Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do All Kids Dream of Being Famous?



My ten-year-old daughter has been taking dance lessons for several years now, and so last fall, I decided to take her to see the move “Fame.” I had seen the original version when I was around the same age. I knew she would enjoy seeing the dancers, if nothing else.
To me, this was an opportunity for a mother-daughter outing. To her, it was an epiphany. She sat in the theater mesmerized, soaking in every scene. When the movie was over, I told her that the story was based on a real high school in New York City. You would have thought I told her I just won the lottery. We talked about the possibility of her going to a performing arts high school when she got older. She decided to bypass high school and set her sights straight on Julliard instead.

When we got home, my daughter raced upstairs. I could hear the ceiling above me rattling under her dance steps. Eventually the vibrations stopped and silence once again ensued. After about an hour, she came down stairs holding a piece of paper.“Mom”, she asked showing me the paper listing her name several different ways, “When I become famous, how should I sign my name?” My daughter’s confidence suggested that becoming anything other than a celebrity was out of the question.



Ironically, the novel I have spent my summer writing, explores the issue of celebrity. The novel did not stem from my experience with my daughter, as I have had the idea for this book even before she was born. Yet I find it interesting that my own daughter is so interested in this topic.

My main character is a woman who had the opposite experience of my daughter. She finds herself famous, yet prefers to remain anonymous. While writing the book, I began to ask myself, “Do all kids want to be famous when they grow up? Did I?” I can remember sitting around a portable cassette player with my brother recording our own version of “The Donny and Marie Show, ” but that was more of a game, not a full out plan to have my name in lights some day.

I love that my daughter has something she is so passionate about, but of course I worry about what the future will hold. Still, I feel compelled to support her as best I can, and so I tell her – dream big!

Are you interested in reading an excerpt from my novel? Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Attack of the Tomatoes!

I blame the blizzard. Make that blizzards. I believe there were three this past winter, but I lost track somewhere along the way. We had over 70 inches of snow in total, the year before there was less than 15 inches. In addition to the snow, there were the incredible howling winds. Trees and power lines snapped at a rapid pace. Sadly, we lost two large trees. Several others were badly damaged and had to be removed as well.

In the spirit of re-growth, I decided to take advantage of my no longer shady backyard and do something I have wanted to do for years: have a vegetable garden! I have always enjoyed gardening and had a decent track record with growing a variety of flowers, shrubs, herbs and other various plants. However, when it came to vegetables, I seemed to have a brown thumb.

Every year, I would buy one or two tomato plants. Since the only semi-sunny spot in the backyard had been at the edge of the patio, I planted these vegetables in pots. Friends of mine had a lot of success with their potted gardens, so it seemed like the perfect solution. Every summer, it was the same story. The plants would get to what I considered a decent size, produce a couple of yellow flowers and then wither away without a single tomato.

This year however, I had a sunny backyard and a small patch of land itching to be tilled. I went to my local garden store without any knowledge of how to actually grow a vegetable garden. I decided I would try three tomato plants. Why three? I have no idea, other than I thought that 10 feet across would be plenty of room to plant three tiny plants. I chose three different varieties: heirloom, roma, and cherry. I planted each carefully, watered diligently and went out daily (sometimes multiple times during the day) to see if there were any signs of tomatoes.

After a few weeks, I was thrilled to see little green tomatoes sprouting on both the cherry and roma plants. I was even more thrilled when some of them turned red. I picked them all proudly and kept them on display on a plate in my kitchen.



My harvest continued. about once a week, I would walk outside and fill a small bowl with a handful of cherry tomatoes. Occasionally a Roma would get thrown in. The heirlooms, were also starting to grow, but staying green.

And then... the tomato Gods must have decided I was a worthy farmer. It started with one or two heirloom and/or Romas every few days with a bowlful of cherry tomatoes thrown in. My cucumbers and basil were doing pretty well also. A lovely cucumber-tomato salad was becoming a nightly staple, with no complaints from my husband. I even had a few left over to give to our neighbor. We were in tomato bliss.

But then, as if in the 'I Love Lucy' episode where the candy factory conveyor belt starts moving in overdrive, the tomatoes went crazy. Every day, my husband and I both went out with bowls, picking red fruit off of plants that had grown as tall as us. We tried to give some away to anyone who showed any interest in taking them off our hands.


We ate tomato salads, tomato slices, and cherry tomatoes by the handfuls as if there were grapes. Not a dinner went by where tomatoes were not incorporated into the meal somehow or another. Canning was just too much work for me and out of the question. I finally went on Facebook looking for ideas. Salsa - of course! My friend Heather posted an awesome and easy (which was the key) recipe which I am happy to share if anyone is interested.

So today, I grabbed some peppers, onions and of course, TOMATOES and made my very first salsa - topped with cilantro from my garden.


Pass the chips!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Big Dreams

My dream started many years ago. I can remember sitting at my parent's manual blue typewriter trying to type out short stories. My fingers would get so sore from the pressure required to push the keys down (perhaps a precursor to the arthritis I would later develop?). Thank goodness for correction tape. Lord knows, I went through more than my share. Yet, after all that hard work, I never seemed to be able to please my English teachers. My papers would come back with so many red marks through them; it was difficult to see the words I originally typed.

Math was my subject. I guess I always believed that people excelled either in math or in English, and so I decided early on that writing, whether as a career or as a hobby would not be in my future. Instead, I went into accounting, where I wrote with numbers, disappointed that my family’s DNA filled with artists, writers and musicians had passed right over me.

I married, had children and prepared taxes. (It was all so much fun, that I decided to repeat it a second time, with much better results on the marriage part.). During these early years, something happened. I heard a story on the news while I was pregnant with my oldest child that I could not get out of my head. I replayed the events repeatedly, changing the scenarios, asking myself “what if?”

Before I knew it, I had created an entire novel in my mind.The problem, however, was how to get it on paper.I tried several times to write my story, never getting past the first few paragraphs. Not being able to find my own voice was incredibly frustrating. I would put the story aside for years at a time, always with the intention that one day I would write my novel.

A funny thing happened over the past several years. I re-discovered reading. I had always enjoyed reading as a child, but once I started college, I found I had little time. After college, there was graduate school, which did in fact involve plenty of reading, just not the type that I had enjoyed. Then came babies and sleep deprivation, followed by toddlers and potty training. Before I knew it, my reading library consisted mostly of Sandra Boyton books (which I highly recommend, by the way).

Slowly, however, my time did become partially my own again and I began to make regular trips to the library. I read everything from the Harry Potter series to Ayn Rand (though admittedly I am still struggling to get through the 1000+ page fine print). At some point, I started paying equal attention to both the writing style and the story itself. I read books written in the first person, books written in the third person, books written as a series of letters, books written as diaries, and books written from several different characters’ points of view.

I felt I had a good grasp on what writing style I enjoyed and I decided to make the leap. I opened my laptop, and without hesitation started writing. The words flowed quickly, and within a month, I had my story. Not in any type of form where I was comfortable having someone read it just yet, but enough of a shell where I could go back and fill in details and depth. That was three months ago and I am still writing, revising, writing, and revising some more. I know my commas are not all in the right places and my grammar needs fine tuning, but those are all (hopefully) easy fixes. The real accomplishment for me was capturing my thoughts on paper.

A woman I ran into told me not to get my hopes up, that she, as a writing professional, had tried unsuccessfully to get her story published. She told me about all of the rejection I would inevitably face; all of the disappointment I would feel after putting so much of my self and my time into writing.

My response to her is now my mantra:
“I tell my kids all the time to dream big, so why shouldn’t I dream big as well?”

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