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I hate thinking of myself or the romances I write as middle-aged. In many ways, I still think of myself as being young. Besides, age is relative. When my mom had my baby brother at age 37, I was mortified. To a sixteen year old girl, she seemed ancient – way too old to be having sex. At 54, I realize the error of my thinking.
When I was a young girl, the church I grew up in talked about something called God’s Perfect Will for Your Life. When I married the wrong man at age 20 and got divorced at age 27, I figured I’d missed the boat for good, and that whatever awful fate befell me from that point on was no one’s fault but my own.
Popular culture sent the same message. In Donna Summer’s hit song, “Last Dance”, she sings, “Last dance, last chance for love. Yes it’s my last chance for romance tonight.” Grab it now, while you can, when you’re young, in the prime of your life – or you may never have a second chance.
But our God is a God who forgives, who gives second chances, in His time… a God who promises, “All things work together for good to those who love God.” Even when things go awry along the way. Even when the unthinkable has happened.
There’s something sweet and magical about the naivety of our first love. But there’s also something rich and particularly satisfying about a second chance at love.
I wrote several novels about falling in love – fantasies all – while waiting for a second chance at real-life romance. It was hard to be patient. It was tempting to grab on to the first man who came along. Anything had to be better than being single, didn’t it? But eventually, with the council of many wise friends, I could admit that it was far better to be alone than to be married to the wrong man.
There was a song we used to sing in The Growing Edge, the Sunday School class for single adults aged 25 to 4o that I attended at First Pres in Colorado Springs, called “In His Time.”
IN HIS TIME, IN HIS TIME
HE MAKES ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL IN HIS TIME
LORD, PLEASE SHOW ME EVERYDAY
AS YOU’RE TEACHING ME YOUR WAY
THAT YOU DO JUST WHAT YOU SAY
IN YOUR TIME.
IN YOUR TIME, IN YOUR TIME
YOU MAKE ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL IN YOUR TIME
LORD, MY LIFE TO YOU I BRING
MAY EACH SONG I HAVE TO SING
BE TO YOU A LOVELY THING
IN YOUR TIME.
There were times that I was so tired of waiting, so frustrated with my circumstances, that I could barely make it through the song without crying – or feeling downright mad at God. I wanted to be in love, I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be married, to have a family before it was too late.
Almost 20 long years after my divorce, I was still waiting. I’d had a handful of relationships that weren’t meant to be for one reason or another, a couple of broken hearts, and a couple of terrifying near misses that – thank the Lord – never came to fruition.
I thought I’d missed my chance. The odds against a woman in her late forties finding love and remarrying were staggering, and I knew it.
And then one day, a nice (and very handsome) man asked me out on a date. He was a pastor. After our second or third date, he asked me to come to the church where he is a pastor, to hear him preach. Obviously, if our relationship was to progress, I had to be comfortable with his calling.
I drove an hour that Sunday to attend his church. When I entered the sanctuary the organist was playing the song… IN HIS TIME.
Yes, there is something very satisfying about a second chance at love. When you find love after 40, there’s a greater appreciation, a deeper joy, a more wonderful than ever love that envelops you – heart, soul, mind and body. When a man can love you when you’re – yes, I’ll say it – middle aged – with all the “imperfections” and attitudes that come along with living 4 or more decades, when you’re not nearly as cute and perky as you were at 20, it’s a joyous surprise, maybe even a miracle.
And that’s why I write books about second chances. That’s why Jensen in “Night and Day”, Rachael in “Stormy Weather”, Michelle in “Water Lily” and Tracy in “Merry Go Round” are all approaching 40. That’s why some of my heroines have been married and divorced, some are “old maids”, and one, Hope Anderson, in an upcoming novel, Love Notes, is widowed. That’s why some have baggage, one has a complex, and another, a huge chip on her shoulder. That’s why they’re tarnished and even a bit tattered.
The heroes of my novels are also older. Like my leading ladies, Anders, Mac, Jake, and Clay have lived, they’ve loved, they’ve lost, they’ve been crushed, and heartbroken and devastated. And they’ve survived. And because they’ve lived through the pain of life, they’re richer and more sensitive, and infinitely more loveable.
Here’s to second chances…
(Written by Sherrie Hansen, who lives in a 116 year old house who, just like her, got a second chance when she rescued it from the bulldozers grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast.)
Have you ever felt like you were going in circles? We all have highs and lows in our lives, valleys and mountain-top experiences, periods of relative calm followed by turbulent times. We expect ups and downs to be part of our lives.
But sometimes I have a great sense of deja vu, a feeling that I have been here or there before, that even with all the maturity and wisdom I’ve accumulated over the years that I’m right back where I started from. Gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight. Making money, losing money. Finally outgrowing teenage hormones only to get hit by menopausal hormones. Firing one employee and hiring another, divorcing one husband and marrying another, only to come full cycle and discover that the same old problems persist – despite the fact that the faces and names have changed.
It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating! Like one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek, Next Generation, it’s like being caught in a time warp, living the same few minutes or days of your life, over and over again, and not being able to escape.
And then, every once in a great while (or sometimes, in alarmingly frequent succession), we get thrown out of our established, comfortable orbit. Our socks are knocked off. We’re thrown for a loop. Something catastrophic and life-altering happens. We’re permanently kicked out of our circular, holding patterns and forced to take a new look at life.
Riding the merry-go-round of life can be a delightful experience. Coming around the bend, making a full circle, and seeing those familiar, once-per-revolution sights can be heart-warming and comfortingly familiar. Yet I pray I will never be lulled into such complacency that all I do is go in circles.
My new release, Merry Go Round, scheduled to be out later this month or first thing next, has made me examine my life. There are some circular ruts that I need to break out of. There are some new, unexplored paths I need to explore. There are some old habits that I need to shed – permanently. There is a whole new world waiting to be experienced.
Maybe someday, I’ll move to France. I’ve heard they like carousels there – and that the lingerie is very pretty. And that the food is quite delicious.
Tracy’s supposedly perfect life as a pastor’s wife and mother of three is turned upside down when her husband leaves her for a man.
Clay Alexander’s charmed life starts spinning out of control when his father threatens to shut down Maple Valley’s woolen mill – unless Clay turns his back on everything he believes in.
Is Tracy and Clay’s love meant to be, or will they always be caught in the chaos of other people’s expectations, riding up and down and round and round on opposite sides of the merry-go-round?
Her children. His parents. Her pride. His honor. The welfare of an entire town.
MERRY GO ROUND… Hang on for dear life.
Coming soon from http://www.SecondWindPublishing.com
It would have been very convenient if Tracy, the main character of my new book, Merry Go Round, had turned out to be a fan of Blood, Sweat and Tears. It only makes sense that her favorite song should be the 1969 hit, Spinning Wheel. The song is one of my favorites, and it’s full of merry go round imagery. My readers know how I love weaving in double meanings, even triple meanings that speak to or reinforce the theme of my books.
As an author, you would think that I could just make it happen. If I want the main character’s favorite song to be Spinning Wheel, then that’s the way I write it. End of story.
Unfortunately for me, and I’m assuming other authors who get deep into their characters POV, this is rarely the way it happens. It’s almost like magic, as you get into writing a book, the way characters acquire minds and thought processes of their own – and have ideas that often take you by compete surprise.
As I was working on Merry Go Round a couple of nights ago, I suddenly discovered that Tracy has a thing for Rita Coolidge’s music. I was re-writing a scene near the end of the book when the words to “Don’t Cry Out Loud” started floating through my brain. Then it was “Fool That I Am”, “We’re All Alone”, “Your Love Has Lifted Me Higher”, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “Words”, “Fever” – a regular hit parade of Rita Coolidge songs, each one a perfect match with what was going on in Tracy’s life.
I know this may sound odd, but stay with me for a moment… Tracy went on to tell me that she had loved Rita Coolidge’s music from the time she was in junior high after being invited to a concert by a friend of hers. As usual, Tracy had only told her parents she would be staying over night at her friend’s house, not what they would be doing while she was there.
Her strict parents hadn’t let any of the Jones girl listen to rock and roll or popular country music, but after the concert, when Tracy told them that Rita grew up singing gospel in her church choir, her mother let her buy a cassette tape of her greatest hits (obviously, without looking at the song list). Tracy was always of the opinion that what her mother and father didn’t know, didn’t hurt them, and in this case, like so many others, kept the rest of Rita’s story to herself. I mean, isn’t that what headphones are for?
Then Tracy revealed the truly sad part of the story – at age sixteen, when Tracy started dating Trevor, her childhood sweetheart, she stopped listening to Rita’s music (because Trevor though she was too country) and started listening to Bette Midler, who was his his favorite.
Fast forward twenty years – when Tracy starts to reclaim her life, part of her journey is re-embracing Rita Coolidge. Thankfully, she’s learned that you don’t give up the music of your heart – for anyone.
Suffice it to say that when you read Merry Go Round (coming from Second Wind Publishing in late April), the song “Spinning Wheels” is never mentioned. But you will find snippets of several Rita Coolidge favorites. I’ll leave you with one:
As pretty as you are,
you know you could have been a flower.
If good looks could be a minute,
you know that you would have been an hour.
Well, you could have been anything that you wanted to,
and I can tell the way you do the things you do.
The way you do the things you do… The way you do the things you do.
The long awaited “Water Lily” is now available on Amazon.com! I should have copies soon, too. When you get to Amazon, search for Water Lily by Sherrie Hansen. Make sure you’ve read Stormy Weather first! While each book stands alone, Water Lily is the second in the Maple Valley trilogy, and may “spoil” Stormy Weather for you if you don’t read it first.
I grew up reading romance novels with 20 year old heroines, virgins, whose mother and father were conveniently vacationing in Europe or dead. While I loved embarking on an adventure of first love (and first-time sex) with these all-alone-in-the-world, pure-as-the-driven-snow waifs, my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older.
I find a complex, mature heroine with a caring (okay – meddlesome) family, who has experienced love and been disappointed (okay – burned), who finds it in herself to take a chance on love again, to be more appealing. To me, when a person with baggage and a less than ideal background finds true love — finally — it makes for a truly rewarding reading experience.
How do you feel? If you are older than 40, do you like the reality turned fantasy of reading about what other women (and men) your age are going through, or do you prefer to relive simpler, less complicated times in your life, to dream about what it would be like to be young again, to start all over?
If you’re young, would you even pick up a book with an older heroine? Does a good love story, and wonderful characters, render age irrelevant?
If you’re a writer, and knew that books with a heroine of any age would sell as well as the next, would you rather write about someone your own age, or do you prefer to write young, first love, first career stories?
I’m curious to hear which you think is more appealing in a story line – age and experience, or youthful exuberance?