Oy , what a week!

coffee2

If we were having coffee, I think this might be one of those days when the coffee needs a shot of something stronger than Coffee-Mate. At this point, however, I’m not sure if that “something stronger” should be whiskey or antibiotics.

Yeah, it’s been a weird week.

My son, my ex-husband and I keep passing around what appears to be a case of the plague. We don’t even live in the same house anymore, but the three of us can’t seem to kick whatever this is. On any given day, at least one of us is either coughing up a lung or throwing up our insides.

On those few days when I’ve been somewhat healthy, I’ve had to deal with a dead car battery. Finally had to give in and buy a new battery, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the battery ended up costing me more than the car is worth at this point.

Seriously, it’s a sad statement on my life when the most expensive thing I own is a new battery for a 2001 Kia Spectra with 200,000 miles on it.

It’s an even sadder statement on my life to realize that I had started to feel a bit envious of the old battery because it was getting jumped so often.

One of my co-workers asked me why I don’t just buy a new car. After all, she reasoned, I must be raking in the big bucks with my books, right? I just stared at her with my jaw on the floor as she raved about the millions of dollars she heard that authors make. She wondered what I do with tens of thousands I make every month. I tried to explain to her that it’s really not like that, but she assumed I was being modest.

I finally told her I spent it all on a villa in Italy. “Please don’t tell anyone,” I whispered. “I don’t want the IRS to find out.”

Hey, it wasn’t a total lie. I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant a while ago.

Okay, it was a Fazoli’s drive-thru ten years ago, but it still counts.

On one of my dead-battery days, my downstairs neighbor was kind enough to take me to the school to pick up my boy for a doctor’s appointment. That particular neighbor’s vehicle isn’t much better than mine, and the passenger door doesn’t open from the inside. He had to run around and open my door for me so I could get out at the school, which evidently caught the attention of the school secretary.

“Who was that who drove you here?” she wondered. I told her he was my neighbor, and she raised her eyebrows at me. “Is he a nice guy?”

Folks, I am possibly one of the world’s most oblivious human beings. “Sure, he’s nice,” I told her.

“He’s a real gentleman, isn’t he? Any man that opens the car door for you is a keeper!” she winked at me.

Swear to God, I still didn’t get what she was trying to say.

So, here I am on a Saturday morning, drinking room-temperature Vernor’s and wrapped up in every quilt and afghan I can find. I’ve got the barf bowl, the Netflix remote, and a box of tissue within easy reach, and I don’t plan on going anywhere except down the hall to the bathroom when absolutely necessary.

Which is apparently every four and a half minutes.

But the high point of weirdness in my life this week is the steady flow of phone calls and messages I’ve been getting all morning from friends wanting to know more about my hot new boyfriend that I am about to run away with to my secret villa in Italy.

At this point, I don’t have the energy to correct anyone. I think I’ll just tell them all to pack their bags and meet me at the airport.

As soon as I’m done in the bathroom.

 

 

 

 

Grasping at Straws

No one was around when it happened, but I got a hug yesterday that turned my world around. I was feeling pretty alone in a crowd of people, and I don’t think anyone else realized what that hug did for me.

It’s been another rocky week around here. I’m doing my best to stay positive and keep a good attitude, but as one of my favorite bloggers said in her post for today, “Life is full of overwhelm.” I’m dealing with money problems, small-town-gossip issues, a broken lawnmower, a job opportunity that fell through, and now there’s a dead mouse in my basement. Life is sucking big-time right now, and not even bothering to use a pretty curly straw.

To be honest, life isn’t really all that bad.  We’re all healthy, and there’s been a lot of good stuff going on, too.  I’ve got my book signing tomorrow, and a possible girls’ night out with a couple of old friends; there’s a visit from my sister and a new used laptop from a friend, and the little store in town just started carrying Toblerone. If I could get Netflix to work on my TV so I could watch something with Randolph Mantooth or Eric Allan Kramer, I’d be content.

sister

It’s just that I argued with some friends this week, and that hurts. They weren’t my best friends, not by a long shot. But they were friends, and life is too short to let any friends go easily. We might not have shared our deepest secrets with each other, but we enjoyed each other’s company. To put it differently, they were the kind of friends who might not have gone into the basement for the mouse for me, but they would have stood at the top of the stairs and squealed in sympathy while I did it myself.

When this passes over – and it will – it’s going to be hard for me to smile and go on with these people as though nothing has happened. I’ll do it because that’s what grown-ups do; I’ll encourage our kids to play together and we’ll all sit together in the bleachers during the different sports seasons. We’ll fall back into the same routines, the same patterns, and I’ll have to remind myself not to hold a grudge. It’ll be a struggle, but everything will be just fine.

For right now, my feelings are hurt. I feel like my soul has been bruised.

There are so many people out there with real problems. It’s foolish to waste even one minute stressing myself out over some petty he-said-she-said rumors and silliness. I just needed something or someone to give me a little kick in the butt or slap upside the head to remind me to prioritize this mess in the appropriate manner.

And that’s where the hug came in.

When I go to the elementary school to pick up my son at the end of the day, there’s a little girl who refuses to smile at me. Absolutely refuses. She’s an utterly adorable and very opinionated little girl with a strong and unique personality. I always ask her if today is the day I’m going to get a “Molly-smile,” and she takes a long, serious moment to study me and consider my question before shaking her head and walking away. Our little routine has become a high point of some of my days.

Yesterday was my rough day.  I was wallowing in self-pity and seriously considering plans for the evening that involved devouring the equivalent of my body weight in food that’s really, really bad for me; I had a hard time holding my head up and ignoring the whispers when I walked by the cluster of friends who are so upset with me. For a few minutes, I felt like a self-conscious sixth-grader trying to find a safe place to sit in the cafeteria on the first day of middle school. I wished my little boy was big enough to walk himself home from school so I didn’t have to face any of those people.

And then, out of the blue, I didn’t get a Molly-smile.

I got a Molly-hug.

God alone knows why that child chose yesterday, of all days, to run up and hug me. She never said a word. Just trotted up, threw her tiny arms around me for a split second, and ran back to her mother.

That was all it took to put things back into perspective for me.

Life is short. Sometimes, it’s “full of overwhelm.” But the world is always going to keep turning; tomorrow’s going to come, the sun is going to rise, and life is going to go on with or without our permission.  We can hang onto hurt and anger and self-pity, or we can allow ourselves to thaw in the warmth that comes from a child’s hug.

We can focus on the bad or we can embrace the good.

We can complain about the mouse in the basement or we can put on our big girl panties and march down there, get the damn thing, and move on with life.

And I guess, if life is going to suck sometimes, we might as well give it some pretty curly straws and enjoy the show.

straws

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “No one was around when it happened…” This week’s FTSF is hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Lisa at Flingo and Jessica from Ramblings of an add mommy

Leo

There’s a new guy in my life, and he is amazing. He’s got gorgeous golden hair and big brown eyes that are exactly the color of melted chocolate, and I am just blown away by the utter adoration I see in those eyes whenever he looks at me.

When our eyes meet, it’s almost like he can’t get to me fast enough. He can’t wait to get his paws on me and cover me with wet, eager kisses.  Sometimes, at night, he stands under my bedroom window and calls out to me, forcing me to open the window and hiss at him to hush before he wakes the whole street.

He can never be mine, though. He belongs to another woman. That’s right; I have become something I never thought I could be. I am the Other Woman.

But it’s all right, because Leo is sort of a hound. A real dirty dog.

Actually, more of Golden Retriever mix. Leo is my neighbor’s new dog, and I really don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that he is obsessed with me. He’s been known to jump into my car and perch on the passenger seat with an expectant look on his face, as if to say, “Hey, baby, where’re we going?” He dodges past me and into my home to sit in the middle of my living room, and I swear he looks like he’s saying, “Hi, Honey, I’m home!”

Although his young owner is terribly embarrassed by his behavior, I have to admit that I’m kind of enjoying it. I miss the dog that I left behind with my ex-husband, so it’s always nice to be able to shower a little bit of affection on someone else’s dog once in a while. But more than that, it’s refreshing to have some attention and yes, adoration, from a male of any species at this point in my life.

God, I hate being single.

I was never very good at dating, even when I was younger. I was always self-conscious about something, whether it was my weight or my lack of experience with men or the fact that I am just not a very sophisticated person. I once dated a really, really rich guy and spent every date worrying about whether or not I was using the right fork. He was a very sweet man, but so far out of my league that it could never have worked.

So here I am, single and nearly fifty years old, and I write romance novels.  Could I be any more of a living cliché? Well, maybe if I get a few cats.

I think that’s why I tend to write about average people. The characters in my novels are not billionaires or heiresses or even corporate VIPs, although I enjoy reading books with those type of characters. I write about people like me. People who work as hairdressers and teachers or mechanics and worry about making the mortgage. I write about people who are searching for something in life, but not necessarily love; I try to write about people who are looking for a spot to land, a place to call home, a life that fits. And, of course, since I write romance novels, they always find love while searching for something else.

So far, my characters are also healing, physically or emotionally, because that’s where I’ve been in my own life these past few years.  Whether it was Tara recovering from her car accident, Lisa moving on after her divorce, or Maggie learning to follow through, I’ve tried to write about women who find love because they grow and heal; I don’t ever want to create the kind of female characters who have to be rescued by a man in order to be complete.  The flipside of this is my desire to create male characters that are also in need of healing and/or personal growth. Ethan needs to let go of his bitterness and anger, Sean needs to grow up and make a decision for himself, and Daniel needs to let go of his fantasy woman so he can get to know the real woman he is falling for.

I believe in love. I believe it’s every bit as necessary as food or water or air. I believe I’ll find it again, and that’s why I write romance novels despite my being single.

I think that’s also why I’m struggling so much with Their Love Rekindled. Cassie Garcia is a single mom, a widow trying to repair her life after losing her firefighter husband in Her House Divided. She is a woman with many secrets and a responsibility to protect her dead husband’s reputation in a small town full of whispers and gossip. In this book, I’m trying to show another side of the cozy little town I’ve built in the rest of my series.

I love Cassie. She’s a great character to write.

Her love interest, however, is giving me trouble. He’s her first love, a teenage romance coming home after being gone for too many years.  He’s a soldier and . . . that’s it. I wanted to give him PTSD or some horrible war injuries, but everything I write just comes out clichéd and melodramatic. Overused. Been there, done that, read the book and saw the movie.

So I think my soldier is going to go back overseas for a while, at least until my next book. Cassie’s high school sweetheart is still coming home to rekindle a few things, but his wounds are from a different type of battle. While Cassie has closed off her emotions in order to focus on her goals, Aaron is a lost soul searching for answers to questions he has spent years trying not to ask.

I like Aaron. He’s a good guy, but a bit of an asshole.

My Beach Haven stories have been all about people finding a place to belong in a warm, loving community. It’s about a small town that’s more like a family. Their Love Rekindled is about the uglier side of small-town life, with the gossip and judgment that sometimes come with everyone knowing everyone else’s business. In the end, the question isn’t as much about Cassie and Aaron rekindling their love for one another as it is about rekindling their love for their home town.

And . . . now I’m excited about it again. Someday, I may write about a billionaire who comes in to rescue the damsel in distress. I may write a historical romance set in the old Wild West. I don’t know where I’m going or what kind of things I may write someday, and I’ll never say never about any kind of topic or character. But for right now, I’m happy writing about men and women in a small town; I’m happy writing about average people like me, people who have a lot of growing and healing to do on the way to finding love.

And one of those characters, somewhere along the line, is going to have a dog named Leo.

Facebook “Friends” and True Colors

I just spent two hours writing a blog post that I will never publish.  It was an angry post that ranged in tone from red-hot fury to frost-blue sarcasm.

It was called “Open Letter to An Idiot” and it was not nice.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  I used twenty-seven different synonyms for “idiot” and I droped the f-bomb thirteen times.

You see, I have just learned that some of my “friends” are annoyed by my behavior in recent years.   I put the quotation marks around the word friend because there are people involved who obviously have no idea what the word means.

I have talked too much about my car accident and about my lingering issues with pain.  I understand that now, and I wish I had been more stoic about it.  I am, after all, not the only person to undergo a traumatic event.  And let’s face it, there are a lot of people dealing with worse pain.  I’m embarrassed when I look back at some of my whining and I wonder that I haven’t lost more friends because of my constant complaining.

The night of my accident, I wasn’t thinking about getting sympathy or attention.  I was thinking that the sky had that funny green-yellow color that sometimes comes with tornado weather.  I was thinking that my children and I were going to die.  Later, when the storm was over and they were wheeling me around from ambulance to ambulance, I stared up at the violets, oranges and indigoes of the sunset sky and wondered if I would ever walk again.

Afterward, I guess I should have moved on better than I did.

My bad.

My angry and unpublishable blog post was prompted by a conversation that took place on Facebook yesterday between people that I had thought of as my friends.  They discussed my accident and my recovery at great lengths, and made quite a few jokes at my expense.  Apparently, these chums of mine decided to advance the theory that my accident never really took place.

I am lazy, they decided.  They called me an attention whore and speculated that I made up the whole thing as a way of getting sympathy and finding a way to get out of working for the rest of my life.  They voiced the opinion that I need to STFU.

Look, people are going to gossip.  I can accept that.  Hell, I’ve been caught gossiping a few times.  More than a few, if I’m going to be perfectly honest.  But I can’t even comprehend saying the kind of spiteful, vicious things these people said.  And right out there on Facebook, in a public forum for all the world to see!

In a conversation that showed up in my newsfeed.  On my page, where I could read every poisonous word they said.

I attacked them in my blog.  I lashed out at them . . . and I did the same thing I was accusing them of doing:  I mocked them in a public forum for all the world to see.

But I won’t publish that post because I want to be a better person than they are.

I know I’ve talked about my accident too much and I’m trying to stop.  Really, I am.  I realize that I can never heal as long as I keep dwelling on it.   It’s a hard lesson that I am constantly re-learning; for example, I recently shared a few details about it with a new friend, and regretted it almost immediately.  It’s part of my past, and it should have stayed there.  I dumped far too much on him when I should have kept it to myself, and I am afraid that I have done irreparable damage to a budding friendship.

I’ve whined a lot lately about pain because it’s aggravated by cold weather – and since Michigan is in the grip of something called a “polar vortex”, it’s really cold here.  I have had to go out into that frigid weather to shovel snow off the steps, and the combination of cold and overuse of shoulder/neck muscles has left me with a level of pain that is nearly blinding in its intensity.

Still, I should have been more considerate of others who are worse off.  I know that nobody wants to see a long string of negative, whiny, aww-poor-me status updates; I should have just put on the big girl panties and kept it to myself.

But to mock me?  To claim that I was never really hurt, to say that my accident never happened, to say that I am “milking” a disability claim because I am too lazy to go back to work?   That takes a special kind of person.  The kind of person I hope to never be.  The kind of person who cannot be my friend.  Not now, not ever.

Because this happened.

Whew!  Luckily, it's a figment of my imagination.
Whew! Luckily, it’s a figment of my imagination.

That’s Todd, holding my head.  Rey taking the picture.  Dave in the yellow coat.  Not a clue who the arm or butt belong to –Mitch, Brian, JC? — but the fact remains that it happened, and they were there.  And so was I.

The “friends” who are mocking me and suggesting that it never happened?  They weren’t there.  Not at the scene, not in the aftermath, and certainly not now.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/daily-prompt-colors/