The other day, I asked my private Facebook readers’ group Daphne’s Divas what they would like me to write about in future blog posts and in my newsletter.
(By the way, if you aren’t a member of Daphne’s Divas but you want to be, all you gotta do is click here to join!).
I like to ask my Divas about this stuff because, left to my own devices, I would probably just fill my blog and newsletter with cat pictures. And on that note, here are some cat pictures. (Petunia is on the left, and that’s Nigel on the right.)
Okay. I get that my cats are cute as hell, and I can talk about them all day. But I should probably not let myself go down the Cat Lady rabbit hole. So instead, I’m going to start writing about some of the subjects my Divas told me they want to hear more about.
Here’s the first question, asked by Mercy P:
“I like to know about you because you are not only a great author but a great person, not everyone can write and make people feel so much emotion.”
First… Awww, can I just say, that gave me SO many warm fuzzies to read!! ❤️
Second… Okay. Here we go.
Author J.A. Huss recently did a blog/newsletter post on the occasion of her fiftieth birthday. And in it, she kind of summed up her life by decade. I decided after reading that post that I was going to do the same. So here is the abbreviated Story Of My Life.
I was born in a small town in northwest Iowa. I’m an only child. My mom was a secretary, and my dad was either a salesman or an assembly line worker for most of his career. The first four years of my life were spent in that small town. And then my dad, who always had a bit of wanderlust, moved our family to a town in Colorado, more or less on a whim. We lived in that town for two years, and then moved to Nebraska. Four years later, we moved again, to a new small town in southwest Iowa. And then a year later, to another town, elsewhere in Iowa.
All of that was in the first thirteen years of my life. It was a lot of moving. And a lot of being “the new girl.” I was shy, and bookish, and I had thick glasses that I sort of hid behind. I was outgoing and funny once you got to know me, but I was also a bit of a loner. I don’t know if I was that way by nature, or if it was something I learned by being moved around so much. But the end result either way was that I was a kid who was used to spending a lot of time alone.
And I was a reader. Oh, boy, was I a reader. I learned to read at four. My mom didn’t even know I could read by myself until one day when we were visiting a friend of hers who had two younger kids who were toddlers. Mom and her friend were in the kitchen chatting over coffee when she overheard me in the next room, telling a story to the two kids. She went in to investigate, and found me holding a Dick and Jane book, reading from it. She knew I was actually reading because we didn’t have any Dick and Jane books at home. I had never seen the book before.
As soon as we left her friend’s house, she immediately took me to the library, to get my first library card.
My love affair with books started early. And since I was so often alone and without friends in a new town, they were my refuge. Thankfully, my mom let me read pretty much anything I wanted to, and never sought to censor me. One of my favorite stories about this is about the summer I was eleven years old, and I read A Tree Grows In Brooklynfor the first time. (That is one of my very favorite books of all time, by the way). If you want to read about that story, I talk about it here in a blog post.
Books have always been like dear friends to me. They’ve gotten me through some hard times. They’ve taught me so much about life, and about worlds and people’s experiences. I feel that books have made me a more compassionate person. They’ve taught me to have sympathy and empathy for people whose lives are nothing like my own. I can’t imagine a world without books. My life would be so much less rich without them.
The second decade of my life, my teen years, were spent mostly in a smallish town in Iowa where we had finally settled down, for better or for worse. These years were not always easy. My parents were not getting along. My dad lost his job for almost two years. We almost lost our house, and but for the generosity of my grandparents giving my parents a large loan, we would have been homeless. The strain on our family was great. I got a job as soon as I possibly could, and did my best to be self-sufficient, and to try not to add to my parents’ stress. I was a pretty good student. I thankfully fell into a group of friends who were not, as they say, a “bad influence.” Honestly, I feel like I could have fallen into some pretty bad shit if it wasn’t for those friendships at a time where I really needed them.
I graduated high school. And one thing my mom had pushed on me since basically the time I could talk is that I WAS going to college. That was never in question, and if I had tried to resist, I think she might have actually put me in handcuffs and forced me there at gunpoint. Neither she nor my dad had been to college. My dad barely graduated high school, in fact. My mom had been very academically talented, but never had the opportunity to pursue a degree after high school. She was determined that I would not be the same.
The decade of my twenties was all about education. I went to college, and learned that even though I was pretty damn smart for my small high school, college was more of the big leagues. College was where I learned to work. It was where I learned that “I will” is more important than IQ. I ended up graduating with honors. And then I went to graduate school, surpassing my parents’ expectations.
If my twenties were about getting an education, my thirties were about teaching. They were also about my first, failed marriage. I had had relationships here and there along the way. Some of them were fine while they lasted. Others were… bad. Let’s just say bad. (Maybe I’ll do a blog post about that sometime in the future.) But when I met my future first husband, I was mesmerized. I really thought he was it, you know? He was an amazing boyfriend! He literally gave me flowers every single Friday for our entire relationship. Sounds great, right? Like, I used to tell people that with such pride! As though it was the proof that he really loved me. Proof that he was good.
The thing is…
What I didn’t know… what I didn’t SEE… was that he was doing that as kind of an insurance policy. And a way to manipulate me. To feel good about himself and give himself an out for basically anything else he did.
Because every time he did something shitty to me, he would never apologize. He would just act like I was too demanding. Or too sensitive. Or too… something. After all, he gave me flowers every week! He reminded me of that all. the. time. In his logic, if I didn’t appreciate him, it was because of something flawed in me.
Yeah, it was messed up. Once we actually tied the knot, the relationship got bad, fast. I was gaslighted, manipulated, mocked, belittled… oh, and then there was that time he tried to kill me. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say, the marriage itself only lasted three years. Thank God I had the sense to get out of there. I got divorced at 39. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
And then, not long after, I met future Mr. Loveling. And thus, began my forties.
It’s funny. They say that the forties are a time when a lot of people experience less happiness in their lives, before life satisfaction starts to pick up again around fifty. For me, though, I’d say it was almost the opposite.
Mr. Loveling is my perfect match in pretty much every way. And weirdly, meeting him actually made me gladabout my previous failed marriage. Because the shittiness of my life with husband #1 made me truly, deeply appreciate everything I have with Dave. He’s amazing. He’s kind. He’s funny. He’s romantic. And best of all, he loves with his whole heart. He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t give me flowers as an insurance policy against ever having to apologize or admit he’s wrong. In fact, he never gives me flowers at all.
He just gives me him.
With Dave also came his two daughters. I never had children of my “own” – biological children. And I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at the idea of the stepmom gig. Because you hear tons of stuff about how hard it is, right? And wow, you hear about evil stepmothers from basically the time you’re born, in fairy tales and stuff.
Thankfully, though? All my fears were baseless.
Oh, sure. I’m not going to say there were never difficult moments. It turns out there’s no manual about how to be a stepmom. Or about how to be a step-kid. It’s not easy to figure some of that stuff out at first. But you know what? I honestly would not trade having my two bonus daughters for anything. I tell people I was, and am, so lucky to have won an “insta-family” when I met my husband. I feel so fortunate to have not only my husband, but his daughters, their partners, my younger daughter’s two sons (so I’m a grandma, too!), and also my parents-in-law, and my siblings-in-law. It’s all such a gift. Truly. Especially because my own parents died while I was in my late thirties. And I don’t have brothers and sisters. So someone/something was smiling down on me at precisely the right time, giving me a family at the exact moment I was losing the one I was born with.
My forties were also the decade I started writing fiction. And then, a few years ago, I decided to leave my teaching job and start writing full-time. I’ve been doing that for three years now. And because of all that, I’ve connected with you.
What will the decade of my fifties hold? I haven’t got a clue. All I know is, even though no one’s life is perfect, mine feels pretty great right now, all things considered. It’s crazy, isn’t it, that when you look back on your life, you never could have guessed some of the things that would happen? I definitely never would have predicted I’d be sitting at this computer this morning, writing the story of my life to my readers, as a full-time author.
Life is pretty amazing. ❤️