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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Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar Days

Blue Circle Days – You Can’t Schedule Mental Illness

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He called the other day. He doesn’t have a phone or at least not one from which he can make long distance calls. The Assisted Living Facility frowns upon that, and I guess it makes sense, but I can’t help but wonder then how all those people living away from family members reach out to someone in that moment. You know the moment don’t you?

I know it.

Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar DaysI’ll be going about my day, some times all is routine, nothing new, and some times as the day progresses and Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect, I think of how nice it would be to pick up that phone and call a friend. How quickly my day can get turned around with a simple phone call. At times, it’s just about laughing out loud at something and as I listen to the sound of my laughter almost echo in the empty kitchen, I feel the need to share it with someone, hear their laughter too as they smile on the other end of the line. That need to connect with someone instantly must be one that people have experienced for years. Otherwise, why would Alexander Graham Bell have found it necessary to progress from letter writing and long roads travelled to connect with a loved one, to being able to dial them up in that moment when the sound of their voice is something we crave.

And then, there are those other moments.

Through the years, I’ve answered many phone calls from him. Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.

I don’t know.

I’m not Bipolar or Depressed or whatever label the mental illness experts have come up with for him. I’ve never stayed awake for nights on end too afraid to close my eyes for even an instant, needing to keep watch lest my own mind betray me in the dead of night, giving life to my darkest of thoughts. I’ve never had to pick up the phone and dial someone’s number because I knew my survival depended on it.

Those particular calls are ingrained in me forever. The times he called because he had lost all sense of control and needed the sound of my voice to drown out the voices in his own mind. At times simply hearing me breathe on the other end of the line gave him a sense of calm. Seconds would turn into minutes as I was equally soothed by the sound of his breathing as he was by mine.

Then, there were the calls when he knew he needed more than my voice to soothe him and the call was simply a prompt for me to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and go find him…get him somewhere that would provide the help I so desperately wished I could give him, but knew in my heart I couldn’t. Those were the times when I experienced my own sense of betrayal. How could I not help the person before me, the little brother only eleven months younger than myself, the baby who shared a crib with me? What did my own brain have that his needed? And, why couldn’t I find a way to share it with him much the same way I shared my bottle of milk? What was I missing?

Spiritual Calendar, Red Circle Days, Calendar Pages,

Many a calendar page has been turned since I’ve received one of those phone calls and I’m thankful for it. I am on my knees with gratitude kind of thankful. My brother is doing well, on the right meds, in therapy, living a normal life with assistance. He hasn’t had a “crisis” in years and his phone call recently (from my mom’s phone) wasn’t out of fear or desperation.

Instead, he had an idea his therapist had suggested during their last session and he wanted to tell me all about it. It was the first time in a long time I heard true excitement in his voice. I had almost forgotten what he sounded like when he was so pumped about something that he couldn’t wait to share it with me. His therapist suggested he work with me on a book about his life journey with mental illness. I can see why the therapist thought it might be a good idea.

My first book, Red Circle Days, is about those moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year.

He even threw out a title, Blue Circle Days, and immediately many a calendar day flashed before me… hospital stays, doctor’s offices, the nights the phone woke me in the middle of the night, and the nights it didn’t ring.

As my brother’s excitement travelled across an ocean to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am up for that challenge? Is he up for that challenge?

He says he believes his stories will help others out there, and I believe sharing them alongside the perspective of someone who loves him and shared in the journey would likely help many families who have stood where we’ve stood, afraid to take another step for fear of what comes next, knowing at times the only comfort comes from listening to each other breathe.

And yet, as I wrap up this post if not my thoughts, I can’t seem to catch my breath.

Also in Mental Illness by Little Miss Wordy:

The Hug

Dear, Mom Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?

Related Sites:

The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

A Canvas Of The Minds

Sheri de Grom

“Oh, You’re a Joiner” – Why I Joined NanoWrimo.

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She sat across from me at the local coffee shop, checking her phone, looking around as we “got to know each other.” I was the new gal in town and since it wasn’t my first rodeo, I was out there doing what I do best or at the very least what I know I need to do to acquire that sense of belonging in a new place. I was reaching out to a fellow mom, a local, in the hopes of finding that one friend that can instantly take you from outsider status to outsider with a friend status.

We discussed the move, the re-locations before this one, the kids and all the other usually safe topics that come up in polite conversation. In some ways, it was like the job interview I didn’t see on my wall calendar that morning as I stood in the kitchen, coffee in hand, making sure I didn’t forget my kid’s project or overlook a dentist appointment. I recall finding it strange when she glanced up from her phone to ask me what I was into in high school. Both in our late thirties, I didn’t see the relevance of her question given that neither one of us was likely the same person we were during the most terrifying, unsettling, and awkward four years of a person’s life. Nonetheless, I happily chimed on about being athletic, a cheerleader, class secretary, etc.

In the midst of my recounting my nose always having been in a book and how many of my friends were with me from kindergarten through high school, she suddenly glanced up and said, “Oh, you’re a joiner.” I paused mid-sentence, “Excuse me?” She repeated, “You’re a joiner” and went back to her cellphone. I sat in silence for a moment, not exactly sure why I felt offended by her nonchalant comment.

Truth be told, all the activities I had mentioned were clubs of some sort. Maybe it was the way she said the word “joiner” that made it sound like a negative thing. Maybe it was because as I had gotten older, I had begun to take pride in being my own person, standing up for my beliefs and following my passions no matter what other’s opinions might be. Maybe it was because the last thing I now saw myself as was a “joiner.” Instead, priding myself on being more of an individual. Maybe it was just the way she said it with such conviction, as though she had me all figured out. Then again, maybe it was because I didn’t want to admit there might be some truth to it.

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This week is the first week of something called NanoWrimo, National Novel Writing Month, which is “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1st. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 on November 30th.”

This mother of two, wife of one, writer and weekly blogger, crazy lady who should be committed, instead committed to this challenge because keeping the house clean, the laundry done, and getting back into my regular workout routine with my new personal trainer isn’t enough. Apparently, I need more!

Cry for Help: I’ve lost my mind. If found, please return immediately as I’m going to need it to complete this novel and, you know, other stuff in my life.

The thing is ever since this summer when my husband and I decided to enroll the kids in school instead of continuing to homeschool them, I’ve been saying I would use the “free” time to write my second book, a novel. Somehow, I never find that “free”time to dedicate to it. So, when the NanoWrimo talk started last month my “joiner” wheels started spinning. An actual goal, a commitment to join the masses all working toward a similar goal, complete with pep talks by famous authors and a community of support every step of the way. By the way, I was giddy to find a letter from James Patterson in my inbox discussing the importance of outlining my novel before beginning. I took your advice Mr. Patterson, thank you.

So, yeah I guess I am a “joiner” but right now I don’t see it as a negative thing. If being a “joiner” means being a part of something bigger alongside some amazing writers and sharing in the highs and lows of pursuing a dream, completing a project, reaching a goal, then color me a “joiner” and let me be.

If it means on those days when – I’m struggling to get my kids off to school on time, not in their pajamas, with more than a pop tart and glass of recently expired (but not so expired as to be dangerous) milk, all while mentally kicking myself in the butt for believing for two seconds I would be able to pull off coherent sentences with only the creativity found in the bottom of a second cup of coffee, let alone write a complete novel in a one month period – I will log onto my NanoWrimo community and find that others can relate and share in my self doubt and misery, then I’m proud to be a “joiner” and will shout it from the rooftops!

Bring it on “joiner” haters!

I’ll be the one with the completed  semi-completed novel (depending on how much “free time” I have) at the end of November.

“I’m a joiner! He’s a joiner! Wouldn’t you like to be a joiner too? Be a joiner! Oohh be a joiner! (sung to the Dr. Pepper jingle)

Are you a joiner?

Blogging: Work or Hobby?

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Writers Are Suspicious

If you don’t get paid to write is it still considered work or does it fall into the category of hobby?

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. For bloggers, writing is a passion that they have pursued because they need the outlet. Blogs are a great platform to do that. Not only do you keep your creative juices flowing, but you have people read your stuff, and you get feedback on your writing.
  2. For some writers, blogging is a means to gaining followers and building a relationship of sorts with people who will hopefully want to purchase the book they plan on publishing in the future. That’s right. Some bloggers are working on a book while simultaneously providing material for their blog.
  3. Bloggers adhere to their calendar of scheduled posting days in an effort to be consistent and reliable for their loyal followers.
  4. However, before that, bloggers have already dedicated countless hours to their writing, drafting, editing and perfecting pieces before they post them.
  5. Bloggers are writing additional pieces for submission to other sites…i.e. guest posts, articles for consideration, essays for contests etc.
  6. In addition, most bloggers have a whole life outside of blogging that demands their attention as well.

Now that you’ve had a moment to consider these points, ponder this: If the blogger described above doesn’t get paid for bullet points 1-6, is it considered work or a hobby?

I’m a bit torn. Here’s why:

  1. I was raised to believe you get paid for work, yet the above describes someone who is obviously working at something or toward something but not necessarily being monetarily compensated.
  2. Furthermore, I am a stay at home raising two children who has also homeschooled said children. Believe me when I tell you it’s work! I may not get paid for it, but I don’t consider it a hobby.
  3. On the other hand, if I was getting paid for blogging or hoping to get paid for blogging I would be able to justify a pricey blogging conference ticket in addition to all the other expenses that go along with attending the conference.
  4. I’m a published author, but I’m not exactly putting food on the table because of it.
  5. I have a passion for writing and blogging and consider the time and effort I put into both to be valuable whether or not I get paid for that time.
  6. I get stumped on the “occupation” section of an application.

Where do you stand? This inquiring mind wants to know!

Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke? What Do You Do?

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Good morning! I’ve guest posted over at Sincerely, Paula and am giving away 2 SIGNED COPIES to 2 lucky winners!

Follow the link to check out my guest post, “Don’t Drink, Don’t Smoke? What Do You Do?” and enter to win!

Share the love and let your friends know about it!

Sincerely, Paula: Guest Post and a Fabulous Giveaway!.

Previous Posts by Little Miss Wordy:

Words I Have Never Spoken Aloud

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“I am a runner.” “I am a writer.” Words I have never spoken aloud. Why? I guess because I don’t truly believe them. Yet. I’m working on it, but it is still a work in progress. I am still a work in progress. What words have you never spoken aloud because you don’t truly believe them?

Running - I don’t run fast. I don’t run far. I don’t win medals. Yet, I do compete. With every step I take and every mile I run, I compete against myself. Every night I set my alarm to get up and run in the morning, giving myself a little pep talk that I can/will do it. Every morning, when the alarm goes off I give myself another pep talk that I can/will do it. It is hard to get out of bed. However, I face the terrain, push myself mile after mile, uphill, downhill, and back home. I run because I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I’m done, not because I feel like a runner. I try to lose myself in my music, headphones on, drowning out the voices in my head and my heart that tell me I’m not a runner. Recently, I’ve acquired a new running partner. He doesn’t accompany me on every run, but when he does I find I run better. I still wear my headphones, but solely for the music. This little person beside me doesn’t allow me to believe I’m not a runner…even for a minute. When I run beside him, I am a runner.

Why? He is my inspiration. I want my son to believe he can do anything as well. I want the voices in his head and his heart to always tell him he can/he will. I want to be his inspiration.

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Writing - I’m not a famous author. I haven’t been writing long. I started this blog only five months ago. I don’t have books sitting on bookstore shelves waiting to be purchased. Writing isn’t effortless to me. I have to carve out time to sit and let my thoughts find life on my computer screen. Even with interruptions, as my fingers hover over the keys I work to translate thoughts to keystrokes to full-blown ideas on the screen. I write because I love to write. I write because when I do I lose myself in my thoughts and my words. When I write, I drown out the voices in my head and my heart that tell me I am not a writer. I write because I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I’m done, not because I feel like a writer. Recently, my daughter has decided she would like to write a book. She says she wants to be a writer like her mom. I watch her sit with her laptop, a faraway look on her sweet face, her fingers traveling over the keys bringing her own thoughts to life. This little person beside me doesn’t allow me to believe I’m not a writer…even for a minute. When I see myself through her eyes, I am a writer.

Why? She is my inspiration. I want her to believe she can do anything as well. I want the voices in her head and her heart to always tell her she can/she will. I want to be her inspiration.

An (unedited) excerpt from Olivia’s book:

It was an ordinary day. Taylor was in her room texting her friend, Hannah. “Want to come to my party tonight?” said Hannah. “Definitely, but I’ll have to ask my parents!” replied Taylor, so off she went down the stairs. She went into the kitchen to see if her mom was there. Sure enough there she was making tuna casserole. “Um mom?” said Taylor “Can I go to a party tonight?”  “Absolutely not!” replied her mom “we are going to have a nice family dinner!”  “But mom please?” said Taylor. “No and that is final!” said her mom. Taylor stormed off outside to think. “If I’m not at that party I’ll be a total loser!” thought Taylor. Just then a portal-like thing appeared right in front of her! Before she knew it she was inside of the portal! She screamed, cried, and whined for help! “Mom!” she cried, but no one could hear her! Just then, she fell onto a bed of grass and flowers, but she wasn’t alone.

Tons of villagers had heard some commotion, and wanted to see what was going on. The villagers were angry! They were holding pitch forks and torches. Taylor immediately got up and ran ( even though she had no idea where she was going ). She ran into the woods and cried for help. “Help! Mom! Save me!” she screamed, but no one came. She kept on running, but she tripped over the root of a rather large tree. She fell to the ground, but immediately got up and kept running even though she was hurt. She soon realized the villagers stopped at the beginning of the woods because those were the woods that belonged to “The Destructor”. Taylor stopped and sat down. Her leg was throbbing in pain. When she took a look at her leg it was bleeding heavily. She grabbed a leaf and wrapped it around her leg. She looked at the size of the leaf and wondered ” Where am I?” Taylor didn’t know what to think. As far as she knows she was just sucked into a portal, and ended up in a weird placed where there were angry villagers. She was very tired, so she decided to leave the thinking for tomorrow and go to sleep. She curled up right then and there and went to sleep, but little did she know that The Destructor was on his way towards her.

Taylor woke up and saw a little creature sitting by her leg. It was about as big as a puppy. It was very fluffy and looked like a very small mammoth! It had purple ears and legs with an aquamarine colored fur. Taylor stared at the little guy with curiosity. “Ok now this is just weird!” she wondered aloud. She thought for a moment. Then she realized “If I follow him I’m sure to find water and food!”  Taylor had a little backpack that she always carried with her no matter where she was. She pulled out a little note pad and drew a sketch of the little animal. “Are you ok?” Taylor heard someone say. “Did you just say that?” Taylor asked the little creature. She looked up and saw someone, but it was no Destructor it was just a little boy. The little boy was wearing jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and some sandals. He looked about six or seven. “Yes I’m fine, and who are you?” said Taylor. “I’m Peter, but the animals call me Pete!” Said the boy. “The animals?” said Taylor ( who thought the boy was insane and should just go home). ” I know what your thinking Taylor” said Peter.  “You what?” said Taylor. “I’m not insane.” said Peter. ” I can read people’s and animal’s minds, and that is why I said the animals call me Pete” said Peter. ” Oh I’m so sorry Peter” said Taylor. ” Follow me!” said Peter. So Taylor packed up her things and followed Peter through the woods.

As Taylor followed Peter through the woods she saw old abandon houses, broken down factories that looked like they had never been opened, she even thought that she saw a sparkle behind a tree or two. In other words, these were not the woods you would want to be in when you are alone. “Are we almost there?” asked Taylor. ” I think so…” Peter trailed off. “what’s wrong?” asked Taylor. “I’m not sure we are safe here, I-I can feel it” said Peter. Just then something jumped out of the bushes and took Peter. Taylor screamed, “Peter!!! Don’t leave me here!” Peter didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer because he was so scared it was like the whole world froze itself. Taylor knew she didn’t have to save him. It wasn’t her responsibility anyway, but Peter reminded her of someone who she couldn’t quite remember the name of. Taylor didn’t have all day! She decided to run after that beast that took her friend. Was Peter her friend? He never really seemed like one, but in a way he did. As she ran she heard a scream, a scream so loud it could make you completely deaf. Taylor stopped. It was the sound of a screaming boy.

The Search For Life’s Magic Editing Wand

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Stereograms are multi-dimensional, computer-generated, graphic images that contain hidden content (images and text). The hidden content can only be seen when viewed from the proper visual and mental perspective. Stereograms contain multiple levels of reality. The surface level usually contains a variety of colors and patterns that make stereograms appear chaotic and disorganized. Once we penetrate into the deeper dimensions of the hidden content, we discover the real meaning of each stereogram.”

Photo Credit: eyetricks.com

Photo Credit: eyetricks.com

I think I might be a human Stereogram.

Allow me to break it down. I wasn’t the kind of little girl who enjoyed playing dress up. As a matter of fact, I was such a tomboy that I was most comfortable in my jeans with a torn knee and a t-shirt. However, as I got older I started to enjoy it. Maybe because dressing up then also entailed an evening out and the good time that accompanied it. I love going in my closet and searching for just the right outfit for the occasion, and twirling in front of the mirror once I’m dressed. Herein lies the problem…the mirror. At first glance, I’m usually happy with what I see, but much like the stereogram it seems I contain multiple levels of reality. The more I stand in front of that mirror, the closer and longer I look at my reflection, the unhappier I become with what I see. Much like the stereogram, I believe I start to see “hidden content” in my image I didn’t originally see. Unlike the stereogram however, the longer I look the more chaotic and disorganized my reflection appears to me. And, once I see those flaws it is all I can focus on, leading me to doubt the whole ensemble, making me question my exercise plan, and ultimately sending me spinning back into the closet to change outfits. When did I become such a girl?

I am much the same when presented with a photograph of myself. Again, at first glance I think it’s not bad, but upon further inspection I can’t keep my finger from gravitating toward the delete button. There are very few photos of myself that I really like, and even then that photo is probably the fifth photo taken because the first four were deleted. Anyone who takes a photo of me, knows there is an approval process before it can be shared through any social media. On a recent trip to NYC, some strangers offered to take a photo of my husband and myself in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. I disliked the photo so much, I asked the police officer standing on the corner (much to my husband’s embarrassment) to take another photo of us. Then, I had him retake that photo! Thank you Mr. NYPD!

I’ve always wished I had a magic wand that would allow me to immediately edit those photos, and ultimately the reflection I see in the mirror. My husband doesn’t understand my warped perception of myself, and quite frankly I don’t either. How can I see the results of my hard work from running and weight training one day, yet not see it another day? I see what I see though. When my son was around two years old, he was crying one day and could barely get the words out when I asked, “Why are you crying?” Between breathes he said, “I cry because I cry!” Well, I see that warped image because I see that warped image!

This week, I’ve held an editing wand in my hand though not one I could use on my image. You see, I’ve been editing my soon to be published book, Red Circle Days, and do you know what I’ve discovered? I have come to the realization that my reflection isn’t the only thing that can generate self-doubt. As I read through my writing once more, I begin to doubt the quality. I start to feel that no amount of editing will ever make it good enough in my eyes. I start to envision my book sitting on store shelves collecting dust after a handful of copies have been purchased by my mom, other family members, and good friends. So…I struggle to move forward in the editing process until it is complete, much like I struggle to turn away from the mirror and head out the door in search of something good. I know I will keep trekking along on my road to a fitter me, and I know I will keep trekking along on my road to publishing my first book. I will continue because I can’t give up on either journey. My son may cry because he cries, and I may see a warped image because I see a warped image. However, magic editing wand or not, I write because I write!

Do you have any aspects in your life, where you search for that magic editing wand?

Embracing The Spotlight And Learning From Shadows Cast

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Photo Credit: hardwoodparoxysm.com

Photo Credit: hardwoodparoxysm.com

What does one write after the post that got more attention than a two-year old’s temper tantrum in aisle five of your local supermarket? If you’re me, you write absolutely nothing for days on end because you just don’t know how to follow that. If you’re me, you learn that the spotlight showers you with warm light while also casting shadows. If you’re me, you learn that putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard is an act of courage that can be therapeutic for both writer and reader alike. If you’re me, you learn that you still have much to learn in this great big complicated world, and that a Weekly Writing Challenge can challenge you on a whole new level.

How often in life have we heard the phrase, education is key and been told to hit the books because you’re nothing without that diploma? It has been years since I have attended an academic institution, yet am still chalking up lessons. I’m not sitting behind a desk attentively listening to the professor and frantically taking notes, but I am still learning. The lessons I’m clocking these days are life lessons and taking notes may not be a bad idea. While I am a firm believer in getting that diploma and striving toward academic excellence, there’s no arguing with the value of life lessons.

How sad would it be if everything we know, we really did learn in kindergarten? There were definitely some good lessons there which many of us should brush up on from time to time. Sharing, good manners, kindness, waiting your turn… basic common courtesy far lacking in our society nowadays. However, let’s face it, the most important lessons are the ones life provides. Life experiences are what teach us how to be better. It’s those life experiences that make us realize just how strong we are, sometimes surprising ourselves more than those around us. While life shows us our strengths and our weaknesses, it also teaches us how to walk through that fire and come out stronger on the other side time and time again.

The thing about life lessons is you can’t sign up for the Tues-Thursday class at 8:00am. You can’t buy the book that will guide you through each lesson, and you certainly can’t get the Cliff Notes. There’s no Dummies book for life. You just have to live it! You have to keep your eyes and ears open and don’t let one pass you by, because I guarantee you it won’t be made into a feature film. You won’t get to grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show, because those life lessons on the big screen were someone else’s not yours. You and I have to take it one day at a time and embrace each lesson life presents because each one is meant for us individually. What we do with it is solely up to us!

If you’re me, you decide to continue writing with your own voice whether anyone is listening or not. If you’re me, you decide to continue challenging yourself on every level. If you’re me, you learn that embracing the shadows as well as the spotlight is a lesson in and of itself. If you’re me, you decide the only way to be is to just be me. As my wise, new blogger friend says, “when you do that there’s no pressure.”

Source: Cheri Lucas

The Hug

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couple-embrace

Photo Courtesy of Cheri Lucas

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.

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 eighteen 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.

Weekly Writing Challenge

My Word-ly Travels

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She loved to read and became so lost in her books it was as if she left her bedroom and stepped into the very places those stories took place. Ever since she was a little girl, she dreamed of faraway places. She envisioned herself traveling around the globe and even outer space. Her dreams were those of a child with no regard for schedules or finances, only visions of new worlds to be discovered, adventures around every corner, and meeting people so different from her they would forever touch her soul. The mountains she’d climb, the seas she’d cross, and the dirt roads she’d leave her footprint on would be experiences she would carry close to her heart and like an old weathered album pull out to relive those travels of years gone by.

Dreams are what life is made of, but sometimes life has other plans. I still have those dreams but haven’t traveled much outside the United States. The blue markers on the map show where I’ve lived. I’ve moved a few times, but all within the United States except for Puerto Rico where I currently live. It’s a United States Territory.

I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of all the places I wish to experience, yet my words have reached farther than my wildest dreams. In the four short months I’ve been blogging, my words have reached every yellow marker on this map. I started blogging as a way to share my writing, my stories, my random thoughts. I envisioned a small group of folks, mostly family (thank you mom) and friends, reading my posts and maybe clicking the like button or leaving a comment.

Instead, my words have floated their way across oceans, climbed mountains, twisted and turned along winding dirt roads, zipped along busy highways, fluttered through open windows and made their way to living rooms, hotel rooms, kitchens, studies, offices, and bedrooms, backlit on person after person’s computer screen. Thousands of pairs of eyes have focused on my words, read them, felt them, and hopefully were touched by them in some way.

My words have accomplished the stuff of my dreams. I haven’t crossed oceans to faraway lands or climbed mountains, or left my footprint on narrow dirt roads. I don’t have a weathered album, real or in my mind, of travels to relive. Yet, I look at this map and smile a little. My words have reached so many so different from myself, and in so doing have ignited something in these readers that has compelled them to click that like button or leave a comment, each time touching my soul across the distance in the only way possible.

Thank you yellow markers for opening your homes to me! Thank you Google Maps for my weathered travel album. And thank you WordPress for a first class ticket around the globe!

Sky is the limit: where would you recommend I travel and why?

If you would like to participate in the challenge or read more about it, check it out here >>>>>> Map it Out