Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer Love by Sonya Weiss

Blogging about summer love for some reason makes me think of that song from Grease. Now I have that running through my head.

I love summer. I love when the air is so hot that it hurts to draw in a breath. I love the feel of the sunshine soaking through to my bones. I love the bright blue sky and the white fluffy clouds. I love the fresh fruit of the season. Especially watermelons.



Summer is a time just ripe for adventure.

Family road trips. Days at the beach. Tubing down the river or fishing on the lake. It’s grilling hamburgers and sticky Popsicle hugs from little children.

Yet it’s also a time of pain for me. My late father was king of the summer adventurers and an infinite dreamer. He had a can do attitude and was a fascinating storyteller. He was sick a few years before his death with a host of health problems and he had COPD.

Because of low oxygen to the brain, COPD can affect the memory as well as other cognitive functioning. Those who have it will exhibit signs of dementia. They’ll lose track of time. They’ll call you in the middle of the night thinking it’s morning. They become incapable of managing their finances, their self-care and of protecting themselves from those who would prey on the elderly. They can be prone to verbal or physical outbursts toward others.

For his own safety, my father had to go into a nursing home. By then, he wasn’t always lucid. I will never forget that summer day that I called him to check on him and he said in a bewildered, broken voice that makes me weep as I type it, “They put me in a home.”

That was gut wrenching. But the next time that I spoke to him, he didn’t know me. Then he died one summer day and though it was expected, no one really prepares for something like that.

I think about him in the summer when I look up at that bright blue sky.



Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Golden Age of Reading by Christine Gunderson


Our topic this month is summer love. And what’s not to love about summer, especially if you’re a kid? No job, no school, no homework. Just the pool and friends and fun for nine or ten sun-kissed weeks.
And if you’re a certain kind of kid, the type who would rather be with Harry Potter than with real people, then summer is a feast of words.
In a column several years ago, a Washington Post book critic gave a name to this fantastic time in a person’s life. You’re too young to have a job, but old enough to read really good books. He called it the Golden Age of Reading.
If you love books, you probably remember your own Golden Age of Reading. Maybe it was the summer you discovered Theresa May Alcott and devoured all the Little Women books. Or found A Wrinkle in Time. Or The Hobbit.
My Golden Age of Reading started the summer between fourth and fifth grade with Gone with the Wind. Yes, I know. This is totally inappropriate reading material for a ten year old and today’s parents, teachers and librarians would not approve.
Today children are tested to determine something called their Accelerated Reading Level. They’re strongly encouraged to read books that match this number. If I’d had an AR number as a child, Gone with the Wind would not have been on the list of approved reading material.
But I was kid back in the 70’s, so no one was really paying much attention.
We ate Twinkies and hotdogs filled with nitrates while watching Land of the Lost with our legs splayed out at our sides (not crisscross apple sauce) with our eyes inches from the television screen while drinking high fructose corn syrup from plastic cups riddled with BPA.
Our mothers were too busy chain smoking, drinking Tab and watching soap operas to pay much attention to what we were watching or reading. It was a glorious time to be a kid.
Some of my friends starting reading Flowers in the Attic in fifth and sixth grade. Flowers in the Attic is the literary gateway drug that leads to romance novels.
By fifteen they were hopelessly addicted to Barbara Cartland and Victoria Holt. They were hooked on reading and couldn’t kick the habit. And of course, as you might have predicted, some of these girls came to a very bad end.
They became writers.
I try to practice the same form of benign literary neglect with my kids. Every Friday during the summer we go to Barnes and Noble and pick out a new book. I tell them to pick out anything that looks interesting to them, regardless of the AR level or genre. A good book is a good book.
For my nine year old, great literature means a series of wonderful National Geographic books filled with ridiculous facts. He reads them out loud to the rest of us in the car. And it is interesting to learn that ninety percent of all parents steal their children’s Halloween candy. Or that John Adams once had a pet alligator. Who knew, right?
 No can see inside someone else’s imagination. What intrigues me might not intrigue them. What they read isn’t important. It’s the act of reading that matters. My son is learning this as he enters his own Golden Age of Reading.
And there is nothing more satisfying than laying under a tree on a beautiful summer day as a playful breeze ruffles your hair, but you don’t feel it because you’re a thousand miles away, lost in the world a complete stranger created for you using nothing but the words inside his or her head. That’s magic. And having an unlimited amount of time to experience this magic?
That’s heaven.

That’s summer.
###

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summer of Romance by Chris and Patty Blount

I was trying to think if a topic to fit our Summer Love theme and Chris Blount, my youngest son, said, "Mom, what about writing your characters' first summers together?"

Ding! We have a winner.

What fun. We literally just had this conversation fifteen minutes ago over a bowl of raisin bran. He demanded his name in the by-line so.... there you go.

SEND

Dan Ellison grew up on the Jersey Shore as Kenny Mele. After he and his family fled their home to avoid a murderous dad bent on revenge, they settled on Long Island under new names. Dan loves Long Island beaches. It makes him miss home just a little bit less. His first summer on Long Island, however, follows the heartbreak of the novel. Julie and he are not together. He's depressed. Lonely. Haunted by his past and his delusional alter-ego, "Kenny".

But Dan made some friends during his final year of high school. Lisa and Paul, his team-mates during a debate. And Brandon, the boy who Dan prevented from becoming a perpetrator of school violence. And even Jeff, the guy who tried his best to hurt Dan -- but in the end, did the right thing.

They know what Dan's been through. But they also know Dan needs to find a way to pull himself out of this hell. So one summer morning, Paul picked him up in his Jeep, swung by to snag Brandon, and drove to Cupsogue Beach. Paul took the Jeep to the east side of Moriches Inlet and the three boys dropped some poles in the water, saying little. Every once in a while, Paul woud stick his hand in a cooler and come out with something icy for Dan to drink and the whole time, Kenny's voice in Dan's mind is crying for Julie until eventually, even he notices how peaceful it is, just listening to gulls cry, and waves roll over the rocks.

Brandon stripped down to his trunks and sank under the surface of that cool dark water a few times. So did Paul. Eventually, Dan had to admit it did look... fun? No, not that. Necessary, he decided. So he took off his shirt. Paul had already seen his scars. Nobody said anything. Nobody judged. Waves washed over him.

I like this. Feels like home. Kenny said in his mind. Dan had to agree.

It was much later when Paul asked, "Anybody hungry?"

Weird. Dan hadn't noticed he was hungry until Paul mentioned it. In fact, he was starving. To his shock, Paul went back to the Jeep, unloaded a portable charcoal grill and got it fired up. In that bottomless cooler, he pullsed some hot dogs and tossed them over the hot coals. The boys had themselves a feast.

They spent all day on that small beach. Other four-wheel drives joined them, stayed for no more than an hour or two, but they remained until sunset. They never caught any fish, but there was something soothing in that act -- cast, reel in, cast again. One of the vehicles parked near them was a family's -- mom, dad, toddler. The child's delighted shriek when her toes got wet caught Dan's attention. She reminded him of the baby he'd saved that day from being hit by a car at the Italian Ices shop.

He looked at Paul and Brandon. "Want Italian Ices? I'm buying."

They looked at him for a minute and then at each other. Brandon slung an arm over Dan's shoulder. "Sure, pal. That sounds great."

It took them a little while to pack the Jeep back up, clean all trace of their presence from the beach. But once they were rolling, Dan felt clear. "Guys? Thanks," he said when they'd hit paved roads again.

Paul said nothing. Just reached across the center console and punched Dan's arm. "No problem, man."

Dude. We have friends again, Kenny said.

They're a lot more than that, Dan thought. He made a vow, right there in the passenger seat of Paul's Jeep, that he'd be the kind of friend these guys were to him. Do anything, go anywhere, be whatever they needed from him.

Just as they'd done for him.



SOME BOYS

Summer for Grace is a mixed blessing. On one hand, there's no school, which means there's nobody whispering about her behind their hands, keying up her car, and generally making her life miserable. On the other hand, it's way too hot for kick-ass studded leather boots and black clothes. When Ian suggested a day at the beach, she almost said no.

Bikini? Hell, no!

Not to mention her make-up. It would melt down her face. She actually hit up Google trying to learn how to avoid that. When she realized she'd wasted two hours on that search, she laughed at herself and called Dr. P. for advice.

Dr. Phillips reminded her that the black makeup, the edgy clothes -- they were armor, not courage. All Grace had to do was find a way to feel fierce without them.

Uh huh. Sure. No problem.

So early the following morning, she met Ian at the door wearing a long maxi dress and hat. The only thing black on her were her sunglasses. He gave her a long slow look and grinned. "Am I gonna see what's under there?"

To her complete shock, she felt a blush burn its way up her face. Even more shocking? She really wanted to let him see.

They headed east to Smith Point Park, one of the Fire Island beaches, Ian holding her hand while he drove. "Grace, would you feel more comfortable around people or would you rather have privacy?"

She thought it over and decided, "Privacy."

"Done."

He parked his dad's Camry as close to the entrance as he could and then started lugging stuff from the trunk. There was a long slender case he slung to one shoulder, a soft-sided cooler he handed her, and a tote bag. He stuffed the keys into a pocket of that tote and they started walking -- past the memorial for the crashed airliner, the concession stand, the people on blankets and sand chairs, and the life guard stands. They walked for ages and finally, Ian stopped, took a look around and said, "How's this?"

Grace looked around, too, and nodded. It was like their own private beach. She watched him drop the tote, kick off his sneakers, and unzip that long slender case. Inside was one of those instant tent things. In seconds, he had it upright and staked into the sand. Under the tent, he spread out a blanket he took from the tote and stretched out on it, sighing loudly.

After a second or two of deliberation, she joined him.

From her own bag, she took out a hair tie, coiled her long hair back and up, then readjusted her hat. She kicked off her own shoes -- flip flops today -- and -- after a few seconds' deliberation -- peeled her dress off, revealing a one-piece swimsuit. Black, of course.

She settled next to Ian, her heart beating out a synth  rhythm. Ian turned to watch her.

"What?" She demanded when he said nothing.

He shrugged. "Nothing. Just like looking at you."

"Yeah?" Her body warmed.

"Yeah," he confirmed. "Grace, I want to do more than look."

She immediately sat up and scooted away from him.

"When you're ready," he added, hands up surrender style. "If you want to kiss me, you can. If you want to do more, you can. You need to drive, Grace. I'm just giving you permission."

Permission. Oh, boy. Frowning, she looked over the ocean and tried to sort out her feelings. She did want to kiss him. And do more. But she was scared -- terrified really -- of not being able to. What if she froze? What if, right in the middle of it, she had a panic attack? What if she never would be able to-- and Ian left her?

"Grace, stop."

She turned, met his gaze, her eyebrows raised.

"I can almost hear you thinking. Don't worry. Don't think. Just do whatever you want, okay? That's all I'm saying. Whatever you want. There's nobody here to judge you, okay?"

Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe they should walk back to where the crowds were. Or maybe, maybe she could find her ferocity without the props. She wanted normal. She wanted normal so badly, she could practically taste it. And normal, she decided when she grabbed Ian's face in both hands and tugged him toward her, meant making out with your boyfriend when the opportunity presented itself.

She kissed him the way she'd always wanted to kiss him. He hesitated for about half a second and then kissed her back with the same enthusiasm. It went on and on, lasting for a good five minutes -- maybe longer. When they finally broke apart, staring into each other's eyes and grinning from ear to ear, Grace realized for those five minutes, she hadn't been scared or anxious.

She'd been...happy. And Ian? The big dope was almost wagging his tail like a puppy.

"Let's go in the water. Or we could build a huge sandcastle! Are you hungry? I can go get us some burgers or something."

"It's ten thirty in the morning, Ian."

"Oh. Okay, maybe ice cream? Anything, Grace. Anything you want."

Oh, God. It hit her then, how much his happiness depended on hers. So she made a promise --to herself and to him -- that she would do whatever it took to heal.

"Let's go sit by the water, put our toes in."

"Just our toes?" He teased.

"For now." She held out her hand and when he took it, she walked beside him in the hot sand, dodging shells and bits of seaweed. At the water's edge, she waited for a wave to cover her feet up to the ankles, shut her eyes and sighed.

Everything's better at the beach.








Friday, July 21, 2017

GROWING (HOLLY SCHINDLER)



Yesterday, I found a bunch of baby watermelons in the garden. 
This one's about the size of a large grape.

This one's more the size of a tennis ball.


Funny—I hadn’t noticed that tennis-ball-sized watermelon at all. I’d kind of forgotten, in the midst of picking about nine billion ripening tomatoes, that we’d bought a watermelon plant, actually. And suddenly, there it was.

But I guess that’s how it works, isn’t it? Things grow while you’re not looking. 

Growth always has a way of sneaking up on us. If we didn’t have some sort of marker for it, we might never know it had happened at all. We need our chalk on the wall, marking the difference between how tall we are now and how tall we were last summer. Only these days, my “chalk on the wall” might take the form of cracking open my first published work, reading and marveling at who I was back then, measuring it against who I am now.  It might take the form of looking at the schedule and shape of my days right now—which don’t look like the shape of my days ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

These days, it seems that looking back is, essentially, my chalk on the wall. It’s how I think we all wind up measuring how far we’ve come. 

In a year or two, I’ll look back on this summer, and I’ll see how I’m different. And I’ll know, even during the summer of the surprise watermelon, when I had my head down writing basically from the early morning hours until well into the night—I was soaking up the sun and the rain and growing every single day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Summer Love That Stuck Around (Alissa Grosso)

I met my boyfriend on a summer day. Not just any summer day, mind you, but the hottest, most humid New Jersey summer day that ever existed. It was the kind of day, where if you moved just a fraction of an inch sweat would suddenly start pouring out of your body. I dressed in a cotton t-shirt and a loose linen skirt that I thought would help me to survive the sweltering day, but I was still a sweaty mess. Nerves might have had something to do with it.

This was not a "cute meet" as they say in the movies or any other sort of accidental meeting. This was an arranged meeting following a connection via an internet dating site and a series of emails. I was the one that suggested we meet up at a public park. At the time I was thinking about safety. I figured that if he did turn out to be some psychotic killer, which was, in my mind, statistically likely I should be safe in a public park with lots of other people around. It was a park kind-of, sort-of between where we both lived at the time, and my memory from the one other time I was there was that it was a nice place.

Of course, the one other time I was there it was a cooler fall day. I had never been there in the height of summer. I realized my mistake almost the moment I pulled into the parking lot. I had no trouble finding a spot, because the place was practically deserted. Where were all the strangers that were going to keep me safe from this potential psycho killer? "Abort! Abort!" the voice of reason screamed in my head. I was already sweating, profusely, but now I was sweating more profusely, which hadn't even seemed possible.

The parking lot was practically deserted, but not entirely deserted. There was another car there and there was someone in it with her bare feet hanging casually out her open window. So, that seemed pretty weird to me, and possibly it was some sort of omen.

I had arrived a few minutes early, and after a quick scan of the parking lot didn't think Ron (if that was even his real name!) was there yet. We had never exchanged information about the vehicles we drove, believe me, if he had asked that my psycho killer radar would have been pinging like crazy, so that's probably a good thing. Still, it meant we were left to guess at what each other would be driving. I knew that he owned an auto body shop (or so he claimed!) and so expected he might be driving something a bit flashy.

I should probably note here that based on past experiences with men, I had come to the conclusion that lies flowed from their lips in the same way that sweat was flowing out my pores as I got out of my car and began to scope out my surroundings and plot my escape route. A few minutes later a very, extremely nondescript pick-up truck pulled into the lot. I paid it no mind, though I was thankful that at least this park was becoming a little slightly less deserted.

While unbeknownst to me the guy I had been corresponding with online, was trying to figure out the best way to approach the bare feet hanging out the window, which he assumed must be mine. Thankfully, he decided instead to walk around and scope things out, and I caught a glimpse of him and recognized him from his profile picture. So, at least he hadn't used a fake picture.

After some initial hellos we decided to take a walk around the park. We talked about stuff, I think. Honestly, I don't remember. Because at this point there were a lot of screaming thoughts racing around my head. Stuff like "Why is no one at this park?" and "Is everything he said a lie? Is he lying right now?" and, of course, "Good thing I wore flats. Iit will help when he pulls out a gun and I need to make a run for it." I am told that I was able to hold a pretty normal conversation and didn't come across as a complete and total weirdo. So, that's good.



What's also good is that Ron (his actual name!) turned out to not be a psycho killer or a liar and was actually a really nice guy, though it would take me a few more dates before I let my guard down enough to realize that. He even looked past my extreme sweatiness on that first day, and to this day claims he didn't even notice it. So, okay, maybe he tells the occasional fib.

There were more than a few more dates. In fact, there's been 7 years and counting worth of dates including six more return trips to the park where we met on the anniversary of our first meeting, which, I would like to point out, has never been anywhere near as deserted at it was on that first date. The last time we were there for our anniversary there was an entire children's birthday party taking place at the park.

So, if you are a man who is meeting up with a woman you met via the internet, and you are wondering what she's thinking, she is more than likely thinking that you are a murderer and is mentally planning escape strategies. If you're a woman about to meet up with a man you met online he might be a murder and he might not, there's really no way to tell. What I can guarantee you is that no matter how safe and secure and public of a place you pick for a meeting spot as soon as you arrive it will immediately look like the setting of a horror movie, but rest assured that if you survive the date and there are many more to follow, you'll soon find the place to be charming and welcoming.

Alissa Grosso is the author of the books Shallow Pond, Ferocity Summer and Popular. She and Ron recently celebrated their seventh anniversary and released their first music single.  You can find out more about her at alissagrosso.com.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Summer I Turned Twenty by Jody Casella

my boyfriend hit me.

I was home from college and living in that uncomfortable twilight zone space between the girl I was in high school (shy, clingy, desperate, afraid to be alone) and the woman I was on my way to becoming (outgoing, confident, fun and fearless).

That summer I was whip-lashing between the two and I want to tell you that the night my boyfriend hit me, I broke up with him.

But I didn't. (Because he didn't hit me that hard and it was really nothing but a quick smack, unexpected, and he'd never done that before; although, we did argue a lot and had dramatic break ups filled with lying (him) and tears (me), and anyway the slap didn't even leave a mark. It only stung a little. Really.)

We were hanging out at my house with his friends, because I'd cut all ties with my high school friends, listening to music, drinking, no parents at home, but my little brother off somewhere, probably barricaded up in his room.

And then it was late and my boyfriend was getting ready to leave and I knew he'd been drinking too much to drive and I took his car keys and hid them and flash forward to

the two of us in the front yard, him yelling at me to give him his keys, him throwing my purse across the lawn, spilling out the contents, him shaking me by the shoulders so my teeth rattled together, him hitting me

until I gave him his keys, threw them at him actually, and he drove off down the dark street, a squeal of tires as he swerved around the corner.

I want to tell you that I didn't cry

as I picked up all of the crap that had fallen out of my purse. I want to tell you that my little brother wasn't watching in the window, calling down to me, Are you okay? I want to tell you that I didn't yell at him to shut up and leave me alone.

The woman I was to be, the one who zipped up her battered purse and paced around the front lawn, enraged and embarrassed and defiant, who thought, over and over, he hit me, he hit me, who would break up with this troubled boy-- eventually-- hadn't fully emerged.

The girl I still was trudged into the house, picked up the phone, called her boyfriend in tears, told him:

I'm sorry.  


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Summer Lovin'...Happens TOO Fast by Jodi Moore


It seemed like just a moment ago, our boys were little,


spending their days burying my husband in the sand.


Then, poof!

We blinked and they grew up into fine young men.

Building sandcastles was always something my husband shared with them, and admittedly the first time we went to our local beach without them, we were sad. But Larry took his sand toys anyway, determined to somehow sculpt his way out of Empty Nest syndrome.


Of course, children materialized out of nowhere once he started to pack the foundation, eager to assist. 



Note: Yes, I went beach chair to beach chair, calming concerned parents who wondered why a mature, white-haired man was captivating their children with his sandcastle making talents. “We’re in the throes of Empty Nest,” I explained. “And desperately missing our boys.” With smiles all around, they went back to their books and sunbathing.

At some point, a toddler pulled a piece of seaweed out of the water and placed it in the doorway of the castle. “That looks like a dragon’s tail,” Larry said to him. “Our castle is so cool, a dragon moved in.”

And the heavens opened, and the angels sang. The concept for WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN was conceived that day.

Seven years later, we still go to that beach. Sometimes we’re lucky and our sons can join us. 



Other times, we’re fortunate to share other beaches with them.



And when neither is available, my hubby still brings his sand toys, and never lacks for help and inspiration.



Because summer lovin’ may happen fast, but if you keep your eyes, your mind and your heart open, it can easily stretch into an endless summer.



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Summer Love Means Ice Cream

Summer love?

What can I say… I don’t love summer.

I lived most of my life on the East Coast where the three Hs – hazy, hot, and humid – dominate the summer weather forecast. A place where your towel doesn’t dry overnight. Where you go outside to catch a breeze but are driven back in by the swarms of mosquitos.

I grew up near the ocean but I hate to swim. I hate sand on my skin, under my feet, and in my clothes. I hate the noise and crowds at the beach. My pale skin burns quickly or else erupts in hives if I sit too long in the sun.

No, I don’t love summer.

But summer is the season of ice cream.

In summer, you can eat ice cream without shame or guilt.

What? It’s hot out.

The week before July 4th, I was back east to visit family and friends and I ate a lot of ice cream.

What? It was hot!

And this wasn't just ice cream; these were classic summer experiences.


First was Mr. Softee, the ice cream truck that brings brings the creamy goodness of soft ice cream right to your door. We were sitting at the dinner table at my dad’s house, debating what to do for dessert when, suddenly, like a message from the universe, the Mr. Softee theme song could be heard in the street outside.

It was fate. We had to go.

My son got the double header, a Mr. Softee classic.





The Carvel shop in Plainedge NY
where I grew up 
The Carvel in Madison NJ
(We drove out of our way
because... Carvel!)


The other thing Long Island has, along with a few other places around the East Coast, is Carvel. Here I am (twice) with my classic Carvel order – a medium vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles.


I never order anything else. I mean, why would you?





Kohr Bros
(photo from 10/16)
What? It was hot...
no it wasn't...


Do you have beaches and boardwalks where you live? I don’t anymore, but when we go back in summer like we just did, we visit family at a beach house on the Delaware shore. The Delaware boardwalk is full of Kohr Bros soft serve shops. We had ice cream every time we went to the beach. I call that my payment for going to the beach:  something I love in exchange for something I don’t. Works for me. And remember, it was hot.



And we haven’t even talked about regular ice cream yet! It’s my dad’s favorite dessert too, so we always had ice cream in the house growing up. It’s hard for me to say what my favorite flavor is, but it’s always vanilla ice cream with stuff in it:  chocolate chip, Oreo cookies and cream, or some version of “moose tracks” with chocolate covered nuts and caramel and fudge swirl. I may stray to death-by-chocolate or peanut butter brownie if I’m in a particular mood, but I’ll always come back to my favorites.

My reward for driving him:
Sweet Cow Cookies & Cream
I’ve been in big trouble since a fantastic ice cream shop called Sweet Cow opened here in my town of Louisville, Colorado a few years ago. They do the basics exceptionally well – the best cookies and cream I’ve ever had – and they make specialty flavors that aren’t always available, like cinnamon chocolate, and “happy cakes” with chunks of real cupcakes, and raspberry chocolate chip, that are to die for.

It’s worse now that my son works there. He gets a huge discount, which means he brings pints of ice cream home quite often. And anytime I drive him to work or pick him up, he gives me free ice cream.

I drive him a lot.

What’s your favorite kind of ice cream? Hand scooped or soft serve? Vanilla or chocolate? Smooth or full of stuff? What do you like to put on top: Nuts? Hot fudge? Butterscotch? Caramel? M&Ms? Something else? Do you call the little sugary toppings “sprinkles” or “jimmies”, and if so, is there a difference between what you call them if they’re rainbow and chocolate? I want to know!

Would it be wrong to have some ice cream now? What? It’s hot!



P.S. Today is July 11, so head to your local 7-Eleven store for another classic summer treat: a free Slurpee! #7ElevenDay

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summers Off (Sydney Salter)

I'm sneaking outside on the weird little deck off my bedroom to write this. Shh.



A few years ago I put a little table on the deck so I could run away from my children and write during the summer. I finished a painful Camp NaNoWriMo on this deck, written in too quick, wildly unfocused bursts, and I've never looked at that miserable half-novel again, but I was living the dream: writing in the summer!

I still have one child at home, but she's seventeen, and I pretty much have to beg her to spend time with me these days. My own children aren't the writing obstacle anymore. Now my niece and nephew whose parents teach overseas come stay at my house for several weeks each summer - it's the only time I see them each year.

Summer means early morning board games, Lego building marathons, baking cupcakes, walking the dogs, water fights, and lots of talking. I can barely snag a few minutes to read, and I'm certainly not writing.

But I don't mind it one bit. My WIP will wait patiently for me to finish my Lego project.

The romantic version of summer loving has always proved to be a similarly unfulfilled dream. I just take summers off.







Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer Lovin' and the Kids--By Kimberly Sabatini

This month we're talking about summer lovin' on the blog. And as I was brainstorming my take on the July theme, I recalled a recent conversation I had about kids and parents loving summer and how that love changes as our kids grow. I'm the mom of three boys and more then ever that statement about parenting rings true--the days are long, but the years are short.




When my kids were younger--elementary school age or smaller--the summer was endless. Both a good thing and a challenging thing at times. (That's from their perspective and from mine.) At this age there was a lot of planning, managing and work that went into creating the "relaxing" summer we loved so much. And on their end, they ALWAYS wanted more autonomy than I could give them or more entertaining than I could tolerate, especially when I wanted to write. But with all this in mind, by the time September rolled around, even with all the super fun we had, I was thrilled to send them back to school. I craved the structure and the personal space and they needed the mental stimulation and the socialization.

And then there was the period where I had two tweens and one little one at home. This was an idyllic age for loving summer. The kids were pretty darn independent, but they still were enthusiastic about all the things I'd planned for them to do. A few camps, days by the pool, a couple road trips, get-togethers with friends and a family vacation. And in between, they were beginning to think it was cool to ignore me a little bit. And the little guy, always dying to keep up with the older boys, was almost as independent as they were. It was the first summers where I was getting a decent amount of writing done. Life felt pretty balanced.

But now we're at the stage where we have one tween and two teens and the whole dynamic is being upended again. The little guy is old enough for sleep away camp and he's all about immersing himself in the program. It's quite hilarious that once he's at camp, this kid who never stops talking at home, can only manage to send short texts that look like...Hi Great gtg Bye. For the middle son, I've become a secretary/chauffeur. It's the summer before high school and he's a social beast. It's pool parties, sleepovers, and other random stuff. And these outings are the kind where you pick them up and drop them off which can be a little nervous making, but most of the time is fabulous. He's trying on his age appropriate independence and we're both making it work. And the oldest has reached that point where he's a hair's breath away from driving and he's being more independent than ever. But in an interesting twist, he now has a job and I'm in the unique position of mostly being the summer "good guy." I'm taking him on vacation and his employer is the one who's making him do stuff. But just so he doesn't get out of practice with me being the meanie, he's learned how to do his own laundry and has an SAT tutor.

Looking back, I'm realizing that summer has become a measuring stick illustrating how the boys are changing over time. And this glimpse of them growing up makes me speculate about how I'll love my summers down the line when they are all busier and more independent. I suspect I'll be missing some of those moments when I was their whole world and summer lovin' was all about them loving me and wanting me to do everything with them. I may never see those days again until they have their own children. But I also think the moments we will get together will be incredible, something unique and wonderful in it's own way. Every year these boys become these interesting and complex people I'm even more fascinated by than I was when I first held them in my arms. Maybe summer lovin' isn't meant to stay the same. Because if you stayed in one spot, you'd miss all the other wonders along the way. Maybe summer lovin' is like taking in the sunsets. Everyone is different--but they are all worth watching.

What was the favorite age of your kids for loving summer? And what age drove you nuts? If you could go back and relive one moment what would it be? And what to do you look forward to the most as things change?

Friday, July 7, 2017

For the Love of Summer by Joy Preble

Summer used to seem so long, didn't it? Now I'm always saying "Can't believe it's already July!" and the stores start pushing school supplies right after the 4th of July and maybe it was always like that, but when I was a teenager and certainly when I was a kid, summer felt glorious and endless. We rarely went on actual summer vacations back then; the budget was always tight and my father wasn't much interested in traveling. But there was swimming and Cubs' games and biking and adventures and later there were summer jobs, a crazy string of them, including the summer after high school graduation when the sister of the woman whose kids I babysat, hired me as a 'marketing intern' for the accessories business she was starting.  I ended up working eight hours a day folding and packing scarves after the small team of women who spoke only Polish had sewn them. Now there was job that made the summer feel like a year!

Even when my son was younger, summers unfurled slowly: I was teaching school and the work year ended and there were these months in which we could move slower, hang out at the pool, go on adventures. Breathe. Some days we lapsed into the luxurious schedule I remembered from childhood: puttering around the house, watching TV, eating something and packing up a bag with sunscreen and snacks and drinks and then meeting other friends with young kids at one of the neighborhood pools. He would swim. I would lounge in the shallow end with the other moms. Eventually, it was time to go home and make dinner.

So yeah. I loved summer-- even though honestly, I'm more of an Autumn girl at heart. But when you grow up in Chicago, you relish warm days, because even in summer,  you still feel it sometimes-- that cool breeze off the lake with something colder riding underneath it, hinting at winter even in dog days of August.

Had a couple classic summer romances, too-- one of which should have ended in August but instead dragged on through February, ending in one of those breakups that you know is coming but are still dumbfounded by when it arrives-- the day after Valentine's of course.

What do you love-- or hate-- about summer?







Thursday, July 6, 2017

Music, Music, Everywhere (Mary Strand)

I’m SO happy to join YAOTL!  This month’s theme, Summer Lovin’, sent my mind instantly to live music.  I’m addicted to it all summer long.

I live in Minneapolis, which may make you think “COLD.”  But our summers are glorious, and I spend as much time as possible outdoors, listening to music or playing sports.

My love of music started early.  I remember singing the Beatles’ “Help!” at age four into a microphone consisting of the handle of our stand-up vacuum cleaner.  My mom played Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Hoagy Carmichael nonstop.  I worked for three years during college in a Wisconsin bar that hosted country-rock bands.  When I wasn’t there, I spent many nights dancing in a disco bar a block away.  (No judgment.)
 
 
I was a total groupie of a couple of local country-rock bands, so after I went halfway across the country for law school, I came home every chance I could to hear them.  According to my mom, WAY too often.

Next thing I knew, though, I was married and practicing law ... and I left live music behind.  Years went by.  I missed it, but it didn’t fit with my life.  Then, 10 years ago, when two of my sibs died within months of each other, I reassessed everything.  Among the many changes I made, live music came roaring back into my life.  Soon, my son started playing drums and my daughter piano.  I started playing guitar.  I caught as much live music as I could, too, but mostly by driving to Wisconsin to hear the musicians I’d known in college.

Then my guitar fell by the wayside.  Life.

A year ago, I revisited the YA books I’d started writing several years ago.  The Bennet Sisters series, based on a modern collision with Pride and Prejudice, has a music theme that grows with each book in the series.  (All four books are now out.)  I started thinking about guitar again.  A friend asked me to join a band.  I swallowed hard (after first emphatically telling her “NO!”), joined the band, and got my guitars restrung.
 


A new world opened.  I was playing in a band, yes, but I was also hanging out with people who play in bands ... and who listen to live music a LOT.  I started going to bars, nightclubs, and other live-music venues every chance I got.  Outdoor venues: even better!

I often walk to the Lake Harriet bandshell, which has live music most nights all summer.  I still drive to Wisconsin most weekends to hear the musicians I knew in college.  I follow the Belfast Cowboys wherever they play, much as I used to follow the Cadillac Cowboys during college.  I love standing in the “pit” at First Avenue, swaying to the music of Semisonic or Soul Asylum.  At the Dakota, I’ve swooned over Rodney Crowell, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Pure Prairie League while enjoying great martinis.  (Another love. heh heh.)  The Minnesota State Fair offers 12 days of vast amounts of live music at the end of the summer.  And now I’m a regular on Tuesday nights at a neighborhood bar, the Driftwood, where St. Dominic’s Trio (a subset of the Belfast Cowboys) plays weekly.  No one has yet filed a restraining order against me.  All good.


For me, summer lovin’ is the magic of live music.  Had me a blast!