Whoopee Cushions and Dreams of Cowboys

Advice to all you people out there, if you’re ever set up on a blind date, the first 60 seconds are critical in making a first impression. Which is why if you show up wearing a whoopee cushion costume, unless they’re into that, it’s probably not going to work out the way you expect.

About a year after I started college, I could count the amount of dates I’ve had on one hand. I was awkward and still learning how to dress myself. But a friend had agreed to set me and my second roommate up on a group date for Halloween. It was going to be very low key. Bowling and going for shakes after. No plans to dress up or doing anything Halloween related.

Lame? Yes. But we were excited, and this was back in the day when not everyone had social media, and flip phones weren’t going extinct yet. So I had no idea what my date looked like until he showed up on my doorstep. Now I don’t blame the guy for wanting to make a lasting impression. He was truly a sweet guy and fun to bowl with. But boy was it hard to take him seriously wearing a costume that represented a toy that makes fart noises when you squeeze it. Kinda kills the mood when you’re hugging the man goodbye.

It would be a few years before my dating life really took off, but getting closer to the holiday season that year, the colder it got, the more we stayed indoors. And tis the season to sniff and sneeze, because I dove into reading when I came down with a nasty two week cold before finals. Missing work and classes was not an option for me, so reading romantic Christmas themed novellas helped me unwind after the busy, miserable hours on my feet.

My roommates had been throwing books my way, sometimes literally, and I remember reading “Dusty Britches” which was another Marcia Lynn McClure novel that open a new idea for me, as well as help me discover I’m a huge sucker for old western romance. Especially when they involve dreamy cowboys.

The leading woman, having a broken heart and a strong distrust for men, learned how to let her walls down and really love a man she hadn’t stopped loving since she was young. Like her, letting go of pride, anger and old grudges was something I learned the hard way a bit later in my life.

Halfway through book, I sat in my college apartment dining room, and by that I mean table in the corner of the tiny kitchen, eating strawberries in my pajamas, when my roommate’s entire family showed up on our doorstep to surprise her. Her parents and five siblings had driven 5 hours just to visit their two daughters on a completely random day just for the fun of it.

At the time my parents had been divorced about a year, I was the only adult child who sat through endless phone calls with one parent while they vented about the other. Though I commend them for how hard they worked to keep things as civil as possible for their children’s sake, at the time it had been years since I didn’t worry over things falling apart at a family gathering. And to witness it was like observing a Steve Irwin’s wildlife special.

*Crikey! Here we have a loving family in an unnatural habitat. The cubs have real high energy, but the parents sit and watch together with pride and love, while they laugh, catch up on happy family news, and share a hearty meal at the watering hole.*

But seriously though, growing up, I didn’t see my parents showing affection very often. There was some here and there, but not like the way her parents sat on the couch and held hands without even thinking about it, her resting her head on his shoulder; or sneaking kisses whenever they had the chance, and being incredibly cute while taking pictures together. And not once did their daughters groan or say, “Ewww!” when it happened. It usually followed with one watching them lovingly, saying, “Aren’t they adorable?”

Suddenly it wasn’t just a fictional novel I was reading anymore. This was a real couple with a marriage that lasted over two decades. And the feelings they were sharing was strong enough to be seen and felt by others. It impacted me so much, I wanted to know their story and what it took to get to that level. Most importantly, I wanted to know how it felt myself.

Watching them was the water and nutrients I needed for the seed of hope that was planted. Little did I know it was only a matter of time before I learned firsthand what that felt like, and also, it’s polar opposite…

So until next time with some holiday love and mistletoe madness…

Cheers to you, XO

~ Chelsea

Cheers to You

Have you ever been sitting in class, driving to work, washing your dog, cooking rice, or fixing your toaster, and have the idea…?
But then you dramatically pause, twisting your face in that “Is something fishy burning in the kitchen?” kind of way, and wonder what the heck you’re gonna write about. That’s when you throw the hopeless toaster in the dumpster and start looking for a purpose. Or maybe you start writing about the toaster, but either way you’re thinking of ideas. Your planting seeds hoping to find a purpose in the book you want to write.

I was 16 when my purpose was planted after hearing a quote from a TV show, “Love is what’s left after the passion and the romance dies.” And I heard the married person in the room sadly agree with that statement.

It was like taking a rubber band snap to the heart. I mean, did that happen with everyone? Is that why marriages didn’t work out? Is that why all the relationships I looked up to were falling apart?

Well obviously it works out for some people, so what keeps the spark alive for them? Is it even a spark? People keep talking about it, so what does it feel like? And ladies and gentlemen…that’s when the seed began to take root. But it wasn’t until I was 19 when I saw the sprout. I wasn’t much of a reader, but my roommates were, and one had shoved a novel into my hands and said…
I wasn’t all for the idea…
Convinced, I read the book “Take a Walk with Me” by Marcia Lynn McClure. It was a Christmas themed love story and the lead male character says to the female love interest, “There’s no conflict, Cozy.” – “Sometimes people really do just fall in love and live happily ever after.”

There it was! It was Marcia who had a philosophy, wrote it by telling an incredibly happy story that left me smiling the whole time, and it led me to new questions, theories and a determination to find out more. Obviously relationships get messy, so what happens then? But there I was, 19, with no dating experience whatsoever, so what did I need to learn to start something that lasts forever? Better yet, happily ever after?

And that’s why I read close to 400 romance novels in the last 5 years. No joke. I didn’t get out much for a while. But in truth I wanted ideas; the kind authors and filmmakers put out there because they enjoy true love stories as much as I did. And those stories began to turn my purpose into idea, which then turned into stories of my own.

When I started writing them down, I simultaneously lived my own experiences. And gradually my stories changed as I began to figure out my reality. I found out firsthand what that spark was, but learned a little of what it takes to ignite it into a flame. Books and movies, though created for entertainment, are possible answers to our “what if?” questions. Sometimes it happens quickly, and there isn’t much conflict involved for two people to be together. And sometimes it’s extremely wild and messy. But if it’s worth fighting for, then it’s worth keeping alive. Or finding again if it’s ever lost.

And for all the characters I could personally relate with, it was wonderful knowing there was someone out there who knew my story; who could put words to my feelings. But more importantly, inspire me to look for something great and not settle for anything less. And right away I wanted to do the same for someone else. Everyone deserves to believe the passion and romance lives on and grows stronger with every passing year and battle won.

So until next Sunday with some personal hilarious date stories and what specifically inspired me…

Cheers to you, XO

~ Chelsea