People ask me all the time if the colorful characters I write about are inspired by the people in my life. I politely say no (albeit with a wicked smile) and change the subject. Though I’ve never taken one person’s entire personality, changed a name and thusly created a character, I would be lying if I said I didn’t borrow a few bits and pieces of real people in my world and mesh them into the fictional people in my imagination.
But the inspiration I get from my friends and family goes far beyond what’s needed to create characters. They are the people who encourage me every day to make time for what I love. They keep me sane, grounded and laughing every minute of every day, which is what makes them so important to my life and why they appear so often in this journal/blog I’ve got going on.
Since you don’t know them (yet) as well as I do, I put together this glossary of nicknames and descriptions so you can keep everybody straight.
Mom and Dad
- How we met: Obviously, circa November 11, 1984.
- Since then: In addition to being the biggest source of love and support in my life, my parents are also an endless well of colorful inspiration. Late last year (2009) they sold their four bedroom house in Palm Coast along with most of their furniture and possessions (that is, what I didn’t take for my own apartment) and moved into their 31 foot 5th wheel RV. Since then, they’ve been criss-crossing the Southeast and enjoying the retired life. Though they did just purchase a small condo here in St. Augustine, they’re still going to live in the camper (with their new baby, a Jack Russell mix named Bucky) six months out of the year to avoid the hot Florida summers (and fulfill their adventurous spirits).
- In conclusion: They are young at heart and believe in what I call The Power of Happy Hour. I wouldn’t be who I am without them, and for that I’m eternally greatful.
Sister and BIL (Brother-in-Law)
- How we met: For my sister it was (obviously, again) circa November 11, 1984. For BIL it was in the late nineties when I was still in my boyband phase, which he will NEVER let me live down.
- Since then: My sister and her husband live nearby in Jacksonville where they are expecting their first child in early September (my niece!!!). They are a major source of love and laughter, plus they keep me sane by understanding the pressures of life, work and more specifically–Mom and Dad. Though we are half-siblings, my sister and I have maintained a good relationship throughout our lives. My sister and BIL have been together since I was fourteen, so he’s always been more of a big brother to me. We share a common interest in sports (though not the same teams) and enjoy throwing each other a lot of playful jabs about sports (especially during football season).
- In conclusion: The two of them are great role models and I consider myself lucky to call them friends.
- How we met: His parents moved into my neighborhood when he was still a baby, sometime in the early 90’s.
- Since then: When I was a kid, instead of imaginary friends, I had an imaginary fleet of siblings (I blame this on “Full House”). I finally became old enough to realize my parents weren’t going to have more kids, so I decided to adopt. Some nearby neighbors and close friends of the family had a toddler and I decided he would be my brother. For almost all of his life and most of mine, we’ve called each other brother and sister.
- In conclusion: That we share no blood or DNA is of no consequence to me and hasn’t affected our relationship, even now that he’s down in Orlando going to college. My only regret in our relationship is that I dragged him into the trials and tribulations of being a Florida State fan (sorry, Bro!).
- How we met: When he was born in February 1988.
- Since then: Though he’s well over six feet tall and was recently commissioned as a 2nd LT in the U.S. Marine Corps, no amount of camouflage will erase the memories in my mind that make him my Baby Cuz. The youngest of my 11 cousins, he’s getting married this August in Alabama before heading off to Quantico to begin his four year commitment to the Corps.
- In conclusion: We’ve pretty much been best friends since the day he was born, though we are polar opposites in many ways. His dedication and sacrifice for this country also makes him my absolute hero.
Other characters from my family who will appear periodically: The Nana (my mom’s mom), Papa (my mom’s dad), plus an assortment of cousins, aunts and uncles.
- How we met: Mrs. Schill’s second grade class (1992).
- Since then: From birthday parties and sleepovers as kids to college roommates to co-workers at three different jobs, Ty has been the best friend I could ever ask for. There are few people in this world with whom I could have shared a tiny dorm room for an entire year, but Ty and I had a BLAST. Probably the best memory from freshman year came when we finally beat every level of Mario Kart Double Dash after playing it for two straights days while existing exclusively on a giant pile of Easter Candy. More recently, our moment of triumph came earlier this year when we launched our own company, Duolit Publishing.
- I knew we were BFFs when…we bonded over our love of weather phenomenons at age ten by spending stormy summer afternoons in her room with the lights off dictating our experiences on a micro cassette recorder like we were reporting alongside our weather hero, Jim Cantore.
- How we met: Mrs. Schill’s second grade class (1992).
- Since then: From classmates in public school to good friends our freshman year of college at FSU to best friends and roommates through two more years of college, OJ is one of my oldest, closest friends. We have the same wicked sense of humor, which will probably land both of us in some serious heat one day, but at least we’ll be in it together. OJ is also the mother of my pseudo-nephew, whom she gave birth to in 2006. I have so much admiration for her as a single mom working and going to school while raising her little boy.
- I knew we were BFFs when…we were juniors in high school and she let me know that a certain cheerleader was talking smack about me in regards to my part in the junior class skit followed by the words: “If you want to beat her ass, I’ve got your back.”
- How we met: Freshman year at FSU she was OJ’s roommate at the infamous Kellum Hall.
- Since then: We bonded over our mutual love of FSU sports, but became best friends as roommates our last three years of college. She is my go-to pal for late night runs to McDonalds, random road trips and reality show discussions. Though she lives way down in Southwest Florida now, we remain best buds and in November we’ll be roommates again for eight days while the old college gang reunites for our annual cruise.
- I knew we were BFFs when…we decided to take a random road trip to Niceville, FL (about two and a half hours from Tallahassee) on a Tuesday morning for absolutely no reason other than that it sounded fun.
- How we met: When he started dating my best friend Ty (now his wife) around 2007.
- Since then: Though he’s often the only guy in our gang, Miguel holds his own. A computer nerd from Indiana (without even an ounce of Hispanic heritage), Miguel has quickly become a good friend and essential part of the inner circle. He puts up with endless ribbing from a bunch of strong minded chicks all while wearing a big smile. He is learning how to throw some verbal punches of his own though (with our tutelage), which only makes us feel like he’s really becoming one of the gang.
- I knew we were BFFs when…he married my best friend (and began his carefully rehearsed vows by saying her name instead of his).
Other friends who might appear periodically: OJ’s aforementioned son, my four year-old pseudo-Nephew; as well as another grade school friend, Mrs. Dentist and her husband, Mr. Dentist, along with their three kids, the little Dentists.