Monday, September 11, 2017

Don't Cry Alone in the Bathroom 19, 1995 - This was the first time in my few short years when I realized evil was real. It wasn't reserved for storybook characters or fantasy lands. It existed in my world, and it was no respecter of persons.

A newspaper with this image on the front page lay on the counter top. I vividly remember the profound hurt and confusion that weighed on my heart as I tucked it under my arm and crept away. Hiding in my bathroom, tears fell onto the page as I studied this poor baby being cradled by the man who wanted so desperately to save her, and I agonized over how another human being could be so heartless while the other would give his life for another. I never told anyone about that day, but it changed my life forever.

September 11, 2001 -  Freshman year of college. Once again, I found myself in my bathroom. As I switched on my radio, it wasn't my favorite songs coming from the speakers. Instead, it was the somber voice of the host, solemnly announcing that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. As I stood in front of the mirror, the realization that it had been deliberate hadn't struck me. I just thought it was a terrible accident.

As I drove to class, the man on the radio continued his horrific tale of the growing panic and chaos happening. And then I heard it: the second tower has been struck. My heart hit my stomach. It wasn't an accident. We were being attacked.

At 18 years old, I didn't know what to do. I sat in the parking lot, my fingers aching around the steering wheel, and swallowed back the pain and confusion that too closely mimicked a memory I kept close to hear. Finally, I gathered myself, climbed from my truck, and made my way to class.

A handful of students sat at their desks, each face showing the same darkness I felt rumbling inside my own chest. I took my seat as my classmates talked back and forth, the radio in the corner continuing with the never-ending tragedy as it unfolded. Both towers had been struck and now the Pentagon. Military and law enforcement were scrambling. It was a nightmare that wouldn't end.

After what felt like hours, the professor walked in and quietly told us to go home and be with our families. The drive back was painfully quiet. I couldn't take hearing anymore. I didn't expect anyone to be awake as I unlocked the deadbolt, but as I opened my front door, I found my dad, sitting in our dark family room, tears streaming down his face as he watched clip after clip of the people leaping from the windows to escape the raging inferno. As the second tower collapsed, I couldn't keep it in anymore. He wrapped his arm around me, and we just sat in silence, watching as the shape of our nation irrevocably altered.

While I will forever keep these moments in my heart, the one thing that I took away from the tragedy that also redefined me, was the love and humanity that brought America together. Even if it was only for awhile, people were a little kinder, a little more patient, and showed a lot more love.

Like funerals, it always seems to take a tragedy to bring people together. And while that's a terrible shame, I always cling to that for as long as hard as I can. Because if there's one thing I've learned, even like the fairy tales, love always wins. 

Don't let the current chaos of the world allow darkness to set up in your heart. Don't cry alone in the bathroom and wonder why evil things happen or allow yourself to get lost in the darkness that seems to surround you. There are so many more beautiful things out there than the ugliness of hatred and division.

Love each other. Do good to one another. There's enough evil out there, lurking in the shadows, and waiting till we're weak from fighting each other to attack us once more. Don't give it the chance. Love without reason.

Be the goodness of mankind.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Musical Muse: Ep. 1

Music is, aside from the writing itself, the biggest part of my creative process. Every now and then I come across a song, artist or album that I just connect with. It's one of those moments where you feel the lyrics and the rhythm in an emotional way, and it just fits. Or maybe I'm weird and don't emotionally connect with a lot outside of music. Whichever it is, this is currently my muse.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Has a New Name.

As I wrote in a previous post, every new year, I name the upcoming one based on what I hope to figure out, do, or achieve in those 365 days. To be honest, I'd struggled trying to find a fitting name for 2017 as I had plenty of plans and goals but no simple way to sum up what I wanted. That was until I stumbled upon this quote by, oddly enough, Brad Paisley.

"Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one."

It struck me as I read it ... 2017 is going to be my Year of Intent.

intent [in-tent] 1. something that is intended; purpose; design; intention. 2. the act or fact of intending, as to do something.
My past has been riddled with poorly managed time, effort, thoughts, etc. I've looked back at those who've experienced the same amount of hours as me, doing similar things, who've accomplished so much more. Never once have I begrudged their success. In fact, I celebrate their various achievement more than they even know. But in some ways, I compare my accomplishments to theirs. Not in an unhealthy or competitive way, but the way that says: Look at the things they've done. Look how far they've come and grown, because they've managed their efforts wisely.

So this will be my year of deliberate intent. I'll deliberately plot my time, setting and keeping my schedules as purposefully as I manage my finances. I won't feel selfish for investing in me, my family, my home, or my career. There's enough time for all of it if I focus my attention.

I'm going to intentionally enjoy life! I'm going to take every moment to be grateful, to revel in each and every day given to me, because we aren't promised tomorrow. Living in the now has been something I've always struggled with. When I reach a goal, I don't take time to celebrate it; I ask, "Now how do I get to that next level?" But we have to take time to appreciate where we are and how much we've gained or overcome. So each day will be lived with purpose and gratitude.

When I'm writing, I won't get down on myself for not doing more in any given day; I will celebrate what I did get done with no pressure for tomorrow. When I'm spending time with my family, I won't think about the housework that hasn't been done or what I need to do next for my job. I'll intentionally give my attention to my husband and children when it's their time just as I will when I write or am focusing on self-development. Each thing benefits the other.

My mind has been my greatest gift and my onerous weakness, because I haven't always given my thoughts purpose. My mind runs away with itself -- sometimes to create magnificent worlds and new creatures or to think of fun ways I can bless those I love ... but sometimes to steal my joy by getting caught up in too many possibilities or to listen to those niggling voices that tell my nothing is ever enough. 

But, 2017, you're about to be a different year. One full of INTENT.

Be present, guys. Live intentionally. Happy New Year and here's to a purposeful 2017.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lift As You Climb - You Won't Climb Alone.

Image result for walk humbly
I love success stories. I especially love success stories that involve people who've overcome tremendous struggles to achieve their goals. In the past few years, I've witnessed fellow authors grow to New York Time bestseller levels and sign movie/TV deals. I've seen many commit to leading their lives in a more health-conscious way, losing 50+ pounds or giving up sugar after years of being a slave to the sweet dictator. Many of my friends have grown spiritually and emotionally, courageously severing ties to toxic people and situations and bravely choosing to step outside their comfort zones in order to find themselves. A few have even gotten to a place of being debt free. And I commend you all.

Image result for it takes courage to grow up and become who you truly areIn the words of E.E. Cummings, "It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are." You should celebrate your accomplishments! BUT remember your past, where you came from, because you can't help someone up if you're standing over them ... or constantly reveling in your own success.

Thankfully, most of my friends who've overcome their obstacles or who've grown beyond their dreams have used their journey to inspire others. They take opportunities to shine from a place of humble success. There are those on the other side, as well, which is unfortunate considering how far they come to really only celebrate alone. Because how can you help someone grow when you're always focused on your own awesomeness?

Image result for lift as you climbAs the beautifully-inspiring founder of Utopia Con, Janet Wallace, says, "Lift as you climb." Remember this life isn't about how much you can achieve for yourself. It's how you can use your own life lessons to help others reach their dreams, which in turn, will help you! Nothing motivates you quite like seeing how your own growth/struggles/achievements inspires others. If YOU (vs your process, method, lessons-learned, etc.) are the focus of your "inspirational/motivational" movement, consider why you're telling people what you are. Is it to make yourself feel good about what you've done? Or are you actually showing someone, "Hey, this is what worked for me. It might help someone else."

Humility truly is the most attractive thing you can wear.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A New Year - A New Name

Several years ago, my wonderful friend and personal Yoda, Elizabeth Isaacs, introduced me to her New Year's tradition. Anyone who knows me, realizes how much I truly loathe New Year's resolutions. Most of the time, it's a poor excuse for good intentions, and more often that not, you don't fulfill them, and you wind up feeling like a failure. This reaction often leads to you reverting back to old habits with a vengeance.

Back to my point, Beth told me her tradition was to name her new year based on what she hoped to accomplish in those 12 months. Be it personal growth, emotional development, getting your finances straightened out, or choosing a healthier lifestyle, her method meant your upcoming 365 had purpose. By naming it, it'd become more than a 'hope so,' and shifted into an actionable goal. Just like a baby or a pet, when it has a name, it feels more real, tangible. And you connect with it.

I began doing this back in 2015 when my year was titled: The Year of Self-Discovery. I spent the majority of my 30+ years on this planet doing what was expected of me vs being true to myself. It goes without saying, 2015 was a mess in more ways than one. Life kind of fell apart that year, because I'd decided "good enough" wasn't good enough anymore. Understandably, 2016 needed some help.

The following year was named: The Year of Personal Development. I spent 12 months putting my life back together. It started with replacing all the bad I'd weeded out with good things. I lost 60 pounds. I refocused my attention on bettering my situation and state of mind, so I could be a better mom to my kiddos. I tried new things, new jobs, new experiences. I read a lot of non-fiction aimed toward enhancing life and overcoming the garbage from the past. I grew ... and grew. In fact, I grew more in 2015-2016 than I had my entire life leading up it. A lot of is was painful, like quitting a bad habit and having discomfort of missing your 'go-to' fix. I chose the harder road, but what was waiting at the end made that harrowing trip worth every moment.

Now, we're mere weeks away from 2017. I know last year was pretty rough on many. So I encourage you to take a day or week to decide what happened in the last 12 months that you'd like to see different in the future. What would bless you most to have, do, or accomplish? What really gets your heart beating fast when you see it in your life? You'll know it when you find it. But give it a name!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

...but that isn't believable.

YA. Young-adult. Teen reads. However you want to say it, it's a genre that's been up in the air for the past decade or so. By publishers' standards, it's generally accepted that the main character falls between the ages of 12-17. Since the dawn of novels like Twilight, readers' ages have branched out in both directions. In fact, according to Publisher's Weekly, over half of readers who choose YA are in fact over eighteen with the majority being in the 30-44 year old range.

With readers being older than the characters they're reading about, YA novels have a taken a hit for being "unrealistic," "immature," or "over-the-top." While I agree those issues can pose a problem, I think many forget the true age of these characters. Don't you remember being seventeen? Just getting out of bed was cause for melodrama. That's the life of a teenager. I was a pretty reserved and level-headed teen, but I also remember that feeling of can't-live-without-you first love ... the love I thought would last forever. I remember the pain of not fitting in and constantly worrying about saying the wrong thing. Of feeling like a total pariah because I was different than everyone around me. Of getting stressed because my skin wasn't cooperating or freaking out because my favorite shirt was dirty, and I as supposed to meet my friends at the mall in an hour. 

Everything in my life was a code: blue, the-world-is-on-fire, how-can-I-continue-like-this level of importance. 

And that's how it should read in YA. People want to hate on insta-love. They get down on conflicting emotions and love triangles. They hate that characters seem "weak" or "indecisive." But at seventeen, it's impossible to decide what outfit you're going to wear that day let alone what your future holds, relationships or otherwise. 

We've lost sight of what drew us to YA to begin with: the innocence and the passion in each aspect of life. It's the time when you feel the strongest, the purest. You aren't jaded by the soul-sucking aspects of adulthood. You're free to feel things at their fullest, without reservation. You throw caution to the wind, and you live. That's the beauty of being a teen. It's not an excuse to act out or be reckless. There are boundaries even in youth. My point is, as a teen, you're a walking ball of crazy, and that's how it's supposed to be.

So, the next time you pick up a YA novel, appreciate the struggle of your high school aged character. See life through their rapidly-changing lenses. Relish in the victory being asked to the dance by their crush. Weep at the loss of their first love. Feel with every part of your being because you know they do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

An Open Letter About My Divorce

Our society has led us to believe it's our right to know what's going on in everyone's lives. We live in a constant stream of who cheated, who had liposuction, which Hollywood stars are dating, what actress overdosed, which athlete was arrested for driving intoxicated, blah, blah, blah... it's never ending. You see it in the checkout lane at the grocery store. You read it in the popup ads while you're scanning your email. Your friends share that post on Facebook, again. You can't escape it. In fact, like many others, I find myself avoiding social situations because of the constant drama. I don't want my personal business out there for the world to judge. I'm hard enough on myself; I don't need anyone else criticizing my life when they know nothing of my circumstances. 

I'm not one to share things from my real life, online or otherwise. My struggles and victories when they come at a personal level, are personal. Being an introvert, the attention is sometimes hard for me to handle. I have to remind myself quite often though, that God didn't make us to exist within ourselves. What is the point of my life if it doesn't impact others? And like it or not, beautiful or ugly, open or private, ALL of us impact those around us.

Messages have flooded my inbox lately regarding some changes that have just come to light. Many people are only now learning of my divorce that's been a year in the making. It's not because I've tried to hide it, but because in my mind, it didn't concern anyone outside of my ex-husband and our children. That isn't me being cold or distant. I know I have those who love and support me and who want to help me any way they can. I appreciate them so very much. Being who I am as a person however, I've learned to cope more efficiently on my own.

I've gradually come to realize though, while my desire to keep things to myself, it doesn't make up for the fact that my decisions impact the lives of those around me. So while the facts of the divorce can remain private, the impact most certainly cannot. My former marriage was perceived to be the stuff of magic. We were the "ideal" couple, the powerhouse duo. To say the news has come as a shock to most would be an understatement, because perception is reality. I've heard how many viewed us as this seemingly perfect couple and the heartache they felt at hearing the news. While my ex and I are handling this new situation with an ease that can only be attributed to God and the commitment to work through things for the sake of our children, I believe it's been as hard or harder on those around who love us -- our families who saw us together for 14+ years and our friends who knew us before we ever started dating ... it's an enormous change and incites a feeling of loss.

For that, I'm truly sorry.

It genuinely breaks my heart to have to share this news with those who have been there from the beginning. To those around us who viewed our marriage as unbreakable and rock-solid, I apologize for the pain our split has caused you. It genuinely hurts my heart that my own divorce might cause other couples to doubt their stability simply because, "If it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone."

There is a certain awkwardness in knowing how to respond, act, or react now, I recognize that. And there is still some hurt among our friends and respective families. It's okay to be upset. I've lost some connections over our choices, and that's okay, too! But I want to assure everyone that even though we're divorced, he and I are getting along wonderfully. Our children, though there has been a time for transition, are thriving, happy and hopeful. I appreciate each and every one of you who have been kind and supportive throughout the process. I know it isn't always easy trying to navigate those waters of change when you don't have all the facts. It's human nature to want to "know," but you've respected my privacy, and I really can't thank you enough.