Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Two Quarts Low of Patience

 “Grant me the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  


This is one of my favorite pictures of my granddaughter, Chandra.  She is grown now and I admire her mindfulness. 

We are born with no patience. A baby gets tossed into this world from a warm, dark, soft, and constantly fed environment into a loud, cold, and noisy room. Doctors used to hold the baby upside down and slap its behind to stimulate it to cry and take its first breath on its own. It makes sense that we started our lives being impatient for everything we needed.  

I believe that everyone then builds up a certain amount of patience after their caring parents respond to their needs, and they trust in the universe for things to be fair. Unfortunately, it is a hard lesson to learn that things are not fair. My parents treated my brother and me differently. I remember asking why Stan could ride his bike to the store alone, and I couldn’t. My mom used the 1950s phrase, “because he is a boy.” 

Today, I feel like I’m about 2 quarts low in patience. I’m trying to figure out why and overcome it. I seek out the shortest line at the grocery store, even when I have plenty of time. Keith and I prefer Mobile Orders and Quick Service at the Disney Parks in order to get our food faster. We’re not starved; we’re merely impatient. If someone doesn’t respond to my email that day, I wonder why and start worrying. Did my email get blocked? Is the person okay? Did I say something wrong? Worry, worry, and 2 quarts of patience draining out of my system.

 My New Year’s resolution is to cure my impatience. Cure it? Well, that might be rather ambitious, but I’m going to try. Here are the things that I’m going to try;

Being in a line. At the grocery store, I’m going to use this time to give my brain a workout. I’m going to try to guess the total of items that I’m buying or look at the candy bars and see how many words I can make out of “Snickers.” When I’m in a long line for the PeopleMover at Disney Parks, I’m going to get out my iPhone and click on the Fitness App and do my Breathing, which I often forget to do for one minute.  

No response to letters and emails. I’m going to ask myself if I need a response to enjoy the day. If I sent a gift, Do I really NEED a thank you or acknowledgment? If they got the check and cashed it, then I know they are okay. If I sent an email, was a response required? If so, I’ll ask for that in the email and put a date. Otherwise, I’ll forget about it. I did my part, and I’ll forget about it.

My writing career. My last job had instant gratification. I sold a product, booked an engagement, or signed a contract – usually within hours of my proposal. This new writing career tries my patience. I will send a query and don’t hear a reply (if any) for months or years. I must remind myself that JK Rowling got rejected 12 times for the best synopsis that I’ve ever read. She is now a billionaire. I don’t need to be a billionaire, and I’m not as talented as she is. I’m analyzing my need to write and leave a part of me in this world. I’ve already done that; my bookshelf at Amazon is full of things I’ve written, and I am proud of my two unpublished middle-grade books, and anytime I want, I can self-publish. You can read these at sandijerome.com, click on Books, then notice the links. Time for me to remember the serenity prayer, “Grant me the serenity to accept that which cannot be changed, courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Please grant me patience too!

Amazon Writer's page   Sandra Jerome 


Saturday, October 15, 2022

Part of Being There is Getting There


I have the time

Traveling can be frustrating.  Flights are late, lines are long, and people are annoying. I traveled for my work about 100,000 miles a year and it was hard.  I wanted to either be home or at my destination.  I ended up creating a little mantra; “part of being there is getting there.”  This meant I needed to enjoy the travel experience and be productive and comfortable on the trip. I have the time now that I'm retired.

When I go on vacation, I try to make my travel and airport time part of the fun. Last month, we went on one of our longest journeys.  Yes, we have traveled farther; Japan, Australia, and New Zealand-but this was our longest trip ever.  We went on an 8-day Viking River Cruise on the Rhine River that goes from Basel to Amsterdam and spent 14 days away from home. It started with a simple flight from Orlando to Basel, Switzerland which you can do in 12 hours, but we ended up spending 34 hours.  

The first extra 12 hours was because the parking garage was full at the Orlando Airport and we ended up spending the night at an airport hotel to guarantee a space for our van.  We don’t like using airport shuttles and don’t have any friends or family to drive us to the airport; thus, we got to start our vacation early.  I enjoyed myself; it was a lovely hotel and I took a couple of hot baths because hotels keep their room much colder than our house. 

Next was the problem with labor shortages at all airports.  I had been reading on a couple Viking Cruise groups that people were missing their flights due to tight connections and slow passport control and security.  I changed our flights to provide us with a six-hour layover in Washington Dulles and four hours in Munich.  Yes, you read that right – 6-hour layover! 

Most flights to Europe leave the Northeast in the early evening and most connections like the Orlando to Washington Dulles leave in the afternoon.  But leaving Orlando in the afternoon means troubles with thunderstorms from May to November and after 2 PM.  I found a nice flight that would get us to Dulles leaving at 9 AM.  But since the overnight flight to Europe leaves around 6 PM – that this a long time in Dulles.  But when you think about that – what’s the problem? Airports are fun places if you let them be. 

Since we hadn’t had a vacation in decades, I had saved up enough for the United Polaris lay-flat seats and that included access to the amazing Polaris lounge at Dulles.  This isn’t like a normal crowded United Club, instead, it had a restaurant, bar, buffet, coffee/tea/juice stations, and lots of open space for walking, reading, and napping.  If you want a serious nap, you can take a hot shower and then get a private napping room.  It was probably the only time I’d experienced this level of luxury on my retirement income, but it was fun. We enjoyed the Lufthansa lounge in Munich and sampled German food and treats.

I did a pre-cruise extension to enjoy the city of Basel and to make sure we’d arrive at our ship in time and planned 2 extra days in Amsterdam that turned into 3 days when a hurricane hit Orlando.  I didn’t need to worry, because I had prepared our house for the hurricane and my neighbor regularly texted me updates.  

I keep in mind that “getting there” is part of the vacation and to make it fun.  You can either be upset with a delayed flight or be thankful that you have more time to look around the airport and explore the shops, and food, or merely people-watch. It is not important to “be there” anymore.  I have the time.

I had so many stressful years when I had to be somewhere on a certain date and time because there were clients waiting for me, but now, I don’t worry about it – or build in plenty of “buffer time.”  Preparing, planning, and enjoying is my travel mantra as I start working on our next trip.

If you would like to read more about this Viking River Cruise trip, I’m writing a free e-book


I’ve also created YouTube videos for my travel playlist


Please subscribe to my free Quarterly newsletter at sandijerome.com to get notified about my latest free books and guides.



Thursday, September 15, 2022

Time Spent with Cats is Never Wasted

Sandi Jerome

 It was Freud who said, "Time spent with cats is never wasted." I grew up on an avocado ranch with a dozen or so cats. They were "working cats" because they hunted and killed the gophers that ate the avocado tree roots.  But to me, they were pets. I gave each one a name, and the matriarch of the group was called "Funny Face." 

I made Funny Face an animal character in my latest book, Murder at the Magic Kingdom, and gave her two kittens named Lilo and Loki, which are the names of two of my granddaughter's dogs (belonging to Suby and Tulaasi.) I also have two grand furbaby cats that belong to Chandra; Jade and Jasper. They are the toddler twins in my book. I've always loved spending time with animals, although today, it is mostly from afar at zoos since I married a non-pet lover guy. But I always include some animals in my writing. My first solo Middle-Grade book, Sleep Warrior, had two flying bears. My next one will have wolves.

Along with writing, I love reading, and lately, I've read a lot of YG and MG fiction.  One of my favorite MG authors is Rebecca Stead. I almost did not become an MG writer because of her. While reading a fantastic book: Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle-Grade Readers, author Mary Kole recommends Rebecca's book, When You Reach Me.  After reading Rebecca's book, I thought, "I will never be that good." This book is a Newbery-Award-winning book that Mary uses to show writing in different types of POV (the character often addresses an unknown "You") and illustrates Unconscious Objectives.  I just finished another one of Rebecca Stead's books, The List of Things That Will Not Change. I enjoy stories of families coping with difficult situations. 

I read Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca before the SCBWI conference and marveled at the new verse format.  This month, I was delighted to find another book in the same format that deals with a family tragedy;  Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango.  I'm also re-learning Spanish and delighted in the rich culture expressed in this book and enjoyed the "Spanglish." It reminds me of the richness of Salty, Bitter, Sweet written by CNN producer Mayra Cuevas.

I don't think I will ever write in verse; it was hard enough to transition from being a screenwriter to a novelist, and I was never a poet. But this format is fantastic for readers, the same way graphic novels have created a huge following.  Similar to a short story, these two formats enable me to read a whole book in a day and enjoy the artistic value of a graphic novel and the flowing craftsmanship of poetry in a verse novel.  I think the key is to read and encourage kids to read, even if it is a shorter graphic novel or verse novel.

My new mantra is "Time spent with a book is never wasted."  Even better if you're reading a book with a cat on your lap! Here's a picture of the real Jade and Jasper.

If you’re interested in critiquing my latest book, Murder in the Magic Kingdom here is the link where you can read the PDF version and I promise - I can take your criticism!


As a new writer, I'm building up a newsletter list. Want to be the first to read new stuff or get free downloads?  Please subscribe to my free Quarterly Newsletter  at https://www.sandijerome.com/

Watch my latest YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/sandijerome



Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Criticism made Easy


"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop."  ― Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was my husband's 5th cousin, a few times removed. He was also half-America because his mother was the New York heiress, Jennie Jerome. The town of Jerome, Arizona, is named after Keith's family, and we went there almost fifty years ago on our honeymoon.

This month, I truly learned how tough it is to take criticism. I used a paid editor after writing my first two middle-grade books, Sleep Warrior and Murder at the Magic Kingdom. Yes, I paid someone to inflict pain upon my fragile ego.

This process is similar to using a physical trainer. Almost three years ago, I paid someone to tell me I was fat. No, actually, my insurance company paid for it via a benefit called Silver Sneakers. To be fair, she didn't actually call me fat. Instead, she said that I was mostly made up of fat instead of muscle. She put me on a program to build back the muscle that we all start losing after we turn 40. That program has worked, and I've created a more efficient body with a much higher muscle ratio, and now I burn calories better.  I'm not sure if I can change my brain to write better. I'm a storyteller but not very good at English. Sometimes, I think it is my second language – with muttering and stuttering being my first.

There is no other way to describe the professional editing process other than humbling and humiliating. It is like she takes a shotgun at my work and completely blows it up, leaving hundreds of holes. When I got my last book back, I immediately decided to quit writing, thinking, "I don't need this...I will NEVER learn how to write..." 

Then I dusted myself off and got to work rewriting and rewriting. It was hard because I didn't understand her level of editing. With her MFA in English, she is so over my head. For example, she says in places, "This seems like a very granular tangent."  What the heck does that mean? Then there are "dangling modifiers" and "You need to go a level deeper and give context."  

I spend a lot of time after I get her notes just trying to figure out what she is telling me. Yes, I could have merely asked her, but then I wouldn't be learning.  I need to do my own research so that I can understand in the future.  When I'm done with my rewrites I'm very proud of my book and I end up agreeing with 100% of the changes she suggests.  I'm already planning my 3rd book and figuring out when I can get it to her for another round of pain!

My paid editor is Mary Kole of GoodStory. I found her by reading her fantastic book: "Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers." I have read it over nine times during the past year. I did ALL the exercises in the book, including waiting 90 days before submitting my work. I'm in the process of reading all the middle-grade books she recommends as I continue to learn this craft.  Mary Kole is a former literary agent for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Movable Type Literary. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco and interned in the children's editorial department at Chronicle Books. https://www.goodstorycompany.com/

When I sold my software company three years ago, I was great at debugging and testing computer code. I like to think I was at the level of Mary Kole in my industry in spotting problems with programs and making suggestions on how to fix them. I learned to write code so I could easily spot the lines that had the "bug" and even perform and test my design. Now, I wonder if I'll ever be at this level in my new career, but I'm willing to spend the time and money to get this right.  

I am learning to take criticism; it isn't easy but I agree with Winston…it is necessary.

If you’re interested in critiquing my latest book, Murder in the Magic Kingdom here is the link where you can read the PDF version and I promise - I can take your criticism!


As a new writer, I'm building up a newsletter list. Want to be the first to read new stuff or get free downloads?  Please subscribe to my free Quarterly Newsletter  at https://www.sandijerome.com/

Watch my latest YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/sandijerome


Thursday, July 14, 2022

Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.”


Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” I have done that for many years; writing about computers and accounting, but it is hard to be emotional about either one. My latest book, Murder at the Magic Kingdom is about two things I know well; all things Disney and an older brother who I thought would murder me someday. He once left a message on my answering machine that if I ever returned to Escondido, he’d kill me. This was after Mom died and I played it for my dad who said that Stan sounded drunk, but he’d make sure it wouldn’t happen again – and it didn’t. I didn’t return to Escondido until after Stan died in 2014. The saying, “Never speak ill of the dead” since dead people can no longer hurt us, or defend themselves, it is better to forget their bad actions and remember only their good ones. But what if there were no good ones? 

I don’t have any pleasant memories of growing up with my bully of an older brother, Stan. Some might remember that I had a silver front tooth; my brother hit me and broke my bottom front tooth right after the permanent tooth had grown in. Later, I got a natural cap. I’m claustrophobic from years of being shoved and locked into a small built-in closet. My folks said I bruised easy, had constant bloody noses, and ran into a lot of things – but oddly, this all stopped when I moved far away after I grew up. I never lived in Escondido again.

You might wonder about my parents; how could they allow this? Stan was handsome, charming, and adored by my parents. He was a crafty liar and had tons of good friends and lots and lots of girlfriends. He beat up his first wife and she ran away with her baby daughter to Texas and never returned. His second wife left him constantly after beatings, but would also return to him; she loved him too much to stay away. He was a charmer.

I was the opposite; gangly, shy, stuttering, and a constant crybaby. I had big ears that Mom tried to hide, an overbite from sucking my thumb, and terribly uncoordinated. Mom used to say that if you looked at me cross-eyed, I broke out crying or claimed I was so clumsy that I’d trip over a bobby pin in the carpet.

No wonder my parents loved Stan more. I look at this picture and see myself biting my lip and holding my hands together. Along with everything else, I constantly shook, a tangled mess of nerves – so I hid it by holding my hands together. Somehow, I outgrew it all. My head grew into my big nose and ears. I got braces, played athletics and to this day, do yoga to improve my balance. I worked on the stutter, and forced myself to speak up for myself – almost to a point where I never shut up now!

 Stan and I were one IQ point away from each other – at least that is what my mother said when she explained that my A’s and Bs and Stan’s Ds and Fs had nothing to do with brains. I was good in school; I did my homework, studied for tests, and tried to be the teacher’s pet; desperate for some validation. 

If you know some kid that is getting bullied by their sibling; please intervene and stop it.  It is not okay.   I use the pain of my childhood to write to help middle school kids get through what was the most difficult part of growing up. 

If you’re interested in critiquing my latest book, Murder in the Magic Kingdom here is the link where you can read the PDF version for the next month while I’m getting various friends to peer review it before sending it off to editors.  


Want to be the first to read new stuff?  Please subscribe to my free Quarterly Newsletter  at https://www.sandijerome.com/

Watch my latest YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/sandijerome


Thursday, June 23, 2022

My Head to Clearer Thinking

 My Head to Clearer Thinking

Growing up, being in 4-H was a big part of my life. I learned public speaking through demonstrations and holding various offices in the club. I made life-long friends from different schools, like Kathy Tomac who was older and went to Escondido High, and Leslee Woods who was younger. Later, I decorated Kathy’s 4-tier wedding cake as a wedding present.  

I learned “accounting” by keeping a record book and determining a profit/loss after raising a sheep and then selling it at the livestock auction.  I went on to be an accountant/CPA.

I ended up being a computer consultant and performed training seminars around the world.  At one speaking engagement, I shared the speaker's lounge with former First Lady Barbara Bush.  She was the keynote speaker and I was only a "breakout" session speaker - but wow!  She was right there in the same room - but of course, surrounded by guys in dark suits with guns, so I sat quietly and ate my free granola bar in awe.

In high school, 4-H was a VERY embarrassing thing for a "semi-cool kid" like me at OGHS - if we were considered cool? I dated a football player and my best friend was best friends with a truly cool kid, Anne McLeod.  Anne was a cheerleader, homecoming princess, etc.  You might wonder why I was best friends with a person who had another best friend?  That was because my football player boyfriend was very jealous – of even my best friend.  He was especially jealous of my 4-H guy friends.  But when I met my husband Keith, he ended up becoming friends with my guy 4-H friends, Cliff and Danah - even selected them as groomsmen.  After we got married, Keith and I went on to be the Hi-4-H leaders for the next few years. Then after we moved to Arizona where Keith helped bring Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station online, I was a leader for sheep, rabbits and photography.  4-H is an unusual youth club; the organization is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - through the University system's Extension Service. I can still remember the pledge

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,

my heart to greater loyalty,

my hands to larger service,

and my health to better living,

for my club, my community, my country, and my world (world was added in the 1970s)

A clear head?  That was hard as we left childhood and became teenagers. 4-H might have been okay at Escondido High which had FFA and lots of farm kids and many 4-H kids went there for their Ag program like my neighbor, Danah.  But at OGHS I rarely mentioned 4-H at school and didn't hang out with any of them - but my 4-H friendships were genuine. I am still in touch with Danah’s mother who was our neighbor on La Honda the person who got me involved in 4-H. Danah passed away many, many years ago, but I still think of him often.  His cousin, little Leslie is now a successful real estate agent in Texas, married to the Sheriff.  In my 1971 4-H story that we had to complete each year, I write, “In January, Leslie Woods – 9 years old asked me to help her with her demonstration. I ended [up] giving it with her. I feel “demonstration” is a very valuable activity. It not only builds public speaking courage but also allows members to share their knowledge. I helped Peggy Frazee with Hi-4H Novice Demonstration Day and was the Mistress of Ceremony.”


Over the years as a computer programmer, whenever the discussion turned towards levels of “nerdiness” as a kid -  I would rank at the top when I pulled out this 6th-grade picture.  

I thought I looked pretty tough in my 4-H uniform that was supposed to be worn with white pants, but schools at that time required girls to wear dresses.  This was before 4-H created a scarf/dress uniform- which I later I liked. Since I couldn’t wear my 4-H pants, I had to wear a skirt and looked major dorky in my class picture!  

Today, I’m writer of MG – Middle-Grade fiction. I remember vividly 6th grade and my desire to fit in at school. I remember the pain of being picked on. 
I had a tyrant of an older brother who was charming and gorgeous to others, but abusive to me. I had big ears and a big nose. I stuttered when I was tired or excited. My brother lasted one year in 4-H and quit because it wasn’t cool.  He was no longer friends with our neighbor, Danah, and I jumped in to fill that gap.  I loved Danah until the day he died. My best of times was roaming around the fair with Kathy Tomac, Danah, and Cliff.


To this day, I still sew, grow food and decorate cakes (a few of my 4-H projects) but don’t raise sheep anymore. I have a tiny yard that I use to learn how to grow food.

My senior year, I was the recipient of the Junior Livestock Auction scholarship which helped pay for my first year of college. My plan after high school was to attend CalPoly where I had a scholarship and teach the world how to grow food...but a slight diversion happened. Now that I’m retired, I'm trying to get back to agriculture and always have 2-3 backyard experiments going. My goal is to find the best salt-tolerant crops to feed a hungry world.  I’ve signed up to be a Master Gardener with the University of Florida Extension Service and hope to complete that in the fall.  I think that is rather a full circle  - writing about middle school when I was in so much pain - and remembering 4-H and the friends that helped me survive. 

If you want to follow my writing and gardening trek - please subscribe to my free quarterly newsletter (next issue is July) at www.sandijerome.com and Subscribe to my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/sandijerome/about


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Teachers make a Difference


Mrs. Dankowsky and Mr. Alstrum were my two favorite teachers. I had Mrs. Dankowsky for two years; 2nd and 3rd grade. She had done such a good job fixing my stutter in 2nd grade that my mom insisted she stay our teacher for the next year.  I'm the person in the center of the photo - 2nd row, 4th from our lovely teacher.

Mr. Alstrum was my civics teacher for my senior year. He left my high school 22 years later and then became a middle-grade teacher until he retired. We email each other about once a month and I asked him to read my middle-grade fantasy book based on my Cherokee ancestors and he said, “Thanks for letting me read Sleep Warrior. I enjoyed the complexity of the plot and was impressed with the depth and breadth of knowledge readers will gain from it, as well as its contemporary relevance. I’m overwhelmed by the creativity and research that is so evident!”  I'm trying to get it published and will probably get lots of rejection emails, but this comment means so much.  If you want to read it, just send me an email to sandi.jerome@gmail.com.

As I remember him in high school, he wasn’t one to hand out compliments; you’ll notice when he signed my yearbook that put quotes around "good" student and he mentioned “when you were there” because I cut class a lot. High school was easy for me and I easily got bored and preferred to read the text instead of sitting in class.  But his class was worth attending.  I went to OGHS in the 1970s. Escondido was a Republican stronghold and Richard Nixon had just taken office as President; serving the whole time while I was in high school.  In my senior year, as some of my male classmates worried about going to Vietnam, the debate about the war took center stage in our civics class.  
It was taught by these two amazing guys; Bill Rutledge Jr., and Stan Alstrum.  I was the photo editor for the yearbook and staged this photo because they were always "fighting." 

They moved back the partition between two classrooms and “team” taught two classes together.  I think it was a first for OGHS.  As you can see in this picture; Mr. Alstrum tended to be the more liberal guy (eschewing the tie) and Mr. Rutledge was the more conservative.  Mr. Rutledge was raised in a Navy home.  My best friend, Laura liked Mr. Rutledge best, having worked with him and the swim team. She was also raised like my husband in a conservative military family. We often had heated debates since she was raised Republican (Nixon) and my family was long-time farming/labor union Democrats (Kennedy.)

Mr. Alstrum was voted our favorite teacher by our class.  Partway through my senior year, I was already accepted at Cal Poly and all scholarships had been applied for.  I had enough credits to graduate, but some obscure school rule said I had to take a minimum of 4 classes my last semester.  When I complained to Mr. Alstrum, he suggested that I be his teacher’s assistant for period 4, which was his lunch hour.  This enabled me to get to work by 11AM and work the day shift at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor to save money for college.

The debates offered by these two amazing teachers helped me see both sides; since I adored both of them.  To this day, I don’t take a liberal or conservative view of anything; instead, I use the skills these two guys taught me to investigate the full issue and then debate the pros can cons.    Sadly Mr. Rutledge died early in 1990 at 47 – with Mr. Alstrum as his friend to the end. 

Teachers truly make a difference in our lives and I hope they know how much we appreciate them!  I have an offer on YouTube for free books for teachers or other school employees.