Take Time To Enjoy Your Time

Death stalked me and my family this year. In most cases those that passed were people we’d not seen in a good many years. I guess that sort of softened the blows that were dealt. The family dog of 15 years went peacefully in her sleep in April. That was, and still is, tough for us. My dad’s brother passed at the end of August from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. In September two dear people from the Wild West group I was once in were killed in a motorcycle accident. Come November, a cousin’s husband died of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 31. A couple weeks later a cousin was killed in car accident. He was 41. The week after that, another uncle died. I was really hoping that we’d make it through the rest of the year without seeing any more deaths in the family, but this morning I found out yet one more cousin had died at age 51. On top of that I saw the death of English author, Tanith Lee, who was a HUGE inspiration to me on many levels. Christopher Lee died at age 93 this year. Oh, the many hours I watched and pined over that man as Dracula.

This isn’t the most cheerful way to start out an end of year blog post, is it? No, but maybe it will help put things into perspective. We can’t stop death, at least not permanently. It’s going to happen to us all. In the meantime, it’s important we do as much living as we can. I did a lot of living in 2015, a whole lot!

In January I got my long-awaited second tattoo; a very pretty rainbow monarch with my kids’ names around it, done by my daughter, on my right calf.

I’m a planner. It may have seemed way too early to some people, but in February I made hotel reservations for our planned trip the first week of September to White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

March & April brought the urge to purge my life of those material things that no longer bring me joy. I went through three closets, a big dresser, and got rid of more books than I ever dreamed I’d be able to part with.

May saw Jim and I taking our first, and thus far only, group ride together down in the Athens-Wysox area of Pennsylvania with our friend Amy and a friend I went to school with, Kathy, her husband Tim, and about 200+ other bad-ass looking bikers to raise money for breast cancer awareness. The first draft of “No Rest For The Wicked” was completed and the long, yet to be finished series of edits, began.

Along came June and a Father’s Day breakfast spent with my dad on Hiawatha Island. He passed on some words of wisdom that I’d forgotten about until now. He said, “Take time to enjoy your time.” It’s not about things or money; it’s about the moment, the time spent with others, and enjoying whatever it is in life that brings you joy. Words to live by indeed; take time to enjoy your time

July saw the United States pass the Marriage Equality Act giving same-sex couples the right to marry. I really don’t want to start a political or religious debate here about that, but I do need to express that I truly believe that Love is Love. If the Bible is right and we are all created in God’s image, male and female, then it stands to reason that we all have male and female aspects within in us. Some people lean more strongly in one direction or another and there’s nothing wrong with that. Those that are expressing so much hatred, clearly see the teaching of Christ very differently than I do. Christ did not teach hatred. Stop doing things in His name that are so hateful. I do not profess to be a Christian any more than I am Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or any other of the plethora of religions out there. I don’t believe any of them hold the Be-all, End-all answers to anything. What I do believe in is Love and the power of Love in all its forms. I think it’s wrong to tell one group of people that they their love is wrong or an abomination. “There is no greater power in all the world than that of Love.”

In early August I got a call from a member of the Berkshire Reading Club asking if I’d like to be the guest speaker for their annual dinner in May 2016. My brain balked at first, but I’m glad I told my brain to be quiet and accepted it. It made getting something new published more urgent. It spurred me to swallow some of my pride and move in a direction I have forever before resisted going in.

September found Jim and I out west once more. I was finally able to make my own memories of White Sands and Las Cruces, New Mexico. Once we got home, the adventure still wasn’t over for it was then that Jim proposed and I said yes and I finally got to wear the ring we’d picked out together in Mesilla. If for no other reason, that little ‘village” will forever hold a special place in my heart.

October meant writing, submitting, and being rejected by one publisher after another. I lost track how many queries I sent out. Despite the continued disappointments, I kept on writing new things. By then “No Rest For The Wicked” was out with my proofreader and I was deep into work on “Dark Hollow Road’. This month also saw Jim hitting his first New York State deer.

Along came November and the decision to not only self-publish “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of”, but to do a re-write and re-release of “Blood Of The Scarecrow”, too. We’ve worked hard, Jim and I. I re-read and edited both books again and again. Jim worked on the cover art and set to work re-creating my website. Proofs were obtained. More corrections followed. Apart from the updates to “…Scarecrow” and it being re-titled to “Secrets Of The Scarecrow Moon”, no new writing really took place.

On December 11th, the new book finally made its debut into the big bad world. Granted, the timing of the release may not have been a priority or at all well thought out. Folks were already in the midst of their Christmas shopping and delivery before Christmas was slim unless people ordered almost as soon as the word was out. The important part was to get something we could both be proud of out there.

In conclusion, 2015 has been insane and mostly wonderful! Apart from the numerous deaths, everything has been taking a slow and steady upward trend. Far too many times in the past I’ve looked back at the year that was and felt dismayed, disappointed, and frustrated. This has not been the case in the past few years. There’s clear progress now even if not in the way I thought or hoped it would be in some cases.

2016 promises to be just as interesting and, I hope, even more good and productive things come our way.

New goals are already setting themselves up, not the least of which is a wedding in August.

To read and comment more of the blogs I am subscribed to and improve on my own blogging habits.

To see another new novel unleashed on the world.

To be able to meet some friends I thus far only know via Facebook and Second Life.

Travel always ranks pretty high on my list of things to do. I love seeing new places and doing new things.

We can’t always avoid the negative, like death, but we can control how we deal with it and so my biggest goal of 2016 is to follow my dad’s advice and take time to enjoy my time, wherever, however, and with whomever I get to spend it with.

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!