This One’s for Stefani

It’s no secret that my favorite band of all time is Bon Jovi.  From the time they first started out of the gate in 1984, I was hooked.  A few years later, when I was a teenager, I had the awesome opportunity to meet them at a softball game they played against a local radio station.  I was asked by Alec, the bass player at the time, to go back to the hotel and party with the band.  Like an idiot, I was in love with the man that would eventually become my abusive ex-husband, and I didn’t want to risk losing him, so I didn’t go.   I still kick myself over that stupid choice to this day.

Bon Jovi’s Autographs

A couple of years after that, I was pregnant with my daughter, Stefani.  The lovely boyfriend who was her father, wanted nothing to do with me or our child from about five minutes after I told him I was pregnant.  (Let’s note here that I still went and married him a couple of years later, like a fool.  I also still kick myself over that stupid choice to this day as well.)  He left me for a fifteen-year old girl and actually got her pregnant while I was pregnant with his daughter.  (This was not the first nor the last time that he felt it his duty to procreate the earth while he was with me while I stupidly stayed faithful to him for years upon years.  But I digress.)

Anyway, three and a half weeks before my daughter Stefani was born, Bon Jovi was coming to my town.  This time, they were the headliner and their opening act was Skid Row.  I liked Skid Row, but I still LOVED Bon Jovi.  A friend worked at the venue where they were to perform and offered me tickets, but I didn’t think it would be such a good idea to go being pregnant.

Also, while I was pregnant, as I mentioned in my earlier post, because I was so sick, I had to quit working until two weeks after Stefani was born.  And because her dad left me, I had no choice but to live with my Grandma again.  But Grandma was a very proud and old-fashioned woman, not to mention controlling.  As such, I was not allowed to leave the house during the day so that neighbors wouldn’t see that I was pregnant and know that I was unmarried.  I was not allowed to wear maternity clothes for the same reason.  And she had a ready-made story made up about me being married and my husband working out of town or some other such nonsense in case anyone happened to see me and question her.  I’m sure she clearly envisioned the day someone would walk up to her and say, “So, Toby, I hear your granddaughter is a whore who gave birth to a bastard child.  What were you thinking when you raised her to be so horrible?”  (Yes, really.  That was the epitome of my childhood, hence my book What Would the Neighbors Think?)  Of course, she never did have any idea that her rigid rules are what likely caused me to “get out of hand” as well as cling to the first guy who came along and said he loved me despite how badly he treated me, as I was just looking for some freedom.  But again, I digress.

So, a few days before Bon Jovi came to town, I had a dream that I got to meet Jon Bon Jovi again and that I was in a tour bus partying with him as well as a couple of members of Def Leppard who I used to like before Bon Jovi came out, (but unlike Bon Jovi, I was long since over Def Leppard).  It was a nice dream, but I didn’t think much more about it.

The day of the concert, two of my friends called me and asked me again if I wanted to go to the concert.  Of course I wanted to, but I just didn’t think it was a good idea, so I told them no.  Then they suggested that we go and hang out behind then venue.  We could still hear the show and perhaps we could see the bands arrive and go in the back.  That sounded like a lot more fun than all the puking I’d been doing for the previous eight months, so that’s what we did.  I wore my black spandex, a black t-shirt and black boots and my hair was sufficiently big.  Because I was so sickly during my pregnancy, I was “nothing but baby,” and from the back, one couldn’t even tell I was pregnant.  I was excited!

As we hung around the backdoor, there were about fifteen other girls and a couple of guys hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the bands.  An hour or so after we got there, a limousine pulled up and actually drove through the backdoor.  As it slowly drove past us, I was closest to the door.  The window went down and Jon Bon Jovi pointed at me out the window and grinned.  (Which I’m sure was only because I was so pregnant , but I didn’t care why…  I was just thrilled!)

I was on Cloud Nine!  My head turned as I continued to watch the limo drive past.  But the next thing I knew, someone gently grabbed my baby belly and said, “Is this mine?”

I didn’t even think.  I turned and smacked the guy across the face.  Hard.  At that moment, all of the other girls there scowled at ran toward me and one of the guards had to push them back.  It was not until that moment that I realized that the person I slapped was none other than Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of Skid Row!  (Yes, really!)

Sebastian Bach

My two friends turned to me and simultaneously said, “You just slapped Sebastian Bach!”  Then one said, “He thought you were pregnant with his baby!”  (Yes, I knew he was only kidding, but it was still flattering just the same.) By then all the members of Skid Row walked past us through the backdoor, and they stared at me as they passed, I’m sure because any other girl would have welcomed the opportunity to converse with Sebastian!

I felt so stupid!  Once again, that was a kick-myself moment that I wish I could go back in time and do differently!

Def Leppard’s Rick Allen

The other girls kept glaring at me and whispering about me, which made me very uncomfortable.  So, my friends and I went to Skid Row’s bus and talked the bus driver into letting us on.  (I’m sure my being pregnant helped.)  There was a cool sticker in the front just past the driver, that said “Get Bach!” (as in Get Back!)  The driver talked with us for a couple of minutes then we had to get off the bus, but it was fun just being there.  And when we stepped off, we walked over to a different bus only to find none other than Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard!  He was there just as a guest.  We got his autograph and talked to him for quite a while and he was super nice.   (And again, I think my being pregnant helped keep him talking for so long.)

So though my dream prediction was a bit skewed, it was still a fun time, sans the slapping of Mr. Bach.  It was definitely freaky that Rick Allen was there after I randomly dreamed that I’d party with Def Leppard.  And to this day, since Stefani’s father is such a piece of work, she and I always joke that Sebastian Bach is her “real” father.

Time to talk:  What’s your favorite song by either Bon Jovi, Skid Row or Def Leppard?  Would you go to a concert while pregnant?  Would you ever worry so much about what your neighbors thought that you’d make your daughter pretend she was not pregnant?

Happy Birthday, Stefani!

Today, October 21, 2014, my daughter, Stefani turns twenty-five years old. 

When I was pregnant with her, I had severe hyperemesis and I was constantly in the hospital getting IV’s for my dehydration and shots for my nausea.  Even water made me puke.  I lost close to thirty pounds during the course of my pregnancy, so I was very happy when she came out weighing a healthy seven pounds.

I had three jobs at the time, one at a fro-yo store, one at a child care center and one at Busch Gardens driving the monorail.  I eventually had to give up all three jobs because I was so sick.

I also had Braxton-Hicks contractions from nearly the time she was conceived.  Literally.  Actually, all women have them through the course of their pregnancy, but I felt them.  As such, by the time I was about eight months along, I had several occasions of going to the hospital with false labor.

I lived with my grandma and she didn’t drive.  My birth mom lived about 20 miles across town and it took about forty-five minutes to pick me up, then another forty-five to get to the hospital.  So after a few times of my going in the hospital and not having a baby, she got aggravated and stopped coming when I called.  Stefani’s dad was already involved with someone else at that point and didn’t want to be bothered with us.

So, on October 21, 1989, I woke up with the worst stomachache ever (though it didn’t yet feel like contractions).  Just the night before, I was walking in the dark and fell off a steep curb that was wet, and I was petrified that something was wrong because of that.

I managed to drive myself to Stefani’s dad’s aunt’s house and she drove me to the hospital.  The hospital we went to was so small, that Stefani was the only baby there!  In fact, the nurses took her with them into the lounge and watched the World Series with her!

I had an epidural, but it turned out that I was one of those rare cases that despite the procedure, the epidural never took.  In fact, the hospital called the guy back out (from his spot at home where he was watching the World Series) to give me another one three different times, but none of them worked.

Ideally, after an epidural, you should not be able to feel your lower extremities, walk or even move your legs, and you should only feel pressure.  That was never the case with me.  Immediately after giving birth, I stood and walked to my other bed and never once felt numb.

Not only did I feel everything, but I was apparently also a rare case who goes from being one centimeter dilated to ten centimeters dilated in less than an hour.  Some people think this must be easier because the labor is shorter, but that’s not the case with me.  Not only is it like one long contraction with no break in between, but I am also the freakishly weird woman who never wants to push.  Ever.

Many women have to be told not to push, but that was not the case with me.  You could have given me a million dollars and the last thing I would have done would have been to push that baby out.  So for having arrived at the hospital shortly after 11:00 that morning, being ready to deliver shortly after noon, my daughter was still not born until 6:35 that night because I just didn’t want to push.

Furthermore, my water never broke, so the doctor had to do it manually.  If you’ve never had this done, it is done with an instrument that looks like a yellow crochet needle with a sharp hook and it’s about seventeen feet long.  It’s actually only about twelve inches long, but when he whipped that thing out and came at me with it, it sure looked like it was seventeen feet long!  So because my water never broke naturally, I got to experience the agony of a dry birth.  Lovely.

(To the other moms out there who are reading this, you have to know I’m laughing as I write.  Yes, it truly was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, but I’d definitely do it all over again.  However, you ladies know that once we give birth, we become part of an exclusive club where it’s not only our privilege but our duty to tell everyone else just how excruciating the experience was.)

Stefani was born with long, curly hair, and in fact, she had so much hair that after the World Series was over, the nurses played “beauty salon” with her and tied a bow in it.  As a matter of fact, during the six hours that her head was crowned, the labor and delivery nurse called everyone she could find throughout the entire hospital to come see how long her hair was.  Seriously.  Of course that’s just what every teenage girl wants… to be spread eagle with a bunch of strangers passing through to look at her privates and comment about what’s sticking out!  I mean, anyone going through childbirth loses all sense of modesty by the time it’s over with, but come on!  I should have charged admission!  If nothing else, it did teach me a lesson about birth control.

I named Stefani after the song “Stephanie” by none other than The Partridge Family, though on the show, it was performed by both Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy.

So, in conclusion, today, October 21, 2014, my daughter, Stefani turns twenty-five years old.  Yes, that’s right, Stefani, you have been on this earth for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.  That’s a QUARTER OF A CENTURY!  You’re TOO OLD to try out for The Real World.  You are TOO OLD to fit into the “18-24” demographic.  So, my darling daughter, do not call me old again, because it’s better than the alternative.  And besides, now you’re finally catching up to me.  Some cool things about being your age?  You’re finally old enough to be elected into the United States House of Representatives.  You can now rent a car.  And the best one?  You’re now twenty-five years wise.  Just think of all the things you thought you knew when you turned eighteen.

I love you, Pookie, with all my heart!  I hope you have an amazing day and a blessed year!  Happy Birthday, Gooberina!


Love, Mama Short Stack ;)

No Mo’ Betssss!

Last month when the theme was games, we discussed one of my casino experiences.  I always love when the croupier says, “No mo’ betssss.”  It literally makes me giggle each time.

The first time my sister and I were going to be going to a casino to see some of our band friends play a concert there, Uncle Charlie took me out on the gambling boat to teach me how to gamble.  He told me to stay away from slots, and then explained other games such as craps, blackjack, poker and roulette.  My granddaddy had taught me craps and blackjack when I was little, and my birth mom taught me poker when I was eleven.  But I just didn’t care for those games.  I mean, I liked them fine for playing at home, but watching them in a casino, I didn’t like the way you have to interact so much with the dealer or croupier.

But the roulette wheel called me.  I liked the odds and more than that, I liked the “feel” of standing near it or the energy I felt when I did.

Uncle Charlie generally flew to Biloxi, Mississippi about once a month and gambled a few hundred dollars (or more) which he could comfortably afford to play with.  His game was poker and he won far more often than he lost.  But he wasn’t much of a roulette fan.

Anyway, as he played blackjack and was showing me what to do, I wandered away to watch roulette.  If you’ve never been to a casino, there is a wheel that has 38 slots and is numbered 00, then 0 to 36 in non-sequential order.  You can bet on red or black or a certain number or odd or even, and the payout amount varies depending on what you bet.  If you bet $1 on a number and it hits, you get $35.  If you bet $1 on red or black only and it hits, you just win $1.  Then you can also bet on the line between two or four numbers and the payout is split in two or four and so forth.  And behind the wheel is an electronic board that shows what number hits.

I stood there just watching, mesmerized for about ten minutes before Uncle Charlie found me.  When he stood beside me, I started telling him the numbers that would hit next.  I got them right more than ten times in a row.  Other people started listening and placing bets based on what I was saying.  But then Uncle Charlie asked me what was next.  And before I could answer, he took $100 out of his pocket and said he was going to bet that on whatever I said and if it won, he’d give me half.

My whole chest tightened up!  To him $100 was pocket change, but to me, that was a lot of money.  A LOT!  I choked.  I couldn’t do to.  I walked away without telling him a number.  He got a little aggravated and followed me and tried to get me to come back.

I finally returned, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him a number.  I didn’t want to be responsible for him losing that hundred dollars.  Finally, he placed a bet on his own.  He bet all of it on 21.  And as soon as the croupier spun the wheel, I looked at Uncle Charlie and told him “It’s gonna be 33.”  And it was 33.  And Uncle Charlie was a bit upset with me to say the least.

I never went gambling with Uncle Charlie again after that.  But I have been several times with my sister, Michelle, and my best friend, Lora.  We are not as willing to part with $100 as Uncle Charlie.  So when I’ve been with Lora, she usually bets about $20 at a time.  That’s a little easier to swallow if I’m wrong.

However, what usually happens with Lora is that she wants to divide her bet.  So she’ll ask me for five numbers and I’ll give her five.  Then she’ll put her money on five sets of four corners which only include one of the numbers I selected.  So her four numbers usually lose, mine one number usually wins, however, because she has it on a four corner, the payout is only $8 to $1 and since she loses on her four numbers, she goes through her money quickly and we’re done.

When I go with Michelle, she’s excessively cheap, so she gets more entertainment out of watching me call the numbers that strangers hit rather than putting any money on the table herself.  So we usually walk away about $50 to $75 ahead because we’re too afraid to risk much more than a few bucks.

I don’t get them right every time, but I find that I get a much higher instance of right “guesses” when no one is depending on me to tell them how to play their money.

Time to talk:  Do you believe in E.S.P.?  Do you have it yourself?  How often do you just know something such as who is on the phone before you answer?

Author Interview – James McAllen

A while back when I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them, I was elated with the responses I received.  (And if you would like to participate, please feel free to contact me.)  I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted.  My friend and fellow-blogger, James McAllen, had some very interesting responses which I’m sure you will find as fascinating as I did.  When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his blog and make sure you follow him for more news.  And now, heeeeere’s James…



1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

James McAllen –   I was born and raised in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn NY. After failing as a baseball player, rock singer, Shakespearean actor and masked superhero, I decided to try my hand at writing. My first screenplay, Three of a Kind, was a semi-finalist in the 2004 Project Greenlight contest. Split Rock Road is my first published collection of short stories.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

3. How many books have you written?

I’ve self-published a collection of short stories titled – Split Rock Road.

4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?

In High School, we had a teacher named Mrs. Bogash who made us write in a journal every day. I’ve been writing ever since.

6. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I look at all creative efforts as extension of who I am, and who I want to be. There are many things that inspire me to write; books, movies, songs, sunsets, but being a writer is just part of who I am.

7. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Hemingway is my favorite author. Everyone should read “The Old Man and the Sea” over and over again. I also love Jack London, John Irving and John Updike. David Halberstam is my favorite non-fiction author.

8. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?

Although I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs and newspapers online, books were meant to be read the old fashioned way; sitting in a comfortable chair with a physical book.

9. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I alternate with tenses and p.o.v. I let the story tell the story. The muse usually decides.

10. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I go on reading “jags”, where I’ll read four or five books in a row and then take a break. The same goes for movies.

11. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?

I usually read somewhere between 10-15 books a year. I try to confine myself to one at a time, but I sometimes find myself reading a novel and a biography simultaneously.



12. What is the title of your current work in progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

The current project is titled, Under an august moon. The story centers around two characters; a recently released convict who struggles to put his life together, and an alcoholic priest who struggles with his faith.

13. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre

The goal of this book is to write a literary novel. There is no sub-genre, per se, but it does contain some elements of a crime novel, or a mystery.

14. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

I met a man whose mother died on 9/11, but of natural causes, hours before the attacks. I used that as a starting point for my character. He resents the attention giving to the victims of the attack, and eventually lies about his mother’s death, sending him down a regrettable path.

15. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

The story is for adults, but I don’t have a target group as far as gender or demographic. I’m not that clever when it comes to marketing.



16. How often do you write?

When I’m writing, I write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes, but there are stretches where I don’t write anything but my blog for weeks at a time.

17. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Jack London set a daily goal of 1000 words. That was handwritten. I try and shoot for 1500, but I don’t punish myself if the muse isn’t cooperating.

18. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

Both.  I edit as I go, then I let my girlfriend do a round of corrections before I send it out to a professional editor.

19. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I’ve written several screenplays, and they were written as an outline first, then scene by scene. My first book was a short story collection, so each was written independently.  August Moon, has a non-linear structure, so it jumps all over the place, according to how I feel at the given moment.

20. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

Ah, the fickle muse. The muse comes in many shapes and sizes, all of which are feminine in nature. In some ways, the pursuit of art is like the pursuit of love. It is a courtship. All artistic endeavors, be it writing or painting or music, are simply attempts to make the muse happy, so she will come back to inspire you once again.

21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

I’ll let you know when I finish this one, but Split Rock Road was complied over several years, although the bulk of the stories were written in one year.

22. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

Character names are really tough, as I have a tendency to use the same ones over and over. For male characters, for some reason I find myself using “J” names; Justin, James, Jake, etc. I have to make a conscious effort to change the name. For streets, or businesses, I often pick up a random book and point to a word on a page. Usually, I can find something interesting that way.

23. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

I find notes helpful at times, but I also find myself using them as a stalling tactic. I’ll compile 30 or 40 pages of notes, just to avoid actually writing. You can never write bad notes, but you can write a LOT of bad sentences before you find one that works.

24. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?

No, on the contrary, my writing suffers from too much time spent at work and commuting. Maybe I can crowd-source a years’ salary to assist in my next book.

25. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I like to read the dialogue out loud, in different voices, just to hear if it sounds authentic. On occasion, my landlord will ask me who I was talking to.



26. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

I spent the first few years writing screenplays, then switched to short stories, so this is my first attempt at a novel.

 27. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

A piece of me lives in every character, so I get to be them every day.


Thank you, James, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.


I Wish I Could Take This One Back!

Sometimes, I have gut feelings that pan out and I wish they wouldn’t.  I’ve actually had several of these about my kids that if you knew the whole story, you’d realize it’s more than just “mother’s intuition.”  They are things that are completely out of left field and a person should never suspect those things about another person.  But unfortunately, I can’t share those with you because I don’t think my kids would ever speak to me again if I did.

I thought about using creative license and merely changing their names, but if I did that, it would be completely bizarre that I would have those gut feelings about someone that I was not as close to as my kids, and again it would be weird.

So, unfortunately those are all off limits during my “Goosebumps” theme this month.  However, for Today’s Throwback Thursday, there is another instance of me saying something out loud, only to later wish I could take it back…

In late June 2005, my sister and I were driving somewhere several hours away.  She started to fall asleep (which I hate!) so I bugged her to stay awake while I drove.  Finally, she asked me to make up a story and tell her so she could focus on something and wake up.

So, I thought about it and though I don’t know why I was compelled to tell this story, I made up a tale about a woman who was in London on The Tube with two of her children, and suddenly the subway tunnel filled with water as a bomb went off, then another, then another.

The woman and her kids ended up being saved by an older teenage boy who had black and blue hair, tattoos and multiple piercings, but not until hours later, at which time there was one more explosion elsewhere.  The explosions happened early in the morning and she was on her way home to Italy during rush hour traffic that morning.

Just a little more than a week later, on July 7, 2005, I woke to the news of London being bombed by terrorists!  Three bombs went off on underground trains killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.  Later, a fourth bomb went off on a double-decker bus.

Of course, there was no mention of the tunnel filling with water, nor do I have any way of knowing if an Italian woman with two children was saved by a teenage boy, but how odd that my story about three bombs going off in London’s underground and one later elsewhere came to pass.

Talk to me:  Have you ever said something in passing and later it came true?  Have I succeeded in giving you goosebumps yet this month?

Read a Book, Save a Life

Today’s story did not happen to me.  In fact, I wasn’t even alive when it happened.  But it did happen to a woman I know, a friend of my sister’s actually.  And every time I hear this story, I get goosebumps.

Rita* was a little girl who loved to read.  She had four younger siblings and her dad worked out of town a lot, so when he was gone, Rita was expected to help her mom with the housework and the kids.

On this particular day, Rita’s library books were due and she told her mom she was going to return them after school.

Her mom scowled.  “Rita, Daddy’s gone and I need your help.  Whatever you do, do not stay at the library!  Just return the books and come straight home.”

Rita got out of school at 3:00.  Even stopping at the library, she should have been home by no later than 3:30.

By 4:30, Rita’s mom was livid.  Normally, when Rita stayed too long at the library, her mom phoned the library and asked the librarian to send her home.  If she ever went to go get her, she typically left the other four kids at home, drove to the library and right back home.

But this day, Rita’s mom was so upset, she decided to load all four kids in the car and go to the library.  She planned to cause a scene and embarrass Rita for being so disobedient.  That’s exactly what she did, too.  She went to the library, unloaded all the kids, marched inside, ignored the signs to be quiet, and chewed Rita out in front of everyone.

Of course, Rita cried and the librarian tried to get everyone to be quiet.  So the family left and went back home.  Only when they got home, their house was not there!  Neighbors were all standing outside and fire trucks had the street blocked off.  Rita’s house was on fire!

As it turned out, about five minutes after Mom left, neighbors said the house actually exploded.  Firemen said later that the explosion was caused by a gas leak and if anyone would have been in the house, they would have surely died.  After that, Rita never got in trouble for reading again.

(As an interesting side note, Rita later married a man who, when he was a child, he and his family were at the city pool when his house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.  He didn’t even have shoes when he got home and realized nothing was left.)

(*Not her actual name)

Talk to me: Have you ever known anyone whose house burned down?  Have you ever been in the wrong place at the right time and found out later it was a good thing you were there?