CHOKE THE CAT!

I’m relatively new to writing and its challenges. I snuck in through a back entrance, propelled by a sudden urge to tell my own stories. So without knowledge of structure, and without guidance from “How To” books, I paced, chewed pencils, and cursed my way through enough chapters to produce a memoir called That’s Why You’re Here – A Journey From Grief To Metaphysical Awareness. It not only took duct tape and prayers to assemble, it took a village; namely a critique writing group and a great editor. When finished, I was full of pride, and I marked the occasion with an off-key rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.    

After I published, and sent my story into the universe, I stopped visiting my office. Daily clicks of the keyboard and frustrated groans ceased to be heard. Dead air flooded the once-active room. From the burdensome stillness a question formed. What’s next––if anything? One doesn’t write multiple memoirs unless you’re Elizabeth Taylor or Jane Fonda, and I was neither. So what next?

Since several friends wrote fiction, and murder mysteries in particular, I thought I might try my hand. Excitement rose, as a few storylines bounced around my brain. But before I could begin, I felt diligent research of the genre was needed. So once more, I was happy to be at my computer. I ordered a cargo-bay of books that were delivered by a fleet of white Fed Ex trucks. A neighbor, who witnessed the unloading, peered over the wall of Amazon boxes and asked, “Did I miss Christmas?” 

Once unpacked, I selected a book from a stack that partially blocked my front window, and my fact-finding had begun. My head pounded as each new selection cried the importance of beats, flawed characters, plot, conflict, structure, themes, A and B stories, and amazing finales. I was lightheaded from the influx of new information. Somehow I’d climbed onto a Merry-Go-Round that was out of control. Brightly painted horses lapped one another in dizzying fashion and I held the reins while the world spun. I had no inkling creating fiction was governed by so many rules.  

With absolute certainty, the paperbacks promised the tools necessary to write a blockbuster right out of the cemetery gates. I had visions that somewhere Stephen King was either quaking, or butchering, or burying something, in fear of me conjuring a bestseller.

I won’t lull you into a stupor by listing the titles that caused my eyeballs to shrivel. I’ll just say that if you’re new to writing, and on social media (which is a must so sayeth the Lord), then your shelves are populated with similar “liked” and suggested covers. The name of this piece was a subtle nod to one, as subtle as the jab of a hypodermic needle piercing a beating heart. 

Many authors went to great lengths to provide assistance to novice writers, such as myself. Their efforts were appreciated, and I’ve known many people who’ve found “How To” books helpful. I wish I could say, “Me too.”   

When the last instructive manual tumbled from my hand, it was as though an evil entity had encased me in a cinder block crypt. Buried under drab gray blocks, each cement chunk represented the dos and don’ts of writing. Into the wee hours, I’d studied my way into darkness, unable to create, and had become blind to what or why I wanted to write in the first place. Filled with fear, and riddled with “not good enough” feelings, a madness swept through my veins. The delirium crept into my quivering hands, and to my horror, I found I wanted to choke the cat! Me . . . a sworn animal lover.

The overindulgence in writing research had me flummoxed. For weeks, I stared at a television that wasn’t turned on, and I avoided my computer. It was as if all inspiration had been blow-torched, and I was sifting through cinders. 

I had to do something to escape my writer’s-slump prison. With pen in hand, I chipped away at the mortar between the blocks. With each new word my amnesia lessened, and I recalled what had brought me to writing in the first place. It was the simple joy of telling a story––to create something from nothing. The trick was staying cocooned in that pure state. Even though I might never string a word-necklace together like the storytellers I’ve admired, or write a breakout novel, I’ve learned there is something I must do. And that is to honor my own curious calling, and to bead my own creations.  

And rest assured, animal lovers everywhere . . . I promise to never choke the cat. The new plans are to stroke it, and nurture it, until it thrums with a pleased purr. 

Story By: Erin G. Burrell

1 – MANIFESTING

“You have all the tools necessary to accomplish anything you set out to do. Courage, self-discipline, love, and wisdom all lie within you. Learn to access them, and use them in a positive manner. When you permit your Higher Power, Source, or the Universe, to work with you, anything is possible.”

TWYH Oracle Deck – November 2019

That’s Why You’re Here Oracle Deck – 0 New Adventure: “It’s time for you to take that first step, that leap of faith, into a new adventure. Your journey could be an outward one, like embarking on a search for a better job; it could be an inward journey, a desire to improve your character in some fashion, like gaining more patience. Whatever direction is calling, this card is confirming that change is coming.”

The Interview

Erin G. Burrell (EGB): I want to share the delightful chat I had with my new friend, and the narrator of my book, Petrea Burchard (PB). We took turns interviewing each other. It was interesting to learn more about Petrea, and the audiobook profession. I hope you feel the same.

Petrea Burchard – Actor/Author/Narrator
https://www.facebook.com/PBNarrator/

EGB: How did you get into narrating audiobooks?

PB: I’ve been an actor all my life, and I’ve worked in voiceover for many years. I had looked into audiobooks years ago, but at the time I was focused on writing a novel and didn’t pursue narration. A couple of years ago, when a major voiceover client decided to “try a different sound,” (a male!) I wasn’t sure what to do next. A good friend who is also in voiceover said, “You should be narrating audiobooks!” and my brain lit up. So I started to study the craft.

EGB: What qualities do you look for in a book to narrate?

PB: I look for good writing that I can relate to. I’m a writer, too, and good writing really speaks to me. As an actor I’ve learned to relate to different people and characters, so the range can be broad. But there are some things that don’t fit my voice, or my style. I wish I could do everything, but I can’t. I love fiction, memoir, history, biography…basically anything that’s well written. It’s no secret that good writing is easy to speak. That’s why actors like performing Shakespeare.

EGB: What preparations do you do, prior to recording any chapter of a book?

PB: I read the whole book before I start recording anything. I might have questions about pronunciation, concepts, etc. If I’m in contact with the author, I can ask them. I also have the internet, the phone, the library. I want to know what I’m talking about before I start talking. I’ve come across interesting historical or geographical references, and I like to read up on those. It helps me to have an image of what I’m talking about.

I also prepare physically. Sitting in a small booth for hours is challenging, believe it or not. So I stay in shape, drink lots of water, watch what I eat, and do vocal exercises daily.

EGB: Your acting background enhances your narrations. What was your favorite acting experience and why?

PB: Oh boy. I’ve had some wonderful ones. My favorite has to be the British/American Drama Academy (BADA) summer program at Oxford. I had a whole month to immerse myself in the study of voice, movement, Shakespeare, and even Samuel Beckett, in the beautiful setting of Oxford and the surrounding countryside. We had wonderful teachers from the Royal Shakespeare Company. I fell in love with England and I always want to go back. It was bliss.

EGB: What made you decide to narrate That’s Why You’re Here?

PB: Your experience and the way you wrote about it spoke to me. Your background and mine are not the same, but it’s as though they criss-cross, and I understood your experiences because of experiences I’ve had. It’s like when you meet a client in the book and discover the connection you have with them. That’s why I’m here!

 

Erin G. Burrell – Author/Tarot Reader

PB:  In “That’s Why You’re Here,” you tell the story of how you got started reading the Tarot. How did you get started writing about it?

EGB: While I was reliving the wonderful experiences I’d had at the Healing Arts Festival, it came to me how frequently I’d been asked, “How did you get involved with the Tarot?” It also came to me how often my clients told me they’d enjoyed and benefited from my personal stories. That was a surprise. Not long after, a voice “dropped in” and said, “Start writing your stories.” I ignored this voice for a time because I wasn’t a writer and thought it was a crazy notion, but the voice persisted. I finally honored that message and began to write . . . nothing was ever the same after that.     

PB: Do you read the Tarot for yourself? Is it a regular practice?

EGB: Each morning, I pull cards for myself and I’ve been doing it for years now. I like to see what my day may hold and what I need to focus on. In doing this, I also stay connected to the cards, the meanings, and their images. Working with the cards each day is soothing and grounding to me. 

PB: I’d like to know about readings and fairs. It seems like it could be either exhausting or energizing. What is it like to read the Tarot for strangers all day?

EGB: It’s exciting and exhilarating. I’m energized throughout the day and tired when the day is over. I was beyond wiped-out after my first festival, but my energy level has improved since then. I, too, have to stay hydrated since I’m using my voice all day. We have that in common.

As far as reading strangers, we may start out that way, but by the end of the reading there is a closeness, especially if tears were shared. Tarot readings can be very intimate. I’m convinced that there is a divine purpose behind each person who chooses to get a reading from me. We were meant to spend time together. At most fairs and festivals, I am one of seventeen readers, so there is quite a selection. I have been told many times a person was “drawn to me.” I love that. One woman told me that coming into my booth felt good, like she was coming home. That touched me.     

PB: What was the most exciting reading you ever did? Has there ever been one that was uncomfortable, or scary?

EGB: My most exciting reading is in my book. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet, but I will say it involved a necklace and doing psychometry, the holding of an object.

I’m happy to say I’ve never had a scary reading, but I will confess that a few readings were uncomfortable at the start. (I’ve included an example of an uncomfortable read in my memoir.) The two I’m thinking of happened with men who said they wanted a reading, but their body language told a different story. They were shut down in the beginning, but ended up in a better place by the close of the reading. It’s gratifying when that happens. 

PB: Do you plan to write more books? What’s in the works?

EGB: I continue to write and post pieces to my website. I write about topics that inspire me, and I’ve even done a couple stories about my favorite TV show/book, “Outlander.” I am currently trying my hand at fiction, which is a challenge. I wish words came easy like reading the Tarot. I love to write, and I enjoy the community of writers I’m involved with. You never know, there could be another book in my future. 

The Call

The persistent drone of a gnat brings me to consciousness. I swat the air; the annoyance continues. After several tries, my eyelids unstick and I see my cellphone, lit and trembling on the nightstand. I stab for it, pull it close, and squint at the numbers. Thank God, it’s no one I know. The device goes dead in my hand. It’s 3:00.

Despite not knowing the caller, my heart smashes against my chest. The pounding gets interrupted when the phone shudders and brightens in my palm. The cell dives into the bedcovers, requiring me to fish it out. Like a worm on a hook, a quivering finger swipes the screen to take the call.

“Hello.” I listen––and I learn . . . my life will never be the same. 

My body shivers as if I’m outdoors, coatless, my breath clouding a frigid night. The air-conditioning is fast to remind me it’s summer, and sends a cool breeze my way. The draft only adds to the chills trickling down my spine. 

The warm phone is plastered to the side of my head, but I no longer hear the caller. My mom, long passed, takes over the conversation. “I told you,” she whispers, “nothing good happens after midnight.”    

Written By: Erin G. Burrell

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here

Inspired Thoughts – The Tool

After having recently moved, my daughter discovered she had way too much stuff and asked if I would store a few boxes for her. I peeked into one container and glimpsed a blowdryer. The sight of that contraption got me thinking about the arsenal of beauty tools and products I’d tortured myself with through the years. They had all promised astounding transformations, but most didn’t deliver. But there was one apparatus I wished I’d had as a teenager, it could have changed the course of history, or at least mine.  

First, I must tell you what it was like for me. When I grew up, girls complained about their rod-straight hair. They told of the daily horror of living with limp locks, and resorting to stinky permanents and body-waves to acquire the loveliness they sought. While they complained about straight, lifeless hair, it was something I prayed for. I dreamt of stick-straight strands flowing past my shoulders; a mane worthy of a shampoo commercial, or maybe a horse’s tail.

Unfortunately, my hair had a mind of its own which bordered on lunacy. Some people tried to be kind when they spoke of my curls, but, in fact, the curls were beyond my control. I was no Curly Sue or a Shirley Temple. (Does anyone remember Shirley Temple, or must she be Googled?) No, my hair displayed a strange clump of springy tendrils attached to the right side of my head. That clump was often mistaken for a hairpiece in search of an escape route.  

The rest of my head was an unsightly crop of straight tresses lost among unruly waves. I suspected my hair follicle genes had been shaken, not stirred, while I was in the womb, resulting in my miss-matched do. Mutation was the only possible explanation.        

The best way to describe the hairstyle of my youth was that it resembled a Picasso painting during his Cubism period, and it received similar reactions. People stared at it perplexed, and wondered what to make of it.  

If my hairdo, or lack thereof, wasn’t bad enough, it could worsen with the addition of one element . . . moisture.

My first encounter with this demon occurred when I was a young girl of twelve, while visiting my Uncle Jimmy in San Francisco. One evening, we walked through a thick mist to reach his favorite Italian restaurant. I’d never been in an establishment such as this. Perched on our red-checkered tablecloth was an empty, twine covered wine bottle that held a candle. Wax dripped artfully down the sides of the bottle and begged to be picked and played with, and I obliged. 

During our dinner it was necessary to use the restroom. While washing my hands I looked into the mirror and couldn’t believe the vision. The fog had frizzed my hair into a large circular mass. I had the world’s largest Afro, and I might have carried it off, if only I’d been born black. As it was, I looked ridiculous. In desperation, I slapped water onto my ‘fro, hoping I could reduce its volume. Why had the Hair Gods punished me so? I soon learned showering in the bathroom sink only made my situation worse. I left the restroom, head down, and hoped my Uncle would remember that silence was golden.    

Over the years, what sprouted from my scalp was a constant cross to bear, and did nothing for my self-esteem. I gradually acquired some techniques to manage my mop of madness. After a shower, I would rubber band my hair at the crown of my head and split the ponytail into three sections. Each section was then wrapped around a gigantic pink curler. This absurd look gave the impression I was either trying to pick up signals from outer space or attract alien life forms. Since looking beautiful for boys was my goal, attracting alien life forms wasn’t a stretch.    

The endless hours devoted to taming my tresses could have been avoided, if only I’d owned a Flat Iron in high school. This one device could have been my salvation. It had the power to flatten and smooth the most obstinate ringlets, and could even defeat a frightening frizz. (Back in the day, some girls achieved straight hair from using a clothes iron, but I couldn’t bring myself to it, especially after seeing burns and scabs on the foreheads of my friends. It was too barbaric, even for me.) 

The Flat Iron would have been the magic wand that made me feel attractive. With a flick-of-the-wrist, I would have gone from being “the nice girl with a good personality” to the “cute girl.” Just imagine what paths my life might have taken with a head full of gorgeous hair. But I’ll never know. My sweet takeaway is the friends who loved me in high school embraced the true me; it was never about outward beauty.    

These days, I use my Flat Iron regularly. It’s been a godsend. A shallow thought maybe, but I don’t think I’m alone in appreciating something that makes me feel better about myself. Now . . . if only there were a Flat Iron for wrinkles.

Written by: Erin G. Burrell 

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here  

Inspired Thoughts – Outlander Love

How did you discover Outlander? Did you see Diana Gabaldon’s novel in a bookstore in the 1990s? Were you given a tattered copy from a friend? Did a Starz commercial catch your eye? I’m sure every Outlander fanatic has a story. I know I do.

My saga began with an abscessed implant tooth. I woke and peered into a mirror; overnight I’d somehow acquired the visage of a prize fighter who’d gone several rounds with Rocky Balboa. My periodontist later told me I needed oral surgery, followed by three days of rest (thereby unwittingly prescribing a T.V.  binge-fest). 

Once home from my dental nightmare, I planted myself on the sofa. As I drooled down one side of my novocained mouth, I tried to think of a television series that would hold my attention. I was caught-up with Game Of Thrones and Stranger Things, so they were out. I racked my brain for other possibilities, when I remembered a girlfriend’s suggestion. She’d recommended Outlander two years before. I dimly recalled there was a handsome actor involved in the show––a legitimate reason to drool. 

I turned on the TV and fell headlong into a world of stone circles and Highlanders. I’d recently confirmed my Scottish heritage with a DNA test, maybe that explained my kinship with Scotland, where Outlander was filmed. 

The storyline grabbed me. I can’t tell you what happened that day on the sofa, I only know that something did. In simple terms, I was “Outlandered.” Places, dialogues, and characters entered my bloodstream, tainting every part of me. The condition has lingered, and there is no cure.     

I know some people think I’ve gone off the deep-end, but I pay them no mind. The Outlander series has sold over twenty-million books, so I know I keep good company. Others who share my condition reside within the castled walls of the Outlander fan-base. I’ve glimpsed their numbers when Gabaldon does a “Calling of The Clans;” a post to her Facebook page. Great hordes emerge to comment and “like.”  

During Season 1, I had no clue that Jamie and Claire’s love story would rattle me so. The friendship, respect, and adoration between the two main characters, played brilliantly by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, struck a chord. I hummed with memories of my husband, who had died years before, and our marriage. I naively believed I was past the gut-wrenching heartache and ugly cries that had immobilized me after his death. And then I watched Outlander.

It felt as though a dirk had sliced my heart, letting loose a river of grief. Witnessing the blossoming of the Frasers’ marriage hit me like Black Jack’s punch to Claire’s stomach. The painful truth re-emerged––I ached for my lover and friend. I yearned for his passionate embrace, and his whispered words of love. How many years would I wish for a husband long gone? Already more than I cared to count.

Friends can’t fathom how Outlander affected me so. After the first few episodes, I ordered all eight books in the Outlander series. I’ve since devoured the novels several times over. I’m in awe of Gabaldon’s talent. Her words and characters enchant. The author understands the beauty and intimacies of an enduring marriage, and I needed to feel that again––before I could let go.

Written by: Erin G. Burrell

Author of That’s Why You’re Here

Inspired Thoughts – Strange Encounter

Due to light traffic, I pulled into Red Hawk Casino’s grand entrance early. I planned to meet girlfriends for dinner and some fun. As I entered the brightly lit casino, I was confronted with deafening noise and a wall of stink. Cigarette smoke caused my eyes and nose to water––unusual to cry before the gambling even started. The blackened doors closed behind me, locking out the fresh air and sunlight I’d just left.  

As far as I could see, metal soldiers stood on parade in perfect lines. Bright colors pulsed and blinked, while bells and whistles clamored for my attention.

Slot machines were created to lure and seduce humans. Many paid dearly to be teased to the brink of climax and then left unfulfilled. Some deposited even greater sums, hoping for a rare glimpse of the reclusive Lady Luck.      

This sucker planted herself in front of a talking lime-green frog who wore black shades. It sipped a tall cool drink through an oversized straw. 

One aisle up and to my right, I noticed a woman staring at me. I did not know her. I smiled and nodded, and resumed my romance with the hip frog who moved to the beat of island music. 

As if teleported, the woman was suddenly leaning against my machine. 

“Oh . . . hello,” I stammered.  

She flashed white teeth, and her skin was the color of my favorite Starbuck’s Mocha. I guessed she was fifty-five to sixty because of the gray strands woven into her dark combed-backed hair. She wore a simple Army-green dress and her hands rested under her bosom. She reminded me of the Jehova’s Witnesses’ who canvassed my neighborhood.  

She finally spoke. “You are a beautiful woman.” 

Those were not the words I expected. “That’s . . . a . . . kind of you to say.” 

She continued to stare, and made no move to leave. Unease gripped my gut.

“Your hair is stunning. I wish I had your color.” She touched her head.   

Who wants gray hair? Does she think it’s blonde? “Thank you,” I said. 

The encounter edged past awkward. I pushed the button on my machine, but my frog-friend didn’t care about my situation.  

“I’m used to noticing people. I lived in Japan when I was young; I’d never seen a Japanese person before. My dad was in the military, so I had to go. I didn’t like living there.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t like the experience.” 

She nodded. “We have a house full of things from that time.”

“Do you mean memorabilia from Japan?”

“Yes.” The woman gazed at me adoringly. “You sure are one pretty lady. Do you know . . . all kinds of people are going to walk up and start talking to you. They will be drawn.”

Her words hinted at prophecy, and my unease grew. “No, I didn’t know that,” I said.

The lady grinned, as if she knew something I did not.

I pretended interest in the spinning reels, and willed the lime-green frog to create a distraction. It remained silent. It had abandoned me.

This situation was getting to be too much. I stood. “Mr. Froggy here is not being nice. I need to find a friendlier machine. It was nice talking to you.”

The woman bowed her head. “It sure was.”

Dodging gamblers, I headed for the opposite side of the casino. I pulled my cell phone from my purse and discovered a text from my friends saying they had arrived and were waiting.  

As I made my way to them, I went over my “strange encounter of the third kind.” I’d never experienced anything like it before. I hadn’t got the impression I was being hit on––I was familiar with that scenario, and this wasn’t that. The exchange was simply odd.

When I found my girlfriends, I said, “You won’t believe what just happened.”

***

Two days later, I stopped for gas. I inserted the nozzle and began to pump. I noticed a car in front of mine, but no one was near the vehicle. A moment later, the driver emerged from the car. A woman, older than myself, with dyed black hair surveyed her surroundings. Her sunglasses pointed in my direction and she beelined toward me.

I was on guard. Was she going to ask for money? The woman drew near invading my space. 

I couldn’t see her eyes, so I focused on her shiny red lips. The same red warpaint was smudged across her chin. She spoke in a husky whisper. “Have you ever heard that real women don’t pump gas, and real men don’t eat quiche?”

I laughed in relief. “I haven’t heard that for a long time. And yet, here I am pumping gas.”

Throaty giggles escaped her scarlet lips, as she disappeared into the gas station store.  

A bell rang; the casino lady’s prediction stood front and center: People will begin to walk up and talk to you. They will be drawn. Was it starting? 

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here  

Inspired Thoughts – Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen & Bath Remodels

So you’re finally ready to pull the trigger and update that tired-looking kitchen or bathroom. If you’re like me, you’ve spent months on Pinterest and pinned loads of design ideas to your designated boards. Now comes the time to find skilled people to bring your vision to reality. (I wish I was a DIYer, but I don’t have the know-how, time, or talent.)

Years ago, when I first ventured into the land of remodeling, I had a tight budget. In an effort to save money, I found and hired: the plumber, the electrician, the flooring, tile, and counter people. I survived the experience, though deeply battered, and promised I’d never put myself in that position again. (I’ve kept that promise.) 

Trying to get the artisans to my house at the agreed upon times was like herding kittens with a feather duster. On some levels it was entertaining, while on others, frustrating. The constant delays and shifting of schedules brought on fits of heart palpitations and escalated blood pressure. I considered keeping an EMT on standby.    

Seven years ago I bought a home, knowing the kitchen and bathrooms would need to be redone. Over time I’ve tackled those projects. To avoid the unpleasantness I’d suffered before, I researched companies that had at least two decades of experience, and had remodeled countless kitchens and bathrooms. I wanted a reliable company with long-term employees, and all trades under one roof. 

After an exhausting search, I decided on Kitchen Mart, a company with forty years of experience. They had a good reputation, so I signed on the dotted line.

Kitchen Mart gave me an estimated start date, and as demolition drew near, I got a color-coded calendar that showed when each crew would begin and end work. Kitchen Mart’s attention to detail and organization was impressive. I was never disappointed. (I’ll keep comments focused to the kitchen remodel, but the bathrooms were completed in similar fashion.)

The not so fun part of the process was emptying the kitchen cabinets. To combat stress, I worked a little each day, and completed my mission in a week’s time. Plates, pots, and cooking gadgets were boxed and stored in the living room. The upside to removing everything from the cupboards was that I decluttered, and Good Will received all unused items. 

During the reno, I had use of my refrigerator. I created a makeshift kitchen on top of the dining room table. It held a coffee maker, a toaster, and a tiny cheap microwave. The mini galley saw me through the two and a half weeks of construction. (I couldn’t eat out every meal!) I used paper plates as much as possible; I loathed washing dishes in the bathroom sink. 

The segment of the project I enjoyed most was picking out the pretties to go into the kitchen. Kitchen Mart had given me several supplier lists; my first stop was to a plumbing company to pick out the sink and faucet.  

At first I was overwhelmed by the number of options. Who knew there could be so many faucets vying for my attention? I got busy and started pacing up and down the aisle, eyes glued to the elegant water devices. Splashed across a large wall were finishes of all kinds: stainless steel, white, chrome, oil rubbed bronze, and nickel. My target was stainless steel.

I kept coming back to one faucet that had a graceful curve, like the neck of a swan. The more I looked, the more I felt it belonged in my kitchen. I grabbed it, and purchased a Blanco undermount sink. I chose a white finish for a clean look. (Whatever you select, make sure it “tickles your fancy,” and you feel like you can’t live without it. That’s what I want to wake up to each morning––things I love.) 

My next stop was to find a backsplash. When I walked into the tile store, I was greeted by a salesperson. I smiled and said, “I’d like to see some backsplash.”

The woman’s expression changed to disappointment. “The white subway tile is on the back wall.” She barely lifted an arm to point. 

“I don’t want subway tile.” I said, frustrated. “I’m looking for something with bling.”

The woman’s brows raised, and with renewed interest she gestured for me to follow. I was led to an area full of unique and colorful tiles. Now this was what I had in mind. 

At this juncture, I must tell you about a mistake I made, so you can dodge it. I’d already selected a gray countertop, but I neglected to bring the sample with me. (This error created more work for myself.) Once I’d found a beautiful multi-hued backsplash that I couldn’t live without, I had no idea if it would blend with my counters. Luckily, the tile lady furnished me with gray quartz samples, and I found one that looked stunning alongside the backsplash. 

I traipsed back to Kitchen Mart and put the sample of my backsplash next to the quartz countertop I’d chosen. (That act saved so much money.) When I held the two products together, it turned my stomach. They clashed. In that instant, I learned not all “grays” were alike. Some were tinged blue while others were tinged brown. It was necessary to change my countertop order to the gray quartz sample I’d discovered at the tile store. (Remember – always travel with your floor, paint, tile, cabinet, and countertop samples.)      

Thanks to Pinterest, I already knew what style and color scheme I wanted for my new kitchen. The brown oak cabinets would be refaced with a bright white Shaker door front. (I’d lived in a cave long enough.) Against the white, the black handles and knobs I’d purchased would pop.  

I envisioned a different look for the kitchen island. I chose a light gray Shaker for the cabinets, and Corian’s White Onyx quartz topped the island. The white and gray cabinets and countertops, along with the unique backsplash, blended in perfect harmony and made my heart sing.  

The Kitchen Mart employees were professional and friendly. I glowed when several men told me that my designer had done a wonderful job picking out the finishes. I thanked them, and confessed that I’d created the look myself.  

I love my kitchen. The renovation brought me more happiness than I’d imagined. So much of life happens in a kitchen. Meals are cooked, stories get told, tears are spilled, and homework gets done. Without knowing it, foil-wrapped memories get stored in cupboards, only to be discovered later and savored. Kitchens become hallowed ground.   

May you create a sacred space that brings you nothing but joy!

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author Of – That’s Why You’re Here   

Inspired Thoughts – Horny Grannies

The Great Debate – Horny Grannies & Outlander

When it comes to Sam Heughan, the Outlander star who embodies James Fraser, I’ll admit I’m one of the “horny grannies” his co-star, Caitriona Balfe (Claire Fraser), mentioned in an interview. (Which now seems to have vanished through the stones on social media!) Her comments caused quite a stramash, and some felt the label disrespected fans. (I was not one of them.) 

Ms. Balfe seemed unsettled by “older women” who clamored for more sex scenes, like those found in Season 1. Some people surmised that her negative rhetoric about said scenes, and her star power, explained the lack of sexual liaisons in Season 4. Others suggested she no longer wished to undress and be so exposed.   

I wasn’t surprised by the cry for Jamie and Claire to have additional boudoir scenes, given the chemistry between Sam and Cait, and given Diana Gabaldon’s talent for writing the hottest sex scenes in print. (Fire extinguishers accompany each book sold.)  

Gabaldon’s Outlander series is unique in that it’s a love story between a husband and wife who respect and remain passionate for each other over decades . . . and across time. (Claire has a thing for time travel and stone circles.) The couple’s mutual adoration shines through, on paper and film. Who wouldn’t want to see more “between the sheets” action from Jamie and Claire? We know the actors could deliver the amorous goods (See Season 1 – The Wedding), but subsequent seasons of Outlander haven’t remained faithful to the Fraser’s sizzling encounters as detailed in books.

In my opinion, it’s those missing segments that got the horny grannies all hot and bothered to begin with. I should know, I’m one of them and come from a long line of horny grannies. 

My grandmother told stories of men she lusted for. (In her heart, like Jimmy Carter.) In one telling, her eyes glazed over when she spoke of Rudolph Valentino, an actor in silent films. She buzzed about how handsome he was in The Sheik, and how he’d made her knees “go weak.” I was too young to understand her infatuation, or that a person’s look could spawn a physical reaction.

By the time my mom confided her fascination with Paul Newman, I understood animal attraction. Paul’s infamous baby-blues lit up the big screen, to say nothing of his acting abilities. His features in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were stunning, but Robert Redford’s looks stopped my heart. My mother and I bonded while transfixed by the movie’s poster on my bedroom wall.

I’ve always appreciated handsome men. They are like Michelangelo’s David, except God is the credited artist. My affinity for men was one reason I had no problem with Cait’s take on grandmothers. I also have no problem expressing my wanton desires to have more sex scenes in Outlander. (Jamie and Claire’s enthusiastic lovemaking hasn’t waned in the books, why should it on the show?) 

Caitriona’s comments suggest that older women should get their jollies from knitting, or some other pastime, rather than from romantic fiction. As if menopausal women no longer hungered for intimacy. And that, my friends, was what this old lady took issue with.

I may be a wee bit weathered on the outside, crinkled and wrinkled by age and sun, but on the inside, I’m a feisty chick of thirty-something, with age-appropriate longings. I’m not dead yet, and won’t pretend to be.    

I’ve watched and read Outlander, umpteen times, and certain storylines have caused physical reactions. (The reason for my repeated readings.) Whenever Jamie utters Sassenach, I’m done. Sam’s low-registered voice, combined with his Scottish accent, melts my heart like a Hershey’s Kiss on a warm tongue.

There is little wonder why this older woman has drawn Outlander and Sam Heughan to her breast. (I can think of no better resting place for his head.) Sam’s gym videos showing his sweat-drenched frame pushed my heart into AFib territory. His physique, on Instagram and “On Demand,” has had another alarming effect. It’s driven my own menopause into remission, and I’m forced to add Tampax to my shopping list.

This granny is demanding Starz to do the right thing. Millions read the Outlander series, and have supported the show – I’m one of those millions. My request is that the sex scenes that seduced us in Gabaldon’s books be embraced again by the television show, not discarded like some worn-out kilt. (The chaste kissing in Season 4 has got to go.) I want to see sparks fly between the Frasers, and hear their words of love as written. (I know it can be done because I’ve watched every episode.) There is a need to see a happily sex-crazed middle-aged couple in a mature and loving relationship. 

Most authors write about what they know; Diana doesn’t appear to be an exception. (She recently celebrated her 42nd wedding anniversary.) Through her novels, we see she is well-versed in the intricacies of marriage, as well as the intimacies. That’s the magic that exists between the covers of her books, and what has captured my soul.    

I’ve read numerous articles about why Starz and the writers can’t keep to Diana’s books. Too much material, adaptation problems, and changing story arcs were discussed. I’ve understood why various characters and storylines were cut to fit into the reduced thirteen episode parameter. (Season 1 had 16 episodes and was by far the best.) 

Over the last four years I’ve observed what scenes remained authentic to the books, and what was cast aside. (Some choices boggled the mind.) I’m begging Starz to stick to the printed words wherever Jamie and Claire’s carnal relations are expressed. The lack of those scenes in Season 4 was what created this “horny granny.” So beware! Riotous horny grannies could be unleashed the world over if Season 5 comes costumed in a chastity belt.

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of: That’s Why You’re Here