“Inspire Someone. Smile.”

I went to Starbucks today. I sat in my usual comfy chair with my journal in my lap and a book set on a table to read when I am finished writing. I hear a woman’s voice tell someone their usual spot is taken. I look up and see a woman settling into a chair across from me. I ask her if she would rather sit here. A huge smile covers her face. She’s sixty-five years old, (I learn this later) but has the ‘full of life’ smile of a child and she really likes to sit near the window.

I stand up and collect my things. With the help of a cane, she walks toward me. I offer my hand. She takes it, kisses it, and presses it against her face. I smile. That’s not why I extended my hand. I meant to help her, but I don’t mind. It’s not awkward. She’s sweet and thanks me many times for giving up my seat. I tell her I’m happy to do it. Her husband arrives with their drinks and they sit together, side-by-side, on the cozy chairs near the window.

We talk a little. She tells me her age and the reason for the cane is because she has Multiple Sclerosis, a condition she developed when she was twenty-two. She tells me she worked with children with Autism and she is recently retired. Because I know MS is a progressive disease, I tell her how wonderful it is that she was able to work for so long doing what she loves. Again, she smiles that awesome smile.

She talks about her husband and casts a loving look his way. “He’s been taking care of me our whole marriage. We’ve been married almost forty years.” I imagine she takes care of him in ways she doesn’t even realize because being with her for the short time that I was made me feel more alive – more appreciative of life – than I’ve ever been.

I listen to this woman talk and occasional symptoms of her disease show, but she works through them. “I’m a fighter,” she tells me.

“Yes, you are.”

She smiles and waves at people. When a young mother with a small child orders the exact beverage she has, she raises her drink, and says, “Me too!”

I go to my new seat and open my journal. I try to concentrate on what I was there to write, but I can’t stop watching the couple I just met. Their legs stretched out on an ottoman, as they relax into their chairs, talking and laughing, completely enthralled with each other.

After nearly forty years of marriage, not only does this husband and wife still love one another, but they really like each other, too. Even when they’re saying nothing, I can feel contentment in their silence. It’s a touching moment because sometimes a partner’s illness can strain a relationship, but poor health hasn’t dampened this couple’s bond – -perhaps it has enriched it.

I watch them closely and know they are oblivious of the woman sitting across the room writing about them. And that she is inspired. They inspired someone – me — just by being themselves and I really needed that today.

I see them preparing to leave and I toss my journal to the side. I’m sure the woman will come to me, so I get ready to stand up. I ponder if a simple ‘good-bye’ will do or if I should extend my hand. It’s an uncomfortable predicament because so many people are anti-contact, but the woman puts my concern immediately at ease when she approaches me with her arms wide open. And that smile…Oh that smile.

She hugs me as though she’s known me for a long time. It’s not a quick embrace. She lingers close to my neck, long enough to tell me I smell good.  She kisses my hand again.

I ask her name. It’s Betsy. She says she comes here a lot. I tell her I hope to see her again. And I mean that.

We don’t need to climb a mountain to inspire – – just look adversity in the face and smile. Someone will be inspired.

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Queer Town Abbey’s “Equal Rights Blog Hop”

Thank you Queer Town Abbey for hosting this blog hop with the theme “My first experience in the LGBT community.”

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I came out when I was twenty. I told most of my family and friends I was gay before I had even held another girl’s hand. I was that sure of who I was and desperately needed to be around people like me.

One Thursday night, I drove to a lesbian bar near my house. With a nervous twist in my stomach, I pulled into the parking lot. I sat in my car – hesitant and having second thoughts. I gave myself a pep talk. “Come on Alicia, it’s just a bar!” and “These are your people!”

After a few more minutes of hemming and hawing, I yelled out, “It’s Thursday night for Christ sakes!” I opened my car door and with a confidence that screamed “I’m not afraid of Thursday nights!” I swayed toward the entrance.

It wasn’t until I reached the doors and pulled my wallet from my pocket that I remembered I was using a fake ID. I’d always get uneasy when using it at new places. My sister and I didn’t look that much alike. But I had other things to be anxious about and with a forced nonchalant smile and a heavy heartbeat, I handed over my ID.

Seconds later, I was welcomed into my first gay bar.

I stepped into the dark place that looked just like any other bar I’d been to. Small groups of women were either hovered over pool tables or chatting loudly on stools, while a scattered few danced across the near-empty dance floor.

The bar wasn’t crowded, but that was my plan. I was baby-stepping my way into the gay community. I took a seat and immediately pulled out my pack of smokes and dropped it in front of me. I have long since quit, but back then I needed my cigarettes. It gave me something to do with my hands and allowed me to concentrate on something other than myself.

The bartender came over. I had no way of knowing that she would come to make many drinks for me and had a keen way of pin-pointing when I was in the mood for a beer or for my favorite mixed drink. But she didn’t know me then, so I had to tell her.

Soon, a transvestite named Michelle sat beside me. Aside from the bartender, she was the first person to talk to me. She was very friendly and immediately put me at ease. I’ll never forget her for that.

But as she talked about her girlfriend, I realized I had a lot to learn about the community I was starting to call my own. I had assumed that men who dressed as women were attracted to other men. I hung on her every word as she told to me about her and her girlfriend’s recent fights.

I was introduced to something foreign to me and my “suburban” way of living. But there was no doubt I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I took a chance that night and it paid off. I would come to make many memories in that bar that I still hold close to me today. Not too long ago, I’d taken another chance, but time has yet to show if it will pay off. But whether or not good memories come from what I’d done, I don’t ever want to stop taking chances.

Whatever the uncertainty in your life, are you willing to take a chance?

 

To enter the Giveaway please answer this simple question from post:

“What day of the week did I go to my first gay bar?”

Please post the answer in the Rafflecopter widget for the opportunity to win one of the grand prizes.

http://queertownabbey.com/the-equal-rights-blog-hop-july-4th-through-11th/

 

Thanks again Queer Town Abbey for hosting this blog hop! Please follow the hop at queertownabbey.com for a chance to win prizes! And please leave a comment on my blog for a chance to win an ebook copy of my lesbian romance novella, Her Name, coming out July 11.

Her Name

 

Please visit other authors participating in this blog hop!

“A Dog Loves At All Times”

Hug your dog. He/She deserves it. They give so much, but ask for so little. IMG_20140616_134429

No matter how sad, frustrated, or upset I may be, when I walk into a room and see my dog, Phil, stretched out on his back, legs bent across his chest, his front paws relaxed over his face while flashing me an upside-down smile, I can’t help but laugh because he looks so silly. And we need a little silly in life to make us smile.

 

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I’ve realized that in many ways I need to be more like him.

Phil’s a great listener. He never leaves me, even as I drench his fur with tears, he stays right by my side, and listens to my sad tales no matter how many times he’s heard it. I need to be a better listener. No more interruptions. I will listen to your side of the story, from start to finish, even as you tell it for the six-hundredth time.

He’s patient and patience is a virtue that often eludes me, especially since I started sharing my home with children. But no matter how comfortable Phil may be curled up in his favorite spot on the couch, once those kids barrel loudly into the room and trample on the cushions he was peacefully sleeping on, he jumps off.  He doesn’t bark. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t bite. He simply leaves the room without appearing too upset about it. Maybe it’s because he knows  he’ll find some other quiet place in the house and be grateful for it, even if it’s on the floor.

The kids have tested my patience like this before, when I’m quietly reading a book or practicing yoga, only I don’t usually handle it nearly as eloquently as my dog. I argue that I was there first. I stubbornly fight for my spot and when I do finally admit defeat, I leave the room in a huff, hardly ever grateful that there’s another quiet space somewhere in my home waiting for me.

I rescued Phil from a shelter and although he’s a pitbull, there were no signs that he was involved in dog-fighting, but there were major signs of neglect. He was found as a stray roaming the streets of Chicago. He was an abandoned dog, without a home, but he was also a survivor.

Painfully, I force myself to imagine him cold and hungry, lost and alone, wandering around with no place to go. I think about all the people who saw him but did nothing. I get upset, but then I imagine those who fed him scraps of food or offered water to get him by. It wasn’t much because when I brought him home, he was all ribs, but it was enough to give me a chance to find him. I’m so grateful that I did.

But no matter how badly he’s been treated or how many times his heart’s been broken, he is so willing to love and it doesn’t take much to win him over. A pat on the head. A stroke underneath his chin. A kiss on his nose. He knows how to heal. He knows how to forgive. He knows how to let go.

He also knows how to love.

He loves with all he has, without holding back. When I open my arms, he comes to me without hesitation, undeterred by the risk of being turned away. My baby lays it all on the line and I don’t plan on letting him down…ever.

My dog gives me hope. He lights up my darkest days because I know he has suffered to end up here, in a pretty good place, with a mommy that loves him so much. He survived his battles and won. I will too, and so will you.

A picture hangs in my room with the saying “A Dog Loves At All Times.”

Can anyone disagree?

 

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Movies and Memories

As a writer, the last thing I want to hear in response to recommending a very good book to someone is, “That’s okay. I’ll just wait for the movie to come out.” …. “But there is no movie for this book.” …. “Then it must not be a very good book.”  Sigh.

Writers don’t compete with other writers. We compete with every means of entertainment that take people away from reading. Could this include the movie industry? Possibly. But maybe for every 100 people who instead of reading a book, choose to wait a long time for the book to get to the big screen, a dozen or two dozen of them will be so swept away by the brilliance of the movie that they will just HAVE to read the book, while crossing their fingers that the book will do the movie justice.

Hey, if it takes a movie to get a person to pick up a book – I’m all for it, because I love movies. Ever since I was a little girl it was my escape. I loved books, too, and had gotten lost in so many as a child (still do), but I sure loved to watch movies. And could watch them all day. Everyday. And that hasn’t changed.

I have a stack of old tickets stubs I had saved. The oldest one dates Jan-3-1998. I was 21 at the time. The movie was Good Will Hunting. The adult price was $7.50 – today’s matinee. I saw it with my best friend.

I don’t recall what made me start saving movie ticket stubs. Maybe I’m just nostalgic because I do have a fondness for the past and lamenting how the time has passed. But I no longer save my stubs. The latest ticket I have is from 06-09-2007. The movie was Shrek. I saw it with my ex.

Now that I have stopped collecting these tickets, it seems silly to save the ones I already have, but throwing them away doesn’t feel right. I’ve held onto them this long – how can I throw them out now?

As I look over all the stubs from fifteen years ago, I can remember the exact person I saw each movie with.  Maybe this doesn’t seem like an extraordinary feat, but if you knew my horrible memory, you’d be amazed. My girlfriends have an edge over me because they can convince me I’ve said or done things I didn’t do simply because I won’t remember not having said or done them. It really isn’t fair.

I wish I could remember the multiplication table, or our State Capitols, or my niece’s and nephew’s birthdays the way I remember the people who sat beside me in a darkened theater as I shoveled buttery popcorn into my mouth.

In eighth grade, I saw the movie Madhouse with my boyfriend and another couple. Date night! He was eating Twizzlers and was so anxious to kiss me that he couldn’t even wait until he had swallowed all of his delicious candy because parts of the chewed, left-over pieces ended up in my mouth. It was the grossest, wettest and sloppiest kiss I’ve ever experienced. It was twenty-five years ago but I still remember the sweet taste of his candy on the back of my tongue and the feel of drool running down my chin.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I became a lesbian. Thanks Ryan! It’s a wonder I even kissed another boy after that. I remember my feeling of relief when he left to go to the bathroom and I was able to towel off my face.

I’m not the lesbian who likes to rag on guys. I have experienced some decent kisses from those of the opposite sex, but nothing summed it up the way my best friend described a kiss when we hooked up with some fellows while visiting a college friend. “He kissed the way Mel Gibson looks.” Mind you, this was 1995 and Mel was lookin’ real good, but my kisses with boys never left me feeling like that. My kisses with girls…well that’s a story for another blog….maybe. 🙂

This blog isn’t about kisses. It’s about movies. Or rather, what attaches us to movies.

I remember going to see Silence of the Lambs with my mother, who is the loudest person you can ever watch a movie with. I didn’t know that at the time, but  she jumps at EVERYTHING. Even the parts where you know the bad guy is going to pop out, she’ll scream as if there was absolutely no build-up and she never saw it  coming. She scared me more than Hannibal Lecter did.

I took my young nephew to see Finding Nemo. He was so excited running down the hall to the theater that he wiped out, face first, onto the floor. Arms and legs outstretched. He was laid-out flat.  I laughed. I laughed hard. (I’m laughing right now as I write this). And he was mad at me. He slowly got up and wouldn’t look at me as I walked, and he limped, to our seats.

In the middle of the movie, I replayed his tumble in my mind – slow motion –  and I busted out in laughter again. My astute little nephew turned to me in the dark theater and whispered, “I know why you’re laughing.” Yes, he knew, and that only made me laugh harder.

Memories.

Anything can be memorable – even the worst movie ever made- if it’s connected to a memory that’s unforgettable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘My Writing Process’ Blog Tour

Thank you Mystic Thompson for inviting me to join this exciting blog tour! I’ve enjoyed getting inside the heads of other authors! Please be sure to visit Mystic’s blog at mysticthompson.weebly.com

 

What are you currently working on?

I have just begun edits for my first book, a Lesbian Romance called Her Name, which is  scheduled to be released this July. As a new author, I’m not sure there’s anything more exciting than the release of your first book. It’s all starting to get real!  🙂

I also just finished my second Lesbian Romance book, tentatively called Loving Again. I have a long list of old, abandoned stories that I have promised to rescue. So once the edits of Her Name are complete and I find a home for Loving Again, I may toss the life preserver out to sea because my characters have been in the water way too long.

 

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is simple in style and usually has a nostalgic feeling to it. My last two romance stories revolve around the notion of time and how we are all connected to each other in some way, even if our paths cross only briefly. My novel, Loving Again, shows the journey of two strangers who discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither could ever imagine.

Why do you write what you do?

I write lesbian fiction.  I came out in 1996 when I was twenty and I remember going to Borders to buy my first lesbian book. It was a huge moment. I was so nervous I walked past the Lesbian Fiction aisle seventeen times before I finally entered.

You see, the aisle was clearly labelled “Lesbian Fiction” and that meant anyone who saw me standing in front of those shelves would know I was looking for a lesbian book. The horror! But I braved it and stood there long enough to pick out a book that appealed to me (of course they all appealed to me because they were about women who loved other women).  But I was so grateful to have that outlet and those stories helped me to feel normal in a world that didn’t seem so welcoming.

I know today there are a heck of a lot more outlets for young gay people and a trip to a bookstore (for those who still go to bookstores) is no longer a life-changing event, but it would mean so much to think I could give a confused, questioning, lonely person the comfort of knowing there are others like them out there. And here’s just a couple of their stories. 

On a side note, to prove how far we (I) have come, six years ago  I had a horribly loud and obnoxious fight on my cellphone, in that same Borders, with one of my ex-girlfriends while fully aware that there were others around me but not caring (yes, for ten minutes I was one of those people) – In the same place where, twelve years earlier, I had stood as a timid, self-conscious, twenty-year old,  sweatin’ out the purchase of her first lesbian book.  Progress!!!!

 

How does my writing process work?

New ideas usually come when I ask myself,  “What if?”

I wrote a blog about the power of that one question. It’s an important question and one every writer needs to ask her or himself because there are no limitations. That question pulls me away from the notion that I should only write what I know.

If I want to write about something I know nothing about  – It’s called Google, Baby!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Back

I think I was a better person when I was younger. I was less judgmental and more accepting. My mind was open and clearer. I welcomed new adventures without expectation because whatever happened I’d believed was meant to happen. I just went with it. I was less moody, less irritable. I was optimistic. I took each day as they came as though time would never desert me.

Now, I make presumptions I never used to and turn away from situations I don’t know, don’t understand. My mind is foggy, cloudy, hazy… every last inch of it. Optimism has turned to pessimism and a once open mind, now over-run by an over-analysis of everything. I look at the clock as if time were a girlfriend, packing her last suitcase, ready to say goodbye.

If this is life catching up to me, then I need to run faster because I’m only 38 years old and I want to live to be 100 without turning into Ouiser from Steel Magnolias. 

I meditate. I do yoga. This helps to bring me closer to myself. Everything around me slows down, almost disappears, and it’s only me. Me. Me. Me. And that’s not the way I live. I live for others, not for myself. Meditation and yoga has changed that and forced me to concentrate only on myself. This is hard, especially when you find out things about yourself you’d rather not know.

Ignorance is bliss for many, but I don’t want to be ignorant. I want to figure out how I’ve changed and why. And when I find the reasons I want to smash the blippity blip out of it so it never resurfaces again. Life took me away from me for a little while and I got lost.

Now, I need to find a way to bring a little of my younger self back to me because it’s been a long time and I kinda miss me.