Why Did The Blogger Cross The Road?

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The streets of San Jose are expansive lanes of cars zipping this way and that, each rushing to their individual destination. Standing on the corner, a bit intimidated by this new city, I watched from the safety of the sidewalk as drivers travelled their path. I wondered what their journey entailed on a Friday morning in the middle of summer. Where were they coming from? Where were they going?

I was anxious to cross and make my way to my first ever BlogHer conference yet I was hesitant to step out of my comfort zone as the traffic light changed and the countdown began. I didn’t trust the 14 seconds given to navigate my way across the four lanes of traffic with a track in the middle for public transportation, but each time I found myself being carried in the throng of pedestrians performing a tribal dance of street crossing and floated with them until I was safely on the other side.

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BlogHer was much the same way for me. I entered a sea of bloggers whose energy vibrated the floors and bounced off the walls of the San Jose Convention Center. Wide eyed, heart pumping I stood in the lobby and took it all in, hesitant to take a step in any direction. Bloggers zipped around me and I found myself wondering about each of them as they travelled past me.

How many were here for the first time? Were they all experienced bloggers with a carefully planned out itinerary to their future success? Or, had they been on their journey long enough to be successful already? How would I navigate my way among this group and would three days be enough time for me to make this trip worthwhile? How much progress could I realistically make in a mere seventy-two hours? Did I belong here? Would I find a tribe or spend my hours wandering alone?

As a new countdown began, another wave of conference attendees entered behind me and I was once again caught up in their midst. I let their energy carry me toward the registration desk, stepped out of my comfort zone, and let the adventure begin. I searched for a familiar face in the crowd and found it in the form of an online group I belong to called The Bloppies, a group of bloggers I have interacted with online for months. These women and more experienced bloggers were just as excited to meet me in person as I was to meet them.

And, just like that I found myself breathing a little easier.

Throughout the weekend, I attended sessions on Taking It To The Limit: Screenplay Writing, What a Freelance Career Really Looks Like, and The Future Of Personal Blogging. I listened to keynote speakers and met published authors and famous bloggers. What I learned?

 

1. Networking is just as valuable as attending sessions if not more so. I took away more from the conversations I had with other bloggers than I did most of the sessions.

2. When you’re hesitant to leave your comfort zone, the best thing you can do is leave your comfort zone. You have to put yourself out there…over and over and over.

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In a moment of bravery, I gave Ariana Huffington my card and pitched Red Circle Days. Who am I?

 

 3. Believe in your talent. Believe in your hard work. Believe in yourself.

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I am a BlogHer14 Voice of The Year! Cheers to me!

 

4. There are many similarities in a blogger’s journey, but they are each unique to the individual. Don’t spend so much timing chasing the dream of making it big that you lose your voice in the process.

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5. You can choose to do things alone, but at some point the time will undoubtedly come when you will need others. Reach out to them. Learn from them. Lean on them.

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After a whirlwind weekend of highs and lows, laughter and tears, and my moment in the spotlight as a 2014 VOTY I found myself at the same intersection waiting to cross the street once more. Except, this time it was different. I was no longer intimidated by the fast pace or hesitant of stepping out of my comfort zone and navigating my way across the street. I was leaving San Jose with confidence in myself, my writing, and ready to take on the blogging world. I was not going to take baby steps, but run full force into all the opportunities I had shied away from before and put myself out there. As the sign switched from “talk to the hand” to the walking man, I took action and began my journey across the street. About halfway there I realized I had less time than I thought to get across before the light changed and decided to jog the last few steps. My ankle twisted and I fractured my foot.

It was then I realized why I had crossed that intersection the first time upon my arrival. It wasn’t for the words I would hear from speakers and panelists or the tips of the trade shared in group discussions. I crossed the street in search of my tribe, not knowing I had already met them online. As I leaned on the women around me that last night, I realized every cent I spent on BlogHer was worth being in their presence all weekend as they applauded me, encouraged me and supported me in so many ways.

My best BlogHer swag came in the form of a tribe that may not have fit in my luggage, but I will forever carry close to my heart.

Thank you Bloppies!

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My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories Of Leaving And Losing Friends

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Have you ever lost a friend? Was that loss in some ways more painful than the end of a love affair? Women’s friendships so often come to a crossroads at which time two women can try to hold on to the friendship, staying connected, or the friends can take two completely separate paths without each other. Many of the essays in this book are about this moment in time, when both rupture and new beginnings are possible.

There are so many ways that friendships can end, and this book describes 35 of them, from each 35 talented and accomplished contributors. At the heart of each essay is the recognition from each writer that she has lost something very real and very personal, a connection that will never be forgotten.

I am proud to be one of the contributors to this anthology, alongside 34 very talented women writers. 

Today, I invite you to pre-order the book which I am sure will hit close to home for many readers

by using my special discount code: EX2014LV.

 

 

Pre-order the book and support our mission of sharing women’s voices, one story at a time.

Your autographed copy will be shipped on September 2, 2014, almost two weeks before its official publication date of September 15.

Pre-release sales profits will be spent on publishing and marketing expenses and on building our HerStories Project community.

The Hug That Has Lasted A Lifetime

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I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

Big Sister, Little Brother, First Meeting, Love At First Sight

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

The Tiny Gold Cross

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Today, I’m featured over at Our Life Songs  a non-profit organization designed to inspire, heal and motivate women who are struggling with disease, depression, anxiety and other difficult issues. I am honored to be a part of such a worthy mission. Please take a moment to visit them.

 

I sat across from her unable to take my eyes away, entranced by the weathered hands whose long, slender fingers wrapped around the tiny gold cross hanging on her neck. She slid it side to side, left to right, over and over again and I was mesmerized by the repetitive motion. I watched the cross swing on its matching gold chain at times of its own volition, others with a purpose it seemed only she understood. Much time would pass before I understood the meaning of it, not the meaning of the man who died on a much larger scale of the small cross, rather what it meant to the woman who loyally wore it.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

As a little girl, I found myself looking for the hint of gold against her chest each time I visited. I walked closer to greet her, my eyes searched for it. As she held me at arm’s length, steps before I reached her, commenting on how much I had grown since the last time she saw me, I looked for it. Younger still, I can recall my small hands reaching for it as she held me in her lap and rocked me to sleep. She never pulled it out of my grasp the way other adults yanked things out of reach of a young toddler for fear of destruction. Instead, she let me soothe myself to sleep, my tiny fingers rubbing the gold until I drifted off into peaceful slumber.

Through the years, it was always there. And, as I got older I noticed she not only held onto it during the happiest of times as though thanking the Lord for all he had blessed her with but also in the saddest of times like when we learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. She held it as she watched her daughter, my mother, absorb the news. And, as she watched my mother I watched her as the pain in my mom’s eyes reflected in her own. I leaned forward a bit as though in so doing I would be able to make out her plea as her lips moved in unison with the motion of the swaying cross. Back and forth, left and right, over and over again she slid the cross, her lips rapidly moving in a whispered prayer.
At those times, she seemed to wrap her fingers around it a little tighter, begging for it to provide more. More what?

Strength?      Hope?      Faith?

I would sense the urgency in the way she held the cross, and desperately slid it back and forth on its chain. By then, the once smooth skin it had rested upon when I was a child, was now etched with line upon line – each representing her walk of faith, her life’s journey. At times, the lines intersected on her wrinkled skin. I sat and wondered if perhaps there were paths that led her to other paths, each presenting a trial she was meant to endure, an experience that would shape the woman she became. Some lines seemed to have no direction, no beginning and no end, as though they consisted of choices left unmade or decisions changed at a certain point in time. However, it was clear to me even then that each line told a bit of her story, perhaps, because I can’t recall an occasion when I didn’t see it on her.

My grandmother always had it on her person, close to her heart and often reached for it. I think it kept her grounded, a constant reminder of her faith and something greater than her in this world.

Years later, as I entered the hospital room and approached the bed in which she was taking her last breath, my eyes immediately searched for the tiny gold cross. At that point, I needed the strength it always seemed to bring her. I needed the feeling of peace I had seen on her face after she held that symbol of faith in her hands time after time. As I looked at her chest where the hospital gown was pushed back a bit to reveal a hint of gold, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The lines were now many, blanketing her body like a road map of sorts and I like to think that’s exactly what they were. A road map of her life, her experiences, but most importantly her undying faith. And as I reached for the tiny gold cross that had become a symbol of comfort in my young eyes, I realized that it was so much more than that. Seeing it now through the eyes of a woman, I understood what it meant to my grandmother and in my times of doubt, during moments of desperation, I find myself holding the tiny cross that sits close to my own heart. I can’t help but pray that in the end my life’s road map is as beautifully etched as hers.

 

Black, White, Straight, Gay…Isn’t There Room For All Of Us?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

Like a few other English words, Room means two contradictory things. It can be the four walls that enclose us, giving us shelter and comfort but also limiting our movement. It’s also the limitless space into which we can wander and which we can fill — or try to (think about that expression, “room to grow”). – Ben Huberman

This week’s challenge: From the four walls that currently surround you to the infinite potential of space,

this week we’d like you to show us your take on room, rooms, or a room.

Gay Pride Parade in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Statement: Bank Account Low. Immediate Deposit Necessary.

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“If you think back and replay your year and you don’t recall tears either sad or happy consider your year a waste.”

This line has stuck with me for some time. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I’ve carried its meaning with me each year as I’ve looked back at my life and the string of moments that are now in my past. Moments I may not have fully appreciated at the time and others I vaguely recall fleetingly passing through time…my time, my year, my life. As is often the case, life’s little moments present the biggest lessons but too often we are so caught up in what we are feeling in that particular moment that we miss the full essence of its significance. The present moment stirs up emotions that slowly roll over our heart and mind like a cloud cluster across an expanse of sky blocking the light that could bathe us in warmth and wisdom. It is only when the clouds move on that we look back, not knowing what we are seeking but sure we’ve missed something meaningful.

Beach, Sand Art, Heart In Sand

Thus, if I could give my younger self a bit of guidance now that I’ve had some time to deposit moments in my memory bank, I would share the following.

  1. Life isn’t always what it appears to be. Always take a moment to look beneath the surface. It is when you dig a little deeper that treasures are discovered.
  2. There are moments when your heart will break into a million pieces. Know that another moment will arrive that will put those pieces back together and you will be the better for it.
  3. The moment you think you can’t do something is the moment you’ve allowed someone else’s negativity to cloud your judgment. Believe in yourself.
  4. There will be moments when your heart will burst with love. Cherish them. These are the moments worth living for.
  5. At times it will feel like you’re drowning, kicking your legs, burning your lungs, clawing at the surface. Keep going because the moment where you can shoot out of the deep water and break the surface, filling your lungs with air and feeling the sun on your face once more isn’t as far off as it seems.
  6. There will be moments when you will be so proud of your accomplishments, you will want to share them with the world. Share them and bask in the glory, never forgetting the journey that got you there.
  7. The moment will undoubtedly arrive, likely more than once, when you will be paralyzed by fear. Do not let fear dictate your outcome. Pray. Listen to your heart. Choose a direction. Take the first step.
  8. If the moment ever comes when you have to choose whether to forgive or forget, understand that the two do not go hand in hand. You can forgive without forgetting.
  9. You will have regrets. Do not let them define you.
  10. Moments of failure are necessary in life. In order to be a winner, you have to understand what it’s like to be a loser.

Beach, Sand Art, I Love You

Contrary to popular belief, filling your bank account with money shouldn’t be your ultimate goal in life. Money may make some aspects of your life more comfortable, give you a sense of security, and maybe provide some experiences you might not have otherwise. However a memory bank full of moments and each tiny detail that makes up a single moment in time is definitely worth your effort.  Don’t miss out on the many opportunities to fill your memory bank with “moments.” Good or bad, each moment will be one of many of life’s valuable experiences. It will be scary sometimes to think of what the future holds, but know that it will be filled with many many moments…some of which you will learn a painful lesson from and some of which you will want to relive over and over again. Just know that a memory bank full of “moments” will be more valuable than gold when you get older.

 

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Soldiers Of The Same Name

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It was the summer of 1970 when a little boy was born to a young couple in Atlanta, Georgia. His name was chosen to honor another young boy who gave his life for our country. On that day, as one boy came into the world to parents filled with hopes and dreams for his life, another young boy’s parents had already laid their little boy to rest as a Vietnam Veteran…burying their own hopes and dreams.

Freedom isn't free, Memorial Day, Veteran's Memorial, Washington DC

I captured his reflection when he found his uncle’s name.

 

Neither ever got to meet the other, yet that little boy grew to become one of the most patriotic men I know. His love for our country and his passion for our history make me proud to stand by his side as we instill the same passion and love for the United States of America in our own children and continue to honor the boy he was named after.

Freedom Isn't Free, Memorial Day, Washington, DC

In honoring his name, we honor all those who chose to fight for our freedom. In honoring his name, we honor all those who suited up before him and entered the battlefield. In honoring his name, we honor all those who walked before him, those who protect us today, and those who will choose to follow in their footsteps. Each and every one of these young men and women may not share the same name on their birth certificate or their dog tags, but they do share a name we should never fail to honor…Soldier.

May you each enjoy your Memorial Day and thank a soldier this weekend!

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Passage – Photo Friday

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“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole France

“From wherever you are, enter and be welcome.” – Albert Camus

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

“Ask and it will be given to you:
Seek and you shall find;
Knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7

“Footfalls echo in the memory, Down the passage which we did not take,

toward the door we never opened into the rose-garden.” – T. S. Eliot

Washington, DC, Capitol Building Photo, Room With A View

2014 BlogHer VOTY – The Selected Post And More!

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This is the post that made me dance and scream around the living room last week when I received the email that I had been selected as a 2014 BlogHer VOTY. California here I come! I am honored to be among some amazing talent and will be counting down the days until the conference in July. Scroll down for more VOTY posts worth your time! 

 

History Of The World Part 2

It was the kind of day when the weather suggests you enjoy the outdoors, warm enough to ditch the heavy coats of winter and the restrictions they provide. Yet as I walked down the streets of Washington, DC, I held tight to a light sweater as I felt a cool breeze in the air. It really was one of those perfect days to sit under a tree, blanket spread with picnic regalia in all its splendor, and a good book in hand. I, however, lost all thoughts of the outdoors and the call of nature, as I stepped through the doors to the dome-shaped building which encapsulates the yesterdays and the tomorrows of our nation’s history.

Washington, DC, Capitol Building Photo, Room With A View

With each step I took upon the tiled floors, tiny squares of intricate designs, I couldn’t help but think of all those whose footsteps graced these halls since 1793. How many men and women eagerly entered this meeting place of the nation’s legislature, with hopes of not only leaving their footprints on these tiles but their imprint on our country? If I listened closely, I could almost hear the intellectual and political discussions, words floating up and around the painted dome with its mythological and historical impressions, secrets being whispered among the collection of American art gracing the walls.

Painting Ceiling in Capitol

For hundreds of years life changing decisions have been made amid the half circle of desks in the Senate gallery and throughout this building, behind closed doors and in the presence of those whose job it is to record it for our history books. The circular theme of the building a constant reminder of how history repeats itself no matter how hard we try to avoid it, coming back full circle in another attempt to teach us the lessons we didn’t grasp the first time. There is a reason buildings such as this one are preserved at all costs. They hold our history and they hold our future.

I felt honored to walk the same path as these leaders who have shaped our nation, to sit in the very seats they sat in, to admire the artistic details on walls and ceilings and look out the windows at the same panoramic views their eyes have also seen, to stand in awe of the majestic statues of American Presidents stoically keeping watch on the history they once created.

Capitol Building, Washington, DC

I also couldn’t help but feel small and insignificant in this magnificent rotunda, the symbol of the American people and our government. And yet, as I looked through my camera lens at my family, positioned in the exact center of this magnanimous building something else came into focus. I saw my history and my future in their smiles. I saw my husband and I in our first home shortly after being handed the keys, slow dancing in our socks in the living room to the music in our hearts. I saw my children’s peaceful looks as I rocked them back to sleep in their nurseries night after night. I saw us teaching our children to read, to ride a bike, to tie their shoes, to love, and to live. The truth is, life changing decisions occur in our homes every day. Lessons are taught and history is written. Our homes hold our history and hold our future. Each lesson we pass down to our children, each kind word we utter to our family, each impression we make upon someone else is a step in shaping their future, our future, and ultimately our nation’s future. As I headed out past the towering statues of George Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, and the many others who have shaped our present, I couldn’t help but be reminded that each of their stories began at home.

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My fellow Honorees In the Exploration category:

Amy Mcvay Abbott from The Broad Side for Leaning Ugly
Africadayz for For Ian: An Ordinary Saturday
Angelle Bonnecarrere from She Drives a Vegetable Car for Once Upon a Time in New York
Yuvika Chaube from My Musings for A Letter to the Previous Owner of My Mobile Number
Chris from Campfires and Cleats for Always Hope: The Soldier in the Snapshot
Debra Cole from Urban Moo Cow for Introduction to Eating Disorders
Dalene from hecKtic travels for Death Camp
Natalie DeYoung from The Cat Lady Sings for The Art of Holding Back
Shannon Duffy from Deepest Worth for Shining Through
Cheryl Dumesnil from VillageQ for “I Just Want to Be Like Everyone Else”
Anita Finlay from Anita Finlay for WW II Female War Heroes Deserve to Have Their Stories Told
Gretchen from Second Blooming for Spin Cycle: Haunted Hollywood
Rachel Haas from Dramatic Elegance for To the Men from a Jesus Feminist
Christine Harkin from Naptime Writing for Is That Manic or Depressive?
Kinnary from The Mango Cage for Sunday 29th December
Kylie from The Life of Kylie for When You Were My Age
Elora Nicole from Elora Nicole for Let’s Be Writers
Grayson Queen from Posting Tuesdays for Portrait of a Diabeti
Rara Queen from Rarasaur for I Was Small
Jess Severson from Don’t Mind the Mess for Women, Infants and Children

Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee receives the People’s Choice Award for Exploration for Sometimes, I’m Maybe Not Myself. By My Maybe Autistic Son.

 

A few more honorees, you should definitely check out!

Michelle Lewson from They Call Me Mummy for The Ugliest Doll in the Shop

Vikki Claflin from Laugh Lines for Doctor, Can You Give Me a Lift?

Marcia Kester Doyle from Menopausal Mother for 10 Reasons Why I Love Menopause

Linda Roy from Elleroy Was Here for While the Iron’s Hot

Aussa Lorens from Hacker.Ninja.Hooker.Spy for 7 Ways Your Life Is Like High School

Darcy Perdu from So Then … Stories for My SECRET Accomplishment

Stephanie Sprenger from Mommy, for Real for My Beautiful Girls: Raising Feminist Daughters

 

My Mind Palace Is Having An Open House!

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I admit it. I’m a dreamer. I love to lose myself in visions I’ve meticulously created, each detail sewn together with the delicate point of my mind’s needle. I move right in to this mind palace of moments, dreams, and memories and as I stroll up and down each hallway filled with images, I pause and focus on my surroundings. I soak it all up with unquenchable thirst and turn each corner in search of more, always in search of more. Each room holds the mystery of the future and yet turning the knob and pushing the door open is an action as familiar to me as the hand that reaches for the switch that will bathe me in light.

Sherlock, Hallway, Corridor

And much like the lines on this aging hand, past, present and future all reside in this universe. Each thrives separately, yet I am often surprised by the repetitive pattern I sometimes encounter. Like paintings lingering on these corridor walls, the same hopes and dreams resurface time and time again. The same mistakes make multiple appearances. One hallway meets another and then another, each turn can either take me back in time or propel me into a future I long for without providing direction on how to reach it. Inevitably, I reach a crossroad at the end of this inner road and find myself turning my head to either side, squinting in hopes of catching a glimpse of what each hallway holds – a hint of how many doors await in either direction.

I turn to the right hoping it is the right choice, all the while doubting myself and simultaneously lighting the adventurous spark within me. I want to move forward, continue in search of…of what exactly? I take a step back and turn to the left wondering if by a simple process of elimination this is the right direction. I stand rooted to the ground, hesitant to make a decision, unwilling to lift my foot and take that step. Moving in either direction doesn’t bring a sense of comfort so I stand as seconds turn into minutes, minutes into hours. I lean my head toward the ceiling, eyes closed and will myself to make a decision, choose a direction.

Circular Window, Landscaping

I can’t. I take a deep breath, slowly lower my head and gradually open my eyes. I am amazed at what I see as a complete sense of calm envelopes me. Before me is the most picturesque garden right outside the small round window that greets me. How did I miss this? How did I not see such beauty and tranquility right before my very eyes? Was I so focused on choosing a direction that I overlooked the wonder that stood before me, patiently waiting to be acknowledged?

We sometimes find ourselves at stages in our life where we feel compelled, pressured to make a decision one way or another.

We believe we must act quickly for fear we will miss out. And yet, sometimes the best decision is to just be still.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? How did you handle it?