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Sleepless in North Carolina…or too tired to write.


Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have trouble sleeping through the night? Do you find that you’ve just settled into your best sleep right before the alarm clock goes off? Do you have difficulty getting out of bed each morning? Do you find those happy morning people extremely irritating?

You’re not alone. The National Institute of Health states that at any given time, 30% of the population states they are sleep-deprived. Frighteningly, ten percent of these people suffer from noticeable daytime functional impairment. I’ve heard it said that driving sleep-deprived is the same as driving drunk.

Do you have insomnia?

People with insomnia either have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. Symptoms of poor sleep are:

  • Fatigue/low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating at school or at work
  • Mood swings/Irritability
  • Depression
  • Behavioral problems
  • Relationship Issues

There are two types of insomnia, acute and chronic. Acute insomnia refers to those transitory times when we just can’t fall asleep. These are times like Christmas Eve, the night before a new job or the first day of school. Acute insomnia doesn’t persist. It may last for a week or so, but eventually without any effort on your part, you go back to your normal sleep cycle. Chronic insomnia is different.

What is Chronic Insomnia?

Insomnia is considered chronic when you experience poor sleep at least three times a week for a minimum of three months.  Studies show that people who experience chronic insomnia are more prone to traffic accidents, state decreased job satisfaction, take more frequent sick days and are easily irritated.

What Can You Do About Chronic Insomnia?

Assess your diet. Caffeinated drinks such as sodas and coffee can impact your ability to fall asleep. I find that I can’t have caffeine after lunchtime. Each time this past month that I’ve had a caffeinated drink in the late afternoon, I’ve experienced difficulty falling asleep. And by difficulty, I mean I can’t fall asleep.

Alcohol use can also negatively affect your sleep. Although alcohol is a known sedative, it interferes with your body’s ability to achieve a deep and restful sleep. Limit yourself to one glass of wine or beer each evening.

Review your life. Have any major life events happened recently? Have you moved, lost or gained a job, or gotten a divorce? Major life changes, good or bad, can throw us for a loop. These changes can wreak havoc on your internal clock and negatively affect your natural sleep rhythms.  Be kind to yourself and consider therapy. Recent research has shown that the only treatment that works to remove the CAUSE of insomnia is talk therapy. Medication can help in the short-term, but unless you want to take medicine forever, therapy is your friend. Look for therapists who specialize in insomnia.

And last, but certainly not least, talk to your doctor about your insomnia; there may be an underlying medical cause for your inability to fall asleep. When’s the last time you had a complete physical? Keep a sleep and diet log to track your dietary habits against your sleep cycles. By tracking my caffeine use, I was able to see the correlation between drinking tea late in the day and my lack of sleep that evening. You don’t have to live in the foggy state of the perpetually sleep-deprived. Work to get the rest you desire so you can live the full life you deserve.

Take care of yourself. Don’t let poor sleep keep you from achieving your goals!  I made an appointment with my doctor for next week.


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My Journey as a Writer-July-August 2014

I took the plunge (financially and emotionally) and registered to attend Writer’s Digest summer conference in NYC. It wasn’t hard to make the financial decision as I was born in Brooklyn and look for any opportunity to visit. I booked the hotel and airfare in May and then sort of put it out of my head.  But emotionally, I still wasn’t taking myself seriously, though. Since I’m not published yet, and I have only seriously started writing since last November, I have trouble feeling worthy or like a real writer. I’m going to call this syndrome the Pinocchio effect.

To prepare myself for the conference (and to give myself a deadline) I participated in Camp Nanowrimo in July. I wanted to use it as a springboard to finish the flipping first draft of Once Upon a Times (working title) since I had approx. 30K words left to go. I met my goal and finished the first draft, which was a significant confidence boost. I’ve never written anything that long before. Even my PhD thesis was shorter, in that it was made up of an introduction plus several published research articles. So technically my dissertation was longer, although in reality it wasn’t one cohesive piece, so the novel wins:)

I’ve read many books on writing, my Kindle is jam-packed with them, plus I have hard copies as well. At some point you have to stop reading about writing…and actually write. One helpful bit of advice I got from several books was, LEAVE YOUR BOOK ALONE for at least a month or up to six weeks before you work on the second draft. I actually used that as encouragement during Camp Nanowrimo to finish the first draft. I’d given up TV, pleasure reading and pretty much talking to my husband in an effort to get the job done. I have a full-time job, so all I have is evenings and weekends…you get the picture.

I loved having my free time back and best of all, I didn’t have to feel guilty. Everyone says, you have to have distance from the novel before you tackle the second draft. I read, caught up with my family and friends and even snuck in a little TV as well:)

This takes me to the WD conference. It was amazing! Even though I didn’t know a soul and am hopelessly shy (unless I know you and then I’ll talk your ear off), I had a wonderful time and am looking forward to next year’s conference.  There were so many excellent sessions to choose from and I connected with authors I have read and met ones I want to read. It was pretty surreal.

I still struggle with believing I’m a real author–I’m attending a WD boot camp this week on query letters since the next step is to try and sell it. I’ll post on my experience with query letter writing next time.

Write because you want to, write because you must!

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The last time I saw my mother

The last time I saw my mother was twenty years ago. I was living in a crummy house in North Carolina, just barely making ends meet. My parents stopped by for a short visit while on their way to Arizona. It was wonderful. They got to spend time with the girls and see the delightful people they were then and still are today. It makes me sad to know that my children really never knew their grandparents and vice-versa. That’s why I’ve made a real effort to be part of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives, not as a helicopter parent, but as another support person. You can never have too many people who love you.

I don’t mean that you can’t be a good grandparent if you live in another state or country, I just mean it takes more effort and is harder to maintain that close connection. Based on my experience with my parents living in Arizona, I refuse to leave NC as that’s where my children have put down their roots. I love every single minute I spend with my girls and their children. When my youngest daughter marries her Scottish boyfriend, odds are they’ll end up living in Scotland. Those children will be surrounded by their Scottish relatives and it will be a real challenge to have a meaningful relationship, but I know it can be done. Perhaps I’ll be the summer Nana?

Anyway, what I wanted to say was, I still miss my mother. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I’d had more time with her, but you have to cherish the moments you do have and save those memories for a rainy day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Twice the Trouble

Kara stares at her reflection in the mirror and sticks her tongue out at herself, this isn’t going to work. Carelessly twisting her hair in a half updo, flaming tendrils curling around her face, she scowls. Foundation, blush, eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara—good lord, she hasn’t worn so much make-up since she was child and went dressed as a clown for Halloween. Hannah owes her big time!

Now for the dress, Kara inhales and slips the teensy black cocktail dress over her head, careful to avoid smudging her face. How does Hannah do this or better question, why does she do this? While Kara approves of the color, a few more inches of dress would have made her a much happier gal. Finally, outrageous fuchsia stilettos and clutch purse in hand and she is ready to begin the farce.

The cab is waiting at the curb as she exits Hannah’s building.  Holding the door open for her, the doorman is clearly overwhelmed by her appearance.

“Have a good evening, Ms. Tompkins”, he says blushing.

“Oh, stuff it Hal!” she says while sliding cautiously into the cab. “79th and Central Park West, please.”

The cabbie’s eyes ogle her from the rear view mirror and Kara shifts uncomfortably in the back seat. She cracks the window open to allow some cool air into the cab as waves of steam emanate from her. Blast her sister! Any normal person would have called their boss and explained that contrary to popular belief, you still can catch chicken pox. Any rational person would regretfully bow out of this soiree, no harm no foul. But that’s not Hannah. A tiny flaming haired dynamo, Hannah started at the museum as an intern and has bullied and worked her way up to Assistant Project Conservator of the Natural Science Collection. Declining the invitation to the museum gala was not an option. It wasn’t Kara’s fault that Hannah possibly caught chicken pox when she came to Kara’s fourth grade class to present on biodiversity.  It could be coincidence that the two newest students presented with spots the day after Hannah visited. It also isn’t Kara’s fault that Hannah didn’t get chicken pox at the same time her six year old twin did—some things are out of Kara’s control.

The cab speeds through Manhattan and deposits Kara at the museum entrance faster than she would have liked.  She pays the cabbie and maneuvers herself out of the cab, the skirt is sinfully short. Taking a big breath she heads up the stairs as best one can in four-inch heels. Moving with more confidence than she feels, Kara presents her invitation at the door and the guards wave her through.  There is simply no place to hide a weapon of any sort in this dress.

Grabbing a glass of champagne as she enters the ballroom, she takes in her surroundings, the elegant and storied museum ballroom. This is madness; the room is full of people who know Hannah well. How can her sister think Kara will be able to fool them? But oddly enough, it is easy. The orchestra plays non-stop and with the music bouncing off the walls, normal conversation is near impossible. By her third glass of bubbly, the butterflies are gone and Kara finds that she is actually enjoying herself. True, there were those women in the ladies room who gave her the cold shoulder, but who knows what that was all about. With a degree in biology, she knows she can hold her own during any small talk she might have with Hannah’s colleague. No one seems to notice anything amiss.

Kara is perusing the buffet table, when a tall and devilishly handsome man appears at her side. Gripping her arm painfully, he leads her away from the food.

“Hey” she says yanking her arm away, “what’s the big idea?”

“Hannah” the man spits her name like it’s a curse, “I won’t stand for you undermining my position by strutting around barely dressed and cozying up to the board of directors. You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“What are you talking about? I wouldn’t do that?”

“Oh please, you must think I was born yesterday. Do not try me on this matter” And with that, he strides off, an angry wave of Armani. In shock, Kara gazes wistfully at his retreating profile.

“Oops, you’ve done it now,” teases a tall blonde lady dressed equally provocatively. “You’ve pissed off the boss. That’s a career killer, sweetie. “Unless”, she pauses to arch one eyebrow, “you plan on going around or shall I say, under Guillaume to advance your career. It’s not like you haven’t done that before.” Laughing nastily, the blonde winks at her then glides into the crowd.

Kara’s cheeks blaze at the insinuation, what has Hannah been up to? Kara has no illusions about her sister; Hannah goes after what she wants and has been known to fight dirty. But this, sleeping around to advance her career, that just can’t be true. After that encounter, the party loses its glow and the one canapé Kara managed to eat sits in her stomach like a rock. She wants to go home and get into her jeans and sweatshirt. Her feet are killing her and she’s tired of this belt her sister calls a dress. She wobbles across the ballroom and heads up the stairs. At the landing, she slips her shoes off; unaware of a pair of intense brown eyes staring at her.

Guillaume eyes her thoughtfully; something is off with Hannah tonight. The accent was more Brooklyn than usual and Hannah has never backed away from a confrontation.  She loves to rub his face in the fact that he fell for her girl next door act, before her claws came out and she revealed her true nature.

Kara stands on the cool pavement soothing her aching feet desperately trying to hail a cab. Finally one stops and whisks her home before anyone else can accuse her of sleeping her way to the top.  Leaning her head against the seat back, she reviews the evening to see if there were any clues she missed. Hmm, it was pretty obvious that most of the women at the party didn’t like Hannah. What does that usually mean? Hannah would say they’re all fat cows and jealous of her youth and beauty, but Kara can’t accept that. Some women might be jealous, but not all of them. If all the women have issues with Hannah, that must mean something is up, there’s no smoke without fire, as their grandmother would say.

At home, she wiggles out of the dress, slathers her face with cold cream and wipes the goop off her face in angry strokes. The night has left a bad taste in her mouth and she’s furious with herself for going along with her sister’s plan.  

     The next day Hannah calls her to see how the gala went. Kara tells her about Guillaume and the blonde and Hannah just peals with laughter. “Oh god, I wish I had been there to give those dopes a piece of my mind!’

“Hannah, he’s your boss…”

“Not for much longer if I have my way” her sister chortles happily. “And I do believe I’m going to have my way.” With that cryptic statement, Hannah rings off.

“Damn, she didn’t even say thanks for going to that blasted thing. When will I ever learn?”

Two weeks later, at the school staff meeting, Kara’s friend Peg drops a bombshell on her.

“Kara, I have some good news for me, but bad news for you”

Kara gazes at her friend’s rounded belly, “What’s that Peggy-o?”

“Well, my ultrasound is scheduled for next Thursday, so you’re going to have to go on the field trip and we’ll get a substitute to stay back with the kids.”

“What? No, let the sub go on the trip.”

“What‘s wrong with you? Did you have an embarrassing museum-related incident as a child? Most people love going there. It’s a great trip! Besides, you know we can’t send a sub on a field trip, they’d never be able to keep track of the kids.”

Kara’s stomach clenches and she sighs, “I know, I know, Peg. I’m happy for you. I guess I’ll have to take one for the team.”

“God, Kara, you act like you’re going to the dentist instead of a field trip.”

“What can I say, museums give me a rash!”

     Driving home that afternoon, Kara tries to convince herself that it’ll be okay. It would be extremely unlikely to run into either her sister or Guillaume during a field trip.  She has managed to successfully avoid her sister since the phone call, unsure of what to say.

No matter how hard she prayed, Thursday dawned clear and bright and Kara finds herself aboard the bus with twenty-seven excited children and two parent chaperones.

Standing at the front of the bus, Kara addresses the chattering children.

“Okay kids, I know you’re all excited about this trip, but let’s review some ground rules.  We all stay together, we’ll keep our ears open and our mouths closed while the docent is speaking. When he or she ask for questions, please raise your hand and speak loudly so we all can hear the question.  We’ll visit the bathrooms when we arrive, before and after lunch and again after the planetarium show. We’ll hit the gift shop after the planetarium. For a special treat, if you’re good, we’ll spend some time at the Diana Ross playground before we get back on the bus and head home!” That got a rousing cheer, and so smiling, Kara sits down and tells the driver they can go.

Once at the museum, Kara is so busy keeping track of squirmy children that she forgets her worries. Later, outside the bathroom, about to head to lunch, Kara does another head count; twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six. She counts again, still twenty-six, whose missing? Sighing, she realizes Jamal has wandered off. She saw he was captivated by the dinosaur displays; she should have kept a closer watch on him.

She calls over the chaperones, “Jen, Petra, can you two take the kids up to our lunchroom? I don’t want to get off schedule and the kids need to eat. I have to go track down Jamal, my budding archeologist.” The ladies agree and lead the children off to lunch.

Kara hurries up the steps anxious to get to the fourth floor and the Dinosaur Halls. So focused on finding her little wanderer, she’s unaware of a spill on the stairs. Her Maryjane’s have no traction, her foot slips and she starts to fall. She flings her hand out to grab the balustrade, but her knee slams down onto the marble stair.  Pain rockets through her knee and her eyes immediately fill with tears. Thrown off balance, she’s about to fall, when a warm hand touches her back and steadies her.

“Easy does it mademoiselle, you’ve had a nasty fall.”

Tears stream down her face, as Guillaume helps her stand up on her good foot.  Try as she might, Kara cannot walk and for now, hopping is also out of question.

Kara struggles to get up the remaining steps, but Guillaume barks at her, “Stop it; please stop moving. You cannot know what damage you might be doing to your knee!” She stops resisting him and he gently picks her up and carries her up the remaining steps. At the top, he carefully puts her down so her back can rest against the mural. He calls a guard over and tells him to get medical assistance and also to find someone to attend to the stairs before someone kills themselves.

He kneels down and offers her his handkerchief. She wipes her eyes and blows her nose loudly.

He laughs and says, “So, we meet again, my imposter. I wondered if I’d ever see you again.”

Kara sniffles, “You know I’m not my sister?”

He slides down beside her, “I didn’t know at first, but when I saw you slipping your shoes off in the museum, I knew you weren’t Hannah.” He laughs harshly, “Hannah would never do anything so human.”

Her knee is throbbing madly and Kara is pretty sure something is broken, but she can’t help but be touched by the raw pain in his voice. “I’m sorry my sister acts the way she does. She’s always gotten what she’s wanted, I’m afraid that hasn’t led to a kinder, gentler person.”

Guillaume looks at the naturally beautiful woman sitting beside him and replies, “It doesn’t seem to have affected you adversely.”

Kara laughs, “Oh, please, Hannah is much better looking than I am!”

Guillaume shakes his head and laughs “Unbelievable.”

At that moment, Jamal wanders by and spots Kara sitting on the floor.

“Ms. Tompkins, Ms. Tompkins, did you see the dinosaur eggs?”

Kara waves him over and tells the boy to come sit by her. “I thought we discussed sticking together, Jamal.”

“But ma’am, I never left, everyone else went away.” Jamal’s logic was flawless.

Kara smiles and says, “Well, you’re here now, so all’s well that ends well.”

     EMTs arrive and lift her onto a gurney. She’s going to have to go to the hospital for x-rays. On the elevator, Kara asks Guillaume to make sure Jamal returns to the class and gets some lunch. She’s still barking orders when they load her onto the ambulance. 

     The knee fracture requires surgery and Kara’s kept in the hospital for several days.  She receives many visitors, but not the one she wants. He does send some flowers, but all the card says is “Get Well Soon’, hardly pulse elevating.

When she’s discharged, her mom picks her up so she can stay at her parent’s house for a couple of days. Heavily medicated, Kara overhears her sister’s conversation with their mom. It sounds like Hannah is blaming Guillaume for Kara’s accident and is causing trouble for him at the museum.

Kara can’t believe that anyone would fall for that, but she also can’t believe that most people think Hannah is nice when they first meet her. Sighing, she resigns herself to never having a chance with the enigmatic Guillaume.

     Recuperating, Kara finishes out the rest of the school year at home. One afternoon, after hobbling around the house doing what housework she can do, Kara decides to take her book out on the porch and enjoy the spring day.  It takes two trips to get settled outside and she sighs with pleasure as she lifts the cast onto the lounge chair. Her handy stick keeps the itches away.

     Fully engrossed in her novel, she’s startled at the sound of a voice.  Standing before her on her porch is Guillaume dressed elegantly in a dress shirt and black slacks. As usual, he is disturbingly handsome. “Hmm?” she says

“I asked how you are doing.”

Running her hand over her hair, Kara can’t remember when she last washed her hair. “Umm, I’m aah, doing much better. The surgery went well and the therapist says I‘m progressing nicely. I hope to have the cast off in a couple of weeks…”

He smiles, “That’s good, that’s very good news; I was worried when they said you had to have surgery.” He motions towards the chair opposite her and Kara nods yes.

Suddenly feeling shy, Kara hesitates. Then decides she has nothing to lose. “Guillaume, can I ask you a question?”

“But of course.”

“Why haven’t you come to see me sooner?” Heat rises from her cheeks.

“Ah, I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Not with the trouble your sister was stirring. It was looking like we might have a court case. And now”, he said shrugging his shoulders, “I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me.”

“What? How come I never heard anything about this?”

“You haven’t spoken to Hannah?” he says pulling at a thread on his slacks

“You may not believe this, but Hannah and I are not very close.”

“Well, she got the board of directors involved and it got ugly. It’s a shame really, because she actually is quite talented at her job.”

“And what happened?”

“They let her go. Like I said, she’s talented, but toxic to work with. The board decided she’s not worth the trouble. Her last day was Friday.”

“Hmm” she says relief flooding through her. Hannah’s plan backfired. “Hannah hasn’t said anything to me.”

Guillaume looks down, “Are you upset at me?”

“No, whatever did you do?”

“Well, I dated your sister two years ago.”

She laughs, “If I was upset at every guy Hannah dated, my dating pool would be extremely limited.”

Guillaume grabs her hand, “So you agree to date me?”

Smiling up at him, she replies, “Oh, I insist on it. It’s the least you can do for all I’ve been through.”

He laughs and gently kisses her hand, the promise of much more to come evident in his eyes.



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The airport hums with excitement, aglow with the magic of beginnings and endings. The golden-haired girl enters in a rush, scarf and beige trench coat flapping behind her as she hurries to the arrivals display. Flight 371 from London has just arrived.

Heart skipping a beat, she thinks, Whew, not too late after all.

Easing her way past the waves of humanity anxiously awaiting their loved ones arrival, she positions herself in her favorite spot and breathes in the scene.  To the left of her two little boys, one of them clenching flowers tightly in a chubby fist, hang onto their father’s knees as he carefully shifts a sleepy toddler in his arms. He has an air of anticipation or perhaps that’s just exhaustion. Either way, he eagerly looks up each time the customs door opens, only to deflate upon seeing an official uniform. To her right, an elderly couple, the woman, bundled up in a wheelchair with her husband by her side, hand resting lightly on her shoulder; they appear dazzled by all the activity around them. Eventually the couple is joined by a middle-aged man and woman who hover protectively around them.

A large, noisy, red-haired family holds balloons and signs that say, “Welcome Home!” Like her there are plenty of people waiting by themselves, tapping on their cell phones or nervously checking their watches. She wipes her eyes and sighs, “Oh, I wonder what it would be like to have someone waiting for me.” There’s a commotion by the doors and then, BAM, the doors open up and people start filing out, first, by ones and twos but eventually building up to a steady stream.

The girl holds her breath. All around her people are hugging, screaming and crying. Which way should she look first?

The young family is reunited with their mother; she’s besieged by children and tries to hug them all at once. One of the boys, overcome with emotion, puckers up and begins to wail. Before you know it, they’re all crying and hugging each other. Finally laughing, the Dad picks up the mother’s bags and they make their way to the exit.

     Next, a man in full military regalia heads towards the elderly couple. She swallows nervously. What’s going to happen now? The man salutes his elders and they all break out into cheers. Their brave young man has made it back home to safety. The crowd goes wild and spontaneously begins to applaud. After much back slapping, hugging and kissing, the young man takes the wheelchair and they head out into the evening.

The red-haired family falls silent as they spot a young couple awkwardly carrying a small child. Shyly they hover around them and tenderly greet the newest member of their family, all the way from China.

Old friends are reunited, families regain equilibrium and lovers sigh with relief that the long wait is over. All that and more happens at International arrivals. The girl soaks it in, skin flushed with emotion, and then heads home herself


Elaine looks up from the kitchen island where she’s chopping onions and wipes at her eyes. 

“Lisa”, she sighs, “Have you been at that damn airport again? You look drugged?”

Lisa exhales her words in a rush, “Oh, Lainie, I love going to the airport!  At arrivals, you see life at its most pure. No matter what’s going on in their lives, whether they’re sick, have money troubles or relationship issues, at that moment of arrival, all is forgiven; all is well with the world. For that one precious moment, time stands still and people let their joy in each other shine through.  So yes” she pauses, eyes shining with joy, “you’re right, I am drugged.” She her arms out and spins like a ballerina, “It’s intoxicating, Lainie, you should come with me next time.”

Waving the knife in the air for emphasis, “Are you crazy, go all the way out to JFK so I can watch people I don’t know come home from a place I’ve never been?” Seeing her friend’s face crumble, she continues more gently, “Lisa, honey, when are you going to have a life of your own? Why don’t you travel somewhere? If you do, I promise to be waiting at arrivals when you come back!”

“You promise?”

“With all my heart.”

Smiling, Lisa pops a meatball in her mouth….”Mmm, what’re these for?” “Tony and I are gonna watch the game at Vinny’s house, you wanna come with? A whole crowd’s gonna be there, not just couples.” Elaine bats her eyes like a puppy dog, “Please come, the only time you ever leave the house is to go to work…or to the airport.”

“No thanks, I’m going to videotape the next installment of my cooking show. The last cake video I posted got 2000 views.”

“That Humpty Dumpty cake was a pretty sweet cake. What’s this one gonna be?”

“Well, I’m doing a whole story book series. This one is Alice in Wonderland; it’s my sister Beth’s favorite story. I’m going to make a fondant white rabbit, March Hare, mushroom and a caterpillar.”

“Nice, when are you going to see them?”

“Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate Beth’s birthday after mass. I’ve a lot to do to tonight if I’m going to be ready in time. I don’t want to be late for a very important date.”

Lainie groans as Lisa goes to answer the doorbell.

“Hi Tony”

“Hey Lisa girl, are you coming with us or what?” Before Lisa can answer he’s swiping meatballs and being chased out of the kitchen.  “Hey” he says as he playfully dodges smacks, “You should know better than to leave those where I can get them.”

Finally Lainie and Tony are at the door, “Wish you were coming with us.”

“Next time guys, I promise.”

“Lock up behind us, Lisa.”

“Yeah, yeah” and as they exit Lisa firmly shuts the door and turns the deadbolt.

As soon as they’re gone, Lisa gets her ingredients lined up and sets up the video camera.

“Hi everybody, and thanks for joining me for another episode of ‘Let Them Eat Cake’.  Tonight we’re going to create the fabulous edible world of Alice in Wonderland.”


It’s well after 2AM when Tony and Elaine exit the subway and start walking home, hand in hand as fat snowflakes hit them in the face. Turning the corner onto her block, they’re assaulted by the flashing lights of police cars and an ambulance.  Lainie moans, “Oh no, I hope it isn’t Mrs. Ramirez’s heart again.” As they get closer to the duplex the girls share with the Cardones, they realize the police are at Lainie’s house. In a panic, they start to run, but the area around the house is taped off and a policeman stops them.

Holding out his hand, “Sorry folks, you can’t come in here.”

Lainie gasps, “But I, but I live here. Did something happen at the Cardones?”

The young officer says, “A girl was murdered on the second floor tonight.”

Lainie collapses into Tony’s arms as the medics wheel Lisa out on the gurney. They’ve covered her up, but Lainie can still see the sheet, red with Lisa’s blood.

Two days later the police finally let Lainie and Tony back into the apartment. The kitchen is a mess. Blood and flour are caked everywhere and the video camera lies smashed on the floor. Under the kitchen island, Lainie glimpses the figure of a little girl. Falling to the floor, she picks it up and cradles the tiny Alice.


Death isn’t painful, I think as I float in the air. Oh, don’t get me wrong, getting to this point was scary, messy and very, very painful. However, once you reach a certain threshold, the pain stops and you see everything with beautiful clarity. At the moment of death, I saw myself lying huddled on the floor, my hand held up as to say, “STOP, do you really want to do this?”  I don’t waste a moment thinking about my killer, he’s a confused drug addict who’s had a terrible life, and it won’t get any better for him. Instead, I think about my foster family and how grateful I am for their love and how sorry I am that I won’t be there for Beth’s birthday. Later I see Lainie and Tony; she looks so lost, huddled in the snow with Tony hanging on to her. Lainie’s been my best friend since grammar school and I love her so much. It hurts to see her in pain. The light calls to me and my grasp on my surroundings grows weaker. Finally, there’s nothing left to do, but let my soul float gently away.


Jennifer Louise Campanaro was born at home during one of the worst snowstorms New York City has ever had. Her parents, Eddie and Lori hadn’t planned on a home birth, but there was no stopping the arrival of this child. The contractions came hard and fast and with Eddie coaching her, Lori worked with the pain and after several protracted pushes, their little girl entered the world.

Blue-eyed with hair the color of corn, Jennifer resembles her mother’s side of the family, Sicilians.  From birth, little Jenny dazzles all with her radiant smile. Lori glares at anyone who dares to say its gas.

Jennifer is a kind-hearted girl, very tender and compassionate with everyone she meets. Her teachers and grandparents say she has an old soul.

In high school, her science club wins a contest and the prize is a trip to California for the award’s ceremony. After her first flight, Jenny is hooked on travel.

Unlike her brother, Jennifer doesn’t choose a school in New York City. She’s offered a scholarship to Penn State and so, to the dismay and pride of her parents, she packs her clothes and her ancient teddy bear and is off to University Park.

It comes as no surprise to anyone when after graduation she accepts a position with an international finance company. Fluent in Italian, her first stop is a year in Rome.

Jennifer loves Rome. The crowds and chaos remind her of New York City, but the history, oh the history. Every way you turn there’s something old and beautiful to look at. She marvels at the ruins and weeps at the beauty of the architecture. She can and does spend most evenings at a café, just people watching. In fact she’s sitting at a café after work, sipping a glass of wine, when her thoughts are interrupted by a tall, dark-haired man who is having difficulty with the menu and the waiter who seems to delight in not understanding him.

She looks up and smiles at the frustrated American.

“Excuse me miss, do you speak English?”

“Yes” she says, lips twitching in amusement.

“I seem to be having some difficulty here.”

He looks so uncomfortable that she immediately takes pity upon him. Waving her hand to indicate the free chair at her table, she exhorts him, “Please, please come and sit with me.”

Gratefully the man moves to her table. Introductions out of the way, he confesses, “My grandparents came from Italy, so I really should know how to speak the language, but I’m afraid I only know stupid stuff like, which way to the bathroom and do you speak English?” He smiles most charmingly.

Jenny laughs and asks how long he’s going to be in Rome. He’s doing a graduate study abroad program, so he’ll be in Rome for five more months.

“Hah” she laughs, that’s just about as long as I have left here. My company wants me to train at our headquarters and my year will be up in June. I totally love Rome, there’s no place like it!”

For the next five months, Jennifer and Joseph are inseparable, spending every available moment together.  Joe Skypes with his family in Connecticut once a week and while they all know he’s met a girl, he cautiously guards her from them.  Teasingly, he tells his mother that she’ll get to meet her soon enough.

As the time grows nearer for both Joe and Jennifer to leave Rome, they ponder their future together.

“I’ve one more year of grad school, and then I’m done” he says one night while they’re lying on her terrace looking at the ancient stars.

“I’ve done so well here that my boss wants me to spend time at all our major offices. I won’t be in the States much for the next year.”

“Do you think we can make it work?”

She kisses him gently, “I know I want to make it work.”

Two months later, Jennifer says goodbye to Joe at the airport; he goes back to Connecticut and she heads to London. They Skype, write letters and visit each other whenever they can. Meeting up in Paris or Seattle, or wherever they are when they have a couple of spare days. Distance only enhances their relationship and when May draws near and Joe’s graduation approaches, Jen plans to come to Hartford for a visit.  He warns her about his large family.

“They’re a bunch of huggers.’ He teases

“I can hold my own mister, I’ve held off hordes of Italian men” she says laughing.

Finally the day arrives; she boards her flight in Rome and heads to Amsterdam where she’ll connect to a flight to Hartford. Buzzing with excitement she can barely sit still during the flight. She can’t wait to arrive at Bradley International Airport. She calls Joe from Amsterdam, it won’t be long now.


Joe and his family gather at International arrivals, holding flowers and a sign. He pleads with his Mom and Dad to please let him greet Jen first before they smother her. His parents smile, but don’t actually agree to anything. His brothers and sisters tease him mercilessly until the moment arrives; the custom doors open and people start to stream out.

Joe pushes his way to the front of the crowd, his parents’ right behind him. Suddenly, there she is, walking straight to him, smiling broadly, blonde head held high. He hears his mother gasp, but pays no attention. Sweeping Jen into his arms they reunite, the months fade away and for that one perfect moment, it’s like they’ve never been apart.  Finally he releases her and turns to his mother who’s sobbing. He doesn’t understand why his mother is acting this way, what’s gotten into her? Looking helplessly at his Dad, Joe pats his mother. Elaine reaches out to Jennifer, smiles and cups the girl’s face in her hands.

“You look just like her; it’s like seeing a ghost. One of the last things I told Lisa was if she ever traveled I’d meet her at arrivals.” Hugging the girl to her chest, Lainie whispers, “Welcome home!


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Day One

It’s a brave new world for me. A refocus on my love of writing began in December and I am now busy joining workshops, writing, reading, writing, taking online writing classes and then some more writing. I struggle with finding my voice, creating dynamic dialogue and carving out enough time to dedicate to writing.  Like most beginning writers, I have a full time job that takes up a large part of my waking day. This blog will journey with me as I investigate and submit to various writing contests, explore genres and create stories that hopefully appeal to more than just my family:)

I love most genres and it is one of my goals this year to attempt to write fiction in as many styles as possible. 


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