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2014: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you’re a fan of the Spaghetti Western you’ll appreciate the above title. When I was a little girl I used to watch westerns (mostly John Wayne films) with my dad. Well, that and musicals like Annie and Grease 2. Yep, Dad enjoys a good musical, and we watched many together as I grew up. That seemed like yesterday but in reality it was ions ago! And now another year has passed and soon it will be 2015.

I’m an optimist, or at least I try to be one. When someone says “Do you want the good news or bad news first?” I usually say, “Give me the bad news first because at least we can end on a positive note.” So, that said, let’s start with the ugly.

The end of 2013 came with bad news. I remember receiving the  call from my brother. It’s the kind of phone call you never want to get, and my brother, well, you have to know him. He doesn’t mince words (and I love that about him.) But when he told me… he didn’t beat around the bush, just blurted it out: Dad had the big C. ( I hate the word so I won’t even utter it here. It gives it too much power.)

The first time you hear that kind of news you’re in shock. No matter how old you are, you still see your parents as the young spry people who raised you when you were a child. They’re going to live forever, right? That’s your hope anyway. You never want your parents to age because when they do, that means you’re aging too. It means that they aren’t going to be in your life forever like you thought they’d be.

There’s nothing worse than knowing your parent is sick and you can’t do anything about it. It’s even harder when you live hundreds of miles away. You feel useless and helpless. You can’t do anything to make them better, and let me tell you, talking on the phone, being on the receiving end and knowing that my dad was in pain, well, it tore me up.

My dad has a heart of gold and is liked by most anyone who meets him. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased. Dad is a true gentleman. The kind of man you look up to. The kind of man people enjoy being around because he’s all things good. He’s an optimist, he’s honest, and he’s an all-around good man. If you’ve read my books take a look at Charlie, Gray, and Miguel. They all encompass aspects of my father in them.

So I waited. While Dad encountered six months worth of chemo, I waited. Waited for him to persevere. Waited for him to pull through this. Waited for him to get better. My dad is a fighter. He wasn’t done with his life yet. He’d survived worse things than this, he knew he could kick The Big C’s butt! That kind of attitude and the love and support from his family helped him. He’s no longer on chemo, and the doctor said the C is gone. I don’t know what the future holds. My hope is that it is gone for good. All I know is that I admire my dad for his will power, his zest for life, and I’m thankful to have him for a father.

When I first heard the news about Dad I was about to release The Days Lost. I hoped that a book release would be a good distraction, to help keep my mind off of things, and I was so darn excited about this book. I had worked so hard on it and decided I wanted to dedicate it to Dad. A book dedication is no small gesture. I spend weeks stewing on it. Who has impacted me when I wrote this story? But with Dad it’s not just one story he’s influenced, it’s all, because he lives in all of the “dad” characters I write. I wanted him to know. I needed him to know how much he meant to me.

Sometimes I’m the world’s worst listener. I can dish out advice, but I sure can’t take it. In The Summer I Learned To Dive, Jesse tells Finn, “You can’t have expectations. You just have to do it. If you go into it expecting something, then you’ll always be disappointed. Just dive.” Jesse gives some sage advice there. Too bad I didn’t listen to him.

I usually try not to have expectations. It’s a real downer when they’re not met, but for some reason when I wrote The Days Lost, I did just the opposite. I had expectations. It was a unique story that I loved, surely it was going to do well, right? Wrong.

And I’m not here to whine. When I was a kid my mom used to say to me, “Quit your whining,” anytime I started complaining. I thank her now. That kind of “Get out there and pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality really helped me in life. Thanks, Mom.

I decided I wasn’t going to allow this to affect me. Yeah it hurt. I had poured my heart into it, but I knew I had to move on. I needed to get over it and move on. Sitting around mulling over the “whys” wasn’t going to help me. Not with my dad’s illness, and not with this book.

So, I did what any writer would do. I wrote. I couldn’t stop writing this lovely story that seemed to flow easily from my head to the computer keyboard. It was so cathartic. It was therapeutic. It is amazing how writing can help you cope.

And I was so focused. Within a matter of a few short months, I’d done it! I had written another book. A book that I fell in love with. A book that brought me comfort during my dad’s illness. A book that I wrote for me. I didn’t care if it soared the charts. There were no expectations. I just dove right in and did it. And in May, 2014, Kiss Me Hard Before You Go was released.

As Finn says in The Summer I Learned To Dive, “With all the beautiful things I discovered this summer, like loving and being loved, there was also the ugly truth that there was no such thing as perfect. If that meant living, really living, then I had to accept the good with the bad.”

2014 had it’s ups and downs, like riding on a roller coaster. You’re frightened as you climb up that hill afraid of the impending drop but when you roll down that hill it’s one heck of a ride. And like Grandma in Parenthood said, “Some people ride the carousel, not me, that just goes round and round. I prefer the roller coaster.”

I don’t have expectations for 2015. I don’t make resolutions. I’ve never been one of those people who say “I’m going to do this or that” just because it’s a new year. So what do I want for my 2015? I want to spend more time with my family. My loved ones, they’re what matter most. In a world where materialism seems to rule, a labeled t-shirt won’t bring you happiness, how many friends you have on Facebook, and what type of car you drive doesn’t matter. It’s who is in your life and how much time you’ve spent with them that counts. That’s the good stuff in life. That is the stuff that matters.

Here’s hoping your 2015 is an exciting roller coaster ride filled with much love, good health, and happiness. Cheers.

(Photo below: That’s Dad and me in Highlands, North Carolina. Yeah, he’s a Red Sox fan).