I’m guest writing for my lovely friend and fellow Snoqualmie resident, Danna McCall, today. She’s a local legend around here, keeping us informed on everything related to our little town. I’ll be writing for her twice a month from now on and I couldn’t be more excited. This one is about the last day of school. Excitement or dread? You tell me.
Here’s the LINK. Have fun.
Today I welcome Dana Tanaro Britt. She’s just released her first novel, “Shades of Blue”, and I’m so happy and excited for her. She agreed to write something for us today that might give us a little inspiration for our ordinary lives. Enjoy.
Thank you, Tess, for letting me spend a few moments in your space today—I appreciate you & your readers for having me here.
Everywhere we turn there are folks telling us how to manage our increasingly shrinking time, how to get more done faster & better…go, go, go! By the same token, there are the same amount of folks telling us how to slow down, how to enjoy life at a slower pace. I don’t know about you, but the cacophony of voices offering ‘advice’ is enough to make me cover my ears and rock.
I’m here today to tell you the secret to life, the secret to happy moments and peaceful days…ready? Got pen & paper or phone notes handy to write this down? Here goes…
The secret to life is This Moment. Not fast, not slow, just This One.
That’s right *nods* That’s all there is to it. Obviously, I learned this from that guru that lives at the top of the highest peak–which I climbed so I could ask him for us all. *laughs* In all seriousness, how much different, how much calmer, more peaceful, more relaxing would any given day be if This Moment is where we put our focus.
If, while cooking supper with the kids, you’re smelling the deliciousness, you’re truly hearing their tales, putting aside the worries of the day for This Moment. While busting your butt on the elliptical, you’re feeling those muscles burn, how your heart is pounding, thinking about what good you’re doing for your body—you fought the pull of the couch and made it to the machine!
If you find yourself rolling your eyes as you read this, finding me guilty of oversimplification, that’s just fine. All I ask is that you take This Moment and focus on the sensory parts, one by one. Focus on what you’re seeing, touching, smelling, hearing. As you focused on those senses, did you feel your neck muscles relax just a fraction? Your breathing get just a little deeper, easier? Oversimplified ain’t so bad now, is it?
My new book, Shades of Blue, is set on a far-flung island. The location alone brings my characters a measure of peace and breathing space. Not just because it’s an island—too bad we can’t all have one—but because their senses are louder than the cacophony of outside voices.
My wish for you is that you do just that, let your senses take over and take each moment as it comes—quiet the voices that say hurry or slow down, just truly focus on the moment you’re in, the task at hand, the people, the scenery, whatever is right there in This Moment. Then? Do the same with the next moment.
SHADES OF BLUE
By Dana Tanaro Britt
“I can promise you one thing will stay the same—me.”
She wants to get lost in her memories.
He wants her to find her way home.
Heart-broken and reeling with grief, Charlie flees to a far-flung tropical island in search of a safe haven where she can let her treasured memories consume her. Hiding away from the world, she battles nightmares and fresh tragedy while trying to make sense of her new reality.
Living his island dream, firefighter-turned-fisherman Gabe Montgomery is determined to be Charlie’s port in her storm of pain and loss. Blindsided by life-changing revelations from his own past followed by the possibility of terrifying personal loss, Gabe realizes that sometimes letting go is as much a part of love as holding on.
When Charlie and Gabe acknowledge their powerful connection and cling to one another for comfort and hope, both face a frightening dilemma: surrender to the past, or face the challenges before them.
Will the memories and mistakes of the past consume them or can Charlie and Gabe hold fast to each other and the hope that will bring them to promising future together?
ABOUT DANA TANARO BRITT
Once upon a time, a sassy Kentucky girl fell in love with a handsome Hoosier boy. What followed is a still-unfolding story filled with laughter, children…and pizza–yes, pizza.
When Dana Britt is not writing stories of hope, home and happily ever after, she can be found porch sitting with a book in hand. Her idea of a perfect day is a road trip that includes sunshine, taking pictures and spending time with her own Hero and two young adult children. Dana often shares bits about it all online at DanaBritt.com–she’d love for you to stop by!
Excerpt from “Shades of Blue”.
Shades of Blue Excerpt
How he’d known it was her, Gabe couldn’t say for sure, but he was certain. Her curly hair—What were those colors? cinnamon? chestnut?—fell across her face, a blue scarf having fallen askew in the breeze. Gabe waited, suddenly afraid he’d freaked her out— but, after all, it was she who’d ventured out in public, wasn’t it? Charlie gestured to the other chair, still not looking at him.
He pulled the chair out and sat, reaching out with one finger to toy with the whimsical sea glass in the shapes of shells bracelet adorning her wrist.
“Hello, Gabe,” the familiar husky voice spoke softly, her gaze yet on the sea as if she were still gathering her courage to look at him.
“Hello, Charlie,” he replied just as softly, looking at her, waiting. He let go of her bracelet, his hand resting on the table between them.
Tentatively, she put her hand in his and used the other one to lift her shades, pushing back her hair and finally looking at him, her eyes a dark sapphire blue. Her fingers gripped his tightly, surprisingly strong.
He smiled, watching her worry the edge of her bottom lip with her teeth—a mannerism that somehow seemed to suit her.
She took a slow, deep breath and started to speak, but stopped, her lip quivering slightly before she caught it in her teeth again.
Gabe looked down at their linked fingers rather than stare at her as she battled for composure. “It’s gonna be okay.” He repeated what he’d said to her many times in the dark, looking back at her face to see her tremulous smile, her eyes back out to the sea.
Once in awhile I meet another author I feel an emotional connection to, regardless that we have yet to meet in person. Author Lisa Gott is like this for me. I’d followed her for years in the Indy book world before we actually started interacting via Facebook and became real friends. She is sweet, funny and talented. She’s also extremely generous to other authors. The support she’s given me since the release of DUET FOR THREE HANDS has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. I think of her as a walking heart – the biggest heart you can imagine.
I was thrilled when the story of her romance with her now husband Buddy Gott unfolded before my eyes. So I asked her to write about how she found love after heartbreak, knowing it would inspire me to remain hopeful and I was not disappointed. For all of you with broken hearts, I hope it will inspire you as much as it did me.
I know you’ll join me in congratulating her on the release of “A THIRTY SOMETHING GIRL”.
Our hearts are broken numerous times over the course of our lives. Sometimes by lovers, sometimes by friends, sometimes by our families. Each time, we stoop down and pick up the shattered pieces and try to make ourselves whole again. But with each fall, the remnants of our once flawless existence become more and more jagged. And we never do fit back together quite like we did before. The pain. It changes us forever.
At some point, we grow tired of putting that puzzle back together. We contemplate taking all those beautifully weathered pieces and tucking them away. Because if they are locked up, they can’t fall and break again.
I remember reaching that point. I opened the box hidden deep inside my soul, and took my heart and everything sweet, loving, and beautiful within me and dumped it inside. Locked it up. Threw away the key. Because there was no way I could pick those pieces up again. No way I could survive putting “me” back together. I was tired of being hurt.
And I “lived” that way for several years. I thought I was happy. I woke up each day and lived my life the way I wanted to. I was free to be the person I was. It was liberating. No one could hurt me, because no one could touch me.
No one could touch me…
There is nothing wrong with being on your own and being happy with who you are and where your life is. But there is something very wrong with not ever giving anyone a chance, or, at the very least, believing in the possibility. What I came to realize was that I had locked up more than my heart. I had locked up hope. To feel, really feel, joy, we must open ourselves up to the possibility of pain. We appreciate the feeling of being whole, because we know how very bad it feels to be broken.
And so I unlocked the chest and let my heart free once more. I was scared. So scared. But for the first time in a very long time, I felt alive. It took a lot of hurt and a lot of pain before life thought I was ready for the most precious and beautiful of gifts – my best friend, my soul mate, my husband.
His love has redefined everything I ever thought was wonderful in this world. His love has given every horrible experience in my life a beautiful purpose. And with each passing day, those jagged edges become less and less so.
If I had kept my heart locked up. If I had chosen to give up. I would have never experienced the most wonderful feelings in the world – to love someone more than anyone else has and feel the same kind of love given right back to me.
So the next time you stoop down to pick up the shards of your broken heart, and you feel the burn of your tears slide down your face, smile at the hope that one day someone will come along and mend you in a way even you could never mend yourself.
About the Author
Lisa M. Gott is a contemporary literary fiction author. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another.
When she’s not feverishly weaving words, you can find her enjoying nature, spending time with her incredible husband, and, sometimes, sipping a latte. Okay, maybe more than sometimes.
About the Book
A Thirty-Something Girl follows the story of Hope. At the age of 30, she finds her life in utter shambles. Everything that could go wrong has – divorce, loss of a child, financial struggles. It is the love and unfettered support of her close friends who keep her from being lost in the quicksand of utter despair. As she slowly begins to wrap her head around who she is and what it means to be happy, she meets a man, Sam. Sam is also not a stranger to hardship and finds himself at his own crossroads. Together they find comfort and peace in one another; a soft, quiet place to fall, when the rest of the world is too hard and too noisy to inhabit.
A Thirty-Something Girl is a story about the power of human resilience, the importance of friendships, and the magic of true love. It is a story that teaches us (and reminds us) that happiness is actually a very simple concept: it is a choice. A choice we must remember to make each and every day.
My goal on this blog has always been to write authentically about my life and experiences. I have not shied away from the real stuff because my deepest wish is that my words inspire others to continue to fight another day, despite how hard life is. I’ve written about fear and doubt and that awful insatiable darkness that wants to take us under, even when it was hard to bare my soul with such vulnerability. For me, writers have a responsibility to illuminate the human experience. And to do so, one has to write the truth.
I’ve been through a lot of difficulties in my personal life since the day I wrote my first post until now. During and after my divorce, there have been some dark moments. I’ve chronicled many of them on the pages of this blog. I have also shared the beautiful parts of my life and it has given me great joy to do so. Writers write to be understood, to share our stories, to express our deepest thoughts and desires. We cannot explain exactly why it matters so much to us, except to say it keeps us alive, present, connected to our souls. It keeps us from succumbing to the darkness.
Writing this blog and having so many of you read it, has been a great privilege. For every comment you’ve sent back to me, thank you. For all of you who read without comment, I know you’re there. Thank you.
So, here’s the truth. Last week I came to the gut-wrenching decision that it was time to look for a ‘day’ job. Through dedication, grit, faith and a few tears, I’ve written eight books in five years. The four years since RIVERSONG became a bestseller have been the best of my life professionally. Being able to commit to writing full-time allowed great growth in my craft, which gives me a satisfaction second only to raising my girls to be thoughtful and compassionate people. In addition to the joy the writing itself has given me, I have met many wonderful writers and readers along the way. For this I am grateful. However, as a single mother, I cannot take care of my children if I continue writing full time. The last few years have brought much change to the book industry and I am unsure how to move forward in a way that will support my family. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to make a living as a writer, even when books sell well, as mine have. This is the reality of the book business and one that I must accept.
Despite how hard it was to reconcile that I have to return to a ‘real’ job, I know that for everything there is a season. For now, my priority must be taking care of the two little girls that God entrusted me with. But I need you to know this – I will not give up. I will carve out time to write every day. I will continue to better my craft. I will never cave to the darkness. Perhaps it will be longer between books, but I promise more will come. Blog posts may be infrequent, but they will come.
Why do I tell you all this, rather than pretending that I’m still making a living as a writer? No one has to know the truth behind our public ‘social media’ personas. I know this. But I don’t roll that way. I believe in telling the truth, always. Lies never helped another human being feel inspired or less alone or less disenchanted. Pretending something is other than it is creates more anxiety and envy and self-doubt in others. And that is not my purpose. That is the opposite of my purpose. So here is the truth. I have to start over. Again. I’m sad. I’m scared. I’m disoriented.
But I know this for sure. We must never give up on our dreams or pursuing paths that are our destinies, even when the facts don’t always support that choice. I was born to be a writer. It is my gift and purpose. Has it been easy? No. Is it hard right now? Very much so. But no one ever achieved anything great without struggle and hard work. We all know this to be true. So, rest assured, I will fight another day. I will keep fighting for as long as it takes. I hope you will too.
I wake on Mother’s Day to a cup of coffee delivered by Emerson. She grins at me and does a kick-ball-change movement with her feet as she sets the cup on the bedside table. The smell of homemade coffee cake drifts up from the kitchen below. Ella joins us, bringing gifts. Emerson’s written a poem from prompts at school. Ella decorated a cup with drawings of our cats’ noses –an idea she found on Pinterest. After I open the homemade gifts, they hand me a box from Nordstrom. This one was bought by one of my best friends but picked out by Emerson. Inside that silver box – a new workout skirt and a pretty blouse in Seahawk colors. Emerson gets me.
The girls decide they want to gather all the cards and letters from Mother’s Days of the past. They know I keep them all in my memory drawer downstairs and trot off to their search.
While they’re downstairs gathering our memories, I sip my coffee and think of my friend who, despite a busy work and travel schedule, took the time to take Emerson shopping for my gift. At Nordstrom, no less, which let’s be honest, is way more than I deserve or need. I marvel for a moment at her generosity. To say I’m grateful isn’t really an adequate description. But I am just that – grateful. She is one of several friends who volunteer to take the children shopping for my birthday, Christmas and Mother’s Day presents. These acts of kindness are the true gift, as they give my children the pleasure of choosing the perfect present for their mother. Beyond that, though, is something deeper – a lesson they will take with them all their lives. They learn of kindness, of generosity, of friendship. Like ripples on a lake, these acts of love will continue forth because they were witness to it.
This raising of children, especially as a single parent, is all about learning to accept gifts from the village that surrounds. It’s hard, sometimes, to accept the help. I am guilty of being proud. But the last three years have humbled me. I know without my village, without the women who step in to be help parent my children, I would be lost. I rarely ask for help, yet my friends, my mother, my aunt, offer it, again and again. Money, time, tissues for my tears.
It’s almost three years since my marriage ended. Holidays are still hard. Would I rather be part of a nuclear family? Yes. Do I feel that more keenly on holidays? For sure. But my village makes it bearable. My village keeps me from crying on the bathroom floor. Because they are here, I am not alone.
Our mothers come in many forms. For my children, they find mothering in my friends, their aunts, my mother. They will learn to be mothers and friends by watching those around them. Someday they will be a friend’s village.
On the list of things I know to be true? There is never too much love in any child’s life. We learn to love not only by being loved but by watching those we love being loved by others. Acts of kindness continue forth.
I’ll leave you with Emerson’s poem. This one’s getting framed.
It is Saturday evening. I’m visiting my friend Clare at her home. Downstairs her husband watches a ‘guy’ movie. Her little son, thirteen months old, is asleep in his crib. The smells of dinner, turmeric and garlic, linger. We sit on her couch and eat creamy cheese and those crispy crackers with the raisins that are my favorite. Between bites and sips of red wine we talk of motherhood, our work, her marriage, my search for love. We talk of God and the mystics, of the unexplainable nature of creativity. I speak of the sadness that follows me around and the anxious beating of my heart. I confess that I’m lonely for companionship, for someone who would choose to be there when I returned home and accept me whether I was weary or disheartened or joyous or triumphant. She does not flinch, does not look away, but remains watching with her clear eyes. “I understand,” she says. And in that simple sentence is the essence of friendship, of any loving relationship. I understand.
She’s just finished reading my latest novel. I flush with pleasure when she says it’s art I’ve made with my fingertips. She understands these things, I think, as I look around her living room, where her photographs and her husband’s paintings are displayed on their walls. This home is beautiful and eclectic, a reflection of two artists who took the ultimate leap of faith and married, bought a home together, started a family. All of it such a risk, I know now. Because sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to let go and start again.
Before I leave, we embrace and thank one another for the gift of time. I feel loved and fed. The hollow place in my anxious heart has been filled with our kinship. But when I walk into the night air, the chill from the breezes off Puget Sound wrap around me. I shiver as I get in my car to drive east across the bridge to my life in the foothills. I cannot discern if it’s the damp, cold air or the sense of dread that chills me. I do not want to go home to an empty house. My girls are with their father and the house feels empty without them. I have a sudden image of a deep canyon and an echo. But I start the car and drive east.
When I arrive, I wait as the garage creaks to life, rising slowly, before pulling into my space. The tidiness of my nature isn’t evident here in the garage. Instead it hints at the messiness of my life. Books, photographs, saved papers and files are in boxes where a second car used to park. Our ‘fake’ Christmas tree, items set aside for donation, old speakers and a defunct computer crowd against the trash bins. On one of the shelves is my wedding dress preserved in one of those airless seals they do for you at the dry cleaner. “Your Wedding Gown” in fancy cursive adorns the box. It never ceases to draw my eye. It always makes me sad
Your wedding gown. I’d had it carefully put away after the wedding, hoping I might have a daughter to give it to someday. Maybe she would want to wear it for her wedding, or have it made into something new, I thought at the time. It is all tulle and sparkles and cut in a classic style that would hold up against the decades between weddings. But my two daughters, the ones I dreamt of and were blessed with, don’t want it. Not now. “Mom, wouldn’t it be bad luck to wear it since you and Daddy got divorced?”
I step inside. The cats greet me with their green eyes and flickering tails. I keep my coat on as I head upstairs to my bedroom, still chilled. The cats follow. I do not turn on any lights except the one in the bathroom as I change into pajamas and brush my teeth. The hollow feeling has returned. I stand in the doorway between my bathroom and bedroom. My quilt is the color of a clear sky right before nightfall with white pillows, newly washed and fluffed. Like an echo, I think of the Saturday night I hoped for at the beginning of my marriage. It smells of baked chicken and sounds like children laughing in the other room and tastes of red wine he poured while I tossed the salad. But it was not to be. This was. An empty bed.
I silently chastise myself for feeling so much self-pity instead of grateful for a quiet night to myself. But the emptiness remains. This is not the life I wanted, that I thought I’d have. No amount of bravery overcomes my sadness. My dream of a happy family has long since blown away in the breezes off Puget Sound. The possibility of a love of my own is doubtful, considering the odds of a woman my age attracting a man, not to mention how I am. You know, so much energy and emotion and my artistic soul. Plus, we come as a threesome. Three blonds for the price of one, I think, as I turn off the bathroom light.
The space between what I hoped for and what I’ve become – this is the place I live now. Echoes of the family I wanted are there in the garage. But inside is my life. An empty house on a Saturday night. Beds neatly made with no one in them. Sliding my bare feet into cold sheets. Two cats curling up near my feet.
All that said, I must fight my way through the hollow. I must, no matter what, have hope that tomorrow will be better. I know there is honor in continuing forth even when sadness wants to take us down, keep us from getting out of bed. And it is true that dreams morph. Disappointments often bring opportunities we couldn’t possibly imagine because they’re so much bigger than we ever allowed ourselves to hope for. Change brings pain but also chances for a new beginning. I am stronger than I was three years ago. Life is better, too, in many ways. I have the opportunity for love now, when before I’d accepted that my bad marriage was as good as it was going to get for me.
So tomorrow I will wake and open the latest manuscript and write, feed the cats, go to kickboxing and make dinner when the children come home tired and hungry. I will fight against the hollow, the sadness, for one more day. One minute at a time. I will embrace the family we’ve become – three blonds for the price of one. This is all I can do. And for now it must be enough to simply believe that a new, morphed dream awaits.
“Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I’m crawling on your shore.” Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine
When I was a child I was afraid of the dark. Unable to sleep, I saw spiders and bugs crawling on the walls, convinced of their existence until I switched on the light and saw nothing but the tiny purple flowers on the wallpaper my mother had hung for me with her loving hands.
Now, at forty-something, I’m still afraid of the dark. Not the dark night but darkness itself. It is fear itself, this darkness, and it speaks to me in a shaming, ridiculing voice. It invades. It wants to crush me. It is the reason for every mistake, every regret.
Masses of things scare me. Inconsequential things like stories about ghosts, spiders, snakes, crossing busy streets on foot, the increasing crows feet next to my eyes, doing my taxes, burning the popcorn, going to the doctor, driving at night.
Big things, too, like dying before I can finish raising my girls, getting old, not getting old, writing, not writing, being single, getting married again, not getting married again, supporting my family as a single mother when my only skill is writing books, never selling another book. In relationships and friendships I’m afraid to be seen in equal measure to my fears of being invisible.
The dark voice is loud, insatiable. You’re a bad mother. You have no talent. No one could love you and your big, needy heart.
When I look back on the last thirty years, I know all the biggest regrets and mistakes were made from a position of fear. My two largest, marrying the wrong man and not writing seriously for all the years between college and Emerson’s birth nine years ago, were because I let insidious fear win. No one can love you. Your writing is a joke.
Sometimes I slip into the old fear mode. More often than not this last year the dark voice speaks. Get a real job. Don’t let anyone in because they will only leave you. Don’t trust. Expect the worst. The darkness is trying like hell to win. But I know enough now to know the dark voice is like the bugs on the wall, only there until I flip on the light.
So I flip on the light. I give fear the finger and look towards the light. I hug my daughters, call my mother, tell a girlfriend how much I love her, open the door when he knocks. I write and write and write.
Because light is love and love is the opposite of fear. The harder we love, the less chance fear’s ugly voice can invade.
And in this way we will win, my friends. Give fear the finger. Turn on the light.
Guest posting over at author Arleen Williams’ blog today about my experiences growing up in a small town before moving to south central Los Angeles for college.
I am pleased to have author Corbin Lewars guest posting for me today. I know I can relate to this post, having children the same age with similar reactions to the arrival of a new box of my latest book. Enjoy.
A package arrived on my porch yesterday and after fighting off the kids, who assume any and all packages are for them, I opened it up to see Swings.
“Hey look, it’s my book!” I called to them. They had walked away as soon as they realized the gift wasn’t for them.
“Which one?” my son Conor asked.
“Swings. My novel.”
“Oh, I thought you published that one awhile ago.”
“Yeah, didn’t you start that when I was in your belly?” Stella asked.
“No, not that long ago.”
I started to defend myself, but realized she was pretty accurate in her timeline. I started writing Swings when she was a baby. Technically she was out of my belly, not in it, but in Stella’s eight-year-old world books are written in a week, maybe a month, not eight years. She assumed I possessed this ability and countless of her drawings depicted me sitting at a desk with the words, “I wrote a book today!” coming out of my mouth. I covered my office with these masterpieces and when feeling frustrated or blocked, it helped to see the ease the fictional me had while writing. It reminded me that sometimes that ease wasn’t fictional, it was real.
“Is that supposed to be you on the cover?” Stella asked.
“No, it’s a novel, it’s not about me. It’s about a woman named Sadie. And that’s not necessarily Sadie either, it’s supposed to convey a feeling of freedom and—”
“Does she meet up with a dragon or a wizard?” Conor interrupted.
“No, no dragons in this book.”
“Then what’s it about?”
“Well, she’s a mom who is questioning a lot of areas of her life such as her work and her marriage and how to balance parenting with work and…”
“And then she gets on a spaceship?” Stella asked.
“No, I’m afraid there aren’t any spaceships either.”
“Sounds like a lot of your books. Are you sure it’s not about you?” Conor asked.
This wasn’t quite the celebratory “It’s here!” moment I was looking for. Needless to say, my eight and eleven year old are not my target audience. Much to their dismay, I don’t write about wizards, mischievous young girls or magical places such as Fabelhaven.
I called a friend and invited her over for a real “It’s here” celebration. While tidying up for the friend’s visit, I noticed several of Stella’s books in my library. Stella has been “writing” books since she was two years old and many of them (which she of course completes in a day, if not a few minutes) are about a little girl and her mom. The mom is usually a writer and deemed “fun” for this reason as well as her ability to take her daughter to the park to play.
Earlier in the week Conor told me he saw my first book, a memoir, at the library while on a class fieldtrip.
“I pointed it out to my teacher and showed Oliver. They thought that was cool,” he said.
With that memory in mind and one of Stella’s books in my hand I felt very celebrated.
Corbin Lewars (www.corbinlewars.com) in an author, developmental editor and writing coach. She holds a Masters Degree and teaches writing at national conferences and at Seattle’s literary venue the Richard Hugo House. When not writing, or helping others with their writing, she can be found shaking her groove thing with her two children in Seattle. Her novel Swings was released April 1 and can be found here.