This week’s installment- Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Monday rolled around after a quiet Sunday at the store and it started the same: a run, coffee, shower and off to the store. Today’s look was a little more to Christina’s liking- I put my long deep brown hair in a bun, threw on some mascara and lip gloss and my go to outfit which consists of a pair of dark wash denim trousers, a silky blouse, a cardigan, and a pair of flats. It was going to be a typical Monday.

When I got to the store, I went straight to my office to check my email. 100 of them today. I read through more suggested specials for the Black Friday. There there was one from a guy named Cooper O’Neal from my biggest supplier, Fox and Hound Publishing House. He was the new sales rep for the area and he wanted to try and schedule time to come and meet me and show me some new titles. This was strange because I don’t usually deal with the sales rep, I simply order from their online listing if I want anything new and they auto ship anything else. Even though I don’t really want to make time for this, I now how this works. If he’s anything like a typical salesman he’s going to bug me until I agree to meet, so I guess I will try and make the appointment.

Mr. O’Neal,

Thank you so much for reaching out. I am excited to see the new titles that you have to show me. I am always looking to widen the selection of titles and authors available to my customers. Feel free to stop by anytime on Tuesday or Thursday. I am here all day.

I hit send and went back to  checking the rest of my emails. As I got ready to log off of my computer, I got a response from Cooper.

Ms. Richardson,

I look forward to meeting you this Tuesday at 10 am. I will bring some samples of new books that I think you will enjoy for your customers. Does that time work for you?

Man that was a fast response, I thought. He must have been sitting around just waiting for me to set up the time to come out to the store. I quickly typed up a response so that I could move on with my day.

Mr. O’Neal,

That would be fine. I have put the time you will be coming by the store into my calendar. I look forward to meeting you as well.

Now I can get to the floor. I love interacting with my regular customers. The age of the customers shifts as the day goes on. Early in the day I get to see the coffee and newspaper crew. I call them the newspaper crew, but really they are all of the retired folks that come to socialize over coffee or tea. Mr. Brown is a widower and he is one of my favorites. He makes it to the store from the retirement home by taking the bus since he isn’t allowed to drive anymore. He likes to tell me the story about how he and his wife met and how their relationship survived his deployment to Europe during World War II. It was such an amazing love story that was typical of the time- they met and fell in love and he shipped out a week later to storm the beach in Normandy. By the grace of God he survived the beach unharmed and they wrote letters to each other everyday about their plans for the future and how they couldn’t wait to see each other and start their life together. Whenever he talk about his wife, he lights up and I think about how much I wish I could have that kind of a connection with someone, even half of that type of a connection. It’s the type of connection that no matter how much time passes we always just get each other and are there for each other until the absolute end. I thought I had that with Trent. Well, at least it was like that on my side of the relationship. Usually after Mr. Brown tells me about his wife he talks about his rambunctious great-grandsons. Even though I have heard his story a million times, it’s still one of my favorite ways to start the day.  Coffee and a story of true love.

Around 11:00 on Mondays I have story time with a puppet show for the little kids in the area. They are my absolute favorite. I had actually considered becoming a preschool teacher before I decided to go into the book business. I usually pick a story linked to the season or holiday of the month. We sing songs and dance. Today’s story and puppet show are about apples and the change of the leaves for fall. I even went out to the craft store and bought a bag of leaves to have the kids toss up in the air in a fun version of  “Ring around the Rosie.” For this edition of story time, I like to pull out the big parachute to put the leaves on so that it’s easy for the kids to toss the leaves up really high. This is how it works. I dump the bag of leaves into the middle of the parachute then the kids grab one of the rings around the outside of the chute. The walk around in a circle and when the song is over, they throw their hands up in the air and the leaves fly. Then lots of laughter ensues. Deep belly laughs. I have the best time with them.

Afternoons are when the high schoolers and college kids come in to hang out at the coffee bar or study. Since I offer free wifi I almost always have Alabama students in the shop until close. I enjoy hearing them talk about the changes to campus and about their different classes and professors. I had contemplated going back to school to get a Master’s in Media Specialties (librarian stuff), but my schedule wouldn’t allow it. Bullshit. The ghost of Trent was the biggest hurdle that kept me from even stepping onto campus. I wasn’t ready to see all the places we spent time together at. I know it seems dumb, but I associate campus with my failed relationship and that was still too painful for me to face. Just as my mind started to drift, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and read the text:

Practice got done early tonight! Let’s get a drink lady!! Usual place- I’ll have your martini waiting!

Thank God for Christina. I responded back, 6:00, I will be there.

I met Christina at our go to place. The name of the bar is The Juice Box. It’s a little hole in the wall country bar with great beer and the best pomegranate martinis on the planet. They have live music and line dancing. They even have a mechanical bull out back. It’s a great place to unwind after a long day at work. When I got to the bar I saw that Christina was able to get us our usual table and had two martinis waiting. I downed one and grabbed the other from her hand.

“Woah! This must have been a bad day,” Christina said with a look of awe on her face. The martinis at The Juice Box are very strong.

“I wish that I could get Trent out of my mind forever. Everywhere I look I still see him everywhere and it sucks.”

“You need a good one night stand to take your mind off of that asshole.”

“Christina, seriously?”

“I’m not saying just anyone. I’m saying some cute guy that can distract you. What about Jake? Isn’t he your no strings attached guy? He seems to be a great guy. Maybe you could give him a chance. He’s nothing like Trent.”

“He’s not exactly a one night stand. He wants us to have a deeper relationship. But I just like sleeping with him.”

I looked over and Christina was pointing out that my go to fun guy Jake was at the bar. Jake. Where do I even start. Jake looked like your typical cowboy. Tonight he had on a green plaid shirt, jeans, and his boots. He had dark hair and light blue eyes. He caught us looking at him, smiled at us and walked over.

Great, I thought to myself.

I met Jake about a year ago here at the Juice Box. We had a few laughs and some drinks. He likes to line dance and there is almost nothing sexier than a cowboy. He was the first guy I had been with since Trent. The first time we met was a totally random encounter. Christina and I were sitting at the bar taking a break in between dances, kind of like we were tonight, and I fell off the bar stool. I was that girl falling down after a few too many martinis. As cliche as it sounds Jake caught me. I will never forget the sexiness of the southern drawl as he said, “I gotcha pretty lady.” It was the lamest thing I had ever heard, but the accent made it less hokey. I said hello back and I have to admit he was really cute. His arms were very well defined and he looked like he didn’t have an ounce of fat on his body. That night I thought I was ready to move on from Trent and Jake looked like a fun way to do it. No commitment, just sex. I decided to go for it. We talked for a while and had a few more drinks. I didn’t care to know too much about him. I didn’t want to get invested. We had nothing in common. He was in computer software and he worked out of Birmingham. He was over here installing some program for the Tuscaloosa Admissions Office. Before I knew it, we were kissing. And just like that he became a friend with benefits. Anytime he showed up at the Juice Box we would hook up. I can’t count how many times over the past year he has asked to take me on a proper date or even just for coffee, but I was afraid to let anyone in again so I kept it very casual. I told him if he ever met anyone else and wanted to get serious with them that I would totally understand but that we could never really be more than whatever this was. Tonight would be no different.

“Hi ladies,” he said with a super thick southern drawl. He motioned to the bartender to get another round for us.

“Hi,” Christina said enthusiastically. I attempted to hide my eyes rolling.

“Hello.” I said with a smile as I raised my glass to him.

“What’s goin’ on tonight ladies?”

“Not much. I was just trying to help our girl Emma here get her mind off her shitty day.”

“Oh darlin’ what happened?”

Ugh. He knows that I melt every time he says that.

“Just a long day at the store. No big deal. Christina is making a bigger deal out of it than she needs to.” I wasn’t lying, but I didn’t want to let him in. I tend to speak in big general statements with Jake. It helps me keep him out of my heart.

“Well you know I can help you with a bad day,” and then he smiled. His smile was nice.

He was the complete opposite of Trent. He was attentive and sweet. Jake always made me feel like a queen. Sometimes I wish that I could open up to him. I think that he would get it. I felt bad that I treated him like an afterthought, the same way that Trent used to treat me. But we had an understanding. This was a friends with benefits situation- and we were not close friends. The deal didn’t keep him from trying to get closer as often as he could.

“I know you do. That’s why I am glad you were here tonight. Wanna dance cowboy?”

“Yes m’am.” He extended his hand, took the beer out of my hand, placed it on the table and took me out on the floor for some two-steppin’.

“What’s buggin’ you lady? I hate seeing you down.”

“Nothing a few more beers and two-steppin’ wouldn’t fix. You gonna dance with me or what?”

“Of course. If you need to talk to me, you can.”

“I don’t wanna talk. I just wanna dance.”

We danced a few line dances and he spun me around for another couple of songs. During the last dance he pulled me close and I whispered into his ear, “Wanna get out of here?”


I shot Christina a quick text telling her that I hoped that she was ok and that I was bringing Jake home. Her response was Have fun! I know I will. See you tomorrow.

We walked into the door of my apartment and we began making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers. His brute strength was such a turn on. He was so strong that he had no problem picking me up and carrying my 132 pound frame around. And that’s exactly what he did. We ended up in my room and then the shower.

We got out of the shower after we cleaned up and collapsed onto my bed. Jake wanted to snuggle and I was too tired to care so we did.

“I wish you’d open up to me.”

“I just can’t Jake. That wasn’t part of our deal. I can’t give that piece of myself away again.”

He kissed my forehead gently and I nuzzled into the space under his arm and put my head on his chest and fell right to sleep.

When my alarm went off the next morning, I realized that Jake was gone. He left a note on my night table next to my phone that read:

Thanks for a great night. Hope to see you again soon.

– Jake

I was grateful he was gone. I didn’t want to deal with his questions or him trying to get me to talk about stuff. I got out of bed and I was so incredibly sore. Today was going to be hard physically. I took Caraway for his walk and then got in the shower and went to work.

Update- I have a title!


Here’s chapter 1 again- I have a title!!! The novel will be called Turn the page. The butterflies are building as I gear up to keep writing and go to my first author’s event here in Huntsville in September.


Chapter 1

Whap. Whap. Whap. Whap. Caraway was ready for our morning run. I wanted to roll  over and go to sleep. As soon as I pulled my blanket over my head, my 90 pound lab nuzzled his head under it and began to lick my face.

“I’m up,” I groaned. “What’s the weather today Caraway?”

I grabbed my phone and checked the weather. “No rain, but chilly today. Perfect to run” No sooner I said run, Caraway was at the front door. I got out of bed and got ready for my run. Before I stepped out, I set the coffee pot to start.

The air felt crisp on my face as I opened the door and took those first steps on my run. I had discovered running in college. I was always so busy with my two majors and my horrendous ex-fiancé that running became my outlet. It was my time to go through my daily mental checklist.

Breathe in: Check inventory at the store. Sign paychecks.

Breathe out: Pay bills. Pick new book to read.

Breathe in: Need to call Mama and Daddy.

Breathe out: I love the fall colors in Alabama.

The trees are the reason I picked this neighborhood to live in. They give me good shade in the summer and they explode with color after the long, wet and dreary winter and they have more color again in the fall. The color explosion and promise of cooler temperatures, bonfires, and fairs makes fall my favorite time of year here. Mid-September is when this usually starts and peaks in late October/early November. As I run this morning, I noticed that the leaves have just started to change. This brings a huge smile to my face. 

Once my three mile lap was complete, Caraway ran to the house and got his water and I jumped into a nice hot shower. I love my shower, especially after a good run. Good, hard pressure and the water gets really hot. I could stay in here all day, except I have to get into my store. As the hot water pours down over my head, I keep going through my list.

Breathe in: Shipment comes in today.

Breathe out: I own the damn store, I need to delegate more.

After I got out of the shower, I put my robe on and went and poured a cup of coffee.

“Hey Christina.”

“Hey Em. Thanks for making the coffee. Practice ran late last night and I didn’t get home until 11:30 and now its game day.”

Christina is an athletic trainer for our Alma Mater, The University of Alabama. She started off as an intern and got hired on full time after she graduated. Football is more of a social occasion for me; I love to tailgate and hang out, but I could care less about the actual game. Christina, on the other hand, could eat, sleep and breathe football. We are both legacies for the University of Alabama so this job was her dream come true.

I went back to my room to get dressed and picked up my favorite jeans up off the floor- they still smell clean so on they go along with my favorite red monogrammed sweatshirt and my sneakers. When a shipment comes in I am running from one end of the store to the other all day. This means comfortable and easy-so hair is up in a ponytail and I put an extra hair tie in my pocket.

“Can’t you at least try and look cute?” Christina pleaded.

“Christina, its inventory day. Cute is not practical and besides, it’s a business not a bar.”

Christina rolled her eyes and as she prepped for another sip of coffee she said, “You never know who you might meet.”

“Bye Christina. Have fun at the game today.”

Ever since my breakup with Trent she’s been pushing me to meet someone. At a glance, Trent was everything that you would think I wanted. I made him the center of my world and he took me for granted in every way possible. I’ve fought too hard to get where I am now to let a guy come into the picture and screw it all up. As I pulled into the parking lot of my little bookstore, E’s, the delivery truck was backing up to the loading dock.

“Hey Emma!”

“Good morning Tom! How are you today?”

“Can’t complain.”

“That’s good to hear. Have the guys started unloading the truck?”

“Yes and they have started putting the boxes into the store room.”

“Great! I’ll be there in a few minutes,” I said as I walked into my office and closed the door.

I sat in my chair and powered up my laptop. 80 emails- ugh. Most of them are for upcoming Black Friday ideas for the store. That’s my one annoyance about owning my own store; I have to start planning for Christmas before the first leaves even begin to fall.

Email done- only took 30 minutes today.

10 paychecks verified and signed- 10 minutes.

Now I can go and work on inventory and sort my shipment. Tom is my manager and he’s one of the few people that I can trust to run my store when I can’t be there, which is pretty much never. I make every decision at the store. Christina tells me all the time that I need to delegate more and I know that she’s right, but the store is all that I have. I have built it up from nothing to a popular place near campus. I just added a coffee shop so people can read while they enjoy their favorite hot beverage and a snack, plus I can have my favorite seasonal beverages all day at cost. I got tired of spending $4.54 on my favorite steamed vanilla milk.

I like planning inventory days on game days. The store tends to stay pretty empty because people are either at the game or at any of the local bars watching the game. When business is slow, I don’t stress about not talking to the customers as much. I have actually toyed with the idea of closing the store on game days. There is a business up the road that does that because the owner is such a die hard Bama fan. I walked over to the store room and met Tom who had a list of all the books that had come in.

“It looks like we got some great new titles.”

“Yes, Fox and Hound had some authors that I hadn’t used before. The titles looked interesting so I thought I’d give them a shot. I’ll be reading quite a bit this month so I am ready to make recommendations when my customers ask.”

That was one of the best things about owning my own bookstore, especially when we started into the cold and rainy winter season; I have an unlimited supply of books to curl up with  under a blanket and in front of my fireplace with my dog.

“Emma you need to quit working so hard. You’re only 28 and you don’t do any of the things that younger people do.”

“I know but I just have so much to do and I don’t have time to try and be what the world says that a woman should be in our society.”

Tom shrugged his shoulders and gave me a half smile. Truth was though that he was right and so was Christina. I say that I have so much to do with the store, but really I just don’t want to get hurt again. Besides, I wasn’t truly alone. I had Zeus and all of the great loves of history to keep me company.

I looked over at Tom and said, “Let’s scan all of the books and get them ready to add to the floor.”

“You’re the boss.”

After about four hours of being stuck in the stockroom organizing and checking books off, I walked out of the room and went to get my roast beef sandwich and sweet tea. I walked back into my office and I closed the door. I sat down to eat and looked at all of my pictures around my desk. There were too many pictures of Christina and I to count that went all the way back to our freshman year during sorority rush. I picked up the rush picture and when I looked at it the image seemed like a completely different lifetime. In the picture was Christina, her flavor of the week, Trent, and me. I didn’t recognize the girl that was standing with Trent’s arm around her. The only thing her and I have in common are a string of pearls and a name. She had what she thought was a life partner and her whole life revolved around being a wife and mother to his children. That frozen moment held so much promise; she is looking adoringly at Trent and he had his arm around her. Little did she know that she was just the girl to keep his bed warm through college so he wouldn’t be alone. He had no plans for a future with her at all. I took a deep breath.

“Why do I still have this picture? It pisses me off every time I look at it.” I took the picture and threw it into the trash . I don’t want to remember that time in my life and all the hurt that came with it. I had suddenly lost my appetite, so I threw my lunch out, too. Back to work. This is why I like to stay busy; no time to dwell on the what-ifs of life. I walked out of my office and met Tom back in the store room.

“Have you gotten all the books put away?”

“Yes of course. Are you ok Emma?”

“I’m fine, just tired.” That was my go to answer when I was pissed off. I tend to forget that I wear my emotions on my face. Tom knew how to read that map all too well. That’s why I have never been very good at poker.       

“Go home Emma. I can handle this. Go take a bath and a nap.”

I love Tom’s fatherly advice. I knew that he could handle what was left and I was in a really bad mood, but I refuse to let the pat control me anymore.

“No Tom, I really am fine. Let’s finish up and check the shelves out on the floor to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.”

I love my store. It’s the one thing that makes me really happy. It never lets me down. All of my favorite people were there. Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, and Steinbeck. Even the stories that don’t have happy endings are ok because the characters are getting what they’ve got coming to them no matter how tragic. Regardless of what is going on in my life, the words of those authors were there and I could always find something in a character that I could identify with.

When I finally looked up at the clock again, it was 6:00 pm. I had been in my beloved store for ten hours and the inventory was finally complete. I gave Tom a high five and said, “Another successful round of inventory done! Thanks for the help Tom!”

“It is a pleasure to help you Emma.”

“Can you lock up?”


“See you tomorrow!”

I walked out of my store and got into my car and put the windows down. That car made my Daddy crazy. My Camry was over 15 years old and it had about 200,000 miles on it, but it ran well and I kept up with the maintenance so it was fairly reliable. And I only used it to get to and from work and some running around town. The biggest reason that I kept it was that it was paid for and I hated the idea of making a payment. It was also my first car; it had sentimental value. I rolled down the windows for the drive home. It was a little chilly, but I didn’t mind. The cool, fresh air felt good on my face after being cooped up in the store all day. As soon as I got home, Caraway was at the door waiting for our evening walk. I made it a short one because I really was tired and when I got in, I made myself some mac and cheese and grabbed a beer. I put on the TV and started last night’s episode of The Daily Show.

“Caraway, I have everything I need.” Hearing it as I said it sounded like total bullshit, but I had to start believing it. I like not having to take care of anyone or be responsible for anyone but myself and my dog. Deep down though, I was really lonely. Just when I started to get interested in Jon Stewart’s story of the day, the phone rang. It was Mama.

“Hey Mama! I was just getting ready to call you. How are you and Daddy doing?”

“Hey baby! We are good. Daddy got a new gas powered leaf blower today so he is happy as a clam. He’s been blowin’ leaves to the road all day,. When he finished in our yard, he went and did the Hinsons, you know that couple across the street. They just had a baby and his is the most darlin’ thing. Anyway, your Daddy just had to help them out since they have their hands full.”

This is how all of our conversations went. She just rambled on and on and on and on. I tend to say uh-huh and yes way more than I care to admit when we talk because those are the only words that I can manage to fit in.

“Wow Mama! I bet Daddy loves being the neighborhood hero.”

“He sure does. So how are things? Are you sitting on the couch eating your bowl of mac and cheese?”

Damn she knew me well.

“No Mama. I just got in from a run and I was going to jump in the shower so I could meet Christina for drinks.”

“Now I know that’s not true missy. Alabama has a game this week so I know Christina is busy working.”

“You’re right Mama. I am on the couch, curled up with Caraway eating my mac and cheese.”

“Why aren’t you getting out there Emma? You are smart and pretty and fun to be around. You’d be a catch for anyone. Its been 5 years. It’s been long enough.”

“Mama, that’s the thing, I don’t want just anyone. If I date again and get myself back out there, it will be with someone that challenges me and makes me want to be a better person. I want someone that keeps me on my toes and that works hard to keep me guessing.”

“Emma, I understand what you are saying but your Daddy and I aren’t getting any younger and we want to see you married and have some grandkids.”

And there’s the guilt trip. “Mama I am fine. I can provide for myself and I have my store, which is very successful by the way and I have a room mate and I am happy. Tell me more about Daddy’s leaf blower and the Hinsons’ baby.”

I was able to divert her from my personal life, or lack thereof, and back onto my Daddy’s leaf blower and the neighbor’s baby. After about twenty more minutes on those subjects, I was able to get off the phone and go back to my now cold mac and cheese; my sad, lonely, pathetic mac and cheese.

What the world needs now…

broadway for orlando

Broadway for Orlando released Burt Bacharach’s classic “What the World Needs Now”. All of the proceeds that are made from the sale of the song (available for purchase on iTunes) are going to the victims of the Orlando Massacre and the the LBGTQ community in Orlando. It is such a great song with such a beautiful message. Love is the only thing that will make the world a better place. Since the events of June 12th, I have prayed for God to show his presence there. And He is there. All of the love that is shown at the many vigils and people offering their services (funeral homes, moving services, etc.) to the victims’ families.

People in this country on both sides of the gun debate are tired of the mass shootings. But my friends that are pro-second amendment seem to think that some common sense talk and rules about military style guns means that they are going to get taken away. First off, I personally like to fire a gun. I do not like to fire off military style assault weapons. Too much power. We have never had guns in our home. The only time growing up my parents owned a gun was when I was 8 and the Night Stalker, Richard Ramierez, was targeting families near where we lived in California. I have no problem with folks owning a gun for personal protection. I have no problem with people owning a gun for hunting. What I do have a problem with it the lack of regulation on who can buy a gun, explanation as to why people need a specific type of gun. Could people lie about why they need a gun? Sure, I am not that naive. But I thought surely after 20 babies were killed at Sandy Hook something would be done. And here we are 3 1/2 years later and still no change.

I had some hope when I saw that the Democrat from Connecticut began a 15 hour filibuster to draw a vote on gun reform, namely on background checks and people on the terror watch and no-fly list would not be able to buy guns. Sadly, all four proposed bills were voted down. I, along with many other Americans, think this is unacceptable. Again, I am not saying take away all the guns, I (along with many others) am saying “Hey let’s figure out how to fix this and be responsible about it.” I figure this post is going to piss some people off, but it needs to be said. If love is going to win over hate, then we need to figure this out.

This past Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopolis it was said that the reason the assault weapons ban was allowed to “sunset” was because no conclusive data regarding responsible gun owners showed any increase in mass shootings or deaths. Are you kidding me? Of course the “responsible” gun owners aren’t going to have data about that. Most people don’t go around shooting other people.  What about the study about illegal gun purchases? Shootings that involve the mentally ill? Research it. Look for patterns. Once you figure out the pattern, the solution will show itself.

I found this when I was going through my twitter feed:  This is a place for people on both sides of this debate to talk about gun sense. Let’s come to the table and really talk about it. What is so hard about that? Put away the rhetoric and let’s all use some common sense and really talk about it. That’s all I think any of us are asking.

For today I end with this:


Watch and love each other.

Until tomorrow,


Blaming and Shaming

Blaming and Shaming

This has been a hard week. I am emotionally spent. Between the horrific mass shooting that took place in my hometown to the alligator attack that claimed the life of that sweet sweet baby boy, my bad news quota for the year has been filled. Like many folks, I am glued to the news because my mind is trying to make sense of what happened. Two people that I knew were among the 49 killed on Saturday night. I want to understand why. I think that is a natural human need when bad stuff happens. The gun control and 2nd amendment rights get brought back into the conversation. It matters again. The pro-gun people don’t want their guns taken away and the anti-gun people want the government to put restrictions on guns. Those of us in the middle just want some common sense to be exercised. Do you really need anything more than a shotgun and maybe a handgun to hunt anything other than people? I just want to know. I live in an open-carry state. It was a little unsettling at first, but you get used to it. McCain blamed Obama for the massacre in Orlando. Seriously? Stop blaming and shaming and come up with a solution. Why was the ban on assault weapons allowed to lapse?

As if the shooting wasn’t bad enough, earlier this week a beautiful boy was taken in front of his parents by an aggressive alligator. He was 2 years old. I first saw the story in the middle of the night on Tuesday (sleep has been hard to come by this week) and I knew immediately in my gut that the family wasn’t from Florida and I said a prayer for the parents to find some peace in knowing that they did all that they could. I didn’t blame them for not knowing any better about lakes and gators in Florida. My parents didn’t know that about gators when we first moved to Florida and we used to swim in the lakes until they knew better. See, for those of you not from the sunshine state, you must assume that there are alligators in every body of fresh water. When you swim in a lake, a river, or even a crystal clear spring, you must assume that one of these massive animals is there and you are taking a chance with your life. Especially at night when they come out to feed. There was a meme circulating yesterday on Facebook with Obama saying we need to ban alligators. Honestly, that’s ridiculous.

And what did perfect parents and other anonymous online people do? They started blaming. They started shaming. There is an article going around online and it highlights the blame and shame culture that exists in our country now. Why must we tear others down to make ourselves feel better? Is it because we aren’t actually looking them in the eye and saying it to their face? Cowards. That’s what I say. What happened to that little boy was a terrible accident. People are blaming them. They are trying to blame Disney for not having signs up about alligators. Again, seriously? There are sharks all over the atlantic ocean. New Smyrna has attacks all the time. There are no signs that say “Sharks in the water. Swim at your own risk.” I watched with a broken heart the news conference with Sheriff Demmings as he gave a statement and answered questions about the gator attack and the journalists were like piranhas trying to get answers about who’s fault it was. They even said well the boy wasn’t swimming, he was wading. To me no swimming means don’t get in the water. I wanted to say “Asshole- he was in the water with an aggressive gator. This was an accident.”

If I have learned anything this week it’s that we need to be kinder to each other. We need to come up with common sense solutions and compromise on the gun issue. We need to stand in solidarity as human beings and realize that bad things happen and we must love each other to get through. Blaming, shaming and demonizing doesn’t make the hurt go away. 50 families lost loved ones this week. 49 at the massacre and 1 on vacation. 50 lives tragically cut short. Grief and sadness come in waves and those of us left behind have to band together to be the life boat to hold up those that are drowning in their grief. All of the moms, dads, husbands, wives, partners,  brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, kids will never be the same. There will always be a hole left in their heart. Compassion and love is what the world needs now.

To the Graves family of Nebraska- I will continue to pray for your family. You are going through something that no parent should go through.

To the families of the victims of the Orlando Massacre- I am with you. Praying and crying and working through the shock and the grief. You are also going through something that no one should ever have to experience.

Until tomorrow please love each other,


Love is Love is Love is Love


Yesterday I woke up in a beautiful place to the sound of my boys talking about the different birds they were seeing as they sat by the lake where we were camping. Such a sweet and innocent conversation. A couple of the other boys woke up and they talked about fishing and the proper way to catch a fish. I got up out of my tent and made some coffee and sat with them and in my silence, just listened to the sounds of boyhood. Music to a mother’s ears. Then as I went to post a picture of my peaceful view of the morning, I saw several disturbing posts on my Facebook feed- “Glad you weren’t downtown tonight” “Mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub” “Desperate need for blood go donate”. My heart sank and my peace was taken. I read the brief article that had been posted at 7:30 EST. I tried to take it in. Some man went into a club and shot it up. There was a hostage situation. 40 people feared dead. My mind tried to wrap itself around that. 40 people? A club in downtown Orlando? Terrorist attack? Another mass shooting? It didn’t make sense. It had to be wrong.

So I went about the business of making breakfast and packing up to go home. The tragedy left my mind for a while, so much so that I didn’t even mention it to Ryan. When we got in the loaded Prius (I seriously need to get a roof rack with a basket to carry some stuff when we camp), Ryan began going through his Facebook feed and said “Did you see this about the terrorist attack at the gay club?” And I responded yes, that I had just forgotten to mention it because we got busy packing up. He began reading to me the different articles and posts. He told me many of our friends were “marking safe” and my stomach dropped. We have friends that probably go there on a regular basis. Were they there? Were they hurt? Were they gone? It became hard to concentrate on driving. Pulse is a gay club that was targeted because of its patrons during Pride month. It still makes no sense to me. Central Florida is such a tolerant place, Orlando being the hub. I just don’t get it.

Then the list of victims started to come out. I looked. 6 names to start, but they also listed ages and then it hit me that former students were old enough to gain entrance into this club and probably frequented it. My heart sank to a new low. I began messaging former students that hadn’t marked safe just to make sure that they were ok. The ones I am friends with so far are all ok, but there are some that I am not friends with on FB that I do not know if they are ok or not. Last night after an awesomely distracting Game of Thrones, I put on the news for the first time. “Terrorist Attack in Orlando” was on CNN and it was so surreal to see that. Orlando is so much more than the home of the “worst mass shooting in US history.” That’s like saying New York is the home of the 9-11 attacks. It’s the home of Fiddler’s Green and my Alma Mater UCF. It’s the home of Disney and Universal Studios. It’s the home of Orlando City Soccer, the Orlando Magic and so many other awesome things.

I’m not going to write about gun control, because I don’t know that better restrictions would have made a difference in this case. I do wonder why military grade assault weapons need to be purchased by people not in the military. Are those really necessary to hunt deer and boar? I even asked Ryan last night, what if someone in the club would have been carrying a side arm? Would the outcome have been different?

This morning I woke up with a deep sadness and shock. Sadness and shock like after 9-11. Sadness and shock like after Sandy Hook. I checked the updated list, scanning for names of kids. None. But I noticed the names were all hispanic. Double whammy. Not just a crime targeting the LBGT community, but the hispanic one as well even thought that may have not been intentional. I am so sad. I am praying. I know God’s got this one. The extremists of any religion have it wrong. God is a God of love, not hate.

I’m just going to put this here:


In closing today, I ask that you don’t just pray or send thoughts to the victims and their families, do that for the world. Pray for a solution to emerge out of this. This isn’t about Trump and Hillary. This isn’t just about gun control. This is about being a better human race. Our job isn’t to judge those who are different from us, that’s God’s job. That’s too big a task for any of us. Our job is to love each other. That’s it. So today more than ever, practice loving each other.

With a heavy heart-


Oh- and much love and gratitude for the folks that work at the hospitals, like my friend Lisa, and the first responders. Yesterday was a hard day for all of you.
Update- 2 of the victims were familiar to me; a former student from my school and some one I remember from college. My heart is broken and sad. 

Summer Vacation and Raptor Wrangling



Summer break is here. No early mornings, except for Sunday church, for the next 2 months. We are only one day in and truthfully, it’s nice not to have the usual fight of get dresses-get socks-eat your breakfast- get your shoes on that happens Monday through Friday at my house. We all have that argument in some way, shape or form with our kids. Which brings me to today’s topic- being a parent during summer vacation.

When we first get that positive pregnancy test, we are filled with hope and excitement. We dream of being moms with Mary Poppins type magic. Filling each and every day with fun and magical activities that the kids love and appreciate. The kids are well behaved and picture perfect little angels. Then reality hits- you realize you are more like Chris Pratt’s character in Jurassic World wrangling your raptors and proving repeatedly that you are the alpha running the show. It’s an extreme but true comparison.

I adore my kids. They are amazing and I sometimes stand in disbelief thinking wow, I grew them from scratch. But they are also exhausting. Today’s expectations of parenting have made us believe that we must entertain and keep creating activities for our kids so that they can live happy lives. This morning alone, I have been asked about 30 times to go to the Dollar Tree to buy summer stuff to take to the pool at the Y. What happened to just playing outside and being a kid and coming up with your own games?

While I plan to take my kids swimming at the y and camping at some of the local state and national parks this summer, I also planning on kicking them out of the house and forcing them to play on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing things with and for my kids, but I think that society and pinterest have created completely unrealistic expectations for parenting and raising self-sufficient kids. I am the mom that makes crazy elaborate cakes for my kids’ birthdays and plan creative crafts for their parties. But I am noticing that because I do so much, I am keeping them from learning how to do things on their own. For example, I am embarrassed to admit that I still cut the meat for my 9 and 11 year old. Both know how to use a knife. I think I do it because it’s just easier for me than to watch them struggle and complain. This summer this is going to change.

I have decided to re-proclaim my status as the alpha in the house. We will have somewhat of a schedule (it’s summer, let’s not go too far) and part of that schedule will be to play without electronic assistance outside for an hour daily to start. My hope is that they will see how much fun it is and slowly stay out longer. They will have to clean their bathroom, I was scrubbing the bathroom at Max’s age and it didn’t kill me so it won’t kill him. They will have to clean their room daily and help with the dinner dishes after dinner.They will have to clean their room and make their beds. They will keep their dresser drawers clean and organized. I am not a maid and they need to learn how to do this. Their wives will thank me later. Shit, their college roommates will thank me later.

We will still have fun times- fire pits, firefly chasing, rolling down the hills, swimming, camping and all the rest, but this raptor handler is going to take charge hard core. I will keep you posted as to how it all goes. I expect lots of tears and resistance at first, but the end result will be worth it.

Until tomorrow have fun wrangling! 


My Big, Fat Cuban Family


My family is absolutely amazing and perfectly imperfect. We are loud and awesome. I think that deep down all families are like this. Well maybe not loud, but all are perfectly imperfect in their own way. This weekend I really discovered how incredible my family is. I’m going to brag big time in this post and maybe share some insights-

My baby brother (the first of 4 brothers I was blessed with) graduated as an RN this past weekend and we all made the trek to the graduation from all of the places where we all live to Tennessee to witness and celebrate this accomplishment. I want to take some time to brag on my brother. He is a former Marine. He is a husband and he is a father. He is a provider and for the past two years, he has worked full time while going to school full time and completing his RN internship. He also found time to renovate his kitchen completely. To say that I am proud of him is an understatement. He’s come a long way. My nephews that his wife has given all of us are funny and smart. His wife has a great heart and smile that an light up any room. She is selfless and fiercely loyal.

My brother Hugo is happy and has found his path. He’s found a career that he enjoys and is passionate about that incorporates technology that he has always loved. When I asked him this past weekend about his work and how it was going, he lit up light a kid on Christmas morning and talked up what he does, explained what we need to do to get better internet and cable signal. We exchanged theories about Game of Thrones and shared lots of laughs. His girlfriend is a gentle and kind woman that I am grateful he has in his life.

My sister is beautiful and I am proud of who she has become. She works hard and plays hard. She loves with fierce intensity and is someone that I know I can count on until the bitter end. Here’s an example- when we were climbing the smokey mountains by car this weekend, she drove slow to make sure that my Prius could make is up the mountain. Her boyfriend truly loves her. For that I am also grateful- he accepts her for her and she deserves all the happiness in the world and more.

My twin baby brothers have grown to be amazing men. Both have careers they are proud of and they are killing it. Ricky’s girlfriend is amazing and has found her calling in life. It was really nice to have a few long talks with her this weekend and learn more about who is she and what she feels passionate about.

My parents are incredible people. They definitely showed me how to do it. They have been married for 40 years. They have worked hard- my dad provided for our family of 8 while my mom stayed home and ran the house. Was it easy? Hell no! Was it worth it? Absolutely. I have learned how to be a parent and a spouse from them and I couldn’t have asked for a better example.

So this past weekend we were all together- all 18 of us. It was heaven. We all trickled in on Friday to my brother’s house and then Saturday we made the trek to northern Tennessee to watch him walk. We yelled and cheered and beamed with pride. My kids hung out with their cousins and played. Sunday we spent the in the mountains and it was incredible. We were all tired but so happy to be together.  We are planning to try and do Thanksgiving in a cabin in the Smokies.

Here’s what I have learned about family:

  1. No family is perfect
  2. Your family will love every part of you- even the shitty parts that you are ashamed of
  3. Family is important for everyone- no one is an island
  4. My family is the best in the whole world
  5. I need to be a better daughter/sister to them because they deserve that from me

I love my family and to me they are perfect. Even though we don’t spend lots of time together like we used to when we all lived in Florida, the quality of our time is so much better now. Cherish your family because they are the greatest gift from the Universe that you are ever going to get.

Until tomorrow, love each other,