Category Archives: Life Lessons

The Summoning

She ran the stone one last time along the edge of her sword, restoring its former sharpened perfection. It’d been a single year’s passing since it had been used.  From such a distance it was of little use to her, hence the blade had become blunted.  In the mountains that she left, there had been intrusions, events that had come to pass that were far from her control.  The will that she could not bend darkened the forest even more than she thought possible.  Her sons, who stayed behind, had seen a side of human nature that no child should ever see.  It was time to stop the madness.  Her youngest son, in particular, needed protection that she could not provide from that distance.

She stood, testing the strength in her arm. That, too, had become soft, but the memory of how to rule her kingdom was etched in her fibers, ready to be summoned at will.  And now that time had come.  He was coming home.

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Image by alphacoders.com

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Had it only been one year?  He scrubbed his hand over his face.  So much had happened in that time, most of which he’d rather forget.  They’d be safe, she told them, until she prepared the way and summoned them, but no sooner had she left, than the shadow awoke.  Without his mother’s protective energy, the darkness filled the crevices of the forest, threatening to steal his soul.  The landscape had changed in a few short weeks after she had left.  No longer were there stable paths lined with hope and promises of a beautiful tomorrow.  The footing had become unpredictable, with no clear vision of what the next moment might hold.

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Image by alphacoders.com

If it were not for the quiet hum of her lingering energy pulsating beneath his feet, he would have fallen many moons ago.  Oftentimes he would press his cheek to the ground and weep, struggling to drink in the light that she had left behind.

The shadow had raised its head time and time again, lashing out at him, crying out for her.  Their savior, their strength.  So far away.

The villagers converged and surrounded him, took him away, and offered protection when she could not.  Though kind and generous, ‘twas not enough. He missed the connection, however frayed and blackened the threads were, for it was all he knew.  Little by little he found his way back to the forest edge.  But nothing had changed.  The never-ending pulsating force still beat strong. Too many nights he sat, watching from afar as the shadow sat alone, tipping his head back, letting loose a soul-crushing howl, so full of sorrow, pain, and loneliness.

“It is not what we once knew,” his older brother said one night.

He clung to his brother, his only ally in the unrecognizable terrain. Though not much older, he still exuded stability and comfort.

“The forest is deceiving,” he continued to say. “The shadow hides well within the darkness.  No, little brother.  It is beyond repair now, and I would have you stay with me.”

So his brother led him away that very night.

“I miss her,” he said, blinking back the pain in his heart.

“As do I, but we will be as one, until we unite with her again.”

Displaced from the home they knew, they ventured out, and took to honing their skills of survival.  Left to fend for themselves, their minds and shoulders broadened with seeking the truth and wielding their swords.  No longer thin and timid, together they became a force to behold.

At long last, the summoning arrived.  Settled now into his routine, he looked around.  Could he truly leave everything and everyone behind?  It had become a place he so desperately wished to escape, yet so desperately wanted to remain.  He was strong now.  He had proved that to himself.  He could stay.  But there was no choice.  She had made that decision for him.

With heavy feet and saddened hearts, they walked together to the portal that would take him home.

“You’ve always been there for me,” he said.

“And will always be there for you.”

They clasped forearms and stood awkwardly for a few moments before pulling each other into an embrace.

“You behave yourself, little brother.  Do not give her trouble.”

He swiped his sleeve across his eyes.  “When will you join us?”

“As soon as I can,” his brother said, ruffling his hair. “I promise.”

He nodded.  A shuddering breath and quivering lip betrayed his confidence.

“Go.  She is waiting.”

Grasping the hilt of his sword, he was ready to face the adventure before him.  There he would learn of different clans, different languages, a new way of life, completely leaving behind all that he has known.

The portal shimmered before him.  His mother, the pillar in his life, stood on the other side, her image steadfast through the wavering fabric of worlds.  A smile that promised a different path for him encouraged him onward.  A smile that reminded him of her comfort, her strength, and that he would not be fighting battles alone.

Her arms extended into a welcoming gesture, beckoning him to join her.  His shoulders squared in response, for though he was eager to see her, he was too old, too changed for such emotional release.  Taking one step forward, he stoically reined in the feelings that unexpectedly bubbled to the surface.  A sense of urgency swirled in his legs and feet and the corners of his mouth lifted against his will.  The burden of the past, the nights of burning tears melted away into a lightness he had not known since he was a child.

He turned to his brother and removed his scabbard from his waist.  “I won’t need this anymore,” he said, handing his sword to his brother.  “I’m going home.”

He stepped through the portal and quickened his footsteps until he found himself surrounded by his mother’s arms.

She looked to the portal and held out her hand, a question forming on her lips.

Her oldest smiled through simmering eyes and shook his head.

“Soon, Mama.  Soon.”

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Image by alphacoders.com

 

 

 

 

 

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A Time and Place…No Longer

She arrived late to the competition.  It wasn’t intentional.  Or perhaps on some level it was.  The last battle was long and wearisome and had taken its toll.  The scars she had were not by her hand, though she took them on without complaint.  That was part of the rules, was it not?  But after the 25-year battle, she hid, healing the wounds with salve given to her by the Earth, ensuring others wouldn’t be infected.  But she was ready, knowing what she offered was valuable.

Her eyes, though battle worn, were intent and aware as she surveyed the gathering of competitors.  She cringed at the sudden feeling of inadequacy.  How could she possibly compete?  She watched the leaders selectively sift through the crowd, letting strands of hair fall through their fingers, cupping faces more youthful than hers against their palms.  The young ones were eager, wide-eyed, optimistic, less willing to cast doubt or question their leaders.  They were desperate to blindly follow, compromise their values, and become something they were not, in order to serve them.

Oh, she had made that mistake so very long ago.  Never again.  Perhaps that was her downfall, her own boundaries getting in the way.

But she couldn’t deny the shift that was palpable in every fiber of her soul.  The confidence she had in battle now whittled down to nothing as, one by one, the leaders passed her over.  What could they possibly want with a veteran who saw life through narrowed eyes?  They looked for trainability, not one so set in her ways.  The sudden rejection left her vulnerable and weak, her ego judging her worthiness based on their approval.

It occurred to her that though her body was strong and her mind stronger yet, the young ones were skilled in ways she was not, for while she led her own battle, she’d neglected skills she rarely used, and those had eventually withered away.  She argued that she had different skills, stronger skills, life skills, skills the newcomers had yet to discover.  She held up the weapons that were well-honed, time-proven, and sharpened with age and wisdom. She insisted that her youth was a shadow behind her maturity and calm, and that she could fight alongside them.

But none of that mattered.

Was that punishment for the years that she refused to back down?

She stepped away from the crowd, her spine straight and jaw set.  She fought against the tears that spilled from her heart as she saw her future denied by virtue of her past.  It occurred to her that she had her place, but it was no longer on the front line.  Times had changed, and she along with it.  But she had no idea.

Until now….  until it was almost too late.

The Path…Interrupted

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The path had been washed clear a fortnight before by the season’s first gentle rains, and in the days that followed, the spring’s warmth absorbed any hint of dampness that would cling to her feet.  She could find no fault with her path or her duties as Guardian, and though optimistic, she remained vigilant, anticipating what she could not see.

A sudden wind stirred the grass and an unmistakable rumble rolled beneath her feet.  The ground shook and dread fell from the trees.  Her pace quickened to match the beat of her heart, but where to turn, she did not know.

The shadow loomed to engulf her, the forewarning she knew too well.  She did not have time to change her footing, as the beast came at her vicious and strong, tackling her from behind, forcing her to taste the harsh reality of her choices.

Not willing to relive yet another blow, she scrambled to her feet, but slipped.

Thick, oily, green-gray mud bubbled up from between the cracks on the once smooth path, through the seams she had spent years of her life mending.

The blue sky swirled with fear and darkened to a toxic hue, then unloosed its watery fury, pelting her with shards of wet, gleaming steel.  Her shoulders hunched against the pain as each stab created divots in her armor.  With cold and shaking hands, she swiped at them uselessly.

Footsteps approached.  Some fast, some slow, but she recognized each one. They’d always been there, surrounding her, urging her forward.  Never had they allowed her to falter or lose sight of her task.  Normally she basked in their presence, but now she dare not look up, for she did not want them to see the uncertainty in her eyes.  The need to run and claim to the menacing skies “Let me be!  I am not as strong as you believe!” exploded from her cells, howling for release.

Wisps of light circled her, hovering only moments until she closed her eyes in surrender.  Blue-white heat grazed atop her damaged armor, the depressions filling in and strengthening her with resolve.  Tears spilled, but quickly evaporated in the knowing that the path before her, though flooded with sludge, was solid.

With each step her load lightened and the curve of her back disappeared.  Instead of studying the ground before her, seeing only the small section of the path, she stood tall and faced the beast that now stood before her.  She grasped the hilt of her sword, ready to strike it down.

Its eyes were rimmed with sadness, but could easily have been mistaken for anger.

She paused.  The air stilled around her, quiet as the impending death, and with ancient eyes watching the slow movement of her thoughts, she drew her sword from its sheath and held it steady at her side.  Her fingers twitched, anxious for a reason.

The great beast’s gaze slid down the length of the sword and held fast at the deadly tip.  Its bristly hairs stood on end.  It slowly raised its head, the sadness in its eyes replaced with venom that spilled over and trickled down its time-worn cheeks.

Her armor did little good when he looked at her in that vile way.  She knew it was time.  Time to leave the forest behind, lest he draw the light from within her heart that she held so close. One step back, one last look, before she turned.

“Why do you leave?” the beast roared, its pain-soaked voice ripping through the thin fabric that cloaked her soul.

She slowly turned, her hand once again tightening on her sword.  Whispers penetrated her mind, a reminder of her strength.

“Why do you stay?” she asked.

“The forest is dark.”

“The meadow is light.”

They stood, face to face, bound together by time long past, a bond neither could break.

“I cannot go where you lead.”  The words spilled from their lips in eerie harmony, entwining like the overgrown vines suffocating the abandoned forest they once shared.

She shook her head.  There was no more for her there, and though she found a bit of relief, the sadness grew inside.  Sadness for the beast who will never know peace.  Sadness for herself, for neither will she.

It Never Rains In Southern California…

Perhaps that’s true, but the tears still flow – for joy, for fear, for sadness, for guilt – and it all stems from breaking out of my comfort zone, headed toward new paths, leaving behind that which I knew so well.  The urge to go back is strong at times.  Some days I feel like I’m in over my head, swimming in unfamiliar waters.  It can be scary at times and exhilarating at others.

 This journey that started a few months ago has been an odd mix of freedom and bondage.  I’ve had the freedom to pursue goals in Los Angeles with the determination of a locomotive, yet a part of me is still tied to old habits and beliefs I embraced in Idaho.  If you can imagine that one… yeah, I’m feeling like an emotional Gumby being pulled apart.  

I ain’t gonna lie. It hurts terribly to be apart from my boys. This time away from them stretches my emotional boundaries farther than I ever thought possible.  Those days when my boys text me “I miss you :(” are the hardest on my heart.  I battle the “being there now” versus the “paving the road for a better parent, a better me, a better future for us all.”  But the same guilt that causes me to pause and question my reasoning is the same guilt that motivates me to push forward.  It’s a guilt that won’t let me stop until I fulfill the promises I’ve made.  And quickly.

~“Strong is what happens when you run out of weak.” ~

I’m much stronger now, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The softer edges have once again sharpened, but in a different way.  I’m decisive and quick to rid myself of that which doesn’t serve me anymore.  Every moment is motion forward.  And when the time is right for my boys, they’ll walk beside me, albeit on their path, and hopefully I’ll have done one or two things that they can learn from.

Besides… I can’t turn back, because I know too much.  I know I have focus.  I know I have perseverance.  I know I won’t cave under pressure.  I know that by stepping out of my comfort zone, I’m expanding the boundaries exponentially.  I know “fear” is no longer a part of my vocabulary.  I know I can step into the thick of things and figure it out.  I know what I’m capable of by the progress I’ve made and the people I’ve met.  I’ve seen the true me.  It’s the me I want to show my boys.  It’s the me I want to show the world.

Hang on, because the ride is far from over…

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Mid-Life Crisis? Me? Umm.. No.

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“Girls Night Out”  Me (left) with two of my amazing friends, Natascha and Kate, on my trip to California.

I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”

I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him.  The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex.  He had to have been.  Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)?  The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul.  (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)

“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone.  To me, this phrase smacks of negativity.  As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.

Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.

Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis. 

“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery.  It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.”  So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing.  Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what?  Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us.  If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place.  And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses.  Will we ever come back?  I hope not.

I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough.  I’m a threat.  I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest.  I’m a break from their safe routine.

The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.

So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.

The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well.  So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery….  Cheers!

Expectation Vacation

It's All Good

It’s All Good.  No expectations.

It’s a double-edged sword.  A two-faced creature.  The stuff that either makes dreams come true or shatter into itty bitty tears.  It’s the glue between relationships – personal or professional.  It’s what raises the bar for a lot of us or, if not met, can disappoint and crush.

No.  It’s not love.

It’s expectation.

Expanding on yet another post I wrote almost two years ago about boxes and labels and expectations being a big part of that, I’ve come to another crossroads in my still-developing life.  I’ve been willing to accept that I cannot be contained, cannot be categorized, and I’ve reveled in that freedom.  But it wasn’t enough.  Others still criticized and pushed their expectations on me to be a certain way and, though I stood my ground, I’d found old habits threatening to resurface.  I felt guilty and wanted to bend to their will.

So this time around I’d made it perfectly clear.  Do. Not. Expect. Anything. From. Me.  I am who I want to be, not who you want me to be.  Not my job to fulfill your expectations.

It was easy for me to wrap my head around the fact that their expectations were their issue.  Not mine.

Some people complied, some people didn’t and that, honestly, annoyed me because,  damn it.  I expected them to respect my request.

Ahh, but I’d gotten caught in my own box of expectations, didn’t I?  It didn’t occur to me until my cousin mentioned that she was waiting for someone to do something and it wasn’t panning out.  She then added, “Oh well.  That’s my expectation.  Gotta let it go.” This ah-ha moment hit me like a nice 2 x 4 across my ego.  I had to release the expectations I had of others.  Yeah, I know.  I said “duh,” too.

It’s brilliant.  Obvious and simple, but brilliant.  I’d thought of all of the little expectations I’d had of other people and I just had to laugh, starting with the expectation that others will release their expectations of me.  A close second was how events or situations should turn out.  Unpredictable at best with all of the possible outcomes, it was far easier to release that expectation then to try to control something I had no control over.

So, yeah.  This expectation thing is a two-way street, a journey that if everyone took, could very well circumvent a lot of frustration.  As much as we might like to, we cannot control and we cannot predict what another will do.  We can only observe and try to respect.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Letting Go… Again

There are so many ways to say it and it all boils down to choice.

Us or Them.  Ultimate Joy or Ultimate Misery.  Yin or Yang.

I’ve recently had to let things go in a few areas of my life, because the energy coming in didn’t come close to what was going out.  I had sped through Burnout City and crashed into the Major Deficit Dump.  And that was just physically.  Mentally I’d gone into autopilot mode, not fully experiencing anything on any level.

Last summer, I’d first written about taking it all on, making myself miserable in the process, and how it affected me.  I’m very skilled at filling up my minutes with activities or people or obligations, but not so skilled at releasing them once it no longer serves me or weighs me down.

And making the decision to walk away hurt.  A lot.  There were things that had been a part of me for months that had become embedded under my skin.  I hadn’t even recognized it as being separate from me.

But as much as it hurt to close the door on some relationships, to permanently or temporarily cross events off my social calendars, and to readjust my goals, the result for me was absolute relief.  I’m not up there in the frenzy of the mosh pit anymore, and because of that, my priorities have taken on new life.

As certain as I am that this was the best choice for me, I’m equally certain I’ll find myself back in the same predicament in a few months from now.  Letting go of the old stuff allows the new to flow back in, which will more than likely create backlog.  Then the shedding process will start all over again.  That’s just one of the laws of nature – the law of my nature.

How about you?  Do you find yourself taking on more than you should?  At what point do you draw the line?  Is there a line at all?

CRAZY S**T MY BOYS OBSESS ABOUT – THE SLENDERMAN

Truth – for the most part we use our internal radar to weed out falsehoods from fact.  We could have hard-core facts (pro or con) shoved in our face about something, but whether a particular subject resonates with us or not determines if it becomes a belief.  If a belief somehow serves us, we’ll fight to hold onto it.

Two years ago my oldest called me over to his computer, totally freaking out.

The second of the original Slender Man images, by Victor Surge – alastairstephens.com – Do you see him under the trees?

J:  “Mom!  Look at this!  The Slenderman!”

Me:  What is that?

J:  The Slenderman!  Oh, my God, Mom.  You have to see this picture of him!  He’s real!

Me:  Seriously?

J:  Yeah!  If you look at him, you’ll die!

Me:  So they guy who took this picture is now dead?

J:  Probably!  But not everyone can see him so those are the ones who are  safe.

*eye roll*

For those of you who don’t know about the Slenderman, here is an explanation from ufosearchonline.com:

“Slender Man (or Slenderman, depending on how you spell it’s name) is described as wearing a black suit strikingly similar to the visage of the notorious Men In Black, and as the name suggests, appears very thin and able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. Once his arms are outstretched, Slender Man’s victims are put into something of a hypnotized state, where they are utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them. Slender Man is also able to create tendrils from his fingers and back that he uses to walk. Whether Slender Man absorbs, kills, or merely takes his victims to an undisclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any body’s or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion.  Slender Man is most often seen as a tall, extremely thin man with long, strange arms, and a face that no two people see the same way (if they see any face at all). Where he comes from is as much a mystery as what he wants.” 

*Big sigh*  How could it be that my son had so readily accepted, albeit with a fit of tears, that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real when I broke the news to him? (Yeah, yeah, yeah.  In my defense I thought he already knew and was just going along to make me happy.)  My son had eventually figured out that I was Santa Claus and took that with relative grace when I confirmed his suspicions.   The bottom line – he trusted me enough to accept my truth.

But in the case of Slenderman… no dice.  Nothing I said would convince him.  The fact that this mythical creature existed obviously resonated with him.  I can’t possibly begin to understand that one, but until we moved out of our house on five forested acres, he refused to go outside after dark, swearing to me that one night he saw the Slenderman peek around the corner at him while he waited for the dog to come back inside.  And now that we’ve moved into town?  My son is always out after dark.  Apparently the Slenderman doesn’t like to hang around the lake or Starbuck’s after dark.   But in the heavily treed areas…

Look… over my shoulder… Um.  Yeah.

There’s only so much we can do to protect our children from beliefs that freeze them up or make their imaginations go wild.  At this point, this is one of those things I have to file in the “Let It Go” folder.  He’ll figure it out… I hope.

If you really like stories that make you wonder… what if,  check out Souled, a novel about what happens when a high school wrestler invites another soul to inhabit his body.  You can purchase it for $2.99 on Amazon.  Just click and download.  Easy.

If You Let Them Go, They’ll Stick Around

I had no idea that the gap that launched me into single status could possibly get any wider. I can see now, though, how inevitable it would be, for as I kept taking steps backward, slowly turning away from the disaster my life had become, and finally running like hell, my scenery changed, my viewpoint cleared, and my vision sharpened.  I found myself standing in a place my ex would never understand.  The rules regarding school work, curfew, healthy eating – the rules that united, albeit loosely, the ex and I together – soon became the mother of all disagreements.

Seventeen years ago, as part of my efforts to be the “perfect” mom, I adopted other women’s examples of what raising children “should be,” even if it didn’t resonate with me.  Man, was that exhausting.  I had rules up the wazoo and fought to keep them in place.  And the boys fought back.

But eight months ago the blinders dropped to my feet and I found that I had forgotten to preach what I practiced.  The solution was so simple.

Let them be.

Which is exactly how I prefer to be treated.  I don’t want anyone telling me what to do or telling me what path to choose, so why should I do that to my boys?  Sure, my body may be older, but my children’s souls are just as experienced as mine.   These boys aren’t mine in the possession sense.  From a spiritual point of view, I don’t have the right to put borders around their spirits and make them the exact image that society or even I believe to be true.   I’m here to guide them, not mold them.  They know who they need to be.  Besides, what a waste of time when quite possibly after 18 years, they’re going to do and be what they want anyway.  I know I did.

It is my belief that we come into this existence knowing what our life path is.  The road map has already been printed up, although our free will sometimes overrides that map and takes us on some wild side trips.   When we truly deviate off that path,though, it doesn’t go unnoticed.  Don’t we feel the discord when we want to go one direction and someone tries to convince us otherwise? Especially if the only source of righteousness is in their own mind?  Or what about compromising on something we truly believe in?

My mother pushed me to go to college because it was what I “should” do, yet all I did was spin my wheels, lost a lot of brain cells, and ran up a student loan that never should have been.  Besides, halfway through the first year I realized I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  This is one area I won’t push my boys on.  No amount of lecturing is going to make this the right choice for them.  True motivation must come from them.  Otherwise it becomes my job to keep them going, a burden that will have us both resentful.

In the months past, I’ve gotten a clearer view of who my boys really are.  Without the shoulds masking their true source, I’ve been able to appreciate their way of thinking.  I’m beginning to understand what makes them tick and why they don’t fit into the boxes I’ve been trying to put them in.

Sex, drinking, drugs, school, safety, curfew – those are issues I will never compromise on.  Honestly, though, I have no control over their ultimate decisions on those topics, but I’ve made damn sure they know what the consequences are if they deviate from my “recommendations.”  So, armed with that information, it’s their decision as to what outcome they desire.

Some may think this is the wrong approach or the lazy way to parent, but it is actually very difficult at times.  To stand back and watch their actions put in motion a set of reactions (whether they be mine or someone else’s) makes me want to peek out from behind splayed fingers.  It’s nothing short of a challenge to stay back and let them do damage control.  On the flip side, when they are really thinking it out and the outcome is in their favor?  It’s awesome.

It felt good to finally release the ties, because forcing the boys to do what they clearly do not want to do didn’t resonate with what I was all about – freedom of choice and independence. I’ve let my boys make choices of when to go to sleep (though the connection between late nights and being tired the next day still hasn’t sunk in), meals, what school classes to take, and friends.  As long as safety isn’t an issue and they’re not hurting others, I’m good.

Which might explain why they gravitate to me and not to the “other.”  That “coolness” factor I seem to have with the boys and their friends is, I believe, actually the elation they experience when they connect with who they are.

Think about the people we tend to gravitate toward – those who speak to and understand our souls.  Not those who contradict or repress our fires, but those who stoke it, feed it, and encourage it to rise.

My boys’ path is their own.  I’ll be there to dust off their knees, put a band-aid on a broken heart, give them advice on hangover cures, and I’ll give them room to fly, because they’ll need it to get over the Grand Canyon-size crevasse of thought that yawns between “the other half” and me.

You’ve Got…Airmail!

Image: entrepeneur.com

I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love getting a letter or greeting card or email from my friends and family.  I tend to get wrapped up in their daily goings on, or whatever person or event is causing them grief or joy.  Sometimes I’ll hold on to the letter or save the email so I can read them over and over again just because of what is written, how it’s written, or just…because.  I so adore my friends and family.   I’d imagine some of you may feel the same way.

But how would you feel if you received a letter, addressed to you, from overseas, from someone you didn’t know?  How would you feel?  Wouldn’t you be curious?

Airmail, a novella by Naomi Bulger

Well, that’s what happened to Mr. G.L. Solomon, living in Sydney, Australia.   In Naomi Bulger’s novella, Airmail, his very lonely, very mundane, very routine life takes a turn when he receives a letter from a woman he doesn’t know, who lives in New York.  This odd, mysterious, quirky woman, Anouk, continues to write letters to him, confessing the random workings of her mind, and he continues to read the letters, still content in his life, sitting in his home halfway across the world.  Until, that is, one day she writes him, claiming to be writing from “the other side.”  Believing Anouk is in trouble, Mr. Solomon steps out of his comfort zone and into her world in New York, leaving all that is familiar to him, determined to help her in any way he can.

What happens from that moment on, can be nothing but life changing for Mr. Solomon.

Airmail is a brilliantly written novella by Naomi Bulger.  It’s one of those stories that lingers in our minds long after the book is tucked away.

I had the opportunity to hook up with Naomi this week and ask her a few questions about the story, and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you!

I love the premise of Airmail.  What inspired you to write it?  Were the characters based on anyone you knew?

Thank you! If I’m honest, insomnia inspired me to write Airmail. I originally had a completely different story in mind, one in which a girl traveled the world writing letters to a stranger, and through those letters the stranger (and the reader) would learn about her adventures, her romances, her journey. But while I was writing I went through a particularly bad bout of insomnia, and I guess it really messed with my mind. It probably didn’t help that I wrote under a flickering fluorescent light a lot of that time, too. Before I knew it, the girl had a ‘reverse stalker’ and within a very short period of time, she was (or believed she was) dead! She never got to leave New York.  I struggled for a while with trying to wrestle the book back to my earlier vision but, in the end, I gave up and decided to keep writing and see where the story would lead me.

To answer the second part of your question, the characters aren’t based on people I know, but the old man, Mr G.L. Solomon, was created in part by a close friend.  I was struggling to write the character of an old man in a way that convinced even me, let alone anyone else.  So I work-shopped him with my friend, an actor.  I gave my friend a brief outline of the old man’s character, then started posting letters.  I would hand-write the letters in the character of Anouk, and send them to my friend’s house (addressed to Mr G.L. Solomon) in airmail envelopes.  I even pasted used US stamps onto them so they seemed to come from New York, rather than my Sydney house around the corner.  After reading the letters, my friend would talk with me about the old man’s reactions. Things like, “He can’t read Anouk’s handwriting” came first.  Then “He has developed a routine around how and when he reads the letters,” and, “He used to be annoyed when they came, but now he is curious to know more.” Together, we built up a picture of this curmudgeonly old man, who is so very real to me today.

How long did you take to write Airmail

This was a quick book to write, I’d say only six weeks.  But that was the first draft.  Subsequent drafts and work with editors in both Australia and the US took literally years.

Is there a message in Airmail that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t think I wrote Airmail with a message in mind, it’s not a book that’s intended to teach.  That said, I think the central message that came out of this book is to “own your own stories.”  Things happen to us in life: the very good, the very bad, and a whole lot of everyday stuff in between.  But if we try to edit any stories out of our memories, even the bad ones, we are not being true to ourselves.  Everything that happens to you in your life helps make you who you are, that unique and special you.

Airmail has a very unique cover.  Who did the design work?

I love the cover of Airmail, it was done by my publisher’s in-house designers. I talked with them about the kind of mood I wanted to create, for example the vintage postage feel, and sent them some Polariod photographs I had taken myself during my research for Airmail. But I was prepared for something completely different, and willing to accept their marketing know-how over my aesthetic. They came back with this cover, even using some of my Polariods on the back, and I just loved it.

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This is definitely a not-to-be-missed read.  And….no book review would be complete without a giveaway!  So go ahead and leave a comment below, be it a question or random thought, and I’ll put your name in a hat, from which a winner will be drawn and announced tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’d love it if you would join me when I give you the low-down on Naomi.  She so deserves a day of her own…Yeah, she’s that good.