Category Archives: Blog

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   

Inspired Thoughts – 4 Words You Never Want To Hear From Your Vet.

“Your cat has cancer.”

I was gut-punched; the air hissed out of my lungs like a pierced balloon. I stared at Dr. Gray. She obviously grabbed the wrong chart. 

“My cat? You’re talking about Pebbles . . . right?”

Dr. Gray nodded. “I’m sorry I have to deliver this news. There is a treatment plan we can put in place to make her comfortable the rest of her days.”

I went numb. The rest of her days? She looks fine. 

“How long?” I choked. “How long do you think she has?”

The doctor stroked Pebbles’s head. “Depending on how she responds to the medication, two months to a year.”

My eyes blurred with tears. The thought of my cat not being a part of my everyday life was too much to take in.   

We had gotten Pebbles shortly after my husband died. My daughter and I had visited several shelters, and ended up at an animal rescue along the Sacramento River. A woman had turned her home into a haven for cats. Yes, a legit cat-house. Construction was ongoing, as the owner added room after room, large closets really, giving Mrs. Winchester a run for her money. 

We searched through all of the enclosures, and it came down to two kittens: a black one and a white one. We played with both and debated. Then, the white kitten, with light-brown markings on her face, tried to crawl up my daughter’s bare leg, as if to say, “Take me home!” And that’s what we did.

During our first night together, Pebbles clawed her way up my bedspread, attacking it like it was Mount Everest. Once she reached the peak, she claimed what had been my husband’s side of the bed. It was reassuring for my hand to find a warm body near me, even one so tiny and furry. The hairy cotton ball soon became not only a family member, but a steady comfort. 

As an indoor cat, Pebbles followed us everywhere. Her little paws worked hard to keep up with our longer strides, but traversing the house caused her to drop from exhaustion and fall asleep. 

After short naps, she continued exploring her new digs and found a few secret hiding places. In the early days, I’d be in a panic trying to find her, fearful she had escaped somehow. Once I’d discovered her favorite resting places were inside cupboards and in the backs of closet shelves, finding her became a treasure hunt.

Our kitten soon grew to adulthood, with her own distinct personality. Always a clean-freak, Pebbles elevated grooming to another level, especially after a meal. The ritual commenced with an upward lift of a paw that was met and moistened by a rough pink tongue. The paw then moved gently across her mouth, several times, removing unseen morsels. The act was repeated with the other paw, as if it were a starched white napkin and she’d just dined with the Queen.    

For the past thirteen years, Pebbles has given me great joy and companionship. How can I possibly say good-bye?

I know how to do grief, Lord knows I’ve had my share, but I have never done “end of life” with a family pet. What makes it all the harder, is that Pebbles is the only member who practices unconditional love. And what she has given me, I cherish. 

My job now is to make her happy and comfortable. I do not want her to suffer. I’ve decided to spoil her by doing the things she delights in most. At the top of her list is having her front feet massaged. I take a paw between my thumb and fingers, and rub and apply gentle pressure that extends and contracts her nails. All the while, Pebbles sits in my lap, eyes half closed, wearing a dreamy faraway look.   

I don’t know how many days we have left, but when you know they are numbered, each one becomes more precious.

I’m not the only person who talks to their pet, so it should come as no surprise that Pebbles and I have had several tearful exchanges––she, the master of stoicism. With much cajoling on my part, she has agreed to let me know when the good of her days no longer outweighs the bad. 

Pebbles is under treatment, and each morning she suffers through my fumbling attempts to medicate her. (Getting a pill down an animal’s throat is no fun for either party.) 

My wish is that we will continue being silly and enjoying each other’s company. In the evenings, as Pebbles hunkers down on my chest to sleep, we are heart to heart. Her purr is a vibrating song that echos through my body, connecting us . . . making me pray for a long goodbye.

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of That’s Why You’re Here

 

Inspired Thoughts – Chills Are Signs

Giving Tarot readings to strangers still astounds me. The amped-up energy at psychic fairs creates an atmosphere where anything can happen, and often does.       

At the last festival, upon exiting the restroom, I weaved and dodged my way up a long congested aisle. Without warning, a man jumped in front of me. My hands jerked up in defense, and with both palms planted against his back, I said, “I’m behind you.”  

Startled, the man whipped his head around, then flashed a bright smile. “Sorry,” he said, and stepped quickly to the side.  

“No worries.” I waved and continued on, the incident immediately forgotten.      

I rejoined my girlfriend at my booth. Joan said, “There was a . . .” she stopped mid-sentence, and I watched her eyes lock onto something to my right. I turned to find a couple standing at the corner of my table. I greeted the woman. Her partner’s head was bent, and he seemed quite taken with something on the cement floor. I waited, but neither spoke. The woman stared at her companion, as if willing him to speak.

I finally broke the awkward silence by speaking to the top of the man’s auburn-haired head. “Would you like to get a reading?”

The head slowly lifted, revealing a sheepish grin spread across a freckled face. Clearly embarrassed, the man said, “I think I’m supposed to get a reading with you.”  

I laughed. “If you aren’t sure, it’s okay to walk around and check out the other readers. I’ll be right here if you decide to come back.”

His brows drew together, and he said in a gruff tone, “No, I don’t want to look around. I’m the guy that stepped in front of you, down there.” He nodded toward the other end of the building. “When you touched my back, chills went through me, so I followed you. I had to know where you were going. I don’t know what just happened, but it feels like I’m supposed to get a reading from you.”

I’d never heard this before. (I thought if I could have this effect on more men, I might not be single.) Trying to recover, I said, “I’ve never been told that I’ve given someone chills. Your story is a first for me, and I’d love to give you a Tarot reading.”

He glanced at his girlfriend, and then his eyes met mine. “I’m very sensitive and feel I’m empathic. I don’t usually come to events like this because the energy is too overwhelming. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.” He tilted his head towards his partner. 

Now, that, I’d heard before. I was still perplexed about sending chills through this man, as I hadn’t had the same experience, but our unexpected encounter thrilled me. It’s why I love what I do. The unpredictable nature of exchanges, and how people get drawn to my table, astonishes me. I’m living what I used to read about.

I held out my hand. “Hi, I’m Erin.”

He hesitated, then shook it with relief. “Hello, I’m, Rick.”

Rick’s Tarot reading was not only emotional, but it was filled with humor. At one point he asked if I was reading his mind, and at another, he inquired if I did relationship counseling. 

During the proceedings, Rick’s girlfriend sat engrossed, and once we’d finished, she said, “Can I get a reading?”

Written By Erin G. Burrell

Author of That’s Why You’re Here 

Inspired Thoughts – Hearts of Lace

Hearts Of Lace

When I was young, I looked forward to February with anticipation and joy; it was the month of Valentines and love. During art class in elementary school we wrapped red construction paper around shoe boxes, and cut slits into the lids. We glued hearts made of pink paper and white lace around the sides and top of the box. Crayons and glitter were used to write the traditional messages of “Be Mine” and “Valentine.” 

During our Valentines party, students raced around the room stuffing store-bought or handmade cards into the tops of our artsy containers. (I secretly hoped for a special Valentine from the boy I liked.) Cupcakes, candied hearts, and punch were served, and the sugar high lasted for weeks.

The 22nd of February marked the day of my birth, and produced another celebration. Sleepovers, being Queen for a day in the castle at William Land Park, and a bowling party were some of my most memorable birthdays. The memory of those childhood parties fills me with delight. 

But the fond memories of February were ultimately overshadowed by the deaths of my husband and brother-in-law. It became a month to endure, like running a gauntlet and dodging the blows. I prayed I’d make it out the other side.

With time, and much internal work, I no longer dread February. I will never forget those I’ve lost, and I honor them by living life to the fullest. I’m glad to report that February is once again a month of love. 

Recently I received one of those “out of the blue” emails, the kind that boggles the mind. Nothing the email contained would have been conceivable just two short years ago. The content might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me it was huge, and confirmed the path I’ve been on the last several years.    

I’m tickled to announce, I’ve been invited to Face In A Book, a wonderful bookstore in El Dorado Hills, for an evening of “Romance and Tarot Readings.” Two romance authors, Elizabeth Ferry-Perata and Catherine McGreevy, will be sharing their novels. I will have my memoir, That’s Why You’re Here, and will provide Tarot card readings. If there are enough people in attendance, we will each read a snippet from our books. It should be a fun and entertaining evening, and I’m ecstatic! If you’re available, please stop by on February 8, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.; I’d love to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones.