Tag Archives: South Florida

Allen West goes to D.C.

Last night, my new Congressman-elect (I love typing that!) Allen West gave a moving speech to the West Palm Beach Republican Club, in which he honored veterans, upheld American Exceptionalism and vowed to stand firm for the US Constitution once sworn into office in Washington D.C.

I’d had the good fortune of unexpectedly bumping into Allen as he strode through the parking lot toward the entrance of the Bear Lakes Country Club, when I had to return to my car to retrieve my Flip-corder. He thanked me sincerely for working so hard on his campaign as I gave him a hug and my congratulations (something I’d been unable to do at his victory party, due to the size of the crowd). Truly, this is a man of honor and integrity.

It’s hard to describe just how thrilled South Florida is to have this decorated war hero and and patriot representing us, but you’ll get an idea of the scope our our genuine love  and affection  for Lt. Col. Allen West in the two videos below.

God bless Allen West as he begins a new phase of service to his country. And God bless all of our US Veterans!

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Filed under Politics, Tea Party, US Military

Tea Party Fort Lauderdale celebrates the 2010 Midterms

I spent a few hours on the corner of US 1 and Oakland Park Blvd. on a gorgeous South Florida day with the  Tea Party Fort Lauderdale. The longest-running Tea Party in the USA, founders Danita Kilcullen and Jack Gillies have done a tremendous job growing the group, supporting local conservative candidates and offering information on  pending legislation, amendments and other important developments.

While the group realizes that our work has only just begun, yesterday was mostly about taking time out to celebrate our successes after nearly two years of passionate, dedicated activism.  The three videos I put together, beginning with Part One below, tell the tale of what ordinary, everyday Americans can accomplish with enough belief, persistence and willingness to roll up their sleeves. Enjoy!

Update: Here’s the second video from the day:

Update: Third video featuring US veteran John Sykes’ presentation on the US Marine Corps.

Update: Fourth and last video featuring a beautiful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner from Ashley.

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Filed under Conservative Activism, Politics, Talk Radio, US Military

South Florida Supports Allen West!

After receiving a tip-off late last night on Facebook about Debbie Wasserman Shultz’s planned protest of Lt. Colonel Allen West’s candidacy today, I headed over to his campaign office in Deerfield Beach. Yes, the Debbie Wasserman Shultz who represents FL  Congressional District 20 and is herself running for re-election, took it upon herself to arrange an anti-West rally on the sidewalk alongside Federal Highway.

As West supporters, we were respectfully requested not to engage the Klein crew or the local media, lest a confrontation erupt that could potentially damage the campaign. Well aware of the left’s hateful demagoguery and deceitful tactics, I’d never planned to engage any of them in conversation — a losing proposition among people brandishing signs like “Keep Abortion Legal” and “Florida doesn’t want the Tea Party or Allen West”, anyway.

Clearly in the throes of desperation, the Klein campaign (and DNC operatives) have published Allen West’s social security number; aired ridiculous commercials using Tea Party footage of West declaring himself a “right wing extremist” (hello liberals, it’s called sarcasm, and it was done in reaction to Janet Napolitano’s DHS); made false allegations of West belonging to a radical biker gang and repeatedly (in the case of debates) linked his name with Sarah Palin and “Terri Schiavo issues” — all in an effort to paint him as some sort of Bible-thumping, wild-eyed Christian lunatic who is unfit for public office.

Today that theme continued with the pro-abortion placards and handmade signs claiming that West is somehow “anti-women”. Mind you, to the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t even made abortion an issue in the campaign (though he  is pro-life), but if you were a Klein supporter, would you really want to focus on your guy’s support for highly unpopular legislation like Obamacare, Cap and Trade and stimulus?

In their classic, diversionary and fear-mongering style, all the liberal sacred cows were on display this afternoon in Deerfield Beach  — along with plenty of Allen West supporters, who had a few thoughts of their own. Enjoy!

Update:  Apparently, Palm Beach County tax collector Anne Gannon joined Wasserman-Shultz in the 20-30 people protest. Here’s the Sun-Sentinel’s coverage.

Update: Here’s the second video, featuring a Democrat for West.

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The Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals Summed Up in a Single Phone Call

The other day, after having attended the monthly REC meeting, I recorded a robo-call on behalf of Pam Bondi, Republican candidate for Florida Attorney General. Prior to heading out to precinct walk yesterday, Pam’s South Florida campaign coordinator called to inform me that they system would be sending my message out to several zip codes in Boca Raton, so I should expect a least a few return calls throughout the course of the day.

And as I hung clear plastic bags filled with candidate collateral on doorknobs, I simultaneously responded to at least a dozen or so calls on my cell phone. Most of the folks I spoke with were highly supportive of Pam, and one gentleman even asked for assurance that she was a “conservative” Republican, as it was important to him to have an Attorney General who respected both the Florida Constitution and the US Constitution.

When I assured him Pam was a staunch conservative with a proven track record as a tough prosecutor, he exclaimed, “Oh, she’ll definitely get my vote!” and remembered seeing Bondi supporters at his polling location when he voted in the primary back in August.  And yes, he’d voted for her back then too, based on what he’d seen and heard, though he was excited to speak with someone who’d actually met Pam and was actively volunteering on her campaign.

Others who were not familiar with her promised to visit her website.

But the most memorable call of the day took place in the evening, when I returned a voicemail message from an elderly couple. The wife answered with a thick New York accent, and after listening to my brief introduction and solicitation for her support on November 2 inquired:

“Pam Bondi? What is she?” (Yes, you read that correctly. Not “Who is she? but What is she?”)

While I could’ve been sarcastic and retorted with something like, She’s an alien from outer space, I patiently explained Pam’s credentials. Undaunted, the woman persisted (did I mention her New York accent was obnoxious, no offense to my NY friends?):

“Yeah, but what is she?”

Realizing this was a lost cause, I noted that Pam was a conservative Republican. I might as well have told her Pam was a handmaiden of the devil who drowned kittens in her spare time — not that it would’ve made a difference. I could almost see the woman recoiling in horror as she yelled:

“Oh NO! God NO!” and promptly hung up on me.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, exemplifies one of the major differences between conservatives and liberals. Every other neighbor I spoke with wanted to know about Pam’s qualifications and accomplishments, and most asked for clarification of her website address so they could learn more about her.

This woman, on the other hand, was only interested in confirming her preconceived biases of liberals as good, conservatives as evil. Everything else was immaterial.

But this call was illustrative on a personal level, too. Instead of feeling angry and upset over her ignorance and the rude manner in which I’d been treated, I had a really good laugh. Of course, it helps knowing Bondi is going to win the AG race soundly on November 2. And visualizing the shattering disappointment on this woman’s face as the returns roll in on Election Night was pretty damn satisfying as well.

Ironically (although she doesn’t realize it), my elderly neighbor will be one of the beneficiaries of a Bondi victory because Pam will continue the fight against Obamacare — with its “death panel” rationing and soulless, cost-containment dismissal of old people whose lives aren’t worthy of valuable medical procedures.

This New Yorker, who in all likelihood was raised on FDR Kool-Aid, will have the “heartless” conservatives to thank when Bondi becomes Florida’s next AG.

Go Pam Bondi!

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Filed under Conservative Activism, Politics, Pop Culture, Tea Party

I was a “Tea Party” (e.g. conservative) Republican Before It Was “Cool”

Having been raised by conservative Republican parents who were both into activism long before it became a way of life for countless Americans in the months following Obama’s election, it’s probably not a surprise that I have been a registered Republican since I turned eighteen a few *cough* years back. And no, I didn’t opt to be an elephant versus a donkey just to make mom and dad proud, I actually did take the time to look at the platforms of both parties and ask myself why I wanted to join the GOP.

The answer?

The Republican platform (notice I typed, “Republican platform” not “Republican elected officials”) just made sense to me.

It reflected the concepts enshrined in the United States Constitution — that all rights come from a higher authority and that government exists mainly to provide for the common defense, support a criminal justice system and create a climate in which individuals and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to pursue their dreams in a free market that encourages healthy competition.

Long before both Bush administrations came to power, I was familiar with the term “RINO”. In 1976, my entire family reacted with heavy-hearted disappointment and anger when Ronald Reagan lost the Republican nomination to RINO Gerald Ford.

As a kid, I remember suffering through the insufferable Carter years with their long gasoline lines, seemingly endless malaise, foreign policy ineptitude and Iranian hostage crisis — until our sunny optimist finally won the Republican nomination in 1980 and subsequently, the White House.

Watching President Reagan’s speeches and appearances on television with my family was much like watching an Eagles game (without the heartbreaking losses). We’d cheer, clap, jump up and down and shout with delight as Ronald Reagan unfailingly reminded us — in his bold, unapologetic and endearing style — of the greatness of America, the courage of our men and women in uniform and the exceptionalism of  our system of government.  With moral clarity and conviction, he made us proud and grateful to call ourselves American citizens.

Sadly, upon his departure from Pennsylvania Avenue after serving two distinguished terms, Reagan’s successor wasted no time in reverting the bully pulpit back to “Rockefeller Republican” mode, calling for a “kinder, gentler nation” (whatever that means), raising taxes and ultimately alienating conservatives. Enter Ross Perot in 1992 and — well, you know the rest of the story.

My point is — long before the beautiful Tea Party Movement got underway — I’d always supported candidates who espoused the principles of limited government, strong national defense, capitalism and personal responsibility. And yes, to my great consternation, there were way too many instances when I’d find myself holding my nose to vote for Candidate X because he or she was marginally better than Candidate Y.

By the way, I voted for Sarah Palin in 2008.

And long before the breath of fresh air from Alaska blew in, I read conservative blogs, railed against open borders and amnesty, criticized President Bush’s massive expansion of government and spending, called for the release of Ramos and Compean, supported the war against global jihad (not terrorism, which is a tactic) and objected to the rampant cronyism that defined the Bush years (Harriet Miers, anyone?).

So I was “Tea Partying” before there actually was a phenomenon known as the Tea Party.

Concurrently, I believe that the best way to save our country from socialistic decay is to reform the Republican Party from within. Not only is this the most efficient method, it’s already putting the establishmentarians on notice and yielding excellent results including, but not limited to Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Christine O’Donnell, Pat Toomey and….Marco Rubio.

Of all the aforementioned candidates, Rubio best exemplifies the qualities of the Great Communicator, articulating conservatism with a genuine passion and conviction that has helped propel him to 50% in recent polling. Like other Tea Party Republicans, Marco defied the go-along-to-get-along Republican establishment (which immediately sought to destroy his nascent campaign by prematurely endorsing Obama-hugging, stimulus-loving Charlie Crist in May, 2009) with his heretical talk of spending cuts, deficit reduction, government reduction, and tax relief.

A charismatic embodiment of the American Dream whose parents fled Cuba for a better life for themselves and their children, Rubio quickly attracted a loyal following of constituents fed up with Washington games and hungry for the kind of leadership he espoused.

Crist, on the other hand, embarrassed the GOP (a richly deserved outcome) by showing his true self-serving colors and abandoning the party when he read the “tea leaves” and realized he didn’t stand a chance of beating Rubio in the Republican Primary. Thus, the sleazy opportunist who once invoked the greatness of Ronald Reagan and swore he’d never leave the GOP, threw all principle to the wind (if he even had any to begin with) to run as an “Independent”, emphasis on “I”, meaning “Me”.

And in a recent debate, ol’ Charlie found yet another way to disgrace himself by regurgitating a newspaper’s race-baiting, grievance-mongering claim that Rubio had “turned his back on his Hispanic family”, thus proving his Democrat bonafides, according to Ed Morrissey.

Which brings me to today. As a precinct committewoman, it is my obligation to walk precincts — my own and others — ahead of elections, to help get out the vote. This effort is complemented by the distribution of (gasp!) Republican Party-endorsed candidate literature. So it won’t come as a shock that among other candidates today’s goody bags included information on Marco Rubio.

However, it did cause some angst for a Facebook friend and self-described Tea Party movement member on the Gulf Coast, who chastised me in no uncertain terms that “not all Tea Partiers support Marco Rubio” and that I should “just remember that”.

I replied that as independent thinkers, I hardly expected all Tea Party members to be in lockstep on every candidate, but found her remarks sort of odd since Rubio stands for everything the Tea Party seeks to promote. I then reminded her that my precinct walking activity was a function of my membership in the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee to which she snidely replied:

I’m so sorry for “lumping” you into the TEA PARTY MOVEMENT. Belive me, it will NEVER happen again…..

I politely informed her that A.) Tea Party Fort Lauderdale, DC Works For Us and various 9/12 groups in South Florida all endorsed Rubio; B.) It was very possible for one to simultaneously hold membership in both the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party; and C.) if the status updates I posted on MY wall offended her, she was free to either ignore them or delete me.

Personally, I hope she goes with the last option. Facebook has a friend limit and ever since attaining the milestone of 5,000 friends last year, I’ve had a waiting list a mile long.

Go Marco Rubio! Even the Sun-Sentinel wants you to win. 😉

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Filed under Conservative Activism, Politics, Pop Culture, Sarah Palin, Tea Party

Scenes from a South Florida Deli

Kelly Ripa: Beautiful and talented, but not quite endowed enough for the "pigs" in the deli.

I’ve overheard and observed so many interesting conversations and interactions at a local deli where I often go for the excellent food and the free WIFI that I’ve decided to start a new feature on my blog: Scenes from a South Florida Deli. Because writing is such a solitary activity, there are times when I take my laptop to this local hangout and continue my work, surrounded by the sights and sounds of humanity. One of my friends recently asked how I could possibly concentrate amidst all the noise and mayhem; doesn’t it interfere with my ability to churn out good content?

As strange as it may sound, when I am in the “zone” of type, type, post, there could be an earthquake going on around me and I’d barely notice. Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do have the ability to tune out most things when engrossed in creative activity. As paradoxical as it is, that’s just me.

Anyway, the deli also provides some great fodder for blog posts, much in the same way the cafe does for my good writer friend, Brooke Musterman, who penned the excellent book, Reptiles on Caffeine, based on her experiences as a barista.

In my first installment of this series, I would like to address the oft-repeated conventional wisdom, “Men are pigs” (the truth of which is upheld by even the decent guys I know, including a very good Facebook friend). An incident that occurred in the deli the other day would seem to support this hypothesis.

The owners of the establishment have two plasma TV screens located at the front and back of the dining areas. Without fail, one of the shows they broadcast every day (in addition to their unfortunate inclusion of CNN in the daily line-up) is Live with Regis and Kelly.  Now, let me state forthrightly that I have never  been a big fan of Kelly Ripa, Regis or this show, which I’d never willingly watch in the privacy of my own home. However, I am going to defend Kelly here because whether you like her or not, the fact remains that she is a beautiful, accomplished woman.

But try telling that to the “pigs” that frequent the deli, all of whom I truly like when they’re not channeling their inner hormonally charged, perpetually immature high school adolescent. None of these men are particularly attractive and it’s safe to say most of them could afford to shed a few pounds. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from commenting on Kelly Ripa’s lack of  cleavage, as they ridiculed her “flat-chest” and stated that her male co-host probably has bigger boobs than she.

And as I looked at the trim, effervescent and radiant Ripa, I marveled at the fact that she hasn’t succumbed to the pressure of our superficial culture by undergoing surgery to transform herself from an “A” to a “D” — just to make the day of some slobbering men with beer bellies and receding hairlines. Kelly Ripa obviously cares about her looks, wears make-up, gets her hair and nails done, and stays in shape — all very admirable. I do believe in looking one’s very best and I am certainly not demeaning any woman who chooses to increase her bust size via implants. If it’s her choice and hers alone (not one made under pressure by a spouse or boyfriend), more power to her.

What I am stating however, is that there is something terribly wrong with our culture when a woman as physically beautiful as Kelly Ripa is mocked for being an A-cup.

Ironically, later that day I ran into a woman who’d obviously been under the plastic surgeon’s knife a multitude of times. She was unnaturally thin, yet sporting breasts that looked like two inflated hot-air balloons, and occupied pretty much every inch of her chest — to the point where you couldn’t differentiate between her waist and her upper body. Botox-enhanced lips completed the entire Boca Babe vibe. And if her attitude was any indication, this woman was thoroughly convinced she was a femme fatale — a sentiment with which the Kelly Ripa critics in the deli would no doubt concur. I didn’t actually speak to her, but I am pretty sure there wasn’t much going on between her ears, as if that even mattered to most men. Superficially speaking, if I were asked to deem the more attractive woman of the two, Kelly would get my vote in a heartbeat; while the guys in the deli, I am quite certain, would choose big and fake over small and real.

Beauty after all, is in the eye of the beholder. Some of us believe it comes in all forms and sizes — unlike the “pigs” in the deli — who would be wise to invest in a full-length mirror before critiquing a woman they could never hope to date (even if she was available)  on a good day.

Update: My good friend Suzi — who concurs that Ripa is adorable – just informed me that lips do not get botoxed, but instead are filled with a substance such as Juvederm or Restylane. Thank you, Suzi, for the clarification! 🙂

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Filed under Lifestyle, Pop Culture, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

Reflections on Real Life Versus Fiction: Ken’s Question

For someone who’s been in the habit of journaling for nearly all of my life, it’s strange I did not take the time to write about the emotional phone conversations I shared with “Ken” in the months preceding the release of Water Signs. Perhaps because I was so busy channeling all of the energy and feeling into a fictionalized version of events, I didn’t believe it necessary. Besides, there is no way I’d ever forget them, no matter how hard I tried. For good or ill, the selective amnesia phase of my life is definitely over.

And given the personal, surprising nature of what I am about to share in this post, it would be damned near impossible to force myself to forget.

Sometime in July of 2008 — two months before the book was on the market — “Ken” and I made plans to meet for coffee one night after work, against my better judgment. While my heart wanted nothing more than to see him in person for the first time in approximately 13 years, my head kept telling me this was not such a great idea. In fact, it was a really bad one. Keep in mind, unlike the novel, “Ken” was still very much a married man.

And although as I’d admonished him “I hadn’t lost my moral compass” or my steadfast belief in right and wrong (to nip any erroneous notion of my motive for contacting him/writing the book in the bud, i.e. the desire for an affair), I still didn’t see any good reason to put myself in a potentially gut-wrenching and/or tempting situation. After all, I was not superhuman — I was a flawed human being, a woman who was just beginning to understand and appreciate the magnitude of my feelings for this man and the depths of the sorrow we’d inflicted upon each other (though he has me beat in this area; I never pretended my fiancé was my “platonic” roommate, knowing full well someone was relocating their entire life to be with me).

Still, I did sincerely apologize for the hurtful “Dear John” letter I’d mailed him all those years ago, under duress to end the relationship by a well-meaning, but nevertheless misguided parent. It tore me up when during one phone conversation, he described in great detail exactly where he’d been when he’d read it; his anguish was palpable as he relived the memory of standing in his living room in absolute pain, hurt and anger.

And all I could do was say I was sorry. I count this episode among one of the very few things I’d change if God allowed us to travel back in time. Regrets, I’ve had a few — and this is definitely one of them. But I’ve also forgiven the naive, confused 25-year old young woman who’d written that letter because she no longer wished to be the cause of discord between her parents. For that matter, I’ve long forgiven my mom, too.

This aspect of real life is explored in Chapter 13:

“No thanks, I’m not hungry,” she informed her mother, before rolling over to face Lori’s closet. Wasn’t it enough that she’d caved into unreasonable demands and broken Kenny’s heart? She was also expected to carry on as if he’d never existed? Here it was, the night before Thanksgiving and all she wanted to do was crawl under the covers, crying over what might have been; for all she knew, she could’ve been spending the long weekend with Kenny’s family in Ventnor, or driving and laughing with him in the car as they toured suburban Philadelphia on rambling, country roads. Instead here she was, lonely, frustrated, sad and angry—mostly at herself.

After all, Dad, Lori and Greg had all taken her side, offering complete support and encouraging her to follow her heart. Dad had even stressed on more than one occasion that Maddy could always talk to him whenever she felt the need. There was no question that, had she proceeded with the relationship, Mom would’ve accepted it eventually. But Maddy was self-aware enough to acknowledge the truth—she’d used her mother’s disapproval as an escape route when her own intense feelings for Ken had become too frightening to handle.

Looking down at the gold Pisces pendant in her hand, Maddy thought back to that beautiful weekend, and their romantic dinner at The Ship Inn. He had such an incredible way of making her feel as if she was the only woman in a room; being with him had been so easy. No pangs of inadequacy, borne out of some misguided notion of failing to live up to the accomplishments of her ambitious family. Ken saw her as that rare and complete woman—smart, beautiful, principled and sweet. She was everything he never thought he’d find. And towards the end, he’d nearly accomplished the impossible by edging Maddy ever so closer to seeing what had been clear to him from day one.

Anyway, when the idea of an after-work get-together presented itself, an internal battle raged within (should I or shouldn’t I?), though I ultimately agreed to it. Later that same night, “Ken” even emailed his confirmation on the date, place and time; he’d also been very forthcoming about his busy life as a sales executive with days that typically started at 8 a.m. and didn’t end until 8 p.m.

About two days before our scheduled coffee date, I received another email expressing his regret that — due to the fact that some corporate bigwig was flying into Fort Lauderdale the same day we’d arranged our little soirée  — he’d have to cancel. That his weekly Happy Hour ritual with local management had now transformed into a mandatory dinner with the big boss. And while this explanation seemed plausible, even probable, I knew instinctively it was not the real reason for his cold feet: based on our heart-tugging telephone correspondences I surmised that the real, raw emotion we’d mutually dredged up was also a significant factor, maybe even the only one.

Trust me, I was relieved. There was no good reason to break my heart all over again, and I knew that laying eyes on him once more in  person — with his piercing blue eyes; beautiful smile; masculine build; and deep, baritone voice — would only make me sadder about what might have been. It was one thing to verbally clear out past issues; quite another to stare at each other awkwardly over cappuccino in  a local cafe. Then there was the not-so-insignificant matter of someone seeing us in a town where there are six degrees of separation. Innocent or not, given our history this meeting would’ve been highly inappropriate.

Six weeks went by with no word from “Ken”. In my return email, I’d never mentioned anything about rescheduling; I simply wished him luck with his business obligations. On the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend (just weeks before the novel’s release), I’d just arrived home from work when my cell phone rang. The conversation went something like this:

“Ken”: “Daria, I needed to talk to you, to tell you the real  reason why I canceled our meeting.”

Me: “Do I need to sit down for this?”

“Ken”: “I’ve been having these very real, very explicit, passionate dreams about you, and it’s really freaking me out.”

Me: (heart in my throat) “Oh.”

“Ken”: “And the thing is, I don’t even remember you being that attracted to me. I mean, I was the 25 year-old guy with raging hormones and you — well, you just never seemed that into me. And yet in these dreams I’m having, you –”

Me: “Ok Ken, I get the picture.”

“Ken”: “So, I just can’t see you right now; I am just not ready to revisit that idea”.

Me: “To be honest with you, I’m not either. I was kind of glad when you canceled — not that I don’t want to see you, just that I see no reason to put myself through that. And one of us is married, so it’s not right.”

From there it evolved into another emotional exchange with “Ken” telling me how wonderful I was, how much he’s missed me, etc. At one point he asked if he could call me again, to which I replied:

“It’s a free country, Ken, and I can’t stop you from calling me. However, I can’t guarantee that when you do call, I will pick up the phone. I have to think about myself, too. And this is beginning to feel like emotional adultery. I’m glad we got to clear the air, but as long as you’re committed to another woman, we really shouldn’t speak to each other.”

To which he responded  by saying, “That’s what makes you so cool.” (Yeah, that’s me. A real cool cat!)

I should also mention that my heart was pounding furiously throughout the duration of this little exchange, which ended abruptly when he started to get choked up, before mumbling something about driving in traffic and hanging up the phone.

Still reeling, I took out the trash, retrieved my mail and tried to regain my composure. That’s when I noticed a voice mail message on my cell phone:

“Daria, it’s me again.  Please call me back — I have one more question to ask you and it’s the most difficult question of all. Don’t worry, it’ s not about getting together. Like I said, I am not ready to revisit that concept just yet (muffled laugh). Just please call me.”

And here, dear readers, is where we have another convergence of fact and fiction.

In Chapter 18, Ken, now a recently relocated resident of South Florida, dials Maddy’s number to initiate yet another dialogue about the wonders of his new state and the possibility of her joining him in his excellent adventure. Over a year has passed since they’ve seen each other, and Ken has a very pressing matter on his mind:

“Thank God I’m not the only one,” he replied softly. “Maddy, can I ask you something; please don’t get mad at me, but it’s just something I need to know.”

“What?” She braced for the query.

“Are you still a virgin?”

“Kenny! I can’t believe you’re asking me that!” For a moment, she thought about sharing all of her dating horror stories, but quickly decided against it; she wasn’t ready to give him the satisfaction of knowing he still ruled her heart.

“C’mon, Maddy, it’s me you’re talking to here; please just tell me.” His voice remained steady and calm.

“Fine—yes, if you must know! Yes, I am still a virgin! Does that make you happy?”

“Yes, because I still want to be your first—and only,” he confirmed softly. That led to another long silence as Maddy contemplated this simultaneously uplifting and confusing piece of information.

“Kenny,” she finally said, “I-I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Say you want it to,” he pleaded.

“I do, but it’s just not that easy,” she sighed.

While for dramatic purposes, I embellished and altered this real-life exchange in the interest of more compelling fiction, the virginity question was indeed posed by both flesh-and-blood Ken and character Ken.

Almost 15 years after he’d made the original query, “Ken” called me back on that Labor Day weekend afternoon specifically to repeat the question. Bear in mind, we’d already disconnected the call amid a wave of overwhelming emotion, so for him to redial my number strictly for this purpose was a little unsettling. It was also deja vue, only this time we were both living in The Sunshine State.

I’d like to say I acted coyly, or simply announced with some indignation that my sexual status was none of his concern, but after first nervously laughing in reaction (and remembering the “first time” he’d asked me years ago), I was so taken off-guard that I gave a much more detailed answer than was necessary or prudent.

I did however, ask why it was so important to him — being a married man and all. To this day, I am not sure if I am buying his response, but it went something like:

“Sex is such a great part of life and you’re such a wonderful woman I just wanted to make sure you’re not missing out.”

Coming on the heels of canceling our coffee date due to “passionate dreams” about me, admitting he’s not ready to see me in person and having the audacity to inquire about my love life, this just didn’t come across as an honest answer. It also confirmed that, as long as “Ken” was choosing to remain united in the bonds of marriage with another woman, this had to be the absolute last time we’d ever speak. One thing I knew for certain: if I was a married woman, I would not be too happy if I knew my husband was participating in such intimate conversations with an old flame.

But in the age of the internet, there’s always email — and social media. And I would soon discover that “Ken’s” spouse was not above using a little LinkedIn deception to make a little mischief of her own.

More intrigue to come in another post.


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

More Random Thoughts on the Writing Process

In my last post, I started to delve a little deeper into the fusion of fact and fiction, and some of the literary techniques I employed in penning Water Signs. There’s also a bit of personal intrigue intertwined in the entire experience — things I haven’t previously shared on my blog.

First though, I want to take up where I last left off, namely the reconnection via letter and telephone between the two main characters after a 13-year absence. In the novel, as in real life, the guy made the call upon learning from his mother that a letter had arrived for him at her house — before he’d even had it in his possession. Neither Madeline, nor I had signed a name above the return address on the envelope, but the address alone is (was) apparently enough information for the recipient to know exactly who’d been trying to reach him.

That first night back from Disney, as Maddy listens to the sound of Ken’s familiar voice, even she is taken aback by her reaction:

Nothing could have prepared Madeline for the fireworks that erupted within at the mere sound of Ken’s voice. As if afraid of her thoughts displaying on some sort of celestial cloud for the whole world to see, she moved to the recliner chair in her sitting area, which was located at the extreme front of her home. After listening to his message a few times, she pressed “2” to save it in the archives, and then jotted down Ken’s cell phone number.

“It’s all yours, Mom,” she said as calmly as she could, handing over the cordless before taking her cell and retreating to the privacy of her bedroom.

She’s also cautiously optimistic and admirably pragmatic:

Here it was, nearly 11 p.m. on a Wednesday evening. He’d mentioned specifically that the cell number he’d given her was a business line. Did she dare dial the number now? After a brief internal debate, Maddy decided to go for it. After all, she’d been searching for him long enough. It was high time to just get on with it, knowing that whatever might transpire, she could handle the outcome well. Having successfully overcome truly horrific problems in the past—the most formidable of which had been panic and anxiety disorder, Madeline could now effectively cope with anything else life threw at her. She’d been thoroughly tested and proven incredibly stronger for the experience.

This is another area where real life differs from the novel. Because right after Maddy returns Ken’s voice mail with one of her own, the scene changes to Ken’s bedroom, where he’s lost in thought over the woman he’d first met as a much younger man at the Jersey Shore — and wondering if she’s aware of the fact that he’s now officially divorced. It’s also an example of the novel’s recurring theme of reconciliation:

Yes, he understood the purpose of her card, and it touched him deeply that she felt the need to apologize for past transgressions. And at the same time, he acknowledged that he himself was also guilty of inflicting pain on her. In many ways, he should’ve been the one sending a letter.

Strange also that this particular year had brought her so much clarity; he’d just signed his divorce papers the previous fall. Did Maddy somehow know that? If she had been aware of his marital status, she offered no indication in her correspondence. His last recent search of public records had revealed no information whatsoever, which was understandable, given that his attorney had advised him it could take up to a year for such records to be updated on Internet databases. With no mutual friends or acquaintances to spread the word, Maddy was most likely in the dark. And that made her gesture even more impressive.

Of course, Madeline really has no proof and no reason to believe he’s a single man once again, her psychic friend Ann Claire’s prediction notwithstanding. And to keep the suspense going for the character (unlike the reader), I purposely kept any mention of it out of their conversation the next morning — which is based on the very same one I had with “Ken”:

Neither one of them dared mentioned children, spouses or even possible boyfriends, though Ken had the benefit of near-certainty of her single status, which had been implicitly stated in her letter. Still, he hesitated to ruin the joy of this reconnection by speaking of Erin, even for the express purpose of revealing his divorce. Why remind either one of them of the pain of the past? For now, he’d simply savor this long-overdue conversation with Madeline; he could fill her in on the details of his marital break-up when they finally met face-to-face again.

However, he couldn’t resist “confessing” to Googling her and feeling frustrated when his searches came up empty. His admission sent shivers of excitement down her spine, proving Ann right on yet another point—Ken had ardently wanted Maddy to contact him. The psychic had been adamant about so many things, not the least of which was Ken and Madeline’s ability to “recreate the relationship,” now that he was out of his marriage. And though Ann’s track record had been nearly flawless over the years, Madeline still yearned to hear him speak the words as she held the phone to her ear and paced around her bedroom.

In real life, this was a very warm, friendly and welcome conversation. Like the novel, it did end with a request to get together, though it had been more of a vague “Hey we should meet up for coffee sometime” kind of deal. Unlike the novel, the invitation thankfully never did result in an in-person meeting, for reasons I will share later. In terms of the book, however, to keep up a good pace and heighten the drama, Chapter 29 picks up with a nervous Maddy hastily applying lipstick in the ladies room of her corporate office building.

At this time in my life, I was working as a content writer in downtown Fort Lauderdale for a large financial firm, which provided plenty of inspiration in terms of settings for Madeline and Ken’s long-anticipated reunion. My co-workers and I used to frequent a nice restaurant called The Samba Room, which is actually a popular chain in South Florida. The real Ken at the time was working in Fort Lauderdale also, though not anywhere near downtown. So that gave me the idea of arranging a lunch date for my characters in a place I’d frequently shared good food with work friends. And it’s here where Maddy finally finds the strength and courage to forthrightly ask about his marital status:

That was Maddy’s cue to finally end the suspense. Folding her menu, she set it aside and, leaning slightly forward, politely but firmly demanded the truth. “Kenny, I need you to level with me, please. Look, nothing will ever change the way I feel about you. No matter what you tell me, I will always be thankful for this opportunity to reconnect. It’s so good to see you; especially since there was a time I thought I never would ever again—at least not in person.

“But for my own sake, I want to know right here and now exactly where things stand. Is there a woman in your life whose world would be torn apart if she knew you were looking at me this way? Is it really appropriate for you to say these things, knowing how much I—”

“Madeline Rose! Do you honestly believe I would toy with you like that?” Maddy’s heart leapt in her chest as he went on. “Sweetheart, I told you on the phone I’d been trying to find you. That wasn’t just because I missed an old friend; it was because I realized how much I missed my one true love. Once my marriage ended, I knew I had to at least look for you, though I also knew I was risking a huge disappointment. I mean, for someone like you to still be available—I just didn’t think it was possible. Surely some guy would’ve scooped you up by now.”

Here’s where I couldn’t resist adding a commentary on the dating rituals of this tropical paradise, something about which Ken himself is lacking in experience:

“Obviously, you are completely unfamiliar with the South Florida dating scene,” she smiled as a rush of excitement coursed through her body.

This leads to a renewal of their relationship in every way — emotionally, spiritually, mentally and, eventually — physically (following her acceptance of his marriage proposal in Chapter 33).

But I am getting ahead of myself.

This scene is purely fictional, a product of my imagination, based on real people and places. However as I mentioned in another post, some serendipitous things did occur in real life on the way to getting Water Signs published.

After that initial conversation, nothing much happened for a while. I kept writing my book and nearing its conclusion. And though I’d mentioned it in passing to “Ken” during our initial conversation, as the website began to take shape and I started to mobilize social media marketing efforts, I felt he should know the extent to which he was featured in the novel. That there wasn’t simply a character based on him — there was a character based on him who was the hero of the story. And that the story culminates with his character divorcing his first wife and eventually marrying my fictional counterpart.

In my mind, if he’d already admitted to “Googling” me, what would prevent him from doing it again, knowing I was working on my first book? He’d seemed pretty excited to hear that news — and understanding that certain contents might not go over too well with members of his family (particularly his wife), I figured I’d nip any potential unpleasantness in the bud.

This is where my friend “Elyse” disagreed with my decision, but true to form, I followed my instincts.

More to come in the next post.

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Erin in Water Signs: A Boca Babe Embodiment of the Culture of Self-Absorption

More than any other character drawn from my own life in Water Signs, Erin Mahoney Lockheart owes about 90% of her creation more to a stereotype than an actual person. Yes, there is a real fiancée and wife whose acquaintance I’d made many years ago, and those recollections formed a starting point for the character sketch. However, after having spent so many years in South Florida, I felt very strongly about including a commentary about what I call our current “culture of self-absorption”, and it was this desire that led to the evolution of Erin.

Throughout Boca Raton and the surrounding areas, I’d seen, heard, witnessed and experienced enough examples of self-serving, egotistical and superficial behavior to write an entire non-fiction book on the topic.  But since I was penning what would in the end be a triumph of virtue, integrity, traditional values and true love over all sorts of formidable obstacles, I had to find a way to highlight this theme via plot and character. And it didn’t take long to realize that Erin was the perfect vehicle through which to do just that.

So it’s only in the early stages of Part Two that Ken’s fiancée even remotely resembles her real-life counterpart (whose name has been completely changed), although in what is most likely a very dramatic departure from reality, Erin absolutely hates football — one of the many contrasts between her and Madeline purposely created for dramatic reasons. Although Ken confesses his commitment to another woman to Madeline in an earlier chapter (more on that in another post), it’s not until Chapter 24 that readers — along with Maddy, who has reluctantly agreed to attend a BBQ at their condo — meet her for the first time:

From the moment she entered their two-story condo on the fifth floor, she felt a distinctive yet subtle hostility in the air, similar to the one that had greeted her at Kenny’s real estate office awhile back. And though physically attractive with a willowy figure, blue eyes and silky blonde hair, Erin definitely exuded a hard, urban vibe, notwithstanding her impressive career and level of education.

Yet it wasn’t her tough, Philly accent and her rough-around-the-edges veneer that most impacted Madeline; it was her pervasive coldness and attitude of indifference. She barely engaged Maddy in conversation, though Ken’s former flame conducted herself with as much dignity as she could possibly muster under the circumstances. And while Kenny did his best to facilitate the flow of conversation, it wasn’t long before Maddy wished she hadn’t accepted his invitation in the first place. When Erin abruptly excused herself to go to bed — claiming a migraine headache — Madeline resolved to banish all thoughts of Ken and Erin from her mind forever.

In Part Two, Maddy performs her own rendition of this heartbreaking song from my favorite musical, Les Miserables for a local dance studio production.

This incident instigates a thirteen-year, self-imposed, selective amnesia on the part of Madeline, embarked upon for the sake of her own sanity and self-preservation (it’s also a compounding factor in her bout with panic and anxiety disorder). She literally forces herself to forget that either one of these people even exists, just as I did in real life. It was just too painful to cope with, too unbearable to work through, even though, like Madeline, I had many sympathetic shoulders I could’ve cried on (while this isn’t really explored in the novel, I suppose for myself pride was also to blame for my reticence in sharing this devastating news with someone, anyone who loved me).

And since the story is basically told from Madeline’s perspective, that’s the last we see of Ken and Erin for a period of time, while Maddy endures the nadir of her panic and anxiety problem before solving it via a psychic; offers forgiveness to her old boyfriend Jake Winston when he calls out of the blue; and finds some career success via her writing and communications skills.

In Chapter 25, I do provide a bit of foreshadowing and embellishment using an event that truly is straight out of real life:

Taking a seat in a nearby rocking chair, Ken leaned back and closed his eyes as thoughts of Maddy permeated his brain. How was she doing? Had she gotten married yet? Was she still writing? He hadn’t seen a copy of The Good News Gazette in a while, though he’d secretly held onto the copy his mother had brought over to his house just weeks after Bonnie’s birth. That was before Erin had set up a home-based business and taken a corporate position in the creative department of a local cosmetics company.

Paula Lockheart had entered Ken and Erin’s home that morning, armed with a stack of newspapers and magazines, which she’d carefully set down on the coffee table before heading into the nursery. As Ken walked through the living room on his way to make breakfast, a photo of two familiar faces caught his eye. And when he picked up the publication to take a closer look, his heart was filled with pride and longing.

Beneath the headline, “My Brother, My Hero”, and the byline bearing the author’s name, Madeline and Louis smiled back at him, seated at a round dining table. Wow. She’d finally achieved her goal of becoming a published writer. He well remembered the endless conversations — by the ocean, snuggled up on the couch or wrapped up under the satin sheets of his water bed — during which Maddy would eloquently share her dreams for the future. In spite of everything, he still missed that connection.

And much like his real-life inspiration, Ken calls the editor of the paper in an attempt to obtain Madeline’s phone number, only to be dejected when she refuses to give it out. Instead, she offers to share his contact information with her newest writer and allow her to decide if she wishes to dial the number. Skeptical of whether or not she’d actually take the initiative to call, he is thrilled when a few days later, his former girlfriend’s curiosity gets the better of her:

Ken felt the same powerful eruptions within at the sound of her voice, though she gave no indication of her personal status, opting instead to update him about her parents and siblings. Madeline also omitted from the conversation her ongoing struggle with panic disorder, preferring to keep the tone light, so as not to solicit any unwanted offers of help or worse — an invitation to dinner at his home. The last thing she needed was an evening with Ken, Erin and their new baby.

Thus, we’re starting to learn a bit more about Erin indirectly, by way of her husband’s lingering feelings for another woman. Readers already know from Chapter 19 that he’d had some reservations about going through with the wedding, confiding in Madeline that part of his motivation for doing so was that “we didn’t want to live in sin anymore”. And it’s also in this chapter that we get a glimpse into Erin’s personality when he notes how “she kind of depends on me” since most of her co-workers were busy with their own families and social lives. There’s a distinct impression that for all of her high-powered business acumen, Erin is also very high maintenance. This is confirmed (along with their eventual divorce) in Chapter 27 via Paula Lockheart’s internal musings during an outdoor power-walk:

Too bad her former daughter-in-law hadn’t shared that opinion. Oh sure, in the beginning she used him like a security blanket after she’d accepted a lucrative position with an ad agency in Miami and relocated from Atlantic City. Oddly, for such a talented and successful girl, Erin had more than her fair share of insecurities, depending on Ken to provide everything from a social life to a comfortable place to live.

And while he was working hard as a mortgage broker and real estate agent by day, and taking classes in marketing and business at Florida International University four nights a week, she constantly harangued him over stupid things, like buying her the “wrong” gift or not spending enough time together. Paula sighed as she recalled one particular Valentine’s Day, when Ken had inadvertently provoked Erin’s ire by buying her rollerblades — even though she’d been asking for them for months. That had been just one in a series of troubling incidents that should have prevented her son from walking down the aisle.

In Chapter 28, we get Ken’s perspective on his now ex-wife, and the reasons for the dissolution of their marriage:

Then there was the negative influence of the Boca Raton culture. While an exceedingly beautiful city and desirable place to live, Boca’s downside was the extreme superficiality of many of its residents, some of whom held positions of power within the community, from the local paper’s society page writer to the plethora of ambitious millionaires that populated upscale neighborhoods like Broken Sound, Royal Palm and The Sanctuary. While Ken envied no one, content to focus on his own goals, Erin got caught up in the web of botox, breast enhancements and liposuction that characterized the activities of the city’s wealthiest females.

And as her business thrived, so did her vanity, leading her to undergo a seemingly endless parade of plastic surgeries, all to assuage her fears of growing older, and to help her keep pace with the women with whom she networked for both business and social purposes. After almost thirteen years of marriage, Ken didn’t even recognize her — or was it more accurate to say he was just beginning to?

As a direct result of her own self-centered behavior, Erin’s marriage ultimately implodes. For all of his genuine efforts to make it work for the sake of their children, Ken realizes that without her willingness to change, it’s a futile undertaking. For a woman who had it all — a devoted husband, two healthy children, a beautiful home and a thriving career — Erin expressed very little in the way of gratitude, opting instead to focus exclusively on the superficial side of life. Thus, her humble Southwest Philly roots, doting childhood, foundation of faith and hard-earned education are tossed aside for the pursuit of all things material. And in the end, it costs her dearly.

Am I stating as an author that it’s bad to attain things like fancy cars and designer clothes? Absolutely not.

What I am positing however, is the need to keep these things in perspective and not lose sight of what truly matters in life. Ken rises from humble beginnings to find impressive success in the corporate world, but it never alters the person he is inside. He remains faithful to the morals and values with which he’s been raised; the same is also true for Madeline, though materially she is not quite as successful.

To Ken, his children are a top priority; to Erin, they are sometimes an afterthought far behind her own wants and desires (though she does truly love them).  In this society we’re living in and specifically in South Florida, I’ve seen parents, divorced or married, more concerned about their social lives than their own kids’ well-being. I’ve witnessed the substitution of money and material things for time, attention and discipline. And I’ve even watched as middle-aged mothers disgracefully competed with their daughters for the affection of a man, or the wink of a stranger’s eye.

Our current culture seems to have jettisoned the concept of growing old gracefully and dressing appropriately (albeit attractively) for one’s age. Our children are worse off because of it, and it’s well past time for good people to help swing the pendulum back. And I hope through my writing I can positively affect the discussion. In the meantime, I am forever grateful for my upbringing by loving parents who cared enough to spend time with, discipline and educate their children.

Fun Fact: The paper I used to write for was The Happy Herald, though at the time it was called The Happy Times Monthly. And yes, my first published piece was indeed titled, My Brother, My Hero in honor of my brother Ralph (Louis in the book), and featured a photo of us on the front page. If my scanner was working properly, I’d include that same photo here, but instead will post this one of the two of us in Deerfield Beach:

Ralph and I having dinner at Duffy's last summer.

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Fabulous Female Patriots

Please visit YouTube and add another number to Ava’s total views.

Yesterday’s Examiner article by Hank Oprinski — along with the many wonderful comments that followed from fellow patriots and friends — provided a much-needed boost to my spirits. While I always strive to be a happy warrior to help keep others motivated and energized for the fight, I must confess: there are days when the bad news can be so overwhelming it’s a challenge to even log onto Facebook, let alone post something inspiring and uplifting.

During those troubling moments, I remember to FROG — Fully Rely On God, asking that Eternal Presence for strength while recalling that our Founding Fathers often did the same. Nothing is impossible with God, not even returning this beloved country back to its Constitutional principles.

God has answered my prayers in many ways, and I want to address just one of them here. While I am honored, humbled and thrilled to receive recognition for my work after years of plugging away, the truth is there’s an endless list of fabulous female patriots who deserve their own write-up. I am forever grateful to have found these ladies through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter; networking and developing solid relationships with them has given me strength, hope and encouragement during these very bleak times.

As I mentioned in the Examiner piece, I grew up in a conservative home with a mom who was quite the political activist. From the time I was little, I accompanied her to various polling locations, where I’d hold up signs, pass out candidate literature and — when old enough to do so — help count votes at the end of the day. Thankfully, my siblings and close relatives have remained solid in their convictions, so unlike many friends, I haven’t experienced any Obama-induced rancor in my familial relationships.

When I moved to South Florida in 1994, I retained my conservative values, but wasn’t quite prepared for the pervasive liberalism that characterizes Palm Beach and Broward Counties. While I found other conservative women through my participation as a volunteer on various campaigns, in normal life, I was severely outnumbered. In other venues, such as business card exchanges and women’s business networking groups, it seemed nearly impossible to find a contrary opinion among the successful female entrepreneurs and go-getters. Worse, it was pretty much expected (with a few exceptions) of all female members to share the same philosophy, whether on abortion, gun rights, education or war — just to name a few hot-button issues.

Over the years, some otherwise nice women have said such things to me as:

I still love you, even though you’re a Republican.

Y-you’re a Republican??? But you’re so nice!

You voted for George W. Bush???? How could you?

Of course the tobacco companies should be sued. Those poor people didn’t know how addictive nicotine could be! (This one was in response to my noting that the Surgeon General’s warning about cigarettes and health had been around for decades, thus people needed to take responsibility for their own choices.)

You’re against abortion? Then don’t have one! (Never mind the fact that taxpayers are forced to pay for them, or that Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional.)

Of course your parents didn’t abort you even though they were struggling financially and not looking to add a fifth child to the family. They knew your father’s medical career would take off soon! (As if the sanctity of life has anything to do with how much money the parents have. I can assure you, even if my dad had been a trash collector, I would not have been aborted. End of story.)

And of course, throughout (and in the years following) the fiasco that was the Election of 2000, with its hanging chads, seemingly endless recounts and 24-hour news coverage, things only got worse. I remember at one particular women’s venue in 2003, right about the time the Iraq War had begun, a female psychologist made the incredibly inane statement that “if not for men, there would be no war.”   She naturally followed this up with a lovely diatribe against President Bush to which every woman in the group, with the exception of yours truly, nodded along approvingly.

Following 9/11, some of these gals — in true liberal, self-flagellating fashion — blamed the USA, with one of my friends at the time actually longing for a quiet life in a thatched-roof cottage on a hillside in Ireland (never mind that this same woman loved making money and all of the designer trappings that resulted from such a pursuit). I’m pretty sure to this day, she still resides in glamorous Boca Raton.

Up until the worst attack on American soil, I relegated my commentary to “safe” places like Republican meetings, family gatherings and pro-US Military demonstrations where I’d be surrounded by like-minded people. But once I realized the rules had changed, that our very freedom was under relentless assault, I became more vocal even in decidedly unfriendly places. Not surprisingly, this did not endear me to the abortion-on-demand-Republicans-are-evil crowd, although at that point I truly didn’t care. If I could sway just one opinion, it would be worth taking the slings and arrows.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2008, when I discovered through various righty blogs that there was a conservative online revolution taking place on Facebook and Twitter. Having been an avid blogger by that point who’d even appeared on Fox News in August, 2004 to discuss politics and dating, I decided to get in on the action. I’d also just finished my first novel Water Signs, and thought it would also be a great way to market the book. While I’d hoped to connect with others who shared my love for the USA, I never expected to cultivate such genuine friendships with so many beautiful female (and male) patriots.

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I realized the existence of thousands of heretofore unknown conservative soul-mates of the estrogen variety –many who live right here in South Florida — to my great surprise and delight. Over the past two years, I’ve gotten to know some amazing female grassroots activists all across this great nation, and I am thankful to God for each and every one of them.

They keep me motivated, strong and optimistic. They pick me up when I’m feeling down. They inform me of important news events and local happenings. They stand with me for freedom.

In short, because of them, I am able to keep up this fight in the onslaught of one egregious happening after another since the inauguration of Obama. From Obamacare to the Gulf oil disaster — and every horrible occurrence in-between and yet to come — these intelligent,  articulate and independent-minded ladies give me real hope that WE THE PEOPLE will ultimately prevail.

Thank you to all of them for being such a positive force in my life. May God bless each and every one!

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