Friday, October 28, 2005


Humor is uplifting and great medicine for the soul. In my opinion, show me a happy person, and they're probably a relatively healthy person. This week I have been a walking prescription bottle.

I honestly can't believe the things that have happened this week. It all started on Sunday. I was cleaning the house for my mother's arrival. Even though Mama would be staying with us for her heart surgery, I was always glad to see her and was singing while I cleaned. I come from a very musically inclined family, but instrumental, not vocal, is more on my skill level. I've never thought that I was another Karen Carpenter, but I thought my vocal abilities were "fair." Imagine my surprise when I heard my dogs howling.

As a test, I abruptly stopped singing; the darn dogs stopped howling. I took a breath and started on the second verse. Yep, you guess it. I again had two canine back-up singers.

"Maybe you could try singing 'How Much is that Doggie in the Window?'" John asked with fake innocence.

Okay smart guy, I thought, you'd better be glad that I have had my coffee this morning. Or I'd . . . I'd have something really smart to say back. Even though coffee jump starts me in the morning, sometimes it takes a while for my "electrical system" to be fully functional.

Monday came and went without a hitch; Tuesday was the day of Mama's surgery. We had to awaken at three in the morning, and make the thirty minute drive to Austin for the surgery. The lab had made a mistake the week before and forgotten to do my mother's blood work.

My mother is an eternal morning person, while John and I are not. Needless to say, neither one of us received our daily transfusion of coffee, so the ride to Austin was not very pleasant. I sat in the backseat and talked to my mother while John drove.

"Must you talk while I'm driving?" I glanced out the window at the interstate. We were the only cars on the road.

"Must you drive while I'm talking?" I retorted. Yeah, I know. That statement made no sense. But who makes sense at four in the morning.

We arrived at the hospital, and before I could put the diapers in my bag along with the peanut butter sandwich I had made for the toddler, Seth ran off with the bag. I had to walk into the hospital carrying a stack of diapers and a foil wrapped sandwich.

I was the first to approach the information desk, and was greeted by a well-groomed receptionist.

"Hello dear," she crooned. You must be looking for mental health services. It's . . ."

"Why would I be looking for them," I interrupted. "My mother is having surgery." The lady mumbled an apology, and avoiding eye contact, directed us to where we needed to go.

"She probably thinks you were a patient by the way you look," John giggled as we walked away. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a mirrored window as we walked past, and was shocked at what I saw. I was disheveled from the wind outside, there were diapers poking out of my jacket pocket, and I was carrying that darn sandwich in my hands.

Despite all this, Mama made it through the surgery with flying colors.

The great finale was yesterday. My family and I returned to the scene of the crime --the hospital-- to visit Mama. I was talking to Seth and not watching were I was going as we walked down the hall. Suddenly, I ran into the glass elevators with a thump and bounced off them. I saw that a woman was watching me, and I couldn't help but laugh. Together, we laughed until tears ran down our faces while John and my boys walked ahead, pretending not to know me.

In my opinion, I am a walking prescription for laughter.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Facing my demons . . . again

A few years ago, while on my way to work, I was involved in a near fatal car accident in which I was the driver. The driver of the other car decided that I was not driving fast enough--actually I was speeding--went around me in the median, and ran me off the road. I lost control of my car, ended up in opposing traffic, and was hit by a 1/2 ton truck pulling a trailer. Below are pictures of my car.

As a result of the accident, I had over 200 stitches and staples in my face and in my head, massive head trauma, inoperable nerve damage in my right arm, and drifted in and out of a coma for three days.

I had already built a wall of self-pity around me after Daddy's death; now this made the wall higher and unable to be penetrated. I distanced myself from everyone that loved me, but I was determined to overcome my disability. I have to give credit for my tenacious spirit to my faith, parents, my hubby, and well, just plain stubborness on my part.

It's been seven years since that fateful night, and much has changed. I have no scars on my face, and the scars on my heart have almost entirely faded away. I also have about 90 % use of my arm now. I posted this for a couple of reasons. The first to show what I have overcome; the second is more complicated.

I wanted you all to see that no matter how large an obstacle is in your life, it can be overcome. You have to have faith in yourself and never give up. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything you set you mind to; continue to doubt yourself and you will accomplish little.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bouncing off the walls and a lesson

The book signing was wonderful this weekend. The book manager invited me back for another signing and informed me that after my event this past Saturday, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul was #2 in store sales. Wahoo!!!!!!!!!

I met several interesting people at the signing, but the one who impressed me the most was a thirteen year-old girl.

She aproached my signing table at Hastings and started a conversation. She confided that she wants to be a writer, and wanted to know if she could "hang out" with me for a little while.

We chit-chatted a whilr, then she asked for the reason why I wrote "Some Snowballs. . ." I explained that it was a tribute to my father, his dog, and the unbreakable bond that they had for each other. Her eyes filled with tears as she confided that she had just lost her daddy a couple of years ago. I felt so sorry for this child; she looked so lost and lonely. I knew that was probably how I looked nineteen years ago.

I told her that the pain does get better with time. She said, "I know, and I think tragedy always makes us stronger."

I know in the back of my mind that an adult told her this, but her logic at that moment floored me. She stayed with me for about an hour until her mother told her that it was time to go. That young lady really made an impact on me.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


A sit here typing, tears are streaming down my face and there's a hole in my heart. No, I'm not mourning for a lost loved one. I'm mourning for a dog, a stray dog at that. A few days ago this petite, salt-n-pepper Australian Shephard mix walzed into our front yard and into our hearts.

As I have written on earlier occasions, I live in the Hill Country of Texas; for the most part still a very rural area. It's not uncommon for stray dogs tp appear in our yard. Their owners--I'm trying to be nice here--just tire of them and dump them in the country to suffer a slow death. Most of the time we usually call a rescue group or the pound; but this dog was different.

She had a look in her eye; a look that said, "I've had a horrible life and need someone to love me. I don't think I can make it by myself. Help me." She was emaciated, and cringed when I made a move to pet her. She also whined constantly, which told me that she had been abused in addition to having been starved. I was livid; if I could have had her former owner in front of me, they would have been crindging and crying after I got through with them.

I just couldn't turn this dog in. I went into town and bought her food. Over the past few days, with patience, I got the dog to come up to me. Before long, she was accompanying me on my nightly walks. She strolled causually in front of me, her mouth opened in a wide doggy grin. She knew that at last, she had found someone to love her. I made up my mind yesterday that we were going to keep her; how I was going to tell John was yet another obstacle to overcome.

Every dog has to have a name, so I called this one "Bella," for both her spirit and her appearance was "beautiful."
Needless to say, Bella was missing this afternoon. After talking to John, he solemnly told me that someone had hit and killed my new friend.

Though I mourn for her, I know that at last she has found peace.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The event

Did I say earlier in the week that a dozen butterflies were tap-dancing in my stomach? If you think I was nervous then, you should have seen me this past Saturday morning; I was a wreck. I woke up at 2 A.M. that morning and had the hardest time getting back to sleep. I had too much on my mind. I finally slipped off into a restless slumber just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. All too soon I was awakened to the smell of fresh brewed coffee.

Coffee at this hour? Somebody must be out of their mind, I thought. Groggily, I looked at the clock on the nightstand. Oh great. It was already six o'clock. Just a few precious hours until the signing. I've just gotta do something to get my mind off everything for a while, I mused, running my fingers through my hair.

I couldn't see much because I had slept with my contacts in, so I followed the smell of the coffee to the kitchen. John was already sitting, half-asleep, at the kitchen table. We both blew kisses at the general direction of each other and mumbled drowsy "hellos;" neither one of are morning people until we have that first delicious sip of coffee. I set a mixing bowl on the counter with a plunk, and combined ingredients together to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Kneading the dough was very relaxing. Finally, it was time to go.

The ride to Waco was uneventful, except for my well-meaning family asking me if I was nervous every 5 minutes. Everytime they asked, waves of butterflies in tiny tap shoes did the "River Dance" in my stomach. I tried hard to be polite, but I wanted departly to be left alone to my thoughts. As we arrived in the parking lot of the book store, I felt my pulse quicken. The store looked to me like a giant gaping monster, waiting to devour its' prey; like the frightened little bunny I am, I wanted nothing more then to scurry home and hide, but that was not an option.

I was greeted by the manager of the store, whose personality put me instantly at ease. They came forward with a HUGE wooden table and padded chairs, and even helped me to set up. I can't say enough good things about the staff at Hastings book store; they treated me like royalty. They constantly asked me if I was "okay" and if they could get me anything to drink or eat.

At the beginning, the flow of shoppers into the store was very slow, and I got a little bored. The first person to my table was a tiny white-haired lady with a trouble expression on her face. She studied my books and info, then, in a wavering voice, said that her sister had loved dogs. Oops. . .I missed the word HAD in her sentence. Undaunted, I suggested that if she buyed a copy of the book, then I would be happy to sign it for her. Tears ran down her face as she explained that she had just attended her sister's funeral a few days ago. I spluttered a heartfelt apology, then listened as she told me story after story of her sister. Her stories were interesting, and I found myself engrossed in them. After a while, she said "good-bye" and tottered off. I felt blessed to have met such a person.

I had a blast that whole day, and the store sold out of all the ". . .Dog Lover's Soul" that they had; all signed by me.

I had several people come by and talk to me, and had a few to gawk at me from a distance. The best moment of the day was when a shy young lady--around the age of 20-- approached me as I was getting ready to leave. I had a few people still around me, and her quiet voice was almost inaudible. Very gently she tugged at my arm.

"Ms. Roppolo, may I have a minute of your time?" I was surprised and touched. Everyone either called me "Deb" or "Debbie," not very many were that formal.

"Sure," I said.

She held out her hand, took mine, and shook it. "I just wanted to say what a pleasure it is to meet you and shake your hand."

I was extremely touched. "Oh no, hey. It's nice to meet you." I stammered. That was a wonderful ending to my magical day. I'll say it again, none of this would have been possible without God.

This weekend is San Marcos. I can't wait!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Calm, cool, and collected? Hah!

I'm occupying my mind with different tasks today so I won't dwell on this weekend. Even though I'm extremely excited, I can't help but be afraid that no one will want to buy the book. I've really worn myself out over this book signing, and I have to admit I would be devasted if that's what happened.

One thing that comforts me is knowing that I won't be walking into that book signing alone. Of course John and the boys will be there for a VERY short while, but not everyone will be visible. The spirit of my father will be sitting there beside me, along with all my other family members who have passed on before me.

I've been on an emotional rollercoaster this week. I am incredibly touched that my hometown paper ran an article on me. I called the editor to thank her. She informed me, very warmly, that she enjoyed doing it. After I hung up with her, I realized that she had known me all my life. Another high was when all my old teachers that I emailed got back in touch with me and told me that they were proud of me; that still brings tears to my eyes.

I can't believe I didn't see all the compassion of my hometown folks when I lived there as a child. I was too busy planning on how to get the heck out of there and head for the "big city." San Marcos may have all the glamour, but it lacks the compassion in most cases. It does have its' bizaare and sweet moments though.

I called Kinko's copying to get a price on a poster for the signing. I was embarressed when the employee asked me for the dimensions; I had no clue. "Umm. . .I guess big enough to fit on the front of a table."

"Madam, what will you be using the table for? What kind of event?"

"Just a regular event."

"People display signs different ways according to the events they have. Now what is the event?"

"A book signing," I blurted. "I'm one of. . ."

"A book signing! Then that must mean you're a published writer!" I listened in shocked amusement as he SANG me a congratulations song! I had no idea who this fellow was, but I was flattered.

"You don't understand," I interjected before he got to the second verse. "I'm only one of 101." I hastily told him about Chicken Soup.

"But that doesn't matter to me. You're still published." That crazy guy almost moved me to tears. Even though the poster would be WAY too expensive there, by the end of the conversation I had made a new friend.

Speaking of friends, thanks again to all of you who have offered praise and support through all of this; it means a lot to me

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

On a whim

Last night I began thinking; if that's not scary enough, I began thinking about my high school years. I was very much into the extra-curricular aspects of school and less in the educational part.

I was a very difficult student. My teachers often complained to me that I had the potential to be a "straight A" student instead of the "A-B" student that I was content to be. I always let their speeches go in one ear and out the other. I'm happy being a "B" student, why can't they be happy for me, I often wondered.

When I got in college, my attitude changed because I found that I HAD to apply myself. Unlike me high school teachers, the professors didn't mind giving you a failing grade. They didn't stay up nights worrying about how they could motivate me to realize my full potential. While I was in college, I made the Dean's List twice and was inducted into Alpha Sigma Lambda, which was a national academic honor society.

Over the years, I have thought about my high school teachers, and it touches me when I realize the compassion that teachers have for their students. All too often teachers are criticized and not given the thanks that they deserve. I decided to take action.

On a whim, I Googled my old high school's name and found their website. I looked in the staff directory of the high school, and was delighted to see that many of my teachers were still teaching there. Perfect! I sent them an emotional email, thanking them for all they did for me, never expecting to hear a reply from any of them. After all, it has been seventeen years since I darkened the doorways of the high school; there was no way they would remember me.

Later this morning, I checked my email; there was a reply from each one of them. They told me that they remembered me, and that they were, and always had been, proud of me. I was overcome with emotion.

We idolize people such as Madonna, but the true heroes are the teachers.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Rush, rush

I'm feeling queasy at my stomach for several reasons. I hate to do the "list" thing, but I think it's the only way I can explain everything.

1. I have a book signing this weekend-- This was a last minute decision on my part to do a book signing at the Hastings book store near my hometown. I have to fax the press release to the respective media there; I've already created a new flyer for Waco's Hastings and faxed it to them, so that's taken care of. I'm really nervous because this is the "hometown crowd," the people who were my worst critics when I was a young adult. After the signing at Hastings, I may have another signing at the local B. Dalton's book store.

2. I'm still trying to get everything ready for my book signing NEXT weekend. I have to contact all the local papers in the greater San Marcos area, and get the release to them.

3. Some thirteen years ago, I was a deputy sheriff and took a thug off the street. I can't divulge too much info right now because I have to testify in court next Monday about the case. Won't that be cute when the defense asks, "Mrs. Roppolo, what do you do for a living?" My reply will be that I'm a freelance writer. The defense will have fun with that.

4. I just sent my new children's early reader chapter book, "Daisy's Soggy Boggy Day," off to the publisher. I still haven't heard from the publisher about my children's book, "What's Up Your Nose?'

After all this is over, I'm probably going to sleep for a month! (LOL)

New Orleans

It's been well over a month, and still the images of a devastated New Orleans haunts my thoughts. My heart breaks for the victims and their families.

I am so very glad that our Uncle Nat was found alive. He's a Catholic priest, and when the hurricane hit, he went to Mercy hospital to minister to the sick and dying. For a week we were on "pins and needles;" we had no idea if he had survived the brutal force of the storm.

i had visited him a few weeks before the hurricane, and he constantly worried over me. He thought that I wasn't eating enough, and kept pushing food at me. I agonized the whole time he was missing. I KNEW that he wasn't eating enough, if any.

Uncle Nat is such a remarkable person. He immigrated from Sicily in the 1930's as a young boy, and lived with his family in New Orleans. At 78, he still is active in the priesthood and walks 3 miles a day.

He was among the last to be evacuted, and was evacuated just in time. He told us later that he was having difficulty urinating. He and the rest of our family members that left New Orleans are still in shock; they refuse to talk about what happened.

Wonderful people, such as Katrina Martin-Davenport, have created websites that offers "messages of hope in the wake of Hurricane Katrina." The name of the site is "Katrina Heals," and definately worth a look.

If you are a pet lover, here is a wonderful poem that was emailed to me. The poem is called "Sit and Stay."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Things I've learned

I’ve learned more things in my life then this, but I thought I’d stop at seven.

Things I’ve learned in my lifetime:

When the doctor says, “it will only hurt a little bit,” it will actually hurt a lot.

Looks can be deceiving. That young man with earrings and tattoos all over his body may be one of the nicest people you encounter; the clean-cut chap may be a career criminal.

Everyone has a right to be treated with respect, regardless of race, religion, culture or gender.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no matter how wrong you think they are; tolerance for our fellow human is essential.

Children are sometimes like potato chips. You can’t have just one, but if you do, in the long-run, it goes to your hips and waist.

You never really stop learning. Anybody can teach you something new, even a child.

Less is more. Sometimes the less you own, the happier you are; the less you say, the smarter you appear.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Taking time to breathe

I have been so busy the last few days that it's unreal. I've been setting up book signings with different stores, and doing all the promo. I am "tee-totally" worn out. Between keeping the house up, taking care of the kids, doing critiques, and doing all the promo work, I'm exhausted. I'm enjoying myself though. Actually, I used to being tired; I've always been anemic.

And so, before I get burned out, I decided to take a break this weekend. Story ideas have been ping-ponging
around in my brain all day, and I've resisted the urge to write. Here's what I did instead:

  • Spent time with my family. I chased the kids outside, poured a cup of coffee, and had a long enjoyable talk with my husband.
  • Cleaned the house. I know, not a ton of fun, but it had to be done. I lit a strawberry-scented candle while I cleaned. Then the people arrived to work on the house. I had a new front door put on and the roof painted.
  • Got creative in the kitchen. I made homemade mayonnaise! It was sooo simple to do, and it tasted better then the store- bought stuff. I then made homemade snickerdoodles. Tomorrow, time permitting, my darling hubby is going to make cannoli.
  • Took a walk. I live--in a house of course--on top of a hill in the Texas Hill Country, and the view was awesome! The weather was a little too warm, but there still was a fall-like feel to it. I love Fall; the child buried deep within me always comes out to romp through the countryside this time of year.

More later!