Five Lessons to Learn Before AARP finds you...

Light-bulb-in-darkness-725x544A friend recently got an offer in the mail to join AARP. She was not pleased. I've started going through my mail with a cautious eye. I don't feel AARP age or anything close to it, so I rather resent being told I am. At the same time, I find it funny. But it got me thinking about where I am in my life now. Have I learned anything in the past few years? Turns out, I've learned plenty...often kicking and screaming along the way. I thought I would share some of them:

1) Whoever thinks it's intelligent, noble, and absolutely necessary to plan career, family, and financials to the hilt for the sake of the future just hasn't run into the truck with their name on it yet. We plan, God laughs. Plan your day. Plan the next gathering with your good buddies. Go have that date night. And saving for retirement only makes sense. But everything else? The nose to the grinder, climb the corporate ladder at all costs business? Don't neglect what's right at the base of that ladder while you climb: family, good friends, the hobbies and talents that can make you happy today, your spiritual self, doing your part to make the world a better place. Yes, completely negligent behavior is just stupid--but so is the uber goody-two shoes act for the sake of a secure future. We get one life. Unless of course you believe in reincarnation. But it's not like you remember it, right?

2) You teach people how to treat you. For years, I thought I understood that statement--but not like I do now.  When dozens of people nag you to open your eyes because you're being taken advantage of, for God's sake, believe them!

3) You're never too old to learn something new. And ... enjoying learning something new can make you feel decades younger. 

4) We can find ourselves and others in the characters we read and/or write about. People were meant to connect on a variety of levels about an enormous number of things. It's part of being human. When we connect with a character, we should ask ourselves why. Does the character possess a trait we are missing? Does she say something we wish a friend would say? When we appreciate a character, we appreciate our desire to form connections with others--and that's a fantastic feeling. So when you wonder about your sanity because you've become obsessed with a fictional character, relax. It's all good.

5) Meet people where they are. That meme we keep seeing and sharing about how everyone is on their own tough journey, so be gentle? That's what it's all about. Sometimes this is so simple to do. It's about empathy. It's about being grateful for the good things in your life. Other times, meeting people where they are is akin to threading an elephant through a needle. Anger, fear, resentment can stand in our way. Most important? Meet yourself where you are. Baby steps.

What have you learned lately? Are you better for it? 

A Toast to Star Wars Day

IMG_5581May the fourth be with you! Here's to another Star Wars Day.

Any plans for the occasion this year? Originally, I had thoughts about hitting Disney's Hollywood Studios today, but between independent work, part-time work, and school, my family wouldn't arrive until after 7 pm. Instead, as I go about my writing and social media this morning, I'm raising a glass to the elements of Star Wars that inspired me in writing, reading, and even parenting over the years:

The twin suns of Tatooine: The image of Luke Skywalker mulling over life, the universe, and everything with Tatooine's twin suns in the distance left an impression on me as kid. The loneliness of the landscape, Luke's wistful gaze left me feeling there had to be endless possibilities on the horizon. And those two suns ... two! There could be such a thing as a planet with two suns? I haven't stopped dreaming of other worlds since.

The Han Solo Trilogy (Han Solo at Star's End, Han Solo's Revenge, Han Solo and the Lost Legacy): These were the books that started me reading scifi and fantasy. Was it my mood at the time? The craving for more Star Wars? Maybe it was author Brian Daley's skill. Damn good books. 

The Rebel Base on Hoth: The best snow play I had as a child was after a snow storm in New York that left at least two feet of fun. With my constant companions at the time, we built a base of snow bricks.  I hope it was as impressive as I remember it. I was never so cold and freezing wet in snow before or since, but I just couldn't go inside so intense was the physical manifestation of our imaginations. My only regret is that I lost the photos from that day. Last year, the vivid recollection had me playing in the backyard with my daughter, knowing it was our last snow before moving to Florida. We were soaked digging a tunnel, then took out some Star Wars toys and snapped awesome pictures. Ya gotta love Hoth.

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Gracious role models: Star Wars gave my kids some excellent roles models in a day in age when rule breakers and/or egos are given more press than the good guys. And I'm not just talking about characters. After impromptu encounters with notables such as James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan Clone Wars), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano, Clone Wars), and Dave Filoni (Director, Clone Wars), I was able to turn to my kids and point out, "That's the way you treat people no matter how popular or important you ever become in your work or personal lives." I imagine that at any given moment at a Con, these people have a lot on their plates. My kids, however, came away feeling like they were given all the time in the world. More recently, have you followed Daisy Ridley at all? Love her Instagram. She's another SW personality with a super positive vibe.

George Lucas. Have I agreed with all his creative choices? No. But (until he sold to Disney) Star Wars was his baby and I was his guest. His world, his rules. Any storyteller would demand the same respect. Differences of opinion aside, the man taught me you can create your own universe, you can reverse course and change your universe to suit your needs (after all, it is your universe), and sometimes you can start to create something and it can morph into a class by itself. We all have our likes and dislikes about how the saga has unfolded, and I'm sure that won't end any time soon. However, I'm amused when folks critique Star Wars in a hateful way. The franchise is not a series of films to be analyzed as if it was The Godfather saga. Attempts to do so fall flat in my opinion. Why does Star Wars get a pass? It's its own 'thing.' A feeling. A symbol of something that, perhaps, nobody has been able to put a finger on. It's just too damn big for those who feel it. Take your nitty-gritty discrepancies and directing minutiae and "move along, move along." Much like the Force, if you can't feel it flowing through you, well, then, I can't help you. 

"Never tell me the odds." It's a motto. It's a reminder for the tough times. I've been saying it a lot lately! (Side note: This quote also applies to a certain scoundrel miraculously making it off Starkiller Base in Episode VIII. I don't care if it would be stupid, unrealistic, or that Harrison Ford did or did not make some deal. And I don't care that insert-your-argument-here.)

And finally...
Thinking in black-versus-white absolutes is asinine in relationships, politics, religion, and pretty much everywhere else. We need to meet people where they are as individuals, not where we assume they are or should be. Was Anakin a wimp in turning to the Dark Side? Sure. But I can't help but wonder: If the Jedi Council members had treated him with compassion as the individual he was instead of as their preconceived idea of 'The Chosen One,' might there have been a different outcome? What about Fin in The Force Awakens? Thank goodness this enemy trooper turned defector connected with people who were willing to give him a chance. Meet people where they are: It's a lesson I've been trying to learn for a while now. It's not easy and often not convenient. Still, it helps to remember that anytime I have connected with someone or something over Star Wars, that relationship was one of good memories, creativity, love, and/or friendship in some capacity regardless of other differences. Most of the time, there is something in all of humanity for people to connect over if we make use of time and compassion to find it. Then we don't have to bash a whole group of people or an entire philosophy. It's true about the SW franchise, too: In loving the 'thing' the first film became, I can forgive the presence of Jar Jar Binks and not trash the whole franchise.  I mean, I love my husband to the moon and back ... but we certainly don't agree about everything. Case in point: While I love it, this does not belong in my living room:


 Have a super day!

Loving Author Assemblies!

So Spring Break is booked. Only, I'm not heading for rest and relaxation. Instead, I have another set of author visits coming up in New Jersey. Very excited to share The Secret Path of Ned the Ninja with more kids, and I get to bring Energizer Bunny Girl with me. (Although, I might have to switch up her nickname on the blog here pretty soon. She has hit fourteen and getting her up in the morning to move herself isn't quite as easy. Although ... set her up for a convention where she can cosplay and she's instantly wound up and ready to go!)

Melissa (my co-author on Ned's adventures) and I will be bringing the character-building and self-acceptance skills of a mental martial artist to a few more schools, as well as presenting writing workshops on creating three-dimensional characters. There's a karate demonstration, as well.  So that's three awesome elements ... together ... sort of like this Mountain Dew commercial I cannot get enough of.... 

Now that is the sort of thing that will have you laughing all day, yet unable to sleep at night!

Anyway, the plane is booked for the middle of March (my new discovery: Hacker Fares on Kayak!), and EBG and I can't wait to squeeze our friends in NJ, NY, and CT to pieces. That alone makes this trip better than heading for a Hawaii, Disney, or island getaway spring break. The full Author Visit schedule makes it all a whirlwind--a working vacation to be sure--but like that old adage, if you love doing it, it's not really work.

School info triple pic

For more information on our visits, check out our Author Visit page

Winter reading! Nice gift for middle grader

Wow, my ornament countdown is going well, huh? (Sigh)

Still, I have an exciting sight....

Holiday pack

My co-author, Melissa, has put all three of our Secret Path of Ned the Ninja books (autographed) together with a hachimaki (karate style head band) and bound it all with a bow. They are for sale at her dojo, but can be ordered, too! It's a great gift for middle graders and we know first through third graders who love to hear it read to them, too!

The package is $27, plus shipping and handling. Call 201.262.0457 to order!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah! Wonderful Kwanza! Festive Festivus!

It's a Jen Ornament!

The first of my "It's a Jen ornament!" collection in this Countdown to Christmas is the most recent one: Saturn.

Every year, my forever friend Jen gives me a unique ornament that wows me. I have so many on my tree, and this year they have me more sentimental than usual. And every year, I look at these unique ornaments and think about how they are as unique as Jen. After 36 years of friendship, she still reminds me of crayons and playdoh...bright, colorful, and fun. And this year, I finally found an awesome ornament to send her. Shhh!


The thing about a big move is that when you unbox all your Christmas stuff, you can't go into autopilot mode while decorating. Sure, the wreath can go on the front door, but where to put the motion figures?

That's why I love my tree. All my old ornaments sprinkled over the same tree we have had for six years. (We are a fake tree family. Too many breakable ornaments to chance snapping thin branches).

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So here is the first ornament I bought when I knew I was getting married. Just a couple of mice checking their Christmas list atop Santa's glasses. It was real comforting placing them in the tree this year!

Sent from my iPhone


December is a season of countdowns this year. There is the usual countdown to Christmas...but this year there is the twist of a first Christmas in Florida.

There is the countdown to The Force Awakens on December 18th. Yes, of course I have my tickets!

And there is the countdown to hubby's podcast relaunching before the new year. This is a big deal, really, because in many ways it signifies a return to something close to normal life--whatever that is.

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Today, I'm kicking off my Ornament Countdown to Christmas! This little guy is from my friend Mike, who knows I love stars. The ornament is almost as old as our friendship, I think. So, close to 30 years old. He's a brother from another mother, the guy you can say anything to, he can suck down the contents of a hot sauce packet in a split second, knows how to make you feel better about yourself, can make you laugh no matter how determined you are not to, and it's really going to suck not being able to see The Force Awakens with him. He is also a tremendous storyteller, but allows spelling to get in his way. You've got to cut that out, Mike. Love ya!

Sent from my iPhone

Five kids with real empathy

So, I don't know what my eyeliner looks like right now, because the following link from SocialChive had me in tears: 

Five boys with real empathy

Because that's what reducing bullying is all about--just a bit of empathy. I hope you'll check out the video and I hope you'll wear a blue shirt tomorrow, Monday, October 5th, in honor of Stomp Out Bullying's World Day of Bullying Prevention!

My middle grade character, Ned the Ninja, a kid who is learning all about self acceptance and standing up for himself, has put on a blue gi top for the occasion!

Ned hig blue shirt


My Writing Nook

I hate to be this blunt about it, but ... moving sucks. Especially long distance. I mean, really. If I were to fill you in on all the little details about how much it sucked moving down to Florida, this would be a rather depressing post. So I'll just leave this right here as a hint of how much it sucked by way of the delivery that finally came ...


... and then I'll focus on the positive:


My writing nook is finally together and I love it! It's not huge, but it's cozy. It's full of things that inspire me (including some stuff that I had packed away for at least ten years). 

For example:


This guy was picked up in the tiny town of Cairo, New York, in an incredible little shop of oddities. It was one of those things I just had to have. My fiance (now husband) and I had ventured in on a whim and the store owner made us pick a small polished stone from a basket to keep. I forget what the one we picked meant, but it was something nice about the future. Still have that, too. Anyway, this guy was never packed away. He's an incense holder, and he reminds me of the beauty and mystery of upstate New York.


My hand-painted, hand-drawn cell of Sorcerer Mickey was given to me by my parents. Sorcerer Mickey is my favorite Disney character, narrowly beating Elliot the dragon. I appreciate this cell all the more these days since Disney got rid of my favorite icon ... the hat in Hollywood Studios and has now closed the Art of Animation building. In fact, the only way the Dis can do right by me is to replace it with a Star Wars emblem of some sort. We'll see what happens.


Desk lamp from my forever friend, Jen, who never forgets my love of dolphins. It as found at a Restoration Hardware, so who knows its past before coming to me.



 Krystonia! This is one of my favorites. 




It feels good to be back in the saddle--at least one part of my life feels homier now. It's time to get back to writing regularly, slinging words around, and contemplating the 'what ifs'. Time to get comfortable enough to allow my new surroundings to affect my prose. With views like this ...

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... I have hope!

Art Cafe: a Thing of Beauty

IMG_3400 (2)As a newbie living in Florida, I would like to know three things: 1) When is the moving truck finally
 going to arrive with my stuff? 2) Why has it rained and stormed every day since I got here? 3) Where, oh where, does a Floridian writer go to pound the keys and drink coffee in bliss and solace?

I've left a lot of things behind in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area: incomparable friends, a ridiculously-adorable godchild, a job I loved, two trees that stood apart at perfect 'hammock' distance, oh ... and my stuff--because after three weeks, it hasn't left New Jersey. Still, I'm summoning a stiff upper lip and trying to find my way around Florida with mind and heart open to new ideas and different places. For example, I'm the sort of writer/caffeine addict who falls in love with an eclectic cafe or coffee shop. Sometimes I just need to bolt from the home office and thrive on the energy of a place where people meet over caffeine, take a break, laugh with friends, or put their noses to the grindstone at a laptop. Will a Starbucks do? Sure, sometimes. But where do I find offbeat, creativity-charged cafes an hour outside Orlando in Sumter County? I'm on the prowl--yep, mind and heart open--but so far, no luck. (If you would like to make suggestions, please do!) In the meantime, I'll be reminiscing over Art Cafe in Nyack, New York. Would-be Floridian business-owners please take note:


Art Cafe: Be still my 'art! How I miss this place. Nestled along Broadway in an old Victorian sits a true haven for gathering with friends or hunkering over your laptop. Sit outdoors in the front garden surrounded by greenery, in-season blooms, and perhaps music from a local musician. Otherwise, find a cozy nook indoors where you'll enjoy the ever-changing work of local artists. But the art doesn't stop there: Order a latte or mochaccino (my favorite) and you'll spend your first few minutes with it marveling over the foam.

That said, any of their coffee beverages (made with organic Blue Bottle Coffee beans they roast themselves) are superb. And the teas? Their lavender brew puts me in such an 'all is right with the world' state that I wound up buying it loose to make at home before bed.

While I usually went for the coffee, the food is not to be missed if you enjoy Israeli-inspired dishes. If I try hard enough, I can still taste their Gruyere Toastini: fresh gruyere, fresh mozzarella, mushroom, and red onion on a pressed panini-style Israeli bagel (no hole!) covered in sesame seeds. And the dressing on the side salad? I never really asked what it was, but seriously, I am kissing my fingertips in a very Italian way right now and briefly wondering if they'll ship it--along with the toastini--frozen. Perhaps the hummus or tahini?

It's hard to push the coffee, tea, and yummage aside, yet the best part of Art Cafe was the soothing atmosphere that made writing a pleasure, but gathering with friends even better. How I miss my Wednesday evenings with Rebecca and Audie! Intelligent and fun conversations on kids, schooling, politics, family life, and the arts revived my spirit halfway through the week to get through the rest of it. The only bad part about that was how many times I lamented only meeting these ladies recently. Maybe I'll find a unique little cafe down here at some point, but the friends that went with it are irreplaceable!

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