We just got home from a weekend at the lake, and are preparing for another work week. It’s hard leaving the lake–life’s so peaceful and easy there. Our comfort level increases each time we go up as we settle in and get to know our neighbors. We haven’t succumbed to getting a golf cart yet, but most all the folks in the park have one. Some are plain, some are painted bright red or have fancy additions like extra seats in the back or fun logos on the front.
Yesterday, as I was cleaning the house, getting ready for guests who were going to spend Saturday evening and Sunday with us, several neighbors dropped by–one after the other. Just buzzing by on their golf carts to say howdy and check out what we’ve added to the cottage. Our fixing-up process is big news in the park and this weekend, it was the new dining room table and rug.
A quick buzz-by sorta becomes an event as someone else comes along and then another. Somehow we all ended up sitting around on golf carts behind the cottage next to ours, chatting, drinking beer, watching our neighbor prepare a space for a new minibarn. Now, on the surface, that doesn’t sound all that thrilling, but every time this has happened since we bought the place, it’s been the highlight of the weekend, an opportunity to get to know our new community better. I’m getting a giant kick out of three or four golf carts gathered together with folks laughing and chatting.
One of our new friends, who was gently teasing me about our reluctance to get a cart explained it this way:
The golf carts aren’t about being lazy or about not wanting to walk, they’re more like portable lawn chairs. We fly by each other’s cottages and stop for a chat, someone else comes along, sits on the edge of the cart, like you are now, and joins the conversation. Pretty soon, we’re all involved in whatever’s happening–offering a hand, giving advice, lending a tool…golf carts are part of our culture here. Trust me, you’ll have one by the end of next summer…”
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised…
I had another conversation yesterday with a friend about weight and weight loss and being disgusted with our bodies. Why do we do this to ourselves? How can we possibly expect to be healthy inside our selves if we’re constantly dissing the outside of our selves? A couple of months ago, I did a guest blog for the Bettyverse on this subject–loving who you are right now. I pulled it out and reread it yesterday afternoon. I’m reposting it here because one of the comments I received about it really hit home:
Anyone with a daughter needs to show them this post.
That comment made me wonder what we are teaching our daughters about their own self-images. Are we turning another generation of females into women who believe that if they aren’t the ideal, then they aren’t worthy? Let’s not do that, okay? Note to self–you are a delight exactly as you are!
Here’s the post:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. —Anais Nin
US (French-born) author & diarist (1903 – 1977)
Suddenly, I thought, “This is my body. I live in it. I play in it. I can’t deny it anymore. This is my fat body. I’m standing at the corner of Life and You Better Get Going. I stepped off the curb and never looked back. —Camryn Manheim
American actress (1961–)
I am very body aware, and I’ve spent way too much time in my life fretting over other people’s opinions about my body. I’m overweight and for years, I was on a diet. For about thirty years or so, I completely ignored my sensual side. Maybe unconsciously (but probably consciously), I believed that a big woman had no business trying to be sensual. I know it’s sick, but there it is.
I have to admit, I was much more aware of my sensuality when I was younger (and thinner), but being so young meant I was unable to really appreciate that aspect of my femininity. Instead, I wallowed in guilt because good girls didn’t acknowledge or act on those kinds of feelings, and besides, I had no idea how to separate sensuality from stupid teenaged libido. I married young, got bigger, and my sensuality truly went into hiding in the midst of pregnancies, mothering, and the day-to-day trials of marriage and having a family.
But when I turned fifty-four and began to manifest menopausal symptoms—hot flashes, night sweats, short-term memory loss, moods swings, restlessness—something else very surprising happened to me. One summer day, I actually stopped and looked at myself after a shower—something I’d never done before. I’d always ignored mirrors as much as possible since the woman reflected there wasn’t even close to America’s skinny ideal. I gazed at the round woman in the glass—flushed from the shower, her blonde hair tousled, her blue eyes sparkling, and I had an epiphany. I’m pretty. And curvy. And actually, kinda sexy.
That day something opened up in me and now all my senses seem to be heightened. I’m hyper-aware of how things taste, like juicy fresh pears or red wine and chocolate; of how light and shadow play on surfaces; how music sounds; how much I enjoy the touch of strong male fingers on my skin. I love the sun on my face or a breeze in my hair. I love putting on lotion—it’s a minutes-long stroking experience now, instead of a slap-dash rub and hurrying into my baggy pants and top to cover up. I love wearing clothes that are silky or soft rather than sweats, clothes that reveal and enhance my shape instead of hide it. I even started sleeping nude just for the touch of the cool sheets against my skin and the feel of a warm body next to mine.
I’ve discovered my sensuality again. But this time, I’m older and aware of how very brief a time I have on this Earth, in this body—my body. My round, bumpy, beautiful . . . sexy body.
I’ve been flying high from the Cousins Reunion all week–so many incredible memories were made last weekend! We all connected on a level that can only happen when you are family. I probably have a hundred stories to tell, but this is one that particularly delights me. Names, of course, have been changed to protect the innocent, although we’d have to look long and hard for one of those…
We spent the whole weekend in the lodge, talking, laughing, eating, going through tons of pictures and memorabilia. We’d all brought photos, so at any given time, you’d find a group of cousins poring over pictures, magnifying glasses at the ready, or reading old letters or perusing the copious notes taken by our genealogy experts, Karen and Carla. Meals were raucous affairs with more delicious food than we could ever possibly eat–but we gave it our best try.
On Saturday night, we lingered after the dancing, unwilling to say goodnight and separate. It was our last night together. Finally, we began drifting off to bed, upstairs, downstairs… and the house was dark and quiet…almost… Mags and I were in our bed on the lower level, chatting quietly about the events of the day when we heard a noise upstairs. We lay still and hushed–it sounded like someone was crying. But, as we listened more, we realized it wasn’t tears, it was laughter, coming from the top floor where the sisters, Karen, Carla, Penny, and Beth were sharing two bedrooms.
Mags give me a raised brow, “Pajama party?”
I nodded, wondering what on earth the four sisters could have found so hilarious. “Maybe…”
“Not without us!” Mags exclaimed. “Grab your pillow!”
So we crept up two flights of stairs in the dark, pillows tucked under our arms, trying very hard not to wake my sisters in the room under the stairs or the other two cousins, sleeping in the main floor master bedroom. Light shone from under the door of the room that Carla and Beth shared and when we knocked, Carla opened the door with a welcoming grin.
“You’re having a pajama party without us?” I said and plopped down on the bed with Mags right behind me. Karen, Beth, and Carla scooted around to make room for us. They’d been giggling about something that had happened earlier in the day, obviously rehashing the weekend just as Mags and I had been doing below-stairs. We all sat on the bed laughing and talking, when Beth suddenly said, “I’m going to go get Penny.” She was across the hall and hadn’t joined the festivities yet. Carla was reluctant to bother her, but Beth crossed the hall anyway and returned shortly with Penny in tow.
When Penny saw the group of cousins curled up on the big bed like so many contented cats, she had one word for us, “Cheesecake!” and she hurried down the stairs to get leftovers of the cheesecake Mags had made. Seriously, how can you not adore a woman whose first thought upon being dragged out of her bed at one a.m. is “cheesecake”?
As we sat together in wee hours of the morning, chatting, giggling, and devouring Mags’s remarkable cheesecake, I knew. I knew as surely as I’d ever known anything in my life–these beautiful ladies weren’t only my cousins, they were true kindred spirits.
I’m home from the Cousins Reunion in the hills. We rented a giant log home (seriously! 5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths, a 10-butt kitchen–really giant!), set among the hills and forests in the southern part of our state. Twenty of us gathered to celebrate being family and to share pictures, memories, and lots of food, wine, and love. I met ten new cousins and reunited with nine others. We hugged, laughed, cried, and told tales on one another and on our parents and grandparents.
We started the celebration by finding our rooms and settling in. Then the fun began with a snacks and dessert buffet (Thanks Cousin Mags, for 3 cheesecakes, 10 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 2 pound cakes, and 24 chocolate cupcakes in addition to snack mix!). The bar went without saying–wine, beer, and some other tasty drinks were available. I tasted a couple of great wines and sipped pineapple rum and diet coke over ice. Icy pineapple just seemed to suit the late summer weather. Meals were pitch-in family affairs with some of us setting up, some of us doing the actual cooking, and others cleaning up. Every meal worked with the ease of folks who’d been in a kitchen together for generations.
Our genealogy expert Cousins set up one room to hold laptops, a scanner, and all the information, pictures, and history about our family. That room and the adjoining great room were where we lived. Photos got passed among the group and scanned for anyone who wanted a copy. Fragile letters and papers were displayed and read aloud. Magnifying glasses came out as we all examined old, old photos and tried to figure out who was who. We learned fascinating facts about our ancestors, and each of us received a beautiful personalized binder with a family tree and family history in it.
So enthralled were we all with one another’s company that we didn’t even leave the house, except to make an ice run or go out to enjoy the evening breeze on the wide veranda that overlooked the hills and valleys. There was simply too much to share, too much to see, and too much to do. One fun treat was watching four of our cousins dance ballroom and West Coast swing! We played games, had prizes, and laughed until our sides ached–one day I’ll tell you about the hilarious afternoon of Apples to Apples that went on–it may be its own post! Let me just entice you with three words, sultry creamed corn…
Mostly though we talked…and talked…and talked… We learned to know one another, came to love one another more, and grew close–just like family. What amazed me most was how we all seemed to connect almost immediately. Uncertain and shy moments lasted only as long as it took to hug and say hello–it was truly a spiritual experience.
One of my darling cousins sent us all a note pre-Reunion that says it all:
I am almost overwhelmed by what I am about to experience. Can you feel the excitement and the love in each email we have been sending back and forth to each other? We are quite a group. Yes we are. And I can’t wait to reunite and meet and hug each and every one of you! ‘Til then my family…
I’m hoping my dear cousins will read this, so I’ll tell them here, thanks for a glorious experience! Big cuzzie love to you all! I can’t wait for next time!
…starts today. Twenty-one of us have rented two log lodges down in the hills, and we are looking forward three days of fun and fellowship…and of course, food and wine. There will be lots sharing of family history and I’m excited to hear what everyone else remembers from tales they heard in their childhoods. Emails have been flying all over cyberspace as we’ve planned and gotten ready, so everyone is completely jacked up.
I got to start the reunion early by having two of my cousins stay with me last night before we head south today–and what a treat it’s been to catch up and share stories late into the night! Can’t wait to see all my dear cuzzies and meet some new ones that I’ve never met before. I’m sure I’ll cull tons of storytelling material from this event. What an adventure!
…at the Bettyverse. A particularly significant topic to me this week because I’m preparing to head south for a family reunion that includes meeting cousins I’ve never met before as well as reuniting with loved ones. Come join the conversation…or if you choose not to comment on the website, please tell me your heirloom story here. Love to hear from you.
…or do we care less about housework as we get older? Once upon a time, Mondays and Tuesdays were housecleaning days at my home. I worked my rather round ass off scrubbing floors and bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry…the list was truly two full days of cleaning. And at least twice a year, everything got removed from my kitchen cupboards and my china hutch and was washed and put back away, all shiny clean. I reorganized closets at least four times a year, washed windows every spring and fall, and even got dust bunnies out from under the shelves in the garage.
But things have changed. In the last few years, scrubbing the corners of the kitchen floor with a toothbrush seems way less urgent than writing just another few pages on the work in progress. Dishes have been known to sit in my sink from breakfast until after lunch, and horror of all horrors, I confess–I haven’t cleaned my oven since Christmas. Often a whole day will go by before I make the bed–yes, I’ve actually made the bed at five p.m. on more than one occasion. I know, at that point, why bother?
What happened to all that dedication? Well, frankly, it went the way of weekly meal plans, fresh baked bread, a vegetable garden, and all the other wifely ways I once took such pride in. I’m not dissing those things–not at all! I feel guilty that I’m not the perfect housekeeper I used to be. But not all that guilty… I’d rather write than clean out cupboards and I prefer editing to lying on the garage floor on my belly, brooming out dust and leaves.
And here’s the best news: No lightening bolt comes down to strike you dead if there’s dust on the good crystal wine glasses. Hell, they clean up just as easily only when you need them as they do if you take them out and wash them two times a year. The housekeeping sheriff doesn’t show up if you skip a week’s vacuuming, and the health department has not once been to my house to red tag my kitchen floor.
Mostly, what I’ve done is set myself free from the all the “must do in order to have a perfect house” tasks to allow time for me to write and it feels fantastic! Don’t get me wrong, I get in a cleaning frenzy every so often and I scrub until the house glows, but I no longer feel the need to spend two whole days a week at it. The bathrooms are clean, the sheets get changed each week, laundry’s folded, and the kitchen is scrubbed…well, I’m done… Now back to that novel…
…maybe. So here’s the weird part about being a writer, well one of the weird parts. I’m never done. I buttoned up the revisions on the first novel last night, dealt with my crit partner’s comments and edits and worked out the parts that still needed tweaking.
When I was done, I put all the chapters together into a manuscript file and saved it. Then I sent it to my Kindle so I could read it again in book form. Six pages into Chapter 1, I found a POV (Point of View) glitch that neither of us caught. Um…probably a safe bet that my heroine is not going to think about the color of her own eyes when she’s fighting tears.
Sandy will tell you that I have issues with POV–mostly when I get caught up in dialogue. I’m telling the story, creating the conversations between my characters, and I lose track of the fact that the hero doesn’t think of his own shoulders as brawny and the heroine doesn’t realize her own skin is touchable.
POV was a new concept to me, in spite of the fact that I’ve been writing for years. It never occurred to me that I needed to stay in the head of the person who was guiding the scene. Another term I’ve learned is “head-hopping,” which means going from one character’s thoughts to another’s in the same scene. Not a good thing unless you’re already an established author and have published numerous titles. Then you can probably get away with it because we already love you and we’ll read anything at all you write, even if you break the rules.
I’m not sure how to define my writing style–except that I’m a story teller and I can get very sappy, which in the romance world is not particularly a bad thing. I’m working on my tendency to overuse adverbs, since Sandy’s threatened more than once to come and rip the “l” and “y” keys off my keyboard. I write with a lot of emotion, but I have hard time writing anger, I think because I have a hard time being angry. I’m not good at it.
My biggest problem is that I’m not only a writer, I’m also an editor–that’s how I make my living. And I edit nonfiction–a lot of college textbooks–so the language is completely different from the language I use to write my novels. But the editor kicks in occasionally. For example, the use of “bad” versus “badly,” as in “He wanted her so badly, it hurt.” Now, editor Nan fixed this to read, “He wanted her so bad it hurt.” Here’s why. “Badly” is an adverb that describes the action, so the sentence as is tells me (editor Nan) that the guy is doing a poor job of wanting her. “Bad,” on the other hand is an adjective that describes the level of his feeling–he wants her a lot. So, logically, well, grammatically, that’s correct.
But, that’s not how we talk. Most people would say “badly.” “I feel badly for him.” or “She wanted him so badly…” You get the picture. If you read the words aloud–something I’m learning to do as I write–”badly” just flows better. Maybe not to my editorial ear, but to most reader’s ears, it would.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and probably again and again. Writing is learning. If I stop learning, my writing stops improving. And I always want to be the best writer I can be. You know why? Because I am a great writer…