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Keeping Our Happily Ever After – From my RomanceontheRocks.com post

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Like all good partnerships, marriage takes teamwork, compromise, dedication, and commitment. Add kids (and four pets) to the mix and you have a whole new set of parameters that move around like a dart board when you’ve had too much to drink.

Life is constantly changing and so do the rules, which are usually interpreted differently by each of us. Sure, we’ve always had lots of love and respect for each other, but complications abound with work, schedules, school, illnesses, and the occasional “what the hell just happened crazy from out of nowhere stuff”.

How do we communicate or find time to be a couple when life is a moving target and our four kids want or need something from the time we wake in the morning until after we’ve gone to bed at night? How do we  find time alone together amongst the stress of work, doctor’s appointments and the endless day to day tasks that keep us overwhelmingly occupied?

It’s not easy!

But thankfully I have a good friend that let us in on a little secret that she and her husband were using to stay connected. 😉

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Love by the letters: My husband and I began Alphabet Dating last year.

Starting with the letter A and working our way through the alphabet, we alternate the duty of planning a date centered around our assigned letter. Thought has to go into each night out, both to meet the letter requirement and to do something our spouse will like. It also spreads out the responsibility while keeping one of us accountable for the next planned evening together.

Not only does this force us to make time for ourselves, but puts us outside of our comfort zone and trying new things together. Oh, the other catch, you don’t tell your partner what you’re doing. You can instruct your significant other on  what kind of clothes to wear, but most of the time the other is clueless about the final destination until we arrive.

And even though they don’t get to tag-a-long, the kids love it! The younger guys are always asking who has the next date and whispering ideas in our ears.

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Technically, not from the movie, but I’m sure I couldn’t afford the real one. 🙂

For our first date, I took my husband to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse to see the classic movie Airplane. It was a great start because we went somewhere we never would have thought of going or treating ourselves to. Since then, we’ve been to the opera (not my husband’s favorite), done a Historic Hike of Fairfax, Virginia, been line dancing, seen a musical and participated in a murder mystery dinner theater.

I’ve loved them all, but my favorite so far would have to be when my husband took me to Frozen on ice, then we went to Fat Tuesdays (Yay! Cajun food) and watched Ole Miss Football in the bar. Of course we don’t always do something so elaborate. Earlier this month, I took him out for Mexican and a movie. The point is just spending time together, not spending all our money. 🙂

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Can’t image how much it would cost to purchase an image from Disney. 😉

I’m always looking for new ways to stay connected with my soulmate. Any other suggestions? What do you do to keep your Happily Ever After?

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Headlines That Hit Home Hard – From My RomanceontheRocks.com post

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Aunt Elaine and Uncle Sal at my oldest son’s bar mitzvah May, 2015

The call came Saturday morning. Three member’s of my husband’s family were murdered Friday night. It didn’t feel real and still doesn’t. How? Why? We are left with so many questions.

After spending a week away on spring break vacation, my original intention was to write about the trials and tribulations of traveling with kids. But it doesn’t feel right to not speak out or hide what’s happening, even as we are still trying to understand.

Ken’s Aunt Elaine Mazzella, cousin Sandy Mazzella and cousin’s wife Stephenie Mazzella were shot in Sandy’s and Stephenie’s home by a man, who at one time had been a trusted business associate and friend.

Two innocent children, ages fourteen and ten, are left behind without their parents to pick up shattered dreams and attempt to make sense of what their new life will be.

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Sandy and Stephenie at Ken’s dad’s 75th birthday

I have grieved recently over the loss of someone dear, but this time I’m grieving for our family members that will have to live with this loss everyday and face the insecurity about what the future will bring.

I’m also left wondering how anger can turn into something this horrific. I have been angry with people before, but never so much that I would even consider harming them. How is it that some people don’t have the ability to back down and realize that letting go of that rage will bring more peace than acting out?

A Gofundme.com account has been set up for the kids, but nothing will ever be able to replace what was stolen from them and the rest of the family by a selfish man who will now spend the rest of his life in jail, leaving his family behind as well.

https://www.gofundme.com/sqw6uup8

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article68647092.html

My 9/11 Story

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I was almost two months pregnant and flying with my 14 month old daughter to New York on 9/11. The flight from Mississippi to North Carolina went smoothly, but as we arrived at the gate to make our connecting flight to New York, flights had been delayed. One tower of the World Trade Centers had been hit by a plane.

Every eye at the gate was glued to the overhead TVs as the report came in that another had been hit. I remember saying to the man beside me “That was no accident.” I became hyper-focused on my daughter and then worried that my husband may have gotten up and gone into the city that day. He was working in mid-town, but I didn’t want him anywhere near what was going on. To my relief, when I called, he was still at his dad’s in Westchester County.

Sometime later, I was standing in a line trying to re-book my flight when a news reporter came up to interview me. Up until that moment, everything had been surreal, but as soon as she started asking questions, it sunk in that someone had purposely sought to kill innocent people just going about their daily routine. I remember saying something like “How could anyone do something like that?” and then I looked down at my sweet, unsuspecting, energetic child, who just wanted to run around the airport and play. I burst into tears in front of the reporter and camera.

Luckily I found a nearby hotel that had a room and a shuttle. The next day I returned to the airport to wait with every other trapped passenger, most of whom had stayed the night on the airport floors. In one of the lines an airport employee said she saw me on the news the night before. It’s probably a good thing I did not catch that news report because I’m sure I looked hideous.

There were many heroes that day, average citizens helping others, the firemen and the police and countless others. I had my own personal heroes that day too. The lady at the US Airways ticket counter that found a package of emergency baby supplies for a scared young mom and the numerous American Red Cross volunteers that stayed at the airport to hand out toothbrushes, water and necessities for all the stranded and terrified people.  They gave my daughter a teddy bear that probably reassured me more than it did her.

Since 9/11, my charity of choice has been the American Red Cross because I have seen them in action and I know their work is worthwhile. The money you give today may not be put to use right away, but it will go to help others when an emergency does arrive.

On our third day stranded, my husband drove down to pick us up. The days had been horrible, but we were so thankful that we were the lucky ones and made it to New York safely.

On 9/11, I remember all of those innocent people. I remember all of the first responders that worked so hard at great sacrifice to themselves. And I remember my own heroes too. I still have my daughter’s bear and the US Airways package. It’s strange because I am an anti-hoarder, but I’ll never be able to let them go, just like I will never forget.

Found at Reagan National: The perfect villian

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Reagan National Airport

My original intention was not to be writing today. I am in the process of packing and preparing for pitches at Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals tomorrow. However, I took a break to pick my oldest son up at the airport from a three week visit to his grandparents in Mississippi.

Upon arrival, a U.S. Airways representative directed me to the special services line for a pass to get by security to pick up my unaccompanied minor. When placed in the line, I was behind three other customers. The normal check in line was much longer and the man at the front of the line started yelling about how our line came from nowhere. I spoke to him, maybe I shouldn’t have, but I said, “This is a special services line, I’m just here to pick up an unaccompanied minor.” In my defense, I said it in a very polite way, not intending to inflame him, but to reassure him. It didn’t work.

He barked back, “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes and I have two young children that are hungry and crying.” I had observed one of their little girls just before he had sent her to the mother that was sitting somewhere else. She had not been crying.

I had not expected the rage that turned on me. I did get angry and said something about my child being left alone at the terminal (can’t remember my exact words), but at this point my tone was not nice.

When the people in front of me were finished, he jumped to the representative in front of me (the one he was not supposed to go to). She had no idea what was going on so proceeded to help him. I stood their stunned. This emboldened the people behind him to rush to the other special service rep before I could take a step closer. Now there was a group mob mentality that was determined I was in the wrong for doing what I had been instructed to do.

The second group that cut was promptly sent back to their other line because the representative had a limited scope of duties. She called me up, but I couldn’t speak because I was trying to hold back the tears. Getting my security pass took less than two minutes.

When I walked away, I looked back at the father. He wouldn’t look at me, but I know he heard me when I said “Now you’ve made a stranger cry today.”

So here is why he may be the inspiration for a villain in a future book. I can totally sympathize and understood where he was coming from. As a mom of four children that has traveled frequently, I know how difficult it is to navigate the system when you have whiny little ones pulling on you. But there is a point where you either cross the line or keep your emotions in check.

My daughter is taking a psychology class this summer and I’ve been lucky enough to read some of her essays. So this is my analysis of the event based on what I’m gleaming from her class. She has since told me that my interpretation is not reflective of the class as a whole, but it is based on the limited knowledge I have.

1. The father was the perpetrator.

2. I was seen as the weaker party.

3. The group in the regular line began to feel the effects of deindividuation, which means  these people were acting as a group and not individuals responsible for their own actions. Then their views became polarized based on their perception of the perpetrator’s and they acted out against the “weaker party”.

The father acted out of frustration, impatience and most likely hunger, but I’m not sure why he and his family had not eaten by 9 am on a day where they were catching a flight. (His obvious lack of parenting skills is a topic for another day.) There is a study that shows that lowered glucose levels lead to higher aggression levels.

I was the weaker party. I made myself a target by speaking up. I was acting out of fear because I was first afraid I would not be able to get to my son in time and then because of all the anger directed at me.

The group felt a diffusion of responsibility because they were no longer responsible as individuals and therefore saw their actions as justified.

I reached my son in time and all was well. But who knew I would learn so much about analyzing the perfect villain from my daughter’s class and a trip to the airport?

 

 

Entering That Grey Area

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The Twilight Zone – Wiktionary definition- a region in which surreal, supernatural or fantastic events occur

A place in-between or the gloaming; whatever you call it, it’s a place I thought I would never find myself. That grey area between being a novice and an expert. It’s that awkward spot when you’ve passed that initial learning curve and people expect you to know what you are doing. It can happen to anyone starting a new job or relationship, learning a new craft or a language.  Even parents of kids past that tough toddler stage are looked to as skilled in their duties and asked for advice.

We all know looks can be deceiving.

I no longer feel as if I’m new to writing, but I’m still a good distance from where I see myself heading. My dilemma is that I have grown, but at the same time other’s perceptions of me have as well. Can I meet their higher expectations?

It’s crazy, but some people think I know what I’m doing. It’s because I’m no longer afraid to sit quietly in the corner trying to decipher what others are saying. I’m an active participant in conversations on craft, marketing and social media. This gives people the impression that I know what I’m talking about and maybe I do. But I still feel like I’m winging it.

I thought once I had this knowledge and could participate and put myself out there I would be more confident. Leaving the newbie status would somehow put me where I belong, or at least where I want to be.  I’m finding that not to be the case.

A new wave of anxiety has gripped me. The fear that others will be disappointed in my results haunts me with each new endeavor. Not that I feel that way about my writing itself, I do believe I am growing and on track to one day soon be published.  (fingers crossed)

Is every stage of this journey just as terrifying as the first?

I am challenging myself in areas that scare the crap out of me, but I’m doing it. What frightens me the most is that people will see I’m currently in over my head. I am hoping that this is how I grow and that I’m doing the right things. Powering through the insecurities will get me to where I want to be. Right?

I am going to take that leap, push ahead and do my best to get to the next stage. An author friend and I are embarking on a new adventure. It will help us grow. It will help others that decide to join us. It will be a lot of hard work and a lot of responsibility, but I’m hoping the end result will be fun and worth it.

Soon, I’m hoping to say I have overcome these insecurities.  I am in the twilight zone, but despite the disorientation, I see fantastic things happening.