Gratitude and The Art of Chasing Normal

My latest YA novel

 

Today I’m talking about NORMAL.

Not that I know what “normal” is, exactly. Except to say, sometimes I lose my way and fixate on the grass around my feet that somehow just doesn’t seem to look as green as the grass on the other side of the pasture. The green I used to have, or was supposed to have. Or thought I had.

I don’t know. All I can say is, trying to write about “normal” this week was confusing. I mean, usually when I sit down to write my blog posts I choose whatever floats to the top of my brain, like say, Hey! I’ve got a brand new book!

Except this week something else kept fighting for top billing. I can’t stop thinking about my actual brain–and the MRI scan I had last week.

Sure, health stuff is important, but this was my third scan in three years (I’ve written a bit about it before here). Each time my neurologist has ordered a scan to “Rule out The Chronic Illness That Shall Not Be Named.” But so far, there’s been nothing conclusive. Except physically, I don’t have the bright shiny green-ness I used to.

Plus, there’s the worry. Because there were these unidentified things, not normal things, or maybe they are normal for me (one can hope). Either way they were confusing to the radiologist and doctor, something that maybe shouldn’t be there. Here’s a little graphic to give you an idea of what shouldn’t really be floating in your gray matter:

MRI scan picture

This is my brain. I’m sure you’re not at all surprised to see all the dessert.

 

But the problem with chasing after normal, is I think I’m going after me, but I lose a bit of myself in the process.

So, in order to get my brain off the subject of my brain, I’m focusing on my heart by practicing some gratitude.

Here are this week’s highlights:

 

funny faces

I’m grateful for my family–and silly faces.

 

dutch resistance world war two

Cornelia Warmenhoven

I am grateful to have heard Cornelia speak at a Kristallnacht Memorial service yesterday. Cornelia is a rescuer and an inspiration. She worked with the Dutch resistance against the Nazis during World War II.  I’m especially grateful for brave rescuers like Cornelia because my husband is a grandchild (and my kids, great-grandchildren) of Holocaust survivors.

 

I’m grateful for a college visit that took us on a scenic country drive. And for barns.  Barns are awesome.

 

military family

I’m grateful for my parents–and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Yes, I’m thankful to the U.S. Coast Guard for moving my dad and our family every couple of years. I’m serious! Because of this nomadic experience, I’ve been forever fascinated with the idea of living life in one place and falling in love with the boy next door (and road trips, but that’s another Grace and Zac story). Which leads me back around to…

 

I’m grateful for my new book.

 

I’m so thankful I get the opportunity to write, especially characters like Grace and Zac. I started this story several years ago, but it wasn’t until 2011 when they came back with more to tell, that I started reworking this one. It’s been so much fun writing about friendship and love and the boy next door. You can find out more about THE ART OF CHASING NORMAL here.

Last, but not least, I’m also grateful for YOU.

Huge thanks and big hugs to you for taking the time to read, or comment, or share. You are what make this part so rewarding. You make me feel a part of a super awesome community when I emerge from my writing cave. Tons of thanks for taking the time to share a part of  your lives with me.

Happy Monday.

 

 

 

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The Heart of the Matter: What Grounds You?

 

So all last week I found myself thinking about a button.

button heart_opt

 

 

My son decided he wanted to go to prom (a week before prom, mind you), which meant a last minute run for prom tickets, a boutonniere, a corsage, and a tux.

My husband suggested he try on his tux. His twenty year old wedding tuxedo.

 

 

 

The tux fit. It was a tad roomy, but all it really needed was a new button.

I put mending on my to-do list, but the button stayed on my mind. Somehow that button represented happy nostalgia: twenty years of marriage, family, and kids being almost all grown up.

Of course, all this symbolic button thinking took place amidst the back drop of crazy, tragic things happening in Boston and all over the world.

But I had the luxury of thinking about that button.

And then this weekend we had our own bit of crazy to deal with, when some neighborhood kids thought it would be funny to rig up what looked like a homemade bomb on the steering wheel of my daughter’s car.

My daughter drives a retired Crown Victoria police interceptor and while we wondered if this thing in her car was a stupid prank, we also couldn’t help but worry whether this contraption rigged not only to her steering wheel, but attached to the door and the outside mirror, was some threatening message aimed at the police.

So we called the non-emergency police line and an officer came to the house. He was perplexed, cautious, and called his supervisor…

Who then called the bomb squad.

And then began the process of securing the roads around our neighborhood.

And then an officer asked us if we wanted to leave our house because this could be a very dangerous situation.

At this point, one of the kids responsible, came over and confessed. My daughter instantly burst into tears. She was relieved, but very hurt someone wanted to purposefully scare her like that.

I was mad. Because while it may have been a joke–and everyone was safe–our fear had been REAL.

You may think what I did next is a strange reaction, because while the bomb squad took the stupid contraption out of my daughter’s car (they still had to consider it a threat until they knew otherwise), I went inside the house and sewed the button on that tux jacket. I didn’t know what else to do with my confusion, my anger. Maybe because I’d been thinking about that button all week, that button somehow become some sort of fastener for my thoughts. It helped to ground me.

I mean what do you do when you get tangled and tripped up by the web of someone else’s stupidity?

You can’t control it. You can’t change their thinking. All you really can do is control your own actions (and somehow resist a response that might make you a contributing member to the spectrum of stupidity).

So I shifted my focus to the things that ground me.

Turns out, one hand me down tuxedo, plus one button, equals lots of love and support.

prom smile borrowed tux_opt

My son wearing his dad’s wedding tux.

 perfect troll face goes to prom_opt

The “perfect troll face” goes to prom. 🙂  My family grounds me, but also lifts my spirit. 

 

And because I couldn’t find a great quote for this post, I’m sharing this absurdly funny one.

funny quote computer beat me at chess_opt

 

What grounds you when your world gets shaky? 

Have a great week,

Choosing Happy: Come Back to Me ~ My New YA Release

 

Big news…my debut YA book, Come Back to Me, is out NOW.

It went live on Amazon last Wednesday, a happy surprise. There I was gearing up for the you’ve-published-a-book-now-what marathon, when suddenly the starter pistol went off.

I think I was tying my shoes or something.

But I got moving. Thanks in BIG part to family, friends, and lots of super cool people like the WANA (we are not alone) writing community.

Although no one mentioned the adrenaline. I could’ve lifted a car.

Anyway, speaking of family, friends, and love…those are big themes in my YA contemporary story. Check it out:

Come Back To Me 200 320_opt

 

 

 Available for purchase at AMAZON or SMASHWORDS 

(paperback and other venues, coming soon)

 

Whitney Denison can’t wait to start over.

She thought she had everything under control, that her future would always include her best friend Katie… Until everything changed.

Now her life in Bloom is one big morning after hangover, filled with regret, grief, and tiny pinpricks of reminders that she was once happy.  A happy she ruined.  A happy she can’t fix.

So, she is counting down the days until she leaves home for Colson University, cramming her summer with busywork she didn’t finish her senior year, and taking on new hobbies that involve glue and glitter, and dodging anyone who reminds her of her old life.

When she runs into the stranger who drove her home on graduation night, after she’d passed out next to a ditch, she feels herself sinking again. The key to surviving the summer in Bloom is unraveling whatever good memories she can from that night.

But in searching for answers, she’ll have to ask for help and that means turning to Evan, the stranger, and Kyle, Katie’s ex-boyfriend. Suddenly, life flips again, and Whitney finds herself on not only the precipice of happy but love, too, causing her to question whether she can trust her feelings, or if she is falling into her old patterns of extremes.

As she uncovers the truth about her memories, Whitney sees that life isn’t all or nothing, and that happy isn’t something to wait for, that instead, happy might just be a choice.

 

So, it’s been an exciting week.

But wait! I’ve got one last, but very special thing to share.  You may have read a post I wrote about signs.  In that post, I mention how I equate ladybugs with hope, and to my brother (who passed away six years ago).

So, ladybugs found a way into Come Back to Me–and into my book’s acknowledgments, where I wrote, To my brother, Dan the Man, Thanks for the ladybugs.

Then, last Wednesday, in the middle of the awesome hullabaloo of seeing my book on Amazon, I ran up the stairs to grab my slippers (because it was a snow day–and cold!).

Halfway up the stairs I saw this:

ladybug2_opt

 Thanks for the ladybug, Dan.

 

Have an AMAZING, hopeful week!

How to Have a Golden First Kiss (or Pancake)

 

indie kissing badge

 

The first kiss. So much anticipation, so many possibilities…

Sweet. Romantic. Fun. Flirty.

Awkward. Toothy. Slobbery. Waxy.

 

 Pucker up.

Yes, waxy. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of my first kiss. Not all first kisses are good. In fact, mine was not good it was GOO. As in, Hello, Madame Tussauds.

But on the plus side, that bad kiss was the easiest sign ever that he was not the one for me (good thing, because as Taylor Swift might say, he was trouble when he walked in.)

Anyway, I consider my first kiss like a first pancake.  Sometimes that first pancake doesn’t look like the rest of the batch. For whatever reason, it doesn’t turn out golden.

 

 Not all pancakes turn out the way you want them too.

 

Luckily, there’s always room for a do-over. Same goes for kissing.

But is it possible to prevent a bad kiss in the first place?

Well, I found LOTS of advice on Ye Old Internet on how to avoid a bad kiss the first pancake syndrome.

 

Awesome + Awesome = More Awesome

You need great ingredients. Once you have them, mix them with care. The key to combining ingredients is tenderness over toughness.

 

Hotness

Make sure you have the proper amount of heat.  According to The Pancake Handbook, “If they dance in a sprightly way for a few seconds, you’re good to go.”

Other experts say the heat level should be so hot that it almost smokes.

 

Beware of the drool

Moisture level is crucial. It can make or break your pancake. Moisten but then wipe away the excess before your first pancake. You’re aiming for a golden, “greaseless experience.”

 

Don’t Rush It

Once you’ve got your pancake going, keep the following in mind:

Peek at your own risk.

Resist the impulse to press and flatten.

Moving too much may cause it all to fall apart.

 

Enjoy!

Don’t stress over your first attempt. You get better with practice.

And keep in mind, there are many kinds of pancakes. Lots to choose from. For instance, the French have their own version.

But let’s leave crepes for another day.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

 

What are your thoughts on first kisses? How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What’s your favorite pancake?

For more posts about kissing, be sure to check out the INDIE-KISSING BLOGFEST over at the INDELIBLES!

 

 

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Moderation Gone Wild: Boys, Exclamation Points & Pie

PIE Y0GI BERRA_opt

Moderation.

Not exactly the merriest of words during the month of December.  Especially not if your brain –and Pinterest boards–are crowded with cookie exchange party ideas, holiday menus and pie.

I like pie.

Thanks to Barbara over at Just a Smidgen for planting the idea of pumpkin and meringue in my head.  Yum.  It haunted me excessively.

Some days I think I have moderation under control.  Some.  It’s a work in progress.

Take my very first diary.  I’ve mentioned it a few times here.  I keep this diary in a place of honor in my office because it has oh so many emotions packed into its tiny gold edged pages.  Some of those words–many of which were written with a perfume pen (not kidding)–have the ability to make me laugh and cringe at the same time.

Boys are mentioned excessively.

diary page rob lowe_opt

Rob Lowe’s crush dedication page.  There are many, many others.

Crush moderation wasn’t something I considered.  Although on one page of my diary I wrote, “I’m tired of bellyaching about it.”

But then I went back to I heart boys.

 

 

Apparently this is also true for exclamation points.  Admittedly, I still have a problem overusing them, but once upon a time, my indication of intense emotion had no boundaries.

Excessive punctuation.

In case you can’t read my handwriting, that diary page says, “Nothing spectacular happened!”

Of course, you know and I know, that exclamation points can be used in better ways . . .

Meringue topped pumpkin pie!

Cookie exchanges!

Holidays!

Love!

moderation in all things emerson_opt

 

What do you think about moderation and the holidays? If you could pick one thing that deserves an exclamation point this holiday season, what would that be?

Have a fantastic day! (FYI that punctuation is from the heart.)

Looking for a Sign That He Loves You

 

Have you ever found yourself looking for a sign?

 

Sometimes we look for signs anywhere– horoscopes, the weather, dreams.  When I was younger I remember consulting the Magic 8 ball when it came to matters of boys great import.

Did you know that Google is also on that list?  I realized that last week when I looked at the list of search engine words that led internet surfers to my site.

High on that list was one of the great philosophical questions, Where’s Waldo? (because of this post), but a very close second was Liam Payne, member of the crazy popular British boy band One Direction.  Thanks to my YA reader friend Lydia, fans have been stopping by after Google searching for All Things Liam.

 

sign one direction

 

But by far the most interesting search phrase that landed one of those fans on my blog (and got me seeing Google as this generation’s Magic 8 ball), was this:

 

A sign that Liam Payne loves me.

 

Now I don’t believe I have any sort of psychic powers, BUT I do believe in the power of hope.

Hope got me through many crushes in high school.

Oh and believe me, I looked for signs that me and my crush were meant to be EVERYWHERE.

Like seeing his initials.

Or looking at the clock just when it showed his birthday.

Or turning on the car to hear his song on the radio.

My BF and I even hung out outside of Chrysler Hall simply because our boy band crush sang there once upon a time.  I think we thought we could still breathe some of his air there.

Hope had us open for any sort of sign.

So I get the massive internet searches.  And who knows?  Maybe landing here on my blog is all kinds of meant to be–and I don’t want to disappoint.

In fact I love to make people smile, so I went on a search of all the things Google listed that people were looking for here (but couldn’t find).

liam payne freckle

Is that Liam’s mole/freckle?

 

 

liam payne lips

Are these the lovely teeth you were looking for?

 

liam payne feet

 And the shoes only Liam could fill?

 

liam payne hat

Oh and is this the hat you were looking for???

 

 

Nowadays I might see signs of love a little differently (like bringing me a cup of tea or washing the dishes), but my favorite part of looking for a sign?

Being open to hope.

 

Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at it destination full of hope.

~Maya Angelou

 

When it comes to love, have you ever looked for signs?

On Luck and My Dorky Teenage Optimism

 

According to my first diary, this Saturday is Rob Lowe’s birthday.

Apparently on March 17, 1984, I had a lunch of lamb stew and then spent an afternoon flying a kite and swapping scratch and sniff stickers with my sister.  Then later I got together with Rob.

Rob Lowe Coleen Patrick collage _opt

Um, via collage.

When it came to crushes and boys I put a lot of emphasis on luck and wishing and okay occasionally praying to certain patron saints in the name of love.  I probably would’ve spent my entire St. Patrick’s Day in a clover patch waiting for the Great Four Leaf Clover to arrive if I thought it would help my case.

Yes, St. Patrick’s Day was extra special and extra lucky.  It was the one day a year that I owned my freckles and my complete inability to tan.  But when I was a young teenager it offered me something even more powerful.

Optimism.

Okay so maybe my diary entries portray me as kind of clueless (and dork-tastic, check out this post if you’re not quite sure), but there’s something to be said for a little positive thinking.

Because gluing your picture alongside your crush (or combing a clover patch) leaves you open for opportunity.

 

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

 

Like on March 17, 1990.

Preparation:  I curled my hair and put on something green.

Opportunity:  A frat house St. Patrick’s Day party.

The luck:  I met my husband.

 Better Together couple

No glue or scissors needed

 

 

 

Wishing you a rainbow

For sunlight after showers

 Miles and miles of Irish smiles

 For golden happy hours

Shamrocks at your doorway

For luck and laughter too,

And a host of friends that never ends

Each day your whole life through

 

ireland road _opt

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

What are your thoughts on luck?

 

 

The Freedom and Adventure of Taking to the Road in YA

 

“All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change.”

~The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

 

Travel has always been a popular theme in YA fiction.  There’s something about that opportunity for change, freedom and adventure that can be so exciting.

I love road trips and remember them being especially enticing when I was a teenager (way back when I didn’t give much thought to flat tires, tired motels and greasy food).

It’s all about the fun and possibility.

YA adventure food travel _opt

 

Foreign food is part of the adventure too.

 

That’s my daughter creating her own YA adventures 6,000 miles from home.  She is meeting new people, learning a new language, eating different food and enjoying a journey that is more than just a trip from home.

 

 Because just like in real life, a great fictional trip is not just about the geography.

 

Heart connections in the Caribbean.

 

A road trip and the mystery of emotional distance.

 

Self-discovery in Italy via undersea archaeology

 

What YA journeys have you loved (real or fiction)?

 

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest

 

Beauty.

 

Is it in the eye of the beholder?

 

After all, what we like is subjective.  We’ve got those complicated noggins storing a lifetime of experiences, passions and beliefs, all of which color what we find beautiful.

My head shot

 

 

Of course, shiny things distract and sparkly things can be fun(ny) . . .

 

coleen patrick glamour shot _opt
That’s a lot of hair for one noggin to hold.

 

 

And beauty can get tangled up with things like botox, Spanx or Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues (pun intended).
It really is more about what we find at the core of one another.

 

Beautiful people do not just happen,”  said Elizabeth Kubler Ross.  “These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern.”

 

It’s true.  When you experience someone’s true character–compassion, kindness, smarts, empathy, humor, genuineness, love, etc, it’s like their soul is glowing right through their skin.

And that’s beautiful.

 

How do you define beauty?

Beauty of a Woman Blogfest by August McLaughlin

Be sure to visit August’s blog on Friday, February 10th, to read inspiring stories and for chances to win awesome prizes, including a Kindle Touch or $99 Amazon gift card, body image coaching, BOAW mugs and more.