About Me

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Jersey Shore, United States
In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muaaah!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Homework, homework and more homework

I don't know how things work in the other states across this country, but I do know that when I was a kid, I never had any where near as much homework as my children do.

Granted, my two older girls are in a gifted and talented program, so I kind of expected more homework would be in the cards for them. Last year, was my first foray into the wonderful world of G&T.  When Faith was accepted, I wrote a post about never feeling dumber in my entire life than when I sat through the orientation and saw what curriculum they had in store for her.  I have to give daughter #2 mad credit, because Farrah saw first hand the pounds of homework and projects older sissy had to do, but it did not in any way deter her from applying and interviewing for G&T herself. Honestly, to have one kid make it into this program was a blessing, but to have two???  My cup runneth over!! But so does the homework.... We spend at least 3-4 hours every night and almost our entire weekend, doing homework. By the way, that's after sports and clubs and every other after school activity my girls are involved in- quite often they are up to one or two in the morning, finishing homework.

My youngest is still in elementary school, fifth grade.  And yet, she does no less than two hours of homework a night. Unlike big sisters, Franchesca has a much harder time focusing on homework. She is the type of kid that needs to be in a totally quiet space, with ZERO distractions. And even then, I have to keep reminding her and redirecting her to focus on her homework.  It's a nightly battle. Out of all my kids, I can relate to Frankie the most. I was always daydreaming or having a hard time focusing on one topic. Anyone who reads this blog can clearly see, I still have that problem.

This weekend, my older girls turned down free tickets to Fright Fest at Great Adventure, because they had way too much homework to go.  They also had to pass on Rosh Hashanah dinner at their Aunt Lynn's house (one of their favorite celebrations to attend). I wonder what else they will have to miss out on in the future because of homework and I wonder if it's at all worth it.  On the other hand, I do absolutely LOVE the teachers and program my two older girls are enrolled in. The Husband and I are very grateful our girls were chosen to be a part of G&T. However, I have to ask myself, what's more important. My kids being challenged or them losing out on fun activities?  What if it's too much pressure?

Have any of you seen a trend towards more and more homework, like me? What are your thoughts about homework? Recently, I was speaking to someone (from overseas) who laughed when I said my kids are enrolled in a difficult academic program and I worried deeply about their stress level. According to him, we are a joke in the education department, no matter what program your kids are in, here in the USA. I argued there are only so many hours in the day to do homework, no matter what country you hail from. Although he absolutely insisted his country was superior to ours in every single way, and I wasn't going to waste my time arguing with him any more about it. *** 

Please, drop me a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions about how much homework your kids do or how much you had to do. I don't ever remember doing more than an hour in elementary school, but that was a long time ago now.

***Sorry, but after talking to that gentleman, I feel compelled to add this thought: to all of the people from other countries who immigrate to America and then want to stand there and bash it to pieces and insist the country you came from is so freaking awesome and superior to mine in every single way, do us all a favor, and GO BACK HOME. Cause no one asked your stank ass to move here in the first place, thank you very much.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Tragic Loss of Sport-less Gloating and Glee

I may have mentioned once or twice, that sports are not, nor have they ever been, my top priority. I am not athletic in any way, shape or form. Most of you know, my exuberant top half prevents me from ever being able to complete a push up. Not that I care, but I worried for my kids. Would they want to play sports? I knew for a fact that they would not inherit any awesome athletic ability or aspirations, from me, that's for sure. And for many, many years I was able to dodge the "sports bullet" as I like to call it.

Early on Saturday mornings, I'd pass by the humid, mosquito-infested fields and I'd see all of the sucker  soccer parents who were going to have to sit their swampy butts in that hot sun from 8-4, watching one miserable game after another. And I grinned like the Cheshire Cat, knowing I got to whiz on by, sipping my Starbucks latte, feeling quite privileged that my three scholars were perfectly content to pass right by that sucky field too. You see, we were on our way to much more civilized events, like Chess Club. Which meet in the air-conditioned, bug-free and always hospitable, library. I felt very lucky indeed. But for some reason, my fate all changed, last year.

To my horror, in the beginning of  September, my daughter came to me and said she wanted to try out for a "team" sport. Gah!! How did sports suddenly become a priority to my little nerd? Why? What kind of evil was this? I was so afraid. Do any of you all remember my posts about the dreaded Field Day? Yeah, to say athletic ability was never our strong suit, is a total understatement.

I was petrified, but swore to support my daughter, if this is what she really wanted, no matter what. Honestly, I wasn't really prepared for what was to come. Because I never thought in a million years she would actually make the team. But she did!! Oh man was I shocked. I thought for sure I was going to be able to maintain my sport-less existence until they graduated. Not so. Not so. So where did all of this jock-itis stem from?

Although my girls have never shown any interest in team sports before, they are highly competitive and have always kept active. They love, love, love to swim and hike and they have all been involved in one form of martial arts or another. Bottom line, no matter what they are doing, (academic or otherwise) they like to WIN. In all my years of sport-less gloating and glee, I had forgotten that very important detail. Along with one other:  my girls weren't just half me, but half The Husband too! They must have inherited all of this competitive drive and crap from him.

Needless to say, my transition into becoming a sports parent has not been easy. I actually have to go into jock stores now. Did you know that their store is literally called "Dicks"?  From the second I walk in the door, my heels click, click, clicking on the marble floor, carrying my gigantic Ulta shopping bag, I stick out like a sore thumb. Even the stupid mannequins in that place are all jacked. Everything in there is completely foreign to me. The sales people are carbon copies of who I spent my entire high school existence avoiding. Oy. What I won't do for my kids!

As a new year and season commences, my older daughter has again, made the team. Wish me luck friends. Change doesn't come easy to this old Bird, and I am still grieving the tragic loss of my sport-less existence.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cat Anthology Blog Hop

I am SO happy to be able to take part in this Charity Cat Anthology Hop hosted by  Ms. Kyra Lennon,.  The rules were simple:
(1)The story MUST have a cat in it. 
(2) You can write a story within your usual genre - even if it's a sci-fi, or a paranormal cat, or a love story that has a cat in it
(3) You can write a poem if you prefer
(3) The absolute maximum word count is 2500 words 
(4) All entries must be edited by the author prior to publication 
(5) You MUST write somewhere on your post that you allow permission for me to use your work in the book
(6) You must also attach a short bio and one link to a place people can find you online
Authors retain copyright for any work submitted to the anthology, and can republish their own work elsewhere, with the understanding that all proceeds for THIS anthology will be going to Cats Protection.  

As most of you know, I am a Crazy Cat Lady so I was all over this! I hope you like my submission, which Kyra now has my blessing and permission to publish in the anthology. Anything I can do  to help a feline out!  I've titled this  "The Nightmare"

The nightmare was back, again. I woke with a start, gasping for air, heart pounding, body shaking and terrified, tears streaming down my face. Just like all the times before. And just like before, Yury snored his way through the entire episode oblivious to my plight. I stared at my husband's massive shoulders and back and watched his enormous chest rise and fall with each and every breath. For all of that muscle and strength he possessed, my big, strong protector was powerless to fight this enemy. As I sat there trying to catch my breath, something flew out of the dark and hit me square in the chest.  

It took a second before I registered it was only Ivan, my cat. He knocked the wind right out of me, which I decided was a good thing. Otherwise, I would have unleashed a scream loud enough to wake all ten floors of our apartment building. If I wasn't so shaken up from the nightmare, my cat would not have been able to ambush me quite so spectacularly. Ivan always instinctively knew when I was in distress and came running to the rescue. As my fingers wrapped themselves up in familiar soft, white, fluff I tried to relax. The sound of Ivan's purring filled up my room and my heart. I could have stayed like that forever, except my feline remained standing squarely on my chest, and just like Yury, my cat was no light weight.

Looking straight into Ivan's big green eyes, I took my time and slowly opened and shut my own, in an exaggerated blink. Which I knew, roughly translated into cat, meant I love you. He returned the gesture, turned and launched himself straight at Yury's head. Yury woke in a fury, his tree trunk arms and legs flailing about, his deep voice stringing together some Russian cusses I've yet to master. Ivan was no fool and he beat it out of there before my sleeping giant could rise up out of bed. He did, however, pause in the doorway just long enough to throw me a pointed look over his shoulder and convince me the waking of Yury had been no accident.

My husband turned over to face me and the whole bed shifted under his weight when he did. I started to roll away but his arms shot out and wrapped around me; I was not going anywhere now. Once he had me locked in he leaned over and kissed me.

That little fluff-ball is very lucky you are so fond of him. What's this? Tears? Not the dream again?” Yury wiped the residual tears from my cheeks.

Yeah, the stupid dream. Don't be so hard on Ivan. He was trying to comfort me.”

I wish I knew how to comfort you and make this nightmare go away. Maybe I should not do overtime or the split shift next week. Maybe I could....”

I loved my husband for even offering. But we both knew he had no choice. The jobs here were so few and far between and we were barely making it now. There was no way he could turn down the opportunity and money working overtime generated.

Things are so different here than they were back home in the states. I knew they would be and man did I catch a whole lot of grief for coming here. My parents have disowned me. I was a true Southern belle, born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. Spoiled rotten from the time I was born as the only daughter of a retired Senator and District Attorney. My parents were older, with even older Southern money, who had nothing but time and the mind to hone me into the perfect debutante. I was considered quite the prize catch. I had my chance with a wide share of suitors there for a while. One right after the other, all marched in purposefully, coming on the pretense to call on me, but they were really there to impress my parents. Oh, the pedigrees they pulled out. All of them the picture of Southern charm and gentility. But one after the other, I could not bear to spend even a minute in their company. Their arrogance and so-called charm was all a big show. Their political aspirations had them drooling and dripping with insincerity all over me. It was nauseating. I wanted no part of any of it or them. All I wanted to do was dance.

Of course, my parents had me enrolled in dance lessons from the time I could walk. They were absolutely delighted when I clung to ballet like a fish to water. It was through dance I found my freedom. When I was dancing, everything else just fell away and I was free. So just how did a spoiled, Southern Belle like me end up on the other side of the world? How did I go from sipping sweet tea and mint juleps with well-bred, preening Southern boys one day to downing vodka shots in the freezing cold with my rough, working-class Russian the next?

The summer after my high school graduation, my ballet teacher tipped me off about a world-renown Russian ballet company touring the United States that just happened to be holding open auditions. I knew from the second I walked into the audition, I would do absolutely anything to become a part of this company. These ballerinas danced with a precision and technique I only dreamed of. They pushed and pushed until they had nothing left and I knew they could help take me to the next level as a dancer. I spent every waking minute I could that summer, hanging around the company. It was there I met Yury; technically he was a part of the production team, mostly they had him doing all the heavy labor. Like breaking apart and reassembling sets and hauling around the sound equipment. He scared the crap out of me first time I saw him.

One night, I thought I was alone, the last one to leave the theater, and on a whim, I jumped back up on stage and performed the solo of the Prima ballerina. When I finished, I heard clapping. He stepped out from behind the stage curtain.

“You are good. If you manage to make it into this company, you could be great.”

“You just gave me a flipping heart attack buddy! What are you doing here? More important, who the heck are you?” I practically screeched at him. Yury smirked. He approached me, slowly and silently and I wondered how anyone that massive, could be so stealthy, so silent? He thrust a giant hand in my direction and introduced himself.

“I am Yury Varennikov, Galina's nephew.” That was all he said by way of introduction, but it was enough. Galina was the director of the entire ballet company. If he was related to her, he had every right to critique my dancing, as well as be in the theater, after hours.

Soon I found that Yury was different in every way I would have imagined him to be, and from every other boy I had ever known. He was like a breath of fresh air. So uncomplicated, so simple! In no way do I mean to infer he is not intelligent, not at all! My Yury is extremely bright, it was more like I never had to guess with him, I always knew exactly what he was thinking. He was direct and honest and had zero ulterior motives in wanting to be with me. In stark contrast to all of the Southern boys with their flowery words and ingratiating flattery, he was a man of few words. Yet, he never had to struggle to get his point across. Looking into his dark eyes reminded me of looking into the eye of a tornado, all around us was chaos, but inside, he was the very center of the storm, the calm.

My parents, of course, went absolutely ape when I told them Yury and I were in love and wanted to get married. I knew they would put up a fuss, but I did not think they would disown me. Now I feel bad I ever even dragged Yury over to my house and subjected him to such scrutiny. But he dealt with them with dignity and grace, like everything else.

They escorted us into the parlour, all formal. Yury took up almost the entire Queen Ann settee himself, but I managed to squeeze myself in next to him. My mother began the cross examination. When she was through, she tagged my father, who stood. He picked up his whiskey sour, and arrogantly threw us the question he assumed would be the final blow.

“What does someone like you, possibly think you could add to my daughter's life?” Funny, how both of them made their livings out of arguing and yet, Yury silenced them with one word.

“Substance.” Yury stood, completely dwarfing my 6 foot 200 pound father. He grabbed my hand and we left. I was determined to marry Yury, with or without their blessing, and I did. What I didn't tell them was when the ballet company's tour of the United States ended, it would go back to Russia and Yuri and I planned on going with them.

Being here hasn't been easy. Between my accent and the cold and my ignorance of the language I have committed more than a few cultural faux pauxs. But being with Yury makes my life here, no matter how hard, worth it. I was doing better too, until a few months ago when the dream started. Now, no matter what I do it haunts me day and night. 

It's such a simple dream. But terrifying none the less. It always starts the same way, I am coming home to our apartment, but Yury is not there. I walk up the stairs and when I open the door and go in something, or someone, evil is waiting for me. There is a dark shadow hanging over my apartment and I feel doomed. I know it sounds so simple to relate it. It's simplicity is what's so scary. My imagination goes so many bad places with it.

Despite my lack of rest due to the dream, the weeks flew by in a flurry of classes and rehearsals, as Yury was kept busy working the split shift and as many hours of overtime he could. One Friday night, Yury had to stay late and I had to make my way home solo. I missed our stop completely and had to wait for another train to take me back. (I am still getting used to navigating the public transportation system and the Russian alphabet is not the easiest to pick up, that's for sure) I decided I would walk the rest of the way, but it took me longer than expected.

It had begun to snow, soft flakes that were light but falling steadily. It was truly a beautiful sight, and St. Petersburg was truly a spectacular city. Somehow, this place had really started to feel like home. I was humming the tune of The Nutcracker to myself when I turned onto our street, and was shocked to see police and many of our neighbors standing outside our building. From what I could gather and piece together, with the little Russian I knew, it seemed our building had been hit by burglars. Every single apartment in our building had been robbed, and I needed to go up and check our place to see what was missing.

Slowly, I climbed the stairs. Things I had never really picked up before started to all click into place. I broke out in a cold sweat as I realized every detail of my dream was now solidifying before my eyes. As I walked past a neighbors' open door, I took a peek inside. Their couch had been turned over and a vase lay broken, fresh flowers strewn across the floor. Drawing on every reserve of inner strength I possessed, I steeled myself for what I would encounter in our apartment. It was time I faced my fears. As I climbed the last few steps, I stumbled. I placed my hand out to steady myself, and when I did, my hand touched something wet. It was thick and a deep rich red and I had a terrible suspicion of what the substance was. I looked up the rest of the steps and I saw more drips and drops of what I knew could only be blood. Terrified, yet determined, I pressed on.

The door of our apartment was slightly ajar. I procrastinated in the doorway, solidifying my will to take that final step and go in. There was a small puddle of blood just inside the hallway. I was about to ditch, thinking the hell with seeing my nightmare come to fruition, I'm outta here, but before I could beat feet and run all the way back down those stairs, I heard a very indignant “Meeeooow!”

Ivan! I burst into the apartment and found every one of my fears to be completely unfounded. There was no evil, no dark presence waiting for me. Our place, other than the puddle of blood at the entryway, stood virtually untouched. It was then I saw Ivan, my soft, fluffy,white, ball of fur, perched gracefully on top of the back of our couch, carefully licking blood off his claws.

Jennifer Bird loves to read, write and spend time at the beach, which is convenient since she resides at the Jersey Shore with her husband, three tweenage girls and one very spoiled and very fat cat named Filamena. You can usually find her weaving tall tales on her blog, The Bird's Nest.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"A Slow Fade" September Meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group

Gah! Is it really September? Do my kids really have to go back to school tomorrow? Oy!! Somehow, the summer is over and here we are, the first Wednesday of the month, ready for another IWSG post. If you'd like to know more about this spectacular group of insecure writers, click here: Alex J. Cavanaugh or hit up their Facebook page!

This month, I plan on implementing huge changes in my writing and personal life. It's been WAY too long since I focused on me. I know that sound super selfish, but ever since I became a mother, (13 years ago) I have put myself dead last at the bottom of  a long list of priorities. Even the cat's needs get met and placed before my own. Who's fault is this? Completely mine! I plan on rectifying that though, starting today.  This month, I promised myself I WILL take time for me. I WILL schedule writing time as well as take a much needed break, just for me. The only obstacle I face is me. Yep, my biggest enemy has always been myself.

In my writing life- I continually knock my work down with my lack of confidence and insecurities. I never feel like I'm good enough. In my personal life I constantly feel guilty if (God forbid) I sit down for five minutes. It's so bad, I can't even tell you the last time I had a decent hair cut. You know, a hair cut that is not me getting fed up so I take my kitchen shears and chop my bangs off along with all of  the dead ends myself. It's been at least ten years since I visited a real salon. TEN YEARS!! My younger self is cringing. There was a time I wouldn't even venture out of the house without my hair coiffed and my make-up perfectly applied. Now I'm lucky if I leave the house wearing a clean shirt! How did I allow this to happen? How did I push all of my wants and needs and dreams aside? It was a slow fade friends. But I don't want to fade out completely. I want to start shining brightly again.  I want to pursue my wants, my needs, my dreams, before it's too late and I am but a shadow of the person I once was.

Have any of you suffered from a slow fade in your writing life? What about your personal life? Any of you feel massive guilt, like me, if you take time, just  for yourself?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Sausage Controversy

Today, ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves- you are in for a rare and wonderful treat. You are about to read a poignant post full of pure, inspirational thoughts, words and encouragement. Yeah, no. Not even close. With a title like "The Great Sausage Controversy" you must have known there's no well-written, poignant post full of meaning to be had here....ha ha.  Instead, I'm going to be filling you all in on an epic event that went down in the Bird's Nest and is now and will forever more be referred to as "The Great Sausage Controversy" among all of our friends and family members.

Ah, it's been quite some time since The Husband and I have had a little  WWE Smack Down marital spat. As usual, this disagreement sprung from a matter of the utmost importance, one of our deepest fundamental differences; it's a wonder our marriage has lasted the past nineteen years. I'm sure you are all wondering, what in the world could have sparked this  knock down all out war disagreement between two people who made a commitment to love, honor and respect one another, so many years ago? Here's the skinny:

The Husband and I are both fat and Italian. To fat Italians, pizza is no joke. We regularly order out and/or make our own pizza at home. The Husband called on his way home from work, requesting that I make him pizza for dinner. Sure, I told him, no problem, I had all the ingredients. I just needed to allow the dough to rise. But wait, The Husband loves to have sausage on top of his pizza, and I had none. I asked that he would please pick some up on his way home, which he agreed to do. All was well until he came home. I had already started preparing everything, I was just waiting to blanch the sausage. AND he lost his mind.

Husband: "You can not cook the sausage first! It has to cook on the pizza or it will dry out."
Jaybird: "Husband, I will  not place raw sausage on top of this pizza. Raw pork will kill you. Let me blanch it, at the very least."
Husband: (his voice was escalating and he was now using what I like to refer to as his condescending COP tone) "No self-respecting pizza place uses cooked sausage on top of their pizza, it would come out tasteless and all dried up!"
Jaybird: (my voice and tone, only in response to his of course was now getting elevated at this point) "Get outta my kitchen and mind your business. I know what I'm doing!"
Husband: "I'm calling Nunzio's!!!!"
(The Husband whips out his cell phone and hits speed dial- he connects with one of our favorite places to order pizza. On the Jersey Shore, you never know when or where you'll be in the mood for pizza. We have a favorite place in just about  every county  and town in South and North Jersey, just in case.)
Husband: "HA!  Ha, ha, ha. I WAS RIGHT!!  I toooold you SO! Nunzio says that they NEVER cook the sausage first, it will dry up!! And we've been eating that pizza for years and we never died!"
Jaybird: (Not willing to give in or concede at this point, because now I'm fuming mad at his tone and his condescending I told you so attitude) "Pizza places have ovens that heat up to 500 zillion degrees, maybe that's okay for them, but at home, no way. I'm still cooking the sausage!!"
Husband: (Get's the cell phone back out, and dials pizza place #2 and asks the same question, just to gloat and be a total tool but instead, I have the satisfaction of hearing this) "Whaaat? You cook your sausage first? WHY? Doesn't it get all dried out? Oh. Because it's raw pork, you blanch it before it goes in the oven? Okay."
Jaybird: "HA!! Ha, ha ha."
Husband: "I don't care what they say! You are not going to cook that sausage first." (Husband goes to make a grab for the package of sausage)

And, because clearly at this point you can already tell we are the King and Queen of maturity and wisdom, things unravel further. Jaybird, normally a pacifist and a calm, centered woman of faith, picked up that package of sausage and threw it at him, adding in a couple of brilliant Italian hand gestures and phrases that I care not to repeat at this time, since I am no longer in a fit of rage and anger. (Don't judge. Some people do Meth. And for the record, no one in my forty-three years of life has EVER incited me to violence. Except The Husband. For some reason, he can make me go from zero to sixty in two seconds.)

BTW: You would think that my children would be cowed or at least shrinking and crying from the escalating violence in the kitchen, instead, they were laughing so hard one of them almost wet their pants. Then, they did what every other person we told about this ridiculous fight did: they picked sides!!!

Honestly, this stupid, stupid sausage fight raged on and on because- everywhere, absolutely everywhere we went, for at least a month, the kids told on us!! They told all of our friends, neighbors and any family members who would  listen. So the stinking sausage debate raged ON. My parents got into it over it. My dad thought it would be fine to throw the sausage on the pizza raw, my mom, went with cooking it first. They went out to dinner with their best friends and they weighed in as well. (a split decision)  I went to a party at my brother-in-law's house and the first thing he did was walk up to me and say, "Jen, surely you won't die from raw sausage!" Et tu brute, et tu?

Annnnd, again, because we are so mature and everything, we kept tabs. How does something so ridiculous get so out of hand? Welcome to my world. Where my husband and I's biggest fight in almost twenty years of  marriage, was about sausage. So I have to ask, who's side would you be on in the Great Sausage Controversy?

*There is no wrong answer here. Just go with your gut instinct. And please, please, don't cite any Google engine search results. Trust me, they have already been thoroughly exhausted by my friends and family and reported to us, ad nauseam.