A funny thing happened on the way "through" the book tour: Validation.
To all the wonderful people I have met and revisited on the Candy At Last excursion, thank you for reminding the girl signing the title page that I am no longer an appendage of anyone or anything. I say this with the utmost love and respect for all involved in my life's journey, my irreplaceable family -- Randy, Tori, my grandchildren -- and of course Aaron, my husband of 38 years whom I miss every day and the remarkable life we shared. It was truly a Cinderella story for a shy girl like me to have lived with someone so larger than life.
Trying to embrace a Second Act, figuring out what that is for each of us, may be different in many ways. But reflecting on this tour so far, I've found the common threads tugging at all of us are the insecurities that come with Second Life options and how to maneuver them! And whether you have a little or a lot, facing the crossroads of which road to take, is met a lot easier after making peace with what was and no longer is or can be and that can be exceptional too. Embracing a newfound courage, I anxiously tested the waters of acceptance with others and myself by delving into some dark areas of my past, from my relationship with my mother, my first marriage as well as tumultuous times with my daughter -- which thankfully has healed into something beautiful.
How comforting to learn I'm not alone in this giant evolutionary process, which at times, has been exhilarating, humbling and embarrassing. Consider that dating orientation at my age meant taking advice from a 27-year-old. Let's just say her rules of "preparation" transformed my understanding of unbridled passion. Stage 2 of my education was far more unnerving: Try calling your adult son for advice, as you maneuver a minefield of options on the condom aisle -- hearing the shock and awe in his voice -- as you slink around the drug store, using your best sleuthing efforts to go unnoticed or, God forbid, recognized. Asking a man you barely know for a medical test and packing condoms are now considered normal. Who knew?
Certainly there have been the questions about transformation from the charmed life I had as mother and wife of a busy television producer, to having a career as a blogger, author (Stories from Candyland), stylist, TV star and Broadway producer (Promises, Promises; How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying; Nice Work If You Can Get It) -- I can't believe my latest, After Midnight, received seven Tony nominations. Dreams really do come true: I wanted to be Fred Astaire when I was a kid -- close enough! Of course there's my continued attempt to be a Mahjong "master" and selling The Manor. After so much effort and battles fought that went into creating that unmatched world in Beverly Hills, to relinquish it and choose my own nest at the top of a Century City condominium tower was at first bittersweet. Not anymore. I could sense your "knowing" of how it felt to take that plunge by your smiles and affirming nods. (Understand I still have a gift-wrapping room but I have downsized from three to one, breaking my rule that one is not enough. Well, it is my rule.)
When Dan Dloeffler at ABC News asked me if I missed the Manor life, my answer was no. When my family was there, when the children had friends over, when we had movie night with friends or entertained luminaries from Prince Charles, to Ron and Nancy Reagan, from Liz Taylor, Dean Martin and Michael Jackson, a virtual who's who guest list you will see in the book -- it was absolutely fabulous. But to be alone, your children grown with families of their own and your life partner gone, it became heartbreaking. It was way too big for me. I'm much happier now.
When The Huffington Post's Caitlyn Becker asked me about the turbulent times Tori and I have weathered over the years, she reminded me of the promise I made of being the "perfect mom" when Tori was born and that it is "a tough standard for anyone to live up to." It is something I've come to terms with in my relationship with Tori and with my mother. Caitlyn was also quick to remind that difficulties in mother-daughter relationships are universal. It reminded me of the late, great humorist Erma Bombeck's advice: "It is not until you become a mother that your judgment turns to compassion and understanding." For me it comes down to Big Love and Big Conflict. On the tour so many of you described your relationship with your mother and/or daughter as "best friends," then added "there have been times" when you didn't speak to each other for days, weeks, months, years.
For mothers and daughters, or any important relationships that may challenge us deeply, is there a better validation for all of us than to know that Big Conflict just may equal Big Love in the end?
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed meeting and reconnecting with all of you. Thank you for making this experience truly one for the books!