Don’t Let the Light Go Out.


“Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to bind us together
With peace as the song in our hearts.”
~Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Light One Candle”

Hanukkah

For as long as I can remember, Hanukkah has been one of my favorite holidays. There’s a warmth to it, a peace and joy, that fills my heart and lifts my soul. I have so many wonderful memories of lighting the menorah with my family, holding tight to the rainbow of ridged candles and watching as their flames danced from one to the other. Of spinning dreidels, giggling as they whirled around in a blur of color before tumbling to the floor with one of the four Hebrew letters facing up. Of seeing the smiles on people’s faces as they opened gifts, of excitedly tearing open my own, of gathering around the table during our family party to eat pizza, latkes, and doughnuts. Hanukkah is togetherness. It’s family. It’s love. It’s hope and faith and belief. It’s light.

And it’s a teacher, too. Here’s what the Festival of Lights always reminds me:

Miracles can happen, if we only believe in them enough. That oil in the menorah so long ago? It was only enough to last for one day, but its flame stayed steady for eight, until more could be found. So often today, we hear about the negative. All we have to do is turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or scan the headlines online, and it’s enough to knock the wind out of us. This week, especially, the news has been particularly hard to take. And hearing about all these things … well, I don’t know about you guys, but it’s enough to make me want to lock the door and stay inside the house sometimes. But there are wonderful stories, too. Heartwarming ones. There are stories about holiday miracles, like the homeless man who wanted a family for Thanksgiving and got one. Stories about those who dedicate countless time and effort to help others, both people and animals, like the amazing bunny rescue I got Jasper from – they’ve found homes for nearly two hundred rabbits this year! Good is happening out there, too. And no, maybe we won’t all get the miracles we’re wishing for this season, but who knows? Maybe we will.

We can overcome the odds with strength and determination. The odds were stacked against the Maccabees all those years ago. Their temple had been seized. They were in hiding. They had many, many battles to fight. But they didn’t give up. They got that temple back and rededicated it. How many of us can relate? We all have our own battles, big and small. We all have our moments of wanting to give up, to give in. But if we keep pushing, keep listening to our hearts and following our whispers, who knows what we can achieve? I’d like to think it’s something far greater than we can even imagine.

A little light goes a long way. That light shimmered bright as the stars in the temple, even when it wasn’t supposed to anymore. The flicker held strong in the darkness. Something I’ve learned: for me, that light is my family and friends. It’s the people who offer a hand when I’ve stumbled, the ones who are there for me unconditionally, whether it’s to listen, to give advice and support, or just to spend time together, either in person or via technology. You guys are my light. Is that corny? Maybe, but it’s true. When I’m feeling down, all I have to do is think of the truly special people in my life and it brings back a glow. One light begets another. One flame helps the next grow. One person can help another in such important ways.

These are the things I remember when I look at the menorah now. Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating, and Chag Sameach!

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26 Reasons to be Thankful.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
~Melody Beattie

Today, and every day, I am filled with gratitude for an alphabet of blessings. Some are big; others are small. Some are common; others are unique. Some create a framework; others create a patchwork. All bring happiness and color to my life; all make me come alive. I hope the same is true for y’all – that whatever you’re giving thanks for this holiday, it brings a smile to your face and joy to your heart.

It was tough to narrow down this last, really tough, and I love that. Because, truly, twenty-six letters will never be enough to express my appreciation. Let me try, though:

Animals that make our lives better and more fulfilling. Books that transport us into their beautiful worlds and resound with a glittery kind of magic. Charities that provide so much help, in so many ways, for those who need it most. Daydreams and wishes that light our creativity on fire and turn those sparks into brilliant flames. Empathy that allows us to treat others with kindness in a world where there is, too often, not enough of that to go around. Friends and family who support me unconditionally and make my life so much more special, just by being in it. Good health, which will forever be the most important thing. Hot chocolate and hot chicken soup, which not only warm my body, but also my memories. Imagination, which lets me travel to places I’ve never seen and discover things I’ve never experienced. Jasper, my furry little love, who has brought more happiness and companionship to my life over these past two months than I even thought possible. Knitting and crocheting – not because I have any talent in either, but because Gram did and that means I get to have her with me always, just by grazing a hand over one of the blankets she made for me. Lunch notes from my mom – twelve school years’ worth, all of which make me smile whenever I reread them. Music and song lyrics that speak to the soul and remind us we’re not alone.

Nantucket, which has inspired several of my books and given me a place to dream of visiting one day. Ordinary moments that are extraordinary in their own right. Photographs that are freeze-frames in time and let us relive “moments like this” all over again. Qualified and compassionate doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and teachers, all of whom impact countless lives with their work. Reading – not only books and news articles, but also the letters, emails, IMs, social media posts, and text messages that let me keep in touch with friends who might be far in distance, but never in thought. Shelters, both for people and animals, that offer a warm place to stay, loving care, and a voice for those who are trying to find their own. Television shows like General Hospital and American Idol, which have given me endless hours of entertainment, and, more importantly, friendships that will last a lifetime. Uniqueness – because life would be awfully boring if we were all the same. Ventnor, New Jersey, the place where I spent two weeks every summer growing up, the place that will always remind me of Grandmom Dot and Pop Joe, and the place I’ll always love with all my heart. Writing – my passion that only continues to grow and has gifted me with the most amazing experiences, getting to create stories in my head and meet the characters who write their journeys into my own, and also the most amazing people, a writing community that is, quite simply put, wonderful beyond words. Xylophones, guitars, drums, flutes, and all the other instruments that bring a melody to our everyday lives and make them hum with a new tune. You – all of you who are reading this, thank you for being in my life and changing it for good. Zealousness, because enthusiasm brightens every day.

That’s my alphabet of blessings. What’s yours?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wishing you all the most beautiful holiday! XOXO.

Happy Thanksgivukkah!


“Thankful for the blessing
And the lessons that I’ve learned with you by my side.”
~Kelly Clarkson, “Thankful”

Hanukkah has always been one of my favorite holidays. Flickering flames dancing atop a rainbow of candles in the menorah, spinning dreidels whirling around and sliding to a stop, latkes and pizza and donuts waiting on the table … it is a holiday of togetherness, a holiday of love, a holiday of warmth. A holiday of miracles. It’s a time to remember our ancestors, to think of that oil which lasted for eight days, its dazzling light refusing to go out. Because that oil? It did the impossible, and Hanukkah reminds us that maybe, just maybe, we can do the impossible, too.

Combine the start of Hanukkah – last night at sunset – with Thanksgiving today and you have something uniquely special. What better duo than miracles and gratitude? I know a lot of people wish that Hanukkah didn’t fall out so early this year, and yes, perhaps it does feel a bit strange, but the convergence of both holidays is beautiful, too. It’s such a lovely reminder of what’s most important. I’ll be spending time with my family today for one holiday and then again on Sunday for another, but I actually adore that. What can be better than togetherness? What can be better than appreciation?

Today and always, I am thankful for:

A family who loves me unconditionally and both supports and takes joy in my dreams. Friends near and far, who share their laughter and inspiration, who are the family I choose. Good health, because, truly, that is everything. Loved ones who aren’t here in person any longer, but who will always and forever be here in spirit and heart. The chance to watch dreams turn into reality for people I love. Warm clothes, warm meals, warm homes. A passion for writing that continues to fill me up with every moment, continues to lift me up, and the opportunity to live out that passion every day. The pure happiness of creating stories in my head and finding my characters taking up residence in my heart, these characters who have become my family and whose stories have become part of my own. The journey to get my books published, because even though it is an emotional roller-coaster of epic proportions, it has also been – and, I’m sure, will continue to be – such a learning experience, such a growing experience. A writing community that welcomes and supports, that has introduced me to truly incredible people and friends. Talented and dedicated doctors, police, and firefighters. Terrifically resonating music, television shows, movies, and musicals, all of which provide an escape and a motivation. Beautiful books that invite me into the authors’ worlds and resound with magic so far beyond their pages. Fuzzy socks, warm scarves, soft sweaters, cozy boots. The Jersey shore and Nantucket, which inspired SANDS OF TIME, and Nashville, which will inspire my next manuscript. The ability to travel, to see new places and experience new things. The ability to daydream, to close my eyes and view unseen places, unseen twists of beauty, in my head. The ability to take long walks and breathe in nature’s magnificence. Comforting chicken soup, steaming hot chocolate, and refreshing frozen yogurt. My laptop, writing journals, and the plethora of pens that splash a rainbow across their pages. The “moments like this” with my favorite singers, authors, and soap stars. General Hospital and American Idol, and the amazing people I’ve met because of them. Polar bears, red pandas, puppies, and all animals. Nail polish, plaques with inspirational sayings, picture frames and the cameras that capture the freeze-frames in times that live inside them. Perfectly formed shells, and not-so-perfectly formed shells, because sometimes there is beauty in the broken. Song lyrics and quotes that speak to the soul. The extraordinary and the ordinary that’s extraordinary in its own right. The memories we make and the moments we create. A past of experiences that still fill me with love and a future ripe with limitless possibility.

For hope and faith, serendipity and action, light and life. For, as Remi and Charlotte remind me to do every day, following my whisper.

And, of course, for friends like you, who make my world better just by being in it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and Happy Hanukkah to those of you celebrating. Much love. XO.

Things I’ve learned this week:


“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”
~Sarah Caldwell

1. Spending countless hours working on a laptop can eventually cause your neck muscles to become inflamed. Dominant side (right, in my case) + unwittingly tilting your head at a certain angle while on the computer x many years = lopsided muscles (aka, one side is thicker than the other). My doctor recommended physical therapy for it, so fingers crossed that works. And who says writers don’t incur occupational hazards? ;-)

2. Yogurtland is amazing not only because they have white chocolate Ghirardelli chips as a topping, but also because they have the best flavor ever: Peppermint Hot Cocoa. If you have a Yogurtland anywhere near you, go try this fabulousness. You’ll be glad you did.

3. It is impossible to put eye drops in your own eyes – at least if you’re as squeamish about that kind of thing as I am. Thank goodness for people who offer to help.

4. Wrapping holiday gifts while listening to festive music never gets old. Ever. Cannot wait for the start of Hanukkah tomorrow night and for all the warmth, light, and joy it sends twinkling through the air.

5. Knowing that you’re going to exceed a goal is an incredible feeling. When I first began editing Mine to Love, I hoped to get the manuscript under 110,000 words. With six and a half chapters left to revise, I’m only a few hundred words away. For the first time ever, I’m going to have a book that’s shorter than the goal. This excites me more than it probably should.

How about you? What’s one thing you’ve learned this week?

Today & Always.


“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”
~W.T. Purkiser

Today and always, I am thankful for:

A family who loves me unconditionally and supports all my dreams, even when the stars in my eyes seem so far up in the galaxy. Friends near and far, who share their joy and inspiration, who are a pillar of strength, who are the family I choose. Good health, because, truly, that is everything. Loved ones who may not be here in person anymore, but who will always be here in spirit and heart. The chance to watch dreams come true for people I love. Warm clothes, warm meals, warm homes … warmth. A passion for writing which continues to fill me up with every moment, to the point where my love for it just overflows, and the opportunity to live that passion every day. The ability to create stories in my head and allow my characters’ tales to flow from heart to hand to page. The experience of writing books that help me hope and help me heal – Mine to Love is for Sofie, for Brandon, for Ellie, but it is also for me, and I will be forever grateful for how it has changed my life. Characters who have become my friends and their stories that have become part of my own. A writing community that welcomes and supports. Wonderful music, wonderful television shows, wonderful movies, and wonderful Broadway musicals, all of which provide an escape and an inspiration. Beautiful books that invite me into the authors’ worlds, into their characters’ worlds, and resonate with magic so far beyond their pages. Fluffy socks, fuzzy scarves, cozy coats and boots. The Jersey shore, which is always special beyond words and has shown a resilience to be admired since Hurricane Sandy barreled ashore. Steamy chicken soup, delicious hot chocolate, and refreshing frozen yogurt. My laptop, writing journals, and the rainbow of pens that splash color across their pages. The ability to take long walks and enjoy nature’s beauty. The “moments like this” with my favorite singers, favorite authors, and favorite soap stars. General Hospital and American Idol, and the amazing people I’ve met because of them. The extraordinary and the ordinary that’s extraordinary in its own right. The memories we make and the moments we create. A past of experiences that still make me smile and a future filled with limitless possibility.

For hope, faith, love, luck, and life.

For people like you, who make my world infinitely special just by being in it and who have, truly, changed my life for good. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Much love to you all today and always! <3

Ode to Bread.


“Passover affirms the great truth that liberty is the inalienable right of every human being.”
~Morris Joseph

Sometimes you’re fluffy, fresh from the oven and steaming hot.

Sometimes you’re chilled from the refrigerator, and that still hits the spot.

Sometimes you’re golden brown, shaped into baguettes and rolls.

Sometimes you’re a side dish, meant to complement whatever’s in our bowls.

And let’s not forget all your other cohorts:

Pizza, pasta, cereal, and bagels – without them we’d clearly be out of sorts.

But beginning tonight and lasting for eight days, anything with wheat, flour, or grain must be tucked away.

Instead we’ll eat matzah, matzah, matzah, the unleavened bread of yesterday.

We’ll give thanks for our freedom, and of course our ancestors’ liberty, as well.

We’ll recite the Four Questions and declare that matzah ball soup is swell.

Moses told the Pharoah to “let my people go” and then he parted the Red Sea.

Tonight we honor that by sharing a seder with friends and family.

So even though I live on pasta and bread, even though I eat them every day,

I’ll say ‘adios’ to the delicious confections and embrace the matzah on its stay.

But until sundown, pizza it will be.

And maybe some ice cream, and cookies, and pretzels – so yummy!

So do me a favor, dear friends, if you will:

Enjoy some leavened foods for me next week. It’ll give you a thrill!

Happy Passover to everyone celebrating tonight, Happy Easter to everyone celebrating Sunday, and remember … when you eat matzah for two meals per day, a goofy ode to bread is totally, completely, and absolutely necessary :)

Tuesday’s Tunes: Valentine’s Edition.


“Mama, you taught me to do the right things,
So now you have to let your baby fly.
You’ve given me everything that I will need,
To make it through this crazy thing called life.”
~Carrie Underwood, “Mama’s Song”

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Whether you’re celebrating with a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, little dear heart, or your family and friends, I wish you all a day – and every day – filled with sunshine, smiles, laughter, and love. May your hearts always be overflowing with happiness and may life’s miracles strike a resonant chord. Speaking of which … for today’s Tuesday’s Tunes, I thought it’d be fun to feature two of my favorite love-related songs.

“Save The Last Dance For Me” – Michael Buble: There’s something a little bit magical about this song – maybe it’s the melody, the lyrics, the feel-good vibe that surrounds you as you listen. Maybe it’s all three. Maybe it’s more. Whatever the case, there’s a reason this is played so frequently at weddings. When you find someone who makes you feel like you’re floating, who makes you believe that fairytales aren’t just for storybooks, who better to share the music with, right?

“Mama’s Song” – Carrie Underwood: Love isn’t just about soulmates. It’s about family and friends, about all the people we adore and all the bonds we weave into beautiful tapestries. Carrie’s gorgeous song explores the relationship between a new bride and groom and also the unconditional connection between a mother and daughter. It’s one that many people can’t put into words, but she so eloquently sets it to music. Times change, we all grow up and spread our wings, and through it all, the people we love most want nothing more than for us to fly.

What’s your favorite Valentine’s song?

GoGoGo … Rest, Rest, Rest.


“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.”
~Anonymous

Boy oh boy, what a week it’s been. That sinus-infection-turned-bronchitis? It decided to morph into a bad ear infection, too. Sometimes it felt like ocean waves were tumbling through my head. Sometimes it felt like bells were ringing nonstop. All of the time, it was incredibly frustrating. Who wants to be sick for over three weeks during the holidays? The good news is that the ear infection was enough to finally get me an antibiotic last Thursday, and even though I’m still not a hundred percent yet, I at least feel like a normal human being again. After spending most of December coughing (and coughing … and coughing), I will definitely take that.

The doctor made me promise to get lots of rest – which I did, because it’s obviously important when you’re sick – but it was challenging this week, what with the holiday and all. Hanukkah is officially over today – yesterday was the last night – and though it was indescribably difficult to get through the celebrations without Gram, I’m still sad to see the holiday go. There’s just something so special about it, something so full of light and love. And yes, there was a heart-shaped hole this year, but as Kristan so optimistically reminded me, it was important to fill it up with heart-shaped happiness, because that’s what Gram would have wanted. Did I get teary-eyed looking at her place on the sofa during our family party? And again when we lit her special candle that she so loved? And again when I put on the necklace she bought me for Hanukkah a few years ago? Yes, yes, and yes. Losing her meant gaining a void that will never close. I’ve been making a point this week to look at her picture even more, to not only remember the beautiful memories but immerse myself in them. It helps, and I like to believe she’s smiling down on us, remembering those special times, too.

It also helps to keep busy – and between holiday celebrations with family and friends, getting lost in a great book (seriously, you can blame my lack of posting on this novel, because anytime there’s a spare minute, I’m cracking open the cover to see what happens next), and reworking/updating my lit agent database, busy has definitely been the name of the game. It’s been GoGoGo, but with time-outs to Rest, Rest, Rest along the way. And really, isn’t that what the holiday season should be? It’s about surrounding yourself with family – both given and chosen – and making new memories that’ll last a lifetime.

From Christmukkah/Friendship Day celebrations with friends …

MK

… to setting up all the Hanukkah gifts …

presents

… to lighting the menorah and Gram’s candle …

candle

It was definitely a meaningful holiday. I hope all of yours were just as lovely. As I jump into writing new queries to send off to agents next week (and then – finally! – starting work on the new novel), memories of this not-as-planned break will float through my mind. What holiday memories will you smile about as you get back to work?

Tuesday’s Tunes: Holiday Edition.


“I flip my latkes in the air sometimes, sayin’ ayy ohh, spin the dreidel
Just wanna celebrate for all eight nights, singin’ ayy oh, light the candles.”
~The Maccabeats, “Candlelight”

Tonight marks the beginning of my absolute favorite holiday, Hanukkah. All year long, I look forward to these eight days and eight nights of light, laughter, and love. There’s something uniquely special about this holiday. Reciting the blessings as a family, lighting the candles and watching as their sparks grow into flames, seeing everyone’s reactions as they open gifts, playing dreidel by the glow of a menorah’s candlelight … it’s the personification of warmth. To me, that’s what Hanukkah is truly about. It’s remembering the miracle of all those years ago – the oil that lasted for eight days and kept the synagogue’s eternal light aglow until more could be brought – and believing in the hope, the faith, the blessings of today. It’s drawing inspiration from those flickering flames and lighting them in ourselves, too. All those years ago, the Maccabees refused to take “no” for an answer. They believed in their synagogue and dedicated themselves to its preservation. No challenge was insurmountable. No mountain was too high. And when the oil did last for an extra week, well, maybe that’s all the proof we need … sometimes miracles really can happen if we only believe in them enough.

So, in that spirit, I thought I’d do a holiday version of Tuesday’s Tunes this week. Whatever you celebrate, I wish you nothing but joy. May your holiday season sparkle with magic and be strung with chords of warmth and glitter.

“Candelight” – The Maccabeats: This may not be a traditional Hanukkah song, but it is SO GOOD. The Maccabeats have such pure voices, and the way they put this video together is beyond clever. No matter how many times I watch, it always makes me smile. Latkes, dreidels, menorahs, and wonderful music … how better to celebrate this lovely, twinkling Festival of Lights?

“All I Want For Christmas is You” – Mariah Carey: Yes, I’m Jewish, but I still love Christmas music! Mariah’s song will always be one of my favorites. There’s an infectious kind of happiness in it, one that makes you want to tap your foot, bop your head, and sing along. It’s a feel-good song, a reminder that the holiday season is a time to let loose, let go, and let be.

“My Grown-Up Christmas List” – Kelly Clarkson: This may be a Christmas melody, but its message spans all religions and all people. It’s a reminder of what’s important in life, what wishes so many of our hearts hope for, what this world needs each and every day. There are many versions of this song, but to me, Kelly’s stands out. It’s whimsical, it’s magical, it’s beautiful. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

What are your favorite holiday tunes?

Choosing Gratitude.


“Forever on Thanksgiving Day, the heart will find the pathway home.”
~Wilbur D. Nesbit

Thanksgiving is a day to count our blessings. It’s a day to reflect on all we’ve been given, to be thankful for the moments we create, the memories we make, and, most of all, the people who give them meaning. It’s a day to give thanks for the gifts we hold in our hands and those we hold wrapped in our hearts. It’s a day to choose gratitude.

It’s no secret that this year has been unspeakably difficult for my family. We suffered a loss that shadows the sunshine every day, a loss that feels especially strong, especially painful, this holiday season. It’s been a struggle sometimes to work through the pain, and today that’s going to be especially difficult. Couple that with an incredibly frustrating, aggravating, I-feel-like-banging-my-head-against-a-brick-wall experience last night, and you have the recipe for … well, not for what today is supposed to be about at all.

It would be easy to let it all put a damper on things, but I’m trying hard not to let it. I’m choosing gratitude. So, today and every day, I am thankful for:

A family who loves me unconditionally and gives me the freedom to pursue my dreams. Amazing friends who are the family I choose. Good health – it truly is everything. A passion that fills me up, every single day, with excitement, adrenaline, and pure joy. The opportunity to create whole other worlds in my head and to go on journeys with my characters as they tell me their stories. Important, inspiring lessons learned from so many aspects of the writing, editing, and querying processes. The chance to watch people I care about take leaps of faith and make their wishes come true. A warm house and warm meals. Memories like this and this, from when I worked at the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day parade – a day I will cherish and treasure forever. Vacations to the NJ shore, forever my happiest place on Earth. Great books, great movies, great television, great Broadway shows – all a chance to escape reality and experience a little bit of magic. The chance to meet my favorite authors, see my favorite singers in concert, and attend events with my favorite soap stars. Fuzzy scarves, cozy boots, and brightly-colored peacoats in a rainbow of colors. My laptop. Chicken soup. Milkshakes. The ability to take long walks every day and enjoy nature’s beauty. A future that, while it’s unknown, offers limitless opportunities and a plethora of possibilities. And, of course, all of you!

I hope you all have a wonderful, special, filled-with-warm-fuzzies holiday. I am endlessly thankful and grateful to have you all as friends. You make my days brighter and are the family I choose. To borrow from Wicked’s “For Good,” you have changed my life for the better. Thank you for all the support, all the kindness, all the friendship. Thank you for being you. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Much love <3