Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New Year: A Reset Button?

Another new year is upon us. Ready for us whether we're ready for it or not. I hear people say they're glad 2012 is almost over almost as if closing the door on 2012 will magically erase all the challenges they faced. Well, it's a nice thought, but really whatever plagued you in 2012 will still be there in 2013.

The only way challenges disappear is when we face them, embrace them, and finally conquer them. I wish I could close my eyes tomorrow night and wake up to discover all my problems were solved. Well, actually, that's a lie. I have fleeting moments when I feel that way, but what would I learn if that happened?

The challenges in our lives are opportunities to grow into our best selves, to find our paths in life, to rise up and touch others with our journeys. So, while my 2012 was filled with challenges and had some very rocky and unsettling moments, I learned a lot and I grew a lot. Do I wish these things hadn't happened? Sometimes, because I think mistakes were made and people, including me, got hurt, but I wouldn't have found the direction I needed to go if these things hadn't happened. Mostly, I discovered I'm a lot stronger than I tend to give myself credit for, and I've learned it's okay to stand in my strength even if no one likes it when I do.

So, as I face 2013, and I lament unfinished projects and unmet goals and changed relationships, I'm also extremely grateful. I have people in my life who love me unconditionally, who will catch me when I fall off life's cliff, who will hold me together when I feel I'm coming apart at the seams. And, I've also learned to do all those things for myself as well as that some people won't or can't be there for me when I need them.

I've readjusted some relationships not because I love the people any less, but because I realized I have to take care of me. Relationships just can't remain unchanged when life changes around them. The changes either bring people closer or send them in different directions. This is part of life.

I learned that if I don't value myself, I can't see when others do value me. Even worse I send others the message that it's okay to devalue me. The thing that stunned me was the realization that I've told other people this numerous times about their own lives and never realized I was doing it in my own.

I went into 2012 feeling confident about my future, and that remains as 2012 ends, but I also feel confident about my present now. Today offers me choices, and those choices determine how tomorrow turns out. When I remember that, I'm empowered to move forward without fear or hesitation.

So, I'm neither excited about nor scared of 2013. I simply don't believe the clock striking midnight tomorrow night will magically reset anything. Frankly, I'm thrilled about that idea. It means I get to keep moving forward, setting goals, adjusting plans, building the life I want, and growing into my best self, whoever she may be...

And so do you...

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Finding Strength in Vulnerability

Last night I listened to Brene Brown on TEDTalks. She discussed vulnerability. I listened as she explained several things I discovered in 2010 when I did an experiment in making myself more vulnerable. Her discoveries about herself so mirrored what I discovered about myself, it scared me. After it was over, I fought back the tear that slid down my cheek.

I read a blog post I wrote in early 2011 about my experiment in being more vulnerable, Vulnerability, I Once Considered You a Curse Word this morning, and realized three things. 1) I haven't come quite as far as I'd planned in the past few years, 2) I sure do like me more today than I did when I started my experiment, and 3) I find much more strength than weakness in allowing myself to be vulnerable.

I still struggle with allowing myself to be vulnerable. I fall back into old patterns of protecting myself and lose sight of the benefits of opening my truth to other people. I still have moments of intense fear that people will use my vulnerabilities against me, and sometimes they do. But, more often, I find that when I express my truth including both my strength and my vulnerabilities to people, they respond with love and acceptance. I'm getting better. I'm not sure it'll ever be easy for me to be truly vulnerable, but I can express and embrace my vulnerabilities much more readily today than I could at the beginning of 2010.

The realization that I like myself better now came as a complete surprise. Mainly because I didn't realize I didn't like myself before. Oddly, I always thought I liked myself, and in some ways I did. I just like me better now. I enjoy my own company. I've learned that my imperfections are wonderful parts of me. I've learned that I have a lot to offer the world, and that I'm responsible to offer all that to the world even when it makes me feel vulnerable.

When I take down my defenses and allow my vulnerabilities out to play, I become stronger. I'm not expending energy keeping up a facade. I'm not trying to make people like me. I stop fearing people's rejection. When I discover that the display of my vulnerabilities helps someone else, I grow as a person. When the revelation of my vulnerabilities takes away the ability of others to control me because I don't fear their judgment, I grow stronger. When I first decided to force myself to become more vulnerable, I never expected to find strength in my vulnerabilities. That has, perhaps, been the most pleasant surprise I've experienced from opening my truth to the world for reaction whether that reaction be acceptance, judgment, love, or hate. In the end, I've discovered my inner strength grows with each and every vulnerability I reveal and release...

So last night when I listened to Brene Brown, I transported back into my own journey to and through vulnerability. I cried as I realized just how much stronger and more resilient I feel today than on that rather ordinary January day when I decided to force myself to be vulnerable to see if I could find the answers to all the questions and fears in my head.

Take a listen, maybe just maybe, Brene's words will touch your life...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Embracing Challenges

I decided to participate in a 30-day Poem-a-Day challenge sponsored by Writer's Digest during the month of November because I was in a strange place and needed the creative structure to re-establish my writing routine which suffered greatly after I injured my knee in August requiring surgery in September. Between recovery time, the pain medication I hated taking, the pain when I didn't take the medication, and then hours of physical therapy each day, I just couldn't get my creativity focused long enough to write much.

So, when my friend, Ariel, posted the first PAD challenge, I decided to take the challenge. If all I accomplished was a single poem for thirty days, at least it would be something written every day for thirty days.

When I say I normally don't participate in these challenges, I mean I hate to be told what to write or what to write about or when to write. For those reasons, I tend to shy away from challenges like this PAD challenge and the famous NaNoWriMo or whatever challenge. I think these challenges are great ideas and do wonderful things for many writers. I just generally find them more restricting than inspiring.

This time, however, I embraced the Poem-a-Day challenge with great results. Not only did I write a poem for each and every challenge on the day of the challenge, but I also wrote several other poems and managed to work a little on some other writing projects that needed my attention. In fact, I wrote or edited 56 poems in November, so I would say the Poem-a-Day challenge inspired my inner poetess a whole bunch!

Most importantly, though, I began to feel productive and creative again!

And, that's what I most needed!

I so wanted to come to the end of the challenge and be able to dismiss it as just something completed, but it stretched my poetic muscles and reminded me I need to rise to the challenges I set for myself and to embrace new challenges in order to continue my growth whether writing or living.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Compatibility: A Foundation for Relationships

Recently, I stumbled across a video about how to "unlock your man's heart" and how to "make him love you". For some reason I can't explain, even to myself, I listened to it. As I listened I became pretty sure I'd heard it before. I'm not going to link to it because frankly I think it's a waste of time.

Here's the important thing. Why in the hell do we women run around trying to figure out how to "keep him", "melt his heart", "make him love us" or whatever the hell the latest expert tells us we should be doing to be loved? Men don't run around trying to figure out how to keep us, melt our hearts, make us love them, etc. Seriously, I'm so tired of society telling us we have to unlock his heart and make him see how amazing we are. If he can't see it, perhaps he doesn't deserve us.

Now there's an idea. Let's make him prove he deserves us. Now, I know that's not really fair either. But, indulge me for one minute here. Imagine if we felt confident that he'd never leave, so we quit treating him like he has one foot out the door. What if we decided our needs and wants were as important as his. What if we quit feeding men's egos by clinging so desperately to making a relationship work. What if we stopped being so terrified he'll find something better if we don't keep him hooked. What if we just trusted he's in the relationship because he wants to be. What if we just decided to love both the other person and ourselves enough to want everyone to be happy even if the relationship doesn't work out.

Strong relationships are based on not only love but compatibility. Now, I have to admit, I used to think love trumped compatibility, but I've come to understand how important compatibility really is as my husband and I have spent long hours discussing the importance of compatibility.

When two people are compatible, they bridge those gaps between them without the need for manipulation. No deception is necessary to "keep" the relationship. Compatibility doesn't mean two people are mirror images of one another. In fact, it doesn't necessarily mean they even have the same interests. It means their personalities are compatible, their values are compatible, their life goals are compatible, their needs are compatible, and when something arises that isn't compatible, they work together to figure out how to handle it.

So if you find yourself looking for ways to keep him "hooked" maybe it's time to reassess and figure out if the relationship is fulfilling or if you're trying to make something work that just doesn't have a foundation to build on...

As a fiction writer, I'm loathe to admit this, but the stories we write often perpetuate this ideology that keeps women from standing firm in their strength and realizing their full power for the sake of "hooking" him and/or "keeping" him. This hearkens back to my recent post about how strong women are so often portrayed as needing to be saved from themselves by the strong handsome man whose love seems elusive. I'll admit it makes for great fiction, but it makes for miserable lives.

Perhaps its time to just treat one another like human beings and stop letting all these "experts" tell us they hold the key to our happiness...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Objectification: The Sum of My Parts

Objectification of women (and men, but for the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on women.) can be subtle or blatant. We often excuse or dismiss it. On the flip side, we sometimes grow overly indignant about it and create a situation where we can't deal with its effects because we get too caught up fighting about the nuances of what is and what isn't objectification. I recently became embroiled in such a discussion when the other party in the conversation took great offense when I pointed out how his behavior fit the definition of objectification. After a few moments looking at the definition of objectification he agreed that the behavior in question fit the definition of objectification but still took great offense at the very idea that he would objectify women.

Let's be clear about this. Everyone objectifies other people at some point in time. We're human. It happens. The problem is when objectification is a way of life because it allows us to put one group of people, in this case women, in a lower societal position.

There is no way around it. No matter what you tell  yourself, the moment you think a woman's body is more important than her mind, her heart,and her soul, you objectify her. The moment you see only the parts of a woman's body used for sexual pleasure, you objectify her. The moment you think a woman is incapable of making her own decisions and being her own person because she is a woman, you objectify her. The moment you attack a woman's right to have sole domain over her body, heart, mind, and soul, you objectify her. The moment all a woman is to you is a way to get turned on and consequently to achieve sexual satisfaction, you objectify her. The moment all a woman is to you is a breeder, you objectify her. The moment you decide a woman doesn't have the right or responsibility to make decisions for herself, you objectify her. The moment you want a woman to smile and look pretty but keep her mouth shut, you objectify her. The moment you treat a woman like a possession, prized or otherwise, you objectify her.

As soon as you objectify a woman, why would you treat her like a human being?

Women have had to fight for every right we have, and that's just plain wrong.

We excuse men for objectifying women with the tired excuse that that's just the way men are. Well, men, sorry, you're no longer getting off the hook that easy. Grow up. Men make the choice whether or not to objectify women. If that's your choice, own it, but be ready to suffer the consequences.

The real problem with objectification of women is that it allows society to treat women as less than human. If women are merely objects, there's no reason to value their work, their opinions, or their contributions. If women are merely objects, they can be possessed like any object. If women are merely objects, they cease to have have any rights. If women are merely objects, men can do with them and to them as they please. If women are merely objects, they cannot be victims or survivors. If women are merely objects, there is no reason to show them even a modicum of respect.

When we allow women to be objectified, we forget what it took to get the rights we have and the responsibility we have to protect those rights. Women were once considered the property of their fathers and their  husbands, and in some places in the world still are. Women were considered less intelligent than men for far too long. Women have been repeatedly relegated to roles of providing men's entertainment over the centuries. Women have been deemed only capable of pushing out babies and cleaning house far too often in past. Women have been kept to subservient roles and given salaries to keep them dependent on men for far too long. These restrictions on and attitudes toward women allowed men to create the rules that kept women objectified.

We like to think objectification has ended, but it hasn't. Will it ever? We can hope. The best we can do try to help people understand the negative effects of objectification and see how they can treat women as equals and why they must.

I've been giving this a lot of thought since my conversation, and that thought resulted in the following poem.

The Sum of My Parts

I am more than
The sum of my parts
You might see my smile
You might stare at my cleavage
You might notice the curve of my waist
You might admire my ass
You might let your gaze linger on my tight calves
You might long to touch the softness of my inner thighs
You might imagine the kiss of my lips
You might dream about my tongue’s ability to please
You might fantasize about the heaven between my legs
You might look at me
And only see
The sum of my parts
You might desire to devour me
You might want to dominate me
You might even wish to pleasure me
If you can’t see the beauty of my soul
If you can’t see the brilliance of my mind
If you can’t see the generosity of my heart
If you can’t see my thoughts as equal to yours
If you can’t see my emotions as important
If you can’t see I’m as much a person as you
If you can’t appreciate me for whom I am
Once you get past
The sum of my parts
If you can’t understand
Why knowing me
Is a privilege
If you can’t see
I am so much more than
The sum of my parts
If you can’t embrace
All I offer
You don’t deserve
To enjoy
The sum of my parts
I decide
Whether you treat me with
The respect, appreciation, and consideration
I deserve
If you don’t
You’ll be left to fantasize about
The sum of my parts
You’ll never have the honor
Of knowing me
Mind, heart, soul, and body
And knowing me is an honor
I promise you
I’m worth so much more than
The sum of my parts
Do you think you deserve
To know all of me?
Then prove it

Women, it is up to us to stand up and say "I refuse to be anyone's object. I am a human being. I am capable of achieving anything I want to achieve. If you don't like it, that's your problem."

Friday, October 19, 2012

Self-Destruction Masquerades as Strength...

Sometimes self-destructive behavior masquerades as strength.

I've always considered myself strong and independent though recently life forced me to rethink my personal definitions of both strength and independence. My focus turned to how sometimes we see self-destructive behavior as strength. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that often other people's view of me as a strong woman came during times when I was at my most self-destructive. Lately, I've spent some time trying to reconcile inner strength with my tendency toward self-destructive behavior when I'm faced with things I'd rather avoid acknowledging let alone resolving.

We have a tendency to look at women who appear to make all their own decisions as strong regardless of how bad those decisions are. Numbing one's pain and drowning out the past with sex, drugs, alcohol, or other vices are not traits of a strong woman. Erecting a barrier around one's emotions to keep from feeling vulnerable is not strength. Avoiding making real connections with others is not strength. Hiding from one's truth is not strength.

Even drowning one's self in work, a relationship, or some other productive activity in order to avoid dealing with one's life isn't strength. We often think they are because we excuse those "productive" activities as building a life. So we put our full focus into what we want to create and ignore anything that doesn't fit the image we want to see.

Strong women don't need to be saved from themselves. They are capable of facing life, dissecting their issues, and making their own decisions. Strong women don't run from life's challenges. Strong women don't hide when life hurts. Strong women save themselves.

Oddly, we also tend to think strong women keep their emotions inside. In truth, strong women cry, rage, laugh, and smile. Strong women love and hate. Strong women take care of themselves and take care of others. Strong women don't demand perfection from themselves but always give life the best they can.

Strong women ask for help when they need it. They don't feel weakened when they need other people because they recognize human beings need one another. There is nothing wrong in needing friends. There is nothing wrong with wanting incredible people to surround them. There is nothing wrong in admitting she can't do everything for everybody all the time. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging she can't be all to all. In fact, know her limitations is one of the hallmarks of a strong and independent woman.

When a strong woman becomes self-destructive, she sacrifices her true strength. A strong woman is in control of her sexuality, her pleasure, and her life. She doesn't deny herself the happiness she deserves. She revels in the joy life offers her without denying the challenges she overcomes. Allowing self-destructive behavior to take over one's life only leads to more pain and heartache. It may provide a facade of bravado to those nearby, but it can never be true strength.

A strong woman will find her way out of self-destructive behavior with a greater understanding of who she is at her core. She will forever recognize her tendency to embrace self-destructive behavior when under certain types of pressure, but she will teach herself how to cope and avoid allowing self-destructive behavior to rule her life.

I know because I'm a strong woman who has had bouts with self-destructive behavior. I lost my inner strength with each self-destructive behavior I took. I've traded numbing myself with extreme focus on life goals for risky behavior like numbing myself with sex and alcohol and back to extreme focus on creating the "perfect" life and being the "perfect" whatever was expected.

Though I've been lucky to have people who have pulled me back from the ledge before my self-destructive behavior became too bad, in the end I always had to rescue myself from it. Never did I truly turn around self-destructive behavior until I embraced my inner strength and independence. We can't grow our inner strength based on outside sources. That growth has to come from within. We can seek advice, support, help, and understanding, but finding inner strength and independence always has to come from how we embrace life.

Fiction writers have used this devices for ages to present us women who are strong but flawed- "too strong for her own good" and readers have loved the idea. I'm as guilty of it as anyone, but it is part of the reason I stopped reading romances many years ago. These characters hide their vulnerability in order to achieve success. In my novel, All She Ever Wanted, Victoria fits this description to the tee. She's not self-destructive in the sense of doing risky things, but she makes poor decisions to keep from being labelled weak. Self-destructive behavior masquerading as strength makes make for good fiction because it provides the potential to make the character three dimensional and to have the character grow as she finds true strength within - that is, if we don't have the hero who swoops in to save her from herself...

Over time I've learned I'm at my strongest and most independent when I accept the reality of my life, face the pain it brings, embrace the joy it offers, and present my true self to the world, perfections and imperfections alike.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Making Friends: Breast Health Awareness

Last year I blogged about my feelings that we should have Breast Health Awareness Month rather than Breast Cancer Awareness month in the post, Friends, Enemies, Breasts. This year, I'm going simpler. I've decided to share a poem, Friends, Enemies, Breasts, I wrote in December 2010. The poem is included in my book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette: Poems.

Friends, Enemies, Breasts

As a young girl
I eagerly anticipated your arrival
I watched for you daily
You would show the world my maturity
You took your time arriving
I exercised to encourage you
I flexed to make you noticeable
I wore a training bra on my flat chest to coach your growth
I imagined how you’d look

As a teenager
You embarrassed me
You just wouldn’t stick out enough
You refused to enlarge
You brought on teasing nicknames
Baby Boobs
And I hated you for it
I willed you to grow
I begged you to grow
You stubbornly refused
I found ways to disguise you
I wore shirts and sweaters a size too large
I wore short skirts to draw attention away from you
I wore my coat all day
Other days
I pretended you were just want I wanted
I rebelled outwardly against my feelings about you
I disguised my disappointment in you
Deep inside though I knew my bravado was a lie
I imagined you how I wanted you to be
Just like…
Well, hers and hers and hers and…
But you were mine
And you had a mind of your own

As a young woman
I looked at you in the mirror
Resigned myself to your smallness
I hated you for not looking like I’d envisioned – dreamed
I drew attention away from you
To my legs
Always got them looking at my legs
And maybe they wouldn’t notice your lack of size
I cursed your smallness
I failed to appreciate your symmetry
I failed to celebrate your firmness
I failed to recognize your perkiness
I made fun of you before others could
Then one day
Someone special uncovered you
Shushed my jeers at you with a kiss
Embraced you
Gave you a new nickname which also made me cringe
Ozzie and Harriett
-          For reasons known only to him
He caressed you
He appreciated you
He showed me your good qualities
He slipped a piece of ice into his mouth
And kissed you
You responded with a thrill and exaggerated perkiness
That spread through my body
And suddenly your size didn’t seem so important
I stood straighter
I let you be who you were
But, alas, the moment ended

Time passed
Every time I cursed you
I remembered that not everyone found your size lacking
I embraced you
Showed you more proudly
A new man appreciated you
In his own way – different but just as loving
He caressed you
He held you
He declared you perfect
He captured you in his mouth with joy
You responded with glee
I didn’t question his desire for you
I reveled in the pleasure you brought him
I welcomed his approval
I grew to love you
I accepted your special attributes
I felt the pleasure of you

Without warning
You grew
You became womanly
At first I didn’t believe
I waited for you to shrink
You created the curves
I always imagined
You stayed
Along with the size increase
Came days of soreness, of tenderness
Those days I cursed you again
The slightest touch felt like torture
Even clothing irritated you
But when I looked in the mirror
The new curves made me smile
And the pleasure you brought outweighed the pain

The doctor examined you
I’d yet to do so
Hadn’t bothered to learn how
I was young
My only worries about you
Were your size and your potential for pleasure
The doctor declared you “perfect”
I liked the description
Even though it referred to you medically not aesthetically

Then one day
A hard spot appeared
It felt odd
It grew a bit uncomfortable
It didn’t go away
The doctor grew concerned
I was only thirty-one
Too young for you to be sick
They placed you in a vise
Squeezed you
Told me to hold my breath
I couldn’t breathe anyway
What if…
I couldn’t finish the thought
They took pictures of your tissue
Your density required a different type of picture
They declared you healthy
I finally let out my breath

I appreciated you
I loved you
I read how to take care of you
I changed my diet to keep you healthy
I examined you on a regular basis
Looked for changes
I grew to know you intimately
I looked at you in the mirror
But this time I didn’t wish you larger
I only wished you healthy
I only wished you to remain “perfect”
I finally appreciated the beauty you possessed
I finally reveled in your firmness
I finally celebrated your perkiness
I finally realized you were never the problem
I enjoyed how you filled out my clothes
Was surprised when your size increased again
I took pleasure when you were
Caressed, touched, kissed, loved

You turned forty
Along with me
Time to get your picture taken again
Routine this time
No big deal
Joked with the technician
About the vise, the squeezing, the process
Laughed about the numbers on the machine’s plate
Learned more about the process and the reading technique
Laughed about how each woman’s experience is so different
Even joked about the fear a callback for a repeat test causes
Left in high spirits sure my breasts were “perfect”
Two weeks later the phone rang
The words I remember
Density, left breast, changed, diagnostic
I know they were in a sentence, possibly two
Instinctively I touched you, searching
Instinctively I touch you now, searching
For a change I know I won’t - can’t - feel
It wasn’t detectable in my last professional exam
It wasn’t detectable in my last personal exam
I stand in front of the mirror
Staring at you
Willing you to be healthy
Loving you for all you bring me
Scared you’ll betray me
Terrified you’ll seek vengeance
For all those times I didn’t appreciate you
For all those times I actually hated you
For all those times I willed you to be something you weren’t
I cup my hand under you
I lift you to your former perky position
I don’t mind that you’re less perky
I love your size
I even that slight sag you’ve developed
I love that you’re real
I love that I’ve never falsified you
I love that you’re unique
I love that you’re all me
I love that you’ve been there without fail
No matter how I’ve treated you
I want you stay
I will protect you
I will love you
I will cherish you
I will appreciate you
Today, tomorrow, always
Please just don’t betray me
Please just don’t abandon me
Please just be healthy
Please just remain “perfect” in your imperfection

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Free - Kindle book - October 4-5, 2012

Free - October 4-5, 2012 - Kindle book - Memory in Silhouette: Poems. Enjoy!

Every moment is a memory and every memory is a moment. Memories are moments that build on one another to create the foundation of who we are at any given point in life. Memories - good, bad, and neutral - meld within our minds and hearts housing love, hate, pleasure, fear, anger, and happiness. With each memory we make, we become more compassionate, and therefore more connected to the world around us. Our strengths and weaknesses live in our memories creating the complexity and simplicity that encompasses the full human experience. Come along to discover how moments blossom into growth or become merely a memory in silhouette…

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Yoga, Life, Writing: Lessons from a Fall

Recently, I fell while practicing yoga and tore the meniscus in my right knee. For some reason, people tend to struggle to hold back a laugh when I say I fell while practicing yoga. I'm not sure why. If you've ever done yoga you know falling isn't all that uncommon.

Think about it. You stand on one leg. You balance on your hands. You step forward and back while putting weight on the leg not in motion. You stretch your body into new positions, some of which you may have never been in in your life - or at least in the part of your life you remember. Yes, there are moves in yoga that are very stable, but there are also poses that push the body's limits.

Yoga is a metaphor for life. We balance our needs with our wants. We shift our weight in one direction or another as we grow into our full potential. We try new positions that sometimes force us to push our limits even while we balance that with the familiar.

Yoga is also a metaphor for writing. When I write, I seek to balance the story for content and entertainment. I shift the weight of emotion and logic to stretch my reader's imagination. I push the limits with word choices sometimes using a word in a way it was never intended but which creates a picture or feeling necessary to make a piece work. The familiar and the new must be in harmony for a piece to work. Creating art while keeping the message simple.

Yoga teaches us as does life and writing. When we ignore life, it will shake us and remind us what we need to learn even knocking us on our butts if need be for the lesson to get through. In yoga, if we ignore the signs we're pushing too far or moving too fast, our bodies remind us to pay attention again even if it means knocking us on our butts. When writing, when we push the words to the point of pushing just to push or to show off, the words will bring us back to reality, sometimes leaving us flat on our butts until we get over ourselves and fix them.

This fall taught me a few lessons about yoga, life, and writing. How long it'll be before I need yet another reminder of these lessons is anyone's guess. I'm not cocky enough to believe these lessons I keep thinking I've learned are incorporated into my life when I keep ignoring what I know I should do. And then keep getting reminded what I can't seem to fully embrace.

What lessons? You ask... Well,thank you for asking, I'll be happy to share.

When you're doing yoga and you feel dizzy, STOP. Dizziness makes it hard to balance your body. You could equate this to that moment in life when you feel completely overwhelmed. STOP. Take a breath. The world isn't going to come to an end because you can't do everything you want to do right this minute. Really, it's not.When writing, the words sometimes overwhelm and the writer feels stuck. That's usually the time to stop, take a deep breath, and settle your mind before moving forward. Again, the world won't end because the words didn't come out quite right.

Breathing is very important. When doing yoga, the yoga breath, aka pranayama, is extremely important to the poses. When the breath becomes rushed, the body doesn't get the oxygen it needs for the pose. The body can feel oxygen deprived during poses where the breath is either rushed or held. Practicing pranayama is one of the most essential parts of yoga. Without it, the poses suffer and the practitioner risks becoming unsteady or dizzy. In life, the more deeply we breath, the more focused and energetic we feel. When we rush or hold our breath, we can't function at our optimum levels of competence. When writing, we must allow the words to breath. If they don't breath, they aren't fluid. If they aren't fluid, they lose all meaning.

You can only push your body so far and must allow change to happen gradually for it be growth. Life only allows us to go as far as we're ready to go in a given moment. If we try to push into the next level before we're ready, we'll get hurt rather than find growth in the experience. When writing, if we try to write what we want to write before we're ready to write it, we lose track of our goals, our message, and our purpose. I've been working on a book on gratitude. I'm anxious to finish this book because I want to share it with others so much. That excitement has actually impeded my progress by making me force the work when it wasn't ready. I rushed the words and tried to "make" it done instead of allowing it to develop and show me the growth I needed to continue through the writing process.

We must listen... My body tried to tell me to stop, but I argued with it. My body knew what my brain hadn't recognized yet. I needed to stop not just doing yoga but everything that was in process at that moment in my life. I needed to stop. I was moving forward without thought. I thought I was thinking, but I wasn't. I was reacting. I wasn't listening to my instincts or my heart or my rational thoughts. I was just doing what I needed to do without paying attention to the life I was living. I thought I was being fully present and dealing with the changes occurring in my life, but I wasn't listening, not really. I was so busy arguing with myself that I wasn't even sure what my own instincts were saying anymore. I still told myself I was fully present and that I was dealing with life as it arose. Yet, something was off track. I could feel it, but I refused to hear it. So I kept moving forward through the fog and smog and blinding rain searching for that moment when I'd come out on the other side and everything would be clear... I'd lost sight of the moment. I'd forgotten that going through the process actually involved embracing each and every moment as it arises instead of focusing on the end goal. I'd forgotten that listening provides the clues we need to do what is right for us.

I also learned that I can't do it all. The fall didn't teach me this. The aftermath did. When I needed surgery and found myself forced to be dependent on someone else, I had to ask for help. I had to let someone else take care of me. I learned that sometimes my biggest obstacle to getting what I need is admitting that it's what I need, and that perhaps the same holds true for what I want. I'm still not able to take care of myself or others yet, at least not fully, but this experience reminded me that, sometimes, I can be too determined to handle life on my own and other people don't even realize I need them because I can't admit to myself that I need someone else to help me through. After all, isn't needing someone else a sign of weakness? Oh, how those old issues find their way back over and over and over even after we think we've learned the lesson.

And, that's probably the biggest thing I learned... Getting cocky about having learned the lesson will knock us on our butts every time to remind us that learning life's lessons is an ongoing process... But, really, I'm sure I've learned this one this time... So could we not do this again??? Really, I promise, I've learned my lesson this time, life... Trust me...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Special Offer - Free Kindle Book - September 27-28, 2012

Free - September 27-28, 2012 - Kindle edition - Reflections in Silhouette: Poems for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love or Hate: We Choose One or the Other with Every Action

As I watch the hatred spewing around me these days, I find myself struggling to love those who are being so hateful. Many would say I shouldn't bother. Doesn't hate deserve hate? Perhaps, but, seriously, what good does that accomplish?

Here's the thing. If I hate the haters, don't I become as bad as them? If I can find a way to love those who deserve my hatred, perhaps I can be one small disruption in the machine of hatred. If I can cause even one person to question the hate he or she is directing into the world, then not letting myself fall into the habit of hating is worth it.

Let's be clear about this. Nothing good ever comes from hate. It can't. Hatred is too negative to result in anything good. It isn't until we act from a place of love that we can begin to heal hurt, betrayal, or hate itself.

This bring to mind Blue October's song "Hate Me" in which the band sings "Hate me so you can finally see what's good for you." And in theory that sounds like a positive outcome from hate, but I believe  a better way to think of it is "Love yourself enough to let me go, so you can do what's right for you." Sorry, Blue October, I love your song, but I have to be honest.

When we spread hate, we close communication. When we focus too hard on what doesn't work, we run the risk of blinding ourselves to what does. I'm not saying we shouldn't fix what's broken because we should. However, if we never see the good, we'll lose sight of why fixing things even matters.

If we begin to approach the world around us with love, we soon discover that even that which doesn't work is easier to release than hate would have us believe. When hate rules our hearts and minds, we become mired in things that really aren't relevant. We can't see what has changed. We can't allow growth within ourselves or others. Hate holds us in the moment when things went wrong, and we become so surrounded with negativity we begin to drown in it.

Several years ago, I reached a point where I realized I needed to let go of the hate that lived in my heart. It was hate I felt entitled to feel, so I clung to it. I thought it somehow protected me from becoming too vulnerable. That hatred had created a fear of intimacy that allowed me to keep myself isolated from people and situations that might hurt me. Over time, I thought the hate didn't matter because I didn't actively express it. But the fact that I allowed it to take up valuable space in my heart kept me from loving fully and openly. Letting go of that hate scared me. I feared if I let it go, I'd forget the lessons from the situation that had created the hate.

So I had to let it go a little a time. I experimented with just focusing my thoughts and emotions on love and not actually tackling the hate. When the hate surfaced, I resisted it at first. The more I focused on love, the more I was able to accept that I felt the hate and to surround it with love. Eventually, it grew smaller and smaller. And, what I realized was that over time the hate I had for a situation had grown to be a hatred of self because of self-blame, self-doubt, and self-recrimination. As I loved myself and embraced my own goodness, I discovered the hate had less and less impact on me. Life grew better. Life grew happier. Life grew more productive. Life grew more satisfying.

My problems weren't all solved by living from a place of love, but they became more manageable. I learned to accept them and see solutions I wouldn't have considered before. I even learned to let go with love, something I'd never even considered before in my life. Well, that's not entirely true. I had let go with love before though I hadn't recognized that until much, much later because my self-hatred had also played a part in that letting go.

Living from a place of love doesn't mean never changing. In fact, it makes change easier. When we love enough to want to give the world our best selves, we change to become the people we want to be. We can love ourselves as we are and still become better. This lesson took me a long time to learn. I thought I had to identify what I hated about myself to change it. Instead focusing on what I hated about myself only brought more negativity into my life and kept me mired in my issues. When I focused on what I loved about myself, I grew in ways that allowed what I hated about myself to become less prominent. Suddenly, I nurtured the good in me, and that's what grew. Love became a fertilizer in my life reaping positive change when I stopped allowing hate to feed my insecurities and doubts.

These days we are so surrounded by hate, it feels almost palpable. That frightens me. Hate leads to nothing good. Hate leads to lies. Hate leads to violence. Hate leads to demonization of others. Hate leads to dogmatic thinking that excludes others from their rights. Hate leads to fear. Hate leads absolutely nowhere worth being.

Love and hate really can't reside in the same heart. If you love, then you love. If you hate, then you hate. People say you can "love the person, but hate the action." I no longer believe that. You can disagree with an action. You can even condemn an action. The moment you begin to hate an action, you are acting from a place of hate. And, that mere action of coming from hate spreads hate and closes off any possibility for understanding, change, and reconciliation.

Every morning I wake up and I choose love. I choose to love even when it hurts. I choose to love even those who don't and never will love me. I choose to love even those with whom I'll never agree. I choose to love my life with all its ups and downs. I choose to love myself. I choose to be someone who puts love into the world. I choose to not allow other people's hatred to affect the love I let guide my life even though that is often very difficult.

The simple act of choosing love over hate has enhanced my life enormously. Perhaps, you might find it in your heart to release any hate that lives there and allow love room to grow...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Special Offer - Free Kindle Book - September 20-21, 2012

Free Kindle edition of Love in Silhouette on September 20-21, 2012 for your reading pleasure! Enjoy

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It Matters to Me, It Matters, I Matter

Lately, the refrain in my head has been "If it matters to you, it matters." spoken by Pheobe to Jenny Gordon in the first episode of season two of Charmed. Yes, I'm a Charmed fan. Close your mouth. It's not that big of a surprise...

The more I tried to fight this thought, "If it matters to you, it matters." the louder it got... Finally, I had to ask myself why I was trying to convince myself that a statement about the importance of what matters to me doesn't matter. Suddenly, I realized what it was.

So often when I feel hurt, sad, disappointed, concerned, or frustrated, I tell myself it doesn't matter. I ask myself who will care in a hundred years. I convince myself that just because it matters to me doesn't make it important. Why the hell not?  I would never tell another person his or her concerns, needs, or pain were unimportant even if their significance didn't resonate with me. I just wouldn't do that. Yet, I've somehow, over the years, come to believe that my concerns are less important or are overblown or that I'm just being too sensitive or melodramatic, and therefore my concerns don't matter. Push it down and move on with life... After all, who will care in a hundred years, or even five, or maybe even next week?

I'm fairly certain I also tend to do this with good news. I'm more likely to share good news, but I'll still question whether it matters to anyone besides me. When I share good news, I always feel like maybe my good news will inspire someone else to keep trying even if they don't necessarily care about my good news.

I tap into what matters to me to write words I hope will matter to someone else. I attempt to share my struggles and triumphs with others in an effort to let other people know they matter and that what they are going through matters. Yet, far too often, I downplay what matters to me even to myself even as the words are spilling onto paper in hopes of reaching out to someone else. It's a dichotomy I'm struggling to reconcile within myself.

So the next time I feel the urge to ask myself "Who will care in a hundred years?", I'm going to instead remind myself that "If it matters to me, it matters." because that's honoring myself. It may not matter to me five minutes later, but in the moment it matters to me, there is a reason it matters. When something matters to me, it is up to me to explore why, learn from it, grow from it, and share what I learn with others in the hopes we can all grow together.

Perhaps with time I'll also learn to more easily focus on what really matters to me as I allow myself to remember that mattering to me is enough to make something worth paying attention to...

And, the same goes for you... If it matters to you, it matters. Never let anyone else tell you anything different.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Special Offer - Free Kindle Book - September 13-14, 2012

The Kindle book of my novel, All She Ever Wanted, is free September 13 - 14, 2012.

When Victoria, who is white, meets Daryn, who is African American, she has no idea the effect he and his family will have on her life. As she struggles for the success she’s certain will make her parents proud, Daryn’s family introduces her to a new definition of love, family, acceptance, and success. Victoria and Daryn struggle to keep their friendship intact as they are faced with the prejudices of family, friends, and lovers. The empty place in Victoria’s heart forces her to face all she’s sacrificed in her quest for success including friendship, love, family, and grief.

Download and enjoy!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Oh, No, My Enthusiasm Waned? When Did That Happen? How Did I Miss It?

Sometimes we really don't know what we need until we receive it. Today I had a two hour conversation with an author friend. We talked about the book industry, our work, our personal lives, and the struggle it can be to accept new things.

As we talked I felt encouraged about the plans and goals I set a year ago. I hadn't even realized I'd lost some of my enthusiasm over the past few months, but I had. Life has brought some uncertainty my way, and I haven't been able to do some things I would like to do. Falling behind on the schedule I set for myself started to weigh on me even though the delays have mostly been caused by things beyond my control.
I haven't quit working on my projects or striving to meet my goals, but somewhere in the past few months I began to fall into old habits of allowing self-doubt and self-recriminations to sneak into my thoughts from time to time. I pushed them aside and kept plugging away, but they were there. And, those little negative moments ate away at my enthusiasm.

As we talked about possibilities and new ideas, as we shared experiences and goals, as we discussed marketing and publicity techniques, I began to feel less exhausted and more energized. I began to remember why I chose to take the path I'm currently on. I remembered that I have a whole team of people cheering for my success! When I feel my enthusiasm wane, they will lend me some of theirs until mine is restored!

But, the thing that I still can't quite grasp is how I didn't even realize my enthusiasm had waned. I honestly just thought I was tired and over scheduled, but I guess that is the point, isn't it?

When we become too tired to accomplish our goals, that exhaustion can eat away at our enthusiasm slowly without us even taking notice. That's why it is so important to take care of ourselves, especially when life interrupts our best laid plans!

Taking care of ourselves is more than eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. It is also getting in touch with our attitudes, emotions, and thoughts. It is recognizing that we really can't do it all. It is remembering that what doesn't get done today will be there tomorrow. It is allowing ourselves the same respite we would encourage another to take. It is reaching out to our support system to help us through. It is acknowledging to ourselves that maybe we need someone to remind us what we've forgotten even though we hate to admit we've forgotten it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Surviving Rape is Not a Crime

If you know five women, you know at least one who has been raped. Think about that for a minute. Go ahead. I'll wait...

Okay, are you back now? Ready?

She may never tell you. She may never show it publicly. She may seem like every other woman you know. Yet she may check the locks on her doors obsessively. She may flinch when a man steps toward her in what no one else would perceive as threatening. She may be hyper-vigilant about her surroundings. She may insist on more control over her personal space than seems necessary. She may capitulate way too easily. She may flinch when a co-worker, or even a friend, touches her arm or taps her shoulder. She may not laugh at that joke you find so incredibly funny - you know that one about bondage or rough sex. Or she may laugh at it a little too hard. She may seem like a prude. She may seem like a slut. She may be married. She may be single. She may seem hard to get to know. She may seem to reveal way too much. She may seem to tell you everything and yet you feel you know nothing about her. She may fear being alone at night. She may have nightmares that leave her shaking so violently she feels like her body will rip apart. She may not sleep for days or she may sleep excessively or some bizarre combination of the two. She may be defensive. She may be a pushover. She may be outgoing. She may be shy. She may...

No two rape survivors will react the same. But, some things are consistent. She is forever changed by the violence perpetrated in an act violating the most intimate part or parts of her. The physical violation rips a hole in her soul, heart, and mind that you can't necessarily see, but one that scars in a way that is vulnerable to splitting more easily than makes sense even to her. A touch, a smell, a taste, a sound, a word, an image, a slight, a betrayal can rip through that scar and send her right back into that moment of violation months and even years after she is positive she has completely healed, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Men, think of a woman in your life, make it one you love. Wife, mother, sister, daughter, niece, friend... Imagine a man forces his penis into her against her will. Think about how you feel right now. If the answer is aroused, call a therapist forthwith. If the answer is indifferent, go call that therapist. If you started trying to figure out whether it was really rape, again you need that therapist. If you feel uncomfortable, pissed off, outraged, indignant, protective, and/or sad, congratulations, you are a man, a normal human being.

Please understand, your rage doesn't really comfort her and oddly enough your protection may not either, at least not in the long term. What most aids her healing is being heard, being respected, and being given the space and support to regain control of her own life. The more you try to coddle her, the more power she loses. She may give it to you willingly, but in the end she'll resent you for taking it. She needs to feel her own strength and to learn to trust herself again. So, in the end, feeling all those initial feelings are what a man, a normal human being, feels, but a real man also knows he needs to support without weakening, to love without smothering, to protect without controlling, to understand without patronizing.

Every time I see a man come out in support of some law that seeks excuse rapists or blame victims I have to wonder why they condone such an act of violation and violence. What is it in these men that allows them to side with someone who seeks to violate women? What is it in these men that allows them to not understand that it is a betrayal to the women they love - wives, mothers, sisters,daughters, nieces, friends - to support laws that make it harder for victims to report rape and easier for rapists to get away with their crimes? What is it in these men that allows them to believe rape victims are ever at fault for a crime perpetrated on them? What is it in these men that allows them to believe the rape victim should suffer consequences for an act perpetrated on her? What is it in these men that allows them to cavalierly dismiss the reality of the trauma, anguish, and real life consequences of rape? What is it in these men that allows them to not understand that surviving a rape is not a crime?

Surviving a rape is not something of which one should be ashamed. Yet, our society still shames the victim, makes excuses for rapists, and questions the morals the victim. If she dies, then it's such a shame. If she survives, then far too often society, and even those who are supposed to love her, make her investigate her behavior as if she was complicit in a crime committed against her. It's gone on too long. Yet, any rape survivor knows that as soon as people learn she is a rape survivor, she will be treated differently. People may not mean to do it, but they do. And, when they do, they isolate her.

And, that's why of the women you know, the ones who have been raped are likely to never tell you. She probably doesn't want to make you feel uncomfortable, and she doesn't want you to treat her differently. So she will likely hold her head high, go about her business, and fall apart on her own time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Treat Yourself the Way You Want Others to Treat You

We all know the golden rule, right?  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Today, I was in Costco when I came upon a bouquet of red and yellow roses. I stood staring at those roses. The next thing I knew they were in my hand. Now, I don't remember actually picking them up, but I suddenly realized I was standing there with a goofy grin on my face and possibly a tear in my eye because a girl who works there asked me if I needed help. I smiled, blinked back the tear, and said, "No, just made me remember a moment in time." She smiled knowingly and murmured something like "Enjoy." and left me to a private moment.

I wished, in that moment, that someone would buy me flowers - to be more precise the roses I held. I turned to put the roses back on the rack, but instead put them in my cart. I stood there staring into the cart and started trying to talk myself out of buying them. Cut flowers die.... Yeah, but they are beautiful. It's money I shouldn't spend... Your smile is worth the cost of these roses. But, it's silly to buy roses for myself... Why? Don't you love yourself enough to treat yourself to something that brings you joy. But, what if... Stop it, you deserve them. They're beautiful!

Then the lyrics to Luther Vandross's song Buy Me a Rose started to go through my head. I love that song. Okay, I've said that before, but it's still true. "Buy Me a Rose, call me from work/Open a door for me, what it would hurt/Show me you love by the look in your eyes/These are the little things I need the most in my life."

The idea behind Buy Me a Rose is so true. It's the little things in life that matter.

As I was checking out, the cashier, a man, looked at me and smiled over the roses as he inhaled deeply and then commented how wonderful they smelled. He handed them to the man bagging my items, who also smelled them and commented they were beautiful and smelled good. I'm not sure why, but that little moment was refreshing. Neither minded taking a moment to smell the roses, literally, even with a line of customers waiting to check out, and I noticed a couple of other customers smile, too. What a simple moment of pleasure for all of us. I smelled them again and smiled as I pushed the cart away from the checkout.

As I drove home something nagged at me. When did I come to the conclusion that it was silly to buy myself roses? I used to buy myself cut flowers all the time until the gesture became so routine it lost its meaning. I convinced myself this tiny thing I enjoyed so much was a waste of money and time. I convinced myself the pleasure I felt was wasteful. I didn't want to be the woman who enjoyed the things that men say only women enjoy. I didn't want to be overly sentimental or accused of being mushy. I didn't want to be "that kind of woman" whatever that kind of woman was.

 The roses lay in the passenger seat as I drove home. I stole glances at them and smiled every time. Their beauty brought me pleasure. Their fragrance brought me joy. Maybe I am that mushy woman, after all... Don't tell anyone, okay?

I came home, arranged them in a vase, and still a thought nagged me. Suddenly, I realized something. We always preach the golden rule I mentioned at the beginning of this post. What we never say is that we should treat OURSELVES the way we want other people to treat us. If I don't treat myself like I deserve pleasure, happiness, laughter, love, success, and all the good things in life, how can anyone else ever give me those things? And, even if they did, would I recognize them? And this goes back to the post I did last week about attracting what I deserve.

Today, I bought myself roses because I knew in my heart I deserved the pleasure they would bring me. I treated myself the way I deserved to be treated. I treated myself like I want others to treat me. I accepted that I am worth two dozen beautiful roses simply because I am me. Wow, how good does that feel?

Ladies, gentlemen too if you so desire, don't wait for someone to buy you the rose. Buy your own rose because you need to treat you like you want other people to treat you, like the special person you are! Say Buy Me a Rose to yourself before you ask it of anyone else!

I dedicate the song Buy Me a Rose to everyone out there in hopes you'll decide to treasure yourself with the little pleasures you deserve! Then, maybe just maybe, someone else will also treasure you with the pleasures you deserve, but if they don't, so what, you know what you deserve! Treat yourself like you want others to treat you. I think that's my new personal philosophy.

I vow right this moment to treat myself the way I want others to treat me...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fighting My Muse... Again. Will I Ever Learn?

Last year I wrote a post about fighting my muse. Apparently, I didn't learn my lesson. Yesterday I got up with a clear idea of what I wanted to write about. The title had already written itself. I was excited, so I typed the title in the little box - something I usually don't do until I'm at least halfway finished writing a post.
I started typing. Did I mention I was excited? Then I looked at the words on the screen. They had absolutely nothing to do with what I planned to write... Huh? Who took over my hands? My thoughts? My brain? So for the next couple of hours I fought with my muse about what to write.

There was a post I wanted to write. Then there was the post I was writing. How did happiness over connecting with the people in my life morph into a post about introverts versus extroverts? Really? Well, it was something I'd wanted to explore for a while, but it wasn't the plan for that post.

I walked away from the post, answered some messages, did a few chores, gave my cats some attention, took a shower, and daydreamed about what I'd planned to write. I sat down ready to rewrite the post and say what I wanted to say, but something stopped my hand above the keyboard. It refused to let go until I gave in and went with the post I'd written. I felt kind of possessed.

I still think I need to write the other post, but I suppose I'll have to wait until my muse gives me permission...

Rereading last year's post about fighting my muse brought an interesting insight. The post about introverts vs. extroverts is much safer that the other post in that it doesn't expose any of my vulnerabilities. Perhaps my muse knew better than I did that I'm not quite ready to commit those other thoughts and feelings to a post to be shared with others.

So, once again, I must recognize my muse usually knows what's best if I take the time to listen and stop being so incredibly stubborn.

Score another one for my muse...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apparently, I Love People, Who Knew?

When I tell people I'm a writer, they almost always, at some point, in our first conversation make a reference of some kind that I must be an introvert. I almost always take offense but smile politely and respond with something to the effect that writing tends to be solitary work but that I enjoy people. I've struggled with this stereotype for a long time. Does the fact that I spend long hours alone with the voices in my head make me an introvert? I really don't think so. The fact that I listen to them, talk to them, and write down what they say may call my sanity into question, but it doesn't make me an introvert.

I've never considered myself either an introvert or an extrovert. I've even argued the point with friends. I love a good party. I love to be around people. I love to engage with other people in stimulating debates and interesting conversation. Sometimes I love sitting in a crowd and absorbing the energy around me. I love hearing people's stories and sharing my own. I will happily strike up a conversation with the stranger in the grocery store, sitting next to me on a plane, or at the next table in a restaurant. Yet, I can just as happily turn around and spend a day or a week in virtual solitude when I'm deep in my writing projects. Even then I'm never completely cut off from the world. I need the connection with people even if it's only through social media, texting, telephone, or whatever. If I don't have social contact on at least a semi-regular basis, I get more than a little grumpy. Same goes if I don't get my solitude to write...

I need a balance of socializing and solitude to function at my best. Personally, I think this is healthy.

People who know me well know I have an aversion to labels, so I hate it when people call me an introvert or an extrovert or anything else for that matter. I believe as soon as we seek to label ourselves or anyone else, we limit our ability to reach our full potential.

Too often we embrace a label and behave to fit that label because it's what's expected. If we look beyond labels, we may find possibilities open to us we wouldn't have even considered before. When we get the time to know ourselves without external labels, we set ourselves on a path to higher enlightenment.

I refuse your label. You can keep it. I'd rather soar into my full potential on wings built of both socializing with others and solitude perfectly balanced while defying any labels that seek to contain me.

So yes, I love both people and solitude... And, that's perfectly fine...