Meet the Author: Jessica Vealitzek talks up her new book, how to write a novel as SAHM and getting published

Tuesday is the big day! It’s the big launch of my friend’s first novel, “The Rooms Are Filled.”

My friend's beautifully written novel.

My friend’s beautifully written novel.

It’s a touching story of a young boy who was forced to leave his family farm after his father suddenly dies and his mom can’t afford to keep the land. They move to suburban Chicago and he struggles to adjust to a very different environment. That same struggle is taking place with his young, closeted teacher and they form a beautiful bond.

Jess is a full-time mom of two great kids and she deftly juggled them while writing this straight-from-the-heart book. Pretty impressive, right? Not to mention, she’s militant about getting enough sleep, and her house didn’t go to pits during the process either. She’s pretty amazing and I’m so excited for her latest baby, this novel that’s published by She Writes Press.

Want to know how she managed to do it all? Curious about the book? Want tips on getting published?

Well, we’re having a BYOB party and anyone can attend! It’s a Google hangout on Tuesday, April 22 at 7 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Here’s the link to the event.

I’ll be there, along with one of my other besties, education consultant Ginny Washburne and all three of us will chat over a nice glass of wine. So, who’s going to join in on the fun?

Posted in News, Working Moms, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My First Real Hike in Portland

Trying to take advantage of all that Portland has to offer, I am determined to bring the outdoorsiness out of this city girl.

My friend, Leslie, is a big hiker, she’s hiked 16 miles at the Half Dome at Yosemite, a portion of the Appalachian Trail of the Great Smokey Mountains and Mount Rainier in Washington. She’s the sort who probably hopes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro some day. We met in swimming class (no, she wasn’t the one wearing the G-string) and we go to the same gym.

About half of the trees in Forest Park are 30 and 80 years old, another 25 percent are 80 to 250 years old. They are adlers, maples, and Douglas firs.

About half of Forest Park’s trees are 30 to 80 years old, another 25 percent are 80 to 250 years old.

We’ve been talking about going hiking for a few months, but it had to warm up. (She can’t stand the “cold,” which I find to be a relative term here.) As I waited for the mercury to climb, we as a family had some outdoorsy experiences. We’ve enjoyed the nature walk by our house and during our trip to Bend, Ore. we took an impromptu hike through the Deschutes National Forest. It was gorgeous, the kids loved it and I kept thinking: I gotta get me more of this nature stuff.

More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species hang out in Forest Park, which also gets about 40 inches of rain each year. In various spots along the path there are fallen trees, this was one of my favorites.

More than 112 bird species and 62 mammal species are in Forest Park, which also gets about 40 inches of rain each year. In various spots along the path there are fallen trees. This was one of my favorites.

I started researching local trails, whether I should get a backpack to carry Ethan and what other kind of gear might I need. There seemed to be a lot to this hiking thing. I even visited REI with the boys to test out some gear. I learned a lot, but came away a little overwhelmed. Couldn’t I just strap on some shoes and give it a go?

Leslie's daughter after our hike.

Leslie’s daughter after our hike.

Then on a Tuesday, I texted Leslie: Take me hiking. She gave me the lowdown on what I needed (boots or tennis shoes that I didn’t mind getting muddy, pants that I didn’t mind getting dirty and dress in layers.) So the answer to my previous question was, yes, I could simply strap on some shoes and go.

A couple days later, I was on the road to Leslie’s house. We were going hiking! We went to Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban parks. It covers about 5,160 acres and has about 80 miles of hiking trails that wend up the Tualatin Mountains and snake down along the banks of the Williamette River and its tributaries.

Leslie had her 2-year old with her, in the Cadillac of child carriers, a Deuter. My oldest was at school and Ethan was with the nanny. I wanted to scope out the area before bringing my kids. It was a beautiful Thursday, blue skies, no humidity, not too warm, not too cool, it was like Goldilock’s porridge — just right.

The Pittock Mansion, a Renaissance-style home built in 1914 for Portland's newspaper publisher and family.

The Pittock Mansion, a Renaissance-style home built in 1914 for Portland’s newspaper publisher and family.

We decided to take the Wildwood Trail up to the Pittock Mansion, which is a massive chateau built in 1914 for The Oregonian’s publisher and his wife. The trail started off on a mild incline and zigzagged up the hill. I had to be careful not to get lost in my thoughts while admiring the towering trees above so that I could avoid tripping over their roots below.

The area was so lush, covered with ferns and ivy and soft moss blanketed almost all of the tree trunks. Leslie and I chatted about this and that, but being out among the trees, enjoying Mother Nature felt very grounding. I kept thinking: I needed this, I’m definitely going to do this more often.

Leslie, a minister’s daughter, agreed. She said hiking is like going to church for her. In all the busyness of life, it’s nice to have a place that helps you focus on what’s important. A quiet place to listen to yourself, find yourself or simply be yourself.

 

The view of Portland from the yard at Pittock Mansion. If you look carefully in the distance you can spot Mount Hood.

The view of Portland from the Pittock Mansion property. If you look in the distance you can spot Mount Hood.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Practical and Fanciful Mother’s Day Gifts for Working Moms

Mom arrives to work impeccably dressed morning, knows everyone’s schedule, plus her own and rarely misses a deadline. She works all day, gets dinner set up and helps out with homework. Show how much you appreciate the daily contributions of the working mother by celebrating Mother’s Day with unforgettable gifts.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Give Her a Hand

On an average day, 86-percent of working women spend more than 2-hours a day cleaning. Make your mother’s life a little less cluttered by giving her the gift of a year-round helper. Take away the stress of heavy house cleaning with a housekeeping company like Merry Maids.  This franchised service hires fully bonded, and experienced housekeepers who will come to your home, ready to take the stress of house cleaning away from Mom. Prices range widely as each home is unique, and quotes typically range based on clutter, size of house, pets, and lifestyle.

Go the Traditional Route

Bouquets of flowers and boxes of candy never go out of style (the amount spent on Mother’s Day flowers in 2013 equaled $2.3-billion). With mobile and internet shopping ramping up every year, it’s a no brainer to pull out a tablet or laptop and start browsing for Mother’s Day treasures. There’s several online stores that have gifts ranging from the standard bouquet of flowers to fancy jewelry. You’ll easily find her favorite flowers and then some. Also, popular Mother’s Day gifts like edible bouquets, chocolates and baskets of soothing bath products are hard to pass up. Show her how much you appreciate all that she does by surprising her with a bouquet, basket or box of chocolates delivered right to her door step.

Gift Her Family Time

Balancing work and home does not come easy when a child becomes ill or mom needs to attend a school function. Missing time at work reduces the chances of advancement, but missing a child’s performance or award ceremony breaks a heart. If given the choice, 47-percent of working mothers would choose part time work to give them more time to spend with family. If finances allow it, support her to make this dream a reality. Allowing working mothers the time to bond with a new baby or care for an ill family member shows appreciation for the work she does every day.

 

*Written by Amanda Alexander, a mother of three in Tampa Bay, Fla., who works in the marketing department for a media company.

 

Posted in Working Moms | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesdays: Jellyfish in Unexpected Places

 

One of two aquariums at the Vancouver International Airport. This is the 1,800-liter jellyfish tank.

One of two aquariums at the Vancouver International Airport. This is the 1,800-liter jellyfish tank. The other, main tank is 114,000 liters.

 

Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tasty Tuesday: The local McMenamins restaurant is our new ‘Cheers’

                                                     “Sometimes you want to go 
                                              Where everybody knows your name,
                                                   And they’re always glad you came;
                                                You want to be where you can see,
                                                   Our troubles are all the same;
                                     You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

It’s the theme song to Cheers, the TV sitcom on lifelong bonds made in a Boston bar. Yet the words of the song ring true. My husband and I have always enjoyed a drink or three, especially at a local pub. When we lived in the Chicago area, we had a local spot, named Harry’s and my 6 year old had been there since he was three weeks old.

It had good food, good beer and a lovely beer garden. It was our Cheers.

Since moving to Portland, we’ve found a new Cheers. It’s a McMenamins restaurant called Cornelius Pass Roadhouse & Imbrie Hall.

One of the outside dining areas at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Imbrie Hall.

One of the outside dining areas at Cornelius Pass Roadhouse and Imbrie Hall.

But let me back up a bit. McMenamins are a big thing out here in the Northwest kind of like Lettuce Entertain You is in Chicago. However, McMenamins feels more authentic. It’s not a hodpodge chain of yummy restaurants of various fares. The McMenamin brothers started with a restaurant in the mid-1970s and it just grew from there. Today there are 65 McMenamins and each one is generally a historic structure, often on the National Historic Registers. They are former (and current) hotels, old movie theaters,  elementary schools, farms or pubs that date back to the turn of the century. The preservation of the history really speaks to me.

A sign that includes some of the fun spots on the property.

A sign that includes some of the fun spots on the property.

Our Cheers is a longer stumble from our house than Harry’s was, but it’s got so much more. The now six-acre property belonged to the Imbrie family, which came to Oregon in the mid-1840s. There’s the main restaurant that I believe was a farmhouse, an octagonal barn that seemed to hold wedding receptions most weekends last summer, a super cool whiskey shack, a vegetable garden, an apple grove, outdoor seating area with picnic tables and fire pits and grassy plots of land where kids love to play among the 130-year-old trees.

And the food is yummy. It’s got typical bar fare, burgers, sandwiches, large salads, etc. But remember, Portland is a foodie haven, so there’s nothing typical about the grub here. The ingredients are seasonal and from local and regional growers. My favorite is the turkey sandwich. Sound boring? Oh, but it’s not. There’s this insanely yummy and perfectly tart cranberry relish, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a “secret sauce” (that must have a dash of crack in it) all between two slices of whole wheat grain bread.

I get it with their Tavern Green salad, which is a regular spinach-based salad, marinated red onion, grape tomatoes, cucumber, Parmesan cheese and garlic croutons. But the kicker is this smooth, thick balsamic vinagarette that has a huge dose of crack in it because I’m addicted. One night, I was writing there (free Wifi!) and I had to order a second salad because the first one disappeared too quickly.

The drinks are also pretty divine, it’s a brewery, so Hubby loves the beers, I like the selection from local wineries and the whisky shack, called the White Shed, has some spirits that will make hair sprout from your chest.

Clearly, we love our new Cheers, and I could keep going on and on about it, the homemade soups, the employee with 14 children, the flirty six-month pregnant waitress and so much more. But you’ll just have to go see it for yourself.

ImbrieHallShesWrite

Posted in Food, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Best Time to Teach Your Kids Good Financial Habits: Now

Only 14 states require teens to take personal finance courses in high school, according to the Council for Economic Education. It falls upon parents to teach children good financial habits before they reach the age of budgeting dilemmas, credit card offers and student loan snafus.

Research has shown that kids develop lifelong financial habits by modeling their parents’ example. Also, experts say taking conscious steps to be a good financial role model is the best way to equip your children for a fiscally sound future.

Teach Them Responsibility

Young Mum teaching her daughter to saveChildren’s financial education depends upon mastering more fundamental concepts of responsibility, such as delaying immediate gratification for future rewards, according to a May 2013 University of Cambridge study. A piece in Parents Magazine offers several strategies for teaching kids responsibility such as:

  • Verbalize cause-and-effect relationships with statements such as, “Because I spilled the milk, I have to clean the floor.” This helps children connect actions to results.
  • Be consistent about enforcing the rules. This reinforces the principle that actions have consequences. Remain calm while they admit to bad behavior this encourages owning up.
  • Keep track of your children’s behavior to monitor their learning. Among the options are using a chore chart or developing a reward system.

Connecting Responsibility to Financial Behavior

To connect these responsibility lessons to money, engage your kids in games and activities that teach the connection between working, saving and spending. There are many games and activities online and in stores that  teach basic concepts of spending, sharing and saving. They are available for all ages, for example one game for 8 to 14 year-olds can practice managing money to achieve certain goals and another activity has older kids form into teams for financial  adventures.

Involve Children in Family Financial Activities

Real-time family financial activities also provide teaching opportunities. The Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day teaches children where money comes from. The Girl Scouts stress the importance of involving girls in family activities such as budgeting and going to the bank that teach how to save money.

Debt repayment is another important behavior to model for children. For example, if you’re receiving regular structured settlement or annuity payments, you could consider contacting a company to potentially purchase your future payments. You could then use the lump sum of cash to help pay down debt and show your children how that affects your overall credit score.

Teach Kids to Save for What They Want

Kids should also learn how to save for their own financial goals. Let preschoolers pick a toy they can save toward with allowance payments over a reasonably short period. For older children, open up a bank account with no minimum balance or fees.

 

*Written by Andrew Kaufman, who left the financial services industry to run his family’s carpet installation business. Married with three kids, he coaches Little League and blogs for fun.

 

Posted in Guest Bloggers | Tagged | 3 Comments

She’sWrite is on the #NetFlix Stream Team

I’m excited to announce that She’sWrite has joined the Netflix Stream Team! It’s a blogger network where we write about various parenting-friendly topics including what we’re watching on Netflix.

Netflix_StreamTeam_BadgeWe are certainly a Netflix family. It’s on all our phones, our three tablets and our SmartTV. I’m sure if our refrigerator could have streaming capabilities, it would be on there too. When Netflix reached out to me, I thought what a perfect match.

I like Netflix and writing and for writing about my experiences with Netflix, they’d pick up the streaming tab. Also, they threw in a Roku in case our TV couldn’t stream. The SmartTV can, so I want to replace our second TV, which seriously dates back to 1998, that way I can use Roku there to stream my silly girlie shows.

Besides using Netflix to watch commercial-free shows like Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Pingu, and National Geographic documentaries, I like it as a little escape. While I love many critically acclaimed shows such as House of Cards, True Detective and Game of Thrones, I also have guilty pleasures such as the silly-but-fun Pretty Little Liars. After a long day with the kids, there’s nothing like some teenage angst to help me decompress. (Don’t judge.)

No worries, my Netflix posts won’t be filled with the drama surrounding Aria, Spencer, Emily and Hanna. But there’s scads of little treasures in the Netflix library, that I’ll be chatting about. What about you guys? What are your thoughts on Netflix and what’s your favorite shows to stream?

 

Posted in Blogging | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

My St. Patrick’s Days Through The Years: Pinches, Green Rivers And Bolo Hats

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What did you do to celebrate? You know, I haven’t been much of a fan of St. Paddy’s Day. I think it started when I was in elementary school and I wasn’t wearing green for the day. I remember getting pinched, and pinched and pinched.

So yeah, no fun. Then in college it seemed like just another excuse to party, but this time with green beer. I liked the partying, but never got excited about the green beer because I don’t like beer. And no one would ever think to drink green wine. At least not me.

The city has died its river green for more than 40 years.

The city has died its river green for more than 40 years.

When we got older and were in Chicago, it seemed like it St. Patrick’s Day was one to avoid the drunken stupor that settled in over the city. I loved watching the Chicago River being dyed an emeraldish green. (A stark difference from its already a gunky green color.) The braver of my friends ventured down to the South Side Irish Parade for the rowdy celebrations. Things got so out of hand that in 2010 and 2011 they canceled that parade because of all the drunken debauchery. It’s since resumed and in a milder, family friendly form.

This year, we got our celebrating in early through our Boy Scout troop. (Yes, we joined. That post is on my To Do list.) I was by far the most excited of our family to be in this parade. I even bought a ridiculous hat that had stringy red hair attached to the back.

You know you're jealous of my fabulous bolo.

You know you’re jealous of my fabulous bolo.

My love of parades began as a kid. I was in a gymnastics club and we used to be in a few parades. We’d decorate my dad’s or someone else’s truck and take turns either riding in the truck bed or tumbling in the street. Each year we asked parade organizers to place us in front of the horses. Each year it seemed like we were always behind the horses. So we always had to be careful where we stuck our landings. Besides dodging piles of steaming horse poo while cartwheeling, it was really fun.

Also, I’ve told you guys a few times about our competitive seat-holding for the Fourth of July parade. This St. Patrick’s Day parade wasn’t on that level, but it was quaint and fun. On Saturday, we traveled through some neighborhoods Hubby and I hadn’t yet seen and then went through Hillsboro’s charming downtown.

My leprechauns on the float.

My leprechauns on the float.

When we spotted our friends, we were sure to toss them extra handfuls of candy though Logan was a bit annoyed whenever I grabbed at his bag of candy because he was committed to portioning it throughout the parade so that there’d be enough to hand out to the kids placed at the end of the parade route. However he was so cautious, we ended up having a fair amount of candy to take home.

After a great parade, we went out to lunch to our favorite McMenamins to celebrate and enjoy the sunshine. I decided it was too soon for me to part with my green bolo hat and stringy red hair, so I wore that throughout lunch.

We got a lot of bemused looks and arched eyebrows, but I’ve always enjoyed being a little off.

 

Posted in Appetizer for Life, Parenting, Portland | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Spring in Portland

Daffodils are in bloom throughout my neighborhood.

Daffodils are in bloom throughout my neighborhood.

Posted in Wordless Wednesday | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Storytelling in Portland: I Rocked the Mic Ya’ll!

For those who have followed my blog for awhile already know that I love storytelling.

Before we left Chicago, I was trying to immerse myself into the storytelling community and in Portland I’m trying to do the same.

StorytellerSaturday night Hubby and I went to a storytelling event, where a new friend of mine was to grace the stage. A cool thing about this event was that all proceeds went to Rahab’s Sisters, which is a group that helps women in Portland who are affected by the sex industry, domestic violence, drugs and homelessness.

The other cool thing was that it was at a church, Saint David of Wales Episcopal Church, and there was a keg. A keg in the church. That’s way better than the grape juice at communion. I wanted to take a picture of the keg, but couldn’t get a good one on the sly and didn’t want people to think I was documenting them partaking in libations in the house of the Lord.

Anyway, when we arrived, they asked us if we wanted to share a story. I hadn’t told a story since last May, and had nothing prepared, so just laughed it off, pretending I was too shy to get in front of the crowd. (Hilarious, right?) But I got away with it because people here don’t know me or anything about my love of storytelling.

Soon it was showtime and my pal Kerry Cohen was up first. She poignantly spoke of the time she got married and how her autistic son processed it all. She nailed it. I began to get an itch, should I put my name in the basket? If so, what story should I tell? Could I wing something?

The other storytellers were Brian Benson, who had a hilarious tale of getting high with his dad on a ski trip. Liz Fischer Greenhill told us of a summer at art camp, where her cabinmates were either insane or mean girls and she found solace in a pig. Melea Seward, who helped organize the event, talked of the life and death of her no-nonsense grandma. Gloria Harrison spoke of white knuckling it through an anxiety attack while camping with her twin boys. The night was Joshua Kingsley’s storytelling debut and we learned about his upbringing in Idaho by parents who struggled with mental illness.

A kicka*s Bluegrass band called TaborGrass played at the church.

A very talented Bluegrass band called TaborGrass played at the church.

Early in the evening the event’s host, the Rev. Sara Fischer, asked for open-mic submissions, saying that person would present after the intermission. Hmmm, should I? I asked Hubby and he asked if I had anything prepared. I shook my head no and he goes, “well that’ll be brave.”

When Fischer announced only one person had signed up for the open mic, I thought well, if I put my name in I have a 50/50 chance that I’ll be called. So I put my name in.

“What story are you going to tell?” Hubby asked.

“Remember that time in Atlanta when we were walking down the street and these guys were heckling us for being an interracial couple?”

Blank stare. He didn’t remember.

“OK, what about the time on Michigan Avenue and that homeless guy came up to us and…”

Another blank stare.

“Why don’t you tell Down With Brown? That’s a good one.”

“Yeahhhh,” I was losing confidence. I didn’t want to tell Down With Brown here, I felt like sharing something else. But Hubby had a good point, Down With Brown was safe, I knew that one.

This interracial piece was half-baked at best. I was torn, then I got frustrated and did what spouses tend to do. I blamed Hubby. “See? I wish I hadn’t even told you because now I don’t know what to do.”

I walked back to our seats and thought it through. I looked up the piece I wrote on interracial marriages for The Huffington Post. After scanning it over, I decided I should tell the story I want to tell and there’s no need for me to have it perfect because the story was MY story.

It was announced that instead of drawing one volunteer’s name out of the basket, they would feature us both. Welp, so much for 50 percent.

The first open mic chic went and she was good, really good. The piece didn’t sound rehearsed, but her beautiful descriptive words made it clear, she was a gifted story teller. Then all too soon when the Rev. Fischer asked: Is Melanie Coffee here?

I briefly considered staying seated. Again, no one here really knows me. But I stood up and got in front of the crowd. Looking down at their expectant faces, I told the audience how throwing my name in the basket seemed like a good idea at the time, but now, not so much. Inside I reminded myself that I still didn’t even know at what point to end the story.

I adjusted the microphone, and began. I talked about meeting Hubby in college and some of the obstacles we had from some of his white friends and more from my black ones. I told of post-college pitfalls like the time we were heckled in Atlanta and when one of his colleagues made a racist joke, Hubby told the room that his wife was black.

Then I spoke of the time a seemingly homeless black man on Michigan Avenue approached us, pointing saying “You guys! You guys!” and I was bracing for an onslaught of vile, racist verbiage when he said: You guys … are a beautiful couple, I can see the love all over you.”

The crowd chuckled in relief, seeming to feel the same relief I felt that day when that man saw Hubby and me.

A little voice in my head whispered: “Now.”

So I curtsied, making it clear my story had ended. The crowd applauded.

 

 

*Illustration by Calvin C. Chan via Rosenfeld Media.

Posted in Storytelling, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments