Get ready to be enchanted by the personal diary of Fern Burns. (Yes, she knows her name is ridiculous. If you met her flighty mother, you would understand.) Fern is 42-years-old, lives in the beautiful, tropical Florida Keys and is not your typical Contemporary Romance heroine.
In this journal, Fern shares the wacky, entertaining stories of her life for the year. From the love-hate relationship she develops with the book “The Secret” to having to deal with cursing parrots and a road filled with skittering crabs, her summations of her offbeat daily life make for a delightfully fun read.
Fern treats her diary like her best friend as she openly writes about her hopes and dreams, her thoughts and fears, and her triumphs and embarrassments. This is a particularly exciting year because she finally meets the man of her dreams. Or is he?
This fast-paced story is an intimate look inside Fern’s life as she hands over the keys to her diary. Go ahead…Take a PEEK!
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was fortunate enough to live in the Florida Keys for a couple of years after college. The place and the people were so fun and unique that a story just HAD to come out of that experience.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Many of the characters are loosely based on real people that I met while living in Key Largo.
Tuesday, March 17th
It’s my birthday! Okay, that isn’t nearly as thrilling as it was 25 years ago, but it’s still somewhat exciting. At least I no longer get pinched if I’m not wearing an abundance of kelly green. A St. Patty’s Day birthday kind of limits your special-day outfit choices in your youth. I remember one year, in particular, when Grandma gave me a beautiful, pink, frilly dress to wear to my birthday party. Mean Jimmy (as I used to call him) pinched me hard on the arm, and that started a barrage of pinching from my so-called ‘friends.’ I ended up hiding in the bathroom for a good portion of my party. I must have forgiven Mean Jimmy because less than ten years later, I started calling him James, and I let him slide into third base with me in the back of his souped-up, cherry-red Mustang. How’s that for not holding a grudge?
What am I thinking? That’s no way to start this year’s diary. I haven’t even introduced myself. What if some handsome stranger finds this book several years from now and wants to track me down? I’m sure I’d be happy to meet you, Big Fella.
My name is Fern Burns. Yes, I am well aware that it’s a ridiculous name. Anyone who has met my scatter-brained, flighty mother gets it. Mean Jimmy had his fair share of fun chanting my silly, rhyming name, as well. ‘Fern Burns never learns’ or ‘Fern Burns makes my stomach churn.’ Thinking back on it now, I’m amazed that I was able to forgive him so quickly. That must be part of the magic of youth. Now, I would probably hold a grudge and plot diabolical revenge against him.
Since my middle name is Mable, it’s not really much help in cutting the unusual factor down in my name. Sometimes I throw the ‘M’ in when I state my name aloud, hoping that I’ll be taken more seriously. I don’t think it helps very much.
I have kept journals of my day-to-day life since I was 12-years-old. Gosh, I guess it’s officially been 30 years today. How is that possible?? On my 12th birthday, my grandma gave me a beautiful, sequined diary that locked. In one of my mother’s few serious moments, she told me that I shouldn’t write anything down that I didn’t want the whole world to see. Being a rebellious pre-teen, I started writing everything down in my new journal, mostly because my mom thought it was a bad idea.
I’ve started a new diary on my birthday every year since then. The quantity of past diaries is becoming embarrassingly large. I keep them in my squatty, fireproof safe because my memories are pretty much all that I have of value, except for some savings bonds that I received for my high school graduation, which are tucked away in the safe as well.
Occasionally, I like to read back through my past journals. It’s amazing how much has slipped my mind. Without my written record to remind me, so much would be completely forgotten. It’s not just the actual events, but also how I felt about them—my ideas, dreams, and fears at various stages of my life. Besides, when I become famous, these works will be worth big bucks. LOL.
Anyway, writing in journals has become an ingrained habit for me. Sometimes things don’t seem real until I’ve written them down. It’s like talking to my very best friend. So, I’ll detail a year of my life in here. Most likely, no one else will ever read it; but if you do, I hope it brings you joy, or at least minor amusement. My life is a bit of a train wreck right now; so if nothing else, it will likely make you feel better about your own life.
Let’s see, I’ll start with the good. I live in beautiful Key Largo in the Florida Keys. It is sunny and gorgeous here the vast majority of the time. Our little island is surrounded by some of the most crystal clear, turquoise-blue water I’ve ever seen. Scuba divers come from all over the world to check out the coral reefs that are teeming with marine life just off the coast. Since I don’t work for the Florida Keys tourism board, I’ll also mention that the humidity sometimes feels like being wrapped in a warm, wet blanket, and we have mosquitos that are the size of small birds. For the most part, though, the good outweighs the bad, and I like the idea of living here.
Another positive aspect of my life is that I scored a job at The Keys Yacht Club (known by members and locals as TKYC). You’ve probably never heard of it, and that is the way the uber-rich people that belong to the club want it. Most of the jobs in Key Largo are at scuba diving shops or restaurants; so getting a full-time job with real benefits, like health insurance and a 401k, is a real privilege in this area.
On the not so great side, is my actual position at TKYC. My official title is ‘Outdoor Recreation Specialist.’ It sounds fancy, but I’m basically a glorified cabana girl. I work at the club’s pool and lagoon area. The lagoon is my favorite because they truck in tons of pristine, white sand. I’m not sure where they ‘borrow’ that from, but it’s one of the only sandy beach areas in Key Largo. I know that is surprising, since it’s an island, but this island has mostly rocky or mangrove-covered shoreline. As I’m circling the lagoon, picking up trash, beaching water toys, and repeatedly straightening the same lounge chairs, I tell myself that all of this sand-walking is going to make me have killer calves. I try to look on the bright side of things.
Working the pool areas is significantly less fun. There’s the members-only pool where I’m constantly stopped during my rounds to take a snack or drink order, even though my blue polo shirt indicates I’m with the Recreation Department. The members know that the Food and Beverage Department workers wear red polo shirts, but they think that the staff is completely interchangeable. To some degree, I guess they are right, because I always manage to get them what they want. It’s my job to keep the members happy.
On my pool coverage days, I usually volunteer to cover the guest pool, where any riff raff (as the members call them) who are lucky enough to score an invitation from a member are permitted. The other staffers don’t like it because the guests don’t tip as well, but I enjoy it because they at least seem grateful to be here. Many of the members are jaded by constantly being catered to and given whatever they want. The guests are in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds them here and seem, in general, more appreciative of my service. At least they look me in the eye.
The worst part of my job is working the stand. The stand is a small booth where we sell a few beach basics like sunscreen, tanning lotion, bottled water, and sunglasses. We also hand out clean, bleached-white beach towels and put any soiled towels into a large rolling bin. Frequently, when I’m working the stand, someone will refer to me as ‘the towel girl.’ A father will turn to his young child and say, ‘Give your wet towels to the towel girl.’ I feel like screaming, ‘Look at me! I am a grown woman! I have real dreams and unique thoughts and ideas! I’m not just a towel girl!’ Instead, I smile, say thank you, and silently fume. It’s probably not great for me to keep all that annoyance cooped up inside, but at least I get to write about my frustrations. Besides, everyone hates their job, don’t they? It could certainly be a lot worse. I could be cleaning up elephant poop for a living. Elephants are beautiful, but I bet they have really big, stinky poop.
Back to the plus side of my life, I have a wonderful best friend. Her name is Marina West. It’s a unique, but cute name for a one-of-a-kind, adorable person. She took me under her wing right after I moved to the Keys (about three years ago), and I’ve never been so grateful for anyone in my life. Marina is gorgeous, spunky, funny and loyal, and I love her to pieces. Her piece-of-shit husband, Frank, is another story. He is a player and will sleep with anything in a skirt. Marina knows about his indiscretions and chooses to turn a blind eye. I just don’t get it, but who am I to judge? It’s not like my love life is anything to brag about.
I guess we are flipping back to the negative if I’m going to describe my non-existent love life. In high school, I did the typical, starry-eyed relationship with one of our class jocks. (This was after my quick, almost-tryst in the backseat of Mean Jimmie a/k/a James’s muscle car). Ryan was tall, lean and handsome. We fumbled through taking each other’s virginity in my bedroom while “Love Bites” by Def Leppard played on my boombox. It didn’t last the entire song, but we spent the next couple of years exploring our bodies and improving our technique. We started growing apart as two years turned into three. When it came time to either get married or break up, we mutually decided that we would prefer to break up. It was all very civil. My relationship with Ryan had been a glorious, happy time, and I remember him fondly. We are Facebook friends, so I check out his profile periodically. He’s married with two kids and a dog. His hairline is seriously receding, and he has a significant belly pooch; but he still has kind eyes, and I wish him well.
Fast forward to my next relationship, which started right after I quit college. Yes, I quit college without finishing. Sometimes when I’m dragging a lounge chair back up to its aligned spot in the sand, I wonder if that might have been a mistake; but that’s neither here, nor there. I was waiting tables at a diner when I met David. He was a dark, brooding artist, and I found him to be completely irresistible. I always had the feeling that I was more into him than he was into me, but I tried to ignore it. Turns out, I was right. The last time I heard from David and his husband, Erik, it sounded like they were doing great. To be fair, I don’t think David even knew he was gay when we were together. Or maybe he knew, but wasn’t ready to admit it to himself. Whatever the case, it took me a long time to get over him. In fact, I still wish that things could have turned out differently, but I’m glad he found happiness.
Sadly, that’s pretty much it for my love life. There has been a smattering of random dates here and there, but nothing that went anywhere serious. Maybe this will be my year to find someone.
That’s it for today. It’s time to go out into the world and enjoy my birthday!
These bios are generally rather dry, so I thought I’d shake up the format a little bit. Here are ten not-so-interesting tidbits about me:
1. I despise whipped cream. There, I admitted it in writing. Let the ridiculing begin.
2. Even though I have lived as far south as Key Largo, Florida and as far north as Maine, I landed in the middle.
3. If I don’t make a conscious effort not to, I will drink nothing but tea morning, noon, and night. Hot tea, sweet tea, green tea – I love it all.
4. There doesn’t seem to be much in life that is better than coming home to a big dog who is overjoyed to see me. My other family members usually show significantly less enthusiasm about my return.
5. Singing in my bestest, loudest voice does not make my family put on their happy faces. This includes the big, loving dog referenced above.
6. Yes, I am aware that bestest is not a word.
7. Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home.
8. All of the numerous bottles in my shower must be lined up, with their labels facing out. It makes me feel a little like Julia Roberts’ mean husband from the movie ‘Sleeping with the Enemy,’ but I can’t seem to control this particular quirk.
9. I love, love, love finding a great bargain.
10. Did I mention that I hate whipped cream? It makes my stomach churn to look at it, touch it, smell it or even think about it. Great – now I’m thinking about it. Ick!
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!