Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Rain

I live in Michigan.

It is not supposed to be nearly fifty degrees and raining in December.

Of course, after the snowiest winter (ever) on record last year, most people are thanking goodness or whatever/whomever else they choose to thank for the respite from the real start of winter. Though we’ve had some bitterly cold days so far and even one terrible windstorm that knocked out power in the area (in some cases for days) we haven’t had winter yet.

As a result, to me it feels nowhere near Christmas, even though Christmas is only nine days away.

Sure, I’ve been listening to the music, watching the TV shows, consuming the cookies and even visiting holiday craft fairs and such when I was able to get out of the house for a few hours.

Sadly I paid for that short expedition with a back/shoulder/hip out of place and have been stuck on the couch for days since, but that is the price I pay for living in this body. Only one I've got, have to make the best of it.

I could feel that the rain was coming, before it got here. I always can. 

Deep in my bones, I feel the shift in the atmosphere... in my head somewhere something clicks: and on a dark and dreary day like today all I can do is put the music back on and turn on my favorite tiny adorable/pathetic/perfect little Christmas tree that we picked up on sale for a dollar and change at the craft store—which I then decorated with the largest light strand in the house and the big snowflake ornament that was my husband’s gift this year at the company Christmas dinner—as I sit here; waiting for snow.

Waiting for a lot of things.

I hate those year-end retrospective type of posts so I’ll spare you the list of things I accomplished in 2014 that never, if you analyzed the odds on paper, should have happened.

Let’s just say I’m happy for the good things, and still somewhat in denial of most of the bad things, and just trying to come to a place of acceptance of them, some way to incorporate them day by day into my world the best I can while still trying to find the sweetness that life has left in it.

Suddenly I’m put in mind of that TV show where there are chefs given baskets containing a wide variety of ingredients from which they’re supposed to make, let’s say, a decadent dessert. 

Oh, it’s all well and good and fun when they see the cocoa powder and heavy cream. Then they pull out a container of leftover broccoli smothered in artificial cheese sauce and a bottle of vinegar and the gravity of the situation hits them: they have to make the best of it. They still have to make something sweet.

That is such a metaphor for my life right now… making the best of it.

I have much to be grateful for—there is a lot of ‘sweet’ in my basket. The things that are wrong, though, are so wrong that it makes it difficult to make a chocolate soufflĂ© and mask the taste of that damned spray-can cheese and broccoli.

(I can’t even eat cheese anymore.)

So, what is the plan, going forward, for me?

People ask about resolutions. I’m resolved not to make any.

There is too much instability, too many variables in play here— too many things and elements I can’t control to resolve that I'd like, say, my next book to hit a bestseller list on Amazon like two of my other ones have or even that I’ll write another novel in 2015 after I finish working on WISHING CROSS STATION, already in progress.

I’d like to think that I might. But there is just no knowing.

My life-- and health-- are like the weather in Michigan: there is no predicting, from hour to hour, what you’re going to get.

I can only sit here and wish, as I watch teardrops of rain fall down over the dead leaves that cling to the tree beyond my balcony and gather in puddles on the sidewalk below, that it would suddenly, magically, turn into pristine, sparkling white snow, hushing the world, and the noise inside my head, as it falls.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Guest Post by Bestselling Author Tess Thompson: Love Stories

Hello everyone! Today I am thrilled to host a guest post from amazing, bestselling author Tess Thompson.

So without further ado... here's Tess!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Love Stories
One of my best friends, Natalie Symons, a brilliant playwright and actress, reads all my novels. After she read the latest, Blue Midnight, she wrote to me. “How do you keep writing these love stories when your own love life is so tragic?”

Tragic? Unfortunately, this description is not an exaggeration. I’ve dated every lunatic, loser, player, and poser in the greater Seattle area. Okay, that is an exaggeration, but not by much.

I’ve been using the online sites as a vehicle to meet men. I don’t meet people otherwise, as writing is a solo endeavor, one in which I do in my home office. Also, I have little girls, Ella and Emerson, who keep me very busy. Not to mention I live in a community very much like Pleasantville. Everyone is happily married with 2.5 children.

Then, there’s me. Single at 45 with two little girls. First of all, the three of us come as a package and that’s a whole lot of blond girls to deal with all at once. And let’s be honest, I probably only have another couple years before I become completely invisible to the opposite sex. I’m fading fast.

So I try. I date. I post my profile on Match and OkCupid. I hope.

I’m a nice girl with a big heart. You know - a good person, smart, easy to get along with, loyal, interesting, sane, sweet. I think I have a lot to offer. All I want is a nice man like the ones I write about. I know these men in real life. Some are married to my friends. Two are my brothers. One is my dad. Loyal. Smart. Sane. Hard-working. Big hearts. Protective. Great fathers. They’re not perfect but they’re wonderful just the same.

However, I suspect that all the good ones are taken and that makes me feel sad, all joking aside. I’m lonely. I wish for three things in life: my children to thrive, my books to sell, and to find my true love. The first two are coming true. The last? Abysmal failure.

But it doesn’t keep me from wishing. It doesn’t keep me from writing about wonderful men who know how to love a woman properly. I still believe in love, for others and myself. I’ll never give up believing. Because to write love stories, one has to ultimately imagine that your own happy ending is possible. Despite all the ways men have behaved badly in my life, I still believe the right one is just around the corner.

Until then, I write my love stories. And I hope. 

Tess Thompson is a bestselling Women’s Fiction author of three series, including the popular River Valley Trilogy. Her latest, Blue Midnight, was a top 40 Kindle book in early December. She lives in Snoqualmie, Washington with her lovely daughters, Ella and Emerson, and their naughty cats, Midnight and Mittens. She blogs about her crazy and miraculous life on her website. Follow her on twitter: @tesswrites

Thank you, Tess, for being my guest today! xoxo bru

P.S. As a bonus to today's post, you can read on if you wish for a look at the first chapter of Tess Thompson's latest bestseller, BLUE MIDNIGHT!


I found it at the very back of my bedside table drawer, next to an old bottle of nail polish. I’d forgotten to empty the drawers in preparation for the movers that morning and was doing so now, shoving most of the neglected or forsaken contents into trash bags. But this scrap of paper, it stopped me. 

Shaped like a duck’s beak and wedged between the bottom of the drawer and the back panel, with just its tip exposed, it wasn’t enough, really, to indicate something of any significance. But I knew. I knew in an instant. I stood motionless, taking in every jagged detail. Then, I tugged; it came loose easily. This small slip of paper with a man’s name and number scrawled in blue ink seemed benign enough. Finn Lanigan 208-555-2004. And yet, the pulse at my neck quickened. Heat traveled from my center to every limb. I sank on molten legs to the stripped mattress. I held this scrap of paper, torn from a bar receipt, between damp fingers and stared at it like the ghost it was.

I’d tossed it years before, hadn’t I? Surely I had, in one of my moments that first year of marriage when my loyalty was resolute. Hadn’t I disposed of it when I embraced my choice? Apparently not. Here it lived. My temptation. My road not taken.

My daughters’ voices floated up the winding staircase from where they chased one another like wanton puppies in the now nearly empty 4,500 square feet of custom floors, intricate finish work, and marble countertops. I went to the window that faced the street and looked out onto our neighborhood park, empty this morning of children. Today was the first day of summer vacation and children and their mothers were sleeping late. How many hours of my life had I spent in that park, pushing my babies in swings, chasing after them as toddlers, and, when they were old enough to climb the play structures by themselves, chatting with other mothers about this milestone or that? The hours could not be calculated, of course, nor the wages lost by choosing to stay at home with my children instead of continuing my career.

The windows were open to let the fresh June air cleanse away all remnants of the scents of my family before the new owners claimed it with their own smells. Outside, the movers shouted to one another as they loaded the family room couch into the moving truck. My neighbor from two doors down walked by the truck, her eyes averted. Her manicured hands grasped the leash of her Labradoodle. She couldn’t look. It was easier to pretend the collective nightmare for almost every woman in our affluent Seattle neighborhood had not happened to someone in their circle, someone with whom they exercised, had dinner parties, and volunteered at private school. Someone they liked. A stay-at-home mom, almost forty-five, left by her husband for another woman and forced to leave her beautiful home and sought-after neighborhood. I was everyone’s worst-case scenario.

My eyes went back to the slip of paper in my hand.

If you change your mind, here’s this. Then he’d kissed me one last time under an Idaho star-scattered sky larger than any other. After the kiss I wished would last forever ended, as all good things must, I turned away, back to the life I’d agreed to, the wedding I’d committed to. It was the last kiss that ever weakened my knees, the last sky I noticed for thirteen years.

Now, Clementine, my seven-year-old, pounded up the stairs, followed by the tip-tap of her older sister Lola in her flip-flops. I shoved the slip of paper in the pocket of my shorts. I couldn’t know then why I didn’t just toss it in the garbage like I had so many memories and possessions in the weeks preceding. I know now. It was my destiny, and destinies cannot be denied.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Endless December

“May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is worth forgetting.”

(The inscription on a plaque I bought from a store that carries items from Ireland.)
So, how are you all faring this cold, gray December?

The holidays have pretty much stalled for me…I’m in that mental netherworld between Thanksgiving and Christmas where the days all blur together. There’s no snow here (not that I’m really complaining about that...) but it feels like winter, just the same.

It’s almost time to drop off our annual Toys for Tots contribution.

I wonder about the little girl who will find an Elsa doll beneath the wrapping paper when she opens her prize this year. I hope it goes to a child who dearly wanted one.

My daughter’s birthday is approaching…

I think back on times past, on the things worth remembering as the plaque says, and I know that she is the big thing that is missing from my holidays. No matter what I do to fill the time, there is still a void where she belongs.

I remember her laughing at me for eating the burned Christmas cookies because, I explained, “It’s what moms do.” 

I recall her stringing little beads together to make ‘light’ strands for one of my dollhouses. I remember reading A Wish for Wings That Work by Berkeley Breathed every year on Christmas Eve, for more years than I can remember.

Many years, she begged to be the one to read it to us. And she did…flawlessly. It was more a performance than simply reading aloud.

I remember her favorite Christmas songs, and the sound of a voice more youthful than the one she possesses today but no less beautiful, echoes in my ears.

All that exists in the present pales in comparison to those memories.
I still have a company party to attend with my husband (a rare evening out for me) this week and… I don’t know.

I look at the calendar and 2015 is approaching so rapidly it makes me dizzy. I have goals, to be sure, and deadlines, even; but no resolutions. I have long since learned that resolutions mean nothing unless you are invested enough in whatever it is you’d be doing to do it without announcing it to the world. As Yoda famously said: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I look at the datebook I’ve chosen for 2015, the same sort as I had for 2014; a photographic tribute to Monet’s gardens at Giverney. Looking at them makes me ache for a spring that is so very far away.

I want to hibernate, to be honest.

But… I’m also anxious to begin revising WISHING CROSS STATION in January. It still feels so far away. Just a little over three weeks… I have to promise myself. Just a few more weeks. It needs that time to set; to allow my mind to forget it enough so that when I go back to it, I will see what works and what needs work. Then I get to print it out, see the words upon the page, and mark them up to make them better. I find I really miss the characters... I hope that bodes well for the rest of the writing process on this book.

December just feels eternal this year, and I wonder if it's only to me. 

Everything feels different— so much more commercial every year. In fact, they chopped the best parts (the tree picking scene!!!) out of Charlie Brown Christmas this year when they aired it to add more commercials! There was a cry of ‘foul’ on Twitter, but the network never responded.

It’s a Wonderful Life sits waiting on my DVR because I like to watch it on Christmas Eve, not almost a month in advance of the holiday, which is when they air it now.

Hoops and YoYo Ruin Christmas and Celtic Thunder Christmas are standing by to make the hours pass a little quicker. Maybe I’ll even watch the Grumpy Cat movie again, which I loved. (I’ve watched it twice already and I regret nothing.)

There are candy canes, and hot chocolate, and eating my approximate weight in Pillsbury sugar cookies, fresh out of the oven, still to come.

There are sweet moments to look forward to…if I can just gather myself through the storm of my emotions, and mourning for the little family that exists no more, and be grateful, in each moment, for what I still have.

The Bipolar is trying its best to stop me from doing that, but 
I’m still fighting.

One song, one cookie, one gift for a stranger, one moment at a time.

I hope the holidays (mixed emotions and all that they bring with them) grant you moments of inner peace, gratitude, and hope as we go forward though the rest of this month and the beginning of the next into the new year. 

Because if there is anything the world needs now, it is as much peace as we can get… one soul at a time.

Happy Holidays…