The new year is coming, and I’m so excited! Recently, after three years of dedicated, intense work — the gestation period is over and I just pushed my manuscript out into the world… woohoo!

It’s been a long wondrous journey. When I decided to write the story of our family’s vacation to Israel in July 2014 — and we found ourselves running to bomb shelters, I had no idea where it would lead.

In fact my good friend, from my MBA days who was receiving my daily hysteric emails from the warzone, was the first to suggest it. Sending me support for my latest, “You’re not going to believe what’s going on…” email, she said, “OMG, Penny, you’ve got to write a book!”

At the time, I was too frightened and wondering why we were still there…yes, the sights we were seeing were spectacular — Israel is an amazingly fantastic place filled with depth, beauty and history. But with the bombs bursting in air, I loudly advocated getting out of dodge.

We were supposed to be on vacation! Israelis had made the incredibly brave commitment to stay — we were only there to see some pretty, historic places, and instill the love of Israel in my son’s heart — not risk his life!

For the last three years since our trip, not a day of Jewish guilt has gone by when I don’t decry to myself…you actually took your son to a warzone for his Bar Mitzvah present! Oey.

After all, we were headed to France next…Paris, the Champs Elysee, and my favorite the French countryside — why were we risking our lives to stay?

It was meant to be. It changed my life — surprisingly for the better. The missiles blew apart my world as I knew it, and today, I consciously seek Peace. Even writing my manuscript has been a life-changing experience. After the bulk of my chapters being about our incredible adventure, I had to come face-to-face with, so what?

I knew the missiles had blasted me out of my complacency — to want to work on Peace. But I hadn’t known, until I finished writing my book and gave it lots of thought, that I’d spent my life working on finding Peace within myself.

As far as Israel — how can people live like this? The preposterousness of going out to have a bagel and cup of coffee with a friend — and that it might be their last. Missiles, stabbings, and car bombings are common place — ordinary outings have become potentially tragic.

What I learned on our trip blew me away. What do you mean the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) drops leaflets, texts and calls the Palestinians homes to forewarn them that… At 10:00 a.m., we are going to bomb your house. GET OUT! Are you kidding me? No sadly, they’re not.

That’s exactly what they do, but still some Palestinians stay, welcoming the opportunity to be a martyr for their cause. What do their leaders promise them to get them to remain in their homes and die? Salaries — for their surviving families. You can sacrifice yourself for your family, and we’ll support them for the rest of their lives. I wonder what that meeting was like?  What would you choose?

Maybe I wouldn’t pick death — but given the harsh life they led and the offer to make the lives of their loved ones forevermore easier, in retrospect, it’s not as crazy an option as at first glance. I was astounded by what I had learned, and I was driven to tell people about it.

Why was Israel destroying Palestinian homes? Because Hamas had taken our tax dollars sent to help the Palestinian people, and instead egregiously chose to build tunnels beneath schools and mosques for illegal purposes, not least of which was nightly sending the missiles to attack Israel.

But I also had to ask myself in fairness, what is life like as a Palestinian living under the constraints of Israeli laws? Could there be a more fair and just way to live for both sides?

Thousands of Palestinian rockets targeted Israel during the war. The only reason we didn’t hear of more dead Israelis was because of my new BFF — Iron Dome. It’s Israel’s anti-missile defense system that tracks incoming rockets and blows them up in the sky before they have time to land and do their dirty work. God bless their technology! And so it went — my education under fire.

Writing the epilogue was a different kind of learning — much more personal. I knew being human targets had caused me to want to work on Peace — I thought, between Israelis and Palestinians. But what I discovered was that my journey touched my soul even deeper. Why was it important for me to write my book? I spent a lot of time contemplating this question. What did this all mean? I realized I actually had been working on Peace all my life — but it had been internal Peace.

Trying to understand my childhood… being raised by parents who weren’t bad people, but had their own tsuris (troubles) and bad childhoods to get over. As Maya Angelou says, “If they knew better, they’d do better…” well let’s just say they did the best they could.

My older brother, having his first schizophrenic episode as a young adult, gave me the greatest gift… an enlightened therapist who recognized the younger sister of this troubled young man might have lived a life that someone should ask — “And what was it like growing up with such a sick brother?” I will be forever grateful to her kindness. She set me on a life-long journey to understand life, and to ultimately become my own best friend.

Once I made a promise to myself to write my book about our adventure (later I would realize it was more than that, in fact the story of my life), I did what I always did…I had to learn how. So I read, took classes, attended conferences, joined authors groups, — did what I could to learn about the craft of writing, book publishing — even speaking, all part of the fabric of the authors’ repertoire.

So now I have completed what authors unkindly call “the shitty first draft.” A not-so-nice reference to the fact that you’ve got what you had to say on paper and now, the real work has just begun…WHAAAAAAAT? I’m not done?

Nope, you’re in it for the long haul. Sorry family — the long hours aren’t over (don’t tell my husband yet — let him have a happy new year.

Rumor has it now after all of this time, my next splaying out of my innards will be done by a content editor who will not so gently flip my organs around, and cut up my manuscript with Ginzu knife precision… I’m told I better get out the extra-strength Tylenol. One author told me her editor cut out fourteen chapters asking for one line from each. My gut says, given my propensity to be verbose — well that one’s coming to a theatre near me…and so it will be. The next phase of making my book the best I can.

2018 is going to be exciting. Coming up with an eye-catching name, book cover, and editing all will lead to my published book. I also have to gain more of an audience. Through www.PennySTee.com, how can I attract readers so when my book comes out someone will actually be looking forward to reading it?

I’m committed to finally slaying the Marketing dragon that got the best of me when I had We R’ Moms — my previous moms’ website. I loved it, felt what was presented was helpful, but didn’t have a clue as to how to get people interested in it. Nope, I’m determined this time I’m not going down that financial rat hole again. I’m seeking professional help and hopefully, this time, I’ll get it right. After all, my son’s college bills next year will be ample incentive…

Speaking will also be another avenue I’ll explore. I know that’s part of the author’s shtick. Consequently, I’ve spent time practicing speaking at Toastmasters and learning with the best marketer for speakers — James Malinchak, of the “Secret Millionaire.” He’s coach to author powerhouses such as Jack Canfield, of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, Brian Tracy, personal achievement and motivation guru who has an amazing 70 books to his name and John Assaraf, from “The Secret” and NeuroGym, a company that helps you innercise your brain to achieve your goals — a process I used to help me get my goal of finishing my book accomplished — check it out, it works. As you can see in my pictures to the right, I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with all of them.

So as 2017 comes to a close, foremost in my mind is gratitude. Gratitude for the journey and for my desire and ability to express it.

Once I agreed to write my book, I set out to do so to my best capability. I had never attempted this before, and everything was new. Trying new things has just become how I live my life which I talked about in my blog, If You Don’t Try You’ll Never Know the Story’s Ending.

I’m thankful to the many people who have helped me learn how to be a better writer…from my own personal writers group, Writers4Writers, that I established because I loved being around other writers, to my writing class led by an amazing author, teacher and person — Maralys Wills. My classmates trudged through my first go-round offering words of advice, and their own writings were a delicious break from my own missive.

And I’m grateful for all my other teachers whose teachings have led me to be the person I am today. Examples are Jean Houston, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, John Assaraf and many others.

Someone you’ve probably not heard of is my personal development coach, Nahid Casazza. I’ve been studying with her for over a decade, and our Aspyrre community of like-minded folks — trying to be the best we can be. What transformations I’ve come through, and you were always kindly pointing out new angles of my life for me to explore. Thank you.

Oprah has probably been my greatest teacher — since she introduced me to many of the spiritual teachers I’ve studied. To all of them, I wish a world of blessings and I will always be grateful. Oprah and I happen to share the same birthday, except she’s a couple years older. I’m committed to using her as a role model and finally realizing my share of our financial birthright : – )

I’m grateful for my good friend who lovingly read each word, who has a knack for finding those errant commas and dangling whatevers… when writing, you really do have to become comfortable exposing yourself. And other family and friends with their words of encouragement too. It’s so important for people to have support for their life’s journey. In my case, I’ve begun to realize that other than raising my son, this is why I was put on this Earth — both a challenging, and inspiring fact.

I’m also thankful for others who I had met through different organizations that I would see periodically and ask, “And how’s your book coming?” Only this time, I could proudly say it’s done! and hear for example Dr. Sarah Larsen’s response, “That’s great, I’ve got some folks that I know’d be interested in your book, who also work on Peace…” And so it goes. Life is great!

Most of all, I’m grateful for my family. It hasn’t been easy on them. First, my husband of twenty years, who has supported us financially. It was a family decision for me to set aside a professional consulting and management career to have our son, and take the time to raise him. But that was at significant financial cost. How much easier would the bills have been to pay, if I had been getting paid to work? Because make no mistake, raising a child takes hard work and dedication. Our compensation however, comes not in currency, but in the sparkle in their eyes when they look at you, and seeing them thrive. And yes, I fully understand many people don’t have the option to choose. I have been truly blessed.

And writing this book, blogs and other adventures I’ve had during our time together — oey, my husband’s been patient. Now I’m not going to pretend nerves haven’t gotten frayed along the way, but we’re still here, moving down life’s path together.

And my son. Mom’s fascination with this new kid in town — her book, hasn’t always been easy on him. Previously he never had to worry about another sibling competing for my affections. This book has been both a blessing (he’s yet to realize that part) and a curse. Something else was vying for mom’s attention — he no longer was the only fixation that held mom’s rapt devotion. Is it possible that he could actually be jealous of my book?

I believe some day in retrospect, he’ll realize it had a positive impact on him, I know I do. It was good for him to see me doing what I love, with intense commitment. The ups and downs of Senioritis I’m told is nature’s way of preparing both the kids and their parents for the separation…are you going through that too? And he’s a great kid — straight As and a heart that’s even bigger… it’s just that the push and pull of seeking independence challenges even the best relationships. For now, I can only say sorry — this was one of those times that Mom’s needs had to be met… Someday you’ll appreciate that fact and realize it made us both better people.

Anyway, soon he’ll be bound for college. Will we get through dropping him off in his new dorm? I’ve already spoken of my husband’s anxiety at the thought, and our need for a prescription for Valium to be handy. Of course we’ll get through it. But for now, the summer of his departure from home, looms in the distance like the music from Jaws — daw, duh, duh, duh…

I’m also grateful for other family and friends with a word of encouragement about something I wrote or simply asking, “how’s it going?” Although we haven’t been able to spend as much time as I’d like together, please never doubt how important you are in my life.  I’ve always been aware friends are family we choose — be sure you’re including in your tribe those who are supportive, not the Aunt Bessy from your past, quick to point out your failings.

Actually, I’ve become fond of a new definition for F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning. We all have patterns and damn if the Universe isn’t going to see to it that we will repeat them until we get it right!

We’ll all be celebrating our new lives soon. My son off on his new adventures, and as for my husband and me, maybe even a new honeymoon…after all we’ll be empty nesters able to do whatever we want as the spirit moves us…

So here’s to 2018. May it be a blessed year full of new adventures and learnings for all of you. Wish me luck, and I thank you for Joining Me On My Journey…

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