Interrupted by Vacation: Long Island, New York Edition

It’s been years since I’ve been to New York.

Years since I walked the streets where I grew up, ate the BEST food in the world, and hung out with the craziest, funnest, and most loving people on earth! My family!

No kids. No husband… And I’m having the time of my life!

I thought I’d do more writing, but that’s okay. I’m doing some research for some of my current WIPs and let me tell you, I’m getting lots of fodder for future story. Family is good for that.

So my encouragement for you today… live in the moment! I’m a dreamer, a planner, so it’s REALLY hard for me to enjoy the present. But I am. If you don’t believe me, just have a look…

Food

New York Bagels

New York Pizza

Sushi at Kashi's

Italian Cookies

Family

NY Kashi Cousins

The girls!

Italian Family

 

Three Generations…

NY Italian Cousins

 

First Cousins! Grew up with these girls!

NY Florids Cousins

First Cousin! Spent my summers in Florida with this girl!

Fun

 

NY Wedding crowd2

 

NY wedding dance

NY wedding reception

NY first cousins All the first cousins together again!

Nothing like a New York Italian Wedding or family!

New week: Interrupted by Vacation: The New York City Edition!

Why I Hate the Christmas Season

Now before you start labeling me a Scrooge, read on.
Scrooge

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas. I love Christmas trees and hot cocoa by the fire, and snowy nights with no where to go and Christmas music. And baby Jesus in the manger. And Santa. Even Santa, but what I can do without is everything else that makes this season the most stressful time of year.

Decorating:

Why is decorating always so stressful? Because who has the time or energy? And the thought of doing all that work for a month or so is crazy! (That’s why my stuff stays out til mid January.)

So when my kids came to me saying they didn’t like the hodge podge tree filled with ornaments I collected over the years, and they wanted a pretty tree, I balked a little, then thought…SCORE! The last couple of years they’ve been decorating the tree without my help, but I end up wrapping all those priceless ornaments and putting everyone in its place. This year it’ll be easy cleanup, especially since I didn’t put out every single Christmas decoration!

Gift Giving:

While I LOVE gifts, I hate the stress of choosing and buying and wrapping and returning gifts. Nowadays kids come to you with their list and we spend the time searching for just the right thing  to make our little “angels” happy! Whatever happened to the surprise gift under the tree? Now not only do kids (and adults) get what they want, they get more than they want (or need)… really? Is that what Christmas is all about?

I’m so down on the whole gift giving thing this year that most of my kids will probably get their gifts before Christmas (yes, I still give what’s on their list and maybe this makes me a hypocrite, but I’ve learned to pick my battles…) because what is the real point of waiting? Yes, there will be surprises under the tree, but why wait when the kid have the make and model of the thing they must have (then play with for 6 hours and forget) and they have done the research?

Baking:

Do people actually do this anymore? I really would LOVE to if there was more time (see next category) Thankfully, I have a son who is more talented in the baking department than I am, and lets me know it every time I say, “Do we really need that ingredient?”  or “I’m sure I can find a substitution.” Needless to say, he’ll be doing most of the baking again.

Christmas programs:
Talk about stress! I think I’ve aged ten years this holiday season. In the last 2-3 weeks my four kids have been involved in:

A Christmas Story (Community Theatre) with a 6 show run (in which my son was called to understudy Flick, a part he hadn’t even rehearsed an hour and a half before opening night. BTW, he rocked the part!)

White Christmas (high school musical) where my oldest was the lead and 2nd son had a part in the chorus. I attended 3 of the 5 shows with various other family members at the others.

One Cello Performance at the Mayor’s Home in which 2nd son had to rush from the last performance of White Christmas to the mansion, but what an HONOR to be one of two students chosen!

Dance Troupe performances 6 or 7 performances over 3 weekends, 2 of the weekends which coincided with theatre productions and 3 of those performances this weekend!

Throw in…

Piano/Drum recital during the White Christmas weekend

Youth Symphony Performance

Extra Cello concerts to close out the year including Open Concert this Friday night (which by the way is invitation only and I’m very proud of my son)

and I’m sure I’m forgetting half a dozen other things that where a blur these last couple of weeks…but you get the point! It’s enough to get any God fearing Christian to yell ENOUGH! Is this what Christmas is all about?

So when I say I hate the Christmas season, what I’m saying (as if you couldn’t figure it out) is that I hate all the STUFF that comes with the Christmas season. Even Christmas Eve and Christmas Day tend to be a whirlwind of activities.

My favorite part of Christmas happens from the afternoon of Dec 25th through Jan 30th. That quiet, nothing-to-do time where we really get to connect as a family (if our new gadgets don’t get in the way.) It’s a time of welcomed rest and in that rest I think that is where we can find and really enjoy Christmas!

May you find that rest in Him this Christmas season!

Oops! Forgot to Mention My Book is Available

This poor neglected blog may be seeing some new activity. I’ve been busy at http://writerinterrupted.com blogging my writing journey, but there’s more to my story. And I need to start writing about other things here related to life, kids, dreams, dancing, and whatever I feel compelled to talk about, like tomorrow’s post on Why I Hate the Christmas Season! You don’t want to miss that one!

Oh, and about my new release, Digging Up Death, here are the details!

But NOW
On KINDLE
NOOK
KOBO
iTUNES

Leave a review on GOODREADS

“Dig into a fun story with Digging Up Death. It’s got all the dirt you want–a tangled mystery, a quirky heroine, hints of romance, and page-turning action. Conroy keeps the story real and delves into the clean and the not so clean parts of life. Highly recommended.” Christy Barritt, author of the Squeaky Clean Mysteries series

“Gina Conroy has written a smart, fast-paced mystery in which vulnerable characters rise to the occasion. Single-mom Mari’s life is anything but mundane. Scars from her past mingle with the danger of her present while romance and a journey of faith impatiently wait their turn for a walk in her five-inch leather boots.” Tanya Dennis, writer, blogger, editor

Summary:

Archaeology Professor Mari Duggins is adjusting to life as a single mom and trying to balance a television career, but gets caught between the pull of her former flame, a field archaeologist, and her ex-husband who is wanted by the FBI on an antiquities crime. Then her colleague is murdered, and she gets in over her head as she searches for truth in a desert of lies. Mari Duggins’ life caves in as she tries to excavate the truth, but realizes only God can dig her out of the hole she’s created. Will Mari sort through her muddled feelings and put her trust in someone else before her world caves in? Or will the truth bury her alive?   

Take a sneak peek at the inspiration behind the book on PINTEREST!

 

Interrupted by American Idol Auditions &
Lessons Learned From The End of the Journey

This last week has been a whirlwind of excitement for my son and our family as we focused on his dreams instead of mine. American Idol auditions.

It started with a simple press release I sent out last Monday with the hope that some local media would respond to the subject line: Local Teen Wins Dream Ticket to American Idol Auditions This Summer. Then the calls and emails started coming in and as of this writing he’s been interviewed for the newspaper, radio,and television several times.

Here’s a snippet of the newspaper article by reporter Rita Sherrow:

 

While visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the 17-year-old and his cousins spotted the American Idol Experience…

“We thought, ‘It sounds like fun, so let’s try that out,’ ” Conroy said in a recent interview. “We were all surprised when I won.”

At the end of the day, the winners from all the previous rounds were invited to sing again. Conroy performed “Stand by Me,” a classic song he had never heard before that day and one to which he added his own “pop twist.” The audience liked what they heard, and he won a golden ticket to move to the head of the line for the “American Idol” auditions…All the daily winners of the “Experience” are invited to try out for the real thing.

It was an exciting interruption in my life and as you read this we have concluded our Idol journey. It didn’t work out as we hoped, and we are processing everything knowing God has a purpose and is in control. I will share more pictures and specific details in a post to come, but through this whole process I learned a few things that I will touch on briefly here, then write out more thoughts in a future post or two.

Sometimes Being Helpful isn’t Helpful

I took it upon myself to send out press releases thinking my son would enjoy the media attention, and he did, but there were other repercussions I didn’t anticipate. I also gave him unsolicited advice from time to time which only stressed him instead of helped him. I’m still learning what a parent’s support role to an almost 18 year old looks like!

Being Hopeful is Different Than Being Expectant

I’m still learning this balance. On the day of the audition a tv reported asked me about my expectations. I rambled off something like “I have no expectations and just wish for my son to do his best.” In retrospect that wasn’t completely honest. At the time I didn’t know it. We all had expectations of him making the first round auditions. And he didn’t. More thoughts to come later…

Sometimes Failures Lead You Down a Different Path

Even though we didn’t make it past the first round auditions, an other opportunity has already presented itself to my son, and I’m a tad envious and very excited for him. I’ll share more when I have more details.

A Child’s Disappointments Are Often Felt Hard by Parents

I touched on this a while back, but I didn’t expect to be hit this hard again. I think it goes back to my unintentional expectations of him getting through to round 2, and he didn’t. But his “rejection” just intensified my own writing rejections I’ve felt over the years. I’m still dealing and processing with all the emotions of that and the weekend Idol experience.

When Disappointments Hit Hard Offer Space and Grace

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, when disappointments hit we need to give each other space. I know when I’m dealing with a rejection I want to be left alone and so that’s what I tried to do with my son. I also offered grace as my family needs to do with me when I get a writing rejection. A lot of ugly oozes out of our rejection sores, but I tried to remind myself it’s only the hurt talking and I’ve oozed my fair share or ugliness.

Yes, our Idol experience is over and once again if we were completely honest with ourselves, it never really was my son’s  ”dream.” In fact, if he hadn’t won the Dream ticket, he might not have auditioned and the perks were sweet.

Having the Dream ticket opened up new doors for him, but it could have been the thing to lock that Idol door. (More on that later) Then again, if Idol was not part of God’s plan for his life, better to keep that door locked!

Now your turn:

How do you deal with your child’s disappointments and rejections? What have your learned?

 

Embracing Life’s Layovers

Sometimes I feel as if I’m on a layover to my final destination. A stop on the way to something better, more exciting—My destiny.

You would think a stop, a pause in travel would be restful, and I guess sometimes it can be, but if you’ve been on a layover in an airport, then you know it’s an uncomfortable place to be.

Sometimes it can be crowded with too many people, too much worry. How long will I be waiting for my next flight to take me closer to where I want to be? Will I be able to survive on what little money I have? Where will I lay my head? Will I even sleep at all?

Being in a layover can be an uncomfortable place of worry and longing, but it can also be a place of renewal, growth, and friendship.

Layovers rarely happen alone. If a plane is grounded, look around. You’re not the only one stranded. There are other weary travels just like you. You just have to take your eyes off yourself and make an effort to see them. Or you can choose to close yourself off to those around you, thinking it’s not worth engaging in conversation. Maybe you truly are weary and don’t have the energy to reach out. It’s okay to close your eyes for a while, but when you’re rested, you have a choice. You can choose to step out of your world into the lives of others, offering companionship, hope, encouragement, or you can sulk in the corner and worry about things that are beyond your control.

If you choose to look outside your circumstances and reorient yourself from your destination to your present by engaging in the lives around you, you’ll find that the layover doesn’t last as long as you thought. And you might just help someone on their journey. And maybe, just maybe, they might help you get closer to your final destination.

Where are you on your journey and who have you helped (or helped you) along the way?

 

Fighting Through Insecurities to Reach Our Dreams

Every since I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a dancer. I remember watching Flashdance, Footloose, Fame, and all the other fun dancing movies and thinking how much fun it would be to do that. But to achieve that goal would take hard work, discipline and talent. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but when I was ten I took my first dance lessons. To this day I can remember the recital. I also remember feeling chubby, uncoordinated, and self conscious in a class of older girls. So I quit something I loved for fear of ridicule.

When I went back to take dance lessons at 15 years old, it was obvious I’d never be good enough or catch up to the level of the other girls. My insecurities had held me back from reaching my dream of dancing.

Fast forward twenty plus years and my secret desire is taking form in ballroom and swing dance lessons. After attempting to swing dance in sandals last summer and suffering through insecurities and my ignorance on the dance floor, I thought it necessary to take lessons just in case I ever got the opportunity to go swing dancing again.

So I signed up not just for swing, but salsa, rumba, cha cha and a whole slew of dances I was “expected to master” in just seven hour long classes. Okay, I admit, I didn’t plan on mastering them all, and the dance studio’s gamble won out when I purchased another set of lessons. And after 20 plus hours, I still haven’t mastered any of the dances. But I’m not quitting, no matter how tough.

I remember one particular lesson when my instructor arrived 20 minutes late with a scowl on his face and threw me into a salsa turn  immediately when I was still trying to get the footing down.

I tried my best, but I was perfectly fine with my bent legged salsa. Unfortunately, he was not. I guess we had two different definitions of “mastering” salsa. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to get my leg to straighten. I just couldn’t get it. And the more I tried, the worse and more confused I got and the more flustered we both got.

There was a point he kept pushing me that I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and quit, and say “This is not dancing with the stars.”  In stead, I asked him if I could practice at home and if we could move onto East Coast swing.

And we did. And he threw me into a spin again when I was still adjusting to the footing, but by this time he had apologized for his attitude because he’d just quit smoking that morning AND coming from a stressful, life altering situation. We laughed through my own klutzyness and made progress. I worked through my insecurities and inadequacies and kept pushing until I figured out what I was doing wrong. If I had given into the voices in my head that told me I’d never get it and my instructor thought I was hopeless, I never would have succeeded and learned.

It’s the same with our writing or any other dream in our lives.When insecurities start to shout that I’m not a good enough writer, no one will “get me,” and my story isn’t good enough to show my agent yet, I have to push through the inadequacies I have real or imaginary. My work may not be perfect, but who better to show me how to improve it than my agent who wants me to succeed?

I might never be worthy of Dancing with the Stars, but I’m not quitting. And too bad if I have bent salsa knees, at least I’m on the dance floor!

 

 

What’s so Good about Good Friday?

There’s a lot of confusion about why today, the day Jesus was crucified two thousand years ago, is called Good Friday. But it’s really simple.

It was good for God to become flesh in Jesus and be crucified for our sins.

Good that He chose to die in our place.

Good that he took on sin and death so that we might have eternal life.

Good for us.

Good for humanity.

Will you embrace His goodness?

Reflect on that this weekend!

Easter Seder Part III

The Story of Passover

During this time Exodus 12:1-13 is read with brief comments and with the elements held up at the appropriate moment.

The Lamb Bone: The lamb was killed, its blood spread on the doorposts and lintel of the house to protect the home from the tenth plague, the slaying of the firstborn. God said He would pass over the house when He saw the blood.

Jesus, God’s first born, the Lamb of God, shed his blood for us so that death would pass us over.

The Unleavened Bread:
Dough was not given time to rise since the Hebrews had to be ready to leave quickly. No one knows the day or the hour Jesus will return. We must be ready to go when He comes.

The Second Cup: Cup of Plagues
“God poured our 10 plagues on Egypt, the last of which, the slaying of the first born, convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave the land.”

As Christian, let us recall the lives Jesus had delivered us from.
After this explanation the father invites he participants to recount these plagues. He reads each passage aloud; They repeat it and then dip a finger into the grape juice, letting a drop fall onto the place symbolizing the plagues.

“Now let us lift our cups and drink, thanking God that He not only delivered the nation of Israel from the plagues, but that through Jesus, He delivered us from the plague of sin which brings death that we all deserve.”

Here is a good place for everyone to go around the table and confess their sins to one another.

The Bitter Herbs
Each person places horseradish on a matzo and eats it, “This symbolizes the bitterness of Israel’s slavery and our slavery to sin.”

Eating of Caroseth
Each person places charoseth on a matzo and eats it, “This symbolizes the mortar that was used to make bricks by the Israelites.”

Eating the Egg
The father presents the roasted egg.

This” is a reminder of the Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70.” The egg is dipped in saltwater, the symbol of tears, and then eaten.

Eating of the Meal
At this point, the Jewish family eats a full meal.

Eating of Afikomen
This Greek word loosely translated means, after dinner. After dinner, the children hunt for the hidden matzo. Whoever finds the piece gets a token reward, maybe a coin or candy. When found, the Afikomen is broken and shared. Likely it was at this point that Jesus said, “This is my body given for you.”

Read Luke 22:19 and share communion: “During Jesus’ Last Supper, he took the bread and broke it saying this is my body, do this in remembrance of me.”

The Third Cup
“Exodus 6:6 says, ‘I will redeem you.’ Redemption means to buy out of slavery. The lamb sacrificed and offered on Passover was the price to deliver the nation of Israel from their sin. This third cup is what Jesus drank with his disciples as a symbol of his blood. He was saying I will redeem you.”

Read Matthew 26:27-32 and take communion

Searching for Elijah
“The Jewish people believe, according to Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 that Elijah will prepare the way for the Messiah. They are looking for the Messiah year after year, not recognizing that Jesus, the Messiah, has already come. Pray for the Jews and everyone else who does not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Here the children search for Jesus, and peeks out the door.
Father: Is he here?
Child: No, he is not here.
Father: Maybe next year Jesus will come. Maybe tomorrow. For no one knows the day or the hour He will come, so we should be ready for Him always.

The Fourth Cup of Praise
As everyone lifts this cup, the father quotes Exodus 6:7 “I will take you for my people. The Jewish nation looks forward to a golden age where everyone will be at peace. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus, eagerly wait for his return when He ill take us to Heaven.”

So with the Passover ceremony finished, everyone drinks the fourth cup proclaiming “”Even so Lord, com quickly Lord Jesus.”

Here are some fun ideas you might want to try with your family:

*When the plagues are read, pass our sunglasses for darkness, round band-aids painted green for boils, toy frogs and locusts, etc. They kids might not be the only ones to get a kick out of this part of the Seder.

*During the eating of the egg, you can play the “egg game.” Prepare an egg for each guest. After the father eats his egg, explain that whoever ends up with the unbroken egg is the winner and receives a small prize. Face the person sitting next to you and tap eggs end-to-end and point-to-point. Continue to play around the table until only one unbroken egg is declared the winner.

Easter Seder Part II

Yesterday I shared with you the beginning of the Christian Seder my family has during the Easter weekend. We try and have this on Good Friday to reminisce about the :Last Supper”, but sometimes we have it on Saturday. We reserve Sunday for a relaxing time of Church and casual dinner.Christian Seder continued

The Four Questions
At this point, the youngest child and the father interact to explain why Passover is celebrated. After asking the first stage setting questions, the child will ask four detailed one. (In our family, we share the questions among all the children.)

Child: Why is this night different from all other nights?

Father: Once we were slaves to our sin, like the Jews who were slaves in Egypt , but now we are free , and we set aside this night each year to remember the great things God did for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus, so that we might not perish and be slaves to sin, but so we might be free and have abundant life.

Child: On all other nights we eat either bread or matzo, but why on this night do we eat only matzo?

Father: Matzo reminds us of two things. There was no time for the Jews bread to rise when it was time to leave Egypt. This unleavened bread reminds us the Jews were delivered from slavery in Egypt, and were given new life. And we as Christian, were delivered from sin and also have new life.

Child: On all over nights we eat whatever vegetables we want, but why on this night, do we eat only bitter ones?

Father: We remember how bitter our sin was and the how bitter the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt was.

(Since our family doesn’t recline at the table, we skip this question and usually substitute it with a different one of our choosing)

Child: On all other nights we eat either sitting up or reclining, but why on this night do we all recline?

Father: Before we were slaves, but now we are able to recline and express the rest we enjoy as free people.

Here are some fun ideas you might want to try with your family:

*Conduct the first part of the Seder in the living reclining on homemade pillows with the names of your guests.

*Make up four questions centering on present day Israel
Why is the land different from other lands? Then pray for the peace of Israel and Jerusalem.

*Ask a fifth question for the Jewish children who died in the Holocaust and never got a chance to ask.

Family Friendly Easter Seder Part I

It’s snuck up on me again! The Easter Holiday season.

I just pulled out my Easter file and for the rest of the week I’ll be sharing with you our Easter traditions starting with a Christian Seder. We’ve shared the “The Last Supper” with our immediate family for the last couple of years, and although it hasn’t been a “sane” experience, I think we’ve been ironing out the less than kid friendly parts, and hopefully this year will bring a little more peace.

Im sure there are lots of ways to do a Christian Seder, but this is how our family does it. I’d love to hear if you do something similar and what yours looks like. Chrysalis has a great post on an easy Christian Seder.

Christian Seder

Come to the Table

At each place setting provide the following:

Parsley (2 sprigs)
Charoseth (1 Tb) Chopped apples, nuts, honey, cinnamon, and a touch of grape juice. (This is my families favorite!)
(4 servings, 3 oz each)
Saltwater (1 bowl per 4-5 people) Add enough salt to cloud the water
Horseradish (1.2 tsp, and as “biting” as possible)
Matzo (Plain, 1/4 square)
2 candles (white) and candlesticks in table center

At the leader’s place setting also provide:

1 bowl of saltwater
1 lamb bone (meatless and oven roasted until brown)
3 whole squares of matzo and 4 napkins (Matzos are stacked between the napkins on a plate)
1 roasted egg (boil for 10 minutes; then place under oven broiler until shell is brown)

An extra setting for “Elijah/Jesus—

Same as the “per person” setting with the exception that only one glass of juice is poured and left next to the plate. For the Jews, this symbolizes the future appearance of Elijah, who will signify the coming of Messiah. For Christians, it symbolizes the return of Christ.

The Passover Ceremony

Cleaning of Leaven
A few crumbs of leavened bread are dropped on the floor. The father or another male leader then sweeps them up as a symbol that the house is ready.

The Lighting of the Candles
The candles are lit by the mother who recites, “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us by Your commandments and has ordained that we kindle the Passover lights. Jesus you are the light of the world. Help our light shine out to those who do not know you.”

The First Cup: The Cup of Sanctification
The father lifts his cup and explains, “Sanctification means to be set apart. We are setting apart this ceremony as special to the Lord.”

The Jews remember Exodus 6:6a, “I will bring you out (set you apart) from under the burdens of the Egyptians. God performed miraculous deeds to free Israel from Egypt. As believers, God’s greatest miracle was the price God payed, death of His only son Jesus, to free us from the bondage of sin and death.”

Everyone drinks.

Washing of Hands

Here the father washes in a basin. “This is a reminder of the priest’s need to wash before the could go before God on behalf of Israel. As Jesus celebrated His last Passover with his disciples, John 13 records that he took a towel and washed their feet instead of washing his hands. He also said that we should do this to one another.”

Take wash cloths and each person washed the hands (or feet) or the person to their left.

Dipping the Parsley
Everyone dips his parsley, one sprig at a time, into the saltwater and then eats it.
“The first dip refers to the tears shed in slavery by Israelites. But we also recognize the tears we’ve shed while in slavery to sin, without forgiveness and freedom Jesus offers. The second dip refers to the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea and the miraculous deliverance of Israel as a result (Exodus 14:13-31). We also thank God for our miraculous deliverance from sin.”

Breaking of the Middle Matzo
The father takes the middle square of the 3 whole Matzos, breaks it in half, puts one half back and hides the other half where he wants. Everyone closes his eyes while this is done. The children will look for the hidden piece later.

“These three squares of Matzo represent the beautiful picture of the Trinity. The middle representing Jesus-broken and hidden away.”

There’s much more to the Seder, but I’ll save it for tomorrow’s post!!! Please come back and see how you can get your kids involved in this Christian Seder.

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