A Piece Of My Soul

Hi everyone! This week I wanted to do something a little different and share one of my short stories I am most proud of. I wrote this story two years ago now about my most treasured memories of my Oma and Opa’s house. Both of them and that house are so alive in my memory and I stay connected to them through my memories of the times we shared there together. (Oma and Opa is the Dutch version of Grandma and Grandpa for those who don’t know)

The title of my story is ‘Soul of a Home’ and written within that story really is a piece of my soul. I am sharing that piece this week with you and encouraging you to take a trip down your memory lane. I’d love to hear your favorite memories too, so leave me a comment below or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

As always, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read and connect with me. I love reading your comments and appreciate your support!

❤ Melissa

Soul of a Home

From time to time I drive pass the place my grandparents used to live and occasionally I pull the car over on the side of the road to gaze. The house they lived in is gone but standing in its place is this massive structure that is almost too big to be called a house. It certainly dwarfs the humble home that once was located there. I take only a few moments to marvel at the amazing architecture, the beautifully lit marble plaque that lists the address and the black wrought iron fence that encompasses it all. It is kind of home most people would dream of: large, modern, and fancy. I imagine the inside to have state of the art appliances and perfectly decorated rooms. This is not the home I dream of; the one I dream of was built many years ago: a petite, old-fashionably understated, two bedrooms, one bathroom home, and it is perfectly preserved in my mind.
For as long as I can remember, every Sunday afternoon my Mom and I went to visit Oma and Opa. I remember driving on to the loose gravel driveway which was surrounded by huge, bushy trees. On sunny days, Oma would be in the yard weeding or planting new bulbs and Opa would be in the car port which he converted into his painting studio. I always felt this was sacred land, so much more special than every thing around it. The flowers always bloomed bigger and brighter; the paintings transported me to foreign and mysterious lands, stormy seas and serene forests. As I stepped foot into the entrance way of their house, I see the pink and green toned carpet running through the entrance, through the kitchen, down the hall towards the bedroom and bathroom: I see the hand painted “Oma and Opa’s House” wood sign hanging just above the doorway and the maple kitchen table covered in a pale blue, daisy patterned tablecloth. The living room off the kitchen holds the floral couch, two reclining chairs, one brown, one pink, both well used, the large black book-case which lines one wall and houses her favorite pieces of crystal, Dutch porcelain figurines and family photos. Off the living room, the master bedroom where Oma slept, separate from Opa because he snored too loudly and kept her awake. In the other direction off the kitchen, down the hallway, the first door leads to the basement, at the end of the hall, the door to the right is the one bathroom, the door to the left is Opa’s room, large enough to fit a single bed, small dresser and tiny bookshelf, where he keeps his precious things like his porcelain bull figurine.
Inside these walls, I find comfort and security. We would sit at the same kitchen table every Sunday and have our tea and Dutch almond tart, which was purchased from the same bakery they had been going to for decades. I never felt bored with this routine visit; I counted the days down to it. Somehow it made me feel grown up to sit at the table with my tea and tart and talk. This is what I imagined grown ups did and I wanted to be grown up. As time passed on, the visits went from strictly social to my Mom having to fill my Opa’s pill organizer every week with all his medication he needed. She’d take stock of what needed to be reordered and see what jobs needed to be done around the house. I started to realize being grown up wasn’t as glamorous as I had imagined it to be.
As the years went by, the less childlike I became and the more grown up I felt, but what I couldn’t have known then is how your perception of the world changes through grown up eyes. My Opa passed away in 1999 and my Oma moved in with us. Their house remained. My Oma couldn’t bring herself to sell it, believing her stay with us was only temporary. Days turned to months, months to years and every Sunday we went to their house just as we always had. These visits were not social; these were working visits. I helped mow the lawn, garden, touch up the house. From the outside anyone looking in at a quick glance would see the house living on like not much had changed. The mail in the mailbox, the newspaper at the door, the flowers blooming and dying off with each season change, but it wasn’t ever the same to me. I watched the back porch, slowly rot and begin to sag in sections like skin beginning to hang around a seventy year old’s neck. Many cracks would appear around the doorways and creep down the outside walls like wrinkles would form on a face. It seemed grumpier and would creak and moan with every foot step inside. Its windows had a milky layer on them, making it hard to see out of like cataracts. The house aged just like young to old.
We patch and cover ourselves with cosmetics; makeup or paint, Botox or spackle, trying to convince ourselves that we will both last forever. We fix ourselves up to show the world we are young and strong, but only those who live on the inside know our faults and weaknesses. Just as our bodies break down, so do the walls and floors of this house. Eventually both become irreparable.
The soul inside the house seemed to fade and constantly looked lonely. We knew that the life support system that had sustained its life thus far would no longer be enough. I was far too young to buy the house myself even though I wished I could. Given the history and its sad appearance, I was emotionally involved with this house and hated to have to see it go. I felt no one would ever see the house in the light I saw the house. They would never see the memories and feel the heartbeat of life that once pounded through it. Like once when it was much younger, it provided a roof for a husband and wife and their four daughters. After carefully considering our options, we put the house up for sale. It sold shortly after and soon after the new owners tore it down. On this sacred land stood another life; alien to me.
I make it a habit to reminisce about that lovely old house often. I wake from many dreams where I am back in the house on a Sunday afternoon and nothing has changed. Every figurine and picture is in the exact place they were all those years ago and this brings me peace. The child in my soul lives there and holds the memory of constant security. You cannot understand the fears you face as an adult when you are a child. When you are young, there is today and wild dreams of what tomorrow may bring. The biggest worry is play dates and fighting your siblings for attention. When you are older, there is today and an intrusive feeling tomorrow may not come. The reality of all the pain, hurt and injustice is too much to bear some times.
As often as I can, I pull my car over in front of that house and I walk through the front door. I sit down at the kitchen table and feel the security warm tea and a fresh almond tart brought to me. Here I cannot think of tomorrow, of pain or growing old. I live in that moment and in that childish perfection. I see both my Oma and Opa in the way I wish to remember them, healthy and happy. I see them taking care of me long before I ever knew that one day that I would have to help care for them. I see their house in its glory, not a belonging out of place, not a weed in the garden, not a fleck of dust or dirt. I feel my Opa’s hand on my shoulder as he looks over me to see the painting I’ve just completed. I see every happy moment that I refuse to stop thinking about every day for fear that one day I will wake up and have forgotten.
When my heart rate begins to slow, when my hands begin to unclench, when the sweat on my forehand dries, I return to the present time. In reality I know tomorrow is never a certainty and I ask myself what can I do today to ease this fear. When I get overwhelmed by small things like making decisions and living daily life and when I get overwhelmed by the big things like war and nature disaster, all I want is comfort and simplicity but I can’t keep escaping back to reminiscing to feel safe. When I wake up in the morning and I feel hopeless and scared of what is to come, I convince myself to believe like that house I will stand tall and strong, no matter how small I feel inside; I will build thick walls around me to keep all the elements at bay but I will carve a few doorways to let people outside in; and most importantly I will have many windows to let in the light.

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Surviving Being Back At Work

Hi everyone, hope you are doing well post-Easter. This week I have been back to work six weeks already. Man times flies! I swear each week is faster than the last. It feels like just yesterday I was still pregnant and preparing to leave work for my new job as a Mommy.

On my last day of work before my maternity leave started, I remember walking out of my office and crying because I didn’t know how I would handle such a life change. Five days a week I’d get up and work in my office and now seven days I week I’d have no routine, no sleep, no idea what I was doing as a new Mommy and I was terrified. I love routine and a schedule; it keeps my anxiety in check when I know what to expect. Leaving for the unknown that day was a big moment in my life. It was difficult at first and Google became my life savior. I Googled everything! What do to for a fussy baby… How long should they be sleeping a day…How  many feedings should they have… and on and on. Even though this child has been growing inside of you for nine months, when they finally are born, you still are strangers. It took a while to learn how to anticipate his needs and what each cry meant. Once Dylan was a few months old and we got into some sort of routine, I loved my new Mommy life.

As long as a year sounds in your head, it isn’t long at all. Before I knew it my maternity leave was up and I had to return to work. Luckily they accepted me back on a one year contract working three days week, but once again I found myself filled with anxiety. For weeks leading up to my return to work date, I had many nights where I couldn’t sleep. I would be in bed all night with my eyes closed praying that I would fall asleep. Whenever I’m consumed with anxiety sleep is the first thing to go. I couldn’t help but obsess about what would happen to Dylan leaving his Mommy three days week. How would I feel? How would I deal with the guilt? What if I hated it? Was I making the right choice going back and leaving him? How would I balance being a working parent, being a Mommy at home, and continuing my writing career? It’s consuming.

The first few weeks were hard. There were some days when I missed him so much and almost let my emotions get the better of me. I felt guilty dropping him off at daycare when he was crying and reaching for me and I just walked away. I felt guilty when the daycare said he had a bad day and I actually had a good one at work. I enjoy adult conversation and connecting with my co-workers. Being a stay at home Mom is certainly lonely sometimes and I felt it. The only thing that brought me a small amount of comfort is the agreement I had with myself. I would give going back to work a three-month trial period. If after three months I hated being at work or Dylan still hadn’t adjusted to daycare, I would sit down, reassess our living situation and make the necessary sacrifices, so that both of us could be happy.

Six weeks in to my return I am happy to say I think we both are in a great place. I am enjoying my work life and Dylan is loving his daycare friends and activities and of course his time with Ome and Grandpa. I am still finding time some where in the mix of my crazy week to write. It’s certainly not the same time every week but I make time when I can. It is not easy. It’s beautiful outside right now and I’d love to enjoy some sun, but making time for my writing comes with its own set of sacrifices. BUT I am happy and at peace. For the first time in my life I finally feel like I am where I am supposed to be. I am pursuing my writing which fulfills my creative side; I am a Mommy and wife which fulfills my heart; I am a worker which fulfills my intellectual side.

Some people love change and handle it well. I am not one of those people. I don’t deal with the unexpected well at all, but that is a whole other story for another day. However, I survived this change and will go forward until the next challenge comes. I feel like this is the point where the song by Destiny’s Child – Survivor should start playing in the background. I’m not gon give up I’m not gon stop I’m gon work harder. Ha, ha…

Anyways, it looks like my three-month review of our situation is going to go well. One day maybe I will be better at accepted change and maybe even be excited for it. For now, I will enjoy my new routine and expected schedule. That for me is good enough for now.

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog and connect with me. 🙂

❤ Melissa

To Pen Name or To Not Pen Name

The decision to use your real name or a pen name is a difficult one. On one hand you want to see your name plastered over all your novels at the bookstores, but your real name might hold you back. J.K. Rowling, best known for her Harry Potter series used a pen name. Her publisher suggested that she use one because he thought young boys might not read a book written by a woman.  Stephen King published four novels under the name Richard Bachman, based on his publishers feeling that the public wouldn’t buy more than one novel per year from a single author. Even E.L. James, the famed 50 Shades of Grey writer, didn’t use her real name.

So if some of today’s best-selling authors are using pen names, what does that say? Did the name printed on the cover of their books really make such an impact on their sales? As far as I’m concerned, definitely! I myself am guilty of judging a book by its cover. I just don’t think the majority of people would be willing to read a book written by an author whose name they couldn’t even pronounce.

In high school I took French and in my class there were two of us named Melissa, so my French teacher would always call me Melissa H. ‘H’ is the first letter of my maiden name but when spoken with a French accent is sounds like Ash. Melissa Ash. For some reason that always resounded with me and I swore, when I was in Grade Ten French class, that one day when I finally had a novel published, I would published under the pen name Melissa Ash. Who wouldn’t want to read a book that Melissa Ash wrote? It just sounds cool, right?

There was the birth of my pen name, but I know you are also wondering what is with sasloveswords. That in itself is another story. Sas is a nickname I’ve had since I was a child. My brother Dave couldn’t pronounce Melissa when he was a baby, so he’d call me Sasa. Sasa stuck with me throughout my childhood but eventually somewhere down the line it just got shortened to Sas. The people closest to me still to this day call me Sas. The ‘loves words’ part was easy. I love words; I love reading and I love writing. I enjoy talking and listening, all of which involve words. Words are amazing. They have the power to make us cry, to make us laugh, to make us feel things we some times don’t even understand. Words, once said aloud, cannot be taken back and the words we wish we could say out loud run through our minds over and over again. Sas loves words! My internet social media persona is simply that.

To the online world I am sasloveswords and maybe one day soon to the book world I will be Melissa Ash. So there you go, my own two characters. Both of which I’m happy with. Wherever you are now Madame Malm (my high school French teacher), thank you for inspiring my pen name. To my brother Dave: thank you for calling me Sas all these years (not saying how many years but it’s been a few now). It’s all thanks to you that I have the perfect name for my blog. 🙂

Come back next week to find out how I’m coping being back to work after the end of my maternity leave. It might surprise you! 🙂

Also if you haven’t done so already subscribe to my blog and receive an email notification every time I update it. Anyone reading this on your mobile device, the subscribe box is towards the bottom of my page after my blog posts and for you that are viewing it on your computer it should be to the right of this post. Thank you! Thank you!

❤ Melissa

My New Web Page sasloveswords.com

Welcome to my brand new website!! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be sharing this with you.

I always want to be better, want to learn more, understand more, be more. For a long time now, I knew my website needed work. My old one just didn’t have the shine that I wanted it to anymore. I would open up the internet browser and go to my home page and feel deflated with what was presented on the screen. My options with the ‘Webs.com’ page I had before just weren’t fulfilling my needs and desires to grow my business and my website image. Sorry Webs.com!

After reading many reviews on Google, I decided WordPress.com seemed like a good fit. The creativity flowed as I started building my new site, but I want to present the best version of myself, so I committed myself to viewing writer website after website, getting ideas, Googling for tips and tricks and must-haves. I signed up for “The SITS Girls” newsletter; their website is filled with advice on blogging and social media for women for any ladies out there interesting in expanding their blogging empire like me. I spent hours reading tips on the WordPress help section and weeks creating my website. I created an “about.me” page which I included in the sidebar of my website. I scrutinized every detail of this site: every tab, every word, the images I am presenting, the topics I am going to talk about and how much personal information to reveal. 

Even though my blog started off as a fun way to connect with family and friends and journal my experiences returning to my writing career, I wanted to present myself in a business like manner going forward and see if I can capitalize on any future opportunities in the Freelance Writing World.

So here I am; the better web version of me. The “Melissa Ash aka sasloveswords” version. I am more accessible, easier to share with your social media: just click the share buttons at the end of each of my posts to post to Facebook, Twitter, Email, Pinterest, Google Plus or WordPress. (How cool, huh?) At the top of my page you can subscribe to my blog updates. Please do! I’ll send you an email each time I update my blog, and I promise I won’t clog up your inbox with harassing emails. 🙂 I plan to blog once a week, so that’s the most you’d hear from me. Just a weekly check in. 🙂

I’ve worked really hard to make this page user-friendly and I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can use my “Contact Me” page or leave me a comment at the bottom of each blog post. I hope you like what I’ve done.

I look forward to connecting with all of you, to blogging about my real/writing life and sharing my experiences and thoughts. Hope you’ll stick around for the journey. For those wondering where the names Melissa Ash and sasloveswords came from, you’ll definitely have to stick around for at least the next blog update. Everything will be explained then. As the saying goes, always leave them wanting more.

Until next time!

 ❤ Melissa