When Love is For Sale at Target

A long time ago, back in 2016, I wrote this fun essay about Target moms, right here. It was also syndicated over on Sammiches & Psych Meds, here. To say that I have a love for that big red bullseye would be an understatement. I’ve spent more than one Mother’s Day alone in those aisles, sipping a nonfat caramel machiato from the best Starbucks barista I’ve ever met.

So when I realized that my book, When Love Sticks Around, was available for preorder on target.com, I was completely beside myself.

When Love Sticks Around releases November 15, 2021. If you haven’t already purchased a copy, please do. You will be supporting an independent publisher and new author.

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash

Presence: Part 1, an essay from my memoir

The essay below is part one of a three-part series of short essays from my coming-of-age memoir, When Love Sticks Around, which will be out on November 15, 2021. Each of these flash pieces are the last three encounters I had with my biological father. Although writing about these experiences rattled some serious negative emotions, I thought they were necessary to share because my relationship with my father most definitely shaped the person I am today. Thank you for reading. I hope that when my memoir is released, you will consider purchasing a copy. 

***

The day I turned eight in 1989, Don knocked on the door at Mom’s house.

“I came to say happy birthday,” he said when I opened it.

I thanked him through the screen door.

“Hard to believe you’re already eight.” He looked away, so I followed his gaze toward his beater car in the driveway, still running. I poked my finger through a hole in the screen the size of a nickel. It had started with a tiny slit I jabbed my pinky into, and over the years—with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, neighbors selling Girl Scout cookies, and Don occasionally stopping by—the hole had gotten bigger.

He wore a faded jean jacket and a trucker cap. His pale skin looked ashen through the screen that separated us.

“I brought your present.” He pulled a cassette from his pocket and waved it at me. That year, Mom had bought me a Walkman to listen to all my cassettes. She and Jim couldn’t afford much else other than that.

I stepped outside the door onto our cement front porch. Green plants with brown tips sprawled from the planters. Soon, they’d die off and sleep for the winter. “Thanks.”

“Is it the right album?” he asked. At that point, our relationship consisted of nothing more than the occasional gift or card. He offered no advice or scolding. He never called to ask what television shows I liked, what food I hated, or the names of my best friends. He didn’t know me well enough to know what I wanted, so I had told him over the phone the week prior.

I looked at the front. The New Kids on the Block band members sat in a sleigh with jolly grins on their faces. “Yeah. It’s the only one I don’t have.”

I looked back to Don. “Will I see you again?”

“I hope so. But not for a while. I’ve been driving trucks down south.”

“Can I come visit you in Tennessee?” I wanted to love him as much as any child loved her father. But I was cautious. I didn’t get too close, because I didn’t want to get hurt by him again. I craned my neck up to see him. Long dark hair, same color as mine, fell almost to his shoulders.

Yes, I looked like him, but I didn’t know him. I only knew that he liked race cars and drove a semi-truck.

“Sure. Listen, I’ve got to get going now.” He scratched his cheek and adjusted his cap.

“Okay. Well, thanks, Dad. Love you.”

“See ya, kid.” He waved and walked away.

Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

What the Final Stages of Proofing a Book Looks Like

Last week I approved the final proof of my memoir, When Love Sticks Around. It has been a long process getting here, but one that has also been so enjoyable.

My book went through several in-depth edits to improve the story, the details, and the grammar. After that, my project manager and I read through the book three more times to look for typos or layout issues. This whole process has taken more than a year in total. But with each of these edits and proofs, I have come to respect the publishing industry, and my publisher in particular, so much. Brandylane and Belle Isle care so much about their authors. They want them to succeed, and they go above and beyond to make that happen.

I can’t wait for the paper copy of the proof to be in my hands, but I know this, like all other steps in the publishing process, will take time and love and patience.

In the meantime, I’d like to share a few more endorsements for my memoir. The first is from Amy Bayne, a colleague and acquaintance of mine that I met through the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. She published two pieces of mine in the past. FLAR has since gone inactive, but the journal was something I was so proud to be part of. Here is her endorsement:

In When Love Sticks Around, Danielle Dayney instantly transports us to moments throughout her life with relatable cultural touchstones and references, linking us to her young self growing up in a struggling, working-class family in upstate Ohio throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Her story of family, hope, and perseverance opens a space for us to laugh, acknowledge,and remember moments in life that shape us as adults. It is a work of great compassion and great joy.  A.E. Bayne, writer, artist, and publisher of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review

The second endorsement comes from Betsy Ashton, who I know from The Virginia Writers Club. Over the years of being a member, Betsy has proven to be someone I can reach out to for answers to my questions as well as encouragement when I almost gave up on getting my first book published. Here is her endorsement:

Dayney’s well-written and poignant collection of personal essays makes you laugh, seethe, and cry. In other words, this is life itself. Betsy Ashton, Author of Out of the Desert

Thank you to Amy and Betsy for reading my book and saying such nice things. I truly appreciate your time and kindness.

Photo by RetroSupply on Unsplash

Another Blurb for my Memoir, WHEN LOVE STICKS AROUND

I received another early endorsement for my memoir, When Love Sticks Around. This time, the endorsement came from my friend, author, and editor, Chelsey Clammer. I found Chelsey online a couple of years ago while hunting for an editor who understood me. She’s edited numerous essays for me in the last four years, and even did the first round of edits on this memoir. She’s amazing to work with, and I was delighted when she agreed to read my finished book and write a blurb. Here is what she wrote:

“Each short essay in When Love Sticks Around is a marvellous example of the struggles we face throughout our lives, how love in all of its various forms presides through it, and ultimately how together we face both the tragedies and the moments of celebration. Whether the topic is growing up poor, struggling to gain a relationship with a parent, dating, having not-the-best jobs, transitioning into being an adult, or navigating racism, Dayney’s mesmerizing narratives and skill at storytelling aid in exploring the complexities of life all told in simple, relatable ways. Through these candid glimpses of experiences, this coming-of-age memoir reaches beyond the life moments of growing up and creates a visceral testament to all that we love and search for.”

Chelsey Clammer (author of Circadian and BodyHome)

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

When Love is Receiving a Blurb for Your Book

My first memoir, When Love Sticks Around, will be out later this year. The publication process has been educational and eye-opening, to say the least. I’ve enjoyed meeting everyone at Brandylane Publishers. In my experience, they truly care for their authors and the books they choose to publish. Part of the process, after one of the last rounds of editing, was reaching out to contacts for book endorsements. My project manager suggested I try to acquire at least three to four.

I have to admit that sending out my book to friends and acquaintances in the writing world was a nail-biting experience. I worried they’d ghost me, or wouldn’t like the work I’d written. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I ended up with six beautifully written endorsements that will appear on my book in some way. This is the first one I received, written by my dear friend from Norfolk, UK, Donna-Louise Bishop:

When Love Sticks Around is an instantly engaging memoir that deals with the highs and lows of coming-of-age and the realities and complexities of adulthood.

Dayney moves seamlessly through her life from birth, right up to the first moment of motherhood, before losing her own to cancer. Her vignettes of life’s journeys instantly transport readers into a world unique to her. It’s the complexities of the relationships within the pages of her debut novel that are both delightful and also heart-breaking. 

From the very first page, she has written a book worth sticking around for.”

Donna-Louise Bishop, Community Life Correspondent for the Eastern Daily Press, Norfolk, UK

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Why Hypoglycemics Should Always Have Snacks

“The bee attacked me.”

But before he did, I rolled down my windows in a frantic attempt to shoo him outside. It was September. Why on earth were bees still attacking in September? They were supposed to be dying for God’s Sake, not invading my car full of healthy lunch snacks of carrots and goldfish crackers, mom juice of every color and dinners to cook by necessity rather than a pure love to stand in front of the stove chopping stuff—hello you beautiful bag of frozen nuggets!

But before I shooed him, I devoured half an egg salad sandwich. It was one of those sandwiches that come wrapped in plastic and have the little sticker on them that says, Made fresh in store daily! Doubt it. Those sandwiches probably came on the truck with everything else, right next to the big ass tubs of Amish macaroni salad. 

The sandwich was tasty though. Only because I have hypoglycemia and that pretty much means if I forget to eat I turn into a beast willing to gnaw at my own arm if I don’t eat food like immediately

But before devouring my sandwich, I buckled in my daughter. The little one of course, because my oldest can buckle herself. Plus I left the big one at home because when she comes shopping, she literally asks for ALL THE THINGS. 

And even before that, I forgot to bring a snack with me. This is key. Because while shopping, right around the junk food aisle, my legs started trembling. Beads of sweat formed along my hairline. Nausea swirled in my gut. I envisioned tearing open a bag of Doritos and ravaging them like a rabid dog.

I shook my head to erase the fantasy, then grabbed my little egg sammie on the way to the register.

So after I loaded the car with groceries and one small child, I climbed into the car, turned the car on, put the car in drive and put my foot on the break because that’s what hypoglycemics do when their blood sugar drops too low–stupid shit–then I unwrapped my Made fresh in store daily! egg salad sandwich and shoveled it into my mouth.

Just as I wiped the last bit of mashed egg from my chin, I noticed a bee swarming around the passenger side. I rolled my windows down and flapped my arms to shoo him out, but the little jerk refused. Maybe he was mad that I didn’t share my sandwich. He got closer and closer to me, zipping back and forth, up and down, until he stopped to hover in front of my left eyeball.

At that point, I opened my car door screaming, “BEEEEEEE!”

I left my daughter buckled, because my flight response kicked in. I was all like every woman for herself! 

And after I jumped from the car, I noticed the strangest thing. My car was rolling very slowly toward a row of parked cars in front of me. A Beamer, a Mercedes, and a Landrover. There was also an old Honda Civic, but that was the least of my concerns. 

At first, I thought something must’ve happened to my car. Why else would it be rolling away from me with my child, my nuggets, my wine, and a jerk of a bee still in it? That’s precisely when I remembered putting the car in drive.

So, like Matt Damon in Jason Bourne or maybe Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I dove back in and shoved the car’s shifter into park. 

“Are you okay, Ma’am?” I turned to look over my shoulder, ass and legs still dangling from the car, to find a man in overalls with a pipe hanging from his lips. His eyebrows were sewn up in concern.

I stood and straightened my shoulders, glancing back into my car. All traces of the stinging asshole had disappeared. For the shortest moment, I wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing, if maybe my spiraling blood sugar had reached new lows causing me to hallucinate the little bastard. No matter. It was still the best excuse I had. 

I adjusted my messy bun. “The bee attacked me.”

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Kindergarten Memoirs

Hi, my name is Reagan and guess what?  I finished kindergarten today!

Even though it’s a really happy day, it’s been kinda sad, too.

When we were waiting for the bus to pick me up, Mom’s face was red, and her eyes were a little wet.  I asked why she was crying, and she said they were the good kind of tears.  I don’t know about that.

Her face looked the same way on the first day of school – all wrinkly on her forehead.  When she worries, it gets that way.  Squishy in weird places.  Stretched in others.

Anyway, on the first day of school, I was a little bit nervous.  What if I couldn’t open my applesauce?  Or if my shoes came untied?  Or if I missed Mommy?

I didn’t want to tell Mom that, because she kept hugging me so tight.  If I told her I was scared, she would be sadder, and the wrinkles would just get worse.

Plus, I was kinda excited for school, too.  Just a little bit.

When the yellow bus got there, it was REALLY big.  I almost couldn’t reach the steps, but I did, and Daddy was so proud!  He took lots of pictures with his phone.  He said he had to put one on the Face-thing for Omi.

Mommy covered her eyes.  More tears, I bet.

“Bye!” I yelled, at the top step.  Miss Melody, my bus driver, was nice.

In my seat, I looked out the window and waved at Mommy.  I smiled, to tell her I was okay.  She smiled back.

That was so long ago, and you know what?

I think this was a really, REALLY big year for me.

Last month, Daddy took the training wheels off my Minnie Mouse bike.  He helped me learn to ride on two wheels in the backyard, and I did great even though my knees kept bumping the handles.  I think maybe I grew so much because I eat my protein (Mom makes me).  I still had fun, though, and I always wore my helmet.  SAFETY FIRST, you know.

And last week Mommy started teaching me how to tie my shoes.  I watched closely.  She made bunny ears that looped, and ended with a neat bow.  She always double-knotted them.

Just in case, because she loves me.

Today, I tied my own shoes.  I was really careful.  I made both bunny ears, just like Mom, and tucked them in the right places.  Can you believe it?  I TIED MY VERY OWN SHOES!

I climbed onto the bus, and sat down next to one of my BFFs (I have a lot), Summer.  We talked about our graditation.  I didn’t look out the window to smile at Mommy, but she knew I was there.

And I knew that she knew.

Our recital was pretty fun, because I was a ladybug.  It was my very first choice.  I got to sing & dance with all my friends, and my moves were perfect!  We practiced a whole lot, because we all had family there to watch.  Then I got a special certificate from my teacher.

That was the sad part.  I will miss my teacher and my friends.

But after graditation, we got cookies and juice.  They were yummy, so I wasn’t sad anymore.

Mom was crying again, so I went and got a cookie for her, too.

Finally, after school, Daddy bought me a new bike.  One with bigger tires, and no training wheels.  It’s shiny, and bright, with a sparkly bell that looks like a gem.

I LOVE gems.

We practiced a little in the grass, but it’s a big girl bike.  Dad says it will take more time, and practice, before I’m ready for the street.

Mom thinks I’m growing up too fast, but I can’t wait to be a big kid.  I like being able to do stuff by myself, like tie my shoes.  It’s fun!  I still need Mommy and Daddy for some things, like making my dinner (pasta with red sauce is my favorite).  And maybe I’ll always need them, even when I’m big.  After all, Mom says, “I’ll always be her first baby.”

You know what else?  Sometimes I think they need me, too.

Photo courtesy of Krzysztof Puszczyński on Stocksnap.io.

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