Category Archives: family

Cannot Believe This Question to Advice Column!

“Ask Amy” is the syndicated advice column that replaced “Dear Abby.” Today, I read a question that blew me away!

A 22 year-old woman has known her boyfriend for nine years, dated him for two. Of course, they live together [see my previous post: LIVE TOGETHER?  NOT IF YOU WANT TO MARRY HIM]. She wants to get married; he doesn’t. Typical scenario, so far.

Now, here’s the twist:  he’s pressuring her to have his children without marrying her.  She asks, “Am I wrong to want to be married before having kids?  Am I crazy for wanting him to propose?”


Wrong for wanting two parents? Wrong for wanting marriage when you’ve been dating for two years? The world’s gone mad when a young woman questions her own desire for a “nest” for her babies.

The columnist gives her a typical, politically correct response:  “I wish I could offer you 20/20 clarity about what pushing someone into marriage tends to lead to…” Give me a break — it leads to marriage, a marriage as likely to work as any other, as likely to end in divorce as any other, but with legal obligations from the father not always afforded by living together.  In contrast, people who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who don’t.

Amy goes on to advise, “Talk to peers…who are married with kids — or unmarried with kids — to see what their lives are like.”  What?  Nothing about the woman being only 22 and NOT wanting kids before marriage?  Nothing about the selfish, immature desire of her guy to procreate without commitment?

By taking wishy-washy, politically correct advice, this 22 year old has a big chance of ending up a single mother struggling to make ends meet, trapped by a circumstance she wanted to avoid.  What about bolstering her resolve to provide a two-parent home for her kids?

The advice columnist is so worried about pressuring someone into marriage…what about pressuring someone into the irrevocable decision to have kids?  Amy, you really messed up on this one!

My Husband Saves Lives

My husband and I had just put a contract on a new house when my elderly mother, back in Maryland, got lost driving to a place she’d been many times before. I tried to talk her into moving into our Colorado home with us, but she didn’t want to impose. So my husband got on the phone with her and talked her into it.  Then, he packed her decades of belongings and brought her to our new home just 10 days after we, ourselves, had moved in.


My mother, the rabble-rouser

My mother and our younger cat

At first, my mom seemed to have her sharpness, perspicacity, and sense of humor intact, but she was almost 90 years old, and her memory wasn’t what it had been.  My husband never gave up on her, though. He would stand in front of her while she sat on the couch and lead her in a little dance.  Really, it was chair aerobics, but it kept her sharp because she had to follow his changing moves, and it got her heart racing.  Most important, it would make her laugh and she loved the attention.

My mother passed away one day before her birthday in 2011, and I believe my husband played a huge part in keeping her alive and relatively healthy for as long as she was.  Her doctor said he’d rarely seen a woman of her age so well cared-for.  She didn’t have a bruise, scratch or rash on her, no breakdown of her skin, and she was coiffed, manicured and pedicured.

No sooner had my mom passed than, in early 2012, my 13 year-old cat developed diabetes.  He drank water non-stop, was ravenous, and peed non-stop, too. He withered away from a plump 14 pounds to 9 pounds.  His hind quarters bent under, as if from arthritis, and he would often fall backward when trying to jump on a chair or table.  He was failing, and I thought he’d be dead in a year.  I was heartbroken.  This cat has been my companion longer than my second husband (my first died in a car accident in 1997 [see COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY this blog]).  My cat obeys me as a dog would. Each morning, he jumps on my bed to snuggle and wake me up.  Each night, he does the same.  When I say, “good night…go lay down,” he jumps off the bed and exits the room.

We began giving him insulin shots.  I should say that it was mostly my husband, as he was more able than I to keep the cat still.  My husband gave him treats after each shot, and he experimented with food in an attempt to make him regain his weight.  My cat has always been an indoor cat, but now that he was so weak, we knew we could leave him on our second floor deck — which has no staircase — without fear of a kitty escape.  The cat loved being outside.  Soon, he was able to jump up on a short stone bench at the end of the deck, and roll around on the sun-warmed stone. Both my husband and I would set aside time each day to take the cat out.

imgp0610[1]Soon, I noticed a change in my cat.  He began to seek out my husband, to sit on his lap, or next to him on the couch, something he had only ever done to me.  And each night, when it was time for his shot, the cat would come and sit at my husband’s feet — not for the shot, but for the treat afterward.

My cat began to gain weight, he became more animated and playful.  He was easily jumping onto my lap again.

Now, when we’re on the deck, we have to keep a careful eye on him because he’ll jump onto the four-inch wide railing and walk the length of the house in perfect balance.  His hips are no longer bowed under.  His coat is thick and silky.

This weekend, my cat demonstrated the full extent of his recovery when he chased our younger cat around the house.  Her escape has always been to jump on a 40 inch wall that separates our upstairs hall from the stairs leading to our lower level.  Well, she jumped, all right, but then so did my 15-year-old male!

My husband, my hero.

For another fun article for cat lovers, check out WALL STREET JOURNAL sports page, A MANAGER AND HIS CATS, about baseball’s Tony La Russa,10/8/2013

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Love Boot Camp: Listen to Your Mama

Chapter 10 Listen to Your Mama

Up until now, I’ve told you about the dating experiences of my friends. Now, I’m going to tell you about mine.

My late mom could size up a person’s character in five minutes.  She was never wrong.  Never.  I dated men of many colors and nationalities and my mother never made judgments based on culture or color.  That’s not to say that appearances didn’t count.  If a man was polite, well-groomed and well-dressed, he got extra points.

She correctly predicted who would be reliable and who would dump me: her version of, “He’s just not that into you.”  She knew when a guy was lying or making excuses and when he was sincere.  She would say things like, “I just don’t trust him,” or, conversely, “He’s a good boy.”

When I met my future husband, Michael, he immediately began hot pursuit of me.  I just wasn’t that into him.  He wasn’t my type.  My mother knew that my type had thus far proved unreliable and, in her opinion, unworthy of me.  By the time I met Michael, I was 24, and had never really been in love.  I had certainly wanted to be, and had tried to convince myself that I had loved one long-term boyfriend.  The truth was, though, that I was a complete stranger to being in love.

My mother at once recognized that Michael was different from any man I’d previously dated.  He called when he said he would, was always on time, and invited me out often with plenty of advance notice.  I toyed with the idea of breaking up with him because I wasn’t that attracted to him (even though he was handsome.)  My mother said, “Just give him a chance.  You don’t have to marry him.”

She had been right about so many other men that I took her advice.  Michael was a gentleman  and I knew he wouldn’t rush me into a physical relationship, so he unknowingly — or perhaps knowingly — gave me the time and space to grow my feelings for him.  For the first couple of dates, he didn’t even try to kiss me good-bye at the end of our date.  Then, on our third date, we were at the grocery store shopping for a picnic and he gave me a peck on the lips.   I wasn’t expecting it and I was surprised at how pleasant it was.

Well, we went on our picnic.  We kissed in earnest, and I literally seemed to hear bells.  I knew I could love this man, or at least be wildly attracted to him.  His kindness and patience — and his passion for me — made me fall in love with him.

We were married for 14 years, until he died in a car accident (see blog post COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY).  I cannot imagine a happier marriage.

My mom adored him, and she was right.

The fact is, our parents have met many more people than we have.  They’ve been burned, disappointed, cheated and delighted more than we have.  Their experiences make them better judges of character.  So unless your parents hold racial or cultural prejudices for no logical reason, they can probably judge a man’s character better than you can.  At least listen with an open mind.  They could save you plenty of heartache.

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Love Boot Camp: Manners Do Count!

Chapter 9 Manners Do Count!

My friend Kate, age 32, is attracted to bad boys, as are so many women.  A little scraggly, a little shady, her boyfriend, Rob, can be mysterious in a spicy way.  He can be loving on rare occasions, but is aloof much of the time.  He’s often unreliable, but reliable enough to keep her hooked.  He smokes, of course, dresses in jeans, old T-shirts and a leather jacket.

Sounds like a typical 20-something, right?  Well, Rob is 41 years old.  He has a cool job as a sous-chef, which means plenty of late nights, lots of drinking, rough language and more than a little misogyny.  There’s a certain glamour to that picture, isn’t there?  At least there was until Kate took Rob home to meet her folks.

His devil-may-care, slicked back hair just looked greasy.  His ripped T-shirt looked sloppy.  His rough language made her parents cringe, and Kate couldn’t ignore the shock and disapproval on their faces.  All of a sudden, she was excruciatingly aware that he smelled like an ashtray.

To make matters worse, he had bad manners.  He nodded upon being introduced to her parents, rather than shaking hands.  He sunk into her father’s easy chair without waiting to be invited to sit down.  He ignored the glass Kate’s mother brought for his beer and drank from the can.  He began eating before his hostess, made no comment on the food, and did not offer to help with clean-up.

Seen through her parents’ eyes, Rob — for the first time — seemed repulsive.  Her parents didn’t need to voice any criticism.  Kate realized for herself that Rob would never fit in with her family. Maybe his demeanor would have been perfectly acceptable in another family, but not in hers.

It’s not so much a matter of  good vs. bad manners, but about having compatible ideas about manners.  Kate never met Rob’s family, but if they were like him, they might have found her uptight and pretentious.

If you’re not comfortable introducing your man to family and friends, then he’s simply not a good fit.  Unless both of you are up for a makeover, best to end the relationship.

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How to be Interesting on Twitter: I Have No Idea (Hashtags Intimidate Me)

When you’re watching a show you like on TV, does it really enhance your experience to have the bottom couple of inches of screen obscured by a comment like, “@TV show ‘Way to go…awesome!'” As my teenagers say, “Really?  I mean, really?”  That was the insight you were looking for?

I’ve managed to avoid social media for  the past few years, remaining on the sidelines when everyone else jumped in. Sometimes people would ask me to “Friend” them, so I started a half-hearted excuse for a Facebook page that I never looked at.

Then I uploaded my two novels onto Kindle.  How was I to get the word out and generate sales?  Only people who knew me personally were aware of my project.  Not having an unlimited advertising budget, I had to learn about social media.  I turned to my cousin, Danielle, an LA casting agent (@DanielleCasting).  Danielle has some 20,000 Twitter followers and has maxed out her Facebook page. Danielle is interesting, Danielle is funny, Danielle is accomplished.  She’s my model for how to use Twitter, not the “awesome” Twitterers who impose on my TV shows.

A couple of weeks ago, Danielle posted a Tweet asking her friends to follow me, as I was brand new to Twitter.  I asked Danielle, “Does this mean I have to think up interesting stuff to Tweet every few minutes?”

“Pretty much,” Danielle said.

How the hell am I supposed to do that?  I don’t know, but I’ve gotten a few insights from Danielle’s friends who were kind enough to “follow” me.  At first, I just thanked them for following me, then Tweeted info about my books. Something interesting happened. In trying to understand the context of their Tweets, I’d open up the “expand” comments file.  A lot of Danielle’s friends are actors or casting agents — a world utterly foreign to me.  They’re really interesting people.  I began to look at their photo galleries, their videos, their Facebook pages.  One of her friends is an expert in a skill I once enjoyed.  Another friend posted on her FB page a photo of a man with whom she’s making a movie.  He’s one of the handsomest men I’ve ever seen, but never heard of.  Yet another friend lives overlooking the Pacific (my goal) and likes cats, as I do.  I’ve had fun exchanging Tweets with an actor who enjoys one of my favorite TV shows and who made some interesting comments about the participants (@JeffreyAJordan).

In my second week on Twitter, I’ve used the “Discover” button to find sites that specialize in my industry:  women’s fiction, romance, publishing, book reviews.  Now, in addition to my cousin’s followers, I have followers — and I’m following — other writers, reviewers and publishers.

I’m discovering that it’s not up to me to think up interesting stuff just about me.  What’s interesting  about social media is the work, photos, and conversations of the people I follow. I love it when people post interesting quotes or videos (check out @MeetRobynThomas, @sesever, @Lisa2LA). They make me stop and think, and I can retweet them.  I don’t have to be interesting 50 times a day as long as the people I retweet are interesting.  And we all like to be “favorites” or “retweets.”

Maybe when I delve into the daunting world of hashtags, I’ll discover even more interesting stuff via Twitter. I’ve clicked on a couple of hashtags, and kind of got lost in the world in which I landed.  I haven’t dared use a hashtag myself in case I do it wrong.  My expert cousin, Danielle, tried to explain it to me in an email, using #FF as an example.  She may as well have been speaking Russian.  I’ll figure it out.

So, to return to the title of this blog, it wasn’t false advertising.  Everything I say in the title is true. What has changed, however, is that I now understand why people are interested in social media.  I’ve gone from indifferent to fascinated.  Does that make me fascinating?  No. It just puts more fun in my life.

Oh, and about the books: Be sure to click on KINDLE EDITION for $3.99 or you’re apt to see a wacky used book price!


So Very Politically Incorrect

Picture this: my cute little 85+ year-old Mom walks into her doctor’s office in suburban D.C.  She is bent almost in half with spinal stenosis.  With the aid of her three-pronged cane, she scuttles along at high speed, like a little insect. Once she arrives at the reception desk, her head barely clears the window.

The receptionist is black, the nurses are black, the physician’s assistant is black…in summary, she’s the only white face in the room.  She has such a strong French/Egyptian accent that it sounds like she just landed in America the day before, though it’s actually been 60 years.  mom and cat

At the reception desk, someone uses the term African -American.  My mother’s ears perk up.  She asks the receptionist, “Arrre you from Afreeka?”

The receptionist looks up at my mother, amused, “No.”

Non,” Mom repeats.  “Arrre your parrrents from Afreeka?”

“Nooo,” the receptionist answers in a questioning voice.  Now, more of the staff gathers behind the receptionist, curious to see where this is going.

“Have you beeeen to Afreeka?”


“So you arrre not Afreekan-Amereekan.  I am Afreekan-Amereekan becowse I was born eeen A-geept (translation, Egypt).  But I am Amereekan, and I am proud to be Amereekan.  I don’t say Afreekan-Amereekan becowse eeet doesn’t matter the colorrr of my skeeen or wherrre I am borrn.  I am Amereekan!  And you are Amereekan.  And you arrre lucky you are not een Afreeka where there eees always war and where Afrreekans make other Afreekans slaves, like een Sudan!”

And do you know what the staff does?  They laugh and they nod in agreement, and the receptionist says, “You’re right.”

To put this in context, I’ll tell you that I spent my early years in Savannah.  My American father was very involved in the civil rights movement, but my mom’s family was even better:  they seemed color-blind.  When my grandmother would take me to the park, she would see a cute kid and make a big fuss about how adorable they were, black or white.  She spoke no English, but my Dad recruited her to sit at the lunch counter of a drug store with a black woman and her 4-year old daughter…and me.  This was when segregation still existed.  But no server was going to refuse to serve a distinguished old white lady in front of her grand daughter.

We moved to D.C. when I was in 7th grade. At the time, D.C. was about 80% black (now about 60%).  Black men in other parts of America complain about white women being nervous around them…clutching their purses in elevators or crossing the street to avoid them.  Of course, you couldn’t possibly do that in a place where Caucasians are the minority, or you’d have to walk down the middle of the street.  I’m not scared of any man who’s neatly dressed and polite (you know, like Ted Bundy or OJ Simpson).  What I might cross the street to avoid is a bunch of teenagers in pants down to their knees, backward baseball caps, lots of bling, a couple of grills, and who are either overly noisy or overly quiet.  Doesn’t matter if they’re Asian, black, white or Latino.  But even that look has gone all Justin Bieber, and doesn’t seem so threatening any more.

For the first two years of my college career, I attended the University of Maryland, where all but three out of 14 rooms in my dorm hall were occupied by black women.  We partied together, went to mixers together, and hung out in each other’s rooms.  When I began to date a black guy, my black friends across the hall frankly explained why they found it offensive for white women to date black men.  I listened, but told them I liked the guy and would continue dating him.  They sighed and said, okay, but they didn’t approve.  Nevertheless, we all continued to be friends.

The biggest racial shock I had in recent years was when I went to pick up my step daughter at her school and couldn’t distinguish her in the crowd of other tall, long-haired blondes.  Not much diversity in suburban Denver!  As a petite brunette, I’m about as exotic as it gets.

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My Cousin Rescues My Dobermans and My Husband’s Ashes

Lots of you are animal lovers, so I thought you’d like the story of how Danielle’s sister, Viviane, and her husband, Paul, drove my packed Jeep cross country with my two Dobermans, my husband’s ashes, and a car full of my most prized possessions.  This is one reason why I called Viv my “guardian angel” in my last post about my cousin Danielle.

The night my husband had his fatal car accident, one of my first calls was to Viv, who immediately flew from LA to Virginia to support me.  If you’ve already seen my previous blog post — COINCIDENCE OR PARANORMAL ACTIVITY — you know what transpired in the hospital.

After my husband died, Viv stayed with me in Virginia while her husband, Paul, flew to my Colorado vacation home, picked up my Jeep and my two Dobermans, and drove them to my house in Virginia.  As if that weren’t enough, Paul and Viviane flew back to Virginia three months later, and did the whole trip in reverse so I wouldn’t have to do it myself.

Viviane is so smart that she organized the whole thing while I was still in zombie mode.  There’s a lot I don’t remember about that time, but I do know I acted quickly to sell my Virginia home so I could move to our smaller place in Colorado.  I had an estate sale, gave away my most precious things to the friends and family who had helped me, and was ready to move in three months.

Viviane and Paul flew back to pick up the dogs and the Jeep and begin their cross-country adventure.  My Dobermans were the kind you see in suspense films.  Big, docked tail, and cropped ears…you get the picture.  Calypso, my female, was a sweet-natured, highly intelligent dog I’d raised from a puppy.  She was sleek and lean. Max, the male, was a rescue dog we’d gotten when he was probably two or three — the rescue league wasn’t sure.  He either was nudging you to pet him, or kind of grumpy.  He was unpredictable and aggressive toward other dogs.  Our vet, and the trainer at the pet store, recommended for him one of those choke collars that look like large-linked chains.  He had thick fur and a very thick neck, and was impossible to control without it, especially since we hadn’t raised him (if only we’d known about the Dog Whisperer then). I wouldn’t use that collar on a dog now, but it didn’t seem to affect him and we didn’t realize he could have probably been re-trained at any age — by Cesar, at least.

The car packed to the hilt, Paul and Viv commenced the trip, which takes two or three days. Once at a destination with the dogs, and the dogs out of the car, Paul feared that the packed Jeep might attract the attention of thieves, so he wouldn’t leave my late husband’s ashes in the  car.  The ashes were in an antique-looking wood and leather container with little brass feet.  No way you could pass it off as a suitcase or purse or any other sort of case you might carry around.  I cannot imagine what people thought when he entered a restaurant carrying the thing, which was about twenty inches wide and a foot high. Given recent events, someone probably would have called the SWAT team.

Entering a hotel with the dogs was no better. When my late husband and I had made the same trip the previous December, we had tried to make the dogs look friendly by putting Christmas ribbons around their necks and big smiles on our faces. Still, when we rode the elevator and the door slid open for other guests, the people quickly backed away and said they’d wait for the next elevator.  Can you believe the exact same thing happened to Paul and Viviane?

Many hotels also had a size limit on pets, so Paul and Viv had to avoid the lobby and claim to have dogs under 25 pounds.  Every time they barked, of course, it was clear these weren’t chihuahuas.

At last, they arrived at my Breckenridge home.  Finally, the could breathe easy.  Except for one thing. My home was at an elevation of 10,000 feet and Viviane has asthma.

So when I tell you how great Viviane is, you can see it’s not just a warm, fuzzy impression on my part.  She’s been through the fire for me. I don’t have siblings, but the powers that be made up for it by giving me great cousins.

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