Woman@Heart

Musings on Life, Love and Lefovers

Archive for the category “women”

Whose Home for the Holidays?

Ah love. It starts out innocently enough. You say yes to dinner and a movie. He brings flowers and chocolates. There are romantic walks on the beach. And before you know it, you’re married. The days of staring lovingly into each other’s eyes are replaced with scanning the food section for bargains and listening for the sound of the shower turning off, so you can take your turn.

You’re occupied with many challenges as the two of you begin a life together. So many decisions to make: Cable or satellite? Pepperoni or sausage? Over-easy or scrambled? Foreign or domestic?

Days, weeks, months pass. Miscellaneous facts are gingerly revealed: He likes Brussels sprouts. She thinks birthday cake is a breakfast food. Both of you have trouble staying awake for the 10 o’clock news. Deals are reluctantly made: He agrees to read the sports section until she’s finished with the front page. She’ll watch Entourage if he’ll sit through reruns of The Office. Then, your newly formed family of two becomes three, four and maybe even five.

In my case, over eight quick years, the duo of Nick + Claire expanded into a quintet that included Shawn, Jake and Seth. Of course, more questions arise, more choices need to be made. Cloth or disposable diapers? Public or private school? Soccer or taekwondo? As fledgling parents, we made it through these either/ors while learning about raising sons. shutterstock_11570470

But every November the same question arose; one that never seemed to have an easy answer. Where are we spending Thanksgiving and Christmas this year? At your parents’ place or mine?

This guilt-inducing query is best avoided when you’re dating. Discuss religion, how you’ll vote in the next primary, which pro football team you’ll cheer for, but tiptoe around this explosive topic.

Like lots of young couples, we tried to appease everyone by attempting to be in two places at one time. We’d go to my mom’s house for an early dinner and his folks’ place for dessert. Playing beat-the-clock when Thanksgiving Day is limited to 24 hours is tough. The same is true of Christmas Day. There’s not enough time to enjoy the holiday if you’re spending most of it crisscrossing the county. We’d barely taste a forkful of candied yams and cranberry stuffing at my mom’s table before we were loading ourselves back into the car.

I can still hear the voice of a 6-year-old Jake yelling from the backseat as we drove to our next stop: “There goes the pumpkin pies.” In our haste to be on time, the desserts had been set down but not secured. They slid aimlessly across the van floor and slammed into the back of the front passenger seat, making a gooey-looking burnt sienna splash across the cloth upholstery.

Scurrying from house to house was how we spent the next several Thanksgivings and Christmases. Inwardly I wanted to mount a stay-at-home-for-the-holidays coup. The thought of packing up three kids, two car seats, a green bean casserole, and sundry other items had lost its appeal. Maybe I had spent too many Christmas Eves staying up until 2 a.m. helping Nick put together a 350-piece something whose box has innocently cautioned: “some assembly required.”

Exhausted toward the end of one of these marathon holiday events, I collapsed on the couch where other similarly fatigued parents grouped. My brother-in-law, Leo sitting nearby listened as I lamented the craziness of the season. He smiled and nodded knowingly. His family had just spent their day under similar circumstances. “Next year, why don’t we move our get-together to the day after Christmas?” he proposed to no one in particular. A huge sigh swept through the room, followed by cheers of relief. “Why hadn’t we thought of this before?” asked a sister-in-law. “Where does it say that we have to scrunch everything into one 24-hour day?”

The meaningful parts of our celebration would be the same; they would just occur a day later. Pop-pop would still be the center of attention as he donned his Santa hat to pass out gifts. The grandkids would wait wide-eyed to hear their name called before eagerly opening their presents. The overabundance of sugar cookies, popcorn balls and fudge would get a second chance to find a welcome palate.shutterstock_525751432

A once stress-filled, jammed-packed ritual was forever transformed into an extended familyfest. Leisurely, all of us kids-at-heart could delight in the blessings that come when you’re part of a large family, minus the harried disposition. No one would have to keep an eye on the clock, poised to rush out the door for another gathering. As a bonus, we all got an extra day to anticipate the fun.

The years have passed since we could look forward to sipping a cup of Nana’s hot apple cider, gobbling a scoop of Sitie’s pistachio fluff or listening to Uncle George regale us  with stories, while we laughed as though hearing his tales for the first time.

It’s the sweetest memories that last. And isn’t that really the best part of the holidays.

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The Power of the Story Inside Us All

During the last century, I filled my college hours in Dr. Hartung’s news reporting 101 and Mr. Krumming’s Media Law classes, fascinated with fact-finding, spelling and grammar. Who could ask for more?

Well, San Diego State University administrators can, and did. In those days, SDSU required J-school undergrads to have a minor, whether it be finance, history or art. They probably knew the odds of getting a writing job were similar to winning the California State Lottery.

So, as many of my fellow students, I set about to select a minor. If I knew then what I know now, I would have invested my time in comparative literature or marketing. But psychology captured my imagination and units. So, I learned about Freud’s id, ego and superego as well as the behaviorism theories of Pavlov and Skinner. Surprisingly, a lot of  my journalism classmates shared my affinity to explore the inner workings of our minds, but I never understood why.

Then I read “The Power of a Story” in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine. I now realize the path I chose was meant to be traversed. There’s nothing happenstance about my choice. In the article, Jennifer King Lindley intersects psychology and plot twists in a fresh, creative way. And since this storyteller lives on the corner of character arc and classical conditioning, I was immediately taken with the premise.

According to Lindley, “We naturally think of our own lives as stories, psychologists say. Changing the way you tell yours can help you handle whatever plot twists come your way.” In her article, I learned about an emerging field of study–narrative psychology. Too bad that minor wasn’t offered at San Diego State when I was a junior.

Hope you find “The Power of a Story” as fascinating as I did.

https://www.magzter.com/article/Home/Real-Simple/The-Power-Of-A-Story

What’s Your Rush?

shutterstock_392375377It happened again today. I was late meeting a friend for coffee. As I drove around the parking lot searching for a spot, I caught a glimpse of her sitting at the sidewalk café. Not wasting time waiting for me to show up, she was cleaning out her purse. I apologized for my tardiness as she gave me a hug. “It’s no big deal,” Margaret said letting me off the hook. “I’ve been wanting to clean my purse for a while anyway, but I never could find the time.”

The frustrating thing is, I shouldn’t have been late in the first place. I was ready to walk out the door 15 minutes early. But since I had extra time, I tossed a load in the washing machine and wrote an overdue thank-you note. Presto, now I was running behind.

I start out on time, but for some reason, being early often makes me late. It’s like my day is 10 minutes shorter than everyone else’s. The truth is, being a chronic multi-tasker (aka woman/mother/sitie) has impaired my time-management skills. Even though I’ve adopted “Be in the moment” as my personal mantra, more often than not, my actions are focused on reaching the destination instead of enjoying the journey.

My husband doesn’t classify me as a woman-in-constant-motion, even though Nick is often the benefactor of my never-waste-a-moment mentality. To him, I move about as fast as — well — as a wife. So several weeks ago when I got pulled over for speeding, he was shocked. In fact, since my speedometer rarely hits 60, Nick agreed that my car must have been the only one the officer could catch. At the time, my mind was on where I was headed; not how fast I was getting there. Luckily the patrolman let me off with a stern warning. Maybe I reminded him of his own wife.

I blame my scheduling shortcomings on a high regard for the value of time. I’m committed to squeezing every second out of the day as if I’m crushing oranges so every drop lands in the glass. I know time is precious and I don’t want to waste it. But somehow in my quest to get the most from every moment, I’m often rushed, segmented and rarely able to strike a reasonable balance between using time wisely and staying in the moment.

Just a few weeks ago, while going through the afternoon mail, I noticed a long-awaited check for a freelance writing assignment. I opened the envelope, looked at the amount, smiled and then — as any busy woman and mother would do — went on to finish a variety of chores. About a half-hour later I realized I had misplaced the check. Panicked, I retraced my steps. Wow, I had done a lot in those 30 minutes — paid some bills, vacuumed the familyroom, dropped off magazines at the neighbor’s house, fed our dogs, Bandit, Jersey Girl and Bowie. Still, I couldn’t find the check.  I was discouraged about losing my hard-earned money, but what really bugged me was how much time I’d wasted looking for that envelope. In my haste to get more done, I’d accomplished less and I was more stressed for my efforts.

About an hour later I found the check, tucked inside a stack of papers filed for a future writing assignment. But the reality hit me. Doing several things at once can actually cost more time than it saves — and it doesn’t do much to strengthen long-standing friendships, either.

I already have a few changes in mind to get me on the path of doing less and enjoying it more.

I’m told the best way to solve any problem is to acknowledge it and then take small steps toward improvement. I already have a few changes in mind to get me on the path of doing less and enjoying it more. For starters, I could replace quick showers with an occasional lingering bubble bath or eat a real breakfast instead of bites of an untoasted Poptart. On days I really want to splurge, I’ll actually read an entire magazine instead of skimming through the pages and ignore that little voice adding items to my “to-do” list.

There’s one improvement I’ll definitely make the next time Margaret agrees to meet me for coffee. I’ll leave the house 15 minutes early — no checking e-mail or devising last-minute menu plans.  This time she’ll find me sitting at the café table with nothing more to do than sip a warm, chocolatey mocha, happily awaiting her arrival.

 

 

 

 

 

Release Day for Maybe This Time

I’m excited to celebrate the release of my novella, Maybe This Time. Here’s a short excerpt I thought you might enjoy. 

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Available exclusively on Kindle Unlimited.

Kate held the door as Colleen, eyes still glued to her tablet, walked out of the coffee shop. “I’ll follow up on the wine and chocolate class,” Kate promised.

“Nothing gets your mind off a hot guy like wine and chocolate,” Colleen said. “Are you coming to yoga practice?”

“Naw, think I’ll head into the office early and catch up on a few things.”

And wait for Eric to call.

“If he calls, he calls. I just met the guy. This isn’t life changing.” Kate argued more to herself than to Colleen, dismissing the idea aloud that she was already in deep. The pounding of her heart did little to reinforce the casual tone she hoped to emit. After all, she and Eric barely spent an hour together and most of that was discussing floor plans and parking flow. “There he is.” Kate shouted at Colleen, shoving a crinkly bag of leftover scones into her friend’s hand before racing up the street toward a parked taxi cab.

Colleen fumbled to catch the bag without dropping her tablet. “He who?” she yelled, chasing behind, but not at the same sprint Kate exhibited. Suddenly Kate stopped hard, as though she hit a wall and turned around. Oh my God. Her breath hitched as she tried to regain her composure before Colleen caught up to her.

“What are you chasing after?”

“A dream,” Kate responded, sucking in air. “It wasn’t Eric. I made a mistake. Let’s go.” She grabbed Colleen by the arm and tugged her toward the cafe, hoping she wouldn’t ask any more questions. Kate didn’t want to tell her friend that she saw Eric standing near a cab. Her Eric, being kissed by a shapely woman with a tiny waist and long legs. A beautiful blonde who whispered something sexy into his ear before walking away. They must have been on a romantic getaway. How stupid I am to think a guy like Eric is waiting around for me. He probably dates lots of women—at the same time.

“Hey, Kate. Is that you?”

Kate walked faster, but Colleen stopped. “There’s a guy back there waving at you. Kinda nice looking. Now he’s coming our way.” Colleen smiled as though inviting him to come closer.

“Don’t encourage him,” Kate said.

“Too late. Here he is.” Colleen made a sweeping motion as though she were a hostess on a game show introducing today’s prizes.

Oh God, his eyes are browner than I remember.

“Kate, I’m glad I caught you,” Eric said. “Sorry I missed you on the phone. I got back into town early.”

“I see that,” Kate muttered, her icy tone coating each word. Not going through this drama again. Crazy guy. Multiple girlfriends. Bad endings.

“I’m Eric Wiley,” he said, offering his hand for Colleen to shake before returning his attention to Kate.

“So maybe we can set up that coffee date. There’s a great little place a couple of doors down.”

“I know. Colleen and I just had coffee there.”

“And scones,” Colleen chimed in, handing Kate her bag of leftovers. “I’ve got to get going. I have class in thirty minutes.”

“Teacher or student?” Eric asked.

“Yoga instructor.”

“Nice. Maybe I can take your class sometime. It’s not that sweaty yoga, is it?”

“No, it’s more of a flow class. Kate can tell you all about it.” Colleen tapped Kate on the shoulder. “I’ll see you later,” she said before scurrying toward the yoga studio.

“I like your friend,” Eric said gesturing to Colleen’s back.

“She’s pretty terrific. We met in her class. Used to be a cop.” Kate wanted to run away, but her feet grounded into the earth as though an alien force rooted them in place. All the small talk didn’t comfort her. Minutes before this guy was kissing another woman, and now he was flirting with her. Was there no end to his nerve?

“Now that’s really switching career paths,” Eric said. “I consider doing that sometimes.”

“And leave the family business for what? I don’t see that happening.” You’re such a privileged mama’s boy, Kate wanted to say, but didn’t. Truth was during their earlier interactions, Eric didn’t strike her as someone who life had been easy on. It was obvious his parents leaned on his judgment. Eric presented himself as a self-made man, working for what success came his way. Still, he was hiding something she couldn’t quite put her finger on.

Granted with business-owner parents, his path may have been smoother than many. Even if your folks set you up, you’re the one who has to walk that path. Kate knew lots of privileged folks who took the benefits they were born into and managed to drink, gamble or in some other way squander their advantage, as though opportunity was an all-you-can-eat buffet. Made a bad choice, no problem. Just get a clean plate and try again. The sports pages and movie magazines were filled with celebrity examples. A couple of Kate’s sorority sisters were still trying to find themselves. That’s what they claimed at the last reunion.

“You’d be surprised. I can tell you more about my future plans over a hot mocha.”

Kate readjusted her purse strap and leaned away. “Thanks for the invite, but I need to get to work. We’re already brainstorming the next complex. Proposal is due in two weeks.”

“Yeah, I know. We talked about your innovative ideas. I thought they were great. You’re great.” Eric licked his lips and stepped closer. “Seems to me like we connected, at least a little bit, but if you’re not interested, just say so. You don’t have to go through not answering my calls and giving me the brush off. Just be honest. It will save us both a lot of time.”

Kate shoved her paper pastry bag in her coat pocket and crossed her arms. “Honesty? Is that the most important value to you, because I believe in always telling the truth. I always tell the truth.”

“And you’re suggesting I don’t?” Eric’s nostrils flared with anger, causing Kate to step back. “We are standing in the street arguing about I don’t know what. Do you want to have a cup of coffee with me or not? It’s just that simple.”

“Not until you answer a question first.” Kate straightened to her full five-foot-six height. “Who were you kissing a moment ago?”

“Kissing? What are you talking about?”

“Near the cab. The woman who kissed you. Who is she? You’re an only child, so I know that wasn’t your sister. A cousin, maybe?” Kate huffed.

Eric’s eyes widened.

Is this how he stalls for time, cooking up a lie, Kate thought. This should be really good. She waited, even tapped the toe of her boot a time or two. “Well?”

“Like I said on my call, business ended early. I grabbed a cab with a coworker. End of story.”

“Not quite. Here comes your coworker, and she looks ticked.”


 

 

You’ve Been Sweet To Me … So here’s a treat for you!

As a reader, I love a good story and I know that you do too! That’s why I’ve attached a link for a free ebook copy of Maybe This Time as a thank you for your ongoing support, enthusiasm and, well, just because you are you! The novella comes out this Friday, but you’re getting it first and for free!

Use this link before May 19 to download your free copy:  

The Jameson sisters are at the center of my Begin Again series. You’ve met Monica Morgan in A Corner of Her Heart. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this prequel about Kate, the youngest of the three. Her novel, Promises To Keep, is coming soon.

And I haven’t forgotten about Julie Rafferty, the oldest sister. Her story, Playing Games, is coming in the fall.

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at claire@clairefadden.com.

Maybe This Time
​Architect Kate Jameson has sworn off men. That is until she meets Eric, the handsome son of her current client. Fresh out of a messy relationship with a coworker, Kate’s not ready to trust her judgement where men are concerned. She dodges Eric’s advances, but can’t deny the attraction growing between them. Everything–especially his soul-searing brown eyes–makes her want to throw caution to the wind and try again. At her sister’s prodding, Kate finally agrees to date Eric, surprised at the joy he brings into her life. But when their budding romance is threatened, Kate is forced to make hard decisions and fight for her true happiness.

​Undercover CIA agent Eric Wiley has survived enough loss in his life to ever want to risk being hurt again. He has long since given up on true love. Still, he’s drawn to Kate in a way he can’t rationalize. Avoiding her isn’t working and for the first time in a relationship, he wants to be truthful about his past and his career. Before their romance can bloom, however, Kate goes missing. Recognizing the danger, Eric stops at nothing to rescue the woman who has captured his heart.

Maybe This Time

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The Jameson sisters are back. This time with a story of how youngest sister, Kate, met Eric. The novella will be available mid-May on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. More details to come, but until then, here’s a sneak peek.

 

 Architect Kate Jameson has sworn off men. That is until she meets Eric, the handsome son of her current client. Fresh out of a messy relationship with a coworker, Kate’s not ready to trust her judgement where men are concerned. She dodges Eric…’s advances, but can’t deny the attraction growing between them. Everything–especially his soul-searing brown eyes–makes her want to throw caution to the wind and try again. At her sister’s prodding, Kate finally agrees to date Eric, surprised at the joy he brings into her life. But when their budding romance is threatened, Kate is forced to make hard decisions and fight for her true happiness.

Undercover CIA agent Eric Wiley has survived enough loss in his life to ever want to risk being hurt again. He has long since given up on true love. Still, he’s drawn to Kate in a way he can’t rationalize. Avoiding her isn’t working and for the first time in a relationship, he wants to be truthful about his past and his career. Before their romance can bloom, however, Kate goes missing. Recognizing the danger, Eric stops at nothing to rescue the woman who has captured his heart.

Leaving Panama’s Paradise: From the Canal Zone to California

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I love a good story. What I love more is a good story that gives me a little something extra, a lagniappe, as the Louisiana French might say. That’s just what I got with Julie Bawden-Davis’s debut novel. Mystery, romance, suspense–and a little history lesson about the Panama Canal Zone in the 1970s. 

About the Book
Raised in the Canal Zone, Panama, Jesse McMillan never planned on leaving the tropical paradise. But signing of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties in 1977 catapulted him from the American territory to California, where he became an investigative reporter. Exposing a Southern California crack cocaine epidemic in 1989, Jesse finds himself enmeshed with an elusive Mexican mafia drug cartel figure. Panama also makes news when the US upends the country hunting down its military dictator, Manuel Noriega, for drug trafficking.
 
Shaking up Jesse’s world in a welcome way and making sparks fly, he reunites with Clare, a girlfriend from the Canal Zone. As Jesse’s romance heats up and he continues his increasingly dangerous investigations, a disturbing and potentially deadly connection between his childhood home in Panama and the Mexican mafia emerges. Jesse races to expose truths, uncovering shocking secrets about Canal Zone friends. In the process, he makes peace with leaving Panama.
 
Information about the Series
The Discovered Truth Series consists of romantic suspense novels featuring complex, gutsy women and equally complicated, charismatic men who find themselves immersed in dangerous and intriguing modern-day challenges such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, national security threats and identity theft.  When the heroine and hero meet, worlds collide and sparks fly, kindling unforgettable romance and intrigue.  (The series progresses as minor characters introduced in each book become main characters in subsequent books.) 

Buy on Amazon

 
A Look Inside the Book

PROLOGUE

Panama Canal Zone, June 1977

The rain pelted the bohío’s thatched roof, and Jesse McMillan sighed as the humidity seeped into his pores. For a microsecond, the midday tropical storm stilled the aching in his gut, but the wrenching on his insides returned as he watched through the liquid curtain the tropical land he loved and would soon lose. How he wanted to stand here forever. At least until someone told him Carter wouldn’t sign the treaty that would take away his home.

Hearing a cough, Jesse turned to find Randy Strickland shaking himself off and wiping wisps of red hair out of his face.

“Earth to Jesse! I walked right by you. Where the hell were you?” Randy asked.

Jesse shrugged. “Nowhere.”

“Sometimes I worry.”

“You, worry? Yeah, right,” Jesse said and snorted.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Randy pulled a rumpled Marlboro pack out of his jeans pocket and extracted a joint. “I’m a serious individual.”

Jesse ignored Randy’s lame stab at humor. “Any word from Sam?”

“No. He’s probably hiding out with some buddies and won’t come out until the heat’s off.”

Jesse leaned on the edge of the picnic table that sat under the bohío, gazing out at the gauzy, green landscape. “It’s been three weeks, Randy. He’s probably hidden deep in a Panamanian jail, or maybe he’s tied to cement blocks in the canal.”

“Don’t talk that way, man. You can be a real downer.” Randy took two deep tokes of the joint and offered it to Jesse.

“No, thanks.” Jesse fanned the sweet smell of marijuana out of his face.

Randy raised his eyebrows. “Look, you worry too much. Everything’s under control. Sam will be back soon. I know it.”

“You don’t worry enough,” said Jesse. “You’re playing it way too close.”

Randy’s thin face puckered as he took another toke. Half-moons rimmed the underside of his eyes from late nights partying.

“Listen, as soon as Sam gets back, our operation will be back to normal.”

“Nothing is ever going to be back to normal,” said Jesse.

“You mean the treaty? Things won’t change that much. It’ll be business as usual. Once a Zonian, always a Zonian. Right?”

Jesse opened his mouth to answer, but shut it. Randy obviously didn’t feel the same fist in his heart. He wasn’t on the same brakeless, downhill ride Jesse had been on ever since they heard about the treaty signing.

“Your problem is that you’re just too stressed out, Jess. Stay mellow. Things will be cool. You’ll see,” Randy intoned as he blew a fat, clumsy smoke ring into the heavy air.

The sky rumbled, making conversation impossible. Just as well. Jesse watched transfixed as rain thrashed the leaves of a nearby palm tree, announcing that things would never be the same.
 
About the Author
Julie Bawden-Davis is a bestselling journalist and author of “Leaving Panama’s Paradise: From the Canal Zone to California”and “Avocado Flowers: From the Orchards of California to the Streets of Mexico”. During her youth as a “Navy brat,” she had the world-expanding experience of living in several states in the US, as well as overseas. Today, she makes her home in Southern California, where she enjoys the year-round gardening climate. 
 
Follow Julie on Twitter @jbawdendavis;
Like her at https://www.facebook.com/jbawdendavis
Email her at Julie@JulieBawdenDavis.com
Visit her at http://www.JulieBawdenDavis.com
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More Payne, More Gain

I used to be a couch potato, hoping that fitness was just a fad. Convinced that I looked good in double-digit jeans, I became expert at finding clothes labeled relaxed fit, tummy control and instantly slimming. By the end of each day, my energy was so low that I nodded off during Jeopardy!

Things started turning around, though, after my doctor made it clear that maintaining my current out-of-shape shape wasn’t a viable health strategy. During my annual check-up, I listened as he lectured about the importance of a regular fitness plan. And, he said, it had to include weight-bearing exercises to strengthen my bones. My gelatinous thighs and giggly-under arms moved in agreement. I got the message: this PE delinquent needed to get serious about exercise.

A researcher by profession, I’d toyed with the concept of exercising before. I talked to friends, gathered flyers, read brochures and considered class schedules. Pinned on my bulletin board was a two-year-old e-mail reply from the local Y to my inquiry about yoga classes.

When I got home after my check-up, I pulled out my research and sifted through the many choices, times and locations. My eyes were drawn to: Step & Sculpt: This fun and high-energy class combines easy to follow step aerobics with strength conditioning. Perfect to slim and tone all over. P. Payne, instructor.

I thought about last time I’d worked out on a step, nearly two decades ago. My youngest son Seth, attended Tiny Tots program, laptops were where you put your napkin and no one I knew got their coffee from a barista. Only our parakeet tweeted. And I had more energy, my clothes fit better and I felt good about myself.

So, it seemed that this twice-a-week step aerobics class at City Recreation Center offered everything I needed, and it was only 55 minutes long. Could be my on-ramp to the fitness freeway? Out of excuses, I sucked in my stomach, grabbed my sneakers and water bottle, crossed my fingers and signed up.

On the first day of class, I left my half-finished mocha and the morning newspaper unread to arrive on time. Still not sure that I’d made the right decision, I secured a spot in the back of the room, near the door for a quick escape. After a few warm-up stretches, I blended in — just another gal in a group of 20- to 60-somethings, trying to remember her right foot from her left. The music boomed hits from the ’70s, ’80s, ‘90s and beyond. Patricia, our instructor yelled out cues: March Right, Alternate Hamstring Curl, “L Step”. It took a few minutes, but the choreography came back to me. I was stepping, kicking and lifting in lockstep with everyone else; firing up muscles that hadn’t been used this century. My heart rate quickened with every Grapevine to the Right and Three-knee Repeater, she commanded.shutterstock_281837396

Weeks went by. We gals — sweating our way through whatever exercise-set-to-music routine this physical-fitness powder keg threw at us — bonded in our common goal. Patricia showed no mercy to our muscles. Triceps, biceps, abs, quads, it didn’t matter. She angered them all. And then, after 40 minutes of aerobics, the real workout began. She brought out exercise balls, resistance bands and hand weights – medieval torture devices designed to push us to the next level. Lunges, curls, crunches, push ups — she mastered them all and for some crazy reason, she thought we could, too.

Patricia motivated, challenged and cajoled each of us to work harder. So it wasn’t surprising that, after several weeks, I saw progress – definition returned to my upper arms, my thighs didn’t keep moving after the rest of me had stopped and I’d overcome my need for an afternoon nap. Excited to share my good news, I stayed after class to tell her. I wanted Patricia to know that it was her sincere words of encouragement that kept me off the couch and on the gym floor.

“I’m getting a lot from your class,” I said, my quads still burning after a particularly strenuous set of squats. “After the first couple of classes, I didn’t know if I’d make it or not. But I’m glad I hung in there. I feel stronger and things aren’t as jiggly as they were.”

She smiled. “I knew you could do it. Just keep it up and you’ll be back in shape by summer.”

I nodded, not wanting to entertain the thought of swimsuits just yet. “But I have to confess that I almost didn’t sign-up for your class. I was worried about taking an aerobics class instructed by someone named Payne,” I said, chuckling at my own joke.

She stuffed her towel in her workout bag and turned back to me. “Good thing you didn’t know that my maiden name is Moore.”

 

 

Heartbreak Cake: A Delicious Read

Sometimes you need dessert and usually you want to eat the whole thing. That’s how I felt about Cindy Arora’s debut novel “Heartbreak Cake.” I wanted to consume every morsel in one sitting and I nearly did.

I enjoyed this novel so much and my waistline didn’t suffer. Arora took me on a sweet ride with so many twists, turns, and tasty treats that I found myself smiling with each flip of the page. Just when I thought I’d figured out the story, the main character Indira Aguilar took me down a different path, thankfully paved with delicious, decadent, delectable desserts. 

I rooted for Indira, the pastry master and owner of Cake Pan, in spite of her sometimes foolish choices (never in the kitchen though). Arora introduced characters I immediately loved, Pedro, Simon, Rebecca, Indira’s quirky parents, and of course, Noah. And those folks I love to hate: Josh, Valentina and Lindsey, a nosey journalist.

The ending was as satisfying as a piece of wedding cake. Treat yourself to something yummy. Heartbreak Cake won’t disappoint, but it might leave you craving another slice.

What’s In A Name

I have a name and I like it – Claire. From the French for bright and clear. My mother chose it, I’m sure after searching through baby naming books. She fought off pressure to use traditional family names to pick this unique one. For all of her hard work, I’ll bet she’s not happy with the variations it’s undergone.

Unlike Elizabeth (Liz, Libby, Beth, etc.) there aren’t a lot of diminutives for Claire. The most memorable attempt was Claircy. (My Godsister Fran is the only one permitted to call me this to my face.) Fortunately it never stuck. I think that’s why my mother chose Claire. There is no nickname. However, mom didn’t think it all the way through. She should have suspected–being a mother of four herself–how my name and my identity would change. She knew what would eventually happen, yet she never shared the secret with me.

I’m talking about the inevitable nicknaming every woman endures after becoming a mother. You are now referred to as “the room mom,” “the pitcher’s mom,” “the goalie’s mom,”  “the mother of the boy Kayleen has a crush on.” Not quite the moniker bestowed at baptism, and a tough one to fit on a driver’s license. During all of these conversations, there are few attempts to learn the woman’s given name.

My friends, on the other hand, have no problem saying my name, no variations included. They call me Claire. Never am I referred to as “that boy’s mother.” With my girlfriends, my identity is never in question.

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Being mom takes precedence over everything else in my life. It’s the most important work I do and I do it with love. But I wasn’t born a mother. I did have a life (I think) before I had children. I am a person, who’s also a mom. That’s who I was before I became Shawn, Jake and Seth’s mom and now, my new favorite – Windley’s grandmother. 

With my gal pals, I’m Claire. A person first, a mom and grandmom second. That’s why I need to connect with these ladies regularly – my longtime friends, the Zoo Gals, women providing support and free therapy at the drop of a hat. Our careers changed, however our friendships remained constant. Even though I now live miles away from Laura, Jackie and Elaine, they are as close as an e-mail. 

When we were young mothers of toddlers who quickly transformed into teens, we would gather for three or four hours, every few months, and allow our mom role to take a back seat. And it felt good. On those occasions I was among people who didn’t think my finest talents lie in making a grilled cheese sandwich. To them I’m wasn’t the originator of the phrase: Pick up your mess! They don’t think the words old and Claire naturally go together. Not one of them ever used the designation annoying when referring to me. At least not when I could hear it.

Among the four of us, we mother eight kids. I’m the only grammy so far, but then again, I was the only mommy when our little foursome formed. Still, we never refer to each other as Colin, Jason, Jake or Bryce’s mom.

These ladies remember when TV shows were only in black and white. There were maybe three channels, not 300. Like me, they grew up making popcorn in a pot on the stove, not in a bag in the microwave. Our term papers didn’t include Internet references. Caller ID, cell phones, text messages – all things our parents didn’t deal with.

These are my friends. Women in the same place, at the same time, who raised our sons the best we could. We know each other as individuals. That’s why I miss our occasional mochas, unlimited popcorn at the movies and  Cheesecake Factory outings.

Gone are the days when we’d pick a night, meet in the middle of San Diego county and catch up on where our lives have taken us since our last moms’ meeting. Each of us knows the importance of enduring friendships; peers with a history and a commonality of purpose. Now we’re spread across the country from California to New York City, and those monthly opportunities to get together have changed into yearly possibilities. 

Our children are now adults, a constant reminder of how quickly things change; everything except why being mom is a priority. On those golden occasions, when we are able to reconnect the women behind the mothers, we discover more about ourselves.

That’s an important lesson I learned from George, Sadye, Paul and Claire’s mom. Her name is Florence.

           

 

 

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