Friday, June 24, 2016

The Importance of Allowing Yourself to Grieve by Roz Denny Fox

I’ve decided to do at least one more blog centered on life advice. This one on the cycle of grief isn’t easy to write and it’s tough to navigate. However, I consider it lucky that when I was much younger I had the privilege of attending a lecture in Seattle by psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross on death and dying. She wrote a book by the same name that’s one of few that honestly deals with the same subject. Maria Shriver has also written a good book about helping children deal with death. Today I want to talk about the importance of grieving, and the steps one takes to get through the process.

First, know it’s okay if grief for the loss of a loved one never goes away. But it does change and allows the person left behind to feel the full effect and to heal. Accept that friends and family may be uncomfortable with your grief. As the griever you’ll be busy going through a series of “firsts” without your loved one—birthdays, holidays, and other milestones to name a few. Others may not understand if you have a “down” day for seemingly no reason. But it has meaning to you.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined 5 stages of grief that not only come about due to death, but also other disruptions in life such as divorce, job loss, house fire, retirement, becoming an empty nester, a natural disaster, etc. Recently I read an article that talks about an extended grief cycle. Instead of 5 stages, some people go through more like seven stages. I’ll give a brief break-down of those steps.

  1. Shock stage: This is the initial paralysis at hearing the bad news. **not in the original 5**
  2. Denial and Isolation: At first it’s natural to want to avoid the truth. It’s a coping mechanism to help you survive the loss. This stage encompasses feeling overwhelmed, or numb. Often this is when friends and neighbors feel you are unwilling to talk about the loss, which adds to their not knowing how to help and therefore gives the impression they’re uncomfortable. This stage ultimately passes for everyone, because eventually stage you must face the inevitable.
  3. Anger: This emotion can be overt or covert. It is the result of bottled up emotions. It’s actually considered a “safe emotion” because it keeps the grieving person from being sad, feeling despair, fear or anxiety. While it’s likely a person feels guilt or shame about the anger, studies show it’s normal, so try to not judge yourself.
  4. Bargaining: Seeking in vain for a way out. After anger often comes a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability. This is often called, “the if-only stage”. If only we’d seen a doctor sooner. Or if we’d prayed more. Even---if I’d been a better person. Recognizing this stage helps a person turn negative thoughts into positive ones. It’s easy to get stuck in this phase, so it’s important to be active not passive. Start each day by affirming to smile at someone. Delve into things that in the past have made you happy.
  5. Depression: If you actively work on affirmations in the bargaining stage, it’s more likely that this stage will be milder. Expect to sometimes feel less energy. There are times you will opt out of usual activities. It’s also true that this stage can debilitate a person. Severe depression can come in feeling totally hopeless. In an inability to get out of bed, or eat and sleep. While being depresses is a recognized stage, if your sadness lingers significantly, do seek professional help. If you think you can’t go on, it’s time to have a frank discussion with your doctor. And he or she will hopefully set you on a path to the…
  6. Testing stage: This is where you seek realistic solutions. **also not in the original 5** This stage often doesn’t come easily. So much depends on how successfully you navigate the previous stages. It’s here a person can slip backwards. It’s common to think life has dealt you too many blows; that you’ll never be whole again. Sometimes it’s helpful to seek out a good grief support group. (Note here that I say a good group) Some grief counselors allow group members to cycle and recycle through the anger and bargaining stages which isn’t helpful to reach stage seven.
  7. Acceptance: The ability to see reality and finally find a way to move forward. This is where you face your loss and all of its implications. This doesn’t mean you no longer miss your loved one, miss being married, miss your old job, etc. It means you have accepted your life as it now is. Just know that going through some form of each previous stage is necessary to help you overcome the trauma of life’s loss.
    People who work in the field that deals with grief say that trying to avoid it altogether can have a negative effect on your health and ultimate happiness. Cultures that have wakes, and wailing, and singing out of the lost souls, are found to get through the grief process better than many who see it as a weakness to mourn.
    I really hope my blog doesn’t turn you off or ruin your Friday. I really think it’s an important life cycle that we should face and discuss.  
    I recently read a book that is such a story of love and courage I want to recommend it. Partly a line from the book states it’s for our death-avoidant culture. I add, such an honest look at the philosophy of life by a gifted neurosurgeon, who is diagnosed with virulent lung cancer before he finishes residency. “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi is simply beautiful.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Let the Sunshine..." or "Gosh, my life is dull"

Realizing I was scheduled to blog Wednesday, I started thinking about my topic. The morning news suggested the perfect idea with a calendar reminder. Two days ago, June 20, was officially the longest day of the year, meaning the sun stays with us longer than any other time. Conversely, December offers the shortest day of the year. Normally I don’t think about that extra few minutes of sunlight but this time I did and decided to keep track of my activities with a purpose of using my precious sunlight well. So here’s list of what I accomplished on Monday, June 20.

First, I got up early, walked the dog and headed to Metro PCS to have my phone fixed. Yay, my voice navigation works again. Then I went to the pool (I live in hot, humid Florida) and did 40 minutes of water aerobics. Now, hours later, everything on my body hurts but I’m thinking one day all this effort will be worth it. Had lunch, took a short nap, and signed into an online author summit with the Heartwarming editors and staff of the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Thanks editors for your time and knowledge. I actually managed to sign on with minimal frustration and I was inspired to think about my next book proposal.
Then I trimmed my trees, disposed of the palm fronds and sucked an obnoxious palm needle out of my finger. Checked the tiles on my back patio and decided they need a thorough scrubbing. Didn’t do it, but definitely realized it needed to be done. Was supposed to go out to dinner with a friend, but instead cooked a light meal and spent the waning hours of the day on my kinda dirty patio where I looked up at my happy outdoor lights instead of down at the tiles. And until the sun went down, I read a book – a Harlequin Heartwarming naturally. And may I remind you that this month’s offerings are really good! I hope you’ll think the August books are worth your time too, because that’s when my next book comes out, The Bridesmaid Wore Sneakers.

As I look back at my longest day, I understand that nothing I did will change the world. Heck, nothing I did changed anything really except my trees look better. But I used up all that extra sun and look forward to doing it again next year. What do you do with your extra hours of sunlight during daylight savings time? We still have the whole summer ahead of us with dazzling sunlight and lots of opportunities. Are you glad you don’t live in one of those areas where the sun only shines a few hours a day? I know I am. (You people in hot, HOT Arizona are excluded from answering if your A/C isn't working and you currently have your heads in the fridge. :-)


                         My happy trees, my happy reading spot, my happy Sparky.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fit at Any Age...with T.R. McClure

I'm a Survivor fan. Maybe the last surviving Survivor fan because when I mention the show I get blank looks. But it's been on the air for 16 years so somebody besides me is watching it.
In Survivor: Kaoh Rong, one of the contestants was a 71-year-old former FBI agent. I was amazed at how well he did in the challenges. But, hey, he was an FBI guy. They're supposed to be in shape. Then this morning I saw a news clip on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Twelve teams left London last August to sail around the world. Forty thousand nautical miles. Two months left to go.
Except for the skipper, the entire crew is amateur. One of the sailors is a 69-year-old woman. She's the rigger, which means she must climb 100 feet up in the rigging to make sail repairs. She could give Tarzan a run for his money. She got in shape over the past year by taking Pilates and pole-dancing classes.
So, I decided right then and there that age is not a factor when it comes to being in shape. Starting tomorrow, I am exercising (can I still write for Heartwarming if I take up pole dancing?) and eating right. No, wait, make that the next day. We still have leftover donuts from Father's Day and well, Grandma always said "waste not, want not". Obviously, she wasn't thinking "waist" at the time.
Don't forget to check out my first Harlequin Heartwarming Wanted: The Perfect Mom, which debuted this month and is just to the right of this column. While you're in the browsing mood check out my new website background at
Enjoy the reads!

Monday, June 20, 2016

In Memory of James Ralph Ingram

This post is in memory of James Ralph Ingram, beloved husband of Harlequin Executive Editor Paula Eykelhof and beloved father of Emma Ingram

 A life well-lived. A man well-loved.

April 28, 1947 - May 30, 2016
It's so hard to summarize a life. Jim was many things to many peopleloving husband to Paula, proud father to Emma, affectionate brother to Russell and Gay. He was very fond of his nieces and nephewsJack, Sara and James, Erik, Hayley, Eli and Sarah, and Adrianand a caring brother-in-law to Alex, Hyacinthe and Josephine.

Jim was a good friend and companion, someone who not only enjoyed the company of others but contributed interesting ideas and unfailing humor to any conversation. He was an artist, whose photographs hang on many walls. He had a fascination with history, especially the US Civil War, and often walked the battlefields of Gettysburg. He loved music, from Dylan to jazz, classical and blues.

Jim worked at the University of Toronto Library in different capacities and, after his retirement, maintained his connections with former colleagues.

His travels were a source of enjoyment (and photographs). And it must be mentioned that he loved his cats and dogs.

Jim and Logan
As his daughter, Emma, says: He was an artist, storyteller, lover of music and books. The best kind of man to have a drink with, talk about art, ideas, life. He had a world view shaped by curiosity and his clever sense of humor.

Jim is loved, missed and will never be forgotten.

Donations in Jim's honor can be made to
The Princes Margaret Hospital Foundation or The Toronto Humane Society.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sit Down Saturday with Tara Randel

Today we’re celebrating the release of The Bridal Bouquet.

So, Tara, where did you get the idea for this novel?

I have an ongoing series, The Business of Weddings, featuring wedding professionals, so of course a florist was a must. I knew I wanted the hero, Dylan, to be in some sort of law enforcement. Turned out to be the DEA. I also knew I wanted the heroine, Kady, to be in a floral competition at a convention, so when I sat down to the plot the book, it all fell together. Showing characters in the midst of their jobs is always so interesting to me. I also love stories with a suspense element and this is the first Heartwarming story I’ve added that layer.


In looking at the cover, if you could add a caption or captions, what would they say?

I’m getting married!


 How long did it take you to write?

The book took about four months. I so enjoyed the characters and had a such a clear vision of how the story was progressing, it didn’t take long.

What is your favorite scene?

I have so many! Spoken like a true author.

There is one scene in the book where Dylan’s mother ( Kady’s competition nemesis) asks him to pick up props for her floral lecture. He ends up dragging a full-sized Cupid cut-out to the workshop, along with bags of candy and flowers. Did his masculinity take a hit? No way. Sure, he didn’t hear the end of it from his brothers after his mother sent them pictures, but he fulfilled his mission. The fact that Dylan would do this for his mother made him swoon-worthy in my eyes.

After pulling out her notebook, Kady waited for the lecture to start. Jasmine seemed preoccupied. What was going on? She was just about to ask the woman sitting next to her when a commotion sounded from the back of the room. She turned, catching sight of Dylan dragging something down the aisle while balancing local store bags hanging from either arm.

He met his mother and she whispered in his ear. His head dropped and Kady got the distinct impression he didn’t like what his mother said. She sat back, enjoying the show. Her afternoon was looking up.

He placed the bags on the long table behind the podium and wrestled with the big thing he’d dragged in. As he righted the object, Kady realized it was a life-size cutout of Cupid. Arrows and all. Just then Dylan looked up. His gaze scanned the room and finally collided with hers. He stopped, and she could have sworn his ears turned pink. She pressed her lips together to keep from laughing out loud as Dylan moved to help his mother empty the shopping bags.

He looked at her again, his metal-colored eyes warning her not to say a word. Oh, she would, but later, when she had him at her mercy.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Dylan was a different hero for me. He had vengeance on his mind and would go to great lengths to avenge his partner, who was killed by a drug dealer.  His protective nature, and loyalty to his family, made him a multi-layered character.

This is your fourth book in The Business of Weddings series for Heartwarming. Exactly what does that mean to you?

I absolutely love writing books including weddings. There’s so much joy and drama! Perfect for fiction. My next Heartwarming will focus on music, so of course there will be a wedding band. The next will feature a photographer.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’m working on a Christmas novella right now and after that, a mystery, then back into another Heartwarming.

What are you reading for pleasure right now?

Reading for pleasure? Is there such a thing? LOL. My TBR stack is growing taller, but I can’t wait to dive into other Heartwarming books I’ve been collecting.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of twelve novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. This is her fourth book for Harlequin Heartwarming. Visit Tara at Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's Time for Summer

By Shirley Hailstock

I know we changed the clocks in April, but at our house Spring Forward and Fall Back takes a little longer than a few minutes.  I collect clocks.  Everything from the grandfather clock in the hall to the miniature replicas of Mickey Mouse and Cogsworth from Disney's Beauty and the Beast share a shelf in one place or another.

A friend reminded me recently that I'd once told her that "I have the same 24 hours in the day and everyone else." But maybe I keep track of them more consciously than others.

Does anybody really know what time it is?  I'm reminded of the song by Chicago.  Time is something we call on everyday.  "Gee, I wish I had more time."  "I could really do this right if I  just had a little more time."  "I ran out of time."  There are entire courses on time management.  How to use the time we have more efficiently.  But for us time flows forward and there is never enough of it.

I used to feel that I could get more done if I just had more time, but that's not true, I need to use it better. However, there are days when we just can't focus on anything, even the things we love -- like reading or writing.  When I feel like I'm not going to get everything done, I pull out the trusty paper and pencil and start listing everything I need to do.  As I finish one task, I feel infused and ready to cross something else off the list until I'm down to near zero.  You never ever get to the finish line, but you can try.

Album Cover
I read about time. I suppose collecting clocks makes it a natural interest.  We all know or at least we've heard that time is relative.  According to prominent physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, time can be bent.  So what time it is depends on where you are.  There are all kinds of time.  There's prime meridian time, vacation time, time from the atomic clock in Fort Collins, Colorado. I can't remember when my fascination with time began.  I think it was when I first saw The Time Machine.  I remember being fascinated by the scene with all the clocks on the mantle.  When I began to travel, I'd gravitate toward places with clocks and not the usual spoons or ash trays although, I did buy thimbles.

The clock below I got in England near the Scottish border.  My son was six months old and we (or I) were touring Scotland.  I drove to the England-Scotland border and took a photo of the house that sits across the property line, half in England, half in Scotland. In the small village near there I spotted this clock in the window of a shop.  Baby in tow, I went inside and could not live without that clock.  I brought it and they packed is well so it wouldn't be broken on my trip across the Atlantic.  To be sure of that, I got a huge box and shipped my clothes home.  I carried the clock.  I know where my priorities lay.

Being so conscious of time, I usually write by the hour. That doesn't mean I write for an hour. I write for hours each day, but I have a clock set for every hour, so I can get up and do something physical. Movement keeps my neck and back from getting tired and I can be more productive. One of my goals for the past two years was to write more books and I'm keeping to it.

In school, I loved both science and history.  Both had a lot of dates and I could remember numbers.  There was a jewelry store close to us that had a window full of clocks.  They were all set to 8:20.  I don't know if it was AM or PM, but that was the time. Every time I noticed a clock in a store, it was set to that time.  I wondered why and someone (can't remember who) told me that was the time that Abraham Lincoln was shot so all the clocks stopped at that time. I was young and impressionable, so I believed it.  I don't know if it was true and today clocks are battery operated, so they are often running when you buy them.  Notice my clocks are set close to 12:15.  This is how I learned the date the Magna Carta was signed.  Lunchtime - 12:15.

This table setting reminds me of the mad hatters tea party from Alice in Wonderland, one of my favorite books.  While putting it together, the refrain of "I'm late, I'm late for a very important date" kept running through my head.  And I could see the white rabbit checking his pocket watch. In my collection, I don't have a pocket watch. Hmm, maybe I'll have to remedy that.

The plates have a Spring-type vine around the outside.  I paired it with a white plate that has a lattice pattern.  The white on white might make it hard to see (or my amateur photography - take your pick).

My guests loved all the clocks, especially when they reached the hour and the anniversary clocks played their music and gonged out the hour.  As the clocks are placed all over the house, I rarely think of them as a cohesive song, but they made for long conversations about where we were when I bought this or that clock.

I started a novel once that involved a clock hobbyist. His day job was a judge.  It's still waiting for a finished ending, not to mention a middle.  But time will tell when I can get to it.

An anniversary clock sits on the bookshelf in my office. Yet at night when I'm working and the house is quiet, I don't even hear it and I can work well into the night.

And there are the clocks that aren't on the table.

Atomic Clock

The Atomic Clock is tied into the U.S. clock at Fort Collins, Colorado.  It automatically changes itself when the time changes.  I wanted to watch the numbers go back last fall.  I stayed up to 2:00 am.  Nothing happened.  By 2:30 still nothing had happened.  Suddenly, I realized it wasn't 2:00 am in Colorado and I went to bed.  When I got up, the clock had the right time.

I did get to see it change once, though. Instead of it going back one hour, it goes forward and all the way around the dial until it reaches the correct time. It was fascinating to watch.

-ish Clock

This is my -ish clock.  I've had it for years, so I can't remember where I bought it.  It's for those people who are never on time.  They will be there at three-ish.  This means that you could be waiting for them for up to half an hour (or longer).

The small grandfather clock next to the plate I got in England.  It reminds me of Big Ben.  It usually sits on my desk, but I love it next to the place setting.

With all the time pieces you'd think there was no place to eat on this table.  Yet no one wanted to remove anything from the centerpiece. We had a great meal and a long conversation over clocks and books, stories we'd read when we were younger.

I can't leave out a this clock.  I climbed up this huge hill in Greenwich, England so I could stand at the Prime Meridian.  Time begins here, the sign said.

Below it is a shop with the sign of being the first in the world.

Longitude 00, Latitude 00
When next it's Time for Lunch, invite the crowd and have them remember where they were when time began...or at leave what book where they reading.

12:15 - Time for Lunch

Until next time (pun intended) keep reading and forget about the time.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A wedding in the family

Helen remembered that today was our day to blog—thank you, Helen! Since it is June and many thoughts are turned to weddings, that’s where we turned ours, too. Only mine wouldn’t go there—it’s always about the marriage with me, not the wedding, so I have very little patience with what usually feels excessive to me. But surely there’s something that would make me sound less like the Scrooge of all weddings…let me think. While I'm doing that, read about Helen's grandparents--surely a story worthy of a romance novel all its own.

by Helen DePrima

The most dramatic wedding in my family is the one that never happened. 

My grandmother Florence Averill was the youngest daughter of a wealthy Indianapolis family. She visited a friend in Louisville and met my grandfather when the two girls attended a dance at the Kentucky Military Institute. Henry Holzheimer was a handsome man and must have cut a dashing figure in his blue-grey dress uniform. 

They fell in love, but her family was horrified at the notion of their baby girl marrying a farmer in Kentucky, undoubtedly picturing her hoeing weeds and slopping hogs. I’m sure she tried to explain that she would be living in a large modern (for the day) house with servants on the outskirts of Louisville, that the only “farming” she might do was caring for her flower garden.
As soon as she reached eighteen, she boarded a train to Louisville with only what she could carry in a small carpetbag and eloped with my grandfather. Her wedding photo shows her wearing a stylish traveling suit; my grandfather bought her the elegant hat for the occasion. The hat cost forty dollars, a fabulous amount in 1910. He always teased her that if he’d known the price of the hat would have sent her back to Indianapolis. 

My grandparents were married over sixty years and my grandfather continued to indulge her during their long marriage; they died less than a year apart.

by Liz Flaherty

There was our daughter’s wedding. She asked me to make her dress, so I did. And three bridesmaids’ and two flower girls’ dresses, too. I started sewing in March and on August 5, the night before the wedding, I was still sewing. Everyone looked beautiful. In my memories of the wedding, one of them is sitting in the kitchen sewing while the girls milled around me preparing to go out. Everyone was home, our only grandchild (at the time) was there. It was a perfect time. A joyful noise.

                Our younger son’s wedding, when my daughter-in-law who could do anything set the tables with sheets and quilts and sewed cloth napkins from fabric scraps and made the big tent on our side lawn into a thing of beauty. She ordered a cake decorated with edible flowers, which was so lovely and so good that I never got the first piece—not even a petal.

                Our older son’s wedding, when the kids just went to a church and got married. But the pastor made sure there were pictures and pretty little girls to toss grass seed when they left the building. Whenever I think of that wedding, I think of how brave my daughter-in-law was. And still is.

                Oh, and our wedding. I wore a blue size five dress that cost $14.99 and was the definition of a mini—my daughter thought it was a blouse when she found it hanging at the back of the closet, a training bra (34-AA), and black shoes that hurt my feet. My just-home-from-Vietnam husband wore gray bell bottoms and a navy blazer. We had a corsage and boutonnière of blue and white carnations.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

And maybe for me, a non-wedding type, that’s the great part of it, that none of us really knows what we’re getting into. Only that marriage is one of life’s greater adventures and, if we’re lucky and work really hard, there's a Happily Ever After at the end of the day.