Saturday, December 29, 2012

Winter Break In Aruba

As we were racing to the airport to catch our 5:30 am flight, our younger son asked us to pull over on the tollway. Half asleep, he re-entered the car, and we crossed our fingers that this was an isolated incident. After the second wave of sickness, we anxiously awaited the third strike.
The flight attendant on the no-frills airline was concerned when he saw our boy's green complexion, so he quickly gave him an ice pack for the back of his neck, and a can of ginger ale. When he fell asleep, we quietly thanked the flight attendant who asked, "Nervous flyer?" We told him how he came straight to the airport after celebrating his friend's twenty-first birthday, and he replied, "Well, now I don't feel sorry for him."
We spent our days in Aruba by the pool or white sand beaches. While my husband and the boys were off on a snorkeling excursion, I walked along the beach admiring the beautiful scenery, shops, and hotels.
Our family enjoyed playing catch at the beach or volleyball in the pool. Once when our younger son was playing on my volleyball team he politely advised, "If the ball comes near you, just run away from it."
It cooled off at night which made walking to the restaurants along the strip quite pleasant. After dinner, we would go to different casinos where our older son taught us how to play black jack. He was very patient showing us different strategies, though they laughed at my not so swift hand signals. Our teacher was always a good sport, and was equally happy when any of us were ahead. At one point when I was out of chips, both boys shared their winnings with me, so I could get back in the game. That brought me a little bit of luck, and I quickly returned the favor. Fortunately, like The Gambler song, they knew "when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em," so no one got too carried away. 
As always, our vacation went by all too quickly. For the most part we got along well except for the time when my husband wanted to rebel by wearing his dress shirt untucked. "But it's more comfortable that way, and the kids don't tuck in their shirts." I tried to explain to him that the shirt was too long, and didn't hit him in the right place thus creating an unflattering vertically challenged look. Though I won that battle, he smiled the next night when he wore his sport shirt out.
It poured on our last day as we headed to the airport. The hotel recommended that we arrive three hours before our flight to allow extra time to go through customs. We had to go through customs twice, and the airport was a madhouse. At one point, our younger son had to run to the other side of the airport to buy some food that we ate while standing in line, as we waited over five hours.
Once we boarded the return no-frills flight, the flight attendant apologized for all of the delays, and offered to give us drinks and snacks as long as we paid for them. He even joked that if any of us needed oxygen in case of an emergency, he would gladly give it to us as long as our credit card was accepted. 
Though our plane left over two hours late, we still made our connecting flight home. This was quite a relief to all of my boys who were worried about catching the Bears game later that day. Fortunately, they won making our fourteen hour day of travel more bearable.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hidden Holiday Treasures


While most people are still clamoring to find last minute holiday gifts, I did some of my shopping early in an unexpected place. When my mom sold her house in September, I didn't have to look further than her china cabinet for some hidden treasures.

Buried behind rows of dishes and glasses in her breakfront, were beautiful platters and figurines. Though she took her favorite pieces to her new apartment, she let me choose from the rest of her collection.

I even set aside some manly bar glasses for our boys. As I was rummaging through the wet bar, I was reminded of the holiday parties we had growing up. My mom would wear her long silky tiger print robe, while she served champagne punch in cheetah print glasses to our guests seated on the comfy leopard couch. 

My brother and I would look up at the adults from the rust shag carpeting, before we would race to load up on crabmeat dip, sweet and sour meatballs, and other delicious hors d'oeuvres. My dad was in charge of serving the "real" drinks, when he wasn't carving the turkey or brisket. During the summer, he was known for his expert grilling techniques.

Clean up duty was even fun at family gatherings, because all of the women would work together. My mom and grandma were in charge of putting the leftovers away, while I loaded the dishwasher, and my great aunts would help dry the remaining dishes. I wish that I could remember some of the wonderful conversations that took place back then.

Though my mom had hoped to sell more of her antiques, there were some surprises along the way. As I was packing up her clothes and shoes for charity, I found a beautiful pair of black boots that had never been worn. Enclosed was the receipt dating back to 1997. The next day I tried to return the boots to the department store, and they issued a full cash refund.

Shortly before the closing, I went back to the house for one last look when I found a small white box. It contained a generous gift certificate to a day spa dated from November 1988. I put it in my purse for safe keeping, gathered the rest of the last minute items, and said goodbye to my childhood home.

Recently, I went to the luxurious day spa, and gave the twenty-four-year-old gift certificate to the cashier. I was hoping that it would still have some cash value, and was astounded when she agreed to honor the original amount. I thanked her, and asked her to issue a new gift card, because I didn't want to take any chances.

The other day my mom asked me what I wanted for Hanukkah, and I told her that she already gave me a wonderful present. I reminded her about the gift certificate, and said that we could both share a day of beauty together. Although she liked the idea, she still hasn't forgiven me for replacing her forty-five-year-old shag carpeting. 

*Just a note to let you know that I'll be taking a short family break. Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday, and the next time a relative asks you to help them clean out their cupboards, be sure to run right over.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Today begins the CHEERS, CAVANAUGH Blogfest hosted by  Mark Koopman,  Morgan Shamy, David Powers King, and Stephen Tremp  to honor a man who gives his heart and soul to the blogging community. Our mission is to answer four questions about Alex, and then to write a flash fiction story using five given prompts. Thanks to all of the hosts, and be sure to visit the rest of Alex’s devoted fans.
What does Alex look like?

I’m picturing tall, athletic build, killer smile, wavy brown hair, chiseled jaw, and a twinkle in his eye.
Who would play Alex in a documentary?

He once told me that he resembled Ryan Reynolds.  
Who does Alex remind you of?

He’s a combination of James Bond, Eric Clapton, Gene Roddenberry, and Dr. Phil.

                                                  All In A Day's Work
 Cavanaugh is fighting an evil pilot aboard a Cosbolt spacecraft in another galaxy. Shadows of Alex  dance as he pulverizes his enemy in slow motion, while the beautiful captive looks on.

When they return to Earth, she lures him into a tub filled with Hot Tamales. Afterward, the Ninja  confides while strumming his guitar, “This was written by a member of the IWSG.  It’s a little group that I founded to help settle writer's nerves before they spontaneously combust."

Suddenly, she throws the guitar against the wall. “Why won’t you let me see your face, and why can't we go anywhere without your co-hosts?"     

“Because then you would also see all the people I’ve helped, all the stories I’ve read, and all of the suffering I’ve eased. And you didn't seem to mind when my co-hosts were scrubbing the bathtub ring Mrs. Cavanaugh."

Thanks to Mrs. Cavanaugh for raising such a giving son, and a special thanks to Mrs. Alex J. Cavanaugh for being so giving of her husband’s time and energy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ISWG: Digitally Challenged


While I was minding my own business, my husband turned to me and said, "Let me see your hands." At first I thought that I had food on them, but I was taking a break from eating. Then I surrendered my hands to him. He looked at them carefully before announcing, "That's funny, according to this online study it turns out that you're a lesbian."

Somehow he had found an Internet article about how your hands determine the type of person you are. While longer ring fingers may indicate athletic prowess, and an aptitude for math, they also show a predisposition to lesbianism. Supposedly scientists at UC Berkeley concluded that finger length and sexual orientation are pre-determined by androgen levels in the womb for women. Usually women's index fingers and ring fingers are the same length. Wait a minute, I'm not athletic or good at math, but could the anonymous researchers at Berkeley be dead wrong about all three? My husband laughed, as my paranoia began to kick in.

A few months ago, I wrote that my friend complimented me on my perfect toes, and now I don't know what to make of my unsightly fingers. What were once considered long and slender, were reduced to lying little stubs. Since it was too late to call anyone, I started frantically searching for hand models online. Surely their index fingers would be slightly shorter than their ring fingers, and this whole issue would be resolved.

Then I came across an interview with a gloved hand model. She spoke about how she wore gloves everywhere, never cooked, or did housework of any kind. Her husband didn't seem to mind, because she was averaging about ten thousand dollars a photo session. I didn't have the patience to see if she finally took off her gloves Gypsy Rose Lee style, so I searched for some still pictures instead. Unfortunately, her flawless hands revealed that her index finger and her ring finger were identical in size. Thus, my dreams of starring as a "Before" hand model on a soap commercial were all washed up. Oh, and I was still a lesbian.

Lately I can't even enter a room without glancing at everyones' hands. My preferences haven't changed though I do spend more time in the garage. Now that I have one more thing to be self-conscious about, at least I'm grateful that this is the season for gloves. In case you were wondering what any of this has to do with  Alex J. Cavanaugh,  I thought it would fit in well with the  Insecure Righties' Support Group

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's Sexy After Fifty


As I was perusing People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue, I thought about how my definition of sexy has changed over the years. Though Channing Tatum looks great with his shirt off and is an amazing dancer, I don't know if he has what it takes to top my list. Sure he would be delicious arm candy, but would he ever stop doing push-ups long enough to give me what I really need?

While most of the buff men in the issue pump iron, I get steamy watching my husband iron his shirts. Instead of texting naughty messages like many celebrities do, my husband prefers a more personal approach. He lets me have a front row seat while he's cursing at bad drivers. 

Lately, I've found that simple sayings are music to my ears. Some of my favorites include:
No that doesn't make you look fat.
You were right Julie.
Cancel the service guy. I'll install it right now.
And my all time favorite is when he's telling our boys:
Listen to your mother.

Men who cook are incredibly sexy. My husband is master of the grill, and even our friends delight in watching him barbecue. Whether he's adding marinade, inserting timers, or slicing with the precision of a Samurai Warrior, it's always a treat to see him in action. My dad was known for his special London broil, and my husband has continued the tradition. Our sons are currently in training. 
Some of our neighbors could also be in the running for Sexiest Man Alive. There's Devin who's either outside mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, or shoveling the snow. He's always quick to smile and wave no matter how inclement the weather.  Stan drives carpool, and even packs his kids' lunches. Good neighbor Ted leads a dog walking group with other moms. He also volunteers at the local school, while his boys are off at college. I've never seen any of these men without their shirts on, and I prefer it that way.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What Do Couples Talk About After 23 Years?


The British dating site wrote that a couple married for fifty years will talk to each other tor only three minutes during an entire dinner hour. The Sunday section of The Chicago Tribune featured a cover story by Nara Schoenberg detailing the importance of having quality conversations everyday for ten minutes. This entails "sharing your private feelings, fears, doubts, and perceptions with your partner." Since we've been married for over twenty three years, I thought this would be a piece of cake, but after reflecting on our years together, I realized ten minutes could be an eternity.  

When the kids are away at school we normally discuss if either one of us has heard from them. If I say "yes" then my husband's next response is "at what time?" For some reason that particular question sets me off into a tirade and the discussion ends quickly. While most husbands fantasize about their wives greeting them in a sexy strapless gown; mine would be perfectly happy if I held out a rib roast and strapped on a Timex. The next time I spoke to one of the boys I wore my watch, and told him every detail of the conversation. This lasted about four and a half minutes. Maybe we needed to go deeper.

The article talks about research scientist Terri Orbuch's theory of "affective affirmation" to show your partner how much you love them. This could mean anything as simple as offering a hug to show your appreciation. After my husband washed my car, I threw my arms around him to show him my gratitude. This worked well for about twelve seconds until my husband turned me around at the right angle so he could face the TV.  Later when I called him on it he apologized and offered up an even bigger hug. It took me a few minutes before I realized he was also reading the sports section while I was backed up against the kitchen counter.

The truth of the matter is we're both perfectly happy talking about everyday inconsequential things. My husband is more than willing to talk about almost anything with me as long as it doesn't involve screaming, whining or spending money. Tonight we even hit the ten minute mark at dinner with topics ranging from the weather to what's on TV. For all of the other stuff, that's what girlfriends are for.

(This was originally posted on January 18, 2011)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest: A Holiday Roast


Andrew Leon,   Matthew MacNish,  and   Alex J. Cavanaugh  are hosting the  Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest.  The  purpose is to show our appreciation for the special bloggers in our lives, and to highlight those we would miss the most. We were supposed to stop at three, but there were many more to thank for not giving up on me. 

     A Holiday Roast

     It all began you see,
     When  Arlee Bird said the word,
     Followers advanced from A to Z.

     mybabyjohn welcomed me the same,
     And waited several months,
     Before revealing her real name.

     Talli  is such a prolific blogging neighbor,
     That she'll probably write her next book,
     In the midst of going through labor.

     Julie  is always giving,
     Without wondering what she'll get.
     Especially if she's helping,
     Some poor, neglected pet.

     When most people wouldn't bother,
     Hilary  never gave up on Blogger.
     For months when her comments would fail,
     She sent them straight to my email.

     Robyn  is the funniest by far,
     If she says, "Tall, dark, and handsome,"
     Odds are she's describing a chocolate bar.

     If mystery is your passion,
     Michelle  will whip one up,
     In Five Sentence fashion.

     Al  is another comedic master,
     Throw any historical event his way,
     And he'll turn it into laughter.

      A triple shout-out to:
      Ros,  L.G.. and  Susan ,                                                    
      I admire your creativity,
     And find you most amusin.'

     Rhonda's  back from a worldwide tour,
     She was my true blogging mentor,
     And someone I would miss for sure.

     A special thanks to our  Fearless Leader,       
     Who tends to his devoted ducklings,
     Like Father Goose on speed reader. 

     Without all of your support,
     It wouldn't be the same.
     I hope you'll forgive me,
     If I didn't include your name.

     -Julie Kemp Pick

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

IWSG : Original Or Extra Spicy


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where we share our innermost feelings under the guidance of our fearless leader  Alex J. Cavanaugh. The group has grown so large that he has deputized other volunteers to assist in his patrol. Be sure to visit this vast array of amazing authors who are always willing to offer their support.

The wonderful thing about this group is no matter where you are on the list, someone will welcome you with open arms. You don't have to worry about being noticed. This frees you to worry about everything else instead.

For example, lately I've been struggling with originality. Not only do I wonder if I've unconsciously taken someone else's ideas, but I also wonder if I've recycled some of my own. I fear that I'm turning into the crazy aunt who sits in the corner muttering the same stories over and over again, while the children are instructed to politely nod and smile. Eventually the stories will drag on as long as my chin hairs, and no one will say a word about either irritation. On the bright side, it only takes minutes for me to pass out in a comfortable chair.

The other day an elderly man came over to give me an estimate on "dustless" wood floor sanding. I was very concerned when he got down on his hands and knees to measure the floor. Miraculously, he was able to gracefully spring up on his feet like a gazelle. His knees didn't buckle, his bones didn't creak, and his cap didn't sway. It only fueled my desire when this ninety-year-old, five foot two Valentino was able to hear every word I said.

After he left I started typing away. The words were flying off of the page. I was writing chapter after chapter with a reckless abandon. I was grateful that I had finally found my muse. When I reached the halfway mark, I decided to take a cold shower. My husband drew me a rose petal bath instead.

As I was about to go back to work, my husband insisted that I have something to eat. He prepared a lovely meal that we ate in matching robes in front of the TV. We watched a classic film  that was wildly romantic, yet strangely familiar. Though I had never seen this love story before, it was haunting me.

At the end of the movie, my worst fears were realized. I pulled the chair closer to the bear skin rug, and tried to slowly pull myself up from the floor. When that didn't work, I took the belt off of my robe, and wrapped it around the chair like a pulley. A moment later, my husband awoke, and dragged me along the room. Then I grabbed my manuscript, and threw it into the fire. He tried to stop me, but I told him that my story was already made into a Marlon Brando movie from the seventies. Aside from the fact that my tale took place in Pittsburgh, it was almost identical to The Last Tango In Paris.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Susanna Leonard Hill's Halloweensie Contest

courtesy Google Images

Children's author Susanna Leonard Hill has braved the 'Frankenstorm' to host the  Halloweensie Contest. The entries must be one hundred words or less and include the words witch, bat, and "trick-or-treat." Everyone is welcome to join in through the rest of today. However, Susanna is willing to extend the deadline until Friday if anyone needs extra time due to power outages. Just let her know.

On a serious note, my thoughts and prayers go out to our East Coast friends who have had to endure the devastating path of Hurricane Sandy.

Which Witch Switch Hits?

The witch was up to bat,
She took a swing with her broom.
The ball was struck so hard,
It could have reached the moon.

The other team was outraged,
She must have cast a spell.
But she practiced hours everyday,
Surely they could tell.

Next the witch stirred a hearty brew,
And sprinkled horn of toad.
But the hex was not complete,
Without pumpkin pie ala mode.

Hence the team of trick-or-treaters,
Were transformed into a larvae of roach.
As the witch served the Bad Sport Potion,
Disguised as their disgruntled coach.

-Julie Kemp Pick

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Losing It



Recently, my husband and I took the train downtown for an appointment. Afterward, we purchased our return tickets, and proceeded on a walk. When we passed the hotel where we were married over twenty-five years ago, my husband realized that he had lost one of the tickets. Apparently, when he took his cell phone out of his pocket to track our miles, the ticket had fallen out.

One moment we were blissfully reminiscing about our wedding day, and the next we were out in the blustery wind retracing our steps from the train station. The crowded sidewalks offered little hope of regaining the lost ticket, but my husband soldiered on. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, we came to a little plaza off of the beaten path. Then he reached down, and picked up the missing ticket. Remarkably, it was in perfect condition; unsoiled by man or pigeon. The most amazing part is that my husband was able to spot the tiny slip of paper though he only has vision in one eye.

Throughout the years, I've misplaced keys, phones, and various things around the house. Unfortunately, when our kids are away I have no one else to blame. However, my mom wins the award for having lost the most unusual item.

Once I walked into my mom's apartment to find her frantically searching her refrigerator. When I asked what she was looking for she told me that somebody stole her half of hamburger. It was leftover from the night before and she was looking forward to having it for lunch. I told her that I doubted someone would deliberately steal her hamburger, and rummaged through her fridge. After I couldn't find it, I made her a half of turkey and cheese sandwich instead. Then I asked her if she could have accidentally left her doggie bag downstairs in the dining room, and she assured me that she would never have made that kind of mistake.

Later that night my mom called me with surprising news.  Miraculously, she found her beloved half of hamburger. It was inside a butter dish. We both checked the refrigerator, but I never would have thought that even a small hamburger would fit inside a butter dish. My mother was thrilled to find it, and now she could finally get a good night's rest. But I didn't want to take any chances so I suggested, "Maybe you should sleep with it under your bed in case the "Hamburglar" strikes again!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sibling Comaraderie

(source; Zimbio)

Growing up my older brother and I didn't always get along, but that all seemed to change when he started college.  Suddenly, I was transformed from an awkward high school sophomore into a worldly college freshman. Because I was tall, and always looked older (which is thrilling now), he took me to fraternity parties, football games, and even bars.

The drinking age in Wisconsin was eighteen, and all I had to do back then was to say that my birthday was three years earlier. Once he even tracked me down when I naively left one party to go to another with someone that I had just met. Fortunately, he and his girlfriend split up and knocked on doors until they found me.    

Later that year, a high school senior befriended me, because she was interested in attending the same university. She wanted to visit the campus, and knew that my brother was well-connected there. After we arrived, she started acting like she owned the joint, and my brother quickly put her in her place. He said, "This is my room, and my sister is in charge here. You are her guest, and what she says goes." Those were very powerful words at the time. Come to think of it, they would still be powerful today.

Last weekend my older son began his fall break from law school. Instead of coming straight home, his friends picked him up from the airport and they drove to spend the weekend with his little brother.  My younger son acted as tour guide of his college campus, and the young men happily complied. They cheered on his football team to victory, and even played football afterward. 

No college visit would be complete without bar and party hopping, but of course I was not privy to any details. It did give me peace of mind that my older son was travelling with his two close friends, and one of them happened to be in medical school. I tried to warn them about his rundown house, and asked him to bring his medical bag just in case. I also suggested that they all be up-to-date with their shots. He assured me that he was bringing masks, gloves, and a hazmat suit. 

When my older son returned home, he said that they had a great time. Later that night, my younger son told me how his big brother always treated for meals, and even took care of the cab fare. He was sad that he had to leave. Although when my husband and I offered to visit, he said that he would get back to us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Under Cover in the Ladies Room



Last weekend my husband and I went to dinner and a movie. After he selected our perfectly centered seats, I proceeded to the ladies room. After playing Goldilocks until I found a proper stall with a working lock, and flowing toilet paper, I couldn't believe what lay ahead.

Though there were four sinks, there were only two soap dispensers lined up on each end. The soap dispenser on the left was empty, so I waited until the other one was free. While I was putting on my lipstick, I couldn't help but notice that women were continuing to use the empty dispenser on the left.

I couldn't believe my eyes as several different women of all ages were pretending to wash their hands with soap. During this time, I was rummaging through my purse looking for my makeup mirror, so as not to attract attention. I had to bite my tongue not to scream out, "There's soap in the other dispenser just a few steps away you idiots!" Finally, one woman actually walked over to the other end and soaped up like a surgeon.

I wanted to hug her and tell her about all of the other lazy unhygienic women. Though she was probably in her seventies, we were kindred spirits in cleanliness. I had so much I wanted to ask her, and I thought we could talk for hours about our cleaning rituals. Sadly, she left and I don't know if I will ever see those sparkling clean hands again.

This made me think of a conversation I had a few weeks earlier with my childhood friend. We both had coughs and colds around the same time. I don't know where I caught mine, but her husband coughed on her  and she was sick for a month; while he recovered the next day. My cough lasted about a few weeks, and I was worried that my husband would get sick. Fortunately, he was fine.

Thereafter, I surmised that our husbands' immune systems were stronger, because they grew up in normal households that had healthy amounts of dirt in them. Whereas, my friend and I both grew up in homes where you could eat off of the floors.

We both strived to make our homes as clean as the environments we were raised in, and coincidentally we each have children that either have horrible allergies or asthma. Maybe the women who didn't wash their hands with soap will live to be one hundred. I'm just glad that I didn't have to share my popcorn with them.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG: Calling for a Quick Fix

When the creative juices start flowing, your adrenaline starts rushing. It's a feeling comparable to a girl's first kiss or a boy's first six pack. Then without warning you're staring at a blank page, the girl slams the door on her date, and the boy wreaks havoc on his high tops.

Before panic sets in, you surf the Internet for ideas, turn on the TV, or go outside for a breath of fresh air. When none of those things seem to help you call on your last resort. All you need is a quick fix to get you through the worst of it, and everything will be fine from that point on. You hate yourself for making the call, but you know that you'll hate yourself even more if you don't. You dial the number, and as you're about to hang up, she answers.

"Hello Mom?"

"Who else would it be?"

"I've got nothing Mom."

"Are you talking about that blog of yours that nobody reads?"

"Well he'll read it."

"Is it that Insecure Group for Waiter's?"

"You mean writer's."

"They're writer's, but you're a waiter. You wait to call me, you wait to get a good night's sleep, and you wait to get published."

"Actually, I've been published twice."

"Are you in People or any other magazine that I would read?"

"It's a literary arts magazine, but there's no reason you can't read it."

"You should write for other magazines too. A book would be nice."

"I would love to write a book, but I still have so much to learn. Not to mention all of the work involved. Maybe one day. Oh, I forgot to ask if you went to physical therapy today?"

"No, I'll go another time. The pain will still be there tomorrow, and the therapist keeps pushing me to practice the exercises at home too. Maybe I'll try it again one day. I have to start getting ready for dinner now."

"But it's only 3:00."

"Stop slowing me down. I have to make it downstairs by 5:20."

"Well, what should I write about?"

"Just blame everything on me like you always do."

"That's a great idea! Thanks Mom!"

"Glad I could be of help. Wait a minute, how do you hang this thing up?"

"Just press end. It's in the upper right hand corner."

"I can't see it. Where are my doggone glasses?"

"Did you check the cup holder on your walker?"

"That's where my iced tea is."

"Next to your iced tea."

"Found it!"

"Glad I could be of help."

"You're lucky I'm your mother."

"And why is that?"

"Because anyone else would sue you for stealing their best lines."

Be sure to visit   Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the other talented authors who share their stories in the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photo Prompt 20: The First Snowfall

Thanks to  Delores @thefeatherednest

Two close friends were walking through the park when one of them was overcome by hot flashes.  After taking a few swigs from the water bottle Ashley still didn't seem to cool off, so Morgan tried to come up with another plan.

Morgan thought it would be a good idea to try hypnosis. They found a nice quiet bench in the shade. Though it was a warm summer day, Morgan told Ashley to imagine a blustery winter scene. Ashley laughed until the calm steady voice made it impossible to stay awake.

Images of snow gently falling on the path were going through Ashley's mind. They were running and playing in the snow like children, until fresh footsteps were discovered on a nearby path. This didn't make sense as they had the whole park to themselves. Morgan noticed that Ashley was clinging on tightly while continuing to doze.

Suddenly, the path was transformed into a ski slope, and Ashley was heading straight down at a maddening pace. It didn't help that this was Ashley's first time on skis; scantily clad in running shorts and a tank top. Morgan yelled to stop, as a large bear with small feet was waiting at the end of the trail.

After much prodding and shaking, Ashley finally woke up. Morgan felt the claw marks as he gently unlatched Ashley from his arm. Though it was warm and humid, Ashley had an overwhelming desire for a hot chocolate. Morgan was feeling quite proud of himself when he spotted Avery and Mel.

Avery was Ashley's twin sister who was out walking her dog Mel. The couple told Avery about how the power of hypnosis helped Ashley fight off hot flashes. Avery said that she never should have told Ashley about her hot flashes in the first place. She went on to say that ever since they were kids, when one of them would even so much as sneeze, the other would be sick for days. 

Since Avery knew that her twin felt everything that she did so deeply, she was very careful about sharing news of even the slightest discomfort. Though she had to laugh when she mistakenly thought that it was safe to complain about her hot flashes. After all, Ashley was her twin brother.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Musical Chairs At The Doctor's Office


Last week I decided to go to the doctor when I had trouble sleeping from flu-like symptoms. My doctor was booked solid, so the receptionist got me in to see another partner in the group. There were four partners in total, and the large waiting room was beginning to fill up when I arrived.

I checked in, grabbed a magazine, and found an aisle seat facing the exit door. Shortly after, a woman with a friendly disposition sat in the middle seat next to me. There was an open seat at the end of the row, but for some reason she decided she liked this one better. I was honored that she chose to sit next to me when there were clearly a few other options available, but I played it cool pretending to peruse my generic magazine from 2007.

Suddenly, I was transported back to my first day in high school; circling around the cafeteria, not knowing which table to plant my lunch tray on. Those moments were more stressful than all of my classes put together. Some days were easier just sneaking a bag of M&M's in between the pages of a fashion magazine in the library. Those healthy eating habits probably led to my frequent doctor visits.

The waiting room was still filling up, when I felt a cough coming on.  I coughed on my left shoulder, away from my seat companion in the direction of the front desk. The desk served as a shield, so the receptionists were also protected. When my cough continued to get worse, I went over to the drinking fountain in the hallway. My seat companion was still there upon my return.

The room started emptying out, and my coughing ritual started all over again. Only this time, I decided to take action by moving across the room to spare my neighbor. In between coughs I sputtered, " I don't want to get you sick," and she flashed me an empathetic smile.

The whole time I was wondering why they didn't try to put me in quarantine earlier.  I was clearly creating a disturbance, and for all they knew I could've had whopping cough or TB. This led me to come up with a new health care plan for large practices.

The waiting rooms should be divided up according to the severity of the illness. For example, I would've been seated in the Coughing, Sneezing, and Fever Section. While my seemingly healthy neighbor would've been directed to the Good Citizen Yearly Exam Lounge. Other sections may include: Tummy Trouble (near an open window of course), Trashy Rashes and What-Nots, and the always popular I Feel Fine But My Wife Made Me Come Anyway Section.

Each section would be roped off.  Although partitions may prove to be more practical. Especially  in the case where a patient is left dangling too long on the rope in between the Everything Hurts Just Shoot Me Corner, and the Hypochondriac Hutch. This may lead to a future visit to Trashy Rashes and What-Nots.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

IWSG : Staying On Your Toes


As the first anniversary of   Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group is approaching, I can't help but notice how our personal inadequacies fuel our writing. From a very young age we are taught to choose our words carefully. Emotions come into play, and often heated moments exploit our insecurities. As writers we can use these moments to either enrich our characters, or to help strengthen our own.

Recently, I ran into a man who designed our acrylic mailbox. He miraculously put all of the pieces back together for us when a vandal knocked it over. Then he did it all over again when a newly licensed family member accidentally backed into it at the end of our driveway.  He smiled when I told him that Humpty Dumpty's men wished they had him on their team. I hadn't seen him in awhile, and he told me that not only had I lost weight, but that I looked ten years younger. Of course it helped that we were at an outdoor evening event, where lighting was scarce, and alcohol was plentiful. Though I knew he was exaggerating, the compliment was greatly appreciated as I was very self conscious about the newly acquired scar on my nose from extensive sun damage.

When I relayed the story to my mother she said, "Oh that's happened to me before. People used to get me confused with this very heavy woman that I worked with. He probably thought you were someone else."

The next day I got together with an old friend from high school whom I hadn't seen in a few years. She looked exquisite as always, and I told her that she really never ages. She thanked me, and looked like she was hard pressed to say something positive about me. Then a few hours later she turned to me and said in complete seriousness, "Julie, you have really nice toes."

Hence, I decided to take a step in the right direction by scheduling a pedicure, and investing in a therapeutic foot cream. Because I already wear orthotics, it's only a matter of time before I inherit my maternal familial bunions, and  hammertoes, so I have to take full advantage of this gift. Naot and Birkenstock are the only sandals that I could comfortably walk in, thus it's unlikely that I'll start  parading around in sexy stilettos to show off my toe cleavage. As winter approaches, my greatest challenge will be in securing a pair of open toed snow boots.

Monday, August 27, 2012

ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD with author C.Lee McKenzie

I'm thrilled to have my first guest blogger C. Lee McKenzie here to promote her wonderful new book ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD.  Lee is a talented author and supportive blogging friend. Her characters are richly woven, and appealing to all ages. Now Lee will fill you in on her latest adventure.

Julie, Thank you so much for helping me out with the launch of my first middle grade book. I really appreciate your support and it's great to be here on your blog today.


Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town's bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he's up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn't the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete's guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find the witches and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

About the author
  A native Californian, C. Lee McKenzie lives on the edge of a redwood forest with her husband and assorted cats. When she's not writing or blogging she's hiking or practicing yoga. She usually writes young adult fiction that deals with contemporary, realistic issues. In Sliding on the Edge (2009) she dealt with cutting, and in The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010) she wrote about a family that loses almost everything and has to rebuild their lives together. Alligators Overhead is her first Middle Grade novel. Lee blogs at and her website is

There's a free eBook (any format) for one of Julie's  followers who leaves a comment and says s/he wants a copy of Alligators Overhead. I'm not big into Rafflecopter where readers have to jump through hoops for a book. If you want to tweet this post or give me a like on my Alligators Overhead page on facebook, that would be wonderful . . . just not required.

Thanks for the wonderful post Lee! After your visit and this exciting trailer, I can't wait to read it, with the lights on of course!  ALLIGATORS OVERHEAD is available at:


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

WEIGHTED Release Day Blitz


The WEIGHTED Release Day Blitz is here! Below is the suspenseful tagline for award-winning author Ciara Knight's Prequel Novelette:

Weighted (The Neumarian Chronicles) by Ciara Knight
Price: $1.99 USD. 11090 words. Published on August 11, 2012. Fiction.                

I am being held captive in the Queen’s ship awaiting interrogation. Will I have the strength to keep the secret? I’ll know the answer soon. If the stories are true about the interrogators, I’ll either be dead or a traitor to my people by morning.

Ciara Knight writes to ‘Defy the Dark’ with her fantasy and paranormal books. Her debut novel, The Curse of Gremdon, was released to acclaimed reviews, securing a Night Owl Top Pick and five stars from the Paranormal Romance Guild. Also, released in 2012 is her young adult series, Battle for Souls. Book I, Rise From Darkness, won July Book of the Month at Long and Short Reviews

Her first love, besides her family, reading, and writing, is travel. She’s backpacked through Europe, visited orphanages in China, and landed in a helicopter on a glacier in Alaska.

Battle For Souls Series:
Ascension Of Evil - Coming October 2012

The Neumarian Chronicles
Weighted - Coming August 21, 2012
Escapement - Coming early 2013

The Curse of Gremdon Amazon, ARe, B&N

With all of Ciara Knight's accomplishments, I am most envious of this uncanny ability, "She has learned to embrace chaos, which is a requirement when raising three boys, and utilizes the insanity to create stories not of this world including Fantasy, Paranormal, Sci-Fi and Young Adult Dystopian."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Slumming It In College


Last weekend our boys left for school. While our older son set off for his third year of law school, we drove our youngest for his third year of college. Both boys completed their physicals, were updated on all of their shots, had their teeth cleaned, hair combed and were good to go. Their clothes were washed and pressed, and they were starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, our younger son's left foot got stuck in it when we arrived.

He was moving into an older house with three other boys, and I thought I was prepared for the worst. The rent was too good to be true, and I strongly recommended that he find another place last spring. My husband agreed, but he assured us that this was a great house conveniently located near the campus. It pains me to write these words, but we sort of trusted him.

It was raining when we pulled up to the wood shack, so the muddy walkway only added to the ambiance. We walked into the kitchen with a flickering ceiling fixture, and a sunken floor made of mismatched tiles with large gaps throughout. There were missing electrical outlet covers, missing sections of dry wall, and huge holes in the ceilings. All of these slight imperfections were found in the kitchen and living room. I was afraid of what else was lurking in this four bedroom house, and never made it further than our son's bedroom.

He lived in a fraternity house his sophomore year, and spent freshmen year in a dorm. I remember how we helped him set up his room each year, but this time I was afraid to even touch anything. He was offended when I said that his happy home resembled a crack house, and looked to his father for support. My husband calmly likened it to a slum. He tried comforting me by reminding me how our older son almost lived in a converted garage when he was an undergraduate. To this day, we're not sure if we talked him out of it, or if he was just relieved to get a better offer.

After the screaming subsided, my son told me that I was a snob. He went on to say that this house wasn't good enough for me. I told him that this house wasn't good enough for any human being, and that he didn't need to be in a place that wasn't safe to live in. To accentuate my point, as our son's foot gently brushed the top of the stairway, we watched the metal threshold come tumbling down.

Another pleasant thought occurred to me. Because our son is the first one in the house to turn twenty-one, I was wondering if he would be held responsible if there were an accident. For example, if an underage girl is over-served, and stumbles over a large rat at a party in their basement, would our son be carted away? Our older son alerted me by text that the owner would be responsible. 

The next day, my husband and my son went to talk to the landlord. His office said that they would be happy to make any repairs and even offered to replace the dilapidated kitchen floor. They claimed that the house had already been painted. My husband asked how they could've painted over areas with missing drywall. Of course they blamed this on the hooligans who rented the house last year. 

When we said our goodbyes, my son smiled and assured me that he would be okay. He told me that I should stop being such a negative person, and focus on the positives. I hugged him tightly, as I did a mental count of all of his fingers and toes. Then I took a deep breath and said, "Well, at least you're only about a block away from the hospital." 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Keeping Up With The Geriadashians

Walkers are props for most Abbey Delray tappers
(The Abbey Delray Tappers from The Palm Beach Post)

Now that the networks are showing previews of  the upcoming fall lineup, I thought it would be fun to create a new reality show for seniors. It's centered around three women who struggle to maintain their independence in an assisted living community. The series begins when the newest member is dropped off kicking and screaming, as her children drive off. 

After the new kid on the block calms down, she is escorted to dinner by the eyes and the ears of the joint directly to The Warden's table. Peeps is The Warden's right hand woman who scouts out the new girls who have the potential to be in their powerful inner circle. The Warden has been in charge for a few years now, and is sharp as a tack at ninety-two. Her eighty-nine year old sidekick Peeps aims to please, drives within a five mile radius in the daylight, and has excellent hearing and vision skills. The newcomer quickly realizes that ninety is the new sixty at this residence.

The Warden nicknames her "The Kid," because she is the youngest at seventy-seven, and she shines as bright as her red hair.  She's savvy enough to nibble at her dessert, leaving an extra bite or two. This puts her in The Warden's good graces, so that she'll be invited to another dinner at the "cool table."

Like other reality shows, they'll be plenty of backstabbing, and catchy lingo. Instead of "GTL" standing for "Gym, Tan, and Laundry" on Jersey Shore, our stars will create a whole new meaning. In conversations with their children "GTL" will stand for Guilt, Taunt and Lie To.

Another craze that I'm hoping to inspire is a new drinking game. Each time one of the character's proclaims to her family, "I don't want to be a burden," will be an opportunity to drink a shot. Hence, the kids and the ratings will soar together.

In keeping with the competition, part of the initiation into the seniorority will be special lightning rounds. For example, when a resident's daughter calls to ask if she needs anything the first response is, "Oh, no thank you. I don't want to be any trouble." After the daughter insists, the clock starts, and the resident has exactly one minute to rattle off as many items from various out of the way locations as possible. The winner will receive unlimited bathing assistance, and walker tune-ups for a month.

Viewers will also venture to exotic locations when a new character, The Faller is sent to different nursing homes for rehab. She charms the handsome paramedics into believing that she is steady on her feet, until they are summoned to pick her up again the next day. When she falls again in the nursing home, they outfit her with an alarm for her protection. This alerts the nurses every time she tries to stand up, or grab something that is not within reach. After her protests to be freed from "living like a caged animal" are not met, she finds a way to disconnect the alarm herself. Word travels to The Warden, and she is immediately promoted to an executive board position in the seniorority.

© 2012 Julie Kemp Pick