Movie Monday: Blue Lagoon – Paradise Lost

I love the movie BLUE LAGOON. I can’t remember when I saw it first, all I know is, we have it on our hard drive with Dutch subtitles. I must have recorded it on one of the old monster VCRs when we went to live in the Netherlands. My kids and I used to watch it on cold, rainy days. It was our ‘bad weather go to movie’. How often did we watch it? Your guess is as good as mine, but cold, rainy days were easy to come by in Holland and in New Zealand, where we moved to in 1988. Continue reading “Movie Monday: Blue Lagoon – Paradise Lost”

Message From Your Past

When we find an old bottle with a message inside on the beach, we get immediately excited and expect at least a romantic love note if not a hint to sunken treasure. I remember as a child I waited for the postman, convinced he would bring a letter from a forgotten uncle in America, telling me I inherited a fortune. Needless to say, it never happened.

I want to talk about the other messages, those that cause heartache and pain for years on end. Messages we carry with us–sometimes from early childhood on–that cause deep scars and can get in the way of a happy, fulfilling life. They are often given through hurtful words and actions or through the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. They are emotionally crippling and can cause gazillions of problems. Continue reading “Message From Your Past”

Love Reading Romance? Become an Advanced Reader

Doesn’t it sound exciting, being an Advanced Reader? Until a few month ago I had no idea what that meant. Advanced Readers are people who get a FREE copy of a soon to be released novel and once they’ve read it, they give a review/feedback to the author.

So here I am looking for about ten people who would like to be part of my Advanced Reader group. If that is an interesting proposition for you,

I’d love you to put your name down HERE

As thanks, I’ll send everyone who puts her or his name down a signed paperback copy of my non-fiction book DELICIOUS MIND BODY AND SOUL, which is a combination of life-wisdom and healthy smoothies.

 

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Bonds of Love: A Summer Read

I like to know how things start. Context for me is like a scaffolding any story is hanging on, whether it’s the story about how I found my new pair of shoes or any other story. In fact, my family accuses me of starting with Adam&Eve every time I tell a story. I’ll never understand their exasperationtGolden Girl Series - High Resolution - A Prequel.

It was only logical to write the Adam&Eve bit for my GOLDEN GIRLS series. After finishing the first two of my Golden Girls books, I NEEDED to know how they became such good friends whose friendship lasted over thirty years. That’s a pretty amazing achievement, don’t you agree?

When readers asked me how it all started, I had the best excuse to go back in time and peak into the student flat of Anna, Thea, Claudia, and Christine.

 So go ahead and get your copy of Bonds of Love: The Prequel of the Golden Girls series. It’ll be FREE to a good home for a while.

You can order it here: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/V28fg

 

 

 

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Is It Too Late For Love?

The other day I heard a story of an elderly couple in their mid-eighties who is having an affair. In their retirement home! The reaction of the surrounding audience was “How cute, how endearing.” As if they were little infants who lie on a lambskin, lifting their heads for the photographer or a couple of pre-schoolers playing Mums ‘n Dads.

It’s never cute to start a new relationship, no matter what age we are. More so as an older person than in younger years. As we enter the sunset years of our lives, finding a new partner and starting a new relationship requires courage and a giant leap of faith. It’s not easy to put one’s history aside and start anew. It’s also an incredibly hopeful act because One is a lonely number and living as One is a hard road to travel.

When people heard the story of the couple from the retirement home, I imagine their mental picture was that of a brittle couple walking the garden paths holding their emaciated hands, planting little kisses on each other’s lips or wrinkly cheeks, and whispering terms of endearment before they forgot what they were talking about.

But NO. Three times NO. It’s not cute. It is not like admiring a couple of rare Panda bears in the zoo or on TV. It simply is the human condition. Throughout our lives, we always need another person to help us regulate our internal state, our level of arousal. A baby couldn’t be calm or go to sleep without the closeness of a calm and soothing mother. It would suffer greatly and might even die without the love and physical comfort of another person, even when fed regularly. Being close to a (caring) person is not just a good idea, it’s a biological necessity for our survival. As we grow older, our dependence on another person decreases, but it will never ever go away completely. We always function better when we are close to another person.  (For more in-depth information about this read A General Theory of Love).

Back to my story. When it transpired that Eva (let’s call my fellow oldies Eva and Adam) talked about yummy sex, people’s eyes clouded over. The Icky-effect kicked in. The idea that Adam would have his eighty-year-old hand sliding up Eva’s trembling thighs and suckle with increasing enjoyment on her nipples, quickly threw the couple out of the ‘cute-corner.’ Because, let’s be serious, Old Folks over the age of 50, are put out to pasture and best used as babysitters, for house sitting, and looking after the animals when the kids are on holiday.

It may be hard to picture our parents as sexually active—I found it hard to picture my own parents as sexually active… until I crossed over to the Old Folks’ side.

Let me tell you, as someone who is closer to my eighties than my fifties, that’s not how it works for those of us on the other side of this magical divide. The skin may wrinkle and the bones may creak, but the (metaphorical) heart and soul are ageless. Besides having accumulated more knowledge over the years and learned from experiences, my thinking has not changed much. Only when I’m invited to join in some physical activities, I have to pass. That’s the only time I ‘feel’ my age.

The need for emotional and physical intimacy, however, doesn’t stop. Erogenous zones don’t disappear with the plumpness of youthful skin. It is still arousing to be touched in those areas. There is no use-by-date of the need for love, after which life becomes a waiting game for the undertaker.

Baby boomers have heralded the sexual revolution together with many changes we take for granted nowadays. Watch this space—they/we will not sit by and allow people to cutesify (don’t adjust your spell check, I just invented the word) our lives. I say that even though knowing the obstacles we face are extraordinary.

I started writing romance novels a few years ago and my heroines are in their late fifties and older… after all, they say write about what you know. Since then I have talked with many women my age and older, and through this scientifically conducted research, I came to the conclusion that we love being held, being kissed, being stroked, being made love to, no matter our age and the number of wrinkles we have.

I have submitted my ideas and manuscripts to several well-known publishers and agents and received the feedback that there is no readership for old heroines like that. Old Heroes, maybe, but certainly not dried up old Heroines. Maybe they are right? I for one am sick and tired reading about twenty and thirty-year-old people, whether they are normal couples or shifting into some other kind of beings. Yes, I too love Sleepless in Seattle and adore Dirty Dancing, but surely there must be more stories out there like Something’s Gotta Give? Yes, yes, I hear you mention the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A great start, but only one of very few bucking the trend and depicting positive images of older age. There are interesting lives being lived from the age of fifty onwards and they are worth talking about. Recognizing oneself in stories being told might help our generation to feel less isolated and resigned.

What are we doing to ourselves if a quarter of our life is ignored in so many areas of life, including art? I say our on purpose because if you are lucky, you’ll get there as well. Sometimes it feels like we are a burden to society—except for those who own and run retirement homes. They can’t wait for us to flock to their establishments in droves and guarantee them lucrative profits.

Imagine my excitement when two large publishers (in the romance field) put a call out for manuscripts with what they coined ‘Silver Fox Heroes and Heroines’. They defined ‘Silver Foxes’ as people between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. It took a while for me to stop rolling my eyes. Did they mean those young people who dye their hair gray now because it’s a new fashion trend? The mind boggles. If you are middle-aged and love romantic novels, you might have to search amongst indie publishers for books with real silver foxes and vixens.

Ah well, the fight goes on. Ageism and discrimination of older people aren’t something new and it’ll take much more awareness and talk about these issues for things to change. At least, we have Grace and Frankie on Netflix, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. When they talk about life and sex I can see the silver lining. Like the Golden Girls of the eighties, they push the boundaries of contemporary thinking about us oldies. YEAH! Go, Girls!

For the reader of romantic suspense, my books A TUSCAN AFFAIR and A CASE FOR LOVE can be found at all major e-book outlets.

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Book Launch Party: A TUSCAN AFFAIR

I’m having a bit of a party to celebrate the launch of my debut novel A TUSCAN AFFAIR. Romance fans who are in Wellington on that day, are welcome to join us for a good time.

 

A TUSCAN AFFAIR, the first of four books in the GOLDEN GIRLS Series. Four long-time friends are faced with life changing decisions. As so often happens, life throws some serious obstacles their way but being strong Kiwi women, they don’t cower in fear. Instead, they meet those challenges head-on.

 

With the help of each other, they answer the age-old question: Do we quietly sit back and grow old or is there still one more adventure waiting for us? One more love?

Each one of the four friends has a book to her name. A TUSCAN AFFAIR is Anna’s story.

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Men And Women React Differently To Stress

There are many areas in life where it can be noticed that men and women respond differently to some situations. Recent research with brain imaging has shown that each gender responds differently to stress.

The main difference seems to be that stress caused changes in men’s right prefrontal cortex and their left orbitofrontal cortex. These areas are usually associated with what is known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. Thus it can be expected that men deal with problems that cause them stress by going into ‘fight-mode’ that could in some instances involve aggression, or they respond with avoidance and withdrawal.

This is very different for women under stress. For them, changes were noticed in their limbic system, the part of the brain that is mainly involved in relationships, attachments, and emotions.  This indicates that women may respond to stress with changes in mood (depression) and with what is known as the ‘tend-and-befriend’ dynamic by becoming nurturing and seeking connections with others to maximize support.

These two very different coping styles seem to be rooted in the evolutionary past of humans when the division of responsibilities had males hunting, fighting and protecting while females tended to the well-being and functioning of the group or community.

Nowadays the nature of stressors people face has changed and both styles of coping with stress create a distinct set of problems if people unconsciously act as if they are still living in the Stone Age. Most stressors today have to do with people’s relationships or the lack thereof, how they compensate for their insecurities, and how they follow their ambitions.

These modern stressors require strategies that are much more complex than ‘fight-or-flight’ or ‘tend-and-befriend.’ Following the Darwinian insights of evolution, it can be expected that those people will be successful who can adjust to modern stressors with strategies that use both male and female strengths of problem-solving.

This article was inspired by the following research:  University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (2007, November 20). Brain Imaging Shows How Men And Women Cope Differently Under Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2009

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Impact Of Early Childhood Stress

Child AFor psychotherapists working with people who struggle with the
legacies of an abusive and/or traumatic childhood, it is no news that people are affected way past their childhood years. It’s good to see that research is coming to the party and provides scientific evidence for the long-term struggles people have.

“The immune system is not present at birth. The cells are there, but how they will develop and how well they’ll be regulated is very much influenced by your early environment and the type of rearing you have.” We know from trauma research the same to be true for people’s self-capacities involved in distress tolerance and emotion regulation.

Indeed, even if the life circumstances improve people show that early childhood stress has a negative impact on their learning capability, on their behaviours, and on their immune system.  Thus they are disadvantages with regard to their future careers, to how they integrate into society, and with regard to their health status.

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How To Get Over Childhood Stress: The Process Of Getting Hurt

broken heart 2This is the first of two articles about how to get over childhood stress or – how does therapy work – in which I will explain how people get hurt by childhood stress (1st article) and how they can recover from it (2nd article “Healing from Childhood Stress and Abuse: How Therapy works”).  I have included the impact of childhood stress seen through neurobiological eyes because it shows clearly the pathways to how the healing can take place.

I have often been asked by colleagues why I use neurobiological concepts instead of psychological concepts to explain what is going on. My answer to that is: often psychological concepts are way out there and hard to follow by people who are not totally into that side of things: take for example Freud’s or Melanie Klein’s work – very exciting … but you have to bend over backwards and jump through a needle’s eye to follow their line of thinking.
Whereas neurobiological concepts can be ‘seen’ on MRI scans and we become more understanding of how our brain works. I find that exciting.

So why is childhood stress (hardship, abuse, neglect) so damaging? Why can people not follow the often given advice and just ‘GET OVER  IT’? She short answer is: Because the stressful experiences become part of who you are! Let me show you how that works: (Disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist and don’t claim to be an expert. I’ll give you my ‘lay translation’ of hundreds of research articles and books that I have studied).

Continue reading “How To Get Over Childhood Stress: The Process Of Getting Hurt”

Romance Writer? Seriously?

 

origin_630008218Just the other day a friend asked me what I am doing now, being retired, and having moved to Wellington. When I told her I’m writing romance novels, she said, “Romance Writer? Seriously? You? The Mills & Boons kind of stuff?”

Yip, I suppose, the Mills & Boons kind of stuff, if it means writing stories where it’s pretty obvious on page number two who’ll end up in their own Happy Ever After on page number 289. And even though it’s predictable, I love going for the ride and rejoice with the heroine and fall in love with the hero.

I used to be a psychotherapist—though on second thought, ‘used to be’ may not be quite right. Thirty years of identifying people’s behaviors, actions, thought patterns, language expressions, and body language, don’t stop because I’ve turned sixty-five and received a Gold Card.

My friend’s surprise said loud and clear, in her eyes I sank from the lofty heights of psychology into the mud-filled gutter of rubbish scribblers, who are unable to write real literary pieces worth reading, like Shakespeare or Dostojewski—did I miss one?

I know romance writers are looked down upon in general, and my friend affirmed that for me. But it got me thinking. Why is that? Why is writing about people starving for love, longing for the one person who understands them on a soul-level so frowned upon? I’ve got an idea! Bear with me for a brief psychology rendition. I promise to make it a short one.

I have a Ph.D. in Mental Health and Environmental Sciences. For my thesis design and analysis, I used recognition theory (RT), a critical social theory formulated by Axel Honneth. If you are interested in sociology, go and read up on it. It’s cool!

RT says human beings need recognition to be ‘healthy’ and function adequately in society. We get recognition through LOVE, RIGHTS, and SOLIDARITY. If any of these forms are absent, we struggle. We fight for recognition. Have been in the past, and will in the future. It’s in our nature.

LOVE provided by parents, partners, and other important persons. If we are not affirmed by love that our existence is important, we struggle.

RIGHTS granted through legal systems and structures in society. If legal systems don’t grant us rights to vote, equality, freedom, to name a few, we struggle.

SOLIDARITY through acknowledgment by our peers and community as someone who contributes something valuable. If our lifestyle or our work, are not appreciated, we struggle.

How does that relate to romance writing? Because recognition through Love is the most important one for all human functioning.

We romance writers provide that in spades. Romance stories guarantee a happy ending, the fulfilling of a dream, of a need we all have. The hero and heroines show us the way of overcoming obstacles to the magnificent outcome of everlasting love. We read the last line and know they will make it. It gives us hope – we might make it too, there could be love for us too.

That explains why romance is the most read genre currently. Why do other’s (critics) put it down? Maybe because they can’t do it. It might surprise you, but it’s damn hard to get a contract with Mills&Bohns. You have to be a really good writer!

Are romances realistic? Yes and No.

The latest count from 2016 showed there exist 1810 billionaires in the world. If we take our beloved romance writers by the word, they lurk at every corner. But please, don’t be so harsh and take that literally. It’s not meant to be. IT’S FICTION, PEOPLE!

Even though the stories, characters, and settings are idealized and rarely possible for the average Jill and Joe to reach, we all search for love, recognition, and a warm body to cuddle up to when we go to bed. We might even learn real valuable life skills we can use in our real life relationships. For example, Headboards are for handcuffs! Thank you, E.L. James.