In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 3

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The sneak peek continues. Check out Chapter 3 of In Search of Mr. Anonymous! Also, if you want access to exclusive info & offers subscribe to my mailing list on the “Contact” page. I promise not to bombard you with emails and will not share your info.

 

Chapter 3

Lucy

 

The Aviary is crowded with a mix of professionals, hipsters, and couples who I’m guessing are celebrating a special occasion. Trish and I are in a cocktail lounge area that’s partitioned from the bar by a dramatic floor to ceiling birdcage, where the bartenders are mixing what I can only describe as concoctions. The set-up is reminiscent of a science lab, complete with billowing plumes of white smoke. Trish and I marvel at the gorgeous and inventive cocktails where presentation is paramount. My favorite is a tropical looking, deep purple drink in an elegant teapot shaped glass.

“You picked the perfect place,” I tell Trish. “Though I don’t want to know how much my drink costs.”

“Of course I did. I knew you’d appreciate the attention to detail. And don’t worry, this one’s on Blooms. At some point let’s talk business and I’ll write it off as an expense. Consider it a thank you for all the business you’ve sent our way.”

“Claude has deeper pockets than I thought. I’ll remember that the next time I ask you for a quote,” I joke. “But seriously, how were you able to get us in on such short notice?”

Trish looks at me like I’m crazy. “Hello? I have connections.”

I laugh and take a sip of my drink. It’s smooth with a hint of spice, leaving a trail of warmth in its wake. Trish fills me in on what’s been going on with her and I do the same. Though outside of work there isn’t much to tell.

“So, I want to hear all about the pitch. But first, how are things with Charlotte? Did she go all psycho on you?” She takes my wrist and lifts up my arm, inspecting it.

“What are you doing?”

“Checking for claw marks.”

“You’re terrible,” I tell her as I readjust my sleeve.

“But not as terrible as Charlotte.”

Trish cannot stand working with Charlotte. I get it. While she’s a royal pain in the ass, I don’t have to deal with her that often. We’re coworkers but for the most part there is a separation between bridal and corporate. Trish, on the other hand, is on the receiving end.

When we started working together, Trish and I bonded over our shared appreciation of all things Charlotte. Frankly I think it’s why she and I became friends. Charlotte is a southern belle and puts on this sweet air when you meet her, but look out. Like a snake waiting to strike its prey, she is venomous if you cross her. Or don’t do something exactly as she asked. Or better yet, told. I have no clue how her husband deals with her.

“She’s been quiet, which kind of scares me. Most of the day she’s locked away in her office. Probably plotting revenge against us all.”

“Or just you,” Trish quips.

“I’d throw my drink at you if it weren’t so delicious. Anyway, sorry I haven’t had a chance to return your calls. Things have been insane at the office and I knew I’d see you tonight.”

“I figured. Tell me everything.”

***

I think back to that day just over a week ago. The countless hours spent preparing, the heated exchanges between Charlotte and, well, everyone, and the nervous energy in the hours before Veronica and Rob arrived. Fortunately for me I stayed out of most of the drama. I attended some of the initial brainstorming sessions because Don wanted, and I quote, ‘to squeeze out every ounce of creativity I can muster.’ But after that I kept my head down and focused on my own events. It was Don’s idea to pull me into the meeting. As you can imagine, Charlotte was less than thrilled. I believe I was the subject of one of those heated exchanges. In the end, Charlotte relented and said I could attend. Not that Don gave her much of a choice. It was the best decision he’s ever made. He told me so himself.

When Rob and Veronica arrived Don greeted them personally. With Charlotte in tow, he gave them a tour of our office space and then led them to the conference room, where the team was waiting. He introduced them to Genevieve, our lead graphic designer, Charles, our fabricator, and Calvin, our head of IT/lighting. “And this is Lucy,” he said, gesturing to me. “She’s one of our senior planners and will be taking over Charlotte’s projects when she’s out on maternity leave.”

“Nice to meet you,” Veronica murmured.

I smiled and shook her proffered hand. I was struck by how tall she was, even in flats. I’m five foot seven and she had a good inch on me. She and Rob made a gorgeous couple. They looked coordinated and photoshoot-ready, he in his light blue button-down, and she in a cap-sleeve vintage blue dress paired with neutral sandals. She brushed a strand of her long, dark hair over her shoulder, and that’s when I noticed her ring. I tried not to gawk, but it was gorgeous. A solitaire round stone that had to be at least three carats set high in an antique setting. I’ve seen my share of rings, but hers was a standout.

“Please, sit down,” Don said, pulling out her chair. Rob stood until she was seated and then placed his arm around her shoulder. Don proceeded to uncork a bottle of Cristal and offered each of them a glass. He then made a toast and thanked them for giving Dreams the opportunity to plan their dream day. I assume the pun was intended.

“Before you begin your presentation I want to thank you as well,” said Veronica. “I know we didn’t give you an ideal amount of time to pull something together. I apologize for that as I recognize there is a lot that goes into an event of this magnitude. I’m grateful to each of you for putting in the effort and hope you didn’t have to make too many sacrifices on our behalf.”

“Nonsense,” said Don. “We are honored to have the chance to make this day memorable for you both. It’s what we do.” Everyone nodded their assent.

“I noticed. Both Rob and I were impressed by the personal touch that’s evident in each of your events. We’re excited to see what ideas you have for us.” She made eye contact with each person at the table as she spoke. I must say, Veronica impressed me. She was genuine, poised, and has a social grace about her. She struck me as the type who would know just the right thing to say in any situation. I have no such talent and envied her a little.

With the pleasantries out of the way, Don turned the floor over to Charlotte. Teetering on her too high heels, she looked quite a sight, even for Charlotte. Her blond hair was loosely pulled back in a chignon with perfectly placed tendrils framing her face. She wore a black sheath dress with an elegant pearl neckline, which I assume was intentional to draw the eye up and mask her pregnant belly. Charlotte presented our vintage lace mood board first. When we were brainstorming she kept emphasizing how Veronica wanted a shabby chic feel. We all really felt that we nailed it. She went through the color scheme and proposed floral arrangements, to which Veronica gave a polite nod. My gut told me she wasn’t connecting with our approach. Don sensed it too and asked Veronica what she thought so far. “It’s really beautiful. You captured the essence of what we discussed: classic, sophisticated, and elegant.”

“But,” prodded Don.

“I can picture it all. Just not for our wedding. I feel that I led you astray. It’s what I thought I wanted. But now that I’m seeing it, something’s missing. I guess I’m still hung up on the fact that it’s not outdoors.”

“I thought you agreed upfront that wasn’t practical. You do realize it would be hard to pull off on New Year’s Eve in Chicago, right?” Charlotte asked.

“I’m not sure I agree. Tell me again why it’s not doable.”

Charlotte launched into a tirade about how it wasn’t practical. She ticked off the reasons on her fingers as she spoke. How it would be hard to regulate the temperature in the tent, flowers would wilt, ice sculptures would melt, the frozen ground would be an issue. I tuned out after that, lost in my own thoughts. I reached for my iPad and did an image search, my fingers dancing over the keys, trying to keep pace. I found some photos for inspiration and then waited for an opening in the conversation. There wasn’t one. So I took a leap of faith and cut Charlotte off mid-sentence.

“What if we could make it feel like an outdoor wedding?” I asked.

Veronica turned to me with interest. Charlotte glowered at me with a look of pure venom.

“I’ve been thinking about how we could bring the outdoors in. Picture large oak trees covered with strands of hanging fairy lights. They could either hang down or be strung together to create a tiered chandelier. The trees would flank the aisles leading to a large trellis that would serve as a canopy during the ceremony. We can play with the lighting to make it feel like night, and you can get married under the stars.” I propped my iPad on the table and showed her some photos for inspiration. “The look I’m going for is whimsical meets rustic. I know you wanted a shabby chic feel, so perhaps we bring in farmhouse tables for dinner covered in lace tablecloths.”

***

“Luce, I love it!” says Trish, bringing me back to the present day. “What was Veronica’s reaction?”

I pause as a waiter sets a new drink down in front of me. This one is clear with blood red ice cubes artfully stacked upon one another. The night is still young so I need to slow down. When I go out I have one to two drinks max. And never when I’m working. Ever.

“Her face lit up and it was the first time during the meeting that she was engaged,” I continue. “She started brainstorming with me, suggesting we could carve her and Rob’s initials in one of the trees.”

“Cute. What are you thinking for flowers?”

“I suggested we create a beautiful arrangement out of branches and candles as the centerpieces. Then, instead of having a traditional fabric backdrop for the band, we can build a floor-to-ceiling floral wall using a lattice fence. I’m thinking light pinks and whites, possibly peonies, and hundreds of them. It will be rustic, romantic, and beautiful.”

“Where ever did you come up with this idea?”

I shrug.

She narrows her eyes at me. “Please don’t tell me it’s something you’ve always dreamed of.”

“No, I promise.” Trish knows New Year’s is my favorite holiday. I love how with the flip of a page, it’s a clean start. Everything is fresh and new, a chance to put the past behind you. I’m normally not an optimist, but it’s the one time of year that it feels like anything is possible. I don’t add that my dream is to have a New Year’s Eve wedding. But why bother? The chances of me getting married anytime soon―or ever for that matter―are slim.

Trish doesn’t press the issue further. “What’s she like, Veronica?”

“She’s stunning. Pretty, polished, and polite.”

“The three P’s.”

“Four if you add personable. She was down-to-earth and easy to talk to. And I loved that she included Rob in the conversation. She kept turning to him and asking for his opinion.”

“And what about him? He’s gorgeous but always a bit stoic looking.”

“He’s so taken with her. He calls her Ronnie. I think he puts on an air of aloofness for show, but he’s very amicable in person.”

“I can’t believe you get to work with them. The politician’s daughter and a self-made millionaire.”

“Let’s hope. I’m putting together the budget now.”

“I can’t imagine that will be an issue.”

I laugh. “I’ll send you an email with details for a floral quote.”

Her eyes grow wide. “Luce, don’t feel you have to.”

“I know. But I want to, and not because we’re friends, but because I trust you and know you do great work.”

“Thanks,” Trish says, placing her hands on mine. “For having faith in me.”

“I wish I had more faith in myself.”

She removes her hands knowing I’m not the touchy-feely type. “Lucy Chalmers, you are the most organized, efficient, and creative problem-solver I’ve ever met. And I’ve worked with a lot of people.”

“Thanks. I guess I’m just freaked out. My first wedding and it’s the most important event Dreams has and likely will ever put on. No pressure.”

“If anyone can handle it, it’s you,” says Trish. “Now, back to why we’re here.”

I groan. I was hoping she forgot about our bet.

Trish scans the room and stands up. “There’s no one here who meets my standards. A bit too high-brow.”

“That’s a bad thing?”

“No. This crowd seems too tame. I’m looking for someone who will bring out your wild side. I saw a bar down the street. Let’s go check it out.”

I’d love to tell her I don’t have a wild side. But I know it’s no use. Once Trish sets her mind to something, there’s no changing it. As we weave our way through a throng of people something shiny catches my eye. I bend down and discover a bright, copper penny, heads up.

“See?” says Trish. “A good sign.”

Trish knows me well. I’ve always been superstitious. I tuck it in my purse and hope that good fortune is indeed headed my way.

 

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In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 1

In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 2

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In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 2

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The sneak preview of In Search of Mr. Anonymous continues. Read on for a look at Chapter 2. Links to all prior chapters are at the end of this post.

 

Chapter 2

Melanie

 

I shrug out of my coat and kick off my boots, leaving a trail of clothes as I head to my room. I put on a pair of PJs before cleaning up my mess. Getting changed is always the first thing I do when I come home. That and pulling my hair back into a ponytail. Sometimes I feel like the person I present to the world is just for show, but once I’m home I turn back into Cinderella. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I wish I didn’t have to put so much effort into getting dressed up to go out.

I flop down on my couch with a sigh. Another date that’s a bust. And I thought this one held promise. We exchanged messages a handful of times and had a flirty banter going. But it was clear after a few minutes our chemistry didn’t translate past the screen.

I hope Lucy’s having better luck. I check my phone to see if she’s texted me. Nothing yet about her big night: her one-night stand. Lucy Chalmers is my best friend. We met at sleepaway camp when we were ten years old. I had done the Rookie session the summer before, so I knew some of the girls already. I liked them, but there was drama. Who was going to bunk with who, who would sit next to each other during campfire, that sort of thing. One of the reasons I went away to camp was to avoid the drama. There was enough of that back at school. But it felt like I walked right into it.

When I met Lucy I could tell she was different. Quiet but insightful. We latched onto one another and didn’t look back. She’s like a sister to me. While she’s an only child, I actually have two sisters already, both younger. But there’s a big age gap among us. Rachel, the older of the two, is five years younger than me. And there’s a seven-year age gap between me and Riley, the baby of the family. My mom and dad were content with just me for a while. When they finally decided they were ready for another they had trouble getting pregnant. Hence, the age gap. When I was in my last year of elementary school Rachel was just entering Kindergarten. I took on more of a mothering role instead of a confidante. And I was in Junior High when Riley was born. Let’s just say she was a good form of birth control. Anyway, I’m closer with my sisters now. But it’s like we live in totally different worlds.

I’m lucky to have another sister in Lucy. I check my phone again but still no word. I shoot her a text to see what’s up. Lucy doesn’t sleep around, so it’s crazy to me that she agreed to this bet. It’s mind blowing, actually. I’m dying to know what’s happening. Unlike Lucy, I have no problem sleeping with someone I’m not in a relationship with. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with being selective. But I’m thirty-three and not getting any younger. So I like to keep myself active to avoid my lady parts going into hibernation. Seriously. It could happen.

Ever since high school I haven’t had the best of luck with men. Back then I was a bit of a stalker. I think it’s because my crushes sent me mixed messages. Naturally I had to investigate to figure out what was going on. I had a big thing for Chase Emerson. I used to drive by his house on my way home from school, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. I’d call him and hang up just to hear his voice. Those were pre-caller ID days. Anyway, he kind of strung me along. So I may have stalked him a bit. But in my defense he led me to believe there was something between us. I think he liked the attention. He’d do things like invite me over then often cancel at the last minute. He was super apologetic about it and always had a valid excuse. He brought me flowers on my birthday―calla lilies, my favorite. He shoveled our walk when my dad’s back went out. Sweet gestures he’d do in private. It wasn’t so far-fetched that I’d be encouraged or think maybe he returned my feelings. But at school he maintained his distance when his friends were around. Then I got a head nod or a “hey” or “’s up.” Except when he wanted to borrow my notes or “check” his homework against mine. Like an idiot, I let him do those things―take advantage of me. But it didn’t feel that way at the time. I just basked in any attention he was willing to give. Pathetic, I know.

I finally worked up the nerve to ask him to Turnabout. He said maybe―he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go to the dance. When in reality he had me on the backburner in case someone better came along. He eventually said yes. I was ecstatic. I bought the perfect dress, shoes, and booked my hair and nail appointments. The week before he canceled. He said something came up, when in reality he meant someone. He went to the dance with Katie Richmond. Not one to be deterred, I went with my girlfriends. I got to watch him make out with Katie. Let’s just say it made for a memorable night. I felt like the fool he played me for, but I vowed to learn from my mistake. That put an end to my “Chasing Chase” period.

I dated a guy junior year who cheated on me. Of course I was the last to know. But I held out hope for love. I don’t think it would be fair to write off all men for the mistakes of a few. So I looked forward to college and meeting more mature men. I discovered maturity and college boys don’t go hand-in-hand. I went out with lots of frat guys―nothing serious―until Gavin. He changed my outlook. He was a poet, like Lucy, and wrote the most beautiful poems that left me in awe. I think I’ve always been drawn to people who are writers. He was deep and profound and unlike any man I’d met before. I should’ve known. As it turns out I wasn’t the one he was in love with. Once again, I was just a stepping stone. And once again, I ended up with a broken heart.

I’ve dated guys since but it’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love. Maybe it’s because my guard is up. I’m trying to stay open to the possibility and not let my past mistakes color my outlook. I want to fall―hopelessly and completely. But I won’t be that naïve girl anymore. If that means keeping someone like Brett around so be it. Brett and I have a no-strings attached arrangement and hook up every once in a while. We have zero feelings for one another, so that takes out the complication of emotions getting involved. It’s my turn to have someone waiting on the backburner. Maybe knowing I have him even though it’s only physical makes me feel less alone. Or gives me the security to venture outside of my comfort zone because he’s my fallback. He and Lucy. He meets my physical needs and she meets my emotional ones. Together, they are the perfect combo. Maybe I don’t need more.

But tonight, I do.

I’m restless because the night ended sooner than expected. So I text Brett to see if he’ll come over. He usually responds back right away. But it’s a good twenty minutes before I hear from him. When I do he says he’ll by over by eleven. Great. And my legs are already shaved, so that’s a bonus. I freshen up then change back out of my PJs, which is silly considering my clothes will be coming off again soon. But still, I want to look presentable.

My phone buzzes and it’s my doorman letting me know that Brett’s in the lobby. “Send him up,” I tell him. I open the door and he walks in and plants a scorching kiss on my lips before heading straight for my bedroom. I haven’t seen him in a few months but we have no problem getting reacquainted.

 

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In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 1

 

 

In Search of Mr. Anonymous: Chapter 1

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In case you missed my last post, I have a third book on the horizon: In Search of Mr. Anonymous. It’s a steamy romance due out on 4/27, and in the days leading up to the launch I will be sharing a sneak peek here. Read on for the first chapter.

 

Chapter 1

 

I drum my fingers on my desk, once again glancing at the clock. At four o’clock sharp, my phone rings. I take a deep breath and answer on the second ring.

“Lucy Chalmers.”

“Lucy! Hi, it’s Mackenzie Shaw from Bride Today.”

“Hi, how are you?”

“The question is, how are you? Tell me, how does it feel to land the most coveted wedding in Chicago?”

“It feels surreal.”

“I’ll bet. Can you give me any details about the big day?”

“It will be a New Year’s Eve wedding. The venue is undetermined but you can bet it will be somewhere unique and that has meaning to the bride. She’s having her gown custom made by Monique Lhuillier. You can expect it to be ethereal, elegant, and timeless. Like the bride herself.”

“Speaking of, how has it been working with Veronica?”

“She’s an excellent client. She has a vision but is open to ideas. She makes decisions when they need to be made and sticks to them. But what I admire most about her is that she involves Rob in every step of the process. It’s not just about her day. It’s about making their day special.”

“Does Rob want to be involved in the process?”

I laugh. “He does. For the most part he agrees with her choices, but he does have an opinion. I like a man with an opinion.”

“Do you? So, does the most eligible wedding planner have a significant other?”

“Not at the moment. I’m focused on my career.”

“Do you think you’ll continue on the wedding track? My sources tell me you specialize in corporate events.”

“Yes, I do. But Dreams DLC manages both corporate and bridal. So it’s not unusual for our event planners to cross over.”

“And how did Charlotte take the news? I understand Veronica specifically asked to work with you.”

“It was a team effort. I stepped in only because Charlotte was going to be on maternity leave during the heavy planning stages. Veronica asked that I be involved from a continuity standpoint.” It’s a small white lie, but hopefully she’ll buy it. And how does she know so much about my company’s internal politics? I wouldn’t put it past Charlotte to be giving her inside information. But then again, it doesn’t paint her in the best light.

“You’ve been with Dreams for three years now. What made you decide to leave Stanton?”

Reading between the lines, she wants to know why I would leave one of the top event planning firms for a small mom and pop shop. “Don reached out and at first I told him I wasn’t interested. Dreams wasn’t even on my radar. But he was persistent and told me I’d have a bigger opportunity here. He was right.”

That’s partly true but I’m embarrassed to tell her the real reason. I thought it was fate because the moniker has the same initials as my family: Dennis, Lucy and Corrine. DLC actually stands for Don Campioni, the owner, and his wife Lucca. But I took it as a sign. I knew going to a smaller firm meant less support staff and a lower salary, but I liked that it was a family-owned business. Don has five daughters―too many initials to use in the logo, he joked when we first met—and they all hold various positions at the company. I’m an only child, and I always wished I had come from a big family. Don has his employees over for a homemade Italian feast once a month. He invited me to join them while I was debating his offer. I loved the way he and Lucca fussed over everyone as though they were family. And it didn’t hurt that Lucca’s meatballs were the best I’ve ever had. I often tease Don that’s what sealed the deal.

Mackenzie asks me to send her over some engagement photos of the happy couple. We chat for another ten minutes about Veronica and Rob’s choice of musicians, color scheme, and the who’s who of the guest list. Many of these details haven’t been decided yet, but I was well prepared for the interview and answer her questions just as I practiced.

“One last question. I’d love a quote sharing the wisdom you’ve gained after years of planning these sorts of events. What’s the secret to a happy and lasting union?”

OK. She threw me for a loop. That is one question I wasn’t anticipating. And based on my own personal track record, I’ll be damned if I know.

“Hmm. That’s a great question. Let me think for a minute.”

“Take your time.”

I haven’t planned that many weddings. Really just a handful that were in some way connected to me or my friends. There’s no way in hell Charlotte would have agreed otherwise. But I mentally flip through those couples and what seemed to stand out to me.

“I would have to say the secret to a happy and lasting union is a couple who’s invested in their future. They realize that their wedding day is a celebration of their love. But it’s just that―a day. Their wedding is the foundation of the lifetime they are building from that day forward. A lifetime in which to build treasured moments and memories.”

“That’s great, thanks,” Mackenzie says. She pauses and I hear the click of her keys as she finishes capturing my quote.

After we hang up I begin to second-guess what I said. That quote does nothing to shed what I do in a positive light. In fact, it downright trivializes the importance of a wedding. Why would I say it’s only one day? Don’s going to kill me. I want to take it back, but I can’t very well call Mackenzie and tell her I changed my mind. I’d look indecisive and unprofessional. I try to push away the thought. The issue isn’t going to print for another few weeks.

Instead I focus on choosing the perfect engagement photos for the issue. I email Mackenzie the pics I select and cross it off my “to do” list. I skim the day’s tasks to make sure there is nothing left outstanding. Of course, there isn’t. I answer my remaining unopened emails and make a few calls to confirm last-minute arrangements for an event I’m running next week. Satisfied that everything is in order, I open my planner to a new page, move the ribbon to mark my spot, then turn off my laptop.

It’s a quarter to six―I spent longer than I intended at the office. I decide it will be faster to freshen up here before heading home to drop off my car. I pull out the cosmetics bag I keep in my top drawer and head to the bathroom. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I apply a fresh coat of mascara, add a light pink blush to give my ivory complexion some color, and run a brush through my dark, shoulder-length hair. When I return to my desk I kick off my ballet flats, which are a necessity for running around the office, and replace them with a pair of knee-length boots that are stashed under my desk. I tuck my butterfly pendant under my collar and add a silver statement necklace that’s more suitable for a night out. It’s dotted with blue beryl stones that make my eye color look more blue than green. I swear my eyes are always changing on me―it’s like they can’t decide what color they want to be. I keep an array of clothes, shoes, and jewelry in my office so I’m prepared for any occasion. My coworkers tease me about having a second wardrobe at the office, but guess who they go to when they’re in need of a last minute accessory.

I glance at my watch and it’s a few minutes to six. I do a quick calculation and figure I should be able to get home, drop off my car, and cab it to The Aviary, a cocktail lounge known for its innovative drinks, within the half hour. I grab my purse and text Trish I’ll meet her at six thirty. Not that I need to confirm; she knows I’m always punctual.

Trish is the florist I use for many of my company’s events and one of my closest friends. We’re meeting for a celebratory drink, just the two of us. The news about the Clayton-Ashford wedding victory hit last week. It’s been total mayhem ever since. Dreams threw a huge bash to celebrate and I’ve been running on adrenaline. I’d love nothing more than to spend the night in catching up on episodes of Top Chef. Not that I can cook, but I enjoy watching others do it and hope their talent will vicariously rub off on me. Trish wouldn’t hear of it. She insisted that I live up to my end of our bargain―tonight. Trish and I made a rather unorthodox bet. If we won the Clayton-Ashford account, I’d have to agree to a one-night stand with the man of her choosing. And if we lost she’d have to stay celibate for a month. Her idea, not mine. I agreed only because the win was a long-shot. We were the underdogs, competing against three other top-notch firms in the city. Dreams DLC is a small, boutique event planning company. But Veronica Clayton loved my ideas. To be fair she planted the seeds, and I ran with it. This is a huge win for the company―and for me.

I’m still reeling from the news and adjusting to the mayhem that’s followed. I even got a congratulatory call from my old boss at Stanton even though we didn’t part on the best of terms. Stanton was a great place to jumpstart my career because I learned from some of the best in the industry. But I never would’ve had the opportunity to plan the wedding of a lifetime. If I had stayed there it’s likely I’d still be an assistant. I’m so glad I went with my gut and took the risk. That wasn’t always the case, but I’ve learned to trust my instincts. Like the time I decided to move to Chicago after college graduation without a job offer. It was a big step for me to leave everything behind and face an uncertain future. I didn’t have any family in the area and the only person I knew was Melanie. But Virginia didn’t offer the same kind of job market, so I took a risk. Lucky for me it paid out in spades. Sometimes I do miss home, but I love the culture here. Dreams has become my extended family.

So back to the bet. It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal. But I don’t do one-night stands. I don’t do relationships, period. I’ve tried, but I’ve never found anyone that I’ve clicked with. I’m thirty-three and single, and most days I feel like I’m one of the few single girls left in this city. That may sound crazy, but I’m surrounded by people falling in love. I’ve never been one of the lucky ones. I’m so glad Mackenzie didn’t ask me for a quote about true love. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to say that didn’t sound like a cliché. As for sex, I haven’t slept with anyone in a long time. Trish gets on my case about letting loose and she seriously recites the health benefits of sex. I just don’t find it enjoyable being with a virtual stranger or someone I’m not interested in. And work doesn’t leave me with a lot of free time. I prefer it that way. Trish is the opposite, constantly looking for her next conquest. At least until she met Dax, her current boyfriend. And from what she tells me things are definitely not lacking in the bedroom. Hence, the stakes of our bet.

I don’t think I’m terribly picky. I may not have the most outgoing personality, but since graduating high school I’ve come out of my shell. I give Melanie a lot of the credit. She brings out the best in me. We kept in touch since that summer we went to camp together. On a whim, I decided to apply to Wash U because I knew it was her top choice. We both got in and were roommates since our freshman year. I moved to her hometown of Chicago once we graduated and rented a room from the condo her parents bought her up until a few months ago. I was getting a great deal on rent, but now that I’ve saved up it made more sense to live somewhere that had a ten minute commute instead of forty-five, thirty on a good day. My building is in the West Loop just blocks from Dreams. And while I love it, I do miss her company. Both Mel and I haven’t had the best luck with men. She often gets her heart broken, and I’ve just never been that interested in any of the men I’ve met. They’re nice enough, but I’ve never felt that spark. Well, except with one. Coffee Guy.

The first time I saw him I had an immediate physical reaction. My face grew hot, my pulse raced, and I felt a nervous sensation in the pit of my stomach. That had never happened to me before. I was standing in line at the local Starbucks to get my usual tall skim coffee, and there he was, about five people ahead of me. The first thing I noticed was his hair. It was dark and fell in luscious waves, with a slight curl at the nape of his neck. He was tall, probably about six two, and wore his clothes well. And by that I mean he had a sharp, tailored look about him, from his pressed pin-stripe button-down to his charcoal gray pants that were just the right length for his shoes. I have a thing about guys who wear pants that are too short. If your socks show, let it grow. That should be a motto for tailors. He turned around after he ordered and our eyes met. His were so dark they appeared almost black. He looked at me with an intensity I hadn’t experienced before. We stood there, staring at each other, for what was probably only a matter of seconds. But it felt like a couple of minutes. My eyes searched his face and landed on his mouth. I wondered what it would be like to kiss his perfectly-shaped lips. As if he’d read my mind, he gave me a knowing smile and I immediately turned away. I’m such an idiot! Leave it to me to drool over a guy as he looks on. As I’ve said, I don’t have a lot of experience with men and flirting is not my forte. I attempted to subtly check him out as I waited for my coffee. He had a casual elegance about him, with one hand in his pocket and the other checking his phone.

I looked forward to seeing him every morning. I always came in at the same time, and he was always a few people ahead of me. We often had weird exchanges like that―so much being communicated without saying a word. Unless it was all in my head. Once he even paid for my cup. “For Elsie,” I overheard him telling the cashier. For some reason the baristas think my name is Elsie. I don’t like when they yell out your name once the order is ready. I don’t know why, I just find it embarrassing. So I used my initials, “L.C.” I don’t think anyone does that, so the barista assumed my name was Elsie. From then on they wrote “Elsie” on my cup, so I went with it. I tried to find out his name, but he usually grabbed food from the case instead of ordering a drink. Anyway, I approached Coffee Guy to thank him, but just when I reached him he had to take a phone call. He was apologetic about it, but I felt kind of weird after. And while we flirted when we saw each other, if that’s what you want to call it, he never took things further.

Then I moved and the coffee shop was extremely out of my way. There was no reason to go there anymore. But I did. For another three weeks. It was so out of character Melanie literally got out a thermometer. I was waking up an hour early just to have a run-in with a guy whose name I didn’t even know. And to see Joe. Joe was a homeless man I befriended. I often bought him a cup of coffee as well. But then there were days when Coffee Guy stopped showing up. I saw him sporadically, and I wondered if he got a new job where he traveled. Then I learned of the Clayton-Ashford pitch, and Don wanted all hands on deck bright and early. There was no longer a point in schlepping an extra forty-five minutes for the same cup of coffee I could get in the lobby of my building.

I decided I was going to work up the nerve to talk to him on my last day there. As it turns out, he bought my coffee again that day. I took it as a sign. On my way out I approached him to say thank you, glad to have an excuse. My stomach was tied up in nervous knots, which only intensified with each step I took. Those dark eyes of his were watching me, waiting to see what I would do. Before I was a few feet in front of him, another girl walked over. I swear I’d seen her in there before. Maybe they were coworkers? But then he pulled her away by the restrooms, so I decided against that theory. I didn’t know what to do. With my heart pounding in my chest, I waited around for a few minutes, but they didn’t return. It made me wonder what they were doing back there. I lost my nerve. I quickly spun around and headed toward the door. I swear someone called out, “Wait!” But when I turned around he was still gone. And so was the end of my fantasy.

I think about him a lot, this random stranger that got into my head. But not tonight. I push aside any remaining thoughts of Coffee Guy and instead give myself a pep talk for the daunting task that lies ahead. I’m ready to check this one off my list. But first, I need alcohol, and lots of it.

 

I maneuver my Audi Cabriolet into my parking spot in the garage, if you want to call it that. It’s so tiny because I’m flanked by two poles and it used to take me three tries before I could fit. I’ve learned backing in is easiest, but while I’m doing so my water bottle spills all over my lap. I debate about letting my clothes air dry, but figure I still have time to dash upstairs and change. I let myself into my empty apartment, my boots echoing on the wood floors. It doesn’t bother me living alone―in fact, I like the quiet. I throw my keys in the dish on my nightstand next to a framed photo of Melanie and me. I must’ve tossed them harder than I intended because the frame topples to the floor and the corner shatters. It was a beautiful crystal frame that Charlotte gave me, and not because she was being nice. It was a gift from the bride of a wedding she planned and it wasn’t Charlotte’s taste. I quickly pick up the shards and am happy to see it broke into clean sections. Like a jigsaw puzzle, I attempt to put it back together. It looks like it will work, but I don’t have time to glue it. I place it on my nightstand as is, but it won’t stand properly now that the bottom section is missing. I decide to put the frame and broken pieces in my office until I have more time to fix it. Normally I’d take this as a bad omen, but the glass holding our picture didn’t crack, and generally speaking it seems reparable.

I put the pieces in a Ziploc bag and leave them and the frame in my top desk drawer. I throw on another black dress, run my fingers through my hair, and grab my keys. Before leaving I adjust the other photo on my nightstand so it’s more centered. It’s of my parents and me when they came in town to visit. Aside from my butterfly collection, the frames are the only personal items I have in my apartment. I just haven’t gotten around to hanging artwork.

I take the elevator down and wave to George, my favorite doorman, as I head through the lobby. He offers to turn on the cab light but I decline. I’ve been cooped up all day and could use the fresh air. When I step outside an icy breeze lashes across my skin, making my eyes and nose water. Perhaps I should’ve taken George up on his offer. I’m about to head back inside but at that moment a cab pulls up. I tap my foot as I wait for the patron to pay then slide in across the backseat. “The Aviary,” I tell the driver. The lights of the city blur by as he speeds to my destination, as if his life depended on it. “Slow down,” I tell him, echoing my thoughts about what lies ahead.

Of course, Trish knows me so well. She’s ready with a unique looking drink in hand when I walk in and spot her at one of the highboys. “Cheers!” she says as we clink glasses. “To an unforgettable night.”

I already wish it’s one I could forget.

 

Intrigued? (I hope so!) Reserve your copy now by clicking on the icons below and save! Pre-sale e-book price is $2.99. After the launch the price will go up to $3.99.

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Did you miss my last post? You can read the Prologue at the link below.

Sneak Peak: In Search of Mr. Anonymous

Sneak Peak: In Search of Mr. Anonymous

MrAnonymous_Amazon

I’m thrilled to announce I have a third book on the horizon: In Search of Mr. Anonymous. It’s been a labor of love for me and my favorite among the books I’ve written so far. Like the others, you can expect it to be fun and flirty with a healthy dose of romance. OK, so this one probably has more than a healthy dose. Let’s just say it’s a lot steamier than the others. But it also goes deeper and tackles some bigger issues about love and loyalty. Here’s a summary of the plot:

 

Two Strangers. One Passionate Weekend. Endless Heartbreak.

Cynical event planner Lucy agrees to a one-night stand as a result of losing a bet. It’s so out of character she insists on keeping their names anonymous. Lucy falls hard only to never hear from him again. She struggles with moving on until she meets James, her perfect match. Lucy realizes she must stop chasing the ghosts of her past if she wants a future with James. But the problem with ghosts is you never know when they’ll come back to haunt you.

 

I’ll be running an eBook preorder special soon. Details to come in the next few days. But in the meantime enjoy a sneak peek. Check back often because I will post a new chapter in the days leading up to my launch, which is slated for 4/27.

 

First up: the prologue. Yes, I have one of those 😉 Enjoy!

 

Prologue

 

I stare at the heavy wooden doors before me, willing them to open. Their windows are covered with wrought iron bars, reminiscent of the prison I’m in. Fine, these bars have more of an ornamental look and the windows are some kind of fancy stained glass. So the jail analogy might be a bit extreme. If I wasn’t so claustrophobic I might even find them pretty. But it’s hard to see their beauty while I’m crammed among a throng of my classmates. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying my best to ignore the pack that surrounds me. I could kill my mom for dropping me off early. “If you’re on time, you’re as good as late,” she always tells me. What does that even mean? It makes no sense. I feel jostling behind me and as the doors open I’m pushed forward into a large, brightly lit tent. I can breathe again.

“Lucy, let’s go!” Amanda cries as she tugs my arm toward a woman carrying a tray filled with fizzy, pink drinks. We each grab one, and I give it a good stir with my straw before taking a tentative sip. It’s fruity, and the bubbles tickle my throat as it goes down. I decide it’s too sweet, but I’m grateful to have something to hold―a prop of sorts.

I follow Amanda across the white, polished floor, being careful not to trip over my own feet. We head toward the center of the tent, near the makeshift stage, and I’m surrounded by a bustle of activity. A man teeters on stilts while juggling. To my left is a child-sized merry-go-round adorned with three small ponies, their fiery manes a match to the red satin tablecloths. I’m not sure if it’s to ride on or for show. To my right are carnival-style games. My mouth waters as someone walks by holding a red and white striped box overflowing with buttered popcorn. The logo on the carton matches the large sign behind the stage, which spells out “Happy Sweet 16 Taylor” in lights. It’s all a bit over-the-top if you ask me. But Taylor is an only child and from what I hear her dad’s loaded, at least according to the rumor mill. In my experience it always carries an ounce of truth.

The DJ is setting up his equipment and, to my dismay, he chooses the moment I’m standing next to a speaker to do a sound check. I jump as he belts out, “Testing. Testing 1-2-3.”

“Let’s go play some games,” I suggest. Amanda agrees. We survey the options and decide to start with “Taylor’s Gone Fishin’.” Yeah, right. Like I can really see her doing anything that involves worms. I grab a fishing pole and drop its magnetic hook into a small pool of water. Unfortunately I come up empty-handed because the bottom of my fish is blank. Only fish that have a star on the bottom earn you a prize. I guess Taylor doesn’t share the philosophy that everyone’s a winner. Next we head over to the can toss, where I successfully knock down all three with my first pitch. I do a little victory dance and Amanda stares and me and giggles. “Lucy, who knew you had it in you!” I laugh too as I watch Amanda imitate my victory dance. The man running the game appears impatient with our antics and hands me a large, stuffed teddy bear before shouting, “Next!” I wonder what I’m supposed to do with it during the party. Maybe it can be my dancing partner. A wave of anxiety hits at the thought of having no one to dance with during the slow songs. At least I’ll have my bear for company.

We move on and I’m engrossed in trying to toss a ring around the neck of a bottle when Amanda claps her hands in delight. “Look over there! Let’s get in line.” I follow her gaze and my heart sinks. It’s a fortune teller station. Reluctantly I stand with her in line. I try to distract her by suggesting we go to the photo booth before it gets crowded. She’s intent on staying put. When it’s our turn I say, “You go ahead. I don’t want to have my fortune read.”

“Why not?” she demands.

“You know I’m superstitious.”

She protests, citing off reasons why I should do it. I look around for a distraction and see a way out. “Isn’t that Jared over there?”

“Where?” she asks, following my gaze. “It’s him,” she squeals. “Do you think he noticed me? I think he looked over here. Yeah, he did. Should I go say hi? Or let him come to me?”

“Let him come to you. You need to play hard to get.” This is coming from someone who is anything but an expert when it comes to dating strategy, or dating for that matter.

“Yo, you’re up!” someone calls out behind us.

Jared makes eye contact with Amanda and walks over. “Lucy, take my turn,” Amanda says as she smooths out her perfect blond strands. The next thing I know Jared puts his arm around Amanda and whisks her away, leaving me standing in front of the fortune teller. I take in her lined face, the gray curls protruding from her colorful head scarf, and the large hoops dangling from her ears. She just looks the part. She’s not a real fortune teller. She even has a name tag that says, “Marci.” What kind of name is that for someone who’s supposed to know the future? And she spells it with an “I,” like it was an attempt to make her name trendier. Doesn’t instill much confidence. Still, I’d love to make a fast getaway, but I don’t want to cause a scene. I’m the kind of girl who likes to blend in.

Marci looks at me with narrowed, brown eyes. “I need something of value.”

She has an accent. Of course she has an accent. It’s probably fake. “I don’t have anything,” I say as I unzip my purse.

“No, no. Not money. Something meaningful to you,” she says as she eyes my necklace.

“Oh,” I say as my fingers fumble with the silver chain around my neck. How did she know? I wear two, actually. One is a butterfly pendant and the other a best friends charm. Fortunately the pendant is tucked beneath my dress, hiding it from view. So she must be talking about the charm necklace.

“Let me see it.”

I hesitate. I never take off the necklace―either of them. Seconds pass and I feel beads of perspiration breaking out on my upper lip. Embarrassed, I put my finger to my lips as though deep in thought, and attempt to nonchalantly swipe the sweat away. “Come on!” a boy groans behind me.

“She’ll be the last one,” Marci says as she passes out a stack of business cards to those remaining in line.

The boy behind me groans again.

With shaking fingers, I sweep aside my jet black hair and undo the silver chain around my neck. Silently I hand it to her. She studies the “St Ends” broken heart locket and places it in her palm. She covers it with her other hand and closes her eyes. I close my eyes as well and try to drown out the scene before me. Instead, I focus on the locket, and Melanie.

Melanie Baxter is my best friend. I met her at overnight camp when I was just ten years old. Looking back I have no clue why my mom sent me because I never asked or expressed any interest. I think it was her attempt at getting me out of my shell. To this day I don’t know why Melanie befriended me. We are complete opposites in every way. She’s outgoing, boisterous, and loves being in the spotlight. Some might call me a wall flower. I prefer to think of myself as an observer. Let’s just say I didn’t expect us to be friends.

We were assigned to the same cabin, but she already knew some of the other girls. I kept to myself at first, until there was an act of what I like to think of as divine intervention on the fourth night. As an evening activity, our counselor, Joanna, asked us to write something nice about each of our cabin mates. She had a cup labeled with each camper’s name, and after we wrote our message we had to drop it in each one. I wondered what people would write about me, the shy girl who didn’t give much away. It wasn’t intentional. I wanted them to see the real me, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I told myself it was just a silly activity, but their opinions mattered to me. I watched as most of the girls scribbled a quick message and then went on to gossip with one another. I took my time. I wanted to think of the perfect thing to say. We then went off to our evening program and I wondered what would become of the messages. I worried they would be forgotten, but before bed Joanna read each one aloud. Many of the notes were superficial and said things like, “so and so is really nice” or “she’s great at braiding” or “I love her clothes.” Except mine. For Victoria I wrote, “Her bursts of laughter are like catching glowing fireflies on a hot, summer night.” And on Paige’s I wrote, “Her smile is inviting, and when it’s directed at you it feels like you’re being wrapped up in a warm blanket.” And on Tina’s I said, “I wish I had an ounce of her bravery.” Then Joanna read the one I wrote for Melanie. “Melanie is like the sun. She shines her radiance on those around her. Always growing, you feel happy in her presence.”

“Glowing,” I corrected Joanna before I could stop myself. “It’s glowing, not growing.” Melanie’s eyes met mine as I said it. She smiled at me and I smiled back. I noticed her listening intently to the rest of the messages, her eyes darting my way each time one of mine was read. “Are you a poet?” she asked me when we went to brush our teeth.

“Me? No. I don’t write poetry, but I love reading it.”

“Oh. I liked what you had to say about everyone.”

I gave her an embarrassed smile as I squeezed out a dab of toothpaste. She kept talking while she was brushing and I had a hard time understanding what she was saying. Toothpaste dribbled down her chin and I attempted to stifle a laugh. Instead of being embarrassed, she made funny faces and put a dab of toothpaste on her nose. I followed suit and pretty soon our faces were covered with dots of toothpaste.

Joanna walked in and said, “What on earth?”

But neither of us could answer. We were both crying tears of laughter.

“You’ll be my bunk mate when we switch next week,” Melanie informed me. I didn’t mind that it wasn’t a question.

The next morning she took a few extra minutes getting dressed before breakfast.

“Mel, you coming?” Paige called.

“Go ahead. I’ll head over with Lucy.”

I tried not to look surprised. She fell in step next to me and I noticed how her strides were in sync with mine. From that day forward it was like that between us. As close as sisters, we had an inseparable bond. At the end of camp I worked up the courage to ask why she chose me. “Because you see people for who they are,” she said. She thought a moment and added, “And you see the good in everyone.”

I didn’t know that to be true, but I was glad she thought so. Back home I’d never had a friend like her, and I was thrilled for our newfound friendship.

The only hitch is that she lives in Illinois and I’m from Virginia. But we make it work and try to see each other at least once or twice a year outside of camp. She surprised me on my thirteenth birthday with the locket. “For the other part of me,” she wrote on the card. She wears the other half: Be Fri. So when you put them together the message reads “Best Friends.” My locket has a picture of her, and hers a picture of me. I’m an only child, but once I met Melanie I not only gained a best friend, but a sister as well.

Marci puts one hand on mine, bringing me back to the present. In her other is the locket. I watch as she strokes her thumb over the engraved letters, her eyes closed in concentration. “You are a perceptive girl,” she says. “Quiet but very loyal. You have many acquaintances but few true friends. You don’t like to let people in.” I relax a little. What she’s saying is true, but it’s nothing about my future. Her observations are only about my present. “You will change your mind about where to go for college.” Uh, oh. I spoke too soon. “You will have much success,” she continues. “A good career. But you must make decisions for yourself. You must stop basing them on what others want.” She opens her eyes for a moment and a look of concern crosses her face. My heart begins to pound in my chest.

“What?” I say.

“N-nothing. That’s it.”

“What else did you see?” I demand.

The DJ announces it’s time to sing “Happy Birthday” and I know our time is done. She hands me back my locket then packs her things away. “It’s not important.”

“Please, just tell me,” I plead. She shakes her head and quickly finishes packing. She walks away, wheeling a small suitcase behind her. My classmates head toward the dance floor. Instead I follow Marci, all the way to the parking lot. She studies me as she closes her trunk. My pale blue-green eyes fill with tears, which I hastily wipe away with my sleeve. She takes both my hands and lets out a sigh.

“You will lose something precious,” she says. I snatch my hands away as though I’ve been burned.

No, no, no. This is why I didn’t want to have my fortune read. Some things are better off not knowing. But then it occurs to me she might be talking about my birth mom. “I’m adopted. Is that what you mean?”

“I’m afraid I’m not talking about the past. But don’t worry,” she tries to reassure me. “It will come back to you in the most unexpected way.”

“What? What will come back to me?”

All of a sudden Amanda reappears at my side. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Greg said he saw you head out this way.” I try to interrupt but she keeps talking. “So Jared officially asked me out. Can you believe it? And he won me this stuffed bear. Hey, it looks just like yours! The merry-go-round was just a display, by the way. We tried to go on it and got yelled at. Can you believe it? Why have it then?”

“Uh, huh. Just give me a sec. I need to find out more about something.”

Panicked, I turn back to where Marci was standing, but she’s gone. Her car is gone too. I want to scream at the unfairness of it all.

Amanda sees my expression. “What did she say?” she prods.

“Nothing important,” I lie. I secure the locket around my neck and check three times to make sure the clasp is tightened.

Amanda peers at me and says, “Don’t worry about what Marci said. She’s just someone they hired for the party. She’s probably like a math teacher, or something.”

“Yeah, like algebra or geometry,” I agree. She links her arm through mine and we head back toward the party.

As I’m lying in bed that night I replay Marci’s premonition. I convince myself she can’t be a real fortune teller and likely teaches math or science, as Amanda suggested. Something logical. I need to forget about what she said. But try as I might, her words are etched into my brain. I already know what it feels like to lose something you never had. Yet I’m still terrified. Of what, I don’t know. But I have a strong feeling that someday I’ll find out. As the poet Jean de La Fontaine once said, “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” It would appear that my destiny is to lose.

 

Press for Progress

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While we were driving home this evening the DJ gave a shout out to “all the women out there” for International Women’s Day. My 7-year old son was in the car and wanted to know if there was a Men’s Day. I told him no and he wanted to know why. I tried to keep it simple and explain that sometimes women are treated differently than men, so it’s a day of celebration in our honor. When we got home I looked up the background, curious to know more. I learned that the first observance, called “National Women’s Day,” took place in the year 1909, though there are some claims that date its origin to 1857. The following year German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual Women’s Day, and delegates agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. Hence began the tradition of coming together on one day to honor women at large.

I found it surprising the holiday dated back that far. I guess I shouldn’t considering the inequities that have plagued women since the early 1900s (and before). It makes me proud they took a stand to fight issues like suffrage and equal rights. But still, I have mixed emotions about this day. On the one hand, I love the idea of celebrating how far we’ve come and the notion of female empowerment. On the other, we still have so much further to go. The whole #metoo movement shines a light on the issues that are prevalent in the workplace and in our society. It’s 2018 and there’s still a gender pay gap, sexual harassment, and violence against women. And I just read findings from the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report claiming that gender parity is over 200 years away. 200 years! How is it possible the gender gap is widening?

It’s very disheartening and my first thought was I hope to see the day when we no longer have IWD. The fact that we need a holiday to celebrate women speaks to the injustice we still face. So by doing away with it means we will have finally achieved equality. But when I really thought about it I decided that isn’t the answer. Not only is it important to celebrate women, but it’s important to remember all those who came before us and all those who continue to fight the battle. From everyday women to the rainmakers, each of us is important and each of us makes a difference.

When I was in junior high we had an off-site workshop that I would equate to today’s social emotional learning curriculum. I remember they kicked it off by having one person clap their hands together. Then the instructor asked someone else to join in, and another person, until the entire room broke out in thunderous applause. The point: the impact was quiet with only individual, but together, the noise was deafening. If we stand together, we can make change.

I recognize it’s an uphill battle, but that doesn’t diminish the progress we’ve made. I always tell my daughter she can be anything she wants to be as long as she works hard. And I believe that to be true. I’d love to see a female president in this lifetime, and I hope we’re not too far off. Oprah 2020? Speaking of strong women, I chose the image of Rosie the Riveter for this post because she is the iconic figure of a strong working woman. She rallied female workers during World War II, and even today she’s still relevant. Did you know the “We Can Do It” poster is one of the ten most-requested images at the National Archives and Records Administration? Perhaps because it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come.

I wanted to end with a quote. The author is unknown but I found the message inspirational.

strong women

Here’s to all the strong women out there!

Oops! Learning from our Mistakes

mistakes

As a parent, I’ll admit that I’m scared of my children making mistakes. Of course there are different levels of mistakes, ranging from minor inconveniences to the catastrophic. So I guess it’s more the catastrophic kinds that I’m referring to. The kinds of events that could jeopardize their future. I have friends in the neighborhood with kids of varying ages. And when I hear about some of the challenges they face as their kids get older, it does nothing to calm my anxiety. I used to think that the older my kids got the easier they’d be. And in some regards that’s true because they are more independent. But on the other hand, bigger kids come with a bigger set of problems.

 

On Friday I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter was playing flag football at recess and wasn’t wearing her gloves. Her hands were swollen with white patches, so she was concerned. I happened to be meeting with the pediatrician that afternoon (a story for another time), so I said I’d pick her up so I could have her hands checked. I was livid that my daughter was playing outside in less than twenty degree weather without wearing her gloves. A nice pair of super warm gloves that I bought at a specialty outdoor retailer for just such weather. I had talked to my daughter before about wearing her gloves. Sometimes when we’re out and about she’ll shove her hands in her pockets. I guess that’s OK for a brief trip into Target, but I’ve told her it’s important to protect her skin in the extreme cold.

 

I picked her up and her hands looked better. They were pink and the blood looked to be flowing. But there was still a purple, swollen patch near her palm that worried me. So I figured as long as I was meeting with the pediatrician, we may as well have it checked. When we got into the car she burst into tears.  She was terrified that she had frostbite. I told her I didn’t think that was the case, but reiterated that’s why she needs to wear her gloves. As it turns out she was fine, but that incident scared her so much that I know I’ll never have to worry about her making the same mistake again.

 

There’s something to be said for allowing our kids to make mistakes. I think often times as parents we try to avoid them experiencing pitfalls or worry about them making errors. At least I do. And I don’t think I’m alone.

I feel like we live in a society where there’s a fear of failure.

But learning from our mistakes is critical to growth. I know I’ve made countless mistakes and each time I think, “I’ll never do that again.” Someone can tell you something countless times, but the lesson carries that much more meaning when you’ve experienced it for yourself.

 

Of course there are situations where it makes sense to avoid these pitfalls. Things that involve physical harm, safety hazards, long-term implications, etc. But I think mistakes can be a powerful learning tool. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time I want to swoop in and “save” the situation. Like with homework. I’m constantly on my daughter about doing it and then putting it in her backpack. But I bet if she forgot to do it once that would be the last time. I’m working on trying to be more hands off. I will embrace the mistakes I make as a parent and do the same for my children. I think it’s critically important for their growth and learning how to manage disappointments and failures. Often times we want to shield them from those things, which is really a disservice.

 

We all make mistakes. The key to growing is how we learn from them.

 

Double Digits & Holding onto Childhood

little

My daughter turned 10 last week. I tried to make it special―after all, it is a milestone.  For starters, it’s double digits. Never again in her lifetime will her age be a single number. It’s also closer to the teenage years. It may seem like she’s far from that because we’ve still got three years to go. But over the past year, she’s been slowly outgrowing her childhood things. Licensed characters are out. When friends come over they make videos or talk behind closed doors. Clothes with sparkles, graphics, or bling of any kind are now in the giveaway pile. Plain is in. The emoji pillows we so painstakingly collected are now dust collectors. We’ve transitioned from Justice to Old Navy leisure wear. To be honest I wasn’t expecting all of this to happen so soon. When I was growing up I played with Barbies until Jr. High. And only then I got rid of them because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to. So I’ve been trying to figure out what’s driving this earlier transition. I think a lot of it has to do with technology. And to that point, all she wants is a phone. But I’m still holding off because I don’t see a need for her to have one of her own just yet.

 

So what to get my tween for her birthday? I decided to let her redo her room, which I had designed when she was just a toddler. I like the idea of allowing her to make it her own and use it as a form of self-expression. Give her some control over something that should be hers. I definitely felt a tinge of sadness as I was packing away her old sheets and comforter. She’s outgrown the cute floral pattern and canvas prints I had searched long and hard for to add the perfect touch of whimsy to a little girl’s room.  Now it’s mint green and simple – I guess you could call it sophisticated. To me it’s a sign of the times: things are changing.

 

My mother-in-law was over for a family party this weekend. She gave me an article from the Chicago Tribune called “Turning 10 and Dreading Growing Up.” She wanted to know if I’d seen it. I said that I hadn’t – I don’t read the paper. But she saved it for me because she thought I could relate. The article is about the angst the writer’s daughter feels about turning 10. The stress that comes with wanting to stay little. The article went on to talk about the pressure tweens face and all the expectations that are piled on them. The pressure to be a great person, look great, and be great at everything. Clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel was called in to comment. She said her patients tell her there are only 2 positions in life: ahead and behind. She went on to quote that “10 is the new 18.”

 

Say what?

I wasn’t super stressed about my daughter turning 10. But now I am after reading the tales of woe about childhood ending and the pressure to be perfect.

So here’s what I’ve decided. A lot of it comes down to parenting. Yes, there are a lot of things that we can’t control. But there are lots of things we can. I’m still embracing my daughter’s childhood. These are fun and innocent years and I want to protect that. She has a lifetime to worry about the world’s problems. But for now, I love that she still believes in the tooth fairy. Hasn’t questioned her existence. Ever. I love that she still wants to hang out with me or hold my hand. We went to Disney this past winter and she still wanted to get the characters’ autographs. She said she didn’t, but once we were there she changed her tune. I’m cognizant of the increasing demands and expectations at school. And while I expect her to rise to the occasion, I’m trying not to put so much pressure on her and let her find her own way. I don’t expect perfection. As long as she tries her best that’s good enough for me. And I’ve shared this message with her, hoping it will sink in.

 

She has her days where she’s moody and wants to be alone. Or doesn’t feel like talking or sharing anything about her day. Except when it’s time for bed, which she keeps pushing later. Is she a tween? More and more each day. But she’s not a teen yet. I disagree that 10 is the new 18. I think 10 is 10. And that’s how it should be.

A Clean Slate

begin

My kids went back to school a few weeks ago. I love this time of year. It feels like a second New Year’s celebration. A fresh start, a renewed sense of optimism, and a chance to do things better. By the end of the summer things got chaotic in my house. The routine was somewhat out the window, the kids were going to bed late, and I was going a bit insane. I feel like that’s what summer’s for (not the insane part!), but it got tough in the end having no down time. In the last few weeks between the end of camp and the start of school, I was trying to plan fun activities to keep everyone entertained. My house become a revolving door of play dates. The kids were bickering constantly. Slime was a go-to activity. The mess! I had to put the kibosh on that. And we often ran for blocks in search of the ice cream truck. My kids have never had better speed or hearing. We could be downstairs in the basement with the door closed and they’d scream for ice cream. Before I could process what happened they were upstairs with their shoes on. You’d think they would be tired with all the running around and fresh air. But as my son said it gave him energy. The ice cream probably helped. He was going to bed late and my daughter was staying up past ten. So the only time I could get things done was after she went to bed. And let me tell you, at that point I was tired. I found myself forgetting to put a wet load of laundry in the dryer, drafting emails that were never sent, and doing work well past eleven. As much as I loved spending quality time with the kids, I felt like the quality I was putting into other things was somewhat lacking.

Slowly we’re adjusting to getting back to the rigor a new school year brings. My daughter is entering fourth grade and my son is in first. So far so good. Granted we’ve yet to have a full week of school. I’ve been getting all of us (myself included) up and out the door earlier. By the end of last year we were cutting it close with morning drop off. Everyone was less motivated to get out of bed. And even on those days it seemed like we were doing OK on time, inevitably we used those “free” minutes doing something else. I was a stress case each morning and vowed no more. So I’m glad for the fresh start. We’re all motivated to adopt good habits, but we’ll see what happens come October.

Just like with New Year’s, I’m trying to hold onto my resolutions.

So now I’ve gone from having no “me” time to lots of it. A good deal of that time will be spent doing work. Did I mention I’ve been freelancing for my former boss? I primarily work from home and a lot of what I’m doing is writing-based, which I obviously love. And it’s a nice work-life balance, which isn’t easy to come by. So I feel lucky and inspired. Which brings me to my next piece of news. I started writing my third novel! I’m hoping to focus on it more in the coming weeks and months as I only have a few chapters started. The story is something I mapped out a long time ago that I’ve been aching to write. It’s all in my head, but the challenge will be getting it down on paper in a way that does it justice. But I’m excited and it feels like the right time. Like with the flip of the calendar, I’m wiping the slate clean and I’m ready to begin. 🙂

Postcards From Camp

agawak

Wow! I can’t believe that I haven’t posted since January. Eek. There isn’t a particular reason for my silence. I’ve just been focused on other things and my writing has fallen to the wayside. I miss it. It felt good to sit back down with my thoughts for company. Like an old friend who you haven’t spoken with in a while, it’s easy to pick right back up where we left off. And I see a lot more writing in my future – of the letter variety. My oldest daughter left for overnight camp last week. She’ll be gone for four long weeks. I know, some of you might be wondering why I’d want her to stay for so long. The answer is I didn’t. But she asked me, actually begged me, to go. I’m not against the idea of overnight camp. I went when I was growing up. My first year didn’t go so well, but after that I switched camps and loved it. I think it’s a great opportunity to instill kids with a sense of confidence and independence. But in my head I thought she’d go when she was ten. So I figured we had another year and another summer together. But when she continued to pursue the subject, I decided that while I might not be ready, she was.

 

So we met with the “camp lady” and she showed us videos of different options. I hadn’t intended to have her decide that way. I envisioned us going on a road trip, driving to the different camps so she could see them live and get a feel for what she liked best. But we missed our window of opportunity, so videos it was. She decided on Agawak in Minocqua, WI. I realize that things don’t always go according to plan, but I was nervous. How could she possibly make a decision from watching a video? I have to trust that she chose something that is the right fit. So I took a leap of faith and now she’s almost five hours away.

 

The goodbye was hard. I didn’t cry, outwardly at least. I put on my brave face and told her how proud I was and wished her an amazing time. Because I am proud. She not only had the courage to leave home for a month, but she went on her own. When she signed up she didn’t know another soul that was going. None of her friends go to overnight camp. That didn’t deter her. She said she’d make new friends. When I went to camp it was with a group of girls from school – I don’t think I’d ever have gone on my own. I think I often take the safe route. And I do have some regrets about it. I don’t know where she gets her courage. She’s this tiny thing with a big heart and a daredevil spirit. But I’m glad that it’s a part of who she is and that she was ready to take on this adventure.

 

She’s been gone a week and I have yet to receive a letter. The camp posts pictures and blog updates, so I have some exposure to what’s been happening. But I have so many questions and not being able to get answers is unnerving. When I was driving earlier I heard the song “I Hope You’ll Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. It hasn’t been on in ages, but I took it as a good sign because I love its message.

 

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance

 

Maddie, I’m so glad you decided to dance.

 

As for me, I promise not to wait so long between posts next time. Until we meet again.

Life is for Living

For Sam & Michael

make-the-days-count

I’m gonna put it out there: I’m not optimistic about 2017. I’m usually not a pessimist, but things haven’t gotten off to a great start. And we’re only three days in. I woke up on New Year’s Day terribly sick and couldn’t get out of bed all day. I know what you’re thinking. And no, it wasn’t the wine. I had some sort of weird 24-hour flu bug. That was no way to ring in the new year and I hoped it wasn’t representative of what lies ahead. But I shook it off because I love starting fresh with the flip of the calendar. Everything feels optimistic and new. Then I got a call yesterday that changed everything.

 

My uncle was doing some shopping and suddenly collapsed. He had a massive heart attack and they couldn’t revive him. He was simply opening a door, which turned out to be a gateway to the other side. I’m still reeling from the news. I just can’t shake the overwhelming feeling of sadness at the tragedy of it. My uncle was a good man. I haven’t seen him in a long time—he got divorced from my aunt a number of years ago and remarried. But when I was younger our families were together all the time. My first cousin (his daughter) is the same age as me. We were as thick as thieves growing up and spent countless holidays and everything in-between together. Our kids are now the exact same ages—we both had girls first followed by boys—and our daughters even have the same name. It was by pure coincidence. Maybe some of that togetherness rubbed off. Anyway, I keep thinking about how my cousin lost her dad and her kids lost their grandfather. Out of the blue, with no chance to say goodbye. It makes me so angry, especially when I think about all of the evil people in this world who get to live another day. It’s not fair.

 

I know this is life but sometimes it really sucks. I don’t know what to say to her because words can never fill the void in her heart. I’m sorry isn’t enough. Because from this day forward her life is forever changed and she will always feel his absence in moments big and small. I know with time the pain will dull, but it will always be there. Even now that I have my own family I still rely on my parents. I don’t know if there ever comes an age where you don’t need them. My husband lost his mom when he was in college. And even all these years later we still feel the loss in moments she can’t share. I have close friends and neighbors who lost their parents. All taken far too early. It scares the hell out of me that things can change in an instant.

 

I usually have a point when writing these posts, but I didn’t start out with a goal in mind. I’m heart-broken about it and I guess writing is my catharsis. If I had to make one it’s that I’ve become complacent about the preciousness of life. And I know all too well from experience that it should never be taken for granted. But I get caught up in the daily grind and sometimes forget. Then the unexpected happens and it reminds me that life is short. It’s also exhilarating and mysterious with endless possibilities. Sometimes I get stuck counting down the days until this, that and the other that they pass me by. But life is for living and it’s so important to make each day count. That is how we can honor their memories. So I guess my outlook for 2017 is to enjoy it to the fullest.