Thanksgiving means different things to different people. To me, it means being thankful and grateful I live in a country where I can try and make someone else’s life better. I wrote about this recently on Angela Haye’s THANKFUL AUTHORS blog. Pay it forward, in life and in Gratitude.
Category Archives: community advocacy
Join me and many other Romance Authors next Saturday, July 29 at the Dolphin Resort in Walt Dinsey World for a mega book signing.I’ll be there from 3-5pm EST with copies of COOKING WITH KANDY and A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS to sign. The money that’s paid for the books goes to the Nora Roberts Foundation for Literacy – so you not only get to meet your favorite authors, you get to support Literacy too! How cool is that?!!
Can’t wait to meet you all!
So, Dancing with The Keene Stars 2017 has come and gone and this year was one that will go down in my memory banks and diary as one to remember for the rest of my life. For so many reasons.
Project Graduation is an event held in our town’s high school the night after the kids graduate. And yes, I did just call them kids. They are. All under legal age, mostly 17 and 18. And what do 17 and 18 year old kids like to do to celebrate, test boundaries, and prove their cool factor is off the charts? Some drink and/or engage in illegal drug use. Project Graduation provides every single graduate a safe haven for the entire night after graduation, and engages them–not in illicit, illegal behavior — but good, fun, funny, and memory making behaviors with their fellow graduates. It is a smoke-free alcohol-free, drug-free night where the kids (!) are locked into the high school and not allowed to leave without a parent picking them up and escorting them out. Keeping them off the streets and at parties where they could get into potential trouble is one sure fire way of keeping every graduate alive to get to the next stage of their live. In the 100 days between high school graduation and college start-up more kids this age die in alcohol and drug related ways than at any other time. That pre-frontal cortex of theirs hasn’t fully developed yet, so they still make stupid decisions thinking they are sound ones. Project Graduations helps keep this number down with a goal toward eliminating it from the statistical curve.
Now. PSA complete. Back to DWTS.
I saw my first DWTS show four years ago when it was brought to my town as a fundraiser for Project Grad, and I wanted to participate within the first 10 minutes of the show. I actively – and I mean ACTIVELY pursued a spot on the next year’s roster and was -Yippie- given one! I was a STAR! I thought I knew how to dance before being picked. Yeah…not so much. The 8 weeks of preparation were grueling and oftentimes frustrating. I’d just undergone surgical removal of a melanoma from my stomach and was in constant pain, worried about my deep incision line, and frustrated because I wasn’t doing well in practice. When all was said and done, I loved the experience.
The next year I was a judge.
This year I was partnered with a STAR and the Gods above gave me the perfect one. I call him my brother from another mother, although in truth I could have agewise been his mother! We were in sync from the first 5 minutes of meeting. Every rehearsal was a shear joy – physically testing – but shear joy.And when all was said and done, we came in first place both nights!
The backstage moments of the competition, though, are the memories I’ll cherish the most. All 20 dancers formed a solid wall of friendship and camaraderie, knowing we were doing something good for the community and for our kids. I met community leaders I’d never met before and found some true, lifelong friends among them.
Volunteerism is a facet of this country that more people aspire to than actually engage in. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not knowing where to go to offer your time, your money, or your expertise. I’ve always thought that to have a strong community, you need to be engaged in that community, so ever since my daughter started school I volunteered for room mother, snack mom, to be a chaperone on trips, etc. She’s been out of the house for 10 years and I still feel a responsibility to my community to give back. Participating in annual 5ks for local charities; attending auctions to raise money for school upgrades. Heck, even saving the box tops on tops of cereal boxes all contribute to making my community a better, safer, healthier place to live and grow. Hence, Dancing with the Stars.
So. I said this last year when I wrote my after-dancing blog experience and I’ll say it again this year: VOLUNTEER. There are so many opportunities within your community to make a difference. And believe me, you may not think you’re making a big one, but you are. For me, keeping that one kid who had the idea to go to a graduation party, drink, and then get behind the wheel of a car to head on home off the road makes a huge difference. Just think of all the people effected if he crashes and dies: his parents and loved ones, friends, anyone else involved in the crash and their loved ones and friends, the response teams, medical personnel and grief counselors pulled in to care for the survivors, and the kid himself who has just now lost his future. All because he wanted to go to a party and celebrate his high school graduation and didn’t make wise choices about drinking.
If I am asked to perform or judge next years’ DANCING WITH THE STARS fundraiser for our town high school, you can put money on the fact I will say “Hell, yeah!” Whether I dance, judge, or just sell tickets, it will be one of the highlights of my year.
When I’m not dancing you can find me here:
Apparently, it’s National Library Week. This is one celebration I can get behind and actually enjoy. Enjoy writing about; enjoy celebrating.
I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog that I — for all intents and purposes — grew up in my local library. I was what was called ( during my youth) a latchkey kid, meaning, after school, I was on my own, home alone, because both the adults in my life had full-time jobs that didn’t let out until 5 or 6 each night. School let out at 3, so that meant five afternoons a week I needed a babysitter until I got old enough to be left on my own for a few hours, which in my case was at the age of 7.
I’m remembering what my daughter was like at 7 and am horrified that my mother believed it was an appropriate age for independent responsibility, but that’s another blog topic entirely.
Every day after school I would be dismissed after the bell and then trek to my local library to stay until it was time to get on home.
I loved the library.
I loved the safety of it.
I loved all the books.
I loved loved loved the Librarians.
I loved the quiet.
Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, all I wanted to do was read. I wanted to be transported to other places, live lives that weren’t my own; be loved and cherished like a princess and rule a kingdom with wisdom and grace. I could be anything I wanted to be and I could explore everything. It was in the library that I discovered my imagination and my joy of storytelling.
Once I was through the library doors each afternoon, after a 15 block walk along city streets from my school, I’d let out a sigh, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad could happen to me here. I was secure now, protected. Bad people didn’t come into the library, only good ones. People who wanted to be educated, and who wanted to escape from their everyday, boring lives and live richer, happier, more exciting ones. The library wasn’t the place where the bullies who tormented me in school “hung out.” I was free from the cruel insults, tormenting taunts, and physical violence that had become my daily life at school.
The Librarians all knew me by name and were my first, actual, REAL teachers. I learned facts in school. The Librarians taught me about life. They’d recommend books for me to read and once I was through the kids’ section selection, they moved me onto what would now be called YA ( young adult) novels. I may have been 8 or 9 years old, but I was reading about the lives of pre-teens and teenagers, living in their shoes as they drifted through life, and getting a feel for what was to come my way once I was their age.
The Librarians talked to me about books, asked me my opinion on ones I’d read. They actually valued my thoughts. They showed me the strength there is in knowledge and the beauty there is in imagination. They fostered in me that desire to tell a tale, tell it well, and change a reader’s life. They taught me how to be entertained, and in so doing, how to entertain. They taught me how to gather knowledge, the beauty there is in research, and how to prioritize. To this day, my home library follows a basic Dewey Decimal system. To some, that may be a bit extreme. But to me, it is a real tribute to the librarians who helped form my mind and fed my soul.
In the library, we spoke in hushed tones and whispers. We used the original inside voices. In my house, the voices were more often raised than hushed, loud than peaceful, tormented than quiet.
In the library, I found myself…as a girl, a person, a student, and, ultimately, as a writer.
Every day I thank God for the women and men who worked and still work in local libraries. They are unsung heroes to countless children and adults. Where some may think that the previous statement is a tad theatrical, it isn’t to me. The Librarians I knew as a child were my heroes. They kept me safe, loved and cared about me, and opened a world for me I never knew existed.
Heroes, every last one of them.
So, help me celebrate National Library Week. Support your local libraries by donating old, in-good-condition books, attend book sales and fund drives and become a Friend of the Library. Encourage your children and grandchildren to get Library cards and to use them! Often and with enthusiasm.
Finding your local library is just a Google search away!
I’m pretty confident I mentioned in a previous blog that I’m participating in the 2017 Project Graduation event DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS again. This is my third year. Year one, I was the STAR. Last year I was a judge. This year, I am the partner to a Star.
Three years; three different roles.
Year one was fraught with anxiety, anger, and a little angst. Anxiety because I thought I knew how to dance but when I was shown how to really do it, I didn’t. Not even close. Anger because my partner was, well, let’s just say we weren’t perfectly matched, and leave it at that. And angst, because I truly was mentally tortured about falling down on stage or being a laughingstock.
I survived. No falls.
Year two I was a judge. This key role filled me with nervous tension so tight I thought I was gonna snap in two at a moment’s notice. Since I remembered how terrified I was standing center stage and being critiqued, I was determined to give nothing but positive and kind feedback. I didn’t say anything negative. I hurt no feelings and offered no critical analysis. Everyone did fabulously, to hear me tell it.
I survived. No hurt feelings. No snapping.
This year, year three, I am a partner and I was initially filled with dread. I have to make the Star look good. I am, after all, the professional ( for lack of a better word) and I’m expected to know the dance, the moves, and to radiate calmness for my Star.
If you know me you know I NEVER radiate calmness. But I have nothing to worry about. My STAR is, well, a STAR!! He is patient, committed to winning, and loves to rehearse. He came into the dance studio filled with ideas and they’re good ones!! He will win this competition. I am merely his prop, and very happy to be one!
I will survive without feeling dread, for sure!
Keene Dancing with the Stars is scheduled for April 21 and 22 and you can order tickets here: tickets
Hope to see you all there. It’s guaranteed to be a great night of dancing, fun, and a few laughs.
As a woman, a mother, a mother of a woman,…today I will embrace the celebration of National Women’s Day 2017. Today I will remember what it means to be a woman and all the wonderful things that go along with that. Things that only a woman can do, like give birth. Hey, men can’t…just saying.
But in celebrating I will also remember the things that women can’t do. There are still parts of the world where women can’t choose for themselves who they will marry, or even if they want to get married. There are still countries where women can’t drive, go to school, walk about free in public. There are still places where women are viewed as the property of the men and are treated and abused as such. And there are still governments that would rather see a woman die, shamed and vilified than give birth to her eight ( or more) child.
I grew up in the time Title IX came into effect. Prior to that, girls sports in schools weren’t funded.
My mother grew up in the time where if she didn’t want to have a baby she had 2 choices: don’t have sex, or procure an illegal abortion.
My grandmother grew up in a time where she was struck down and beaten in the streets by men when she protested for the right to vote for the leaders of HER country.
That’s just three generations of women who saw the need to effect change for the better. And did.
My daughter lives in a world where she knows no limits on what she can do with her life. She has the benefit of education, status, choice. What she still doesn’t have is equal pay for equal work. And if things keep going the way they are currently, she will lose even more of those hard-fought RIGHTS the women who came before her died for.
Today, in 2017, I proudly stand on the shoulders of the courageous, fearless, determined women who came before me. Who fought convention, misogyny, and hate. I won’t forget them or their struggles.
And I will continue to fight –EVERY DAY — to ensure that they didn’t die in vain.
But today…today I will celebrate my gender. Tomorrow..well, tomorrow is another day.
I get asked this question A LOT when I tell people I’m a writer. It’s a little snarky, a little condescending, and a whole lot of rude ( to me), but I don’t think the people who ask it are intentionally trying to be rude…at least I hope they aren’t.
The question? “Well, what else do you do?” The implication being I can’t just write.
Well, yeah, ya can. But I get what they mean.
Let me ‘esplain, Lucy.
For most people who don’t write – and that would be a very large majority of the free world – they view sitting down and writing something as boring, a time waste ( or a time suck, depending on who you ask), or something you do when you’ve got a few extra minutes. I’m not judging those people. They simply don’t know the hours upon hours of work involved in getting a blog/book/article written. Again, no judging.
But I always like to answer that question truthfully. Yes, I do DO other things. I’m married, so I do all the things that go along with that ( get your mind out of the gutter!) I have friends, I do charitable work, I exercise, although from the size of my a**, not enough!
One thing I’ve been doing the past few years is volunteering for my local High School’s Project Graduation Fundraiser, DANCING WITH THE STARS. Yes, it sounds exactly like the tv show. Yes, we have Stars who comprise people in our community, and Partners, who are either previous stars or who have a little dancing experience. It’s a two night event and the largest fundraiser for Project grad.
And yes, I am participating again this year, my third year in a row. This time I am the PARTNER. (Try not to be too impressed!)
I’ll be blogging about this event until it occurs on April 21 and 22 and filling you in on all the little details, backstage gossip, and other sundries, along the way.
There might even be a romance book somewhere in the future about it……
When I’m not dancing – or needing my inhaler! – you can find me here:
Goals are wonderful things. They give you intention, allow you to focus on an outcome, prepare you for the future. Goal setting is something, I feel, most people do between 12/31 and 1/1. I know I do, and most of the people surrounding me do, as well.
Which brings me to my goals for 2017. We are only one month into the year but I’ve already had to shift and re-evaluate some of those goals. And again, I don’t think I’m the only one.
So, my goals were split into two categories: profession and personal.
We’ll evaluate the professional ones first because there hasn’t been too much deviation there. Yet. For 2017 I set out to: write 3 books, post to my blog 3-4 times per week – every week – and increase my social media presence with new formats. Since no one can write 3 full-length ( greater than 75000 words) books in 31 days ( go ahead, I double dog dare you to!) I have to evaluate the other two. In the month of January, I posted 24 new blog pieces. That’s an average of 4-5 postings every week. Woot! More than I planned for, so YAY me so far. Second. Social Media. I joined TRIBERR and not only devised my own TRIBE, Strong Women. Loving Men, but followed several others, all linked to my Twitter account. I started January with 1,1oo followers ( I don’t even know 1100 people personally!) and by January 31 I had 1,347 followers. Yowza. Goal 2 already skyrocketing! On the professional side, I’m moving along at break-neck speed.
Okay, so now the personal. And I will tell you right away, break-neck speed does not describe how this is moving.
I always want/need/dream to lose weight. This year, I added going to the gym 5-6 times per week in order to help with that desire. Days January 1- 26, I went to the gym 19 times, which for me is monumental! Day 27 I pulled my back out and day 28 I got the flu. So. I didn’t exactly finish the month on an up-sweep. I did manage to go 19 of 31 times, so even though that’s not the 5-6 times per week ( which would have ended the month between 25 and 29 times) I didn’t do too too too terribly. But I also didn’t lose any weight, so yeah. There’s that.
So this puts us to February’s goals. The professional ones continue on. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The personal ones have gotten a little kick, though, because I just found out I will be dancing in the Keene Dancing With The Stars fundraiser again this year and I’m doing a wicked fast and lively dance.
Weight loss is almost guaranteed ( yippie) but I also have to be in shape to manage not to have a heart attack while I’m hot footing it. So that means even if I’m tired, sick, infirm, or aching, I go to the gym 6 times per week. Bar none. No excuses. None. Niente.
I’ll check in at the end of the month and let you know if I’m alive…I mean…how I’m doing.
I live a solitary existence during the day. I write from home. It’s quiet, I can hear myself think, I don’t have to get dressed if I don’t want to, and I can talk out loud in my character’s voices when I’m creating dialogue without the fear someone will call the crazy police and have me carted off.
I know writers, though, who actually write out in the…wilds. Or in this case, civilization. In coffee bars, sandwich shops, at the local library. Places that have, you know, people, milling around. I’ve never written anywhere that wasn’t isolated and private. Even the library with its noise restrictions is too loud for me because…you know…whispering!
I’ve got a scientific background, so one day I thought I’d put it to rusty use and do an experiment as see how this other creative faction, well, creates.
I actually got dressed – makeup too! – packed up my laptop and ventured north to a popular gathering place in my neck of the northland: Panera.
I’ve been in Panera any time of the day and I know it’s always crowded, so the time I began my experiment didn’t factor in. Just for transparency sake, though, I got there a little before 10:30 am. After the morning coffe/bagel rush and before the lunch crowd pressed in.
The place was – as usual – packed, but I found a single booth off in one corner under a window overlooking the busy parking lot. Because I couldn’t just sit there and observe without eating something, I ordered a bagel and a soda and when it was ready, settled down to try and do some work. I was at a critical point in a WIP plot line and needed to get through some emotional dialogue.
Laptop on and file opened, I took a sip of soda, a bite of bagel, and then put my fingers over the keyboard, ready to see what magic I could make. Ready to see if I could make some magic without getting distracted, in actuality.
Yeah, you’ve probably already figured it out. No magic.
Just when I thought I had an idea, I got distracted by the loudly whispered argument ( well, fight really) going on in the booth behind me between two college-somethings. It was a little difficult to navigate through all the college slang speak of you’s knows, and multiple likes every other word. Plus. neither of them knew how to complete a phrase without adding f**king to the word descriptors. I was able to get the gist of their heated dissertation, though, after a few minutes. Apparently, Freshman A hooked up with Freshman B’s main squeeze at a drunken frat party and now both these young women had a date at the school health center for “tests.”
Just when I thought punches would be thrown, one of them got a text and then they both zipped out of there right after.
Back to writing, Or trying to.
I got an entire paragraph down before I heard the squealing, high-pitched scream of someone being vivisected. Or at least I assumed that’s what was happening to the toddler I spied out of the corner of my eye. He’d thrown himself down on all fours, writhing and pounding his puny fists into the faux marble decorated flooring, his lungs proving he’d have a busy career as an opera singer one day. His gaunt, anorectic looking mother, red-cheeked and mortified, stood over him coaxing and cooing him to stop. The more she tried to comfort him the louder his wailing pitched. All patron eyes were zeroed in on these two, rubbernecking the tantrum, myself included. I wondered why no one came to the poor woman’s help and dragged the little brat up by his Baby Gap jeans, giving him a good tongue lashing at the same time, but then I realized that most well-intentioned people didn’t get involved these days because of frivolous lawsuits and backlash.
Eventually, the little bugger got tired and momma was able to pull him up ( I would have yanked!) and led him out of the eatery.
Back to writing – or trying to.
Ten minutes later a very loquacious and vivacious group of three women around my age and garbed in what looked like workout wear ( spandex leggings that barely came to ankles; multicolored track sneaks over tiny socks, and skin tight racer back tops) sat down in the booth in front of mine and proceeded to talk.
A lot. Like, non-stop. They spoke over one another, trampled on each other’s sentences, guffawed at what they were saying-loudly!- and generally seemed to be enjoying one another’s company. They stayed for over an hour, much longer than the time it took them to eat their salads, just…talking. About anything and everything.
I’d now been in Panera’s for over two and a half hours and had written exactly 76 words. My usual rate for that amount of time is at least 1000-1500, easy. At this point, I felt it was safe to conclude I wasn’t one of those lucky writers who could block all extraneous noise and commotion from my creative subconscious. I wrote better-certainly MORE- when I was alone, it was quiet, and I had no distractions, so I went back home and proceeded to write 10 pages by dinner time.
And even though I proved my hypothesis ( I can’t write with distractions!) I will admit this: being out in the wilds, er, civilization, even for an abbreviated time, helped me hone in on varying speech patterns for age-appropriate dialogue, gave me a new appreciation for how well behaved my daughter had been as a child ( I need to call her to tell her how much I love her!) and made me thankful I have girlfriends like those 3 women I listened to who- just when I need it the most- kidnap me from my self-imposed isolation and hermit-dom, and bring me back into the living fold.
Now, back to writing. Alone.
My heritage- as some of you know – is Irish. Born and bred in the good ol’ US of A, but a DNA history that dates from the Celts. With that go many things: a fierce temper, a bawdy wit, a love of poetry, music, and debate, curly hair, light eyes, and a mercurial disposition.
Oh, and fair, freckled, and spotted skin–the reason for this blog.
Today was my six month mole check with my dermatologist. I go every six months ( down from every 3!) because of the numerous basal cell cancers and one ridiculous melanoma I’ve had to have treated in the past 3 years. At my last check up I was what is called in the derm world, clean, which meant I didn’t need to have anything cryogenically removed, or biopsied because all looked well.
Not so much today. At this morning’s check, my wonderful derm guy ( who also happens to be a neighbor and friend) found 2 spots that needed attention. Two. One on my ear he froze with sprayed liquid nitrogen. For those of you who know how this works, he literally freezes the s**t off the area. Like minus 100 degrees or some ridiculous temperature. Six hours later and my ear is still cold to the touch! Spot number 2 was on my forehead. He had to numb me first with lidocaine and epinephrine ( which immediately sent my heart racing and my hands shaking like it always does) and then shave – yes, you read that correctly SHAVE the area with a scalpel/razor blade thingie like he was filleting fish skin.
Needless to say, I was upset. Well, pissed, if I’m really being honest.
The last time I was in the sun was over 10 years ago. And when I say “in the sun” I mean it just that way – laying out, trying to get tanned, slathered with lotion. For the past decade I have not sun worshiped once. I always wear a hat and sunglasses when I am outdoors – even if it is not blazingly sunny. My moisturizer has a 45 spf block built into it and I douse my skin in 100spf block during the spring and summer months when I tend to wear less clothing. I do no outside sports. I don’t go to the beach. And even if you’d put a gun to my head I wouldn’t be caught dead at a pool in a bathing suit.
I tell you this because my skin damage was incurred long before I quit being a sun worshiper.
As a kid I was extremely fair. My mother – as all mothers did back in the stone age – thought a little color would “health” me up. Meaning, a little sun on my cheeks would make me healthier. A good premise, but, yeah, in the long run, not so much. Before I was 10 I’d already had about 20 bad sun burns. The blistering, peeling, turning to tan kind of sun burns that fair people are famous ( or is it infamous?) for. The rule of thumb dermatologically these days is that the more you burn before the age of 18, the higher your incidence of some kind of skin cancer will be as you age.
Perfect. Instead of “healthing” me up, my mother’s intervention has made my skin a veritable boiling pot and harbor of insidiously growing disease. Not her fault. She only did what she and everyone else thought was good.
When you know better you do better, so here’s the PSA portion of today’s rant: DON’T-
- sun worship at the beach, at the pool, in your backyard
- go to tanning booths – the urban myth here is that tanning booths won’t give you skin cancer because, hello, it’s not the “real” sun. Bulls**t! You can get just as much skin damage and skin cancers from a tanning booth as you can from the natural, “real” sun
- ever go outside without some kind of SPF on your face and exposed skin. Most facial moisturizers have spf built in, but they need to be at least 30 or above. None of this 2spf crap. That’s like going out naked – actually, it IS going out naked!
- ever go outside without head protection. This includes ears and neck. I had a spot on my ear today that I never even noticed. Guess where I’ll be applying that moisturizer from now on? Wear a hat. I love hats. Ever since Princess Diana made them fashionable I’ve loved wearing hats.
- reapply that sun tan lotion frequently. Don’t just slab it on at 6 am and think after a day of sweating and swimming you’ll have the same protection at 2pm. Freuqently and a lot – I use 100 spf in the summer and yes, it goes on like Desatin, but I never EVER get any color so you know it works! If it keeps the color from leeching, it’ll keep the cancerous rays from leeching.
Please, if you have babies or young children or even kids up to 18, protect them NOW from the damage they will incur in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. My daughter is 27 and when she was an infant I kept her covered when outdoors, and then after 6 months of age had a 60 block on her ( that’s the highest number they made back when she was little.) If I put a 45 on her, she burned.
Hats, sunglasses, sun block. Preventative measures so you – and your loved ones – will never know the heartbreaking agony of a melanoma diagnosis or its treatment ( which isn’t pretty! I know firsthand)
Enough ranting for today. Take care of yourself. Your skin is your biggest organ and the one people looking at you notice first. Treat it with respect. Treat it with love.