Wednesday, April 8, 2020

After the Fear and Grief



I've spent a lot of time alone. I live alone, so it's not unusual. What is unusual is feeling that aloneness. I've felt that more in the past few weeks than ever before. When I can no longer fill the quiet with TV or music, I've taken moments here and there to listen to the stillness around me. I live in an apartment complex that is obviously very well-built because I don't hear my neighbors. I've always considered that to be a plus. Now I sit in the quiet and wish for a bump against the wall, the reverberation of a door slam from somewhere below, the sound of children laughing outside, or the roar of a car engine. I find myself longing for those sounds of normal life. I fear we've lost that normal forever. I want to say that we'll survive this and return to life as normal, but I can't assume either of those things. Who will survive? Who will not? It's a crap shoot. There are no guarantees.

As for returning to life as normal--that may or may not be a good thing. Think about the ways we're seeing this crisis with the Corona virus impacting our world. Sadly, we see people getting sick, having to go into quarantine, and many are dying pretty much alone with the exception of those tending to their care from behind masks and gloves. Those people, by the way, are the true heroes of this time. It's frightening, really. I fear and go into a near panic with every tickle in my throat, every sneeze, every cough, every bit of a headache--all of which are typical for me due to seasonal allergies. But I ask, "Is this the virus? Is this going to take me down? Am I sick? Do I need to call someone to take Stormy and care for her?" The fear isn't crippling. Not yet. But it has me shaken.


This virus, this invisible monster, has made me re-evaluate. It's certainly been a learning. I've learned how little control I have in life. I've learned I'm not all that significant, no more so than anyone else. I've learned how little I need as I watch people scramble to get the basics like milk, eggs, and toilet paper. How much is enough? We don't seem to know anymore. We're all just scared.


Then I hear news stories about how the environment is being impacted in a positive way. The once-green and muddy canals of Venice are crystal blue and being visited again by dolphins. Mountain vistas previously shrouded in polluted clouds are visible, the skies above them clear and bright. The earth is seizing this down time to breathe and renew.


We humans are asked or, in some cases, ordered to stay home. Stay away from one another. Stop the spread of the virus by refusing it a new host to take hold. It's the only way. It's all we've got. (I'll avoid the political aspects of poor decisions and bad timing and why this is all we've got.) New language has sprung up: social distancing, self-isolating. Words that those introverts among us--like myself--not only understand but embrace. We are our own worse enemies in this fight. We have one job to do to win--stay home. And, yet, people deny the severity of the pandemic, deny the expert medical opinions that inform us, refuse to give up their "rights" to congregate, hence furthering the life of this monster that could take us all down. Lives have been turned inside out with job loss, illness and death in families, the change of plans.


Plans. All of us have plans. I had plans for a trip to visit family and friends. Canceled. I had plans for a beach vacation with friends. Canceled. I have plans for a July trip that will likely be canceled. It's a hassle arguing with airlines to get a refund or at least a credit, to cancel reservations for a beach house, to face the disappointments. It would be a bigger hassle to be hospitalized and possibly die alone in a sterile hospital room and have family and friends grieving a funeral they could not attend.


This crisis should help us put things into perspective. It has forced us to change our daily routines and our longer-range plans. It has forced us to slow down. It has forced us to more carefully tend to our finances. It has forced some of us to ask for and/or accept help we would never have had to request or receive. It has forced us to evaluate just what we do need and what we can live without. It has forced us to hold onto the love we share with others and cherish them.


What about tomorrow? Not Thursday as in 'that' tomorrow. What about when this is over or at least over enough that we can come out of our hiding spaces and into life again? What will our lives look like? Many will be having to start over as surely as if a hurricane had swept ashore and washed everything out to sea. How do we rebuild, or do we build something new? How do we heal from the fear and the grief and lean into hope again? How do we lean into a new normal and create the lives we want?


I hope I take to heart the learnings I've gotten from this so far. And it's far from over. But I hope my life, if I survive this, takes on new meaning, reflecting all that I've learned from this--that I don't need nearly as much stuff as I think I do; that I do need the people in my life to be in this with me; that I have a great capacity to care about others and tend to their needs above my own; that I should and can take better care of myself--physically and emotionally; that when it comes to an invisible virus with the potential to wipe out masses of human life, we all become one. We are all in this together. We fear the same. We grieve the same. We love the same. We die the same. And we will be given the same opportunity to come out of this a better person, with the chance to live in harmony in a better world.


This is what I believe comes after the fear and grief. Hope and understanding and acceptance and purpose and humanity, along with a greater love and respect for our earth. We are in the midst of what Christians recognize as Holy Week. It's a time for atonement and sacrifice and joy, only then to stand in the darkness of Good Friday. But we emerge into the light of hope and resurrection of Easter Sunday. I don't think it's an accident that we were told earlier that this week would be the most trying and filled with loss, but that then the expectation is that things will begin slowly to improve. Don't be afraid to stand in the dark, stay home, close the doors, and wait. New life will come.




Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hallmark Movies, Hot Chocolate, and Inspiration

It's that time of year when the Hallmark Channel provides a constantly running venue of Christmas stories certain to take us 'home' to those cozy small towns that touch our hearts. I grew up in a cozy small town that would have, at one time, been the prefect Hallmark movie setting. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a small town--houses with picket fences, town squares, a little hamlet where everyone knows everyone and life is good all the time.

I recently treated myself to a Hallmark Christmas movie marathon, complete with a mug of hot chocolate. And inspiration struck. I was transported to a small town in the mountains of Southwestern Pennsylvania, in the region where I grew up. One of my favorite places to visit is the little town of Ohiopyle and the state park by the same name, in particular the falls. As I watched movies titled Christmas in _________ (fill in the blank), a kernel of a story took seed.

I thought I was writing a short story about Christmas in the fictional town of Falls Village, but patterned after Ohiopyle. My characters, however, had minds of their own and a longer love story to tell. What came of ten days of writing is Falling for Mr. Christmas: A Second Chance Holiday Romance novella.



If you're captivated by small town romances and second chance stories set at Christmastime, you'll no doubt enjoy Falling for Mr. Christmas, It's a sweet story of finding love when and where you don't expect it.

Now available in ebook and paperback at Amazon.com and at Smashwords

Other Christmas stories you might enjoy are: Reinventing Christmas, A Kiss for Christmas, and Upon A Midnight Clear. All available at Amazon.com

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

                                                                               Linda


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Remembering Dorothea Benton Frank

The literary world lost a bright and shining star with the passing of Dorothea Benton Frank. I feel as though I lost a friend, even though I'd only met Dorothea twice at book signings--hers, not mine. The first time, she was scheduled to sign on a Friday evening in Memphis. I got myself there two hours early. And when no one showed, I wondered what had happened. Did I get the date wrong? In my eagerness to make sure I got a great seat, I walked right past the sign that said the event had to be rescheduled because Ms. Frank's flight was delayed. It also said she would be there the next morning at ten a.m. and would bring donuts. I was there at nine. True to her word, she brought the donuts, even having insisted her driver stop along the way so she could personally buy them and deliver them to those of us who came back to see her.



At the second event a few years ago, I met friends at the bookstore, all of us eager to hear Dorothea speak. She came to the event accompanied by her daughter, Victoria, who is equally lovely. The banter between mother and daughter was a delight to behold. Dottie Frank was engaging, self-deprecating, and captivating as she talked about her writing and her beloved Low Country.

This Pennsylvania girl fell in love with the Low Country--its mystique, its beauty, and its people--through books like Sullivan's Island, Bull Island, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, and Shem Creek, among others. The beauty of her writing is that she took me to these places, introduced me to characters that were real, and she made me want to see the Low Country through her eyes. She made me want to be a better writer.

I have loved every single Dorothea Benton Frank book I've read, and I'm sure I've read them all. I also loved Dorothea Benton Frank, the author, and the woman I met only twice. It was easy to fall in love with her vibrancy, her humor, her ability to tell a great story, and her ability to laugh, often at herself. She will be so deeply missed, and her passing leaves a hole in the literary fiber that no one will fill.

My heart aches for her family, especially her precious Teddy. She clearly loved that little boy with every bit of her being. I know she will live on for him in the memories he holds and the stories that will be shared about what a special grandmother he had and how much she loved him.

May she rest with the angels.


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Unwritten

Imagine you are an author (or perhaps you are). We often have characters whose stories we put on hold, or those characters that don't develop the way we want them to, or the ones that we discover are strong enough that they deserve their own stories. In any case, we put them on the back burner for a while.

Do you ever wonder what happens to those characters? We're told to write our characters 'real,' make them come to life on the page. Well, what if they did come to life--those discarded characters? What if they mysteriously found their way into an idyllic small town (much like the one you created as a setting for your stories) and where they waited. And then, one day, their author, their creator finds herself stranded in that small town. This is their opportunity--the one they've waited for. The universe has created the perfect storm. They're determined to get their stories told and the happy endings they all deserve. And you're not going anywhere until they do.

In the midst of this unbelievable mystery bordering on a fantasy, you meet the one man who could be your own second chance at love--and you didn't conjure this one. He's real, and he's sexy and kind, and he's interested. But you're so busy writing everyone else's happy ending, you almost leave your own...Unwritten.


Author Amanda McDonnell finds herself stranded in a small Texas town that’s not even on the map. She is soon confronted by a mystery and caught up in an impossible fantasy.
It seems the characters she had discarded from her stories have come to life in Elderberry, Texas—and now they’re demanding their happy endings.

In the midst of trying to understand the impossible, Amanda finds the one man with whom she could write her own happy ending.

She’s gives herself the best possible advice: Just trust your heart. You won’t go wrong.



Available now in ebook at Amazon and Smashwords.
Coming soon in paperback.



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

That Time of Year, and I Am Thankful



Thanksgiving has always been thought of as a day for families to gather, enjoy a meal that takes hours to prepare, minutes to consume, and days to clean up after. I'm eight hundred miles away from any family, so holidays are often a bittersweet time for me. It's a time when I think about the ways my life is blessed every single day.

I'm blessed to have great friends who think of me as family, and I think of them the same way. I have much for which to be grateful. I have a job. I even have a job I don't mind going to most days, and absolutely enjoy at times. I have a roof over my head, a car to drive, and a freezer filled with food--thanks to said job.

I've been blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my dream of writing. As for success, well, it depends upon how you measure that. I have 27 novels, 3 novellas, and 5 short stories published. Is that success? Or is the success in the fact that a fair number of readers enjoy my writing, and in the fact that I find such gratification in the whole process. Writing and publishing might never pay the rent. But it makes me happy. And that, my friends, is success.

I've been blessed with a wonderful, crazy, sometimes odd, always funny and welcoming family. I love watching the next generation and the one after that growing up, taking hold of the family reins, seeing the future in the faces of my grand-nephews and grand-niece, and praying for a better world for them.

I take time during the holidays to pause, to look back, and to remember with both tears and laughter those family gatherings of my childhood. The women in the kitchen from early, early in the morning stuffing the turkey, baking pies, and laughing. The men usually outside with their heads under the hood of one car or another. I preferred their company and learned more about carburetors than I did about casseroles. There was always laughter--whether at one another or at some funny story or joke that was told. And the stories--oh, the stories that were passed around that table as easily as the turkey platter. Those stories seemed insignificant at the time. What precious memories they have become.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the many ways we've been blessed and gifted. A time to show gratitude and to embrace those who have less than we have. Now, this may sound crazy, but what if we lived that way all the time? Every. Single. Day. What if we were first thankful for what we've been given, and then what if we looked to those who had less and broke off a piece of bread (or five dollars for gas, or a warm jacket, or a moment of listening and being with, or giving voice on their behalf), and just gave something from ourselves and of ourselves.

I know a lot of people who do this. They do it every day. Perhaps you do, too. But it can become overwhelming. So we need to hold one another up, remind one another that we're all in this life together. We need to remember those things for which we are thankful, and we need to give others something for which they can be thankful. Sometimes all that takes is a look, a notice, a smile, a welcome. Because, when you get right down to it, we're all part of one big, crazy, sometimes odd, funny, hurting, needing, and generously gifted family.

There is so much that can and does divide us. So much that tries to tell us we are too different, more than/less than, better than. But those are lies. I may not always agree with you. I may not always be kind. I may not always be generous. I may not always be mindful. But know that, under all my own human imperfections, I am grateful and thankful for you.


Have a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving. Share old stories, and make new ones to pass on.

(As an act of kindness, I removed all the calories from all the pies. You're welcome.)

                                                                             Linda

Friday, August 10, 2018

Paw Prints, Precious Memories, and a Broken Heart


It was with a shattered heart that I said a final good-bye to my sweet Binky this morning at 11:05 a.m. She became very ill within this past week. Tests showed she was in renal failure. Binky hated being handled by anyone, especially for medical treatment. She was prodded and poked and given subcutaneous fluids, but that was only a temporary fix. She'd pretty much stopped eating and drinking. After a frank conversation with her doctor this morning, I knew I had to let her go.

I had a sense of the inevitable and spent an hour just holding her and telling her how much she was loved and what she has meant to me these past nine+ years before we went to the vet clinic. I cried. She licked my face. I cried some more. I knew I might be facing this decision today. I could have put her through another treatment, brought her home, and watched her decompensate over the next few days or, possibly, just find her dead. She could have died alone while I was at work. Instead, she drifted into a peaceful sleep and then died with quiet dignity and surrounded by love, with her head in my hand.

I came home and broke down. She's everywhere in this apartment. I used to joke that this was her home and she just let me stay because I have thumbs and can open cans and doors. But the truth is, it wasn't the apartment but my heart that she owned. Owns.

So this part is for Binky:

I remember the day I found you at the shelter. You'd only been there a day and you looked so terrified and confused. I was looking for a younger cat, and a grey tabby. You were already six years old. But you looked into my eyes and stole my heart. That was Friday. I called back on Monday to say I wanted you, and I picked you up on Wednesday. The lady at the shelter said you'd be the perfect cat for me. She was right. I brought you home and set you free to explore the space. You disappeared. After an hour of searching, I found you in the overhead kitchen cabinets beside the wineglasses. I should have known then you'd be a handful. I admired your spunk and independence, though.

It took a long time for you to accept me, to relax with me, to trust me. But once you did--wow. We were buddies. I loved that you came to greet me when I came home. I loved the way you would demand I give you food, water, a clean litter box, and attention (when you wanted it.) You owned me, and I loved every minute of it. Who will boss me around now?

At times when I was sad or sick, you came and patted my face, so much concern in your little eyes.

I remember the games of tag we played when you were younger and more energetic. Some folks refused to believe that you'd come and get me to get up and play, then run and hide and wait for me to find you. What fun we had. The downstairs neighbors had to wonder about the thunder above.

I remember the very first time you got up onto the bed and slept through the night with me--even though you kept to 'your side.' And then I remember the night you burrowed under the blankets and curled your warm little backside into the back of my knees. I didn't move all night, afraid I'd disturb you. You slept just fine.

You must know that you were so deeply loved, and you will be equally deeply missed by me--your person. Dance with the angels until I see you again on the other side of the bridge.


When I first brought you home.

You loved to hide, especially in blankets.

And in freshly laundered comforters.

You liked your little bed, until....

...you discovered my bed was bigger and more comfy.

You loved sunshine wherever you could find it.

Even when it snuck up on you from behind...

Rest well, my angel.

That bed is going to be far too big now without you taking your half out of the middle.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Long Walk, Short Pier

Some people should just take a long walk off a short pier. I remember hearing this phrase used when I was growing up, this or some version of it. It was a favorite phrase of Blaire Copeland's father, and it comes to mind as every little things seems to be getting on her nerves, including her doctor.

But what if taking a long walk off a short pier was a good thing? What if it led you right to where you were supposed to be?

At fifty-five, Blaire Copeland was certain she'd slipped quietly through menopause. But the hot flashes were relentless. Her doctor--a man--tells her not to worry, that she's just going through 'the change.' After being irritated by his attitude, Blaire begins to wonder what she's changing into. She's divorced, has a twenty-six year old daughter who is married and part-owner of a day care center, and a twenty-seven year old son, Max, who still lives at home and has buried himself in his education. Blaire occupies her time overseeing the operations of a charitable foundation her father had started.

Blaire decides time away is in order. Her mother confirms this, telling her every woman has her time to take a step back and re-evaluate her life. Blaire packs up her car and heads south to Eventide, her mother's family home on Isle of Hope, Georgia. The Victorian has not been lived in for some time, but a caretaker has been paid to keep the place up and the lawn cared for.

Blaire arrives and is greeted by the caretaker's fiancee and two children. What is supposed to be time away from everyone for Blaire to think turns into her own caretaking job. It also leads her to Davis Rembert, the boy she once fantasized about marrying. She's surprised to find the attraction still burning.

Her long walk off a short pier, and the decisions she makes, brings her right to where she needs to be.


Available in ebook and trade paperback at Amazon.com

and in ebook at Smashwords

* Signed paperbacks can also be purchased directly from the author.
Email request to: lindarettstatt@yahoo.com