Some people are already running for the hills knowing the holiday season is careening toward us and wondering how they will navigate All That. Be it drama, irritations, differences of opinion, or in some cases, animosity or ambivalence, family is a word that brings out the emotions.
I’m the kind of person who wishes all family members would get along.
I’m also the kind of person who is disappointed. A lot.
Because in my world, despite my wants, all sorts of fractured family dynamics exist. Some close to the heart, others further out in my tree’s concentric circles.
I’m learning to accept it…as if I have a choice in the matter. I can’t control what others believe, how they behave, or whether they want a relationship. Conversely, I am not so willing to accept someone carte blanche anymore, especially if I find them offensive, abusive or uncaring.
Lately, I’ve been thinking family is actually a broader term than the technical definition I’ve always attributed to it. Family can be someone important to you or your family unit whether they are related or not. Sometimes those non-relations become the best kind of family. The kind you wish your actual family was like.
What does that look like for me?
So here’s what I say. If your family dynamics suck, build a new one. Make your own tribe. Take a nod from the Serenity Prayer and accept the things you cannot change but also change the things you can. While you’re at it, nurture the family relationships that are thriving, so they’ll continue to grow. And if you want to try and fix the fractured relations, have at it. Just know the world isn’t going to end if things aren’t perfect. And if sucking it up to foster family peace is worth the price of admission, there ain't nothing wrong with that, either.
Just remember, Thanksgiving is coming. #pleasepassthecranberrysauce
Nice review from Chick Lit Central on their website today about FIFTY, FOUR WAYS. Makes me feel seriously legit! Thanks, Sara Steven and the Chick Lit Central crew! Click on the image above to see the full review.
1. I thought I lived in the country when I moved to Charles Town. Turns out I lived in a small town. Not to say others didn’t live in the country just a short distance away, but I was a townie.
2. You thought you’d seen about every insect already in your lifetime. Think again. This has its highs and lows. I’ve never seen more varieties of dragonflies and butterflies, but also ginormous stingy creatures and bugs you can’t even see! I can do without the centipedes climbing out of our drains, too. Spider web production begins the moment you park your car.
3. Once you’ve gotten an infected tick bite, you’ll get vigilant about checking for those suckers.
4. If it can grow, it will. Everywhere. One example: I live in an area that is heavily logged by the timber industry. Vast sections of trees are mowed down, leaving an Armageddon-like landscape in its wake. And yet, the second it’s cleared, plant life begins growing in that same space. I’ve also seen plant life in the middle of the lake on log stumps. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
5. Wildlife is abundant and a joy to watch. Also, if you give wildlife a good habitat, it will hang out. It sometimes sounds like Jurassic Park out there in the surrounding woods—day or night. And I love the toad serenades that happen every night!
6. It’s d-a-r-k at night. There is no light pollution, and a full moon is pretty epic. You can also see all the stars, just like when I went camping in the mountains as a kid.
7. Aside from the insects, birds and critters—and in our neck of the woods, the occasional military plane flying through—it’s blessedly quiet. We don’t hear traffic, or the constant droning of someone’s lawn mower, leaf blower or snow blower.
8. You can pick your own assortment of wildflowers (or pretty weeds) as they grow in abundance along the sides of the roads.
9. The best fried chicken I’ve ever purchased (not to be confused with the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, which my husband makes) happens to be in a tiny roadside store near my house at a place called Granny B’s.
10. The people here are among the nicest I’ve ever met. Strangers start up conversations in the grocery store line, have hopped off their tractor to introduce themselves, and in general, say hello or smile in our comings and goings. Moreover, not only has there been an absence of racial tension in a place with an ugly history, it’s been quite the opposite.
11. We had to cut down three trees in order to get Internet service, and even then, it’s pretty lacking. It’s still a good tradeoff.
12. I may be guilty of a false sense of security, but I feel pretty dang safe out here.
13. The deer here are smart! I’ve seen more deer in a short time living here than I’ve seen in my entire life, and yet they always seem to get out of the way, or turn and run in the safe direction instead of crossing the road, when I approach in my vehicle. If they do cross, you have plenty of time to see them. I’ve seen one deer as road kill. One. I don’t know how else to explain it, other than these four-legged friends are savvy! And one of the best things going about plentiful deer is seeing all the fawns. SO cute!
14. I’ve also seen more box turtles since living here than I’ve seen in my combined years—and as a result, helped many safely cross the road (sometimes two a day!). It’s prompted me to study up a bit on these doofers.
15. One last thing. My husband was worried about how a former bona fide big city girl was going to do in such a remote location, because country woods living is fairly remote (although I can get to that fried chicken in about ten minutes, and even greater civilization in about twenty or more, so I’m sitting pretty). I wasn’t concerned—I’ve been heading this direction since leaving the big city. I can report I fully embrace it now that I’m here. I’m overjoyed to have lived in such diverse places from big cities, to historic cities, to small towns, to the wooded countryside. I believe humans were meant to be ensconced in nature. The wonder and beauty of it alone resets your cells on a daily basis and reminds us of our place in the world. I’ve told a few people my cells are recalibrating since I got here—it’s the closest I can come to describing it. My biggest takeaway is how important it is for all of us to change our venue from time to time so we can change our perspective and allow it to broaden. You can change things up through moving (preferably not just down the street or across town) and traveling (so many options!). In hindsight, I’m sorry I stayed so long in one place. But with new foresight, I hope I keep nurturing this insight.
Nice to be featured on ChickLitClub.com. Check it out if you'd like to read this short interview with some behind-the-scenes chit-chat.
I celebrated by 55th birthday in April, which is when I started this list. While I'm not sure it's full of stunning revelations, they are some of my most important and how-I-live-my-life practiced beliefs—and more than a few are hard-fought lessons. I'd love to know yours if you want to write me back.
1. Ego is not your amigo.
2. Argue your limitations and they exist.
3. Love yourself.
4. To thine own self be true.
5. Don't give other people power.
6. Something is broken if you are self-medicating with booze, drugs, food, sex, shopping, workouts, or fill-in-the-blank here. The good news? It’s in your power to fix it.
7. Be introspective. It is your key to evolving.
8. Be better tomorrow than you are today.
9. Walk through the pain vs. running, hiding or obliterating it. It’ll just be waiting for you if you don’t.
10. The more we identify our differences, the more separate we remain.
11. Take risks. What are you gonna do…sit around and watch Brady Bunch reruns all day?
12. Understand true reality and realize your perception is not it.
13. Fix your shortcomings.
14. Love is always the answer. Even if you don’t want it to be the answer.
15. The world does not revolve around you.
16. Resentment hurts you the most. Practice forgiveness.
17. Be honest. Period.
18. We can do hard things.
19. Take the high road.
20. Thoughts become things. (Be careful what you think about!)
21. Life is not fair and you aren’t owed anything.
22. No one but you can fix you.
23. Love unconditionally, including yourself.
24. Ditch your expectations—they are just resentments under construction.
25. No matter how hard or painful life gets, you can get through it.
26. You can do anything you set your mind to.
28. Give generously.
29. Stand up for yourself and others. It’s how self-esteem and self-respect grow and blossom.
30. Don’t gossip.
31. Take responsibility for your actions. Always.
32. There are lots of walking wounded out there. Have empathy for your fellow man.
33. We are all connected.
34. You are stronger than you know.
35. Saying you’re sorry without changing your behavior is an empty apology.
36. Faith without works is dead.
37. True beauty is not skin deep.
38. If there are a bunch of assholes in the room, there is usually only one asshole.
39. We are all creative in our own ways, and we all have at least one book in us (writing it is another matter).
40. What appears to be the easier, softer way is usually the hardest, worst way. Just do it the right way.
41. No matter what life has thrown at you, you are responsible for the person you are right now.
42. Life is short. Make it sweet.
43. Live in the present moment.
44. Exiting a bad relationship is a win. Staying in a relationship and overcoming challenges is also a win.
45. Live in gratitude—if it’s your predominant attitude and action, life will be so good.
46. Stay humble.
47. Don’t judge.
48. Have dreams and goals. It’s pretty hard to achieve something you don’t imagine first.
49. Don’t bother with resolutions. Every day is a day you can choose to live the way you want.
50. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time.
51. Don't blame your parents, siblings, teachers, government, society, (i.e., others) for your circumstances (and also re-read #2, 5, 21, 26, 34 and 41).
52. Money is not the key to happiness.
53. When someone is at their worst, that’s when they need your love the most.
54. Different is good.
55. Appreciate the big things, the little things and all the things.
They say opposites attract, and if you look at the bookshelf above, you might see this illustrated perfectly. There is a distinct difference in the left side vs. the right side. One half belongs to me, and the other to my husband of twenty-six years today, my mate for thirty. Both are actually organized to our liking—by subject matter mostly—but I prefer my titles neat and tidy, from tallest to shortest, even if that means fudging things here and there, while his are organized by subject matter even though several subjects must share one shelf.
The old me might have been bothered by the appearance of his “side” because clutter and loose ends drive me a little crazy, even though I’ve been living with them for decades. Try as I might to avoid it, life is full of both. But I don’t feel like straightening up his books now (much) because I’ve come to accept my guy’s idiosyncrasies every bit as much as his personality traits, methods of operation and general demeanor.
He’d be the first to tell you he’s a handful, and if you know him well, you might agree. But for me, sitting over here in the passenger seat, it’s my privilege (and sometimes challenge) to see the whole person he is. I’ve always contended he is the square peg to our round ones as he simply doesn’t see the world the way most of us do, nor does he interact with humans the way most of us do. It’s almost like we’re speaking a different language.
Despite this, over the years, my husband has taught me more about love than I learned the lifetime before we met. He is positively unconditional about his love for me as well as trustworthy, loyal, honest, doting and committed. He speaks to me, and about me to others, with reverence and respect. He sometimes jokes that he “seethes romance,” and in actuality, he is an old school romantic. He believes in forever love, in honest unity, in spending as much time as humanly possible together before we’re gone.
Loving someone unconditionally is my best relationship advice ever. That means loving the whole person—shortcomings, longcomings and everything in between—24/7. Aside from the obvious (like abuse), when the going gets tough, stay in there and fight through it. Resist the urge to flee and see if the grass is greener on the other side. The grass may look greener, but no matter what lawn you lay on, you are still gonna deal with pesky insects, weeds, worms under the soil, dirt patches and the regular need to mow. No one is perfect.
It’s not easy to love unconditionally. Sure it is when your person is acting amazing, funny, generous and kind. But when he/she is behaving their worst, it can be repelling. We respond defensively or with frustration and anger. I contend that’s when our mates need our love the most. It’s a clue they are off-kilter, whether rational or not. Is bailing the answer, or does a little understanding and empathy seem a better way to go?
Love wins, and I believe that. And love, in its truest sense, should be unconditional. That doesn’t mean accepting every behavior that bothers you, but to work it out, talk it out, show up for both parties so you can go on loving and growing.
As for the small stuff (like a messy bookshelf) I recommend letting it go. Let others have their space to live and thrive in their own special ways while you have your own, too. Be accepting, understanding and compassionate. Make some concessions, remember to be flexible. Feel gratitude for your partner. Choose harmony. Love with your whole heart. You just might be amazed at the levels you reach personally and with your significant other.
My husband and me the day we eloped at the Arlington Courthouse twenty-six years ago and
celebrating our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary in the Outer Banks in 2017.
If there’s a Heaven, it’s about to get louder and better. The world lost a giant, a king, and a special artist in Dick Dale upon his death yesterday.
Although I grew up in California, it was actually my husband, Greg, who introduced me to Dick Dale.
Sure, I logged some time on SoCal beaches anytime I visited my grandparents in Dana Point as well as watched the hokey Annette Funacello and Frankie Avalon beach movies that sometimes featured Dick Dale and his Del-tones, but I was too young to be impacted by those surf cultures enough to recognize the legend he already had become.
Dale is credited with inventing surf music in the 1950s. An avid surfer, his surfmates gave him the title “King of the Surf Guitar” and it stuck. Another claim to fame? Leo Fender gave Dale a Stratocaster and amp to play, asking him to “beat it to death” and tell him what he thought of it. Dale proceeded to blow up 49 amps and speakers because he plays so hard and loud, and some even caught on fire! In the end, it was Dale who helped Fender create rugged apparatus musicians would enjoy (and beat up) for generations.
Over the years, I have delved into my husband’s vast collection of music. He enjoys a large variety of genres, but surf music is one of his favorites. I was familiar with the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and the Surfaris’ killer song “Wipe Out” (you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that one!), but Greg turned me on to surf music giants The Mermen, The Ventures and Dick Dale. And his vast Beach Boys collection offers a lot more than the “Barbara Ann” played on the radio—you should really check them out more closely.
My personal Dick Dale moment? When Greg and I, along with our son, Travis, saw him at The Birchmere in Virginia back in 2003. The venue is terrific—an intimate, supper club-style performance hall. We sat right in front, about a foot from Dale much of the time. He happened to like us and gave Trav his first guitar pick of the evening, winked at me a few times and told Greg during one of his songs, “It’s alright for her to look at me. She sees you all the time!” He was very conversational, offering up numerous opinions ranging in various topics between numbers. He also kept his drummer and bassist on their toes, as they never knew what song he was going to play next and sometimes, they just “made the shit up” right then and there. One highlight of the show was when Dale abandoned his guitar and grabbed a couple of drumsticks and played in tandem with the drummer. He was good at that, too. Then he took the sticks and played the bass while the bassist held the frets with his fingers. Dale and his band were clearly having a good time and I found it refreshing, a far cry from some of the shows I’d seen in my youth. I’ve attended at least a hundred concerts, and I can tell you Dick Dale plays the guitar louder than anyone—and that includes some of the biggest rock bands in the world. I admit, my ears hurt that night and into the next day, but I would be hard pressed to say it wasn’t worth it anyway!
I knew that evening we were witnessing greatness, a phenom really. Dale is an incredible powerhouse of talent and energy, but also witty and personable, likable on every front.
Dale, 81, reportedly kept touring to help pay for his medical bills, which is a pretty sad state of affairs. I noticed he was set to play on May 25 in San Juan Capistrano, the California town where my mother went to high school (and later got married), which just illustrates how true he was to his roots.
I’ll be celebrating him by playing his wonderful music today—and for the rest of my life. And if there is a Heaven, I imagine he is shredding it there as he did here, only maybe not in pain or feeling his age. Rock on, DD!
Visit www.dickdale.com to learn more about him—it’s worth the read.
"Fifty Fever" continues as more readers find Fifty, Four Ways and provide feedback. THANK YOU to everyone who has purchased a copy, left a review, sent me a photo or message or stopped me out in public to talk about it. One of the best messages I've received was from an old high school friend who saw my posts on Instagram. He said he didn't read much but he was reading this! He also agreed so send me a pic, and as soon as I get it, I'm sharing it!
Want to help me? You can! Here are two ways:
1. I STILL NEED REVIEWS. And yes, I'm kind of begging here. If we're gonna blow the top off this thing, I need lots and lots more reviews on Amazon (and Goodreads if that's your thang). If you've bought and read my book, I just can't thank you enough for leaving an honest review on Amazon, or doing so once you have read it.
2. SHARE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA, BLOGS, EMAIL, OR IN PERSON. If you get the book, please share about it so others know it exists. Know some parents of kids who play sports? Know some moms, wives, women? Know some sex-starved or sex-pestered gals? This book is for them! Feel free to share my website or Amazon link.
Please keep your photos and comments coming. There's definitely some common questions forming, such as, "Which character is you?" All I can say is I refuse to confirm or deny anything! And THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your support. Really. Seriously. I mean it.
Very grateful and excited readers are leaving reviews for my latest novel, Fifty, Four Ways—and they are all five-star reviews so far! Keep 'em coming! And please feel keep sending photos of you reading the book or getting your copy. Those are the best!
TODAY'S THE DAY! Fifty, Four Ways isn't just "Go for launch," it's LAUNCHED, baby!
Where can you get it right now?
1. Amazon.com has it in paperback or ebook.
2. Ask your local bookstore to order it for you.
3. If you gotta have an autographed copy, connect with me and we'll coordinate the effort.
What's best for me is your Amazon order ASAP. Amazon, like everything else online these days, runs on algorithms, and those are determined by sales and reviews. If my novel sells well (and the reviews start pouring in), my book will automatically populate in front of a bigger buying audience. So, if you are inclined to read my book, or buy it as a gift for someone you know, thank you from the bottom, top and sides of my heart. I truly appreciate it!
Watch the video and read an early review right here.
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