When I was a pre-teen, my poetry-writing father introduced me to T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I was too young to comprehend even half of it. But one of the lines I did understand was “there will be time/to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”
I knew Eliot wasn’t talking just about lipstick and powder. My sister and I were good Southern girls, and our mother had drilled into us from birth the importance of hiding our own negative feelings and focusing on making others feel comfortable. You always, always prepared a face to meet the faces that you meet.
But sometimes…I wonder. Doesn’t all that pretend serenity, all that too-good-to-be-true Melanie Wilkes act, separate us to some extent? Doesn’t it perpetuate the myth that sadness, anger and pain are shameful, or that asking for help is weak? Doesn’t that force us each to be an island of secret sorrow?
Today, I came to the keyboard ready to pretend “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” But the truth is, I’m not okay. I live in Orlando, and my wonderful, silly, Mickey Mousey, beautiful little town is hurting. I won’t go into the horrible events of the past few weeks–if you haven’t read Nancy’s eloquent blog on the topic from Tuesday, do that now.
But I will admit that I’m gutted by all of it. I wasn’t at 100% even before these past two soul-searing weeks. I lost my sister a couple of months ago after a short but brutal and unexpected battle with cancer. Recently, our two kids each lost a beloved pet, and we are Pet People.
Plus, I have an icky, lingering bronchitis thing that is laying me low right now, and I can’t even get out to do something to help anyone. which might help me. So no, I’m not okay.
You know what, though? I bet some of you aren’t, either.
And that, actually, really IS okay. Because we aren’t islands at all, are we? Those of you who are doing fine right now will help the ones who are hurting, and after a while Fate will scramble the deck, and the positions will shift.
That may be the biggest lesson I learned this week, watching the outpouring of grief and love and support for the people caught in the horror in the Pulse nightclub. I was reminded how interconnected we all are. How much more we have in common than not.
At first, it felt like standing in the epicenter of an earthquake to have terror and violence come to Orlando. To have it be me, my town, that the news crews invade, that the other cities hold vigils for. Though I’m not a fool, in a very foolish way I had become accustomed to thinking it was always some “other’ city.
I should have known…there is no such thing as “other.” It was always me.
If you can send help, I hope you’ll do it. If you can’t, send love…to us here in Orlando or to anyone. And if you’re not okay right now, I’m sending you mine.
I’ve started and stopped this blog post so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve had a hard time finding the right words. Yet, writing about something else didn’t feel like an option either.
I live in Orlando. Last week was a tough one. Three horrific tragedies happened one right after the other: first, the heartbreaking murder of a promising young pop star; the next night, the nightmare of the Pulse nightclub massacre unfolded. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in American history. That was followed by the devastating death of a toddler, who was snatched by an alligator from the shoreline of a Disney resort under the watchful eyes of his parents.
My heart goes out to the families of Christina Grimmie and little Lane Graves. Both were so young with so much life ahead of them. Not to diminish the magnitude of their deaths, because both are heartbreaking, but for me, the Pulse nightclub shooting hit a little closer to home. Literally.
It happened in my old neighborhood, within walking distance of the house where my husband, daughter and I lived for fifteen years. It was the neighborhood where our daughter was born. The club is right down the street from the house where she learned to walk and talk and sleep peacefully through the night. It was the neighborhood where she went to elementary and middle school. There are parks where children run and play and laugh. It’s a place where people mow lawns and walk dogs and wave at each other. It’s neighborhood where I always felt safe.
It’s a tightly woven mixture of commercial convenience and established homes on brick streets lined with ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Even though we now live across town, it’s still my neighborhood. I still shop in that area. My friends live there. I left a piece of my heart there when we moved. So, it sort of feels like we didn’t move away.
I’ve never been inside Pulse, but our lives were all around it — our grocery store, our hardware store, our Target, Einstein Bagels and 7-11. The week before the shooting, my daughter and I stopped for iced coffee and tea at the Dunkin Donuts right next door to the nightclub. As we sipped our drinks, we had a fleeting conversation about how Pulse, which is located on the busier thoroughfare that borders our old neighborhood, had always been a good neighbor. People seemed to have fun at the club, but patrons were never rude or rowdy or loud. People went to Pulse because they felt safe there. Owners Barbara Poma and Ron Legler opened the club back in 2004 to honor Barbara’s brother who died from complications from HIV. Pulse had always been a “safe place” (Barbara’s words) for people to mix and meet and be themselves.
It was surreal to see a portion of the usually busy Orange Ave. blocked off and Anderson Cooper reporting live. I hope no one ever has to see the national news media broadcasting in front of the 7-11 where you bought your child cherry-Coke Slurpees on ordinary Friday afternoons to kick off carefree weekends in your safe neighborhood. Until a week ago, this was a place where no one imagined a monster would barge in and take innocent lives. It’s so senseless and heartbreaking. I still can’t wrap my mind around it.
I won’t get into the politics of gun control (though I do have strong views and I’m sure you do, too. Since this is a safe place, I’m asking you, please, out of respect for everyone, not to discuss politics here. Just please don’t. Not today. If you feel strongly, please write to your legislators and tell them how you feel. In fact, I hope you will write to your senators and representatives and make your voice heard.).
I’m not I’m not going to go on and on about how hard it is to feel safe now (though, that is a very real struggle for many). I’m going to close with the positives that I’ve seen happening in my community.
People lined up and waited for hours to give blood, which was initially in demand. However, the turnout was so strong that the blood banks were at capacity within 24 hours of the call for donations. They actually turned people away, asking them to make an appointment and return later in the week. Others donated food and water for law enforcement officials, grief counselors and friends and families of those touched by the tragedy. Churches opened their doors to people of all faiths and lifestyles. Groups have organized to protect and support the families of the victims so they can bury their loved ones with dignity. A cemetery has donated plots for each of the 49 victims and the city is helping with burial expenses. An art supply story has put out a call for artists to donate art work that memorializes the victims and encourages people to reflect on kindness, love and human decency. They’re giving artists the supplies they need to create the works, which will be organized into a traveling show.
While sadness is palpable, and I suspect it will be for a long time, there is an air of kindness all around. I’ve seen the very best in people in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy. Orlando, the city beautiful, may be a little bent right now, but we are not broken. We will persevere, and most importantly, we will band together and prove that hate will not win. From the ashes of tragedy, we are rising above and proving that love always negates hate.
In honor of those who lost their lives, please hug someone you love and be kind to others. I’m sending love and hugs to each of you.
Do Overs, Mulligans, and other Second Chances
I don’t know about you, but when I look back on the unrolling spool that is my thread of life, I sometimes forget about the sinuous curls of discovery, the multicolored braids created with family and friends, or the shining ribbon that is purpose. Nope, I see the snags clear as day–probably because I am an inveterate perfectionist and can rarely sit back and enjoy something for what it was. I always see the flaws first.
I think that’s especially true of those “The Road Not Taken” moments where you have one path that bends in the undergrowth and the other, grassy and wanting wear. Apologies for the shameless theft from Robert Frost, but if there’s a man who understands lost opportunities, it’s Frost. We make a choice that seems right at the time, but we always wonder what would have happened if we’d gone the other way instead.
I have a bunch of these moments in my life, like choosing the tiny private college out of state instead of taking the scholarship to the big university whose football team is on TV every Saturday. Dating that one guy twice and not getting engaged either time. Resisting the urge to go to law school after the GRE scores came in. Staying in my high school classroom instead of making the leap to the university level. Cooking dinner for a man I hardly knew as a first date and talking about religion and politics the whole night (I married that one). All of those, in retrospect, were exactly right for me.
But what about the others, the ones you’re sure you should have done differently? I have a few of those as well. Like not buying Apple stock in the late 80s. Not taking political science or rhetoric classes, which I would have adored. Or saying yes to that nice young man who asked me to be his date to the West Point Hop because I had a boyfriend. THE WEST POINT HOP, ladies. That boyfriend turned out to be a dud, so I totally should have frozen my toes off in the gray stone castle by the Hudson and gone to the ball with a handsome future officer. (Did I mention he played football for Army? I was so lame as a college freshman.) But then again, who knows? Would I have ended up talking politics and religion with exactly the right man, who most certainly did not go to West Point? I’ll never know. But it’s fun to think about.
In my book The Devil You Know, Domnhall and Calla met young. Like most young people, they both made mistakes and spent far too much time wondering where they went wrong. When they get a second chance, they have to work through a decade’s worth of resentment in order to find their way back to each other.
I had a great time putting Dom and Calla through the wringer–I hope you have just as good a time reading how it all turns out!
I’ll gift a copy of The Devil You Know to one commenter who’s willing to share a do over (successful or disastrous!) in the comments below.
From Nancy : Keep reading for five more chances to win!
Sister Jaunties KathIeen O’Brien, Katherine Garbera and I had the pleasure of working with Mimi on a contemporary romance series called the Scandalous Billionaires, which is set on Italy’s fabled Amalfi Coast. The exclusive Isola del Sole is a billionaires’ playground. Intrigue, adrenaline, and deception rule the day for the wealthy De Luca brothers and their closest friends—but only the right women can ignite their passions during the hot Amalfi nights. For a limited time, the set is available for a special price! But today, in honor of Mimi’s visit, we’re giving away five copies. This prize won’t be available until after the pre-order period, but if you comment today, you just might find one waiting in your in-box on May 3. So, please tell us about your do-over moments and check back tonight at 8pm to see if you’ve won one of the five Scandalous Billionaires sets. We will announce Mimi’s The Devil You Know winner Sunday.
I’m so glad that October is here. The last of summer is fading and it’s fall. I’ve decorated my house with, if I’m honest, maybe too many pumpkins, fall leaves and wreaths, but I love it. I’m transitioning into my favorite long sleeved shirts and my writing gloves and getting ready to bundle up and write about warmer climates. It’s so nice to visit favorite locales in my writing. My imagination is vivid and I can almost feel the heat of the California sun and the smell of the ocean on the wind as I write.
When I was working on EYE CANDY it was the scent of chocolate in Candied Apple and it might have been the bowl of M&Ms on my desk but I could definitely taste the chocolate as I wrote. Okay now I’m thinking that had nothing to do with the power of my imagination. 🙂
Do you have a favorite place that you visit? I’ve lived in a lot of different states and two countries so each one holds a special memories for me. Tell me about you favorite place to be entered to win a copy of EYE CANDY.
In my new book HOW TO MARRY A DOCTOR (July 2015 Harlequin Special Edition) Dr. Jake Lenox and his life-long best friend, Anna Adams, make a bet that that they can find each other’s soul mates within five dates.
Jake said, “…Let’s agree that the first one who succeeds in making a match for the other wins.”
Anna wrinkled her nose. “Knowing you, you’ll let a good woman go just to win the challenge. You’re so competitive.”
“But if you think about it,” he said, “who will be the real winner? One will win the bet, but the other will win love.”
Little do they know, their soul mates have been right in front of them all along.
Friends-to-lovers story is one of my favorite kinds to write. I love the idea of a man and a woman building a relationship on a foundation of friendship. There’s something so solid about it since they’ve gotten to know each other from the inside out.
In celebration of Jake and Anna’s five dates to “true love,” here are five behind-the-scenes facts about the story:
1. Kate Walsh and Jake Gyllenhaal were the inspiration for Anna and Jake.
2. In the story, Anna drives a yellow VW Beetle. That was my first car – and it didn’t have air conditioning.
3. Dr. Jake Lennox makes a brief appearance in my bachelor auction book, CELEBRATION’S FAMILY.
4. I make a Pinterest board for each book I write and pin pictures of my characters, their clothing, the book’s setting and anything else that might serve as a visual for the story. Before the book is published, Harlequin authors have to complete an “art fact sheet” for the art department to use when they’re designing the cover. I usually send them links to the pictures I pin during the course of the book.
5. Before Jake and Anna discover that they’re each other’s perfect match, they had to go on some bad blind dates. I may or may not have drawn on personal experience for a couple of the dates poor Jake and Anna endured. Haha! 😉 Hey, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince, right?
Have you kissed (or simply dated) any frogs? Tell me about your worst or best date and I’ll give two people who post a copy of HOW TO MARRY A DOCTOR (e-book or print, your choice) so you can read about my –er– Jake’s and Anna’s bad dates.