Monthly Archives: May 2010

History in the Making

Little did I know when a very dear US Army veteran friend invited me to the Phillies-Marlins game in Miami last night that I would be a witness to some pretty amazing baseball history. Initially, Dave’s (a passionate Mets fan) motivation was to experience Phillies baseball with a crazy Philly sports fan like me, having seen me in action during Eagles football season. But it turned out we both got so much more out of the bargain when Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game:

And like a true gentleman, he gave credit to his catcher, Carlos Ruiz, stating that he “followed his lead”:

How refreshing to watch an accomplished professional athlete who attained the pinnacle of success in his particular position refrain from self-aggrandizement in favor of sharing due credit with his teammate!  It was an incredible evening for a Phillies fan, with my only complaint being directed toward the Marlins organization, for 1.) Failing to acknowledge our men and women in uniform this Memorial Day weekend, and 2.) Failing to play even one patriotic American song to go along with the fireworks display afterwards. I very much enjoy Latin music, but on this weekend in particular, much like Independence Day, they could have dedicated at least a few minutes to a tribute to the USA and those who’ve honorably served.

This is no way diminishes Halladay’s achievement, and I am thrilled to have had the chance to watch it live and in person. I just hope the Marlins organization won’t make the same mistake again when presented with the perfect opportunity to honor America (and really, what’s more American than baseball?) and the US Military. Maybe next time, instead of handing out tambourines, they could put the money toward hiring a band to remind baseball fans how lucky we are to live in this country, and to have men and women willing to put on the uniform to defend it.

Update: The Marlins organization responds to my email –

Thank you very much for taking the time to write your comments to us. Since the office Memorial Day is Monday, May 31, all baseball team will be paying their tribute on that day. Our team will be wearing a special cap in honor of all past/present military personnel. We do apologize but that you for your comments.

I politely thanked them for their quick response and stated that because it really is an entire weekend, I still believe the Marlins could have employed patriotic music for the fireworks and acknowledged any veterans in the crowd. While it’s great that all MLB teams are paying tribute on Monday, would it have been too much to ask for the Marlins organization to do something special for our troops last night? A few minutes of Stars and Stripes Forever and America The Beautiful would have nicely preceded the Latin music. Oh well.

Update Two: I should have noted in the update above that I copied and pasted the email from the Marlins organization exactly as it was written, thus the erroneous usage of the word “that” instead of “thank” is not a typo on my part (although I certainly catch plenty of my own mistakes when I write commentary!). My guess is that the person writing it was so quick to fire off a response that she didn’t take the time to proofread prior to sending. Or maybe her nails got in the way (something I can also relate to). I chose not to post her name with the email because most likely she was simply parroting a contrived response from the higher-ups, and is not the one responsible for the regrettable Memorial Day Weekend omission.

On a related note, I am also disappointed in the Marlins for cashing in on Halladay’s perfect game by selling unused tickets. Guess they had to profit from it somehow, since very few fans actually attend the games (which is a shame). This just after they did a very classy thing by giving Halladay the pitching rubber as a souvenir. It’s too bad the Marlins haven’t garnered the passionate following of other baseball teams like the Phillies, whose every game is pretty much standing-room-only. So why exactly are they investing a brand-new stadium?


Filed under Professional Experience, Professional Sports

Memorial Day Tribute: The Ken Character in Water Signs

As someone who was raised with a genuine appreciation and respect for the US Military and traditional, conservative values, Memorial Day was always about so much more than just backyard barbecues, although my parents typically hosted one every year. And once we’d gotten an in-ground pool when I was twelve (the realization of a fervent childhood dream for a Pisces child who loved being in the water all summer long), outdoor grilling and socializing with family and friends became that much more enjoyable.

But growing up with parents who constantly espoused the concepts of freedom, capitalism, strong national defense and love of America, as well as having numerous relatives who’d paid the ultimate price in World War II, I was fully aware of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make on our behalf. Gratitude for their courage and willingness to serve at great personal peril has always remained with me, along with pride for people like my Uncle Dan, who was an Admiral in the US Navy and one of the most devout, honorable men I have ever known.There is a passing reference to him in Water Signs, in the scene between Madeline and Monica, in which Madeline’s mother implores her daughter about the importance of education.

And of course, the hero of the story, Ken, is a US Navy veteran, just like his real-life counterpart. Although by the time readers meet him, his service has already taken place, his love for America shines through in word and action. In Chapter One, in reaction to Carmen running off with her Iranian date, he notes with palpable exasperation, “I spent four years of my life defending this country from people like him and she and her girlfriend run off with them?”

Of course, Maddy is quick to remind him of the distinction between the Iranian people and their tyrannical rulers.

In another scene later in the novel, as Ken and Maddy are enjoying a romantic beach picnic in Ventnor, Maddy ruminates about what others might be doing at the very moment on the other side of the ocean (something I’d often thought of during my visits to the sand and surf):

“…well, I’ve actually gotten to see what many of them were up to firsthand, during my Navy days. Unfortunately, not all of it was good.”

“We’re very blessed to live in this country, aren’t we?”

“Yes, we are,” he agreed, kissing her forehead.

The character of Ken also embodies love of God, country and family, which is revealed through his actions in addition to his words. Whether professionally or personally, commitment is of the utmost importance to him; therefore, he’s not above working menial jobs such as Taj Mahal parking valet and electric company meter-reader on his way to bigger and better things. And no matter the task, he throws himself into it diligently.

When he mistakenly believes Maddy is over him, he follows through with his marriage to Erin and valiantly fights for it as the years go by, in spite of his wife’s superficial obsessions and his lingering feelings for his former love. It is only after exhausting every possibility of reconciliation that he ultimately chooses divorce, and it is only after the legalities of the dissolution of marriage are finalized that he even entertains the idea of meeting up with Madeline, following a thirteen-year estrangement.  Once reunited, the pair still takes it slowly, preferring to reacquaint themselves with one another spiritually, mentally and emotionally before consummating their new and improved relationship. All the while, being a good father to his two children remains his top priority.

On the night of their engagement, as the happy couple is cruising down A1A along the Atlantic Ocean, a specially made CD is playing in the car which contains many of Madeline’s favorite love songs. One in particular, Song for You by Chicago, represents the comprehensive celebration and description of her perfect love, Kenny:

…it resonated with Maddy in the same way Chicago’s ballad, Song for You, always had. Whenever anyone would ask her about her ideal mate, she’d invariably tell them to play the famous rock band’s classic song: it not only summed up her sentiments perfectly, it extolled them with an accompanying, beautiful melody.

In Sea to Shining Sea, Ken will continue to evolve as a stalwart, passionate defender of freedom; a faithful, ever-loving husband; and a devoted, affectionate father. Along with Madeline, he will face incredibly trying challenges, including the loss of his executive position and the birth of a son with Down syndrome. But through it all, in spite of moments of human weakness, he will rely upon his faith and uphold his duty to God, country and family, in the true spirit of a US Military veteran.

This Memorial Day, I honor our men and women in uniform, who nobly and courageously fight for our freedom. God bless them one and all, and may He also provide solace and comfort to their loved ones. Words cannot thank them enough for everything they do. They make me proud to be an American and represent the very best of all of us.


Filed under Professional Experience, US Military, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

Robert Allen Mansfield, candidate for PA Governor, on Liberty Belle Hour this Week

Please join me this Thursday, May 27 as I welcome Independent conservative candidate Robert Allen Mansfield to The Liberty Belle Hour. Known as “Mr. Independent”, Robert is an Iraq War veteran who has returned home with his sights set on restoring honor and integrity to Harrisburg. A Philadelphia native, he believes it is time to put the people of Pennsylvania back in charge of their state.

I will chat with Robert about all of the important issues of the day including immigration, national security, Islamic terrorism, taxes and the ever-expanding nanny state. As always, I welcome your calls at (561) 228-4020 and your presence in the live chat room. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, check out Robert’s website here. And for more information on Thursday’s event, click here.

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American Heart

I will return to regular book blogging shortly, along with a recap of my time in Franklin, Tennessee last weekend, where I watched my twin niece and nephew, Dom and Emmy, graduate from high school. Both are incredible young adults who have made my family very proud. Dom’s valedictorian speech was worthy of a college commencement, and I am so glad I made the effort to drive 800 miles each way to be there. More to come with photos and video of my nephew’s speech soon.

But since it’s Friday and I happened to come across this amazingly beautiful song and accompanying video by Jon David, a Hollywood writer and producer who recently “outed” himself as a conservative on Fox News, I just had to post it here. My favorite line: “I’m in love with her and I won’t apologize”. Damn right!

Enjoy, and God bless America!


Filed under Lifestyle, Music Reviews, Politics, Pop Culture, Professional Experience

The Mother Characters in Water Signs

In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I dedicate this post to an analysis of the moms in Water Signs, Monica Rose and Paula Lockheart.

The character of Monica is based on my own mother, for whom I am more grateful to God with every passing day. The older I get, the more I realize how rare and precious it is to have had the experience of growing up with a mother who was dedicated to her children’s emotional needs, educational success, spiritual foundation and moral upbringing. While there is no perfect human and certainly no perfect mother (as is evident in my novel), my siblings and I never had to doubt her love and dedication.

This is a remarkable woman who, at the age of 28, gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome (her second child) and in response to highly suspect and astonishingly cruel medical advice (i.e. put the “stigma” in an institution), promptly ordered the attending physician to “stay away from me and stay away from my baby”.  Then with her characteristic strength and determination, she devoted herself (with the support of her husband and family) to Ralph’s development, tenacious in her desire to see him reach his full potential. She also had the faith and courage to give birth to three more children — my sister Carolyn, my brother Paul and me, ultimately raising all five of us (brother Mark is the first-born) with the same amount of love, care and attention.

Paula Lockheart in the novel is based on a woman I’ve never actually met, but knew about through her son. Based on my remembrances of conversations we’d had, I created her be to be the warm, supportive and loving parental presence in Ken’s life — and a counterbalance to the aloofness of his father (although their relationship is renewed by novel’s end).

Ken and Madeline’s mothers are both strong influences in their lives, possibly due to that fact they they are the “babies” of their families, though in Ken’s case, much of that also stems from his innate passion for life, and his willingness to do whatever necessary to create a new and different existence for himself than the one laid out for him by his father and pursued obediently by his three older brothers.

When the story opens, we learn that two of the adult Rose children — Greg and Lori — are simultaneously leaving the nest to start their own families, following in the footsteps of youngest son Damian, who’d already taken a wife and settled into another state. Madeline has just been through a horrific break-up with a guy, and has relied on the ones closest to her for strength and comfort to work through the stages of grief.

As a mother, Monica wants nothing more than for her offspring to find happiness with the right spouses, yet at the same time she experiences the bittersweet reality of the children to whom she’s dedicated her life, leaving the nest. And when her “baby” Maddy appears to be moving too quickly with the new man who has entered the picture, it’s almost too much to bear. Yes, she wants her daughter to be happy. And no, she doesn’t want to let go just yet. So while outwardly, Ken’s lack of a college degree is the initial objection she expresses to her daughter’s suitor, deep within, the real struggle has to do with the acceptance of a new phase of life — one that involves adjusting to a home with fewer offspring occupants.

This is the portrayal I attempted to make when basing Monica on my own mother. Some have stated their intense dislike for the character, at least after reading that portion of the book, but my intention was not to place blame or hold onto resentment. Was my mom wrong to pressure me to end things based on such an inconsequential criteria? Yes. But it’s not that simple. While I couldn’t grasp it at the time, years later, I understood her motivations. She’d watched me over the years experience all kinds of hurts — from mean kids in grade school who teased me about my weight to stupid teen-aged boys in high school who were, well, stupid teen-aged boys.

My mother silently witnessed my first boyfriend says things like, “Yes, you do look kind of bloated today,” and prayed hard for the relationship to mercifully end. She never interfered, but would often tell me I was worthy of so much more than he was capable of offering. And the protective “Mama Bear” in her often stated in no uncertain terms, her utter disgust with the man known as Jake in the novel. So it’s only natural she’d want to shield me from further pain.

[Perhaps looking back, my mother’s intuition was also telling her that something wasn’t quite right with this new guy; perhaps she sensed he would eventually break my heart. Who knows? Even after everything that’s transpired, I still question his motives and wonder about his sincerity, although I prefer to believe that, in the moment at least, he meant the things he said].

But just as with Monica and Maddy, in the aftermath of my initial break-up with “Ken”, my mom also saw my downward spiral. Unlike in the book where Maddy at least has a full-time job to keep her busy, at the time I couldn’t seem to get any career traction and had been doing temp work as a result of a challenging economy. Having “Ken” in my life was a breath of fresh air, as he always made me feel good about myself and seemed to think that everything I did was wonderful. Once that was gone, I’d temporarily lost my own zest for living. So just like Maddy, the activities that previously had given me joy, i.e. dancing, had completely lost their appeal. And like the character based on me, I accepted my mother’s genuine, heartfelt apology.

As for Ken, Paula remains the one person he can turn to when he needs advice and a comforting presence. While she prays for father and son to eventually mend their differences, Paula manages to walk the line between being a good mother to her son and a supportive wife to her husband. She’s able to see both sides of the coin, though she thoroughly admires and respects her son for making the difficult choice to join the Navy and forge new territory in the Lockheart family. When Ken is torn between the two women he loves, she never tells him what to do; only listens and promises to be there for him whenever he needs her. And when father and son at last come to a new understanding and embark upon a revitalized relationship, it’s her fondest wish come true.

I will delve more into the motherly relationships in terms of the theme of reconciliation in another post, but will end by noting that as an author, in order for your characters to experience a joyous renewal of their relationships, you must take them through some of the lows of human behavior. Otherwise, what’s the point? When I borrowed from real life in retelling the story of my mother’s influence on my relationship with “Ken”, it was not done to hurt her, nor to tell the world I had a bad mother. Rather, it was created as a testament to the power of love, understanding and forgiveness.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for my mother, the one person who has always loved me unconditionally. I am also incredibly thankful for her continued good health and presence in my life. I know how blessed I am, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being a woman of faith and character, a worthy role-model and most of all, an endless source of emotional support through all of life’s ups and downs. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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Filed under Professional Experience, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

Prayers for Nashville

This Grateful Dead song (the only one I like) just comes to mind: “I will get by. I will survive.”

Since I haven’t had much time for blogging, it has taken me a few days to comment on the 500-year flood that has devastated Nashville over the past few days. My brother Paul (immortalized as Damian in Water Signs) and his family happen to live in this beautiful city (one aspect of my novel that remains true-to-life), and thank God, all have emerged from this disaster unharmed. Tragically, that’s not the case for other residents, many of whom drowned when the Cumberland River crested at its highest level in over 80 years.

Not that the media cares much. As this insightful We Are Nashville piece (shared recently by Paul on Facebook) observes, the national news barely devoted 15 minutes of airtime to Music City’s unprecedented weather event, favoring much “sexier” — although no more or less important — stories such as the failed car bomb attempt on New York City and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s too bad, not just from a moral and ethical standpoint, but from an instructive one. Because along with the sheer devastation, including the destruction of the once-magnificent Opryland Hotel (site of Paul and Angela’s wedding reception), something noteworthy, inspiring and wonderful is also taking place. Residents of Nashville, in a true demonstration of the American spirit of resilience and generosity, are rolling up their sleeves and helping their neighbors.  Hands on Nashville (HON),  a volunteer organization that partners with the metropolitan governments of Nashville and Davidson County, is actually overwhelmed by the number of folks stepping up to donate their time to the relief effort.

As Paul noted on his profile page, when he called to offer his assistance he was told that all volunteer slots for the distribution of emergency food relief were already taken, proving: 1. there are obvious non-medical needs; and 2. it’s wonderful to know that so many of his fellow Nashville dwellers are so eager and willing to help.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Hurricane Katrina, and the obvious parallels. While the media — for the purposes of their own anti-Bush agenda — almost exclusively and obsessively focused on the damage the storm inflicted upon New Orleans, they hardly noticed that Louisiana’s neighbors,  Mississippi and Alabama, also suffered widespread devastation. It barely merited a mention in print, on radio or on television that in these equally hard-hit places, residents of all races and colors were working together to rebuild their communities, instead of whining about the unfairness of it all and simultaneously blaming the “evil” George Bush and his hurricane-making machine in the Oval Office (it’s not a coincidence that Mississippi and Alabama both had competent, Republican governors either, but that’s a topic for another post).

Anyway, I am incredibly relieved and thankful for my family’s safety. And in another bit of Nashville-related good news, Dom and Emmy, aka “Tommy” and “Ava” made me a very proud auntie this week. Congratulations to my twin niece and nephew, two amazing young adults who give me hope for the future of this country. Seems like yesterday they were sweet little babies bouncing around in those contraptions that — to the best of my knowledge — no longer exist, but used to be secured on either side of a doorway. When they stayed with us during their first Christmas and winter on Earth, an event also described in my book,  they spent much of their time in them, demonstrating seemingly boundless energy.

Dom is valedictorian of their graduating class, and I am so looking forward to all of the graduation events next weekend!

I’m also keeping Nashville in my prayers.

UPDATE: via Hot Air, just found this wonderful video:

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Filed under Inspirational, Politics

The Liberty Belle Hour Welcomes Chrystopher Smith This Week

Please join me and my guest co-host Ellen Snyder this Thursday evening at 7 p.m. Eastern as we welcome Chrystopher Smith to The Liberty Belle Hour. Smith is a conservative Republican running in a Los Angeles district that desperately needs a representative with common sense and respect for the US Constitution.

He will share his views on all of the important issues, his journey to conservatism and his thoughts on the 2010 Midterm Elections. As always, the live chat will be available and the phone lines will be open at (561) 228-4020.

Freedom rings this Thursday night on WAFS-TV!

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Pennsylvania Patriot

There’s very little I can say to enhance this incredibly powerful video, created for grassroots conservative candidate Tim Burns, who is running for congress in Pennsylvania to fill the seat formerly occupied by Jack Murtha. I am praying the voters of PA-12 will do the right thing and elect a true patriot on May 18. Go home state! 😉

More on Water Signs in another post!

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Creating Ken, Part Two

The process of transforming a real person  — in this case, a former romantic interest — into a heroic, fictional character was quite interesting, to say the least. As I noted in Creating Ken, Part One, memory can be  a tricky mechanism. At first, when the floodgates had unexpectedly burst open in my mind, overwhelming me with thoughts of the real guy and what had taken place sixteen years earlier, the way he’d treated me, the things he’d said, the way he’d looked, etc. all I could think about were the good times, and all I could do was cry over what might have been.

I remembered our unusual meeting at the club, his initial attraction to my statuesque girlfriend and the means by which we ended up spending the night dancing and laughing until the 2 a.m. closing time. I cracked up reminiscing about going around the traffic circle to The Point Diner with him afterwards as a compromise, since I’d rebuffed several offers to go back his place for coffee (I didn’t write this dialogue in the scene in the novel, but I was apologetic, explaining that although he didn’t look dangerous, I couldn’t take a chance. He just sort of made a funny face in reply, prompting more laughter).

On and on these wonderful mental recreations went, moving into our first real kiss at the top of the Taj Mahal; a weekend spent going to a dinner theater on Saturday evening, followed by an Eagles game on Sunday; hanging out at his place looking through photo albums from his time in the US Navy; and of course, fighting the internal battle between physical attraction and fear, desire and morality.

And just like Madeline, I simply could not express in words what I was feeling. Thus, the occasions when I’d make him drive me back across the 9th Street Bridge from his bachelor townhouse in Somers Point to my family’s vacation home in Ocean City, where a houseful of people provided the comfort of knowing there would be no danger of caving in to temptation.

Then came the painful stuff: my mom’s uncharacteristic meddling in the relationship simply because the guy had not yet completed his undergraduate degree (to be discussed in a future post) which led me to write a Dear John letter in spite of the facts that I 1) wanted to continue the relationship; and 2) had the support of everyone else in my family.

Ken, after all, had a wonderful sense of humor, an infectious love of life, a quick-wit and obvious intelligence. Moreover, he was cute, romantic, manly and apparently enamored of me. In short, since he was the polar opposite of the jerk who’d dumped me over the phone a few months’ prior, I didn’t quite know how to handle his penchant for regularly telling me I was beautiful, and complimenting me on everything from the way I was dressed to the way I spoke in enthusiastic energy bursts (especially when the topic centered around the Eagles/NFL football and politics).

Then came anger. Anger at myself. Anger that, in spite of years of dating, I’d not yet found, nor married anyone who’d demonstrated the same sort of affection and respect.

Anger at him for also being human and for doing some pretty darned hurtful and stupid things, like picking a fight with me one summer evening when I casually stated over the phone that I didn’t “care” what time he got off from work — that I would meet him whenever he was done for our date. What I’d meant was that I understood and did not hold against him the fact that he had to work a late shift, and although I perhaps could have stated it better, he did react immaturely. In the end, we made up at the same club where we’d originally met each other. And unlike the book, “Ken” and I danced to Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight that evening, whereas Madeline and Ken partake in a “dance” of a different sort while this song plays in the background in Chapter 34.

And — lest I forget — anger at him for standing me up for a ski date without so much as the courtesy of a phone call (to this day, I have no idea what really happened, but suspect he was already either living in Florida, or  in the process of moving south); calling me out of the blue six months later to announce his relocation to The Sunshine State; and withholding the minor detail that his so-called “platonic female roommate” was actually his fiancée (not even coming clean after I’d finally declared my intention to make the move to Florida myself).

Was this payback for hurting him?

I’ll admit, I folded to unfairly imposed pressure, which led me to cancel out on attending both a family wedding and a work party as his date, then subsequently break up with him (before we got back together in a sense, a month or so later). So it’s fair to say that we each dished it out as much as we took it. Still, it hit me like a ton of bricks — notwithstanding women’s intuition — the day he showed up at my apartment and confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true.

This particular portion of the memory reel was akin to watching a tragic movie in which — no matter how hard you might wish for a different ending — the hero succumbs to his illness, or dies valiantly in a dangerous rescue effort on the battlefield. Shedding my selective, 14+ year-old, self-imposed amnesia was not only incredibly painful and ultimately fruitless on a personal relationship level, it was also quite healing and inevitably useful in a professional sense, as it led to the creation of Water Signs.  As I’ve said, writing is therapy. And when people actually like what you’ve written, it’s also unbelievably fulfilling.

While reliving the good, bad and the ugly, I realized that “Ken”, like all people,  had his faults. He was not above pettiness, nor was he immune to the foibles of human nature. When his heart and ego were bruised, he responded by bruising back in kind. I doubt he ever expected me to work up the courage to uproot my life “up north” and relocate to a tropical paradise where my only known contacts aside from him were former schoolmates of my parents I’d never even met, but who nonetheless opened the doors of their home to me until I could secure my own living arrangements.

I can only imagine what must’ve gone through his mind as another woman’s betrothed, knowing that a former romantic interest would now be living in the vicinity, blissfully unaware of the truth. This is yet another example of something I had to completely fabricate in the novel — thus fictional Ken embarks on a lot of soul-searching in the wake of Maddy’s unsettling news, prompting him to meet his mother for a heart-to-heart at the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier, during which he expresses his “torn between two lovers” dilemma.

Was this the case in real life? Did “Ken” experience an emotional tug-of-war, featuring conflicting feelings for two distinct women, or was it simply guilt for withholding important information from me? Who knows for sure, although in another entry I will share some real-life events and conversations that transpired as a parallel to the novel’s manifestation. Suffice it to say, there are some occurrences  in life about which we don’t always receive clear,  genuine answers, and that is certainly true to some degree in this instance. The best you (I) can (could) do is (was) learn from the experience and draw from it whatever is (was) helpful, uplifting and positive.

For me, that was creating an amazing network of friends and contacts in my adopted state, and writing my first novel.

More to come in another post.

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Filed under Professional Experience, Sea To Shining Sea, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal