Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How to remove a lipstick stain

Today was a big interview day. First, a radio chat in Iowa (topic: etiquette on thank you notes) and then an interview for a newspaper about second-hand wedding dresses. We launched into a topic about which kinds of stains are 'okay' on a second-hand dress, and how to remove lipstick stains. I'll also be interviewed later today by someone who's doing a school report on the history of bridesmaids...when did the practice start, what are the superstitions, how have the roles changed. I got a kick out of the writer's note that she's in a bridal party and the bride gave them all copies of my 'Bridesmaid Handbook.' And I just brought six copies of my books to the nurse at my Dad's oncologist -- her son is planning a wedding.

I finished six chapters on my book with Casey Cooper and will outline the next four tonight. We've finally decided on a format of sidebar placement and question listings, and between the two of us, this one is turning out just beautifully. Half-done and right on target with word count, so I couldn't be more pleased. My new book idea has gotten some nibbles at a few publishers, so I may get to do a happy dance about it going to auction. As an author, I read Publisher's Weekly religiously. The Deals Report shows amazing rights negotiations and ten-house auctions, and reveals which celebrity books are written by ghostwriters (Dr. Phil...say it ain't so!). I've been in a bliss bubble for a while, so I have my pile of back issues of PW to go through...with a few Entertainment Weekly issues thrown in. So tonight is spaghetti and meat sauce that Joe made so phenomenally last night -- I took most of it over to my family's for my Dad, and I hear that my dog Peanut who is sick with a stomach bug right now has turned her nose up at beef stew and peanut butter but is LOVING Joe's spaghetti (which means she can get her insulin shot later...a big relief) -- and an evening of reading on my hammock after I outline my chapters. I was outside before, watering my plants and counting my blessings, and a gorgeous monarch butterfly came flitting around me for a good, long time. All is well, all is well...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

Wow...this was the most amazing weekend. I'm exhausted right now from four days of snapshots, beautiful moments, and a gift so wonderful I can barely find the words. So that this is not an entry a mile long, I'll hit the highlights:

Joe and I went to a Mexican restaurant, and it was ridiculously wonderful. He'd been craving Mexican for a while, and we finally got there. Frozen margaritas, enchilada, quesadilla, beef burro...just a fabulous date. He plans no other kind.

We saw the X-Men movie...our very first movie date after almost 3 months. Just an indicator that we had an instant comfort from the beginning, no awkward first dates of sitting in the dark in a movie theater with little to say, that awkward stuff of wondering how to reach for the hand in the dark. Our first movie....lots of firsts this weekend.

My first time meeting his mother and brother. I was TERRIFIED, and spent about an hour in my closet, almost in tears because I couldn't find anything appropriate to wear to a 90-degree afternoon baseball game. Tank tops...too revealing. White tee shirts all seemed to have chocolate stains on them. Pink capris don't fit just right yet. It really was a comically stressful moment. But Mrs. T. is a sweetheart and I thrilled at seeing how Joe and his brother cared for their mom. She's an instant at-ease personality. I now see where my Joe gets it. And the baseball game was phenomenal fun. Great Americana on the holiday weekend.

First day back to the town pool, only this time sharing that great environment with Joe. For a town pool, I have to say that this one is amazing. Two big waterslides, and the addition of a very strange Pelican water feature at the baby pool (don't ask). Our first swim together. And a near wardrobe malfunction-- bathing suit strap slipped from my shoulders and I caught it before I was ejected from the pool on Day 1. Note to self: do movement tests on the new bathing suits.

And on Memorial Day, Joe took part in my family's tradition of going to the town parade (a funny little suburban parade of the high school marching band, all the town ambulances, and all the scout troops and karate classes. They whip candy out to the crowd). It's always been a family tradition, and as you might remember, my family has had some trying times. We didn't get to the parade last year because my Dad wasn't feeling well. This year, Joe came along and met my parents, Peanut my dog LOVES him (she's my barometer -- she senses good people and if she goes for a petting, you're golden. Well, Peanut not only went for a petting, she climbed up on the couch with Joe and put her paws on his chest while he rubbed her ears. I've never seen her do that before. She knows he's a good one too.) and even better, my Dad had a GREAT day. He'd been so sick lately, that it was phenomenal to see him all pink and happy, playing mini golf in the house with Joe, laughing, telling jokes. No one can really understand how huge that is. So it was a huge success, and a gift of indescribable proportions that Dad enjoyed spending time with Joe. He lit up the house and we had something we'd been hoping for for over a year and a half..normalcy, one of our family traditions unscathed, a delightful meal, and I got to see my Dad smile again.

Followed that up with a rest at Joe's, a visit to the town pool for sun and a swim, dinner and cuddle time. No better place to be. I'm overwhelmed with joy. This man has brought the color back to my life too. So on Memorial Day, when it's time to honor the memory of those who have served our country, there's an element of honoring the memory of all the people who are now gone from my life, who served a purpose or taught a lesson, who brought me here to this point with new wisdom...and I also think of the memory of my 4 great uncles who served in World War 2, and all four brothers came back alive and well. I thought that men like that -- men of great character and dedication, who valued their families and loved their God, men with bravery and a sense of serving something greater than themselves -- didn't exist anymore. That they didn't make 'em like that anymore. I was wrong. All of the virtues and values and integrity that I loved in my great-uncles is here right now. Somewhere my Uncle Augie -- who was like my grandfather -- is smiling on me. I know that if he were here, he'd sit down with my Dad and with Joe and they would have a great time laughing and drinking a beer, watching the Yankees and giving us a wink and a hug when we placed big plates of food before them and sat down at a table for a holiday meal together. Joe reminds me of my Uncle Augie. Same warming smile, same hearty laugh, same adoration and twinkle in the eye. Same family values.

This was A GREAT WEEKEND. Can't express it more...

Friday, May 26, 2006

My birthday

This had to have been the best birthday ever. It started at Minute 1 with a birthday song from my niece and nephew (they're coming for a week in July, so I'm saving up for major spoiling) and then Joe called to sing to me. Sigh...Went for breakfast with my Mom, then went to the lake, talked to my Dad before he checked into the hospital for a maintenance blood transfusion (we call it a 'lube job' in our stressed, twisted humor after 2 1/2 years of being in Cancer World) and Dad sang to me in Ukrainian. Just half a song, he said, because he'll do the other half when he gets out of the hospital.

My friend Jen took me out shoe shopping. I'm officially hooked on heels. How did I live so long in flats and barefoot? We bonded with a fellow shoe shopper and laughed over the gaudiness of some of the gold strappies I was considering for my bridesmaid's shoe, then settled on 5 pairs of heels: pink, silver, the gold for the wedding, orange, and a copper-colored 3-incher. I am now buying shoes to match my lingerie. $19 sale, so I got the five pairs for about 1/7th of a pair of Christian Laboutons. Which I now know about because I am a shoe girl. It gets better....

Now the glowing, radiant, breathtaking part...Joe showed up with an ENORMOUS smiley face balloon and five minty-colored balloons, and he made me wait a few minutes while he set something up in my bedroom. Hmmmm....I was expecting a Spiderman costume (which we'd joked about) but when he came back out he wasn't Spidey. But he did have five boxes waiting for me on my bed. SHOES! Same wavelength. They were the ones I had seen in a catalog and loved. Maribou kitten heels, black pointy-toes, copper wedges and really pretty black crossed-toe stilettos. I couldn't believe he literally was an "Oh, these are pretty!" while I was flipping through the catalog.

We ate chinese food and enjoyed the rest of the evening, with me in my heels and him lighting up the room just by his presence. He sang Happy Birthday to me in Polish and got me a little ice cream cake. Not enough room on the cake for 37 candles, so he stopped at 20. NICE. Shoes, ice cream, and hot, thoughtful, amazing man. Does it get any better than this? I gave him the love letter I was finally able to write, even though words just can't do it. For the first time in my life, I can't find the perfect words. Oh, and Joe sent me an MP3 of Sting's "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" which I've been playing, dancing to, singing to, and playing for everyone who came over to wish me a happy birthday. Amazing rendition. Joe put a lot of time and effort into all of my birthday surprises, and I'm so, so, so thankful to have this wonderful person in my life. Best birthday present ever. Better than 10 pairs of shoes, better than ice cream...

And now it's a new day....just found a card he left for me on my computer keyboard, a little 'I Love You' card that I have propped next to his picture. Talked to my Dad in the hospital and he sounds fabulous, so all is well and work is calling. I'll be writing two chapters today, after running some errands for the family and being on call to pick up my Dad from the hospital when he's released. Think I'll wear the copper wedges for that...

My friend Jill says the years ending in -7 are the best ones. Certainly looks that way to me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

17 drafts

I think it took me longer to write a love letter to Joe than it took me to write several chapters of my book! I was amazed by my own stop-and-start, how the words just didn't capture it right. Too cheesy, too gushy, not enough gushy...but I think I've got it right. Contentment, a light joy in knowing someone who makes...

Ah, I'll save it for the real delivery of the letter.

This week is going to be a little tough. My Dad is having radiation treatments every morning for 10 days, so I'll be up early and running over there to help out however I can. Today is yardwork, and we've called off my birthday breakfast for tomorrow since Dad won't be able to make it. We'll celebrate when he's feeling better. It's actually good news, the radiation treatments, since they made him feel so much better the last time, and it's been over a year since he needed them last. We're very optimistic -- just needed to circle the wagons last night and make a plan for morning care and errands. No problem. It's been our way of life.

In better news, I just found out that I'm going to do a little bit of emcee work at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Taste of the Towns dinner. At first, they asked me to say a little something, and then they came back with 'will you introduce some of our guest speakers?' I'm tremendously honored. Right now, I'm trying to get Z100 (our morning radio station) to send over a celebrity guest judge for the restaurant competition -- my Dad used to have breakfast every morning with one of the deejays on that show, so I'm hoping to make some magic happen for the LLS. Fingers crossed.

Tonight is book club, which means I'm missing Joe's firm's softball game (and Joe's firm thighs in shorts). Too bad. I had the cheerleader outfit all ready to go. ;) Maybe next time. The menu for book club tonight -- shrimp cocktail, Mexican meat sticks, guacamole dip, fruit salad, wine, toasted almond drinks, and cappuccino cake. No one's had time to read the actual book, so this is more of a Girls' Night than a literary discussion.

With my birthday tomorrow, I went back through my journal for the year and thought about how much has changed since this time last year. While most people think "What do I want for the coming year?" at milestone birthdays, I tend to look at my pages and think "What did I accomplish? What did I overcome? Which dreams came true?" I like who I've become at almost-37. It's a million times better than what I was at 27. I credit this to having better people in my life, finding my stride, finding my voice, and knowing what works and doesn't.

So I'm sitting here on the last day of 36, with a heartmelting photo of my boyfriend in front of me, contracts for some big opportunities to the right of me, my phone to the left of me that delivers the voices I love to hear every day, a strong family with a plan to care for my Dad, the honor of speaking at an organization that played a large part in the measures that saved my parents, wonderful friends coming over tonight, wonderful friends all over the country, a niece and nephew who call me up to talk about American Idol, my health, insta-smiles, and loving arms that hold me, green eyes to look into and know that I am is good. Even in my MID-30s, life is sweet.

Time to get back to work...busy day on tap....

Monday, May 22, 2006

The new book has arrived!

I LOVE the days when Kingston, my FedEx man, arrives with a big crate of books. It means the new title has arrived! In an earlier post, I mentioned that I cried the first time I saw my very first published book, and then that graduated to a happy dance and dinner out with my friends, and somewhere in the middle of the 29 books it became a big smile and a Haagen Dazs bar. But today's shipment of the finished copies of the Bride and Groom Thank You Guide had me dancing around the house to Sting's "Desert Rose." No reason, it's just what was on the TV music station at the time. I love how the new books smell, believe it or not. Fresh off the press, the covers gleaming, the pages ready. This one is dedicated to the doctors who saved my Mom, and the same team is working on my Dad. So I have a pile of them waiting for hand-delivery to our 'medical miracle workers.' But I pulled the first one out for a special delivery.

As I'm flipping through the book, it's my first real glance at layout, at the formation of the quotes and poetry, my last-minute edits thankfully there. And then I traced my finger over the worksheets, those checkoff lists where the reader will record who needs to get a thank you for a gift or favor. It escapes me sometimes that thousands upon thousands of people will be using this book. It's going to be a part of their process. For a flash second, I imagined handwriting on those worksheets, and it brought me a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, a sigh of contentment. I've put something positive and useful out there, and I can only imagine so many brides and grooms sitting down with a bottle of Merlot or some chicken marsala for dinner, flipping through this book and making their gameplan. I am glowing with pride in the work that I and my team at Perigee did for this one. And Maggie my publicist has already nailed down interviews on the topic. Did my first one today.

And of course, in my celebratory mode, I decided to take a bath (sandalwood froggie bath oil) at which time I got a call from Newsday. Sometimes I'm too honest and told the reporter I was currently in the bathtub. Hoping she'll call back. A 'Sharon Moment,' if there ever was one. I'm excited for this interview -- it's about the questions you need to ask before getting married. I've mined some recent anecdotes I've heard and have great stuff for her. The financial experts will focus on budgets and investments. The psychologists will go for communication and problem solving. I'm going for the issues that crop up during the planning process, and how they point a white hot spotlight on the things you need to talk about before walking down the aisle.

It's been a hectic afternoon -- putting out some fires, packaging up my recent clips, and just found out my InStyle Weddings issue isn't coming out til July 5th. Good things come to those who wait...

Beyond work, just getting my menu and drinks list together for bookclub at my place on Wednesday. Might go to yoga tonight and follow up with drinks with a friend, and of course will watch Oprah's Legends Ball tonight. My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail ;)

Now, with this flurry of good news to get my perspective back in line, I can dig back into this chapter, in which I've paired personality styles with designer martini concoctions and find myself wanting to expand my horizons for an Almond Joy martini. This has been a tasty chapter to write....

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Taking a sick day

The good thing about sick days is that the day is yours. I remember sick days when I was a child, how I'd feast on red Jello and vanilla pudding, pastina, and tons of hot tea. And any sick day brought a toy: usually Colorforms. Now, a sick day means tea, applesauce, more tea, some cinnamon toast, and a steady diet of cough drops and more tea. With a sinus headache, bending over is impossible, so I did modified squats while picking up around the house, getting laundry done, tearing through my To Do list, and wrapping gifts for all the May birthdays and anniversaries on my Loved Ones list. For my 'toy,' I ordered two of Rachael Ray's cookbooks.

I canceled a local booksigning -- no publicity, and even I didn't know what time it was supposed to be -- and went to get a quick manicure instead. Gotta love the beauty salon fumes when you already have a headache. But Ella is a sweetheart and rushed through my bubble gum pink polish.

I also did all the research for the menu and drinks portions of "What's Your Bridal Style?", talking to caterers and bar managers for the latest twists on classics. 38 recipes for martinis, broken down into classic, trendy and playful. The exact description of the cuisine on Martinique (Creole and French). Also tried to find a recipe for a drink I enjoyed on the island of Martinique, but that may have been a bartender's special. Something unique only Wallace would know... So overall, I did about a week's worth of research and writing in these two short days, trying to get ahead of my To Do list so that I can enjoy the festivities of the week ahead.

Joe comes back from NC tonight -- I missed him! -- and we have plenty of things planned for the holiday weekend: a movie, biking by the Delaware River, going to see a minor league baseball game, and whatever birthday surprise he has in mind. The events themselves are secondary to the fact that we get to spend time together. This weekend was endless without him here....Next Monday, he meets my parents for the first time, perhaps my brother and his fiancee as well.

But before the Memorial Day weekend activities, there's a week to get through...I'm going to the Stationery Show at the Javits where I'll meet my colleagues at as well as my dear friends at Vismara Invitations, and spend the day exploring the cavernous convention center's endless supply of contacts and gift shop specialties, new lines in stationery and innovations. I love this show, only second to Book Expo which is going on right now in Washington DC. The last time I showcased at Book Expo, I had a little bit of tough competition right around the corner...Heidi Fleiss and her 'girls' lounging around on Victorian couches while Heidi signed her book. I can't even imagine why that kept the crowds away from my 'how to plan an outdoor wedding' book. Next time, I either bring Victorian couches and wear lingerie, or I give out Toll House cookies. ;) Maybe next year...

Oh, and a movie recommendation for you. During a sick day evening, I watched "Little Manhattan," which was adorable, very 'Wonder Years,' about a ten year old boy's first love. Brilliant writing on the screenplay, just a very sweet family film.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The blue couch

If it was anyone else calling with an invitation to come over tonight, I would have said no, that I'm tired and my sinuses hurt. But it's Joe. There's no way I'd miss a moment. So we spent the evening cuddling on his amazingly comfy blue couch, legs intertwined, so comfortable. And even though Elliott is gone from American Idol, this was still an amazing night. Couldn't tear myself away to go home and work.

Had one last project to do this evening. I had the honor of writing a speech for a very important person in my world, for a very special moment in his world. The words come easy for me, even speaking in someone else's voice, and it took almost no time at all to turn my notes into words that I know his daughter will remember forever. I got to be a part of her snapshot moment, and his. It's times like these that I love having this gift even more than usual.

So my evening was cuddling, American Idol, speechwriting, and a tauntaun reference and imitation that I'm laughing about right now. Perfection.

Wedding stories

I recently received a letter from a groom in India who asked me for advice on the best way to please his wife. Just that question. I wrote back with plenty of suggestions on romantic surprises, compassion and consideration, valuing her work and her family, spontaneous kindnesses like compliments and thoughtful little things. He wrote back with "No, how do I PLEASE my wife on our wedding night?" Umm.....

Another fun letter came from a woman in Oklahoma, asking me for planning ideas for a wedding in prison. How DO you decorate the holding cell?

A couple just wrote to me, not for wedding questions, but to share their love story. They said they don't need anything or want anything from me...they just wanted to talk about how great it is to be in love.

I get letters from all over the world, thanking me for my books, letting me know which ideas saved the day for them, and one amazing woman sent me a thank you gift: a blue pottery vase that she had made herself. It sits here on my desk, holding the pens I use to longhand write my articles and book chapters.

On Sunday, I have a booksigning at Sages Pages in Madison, NJ -- a program for brides and their mothers, with lots of topics covered and a Q&A session before I sign copies of The Mother of the Bride Book, Mother of the Groom, and The Bride's Gratitude Journal. I absolutely LOVE these events, because there's so much hope and excitement (and a little bit of overwhelm) in the eyes of the brides. I can tell who's at the start of the planning, and who's way into it. I can tell who's having a blissful partnership with their mother, and who's being steamrolled. When I see too many of the steamrolling types, I share stories about how the mothers need to remember that they're not just planning a wedding -- they're setting the groundwork for their future relationship with their daughter and husband. How they behave now determines their family patterns in the future. When I share stories of mothers who permanently alienated the couple, I often see a mom put her hand supportively or apologetically on the bride's arm...and maybe I halted the steamrolling a bit. Maybe the wakeup call changes their pattern. The same goes for the bride...sometimes with all the swirling adventure of wedding planning, gratitude goes out the window. So I present them with The Bride's Gratitude Journal, my newest, a place where they can record what's going RIGHT with the wedding plans, the people they appreciate, the honor it is to have so many people in their lives to make a guest list swell to an unimaginable number. All it takes is a twist of perspective. So I'm all set for the Sages Pages signing, and very excited to be in their great little, comfy loft for the program. This is going to be fun...

And now I have to go answer a question from someone who wants to know how to surprise his bride. By that, I hope he means rose petals on the bed, candles, and other heartwarming things...not wedding night acrobatics. ;)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The To Do list

I absolutely love rainy days like this. #1: pollen's low, so I can breathe. #2: fireplace is on. #3: No distractions from my To Do list. I always get a *ton* of work done on days like this.

Just finished editing my first piece for Gift Shop magazine, a feature about gift stores that throw parties as a marketing plan. The next time I'm in LaJolla, CA I'm definitely stopping in at Morrison Hotel Gallery -- or I can just stop in at the SOHO one -- to see all their musician photographs. Sounds amazing. I would have had it done last night, but I was distracted and wrote out 3,000 words on a 1,500-word assignment. This morning was a big edit, and I see that my penchant for passive verbs hasn't left me. So it was an hour of cleanup on that one and now I get into the next piece: a fun roundup of the best items to put in wedding guest welcome gift baskets for "Bride and Groom" magazine. The contract says 'no less than 1,000 words,' so I'll have to be mindful of writing tightly. It'll take an hour, and then I'm on to the Web writing I have lined up for wedding coordinators at For Your Memories. After that, I'm pitching a few story ideas to Weekend Magazine, a new monthly that looks like a lot of fun. I sketched out an assessment of their columns and have six or so rock-solid ideas for them. And then, there's the new book proposal...I like this one.

So it's a writing day until dinner with the girls tonight, and then I call it an early night to watch American Idol. In the meantime, it's just working through the To Do list, calling the bank to find out why they processed my cable bill three times, and checking on some Broadway tickets for when my niece and nephew are in town. Oh, and maybe some shoe shopping. Those stilettos were so comfortable in Atlantic City...cringing at the gold strappies, salivating over the black ones. Almost bought clear-heeled ones last night, but that's a little too much for me. I do remember that Oprah had on clear-heeled shoes but they had a pink hue to them. Maybe I'll look for a pair of those...after I cover the To-Do list. Gotta reward a job well done...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Atlantic City

This was the best birthday present EVER. I've always said that the best gift is an experience, not anything in a wrapped box. Gifts are great, but the snapshots from experiences -- especially experiences like this one -- last so much longer and bring the smiles out of nowhere. I could write for days about how amazing this getaway was, but I'll stick to just a few of the many, many highlights....

Normally, I'd be nervous about 'The First Vacation' with someone, but there's none of that with Joe. So we started with breakfast, where I ran into the parents of one of my old high school friends -- always good to hear that I haven't changed in 20 years! It'll be terrific to talk with Jen again sometime soon...

The ride down to Atlantic City flew by...great conversation (as always), lots of laughs, and that first view of the water and the seagulls, speedboats ripping through the water, just took my breath away. With how difficult the past few years were, I didn't have a vacation. At all. And now here I was on the Parkway, sharing this moment with someone amazing. I had to choke back a few tears, remembering all the family vacations I'd been on, how we always left at 5am, the smell of the ocean when we reached the hotel. Brought me right back to memories that warmed me. I so needed to be near the water...

We checked into our hotel, stopping first to look at all the Miss America memorabilia in the lobby. The actual gowns, the crowns, the shoes in some cases. They had the dress from the very first Miss America, and that too brought back memories. The beading and hand-stitching on the gown was the same art that my grandmother used to do. So of course, I'm thinking about how I'd always watch the Miss America pageant as a little girl, so amazed by it all. I was a Barbie girl, so the formal dresses were the big thing for me. Joe cracked me up when he commented that I was a Barbie girl with the dreamhouse and the outfits and the shoes, but yet I never had a shoe thing (until now)...true, true.

We held hands and walked around the city, stopping at many of the outlets and grabbing a hot dog for lunch (I'd been craving one for weeks!). It was a gorgeous day, not the rainy day they'd predicted, and one of my snapshots fulfilled. One of many that weekend.

Thought about swimming in the hotel pool and taking a dip in the hot tub, but let's just say the pool was a little bit cloudy and the hot tub was under construction. So we went back upstairs and showered for our big night out...we had plans to go to the Borgata. Another snapshot as we both got ready for the night out, how his eyes looked when he saw me in the new little black dress, the new stockings with the back seam, the stilettos. I've seen that look before, and it's the most fulfilling thing...I'm sure he saw the same thing on my face when he walked out of the bathroom in his black shirt and dress pants. He's a jaw-dropper. I'm a lucky woman.

Beautiful hotel room, but snafu #1: obscenely noisy neighbors who seemed to be after the world record in door slamming. At 2pm, that could only be a harbinger of bad news at 2am. So Joe went downstairs to get our room changed to another floor -- there was no way a diplomatic approach would work with this crew. I don't often see Missing Link varieties of this sort, and neither of us wanted to stay there. So, the best the hotel could do was another room downstairs. Done. Time to go out.

On our way to the Borgata, as we waited for a taxi, a bridal party fresh from a wedding emerged from several limousines, and I took the opportunity to congratulate the bride. The thought is always the same: "I wish them luck," and of course there's a little part of me that wonders: "Did any of my books help them?" So, another giggle as we departed for the casino.

I'd never played craps before, but it's always been a snapshot for me to be the woman who blows on the dice before the man rolls them. I got to do that a bunch of times, and Joe taught me how to play as well. I found a lucky slot machine and missed the sound of the coins hitting the winning tank. It's gone to paper receipts, which is brilliant on the casino's part. If you can't feel the money, if you can't see all the shiny little coins piling up in your cup, if it's just a number on a piece of paper, you're going to put it right back into the machine. They got me. So I only lost a little bit -- only brought what I was willing to lose -- and spent more time just standing at a distance and checking out Joe at the craps table nearby. He stood, so sexy, against the table and this cute little thing he does with his eyebrows when he's being all serious, and he never once checked out another woman. Little does he know, I was checking him out. We played our birthdays and anniversary on one spin of Roullette and quickly tired of that.

Dinner at Mixx was phenomenal -- I highly, highly recommend it. Sushi, crackling crab strips, macho steak. Great atmosphere with a very classy bachelorette party going on behind us -- always nice to see. Our waiter came up to us then and said, "Hey, you two are must have had a bachelorette's party too, once, right?" Ummmmmm...He saw my ring hand and apologized and hurried away. Okaaaayyyy...So we're giving off a married vibe at less than 3 months. And where's the scariness of that? There is none...with the topic on the table, nice to know we're in the same place. It's out there in the distance as a definite wish list thing, but we're happy in the here and now. There's a big, wide open future out there that we'll fill with amazing experiences and laughs. I've never been this comfortable....ever.

So after dessert and coffee bought at Starbucks and a primal desire to get back to our hotel, I had a near Marilyn Monroe moment when a breeze lifted my skirt at the taxi stand. Couldn't have been more perfect. Not a full-on Marilyn moment, but just enough leg for this conservative girl to enjoy the smile on my guy's face. Never mind that this conservative girl was soon wearing the guy's shirt and chowing down on an espresso brownie....

And Snafu #2 the morning afterward. It was Mother's Day, and I felt a tremendous sense of pressure to get home and shop for the steamers, shrimp and Key Lime pie I'd promised my mother, and my father had asked me to go out and buy a gift and card for my mother from him. Plus, I found out my brother was stuck in New Hampshire in the state of emergency heavy rains and floods. So my head was spinning, to the point of feeling sick. My blissed out state, that bliss bubble with no worries and no fear and no anything back home for that one weekend, collapsed on me. And reality hit me like a ton of bricks. But Joe is an angel, and he understands the pressures I have, and we left early to get me back home to my crushing To Do list. I'm tearing up just thinking about how safe I am with him, his empathy, his lack of judgment, his support. He called on the way back to his house with an idea for my Dad's gift to my Mom. I said it before, and I'll say it again, I am a lucky woman. I am a blessed woman.

Mom loved her Mother's Day lunch -- she said it brought her back to memories of our family vacations at the beach. And the Key Lime Pie reminded her of a trip to Key West my parents had taken long ago. My mom fought for her life last year. I'll never forget how she looked on the ventilator, so tiny, like a baby bird. I remember how they brought us in to say goodbye, and I thought my Mom was gone. And now I'm hanging out with her, laughing, eating steamers and reminiscing about family vacations to the islands. All that pressure was worth it, even if I seemed VERY frazzled that morning. I pulled together a great Mother's Day for my Mom. She loved it.

Now we have to hear from my brother in state-of-emergency flood zone up north. And Joe isn't feeling too well today. So I'm locking into my cocoon of writing three articles that are due today and hoping my shoulders come back down from up around my ears. I had THE most enjoyable vacation with Joe, the best birthday weekend ever...I just need to pound out some work to get my To Do list down, and then I can get back to my bliss giggles and memories of that back, those shoulders, those arms and that eyebrow thing while he's watching the dice and unaware that I was twenty feet away, admiring him.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Too much lasagna

I have to say, though, it was gorgeous. My home-cooked meal of lasagna, salad and parmesan bread rolls went over did the relaxing in front of the fire. Just one of those blissful snapshot nights. We're having a lot of those...and Joe didn't mind me switching the TV onto the American Idol results show. I'm as shocked as everyone else about the result. But our boy Chris will be fine...

Today was checkup day at the doctor's and I've been advised to take it easy on the lasagna and Toll House cookies. No serious matters now, but Doc says veggies and whole grains for better energy. I'd prefer a great mango or cantaloupe anyway. Although they don't make the house smell as great. Since bathing suit season is coming, I will comply. Best to get my focus back on a little bit better self-care. I blame the pollen for my morning walks being put on hold, but there's always the gym. Just time to make a better healthy plan...get rid of the sodas and pizzas and cookie dough ice cream. Spend a little more time at the Whole Foods salad bar.

Had a fun little morning driving Joe to the train station while his car is in the shop. Never had a 'have a good day, honey' kiss on a train platform before. As we joked, all we needed was the 1930s outfits and me waving a handkerchief as he departed. Instead, I had to take off to bring the rest of the lasagna to my parents' house, where I walked into a heart-thumping scene of parents waiting by the phone to see if my brother was okay. 4-alarm fire on the block where he lives. He walked in with his fiancee a little while later, lugging their valuables. Steve saved his filmmaking equipment and videos of him playing football as a child, and Deb saved her jewelry. What would I grab if my place went up in smoke? My photos first of all, my hard drive, and my fuzzy slippers. Kidding on that one. Actually, I'd save my recipe file. Many of the cards are in my grandmother's handwriting. And I'd grab that one pink rose from my windowsill on my way out. I can carry it in my teeth with my arms full.

So now it's back to work, to the great material Casey Cooper is sending in for the novel, two new articles for Bride and Groom magazine, getting graphics for those gift shop profiles, arranging for galleys to be sent to some bridal editors -- oh, and I was able to show the Doc where his name is on the dedication page of my new Thank You Notes book. He was part of the team that saved my mom. The least I could do is immortalize him in a wedding thank you book ;)

And now a little something different for the blog...from time to time, I'm going to recommend a site or service that I love, kind of like Oprah's O List. This first one was actually IN Oprah's O List this month, but I've had my eye on it...It's called, where you can personalize an image to look like you and have it printed on your stationery and stickers, mugs, etc. Very fun for shower invitations. And another site I've been long overdue in plugging:, the makers of a fun wedding board game where shower guests fill in their favorite memories of the bride and groom. It's a game and a keepsake, thus the Gamesakes. I haven't decided what I'll call this part of my blog -- somehow the S-List doesn't work quite as well as the O-List. ;) Feel free to send me suggestions...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Even through the phone...

Traded in plans for 1 hour with Joe tonight for a fabulous home-cooked dinner here by my fireplace tomorrow night. So instead of the cuddling I think about all day, it was a phone conversation or two tonight, hearing that voice of his, hearing that laugh and knowing exactly what it looks like in person, imagining him walking his usual path through his place, picturing him in his black tee shirt and shorts. I love hearing his assessments of me, the little nuances that are complete news to me and make me wrinkle my nose in adoration instead of worry. He brings out the best parts of me that I had walled off. He's bravely honest and open, which allows me to be the same. He leads, like a gentleman does while slow dancing, unfolding himself so that I can unfold myself. This is an amazing dance. I don't even have a snapshot for this, because even with my writer's imagination, I never could have imagined this could be so comfortable and so amusing, inspiring and so....I don't even have the words. This is what real comfort feels like...even with little mini pockets of panic ("What if...") that float away as quickly as they arrive.

And even though he's just down the road, and I literally could walk to his place...and even though it's just been two days since our last visit...I miss him and wish he was here. Tomorrow morning, there won't be coffee cups on my couch table, and I'll miss that too.

4 days til our weekend away. I've been counting. I'm already packed. And no, I'm not bringing any sweatshirts or purple sweatpants or 'fleece work uniform' outfits. ;)

The power of the pen

After a long day of writing, my eyes are bleary. But I got an action E-alert from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society about a new bill going before the Senate that would limit cancer patients' health insurance coverage. With a few clicks on the site, I sent letters to my senators, and it reminded me of the power we all have with our pens (a.k.a. computers in most cases) and our voices. It's an honor to have a voice in your government, to be heard. So my quick note tonight before my eyes cross is to find out your representatives' email addresses and write to support or oppose whatever issue is in motion. What's important to you? What do you want to be heard on? Those who fought for our freedom of speech, our safety in addressing our leaders, smile on us when we do so...

Toll House cookies are in the oven right now, white jasmine tea on my desk right here, the fireplace is glowing with embers, and I'm down to one article still left to do before our weekend away. Bliss, bliss, bliss....

Oh, and Oprah had on the author of a book about questions you need to ask before you get married. I pitched that idea to one of my publishers a few years ago. Granted, I'm not a therapist or a relationship coach, so I wouldn't be the best person to write that one. You might think I have some sour grapes going on along with my white jasmine tea and chocolate chip cookies, but I don't. I'm just happy the message is out there: prepare for the marriage, not just the wedding. Ask the big questions and -- more importantly -- the little questions. There's no better platform in the world than Oprah's show, and I'm smiling right now thinking of the millions of people who will soon be working through that book, asking the questions, really doing the REAL work of preparing for marriage. Those who focus only on their sparkly ring and the color of the napkins are in real trouble. Brava, Oprah, for covering the topic. Good to see...

Monday, May 08, 2006

Late nights...

I do my best work at night. Last night went until 2:30am, an exploration of dozens of gift shops for my Gift Shop magazine feature. I'm amazed at the creativity of these gift shop owners! One told me about his movable walls, 6'x8' walls on wheels that allow them to keep redesigning the foot traffic in the store, and how they re-paint the walls for their special events. Their 9000-member mailing list and VIP parties with hors d'eouvres and wine. Another told me about how they're having the guitarist who trained Carlos Santana to play come and speak and sign books for their VIP party. And Apple is doing a media blast for them. Another wine shop busses people to local wineries for tastings. A feng shui shop has authors come in for signings. What I loved beyond the sensory imaginings of these events is the enthusiasm of the owners' voices, their pride in their creations, their marketing genius. I love people like this, the ones that inspiration moves through. I'm thrilled to be in Gift Shop magazine's stable of writers, because this is only the beginning of the amazing people across the country whose life's work is going to reach millions. Their ideas move through me to inspire others, and maybe some small gift shop owner who invested everything she had in a unique idea -- perhaps something the bank said no on a loan to -- will see how it's done and put together an event that puts her on the map, changes her life forever. This is why I shine a light on the best things going on out there and maybe flick a switch for someone who has taken the risk to leap on faith.

And then there's my article for about pre-honeymoons. I'm trying to spark a trend to get wedding planning couples to take a weekend away and reconnect, not lose themselves in the details and dramas of planning that one big day. I found a couple who flew to New Zealand to 'get away from it all,' and another who went to a bed and breakfast, one couple who dropped everything and jumped in the car with a plan to buy clothes when they wind up wherever they're going. I hope this trend catches on, because a weekend away could be the banishment of Bridezilla, a return to engagement bliss, a focus on the relationship. This article was fun to write and I just turned it in. Taking a breather now for an ice pop, a giggle about a phone ring tone (I can't believe you remembered, Joe!), and then I dig into another article that's due this week. Just want my weekend I can focus on what's really important.

And a quick thank you to the wonderful ASJA folks who suggested their favorite gift shops. I'm amazed sometimes at the generosity of spirit out there. I'm seeing so much of it...

Hoping for rain to clear out this pollen but am also eager for a clear night sky. Just bought a telescope, another snapshot of mine...want to see the Seven Sisters, which reminds me of my grandmother and her six sisters whenever I see it. There's nothing on earth like the sky in the desert of Arizona. It's the most inspiring thing...while the sky in NJ can't compare, it's still going to be a snapshot come true when I'm on a hilltop under the night stars...I still remember our family trips to Sunny Hill Farm in NY, a golf resort like Kellerman's in Dirty Dancing. I remember how the night sky was just unreal. I remember the dance parties and bingo night, the men playing poker and pyramid piling of Bud cans, catching sunnies and catfish in the pond with corn kernels and rolled up bread as bait, rowing the boat with my Dad, the way they'd ring the bell for dinnertime and everyone would go running down the hill. Dad's spoon game. How good the oatmeal was there, and the birthday party we gave to our waitress. But most of all, those night stars...

Barbecue chicken and blueberry pie

I have these snapshots...moments I've seen so clearly and hoped would happen someday. Sure, there are snapshots about seeing my name in InStyle Weddings or being invited back to Oprah, but many of my snapshots have to do with my life, my home. Especially my yard, where I've recently created a little oasis for myself with plants and my hammock. A few days ago, Joe made one of them come true -- not just true, but beyond true. He came over with his grill and cooked up barbecue chicken, and he brought over some couscous and salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, chips and salsa and some Sam Adams summer ale. It was like Dorothy walking out her newly-dropped house into full color -- I opened the patio door and there was this amazing man barbecuing chicken. I set down the bowl of salad and dressing that I was carrying and just drank in the moment. It was utter beauty. He turned his head and smiled at me, and all I was thinking was "Thank you." We didn't get to hang out on the hammock due to the high levels of pollen here where I live (it looks like it's snowing green dust), but that day is coming. I think if I had too many snapshot dreams come true at once, I would explode.

Yesterday was my father's birthday. As you might remember from earlier posts, my dad has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer and has been on chemo. I went over to his house in the morning, not knowing what to expect since his oxygen tank had been delivered the day before. After the two years of my mom's cancer, I'm not a big fan of beeping machines. And dad was looking a little gray the past few days. But I walked into the TV room where he was resting, and it was amazing. He's pink again. The oxygen has him feeling great, and he's been walking around and going downstairs, going outside, and cracking his trademark jokes. Again, I said a silent "Thank you." So Dad had a terrific birthday, loved his presents, and to share a Now-It's-Funny moment, since we weren't used to the oxygen tank being in the room, it didn't even occur to my mother and me that bringing a birthday cake with a LIT CANDLE on it would be a bad idea. So we're singing to him, the oxygen tank (which we all call R2D2 now) is bumping out its rhythm, and it hits me: oxygen tank + open flame = bad idea. So I'm pointing and trying to get the words out -- my family tells me I was quite amusing -- until we all got the presence of mind to lunge forward and blow out Dad's candle. We haven't laughed like that in such a long time. My brother quoted a John Cusack movie: "Sorry your Mom's face blew up, Ricky." How I miss my brother's humor...

Dad loved his gifts (new PJs, the complete Mel Brooks DVD collection for laughs, new cologne and a GC for his favorite steakhouse), and we ate lunch with R2D2, had eclairs for dessert, and talked about how much better he's feeling. A great day, followed by a great night. Joe invited me over for pizza, blueberry pie ala mode and Sunday night TV. He makes me smile. My own All-American guy for whom I say many silent "Thank You's."

It's going to be a busy week -- I've planned an office day today. Fireplace is lit. Coffee's on. I'm in mid-negotiations with a few big opportunities: NBC called and asked "Where did you come from?" My dear friends at ASJA have sent over suggestions for fun gift shops to profile in a new photo feature article. I'm in my Long Beach Island sweatshirt and purple sweatpants with fuzzy slippers, waiting for the rain to wash away all the pollen out there. Just give us three good soaking days and then a perfect weekend. I have snapshots I'm hoping to experience...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The rainbow over the mall

You know it's going to be a great shopping trip when a rainbow arches way out in the distance just past the mall. Joe and I decided to celebrate our 2nd anniversary with a trip to the mall to pick up a few special things for our getaway to Atlantic City. Let me just tell you...the man has style. I'll spare you the details (I want them all to myself) but let's just say that we've come a long way from kissing outside of a suit shop and separating for a while because clothes shopping is too 'couply.' Now, we're buying stockings for me and boxers for him, and let me suggest to ALL of you couples out there THE sexiest shopping excursion for couples ever. Ladies, you sit down on the shoe try-on bench. Men, you go pick out the shoes you find sexy. The result is amazing. My phenomenal boyfriend surprised me by making that one pair of sexy, strappy 3-inch heels my anniversary gift. (And all I got him was a couple of pairs of boxers. I need to up my game.) I share this story not to brag about my generous, sweet man, but in wonderment that I -- the woman who works barefoot or in fuzzy slippers most of the time -- could ever strut around in 3 inch heels. It may sound like nothing to most people, but that's an entirely different feeling. I've never been a shoe girl before...just never got the whole concept of shoe obsession. But now with these strappies (does anyone call them Strappies?), May 3rd may just have been the birth of a Shoe Woman. Add in the black stockings with the seam (very Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, etc) and how can I ever go back to my Valentine hearts pajamas or my Long Beach island gray sweatshirt and purple sweatpants? The Girl Next Door, as I've been called, kinda likes stilettos. My horizons have been opened.

Speaking of horizons, I've just been tapped for a corporate spokesperson position, doing radio and media tours for an allergy product. The whole outdoor weddings thing. Me on the radio talking about how allergies can put a crimp in outdoor wedding plans and spring weddings. We approached this company years ago, and it just came back to me. The stilettos must have been good luck. :) So I'm very excited, being an allergy sufferer myself, to help create a campaign and print content for the product site, and align myself with such a terrific company. It's been one of my goals to link up with a Fortune 500 and help people at the same time.

In other terrific news, I'm doing articles for Gift Shop magazine, a fun and beautiful glossy where I'll be able to write about marketing and special sales to the bridal market. Poornima is new in the office, and I'm thrilled to work with her.

Forget the work thing for now...I'm giggling over the shoe shop trip, how alluring I must have looked with my jeans rolled up and those horrid little stocking snippets, teetering on some extra high heels. Almost fell over once, and am still laughing about one particularly amusing pair of shoes with little rhinestone hearts dangling from the strap. Dinner was at a 50s diner style restaurant with milkshakes, burgers, chili dog and fries. When you're with the right guy, it's sigh-worthy even when your meal comes in a wrapper (I can't take credit for that joke, but it's true). Even the car ride was a highlight...talking about the greatest American athletes of all time who should be enshrined on a sports version of Mount Rushmore. Funny how we agree on Secretariat but split on some golf and tennis greats. I'll be thinking of that the rest of the night and might wake up with a shout of "Joe Montana!", which hasn't happened since that unfortunate night on my honeymoon. KIDDING.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The New Book Club pick!

It's official! I've chosen the new wedding-themed novel for my Bridal Book Club, and it's "Hitched" by Carol Higgins Clark, which hooked me from the opening pages. This bestselling author captured a terrific angle on the wedding industry, and her plot just soars. I'm excited to offer this book to all of the book clubs out there who have been following my selections...and I also have fun news about one of my previous picks: "Wedding Season" by Darcy Kosper was just optioned for movie rights. Can I pick 'em, or what? ;)

In other work news, I was answering some terrific questions on the site and a new book idea hit me. So Lex, thank you for the inspiration! Finder's fee for you if it gets picked up, and then that will solve one of the problems we covered for you!

And the donations are still pouring in (no pun intended) for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Mother's Day Tea fundraiser. Thank you to all who are taking part in this...I love seeing those little white envelopes in the mailbox. My generous and warm-hearted friends and family always come through for the cause!

20 minutes until American Idol. That gives me time to start on my first article for, where I have four new columns starting this month. I'm indescribably happy about delving into travel writing and I love the editorial calendar for the year. So pleased to blend in my wedding expertise, too. And to think...two months ago I was thinking about being a hostess in a jazz club because I didn't have a nice flow of work. I just needed to get back on the racehorse and make something new happen...As Nicole Kidman said to Naomi Watts: "It just takes one thing, one thing..."

Moving images...

Right now, I'm collecting my TV segment reel, recent clips, and my press kit -- plus choosing just the right press photo -- to send to NBC Digital, as I'm being considered for video segments on one of their sites. I absolutely love this idea and hope to see NBC on my Caller ID soon. So at this moment, my office is a mess with all of these clip files and copies of magazines where my articles appear...I need an intern. Functional, yes, but I love the administrative stuff as much as I love the writing.

Today is also Peanut's weekly glucose test. With how beautifully she's been acting, I'm not concerned this time. I know her numbers will still be a little high right now, but she's on the mend. The medicine is working. I do wish, however, that I'd known about pet insurance. I'm writing some big checks. But she's worth it.

And now for the really good stuff...Joe called yesterday afternoon to ask if I wanted to have dinner out on my deck. My first dinner with a guest I adore at my new patio table. Okay, so I probably should have wiped all the pollen off of it first, but I was in a mad rush with a business call from Casey Cooper right before he arrived. I don't even think I got eyeliner on, either. Dinner was terrific, and then lots of Snuggle Time. He taught me some new vocabulary words (don't ask) and I completely butchered a very good joke that only the great Bob Milan could tell well. Such inexpressible comfort of knowing that even if I butcher a joke, or forget the eyeliner, or serve dinner on a table dusted with pollen, it all adds up to the best. I have a Wish...that on some sunny day, I'll be cuddled with Joe in my hammock (my first purchase in my new home 2 years ago). Some people have a Wish for a trip to Paris, or a cruise around the world, or a new car...I have a Wish to be next to Joe in my hammock. And for my phone to ring with a call from NBC ;)

But until that day in the hammock happens, I'm here picking contest winners for, pitching articles (Cari, where are you?!), answering questions on the BlissWedddings forum, and writing the new book in its new, changed format with a giant smile on my face. 11 days until Atlantic City. I'm lucky before I even get there...

Monday, May 01, 2006

There is a 'we' in Wedding

"It's MY wedding" "For MY wedding" "I'M having at MY wedding..."

It's something I see all the time. One partner -- usually the bride, but sometimes the groom...and sometimes the parent who is paying for the wedding -- has lost sight of the fact that the wedding is a celebration of BOTH people getting married. Some parents lose sight of the fact that the wedding is for the couple. I, me, mine. If I had to pick one habit that's responsible for strife in the wedding plans -- and a certain indicator of trouble in the marriage to come -- it's this singular focus.

So today's PSA is a reminder to all marrying couples that there is a 'WE' in Wedding. There's also an "I." It's your choice which type of person you're going to be, what message you'll send to your partner and to everyone around you. If you're steaming because your groom wants something his way, if you're angry because a bridesmaid can't meet on a certain day because she has an emergency, if you've lost your previously admirable personality and turned into a Bridezilla (or Groomzilla, or Momzilla, etc.) you've lost sight of the fact that your wedding, your life, your friendships, your family are all a part of the WE that you belong to, the WE that lasts long after the wedding day.

So a little friendly advice: take some time to think about how far you've drifted from WE. And paddle back to being the person everyone loves so much, a person who values the gift of the people around you. Your wedding is one day, a very important day but one day. Your relationships are forever. Getting back to WE....priceless. It's not too late. Assess where you are right now as you're planning. Look at your relationships. Look at what you may have denied or ignored that your partner has requested. Parents, step out of your role and look at the bride and groom as people. Couple, look at what your parents have done for you all of your life. What can you do today to step out of that vortex and bring more WE into your life, and into the wedding plans?

There is a big future after the wedding, after the party. Prepare for the marriage, not just the Big Day.