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You Before Me

16 May

I know, I know, you think I got that wrong and it’s Me Before You, but, I am not wrong.

Let me explain: a few days ago Patrick, my son and I  were walking the dog and were talking about what should I do now that he is done with college. I told him I feel like all that rush, all that forward moving we went through for the past 12 years of public education came to a halt. Ever since I gave birth to him I’ve been focusing on him, making him my # 1 priority. His education, his wellbeing, his manners, his foundation, all of that has been my work, my goal nothing and no one could ever stop me from reaching it. I had a path and each step brought me closer and closer to the finish line, which we crossed together the minute he held his diploma.

I kept telling him that now he is done with school and I am done worrying (or so I keep telling myself). He is on his path and I am on mine. He will soon start working and will continue chasing his dreams while I need to figure out what to do with my life, my focus, my time. What to fill it with, which direction should I go, what to do. (You can call it a crisis, but I won’t, because I don’t want to jinx it and make it sound even more dramatic than it is. But it is dramatic and anyone who went through what I am going now, will tell you it is a life-altering time in any parent’s life whose child/ren finish their education).

I kept talking while he kept listening. (That’s one of the things I love the most when I spent time with Patrick; he is a great listener). Eventually we turned a corner and I finally stopped talking, waiting for him to say something. And he did, saying, “It’s actually quite simple, Mom. You need to go back to you before me. You before you had me. Find that 24 yr. old woman and see what she’d like to do. Focus on her, help her find her dreams.”

I know his words will remain engraved in my mind for a long time, maybe forever (with my brain’s will) and, while I do not want to be 24 yr. old again, I’d like to rekindle with my old self and see what treasures I’ve buried…you before me: where are you?

 

 

Open Letter To My Son–Part 3

27 Apr

Dear Pat,

This is part three to my open letter and last one. The first letter was an overview of your sixteen years as a student, the second one a ride down memory lane starting with elementary school and ending with college, and now this one is about how it all started… the first seed that was planted and how it grew over the years into this steady and strong foundation you begin your next chapter with, your career.

Every parent wants the best for their child/ren. Every parent dreams their kid/s will become incredibly successful, tackle hurdles and reach peaks, do better than they ever did. Have a better life than they ever had.

My dream for you was to finish college. Find a field that would excite you, something to be passionate about, and love getting up every morning for it. Something that would put money in your pocket to live a comfortable life and fulfill whatever dreams you have. Provide you with means to support a family when time comes. For as long as I remember I thought you’d become a … doctor or architect (I know, completely different fields but, that’s how I saw you). Your caring nature, your love of people and the attention to detail in everything you built with lego made me believe that’s where you’ll end up, in the medical field or constructions. How wrong I was!

Sometime in middle school your essay on “Why is putting all your eggs in one basket a bad idea” won an award and there would be some sort of ceremony at school. It was also about the same time you began playing Gaia, the only online game we allowed you to be on (30 minutes a day if you did your chores, remember?). You were making millions and enjoyed buying/selling your goods. Later on, in high school, you took a business class, ending up qualifying for state in D.E.C.A. competition. When time came for you to decide which college to apply for, you wanted W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

So, here we are years later with you about to hear the bell ring for the last time. Next week you’ll have final exams. May 11th is the ceremony for your graduation, closing the student chapter of your life. Starting in June you begin working as area manager at Amazon. To map it all out it looks like this:

I don’t think there are enough words to tell you how proud I am of you. How my heart just melts at the sight of you and bursts open looking at who you became. I always knew you have potential and I never doubted you. I have no regrets about what we did while you were in school. How we pushed you to study and to get better grades. How we checked your homework, and how we kept a vigilant eye over your education, your friends and your behavior. Because the results are shown here and now, with you finding your calling.

I have no idea what the future holds or where life will take you. How many roadblocks will be thrown your way. How many struggles you’ll fight. But what I do know is that I have no worries that you will thrive and you will be just fine. Your tool box is filled with everything Dad and I tried to instill in you, morals and values, every tool you’ll need to succeed.

Have a smooth sailing, Patrick!

With never ending love,

Mom

P.S: A memento from our last lunch at Memorial Union, eating taco salad from Qdoba and talking about everything and anything, as we did for the last four years…

 

 

 

 

Open Letter To My Son–Part 2

26 Apr

Dear Pat,

Remember when I took you across Bucharest, on a beautiful September morning, for your first day of school? The bouquets of flowers, the loud kids and their parents, the gray and white building called Liceul Aurel Vlahuta that was your home for 1st and 2nd grade? Remember the wooden bench and the black board, Frau and the twins who became your best friends?

Remember when we moved to the States and the second day after our arrival, Grandma and Aunt Cathy took us to Manitas Elementary School to enroll you in 3rd grade, barely speaking any English? Remember how brave you were every morning, backpack slanted on your shoulder and off you went? Miss Hebert, who could’ve won Teacher of The Year Award, and Miss Calleros who we both hated for a whole year in 5th grade?

Remember when you started middle school at Pueblo, and how much you struggled with math, but thanks to Mrs. Segerson you actually started to like it? Remember the bullies and how we talked every night about how to handle them? Remember how you had a crush on girls I won’t name here, but how we laughed reading Calvin and Hobbes?

Remember starting high school at Corona del Sol, your first day afraid seniors will play pranks on you as they did with all freshmen? Remember the friends you made and the people you avoided? Remember the cafeteria and the disgusting pizza you ate? Remember your first car and your first kiss and your first heartbreak? Remember Miss Glick and her daring to-read-list?

Remember your first day at Arizona State University, our coffee run that morning before first class in W. P Carey International School of Business? Remember my pestering you to stay on top of your homework, asking endless questions and checking your grades? Remember our lunches?

Remember when I told you it will get better, nothing lasts forever and you will get there? Well, dear Patty Cakes, you are there. You are at the end of your student life and about to start your career.

Make the best out of it and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from success. May this new chapter be what you want it to be, nothing more, nothing less!

Love,

Mom

Open Letter To My Son–Part 1

25 Apr

Dear Patrick,

It’s been a long time coming and now that it is so close, emotions and memories run wild like spiffed toreadors chased by a herd of bulls … tumultuous and raw overwhelming my heart.

Sixteen years of homework, studying, successes and failures, tests and grades, friends and bullies, good teachers and not so good ones, semesters and breaks, all coming to an end. Sixteen years of early mornings, sleepovers and drop offs. Sixteen years of classes, projects and subjects, one by one plating a seed of knowledge and another piece of puzzle in the map of your life. Sixteen years of hopes, anxieties, concerns and perseverance, always pushing forward no matter the obstacle, no matter how hard.

Sixteen years since you entered through the doors of public education for the first time, coming to an end on Thursday when the bell will ring for the last time in your life as a student. A chapter will close and another one will start. A door will close and others will open. Through all of it we loved you, taught you to the best of your abilities and saw you become a strong, healthy and responsible individual. Couldn’t been prouder of your achievements!

Thank you for being the kid you were and for the man you became, Pat! Thank you for allowing us to stand by you through all of it, good and bad, and for never giving up, always chasing after your dreams. The key of your future is in your hands now, enjoy the ride!

Love,

Mom and Dad

Coupons: to use or not to use them?

11 Nov

Back in the day when I lived in Romania, my homeland, I had no idea coupons existed. I had no idea stores had certain periods when they’d discount their products (like before a holiday), given customers even more incentive if they brought coupons, so their savings would be even greater. And we are not talking lower prices for the let’s say winter clothing heavily discounted once the cold season ended; we are talking sales for produce, ice cream and even shrimp.

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That was something unheard of in Romania where (during communism) grocery stores would rinse chunks of cheese and entire salami casing to wash away the mold. Bad leaves would be peeled off the lettuce head, rotten tomatoes and potatoes hidden under the good ones and poured in the customer’s bag without the option for picking only the good ones. Nothing was wasted but rather forced down the customer’s throat because there was always a shortage of supply and high demand. But let’s leave those memories where they belong—in the past—and return to present times, shall we?giphy-2

We all receive coupons in our mail. Stores ask at check out for your email address or if you want to become a member, promising better deals. Your mail box—whether the physical one or the virtual one—gets bombarded with coupons: restaurants, stores, flights, hotels, shoes, clothing, and the list goes on, but the question is: do these coupons work and how many of us really use them? And how about sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Are those really discounted prices or those are actually the real price we should pay for a blouse/pair of shoes/ TV, etc. but stores manipulate us into believing they are taking a huge cut in favor of saving us money?

Lumi, my sister has a plastic pouch labeled for all her favorite stores. I haven’t had the chance to take a photo of it but it looks similar to this one:

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You need a coupon, Lumi is the person to ask for one. She saves her coupons, cuts them out of magazines or newspapers and uses them all the time. Periodically she’ll forward me a coupon to Einstein (because she knows once a month I buy a bucket of bagels for my meeting with my author friends). Or to Barro’s Pizza, my favorite (cheap) pizzeria. Or to stores both of us like to shop at (White House Black Market or Chico’s).

I too like coupons. At any given time I have several. See this photo? These are my coupons.

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My only problem is that I forget to take them with me (maybe Lumi will gift me a pouch? For Christmas?). Or if I remember to take them, I forget to use them. Every time I try to be better at using coupons, I forget I have them or if I remember, chances are they are already expired. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts right?

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When the past haunts your present

22 Oct

“Why do you need two mascaras? They are identical,” I told Lumi, my sister the other day while at the mall.

“Cuz,” she said, moving to the next shelf and grabbing two bottles of shampoo. “When ones ends, I have another one handy.”

“But you can also go to the store and buy one when you run out of it, right?”

“That too, but I feel better having an extra one, for when time comes.”

I could’ve continued to argue with Lumi that buying two mascaras is a waste of money, potentially a waste of product if she’d have it stored for too long and it would dry out. Or chose to drop it, which I did because if anyone knows my sister, they also know, no one has ever won an argument with her. Like everrrrr. But I kept an eye on her and her buying habits and, at the end of the day I realized she has a problem: buying several of the same products, never just one.

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I know curiosity killed the cat (they say; I for one never seen a cat killed by that), but I had to know why, so after a day on our feet, and being 110% convinced my arms lengthen by at least a few inches because of all the bags we’ve carried, I teased Lumi, over a banana & nut blizzard, that maybe she needs help with her impulsive buying disorder.

Licking a spoonful of her ice cream, Lumi responded, “Do you remember living back home, in Romania? Do you remember the shortage on everything, the ratio food, the empty shelves and when they weren’t empty, the little that was there was of such bad quality that no one wanted it? Do you remember any of that?”

“I do, but what has that to do with the fact that you pack now like a squirrel on steroids?”

“It has everything to do with it,” Lumi said, lifting briefly her brown eyes at me, brown that when the sun shines, turns to green. “Communism scarred me. I used to tell myself if I ever have money and the possibility to live somewhere else, I will never go hungry, be cold, walk in bad shoes or wear terrible clothing. I used to tell myself I will never have nothing, but will have everything. And that to me means buy at least two of each product. It makes me feel . . . safe, covered, protected somehow.”

I laughed. “You definitely need a therapist.”

Later on when I got home, I unpacked my shopping bags and the more bags I emptied, the more I realized . . . I’m in the same boat as Lumi! I do buy at least two of the same product. I went to my closet, to my drawers, to my pantry and everywhere I looked, I found more and more proofs that I too am a shopaholic.

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And it got me thinking: am I crazy? Who in their right mind buys two of the same dress/shoes—not even in a different color, which might be an excuse, right? Why am I doing this?

Lumi’s earlier words came to mind and somehow they opened a flood of memories from my childhood back home in Romania. The constant fear of authorities, the poisoned indoctrination the Communist Party shoved down everyone’s throat but also the poverty . . . the constant hunger . . . the smothering feeling . . . the emptiness and helplessness I felt on a daily basis, with no hope things would get better.

And yet a lot has changed since then. I lived more than half my life under freedom and democracy, and for the past 13 years I made the U.S. my home, the best country ever (no offense, world!). A lot of the things I had witnessed/experienced during my life in Romania and under communism are just that, things from the past, a past I prefer not to remember too often for it mostly brings sad/bad memories. I also know that some of those things left scars and made me into the person that I am today. And I think for the most part I accept everything, except I would rather blame communism for my buying disorder (the other option would be to confess I pack like a squirrel on steroids and the image is not very appealing…).

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Rejection= what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (or so we are told…)

8 Oct

At one point or another in one’s life, we all have been rejected and there is no other way to look at them other than: rejections suck. Whether by a boy/girl, by a parent, by a friend,  you name it–rejection hurts. One can’t ever sugarcoat a rejection, no matter the delivery method: sandwiched, wrapped, bluntly. Bottom line, it’s still a rejection, a door closed, end of the road.

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Today’s post focuses on rejections I, as a writer, am familiar with and how I deal with them. It’s no right or wrong way to do it, it’s just my personal take on them.

I started writing summer of 2009. I chose the self publishing path for several reasons, one of them being my insecurity about how many stories would I be able to write. Was there more than one book in me? Would I be able to deliver quality work, handle deadlines?

Since then I published several novels (5 to be exact) and have several other stories in different stages of being finished. Beginning of 2016 I decided to look for an agent, confident writing is as part of my DNA as the color of my eyes. And so the query stage begun . . .

It’s still vivid in my mind the first query I sent and how fast my heart pounded in my chest, my clammy hand pressing the “send” button, as if I was releasing a nuclear bomb, no less. The empowering surge (me, the little immigrant now a proud American who turned writing from a dream into reality) combined with OMG-what-did-I-do feeling and topped with an incredible overpowering vulnerability. Let me tell you, such a powerful cocktail of emotions brought me on the verge of . . . throwing up.

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That one query letter was followed by several others. I even made myself a beautiful spreadsheet with agent’s names and email addresses, agency’s websites, date I queried them and an empty column at the very end titled “YES/NO.” I wasn’t expecting that column to fill out too soon. All agents warn you about how long it takes to receive an answer (if any). And so the waiting begun . . .

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I remember the first rejection and the hurt it brought. The second, and the third… the deep and dark hole I was spiraling down into… the self-doubt and the acute need to be invisible so people won’t see my bleeding heart. The one rejection I received within exact 15 minutes after sending it, not as one of those automated response but written by the agent from his Iphone, as the end of the email stated. And the list can go on. Every single rejection delivered one blow after another and my hope diminished accordingly.  Somehow, by the 4th rejection something snapped in my brain and the blow, while still disappointing, it’s not hurting as bad.

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To date I’ve accumulated ten rejections. Some of my author friends burn them. Some frame them. Some use them as background for dartboard.

I’m by nature a control freak and shy so putting myself out there was never an easy thing for me, afraid people will judge me and I’d never rise to their expectations. This whole querying process is one of the hardest journeys I’ve embarked on that has taught me a lot of things about myself. My mind is my own enemy so I have to constantly talk myself out of (or in) something but one day, I’ll learn to stop self-doubting myself or so help me whichever power reigns over this universe!!!

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