MannersIt seems this discussion comes up every now and again. The whole “where have manners gone?” situations that just make me scratch my head.

A few years ago my son was hanging at our house with his girlfriend. A friend of hers stopped by and I spent some time enjoying these young adults. At some point I had drifted away from their conversation in the family room and went to work on the computer in my office, only semi aware when the young lady got up to leave. I didn’t tune in until she tripped on something in the kitchen on her way to the door. (I don’t leave lights on in empty rooms, hence she was stumbling through the dark.) Mortified, I shot my mother’s evil eye at Little Boy Blue and sent him running for the door to escort out his company.
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I’m feeling very nostalgic this week after attending the funeral of my dear friends’ mother. Technically the woman is my brother’s mother-in-law. But since he literally married the girl-next-door, this woman was for all intents and purposes, she was the neighborhood mom to all teenagers.

I don’t remember a time in my youth when this family wasn’t part of the landscape of my day-to-day life. My brother spoke eloquently at her funeral about being a young teen and hanging out at the house, raiding the pantry and cleaning the leftovers out of the fridge. Another friend of mine talked about all the crazy times the gang spent at their house. This woman and her husband were married 55 years. There are all kinds of memories that make me smile about this gruff truck driver coming home to his wife and three girls. Despite his prickly exterior I never had any doubt they filled his heart with unconditional love. I was too young to see the difficult times that no doubt clouded their marriage, but still, they were able to weather every storm.

My brother has been married to his wife going on 29 years. We even have pictures of them, complete with minister (my younger brother), wedding dress, bridesmaids and groomsmen in their backyard getting married … long before they were even officially teenagers. I’ve watched these two go through some wonderful times and some very hard times. And what I’ve come to know is that loving someone for a looong time isn’t always easy and definitely not always pretty.

Thirty-seven years ago this fall I began dating my husband.

We’ve raised three babies to young adulthood. Gutted and remodeled two homes. Buried eight grandparents and a father. Persevered through three major job losses, four family divorces and a sibling’s affair. Survived the diagnosis of a life-altering chronic disease. And lived in the middle of nowhere for over twenty years. And currently counseling a child to get herself and our grandson out of a terrible living situation. Yeah, romance isn’t the happy-ever-after-ride-into-the-sunset the romance novels seem to tout for their heroes and heroines. Romance in real lives is smiling despite the fact you never managed to squeak in a shower and saying “I love you, you’re beautiful” even though there are dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled on the bed and baby puke on your pants.

Through all the hardships of daily life I still believe in soul mates and forever loves. In my immediate family we have 5 couples who have been married nearly 30 years. 2 nearly 20. And now another generation begins the journey into marital romance with 4 weddings in the coming year.

I’ve been blessed with one of those marriages that romance novels promise. How could I not be a hopeless romantic at heart? There are no flowers on my counter or diamonds dripping from ears, but there’s a guy sitting in the chair next to me as I work tirelessly at my computer who laughs at my corny jokes, doesn’t roll his eyes (too much) at my lack of geographical acuity, holds me when I cry and is willing to discuss (with a straight face) whether vampire assassins make worthy romance heroes. And just being with him makes me feel romantic.

There are many moments in our lives together that hold a special place in my heart. Moments that bring a tear to my eye when I talk about them. Moments when we were first dating. Moments when our babies were growing up. Moments of quiet when it was just the two of us away from the noise of the world. All of them hold a certain kind of romance that makes me smile when I think of them.

This week I watched a man openly weep as he said goodbye to a woman who no doubt was the other half of his soul. I listened to his daughters talk about their parents’ love with a lump in their throat and a tear in their eye. And it just brought home a stark reminder that no matter how hard life gets, it’s important to cherish my marriage. I can only hope when it’s all said and done that my children will have all those wonderful memories of their parents.

When my son wanted to buy his first car many moons ago, he was pretty amusing to watch as he tried to find something juuuuust right. It was a long process and needless to say the learning curve was steep. This post originally ran in 2008 and since I’m in the middle of finishing the last book in my XTC resorts series and this list STILL cracks me up (mostly because he did all of these things) … I had to share an encore!

1. You might have a problem if the car is parked at a house that appears to only be inhabited by parrots.

2. It probably isn’t a good buy if the seller has to empty out boxes, small appliances and various other crap so you can test drive it.  

3. You might have a problem if you stand looking at the car for ten minutes and the seller only peeks at you from behind the kitchen curtain, but never comes out.

4. You probably should walk away if you ask the seller where the title is and they say “the what?”

5. It might not be worth buying If you have to tow it to get it to the mechanic to check it out.

6. You might not want to pursue it if the For Sale sign has no phone number listed.

7. Remember — leather repaired with duct tape doesn’t mean luxury.

8. If the seller won’t talk to your mother you might have a problem.

9. You probably shouldn’t bother if when you mention the year of the car to your friends they say their grandparents aren’t even that old.

10. You might really want to walk away if you do pursue it, by googling the yellow pages with the address where the car is parked — and they say there’s no phone number available.

11. It’s not a keeper if you walk around the rear of the vehicle and one side of the back bumper is propped up on blocks and they say “It’s no problem, the spare tire’s in the trunk”.

12. There could be a problem with it if the inspection sticker is three years old. 

13. It’s probably not a good idea to buy a car if the seller tells you the odometer no longer works, but it only broke last week.

And just to make the car buying easier on every woman, I think more cars should come with this kind of option!

Since I started the week on an educational bent, I thought I’d stick to that. Because over the weekend, 60 Minutes did a segment on a new trend known asredshirting“.

Wikipedia defines redshirting as:
“… the practice of postponing entrance into kindergarten of age-eligible children in order to allow extra time for socioemotional, intellectual, or physical growth. This occurs most frequently where children’s birthdays are so close to the cut-off dates that they are very likely to be among the youngest in their kindergarten class.”

Parents are doing this purposefully to give their children an advantage not just in school–but in life. The theory holds that if they begin school as the oldest student instead of one of the youngest in their class they will step to the head of the class in kindergarten because they’re bigger and more mature. Which in turn means they’ll begin first grade ahead of the curve and so on and so on, with the effect mulitplying over the years. It is thought that these children will grow up more confident and likely will become leaders at an early age. Schools are balking at the idea and holding staunchily to their entry dates. (Which vary by state.) Too many parents were redshirting children and causing problems in school districts.

Of course if a significant number of parents hold their child out of school then several “older” kindergartners will end up in the same classroom and negate the whole reason for keeping a child back. And many schools are finding second and third grade students who were redshirted have become behavior problems because they’re bored.

My husband has an early September birthday and he did begin school at 4. He is a smart man, but struggled all through school and didn’t really come into his own until he went to college. So when our son was born in mid-November, we were pleased he didn’t make the Oct 31 cutoff. He did begin school at 5 and was one of the first to turn 6. But you know what? He wasn’t a reader when he went into school. (Mostly because as an educator, I knew he had the ability, but not the interest and I didn’t push it.) He actually didn’t show an interest in reading until a third of the way through 1st grade where he went from the lowest reading group to the top reading group in two weeks when he figured out he enjoyed reading books, not just listening to his parents read them. As the youngest of three he is a gentle soul and defers to others and their feelings when it comes to making decisions. It’s just not in his personality to be a leader.

I don’t know about this whole thing. I guess I’m just a little jaded. I’ve watched the kids who were ahead of the game in the first few years of elementary school flounder as their peers caught up with them then surpassed them. Very few held on to those positions. They seemed to stumble and faulter when they were no longer number one, not sure how to handle a setback. Leadership and confidence is so much more than age and maturity. As a parent we can encourage our children, but there are some things that are part of who they are no matter how we push and cojole. (Not that I did that, I’m just saying.) Natural leaders just seem to step out of the crowd. Maybe not in kindergarten, but they certainly come into their own. They can’t help it. It’s part of who they are.

So what do you think? Have you heard of this redshirting? How do you feel about it? Because even when it’s not related to writing, I’m curious.

This is going to turn into a rant. I have no doubt about it. I’ve been winding up for a couple of weeks, so seriously … if you don’t want to read about my melt down over the American college system, you should just walk away now.

You see, my son, Little Boy Blue, is in college. He has a cousin in college.

The first thing that is pissing me off is that they both going to a STATE university. It’s not private. It’s the university every kid in the state should be able to afford. Yet both of them work fulltime during the summer and part-time during the school year and still … they can’t afford to pay outright for school. Both of them take out loans every semester to pay for college. (My oldest daughter went to a different state college, but worked as an RA for two years AND had a major that got her in-state tuition and after 4 years, her loan payment would cover the mortgage payment for a small house.) There’s something VERY wrong with this picture.

Not only do both of these kids fork out a tremendous amouunt of money, but both of them are struggling. First I want to share my neice’s story: She went into college thinking she’d like to go into nursing. A third of the way into her freshman year she began having medical issues. She couldn’t eat. Still can’t. Doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong. (Three years later.) She’s missed a lot of school due to doctor’s appointments and sick days. A year ago, she decided to change her major. But you know what? Her grades don’t meet the minimum requirements for the major she’d like to transfer into. (Education) Because of that she isn’t allowed to take certain classes because they don’t fit the “nursing” major she declared when she first entered the university. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

She could have declared an education major as a freshman and despite her grades, would have continued in that major and been able to take all the classes she needed, even if, due to medical reasons, her GPA was low.

Now … Little Boy Blue. He’s majoring in engineering. Because he’s a foolish boy, he basically lost his freshman year to a girl. (Whatever … what do parents know when it comes to college advice?) He realized he was in trouble midway through his third semester. His study habits were poor and he had to retake several classes over again to learn the information he didn’t get the first time around. No problem. That’s his fault. But Mr. Nina and I have convinced him he needs to look into tutors and speak with his professors about confusing lessons and speak to his advisor. But you know what? He’s tried. But nothing. Professors don’t keep their appointments and those that do, don’t “teach” students who don’t understand their lessons. And guess what? The university doesn’t offer tutors for upper level classes. My son has no learning disabilities, he’s quite capable of doing the work in the engineering program. I think he just needs someone to point him in the right direction. But no one seems to want to help. Now he’s looking at LEAST taking an extra semester if not TWO! (Think of the money.)

PLEASE don’t misunderstand. I am not trying to make excuses for these two kids. What is upsetting me is that they’ve screwed up and they’re trying to rectify that situation and NO ONE WILL HELP THEM. Both of their advisors are saying “sucks to be you … have a nice day”. WTH?? They’re trying to get through college. They’re paying BIG bucks to get an education. They’re looking for help and not getting it. Where the hell does the buck stop? Who’s supposed to help these students?

When Mr. Nina and I went to college there were many people available to us who helped with both financial and educational issues. These two kids are in their third year in college. One of life’s skills is figuring out how to help yourself through difficult times. But when you go to the first level of help … shouldn’t they help? I’m working really hard not to step into this whole thing. I REALLY want to go over the advisor’s head to the department chair and scream “HELP!” Shouldn’t someone give a sh!t about these kids? But who?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m way out in left field on this one. But I’m so darn frustrated about this issue. Have any of you run into this same issue? Do you have an advice for a mom who’s ready to come unglued all over the university system?

I love all the new technology. Weeellll, not all of it. Okay, probably not most of it. I’m what you call a techno-idiot and I resist upgrading or downloading anything until the device has wires hanging or so many error messages that I can’t make it function.

But my children? Totally in love with anything gadget.

And I was going to say it is their generation, but that’s not the case. There are plenty of people my age who wouldn’t go anywhere without their Smartphone where they can tweet, email and update their facebook status from anywhere.

Ummm, what about interacting with the people standing right in front of you??!!

When my children were going through school we didn’t have the internet. No, it wasn’t 1970…it was within the last decade and I didn’t want to have to deal with policing them when I didn’t really know much about it myself. They had to do their research the old fashioned way … encyclopedias. *Gasp* Oh, the horror! There was no facebook and cyber-bullying wasn’t even a word.

Simpler times for sure.

Now, they’re as plugged in as their friends. (And mom is getting there.) But we’ve banned cellphones at the dinner table (because we get together so infrequently these days). But on our recent family vacation, every kid under the age of 25 had their phone in their hand nearly every minute of the day. I have no idea if they were texting or updating internet sites. The point is…they didn’t put them down.

And companies are making it even easier for them to stay connected. Cars and phones with facebook status update technology have made it so people (not just the twenty-somethings) don’t EVER have to unplug. Crazy. Where is the mystery of the morning-after phone call following an awesome first date? Where is the living in the here-and-now?

No one is going to stand up at a funeral extolling the number of friends on a Facebook page or how fast someone could text. I just worry that we’re going to get so caught up in the technology and forget that life is NOW and you need to enjoy the people you are WITH.

And yes, I completely see the irony of putting this whole diatribe on my blog … just go with it. 😉

As any of you who have visited here before know, I’m VERY visual. When I’m writing I have pictures of my hero and heroine open in a document. I’ve done searches for scenes whether it’s an alley or a beautiful hotel suite. I need to see it to describe it.

Okay, so I’m writing a sequel to Maid for Master, that’s taking me back to XTC Resorts and the world of hedonistic clubs and BDSM. This means I’m often searching the internet for pieces of equipment or sexy toys or … ya know … whatever. I have my Google safe search set to “off” which means things could get a little dicey on my computer when I hit the search button.

Since the daughter that’s currently living with me is off at college classes or work, I’m left on my own to do these searches without worrying what’s going to pop up on the screen. But there have been times when she walks into my office at inopportune moments. Now, it’s not like my children don’t know what I write. Still, no one wants to know their mother looks at stuff like that. It’s sort of like hearing your parents in the throws of passion. You know it happens … you just don’t want it confirmed.

I’ve become very adept at shutting windows on my computer at lightening speed when the door opens. But I know evidence of my naughty explorations is written in the guilt on my face. I’m a grown woman. I love what I write. But I still feel funny when sexy pictures are open on my computer, even though I use them to create sensual scenes in my stories. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

So what about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure you keep hidden? Something you know isn’t really wrong, but would make you blush if you got caught?

When I was a kid my mother sat at her desk several mornings a week and penned letters to my grandmothers. She probably had several other friends that she also corresponded with on a regular basis. When she was bent over her pad of paper, we knew not to disturb her unless there were bones. blood or vomit involved. That was Mom’s time.

So it’s no wonder that I grew up writing. I kept diaries from third or fourth grade right up through high school. I also had pen pals. One in Japan and my best friend that I left in the old neighborhood in second grade. I loved writing letters.

When Mr. Nina headed off to college I wrote him every day and sent the letters a couple of times a week. But it wasn’t one sided. Mr. Nina wrote to me a couple of times a week as well. Long letters filled with love and college pranks only guys can pull, kept me part of his life. When I went off to college my mom added me to her letter writing list and I got a letter once a week. I treasured those letters. They came every Thursday or Friday and I would read them out loud to my roommate. I told Mom years later how much they meant to me and it took her completely off guard. I think she’d be even more surprised if she knew I saved every letter she sent me.

Yep, packed away in shoeboxes are the letters from Mr. Nina and my mother. I haven’t read them in years, but since we’re moving soon I have no doubt I’ll pull them out and read through some of them again. I have no idea what my kids will do with these letters, but I just can’t part with them.

And I bet you’re wondering what precipitated this blog. Well, with Mr. Nina being several states away we’ve begun writing again. Not letters so much, but cards and little notes. Skype has made the newsy-letters not as important. When a note arrived from him the other day my heart actually skipped a beat. Just seeing my name written in his unreadable chicken scratch made me sigh. It brought me back to those many years ago when I went through the mail with great anticiaption.

And that’s what makes me so sad. My children text their boy/girlfriends several times a day. They have facebook to keep them in touch with family back home while they’re at college. And it’s good … I guess. But they’ll never know the thrill of waiting for a lover’s letter in the mail. The thought that they were thinking of you even when you weren’t with them. The romance of reading words that perhaps they’re too nervous to say aloud. *sigh* It’s just so … Cyrano De Bergarac.

The closest my children have come to writing letters are the thank you notes I’ve insisted they write to relatives after birthdays and Christmas. Now that they’re young adults they’ve developed the habit and do it without prompting from me. Their grandparents are especially enjoying it. It just makes me sad that that’s the only taste of this wonderful tradition they may ever know.

I’ve heard letter writing is making a come back. I don’t know if that’s true. I tend to think my children’s generation with the advent of cellphones and texting will lose the art of letter writing and it will go the way of other extinct animals only to be seen in museums and history books. And that would be just so sad.

So what about you? Are you a letter writer? Do you have a stash of special letters that you’re unwilling to part with? Because you know me, I’m just wondering if I’m the only one in the world with a apecial shoebox in her closet.

I don’t do this very often, but I’m feeling a rant coming on. A good old fashioned stomp-my-feet-hold-my-breath-shake-my-fists kind of rant. And I’ll tell you now, it has nothing to do with writing or publishing. It’s about colleges and their overinflated, insanely expensive tuition bills. Seriously, I just need to spew. Feel free to run now, ‘cuz it’s only gonna get ugly from here on out.

I really don’t know how kids are supposed to get a college education these days without selling their souls. Or their parents going to the poorhouse. IT’S CRAZY!! And frustrating!

Okay, I know I should have been putting money into college funds for my children, but I was a little more concerned about feeding and clothing them. Ya know, actually paying my bills as I went along. It’s not like we didn’t have anything, but I sure as heck wasn’t the first to buy the newest gaming station or crazy toy. And can you say used cars? Thank goodness we live in a state where duct tape is considered an acceptable automobile accessory. Seriously. It’s not like we went without, but I never had a surplus. Ever. I became very good at financial juggling.

And now my third child is in college and things are getting crazy. Between the tanking economy and enough stupid people in my generation who didn’t pay back their student loans (oh, you know who you are) there’s nothing left in the pot for interest deferred loans for my children and their friends. It’s an INSANE system where everyone looses except the financial institutions.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect professors to teach for free or college administrators to work for pittance (like the rest of us), but I’m just not sure why 15,000 kids need to pay $112 for a recreation fee and $45 dollars for an activity fee when probably no more than a third of them take advantage of the facilities “supported” by those funds. And please don’t even get me started on the $917 unified fee … whatever the heck that is!

And this is the bill from a state college where my child pays to live … because his field of study isn’t available at the campus within driving distance. It’s not like I’m asking for the moon here. Just a reasonably priced education for my child.

A lot of the problem is our income. We don’t make enough to pay the bill outright, but we make too much for my children to get financial aid. It hardly seems fair. And now you can’t even have your child be independent from you. (We tried that and STILL they wanted us to pay for her school.)

I love my children with all my heart. I want them to go on to college so they can get good jobs and support themselves. But this system is starting kids on the road to a debt load that will take them years to recover from. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that this whole thing is discouraging. For me and my kids. I don’t know how other people do it.

All I can say is whoever thought money couldn’t buy you happiness never had three kids in college.

Since I’m on vacation I decided to resurrect some of my favorite posts. This is a thirteen list of things that went wrong at Little Boy Blue’s prom. He’s no longer dating this young lady who has come to be known in our family as “dead horse girl”. Please, read on and you will understand why…

So the last two weeks the Pierce house has been in prom hell agony mode. Little Boy Blue attended not one, but TWO proms at two different schools with his girl friend. And let me tell ya … they were BOTH an adventure! Here’s the top 13 things (yes, I had to whittle it down for you) I wanted to share with you about prom …

1. Flowers are a VERY important detail when you’re going to prom.


2. GQ is missing it’s cover model.


3. Limousines are mighty spacious for just two people. (And wicked boring as Little Boy Blue found out.)


4. Sequins can unravel VERY easily from a dress and a needle and thread make things worse and kudos to whomever invented glue sticks…they work miracles! (Hope we remembered to take that out of the LBB’s tux pocket.)


5. Bugs love hairspray


6. Choosing to go to the prom parade in a buggy is really bad if the horse gets sick and … well let’s just say there are some Amish who are buying a new work horse this week.

7. Sometimes teenagers are happy the police stop by. (Side note to new police officer who didn’t understand one must sit in the prom parade line for up to 90 minutes to deliver teens to prom. Guess what? According to the town manager who called you, it can’t happen while you’re on duty.)


8. Being abandoned before the prom parade begins by a well-meaning police officer who didn’t know kids can’t ride in the police cruiser and having to walk the length of 60 cars is really hard in high heels.


9. When things are at their worst, you’ll find out who your friends are when they let you jump into their sweet Cadillac ride so you can still be in the prom parade.


10. Probably the limo would have been a safer bet for the SECOND prom. (Why didn’t mom think of that? Oh right, all TWO of them available in Northern Maine were rented that night.)


11. Prom hairdoes are ruined by torrential rain which often times brings lightening which is a really bad combination for hundreds of parents and grandparents with umbrellas.

12. Only in Northern Maine is it considered cool to arrive at prom in farm equipment.


13. No matter what Little Boy Blue went through, he kept smiling!