Into The Mansion

Somewhere, once upon a time, I learned an interesting theory about dreams. That theory stated that certain rooms represented certain aspects of the dreamer’s psyche. If you dream of a bedroom, for instance, that’s believed to have something to do with sexuality and intimacy. If you dream of a kitchen, that’s your domestic side, a living room was considered your social, public self … and so on. That, in part is what Into The Mansion is about.

Not long ago in Facebook Land, I shared that I was working on something somewhat different than my usual Horror novel fare. Oh, it’s still about a big, creepy, old house, but instead of prose – it’s poetry. It’s not a new poem. It was written in 1995, though parts of it existed long before that in the world of my dreams.

Instead of just posting it here and forcing you all to read, I’ve created a 7-minute video of the poem that I narrate. It took more times than I care to mention to get a recording I was happy with and though it’s still not perfection – it will do.

And so, without further delay – I extend a hand and say, “Come with me …

INTO THE MANSION

 

Writing From An Alternate Reality

Every writer gets asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” at least a thousand times. The short answer for me is, “I don’t really know.” Another answer could be, “Everywhere.” In my upcoming Psychological Horror novel, Dark Hollow Road, a partial answer is from a simple road sign we passed while traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania several years ago. It was the catalyst, but from there even I am forced to ask myself, “Where did this come from?”

However, the answer that intrigues me most would be, “An alternate reality.”

It’s said that belief can be a powerful thing. In Mathew 17:20 of the Bible, Jesus says: ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale contains the same kinds of messages. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” One of his most popular quotes is, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Today, Notes From The Universe are sent out daily from Mike Dooley author of Infinite Possibilities. “If you know what you want, if you’ve made up your mind, if you can see it, feel it and move towards it in some way every single day… it has to happen.” His most popular quote seems to be, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

All this leads me to the next question. “Which way is the creation process actually flowing?” My characters and the worlds they live in become very real in my mind during the process of storytelling. I can see them and their surroundings. I can hear their voices. I’ve often said they are the ones who pester me into writing. They won’t be quiet until I write down what they are telling or showing me. Are they already in existence waiting to get their stories out or am I creating their stories and in some metaphysical way, bringing them into a type of reality by the act of believing in them and their worlds?

If you’ve talked to any number of authors, they will likely all tell you at one time or another the characters took over. They did things and said things that the author never dreamed of. Stephen King tells the story of a very minor character, a waitress, who, over the course of the novel, became a major player. It was completely unplanned. Apparently she had a lot more to say than he’d initially thought. Who is actually telling the story here?

Last week I found an article at Myths of the Mirror called Why Books Are Living Things. It raises some intriguing ideas and I strongly encourage you to read it. In it the author states, “I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do.” She also raises the questions, “What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be.”

To this I add and ask, “How do we know we aren’t tapping into an already existing plane of reality, an alternate universe full of people with stories to tell? And for whatever reasons, they have chosen us to tell their tales.” I honestly don’t feel like I am the creator. I feel like a parapsychologist roaming the halls of some great haunted mansion, listening for the voices of those who came before me, asking them, “Who are you? What is your name? Why are you here?” And the answers come in the form of my stories. Is it their belief in me as a storyteller or my belief in them as actual entities that gets the job done?

Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe it’s not any of it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe had it right when he asked, “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Chances are no one will ever know what the real answers are. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting path to explore.

 

Adios, 2016!

Or “Good riddance!”, as so many of my friends have shrieked at the top of their lungs, or typed IN ALL CAPS on social media, whichever the case may be. Okay, yeah, I get it, sort of. Your favorite celebrity died, your preferred politician didn’t win, or your team lost their Big Game!  It’s HORRIBLE! It’s the end of the world as we know it! Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

I could go off on everything that was bad about 2016 easily enough. I could sob over still not finding a ‘traditional’ publisher for my novels. I could bemoan the fact that online sales suck and that I’ve typed my fingers to bloody stumps asking for folks to at least post reviews. I could go off on a tangent about how unfair it is that people who have held a very good paying job for 5+ years can’t afford to buy a house while other people who haven’t worked a lick in that same period of time get all these special treatments when it comes to housing. There’s a rant out there about a-hole bosses who take advantage of their employees to the point that they are driven to physical illness and end up having to quit a job they otherwise loved. I could cry over the deaths of a myriad of celebrities that I liked. I could cuss and stomp my feet over the unfairness of our elections. I could begrudge how the Carolina Panthers lost the Super Bowl and that the Cleveland Indians didn’t win the World Series. But, I’m not going to do that, because I’m an optimist and I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing the “Apocalypse Is Nigh” from every other person on Facebook. I refuse to be one of ‘those people’.

Instead, I’m going to look at 2016 as the year I made more progress on my writing career, with or without the advantages a publishing house could give me. I’d love to have help with advertising and promotions and setting up signings, readings, and sales. I could be a lot further ahead of the game if I had all that, sure, but I don’t. I did the best I could with what I DO have. I did a Book Club talk and I had three signing events where turnout was good and sales were more than I’d actually imagined they’d be. That’s more than I’ve ever had before and I’m truly grateful. I made some new friends and got some great advice and some much appreciated help from far more successful writers than I.

I got remarried! That’s pretty darned awesome. I met a man against a whole lot of odds who was willing to pretty much give up his whole life 1400+ miles away and move up to this Arctic Backwoods Wasteland so we could be together. After living together for almost three years, we tied the knot on a beautiful day in August down by my parent’s pond with an amazing view of the valley below. It was small, only forty people, simple, and very casual and laid back. I’m not even going to mention those few things that didn’t happened perfectly as planned because they don’t matter. The end result is the same.

Life has been very good to me and mine in 2016. Most of the time things went how we hoped. Sometimes, not so much, but at the end of it all, we are happy. We have a place to live, food to eat, and warm clothes for winter. We have family and friends that love us, support us, and encourage us with our dreams. We have love. We have happiness. We have hope.

That’s how I’m ending 2016 and that’s how I’m going to enter 2017.

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2016 so amazing! May you all have a wonderful and prosperous new year!

Wedding Light Blues

I’m getting re-married in six weeks. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown since we were walking the quaint, sandy streets and popping into all the wonderful little shops of Old Mesilla, NM looking at pretty things and little did I know at the time, rings, but flown it has! They say time flies when you’re having fun, or in a coma – or in this case, planning a wedding.

One of the first questions all my gal pals asked was what the colors were going to be. You see, for a lot of women colors are everything. What kind of car are you getting? Oh, I don’t know, as long as it’s red. What style curtains are you thinking to buy? Oh, I don’t know, as long as they’re green. The first time around my wedding colors were black, red, and white.

This time it’s light blue and white with touches of yellow. Quite the contrast! And no white wedding gown for me! I always loved the light blue dress my mom wore for her wedding to Dad and that was really my biggest inspiration to wear the same, even as far as the style of dress goes.  My groom is going for a black tux with silver\gray vest and tie.

We’re doing all the decorating and food prep pretty much ourselves. I never thought finding light blue and white decorations would prove as challenging as it has. People and circumstances keep trying to sneak in bits of light teal instead of blue. While talking to the florist the first time, she mentioned dark blues and purple. I’m like, “No, LIGHT blue.” No dark blue. No purple.

I’m a lot more laid back and willing to accept variations and compromises than I was for that first wedding. Don’t read that as ‘anything goes’, mind you! This has surprised a few people, the women especially.

Look, I’ve done this before. In the grand scheme of things, the colors REALLY don’t matter that much. Of course, I’d love everything to match and be exactly like I’ve been picturing in my head for all these months, but honestly – it doesn’t matter and it’s not going to happen. Some brides-to-be would have insisted that their groom’s tux accessories perfectly match the dress. Why? That’s what he wants to wear and that’s what he’s comfortable in. Heck, my first notion didn’t even involve him wearing a tuxedo! That was his idea! And, the gray will look amazing, too. It’ll match the plates that we couldn’t find in light blue! It will also go with the flower accents on the girls light (not blue) teal dresses! Darn that pesky teal!

Speaking of dresses… nope. They aren’t even close to that late 50’s-early 60’s style I’ll be wearing though that was the initial plan. They are very pretty dresses and my daughter says hers is super comfortable. Matching shoes? Forget about it! She’s wearing white flip-flops. I have no idea what my Maid of Honor is wearing on her feet, nor do I care. I told her to be comfortable. Although my poor feet are going to be crammed into these cute little shoes that are about ½ size too narrow, I will very likely be putting on some comfy sandals after the fact.

One friend made the comment that a wedding is all about the bride. No. It’s not. A wedding, a marriage, is about two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together and to share and celebrate that decision with their family and friends. It’s not ME DAY! It’s not insisting-on-your-own-way Bridezilla Day. It’s about TWO people, two lives. Just like life in general, it’s about compromises and going with the flow. It’s about NOT freaking out if the color of your dress does not EXACTLY match the color of your shoes. This way of thinking has made the planning so much easier than the first. I’m older now, maybe a little wiser, maybe a little less selfish and starry-eyed.

Just like a marriage, wedding planning has a lot to do with trust. I refuse to be a control freak (though, yes, there are a couple of things I am being insistent on) and I refuse to stress over issues that, at the end of the day, really won’t matter. I’m trusting my dressmaker, the florist, and the woman decorating the cake to understand and create using the guidelines and pictures we’ve discussed. I’m trusting we’ll have music of some sort though the fine details of that haven’t been worked out entirely yet. I’m trusting my daughter with my hair and make-up. I am trusting a lot of different people to do a lot of different things with the attitude that the only real thing that matters at the end of that day is that I am married to man who has made me believe in (and trust in) love and happily ever afters again.

I’m not a religious person, but the sooner people out there learn and accept that there is wisdom behind 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the better off they’ll be, not just in our marriages, but in our ever day lives with family members and friends.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

In just over six weeks I’ll probably be an emotional basket case, but trust me when I say I’m far more worried about how I’m going to NOT bawl through the entire ceremony than how the heck did MR. TEAL become so much a part of the light blue and white with touches of yellow color scheme.

Stepping Stones Across Hell’s Half Acre

It has only taken ten years since the release of my first published novel, but I finally reached a milestone I’ve been dreaming of for much longer than that decade. Last night I had my first book signing event! I got to talk about my progress as a writer, my novels, my inspirations for those novels, and answer questions from the audience. I got free food and even sold 80% of the books I took with me! All while feeling old and youthful at the same time.

As this was a private, local event, the gathering was only around 30 attendees, but among them were several folks from my much younger days! A former grade school teacher, a woman who remembered me from when I was in Headstart, the parents of two girls I went to high school with, and a former baby sitter. Even if they didn’t know me, a lot of them knew my parents! Ah, the world of being ‘a local girl’ as I was called. Yes, to these folks, this 50-year-old was just a girl. They were a fun bunch of ladies and gentlemen and I enjoyed hanging out with them for a few hours talking about books in general. Funny how I work in a large university library and almost never talk to any of my co-workers about what we’re reading. Maybe it just feels too work-related and who wants to talk about work-work? Blech! Not me! Unless it’s away from the office and really has nothing whatsoever to do with my job or most of the people that job pertains to. It’s weird.

I even managed to get a laugh out of them with my opening and the story about how I first realized maybe I wasn’t like the other in Mrs. Dodd’s 3rd grade class. It was in that moment that something deep inside me clicked and my writing dream was born.

So, really, last night was something like 40 years in the making and wishing and dreaming. These things take time and I’ll admit I’ve not always been very patient about it getting here. The writing gig has given me more lows than highs, but the highs are what keeps me going. This may seem like small potatoes to those who are further along in their journey than I am, and I know I’d be jumping the gun if I believed for a moment I’d made the big time with this single and simple event, but it’s one step closer.

A week or so again I posted a Facebook status of “Remind me again why I am doing all this.”  It becomes so frustrating and disappointing at times. You want something so badly and it’s so important to you and you pour so much of yourself into it that when things don’t happen how you hoped and dreamed or as fast as you want, you feel like a complete failure and like giving it all up. You question what’s the point in even trying. Why even bother? No one cares. No one appreciates. No one understands any of this, let alone you, and it seems it’s all for nothing.

Then, something like last night happens. I am forced to remember that day in 3rd grade and a little girl who was terrified she’d done her weekend homework assignment wrong. I am forced to look back at where I was ten years ago in this process. I have to remember how devastated I was when the publisher of my first murder-mystery went out of business and how utterly defeated I felt. All that work … and I’m sent back to Step One again.

But, once I really looked and understood, I knew I wasn’t at Step One at all. My path had merely been diverted by a very annoying and slippery rock that sent me on my ass into the icy cold stream. It took me two years to regroup and in those two years I focused on other projects. I built my resume one little article and a second murder-mystery at a time. I looked back and saw my stepping stones zig-zagging all over Hell’s half acre, but I’d traversed them. I may have slipped, stumbled, crumbled, cried, and cursed, but I mostly FOUGHT my way across those damned stones. I was not about to give up now. I’m too stubborn for that and seeing all the progress I’d made helped, too.

I’ve got at least two more events planned for this year and now that I have the first one under my belt, I’m looking forward to the others even more. Baby steps. This process is not going to happen overnight. The trick is not to let the down times and the imagined failures drag me into the muck of my own raging self-doubts. I will continue to fight for this dream because I don’t know any other way. It’s too much of who I am. I am blessed by being surrounded by those who believe in me when all I really want to do is chuck it all into a bonfire. Words of encouragement are not just words, they are vital to the process that keeps me going when I feel like I just don’t want to anymore.

All that from a simple two-hour event held in the middle of nowhere. Thank you all for your continued support, your kind words, and the opportunity to share and entertain you with my dream. You are each a hand held up out of that crazy stream of life that helps guide me from one stepping stone to the next and I am truly grateful beyond all measure.

The Bitter, Dry Pill of Failure

Failure. It’s a bitter, dry pill to swallow. It can wedge itself in the back of your throat. It can make you gag. You may even throw up. Failure is never pleasant and it’s not what we strive for. No one sets out to fail. Failure never fails to show up despite our best efforts to avoid it.

My first published novel, Virgin of Greenbrier, was released in 2006. It wasn’t the genre I’d ever imagined myself being published in, erotica-romance, but I was still over the moon at this taste of success. More books along the same line followed. Happy as I was, I wasn’t really happy with putting out these types of books. Bound To Be Bitten, my personal response to the whole nonsense of lovey-dovey, sparkling vampires, was published in 2010. As with the novels before it, it was erotica and it would be the last novel of that genre I would write. I had struggled horribly trying to make it what the publisher wanted. I wanted to write thrillers, horror, and murder-mysteries so I turned my pen to doing just that.

Blood of the Scarecrow  was the result. The joy I’d always found in writing had returned. It was published in 2013 by a new and small indie publishing house. By 2014 they decided to close their doors and returned all rights to me. So much for any success with that. Chalk another one to failure. I was devastated and heart broken. Had I just wasted ten years of my life going through all these steps? What was the point? I was back to zero! Why was I even bothering to work on a second murder-mystery? Beyond my Beta Readers and some close family and friends, who would ever read it? Why did I care?

What did all these other writers have that I lacked? I’d read some of their stuff and thought a lot of it sucked. I’m no Stephen King or Anne Rice and I don’t live under the delusion that I’ll ever be as good as them, but damn it, I’m not horrible either, am I? Am I?

My friends and family say no, but let’s be honest here, they are partial. They want me to succeed. They want me to feel good about that which they all know is my passion. They don’t want to hurt my feelings, see me sad, or be part of the reason I give it all up. They don’t want to pulverize my dreams so they say they like what I’ve done, even if they don’t. With their help, maybe I’ve brainwashed myself into thinking what I write is halfway decent. I try and tell myself that all I need is the Right Person to read something and give me a good review, someone who has no emotional stake in my happiness or misery, A Person Who Matters. Here I am ten years and eight novels into this writing gig and I still don’t see myself as a success.

I gave up submitting queries to traditional publishers and agents. The rejections became unbearable. The idea of vanity publishing made me cringe. It was something I swore up and down I’d never do. Only the lowest of the low and most pathetic would ever do that. What sort of sad-sack failure would stoop to something so abominable? Not me! No, never me!

Yes, me. Failure after failure got the better of me. Well, failure and those same friends and family and co-workers who continually asked, “When’s the next book coming out?” After doing my research, I decided on CreateSpace through Amazon. Had I made the right decision? They offered their self-publishing for free which was exactly what I could afford. I turned to friends with editing experience for help and happen to have a fiancé who’s a kick-ass graphic designer and website creator.

Thank God we work together so well. Over a period of about six months we were able to create the final manuscript of That’s What Shadows Are Made Of and unleashed it on the world in December 2015. We were also able to re-release the first book under the new title of  Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon. I’m proud of all that. Both have really awesome cover art and we got a website up to help with getting what was unknown, known. Well, semi-known-ish. It’s still an uphill battle. After ten years I finally have my first book talk and signing this spring, may have another this summer, and will be making a real live bookstore appearance in the fall with yet another new title release. Even with all that, I still don’t where this is going.

However, instead of letting all those failures, doubts, and rejection weigh me down and shove me into a gutter of hopeless despair, I’m trying to build on the little successes I’ve had. They seem minuscule at times. I still question if they are worth it when I don’t see the sales I’d hope for. I still get frustrated. I still doubt. I still cry. At the same time, I can look back over those ten years with a sense of accomplishment. I may never make the big time, but at the very least I can leave behind me something in my life to be proud of.

We all have dreams. We all have passions. The majority of people in the world will never have those dreams realized. They will die never feeling they’ve done their best to fulfill that passion. Some won’t even try or will simply give up when the going gets a little too rough. The pot hole will turn into a river they can’t cross and they’ll turn around and go back. They will forever wonder, what if? What if, instead of turning around, I’d found another way across that river? What if I hadn’t been so hasty and impatient with the situation? What if I’d just waited for the water to go back down? Maybe the path would have been opened up again.

We may know where we want to go, but we really don’t know how we’re going to get there, none of us. We can take the GPS and print out MapQuest directions. We can plan for alternate routes and we can make reservations, but for the most part we’re all just bumbling our way along hoping for the best, swerving to miss the pot holes, taking detours, and getting annoyed and pissed off when obstacles get in our way. That’s part of the journey. Sometimes the journey sucks but even then, as long as we’re moving forward, that’s a positive sign. We have to hold on to that little bit. Sometimes a truck full of live turkeys crashes a hundred of miles away and all you can do is keep in your lane and inch along with the rest of traffic. True story.

Failure. It’s a bitter, dry pill to swallow. You can let it choke you or you can crush it up, swallow it down, and move on. Take the alternate route. Find a new way to reach that dream destination even if it means doing what you said you’d never do, (self-publishing in my case) because even if you find yourself up shit creek without a paddle, you’re still moving and those muddy waters are taking you somewhere. Who knows, it may even be to a shortcut you never imagined existed!

Good Luck & Keep Your Dreams Alive!

The A-B-C’s of Sweet Dreams, Horror Style!

Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep at night. You lie there with your mind running a mile a minute with, what a friend of mine calls, Hamster Brain. I could never get into the whole counting sheep thing. Sometimes I’ll turn the TV on to our local ads channel and turn the volume down just low enough so I can hear the soft elevator music they play. That works pretty well. My fiancé counts backwards from 100. I’ve tried that, but usually start at 200-300. Sometimes that works, too. For some reason I lose track of the numbers around 287 or 187 or 87, get confused and restart at 290, 190, or 90. Now my little hamster brain is trying to do math which is not always conducive to the goal of falling asleep.

In the past couple months I’ve devised my own method to induce sleep using the alphabet. I’m a person of letters and words, not numbers. First, I select a theme; a types of food, wild animals, movie stars, friends, songs, band names, professions, and the like, whatever floats your boat. Last night it was Horror Movies. Don’t give it a lot of thought, just use the first thing that pops to mind and move on to the next letter. The point is to keep your mind focused on one somewhat meaningless and monotonous task. I fell asleep around the letter O or maybe it was N. In either case, it works like a charm for me. I seldom make it through the whole alphabet before I’m out. Here’s what I came up with last night, at least as well as I can remember.

A – Amityville Horror

B – Beetlejuice (Technically not a horror movie, but that’s what came to mind first.)

C – Carrie

D – Dracula

E – Evil Dead

F – Frankenstein

G – Godzilla

H – (The) Haunting (original version, of course..)

I – I Spit On Your Grave

J – (had to pass on this one, nothing came to mind)

K – Killer Klowns from Outer Space

L – Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

This is where things start to get fuzzy. I’m sure I had a movie for M but I can’t really remember what it was.

M – ??

N – Night of the Living Dead

O – (The) Omen

And that was it. I was snoring by the time young Damien was shoving his mom over the upstairs railing. Sweet dreams are made of this.

I’m curious. What would your Horror Movie Dream List look like? What methods of sleep induction have you tried? I’d like to hear if one of you actually tries this and if it works as well for you as it does for me.

Snippets In A Life Gone Surreal

The past few weeks have been surreal.

At the age of five or six, I was a little kid with a big dream. I never doubted the dream. Never. It was at about that age I came to realize that there was something very unique about me amongst my kindergarten peers. Unlike them, I was born in the far off land of New Mexico. I don’t think I really understood where it was or how far away, but it made me feel different, special in a very proud and interesting way. When we were asked to write mini-autobiographies in grade school, my unconventional birth place was always mentioned. It became part of the foundation of who I was. The dream was born. It grew deep, deep roots not only in who I was, but who I would be and what I’d do and where I’d go. “Someday,” I can hear my six-year-old-self saying, “I’m going to go back to New Mexico!” My parents would always say they hoped I would. It was a good goal to have.

I poured over the family photo albums, memorizing the images of places I had no memories of. I’d listen with rapt attention whenever stories were told of this mysterious place far, far away. I was only six months old when we moved away from White Sands, yet in those six months something about the place must have been ingrained into my infant brain, this infantile sense of “this is home”. It sounds weird even to me. This Southwestern-ness sifted through my blood. My love of Mexican food arose from it. I don’t understand how that all can be, but it is and I’m not going to even attempt to explain it.

About five years ago I had reached a point in my life where I felt I’d come full circle. I’d been married and subsequently divorced. My kids were young adults. I was single. I was also feeling very lost. I had no personal goals and felt adrift on the ocean without a compass. I wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t really happy either. I existed, I didn’t live. My soul ached for a direction. Then The Dream winked at me and whispered, “It’s time.”

“Before I’m fifty,” I promised myself. “I’ll go there before I’m fifty come hell or high water.”

Fate is a funny thing. Within three months of this personal mission statement, I found myself in a new relationship. During our second conversation it was revealed we’d both lived at White Sands. The big difference was, he’d been there during his high school days. He had real memories. Fate smirked.

And so it came to pass that just over two weeks ago, four months before my 50th birthday, I found myself on a road trip with this fellow WSMR Kid, who was by now the love of my life, heading to New Mexico. The dream was more than just alive and well, it was thriving! Here I was closer and closer every minute. Mile after mile. Day after day. Until finally, after forty-five years of waiting, there it was, “Welcome To New Mexico”, signs pointing to “Las Cruces”, signs welcoming me to White Sands National Monument, signs that said, “You are now entering White Sands Missile Range”. Me, sniffling my nose and wiping away the tears of joy, of completion, of coming ‘home’. It still chokes me up.

WSNM

For five days I probably took way too many pictures of sand and buildings and mountains and cactus. I probably spent way more time than your average tourist ingraining every element my senses could possible absorb in the short time we had there into my brain. I took actual handwritten notes and have dubbed it research for a future novel. I’d waited almost my entire life for this and I didn’t know, still don’t know, if or when I’ll ever go back again. I hope I do!

On top of all that, I’m with a man I love tremendously who is suddenly showing a very healthy interest in jewelry cases and rings. As if his enthusiasm over picking out a Native American Wedding Vase wasn’t enough, now this. THIS! There’s a longer story to the choosing of a ring than I’ll get into here, but suffice to say, after a mini-meltdown on my part, one was finally selected. It would be another week before I’d be able to wear it. Again, another story for another time. In the meantime, here’s a picture of The Bling.

TheBling

Now we’ve been back in New York for five days. The dream has been lived and expanded upon. A beautiful blue topaz engagement ring has been placed on this middle-aged woman’s finger and I’m feeling that strange sense of the surreal. It crept up on me while I was telling my 22 year old daughter the story of the buying of the ring and subsequent kitchen proposal. Along with this weird near-disbelief that this is indeed my life and who I am and looking forward to who I am still becoming even at this age, I feel that questioning, eager tug of “What next?” Where will our next adventure take us? It reminds me of setting aside the first book in a series and not being able to start the second book for a few days. It’s there on your coffee table. It’s waiting. It’s ready to go.

Eventually, you are able to sit down with a cup of coffee on the front porch on a cool fall morning with that book. That’s where I am now, settling into Part Two, eager to know and live more of the story.

I Have My Reservations

Under most circumstances when you hear someone say that, it doesn’t bode well for whatever is going on. I’m happy to report that is entirely not the case here.

I’ve been dreaming of these reservations for as long as I’ve been able to dream. As a small child I remember thumbing through two small photo albums showing images of missiles and sand dunes, of my brother squinting against the blinding sun, of my dad in uniform working on trucks and tanks as well as sitting on horseback – a temporary member of the U.S. Cavalry, so to speak when missiles went astray; of my mom so young and thin, holding little baby me on her lap. I heard stories of my brother, who would have been about three at the time, and his dreaded fear of the monsters known as tumbleweeds. There was a trip to Carlsbad Caverns and another into the mountains where Mom had a terrible time cooking at a much higher elevation than she was used to. The neighbors on Hawk Street were the Caverlys. Mrs. Caverly and my mom were both due around the same time. I was destined to be Penelope, but fate smiled upon me and Baby Caverly came along first and took the name out from under me. Darn! LOL.

The day I came along, Mom walked to the base hospital for her weekly appointment and was told she was in labor. Dad was notified and came in from the range. A few hours later, I came into the world.

And I don’t remember any of it.

All I have are the pictures to look at and the stories I’ve been told, and this deep, personal longing to ‘go home’ again. I’ve totally lost count of how many times I’ve said I’m going back. My parents can probably confirm that they have lost count too at how many times they’ve heard me say, “I want to go back to White Sands.”

It almost happened when I was around twelve or thirteen. Friends of my parents sold their house and moved to Las Cruces one summer. I don’t know what their motivation was, but the idea so appealed to my parents they put our house in Upstate NY up for sale with the intentions that if it sold, they too were going to head west. The house did not sell and as a result I grew up right in the same place and now live less than 40 miles from there.

2011 was a critical year. Life felt on hold. I didn’t feel like I had any goals and not much to look forward to. I was just getting out of a horrible 7-year relationship. My eldest child was out of college and working. My youngest was done with high school, also working, and living with her dad. I was free as a bird. It was Me Time! It was time to ask some questions of myself. When I was last this single, what was I doing that made me happy? How could I now, 20+ years later, recapture some of that joy? I needed a goal.

I came up with two answers. 1) All through high school I scrimped and saved nearly every dollar I could for a trip to England. At the time, I was totally obsessed with the place. I managed to save enough and the fall after I graduated, made the trip that lasted for 6 weeks of bliss on the British Isles. 2) A couple years later, I decided I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Two of my uncles had bikes and I’d never pass up the chance to go riding with them. It was time I stopped being the passenger and became the driver. And so, more money saving took place and I bought a 1985 Honda Rebel with cash without a clue how to drive the thing. Good times!

In 1988 I met the man who would become my husband and the father of our two previously mentioned kids. I’m not saying those days were bad. Not at all. I loved being a mom and raising a family and doing all that stuff, but at the same time, I slowly lost part of myself in the process. Everything was about the kids and the family and as much as I loved it and would not take a second of it back, there wasn’t much Me Time for the next 20 years.

I never lost sight of the trip out west though. I never forgot the little photo albums and the stories. The longing to ‘go home’ never left me. That was the answer to my question in 2011. I needed to plan that trip and I meant to take it before my 50th birthday come hell or high water. I still had a few years to save. This was going to be the most awesome trip of my life!

Then, Fate stepped in again and said, “Whoa! Not so fast there, Almost Penelope! You can’t do this alone! You need to meet someone first.” Lord knows, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. This was ME TIME! Last thing I wanted was some guy to cramp my style and stifle my dreams. Fate, that Crafty Wench, must have been bent over in hysterics for those first few days, knowing what was to come.

So, yeah, Mr. Biker from Texas who just happened to have lived in Las Cruces at WSMR on base not even a mile from where my family once lived, during his high school years turned out to be a pretty awesome guy, despite my early reservations. He’s done anything but cramp my style or stifle my dreams.

So, we have our room reservations booked now. I know I’m going to cry. I know Jim will probably laugh at me for crying, but I don’t care. Some men will just never understand the concept of “Happy Tears”. I think I need to recreate some of those images from the old family album, me sitting on a blanket on a wind-swept white sand dune, screaming my head off, for instance. I think I’ll pass on wearing the baby bonnet and little frilly dress though.

And yes, I’m still going to make it before my 50th birthday!