Sunday, September 11, 2016

Guest Blogging about the Oregon Art Scene

Last year I guest blogged on 50 Authors from 50 States about Oregon and focused mainly on hiking, so this year I decided to go a different way and explore another interests - the arts scene in Oregon. While this barely touches on the deep and diverse art scene to be found in Oregon, I wanted to show what the diversity in the Oregon art scene that I've experienced.

Please check it out at 50 Authors from 50 States. While you're there, comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems. And don't forget to check out what other authors have had to say about their states!!

If you'd also like to read last year's guest post, you can.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Giveaway - Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

I'm currently giving away 10 copies of the Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems! Only a few copies left, so act quick!

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems (Kindle Edition). NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Sep 18, 2016 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules

If you win, reviews are always appreciated... If you prefer to just purchase a copy outright, please visit Amazon.

Also, if you'd also like a chance to win a signed trade paperback copy of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems, please visit Goodreads.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Goodreads Giveaway - Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems, my second poetry book exploring the relationship between vulnerability and strength, celebrates its first birthday in September. To celebrate I'm offering a giveaway over on Goodreads. Enter to win 1 of 10 signed copies! Reviews are always appreciated, particularly if you enjoy the read!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vulnerability in Silhouette by T.L. Cooper

Vulnerability in Silhouette

by T.L. Cooper

Giveaway ends October 01, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway
And, if you're wondering, the first book of poetry that explored the relationship between vulnerability and strength was Strength in Silhouette: Poems. And, if you just don't want to wait, you can purchase an unsigned copy or the Kindle version of Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Trust: A Complicated Relationship

My relationship with trust is... well, complicated, chaotic, and ever-changing! It is also affirming, inspiring, and reassuring! I suppose that takes us back to complicated.

I've spent my life vacillating between being too trusting and not trusting at all. Errors in judgment and taking the blame for other people's actions led me to having less than zero trust in my own judgment. I walked around terrified that if I trusted someone that by definition made them untrustworthy, but if I couldn't trust them then maybe I should trust them but if I trusted them.... Oh, what a tangled circle we twirl in when we practice illogical logic. Dizzy yet?

Anyway, at some point I convinced myself I trusted no one, not my friends, not my husband, not my family, not myself. I spiraled deep into that dizzying circle of mistrust, distrust, total lack of trust. Oh, I could put on the proper face at the proper time for the proper reason, but underneath every expression of trust was a loathing for the very concept of trust. I hated it. I wished someone would erase the word from existence, so I didn't have to feel this intense pressure to trust people the world said I should trust whether or not they had earned my trust.

Eventually, I started to break out of the spiral. It was both harder and easier than I expected. I was exhausted with the effort it took to always be on the lookout, to always keep my protective barriers up, to question every move, word, motive... I didn't want that life anymore.

I quit caring if people made a fool of me for caring about them or sharing with them or just being in their life. I really stopped caring. I stopped caring if someone else's actions or reactions would reflect badly on me. I freed myself from the baggage of having to trust others. I admitted, at least to myself, that I really didn't trust anyone, and then I told myself that was perfectly okay. A weight lifted off my shoulders, and I started looking for ways to re-engage. I stopped seeing every single slight, intentional or unintentional, as a sign of something greater than it was. I started accepting people as they came and just being myself instead of trying to appear perfect.

Perfection is nothing but an illusion.

As time went by and I realized trust wasn't this make it or break it thing, it was simply the guideline for how we treat one another, I found myself not weighing trust down with artificial conditions and tests. I started to let life unfold, to engage people where I found them from where I found myself, and to just be.

Life got easier. Relationships ran more smoothly and felt more fulfilling, even the superficial ones. Small betrayals often found easy resolution, and big betrayals felt more like lessons than life-destroying missiles aimed at my psyche.

Trust became just a part of any relationship, sometimes it was more important than others. Sometimes it didn't really matter at all.

I stopped believing trust was everything. I took the pressure off trust and brought it into the moment at hand.

Then I got hit by a truth that in earlier times in my life would have totally destroyed me, a disclosed betrayal that broke the bastion on which I'd rebuilt my ability to trust. Yet, as I listened, I didn't feel betrayed, I felt compassion.

Later, the fact of the betrayal hit me and so did the pain. I was honest about the effect the situation had on my ability to trust the person involved, but I didn't blame myself. I took my time to process. I wanted to be brave... but could I?

I set some boundaries. I got in touch with my values. I held myself with compassion. I looked for solutions rather than blame.

I waited for my old standbys to emerge. I waited for the rage. I waited for the self-destruction. I waited for the need to lash out. They never came. 

Instead, I felt heartache and uncertainty and vulnerability, the things that are usually behind anger for me. And, I allowed myself to feel them. I cried when I felt like crying. I asked for space when I needed it. I took my time and processed all my complicated reactions to trust.

When I couldn't trust, I said so without guilt or self-recrimination. When I was honest about the lost trust, it felt like a relief, especially when my honesty was met with understanding instead of a demand for trust. Trust is built on the small moments, and can only be rebuilt on small moments even though a big moment can crush it to dust in seconds.

One thing I knew for sure, I couldn't retreat into my fortress of mistrust, distrust, and total lack of trust. I didn't want to waste my energy on that kind of life. Not again. Not ever again.

So I made a choice. I stood in both my strength and my vulnerability, and I chose to stay in the moment whatever happened.

This brings me to the inspiration for this post... In December I signed up for Brené Brown's free class, The Anatomy of Trust, on COURAGEworks. I wasn't sure why I signed up. I'd already dealt with all my trust issues. I felt no need whatsoever to delve back into that place.


I watched the videos. I nodded. I printed out the worksheets. Her ideas made sense. They looked at trust in many of the same ways I'd come to see them, but they also looked at it in some different ways, ways that provoked thought. I promptly lost the worksheets among the piles of papers scattered around my office. I wasn't sure I needed to do this work anyway.

A few months later, I found the worksheets... And, I thought, oh, what the hell, I'll do them just so I can say I finished the class. I hate to leave things unfinished. Receiving an "incomplete" in college terrified me even more than failing... So, I looked at the sheets, and promptly realized I didn't even remember enough of the videos to do the exercises, so I watched the videos again and did the worksheets that applied to me, not all did because being a writer is quite the solitary occupation, so I skipped the ones related to workplace and co-workers.

As Brené talked about the elements of trust as she sees them, something she calls BRAVING, I couldn't help but think BRAVING was what I'd decided to do years ago when my lack of trust had finally exhausted me. I just never had a name for it. BRAVING is:
Trust is built in the little moments...


I know my boundaries and don't fear them. I work to be reliable and to surround myself with people who are also reliable. I hold myself accountable and try to let others know when their actions hurt me. I guard what people tell me and share my stories with only those who need to hear them or can help me. I live my values based on living from a place of love, and I allow others their values as long as they don't try to force them on others. I try to listen to others with an open mind and heart because everyone's story is theirs to live. I've discovered that most people don't intentionally set out to hurt others, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt; however, I will enforce my boundaries when necessary.

I am no longer scared of my strength nor my vulnerability nor what someone else might choose to do. I fully accept that trying to control someone else's behavior to protect myself not only hurts me more but makes me complicit in the pain.

My responsibility is to live my life as best I can. Sometimes that will lead to joy and sometimes to sorrow. If I can see the moment for what it is, I can find a way to be at peace in my heart and mind. I can't control what anyone else does, ever, and it's not my responsibility to. Once, I released that need to be responsible for every single thing others did in our relationship, my life improved exponentially.
Standing in front of Monkey Face at Smith Rock
October 2015

I finally trust myself to stand on top of the mountain or on the creek bank whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring and do what is right for me. As I said before, I am not broken and neither are you. We are all just doing the best we can with our perfectly imperfect selves in an imperfect world.

Be honest with yourself. Understand if you cannot trust right now, don't force it. Let it grow over time as the people around you do the small things that are worthy of trust and you do those things for yourself. Live your life in a way that lets others know they can trust you, do those little things every chance you get. This is what I remind myself every day.

As I progressed through the process of understanding the role trust plays in my life, I wrote numerous poems. Some of those poems appear in my books, Strength in Silhouette: Poems and Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems

I finally found the courage to embrace one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.

Trust cannot be forced. Trust grows moment by moment. Trust requires both strength and vulnerability. Trust happens while we're busy getting to know one another. Trust is an ongoing process not an end goal. Trust is something we wake up and realize has been there for awhile but can't quite pinpoint when we moved into that place where trust feels natural.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Changing the Limitations for Women - The United State of Women

 On June 14, I watched The United State of Women Summit livestream, or at least much of it. I picked it up a few hours into it - the downside of living in the Pacific Time Zone. I was disappointed that I missed the morning sessions focused on violence against women.

I was thrilled a few days later when I received an email stating the full program was available to watch - all 11+ hours of it. 

At least, I could watch the parts I missed including Vice President Biden's intense and emotional speech, Mariska Hargitay's insightful, heartfelt, and emotional words, and the enthusiasm of so many people coming together to create positive change in our world.

As Vice President Biden spoke about his decades of work to eradicate violence against women, tears welled up in my eyes. I thought about all the women I know who've encountered violence in their lives. I thought about my own experiences with violence at various times in my life. I thought about how we write a narrative that dismisses facts and statistics to deny help to those in need. I thought about how society plays politics with these issues as if they're part of a game and there aren't real people who are affected by the decisions made. I allowed my tears to well up and spill over because we need more love in the world. We need to love one another more than we love ideologies and money.

I watched President Obama's remarks again. The genuine love and devotion President Obama shows his wife and his daughters never fails to touch my heart. His words were touching and insightful delivered with the touch of humor that seems to come so natural to him.

I couldn't resist watching First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey have their discussion about the state of women in America and how they view life in America. While the interview was interesting and even fun, I took a great deal of pleasure in how real they seemed during what I dubbed the "Mmmm. Mmmm. Mmmm." segment.

The myriad speakers discussed the progress we've made toward equality, and the path forward. Their words reminded me that sometimes I bite my tongue instead of engaging because I see so many people who either just want to argue for the sake of arguing or aren't interested in anything that doesn't fit their narrative. Our world becomes increasingly polarized because so many people are so indoctrinated in their beliefs that facts and evidence are no longer relevant.

We seem to have come to a place where we spend far too much time drawing lines in the sand and proclaiming them drawn in concrete. Guess what? Concrete cracks under enough pressure. I look into the eyes of those searching for something better and I wonder just how much longer this divisiveness can continue before it breaks it all apart, until it breaks us all apart.

Women have made such incredible strides toward equality, but we're not done. I own myself. I refuse to be anybody's property and yet I find myself falling into expected roles and hating myself for doing it. Then seeking to forgive and accept myself for the crime of being human because we treat being human as if its something to overcome or to cure in our society.

I see people all around me striving for better based on someone else's definition and losing themselves in the process just as I did for years.

Life isn't about meeting expectation and figuring out how to be acceptable, respectable, conventional. Life is about embracing who you are and proclaiming your truth to the world in all its glory as loudly and beautifully as possible. Life isn't about how someone else tells you to live. Life isn't about checking expectations met off a list like just one more task to perform. Life is about living boldly and giving the world based on who you are at your core.

We have to stand up to the bullies and the rapists and the abusers. We have to stand up to the degrading comments meant to keep us in place. We have to stand in our truth even when it costs us what we think we want. We have to stand for the strength and vulnerability, the intelligence and the compassion, the success and the failure that it takes to find our truth and our place in the world.

We have to keep drawing attention to the lives we live and the injustices we encounter. We have to see one another and work together across all the barriers placed between us to find the common ground that gives us a place to create a world that offers a foundation of equality to all.

We need to see our world as it is with the progress we've made and the road still ahead without putting on blinders.

We are so busy politicizing the very act of living that we've lost sight of the people who are affected.

When violence and hate are given more glory than peace and love, how can we expect to change the limitations for tomorrow?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Blogger's Block...

Blogger's Block... Is that a thing?

Regardless, I think I've had it lately...

I've written several posts and discarded them for a variety of reasons.

I wrote one post about the advice we hear so often to do things first thing in the morning. That piece of advice grates on me every time I hear it. We all have so many priorities in life, it's impossible to take care of all of them first thing in the morning, and I honestly believe trying to sets us up for failure rather than success. I understand the idea behind the advice, but the practice is ludicrous. Close your eyes and imagine doing every thing you prioritize first thing in the morning. Stressful, huh! I think a far better alternative is to look at your day and space out your priorities at intervals that allow you to give each the attention it deserves. But, that's just me. That post got long and windy and... well, a bit ludicrous, so I deleted it.

I also tried to write an open letter to Prince's family because I'm disheartened that all the work he did to control the sharing of his work online is being undone within weeks of his death. He made it no secret he didn't like all the lax sharing of people's creative work, and I feel we need to respect that. But, I was also guilty as I listened to people's uploads and even shared a version of Darling Nikki on Facebook. And, again, the post began to meander. So... I deleted that post.

I also considered sharing a poem I wrote about a memory related to a Prince song, but my heart protested because it wasn't ready to share that personal moment yet. So... I didn't...

I started several other posts that quickly turned far more political than I intended, and since I try to avoid politics on this blog, those had to go. We've politicized so many social issues, it's almost impossible to discuss any social issue without politics sliding into the discussion. I have some very clear opinions based on facts not on rhetoric or media or party allegiance. I refuse to join any political party on principle. See, even this acknowledgement that I wanted to avoid politics took on a bit of a political slant. So, I didn't...

I started a post inspired by how watching The Hunting Ground affected me... and that one I'm determined to figure out a way to finish... well, rewrite since I ended up deleting the first draft. It meandered in far too many directions to make any sense to anyone. So, I didn't, but I will...

I started a few posts on writing including one on National Poetry Month. The only one that survived was the short post I wrote about reading at Salem Poetry Project. (my reading)

There's so much going on in the world, which I suppose isn't anything new, but I somehow feel slightly more adrift than moored lately as I try to process it all. I have allowed that to affect my blogging.

On the positive side, I've also been putting more attention into editing two of my books in progress projects and I participated in a couple of Poem a Day challenges in April for National Poetry Month, which hasn't left me as much time to dedicate to blogging. Priorities...

So when it's come to the blog, I've mostly typed, felt my message veer in too many directions and just not express the message I intended to express. It happens. It's part of having a creative career. Sometimes things just don't work the way you want them to. It's writing. It's life. It's the world we live in.

I would promise to do better, but I'm not sure that will happen. My goal with this blog is to share bits of life and my experiences and what I learn from life as well as how that all influences my writing. When I feel I can't, this blog will likely go silent until I feel I can...

But, I'm determined to not let Blogger's Block silence me for too long...

And the clock ticks on...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reading as a Featured Poet at Salem Poetry Project

I read as the featured poet at Salem Poetry Project on February 11, 2016. Salem Poetry Project is a weekly poetry reading with a featured poet followed by an open mic that takes place at Frozation Nation in downtown Salem, Oregon.

Every event has its own vibe. As a poet sharing my work, it's my responsibility to set a mood that conveys my message while reading my audience's receptivity to the words being shared.

I picked out enough poems to read for the requested approximately 25-30 minutes. I read from each of my five published books of poetry as well as a few unpublished poems. The audience remained receptive throughout.

The poets who read during the open mic were wonderful. Each brought their own unique attitudes and experiences to the poems they shared.

I would encourage anyone in the Salem area who is in the slightest bit interested in poetry to check out Salem Poetry Project. 

Poets, Salem Poetry Project is a wonderful event to share your work.

I'm grateful to poet, Ariel, for recommending me, and to Marc Janssen for organizing the event. I had a wonderful time!

Here's my featured reading for those who'd like to hear it.

To learn more about me or my work, please visit T. L. Cooper.

To buy any of my books on Amazon, please visit T. L. Cooper's Amazon Page.