Tag Archives: Love

Dallas Clayton Coloring Party

Yep, you read that correctly, a coloring party. If you don’t know who Dallas Clayton is why don’t you go familiarize yourself with some of his work, because he’s awesome and it will give you a better idea of what the heck this is all about.

My favorite photo of the day. That’s the coloring party inside the window, Dallas Clayton front and center. Downtown Santa Monica is reflected in the window.

(sorry about the shaky video, my hands and arms were not cooperating today)

Me & Dallas Clayton!

Exactly 20 Years Ago

Exactly twenty years ago today I spent a good chunk of time sitting on the couch next to my mom. People were in and out of the room and the house, having one last visit and saying goodbye. I don’t remember everyone who stopped by and everything that was said, I don’t know if it’s a trick of time or grief or both, but my memory of that day is patchy. I remember sitting as close to her as I could. I remember telling her I loved her so often I became annoying. (“I know Jenny, I know.”) I remember being terrified, and totally alone in a house full of people.

As the day went on and mom’s condition deteriorated she was moved into her bedroom for the last time. The house was still full of people but all of a sudden I was in demand as people started needing things.

“People are getting hungry, do you have anything to feed them?”

“You’re out of clean glasses.”

“What are you going to do with [item]?”

If I knew then what I know now, I’d have told everyone to go to hell. Maybe I’d have phrased it differently… “If you’re hungry you’re welcome to go get food. I’m hungry too, should I tell you what I’d like to eat?” Or “Feel free to drink out of a coffee mug, or wash some glasses if you want to be helpful.” Or “I haven’t thought about what I’m doing with it, I’m focused on other things right now.” I didn’t say anything close to that though, it didn’t even occur to me. I took care of other people’s needs and sat with them, sometimes even comforting them when they were upset. I thought I was doing what mom would have wanted me to do, what she would have done had she been able. Twenty years later I’m not so sure.

My most vivid memory of that day isn’t the sound of my mom’s voice or the feel of her hand in mine. Nothing so expected. My most vivid memory is being taken into the backyard for a “private chat” and the taste of blood in my mouth from where I’d bitten through skin. The private chat wasn’t so much a chat as a lecture. I was told that I was on my own now, and no one was going to help me. The sliding glass door was gestured to indicating the visitors behind it and I was told these people were here for mom and not me. Once she was dead I would be on my own. I distinctly remember being told that I was going to end up living in the street and that I would be lucky to have a cardboard box to sleep in. The person telling me this offered a solution too… If I gave them access to “the money” and “learned how to do what I was told,” I could avoid the fate in store for me.

To this day I have no idea what “the money” refers to. (If anyone knows anything about hidden money please speak up, I could really use it.) In reality, our household was that of an uninsured single mother fighting cancer and I was just a teenager. There wasn’t always money for necessary things, including medical treatments. There was no retirement accounts, no trust funds, no sources of income other than the obvious, nothing that could even vaguely be referred to as “the money.”

As far as “learning to do what I was told,” I honestly can’t say I know what the speaker meant. What I heard though, was an offer to hand my free will and life choices over to someone who didn’t ask or care about what I wanted. I don’t remember if I declined the ‘offer’ or just sort of wandered back inside to get someone a refill. (At least two other people in the coming days would offer to open up their home to me, but there were strings attached to both offers and I declined them as well.)

I know there were people in that house who were trying to be supportive of me, and I don’t want it to seem like everyone was only thinking of themselves, but I think they didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t know how to ask. By night time the house cleared out, only a few people staying. I know I sat by mom’s bedside at one point, but I really don’t remember. I have never felt such exhaustion, physically and emotionally.

Someone was sitting with mom. She wasn’t alone. I went to sleep in my room. The next thing I knew it was early morning and someone was banging on my door. “Jenny it’s time to get up, your mom is dead.”


I remember speaking with the Doctor. I remember following the mortuary van down the driveway and out into the street, even though there was no reason for it. She was gone and I was alone.

The two people in my life who I thought I could count on for help at this time disappeared entirely. I know I wasn’t the only one grieving, I know it’s not all about me, but I was left alone with people who thought I was there for them and not the other way around.

Twenty years minus one month ago someone I loved and trusted said to me “It’s been a month and you’re still sad. Something is wrong with you.” Hearing those words felt like a punch to the gut.

That was 20 years ago. Two decades. I know how numbers work and I understand the passage of time, but I don’t understand how she’s been gone for 20 years. I’ve been without her longer than I had her. I don’t understand.

It’s true that she’s here with me every moment, so much of who I am is directly from her and I love that. It brings me comfort. But it’s not the same as having her, not even close. I can try to hear her voice or imagine what life advice she’d give me. When I moved to Los Angeles someone very close to her told me she’d be horrified at what I was doing. (I had thought she’d want me to follow my dreams and pursue a happy life.) The same person told me that Mom would be embarrassed by me one time when I was really sick and not doing what this person thought I ought to be doing to get better. (Years later I would find out that my sickness was a Multiple Sclerosis attack but at the time I was treated like I was being lazy, whiny, and melodramatic.) The worst instance of this was a relative telling me that I’m a humiliation to the entire family and I should be glad she can’t see me. Another person who didn’t get along with Mom when she was alive and doesn’t get along with me at all likes to call me by my mom’s name if I don’t think the same way they do. I’ll be told “Okay, Stefanie.” It’s meant as an insult. I take it as a compliment.

My Mom wasn’t perfect, like everyone she had many flaws. But she was loving and funny and kind and loyal and caring and all of the good parts of human nature. She was the first and last person who ever loved me unconditionally. I still miss her everyday, but that’s okay, I know who she would want me to be and I think maybe I am. I think she’d be proud of me.


Photo Post

One More Shot & Making a Play by Victoria Denault

Do you remember when I posted about my friend Laura Stone and her wonderful book The Bones of You? This time I’m proud to introduce you to another one of my talented friends, Victoria Denault. I can’t even remember how many years I’ve known Victoria, but I know it’s more than I can count on my fingers. Victoria is fabulously talented and has started publishing romance novels. (Bad Jen for not posting about this sooner!)

If you’re like me, you’re a little hesitant when it comes to novels about romance. Too many of them tell stories where all a woman needs to find true happiness is a man to acknowledge that she has worth. Or sometimes all a man needs to overcome massive commitment issues is a woman good enough for him. Gag. (Honey, if he’s scared of commitment he’s not going to invest in the relationship no matter how “good” you are, and if you can’t find happiness inside yourself no man is going to be able to give it to you!) But I’m getting off topic… The stories Victoria tells are not that at all. Don’t let the classic cheesy romance novel covers fool you, Victoria’s characters feel like real people. Real people who, like most of us, are trying to successfully navigate this often frustrating thing called ‘life.’ Ideally with a best friend/lover/companion by our side.

IMG_6901(Click image to go to Victoria’s author page on Amazon)

You can read an excerpt from One More Shot here. The second book in the trilogy, Making a Play, was just released. Excerpt here. Look for the final installment, The Final Move, in December of this year.

Buy One More Shot on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or BAM.

Buy Making a Play on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, or BAM.

Pre-order The Final Move on Amazon.

IMG_6902(Click image to go to Victoria’s website)

Victoria Denault loves long walks on the beach, cinnamon dolce lattes and writing angst-filled romance. She lives in LA but grew up in Montreal, which is why she is fluent in English, French and hockey.

Still not convinced? Here are One More Shot reviews from around the web:

Overall this was a really fabulous read and I must say I was shocked how well written it was for it being the debut novel for this author. It is a beautifully written story that is sweet and funny, it’s hot and very sexy but it’s also at times it has just the right amount of drama. Jessie and Jordan’s story was a really great and I immediately felt the connection they shared and the chemistry between them when they got together was electric. This was my first read by the author but it definitely won’t be my last and I will be adding her to my list of authors to keep an eye on for sure.
BethyMac76 on Amazon

One More Shot is the first book I have read by Victoria Denault, and as a debut novel it was a pretty stellar start to the Hometown Players series. … This is a book that jumps back to Jordan and Jessie as teenagers and for the first 50% or so the story is giving you the reasons as to why they have spent the last 6 years apart, and the beginnings of their reconnection. It was well paced; the developments and revelations from them both were spaced perfectly. … I often get to a point where the drama being added to drama just for the sake of more drama just bores me. Victoria worked the drama and angst between this couple perfectly, I felt a little frustration, a little empathy, and understood where both of them were coming from at points, I think the dual POV gave the depth to them, as you were given their reasons for what they did in the past, as well as their motivations for everything that went down with them as the story moved on.
Miss Claire L. Robinson on Amazon

I love second chance romances!!! One More Shot was a great combination of sweet, angst, steam and still managed to pull on my heartstrings. It was the first book in a new series and I have to say I cannot wait for the second book (about another couple coming out Sept. 2015)!! I loved Jordan and Jessie and really hope will get more of them in future books :). Steph and I both agree One More Shot is a 4.5 star book and want to thank Victoria Denault for introducing us to the town and people of Silver Bay!
Stephanie and Christin’s Reviews on Good Reads

I fell in love with this story very early on. … I really enjoyed this book more than I expected to and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good semi-steamy, super sexy, second chance romance.
Jaime Fiction Fangirl’s Reviews on Good Reads

“The Bones of You” by Laura Stone

Well after my comment the other day that I’m not using the “reviews and recommendations” section of this website enough, I’m certainly on a roll right now! 🙂 I’d like to tell you about a wonderful book that just came out, written by my lovely and talented friend Laura Stone.

(Keep an eye on her website by the way, for the release of her book Laura is doing a “virtual book tour” with something new everyday including chances to win her book for free!)

I’ll let you know right up front that this is a sexy love story, so naturally sex is going to be part of the book. It’s so much more than that though, it’s about love and the choices we make for it, when to sacrifice for love and when we need to put ourselves first. And when a second chance is presented, do we grab on with both hands or do we look back at ‘what might have been,’ sigh, and continue on our chosen path? This is no formulaic “romance novel,” these are people dealing with real emotions and decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. This might be a work of fiction, but it’s been a long time since I have read something that felt so real. If stories with sex in them or stories with two boys in love aren’t your thing, consider this your warning to move along, nothing to see here… If that doesn’t scare you off so easily let me take a minute to tell you why I love this book so much.

The review I left on Amazon:

Exceptional story from an exceptional author! I read this book expecting a romantic love story that I could enjoy. I got so much more! The characters are fully three dimensional and fantastic, and not just the main characters. Every part of the world this author creates was so fully realized that at some point you are totally engrossed in these people’s lives and forget that they aren’t really your friends. The highest compliment I can give this book is that, where another author would be content to wrap up the plot and leave it as a “sweet love story,” Laura Stone uses that as almost a jumping off point to get into the heart of the story and start examining who these people are and what makes them ‘tick.’ It’s been a long time since I’ve read a romance story where I couldn’t see the ending coming a mile away, but this one kept me glued to the page the whole way through. I don’t want to say too much so as to drop hints about the ending, but just know that the characterizations, the plot, the emotions, every part of the story are all top notch. If you are like me the minute you finish this book you’ll be searching the internet for an announcement about her next book release. I don’t know when that will be, but I promise I’ll be buying it the very first day it is available!

Publisher’s Weekly said:

Stone’s sensitive debut reunites two lovers who were separated by both distance and expectations. Oliver Andrews is slaving away on his M.A. in Cambridge, Mass. When he opens an email from a friend back home in Atchison, Kan., he finds a video that delivers an emotional gut-punch. It shows Seth Larsen, Ollie’s first—and only—love, singing on a nationally broadcast morning TV show in New York. The pair had broken up five years before when Ollie, encouraged by his father, decided against following Seth to New York. Seth felt betrayed: he wanted a career on the stage, and the distance from Boston to New York was too long. But Ollie was determined to pursue his own dream of becoming a social psychologist, even if that meant giving up on love. With the support of their friend Moira, Seth and Ollie decide to take another stab at building a life together. Stone plays the relationship with restraint, letting it unfold slowly and organically.

RT Book Reviews gave it 4 1/2 stars and said:

A casual style allows you to slip easily into the complicated lives of Oliver and Seth as they attempt to reconnect. Anyone that’s ever tried a long distance relationship can relate to the unique circumstances. Their beautiful love story will bring plenty of laughter, and even a few tears, as these men grab hold of their rare second chance. It was appreciated that neither man was willing to give up his dreams because that wouldn’t have felt true to the love they have shared since boarding school. Oliver has spent the last few years focused on finishing his degree program at Cambridge, letting important relationships slip away. On a particularly stressful morning, he gets an e-mail from his hometown friend with a video attachment detailing the Broadway success of his ex. He thought he was over Seth, but hearing his voice brings the memories flooding back, forcing him to re-evaluate the course of his future, and maybe give him a second chance at love.

Our Wolves Den said:

Oliver Andrews was wholly focused on the final stages of his education at Cambridge University when a well-meaning friend up-ended his world with a simple email attachment: a clip from a U.S. morning show. The moment he watches the video of his one-time love Seth Larsen, now a Broadway star, Oliver must begin making a series of choices that could lead him back to love—or break his heart. The Bones of You is full of laughter and tears, with a collection of irritated Hungarians, flirtatious Irishwomen, and actors abusing Shakespeare that color Oliver and Seth’s attempts at reconciliation.

Carly’s Book Reviews said:

Seth and Oliver have a complicated history that started with their relationship in high-school. Tolerance is low in small town Kansas and growing up gay can be down right dangerous. Both boys have challenging backgrounds and have been hurt in the past. Their young love is unable to stand the test of time, distance and immaturity. Both Seth and Oliver have perused other relationships since their separation, but the attraction of their first love remains. An unexpected second chance at love forces each man to face the mistakes that drove them apart. While hindsight may be 20/20, it is also easy to fall back into old habits. Just when things are starting to look up for the charismatic couple again, history threatens to repeat itself, proving that sometimes you have to look backwards in order to move forward again. The Bones of You is a complex and emotional story that focuses on love, loss and second chances. Told from Oliver’s perspective, his internal dialog is raw and gut-wrenchingly honesty. Seth is a little harder to identify with, as readers get to know him through Oliver’s thoughts and impressions. The cast of secondary characters is dynamic and entertaining, often bringing much needed comedic relief to the otherwise intense story. While opposite in many ways, the two main characters have an elemental chemistry that struck a deep chord and kept me engaged. Well written and steadily paced, it is thought provoking in many ways and offers a slightly different twist to the traditional story line of rekindling lost love.

I’ll stop copy/pasting reviews from around the web now, I’m sure by now you’ve already decided this isn’t your thing or you’re already intrigued. I’m so excited for Laura and I want to the whole world to know it, but beyond all of that supportive friendship stuff, the fact is that this is just a damn good book!

The Bones of You can be purchased from Amazon in paperback or on Kindle format here, from Barnes & Noble here, or you can get it directly from the publisher in paperback or e-book bundle (that means formats for all e-readers!) However you choose to read it, I think you’ll love it. I certainly did!

You can stalk follow Laura Stone on her website, tweeting on Twitter, reblogging on tumblr, whatever we call it on Google +, reading good things over on Goodreads, or posting over on Facebook.