What’s it all for?

Birth. Existence. Death.

What’s it all for?  Why are we born knowing we must die? It makes everything in between the birth and death so futile and insignificant in the scheme of the universe. I mean, we’re all just tiny little microscopic specs in the vast expanse. How could we make any impact on this thing called “life”? We’re really nothing compared to eternity. Sure, some of us will burn bright, and like a star will continue to burn bright long after death because we somehow left a light behind that still resonates. But most of us will shine for a moment in time and then burn out.

So why try to find a way to burn forever when we know there’s a good chance we’re going to fizzle?

For me, it’s because I know each and every one of us is a star to someone. You may not be the star on a rock stage or the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You may not be the President of your senior class or the most popular kid in school. You may not be the one to always gets the promotion, and many times you’re going to feel looked over, insignificant – as if no one sees you or cares.

But the thing is, we’re all stars to someone. Your parents, siblings, your next door neighbor…they may think you’re an angel sent from the heavens. To that lonely kid at school, you may be his/her hero. To the lady you helped in the grocery store, you may be what put a smile on her face. The truth of it is, we tend to underestimate the impact we have on others. We all may appear to be insignificant, but we’re not. Not all of us can be stars. Some of us need to be grains of sand on the beach.  You know why? Because without each and ever single grain of sand on that beach, there would be no beach. You may not stand out individually, but put together with the whole, look how magnificent you are.

Never, never underestimate your importance.  You are important, and your life matters to someone.

My mother-in-law passed away Sunday. She’d been ill for a while and lived in a nursing facility. She wasn’t a star that will burn like the sun into eternity. Someday her light will blip and will go out. But for now, it’s burning bright even though she’s gone. I look at how she touched the nurses and CNAs where she ‘lived’ her final three years. They loved her and when she passed Sunday, a piece of them went with her.

I see the posts on social media, from the people who barely knew her. They are all saying how Nancy touched their lives, how she always made them feel welcome and part of the family. Even those who had little contact with her thought her to be an extraordinary woman. She was a star then. She’s a star now.

She’ll always be a star to her family. She’ll always be a star to me. She was my second mom, and I am blessed to have this star streak through my life. I can only hope and pray to burn as bright in the lives I touch along this journey of life. I hope I will be as kind, forgiving, thankful, and just. I hope I will be as much a symbol of strength and honesty to others as she was. I hope I exude as much compassion and love and understanding. I pray I am as kind, thoughtful and present to those who need me.

I am a grain of sand hoping for star status.

To me, that’s what it’s all for. We’re not here to make a giant impact on the universe. We’re here to make positive impacts on each other. As long as we do that, we’ll always shine in the eyes of those lives we touch. Just remember, eventually, even the brightest star will burn out, but until then, be everything you can be. Make your life count. Touch a life, or two or three. Shine bright and never forget how valuable you are. Someone loves you, and that makes you the brightest star in the universe.


Imagine a world with no social media … Now breathe the air. Live

Imagine a world with no social media, even if it’s just for a day.

Everywhere we go these days, people have their noses stuck to their phones. I was at a restaurant last night and I looked around. Couples sat at tables and were more involved with what was on their phone than the person sitting across from them. We see all the time on social media films of a fight or a rape or bad crap happening to good people, and instead of humanity trying to help, they’re filming and posting to social media.

This sucks!  What kind of society are we when we choose technology over humanity?  Why do we have to text someone?  Why can’t we pick up the phone and call them?  Wouldn’t that be easier? Sure, technology has its advantages. You’re loved one is overseas, even a few states away and you can’t visit as often as you’d like. Skype is a great way to keep in touch. But why skype with your neighbor a street away?  What’s wrong with going to each other’s homes or meeting up at the local coffee shop?  Why have we become so afraid to truly interact with people? Why do we put more weight in social media “friend” numbers than we do in real friends?

I see our young people glued to their phones and pads and watches, and yet, when they come home from a day at the mall texting with friends who aren’t with them, they retreat to an empty room with no real friends to hug, laugh with.  In a world of social media friends, so many of us are truly alone.

How sad.

So, the next time you reach for your phone to text a friend, call them instead. I know I’d much rather hear your voice than see words type across a screen. Get out in the world. Make plans with your friends to have a no-technology day. Put your cell phones, your laptops, your computers away. Pretend Facebook and Twitter don’t exist. Connect with people, not technology. Breathe the fresh air. Live.


How #GlennFrey influenced my novel, #IntheShadowoftheDragonKing

I know it might sound odd, but Eagles band member, vocalist, and songwriter, Glenn Frey influenced my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

I didn’t really notice it until I started going through my notes and saw all these references to Eagle songs. “Incorporate feeling here.” “Listen to I Can’t Tell You Why. Fill David’s gut with this raw emotion”

Frey wasn’t a magic man, a wizard. He didn’t own, fly around on, or, to my knowledge, even believe in dragons. He didn’t write fantasy stories or live in a hobbit house, so how could he possibly inspire me to write a YA fantasy book?

The answer is simple. He was an amazing storyteller, and his lyrics of love, heartache, life, touched me and my characters in more ways than I even imagined.

As I went through my notes on Dragon King, I was surprised to see all the references I’d made to Eagle songs. Trust me there were other artists referenced: Billy Joel, Pink Floyd. Aerosmith, but none as many times as the Eagles. And I found it equally weird and remarkable that the songs seemed to center predominately around two characters: my grand knight, Sir Trogsdill, and my very young, inexperienced protagonist, David. There are over 30 references to the Eagles/Glenn Frey songs in my notes. 30.  That’s mind-boggling to me.

What were the songs that kept popping up?

And the references continue to show up in my 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy. Phrases, words of wisdom, notes on how to incorporate the message into the book. Some explore feelings within a character. Take New Kid In Town for example. The whole beginning of this song is exactly how David feels when he is entrusted with his quest. Everyone is watching him and he can’t let anyone down, however, I didn’t write the novel around those lyrics. The lyrics simply ‘fit’.

Desperado is a song steeped in wisdom of the heart. I can so hear Sir Trogsdill giving similar words of advice to his squire, Eric, and to David.  They are also words and emotions he wrestles with on his own as he battles his own demons. Again, no lyrics were used or re-worded. It’s more of a feeling. An interpretation.

Writers get their inspiration from a million different places. It just so happens that most of my inspiration comes from song lyrics, mainly because of the emotions they stir within me. If I want a character to feel a certain way, I delve into my memory banks and latch onto the song that makes me feel the way I want my character to feel. I note it in the margins, in comment boxes. That way, if I fall short in what I was trying to convey, I can listen to the music and then hone in on the emotion.

Still, it never ceases to amaze me how the music of one person, one band can touch your heart and soul.  There have been many artists who have found that special place within me, some more than others. Glenn Frey’s passing didn’t devastate me, not like Elvis’ did, but I can assure you, his music will be missed just the same.

So, Glenn, if you can hear me, thank you for your songs, thank you for the inspiration.

And more than anything, may there always be a rainbow above you.  Rest in peace.

Goodbye, Toby – my love, my angel … my best friend

After almost thirteen years, my husband and I had to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make. At 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 5, 2016, my playmate, my shadow, my best friend crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

And with him went a piece of my heart and soul for him to hold onto and protect until we meet again.

He came to us on the heels of another passing.  My sweet Dalmatian, Baby, crossed the Rainbow Bridge on February 12, 2003 from a ruptured spleen. No one could have seen it coming. One minute she was here. The next, gone. She died in my husband’s arms outside the emergency vet clinic while we waited for a vet tech and a gurney to bring her inside. I wept like I hadn’t wept since my father died, and while we had other animals in the house, my soul ached with her passing.

Two months later, on April 23 (I remember the date because it was the first day of my new job), my husband surprised me with the gift of a sweet pup, an Australian Shepherd who seemed to perk up at the name Toby.

Kevin and Toby, April 27, 2003
Kevin and Toby, April 27, 2003

me and Toby April 27 2003

At the time, this little fur ball could fit through the cat doors, but this soon changed. He grew into this beautiful boy who stuck to me like glue.

Toby - cuddle time with mom Feb 3 2006

He talked to me with his eyes …

Toby talking to mommy - Jan 3 2004

Toby 100505

And could get almost anything he wanted.  I couldn’t help it. He had me wrapped around every toe. Around his heart.

Toby & Charlie 002

He loved car rides and went everywhere we went. Family was his thing. He hated to be left alone.

Toby and Charlie - St. Augustine Feb 3 2007
St. Augustine – Feb 3, 2007

toby on his way to PawFest 2014 - 4-5-14

toby at beach
Clearwater Beach

He especially loved his “brother”, Charlie, a lot

Toby & Charlie 005and taught his “sister”, Jahlee, a few things about playtime and how to sleep in the big, comfy bed with mommy and daddy

Jahlee playing with Toby 1-1-2005a      jahlee and toby in bed 10-16-13

Toby was one of a kind, and he stuck to me like glue. He was my confidant, my jester, my teacher, my soul mate, my cuddler, my angel, and a tremendous part of my heart and soul.  He lived a good life. A spoiled life. And was happy as long as he could be near (or on top of) his family.

Toby sleeping on daddy - Jan 30 2009  Toby sleeping on the coucha

He died of respiratory problems related to his congestive heart failure and class 4 heart murmur. The vet believed he also had fluid building in his lungs making it difficult for him to breathe, even with oxygen and additional medications.  As I saw him lying in the oxygen ‘cage’, I could tell my best friend was suffering. It broke my heart to see him take such a quick downward spiral, I loved him too much to see him in pain. I had to say goodbye.

I wept and held him as the tech inserted the catheter. The vet gave us a few minutes to say our farewells, and I held him in my arms as he slipped from this life and crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t have felt more pain if someone had ripped my heart from my chest. God, how I loved love this sweet boy. I will never forget him. Ever. And while his passing is still new and raw, the wound still open, I know he’s in a much better place running around with his Charlie again. And knowing Charlie, I’m sure he was waiting by the gate and immediately introduced Toby to my beagle, Sammy, and my dalmatian, Baby, and they are romping and playing together where they never grow old and they suffer no more pain.

At the time of this post, it has been five days, almost six, since Toby left my side. To say I am still grieving would be an understatement. He took a part of me with him when he left that day, as have all of my pets. Someday, we will all be together again, and they will return those pieces to me they have been safe-keeping, and my soul will once again be whole. Until then, I will always remember their precious gifts of life and friendship.  It’s the least my mortal soul can do.

toby - regal
Toby – February 17, 2003 – January 5, 2016


And they call it puppy love – a Dalmatian love story

My husband came home from work one day and told me that a friend had a Dalmatian he could no longer take care of. My husband asked me if I knew anyone who was interested. Was he serious? I laughed. “Duh,” I said. “Do I look like chopped liver?”

I don’t know what I was thinking. After all, I was in my forties and had just started pre-menopause. My husband and I worked full-time jobs. We had four kids spanning elementary, middle and high school, two dogs, three cats, a cockatiel, a miniature blue rabbit, two ferrets, a hamster, a four-foot iguana, a small decorative fish pond, a 150-gallon saltwater tank and a fifty-gallon freshwater tank with Oscars. We were stretched thin with all the vet visits, the kitty boxes, the dog walks, homework, cooking and laundry. The last thing we needed was another mouth to feed. But my husband and I agreed to think about it over the spur-of-the-moment weekend vacation at Disney World with the kids.

During the hour and a half drive to Orlando, we saw signs from God and the universe. There were billboards featuring Dalmatians. We followed behind a car with a Dalmatian in the back seat. We saw Dalmatian bumper stickers, but the kicker came when we tried to check into the All-Star Music Resort and found out they had no more rooms available; however, they did have rooms available at the All-Star Movies Resort in the 101 Dalmatians section.

Talk about destiny.

My husband and I knew then what our answer was, and on our way home, we swung by the house of my husband’s friend and adopted Baby into our home.

From day one, she was the best dog I ever had. She was full of life, energetic, full of expression and personality. She followed me around like a shadow and she loved to cuddle. She was a beautiful dog, one brown eye, one blue, and she was covered in spots. Baby wasn’t “show” quality, but she was perfect for our family.

For two years, she led a spoiled-rotten life. Before we adopted her, she lived outside, chasing squirrels, barking, not getting much attention. With us, she curled up at our feet, slept in our bed, enjoyed the dog park, played in the surf at the beach, and lived a blissful, happy life inside in the cool air-conditioning, out of the hot Florida sun.

Then, one day, I got a call from my husband while I was at work. Something was wrong with Baby—something terribly wrong. I was perplexed. She’d just been to the vet, and he gave her a clean bill of health. By the time I got home, she was lying in the hallway, unable to lift her head or move. Her tongue hung out of her mouth. My husband and I lifted her into the van and drove her to the emergency vet, a five-minute ride from our house. I ran inside to get a tech, but by the time I returned to the van with a gurney, Baby crossed the Rainbow Bridge while being held in my husband’s loving arms.

At the time, I hadn’t experienced so much hurt since my father passed away two weeks before my twelfth birthday. It felt as if my heart had been yanked from my chest and no matter what I did, the tears kept coming. We managed to go back home without her, my sweet Baby, but then we had to face the next hurdle. We had to tell the kids. There was nothing that could prepare us for the loss of a family member. We sat around, hugging each other and sobbing. Our Baby was gone, and an incredible emptiness settled inside our home.

I went to work the next day, my eyes swollen and red, and I still couldn’t stop the tears. My friends were supportive, but there were others in the office who didn’t understand. “She’s crying over a dog?” I heard someone say.

No. Baby was more than a dog. She was my sweetheart, a soul mate in her own right. She gave me and my family unconditional love. The vet said she died from a ruptured spleen, but it didn’t matter. All I could think was that I’d never see her face, kiss her cold nose, hear her bark, or watch her run and romp in the waves. Who was going to curl up at my feet when I read, or lay her head in my lap when I was sad?

She was so young. Only six. My age, in dog years. My own mortality sank in.

It’s been twelve years since Baby passed away. Since then, most of our other pets have passed on, too. I am not looking forward to my dogs or cats dying, but they are getting older, like me, and I know it’s inevitable. And while it makes me sad to think of losing these precious creatures in my life, it soothes my soul to know that Baby will be there, waiting for them on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, ready to romp and play. And when my time comes, I know she’ll be there waiting for me, too, alongside my mom, my dad and all my other critters. I couldn’t ask for a better welcoming committee.

Baby - February 2001

“Encouraging Thunder” award

Well, I have to say, it’s been a long time since I got an award for my blog. In fact, I really thought the days of handing them out was long gone as I haven’t seen anyone getting awards in probably the last year or so.  So, imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning to find the lovely writer, Marjma, nominated me for the Encouraging Thunder award.

encouraging thunder award

The award is used by others to encourage life, to make your own thunder and to make sure your thunder is loud enough for others to hear. It is to encourage you to get up when you fall and keep going. It’s meant to be powerful and strong. It is a symbol of your own booming voice, your own crack of lightning. your own beautiful presence in the universe.

I am not one to pick and choose who should get this award or any award, but I will share it with any of you who want to take it and display it proudly on your own blog as a symbol to all that you are proud, you are loud, and you are strong in the face of all life’s pleasures and adversities.  May your thunder roll on. 🙂

Happy Superhero, I mean, Mother’s Day

Today is a day to honor all moms. Guys, this doesn’t just mean your mom. It means all moms, including:

–  the lady with the crying baby in the grocery store. Don’t be angry at her for not ‘shutting it up’. She’s more than likely not slept an entire night since giving birth. She’s zombie-fied, tired, irritable and may break out in tears if you look at her the wrong way. Or she could snap and take your head off. Either way, she’s a mom. Honor her.

–  the mom in the clothing store trying to be diplomatic with her eye-rolling, snarky teen.  As an observer, you may want to give the kid a quick kick in the behind, until you remember you were the same way at that age. Some things never change, right?

–  the mom at the kitchen table trying to help her child with math homework she hasn’t seen in maybe – ever. Throw core teaching methods on top it and well, give that woman a glass bottle of wine.

–  the single mom who is working two jobs to make ends meet, the same mom who sacrifices what she wants so that her kids can have. In case you haven’t realized, moms do this from the moment they hold that baby in their arms. Their life is no longer their own, and it never will be again.

–  your wife, the woman who takes care of you, makes your dinners, washes your clothes, makes sure your prodigies are well taken care of before somehow finding the energy to be alluring in the bedroom without falling asleep from sheer exhaustion.

And let’s not forget all the the moms who hold the following positions 24/7, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year:

  • CEO of household
  • doctor
  • nurse
  • teacher
  • referee
  • taxi driver
  • personal chef
  • professional cheerleader
  • food tester
  • family therapist
  • search and rescuer of lost toys
  • accountant
  • boo boo kisser
  • lullaby singer
  • dramatic story-teller
  • banker
  • hair stylist
  • makeup specialist,
  • bargain shopper
  • pet sitter
  • maid
  • laundry queen
  • housekeeper
  • janitor
  • art director
  • potty trainer
  • personal assistant to all family members
  • birthday event coordinator
  • wardrobe stylist
  • personal shopper
  • stain removal expert
  • vacation coordinator and tour guide, and
  • scary monster destroyer.

To all you moms out there, remember this:  you’re beautiful and special to those around you, even when your hair is a mess, you don’t have time to put on makeup, you can’t sing a lullaby on key,  and your house looks like an earthquake and a hurricane passed through it at the same time.  Be kind to yourself. You’re amazing. Don’t let anyone undermine all that you do, all you have sacrificed, all you have become. There is nothing more wonderful than a mom.  Take pride in what you are.  You’ve earned this hallowed spot. Show off your battle scars with pride. Today is your day.


Landing smack-dab in the sweetness

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to become successful at something, for people to love, want, need something you offer?  As an author who spends most of her free time writing Young Adult fantasy, it is something I think about every day.  Will my novel IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, be something young readers will want to read? Will it be something anyone will want to read?

I think authors probably top the list as the most insecure artists out there. We’re certainly the most unrecognized, which is probably a good thing because who wants to go into a Piggly Wiggly and be mobbed by the paparazzi while you squeeze the lemons? On the other hand, if the paparazzi is following you around, that means people want more  of you. It’s not enough you gave them a great book that may have taken years off your life. Your fans want your body. Your soul. The napkin you used to wipe your mouth.

But how do you create this desire? This hunger? This need?

Bottom line:  I haven’t a clue, though I believe it is all in the timing, and being in the right place at the right time, with the stars aligned perfectly, and I’m sure the moon rising in Venus has something to do with it.

I’ve seen very talented and wonderful people spend $$ on seminars and books. They take classes on marketing. They step out of their comfort zone and make themselves vulnerable to the ravenous public, to an ever-watchful boss, but nothing happens.  They are skipped over. Then, someone comes along with a product that sometimes appears to be less inferior, and voila, they have a following, a ravenous crowd, a praising boss who wants more, more, more.

In the case of books, remember the Twilight series? How many critics, professional or not, ridiculed these novels, saying how awful they were? Guess what? Stephenie Meyer laughed all the way to the bank and the franchise is still growing.  Look at the newest sensation: Fifty Shades of Grey. I can’t even read these books all the way through because Christian Grey creeps me out. He’s a stalker, a sado-masochist. He’s everything a man should not be towards a woman and yet his and Ana’s story is so dreamy. I shake my head in confusion, yet the author is in the ‘laughing to the bank’ club, while so many other authors with much better books, more positive stories, struggle to get anyone to notice.

I looked for similarities between the two authors, Meyers and E.L. James, and couldn’t find anything remotely the same as it relates to marketing, EXCEPT that E.L. James began writing 50 Shades as fan fiction based on the Twilight series.  She developed a following and now she’s a gazillionaire and people are swooning to see a film about a rich, good-looking guy who stalks naive, insecure virgins.  Prior to Ms. Meyers hitting it big, she was really quite obscure, a woman who had a story inside of her that needed to be written.

But there are many authors like her, including myself, who have stories inside that need to be written. How do some get the accolades, all the attention, while the majority do not? How does one amazing singer get passed over for another? What is it about that person at work who always seems to capture the awards and the atta boys, while others work just as hard and sometimes contribute even more, and don’t even get a good-morning?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is we just need to strive to be the best we can be to ourselves. We must be true to ourselves and not compromise our integrity, our beliefs, our morals just to have a brief moment in the spotlight. At the end of the day, we have to look in that mirror and like the image we see staring back at us … and hope someday, someone will notice us for all we’ve done, for all we’ve accomplished, for all our dedication and committment. Then, maybe we’ll, too, land smack-dab in the sweetness (or at the very least we’ll get a taste), and be a part of the ‘laughing to the bank’ club, even if it’s just one trip.

It is what dreams are made of, you know.


Don’t settle for anything … EVER

Hi all.

This is going to be a very, very short post today, but I felt I needed to impart some wisdom to all of you.

NEVER, EVER settle for anything.  If your gut and heart is screaming at you, telling you NOT to do something – LISTEN.  The last thing you want is to wake up one day regretting the decision you made.

There is a reason you have a sixth sense warning you, telling you not to do something. Too many times we balk at it. We think we know better. Our heads rationalize it. We have people who mean well telling us it’s a great thing to do. But I’m telling you. If your gut tugs at you and tells you ‘No’, listen, and listen hard.

Take it from someone who recently made a very huge mistake. I wanted something so bad that I rationalized it even though I knew in my heart it wasn’t the right path for me. As soon as I did it, my gut crumpled. It knotted and twisted. I’d just broken my own heart, my own dreams, because I I rationalized it. I talked myself into it, I listened to everyone else and not the little voice that said, “Don’t do it, Jenny.”

Please, take it from me, don’t wind up feeling like this. Listen to that little voice. You’ll be happier for it.

As for me… I’ve made my choice and now I must live with it. I will turn it around and I will make it a good decision, a good choice, one that will have a positive outcome. Good things come to those who keep positive vibes around them so come on world!  Bring on the good, happy vibes. It’s up to me to climb up and out. What an adventure it will be. 🙂


The time the earth almost swallowed me

I was young, perhaps five or six years old. I was playing outside barefoot, the cool green grass beneath my feet, the sun in my hair. I’ve forgotten what I was playing with. It doesn’t really matter. I can tell you that terror wrapped its ugly hand around my throat as the ground started to shake. I screamed and took a step for home, but my little white house with its yellow shutters and windowsill flower boxes with red geraniums, fell into the mouth of the earth.

I screamed for my mom, but she never came. I was alone. I backed up onto the sidewalk. The cracks in the ground chased me. Fires sprang up all around me. The earth rumbled and grumbled like a hungry beast,  vibrating beneath my small legs. I started to cry. A sliver of earth shifted beneath me, jutting upward a piece of carpeted dirt. I looked down as the gap between my feet grew wider, its insides tumbling into an abyss.  Wider and wider it grew until I had nowhere to go. I fell in, screaming at the top of my lungs. Falling, falling into darkness.

And then Superboy came with Krypto, the Super Dog (do you remember them?) and rescued me.

They took me to a beautiful 2 story home with a really nice yard. My mom and dad were there, along with my brother and my dog, Gypsy.  All was okay. No one was hurt, yay Superboy and Krypto, my favorite heroes of all … that is until I discovered a plastic dinosaur that lived in my home that could make himself really big whenever anyone bullied me.

But that’s a story for another time.


The above was a recurring dream I had as a child. I don’t know why I dreamed of Superboy except he had a dog sidekick and who doesn’t like super dogs that fly?  I also think deep down I really like Superboy with his dark hair and blue eyes, but I digress

I’m not sure where the dream came from. I’ve never been in a real earthquake, but I know the thought of one scares the beejeebies out of me.  If I felt one in real life, I would completely freak out. To this day I am terrified of being swallowed by the earth. I can’t tell you how hard I prayed that I wouldn’t experience one when I visited San Francisco many years ago. A year almost to the day after I was there, an earthquake in San Francisco claimed 63 lives, most of them when the Oakland Bridge fell in on itself.

I know a lot of people say to me, “Well, you live in Florida. Look at all the hurricanes.”  Yes, this is true, we have horrible storms and hurricanes but there is a difference between them and earthquakes …. there usually is advanced warning with a hurricane and we can evacuate. There is no warning when the earth is going to shift. It’s like trying to run from a tsunami. Where are you going to go? I have a hollow feeling in my stomach just thinking about it.

I wonder how people in earthquake prone areas deal with the ground shaking.  Please let me know. Maybe I won’t be so fearful if I understand.

As to the recurring dream, did you have any as a child that stuck with you? If so, I’d love for you to share, too.