Saturday, November 30, 2013

Now It's Time to Say Goodbye and Thank You

Goodbye NaBloPoMo 13, this year we didn't become friends instead we struggled and fought. Somedays you won and somedays I won. I think we're parting ways after today for awhile, I am sure that I will miss you and may even regret giving you up. Absence always makes the heart grow fonder.I miss my friends who've joined me in this adventure over the years, it just isn't the same without them.

For me, this blog is a labor of love and devotion. I love writing my history down, sharing stories, truth, struggles and truimphs. Why do I keep blogging? my faithful readers who encourage me and support me. Every tweet, comment, retweet, Facebook comment, email and kind word. It always shocks me when someone says to me and says, '' I love reading your blog!''

I am humbled by your support and forever grateful for your encouragement. The support I have recieved has ovewhelmed me. Going from a handful of faithful friends reading to over 10k people a month reading blows my mind. Every kind word encourages me to writer, be a better write and continue this journey. My gratitude,love and thanks can never be enough.

Next year, I will focus mainly on writing a book and the journey that will take me on. I will never stop blogging but I won't be blogging as much.  Still have a few more blogs in me this year and then my journey begins.

I will leave you with this follow up on the great Christmas tree debate:
Marty wrote this on FB today and I thought I would share. I wasn't kidding :

Ok, so as I'm sitting on the couch listening to Christmas music watching Julie decorate the tree, (Trust me it's best to stay out of her way) I notice a lot of "My" ornaments making it on the tree. Happy Day! Right?? All the sudden Julie reaches over me while hanging an ornament and says, "you see, I'm putting them where you can see them". Then I realize my ornaments are on the "Wall" side of the tree! 
P.S. I do have ONE ornament on the front of the tree. If you ZOOM in, it's on the lower left by the tree skirt. "

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas has Arrived

Marty and the kids picked  out the tree today, I came home from work and decorated it. Nobody wanted to help? I wonder why?

Great news, none of the ornaments broke in the move.

Bad news, I dropped about five of them on the floor when I was hanging them and Conner's moonface fell of the tree and shattered on the floor.

I love sitting and staring at the lights every evening and the house smells amazing!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

One Year Later: #365DaysofThanks

A year ago my Twitter pal and Bro Joel challenged his followers to a year of giving thanks everyday instead of one day a year. He asked me to join him and spread the word, I wrote this blog  and started on the journey of being thankful everyday instead of one month a year.

I'd like to ask for your help, I want 2 start a trend , thn 2day & every day the rest of the yr make an I'm thankful 4 tweet

Somedays were easier than others. What I enjoyed most about this challenge was that when I was having a really bad day it MADE me look for something good in the day. My personality is an emotions based personality that can get the better of me at times. A blessing and a curse, when I am happy, I am happy and when I am sad, I am really sad. So on the sad days, I would work on being thankful and it turned the day around in an instant.

This year I am doing the challenge again and pushing myself to have an attitude of gratitude everyday in the next #365days. Working hard not let the little things get me down. I cannot wait to see what the next year holds for our family.

Here is a look back at some of my #365daysofthanks and wonderful gifts of the past year:

For every tweep who tweets their workouts, rides and races. You inspire me to be a better me and be fit. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cooking with the Kids

Tonight the kids and I prepped Thanksgiving dinner. I've learned from many years of making a very large dinner that it is easier to make as much ahead as possible. After 13 years of making my own Thanksgiving dinner, I have finally stopped trying to make it all the same day. Now the kids are older and they enjoy helping out and helping prep the night before.

Tonight Conner was chopping vegetables, Elizabeth was mixing desserts and cranberry relish and I was mixing vegetable dishes. We were listening to the new One Direction album, I was dancing around the kitchen and we were just enjoying the moment.

It's nice to have their help and we all enjoy making the dinner together. Everyone has their favorite dish that we make and the menu is big for one meal. We have an eighteen pound turkey mainly so we can make sandwiches, soup and maybe taquitos out of it too!

Tomorrow we will get up early put the turkey in the oven and watch the Macy's day parade. Then eat a lovely family dinner and play games afterwards. Looking forward to being together as a family What are your favorite traditions and foods on Thanksgiving?

The Menu: Turkey, stuffing, carrots and rutabegas, pea salad, green bean casserole, green jello salad, cranberry relish, rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time Machine Tuesday: Six years of the 26th

In some ways, this is my dilemma with giving up NaBloPoMo. I love going back and looking at where our family has come from and where we were in November's past. I am blogged out right now and wanting to take a break next year but then I look back and realize that I love reading my old blogs. 

Definitely taking a break next year, I will blog less frequently while focusing on writing my book. This will give me time to recharge.

How did I start NaBloPoMo? The same person that talked me into joining Twitter talked me into NaBloPoMo. Di Jasso, she is an influencer and ring leader. I am so excited for Di, she won a contest to go see the MLS cup in Kansas city. She is also in another contest to win a chance to present the MLS cup to the winning team. She would love your vote on Facebook:

Now to look back at six years of NaBloPoMo:

11/26/13 I wrote this blog for my cousin Kyle on his birthday. Happy birthday Kyle!


Every year, I save the Christmas cards from the year before. I put them in the decorations bin and look at them again the next year. I even have some that are 10 years old. The purpose usually is to see how much friends children have grown throughout the years.

This year, as we hauled out the holly a very unusual thing happened. It was like I was viewing those Christmas cards for the very first time. Last year, things weren't good in our home. Marty wasn't doing very well and his health was rapidly declining. We almost were beginning to wonder if he would make it to transplant without further complications.

We spent most of last December holed up in our house waiting for the call. Our friends were great and their words of encouragement were so nice. At that point, after so many years of hearing " next year will be your year." it was almost as if those words just went in one ear and out the other. December 20th last year, we  got the first call which turned out to be a false alarm.

This year, on the other side of transplant, I was truly able to enjoy the cards for the first time. I had so much fun texting friends yesterday telling them their wishes, prayers and hopes came true. So many had said 2011 would be our year and it truly has been!

My card hoarding paid off and I truly was blessed to read the good wishes again. This year, I can't wait to send our Christmas cards out and hope they will be a blessing to those who supported and prayed for us.

11/26/10  A few weeks ago, Marty the kids and I were sitting in the living room chatting. Marty loves to joke and tease constantly. One of his favorite things to joke about is cremation.....I know, a bit bizarre. His big thing is, when he dies he wants to be cremated and he wants me to have him put in a locket and to wear him. It is a funny joke that we go back and forth with.

We were joking and I was showing him lockets online. Conner pipes in and says, " Well you know, they only cremate your arms." We both jerked our heads and looked at him shocked, holding in the hysterics. "What do you mean they only cremate your arms? Where did you get that idea?", Marty said.

Conner," Well, you actually get to choose, if there's not enough room they might just do your nose or your head?" by this time we are laughing hysterically. " Again, where did you get this idea?", I said.

Conner says, " I was creative thinking!"

There ya have it, Conner was "creative thinking" about cremation. We are still laughing about it a month later.

There also is "productive thinking" which is what he told me one day  when I found him spacing out during school. Not to be confused with "creative thinking" apparently "productive thinking" is something entirely different!

11/26/09  Holidays never get easier, time and healing happen but the holidays are still hard. I have been hearing that from so many people today. Friends missing their daughter and sister, aching for her to be with them. Friends missing parents, wishing for more time. I truly think death is the hardest part of life and grief goes along with that. Most of this blog has been about grief and different stages of grieving.

Most of 2006, I spent writing about losing my my grandparents and the aftermath of their deaths. Then our finding out that Marty was sick and the grief that followed that. I started reading Di's blog during the loss of her father and the grief that followed.

My Grandparents all loved holidays and we had such great times together. Now I just try to carry on the traditions they set forth and remember them in them.

11/26/08-I got this from Di's blog and thought I would play along since it is twofer Tuesday.

1.What is your funniest childhood story? Read two blogs before this and the one after to find out.

2. What would your dream dress look like if you could design it? I always used to design the same dress over and over in my sketch book. It had a..........Oh what the heck, I always loved Princess Di's dress.

3. What weird habit does your hubby have? He never  let's me get ice cream when we pass the ice cream section. We just pick it out and then he goes back to get it when we are done shopping.

4. How many cookbooks are in your kitchen?  About 30 on the top shelf of my cupboard.

5. Granny panties or Victoria Secret girl?  a bit of both

6. Favorite memory from 2008? I would say seeing Melissa and meeting up with Andrea and Di

7. I secretly...want to Live in England someday

8. I could really go for...some Chinese food.

9.We are going to have a big snow storm and you will find me..waiting by the window with snow gear on.

10. I knew he was the one...when we went on our first date.

11/26/07- I just got off the phone with the transplant coordinator at Stanford. Marty has been listed for transplant for kidney only at the moment. He needs to see the pancreatic transplant surgeon to determine if he is qualified for a pancreas transplant. We got a letter from our insurance denying that visit and they are trying to work with the insurance right now. Please pray that the insurance will approve the visit and that the surgeon will deem him a canidate for pancreas transplant. I am not worried because I know God is in control of this situation.

~I hate whiny children! Mine are whining about flu shots that I want to get them and they don't even know when they are getting them. Plus it is the first day back to school after several days off and they are being slow about doing their work.

~ Why am I always doing dishes? I think they are breeding in the sink.

~My email friends are wondering where I disappeared to and why I am not emailing. I had to explain the blog a day challenge to them and now they are reading all the blogs.

~We are going to the Candy cane lane parade tonight and I must find all the hats and gloves. Why are gloves always disappearing?

~ I burned my thumb making turkey taquitos on Saturday. It hurt like a *$@(@)_$@ but is feeling better today.

~ I am thinking about making turkey soup this afternoon.

I could go on and on but then I risk sounding whiny myself. I am going to make a post of pet peeves pretty soon!

Monday, November 25, 2013


February 1984, sitting in a dark den on Kibbee street on my Gramie's lap with the soft glow the television being the only light in the room. Sitting in a big over sized white armchair that belonged to my Kankad in the room that had been converted to a den of sorts. We sat watching together Scott Hamilton win the Olympic gold that night. I can still see it in my head, later in our pajama's I would snuggle up to her back in her big king sized bed.

me snuggled up next to Gramie while she holds Carrie

Gramie was the best friend of my youth, she called me her shadow. Widowed in January 1981, she leaned on me heavily and I leaned back, she was a stability in my life. Often I would chose to stay the night at her house, she would sleep with the hall light on and I would snuggle up on the clean pressed sheets next to her, safe and sound. The next morning, I would get up and she would make me eggs of any kind, pancakes and sausage, orange juice before driving me to school in her big brown Cadillac. ( just like the one the Dad on the new ABC show the Goldbergs drives)

Matching shirts even!

She took me to Kansas with her for a whole month in the summer of 1985 to see her mom. Her name was Muriel which in their Kansas accent was ''Merle''. Growing up in Pittsburg, Kansas in a very humble home, raised with mid-western principles and goodness. Many don't know but I went to school saying, ''warsh'' instead of wash.

She worked only one job in her life getting paid .25 cents an hour to pay for her wedding dress. She loved my Kankad until death they did part and beyond, she lived 22 years past his death and never got over it.

HA! Gram's paddle. Like she would ever spank us! She spoiled us almost to the extent it was NOT okay!

Mother of four, grandmother of five, great grandmother of five before her death. She lived for her family and being a mom and grandmother. She took care of all five of her grandchildren on a daily basis for many years carting us all back and forth to school daily.

She wore a beehive hairdo for most of my youth, we spent many a weekday in the Gilded Cage with her hairdresser Debbie get her hair sprayed to perfection. She liked country music, clogging, dancing, traveling, smoking. She smelled of Doublemint gum and Avon's Intrigue. She spent much of her adult life battling her weight and was a Weight Watcher lifetime member.

Reading the National Enquirer and Good Housekeeping was an art. She watched her ''shows'' aka as soaps every afternoon for my entire life. She indulged me, buying me lots of books on the Royal family, dresses with puffed sleeves and books galore.

In the grocery store checkout line, she could gab anyones ear off, stranger or not! I remember cringing at her as she talked to strangers. So embarrassing! she would talk for hours and hours to anyone that would listen! She was definitely midwest friendly never truly becoming a Californian. She just lived there, she was Kansas through and through.

She often lamented she was the black sheep of her family having very strained relations with her brothers. They never were fond of her because their father spoiled his little girl and made them work hard. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldnt fix relations. She was extremely sensitive, often getting her feelings hurt by others and not reacting very well.

Yep, if you wonder where I got a lot of my you know. I truly am and was her shadow. We would chat for hours about ice skating, we loved watching it together keeping up on our favorites and watching every special. We were both particulary fond of Michelle Kwan.

When Conner was born, she baby sat him for me while I worked. They had a bond just like she and I did, he was her little shadow. Her Caddy sat in the driveway, she could no longer drive and was on oxygen full time. He gave her purpose in her housebound days, I often wondered why he wouldn't sleep at night?? because she held him all day long just loving her last baby. He was bow legged at one because she held him so much. It was sad day when I ripped him away and moved him away from her, she never really got over that.

She was however very excited that Conner and Elizabeth were both left handed like her. She always wanted a left handed grandchild. Instead she got two left handed great grandchildren.

Nanny and Conner

Nanny and Conner. Gramie and our family Christmas 2002, she passed away just a few months later

 As well as teaching me how to starch and press Marty's police academy uniforms, one of her last things on earth was to watch my kids for a weekend. They had so much fun with her and she enjoyed it so much. She was gone a month or so later leaving a huge hole in my life. 

The day of her death was one of the strongest spiritual experiences of my life. One so personal, I have shared it with very few in my life.

The winter of 2004, twenty years after watching Scott Hamilton skate for his Olympic Gold. I sat on the couch bawling like a baby watching Michelle Kwan skate and not achieve her dream. I felt so robbed for her and for me, I really wished Gramie was there to watch with me and be heartbroken again for our favorite. I stopped watching ice skating, it was just too painful to watch without her.

Yesterday I changed the channel after football and there was an ice skating program on. I got so excited seeing all of our favorites from the days of old skating with their kids. It was so comforting and made me smile, of course the urge to pick up the phone was there but the overwhelming flood of memories were good and happy. I may just start watching ice skating again on a regular basis!

Christmas day would've been her birthday. She really hated having a Christmas day birthday, she often felt lost in the shuffle. Today I wanted to give her a day of her own and celebrate all she was and is in my life. I wear her engagement ring on my right hand every single day. She lives inside of me and on through me in my mothering, being a wife and a large part in my personality.Conner and Elizabeth cringe when I talk to strangers in public about their clothes, I fight a fight to keep my emotions in check and at a healthy place( something she never mastered), I have the same relationship with my siblings,  short like her and fight the weight battle as well. I am her shadow still and always will be.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Liebbster Award: 11 Things About Me

My crazy friend Pamela gave me the Leibster award. I have had it before and techinically have way too many followers. I did think it would be fun to answer her questions though. She gave me and another wonderful blogger Viday ( you can read her blog here: questions to answer instead of us writing our own.

Go read her answers to her random questions on her blog and buy her books too!:

1. If you had to, would you run naked on a beach? (now, Vidya, aren’t you sorry I asked my own??), I really wouldn't!
2. What is your favorite outfit of ALL TIME? I used to have this super cute Espirit Navy blue and white polka dot jacket that I owned in the 1990's. Overall,  I have to say it was this one:

My fifth birthday present bought from the Wee Toy Loft in Whittier,CA

3. Next family holiday: cooking? visiting? eating out? I always cook Thanksgiving. Marty and the kids love when I cook for holidays!
4. What oogies you out more than anything in the world? baked fruit or writing with chalk and creepy people.
5. ebook, audio, or print? I love to crack the spine of a book!
6. Who would play you in the movie of your life story? I really don't know the answer to this one! I am not sure who looks enough like me to play me.
7. If you could only keep one, would it be your eyesight or your hearing? eye sight
8. It’s the zombie apocalypse. You only have time to grab three things. And they are . . . ? Conner, Elizabeth and Marty
9. Vacation: beach, city, mountains, or? Beach, I miss living near a beach. Huntington Beach to be exact or camping at Carpenteria.
10. Shower with massage heads or bubble bath whirlpool tub? bubble bath whirlpool tub
11. If you could trade lives with someone for a reality show, who would it be? I really don't know this answer either. I don't want to trade lives with anyone...ever, so I have no clue!

Thanks Pamela for the doozy questions and for nominating me! That was tough and answer a couple of them. Who should play me in a movie? I would love to hear from my readers!

I nominate my friend @ddot82 to answer these questions!

Saturday, November 23, 2013


When I moved to Tennessee, I came to work for my friend Lee. His main employee Nancy was battling breast cancer and was very unwell. The intent wasn't to replace her but for me to come along and help out, they did mention they were concerned because Nan and I had very different personalities from their knowledge and they weren't sure we would get along.

From the very first moment I met her, I liked Nan. It isn't hard for me to find something in common with someone, very rarely do I not get along with someone. Nancy was an intellectual, feminist, atheist, with a strong sarcastic wit and sharp tongue. She was a perfectionist, driven, often upset at other people's ineptitude, laziness and apathy in life.The odds weren't in her favor from a young age, she lost both of her parents to cancer before she was an adult. Battling cancer and dealing with some tough personal issues, she was in a dark place, she was angry and pissed off at the circumstances she was in and she let you know it.

We quickly struck a friendship up finding commonalities in our lives. We loved the same kind of music often talking about the hey day of New wave and going to concerts as girls. She was a writer, well educated, well traveled, versed in the ways of life. She lived many years in New England buying and selling mid century modern antiques and loving all things Sci-Fi. Her ring tone was that of the Tardis landing. She loved hearing that my family (minus myself) had started watching Doctor Who, she was a big fan of the Doctor especially David Tennant.

We both were mothers with the same views on raising children and expecting a lot of them. Raising young men who we are training to respect women. Teaching them to take responsbility for their actions and lives. My last day working with her was spent with her and her son, I loved watching her with him. It was almost surprising because she was a liberal in many ways but very conservative with her son and what she expected of him. I will never forget that last day with her, Jules and Conner.

Women empowering and supporting other women was something we were both passionate about. Respecting each other instead of tearing each other down and finding a common ground instead of disrespecting our own sex by acting like children. We both were raised with similar views on this subject and talked about it daily as we worked.

I am of the belief that everyone comes into your life for a reason, a season and a purpose. I believe that one of the reasons I ended up here was to know Nan and learn from her. It was my pleasure to be able to hug her on rough days, let her cry on my shoulder when she was scared and listen to her problems. She liked that I understood catastrophic illness and did not say trite things to her. I geniunely understood what it is like to be facing the unknown and major health issues.It gave her hope to know Marty and I had survived major illness and lived to tell the tale.  Being able to support her in her trials was a blessing that I will never forget.  The days we worked together were really special albeit brief.

In the short time I knew Nan, I learned a lot from her. She became an older sister of sorts, someone I could talk to about anything and get an extremely honest opinion. She valued truth highly as do I, she would tell me exactly what she thought of something making no excuses or apologies for her opinions. She was who she was nobody was going to change that.

Sometimes someone is only in your life a brief time but leave a large footprint behind. They leave your physical presence but live on in your mind and heart forever. Very fitting today on the day of the Doctor, I said goodbye to Nan. She lost her valiant battle with breast cancer earlier this month leaving behind her young son Jules. Tonight listening to his words about his mother, her ex's husbands words and her sisters words confirmed that even though I knew her only briefly, that I did indeed know her fully.

Pray for her young son Jules, he has a long life to live without his mother.

for me, she brought a brightly colored view into my world and helped change and inspire me in many ways. Tonight I am grateful that I can say, I knew Nan and was her friend. Goodbye Nan, sleep well my friend.

Tonight at the service her family shared songs that reminded them of her. I will always think of Nan when I hear Howard Jones. She loved telling me the story of how she met him in her college days and he touched her hand when singing. She often lamented she was backstage and asked if she was with the band but her friend said they weren't and blew their cover!

November Deals through Mailpix

I've been lucky to be an affiliate of Mailpix for the past year. I ordered my holiday cards through them today and thought I would share a deal with you for your holiday cards. They have great prices, several styles to choose from, and fast service. Special Deals

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Really Don't Want to Blog Tonight or Be an Adult.........

Dragging along on my journey, the last year of NaBloPoMo for me. This month has been really tough to keep going and frankly, I am tired of blogging everyday and think everyone is tired of me blogging everyday. Challenging my brain is a good thing but add that to forty hours a week in a classroom training for my new job. My brain is fried.

I've been in training to be a customer service representative for a pharmacy benefit company. It is a complex job that has required a lot of training. I am loving it so far, no day is ever the same, great company with great benefits and lots of nice people working there. Customer service is important, which is right up my Disney training way. I am now in the phase where I go into my role full time next week under an assisted level. Bottom line, I really love the challenge and will learn a lot.

Went out to dinner with Marty and his new co-workers tonight. It was nice.

I wish that I could've gone home for my cousins shower this weekend. Really sad to be missing out on such a big event and especially for my dear Sarah, who has been there for my family. New job, no time to plan and life have prevented this.

Then I came home to read several sad bits of news about friends. I really hate to see friends hurting and struggling.  Seems like the older I get the more it happens, I didn't realize that until my friend Jessica brought that up to me tonight. She is so right. Getting older stinks, can we find a time machine to go back and be young and carefree again?

So prayers for all of my friends hurting, sad and down tonight. So grateful to have the privilege of bearing others burdens and walking alongside them during tough times.

My friend Anita said this reminded her of me. She is so right, my heart has been so heavy this year for friends struggling

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Confessions of a So Called Middle Child, Interview with Author Maria T Lennon

  When I was asked to read this book, I jumped at the chance.  I am a classic middle child 
sensitive, often feeling left behind and forgotten in the shuffle of a busy family in upheaval.  My parents divorced when I was in 7th grade and I struggled through the years of going to jr. high in a very affluent area riding the bus in to school. Now the mother of a daughter the same age, I thought it would be great to read the book and interview Maria T. Lennon the author of the book on Just Jules. She kindly agreed and our chat is below the book description.

 In Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, Harper Collins’ latest middle grade series to hit the shelves August 27, 2013, turning your back on popularity and facing the mean girls head-on proves to be fun and rewarding. Penned by author and screenwriter Maria T. Lennon, Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child stars hilariously spunky recovering bully and tween hacker Charlie Cooper, who gets expelled from her fancy Malibu Charter School for a laxative prank gone wrong and finds herself “shrinked” for middle child syndrome and getting more than she bargained for at her new school Los Angeles.

Just as Charlie succeeds in fitting in with the cool crowd at her new school, her therapist makes her commit something worthy of social blacklisting: befriending the most unpopular girl in middle school, Marta the Farta. When Charlie learns the terrible truth behind Marta the Farta's bad attitude and loner status, she decides to make a change in her life that sets her on the road to reformation.

Maria Lennon has created a fresh and fun story that brings "Mean Girls" to the tween level, peppered with snarky comments, major attitude, and advice to spare from Charlie Cooper, whose virtues, flaws and fears promise to hit home among young girls, braving middle school in the 21st century and all the pressures that come with it: popularity, bullying, social media, the list goes on.

Jules: Welcome Maria, so glad to have you on Just Jules to talk about your new book.  I am a blogger who doesn’t consider herself a writer turned blogger but a blogger turned writer.  How did you get your start in writing? Was it something you always loved or something you’ve learned to love?

Maria: Hi Jules, thank you so much for having me.

To tell you the truth, I hated writing when I was a kid. I had horrible dyslexia and used to rip the paper into shreds with my pencil. I found it frustrating beyond belief. I HATED organizing my thoughts. Kids called me a “retard” routinely. It was bad. But then things turned around when my mother took me to a special dyslexia tutor and I learned how to overcome a lot of the obstacles. And then, writing became my salvation. It took me to the best schools in the world and I got into them because I could write.

Jules:  Tell us a little about your childhood and family life growing up? Where did you grow up? I write about my life and childhood, so I want to know about yours.

When I was 13 my family moved from LA to a ranch north of Santa Barbara. My siblings (one older sister and two brothers) and I wanted to run away the moment we saw it. It felt like hell to us. All that nature! Los Olivos had a population of 425 people. The street had a butcher, a liquor shop and a gas station. There wasn’t a mall (what torture!)  or a movie theater for sixty miles AND on top of that people were slaughtering their pets. I became a vegetarian immediately and begged to go to boarding school. Lucky for me, my parents said yes. So off I went to Switzerland at fifteen and then I went to England did my A levels and went to London School of Economics where I planned to study human rights law and join the United Nations.

Jules: Where did you come up with the main character Charlie? Is she from your own past or based on anyone you know in your life?

The character of Charlie is based on my middle child. She is now almost thirteen and is still very much a middle child. Many of the experiences in the book with girls came from spending so much time on school yards and in classes. I became very attuned to the tone of voice girls get when they’re shutting someone out. And the look on the face of the girl who has just been shut out gets me every time.

Jules:  Everyone knows that I am a southern California native born and bred. I love that you set your story in Laurel Canyon, my readers may not know this about me, growing up I would go to work with my Dad on the weekends. He often worked in the Hollywood Hills; I have a fond fixation with old Hollywood homes and neighborhoods. The Laurel Canyon area and Los Feliz areas are two places I could wander forever.

Maria: YAY!!! Me too. My grandmother lived in Los Feliz. My Mom grew up there.  I love Los Feliz.

The fact you set the story in the legendary, controversial Houdini home is my favorite part of the book! What is your favorite place to go and be in the Southern California area? Tell us your favorite historical place as well?

My favorite place IS where I live. I, like you, could wander Laurel Canyon endlessly. I am a runner (though sadly don’t resemble one) and I spend hours just jogging slowly through the smallest dead-end drives, trying to figure out how to get to the old canyon houses that seem to hang on to cliffs with no roads.  I stop to talk to the older residents and they always tell me what it was like in the old days. I love old people. The other day I went through the old Tom Mix cabin, on the opposite side of the street from the Houdini Mansion and took tons of photographs of the caves. This incredible property is featured in book 2 and book 3 of the series and is a place of so much history and Laurel Canyon mystery.

Jules: We’ve all had a Marta in our life, someone who is shunned by her classmates for being weird and different. Something I have lived and re-lived this year with Elizabeth my daughter is that 13-year-old girls are mean and often eat their own.   Were you more a Marta or a Charlie? For me, I was more like Charlie’s older sister Pen in this case. I’ve always just loved people even people others deem not cool or outcasts. I really appreciate this part of the story, that you show the back story of this young girl and show another young girl to look beyond appearances!

Maria: What great insight! I think we’d get along, you and I. I was—and am—more like Pen too. But I had mean girls on my tail. When I was a kid there was a girl named Bunny who used to wait for me in the locker room and attack me with her long, sharpened toe nails- I kid you not. I lived in fear of her and hid most afternoons until my mom would finally pick me up.
The thing is—Charlie is scared, far more scared than Pen. So she comes out swinging. That’s her defense mechanism. Confident people don’t need to swing. Marta doesn’t swing and ironically she has far more confidence than Charlie does.
And yes, I’m sorry for your daughter. Girls can be so mean. It breaks my heart. It’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book and one of the main things I talk about when I go to schools.

Julie:  Okay, I think that we just made friends! I love that we love the same places and have the same thoughts about being different and marching to your own drum.

Jules: The thing that had me laughing was the Romanian character! Romanian’s have long been a part of my life from my love of Nadia Comaneci to having many Romanian friends. Such a random thing to add to the story but perfect for my blog!  Where did this come from?

Maria:I love that you love that. I suppose it dates us—Nadia Comaneci was just the epitome of cool wasn’t she? I chose her because Charlie likes cool and unusual people. I wanted Marta to be an outcast, to feel like she’s on the fringe because that’s the way Charlie feels inside. Wait until you read book 2- Marta’s aunt comes into town and her take on American culture will have you laughing.

Jules: Anything else you would like to share?  I really appreciated that you showed a human side of a 13 year old girl. One that wasn’t neat and pretty, Charlie is a girl with deep seated issues who turns her life around. As a former Charlie, I really appreciated that you didn’t paint her as having a cookie cutter life and also showed Marta’s tough life as well.

Maria: I love you! You see the whole point. Some people who want cookie cutter kids look at Charlie and Marta and say, “Wow, Charlie is so mean.” Or “she’s a brat, shallow, superficial….” And that IS the point, 13 year-old girls aren’t always so sweet or kind. Nor should they be, right? It’s all part of the journey. And kids need to read about someone who is NOT necessarily a role model, but someone who is struggling through it just like they are.
I thank you for the opportunity to have such an intelligent conversation about these girls. I hope your daughter liked the book.

Julie: Thank you so much Maria, I adore you and I am so glad we had this chat. Thanks for sharing with me about 
your book. You have to come back and chat with me some more when book two and three come out! I think that we could talk forever.

I am giving away a copy of Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. Leave me a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway. This would make a great stocking stuffer for any of the young girls in your life!

Follow her on Twitter: @Maria_T_Lennon

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday

Be Kind

Love others more than you love yourself

Bring joy to someone everyday

Smile,its easy to do and you will often get one in return.

Listen more than you do talk 

Being encouraging is so much easier than being discouraging and feels better.

Be happy its contagious

Being honest is easier than lying

Above all be true to yourself and be the kind of friend you would like in return. It doesn't always come back to you but when it does, it feels amazing.

I love others, sometimes far more than I love myself. It is hard for me when others don't love me in return. I just think everyone should get along with everyone else. Unfortunately the world doesn't work that way. This year, I've learned you cannot control others reactions and you cannot make somebody like you even if you're nice to them. Some people just don't like nice.

Now I have learned nice has a limit. Sadly, I learned this lesson from my own siblings, I was nice until it was a detriment to my own sanity. Though nice, soft and fairly easy going, I have a limits and boundaries. No longer am I the doormat that I once was and definitely will not be pushed around. 

I've lived a hard enough life to be tough as nails under my soft demeanor. I was also raised to love myself, respect myself and take care of myself. As much as I love people, I am suprisingly self sufficient and independent.

Basically, you don't have to like my happy go lucky Pollyanna ways, I won't be happy that you don't like me but in the end, its your loss not mine.

One of my personal goals is to work on not caring what others think about me by the time I am forty. Working on it everyday and making slow but sure progress. I care about others and when someone doesn't care back, it hurts me. I love having a heart that is soft and cares for others but it can be a thorn in the flesh as well. Definitely my achilles heal at times.

Today was a long busy day at work and home. This is just what came out of my jumbled thoughts tonight.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Time Machine Tuesday: Things about Me

From 11/16/09 from the post

I don't eat baked fruit pies. How un-American is that. ( I really don't eat baked fruit at all. I don't like it)

I don't drink milk.

I have only ever had three jobs.

I was voted "Most likely to cry at the movies" my senior year in high school.

I once rode on the Goodyear blimp.

My parents divorced when I was 13

I have small feet used to wear a five. Since I've had kids now its six and a half.

I am pigeon toed. My mom and sister are also.

I once got blood in my eye and mouth while labor coaching.

When I meet people, the first thing I notice is teeth.

I love old movies

From 11/27/07 ( please note, this was a very dark time in my life and I was super grumpy. I am usually not that ranty but I do believe these things) from the post

Things that bug me:

When people treat other people poorly. When someone thinks more highly of themselves than others. Whatever happened to living by the Golden Rule? I always want to Do Unto Others and it is hard when people are mean,ugly, rude, disingenuous, and down right hurtful. It's hard to always be kind, to put others ahead of yourself. Nobody is perfect and we cannot think we are either.

Being late, you want to see me twitch? Make me late and I will shutdown and start twitching.

Lying. The truth may hurt but lies hurt more and do more damage than good.

Spammers, they make my life difficult most days and I wonder why they all come from Russia?

( I really am a people person.....really people I am.)

When I ruin perfectly good new clothes doing housework or cooking. I am so messy and never can keep stain free even if my life depended on it. My childhood nickname was Messy Moose for crying out loud.

Parents who let their children behave badly and feed into it. Do you really thinking giving in will help in the long run? I understand kids being kids and behaving badly. Just allowing it is another thing.

People who take credit for things others have done.

My biggest pet peeve is : People who judge books by their cover. I do not care who you are, what you have done, how much money you have, I only care if you are a good person. I also never judge somebody with someone's else's opinion of them because I want to take the time to see who you are.

My likes:

My faith is my number one important thing to me. MPG stands for Mom Pursuing God.

My husband who still makes me weak in knees after 13 yrs. and is such a strong person. I have learned so much about myself through him and he is really a person I look up to.( now 17 years, through the valley and back and I still feel the same)

My kids who make me laugh everyday and encourage me to be a better person.

Family means a lot to me even if I do not see them everyday.

Women who encourage other women in life. I am so thankful for the many wonderful women I am surrounded by in life and online. They encourage me to be a better person, mother, wife, friend and family member. They teach me things, share their struggles, pain, and joy. This started with my grandmother's and has trickled down to the many wonderful people I call my friend.

Being true to myself and not trying to fit in any mold laid before me. I do not want to live someone else's life I want to live my own life with my own path.

I think that sums things up and I feel better having said it. I just have been holding a lot in lately trying to be strong and I am sure some of this is stress induced. I feel a lot of peace but I am human, and stress gets to all of us at one time or another. I think that about eats up my venting quota for the next month or so.

P.S. I just spoke with the financial coordinator at Stanford and she said the insurance is trying to completely re-direct us somewhere else grrrrr! They are working with the insurance to resolve the problem and they are hopeful for resolution.

As I grow weary from doing NaBloPoMo, these old posts remind me of where I have come from and remind me of why I do this. Remembering while moving forward is my favorite part in life.