Friday, March 1, 2024

Friday Feature: Origin Story -- Keesha

 Keesha started out as the star of her own story -- a story I was writing for Diverse Divorce. Her voice was so clear to me -- perhaps the clearest of any character before or since. 

Unfortunately, her voice was deemed a poor fit for the book, and no amount of defense or explanation could convince my editor otherwise, so we mutually agreed to withdraw the story from the collection.

But, as so often happens with characters, I'd become attached to Keesha. Closing the door on her story in one book meant that, together, we could create more chapters for her in another. Keesha's story became my first novel, and the only book -- two books, actually -- I've written for kids. 

Finding a home for Keesha proved a bit challenging. In the process, her voice was almost lost in a jumble of editorial and revision suggestions. Eventually, I tucked the book away, disillusioned over the way that the edited versions had muted the voice I'd heard so clearly. 

Years later, when I read about Kindle Vella, I decided to pull the manuscript out of the drawer and try a new platform. It was a lot of fun re-reading her story, and even more fun finally giving it a home.  

Sometimes, a story finds a home quickly and sometimes, an author needs to compromise to make that happen.

And sometimes, the story needs to wait for the right home to be built.

Read Jersey Girls Don't Rule here

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A Few of My Favorite Splurges

Reaxion Lab via Pixabay

 Yesterday, I wrote a post about brand loyalty that actually started out as a short list of some of my favorite splurges. Today, I thought I'd share the list. 

I just finished savoring It's So You: The Joy of Personal Style: A Kate Spade New York book. It's a beautiful book with a black fabric cover, its title splashed across the black with bright pink and red lettering. Toward the end of the book, there's a page to spritz with your favorite perfume. No need. No perfume smells better than the pages of that book.

I've written often about my Kate Spade polka dotted planner and matching work tote, both of which keep me organized. Recently, when I tried to order a new planner, I found that the polka dot cover was unavailable and I had to choose a different pattern. The interior is the same, which is what's important in a planner. Still, I was disappointed. Maybe it's out of stock? Next time?

Michael Storrings jigsaw puzzles (Galison). I bought the first one of these from the New York Public Library Shop and was immediately a fan. No more wondering if the pieces actually go together (like a puzzle from another manufacturer -- one I recently tried to complete twice before just giving up). They either do or they don't and the end version is always pretty.

No shoes are more comfortable than my Rothy's flats. A colleague convinced me to try these washable shoes made from recycled plastic bottles. She was not wrong. I'd have them in every color if they were less expensive.

My new MacBook Air. As I've previously shared, I tend to use my big-ticket items for as long as possible. Unfortunately, as long as possible on this particular item was cut short last week by my clumsiness, but I'd had my old MacBook Air for seven years. It took about ten minutes for me to fall in love with the speed and brightness of my new one. I use the other platform at work. Not a fan.

What are some of your favorite splurges? Why are you a fan?

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Brand Loyal

Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay

 I am an Apple girl: iPhone, iPad, MacBook. Last week, when I accidentally created a too-close encounter between my MacBook Air and a glass of iced tea, I never considered replacing my dearly departed computer with anything but a new MacBook Air.

Actually, I'm pretty brand loyal in other areas, too. Exhibit A: my collection of Kate Spade handbags. Exhibit B: Multiple pairs of shoes with the same name inside (Kate didn't win that contest). Exhibit C: My daily Starbucks run at which I order the same drink 95% of the time.

I could go on, but I won't. The thing is, I know what I like. And, when I find something I like that works, I stick with it unless I'm given a good reason not to do so. It's an easy way to combine something functional with something that brings me joy, not to mention that it makes shopping more efficient.

When I was younger, I had no desire to be an efficient shopper. As a young professional, I lived alone in a tiny town and I'd go shopping just for the fun of it.  Malls were in their heyday, multiple options abounded, and no one was shopping online (there was no online). The joy was in the hunt -- finding the perfect item, preferably at the perfect price.

My mom loved the mall. She was a big fan of quality over quantity, and an even bigger fan of sales and bargains that allowed her to have both. She wasn't materialistic, but she loved clothes and she loved creating just the right look for wherever she was going. She, too, had favorite brands, not to mention favorite stores whose layouts (and sometimes clerks) she knew all too well. 

I'm a lot like her (I learned from the best) but, these days, my brand loyalty has shifted, and my clothes are less likely to come from a trip to the mall and more likely to come out of a Stitch Fix box. I think my mom would have loved the concept of clothes landing on her doorstep, but I doubt it would have replaced her desire to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

I was at the mall last week, on a mission to see if my MacBook could be saved or if it needed to be replaced. The Apple Store was humming, but the mall itself was quiet -- almost eerily so -- and I was shocked to discover that it closed at 7 PM. That leaves very little time between the end of the work day and the end of the retail day to "shop till you drop," little time to explore new brands to which we might ascribe our loyalty. 

No brand lasts forever, after all. As we grow and change, so, too, do our tastes. Some of the brands I swear by today didn't exist when I was my daughter's age, back when my mom and I shopped at malls that closed at 9, giving us time to dash in and out of all manner of stores in pursuit of the perfect fit.

Maybe it's that fit that keeps me brand loyal. When I know it works, when it fits my lifestyle and my budget, and when the service I receive encourages me to return, it's a win-win situation. For me, brand loyalty arises not only when the product is right, but when I feel valued as a customer. When that delicate balance is no longer met, it's time to look elsewhere.

But if that happens, I'd better hurry. The mall closes at 7. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Y is for Yuck

 It's been a long week.

And it's only Tuesday.

Yesterday morning, I was on it. I got up and worked through the short list of tasks I wanted to accomplish before class, checking off more than I'd expected. Then, as I was about to complete my final task, correcting an error on a document I needed to post, I reached for something.

And promptly spilled half a glass of iced tea onto my laptop.

I was pretty sure it was a goner before I even left for work. The screen was unresponsive and when I restarted the machine, the promising Apple icon was quickly replaced by a circle with a line through it.

It might as well have been a tombstone.

A trip to the Apple Store that evening confirmed my fears, and fanned the fire of the one upside of this whole fiasco.

A new MacBook. 

This was not in the plan, but it's definitely turned into a sorry/not sorry situation. I'm sorry I knocked the iced tea over, sorry I made a mess, sorry I fried my laptop (hard drives apparently don't appreciate being marinated in iced tea).

But I'm not sorry I have a new MacBook.

As someone who only recently traded in the car she drove for 17 years,  I'm not easily tempted when it comes to bells and whistles, especially those of the electronic variety. I am, in fact, the poster child for keeping things for as long as they keep running. I may find it hard to let go of sentimental stuff but, when it comes to the expensive stuff, I get my money's worth.

The upside to this is that when I do upgrade, I'm rarely disappointed. I am ridiculously excited by the fact that my new laptop has been unplugged for 12 hours and its battery is still 66% charged. I spent several minutes this morning enthralled by the crispness of the images on its screen. Perhaps I am easily amused, but I prefer to think of myself as appreciative.

Some days, we go about our business, checking items off our lists, mired in the mundane, and missing the little things that make life shimmer.

Other days, we upend a half-empty glass of liquid onto an expensive piece of equipment.

Amazingly enough, even that can sometimes be a glass half-full situation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Keep in Touch

  I get to see my daughter this week! In between visits, we still communicate now much as we did when I wrote this post in 2019.

I was a college student in the days where we had telephones in our rooms. Excuse me -- ONE telephone, attached to the wall above someone's desk, for the use of all who shared the room (and sometimes neighbors whose roommates were using their phones). Freshman year, I lived in a triple. Sophomore year, junior year and the first half of senior year, I lived in a double, then finally, during my last semester, in a single.

First time in my life I ever had my own phone.

The phone attached to the dorm-room wall was an upgrade, mind you. Prior to this, phones were in the hallway (I think we might have had one of those, too) for the use of the whole floor.

The presence of this phone (what we'd now call "a landline") in the room should not be confused with 24-hour long-distance service. The service was there but, unless there was some sort of emergency, we rarely called home unless it was on the weekend or after 11 p.m. on a weeknight because that's when the rates were lowest. Quasi-emergencies warranted calls between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. but daytime calls were as rare as a single in one's freshman year. In between phone calls, we wrote letters. Actual letters, on paper, sent through the mail, which was not yet called snail mail because it was the only mail available.

Can you imagine?
As a 21st century parent, I'm grateful for the technology that makes contacts this infrequent a quaint, nostalgic story. I like my daughter's cell phone almost as much as she does, especially this semester when she's an ocean away. It isn't that we're in constant contact; it's that we can be if we want to be, and in so many formats. Sure, the phone on the wall promised that same luxury, but phone calls after midnight to anyone off-campus were reserved for serious emergencies and hometown boyfriends.

I'm not a helicopter parent, but I like the reassurance of knowing that I can check in on (not up on) my daughter "just because" and in real time. If I have something fun to share or if a news report hits too close to home, I can send out a quick text. Three quick exchanges and I've shared the news and we've connected, even if for just a few minutes.

It's interesting to discuss technology -- especially cell phones -- with my students, who are close to my daughter's age. The other day, in a class discussion, one student postulated that this is all so new that they're laying the groundwork for future generations. It was an interesting perspective, fascinating to contemplate. Will this cohort be more or less permissive with cell phones? Will the pendulum swing back?

Although I'm certain we'll never go back to the now oh-so-quaint rotary phone mounted to the wall, it's interesting to consider how we'll communicate in the future. The days of waiting until after 11PM are gone, much to the relief of exhausted parents everywhere, but what will take their place?     
As for me, I'm grateful to have a young adult who's a college student in the cell phone generation. I frequently think that I don't know how my parents did it -- sending two girls off to college with communication that was so limited by today's standards -- but I guess, at the time, those after-11PM and free weekends long-distance rates were as much the rage as cell phones are now.

I wonder how my daughter's (future) children will communicate with her, and how quaint today's cell phones will look by their standards. Just as we (or I, anyway) couldn't begin to imagine the changes that would take place between my college years and my daughter's, I'm sure that the changes to come are beyond any I can predict.

But, as long as mothers and daughters are still talking to one another, I suspect the method will be immaterial.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Cloudy Day

johnhain via Pixabay

 Did you ever have one of those days? One where you're just grumpy for no apparent reason? One where every little noise gets on your nerves, every question sets your teeth on edge, everything you have to do just seems like too much trouble?

Just me?

I had absolutely no reason to be a grouch today. I didn't have to work, so I could begin my day curled up with a good book in my sunroom, enjoying the view of leaves heavy with snow that would disappear within a few hours. 

And I did just that. 

I could be productive, tossing in laundry, grading quizzes, and (finally) writing a blog post.

And I was. 

Yet I couldn't shake the grouchies. All day long, they followed me around, They didn't even have the decency to linger above me like the toxic cloud they were. Instead, they took up residence somewhere just behind my eyes, coaxing a scowl I had to work hard to erase.

I am, by nature, a pretty upbeat person and so when a day like this hits, it feels like a double whammy. Not only do I feel cranky, but that crankiness feels so out of character that it upsets me even more. I analyze and obsess and tie myself in knots trying to get to the root of the problem, usually to no avail.

It's a waste of energy, really, because sometimes, there's no good reason -- or none that's immediately discernible, anyway -- for an out of sorts sort of day. This time next week, when this day is a decent distance behind me, it might make sense.

Or it might not.

Either way, overdoing the analysis is only making things worse and so I need to stop fighting the crabbiness, and just coexist with it for a few more hours, after which I will go to bed. When I wake up tomorrow, whatever this was will likely have passed, and it might even leave me in peace sooner if I stop paying so much attention to it.

Some days are sunshine, others are clouds. And I wish you many more of the former than the latter.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Stick to the Schedule?

 Yesterday, I wrote about my routine conundrum. Apparently it's not a new development, given that the post below is from several years ago.

I think I first came to appreciate routines when I was a new mom. Routines allowed me to feel in control when, in fact, I was at the mercy of a hungry little person who might or might not deign to nap on any given afternoon. Getting into a routine soothed us both, its structure giving predictability to days that sometimes stretched on endlessly.

But, as Gretchen Rubin says in her book, The Happiness Project, the days are long, but the years are short. Those sometimes challenging, sometimes fulfilling days of infancy and toddlerhood gave way all too soon to elementary school, then middle school, then high school, each bringing new routines and new time schedules by which to abide.

Now an empty nester, I've established routines of my own and, when they are disrupted, I get cranky. Somewhere along the way, I stopped being the free-flowing flexible person I thought I was and turned into someone who loves the control and sense of calmness and expectation that routines provide. While a day off is always welcome, a day knocked off kilter is less so.

These days, I have to remind myself of the flip side of routines -- that too much routine can become boring and rob my days of the joy that the unexpected can sometimes bring. That routine day after routine day can kill spontaneity and wash away the potential for new experiences -- the ones that spark a sense of wonder and awe, or perhaps simply rejuvenate us and spark new ideas and a fresh perspective.

The trick -- the sweet spot, I think -- is to break routines on our own terms. To declare a day off in the middle of a week or to schedule a vacation whose very nature is to leave routine behind and immerse ourselves in the kind of come-what-may, do-as-I-wish days that remind us that, while routines have their benefits, so too does the free flow pursuit of life outside of the box.

Today, for example, this post started off as a list article -- the kind I've been having fun writing for several weeks now -- but, along the way, it turned into something different. I could have tried to whip it into shape and insist upon its submission to my structure, but that would have been silly. If it works better this way (and it does) forcing it into the format I initially planned would have been a waste of time and energy.

And yet, that's exactly my first reaction when my routine falls apart. I try to pick up the pieces and put them back together like some sort of wayward jigsaw puzzle instead of remembering that, sometimes, routines are meant to be wriggled out of. Exploded, even.

The older I get, the more I believe that exploding routines aren't all bad and a that we are where we are meant to be. On days when I remember this, I can take a deep breath, laugh at the detritus of my routine and look for new opportunities that pop up as a result of a routine gone awry.

Definitely beats my cranky toddler impression.