Lori Verni-Fogarsi's new book, "Unexpecting," is a work of fiction, but the Holly Springs mother of four readily admits that some of the characters "are inspired by the many teens and young adults in my life." We talk to Lori about her book, her earlier life as a dog trainer and what she's learned in a household with four teenagers. (You can learn even more about Lori, and "Unexpecting," at her website, loritheauthor.com.)
Q. What town do you live in, and what brought you here?
A. I moved to Holly Springs in 2004 after growing up in New York City and living on Long Island as an adult. The relocation was completely by choice! My husband at the time and I got to the point where we realized that there's a whole country out there... we didn't have to stay in New York if we didn't want to. Like many others, we sought a better cost of living, better weather and a more family-oriented atmosphere for raising our children.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, and about your family.
A. We are a super busy family! I have two daughters and two stepsons: 12, 15, 18 and 20. My husband, Mark, and I have been married for four years and are the very best of friends.
People often react in horror, assuming that our lives must be filled with drama and misery having all these teens and while it is sometimes grueling, for the most part it's a lot of fun!
I think this is because of our parenting philosophy, which is this: "You don't like to be 'stalked and questioned.' I don't like to have to be 'the police.' If we all just do what we're supposed to do, then we can all just live our lives without the need to be a detective or a suspect!" This results in us giving our kids either a lot of freedom or none at all: If they're doing the right things (keeping up their grades and responsibilities, being trustworthy), they are allowed to go and do just about anything with very little parental "interference." However, if they make me have to "police them," then I really don't enjoy that and therefore, they are allowed to go nowhere and do nothing because I don't want to have to "stalk them." So far, this has resulted in most of the kids being very responsible most of the time, and all of the kids seeing us as parents they can actually relate to as real people.
Q. Let's talk about your latest book, "Unexpecting." What's it about, and how might it appeal to moms?
A. Shelley and David are a couple of almost-empty-nesters whose kids are just about all off to college when Alexandra, 17 and pregnant, appears on their doorstep and announces that she's the daughter they never knew they had! It's a story with varied family dynamics that are often funny, often heartbreaking, but always filled with love.
Q. Parenting seems to be a major theme in both "Unexpecting" and your previous novel, "Momnesia." How much of what you write is drawn from real life?
A. In "Momnesia," the kids are younger, and while it's not the exact story of my life, it was drawn from personal experience. It's so easy to lose yourself as an individual person when in the throes of mommyhood, and I did get to a point where I realized that in order to be happy (like the character in the book), I would benefit from finding a greater balance between my family and my self!
In "Unexpecting," the story is entirely fictional but the characters are inspired by the many teens and young adults in my life--both my own children and their many friends who spend a lot of time at our home.
Q. How do you make time to write with children in the house?
A. When I wrote my first book, "Everything You Need to Know About House Training Puppies and Adult Dogs," my girls were really little and not in school all day yet. I did most of my writing late at night when everyone was in bed! (Yes, I was exhausted all the time!) With both "Momnesia" and "Unexpecting," the kids were already of school age, so my writing is mostly done between 7:30 and 2:30 when they're in school, with evenings left free to take them to their activities, make family dinners, and spend time with my husband.
Q. A big part of your professional background is in dog training. How do animals fit into a family, especially when kids are involved?
A. As a Certified Master Trainer who owned two dog training schools over the course of 15 years, I may have a different perspective on owning pets than most: I think animals can be a fantastic part of life, and a wonderful addition to the family dynamic. However, they're also a big responsibility, and dogs in particular require training and attention. Over the years, whenever I saw behavior problems with a family pet, it was almost always because the adults were already stretched so thin, they didn't have the time or energy to invest in the dog. With that said, I've also had many clients over the years who have made sure they put the time and effort in, and in those cases, having pets can be a wonderful addition to a family with kids.
Q. What's your favorite thing to do with the whole family in the Triangle?
A. We love the way there's always some sort of festival or event that can be attended! Whether the July 4th parade in Apex that ends in getting sprayed with a fire hose, attending the State Fair in the fall, walking downtown Raleigh in the winter, or a picnic at Duke Gardens in the spring, there's just about always some fun, usually free thing to do!
Q. What's your favorite thing around here to do when you get a few hours to yourself?
A. My best girlfriend and I have a standing lunch date every Wednesday. Literally, it is scheduled on our calendars like an appointment throughout all of perpetuity! (Yay us!) We like to go to different places for lunch and try different things. Some of our favorites include Nil's Bakery in Fuquay-Varina, Thai Thai in Holly Springs, and Whole Foods in Cary for great salads and sushi, which we eat outside!
Q. What's the best parenting trick you've picked up over the years?
A. I stopped trying to be "perfect" in front of my kids. When they do something bad, I don't put on a sugary voice and say, "Now sweetie, that's not how we act, do we?" Instead, I'll freely use my annoyed voice (like an actual, real person!) and say something like, "What the heck? Why would you do that?!" Likewise, I let them see when I'm in a happy, giddy mood, or when I'm feeling down or upset. I feel like it helps them to learn that no one is perfect all the time, and that's okay. We're all just people, living our lives and trying to do our best.
Q. What's the best advice someone has given you about being a mom?
A. Don't "save" things! My friend Laura, who survived breast cancer, realized, "What are we saving things for?" and shared her perspective with me, and she's right! So what if the kids want to wear their Easter dress to school before the holiday? Let them wear it, and be happy that they enjoy dressing up and that the outfit got worn more than once! Why are we "saving" their real gold necklace that they got for communion for "someday?" Let them wear it! Yes, teach them to be careful, but let them enjoy things now, along the way, too!
Q. What's your least favorite part and most favorite part of parenthood?
A. My least favorite part is when I know, through life experience, that something is going to be painful for my kids, yet they choose not to accept my advice and I have to watch them go through something that could have been avoided. (If only they'd just listen to me! LOL!)
My most favorite part is watching them navigate through life and figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how they are going to find their way there!
Know a local mom with a story to tell? (Or are you that mom?) We're always looking for new moms to "Meet," so please send us an email with your nominations at firstname.lastname@example.org.