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Archive for the tag “Life”

What I Gained–or Lost–by Taking a Risk

This bird is my Patronus.

So, I’m not really big on risk-taking, really. I like to be comfy. I like warm sweaters and toasty slippers. I like cwtching up under blankets and reading books. I like tea and toast. I like rainy autumn days.

I guess I’m basically a hobbit. I think that explains everything, because I also like second breakfast. And elevensies.

But anyway, like I said, I’m not into risks. Which isn’t to say I haven’t done stupid things that were also risky. But typically, I only realize the risks after I escape certain death. (Crossing the Mackinac Bridge about 45 minutes before the poor driver of the Yugo was blown over the side in her car, hiking on the rock formation that makes up Devil’s Wash Tub on a high wind/heavy wave day, driving through a stretch of road that Lake Superior was in the process of washing out at the time. All risks–all stupid as fuck because I am so, so bad at math.)

But, I guess I’ve also taken some intentional risks, though they’ve mostly been the emotional kind. Like this whole writing gig. No, not all of my books are written from personal experiences–I’m not out banging ghosts or lesser known Celtic deities, or killing vampires, or dealing with bad tempered Scottish authors who look like Aidan Turner. Though, I’d totally sign up for that one. But I think there are always elements of every writer in the stories they tell. I think that someone who knows me decently could easily pick out the bits and pieces of me that end up in any given character.

A lot of writers have a cool public persona. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I’m not one of them. What you see is what you get. Mostly, because I don’t have the time or energy to cultivate anything else. You either like me or you don’t. And that’s absolutely fine. I don’t imagine that I’m everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m okay with that. After all, not everyone is my cup of tea, either. But it is a bit of a risk to put myself, my feelings, my opinions, my whatever, out here like this on the regular.

But here’s the the thing, even though sometimes I feel awkward and exposed and self-conscious, the benefits outweigh the risks. Depending on the prompt and what I’m motivated to write about on any given day, some posts end up working as an online journal. Some posts end up being therapy where I learn new things about myself/life/etc. And some posts end up forging connections and friendships, and those are things that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

If I hadn’t taken the risk to pursue publication and put myself out here, awkward weirdness and all,  I never would have met so many of my fantabulous friends. Absolutely amazing people that I only get to see once or twice a year. Some even less than that. Some that I haven’t met IRL yet,  and some I may never meet physically. But these are all people who are very dear to me, and I’m grateful for all of you.

Being oneself as unapologetically as possible isn’t always comfortable, but the risks are more than worth it when the result is the friendship and camaraderie of some of the best people I’ve ever encountered. In addition to a career that I love, I got a tribe that I love just as much, if not more. No, more. Writing wouldn’t be half as much fun without you. So, I’ll probably continue to do stupid shit and realize later it was risky, but I’ll also keep on taking this particular risk. The gains are too great not to.

Be sure to check out Jessica and Paige’s risky behavior, too.

Musical Musings: Song I Can’t Stand, Song I Can Listen to All Day Without Getting Tired of It, Song That Grew on Me

musicalmusings

I don’t dislike songs as much as I dislike musicians or bands, and I have a list of them that make me stabby. That list is long and colorful, but topping it is any iteration of Van Halen. I don’t know if I have sufficient command of the English language to fully describe the depths of my loathing for Van Halen’s entire music catalogue. But the opening chords to any of their songs, but most especially, Hot for Teacher or Panama, or god help me, Jamie’s Cryin’ cause me to rage impotently. Once, I had fucking Jamie’s Cryin’ stuck in my head for two hellish months. I don’t know why I was being punished. Maybe I wronged David Lee Roth in a past life? But Van Halen (and yes, that includes Van Hagar)… *full body shudder*

As for a song I can listen to all day without getting tired of it? Let’s see…there are quite at few, but topping that list is probably Rusted Root’s Send Me On My Way and Walk Off the Earth’s Gang of Rhythm. 

And a song that grew on me… There have been a ton of them. But the one that jumps out at me right now is Uptown Funk. I know, how can anyone not like that song, right?! In my defence, I was in a bad mood when I first heard it, so that didn’t help. I remember thinking, “I have neither the time nor the inclination to be funked up, right now, Mr. Mars. And this reminds me a lot of Jungle Love. Does Morris Day know you have his song?!” But it’s so damn infectious, you can’t help but get into it. Also…Bruno Mars.

 

I just had to play this song a couple times because Jamie’s Cryin’ was trying to crawl back into my head. *shudder* What are some songs that have grown on you? Also…anyone else loathe Van Halen with the burning passion of a thousand fiery suns, or is that just me?

Be sure to check out Jess and Gwen’s posts, too.

Looking for for great kids books about LGBT+ families?

Unless you’re super new here, you know that I love me some great picture books. Despite the fact that my kids are in their early twenties, my children’s book collection continues to grow. I get some to read to my nieces and nephews, and some are just for me.

Because books.

The It’s Fundamental – Children’s Book Blog is a fantastic resource for all things picture books. Run by a former educator (though, trust me, she’s still educating) named Crystal, this blog features fantastic booklists (carefully and thoughtfully curated by topic) as well as book reviews.

Some of her booklists include: Shark Week, World Changing Women, Trains, Juneteenth, Ramadan, Women in Science, Books for Kids Who are Afraid to Swim, Civil Rights, Star Wars–and this is just a small sampling of the topics. Seriously, this blog has it all!

But, I’m not blogging today to talk about Sharks or Star Wars (and now, I have Queen stuck in my head) but to share It’s Fundamental‘s amazing LGBT+ Families booklist.

When I was a kid, books featured families that were comprised of a mother, father and kids. Or the parents were dead and the kids were orphans. There was no inbetween. I remember wondering why there were never divorced parents like mine in books. We all know that representation is incredibly important, and as a child, when you never see your reality represented in stories, it leaves you with a feeling of disconnectedness. The sense of being “other”.

That’s why I’m so happy to see books like Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary.

Please take a few minutes and check out this fantastic list Crystal has put together. And if you’re on social media, enjoy books, like to give books as gifts, like hanging out at the library and/or representation and inclusion, be sure to follow It’s Fundamental‘s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest pages. Oh, and duh…the blog.

You won’t be sorry!

Musical Musings: If you could define yourself with a song, what would it be, and why?

musicalmusings

It was much harder than I’d anticipated to narrow my life down to one song. But since I’m leaving for vacation four days before this post goes live, and I only have two days to finish all my work and get packed, I figured I’d better get to it.

But I went with The One Who Knows by Dar Williams. It’s beautiful and perfectly sums up how I feel about this stage of my life and my kids’ lives.

Here are the lyrics.

Time it was I had a dream, and you’re the dream come true.
If I had the world to give, I’d give it all to you.
I’ll take you to the mountains, I will take you to the sea.
I’ll show you how this life became a miracle to me.

You’ll fly away, but take my hand until that day.
So when they ask how far love goes,
When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows.

All the things you treasure most will be the hardest won.
I will watch you struggle long before the answers come.
But I won’t make it harder, I’ll be there to cheer you on,
I’ll shine the light that guides you down the road you’re walking on.

You’ll fly away, but take my hand until that day. So when they ask how far love goes,
When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows.

Before the mountains call to you, before you leave this home,
I want to teach your heart to trust, as I will teach my own,
But sometimes I will ask the moon where it shined upon you last,
And shake my head and laugh and say it all went by too fast.

You’ll fly away, but take my hand until that day. So when they ask how far love goes,
When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ song choices.

Jessica

PSA on Jenny Trout’s Catharsis

Two years ago, in August, I made the conscious decision to remove a toxic, manipulative individual from my life. This person and I had a decades long “friendship”. 

This relationship, of course, didn’t start out as the godawful, soul-crushing, gaslighting nightmare that it became. If it had, I would have run the fuck in the opposite direction. Even I, Brightside Barbie, doomed to look for the best in everyone, would have said, “Nope!” and kept on moving. 

A few weeks ago, Jenny Trout, one of my utterly amazing BFFs, stumbled across some shadyass Vaguebooking about me and snapped. The results of this were five blog posts that detailed years of emotional abuse at the hands of the individual I jettisoned from my life. Jen was pissed. And while she may not always stand up to defend herself, she’ll defend the fuck out of the people she loves and the ideals she believes in. I didn’t ask her to write those posts. She did it because she felt it was the right thing to do. Very much like what I’m doing here. 

If you’ve never dealt with an emotionally abusive manipulative person – or if you’re not the type to to get conned by them – that’s awesome. *high fives you*  

If you have, like so many of the people who’d commented on Jen’s posts, then you know how incredibly insidious and harmful these people can be. You know that the gaslighting techniques they employ can break you the fuck down until you begin to doubt everything around you—even your own thoughts. Hell, especially your own thoughts. I won’t go into all the gory details about how this works. That’s not the point of this post. There are tons of great resources out there if you find yourself in a relationship like this. This blog is a great place to start. But please be aware, those of you who’ve dealt with these sorts of relationships may find it triggering. 

But to illustrate just how damaging this behavior can be, I’d like to share something. About five or six months after I was no longer speaking to the person Jen wrote about, my husband, who’s known me since I was 15 fucking years old, looked at me and said, “There you are. I’ve been missing my girl, and I didn’t know how to find her.” That broke my goddamn heart. 

The reason I’m sharing this is because now that Jen has chosen to remove the five posts detailing the wild ride that was our life with this toxic person, there are readers out there who are upset. Some are upset because they didn’t get to read the last installment before they were all unpublished. Some were upset because they feel that Jen isn’t standing by her convictions by keeping the posts up. Some were upset because those posts that detailed this person’s behavior could have “real world consequences” for that person. 

I get that it’s frustrating to be really into something and find it entertaining and never be able to see the conclusion. But good news, it’s cached out there somewhere, folks. But I understand internet caches as well as I understand imaginary numbers and algebra, so…I’m not the person to help you out with that. 

To those who feel like Jen isn’t standing by her convictions, let me tell you what those posts accomplished for the two of us. And probably for Carol, too. Having those experiences laid out before the cold, unblinking eye of the internet did something amazing. It gave us both the courage to admit that this shit actually happened. This is the shit that shitty people do to others under the guise of friendship. It gave other people who’ve experienced similar shit solidarity recognition and understanding. It gave Jen and I those things, too. But when Jen unpublished those posts, it gave us both something more. It gave us the feeling of finally being fucking free. 

No matter what Jen and I have accomplished professionally, even after this person was no longer in our lives, those accomplishments were always tainted with the remnants of her voice in our heads and the echoes of her words in our ears. Trying to explain how detrimental that is in a way that someone who hasn’t been through this shit can understand would take months, and TBH, I’m not willing to to devote any more headspace to this person than she’s already had.

But, what I would love for you to understand is that really talking about these things, getting them all out of our heads, and then flushing them, finally felt like we were free of it all. That the garden of self-doubt that this person planted in our heads and carefully tended had finally gone fallow. I wish I could somehow translate our happiness sense of wellbeing to everyone to provide a glimpse of how amazingly beautiful and freeing that felt. For the first time, I was no longer worried about running into this person at the grocery store—a likely prospect since we live so close to one another. Just the realization that I wasn’t afraid of running into her in public was huge. That’s just one example of the power of releasing this. 

So for those of you who felt like Jenny wasn’t standing by her convictions, I realize there’s nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. But I hope you’ll consider that choosing to unpublish the posts wasn’t about convictions. It was about freedom from something that’s haunted both of us for years. Basically exorcising a demon—minus the priest and the holy water. 

And finally, for those concerned about the real world consequences those posts may have had, I have a question. Why are the real world consequences of income loss more important than the real world consequences of having one’s mental health maliciously chipped away for over a decade? I’m not sure how money is the most important thing here. Sometimes there are consequences for being a horrible person. Sometimes those consequences involve people no longer wanting to read your work. 

Additionally, some people may not have a problem if a homophobe profits by writing MM romances. Some people have a huge problem with it and would prefer to vote with their dollars.

Like most writers, the written word is my and Jen’s medium for figuring out our shit—both reading and writing. Sure, we talk a lot, too. But like many writers, I think we process better through reading and writing. I don’t know how Jen felt writing them, but I know that reading them felt like amazing therapy. 

One of the things I love and admire most about Jen is that what you see is literally what you get. There’s no public persona—there’s just Jen. And I will be forever grateful to her for standing up for me, and more than that, helping me stand up for myself.

How Writing Affects My Life & Vice Versa

My writing affects my life and my life affects my writing. Or  something.

This seems rather like a Schrödinger’s cat kind of thing.  Maybe? Kinda? Let’s roll with it because this graphic amuses me.

Schrodinger's Cat

 

Rather than going into a long, drawn out treatise on how this all works, I’m just gonna share some examples of things that happen around here that will illustrate this phenomenon.

My life affects my writing. 

I’ll hear some bit of random conversation, and it’ll spark an idea.

I’ll hear something hilarious and want to work it into a story.

I’ll (or someone I love will) do something stupid, and it’ll give me a story/scene idea.

Life sometimes is so damn crazy, I don’t have time to write as much as I want.

Not writing makes me cranky.

My life is hectic, so I have to write with interruptions or just write for short bursts at a time.

Sometimes, I have to keep really shitty hours just to get some words in.

My writing affects my life.

This is more like my writing affects my family’s life, but I always get great ideas while I’m either showering or driving so my poor family is constantly having to take notes for me. Unfortunately, if it’s a saucy bit, I’ll have to use a special kind of shorthand, because while my children and I have a very open relationship, they don’t need their mom dictating questionable dialogue so she doesn’t forget it later.

My head is almost constantly in my story. Grocery shopping? In addition to buying a lot of fancy cheese, I’m choreographing a fight (or sex) scene in my head. Pumping gas? Yeah, but I’m also figuring out the transition between once scene and another. Driving from point A to point B? I’m thinking about the next big plot point, or, in the case of this current story, the big black moment. Sewing? Knitting? Playing with clay? Probably thinking about dialogue. Whatever story I’m working on is running in my head like a background program on a computer. I might not be even actively thinking about it, but it’s there.

I write erotic romance. If there’s a dirty joke to be made, I’ll make it. Usually with all of the aplomb of a twelve year old boy.

I see story ideas everywhere.

Songs/Cds are often stuck on repeat (much to the dismay of my family) while I’m working on a story.

I know there are more things I’m forgetting, but I’d also like to finish this chapter tonight, so I’ll leave you with the other bloggers’ thoughts on this topic.

Jess  (Heads up, blog people, Jess has been having some trouble with her blog, so if her post isn’t up when you click, it hopefully will be soon.)

Kris

Jessica

Paige

Kellie

Gwen

 

So Freaking Thankful!

Thankful Scrabble

There’s that adage that you see all over Pinterest – or, at least, you do if you spend as much time there as I’m known to do, that says:

It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.

I think there’s definitely some truth to that.  I know that I’m happier and more content when I’m focusing on the good things in my life rather than the crap ones. However, that’s not always an easy thing to remember in the midst of a shit storm.

And in a lot of ways, there’s been a whole lotta shit this year. However, there have been amazing things, too. So I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about a few of the things I’m thankful for that have emerged this year that have far overshadowed the crap.

1.) My kids. If you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I’m crazy about my kids. They’re amazing individuals, and I’d think that even if they weren’t mine. I’m thankful that we can laugh and cry together, that they feel safe enough to tell me anything, that they’re bravely following their dreams even when it’s difficult, and frankly, scary, and that they’re kind and giving people.

2.) My husband. he drives me batshit crazy some days, but I’m more in love with this man than I’ve ever been. He’s a loving father, he works his ass off for us, he tries to make me laugh every single day, and he’s always willing to work shit out and own his crap.

3.) My family. I won the family lotto with my mom, sibs, SILs and BIL, nieces, nephews and cousins – dad and stepmom and aunts and uncles, too. Yeah, we drive each other nuts sometimes, but we’re always able to talk stuff out. I love that open communication is a thing in my family. I know it’s not in a lot of families.

4.) My friends. I literally have the most amazing friends on the planet, and I know how damn lucky I am. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without any of them. I don’t think a more supportive, loving, hilarious  group of people exists. And I’m thankful that they let me hang out with them – IRL and OL.

5.) Readers – whether you’re reading my books or someone else’s you’re making it possible for writers to follow their dreams and I love you guys for that.

6.) The courage to take chances. It’s no secret that I can be a timid chickenshit about a lot of things, but this year, I’ve made a lot of changes. Some were hard and hurt a lot – though I’m better off for them.  Some were scary, but so worthwhile.

7.) The little things that make life better, like: cats, therapy, crafting, Netflix, the internet, stories, laughter, music, sleep, clean sheets, tea, writing retreats, a cozy home, food in the cupboard, coffee, scented candles, ebooks, Ren faires, concerts, Lake Superior, changing seasons, chocolate covered strawberries, truffles, salt and vinegar chips, nail polish, lip balm, fingerless mitts, rocks, Skinny Pop, Costco, social media, Amazon Prime and a million other things I’m forgetting.

8.) I wrote this post a few days ago, and I realized this morning that I needed to add to it. I’m also thankful for the people in my life that have taught me some unpleasant but important lessons. Sometimes, for me, anyway, it’s necessary to learn things the hard way. These particular lessons were a long time coming, and I’m glad that I finally learned them. Without those particular people as teachers, I probably wouldn’t have.

What are you thankful for? Tell me in the comments! And click on the names below to find out what the other bloggers are thankful for, too.

Jess

Gwen

Kris

Kellie

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