Remember

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If we were having coffee, I’m pretty sure that at some point our conversation would wind down to one of us asking, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

But the moment that really comes to my mind actually happened a day or two later, when I stepped outside and sat on the stone steps near my back door. My then-husband was at work and my children were actually getting along for once, playing a game that involved Barbie dolls and Thomas the Tank Engine hosting the Island of Sodor’s first real fashion show. The TV was off, of course, because the kid-appropriate channels had temporarily paused their regular programming.

It was beautiful outside. The clear sky was an impossible shade of blue, and the trees around my house hadn’t yet begun to put on their fall colors. I could hear crickets chirping and birds singing as a gentle breeze stirred my hair around my face. Everything was just so normal.

I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to pretend that it never happened. It was pretty easy to do, actually, out in the Michigan countryside, where the only real change I could see was the absence of any planes flying overhead. No white trails to show where one had gone by.

Everything was normal and beautiful and perfect in my corner of the universe that day.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the terrorist attacks on September 11 to affect me directly. For it to be more than a vague sense of impending doom, a shocked disbelief as I stared at horrific pictures of people I didn’t know in places I’d never visited.

It was too much, too big, too terrible. I sat on those back steps for a long time that day, trying to make it all real. Trying to comprehend that the world was not normal any more.

It seems odd to me now, but I remember that I thought back to an event in my own childhood as I sat on those steps that day. I found myself thinking about Jonestown and seeing the pictures on the news of all those bodies piled up on the ground, and I thought the bright colors of their clothing were actually the bright colors of cars in a parking lot. I wondered why the news cameras were showing pictures of the cars of all the dead people, and it took days for it to sink in that I was actually seeing people, not their cars.

I thought about Oklahoma City that day, too. I remember sitting on the couch in front of the TV and seeing pictures of victim after victim after victim, and crying for the babies killed in the day care center.

Kids in school today don’t learn about Jonestown or Oklahoma City in any real sense. Or even September 11, for that matter. To them, those horrible events are nothing more than moments in history. Days on a calendar.

The same way that my  generation learned about Pearl Harbor or D-Day or Vietnam. We couldn’t comprehend those moments the same way that our parents could. I never quite understood why Mom cried when she talked about her little brother going to Vietnam. He came home, after all, didn’t he? Everything went back to normal after that.

Just like everything went back to normal for my generation after September 11, 2001. We buried our dead, we went back to work, and we went on with our lives.  Once a year, we share the pictures and stories on the internet, and we ask each other, “Do you remember where you were when you heard?”

Of course we remember.

And it’s up to us to make sure the next generation never forgets.

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This ‘n That

As most of you have probably figured out by now, my blogging schedule always seems to fall apart during the summer. I could try to make excuses and blame it on oh, so many things, but instead I’ll just say a great big “Thank you!” to all of you who continue to stick with me.

On with the quick update, then.

A Soul Redeemed has been pushed back a bit. I’m truly sorry about that, guys. It’s done, but I’m just not happy with a few parts of it and so I’m doing another round of edits. I’m looking at October for the release date now.  After that, the fifth book in the Beach Haven series will focus on Tara’s brother, Jayson Bartlett, fresh out of the Army and ready to settle into civilian life.

The big news for me is Letters to Caroline, the first book in my Brides of Serenity series. It’s a sweet historical romance set in the fictional town of Serenity, Kansas, and it will be out in September. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

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In other news, Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal is being made into an audio book! It’s still in the early stages, so I really don’t have much more information than that. I can tell you that I chose not to do the narration myself because . . . well, confession time, folks. I have a lisp. A very pronounced lisp. When my voice is recorded, I sound just like Cindy on “The Brady Bunch.”

It’s been a really odd experience listening to someone else read my work. She’s doing a fabulous job and has a wonderful deadpan delivery that makes me laugh. Sometimes, I forget that I wrote the words she’s reading!

On a personal note, I just found out that I have tendonitis in both feet, which means I’ve just found a use for those bags of frozen veggies in my freezer that no one was ever going to eat anyway. I also learned that I now officially have high blood pressure (big surprise there!) and have to make a few lifestyle changes.

One of those changes is the Yoga lessons I’ve been taking. I like it a lot more than I expected to, but since we’ve been learning in the park in the center of town, I’m not sure how happy my neighbors are about the whole thing.

But that’s enough for now. Thank you once again for sticking with me despite the irregular blogging schedule these past few months.

Enjoy these last days of summer, all!

 

 

#ComedyBookWeek – A.J GOODE INTERVIEW

Hey, guys, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Matt Drzymala as part of Comedy Book Week! Check out my answers — and then check out his blog, because it’s fabulous.

Matthew Drzymala

#ComedyBookWeek continues apace and today we say hello to A.J Goode, author of ‘Fat, Fifty and Menopausal’.

Hello! Thank you so much for the warm welcome.

pinkprofileSo, A.J, why don’t we start the grilling by telling us a little about you?

I am a single mom with two kids in college and another in third grade. I live in a very, very small town not far from Lake Michigan, and I work as a lunch lady at the local school. I try very hard to be intimidating, but most of the kids just laugh at me when I act stern.

‘Fat, Fifty and Menopausal’, the clue would appear to be in the title, but tell us more about your book?

It’s a collection of essays about . . .. well, about being fat, fifty, and menopausal.  I hate to use the word “essays” because that makes it sound all scholarly…

View original post 1,381 more words

Bubble Time

When my daughter was little, she had a friend who used to talk about “The Bubble.” “The Bubble” was this young lady’s way of referring to her circle of personal space, and it was easy to hear the capitalization of the words in the way she said it.

“Step back,” she’d say imperiously. “You are in The Bubble.

I have no idea what ever happened that girl and her Bubble, but I’ve been tempted lately to use her phrase to describe my own personal space. You see, I have a new person in my social circle who has no concept of –or respect for — The Bubble. She reminds me of that episode of “Seinfeld” with the woman Jerry and his friends referred to as The Close Talker, only this person is worse.

Much worse.

So much worse, in fact, that I am contemplating the idea of giving up deodorant for a while and eating nothing but onions, garlic, and brussels sprouts in hopes of getting her to take a step or two out of The Bubble. Instead, I came up with the following checklist that I think I’m going to hand her the next time I see her.

  1. If I can count the number of fillings in your mouth when you speak, you are too close.
  2. If I smell like your perfume after a simple conversation with you, you are too close.
  3. If you can’t talk to me without resting your breast on my arm, you are too close.
  4. If, in fact, your breast is trying to leap from inside your bra to inside mine, you are much too close.
  5. If I know exactly what size underwear you wear because the tag is leaving a Braille imprint on my hip every time you stand next to me, you are too close.
  6. If every conversation with you leaves me feeling like the “little spoon,” you are too close.
  7. If your dangly earring gets tangled in my hair, you are way too close. Seriously. I’m practically wearing a crew cut.

Or maybe, instead of handing over the list, I should just show up inside one of those inflatable Bubble Ball suits.

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“Step back,” I’ll say imperiously. “You are too close to The Bubble.”

Yeah, it was a lot cuter when a ten year-old said it.

Oh, Man

I woke up yesterday morning with a song running through my mind. But not an entire song. Oh, no. Just a few simple melodies and a random word here and there. Sort of like “Something something ENOUGH, never something SOMETHING, Uh-HUH.

I drove my co-workers crazy with it, partly because I am tone deaf and should never ever sing, but mainly because my co-workers are all much too young to remember the classics from the 80’s. But at last, I finally remembered enough of the song to Google the lyrics, and voila! I had the title, artist, and video.

“Room at the Top” by Adam Ant.

Oh, Adam Ant. Sigh. I had such a crush on him. My first concert was him and the Romantics, although that was early enough in his career that he was still Adam and the Ants at that point. Long before his big hits like “Strip” or “Goody Two Shoes” or, of course, “Room at The Top.”

When I went to his concert, his hits were all songs like “AntMusic” and “Dog Eat Dog.” I mean, who else wrote lyrics like “Leapfrog the dog and brush me, daddy oh”?  But it was more than his music. He oozed sexuality. My little teenage hormones went into hyperdrive when I saw him dance and wriggle all over the place.

So I was all set for a steamy trip down Memory Lane yesterday when I clicked on one of his videos to remind myself of just how sexy he really was.

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Um . . . well, that was . . . not quite what I remembered.  Perhaps I had him confused with some other sexy artist of the 80’s. Maybe Billy Idol?

music video 80s billy idol eheg im never coloring 80s music videos again

Maybe Brian Setzer?

Not a whole lot of testosterone going on there, guys.

I started frantically searching through 80’s videos to see if any of the men I thought of as sexy were as breathtaking as I remembered. So far, this is the most masculine and powerful image I found:

 

Gotta be honest here, folks. If I were a lesbian, Annie Lennox would SO be on my radar.

But since I am straight and single, I am now totally confused about just exactly what I ever saw in those pretty boys of the 1980’s?  More to the point, I really need to look at pictures of men that I find attractive now.

Mmm-hmmm.

Yes, please.

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Goodness.

I’m having trouble breathing, Mr. Gage.

Fireman. Need I say more?

(Okay, so that last one’s not a celebrity. We may be divorced, but I still think he’s kinda cute.)

Okay, all better now. I’m coming to terms with the realization that my tastes in men have definitely evolved a bit over the years, thank goodness.  And while I know I’m never going to go out with Sam Elliot, Taye Diggs, Eric Allan Kramer, or Randolph Mantooth (or my ex!), I can always dream, can’t I?

At least now, I’m not dreaming of men who wear more eyeliner than I do!

What about you? Have your tastes changed over the years? Who do you find most attractive now?

 

 

 

I’m a Little Teapot . . .

With all this talk about beaches lately, I decided to take my little boy for a swim yesterday. I didn’t feel like battling the post-holiday crowds that might still be lingering in South Haven, so we headed out for a nearby inland lake.

That was our first mistake.

Let me backtrack a bit and explain just exactly what was involved in this little trip to the ol’ swimmin’ hole.

First, I had to locate my swimsuit and do my damnedest to squeeze my pudgy self into that tummy-control, cleavage-enhancing, fat-minimizing adventure in lycra/spandex. I twisted, stretched, tugged, groaned and gasped my way into a mass of black fabric that fought back with all its might as I demanded that it do things it was never intended to do.

I think I may have blacked out for a while, but I’m not entirely sure. I like to think I just made a spontaneous decision to take a quick nap somewhere between adjusting the left boob and covering the right ass cheek.

After that, I had to pack the picnic lunch for my boy who has apparently decided that he no longer eats any kind of lunchmeat that isn’t honey ham. The smoked ham, bologna and salami in my refrigerator are now evil entities that he refuses to touch.

So, after I made up cheese sandwiches and loaded them into the cooler with extra bottles of water, we headed out to Osterhout Lake, which is approximately three to five minutes away, depending on how many times I have to stop for ducks or turtles crossing the dirt road.

Unfortunately, I missed the news a few months ago that part of the dirt road washed out during a bad storm, and there isn’t enough money in the state budget to fix the road until next year. With the road closed off, I had to figure out a detour.

That was my second mistake.

I have lived in this area for twenty years. I’ve taken my kids to Osterhout hundreds of times. My daughter’s best friend lived on the road to Osterhout. So did our former babysitter. In other words, I should know my way around.

“Should” being the operative word here.

My son and I did a little unplanned sightseeing yesterday afternoon. We bumped along dirt roads, paved roads, private roads and a grassy field at one particularly embarrassing point. I passed the Christian Fellowship building that my older children used to attend. I saw road signs for the town of Merson and debated making a little side trip to visit my family cemetery.

I was almost in tears when I spotted a familiar street sign. “Forty-sixth street?” I demanded of no one in particular. “How in the fuck did I get to forty-sixth street?”

My son was laughing so hard by this point that he was having difficulty breathing.

“I drove a complete circle around Osterhout Lake,” I wailed.

“Actually, it was more of a square,” he said, and then dissolved into more giggles.

I took a quick left and stopped in my ex-husband’s driveway to get my bearings. “We’re not going swimming today,” I said. “We’re going to have our picnic in the park.”

“Can you even find the park, Mom?”

At the park, which I found on the first try, I texted the friend who was supposed to meet us at the lake. “Got lost. Fuck swimming. Going to park instead.”

She told me to meet her in her driveway in 30 minutes so I could follow her to the lake.

That was my third mistake.

You see, my friend is a lovely person who has absolutely no concept of time. None. Whatsoever. And her three children are just as laid-back. While I waited in her driveway, the kids all wandered out, one by one, in search of something, and just sort of meandered away to the neighbor’s yard. One came back and waved and then vanished again.  After a few minutes, I saw movement in the back yard and realized that her kids had started an impromptu baseball game with some friends.

Friends whose parents may or may not have had people sitting in their driveways, waiting to go to the beach.

Finally, we headed out and travelled down some lovely country roads, past cornfields and pastures filled with cows. Down tree-lined streets, alongside pretty streams and lovely old farmhouses. We turned right down forty-sixth street (of course) and veered right at the next T and there we were: Osterhout Lake, only two and a half hours after leaving my apartment.

Which, for the record, was about three to five minutes away.

I learned many things during yesterday’s outing, but one lesson in particular stands out more than any others.

And what did I learn?

I learned to take off my little teapot-shaped necklace if I’m going to be out in the sun.

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Fireworks

I remember celebrating the Fourth of July in South Haven, Michigan, with my family when I was a kid. My aunts’ cottage was right on the North Beach, so we saw some of the worst traffic, especially during the years when the town held volleyball tournaments on the holiday.

Despite the crowds, we were able to enjoy the day on the beach. As evening drew near, we dug out sweatshirts and picked out the perfect spot over in the sand. Sure, we had a great view of the fireworks from our front porch, but we wanted the full experience. Instead of a nice, comfy chair and a tall, cold glass of lemonade, we dug out a trench in the sand. At one end of the trench, we’d mound up the sand to create a pillow of sorts, and then we’d cover it all up with our oversized towels.

When the work was done, we’d lay back in our makeshift beds and gaze up at the sky, waiting. “Is it starting?” one of us would cry. “Nah,” another would answer. “That’s just somebody shooting off their own fireworks.”

We’d sigh with disappointment and settle back again until the next flicker of light started the whole round of questions again.

Watching the fireworks was never about the fireworks. It was about the experience. Ooohing and ahhhing over each explosion, listening for the appreciative gasps and applause rising up from the crowds around us. Seeing the boats out on the lake and hearing them honk and blare their horns along with our applause. Squealing when the occasional cinder floated earthward and covering our hair with with our hands as though our fingers were fireproof.

And when it was over — oh, the grand finale shot off the end of the pier! All the whoops and hollers, and then the satisfied throngs of beachgoers gathering up their things and nodding over a successful holiday.

They still shoot off the fireworks in South Haven every year, but my kids will never experience it the way I did. The town has grown, and so has the celebration. In fact, last night’s fireworks were expected to draw anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 people.

80,000 people. Holy crap.

Guys, this is a town that normally has a population of less than 5,000.

The last time I took my kids to the beach for the fireworks, an officer from the Allegan County Sherrif’s Department kindly suggested that I take them home because it was just not a safe place for kids. For a few years after that, we watched from the safety of the front porch, but it gradually evolved from a night of celebration to a night of guard duty. Our little house was under siege as drunks stopped to pee on the walls or hurl beer cans at our windows. Our flower pots were smashed before our eyes.

Fights broke out every year, and we saw police drag away people in handcuffs. The very last year I spent the holiday at the cottage before we sold it, I lost track of the number of unconscious, drunken teens and twenty-somethings I saw being carried out by their inebriated friends.

And last night?

Hey, South Haven made the national news. Police evacuated the North Beach —my beach — due to increasing violence. People got hurt. Friends who were there have told me about near-riot conditions and multiple arrests.

 

So let me see if I understand this correctly. To celebrate America’s birthday, the popular choice is now to go to a lovely little resort town on the shore of Lake Michigan and get hurt or arrested. Instead of watching the million-dollar fireworks display, it is apparently more fun to get blindingly drunk and fight with other drunken idiots.

Forget about watching the fireworks with kids and seeing the joy on those little faces! No, these people would rather riot, thank you very much. And while some folks in this world may riot over some social unrest or political issue, here in South Haven they riot because . . . well, apparently because it’s a beautiful day on the beach and that’s great reason to hurt people, destroy property, and get arrested.

I think back on the Fourth of July celebrations of my childhood, and it breaks my heart to think that the same beach is now unsafe for families. Instead of watching the fireworks with our kids, we have to keep the kids inside to protect them.

Last night, there was a lot of talk of cancelling next year’s “Light Up The Lake” fireworks show. I don’t think that can happen; the town depends too much on the money that comes in over the holiday weekend. Local police tried to get a handle on things by enforcing the “no alcohol” rule this year, but that obviously wasn’t enough.

So, what can we do?

Look, I’m just a dumb romance writer. I don’t know anything about crowd control. But maybe it is time to shut down the show for a couple of years. I mean, sure, the tourists bring a lot of money into the town over the Fourth. But think about the money spent on increased police presence and clean-up afterward. When all the numbers are crunched, does it really add up to a big profit?

Maybe it’s time to follow through on all those arrests that were made. Impose stiffer fines or longer jail times or whatever.

I just don’t know how to fix it. But until they do, Fourth of July in South Haven is a weekend to leave town. Lock up your valuables, gather your loved ones close, and pray your homeowner’s policy will cover the damages inflicted on this night.

Happy Fourth of July, South Haven. Hope everyone makes it to the fifth.

 

So It Goes

tree

 

I drive past this tree on my way to work every day. Some days, I feel like I should salute it as a respected foe, and on others I get weird memory flashes of what it looked like when it was a complete tree. On bad days, I give it a heart-felt middle finger as I go past.

No matter what my reaction on that particular day, the fact remains that I notice the tree every single day. I see it. I am aware of it. If the day should ever come when the road commission removes what’s left of it, I’ll still be aware of it as “the spot where The Tree used to be.”

On stormy days, I drive out of my way to avoid it, which is awkward because the avoidance route takes me past my ex-husband’s house, the home I shared with him for eighteen years. Basically, that means I get to choose between the route that may trigger a panic attack or the route that may make me look like an obsessed ex-wife with a serious stalking problem.

Such is life.

It’s been five years today since the top of this tree landed on my kids and me as I drove under it.

This picture was taken four years ago today, when my family and friends gathered on the side of the road for a group prayer. My daughter stuck daylillies into the bark of that poor, dead tree stump and we all marveled at the fact that there were still pieces of glass mixed in with the dirt on the side of the road.

I love this picture. It combines ugliness with beauty, old with new, loss with hope. To me, it represents a new beginning. A fresh start. A second chance.

Such is life, right?

I have a little favor to ask of everyone who reads my blog today. Imagine that tonight, at 6:18 p.m., the top of this tree is going to land on you and change your life forever. Imagine that today —this day— is the last day you will ever have to be the person that you are right now.

What will you do? How will you spend those hours?

 

Road Rage

 

 

Since I can’t exactly sit down and have a heart-to-heart  with person who drove home behind me last night, I’d like to address today’s post to him.

Let’s have a little chat about your driving, shall we?

Should you ever again find yourself driving behind my little car, please remember that there is really  no need to drive three and a half inches from my rear bumper. I assure you, there is nothing exciting going on back there. You won’t miss anything by dropping back a few feet. Seriously, if you’re going to insist on forcing yourself that far up my ass, I’m going to have to insist on dinner and a movie. And lubricant.

And let’s talk about your lights. Specifically, your brights. Now, I’m no scientist, but it seems like even a moron would be able to understand that driving your giganto-mobile up behind a very small car and blasting your brights is a bad idea. Those suckers reflect back off my rearview, my sideview, my windshield, my glasses, and quite possibly the surface of the moon. I’m sure there are Coast Guard helicopters with search lights that don’t illuminate as much acreage as your brights do.

lights

Moving right along, let’s discuss speed limits. Really, this one should be fairly self-explanatory. If the sign says 55 MPH, that doesn’t mean “drive as fast as you possibly can.” No, it means “Amy is going to get pulled over if she drives 56.”

55

I don’t speed because I will get a ticket. Every single time. If the speed limit is 55, I drive 55. End of story and sincere apologies to Sammy Hagar. If you, in your unshakable delusion that you are Mario Andretti’s long-lost twin, decide that you want to blast down a country road at speeds in excess of 70 MPH, then have at it. Have a ball. But don’t flip me off, honk at me, or shout nasty comments about little old lady drivers as you blast past me on a double-yellow.

You were right about one thing. One of us truly is a “dumb fuck.”

At this point, I would like to express my deepest sympathies for the fact that you got pulled over less than five minutes after you passed me. I’d like to tell you how truly sorry I am about your speeding ticket and those pesky little points on your driver’s license.

I like to, but I can’t.

I’m too busy laughing my ass off.

 

Happy Summer!

 

You know how sometimes you just feel the need to go back and re-read a book that you’ve read many times before?

That’s where I’ve been lately. I don’t know why, but I recently had to sit down and read Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly and all its sequels. They are sweet, easy-to-read stories that I discovered during my first pregnancy when I became obsessed with tales of the American Frontier.

I also watched the movies “based on” the first three books in the series and laughed my ass off over some of the worst book-to-movie adaptations in the history of book-to-movie adaptations. Really, Hallmark? Did any of you folks actually read any of the books?

At any rate, re-reading Janette Oke’s books has sent me off on a reading spree of romantic fiction set during that era. I’ve discovered authors like Shanna Hatfield and Annie Boone. I’ve become addicted to the  Cutter’s  Creek and Pendleton Petticoats series.

Now, I don’t know about any of you, but when I discover some new favorites, I tend to go a bit overboard. Housework suffers. I stay up too late at night reading. I get lost in the fictional world I am reading about.

And because I’m a writer, something else happens.

I get inspired.

So .  . . I am writing my first historical fiction. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but have been afraid to try because I worry that I’m not smart enough to get the historical details right. But if I’ve learned anything in the past few years, I’ve learned that the only way to conquer fear is to face it head-on and tell it to go to hell.

It’s going to be a squeaky-clean romance, without any descriptive sex. Hey, I want to write something my mother-in-law can read without leading to any uncomfortable conversations between us!

Never fear, I’m still finishing up my Beach Haven series, and I plan on continuing to make folks smile with the sequel to Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal. I’m just taking a little detour. So please be patient with me and understand if things stay quiet here for the next few months. I promise, I’m still going strong. I’ve got books to read, books to write, bonfires to attend, and a great big lake to swim in.

What about all of you? What are you reading this summer?

Happy summer, all!