Monday, October 15, 2012

Daisy and Me

By Josi

I get asked a lot if my life is like that of my characters. For the most part, it isn’t, and that applies to Daisy. I did not get pregnant as a teenager, I have never been divorced, I’m not a snazzy dresser who gets my hair done regularly, I don’t have a career like she does, I didn’t take my kids to daycare, I’m not catholic, I have not left the faith of my youth, I have a good relationship with my parents, and I will not have any ‘surprise’ children—a hysterectomy guaranteed that. For the most part, Daisy and I are very different women. But there are some similarities.
I am blonde, I like to keep my hair long, I drive a red Prius, I have daughters, I am ambitious, and I have had my struggles with my role as a mother. I might go into more detail on that in another post, but in a nutshell I thought I would “enjoy” motherhood more than I do. I feel all squirmy inside to say that, because I don’t want it to reflect negatively on my children or call in to question whether I’m happy with my choices in regard to motherhood—my kids are great and I wouldn’t change my role for anything in the world. But motherhood is waaaaay harder than I expected to be, and not nearly as fun as I had hoped it would be. Daisy feels the same way, and though her journey as a mother has had much more angst and complexity than mine has, as I wrote her feelings about waiting for her role to be done, they were reflective of the same things I have felt at times over the last 20 years.
In the story, Daisy experiences a change and though hers is more forced than mine, I’ve experienced some similarities. For many years I have counted down for my kids to start leaving home. I once saw a sign that said “Dear kids, check out is at 18” and I wanted one of my own. I anticipated all this freedom and less things to worry about all my insecurities associated with my role as mother would go away. About five years ago my husband said “Do you realize that we only have 5 Christmases with Breanna at home.” We were lying in bed and I think my heart stopped for a second. It was the first of many times since that I felt this panic of “The end.” And my feelings toward motherhood shifted a little bit. It shifted some more when I ended up making some connections to my own withdrawal at times from my family—therapy can be a very eye-opening experience. For the last two years I’ve felt the time my daughter leaves creeping up on me and I have found myself wishing I could have a do-over. I’ve wondered how much I missed because I didn’t love it and was counting down for it to be over with. I’m not one to swim in regrets, my journey is my journey and I have learned much through my time at the University of Mom. But writing Daisy was a very personal journey for me. It’s a story of a woman who has worked hard and done everything she needed to do without looking back, without questioning herself, and then she gets thrown into the biggest question of all—can I be better than I’ve been?
Though my trials aren’t the same as Daisy’s, I know that everyone has those pinnacle moments of life when they find themselves reevaluating, questioning, wondering at what’s happened and where it might take them. They can be scary moments. Sometimes the answers are right there waiting for us, but more often than not we have to make changes and compromises and dig deep to get through those things. Sometimes we end up in a completely different place than we started at.
It’s my hope that Daisy’s story will reflect that process that all of us go through. It’s my hope that watching the other members of the book club help her and lift her up will reflect the need we all have for friends when we face our own demons. It’s my hope that even if you don’t agree with who Daisy is or what she chooses to do with her future, you will understand her and learn something from her. She taught me a whole lot.
My daughter started college in June, living on campus an hour from home. It’s been far harder than I expected it to be but I am attempting to learn everything I can from the experience and use it to be the mom I never thought I’d be. My role as Mom has taken on a lot of new dimension over the last little while and I'm anticipating even more of that in the future. Which is a good thing. People often say they learn a lot from their children, I have certainly learned a lot from raising them and I anticipate many more lessons ahead.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Four Musketeers

by Annette Lyon

Last month I talked about how the nature of our collaboration is one thing that made the Newport Ladies project work. I also mentioned in passing that the other thing was who my collaborators were.

This post answers that second part of the equation. It's adapted from a post that originally appeared on my personal blog June 2010, shortly after the concept of the Newport Ladies Book Club was born but before we began heavy work on it.

Four Musketeers

When I was a kid, friendship meant playing house, roaming the neighborhood, doing bake sales, being invited to one another's parties. When my best friend didn't invite me to a Christmas party, saying she was told to invite other friends, and then I saw them come caroling to my house? Yeah, it nearly killed that little nine-year-old in me.

As a high schooler, friendship was defined largely by who accepted me into their group. For the most part, that meant friends I hung out with on weekends. They're the ones I shared all of the high school drama with (of which there was much), the ones I always, always worried would nudge me out of the inner circle because they'd figure out that I wasn't cool enough and didn't belong.

During that time, I had an intense sense of loyalty and always supported my friends, whether it was in a performance, recital, birthday, or even for a competition in another city. (They were freakishly talented, so that was quite the commitment.) I gave and gave and gave. Then I got horribly confused when that kind of support was never reciprocated.

I remember a dress rehearsal in the school auditorium for a dance concert I was in. A couple of "best friends" were at the school at the exact same time, in the same wing of the school. They knew I was about to go on stage. I'd learned enough by this point to not expect them to come to the concert itself, but I was hurt when they didn't bother to even peek in the door to at least see the dress rehearsal of one number. They were right in the hall. All it would have taken was turning a door knob.

This kind of thing happened a lot. I'm a very slow learner. They meant well, and I'm sure they didn't realize their actions (or lack thereof) hurt. They probably had a better sense of what over commitment means than I did.

And yet.

Eventually, near the end of my senior year, there was some big seminary thing. I think there was a slide show or some such, and in the background was the classic Mormon pop song that goes, "Be that friend, be that kind, that you hope you might find. And you'll always have a best friend, come what may."

Yeah, right, I thought.

It was the first time I'd admitted to myself that no matter how hard you work on being a good friend, you can't control someone else. You can't make them be friends back in the way you'd want them to. The way, frankly, I needed them to.

So I sat in the back of the room and bawled, knowing that the lyrics were a load of garbage. I was the best friend I could possibly be, but I'd been kicked around over the years.

Much of the time, I didn't know if I had a group I belonged to, let alone a best friend. (People who knew me then would be surprised to hear all this, I'm sure. I hid the angst well.)

I left the room not knowing what friendship really meant.

Things only got worse when I was the second of our group to get married. There's been a lot of finger-pointing since about the period immediately following my wedding, but the upshot is that, for whatever reason, I was clearly no longer part of that circle. There was a big disconnect between me and them until the others married and had kids. That's when we finally had common ground again (we could share potty-training war stories).

However, I had one friend who remained single. She never stopped talking to me just because I had a ring on my left finger. I don't recall her ever acting weird after the wedding or after I became a mom. She never changed. She was my tender mercy (and was in high school more than once, and has been a several times since).

The next deep friend connection I had was several years later. I served in a Young Women presidency where I bonded with the other presidency members in a remarkable way. After our release, we stayed close. But when the former president was moving away and I said good-bye, I walked home hyperventilating with wracking sobs. I knew that such a friendship was rare and priceless, and that as much as we cared about each another, we'd never have the same relationship after she left the state. We don't.

I've had other dear friendships, many that span years. Today, my critique group is made up of people I consider some of my dearest friends, including that rare occurrence, the male friend. I am lucky enough to have two of them, and they're both like awesome extra brothers. I have another friend  I've been close to since we lived next door as newlyweds.

For me, the definitions of friendship have continued to undergo many iterations over the years.

My current view includes all of this and more:
  • A true friend might not be a buddy who has known you most of your life.
  • Someone who is nice 95% of the time but manages to twist a knife say, annually, is not a friend.
  • You can live in the same area for years but never truly be friends with neighbors, even if everyone is friendly and gets along. (Friendly does not equate friendship.)
  • You must earn the label of friend.
  • If someone who uses that label is really a friend of convenience, he or she might stab you in the back or climb over you to get what they want.
  • I tend to be way too real for a lot of people, which has caused me no end of trouble, and has likely lost me some shallower friends. True friends like me, warts and all. (I have lots of warts.)
  • I have a  difficult time making friends, largely because I'm shy but don't look like it. I've been called "stuck-up" many painful times. The reality is that I don't ever feel superior to someone; I almost always feel inferior and unable to introduce myself or open up. 
  • The most surprising element of friendship of late: I can love (and be loved in return) by women I've never met, thanks to blogging. (You know who you all are. You truly enrich my life. I've had the joy of meeting some of these friends in person recently. A joy.)
The point of all this (I swear, there is one):

I am more and more grateful for three special women who are true friends. We've known one another a varying number of years, but less then a decade in every case. We're separated geographically (we're all in the same state, but in some cases, hours away from one another). Each one has walked a different path with me, shared things unique to them and our friendships.

Yet the four of us as a group are close in a way that almost defies logic.

These women lift me. They encourage me. If I'm having an off day, they don't get offended. Instead, they come to see what they can do to help. They offer support and love and understanding. Often, as a group.

They're never more than a phone call or an e-mail (or a text or a tweet) away. They provide listening ears. They give needed hugs. They make me smile and laugh. And because we're all in the same "weird" industry, they understand me, the way I think, and my feelings, in a way few can. Sometimes, just hanging out and laughing together is enough to lighten my load, because of who they are and what they represent:

True Friends.

Because the truth is, they know me (frighteningly well), and that means they're starkly aware of all those warts that often turn others away.

But they love me anyway.

Of late, I've found myself regularly saying prayers of gratitude for Josi, Julie, and Heather.

I love you guys. Thank you for who you are, what you represent, what you've been to me, what you continue to give me, and for what you put up with. I really don't know what I'd do without you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pictures from ATHENA Book Launch!

What a great night. We had the ATHENA launch at the Fort Union Deseret Book, which is the bookstore that has hosted all of the Newport Ladies Book Club launches. Josi wasn't able to come since she had booked a trip to see the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. (If you've read her mystery novel Tres Leches Cupcakes, you'll know the connection.)

Here are the pictures!

 We all signed a collection of books (Josi did beforehand), and 3 sets were given away as prizes.

Because the Fort Union store agreed to let us have the launch on Oct 6, which is their semi-annual Ladies Night, the publisher had to send the book to press a month early. Copies are only available at this store until the official release month of November.

Our official launch picture--everyone holding ATHENA! (Heather, Julie, Annette)

Now we are holding the entire set! And just FYI, this first set of 4 covers the first 4 months of book club for Olivia, Daisy, Paige & Athena. The next set of 4 will cover the next 4 months and will contain Ilana, Ruby, Shannon & Victoria's stories.

 It was great talking to readers. This is Diony George's mom visiting from Alaska.

I think people who love books are always drawn to each other.

Not sure how I feel about this one. My girls stopped to visit (Rose on left, Dana on right, who I dedicated ATHENA to) . . . but then Julie sneaked in and posed behind us.

Author Lisa Mangum was there for Ladies Night as well, signing her new YA love story, AFTER HELLO. (Annette, Julie, Heather, Lisa)

Notice the tin of baklava on the table (from my mom). In ATHENA, her mom is a great cook and one of Athena's favorite desserts is her mom's baklava. Recipe is at the back of the book.

And finally, photographer Heather Gardner took this lovely picture. She has come to our launches and several of my other book signings.

It was a great night and we're grateful for everyone's support and enthusiasm for this series! It wouldn't be successful without our readers!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Winner of ATHENA Launch Contest!

Thanks to all who helped spread the word about the ATHENA launch (which is today, Saturday, 6-8 p.m. at the Fort Union Deseret Book).

Since I dedicated ATHENA to my daughter, Dana, I let her draw the name!

I laughed when I saw that it was Rachel Williamson DeVaughn, because she did technically have the most entries, so I guess the odds really were in her favor.

Congrats Rachel!