Friday, June 22, 2018

The Right Thing

I'm a stickler for doing the right thing. I'm the kid who pointed out the teacher's marking error...even when it wasn't in my favor. I'm the kid who told my mom when I broke the rules. I'm the woman who stands up for what's right...even at the expense of my health and financial well-being. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.

My husband and I are watching New Girl on Netflix. We are a couple episodes shy of completing season 5 so if you aren't there yet...

<<spoiler alert>>

On the episode we watched last night ("Return to Sender"), Jess is faced with a dilemma when she meets her boyfriend's female best friend from med school. Jess discovers Diane has been in love with Sam for years and even told him in a letter that recently returned to her unopened. Diane gives Jess the letter because she can't destroy it and, now that she's met Jess, she can't give it to Sam either. Does Jess stay silent and keep the man she loves or stand aside and let him decide? In the end, Jess gives Sam the letter. She wouldn't have been able to live with herself if she'd kept the letter from him. His happiness is important to her. The audience understands the selfless motivation behind Jess' decision, but watches as Jess comes to terms with the inevitable reality of losing Sam.

Sometimes (most times), the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do.

This episode struck a chord with me because, had I been in Jess' shoes, I would've made the same choice. I often choose to do the right thing even when the alternative is easier or more beneficial. I have a strong moral compass. And, I believe in karma. Reward or benefit may not be immediate or ever materialize, but, at the end of the day, I can live with myself. The alternative? If you can't live with yourself, then it's pretty hard to escape.

Everyday, we are given choices. Choose carefully. Karma is watching.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Soundtrack of My Life

I always say my life story on screen would be a musical. Music is, and always has been, an important part of my life. I sing when I'm happy, and (excuse the total clich√©) I sing when I'm sad. I have go-to rock out music—mostly from the year 1994—and I sing Broadway show tunes to my kids. Because I love music... many of my CDs were movie soundtracks... My Life: The Musical has the best soundtrack... I narrowed it down to ten tracks, but there were many other contenders.


I didn't watch a lot of TV when I was a kid. We didn't have cable TV until I was ten, and I loved to read. I do have fond memories of Sesame Street, a classic kids show. Oscar the Grouch was my favorite character so "I Love Trash" is track one.

New Kids on the Block were emerging onto the music scene just as I grew beyond children's music. I had the Hangin' Tough tape and my sister had Step By Step. They were the first band I ever liked... if you came of age in the 1990's you either loved or hated New Kids... and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" makes the cut for track two. BTW, I still have Merry, Merry Christmas on tape, and I play it in the car (the only tape deck I have) at Christmastime.

If I had to describe myself in one word it would be romantic. I loved love (still do) and hoped to find my very own Prince Charming. My high school M.O. was having many hopeless crushes and dreaming of a tall, dark, and handsome dream guy. (I found him!) I love the Disney Princesses. What little girl doesn't dream of being a princess and marrying a prince? The classic princesses get a little flak for falling into the 'damsel in distress waiting for her prince to rescue her' stereotype, but the truth is that role was their personal choice. Just like the empowered, modern princesses who decide to go it alone. After all, feminism gives all women the right to chose their life, unrestricted by their gender. In my younger years, I had career aspirations and I never doubted that I would be successful, but what I wanted most of all was to get married—preferably to my true love—and have children. I didn't picture myself wearing a power suit for a thirty-year nine-to-five, but I recognized the importance in having the ability to support myself—and my family—in a worst case scenario. Disney's Enchanted is one of my favorite movies. <<Spoiler Alert>> Giselle begins as a 'damsel in distress' waiting for her prince and, as the movie progresses, faces adversity alone and evolves into her independence. In the end, she finds her happy ending—a successful career and her handsome love—the very definition of having it 'all'. I spent my teenage years waiting for "True Love's Kiss"—the most powerful thing in the world, you know—so this beautiful song is track three.

For every crush that ended in heartache, I had "Always" by Bon Jovi blaring on my boom box as I sang every word. Ironically, "Always" also became my go-to cleaning house song in the early 2000's. There were a few years shortly after I found out Jon Bon Jovi cheated on his wife where I boycotted his music, but "Always" has always had a special place in my heart, and the song isn't to blame, so this hit makes my track four.

"Self Esteem" by The Offspring is one of my go-to songs from 1994. I love this song. It's not so much that the lyrics apply to my life or anything, but it was a great song for a mosh pit. I still rock out when I hear it played—my kids recognize the riff "la la la la la la" as their brushing teeth music—so for those and other reasons, "Self Esteem" is track five.

"It's a long road when you face the world alone... And then a hero comes along, with the strength to carry on. And you cast your fear aside. And you know you can survive." High school is hard—you often have to be strong for yourself—so my pick for track six is "Hero" by Mariah Carey. It's also a great piece to play on the piano.

"What a Feeling" from Flashdance is my track number seven. I have seen the movie countless times, and I've even seen the musical—it was pretty good. This song "What a Feeling" is my go-to karaoke song; it's my 'on-the-way to an exam' song; it's my 'singing in the shower' song. The lyrics are so motivating. "Take your passion and make it happen."

We played "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" from Dirty Dancing for our bride and groom wedding dance so this special song is my track eight. The soundtrack for Dirty Dancing has a ton of awesome songs too that are great to belt out.

There are a few reasons why I picked "A Whole New World" for track nine. Aladdin happens to be my husband's favorite Disney movie. When we got married (we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this year), we embarked on a journey together. Along the way, we added a nine-pound shih tzu and two amazing sons. It's "A Whole New World" seemed most fitting to illustrate starting a new life, and a family, together. My life would be incomplete without my family.

Nothing forces you to face your own mortality more than a death. Sudden death, especially, has a very sobering effect. When I heard Tom Petty died, I was stricken with grief. All I could think was how amazing an artist he had been and that there wouldn't be any more songs. "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty has become my anthem as I struggle with my health issues and confront the root causes. I am determined to succeed on both fronts, and "I Won't Back Down" until I do.


My Life: The Musical

1. "I Love Trash" - Oscar the Grouch
2. "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" - New Kids on the Block
3. "True Love's Kiss" - Enchanted
4.  "Always" - Bon Jovi
5. "Self Esteem" - The Offspring
6. "Hero" - Mariah Carey
7. "What a Feeling" - Irene Cara
8. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" - Dirty Dancing
9. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin
10. "I won't Back Down" - Tom Petty


What songs would you include on the soundtrack of your life?



Friday, June 1, 2018

People Watcher, Feeling Analyzer

Sometimes I make a point to avidly observe everything around me. I note what people are wearing, the expressions on their faces, the cars they are driving. I give these strangers back stories and motivations. All in an attempt to understand humanity a bit better. There is much in life that doesn't make a lick of sense. I peer into the murky lake that is reality and create a world that does make sense. At least to me. For fiction is the lie that is often more truthful than the reality we perceive.

I love a novel that ends in happily-ever-after. No matter what sort of adversary the heroes face, the reader knows happiness is just around the corner. Honestly, a story without conflict would be rather boring. The characters need to bleed and cry. Suffering and obstacles and forks in the road make better stories. Conflict is relatable.

My characters and stories are significantly influenced by my life experiences. Writing is a tool I use to figure things out—solve problems, make decisions, discover hidden truths within myself. I'm terribly introverted. I don't even share my thoughts with myself. Instead, I depend on the words that flow from my fingers to interpret what is going on in my brain. A method more common, among writers, than you would think.

I consider the mind and the body as somewhat separate entities. Two parts that communicate, or not, with each other amidst the human experience. The absence of this communication is the starting point of many health issues. I am plagued by a mind-body disconnect where each part takes turns engaging in malfunction. Some retain their minds yet are imprisoned within their bodies while others lose their minds and not their physical function. And some lose both. Totally or fleetingly. I reside in such a prison. My mind is inflicted with an illness that freezes me under a menacing dark cloud for minutes or hours or days. Held in place without ability or desire to move. My body shuts down unexpectedly while my mind laments for the things I want to do and the places I want to go. I have searched unceasingly for the key to my prison. I feel like I could find it... if only I could write the answer. But my mind has failed me in that regard as well. I struggle to compose a short blog post. I lose my ability to think, concentrate, construct. I lose my desire to create. I sink into a deep despair. And, sometimes, it is all gone. Mind and body. And all I can do is cry or sleep. Until time eases my unceasing suffering.

Time, the most precious commodity, slips away before my eyes.

Friday, May 25, 2018

I Woke Up, Realized It Was Friday, And Groaned...

Who does that? Apparently me.

Before May began I knew it was going to be a busy month—and I mean busy—not productive or active or any other 'ive' word you can possibly imagine. Busy. A writing opportunity arose at the end of April. My last editing course—the final project—started on May 2. My youngest son turned eight. May 2-4 happened. I volunteered to scribe for the EQAO (which stands for Education Quality and Accountability Office) standardized testing for six consecutive mornings. I had doctor and dentist appointments. We carted the kids to swimming, tutoring, and soccer. Buddy needed his summer haircut. And all the regular life stuff.

I knew what May was going to be like. I knew. And yet, for all my planning prowess, I failed to schedule May's blog posts. So... This morning, I woke up, realized it was Friday—the day I post my (usually) weekly blog—and groaned. I missed May 11 because we had our son's birthday party on the 12th. I missed May 18th because of the Victoria Day long weekend. I didn't have an excuse at the ready for not posting today. So, here I am.

Everyone is busy. Life is busy. Sometimes, busy means productive—I dedicated a whole post to that in February—but sometimes busy just means getting through the day, putting one foot in front of the other, until what needs done gets done. My husband and I make a great team. Between the two of us, we cover the kids and the house. The kids help more too, usually with incentives.

It's the 25th, and we're almost through the month of May. I submitted my final editing project today—fingers crossed—and checked that item off my list. I have three more mornings of scribing, but no more appointments so ***fingers crossed again*** I'm hoping to finish my writing project—if my health, and life, cooperate.

Despite our best efforts, we constantly dodge the wrench in our plans. I think we run in 'Plan B' mode most of the time. I'm getting better at rolling with it. Maybe? Since 2012, my health has taken me on a rollercoaster ride of decline. In September 2014, I wrote a post on losing the war against stress. Years later, I am better at listening to my body, managing my condition, and carrying on, but I am still far from home free. I am trapped in a series of bad, and worse, days. Every day is different. I can't anticipate a symptom attack or how long it will last. My typical day is best described as 'random', and this has been my reality for five-and-a-half years.

Our plan is no plan. It's a 'do what you can' approach. No matter what I do, I suffer the consequences. Even having fun is hard because I know, without a doubt, I will pay the price for the next day or two or three. But life goes on, and so shall I.

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the 4th

I have a horrible May the 4th confession to make. I am a bigger fan of Star Trek than Star Wars... much to the chagrin of my boys, but the appeal and insight of the Star Wars story is undeniable.




Once upon a time becomes "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" and, after the introduction in bold yellow font scrolls off the screen, the adventure embarks. An epic and intricately woven adventure.

Re-watching the (entire) Star Wars series... including Episodes 4-6, then Episodes 1-3, then Episode 7, then Rogue One (my favorite, by far), then Episode 8... with my boys was an amazing experience. Their excitement became my excitement. When we play Star Wars, I'm always Padm√©. I hum the Darth Vader entrance music for dramatic effect. (In fact, I find that the movie soundtracks are actually quite impressive. The beautifully composed music interjects foreshadowing and helps set the mood, especially the very recognizable pieces like Princess Leia's Theme.) And, I have light sabre battles (until I, inevitably, get hurt for real).

So, I've come a long ways from the girl whose boyfriend made her watch the original 3 movies before seeing Episode 1 in the theatre. I'll see Solo later this month, but I'll take a pass when the boys decide to re-watch their favorites again and again.

This May the 4th, enjoy your favorite Star Wars flick, wear your favorite Star Wars tee, and tell everyone you see "May the force be with you."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dangerous Liaisons

How did I emerge unscathed?

In my pre-adult days... How many times did I put myself (unknowingly) into potentially dangerous situations. Unfortunately, more times than I care to remember. Except one particular incident came to mind this morning, and I’ve been trying to forget it ever since, quite unsuccessfully. When I was 14 going on 15, I became enamoured with an older guy, an 18 year old. Looking back, I wonder what in the world a, for all intents and purposes, man saw in a newly minted teenager, but it’s best not to overthink that.

It was 1995. The summer loomed before me, brimming with countless possibilities. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d be moving to a different town, several hours away, in the fall. I encountered him, “John” at a teenage dance. He asked me to dance to a slow song. I had a crush on him so I was thrilled. The next thing I knew, we were kissing in the middle of the dance door like there was no tomorrow. To my recollection, he was the second guy I’d ever really kissed so I totally fell into the inexperienced category. I wasn’t even sure if he was sober or knew exactly who I was. He may not have been sober, but he did know my name. I checked several times. That was good enough for me.

Throughout the summer, we’d meet around town and drive off to go make out in his truck. My friends told me he was bad news, but I didn’t care. I liked him. The river was a favorite spot to park. It had secluded going for it and a romantic atmosphere. My adult self screams, “what were you thinking parking with a guy, with probably only one thing on his mind, in such a secluded area?” to my 14 year old self. Young me was just over the moon to have this cool guy paying me any attention. Like I said, I was terribly innocent. And, to his credit, he didn’t really try anything with me. One night, he slipped his hand in my shorts, but the minute he reached the short and curlies, I pulled away in complete shock.

Then, I found out he was taking another girl parking on the same nights as me AFTER he brought me home. I confronted him and that was that. Except for one night, a few months later, when I had a moment of weakness, and we made out at a dance. He was a good kisser, and I really liked kissing.

If I hadn’t been such a prude set on protecting my virtue... oh the trouble I might’ve found in those days. Luckily, the few other dicey situations I landed in didn’t end badly either.

But it made me think about how my view of the world has changed since I was the innocent 14 year old. And, really, why kids take such risks with their lives. Lying down in the middle of the road to play chicken. Joyriding in the back of a pickup truck. Leaving the bar late at night to catch a cab alone. Not that I ever did any of those things.

Examining human nature becomes second nature to a writer. We’re always asking questions about what we observe around us. Why do people do the things they do? I postulate. And it doesn’t always make sense. Not by a long shot. But what would be the fun in that?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Not A Damsel in Distress

The Classic Disney Princesses

The classic Disney princesses played the role of damsel in distress, waiting for their princely true loves to rescue them from their individual predicaments. This role was representative of the times. Women had less autonomy, migrating from the control of their fathers (or guardians) to the protection of their husbands. Going your own way was never an option.


Elsa

Enter Elsa. Frozen was the first Disney film to broadly challenge the old stereotype. For the first time, the princess didn’t need rescued by a prince. Elsa represented the liberated woman, the mistress of her own destiny. She had the strength and ability to stand on her own. She even protected her sister Anna. There was no Prince Charming in Frozen.

Feminism is about choice. And having a choice is a true source of freedom. You can wait for your Prince Charming to rescue you or you can simply save yourself. Independence does not mean loneliness. You can have it all. You decide what “all” means to you.



I dream of true love and happily ever after, but that doesn’t make me a damsel in distress. I can stand alone, if I so choose, and I choose to be a part of something bigger than myself.

Cinderella

My favorite princess is Cinderella.

Cinderella is one of the best known folk tales with thousands of different versions and adaptions throughout the world. It's a story of unjust oppression and triumphant reward that resonates with people of all ages.

I love her story—the ultimate tale of rags-to-riches—and her gorgeous blue dress. Despite losing her parents and dealing with an evil stepmother and stepsisters, she remains optimistic about the future. Cinderella is intrinsically good. Her kindness is demonstrated in the manner she treats her cruel stepfamily and how much her animal friends love her. She has truly made the best of her circumstances.

In an apt example of karma, her fairy godmother grants her one magical evening. Cinderella doesn't beg for a fancier dress or a longer period of freedom. Content with one night, she knows her memories will sustain her through a lifetime of domestic drudgery. She meets the man of her dreams only to have the stoke of midnight tear them apart. And she returns to her position of servitude never expecting to see him again. Little does she know, there is nothing more powerful than true love, and her prince moves mountains to find her.

But the part of the story I love the most? They lived happily-ever-after.

Your happily ever after is whatever you decide it to be. Mine includes my real life true love and our two handsome princes.

Seize the day, and "Be the hero of your story."


Friday, April 13, 2018

Promo for What If...? Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1 by @abbeymacmunn



What if…?
Short Fantasy Stories: Volume 1
Abbey MacMunn
  

Genre: Short stories, paranormal romance, fantasy
Word count: 12,000

Blurb:
A magical short story collection from paranormal romance author Abbey MacMunn.
What would you do if you discovered you were a ghost, or a mermaid, or even an alien? Or perhaps vampires are more your thing?

First Bite: When vampire-obsessed waitress Madison meets her very own dark prince, is she ready to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Ghost: All Sarah wanted was a chance at a happy life, but as her husband lies dying on the hospital bed, can she confess her ghostly secret?

Song of the Sirens: Found alone on the beach as a child, Kai has always been drawn to the ocean, but can the appearance of a soaking-wet, naked Adonis offer the truth about what she is? 

Otherworldly Dreams: Art student Amy dreams of strange alien galaxies, but what if learning the truth takes her out of this world?

FREE bonus content: Chapter 1 of TOUCHED, a fantasy romance from Tirgearr Publishing.

Buy links:
Amazon universal link




ASIN: B079RJSPD6


Author bio:
Abbey MacMunn writes contemporary, paranormal and erotic romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and their four children. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.





Contact links:
Twitter  @abbeymacmunn