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Zero to 50K in 30 Days: An Ode to National Novel Writing Month

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerLadies and Gentlemen, start your novels!

Fifty thousand words. Thirty days. Sounds crazy, right? Especially when you write out the numbers like that. Yet every year, thousands and thousands of people rise to the challenge for National Novel Writing Month. A mad dash, mad cap (and yes, totally maddening) experience. Take it from me – someone who is 1,048 words into her second NaNoWriMo.

(That makes only 48,952 more to go, in case you’re counting.)

What makes (seemingly) normal people decide to take on such a challenge? There are a number of theories. Too much fluoride in the water. Not enough home cooked meals growing up. Microwaves. Monsanto. Exposure to Common Core math. One too many mimosas at brunch. Or, 10.

I can’t, of course, tell you why anyone else participates in NaNoWriMo. But I CAN tell you why I do. Because this 30/50K model was what finally gave me the courage to sit down and write a novel.

I have wanted to write fiction since I cracked the spine of my first Golden Book. A voracious reader from the second I could sound out Dick and Jane, I always felt I was born to write books of my own. Until, of course, I sat down to actually write one. Oh, I tried. And I had all the right ingredients, so to speak: plenty of great ideas, the ability to actually string sentences together, a highly overactive imagination… But I found I lacked two things: the discipline to keep my butt in the chair and belief in myself.

NaNoWriMo – well, the philosophy behind it – helped me accomplish the first part of that by both giving me a concrete word count goal and awakening my competitive spirit. The process was so much more amazing than I ever dreamed it would be. I actually found myself looking forward to writing each day because I couldn’t wait to see what happened with my characters next. It was like reading an amazing novel only FIFTY THOUSAND times better.

And by the time I typed THE END on that first novel, I had long since gotten over my doubts. I didn’t just believe I could do it, I knew I could. Because right there in my hot little hands was a manuscript with my name on it.

I mean, it was the novel equivalent of a steaming pile of horse dung, but that didn’t matter one bit. Because I did it. I wrote A NOVEL. And if I can write one, I can write more, and they’ll be even better.

As I tuck into this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m actually starting my third novel. And yes, one of these days I’ll actually take one past the first draft stage. Because I hear that’s when the fun REALLY begins – in rewrites.

Not.

That will have to wait until next month, though. Because right now, I have a novel to write. And if I’m going to make that deadline of midnight on November 30, I better dive back in. I still have 619 more words to write to meet my Day 1 word count. And I refuse to let myself get behind this early in the game.

How DO you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days? You sit your butt in the chair… and write.

And now, without further ado…

Let the novel writing commence!

Throwback Thursday: Fear Factor

TBTI decided to get into the Throw Back Thursday action this week, after a chance conversation revealed I am NOT the only person on the planet with a (completely rational!) fear of ladybugs. Please forgive me for the seasonally-inappropriate Christmas theme.

This piece was originally published as A Ladybug Christmas on The Evening Sun website, evesun.com.

Enjoy!

My coworkers and I trundled into work this morning, bleary eyed from all that Christmas cheer. After deadline we spent some time swapping tales of our all-to-brief holiday.

Theirs were spent either hopping from one house to another, or hosting a slew of friends and family for the Yuletide festivities. Though less hectic, mine was no less enjoyable.

With my siblings spread out across the East Coast (in New Hampshire, Tennessee and the Florida Keys), it was just me and my parents this year. It was the first one I’ve spent at home in entirely too long.

We opened presents in the morning, a process that was interrupted repeatedly by phone calls from other loved ones wishing us a merry holiday.

I love to watch people open gifts I’ve picked out for them. For me, finding that perfect gift is the best part of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting presents, too. And I think Santa was pretty good to me this year.

At least I thought so until I a gift my mother described as “the funny one.”

She told me this as I was fishing a non-descript white box out of a festive bag piled high with red and green tissue paper. Hmmm… Funny, I thought, what could she mean by that. My confusion grew when I opened the box to find what appeared to be a clear, hand-blown glass ornament. It was only after I turned the globe in my hand that I saw what my mother thought was so amusing.

The glass ball had one adornment: A crimson glass ladybug perched on verdant green leaf.

My mother thought this was hysterical, and was practically rolling on the floor. Me? Not so much. You see, I don’t like lady bugs. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say I’m scared to death of them.

Most people are afraid of things like spiders or snakes, flying maybe, or the color chartreuse. But not me. I can take all of those nasties in stride. But put a tiny little bug most people think of as cute in front of me and I start quaking in my boots.

My phobia dates back about ten years. I was living in Arlington, VA at the time, and had traveled up to visit my parents one weekend. I was exhausted when I arrived, and ended up falling asleep when I brought my bags upstairs. I woke a couple of hours later with a tickle in my ear. A tickle which turned into a buzzing.

When the incessant noise stopped for a moment, my wits returned. And I was able to connect the beastie driving me to the brink of insanity with the number of ladybugs I could now clearly see all over the window sill and bedside lamp.

Then it started buzzing again and all I could think about was the fact that I was at least 20 minutes away from medical attention and that I was going to lose my mind if I had to wait that long to get it out.

Luckily, my mother came to my rescue. Apparently, Stagnaro kids have a long history of getting things stuck in our ears. In the upper recesses of our king-sized medicine cabinet, she located the ear syringe she’d used to extricate a bean from my bother Ken’s aural cavity 20 or 30 years before. With it, she was able to drive the infernal lady bug from my ear and restore my sanity.

The experience basically scarred me forever. But, as evidenced by the ornament, the rest of my family finds it quite humorous.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough. We listened to some Christmas music, did some snowmobiling, and yes, finally watched A Christmas Story. (I did enjoy it, but I’m not sure I would classify it as life-changing, not in relation to my ladybug experience anyway.)

Because it was just the three of us, we decided to forgo our usual roast turkey and I roasted a loin of pork instead. It was a delicious ending to the day.

When I went to bed a little earlier than usual, my parents didn’t seem to notice. They thought I was worn out from the snowmobiling, but really I just wanted for a bit of peace and quiet. It may be a full year until Christmas comes around again, but I’ll need every bit of it to properly plot my ladybug revenge.

Like my holiday leftovers, it will be a dish better served cold.

Originally published on December 26, 2008 on evesun.com.

Boris and the Baby Spiders: Why I won’t be sleeping again…ever.

This is Boris. Not the Boris from tonight's adventure, but one I was on more civil terms with. He lived in our bathroom for a few months, before meeting an untimely end in the bath.

This is Boris. Not the Boris from tonight’s adventure, but one I was on more civil terms with. He lived in our bathroom for a few months, before meeting an untimely end in the bath.

I don’t like spiders. I don’t know many people who do, but I REALLY don’t like them.

However, I’ve made peace with their presence here in the Dominican Republic. As long as they are big enough for me to keep an eye on, aren’t too active in their movements and pull their weight around the house (i.e. do their part to decimate the mosquito population), we can peacefully co-exist.

I consider this position to be incredibly adult given my gut instinct is to shriek like a little girl. And did I mention the spiders I’m referring to are cane spiders. The smallest I’ve seen are the size of my palm. The SMALLEST.

And I’m willing to co-exist with them. Pretty bad ass, right?

Yeah. Not so much, as it turns out.

Earlier this evening, I spotted one of these cane spiders. We’ll call him Boris. Because Boris is a good name for a spider, and for my own sanity, I like to think all spiders are male. I should think the reasoning behind that is self-evident. It’s cute that they call baby spiders ‘spiderlings’ and all, but there is no place in my world for them.

This Boris was a little more active than I would have liked. He also appeared to be holding something. That thought made me uncomfortable, but I wrote it off as poor lighting. Because seriously, who’s ever heard of a spider carrying anything.

I was willing to keep to my peace agreement, but Boris made a fatal mistake. Rather than staying put on the wall, he scurried down to floor level. Which is when Frederica pounced.

She’s my new hero. And yes, she will be getting extra treats.

A female cane spider carrying around her egg sack. (Photo Cred: Maui.net)

A female cane spider carrying around her egg sack.
(Photo Cred: Maui.net)

After the brief flurry of activity was over, I noticed something on the floor. It was white and the size of a silver dollar only thicker, and sort of lumpy. With horror, I realized that Boris had really been a Bertha.

My first thought was to flush it as soon as I could, but Frederica was one step ahead of me.

I bent to give her a good scratch when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

I bent down to the wall to take a better look. That’s when I lost my mind.

I don’t know how many baby spiders escaped. And, for my sanity, I can’t even allow my mind to contemplate how many were in that sack. Thank goodness for Frederica. Because what if they’d hatched while I was holding it…

Ok, Melissa. Breathe.

There was NO WAY I was letting those little Boris’ run around…growing to be the size of my hand…procreating…

I used the only thing I had on hand – Deep Woods Off. Much to my relief, it stopped them in their tracks.

And now, I’m going to brew myself a pot of strong Dominican coffee. Because, as I have no idea how many more Baby Boris’ are running around out there, there’s no chance I’ll be sleeping tonight.

Or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Maybe sometime in mid-2017.

The Night Air

IMG_7047It was impossible for me to sleep on the plane. I tried, but despite my exhaustion, I was still too keyed up from the day’s drama. Which had started when we discovered our original flight was delayed and only intensified as we attempted to rebook our travel plans in a way that would allow my four travel companions and I to enjoy our much-needed Caribbean getaway.

We wouldn’t have made it without the intervention of the kindest woman on the planet – who happened to be a rep for a competing airline. With her help, we were booked on a flight that very evening. The only problem was we had to find our own way to JFK.

Nothing a pedal-to-the-metal dash from Syracuse to Queens – through Manhattan during rush hour – couldn’t solve. Well, along with a slew of frantic calls and messages to iron out all of the supporting details. Like how we were going to get to our final destination considering we were flying into a different airport and the best way to avoid the $30-a-day parking fee at JFK.

All that scrambling was worth it to know we weren’t going to have to scrap the entire adventure. Because NOTHING was going to stand between me and a rum-laded cocktail on the beach, damn it.

I don’t think I really started to breath again until we were on the ground in Santiago. We still weren’t yet at our destination – a small seaside town just east of Puerto Plata – but we were in the Dominican Republic at last.

The mindless trudge through the airport – clearing immigration and customs, retrieving our bags – is all a blur. As we waited for our rental car, I slipped out of my sweater and into a pair of sandals, and pushed through the double doors that separated us from tropical paradise.

Ostensibly I was looking for our taxi driver. (A necessity since there wasn’t a chance all five of us AND our luggage were going to fit in the modest rental we’d reserved.) But really, I just needed to take a moment to appreciate our journey thus far.

It was 2 a.m. local time, and the fronds on the parking lot palm trees hung limply in the still night air. I inhaled, filling my lungs with the thick, humid air. It tasted both foreign and familiar, bringing me back to the year I lived in South Florida.

My mind was on the drive ahead of us. The hour and a half it would take us to drive through the mountains to Costambar. And the two-weeks of much needed decompression before me. It was a welcome distraction from the career transition I was in.

I had no way of knowing how the trip would change my life in so many ways.IMG_7317

…How inexplicably drawn to this island I’d be.

…How it would become the setting for a whole new life, a chance to live out dreams I never dared admit I had.

…How our change of travel plans – which landed us in Santiago in the middle of the night rather than in the middle of the afternoon in Puerto Plata – would cause me to cross paths with my future husband.

I didn’t give him a secomd glance that night – the quiet, unassuming policeman who rode along with his former partner-turned-taxi driver. But the universe had big things planned.

Sometimes, I stand outside and fill my lungs with the night air. It’s laden with the same tropical overtones here in my new home, but also heavy with salt from the sea.

To me, it’s ripe with promise and tastes of untold stories, unforeseen adventures, true love…

and dreams come true.

Girly Girl

A rare photo of me wearing pants.

A rare photo of me wearing pants.

“I was just talking about you the other day…”

Hearing those words swelled my needy little ego almost to bursting, especially since they were uttered by one of the most popular girls in my high school graduating class. (Who cares if that graduation was already a distant memory!)

I hung on her words, anticipating what would come next. Praise for my journalistic efforts. Gushing adoration of my writing talent…

“…how I went to school with someone who wore dresses every day.”

Cue the unceremonious exit of wind from my sails.

I looked down at the skirt I was wearing, and my thoughts wandered to the preponderance of similar attire in my current wardrobe.

Even my Halloween costumes had skirts!

Even my Halloween costumes had skirts!

Until that moment, I’d actually forgotten – or perhaps blocked out is more accurate – that my mother had dressed me in dresses every day for most of my formative years. Throughout Pumpkin Shell Nursery School, and the four blissful years I spent being nurtured at the Oxford Primary School.

Well, nearly every day.

I vividly recall the first day I wore pants to school. No, they weren’t plaid, thank you very much. It was St. Patrick’s Day. And, for a reason known only to her, my mother chose that day to send me to school wearing jeans. The sole concession to the holiday was the green crayon on the otherwise blue t-shirt I had on. Never mind the fact that probably half of the dresses in my closet – yes, many of them plaid – were green.

I’d blocked all of that out – particularly those plaid dresses. But the stigma, apparently, lives on.

That conversation, and the near anxiety attack that ensued, took place about 6 years ago. I was working as a small town newspaper reporter, having just moved back to my hometown after ramming around the country for a bit. I’d lived and worked in New York City, South Florida and Western Colorado. I’d traveled and adventured in Europe, North America and one memorable foray into Asia. (China, to be exact.)

Yet here I was…still living down my reputation as The Girl Who Wore Dresses.

Do you know how hard it is to ride a Big Wheel in a dress?

Do you know how hard it is to ride a Big Wheel in a dress?

My tomboy soul let out a warrior cry of despair that quickly devolved into a pity party. Because here I was perpetuating the girly girl image I’d tried hard to outgrow.

For the record, I am not a girlie girl. Not that there’s anything wrong with being one. But in order to qualify, you have to meet certain requirements. Like both owning makeup and actually knowing how to use it. Getting your nails done on a regular basis. (And, no, once a decade doesn’t count.) We won’t even talk about the hair care products…

I’m a little too rough around the edges to qualify.

I own mascara, but there’s a good chance it has expired since the last time I wore it. I’m so bad with manicures that I actually had to get three the week of the wedding so I was photo-ready. My normal ‘pedicure’ involves slapping another layer of polish over the remnants of my last effort. My hair care routine consists of brushing it when I get out of the shower and giving it a good shake. (I do, however, wash my face now – thanks to Rodan + Fields!)
But despite all of that if you were to look in my closet today, you’d find…dresses. Lots of them. Conservatively, I’d say they make up…90 percent of my wardrobe. The very thought is exhausting... (Stolen off Facebook)Why? Because they are easy. And comfortable.

And I just really hate to wear pants.

I was thinking about that conversation, and the ripple of my mother’s insistence on dressing me in dresses for so many years, this morning. When I found myself perpetuating the cycle.

Andry’s daughter is staying with us right now, you see.

And she just looks so darn cute in dresses…

 

Follow me on Twitter… @MelissaStagnaro

I was pretty darn cute, though, you have to admit...

I was pretty darn cute, though, you have to admit…

 

America’s Health Care Crisis: A Project Chenango redux

Rebecca Sands Bliss won her insurance battle for the right to receive potentially life-saving cancer treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Her story was what inspired me to pen the Project Chenango installment on Health Care.

Rebecca Sands Bliss won her insurance battle for the right to receive potentially life-saving cancer treatment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Her story was what inspired me to pen the Project Chenango installment on Health Care.

For the last six weeks I’ve been exploring some of the biggest issues Chenango County. In doing so, my eyes have been opened – both to the extent of these challenges in my hometown and to how universal these issues truly are. Now I realize I could easily be writing about almost any community, in New York or elsewhere in the U.S.

The Evening Sun, the publication with which I’ve been collaborating on the 12-part Project Chenango series, has graciously decided to make these articles free to all readers. They, too, believe these pieces are relevant to a broader audience beyond their traditional readership.

I encourage you to read them if you haven’t already. And if one resonates with you, please share it to help broaden awareness of some of these important topics.

Over the next few weeks, I will be revisiting each of the articles in the series here on my personal blog. Doing so will give me a chance to share some of my personal thoughts on these topics, as well as additional information that either didn’t make it in to the original series, or that has come to my attention since it was published.

These Project Chenango Redux pieces will be in no particular order. But for this first piece, I’m going to revisit the most recent installment of the series.

So, without further ado, let’s talk a little bit about…Health Care.

(As always, opinions expressed here in this forum are my own. I welcome your thoughts and constructive feedback on these topics as well.)

Last night, I received a message via Facebook from Rebecca Sands Bliss, who allowed me to tell her compelling story in last week’s article.

Rebecca, for those of you who haven’t already read that piece, recently won a major battle with her insurance companies. Her reward? Receiving the potentially life-saving treatment she needs to beat the rare cancer she was diagnosed with earlier this year.

Her message last night, though, stopped me in my tracks. She’d met another person battling cancer whose treatment had also been delayed by her insurance, she told me via Facebook messenger. Only this person wasn’t as lucky as Rebecca. Because during the two months this woman was forced to wait, her cancer spread. It’s now terminal.

I was both outraged and heartbroken when I heard this. Honestly, I didn’t want or need further proof of how tragically flawed our healthcare system is.

There are brilliant scientists, doctors, nurses and other professionals all working to advance medical science – who have passion and drive to treat the whole person not just the disease. And then we have the other side of the equation: those who treat patients like a number, or a policy – not a person trying to get or stay well.

Health care reform is a difficult topic to discuss. Nothing raises the political hackles like this does, especially since you can’t talk about it without mentioning the Affordable Care Act.

I refuse to call it Obamacare because, quite honestly, I don’t want to see if your political aura tends toward red or blue. This is something we REALLY need to talk about and once it all goes bi-partisan, it’s too easy to miss the big picture.

This is more than a political football we’re talking about here, my friends. It’s peoples’ lives.

Rebecca’s story may seem like a one-off, an extreme case. But here we have another woman’s story that confirms it’s more than an aberration. How many other of those more than 500,000 new cancer cases a year experience something like this?

(More than HALF A MILLION PEOPLE diagnosed with cancer EACH YEAR. If that statistic doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will.)

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when we’re talking about the number people who are not being served well by changes made as a result of this mammoth piece of legislation. I mean, do you know anyone who has found affordable care as a result of the changes, or has easier access to care because of it? Perhaps they are out there. I’m not saying they aren’t. But this is what I’m hearing about:

Individuals and families who are drowning under ever-increasing premiums. Businesses making tough decisions about staffing as a result of their additional burden. People going without insurance because they can’t afford it. Yes, it’s a calculated risk, but they are banking on the fact that their out-of-pocket expenses plus whatever fine they may have to pay to the government will still be cheaper than the cheapest premiums they can find.

And let’s face it – those high-deductible health care plans? Useless if you can’t pay the deductible. (And see what they’re doing to small hospitals.)

The biggest myth of all is Medicare. Let me tell you, when I hear about seniors who need a part-time job after they retire just to cover their health care costs… Isn’t that a red flag? My mother pays close to $300 a month for her SUPPLEMENTAL insurance. She didn’t anticipate that expense when she and my dad saved for their retirement.

I’m not going to lie – one of my considerations when I decided to spend time in the Dominican Republic was the fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – focus on my writing – and continue to pay my COBRA. It went up to over $500 roughly a month after I accepted my severance package. Here I have pretty decent coverage for around $35 a month. Yes, I had to pay cash for the surgery I had this year, but it was still a fraction of what I would have paid in the US, between premiums, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. (And, yes, I received excellent care.)

It’s not the hospitals and providers that are to blame for all of this. They are victims of the debacle of a health care system just like the rest of us. You see a giant number on the bill sent to your insurance company or to Medicare, because they’re only getting reimbursed ‘pennies on the dollar.’ A direct quote from a hospital administrator in my article.

So who IS it benefiting? I’ll let you fill in that blank.

I’ll give you a hint, though: New York’s second largest industry may have something to do with it.

Now, if only we could stop shouting across the aisle long enough to do something about it.

Bird Droppings: Finding perspective when the unexpected threatens to steer you off course

Not a bad office view, if I do say so myself...

The view from my ‘office’ under the sea grape. Better than my last corporate gig, that’s for sure…

I’m having a bad week. Yes, I realize it’s only Tuesday and therefor a little early to make such a pronouncement. But it fits, believe me. I won’t regale you with the gory details. You don’t need to know, and quite frankly I don’t need to wallow in it, as tempting as wallowing can be. I’ve already given one of my besties an ear full. (Thanks for listening, Liz, and not judging me too harshly for it.)

It all started when a silly little bird took a poo on my laptop. Well, if I’m honest, it wasn’t the bird that was the problem. Nor the milky white substance that scored a direct hit on F10.

No. The problem was me. Because in the grand scheme of life, such an event is pretty laughable, right? It’s even enviable. Since the fact that this little bird even had the OPPORTUNITY to poop on my laptop is something I bet most workers in Corporate America can say is about their cubicle, or even their corner office.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

But my workplace is a little different. One of my ‘offices’ is under the gnarled  boughs of a mature sea grape. I often sit there in the morning, scribbling in a notebook or tapping away at my laptop in the shade of that beautiful tree, lulled by the symphony of the waves and twittering of birds.

It’s a beautiful spot to do what I love most…write.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

There are interruptions of course. The dogs vying for my attention. The occasional ripe sea grape falling on the table. A friend walking their dog on the narrow footpath that is really all that separates our borrowed back yard from the sea. The sirens call of another cup of dark, sweet Dominican coffee.

That whole bird thing, though. That was a first.

I’d rather NOT repeat it. But am I going to let it stop me from enjoying my favorite morning retreat. I feel it’s an acceptable level of risk. I mean, I’ve spent countless hours there and never encountered a bird with such precise aim.

I should be thankful that it wasn’t my head. Or something really important, like the RETURN key. That would have been difficult to live without. (Because, sorry F10, you’re dead to me now.)

Yes, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I’d rather dodge bird droppings all day than retreat to a ‘safer’ place like Corporate America.

It’s easy to let one little thing send us off the rails. But as my mother likes to

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

remind me: no one said it would be easy, just worth it.

That’s true of all the best things in life – the things worth working toward, worth holding on to. Like my life here in the Dominican Republic and my dreams and goals vis-a-vis my writing AND my new business.

I’m not about to let one obstacle, one challenge, derail my current path – because I know it’s the right one. And I won’t do myself the disservice of giving up on it.

Nor would I give the naysayers – yes, we all have those in our lives, even if they mean well – the satisfaction.

Sorry, little birdie, you just don’t have that kind of power over me.

Now, please excuse me, while I get back to work. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our reaction to it and our own actions. I know the way forward. It’s forward, one step at a time.

Although, first, I’m just going to disinfect this keyboard one more time…

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

My R+F Journey: Confessions of an unlikely skincare consultant

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Why, HELLO, sun damage...

Why, HELLO, sun damage…

My last name may be Italian, but my complexion is 100% Irish. Translation: the tropical sun is not my friend. As 40 approached, sun damage was all I saw every time I looked in the mirror. Because my skin is also sensitive – and my one attempt at erasing that damage a very painful failure – I resigned myself to living with those brown spots and freckles forever.

Then one day, I started to notice my friend Rosemarie’s posts about Rodan + Fields on Facebook. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I reached out to her.

Rosemarie told me her R+F story. Not only about how REVERSE had done what no other product had been able to do – get rid of her own brown spots – but also how the business opportunity was changing her life.

When we had that conversation, a light bulb went off for me. At the time, I was struggling to get my freelance writing career off the ground. Not only was it not taking off as strongly as I hoped, but it was also cutting into my personal writing time – the very thing it was meant to help me support.

Rosemarie’s story inspired me. But the kicker was when I discovered Liz, my best friend from college, was also interested in Rodan + Fields. Liz signed up for her own micro-franchise, and a week later, I did, too.

Let me say that I’m the LAST person you would expect to launch a skincare business. I’d splash some water on my face and consider myself good to go. The only thing I did remember to do on a quasi-regular basis was moisturize, but even that was sporadic at best. But that nonchalance was catching up with me, as evidenced by the aforementioned sun damage. Suddenly taking care of my skin seemed important.

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

When I received my REVERSE regimen in the mail, I was nervous about trying it for the first time. But as soon as I did, I fell in love.

Because of my sensitivity, I eased into it – using it every 2 to 3 days to start and gradually building up to daily use. Because of this, I expected my results to be gradual. But almost immediately, I started noticing subtle changes in the tone and texture of my skin. And as my freckles and brown spots slowly fade away, I’m loving my brighter and more even complexion.

My favorite part about this opportunity? I don’t need to SELL anything. My ‘job’ is simply to share my story and my passion for these products and this business. And that’s pretty easy when you truly believe in the brand. After all, it’s what sold me.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field's business model.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field’s business model.

Sure, I looked at the business model, the product philosophy, the compensation structure, the recognition the company’s received, the media impressions and the overall size of the anti-aging market. And let’s face it: the opportunity to partner with Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, the Stanford-trained dermatologists who brought Proactiv to market, IS pretty exciting… But what sold me was Rosemarie’s story. Her results. Her success. Her passion.

Yes, it’s true what they say about Rodan + Fields changing skin and changing lives. I know, because less than three months into the business, it’s already changing mine.

Are you ready to start your R+F Journey?

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life!

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life! (The crows feet are next on my hit list. Lucky me, we have a Multi-Function Eye Cream for that!)

Dotting our I Do’s: Why Two Anniversaries Are Better Than One

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Andry and I tied the knot last Friday. Yes, I know, I know. I’ve said that before. The first time around was pledging our love and lives to one another in front of our family, friends and God. This time around was about getting the paperwork in order.

IMG_8693We chose May 9th as our wedding date because of its special significance. It is, as many of you know, my parents anniversary. It would have been their 56th, in fact. And I felt so blessed that my mother was willing to share it with us. I was blessed, too, that she and some of my dearest friends and family were willing to make the trip to my impromptu wedding despite the short notice, distance and expense.

So you can imagine my distress when I realized, only a few days before our wedding day, that there was a paperwork issue. Actually, there had been several, but we thought we’d worked them all out. But we hadn’t. We’d left one thing in the hands of the lawyer who had been helping us, and as it turned out, he didn’t fully understand what was necessary either. Only rather than telling us that… well, it’s a moot point now. Suffice it to say anyone that has dealt with the apostille process has probably felt our pain.

IMG_8692Mumsy talked me down from my mini-meltdown. She reminded me that a marriage wasn’t about paperwork, it was about our love and commitment to one another. She was right, of course. And we on May 9, we pledged ourselves to one another. It was a small ceremony on a beautiful stretch of beach. We were surrounded by the most important people in our lives, and the two random kids with beach towel capes that are in practically every wedding picture.

After the wedding, I set to work getting our paperwork problem sorted out. This was no small feat given the fact that I was in the Dominican Republic, and everything I needed to do was in New York. But thanks to some exceptional friends – most notably Nancy Brienza Duffy who ran around Manhattan for me and then hand delivered my documents to me here in the DR – we got it done.

Of course, there was still some legwork – translations and other documents

Andry's partner, Martinez, stepped up as our padrino.

Andry’s partner, Martinez, stepped up as our padrino.

that needed to be executed – on this end. Which we put in the hands of yet another lawyer. This one delivered, but on a slightly longer timeline than we had expected. It was starting to seem like our civil ceremony was NEVER going to happen.

And then last Friday, Andry called me. He was in Puerto Plata running some errands and had stopped to see the lawyer.

“How about 4 o’clock?” he asked me.

“Umm, today?” I stammered.

It crossed my mind to say no. To ask if they had any openings next week. I needed more time. We’d never be able to round up our padrinos (best man and maid of honor) in time. Could I get my nails done before 4? And there were my roots to think about!

But then I realized how silly I was being. After all, we’d already waited for months. And if there is anything life has taught me, it’s that you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. So I said the same thing I said the first time he asked me to marry him.

Yes.

 

Affectionately yours,

Señora de Gomez

It's official

It’s official

Andry Bismal Gomez Amarante

y Melissa Stagnaro

May 9, 2015 & August 21, 2015

Our padrinos, Martinez and his wife Rabelis, and our stand-in photographer, Jordy Brito.

Our padrinos, Martinez and his wife Rabelis, and our stand-in photographer, Jordy Brito.

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Late summer/early fall is one of my favorite times of the year in Central New York.

Late summer/early fall is one of my favorite times of the year in Central New York.

We received the less-than-optimal news yesterday that Andry will need surgery on his knee. Apparently he had a fracture without realizing it, and now there’s a piece of his kneecap floating around wreaking havoc.

The patient.

The patient.

Or something like that, anyway. When it comes to all things medical, I’m even worse at it in Spanish than I am in English. Which is really saying something.

I hate seeing my love in pain, and with my own surgery still fresh in my mind, I’m nervous for him. Even though I have to believe he will be in good hands, and that once he’s all healed up he’ll no longer be in the debilitating pain he’s in right now. So, positive thoughts!

It’s not just the fact that Andry’s hurting that has me down. To put it frankly, the timing of it stinks. Because it means we’ll have to put off the long-awaited trip/delayed honeymoon we were planning for this fall. I know, in the scheme of things, the trip is inconsequential in comparison to surgery. It’s just that we were both really excited for what would have been Andry’s first trip to the US and an opportunity for him to meet more of the crazy cast of characters in my life – family and otherwise.

What I was looking forward to most, though, was the chance to show him where I grew up. To introduce him to the 152-acres that raised me as much as my parents did, and to the house where I grew up. Because I truly was bringing him home.

A picture perfect summer day in Chenango County.

A picture perfect summer day in Chenango County.

We’ll get there eventually, I know. But I’m still disappointed. I’ve been getting a bit nostalgic for those familiar rolling hills of late, as another gorgeous Central New York summer passes by without me there to experience it first hand.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote while living in Western Colorado. It was an anniversary present for my parents. But in the writing of it, I realized where my heart truly was. And it wasn’t in that junction between the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains and the High Plains Desert. I moved back to Chenango County less than a year later.

I’m not in the same situation today. I absolutely love my life in the Dominican Republic. But that doesn’t mean a part of me doesn’t miss Home.

 


 

 

HOME

 

I miss

the scent of the fields in summer,

newly cut hay

and tiny wild strawberries

baking in the sun.

 

I miss

the wild iris

blooming

in the high grass of the pasture.

The forty-watt glow of lightning bugs

dancing at dusk.

 

I miss

fingers of rain

tapping me to sleep

on the panes of glass above my head,

the silence of night

broken

by an unexpected storm.

 

I miss

the spearmint taste

of water from the spring.

The roar of water

rushing in the creek.

 

I miss

spider webs

glistening

with heavy morning dew

on lilacs

long grown from bushes into trees.

 

I miss

the cool stillness of the woods

soft pine needles

cushioning my feet,

near the Indian well.

The snort of a buck

startled from the brush.

 

I miss

the scarred trunks of shagbark hickory

standing tall at the tree line,

flanked by walls of stone picked

from a hundred years of fresh-plowed fields.

 

I miss

sitting on the stone patio

with the long shadows of late afternoon,

cup of tea in hand.

I miss Home.

© 2007 Melissa Stagnaro

This is Home.

This is Home.