Have I Got a Deal for You!

Now that you are all grown and have flown the coop, it is time that I take advantage of your many unique talents. On the one hand, it can be called payback for all that I did for you, but you could also look at it as an investment in your future.

My book has been out for two years now, but sales are completely flat. I still have confidence that what I wrote is a unique story, but I acknowledge that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people do not like nonfiction—particularly history. I know that for years, I read mostly legal mysteries, so I understand.

I am proposing to use what you know to help me with my book. I really loved my title: Do Svidanya Dad, but I realize that people just don’t get it, so I put the thought out there to my friends via the Internet. The idea to change the title was Dad’s idea. I am leaning to changing it to Trapped in Russia~An American Family.

It has been suggested that I change the cover, so the photographer in our family is the logical choice to help me with that rather than hiring a stranger. I clearly have no idea how to market my book, but we have a professional marketing person in the family, so I am looking to her for assistance. Finally, we have a teacher in our family, so I am looking to her for assistance in checking for mistakes—my editor.

The upside to all of you is that if your expertise results in spectacular sales, then Dad and I will have income from my book sales to help us through retirement, which leaves you all with our savings.



Wearing Orange for the Cause

Okay, kids, it’s time for another event at the Statehouse for mommy and a few friends. In case you haven’t heard, it’s Wear Orange Weekend in honor of Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Orange is the color which was chosen to honor a fifteen-year-old girl, Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed one week after performing at President Obama’s second inauguration. Events are happening in cities and towns across the country to raise awareness of people killed by guns–whether by suicide, murder, or by accident.

Although I have decided to concentrate my activism on helping common sense gun laws to be enacted and to register voters, I had to think long and hard about attending this particular event. The problem for me was twofold: Saturday is now committed to t-ball, and as we all know, orange is the color of our arch rival—Clemson.

After careful consideration, I knew I had to go. Strengthening gun laws is important since we will be having three people in our family in three different schools this year. I now dream of a world where I no longer worry about getting shot when I go to the movies, a concert, or a walk down the street. Will those days ever return, or is that a thing of the past like black and white televisions, rotary telephones, and silent movies?

For those of us living in the South, we are aware that it is common to have friends who have guns in their home. I worry that no one is stupid enough to have their weapons unsecured, particularly when children are present.

I have reasoned that I am not going to the t-ball game because I want to be involved in a cause to make our lives safer, so that has to be my priority this weekend. However, intentionally wearing orange was a tough decision, especially since I had to spend money to purchase a shirt in that evil color. So Dad and I went to a store that sold Clemson gear so that I could choose a shade of orange that could never, ever be confused with Clemson orange.

This is one time I hope to be surrounded by a sea of orange.


Every Vote Counts

Last week I attended a job fair where I manned a voter registration table. This was my third time doing so and as they say, “the third time is the charm.” I registered more at this particular event than the others.

My first experience was at a local ice cream parlor where I registered a whopping two new voters. I felt bad for the new voters, because after sitting at our table for nearly six hours, we were so excited that we cheered. The young men probably wanted to slink away. One did not even venture inside for a dish of ice cream.

The second endeavor into adding new people to the voter rolls occurred in a barber shop. As the mother of three girls, I enjoyed watching fathers bringing in their boys as well as observing the interactions of the customers with each other and the people cutting their hair. I felt like an invader in a special club. We registered four men. A few candidates apparently got wind of what was happening and strolled in and had an informal Q&A session with the guys. Not surprisingly, it got a little heated at one time.

During the job fair, I was seated with three other women—one originally from Florida, another from Utah, and the third  began life in the cold northern state of Minnesota. It was fascinating learning what brought us all to South Carolina and how we all ended up registering voters that day.

A job fair attracts men and women from all walks of life. We were trained to show the homeless how to vote as well as to inform those who served jail time that they were eligible to vote as long as they were not on probation. This is not true in all states where, once convicted, their voting rights are never restored. I recently learned from my own research that there are two states—Maine and Vermont—where even inmates are permitted to vote!

I must say that almost everyone was extremely nice to us—thanking us even if they were already eligible. The only sad encounter was with a woman who had not already registered and told us she did not want to because “my vote does not count.” Even when we pointed to the Virginia election which was decided by a coin toss, she still would not sit down and register. Oh well, that was her prerogative too.

Busted Myths and Surprises

Despite my concerns about our trip to Cuba, Dad and I had a wonderful time and returned home safe and sound. Not a single night in a Cuban prison for us!

I was not alone in my uneasiness and confusion regarding what Americans could and could not do when visiting this island nation. We met other travelers on our ship who were equally bewildered about our Cuban visit. The suspicious gene in me believes that the confusion is intentional.

Since 1960, Americans could not travel to Cuba as tourists. Travel was limited to journalists, government officials, academics, and those with close family ties to the island. The severe restrictions began to change in 2011, and by 2016, direct flights between the United States and Cuba began to pop up as were cruises from American ports.

Last year, under our new Administration, more restrictions were imposed once again. We had to sign a travel affidavit stating why we were traveling there.  We jumped through a few small hoops to ensure we were compliant under the category “Educational Exchanges- group people-to-people through Norwegian or other organization.” We could not spend any money in any government-owned restaurant, store, hotel, etc.

Cuba held many surprises for us—the first was regarding automobiles. We had been under the impression that we would see nothing but cars built prior to 1959, but that was somewhat of a myth. While we did not see any new American cars, we observed modern German, French, Russian, and Korean cars. I felt like I was in an episode of Happy Days.


Havana is a beautiful, very clean city, reminiscent of Old San Juan with its cobblestone streets and old forts. We were surprised to see the existence of a Chinatown, although the population of Chinese in Cuba is now quite diminished from its high of 40,000 back in the 1800’s. When we visited a Catholic church, we were told that Cuba is home to Muslims, Jews, Christians, and several other religions—although the numbers practicing each religion is quite small. We learned that the population of Havana is currently 2.1 million. Wow!

Unlike other islands where we were approached by individuals wanting to braid our hair, the number of people trying to sell us anything was small by comparison. We saw a homeless man on the streets of Key West, but not in Cuba.

The harbor is surrounded by land on both sides, so in order to go from one side of the island to another, our hot-pink convertible traveled in a tunnel similar to the Lincoln Tunnel between New Jersey and New York. Dad and I did not expect that.

We were told in advance that we would have no internet or cell service, yet our young guide carried quite the modern cell phone. So what I learned was that Cuba was not as third-world in appearance as I had been lead to believe.

The nighttime show at the Tropicana Club, where we were taken to in a very modern bus, was entertaining and very-well choreographed. The skimpy outfits reminded me of what may be seen in a Las Vegas show, although I am not sure if the hats we saw at the Tropicana would be seen in Vegas. Dad thought they could be purchased in the lighting department at Lowes or Home Depot since they resembled chandeliers.

We found its citizens to be extremely friendly and all seemed happy to have us visit. When our ship maneuvered into its dock, we were greeted with cheers. We felt quite welcomed, and I look forward to another visit one day.

Now that I have completed my Cuba review, I have satisfied one of the obligations by the United States government for a visit, which is to document each moment of our trip and save such documentation for a period of five years. So there you go, Uncle Sam!

Another Mother’s Day

In honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, I sent Grandma a card and a box of Godiva chocolate. The message with the candy were instructions to “not pop it into your mouth like Dad did.” This, of course, referred to the time when Grandpa grabbed a piece of Godiva chocolate and tossed the entire sweet treat into his mouth. Everyone in the room watched in horror and gasped in unison. He did not realize that one must take one’s time while eating this delicacy and savor each bite. After all, eating a piece of Godiva chocolate is not at all like eating M&M’s—my personal favorite.

Speaking of Mother’s Day, let me mention a gift I received one year. Based upon the handwriting, I am guessing it was made in second or third grade and was titled, “Top 10 Reasons Why I Love My Mom.” I am confident that the sender had a difficult time whittling down the list to only ten.

Apparently I was funny, because “I love my mom when she makes me laugh by telling funny stories.”

I always loved, and still continue to love, singing silly songs: “I love to hear my mom sing the On Top of Spaghetti Song, which is a classic tune that I continue to sing today—over twenty years later. Just last week Bryce and I sang this favorite song together.

Scanning through the list is an obvious, but nonetheless, nice-to-see reason to love met: “I know my mom is smart because she knows everything.”

And there you have it, girls. Does anyone remember who gave me this list, and do you have anything else to add?

Happy Mother’s Day.

Just a Little Hitch in the Plans

Let the countdown officially begin today, dear family and friends. For in just 365 days, the wedding that our family has been impatiently awaiting since Bush 43 is finally happening. Nestled in a brewery in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, another family will join ours and I will now have my third son.

The plans are moving forward:  the venue and photographer have been chosen, and we will meet with a florist next weekend. A cake tasting has been done, and next month, we will shop for the dress.

Unfortunately, we did not anticipate that the state of Virginia would cause us some anxiety because their laws regarding acceptable officiants is not as liberal as the state of New Jersey. As you all know, our last family wedding was performed by Reverend Cousin Chris, who was able to get ordained via the Internet. Internet ordinations are not recognized in the Commonwealth of Virginia, so the plans for two very dear friends of the bride and groom to seal the deal need to be altered.

With the help of a family friend who practices law in Virginia, we were given our options: The happy couple can hire a local officiant, get married ahead of the festivities in their more open-minded state, or we can sue the state of Virginia. Although we all thought the third option could be fun, the bride and groom-to-be rejected it and are now deciding what to do.

I have a fourth choice, although I believe the likelihood of my idea happening is somewhere between slim to none. As we all know, Casey would think she had died and gone to heaven if her number 1 most admired person in her world performed the ceremony. That, of course, is the man on her favorite koozie—Joe Biden. He either could come to Virginia, or a small group of us could meet him somewhere near his home in Delaware, which is not far from where the mother-of-the groom lives.

What are your thoughts, kids? Is this not a fabulous idea?

Welcome Home Little Prince

William and Kate’s third child emerged from a London hospital yesterday just seven hours after he was born. Mom’s hair and makeup were perfect, the dress was lovely, and Kate was walking with ease.

Thinking back on the births of my three children approximately thirty years ago, I see the changes in hospital births. During those earlier days, no one other than the hospital staff, Dad, and me were permitted to hold any of my newborns, and when fathers held their children, they were attired in hospital scrubs just like the nurses. Today, it seems as if anyone is allowed to hold those new tiny little bundles of joy—no hospital gowns required!

None of you spent the night with me in my hospital room. In fact, the only opinion anyone cared to ask of me was whether or not I wanted my babies returned to me for a feeding or allowed to remain in the nursery and bottle-fed by one of the nurses. I opted to do the 2 am feedings myself, and then the babies were returned so that I had a little peace and quiet before the next feeding. Nowadays, as witnessed by the newest babies in our family, the nurseries seem to be a thing of the past, and the babies currently stay with Mom all night long.

When I gave birth to my children, I remained in the hospital for 2-3 nights, which gave me a bit of time for my body to adjust to the birth. I did not bring in my hairdresser and make-up artist, and I left in stretchy sweats and sneakers, not a lovely dresss and heals.

For Grandma, her hospital stay was at least a week! Now, as witnessed by the lightning quick exit of the newest prince from the hospital, new moms may not even stay in the hospital for a single night.

For the mother of a prince who lives in a palace with plenty of people to attend to all the needs of her growing family, this is not as difficult as it is for the rest of the world. Ah, to be a royal for a week or two!