cry, literally shed tears, when I think about her life coming to an end. I never thought I’d cry over a dog until we had Roscoe put to sleep. My wife and I stayed with him to the very end and we both bawled like babies. When “Consy” goes I know it’ll happen again. I just wish I could have one more run with her. One more fetch. But it’s not possible. So when you go on your next run please give a thought to my old running partner and imagine my little blond friend bounding at your side with perky ears and a flapping tongue. I’ll miss her.