More Life Lessons

This…..became this

…in just a few short days.

I had no warning. The view that soothed my heart and healed my anxieties whenever the world became too much for me was gone, just like that. I allowed this loss of control, this loss of beauty to break me. I shut myself off from the outside literally by not going out, closing all the shutters and blinds, and only looking out my front window and door.

I even avoided my morning ritual of communing with my Goddesses because their altar is in front of a window that looks out onto the healing view I’ve embraced for 20 years.

Then this morning I decided to come to terms with it all. I sat down before my altar and asked my Goddesses why this happened and what I must learn from it.

I asked, “Why did you allow me to lose this beautiful view that was so healing for me all these years.”

They replied in full force, as they always do.

“It was never yours to lose.”

Damn. But wait. They weren’t done.

“The beauty is not gone, it’s still there in your mind and heart. The peace it brought you is still yours to embrace. You just have to work a little harder to find it now.”


They are right. The hills, the horses, the skyline is all still there. I just have to find a way around the barn to see it. So it may not at my fingertips, but yes, it’s still there.

They weren’t finished with me yet. Yep. There was more.

“Focus on the beauty that is yours to behold.”

I think they were referring to my flower beds that have been sorely neglected of late. I’m not even going to take a picture to show you how unkempt they’ve become. It’s too embarrassing.

So, yeah.

My Goddesses bring me strength and healing. And sometimes they do it with a compassionate swat upside my head.

Getting to Know You

A tribute to my Mother in Law, Lauretta Ruth Babcock Phillips.

I love creating Powerpoint presentations for my day job. It’s fun. The biggest problem I have is keeping my word count down. (Oops, hello? Writer.) But I have to tell you, I’ve spent the last week agonizing over the at first seemingly unsurmountable and daunting task of creating a Powerpoint slideshow for my mother-in-law’s memorial Saturday. I had to make sense of so many photos, put them in order, and create the story of the life of a woman I barely knew. And, it had to be perfect.

It’s been bittersweet, like popping a red hard candy into your mouth thinking its cinnamon but it turns out to be cherry. Surprisingly sweet and unexpected.

I hardly knew David’s mom. By the time I came into her life she’d been struggling with dementia for a few years, but was still able to live at home with her daughter and son in law , Kathy and Tim, as her caretakers. We brought her to our home for a few Sunday dinners, we took her to parades in the village.

But a short time after I’d met her, she was removed from her home and placed in a facility that cares for the elderly, especially those struggling with dementia and Alzheimers. We visited her and brought her cakes and cookies, and photo albums of better days in the hopes of helping her remember bits and pieces of the good times. It was hard on David, because when it was time for us to leave, Mom would cry. When the pandemic struck, our chances to visit ended. David never got to see his mom again.

She passed away in January of this year due to complications from COVID.

The thing I remember most about Mom is her infectious smile and her laughing eyes. But there is so much more to her, I’ve learned this past week.

Mom went by many names, with her given name of Lauretta a derivative of two—her aunt was Laura and her mother, was Etta. Growing up in Maryland, as a young child she was known by her middle name, Ruth. She was also known as Ruthie, Wolfie, Laurie, and Mom, of course.

The woman I knew when she was alive was simple. Like I said, she had an amazing smile, and loving, laughing eyes, (I can’t say that enough because words do not describe her beauty and the love she expressed with a simple look, that still is witnessed years later in her photos). But by the time we met, she didn’t speak a lot. She loved sweets, and judging by the gardens around her house and from stories I’ve heard, she loved flowers. There were hints of humor and generosity in the stories shared, but I never experienced this first hand as she was already very ill.

Now, preparing for her memorial I’ve learned that Lauretta Ruth Babcock Phillips was not a simple woman at all. She was so much more. Vibrant, kind, loyal, loving, adventurous, curious, silly, endearing. Most of all, she was adored by everyone who met her.

Thank goodness Mom loved to take photos. She kept boxes and boxes of pictures, dozens of albums, framed photos and portfolio’d pictures that now sit on shelves in my husband’s office. And while there are not too many with her in them, comparatively speaking, we’ve found some lovely photographs of Mom throughout her life. She was very photogenic.

She also enjoyed traveling. We’ve found pictures of her global wanderings that brought her throughout the United States, as far reaching as Alaska, a trip she took with her sister, Sue.

Aunt Sue and Mom on one of their jaunts.

She even went to the UK, proof in pictures of her standing in front of the House of Parliament along the River Thames.

She loved camping, and spent many a good times at Kindervolk, a camp owned by her best friend Bev and Bev’s husband Eric, up near Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. David has shared with me a lifetime of adventures he experienced there as a child. Good times that were recorded often in photos by Mom, so there were very few pictures where she was included. Luckily, we found one labelled on the back in her familiar handwriting, “High Tea at Kindervolk.” She was a fun lady.

High Tea at Kindervolk. Mom’s kneeling in front in dark blue shorts and hat.

Her fun times included a four-seater plane ride with her son, whitewater rafting, a trip to New York City with her daughter, dressing up in period clothing (we aren’t sure why!), and celebrating the holiday’s with her extended family of stepchildren and their kids. We weren’t able to find those pictures, I only know that from stories shared. They went to amusement parks, had family vacations together, went back home to Maryland to visit her other best friend, Peggy and her children, and made sure she left a lifetime of good memories for loved ones to hold on to through the years.

Speaking of loved ones, we found long forgotten pictures of her husband, Earl. David’s dad who passed when David was a young boy. We found lovely vintage shots of Dad and the kids, of Earl standing beside a Model A Ford that he lovingly built himself.

Dad, David, and Kathy
Dad and one of his Model A’s he built himself.

We can’t forget the furbabies she surrounded herself with throughout her life. When visiting their home, you were most assuredly greeted by any given number of doggies and cats. Photos show mom lounging or snuggling with any of these beloved pets, including Colleen, Smokey, Blacky, Stubby, and Patches, among many, many others.

Mom and Colleen

Lauretta was so very proud of her offspring. There are volumes of snapshots of David and Kathy (his older sister) as children, from birth to adulthood. Kathy in band, at graduation, on her wedding day.

Mom and Kathy

And David, running around in a superhero cape, cowboy gear, competing in Karate events, and standing in front of his first car. And more. Too many to describe here.

David the Superhero (He still is, even without his cape)

Another area of her life that encompassed a huge part of her heart was her schooling and her career. She was an alumna of Syracuse University School of Nursing, and lived her adult life serving others at Little Falls Hospital as a nurse. And the few photos we found of her in her nursing uniform presented a woman who loved her role as a healer.

So as we prepare to say goodbye to the remarkable woman who brought into this world a remarkable son who became my remarkable husband, I’ve had the heartwarming task of finally getting to know my mother in law. And when Saturday comes, I will not be saying farewell to a woman a barely knew.

I will be remembering and honoring a woman who left a lifetime legacy of love, laughter, and great memories for all who knew her.

Lauretta—Mom—you may be gone, but you will never be forgotten.

Pictured, right, is Mom with her brother Kenny, who has passed (center), and her surviving sister, Sue (left).

Hooked on Guest Blogging

Stop on by JUNE 10 at: https://vickibatman.blogspot.com/2021/06/handbag-and-book-guest-author-janina.html
Remember, the link won’t be live ’til June 10!
Thank you, Vicki, for allowing me to Guest Blog in promotion of my latest release, LOVE IN THE FOREST!

I had always wondered what the appeal of guest blogging was. I didn’t understand it. It intimidated me. But then I read a few in support of fellow authors and thought that it would be fun. But I never saw an opportunity to guest blog.

And then I joined a promotion page and mailing list for romance authors. And here I am.

Handbags, Books, and Whatever is my third attempt at guest blogging. Well, fourth if you count two years ago when I blogged for my publisher Soul Mate Publishing.

It can be addicting. The authors who offer these opportunities provide questions or guidelines, then let you do your thing. They can be informative, and they provide a glimpse of who Janina Grey is behind the scenes.

If you haven’t seen the previous blogs I’ve done, check them out at:

CD Hersh gave me the April 7 spot, where I shared a recipe for a meal mentioned in TEN BUCKS AND A WISH.

Then, the Eclectic Writer featured me on April 30 and May 1 as I promoted the upcoming (and now) release of LOVE IN THE FOREST.

I’m currently securing two more Guest Blog dates, one in July and one in August. I’m excited to see what the focus is and how they present. So stay tuned for more of that.

In the meantime, please check out Vicki Bateman’s Blog, Handbags, Books, and Whatever. She has a quirky, fun energy and I think you will enjoy what she has to offer.

Happy Reading, everyone!

Janina

My Wild Week

I’m at a loss for adjectives to describe this past week. So many great things happened on so many levels. And the best part about it all was that the greatness is continuing.

My second romance novel with Soul Mate Publishing, LOVE IN THE FOREST, was released on June 2.

To celebrate, we offered my first novel, TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, for free on amazon.com. That jumped it’s rank up from being in the millions to making it to #209 as of this morning. WOW!!!! To think that many people were interested enough in downloading it just blows my mind. THANK YOU, Debbie Gilbert, for being an amazing Publisher and mentor.

It was fun checking the rankings throughout the week as they change hourly it seemed. And just went I thought the ride was over and sales would start dipping again, I’d make a new “high” rank and it would blow my mind all over again.

I don’t get paid for those downloads in $$$’s. The payment comes at this time in knowing MY WORK, MY CHARACTERS, MY STORIES are finally being shared by people I may never meet.

I shared posts through Facebook writing groups I belong to that connect me to readers and other writers. I sent a plea out to my fellow writers of CNYRW asking them to share the news of my new release. Their response was overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve been a member of CNYRW since 2004 or 2005 I think, with a short break when Life pulled me in other directions. But the support and knowledge I receive from these amazing authors is what keeps me going, even when they do not realize it.

Which brings me to another great experience that happened this past week.

Saturday, I sat in on an online workshop hosted by CNYRW, Growth Hacking a Best Seller with Liz Pelletier (Publisher of Entangled Publishing. I believe I felt a shift in my mindset, bringing me from a writer who is happy with writing to a writer who loves writing and wants more than just being happy with writing.

Then on Sunday, I sat in on a lecture by my new friend and fellow WitchLit author, Laura Parry, Deathwalking: Psychopomp Work in the Modern World. My current book, LOVE IN THE FOREST, features a character who has been nicknamed DeathWalker because she communicates with the dead. I never knew there was an actual “thing” called deathwalking. I thought I’d made it up. So thanks, Laura, for that very educational workshop.

Jumping back to the start of the weekend… we had an impromptu fire with a couple of friends we called last minute. Friday night marked the first fire of this year we’ve shared with friends. It felt good to hang out under the stars and just BE, without any major worries about possibly infecting and/or killing one another accidentally.

Finally, last but not least and saving the best for my grand finale… I got to see my kids and my grand furbaby MISO. For the first time. All together. And we hugged. A LOT. We decided to start up a D&D adventure, as all of us were enjoying the game in other parts of our life. During COVID those games fell a part, so we thought, why not? it gives us a common thread and reason to come together, and fills a gap left with the absence of our other games. It’s easier for me to have family members in the house, all of whom are vaccinated, and we are keeping it under Ten as per the COVID guidelines.

OUR FIRST D&D SESSION IN PERSON and the first time I’ve gotten to see my kids together SINCE LAST SUMMER. L-R, David, our amazing DM, Anthony, Jolene, James, Brett, Allie, and THE MIGHTY MISO MY AMAZING GRANDFUR BABY at Allie’s Feet.

So, last week was fill with abundance and gratitude on so many levels.

David and I repeatedly state how blessed we are with our lives, and how blessed we are for all the people we share this journey with, whether in person or virtually.

Thank you, everyone, for making my life so magically wonderful on so many levels.

Janina

TEN BUCKS AND A WISH

Free Download ’til Sunday June 6

My publisher, Deborah Gilbert- Soul Mate Publishing- made TEN BUCKS AND A WISH a free download from June 4 to June 6.

I promoted it everywhere I could. At one point, Facebook threatened me because they said I was in possible violation of their Spam Rules.

But the work paid off. TEN BUCKS AND A WISH shot from 1,685,414 to 12,454 in overall sales.

TODAY, I’m ranked at 252 in Contemporary Romance sales.

It’s a dream I never imagined would become a reality. Enough people are reading my work to bring me to the 252 position of Contemporary Romance Sales on amazon.com.

Thank you, Debbie, for helping me achieve this goal.

Thank you, everyone, for buying and reading my book.

Today is the last day to grab my ebook free. Spread the word, please!

And thank you for being a part of my journey!

LOVE IN THE FOREST IS AVAILABLE!

available at amazon.com

LOVE IN THE FOREST is now available in ebook form from amazon.com! WOW!!!

The idea for this story was born from a Tarot card reading while on a writer’s retreat at Thistle Dew. I was in my room, had just finished the last of my “Release Day” posts for TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, and I had been mulling over my publisher’s challenge to write something new—another Contemporary Romance.

And, always up for a challenge, I did just that. I didn’t know where to start, so I pulled out my Tarot. And, using the concepts me and my friend and fellow author MJ Compton have shared with our co-CNYRW’ers, I read for my characters. I didn’t know their names yet, but I knew that in time it would come to me.

And it did (of course).

So, here is the spread I used to create Brooke Meadows. Unfortunately, I don’t have the image of the spread I did for Joshua Quinn, but it doesn’t matter, he’s a hunk who needs healing. What more do we need to know?

Brooke’s Spread

LOVE IN THE FOREST takes place just outside the village of Demilune, in the Adirondack Mountains. While Demilune is fictitious, it is named after the town I always wanted to live in, HalfMoon, New York.

There’s a great little drum shop (Beats and Things) in Demilune, and a jewelry shop called Nurtured by Nature Designs, and an awesome pub with a pool table (every pub needs a pool table, no?). And a sandwich shop with Boar’s Head cold cuts.

Brooke and Josh meet at the Earth & Sky retreat camp, where she works on the books as the camp photographer. And while it’s not in her job description, she fills in as crisis counselor when needed. And messenger. Of the Dead. Which is how she got her nickname, DeathWalker. (An endearing little tag, no?)

Weeks before Josh even knew he’d be attending Earth & Sky, Brooke began receiving messages from Josh’s dead wife, Rosalie. So naturally, when Josh arrives, it’s Brooke’s job to make sure Rosalie’s messages get to Josh.

But Josh, a hunk of a CEO of the world’s most popular dating app Quirkyflirt.com (don’t google it, I couldn’t afford to buy the domain) doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. But he does believe Earth & Sky are in cahoots with his board president to get him to retire early as part of a takeover plan.

If you want to know what happens you’re going to have to wait until… OH WAIT!!! You don’t have to wait!

LOVE IN THE FOREST GOES LIVE JUNE 2! By the time you read this, you’ll already be able to order my second romance. You won’t have to wait! Hurry! Stop reading. Get your copy now.

I’ll make it easy for you. Just click on the link below (where it says “Happy Reading!”)

Happy reading! 🙂

Love, Janina

PS Check out The Wild Scavenger Hunt and start checking off items to win great prizes in September!
Good luck and have fun!