6

Under Brave, See Autism

Posted by BV on September 5, 2016 in Asperger's, college, College kids |

Chris at Loras (1)Two weeks ago, son #4, the one who falls on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, started college.

For me, it was the fourth time I dropped a boy off at a faraway campus with vague promises of care packages and a reminder to buy a bus ticket for fall break.

For my three older boys, who had spent weeks away at Boy Scout camps year after year, this exercise was not especially daunting.

For son #4, though, this marked the first time he would be left entirely on his own for weeks at a time.

His immediate future, vague promises of care packages notwithstanding, would be void of family and friends, familiar teachers, landscapes and routines.

I had every reason to expect the days between move-in and mid-October would be filled with anxiety and loneliness.

Two weeks in, I am happy to report I was wrong…for the most part.

As part of his college’s outstanding support program, my son and his seven similarly diagnosed peers, were invited to spend a week on campus in July just to get the lay of the land and, more importantly, bond.

At first, my son balked. When pressed, he explained that the highly structured agenda the program coordinator had sent showed only small windows of “alone time” during the five days he’d be away. Pointing specifically to the after dinner activities, he fretted, “I don’t know about these. You know how I like to get to bed early.”

At his request, I asked the program coordinator if the evening events were mandatory. Her response? “All of the evening activities are optional. We hope he participates in as many as he feels comfortable doing so.”

My son’s mood brightened. He knew she understood. “This might work,” he ventured.

After weeks of gushing about how much fun he would have, my husband and I helped him pack and even let him drive most of the way to campus.

Once settled in his room, we joined the rest of the parents and students in the residence hall’s common area. The program coordinator introduced the two residence assistants (RAs) who would be staying there with her and the kids, let us know what time to return that Friday and told us to say our good-byes.

Gulp.

Slapping on the happiest face I could muster, I gave him a quick kiss and said, “Be good. See you in a couple of days.”

I walked out the door and couldn’t bear to turn around. The entire way home, I expected my cell phone to ring with a tearful voice on the other end, begging us to come back.

But it didn’t. Not until we got home. I answered and held my breath.

Son: Hey, so I just wanted to see if you guys were doing OK.

Aw…cheerleader

Me: (sounding perkier than a cheerleader on steroids) Heck yeah. We’re fine! What are you up to?

Son: Oh. OK, good. Well, uh, we just had dinner and now we’re heading out to see a concert in a park near here, so I’m sorry, but I kind of have to go.

Relieved, I hung up the phone, trying to ignore just how empty the house felt without him in it.

Similar upbeat calls followed each night for the remainder of the week, during which time I sent the program coordinator a message expressing my intent to submit her name to the Vatican as a candidate for canonization.

So, getting back to my story. My “Aspie” is just about two weeks into his college adventure. To date, he likes all of his classes, has re-connected with all of his cohort pals and has even made some new ones. Every day starts with a wake up call from yours truly (his request) and a pre-bedtime call from him, telling us about his day (my request).

While these calls may taper off over time, for now, I find they go along way towards easing the anxiety and loneliness. Not his. Mine.

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2

Flight Risk Release Party Giveaway

Posted by BV on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized |

party

Flight Risk, book #4 in my Assignment: Romance series releases on August 23rd! I hope you can join me and several of my outrageously talented author pals to help celebrate!

4:30 – 5:00 p.m. – Tracy Kimmer
5:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Geralyn Coricillo
5:30 – 6:00 p.m. – Stacey Weidower
6:00 – 6:30 p.m. – CJ Warrant
6:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Ellyn Oak(smith)
7:00 – 7:30 p.m. – Glynnis Astie
7:30 – 8:00 p.m. – Nicole Leiren
8:00 – 8:30 p.m. – T. Sue VerSteeg
(*note: all times are in Central Time)

We’ll be chatting about overcoming fears, taking risks and other fun topics, and giving away lots of great prizes. For a chance to win, all you have to do is jump right in!

Never been to a Facebook party before? Not to worry. Here’s how they work.

First and foremost, they’re online only. At 4pm CST on Tuesday 8/23, I’ll kick off the event right here with a few posts, welcoming attendees and kicking off the conversation (about my new book, about the thrill of letting go of fear, which Chicago Cub keeps me glued to the TV for each and every game, etc.).

I’ll also share a picture of the dazzling prize I’ll be giving away to a lucky (U.S. based) participant. Then, in 30 minutes slots, the other writers I’ve invited to co-host will do the same. It’s a great way for you to “meet” new authors.

Here’s the best part – if you comment on any of the posts, you’re automatically entered for the giveaways (mostly books by said authors). It’s a lot of fun and pretty-fast paced. Can’t wait to “see” you all there!

1

A Sunny-side Up Summer

Posted by BV on August 4, 2016 in Uncategorized |

AugustI know what you’re thinking…”Where’ve you been? It’s August, for Pete’s sake!”

You’re right. This summer has flown by. Why it seems like just yesterday I was pulling my white capris and sandals from the nether regions of my closet.

So much has happened in the last two months. Too much to write about really. Some of it good. Some bad.

I’ll start with the good.

  • My eldest landed his dream job just weeks before he graduated with his Master’s degree (ever the overachiever).Nala
  • My second eldest brought an adorable feline home with him from college (me being a dog person, this speaks volumes).
  • danielMy third eldest went to Morocco for a study abroad stint and arrived back safely six weeks later (cried when I finally got him back in my arms, I did).
  • My fourth eldest committed to his college of choice (I had every confidence…really).
  • My youngest mastered making his favorite breakfast – eggs, sunny side up.
  • My sister moved back home after spending a year plus on the East coast (worst Thanksgiving ever last year when she couldn’t join us).
  • As for me, I finished my fourth book (hint, hint…you can find the pre-order links on My Books page).

Now for the bad.NewJersey

  • My eldest landed his first job…on the East coast (enough said).
  • My second eldest brought a cat home (along with a truckload of cats toys and accessories).
  • My third eldest is already talking about his next study abroad adventure…in India (this from the young man who ate nothing but bread while in Morocco).
  • My fourth eldest is going away to college (I get verklempt just thinking about it).
  • My youngest is starting 8th grade in the fall (8th grade!!!).
  • My sister is still looking for work (anybody looking for a brilliant corporate L&D executive?).
  • The deadline for my next book is October 1st (insert hearty laughter here).

Throw in the loss of two old friends, the rise of global terrorism, our choices for our next Commander-in-Chief, and worst of all – the rising cost of all things chocolate, and I’ll be the first to admit…I’m finding it harder and harder to focus on the good stuff.

In an attempt to claw my way out of the all-powerful, ever-present vortex of negativity, I’m going to follow my mother’s age-old advice and count my blessings.

eggsWhile looking on the bright side is sometimes easier said than done, the sight of my youngest at the stove, spatula in hand, is enough to remind me that things can only get better. Messier, maybe, but definitely better.

2

Book Baby Pic

Posted by BV on June 16, 2016 in Uncategorized |

FlightRiskAs I promised in my Birthing a Book post, here is a picture of Flight Risk, my latest book-slash-baby.

Isn’t it lovely?

That’s Aubrey Thomas, a phobic travel writer at the Chicago Gazette, on the cover. When she must chose between jumping to what she fears will be certain death from a skydiving static line or sinking even deeper into debt in the unemployment line, she scrambles to find someone—anyone!—who can help her overcome her debilitating fear of heights.

Enter John Trelawney, a charming window washer who thinks nothing of dangling by a cable fifty stories up and claims he can cure her. Everything about John makes Aubrey nervous… including the way her heart kicks into overdrive whenever he’s around. But, at the end of her rope, she takes him up on his offer. Can he really help her get over her fear of heights? Or will Aubrey find herself free falling…possibly even in love with him?

I can’t wait for you to read it!

Flight Risk doesn’t release until August 29th, but I’ll share the pre-order links as soon as I have them.

3

The Incessant Ouch of the Revolving Door

Posted by BV on June 5, 2016 in College kids, Uncategorized |

Revolving Door

Kids. They come, they go, they break your heart, and then they return, full of hugs and smiles.

It’s their job. It’s what they do.

Never is this more evident than when they’re in college and beyond.

Had I realized when I was their age that I was inflicting so much heartache on my mother every time I flew out of the house, heading back to campus, or England where I studied for a summer, or my first apartment, I would’ve…well, OK, maybe I wouldn’t have done anything differently. But I’d be sure to tell her that I’d miss her too and hug her longer than my usual nanosecond.

Still, it’s not like my mom was sitting home all day, just waiting for us to return. She had a job to fill her days, my dad and their friends to hang with, and a growing brood of grandkids.

busy momWhen my boys were little, both my husband and I worked full-time. It seemed as if my life was reduced to herding cats 24/7 every single day of the week.

“It’ll get easier when they’re older,” I foolishly told myself, the theory being that when they’re able to take care of themselves, they wouldn’t need me to take care of them anymore.

And, for the most part, that’s proven to be true.

These days, instead of juggling play dates we juggle airport pickups, campus move-ins and holiday breaks.

The way I dote on them when they are here, you’d think I was making up for all of the times I couldn’t wait for them to grow up already.

When my older boys aren’t here, good thing I have a full-time job to keep me busy, books to write, my husband and friends to hang with, and my youngest still stuck at home to spoil rotten.

Still, I always find myself looking forward to the day the rest return to the nest and dread when they have to leave again.

I just can’t help it.

I’m a mom. It’s what I do.

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Cherishing Vets..and Pie

Posted by BV on May 28, 2016 in Uncategorized with Comments closed |

STARSIt’s Memorial Day weekend. That’s right. We devote an entire weekend to remembering the sacrifice others have made on our behalf so we can do the things we want to do whenever, and wherever, we chose.

As we relish an extra day off of work, plan cookouts, attend parades and get lured into stores with the promise of lucrative savings in honor of said veterans I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing the point.

To-do-list-and-business-bookI’m not pointing a finger. Trust me. I’m just as guilty as the next busy mom whose mind is perpetually preoccupied with stuff – groceries that need buying, clothes that need washing, houses that need cleaning and kids that need raising. Especially this weekend when I have all of my boys home. All except one.

My middle son (or “number three,” as I affectionately refer to him), is half-way across the globe right now, participating in a study abroad program that placed him in one of the edgier destinations offered. This exotic locale will no doubt fill him with wonder and hone his already impressive mastery of their native language. That he had to get shots prior to departure sent up a red flag in my overprotective mind, but it didn’t deter him. Not in the least.

traditional-flags-and-flagpolesStill, as my home-bound boys string red, white and blue bunting along our front porch railing, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that my son is able to indulge his wanderlust because of the sacrifices made by so many service men and women through the generations.

Because of them, he has the luxury of knowing full well that the liberty and bounty of our great nation will still be here for him when he returns…his favorite apple pie included (see recipe below).

So, on behalf of my son, I’d like to thank my dad, father-in-law, godfather, brother, nephew, several dear friends and scores of others who have served in the military. Without your sacrifice, I can’t even imagine what kind of world we’d be living in. All I do know is there probably wouldn’t be any pie.

Crunch Top Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 deep dish pie crust
1 pack graham crackers, crushed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, melted
6 medium granny smith apples
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

Place pie crust onto a large cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. Peel, core, quarter and thinly slice apples. Place into pie crust. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples, making sure it gets into the gaps. Pour melted butter over the apples and back for at least one hour or until the apples are softened.

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13

Why I’m Letting My Son Skip Graduation

Posted by BV on May 24, 2016 in Asperger's, Asperger's Syndrome, Autism |

mortor boardsWith five kids, three of whom have already graduated from high school, I know the drill – the ceremony always takes place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in our community college’s field house and the students need to pick up their tickets weeks in advance.

When it was son #4’s turn to do just that a little while back, I reminded him how many he needed to request. Later that same day, he dutifully placed them in my eager hands.

This, in turn, triggered a flurry of activity on my end: relay the logistics to the relatives, plan the party, and send out invitations. Easy-peasy. I had done it so many times before, I could do the whole routine with my eyes closed.

But I didn’t, because this year was extra special.

This graduate is extra special.

As you may recall, my son #4 has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Since starting in our school district’s outstanding special needs preschool when he just three years old, completely non-verbal, and had to be tethered to his seat to keep him from running around the classroom upending everything in sight, he has leapt over ever bar anyone ever tried to place in front of him.

By first grade, he was in regular classrooms and by high school, he was a straight-A student, making academic all-conference as a member of the boys’ cross-country team.

And, yes, in the fall, he will be going to college.

I couldn’t be prouder.

Just to be clear, my son did not accomplish all of this alone. Along the way, he has had a number of patient and caring aides, teachers and support staff guiding and encouraging him, letting him vent when he was frustrated and his arsenal of coping mechanisms failed him.

They, too, are proud of him. And, like me and the rest of his family, we couldn’t wait for him to cross that stage, totally rocking that black cap and gown, and smile for the cameras, diploma in hand.

Just days after securing the graduation ceremony tickets to our refrigerator with a magnetized clip, though, I noticed my son did not seem anywhere near as thrilled as I was. Quite the opposite in fact. His smile was gone. In fact, I hadn’t seen it since he handed me the tickets.

Instead, as he usually does when he’s anxious, he had grown quiet, was frequently spotted twirling the curls just above his forehead with his index finger, and was avoiding eye contact at every turn.

When I asked if anything was wrong, he blurted, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to do it.”

“Do what?” I asked, although I suspected I already knew the answer. Struggling to keep a smile on my face lest I upset him further, I watched as he wrestled with what he was about to say.

graduates“Graduation. I just don’t want to do it.” Casting a quick worried glance at me, he rushed to take back what he just said. “I mean, if you want me to, I will, but I’ll just be doing it for you.”

My heart broke for him. After all this time, how could I possibly think he’d be comfortable sitting still amongst hundreds of other graduates, waiting patiently for his name to be called, only to have a myriad of flashes go off as he received what in his mind was just a piece of paper?

pomp and circumBefore I could reply, he grumbled, “And I just can’t stand that music they play. Over and over.”

Sheer torture. I could see it in his face.

Still, having a child skip the graduation ceremony was a new one for me. I wondered if the school would even allow such a thing.

I shrugged. “It’s OK with me. Just let me check with your counselor to make sure the school is cool with it.”

And, of course, they were.

“Can we still throw you a party?” I asked through a tight grin, now fully aware that I may want that more than he does.

At this he perked up. “Oh. Yeah. Sure.”

And he was smiling again. The best sight ever.

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2

Birthing a Book

Posted by BV on May 10, 2016 in Uncategorized |

laborI am pleased to announce that after months and months of hard labor, I have given birth to a fifty-eight thousand word manuscript.

While no stitches were required (ebook), I’ll admit I did indulge in some anesthesia (red wine…don’t ask how much).

A welcome addition to my Assignment: Romance series, I decided to name my fourth baby Flight Risk. Big sibs False Start, Help Wanted and Key Change couldn’t be prouder.

I’ll show you a pic as soon as the artist completes the cover.

Having given birth to actual human babies five times now, trust me when I tell you, writing a book is so much harder.

how-to-become-a-bestselling-authorLet’s back up to when you get the initial idea to write a book. At first, the mere thought of holding something you created in your very own hands fills you with excitement.

Writers stare at a blank screen waiting for inspiration like an expectant mother might stare at a pregnancy test stick, waiting for a pink line or two to appear. As soon as it does, you’re off and running-well, writing.

Happiness-producing endorphins get you through the next few months as you finesse plot outlines and refine your character arcs.

Deadline-LoomingAs the deadline draws near, though, time seems to speed up. You spend late night after late night wondering how you’ll ever manage to get it done in time. Every spare second is spent cranking up your page count while planning post-release promotions.

Just as nine-months-along mothers look forward to wearing their regular clothes again, you can’t wait to type, “The End.”

To keep your spirits up, your publisher might plan a launch party.

And what do you do when the big day f-i-n-a-l-l-y arrives? You declare your intent to produce another.

Writers. We’re crazy, the whole lot of us.

While human babies require lots of nurturing to grow into fine upstanding adults, book babies require lots of marketing to grow into fine revenue-generating bestsellers. To learn how to do both, we lean on our network for tips and advice.

PullingOutHairBoth types of babies require lots of late nights and hours of worrying (Will he/she get home on time and in one piece?  vs. How can I write myself out of this dead-end plot point and will my publisher approve?).

Once book babies are out in the world, authors fret over their rankings like a real parent frets over their real live baby’s ACT scores. Just as parents teach them to develop a thick skin, so too must we as authors – especially given that we are just as sensitive to book reviews as real parents are of their child’s reputation (i.e., a dreadful review on Amazon is akin to a rejection from the homecoming king/queen).

I know what you’re thinking. Why put yourself through so much angst?

Before I jumped on the parenting-writing bandwagon, I asked my mother, a writer who also worked full-time while raising five kids, the very same thing.

Her answer, while vague, was simple. “It’s so worth it.”

And I completely agree.

Just in Time for Mother’s Day

Posted by BV on May 5, 2016 in Uncategorized with Comments closed |

MomDay_graphicIf your mother is anything like mine, she loves to read. So, in honor of mother’s everywhere, I present…(drumroll, please)…a book sale!

Twenty amazing books – everything from cozy mystery to nonfiction fun to light-hearted romance, all from my esteemed publisher for just .99 cents from May 5th – 8th only.

Happy Mother’s Day to all and to all a great read!

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5

On Parenting Parents

Posted by BV on May 2, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Sorry it’s been awhile. Lots going on.

space-time-continuum

Highly technical diagram

Through some weird twist in the time-space continuum (see highly technical diagram) my sibs and I have become our parents’ parents.

Clearly, this is the result of all that we put them through as kids – well, not me of course, but my brothers and sisters (random speculation on their part).

Me? I suspect it’s another one of those lousy curses my mother put on us. While my 15 year-old ears heard her say, “Just wait until you have kids,” she may as well have said, “Just wait until I’m your kid.”

Let me explain…

About a month ago, whilst I was in the middle of polishing off a bit of snappy dialog between the hero and heroine in my latest book, the phone rang. A frail, but cheery voice on the other end started, “It’s your pesky mother. I hate to bother you, but…”

handsThe “but” gets me every time. Well, if not me, whoever’s number is next on my parents’ speed dial.

I don’t mean to sound callous. These calls started years ago. First, mom couldn’t reach something on the top shelf or dad needed a hand lifting something that he used to be able to heft over his shoulder effortlessly in the past.

It was around then that my sibs and I suggested that they move out of their multi-level townhouse into something a little more manageable. Dad was on board; mom balked. A child of the Depression, she was (and is) loathe to part with her things (and has developed a bizarre penchant for hoarding canned goods, bread, milk and eggs).

So the years passed and the calls (and her canned good supply) increased.

And two of my sibs moved out-of-state.

Somewhere along the way, the errand running morphed from occasional grocery store runs to doing all of their shopping and taking over their finances when errors in their checkbook, and late or missed payments, became the norm.

screen640x640More disconcerting, though, is the speed at which our roles have reversed.

At first it was hard playing parent to my folks. My sibs and I would go into heavy deliberations on our strategies before even approaching them with delicate topics. Even then, we were on eggshells.

First, there was the whole bit about getting our dad to agree to relinquish his license – especially after he drove his caddie up onto a crowded curb (no one was hurt, that goodness). Since then, there have been several attempts to get them to downsize, interspersed with several trips to the ER each time dad took another tumble.

Things came to a head about a month ago when my mom called again, this time to tell me, “Dad’s having trouble coming down the stairs.”

I just so happened to be working from home that day. What they would’ve done if I was in the office, I don’t know. I went flying over to their place and called an ambulance. He was admitted to the hospital. My out-of-town sister came home. We  worked with the discharge coordinator to have him moved to an assisted living facility directly after being released from the hospital because a) my mother cannot take care of him and b) he can no longer get around on his own.

Everything was a go. Dad was on board.

doc_brown-full-1Then Mom intervened. Put a kibosh on the whole plan.

Dad went home. A nurse visited for a few times until my parents canceled (“We don’t like strangers in the house,” they said).

I know what you’re thinking. Why not have your folks move in with you?

The answer is simple. Neither my sister or I live in a one-story house.

Which brings us to the most recent call.

I had just started a load of laundry when the phone rang. “Hi dear. Sorry to bother you, but your father needs help getting down the stairs again.”

I love my parents. I do. But I’m this close to staging an “everything-must-go-Flux-Schematicincluding-anything-that-breathes-or-talks” estate sale.

Anybody know where I can get my hands on a flux-capacitor? How about a DeLorean…? Anybody…?

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2

No Vacancies

Posted by BV on March 19, 2016 in College kids, Uncategorized |

bed and breakfastIt’s Spring Break season and Casa de Plate Spinner is open for business!

Guests can relax in our clean, but cluttered accommodations, sleep in cramped quarters, luxuriate on the overstuffed couch in the family room while bonding over video games not enjoyed since Christmas break, and consume delectable homemade meals and snacks provided by the doting staff around the clock.

Amenities include: maid service, clean towels, in-kitchen coffee pot, on-site laundry accommodations, no privacy whatsoever, car rental with driveway parking, and airport shuttle service.

All for the low, low, low, low price of – well, nothing – every single night.

For reservations, contact the Plate Spinner at www.goingoutofmymind.com.

hostessI greeted the news that my college boys would be home for break with a potent mix of delight and dread. Meeting my day job and publishing obligations while being the hostess with the mostest seemed about as likely as winning an all-expenses-paid trip for one to Tahiti.

How to manage it all and still enjoy my visiting brood would take lots of planning, an understanding boss, some furniture rearranging, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

And so far so good. The week is almost over. I’ve kept things at work, and my word count, spinning. The house is not a complete disaster and there is still some food in the fridge. Negotiations over who can have the car and when have gone relatively smoothly and all major appliances are still in working order.

By this time tomorrow, my guest – er, kids, will be gone.

Boys on a pierWhile I’ll be sad to see them go, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward, just a little bit, to getting back to my routine. Makes me wonder, though, how in the world I managed working full-time with a full house before a few of them left the coop.

Does adrenaline give us energy and amnesia?

AllFiveBoysAnd how did we fit these same boys comfortably in this same house before they left for college? Why is it when they come home we’re overrun with…stuff?

Oh well, these are questions I’ll ponder when I’m not so busy, because right now, I’ve got to fire up the burners on my stove.

Breakfast specials today include blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage.

And don’t forget to hug the proprietor before you leave.

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5

Plate Spinner Tip #137 – The Bacon Bribe

Posted by BV on March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized |

As the mother of five boys, I learned early on that food was one of the most potent tools in my maternal manipulation arsenal. It works so much better than guilt which, studies have shown, can lose it efficacy if overused and end up costing thousands of dollars in therapy when they’re older.

Here’s a brief history of how this has worked in my family:

Age 2: “If you promise to be quiet at church, I let you have some Cheerios.”

Age 10: “If you do your homework as soon as you get home from school, you can have a couple of cookies while you’re studying.”

Age 14: “If you agree to turn off your cell phone at 9 p.m., you can have some ice cream before you go to bed.”

You get the idea.

So it should come as no surprise that when I need them to do something really big, like let me focus on jacking up my current manuscript’s word count, I fry up a pan of the one food that will make them putty in my hands.

Bacon.bacon

I don’t know what it is about this greasy little piece of meat that makes their knees buckle, but it works like a charm. Given their reaction when I served up some this morning with blueberry pancakes, I could’ve probably demanded that they also rotate the tires on my car and resurface the deck.

There’s just one catch – it has to be the real thing. Bacon bits just won’t do. They don’t emit that delectable smoky scent that evokes images of sitting around a campfire on a chilly autumn morning (not that I’ve ever done that, but I’ve heard it smells just like bacon).

grease fireAnd then there’s the cleanup. As careful as I try to be, grease splatters every where. I did try to bake it in the oven once. Fearful I would start a grease fire, I checked it so much, I ended up doubling the cooking time. I’ll admit, while it did free up my hands and pans for other things, I was still left with a greasy oven to clean.

I have thought of getting my hands on a bacon-scented candle, but can only image the fallout. Hungry boys rushing to the kitchen, their mouths watering, until their eyes fall on the source of the scent. Crestfallen, they’d lay their big browns on me, all mopey. And then, guilt-ridden, I’d be compelled to make them whatever they wanted.candle

Kinda like when I lit a cookie-scented candle and they thought I had made cookies, so I ended up making a batch of snickerdoodles because I felt so bad.

Funny, though, how that was the candle they got me for Mother’s Day.

Hey.

Wait a minute…

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Speaking of Help Wanted

Posted by BV on March 1, 2016 in Uncategorized with Comments closed |

HelpWanted-2820x4400Are you a fan of my second Assignment: Romance book, Help Wanted?

If so, would you like to:

If so, then join me at the GHP Book Club from now until March 13th.

See you there!

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4

No Helicopters Allowed

Posted by BV on February 21, 2016 in Uncategorized |

OK, yes. I’m one of those moms – the kind who waits until the last minute to return my children’s permission slips, make annual checkup appointments, submit all required camp paperwork, and never volunteers for anything because, hey, on top of taking care of my kids, parents and house, I have a full-time day job and books to write, (insert expletive of your choice here)!

Helicopter Mom With Kids

If my child forgets his lunch, he can buy it at school, bum from friends or go hungry for a couple of hours.

He’ll survive. I’m sure of it.

I’m guessing teachers and a large population of stay-at-home moms hate parents like me.

And I’m OK with that. I know my kids (and parents and day job and publisher) love me.

I also take solace in the fact that keeping my sites laser focused on all of the plates I have to constantly keep aloft is teaching my boys some valuable life lessons.

I don’t mean how to balance a checkbook or clear gutters or change tires.

I’m talkin’ survival skills. Cooking. And laundry.

The two still stuck at home are doing swimmingly with both – although my youngest does need the occasional prod to remember to actually turn the dryer on after he’s transferred the wet clothes from the washing machine (is there any worse feeling than pulling on a pair of damp jeans?).

They may not appreciate these skills now, but let me tell you – I sure do, especially when I’m on deadline, which lately is all the time.

Why just yesterday, I was kicking up the word count on my current work in progress, wondering how I would ever find the time to make the Swedish meatballs I had planned for dinner. As sparks flew off my keyboard, my youngest waltzed into the kitchen and moaned, “Can’t we have spaghetti and meatballs instead?”

“Nope. No meatballs. Sorry,” I shot out, after blowing the smoke from my fingertips.

“Oh, please,” he persisted. “I’ll make it.”

The clouds parted and a brilliant beam of light came through the kitchen window and landed in his cherubic face.

“Done!” I barreled over and gave him a hug. “Get your shoes. We’re going shopping.”

NoodlesWhile at the store, I let him pick all of the ingredients – even a few I never would’ve selected (parpardelle noodles, really?), but how else will he learn, right?

We were there and back in the time it would have taken me to set everything up just to make the Swedish meatballs from scratch.

From my perch at the table, I acted as an on-site supervisor for the young man who is growing before my very eyes and, I’m proud to admit, he commandeered the kitchen like a pro. That he cleaned up after himself earned him enough brownie points to keep him out of the dog house for years to come (ok, make that months).

And let me tell you, he got more complements from his sibs and pop than I ever got when I make plain old spaghetti and meatballs. As for me? I told him I think he just created his first signature dish – the first of many, I’m sure. Oh yeah, and I also told him how proud I was of him, damp jeans and all.

 

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2

Why I *heart* Valentine’s Day

Posted by BV on February 13, 2016 in Uncategorized |

What do you get when you cross two busy spouses with one guilt-inducing, romance-infused holiday?

Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.Chocolate-2

I expect nothing less from the man who has gifted me with enormous heart-shaped boxes of my favorite confection ever since that fateful Valentine’s day oh-so-many years ago when he popped the question (yes, he gave me a diamond engagement ring and chocolate – is it any wonder I’m crazy about the man).

Valentine's CardI usually get a card, too. A nice mushy one.

What do I get him, you ask?

I assume you mean besides five strapping sons…

Well, uh, let’s see. Given that I’m married to a “numbers guy” who is up to his eyeballs in tax returns this time of year, I’ll be lucky if I even see him at all on the big day.

Not that that’s an excuse. I’m proud to say I had the foresight to buy him a card as soon as the stores swapped their New Year’s paraphernalia for all things Cupid-y.

I just have to remember where I stashed it…

And seriously – do we really need to exchange gifts on this one particular day just to prove our love for one another?

I think not.

We do lovey-dovey stuff for each other all the time, like when I make him a sandwich to bring to work or he brings me a hot cup of coffee when I’m half-asleep in the shower. If that doesn’t say romance, I don’t know what does…

George-and-Me-1983So why do we fall prey to this silly tradition? Would blowing it off mean we love each other any less?

Hardly.

me and george (1)But it does serve to remind us that our romance is alive and well. That’s why we still go on date nights, support each other on bad days and celebrate the good days. And who knows? I might even share my chocolate with him – even if he is a numbers guy.

2

I Haven’t Got Time for the Pain

Posted by BV on February 11, 2016 in running, Uncategorized |

gty_jogger_winter_rf_jc_160108_12x5_1600Hey, look at me!

Mrs. I’m-so-on-top-of-things-I-go-for-a-run-on-my-lunch-break.

Yeah. Go me.

hamstring_pain

(photo credit: ThinkStock)

Not five minutes in, I felt an odd, aching sensation in the back of my upper right thigh that only got worse as I kept going. Hoping to not aggravate whatever was causing it, I hobbled home wondering what the heck had just happened.

I’ve been oh so careful, stretching and resting in between runs so as to avoid any injury that might threaten my plan to run an 8k (in 7 weeks!) and three 10ks later this year.

Frustrated at not being able to squeeze in a quick 5k as planned, I did what any overbooked parent does – I googled my symptoms.

What popped up was quite literally labeled, “a pain in the butt.” No joke. The more technical term for it is, “upper hamstring tendinitis.”

cookiesAside from rubbing it down with homemade chocolate chip cookies (which I intend to serve at my pity party), the recommended course of action involves switching to a non-impact aerobic activity like a stationary bike (don’t own one) or swimming (can’t, won’t, can’t), followed by weeks of icing and strengthening (using machines to which I don’t have access) only after which a “light running regime” can be resumed.

Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for a lengthy rehab. I just don’t.

What I do have is a foam roller. And a really big bottle of ibuprofen.

And, oops, no time.

Gotta run. Well, not really, but you know what I mean.

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4

When All Else Fails, Chicken Fried Rice

Posted by BV on February 3, 2016 in comfort food |

metraAs usual, my train home was crazy crowded and running late. Brain fatigued from spending my day converting passive voice to active, I stared out at the darkness, thinking about what a rotten day I was having and wondering what would be waiting for me at home.

Did my kids have a good day?

Would my husband have to return to the tax prep trenches after picking me up?

And, most importantly, would there be any dinner waiting for me?

That’s right. Food. More often than not, it’s all that stands between me and a meltdown that would put a tired two-year old to shame.

My train pulled into the station and, as I shoved past the other commuters wrestling for sidewalk space, I spotted our car with my hunky husband behind the wheel. As soon as I slipped into the shotgun seat, he leaned over and gave me a kiss.

“How was your day?” he asked as he always did, not really needing a reply but knowing full well it was polite to at least ask.

“Fine,” I sighed as I always do, my reserve of words dangerously low from my mind-numbing passive-active conversions.

mashedMy husband proceeded to tell me all about his day – as he was prone to do – while I stared through the windshield in front of me, imagining that the snow blanketing the houses we passed was really mashed potatoes and that the road sprawling out ahead of us was one big strip of bacon.bacon

Who’s hungry?

“What’s for dinner?” I ask, not caring whether or not I interrupted him.

Ready and willing to share his culinary triumph for the day, he didn’t seem to mind my rude behavior.

“All sorts of things,” he quipped.

If it wasn’t for the dim lighting, I would’ve sworn he was blushing.

“OK, good,” I mutter with no small amount of relief as I tumble out of the car and onto our driveway, backpack in hand.

As my spouse rushed in ahead of me, my mind struggled to recall the meaning behind his strange culinary reference.

By the time I caught up with him in the kitchen and spied him pulling frozen burritos and leftover Swedish meatballs out of the oven, it hit me.

“All sorts of things” = “Clean out the fridge night” or, in Plate Spinner terms, “A leftover buffet.”

fried riceHe waived his hand over the stovetop, “And I also made hot dogs and chicken fried rice.”

My hero.

Too tired to care about proper nutrition and oh-so-grateful I didn’t have to cook as soon as I walked through the door, I piled a bowl high with my favorite starches, and thought about how it wasn’t such a rotten day after all.

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5

A Valentine’s Day Contest Giveaway!

Posted by BV on January 19, 2016 in Uncategorized |

(Warning: This post is rife with blatant horn tooting on behalf of the author. Proceed with enthusiasm and a heart full of forgiveness.)

On the heels of a blog entry addressing my abhorrence of all things self-centered and narcissistic (read: self-promotion), here I go again.

Ready?

FreshFiction.com is hosting An Assignment: Romance KEY CHANGE Contest!

KeyChange-3Long story short – I am offering one lucky reader a chance to win An Assignment: Romance Prize Pack that includes a signed copy of FALSE START, HELP WANTED, KEY CHANGE and THE PLATE SPINNER CHRONICLES. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!FalseStart_5in

For your chance to win, just click on the contest link above and hit the Enter Contest button at the bottom of the page. HelpWanted-2820x4400How easy is that?

The contest ends February 8th so that gives you plenty of time PlateSpinners-1to not only enter yourself, but to tell all of your friends, sisters, moms, grandmas, kids’  teachers, your babysitter, the lady who works behind the deli counter at the grocery store – just about any romance fan you run into – to enter.

Good luck and may the romance be with you!

5

Self-Promotion and Other Deadly Sins

Posted by BV on January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized |

On my quest to become a published author, I naively thought all I had to do was write a book that would knock the socks off of a publisher.

No one told me about the marketing… screaming

I am neither a back-patter nor a horn-tooter. I blame the good Sisters of Saint Agnes who, during my formative years, routinely recited: “Thou shall not be uppity, self-centered, arrogant or conceited.”

Marred me for life, it did. To this day, I still can’t take a compliment.

Humility – now that was rewarded – with a pat on the head, a kind smile and…that’s about it.

So imagine my surprise when, after finally being able to hold a book that I wrote in my greedy little hands, it didn’t fly to the top of every bestseller list and bookstore shelf in the country.

Filled with dismay, I turned to my well-published friends who gently informed me that my work was just beginning.

promote mugCue the book promoters.

That’s right. On a recommendation, I actually hired someone to promote my book and boy did she. So I used her for my next two books, grateful each time for her connections and marketing savvy. For Key Change, my latest release which happens to be peppered with song references, I once again turned to my pal, Krista Ames at Bridging the Gap Promotions. And, again, she did not disappoint.KeyChange-3

Among the many blogs she lined up to spotlight and review my book, she put me in front of BooksChatter. This most unique book review site run by a self-proclaimed “eclectic bunch” not only interviewed me, but generated a YouTube soundtrack of all of the songs referenced in the book. That they came up with a delightful assortment of pics of the actors I could/should/would cast in the movie version was a most excellent surprise.

Four books into this wild world of publishing and self-promotion, I have learned one thing for certain – hire people to do what you’re not good at. Oh, and tooting my own horn is not the same thing as patting myself on the back. Not at all.

So this is me tooting my own horn. Just don’t tell the good Sisters of Saint Agnes.

2

The Chocolate Banana Bread Cure

Posted by BV on January 14, 2016 in Uncategorized |

Staring down another long winter day?

winter blahIf you’re a plate spinner, you know of that which I speak – when you wake up earlier than you should, work harder than you want to, and have to keep giving (patience, smiles, favors) even when there’s nothing left to give? And all while trying to dodge the biting cold, snow, sleet, un-shoveled sidewalks and runny noses.

Those are the days, at the end of which, I just want to go to sleep and not have to think about waking up six hours later only to do it all over again.

The weekend can’t come soon enough, am I right?

There’s only one way to get over the mid-winter blahs.

Bake.

You heard me. Nothing chases out the chill and brightens this season’s short cloudy days faster than some warm sugary, chocolate goodness.

So get to it. You deserve it. And then get to bed. You look exhausted.

Chocolate Chip Banana BreadBanana Bread

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 6 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.
  5. Stir in the mayonnaise and bananas.
  6. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  7. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture; stir just enough to evenly combine.
  8. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 to 75 minutes.
  10. Cool loaf in the pan for 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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