Molly Harper

Trust, But Verified


I just finished The Accidental Sire, the latest in Molly Harper’s Half Moon Hollow series. In this installment, Meagan is a coed at the University of Kentucky when she is mortally wounded and subsequently turned into a vampire. Not her best day. And it gets worse. Meagan, in turn, accidentally turns her date, Ben, into a vampire like herself—a suped-up vampire special. As Meagan and Ben navigate the treacherous waters as newly risen vamps under the care and supervision of the Vampire Council, Meagan learns to trust herself, and, as a result, others.  Trust is a huge leitmotif in the romance genre generally and especially in paranormal romance; writing about vampires, werewolves and witches, allows authors to take their themes to extremes. Where else but in the paranormal universe could an orphan wake up, after an unfortunate incident involving ultimate frisbee played with a 45-pound weight, as a genetically modified vampire?  Nowhere, that's where. And when said orphan is farmed out to the local vampire council rep for observation and potential rehabilitation, such an orphan might have outsized trust issues. Ya think?

I know all about trust issues. I was raised, as you've heard before, by a narcissistic mother and a benignly neglectful father. I couldn't and didn't trust the people in the world on whom I was supposed to imprint. As a result, I didn't trust anyone, least of all myself. If, as children, we don't learn to trust our parents, when we reach adolescence and begin to individuate, we find we have no inkling of what it means to trust ourselves. This plays out in many unfortunate ways. 

Meagan shows us what it means not to trust ourselves and it's not pretty. We don't think we can do much of anything well. We don't believe we deserve a place at the table, or around the Christmas tree, or in other people's perfect lives, because we're sure everyone else is better and more worthy than we areOthers rate more love, devotion, loyalty and trust because they are inherently superior to our lowly selves. And this is a tape that plays on an endless, self-perpetuating loop. 

Meagan has new friends she loves and trusts, but her recent status as a vampire disrupts those budding relationships. She has no family and no roots. She accepts, with a minimum of protest, that she had to leave her dorm and college life to live in some backwoods part of Kentucky while someone decided whether and when she could return to a life of her own choosing (and it's true that she was threatened with living out her almost immortal life in the black cells of the vampire council, so she didn't have a lot of options, but still...). 

When we don't trust ourselves, we are reluctant to try new things. After all, we will likely fail, so what's the point? We accept defeat as our due, and rarely protest unfair or underhanded treatment. A failure to trust results in attachment disorder—an inability to cleave to people, ideas, or institutions. Why bother?  We won't be here long, just until "they" figure out we don't belong, or that we're a fraud, or that someone made a mistake letting us in to begin with. 

And this tragic cycle of distrust, self-sabotage and predictable betrayal continues until we see the error of our thinking (usually with the help of a good therapist), or someone forces us to examine our assumptions—usually by refusing to abandon us even when we tell them it's in their best interests. 

I spent years telling my husband he could do better. And he spent years telling me he had the best and to shut the fuck up. I urged him to rotate his stock. He informed me that farming wasn't his jam. I planned to leave him before he could leave me. He made it too hard to leave by being too wonderful —mostlyBut it took me an inordinate amount of time to trust him and trust the relationship. In the end, it was only that—time—that allowed me to believe. 

We build trust, in ourselves and others, when we excel and then fail, and the other—be that a person or an organization or even an ideal—is still there. We're human. We're allowed, even expected, to be imperfect. It's only we sad sacks with the tragic pasts who think that perfection is what everyone requires lest we get kicked to the curb. Meagan had learned the hard way to lock up her heart and keep her suitcase packed. For the first six months of our relationship, I refused to leave a toothbrush or a change of panties at my then-boyfriend, now husband's, house. He cleared a drawer and half his closet for me. I had a sudden urge to bolt out the back door. 

As often happens, I found truth that was very close to home in my beloved fantasy novels. I always expect Molly Harper to deliver and I was not disappointed. She, along with many of her fellow paranormal fantasy authors, have taught me to trust that I will always find truth in fantasy.

Worst Case Scenario 

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I just finished Molly Harper's hilarious new novel, Where the Wild Things Bite. Another laugh out loud experience with the denizens of Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky, a fictional southern town I'd love to visit, right after I get to Bon Temps, Louisiana. The vast majority of the book takes place in a wilderness with just two people, Anna, a human and Finn, a vampire. They've been in a plane crash and they are trying to get back to civilization.  What makes this book work so well—especially for me—is the absolute accuracy with which Ms. Harper has captured the behaviors and thinking patterns of the human sub-species called homo neurotico. Anna is such a familiar character to me that I'm sure I need to worry about my mental health. More than I already do, that is.  Anna is the product of a highly controlling mother and an absent father.  Sound familiar? As a result of the fear Anna learns at her mother's feet, the world is a very, very scary place for Anna, and she hardly gets out.  After all, when we engage in the world, we risk germs that lead to disease, rape and assault, getting ripped off or having our identities stolen, getting into an accident involving an automobile, train, boat or plane, coming down with food poisoning, or getting attacked by rabid bats. We must always be prepared for worst-case scenarios, including having a section of the bridge we're on collapse under us, the walls of the tunnel we're traversing come crashing down on top of us, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes and stadium stampedes. We need to know what to do if the elevator cable snaps, or we contract gangrene from a rusty nail, or giardia from contaminated water. We must be ready for sudden catastrophe around every corner and know the statistical risks of something going wrong in every conceivable situation.  Forewarned is forearmed. 

Who thinks like this, you may wonder?  Well, Anna, for starters. And me for seconds. And I have at least one friend who's worse than I am with the catastrophizing. And as amusing as it is to read about, it's not all that fun to live with. 

But beyond the private misery that such thoughts produce for the thinker and anyone with whom she shares them, is the concept of the law of attraction. The law of attraction states that like attracts like, and by focusing on positive or negative thoughts we attract those kinds of experiences into our lives. You may think this is a load of shit, but I'm a believer. There is something to be said for the power of positive thinking and the nonsense of negative thinking. Mike Dooley, who created a popular subscription service called "Notes from the Universe" says, "Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones."  Good thinking.

Unfortunately, there was a time I could relate to Anna 1.0 (before she came through her harrowing experience with flying colors) to an uncomfortable degree.  Thankfully, I now have more in common with Anna 2.0, after she survives her own personal worst case scenario and realizes she is much stronger than she thought. Which of course reminds me of my very favorite A.A. Milne quote from Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, "you're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."  This is largely true, but we are not aware of our own reality.

We are often made of sterner stuff than we previously thought, but we have no idea about it because we avoid situations where our true colors can come shining through. It's kind of like the Army putting its soldiers through the hell of basic training; it makes men and women out of boys and girls when they are able to accomplish great feats of mental and physical difficulty—and know what they are capable of achieving. If we never put ourselves in situations that stretch us and demonstrate our ability to move beyond our comfort zones, we may believe our own press that we aren't capable of doing much of anything. We might end up like Anna 1.0, hiding out in our houses and interacting with the world only through the safety of a computer screen.

As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."  So, if you think you will end up as fodder for mass shooters, or the victim of the many con artists out there just waiting to take advantage, you might be right. If you think you can meet whatever challenges life has in store without assuming a fetal position on the floor of a darkened room, then you probably can. Jus

After all, what's the worst that could happen?



The Changing of the Guard

I took a wee break from the Lords of the Underworld series to whip through Molly Harper's latest offering, Big Vamp on Campus. As you know, I love Half Moon Hollow, Kentucky, and all its wacky inhabitants. This installment of the series focused on Ophelia, the scary 400-year old teenaged vampire who used to run the Vampire Council. Ophelia was a bad vampire, and now she's being creatively punished. Ophelia has been sentenced to college to learn how to live among humans and her fellow vamps in something approximating harmony. Either she is brought down a notch and learns to co-exist or she will get a stake in her heart which provides sufficient motivation for her to at least try to go along to get along. Her defenses were higher than the ice wall in Game of Thrones, and breaching those walls is going to take considerable time and effort. I could relate. Most of us spend a goodly portion of our childhood and young adult years getting hurt and trying to figure out how to avoid getting dinged again. No one likes to get hurt, so we meticulously build our walls, brick by brick, channeling Pink Floyd until there isn't a big bad wolf out there who can blow our houses down. We're protected and we're safe…. But also we're separate and alone.

Interestingly, those fortresses are constructed without a lot of conscious effort. At heart, we are pleasure-seeking creatures who try to deflect pain. This is smart; pain hurts and pleasure feels good. And when something hurts, we want to protect ourselves from it. So we add another brick. We condition ourselves, like Ophelia, to assess what others want from us, what they can do to us and for us. We look for weaknesses to exploit, and strengths to fight against. We work to out-maneuver those who are trying to beguile us. We raise our hackles and don our armor. We go on the offensive, knowing that this is often the best defense.

And through all of these machinations, we insulate ourselves. I am a rock, I am an island, I touch no one and no one touches me. No wonder someone wrote these lyrics. These are very effective techniques. The problems come when we begin to realize that while we may not feel the pain of vulnerability, we're not feeling much of anything else, either. And not only that, we often discover that we are increasingly exhausted and our reserves of energy are being systematically depleted to the point where we don't want to go on. Alternatively, we may be forced into a confrontation with our defensive natures by virtue of the fact that others are tired of being skewered by our pointy parts.

I've written before about how there's no variable speed button on our feelings. They are either on or off. Most unfortunately, we can't choose to feel the love but not the pain, the joy and not the sorrow. Numb is numb at every level. And sometimes that numbness grows so gradually, that like that poor, overheated frog, we don't understand that we needed to jump out of the pot until it's too late—we're cooked.

Sometimes the wake-up call comes in the form of a major health crisis, brought on by our consistent but unconscious efforts to sublimate pain. All of that unconscious work to protect ourselves saps our energy and depletes us to the point of sickness. Auto-immune disorders, the bane of twenty-first century existence, comes immediately to mind.  What is an autoimmune disorder but our bodies' way of saying, "Hey, this way of 'living' isn't working! Wake up, dude, before it's too late." That happened to me; it took getting so sick that life was almost not worth living to reassess my priorities and get with a program that fed my soul and nurtured my body. The Universe definitely needed to knock me upside the head with the very bricks I'd used to build the defenses that were killing me. Poetic justice. Thankfully, I was finally able to listen and change, taking down my defenses, brick by brick, until I could feel again.

When I started making the changes necessary to live a healthy life, I noticed that others began to respond very differently to me. Ophelia learns this too. Turns out, when we're not constantly on the alert for danger, we give off a much nicer vibe and others react accordingly.  When I'm open, others can be too (well, at least those who are doing their own work to live awakened lives). When we drop the gauntlets and lay down the swords, we become more approachable. What a concept. For Ophelia, this means making friends among humans and vamps alike. For me it meant being able to accept the love and support my friends and family had been trying to provide over my objections. Turns out it's nice to let others help us. Who knew?

Not Ophelia. Not me. But, we both came to learn, life without the guards is actually lovely. And while taking the walls down necessitates letting in occasional pain, the joy and pleasure are worth it. So I say make like those immovable men at Buckingham Palace and allow a changing of the guard. It's fun, it really is. Just ask Ophelia.


Parenting 101

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I am the mother of almost 16 year-old twin boys. They're good boys, and I love them beyond reason. I like to think that I've learned a thing or three over the years. I also like to think that I do a reasonably good job as a parent. What I didn't think was that I'd be offered parenting advice from one of my wonderful paranormal fantasy novels. But I would have been wrong about that. I've just finished Molly Harper's fourth installment of her Half Moon Hollow series, The Single Undead Mom's Club, which I wrote about here. Fun read. Halfway through, I was struck by a piece of wisdom voiced by Wade, the hot, single, human dad who has feelings for the newly undead widowed mom, Libby. Wade explained to Libby, "Bein' a parent is a constant cycle of gettin' yer ass handed to ya. Anytime you think you're ahead of the game, that you got it all figured out, that's when reality pops up and bites ya."

ard to believe that I'm listening to some fictional Kentuckian who dates a vampire tell me what parenting is all about. Well, maybe not that hard to believe because, damn, he's right. Parenting is exactly like getting your ass handed to you. Regularly. Tell me again who thought it was a good idea to have kids?  Oh, yeah, it was me. Worked hard to get them too.

Parenting is the most humbling experience I've ever had. I used to lie on the floor of my closet in a fetal position with my thumb in my mouth, reduced to a blubbering mess contemplating the enormity of the task. Who the hell were we, my husband and I, to think we could raise these children to be well-adjusted, contributing members of society? One could argue that we weren't. Well-adjusted, that is. We'd both had issues with our parents, and didn't want to model our behavior on theirs. So we had no road map for what to do. 

And children are so needy.  There are the physical demands of rearing infants and toddlers (sleep was more precious than gold, glory or sex--in those days, I would have traded my soul for a six-hour block of sleep-- with no interruptions). And later, as in right this minute for me, we have the emotional roller coaster that constitutes the teenage years. All I can say is, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a hell of a ride."

As I contemplate the state of being the moral compass, teacher, disciplinarian, font of all wisdom (it's possible my boys would question that last one… unless they’re laughing uproariously), provider of unconditional love and number one cheerleader for these incipient adults, I am in complete agreement with Wade. Parenting is 100% about having my ass handed to me. Recently, I was that annoying smug mom who was so sure her kids were pure as the driven snow while everyone else's children looked more like the stuff found on the streets of New York. And then I came home unexpectedly one evening to find my boys essentially peeing in that previously white snow. I got my ass handed to me big time and was forced to open my eyes to the reality of my kids--not the fantasy I'd created in my mind where my super parenting skills had reared children who made excellent choices each and every time they were presented with situations that challenged their sense of right and wrong versus fun and pleasurable. Yeah, right. I'm sure there were other parents enjoying the schadenfreude of seeing me plummet from my high horse. 

Pride cometh before the fall. Parenting is the one institution guaranteed to make us aware of our human imperfections. Which of course sucks badly, as parenting is the one job that we absolutely, positively must get right. The stakes are so, so high, the penalties for failure so extreme that I can almost choke on the pressure. It can be paralyzing. But doing nothing as a parent is the same as doing something bad, at least most of the time, so we march on….

Getting our asses handed to us again and again. And Wade was also right in noting that there is no such thing as getting on top of the situation. The second--no the microsecond that happens, the sands shift, the world tilts, and the whole landscape is completely different … leaving me scrambling to understand where we are and learn the new rules of the road. It's exhausting.

And rewarding. And terrifying. And gratifying. Every day I question my judgment in choosing to walk this path. And every day I thank God that I was chosen to shepherd these amazing, exasperating, magnificent and gloriously aggravating beings into existence as citizens of the world. I'll take my ass in my hands again and again for that privilege. 

Who Am I?

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I'm reading the fourth installment of Molly Harper's Half Moon Hollow series, The Single Undead Mom's Club. I love Molly Harper's books; they are lighthearted, fun stories that contain deeper truths for those who care to look (for those who don't, that's fine, too, but it's nice that they're there for those who like their fantasy with a side of truth, like me!). This book is about a mother who gets terminal cancer after her husband dies (I know, not particularly lighthearted, but Ms. Harper doesn't dwell on these sad facts—they just set up her story). The protagonist, Libby Stratton, decides to solve her problems with a sire-by-hire, a vampire paid to turn her into a blood-sucking creature of the night who also happens to be immortal—or at least cancer-free. Apparently, this is a no-no in the vampire world, so Libby is getting some supervision, up close and personal, from the local vampire council representatives until she can prove she’s not a danger to her human neighbors.

s Libby adjusts to her undead status, she contemplates her new identity.  She doesn’t know who her sire is (there may have been better dying through chemistry on her part to cope with the whole drain-you-till-you-die-and bury-you-in-the-ground aspect of being turned—so she doesn’t remember who turned her). She observes, objectively, that she wasn't really sure of her identity during her human existence, having been raised by a single mother who kept the identity of her father an uncomfortable truth that was best avoided. So poor Libby comes to her reborn life as a vampire who doesn't know her sire, after having been a daughter who didn't know her father. Libby feels untethered and diffuse, with limited knowledge of her origins that, in turn, make it difficult to contemplate a future.

In reading about Libby, it occurs to me that for many, if not most of us, the ability to know ourselves is contingent on knowing where we came from.  But it's harder to know from whence we came in certain circumstances, and the not knowing makes finding ourselves that much harder to do.

I have a close friend who is really into genealogy. She has traced the origins of her family back to Jamestown, William the Conqueror and Charlemagne. Pretty cool stuff. She has binders full of documentation proving her ancestry, and she, her mother and her daughter enjoy the connection to their greats and great-greats and beyond. I envy her. I'm the daughter of immigrants whose parents all died before I was born. I can't trace my family tree beyond the names of my grandparents, none of whom I ever knew. One grandfather died in the early 20th century in Russia, while the rest died a long time ago here in the States. I'm pretty sure I come from peasant stock all around; no conquerors or kings in my family history. 

But, then, I don't really know. What I do know is that if I were looking for places to belong, the Jamestown Society, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the British aristocracy are not places I would look. The children of my wonderful sister-in-law are in the same boat, having been adopted from China. They have no idea where they come from genealogically or genetically.  Like our protagonist, Libby, my niece and nephew must leave their genetic history blank in high school biology class because they don’t know anything about their DNA donors.

I know that my sister-in-law works hard to give her kids a sense of community in many ways, partially as an antidote to not knowing anything about their biological families. My sister-in-law is involved in her kids’ school communities, they are all active in their church, and they belong to a group that honors the Chinese heritage of the children. It is very sensitive and insightful of my sister-in-law to make sure her kids are well grounded, to offset the lack of 411 on their origins.

I've had many people ask me if I am interested in going to Russia to explore my heritage. But the truth is, I wouldn't know where to start. I'm not even sure exactly where my father's family was from; he never liked to talk about it, so I never pressed. He's long gone, together with every close relative he had besides me and my brother. So, no information there. My maiden, Uchitel, name means "teacher" in Russian. I've often fantasized that my ancestors we're teachers and philosophers, and maybe that's where I get my didactic tendencies. But my desire to belong to a greater community of which I'm a hereditary member will likely be unfulfilled. Because I don't know where I come from I don't know all there is to know about who I am. 

So I've had to make my own way forward without the benefit of clear vision in the rearview mirror. I think it would be cool to know my family crest, or even to have a family that has a crest. But even with my similar lack of knowledge about my origins, I try to make better decisions than Libby did—no hire-a-sire for me (I also avoided the dial-a-moyl when we circumcised our sons, unlike one of my friends). I’ve had to find myself without a roadmap, so to speak.  And I’ve done a pretty good job, I think, although it’s taken me longer than it might have if I’d known where to look in the first place. And, in the end, we all must determine for ourselves who we want to be, regardless of from whence we came. Identity is a tricky business, and it is the work of a lifetime to figure it out or to create an identity that fits like a second skin. If we want to be comfortable in those skins, we must choose who we are with care. It may be easier if we know our ancestry, our genealogical tables, the patterns of our DNA, etc.  But those same facts, if known, can sometimes constrain us, so who knows whether it’s better to know?  I don’t know that, but I do know—now—who I am.  I trust that Libby will also figure it out by the time I get to the end of the novel.

The Giggles of Girlfriends

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I'm reading my last Molly Harper book (at least until she writes another one, which will be soon, I hope). This one is called Better Homes and Hauntings and it focuses on ghosts rather than my beloved vampires, weres and fae. So while this one probably won't go down in the all time hall of fame, I'm particularly enjoying the author's portrayal of female friendships and the joys thereof.

For me, there is nothing quite like the happiness to be found in laughing hysterically with a close girlfriend and having that laughter feed off itself, becoming magnified by being passed back and forth till you've got tears running down your face and snot erupting out of your nose. Not pretty, I know, but that is the beauty of female friendships--it's OK to look hideous while crying with mirth. In fact, the mucous adds to the merriment. Disgusting but true.

I experienced this very phenomenon with a very close girlfriend just yesterday. I think we scared my son, in fact, who walked in on us howling, doubled over in laughter with the aforementioned facial moisture and who then ran panic-stricken from the room to tell his father that he thought we had lost our minds. Or possibly control of our bladders.

But my friend and I had lost nothing in fact (I'm not commenting on the bladder control issue!).  We had, instead, gained a priceless gift--the gift of giggles among girlfriends, or, in our case, serious guffaws. It was fun, and abandoned, cathartic and joyful. That is the best definition of a gift I've ever heard. And I was grateful in the moment and again now as I reflect on the blessings of friendship and the intimacy that allows for such uncensored glee.

In the book I'm reading, Molly Harper describes a scene among three women who are sharing a similar moment. The description of what sparked the giggling fit did not really evoke the same reaction in me, but I think that is a case of you really had to be there. But what did resonate was the portrayal of how this type of female bonding (no, not bondage, so get your mind out of the gutter here, people, not all smut is sexy - it also inspires, thus the point of this blog) can support and validate and enliven and even heal, as it does for the main female character, Nina.

Female friendships, when they work well, are the glue that can hold us together when then chips are down, and the mirror that can reflect our best selves back to us when our self perception is a little skewed, as it can sometimes get. Girlfriends can carry some of the water that is weighing us down and can share some of the burdens that might not be appropriate or desirable to share with a romantic partner.

It's important that we don't ask any one person to be both the alpha and omega for us  (unless that person is Patricia Briggs, in which case it might be acceptable).  When we rely just on our snuggle bunny to be all things, it puts what can become an unbearable strain on the relationship. This is where friends come in. Friends can share the wealth and the tears and ease the burden on our primary love relationships. This is why my wonderful husband is fully encouraging of my girls' nights out and the occasional weekend getaway with my buds. It preserves my sanity and takes him off the hook for having to listen (again) to my tales of woe or the latest gossip in which he has absolutely zero interest. It's a win-win all around.   And I usually come home feeling highly appreciative of my husband, which is an added bonus for him as I demonstrate said appreciation in a manner he enjoys  (okay people, you can send your minds back to the gutter here).

Girlfriends rock. And girlfriend giggles are in a class by themselves. Probably because they annoy the hell out of everyone else, so we girlfriends tend to be banished to the far-away classroom. And Molly Harper, who I really want to meet, clearly understands the joy of friendships and I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on such an important aspect of my life. Thanks, Truth in Fantasy!

On the Road Again

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I'm reading the third book in Molly Harper's Naked Werewolf series. The theme of this one is a bit darker than the others, and involves a woman on the run from her abusive husband. The idea of constantly running, moving from one place to the next, never knowing what time zone you're in is one that speaks loudly to me right now. I've found that it's one thing to travel and enjoy it, but quite another to move from place to place feeling like something is chasing you. As I'm noticing a lot these days, once a theme asserts itself on my radar, I start to see it everywhere-- just like when you buy a new car you start to notice that kind of car on every road you drive. So as I've been contemplating the life of the itinerant traveler, I'm seeing others living that life as well and thinking about what it means to be constantly on the road again.

They say home is where the heart is. It's also where your clothes are, and your photos, and your keepsakes and all the familiar things that make us feel safe and secure and comfortable. Even when we bring our clothes and our favorite shampoo along, the clothes are in an unfamiliar drawer and the shampoo sits in a strange bathroom with Dixie cup water (as in the pressure is such that it feels like someone is standing above you pouring a Dixie cup out over your head).

When we travel around for business or pleasure or whatever, we need to get used to a new bed, and a new configuration of furniture that might catch our foot when we get up in the night to go to the bathroom because we're not used to that table being there. We have to make due with the coffee that’s available, instead of our organic blend.  This is why people love Starbucks and other chains--one can feel right at home anywhere in the country, or even the world, if you roll into a Micky D's or suck down a Pepsi, etc. These franchises thrive on our making like the accidental tourist.

When we go to new places, by definition we must do new things because we are doing them in unknown surroundings. I'm not quite sure what we did before GPS and Yelp on our phones as we try to navigate new streets and find decent places to eat. It's stressful to need to be somewhere at a certain time and not know where you are going or what you are doing. I know that people who do a lot of this sort of thing get used to it, but it's still a strain to try to get it all right.

And what about those like the protagonist in this Naked Werewolf book who won't let herself get attached to any place or group of neighbors or any one person because she knows she will have to run again soon?  Or the couple I met last week, who are itinerant teachers who travel from place to place to promote an oral tradition of learning. They haven't had a permanent home for twenty years. How do you do that?!

Home is such a complex subject.  When I was young, I couldn't get away from home fast or far enough. But these days, my home is a wonderful place filled with people I love, wonderful dogs, a magnificent view and the collection of a lifetime of items both meaningful and just fun and enjoyable.

But even when home is a positive place, it's good to leave occasionally to be able to come back and sigh into the welcoming arms of our own bed and make like Dorothy chanting, "there's no place like home."  It's like make-up sex, which almost makes the fight worthwhile.

So it's good to leave and it's good to come back and like so many other things, it's good to have a balance with all of that. I'd hate to be on the run all the time. And I've seriously disliked the recent need to travel hither and yon to get done what needs to get done. Which tells me I need to make some changes, unpleasant as that prospect is.  Because I’m feeling like I'm running from something rather than to something and that just won't do.

So, for today, I'll appreciate home and the deep peace that comes with stepping back into my routines among familiar places and familiar faces. And I'll hope (with some optimism) that our heroine finds a home with her naked werewolf, because apparently she's cool with back hair, which is so not my thing!  But I'm happy for her, really.

Life in the Fun House

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I'm reading the Naked Werewolf series by Molly Harper. Fun stuff. The books are light and cheerful and funny and they are soothing the tight and unhappy places in my psyche. I've enjoyed reading about Mo and her quest to find and express herself and to do things that reflect what she's found and what she needs to do. That is a subject for another post, however. Today I want to talk about Mo's struggle to offer a soft landing to one of her more persistent suitors, a nice man who is offering a nice, safe life. And even though I've been happily married for almost 20 years, I can relate to Mo's dilemma. In her case, the particulars include whether to get involved with a surly, psychologically damaged werewolf or the nice guy next door, so to speak, but I think that's a metaphor for a lot of my life these days, even if the specifics look a bit different.

As you may have noted from my bio, I've had a lot of different jobs. And I enjoy variety in my life, right up until it jumps up bite me in the ass.  Have you ever just felt like someone should put a fork in you and declare that you are "done!"  That's me right now.

So, what do sane people do when the world is too much with us and they start making poetry allusions because they're getting slap-happy?  They offload some of the activity, that's what they do. They let something or even more than one something slide right off their plates and onto someone else's dishes or into the trash.

And that's what I need to do. Stat, as Randolph Mantooth would say. But what, that is the question. And if I could answer that question in a satisfactory way, the next question to trip off the tongue is, how?

Breaking up is hard to do, and not just in saccharine Neil Sedaka songs. In order to execute the plate-sliding plan, I have to tell someone that I cannot meet their expectations. I will have to let someone down. And on top of that unhappy activity, I will need to close the door on one or more of my options (as in the opposite of keeping my options open, as I am wont to do and advise). That is scary as shit. We'll get back to the unpleasant task of having the actual break up conversation itself, which is enough to churn the coffee in my stomach, and contemplate instead the gut wrenching reality of ceasing to hedge one's bets and planting both feet on a path to the unknown. Oh, my, I'm having palpitations just thinking about it.

It's that whole commitment thing. We often think of commitment as tying ourselves to one person or one job or one place to live, or even a specific color for our dishes. The other part of that equation is that when we choose to commit ourselves to one thing, we are, by definition, deciding not to do something else.

So, for example, if I want to have more time to write and promote my blog, then something else has to give. The choices are: my family time, and that's a no; my sleep; again, negatory; my friends and social time, not so much, as there's precious little enough of that as it is; then there is the time I devote to volunteer work, exercise and healthy eating; nothing good will come of my forgoing those efforts. So, what's left?  Oh, yeah. Work. Of the money-making variety. That is definitely taking up a large proportion of my perpetually-overflowing plate these days.

I'm a consultant. Which is a fancy way of saying I do a variety of work for a variety of clients who pay me. When I work less, I get paid less. When I work more, I get paid more. Simple stuff. And I could work less. My income (together with my husband's) more than covers basic needs and an abundance of wants. We save. We have money to spend on travel and hobbies and funding our children's 529 plans. And then some. So we are among the lucky few who are doing well by doing good.

So why do I feel like I can't back off? Why do I continue to run on the hamster wheel of ever-more income and subsequent consumption?  Why does the thought of having less money so I can follow my passion scare the pants off me?

Oh dear, the billeted list of answers to those questions is way too long to cover here, but I will say this:  each bullet point begins with the words, "what if...?"  Followed by predictions of doom and gloom.

What if we commit to one person and a better one comes along?  What if we take one job and the next day find out we got the job of our dreams?  What if, as happened to my mother, you say yes to the nice but totally uncool guy who asked you to the prom and the next day the captain of the football team invited you to be his date (her mother made her go with the guy who asked first, by the way, which was the correct, but heartbreaking thing to do).

What if I get hit by a bus today?  The answer is, then it is what it is and we figure out what to do in that moment, and avoid clogging our brains with obsessive contingency planning. In the end, it all works out. If it isn't working out, it's not the end, as one of my favorite greeting cards says.

So, the plan is to give up some work. Check--I've written the emails explaining that I need to back off from taking on new projects. I haven't hit send yet, though.  I'm experiencing paroxysms of doubt and guilt. The old double whammy of distress. But I can do this.  Probably better even than Mo, in fact, whose idea of letting her suitor down easy wasn't so fabulous in my book.  But she meant well, so that counts.

Because, at the end of the day, a door, window or another exit needs to close before something else can open. Or you'll find yourself in a house of mirrors leading nowhere at all.