Category Archives: Life

A case for Chia pets.

Though it was 15 years ago now, the “SM Armpit Incident,” as it’s been tagged in my family, never seems to escape discussion when my kids and husband are ragging on Mom. Such was the gathering at the Flo house this weekend. I took another look at the story’s chronicle I’d written in my weekly column in The Crier’s “Over the Picket Fence.” It can also be found on page 49 of my first book, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha.” I share it with you now:

December 8, 2004

I’ve Got Something Up My Sleeve.  And I suspect you’ll never guess what. I assure you I was not expecting it either. 

I spotted the jar from across the store and with my fists full of shopping bags, I rustled over with the same kind of raging passion that the jar’s contents had stirred in me decades ago. 

Like any child longs for the love and passion of a pet, I had begged and cried for my own. I tacked pictures from the back pages of my Archie Gang comic books on the refrigerator with PLEASE written in my best cursive. And I dreamed about their sweet faces, crowned heads and wiggly tails smiling at me from the home I would lovingly create for them.

No wonder I was so intrigued! Look at this description” “They swim, play, scoot, race and do comical tricks and stunts.” I no-doubt sent my money in quarters taped to the back of form, especially excited to see a sea monkey “scoot.”

Yes, of course, we’re talking about sea monkeys. 

And after all these years, here were sea monkeys for sale at the mall. And just like the ones that had finally arrived in my mailbox oh so many years ago, they looked nothing like the drawing in the comic book ads or on the box they were selling at the mall. In fact, it looked just like tap water if you dare to look closely — just little specks of nothing floating around in the water.

I was immediately filled with that same sense of self-doubt and Emperor’s New Clothes inferiority that I felt when looking at my children on scratchy black sonogram photos. What am I missing here? Is it just me that can’t see a family of monkey-shaped water cuties in this jar? How can they dare to think more could be fooled by this promise of pets to love and love back?

What could this mockery possibly cost, I wondered. 

I turned the jar over to look at the price tag and te entire sticky sea and its fake monkeys poured down the sleeve of my coat sopping the arm of my sweater from one end to the other. 

I gasped from the cold shock, put aside the embarrassing horror, and then pondered my options. 

They put the price tag on the bottom of the jar and they don’t even have a seal for the top?

There was certainly no retrieving the sea monkey pets that were now wallowing around my armpit. What if the store clerk wanted me to pay for them? I would have been a fool to pay good money for the sea monkeys intact. I simply couldn’t bare the thought.

But, I am a mother, a mother who is always looking to guide my charges toward doing the right thing during these teachable moments. And to walk out without saying a word would certainly not set the right example. 

Then, on the other hand, my kids were at school and would never have to know.

But, what if I walked out and my actions caused another kind of consequence, something in line with stepping on a crack in the sidewalk? I realized quickly that I couldn’t take that risk either. 

There seemed like nary an answer to my sea monkey dilemma until I turned toward a flashing strobe pulsating light on an end cap display and my answer. 

Of course. I’d simply buy something else at the store. I would buy enough of something that it would cover my guilt. And I would do it quickly enough that I’d be safely back home changing my sweater before anyone suspected my misdemeanor.

It worked. I don’t feel a bit guilty for setting those sea monkeys free. And I got all my shopping done, to boot.

I do hope the Chia pets will be a big hit with all my family and friends.

And there it is. Not necessarily a proud moment—either in my klutziness or my rationaled behavior— but a story that has stood the test of time, to be sure. Please share when you see a blog post you like! And visit my website at
Books are available via Amazon

Writing through the deadly sins.

I came across a cute meme that I shared on my FB author page this week:

Its ring-true humor doesn’t change the fact that writing is one of my favorite things to do. And even better, there are many enviable exceptions to this rule of writing lucratively.

But as my tax return will prove, being an author can have just as many red lines as black.

And that doesn’t even count the cost I’ll ultimately pay for deadly sin envy that I have for those who are able to make writing their full-time and very lucrative work.

(So deep, I could probably kidnap Agent/Author H.N. Swanson and hold him or her for ransom and then brag about it, and come out better on Judgment Day.)

But, undoubtedly and unequivocally, writing and publishing my so-far-three-books is one of my greatest prides. (Indeed, another deadly sin, but the red lines keep that one in perspective.)

Fact is, this blog was never intended to be about money. Or sins for that matter. Its original intention is now in my drafts folder for another day.

Instead, I’ll attempt at wrapping up the words and 5 a.m. nonsense so that we can all get on with our days:

I’m lusting for muse (or time and conviction) to get back on my third novel train. (Reunion of Saints, I know you’re in there.) I’m angry (and sort of grateful) that my thoughts wake me up at weird hours of the night and pull me by the fingertips to the keyboard. If either of my novels ever do make it to the best seller list, I would probably be greedy and want to do it again. If there was some coconut cream pie in my refrigerator, I’d probably eat it in glutton(y)ous bites between paragraphs of this blog. And I like Kristen Bell, but I don’t get her affinity for sloths.

Sure, I like clean lines.

Simple is in. I get it.

Minimalism rules; frou-frou drools. I know.

And particularly in my realtor world, I get, appreciate, encourage the style. It works. No question.

But maybe, it’s just not in my soul.

My oldest millennial— er, oldest daughter, that is— is as simple as they come. And since I’m not, it’s just one of the zillion ways we differ. She’s grey and white; I’m color palooza. She’s classic and understated; I’m more is more.

I brought her up in a world where nothing is safe from embellishment and she’s been rebelling since I hot-glued pom-poms to the lid of her toy box.

And yes, I’m pretty sure her categorical yin is because of my unmitigated yang.

Now she’s living the hip life in a cool new town with a killer job in an uber contempo highrise. Though she’s only home a few days a year, she’s not shy to point out the incompatible zen of her childhood room.

“I want my room to be grey, Mom.”

“You mean the room that you only live in a handful of days a year? What about the kiwi green, whitewashed-striped walls with the adorable swiss dot outline I painted? And grey walls won’t go with the ocean blue accents like the reversable floral and striped duvet I lovingly sewed, or the plaid and color block curtains with matching drapery rings. Wouldn’t you miss looking up at the display of your swim trophies on the shelves Dad made when you come home?”

She agreed to my terms: Do whatever you want as long as you complete and clean up everything before going back to Chi-town. And she followed through with Part 2 of the rules expected to dissuade: Haul everything you no longer want to Goodwill before you go.

She left me with a lovely grey room, a plain white duvet on the bed, a clear-of-all-clutter dresser and desk, and empty walls. I agreed to finish it off keeping mindful of her zen and spartan sophistication.

Literally found. It was in someone’s trash pile at the street along with a little black chest that’s now my new bedside table. Frou-frou? Perhaps, but lavender is such a nice complement to grey, don’t you think? Then, I brought out the mirror I’d pulled from her trunk before she left for Goodwill. I covered the ocean blue paint with enamel white and hung it back on her wall.

Then I took the old bedside table from my room with the cracked glass top and painted a perfectly-sized wooden charger to replace the glass. I moved that to our den.

Not ready to stop, I took the old bedside table from Jill’s room that had a circus of etched drinking glass rings on the wooden top. I covered it with some wallpaper I found in my craft closet, aged the stark white background, painted the table’s curvy piecrust edges, added a coat of poly and exchanged it for another table in our den.

I appreciate clean lines, I really do. But it’s the whirly and wiggly ones that get my motor running. I’ll bask in the clean-lined zen when I visit Jill at her uber contempto highrise. And she can relax and appreciate her cool-cat style when she returns from visits here in the land of the embellished.

I think it’s a win-win.

P.S. Help me grow my blog! Follow by clicking the follow button and share when you see one you like! K

Marie Kondo is right. (And other things I learned this weekend.)

  1. My husband, who claims to be good at a cocktail party because he knows about five minutes of every subject, has never heard of Marie Kondo. Where, oh where, dear man…
  2. Joy is relative. Adjust with “tolerate” if you just can’t pull joyous emotion from the five-year-old pants you wear twice a week. Then just hang them back up.
  3. Always clean your closet BEFORE you blame the drycleaner.
  4. American Express should tag my account: “Make the lady clean out old purses before processing stolen card claim.”
  5. Dust bunnies are real. One hopped from the floor to the closet shelf I had just cleaned when I turned my back.
  6. Four-inch heels haven’t worked for years. Just say no and goodbye.

I found a leak, I found a memory.

I’ve never journaled the traditional way, but I’m having fun with blogging, and my 16-year stint as a newspaper columnist provides a personal history log as I look back on my weekly musings. Fact is, of all the great reasons for journaling, one of the most satisfying is the opportunity to relive the precious moments that become lost as you move from one stage of life to another.

I got a kick out of this memory penned in the Dunwoody Crier back on October 3, 2001 and it’s one I included in my first book, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha,” a compilation of some of my favorite columns. Probably would never have remembered this had it not been written down, but this one is about my daughter Jackie when she was 9, and ironically, it’s about journaling!

(The Crier 10/03/01) I found a leak.If you make the effort to protect your personal identity and private information by shredding confidential papers and cutting up credit cards and then spreading the pieces between 12 different trash cans, allow me to offer this important advice: Check your child’s school journal.

It’s an exercise in creative, freestyle writing that most teachers have students do every morning to loosen the imagination and ready the brain for learning. It’s free-thought journal writing and I’m all for that kind of thing. At least I thought I was. Then I went to Parents’ Night and was invited to sit at my child’s desk and browse through her desk and journal. 

There in rigid cursive and number 2 pencil, was a full account of the morning I’d woken after a fitful night full of bad dreams that a shark was eating my purse. 

The morning I mistook the coriander for cinnamon and served it on toast? In there. 

Her older sister’s double-top-secret locker combination? In there, too.

A panoramic description of our front porch after the cat wrestled with and then left us a couple of sweet gifts? Right there in the school journal. 

Jackie Florence, the leaker.

I turned the page only to find a detailed chronicle of the day she was late for school because I had Clairol shade number 3488690 on my hair and had to wait to rinse. That could be found right above the exact words that came out of my mouth when some guy pulled out in front of me as I later took her to school — driving over the speed limit and with a towel wrapped around my head. 

After seeing the panic in the eyes of some of the parents as they read through these journals, the teacher assured us that she’d only believe half of what she heard about us, if we believed only half of what we heard from our kids about her. 

I suppose that means Mrs. Shepherd had some help when she hung the moon.

I was lucky that my 16 years of writing weekly columns for the Dunwoody Crier coincided with the growing-up years of our two daughters. While I started the column when Jill and Jackie were 6 and 8, the title story, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha” comes from a time near the end of that run and is about becoming an empty nester. It’s available via Amazon.

P.S. Help me grow my blog! Follow by clicking the follow button and share when you see one you like! Mucho thanks. K

I’m not gonna bite this time.

I grooved on the whole brussel sprouts thing.

Boiled or steamed ones are hideous and I was not overreacting when I gagged, wretched and feigned death into my cloth napkin at my grandmother’s dining table, but once I learned to cut them up, roast and marry them with some fennel or cabbage, and season with tiny chips of bacon and olive oil, I was all in.

I did a 180 on olives, which I thought I hated for five decades. Turns out I love them. And not just in martinis.

I celebrated radishes a few years back when they became groovy again. Duh-uhh for gourmet burgers, avacado toast, mocktails and cronuts, but I now eat kale, beets and hummus, and simply adore good sushi.

I’m drawing the line at cottage cheese though.

Apparently it’s making a come-back and I’m not budging. I was six the last time I tried it and I’m holding fast to the never-again commitment I made that day.

Sometimes you’ve just got to stick to your convictions. I’m a hard NO on gummies, artificially-flavored strawberry things and cottage cheese. It’s all I’ve got left.

How do you like them apples?

I found myself saying that to my husband this week. When was the last time I’d used that line? Maybe never. When was the last time I heard it? Possibly from one of my long-passed grandfathers, both who had a million of ’em. (insert Jimmy Durante’s cigar and ‘Wonk, wonk.’)

Like, “See ya in the funny papers!”

And, “You ain’t just whistling Dixie…” “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall…” “He’s cruisin’ for a bruising.”

And “Heavens to Murgatroyd.” Who is Murgatroyd, anyway? Snagglepus seemed to know and I feel like it made sense when I watched Saturday morning cartoons, but now I’m not sure what I thought it meant.

I used the funny-paper line in my most recent novel, Three of Cups. I was no doubt channeling my own Pop when I created the grandfather character to Rachel’s portion of the story. In lieu of saying ‘goodbye,’ Rachel and her grandfather (cleverly disguised as Poppy) shared a routine of rounding their thumb and first fingers into ‘O’s, holding them up to their eyes, and peering at each other while simultaneously reciting the line.

Those who know me well know that I’ve made it a personal mission to keep ‘groovy’ in the vernacular, but I credit Tom Florence with holding down the fort with some oldies but goodies too. He shows his age (and his adorable charm IMHO) with lines like “That dog will hunt,” “Like white on rice,” “Seven ways to Sunday,” and “High as a cat’s back.”

Whenever we asked my dad where he was going, his favorite line was, “Downtown to buy Wheaties.” He loved Wheaties, and I loved it when he said that.

He also had a regular response to every gift he ever received—whether a pair of socks or the  surprise can of Barbasol he received from my sister Vicki for every occasion: “Well, I’ll be the grandest tiger in the jungle!” I loved that too.

Full disclosure: When I said to Tom, “How do you like them apples,” I actually said “potatoes” at first and then corrected myself. I’m not sure if he noticed. I’m not sure if he was listening.

But, time to move on…

See you cats in the sandbox!

Girlfriends of the Monkees.

We played it for weekends at a time. Quite possibly one entire summer.

I was Davy’s girlfriend, and God knows why, my girlfriend name was “Dolly.” We packed suitcases for the concert tours, warded off crazy backstage fans, went on dates in planes and trains and fancy cars, and surfed on a plank between two chairs in my bedroom while our famous, visible-only-to-true believers, boyfriends surfed behind us.

Of course, Davy was a good pick, arguably the cutest, the most popular and got the most vocals, but the real truth? My friend Melinda picked first.

thHad she not called Peter Tork before I had the chance, I would have picked Peter. He was taller, a little goofier and had a dimple that looked a lot like mine. I never told Melinda, but I thought we were a better match. Plus, though we were only 12 or 13, but I already had a good four inches on Melinda, so it would have been a simple, natural, sensible trade.

Davy’s gone. Now Peter. Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings, Of the bluebird as she sings, The six-o’clock alarm would never ring.

Thanks for the memories, adorable Peter Tork. And for the goofy Saturday morning ventures, singable lyrics and songs that sounded especially spectacular when singing into the industrial-sized propeller fan in Melinda’s basement. And give Davy my regards. He’ll probably remember me by my frosted pink Max Factor lipstick “borrowed” from my mother and my Heaven Sent cologne.

I call it the ‘Raja’s Rice’ method.

Overwhelmed? More on your plate than you can possibly cover?

I have a method of coping and I shared it today with my daughter. I heard her frantic heartbeat slow and her blood pressure steady as I mapped out my suggested plan, and it made me feel like an active, hands-on, needed and effective mother again.

“Do you remember when your sister came home from 4th grade one day and had that huge emotional meltdown?” I asked her.

She didn’t remember, but I remember every detail.

Jill’s face was white as a sheet when she got off the bus that day. When I questioned her, she fell apart and couldn’t stop crying long enough to even tell me what had happened. I conjured every possible worst-case scenario as I worked to calm her and was never so happy to learn that her meltdown was due to an outrageous (and completely unfair and ridiculous) load of homework.

She explained that the assignments had been piling on all day long and she’d been feeling pressure, but just before the bell rang, her teacher assigned a story from the literature book called “Raja’s Rice,” and wanted a three paragraph summary of what she read.

That was her tipping point.

I’ve always juggled a lot of balls at a time (and I’ve always liked Oreos), so I calmed her down with a couple of Oreos and a glass of milk and said to myself, “You’ve got this.”

It may have been my finest hour.

We started by going through her student planner and bookbag and making a list of all the work she was to accomplish before school the next day. Next, I asked her to write an estimate of how much time each line item was going to take to complete. Then I asked her to look at the items that were going to take the most time and think about whether there were organizational steps that she could complete toward the project that would make her feel accomplishment, and how much time would that take?

The list was long. Why can’t assignments be better coordinated in elementary school so kids don’t get so overwhelmed? But, once we looked at it carefully, we realized that there were several items that would take only five or ten minutes each.

“Let’s start there. Then you will have several things checked off the list and behind you.”

Twenty minutes later she had three items checked off and the color started coming back to her face.

Next, we assigned time slots for the rest of the list. We accounted for dinner, a couple of breaks and broke up a couple of the big ticket items into two time slots, but we blocked off specific start and finish times for each and every item and we mixed the easier items between the harder ones.

Then we followed the plan to a tee. I was the timekeeper and at each time interval I would let her know it was time to move to something new. Only once did she not complete something in the time slot we’d alloted but we mutually agreed that the plan was working, so we moved its completion to the end of the list.

She finished every assignment and we both felt accomplished and proud.

“Raja’s Rice” turned out to be the fable you may have read called, “One Grain of Rice” whereby a young village girl outsmarts the selfish raja. For me, it turned out to be the method by which I organize myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed. And it works every time.

I know it’s not the first time I’ve shared the method with Jackie, but today was the day my lesson resonated with her. She’s long-since out of school, but the workload at her job has been growing and I recognized the near-meltdown as soon as I picked up the phone.

“Make a list of everything you need to accomplish,” I coached. “Beside each item, write down how much time you think you will need to complete it…”

Sometimes all it takes is a plan. (And the chance to be a mom again.)



On writing. And public speaking.

The two aren’t mutually dependent.

One of the most common complaints of writers these days is that you have to be a great marketer as well as a great writer to get attention for your work.  And by nature, many writers are recluses who prefer holing up with their craft but never want to see the light of day when it comes to promoting it. And while many assume that’s the role of an agent or a Presentationpublisher, it doesn’t really happen that way unless you’re J.K. Rowling or John Grisham or Amy Tan.

And while I’m not a recluse, public speaking isn’t really something I can depend on. I can capture an audience of friends with a good yarn or two, but it’s hit-or-miss with the nerves when it’s something bigger.

Thankfully, last night’s audience was limited and friendly for my first-ever author event because I was nervous. And I bumbled. And I had friends there who came to support me who had to be cringing just a bit. And Tom was there. And Tom is really good in front of a crowd.

It wasn’t horrible, but compared to what I can do with a keyboard, thesaurus and the backspace, it wasn’t good either.

But now that it’s 3 am and I’m wide awake again, I have a stellar presentation, a spot-on delivery and mic drop answers to all the questions I was asked. Too bad it’s just me in our dark family room with nothing but this scenario playing out in my head and my finger tips speaking to an illuminating screen, because I’m killin’ it, folks.

But no regrets. Better luck next time. And of course, there’s always the famous words of Juan Pablo: “Eeees okay.”