Saturday, December 27, 2014

I give me a 9.5

There is an enormous amount of judgment in grieving. Who knew? Not me!

People I love often say: “How are you?”

“I’m doing well.” The silent addition to my statement is…”considering”.

Almost always the response is. “How are you really doing?”

This has happened more times than I can count. Coming from people I know love me and are worried about/for me. I appreciate that, but the unspoken sentiment feels like: You are not weeping openly. You are not lying in bed. You are not sobbing at any given moment. Aren’t you grieving?

Well, yes, yes I am grieving. But walking around sobbing, refusing to get out of bed, not showering, not living will do me no good. My children less good. I often feel as if I’m doing it wrong despite the fact that every book, every person, every counselor you will encounter seems to say: “There is no right way to grieve.”

I wonder what those people would think if they saw me cry when I got into an empty bed at night. Or reach for him in the middle of the night because for a fleeting and joyous moment I forget he’s not there and think he is. Or when I was prepping to host his family on Christmas Eve—something we have done since we moved into this house. We. And this year it was me. There were quite a few brief, nearly silent, but heart wrenching crying sessions that day.

Would the people who seem to be judging me on my grief be proud to have seen me fall apart? Would I have gotten a good score?

It’s hurtful sometimes, boggling at others, and sometimes it’s downright comical. I called someone on it recently. Very quietly but very bluntly (something Jim would have been extremely proud of, he was the person who taught me to say no because…just no--no excuse) “You know, when you do that “how are you really doing?” thing it makes me feel like you think I’m not grieving.

The response was shock, horror, dismay! But it still stands, that a more appropriate response, instead of how are you really doing, would be: Is there anything I can do? Do you need anything? Do you need to talk? If you do, just let me know.

No judgment. Just an offer of an ear or a hug or time.

The point isn’t to belittle these people. It’s just to put it out there that I had no idea, when the daily grief of caring for a dying person passed, and the grief of actual loss began, that I’d be getting scores on my apparent grieving.

Ironically, its Jim’s voice in my ear that I hear when I get all twisted up that maybe I am doing it wrong. I can hear him:

I’m gone. Crying over me constantly won’t bring me back. It won’t prove how much you loved me. You did that every day that I was here. I was your life when I was sick. You gave up everything. And now giving up the urge to move forward—as painful as it may be at times—will not do anything other than suck more out of you. Out of our children.

Staying in bed, not eating, not living will only make it worse. You stopped just about everything to be with me at the end and now, baby, it’s time to put one foot in front of the other. And get back into the life we built and take care of those kids we made and remember how much I loved you. How much you loved me. It never goes away. It’s just shifted to a different level. A different plane. And it’s all good. You can do this.

You can do this…

So in this bizarre, hard, painful, and sometimes darkly comical time in my life, the voice I still listen to, the best advice I still get, is from the man I loved more than I love breathing. The person I built an amazing life and an amazing family with. And yes, the man I am still grieving. Every day. Every breath. Every moment. But he’s the one making me strong, getting me through, and getting me going with taking each day as a new opportunity to live again, for me and for our children. It’s him. As always. Because nothing ever really changes when you’re in love.

**Author's Note: There seems to be some confusion on how that one comment could be deemed judgmental. In that vein, I'm adding some follow up comments I've received that add to my *perception* of being judged. 
"Well...I never *see you react*" 
"I never see you cry." 
"Well, I'm sorry, but *I* have to cry." 
"*I* cry for him every day..."
and so on. Also, while I'm here, for reader edification, this phenomenon seems to be with people in my real life. To date, no one online has ever done this to me. For which I am eternally grateful. xo 


Monday, December 22, 2014

A best of for Quinn...huzzah!

I'm so over the moon when someone loves my novel The Mighty Quinn. Why? Because I love it so damn much! I can't help myself. I truly can't.

So the fact that writer Delilah Night named The Mighty Quinn her best novel of 2014...well, what can a girl say to that? How about...hooray! That works.

She also gives nice complimentary strokes to Twisted edited by Alison Tyler, the novella Those Boys by Alison Tyler, Skirting the Issue, the multi-indie-author that includes me, Sophia Valenti and Alison Tyler, The Sexy Librarian's Big Book of Erotica edited by Rose Caraway and...gasp! many others.

To check out Delilah's full list of Bests and Faves go HERE.

Now back to being a Keebler elf. So far today I've made sweet-spicy-salty nuts, mini pecan muffins and Salty Almond Graham treats. I only have sugar cookies left and then this elf is off duty...until tomorrow. *sobs*


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A beloved bookish Christmas memory...

Being a book maniac I have tons of book related holiday memories. There were the years, many in a row, actually, where I got the new Bloom County book for Christmas. I still have them all. Still love them. And yes, Opus the penguin is still my hero.

My mother was smart. She knew that the only thing that occupied me more than my love of all things TV was my addiction to books. So usually on Christmas Eve, once I had done her bidding (I’m kidding, I was always eager to help), she’d give me my Christmas Eve present. One present on
Christmas Eve just to whet the appetite.

To my recollection it was always a book in some form or other.

Despite how much I loved those yearly books with tales of Bill the Cat and Milo, my favorite
Christmas book-related memory is the year I was 16. I received Misery from my folks for Christmas. I was dying to read it, I devoured everything from Stephen King instantly, and this being the age before the internet existed to suck up my time and take it away from books (more often than I’d like), I practically ate his books whole.

Needless to say, the moment we were done with gifts, in those open hours between opening gifts in the morning and visiting family in the evening, I was camped out on my bed with Misery. Learning just how crazy Annie Wilkes was and how screwed poor Paul Sheldon happened to be.

Of course, I couldn’t take the book with me that night. One socializes and visits at parties. One does not read. And honestly, I did love those parties growing up. There were a ton of cousins in a wide age range and the adults were fun to be around as well. So, I willingly put my book aside until we could be reunited.

It was late when we finally returned home. I want to say ten…eleven? I made a beeline for the book. I remember it was a snowy Christmas. The ground was white, it was cold, and I’d just changed into pajamas and opened my lovely book when…the lights went out.

We’d lost power.

I wandered downstairs, clutching Misery, to find my mom lighting one of those old oil lamps and my father checking out the window to see if it was everyone or just us. It was everyone.

So, I read. Sitting at the dining room table while my parents talked and laughed around me. I read by the light of an old oil lamp while wrapped in a blanket eating Hershey kisses out of the bowl on the table. Picking at Baklava (my mother's yearly tradition) and no doubt drinking Coke by the bucket. The world was dark. The moon shining off the snow as I read and read and read.

Talk about ‘mood lighting’ from the Universe.

Eventually, the power came back on. And I believe I finished the tale of Paul and Annie before I finally slept. Hey, I didn’t have to get up early the next day—I was on Christmas break.

I have no idea why that memory is so dear to me. Maybe because living in the world I do now, I remember the power went out and no one was yelling about losing their internet connection. Or maybe it was the fact that I was huddled there reading by a soft glow on a cold winter night. Or maybe it was just that the world around me was so very peaceful and pretty as I got lost in a book.

But that Christmas, 1987, and that book and that memory is my most beloved book related holiday memory. I can close my eyes and remember it with perfect clarity. How flawless the day had been, how exciting the book was, and how very happy I was at that particular moment in time.

Now you. If you have a favorite book related memory, please share! You can post it in the comments or post it on your own blog and slap a linky-doo down in the comment section and I’ll go read it.

Happy five days (eek!) ‘til Christmas, y’all.

p.s. I may have blogged about this before. And if I apologies. I'm senile now. Like those old men who say "did I ever tell you the time..." and you say "Yes" and then they proceed to tell you anyway? Just call me Grandpaw...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?

Is your family like this? Then my new holiday novella might be the perfect quick, festive break for you. A cup of coffee and some cookies and a little Christmas fun.

My shameless plug for the week, ladies and gentlemen. Which always makes me think of a...ya know...butt plug, for some reason. So, there you go again, my weird mental tangent for the week. Tada!

And now on to one of my favorite snippets of my favorite scenes in 'tis the Season. :)

What had I done?

I stood at the antique China cabinet that had been my grandmother’s and tried to pick out the wine glasses. My mother was futzing with my cheese platter for the fourth time.

After we’d sat and talked over more wine the night before, Brogan had helped me tether the tree so it wouldn’t attack me anymore and then gone up to his apartment after a very steamy and very long kiss goodnight.

Now, I was about to subject him to my family. See, I get these super romantic notions of the holidays every year. And every year, once everything begins and people are arriving, I remember why this isn’t a movie. The holidays rarely mimic TV shows and holiday films. Unless you count the show Cops or the movie The Ref.

“Now, this young man you’ve invited. Wait, what is this stuff again?” My mother pointed to the green on my cheese platter. I’d gone all out. Nice cheeses, grapes of three colors, two kinds of olives, salted nuts and a variety of crackers.

I sighed. “Fig leaves, Mom.”

“They’re not poisonous are they?”

I looked at her, a wine glass in each hand.

“Because I don’t want to have to go to the emergency room on Christmas Eve. It will be mobbed.”

I wanted to answer, but I was too dumbfounded to speak.

“Natalie Jane, have you been struck mute?”

“Mom, are figs poisonous?”

“Well, of course not.”

“So why in the world would the leaves be?”

“Your logic is flawed, Natalie. There are many plants that have some poisonous bits and 
some edible bits.”


“Okay,” I said. “Let me ask you this. Why would I put poisonous leaves on a cheese platter?”

“Maybe you didn’t know.”

“Well, how would I know to answer your question then?”

My mother pressed her hot pink, lipsticked lips together and narrowed her eyes. “I hope we don’t all die.”

“Me, too,” I said. Well, most of us