An Introvert Walks Into A Book Signing–My Year-End Wrap-Up

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Scary Author Appearance (trying to look calm)

A year has now passed since my husband and I moved from our relatively quiet suburban neighborhood to a narrow canyon populated by herds of coyotes and packs of wild burros. (The coyotes tend to get going about 2 am every night when they yowl and howl in unison. Whey they get too loud, the burros bray at them to shut up. It’s charming.) We’re just a few minutes from the freeway, but it’s a different world here, with moments of unexpected beauty. Two afternoons in a row, at approximately 1:20 pm, we caught a roadrunner pecking around our Asian pear tree for fig beetles. Then there was the night we listened to three Great Horned Owls hooting to each other from across the canyon. (That gave me goosebumps.) The largest alligator lizard I’ve ever seen slithered through our shrubbery one cool spring day. She was so long, I couldn’t capture her entire length on my phone’s camera, but I’d estimate her at thirteen inches from tip to tail. As I said, it’s different here. Our not-brave-at-all Border Collie Echo continues to ignore the wildlife, instead focusing her attention on me.

This past year also saw my mother-in-law coming to live with us–a move fraught with daily perils. Steve and I do the dance of being fully-grown adults in this situation where MIL instructs us on how to, basically, do life. We get helpful comments like, “You’ll need a jacket.” Or “You’ll want to put the mayonnaise on the bread first to coat it.” Endearing stuff like that. But we realize that she can’t help herself; she’s been a mom for much longer than I have. Her behavior is embedded within her at the deepest cellular level. She will never stop being a mother, and we will always be “the kids.”

Our son is away for his second year of college, so we worry about him from afar. He’s determined to save the world. (I’d say he has his work cut our for him.)

I still report depositions, but the majority are done over the phone, so I can wear my fuzzy slippers, pajama bottoms, and slouch my way through the proceedings, if I want to. (Isn’t this the way all business should be conducted?)

In author news, I’ve been busy, and I’ve done several things that have taken me out of my comfort zone, like:

1. An author appearance where I was invited to talk about my books, writing, and the publishing process to an assembled group. (Scary.) (See above picture.)

2. A live podcast with the subject matter: “When You Receive a Breast Cancer Diagnosis” for eCareDiary. (The “live” part was terrifying, but it went pretty well. I think. Listen for yourself, if you like.)

3. A radio interview with a CBS affiliate out of New York to discuss my memoirs Let Me Get This Off My Chest for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Again, terrifying, but I managed.)

4. A new book release in October, My Friends Are All Strange, the companion book to my YA novel Normalish.

5. A live author Skype chat with a creative writing group in Tennessee to talk about My Friends Are All Strange (after the members had a chance to read it). That was a lot of fun–after we worked out the technical glitches. (There are always glitches.)

6. I was part of a breast cancer survivor’s calendar, so I can now add “calendar girl” to my list of unexpected life happenings. The photo shoot took place back in August, and it ended up being a powerful, life-affirming experience. (It’s funny when I think of how this group of mostly strangers ended up topless in such a ridiculously short amount of time–and not everyone was drinking!)

7. And to begin the new year, I’ve just agreed to a book signing for the end of January for a local breast cancer nonprofit group, The Care Project, Inc. (Just long enough away so I can give myself plenty of time to stress over it.)

I’m going to try to keep pushing myself to do things outside of my comfort zone by remembering that:

Life is short

We need adventures

-and-

We never know what the positive consequence/outcome of our actions will be.

I wish you a new year filled with good health, good news, kindness, compassion, and, above all, love. Peace be with you, my friends.

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Empty Nest (part 2) + That Hobo Feeling

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Six months later, it’s Parents’ Weekend at my son’s university. I’ve traveled using public transportation–bus, train, shuttle, then Uber. My driver isn’t familiar with the large campus, so I have him drop me off at an information booth only to find that the parent check-in is still a long walk up the street. (Did I mention it’s a large campus?) So here I am with my son’s well-used high school backpack on my back, jeans, hiking boots, and an old wheeled carry-on bag that has seen better days. I learn quickly that the bag’s wheels make a very loud click-clacking noise over the cobbled walkways. As I walk against the tide of parents who’ve already checked in, my case screaks out. I feel so many eyes staring (something the introvert in me despises). The eyes are of parents who are well put together. They look like money. Perfect hair, jewelry, expensive clothing and shoes. My boy is here on scholarship, and I’m having an “I’m out of my element” moment. Half of me sees the situation as ridiculously funny; the other half of me is mortified. I try to give myself a quick pep talk. “Why do you CARE what these strangers think of you?” I alternate between picking up my case and carrying it for a few feet, then wheeling it a little because my arm grows tired. I feel like such a hobo.

My boy is thriving in his element though. He and his roommate, another goofy kid who, notably, has a large collection of rubber ducks, hit it off instantly when they met back in September. They’re two peas in a silly pod, and when I check out their dorm, I see that they’ve plastered Wanted posters of their friend Erik, accusing him of stealing a fictional boat, all over their residence hall. Their dorm room door is well decorated with random humorous observations and art. His girlfriend is thoughtful and sweet, and I have to remind myself not to giggle when I see how cute they are together. He sleeps and eats, he assures me, and has even found a “reasonably priced” black bean burger with sweet potato fries and drink combination for the late nights when his residence hall is closed for dinner. He has adopted a vegetarian diet.

I still worry about his health–he’s gotten sick twice, both times when he’s come home for holiday breaks. My sister-in-law assures me that this is his time when he can afford to let down and be sick. My mother and mother-in-law both confirm that a mother never stops worrying. Fathers either. I find some… comfort in this? (Maybe?)

I’ve read the words of many other empty nesters, and the things I wrestle with now are similar, such as the realization that the day-to-day part of raising my son has come to an end. In all likelihood, he won’t be living under the same roof again, other than a few weeks between his summer internship’s end and the start of school. The hard thing for me now at this point is figuring out what and where to focus my energies now that these concentrated eighteen years have come to a close. I lie in bed now, not worrying about him so much, but I worry about my own future. I assess and reassess my next move.

The leap of faith the three of us took six months ago has paid off. He is developing into a young man of substance. I just hope that I can continue to develop and grow in a way that he can be proud of.