There are a number of things I am grateful for in 2016. It was great for a lot of reasons:
1. I survived. ?
2. Got sick and got well. ?
3. Finished 5 books. ?
4. Weathered some breakups, shakeups and uncertainties with grace and a pinch of humor. ?
5. Better prepared for the travels ahead. ?
6. Kept my focus, realigned my purpose, learned about some new opportunities. ?
7. Welcomed the New Year with an open heart, and a head full of stories. ?
8. Reinforced the power of gratitude and being light-hearted at the right times. ?
9. Re-fell in love with falling in love ALL-IN. ?
10. I start the year off being INSPIRED. ???
So, here are some things I'm focusing on this New Year's Day. Hope you can join me along the way some of the time. We have a lot of work to do together, you and I. I can't wait. How about you?
MY 2017 FOCUS:
1. I write every day because it is my life.
2. I'd rather be in a book or story than anywhere else. It is my reality.
3. Concentrate on creativity and the flow will come.
4. Expect to be amazed, not understanding everything. Amazed, like a child.
5. Be a well-used character in my own life like a favorite toy and much-loved soul.
6. Pointy people grind the rough edges off me and make me shine.
7. Circumstances REVEAL a person, they don't make a person.
8. Getting up and getting started now is the most important attitude to have.
9. Learn from everyone, everything. Seek lessons like jewels.
10. Show gratitude, grace and humor more than anger, frustration or hurt.
11. Be loveable more than right.
12. Understand but keep to my side of the fence.
13. Have compassion but be strong enough to tell the truth.
14. Feel the healing power of love.
15. Take more chances, feel deeper, understand the strength to let go when needed.
16. I can't fix anybody. ANYbody.
17. Walk with other warm hearts and bright spirits. Close my doors and windows to negativity.
18. Notice, nurture, never forget.
19. Lead with love and kindness.
20. Hug the little girl inside me every day.
Some of you understand what it's like to be a romance writer during the holidays. Those family get-togethers turn bizarre in a heartbeat, don't they? I know as a child, the weirder and weirder it got, the better I liked it.
My Grandma Fox had trouble swallowing, due to a series of strokes she'd suffered that left half of her body paralyzed. It never failed that for each big family meal, she'd start choking on something, and there were more than a few moments of tension when she'd remove her false teeth, leave them on the side of the plate on the beautiful table my mother always set, with all the finest crystal and china. Grandfather would stand up, and slap her back while she leaned over her dish and expelled whatever had gotten stuck.
She was beet red afterwards, sincerely ashamed for the spectacle. My grandfather never swore, but he could be heard saying something like, “Ah, Shaw,” and we filled in the blanks. We were used to her drooling, and she wore a little purse affixed to her wrist with a strap, lovingly made by one of the ladies in the church, which contained a couple pretty hankies she used all day long. In fact, she was always with a hankie in her hand.
My other grandfather would go off on some political tangent, sure that the whole country was going to Hell quickly, and often we'd wake up Christmas morning to find that he'd had such a difficult time sleeping, they'd packed up in the middle of the night and drive the long way home to Fresno, California. Yes. I was born in Fresno. A good place to be from.
The stories were exaggerated, as family stories go. I'd heard them every year. Every year they'd get more and more fantastic, and I didn't care if they came from morphing, or told by people who always instructed me to take the moral high ground and never lie. They were family stories, and as such, were exempt from the normal constraints of reality. It was a kind of better than the truth: it was fiction. Was there something wrong with me for preferring the morphing stories of our family history? And does it really matter anyway?
By candlelight, those tales were told, passed down from the mouths of people now long gone. And I think I must do some of the same.
We always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in San Francisco. My uncle could have made it as a comedian, he was so good with his jokes. Especially during the years when he was drinking. Afterward, he was just as funny, by the way. As an insurance salesman, he had stories of all the creative ways he got past the secretaries who tried to screen him from seeing the execs he wanted to sell to. He called it his Zippo Success Institute.
Between my uncle and my grandfather, the preacher, I learned what it was like to sell. In one case, it was a safety net to cheat death's impact on a family, in the other, redemption and a life everlasting. But trust me, it required a good salesman to do either. I knew long before I married and started having kids that life is one sales job after another. Raising children or being long time married, it's still the same thing to me today.
So I guess the madness of the season isn't really that for me, is it? I can get behind the crowds, though I don't participate in it. I don't mind people selling things, even things I don't need. I get caught up in it just like I did as a child. The stories, the pitch given to inspire change, the way to figure out problems and not get stuck by them, how to alter another's opinion with a smile or the right choice of words. Life is sales.
If it weren't so, we wouldn't take this most sacred of holidays, and turn it into one huge gift giving bonanza in this country. The idea of giving a gift is doing the unexpected. To show to someone what the inside of our heart looks like, to make the act one of love.
That gift is one I shall cherish forever.
Not to worry. This will be very PG in words, but hopefully a little X in the fantasy of our minds. I'm a collector of ideas, especially about love and lust. Partly it's my job, and partly it's because it interests me more now than at any other time in my life. I used to wonder what it would feel like (and yes, I might have dreaded it a bit) being over a certain age (a lady never reveals her age but she will get nekked with the right guy). I distinctly remember being in my twenties and knowing my life would be over at 29. Anything after that didn't look interesting to me at all. And boy was I wrong.
In fact, I think love, romance, sex, lust and all things in between, either practiced, dreamt about, read or listened to is even more important the more mature we become. Nice thing that happens and a little secret to aging: we don't get old. We just enjoy all those fantasies in our head more than the reality of what's really going on as we climb the ladder of life.
I've read a lot of Sarah Ban Breathnach and find her writing touches me deeply. Her discussion of the word Casanova, that mythical great lover every woman wants to meet, literally means new house. She suggests a woman cannot be in love with herself or life if she is living in the wrong place. I think men are the same way.
I have Romancing The Ordinary by my bed and often read a chapter before I fall asleep. Here's a little quote: ‘The true courtesan was traditionally more than a beautiful prostitute. Many of the most successful courtesans in history were cultured and sophisticated, enjoying considerable power and prestige. Courtesans were accomplished women of great beauty and intelligence. Highly sought companions of royalty, prime ministers, and wealthy gentlemen, they were expertly skilled in the elegant arts, which, besides lovemaking, included conversing, flirtation, entertaining, music, poetry, art, sports, politics and intrigue. The courtesan might seem at first to represent the antithesis of love, but in many ways her history is spectacularly romantic…These women often commanded intense love and prompted great works of art.'
|Is there anything more exciting than sharing our passion?|
She also talks about falling in love with love, how, she smiles more, expects to see her lover, whether real or fantasy, around every corner. She possesses more of the 2 extra senses SB says woman have: knowing and a sense of curiosity and exploration. Food tastes better. Drinking wine is a sensual ancient act. Shower gel and bubble baths are more important. Intimate tucked away places and soft music, tuscan orange hand lotion and bright fabric clothes and smooth Egyptian Cotton sheets that are way more expensive than we can afford — all these things come into our lives.
Why do we do these things? Does our lover make us do them? No. We do them because we want to enhance our own lives, because it feels good to be in love, especially to love intensely, deeply. She calls it the practice of the sacred self-nurture. We listen to or write poetry, paint, sew, garden, listen to music, AND WE READ LOVE STORIES!
In short, we become the courtesan of our own bodies, our thoughts and dreams. We seek to create the environment where love is not only something that feels good, it sustains us, and alters everything around us.
SB calls it the place of belonging. And isn't the state of love, bliss, lust and excitement where we all belong? Is there any wonder why so many men and women read/write and enjoy romance? As I've said before, when we love deeply our truest, most generous and miraculous selves are revealed, unfolded like the shedding of our clothes. When there isn't anything separating us.
Nothing at all.
Needed a break today and took myself down to my favorite coffee place, walking by my favorite lingerie shop. I've shopped there in the past – you know – one of those places where the nice German lady comes into the dressing room and lectures me on “the girls” and the proper form for wearing a bra, except I am rather large chested, and when she's done, I beg her to buy a size larger so I don't feel like a trussed turkey. But no, she likes to fit me tight, and she reaches in and does — well you can get the picture.
I bought a nice red outfit for my hubby last Valentine's. I love my husband dearly. Dearly, Madly, Deeply, like the title of Hannah Jayne's book. But for an engagement present I got a bicycle. Some Valentine's Days I've gotten orange carnations. I have to say the gentleman knows how to please me now, and I'm lucky he still tries after all those (no I'm not going to say it) years. And he now gets me flowers. And he provides for me and my crazy ways like no one else ever could. Something delicious about a man who sticks around when you are at your worst, as well as your best. Easy to stick around when things are good. Really hard to keep together when those dark days come. We all get them. And we know the sun is just around the corner, too. I've learned to trust in things I cannot see, measure and treasure my faith. And my love.
My romance themes are True Love Heals In The Gardens Of The Heart. I like it, but it isn't sexy enough to use anywhere. So good. It's mine, and now it's yours. But it's what I write. I do believe in the healing power of love, and it is the theme of all my stories. Men and women find each other, and they transform into their higher, better selves as a result of that meeting. I believe in love at first sight. Love that lasts forever (and I love the title of my new paranormal super bundle, Immortal Valentines-my Valentine's gift to you for just a week). Love is stronger than hate. Quieter than hate. Never lies, and always forgives. And sometimes you have to live without it. Love is so important the Bible devotes a chapter to it.
My folks were married over 55 years before my mother passed. And then, at 80, my father fell in love again and had another ten wonderful years with my now new mother. And she loved him and our family enough to give us all another ten years we would have not had with my dad. He was ready to die without the love of his life. But, and I said this at his funeral, even though my mother had died, he finally came to the conclusion that he wasn't yet ready to give up being a father, grandfather or a husband. And so he set out and accomplished that. We are all the richer for it.
See? You thought we were going to talk about steamy romance novels. I'm talking about love and the healing power of love.
My stories are my love letters to you. In a perfect world, we'd walk down the beach together, or take a hike in the rain forest in Washington, we'd sail on a blue ocean or sit and sip beers listening to beautiful music. You and I can't do all those things. And so we have to pretend.
And for just a little while, all the world is as it should be. The equipment works and the paint's not chipped. People are safe and out of harm's way. There is a happily ever after.
And true love heals in the gardens of the heart, because that's what I wrote.
I won't be on land this Thanksgiving, so I guess this will be my Thanksgiving post. God willing, I'll be somewhere in the Atlantic. I will start out in Italy and will wind up in Brazil. I plan to sleep in, write my heart out every day, have meals served just the way I want them, and watch the big blue ocean all around me. I'm going to read some of my best friend's books. I'm going to work out every day and get a massage every week. I want to meet the captain and the staff, put my hands on the wheel and feel the power of the ship.
I'd like to meet new friends, learn how to talk to someone in a language that I didn't grow up with. Watch how other people treat their children. Look into the eyes of the elderly passengers and maybe ask them questions about things I will never see. Learn from them. I want to soak it all in so I can put some of it, maybe only about 1% of it, on paper.
Something I hadn't thought about when I booked this vacation was that when we travel across the Atlantic, we will be leaving the winter of Italy to the Summer of Brazil.
I plan to stand on the deck of the ship, because I want to see if I can feel it. Do you suppose I will? Will the water swirl in the opposite direction there? Will the stars look different? Would it be good luck to make love to my husband when we cross the Equator like all those seamen's legends?
I don't think I've ever studied the night sky from the southern hemisphere. There are people I have never met I will meet. I will learn about places I've never seen before. I've never been to South America. I'm going to walk off the ship and think of my hero Daniel, the Brazilian painter who stole my heart in the very first book I wrote, and who turned me into a writer. I didn't do it. The characters in my book did.
Because I can.
Are we all so insane we don't cherish every day? That we fill our lives with “news” when everything we need to know is all around us, in the magic and love of those around us? When the greatest gift is our ability to imagine things that could be so strong that they feel real. To connect people instead of running away from them. To give more than we take.
I want to leave a hole the size of a continent when I'm done being here. Like my beautiful (unnamed) heroine for a book I'm working on says to her damaged SEAL hero after he's told her he doesn't like complicated (excerpt from SEAL Destiny, a novella in High Octane Heroes):
She took in a sudden brief inhale. Her gaze quickly diverted to the ocean, giving him a full pure look at her upper torso, every curve and valley, until he thought perhaps he could even taste her skin. What Luke saw in profile was a strong, handsome woman with a body made for hard loving, who was unafraid.
Then she turned back and faced him fully. Her body dropped to her knees in front of him so quickly he thought perhaps she'd gotten suddenly ill. “I don't do uncomplicated,” she whispered. “I like it complicated and rich. I like entangled. I like feeling everything and being sorely missed when I'm gone.”
My wish for you at Thanksgiving? Turn up the intensity and the capacity of your love.
Welcome to day 12 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my theme of Letters of Gratitude. I think I can safely say I have been addicted to love. Hardly been a time in my life when someone else wasn't at my side. How strange that now that I have had all these years in a long term relationship, that I could actually see that I don't NEED it, but WANT it. Instead of fixing it, tweaking it to become perfect, I can LET IT BE. And, if I had to, I could live without it.
I'm not talking about losing love, or reminiscing on lost love. I'm realizing that I choose to love another the way they are, the way we are: lumps, warts and all. That life is perfect just the way it is.
Another lesson I've learned this year is to Let It Be. I admit to being a drama queen. We've had some family drama in the past couple of days. The Big Kahuna of Drama with the capital D concerning one of my kids. But family is all important to me. My writing, my blogging, my other friendships outside of my family are also important, but they take second to my family. I can't fix everything in their lives like I'd tried to do as they were growing up. I have to love them, warts and all, the way they are.
I think when you love someone with pure motives, the very best in yourself comes out. It's one of the themes in my writing: Love Heals In The Gardens of the Heart. It is what drew me to romance writing in the first place. I enjoy living in the hearts of my characters as they discover the “other” and the effect they have on their lives. In the claiming, the connection, comes the miracles and the freedom to feel limitless. There is trust, faith, hope. It is almost a spiritual experience.
Another thing that Love isn't is doing things. I've been a “gotta do more” type of gal. If packing for a volleyball tournament is important, I adopt the fill-my-Suburban-so-full-that-there's-no-room-for-my-daughter kind of mindset. When she stood there in the parking lot, looking up to me and asked, “Mom, there's no room for me here,” I couldn't believe I had been so focused on the “things” for our week-long tournament, and not my daughter, who I was doing it for.
If you can this weekend, go rent Love Actually. The movie explores several couples and their struggles with love, and love lost. What character do you see yourself as? What actor/actress would you trade places with for just a few minutes? I'll bet you can guess who I'd be.
A close family member had been grieving at the loss of a relationship. He asked me, “How do you find another partner? How do you find someone to love?”