Sexual Assault Does Not Negate Happy-Ever-After

As many of you know by now, sex positive discussions is intensely important to me. So many people have their sexual growth and understanding inhibited due to upbringing, religion, and worse, traumatic sexual experiences. Being closed away from one’s sexuality due to whatever reason stifles and inhibits personal, emotional growth and well being and can destroy otherwise healthy personal relationships.

Recently, when I discovered my pal, Jessi Gage, had launched her first ever holiday book, I reached out and asked if I could help her pimp it. I was thrilled when she mentioned that there was a sensitive topic of a sexual nature she’d wanted to address and thought my blog would be the perfect forum. When she gave me the specifics, I was honored. This subject is near and dear to so many hearts. (Don’t believe me? Check out my other pal, Bridget Blackwood’s post.)

Take it away, Jessi! (And please, guys, as always….share your stories, thoughts, and/or experiences because we’d love to hear from you!)

sexual assault

Thank you, Kitt, for hosting me today. I’m a huge fan of you as a person and as a blogger. You are one of my favorite advocates for women’s sexuality. Your voice and the voices of August McLaughlin and Ande Lyons are desperately needed and greatly appreciated by many.

I thought your blog would be a good place to confess my insecurity over a recent first for me. I’ve got a new release out, Cole in My Stocking. It’s my first holiday romance, and it’s the first time I’ve tackled sexual assault in a book. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this.

In a romance, you want conflict and tension, yes, but you don’t want to disturb the readers, at least I don’t. That’s not my thing as a writer. I like to leave readers with a serious case of the warm-fuzzies. If people put down my book with a happy sigh, that’s my idea of success. So I wasn’t sure how to handle it when my heroine, Mandy, insisted she had survived a very traumatic situation in her past, a situation in which all her control was taken away: a sexual assault.

Fortunately, Mandy assured me her trauma was well past. It doesn’t appear on the pages of Cole in My Stocking other than as brief flashes of memory that still haunt her. But Mandy needed to spend time in this book working through issues that resulted from her assault. And Cole needed to be the man to help her do it.

See, Mandy has not been able to have a physical relationship with anyone since her assault. She has PTSD. As a counselor, she knows this about herself, but clinical knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to overcome the emotional scars of her past.

Fortunately for Mandy, Cole is up to the challenge of helping her tackle her physical and psychological issues. He does it by loving her, showing her he is trustworthy, and most of all, through his unwavering patience with her physical limitations.

To get this dynamic right (I hope I got it right!), I consulted my beautiful and generous sister-in-law, Kate, who has a counseling degree and has a heart for helping people. She helped me shape Mandy’s memories and reactions and encouraged me not to hold back when naming the horror that happened to her: rape.

Mandy’s story has a happy ending—of course, since I will never write anything that doesn’t end happily. But it might be a painful read for a woman who has experienced anything like what Mandy experienced. Then again, it might be helpful. Early reviews are indicating that Mandy’s journey is touching and realistic.

Excerpt from a 5-star review by Becca Moree of Breathless Ink:

Learning about what sweet Mandy has been through was tough. It was emotional, and for anyone that has been in a situation where their control, their power, their self worth has been stripped from them…just know that this book can be extremely difficult to read. Mandy’s reactions to what happened and how she handles intimacy after were very realistic. I’m not sure what Jessi Gage did to write this type of story in such a believable manner, but what I can say is that I appreciate the way she wrote this story. It means a lot to me that she managed to write a sweet love story (which I will talk about in a bit) while fitting in details that may help people who have never dealt with assault understand. I felt that it was written in a way that shed light on the way victims of assault think. The way they deal with what others see as a simple situation.

Reviews like this certainly help me feel less nervous about Mandy’s story. I’m so glad I wrote it and I hope lots of people find some holiday hope and cheer in it. I want to leave you with some words from Kate and some resources on sexual assault. Here’s Kate:

Sexual assault is an almost scientific term for a vomit-inducing nightmare. Alas, we are forced to contend with the term, so let’s be clear on its definition. According to the Justice Department’s website, sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient… forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

http://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault 

Recent government-funded studies have brought to light some shocking statistics about sexual assault and rape specifically:

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf  :

Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped.

Only 16% of all rapes are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv13.pdf

35% of all sexual assaults are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf

Teens aged 16-19 are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the general population.

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf : 90% of rape victims know their rapist.

50% of victims are raped by their intimate partner.

There are a ton of implications in these stats, but I’ll highlight just a couple. What strikes me most about these stats is that rape is so common. We encounter women who have survived sexual assault every day. Eighteen percent of US women have gone through this. You are friends with rape victims. You are family of rape victims. Let that sink in for a minute.

Next, most rape is being done by guys we know. That is actually a pretty scary statistic. Think about it. Women are more likely to get raped by a man they know than by that ominous lurking predator in black, looming in the dark behind that bush. And to top it off, rapes are underreported. In other words, the bad guy is getting off way more often than not.

Sexual assault clearly affects our culture and us personally more than we realize, because it is happening all the time. I encourage you to ask questions and have conversations. Educate yourself on why and how sexual assault is so prevalent in our society. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s not because men are uncontrollable animals.)

Learn about victim blaming:

rape culture

consent:

and ways you can help the women (and men) in your own life who need support after sexual assault.

Here are some resources for you or a loved one needing immediate help after sexual assault:

Resources:

National directory of rape crisis centers: via RAINN website or call 1-800-656-4673

Online sexual assault support group: AfterSilence

Advice for loved ones of assault victims: RAINN website support

Bandbacktogether Blog

Thank you for reading! Please forward this post at will since you never know who might need the resources Kate shares above.

Thanks again, Kitt, for having me! It’s always a pleasure to blog with you!

For more information about Cole in My Stocking and Jessi Gage’s other books, visit her at:

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

JessiGage_ColeInMyStocking_1400px

Cole Blurb and Buy Links

Mandy never planned to return to Newburgh, New Hampshire, the hometown that unfairly branded her a slut, but she has no choice. Her father has died, and she’ll be spending Christmas settling his affairs. She hopes to get in and out of town without attracting the looks of disgust that drove her away, but when a certain Oakley-wearing, Harley-riding cop starts hanging around, an old crush is revived and the rumor mill restarts with a vengeance.

Cole has always been attracted to Mandy, but he has never acted on it. Besides being sixteen years older than her, he was friends with her father. The rumors people in town spread about her were bad enough without an inappropriate relationship adding fuel to the fire. But when Mandy returns to Newburgh fully adult and looking more gorgeous than ever, he can’t keep his distance, especially when an old secret of her father’s surfaces and puts her in danger. He’ll stop at nothing to protect her, but convincing her to stay in Newburgh, with him, will take a Christmas miracle.

Reader Advisory: Contains references to a past sexual assault 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | All Romance | Goodreads

Highlight:

He cupped her chin and made her look at him, even if they couldn’t see each other in the dark. “What did he do after?”

“What do you mean?”

“When you freaked out. What did your boyfriend do after that?”

Tension straightened her shoulders. “What any decent guy would do. We stopped. He stopped. He was a perfect gentleman.”

He scoffed.

“What? He was. I was a total spaz and he was cool about it.”

“He was cool about it?”

“What? What’s that superior tone for?” She was getting angry. He loved that about her. She’d stood up to Tooley a few days ago. She was standing up to him now. If she didn’t like something, she let you know about it. Now that was a characteristic he could believe she’d gotten from Gripper.

“You said you freaked like always when things get to a certain point, that you always blow it. You think you blew it with that guy because a single attempt at second base went poorly. I meant what happened afterwards? Was there a conversation? A second attempt after you had some time to process what happened? A third?”

“What guy would want to try again after something like that?”

“This guy would.”

Jessi Gage

Jessi Gage

 

Jessi Gage bio:
Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, faeries…you name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she’s sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.

Super Hero or Happily Ever After?

I was on the phone with a gal pal of mine last week when plans for the weekend came up. Her boys were going to be camping with her husband, so she was planning mother/daughter time.

Her: My 12 year old daughter has her first celebrity crush.
Me: Awww!
Her: So let me ask you a question. If a 12 year old had a crush on an Avenger, who do you think it would be?
Me: Probably Captain America…or maybe Thor.
Her: Right! Captain America was All-American…clean cut. Thor…well, everyone has a crush on him these days. But not my daughter!
Me: Really? Who is it? I guess I could kind of see Hulk! Please tell me it’s not Ironman…he’s just a bit naughty for a 12 year old!
Her: Not my daughter. She has a crush on Hawkeye!
Me: Ok…I can see it. His a bit of a badass boyscout…but with a dark side.
Her: Yup! Jeremy Renner…most of his characters are that way. I guess she’s a lot more like her mother than I realized, LOL!
Me: (laughing) I guess so! I really loved him in his Bourne movie.
Her: Absolutely! So, since hubby and the boys are away this weekend, I’ve decided to indulge her crush and take her to see Hansel And Gretel…Of course, that indulges me, too.

Well, as it turned out, hubby and I took a very good friend to see that same movie to celebrate her birthday…. If you haven’t seen the trailers for this movie yet…let me give you a taste.

As I sat there watching previews before the movie started I couldn’t help but think back to my childhood. Growing up, I remembered being told fairy tales…just like most of you. The usually started with a Princess…had an Evil Witch (or maybe a Dragon) and had a happy ending! They were mostly sweet and light…kind of like the Disney movies.

But there was this other side…the Fairy Tales I read about. Yes, I was that girl who checked out Grimm’s Fairy Tales from the library when I was in 3rd grade. I was fascinated with how different many of those tales were from their Disney counterparts. They were darker…scarier…definitely not so saccharine sweet! And I LOVED them! In fact, I loved reading them as much as I thrilled reading Greek Mythology! It seemed more realistic somehow…even at that young age. It also fed my thirst for “other” worlds and adventures. It opened my mind up to possibility! I wouldn’t say I was cynical already…but I was well aware that the sugar of Disney tales…while cute and great for “little” kids…was just too “goody two shoes” to be within the realm of possible.

It seems that there Hollywood is finally starting to tell the darker, scarier versions of these stories, too! I first noticed it with Red Riding Hood (which I still need to see)…

That movie was followed by Snow White And The Huntsman…which I DID see…and enjoyed! Sadly, I’m not a huge Kristen Stewart fan, and this was the movie in which she had the “affair” with her director. She was actually pretty good in this movie…though, there’s no question that Chris Hemsworth definitely stole the show. I also really liked that Snow White ended with her Prince, and not The Huntsman…leaving him available for my fantasies. 🙂

While watching Hansel & Gretel (which, in my opinion….was good, not GREAT), they played a preview for Jack The Giant Slayer…an interpretation of the Jack In The Beanstalk story. It looked action packed…and awesome! It was also pretty cool seeing Obi Wan playing this kind of role…and yes, I’m well aware of the fact that he was played by Ewan McGregor…but I love the series enough to always associate him with that character. See for yourself…

Now my buddy WordSurfer can get all in depth as to the history and import of the darker fairy tales… And I’d agree. But most important to me is the fact that it’s pretty awesome to see some of my favorite stories from my youth being brought to life (albeit with all sorts of different Hollywood twists) in these action packed movies in the same way that all my favorite superheroes are! The fact that a couple of them are playing dual roles as superheroes/fairy tale heroes is just icing on my cake!

Don’t get me wrong…there’s room for those Disney princesses… I still enjoy those stories, too. But there’s nothing quite so thrilling to me as a bit of action packed nostalgia. So let me ask you…what kinds of books/stories/characters were you drawn to as a child? What do you think of this new Hollywood trend?

 

3 Years, Leather and 50 Shades

My husband and I have a quirky sense of fun. From prior blogs you know that on our second anniversary (cotton) he bought me a “gag” gift of cotton balls. By the way, I kept those cotton balls. They’re useful. So this year it was my turn to get quirky. How appropriately funny that as I’m delving back into writing (and I have romantic and erotic tendencies in my writing) our 3rd anniversary lands on leather.

First thought that came to my mind? Buy him a leather cock ring. Adjustable, of course. Great gag gift…and who knows…could even be fun! Hey, we’re married and can play that way. Now most of the time if I were looking to buy a toy I may go online or host a pleasure party. Less awkwardness and embarrassment for women this way. But this was a last minute, spur of the moment “gag” gift idea.

So here’s the thing about Florida…and those of you who live here can attest. I have never seen so many strip clubs, adult book stores (aka porn shops) or bail bonds places as I did when I moved here. In Chicago there was a Starbucks on practically every corner. Around here, it’s these kinds of places. In fact, once I moved here I was helping a friend search for a job. It was in Florida that I saw “dead beats need not apply” for the first time in a want ad. (I know, I know. And I’m still here, right?)

Being female, I’ve found it’s less awkward if you bring a male friend with you to an adult book store, so I called up a buddy and he came with me.

The guy working the desk was the typical perv you’d expect to see at one of these establishments. He was large, with a rotund belly, stained shirt, balding and with one of those big hooking piercings through the center portion of his nose. Not exactly someone I’d be asking for sex toy advice from unless I wanted to take 10 showers after. Then again, he fit his environment. The place was dark and seedy looking. Nothing about the place said classy or inviting.

When we walked in he ignored us, allowing us to shop. Their selection in leather products was extremely limited. They did, however, seem to have a large quantity of blow up dolls or body parts that claimed to be replicas of porn stars. No big deal. I was kind of relieved. He didn’t even check for ID.

Not thrilled with my search, I was about to head out when I saw two women walk in. They were giggling together and talking. He stopped to say hello to them. He asked what they were looking for. I was surprised! This was the first sign from him that he knew what customer service was! I almost felt sorry for the women. The one lady admitted that she was buying her friend a toy as a gift for her birthday. He asked if she’d read 50 Shades Of Grey. He then proceeded to tell them that they had a special promo where if you bought all 3 books from the series you got 50% off a paddle.

When they mentioned that it wasn’t what they were looking for and that they’d already read the book he proceeded to get inappropriate. “Come on,” he cajoled, “You know you want to get spanked. It’s every woman’s fantasy! I’ll even help you pick it out.”

Ok, he’d just stepped past the creepy line to obnoxious. That poor young woman was disgusted and embarassed. It was written all over her face. She would never be stopping there again. Fortunately, her friend was much older and put the guy in his place. Irritated, I took this as my cue to leave…before I said something equally offensive to this guy.

As my friend and I started to walk for the door, he finally spoke to us. “Not buying anything today?”

My mouth tightened over what I wanted to say. I opted for a very safe, “Nope.” and continued to head for the door.

“What were you looking for?” he asked, suddenly persistent.

I rolled my eyes at my friend as I pushed the door open, “Nothing you have here.”

It finally occurred to me. He hadn’t spoken to me or anyone else in there initially because we’d come in with guys. The two women came in sans men…that was why he’d harrassed them. Well, on to the next adult shop we went.

This one had a woman working the desk. She greeted us the moment we walked through the door despite the fact that she was on the phone. The place was brighter and less seedy looking. In fact, despite the fact that the windows were blocked out to protect the privacy of the shoppers, it was decorated like a nice little boutique.

Immediately I noticed they had a better leather selection. They several different leather floggers, different crops, leather collars along with the cock rings. One of the little paddles even had naughty carved into it. 😉 This place seemed more fun!

The lady on the phone got off her call as quickly as possible and stepped around the counter. “What can I help you find today?” she asked in a friendly voice.

I explained that it was our leather anniversary and I was trying to find a fun gag gift. She immediately got into the spirit of the search. She thought it was great that we played these games. When I commented about how she had a lot of leather, she said she was actually running low. In fact, she said that due to 50 Shades Of Grey the floggers and paddles were selling like hotcakes. We laughed.

I mentioned that the guy at the store down the street had been trying to peddle the stuff to his last customers and that he’d mentioned some sort of bundle promo.

“Well,” she said, “he probably overbought on the books after he heard about how popular they were and now he can’t get them sold.”

I nodded.

Cocking her head to the side she asked me, “Did you read the books?”

I shrugged. “Nope. By choice. Especially after several of my friends told me about it.”

She raised an eyebrow, curious. “Why not?”

“I have issues with the message the book sends,” I answered. “Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with BDSM. I love authors like Cherise Sinclair and Joey W Hill. They are very good about getting the Safe, Sane and Consentual vibe across while maintaining a strong story with Alpha males and strong, vibrant females.”

She nodded. “Yeah. When all the hoopla started about 50 Shades I was curious and decided to check them out. I bought 2 copies of each book. One was supposed to be for me. The second was for sale. I took it on vacation with me and read it on my flight. I didn’t like the message either.”

I laughed. “You mean the one where the guy loses control, spanks his girl and …voila! Kink?”

Nodding, she said, “Exactly. And that girl was a wuss! A pushover. They don’t have any concept of what true BDSM is about. And with all these people out there suddenly exploring this stuff I should be happy. Instead I’m concerned. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand that this could get dangerous. Worse, they don’t know about safe words. It was never mentioned in the book.”

I shuddered. “I knew about the whole girl had only been kissed twice till her experience with Grey. And that she had 5 orgasms during her first time.” You could hear the scoffing disdain in my voice loud and clear. “And that he managed to give her those orgasms with no oral sex.” Yeah…we both snickered at that one. “But I hadn’t realized that safe words were never even discussed. I did know about the losing control bit. I wasn’t ok with that, either. A Dom MUST be in control. How else can he take care of you?”

She nodded. “Exactly. I own 3 adult shops. I’ve participated in some of the BDSM shows and events up in Tampa. Believe me. It’s not a game. It’s hot as hell…the real deal, but done incorrectly it can be downright scary. I keep encouraging these 50 Shades experimenters to try their hand at light bondage and blindfolding first before they go for the paddles and whips. Especially since they usually get the cheap stuff. It’s safer. And this way they can figure out what they like with minimal danger.”

The funny thing was, she’d already grabbed the adjustable cock ring I’d been looking at and walked me to the counter while we had this discussion. She was a fantastic sales person. I really liked her. She wasn’t in it strictly for the bottom line. She cared about her customers and her safety. I knew I’d be recommending friends to visit her store….especially my female ones.

And then, as only an aspiring writer can, I networked…LOL! I explained to her that I was working on writing, and someday down the line I may need her expertise. I asked if she’d mind if I stopped in and picked her brain sometime. She laughed and welcomed me with open arms. She’s usually in that particular store on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So now, if I have questions on sex toys, BDSM or other areas, I have a fun source of info!

Oh, the things I do to hone my knowledge of this craft… Such a hardship! LOL!

My Anniversary

“This sacred vow I make to you

Does not contain an ‘if’

Though I’m aware that trials lie ahead.

I will love you and pray with you

And through it all, I will stay with you

Our home will be a refuge of

Unconditional love.”

verse of Cherish The Treasure

Sung by:  Steve Green

This song was sung by my sister and a friend at my wedding three years ago tomorrow.  On that day I vowed to love, honor and cherish my best friend.  This man is the most loving and patient man I know.  Personal fears and family scars from my parents had me afraid to take the leap for so long.  But, like I said, he’s my best friend and he’s patient.  He was willing to spend 16 years reassuring me that he wasn’t going anywhere.  He knew what he wanted the moment he saw me and he brought me around to his way of thinking.  For that, I’ll always feel blessed and grateful.

I still remember the first time I heard this song.  I was sixteen years old.  I had been asked to sing at a family friend’s wedding along with another guy from our church.  I remember hearing the words and thinking that they would make pretty awesome wedding vows.  Back then I had a romantic streak a mile wide (some would say it’s still there, just below the surface) and I hoped that the man I fell in love with would be vocally gifted.  Why?  Because I thought it would be so romantic and cool if we sang our vows to each other.  That didn’t happy, but I got the best guy in the world instead.  I think it’s a fair trade.

Practically every little girl I ever knew planned what their wedding day would be like.  When you thought of your wedding day, what did you see?  Did music play a part?  If you’re married now, was reality anything like the dream?

Now, as for anniversaries…there are themes to these things.  Did you know that?  The first anniversary gift is supposed to be paper.  Which was fine with us!  We were still recovering from paying for our wedding, so we decided cards was it.

Second anniversary is cotton.  Waiting for me before we headed out to dinner with my sister and brother in law that night was a beautiful gift bag with streamers and colored tissue and balloons.  And inside?  A bag of cotton balls!  LOL!  Yes, my husband is that awesome!  I cracked up.  When we got back from our dinner, my real gift was waiting for me.  Vera Bradley purse, lunch bag and all sorts of little knick knacks.  What did I get for him?  Well, he’s a big Ed Hardy fan…so I got him a couple of Ed Hardy boxers.  😉

Tomorrow is our third anniversary.  Well, that means it’s our leather anniversary.  Fun, right?  A little on the kinky side?  If you were me, what would YOU get him?  I’ve already got his gifts…(and yes, one is kinky…care to guess?)

Anyway, that also means tomorrow night I won’t be posting a new blog.  I’ll be spending my time with my honey.  I’ll still be getting your comments during the day and on my smart phone, but…  Tomorrow is for my man and me, so my responses probably won’t come till Friday, either.

Enjoy your night…  I know I will!

Finding Your Forever

Tonight I was rehearsing.  In a few weeks I will be singing at a friend’s wedding.  I was so honored that she asked me to partake in her celebration.  There is nothing quite so sweet as witnessing two people joining their lives together.  Merging not only their hearts, but their families, their traditions and their values.

Every little girl has a list.  This little fairy tale of who her Prince (or Princess) Charming is going to be.  Usually it includes things like:  handsome, rich, funny, pretty eyes, great body…  And the list goes on and on.  As we get older, we add to that list.  And we hope and dream and pray that we meet that man.  For me, it’s like Garth Brooks said, “Sometimes I Thank God For Unanswered Prayers”.

My friend is a tough woman.  She is used to going it alone.  She’s been raising her children and enjoying her life.  So when she met her man, she wasn’t ready to rush into anything.  But then something quite wonderful to watch began to happen to her.  She’s always been fiery, sometimes to the point of hot headedness.  She’d be the first to tell you this, so I’m not talking out of school.  But suddenly she just seemed more content.  Happier.  More centered.  Her smiles weren’t just surface movements anymore, but came from somewhere deeper inside her.  You could tell.  She just glowed.

And the thing is, this guy didn’t try to change her.  He didn’t want to.  He simply accepted her for who she was.  The results were awesome!  She was more comfortable in her own skin.  She began to change herself, though I don’t think she realized it.  She felt comfortable and safe.  She trusted him.  For the first time that I remembered, she truly began to share who she was at her core with a man.  She didn’t worry about whether or not it would work out.  She was willing to try.  To grab her happiness by the horns and hang on to it.

In a world of casual relationships and easy outs, it’s refreshing to watch two people still willing to take that plunge and commit themselves to each other.  “Your Love” by Jim Brickman and Michelle Wright will be the song I sing for them on that day.  I truly wish them all the love and happiness I’ve found in the man who didn’t quite fit my fairy tale list…but brought a list of his own of characteristics I never listed but always needed.  I wish for them the love, acceptance, friendship and trust that matter so much more than those little superficial things.

I consider it icing on the cake that my man is also good looking and can cook!  I’d love to hear from you guys…  When you think love and commitment, what do you think of?  What were your childhood fantasies of that person?  Are you still searching?  Or if you’ve found your Mr/Ms Right, did it match what you dreamed of?  Share!

Solitude

Sometimes, there’s beauty in loneliness.  In the stillness you have the chance…to reflect, to observe, to appreciate.  I took this picture a few years ago.  The solitary tree standing strong and proud, alone.  The beauty in the stoicism spoke to me.

That lone tree on an island.  What has it seen?  What has it survived?  How does it have the flexibility to bend and not break?  When the storms came through and that beautiful water became choppy and rough, crashing against it’s base, it stood patiently.  It soaked up the water, feeding itself, growing deeper, stronger roots.  And when those tempests calmed, it stood firm, appreciating the beauty, continuing to grow.

And what about us?  How do we look at the challenges life throws our way?  Do we stand firm?  Do we appreciate the challenges knowing in the end we’ll be better?  Stronger?  Do we patiently wait out the storms life throws our way?  Do we appreciate the solitude, realizing that without it we probably won’t recognize the values of friendships made, of bonds built?  Do we love fearlessly?  Or do we just let life break us?

We always have choices, you know…  In how we choose to approach each day.  In how we respond to trials.  In what attitude we chose when taking on the world.  There are too many victims out there.  People who let life walk all over them.  People who are comfortable wallowing in self pity and dispair.  People who have chosen not to pick themselves up and wipe themselves off.

Then there are these amazing, heroic people you meet or hear about.  I know a guy from Haiti.  He works three jobs tirelessly.  He has a ready smile for every person he comes across.  He’s thrilled to be alive.  And if you were to talk to him, to hear his life before he came to the states, you would probably cry.  He’d tell you about being impoverished and orphaned at an early age.  He’d tell you about watching a younger sibling die, unable to afford medical care and unable to find any other way to assist him.  He’d tell you about loading himself onto a little, rickety boat, unsure if he was going to ever make it here.  Unsure of what would happen if he did.  And then he’d tell you the joy of citizenship and freedom and the opportunity to create a life for himself and send money home to his remaining family members.

Some people look at him and wonder how he can smile with everything he’s experienced.  He wonders how he ever became so lucky!

Yep, in solitude you find your challenges, you make your choices.  Most importantly, you decide on the person you will become.  It’s all about the choices.

Happily Ever After?

One of my all time favorite tv couples has always been Brian and Justin on “Queer As Folk”. I remember checking the show out on a whim, then deliberately. In fact, when my boyfriend was ready to cancel premium channels back then, I told him that it was ok as long as we kept Showtime. I didn’t care about anything else. In fact, I didn’t even care about anything else on Showtime!

What made them so compelling? Well, besides the obvious hottie appeal, Brian Kinney was the quintessential bad boy. Apparently Justin Taylor and I had similar tastes in men. Brian was the successful, much older, wilder man. Justin was the younger, wiser boy. He saw through Brian’s facade to the sensitive, damaged person that even most of his friends didn’t know existed.

And Brian? He couldn’t resist Justin’s sweetness, his wisdom, his stubbornness, not to mention his unwillingness to give up on him. And over the years Brian gave Justin reasons. Deep down, I don’t think he felt good enough or deserving enough of Justin’s pure love. But Brian loved him, unselfishly and without reservation. His love for Justin was the purest, best part of Brian’s heart…and you saw it reflected in his eyes every time he looked at him.

And then there were the sex scenes! These guys burned up my tv screen when they’d burn up the sheets. Who could forget the scene when Brian caught up with Justin in New York after they’d fought and Justin had run away, taking Brian’s credit cards with him.

But there were also the sweet ones. I still find their dance at Justin’s prom to be one of the sweetest, most romantic scenes to grace a tv screen. To end Season 1 in that kind of violence after such sweetness? It blew my mind…and brought home the sad reality of gay bashing. Prior to that point, I don’t think I would’ve fully understood. Let’s face it! I’m a straight woman…and up till a couple years after that, I didn’t even know I had any gay friends.

Sitting at home last night, putting down a scene on paper that had been tugging at my brain had brought the song “Save The Last Dance For Me” to my head. Of course, since that was the song they’d danced to at prom, I remembered my favorite “Super Couple”. (Music does that to me) I started YouTubing Brian and Justin…and found this clip. It definitely showed their ups and downs, but it really showcased the love.

Now “Queer As Folk” has been off the air for years, but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about these guys. In the last episode, we saw Justin headed to New York to chase his dream as an artist as Brian stayed behind. Their wedding was cancelled. But when I think back to these guys, I have a hard time thinking that was the end of their story together.

In my mind, I see them finding their way back to each other and living happily ever after. I feel like there are just some couples who are meant to stand the test of time, regardless of how their tv shows end. Do YOU have a couple who does that for you? Who captured your heart and your imagination? Who still makes you wonder where they are now?

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be tempted to write my image of how their story really ended.

Of course, fan fic being what it is, there’s a good chance someone already has! (Not that it will stop me)

That Thing You Do!

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Here is a quote from Liv Tyler’s character from “That Thing You Do!”

Faye: I have wasted thousands and thousands of kisses on you – kisses that I thought were special because of your lips and your smile and all your color and life. I used to think that was the real you, when you smiled. But now I know you don’t mean any of it. You just save it for all your songs. Shame on me for kissing you with my eyes closed so tight.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone and you’ve felt small and unimportant and under appreciated, you get the heart of this movie quote.

What feels like eons ago I watched “That Thing You Do!”. I had the preconceived notion that it was all about a band in the ’50’s who got discovered and made a one hit wonder. As music is a passion of me only surpassed by writing, I knew I had to check it out. And I was right. The story WAS about this sad tale of One Hit Wonders. But it was so much more. This was a love story.

The main character, played by Thomas Everett Scott, is a guy named Guy Patterson. But the character who stole the show for me was Faye. She was supportive and caring. She listened to her lead singer boyfriend Jimmy’s hopes and dreams. She was the muse for the songs he wrote. She unselfishly dropped her whole life to follow him on the road to support his dreams and that of the band’s. Guy, the drummer, watched all this happen and became her best friend.

She did everything right, but in the end it wasn’t enough. Despite the fact that Jimmy was the most important thing to her, she wasn’t valued the same way. That realization hurt…and her quote said it all.

Why did I share this quote? Because it happens all the time! We make wrong choices. We fall in love with people who don’t appreciate us. We lose ourselves and our identities in something or someone, then realize it’s all for nothing. It hurts. But recognizing it? Addressing it then finding a way to move on? That’s the beauty and resiliency of the human heart! It’s also the way to finding that happy ending…if only you have the courage to reach out and grab it.

As Guy watched Faye, he saw a gem in the woman his bonehead of a lead singer was willing to throw away. And Faye got her happily ever after with a man who would always value her.

Guy Patterson: When was the last time you were decently kissed? I mean, truly, truly, good and kissed?

And then he kissed her.