Barnes & Noble Book Signing

I’m so grateful to be joining Loiacono Literary Agency authors, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Diane Yates and Drema Hall Berkheimer on May 7 from 1:00-3:00 at the Southlake Town Square Barnes and Noble book signing.

Hope you’ll come visit with us!

Book signing

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An Imperfect Oldest Sister

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Nobody is perfect, though I, like many others I’ve come to know, tried to be “perfect” for more years than I care to admit. The thing is, imperfection is a part of being human, and while I might have tried to be without flaw in front of those I thought expected it, my human imperfections often came out “behind-the-scenes” and toward the most vulnerable. In my childhood years, that was my younger siblings.

With the possible exception of one of my sisters, I think any of them would tell you I was a mean big sister. At times, that was true. My mother and father had five children in six years, and as the oldest, I became the “back-up” mom at the age of six. As I got older, if my mother was ill, which she often was, I was often the “primary” mom.

If, during those times, I couldn’t get my three younger sisters and one youngest brother to do what needed to be done, I would scream and yell at them. But why should they listen to a sister who was only slightly older? I liken the situation to students misbehaving with a substitute teacher. I was not their mom. Why should they obey me?

If screaming and yelling didn’t work, I’d pull hair. If that didn’t work, I’d hit, maybe even kick. And if that didn’t work, well, I’m ashamed to admit I tried tactics that were even worse.

When I look back, I feel much regret for the way I treated them, and I’ve apologized to all of my siblings. I can’t do anything about the past, but as an adult, I’ve tried to be a good oldest sister. Still, I’m human and have my flaws.

A few of us may still have some scars. But, when times are tough, we are there for each other. I have no doubt we all love each other. I’m grateful to have such compassionate, loving, supportive siblings, especially during difficult times, like the death of my mom last year.

Happy Siblings Day to all of my siblings–Cyndie, Kim, Tami and Chuck. I love you all very much and count my blessings for you every day.

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Wearing What I Want

hamburger

Tonight, after Steve and I had each gobbled down our respective Fuddrucker’s cheeseburgers, his a medium-rare cheddar cheeseburger topped with onion rings, mine medium-well and smothered in pico de gallo, we sat and talked about a variety of things, as we often do.

Our conversation moved from how our day went, to what we plan to do this weekend, to how fast time goes by, to things we did early in our relationship, to writing.

And it was there, just after I decided to grant that last, cold French fry its reason for existence (I ate it rather than allowing it to be discarded), that I admitted my urge to write about suicide–about those who commit the act and those who are left behind. I confessed that with the topic of suicide, as with so many other “topics” in my life, I hesitate to write about it, worried about how it will make others feel, in this case, especially Steve himself.

As we approach the one year anniversary of my friend’s suicide, I feared Steve might think to himself, “Come on…when are you just going to get over it?”

“You know what my father told me once?” Steve asked, as he manipulated a napkin into a tiny sculpture.

“What?” I replied.

“He told me to wear what I want to wear.”

I tried to imagine the story behind what his father said, then asked. “What’s the story?”

“When I was in elementary school, in Penfield, New York, I remember standing by the bathroom door, watching my dad shaving in the bathroom. That morning, I’d dressed myself in gray baggy pants that were so big they had to be held up by a belt. ‘Dad,’ I asked. ‘Does this look okay?’ I’ll always remember what he said. ‘I want you to wear whatever you want to wear.'”

“Aw, that’s a sweet story,” I said.

“Well, I’m telling you this because I want you to write whatever you want to write. And I don’t want you to worry about what I or anybody is going to think of it.”

What a lucky girl I am. A Fuddrucker’s cheeseburger, a sweet vignette and acceptance, all in one night.

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The Wabi Sabi of August McLaughlin

embraceable“Sexuality, which is innate, includes your gender, sexual orientation and sex-related impulses and desires, how you relate intimately with yourself, others, and arguably, the world. It’s in your essence, your spirit, your soul.

While you won’t discover everything you need to know about sex in this book, my hope is that you will gain understanding of sexuality–particularly your own. Without such understanding, sadly, there will be problems. Trust me, I know…” ~~August McLaughlin, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality

I must admit, I first admired August McLaughlin for her outward beauty. She is a person one might look at from afar and think, “She’s perfect.”

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Then, when I met her and experienced her openness, her friendliness and her beautiful smile, I admired her inward beauty.

AUGUST3But as I got to know August better through social media–Facebook, her blog and online radio program, Girl Boner® Radio–I began to admire her true beauty, in essence, not the beauty of her “perfection,” but the beauty in her courage to be open about her imperfections, her wabi sabiand even more, to encourage others to do the same.

To celebrate the release of August’s new book, Embraceable:Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s SexualityI’m honored to share her thoughts on a few questions:

JAN: Have you always had the ability to open and honest about topics? If not, can you pinpoint an event or time when discussing “sensitive” topics became easier for you?

AUGUST: I’m pretty outspoken by nature, but, like many kids, I learned early on that “sex talk” was fairly off limits. When I was about 20, I took a sexuality college course that changed my life. It was the first time I, and many of my classmates, were encouraged to speak about this “taboo” subject.

JAN: There are many topics I’d like to write about, but hesitate because I worry about how it will make someone feel. Do you ever worry about what your loved ones will think of something you’ve said or written about? Does it ever stop you?

AUGUST: Worrying about what others think can be extremely stifling, both creatively and emotionally, so I avoid that. At the same time, I try to be respectful of loved ones in all of my work. In Embraceable, for example, I share some pretty intimate details about my life; but I aimed to tell my story only. When I mention others, I do my best to protect their privacy and make it clear that it’s not their perspective I am (or even can) tell.

JAN: In all of your interviews and/or discussions about sex, is there one “hang-up” that stands out above all others?

AUGUST: I hear from many women who are concerned that something about them isn’t “right” or “normal,” whether that’s a perceivably high or low sex drive or fantasies they have. The most common hangup or question I hear boils down to this: Am I normal? Am I okay? And for the record, the answer, across the board, has been YES.

JAN: Do you think there is a relationship between your anorexia and your sexuality? Which was harder for you to open up publicly about—your past anorexia or sex?

AUGUST: Absolutely! That’s why I do the work I do. Learning to embrace my sexuality allowed me to heal from the eating disorder and years of body dysmorphia and dwindling self-esteem. My personality is such that speaking out feels like the best and most natural thing to do in response to hardship. Speaking about my experience with an eating disorder helped me heal, though, admittedly, parts are still painful to share. Reliving difficult times isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly gratifying for me, knowing that it might help someone feel a bit less alone or gain a smidge of hope.

By the time I decided to speak up about sexuality with the mission of empowerment, it felt completely natural; I was giddy. That’s not to say my palms didn’t sweat when I hit “publish” on my first Girl Boner® post, of course! But those are the good kind of butterflies.

JAN: In some ways I think we have too much sexual information and imagery. In other ways I think we can barely talk about sex. If you agree why do you think that is?

AUGUST: This is such an important question. It’s the type and gaps in the information about sex that’s problematic. We live in a culture that over-sexualizes women, and shuns them at the same time, if they’re perceived as “too” sexual. The idea that women are “sluts” or “prudes” trumps on, which is incredibly sad.

Meanwhile, kids learn extremely little about sex and sexuality—other than from porn, which many experts believe has become our culture’s sex ed. We need more normalized conversations about sex and sexuality. Sex ed  needs to be more comprehensive and start much earlier.

JAN: How important do you think sex is to healthy intimacy between a couple?

AUGUST: I think it really depends on the couple. For asexual couples, sex is completely off the table. For most other couples, it plays an invaluable role—but how and how often they express it varies hugely. What matters is cultivating a sexual lifestyle that works well for both partners, and maintaining open communication, growing together as time goes on.

JAN: Relationship therapist/speaker/author, Esther Perel has posed the question, “When we are taught that sex is dirty, but save it for the one you love, is it any surprise that so many couples become erotically alienated?” What are your thoughts?

AUGUST: I think she makes an excellent point. Seeing sex as “dirty,” or any other negative adjective, doesn’t help anyone. Such negativity invites shame, which is at the root of all sorts of intimacy problems, from relationship tumult to sexual dysfunction. It’s one reason women struggle with sexual empowerment, since sex is often perceived as “dirty” or taboo for us, whereas “guys will be guys.”

JAN: I often think about authenticity—about being honest about who I am in a variety of areas. Yet, being sexually open-minded, about myself and others, I often find I can’t be completely honest, because the concept of what’s dirty/naughty/taboo varies so widely, and is often judged harshly. How have you  pushed past a fear of being judged?

AUGUST: For years, I had no idea I carried shame around sex and my sexuality. This is extremely common, because shame is so engrained in the fabric of what it means to be a woman in the U.S.—with too few exceptions. Since learning to embrace my body and sexuality, I’ve not seen anything about either as “dirty.” As a result, I don’t judge others’ bodies or sexuality harshly either.

I’d say if you’re judging others based on who they’re attracted to or how they express their sexuality, it’s gone too far. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Look within, and commit to undoing that negative dialogue. You’ll be blown away by what that type of empowerment can do for you and your loved ones. For many, it’s the beginning to a truly authentic life.

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By owning her own story and encouraging the women in this volume to tell their stories, without shame and without judgment, August McLaughlin has created a valuable tool for healing, education and social change…Sometimes the most healing sentence anyone can speak is, “Me, too.” This book is filled with powerful “me, to”s. ~~Foreword by Susan Harper, Ph.D.

Thank you, August, for the interview, for Embraceable and for encouraging us to embrace who we are, to open up to each other so that we may feel the healing of “me, too.”

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August’s new book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is now available! Purchase your copy on Amazon.

August McLaughlin is an award-winning, nationally recognized health and sexuality writer, radio personality and host and creator of Girl Boner®. Her work appears in DAME Magazine, the Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.com and more. Kirkus Reviews called her first novel, In Her Shadow, “an engaging story with an inventive structure and an intriguing focus on body-image issues.” Her latest book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is a celebration of women’s sensuality. Each week on Girl Boner® Radio, she interviews relationship experts, celebs and more, exploring women’s lives and sexuality “like no one else.” Known for melding personal passion, artistry and activism, August uses her skills as a public speaker and journalist to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives. www.augustmclaughlin.com

 

 

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Happiness Jar: #1 – Mommy Love

On New Year’s Day, I read a post on Facebook by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) about Happiness Jars.

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At first, I read it and thought, “What a nice idea.” But in the few days that have passed, her post has prompted me to think, “That would be something I’d put in my Happiness Jar.”

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So, I’ve decided to start one.

 

 

 

 

I’ll put it in our room, and every night, (that’s the goal, anyway) Steve and I will add a note about something that made us happy that day.

Here’s how our conversation about our Happiness Jar went:

Steve: What do you think is the purpose of the Happiness Jar?
Jan: It prompts us to focus on things that make us happy.
Steve: Have you been feeling unhappy?
Jan: No, I just like to think about things that make me happy. Plus, it’ll be fun for us to dump the notes out on New Year’s Eve and reflect on the year.

I won’t share every single happiness on this blog, but I thought I’d share my first two, because they both have to do with Mommy Love:

January 3, 2016

For my first entry into the Happiness Jar, I printed a text conversation between my daughter-in-law, Emily and me:

Tommy Mommy Love

This made me happy for four reasons:

  1. Tommy told his mommy he loved her.
  2. Tommy is beginning to speak in sentences.
  3. I was happy for Emily’s joy.
  4. I was happy that Emily shares “Tommy-isms” with me.

January 4, 2016

My daughter, Andrea, who is getting married on September 24 of this year, rearranged her flight home from Dallas later this month, just to be sure I could go with her to help her choose her wedding gown.

That it means a lot to Andrea to include me in her wedding planning means so much to me.:)

If you reflect on happiness, whether in a journal or a Happiness Jar, I’d love to hear about what makes you happy!

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