Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Nostalgia

The grandest vehicle my brother and I put together. We even let our little sisters ride in it.
    The other day, as hubby and I walked around the block we did not see a single soul. Everyone was inside, enjoying their air conditioning. Hubby and I reminisced about growing up way back before a/c and computers. People used to hang around outside in those days. And if they were inside, the windows were open so we all knew everyone else’s business anyway.

Hubby grew up in Brooklyn and I grew up on the Jersey Shore—worlds apart in some ways but there were similarities. In both Brooklyn and NJ, one of the ways kids entertained themselves was by making their own scooters. The raw materials were readily available. All that was needed was an old shoe skate (the kind that had four metal wheels which you buckled on), a piece of 2x4 lumber (which somehow always seemed to be around), and an old wooden box crate—also easy to find. With a hammer and some nails, the homemade scooter was a wonderful contraption. Everyone decorated their scooters with bottle caps that were hammered into the wood.

The scooters made lots of noise rumbling on the street. It was wonderful!

Nowadays, there seem to be no old metal shoe skates hanging around—no old wooden crates either. Kids today have nice, shiny scooters purchased in the store. The ones we made as kids were definitely cruder, but we had a great sense of accomplishment for having put our own scooters together.

Another way the kids used up their free time back in our youth, was to put together their own go-carts. At the shore, we called them buggies. Usually, we got the wheels from an old baby carriage—but any sort of wheels would do. With more scrap lumber and a rope (used for steering), we had an exceptional vehicle. Naturally, you needed either a hill or someone to push if you wanted to go anywhere.

I know I acquired some rudimentary mechanical skills from the labor—as well as a sense of pride. Where else would I have ever learned about cotter pins?

Everyone played baseball on the street. We did not have teams or coaches.

We got sweaty and dirty. But we had fun. And it didn’t cost anything.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

PATRIOT'S HEART Featured at ENT!

On Monday, September 1, 2014, PATRIOT'S HEART will be featured at ereadernewstoday.com for only $1.99. If you haven't downloaded my latest book, this is your chance to get it for less than a small, cool cup of iced vanilla coffee. 

"This carefully crafted story has emotion, humor, conflict and surprises. Very enjoyable reading!" said one Amazon reviewer. 

"If you enjoy stories forged by the hand of a strong author and shaped by her very own heart, then download this book right now," said another Amazon review. 

Make sure you take advantage of this special offer!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Cure for Homesickness

I'm a homebody. Though I have traveled here and there over the years, I invariably get homesick during the course of any journey. Lately, leaving my elderly father causes me considerably anxiety. However, I have discovered that my cellphone offered an antidote for my malady. For me, social media has alleviated a great deal of my apprehension.

I spent time texting and posting this past week while we were in Florida preparing to relocate my mother-in-law to NJ. I called my father everyday. I chatted with Daughter #2 and #3. Daughter #1 sent photos of my father and we sent text messages back and forth. Friends responded to my posts on Facebook.

The distance between me and NJ did not feel like an impossible chasm. Though I was 1,100 miles away, I was always in touch. While there are those who abhor social media, I think it's terrific. There are many who find it refreshing to get away from technology, I know I would suffer agonizing withdrawal if I turned off my cellphone.

How about you? Can you leave everything behind without any worries? Or is your cellphone your lifeline?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strength

The saying on this t-shirt is not accurate, though there are those who believe all residents of NJ are brash and obnoxious. Since I have lived in New Jersey all my life, I know there are an abundance of kind people with helping hands here. Yet, despite the bold statement on the shirt, it is one of my favorites. I wear it so frequently it may become a rag in the near future, which will be sad.

The shirt has a history. I bought the t-shirt five years ago at Newark Airport. It was ridiculously expensive, but I bought it anyhow. My sister was with me and she bought a blue version of the same shirt. The two of us went to the airport to pick up our sister-in-law, our brother's widow--a woman who grew up in Texas and lives in South Carolina. She had flown to NJ because my mother was dying. While we always kept in touch over the years, visits were infrequent due to distance, scheduling, and other responsibilities. The last time I had seen her was around the time our daughters were in grade school.

I was worried she wouldn't know what we looked like anymore, with our chubby middle-aged bodies and our colored hair. So I made a sign, just a simple one like the limo drivers use. Of course, it was neatly lettered because I am my mother's daughter. :-)

It turned out I didn't need the sign. The moment our sister-in-law stepped out of the gate, she saw us and recognized us. And we recognized her. The years in between didn't matter.

It was a great comfort to have her with us. We survived that sorrowful time, not because we come from NJ, but because our sister-in-law and many others were there to support us. There were friends and relatives who sat with my father through my mother's last hours while hubby and I made funeral arrangements. There were many who came to the wake and the funeral to pay their respects.

When I wear the shirt, I remember those who strengthened me by reaching out with their concern during that time. I thank them with all my heart.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Liberty Hall Museum



Inspiration is everywhere, but for me old houses have a way of sparking story ideas. So this past week, hubby and I visited Liberty Hall Museum in Union, NJ, on the campus of Kean University. Hubby simply wanted to go on a day trip because the weather was nice, but I was   hoping to feed my muse. :-)

William Livingston built Liberty Hall in 1772. Originally, it had fourteen rooms. Livingston soon became the first elected governor of New Jersey. Over the years, additions were made to the original structure. It now has fifty rooms and an extensive collection of antiques. Our tour guide claims the family never threw anything out, making it a treasure trove of artifacts.


The Livingston/Kean families were the movers and shakers of their times. They had lots of money, though they were not ostentatious about it. Nevertheless, they went on many trips and brought home an array of souvenirs. 

There are plenty of unusual antiques all over the house. There's a monstrous gas dryer in the basement unlike anything I've ever seen. There's a fantastic Victorian era dollhouse. There's a linoleum floor, which was originally in one of the children's rooms. The linoleum has a map of the United States on it with all the capital cities. There's a pair of three-wheeled roller skates. 


Beautiful gardens surround the house. There's an orchard and a boxwood hedge.

At the back of the house is an enclosed porch. For a $40 reservation, anyone can enjoy tea on a Wednesday afternoon in the enclosed porch. 

Weddings and other events can also be held on the grounds. 

And yes, there is a ghost story--of sorts. One visitor wrote about it at http://www.hiddennj.com/2011/11/was-that-ghost-i-saw-bogus-haunting-of.html. She claims the tour guides don't mention it anymore, but our tour guide did. :-)

Visit Liberty Hall online HERE. Then plan your own visit. You might get some ideas for a story. :-) 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Format for the Nook

That's Dad looking at my Nook. We were sitting in a doctor's office and I showed it to him. Even without his glasses, he could see the print because I made it large enough. :-)

Yesterday, I loaded my newly contracted book, PATRIOT'S PRIDE, into my Nook. I must check for errors before I send it off to the editor again. I've found that I never catch everything when I'm reading it on the computer screen. It is helpful for me to switch to another type of reading mode.

I've been fixing the story as suggested by the editor. In addition, I spellchecked the manuscript and discovered I had consistently misspelled hiccupped and unmistakable. :-(

To load the manuscript into the Nook, it is best to use an epub format. The Nook will not display anything properly in a pdf.

I downloaded Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com) onto my Mac. Then I took out the page numbers on the docx file and saved it as an rtf. I loaded the book into Calibre and converted it to epub. Then I sent it to the Nook.

It looks good including italics and paragraph breaks.

I started reading and found I had used the instead of to in the first paragraph. Grrrr.

So I'll be doing more fixing on this manuscript--but it should be released in June. I'm sure it will go through more editing before that.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Letter

Once upon a time, a long distance phone call used to be a rare occasion due to the expense. So I wrote letters--real, handwritten breezy little missives--to my near and dear to keep in touch. I wrote to my brother and his wife. I wrote to my aunt. I wrote to my parents and my sisters when I was in Italy one summer. When I returned home, my mother handed me all the letters I had written to her. What a treasure!

Many years ago before she died, my mother found another letter tucked away somewhere and gave it to me. I had written it to Mom and my sister when they were visiting my grandmother in western Pennyslvania. I had written it only a few weeks before my hubby and I were married. Using a fountain pen and my best handwriting, I rambled on about the bargains I had found such as my white, wedding shoes for $9.

I told them about the bedroom furniture arriving in the house hubby and I would soon share. I had spent the whole day waiting for the furniture to arrive and had met one of the neighbors.

Then I told them about the wedding shower hubby's family gave me in Brooklyn. I listed all the wonderful gifts I received, but I knew very few people in his family at that time and told my mother I felt like an orphan since none of my own family was there. (A few weeks later, my family threw another shower for me.)

Reading the letter, I realize now how young and naive I was. I have changed--a bit. :^)

Too bad very few people write letters anymore. E-mail is not quite the same.