Happy Mother’s Day to all my many Moms

I have truly been blessed to have many mothers over the years. I know that sounds weird but it’s nonetheless true. Being someone’s mom isn’t always about birth and blood. Sometimes it’s about simply expressing unconditional love and being a positive influence on someone’s life. In this, I have truly been lucky. No, not lucky. Blessed, like I said before. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe God gives you the things in life you truly need and if that thing is love, then my life is a miracle above all others. Truly, anytime you have love come into your life for any period of time, you are enveloped in a miracle.

Throughout my life, I’ve had that. Most of the time I didn’t really appreciate it, but then again what kid does? We’re a selfish lot until basically we die. Sometimes though, we mature to the point where we see that we are the person we are thanks to the love of some very special people.  Me, I can look back and see four amazing women who started me down this path to being the man I am today. My mom of course, who gave me so much of who I am inside, be it good or bad. Still that’s what it’s all about, balancing the good against the bad and learning to accept ourselves for who we are. I am my mother’s son, but I am also myself in spite of who I came from. Please don’t think that statement in any way is a slam against my mother. I love her dearly and she did the best she could, but I’m more than the genetic makeup she and my father gave me. I am the product of the nurturing of my environment balanced with that slice of Ancestry dot com.

The first influences on anyone’s life is our family. Mine is seriously matriarchal to say the least. I come from a family of strong independent women, who had to be strong to live through wars, death, and hardships most Americans will never experience in this technological world we live in. Their strength got passed down to their children and ultimately to us, their grandchildren. Before I move any further I’m going to say this in all honesty. My daughter and grandson are worse off because they had limited or no contact with my grandmothers. My grandmothers were heroines and pillars of strength and love within our family and the days we lost them, our lives became poorer. So, I can very easily say my first two mothers outside my real mom were these amazing women, who taught me the value of reading, education, and the strength that can only come from family. The same can be said of my Aunt Peggy, who helped fuel my desire and addiction to reading. To this day, she inspires me to read and never stop learning. You probably have her to thank for my ability to write. Blame her, or whatever. I leave that up to you.

I know it might be stereotyping but the South is full of strong women. It’s like we breed them from the high iron content in the soil or something. However you wish to view it, I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by these type of women through my life. My Aunt Evelyn and Aunt Doris are another example of why when a woman says don’t wash that kitty, don’t wash that kitty. My butt still burns from that whooping I got forty some odd years ago, but I digress.

Family weren’t the only influences I had growing up. Mrs. Williams, my third grade teacher, would be the next ”mom” to come into my life. She stood all of four foot if she stood an inch, but she taught me a love of learning and knowing things that go on to this day. As I entered Junior High, I got two new moms, Mrs. Merle Peirce who taught me Gifted Computer Science and Veronica Tappin who taught Gifted Humanities. Both women in their own right instilled in me a love of Science and Magic. Mrs. Pierce showed me there were no mysteries that we couldn’t unravel if we simply analyzed them to their core parts. Mrs. Tappin showed me magic existed in the world. In our rich history of humanity, magic constantly showed itself in the minds and imaginations of us the world’s children. If you have spent any time within my books, you can see the fruits of those ideals grown into a reality all their own. Thanks, to both these beautiful and smart women for giving me such a wonderful gift. Someday I hope I can pay this forward so their legacy can go on forever.

Entering High School, I found myself once again blessed, this time in the form of Mrs. Andrews. She truly became my mom, as she did to so many kids who passed through her class. Her son Sam was also a classmate of mine through high school. I think that created a bond with those of us who shared her class. Many times we spent our free time sitting in her classroom discussing whatever. During our time under her guidance, she further instilled the desire for learning and more importantly the belief that no matter what adversity came our way we could overcome it because we were stronger and smarter than we gave ourselves credit for being. Why? Because if she believed in us, it had to be true. Even as I grew older and doubt fueled me on to failure, I remembered back to her words, and fought out of the funk to do the ”impossible” or the impossible that my brain said would be a hurdle. The world is truly a sadder place without her, but she lives on in the hearts of ‘her’ kids as they inspire new generations of children to believe in themselves and the impossible only they can do.

That’s the thing. The beauty and wisdom of these women does not fade upon their deaths. I have lost some of my ‘mothers’ over the years, but whatever sadness my soul aches with their passing is forgotten in their memories living inside me. The valuable life lessons they beat through my thick skull are still there, and they continue to make me someone greater than I could have been if left to my own devices. God still places moms in my life to guide me through the worst part of my maturing. I thank Him every day for them. I am weak but the people He puts in my life makes me stronger and clichéd as it sounds, makes me a much better man.

Before I wrap this up, I want to thank a couple more people. They aren’t exactly moms but they are my contemporaries and constantly teach me to stretch my limits, give me comfort and give me love. Lynne Connolly thank you so much for your constant belief in me and the music talks. Alysha Ellis, thanks for being you and understanding sometimes that all it takes is some weird British geek speak to make things better. Lastly but in no way least, Paisley Kirkpatrick, thanks for simply being you. Love you more than words can say. Thank you for the fruitcake and truly making me a better man than I ever would have been without you in my life.

As I sign off, I want each of you to consider those other moms who have stumbled into your lives and your heart. Say a thank you or a prayer for them. Whether you notice them or not, they are a great part of your lives and the reason you are you. That alone makes them awesome and worthy of the love they share and deserve in return.

Until next time,

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Reading,

Jmo!

Jmo the Authorized Unauthorized Biography: Part Two

Last week I began the journey of how I became a writer. To recap. I got sick. I read a lot and became a geek. See pretty easy. But, we all know it’s more complicated than that. Writing is all about experiencing things, or in some cases wanting to experience things. That’s where reading comes in handy, but we’re jumping ahead of the story.

So, let’s backtrack to 1977. Bellbottoms were all the rage, as were sideburns, disco, and several other things I still try to forget. To state it as delicately as possible, my mother dressed me funny, and I went as fat Elvis for Halloween. There, my childhood horrors are all laid bare for you to imagine and snicker at.

1977 is important for a lot of reasons. I turned 8 for one thing. America turned 201 and in May of 1977 my life was forever changed! I know that is pretty shocking to hear someone say but it is nonetheless true as my wife and family can attest to. As the year began no one could foresee that not only my life but countless others would be sidetracked by something as insidious as a motion picture. If they had, I doubt they would have let it be shown in theaters.

To backtrack a bit in the auspices of adding flavor to the story, I had already developed some small love for Science Fiction. Planet of the Apes had instilled a love of the futuristic what-could-be in me. Well, it was about to be blown away by one simple phrase…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…

Yep, you guessed it. Star Wars. I am not saying it suddenly turned me into an author. Things like that don’t happen in a second or even in a few years. What Star Wars did though was fuel my imagination. At the time, I had no idea there would be a second or even third movie. That left me only one recourse to find out what happened next. I made up stories. That summer I think I flew the Millennium Falcon from one end of the galaxy to the next. Okay, I flew Vader’s Tie Fighter from one end to the next. Bad guys get all the cool toys and I wanted me a Tie Fighter so bad I could taste it. I had already been playing around with making up stories but now I had a purpose. To take over the universe.

My imagination didn’t stop there. The 70’s brought me another true love. The Three Musketeers came on TV on Sunday night and I was spellbound. Michael York and Oliver Reed instantly became my heroes. I wanted a sword, a big floppy hat, and boots that would have made Puss jealous. On one of my many trips to the local library I found the book and spent many hours in France. As a result, when not saving the, or enslaving, the galaxy rather, I was fighting the Cardinal and saving fair damsels in distress. That my friends is what I call a lot of overactive imagination at work.

Fortunately, I had a lot to spare. Good thing too, because my trifecta of greatest loves was about to stumble into my life. On yet another trip to the library, yeah, I was one exciting kid, I saw this strange book. It was white with like this ring thingie in the middle with strange writing all around it. That wasn’t the weirdest thing. No, it had a giant eye in the center of the ring. Drawn to it, I picked it up and flipped through the first few pages. It opened with a birthday party of all things. While my grandmother found some books of her own, I began reading. There were strange things called Hobbits who lived in a place called the Shire. There was even a wizard who made the best fireworks. Now, I liked wizards and fireworks. My grandmother came back to pick me up but it was too late. I was on a quest. To Mordor! With the Fellowship of the Ring. Btw, I would go on to own this book and the others. In fact I own probably around three or more copies of it for some weird reason.

I was no writer yet, but hey I was only nine. All my stories took place in my head, but what stories they were. I think the point I’m trying to make in a rambling sort of way is that you can’t be a writer unless you have great inspiration early in life. I’m not saying Star Wars and Lord of the Rings work for everyone, because we’re all made different. What appeals to me, isn’t necessarily going to jazz up the guy or girl next door. It’s all about finding something that you love and makes you happy when you read it, or watch it. That’s what inspiration is all about. It’s not what someone else says you should love. Nope, love is personal and should never be dictated to you or forced upon you by popular vote.

I really can’t tell you why these three things impacted me so strongly, just that they did. As I’ve grown older, I’d fallen in love with other genres, but none of them resonated with me like these have. I can ride a horse and travel out west and get submerged in the story as it unfolds. I can even get locked in a haunted house and scream my head off until I’m able to rip open ‘The End’ waiting for me on the last page. Since you probably know already, I write Romance novels, you know I can fall in love with the idea of falling in love between the pages of a good book. Reading is about, for me at least, falling into love each time you open a book. Doesn’t matter the book, it’s all about the ‘escapist’ emotional connection you feel from the first word of the first paragraph that lasts until the last breathless word of the last page.

Through becoming a writer, I’ve discovered the art of fiction is the same way. Unless you fall into love with the first word you write and keep that love growing to the last page, it shows. I hate to say it but I don’t always succeed in accomplishing that. The hardest thing about writing is staying in ‘love’. Life drives creativity totally away at times. Heck, even the story will present problems you hadn’t envisioned when you start out. Sometimes, gasp!, you’re just plain wrong about what your own story should be about. Just because you love something, it doesn’t automatically mean you understand the complexities of it. Otherwise men and women wouldn’t be two different species most of the time. Okay, all of the time, but you get the point.

First loves are always the strongest loves of all. You remember your first kiss but rarely the tenth or so. When writing, it’s up to you to keep that love alive not only for yourself but for your readers. That might be the hardest thing of all to do. This brick wall, if you hit it, shouldn’t discourage you from writing. It’s the point where honesty comes in. you have to be honest enough with yourself to say this honestly isn’t working and you need to step back until it does work. Forcing it will bring you some honesty you really don’t want. It comes in the form of the greatest and worst thing an author has to face, the voice of their readers. Trust me, you would rather wait for a story to work than to discover it doesn’t in the court of public opinion.

Okay, that’s it for this episode of Jmo revealed. Stay tuned until next week, as we get to the unusual education of said me. It sounds more exciting than it is, but the point is to get you to come back and read more. So, there’ll be explosions, international spies, alien abductions with prerequisite anal probes, and shiver, nuns!