About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wisdom in the oddest places

I'm the first one to admit that my life is an adventure unfolding at a faster pace than I can keep up.  As I was getting into my SUV at the bank this morning, I thought, "wow, it looks lopsided." Sure enough...flat tire.  Figures.  I drove to the gas station across the street where I filled it up with air, noticed a nail in the tread, called my mechanic who said he'd fit me in between appointments if I could wait and off I went wishing I'd at least bothered to put on some make-up.

Usually, waiting at the mechanic's is a tedious chore so I grabbed some reading material and a Diet Pepsi.  Annoyed that I'd be putting off work for a few more hours to deal with "yet another thing", I parked and wondered how much time I'd be wasting.

On torn chairs facing an ancient television that's stuck on one channel, sat an older gray-haired man hunched over and staring at a patch of carpet between his feet.  I plopped down on one of the ratty chairs, pulled out my newspaper and prepared to wait indefinitely.  Noticing my reading material, he started a conversation about politics (we were obviously on the same page and he could tell by what I was reading).  Before I knew it, I lost all sense of time and place.  The man knew things...he'd been places.  He was more interesting than the newspaper and droning television, no question.

A decorated Vietnam Vet and retired Pentagon man, he spoke about his perspective on the war in Afghanistan.  He'd been there as recently as six months ago, talked about the assassination of a sixteen year old girl that he'd witnessed, spoke of the futility of fighting in a country where they hate all outsiders, and how we should all work for peace.  He cried as he spoke of his own daughters and how he'd seen things that darkened his world. We talked of integrity, justice, Taoism, CIA, war, hot springs, relationships (value of friendships and marriage), retirement, fear slash fiction based media and the importance of activism.  We covered a lot of topics in that dark waiting room.

When my mechanic announced that my tire had been patched, I didn't want to leave this old man who had tears in his eyes.  I sincerely thanked him for sharing his story with me.  I felt honored to have met such a man on a snowy Colorado day in the mountains.

When we open ourselves up to others, it's amazing what we can learn about the world around us.  Nothing is as it seems.  That old man was a hero--a living, breathing, honest-to-goodness hero who enlightened my world for awhile.  I felt honored to have shared that time with him.  Who would have thought that getting a flat tire would be a blessing?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thank you, 2011!

Last January, I wasn't in a good place.  Over Christmas 2010, I'd been told by a family member how useless my pursuit of writing was, how my life as a widowed mom was a huge disappointment, how I hadn't "moved on" (still don't exactly know what the hell that means) and that I'd essentially wasted my talent.  Needless to say, last Christmas sucked.

I felt broken at the beginning of 2011.  Even after Sean's death, I hadn't felt shattered like that.  But I kept writing, hoping and getting up every morning.  Tears flowed without effort--like my eyes were constantly watering.

I attempted dating, but he turned out to be a stalker.  True story.  When I confronted him about his appearing everywhere even though he lived across the city, he justified it by saying he had "trust issues."  Well, that's one word for it.  I prefer the word "insanity" to describe his issues, but that's just me.

And, in all fairness to the male population, my 'attempt' at dating was half-hearted at best.  My career took priority.

Financially, the pressure was on.  Things were unraveling.  By the spring of 2011, I felt beaten down and scared.  My confidence hit new lows.  It took every ounce of faith I had to keep hoping, dreaming, laughing and writing.

But then it all turned around--slowly.

With the summer came a book deal and fun visitors. Everything clicked into place. Kiss Me Slowly released with great reviews.  My other books got the green light for 2012 release dates...there's a plan to meet old college friends in Chicago...Mardi Gras looks like a plan, too...2012 looks FUN! Yeah, things are definitely going my way right now and I couldn't be happier.

It's amazing what changes a year can bring.  Last Christmas, anxiety fueled my days.  This year, joy does.  What did I do to create this new tide?  I kept the faith.  I never gave up.  I believed in dreams coming true.

Thank you, 2011, for your twists and turns.  Thank you, 2011, for showing me which people to release and bringing me new ones who brighten my days.  Thank you, 2011, for elevating me to this level of joy and satisfaction.  Thank you, 2011, for showing me that all things are possible.

I embrace 2012 with open arms and a laugh!  Bring it on!  Can it get any better than this, 2012?  The answer is...yes.

Friday, December 2, 2011

More proof that true love is for everyone--a guest post by Author Tammy Dennings Maggy

Author Tammy Dennings Maggy
Thank you for having me on your blog today, Amber.  I thought I knew what I wanted to write about, but when I sat down to start it, my mind went blank.  What the heck?  I have tons of stories from my day job as a veterinarian but for the life of me I couldn’t think straight.  Something else entirely was on my mind.
The last few years of my life have been a bit chaotic to say the least.  I had to make the difficult decision to end my marriage to someone I had been with since 2001.  Thinking back on that now, we never should have married.  Both of us were in places in our lives where we just didn’t want to be alone and that was definitely not a good reason to get married.  Not that we didn’t care for each other, but I know now that the love that should be there simply was not.  We basically lived separate lives and got together every now and then for family gatherings or a few vacations.  Even during those times we were never truly together.  No wonder I was miserable and dying inside the whole time.  I can only imagine how he felt.  He never shared that sort of thing and refused to talk about it.
When I finally filed for divorce and we were legally separated, I felt like a weight had lifted off of my shoulders.  I didn’t want to rush into another relationship, but I did want to start dating and maybe live out a few of the fantasies that I was writing about.  I wasn’t looking for a “relationship” but from the moment that one certain man walked into my life, I was about to fall into one and hard.
Something about this man made me keep coming back for more.  I was determined to stay away from him.  The feelings he brought up inside of me frightened me.  What if I make another mistake?  What if these feelings zipping through me are just one sided?  It felt like we had known each other before, maybe through several other lifetimes. Was this real or just one of my fantasies?  My heart just couldn’t take another rejection so I was determined to keep those walls up.  Come to find out, so was he.  Both of us were trying to be nonchalant and keep things casual, when all along the connection between us wouldn’t be denied.  We shared our hopes and dreams and fantasies and were surprised to find they were the same. Even with all of those talks, both of us still held back, afraid to fall in love one more time.
In my book For the Love of Quinn, I write about being “thunderstruck.”  It’s when you form a connection so profound with someone, right from the moment your eyes meet, that you will do anything to be with them, even when you think there isn’t a chance in hell it could work out.  The heart wants what the heart wants and sometimes it won’t be denied.  The more we tried to stay away from each other, the more we needed to be together.  Friends and family told us both to be careful, that we would only hurt each other in the end, but they were wrong.  When we finally admitted to ourselves how much we loved each other, all those fears and doubts disappeared.
If you would have asked me just 3 years ago if I believed in soul mates or happily ever after, I would just say “not for me.”  Now we are planning our future and fulfilling each other’s dreams and fantasies.  He is the man I used to dream about as a little girl, my Knight in Shining Armor come to rescue me from all the sadness in my life.  He is my Muse, Mo Aman Cara, my Now and Forever through this and every lifetime.  He is the inspiration for several of my latest poems.  This is one of the first that I wrote when we first started dating.
Safe In Your Arms
Tossing and turning
Restless and burning
Aching to feel your body
Close to mine.
The bed that we once shared
Seems cold and lonely
Without you to hold me tight.
When you are here,
All sadness and pain disappear
And I am safe in your arms 
Every night.
Once again tossing and turning
Restless and yearning 
For the day you will 
Return back to me.
Knowing in my heart of hearts
Your First Love will always call…
Taking you away to the arms
Of the beautiful, cruel and majestic
Lady of the Sea.
Knowing all along
Your heart would not belong 
To me alone…
I still chose to share mine
With you.
For the Lady promised
She would keep you safe
And bring you home
When your journey together
Was through.
Tossing and turning.
My heart restless and burning
For your love, 
Your touch and your kiss.
Hoping and praying
That the coming dawn would finally bring
The day I will be safe
In your arms…
And once again our hearts joined
In peaceful bliss.
©Tammy Dennings Maggy
1:35am 3/28/2011

So for those of you who don’t believe in soul mates or finding that one love that fills your heart until it bursts from joy, well you will be pleasantly surprised.  Your always and forever is out there.  Your hearts call to each other and the love you have will no longer be denied.  I am finally living my happily ever after.  Are you?
Tammy Dennings Maggy is the author of For the Love of Quinn, now available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and bookstrand.com.  She is a brilliant erotic romance author who writes from the heart---and who truly believes in LOVE.  To stay up to date with her, please follow the links below:

Webpage/blog Behind Closed Doors http://authortammydenningsmaggy.wordpress.com/
Another Blog Not Enough Time in the Day http://tammydenningsmaggy.blogspot.com/

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Road trip!

This past week the kids and I did something we haven't done in a long time...packed up the car and headed to parts unknown.  We were wing'n it every step of the way as we headed south to Santa Fe.  Yes, we had hotel reservations, but that was all we knew "for sure".  Everything else was an adventure waiting to happen!

I enjoy going places I've never been before and seeing things that are completely new to me. It's almost as if I can feel my brain expanding, waking up and saying "wait a minute, this isn't the same ol' same ol', there's actually something interesting happening here!"

On the way down I-25, we stumbled upon the Old Santa Fe Trail historical markers while at a rest stop.  My son said, "we just learned about that in history class" and proceeded to go on and on...and on...about it as we drove.  More historical markers, more conversation, more links the kids get from what they learn in school to real life visuals of where it all happened.  Refreshing.


Santa Fe...what can I say?  It exceeded all my expectations, not that I really knew what we were getting into, but that's the point.  We saw the oldest church in North America, learned Santa Fe's history is much older than any East Coast city (take THAT you east coasters with your Mayflower and Plymouth Rock--LOL--don't pout, I still love you), and walked some historic trails where it was easy to imagine the violence of the past despite the overwhelming peaceful energy of the city.  We stayed in a hotel where Billy the Kid once worked as dishwasher--before being hanged out back by a lynch mob.  We learned how the atomic bomb was built on a mountain just NW of Santa Fe and read portions of letters from the people who worked there at the time.  We enjoyed some of the best food we've had in a long time--can you say green chile?!

From Santa Fe, we headed out on Route 66 for short while before curving up toward Durango, CO.  The scenery here blew my mind.  I've been around the world...I'm not exactly a novice traveler...but this section of the United States left me with no words.  I took pictures, but they failed to capture the overwhelming awe I felt with the contrast of desert backed by snowcapped Rocky Mountains in the far distance.  Most people fly over this part of the country--what a pity for them and what luck for us.

I'm not trying to give a travel log here.  My point is that by going on a road trip, the kids put down their electronics for awhile (yes, even I put down the computer for five days!), looked out the window, discovered a new part of the country, learned a lot, and talked about it.  Yep, my teenagers and I actually had long conversations that didn't involve homework or sports.  We weren't in a hurry...we took it slow and soaked it all in with no agenda.  I hate to say it--but that doesn't happen often, at least with my family who's always running in high gear.

It's amazing how powerful a road trip, bag of chips, cooler of soda, and the sense of "not-knowing-where-the-hell-you-are" can be for stimulating the mind.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Plus One

Tonight--or maybe I should say this morning since it's 3:45 AM--I'm sitting at my desk feeling pretty good about life. I had dinner with a sweet friend earlier in the evening--or last night if you want to be technical about it, but I haven't slept yet--and we started talking about love.

Being the guru of all things (uh-hem, yes, that's me), I tried to convince her that love is a true thing.  You see, she doesn't believe in it.

It's not like we were talking about Santa or the Tooth Fairy.  We were talking about love.  Pure.  Simple.  Heartbreaking.  Euphoric.  Love.

I think it's sad when people talk about settling for something comfortable even though it makes them lonely on a deep level.  My heart breaks when I hear someone saying how love isn't "for everyone" and that only "lucky people" find it.  That's not true.  Every single one of us is born to love.  I honestly believe this to be true.

We all have an amazing capacity for love, but hurt starts to build shields around us, layers of mistrust block our inner radiance and a wall goes up around our heart.  If you want love in your life, you need to look at why you've built that wall and start ripping it down yourself.  It might be painful, but it's preferable to settling for mediocre when you're meant for extraordinary.

Love is here for all of us.  We were put on this planet to love--love ourselves, the planet, our families, our neighbors and, yes, a life partner.

I would rather be single for years than settle for someone just to have a plus one.  Not only would that be unfair to me, it would be unfair for the other person who isn't being loved as wholly as he deserves.  Compromising your soul's desire for a big love will only bring heartache and loneliness down the road.

Yes, love is for everyone not just a chosen few.  You'll know it when you find it--trust me.  I've had it once before and know it feels like euphoria.  Hold on--hold out--keep the faith--open your heart--rip down those walls--trust yourself--love yourself--and it'll all be okay.  Trust me.
Oh, and for the fun of it and because I'm proud I figured out how to create this (LOL), check out my book trailer on YouTube:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carrot Cake

Today Sean would have been 41 years old.  We would have given him the only thing he ever wanted on his birthday--socks.  Yeah, I know.  I never understood it either, but the guy got goosebumps over new socks.

But Sean isn't 41...he will forever be 34.

After he died, I struggled with how to handle his birthday.  What was the proper thing to do for someone who had died?  Do you still celebrate a birthday?  Is it creepy?  Weird?  Crazy?  I went on to the YWBB and discussed it with other widows and widowers...what to do, what to do...

This is the sixth birthday we've tackled since that horrible day.  Each one has been different.  The first few were more surreal than sad, as if we still hadn't accepted the truth of what had happened.  Then we traveled for a few, making it fun, doing things we knew he'd love.  A few were lost because of my own pain, where his birthday passed without a word or a thought because it simply hurt too much.  But today we ate carrot cake--his favorite.

Today the kids and I talked about his strange love of new socks, his crazy skiing stunts, his ability to always make me laugh even when I was completely pissed off, how much each of them reminds me of him in specific ways.  They asked questions, I answered and we all laughed.

I did cry a little..in private...after the laughter stopped.  He is forever young and handsome while I am aging and alone.  The kids are growing up and will be moving on soon and I find myself thinking about all the fun we could be having...if only. I miss his beautiful smile, his wink, his reassuring presence.

I look at the past six years and see how far I've come emotionally.  That first birthday felt like all kinds of wrong with a big gaping hole ripped into the center of my life.  Then I busied myself with traveling, parenting and an almost manic need to "be fine" for a few of the others.  But those lost birthdays were the result of lost years when despair caught up with me and "being fine" was no longer an option, when I could barely drag my feet out of bed.  Grief takes its toll...it's harsh and mean.

Yeah, I've come a long way from then until now.  I've moved into my new normal where I talk about him with ease, am happy to see him living in our children, and know he'd be proud of how well we've done.

I will always miss Sean.  That's what people need to understand. When it comes to grief, it's not about years or moving on with someone else.  It's about accepting the new normal and letting go of the old routine while embracing change.  I've come a hulluva long way from that moment when we found him dead to now.  A helluva long way...and anyone who thinks differently is an idiot and not worth my time.

 I will miss Sean at our kids' high school and college graduations, when they get married, when I hold my first grandchild...I will miss him.  That doesn't mean I'm stuck or that I'm never going to love someone else again, it simply means that I loved well and completely once upon a time.  Good for me.

I think it's okay to celebrate the birth of someone you loved--whether they are alive or not.  I'm glad he was born.  I'm glad I knew him.  I'm glad he loved me.  Why not celebrate that?

Today we ate carrot cake...with laughter and some tears...and with a whole lotta love.
My Sean--1970 to 2005.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Out of many, One

I'm going to deviate somewhat from the norm for this post because, earlier today, I became involved in a discussion that sparked something deep within me.  A simple discussion about the term "In God We Trust" turned into a conversation about political correctness, racism and political division.  (Yeah, I know...don't worry, I'm not going to repeat all of that.)  I'm thankful for differing points of view for this reason:  they always lead somewhere fascinating.

What would life be without labels?  If I wasn't called a Democrat, Lutheran, white woman, American...how would you relate to me?

I firmly believe with 100% of my being that we as humans all want the same things in life--love, prosperity, security, joy, equality, respect, freedom--regardless of our politics, nationality, race, religion or non-religion, economics, or geographical location.

Oneness is our nature, yet we often fight it by looking for differences that divide.  We seem to enjoy lumping people into a group so that we know how to judge them.  Why is this?  Is it because we need to feel better or smarter than someone else?  Why is that?  Are you really being authentic if you need to put down another to elevate yourself?  Why do we need to judge each other when we are all seeking the same fundamental things in life?  Why do we condemn each other for our opinions when we live in a nation that says we are all entitled to be different?  Why must we hide behind religion instead of simply acting God-like?

Do any of the following sentences strike a chord within you, either of "oh hell ya" or "that hurts"?

"Those liberals are all socialists."

"Tea Partiers are all nut-jobs."

"Women can't do what men can."

"The people in the Mid-West are ignorant."

"All Californians are pot smoking hippies."

"New Yorkers are all nasty."

"That homeless guy deserves where he's at and isn't my problem."

"Removing the phrase In God We Trust from our currency is removing God from the country."

"Homosexuals want to destroy marriage."

"All Muslims are terrorists."

"Religion is for the weak minded."

Are you getting my point?  None of the above sentences are accurate.  Any generalization is a form of judgment, of discrimination and is wrong.  Stereotypes are ignorant.  Extreme thinking--black or white, all or nothing, you versus me, us versus them--is terrifying.

We are all one.  Strip the labels away, remove the borders, silence the sound-bites and you'll see that we are all more alike than not.  We all share the same sun...the same moon...the same earth.  We all want love, happiness, respect, prosperity, security and peace.  We all want to see our dreams come true.  Whether you believe in God or not, we are all free to believe whatever makes us feel at peace.  We are all one.

If, after reading this, your first thought is that I'm just some liberal, peace-loving, stupid blonde, then I want to say to you...I wish you only peace, love and joy anyway.

Namaste.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Radio waves

Every day at 3PM I switch on the radio to listen to my favorite drive-time dj's.  They're usually outrageous, always funny, ripe with interesting topics and play great music.  Yesterday hit a nerve, though, and for the first time, I called in.

They have a segment called OPP--other people's problems--where a man said he'd been feeling pressured to date again after being widowed for four years.  He said he'd gone on a few dates, but always felt like he was cheating on his deceased wife.  Random people started calling in with trite advice about him needing therapy--duh, I'm sure he's been doing that--writing a letter to his dead wife and burning it--like that would magically erase grief, I guess--that his wife would want him to move on--again, duh, that's a given, but doesn't make it any easier--and other such nonsense.  

I called.  No, I'm not a therapist or some kind of grief guru.  I'm simply someone who's gone down this same road, heard similar comments and wanted him to know that he's "normal", not to feel pressured before he's ready and referred him to the Young Widows Bulletin Board that's helped me significantly during the past six years.  

Listen, I've tried the dating thing, too, simply because people were accusing me of not moving on or being stuck.  I wasn't ready and it messed me up.  I even went on Match.com, but when I started looking at pictures of men, I realized I was looking for Sean.  Thinking that was probably a bad sign, I backed out of it.  

Hearing that man on the radio affected me in my soul.  Listening to the comments coming in from people who haven't heard their soulmate's last breath pissed me off.  Grief isn't something with a timeline or a rule book.  It's not like the movies in any way, shape or form.  It's condescending to think otherwise.  

I enjoyed being married.  I miss having a partner backing me up.  I hate being misunderstood.  I firmly believe that, when the time is right, a new love will enter my life who will broaden my horizons in amazing ways.  Things like love can't be forced, judged--or erased with a burning letter.  

It's been said that the length of time we mourn is testimony to the depth of love we lost. I think that's beautiful.  

I hope Mike from the radio finds love again one day.  I hope we all do.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Play time!

I've never considered myself a cat person--at all.  I used to sneer at cat people and wonder what they could possibly see in the snotty little stereotyped image I had of cats.  But now that's changed--I've changed--because of a cat named Carl.

Carl wrestling with a dog toy--action shot, hence the blur!

This past July, we wandered into a pet store looking for a harness for my black lab, Bella.  I never usually look at the cats, but that day I did.  About thirty kittens--if not more--occupied one cage.  (Horrible, actually.) Out of the heap, erupted a tiny black fluffy head covered with cat litter--but he had swagger.  (I've always been a sucker for swagger.) Despite the crowd of furry bodies and dirt covering him, he sauntered up the ramp like he owned it.  I had to have him.

Even the kids were shocked by my "need" to save that dirty kitten who was so skinny he looked sickly. I couldn't blame them--I surprised myself with the intensity of my need to adopt this kitten.  Only three months old, his chart told a story of abandonment and shyness. When I held him, he fit into the palms of my hands and stared at me with oversized eyes.  No way I was putting him back in that cage and walking away!

Carl's addition to the family has brought us more joy than I ever thought possible.  Even the dogs love him.  He fetches, leaps through the air, attacks shadows, drags interesting things from behind the dryer, wrestles with our Aussie Shepherd, lunges from beneath furniture, allows our black lab to treat him like a puppy, snuggles with us, struts through the house wiggling his little butt and stalks our cockatiel.  (Okay, so maybe the bird is the only living thing in the house that isn't overjoyed with the new addition.)

Play.  That's the difference.  We're all playing--and laughing--every day now.

Funny how we forget to play.  It was an easy thing to remember in my 20s when the main motivator was what to do on the weekends.  When the kids were little, play was natural and part of parenting.  Now, at least for me, life has become more about working, driving the kids around, paying bills, helping with homework, keeping the house from falling apart and juggling solo-parent responsibilities.  Yes, we have fun.  We travel, hang out, do our thing but...it's scheduled.  That's the difference.  Where once we had fun every day, somewhere along the way we forgot to play.

I'm thankful for the reminder that play is not only okay, but necessary for JOY. Thanks to Carl the fluffy cat with swagger, play time is back!
Carl the Cat--beloved new addition to the Easton family.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making friends with chaos

Lately, every day brings me a new adventure.  I swear I'm giving new meaning to flying by the seat of my pants.  A few years ago, I engraved the saying, "chaos is a friend of mine" on the back of my iPod---maybe that was a bad idea as it seems to have been a self-fulfilling prophesy!

My novel, Kiss Me Slowly, had been slated to be released in November.  Then it got bumped up by three weeks, which is a good thing.  I'm not complaining.  However, in typical Amber-style, the email from my publisher notifying me of this change got lost in the mayhem of Yahoo in-box organization.  If it weren't for my editor's "happy release day" comment, I would have missed my own book launch!  

Over the past few years, I've grown accustomed to twists and turns.  I usually wake up and immediately think, "gee, I wonder what's gonna happen today." I've gotten in the habit of saying, "it looks like lunch on Friday will work out, but I'll call you if something comes up."  To know me is to know everything is subject to change at the last minute.  Accept it or don't, but that's just how it is.  Some people can't handle my in-flux lifestyle.  Some people have gone so far as to say my constant changing is "suspicious".  (That's my way of acknowledging how I can annoy people with changing my mind and my plans on a whim.)

In my last blog post, Uncharted, I talked about how hard it is to embrace change sometimes.  It is.  I still feel that way about major life events unfolding in ways that I wasn't prepared for--and often am scared when thinking about the ramifications of certain things. That's true.  It seems like I've developed an unintentional theme for my life:  chaos.  

I am slowly learning to embrace the flow--slowly! I'm starting to enjoy the unpredictability, actually.  It's fun, in a way, to be surprised at a change in events.  Everything--even a tragedy or a seemingly challenging situation--can lead you to something amazing if you're willing to allow yourself to be carried with the flow of the Universe and open yourself up to the possibilities of greatness.  It's a lesson that I'm learning--slowly.  Like it or not, that self-fulfilling prophesy is becoming reality:  chaos is a friend of mine. 




Monday, October 10, 2011

Uncharted

A lot about life is unpredictable.  Hell, any one of us could get die tomorrow.  So--if life is all about the unknown--why is it so scary to leave our comfort zones?  You'd think we'd eventually get used to the idea of "wing'n it".

I haven't.  I still get the heebie-jeebies when doing something I've never done before, which lately seems to happen almost daily.  With me, though, it's not so much about being afraid of what's next, but being reluctant to release the old.

I'm sick of loss, but it seems inevitable. Ever since Sean died, I feel like I've been on an endless loop of change.  I lost him.  I lost the identity of wife and stay-at-home mom. I lost my sense of security and of partnership.  I changed--became darker and more cynical, I can admit that.  I guess you could call that a loss of innocence...and confidence.

Now my life is unfolding in miraculous ways.  My confidence is back.  I'm taking care of unfinished business, confronting issues that would have festered before and looking ahead toward the unknown.  I'm taking control and heading full-throttle out of my comfort zone.

Adapt or die, isn't that the saying?

Terrified pretty much sums up my state-of-mind.  Scared shitless is also accurate.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  But that seems to be a constant theme in my life these days.

Sometimes I feel I've left some carnage in my wake--for that, I am deeply sorry.  It's not my intent to hurt anyone as I work out these changes in myself, my schedule and my life, but I know I have.  I'd go so far to say that there were times I danced on the edge of crazy with my sense of overwhelm and made a few erratic choices.  Some people became collateral damage.  That's the part of change...letting go...moving forward... evolving...that sucks.

I'm not the same person I was a decade ago.  Hell, I'm not the same Amber I was a year ago.  But I firmly believe that I am who I am meant to be today, in this moment.  I feel that every change I've undergone, each decision I've made, has prepared me for all the good that's coming my way.  Living life in a constant state of flux, which is how it feels, is simply the way of things right now.

I don't know if I'll ever feel secure like I once did.  Perhaps I don't want to anymore.  Maybe that way of being limits more than benefits.  Who knows?  Maybe when I'm an eighty year old woman, I'll know, but right now I can only guess.  Like I said, I have no idea what I'm doing.  Most days I'm just clinging to the edge of my seat wondering what's gonna happen next...luckily, it's usually something amazing...or at least something worthy of a good story.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stories

As humans, it's natural to create stories in our day to day lives.  A friend doesn't return a phone call--create a story.  Someone becomes distant who once was close--spin a tale about the why.  Most of what we tell ourselves is harmless, but when we use those stories to justify our own bad behavior or give us excuses, the spin becomes dangerous.

I know I've been guilty of this over the course of my life.  As an author, I'm always creating stories--writing fiction--so my imagination is ripe.  There are times when I need to tell myself, "stop it, this is real life, you need facts, save the creating for work."  I've gotten good at stopping myself from writing stories in my mind about real life situations by asking myself, "is this true? do you know that it's true? are you absolutely certain it's true?"  Usually the third question trips me up and I stop my mind from spinning.

A situation happened last week, though, that's got the wheels turning again.  Someone I considered a good friend had become distant over the past three or four months.  When I confronted her about that and some things I'd heard that caused me to question trust, her response was "I don't owe you an explanation."

That floored me...not because I want people to be accountable to me because that is NOT the case (and I honestly could care less about "controlling" anyone else when I have a hard enough time controlling my own life)...but because we were talking about a relationship where I thought there was give and take.  I also wanted to stop the story telling of my own mind and get to the root of the issue in order to hopefully move the relationship forward.

In her mind, however, the story she's created is that I wanted to control the relationship by making her defend her choices.  That makes me sad because that was never my intent and I would hate to ever make anyone feel that way.  But that is the story she has spun in her head.  I forgive that.  I get it.

I understand stories.  They get us in trouble sometimes, lead us astray, distort facts and fog our thinking.

My inlaws think I'm the reason Sean killed himself. From what I've heard from other widows of suicide victims, this is common.  The parents of the deceased need to create a story about the why--right or wrong and regardless of fact--they need that spin to protect themselves.

It's hard to combat someone's story.  A family member told me things about ME that never happened, but he believes it with a passion that's astounding. Even though it's my life he's talking about, he believes what he "knows" regardless of what I say.  His story gives him comfort in some way--provides a pay off that I don't understand.

But I'm sure I have stories, too, that wouldn't pass my three question rule.  Stories about why I didn't move when I wanted to and now regret it...about why I didn't get that exercise in today that I swore I would do...about why I don't date...and so on.  But I'm getting better at challenging myself when I hear my mind go off on a spin..."is this true? do you know that it's true? are you absolutely certain it's true?"

That third one gets me every time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Clearing the way

I firmly believe in Divine Timing.  I also believe that there are no coincidences, that every experience is meant to enhance my life--even the ugly moments.  Each moment has been like a stepping stone for all the good in my life today.

That may seem odd to say--that the ugly moments paved the way for the good--but I honestly think it's true.  I needed a family member to ruin Christmas last year so that I no longer felt obligated to compromise my happiness for people who truly don't understand me. That experience helped me sever the ties for approval that held me back for too long. Friends who betrayed me with gossip taught me that I need to be more careful about whom I trust and freed me to let new people into my life who parallel my journey. My dad blowing up my house taught me the value of patience and compassion.  I needed a snotty church lady to comment on my where-abouts to confirm my belief that I owe no one an explanation (and, church lady, perhaps that attitude is why I've been absent for three months).  All of these things bothered me when they happened, but only because I felt the break-away, sort  of like the pain of a bandage being ripped off.  

I feel free!  I feel light, as if I finally released my need for approval, control and security. Now there is good flowing into my life...my debut novel is being released in November...artistic people who line up with my lifestyle are showing up...opportunities are falling into my lap.  All I had to do was let go...rid my life of people who made me feel shut-down...let circumstances go that held me back...release limiting ideas and embrace the unknown.

That's all?  Yeah, you're right.  It wasn't easy.  The pain of breaking-away is poignant.

The break-away is still happening.  There are friends I see slipping away because our lives no longer mesh.  The old me would have fought it--but this new me says, "bon voyage and vaya con Dios".  It's all meant to be the way it is.

Although I do my happy dance regularly these days, my attitude is more like a ballsy 1930's chic who smokes long-cigarettes, sings while laying on top of a piano and runs moonshine on the side.  In other words, don't mess with me.  This break-away has revealed a woman who I always knew existed, but who's been hiding out in the back alleys of my being for awhile.  If you want honesty, that's what I'll give you. If you want perky Pollyanna, go somewhere else.  (Although I'm big on living at a high vibration, even Lola Jones of Divine Openings says that "high vibration" doesn't mean putting a positive spin on everything, it means being in complete alignment with our larger purpose.  Authentic.  There's a difference.)  

It's important that we embrace the ugly that life throws at us from time-to-time.  When I look back on Sean's suicide--that traumatic day--I am grateful I fell apart.  I went with the emotion instead of against it.  I expressed my anger, my pain and my sorrow instead of burying it.  Did I put a positive spin on it or am I trying to now?  Hell no. I  embraced the ugly, felt its darkness, kissed its hideous mouth--and emerged a far stronger person because of it.  I cleared the way for THIS...for joy, success, awe and confidence. Clearing the way is worth the pain of breaking-away.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The blame game

I don't know if you watch reality television or not, but last week a husband of one of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" committed suicide.  Immediately the blame game began:  must be the wife's fault for being on reality television...must be the network's fault for portraying him badly...must be the pressure of living beyond his means that got to him...she looks like a cold bitch...she must have been too selfish to care.  

This all hit close to home with me.  When Sean committed suicide, I was that wife who everyone started wondering and whispering about.  Wow, she must be horrible to live with.  Didn't she know her husband needed help?  Why didn't she make him get help?  It doesn't matter than making a grown man do anything he doesn't want to is impossible.  There is a reason that therapists say someone cannot be treated unless they acknowledge that they need help...and then want help.

Some how and in some way I had to be the reason why he chose to leave this earth.  People needed someone or something to blame.  I remained alive; therefore, I had to know the answer as to WHY, right?  

I didn't know the answer as to why.  Still don't.  Sean's suicide was not my fault.  No one's suicide is ever the fault of anyone else.  It is not the fault of anything outside of that person, for that matter.  Suicide is a solo decision born out of despair and a darkness so all-consuming that it distorts rational thinking.  Suicide is a purely individual act.  

Death is tragic--whether it is cancer, war, murder, accident or suicide.  A loss has occurred.  Period.  Mourn the person's life rather than speculate over the WHY of death. 

Even six years later, I feel the stain of suicide on my life.  I carry it with me always like a giant S tattooed on my forehead.  When I meet someone new and they discover I am a widow, I am always asked how Sean died.  I don't know why people need to know HOW someone died, but it always has an adverse effect on the mood of the conversation.  I doubt a divorced person is immediately asked, "why did you get a divorce?" in a casual setting by a virtual stranger.  But I am always asked how--regardless of if I am in an exercise class, a bar or a party.  Geez!  Are manners a thing of the past?

Have we as a society lost all sense of boundaries and common decency?

Even if it weren't suicide, it's not a good subject to bring up in a social setting.  But it happens.  I meet a guy...he asks if I'm divorced...I say "no, I'm a widow"...he asks, "how did your husband die?"  REALLY?!  I don't want to talk about the how--no one does in a social setting. I have tried all of the answers like "I don't like to discuss that" or "now isn't the time for that"...but the reaction is always the same. They still want to know how.  And, once the S word is uttered, I see the wheels spinning, the dynamic changes and the conversation becomes awkward.

People who survive the suicide of a loved one live with it daily--even years later.  We don't need to be reminded or criticized or judged.  We do not need to openly discuss the why or the how with you just because you're curious.

Let it be.  If someone you meet says they are a widow or widower, let it be.  It's not your business as to how...or why...or anything else. 

Stop the blame game, the judgment, the speculation and the whispering.  If you learn anything from me, let it be that suicide is not the fault of anyone.  It is a tragedy like any other death.  It is not open for round-table discussions about how evil the spouse/parents/significant others must have been.  It is not a stigma.  It is NOT entertainment.  

Maybe as a society we have become desensitized.  Personal boundaries have blurred.  Respect seems like an old-fashioned concept.  Compassion is rare.  Kindness is labeled as weakness.  Personally, I think that is a tragedy that affects us all. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Saying no to CNN

For about a year now--maybe longer--I've been on this kick of consciously choosing what I put into my mind.  I choose what I watch on television, listen to on the radio, and read.  I also choose the people I spend time with by avoiding all energy suckers and jerks.  I choose how I spend my time and make no apologies for how I spend it.  And, despite this blog that seems to tell all, I also choose what I allow people to know.  (Only a few people get to see the wizard behind the curtain.) 


Maybe this seems like a no-brainer to some of you, but let me ask you this:  Do you watch the news just because you want noise in the house and get caught up in trials of strangers in far away places? Do you find yourself getting all fired up over situations a world away that have no bearing on your life?  WHY?  Why expose yourself to anger, frustration or fear on purpose?


Choice is a powerful freedom that we all have.  If you can choose to shut out the negative noise in your life and feed yourself with positive experiences, why don't you?


I am not advocating ignorance.  That would be...well...ignorant.  Instead I am saying that we need to protect ourselves from being inundated with madness.  Just like we have the ability to choose the food we eat, we also have the ability to choose what information we allow into our minds.  Managing our own lives--and our health--is more important than what Palin is doing on her bus.  (Trust me--a truer sentence has never been written.)


The next time you find yourself watching the news out of habit or boredom, take a minute to gauge how it's making you feel.  Are you going to take that feeling with you when you attend your child's basketball game?  Is that anxious feeling going to stick with you when you try to sleep at night?  Why? Why do that to yourself when you don't need to?


Choosing my exposure to the news--and what kind of news I read or hear--has elevated my mood.  I feel free.  I am in control. I am living on purpose.  Shouldn't we be in control of ourselves?


Go on a mental cleanse for a week.  Wash your mind out with joy and fun.  Force it, if you need to, but try it. Turn off the talk radio and listen to your iPod.  Seek joy!


No, I am not a Pollyanna.  I am not advocating a Hide-Your-Head-In-The-Sand-And-Pretend-All-Is-Perfect mindset.  I am advocating freedom to turn off the constant flow of news and choose something uplifting or fun instead.  Why not?  If you're afraid that it will make you stupid if you cut off the 24/7 news flow, then...well...enough said.


Self-worth is more important than net-worth.  Invest in yourself.  Take your power back.  Choose to look for the positive instead of being mired in the negative. Who knows?  Maybe you'll realize that you're not a grumpy SOB after all! (and maybe you'll realize there's more good in the world than is being reported on CNN.)



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spiking the ball

I started writing stories when I was nine years old.  I would sit in my bed and allow my imagination to come to life in tablets about horses, love (yeah, I was nine...but I tried to imagine), mystery, and I even wrote one about murderous ghosts (must have been puberty).

Along the way, people scoffed at my dream of being a writer full-time.  Dreamers don't make money, they said.  Nice hobby, they said.  Being a writer is like being an actress or singer, few people ever make it, they said.  As I grew up, it became even more derisive.  I started not admitting to writing manuscripts and "legitimized" myself with jobs that ranged from journalist to a registered representative at a national brokerage house (my dark period).  But I never stopped writing those stories. Never.

I felt like an addict--secretive for many years about how I spent my free time.  I attended writers' conferences like a spy heading off on a mission. Where are you going this weekend?  Um...San Diego.  For what?  Um...to hang out. (Okay, so I wouldn't have been a very good spy.)

Well, guess what?  I am a published author.  My first romantic suspense novel, Kiss Me Slowly, is being released in November 2011 via Siren-BookStrand Publishing.  It will be the first of many to come as I have others in the pipeline as I write this.

Do you know what it feels like to have a dream come to life?  To have that dream validated?  It feels like I caught the ball, scored the winning touchdown in the Superbowl and am doing my celebratory dance beneath the goal line--complete with shimmies and jazz hands, baby.

This is fun.  Perhaps I need to find a more profound word to describe what it's like to live out a dream, but right now fun describes it perfectly.  When did fun become a bad word anyway?  It's good to have fun. Isn't that the point? To enjoy life? To enjoy what you do?  To embrace the joy?

Well, I am enjoying myself and that's that.  Suck it up.  I deserve this.  I worked hard for it.  I never gave up when the rejection letters came.  I never gave up when people rolled their eyes at me.  I stayed in the game despite the odds.  Now I am having fun.  I love it.  I love that I get to consult on the cover.  I love that I have a publication timeline.  I love that my characters will get an opportunity to entertain someone for awhile.  I love that the story I created will make someone smile when they turn that last page.  That's fun stuff.  That's like waking up on Christmas morning and finding out that Santa is real!

Like it or not, I'm spiking the ball and enjoying a WIN.  How do you like my shimmy, baby?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When it all goes to hell

My dad likes to help out when he visits.  We like to say he has ADD because the man has to be busy at all times.  Last weekend he came out to Colorado for a quick trip.  He wanted a list of projects to do, but I said that we didn't have anything.

"No list?  No Grandpa to-do list?" he asked, looking like his world had just caved in around him.

"No projects, really. It's all good.  Just relax this weekend," I said, obviously delusional because I thought that the subject would end there.

Well, dad can't sit still.  Before I knew it, he had the chainsaw out and was eying some trees in the yard.  (I live in the forest so there are plenty of potential victims for him to "clear out".)  One tree in particular seemed to appeal to dad.  It stood about two stories high and tilted severely to the east--right over a power line.  Actually, the power line went through a few branches.  I told him not to touch it. Leave it.  Don't go near it.  Too dangerous.

Does he listen?  No.  He takes the first opportunity to climb up a ladder with a chainsaw.  (Picture a 73 year old stubborn Norwegian who becomes deaf when told not to do something he really wants to do.)  

Timber!  Yep, he cut off the top.  It took out the power line that ripped right from the side of my house. Luckily, no one died.  (I thought I should put that out there right away--dad survived.)  

"What the hell just happened?  Do you know how dangerous that was? Do you have any idea what kind of trouble this is going to be?" I asked, still in shock over witnessing the power line fall.  All I could think of was fines for taking down a power line, my neighbors losing power, and potential threat of fire (both house and forest).

He gives me the "do not talk to your father that way" look.  Can you believe it?  I'm 43, he just cut down a tree I asked him not to touch, took out a power line in my yard and I'm getting the stink-eye. 

The surge took out all of my appliances (minus the refrigerator), two stereos, three surge protectors that saved my office equipment and televisions (thank God), lamps, blender, toaster, electrical sockets, etc.  Light bulbs literally blew up one by one throughout the house.  Sizzle.  Buzz. Snap.  When the electric company arrived, the man said he could smell my house from up the road.

No one ever wants to hear that your house can be smelled from up on the road.  (Unless you're making candles or running an aroma therapy spa, I suppose.) 

I wish I could say I wasn't growing accustomed to chaos, but that's not true.  I am actually beginning to expect catastrophe when things start going too well around here.  Is that a good or bad thing?  Believe it or not, I'm thinking it's a good thing.

I am becoming very good at handling trouble (after taking a few minutes to breathe alone in my room, that is). When things are going well, I know it and practically bow down and kiss the earth with gratitude.  I go with the flow--I made a pizza on the grill the other day (you know...because I no longer have a working oven for the time being).  I prioritize--what plan needs to be shelved so I can accomadate this latest upheaval to my budget?  I have become adept at being fluid.

So, when life goes to hell, I go with it.  I feel the raw emotions at the time--the anxiety, the fear, the anger, the frustration--and express what I need to without denying the reality of the situation (stink-eye or not).  But when things get better, as they always do, I notice that the highs are higher than ever.  Like a kid on a swing, I go backward but get ready for the upswing, point my toes, lean back and aim for the sky.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting lost in the city of light

When I was 22, I went to Europe.  I like to call it my Avoiding-Reality-As-Long-As-Possible-Tour.  I had graduated with my BA degree and didn't want to deal with real life yet.  So I went to Europe.  Alone.

As a kid who grew up in South Dakota, I wasn't exactly worldly.  Although my family had traveled a lot--I had been to 38 states before high school graduation--international travel was new to me.  I made mistakes.  I tried too hard to be cool--something I wasn't at all--but made friends quickly with fellow reality-avoiders from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Puerto Rico and Canada. We bonded over our shared side of the Atlantic and our mutual desire to have a good time. 

In Paris, Michelle (NY), the Puero Ricans and myself got lost along the winding city streets.  None of us spoke French--of course.  We were drunk--of course.  And things got dicey.  Somewhere along the way, the police were called and we were running through the streets in the middle of the night scared of being tossed in a Paris jail for some law we didn't know we had broken.  So we ran.  We got lost.  Very lost.

That night was one of the best memories of the trip.  Not the being chased by police--we were never captured, by the way--but the getting lost part.  We laughed until we could barely breathe, bonded over the not-knowing-what-the-hell-was-going-on feeling as we tried to figure out how far we were from the beaten path, unified when being screamed at by some Parisian leaning out her window, and mutually shocked when we turned a corner and--wa-la--found our hotel.  Getting lost proved to be the best thing that could have happened that night. 

The fun mix of Americans, Canadians and Puerto Ricans from 21 years ago--yes, THOSE were the days. (I'm the blonde in the middle--pardon the perm.)

Getting lost is usually the best thing that can happen.  If we had stayed with our group, gone to the bar or wherever it was everyone else was going, we would have missed out on a unique adventure.  Yes, we were all a bit scared about the police situation (okay, it was a heart-in-the-throat-I-want-to-throw-up feeling), but it turned into a hilarious moment in time that could never be duplicated. (Well, we came close again in Rome with two abusive nuns...but that's another story.)

Getting lost gives us a fresh perspective that we wouldn't have had otherwise.  Now when I travel, I like to wander off on my own, toss aside the map, mix with some locals and see what happens. If nothing else, I always end up with a good story. 

Some might say that I've been lost since Sean died and I won't argue that.  Maybe I have wandered, strayed from my plans, retraced my steps only to deviate from the path completely.  I wouldn't change a thing.  What I have learned, the things I have seen, the people I have met, the depths I have experienced are priceless in my eyes.  Getting lost was not only worth it--but necessary. 

Life is an adventure.  Getting lost--deviating from the norm--is worth the heart-stopping-is-this-a-good-idea feeling you may get along the way.

I still laugh when I think of Paris.  Sometimes the laugh catches someone off-guard who is telling me about their amazing trip, but I can't help but smile remembering how fun it was to get lost in the city of light.  C'est la vie. 

Just for fun: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals--Paris (courtesy of YouTube).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stage fright

Have you ever been involved in the production of a play?  Have you ever stood behind the curtain, slightly off-stage and watched the audience gathering in their seats?  Anticipation and excitement charge the air, yet stage fright whispers of critics and forgotten cues.

Have you ever stared at a blank screen as the cursor blinks while you struggle to find the perfect words to unleash your thoughts? The story is there, the idea is brilliant, yet that first paragraph eludes you. 

Sometimes beginnings aren't so simple.  Self-doubt and fear lay beneath the anticipation.  It's easy to say trite things like "leap and the net will follow" or something like that.  Motivational quotes are my specialty.  Reading is easier than leaping.  (I read a lot.)

Starting over has been a lot like standing in the dark behind that curtain waiting for my cue.  I have done all the prep work, know all my lines, have gone through a few costume changes, know there will be critics waiting for me to miss a step...and know the only choice is to go on stage and give it my best.

Putting myself out there, risking my pride or being vulnerable are not new concepts in my life.  Whether I am publishing a blog post, an article or a novel, I am saying "here I am, world" and am comfortable with whatever consequences follow.  I go to battle for my kids and what I believe in without regard to what people may think.

It's not that I never make a fool of myself by putting myself "out there"...because I do.  In Cancun, I silenced the rowdy Senor Frogs crowd when I sang karoeke with my friend Jane (Girls may want to have fun, but we weren't enjoying the stage much that day).  In college, I tripped on the catwalk while modeling in a hair show at a local night club--while wearing an extremely short skirt (also silenced that crowd).  Do I regret these embarrassing moments? There is no denying that both situations mortified me, but I survived.  So my answer is no.  I do not regret trying something new, chancing ridicule and braving the unknown.

So why then has starting over been such a challenge for me? Why has this beginning been more challenging than all of the others in my past?

Why is that damn cursor still blinking on the blank page of this new chapter of my life? 

Why the hesitation this time around? 

Know what I am afraid of?  Forgetting. 

I think forgetting is what I fear most about fully engaging in my new life--forgetting Sean, forgetting his voice, forgetting his laugh, forgetting his love, forgetting his life, forgetting him

The ending to the old life wasn't my choice.  I needed to let go in my own time and in my own way. It hasn't been easy--nor should anyone have expected it to be.  Being a widow is far different than being divorced in that we did not choose this circumstance. There was no prep time.

But usually we don't get prep time for the life-altering events in our lives.  That's how the Universe works--tossing in a twist just when we think we have the story figured out.  

So I improvise.  Some improvisations work and some fail.  I move forward...then fall backward. I begin...then pause.  Stage fright?  Feels like it, to be honest.  Anticipation.  Excitement. Self-doubt. Fear.  Stress. Enthusiasm. Passion.  Definitely, stage fright.

No, beginnings aren't always easy.  Sometimes the words flow freely and everything falls into sync, but more often they don't.  Sometimes there are a lot of false starts and missteps. 

Even at the risk of making a fool of myself, I put myself out there and say, "here I am, take me or leave me."  I begin.  Again. (and, hopefully, the rowdy crowd cheers this time.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Completion


As my stylist cut my hair last Friday, a woman popped her head around the corner and said, "it's YOU."  Well, I automatically went into "oh-no-do-I-want-it-to-be-me" mode as I struggled to place how I knew her.  Then she said, "I was first on scene at your husband's suicide.  I've been praying for you and your kids every day and wondering how you were.  You are amazing.  I'm so happy to see you."

A myriad of emotions ran through my mind at this simple statement.  Apprehension.  Fear. Sadness.  Shock.  Relief.

Yes, relief.  As she talked, I felt a growing sense of validation for the past years of struggle.  I can tell people what a horrific day that was, but there are truly no words to describe the actual scene without freaking people out.  (People don't like real horror when it comes to someone they know personally. It becomes too overwhelming for them.) 

This woman is a Victim's Advocate for the sheriff's department.  Rushing to death scenes and crime scenes is her business.  She is one of those heroic people who rush in and see things that most people don't have the stomach to witness.  She did this with me.  I have thought of her, too, over the years as an unknown angel who had the grace to hold my hand in the midst of a nightmare. 

As first on scene that day, she saw me giving my husband CPR despite his nearly severed neck, heard the kids screaming for me to save him, and saw the dysfunction of my support system as they trickled in during the night.  She said to me that, despite the many deaths and traumatic situations she has seen since that night,  the kids and I have haunted her because of the in-your-face nature of my husband's death and how alone we were in the midst of the chaos.  She said that every time she passes my neighborhood she says a prayer for us because she has never been able to shake that night from her mind. 

So, yes, she validated the struggle we have had getting over and beyond the trauma of it all.  Most people don't get it and wonder why I'm not remarried or why my career hasn't been a priority until recently.  Almost since day one, I have been told to get over it, move on or snap out of it even as the kids and I dealt with grief over losing the center of our world and anxiety of witnessing a suicide.  Hearing the judgmental comments repeatedly over five years has worn me down, pissed me off, made me doubt myself, ignited my rebellious nature and tainted my view of humanity with cynicism. 

Hearing a seasoned professional say she has also not been able to shake the events of that day relieved me in ways I find difficult to explain.  I felt so much lighter after speaking to her.  I felt free. I felt strong.

Perhaps I even felt vindicated.  

As for those who continue to judge without ever walking in my shoes or knowing the full story, back off.  Be grateful that you did not witness what we did that day.  Be grateful that you haven't walked in my shoes.  Be grateful to not know what I know. 

Talking to that woman made me happy to be the "YOU" she sought, not because she felt sorry for me (she didn't and pity is something I would reject), but because she knew...she witnessed...she stood by my side during the worst hours of my life and admired my strength.  Talking to her completed a chapter I had been struggling to end. 

She gave me her phone number.  We're going to have lunch soon.  I am lucky to have people like her---people with tenderness, compassion and a heroic soul--enter my life.  Yes, I am very lucky.

Peace to you--
Amber
 
Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alter ego? Nah. This is really me.

I canceled a date about a month ago.  It didn't feel right--in fact, it felt creepy so I followed my instinct and backed out.  Does this make me a chicken...someone afraid of diving back into the dating world?  No, I don't think so.  I have lived long enough to trust my gut instinct over social pressure.

But the fact that I have been widowed for five years, am not a serial dater yet write romance novels confuses people.  Apparently, my solo lifestyle freaks people out.  I write love stories and am a big fan of the male species so how can I be content as a single woman?  Must be my alter ego writing those sex scenes because the real me is...what?  Uptight?  A mouse?  A wallflower?

Hardly.  I like sex.  I like men.  I like letting loose.  I particularly enjoy flirting and getting wild.  In fact, I have often said that I need a keeper--someone to reel me in when I get a little out of hand.  I have experienced euphoria and sorrow in the name of love.  I am passionate about everything.

But some people don't see that side of me because I don't trust them.  Because they don't see that side of me, they say things like my writing must be the product of my alter ego or question why I don't enjoy talking about my work with them.  (Of course it is all said with a laugh...but we all know that the most cutting things can be dismissed as a joke that isn't quite a joke.) 

I have been hurt a lot in my life.  I can be guarded, it's true.  Unless I feel 100% accepted around someone, the unguarded me doesn't come out to play.  Instead I smile politely and evade personal questions because something screams "JUDGMENT" to my ears.  I sometimes shield myself from further betrayal and heartache by retreating behind a mask that says Back-Off-And-Move-Along. 

I have lived a big often messy but always interesting life.  I have experienced love, loss, grief, adventure, triumph, violence, terror, compassion and bliss.  If you don't know that, then it's safe to assume that I don't trust you enough to let you close.

Trust isn't a given.  My intuition is right 100% of the time.  I trust it.  I trust myself.  If that inner voice cautions me against opening up, then so be it.  I have earned the right to protect my heart. 

So, no, the romance writer is not a manifestation of an alter ego.  I am the sassy heroine of my story--occasionally dark or funny or sad or balsy or silly or profound.  I am simultaneously the mysterious woman in the corner observing from the shadows and the loud woman laughing from the sheer joy of being alive.  I am a contradiction.  I am content calling my own shots, taking up the entire bed, solo-parenting my kids, being accountable to no one and writing the night away. 

If you don't see me that way, then you have not earned that all-access pass to my life yet. Perhaps what I allow you to see is the protective shell surrounding a ball of fire.

I wonder...do horror writers ever get asked if they have the life experience to pull off a novel about slasher-psycho-zombie-vampire-mutant-escapees-from-the-mental-asylum-who-go-on-a-murderous rampage?  Nah.  I bet not.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

40-somethings

The truth is shocking but here goes:  I don't want to get remarried.  It is not on my agenda and no where near the top of my priority list.  So...to all the 40-something men who quake in their shoes when I approach...relax. 

I am not a dater, not really.  I have stumbled into some..situations, we'll say...but no serious relationships since my husband died.  Is it because I hate men?  Not at all.  I love men.  I like talking to them, flirting with them, hanging out with them, being with them. Sometimes I think I have more in common with men than women.  I love sports, playing pool and tossing back Tuaca shots almost as much as I love getting a mani-pedi or a facial. 

But I have realized something about 40-something men and it's not too attractive.  Most of the ones I chat with really think they are something they are not.  Their egos have been battered along the way either by cheating ex-spouses or life in general so they overcompensate with grandiose statements that make me wince.  (Not judging here:  hell, anyone who has lived a life and risked their hearts has suffered some wounds and accumulated some baggage, whether man or woman.) But the men I talk to say things like the following:
  • "Most 40-something women want to be rescued".  (By the way, the 46 year old divorced man who said this to me is currently living in the spare room of a buddy's house, starting over from scratch after losing his business, and is bankrupt.) Here's the truth:  most of the 40-something women I know are educated independent professionals, either entreprenuers or sucessful career types, who love their kids and their friends with abandon.  In other words, they've got it goin' on. 
  • "Women our age just want daddies for their kids."  Not true.  If a 40-something woman has children she has most likely either been divorced or is widowed.  If divorced, there is a baby daddy already who is either in the picture or not--either way, what makes you think you are good enough to be our children's father figure?  Silly boy.  If widowed--like me--I honor the memory of my children's father and protect my kids like the metaphorical mama bear.  If you're lucky enough to even meet my children, then you've made it pretty far into my life.  Don't assume you are "all that" and good enough to fill that role. 
  • "Younger women have less drama".  This one makes me laugh.  Less drama? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are 42 and dating a 28 year old, for example, she DOES want to be taken care of, is still figuring herself out and is less mature than your 40-something counterpart.  All that screams drama to me.  Yes, your ego might get a boost from the delusion of your hotness, but you are actually setting yourself up for failure.  A cute 28 year old chic doesn't go out with an overweight, balding 40-something man nearing the Viagra age without an agenda.  All those things you were afraid of? Someone needing to be taken care of, someone wanting a baby daddy...?  Well, that's exactly what you're getting in this scenario. 
A 27 year old snowboard instructor from Argentina hit on me this past January.  Did my ego get a boost?  Sure, for a little while. He was exotic, hot and young.  He made me feel attractive and gave me some flashbacks to my younger days.  (The song "Does Your Mama Know That You're Out" from Mama Mia kept replaying through my mind.)  But more than an ego boost, it amused me. At the end of the day, after what might be a good roll in the sheets, I don't want another child who needs me to guide him along his life's journey. 

I truly adore men, but I am not pining away for Prince Charming to whisk me away.  I actually enjoy being single.  One day it would be nice to have a life partner to share sunsets, memories and laughs...but I am not looking for another husband.  To the men I've spoken to who think all women in their 40's are looking for a ring, I hate to ding your fragile egos with the knowledge that we aren't.  

I don't know many 40-something women who are needy or desperate in any way.  Seriously, I don't.  Maybe I'm just associating with the right crowd.  As Kenny Chesney sings in his song Better as a Memory, "all my friends are pirates".  My friend Molly said that to me once when we were talking about our friendship and I had to look it up on You Tube.  (I don't listen to country music.)  Maybe all my friends are pirates--savvy 40-something women with a lot of power wondering if they'll ever find a co-captain who can be their equal partner in life.

Maybe I am a pirate sailing solo for now and I'm okay with that.  I like the freedom, the excitement of not knowing what's beyond the horizon and the control of sailing my ship any direction I choose.