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.

 

A Cinderella Mother’s Day, Thanks to Amazon – Part One

MD3A text message streams across my phone like a messenger pigeon landing on my window sill, a prelude to an invitation.

“Sending you an email now with an exciting opportunity. Check it out and let me know.”

I know the sender. He is unlike the weatherman, because he always brings news of blue skies.

The subject of the email is, “Field Trip to NYC,” but I live in New York (Long Island, technically,) so my first reaction is confusion.

The email opens with, “You have been invited…” and it may as well have continued, “To The Royal Ball,” because who doesn’t like to be invited?

Amazon is celebrating 20 years as an IPO, and this Monday, the day after Mother’s Day, the CFO is ringing the Opening Bell on Nasdaq. About 40 people who work with Amazon will join in the festivities. My name made the list.

But it gets better.MD4 (1)

The next email arrives about a week ago, asking if I’m able to arrive timely on Monday morning. I reply with, “What time do I need to be there? There’s a LIRR train not too far from me I can catch. Once I know the time everything starts up, I can decide if there’s an early enough train.”

The response is a cc to a lovely lady named Nikki, telling her that, “Raj is a fantastic author who our team has worked with in the past… She needs a hotel room for Sunday night, please.” Hotel room? In the city? I mean, I won’t say no.

So Nikki graciously makes me a reservation at the Knickerbocker in Times Square.

But wait. Wait. It gets better.MD2

“Do you need ground transport to and from the hotel?”

I’m easy. I’ve been a New Yorker for close to two decades and very comfortable with the LIRR, the Subway, cabbing it. I might not have every inside scoop that true New Yorkers have but I can manage. I say so.

But the response is, “We’ll get you car service for both directions. No problem.” Uh. Okay. That’s thoughtful.

But wait. Wait. Wait. It just keeps getting better.

I run into my first scheduling conflict when I realize that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I can’t just up and leave my kids on Mother’s Day of all days. I email Nikki and tell her a few different ideas I have, making sure that my goal for Sunday is to maximize my day with my family, feeling guilty for even asking if my kids come to the city with me. I was already so grateful for all the accommodations. Worse case scenario, hubby could drive the family in or I would head the city later on Sunday night. The response is, “Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Come Monday morning, the plan develops further, with requests for what time to pick up the whole family in a car. What time to drop off the family on Sunday night? And did we want car service to a restaurant in the city as well?

Too much! Too much! But so, so thankful. Overwhelmed with gratitude, because all the gifts—the invitation, the hotel, the car service, including my family—all good things. But the real treat is having my four girls with me to experience this special time with them. For them to know that a woman can be more than just a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. A woman can move mountains with her dreams, and the topography is shifting, little by little. “Like a Girl” is the new Strong, and Brave, and Talented!

I also love that I get to celebrate this time with my biggest cheerleader—my husband. Sun has been telling every neighbor, co-worker, and person at the grocery store, “Hey, you know what? My wife! She’s gonna ring the bell on Wall Street.” Okay. Not quite. But he makes me laugh. And his confidence fills the gap when I doubt myself and worry if I have what it takes to make it as an author. He along with a constant supply of God’s grace, that is.

MD1So this Mother’s Day, we’re headed to the city. We’re going to pick up some take-out, play cards, and jump on the hotel bed. Well, my nine-year old might test it out for potential sleep satisfaction, of course. And if the rain holds up, we’ll venture out to the rooftop and take a peek at the city all lit up at night. The city that never sleeps never ceases to delight, even after all these years. And maybe we’ll sing the words while dancing to Alicia Keys,

“There’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big Lights will inspire you. Hear it from New York. New York. New York!”

If I could ring a bell for all the women who have encouraged me along the way, I’d ring it nice and loud for my mother, my second mom, my sister, my grandmothers, and all the female friends who have walked this road of life with me. I love you all. Hope your weekends are filled with grace (and chocolate!) as you make memories with your loved ones.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, All! <3

It’s Rather Simple Really: A Nomi Network Post

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Happy Monday Morning, everyone. I know many of you have been losing sleep over the cut on my knee from the other day, just dying to know what happened? Well the wait is over! Read the deets over at Nomi Network and be prepared to take another walk around the block of my u-turn directional life. I don’t know about you, but when life keeps U-turning me to the same message, something tells me I need to wake up and pay attention. Just sayin…

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And in other news…

More about Nomi Network!

A MegaGiveaway that is still Brewing!

Swimming Through Clouds still the best deal in town for only $2.99 at Amazon!

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Someone, anyone, wanna come over and rake some leaves with me? Leaf Pile pics are calling my name. It’s that time of year when I need to decide just how criminal I’m gonna get in the name of tradition. :)

Just Five Minutes

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This is Love.

To tell you the truth, it takes  a lot longer than FIVE minutes to type up an itty-bitty blog on my iPhone. Although, I haven’t tried to dictate the words to Siri, who still thinks “Raj” is “Rise” so I’m not holding my breath on that option.

Anyway, I write my first-five minute blog yesterday on the LIRR, heading to Manhattan, and Hubs sits next to me, amused. At first. After six. Then ten. Then twenty minutes of fixing all the words Auto-correct thinks I meant to say, I round out the five sentence story and hit SEND. Off to impress the socks off readers everywhere, because who doesn’t have five minutes to spare?

I promise to tell you all the details of our ultra-fun, topsy-turvy, full of “No way!… WAY!”-moments date, but first: The value of five minutes as I’ve experienced this past week, leading up to yesterday.

This past Tuesday, I make plans to attend a book reading of Ashok Rajamani, the author of the memoir “The Day My Brain Exploded” at a Barnes and Noble in the city. But I haven’t been to a bookstore in a while, so I decide to arrive plenty early to read and research popular Young Adult novels currently circulating the hands of teens. The train two minutes from my house, according to the LIRR website, leaves at 12:35PM. I leave my house at 12:27PM. Sure. I probably didn’t need to zap my coffee those last 30 seconds. But what can I say, sometimes a girl just has to have her coffee. Warm. Continue reading

Shattered Glass Vase… An Easter-ish Story

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[A contemplative EASTER piece of sorts]

This is what I want to say to you, If I had one chance to tell you something…You are loved, more that you can imagine.” Rebecca St. James,

I got a paper cut the other day, and that little stinker just stung right up into my brain. Every time that part of my finger rubbed across anything for a day or so, I was paralyzed with pain. When the scab finally showed up, my other fingers would carefully but confidently stroke over it, remembering how it happened, and at least for a few days, slowing down before grabbing another sheet of computer paper.
Then the day came when I wanted to save a dish. Do you ever do that? How rational is it to think keeping that one dirty dish out of the sink is really going to make your life a bazillion times less busy.
Well, I chose the cutting board that night as my choice for, “You will remain standing clean and pristine against the wall” and ventured to cut up the salad in my hand.

I must have been distracted, and the next thing I knew, the tomato in my hand was sliced along with the palm it was in. Ouch! Continue reading

He loves me, He loves me, He loves me…

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You could say I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. As a little brown girl growing up in a sea of white chocolate [cuz let’s be honest, we’re all at least part chocolate on the inside…unless of course you’re allergic,] I loved Valentine’s Day until the teacher no longer made it mandatory to give everyone in the class a card. That’s when I became acutely aware that I did not look like Barbie in any way, shape, or form.

“The Other Night”

 

FreeStockImages.com

FreeStockImages.com 

Today’s post is found on MidLife Collage. My short vignette is in this week’s contest and you could pop over there, leave a comment, and hit the FB like option to help me win $100 shmacks! With that kind of cashflow, I might just have to buy hubby some roses! :) And just think, you might have missed voting for American Idol, but you can still vote for me! :)

And before you read it, I want you to know that I really thought about this story before I put it out there. During this season of Valentine’s, when all you hear and see are kisses and cuddles, roses and chocolate, life still happens. Lovers fight. Marriage is not easy. And relationships are perhaps more challenging than ever if they want to thrive.

The actual event the story describes happened a year ago. So for the record, we are so over it. And chances are, hubs might not even remember it. Wish I could say it was the first and last bad fight we ever had, but then my love story would be a fairy tale. And truth be told, it’s so much better than any fairy tale I’ve ever read. Simply because tested love produces real love. And I prefer the real deal over the fluff stuff any day. And every day.

Happy reading and huge cyber hugs for voting for me!! :)

 

What’s Your Dream?

stock free images

stock free images

Sarah: “You know Mom, everyone has their own dream! I don’t have to be writer.”

Me: “Okay. What’s your dream?”

Sarah: “I want to be a candy shop.”

Me: “You mean a candy shop owner?”

Sarah: “Yeah. A candy shop owner.”

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I don’t think I ever told my five-year old that she HAD to be a writer. I might have told her she has a fun imagination, an ingredient that makes great writers. And passion. My five-year old is all kinds of passion. Especially about candy!  Continue reading

Beware the Question, “Any Questions?”

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

I’m starting to think meaningful story times with the girls is one of Hubby’s new year’s resolutions. He’s been reading more to them. Which to me reminds me of my teaching days when I had the kids make reading circles and discuss a chapter from a novel. Fun to the fun for this writer/reader lover. I just don’t know that Hubs planned for the interesting insights and discussions that have risen from our first two couch times. But then again, when you have a room full of tweeny-bopper girls and you throw in a precocious five-year old, you have to sort of expect the unexpected.I invite you to be a fly on the wall of our living room Christmas morning [Think good-looking, non-bugging type of fly…and read on.] :)

Hubs: “So we’re going to read a little of the Christmas story before we open presents.”

Three older girls: “Okay Daddy.”

Sarah *the five-year old: “But, but, but… okay.”

Hubs reads the first few lines of Mary’s story from the book of Luke, when an angel comes to her and tells her she’s having a baby. And Joseph takes her to Bethlehem and there was no room in the Inn. Most of you have heard this classic take of the birth of Jesus, so I won’t rehash all the details.

Then Hubs says, “Do any of you have any questions?”

Third Princess: “I just have one: What does the word, ‘union’ mean Daddy, because you read a part that said, ‘Joseph did not have union with Mary,’ or something like that.”

Hubs and I exchange glances. Neither of us expected Christmas morn to turn into a birds and bees conversation. Whatcha gonna do? Continue reading

The Hobbit… Reflections on Sandy Hook

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

Went to see The Hobbit last night. Incredible book. Amazing movie. To be expected. From the music to the cinematography to the dialogue, Peter Jackson and his entire crew truly delivered. And to be honest, it was nice to leave the world. For a brief three hours.

One of my favorite movie quotes was one Hubs and I spoke about on the walk back to the car through the parking lot.

Bilbo Baggins: I have… I have never used a sword in my life.

Gandalf: And I hope you never have to. But if you do, remember this: true courage is about not knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.

Because like so many of us around the globe, since Friday morning’s tragedy of the slaughter of innocent children and teachers, I’ve had a really difficult time knowing how to process and how to move forward. I can’t even imagine how a parent of any of the twenty children is dealing right now. Continue reading