Connecting to My Tennessee Roots

Seven years ago, my mom and I gave birth to a few dozen potatoes. Someone had given some plants they couldn’t use, and lo and behold, a few months later potatoes were born.

I just didn’t know it until my mom happened to stop by. She stood over my meager garden (12 x 12) that boasted scallions, peppermint, spearmint, sage, tomatoes, a couple of raspberry bushes, and some very unfruitful cucumber and zucchini plants. It was ragtag and eclectic. Like me.

Funny thing is, everyone expects me to have a mega garden, flourishing with enough food to last throughout the winter. I guess part of it is that half of my genes sprouted in Tennessee from my mom’s side. The other part of it is that I’m a tree-hugging hippy and I love plants and being outdoors.

Unfortunately, gardens and I have a love/pity kind of relationship. I love the thought of having a garden, and the plants pity my lack of knowledge and know-how.

Anyway! There I was, seven years ago, standing with my mom by my garden. She wore this forlorn kind of amused look as I picked peppermint leaves and shoved them under her nose. My tomatoes had yellow spots and were inedible. And I already told you about my cukes and zukes. Don’t get me started on the slugs.

So, she pointed to this big leafy collection of plants and asked, “So when are you going to pick your potatoes?”

Did I mention I never grew potatoes before? I’d forgotten what I’d planted. I responded, “When they’re ready.”

She said, “They’re ready,” then ordered me to go get a basket or bucket.

Then she had me bent over, yanking those potatoes up by the leafy stemmed bunches while she dug with a hand spade. Out came . . . POTATOES! I shrieked with excitement and let out a whoop I’m sure they heard all the way down in the village.

I plopped that bunch into the basket by her feet, and looked up to find her beaming with pride. I pulled out the next bunch, and the next, leaving gaping holes in the earth. I shrieked again, and kept at it ‘til the basket was full and that patch of garden was empty.

When it was all over she watched as I fondled the potatoes in the basket she now cradled, oohing and ahhing over each little cherub, then asked, “How does it feel?”

Without hesitation, I replied, “Like I just gave birth. And you were there helping me push.” She put the basket down and we hugged and for some reason I started crying. It was such a huge accomplishment, and my mom was there with me to experience it.

We divided up our harvest, she taking the tinier spuds, leaving me the larger ones. Later that night she phoned to tell me those were the best potatoes she’d ever eaten.

Mom died the following year, in August, when the sun was bright but signs of summer’s end were beginning to show. She loved summer. But as she grew older, she confessed as we sat rocking on her back porch, she did not dislike autumn or winter any more. She said she felt just like the maple tree she had planted in her back yard, changing with the seasons. She held my hand and told me she felt like she was in Autumn heading into Winter.

And then she passed away a few weeks later.

I couldn’t bring myself to plant a garden since then. Every time I thought about it, I thought about Mom. And the potatoes. And I just didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to garden without crying for missing her so badly.

,Then, through the miracle of technology, my long-lost cousin Timmy came back into my life, thanks to his wife, Tammy, and Facebook. One day, through text, he was catching me up on the life he shares with his wife and showed me pictures of their garden. He seemed surprised, disappointed, and probably down right shocked to hear I did not have a garden. That’s almost sacrilege for anyone with Tennessee blood in them.

His response was simply, “You gotta keep all things going no matter what happens. Put a couple ‘mater plants out just to remind you of the good.”

So, I did.

The next day my amazing husband put together my small raised-bed garden. We went to Lowe’s and bought us some “maters” and a few other goodies.

I had forgotten how healing it feels to sink my hands into Mother Earth. I healed with every plant I placed in the dirt, as I carried on a tradition my Mom had carried on, that her parents had carried on, and their parents had carried on.

For them it was a way of life. For me, it’s a memorial and tribute to my Mom, my Grandma and Papa, and my cousin Tim. And, especially to my Tennessee Roots.

My garden may be tiny, but it’s jam-packed with love. No potatoes, but lots and lots of love.

Tennessee Roots Planted in New York Soil
Tim’s Real Tennessee Garden

Life Altering Events define the beginning of my Pre-Golden Years

This weekend marks two changes in my life that really have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with my kids.

Allie Rose graduates from SUNY Geneseo with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, with a Minor in Asian Studies and a Minor in Sociology. That’s a mouthful for a woman who was once my little Sweet Pea.

Anthony moves into a new phase of his life with his girlfriend Jolene, a woman who I look forward to calling daughter one day. They are moving into their very first apartment together after moving out of an apartment they shared with two other friends they met while attending College of St. Rose in Albany. They both have secured positions in careers they love. They are in the process of picking out furniture and décor and deciding what to take from their old life as they create a new life together.

I’m so proud of both my kids. They’ve managed to continue a trend I began as a young woman and are helping to change the story of my family lineage.

I began researching my ancestry a few years ago. And from what I saw, both my father’s side and my mother’s side were simple people, not wealthy, not flashy, not famous, not well-educated. They were hard working, doing what they could to take care of their families.

My mother’s side were mainly farmers and carpenters, spanning centuries of migration into the USA from the 1700s to the 1900s. My father’s side lived in the city from the time they migrated over from Italy in the early 1900s. One of my great greats had an ice and coal business down in NYC.

Growing up, my sisters and I were not really encouraged to go to college. My mom and dad had married young, and it worked for them, so we were just expected to follow suit. But I wanted more. I wanted to be a journalist. So I went to the local community college and almost graduated. But then I got married. Fortunately for me, my then-husband supported me when I decided to return to get my degree. I did, and I went on to write for two decades as a journalist, before securing a position as an editor.

When the paper closed, I returned to college and redefined who I was. I am now a support group coordinator and crisis counselor for one of the greatest non-profits in the world – YWCA Mohawk Valley.

My niece Jennifer followed my lead, and went on to graduate into the teaching field, being the first to receive her Masters in our family.

My son went on to attend St. Rose and my daughter went on to Geneseo. My younger sister Jeana, is back in school, also working on her teaching degree. She is still in her 40s, she did not wait as long as I did.

So, collectively, these two generations have hopefully changed the future of our offspring, taking us from struggling financially to make ends meet, to having careers and succeeding in life.

It is bittersweet and yet exciting to see my grown children begin to map out their own journeys, having survived the tumultuous, angst-ridden teen and college years without too much trauma. They are happy, confident, focused and enjoying life without too much stress and worry. They have found partners who support them, encourage them, and are good for them.

Most importantly, they are good people, caring about the world, and others.

And, to top it all off, they love me. What more can I ask for?

These things I hold close for my own ideals – work hard, get an education, be kind, stay close to your siblings, set goals, have dreams, push yourself, BE HAPPY — have been passed on to my children. They work hard, but they play hard, and they love hard. They surround themselves with people who have the same standards they have. They don’t settle.

After this weekend, I can now take a deep breath and exhale, knowing I’ve done my job. I will still worry; I’ll still miss my babies. But knowing they are competent, kind and loving, functioning human beings in a world where there is so much turmoil, helps me ease into my Golden Years and accept this empty nest without regret.

Congratulations to Allie Rose and Antman. You’ve grown up into human beings not just a mother can love. And as you go, remember. . . Life is for living. So live it.

Antman 1992
Allie Rose 1 day old, 1997

Celebrating the Moms in My Life

Birth Mom, Joanne Jones
My Step Mom Jerri Solicito
My Grandma Jones








Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there reading this, and especially to all the mothers in my life.

My debut romance novel, Ten Bucks and a Wish, is the perfect novel celebrating motherhood. The story deals with the loss of a mom as well as the motherly affection from someone who wants to fill that void. The theme of motherhood is woven throughout the story as little “mom glimpses” are shared. Memories of my now deceased mom, and my grandmother who is still alive and living in Tennessee, are evidenced in Jane McCord, the hero’s (Michael McCord) mother. Well-worn flannel gowns, soft chenille robes, wadded tissues in pockets, the soft scent of ponds cold cream and baby powder. Good home cooked meals. Even the sound, stern advice is something I could hear my mom or grandma offering.

Motherhood. It’s all around us in some form or another. And it’s important to recognize the value and worth of moms everywhere, not just today, but every day.  

From a very young age we are prepped to assume the role of “mother” with our very first baby dolls. By the time we’ve hit adulthood the idea of becoming a mom has crossed our minds at least once. And then usually met by a variety of answers. “Hell, no.” “Maybe in the future.” “I’ll freeze my eggs ‘til I’m ready.”  “My clock is ticking and the alarm is about to go off.”

Eventually, for many of us, it happens. Then suddenly we find ourselves seven or eight months along, looking down out the world globe we’ve somehow accidentally swallowed, and panic. How the hell is this thing going to come out of me?


For others, it’s that first day you’re holding your baby, after years of red tape and applications, and suddenly it has become real. You’ve adopted this thing and now comes the reckoning. “What if I won’t know how to be a mother?”

Regardless of how it happened, more than a few new parents have wondered, “What the hell have I done? What do I do now?”

But then you blink and it’s over.

Next thing you know that “thing,” has graduated college and started a life of its own. And you call it, “my son,” or “my daughter.”

Where does the time go?

Being a mom is hardly ever easy. From the first feeding, to sending them off after a visit with some sort of goodie bag or care package stuffed with leftovers, frozen sauce, bread—you name it—you are their caretaker, their champion, their mentor, their role model and inspiration, and a million other titles wrapped up in one unending hug.

I never knew how much my birth mom taught me until she was gone. I never knew how much an impact she made on my life, my decision-making skills, my philosophies, until she had passed.

I never knew how much I loved being a mom until my kids were grown and living and thriving as adults. Each time they come to visit I hold them close and smell them, just like I did when they were babies, hoping to always remember their scent. They laugh at me when they realize what I am doing. And I remember now that my mom did it with me and my sisters when we were young.

Mother’s Day isn’t too painful even though my mom has passed. I will always love her, and she will always be in my heart, and this day isn’t much different than any other in terms of aching for her. I honor her today as I do every day. I talk to her, I hold her memory close, and I give thanks for the life she gave me.

Another reason why it’s not too painful is because my “other mother” has been in my life for more than 22 years. After my mom and dad split, my step mom eventually came into my life. Recently she and dad moved up from Florida to be nearer to family, and we see one another a lot. We talk on the phone or text or visit nearly every day.

Is it the same as having my birth mom? Not exactly. No one can replace a birth mom. But is it good? Is it filled with love, nurturing, compassion, life talks, advice, and scoldings. You betcha. All the things my birth mom did. After all, my stepmom was a birth mom herself, and as a result I have two stepbrothers. She knows what she’s doing. I am blessed to have her in my life.

There is a third woman I give thanks for today, and that is my Grandma Jones in Tennessee. She taught me how to sew, how to cook, how to believe in true love. She was the woman I kept in my head when writing Mrs. McCord’s character, even though she was a conglomerate of my mom (her daughter) and my sister Jane, who passed in 2007. Together, these three women became the matriarch of Ten Bucks and a Wish.

So, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to give thanks for these three “Moms” who helped me become the woman I am today.

I love you all. Happy Mother’s Day.

THREE SUPER COOL THINGS happened to me today!

Three Super Cool Things happened to me today!
To start the morning off, I received MY FIRST BAD REVIEW on amazon.com. And I survived! No worries! It’s all good.
But at first, it wasn’t (all good). The moment I read it I wanted to delete everything. The book, my author page, the good reviews, MY FIRST BAD REVIEW! My life. Everything. “Take it away, I can’t do this! I’m not ready for bad reviews. Not after I just sent my book out to three ‘real’ review sites. Oh, my Goddess, I’m going to be smushed and pulverized! I cannot do this!
I mewled to my hubby, lying in bed next to me, “I got MY FIRST BAD REVIEW.”
I think he hugged me and talked me off the ledge. I don’t remember exactly; it was all a blur.
MY FIRST BAD REVIEW went like this, “Seriously? The sister and her husband take out a new mortgage on the family home so they can buy a car and go on vacation, then simultaneously decide to stop paying the property taxes. These characters are TDTL.”
And that was that. Whoever it was disliked the villains so much they couldn’t read the rest of the book.
Then I blinked. And I took a deep breath. And I read the review again. Whoever it was gave it one star. But then, to emphasize how horrible a review they truly wanted to give, they entitled it ZERO STARS.
And then I realized that MY FIRST BAD REVIEW was The First Super Cool Thing that happened to me today. It proved to me that I had successfully done my job as a writer. I made the person who wrote the review feel something.
This fragile revelation did not come easily. I grasped that wispy victory after I blinked and began breathing again. Then I lost it by the time I came downstairs to make coffee. So, I showered and washed any negativity down the drain. The fragile revelation returned. I was okay. For a bit.
As my morning evolved, panic set in again. On the drive to work I called my sister. She made me laugh and reminded me about a famous author who was rejected hundreds of times before being published.
I thought about the few bad songs Elton John has written. (I’m on an Elton John Kick lately. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is set on replay in Spotify and in my Brain.) Yes, even Sir Elton has received bad reviews.
The self-doubt returned later in the day as prepared for my SECOND COOL THING OF THE DAY. I drove to Thistle Dew for my weekly critique session with my Herkimer Diamond critique partner, Alee Drake. As soon as I walked in, I blurted out, “I need your help,” and told her about MY FIRST BAD REVIEW. ALee reminded me, like Jeana, that lots of people get bad reviews. Brush it off and be a writer.
So, I had a great critique session with ALee and then headed home to cook dinner for the hubby. While the beef stew simmered on the stove top, I continued with my promotion of Ten Bucks and a Wish. I fought the urge to go on Facebook and post something to the effect of, “EVERYONE GO TO AMAZON AND WRITE ME AN AMAZING REVIEW EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T READ THE BOOK! PLEASE! HURRY!”
Instead, I continued joining review sites and FB pages that my friend and fellow author MJ Compton suggested I reach out to. Because that’s what famous authors do (as they set out to become famous).
I headed over to Bookbub.com, a site my publisher Debby told me about. I figured I would set up a reader account, since I’d heard they only feature authors who have more than one book.
Then Part 1 of my THIRD SUPER COOL THING OF THE DAY happened.
I’M ON BOOKBUB!!!! My book is, too! I had to claim my author page, and I’m waiting for their approval on that. But yeah. I’m on Bookbub.com.
Wait. It gets better. As I’m fooling around on Bookbub getting to know it better, I did a search on Ten Bucks and a Wish. The search results included a few other books as well. The cool thing about it is that Ten Bucks and a Wish was situated on the page of listings RIGHT NEXT TO JUDE DEVERAUX’s  As You Wish!!
That means absolutely nothing as far as standings, ratings, or merit goes for my book. It was just a random listing. BUT the FACT that my published book was situated next to JUDE’S BOOK was SUPER COOL THING NUMBER THREE PART 2. Jude Deveraux was one of the first two romance authors I read. I wore Jude’s books out I loved them and re-read them so much. And now I am an author with a book shown next to hers in a random search result. Life is sweet.
So, to the person who gave me a bad review: Thank you for taking the time to download my book, begin to read it, then vent your distaste about my villains. I will cherish your review forever.
To Dave, Jeana, and Alee, thank you for talking me through MY FIRST BAD REVIEW.
To Jude Deveraux, thank you for your inspiration and the great stories you shared that made me want to become a romance author. I’m honored to share a random search page with you.

Five-Star Review!

First Review In!
I have had a week of elation, filled with surreal moments and lots of “am I dreaming?” conversations in my head.
But this morning the level of elation amped up just a bit more!
I received my FIRST review on amazon.com – and it came in with flying colors!!! Well, it came in in yellow, in the form of yellow stars.
FIVE – count ‘em – FIVE YELLOW STARS.
I was dreading this review thing. But now that I’ve gotten this one, I can focus on sending Ten Bucks and a Wish out to review sites to see what they come up with.
It’s my first book. And I hear so many authors say, “The first book always sucks.” I would like to think mine doesn’t, but I’m sure all first-time published authors think that! At first.
So, anyway. As part of my intent to share this amazing journey with you, here is my five-star review!

Featured in April 29, 2019 Utica Observer Dispatch

Wow! The Local Daily Newspaper Utica OD featured me in an article written by Samantha Madison. It was in the prime spot as far as placing articles goes. I opened up the paper and Bam! there I was, top right article, right side of the paper!
Thank you Courtney O’Connor and Samantha Madison for your coverage and support!

Here’s the link to the online article:
https://www.uticaod.com/news/20190429/local-author-believes-in-happily-ever-afters?fbclid=IwAR020e3Pm2uZunbaGYi1Jjt5X3GOg9L0qNGQtoHTZJgOUYWGIt-XG9lEO_E