Joining my “Personal Insights,” “Words & Music” and “Behind the Book” blog segments this month is the catch-all category of “Wildcard.” That is to say, whatever I can scare-up to post on the fourth Tuesday of the month. This time around, a little something for the three people reading who aren’t related to me…some info about me.

Did you know…?

I lived in Monterrey, Mexico for two years as a teenager. At the time my father died, my grandfather was working for a Mexican company in collaboration with K-Mart. My mom saw it as a chance for me to get away from the grief and have a change of scenery, spend some time with my very nurturing grandparents and enjoy an international experience that I’d always remember. Which I did. And I do. It was an amazing time, even if I was too much of a bratty teenager to really appreciate it at the time.

I’m Cuban, Italian and Puerto Rican. My husband attributes my temper to my “hot blood.” I attribute it to him! Along with my lineage comes an abundance of delicious foods that both of my grandmothers exposed me to over the years and a wealth of memories and traditions that I’ll always keep close to my heart.

I’m married to a golf course superintendent. I thought I’d end up with a musician or a conductor. A music lover at the very least. Not so much. I met my Tom at a BBQ when I was visiting family on Long Island. After I returned home to my life and my job in Minnesota, he came to visit. And I came back to visit him. By the time we got married fifteen months later, we’d accumulated enough frequent flier points to get two free round trip tickets to Costa Rica, where we spent our honeymoon! I plan to turn our story into a romance novel next year sometime. But don’t tell him that :^)

I’m a French toast connoisseur. While Grandma Rico’s French toast (made with Arnold’s white sandwich bread, real butter and real maple syrup from Maine) will always be the gold standard, I’ve had plenty of outstanding plates including sourdough French toast and croissant French toast. These days, I only eat it on special occasions but, when I do, it’s usually at Cracker Barrel.

I never wanted to be a writer. Seriously! Up until about three years ago, I had zero interest in writing. When my therapist suggested it as a way to deal with depression, I gave it a shot and out popped Reverie—followed shortly thereafter by Rhapsody and Requiem. Now I’ve got five books published with a new one out in June and two novellas in time for the holidays.

I’m a breast cancer survivor. After a couple of missed mammograms, I was shocked to be told that I had stage two invasive breast cancer at the age of forty-three. I was so fortunate in that my journey wasn’t terribly difficult—I got to skip the chemo. Still, it’s a terrifying thing to hear. I’ll be five years CANCER FREE next month! Woo-hoo! Ladies, GET YOUR MAMMO! I had no family history!

I share a birthday with Beethoven—December 16th.  I used to think it was a drag, having a birthday close to the holidays. People like to give you “combo” gifts and, let’s face it, you’re bound to get shoehorned in there between gift shopping, holiday parties and cookie swaps. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not such a bad time of the year to celebrate…

I have a fear of toilet tanks. Honest.  To. God. I’m not exaggerating. I won’t use a bathroom where the cover is off the tank. And I’m super-freaked by the toilets that still have the big black ball as part of the mechanism. Not sure what I think I’m going to see in there, but it creeps me out every time! And, no, I didn’t have any childhood trauma related to the toilet.

I have a Master’s degree in French Horn Performance. Yes, that’s really a thing. No, I don’t play anymore. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing! While I always had a lovely tone, my technical skills left a lot to be desired. As did my intonation. And my fingering. And my…well, you get the idea. Luckily for me, turns out I’ve got a good voice and a knack for storytelling. Add that to my music education and I’ve enjoyed nearly three decades working as a classical music radio DJ. If you want to get an idea of what I do, you can hear me online at WSHU M-F 1-4p E and 8-10p E, on WQXR T-F 12-5:30a E and on SiriusXM’s Symphony Hall Channel 76 M-F 6p-12m E

I have four tattoos. I held off on getting my first tattoo until about five years ago, when I got the cancer diagnosis. Then came the word “Believe” on my right wrist. After my first year cancer-free, I had pink flowers tattooed on my left foot. A year after that, my sister and I got matching ladybugs on our right feet in honor of our mother who had recently died (she had a tiny ladybug tattoo on her foot, too). And just last week, in anticipation of my five year cancerversary, I had the phrase “Just watch me” put on my left forearm. I’ve had some people who don’t know me underestimate me this year in a big way…and I won’t stand for it. I know what I’m capable of even if they don’t. So to any naysayers out there I say it here, now and always… Don’t think I can do it/be it/get it/have it? Just. Watch. Me.

So, there you have it—the good, the bad and the ugly! Toilet phobia, boiling blood, cancer and French toast. I’m sure I’ll have more of these little confessions…especially on the weeks when I’ve been a wee bit swamped and unable to crank out something a little more substantial. In the meantime, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them :^)

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