Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sum - Es - Est - Sumus - Estis - Sunt.

On this day, many, many years ago, I was born. This morning, my daughter Annie asked, “What does it feel like to be half-way finished with your life?” She thought she was funny, but her words took me back in time. I thought about when my mother was the age I am now, I was five years old, and well on the way to becoming a writer. Her intertwined lessons of love and instruction have stuck to me like the velcro on my son’s shoes.

We didn’t have computers or cell phones, MP3 players or microwaves. Momma taught me how to cook food that didn’t come from a box, look people in the eye and talk, tie real shoe laces and conjugate Latin verbs before I could even conjugate their English versions. Fluent in many languages, and a former decoder for the FBI, my mother stressed language for all of my years, and the importance of Latin as the root of all modern languages. It has been a goal of mine to pass on a love for reading and writing to my children and others. My father is credited also with my love of writing and history, as he wrote books as an historian, and as a lecturer, there was no one as engaging or as funny. He also taught me how to shoot a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson without falling backwards, and how to keep a straight face when finding the humor in social situations. I think these last two lessons have made me feel the most comfortable in life.

When my husband, a teacher at Annie’s high school, asked me to come and talk for Career Day,  I thought I had my chance to pass on my love for all things written and ironic. Annie overheard her Daddy and cried out, “Oh My God! NO! MOM! You can’t come!” 

It took Chris a week to convince her that I would not talk about being a medium. The students at her small Catholic middle school were relentlessly cruel after she appeared with me on an episode of the Bio Channel’s My Ghost Story. While the administration was supportive of her, mean girls raised the bar on verbal bullying, and she is happy to be back in public school with her friends again. As a result, I do understand her position, although in my defense, she is in a syndicated tv segment, two best selling books, and my blog and Facebook pages. I don’t think Career Day is going to be her demise.

But trying to be a supportive mom, I went through my list of occupations as if I could choose one  from my closet like a colorful sweater… 
  • Mom (Boring, busy, and rewarding––multi-colored striped sweater with food stains) 
  • Magazine Editor/Banking Industry (zzzz––gray sweater with holes), and 
  • Writer (Conservative––Blue sweater, high neckline). 

Then I got an email from the PTA welcoming the New York Times Bestselling author. Oh No! Red Sweater––Low neckline! I was embarrassed. Were they really talking about me? After all, I wake up after most people have had their morning coffee, I work with a dog in my lap, and don’t own a pair of Manolo Blahniks. Could I pull this off?

On Friday, I was welcomed by students at Richard Montgomery High School. I had eight periods of honors/IB/AP Literature, English, and Theater to entertain. In period one I talked about how writers are needed for everything. I passed out Dove chocolates as proof, but none of these had the empowering statement within the wrapper, as they usually do. Possibly, I thought,  a foreshadowing of my day. The teacher began to talk about her masters degree in Puritanical Literature. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. yet, my coffee was cold, and I had lost them.

After that period, another class came in, along with another teacher. I talk about how being a writer is about observing and persuading, entertaining and seeing the humor in life. Shedding light on that which is dark. Learning to write in different genres, and accepting criticism and then discarding it. Yada, Yada, Yada.

These kids are smart and I loved them for asking questions. They were beginning to awaken. They asked my favorite authors, and I encouraged them to read more Welty, Faulkner, Hemingway, and the classics. Life is always the same, I tell them, but culture changes and influences people. Those cultural boundaries in history tell you a lot about human nature. I decided to remain exclusive with my true love of Dave Barry, Diana Gabaldon, and Audrey Niffeneggar, for fear that they may never read a school book again.

At this point, I’m not sure if anyone cares what I’m saying or is just being polite, when a hand is raised in the third row from the back. A girl who looks a lot more put-together than I was in the 9th grade, is smiling at me and waving her hand impatiently. I start to say, “Sure, you can go to the bathroom,” when she blurts out, “So, what’s it like to see ghosts?” The class went silent.

I was caught speechless. I looked at the teacher who says, “Oh yes, we went to your website and read about you.” Still processing this, I hear “How did you become a medium?” from the other side of the room.

Oh Crap. Annie is going to be M-A-D! 

Then I started to think like a teenager. Maybe I can get away with this without being caught by my daughter. Maybe I won’t get punished if she never finds out! 

Since there are over 2,200 students in the school, I decide to take a risk and answer their questions, and tell my ghost stories. After all, authors spend most of their time lecturing when not writing (or playing with their dogs). 

From then on, my most commonly repeated phrase between ghostly stories was, “See if you learn how to write, then you can be a writer no matter what your occupation.” But these cloaked disclaimers were as inaudible as ghosts themselves. These inquisitive young minds were thinking about what to ask next. 

By the time I saw Annie, I was bracing for the storm. She gave me a big hug and said “You talked about being a medium!”  Chris blurted out, “They already knew and it wasn’t her fault!” Annie laughs and tells me that it was cool. 

And I remembered what it was like to be young again. But I’m glad I’m half way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I Am Not Hating the Groundhog So Much Today.

Today is my day to write, and I have not written about anything other than the Dodd-Frank Act, or Bankruptcy, or TILA-RESPA in a really long time. All the stars are aligned. I feel better; I got a big coffee at McDonalds; and, it is 33 degrees, which means I can leave the doggie door open without stuffing a sheet in the crack. Everything is going my way.

I get comfortable in my recliner and Pete twirls 3 times in my lap before snuggling in. We are set. Then it happened—that noise from the roof. I wish Chris had not thrown tarps on the roof, they just blow around and clank in the wind. As I look up, I swear I’m seeing a ghost descending directly down from the skylight. No, it’s just a spider web. Before I can follow that thought process to understand how a spiderweb could be dislodged inside, and it still be Chris’ fault, a bird comes swooping down from the skylight and around the room.

Having had Steve, the Jack Russell Terror, I knew immediately to  close all doors, even if not in the vicinity of the bird. I was prepared! I had experience! I was going to get a sheet and catch me a bird.

It all sounded so easy in my head. But that damn critter read my mind. I forgot to close the door to Annie’s room! Pete and I turn, and in perfectly-timed step, we toggle the bottom two stairs. He passes me around the turn, but thanks to Annie’s hidden pile of dirty clothes, I move into the lead. I leapt the last 3 stairs and close the door to Annie’s room, just as Pete tries to wedge his way through. I realize now that I forgot to fix the knob when Annie locked herself in her room 10 years ago. Or maybe it is Chris’ fault. 

I start piling up everything I can find, against the door.  The bird sees me and takes flight. From window to window it transverses the room, then runs along the floor—just like the Road Runner—under the bed and back to the first window again. Over and over and over. It does not want to fly into the sheet, and he tells me so. Hearing this, Wile Coyote manages to break into the room as Road Runner flees back under the bed. Wile Coyote is barking, sheets are flying, pillows are airborne, and in the midst of all this, the bed has somehow broken and resembles a Gymboree slide. Could this be karma for saying those women on the Bachelor wouldn’t make it a day on Prince Farming’s dusty acres?

In the midst of all of this, Chris texts me to say he would be home late. Since I texted him “no worries”, and also disclosed that I was in the heat of battle, with a brown thrasher, he decides this would be the perfect time to call and offer me strategic advice. And wanting to answer, “Hi Honey, WTF?!”, I just pressed “answer” and paused. He gets right to the point: 

Now friends, as you can imagine, there were too many replies in my mind to settle on a winner. So, Chris takes this pause to mean he has saved the day, and he can further inform me: 
“Put Pete OUTSIDE the room and CLOSE THE DOOR”. 

Really, Sherlock? This is your best advice? was my first thought. Thank you, You saved the day. was my second. But since both sounded too cynical at this point,  I just said, “Prepare Annie for the worst, and you have a bed to fix when you get home. I have a radio show tonight. I gotta go.”

However, while juggling Chris and Pete, the bird had flown out the window. I think.

I can relate to this short segment from Modern Family.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bill Murray is my Mentor.

I come home from the morning school run today, and precious Pete is sitting in the window waiting for me, as he has been for the past hour. I would like to think it is because he loves me, but really, it is so I can let him outside to bark at the groundhog as soon as I get home. Really. He told me so.

I let Pete out, then go to my computer to start writing. What seems like a long time passes. Where is Pete? Why has he not jumped through the doggie door into my lap, shivering with cold kisses?

I go to the window to look. No Pete. So, I put on my glasses, and I see a little brown stick moving just above the ground at the fence line in the far back.'s a tail!

So I wrap up (again) and make a beeline to the fence. The little guy is all the way underground, with only his tail sticking out of a brand new groundhog hole–––under the fence. A LARGE hole from where I hear rustling.

I pull him out by his tail, and he grins at me like the Cheshire cat, ironically. So I decide to patch the hole until Chris can come and do some major dirt hauling. As I proceed to stuff the hole with sticks, Pete thinks this is a game, and he fights over each one, and of course, he wins. So, I try to kick some leaves on the hole, but who am I kidding? It is starting to snow so I give up.

I step back to look at my mediocre feat, and I find myself knee-deep in another, yes another, ground hog hole.

I have now realized that damn groundhog is smarter than me.

He will NOT see his shadow on my watch!