Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It's There When I Look In Your Eyes

Tis’ the season… no not The Holidays. Tis the Season of Love! The lyrics to Love is in the Air by Tom Jones and Love is All Around Us by Billy Mack (a.k.a. Bill Nighy) orbit and swirl through my head on a regular basis.

I’ve broken out in song at Target, the grocery store, Jazzercise; well, pretty much everywhere. Except for one place. Wherever my kids are. Because as we all know, once you become a parent you are not allowed to sing in public. I’m sure even the likes of Paul McCartney, Gwen Stefani and Celine Dion get told to shush if they so much as hum a tune once their kids turned ten years old.

Why those two songs versus all the others, I have no idea. If I play the game, "say the first thing you think of" this is what comes to mind. A few years ago I was on the same flight as Tom Jones … he’s much shorter than you’d imagine and the way his head swiveled around baggage claim he gave the impression that he was looking for adoring fans. To be fair, a few women (myself included) were staring at him, but I think we were all trying to see what had induced women to throw their knickers on the stage. Bill Nighy is a seriously fascinating man to watch; his eyes are full of devilment, his voice oddly soothing, and as an actor he is quite quirky. This list of words is important: short, swivel, confusion, acting, quirky.

Back to the question, where does this focus on love come from?? Well, I’ll tell the story, but will keep names to myself as I want to remain loved by those in love.

It’s Middle School! The Hypothalamus kicks in and screams to the Pituitary Gland, “Make Estrogen!” Or “More Testosterone needed!!” The body chugs and churns, producing more and more of these little critters, 24/7. Soon the body is pulsating with the stuff. It ripples through the minds and into the veins of Middle Schoolers in quantities mostly forgotten by those over the age of 20. And all this churning takes place inside short, confused, quirky people who are trying to act cool and in control.

Though I know love is alive and well everywhere, I think there is nothing quite as amazing as witnessing the seemingly overnight transition of kids who’ve never before noticed the opposite sex to suddenly realizing they might like to talk to and possibly make physical contact with the object of their amour.

Not all that many years ago I held tiny infants in my arms and wondered all sorts of things. Would they like broccoli? Would they like to read? Would they be able to carry a tune? (MacGyver has an issue with this particular skill.) Every day has been about learning the answers to these many questions and so as one piece of the puzzle gets placed, the picture becomes more complete.

When your kids are little, they are your whole world, and you are theirs. Gradually more and more people enter the story. Yet, at the very beginning it is just you and them. In quiet moments when I wondered about broccoli, algebra, and having rhythm, I couldn’t fathom the day when their heart would be entrusted to someone who could nurture them or break it to smithereens.

What is fabulous is that while your kids become more of who they are, so are you evolving. As time has passed I have watched in awe as tentative conversations and sweeping gestures have been made. Way back when my fluff-ball was in First Grade, a lovely boy gave her a charm bracelet just before he moved far away. He wanted to give her something to remember him by. The charms were well thought out, it’s made of real silver, and she has kept track of it all these years. (No small feat given three moves, the transition of toys to make-up, and the revolving/evolving clutter that is in her room.)

The boys’ mom and I watched them scamper down the path to a tree they always hung out in and watched the tender exchange. The only sadness I felt was that he was leaving and that she would be without her best friend. Of course, they were six years old. So, gentle for us all. Though he remains in her memories affectionately, she moved on gracefully.

This past summer my kids, who are in their early teens, started hanging out with me less and less and more and more with other kids. Trying to do the right thing, I read parenting articles, called friends who had already turned this corner, and then went with my gut. I must say, it was a summer unlike any other. Though there were roller coaster moments, there were many, many more where I watched clusters of kids chat and laugh. Music is a really important medium for kids to bond around, so while I chauffeured herds around town, I listened to them sing… loud… and mostly off-key.
Then, wham! School started. New kids came their way, old friendships were re-established, and with just a few weeks of the three R’s barely under our belts, the lyrics to Love is in the Air began to swirl. Because, So-and-So is dating What’s-her-Name and You-Know-Who is crushing on That-Guy-Who-Wears-Contacts-But-Now-Has-Braces!”

“Love is in the air, Everywhere I look around! Love is in the air, every sight and every sound!”

I will simply say that as the parent of a child who is smitten and is being smitten back, my thoughts are no longer about broken hearts or feelings nurtured. I am trying keep my child focused. While I rejoice and am touched by the exploration of feelings, experiences, and all the rest, I need homework to get done!! Chores to be remembered. And one other tiny thing… other relationships. No, I am not jealous. It is about teaching balance. There are still only 24 hours in a day and all the usual needs to happen, as well as the Cutie-Pie waiting for the phone call. (Incidentally, I am starting to understand my parents better and better.)

Okay, more love to be witnessed! My lovely niece married her Bride recently. Both wrote their own vows and while I don’t know if either knew what the other had written beforehand, the words spoken were heartfelt, funny, in sync, and deeply personal.

“Love is all around us, it’s everywhere we go.”

We need love, much like we need water. And we find love in places unexpected. As I sat looking at the calendar a few weeks ago I realized that all my nieces and nephews have been married in September. This September also marked my knowing my man MacGyver for half my life. I fell  headlong into twitterpation with him in September. It is the month of love!

My parents met Mac the day after we were engaged (to be fair, he and I live a few hours from them and it was less than three months into our relationship). I invited Mac to attend my father’s ordination into the Episcopalian priesthood with me. We had decided beforehand that we wouldn’t share the news as it was my father’s big day and my mother’s birthday. Two days before I had seen my brother, and being the savvy guy that he is, he sensed something was up. At the reception following the ordination he asked me what was going on. Mac and I shared a moment of telepathy and then happily announced we had become engaged the night before. Like wildfire, my siblings found out. To stop the random strangers, who were overhearing this news, from congratulating my parents, we decided we’d best tell them. So, standing in a huddle in the midst of a few hundred people I shared our joy with my parents. Because love is like that. When it is in you, it wants to burst free and work its magic on anyone within proximity.

It was only after we’d been married a few years and had faced a few bumps in the road that I realized the true enormity of commitment vows. Two people making ginormous promises to see each other through all kinds of stuff... stuff that most of us can’t know about until time passes, decisions are made, and then decisions are lived with. Our parents sit back and watch us take these vows and I’m sure they hold their breath and wonder when they can exhale.

It’s mostly easy being the aunt, watching beloved nieces and nephews grow up, follow their hearts, and make commitments. Not because I don’t worry about them, but because I know and love them differently than their parents do. Maybe it is objectivity. I don’t know. I’ve actually tried to put words to my feelings, but all I come up with is that their choices feel right. My beloved family is happy and there is nothing I want more.

As my kid’s mom, I have to say that I’m sure along the way I will have moments of trepidation, many experiences will not go according to plan, and even if they do, something is going to end with a splat. I’ve said it a thousand times, but my kids dazzle me. They are pretty solid people. Yes, they are works in progress, but I feel excited about this phase that we are entering. It’s a lot like the broccoli question. Of course, way back when, I also wondered who they would find interesting, attractive, and trustworthy. They have shown amazing judgment in life so far and while the path isn’t long, the path has been easy to follow.

So, while I expected a blonde and not a brunette, this new young person is helping us spread our wings, and we'll be forever grateful to sit on the sidelines and learn about love in a new way.
Finally, to witness one of the most interesting duets EVER, !
As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Venus Rising

What is writing? Is it an art form, a craft, an innate skill, something that burns to be released from the belly of the beast? When I read that question, the following visuals ran through my head: Renoir painting, a homespun art project made of pasta and Popsicle sticks, and Moby Dick.

Clearly the answer is “D: All of the above.” In every good book, not even a great book, there need to be moments where the writer and readers' souls surrender to the power of the word; the descriptions captivate and take the breath, cause laughter to bubble up, and tears to fall.

Like all of you, I pick up books and at some point I am either engaged or disappointed, because I see every book as the potential to travel and explore. It can be time travel, travelling to another world, exploring the hazards of tangling with a vampire or the social etiquette of Victorian England. For the most part, I will read any genre, so long as it moves me, because in every book there is self-discovery.

Ideas for books flit through my head all day long. It is extraordinarily challenging to figure out what ideas are worth pursuing, because every moment has potential. I recently read a book, Circle of Grace, where one of the main characters is introduced to us as a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop. To get to the meat of this part of the book, the director of the workshop helps his students realize that not only is it important to write what you know, you must write what you feel, you must be willing to explore and then expose your emotions to be an effective writer.

Last week I published Venus Rising. The original goal was to write as a comedic fifty page short story, yet when my fingers hit the keyboard the idea morphed into something quite different, because I listened to my heart and it needed me to write big feelings.

It was very important to me to really understand the world I dared stepping into. So many hours were spent researching the hows and whys of the world we live on. Venus Rising isn’t loaded down with dates and data. My hope is that my research pours you into the skins of Akshaya Bertrand and Jared Harrison; makes their journeys palpable and their travels tangible.

The following are the first two brief but critical chapters of the book. I hope you enjoy them.

Thanks for reading!


Venus Rising

Early March 2011

His head pounded, he felt his eyes pulsing! His chest heaved as he gasped for air and there was nothing to be done. The strain on his body felt unbearable, and at some point the release of so much emotion was just too much. He fractured. The two pieces, body and soul, fractured. Never having been a spiritual person, he could only assume this was what an out of body experience would be. The body and soul were at war with each other.  The soul’s way of accepting that the body had endured enough. He took in the visceral experience and accepted it for what it was. A death of sorts. Years of observing the world from a distance had led to this outburst.

And so he wept.

How long did he sit there? He had no idea. It was the shadowy flutter on the wall that attuned him to his body. He felt the easing of his balled up muscles and the last of his tears leaking. The last sobs wrenched from somewhere very deep. A quake echoed through his body and it was this echo that seemed to initiate the reconciliation of the two halves of himself.

In an effort to calm himself, he stretched out on the couch. It wasn’t lost upon him that he was finally doing as his therapist had been suggesting for months. He was lying down.

He chuckled, “Has this couch always been this comfortable?” His voice thick with emotion and mucus.

From a close distance a voice devoid of emotion said, “Yes.”

“God, I feel like shit.”

Silence sat in the room with them.

A final long tremor ran through his body, signaling that the emotional overload was at an end. He ran a hand through his thick dark hair and parked there, his other hand rested on his stomach, clenched. While he lay staring at the ceiling, he did what all people do, he counted the dark blobs on the white sound proofing ceiling tiles. When this proved overwhelming, he tried to sort out what he was feeling and what he wanted to say. It was all a jumble. The image of a tornado flitted through his mind.

Giving up on creating order from chaos, he sat up, blew his nose, and started collecting the pile of used tissues from the floor. The number of white wads scattered about startled him.

“What are you thinking?” He asked the other occupant in the room. Uncertain whether it was because he felt exposed and wanted to find out if he had finally revealed enough of himself or if it was because he was killing time.

“Both.” He thought to himself.

The bland face said, “I am wondering what you are thinking, what words you would put to your feelings.”

“That answer feels like part of the problem. Why is it that when I ask questions you always redirect them back at me?” Jared asked with anger in his voice. He put no effort into disguising it.

“Alright. I’ve been wondering when you’d get pissed. I think it is really sad that even now, in here, you still suppress your real feelings. I wonder if you do that to protect me or yourself.” Dr. Jackson answered.

Staring at the clock straight across from him, Jared saw that there were only a few minutes left. “I don’t like feeling this way. It seems pointless.”

Dr. Jackson followed Jared’s gaze and saw the time. “Do you think the Lexapro is helping?”

Evaluating his behavior from a distance he answered, “Yes, better than Zoloft. The headaches and nausea are gone.” He registered he hadn’t been feeling quite so overwhelmed by the past and felt like the future was, usually, manageable. “I’m sitting here wondering if I will feel like this in an hour or a day or a week.”

“Then it’s a good thing you’ll be here in a week. Unless you want to come back this week, I can check my calendar.” The psychiatrist answered. Similar to the couch issue, the doctor had been endeavoring to get his patient in more than once a week.

Attending therapy more regularly only added pressure to Jared’s life and it wasn’t a pressure he wanted but perhaps needed. Given the imminent future, maybe now was the time. He gave it a long moment’s thought and said, “Do you have any appointments open on Thursday?”

Minutes later he sat in his car and noticed that the trees all had tender lime green leaves tightly balled up, waiting to unfurl. A few more warm days were needed. His eyes surveyed the area and touched upon the bright yellow tulips and an unknown shrub with tiny white berries.

He blew out a long deep breath and fully absorbed winter was over and spring was now. Summer would be next and summer would be long.


Mid- March 2011

Grimacing at the clock, Akshaya realized it was time to pack up for the day. Thursdays! She had a love-hate relationship with Tuesday and Thursdays. Not always, just for the last four months. Four very long months.

She stepped out into the fresh air and smelled the promise of spring. Walking along the concrete path from her office to her car she searched for the sun and upon finding it squinted into the pale sunlight. She stopped and closed her eyes. She let the moment hold her and she felt buoyed by the promising warmth.

Giving in to what must be done, she continued on her way, gingerly stepping around a small pile of slush, a last remnant of winter. Quickly and efficiently she loaded her things along with herself into the car and headed away from the known, and steered herself towards the unknown.

On thirty-two occasions, over four months (twice a week, an hour each day) Akshaya had walked through the medical building’s double doors. Walked down a long gloomy hallway, passed through a dark wooden door, flipped up a switch, and then sat down in a lobby, waiting for the doctor. Dr. Meyers was usually on time, so the wait was short. Today, she scrounged through a pile of magazines, looking for something to read.

Flipping through a Smithsonian Magazine, she was surprised when she heard a door open, and heard footsteps approaching. Out of courtesy, she diverted her eyes back to an article on “The Wonders of Alexandria.”

There was muffled walking, the sound of a door closing, and then a few minutes later, the same door reopened. More muffled walking brought Dr. Meyers to the switch, which she pressed down, and greeted Akshaya with a smile. Once inside the doctor’s office, she said, “Sorry to keep you waiting. We’ll adjust your appointment and go later if that works for you.”

Inwardly Akshaya felt two emotions equally. Angry for being kept waiting, and unaffected because she really didn’t think she needed to be there anymore. Internally she knew that the real problem lie in the fact that she wouldn’t tell Dr. Meyers her true feelings. This is what kept her coming.

Dr. Meyers clearly understood emotions were unsaid because week after week she said, “I’ll see you soon.”

“That’s fine.” Akshaya responded politely. She spent her days with students and knew very well that appointments ran late, short, but rarely as scheduled.

Once settled, her eyes drifted to the clock to see what the actual time was. Their appointment was for 6:00 pm and it was now 6:14 pm.

Breaking the ice, she led with, “I will have to leave at the usual time. I have a massage scheduled.” Irritation now leaked into her voice.


“I usually have a massage on Thursdays after I leave here.”

“Is it to relax or part of your treatment?”

“Both. I’ve had weekly therapeutic massages for years. It might help with the procedure.”

“How is that going?”

“Fine, I’m still floating the idea around.”

“Would you like to talk about it?”

“No. I need to think about it by myself for a while longer.”

“We could talk about it, together. That is one of the conversations we could have in here.”

“I know. I just… don’t want to. Honestly, I just need to process.”

For Akshaya, saying that she didn’t want something was a big step, so Dr. Meyer contented herself with, “Okay. How is everything else?”

“Fine, the same. Tension is high. The work is harder than I could have ever imagined possible, part of me wonders if I should have just bailed.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Because, I have dreams, this dream I didn’t even fully understand until he made it happen. Now there’s the possibility and I’m unwilling to pass it up.”

“So why do you wonder about bailing?”

“Sitting here I’m removed from the stress, so I am unwilling to give up, but when he and I are together there is so much tension. What if all this time and effort is wasted?”

“But, that is what you do, your modus operandi, you have the mask that you wear that says ‘stay away’ and then you have you. The person that needs you to come here. You could talk to him. He doesn’t have to talk to you. Would that make you feel better?”

Akshaya began pacing the office. Not something she did often, but today she felt like she was in a cage, needing out, but leaving wasn’t an option. She tugged on the cuff of her sleeves, fiddled with the scarf around her neck, and paced. She was aware of the tension in her neck, her throat feeling squeezed shut.

“Which dream are we talking about exactly?” The doctor asked, sitting on a stool in front of an easel, blobbing paint onto a canvas. Painting something quite indeterminable.

Akshaya walked over, grabbed a sturdy wide fan shaped brush and set about blending some of the colors together. Unconsciously she loaded the brush with watered down ochre and started to blend a patch of darker brown with a golden splat. Dr. Meyer slid her stool slightly aside to give Akshaya all the room she needed to paint.

After a minute or two of muddling, Akshaya loaded a filbert brush with Robins Egg Blue and set about building swirling bands of color in the back left corner. When out of paint, she returned to the present, dropped the brush in a glass, and then sat in the familiar oversized chair in front of a window. She flipped her legs over the arm of the chair and pressed back into the cushions, staring straight ahead, at small patch of empty white wall.

“Dreams… I can’t even think about my dreams. Right now I’m angry. As if there weren’t enough complications, he told me today that he asked two contacts to check into my past. What right does he have? He should have asked me. What if these two idiots do something I don’t want, what if…” She stopped mid-thought, not entirely certain that she wanted to understand what might follow.

“What if what happens?” Asked the always pressing doctor.

“Forget ‘what if’. What about whom? Why didn’t he ask me if it was okay for people I don’t know to root around my past? Shouldn’t I be the one who gets whatever information they find out? Why does he get it first? They should be telling me what they find out and not him!”

“I don’t know. Maybe he is trying to protect you.”

“Fuck him. I don’t need protection. I can manage my own life.”

“When is the last time you sat down and truly talked to him?”

“Just after Christmas.”

“Do you think you are the same person now as you were at Christmas?”

“No, obviously not.”

“How obvious is it to him, when you haven’t had a personal conversation with him since Christmas?”

“I know!” She snapped! Anger rushed out with the response. Akshaya moved back to the easel. After letting go of the initial urge to pick up a palette knife and spread a thick layer of black, she kept her hands clenched at her sides, studied the painting and then decided that the blue needed a hint of grey.

“So?” Dr. Meyer prompted.

“He’s different. He’s not the same guy at all. To him I am just a woman who has skills he needs, nothing more.”

“Is it possible that he is simply treating you the way you asked him to treat you?”

Anger poured out of her and she let it loose on the canvas. She picked up a large paint brush, loaded it with white paint and brushed long powerful strokes from left to right. The bristles dug into the existing paint. The results were horizontal bands of color, white to brown.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Tail of Two Kitties

Not long ago, in the pastoral township of Redmond, found nestled between the wooded shores of Lake Sammamish and a verdant valley, whose rich dark soil grew an abundance of plants, sat a house.

This house, unique in many ways; its vivacity in color and texture, expression of self-sufficiency, and commitment to historical relevance, was the subject and focus of many a discussion. The inhabitants of this unique dwelling were a happy lot and carefree in every way, but one.

The oldest child of the handsome couple had a lifelong dream of being lulled to sleep by the deep and melodious purr-ings of a kitten. In vain she endeavored to gain her parents' favor for many, many a year. Promises of pleasant company, an effort free coexistence with the felines and child, and an on-going sally finally gained a favorable outlook by the patriarch.

A witty and comely maiden, the child took advantage of delay in travel and forayed her mother into a shop whose sole purpose was the sales of dependent creatures. Upon one of the shelves sat a gracious feline whose pelt was a unique shade of smoky blue. The color one would expect to find in the early morning light, as the sun rises on a cloudy day, and that light is filtered through the risings of the hearth's fire.

Alas, there was no assistant available, and so the shopkeeper bade them to return in three days. With a loose promise and a strong hope to distract her daughter, the mother took her child to another shop along the row that sold sweets and other pleasantries.

Many hours had passed, finding the family gathering after the evening meal had been finished and the remnants stored away. The determined child engaged her father in a witty debate regarding the charms of the smoky-blue creature. Moderating the conversation, the mother was quick to support the father in the reasons to not engage in such a responsibility and debt, but she also expressed the many joys and travails learned that only a pet could teach.

The father was willing, happily, to be persuaded at this point, for he had seen the longing over the years in his daughter’s eyes. Three days passed and the family journeyed to the shop. Upon arrival the shopkeeper assisted the family in engaging the cat. It was a tearful and disappointing moment when the cat turned her claws upon them all. She had suffered abuse as a kitten and needed solitude to be happy. The parents quickly surmised that for their daughters dream to come true, kittens were the answer.

Three days passed again, and in that time the family had searched the lands and found what their hearts hoped for. A brother and sister who bounced about like Spring Lambs, were sweet in disposition, engaging to the eye and appreciative of their adoring new family. Names were dispensed, one from each child. The girl naming the girl, the boy naming the boy. Thus, Tessa and Milo came to live and happiness overflowed.

The happiness remained for quite some time, until an evil force descended upon the land, causing mayhem and mischief to follow. It was to the sorrow and concern of the mother when she entered her bedchamber to find a malodorous scent saturating the air. Quickly she rushed to find the source, but could not. It was a sad, almost tragic, moment when the daughter, the arbiter, found the source.

Concern worried her face when she quietly dispensed to her mother that one of the kittens, the female, had relieved herself on the bed. Sensing her child’s fear that the kittens would be banished, the mother quickly hid her disappointment and spent considerable time and effort rectifying the mishap.

Leaving the most grotesque and repulsive minutiae to the reader’s imagination, it suffices to add that the original deposit had been expanded upon and that much effort was spent over the length of the evening. The mother, a woman who generally was found to be meticulous in her appearance, could be found damp from her exertion. The father, similar in nature, was in a state of discomfiture.

The daughter’s willingness to assist had impressed both parents. For the sake of expedition, she stowed away in another chamber of the house with the kittens, hoping that their removal from sight would prevent removal from home.

The woods behind the inhabitance grew dark as the sun set, and still the parents toiled. Opened windows drew in the fresh scent of warm summer air, and with it, the sounds of the snapping branches in the woods.

Catching his wife’s worried eye, for many creatures lingered in the woods at night, the husband stated, “Not to worry, perhaps only raccoons.”

The wife, who was in need of relief, swiped her arm across her glistening brow and said, “We could wrap the kittens in bacon and see what happens.”

After much laughter at such an indiscreet and audacious comment, the couple finished their toil and eventually found their way to another, more cool and pleasant smelling location, and found deep, deep sleep.

It remains lost upon the family as to why the kitten exerted such careless disregard. As is generally the case, caution was applied, and the kittens suffered a smaller range of territory to stalk and purvey. The child who had longed for such company was joyful to see affection for her beloved creatures applied to them by her parents. She knew that all was well, that it was not only her that truly loved the kittens, but they as well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It should always be Memorial Day!

(I wrote this blog quite some time ago, planning to publish it on Memorial Day. As you know, a lot of my time has been taken up trying to write books, market published books, chase my kids, chase my tail, and then have a few spare brain cells to write an interesting blog! In any case, I do truly believe that every day is Memorial Day, so I am taking advantage of a few quiet minutes, and sending this out into the universe.)

Recently I had the pleasure of watching The King's Speech, with Colin Firth, for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I can only implore you to do so. Don’t worry, this blog is more than a movie review! It is an extraordinary tale that touches me personally and deeply. While the movie is about King George VI and his speech impediment, more importantly it is a beautiful tale about love and friendship.

Sidebar: As a lifelong over-the-top fan of Jane Austen I am a slave to any actor or actress who has brought one of her books to life. I doubt I am alone when I say that I carefully watched the scenes with Colin Firth and Jane Ehle in The King's Speech. I longed to see an elegantly aged Elizabeth gaze at a distinguished Mr. Darcy. How they kept the love from beaming out of their eyes as King George VI and Mrs. Logue I have no idea...

I committed myself to about thirty minutes of research into the movie for this blog and in that research I found three interesting facts.

The writer of the script, David Seidler, began voraciously researching the King in the late 1970’s as a result of learning that he and King George VI shared a speech impediment. Sadly, Seidler could learn very little about Lionel Logue, the King’s speech therapist. “Eventually Seidler contacted Dr. Valentine Logue, who agreed to discuss his father and make his notebooks available if the Queen Mother gave her permission. She asked him not to do so in her lifetime, and Seidler halted the project.” When the Queen Mother died in 2002, he resumed his research, received Logue’s diaries from his son, and built his story.

Apparently a fair amount of liberty was taken with the timeline, historical figures (such as Cromwell and Chamberlain’s presence in an outer room when the speech was delivered), and one I must admit I did find quite odd while I watched the film - when the Royal Family stands on the balcony at the end and waves to the crowd.

Though the film and actors received awards and accolades in the US and England, Prince Andrew of Britain took great exception, he didn’t like it. Considering Andrew's antics and constant bad press, I am hesitant to take his film reviews too close to heart. However, “Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning queen and the daughter of King George VI, was sent two copies of the film before Christmas 2010. It was reported that she watched the film in a private screening. A palace source described her reaction as being "touched by a moving portrayal of her father". Seidler called the reports "the highest honor" the film could receive.

As the final credits rolled I found myself wondering how my family, living in Lowestoft England, took the news that September 3rd evening in 1939.

My Great Grandfather, Ernest Grint, had served in WWI. From his first marriage he had four children. His second wife, my Great Grandmother, Elizabeth, had been married to a solider during WWI, with whom she had one child. He was not fortunate enough to return home. My Great Grandparents had five children together. If you add them all up, there were ten total.

Were they sitting around the radio, listening with their nine sons, full of worry? Worry, I presume that word to be an understatement.

My mother would have been nine months old. My grandfather, Edward, was Ernest and Elizabeth’s oldest child together. He was a mere twenty years old.

After the nine boys had signed up with the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, and Royal Army, the house, which surprisingly still stands on Normanston Drive, was left in solitude to my Great Grandparents, my Great Aunt Beryl (fourteen years old), my Grandmother Dorothy, and my mother, Daphne.

Lowestoft for many centuries was a blip on the map. The most easterly point of England, where villagers fished for survival. In 1831 the harbor at Lowestoft was created, where the Grint family proudly owned a fishing trawler or two. In 1847, railway entrepreneur Sir Samuel Peto built a branch line to Reedham, joining the mainline between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. This immediately opened up markets inland for fish. Lowestoft grew from a small fishing village to a thriving market town.

Stories about the fishing heydays of my family are quite entertaining to listen to, all sorts of mishaps, battles with the North Sea, and “the one that got away.” My Great Aunt Beryl tells the story that upon arriving back at port and emptying the bowels of the ship to the local fish merchants, my Great-Grandfather was greeted with the news of her birth by a friend working on the docks. “Great News!” He said, then everyone disappeared into the pub to celebrate, leaving my Great Grandmother to wonder about his whereabouts.

In the summer of 1939 the Admiralty purchased 67 trawlers with a further twenty newly constructed vessels at the outbreak of World War II. I have yet to uncover if my family’s trawlers were some of those purchased. I’m curious about that. Mostly because these trawlers served as Mine Sweepers, on which my Grandfather served as a member of the Royal Navy.

My Grandfather told me that after having been at sea for quite some time, searching for bombs the Germans had dropped, food supplies were depleted and the men were hungry, so they dropped one of their own bombs. Soon enough all kinds of fish floated to the surface. They ate well for a time, having put what fish they could into the food storage area.

In my imagination, a black and white image of a barely visible small boat waits as fish breech and then plop on their sides. Fish of all shapes and sizes, lying still on the seas calm surface. Why this image instead of others? Perhaps the possibility of adding color makes the idea of my Grandfathers experience too real, too frightening.

I believe my Grandfather served aboard three Mine Sweepers that were blown out from underneath him. Leaving him and the other survivors praying for help and swimming towards what they hoped was land. Once he washed up on the shores of Norway and was taken in by a fisherman and his family. He couldn’t remember how long he stayed there, but the last time I visited with him, he still had the sweater the wife had knitted for him.

I came upon this quote, “After about 18 months I was recalled to Lowestoft and drafted to an anti-submarine trawler in Iceland, in the most inhospitable seas and weather possible, working into the notorious Russian convey routes (although we did not go all the way there, being coal-fired, would not be able to make it).” Ronald Fredrick John Hearn

Back to Lowestoft, and the house on Normanston Drive. My Great Grandfather died of lung cancer at the start of the war. This left four women, Great Grandmother Elizabeth, Auntie Beryl, my Nana, and my infant mother, alone. The house was built directly alongside the railroad tracks that Sir Samuel Peto built through the town. The garden was long and narrow and had to be given over to soldiers encamping.

Lowestoft, being on the sea and the most easterly point, was the point of departure for boats crossing the English Channel to France. Apparently the streets teemed with soldiers and tents were pitched on every empty piece of ground. Naturally this drew the attention of the Germans, who regularly flew over the town, the railroad tracks, and harbor, shooting up and bombing everything from time to time. My mother grew up knowing how to run in a zigzag pattern to avoid bullets. How to lie flat on the ground to make her a less visible target.

So many stories and which to share?

Oh, this is a favorite! Once I was looking through old photos with my aunt and I noticed that her wedding dress looked similar to my other aunts. Upon closer inspection it turned out that their cakes were almost identical. The town had essentially one or two dresses, which the women would carefully tuck and pin to make it look like it fitted. The cake was made of cardboard tubes, and the families would pool their sugar and butter ration coupons so that frosting could be made. Since weddings often happened on short notice, they couldn’t worry about whose looked like what, they made what they could.

So, the wedding’s ended up mostly looking same. A small price to pay to get to marry the person you loved.

One lovely summer day in 1991 my aunt told me a great story, still makes me chuckle! My Aunt Beryl has an infectious laugh and a fabulous sense of humor, but I think that laughter is part of her survival toolkit, so she tells this story while she’s belly laughing. My aunt and Nana were returning home from spending their ration coupons on what was available when the Germans flew directly overhead strafing the road with machine guns and dropping the occasional bomb. The two women jumped into a hedge for protection. While standing in the hedge she realized it wasn’t deep enough for them to be enclosed, so she started laughing about how only their backsides were visible, and how odd this must look. Apparently my Nana, was a feisty itty bitty thing and she was plain old fashion pissed that her one good dress was probably ruined.

The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, were the landing operations of the Allied Invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 am. In planning, as for most Allied operations, the term D-Day was used for the day of the actual landing.”

The best story of all… My nine uncles (my Aunt Beryl married my Uncle Len during the war) and grandfather landed on the beaches of Normandy and all survived.

According to the Director of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation in Bedford Virginia the number of casualties range between 2500-5000 soldiers. Remains are still being recovered. 12,000 citizens of Normandy died during the invasion. 14,000 Allied Soldiers died between April and May of 1944, while performing tasks that would allow for D-Day to be incredibly successful or disastrous.

Whenever I visited Lowestoft I would inevitably end up at the Sparrows Nest. It is a lovely old building with a large sweeping green lawn. Here we would attend concerts and picnics, and my Grandfather and Aunt would see friends who’d weathered the storm of World War II with them. The music was quaint and time seemed to move slowly, but there I looked into the eyes of people who had struggled and won a hard fought battle. It was only today, during my thirty minutes of research, that I learned that the HMS Europa, was known as the Sparrow’s Nest. It was the Central Depot of the Royal Naval Patrol Service, located at Lowestoft, and then the closest British military establishment to the enemy until decommissioned in 1946.

“For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war.” When King George VI spoke these words he wondered how it was possible to have two such wars in one lifetime.

If someone you love has been a casualty of war, my heart goes out to you. I know that my family’s survival is extraordinary, and though the stories they told could make my heart standstill, I heard them first hand. I’m not a spiritual person, but I do pray every day for all those affected by war. I pray for quiet days. I pray for parents to be able to provide their children with food, shelter and safety. I pray that the sound that breaks the silence is laughter.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dream A Little Dream For Me!

A friend, starting her business, yesterday asked me if I had any marketing advice. Internally I laughed because I too have the same question… how does one market themselves, their business (in my case, a book), and not seem desperate, and instead, seem confident?

Part of my answer was this: “A few days ago I was digging in my yard and a man walking his dog asked me if I had a landscape background. In the past I would have said that I was a Landscape Architect, but instead I told him I was a writer.” Talking Chick-Lit with a man old enough to be an uncle was a bit uncomfortable, but… that’s what I write!

 It was a huge step for many reasons. Firstly, I am passionate about Landscape Architecture, designing landscapes, gardening, relating to people in this way. Secondly, and most importantly, I realized that if I want to be a writer or an author, I have to see myself that way.

Many friends are in the same place. Our children are old enough for us to go back to work or invest in ourselves so that we can change careers. Listening to many people’s stories, I have to believe that this is a prevalent experience for women in their late thirties, early forties. I sometimes think about organizing a business fair for women who have ideas, products, or skills to sell, but need to make connections within the community. Sometimes all it takes is a cup of coffee and a point in the right direction. I know that without a shadow of a doubt if someone approached me and asked me how to get a landscape design business started I would throw every last piece of information I possessed at them.

Fortunately I have great friends and some of them are marketing people, so they’ve given me tips. I have read oodles of articles on the internet, and all the data seems to be the same. You have to ask for support. You have to have a product you are confident in selling. You have to get your business name out there in as many places as you can.

So at this moment, I am marketing myself. In fact, I am asking you to market me as well. I am proud of the fact that I have sold over a hundred copes of my book. Many of the people that I have talked to about the book have had great things to say, so I feel confident when I tell you that Charlottes Restrained is an entertaining book.

I’m crossing my fingers right now that you will click on the link: and look at my website. You can read a synopsis of the book, you can click other links that will take you to Pinterest where I’ve created a story board, and you can read book reviews (on Amazon and Goodreads). You can literally click a button to buy the book. (If I were willing to beg, this would be where I would tell you that the book costs $2.99, which is less than a cup of coffee at most places!)

If you haven’t read it because you don’t have a Kindle, there are Apps to load Kindle books on other devices. (Also, Charlottes Restrained will be available on Smashwords by the end of April 2013.)

I want to share the following story because I want to express my passion for writing and for becoming a better writer. I also need to share a part of me, which is what I do in my blogs.

In October of 1980 my family moved from a small logging town in Washington State, to a Navy town on the Puget Sound. I cried the whole way, which was only an hour or so, but I did cry the whole way. When my father retired from the Army in 1977 we lived in El Paso, Texas. I have a clear memory of asking my parents if we would ever move again, once we moved to Sleepy Town, Washington. The answer was “No.”

To a child, that meant “No.” As in, never.

I built the framework for my life around that one word. So, when that changed I was angry. I didn’t care that there wasn’t a job for my father at what had been our church (he was a Catholic Deacon). I didn’t care that the church in Bremerton had a full-time position for him. I only cared about the fact that I was being uprooted. Again.

So, I defiantly stood before a new group of teens in my English Lit class and was introduced by my teacher, whom we’ll call Mr. A. Suddenly a boy stood up and started singing, “Cecilia,” by Simon and Garfunkel. He had the worst voice, but he made us all laugh. Turning a stressful moment into a bearable moment. Whenever someone sings that song to me, my throat chokes up with the gratitude I felt for my friend Danny.

Leaping back for just a moment, as a child my single and sole passion was writing. In the fifth grade I wrote a series of stories that the teacher read weekly to the class AND the students looked forward to them. I felt so proud. I put so much work into them. “Writer” was burnished onto my psyche.

Now we leap back to Mr. A and my 10th Grade English Lit class. Having moved often left a lot of holes in my education. Mr. A was teaching a poetry block. As students we were supposed to be interpreting the words. I had never read poetry, had no idea that we were supposed to read between the lines, make inferences based upon social or political values. I was absolutely clueless.

Mr. A returned a paper I wrote with a big fat red F on it and a note. He asked to see me. So, I bravely walked to the front of the class where I received a serious dressing down for not having applied myself. He wasn’t the sort of man who allowed a student to explain themselves. To him, we were making excuses.

To make friends and meet people I signed up for the school newspaper. Mr. A was our advisor! He appointed the Editor of the paper, the students elected other positions, and I was to be one of the reporters. After class he took me aside and told me that I had no future in writing and that I ought to join another club. Well, I was a defiant fifteen year old. Internally my blood boiled, I cursed him, and then I set about proving him wrong. I have to tell you it was a tough year.

Fortunately he took a sabbatical the next year. His replacement, Mr. Spadoni, gave me hope. He was a tall man, awkward looking, awkward in his skin, enormous dark eyes that projected fear initially, and had a soft voice. At that juncture in my life, I completely identified with him. Maybe he understood that, because he appointed me Assistant Editor of the paper.

I will give a shout out here to Silvia Reynolds Klatman. She was a senior, the Editor of the paper, and she was well liked. She forged a friendship with Mr. Spadoni, and this man went from dork to acceptable-adult. Because she believed in him, we believed in him, and in return, he believed in all of us. My experience as Assistant Editor felt epic. It felt like John Steinbeck or Hemmingway. It felt iconic.

At the end of the school year Mr. Spadoni appointed me Editor of the school paper for the following year. I was so excited, and couldn’t imagine ending my high school career in a better way.

On my first day of school I walked into the classroom where the school paper was run and there sat Mr. A. Fifteen months or so had done nothing for his demeanor. He predicted failure and doom. Sadly he was right. I wasn’t a success. I was barely mediocre. F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind. It isn’t me being hard on myself. It is me being honest. I let him take the wind out of my sails.

My first major in college was Journalism. I was determined to put all this nastiness aside and move on. But life presents paths and I chose the one less travelled (Robert Frost would be proud of me). I received a scholarship to study engineering and mathematics. I needed the financial support, so I changed majors.

When I sat down in front of my computer one September morning in 2006, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t write a book. All past criticisms gone. I was almost done when I thought about how to get it published. After nineteen submissions (and rejections), MacGyver decided to self-publish Charlottes Restrained for me as a Christmas present. He knew I needed the nudge.

Sitting here writing this, two important, okay three important thoughts jump out at me. Firstly, the reason we had to move my sophomore year in high school was because my father dared to change careers and he needed to take big leaps to make that happen. While it made me angry, I do believe that I learned a great deal from him in retrospect. I understand that one person impacts a group or family, but sometimes that has to happen for a collective happiness to exist. The second point is that help comes in many ways, but we have to be open to asking for help. The third is that regardless to Mr. A and nineteen submissions (and rejections), I have faith in myself, in my book, in my writing.

I cannot help but think of a scene from Pretty Woman, where a man walks down Hollywood Boulevard shouting, “Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.”

Writing is drama, so I suppose it takes someone being willing to be dramatic.

“I’m asking for you to help me make my dream come true.”

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


This morning Mac and I woke up early and laid in bed, talking about the day. His first question was, “How are your feet?” We both promptly laughed! Truly whoever said, “Youth is wasted on the Young,” was brilliant.

When Mac and I met, one of our common interests was Ultimate Frisbee. I had played for a few years and loved the sport. If you are unfamiliar with it, imagine using a Frisbee to play soccer, and playing on a football field. Games are usually played to 13 points or until someone throws up a lung or some such injury. Oddly, it really is a non-contact sport. It is the running that is murderous. When I played, one of the rules was that a woman had to be on the field at all times, and I was generally the only one. So, it was me throwing up a lung.  The sport draws a very gregarious crowd and generally after a game people party until the next one begins.

When I think of the days where I would run and run and leap and hop around, and intercept, and attempt to pass, and run some more, I generally get the image of a dog playing Frisbee with its owner, drooling, panting, thrilled to bits. There is a quality of freedom and pure delight.

I was playing Ultimate at the same time I played soccer, on a co-ed team and a women’s team. I must say I was in fabulous shape.

Until one summer day in 1988. I went to a week-long soccer clinic that was run by college coaches from all over the US. One moment I had the ball and was dribbling down the field, set to shoot a goal. The next I was on the ground, throwing up a lung. I had torn a quadricep from hip to knee, torn a meniscus, and hyper extended a hip flexor tendon.

Sadly, I had limited funds and could only afford part of the surgery required. Over the years I seemed to be only able to get in a reasonable state of health until another limb broke off or gave out. (A great story is the time I had to be rushed to the emergency room because I began to have problems breathing during a soccer game. Diagnosis: I had strained all the connective tissue holding my torso muscles and ligaments to the rib cage. If you need to get in to see a doctor right away, tell them you cannot breath and that your chest hurts.) Frustrating.

Finally hope came via a total wipe-out at the top of Whistler Blackcomb on sunny winter day in 1998. Dr. Zorn, the surgeon for the Seattle Sonics, at the time, fixed me up. Yes, I had insurance by then. Off I went for ten years. Mostly, I was focused on the kids and being a mom, so exercise wasn’t regular and generally came in the form of working on the yard or house.

About a year ago, I quit therapy, went cold turkey. (See blog, It’s a Doozy, 3/13/12) On the way home I realized that I had a lot of free time and not much to do, and so why not commit to getting the outside of me in as good a shape as my insides. More or less at the same time I had coffee with the lovely Victoria! I mentioned my new plan and she encouraged me to attend Jazzercise.

For those new to the concept of Jazzercise, it is a combination of aerobics, weight lifting, and plyometrics routines, set to really great music. On the first day I drove to the local community center, signed up, then I went and stood at the very back, in the right corner. People were following the instructor in varying degrees of ability, and as I ran in place, because I couldn’t follow at all, I fell in love.

Dramatic you say… well maybe, but here’s the deal. I’m not the kind of person who wants to wear trendy work-out clothes, I barely put a decent outfit together on a regular basis. It isn’t that I can’t, I just like fleece! What I fell in love with was that the room had about 80 people in it, ages ranging from 25 to 70, and in between breaks in songs these lovely people rallied each other, smiled at someone, or just felt comfortable doing their thing.

The first instructor I met was a woman named Sarah. Sarah is calm, confident, precise. I thought if anyone could teach me the routines, it was her. So, the second time I went, I moved into the center of the gym and did my best. I still had to run in place on and off, but I felt good about my progress.

Now would be a good time to introduce the subject of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. A few years prior to beginning Jazzercise I began to lose the use of my right arm. It began with tingling, then loss of muscle tone, and minimal grip. My arm and hand were constantly cold and numb. So I began to see a series of doctors (a Spine and Neck Specialist, an Osteopath, the Vascular Surgeon, an Orthopedic surgeon, and my incredible physical therapist), and after about seven months and six MRI’s and various x-rays, it was determined that the opening from my torso to my shoulder was closing up. Hence no blood flow or cleansing of the lymphatic system. On the way to finding this out I learned that I had multiple disc problems in my neck, heightened nerve sensation, a torn bicep tendon, and probably something else. I’m guessing from soccer and Ultimate Frisbee.

So, when I started Jazzercise I could lift a one pound weight. It was kind of embarrassing, but whatever. One of the best things about getting older is that you know your limits and need whatever parts you have left, so you learn to compromise with yourself. A month later I increased from Jazzercise twice a week and yoga twice a week, to Jazzercise three times a week, a two pound weight, and yoga once a week.

I love Yoga. I love the spirit of it, the regained flexibility, the strengthening. But, my body and soul need to dance. I need Pink and Pitbull encouraging me!

Now, Chief Instructor Stacey at Jazzercise is a touch different from Sarah. Stacey likes to dance, she sings, sashays, and parties and invites you to come along for the ride. At the end of the hour you are pooped, happy, and glad you went. Plus, I learned some seriously rocking dance moves.

At the tail end of summer, Stacey and Heather switched schedules. Heather made me cry! Our first class Heather said, “Ask yourself why you are here. Right Now! I’m here so that I can be around for my family.” Then she proceeded to kick my booty. (I believe, but am not sure, that Heather is also a personal trainer.) This woman not only tells you a funny story every day, but she challenges you, and always remembers to ask, “Why are you here today?”

While all this exercising has been going on, so much more has as well. I’ve met loads of new people (props to the dudes in the class) who remind me that the world is bigger than the little hill I live on, who are reinventing themselves or returning to beloved professions; writers, photographers, massage therapists, nurses, marketing wizards, IT brainiacs, and so much more. Several of these lovely ladies bought my book, just because we sweat together. How kind is that??

Every day I walk in there I am guaranteed to see an old friend, to meet someone new, to work my bum off, and be reminded that no matter how much weight I lift, or if I go right instead of left, it’s okay. This sense of acceptance could not have come at a better time. In leaving therapy I was really afraid that I would return to old habits, that I would be lonely, that I would get lost again.

So, back to my feet. I thought I had plantar fasciitis in one or both feet. I did all the things one should do, but the pain was getting worse. Keep in mind I take 1800mg of Ibuprofen a day (just for my shoulder and neck) Anatabloc (natural low grade anti-inflammatory) and get cortisone shots twice a year (shoulder/hips/neck). This wasn’t helping!!

So yesterday I see the podiatrist. Guess what? My feet don’t have fat on the bottom. As the doctor said, “You have the feet of a 65 year old woman!” Apparently this is the one place we want to have fat! You know how a baby’s hands and feet are plump and you just want to nibble on them? That is fat. When I told Mac the results, he laughed and teasingly said, “You didn’t lose weight anywhere else, but you lost it on your feet?” (He's not being cruel!! He's been conditioned to give as well as he's expected to take. I have a twisted sense of humor. I might have skewed his!)

As I was leaving the office, after a cortisone shot, I told the doctor he should team up with a plastic surgeon. They could do liposuction and transfer the goo to people’s feet!! I think it is a great idea.

So, I am now off my feet for four to six weeks, have a lovely splint to wear on each foot, and will miss my Jazzercise buddy’s tremendously. The great news is that I can cycle, so I plan to ride my new recumbent bike daily, so that when I return to Jazzercise I can dance with the gang!

Always, I try to think about why I need to write a blog. I write one every week, but only post the ones that I am convinced there is something useful to be found in it. I think this is it…

I once wrote a blog about wearing Coral rather than Rose colored glasses (3/13/12). I think I now wear bi-focals. I’ve noticed over the last year that what might have once worried me, rattled my confidence, or irritated me has really diminished. I think the coral aspect – compassion – is alive and well. My methods are different. Not quite on the large scale they once were, more close to home. I used to worry that someone wouldn’t step up. My world got larger and I have come to truly believe that the world is filled with all kinds of people who will step up and help. Not always the way I would, but then again, that is great.

I have also come to understand so much better the mind and body connection. When I was younger I used to take physical exercise for granted and there was always the assumption that I would “do” something. However, once the foot thing is solved, I will go back to being able to do what I want… run, hike, bike, throw a Frisbee, lift a seven pound weight, and that makes me feel great about what the future holds. I don’t want to be a grumpy old woman who has mobility issues, heart disease, and diabetes. I am not suggesting these people are unhappy or are without quality of life. But from personal experience, I know that the spirit starts to fail when the body does. Besides… what about all the really cool people you meet? We need a village, a community.

So, to a handful of friends that I have asked to join me to dance at Jazzercise, I would love to see you there April 1st. No fooling!! Who knows, you just might like it!
Thanks for reading!

(I just wanted to throw this in, author Jill Mansell writes this about herself: "Jill Mansell lives with her partner in Bristol and writes full time. Actually, that's not true; she watches TV, eats gum drops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she's completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write." - Love this!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where Have I been? Why haven't I written?

I’m so appreciative for the support I get for my blog. A number of friends/readers have asked me what I’ve been doing instead of writing the blog. I’ll get to that in a jiffy.

I know that MacGyver sent an e-mail to you all regarding our finally publishing Charlottes Restrained. For your support I am forever indebted. This book entered the gestational phase on Little Mac’s third day of First Grade. After two long days of cleaning, grocery shopping and running errands I realized that my life needed to be more than this. I love taking care of my family, but I really needed to feed my soul. With little to no hesitation, I opened my laptop and started typing.

Where did the story idea come from? Mac and I were regularly watching Inside the Actors Studio. Clint Eastwood was being interviewed, as many actors are, he is multi-talented fellow and I just thought, “How cool would it be to have dinner with him?” Somehow on the day I opened my laptop and started typing, this idea morphed with another strong need, which was to write strong women characters. No Damsels in distress. Often a line from Pretty Woman wanders across my psyche:

“So what happens after he climbs up and rescues her?”

“She rescues him right back.”

I started writing the book long before I started blogging. The book was somewhere close to the end of the first round of edits and I knew that it was rough. My daughter’s fourth grade teacher handed me a book by Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird, after chatting about writing and I read it. This recommendation was one of the greatest gifts I’ve received. I’d learned while studying Landscape Architecture that good design doesn’t happen by accident. That one has to develop technical skills, acquire knowledge, and accept feedback and criticism with an open mind, with the goal of creating a better product. Writing is very much like that.

Both require asking oneself a simple question, “What do I bring to the project?”

The simplest answer I can give you is that I love a great story. I love hearing them, I love being a part of one. Life is a great story. It can be told in many formats; words, textiles, food, flowers, exercise.

So, the dust bunnies accumulate, laundry is a little more hit and miss, we sometimes don’t have milk. Yet we’ve all survived. I think I am a better person and therefore a better mom. When we showed the kids the book on Amazon, they were “Oh, cool.” No wild dances of glee (from them). Was I disappointed? No! I felt enormously successful. Achieving my dream didn’t surprise them. Somewhere in their core they believe that dreams are attainable.

So, on to what I’ve been doing other than writing my blog.

For a few years I’ve had a great idea for a book. A short story, hoping to keep it close to 50 pages, knowing it was more likely to turn into a 100 pages. After chatting the storyline over with my dear friend Thea, I embarked upon writing the short story… this would have been September 15th. As most creative endeavors do, this story took a life of its own, and now sits at around 375 pages. It has so completely engrossed me that when I type I feel like I’m watching a movie. I think I have a solid 100 pages to go. My goal is to have it ready for my reading group by early spring. At the rate I’m writing, it could be much sooner. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will help me revise and thin it down.

The current working title is Venus Rising. It may change. As I write, re-read, edit, particular passages catch my eye and I think, “Oh that might be a better name.” However, it isn’t often that ten words equals a catchy title. Besides, it fits. (An identical feeling to when we named our children. When we heard the name, we knew it was right.)

One of the many wonderful aspects of writing a book is that you don’t miss the characters you’ve written. You know what their storyline is after the final page. In this case, it is a bit true, because from Charlottes Restrained comes Kathleen’s Undressed (which I will go back to working on when Venus Rising is in the editing phase).

If I thought getting Charlottes Restrained published was a challenge, marketing is truly the biggest challenge. A handful of you have helped publicize my book, talked me up, given me sound advice! So, I am now open to all kinds of help and feedback. I shamelessly throw myself at your feet and ask you to read it. To tell me what you really think, help me become a better writer. If you have any suggestions, I’m open. Someone already suggested a housecleaner.  (If you’re curious, I’ve created a Pinterest Board with photos of the real places that Charlotte and friends travel to.)

I find myself giggling at odd times. A few days ago I was in the car with the kids and started laughing.

From the back seat, a slightly nervous voice asked, “Mom, what’s so funny?”

“It just seems so odd to contemplate that someone right now could be reading a book I wrote. It makes me laugh, it makes me happy.”

Okay, I must return to unfinished business. I had plans of writing a series of entertaining blogs about my student exchange program. So many interesting, hilarious, life changing moments occurred on this journey. In the last blog I promised to write about a series of things. Today I am going to stick to one short story.

Four of us rented a car to drive south from Liverpool to the Cotswold’s’. None of us really wanted to drive. In the end, it turned out that all four of us drove at once! No, it wasn’t a circus trick, it was a requirement.  Pam was willing to get behind the steering wheel on the right side of the car! I shifted gears. Lori was stationed in the right rear passenger seat, it was her job to read the road signs and figure out how to navigate the road. It was Dana’s job from the rear left passenger seat to read the map and get us to where we were going. Along the way, it is possible that we bumped into some things, which we might have disguised ingenuously. (I think someone donated a black shoestring to resolve a missing trunk cord.)

So anyway, we’re driving through the Cotswold’s’, Pam and I have switched seats, and I am not enjoying being behind the steering wheel and I doubt Pam was in love with shifting gears, but she needed the break. So, I’m driving down a road that is five feet wide, and since no other cars are in sight I am occupying as much of the road as I want. Remember that I am sitting on the right-hand side of the car. The windows are down. The warm spring breeze is wafting in, life is great! Ideal, in fact.

Pam says to me, “If you get a little closer, I can pick some flowers!”

As always, thanks for reading. Every time you do,  my dream comes true.