Monday, September 29, 2008


T. Suzanne Eller, author, columnist, and breast cancer survivor, is now host of a great new blog for moms called Momlogic. It’s a community for “thinking moms who don’t have time to think!” If that sounds like you, then you need to join!

Suzie is the blog “hostess” of Christian Momlogic which is gaining momentum every day and is the place where you can share your feelings, thoughts, and insights on being a mom. It’s also a place to gather information to share with others along the journey of “momhood,” and to gain encouragement and support.

You know the saying, “once a mom…always a mom!” I find that my “boys” who are now 22 and 27 need me as a mom in a different way; I have become their confidant, a giver of knowledge, supporter, and listener. We never stop being a mom to our children, we just go through different transitions that ultimately lead us to the best “job” we ever had.

I’m so thankful that I have been able to see my boys through safe passage into adulthood after being diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago. That was one of my greatest fears—not being able to see them grow up. I’ve seen them through high school and college graduations, and hopefully someday soon maybe I’ll be a "mom of the groom.” Who knows?

My interview is posted on Momlogic and I’ll let you read the rest of the story. Stop by for a chance to win a gift basket.

Blessings to all of you!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


“Excuse me, Miss. Do you know what town this is?”

I glanced up at an elderly gentleman holding a crumpled up map—not MapQuest directions, not a Rand McNally Road Atlas—but a real honest to goodness fold-up map from AAA. I didn’t even know people still used those things.

I tried to stifle a giggle and replied, “You’re in Lancaster.”

He paused for a moment, scratched his head, and repeated it slowly, “Land-kas-ter.”

That’s when I knew he wasn’t from these parts!

“Can you tell me how I can get to that chocolate place?” he asked politely.

“Oh, you mean Hershey?” I said with a smile.

“Yep, that’s the place…Hershey. The wife and me is lost,” he said with a toothless grin.

I gave him the quickest and easiest directions to the “sweetest place on earth.” He scribbled some notes on the map with the pencil he had tucked behind his ear, while I pointed out “Hershey” on the map. He thanked me profusely and waved a hearty goodbye.

I felt like my afternoon standing in line at AC Moore (for half an hour to buy cardstock with a coupon that had already expired the week before) was not entirely in vain.

To think that I actually remembered the back way to Hershey and pointed someone in the right direction made me feel like I had actually accomplished something on Saturday afternoon.

At the stoplight, I happened to pull right behind their white Buick and noticed the license plate: “ASK4HLP.”

I broke out into tear-dipped laughter.

I don’t know about you, but I love reading license plates and mouthing the words until I stumble on the “hidden” meaning. I have to admit, some I never get until days later and then laugh out loud—usually at inappropriate times! But this “plate” was unmistakably perfect for this couple.

When in doubt, just “ASK FOR HELP." Not bad advice (for all of us!).

Monday, September 22, 2008

The First Day of Fall!

The air is crisp, the sky is slate blue with a slight haze, the pumpkins are out, the welcome wreath with fake leaves and pheasant feathers is on the door, the garden is mulched, so it must be the first day of fall.

Goodbye to summer, but not quite yet. I’m not ready. My tomatoes are still flourishing, my flowers are blooming (not just the mums!), and I haven’t put my summer clothes away (I wore white today for the last time). The leaves are turning and there’s that smokiness in the air that reminds me that soon frost will paste the windows and I’ll need to rummage through the boxes in the basement for winter sweaters and coats. Oh no!

But before I say “hello winter,” I’m heading off to San Diego to spend five days with my family. My little brother is getting married. Yeah! It’s going to be a party (that’s what I keep telling my mom). It’s a long story, but you can pray!

When I return on October 7th on the “red eye,” I leave for New Jersey to speak at Merck Pharmaceuticals Global Network of Women, and that weekend a retreat at Wapiti, Maryland. As a speaker, October is my busiest time because it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month—the month of pink. And I will need to gear up for planes, trains and automobiles.

This will be one of our last falls in Pennsylvania, so I will treasure the speckled leaves that look like the back of a giraffe, the crisp mornings, and the changing of the seasons because in fifteen months (a little less now), we will return once again to my home—California—where I belong.

I feel like I’m going to break out and sing a John Denver song (and you don’t want that—do you?).

That’s what I like about fall—the first day anyway!

P.S. I will blog sporadically the month of October as time allows, but if not I'll see you in November!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Checking In and Out!

I know this is “Writing Wednesday,” but I just figured out the more I write, the less I know!

I only wrote five pieces for submission this past year and I just heard back from three of them. I made the 100 semi-finalists, but didn’t make it into the 49 selected.

Okay, I know editors are under no obligation to write you a nice e-mail and say, “Congratulations you made the semifinalists, but you didn’t make the 49.” I understand that and I appreciate their thoughtfulness. I still haven't heard from the other two, but that won’t be until the New Year (the publishing process takes a long time). It almost makes you want to crawl into your own “mini-motel” and hide!

Which brings me to the new item on my wish list—“The Mini Motel.” I saw it advertised last night on the news and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” If you have ever been stuck in an airport for more than three hours, you know what I mean. People crawling over you, children screaming, and crammed spaces that disappear as soon as you take a potty break.

The “Mini Motel” is for such occasions when you have a layover and want to get some shuteye. Think of it as your ”home away from home.” It weighs just five pounds and is no bigger than a laptop when folded up.

My only fear is that it kind of looks like one of those blow-up slides from the outside and I can see some little curious one trying to slide down the front of my “Mini-Motel.”

But I’m still going to check into it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More Hands Please!

I needed a hand today…really I mean that!

Right now, I’m working my laptop and PC simultaneously. One has the PowerPoint on it; the other does not. One has the HP printer all in one; the other does not. One can print; the other cannot. I have cords, battery packs, and folders strewn across my office like Hurricane Ike just made landfall.


I did a PowerPoint for a presentation on leadership for Merck Pharmaceuticals (I just found out that it’s global and it’s a BIG deal). Oh, and there will be men there; I thought it was the "Merck Women’s Network."

What was I thinking?

So I changed all the “Hers” to “Him/Her” and made my “she” pictures into “he/she” pictures. Then I e-mailed it to the meeting planner.

It didn’t go through—not even in a zipped file—so now it’s going with my hubby tomorrow morning to be Next Day Air’d (I think that’s UPS).

See what I mean?

Take a deep breath, Connie!

No pressure, no pressure.

Oh, and then the meeting planner says, “This is a BIG deal!”

Okay, I say to myself. I know that already!

The problem: I’ll be returning from California on the red eye (there’s a reason why they call it that), and have to be in New Jersey bright and early that morning at the Merck Gate so they can give me clearance to get through the doors (maybe I’ll just spend the night at the airport).

And all this doesn't happen until October 8th (a lot can happen between now and then--right?).

I’m still here, wondering if I can figure out another way to keyboard with my TEETH!

If you don’t hear from me for a while, I’m plowed under, but I’ll resurface. Maybe tomorrow, if someone will just give me a hand!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Writing Wednesday - Marketing 101

I’m trying really hard to make Wednesday about writing, but it doesn’t always happen. Last night I found a piece of paper I have been scouring my files for and even asked my author friend, Susan Kelly Skitt, if she knew where it was. She checked all her e-mails and files and couldn’t find it either.

If you’re like me, you send “stuff” to your author friends, hoping if you ever need it again they will produce the document (it’s kind of like a back-up system). Now that I have the paper in hand, I’m going to permanently document it here on the blog, so if I lose it again, I’ll know where to find it (because you all will tell me where I put it)—right?

These statistics absolutely stunned me, so I circled everything in red. Writing a book is the easy part, but marketing it is the hard stuff. In fact, 85% of your book proposal will be made up of how you intend to market your “labor of love.”

Frankly, I’ve read some book proposals and have to wonder, Do they really intend to do what they say they’re going to do? In fact, one author wrote: “I will use my entire advance towards marketing my book.” Okay, what if your advance is only $3,500 and your publicist costs you $5,000. Oops! Hopefully, it will pay some dividends and you will appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Then there’s the royalty check. I was speaking to an author friend of mine and mentioned that I received my royalty check this month (a whopping $79.50) and she said, “But I’ve never received a royalty check, yet!” I nearly fell off my chair because this woman has written several books and is probably the most prolific writer of words I know—not to mention downright hysterical!

In the publishing world, you don’t receive a royalty check until you pay back your advance from selling “X” number of books.

Oh, did I mention that if you have an agent (which is almost a “must” in today’s publishing climate), they receive 15% of your advance and 15% of all your royalties.

Okay, now for the good news: What works and what doesn’t work in “marketing” your book. Think of this as marketing 101. These statistics were taken from a poll on Live Journal (July 16, 2007). The question was posed: Which of the following promotional tools led you to purchase a book?

*Previous familiarity with author’s other work 99.1%
*Cover art 62.5%
*Cover or flap blurbs (promotional quotes) 58.4%
*Reading first chapter of book online or in store 63.5%
*Contest sponsored by author or publisher 7.2%
*Published (print or electronic) book review 57.0%
*Recommendation of friend 91.2%
*Attending a reading or signing with author (including a convention) 51.7%
*Bookseller or librarian recommendation 41.8%
*Receiving postcard in mail from author 3.7%
*Receiving promotional e-mail from author 5.8%
*Reading about book on author’s blog or Web site 62.6%
*Reading about book on another person’s blog or Web site 80.4%
*Receiving toys or other promotional gimmicks from author 3.0%
*Other (specify in comments) 7.9%

All of this is meant to help you be realistic about your writing and your marketing. None of my author friends have received an advance of $100,000 (yet!). Some of them aren’t even breaking even—worse yet, some are actually going in debt trying to market their books.

Writers write because they are passionate about it and even if they never receive a single penny from their work, they would continue to do so. Writing is like breathing. By the way, hop on over to Susan Kelly Skitt's blog and read the beautiful poem she wrote about being a writer (you will be inspired!).

Now I’m going to file the document away under “Book Statistics” just for future reference.

Blessings to all of you on your writing journey.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Bus Stops Here!

Yesterday was an "at home" day because little "Miss Buick" was in the shop for repairs. It rained. It poured. It sounded like a 25-gun salute out my window, welcoming the McCain-Palin bus to town. I actually reserved a ticket to see the rally at Franklin and Marshall University, but alas I couldn’t go…the bus didn’t stop here!

When I picked up our Buick all fixed up and looking like herself again, I headed to the gym—along with 6,500 other people! What time was that rally anyway? I couldn’t tell if they were coming or going. There were buses from New York, New Jersey, school buses, church buses…all kinds of buses. (And they all stopped at the railroad tracks, which ran right through Harrisburg Pike on the way to Franklin and Marshall.)

The only thing I actually “saw” of Sarah Palin was a caravan of SUV’s with tinted windows and lots of shouts as it passed by. Other than that, it was just more buses!

Did I ever make it to the gym? No, but I plan to try again tomorrow. I think all the buses will have stopped by then!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Beauty and the Buick!

Today was Mark’s first day back at work, and my first day back to work (funny how that all “works” out!).

My day started out with errands: bank, post office, and then to the gym. But I never made it to my Pilates class. Instead, the red light surfaced on the display panel of my Buick, followed by the smell of burning rubber, and then another red light warned me that the engine was heating up.

Oh, did I mention the power steering went out while I was trying to veer off the freeway into the shopping mall? That was way too much fun! Do you have any idea how hard it is to crank that wheel when the power steering goes out? I used both hands and still had a hard time. And then I prayed that the brakes didn’t go out at the same time. I was screaming out the window, “Help,” just in case I hit someone by accident!

Crank…crank…crank. Pant…pant…pant. BREATHE…PRAY!

The Buick glided right into a corner parking spot and then she died under the shade of the pine tree.

Thankfully, we have AAA (doesn’t everybody?). But first I had to call Mark on his cell phone (at work) to find out my cell phone number (I never can remember my own number), so I could give it to the man at AAA who was waiting to hear back from me.

The man sounded like my father, “Are you in a safe location?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah…lots of shopping here!” I responded.

“Can you give me your precise location?” he asked.

I told him I was at “pole #45” near the Bon-Ton department store, and asked him if I needed to stay with the car because the shopping mall was calling me!

He chuckled and said, “I have someone dispatched already, and they’ll be there in 20 minutes!”

“Oh no, that’s not enough time to shop.” The poor man already hung up.

I stayed with the Buick until help arrived. The young mechanic looked under the hood, closed it just as quickly, gave it a nice pat (like it was a dear family member) and announced, “It’s the belt!”

My first thought was “which one?” He didn’t know that I was a mechanic’s daughter. My guess was it was the serpentine belt, but I pretended like I didn’t know a thing (mechanics like it better that way). They like to do their own diagnosing of car stuff.

Since Mark is only working half days this week, he was on his merry way to pick me up. I told him I could manage to call him every day about the same time so he could leave work early!

Tonight our Buick is spending the night away from home; hopefully, in the company of other cars in need of repair. We miss “her,” but she’ll be back good as new…we hope!

And we PRAY she doesn’t cost as much as Mark’s new hip, but then again she’s not nearly ready to burnout (I have plans for her next month and she needs her beauty rest!).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

iPods and Tropical Storms

I’m not sure who invented iPods and iTunes (yes, I do know), but I don’t know whether I want to thank them just yet! After three hours of reading instructions and downloading information off the Internet, I figured it out (sort of). But as Hanna drenched us with torrential rain, I decided this Saturday was an inside “work” day.

After two hours into my “research,” I called my oldest son, Jer, the teacher. And he tried to talk me through the process over his crackling cell phone (that didn’t work out very well). He said, “Mom, I’ll be over tomorrow and help you out, okay?”

I knew better.

And then I said, “Is that what you say to your students?”

“No, Mom, I don’t, and you know I love you!” Jer whispered.

That was it, back to the instruction sheet, which was so small I needed my high-powered glasses. I couldn’t even find the on-off switch.

What’s disturbing about this whole thing is I can design Web sites, PowerPoints, Excel spreadsheets, blogs, and slide shows, yet this whole iPod shuffle thing totally escaped me.

The problem: I needed to register first! Imagine that? After I registered, all I wanted to do was hit the “auto-fill” button so I could listen to music (after all that’s the point—right?). And then, of course, they want you to give them your credit card information, so you can download iTunes.

Nah! No way!

I used my PayPal account because I know nothing is in there.

At the stroke of midnight, I finally GOT IT and I saw the screen light up…”Syncing. Do not disconnect.”

Don’t worry. I wouldn’t think of it. Are you crazy?

The little green light was blinking back at me as if to say, “You did it…don’t stop now!”

I hit the eject button (like the instruction sheet told me to do), and guess what?

I downloaded my boys’ music (Jer and Jon) from their high school days. Right now, I’m listening to “stuff” I can’t even figure out, and then every third song is Andrea Bocelli. At least I can understand Italian. So I shuffle back to “Andrea” over and over again, and in between is this “music” that makes me blush!

Give me a couple of days and I’ll let you know if I’ve changed my mind. Today was otherwise productive: two speeches down, one PowerPoint complete, two articles written, and one iPod figured out (sort of!).

Thanks to tropical storm Hanna, I was able to slosh through the whole thing!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Stand Up to Cancer!

Some startling statistics:

*1.45 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed this year.

*The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

*10,000 people die from cancer every week.

*60 people died during the one hour of "Stand-Up for Cancer" which aired on three networks (CBS, NBC, ABC) on Friday at 8:00 PM EST.

*Every minute 3 people are diagnosed with cancer.

*500,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year--more than any other country!

*12 million people are LIVING with cancer (I'm one of them!)

We can all do more. Visit: Stand-up to Cancer's website and found out how you can do more to fight this deadly disease.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wake-up Call

Yesterday, I went to the library to do some research. I love the E-town library; it’s huge and has all these nooks and crannies to get lost in (literally!); WIFI access, and it even has a Coffee House (yummy stuff!). I had to do some research, so I had about 10 books that I checked out. I took them in groups of three because they were huge books and heavy too! When I sauntered up to the counter, the dutiful librarian keyed in the number on my swipe card and said, “Oh no! You have quite a fine here; you can’t check out these books until it’s paid!”

To my surprise, I owed the library $11.00 in late fees (I’m not even sure how that happened!), but I had to walk to the ATM across the street, get my money and wait in line again to pay my fine (by that time I had a parking ticket too, but it wasn’t $11.00). Shh…Mark doesn’t know (yet!).

After I paid my “dues,” the librarian said, “Now I need to take your picture!” So I said, “Can I get my driver’s license renewed here too?”

She said, “No, but you can get your passport picture taken!” (Librarians are no fun…all business!)

(I guess the photo is to keep you from identify theft, but it was too late for me!). But I felt like I was supporting my local library, so I was “fine” with it!

Since I already paid for my library "dues" and parking ticket, I didn’t have any money left over for a passport photo, so I passed on that one!

And then on the way out the door, I picked up a flyer with the events for the month of September. I noticed that on the 18th, there was an author speaking on “Writing to Heal.” I was quite interested because I give the same seminar! So I read on a little further…

Guess what?

That was me; I had forgotten all about it! It was scheduled about a year ago and here I thought my speaking didn’t start until October. Come to find out…there’s a “few” other things I forgot. So now I’m going through my calendars (all three of them) with a close eye to see what else I “forgot”!

That was quite a wake-up call! Maybe that’s why I’ve been having bad dreams; my subconscious was trying to get my attention!

Band-Aids and Wrinkle Cream

This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed—literally! Mark had shifted places in the middle of the night—no doubt due to the cat incident the night before and my “strange” dreams of late. He said, “I kept moving him over to the edge of the bed!” Poor man, he already has one broken hip and I almost “threw” him off the side of the bed and broke the other one. I can’t remember what I was dreaming about, but Mark said I was “groaning” and this morning I was on his side and he was on mine!


That’s how my morning started! And then while I was making the bed (yes, I do that occasionally), I caught my nail on the comforter and ripped it off along with my hangnail. I spent the rest of the morning keyboarding with a Band-Aid and Neosporin dripping on the keys. I’ve now mastered the Band-Aid problem, but I realized that it has slowed me down considerably and things on my keyboard are in different places. My icons are all messed up, my toolbar is at the top of the screen instead of the bottom, and I’m resting my hands on the keys too much (bad habit), which causes this “thingy” to pop up (an alert notice asking me if I want to cancel?). Not really big stuff, but it makes my forehead furrow, So this afternoon I looked for my wrinkle cream. I bought some six months ago with a coupon, but only started using it three weeks ago.

It works (really!).

It’s Olay Regenerist in the red container with a silver lid and it smells oh so yummy. I think it’s supposed to be for the face, but now I spread it all over my body…it firms and does all kinds of neat things. My arms started getting that “chicken thingy”—wobbly sort of—because I can’t lift weights anymore, and swimming isn’t doing the trick. I have two “little” black dresses that are sleeveless for my brother’s wedding, so I’m now going to buy a caseload of the stuff and what doesn’t get fixed by October 4, 2008, I’m going to put a Band-Aid on it. That should look nice for pictures—don’t you think?

Which all brings me to the new movie “Bottle Shock.” My bother emailed me last week and asked me to tell my friends (that’s you), to watch it. His girlfriend from high school (circa 1986) ended up marrying a screenwriter (her second marriage), and they produced this movie about the Napa Valley and the history of wine. I haven’t seen the movie (it’s playing in selected cities), but if it takes off it will be playing nationwide. David and Lynette are still good friends and he actually got to be on location while they were filming in Napa. Umm…I didn’t get invited!

Okay, back to bed on my "right" side and hopefully the wrinkle cream works and I can get rid of the Band-Aid tomorrow.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cat Nap?

Last night I had strange dreams…all night long. All the dogs and cats in the neighborhood came over for dinner (maybe it was the chocolate covered cashews I ate at 10:00 p.m.?). So tonight, I popped some Kettle corn while I edited a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul. And then I fell asleep on my laptop, and woke up to my cat in the popcorn!

She just threw up (so I think it’s all out of her system). I hope. In my flustered state, I hit the send button to Chicken Soup (I can’t remember if I finished editing it or not, but it’s gone now!). My motto: Out of sight, out of mind! If it makes it in the book, it will be a miracle and then I can tell the "story" about how I fell asleep, my cat threw up, and I still made it into the Chicken Soup for Cancer Survivors.

Tonight marks the end of writing and tomorrow marks the beginning of speeches and PowerPoints. But I’m ready to get into a routine again. Mark officially goes back to work on September 8, 2008. If this is what retirement is like (I’m checking out jobs at Starbucks!). Or better yet, we can both be WalMart greeters…I’ve always wanted to do that. How fun to make everyone’s day, and then slide them a cart.

Okay, this is short because I’m actually going back to bed to finish the dream I started before I finished editing my story. I really want to listen to my new iPod shuffle, which no one seems to know how to work yet? Maybe I’ll just hum along to some songs I already know and work on that tomorrow.

I already woke Mark up once when the cat got sick (so I’m sure he won’t appreciate the interruption AGAIN after midnight with the “shuffle” problem).

The cat’s taking a cat nap, so I think I can safely tip-toe back to sleep.