Remembering Selden, N.Y.

Norton Dare House, Selden, NY

Throughout the time I attended Bicycle Path Elementary School in Selden, from 3rd to 6th grade, my school bus would pass by a well-worn, two-story greying farmhouse with a front porch and bay window, and a massive old tree stretching its limbs wide, nearly covering the entire yard.
Each day I would scrutinize the home as my bus lumbered by, and look for life in the darkened windows, wondering who had lived there, where did they go, and how old the house really was. I guessed hundreds of years. It looked like a house that had seen a lot of love and a lot of life. I imagined the fields once lush with corn or wheat. I swore I saw a swing hanging from the oak tree limb. I pictured children running and shrieking in the front yard, playing tag or jump rope, or whatever games they played back in their day.
It was one of the last large parcels of land on that part of the main road. It was bordered by Dare Road on the west side, and a huge lot on the east side.
Today the house is gone. The massive tree is gone, and a Walgreens and parking lot has sprouted where the field once grew wild. But the property where the house stood is untouched, a green lawn and trees and bushes neatly maintained, according to a Google Maps image.
I’ve been looking for photos of this house for a long time. I didn’t remember that it had a name. I was just searching “vintage photos old Selden buildings,” or similar wordings. I even took a screen shot of the Google map image of the parcel about two weeks ago.
Then the other night a photo and post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed of an old house in Selden. THE VERY SAME HOUSE I’d been searching for all these years.
This is a big deal to me. As my husband David said, it’s like the Universe is lining everything up for me.
On April 24, my book Ten Bucks and a Wish will be released on Amazon.com. The story tells a tale of letting go of the past to make way for the future, and at the core of this tale is this very house that once stood on the corner of Dare Road and Middle Country Road, the Norton-Dare House. In the book, it is called Drake’s Farm. And it is located in the fictitious town of Olde Westfield, not Selden, in the Town of Brookville, not Brookhaven.
And (in the book) the adjacent acreage known as the property belonging to the McCords, honors the memory of a parcel of land that once stood thick with trees and vegetation on the corner of Boyle Road and Middle Country Road. That parcel actually had a burial ground on it, and an old house and well that I explored in my younger days. Today it is a huge shopping center that the community fought hard against. But with the plaza came jobs and progress and entertainment, and new memories for people living there.
At one point in its history, Selden was named Westfield. But that changed in the mid-1800s with the arrival of an official post office, and in honor of the then Lieutenant Governor, Henry Selden. When I was younger, I’d heard of an effort to change the name back to something similar to Westfield. I guess that never happened. At least not in real life. But in Ten Bucks and a Wish, Westfield comes alive again as Olde Westfield.
I grew up in Selden, moving there from the Bronx with my family when I was seven years old, and finally leaving when I got married at 23 years old. I attended Bicycle Path Elementary, Selden Jr. High, Newfield High School, and Suffolk Community College. I worked at the local drugstore, hung out at the local bar.
I went to church faithfully at St. Margaret’s of Scotland, where I made my communion and confirmation, and where I was married. We celebrated this union at the Andrea Doria Manor. All in Selden.
The schools and church are still there. The drugstore has changed name and is now flanked by newer strip malls and shopping complexes, and anchor stores. But many of the landmarks I thought would last forever are gone, and the landscape is so different it is difficult to drive through and remember tales to share.
But this is life. This is progress. And these stores and landmarks will be changed when the youth of today come back in 30 years, trying to find the buildings they passed every day on the way to school.
So, even though Selden has succumbed to modern development in the name of progress, I’m happy that I have been able to forever preserve Selden as Olde Westfield in Ten Bucks and a Wish.
And just as Deanna Drake has the opportunity to revisit the past, and recapture her youth, so have I through Facebook. There is a group on Facebook called “You Know You are From Selden If…” and this is where I found the image of the Norton Dare House. Well, it found me. I’ve also been able to reconnect to old friends, and reminisce about the “good old days.
So here is to old times, old friends, new friends, and letting go of the past to make way for tomorrow.

Just One Week Away…

In just one week I will officially be a published author whose book people will actually be reading! This has been a long journey, filled with all kinds of writing including news stories, feature columns, op/eds, press releases, poetry, short stories, newsletters… every type of writing you could imagine including romance novels. But I never seriously pursued publication and here is why.
Back in my 20s, I paid $5 to a tarot reader at a psychic fair to read my cards and tell me about my writing future. She told me I would be a successful writer, but that I would not be published “until it was nearly too late.” Since I had battled cancer shortly before that ominous prediction, I think I subconsciously put off my life goal of being a published writer, you know, just in case she was correct.
So here I am, 30 years later, still alive, after battling cancer twice, struggling through a divorce and being a single mom for a few years, going back to school to earn two degrees, raising my two babies, getting married a second time to my true to life hero, working full time as a reporter and editor, working full time most of my life, and then finally focusing on me dream again.
And here it is.
Just One Week Away…

Eight Days of Fretting!

Eight Days ’til my DEBUT ROMANCE NOVEL goes LIVE!

It seemed to take forever to get to this point, now it’s here and time is whizzing by.

I’m a bit excited. Just a bit.

Thistle Dew Writers’ Retreats

I’ve had the opportunity to attend the regularly scheduled Thistle Dew Writing Retreats in Remsen. The retreats take place at Thistle Dew, a beautiful 1800s inn turned home turned B&B owned by fellow author and beloved friend, Andrea, and her husband Walt. It is overseen by their silky sweet doggie, Wuffka.

The home consists of the original inn and an updated addition, which combined consists of six bedrooms, an office, a game room, formal living room with two fireplaces, dining room with a walk-in fireplace, a nearly finished attic hideaway, an Adirondack themed den, two and a half baths, and a beautifully renovated kitchen with all the bells and whistles of contemporary living.

Each of the bedrooms have a theme. The three located in the former inn portion of Thistle Dew are The Daffodil Room, The Brass Room, and The Lavender Room. The three located in the newer addition are named The Strawberry Room, which features an all pink “princess” type of feel with three twin beds; The Blue Berry Hill Room, and The Red Room. The attic has recently been made available as a bedroom, and when completed will also provide a writing nook. There is also a cabin for use, and the back porch has become a designated sleeping area for visitors.

My most recent visit began on Friday afternoon, after an emotionally and physically exhausting week. I came in, said hello to everyone and went up to my room to unpack. Two hours later, I emerged thoroughly refreshed and ready to write after an unexpected, but apparently much-needed, nap.

I settled at the dining room table with my friend Molly (MJ Compton) and eventually Kat Morrisey joined us. I work really well with these two women. They are inspiring, motivating, focused, and offer a wellspring of information that leaves me thirsting for more. There seems to be a flow and synchronicity, with periods of silence and intense concentration interspersed with brief chit chat or something humorous, or a Dove Chocolate break when we are hungering for a fortune or bit of wisdom to keep us moving.

We each bring a meal and a dessert or appetizer to exchange throughout the weekend, and so each mealtime one of us is responsible for preparing sustenance to keep us going. This works out perfectly for everyone involved, and keeps the price of the retreat low, and helps us stay anchored without having to leave the premises to find dinner. Walt usually ends the retreat for us with a great breakfast on Sunday. This Sunday we thick Belgian waffles with homemade strawberry syrup. It was yummy.

I’ve learned that Andrea and Walt are now registered on the Air B&B site, and have opened their home up to travelers looking for a country, quiet, getaway. To view their listing, check out https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15917437?guests=1&adults=1

They are located in the quaint town of Remsen, NY, surrounded by acres of lush green lawn, two ponds, and thick forest.

The house is filled with great conversation pieces, antiques, vintage collectables, and lovely décor.

I truly enjoy my time at Thistle Dew. I find the inspirational energy flow from other authors, the good food and snacks, the general atmosphere, and the love and friendship keep my creativity peaking, and my mind focused on the goals I set prior to my arrival.

If you need to get away, whether you are an author or not, you should check out Thistle Dew. You will not be disappointed!

 

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers. There is no denying the eternal bond shared between a mom and her child. Moms are the first life sustaining food source, our first love, teacher, judge, and disciplinarian. They shared our butterflies in our tummies with the first day of school; cried with us the first time we skinned our knee; struggled with us through homework assignments and class projects until all hours of the night.

They worried about us as we navigated through our teen years. They listened tirelessly about our first love. They cried and held us as we grieved our first broken heart.

They taught us how to be moms, and celebrated becoming grandmas.

And as we grew older, they handed the reigns over our own children took us through the same journey.

But then they pass, leaving a lifetime of love and memories, life lessons and laughter, tears and torment as we wish for just one more day with them.

April 7, 1942 my mother Joanne Jones came into this world, born to her mother, Evaughn Jones. Mom passed away on August 19, 2012 at 70 years old, leaving her own mom and three of her four daughters behind as she joined her eldest daughter, Jane, beyond The Veil.

It’s been nearly seven years and not a day goes by that I do not think of her. Some days the missing part is so intense it’s hard to breathe. Other days, I find myself talking with her as if she is right next to me, knowing what she would be saying if she could be there physically.

There are smells, songs, pictures, and memories that keep her alive. When I make her famous fruitcake, or sauce and meatballs, or eggplant parmesan, Mom is right there beside me.

When I smell Ponds Cold Cream, or Johnson’s Baby Powder, or freshly washed laundry, Mom is right there.

When I sit on my front porch, or on my back deck, or in my living room; when I pass a garage sale or thrift store (her favorite pastimes); when I hear Loretta Lynn, George Strait, or any of the old great country singers . . . there is Mom.

In Ten Bucks and a Wish, Deanna Drake must deal with many losses, including the loss of her mother. Rather than addressing it at the time, Deanna moves away from her home town after her mother’s death, unable to cope with that loss and the loss of her first and only love, Michael (Cord) McCord.

She returns a few years later to deal with the aftermath of her neglect and is forced to clean up the mess that resulted following her refusal to accept her mother’s passing, and the break up with her first love.

By writing about Deanna’s journey and the closure she found in finally accepting her mother’s death, I was able to work through my own grief.

Boxes of letters tied up in string. Canned preserves. Torn flannel night gown with a tissue stuffed in the pocket. Even the kitchen Deanna and Trish eat breakfast in is a replica of the kitchen I ate my Cheerios in growing up. As a writer, I was able to bring my mother (and my sister) back to life through Cord’s mom, Jane McCord. Her no-nonsense, take charge, advice-giving tendencies are both things I remember about my mom and my older sister Jane. And while I can’t bring my Mom and Jane back, I honor them with my words.

Ten Bucks and a Wish was originally called Coming Home. And although the name changed, the story is the same. It’s about wishing things could stay the same, wishing they could change for the better, and making those wishes come true.
If you’ve lost your mom, or anyone you held close in your heart, you don’t have to let them go in sorrow. Hold them close in love, keep the memories alive by sharing their stories.

Ten Bucks and a Wish is more than just a romance. It’s a way to honor my mom, and all the moms who have passed.

So, if your mom is alive, go hug her. If she is passed, light a candle in her memory and tell her you love her. And thank her for the memories and life lessons.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

April is National Poetry Month

She lifts her eyes
towards the heavens;
wants to rub her cheek
against the soft, black,
velvet midnight sky.
Instead,
she reaches up
to catch a falling star
as it lights up the night
in magic and mystery.
One hand anchors
against the lush green Earth.
Moon shines above, guiding.
The world around her,
once cloaked
in folds of grey
and sleep-filled nights,
is alive
and pulsing
and breathing –
Dedicated
to Her Awakening.

Janine Phillips
(original written May 3, 1996)