Tag Archives: Project Graduation

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

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:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, female friends, Friends, Life challenges, Project Graduation, Strong Women, Uncategorized

#2017…one month in

goals2

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.

goals

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.

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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.

dwtsWeight 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.

When I’m not setting/achieving/failing goals, you can usually find me here :Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under Author, Author Branding, branding, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, Life challenges, love, Lyrical Author, Project Graduation, Romance, Strong Women

New Stars Crowned

And so, like so many before them, another week has closed in my life.  But this wasn’t an ordinary write-until-I-drop week. This week I took a pseudo-break from writing and reveled in my participation in my town’s Project Graduation fundraiser DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS…

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and I’ve never been filled with so many lingering, joyous, and charged emotions.

I’ll start with the lingering ones. I am, despite what I show to the world, not the most people-loving person. I tend to judge  people for how they behave and the things they say( still working on that, daily!), I find myself more times than not nervous and anxiety plagued about saying the wrong thing, and I just would rather be writing than socializing. I could so very easily – if given the chance – be a hermit.

But…..

This cast of DWTS was such a diverse, open, and fun-loving group of people I found myself sucked into their revelry and good spirits every single time I was with them, and all my unleashed misanthropic tendencies went the way of the dinosaur, leaving me with a such a sense of camaraderie and fellowship that I truly WANTED to spend more time with them. Their sense of selflessness and goodwill was overpowering and made me feel hopeful that our little community will continue to thrive and move forward on that good old fashioned Yankee ethic of neighbor helping neighbor. Selfless devotion to a worthwhile cause filled this group of people with purpose and made me a better human just being around them.

At last year’s event, I was a dancer. This year I got to sit back and be a judge. Which role did I prefer? If you had asked me a week ago I would have said judge, every time. But after watching the faces of the dancers, hearing the roaring approval of the audience, and witnessing the ego-growth of each and every participant, I can truthfully say it’s a toss-up. Being a judge was heaps of fun, not to mention much less physical and arduous work, both of which we all know I loathe. ( Sloth, thy name is Margaret-Mary.) After witnessing the joy on the faces of each dancer as they finished a magnificent routine and understanding their sense of individual accomplishment, I realized I wanted to feel that, too. I am so very proud of every dancer, Star and Partner alike, and hope they are as equally proud of themselves.

As I write this, day is dawning through my window and I know the DWTS cast and crew were out last night after the event, partying, dancing, and expelling huge sighs of relief that it was all over. When they wake this morning, a little tired, a little sore, they will relive each dance step, wonder how they could have made it just a little better, and nit-pick every move  that wasn’t dance-perfect. This is normal for a morning after. I hope, though, as the day wears on, and the facebook and text congratulations pour in,  they will also start to comprehend what a monumental feat they all accomplished. No, they didn’t cure cancer; didn’t drive out poverty; didn’t feed the world. What they did do was devote countless hours of their time, energy, and thoughts to benefiting the graduating high school seniors of our community in order to make their official send-off into the next phase of their lives a fun, safe, and memory-precious night of celebration through an alcohol-free party chockful of activities.

So today, I am emotionally charged with positive feelings of pride, joy, friendship, and love for my community and its members.

And I know these feelings are lasting ones…..

Dancing with The Keene Stars 2017 is already under production, and I pray I am asked to participate again. There is no way I will say no!!!

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The challenge to push…

This week I’m participating in Keene Dancing with the Stars again, just as I did last year.

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Many of you know this already, but what you may not know is why I chose to participate again this year.

Last year  I was a STAR,which meant I was the featured community name, the person friends, family, and neighbors came to see compete and for whom they voted.

I didn’t win, but there was no expectation I would and I didn’t agree to dance for that reason anyway. I agreed for 2 reasons: 1. DWTS – Keene version, is a fundraiser for Project Graduation for KHS, which is an all-night, alcohol-free party sponsored by the community for the graduating seniors of the high school. The party keeps them contained, safe, and free from alcohol and drug use for the night, and, 2.  I was at a point in my life where I realized I was stagnating, not trying anything new, and not growing. And I needed to.

So, this year, when  I was asked to be a judge (and  not a dancer, thank you, Jesus!) I immediately said “yes” for the same reasons and one more: I needed to continue on that path of challenging myself to learn and experience new things, and to try and gain some insight into myself and what motivates me to do the things I do and write the things I write.

A little esoteric, you ask? Yeah, maybe. But here’s what I mean: as a writer – and a writer of romance, to be exact – I could continue on very nicely and just keep writing my stories of families, love, and happily-ever-afters. No worries there, because I will, BUT I need to challenge myself to discover new avenues of ideas to write about, and to do that, I need to meet new and different people, learn new and exciting things, and have new and diverse experiences, all of which will lead to me being a better writer and ultimately, a better person.

So, if you are sitting around wondering what to do this weekend, please consider attending this worthwhile event. You’ll have some fun, see some friends, and more than anything, know you will have contributed to the health and safety of an amazing group of high school seniors.

Tickets are available here: DWTS

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My spirit is willing, but my feet are weak…

One year ago this week I was a STAR in my town’s project graduation fundraiser DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS. I documented my journey on this blog and many of you responded so favorably I wanted to share this year’s journey with you as well.

This year, I am back but as a judge, not a STAR. I have a whole different set of emotions and thoughts running through me this time. Last year I was nervous, apprehensive and terrified I was going to fall during the dance. I was also very uncomfortable having all eyes on me as I danced because, #1. I hate having all eyes on me for anything, and, #2 my weight was awful, which made # 1 even more terrifying!

This year, as a judge, I am terrified of one thing and one thing only: giving criticism.

Now, this is a fundraiser for a worthwhile cause. Project graduation is an all night alcohol-free party the high school throws on graduation night so the graduates won’t go out and get trashed, and potentially die from drunk driving. There has been precedent for this kind of behavior, hence the party. Also, all the stars have volunteered to dance, so with that you have to realize there is a vast amount of good will on their part, no?  I remember vividly what it was like to be in the “spotlight” last year and grew more and more shakey everytime my partner and I finished a dance and were then “judged.” Now, the panel of judges was wonderful – there is no other word for it. Never a harsh comment, always encouraging words, and plenty of smiles and laughs. Even though I was totally out of my element, the judges made me feel like I was a true DANCING QUEEN. For those of you who came of age in the 1980’s, you will get that reference!

This is the kind of judge I want to be!!!! The problem: I have severe impulse control issues and very frequently any thought I am in the process of thinking pops out of my mouth uncensored. Do you know how horrible this is??? The last thing I want to do is make a comment that could potentially hurt someone’s feels – someone who is bravely and valiantly doing their best to entertain and raise money for a worthy cause.

So, what am I going to do as the big night approaches?  #1 PRAY. Often and at an hourly rate! #2 Take a breath before opening my mouth. Truly, this is an effective maneuver for curbing impulse control issues. Your mamma taught you to think before you speak, and she wasn’t wrong. #3 empathize. As a past Star I know all about the nerves, tremors, and fears each present STAR is going through, so I can freely state my job is to offer comfort and encouragement, nothing more. #4 enjoy the moment. This show is truly one of the most fun shows to be a  part of and an audience member watching.  And when it is all said and done, the money raised will keep our graduates safe and entertained, and let them know the entire community is behind them and looking out for their welfare.

So, I am off to rehearsals and dance routines.

If you are looking for something fun, worthwhile, and entertaining to do on either Friday or Saturday night, come see KEENE’S DANCING WITH THE STARS. Ticket info is here: DWTS

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Challenges…

I love a writing challenge. That’s why I participate in NANOWRIMO every year, and whenever my local  chapter of RWA holds a writing challenge, I am raring to go.

Personal challenges are another thing entirely.

Backstory. Last Spring I attended a fund raiser for Project Graduation titled DANCING WITH THE KEENE STARS. It was exactly like it sounds – the television show DWTS, just a local edition with people in my community as the “celebrities” or Stars. Everyone with me, including me, had an absolute blast. It was such a fun evening, that I volunteered to be a contestant the following year if they held it again.

Yeah, so. Be careful what you ask for.

I was asked, I said “Yes,” and I was thrilled.

Then the real work started. I am not a dancer. I barely have enough rhythm to keep upright when I walk (as evidenced by  the fact I fall a lot. A lot.) It  looks so easy SO EASY on television. The dancers get up, do a few steps, and there you have it.

Yeah, NO! I haven’t  sweated, thought, or worked so hard at something in a very long time. I actually think the last thing I did that was as mentally and physically challenging was childbirth. And my daughter is 25!

Anyway, the real purpose of this entry was to say that challenges come in all forms, and in order to grow and thrive as humans, we need to take them up from time to time. Learning how to dance the cha-cha has been an enervating and exhausting thing for someone as sedentary (both in mind and body) as myself. I have to think logically, count ( not my strong suit!) and concentrate on so many aspects – head up, don’t look down, keep your shoulders square, smile. It’s a lot for someone like me who basically hibernates in a solitary writing room.

But having said all that, it is a challenge that I willing took on and I don’t have ANY regrets. I have learned a great deal about myself these past two months and wouldn’t change anything I’ve gone through. Well, maybe I’d lose a little more weight before starting, but that’s it! By challenging myself personally, I feel I’ve grown more as a person and a writer, because I have a million story ideas now concerning dancing. Ooo, baby!

If you’re in the neighborhood, here’s the link to get tix. Maybe I’ll see you there.  Just don’t throw any tomatoes at me!!

Project Grad 2015

 

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women