>Road Trip!!

June 6, 2011

>This past weekend, my husband and I along with the three kids loaded into the minivan and headed to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my parents. We packed light – two mega-sized stuffed to capacity duffle bags, with a couple of other assorted bags. I don’t care what anybody says –we did need it all!!

We left Friday night at 5:00pm. Have you ever been on the New Jersey Turnpike during rush hour with construction going on? It is not pretty. My husband’s thinking was that it was a beautiful Friday – most people would be leaving work early to go down the shore (no that’s not poor grammar, that’s Philly/NJ lingo. Personally, I prefer ‘go to the beach’, but whatever.)

Miraculously, my husband was right.

Let me clarify – it was not a miracle that my husband was right – it was a miracle that we did not hit any traffic – not even on the dreaded George Washington Bridge! We stopped for a quick dinner and still managed to get to my parent’s house in record time.

We did hit a tiny snafu when we entered my parent’s development. It is a gated community and in order to enter, the homeowner has to ‘buzz’ you in after you call them to announce you have arrived. Well, for some reason my parents had turned off their house phone… and were not answering their cell phones. For a tiny moment, I thought they were trying to tell us something, but after the sixth or so attempt of stalking, I mean calling, they finally opened the gate and let us in. (Yes we were invited ahead of time!!)

With the exception of some tummy troubles for my four-year old, we had a great weekend – the weather was perfect, the pool was fun, and as usual, Pictionary became a little crazy. Even my two oldest children got along, despite having to share a bedroom. I suggested to them on Sunday morning that perhaps we should adopt these sleeping arrangements at our house, since it seemed to be the answer to their constant bickering. The look of horror on their faces was priceless!

A highlight of the weekend was going to visit my 96-year-old Grandmother. She mixed up all of our names, asked us the same questions repeatedly and most likely has already forgotten we were there. But, none of that matters – seeing her face light up when we entered the room was the best!

All in all, a fun time… thank you Mom & Dad – hope we didn’t tire you out & leave too much of a mess!

>Hi everyone – hope it has been a great week. For me – busy as usual. Here’s what’s been on my mind:

1. MAC! After much anticipation, my MacBook Pro arrived!! I’m in love! I can’t believe how easy it was to set up (thank you hubby!) I had my software loaded and was already using it within minutes. The thing I love most is how quickly it starts up and loads programs. The old computer took forever. In the morning, I would have to turn it on – go make coffee – then come back click the icon to login – fix breakfast – then come back & click the firefox icon – go pour my coffee – and maybe then it would be ready. I also love the back lit keyboard & the fact that I didn’t have to wait for it to search for drivers when I plugged my printer into it for the first time. I just started printing (imagine that!) I did have to get used to the smaller screen (I went from a 15” to a 13”) but it is so easy to zoom with just a finger swipe, that I don’t even miss it anymore. I do have some keyboard complaints though – if anyone knows a solution, I will be forever grateful:
-First – how do you delete forward? On my PC, there were two options – the ‘backspace’ key deleted backwards & the ‘delete’ key deleted forwards. The Mac only has a ‘delete’ key & it deletes backwards only. Totally keeps messing me up!
-Second – how do you select a block of files? On my PC you clicked on the first file, then clicked+shift on the last file & all the files in between were selected. Cannot figure this out on the Mac.
I will say, that my two complaints are not deal breakers – definitely much happier with my Mac. Now if it lasts more than 2 years, I will be thrilled!

2. Waiting I feel like I wasted a lot of time this week waiting aound. Waiting at the dentist (again), waiting at the pediatrician’s office, waiting at my doctor’s office, waiting at the pharmacy… do you see a trend here? Well, just so you don’t think I have it out for the health profession, I also spent time waiting for the roofer to come, but I refuse to speak poorly about him since he promised to make it stop raining in my house.

3. Cats I have two & they are both old (17 & 18). The 18 year old (my little black kitty), is not doing well. She has thyroid issues and when I took her to the vet, her heart and kidneys were not healthy. She was emaciated at only 4lbs. We decided to try some medication. After just two weeks, I am so happy to announce that she has gained .6 of a lb, and her heart rate and kidney levels are back to normal. I realize that she is at the end of her lifespan, but it is just so hard letting go. I have had her since she was 4 weeks old. She was abandoned and I had to bottle feed her until she was big enough to eat food. We have been through a lot together. She goes back in two weeks for another checkup.

4. Book Update Another exciting week. My cover designer presented me with some rough comps based on the drawings that I had done myself (old cover). All I can say is WOW – she really nailed it. While my picture was cute, it definitely looked amateurish. We had a great conference call and things are moving along as scheduled for a July release date. Thank you Deana at BookStarter for bringing my vision to life (& no you cannot see the drafts….)

5. Having a Teen I have written a lot on this subject over the past few weeks. Somehow, with the blink of an eye, my first-born became a teen; leaving me – the mom who always felt somewhat confident about how to parent my young children, without a clue. Suddenly there were attitudes, cellphones, needs for independence & girlfriends (yikes!). Last night, in my attempt to adjust to having a teen, I let him walk (with a friend) to a carnival after dinner to meet some other friends (including above mentioned *gulp* girlfriend.) The carnival wasn’t far, but it was on a main road and it was at night. He had his phone, some money and his friends. I told him to be home by 8:30, as I did not want him walking home in the dark. It turned out all his other friends were allowed to stay out until 9:00. I was expecting an argument, but instead he just said, “OK.” He followed instructions and came home safely exactly at 8:30. Maybe this won’t be so difficult after all… yeah right!

One other thing I’ve been thinking about – the storms and tornadoes. Please keep all those affected in your thoughts and hearts. If you are able to help, The Red Cross is one of many organizations collecting donations. Thanks!

Hope everyone has a great weekend – see you next week (& hopefully sooner!)

Karen

>Are You A List Maker?

October 12, 2010

>From Wikpedia: A checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention.

I am a list maker. Some people prefer sticky notes, some leave messages for themselves on their voice mail, some email themselves, and some people can keep it all in their heads (I hate you by the way). Not me, I need a list – and not just any list, I need separate lists – there can be no commingling.

So how exactly did I turn into my mother? Well, it turns out that mom’s lives are complicated!!

For shopping, I have my my grocery store list (sometimes two separate grocery stores depending on what I need), I have my Target list, my Walgreens list, and my BJ’s list.

I have my to-do list, which has now broken out into a Bar Mitzvah to-do list (only a few weeks away -Yikes!), a phone call list, a forms list, and a general to-do list. Speaking of Bar Mitzvahs, I also have a guest list I am trying to wrangle (sorry if you are not on it, I wish we could have invited more, but at $75/head, I need to be able to still pay the bills). Oh yeah – I also have a bills list – funny how I keep forgetting about that one!

Then there are the kid lists. Since my 7th grader has selective memory, I try to go on the school website daily and make a list of his assignments to make sure he has them all. I’m happy to report his organizational skills are improving & he will be making his own lists in no time. We also have reading lists, school supply lists, activities lists and at one point, we had a chore list that seems to have suspiciously gone missing.

Since I have finally finished my book (Yay!), I now have an agent & publisher list. Sadly, I also have a growing rejection list as well…. but fear not, I also have a list of ideas for a second book that I hope to start  soon.

No, I haven’t started my holiday list yet, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time before I get cracking on those. Yes those – there is the Hanukkah list, the Christmas list, the card list, the company list and the meal lists.

I know I am missing some of the other lists I have floating around. Hmmm – perhaps I need a list of my lists.

>Too Old to Text?

September 29, 2010

>I have a love/hate relationship with texting. Conceptually, I think it is a brilliant idea. What better way is there to let your spouse know you are stuck in traffic or ask a friend a quick question? In those situations, texting is fabulous.

Shortly after my oldest son turned twelve, we got him his first phone with a texting plan. I thought it would be a great way to communicate things with him such as what time he needed to get picked up or to remind him to do his homework when he was home alone.

What I did not realize was that I was going to have to learn an entire new language – all in abbreviations. In scrolling through my son’s texts, I can only make out about one out of every six. I’m positive some teenager came up with this weird language to throw their parents off. Well, it is working.

I’ll admit it – I am one of those texters who types most words all the way out. But in an effort to be the “cool mom”, I tried to text “how r u?” to my son one day on my smart phone. Well, it turns out my smart phone is really smart, because it converted my abbreviations into the words “are you”. So much for my cool factor.

The one that truly baffles me is ‘kk’. Is it really so difficult to type ‘ok?’ I mean, the ‘o’ is only a tiny bit up from the ‘k’ on the qwerty keyboard. It’s not like you have to type “qk” – I understand that would be completely unreasonable.

The other day, I sent a text to my son to remind him to skip football practice and come home on the regular bus. Yes, I wrote that all out in a text.

His response: Lk ik

I figured out finally that the ‘ik’ meant ‘I know’. But the Lk, baffled me. I even tried googling it. My search resulted in everything from lakes to left kidney. I asked him about it the other day. He said, he meant to type “kk”, but hit the wrong key. I asked him why he didn’t fix it before sending & he said it would be too much trouble and anyone else would have known what it meant.

All I have to say to that is: ATEOFD, SFMAK it’s 2MTH. SICNR. TTFN.

>

I have the world’s pickiest eater. While many parents around the world hold claim to this notion, I can honestly say, my son wins the prize. I know most picky toddlers turn their nose up to broccoli, spinach and most anything else green and healthy. But how about turning away pizza, cookies, candy, cake and juice? No, I’m not complaining, it’s just I cannot believe sometimes that this child and I carry the same DNA.

My son is on what I refer to as “The White Diet.” He will eat bread, bread with cheese, macaroni, macaroni with cheese, crackers, crackers with cheese … do you see where I am going? I did get smart and try cauliflower with cheese, but it appears my child is a genius.

There are other “white foods” I can get him to eat occasionally: chicken nuggets, fries, scrambled eggs (with cheese of course), waffles, light colored yogurt and cheerios. Bananas were on the list for a while, but have sadly dropped off. Hummus was good, but the subsequent rash took that food item right off the list as well. Daddy’s pancakes, of course, are a favorite. I wonder how many ‘secret’ ingredients we can hide in the pancakes until my son catches on.

Over the past six months, there was a glimmer of hope as my son welcomed a few of “the reds” into his diet, namely ketchup, hotdogs and watermelon. I tried to pawn off some of my cherry tomato stash on him, but that was a complete failure.

Do I worry? Not really. I would rather my son eat something he likes than nothing at all, and miraculously, he does like his daily vitamin. I get plenty of unsolicited advice about my son’s diet including the ever popular “Just give him what the rest of the family is eating for that meal and when he gets hungry enough he will eat it.” Not true, but, I politely smile and act as if I never thought of that one myself.

Yes, I am one of those parents who fixes a separate meal for my child. I go even farther than that – I ask my child what he wants to eat for his meal. Why do I do this? Well, my almost thirteen year old just hit 6’2” tall. You can imagine what my food bills look like. I really do not want to waste food these days.

Of course, there are days, when even asking does no good. This morning was a perfect example, and the inspiration for this blog post:

Me: “What do you want for breakfast?”
C: (with a definite tone in his voice) “Bagel & cream cheese!” followed by “I don’t think I like this anymore,” after I present ½ a bagel to him on his favorite Scooby Doo plate. He looks at me sweetly and asks, “How about a blueberry waffle?”

Having had only two sips of my coffee, I realize I am not up for a debate and pop a waffle into the toaster. Seconds later I hear his little voice say, “Wait a minute, I do like bagel and cream cheese.” Sigh.

In the end, he ate both the waffle and the bagel, and I was able to finish my coffee in peace.

>

My ten-year-old daughter has been taking dance lessons for several years now, and so last fall, I decided to take her to see the move “Fame.” I had seen the original version when I was around the same age. I knew she would enjoy seeing the dancers, if nothing else.
To me, this was an opportunity for a mother-daughter outing. To her, it was an epiphany. She sat in the theater mesmerized, soaking in every scene. When the movie was over, I told her that the story was based on a real high school in New York City. You would have thought I told her I just won the lottery. We talked about the possibility of her going to a performing arts high school when she got older. She decided to bypass high school and set her sights straight on Julliard instead.

When we got home, my daughter raced upstairs. I could hear the ceiling above me rattling under her dance steps. Eventually the vibrations stopped and silence once again ensued. After about an hour, she came down stairs holding a piece of paper.“Mom”, she asked showing me the paper listing her name several different ways, “When I become famous, how should I sign my name?” My daughter’s confidence suggested that becoming anything other than a celebrity was out of the question.

Ironically, the novel I have spent my summer writing, explores the issue of celebrity. The novel did not stem from my experience with my daughter, as I have had the idea for this book even before she was born. Yet I find it interesting that my own daughter is so interested in this topic.

My main character is a woman who had the opposite experience of my daughter. She finds herself famous, yet prefers to remain anonymous. While writing the book, I began to ask myself, “Do all kids want to be famous when they grow up? Did I?” I can remember sitting around a portable cassette player with my brother recording our own version of “The Donny and Marie Show, ” but that was more of a game, not a full out plan to have my name in lights some day.

I love that my daughter has something she is so passionate about, but of course I worry about what the future will hold. Still, I feel compelled to support her as best I can, and so I tell her – dream big!

Are you interested in reading an excerpt from my novel? Stay tuned!!

>Big Dreams

August 24, 2010

>My dream started many years ago. I can remember sitting at my parent’s manual blue typewriter trying to type out short stories. My fingers would get so sore from the pressure required to push the keys down (perhaps a precursor to the arthritis I would later develop?). Thank goodness for correction tape. Lord knows, I went through more than my share. Yet, after all that hard work, I never seemed to be able to please my English teachers. My papers would come back with so many red marks through them; it was difficult to see the words I originally typed.

Math was my subject. I guess I always believed that people excelled either in math or in English, and so I decided early on that writing, whether as a career or as a hobby would not be in my future. Instead, I went into accounting, where I wrote with numbers, disappointed that my family’s DNA filled with artists, writers and musicians had passed right over me.

I married, had children and prepared taxes. (It was all so much fun, that I decided to repeat it a second time, with much better results on the marriage part.). During these early years, something happened. I heard a story on the news while I was pregnant with my oldest child that I could not get out of my head. I replayed the events repeatedly, changing the scenarios, asking myself “what if?”

Before I knew it, I had created an entire novel in my mind.The problem, however, was how to get it on paper.I tried several times to write my story, never getting past the first few paragraphs. Not being able to find my own voice was incredibly frustrating. I would put the story aside for years at a time, always with the intention that one day I would write my novel.

A funny thing happened over the past several years. I re-discovered reading. I had always enjoyed reading as a child, but once I started college, I found I had little time. After college, there was graduate school, which did in fact involve plenty of reading, just not the type that I had enjoyed. Then came babies and sleep deprivation, followed by toddlers and potty training. Before I knew it, my reading library consisted mostly of Sandra Boyton books (which I highly recommend, by the way).

Slowly, however, my time did become partially my own again and I began to make regular trips to the library. I read everything from the Harry Potter series to Ayn Rand (though admittedly I am still struggling to get through the 1000+ page fine print). At some point, I started paying equal attention to both the writing style and the story itself. I read books written in the first person, books written in the third person, books written as a series of letters, books written as diaries, and books written from several different characters’ points of view.

I felt I had a good grasp on what writing style I enjoyed and I decided to make the leap. I opened my laptop, and without hesitation started writing. The words flowed quickly, and within a month, I had my story. Not in any type of form where I was comfortable having someone read it just yet, but enough of a shell where I could go back and fill in details and depth. That was three months ago and I am still writing, revising, writing, and revising some more. I know my commas are not all in the right places and my grammar needs fine tuning, but those are all (hopefully) easy fixes. The real accomplishment for me was capturing my thoughts on paper.

A woman I ran into told me not to get my hopes up, that she, as a writing professional, had tried unsuccessfully to get her story published. She told me about all of the rejection I would inevitably face; all of the disappointment I would feel after putting so much of my self and my time into writing.

My response to her is now my mantra:
“I tell my kids all the time to dream big, so why shouldn’t I dream big as well?”