Nan Reinhardt, Author

Grown-up love stories, because we’re never too old for a little sexy romance…
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Big Stuff Is Coming…

July6

…honest! Hold tight and as soon as I finish the revisions on my Tule Publishing book, I’ll be back with news and fun posts.

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Celebrating Seasoned Romance: Liz Flaherty

February23

I’m always delighted to welcome my bestie, Liz Flaherty, to the blog. Liz thinks one of the things that keeps you young when you quite obviously aren’t anymore is the constant chances you have to reinvent yourself. Her latest (and happiest!) professional incarnation is as a Harlequin Heartwarming author!

One of the reasons she loves writing and reading about seasoned protagonists is the most obvious one–it’s a dream she’s living. She remembers early conversations with her husband when they tried to imagine having sex at 40 and beyond. She was utterly thrilled to find out it was not only possible but even better than it had been in their 20s!

That’s as personal as it’s going to get. Liz has three grown children, the three they married and brought home to her, and the Magnificent Seven grandchildren who are, you know, magnificence. She and Duane live in the same farmhouse back a lane they’ve been sharing for 40 years and hope to share for…well, probably not another 40, but a long time more. She also hangs out with me–our 3-hour lunches are the stuff legends are made of. Liz is a multi-published author with Harlequin, The Wild Rose Press, and Carina Press.

She’d love to hear from you at lizkflaherty@gmail.com or please come and see her at http://www.facebook.com/lizkflaherty

Today Liz is sharing her thoughts on seasoned romance, a topic the two of us have taken apart and put together more times than I can count. However much we discuss romance written about and for women in their prime, we inevitably come to the same conclusion–we need it! Take it away, Liz!

Thanks to Nan for having me here yet again. This article is a re-run from a year or so ago on The Pink Heart Society but my feelings on the subject haven’t changed at all. My own seasoned romances are still among my favorites. My women’s fiction title about four girlfriends in their 50s, The Girls of Tonsil Lake, is something I’m embarrassingly proud of.

I’ve been reading romance since long before Janet Daily wrote No Quarter Asked and gave American authors a new place in a genre that belonged almost exclusively to women.

That particular revolution was only one Big Thing—romance and most of its changes have been an embarrassment of riches since its beginning. Multi-cultural romances are widely available, which wasn’t always the case. Indie-pubbing is huge, yet I remember when the very idea of it was pretty close to the f-bomb on the roster of dirty words. Romance used to be the love story of one man and one woman and now gender isn’t even an issue. The traditional Happily Ever After ending can be Happy For Now or, if some supporters have their way, Not Happy At All. Sex has gone from being a heavy-breathing suggestion near the climax of the story to multiple scenes in the same chapter. The use of any kind of swearing or other obscenity has become a non-issue because nothing is forbidden.

It must be admitted that nearly every adjustment has been accompanied by kicking and screaming from its authors, readers, or both, but the biggest blessing of all these changes is that now there is something for everybody. I write sweet romance for Harlequin Heartwarming with no on-the-page sex and no swearing. Inspirational publishers, lines, and imprints are alive and well. Readers don’t have to look far to find books that tell stories of LGBTQ protagonists. A reader can go from chaste kisses to multiple orgasms with the touch to the screen of her e-reader. Contemporary, historical, and paranormal romances have delighted readers waiting for them and no one’s intoning in somber voices that their chosen category is dead.

I’m old enough to be appalled at some of the alterations to the genre I love at the same time I am, as a child of the 60s, completely thrilled that the changes have been made.

Except. Did you see that term in the paragraph above, there where I said “60s.” That’s where I’m at—not the 1960s anymore, but in my 60s. Somewhere past the middle. If we want to be brutally honest or intentionally rude about it, I guess I’m old. I’m retired from a long and happy career at a day job but I still write romantic novels and work part time in a library. I’ve been married to the guy who holds my heart for going-on-47 years and we have seven pretty-much-perfect grandchildren.

Surprising as it is to me, apparently no one wants to read about romance between people who lost their skin tone and their waistlines sometime in the previous decade. Or the one before. Who aren’t necessarily falling in real, true love for the first time, who won’t be pregnant or have children in the epilogue, who answer first and foremost to such pet names as Nana and Grampy-Buttons.

My daughter and daughters-in-law are in their early to mid-40s. They’re bright, beautiful, educated women with professions they’re excellent at and proud of. They’re also great mothers and wives. They’re readers, too, just like me. But no one wants to read about people like them, either. People whose days start in the dark and end in the dark because between their jobs and their families and that little-bit-of-time-before-bed they can call their own, their lives are completely full.

We read, all four of us, but we can very seldom read about women like ourselves because we’re too old, too settled, too married, the wrong demographic all around.

It makes me sad, because as gorgeous and smart and hilarious as everyone born after 1980 is, I don’t want to read about them all the time. I’m not interested in their body art or, for that matter, their body parts. I don’t believe they invented sex or that they’re the only ones who are good at it or that they are the only ones who can experience angst in its truest, most heartbreaking forms. They’re not the only ones who know how to laugh from the deepest parts of themselves or who hide behind closed stall doors in restrooms and weep from those same places.

Do I sound a little bitter there, as if I’m protesting too much? Yeah, probably. Because those of us born before 1980 have been in all those places. What’s more interesting is that we’re still there. We still laugh, cry, and have sex. We love more than we ever have before simply because the width and depth of our lives grow every single day and the love grows right along with it.

Yet we can’t be heroines in romance novels and the men we love can’t be heroes. I mean, we can, but not often. Not many. Not usually ones published by the Big Boys in New York. We can’t have imprints with provocative or heartstring-pulling names. It’s been tried; Harlequin’s Next imprint comes to mind. Its 100 titles are some of the best women’s fiction/romance books ever published and several of them had Baby Boomer protagonists. But think of that—100 titles. Not many in the scheme of things.

When I began to stage this little protest—remember, I said I was a child of the 60s; protest is part of my personal operating system—I looked up the demographics of romance readers. On this particular website, I read that “18 percent are between the ages of 45-54, 11 percent are between the ages of 55-64…eight percent are over 75…six percent are between the ages of 65-74…” Now, the way I read that, 43 percent are 45 and older, so wouldn’t that make you think protagonists “of a certain age” might have more stories in them than are available to read?

Not all statistics read that way, of course—it depends on your source. And not everybody my age or my girls’ ages want to read (or write) about protagonists in their own age groups.

But some do, and I’d love to see statistics on how many of that 43 percent I mentioned up there would like to see more romances about mature people. I’d love to know how many writers would like to write more romances about mature people. (I must note here that using the word mature is making my teeth itch—we’re people and don’t need labels.)

I have friends who write older protagonists—Nan Reinhardt and Jan Scarbrough to name two. I’ve written a few. Many others have, too, and terms like seasoned romance, grown-up love stories, never too old, not their first rodeo populate numerous blogposts and websites. I’m glad to see it, glad to read those stories that are written from hearts scarred and made strong by surviving life’s rodeos.

But I don’t think it’s enough. Until it is realized that we are here “in numbers too big to ignore,” until stories both by and about us are published and marketed with the same respect and enthusiasm awarded virtually everyone else, we’re still going to be the writers and the readers who are left over at the end of the day.

Here are links to Liz’s other stories with characters over 40:

A Soft Place to Fall

Summer in Stringtown Proper

Because of Joe

The Gingerbread Heart

 

 

Celebrating Seasoned Romance: Lina Rehal

February21

Today we’re featuring Lina Rehal, a self-published author who writes contemporary romance, nostalgia, memoirs, and slice-of-life stories. Her first book, Carousel Kisses, is a collection of nostalgic stories, personal essays and poems about growing up in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s.

She combines her passion for fiction and love of storytelling in her contemporary romance novels. Her two romance books, October In New York and Loving Daniel, Book One of her Tucker’s Landing Series, are available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle formats.

NAN: Welcome Lina. Tell us what you are currently working on or promoting.

LINA: Hi, Nan. Thank you for having me on your blog. I’m currently working on edits to the first draft of my contemporary romance, Lasting Impressions. It’s book two of my Tucker’s Landing Series. I’m hoping to self-publish it in late March or early April. I’m also promoting Loving Daniel, the first book in the series. Both stories are set in a coastal town in Massachusetts. It’s my first attempt at writing a series.

NAN: What genre(s) do you write in?

LINA: Mostly, contemporary romance. I love writing fiction and romance stories with happy endings. I also write nostalgia, memoir and slice of life stories.

NAN: Do you have an agent and/or publisher, or are you self-published?

LINA: All of my books are self-published.

NAN: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

LINA: Write from your heart. Get it down on paper and worry about the edits later. Go with your muse. Listen to your characters. They’ll lead you in the right direction.

NAN: Who is your favorite author and why?

LINA: Nora Roberts. Her characters are engaging and memorable. She grabs my attention from the first page and holds it through to the end. I’m never disappointed when I read one of her books.

NAN: Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?

LINA: My characters are in their mid-forties and up. If there’s a message, I’d say it’s don’t be afraid to love again. Second chances are hard to come by.

NAN: What do you like best/least about writing?

LINA: I like entertaining people through storytelling. I love creating characters and the worlds they live in and finding ways for them to interact. What I probably like the least is the time between books. After I finish a book, I miss my characters and the anticipation of what’s going to happen next. Thankfully, it goes away once I’m immersed in the next story.

NAN: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

LINA: Several years ago, a local newspaper accepted one of my stories. I was asked to write for a weekly column. I wrote day trip stories for a year and then moved up to travel and feature ones. When people would come up to me and tell me they enjoyed my story, I felt like a writer.

NAN: What is the hardest thing about writing a series?

LINA: Making the next book/books stand alones. Blending the characters from a previous book in with the new ones in the current book can be difficult. You have to make sure the timeframe works and that you don’t repeat too much. I keep thinking I have to explain what they did in the last one.

NAN: What do you do in your spare time?

LINA: I like to read, of course. Other than that, I enjoy traveling with my husband to Disneyworld and short getaways to Maine and New Hampshire. I love spending time with my family and going to lunch or dinner with girlfriends.

Lina is all over social media:

http://thefuzzypinkmuse.com

Loving Daniel

Romance writer, Grace Madden stumbles across an old journal and a stack of letters from the man who shattered her dreams when he returned from Iraq, broke their engagement and left Massachusetts with no explanation. Reading his letters brings back the unanswered question of why he broke up with her. Memories she tucked away in a corner of her heart, over two decades ago, resurface. Realizing she never got over him, the well-known author tries to find closure. She writes LOVING DANIEL to tell the story she’s kept inside of her all these years.

When Aidan McRae reads it, he is convinced the story is about him and has to know why she wrote it. He learns she’s doing an author event at a bookstore near his home in Maine and plans a surprise visit. He persuades her to have lunch with him. Hoping to find her answer, she accepts his invitation to spend the next day in Ogunquit, the small coastal town they visited as kids. An innocent kiss leads to feelings neither of them can deny.

Excerpt:

When Aidan woke up, he found himself in the living room. It was dark. He could see the full moon through the open blinds. The TV was in sleep mode. Red numbers from a digital clock on the end table glared at him. 2 a.m. Must have nodded off on the sofa again, he thought.

He had been dreaming. But, this time was different. He didn’t wake up in a panic or soaked from sweat. It wasn’t one of his usual nightmares. Aidan couldn’t remember this one, but he wanted to. It was about something, or someone pleasant. He was sure of that. Yet, it left him with a sense of sadness or loss.

The dream bothered him. He closed his eyes for a few minutes, hoping it would come back to him. When it didn’t, he decided to get up and go to bed. Swinging his long legs off the sofa, Aidan stood up. The book he had been reading slid off his chest and fell to the floor. The cover gave him a jolt. Loving Daniel by Grace Madden. He picked it up, sat down and remembered.

Aidan had been dreaming about Grace Devlin, a woman he fell in love with back in the late 1980’s in Massachusetts. She was in college then, studying to be a journalist. He was working at a local garage and taking business administration courses at night. They met when her car broke down and Aidan had to tow it back to the garage. She was a petite, beautiful young girl with long, flowing hair the color of copper and eyes as green as emeralds in the right light. He gave her a ride home that day and invited her to dinner before she got out of his truck.

In the dream, she was the Grace he knew back then. She was vibrant, tenacious, impatient and crazy in love with him. It was coming back to him. He had been kissing her. Awake now, Aidan could still feel the softness of her lips on his and smell the traces of lemon shampoo in her hair. It felt real. It felt right. He wanted to go back to sleep so he could hold her and tell her he loved her.

Link to Loving Daniel on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ybfkbvd2

Last 3 Days!

December29

ONCE MORE FROM THE TOP, book 1 in the Women of Willow Bay series is just 99 cents for the next three days. Don’t miss this chance to start the series at a great price!

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40 Days…

February11

keep-calm-and-live-lent-2I always give up something for Lent–well, I have for the last twenty or twenty-five years anyway. It’s my little stab at doing something and sticking to it for a specified time. I can honestly say that I’ve always succeeded at it, too. If I vowed to give up chocolate or wine or sweets or . . . whatever for forty days, I did it. I think there was a little part of me that worried God would strike me with lightning if I backslid or cheated. I don’t know, but I’ve always been very faithful to my Lenten sacrifice.

However, this year, I wondered what would truly be a sacrifice–I’m already working very hard at eating well, so giving up something like chocolate or wine wouldn’t be all that much of a sacrifice. I make my living on the Internet, so I can’t give that up or social media which, although I wouldn’t mind a break, is also vital to my life as an author. I need to stay connected if I want to stay in front of people as a writer.

I thought and thought about how I’ve spent my energy and where my head has been and what I’ve done in last year and a half, and I realized that a real sacrifice for me would be to give up the knot in my stomach. Crazy? I don’t think so. That knot has been there for months . . . over a year and a half of almost continuous worry.

Worry over son, concern for Grandboy and DIL, grief over sister Kate, and worry about how sister PJ will ever get along without her and whether I can ever be the sister to her that Kate was. Worry over my career, as publishing is going through a sea change and editing gigs have ebbed and flowed. Fear that I’ll never be a decent enough writer to warrant attention from a publisher, and a huge fear that I won’t be able to earn enough as an editor/writer to pay my own health insurance costs. Worry over Husband as he retired and started a new phase of his life–our lives–and wondering how me continuing to work would affect his retirement.

Worry over my friends and the fact that they’re losing their parents and ones who are dear to them. I really want people to quit dying. Worry over my health, worry over Husband’s–we’re fine, but getting older and stuff is starting to creak now and again. Worry over my Dee and her fight with a wicked cancer, Connie and her fight with breast cancer, Di and her fight with breast cancer, and Sheila and her fight with lung cancer (which sadly, she lost last month). Why is there so much cancer and illness in the world? Worry that I’m probably going to have to have knee replacement and what if I have a heart attack or what if Husband does or what if Son’s asthma kicks up again? What if I can’t stop crying if I really let myself wail and howl over Kate dying . . . What if God is disappointed in me because I worry so much and never really let go and let Him handle the worries?

The list is endless and the knot is ever-present–it’s a part of me, always reminding me to worry about . . . something. But this Lenten season, I’m going to make every effort to give up that knot, banish it, dissolve it, make a conscious choice to stop worrying about all these things over which I have no control. To truly let go and let God.

I’m not certain, but I think there’s a chance this might be harder than giving up chocolate . . . however, I’m vowing to try.

Welcome, Liz Flaherty!

January28

IMG_0750   Hey, Nan! Whose turn to drive is it? Mine? But it’s your car, right? Oh, we’re blogging, not doing a girlfriends trip. Okay, here we go. Thanks for having me here, by the way. I brought wine…

Hi! My name’s Liz Flaherty. Nan and I are friends, good ones. We write together, travel together, moan to each other in long poor-me texts we’d never let anyone else see, and travel all over Indiana to have lunch together sometimes when it’s been a while. We are, we say, sisters from different fathers—and mothers. We are kindred spirits.

We sound like the oldest of friends, don’t we?

But we’re not.

I’m not exactly sure how long we’ve been friends—several years now—but in the short list of my BFFs, her name was added last. Doesn’t make its spot any less firm, but the ink is darker.

Which brings me to telling you about Summer in Stringtown Proper, the love story of Molly Linden and Joe Rahilly—the banker from New York City and the carpenter from Stringtown Proper, Kentucky. She’s divorced, he’s widowed, and neither of them is in the market for a relationship. Of any kind. They’re done. They’re fifty and not the least bit interested in starting over again.

But then they meet.

It’s fun to have made such a good friend at Nan’s and my…er…experienced ages. Part of that fun is the unexpectedness of it that comes with differences; the laughter-laced meshing of city and country, my bigger family and her smaller one, and her ability to work at night while my brain says buh-bye after noon.

This is also the fun of writing about protagonists who are grown-up…and then some. Who aren’t in their first rodeo—they’ve loved before and chances are good they’ve loved well. They have kids and grandkids and retirement accounts. They’re probably not all that career-minded anymore and if they are it may very well not be their first career.

They don’t expect to meet anyone who makes them feel “it” again, who they lie in bed and think about, and who gets their blood moving in all kinds of delicious ways. They don’t want to be in love again because they know no matter it comes to an end, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to leave a mark, a big one.

But, like a friendship that happens unexpectedly, falling in love when you’re not looking for it is wonderful. It’s the kind of story I love to tell.

SummerinStringtownProper_Liz FlahertyBlurb:

Banker Molly Linden never expected to be alone and unemployed at fifty. Buying hunky carpenter Joe Rahilly’s saloon takes care of the employment situation, but she’s still alone. Or is she?

Excerpt:

They finished the dishes in silence. When she let the water out of the sink and turned her head to meet his gaze, he was waiting. His hands grasped her forearms gently, pulling her to him. Fitting her into the lines of his body in a way that made her knees shake and the saltines in her stomach swell and flutter.

“You, too,” he said. “You laughed about martinis—you wouldn’t have done that a month ago.”

She wouldn’t have. She’d have resented being teased about what he perceived as snobbery.

“A month?” She looked at the clock on the wall as though it would tell her how long she’d been on the Ridge. “Have I really been here a month?”

“No, actually you’ve been here six weeks. Not that I’m keeping track of you, but Dad said this morning he and Sadie were going out to celebrate their six-weeks anniversary tonight.” He held her closer, and she felt his heartbeat. Strong and steady. “Makes it our anniversary, too, doesn’t it? I held you that day, too. When we danced three times. Remember?”

“I do.” She shrugged, just a little lift of her shoulder. “Sort of. I wasn’t remembering things too well by the time the reception was over.”

He snickered. “Wine from the Ridge got you.”

“It did,” she admitted. “But I remember that I liked dancing with you.” This was flirting. It was fun. In younger days, she’d have thought it was a little dangerous, something that might get in the way of whatever goal she’d set for that particular time. But now, today, it was delicious.

“Me, too. With you, I mean.” He dipped his head to hers, taking her mouth. And keeping it. Teasing at first, then not so much.

He touched her, his hands first on her back, then on her hips. He held her ever closer, but didn’t push. Didn’t demand. Didn’t…oh, God, his mouth was wonderful. Had she ever in her life been kissed like this?

“I don’t remember,” he murmured against her lips. “Are we to second base yet?”

Laughter rippled between them like a musical balm, and she rested her forehead against his shoulder. She had thought she would never trust anyone with her heart again, yet here she was getting ready to…oh, hell, steal second base and hurtle on to third if he was asking.

“Can I take you home?”

She didn’t want to go home, even to the safe haven that was Sadie’s house. She wanted to stay here in his arms, where she felt more alive than she’d felt in…years. God, yes, years.

But life wasn’t that way. Not real life. In real life, her cellphone rang from the table before her, its dirge-like ringtone the one she’d assigned to her mother’s number in a what-the-hell moment.

Buy links:

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/summer-in-stringtown-proper

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-summerinstringtownproper-1964626-177.html

KDP: http://amzn.to/1RTyqSe

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/summer-in-stringtown-proper-liz-flaherty/1123269652?ean=2940157937881

And while you’re out, stop by Word Wranglers and say hello or drop me a line at lizkflaherty@gmail.com

 

Guns . . . Really?

December29

peanuts christmasI’m freaked out. Someone behind us is shooting something huge–like a cannon or an anti-tank weapon or something! At first, it sounded like a dump truck dropping its bed too fast, but we’re convinced it’s a weapon of some kind. Ack! I’m so not a gun person and for some reason, guns have become a big thing for people around me.

A lot of people I know–people I wouldn’t have expected–have gotten into having guns lately. One person in my family is going to the shooting range (Ack! The cannon just went off again!) to learn to shoot the new pistol that her husband got her for Christmas. Points for learning gun safety, but yikes, I don’t want to be around folks carrying concealed weapons. I realize that silliness of that statement because “concealed” obviously means I won’t know if they’re carrying . . . don’t expect this to make sense. It’s an unreasonable fear.

I know that my fear of guns stems from my own bad experience of being held at gunpoint when I was taken hostage in a bank robbery forty (yes, forty!) years ago. I pretty much got over the trauma of that experience, but I still hate guns and I still am not crazy about being inside a bank. I do the drive-up when I go to the bank unless I absolutely have to go inside. So, no guns for Nan–don’t ask me to see them, don’t tell me you have them, please, please don’t let me know you’re carrying one.

Our neighbors to the north are big shooters and we hear their various and sundry weapons going off pretty frequently, but this is the loudest one yet. Headphones work if it’s clearly going to be an all-day event, but I wish like anything that shooting wasn’t their sport of choice. (Cannon fire again.) Not sure what the point of this blog is, except that I needed to post and this is what is on my mind. That said, I’m going to put on my headphones, turn up Rod Stewart, and get back to my editing gig.

cam at disneyOh, and I truly did look at images of guns, but I just couldn’t do it–too creepy, so my pictures are of some things that makes me happy…unlike guns…which do not make me happy. ;-(

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Don’t Be Skeered…It’s Just Me

August21

Not long ago, I had Son update my website and put my blog back on the Home page, so it’s the first thing anyone who visits sees. I did this on purpose because I need writing motivation and I’m hope that knowing how tacky an out-of-date blog is will make me write at least something each day. My thirty days of blogging in April was good for me, but as soon as that challenge ended, I slid back into letting life take precedence over writing—any kind of writing.

Here’s the thing. I want to write. I want to finish novels 4 and 5 of the Women of Willow Bay and start Annabelle’s story because it’s a wonderful kind of time-travel thing that’s been in the back of my head and for which I have tons of little notes here and there.

I have a new laptop, I have a good amount of editing work to do, but I can still write. I can still be creative and let the people in my head tell their stories through me. To that end, hello–I’m here. I’m back. I make no promises about how much I’ll be here, I’m going to make an effort to be here as regularly as I can, even if all I do is post a lake life picture or one of my darling Grandboy. But, I’m here . . .

So, I’m not really a writer who finds character inspiration in actors. I don’t go looking for pictures of actors to play the roles in my novels. However, I was watching a movie the other night (absorbing narrative–it’s a good thing!), and one of the actors was my Tony McAdams–the hero of Book 4 of the Women of Willow Bay series. Book 4 is currently under construction . . . it’s Sarah Everett’s story. Remember Sarah from Sex and the Widow Miles? She ran the consignment shop La Belle Femme at the Chicago women’s shelter where Julie volunteered. Well, for reasons you’ll soon learn, Sarah’s moving to Willow Bay. And Tony–the captain of Liam’s yacht, who moved to Willow Bay after Liam and Carrie got married–well, he’s a deputy sheriff now and he’s painting houses . . . and  he and Sarah are about to meet . . . Yeah, it’s Jeffery Dean Morgan . . . stay tuned!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy Birthday, Mom

May13

May 13 Nan_Momis my mother’s birthday. If she’d lived, she’d be 88 years old today, but she died when she was only 60. I can’t even imagine Mom at 88 years old, although I can promise you, she’d be a totally unique 88-year-old. Picture dangly earrings, a long gypsy skirt, and a full-sleeved, colorful gauzy top. You see, Mom was born about 25 years too early. She should have been a hippie–she would’ve been great at it. I can so imagine her in Haight-Ashbury in the late ’60s, weaving daisies into her hair, dancing with bracelets and anklets jingling, and wishing peace and love to tourists and passersby–the ultimate flower child.

But she was born in 1927–a lost soul in her late teens in post-WWII America, when soldiers were coming home to their GI housing and women were expected to be housewives and mothers. She did that life because it was what was expected of her, but she never really fit in. Her ideas were too liberal, she could be outrageous, and she loved shocking people. She was a free spirit who didn’t fit the mold that had been made for her and that disappointed hell out of my grandmother and my father. I remember my dad telling the story of coming home from work one day, expecting dinner to be on the table, the house to be neat and tidy, and us kids all scrubbed and ready for Daddy. Instead, the house was in disarray and supper wasn’t even started. Mom had pulled out the sofa bed and had all four us snuggled together while she read aloud to us. Dad was furious and Mom truly couldn’t understand what his problem was. He stormed out, and although I don’t personally remember the incident, I’m guessing Mom gave us kids a shrug and that inimitable grin and continued reading.

Not long after that, my dad left us, mostly, I think, because Mom just couldn’t be the woman he wanted her to be and he couldn’t accept who she actually was. Once he was gone, she began working full time and going to nursing school full time–God only knows when the woman slept. I kinda think maybe she didn’t sleep for over two years. Money was scarce and I know now how worried she always was about keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. My grandparents helped out as they could, but Mother shouldered the biggest part of the burden of four young children and a husband who’d gone AWOL.

Yet, I don’t remember ever being afraid or worried–life was safe and secure. I thought everyone had pancakes or eggs for supper a couple of nights a week. Sunday night suppers were always grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup–I thought it was tradition. It never occurred to me it was economy. I wore my sisters’ hand-me-downs that my Aunt Alice carefully altered to fit, and I felt very grown-up. And didn’t everyone’s Grandpa show up a couple of times a week with a bag of groceries? Housecleaning fell to us kids, and we did chores while Mom was at work or school. It was simply our life, nothing out of the ordinary.

Mom studied on weekends–I have a vivid memory of PJ quizzing her on anatomy while I read, curled up next to my mother on the sofa, squeezing close to her to avoid the place with the broken spring. I was amazed that she got almost every answer right. Today, I’m even more amazed–how did she do it? Study, work full time, take care of four children, and attend classes to get her nursing degree in just two years. I’m an empty-Nester, and yet as I try to fit editing gigs, caring for two houses, helping with yard work, the gym, meal planning, and writing into one week, I’m in awe of Mom’s drive and determination.

We never went hungry, we were dressed in clean clothes, homework got checked, and she always made time if one of us needed to talk. What she didn’t make time for was arguing among ourselves–“Ten minutes to pout and then you work it out” was her rule. I realize now that she didn’t have time or energy for kid drama and temper tantrums. Can we blame her?

charlie's b-day 057I miss my mom. To me, she’ll always be that zany, slightly off-center lady who was up for any new adventure. Perhaps that would have changed about her had she had the opportunity to grow older. But I like to believe she’d have been the 88-year-old woman who danced on a beach in the moonlight. I hope I’m becoming more like her in that way—freer of spirit… bolder. Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you so much. I hope you and Kate are up there in heaven, dancing together in the moonlight.

 

It’s Real…

May11

So many times since December 19, I’ve thought, okay, now it’s real. Kate is dead. Seeing her just moments after she passed—my precious sister so peaceful and beautiful—was one of those moments obviously. Talking to my brother that same day and feeling the pain of his grief over losing our sister—that surely made it real. Not spending Christmas Eve with her was another. Her memorial service was a real big one—yeah, that was “it’s real” time, absolutely.

But in between those kinds of moments are the ones where I can pretend that none of this ever happened. Kate never got sick, cancer didn’t destroy her. She’s at work, keeping Dr. Matt in line, and I can text her or fly by her office for a quick hug and hello when I go up to see Dr. Abby on Thursday. PJ and I can meet her for lunch at Bravo’s next week, where Kate and I will order that wonderful Riesling they have and eat too much bread. She’ll get the chicken and pasta she loves and I’ll have a chopped salad and probably some more bread. She’ll call me on her way home from work and bitch about the traffic and we’ll share news while she goes five miles per hour on the highway.

Then yesterday, there was this. kathisgrave1It showed up on Facebook  as I was cruising through my news feed on the drive home from the lake. I must have gasped or something because Husband asked, “What?” and for a couple of minutes, I couldn’t even breathe. The words, “Kate’s gravestone is set” stuck in my throat and a heavy weight settled onto my heart.

kathisgrave2Holy shit–my sister’s got a gravestone… in a cemetery. And here’s the weirdest part, that grave is right next to my father’s grave. Now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had that knowledge tucked away—that Kate and Ev had purchased plots in the same cemetery where our dad was buried. But, it was very… I don’t know, disconcerting? To see them side-by-side because Dad’s dead and has been for over fifteen years. Kate’s not in the same category in my brain. Does that even make sense?

We haven’t had the committal ceremony yet where we bury Kate’s ashes next to our dad’s and say our final and forever goodbyes. We were waiting on the marker and on warmer spring weather. Well, the marker’s here and so is spring, so I guess we have that service coming along soon. There were other pictures in my niece’s Facebook album—Kate’s kids and grandkids and Ev all surrounding the new grave site, the sun shining, the grass lush and verdant, the yellow flowers that were just what Kate would love. Under no circumstances am I disrespecting my niece for putting the pictures up—they’re beautiful and they record the day for her and her kids and grandkids, who were all there to see their Nana’s final resting place. She had no way of knowing that seeing the pictures would blindside me, and I would never have expected her to know. She’s precious and is working through her grief in her own way, as I am in mine. I pray for her peace every single day.

KathiBut here’s the thing… and then I’ll stop, I promise (well, at least for this post); I’m not ready for that to be the picture in my head of Kate because this is still the picture in my head when I think of my sister. Right now, I can’t make both of them fit in my brain… in my heart. I don’t want to…

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