Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Someday it will all make sense.

It's been a weird few years. Starting with the loss of our daughter, followed quickly by alopecia and then moving abroad, and then topping it all off with my dad's death last winter and a cancer scare....things in my life have been discombobulating, to put it mildly. I've often found myself looking around at my surroundings and thinking "What the hell is going on?? When will I catch my breath?"



As I've mentioned before, I have a lot of trepidation about going back to the USA for the summer. It is always very stressful and expensive, not to mention melodramatic and mentally exhausting. This summer is fixing to be a doozy. Thanks, Life. Much appreciated.

Needless to say, I've been feeling the uncomfortable under-skin itch of stress and anxiety niggling at me. I still function. Put on hair and makeup every day. Get up, teach seminary, make breakfast and lunch for my kids, get them out the door on time, get to work and put in a full day of writing, editing, and social media time. I would say that I have "high functioning anxiety," if that is an actual thing. And impending summers always make it worse.



But on Sunday of this last week, something happened that gave me just a wee bit of reassurance. You see, when we moved abroad, it was only going to be for three years. I didn't bring very many books at all. Mostly just scriptures, and church based materials I might need--which turned out to be smart, as I wound up being called as a seminary teacher, but, I digress...

I also packed a sexual education book. I bought it when my teenagers were little, and would sit down with them individually. We would read the book together, then answer questions, and have a conversation about sex, where babies come from, good touch/bad touch, etc. My teenagers hated being forced to read the books when they were 9 and 10, but were ultimately grateful that I'd opened up communication about things they'd previously considered too taboo to speak about out loud. As they grew older, and their kid brother, Charlie, my ten year old, grew and developed, they would tease him about the inevitable "book" and how mom would eventually get him and trap him and force him to read it.




As we'd been packing to move abroad, I'd grabbed that book out of my bedroom drawer, and thrown it into one of our suitcases to bring to South Korea, knowing that my two youngest boys would come of age while we were there--and that I would likely need to read the dreaded book with them. When we arrived in our apartment abroad, I'd unpacked it and slid it into a drawer for safekeeping. I hadn't even cracked that book open since reading it to my daughter at age nine, who is now nearly sixteen.

So when I pulled out the book this past Sunday, and a picture fell out of it and fluttered to the floor, my heart caught. I hadn't physically opened that book, not even to casually look at the pictures (cartoon drawings of dancing eggs, sperm, uteruses, and penises aren't my thing,) in many years, and I certainly hadn't tucked any photographs between its pages. In fact, the picture tucked in there was a photograph of my father, fly fishing (of course) with a catch on his line. He's smiling--something he didn't do much at all, which is sad, because he had such a great grin--and dressed just as I remembered him. Jeans and a worn flannel shirt. :)



When we'd packed up our house in Spokane, Washington, I'd packed that photograph with all of our others. It had been in a small metal frame for as long as I can remember, probably since I was in my teens, and I'd tossed it into a box with all our hundreds of other framed photographs. I remember doing it. And yet, somehow it wound up in that stupid book my kids hate, out of its frame.

Let me back up even further....about a week or two ago, I was talking to my dad. Yes, I realize he's dead, but I enjoy talking to him as if he's in the room every once in a while. Sometimes when my kids are acting like animals I will make a Jim Halpert face at one of the corners of the room, like this:



Because I like to think my dad in Spirit form can see me, and is sniggering at how poorly my children are behaving, (Paybacks, and all that) I will make the face and occasionally joke around with him when I am alone in our apartment. Well, the other day, I decided to offer him a challenge. I asked him to haunt me a little. To turn a lamp on, or to move a throw pillow. To do something to let me know he's still around. Because while I know he is...I still sometimes crave reassurance. When nothing happened, I jokingly called him an "amateur" and went on about my business, not thinking much about it.

And then the picture fluttered out of the book. See?? Proof. Exactly as I'd asked for it. But rather than turning a light on and off or making "wwwwwoooooooooooooooo......" sounds as I'm trying to go to sleep, my dad just sent my favorite picture to me to remind me that yes, he's here. And no, he's no amateur. It felt to me like he was saying "Hi, Bear. I'm still here. Hang in there."

(Bear was his nickname for me. It caught on, and most of the grown ups in my life called me Bear as I was growing up. As a teenager, I hated it, because teenagers hate everything about their parents, but as a 41 year old woman who misses her dad, I like it now.)

Anyway....



Sometimes I cannot wrap my head around some of the things I've been through in my adult life. Divorce, custody battles, dealing with someone who is mentally ill, raising kids alone, poverty, remarriage, having an autistic child, being a foster parent, losing a child, PTSD, career setbacks, alopecia, moving abroad, racism, prejudice against my political and religious beliefs, losing an estranged parent, having a cancer scare... So much to process, so  much to be strong for, so many people relying on me. It's all very heavy. Occasionally the weight makes my knees buckle.

And then these little things happen, and I am reminded that:

And--if even for just a little while--I am strengthened enough to go on. This time it came in the form of an old photograph that fell out of an old sex ed book my children detest. It makes me laugh. My dad knows just how to make me laugh.

Oh, and I've also learned not to challenge a dead person to haunt you. Because they will.

xoxo
Brooke

The Carny

I adore my book, The Carny.



It was published a few years ago through InkSpell Publishing, and my journey with ISP was lovely. They're still supportive of me, even though I've moved on to self publishing. Which is more than an author can ask for.

I adore the characters of Vincent and Charlotte. This story was so tender to write. It covered some sensitive topics, and was set in one of my favorite places. I still get a fluttery-heart and misty eyed when I read through it's pages...

Have you read The Carny yet? If not, here's an excerpt to wet your whistle....


“The lighthouses close at sunset. Don’t they?” I pointed out as Vin took my hand and helped me out of the truck. The wind lilted up from the surf a few hundred feet below the lighthouse, blowing a tendril of my unruly hair across my face.
Vin caught my hair on the wind and tucked it behind my ear. “The sun hasn’t gone down yet.”
Glancing westward, I scrunched up my face. “I’d say we’ve got about forty five minutes.”
“Ah, yes. But I know the groundskeeper. His name is Hal, and his son, Logan, runs the cotton candy booth for me.” Vin put his arm around my shoulders and guided me towards the sloping sidewalk that led to the lighthouse. “Let’s just say that Logan has been caught skipping off early on his shifts, and Hal’s begged me to keep him on staff. So he owes me a favor.”
I looked up towards him. “What do you mean?”
Vin smiled, the skin on the sides of his eyes crinkling happily. “I get to stay here after sunset. All night, if I want to.”
I looked down at my shoes as we walked. “Sounds like he’s a good person to have owing you favors.”
“I won’t complain. I like escaping from my dad’s place once in a while.” He chuckled. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
I followed Vin down the walk and around the lighthouse. Its white paint gleamed in contrast to its black roof. I couldn’t help smiling. This really was a picturesque setting for a date, but where were we going to eat?
“Oh, wow…” All of the air hissed from my lungs as soon as we crossed around to the front of the structure.
There, on the tiny bit of earth before the rocky slope down to ocean below, was a tiny round table topped with a white tablecloth. There were several candles flickering in the center, and a bud vase bearing one single stem of bright blue delphinium that shuddered in the wind. The two folding chairs on either side of the table were covered in white cloth, and then tied back with strips of bright red fabric, which I recognized from the windows of the ticket booth at the carnival. On one of the plates, there sat a small box, ornately wrapped and tied with a silver bow.
“Vin! You didn’t have to go to this much trouble!” Tears pricked at the backs of my eyes. “I…you…I mean….I…”
He kissed my knuckles. “You deserve it. Just say thank you, Charlotte.”
“Thank you, Charlotte.” I smirked at him. “This is spectacular. How did you manage to light those candles in the wind?”
Vin scooped one of the candles off of the table, and touched the inside. There was a tiny bulb flickering on and off inside. “Check it out. Electric candles.”
“Well played, sir.” I pulled out a chair. “May I sit?”
“Wait.” He dashed around the table to pull out my chair. “Here you go.”
I sat down, grinning to myself. “Thank you. So what’s for dinner?”
“Actually, I borrowed a recipe from my stepdad.” He went over to the foil hot and cold bags that were sitting nearby. “I made smoked salmon risotto, and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.”
I nearly swallowed my tongue. He’d just blown my chicken salad out of the water, and upped the ante all in one. “Wow.” I cleared my throat. “You went to some serious effort. I’m really impressed.”
“My stepdad hired me in his kitchen when I was in college.” He set a warm dish between our two plates. “I started off washing dishes, then worked my way up to a line cook. That’s how I paid for my first apartment. I would have become a chef if I’d not had a fondness for medicine.”
I breathed in the heavenly aroma. “Is this local salmon?”
He winked at me. “Of course. I bought it off of a guy on the reservation. He makes the best smoked salmon around.”
At the mention of the reservation, my stomach pitched. The look on Martha’s face earlier flashed through my mind, and I took a deep breath. “Have you spoken to Martha today?”
“Um, no. It was her day off.” Vin dished the risotto onto our plates. “Why?”
“I ran into her today. She was with her granddaughter.”
He served a couple stalks of asparagus to me. “Loralei? She’s a cute kid.”
Nodding, I began to slice the vegetable thoughtfully. “That she is. I ran into an old friend while I was with Martha, too.”
“Did Martha give everyone free passes to the carnival?” He asked, passing me a roll. “She’s always doing that. She’s too nice for her own good.”
“I agree.” I took a bite and felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “Holy cow. This is incredible.”
“It’s nothing compared to my stepdad’s. His will make you weep with joy.”
I tilted my head at him. “Just say thank you, Vin.”

The corner of his mouth tugged upward. “Thank you, Vin.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Nervous.

Today I'm blogging about something that makes me nervous.



But it's easier said than done, because I am--by nature--an extremely high stress person. Even when I'm sitting, chilling with my husband, watching reruns of LOST, or pecking away on laptop lazily...I am still anxious. I don't know why. It's just the way God made me.

The good news is, I'm a very functional stressed out person. Despite being anxious all the time, I still get up, do my job, take care of my kids, spend time with my husband, and have an active social life. So overall...my anxiety doesn't prohibit me much at all. But it's always there. A jiggling knee as I sit. A wedding ring being twisted around my finger. Hair that falls out. A twitching eyelid. I just deal with the nervousness that follows me. It's sort of....part of me, if that makes sense.

But as the end of the school year for my children winds down, my nervousness has kicked into high gear. It always does this time of year. Because we live abroad, we always travel back for 5 weeks in our home state of Washington, USA, and the trip is always extremely stressful, busy, and horribly expensive. I always shed the most hair with my Alopecia during the summer months.

Going home is always nostalgic and wonderful. We see people we care about, eat the foods we're familiar with, go places we've missed. We love our time in America during the summer. But...there is also a side of these trips that rattles me to my core. The side that creates more stress and angst than I wish I had to deal with. There is always unnecessary family drama, and melodrama with my older children's relatives, exhausting money worries, and it is never, ever easy for our family to be apart. (My husband usually stays in South Korea for work.) The kids miss their dad, I miss my best friend, and everyone misses their routine.

This summer will be even more exhausting than usual. My son is leaving for a mission in Chile, which is an extremely special and proud moment for us, but also extremely emotional. In addition to that, I will be attending my father's memorial service, which was held off until July for my sake. I will also need to go through my father's belongings with my two brothers, which will likely be tense and uncomfortable. And though I've given myself permission to excuse myself from anything that pushes me to my emotional capacity this summer, I still know that things will be tough, and that I will be required to deal with lots and lots of stress without the support of my husband. And it will suck. Hard.

Traveling home for the summers makes me nervous. It shouldn't. It should be a time of joy and release, and of relaxation and fun. But it won't be. It never is. I will be pulled in a thousand directions and asked to do absurd things. I will be called names and insulted. I will be told I am inadequate and unfair. I will miss my father, but feel the need to keep it to myself, because some feelings are better kept close to the cuff, where they're safe and not dissected. I will not enjoy my summer home. I rarely do.

But I go. Every year I go.

What makes you nervous?

xoxo
Brooke



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Five things I know for sure.

"You're just a little dramatic for me." "You always try so hard to be funny." "You overshare all the time." "You're just a lot to take."

Girl, why you still be in my life then? If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard this, I could buy myself a unicorn frap. (Those dang things aren't cheap, you know.)



At 41 years old (almost) I've learned five valuable lessons:

1.) I have no desire or interest in being my children's friend. I'm mom. That's good enough for any smart parent.

2.) Never go blonde without the help of a professional hair stylist. Or a wig. I prefer the latter.

3.) It's not my job to make people happy. I'm not a cupcake.

4.) I don't have to do things/stick around/take nonsense from/or tolerate people who are abusive to me or inappreciative of my kindness and friendship. (This should not be mistaken for my hating them. I can love someone and set clear, firm boundaries. It's true. I know...weird.)

AND 5.) I have many lovely friends. I don't need more friends badly enough to be told I'm inadequate or unpleasant.

The cool thing is, neither do YOU. Nobody has to stay in a relationship where they're being made to feel lousy about themselves. If you consistently feel lousy...the relationship (whether it's a friendship, a family, a romantic relationship, a work relationship, or a superhero/sidekick thing...) isn't working. So get out! It doesn't mean you have to wish the folks you're waving buh-bye to will fall off a cliff. It just means you're done. And that's okay.





Okay, PSA over. Moss out.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Want to know a little more about Posey and Drew...

...before you buy their book?



Understood.

Check out an excerpt here:

I held my breath. What a bully. Every time I’d ever seen Mayor Baxter in town, he was nothing but polite and charismatic. He reminded me of a game show host, the way he paraded his wife and son around. And the house they lived in? I’d walked past it at least three dozen times and marveled at the manicured lawn and curved driveway every time. Never once had I thought this kind of stuff was happening behind closed doors. I thought dads like this only existed in the low income housing my mom kept us in.
“You want to piss away your chance at a scholarship, fine by me,” Mayor Baxter growled, using his other hand to grind his finger into Drew’s chest. “But if you think for a second you’re going to get one dime of my money to pay to be a bum, you’re kidding yourself.”
“I’m not gonna be a bum, Dad,” Drew croaked.
Mayor Baxter grabbed Drew’s hair, and jerked his head back and forth one time. Hard. “Excuse me?”
Drew flinched, and I swear I felt the pain on his throat myself. “Sir,” he choked.
My chest felt tight, and I rubbed at it absently. I’d been in Drew’s position so many times. So many times. With my mom’s boyfriends, with my mom, with my aunt, with my grandpa, with scattered foster parents over the years. It never got any better, even when it happened to someone else. It was scary as hell no matter what. Even from across the parking lot.
“I don’t want your money, sir,” Drew went on. “I don’t need it.”
“Like hell you don’t.” Mayor Baxter released Drew’s neck and rammed his fist into the side of his car, rocking it back and forth. “You’re just like your mother. She wouldn’t survive five minutes without my gold card. Neither would you, you spoiled little prick.”
Drew looked away from his father, his eyes scanning the parking lot.
Don’t look him in the eye, Drew, I thought, watching him. He doesn’t deserve your respect. Don’t give it to him.
His green eyes locked with mine, and I froze. Busted again.
I thought about turning around and going back in the school, but then Mayor Baxter would hear me. God only knew what he would do to Drew then. Or me.
So I just squared my shoulders and stood there. I don’t know why. It’s not like I cared about the likes of Drew friggin’ Baxter before now. Something about seeing someone who was usually cocky and over-confident getting pushed around and shoved into the side of a car by his own dad made me care. Just a little.
Holding my breath to keep quiet, I tucked my hair behind my ears and offered Drew a tiny smile. Just a small, silent message letting him know that he wasn’t alone.
Because nothing was worse when someone knocked you around than feeling utterly alone. Believe me, I knew. I remembered.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Big.

Look who is getting bigger.



This kid was just a wee thing when I started my writing career with ya'll. He was a pubescent kid who thought all things romantic were lame and disgusting.



He still thinks I'm lame (accurate) but is much more compelled to all things romantic. Especially if he thinks he has a shot with this lady:



He recently went on a service trip to Kenya, and will go on an outdoor education trip to Australia in May. He loves travel, the wilder the location, the happier he is. He loves helping people. In fact, he lives for it. And he's good at it. He'll graduate high school soon. And shortly after that, he will be leaving on a mission to Chile for two years. This is a very big deal in our family, and we're just about bursting with pride.







When he was little, I was a single mom, and we really struggled. Making ends meet, getting through the day, plugging away at life...it was all more difficult than it should've been, and this kid could've turned out much worse. He could've become a total punk, and I wouldn't have blamed him a bit. But he didn't. He turned out wise, and kind, and loving, and introspective. I'm glad God made him the way he is.





He's become so big.

xoxo
Brooke

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Still haven't read Underwater?

Check out an excerpt here...and see if it wets your whistle...



“You insult yourself all the time.” He slid his hands up my forearms to my elbows and positioned himself on his knees before me. “Don’t you understand how extraordinary you are?”
“You’re the one who can turn into a fish.” My voice was scratchy, and I could hardly hear it over the sound of my own heartbeat. “That’s pretty extraordinary, if you ask me.”
“Only half fish,” he corrected me with a smirk. “But look at you. On top of being one of the most uniquely beautiful humans I’ve ever laid eyes on, you’re smart. And ingenious. And considerate.” I tried to look away. The moment was getting a little too intense for me. But he followed me, moving his face so I was forced to hold his eye contact. “You survived an accident that crushed part of your spine. And now you push yourself around despite the fact that part of your body no longer works. You’re amazing.”
He closed his mouth, but his voice sounded inside of my mind.
It was the strangest of feelings, having his words reverberate inside my skull as though we stood inside of a deep cave. It reminded me of when my family went to ride bikes on the Hiawatha Trail in Montana the summer before my accident. We’d ridden through a pitch-black tunnel two miles long. The only way of knowing where my parents were was by the way their voice echoed behind me. That’s what his telepathy sounded like.
We don’t survive accidents like yours. We can recover rapidly from injuries if we’re under the water, but if we’re immobile on land, we start to shift and eventually die.
I shook my head. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
We take on human form, but if we can’t get to the water fast enough, we suffocate. That’s why you’re so incredible. You were irrevocably injured, and yet you still get up every day, move around, and attend school. It’s inspiring.
“Why did you come to the surface?” I held my breath as I felt him tracing lines up and down the outsides of my upper arm with his thumbs. “Why did you come to my school that day?”
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped. There are certain expectations I am required to meet.

I frowned at him. “What sort of expectations?”