Saturday, January 26, 2013


It's funny... I took my son back to college this past week and it made me think of my own college experience. He is one of those students who has found a passion but doesn't know if he wants to make the passion (music) his career for fear of getting burned out. So he's trying different classes and seeing if there is something that he loves. My experience was somewhat similar, although I knew what my passion was but I also knew what I wanted my career to be- and they weren't the same. 

From the time I can remember picking up a pencil, I was writing stories. Luckily I was also somewhat of a hoarder as a child (of everything- money, candy, drawings I did, souvenirs), so I still have many of my first writing attempts. I really began writing real short stories in 3-4th grade. I'd read a book and use the characters in a spin off of the book I just finished many times. I"d write the book, do the illustrations and then make a cover and probably force my sister to listen to me read it.  I could occupy myself for hours with my writing. And if I wasn't writing, I was reading. Piles and piles of books that I would get from the huge, awe-inspiring library in downtown Erie. I"d reread my favorites over and over again- reading multiple books at the same time, which used to drive my non-booklover mother to distraction. 

I then branched off into writing stories about a family of sisters I created -Rebecca, Allison, Grace and Eleanor- sisters who lived on a farm, which I recall was Whipporwill Farm. So many times the stories were written about how I wanted to live and since I was fascinated by the "old time days" and living in the country (we lived in typical 70's style in a suburban ranch house on a street of other very similar tract homes), my characters very often lived that way too. 

When I think back on my childhood, books always stand out as my main passion.. whether I was reading them or writing them. Yes, I played house and school with my sister, I played outside and rode bikes with my friends on the block. But I never was a kid who had to be doing something with something.. I was just as happy doing things by myself and writing was the main thing that I did.

I continued writing short stories, poems, spin offs of other books, sequels to my own stories and then in 8th grade I decided to really work on a chapter book. I think back now and realize I was probably considered a little quirky by classmates and teachers (although I had no care about what the teacher thought of me since I never was a kid who buddied up to the teacher). If I had my choice of almost anything to do, I would go to the library and bring home books about life in the early 1900s- especially the history of the small town we moved to when I was in 6th grade- Girard, Pa. I read so much that I really could picture what it was like to live there at that time period and could write accurate details. So it was natural I"d set my story in my town and I used my family as my characters, altering their names slightly. I became Jeanette, my sister Rennae was Rue, etc. It was a chapter book about family life in th early 1900's. I wrote it for months in my room after school and doing my paper route, with my mother knocking on my door, 'What are you doing in there?", until finally I had almost 200 handwritten pages. I don't know if I ever titled it, but I was proud of it, and there were friends at school who borrowed it to read, although I was very trusting since I never made a copy of it. Somewhere in a box, I still have that story tucked away- my first "chapter book.".

So then in 9th grade I saw that the writer for the local news column in our weekly paper was quiting and they were looking for a new writer. I called the paper and asked if I could do it. At first they really didn't think a not quite 14 year old could write a column but they gave me the job and I continued writing about the births, deaths, birthdays, etc in our small town until I went away to college. It was also then I discovered that my passion had become work. And I didn't love doing it. It was a paycheck and no more. So I can understand Ben's concern about something you love becoming something you consider a drudgery.

Entering high school also brought with it the usual teen angst and insecurity. In Pa, there is a program called Governor's School for the Arts and the year I was a junior it was held at Bucknell University. It was a highly competitive 5 week school for arts (like Fame) with over 2000 students competing for 200 spots. I wanted to go.. badly.. for creative writing.  I wrote a short fiction piece and then.. didn't turn it in. How could I be chosen from 2000 applicants? Finally at the final day, I took it to my guidance counselor and told him to mail it.

I made it.. after another round of interviews and writing samples. For 5 weeks I wrote and critiqued stories and poems, had readings in front of an entire school and even got fan mail. It was one of the best experiences of my life and one I am so glad I took a chance on.

Fast forward.. college, life and teaching took precedence over writing. I'd try but I was too busy to concentrate. Then I got into it again because I missed it so much and tried writing for children. Once again I immersed myself in my writing and began sending some short stories to children's magazines. And I got published.. by a very hard to get published magazine "Ladybug". It was one of my most exciting life moments.. to finally open up that magazine and see my story, with illustrations that totally did not match what my character looked like in my own head.. and then to have a mentor article after it written by Mr. Rogers himself! 

And then I stopped again.  And now that I am nearing a time when I think about what a 2nd career might look like, I am looking at what has been my passion throughout my whole life.. waxing and waning, but always there. It was funny.. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and a coworker, who isn't a close friend but who knows me, says, 'You should just be a writer," and the little light flickered in my head because my family tells me that, my husband tells me that, but to have someone else tell me that... makes me think.  If you are born to do something that has been natural for you your entire life... shouldn't you do it? Shouldn't it come to the forefront instead of being pushed into the background by the tedium of every day life?

I think it should and I hope I remember that when someone says that I should just write and I say, "When do I have time to do that? "  Make time for your passions.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Last weekend, my husband and I had one of those great weekends that only come along once in a while once you get married and have kids. And even though our two oldest are out of the nest and the third is pretty much on his way, we still get caught up in the daily 'living"-where you get done what you have to do and then you have no time, or in our case, inclination, for doing anything that you WANT to do.

Luckily for us I have a great group of friends and a great mother in law, who drove all the way from Ohio (sick) to watch our youngest for the weekend while we went to share some quality time in Niagara Falls with 4 other couples. 

Once I got through packing, I was excited to leave... the packing, even for an overnight creates anxiety in me and I don't know why, but I'm thrilled when I'm done. We stayed at The Sheraton at the Falls, which was actually a very nice hotel right across the street from the casino. 

What I love about my friends is that our significant others get along well and we always have a good time (yes.. just like that song!) when we hang. 

The whole weekend was spent having some quality time in our rooms, eating, gambling, laughing, eating, laughing (a little drinking) and even winning. Not a lot, but enough to cover our dinner and hotel room for th weekend. As my mother as always said about me.. 'you are always lucky 'enough"" Which I wasn't sure how to take that as a teenager, but as I have grown older, I know what she meant. I have never been one to win big, but it seems whenever we were struggling, we got lucky enough to take care of things that needed to be taken care of. So while it would have been great to win a nice chunk of change, as I sat and watched someone do on the Wizard of Oz slot machine, it was great to win enough to have a freebie weekend. 

So I did feel pretty lucky as we left the hotel room that morning.. good food, great friends, great quality time with hubby, super mother in law who totally spoiled Belly and took care of the multitude of animals at my house... I guess I am actually MORE then just lucky enough... I'm lucky a lot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Crazy Cat Lady

Today I had the rescue that I foster for- New Start Kitty Rescue email me and ask how many cats we had fostered/rescued this year. I had to think about it- I know that it was not as many as 2011, which is when we first started. We began the cat rescue journey when I adopted my little calico kitten Truly from New Start back around Mother's Day 2010. She was a tiny little ball of fluff and I don't think I have ever been so attached to a kitten. I love cats and kittens- I always have, but this one was just special to me. She was just so sweet and cuddly and funny.
We noticed she started walking funny in September.. a strange wobbly gait like she was trying not to fall over. We took her to the vet who thought she may have pulled a muscle and we were just supposed to watch her. But it got so much worse.. she would walk and just fall over, like her back legs would give out. It got to the point where I just carried her with me all around the house. Eventually we wound up taking her back to a different vet for another opinion, and then told me they thought it might be rabies. She was never outdoors, but they thought it could come from her mother or the Amish farm that she was born at. Sadly, she went downhill and she died with me sitting next to her at the vet when she was not even 6 months old.  I have never cried so much as I did over that tiny kitten. They did an autopsy on her and found out that she was hydro cephalic-totally surprising the vets and us.

This led to us starting to foster for the cat rescue where we got Truly. The first year we found homes for around 25 cats and kittens. I think this year was around 10. 

The first batch was a mother cat who we had last year as a kitten.. We got a call from the people who adopted her who said they had suddenly developed allergies to her, and could we take her back? And -oh by the way- they didn't get her fixed and she was pregnant. So we took her back and she had 5 gorgeous kittens- Allie, Annie, Augie, Ace and Prince (who was claimed and named already lol). 

We found homes for Prince and Auggie and Ace, but we still have Annie, Allie and Mittens the mom here at the house.  

Then we had a little Beauty show up crying outside our house last summer. For days we could hear her  outside but we could never catch her. She was a fast little kitten! Finally one night we snuck outside with a towel and a flashlight and managed to catch her among the rhododendrums. When we got her inside, we saw that she had a rip-roaring eye infection. We managed to clear it up and she turned into a sweet loving kitten. We called her Beauty but she has been adopted and renamed Stellaluna, mainly because of her big batlike ears. 

Adoption success story! Another little rescue kitten was baby Buckets. My son's girlfriend's brother found a tiny kitten on the side of the road late one night. Her other siblings had not been so lucky or rescued soon enough. They brought her over and she was the tiniest, scrappiest little girl. They named her Buckets and it stuck.. for some reason it really fit her. She was adopted by a wonderful med student going to University of Rochester- very spoiled with all kinds of cat toys and a pillow on his bed. 

So they were the major stand out adoptions this year. I think we had a couple of older cats that we found homes for too. One project that I'd like to feature here is our cat room, which we  hopefully will get done this year before we leave for OBX in March.  It will allow us to take more cats and have a separate area, apart from the house, for potential adopters to visit. 

When Truly died, I really wasn't sure I would want another kitten-that I would foster instead and get to enjoy kittens all the time. Little did we know (but we kind of suspected- knowing us!) that we'd wind up keeping the unadoptables and the feral mother, raising the number of our own cats to 5 along with my daughter's two cats that we are watching while she is living in Japan. Cats definitely are like potato chips.. you can't have just one!

And in memorian- our oldest cat, Tucker, passed away this year at 15. She was an odd, anti-social little girl but loved to sit by my computer or on the back of my chair 24/7. I sure do miss her. 

And on a fun note...funny kitten picture from this year. They make me smile.. and yell at the same time. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

And so 2013 Begins...

We rang in the New Year in the wild and crazy kind of way you do when you have a 9 year old... we all did a Tinkerbelle Puzzle together. We then proceeded to stuff our faces with various salty, carb laden snacks, danced to a little Pitbull in our living room and went to bed at 12:30 am. Exciting times! 
 We used to have Family Fun night for awhile when the three oldest were little. We'd play silly games, eat and then have a family slumber party in the livingroom. This continued until no one thought it was very fun to sleep on the floor or the sofa. We then started going out with friends for a few years and left the oldest to babysit the little ones. I love ringing in the new year with friends who feel like family too. But this year, the two oldest are living far away (Japan and California) and the oldest at home had plans... so here we are, just the three of us, at midnight.

I think that it's somewhat of a requirement that if you have a blog you should post about new year's goals and resolutions and so I suppose that my blog will be no different, even if it is to be accountable to myself. The past year I have debated and pondered what type of future I would like career-wise, and I'm hoping that this year brings more clarity for me. I would hope that it would lift me up and not drag me down, as I'm currently feeling. 

I want this year to be a year that I take chances and risks, which is something I don't do very often. In the risk-taking, I hope that I have an epiphany about what I should be doing with myself, instead of doing what I do because it is safe... and dependable.. and more practically- pays the bills. 

I want to read more, be outside more, visit my family more. I want to write, I want to walk on the beach for more then one week in April, I want to have friends over more often then I currently do (which is practically never-except for being poolside in summer), I want to be more in the moment with everything I do. I admit I'm usually not in the moment.. I'm usually 'half' in the moment or 3/4 in the moment because I'm thinking of a million other things. 

In the past I have always been thankful for simple things, and I want to continue.. I just want to be more aware. It is the trend these days to not choose resolutions, but to focus your intention on one word for the upcoming year. Before writing this, I was thinking I might choose 'organization" but now I have found a more important word. 

So here is to 2013- The Year of Awareness... 

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve morning. The end of 2012.. and in an effort to make my home more like the cottage I envision, I did accomplish a few projects this year. 

First, let me begin by saying that Pinterest is a great friend of mine. How I managed to do any project or find any recipe or decorate my house before stumbling upon Pinterest, I do not know. I do not want to even try to figure out how many hours of time I have wasted  researched on Pinterest. 

First project I loved this year was my old dresser turned into tv console.  I got this beauty from an estate sale store for $40! After some cleaning and painting, it looks like this: 
Chuck and I also ripped apart our foyer and finished it with board and battan. I love it. Previously we had a tiny doorway into the livingroom making it very dark and small. We moved the entry door and widened it and it brings so much more light into the living room. 
This is when it was half finished; Since they we have changed things around, added flooring and removed the bins. 

The next year, we need to finish our cat room, which will be a room for our foster cats. It will allow us to take in more then the three we have right now. I'm excited about that. We only found homes for about 10 cats this year.. last year it was 25... so I feel like we are slacking in the cat rescue department. 

Other projects will be hardwood floors in the living room and opening up the doorway to our den and adding french doors. I'll keep you posted. 

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blogging Beginnings

Okay my first blogging post. I have toyed with the idea of having a blog for a long time, mostly as a way to get back to what I love and have always loved to do, and that is to write. I really don't have grand illusions of fame with a blog and probably don't want to be that well known since I basically like my privacy. But blogging also really fascinates me, so here I sit on a snowy afternoon when I should be doing other things.. blogging.  (Should I be doing other things? Why do I always think what I am doing is not what I SHOULD be doing? )

And the title "Wannabe Cottage"? pretty much sums up a lot of things for me. As I mention in my profile.. there are many things I'd love to get better at. I"d love become a better photographer, writer, teacher, mom. There are many things personally I'd like to be..more of a risk taker, less guilty about doing things when I think I should be doing something else, more able to enjoy things without worrying about other things. 

Then there is my house.. which really wants to be a cottage.. well I want it to be a cottage. So I'm hoping that with this blog I can share that journey too. Transforming our bland 1900 house (it really doesn't have a style- I believe some Italian farmers built it in our small town and it has been changed throughout the years.. but it definitely has nothing fancy or fine about it) into a cottage is a slow process but hopefully blogging about the progress will make me appreciate this little house even more. 

So I'll share my year and we'll see how it goes.