Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hurt.




I recently had an interesting conversation with some girlfriends recently. During this conversation, we talked about how relationships wax and wane, and how sometimes you walk away from relationships,  and sometimes you hang on to them, and sometimes relationships are good, and other times they're difficult, etc etc etc...

It was all very deep, and being said over a plate of fried pickles, which makes every conversation even more poignant, wouldn't you agree?



So anyway...at one point in the conversation, I mentioned that I tend to be way too trusting, which is why when relationships go sour--which, sometimes they do--I wind up getting deeply, deeply hurt. (This is a long standing issue I have. When I meet someone that I click with, I give them my heart very quickly, and I invest 1,000% into the relationship...then I get crushed when the relationship doesn't work out. Just crushed.) 

After I said that, one of my girlfriends (who is a kind, caring person who practices total honesty--which I love) said to me: "That's because you haven't been hurt enough times yet." And then my other girlfriend said: "Uh huh." And because I am weird and flighty, I didn't give it much thought at all.

Until today.

I don't like to get into pissing matches, especially over things like "who has been hurt worse that the other." I am of the belief that hurt is subjective. Something that would barely leave a mark on me, might completely shatter someone else. And vice versa. My hurt cannot be compared to that of my fellow mans. It would be irresponsible to do that. So I don't. 


However, upon further pondering that conversation between myself and two women I strongly like and admire, I was left with two unwavering thoughts:

1.) How sad is it that these two women have been hurt in life so badly that they truly believe that being trusting and vulnerable with other human equates to being hurt..... a lot.

And 2.) Why is my vulnerability and willingness to trust someone indicatory that I've not been hurt much in life?

(Again, this was said during a conversation that spanned over the course of a four hour hang-out session, in which we discussed many things, ranging from serious to inappropriate and hilarious. So this wasn't the only topic of conversation, and it was being said very casually, and completely without malice.)

So touching on my first point, I was raised with a faith base rooted in Christianity. I was taught that being trusting and vulnerable is a good trait. A trait that makes you open, and kind, and accepting of others. Trusting people is what you're supposed to do when you're trying to be like Jesus, right? It's that bible verse that says you're supposed to forgive people 7 x 70? 


So growing up, I've found myself being very open and vulnerable to people in my life. When I love someone--whether it be romantically or platonically--I love them with my whole heart. I put my faith in them. I believe them. I support them... even to the point of looking foolish sometimes. I do this because I was taught by my mother early on that when you love someone, you love them warts and all. You don't hold back on them, because people deserve love and acceptance, no matter what. (She proved this by staying with my father, who was not a very nice husband, for 30 years before divorcing.) 

I have to admit, over the years, I've evolved. I've learned to always love people, but to draw necessary boundaries in order to practice self-preservation. To remove toxicity from my life in order to keep myself as healthy and functional as possible. It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes it's been d*mn hard. But I've learned, slowly, how to remove folks from my life when necessary, and its served me well.

But that hasn't eliminated my childish, foolish tendency to give my whole self to someone when I make a new friend. Sometimes I can be like a puppy. Oh you like me? I like you, too! Let's be best friends! Let's hang out all the time! Let's get matching tattoos and take selfies! This is great! I love you...here's all of my deepest, darkest secrets...

This is me, when I make a new friend. Like me! Like me! Like meeeeee!

Not terribly functional. Endearing, yes. But also annoying. Especially when/if the relationship goes south, cools down....

Because I'm inevitably left feeling like this:

WHY DON'T YOU LIKE MEEEE?
Yeah. Not so cool anymore, am I?

But does that mean that being trusting and giving my whole heart to someone is bad? Or inevitably sets me up to be hurt? If so....then that doesn't make me trust humanity a whole lot. I'm not going to lie, the fact that my two friends I had this conversation with have been hurt so many times that they're so protective of their hearts that they avoid giving it to people makes me deeply discouraged. Why are we, as humans, behaving in such a way that we're now making folks feel like it's dangerous to show vulnerability to others?

That's just plain shameful. Trust and vulnerability shouldn't be considered weaknesses. They should be considered super powers, IMHO.


And now to my second point...

Does the world legitimately think that because I dare to love with my whole heart, I've not been hurt enough in life? Because if so, I wonder what constitutes real hurt

I've been told by friends and relatives alike, at different points in my life, that my feelings were invalid. Sometimes it's because they don't like the way I've reacted to things, sometimes it's because I haven't reacted enough. Sometimes it's because they felt I was to removed from a situation to feel feelings as deeply as they did, other times it was because they felt I was too close not to feel more. Simply put, I've spent 41 years on this earth being d*mned if I do, d*mned if I don't, and being told--often--that my feelings, however organic as they may be--are wrong. It really ticks me off. Feelings are personal. Feelings are fundamental. One cannot--however much they may try--dictate what another person feels.

I've been hurt. I've had friends and relatives who have used me, bullied me, scapegoated me, turned on me, and dumped me. I've experienced a marriage to someone with mental illness and a drug and alcohol problem. I've been through a messy divorce and thirteen years of arguments, custody battles, insults, and threats since. I've been a single mom of two young children only making minimum wage. I've been through the failed adoption of a child I loved like a mother for a year. I've been lied about and blacklisted. I've been through the diagnosis and subsequent rehabilitation of a child on the Autism spectrum. I was raised in a tumultuous, alcoholic home--and all the dysfunction that encompasses. I was bullied in school and mocked for being different, less cool than my cool older brothers, and disliked by teachers who presumed I was stupid. I've been discredited and underestimated. Before my first publishing contract, I went through 4 books, and over 130 rejections, some of which essentially told me to pack it up, and give up writing forever.

"That's because you haven't been hurt enough times yet." 

I respectfully disagree. That's because I have been hurt so many times.

I know hurt. I've experienced hurt. I just haven't let that change me. Maybe I should have. Maybe I wouldn't be so vulnerable now, at 41, if I had. Maybe there's something wrong with me that I haven't let all that hurt change me. Maybe I should have developed a hard candy shell, rather than remaining the soft, vulnerable marshmallow I actually am.


Why do we, as humans, feel the need to wear our personal hurts as some sort of strength badge? Not to say my friends do that. They don't, not openly. But they've been hurt enough in life that they've stopped allowing themselves to trust others. They proclaim themselves to have "trust issues," and hold everyone at arms length, whereas I continue to let people in, setting myself up for failure again and again. Why is that? And which one of us is right?

Are they right? Bearing their past hurts like a strength badge, and protecting themselves from ever being vulnerable again....

Or am I right? Keeping my past hurts in my back pocket, not really in a hurry to let them define me, and therefore opening myself up to being hurt or abused again and again?

Or are we both right? Or maybe neither one of us is right? Maybe we're all screwed up and need enough therapy to fund our kids' college tuitions? Maybe there's no right or wrong, and each human deals with their hurts in their own way.

I have no idea. 

Here's what I do know:

I know that I've had hurts that might've broken my friends, and that they've had hurts that likely would've broken me. I know that I've shown vulnerability and trust to people who have not deserved it, but I've also shown it to people who absolutely deserved it, and have done nothing but loved and accepted me in return. I know that it is impossible to know exactly what someone else has been through when you haven't been through it yourself. I know that as much as I have tried to change the way I am--and believe me, I've tried--I cannot change the core personality traits I've had since I was a toddler...and vulnerability is one of them. 

I also know that I am lucky to have some astounding friends who will have provocative and thought provoking conversations with me over a plate of fried pickles. This is something to be treasured. 

For now, I will continue being me. Sometimes trusting and vulnerable, giving my heart away like the eager puppy. Other times I will be strong enough to remove toxicity from my life swiftly and cleanly, so as to preserve my own sense of self. I likely won't be predictable about it, because I'm me: dumb, dorky, messy me, and that's okay.

My friends will keep doing what they do, as well. And I'll love them for it. As my daughter would say, "You do you, boo."


I will always pray that each of us will stop being hurt, though. 

xoxo
Brooke 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Get to know Molly and Jamie Burnham...

...though admittedly not at their best...




I would’ve traded all the tea in China for the chance to sit up all night with a screaming kid, but that was beside the point.
Sue laughed anxiously. “That’s right. And you don’t get peed on. I can’t tell you how many times my children went on me.”
“Exactly,” I fibbed. “What a relief!”
“Relief or not, don’t give up.” Owen wiped his mouth with a napkin, while his wife’s face turned a nice shade of fuchsia. “There’s always adoption. My cousin adopted her children.”
“Yes, well…” I ran out of things to say. My response library was used up. “Maybe someday.” Someday was code for probably not, but Owen didn’t know that.
Jamie plucked up his beer bottle and took a swig. “It was for the best.”
I shot daggers at him from across the table. “Is that so?”
He frowned at me, before picking his fork back up and chiseling at his food like an excavator. “All I mean is, what happened happened for a reason. Besides, we wound up splitting up. So if we had kids, they would’ve been caught up in our mess, and that wouldn’t have been good for a child.”
My insides turned icy, especially my empty pelvis. “Speak for yourself, Jamie. I would’ve still wanted them.”
“James,” he reminded me tightly, taking a bite.
“Jamie.” When he brought his eyes to mine, I jutted my chin out. “You may have started a whole new life, but you’ll always be Jamie to me. I’m not buying into the whole new and improved version.”
“You wouldn’t.” He swallowed his bite, and forked another, his cutlery making an awful squeak across the plate. “You didn’t buy into anything I said or did. That was the problem.”
My wine glass came down with a crack. “We didn’t have problems until we couldn’t have a baby, Jamie. Don’t rewrite history.”
“Why would I rewrite history when you clearly live in your own little world?”
“At least my world doesn’t involve stabbing people in the back, and kicking them while they’re down.”
“No. It just involves wallowing in self-pity and shutting out everyone who gives a damn.”
I sucked in a sharp breath. “I did not shut you out. You moved on without me.”
“Not until you showed me how much you didn’t give a damn.” He shook his head, peeling his narrowed eyes off of me to cast an embarrassed glance at Owen and Sue. “Sorry. I’m sorry. This is inappropriate. We shouldn’t be talking about—”
“Why not?” I demanded, hands trembling as I held my fork. “We never talk about it. You just packed up and left and told me to talk to your lawyer. You wouldn’t even discuss what went wrong, let alone who got to keep what. You acted like I wasn’t even worth the effort it took to explain why you moved out. How do you suppose that made me feel?”
Graham held out his plate, his face pink. “Sue, these ribs are fantastic. Could I have another?”




Do you believe opposites attract?

I do. My husband and I are opposites, and I'm crazy about him. :)



Marisol and Demo are opposites. That's what makes their spark so hot!

Check it out here:

He was as handsome as ever, but the obvious effort he’d put into himself made the whole package even that much more delectable. Instead of his usual torn, dirty Levis, Demo was wearing dark wash jeans and a button down shirt that was white enough to look fresh and clean, but just wrinkled enough to reinforce his casual attitude. What, me? Nervous for a date? Pssshh. Pass me a Heineken.

Demo grinned at me, and I noticed he was clean-shaven. For the first time since meeting Demo I realized his roguish good looks, whiskers, and disheveled locks were all hiding a boyish face.
“You look like a million bucks,” he said.

I struck a pose. “Oh, this old thing?”

“You’re gonna look pretty out of place in my tow truck.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels self-consciously. “Not that I’m complaining.”

For the briefest of moments, I was mortified that I would be driving around in a tow truck all night, and I could practically hear my mother’s inevitable groan of disapproval from clear down in California.

But as quickly as those thoughts came, the image of my huge, empty house waiting for me when I got home pushed them aside. Followed quickly by the empty right side of my bed, and the not two, not three, but four empty bedrooms that sat unused upstairs. Sure, my last date had been with a real estate developer who drove a Ferrari, but the date was dead in the water before we’d even finished our salads.

Of course, I didn’t tell Candace and Lexie that the next day—the version I’d told them ended with mad, passionate lovemaking that blew his mind.

It was time to stop acting like some sort of unattached sex kitten. I wanted different things now. And Demo was just that. Different. Different was good.

I offered him a warm smile. “I think it’s your tow truck that’ll make me look good.”

Demo’s lips twitched. “This nice side of you is kind of pleasant. You know that?”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Available for preorder now!

Are you as excited for my newest release, Here's to Campfires and S'mores, as I am??



Here's a blurb to wet your whistle...

Sparks flew the moment fifteen-year-old Molly Kaff and Jamie Burnham locked eyes across the dusty Camp Chimalis parking lot. From that moment, they were undeniably and irrevocably in love.

Until they weren’t.

Months after the demise of their fifteen-and-a-half-year marriage, a mutual friend from those treasured summers at camp dies, rattling their tight circle of friends to the core. Her dying request? Bring everyone back to camp one last time.

Returning proves more emotional than Molly expected. Sweltering heat in un-air-conditioned cabins is just the tip of the iceberg. Memories, both delightful and dispiriting, press down on Molly as she grapples with the momentous grief from the loss of her friend…and her husband.

Trying to honor her wishes with the ex hanging around is one thing, but being stuck in the woods with no cell service and years’ worth of hurt and resentment is another. As Molly tries to navigate her way through the heartache, she starts to wonder if she was wrong about the reasons behind her failed marriage. And if maybe her friend orchestrated their Chimalis homecoming from beyond…

Can a few evenings sitting by the campfire eating s’mores be the salve her battered heart needs to finally move on?


Still haven't checked out Baby & Bump!?



Here's a taste of Lexie's journey here....

Suddenly the Eats and Treats kitchen was stiflingly hot. My five-minute flirting session with him at the grocery store had haunted me for days, and it’d taken every bit of my strength not to ask Marisol how their latest date had gone. I’d been hoping and praying her silence meant he’d dumped her.
Candace perked up. “Oh, yeah? What’s the scoop? What opportunity did you miss with him? Did he not call after your date?”
Marisol was aghast. “Be serious. They always call.”
Damn. I blinked innocently at her, and prayed that my cheeks weren’t as red as they felt. “So what’s wrong then?”
“Is he terrible in the sack?” Candace asked. “I know how much you hate that.”
I suppressed a snort. Candace wasn’t lying. Marisol was very forthright with her opinions on her varying boyfriends’, ahem, bedroom skills. If they didn’t make her scream out swear words in Spanish, she didn’t consider them worth her time. And though I couldn’t believe what I was thinking, I hoped that Fletcher was terrible in bed. At least if he lacked certain talents in the bedroom, then I could go to sleep at night knowing he wasn’t making Marisol bellow ‘Ay caramba!’
“That’s just it.” Marisol slapped her hand down on the metal table. “I wouldn’t know!”
Gulping back a smile, I asked, “You haven’t slept with him yet?”
She shook her head. “Three dates now, and he hasn’t laid a hand on me.”
“He hasn’t even kissed you?” When Marisol shook her head, Candace’s mouth twitched. “What a jerk.”
“Don’t mock me.” Marisol narrowed her eyes. “This is serious. I wore my thigh high boots on our last date.”
My stomach clenched. “What? I thought you said you went to the movies.” When she just blinked at me, I added, “Who wears thigh high boots to see a romantic comedy?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot. “Last time I wore them we didn’t even make it out of my house that night.”
Shuddering, I focused my attention on the zucchini cakes I’d been assembling before Candace arrived. “Your life is one long-running episode of Sex in the City, do you know that?”

“Uh huh,” she said proudly.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Unthinkable.

Yesterday the unthinkable happened.

Back at home in the USA, at a school where many of my children's friends attend, where many of my friend's children attend, where some old classmates work, and where I (very briefly) worked, there was yet another school shooting.



It's sad and sick that in this world, we're so desensitized to the term school shooting, that we barely bat an eye. We simply cluck, mutter a weak "my thoughts and prayers are with you" to the victims, then move on to figuring out what to make for dinner. But this time--this time--it happened close to home. A little too close.

I'm from a rural area. A clump of small towns that dot the rolling fields of eastern Washington state, each with different tiny schools and tightly bound social circles. It seems even if you move away when you're just about 18, you can never quite escape it, and you always come back. I hated it growing up there, but now that I am in my forties, with children of my own, I often lament about what it would be like to move back to the country to raise my kids in a tiny town, with a tiny school, where it is rednecked, yes, but also safe.

Yesterday that dream was shattered, because even my tiny corner of the country that I know and love like I love one of my children has been tainted with all that is wrong with our country. Hate, anger, bullying, disregard for life, access to firearms but no access to proper and effective mental health resources...

I won't post pictures of the shooter. He is a boy who was so tormented and under-intervened that he murdered someone in cold blood, and attempted to murder many more. Three young women (one of whom is a child of an old childhood friend of mine, and another who is my son's second grade teacher's child--just to put the small town connection into perspective for you) are in the hospital. One family is without a son forever just months after losing their husband/father. One family is shattered because their son is a killer. And a whole student population witnessed it all. The blood, the panic, the fear, the aftermath. They all saw it, and it will forever be a thread in the fabric that makes them who they are. It cannot be undone.

I will post a picture of the place I still call home, even 20+ years after moving away. Because despite being tainted with hate and sadness and shock, it is still without a doubt, my home. And it should be remembered as a happy, old fashioned area with old fashioned morals and down home sensibilities. It shouldn't be remembered as a place where a boy snapped and sought to kill his friends.



I won't turn this post political, because there are so many others doing that. Within minutes of hearing about the most recent shootings, and amongst their clucks and muttered "thoughts and prayers" (man, I hate that prepackaged sentiment!) they quickly Tweet and FB posted about the need for gun control, or how it could somehow be equated to Trumps presidency, or the Obama presidency, or welfare, or to racism, or homophobia, or whatever the trending hashtag of the week is....

When all in all it comes down to this: this child needed more, we did not give it to him. This child was not taught the quality of human life. Our children are not being raised with compassion and love and discipline, and they are growing up sorely lacking any moral gage as they text and tweet hateful statements to each other as if their words don't carry weight when they clearly do. We've seen it time and time again.

We failed this young man, and he committed a horrible, horrible act, and must be punished for it. The children who were shot did not deserve this fate, just because he felt he was being treated poorly at school. But when are we as a society going to take responsibility for raising a generation so lacking in compassion and personal accountability that they're actually capable of opening fire in a school hallway?

I don't know about you, but I never considered killing anyone at my school, and I was downright tortured for most of junior high and high school. I'm just saying...

 Sure, we need to make guns more difficult for children to get their hands on--there's no denying that--but without guns, does the rage dissipate? Does the feeling of hatred and hopelessness disappear? Does the bullying stop? No. Only the grown ups in these children's lives can do that. Metal detectors can work wonders at keeping guns and knives out of school, but until we heal these children's hearts, we're fighting a losing battle.

I am extremely grateful this horrible act of violence was stopped when it was (ironically, by yet another former classmate--these small town roots are so deep.) My heart goes out to the families of all the victims, including the parents of the boy who snapped. They all deserved to have a better day yesterday.

xoxo
Brooke

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thoughts on 9/11.


Today (it's 9/11 here in the ROK) is a melancholy day for all Americans, no matter where they are, or what their beliefs are. 



My thoughts on 9/11 every year are always brought back to my firm belief in the atonement, and how it exists for *all* of us. As a proud American, I've set aside time today, as I have every year prior, to ponder this scripture: 

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39

xoxo
Brooke