On Love After 50 and Books/Author Interview with Ashley Sweeney

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Just before my initial book launch, I had the pleasure of meeting author Ashley Sweeney and her husband Michael as they were wrapping up Ashley’s book tour in Alaska. Their chemistry was obvious, as was their mutual respect. And as it turns out, their romance ignited the spark that turned in to the award- winning novel, Eliza Waite. I’m thrilled to have Ashley as my blog guest today.

Welcome, Ashley!

Q: What was the inspiration for your debut novel, Eliza Waite?

A: The idea for Eliza Waite was born on my first date with my husband, Michael, in the fall of 2008. While hiking across largely uninhabited Cypress Island in Washington’s San Juan Islands, we came across an abandoned cabin perched steeply above the beachfront on the island’s remote north side.

We were curious. The small, rustic cabin sat in sad disrepair, missing its door and windows, and sporting a sagging roof and mouse droppings throughout. It was evident that no one had lived there for a very long time.

But who had lived here? And what was his or her story? I couldn’t get the image of the cabin out of my mind, and from that chance discovery, I began crafting the novel.

Q: How did you research and promote the novel together?

A: Eliza Waite recounts the story of a disenfranchised woman who finds her way in the world, first as a lonely preacher’s widow in Washington, and then as a successful business owner and enlightened woman in Skagway, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

Both Michael and I derived much pleasure researching for the novel, which took a full six years. We especially enjoyed our first trip to Alaska together in 2013. We cruised up the Inside Passage and stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Anchorage (Michael had spent much time in rural Alaska in his career as a fisheries biologist; I’m a native New Yorker and had never been to Alaska before). At each of the stops, we conducted interviews and pored over myriad archival media: books, photos, essays, magazines, diaries, and cookbooks from the late 1800s.

Returning to Alaska with the finished product in 2016 was satisfying, particularly when we revisited bookstore owners, editors, museum curators, librarians, authors, and locals who helped with initial research. Michael and I often joke that Eliza has been with us since our first date, and we talk about her as if she’s an old friend.

Q: What are the unique challenges of a new relationship over 50?

A: Michael and I were 51 and 58 when we met at a party at a mutual friend’s home in the late summer of 2008. I had been married for 28 years and was newly divorced; my husband had never been married.

We took our relationship very slowly. For three years, while we were both still working fulltime, we visited only on weekends. Then we lived together for three years before our marriage in 2014.

Kindness is the basis of our relationship; it cannot be underestimated in any union, marriage or otherwise. We also share base values and political views. On a personal level, we have learned to give the other what he/she needs the most. I crave emotional support; Michael is a strong listener and offers steady encouragement. Michael craves independence; I give him lots of space to hike, explore, and do projects. Another key: we laugh a lot.

Q: Do you have any encouragement for singles looking for love after 50?

A: Enjoy yourself, your friends, your job, your activities. We’ve all heard the old adage that you’re apt to meet someone when you’re not looking. If you do meet someone with whom you feel a genuine spark, be gentle, honest, and kind with him/her. Trust your intuition. And don’t force it. Everyone comes with his or her own life experiences, and oftentimes by our 50s (or older) hearts have been bruised or broken more than once. Give it time to see if your lives mesh and the relationship evolves to a deeper level.

Age alone is not a dead-end for possible happiness with another partner. Michael had given up on marriage after many failed relationships; I had sworn off marriage after a long and unhappy marriage. Just goes to show you that our perceptions were shattered when we met each other.

Q: After the success of your first novel, do you have another in the works?

A: My second manuscript is finished and out on review. It centers on a feisty young Scottish botanical illustrator who is forced to accompany her authoritarian uncle to Oregon Territory at the height of the fur trading empire in the early 19th century. The novel spans 29 years and four continents and is filled with intrigue, deception, heartbreak, and lust; it chronicles one woman’s desire to be recognized in life and love.

I’m now working on a third manuscript that follows the ill-fated Donner Party as they travel west on the Oregon/California Trail in 1846. Just recently, I was turned on to another story, which may develop into a fourth novel set in the desert Southwest at the turn of the 20th century. It’s interesting that all my stories have come to me by chance, so I’m always listening!

Q: How can readers contact you?

A: Please visit my website: www.ashleyesweeney.com. There you’ll find info about me and my novels, and you can access my monthly newsletter, Word by Word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes Fifty Nifty?

10550133_10203363962597721_659315099500311649_oToday I turned the big 5-0!

Fifty years old!  Yikes! Can you imagine?

What do you think you will be doing on your 50th birthday? Or if you are 50 or older, what did you do on that big day?

Traditionally, I spend birthdays  reflecting on what I’ve accomplished over the past year.

I stayed away from that this year. I’ve let so much of my identity become wrapped up in what I get done on my list that on days where I don’t, I get anxious.

The truth is, we’re not owed any time, and 50 is a respectable age to have survived.  And if you’d asked me at 20 what I’d be doing at 50, I’m not so sure I would have thought my 50-year-old self would be doing as well as I am indeed doing.

Would I have known that I’d have two lovely adult daughter who helped break the tradition of my family’s early marriage and no education?

Could I have guessed I would have finished college myself and secured a fulfilling job with people I enjoy working with?

Might I have imagined at 20 that the friends I met in grade school would be with me as I reached the half-decade mark?

Probably not.

Yes, in some ways, my life turned out much better than I dared have hoped.

So yesterday,  I threw myself a fairly impromptu party with my best girlfriends. I grabbed a cake at Costco, and we all met on a Sunday afternoon at 3 at a downtown bungalow.
It was magical. And instead of focusing on what I want to accomplish for the next year, I thought instead about how pleased I am to have solid connections. It’s been my friends who’ve helped raise me so that I was fit for a family.

If I have a hope for the future, it is this: I hope for my daughters that they too can have long-lasting positive friendships.  And I hope for me that I remember to take the bull by the horns and go for the things I want so much.

Like writing. Love.  Like travel.

50 is a wonderful milestone. What are your ideas for making fifty nifty?

Zen-ing My Monster/How I Calmed My Nerves and Enjoyed a Date

Am I the only person who becomes a monster when it comes to matters of love and dating?

Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you: I like people. I love their stories and quirks and cultures. I may not be consistently outgoing, but I always love me a new friend. I really do.

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Until it comes to dating. The planning of it, the executing it, the whole nine yards.  Then my judgements are never-ending.

Is it that I don’t like men? I don’t think so. Is it that I prefer being alone? Not always.

“Why are you so mad at men?” a friend asked me recently when I groused about a man asking me out.  It stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t like to be mad, and certainly at a whole gender, but she was right. Even when I joined Match, I’d look at rows of pleasant faces online and make snarky comments. This guy’s nowhere near this stated age or Good luck with that, Buddy.

After much deliberation, I’ve come up with my top three reasons to avoid first dates.

unnamed*Dating messes with my sense of control, and though I enjoy other types of adventure in life, I could live without first dates.

*Dating forces me to answer everyday questions about myself in which the answers are anything but normal, i.e. Are you close to your parents?  Do your kids see their father much?  If you knew my weird life, complete with a parental child abduction as a toddler, and my daughters’ international abduction later, you’d understand how this could kill early dating pleasantries.

* Dating requires a certain vulnerability to be authentic. I don’t do that well. Instead, I cover my nervousness with humor and hold my date hostage by asking all the questions. I get to be like a stand-up comedian.  Take my children, please!   At the end of the date, I’m worn out, and my date has turned into a raisin.

This past Sunday, as I made the mad dash for the coffee shop I arranged to meet an gentleman at, I was a hot mess. My curls even got nervous and I looked like Albert Einstein. I tried to dust my shiny (sweaty) nose with loose powder in my car and spilled it all over me.

I immediately lapsed into negative thinking. This will never work. I’ll bet this guy’s another jerk. He probably won’t even show.

Then I stopped myself and pictured a better outcome for my Two -Hour Date. That he would be there in the coffee shop. That he would be fun to talk to, and that I would be glad we met.

This week, Leo Babauta wrote in Zen Habits :

2012-07-21 21.30.43You worry about how you look, about how you’re perceived, about how you’ll do, about whether you’ll fail, about what you don’t have, about what you’re missing out on, about how you compare to others.

He goes on to say that if you start to build confidence, you can let go of the worries and feel good rather than anxious.

You will walk down the street, relaxed with a smile on your face.

And so I did. I walked in to the cafe with a smile on my face, and was greeted by a handsome and very kind man. I enjoyed a killer cup of coffee and lively conversation. The time was well spent, and I added a new friend into my life. And I never saw the monster-me the whole time.

The Odds are Good But the Goods are Odd/Taming Alaska’s Wildest Life

70418699JThanks for joining me for my first week at the WordPress site.

Learning how to navigate my way around it won’t be easy, but we’ll get there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling excited about a bunch of new beginnings. The snow here in Alaska is finally melting. I’m off work for our local holiday, Seward’s Day, and an eagle is soaring in view of my bedroom balcony.  And I’m fiddling around on my new and improved site!

Then, as I run outside to  push my recycling bin to the curb, I find a lovely pair of moose eating my neighbor’s tree. They size me up and then move around to my small back deck, where the eating is better.

70418699QLife in Alaska isn’t for the meek.  A woman can get scared by all of the wildlife surrounding her, especially the men.

There was a funny Facebook post I saw not long ago.
 You know you’re in Alaska if–

*You only recognize two seasons: fishing season and waiting for fishing season.

*Dressing up means putting on your cleanest flannel shirt.(There are 98 others tips, but you get the point. We’re a little different in Alaska.)

Men here seem to have rough edges.  They like to catch their fish, shoot their moose, and don’t take kindly to anything or anyone that gets in imagesthe way.

But the women here  are pretty different too. I heard from a male friend once that moving to Alaska where a woman can just as easily filet a fish and chain her own tires was a little daunting. In Portland, he hadn’t ever lit a pilot light or a camp fire.

 What happens when independent women meet independent men?  Is there room in all of this autonomy for love to take root?

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My late cat, Tana.

I’d like to think so.

There’s a cautionary phrase told to Alaskan women who have erroneously been told that men greatly outnumber them: The odds are good, but the goods are odd. Very true.

But regardless, I’m ready to defrost and come out of hibernation, maybe enjoy new friendships. I’d like to work a little  less, play a little more.

And if that fails, I’ll get a new cat!

Please come back soon. I’ll steadily improve my WordPress skills, I promise.

Thanks, Liz

Adding to the Three Things I Know Something About

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!

I’m revising one of my very first posts, written almost exactly two years ago.

Though I will continue to be committed to reconnecting with lost loved ones, issues of child abduction, and domestic violence, in 2014 I’ll be expanding to include more about love. What is a safe and healthy relationship? How do we find them? Keep them?  When should we let go of them?And how do we cherish their memory, once they’ve ended?

And there will always be room to connect on other topics every once in awhile.

I hope your holidays are full.  Thanks for being a constant part of my life over the past two years.

–Liz

My intent when I began blogging was to write about the things I know and care about, focusing on the following three:

1) Domestic violence
 
Recently, I was contacted by two friends within hours of each other about their concerns over a loved one being abused. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve worked formally with abuse victims, and more than twenty since I left my own abuser, but the calls and e-mails still come in.

Dear Liz,

I need your help/ advise about a friend that is possibly at the worst time in life these past few days from controlling/ mental abuse/ possible a recurrence to old physical abuse but not sure.
 
In her situation, she’s been (insert emotional/physical/sexual abuse)…
 
Do I take the information and meet with a police officer, or just give her the information about the local domestic violence agency?  Lead the way.
 Thank you.
 
The fact is, domestic violence continues to be one of the leading causes of injury to women in our country. And the children who witness violence against their parent often end up in their own trouble later on if the cycle goes uninterrupted.
 
2) Parental child abduction, especially international child abduction

Sixteen years ago, I recovered my abducted children from Greece. Only a fraction of parents whose kids are kidnapped and taken out of their home country ever see them again. I was (am) lucky.But despite the passage of time, issues of child abduction cross my mind daily, if not hourly. Perhaps it would’ve been more manageable had I not been a stolen child myself. 

3) Recovering/reconnecting with loved ones.

Random, you say? 

Not really. Because the first two topics are all about isolation. Being disconnected from supports. From family. From yourself, even. I firmly believe losing strong and healthy relationships isn’t just sad, it can be dangerous. Conversely, I’m convinced that having those relationships in tact can be instrumental in preventing or getting out of a violent intimate relationship.

So now that I’ve stated my blog’s raison d’etre, I’m committed to writing about them. At least some of the time. And I hope you’ll let me know your thoughts from time to time.