Update on Writing

When people ask my occupation and I tell them I’m a writer, the next question is invariably, “What do you write?”

Teacher Goddess WIP copyI’m never quite sure how to answer that in a short reply.  When I was a wedding coordinator, people didn’t ask what I coordinated, because the answer was rather obvious.  When I was a teacher, I could elaborate with my subject area and my grade level, and that was sufficient.  But answering what I write is a bit harder.  A bit more involved.

I’ve yet to figure out a quick and concise answer, but hopefully when I’ve been at this a bit longer, I’ll come up with one.

In the meantime, I do enjoy discussing my writing with people. It always warms my heart when a friend, family member, or casual acquaintance asks for an update on my writing journey. When I jumped off the “real job” ship two and a half years ago to pursue this dream, I knew I would not be able to accomplish it without the love and support of my network of family and friends.  I’ve been humbled and blessed to have so many people follow along and continue to be interested in my endeavors.

To all of you out there, faithfully following along, I sincerely appreciate your support and your interest in what I’m doing! So I thought I would put together a bit of an update with answers to the questions I get most often.  If you have a question I didn’t answer here, please feel free to comment here or on Facebook or shoot me a message, and I’ll be happy to follow up.

Here we go…..

What do you write?

Words! But more specifically, I write fiction novels and short stories as well as freelance assignments for a variety of clients.Goddess photo WIP copy

What do you write for clients?

Whatever they need! For some I write newsletters, website copy, bios, fact sheets, and training manuals.  For others, I write resumes, letters, ad copy, newspaper articles, grant proposals and press releases. I can take a client’s general idea and create the text they need or I can take their initial drafts and work my magic in revisions. So if you need me to write something for you, or maybe just to proofread or edit something you have written, let me know!

Who are your clients?

That varies. I have a few consistent clients, and I have others who contract me per project from freelance websites or other client referrals. I’ve worked with entertainment companies, community theaters, non-profit organizations, caterers, event planners, painting contractors, newspaper editors, and individuals just to name a few.

What type of novels do you write?

Fiction.  Beyond that, it gets a little tricky.  My stories definitely have a romance angle, but they do not fit the “formula” for traditional romance.  They focus heavily on the main female character’s emotional journey, but lean a little too far towards romance to be considered strictly women’s fiction.  So I suppose the best classification is romantic women’s fiction.  At least that’s what seems to fit the first novel best.

What’s your first novel about?

A wedding planner, of course! Write what you know, eh? It’s written in a diary format, and it tells the story of Tyler Warren, a wedding planner who is looking for her own Happily-Ever-After amid the Crazy-Ever-After she sees every day with her clients.  As she faces her past and contemplates her future, Tyler is determined to hold onto her dream of Prince Charming, even as she comes to accept that life is not a fairy tale.

Planner Goddess HoweIs it based on true stories?

Yes and no.  It’s a romance with a bit of Southern humor and a lot of crazy wedding stories, so of course my own experiences as a Southerner, a hopeless romantic, and a former wedding planner played a lot into the content of the novel.  But Tyler isn’t me, and although people may recognize shades of themselves in the stories, the novel is made up of entirely fictional characters who may have been influenced or flavored by real memories and encounters. Let’s face it–truth really is stranger than fiction, so if I wrote this as a memoir based on truth, people would swear there was no way such screwball things actually happened. Maybe some day I’ll do that and hang the laundry out to dry, but nope–this one is purely fiction.

So when can I read it?

Good question!  I’ve finished the manuscript and gone through two sets of beta readers and their feedback.  I just finished a developmental edit with a professional editor, and I am finishing up revisions from her feedback now.  When that’s done, it’s time to shop it around to see if I can get a bite from an agent or a publisher.

But trust me! I will let you know just as soon as it is on the market because I want you and everyone you know to buy a copy!

How can I help?

Keep reading! Keep clicking like on blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts.  Keep sharing the stories you like.  Keep following the journey.  And when the book is out—tell everybody!!!

Okay–my turn.  What else would you like to know? Ask a question in comments!

The Goddess Howe

 

 

 

Categories: Random Rain | 6 Comments

Super Bowl 2015 Commercials — Depressing, Meaningful, or Both?

Super Bowl 2015If you watched the Super Bowl for the game this year, you had a great show.  Seattle and New England both played with heart, with great defense from both teams, and nail-biting edge-of-your-seat moments that exemplify the excitement of football.  The very last couple of minutes in the game were jaw-dropping.

If you’re someone who tunes in just for the commercials….well, not so much excitement this year.

Super Bowl commercials are the most highly-anticipated advertisements of the year, raking in an exorbitant $4.5 million for a 30-second spot and upwards of $8 million for 60 seconds.  Not to mention the millions spent in production prior to the airdate.

They can charge so much because the Super Bowl is THE prime real estate in advertising.  The most highly-viewed television show in the US, with an estimated record 114.4 million for 2015’s game.

And the commercial doesn’t just air at the game.  It’s replayed on Good Morning America, the Today show, YouTube, Facebook, and anywhere else people are talking about what’s hot and what’s not for weeks after the game.  It’s the ultimate exposure for a company or cause. So advertisers pull out all the stops, striving each year to have the hit that becomes water cooler legend.

An estimated 50% of the viewers who watch the show say they’re only there for the commercials–waiting to see what will happen to old favorites like the Budweiser Clydesdales or the crazy antics of Doritos-lovers.

This year’s lot was somewhat blah.  No breakout favorites.  No jaw-dropping feats or side-busting hilarity.  The Budweiser puppy being rescued was definitely a contender, as was Fiat’s mini-movie with the little blue pill.  Mindy Kalig, Pierce Brosnan, and Lindsey Lohan gave us a chuckle by being to laugh at themselves.  Breaking Bad fans were thrilled to see Walt suit up again for Esurance.  As someone who has been compared to Marcia Brady/Maureen McCormick since childhood, I especially enjoyed the Snickers Brady Bunch ad.  (you can see all the SuperBowl 2015 ads by clicking here)

Super Bowl, Snickers, Brady Bunch

But what set Twitter and Facebook afire Sunday night wasn’t a funny, clever or crazy ad.  It was the plethora of downbeat and downright depressing ads.  Nationwide punched viewers in the gut with a young boy regaling all the life moments he would never live to drive home the sobering statistic of childhood deaths by preventable accidents.

Altima paid heftily for 90 seconds of an often absent dad torn between home and work while Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle played in the background.  The sad and poignant ad ended just before the tables turned in the final verse of Chapin’s classic, somehow leading viewers to believe the father-son relationship could be mended by a luxury car.

Viewers were encouraged to view girls as equals and to appreciate dads more than ever.  A chilling 911 call reminded viewers that domestic violence is a very real and prevalent problem that needs to be addressed.

Many have argued that these messages were entirely appropriate and warranted with such a large audience and an opportunity to inspire and encourage change.

I feel like there’s a little gray area here, though.  I’m not sure I agree.  I am all for a powerful, thought-provoking message.  I do not hesitate at all to share several of them on a regular basis on Facebook and Twitter.

However, I think there is a time and a place for messages to be presented and best received.  And I’m not sure the SuperBowl, an event synonymous with beer drinking and eating chicken wings, is the most effective place to convey it.

Super Bowl 2015, chicken wing consumption

It’s a party.  It’s a celebration.  One of the biggest social events of the year that crosses generations, cultures, religious beliefs, and even politics.

People want to laugh.  To enjoy something fun and crazy and endearing.  To high-five each other and tweet and text and share the laughter.

The commercials this year were a huge downer.  Even with the incredible adrenaline and excitement generated by the game that night, we found ourselves almost dreading the next commercial break.  Leery of watching and finding something depressing.  Scared of being punched in the gut—a gut full of pizza and chicken wings.

The ads definitely got talked about—which Nationwide said was the goal, opening a dialogue or conversation about such important topics.  But did the messages truly get taken to heart in that environment? Is it wise and effective to put out the message just because you have a captive audience???

I remember growing up in Pensacola, and there were people who would stand on street corners at traffic light screaming scriptures at people in their cars stopped at red lights.  They screamed and spittled and wailed about the fires of hell and the dangers of living life away from Christ.  They were even known to throw Bibles in open windows at times, startling and frightening drivers and passengers alike.

Even though I was brought up in a Christian home and attended church regularly, I was amazed and dismayed by these street corner prophets.  I always wondered why they thought anyone would suddenly have an epiphany of wanting to follow Jesus because they’d been screamed at and spit upon. Why would anyone under that verbal assault think to themselves, “This is a great idea.  I should look more into this and see what it’s all about.”  I always thought it was more likely to turn people away and make them go as fast as they could in the other direction. Not to mention risk their lives running yellow lights to keep from stopping.

Those prophets had a captive audience for their message.  They had a message to send.  And I am sure it started conversations and dialogue when the drivers recounted the experience for their friends.  But was it received in a good way? Was it effective in conveying the message and having it be heard with an open heart?

I don’t think so.

I’m not trying to compare preventable childhood accidents with religion, but I’m interested to hear your views.  I’ve seen many comments defending the commercials and saying those companies and organizations were right to use the size of the amount and the sheer magnitude of exposure to drive their messages home.  I’ve seen many against the ads, though, asserting that it wasn’t the right time or place and ended up falling on deaf ears or causing scorn and ridicule.

So tell me what you think.

1.  Did you like this year’s Super Bowl ads?

2.  Did you feel they were appropriate in their timing and audience?

3.  What was your favorite and why?

Let’s chat.

 

 

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2015 Golden Globes Recap

Golden Globe statue, Golden Globes 2015Awards season is underway as we count down to Oscars, the Super Bowl of the entertainment industry. Last night was the Golden Globes, the biggest precursor to the Academy Awards, recognizing the best of the previous year’s offerings in film and television.

There were no huge surprises at this year’s Globes.  No scandalous or outrageous gowns.  No unfortunate omissions or surprising confessions in acceptance speeches.  All in all, it was somewhat of a ho-hum presentation.  For what it’s worth, here’s my recap.  (spoiler alert: this recap reveals winners!)

MONOLOGUE

Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: usmagazine.com

Hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who have killed it the past couple of years, were (yawn!) underwhelming.  My favorite moment of their monologue was probably their reference to George Clooney’s lifetime achievement award in light of his wife’s outstanding and impressive accomplishments.

It’s always interesting to see the celebrities’ panicked eyes and pasted-on smiles when their name is called for the monologue, mentally preparing to react on camera no matter what joke is made at their expense.  Some roll with it so naturally they almost appear to be in on the joke (Steve Carell).  Others seem a little uncomfortable and uncertain as they play along (Emma Stone).

Fey and Poehler’s dig at North Korea in the monologue was funny and well-timed, but the continued appearances of a “North Korean general” dragged and didn’t play as funny.

Their Bill Cosby jokes at the end were met with mixed but mostly negative reactions from the crowd, but they continued to follow the script, digging ever deeper into a controversial and uncomfortable subject.  I personally didn’t find it humorous.  If he’s guilty, we’re joking about women being drugged and raped.  Not funny.  If he’s not guilty and has somehow been attacked by dozens of lying women, the jokes further smear and destroy his public image even though he has not been convicted.  Either way, not funny.

This was Poehler and Fey’s last year hosting (although in Hollywood, never say never.)  They are such funny women.  I would have liked more bang for their last buck.  (click here to see their full monologue from last night’s show)

FASHION

Jennifer Lopez, Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: Variety

CRITIC’S CHOICE:  JENNIFER LOPEZ

The ever-gorgeous J-Lo.  I thought this dress looked uncomfortable with the fabric stretched tight underneath her cleavage and a bead or wire poking into into her breast throughout her red carpet interviews and award presentation.  The critics have declared her the star of the evening, though.  Her co-presenter Jeremy Renner was impressed enough to proclaim that J-Lo had “the globes.”

MY PERSONAL FAVORITES:

Julianne Moore, Golden Globes 2015, Best Dressed

photo credit: LA Times

#1 is Julianne Moore in Givenchy–sequins and feathers?????? It doesn’t get any better than that!

Jessica Chastain Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

#2: Jessica Chastain in Versace: Va-va-voom!  Even though it plunged and I’m a bit ready for the severely plunging neckline trend to go, the beautiful bronze metallic and incredible flow of this dress was perfect with her skin and hair! Loved it.

Lupita Nyong'o Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: LA Times

#3: Lupita Nyong’o: because it’s purple and flowy and fluffy, and it’s Lupita!

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Catherine Zeta Jones Golden Globes Salsa Dancing Emoji

photo credit: justjared.com

Catherine Zeta-Jones looked fabulous in red, setting Twitter ablaze with comparisons to the red-dressed emoji salsa dancer.

Jane Fonda Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: usmagazine.com

Jane Fonda: OMG.  The woman is 77 years old.  Stunning.  Amazing.  I’m thinking she didn’t stop doing the Jane Fonda workout when the rest of the country moved on.

WINNERS:

I intentionally try to avoid any picture I think will be an Oscar Best Picture nominee because my friends and I participate in the AMC Best Picture Showcase for a marathon of movies right before the Academy Awards.  After seeing the number of awards taken by Boyhood and Birdman last night, I am certain they will both be in the Showcase, and I can’t wait to see them!

Eddie Redmayne Golden Globes 2015

photo credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

 

I have seen Theory of Everything, however, and I feel confident saying Eddie Redmayne deserved the win without even seeing his competition.  His physical transformation to play Stephen Hawking was extraordinary.  The range of emotions, strengths and vulnerabilities he  brought to the role were truly award-worthy.

Always nice to see a newcomer win, but I loved the number of old favorites getting some recognition.  Patricia Arquette, Julianne Moore,  Michael Keaton, and of course, Kevin Spacey.

 

ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES:

Truly my favorite part of any awards show.  I love hearing the heartfelt emotions, the gratitude, the excitement.  Acceptance speeches  make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Last night did not disappoint in that regard.

Jane the Virgin newcomer Gina Rodriguez revealed her dad had always encouraged her to say each morning, “Today is a good day.  I can.  I will.”  She tearfully thanked him with “Today is a good day.  I can, and I did!”

Michael Keaton’s touching speech referenced his blue-collar upbringing as one of seven children and thanked his best friend, son Sean.George and Amal Clooney Golden Globes 2015

But my favorite was George Clooney.  He reminded Hollywood’s elite that each person in the room had already grasped the brass ring.  There were no losers there, regardless of whether or not they took home a trophy.  He rallied us to defend the right for free speech and stand with France (Je suis Charlie!).  Then he set the internet on fire with his loving tribute to his new bride, Amal.  He acknowledged how nice it is to find love in life, and told his beautiful and accomplished wife how honored he was to be her husband.

Which brings me to the true star of my night, My Knight, who watched the festivities with me all the way from red carpet to final award.  I am so blessed to have a husband who supports my interests, my passions, and my hobbies.  I love that man!

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Happy Freakin’ New Year

It’s a new year! It’s a new day!  It’s a new me!

New Year's Eve hats

Photo credit: redtri.com

Blah.  Blah.  Blah.

Isn’t it funny how every December, we get so excited for all the possibilities the new year holds?  Like many people I know, I love the idea of the “fresh, clean slate” of January 1st.  As a longtime friend recently put it, even though it’s just another day, it somehow feels different.  It feels new.  Like you get to start all over again. Awesome!

I embrace the new beginning, running toward at full-speed, although those of you who read this post may question how fast my full-speed actually is.

In preparation for my transformation, I earmarked pages in magazines and clipboarded sections of blogs and online articles with grandiose plans of new ways of doing things.  I just knew when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, there’d be a new sheriff in town.  Gone would be the days of unorganized, unhealthy, unthrifty, and just in general “un” me.

I’d be back on Weight Watchers eating healthy.  I’d do yoga every morning and cardio at least 30 minutes per day.  Eight hours of sleep–no more staying up in front of a movie, buried in a good book, or playing Words with Friends til my eyes crossed.  I’d vacuum every single day, a necessary by-product of a dog who sheds enough hair to cloak a small horse.

I printed out menu planning templates with color-coded Post-it notes to create a binder and answer the dreaded “What’s For Dinner?” question a month in advance.  I bought foam for a vision board and carefully cut out magazine pictures and words that spoke to my being and called to my soul, helping me visualize my innermost yearnings and bring them to fruition.  I ruminated over time schedule layouts to maximize my productivity and get the most out of my different hats as a freelance writer, novelist, wife, mom, friend, woman, human being, etc.

I decided to create a gratitude journal so our family could document the new year’s happy moments each night at dinner.  I cut out more magazine pictures to decorate the journal.

I. Was. Ready.  Charged up and crouched at the 2015 start line, waiting for the Times Square ball to drop the gauntlet on the emergence of “new me”.

I didn’t jump out of the gate exactly as I had planned, though.  After a really late New Year’s Eve at a Billy Joel concert and a crap breakfast at 2am, I slept in on the big day.  But when I did get up, I was ready to take on the world and bask in the universe’s starlights shining down on me. But then My Knight and I sat out on the porch and chatted a while.  We checked Facebook.  We watched TV.  We took a nap and woke up groggy.  We went out to dinner. Stayed up late and watched a movie.

January 2nd rolled in, and the menu planning templates and post-it notes were covered by the mail.  The magazine clippings for the vision board and gratitude journal scattered across the floor when the dogs crashed into the pile I left by the couch.

January 3rd just didn’t inspire me.  I shuffled from room to room, staring at the fragments of my unfinished projects with dread, guilt, and disdain. Ping pong with the boys and a late afternoon nap seemed more fitting for a Saturday.

Sunday the 4th was a delightful day of celebration–a dear friend’s birthday party, an improv class, and a late airport pick-up and dinner with my college roommate.

So here I sit.  January 5th.  Five days into the wondrous spectacle of the “new me.”  The slate is already dusty.  There ain’t a meal planned for tonight, much less the rest of the week or month.  The yoga mat’s still in the bottom of my closet, covered in flip-flops.  The floor needs to be combed vacuumed.  I stayed up til almost one last night, and I woke up with a headache and a deficiency of desire to move.

Bah humbug.

Scarlett O'HaraBut I shall not give up, dear friends.  I shall persevere.  After all, as Scarlett so eloquently instilled within me, “Tomorrow is another day.”

So here’s the deal.  If you made a crapload of resolutions and commitments for the new year, and you are on day 5 of keeping it real–you go on with your bad self!!  I am knocked-out with admiration and respect for you.

If, however, you’re wondering where the last five days went and lamenting that it’s pretty much February already, then join with me in proclaiming tomorrow–January 6th– to be A FRESH, CLEAN SLATE!!

That’s right, friends and neighbors.  Tomorrow, January 6, 2015 is a new day.  A great day to start improving and doing and being all that you can be.  A fantastic day to finally put in place all those changes you’ve been pondering.

In fact, it’s probably better to start tomorrow than if we had actually gotten it together for January 1st.  The 1st is really overrated, don’t you think?  Why be conformists?  Why do what everyone else is doing?  Anyone could start over on New Year’s Day!  But the 6th?  That takes some special chutzpah.

YIPPEE!!!  WOOHOO!!!  I am so excited I can barely contain myself right now.  I just can’t wait for tomorrow to get here so I can be more organized, more efficient, more creative, more driven.  I’ll be thinner, healthier, better-rested, and more focused.  I’ll be all that and then some.  Tomorrow.

So now that the pressure and guilt are gone from today, I think I’ll have a glass of tea and some boiled peanuts.  Take in an episode of Love it or List It.  Maybe a nap.

Who’s with me?

 

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The Interview Should Make You Livid

The Interview, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Sony Pictures

The Interview

“Understand what is going on right now, because the world just changed on your watch, and you weren’t even paying attention.” — George Clooney on Sony Pictures cancelling The Interview

I hope you were paying attention, though.  And I hope you are outraged.  You should be.

If our own government tried to squelch our freedom of speech in such a manipulative, terrorist manner, we would react swiftly and strongly.  We would be very vocal.  It would blow up Facebook and Twitter.  People would take to the streets.

Yet we have allowed another government from across the globe to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our own country.  And we aren’t reacting all that much.

The whole thing is pretty silly, actually.  Sony Pictures produced a film by Seth Rogen and James Franco about two fictional characters who are asked by the CIA to murder North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.  Let’s be clear about what this is.  It’s a MOVIE.  Fiction.  Make-believe.  It’s a comedy, in case you missed it being created by Seth Rogen and James Franco.  More specifically, it’s a satirical farce.  A story using humor to provide somewhat of a social commentary against a backdrop so exaggerated and improbable that it is obviously fiction.  Except Rogen himself has said it was much more of an entertainment piece than any serious reflection on North Korea.  Rogen told Good Morning America it’s his job to make people laugh and he acknowledged he gives the public the garbage they enjoy.

Now, obviously it wouldn’t have taken much on the front end for someone to realize this movie would piss off Kim Jong-un.  The man is not exactly known for reasonal behavior and rational thought.  Nor does he seem the type to enjoy a good laugh at his own expense.  But that’s neither here nor there.

I see memes, posts, political cartoons and comments daily that mock and ridicule our own president and our own government publicly.  Not for the sake of a comedy that sells movie tickets, but just people expressing their opinion on the leaders we have chosen and the state of our affairs.  Those people are exercising their freedom of speech.  Their freedom of expression.  Artistic and creative license.

If our government shut that down, I don’t think we would stand for it.  I don’t believe we would allow our own leaders to keep us

Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech, The Interview

The Bill of Rights

from expressing our opinions.  Our country is too firmly rooted in our freedoms, with speech being one of our key cornerstones.

The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”  The Bill of Rights

So why are we allowing someone’s else’s government to do it?  Why are we allowing Kim Jong-un the right to decide what we can watch, what we can hear, what we can write, what we can create?  It doesn’t matter that it’s just a movie….it’s the much bigger idea (and freedom) behind it.

Don’t get me wrong–the threat was real.  I do not blame the theaters for opting not to show the movie on Christmas Day.  I, myself, am planning on going to the theater to watch movies on Christmas Day, and I admit to being apprehensive about what could happen if The Interview was shown.  Especially at high-profile theaters.  I do not wish for anyone to be harmed over a Seth Rogen comedy.

But to pull the film entirely, to roll over and lie belly up, sends a very dangerous message to those who may disagree with our opinions, our views, our freedoms, our way of life.

We have exposed a vulnerability, and we have set a precedent.

It’s not the first time a book, a movie, or an idea has offended.  Within our own society, we have seen protests from Italian-Americans over the Sopranos, protests from Christians over the portrayal of key Biblical figures, protests from a variety of ethnic groups for their representation in the entertainment world.

Protesting is, after all, part of the freedom of speech.  We have the right to not purchase the tickets, not read the books, not support the causes of those we disagree with.  We have the right to speak out and share our thoughts if we don’t like something.

But hacking into computer systems and releasing social security numbers, personal information, and stolen media property goes far beyond protesting, and that’s without even mentioning the threats against theaters and families and the promise of more acts to come if Sony didn’t back down.

I get that Sony was embarrassed by the emails released.  (Hello, Hollywood people!  Email 101:  It’s in print, and it doesn’t go away.  Do not type anything you wouldn’t want the world to read.)

I get that Sony lost tons of money on the leaked releases of Annie, the Bond script, and other projects.  That’s just proof that our dependence on the internet and the cloud makes us vulnerable.  We need to focus much more energy on measures to protect our information from hackers. (Just ask Target or Jennifer Lawrence.)

The important thing to realize is this is not just an act of terror against Sony and The Interview.  It is against us as a people.

Setting this precedent sends the message that we can be intimidated and controlled.  Now that it’s gotten results, what makes anyone think these tactics will end with just this one movie being cancelled?  Could this not spread to other outlets?  Other industries?  What’s to stop it?

I had no plans to see The Interview.  Quite frankly, the previews looked really stupid, and I’m usually disappointed with Seth Rogen’s efforts.  But I strongly believe this movie should be released.  I believe the people who made the movie have the right to express their ideas.  To share their ideas.  I believe that we as American citizens have the right to watch, read, and be exposed to material of our own choosing.

As a writer, as an actor, as a mother, and as an American, I am pissed.  I do not want Kim Jong-un, or any government leader–from my own country or another–to tell me what I can read, what I can watch, what I can say, or what I can write.

PLEASE PAY ATTENTION.  Do not take our rights for granted.  The world around us has changed in this moment, and we must realize it and be prepared to stand strong.

The Interview, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Sony Pictures

Workers remove a poster for The Interview from a billboard in Hollywood, after Sony cancelled the release of the film. Photograph: Michael Thurston/AFP/Getty Images

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I Just Don’t Wanna Do It

Isn’t it nice when you find out a friend shares a crazy quirk you have?  Somehow relating to someone else makes it feel a bit less crazy, right?

I just learned that one of my closest friends hates to pump gas as much as I do.  I love her even more for this!

I can’t really explain why I hate pumping gas.  It’s not like it’s a difficult or challenging task.  Not even really particularly time-consuming.  It just annoys me.  The whole process of having to stop whatever I’m doing or wherever I’m going, get out of the car, go inside to pay, pump the gas, smell like gas, blah, blah, blah.

Of course, pay-at-the-pump makes it easier.  Easier for me to pay and be done quickly.  And easier for crooks to steal my credit card or debit card information.  Aargh.

As a result of my aversion to pumping gas, I never stand there long enough to fill it up.  Which is completely stupid, since filling half the tank only leads to making even more pump stops.

I have the indicator light down to a science.  As soon as the “empty” light comes on, I reset the trip odometer to zero.  Then I know I have about 46 miles to go.  And I push it right to the limit every single time.

I’ve only run out once (thank you MJ for coming to my rescue!).  Although, I think I was traveling on fumes and angel wings one morning when I was still teaching.  I stopped to get gas on the way to school, about 40 miles into my red light.  I went inside for a Diet Coke morning caffeine fix, paid for my gas, and left.  About halfway to school, I noticed the blazing red light and wondered how on earth the red light was on when I had just pumped…ooooohhhhhhh….that was when I realized I paid for the gas but didn’t actually pump it.  (Something I am embarrassed to admit has happened probably five times in my driving life!)

I called the store number on the receipt, and luckily, the cashier had seen me leave and shut off my pump so no one else got my gas.  However, I was now closer to 50 miles into the red light.  I knew I couldn’t make it to school and then back to the station after school, so I called the school secretary to say I needed someone to cover my homeroom and coasted back to the gas station on a wing and a prayer.

One would think I would be intelligent enough to realize that all this causes way more stress than just filling up the car with gas to start with.  I never said it was an intelligent or rational quirk, though!  In fact, I think most quirks are by definition irrational.

I have a friend who hated to check the mail.  Absolutely abhorred it.  Dreaded it so much she planned other things to do in order to avoid it.  Her mail would pile up in the mailbox and the mail lady would end up bringing things to the door.  I asked if she was worried about bills or hated dealing with junk mail.  But no.  She just hated going to the box and going through the mail.

A fellow teacher extremely disliked putting away laundry.  She would wash it, fold it, and stack it.  All over the house.  And then she would find what she needed to wear in the stacks of clothes.  She said she tried stacking them on the bed once to encourage actually putting them away, but she slept on the couch for three nights in a row before she finally just moved the stacks.

Another friend cannot stand going grocery shopping.  She puts it off to the last day possible, and even wakes up that morning in a bad mood knowing she has to go to the store. That one I don’t relate to….I actually LOVE going to the grocery store.  It’s like shopping with permission to buy without guilt!  In fact, I did all the grocery shopping for my mom when I was in high school, and we both loved it.

I also was in charge of unloading the dishwasher since my mom hated doing that.  She didn’t mind loading it, but didn’t want to unload it.  She jokes that me unloading the dishwasher was what she missed the most when I left for college.  (At least I think she was joking! Ha!)

What is it that makes a seemingly mundane, easy-to-accomplish task become so loathsome and repulsive?  Why do we hate something and build it up to add more stress to our lives than if we just went ahead and did it?

I’m curious to know if anyone shares my issue with pumping gas.  If not, what is your quirk?  What is it that you absolutely hate to do and will put off doing way beyond the point of reason?  What chore or task drives you mad?  Maybe you have something your partner, roommate, or spouse does for you just because you can’t stand to do it?

Years ago, I took my great-aunt shopping for the day.  On our way home, I pulled into the gas station and asked which side of the car her tank was on.  She looked at me, dumbfounded, and admitted she had no idea.  SHE HAD NEVER PUMPED GAS A SINGLE TIME IN HER LIFE.  N-E-V-E-R.  E-V-E-R.  My uncle took her car each week and filled it for her, and had for nearly half a century.  I was green with envy.  (Are you reading this, My Knight?  Hint, hint.)

So come on, people.  Confess.  What’s your quirk?

 

Categories: Random Rain | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Accidental Pasta in Yonkers

adventure, fly, wing in the sun, wing and a prayer

Okay, so I’m NOT a morning person.  My brain doesn’t fire on all cylinders prior to 9am, and if you get me up before daylight, it’s like waking the beast.

On a recent quest to find a great airfare deal for a family wedding in Connecticut, I booked a 7am flight.  Which meant arriving to the airport around 5:30-5:45.  Which meant leaving the house at 5-5:15.  Which meant getting up while the clock was still in the 4’s.  Which is insanity.

We packed the car the night before to minimize the need for early morning brain activity.  While I showered and dressed in zombie mode, My Loving Knight took care of the dogs and made breakfast for us.  He even had my breakfast waiting in the car for me!  We rolled onto airport property at 5:45am.  Cutting it close, but enough time that early in the morning.

Somewhere in the fog swirling around my brain, I heard my Knight say, “Did you grab my wallet?”

I panicked in slow motion, staring at him wide-eyed and cursing myself for forgetting his wallet and throwing our whole trip in jeopardy.  But then my brain slowly caught up and said, “Wait a minute……”

adventure, fly, wing in the sun, wing and a prayer

Finally, it’s daylight!

“Did you ask me to grab your wallet?”  He hadn’t, but in the early morning hours, he was clinging to a hope that I might have.

He screeched to a halt near the elevator in the garage and told me to go to the ticket desk and get us a later flight and while he returned home for his wallet.

I couldn’t think.  Couldn’t process.  Couldn’t reason or problem solve.  The world was soft-focus slow motion. I got out of the car like he told me to, still not sure what was happening.

The patient man at the JetBlue counter (who has to actually be at work and functioning BEFORE daylight!) explained the next flight to Hartford would be after 4 that afternoon.  That wouldn’t work.  We would lose the entire day and miss out on visiting with our dear friends and my husband’s aunt.

I asked if they could get me anywhere in the Tri-State area.  Newark, White Plains, NYC.  Anywhere within driving distance of our final destination for the day, which was in New York.  We settled a  10:20 flight to Newark, which would put us to our friends’ house early afternoon instead of late morning.  Disappointing, but unavoidable.

My ticket was a simple $50 change fee.  My Knight’s had been booked with award points.  Non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete.

I begged.  I pleaded.  I may have teared up.  Mr. JetBlue made calls.  He begged and pleaded.  He got results.  Another $50 and My Knight’s flight was changed.

It still wasn’t daylight.

I sat in a waiting area shell-shocked, half-asleep, and still in slow motion.  As I rearranged our itinerary in my head, I remembered we had gotten a great deal for a rental car on Priceline.  We pre-paid for pick-up in Connecticut.  Which brought me to the next non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete obstacle.

No amount of begging and pleading could change the rental car reservation, so I figured we’d just have to eat that cost and book another rental in Newark.  With the two $50 change fees and the $100 rental car loss, we were already $200 in the hole.  And it WASN’T EVEN DAYLIGHT.

It was worse than I thought, though. The cheapest rental I could find for same-day pick-up, over a weekend, with a drop-off in a different state was $750. Now I was definitely awake.

I went back to the ticket counter, meek and humble, to ask if I could change my tickets AGAIN to the later Hartford flight so I could keep my original rental car.  Mr. JetBlue was on break. The not-so-nice lady at the station next to his, (who seemed just as excited as I was to be up so early), called him in the break room and on the phone and cheerfully said, “She’s back.  She wants to change her tickets again.”  I could almost hear him groan.

Mine was no problem.  Well, it was another $50 change fee on top of the one I’d already paid.  My Knight’s ticket?  No can-do.  You can only change a non-refundable, non-changeable, sealed in concrete ticket one time.  He was flying into Newark no matter what.

I couldn’t think.  I needed a Diet Coke.  And more sleep.  Part of me wanted to be furious with My Knight, but I was very aware of the many times that man has shown me mercy, grace, and understanding when I’ve made stupid mistakes.  Plus, there was a bit of a disparity in responsibilities that morning, which could have led to one partner forgetting his wallet while the other partner simply showered and got in the car to find her breakfast waiting for her.  Ahem.

In hindsight and daylight, I should have flown to Connecticut on our original flight and picked up our original rental car to drive to wherever My Knight landed.  It would have saved time, money, and stress.  But I couldn’t come up with such an elaborate plan when it was still dark out.

road trip, Connecticut, New YorkSo we landed in Newark.  Did a one-day one-way car rental and drove about two hours to Hartford, Connecticut.  Picked up the original rental car. Dropped off the one-way rental car.  Timing put us in rush hour traffic so getting out of Hartford took FOR-E-VAH.  We would have made better time and a whole lot less travel, wear and tear if we’d taken the later Hartford flight to begin with.  We probably would have liked each other a whole lot more at the end of the day as well.

We left home BEFORE DAYLIGHT and we reached our destination AFTER DAYLIGHT.  Ten hours later than planned.

But hey.

We got there.  Safe and sound.

Forgetting the wallet wasn’t fun.  But as with all things in life, it’s how you react to it.  How you look at it.  What you take away from it.

I learned that Connecticut is a beautiful state to drive through.  When we finally did arrive, we had an incredible dinner with our friends — good food, good company, lots of love.  I got an unexpected view of the Manhattan skyline.  Always a treat.

And My Knight and I shared a quaint little lunch together.  In Yonkers.  Accidental pasta in Yonkers.  Life is good.

Categories: Journeys and Travels, Random Rain | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Mother’s Day to the Other Mother

It’s Mother’s Day, and I feel so honored and grateful for having the privilege of being a Mom, especially since I get to be Dr. Smooth’s mom.  He really is an incredible kid, and I thank God for such an awesome gift.  But I also thank God for another really cool gift, and that is Dr. Smooth’s OTHER MOM.  His dad and I really hit the jackpot with that one.

It has been said that being a mother is the hardest job in the world.  I definitely do not want to dispute that, but there is one job that is quite possibly a tad bit harder than being a mom, and that is being a stepmom.   And unless you have been a stepmom, you have no idea.  I could try to explain why, but if you’re not a stepmom, you won’t get it, and if you are a stepmom, I don’t need to explain.

So I want to very publicly acknowledge and thank my kid’s stepmom for being one of the biggest blessings in his life.  And mine.

From the very beginning, she has had his best interests at heart.  She cut right through the tension between his father and me to put my son at the forefront and create a family unit for him that bridged both households to provide him with stability, love, and consistency.   Her viewpoint was that Dr. Smooth didn’t ask for his family to be split into two homes, and we owed it to him to work together and be one family.  His family.

She and I threw ourselves into that goal, and I am so proud and happy to say that we have accomplished it.  Althoughstepmom, Mother's Day all four of his parents are very much on board, it is largely because of her willingness and her efforts that my child grew up in such a stable environment.  We have always held his birthday parties together so he doesn’t have to choose or be torn.  We trick or treat together so he doesn’t have to choose or be away from the people he loves.  We make every effort to ensure if family members are in town, he sees them and spends time with them — no matter whose “day” it is.  We work with each other on booking vacations, concerts, parties, recitals–whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t miss out in either home and can fully take part in whatever his family is doing — no matter which house it’s at.

When his dad comes to pick up, he comes in and visits.  When I pick up, Dr. Smooth usually has to usher me out of the house because she and I are talking so long.  If he is “in trouble” at one house, he is “in trouble” at the other house.

mother's dayWhen she and Dr. Smooth’s dad welcomed their first child, I gave her a card expressing from my heart that she and I are forever joined.  Our children share blood; they are brother and sister.  We are forever connected.  And as their family has increased and multiplied, so has mine.  My heart has been expanded and blessed by her children being in my life and in my son’s life.  My Knight and I cherish and love those kids as our own, and we strive to be a part of their lives and support them in their endeavors.  They are our family.  And we are theirs.

It is not unusual in our family for us to pick up Dr. Smooth’s brother or sisters from school or dance lessons, or delight in having them stay with us overnight. It is not unusual for Dr. Smooth to go to a concert with both of his moms, or a BMX bike show with both of his dads.  It is not unusual for My Knight to help out painting a home for the other mom’s parents, or for Dr. Smooth’s dad to come and help My Knight with a project.  It is not unusual for the two moms to take off together for a girls’ night out, or to help each other out with a task.  It is not unusual in our family to go to church together, sit together, serve together.

I do realize this is unusual for most people.  People ask us all the time,  “How do you do it?”  And I understand that everyone does not have what we have.  For some people, there is to0 much pain, too much bitterness or anger or fear or wounds that haven’t healed.  I get that.  In fact, I appreciate what we have been able to accomplish all the more because I truly do get that.

A friend told me once there is no way she would be able to handle some other woman trying to be her kid’s mom.  But I don’t see it like that.  She is not trying to be his mom; she is being his stepmom.  His other mom.  I am Dr. Smooth’s mother, and nothing will ever change that.  I know that his love for me and my relationship with  him is not changed by his love for any other. He is lucky enough to have another mom, a bonus mom, and I thank God that she loves him too, and that he loves her.  I am forever grateful for that.

For me, it has been a huge comfort as a mom to know that when he is away from me, someone is watching over him who loves him very much.  Someone who is looking out for his best interests and working hard to give him what he needs to be a successful human being.  Someone who works with me to teach him manners and morals and ethics.  Someone who helps to provide experiences to enrich his life, whether it be guitar lessons or concerts or scuba training.

And there is actually a really cool upside to having another mom.  We all call our friends to bounce ideas off them when making decisions or facing challenges with our kids, but I am lucky enough to have a friend who actually parents the same exact kid, so I always have someone to talk to who really understands what I am going through! When she makes decisions for him in her household, I know she respects and weighs my opinions along with hers, and I appreciate that.  And even when we might disagree or don’t feel the same way about things, we respect each other and love each other and him enough to work through it and move beyond it.

I really believe that because of her and the person she is, we have been able to create the best possible situation for my kid under the circumstances.

He has parents in both homes who love him and want what’s best for him.  He does not have the tension that so many children of divorce have to suffer through.  He does not know or understand that.  He is completely comfortable being with any of us or all of us at the same time.  For him, we are all his family, and we all love him.  And that is all he needs to know.

So today I just want to say Happy Mother’s Day to a woman whom I am honored to call my friend and my co-mom.  Thank you, MaryJane.  I love you.  

stepmother, mother's day

 

 

Categories: Random Rain | 5 Comments

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm: Saturday Through My Lens

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Today is a rainy, dreary Saturday, so I’m going to turn the clock back to last weekend for this week’s Saturday Through My Lens at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa.  

I learned about the farm from a flyer I got at the Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City.  The olive lady gave it to me while she was convincing me to try her black olive salad, even though I detest black olives.  (She challenged me to try it, and I must admit it was delish!)

The Sweetwater Organic Community Farm’s Sunday Farmer’s Market sounded like the perfect weekend outing for My Knight and me. They feature several area vendors with handmade crafts and yummy things like fresh baked bread and smoothies.  And of course there is lots of fresh organic produce.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm organic green beans

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh squash

 I’ve been making a lot of smoothies at home, incorporating different fruits and veggies.  I really like adding kale to my smoothies, so we picked up a bunch at the market.  One of the market vendors had a smoothie with kale, celery, cucumber, pineapple, honey and ginger.  It was so refreshing!  I never thought of adding celery before, but I will now.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh kale

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Kale

In addition to the smoothies, we also tried a salt caramel popsicle (heavenly!).  We got all adventurous and tried our first nut burger, which was actually very tasty.  I’ve been looking for recipes to recreate one at home.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm nut burger

The farm has members who pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly share of fresh produce and herbs.  They also agree to volunteer a minimum number of hours on the farm so that the work is shared among the community.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

The weather was perfect for a farmer’s market day.  It was bright and cheerfully sunny with a bit of a breeze.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

It got quite warm as the day wore on, but the majestic oak trees gave us plenty of cool shade for relaxing and listening to the live music from local bands and singers.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Oaks

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Even the sunflowers seemed to be seeking out shade to get a little break from the spring sun.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm sunflowers

While other plants seem to be stretching with all their might to soak up as much sun as possible.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmI am so thankful for the farmers who put in all the hard work so we can have fresh healthy food.  Because Lord knows I do not have a green thumb on either hand!

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmBut all these goodies make me want to try my hand at it myself!  You should visit Sweetwater Organic Community Farm’s Sunday Market before they’re closed for the summer.  The Farmer’s Market is open on Sundays from 12-4pm from November to May.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Categories: Journeys and Travels, Through My Lens | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s Easter. Choose Love.

It’s Easter y’all.  And that means Choose Love.

Every day we are faced with hundreds and hundreds of choices.  Some choices are trivial, seemingly meaningless, and others are life-changing.  In all of these, no matter how mundane or significant, we ultimately make a choice based in love or fear.

Think about it.

Fear of failing.  Fear of losing. Fear of being last.  Fear of being alone.  Fear of being less than.  Fear of not being enough.  We make choices based on our fears of what other people will think, or how they will treat us, or what they will do.  We choose things based on our fears of the unknown, the uncertain, the unpleasant, the unwanted.

Choices that we make in fear manifest in anger, manipulation, discrimination, neglect, gossip, envy, hurt, lies, revenge, back-stabbing, meanness, and self-centeredness.  All of these take us away from God.  Away from our Higher Power.  Away from our Highest Self.

Choices made in love manifest in kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, patience, empathy, tenderness, respect, gentleness, and concern for others.  Love is always the choice that takes us closer to God.  Closer to Godliness.  Love is always the Higher Choice.  Love is always the God-choice.

In the Christian faith, we celebrate Easter to commemorate and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He chose love.  Without fail.  Without exception.  Above the law, he chose love.  Above society’s norms, he chose love.  Above his own safety and suffering, he chose love.  Above the loss of friends and family, he chose love.  Above his own will and his own fears, he chose love.  Even above death.  He chose love in the ultimate sacrifice any human being can offer, giving his life for others.

He was our example, our teacher, our way-shower.  And he taught us to choose love.  In fact, it was his greatest commandment for us to fulfill.

“Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 MSG

So on Easter, I am reminded to Choose Love.

When I am in heavy traffic, or the lines at Publix are unbelievably long, I am to choose love.  When I am at work, and others annoy the crap out of me or take credit for something they didn’t do, I am to choose love.  When I disagree with someone–their decisions, their actions, their life–I am still to choose love.  When I have been hurt, when I have been wronged, I am to choose love.  When I am tired, or hungry, or short on funds or time, I am still to choose love.

In all things, choose love.

In the way you treat family and friends, choose love.  In the way you treat strangers, choose love.  In the way you treat those different from you, choose love.

If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, choose love in your words and approach.  If you need to set boundaries or distance yourself from someone, choose love in your method and your actions.

In each decision you make throughout your day, ask yourself: Which is the love choice?  Which is the higher choice?  Which is the God-choice?  And choose love.  Whether that is as small as letting in the idiot driver that waited til the very last minute to cut in, or not groaning when the British family doesn’t see the “10 items or less” sign at Publix, or whether it is as big as offering forgiveness for a blatant wrong or extending kindness to someone who  may not deserve it in your eyes.  In all things, Choose Love.

It may be hard to fathom, but we must also choose love for ourselves.  When we pick what foods to eat, how much sleep to get, or whether or not we have time to exercise.  Choose love when it comes to learning when to say no, or protecting yourself from people who suck the life out of you.  Choose love when it comes to relationships and people who make it hard for you to be healthy.  You have to choose love in how you treat them, but you also have to choose it for yourself.  You are best able to help others when you are healthy first.

I cannot really fathom how difficult it must have been to live His life.  I have no way to measure the pain of being whipped, crowned with thorns, beaten, and crucified.  I really have nothing in my life, even at my worst of times, to relate to what all Jesus encountered, endured, and witnessed.  And there is definitely nothing I have ever had to sacrifice or give up that would come anywhere close to what He willingly did.  After all, He was the Son of God.  The most powerful human being to ever walk the Earth.  Angels and heavens and universe at His command.  And yet, He chose love.

Others around us will recognize Him when they see the love. So it must be my daily mantra, my inner dialogue, my driving motivation, and my ever-renewing goal.

CHOOSE LOVE.

Categories: Random Rain | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments