A Cinderella Mother’s Day Thanks to Amazon! Part Two

IMG_7751A91I5364Mother’s Day starts with a homemade pumpkin waffle, a little basil sausage, and some slightly crunchy eggs. The girls even whip up a cream cheese topping, but I can’t lie. I’m looking forward to the day when one of them learns to work the cappuccino machine. A lady needs her latte.

 

The car arrives at 2:30PM on the dot, and hubby miraculously makes it home in time with flowers and snacks for the road. And with the two plus hour commute into the city, the Pringles and lemonade serve as a welcomed treat. But nothing makes a drive like the song on the radio. So minutes after getting on the highway (how did I wait that long?) this mother of a music-loving family shamelessly asks our driver, Dio, “How’s the sound system in here?”IMG_1274

 

A91I5612He smiles in the rearview mirror and asks, “What kind of music do you like?” thus filling the air with tunes to keep us company. Best part is when Sun plays Hamilton through the stereo and the girls sing every word just as we pass the big Hamilton Billboards before entering the Midtown Tunnel.

 

The hotel drop off meets us with an afternoon shower, but a little rain cannot dampen our excitement. The moment we enter my complimentary upgraded room at the Knickerbocker (Thank you, Amazon!) who would be the first to fall back on the bed like they do in the movies? The husband. I want to take pictures of every second and every detail, but I stop myself and just enjoy the moment. Many moments.

 

FullSizeRender (2)Like when the girls play with the remote to control the window shades or when the three out of four of my girls snuggle under the king-sized bed covers just to “test them out.” Or when my oldest takes the other three on a field trip to the rooftop only to discover the New Year’s Eve Ball! “Mom, it was across from us. So close. It was right there!”

 

IMG_7724After some scrumptious takeout from Carmines, the girls and hubby and I exchange hugs and kisses before the car picks up and drives the family back to Long Island (Thank you, Dio!) and I am on my own. Nothing like a big comfy bed to cozy into with a box of strawberries and a good story. On screen this time. After watching two episodes of Prison Break, I force myself to turn it off so I won’t end up that girl who slept through her alarm clock and arrived at Nasdaq with her dress on backwards.

 

FullSizeRender (7)And truth be told. I don’t sleep well at all. Maybe it’s the temperature. So I turn it down. Maybe it’s the lights. I cover every last tiny light in the room. Maybe it’s just me. Worried I’ll be that girl who slept through her alarm clock and arrived at Nasdaq with her dress on backwards. It is 2:30AM and there is only one thing I can do about that. Get a jump-start on getting ready for the morning. Yep. I take a long shower, blow out my hair, and if the clock didn’t read 3:30 in the morning, I might have started to do my make-up. I make a second attempt to sleep and I must have because when Tracey Chapman’s voice streams into my dreams, I have no choice. It is go time else risk becoming that girl who slept through her alarm clock…Not going to risk it.

 

FullSizeRender (3)Up and on to the first battle at hand. My hair. Curling irons on, I alternate straightening my unruly waves with pressing cans of ice cold coke under my eyes (a little trick I learned from the Wolverine’s Instagram once right before he had to host an award show.) Hair on fleek, creamed up feet, and dressed now, I dab on a touch of eye liner and mascara, and move to put on the finishing touch. Something I do often when I have a big moment but can’t take my kids and hubby with me is I take a piece of them with me. Today was one of those days, so I latch on earrings from my third daughter, a necklace from my second-born, a charm from my nine-year old, and an anklet from my first girl. I finish with a silver bracelet hubby gave me for our tenth anniversary. After washing down a couple of strawberries with a swig of water, I grab my clutch, and head down to the lobby ten minutes early with one mission. Find coffee.

 

FullSizeRender (5)Latte in hand, I meet three of the VIP’s with Ty Rogers (the Amazon guy who helped make all this happen,) and we are off the Nasdaq headquarters—a hop, skip, and jump through Times Square, clear security, and head up the elevator to a lovely-scented, warm breakfast, and yes. More coffee. But I can’t eat. I don’t want to chance spilling food on my dress or having to run to the girl’s room in the middle of pictures. Hey, welcome to the forties. But most of all, I know there will be pictures, and pepper teeth is not going to my nickname this day.

 

Shortly after, the woman in charge of directing the morning invites five of us along with Brian Olsavsky, Amazon CFO, to a conference room to quickly rehearse. I only have one question when she asks. “Is it okay to shout out a ‘Woooo!’” She enthusiastically says, “Yes! The more woo-hoos, the better!”

 

A91I5316Next there are pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. And I am always directed to stand to the right of the CFO. And when the speaking starts, Brian shares a little about each of us five, giving a generous shout out to my books and to the sisters who asked me to “Please keep writing” in a letter I carry around in my purse.

 

I have three jobs. 1. Stand and smile. 2. Cheer loudly and clap when Brian is about to ring the Opening Bell. And 3. Do not cry.

 

IMG_7731Thankful I speak with the other woman VIP right before we walked up to the podium about what to do with my hands. “Keep them by your side she said, that way you won’t fidget with your hands.” It works. And I smile a lot. Shout out plenty of hoots and hollers, even though I’m pretty sure the SmugMug guy next to me out-cheered me. And believe it or not, I manage to keep my emotions in check.

 

FullSizeRender (9)Then the Nasdaq woman in charge directs all the other forty or so Amazonians to stand behind us and of course, more pics. Lots and lots of photos. And if you can’t tell on TV, there’s no literal Bell that’s rung. It’s a digital bell that gets tapped by Brian after a ten-second countdown followed by more cheering. And that is it. Well, almost.
We follow the camera crew down into Times Square and crossed the street so the huge Nasdaq jumbo screen stands behind us. Then comes… you guessed it. More pictures. Lots of shots. Some with the five VIPs and Brian. Some individual shots. And some large group shots. They even do a surprise birthday shout out! And then we all turn and look at the jumbo screen and to everyone’s delight, the very pictures they just took flash on the jumbo screen.

 

A91I5579There I am. In the middle of Times Square. Looking at myself on the jumbo screen in Times Square! I’m still in shock that it even happened. And then it’s over. Well, pretty much.

 

But some of us return upstairs to pick up some fun goodies, like t-shirts, jackets, 20th Anniversary cookies, and for me… breakfast. Bacon never tasted so good. And I have to admit. I have another cup of coffee.

 

A91I5383And the part that I’m about to share might not make sense to some of you, but that’s okay. Everyone has a story. This is mine. And I want to tell the whole story, not leave anything out, because many years from now, when I’m long gone, like all of us, I will be remembered for something. And even though my childhood dream was to be an author, being acknowledged by Amazon at the Opening Bell of Nasdaq is an outstanding honor, and a fun-filled night in New York City is an absolute treat… these are not the things I want to be remembered for.

This is.

When we first arrived in the city, after exploring the hotel room, we ventured two blocks over through Times Square to Hillsong. And for my music-loving family, attending a service at the Playstation Theater is like going to a concert. But not one we just listen to, but one that we actively participate in. Because as I stood there under chandeliers staring down the row at my four girls, some with their hands raised, but all of them singing…I couldn’t help but get choked up. There were a million and one “fun” things to do in the city that never sleeps, and they chose to be here. They wanted to be here. Because life moves fast. Busy is everyone’s pace. But here… here was a chance to hit pause. And acknowledge why we breathe. How we breathe. The giver of every breath. Yes, God. And to thank him for his love. For his gift of forgiveness through his son, Jesus. And for his daily grace that sustains us through the madness of it all. This is what it’s all about for my girls, their dad, and me.

 

And all I could do was close my eyes and whisper the words, “Thank you.”

 

Thank you IMG_1301for meeting my girls. For showing them you’re real. More real than any and all the material blessings they do and will ever experience. Thank you for filling a place in their hearts that nothing or no one else can. And thank you for, in the words of my mother, “Keeping their feet on the ground and their heads held high.” This – loving my family and loving God – is what I want to be remembered for.

 

Well, I check out of my hotel at noon as planned after lots of thank you’s and a few hugs, Dio loads my luggage, and we’re off. He tells me all about the drive home the night before with my family. Apparently they were wiped out, and the car got really quiet when he rolled up to the house.

 

IMG_7767And when I arrive home, my bed is calling, but that isn’t an option quite yet. Not yet. I start dinner. Two need to be picked up from track. Another needs her hair done for the Spring Concert. And one needs a hug and reminding that she will get through this season of tests. Life stops for no one.

 

When my head hits the pillow, all I can think is Wow! A Mother’s Day full of bells and whistles. A weekend to remember. And a moment to reflect on what I want to be remembered for. Thank you.

 

R.I.P. Nelson Mandela – My Hero

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I first learned about the atrocities of Apartheid when I was in sixth grade. Many moons ago. But I remember the awakening as one that cost me many nights of sleep. I struggled with how at a time in history after so many racist episodes like Hitler’s Nazi Germany or American Slavery had been long abolished, Apartheid could exist. And persist.

As a young person, I felt helpless to know how to change the world, but I began by educating myself. Finding all the resources available at the library (life before Google,) I devoured all the books, memoirs, novels, and movies on the topic of South Africa. Two will always stay with me: Sarafina that starred Whoopi Goldberg as a South African teacher and a Barbara Walters’ 20/20 special interviewing white and black Afrikander children. The latter blew me away as these young white kids spoke about their black neighbors as if they weren’t even human. Simply put, Mandela coined the truth when he said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin… People must learn to hate.”

As a high school peace-junkie of sorts, I marched against Apartheid, wrote letters to the newspapers, and penned the words, “Free South Africa” on my jean cut-offs. And I recall like it was yesterday the time when a fellow student jeered at the words on my shorts, asking, “Free them from what?” and then laughing because he never wanted to know the answer. He just wanted to poke fun and embarrass me.

I didn’t respond. Not verbally anyway.

Mandela and his choice to stay in prison even when he could have complied with the government moved me more than any modern-day act of peaceful rebellion. Because his freedom meant little if his people were still mistreated and imprisoned by a system that denied basic human rights.

One of the highlights of my short life thus far happened shortly after the news of Mandela’s release from prison. With my dad and best friend, we attended Mandela’s speaking event at Tiger Stadium, and I cried the moment he emerged from the curtains and took the podium. Before he spoke a word, I cried like a baby, because he symbolized something far greater by being there than even his words could say.

He was walking freedom. A million prayers answered. And hope alive.

President Obama said it well when he described Nelson Mandela as a man who showed what a life led by hope instead of fear can look like. Mr. Mandela, your life lived for others and your quest to not give up will stay with me forever. Rest in Peace, man of peace.

You are loved. You will be missed.

May the lessons you taught—with your words and your life—live on.

I Might Not be Miss America, But…

 

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The Lovely Tosca Lee!

Almost a week ago, I nearly chip my bubblegum pink nail polish as I fiddle with my nails on the drive to the airport. Nothing like battling NYC traffic on the LIE while running late to a flight to get your fingers a’biting and knees a’shaking. Hug and two smooches later, Hubby drives off and I’m asking Airport security if I can be escorted to the front of the line. My plane takes off in half an hour.

“Do you have Special Business Class Priority Check-in Status?” The lady in uniform asks me something like that.

“Umm. No.”

“You have plenty of time,” she says. Meaning, get in line with the rest of the world and wait it out.

Flip-flops slipped on, jacket tucked under suitcase handle, laptop on my shoulder, I race down Terminal D to find the Delta flight to Indianapolis leaving in now fifteen minutes. Except that I read the screen wrong. Not arriving flights! Departing! Backtrack to the fork and now I’m jogging with luggage in tow down Terminal C. And it would have to be C29, the furthest possible gate from where I was on take one.

And then it happens. Continue reading

A Not so Ordinary Interview of author Melissa Tagg

New_Made to Last2You know that moment when the Hollywood hottie in the long evening gown gets to introduce the nominees of the next Grammy? Well, this is that moment, minus the long dress (wearing sweats right now) and the lady you’re about to meet is more fun than a night at the Grammy’s any day. Seriously love this chica and excited for her writer journey to take off. Her debut book, Made To Last, is available now for your reading pleasure.  So… without further delay, please pull up a chair, read on, and get to know the lovely Melissa Tagg.

 

Raj: When you were six months old, [think hard, the memories are there somewhere,] did you find a nut and then attach it to a bolt, and think right there on the spot, one day, I will write a book that involves tools? Kidding. But as a kid, did you mess with your dad’s toolbox, help him change the oil on the car? Did you have brothers or a boyfriend that sparked the whole Home Depot play in Made to Last? In essence, what inspired the setting or set in your case of the story?

Melissa: Haha, umm…here’s the thing: Continue reading

Landing the Plane – A 9.11 Post

Photo Credit: Chris Bopp of Bopp Shots

Photo Credit: Chris Bopp of Bopp Shots

So I have this pilot friend. Who chooses to remain anonymous. So for the sake of the story, let’s call him “Bill.”

I met Bill on the flight back from Alaska, on our ten year anniversary. Hubs fell asleep before the plane took off, and I can never sleep on planes. Bill sat across the aisle, sporting his Pilot uniform and American Airlines pin. So I couldn’t help but introduce myself. And get the inside scoop on all things Blue Skies.

“So they say planes are super safe. Safer than driving. Is it true?”

“Oh for sure. The safest you are is in the air.” Bill was happy to engage this curious insomniac. “Then when you land, and cab it down the LIE in Queens, that’s the more dangerous than playing outside during a lightning storm.”

“Really? By the way, hi, my name’s Rajdeep. But you can call me Raj.” Because I hate having long and meaningful conversations with people and tagging the “Bye, I’ll never see you again. Oh and by the way, my name is…” on the end.

“Bill. You can call me, umm, Bill, for short.” Continue reading

Chicago: Farewell and Hello…

photo-10End of the fourth quarter. Twenty-six point four seconds on the clock. Heat up by three and Bulls are about to inbound the ball. Chicago has no more time-outs.

Robinson brought it up. Held my breath as Nate took his first three-point shot. Rims out. Booz got the rebound. Passed to Rip. To Noah. Back to Rip. RIp to Nate, who passed out to Butler. No one’s covering Butler! Clock winding down to 5, 4, 3… Shoy. Misses. Zero. Game over.

And so is the Bulls’ 2012-2013 Season. Sigh. Continue reading

Chatting with YA Author Laura Smith Today!

 

 

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Wanted to introduce you to another Playlist Fiction teammate of mine. The other Laura! :) Laura Smith is a natural-born leader. You can tell the moment you meet her that she loves life and she’s a take charge type of gal. We are both raising four kiddos. and we both love teen girls and long to tell them the truth—You’re beautiful. You’re loved. And You are so worth loving! 

 

In Laura Smith’s Status Update Series, she introduces readers to four college girls who are off to find their place in this world, define themselves, and navigate through life’s nitty and gritty. That space between teen and almost adult is a time when so many defining moments can and often happen in a girl’s life. Find out more about Laura and the heart behind her stories in this fun little interview below!!

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Raj: Laura Smith, when did you know you wanted to write for teen girls? Do you ever think, “I wish someone had told me this when I was teen” when you craft your stories?  Continue reading

A Rose By Any Other Name…

flowerwordsWhat’s in a name? Really? Why is a person’s name so important?

Shakespeare addressed this ageless question in the infamous play, Romeo and Juliet. He answered with, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But come on, with names like Romeo and Juliet, they were destined for a million versions of their story told and retold for centuries to come. The names bleed romance and unrequited love. Wouldn’t you say?

So, yes, a name is just a name, but when writers rack their brains for perfect names for their characters, it’s not too different from the grueling task of naming one’s children. Seriously. I often thought to myself, if I choose the wrong name, this character will be stuck with the destiny of waking up with bad name day—a much worse condition that bad hair. Continue reading

The Score Matters but…

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Been holding off on writing about basketball with the hopes that my last line would be: “And the Bulls beat the Nets in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in five games!” Didn’t happen. “In Six Games!” So close… Bulls lost by three. Saturday is Game Seven. Hoping the exhausted Bulls can fuel up and get back in the game and close up this extremely well-played series!


Thought hard about why I wanted to wait for a win before I wrote it down. I guess as much as I plug the journey, the climb, the processes in life, I can’t help, like many of us, to notice the score. At the end of a game.


The Glen Cove Hospital puts together an employee team for an annual basketball game against the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls’ Club Staff. I don’t technically work for the hospital, but I get to jump in for a few minutes here and there as the “girl” on the team. This marks the tenth year, I believe, we’ve played each other and right now, the Hospital team has only won twice. One year, the Hospital beat the club with a buzzer beater shot from the half, pushing us just one point ahead.


The following year, after three over times, the Club came back to settle the score and beat the Docs and company. Two years ago, we (the medical peeps) got an on-court whoopin’! We came to play, but the Club showed up. And showed us they weren’t afraid to rock it out to keep their title.

And last year, it got brutal, but the Club took the win. In the final quarter, a scuffle for the ball under the basket lead to an elbow to the face of Marc Bilbry, the Associate Director of the club. There was blood. On the court. And Marc headed to the hospital for stitches. Of course the joke in the stands was, “Is there a doctor in the house?” Well, sure, but no one carries a doctor kit around anymore. I think. Continue reading

If You could “Revise” your Life, Would You?

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Stephanie Morrill, Creator of GoTeenWriters, wrote a new book. Within a book. Sort of. Think Inception with a YA twist, but no one wakes up tied to a chair or sitting at a desk spinning a top. But her main character, Ellie Sweet, is a writer. And Ellie takes her “real” world and rewrites it into a fictional piece full of Lady’s, Princes, catty dames, sword duels and the whole nine yards. The people in her life, high schoolers in and out of her circle of friends, become fodder for her characters and scenes.

But the funny thing is her Prince Charming changes names. Because just when she thought she knew who she was falling in love with, at her high school, she finds herself drawn to another Prince, the kind whose crown isn’t apparent to the naked eye.

The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is not your typical YA Read but I simply loved it. And I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you this: For a writer/reader who tends to choose sides (Team Edward, Team Gale, and Team Sawyer *from Lost) within the first few encounters of a story, I can say that this is the first time I didn’t choose. Because I couldn’t. Until right near the end of the book. I totally fell in love. Twice! I guess there’s always a first time for everything.

Stephanie Morrill Low ResMorrill’s fun YARead is available to DOWNLOAD Tomorrow at www.playlistfiction.com – a clickity click away! And you can always peruse the first pages on Amazon to get a taste test! Reviews are up too if you’re interested. Excited for you all to meet Ellie. She’s Sweet, in the most wonderful way! :)

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Have you read anything good lately, Young Adult-Fictionally speaking? Do Share! Have you checked out the other selections at Playlist Fiction? The library is a’ growin! :)