Finally!

Well, after an unexpected delay that I still don’t understand, My Mirror Lies to Me is finally available on Amazon — only nine days later than the date I had promised. Better late than never, right?

Just to give you a little taste, I’m sharing a small sample of my new book. If you enjoy the sample, you can read the rest through Kindle Unlimited or buy it here for only $2.99.

My Mirror Lies to Me

My Aunt Marian always told people that when I was a small child I would wake up from naps, blink a few times, and say, “…and, um–” before launching into a story of some sort.

I’ve always been a talker. A storyteller. Most of my stories are true, or at the very least possess a small kernel of truth somewhere in either the exposition or fine details. What can I say? I like to make people smile. Maybe even make them laugh out loud. If I can make them laugh so hard they pee, that’s just a bonus.

“Amy stories” have prompted a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing over the years, along with polite suggestions that I write them down in a book someday. Suggestions which, let’s be honest, are less about encouraging me to share my tales than about asking me to please, for the love of God, shut up for five minutes.

“I know, Mom,” my kids will groan. “You’ve told this one, like, a thousand times.”

“Is this another one about your aunts? Yes, I’ve heard them all before,” a more polite co-worker might say. “You should really write a book, you know.”

I used to get embarrassed or offended when people said things like that. Now? Now, I just nod and smile and probably tell yet another story, perhaps about a time when I embarrassed myself by talking too much.

Like the time my soft-spoken, very intelligent sister took me to hear one of her favorite authors speak. She is the quintessential big sister, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever met. On that particular night, she took care of everything, from getting the tickets to arranging a babysitter to driving us to the theater. In return, she asked for only one thing from me.

“Please let me go ahead of you in the line to meet him,” she asked. “Let me talk to him first and get his autograph. Please?”

Of course I agreed. In spirit, anyway. But as my sister, she should have known she was asking the impossible.

Several moments later, we stood at the table, looking down at David Sedaris. And let me just say here that he was an amiable gentleman who seemed to go out of his way to greet his fans in a friendly, conversational manner. He was all about putting us at ease. Just a very normal, ordinary, approachable man.

And luck was on our side that night. Out of all the people in that line, he turned to my sister with a very simple question.

“Where’s a good place around here to go for breakfast?”

She knew the answer. She knew that town inside and out, was familiar with most of the businesses. It was her job to know the answers to questions like that as part of her daily 9-5. She was perhaps the single best person in that room that he could have chosen for that question.

And what did she do?

She went full goldfish on him.

She blinked. She opened her mouth and closed it. And again. She gaped at him and blinked some more.

“Maybe a Denny’s?” he ventured.

Now, I’m told that I behaved in a perfectly composed and normal manner after that, but that’s not how I remember it. I remember shoving my dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day in front of him and babbling something about never looking at Great Danes the same way again.

My sister says he laughed. If there’s any truth to that, then I can die happily any time now, content in the knowledge that I once made David Sedaris laugh.

Have you ever shaken up a bottle of Diet Coke and then released the built-up pressure? That’s exactly what happens to my words when I try to hold them inside and behave myself. And it’s what happened that night, standing in front of David Sedaris.

The dam burst. I babbled. I giggled. I chattered like an idiot. Once I start, I don’t have an “off” switch.

Of course, Mr. Sedaris was very gracious about it. I can only assume someone got him some food at some point after we left. I’ll never know for sure, because my sister and I turned and fled, laughing like idiots.

That’s what My Mirror Lies to Me is all about: Finding the “funny” in an otherwise mortifying moment. Looking at myself and seeing only the best that I have to offer to the world. Instead of seeing a double chin or close-set eyes and a mouth that runs too much, I want to see a woman who is capable of always looking for the good where others see flaws.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s too short to waste time dwelling on the negative stuff. I always want to look past the lies my mirror tells me. I want to enjoy telling “Amy stories” that make people laugh. If I can make a few people pee or spray coffee out their noses, then I’ve done my job.

And David Sedaris, if you ever happen to read this book, the Kalamazoo Denny’s is on Cork Street, just off Sprinkle Road near I-94. Tell them A.J. and the Goldfish sent you.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Downward What?

I mentioned a while back that I’ve been learning to do a little bit of yoga, and I wanted to follow up here with a little more about that.

For those of you who don’t know me, I should start by explaining a few things. Set the scene, so to speak. First, as should be obvious from my profile picture, I am not a slim person. What is a little less obvious is the fact that I have in my fifty year-old body not one single ounce of either grace or coordination. It’s like living in a machine with mismatched parts that don’t quit fit together.

Something as simple as walking down the street can be a real challenge, what with my right foot often pausing to say to my left: “Why, hello! Fancy meeting you here. Have we met?” To which my left usually throws in a hearty, “No, we haven’t! Let’s shake on it!”

Now just to add to the general mayhem, toss in the facts that I rarely exercise voluntarily and that a big chunk of my Franken-spine is fused with metal.

All of which boils down to the realization that I am not a Yoga person. I am, in fact, the anti-Yogi.

My sister is in the process of becoming certified to teach Yoga, and she’s been willing to drive out to my middle-of-nowhere town to teach me. Since my apartment is tiny and hotter than the surface of the sun, she chose the the pretty little gazebo in the park in the center of town for our lessons.

park

 

First thing I did was remove my glasses so I couldn’t see how many people could see me. Sort of like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. If I don’t see the horrified expressions on the faces of people staring at my giant butt in the air as I “Downward Dog,” then I can pretend that it never happened. Just please don’t ever mention it to me. I am sure there are support groups forming even now for all who have had the misfortune of glancing in my direction at the wrong moment.

She started by throwing out some yoga terms. Drishti. Tadasana. Mula Bandha.

“Now you’re just making stuff up,” I accused after that last one.

“I’m not!” Mula bandha, she explained, is similar to the Kegel exercises I lied about doing during all of my pregnancies. Apparently, it’s all about someday being able to sneeze without crossing my legs.

I’ll admit, I was pretty resistant to the whole Yoga thing at first. When I think of Yoga, I picture a lean young woman in a jogging bra and shorts, stretching and posing slowly on a beach in front of a peaceful sunset. I just can’t wrap my brain around a fat middle-aged woman flailing about on a colorful mat in the middle of the park.

My sister adds a wonderful touch of humor to her lessons. “I brought some bug spray,” she told me one week in her soothing Yoga-teacher voice. “It’s all natural and environmentally friendly and doesn’t work for shit, but you feel really good about yourself while the bugs eat you alive.”

She gives me homework every week between our classes. “How did it go this week?” she’ll ask me.

“I’m getting better at Mazeltov,” I’ll tell her.

“You mean Mula bandha?”

“Right. Mitsubishi.”

In just a few short months, I’ve learned that I love Yoga. More precisely, I love the way Yoga makes me feel. My old, fat, stiff body is feeling so much . . . well, I can’t really describe it. Warmer, stronger, more open. I am standing straighter, sleeping better. Maybe even breathing better. I am, however, still struggling with the Manischewitz.

Yoga’s not about fitness. It’s completely non-competitive and it seems really odd to go to an exercise class in which I barely break a sweat. There’s no cardio, no goal-setting, no pressure. I’m probably not going to shed a single pound by doing Yoga, but I am gaining so much more.

Even if I never master the Manicotti.

So, if you’ve never tried Yoga, I highly recommend taking a class or two. Give it a shot. What have you got to lose — other than perhaps a bit of your dignity? And if you have tried it, I’d love to hear from you. Love it or hate it? And how long did it take you to master the Molybdenum?

 

Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal: A Look Inside

Time for another sneak peek!

I’m getting closer to publishing “Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal” and I wanted to share another look at the cover, as well as a sneak peek at one of the inside chapters.

10699134_10205880321032167_902042556_n

Didn’t Martha do a fabulous job?

Just to get you up to speed on the new book, it’s a collection of thoughts and stories about hitting middle age and learning to be okay with the realization that life is never going to be perfect. It’s about commiserating with other women at this stage in life, finding humor in things like hot flashes and weight gain, and wondering if there is sex after the age of fifty. (Spoiler alert: there is!)

Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal is nothing at all like my romance novels. It’s a bit like Have a Goode One, but with a bit more focus. And while Have a Goode One was a collection of posts that had already appeared on my blog, the new book is all new material that I’ve never shared.

The chapter I’m sharing today is all about my issues with modern technology.  About feeling old because I struggle with something that seems so easy for everyone else. Specifically, I’m whining about some of my experiences with text messaging on my ancient, embarrassing flip phone.

Enjoy!

 

4-4-3-3-5-5-5-7-#-6-3-3-menu-symbols-4-send

The text messages started about a week ago, coming from a number I didn’t recognize. I need a plot for Phillip. How much do you charge for burial? the text message said.

I think you sent this to the wrong person, I replied.

I want to bury Phillip beside John.

I am sorry for your loss, I typed in. But I think you have the wrong number.

I have the measurements.

Wrong number, I repeated.

You don’t work for the cemetery?

No.

I assumed that was the end of that particular odd conversation. I hoped so, anyway, since I hate texting.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I have no problem with text messaging under some circumstances, such as telling my kids to do their chores or getting school closing updates in bad weather. I am not completely incapable of working with modern technology.

Texting is not the problem.  My phone is the problem.

I hate texting on the phone I have now. I used to have a smartphone with a QWERTY keypad and all the bells and whistles. But when my income went down, so did my budget for that sort of thing. I now use a cheap, prepaid, bottom-of-the-barrel flip phone that is just that: a phone. I can’t use it to check my email or visit Facebook because it’s just a phone. What can I use it for? To call or text people because it’s just a phone.

My phone does slightly more than two Solo cups and a piece of string. The cups and string would probably have better sound quality; besides, I have so few minutes of talk-time that I can pretty much say “Hello, this is–” before I run out of minutes.  Texting is unlimited, though, and seems to work pretty well as long as I face true north on a windless day without a cloud in the sky.

But it’s a tiny flip phone. With itty-bitty keys that seem microscopic to my giant sausage-like fingers. And it’s got one of those old-fashioned numeric keypads, which means that even sending the simplest text message requires a level of fingertip gymnastics and concentration that I can’t always manage. For example, I have to type in *-4-6-6-6 wait-6-6-6-3-#-6 wait-6-6-6-7-7-7-6-6-4-4-4-6-6-4-4-4-6-6-4-menu-symbols-4-send  just to say Good morning!

My kids say it’s because I’m too old to learn how to text. I am here to tell you that it has nothing to do with my age. This is not operator error. It is equipment malfunction, and I don’t think I am out of line to expect people in my life to understand that my text messages are going to be wonky from time to time as long as I have this particular phone.

Case in point: Mother’s Day, 2014, when I tore my hand apart with the food processor. I knew immediately that I needed to get to the emergency room ASAP, and I also knew that I needed my daughter to drive me there. She was sunbathing in the back yard, so I tried to text her instead of frightening her brothers by shouting for help. I wrapped my bloody hand in a dishtowel, propped the phone against the cookie jar, and tried to text with my good hand.

hdlp

???? she responded.

I wrapped a second towel around my bleeding hand and tried again. gekp

Are you having a stroke, Mother? Lol

Ignoring the fact that my offspring seemed to find the possibility of my having a stroke to be somewhat lol-worthy, I went into my phone’s menu and programmed it to let me text numbers instead of letters.

9-1-2.

Mom, your texting isn’t making any sense at all. What are you trying to say?

“Get your ass in the kitchen!” I bellowed.

I headed for the car, grabbing my car keys in my teeth on the way out the door. The Princess met me on the way in. “Why didn’t you just text me that you were hurt?” she demanded.

“I couldn’t manage ‘help’ or ‘9-1-1’ and you think I could have managed ‘Please help me, I am hurt’?”

Now, nearly two years later, I still haven’t gotten much better at texting on my flip phone. So when I started getting even more text messages about burying poor Phillip, there was no reason to expect the conversation to go well.

Look this isn’t funny. Just do your job.

excuse me?

I am going to report you to the better business bureau. 

k

I am serious. I just want you to bury Phillip.

I really wanted to be sensitive to this poor person’s situation, but I just wasn’t up to trying to explain more via text. After all, my text a few days earlier saying I am sorry for your loss but I think you have the wrong number had required two pee breaks, an energy drink, and a short nap.

I tried calling so I could explain that he or she had the wrong number, but no one answered. I got a recorded voice telling me that the person had no voice mailbox set up, so I couldn’t leave a message. I had to text her again. So now I was invested in this conversation with a complete stranger about burying Phillip, and frankly,  I was starting to have some concerns over whether or not he’s actually dead yet.

What cemetery are you trying to reach?  I asked, thinking that perhaps I could find the correct number and pass it along.

You know damn well who you work for you asshole.

I’m going to take a wild guess here and assume that this person has a nicer phone than I have, although his or her grasp of proper comma usage is a bit weak.

i tryin to b nicd hete

Can’t you spell, you idiot?

Enough was enough. bite me, I typed in. Unfortunately, I sent the message to the wrong person.

Mom?!

Whoops. Apparently, that last one had gone out to my daughter. My bad, I told her, after taking a quick break for some water and a protein snack.

Mom, why don’t you just call people instead of texting? At your age, I’m sure people will understand.

you can bite me too

What did I do?

sorry boss

Mom, is supper almost ready? Now my oldest son was going to enter the conversation.

bruttle pouts an rroganofe

What are you trying to say? Mom, did you stick your hand in the food processor again?

jesus h christ i hate this phone

Are you going to answer me about burying Phillip or not? I am still waiting for an answer!

stop texting me you crazy person!!!!  I could feel a migraine starting after that exclamation-point sprint. I stopped for some ibuprofen and another energy drink, but my phone was alerting me again.

I find that a little offensive, Mother.

goddamn fucking phone

Amy, I really don’t think think that last message was meant for me.

i am so sorry reverend

Thankfully, the battery on my phone died at that point, and I have no intention of plugging it back in any time soon. If anyone wants to reach me, I’m rigging up two Solo cups and a piece of string.

****

 

Thanks for reading! “Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal” is now available for pre-order on Amazon for only .99 cents. It will be released on May 1, 2016, after which the price will go up to $2.99. To reserve your copy at the lower price now, click here. 

Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal: Cover Art

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a couple of new projects I’ve been working on, and I told you all about my upcoming book, Fat, Fifty and Menopausal.  I’m not quite ready to share any of the inside of the book yet, but I just couldn’t wait to share the cover so far.

For starters, I have to say that Martha Schwartz is a fabulous artist whose work always makes me smile. I met her through a fan group of The Three Investigators books after a couple of mutual friends urged me to check out her work. (See? Everything in life comes full circle. Everything.)  She works with sculptures, caricatures,  and comic books, and so much more, with a distinctive style that that makes her work instantly recognizable.

I am honored beyond words that she agreed to create the original artwork for my cover. Here are some of her initial sketches:

She asked what sort of things I talk about in the book. Of course, I had to ask her to add the “mom finger” after it was brought to my attention by certain co-workers that I have a tendency to shake my finger in everyone’s face when I talk.

She added colors and gradually filled in a few more details, and this is where we stand right now:

12655987_10205662767633468_1814157195_o

Gorgeous, ain’t it?

I especially like the fact that Martha’s art makes me look much prettier than I am in real life. I was prepared for her to make me look, well, fat, fifty and menopausal, but she made me look so much better than that.  I can’t wait to see the finished results.

I’m looking at late March/early April for the publication date of Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal, although that date may change.  It’s close to being done now; I’ve had an absolute blast with this one, and I almost hate to write “the end.” In a way, I feel as though this book is the one I’ve been waiting my entire life to write.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share a couple of excerpts here, and I hope to give a few of you something to laugh about (and possibly relate to). I’m also working on two other books right now because I can’t seem to turn off my imagination — or my characters! I’ve got Maisy and Connor to deal with, and Ben and Jacqueline, and I’m trying to finish up some research into Michigan’s wine industry for the setting of my Love & Destiny series.

And in the middle of all of this, my daughter has decided to play matchmaker and try to fix me up with someone for a real date. Because I have nothing else on my plate, and dating has always turned out so well for me in the past.

Poor man. He has no idea what he’s in for.

In the meantime, please take a moment to check out Martha’s website and her gofundme page to help her attend the MegaCon in Orlando in May. She’s hoping to debut her new Seed Seekers comic book there, and I’d love to help her get there.

 

Mirror, Mirror

IMAG0047

Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize the woman who looks back at me.

In my mind, I still look like someone in her late twenties/early thirties.   I never looked my age until recently.  People were always so surprised to find out my real age because I appeared to be so much younger than I really was.

I had good skin, ready access to hair color, and no need to lie when asked my age.   I knew I wasn’t a beautiful woman, but I also knew I had a good smile and a certain well-scrubbed, girl-next-door quality.  That’s the kind of corn-fed-maiden I still expect to see when I look in the mirror.

The woman who looks back at me instead is tired.  She’s got deep, dark circles under her eyes, which are red-rimmed as though she has cried recently.  She’s got my mom’s drooping right eyelid, which only lends to the overall look of exhaustion.  Her face is puffy; she has the appearance of someone who has gained a great deal of weight recently.  Rosacea gives her a constant flushed look, sort of like the red face that we used to call “Beer Cheeks” in college.

Her skin seems dry, especially around the eyes, where small wrinkles have begun to form.  She has acne scars on her chin that are dark enough to show through foundation and powder.    Her eyes are still her best feature.  They are somewhere between blue and green, almost aqua, and once in a while they still have the old sparkle.  It’s hard to see, but it’s there.

I feel sorry for the woman in the mirror.  I want to reach through and wrap my arms around her and give her the hug she so desperately needs.  I want to tell her it’s okay to cry until she’s done, until all of the sadness and regrets are totally exorcised.  I want to tell her I love her because she really looks like she needs to hear that from someone.

Then I want to give her a stern talking-to.  “Snap out of it,” I want to tell her.  “Get a haircut, touch up your roots, and put on some make-up and jewelry.  Take a little pride in your appearance.  And for God’s sake, smile once in a while. People used to tell you that your smile was beautiful, remember?  So smile, damn it!”

Appearances shouldn’t matter.  I should be able to look in the mirror and take pride in each wrinkle and scar and gray hair.  I have earned every one of them, after all.  Considering some of what I have survived, I am lucky that I don’t look worse.  I remember looking up at my sister in the ER after my car accident and whispering, “Is my face . . . okay?”  And then feeling a really twisted sense of relief when she assured me that all of that blood was from my head rather than any part of my face.

So, yeah, appearance matters to me.   I wish it didn’t.  I wish the woman in the mirror looked more like the woman I see in my mind.  But the one in the mirror has been through a lot.  She’s a survivor, and she looks like one.

Luckily, the one in my mind learned how to apply make-up in beauty school.  With some mascara, mineral powder, and a helluva lot of eyeliner — along with a healthy dose of anti-depressants — these two ladies may someday merge into a woman who doesn’t scare me when she smiles back at me.

 

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/daily-prompt-mirrored/

Like a Fine Whine

I have come to an unfortunate conclusion recently:

I am getting old.

I’m not so happy about that.  Until recently, I always told the truth about my age because people seemed so stunned to hear it.  “No way!”  They’d say.  “I would have guessed you were only about thirty-five!”

Oh, Baby, I’d gloat.  Tell me more.

I think the downhill slide started when different parts of my body started talking without my permission.  My knees pop, my ankles creak, my hip makes a grinding noise.  My teeth chatter for no apparent reason, and my jaw clicks when I least expect it.  And I’ve started grunting when I bend over; what the hell is that?

Best of all is the snap!crackle!pop! taking place along my spine every time the weather changes.  Give me a good thunderstorm and all that metal in there sounds like an Orville Redenbacher orgasm.

Then, at my son’s pre-school Valentine’s Day party, it finally happened.

I’ve been expecting it since the day the Little Guy was born.  I know I’m older than most of the mommies in his class.  I knew this moment was coming.

But still.

I can still hear that voice, sweet and oh-so-nicely offering me a seat beside her at the party:  “After all, we Grandmas should stick together.”

There was chocolate nearby, so I let her live.

I can accept that. I can take it.  Some women actually are Grandmothers by my age.  When it comes to parenthood, I got started late and just couldn’t figure out when to stop, so I really shouldn’t be offended by being mistaken for the Little Guy’s grandmother.

I can deal with a noisy, achy body and gray hairs that grow in faster than I can color them away, and I can even tolerate the little lines that are starting to show up on my face.  I can smile politely at people who think I’m a grandmother.

But the worst was yet to come.

About a month ago, one of my dearest friends fell at work and shattered her ankle.  Yeah, that’s how she and I do things:  I break my neck, she breaks her leg; I get plates and screws, she gets plates and screws and pins.  We’ve been competing against each other since we were eight years old, and I don’t see either one of us letting up any time soon

Anyway, I contacted a mutual friend to let him know about her injury.   His first question?

“Is she post-menopausal?”

Now, I could have taken that several different ways.  He’s a pharmacist, so he was asking from a medical standpoint, concerned about how well she might heal.  He’s known her almost as long as I have, so he was trying to figure out just how badly her bones might have broken.  Basically, he’s a good guy who was just worried about a friend.

But I didn’t take it that way.

No, I am exactly two weeks older than she is, so I took his question as “are you post-menopausal?”

Like I said, competitive.

Our friend is not allowed to wonder if I am post-menopausal.  He is not allowed to even think that I might be.   He knows damn well exactly how old I am, and that I am definitely not old enough for menopause.

She is not post-menopausal because I am not post-menopausal, and we are both still young and vibrant NON- MENOPAUSAL women.

Who just happen to have lots of metal replacement parts that have nothing to do with age or hormone levels.

We are not old.

Now give me a moment to find my bifocals so I can proofread this.