mom blog

My beautiful mother.

My whole life, I’ve felt I was special. But I wasn’t special. Not really.

I was a typical kid with quirks and faults that morphed into pitfalls of destructive social mores . . . even still, through it all, I felt I was special. Worth something. Smart. Beautiful. Extraordinary.

This has everything to do with how I was raised. My parents saw me as extraordinary. They set the bar super high, and by holy hell water I was not going to let them down. Not because there would be hell to pay but because there would be a level of unspoken disappointment that would prove unbearable. Somehow, I knew this instinctively early on. There was no option but for me to be something special. Simply because I was something special.

Not only that. I was pretty.

Yes. I was told I was pretty from an early age. And, honestly, beyond all the smart and special and other kinds of praise that was showered on me, this was the most important. To me. A young girl. Shamefully true, but true nonetheless.

And try as I might to become a success in life . . . no matter how many honors I achieve, how many awards I win, how much praise I receive for my performance, I yearn for that reinforcement–from my parents, my friends, my husband . . . that I’m pretty. And I’ve been lucky. I’ve always felt confident and strong and happy with how I look–on a somewhat sliding scale (I mean, hey, I did live through the 80s by gosh . . .)

Fate has me living in my hometown after over twenty years of living away while believing I was that special, that kind of over-the-top talent, that kind of head-turning beauty. Since being home, I’ve been to several fundraisers and honorariums for different community groups that have been in existence long before my existence . . . and I’ve seen pictures of my mother in her prime. Gosh, that breath-taking beauty. I’ve proudly posted her photo on social media, praised her, raised her up, bragging to anyone who would listen–look, that’s my mother. Look how beautiful. And talented. And special. And extraordinary.

My beautiful mother.

I don’t know when it’s supposed to happen that you see yourself for who you really are. Maybe it’s supposed to happen this way. Tonight, I looked across the room at my 70+ y/o momma and was simply breath taken by her light and energy and beauty. Yes, not only her appearance, but her spirit. It was inspiringly captivating.

On her and my father’s anniversary, several pictures were taken–some of which captured me in my truth. And it woke me up a little.

My parents so empowered me throughout my childhood, I sometimes felt I knew better than they did. Maybe all grown children do this with their parents . . . and it’s an ugly truth . . . but I have often wanted to correct them, or rolled my eyes at their habits, or outright scolded them–silently or aloud–for something insignificant but somehow intrusive to my life. And, gosh, my mother has always shown such overt deference to me, I’ve often mistaken it for authority. She so often showers me with praise and love and affection, I too often take it for granted. I believe it too easily.

The truth is, I’m no better than my parents. It seems so obvious to write the words, but I have to admit I haven’t always felt that way. And that thing that I always felt so confident about–my looks? Well, guess what. I’m no extraordinary beauty. I’m not complaining. I’m fine with my appearance. But compared to my mother? There’s simply no contest! It’s so ridiculously clear. She was the true beauty. She was the standout, head-turning, throat-catching, student-crush-worthy stunner that you only see on the movie screen. She was that kind of beauty.

And still is.

Why am I only seeing this now?

As a mom, I try to balance praise with tough love. Encouragement with constructive criticism. Sternness with unconditional–not only love, but acceptance. As a daughter, I need to do the same with my parents. As we grow older–God willing–together, I want to lift them up the same way they lifted me. They gave me the best gift. They gave me a storybook childhood and a life most people could only dream of. They trusted me before I earned their trust. They respected me before I did anything worthwhile. Maybe it’s time to put them first for a change. Don’t they deserve it?

My mom certainly does.

Me and my beautiful mother.

It takes a village

My children will probably never have a traditional upbringing: growing up in the same house, markers of their growth lining the closet door, surrounded by familiar neighborhood kids, rooting for the same alma mater kinder to senior. Our first two boys were born in Massachusetts. Our littlest, in Indiana. We called Texas home for two years and are now living in upstate New York. More than likely, we’ll be moving again in the near future. Are we giving them an unstable home life or character-shaping adventures?

When I was fifteen, my parents moved me from my childhood home. I was so devastated, I wouldn’t help Mom pack. Not even my bedroom. And I wasn’t even changing schools. My grief turned to gratitude soon after we settled into our beautiful lake home. Years later, my parents moved again. This time, I wasn’t living at home but at college. Still, it was bittersweet. But when a friend made the comment that it must be hard to leave our lake home, my brother replied: “Home isn’t a place. It’s where your family is.”

Today, my family of five shares a home with my parents who live there part-time, half the year. It’s not a fancy house, nor is it lakeside. But, right now, it’s home. We share this house not due to financial strain or mid-life crises, but because it makes sense for us. Not only does it make sense, it’s been an absolute blessing. My children are growing up directly alongside one set of grandparents, and just a day-trip away from their cousins and another set of grandparents. They are surrounded by family. They are surrounded by love. This is obvious. The less obvious benefits have been revealed over time.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. My boys’ lives have become so rich in experiences, moving and traveling across the country. And now, living with my parents, their lives are enriched in another way. My mother brought them to the theater when I feared they might disrupt the onstage drama. My father talks physics and math-y stuff with my oldest while I’m allergic to numbers. My brother — who lives within driving distance — has introduced role-playing games to all the boys, gets them to make their own board games, and creates art with them. These are minor examples. The list goes on…

Our other “home” is at the beach, where my boys learn from their Nunu about ocean safety and how to be neighborly. They talk about books with their grammy and are lovingly folded into the glorious chaos of their cousins’ home as if they were more-the-merrier siblings within the eight-person-family.

No, my boys won’t have the traditional one-home-forever upbringing. But what they have is pretty great. Maybe better. Our boys will grow to be better, smarter, stronger, happier, and more confident — because they have a vast collection of love and experiences shaping who they are.

The end result is always better when you have a team behind you. Isn’t it?

Like with, say, BOOKS!

Last night at a book club discussion, I was asked the question: “How is it different working with a publisher versus self-publishing?” I get this question a lot.

When I self-published Catcher’s Keeper, I agonized over my story in solitude. Sure, I hired a myriad of editors, a cover designer, a formatter. I enlisted the help of many an author friend. I networked online and at writing conferences. I had a huge amount of support from family and friends. I certainly wasn’t alone, per se. But when it came down to it, it was up to me and me only to make it great. To make it flawless. Was it ready to be published when I finally uploaded it and — egads — people started ordering it? Was it as good as it could be? Aghhh! I hope so.

When I signed with Xchyer Publishing for FORTE, I couldn’t appreciate the expertise they would bring. I was hesitant. I’d been through the process. I’d learned so much. I’d self-published successfully and my attitude was: “What could you do for me that I couldn’t do myself?”

Well, let me tell you. I humbly stand corrected.

My team at Xchyler Publishing (my X-team) has scrutinized every single word of each line, each chapter. I had a team of five talented individuals who had a vested interest in making my manuscript the best it could possibly be, which sometimes meant rewriting scenes multiple times, writing lengthy character sketches and/or timelines that would never be included directly in the story, and examining dialogue and relationships to convey realistic characters. I was far from alone. Not only that, I was boosted up.

Granted, there were times when I’d see track-changes comment from my editor: “Not enough. Falls flat. Needs more tension.” I’d grunt at my screen in frustration, go through a short-lived cycle of denial/anger before coming to accept it and rework the scene. At times it would take hours. At times I’d have to throw the whole thing out and start anew. At times I had to add entire chapters to show what I thought was already pretty clear. In the end, the scene was always better.

Not only that, but we worked together to come up with a new title, a stunning cover, and a marketing plan. And, to my utmost delight, they took care of the critical and notoriously hard-to-write back-cover blurb. (I’d rather write an entire book than a back-cover blurb!)

LOCK 12 - original cover

Original cover and former title of FORTE


New FORTE cover design from Xchyler Publishing


Just yesterday, I sent what I was told had to be “absolutely the last go-around” version, and I’m thrilled with it. I have to say, the end result is so worth the effort. It’s so much better than it had been when I thought it was done. Frankly, I cringe to think of publishing the book without their input.

My “baby” launches July 25, 2015. It takes a village to launch a book. So many people have made FORTE rich in so many ways — I’m brimming with gratitude.   The best part? My boys can’t wait to read it. And the adventures continue…

Wake-up Call

My son knows how to swim.

Three weeks after moving to Texas, where we had a pool in our backyard, my son Adam — then 4 — learned to swim. That was three years ago. Throughout that first summer, my husband and I would often remark about how well Adam could swim. He seemed to be a “natural.” We even entertained the idea of signing him up for a swim team so he could develop competitive skills. Our family waterbug, he was always in the water.

We now live in my hometown of Lake George, New York. Having grown up on this lake, I feel it’s a part of me. Not only have I been swimming in this lake since birth, but I’ve boated, sailed, jet-skied, water-skied, canoed, kayaked, paddle-boarded…you name it. This lake is so important to me that my husband and I joke that if he (having grown up by the ocean) didn’t like Lake George, it would’ve been a deal-breaker. Yes, the word “comfortable” doesn’t quite cut it when describing Lake George. “Home” comes closer.

But here I sit at 3am, unable to sleep for what happened ten hours ago in that lake. Out the window, I can see its movement as the moonlight washes over it, ticking its way to the mountains. This lake has always brought me peace.

We are having a busy, fun-filled summer. One that brings me back to my childhood. Last week, we had the privilege of a beach vacation. My boys did wonderfully. My oldest thrived on his boogie board while my youngest understood his limits near the surf. Adam discovered his love for bobbing in the ocean waves. The bigger the wave, the bigger his smile. This week, we’ve been to 2 pool parties. Adam discovered his love for cannon-balling off the diving board. Watching him play in the water has brought me as much joy as he’s been having, I’m sure of it.

Yesterday, we arrived at Elizabeth Island on Lake George, where my parents have a cabin. Almost immediately, the boys wanted to swim. On with our suits and out to the dock. My youngest does not yet swim, so I made sure he wore his puddle-jumper and safely set him in the shallow part. My oldest wasted no time in swimming to the infamous rock — a generous platform about fifty yards from the dock. Adam went in too. I stood by watching, waiting to feel hot enough to take the plunge.

“Come on, Adam, let’s swim to the rock!” my oldest called.

Adam hesitated.

Here’s where my teacher instinct kicked in. “You can do it, Adam!” I cheered. And I know he could. He can. He had done it last year (maybe with a little help?). He’s been in the water almost every day this summer. He can do it. He just needed a little encouragement.

My husband and I have always been sensitive to our middle child, making sure he doesn’t feel overshadowed by his ambitious big brother. We always try to give him the encouragement he needs. In this case, as in many others over the years, I assumed this was what he needed.

But he still hesitated.

“I’ll go with you.” Was my solution.

Adam came onto the dock with me. We would jump in together (his favorite part) and swim *together* out to the rock. I felt confident in our plan.

My youngest began crying as soon as I began to swim. (He didn’t want me to swim away from him.) In typical 3 y/o-fashion, he wailed loud and long, taking up valuable space in my eardrums. Ashamed to admit, I ignored his crying, knowing he was safe. And we had a plan — Adam and me — and by golly, I was determined to finish it.

I could just picture us on standing on the rock together, fists to the sky, cheering for ourselves. This would be good for him. I was sure of it.

But then, halfway to the rock, I looked behind me. Adam had turned back.


No, don’t do that.

I hadn’t found the rock yet, but that’s not what made my heart pound.

Adam had gotten nervous and turned around.

No, don’t do that. The trip is that much longer when you turn around like that. Could he handle it? Is it now too far for him?

My youngest continued to cry, so loudly I could not hear Adam whimpering. I could not hear Adam calling me for help. (Was he calling me for help? I can only imagine he was.)

My feet still had not found that sturdy platform — the rock — from which I imagined launching to save my child. But any rock would do. I dove back toward the dock, kicking my way as fast as my legs would take me.

I told myself it was my youngest I was going back to help. He was the one crying. In retrospect, I think I didn’t want to admit Adam was in need of help. He could swim! He’s an excellent swimmer!

But my chest was tight with panic. Something was not right.

In no time at all, I could see that Adam had safely made it to the dock. In less than five seconds, I was holding my youngest, comforting him, stopping his tears. But my eyes were on Adam.

“You okay?” I said to him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t want to swim to the rock.”

“Okay. You don’t have to.”

That was it. It was over. Everyone was safe. Everyone went back to laughing and cannon-balling and smacking each other with noodles. (Why didn’t we have those earlier?)

But I remained shaken. Even after my brother and his wife arrived from Canada. Even after a cold Sam Adams by the firepit. Even after a comfort-food dinner of chicken and dumplings. Even after snuggling with my boys watching The Lorax in lieu of the fireworks. Even now, at three in the morning.

It’s a mother’s plight, I suppose. Imagining the what-ifs. Playing out different scenarios in your mind. Kicking yourself for those close calls that should’ve been avoided. Crafting emergency plans just in case. Worrying. Worrying. Worrying.

Had he been in trouble? Honestly, I don’t know.

But, as his mother, it’s my job to know.

This lake will always be part of our lives. We will continue to swim and fish and boat and cannon-ball. But I will never let my guard down, ever, when it comes to my kids and water. As much as it’s a source of comfort, I cannot forget it can be dangerous. My beloved lake. My comfort. My peace.

That’s nothing.

If we talk about “home”?

My kids.

My kids.