Lucky Girl!

I’m beginning to think life is never going to give me a chance to be bored again. It keeps throwing me balls even though I stepped out of the batter’s box long ago. Work is a hot mess. It used to be my social outlet, my chance to interact with people outside of my family. Now it’s just a hornet’s nest. My Love told me it’s time to move on and I’ve taken steps in that direction. We’ll see how it all washes out.

My brother is doing remarkably well with the experimental treatment. They’ve tripled the dose once and plan to do so again next week. My fingers stay in a perpetual knot that he and his doctor’s are on the right course. I’m not nearly as convinced as they are, but the alphabet soup after their names outrank mine.

Except for work, things had seemed to be looking up. Then I got a late night call from our daughter. Her SO fell down their stairs. It was a tense few days. Three broken and compressed vertebra, lots of pain and tons of prayers, he’s back home and expected to recover.

In the middle of all this, My Love stayed on my ass to finish the story for the anthology I was asked to participate in. While he was driving us to and from the hospital, he’d hand me a notepad and tell me to get busy. He even took notation when I had my hands full and couldn’t finish my chores and write at the same time. He is nothing short of amazing.

This weekend we needed to stay close to home.  Instead of sitting around watching TV or some other ‘de-stressing’ activity, he decided to work on his ‘to-do’ list. We’re trying to take our home in a more mid century modern direction. We found the perfect couch and setee about six months ago, but the side tables had us stumped. Nothing we found fit our style. At the hardwood store, we found the perfect woods. We wanted a variety of tones so we went with machiche, walnut and pear woods.  Then drew up plans for our own custom made tables. From there the project stalled. Until now. He pulled the equipment from the shed, dusted it off and went to work.

Of the three tables, one is almost completed. The other two are in various stages. Plus, he found time for us to scene not once, or twice, but four times. Four bone melting, ‘thank gawd we don’t have neighbors close enough to report the screams’, scenes. Yeah, I’m a very lucky girl.

Preparing…

I’m a woman, so obviously I’ve never been a boy scout, but I do try to always be prepared. When my kids were little, I carried enough crap to keep a small army entertained and fed anytime we left the house. I’m one of those obnoxious people that finishes their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, sometimes Halloween. And taxes – why wait? By the first week of January the receipts are tallied and I have a spreadsheet that clearly spells out every possible deduction our accountant can use.

But the one thing I’m never prepared for is the death of a family member. We found out last summer that my sister had cancer. It was already at stage four and the prognosis was never good. They thought they could slow down its progress and buy her a couple years. Less than a month ago, they realized it had spread further and faster than expected. She was told to get her affairs in order. We knew her time was dwindling.

Tonight, I received the dreaded call. It was expected and yet not. I don’t think there’s anyway to truly prepare. It was the same way when my mom was ill.We knew it was coming, but when the call came it still felt like I was hit by a ton of bricks.

I think a small part of me always held out a tiny bit of hope. Ridiculous really when you have every medical professional telling you otherwise. I’m usually a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, but when it comes to the lives of my loved ones I suddenly turn into a ‘it’s mostly full’ kind of person.

While I don’t believe we’re ever truly prepared to let a loved one go, we can learn to appreciate every moment we’re given with each other. Maybe it’s time to overlook how crazy Aunt Barbara gets on your last nerve with her incessant talking. Maybe if you try really hard, you could find a sliver of humor when Uncle Dave sticks his finger in your ear and makes wet willy jokes. Maybe…It could happen…Some day.

Humpty Dumpty…

What do you do when the world gets to be too much?

Stress has been a living breathing entity in our family for a couple of months. Both my kids have recently switched jobs. Since they’re both adults it shouldn’t effect us right? Not true. I think parenting becomes harder as the kids age. The problems and the stakes involved only escalate as the breadth of parental control lessens. To add to the tension, I had been interviewing also. In the end, I was stymied by an unexpected hiring freeze.

Last weekend I had hopes that the worst of the storm had passed. Both kiddos had settled nicely into their new positions, My Love and I had set aside a few hours of quiet intimate time and the world was a happy place.

Sunday morning rolled around and I went in search of a glass of water and my phone. The little blue light was blinking. It is every morning so I hadn’t been prepared. I figured it was Groupon, Figi’s, Venus and a host of other retailers telling me about their great offers that I couldn’t possibly miss. Nope, it was the news that my sister’s cancer had spread. Doctors say she has a month – maybe. Three weeks ago, she had been responding nicely and while a cure wasn’t possible, they felt the progression had slowed and she had a couple of years. They were upbeat because breakthroughs were happening all the time. Now, those same smiling doctors are solemn and grim faced.

I’m angry. So angry. It’s my default emotion. It’s my coping mechanism. It’s my wall between me and pain. At some point the wall will fall, but My Love will be there to pick up the pieces once again. He’s my knight in war ravaged armor. Thankfully, he’s proven he’s better than the King’s men Humpty had counted on.

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What do you do when you realize the light shining brightly isn’t the end of the tunnel, it’s a fast moving train headed straight for you?

 

Family Times

Yesterday, the family drove the 160 miles to a ‘local’ Renaissance Faire. It’s a tradition. For the last ten years or so, we all dress in costume and attend the opening weekend. At times, we’ve added friends and extended family. We have closets full of costumes and can easily dress a small army of revelers.

Toward the end of the day, my kids took off and it was just my husband and I. We’d already enjoyed the shows and shops, but we’d never been there alone. It was a decadence we couldn’t pass up.

Although I like sharing the experience with a large group, it was so nice to just do what we wanted. We didn’t have to worry about leaving anyone behind or addressing everyone’s wants or desires. Slowly, we’re adjusting to being DINKS (dual income no kids) again.

We only experienced six short years of DINKness when we began our marriage. Having never had children, we didn’t fully appreciate the time we had alone. Now that we’ve been given the chance again, we’re taking full advantage of it.

That’s not to say we’ll break the tradition and go solo. We wouldn’t trade our family time to anything, but it’s oh so nice when we can enjoy the experience both ways.

It seems popular right now in romance novels to have the couple expecting a child by the end of the book. Although I’ve followed that trend a time or two, I only do it when the couple hunger for a sense of family. If their baggage (and we all have it) doesn’t involve some sort of family heartache, I prefer to end the story with the couple starting their life together.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe new couples should spend sometime building a strong relationship before they bring children into the mix?20160207_105119-1

Adios 2015!

As the year comes to a close, I’m a little apprehensive to see it go. It has had a few high points. My son graduated from college and his career is taking off. I picked up a part time job that I have really enjoyed. I’ve made some dear friends and I’m happy working there. But mostly 2015 has been a bad news year.

Cancer reared its ugly head. It took a friend of mine and has latched its teeth into two of my siblings. My brother is making a little progress in his battle. His last scan showed improvement, but a cure isn’t the cards. The best he can hope for is to slow its growth and maintain his current quality of life. Unfortunately, my sister’s battle is nearing the end. She’s in stage four and they’re striving to make her comfortable. As is so often the case, the family drama has kicked into overdrive. It would be nice if attitudes and egos could give it a rest.

I’ve seen many posts on Tumblr and Facebook touting 2016 as a clean slate. I wish that were the case. Unfortunately, we drag a lot of baggage into the new year with us. While attitude and good spirits can take you pretty far, some circumstances will remain the same. The battle my siblings endure will not suddenly disappear as the clock strikes twelve.

On a different note, my comfy job is coming to an end as well. There’s a hiring freeze and a ceiling limit on employees. In the current state of affairs, a part time employee counts the same as a full time employee. Our  work load has increased significantly, but as it stands now, they aren’t allowed to add to the head count. Therefore, my part time position is going full time. They want me to stay on, but there’s a big difference between 24 hours and 40.  Needs of the business dictates the change and I understand and even empathize, but I don’t like it. My position will be posted at the beginning of the year. I have to decide whether to step aside or step up to the plate. I am exceedingly blessed to be given the option. I do realize many people are not so fortunate, but for me, it’s a big pill to swallow.

On a more positive note, I have a book coming out the first Tuesday in January. Against the Odds is the second book in the Bound for Justice series. The editor and I went a few rounds over that book. It was the most heated editing session I’ve ever been through and I’m anxious to hear what you think of the final product. If you don’t like waiting, it’s available now through the publisher’s website. Click here to check it out.

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I’m hard at work on book three, Sammy’s story, Against the Grain. I’m hoping to send it to the publisher in February.

Be good to us 2016.

Why?

My kids organized a special weekend away to celebrate both our birthdays. They rented the Presidential Parlor at a local resort. It was amazing. Probably the best suite we’ve ever stayed in and we’ve enjoyed more than a few. It was two stories, 1700 square feet, with a private pool, hot tub, and sauna. The first evening, the kids joined us for dinner then they left us alone for the remainder of the time. As we were preparing the meal, (the suite had its own kitchen, bar and dining room), we laughed and had a great time. Obviously, we cook meals at our house every day. Yet, I can’t remember a time when we last spent the meal prep enjoying each other’s company. Usually, we all have a piece of electronics in front of us dividing our time and attention.

After dinner, I flicked on the fireplace and we all sat around talking. There were four armchairs all facing a center ottoman. It was a cool set up. We each took a chair and plopped our feet on the ottoman while we discussed a myriad of topics and had a great time.

As we sat there, I started wondering how I could arrange our furniture to achieve the same effect. We have three fireplaces at home, yet I can’t remember a single time we sat around one as a family and just talked. The wheels began to turn.

The aftereffects of Hurricane Dolores began to kick up and the kids returned to their respective homes leaving us to our adult activities. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the wee hours of the morning. While we were catching a few hours of sleep, the storm dissipated. We woke to a beautiful morning and decided to eat our breakfast on the patio overlooking the resort pool. The sun was just beginning to peek over the trees and a light breeze made the day very inviting. I pulled a lounge chair into the proper spot to catch a few rays and laid out. My husband was going through the camera seeing if any of the pictures he’d taken the previous evening were keepers

I asked him to lay with me, fully expecting to be told no. He’s a man who always has a full plate. He’s constantly in motion and perpetually working on one project or another. I tried to entice him by moving a lounge beside me, but in the shade. To my surprise, he accepted my suggestion. As he laid on the lounge listening to the birds and sipping his orange juice, he commented on how nice it was to just relax.

We’ve worked hard on our yard. He’s built an arbor area complete with fire pit. We have a hammock area with sling chairs and so forth, in addition to an outdoor fireplace. I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. I can probably count on two hands the number of times we’ve enjoyed it as a family.

I keep coming back to the question of “why”. The resort didn’t have any amenities that we lacked at home…aside from the sauna which we didn’t use anyway. Their kitchen had an island bar with comfier stools than ours, but big deal. Their fireplace offered closer face to face seating, but we can easily see and speak to each other at home. We just don’t. Not very often anyway. So, why were we sitting and visiting there when we don’t at home?

I think I have the answer. Priorities. At home, our day to day lives take precedence. The latest YouTube video or FaceBook post steals our focus. Chores and projects weren’t vying for our attention either. Besides, family isn’t going anywhere. There’s no reason to give undivided attention to something that’s always available.

At the resort, we weren’t distracted. We’d set aside that time for the sole purpose of celebrating with each other.

It reminded me of my marriage fifteen or twenty years ago. We were so busy with our careers, kids and daily events, we didn’t make coming together as husband and wife a priority. Sex was something we squeezed in when the opportunity was available. We loved each other. We simply didn’t make our relationship a priority.

After a time, I grew dissatisfied. I wanted something more, but didn’t know how to achieve this mysterious ‘more’. For a while, I suffered in silence. How could I discuss ‘more’ with my husband when I couldn’t even describe what ‘more’ looked like or felt like. I escaped my reality through romance novels and luckily I came across a book where the characters had the bond I was seeking. Once I could articulate what I needed, I went to him and shared my concerns. To my relief, he was feeling the same way. We began to set aside time, eek out a few minutes here and an hour or so there. We verbalized what we wanted our relationship to be, what our needs and desires were. I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved. I honestly never dreamed it could be this perfect.

Now that the kids are grown and each have their own lives with careers and significant others, we need to adjust. We need to make time as a family a priority.

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The Sunday family dinner concept appeals to me. The kids try to stop by on the weekends anyway. Why not have a set time? I think I’ll push my luck and even suggest placing the electronics on mute for a few hours. I know better than to suggest turning them off. My son would surely hyperventilate and I’m not sure my daughter would last long if she couldn’t boot a computer and show us all the cool things that caught her eye during the week.

Tuesday is my son’s birthday and we’ll be having dinner together again. I’ve decided to broach the subject with the family and see if it appeals to anyone else. Wish me luck!

Another holiday season in the bucket…

The decorations are stored away for another year and the house is feeling ‘normal’ again. It’s funny how outwardly things can remain the same, but inside, where it matters, nothing is ever stagnant.

This year’s family event was much easier to handle than 2013. The uproar about my books has died down and while most of my family is convinced I’m going to hell on a fast track, they’ve decided to let the subject go…for the time being. I have little doubt it will make the rounds again, but this year all was calm.

They’d found a new victim to annihilate. My sister was their whipping boy. I sat there silently while my brother berated her. It was like a car accident unfolding before your eyes. You want to stop it, several scenarios flash through your head, but are discarded immediately. Would they make the situation worse? Would it draw more attention? Would they dig their heels in and go for the jugular?

Once wounded, the vultures circled and each took a turn picking away at her. It was unpleasant to watch, painful even. Now she isn’t a nice woman. She’s been leader of the pack attacking others, with a voraciousness that’s truly startling, ever since I was a teenager. She’s turned her forked tongue on me more than once, but to see her standing there confused and out of her element hurt.

I couldn’t defend her. She’d brought the dog pile down on herself, though I don’t believe it had been intentional on her part.

The only thing I could do was deflect the attention. Ignoring the byplay and the tears slowly tracking down my sister’s face, I turned to my brother. “Did you hear I have a new book series coming out in March? It’s about a serial killer that rapes and murders women over a twenty year span. I think it will be a big hit. It comes out in March. Isn’t that when you’re going deep sea fishing in Mexico?”

After a few moments of stunned silence, the conversation turned to fishing. My sister shuffled out of the room and I hit the dessert table. I deserved a few pieces of chocolate after wading through that mess.

Now that the event is over and everyone is back to their daily grind everything appears to be business as usual. We’re one big happy family. No lasting grudges.

But in my heart I know my time will come around again. I’ll be the poor shmuck in the barrel. Each time they tear each other down, a piece of me dies, a portion of the love I feel for the family is tarnished. At this point, the emotion is so dull it barely resembles the radiant shine it once had.

The crazy part is these are happy people. They have successful marriages, prosperous careers, good kids and yet they feel the need to snipe away at the ones they love. I don’t get it.

The next family event is in February. In the meantime, I guess I’d better get out the buffer, find some polishing compound, and put a shine on this mess.

Live and Learn

trainlayout11If you celebrate Christmas, I hope your holiday was everything you wished it to be. This time of year is so tough for many people. My heart goes out to those families missing loved ones.

For those that follow my blog regularly, you know that Thanksgiving was awkward at best and I had considered skipping this year’s Christmas Eve extended family celebration. My father must have caught wind of it because he asked me to host it at my home this year. I hemmed and hawed for a good two weeks, before I finally gave in. Dad rarely asks for anything and in the end I couldn’t refuse.

My favorite comedian, Jeanne Robertson, tells her fans to look for humor, especially at family events. Well, Jeanne, dear, I looked at the time and have reflected since and I got nothing. The best I can come away with, is knowing I spent the evening with people I hold dear…and I will not do it again next year.

On Christmas day, when I heard my kids expressing a similar sentiment, I dragged out my laptop and got busy. Family politics are a bit like walking through a mine field. It takes finesse, which I sometimes lack, to make it through unscathed. But, I think, I found a way that will keep anyyone from getting their feelings hurt and put a little Christmas cheer back into the holiday for us.

I booked a trip to Hawaii for the week of Christmas. It’s perfect. We spent the day planning our adventure. Surprisingly, we had less trouble picking the islands than the accommodations. You wouldn’t believe the discussion that transpired over something so simple, but the laughs were loud and long as we finally came to an agreement.

We made a list of ‘must sees’ and have assigned jobs. That must sound silly, but when you live in a house of OCD, over-achievers, nothing can be accomplished without an agenda and spreadsheets. No, sadly, I’m not kidding. Both kids whipped out their laptops and got to work. My daughter designed the ‘jobs’ sheet and my son began on the itinerary. As you can imagine, they are color coded and will automatically generate emails when updated or when a deadline nears. Yes, I too, sit back and shake my head at the over-complicated-ness of it all, but they had fun and that’s all that matters.

All in all, Christmas 2013 was a wonderful time. The four of us laughed hard, hugged hard, and we are looking forward to next year.

Family Tradition

Tomorrow is the largest toy train swap meet of the year in our neck of the woods. We’ve been taking the kids since they were babes. I’ve wondered each year, since our kiddos neared adulthood, if this may be the last time we go together as a family.

My son has a fondness for trains and loves modeling. While still in high school he designed an amazing Halloween layout, wrote an article about it’s creation and was published in a national magazine. His collection rivals his fathers so, it was a safe bet he would attend if his schedule permitted.

My daughter however, is not a huge rail fan. She has one engine that was given to her as a wee one and I doubt she could pick it out on the shelf without reading the numbers on the side. Train smoke gives her a headache, the whistles are too loud and the clanging of the crossing gates get on her nerves. You’d think that since she’s graduated from college, has begun a successful career and travels the world, she would find a ready excuse to skip this annual event. Instead she’s curled up on the couch anxiously awaiting the event. While she isn’t big on trains, she is huge on family. You see, it’s her job to check out the boxes along the floor, to wade through the throngs of people and find that elusive piece her dad or brother has sought all year. She’s short and can squeeze through openings they can’t fit in.

Afterward, we will go to lunch and the men will determine who found the best deal and plot a better strategy for next year. Once home, my daughter and I will decorate while the guys try out their new treasures. Our home will once again be filled with train smoke, loud whistles, clanging bells and laughter. And the holiday season will have begun in earnest.

Author’s Copy

I received the author’s copy of my first book, Bondage Anniversary. I’m definitely excited and trying to keep the focus on the positive. This has been a crazy adventure. I have certainly learned a lot about the publishing industry and about my loved ones. My inner circle of friends and family has been shuffled to say the least.

Some friends who I wouldn’t have expected to stand by me, have stepped up and become some of my loudest cheerleaders. Surprisingly, it’s brought me closer to my in-laws. I would have bet the moon and stars that never would happen and yet it has. For that alone, I’m grateful.

My extended family (sigh)…well suffice to say they love me, even though they are disappointed. Their hearts are in the right place and I’m going to keep my focus there.

My family is tight. We specialize in unconditional love in our home. The kids (now adults) were raised to know that no matter what–they were loved by us and they give it back to us in return.

We have many more bumps in the road ahead. As the books come out, I expect some uncomfortable moments will surface. Once my son’s book is released, a whole new set of hurdles will be thrown out there. Some, find his genre even less appropriate than mine. One thing is for sure, we will be there for each other.

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