Friday, August 31, 2012

Facing the Truth

"Mom!! She's talking about Harry Potter again!" The wail came from my 12 year old daughter, Casey, in the back seat of the car.

Her twin sister went on, "He didn't want to upset the balance of the Slytherins, so he cast a spell on the trolls in the dungeons and accidentally unleashed the power of Voldemort on Pottermore, obliterating the Undead."  (I'm kidding... I have no idea what she said.  I wasn't listening either.)

Casey stuck her fingers in her ears and yelled, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"

Sometimes we're like that when we're faced with things we don't want to accept, aren't we?  We stick our fingers in our ears, rock back and forth, and mutter, "Go away. I can't hear you. I don't want to hear you.  Go away!"

We can do that for awhile.  When facing the truth means letting go of things that we don't want to release, it's hard to listen. It's hard to be honest with ourselves.  When we're honest, when we're really honest and we accept the truth of things, it often means that we're going to have to take actions that are going to hurt someone.  Sometimes they hurt us, sometimes they hurt someone else. Sometimes, it's both.

But, eventually, we have to go there. We can't run away from the truth forever. We can't avoid what's real forever.  Even if it hurts, we have to be honest. We have to be honest with ourselves and we have to be honest with others. Hiding things under the rugs and ignoring the elephants in the room fix nothing. They change nothing. The truth is still there, even if you try to ignore it.

At some point, it will come knocking on your door and demand to be faced, whether you're ready or not. It won't listen when you "LA LA LA" at it, and it won't go away if you turn around to face the other wall. It will still be there. You will have to face it. And you will have to feel and deal with the hurt it brings.  And then you will have to act on that.

But, you will be stronger for having done it. You will be better for having been honest.

You will get through it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday Tales: The Queen's Child

Moira shivered and hugged her arms against her chest.  The dampness of the alley seemed to seep into every  pore in her body and she checked her watch again.

They were only five minutes late, but it felt like hours that she'd been standing there. Every second was closer to discovery.

A change in the light caught her eye.  Looking up, she watched a single figure cut through the fog and approach the entrance to the alley.  She was alone, but Moira knew she wasn't really.  There would be guards no one could see.

Moira bowed as low as she could. "Madam Archilada."  She kept her eyes lowered. Madam Archilada's ties to the royalty were strong and her power was great.

Madam snapped, "Get up, I don't have all night, girl.  Did Mother Elizabeth explain what is expected of you?"

"Yes, ma'am.  We're to go into the forest, but I'm to raise the queen's child as my own."

Madam looked into the girl's face, searching for something. Finally, she snapped her fingers above her head.  A guard rushed forward out of the mist, placing the bundle from his arms into Moira's.

Moira parted the blanket to look down at the naked babe.  She looked up in surprise.  "But, it's a boy!  I don't understand...  I thought the King was waiting for a son."

"It isn't the King's son."


"Look at him in the morning light and you'll see.  What do you think would happen to the child... and the queen... if the King knew this?"  Madam's eyes narrowed.  "Leave at once.  I expect to never see your face here again."

"Yes, ma'am."  Moira curtsied and backed away toward the other end of the alley.  She looked back once to see Madam and the guard shrouded in mist as they disappeared toward the castle.  A dark form melted from the shadows to walk in step with her.

"Did you get the package?" the figure asked in a low voice.

"It's a baby, Jeffrey.  Not a package." Moira ran a finger along the child's cheek with tenderness.  "A sweet innocent baby."

A warning came into the man's voice.  "He's a pawn, Moira, not a child.  Don't get too attached."

Moira narrowed her eyes.  "You can tell the Duke I have his son and he will have his precious war."

"See to it that he does, Moira."  Jeffrey's voice softened.  "We're counting on you."

Monday, August 27, 2012

When I Get Mad

Sometimes I get mad at people.  Like "happily punch them in the face" sort of mad.  Okay, at least "kick them in the shins" mad.

I used to think that it wasn't okay to be mad. I used to think that anger flew directly in the face of the kindness that I wanted to exude, and I didn't know how the two emotions of anger and love could co-exist. I've since changed my tune.  I understand now that you can love someone and be angry with them at the same time.

Anger isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has its place and we're not bad to be in that place for a time.  But I think it's important that it's only a time that we're there. Anger can become all-encompassing if we don't give it some boundaries.

Long ago, my mom told me that anger was a secondary emotion, that it was often caused by another... sometimes hurt, sometimes jealousy, sometimes envy.  But, I think that most often, it's hurt.  We get hurt and we respond with anger because it's so much easier to respond with anger than to honestly deal with the hurt. It's a safety blanket, a shield, our own impenetrable tower.

"You hurt me, and now I'm going to do my best to hurt you back."

Understanding this has always been really helpful to me (when I let it be).  Eventually, I have to let go of the anger and really look at why I'm angry.  And most times, it's quite simply that I've been hurt. Finding the reason makes it a little easier to deal with.  Once I've dealt with the why's and wherefore's of the hurt, I can more easily let go of the anger and move on.

Is there anger you're holding onto?  Why is it there?  And can you let it go...?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tearing Down The Walls

I used to be the kind of person who was very trusting.  "I will trust you until you give me a really good reason not to trust you" was the sort of philosopy I lived by. Further, I'd probably forgive you for breaking that trust multiple times before I decided that I probably needed to be very wary about any future dealings with you.

But, when you operate that way, you open yourself up to get hurt a lot.  And I did.

As I have grown over the last few years, I find myself to be a lot stronger person. Slightly less bothered by criticism, more confident in myself, less moved by manipulation.  These are all things I find to be good and healthy and wanted. But, they have been accompanied by a lot less trust in others.

Instead of trusting until I know otherwise, I find that I have more of a tendency to NOT trust until someone's proven they ARE trustworthy.  One offense and my walls of protection are thrown up so high, no one can see over them.

I understand this.  I look at this and I understand that it's as simple as self-protection.  But it's no way to live.

"We're never so vulnerable than when we trust someone -- 
but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy." 
--Walter Anderson

Some of those walls have to come down. Sometimes you look at people with whom you've built walls to protect yourself, and say "I'm not quite done having a relationship with you yet." So, you begin tearing down your walls only to find that they have built walls against you, too.  And there you both sit, separated by mountains of rubble that seem impossible to climb over, impossible to get rid of.  Impossible to start over.

But, it's not.  It's not impossible.  It's just really hard.  Every brick you throw away is a risk, another opportunity to be hurt.  You can throw it away, but a part of you whispers, "But what if you need it again??"

Who do you listen to?  The voice in your head that says "Put those bricks back right this instant, young lady!" or the one in your heart that says "Just try.  One brick at a time.  Just try."

No one can hurt you when you build yourself an isolated little tower.  But, no one can love you, either.

Just try.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Tales: Paint Splattered Stairs

Angie closed the door behind her and leaned her forehead against the cool wood. Today had been a day seemingly without end. She hadn't thought the people would ever all go home. Sinking on the stairs, she let her fingers run over the paint on its underside.

On one step, "I'll love you forever."
On the next, "I'll like you for always."
One more down, "As long as I'm living"
And finally, "My baby you'll be."

It was a refrain from a book she had read with her son Luke, over and over.  A bedtime story he always wanted, but one Angie hated reading because she could never quite get through it without crying.

She remembered the day the stairs were painted.  She'd been chatting at a neighbor's house over coffee, and had left him happily playing Legos.  "I'll be at Rachel's," she told him. "Come get me if you need anything."

He hadn't.   But, when she got home, oh the sight!  In Luke's defense, he'd thought to put a sheet down.

How he had gotten the paint down out of the garage, she'd never been able to figure out... but he had.  He was covered in white paint from head to toe. Had he done that on purpose?  The book laid open to one page on the steps, and the words had been carefully painted in his child's script on the front sides of each step.  How mad she had been!  Her beautiful cherished stairs!  She had loved the rich red tint to the varnish on the top, and now this garishly painted on the front sides!

She'd tried valiantly to wash it off, but it was paint! Her friends chuckled and cooed over it, saying it was "just so cute."  But, she always felt a little embarrassed to have friends over. They all had such nice homes with nicely behaved children in nice clean clothes.  And she had... Luke and peanut buttered fingers and white paint splattered all over her prized stairs.

She set the urn beside her on the steps.

Peanut buttered fingers and even her Luke were gone.

But she still had paint-splattered stairs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just Ordinary

What does "making it to the top" mean?

A walk through the check-out aisle of any grocery store might tell you it's being the most sought-after actress or the most talked-about reality TV star. The musician with the most Top 10 Hits or the socialite at the most parties. It might mean being the businessman with the most financial success or the writer with the most books on the New York Times Bestseller list.

These are the things we seek after, the things we prize, the standards we have to get to in order to be successful. Reaching them means we are extraordinary, and oh do we exalt the extraordinary.

But, when did "ordinary" become unwanted and something that we merely settled for?

Ordinary is beautiful.

Ordinary is touching those around us.
It's the simplicity of a kind word.
Or the listening ear.

Ordinary is being happy with where we are at.
Our relationships, our blessings, our struggles.

Ordinary is enjoying the moment.
Stopping to smell the flowers.
Throwing out all the Things to Do just to watch the stars all evening.

More and more, and maybe this is something that comes with age, I find myself reaching for an ordinary life, over that which others would find extraordinary.

My husband's hand at my neck, my children's fingers intertwined with mine.
The happiness of a good book or the healing of music.
Our favorite movie. A night of board games.
Time spend with my dearest friends, a phone call with my mom.

It is now the ordinary which I find extraordinary...

And the extraordinary?  It's simply tired and colorless.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Celtic Thunder Act II CD Review

In March 2008, Celtic Thunder released their debut DVD entitled "The Show," 100 minutes of music. An accompanying CD, "Celtic Thunder," was released simultaneously but, due to the length of the original DVD, only included about half of the music from the original DVD.  Six months later, Celtic Thunder released the Act II CD, which rounded that out, with a couple of "bonus songs" thrown in.

As is typical with Celtic Thunder, ensemble songs take the cake on Act II.  Heartland- Extended Version is actually a repeat from the first "Celtic Thunder" CD, but includes the extended concert introduction. This includes a spoken introduction from Phil Coulter, which is is appropriately mysterious, and a beautifully sung haunting intro from Ryan Kelly. The remainder of the song is an exact copy of the original but is absolutely worth the repeat. Heartland is powerful and exciting, with great harmonies and embodies perfectly what makes Celtic Thunder a talented musical group. Equally representative of Celtic Thunder's strengths is Caledonia. This much-loved ensemble piece features enjoyable solos contrasted against strong harmonies and vocal power.  The whistles and bagpipes in the instrumentals lend a distinct Celtic feel.

Danny Boy has never been a favorite song for me historically; however, this version is an exceptionally beautifully arrangement, featuring each performer in turn and is rounded out with gorgeous well-balanced harmonies. Christmas 1915 was originally a bonus song on the Celtic Thunder DVD, but was only available on DVDs purchased through PBS stations. The audio to this song was added to Act II as a bonus song and is a beautiful addition. This ensemble features some of the most beautiful Celtic Thunder harmonies written thus far and is definitely not to be missed. Rounding out the ensemble highlights, Raggle Taggle Gypsy entertains with very snappy rhythms and features a great drum battle at the end.

Equally worth the price, a collection of solo songs fill out the remainder of the CD with some important highlights. Castles in the Air is a classic Keith Harkin song, beautifully played and performed. Yesterday's Men is a great first exposure to George Donaldson singing something other than a lyrical ballad and is infused with great emotion. Bird Without Wings is a very sweet ballad that combines the sweetness of Damian McGinty's youth with George's maturity. Heartbreaker is a signature Ryan Kelly song and full of punch. His flirty expressions come through perfectly in the phrasing and is a great song with a great performance. The only duet on the CD, That's A Woman contrasts Paul Byrom's romantic leading man with Ryan's quickly articulated rogue and is a fun theatrical bit.

Ride On is smoky and husky, but later improved with subsequent performances. My Boy is a strong ballad, though not exactly the most uplifting song. Love Thee Dearest is a beautiful haunting song and Paul performs it well, however you really don't get a sense of the purity of Paul's voice in the CD recording. Keith croons out Wanna Know What Love Is, an 80s ballad. If you've read any of my previous Celtic Thunder reviews, you'll note that Keith's 80s ballad covers are never my favorite.  This one started that trend. Mull of Kintyre is an ensemble ballad that doesn't really get a lot of play in tours. It's probably not their strongest song in terms of harmonies, but it's still a nice tune.

Act II is a strong CD.  Combined with the original Celtic Thunder CD, they are the two that I would recommend the most highly to a new fan as important to have in their collection.  It's full of good songs, strong solos and beautiful ensembles. The only thing missing, which I didn't notice until right this very moment, is that it seems to lack an instrumental piece.  Other than that, perfect.

If it isn't already a part of your collection, go out and snap it up!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Tales: Sneaking Out

What was it that she had taught me? Around the loop, through the bunnyhole?  It was something like that, but so long ago that I couldn't remember all the right words. In any case, I pulled the laces tight and my shoes were tied.

The stairs creaked as I slipped down them in the dark, my suitcase in hand.

I knew I would be accused of cowardice sneaking away in the middle of the night. But I didn't see it that way. If I were cowardly, I wouldn't be leaving. I'd be staying here and doing what was expected of me. Doing the right things to make the right people happy. Slipping away just meant avoiding the drama of leaving. The caterwauling, the accusations, the blame.  A whole lot of fuss that never changed anything, but just caused hurt.

I would call.

This house held too many memories with its pictures over the mantel and its furniture that never changed. The living room we lived in and the parlor we weren't allowed to use. The recliner he always sat in, and her rocking chair across the coffee table.  It was the only furniture in the living room.  There never had been room for me here.

I closed the door behind me and moved down the driveway in the dark until I came to Daniel's car. I threw my suitcase in the backseat and then climbed in the passenger side.  He just sat there, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel.

"You sure about this, Jess?" he finally asked. "There might not be a coming back. I can't promise we'll come back safe."

I stared out the window at the house, quiet and alone in the night. "I'm sure. I would drown here. We would drown here." I smiled softly at my brother and laid a hand on his arm so he'd look at me. "I'm not afraid.  Drive."

That was the last I saw of my home.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Are you unbalanced?

"Maybe this is for the best. It just seems like you don't get very much of that friendship, and maybe it would be okay to let it go," she said to me.

I was confiding in a good friend about another friend who was upset with me, in what seemed like a long string of said-friend being upset over odd things.  It was beginning to wear me out. But, my confidante's advice made me stop and think for a good long while. Is it okay to let relationships go if they aren't balanced?

There is a part of me that wants to answer that question with "No." After all, it seems very selfish to base our friendships on what we get out of them, doesn't it?  It makes it easy to leave relationships without giving them a fighting chance, too. "You're not giving me what I want today, so see you later!" There are a few people who are in my life simply because they need someone in theirs, and I can't see myself turning my back on that.

But, when you have a friendship where you're the only one giving, that can't be healthy, either.  You have to come to the understanding that friendship is a 2-way street. When you come to realize that you are the only one putting effort into your relationship, that has to say something about the commitment that the other person has to you, or rather the lack thereof.

Sometimes you have to take the same advice you would give to someone else. If the situation was reversed, I'm sure I would be the one saying, "This isn't a 2-way street kind of relationship, honey.  Have the self-respect to walk away from that."

Sometimes, to my great chagrin, I find it very difficult to follow my own counsel, or that of those who care about me.

Maybe it is okay to turn off the 1-way street and find a different route.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Strength to Start Anew

It was a low place.

My kids were in this tough pre-teen phase. I'd walked away from some friendships that needed walking away from. Someone I had a lot of respect for changed from what I thought they were, leaving me disheartened and confused. And mostly, I just wasn't who I had set out to be, and I was lost.

I sat there, amongst all the rubble of my life and relationships and self, surveying all the damage and wondering how on earth I could stand up and make something beautiful once more. How could I start again when everything, including myself, was so broken?

When there is so much to be fixed, where do you start?  I felt like a little kid, thrown into her very messy bedroom (admittedly, messy by her own actions) with the instructions to "Get your room clean!"  You know that feeling, don't you?  You look around and there is mess everywhere.  It's not that you don't want to clean it, or aren't willing to clean it.  It's just that there is SO MUCH that you don't even know where to start.

You can start over.

Even amongst all the rubble, you can start over. Dig deep inside of you and you will find the strength.  You don't get rid of the rubble in one fell swoop, it doesn't happen that easily or quickly.  But you deal with the rubble in the same way that you deal with the messy room.  One piece at a time.

Maybe you're even lucky and you have someone who is willing to come alongside of you and help to pick up the pieces.  They are the people who love you when you need to be loved, but also push you when you need to be pushed.

Rebuilding a life, a relationship, a self...  it takes time. But you can start anew and build something beautiful once again.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thursday Tales: Just Another Day

Another day. Another boring day on the calendar. She'd get out of bed and shower. She'd go downstairs, drink coffee and eat Cheerios at her boring kitchen table. She'd get in her boring car and go to her boring job and eat her boring lunch and work some more. She'd come home and watch endless reruns of The Biggest Catch, and then she'd go to bed... and do it all again the next day.
Jasmine sighed. It was never any different.

Except today.  Maybe today would be different.

She reached to the nightstand, and dialed a number on her phone. "Hi, this is Jasmine," she said weakly into the phone with a feigned cough. "I'm afraid I'm very sick today, and won't be able to come in for work this morning.  Hopefully, I'll be able to come back in tomorrow.  Thanks...."

That done, she threw back the covers and jumped in the shower.  She dressed in her favorite outfit, the one that she almost never wore because she had nowhere to wear it to.  She reserved a rental car, a fast convertible she could drive around with the top down.

The last thing she did, before heading out the door to go pick up her new pretend car, was strap on a pair of bright red high heeled sandals.

Anything, absolutely anything, was liable to happen if you just wore your red shoes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Most Important Things

"The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear." -- The Body, Stephen King

It has been years since I've read this short story, and more since I've seen the movie inspired by it.  But, I re-read this passage a few months ago and fell in love with it. Every word of it was something that my heart read and whispered, "Yes. That."

Have you ever felt this?

I've had instances where I had something that was so important to say... SO important, at least to me.  But when the thoughts were finally pressed into words and sentences, the listeners blew them away like chaff.  And it wasn't really because they didn't care.  But they didn't understand.  They didn't understand why the words were important. They didn't understand what it cost me to say them, how much I felt I was risking. They didn't understand the meaning behind the words, the feeling behind the words, the importance behind the words.

You're left at a loss, aren't you?  You want to say, "No, LOOK.  Listen to what I am saying to you. Can you not see the tears I have just shed trying to communicate my very heart? Can you not understand why this has been so hard to say, and yet so very imperative that I share it?"

And they don't.  They just... don't.  It's heartbreaking and disappointing, and leaves you feeling very deflated.  Not even mad at them.  Maybe it's not their fault that they don't understand.  But you feel deflated, and a little lost. They were supposed to understand.

So, you close up again and you lock your secrets away again and you remind yourself what happens when you let your heart out and you vow that there won't be another time.  There won't be an "again."

But, there will. Our secret hearts aren't meant to be locked up, hidden away from all people.

There will be an "again." And maybe "again" will turn out differently.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Letting Go Bit by Bit

When swimming, they say that it's easier to get used to the water if you just jump in and get it over with.  I know that to be true, having done it before.  Even so, even with the knowledge that it would be easier, I've never been a "just get it over with" kind of girl. I was always (and still am) much more likely to stand on the first step until my feet are used water.  And then the next step until my calves are acclimated... and then another for the rest of my legs.  And that crucial step where you get far enough into the water that it actually touches your swimsuit, and there's just something about THAT step that feels excruciating.

I'm the same way with letting go... whether that's over the death of a loved one, the destruction of a relationship, or simply the cutting of apron-strings with my children. I struggle with letting go.  In my head, I know it might be easier if I just ripped the band-aid off and went cold turkey. But, there's something about that which makes someone inside of me protest, "No!!! Anything but that!"

So, I don't.

Letting go is slower this way. In the long run, when you add up all the little bits, it probably hurts more.  But, it's manageable, piece by piece.

It's okay to go at your own pace. Just be sure you're still pacing, and not sitting still, paralyzed by fear of letting that one piece go.  That one piece can be so hard to release, knowing that it's the only thing that still ties you.  Knowing that, if you let it go, that's it.  There's no going back. But it is releasable.  Sometimes not going back is exactly where you need to go and saying goodbye is exactly what you need to say.

But, it's hard.  I know. There are comforts in not letting go. There is always the excuse you give yourself-- "What if holding onto it one more minute would save it?" I don't have any magic words for you. I wish that I did. The truth is that, every once in a very rare while, holding on does save it.  I can't lie to you and say that it doesn't.  It's that "once in a very rare while" that keeps us all hanging on, far longer than we should. That slim chance.

Sure, we know it's rare and unlikely. But it's hope and it's a chance, however slim, and our hearts cling to that.  I can't sit here and tell you you're wrong to hope. I hope, too.

But, we all know the chances. We all know that letting go is probably the wisest and healthiest choice.  So, keep on.. one step at a time, if that's all you can manage.

We'll let go together.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thursday Tales: A Handsome Cowboy

"Oh, that feels so good," I murmured aloud as I stretched out on the picnic blanket and let the sun seep into my body. It was almost sensual the way the warmth swept over and nearly overdosed my skin's ability to take it all in.

It had been such a long week, so as soon as the sun rose this morning, I'd packed myself and a picnic to take with to go find some wilderness, some secluded place to be by myself.  Finally, I was here on this little hill above the meadow, just me, some sandwiches, and the sun.  Blissful!

I laid my hand to the ground next to me and smiled as it seemed to thrum beneath my touch. This must be what it's like when they say you're "one with nature."  The thrumming continued.  Actually, the thrumming got louder.  Until it became more of a rumbling... and then a thundering, and it just kept getting louder and more insistent.  I scrambled to my feet and looked below me to the meadow.

This was not good.  A herd of cattle, spooked by who-knows-what, was hurtling itself up the hill right toward me!  Hurriedly, I tried to throw all of my lunch back into the picnic basket when a voice in my head yelled, "No, stupid!  They are going to run you down, who cares about your lunch?  RUN!"


Turning on my heel, I fled in the opposite direction of the herd. This was futile.  I don't even like to run to the mailbox, and I thought I was going to outrun a herd of raging cattle?  Stupid girl.  I could feel them getting closer and closer, and I started to scream.  This is what happens when you want to be alone and you pick outside to be alone in.  You get run over by cows.  My headstone is going to read "DIED FROM BOVINE ATTACK."  How embarrassing.

It was like I could almost feel them breathing down my neck now.  Just as I was about to give up and accept that Bessie the Cow would be my murderer, I felt two hands grab me by the waist and hoist me in front of the body they belonged to on a horse.  And we galloped off.  Saved by...?

I struggled a bit to turn around and get a look at who had rescued me from my almost-demise, but the arms that wrapped around me to hold onto the reins held me tightly in place.

"Would you sit still? You're going to knock us both off this horse," the voice said in my ear.  It was low and husky, and the mouth it belonged to was a breath away. I tried to sit still and behave myself, despite my curiosity  I just couldn't figure out where to put my hands.  He had the reins. I tried to put them at my sides, but his thighs were there, wrapped tightly in dark blue jeans.  Finally, I settled on the horn of the saddle until he stopped galloping and jumped off the horse.

"Come on, then," he instructed, helping me off in turn, and I finally got a good look at him. He stood about six feet tall, jeans that clung to his hips, a short sleeved plaid shirt buttoned halfway, muscular and tan.  Oy vey. His cowboy hat shaded everything else.

"Thank you," I offered weakly.  "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't..."

The mystery cowboy smiled. "It's alright, Miss." He moved a step closer, pushed his hat back to reveal the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen, and nearly stopped my heart. "I do believe, though, that the savior is entitled to a Thank you kiss." Somehow his hand was at my back and his lips were....

I suddenly broke out laughing.

Mr Cowboy frowned. "Did I do something funny?"

"I'm sorry," I apologized. "It's not you.  It's just-- This feels like a bad romance novel, doesn't it?"

"I don't understand, Miss.  This is a bad romance novel."  He turned and gestured up at the sky.

There it was... written in big bold scripty letters in the clouds:

"The shrew??  I'm the SHREW??"

"Lady, I don't write it. I just do what I'm told.  Now, this kiss..." He leaned in toward me again.

I pushed him away and headed toward the man's horse. "Well, I am not going to just 'do what I'm told,'" I mimicked.  "Come on...  We're going to go find this author and give her a piece of our minds!"

Mr Cowboy groaned and shook his fist at the sky. "A million books and I get the only heroine who won't play along.  I bet James Bond doesn't run into this problem!!!"
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