Sunday, September 27, 2015

What a difference a day makes (give or take a month...)

I'm a huge fan of sayings and cliches embedded in our vernacular. Not in my writing, mind you, but I love how useful they can be in getting a point across quickly and succinctly.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. 
It's always darkest before the dawn. 
I get by with a little help from my friends. 
Tomorrow is another day.  

In August, I shared that I was in desperate straits. Depressed and not coping well, I'd reached the end of my rope (see? A totally useful cliche!).

I admitted that I have a problem, that is wasn't going anywhere and that it was choking the breath out of me. Speaking this aloud, owning this sliver of reality, truly was the first and most important step.

Picking up the lifeline (i.e. phone) to seek professional help, man, it took me days to do it once I found the right number. It might have been a metaphoric pre-dawn, but it loomed dark indeed. As I placed the call, my hands trembled, I cleared my throat incessantly, I swallowed back tears. Then I was speaking to a live person and my voice cracked. I had to pause more than once so I wouldn't break down and sob. I curled into myself, a ball of shame with no face. If I couldn't see out, no one could see me.

But I made the call. I made it at work. I made it knowing when I was done, I could climb the stairs and tell my friends I'd scaled that impossible task. Because they had my back. I got by with a little help from my friends.

A monthish later finds me adjusting to therapy, a stint I never expected to repeat. But here's the good stuff I've reaped because I held onto the promise of a new day:

After a year and a half of owning it, I finally charged up my Fitbit. Last week I clocked in 29.42 miles (69,476 steps). That's more activity than I've seen in a year.

After two and a half months of dragging my feet on a final round of revisions to my WIP, I'm now five pages away from typing The End (okay, so technically, I've done that with this MS once before. But you're darn tootin' I'm gonna celebrate this milestone, mm-hmm.).

After being stuck for way too long, I feel like I've sprayed a bit of WD-40 on my life (I've been informed it is not DW40...but if I'd written that, you totally would have gotten what I meant, am I right?).

Now I'm free to move about the cabin.

What a difference a day makes.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Buried but Still Breathing

Hey friends, I know I was supposed to post another weight loss blog today, but I'm copping out. :-) In about five weeks, I'm moving house. And while it's true that I just moved a year ago, this time it's a big move: a hundred miles away instead of only three. So I've been going through all of our storage spaces, revisiting everything that I put away years ago, and deciding what to keep and what to let go. It's been a little on the difficult side, hence the cop-out. I hope you can forgive me.

Just a quick update: I've lost another three pounds (most of that sweating while running up and down the stairs) which brings my grand total to 115 pounds down, with 76 left to go.

I don't want to leave you completely unentertained, so here's a funny video I found about being buried. While in my case I've been buried under boxes (and memories), the video is about being buried under paperwork. But it made me laugh, and I hope it does the same for you.

Thanks for reading, watching, and caring!

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Change Is As Good As a Rest

A change is as good as a rest. At least, that’s how the saying goes. I certainly hope it’s true, because really, now we're halfway through September and that means we're on a downhill slide to the end of the year. Who has time to take a vacation now? The kids might be back in school, but there’s still plenty to do.

If your shorts and sandals are blocking your closet’s sweater shelf, you’ll have to switch out your wardrobe. There’s fall cleaning, fallen leaves to clean up, and the fall furnace check. Your professor is expecting your thesis, your editor is expecting your manuscript, and your mother is expecting you for dinner. All in all, there’s no rest for the wicked and very little for the righteous no matter what time of year it is.

When life starts to wear you out, maybe that’s where change can come in handy. Now, I’m not talking big, momentous change. I’m talking about a small, occasional change in the things you have to do anyway. Just such a change can freshen your outlook and bring a bit of fun back to your life. Best of all, you control it which is more than we can say for that spring storm that ripped the shingles off your roof or the stray dog that dug up your dahlias.

To that end, here are my Top Five Ways A Change Can Be As Good As a Rest:

5. Don’t let the daily drive to work or school grind you down. Instead of sticking with those familiar roads—and the rut you’re in—take an alternate route tomorrow and don’t forget to enjoy the view.

4. Exchange your evening glass of chardonnay for pinot noir—or better yet, a Manhattan—and perk up those taste buds.

3. Switch that standard shower gel for something fruity-tootie or excitingly exotic. Just make sure it’s definitely different.

2. Pick a spice, any spice. Try adding it to a serving of your favorite dinner dish tonight.

1. Spend the night someplace else, whether that’s a B&B in Boston or a tent in your own backyard. You’ll wake up with a whole new frame of mind.

So what do you think? What life issues get you down? When they do, have you ever tried a fast, fun way to perk yourself up? What's your quick change?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hot Guys + Big Laughs = Supernatural Gag Reel (Season 10)

What's better than gorgeous men? Gorgeous men saving the world.

But wait, there's more! Gorgeous men who spend their time saving the world, and who make us laugh! That's right, it's the gag reel from season 10 of Supernatural.

Funny and hot. Doesn't get much better than this!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

End of Summer Romance Romp Quiz

So this week we're doing something a little different. We're hosting an End of Summer Romance Romp Quiz for all our readers. It's a little silly. It's fun, and it's easy. Take a few minutes to read the questions, enter your answers into the comments section and win a chance at a $5 Amazon gift card. We'll give away five prizes--one each day, Monday through Friday for new comments posted that day. So here are your 8 questions (yes, the R8 tie-in):

1. What do you prefer your heroes (book boyfriends and real life) to wear?

A. Boxers
B. Briefs (tighty-whities)
C. Commando

2. Who is your favorite mature man?

A. Mark Harmon
B. Sean Connery
C. Tom Selleck
D. Sam Elliott

3. Who is your favorite superhero?

A. Thor
B. Batman
C. Ironman
D. Spiderman

4. Who is your favorite bad guy/villain?

A. The Joker (Heath Ledger)
B. Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)
C. Loki (Tom Hiddleston)
D. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman)/Snape (Alan Rickman)

5. How do you prefer your romance novels?

A. Sweet: No sex at all.
B. Mild: Some rockin' sexual tension, but close the door on the bedroom scenes.
C. Spicy: Several satisfying, graphic sex scenes per book.
D. Hot: The more graphic, hot sex the better.

6. What kind of romance books do you currently read?

A. Romantic Suspense
B. Contemporary Romance
C. Paranormal Romance
D. Historical Romance
E. Erotic Romance
F. Inspirational Romance
G. YA Romance

7. Favorite male body part to see described in a romance novel?

A. Abs
B. Happy trail and lower
C. Mouth
D. Chest
E. Buns

8. How do you want your romance heroines?

A. Smart
B. Sassy
C. Sexy
D. Ingenue
E. Kick-Ass
F. Sweet

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Me Strong: Fueling the Engine

Women are the glue that holds families together. If you’re anything like me, you’re the one who makes it happen. You get the kids off to school, you shop for groceries, you cook, you do the banking, arrange the doctor appointments, get kids to practice, schedule the service visits. You coordinate child care and date nights. You supervise chores--laundry, dishes, cleaning schedules. You volunteer and give back to your community. You’ve got your fingers in a million and one pies to keep the family going as it should. 

You are Wonder Woman, because you have to be. You can have it all, or so they tell us. The kids/family, the career, the happy home life, the vital relationships. And you can. Women absolutely can have it all. But there’s a price. And that price is usually YOU and your strength, vitality, and who you really are as an individual. We often let who we are slip away when we become part of the family unit, because we’re trying to please so many people, take care of multiple challenges, get it all done. 

We’re pulled in so many directions that we sometimes forget who we really are underneath all those roles we play--who we’ve been, who we want to be, and, therefore, who we are today. As my nest begins to empty, I’m searching for me under all that family clutter--often good clutter, even some of it great clutter, but still clutter. I’m trying to unearth who I am at my core, so that as my kids move out of the house, I won’t be totally lost. My identity, that has revolved around three boys for eighteen years is shifting, and it’s time to reassess, make sure I’m strong--physically, mentally, and spiritually--in order to handle whatever life throws at me in the next half of my life.

Here are three things I’ve recently found are essential to my assessment and continued development:

Time Alone - To find yourself, to get in touch with who you really are and what you want from life, you need time alone. Take some time away--whatever that means for you. Sequester yourself in your home office, spend an afternoon at the park, get away for the weekend in order to take inventory of where you are emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Time away from the noise helps you hear your inner voice. It gives you a reality check and develops the habit of introspection so that you can challenge yourself to grow and improve your situation in life. Then, when you figure out where you are and where you want to be, you can come up with a plan to help move in that direction. But if you’re not in touch with yourself, you’ll never figure it out.

Practice Me Strong - You need to develop a habit of physical fitness, whatever that means for you. No matter where you are in your life or what stage, if you don’t have a strong body and relatively good health, you won’t be able to accomplish the things you want in life. Period. Our bodies are one of the number one gifts we’ve been given. So take care of you. Be me strong. Whatever that means for you. Find the things you love to do and be active. Move. Push yourself. And when you start working on you … something crazy happens … your sense of inner strength and peace grows exponentially. You begin to feel more powerful. And then you are more powerful.

Remember Who You Were - Take a trip down memory lane. Remember the things you used to love to do during your halcyon days--whatever those were … high school … college … your twenties, when you had very little responsibility and lots of time on your hands to pursue what interested you most. Take time to explore those areas. They are hard-wired into you. In some senses, you were made to do those things. They are part of who you were, and may be part of who you still are. Exploit your past to find your future. Those activities brought you joy once--whether it was a sport, horse back riding, gardening, golf, sewing, being out in nature--whatever it was. You spent time training and pursuing those interests. You probably have some aptitude for them. So see if you still like to do them. If they still bring you joy. These experiences are part of the fabric of who you are. And, no, maybe the activity won’t look exactly like it did when you were eighteen; however, pursuing it does something to your spirit. It fills you. Makes you happy. Reminds you that you are wholly unique--the only one of your kind in the Universe. You are an individual with worth and value and you have something to give back.

If you practice these three things, no matter what life throws at you, you will know you’re strong enough to handle it, because you possess everything inside you for success. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. You’ll fall in love with your life once more, because you realize you are an individual, not just part of a unit. You have hopes, fears, passions, and pursuits that are unique to you alone. You are awesome. You are special.

Own your life. Fall in love with it again. Be happy. And if you do that, you’ll be strong and your engine will be fueled so that you can continue to push that little train up the mountain, wherever it’s going and whoever is on board. Because you can do it. You are glorious. You are strong. You are the powerhouse that keeps it all moving. So take care of you. Fuel your engine. You’ll be happier, more vital, stronger. Your family will be happier because you are happy. And, no matter what happens, you’ll know you’ll be okay.

So talk to me. Tell me how you're doing. Are you feeling strong? Overwhelmed? Powerful? What ways have you found to refuel your engine? I'd love to hear from you, and I'm always eager to add tools to my life toolbox. Let's chat.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

At Grandmother's House

My grandmother's kitchen had an enormous pantry. A walk-in closet for your canned goods and spare cooking pots. It had it's own door. My house did not have a pantry. We had cabinets. And stainless appliances. Grandmother had an avocado green oven. When it was cold, I'd walk into the kitchen and the oven would be wide open, heat pouring from it to warm up the room.  Her table was small and square. It was a work table in a kitchen with very little counter space.  

Summertime, I learned to shell peas, snap beans and make deviled eggs at that table. Grandmother would sit in one of her dark dresses, with the smock-type apron on, working on a bowl full of something green. Meals did not make themselves at Grandmother's house. Vegetables, at least in the summer, did not come from the can, jar or freezer.

I can't recall if there was anything pretty hanging on the walls. Grandmother hung a large mirror over her sink. Mom said to check her hair, I say to spy my brother coming up behind me to snap me with a towel. Next to that was a National Geographic map of the solar system. On a shelf to the right of the sink I'd find the jar of Tang - the orange juice of the astronauts. And because she was a grandmother, she also had strawberry Quik. We only ever had the chocolate kind at home.

Inside of Grandmother's kitchen, I was taught to help prepare food. I learned the rhythms of cooking and life. Vegetables had to be washed, trimmed, snapped, shelled, shucked, peeled, chopped.  Dealing with vegetables was all about action verbs and in the moment. Inside of Grandmother's kitchen, I worked. There was no dishwasher, save the grandchildren. We'd stand at that enormous white enameled sink and wash every glass and every plate and every spoon. By hand. With a sponge and hot water and set them, one by one, on the slanted, rippled drain. Water would sluice back down into the sink. Even to today, captured somewhere in my nostrils, is the pungent sharp smell of hot dish-soap and plastic cups.

Summertime at Grandmother's meant an enormous family reunion at the Leonard house. Complete with Aunt Didi's ham biscuits, Grandmother's corn pudding, and juicy sliced tomatoes. There were deviled eggs with a sprinkle of colorful paprika. Potato salad. Macaroni salad. Old ladies in dark dresses with blue or apricot tinted hair set in curls. Some women still wore their hair in old-fashioned buns, like my great Aunt Grace from down Mecklenburg County.

I was the youngest child - apart from little Stevie - and he didn't count because he was little and a boy. I either had to keep up with my older siblings and cousins or go sit with mom. Or I'd simply head to The Magnolia Tree. A tree so big at the front of Grandmother's house that six cousins could be up it at once and there was still room for more. It was shady and cool beneath that tree, shelters by the large tough dark green leaves that were brown underneath. We'd hear "Don't climb that Magnolia" behind us as we headed straight up her branches. I rode my first horse on the limbs of that tree. Possibly my first dragon. I certainly fought my first Civil War battle there, and ruled my first tree kingdom.

I wonder what my siblings and cousins would remember about going to Grandmother's? Probably something completely different than me. What are your strong memories of summer and shelling peas? Of white rail fences to be climbed on and pecan trees to run under? Were you chased out of the house by parents who wanted to actually speak with another adult and wasn't there to entertain the children? Was the TV either off limits or simply not considered an option when there might be horses to be seen? Tell me!