Category Archives: love

Sunday Morning Musings: Blood and Tears

We all cry tears that are the same color

No matter what shade our skin

No matter whose blood is shed

It’s always red

We all want to believe in something

But we’re easily influenced

And easily fooled

We want to find a cause

But we also want to blame



For everything that’s wrong in our lives


It can’t be any fault of our own

We want to stand for something

But we’ll fall for almost anything

We fail to see the enemy is not out there

It’s inside of us.

It’s what divides us

Because we forgot what it was like to be united

Against a common cause

We forgot that’s what built our country

And what made it great

Until we decided to tear it down

No one has to drop a bomb on us

We’ll destroy ourselves with no help at all

Because we’d rather fight each other

Than pray for each other

We’d rather protest and riot in the street

Than join hands and share our suffering

Taking away the guns won’t solve our problems

Changing attitudes might

But we won’t do that either

We’ve forgotten that we are all God’s children

And he loves us all equally

That we’re all given the same chance for redemption

Maybe too many of us never knew God’s love

And that’s why we fight each other

Instead of sharing His love


#God #love #country



Why I Love Samhain Publishing

2015-02-06 22.14.14 (4)Because Samhain finally gave me a chance. Because at Samhain “it’s all about the story.” Because, because, because!

After years of struggling to figure out how to write a sellable romance novel, I still couldn’t sell any. I couldn’t get agents interested. I was so much dust under editors’ feet at the big New York houses. In spite of years spent in romance writers’ organizations and numerous conferences attended and many pitch sessions, no one wanted my work.

I dumped the romance writers’ organization but not before I saw an article about Samhain Publishing in their magazine.

Having nothing to lose is a great place to be. You could send your entire manuscript to Samhain online. For once, someone might read the entire book instead of my excruciatingly painfully crafted query letters, synopses and/or fist ten pages/first chapter.

In a matter of weeks an editor replied with the words I never thought I’d hear: “I want to publish your manuscript.”

image001_editedSeriously? I was skeptical, but eventually that editor talked me into it. That book was A MONTH FROM MIAMI published in 2009. And then? Nothing happened. I wrote A FOREVER KIND OF GUY (inspired by a line I never used in the first book) and I heard nothing. For a year. Not a peep. Not a sound from anyone at Samhain. Where had my beloved editor gone? Why was she ignoring me? Didn’t they want me any more? What had I done to offend them? These were the thoughts I had.

Turns out, my editor took a promotion and there was a shortage of editors and long story short, finally, I got a new editor and she offered me a contract and suggested a series we eventually titled the Braddock Brotherhood which encompasses four connected but stand-alone novels.

My second editor left and the next one wasn’t into what I’d written as much and probably wasn’t thrilled to have to edit my third Samhain book, but she did. By the time I had something new to submit, her roster was full and I got passed off to yet another editor. Sigh. (At this point I was back to thinking no one wants me…I have abandonment issues.)

But beware blessings in disguise. My new editor was male! And he was funny. And he was a good editor. And he liked my writing. And he kept offering me contracts. (More on him in next blog.)

Why do I love Samhain? Because it’s all about the story. Because they keep offering me contracts. Because finally I found a home for my books.


My Husband The Not Navy Seal

IMG_0756It’s all over the news on Veteran’s Day, the Navy Seal who shot Osama Bin Laden.  He is to be admired for sure for his bravery and he is definitely an American hero.

But as we sit down to another of my culinary attempts (Crockpot Kung Pao chicken) I tell Bill he is a true American hero as well.  He seems baffled by this, especially since he never served in the military.

Yes, I explain but you’ve stuck it out with me for almost 35 years.  You’ve eaten my experiments more times than I can count without complaint.  That’s got to count for something.  Because I know it couldn’t have been easy.  In truth, the man deserves a medal although he’ll probably never get one.

For most of his life he went into office battle every day providing for his family.  He suffered his share of defeats there.  I’m sure there were triumphs as well, but  there might also have been days when he would have liked to chuck it all and walk away. But he didn’t.

He stuck it out.  Through the births of two children.  Raising of teenagers.  Gains and losses.  A sometimes crazy wife whose moods he didn’t understand.  Were there days he wished he could just walk away?  I don’t know but he never did.IMG_1211

He sucked it up and too often displayed what we in the family refer to as “The Meyers Stoicism.”  It makes you want to smack them for not displaying any emotion whatsoever.  He’d have been great in the military. Loyal to a fault.  Standing up for what he believed in.  Sucking it up, sticking it out, surviving without complaint.

There are so many American heroes.  Some of them risk their lives to go overseas on dangerous missions to keep us safe.  Some of them keep us safe here at home.  They’re the tough, silent guys who don’t get much credit for bearing up under the pressures of everyday American life.

If you ever wondered why romance writers write romance, this is part of the reason, for me at least.  Lots of romance novels are inspired by everyday heroes.  They don’t make the news headlines.  You’ve probably never heard of these guys.  But you might be married to one.  Maybe your father was one.  Or your boyfriend, your brother, your uncle.  They stick with you through the bumps on the road of life, and they’re still there when you get to “the end.”

NobodysFool72smNobody’s Fool available January 6, 2015

Follow me on Twitter @barbmeyers


Second Chance Chateau

It’s Over Island
A Short Story by Barbara Meyers
Chapter Two – Second Chance Chateau

Beth McCarthy woke without benefit of an alarm. Morning sun peeked through the window where a light breeze fluttered the lacy curtains. She’d painted the bedroom yellow and with the eastern-facing windows she often felt as though she’d just woken up in a big tub of butter.

She yawned and stretched and smiled to herself before she turned to look at Alex’s side of the bed. It was empty. She had no problem with that. No problem at all.

She padded out to the kitchen and pushed the button on the coffeemaker to get it going. The button didn’t light up like it was supposed to. She frowned before she remembered she’d have to make the coffee herself now.

No worries. She pulled the canister of beans toward her and scooped some into the grinder. While it whirred she thought back to the first week of Alex’s retirement. She’d still been working then and he’d begrudgingly allowed her to teach him how to make coffee. He’d gotten into the habit of setting everything up the night before so all she had to do in the morning before she left for her shift at the hospital was push a button. The coffee brewed while she got ready for work. She filled a travel mug and drank it on the drive in.

She filled the reservoir with water and pushed the button again. She wasn’t working any more so it wouldn’t matter if she had to make coffee herself every morning. For that matter, she could set it all up at night like he did. It was no big deal.

Mugsy, their ancient black lab, thumped her tail when Beth opened the door to the laundry room. Slowly the dog got to her feet. Beth petted her and rubbed her behind the ears thinking, Rats. She’d have to get dressed and take Mugsy out. The old dog’s bladder had aged right along with the rest of her and if she didn’t go out first thing, there’d be a mess to clean up. “I’ll be right back,” Beth told the dog.

Back in the bedroom she changed into workout clothes. In the kitchen the coffeemaker beeped. She’d really have liked a cup of coffee before she walked Mugsy, but she’d have to wait. The nice leisurely morning she’d envisioned for herself, the fragrant cup of coffee, a newspaper she didn’t have to share and blessed, blessed silence because the morning show political pundits Alex liked to yell at would be absent just as he was, evaporated.

She put the leash on Mugsy and waited while she made her arthritic way out the door and down the few steps to the driveway. Ever so slowly she meandered to the grass and relieved herself. Beth looked longingly at the plastic-bag-encased newspaper laying in the driveway. She coaxed Mugsy to the street and down to the patch of green near the lake where all the neighborhood dog owners took their dogs to do their business.

Mugsy wandered and sniffed, limping along, checking out every blade of grass. “Hurry up,” Beth hissed at her wondering how Alex found the patience to deal with the dog every single morning. In fact, since he’d retired, he’d completely taken over Mugsy’s care. He fed her, he walked her, he bathed her and took her to the vet.

Finally Mugsy found a spot to her satisfaction and squatted to do her business. Which seemed to take forever. A cloud moved over the sun and a stronger breeze blew. Beth thought again of that cup of coffee she’d be having right now if she hadn’t sent Alex away.

No, she warned herself. No regrets. She’d made a decision and she was sticking to it.

Mugsy completed her constitutional and Beth tugged on her leash to turn her around.

“You’re going to pick that up, aren’t you?”

Beth glanced around to see her least favorite neighbor, Donna Burnett, with her snotty toy poodle on a leash.

“Oh, hello, Donna. Yes. Of course, I was.”

Donna waited expectantly before she looked pointedly at what Mugsy had left behind.

“I uh, I’ll have to get a baggy,” Beth said. “I forgot. I’ll take Mugsy home and I’ll be right back.”

“We all pick up after our pets, Beth. You really should come prepared. Alex always is.”

“Well I forgot,” Beth snapped. “I said I’d be right back.”

Donna sniffed and walked off to the furthest patch of grass available so that Phoebe could pee.

“Come on, Mugsy,” Beth growled, forced to wait while Mugsy made her usual slow progress.

Beth fed Mugsy and filled her water dish. In the kitchen the scent of the coffee hung in the air, but it would have to wait. Beth found a plastic grocery bag and stalked back to the doggie do area. Donna was still there and made no secret of the fact that she was watching Beth’s poop retrieval technique.

“Happy now?” Beth said nastily as she strode back by, tying the handles of the bag together with Mugsy’s business inside.

“Perfectly.” Donna gave her a superior smile.

Beth fumed on the short walk back to the house. She tossed the bag into the garbage can and went into the kitchen where she poured a mug of coffee. She set it on the table before she remembered she’d left the newspaper in the driveway. She stomped back out to get it

That’s when she noticed the garbage cans sitting at the ends of her neighbors’ driveways. What was today? Thursday. Was Thursday a trash pickup day? Evidently. She didn’t bother to keep track because Alex did. He made sure the trash can was at the curb before six a.m. But Alex wasn’t here.

She lugged the garbage can out to the end of the driveway and left it there. See? That wasn’t so hard. She went back inside to her cup of coffee cooling on the table where she left it. Ah. Finally. She pulled out a chair and reached for the mug. She’d forgotten the newspaper. Of course she had because she was used to Alex retrieving it. Every morning he sorted out the lifestyle section and the department store ads and the crossword puzzle and left them on the table for her. Occasionally Alex would leave articles he thought would interest her. A book review or an acquaintance’s campaign for school board chairman. Sometimes it was a funny headline or an especially amusing Dilbert.

Dammit! She slammed her hand down on the table making it jump. Some of the coffee sloshed over the edge of the cup onto one of her favorite placemats. Mugsy gave her a look of reproach.

Beth growled again and stalked back outside to pick up the newspaper. Back at the table, determined to ignore the spill on the placemat, she flattened the newspaper and took a sip of coffee. It wasn’t hot enough and on top of that, it didn’t taste the way it usually did.

She set the mug in the microwave to warm it up and went back to the table. This time she almost burned her tongue, but the coffee still tasted flat and bitter.

Was it possible once she’d taught Alex how to make coffee she’d lost the ability to do so?

Tough, she’d just have to relearn it. She made herself drink it while she read the newspaper in her quiet, quiet house.

The quiet didn’t last long. The moment Beth flushed the toilet in the master bath she knew she’d made a monumental error. The toilet tank emitted a sickly bubbling noise that wouldn’t stop. It had been doing this for a couple of months and Beth had been on Alex to fix it for at least three weeks. He’d promised he would but until then each time she complained he grudgingly left his recliner and did something inside the tank that made the noise stop. Temporarily appeasing her. Until the next time when she’d nag him again about fixing it. The last time had been the day before yesterday when she’d threatened to call a plumber.

“It’s a ten dollar part,” Alex informed her. “It just needs to be replaced.”

“Then replace it!” Beth told him exasperated. “Before I replace you,” she muttered under her breath.

Now she lifted the lid off the toilet tank and stared at the wheezing, gasping malfunctioning part and the water bubbling around it. Although she knew the water in the tank was clean she didn’t want to touch anything. She’d probably make it worse if that were possible. She replaced the lid and closed the door to the bathroom. Problem solved.

By mid-morning Beth was starving. She called her best friend, Kate. “Want to grab some lunch?”

“I can’t. I’m getting my nails done then I’ve got to stop in at the office for a little while. I told Candy I’d pick T.J. up from pre-school because she has a dentist appointment. Sorry. Today’s not good at all.”

Beth sighed. “No problem. I’ll catch up with you later.” Glumly she opened the door to the refrigerator. There wasn’t much there and what was there wasn’t anything she wanted to eat. She closed the door. No big deal. She’d go grocery shopping.

Ever since Alex retired they’d started grocery shopping together. Mostly because she refused to buy the kind of food he liked to have around. Cookies and potato chips. Ice cream and sweet tea. He’d been warned that he was pre-diabetic, but all of her pleas to him to make better food choices and to exercise fell on deaf ears. Gradually, however, she liked to think her healthier choices were growing on him. He didn’t complain about grilled chicken and fresh vegetables or oatmeal and fruit for breakfast. She figured it all balanced out.

While they food-shopped she educated him on what to look for on the labels. Since she didn’t have to consider him any more, she sped through the store, shopping the perimeter. Lots of produce. Chicken and fish. A couple of healthy frozen meals for one.

She looked at her cart as she got in line for the cashier. Everything about it screamed “I am single.” A momentary pang of sadness hit her, but as soon as the conveyer belt started to move and she could unload the cart she pushed it away. Alex had his chance. She was so sick of him never wanting to do anything, never wanting to go anywhere, never being with her, she wasn’t going to miss him. For so long she’d felt single. This isn’t a relationship, she’d told herself. This isn’t a marriage. This is me. By myself. And Alex over there doing his own thing. We aren’t together in any sense of the word.

The cashier rang up her purchases faster than Beth could get to the keypad to scan her credit card. Flustered, Beth dug out her wallet and selected a card, while the cashier spun the bags around on the carousel, indicating that Beth needed to get them and put them in her cart. Beth started to do that but the cashier called her back to sign her name. She took her receipt and started to leave.

“Ma’am,” the cashier called her back. “You forgot your bags.”

“I did?”

The cashier spun the carousel around some more and Beth saw that there were three more bags she hadn’t picked up. “Thank you,” she mumbled after she retrieved them. Dammit, Alex, she thought. Alex always took charge of unloading the cart and then positioned himself near the carousel to load the bags. Normally, Beth’s only responsibility in the grocery store was to present the coupons and scan her credit card, sign the keypad and take the receipt. They worked as a team and usually the bags were in the cart and Alex was ready to push it out to the car as soon as she was finished paying.

She’d been grocery shopping by herself for years but she’d gotten spoiled having Alex do half the work and all of the heavy lifting. Oh, well. It wasn’t that big a deal. When she got home she parked in the garage and began to unload the bags, making several trips from the car to the kitchen and back. Alex always insisted on carrying everything in and together they’d put it all away, discussing what to have for dinner.

On her final trip into the house with the last of the bags, Beth stopped and stared at Alex’s workbench. A lump formed in her throat and tears gathered in her eyes as what she saw blurred before her. Several of Alex’s tools were neatly laid out next to a package emblazoned with the words, “Toilet Tank Repair Kit.”

Alex woke as if a switch had been turned on. He was back in his own bed, the one he shared with Beth, in his own familiar room. Dawn was just creeping around the corners of the window. He listened to the familiar almost-silence of the house they’d lived in for thirty years. He’d get up pretty soon and start the coffee brewing so it would be ready when Beth woke up. He’d take Mugsy for a walk and retrieve the newspaper on the way back.

Alex was almost afraid to turn his head to see if Beth was there with him on her side of the bed where he always expected her to be. He did, though, and she was. He breathed a sigh of relief and turned on his side, snuggling up against her, spooning her. He hadn’t done that in a long time. He’d almost forgotten how good it felt to be close to her like this, feeling her warmth, her softness, everything about her familiar and reassuring.

He pressed his nose against her neck, letting her hair tickle him. She made a sound in her sleep, like she was dreaming of tasting something delicious. She wiggled back against him and pulled his arm more tightly around her lacing her fingers over his.

“I had a bad dream,” he whispered against her ear.

He sensed her go on alert. She turned her head slightly toward him. “Did you? So did I.”

They relaxed against each other, savoring the moment, knowing explanations weren’t always necessary. Words so often got in the way.

After a few minutes, Alex said, “Hey.”


“Think it’s too late to sign up for that cooking class?”

Author’s Note: As promised this was Chapter Two of my short story “It’s Over Island.” See Chapter One posted on 6/20/14.  If you enjoyed this story please share it.

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It’s Over Island

It’s Over Island
A Short Story by Barbara Meyers
Chapter One

When Alex McCarthy opened his eyes he had no idea where he was. He lay for a moment allowing his senses to adjust. He was in a simply furnished room. Sunlight splashed through sheer curtains fluttering in a light breeze. The walls were the palest of lemon yellows, the curtains a froth of eyelet and lace. The bed was a simple white wrought iron design covered with white sheets and a squash-colored woven blanket, the kind you buy at Wal-Mart or JCP.
The door opened and a man Alex had never seen before greeted him with a smile. “Oh, so you’re awake. Welcome.” He advanced into the room and came to a stop at the side of the bed, peering at Alex expectantly. Alex had the oddest feeling that he was looking into a warped mirror image of himself. His visitor had sandy hair going grey and unremarkable features. His eyes were a cross between grey and blue, his hairline receding. He could be anywhere between fifty-five and seventy, it was hard to tell with men like him. He had no discernible paunch, was dressed in khakis and a royal blue polo shirt.
“Who are you?” Alex asked, staring.
“I’m Ted. The official welcome wagon.” He stuck out his hand. “Good to know you.”
Alex stared at Ted’s hand unsure whether to take it or not. “Welcome wagon? Where am I?”
“Where are you?” Ted chuckled. “You, my friend, have just arrived on It’s Over Island.”
“It’s…Over…Island?” Alex thought for a moment. “What’s over?’
Ted tilted his head. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Alex thought for a longer moment. A frown formed between his eyebrows. “I kissed my wife goodbye.”
“Hmmhmm,” Ted said as if he’d heard this before. “And what did she say?”
“She said, ‘Goodbye. Have a nice time.’”
“Yep. She kissed you goodbye, all right.”
Alex’s frown deepened. Anxiety clawed at his chest. “Where is she? What is this place?” He sat up and pushed the covers back, swinging his feet to the floor.
“Whoa, whoa. Hold on there, buddy. Calm down.”
Alex’s irritation was getting the better of him. “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on?” He stood which put him toe to toe with Ted, their gazes nearly level.
Ted licked his lips and blinked behind his glasses, but he wasn’t intimidated by Alex’s tone. “I told you. You’re on It’s Over Island. It’s where husbands come when their wives want them to go away.”
“Okay. Ha ha. Very funny. Good joke. Who put Beth up to this?”
Alex strode to the door and stepped out into a hall thinking he and Beth would have a good laugh about this and it would be one of “their” stories, one they’d tell each other and their friends for years to come.
The hallway was empty and seemed to stretch for a very long way in both directions with closed doors at either end. Alex turned right and started walking. Ted tagged along behind him.
“It isn’t a joke,” Ted informed him. “There are a lot of wives, mine included, who give up after thirty or forty years. Divorce is more trouble than it’s worth. Painful. Expensive. Murder, while I’m sure many of them have contemplated it often, has some unpleasant consequences. From what I understand, most of these women don’t want a divorce or a dead husband. They just want their husbands to go away.”
Alex stopped and Ted bumped into him. Alex slowly turned and stared at Ted again nose to nose. “Are you saying my wife just wanted me to go away?”
Ted pushed his glasses up on his nose. “Yes. Your wife. My wife. A lot of wives. There’s a whole bunch of us here. I’ve never counted, but trust me. We are not alone.”
“Ridiculous,” Alex insisted. “You’re making this up.” He started walking again but stopped at an open door to peer inside. A man about his own age glanced up from a jigsaw puzzle spread out on a table near a window in a room identical to the one he’d just woke up in. Except this room had a more lived in look. There was a ratty blue bathrobe thrown across the end of the unmade bed and a pile of dirty laundry in the corner.
A seed of doubt began to work its way into Alex’s mind. He continued on to another open door. The man in this one was napping, his gray hair mussed, a slight snore emanating from his open mouth. A newspaper was strewn in sections around him. The comics page had fallen to the floor.
Alex’s steps slowed as he peeked into room after room, seeing that samed warped mirror image of himself. Guys about his own age, with that comfortable ordinariness about them, engaged in various forms of sedentary activity. They all had one thing in common. They were all alone. They all looked a little bit lost. A little bit sad. A lump worked its way into Alex’s throat but he refused to lose face in front of Ted.
Could she? Alex wondered as he neared the door at the end of the hallway. Could Beth have sent me away? Did she just want me to go away?
It was hard to believe it could be true. They’d been married for thirty-five years. They had two kids. They’d had their ups and downs, tense times and happy times. They’d worked and scraped and grown side by side, building a life together. At least he’d thought they were building a life together. But maybe he’d only seen what he’d wanted to see.
Doubts crept into his mind in light of this new possible revelation. Beth had wanted him to go away. He wondered how long she’d wanted that. If it were true, he reminded himself, the hope that this was just some sick joke not entirely snuffed out.
All of a sudden all Alex could think about was Beth suggesting they go on a cruise. Take dance lessons. A cooking class. She’d wanted him to walk or start bicycling with her, warning him he needed to take better care of himself. She’d wanted to visit a nearby vineyard, explore hiking trails, do a tandem skydive. “You want me to jump out of an airplane? Are you crazy?” His response to that suggestion reverberated through his head. But all he could see was the disappointment written all over Beth’s face as he’d nixed yet another one of her ideas.
A play at the community theatre? A comedy club? The county fair? Antiquing? The flea market? The farmer’s market? Whitewater rafting? A canoe trip? A minor league baseball game? Go out on New Year’s Eve? To a party at Kate and Tom’s?
Alex had said no to all of it. He liked his routine. He liked staying home. He liked his recliner and his big screen TV. He liked being in charge of the remote control. He liked doing nothing except what he wanted. Hadn’t he worked his butt off for forty years? Didn’t he deserve to take it easy now? He’d raised a family with Beth, bought a home, built a life, dammit! Why did he have to make more of an effort? He was tired. He was done. Why couldn’t she understand that?
At the end of the hall, he pushed open the door and stepped into a cavernous room, partitioned off into hundreds of cubicles separated by another long walkway. He crept slowly along, discovering that each cubicle held a flat screen television, and a recliner. Some had gaming equipment and DVD players. Several of the recliners were occupied with more men who reminded him of himself. They wore headphones and had command of their own remote controls. Each man occupied his own little world. Once again Alex was reminded eerily of himself. Of his comfortable man cave with all his stuff. A place where he could be alone. For hours at a time. Which meant he left Beth alone. For hours at a time. Funny, he’d never thought about that before. He wondered what she was doing now. Now that he’d “gone away.” Now that she’d sent him away. For that matter what had she been doing when he’d been there but not really there?
“A hundred and sixty channels,” Ted informed him. “The NFL package, all the premium sports networks in fact, and all the movie channels. Pretty much anything you want to watch any time you want to watch it. Except porn. They want us to go away. They just don’t want us to enjoy it too much.”
Alex had never cared all that much for porn. It had all seemed a little sad and a little sick to him. The few times he’d watched it, usually at a buddy’s bachelor party, or a couple of times on a business trip, he couldn’t help thinking the women in it were somebody’s sister. Somebody’s daughter. He’d think of his own sister, Sharon, a mid-level manager at Wal-Mart. She’d been a pretty little thing in her youth. Or his own daughter Tiffany. He’d have died if she’d ever done anything like what was shown on the screen.
At the end of the hallway was another door. Alex pushed it open and came into a large area set up to look like a country kitchen. Along one wall was a counter and behind that a prep and cooking area. His steps slowed as he took in the furniture arrangement. Fifty or more small square tables occupied the space, each with only one chair. The message was clear. You will be dining alone.
Alex winced, recalling the evenings he’d arrived at the dinner table with a magazine. How he always had to have the TV on so he could watch the news while he ate. Even though now he was home all the time and there were at least four channels where he could catch the news twenty-four/seven.
He thought of the meals Beth had prepared that he hadn’t really tasted, hadn’t appreciated. Of the times she’d attempt to start a conversation with him, patiently waiting until the commercial came on. His heart sunk into his stomach. His steps slowed.
There was another door at the end of kitchen seating area. Alex wasn’t sure he wanted to open it, but he did. All manner of exercise equipment greeted him. None of it was in use. The place was one massive gymnasium with a basketball court, a volleyball court and an elevated jogging track circling the perimeter. The whole place was deserted.
“We’re not much on exercise,” Ted offered helpfully from behind. “We talk about playing pick up basketball once in awhile, or using one of the treadmills.”
Ted didn’t say anything else. He didn’t have to.
Alex pushed yet another door open and found himself outside. The sun was shining. A velvety green lawn sloped away from the massive structure. Lush landscaping looked as though it had been carefully tended. In the distance he could see water lapping at the shore. There were a few puffy clouds in the sky. It was a beautiful day.
“You can get your own plot for gardening,” Ted told him. “There’s a charter boat that takes us out fishing once a week.”
Alex thought of his penchant toward motion sickness, one of the big reasons he’d nixed the cruise idea.
“Or there’s the beach. Get a tan. Go for a jog. Snorkel.”
No, no, no and double no.
Alex had followed a path through the grass to where it dead-ended in a brick-paved circle overlooking the planted areas. Flowers bloomed. The sun shone. All was right with the world. Except Beth had sent him away.
He felt sick to his stomach at the thought. He was starting to believe everything Ted had told him. It’s over. He believed it but he couldn’t accept it.
Beth wouldn’t just kick him out of her life this way. He knew her. She wasn’t cruel. She wouldn’t purposely hurt him. She’d never take such a drastic step without talking to him first.
She has tried to talk to you, though, hasn’t she? Alex tried to push that thought away just as he tried to push away the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. There were benches placed around the circle of brick. Alex sank onto one of them when his knees gave out. He dropped his head in his hands.
Beth had been trying to tell him something since the day he’d retired. No, before that, if he wanted to be honest with himself. Which he didn’t, but apparently he had no choice. His mind churned just as his stomach did as it fed him a repetitive reel of Beth asking him to do things with her, to go places, to get involved in the community. He had a variety of responses for each suggestion: He was too tired or too busy. He didn’t like “those” people or that activity. He had a bad back or the knee he’d had surgery on was bothering him again. The time wasn’t convenient. It was too far to drive.
Always he had an excuse and always Beth had turned away in disappointment. She hadn’t given up, though. She’d kept coming up with ideas and suggestions, tried to keep her enthusiasm going and every time he’d stomped on it.
Maybe she had given up. For good. Because Alex could see now what she’d been trying to tell him for a long time. They weren’t really together any more, not like they had been in the beginning. They were just two people occupying the same space. Roommates. Companions. They got along. But there was so much emptiness between them.
A sob worked its way into Alex’s throat and he didn’t even try to hold it back. He didn’t care what Ted thought, barely even remembered he was there.
“Yep,” Ted said, slumping back on the bench next to him. “It’s a kick in the pants, isn’t it? The one person you think is going to love you forever wants you to just go away.”
Alex might curl up in a ball and cry his heart out later, although he doubted it, but he wasn’t going to do it now, even if Ted understood completely how he felt.
He got himself together enough to ask, “How long have you been here?”
“Couple of months.”
“Is this it, then? There’s no going back?”
“Oh, no. You can get back. Maybe.”
“How? I’ll do anything.”
Ted gave him an assessing look. “You think you will right now. We all do. But ‘anything’ might be more than you’re willing to take on. Besides, it’s up to your wife whether you get to go back.”
“I said I’d do anything,” Alex said forcefully, and I meant it. “Tell me how I get back.”
“There’s only one way back, buddy. You’ve got to go through the Second Chance Chateau.”


Author’s Note:  Tomorrow I will publish Chapter Two “Second Chance Chateau.”  If you enjoyed this story please share it.

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The Myth of “Happily Married”

There’s no such thing as happily married.  There.  I’ve said it.

There’s the illusion of happily married.  A pretense, if you will that we all buy into.  We are all convinced that our marriage will be different, better, happier, than that of our peers, our parents, or anyone else we wish to compare our relationship to.

Don’t ever believe you know what’s going on inside other relationships.  You only know what you perceive to be.

What there should be is two people capable of finding their own happiness without each other and then deciding to spend their lives together.  What there shouldn’t be is two people getting married and expecting their spouse to provide an endless supply of happiness to them.

Why do we expect to be happily married anyway?  What is this myth we’ve created over the last fifty or seventy-five years that if we aren’t happy in our marriage something is wrong with us (or more likely the fault belongs to our spouse)?  A generation or two ago—my parents and their parents and grandparents—no one probably thought about whether they were happy, married or not.  Who had time?  Divorce was rare in my grandparent’s era and uncommon in my parents.’   They accepted what was and resigned themselves to a future with the spouse they’d chosen.  They may have been less than content but walking away wasn’t the answer.  Even in my own childhood, schoolmates whose parents were divorced was relatively rare.

In what other area of your life are you compelled or expected to be happy?  Your career?  Do you know how many people hate their jobs?  You say, yes, but they can change jobs, so why not life partners?  Yes, why not?  I’m not happy with this job, I’ll go work somewhere else.  I’m not happy with this partner, I’ll find another.  What’s the difference?  What IS the difference?

What else can you be unhappy with?  A car?  A house?  A pet?  All expendable.  All switchable.  So why not spouses?

Why not dissolve a marriage?  Especially if there are no children involved.  Trading in a car doesn’t connotate failure in a choice so why does divorce?

I started out writing this blog with a conclusion in mind and a point to prove only to discover I’d talked myself out of it which surprised me.

After a discussion with my wise, married, twenty-something daughter, I became even less sure of the point I wanted to make.

We agreed that a divorce has less impact if no children are involved.

If children exist, you’ve created an obligation bigger than yourself and you owe it to them your best effort to maintain a family unit in which to nurture them to the best of your ability.  Your “need” to be “happy” comes after their right to a decent childhood.

Is it better if divorce occurs when kids are older?  I don’t think so because then it’s like they’ve lived through a lie their entire lives.

What if you marry someone and you realize you want completely different things in life?  Compromise is the only answer there, assuming you both want to stay together.  (Why didn’t you iron out these “big” life issues before you married?)

A “happy” marriage can only occur when two people who realize they are responsible for their own individual happiness decide they want to be life partners and that their existence will be enhanced by the constant presence of the other.

An unhappy individual is not going to magically discover another person who can “make” her happy.  That’s a myth.

“I want to make someone really happy.”  Those are the words of a woman in tears who just got the boot from television’s  The Bachelor.  Too bad for her.  She bought into the myth.

Romance novels always offer HEA’s.  Visit me at

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70 Years of “In love” – Give me a break

Matt Beard 008

70 Years Of Love

 “Couple married during war and never stopped being in love”

This is the kind of magazine headline and teaser that drives me crazy.  Never stopped being in love?  I don’t buy it.  If they’ve been together for 70 years, I know there were times when they weren’t “in love” with each other.  I know there were times when they doubted the love that existed between them.  If you read the article, you find out this is true.  They stuck it out, but were they “in love” the entire time?  No.

What is “in love” anyway?  What does that mean?  The first person who can give me a satisfactory answer to this question wins a prize.

I think “in love” is that initial crush phase of a relationship where you think s/he’s wonderful.  You get that pitter-patter, heart-racing feeling every time you see him/her.  You can’t wait to be with him and you’re crushed every moment you’re not.  “In love” eventually wears off.  If it hasn’t by the time of the wedding, it will by the first anniversary.  How could you sustain it?  It’d be exhausting.

Yes, you might think he’s still wonderful, but by now you’ve also realized he’s a human being and not an angel sent down from heaven to make your life perfect.  He has flaws and annoying habits (as do you) just like anyone else.  He’s loveable at times and drives you nuts at others.  You might even have been mad at him a time or two.  He might have been annoyed with you as well.  Are you still “in love?”  Maybe not.  But you still love him.

Why doesn’t anyone tell us how hard marriage is before we get married?  (They do but we don’t listen and we think our marriage will be different.)  A spouse’s purpose on earth is not to make you happy 24/7 and life isn’t going to be butterflies and rainbows from the altar forward.  Mostly what it will be is joy and pain and tears and heartache and laughter and if you’re lucky, someone who always has your back.

I don’t think anyone who’s been long-married gets there by not contemplating divorce at some point in time.  Sometimes we just want out.  We think we made the wrong choice and can’t see how we can go on for one more day, let alone 40 or 50 more years like this.

A divorced friend once told me, “Don’t get a divorce.  You do not want to be divorced.”

My father always said, “You put in your nickel and you take your chances.”

I’ve often wondered why people congratulate me when they find out how long I’ve been married (33 years).  It might be because they are children of divorce or divorced themselves.  A long marriage doesn’t mean “we’re happy.”  It doesn’t mean we’re still “in love.”  It doesn’t mean our lives or marriages are ideal or that we found our soulmates.  It means we stuck it out and honored our commitment, so if you want to congratulate a long-married couple for that, by all means, please do.  In this world of “who needs marriage?” and “I’m tired of you; here’s your divorce papers,” having honor and being a person of your word is so rare congratulations are probably in order.

“I’m not happy” is the reason for a lot of splitting up.  I know.  At times I’ve been unhappily married.  But if you stick it out, you do adjust.  You will or can be happy again.  You’ll probably be sad and disappointed again, too.  That’s the way life is.  That’s the way marriage is.

Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth if you want to stay married:  He is who he is and you are who you are.  Accept it.  Learn not to need what you can’t have and aren’t going to get from him or her.  Your happiness is not dependent on your spouse. (Your happiness is YOUR responsibility, no one else’s.)  Maybe in 70 years or so your headline will read, “They weren’t always in love (and they weren’t always happy together) but they stuck it out with each other.”ForeverKindOfGuy72sm


Me and Justin and Matt

Last spring at the coffee store where I’d been working for a couple of months, I noticed a regular customer named Justin. Tall, good-looking, polite. He always ordered the same thing, one of those sweet espresso beverages with whipped cream. One day my coworker Kristen said, “Do you know who that is? It’s Justin Verlander.”
“Who’s that?”
“He’s a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.”
I’m not a sports fan, but I knew someone who was. My son Matt played baseball from tee ball through high school, and is an ESPN addict. Later that day I texted Matt that Justin Berlander was a regular customer where I worked. (Yes, I thought Justin’s last name was “Berlander.”) Matt texted back, Do you mean Justin Verlander? Okay, sure whatever. Yeah. That guy.
A few more texts then Matt asked, “Can you get me his autograph?”
There aren’t very many sports figures Matt would like an autograph from but he believed Justin Verlander was going to have a history-making career.
But still. Ask for his autograph? I don’t know. How would I?
Buy a good quality baseball and the next time he comes in ask him to autograph it. Trust me, Mom, he gets this all the time. He’s used to it.
Yeah. But still. Wouldn’t that be tacky? And sort of weird? Maybe if I went to one of the spring training games, I could manage it. But I probably wouldn’t. Was there any guarantee that if I did, I could get close enough to Justin to get a baseball autographed?
I laid awake the next few nights fretting. I’m not a groupie. I would feel weird asking for an autograph. I’d be embarrassed. This guy’s a customer. How could I impose on him? I’d never do something like this for myself. But I’d do it for my son. Maybe. Maybe I could do it.
March 18, 2013. I knew time was running out. Spring training would be over soon. Justin would be gone and I’d have missed my window of opportunity to get his autograph for Matt. I’d prayed to God to give me courage, gumption, whatever it was I would need to get over myself and do this for my son.
Lo and behold one afternoon Justin walked in when I wasn’t busy. This was my chance. But I’d never bought that good quality baseball. What was I going to have Justin sign? A napkin? The back of his credit card receipt?
A light bulb came on over my head (aka Divine Intervention.) In our store we sell mugs you can write on with a chalk pen. I grabbed the only one we had left off the shelf. Justin had already paid for his drink and was at the handoff counter when I approached.
“Excuse me, Justin, I wouldn’t normally do this, but my son is a huge fan and it would mean a lot to him to have your autograph. Could you sign this mug for me?”
Justin looked only slightly taken aback before he said, “Sure. No problem.”
I got the packaging off the mug and handed him the little liquid chalk pen. It takes awhile to get the chalk ink flowing. He looked around for something to press it on. The ink was a little thin, but he got it to work. “Oh, can you date it, too?” (Per Matt’s instructions.)
Matt Beard 006I was such a geek, but Justin couldn’t have been nicer. He got his drink and left after I gushed my thanks. Probably, he was very glad to escape. I was on a high. I’d done it. Overcome my shyness and discomfort about asking a celebrity for something.
I took the mug home and following the instructions put it in the oven to bake. But I forgot to set the timer! Luckily I rescued it before it exploded or the chalk burnt off. After it cooled I carefully wrapped it in layer after layer of bubble wrap. The only problem with an autographed mug is that it is breakable.
This was going to make a great birthday present for Matt. Every few months I checked the mug to make sure the autograph hadn’t disappeared or rubbed off. 2013 has been a tough year for Matt. I kept thinking about the mug. I hoped it wasn’t a dumb idea. Everybody has autographed baseballs. Who’s got an autographed coffee mug? With the receipt? And the chalk pen used one time by only one person? No one else, I bet. Still I wondered is this a good birthday present or is it just stupid?
Finally, it’s October. We’re packing the car to visit Matt a few days after his birthday. My husband picks up the bag with the mug in it and drops it on the floor. He’s lucky it didn’t break (all that bubble wrap, remember) or this story would have a very different ending.
When Matt unwrapped the mug from its many layers of bubble wrap, at first he thought it was just another coffee mug. The he stared at it and studied the writing. “Is this Justin Verlander’s autograph?” Matt gives me a high five.
Matt Beard 005
Later Matt posts this on Facebook:
Back in March, my mom mentioned that she frequently had Justin Verlander as a customer in Lakeland during spring training. I said there was about 3 athletes I’d actually ask her to get an autograph from, but she was hesitant and I forgot about it. She surprised me with this last week for my birthday. Had him do it with a special pen that ends with this being baked on and permanent. Best Mom ever? Love you Mom! #family heirloom
Matt Beard 007

I’ve learned I can’t solve all my kids’ problems. I can’t take away their pain or make their lives perfect. But I do what I can. And sometimes, with the help of a guy like Justin, I can bring them a moment of joy they’ll remember and something they’ll treasure forever.

Barb’s Box of Stuff

When you’re looking at downsizing your living quarters you have to make some tough decisions about what you’ll be getting rid of.

In a far back corner of my closet there is a box of stuff I’ve saved for over fifteen years.  Things I kept when we moved to our current house and have never looked at since.  I figured one day, maybe if I was sick or needed entertainment or had the time I’d go through it.  Read the old cards and letters, see exactly what was in there.  Evidently, I am healthy, well entertained and never made or had the time.

Until today when I was feeling particularly down, laughing and crying over the irony of life, wondering how I got where I am, why I often feel like such a colossal failure and why everything I touch turns to sh*!.  Screw it.  I’m in no mood to do anything else.  I’ll see what’s in that box.

On the very top were things I’d kept from my son’s early years.  Almost the first thing I pulled out was a little booklet he’d made for me called Super Mom.  It’s from 1993, so he would have been eleven years old.  I got a good chuckle out of what he’d written.  I found another Mother’s Day tribute.  He mentions my patience more than once in his writings about me.  I don’t recall being patient at all and never thought of myself as a patient person.  I’m glad he thinks I was.

I keet pulling items out of the box.  Many of his childish drawings and school papers.  Cards for birthdays from friends, some of whom I haven’t heard from in years. 

In a manila envelope I discover receipts from stores long out of business, doctor appointment cards from 1979.  A baby spoon.  A rosary.  A silver lighter from Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips (I used to work there).  Broken shells.  Bits and pieces of my life reflected in notes from old flames, matchbooks from restaurants, ticket stubs.  A two-dollar bill; a one-dollar bill.  Five pennies.  Why did I keep these things?  Why did I think they were important?

Seeing my son’s childhood musings about his mother cheered me up and made me chuckle.  Some of the cards from others made me sad.  They reminded me of lost relationships, people who passed through my life and who are no longer a part of it.  Significant to me for a time, but also fleeting, some of whom I barely remember.  Some I will never forget.

I’m not one to dwell on history.  It may be interesting.  There may be something we can learn from it.  But once we’ve learned the lessons, is there any reason to hang on to it?  The truth is, after fifteen years I could have chucked that entire box and never missed it.  I couldn’t recall what I’d put there exactly, except a bunch of old stuff.  I knew if I started going through it I’d have a harder time throwing any of it away.  Because once I knew what was there, I’d have to make decisions about its importance to me now.

I go back to digging through the box and things go from sublime to ridiculous.  Why did I keep a bunch of coupons that expired in 1984?  A belated wedding card I never sent?  Who was it for?  Interestingly it only cost a dollar.  Every other time I dig into the box I hear a tinkle of music from a long-ago card that still has something to say.

I’ve unearthed pictures of my husband and infant son at the beach.  Probably the last time my husband was at the beach.  Each time I pull out a card from my husband I start to think, oh, maybe he did/does love me.  Because as the years grind on, some days you sort of forget that, but there it is.  He never missed a birthday, an anniversary, a Mother’s Day or Christmas.  Never forgot.  Those cards are like him saying, “Remember me?  I’m the one who’s been here for the last thirty-two years.”

I discover I’ve saved probably every card or letter my best friend ever sent me.  I know how important she is to me, but I’m reminded I’m equally important to her. 

Mostly what the stuff in my box teaches me is a lesson about life.  The ways we give away pieces of ourselves to others.  The bits and pieces they give to us.  Sometimes they fade away into memories.  Other times they remind us what’s still important. 

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Picky Reader – 25

Flirting in Cars by Alisa Kwitney. Sort of a women’s fiction/romance story. I liked it.
Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I thought I’d read everything of hers, but I must have missed this one. True to form, SEP never disappoints her readers.
Violet by Design by Melissa Walker. I don’t normally read young adult fiction. This was a pretty good book, although if young adults tend to annoy you, don’t bother. The character of Violet is full of contradictions and waffles between being wise and immature. But that is the nature of young women her age.
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. I enjoyed this book. It has a lot parallels in it and connections made from past to present through the main character who owns a vintage clothing shop. She heals her own emotional wounds by helping a dying woman put her past to rest.
Fools Paradise by Jennifer Stevenson. I read this on my Kindle. It is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about stagehands and union infighting. There is one bedroom scene in particular which I found wildly hysterical. Fun and entertaining.
Picky Reader - 25 Here is another book I’m recommending. Scattered Moments. I am still working on a good blurb for it. (Don’t get me started on the angst of writing effective blurbs.) What’s a married woman to do when she meets her soulmate thirteen years too late? Sure there’s lots more to the book than that, a frenemy with her own agenda and a hidden camera, a husband she doesn’t know as well as she thinks she does, and vows she made to herself long ago which she now must re-examine. Scattered Moments is available for 99 cents on and right now. P.S. I would have posted this blog much earlier if WordPress wasn’t being a pain and not letting me upload my gorgeous cover. I still don’t know how I did it!
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