Responsibility

IMG_1059I owe my friend Sharon an apology. She asked about my new car, probably because black is notorious for being difficult to keep clean. Sharon wanted to know if washing the car was my husband’s job and I replied “my car, my responsibility” …

Yeah, but. It wasn’t always. This marriage has been pretty traditional for almost thirty years. Then everything went sideways about a year ago. Husband hated yard work and so moved us into a condo. I was okay with it because I was okay with everything. That was my role, to be okay with whatever he wanted because he was the boss and we got along better when I said yes. 

So Sharon, he chose the cars, he washed the cars, he kept gas in the cars. If he wanted to drive my car, and leave me with his old rusted out truck for a weekend, he didn’t ask, he just took my car. Photo above is the interior of the car. I chose this car. First time ever. The color of the leather is called “linen.” Husband and his brother are going up north to visit his dad in a few weeks. I already said “You can’t take my car. It’s too clean for three guys. I’m sorry.” Also, I want my own car. I want to always be in the drivers’ seat.

I have a job, and I’m a writer, too, but before this change of marriage roles, none of that counted, my real job was to make dinner. And clean the kitchen. And grocery shop. And vacuum, dust, wash, fold, iron laundry, keep a tidy home, and just in general agree with his opinions, wants, and desires.

So, when we moved, it seemed normal that he bought everything he liked and I just smiled and said “that’s nice” wishing I could have had what I really wanted. Even the Jeepster. It was a great vehicle, but when he bought it, I was still saying “that’s nice” and he was still washing it (I needed a ladder to get into it let alone wash the roof) and putting gas in it. That was his job, the cars. The money. The bathrooms. Hell yes he’s a liberated man!

So Sharon, little by little all of this stuff started to occur to me. Little by little, like with the bathrooms (my idea!) I started to assert an opinion here and there. Not warmly received, let me just say. I demur pretty quickly, even now. But I want a more equal relationship. So after the crash, I said I wanted to choose my own car. First time in the history of car ownership here at this house. Earlier this summer,  I wanted to choose my own new laptop. (Electronics were his responsibility). And I did. I chose the laptop and the car.

So he was not happy with my choices but he’s living with them. He’s not helping me learn anything on the Mac, which is fine, I bought classes for a year and I am a good student and these people don’t yell at me, say they don’t have time, or otherwise put me off when I need something done that I have no idea how to do because it is a man job. I’m finding out about man jobs because I’m doing everything for myself now.

It’s not that much different. But I will be running my car through the cash wash from now on. Just wanted to tell you and maybe some other women (hey, men too) who might be thinking about re-defining their marriage roles. It’s not easy being equal.

Paint It Black

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Not sure when things started going dark. Knew it was the medication for almost daily migraines since the accident. Knew I didn’t have clinical depression, knew I was lucky, knew I had some stuff to sort out but felt up to the task. It was just … I felt sad. Every day. For maybe a week. The routine became familiar. Mornings, if I slept more than a few hours, I’d wake up hopeful. Start the day feeling serene. But, slowly the slide into sadness would begin and then, more often than not, migraine pain would beat its drum on my head. So, medication, then meditation. If I’d only slept a few hours, I’d nap and wake up feeling better.

Same thing next day. According to Hara Estroff Marano, “the human brain has a negativity bias” — it takes five positive experiences to offset one negative experience. I have always been a positive person, maybe too positive. I’m all about bright sides and silver linings. So I didn’t enjoy my descent into hell, but I knew if I could generate some positive experiences and fit them into my days, my mood would lift. Just a day without a migraine is a win for me. A night when I sleep more than four or five hours is a win. If I exercise, yay me. If I eat right, happiness ensues. If I write that day, and I write every day, I’m good. If class goes well, and it has been, although early days yet, I’m thrilled.

So it was much to my surprise that when I chose a new car, I picked black. Just returning to the dealer only a few months after picking up the Jeepster felt–not good. Telling the salesman what happened was hard. Explaining why I didn’t want to just go ahead and get another Cashmere Pearl Jeepster made me a little defensive. “I feel safe in a smaller car. One that fits my body.” But sitting there, I wavered. It would be easy to say, order me another one, just like the other one.

But I’d thought about it and after ten days of driving a car more my size I still felt, deep inside, more comfortable in something like the 200M my guy showed me. It doesn’t come in Cashmere Pearl, which at first bummed me out as I loved that color. I loved the NAME of that color more than the actual color. So I set about looking for a color that said YES to me. And it was not Red Velvet. It was not Bright Eye Blue. It was not Blinding White. It was Glossy, Shiny, Sinful Black. With buttery leather interior in a light linen color. The car had everything my Jeepster did, plus a panoramic sunroof. Something new!

It might be black on the outside, but there is plenty of light inside. And that’s sort of how I feel about my life right now. Yes, I’m having some dark and shiny issues. But inside I’m filled with light and I know I’m gonna be okay.

Emotional Encryption

reunion4Emotions are funny things. The way we move our bodies, the way we think our thoughts, the way we see the world, all of that goes into the emotion of the moment. Dancing, for example, makes me feel good. Like a secret code, moving my body to music changes my emotions in a positive, healthy way.

Dance is the answer to my search for some kind of aerobic exercise besides boring walking. I love yoga but in order to “live long and die short” six days of exercise is a must. And some of those need to be vigorous. I’m a writer. My fingers get more exercise than any other part of my body. I also love to read, so my eyes get a work out every day, too. 

For me, enjoying what I do is key. I needed to find something I loved as much as all my sedentary pursuits like meditation and yoga and reading and writing. I loved walking the hills of Seattle but I don’t live there and I need the endorphins of aerobic exercise now. I’ve considered joining many groups and classes, like a hiking group or a Zumba class. But my schedule is very full of group things just now and I need to guard my alone time.

Something solitary, then, was needed. After my Gypsy post, I got a clue. Dance. Alone. I don’t do well to choreographed moves, and I don’t go out dancing much anymore. I miss it. So I made up a playlist and it will be my pleasure to dance alone in my living room for 20 minutes three times a week. Maybe more! 

Gonna ease in with my yoga sun salutation to “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles)

Then will make myself laugh and shake my behind to “Get Up Off of That Thing” (James Brown)

3. “Call Me” — St Paul & the Broken Bones

4. “Hundreds of Ways” — Conor Oberst

5. “Rimbaud Eyes” — Dum Dum Girls

6. “Stranger to my Happiness” — Sharon Jones

7. “Under the Pressure” — The War on Drugs. “Under the Pressure” is an 8 minute song that has so many great dance moments but also kind of cools down near the end like a scarf trailing off in the wind.

Aerobic exercise is the final piece of my part of the Lisa Plan puzzle. I’m so pleased with myself for finally figuring it out. For this diet to work, it has to fit my life. I had to finesse it for me. So, Lisa and I plan to incorporate my alternatives into her awesome (and easy! and it works!) plan. 

This is the final Lisa Plan post. As we write the proposal and talk with agents, we will keep the permalink public for a few more weeks. For all the Lisa Plan posts, check top menu or click here.

“Meet My Character” Book Tour

Gypsy200In my twenties, I discovered I was part Romany. This really blew my mind. I didn’t know much about the culture and didn’t feel any connection except that I loved Stevie Nicks and the song Gypsy. Shallow, yes? But then I started to think more about my hidden heritage and I found some threads that connected me to it. Or at least to the cliches our culture had taught me. I love to dance. I read Tarot. I’m into the mystic. Dress kinda boho.

As a young teen, I traveled (by thumb, not caravan) across much of the country. Nobody in my family thought anything of it. My grandfather rode the rails as a young man, staying in hobo camps, swapping stories and having adventures before completely reinventing himself into the very proper and mannered gentleman I always knew. So, wow, I was shocked. For a minute. 

Then I remembered his mother read tea leaves during the Great Depression to keep food on the table. When my grandfather reinvented himself, he changed his name, (first, middle, and last!) married up, moved to a new state, and worked his way into an executive position at Ford Motor Company. He didn’t have much to do with his family of origin anymore. 

“We embarrass him,” one of my great-aunts commented during a visit I made to the old neighborhood with my mother. Things kind of clicked into place. I didn’t know I had Rom blood because he didn’t want me to know. And that’s one of the things my character Laurel, from my own Gypsy (the title a homage to Ms. Nicks), has in common with me. Her mother has a reason she doesn’t want Laurel and her sisters to know they’re Rom. And it’s really bad.

But Laurel has secrets of her own. She visits a magical place called Paradise Fields with a little boy named Ryan, her guide to another dimension, but more, someone who leads her through space and time. Laurel’s mission is to travel the world to sit in compassion with dying children as they pass into other realms. It’s her life’s work, and nobody knows about it.

Then one day, Ryan takes Laurel to a young girl in Romania who doesn’t die. Next, Laurel aids another young girl, much closer to home. After Laurel’s promotion, things get scary. She has to stop murderers and rapists and doesn’t know much about how to work with her powers. It’s a learning on the job situation.

Laurel’s life takes another even more thrilling turn when swoony gyspy cop Nate Haywood enters the picture. Nate asks Laurel for promotional help (her day job) with the threatened Rom in their tiny, tight community. As their attraction grows, Laurel finds her secret life difficult to conceal from Nate.

There are mysteries solved, love stories consummated and sad passings in this paranormal novel I wrote (along with it’s follow up novella, Sweet Melissa) exclusively for Amazon KDP. You can check Gypsy out of their library for free or purchase it.  

I had so much fun researching the real Romany community as I wrote these stories. The culture my body only contains a strand of is more rich and intriguing than Stevie Nicks ever imagined. That’s one of the great things about writing stories. They connect you more deeply and fully to what you already want to know.

Special shout-out to Helen Christmas for the invitation to join the “Meet My Character” tour. Read about her own character here.  Helen sets her books where she lives, in England. ‘Beginnings’ introduces a character from her series that begins with ‘Same Face Different Place,’ a 1970s romantic thriller set London. The 2nd book of the series ‘Visions’ is set in rural England, in the era of the 1980s. Helen is busy at work on her 3rd book.

 

 

Happy Accidents

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A happy auto accident is when nobody gets hurt. That’s what emergency people kept telling me when this happened to me last weekend. At first, I didn’t see it that way. My Jeepster was new with only two thousand miles on it and, as I told one of the sweet police officers, I had my last car for ten years and never even dented it. I’m not usually attached to my vehicles. I like a nice ride, sure, but the Jeepster was my first car crush. So I was a little heartbroken.

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And, as usual, when disaster (as I then saw the accident) struck, I was alone. My two best friends in town were unavailable. My husband was gone on a long weekend. I myself was headed out of town on an adventure of my own. My bags were packed. I hadn’t even hit the village limits when bam, the Jeepster hit a car in front of me and my air bags unpacked. The results looked like this arm and leg shot, but more all over my body. The arm (on left) is an air bag burn. The leg (on right) is just a bash.

They are nice shades of purple and yellow now. Healing and hurting just a little bit. That night, they didn’t hurt at all. After it was determined that everyone was okay and I was not getting a ticket as really the guy had slammed on his brakes so fast I didn’t have time to react, after I had unbelted and removed my overnight bag and checked my Mac to make sure it still worked (priorities!), I decided what the hell. The Jeepster was done for and I needed a rental. My bags were packed. I might as well continue on my journey

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EMT and police, even the tow truck and car rental guy, everybody thought this was an okay idea. My first instinct had been to go home and hide under blankets in bed. But then I thought about that empty house, and I just didn’t think it was gonna be good to go there. I needed to move forward with my plans. So I did. I was maybe 90 minutes late for check in and I was famished. No time for writing before dinner, but I did have an emergency vodka (mandarin orange!) on hand, so I poured that over ice and pressed my not-jeans. Yes, this picture is BEFORE the accident. But they are the same pants. I call them my Jack White pants because they remind me of him.

IIMG_1031 didn’t have the foresight to realize this was going to be a photo blog, as I don’t do those. But I always admire my friend Sharon’s photo blogs, and I did take SOME pictures, so I thought, well if I have to write about this, and I do, I’ll do it a little different. So thanks for the inspiration, Sharon! I only took this photo of myself for my dear friend Bodicia, who encouraged me to take a solo trip when I wavered. She gave me specific instructions on the delicious meal I should order and the wine I should drink and the snap I should take and send to her. So I did.

You can’t tell but my face has so much concealer on it (my nose and cheeks looked like my arm, red and raw) and it looks puffy to me, too. I had a very attentive waiter and a wonderful dinner. I let him treat me like royalty. I felt so good; I can’t remember the last time I felt that good. (Well, yes I can, but I’m not sharing.) I was, without a doubt, in shock. But I didn’t realize it. I just sipped my cocktail and thought, wow this is a happy place.  And I tweeted the picture of myself to Bodicia.

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This was my view. The staff didn’t know a thing about my accident, but they gave me the best table in the house, tucked into a corner where I had full view of the room but felt private, like I was in my own little world. Well, I was. And that magic feeling I mentioned before still has not gone away six days later, even as reality crashes in. I had a few moments these past six days of feeling anxious and worried, but much more I felt cared for by some unseen force, by the universe and by love. So much love came pouring in when I posted pics of the accident on Facebook. I think I was still in shock then because somehow a sunset got in the pictures … I feel like it was a happy accident. The sun is setting on a lot of trouble I’ve been carrying with me for awhile now.

IMG_0942One of my friends, Laura (here with me in Seattle) had a great perspective on my wish to find meaning in the accident, writing something like, well I guess you have the answer to the dilemma we discussed over brunch last week. Laura and I had an amazing time, we’ve known each other several years, but it was our first real life meeting and within minutes I was confiding in her like an old friend and she was listening and exuding empathy. Laura (I realized all at once) was right. And clarity about the next phase of my life was not all I gained by the Jeepster’s unfortunate crunch.

I also learned to take care of myself in a way I had only taken care of others before. This is a lesson I will never let go. It has taken firm root. Call it shock, call it my sweet Aunt Louise, who said “bubble bath, lots of bubbles.” It just so happened that my hotel room had a soaker tub twice as tall as the one at home. I’ve only ever been in a taller one in Belgium. And there on the counter was a nice bottle of bubble gel. After dinner, I drew myself a relaxing bath. I’m sure it helped the next day, when I hardly felt sore at all.

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After the bath, I fell into a deep sleep and woke three hours later at one a.m. feeling so alive and refreshed. I immediately thought “this was supposed to be a writing retreat, and I haven’t written a thing except Facebook comments!” I grabbed Mac, pulled pillows all around me and got to work, writing until the sun came up. Then I took a cup of coffee outside by the water and watched rosy-fingered dawn fight its way through the clouds. And then, I checked out of the hotel and drove home, where I slept the day away and got up to do more night writing.

IMG_1036As it must, reality has intruded on my happy accident interlude. But what remains is the sweetness of my find, and that is more than just figuring out an answer to my “What’s Next?” dilemma. I have my answer now. I know where I’m going, and I know how I will treat myself along the way. The lessons of that blissful adventure and the feelings it captured will live long after the bruises fade.

 

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Guest Blog: Plans by author Cynthia Harrison

I’m so chuffed! My wonderful pal from across the pond published my post on “Plans” today at A Woman’s Wisdom! Check it out:) Guest Blog: Plans by author Cynthia Harrison. Those of you who are my Facebook friends know about the irony behind this story as a plan I made over the weekend went crazily awry. I’ll be writing about that, maybe with pictures, soon:)

Feisty Fifties

59.Cindy.IMG_0913At 59, I’m almost done with the decade Gail Sheehy calls “feisty” and I wonder what took me so long. To get feisty, I mean. Really, I spent my 50s publishing novels and teaching writing. Not what I’d call feisty  activities. But then something happened this year, well, a lot of somethings happened, and I snapped into feisty so fast it made my head spin.

As an example of my new-found adventuress spirit (it’s not new, it just went away for awhile and now it’s baaaack) I’m going away alone today on a special sort of date with myself. I’m even spending the night. I’m not really clear on why I’m doing this except something inside says “you must.”

With Mac and my camera, I’m hoping to get some writing done and maybe start dabbling with a new video project. But then, maybe I’ll just write a few pages and then read. (I want to learn about this next stage Sheehy talks about, the “Selective Sixties” which are right around the corner for me.) I’m going to be spontaneous. I’m going to look out at the water. I’m going to order a really good dinner and eat alone in the restaurant attached to the hotel. I’m considering dressing up. Which for me means not jeans. Just going to see how I feel when I get there.

I first heard about writing alone in hotels from the ever-feisty Anne Stuart. There’s something about being alone in a room with a book project on deadline that fires up a creative spark. It works in a way being at home does not. Stuart has often drafted entire books over a long weekend this way. My friend Laura Zera also swears by writing outside the house. She has a little office she goes to every day where she is not distracted by domestic duties. Natalie Goldberg prefers coffee shops as does Jennifer Weiner.

Me, I like writing early in the morning, in my blessedly empty house, in my pajamas. But just lately I’ve been stalled on my current fiction project and the mere thought of this mini-getaway sparked some plot ideas. Really, I can hardly wait. Check in is at 3. Better start packing:)

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