Monday, February 27, 2012

Priority Check

An author whose book I bought a few months ago has reminded me to review it three times. I'm not going to name names, but I mention it because I've learned something about myself from the requests. At first I felt guilty because I haven't finished reading the book. Then I started to resent the pressure to review the book. This author is fairly well known, but I have to admit I began to lose a little respect for her after the repeated requests. I understand the impulse. I'm waiting on a couple of reviews myself, but I'm not going to pressure the reviewers to review my books. I'm trusting them to keep their promise to review them.

And, yes, I have already promised this author I will review her book when I finish reading it.

This author's repeated reminders have reminded me that I have a tendency to put other people's needs before mine, which has made me think about my priorities. When I felt guilty that I was letting the author down by not hitting her publicity push, I stopped and thought about it. To meet her publicity push, I would have to sacrifice my own writing projects. To accommodate her needs, I would have to put two of my writing projects on hold and concentrate on reading her book and then writing the review. I asked myself if the author would do the same for me. When the realization that she wouldn't whispered quietly in my ear, I decided it was time to reassess my priorities. I thought about it and decided my work needed to take priority. For the first time in my life, I put my work above helping someone else meet success.

As soon as I realized I wasn't willing to sacrifice my work to help someone else, both the guilt and the pressure lifted. I will review the work when it fits my schedule without sacrificing my work. If this author is the professional she professes to be, she will respect my decision to treat my work with the respect and professionalism it deserves.

Other people don't sacrifice their work to support mine, and there's no reason I should sacrifice mine to help them be more successful. I need to respect and value my work as much as, perhaps even more than, I respect and value other people's work. Sometimes in my desire to help others, I forget this.

So today I am making a commitment to myself. From this moment forward, my writing and my life take top priority. Supporting others is still important to me, but I will no longer sacrifice my writing in order to help others. I will still support, encourage, and promote my fellow authors just not to the level of placing a higher priority on their success than on mine. And I refuse to feel guilty about giving my work the priority, respect, professionalism, attention, and love that it deserves.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Free for a Limited Time - All She Ever Wanted

The Kindle edition of All She Ever Wanted is free from February 24-25, 2012. Get your copy today! If you like it, go back and post a review later!!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Abandoned by Optimism

Sometimes in life things happen that distract us from our lives. We're moving along a path. We're certain things are progressing like they're supposed to. We know there are some things that need addressing, but they don't stop life. We just deal with them or don't as the case may be. Then a truth is uttered. Then something happens to make us face something we've been avoiding. Then something is thrown at us changing everything. It stops us in our tracks. It shows us an alternative option we hadn't considered. It makes us question everything we thought we knew.

Sometimes we can talk to a friend and get a new perspective on things. Sometimes we have to just keep the whole thing to ourselves. Sometimes we can talk to a friend without revealing too much even if just to feel less alone. In the end, whether we can talk to others or not, the decision is one we must make on our own. Somtimes it's not even about making a decision. Sometimes it's about dealing with what the new information brings to the table.

When we are faced with things we cannot control, it can be difficult to accept that things will work out the way they are supposed to even if it takes a while. When life deals us hurts that don't make sense, it can be difficult to reconcile that pain with the idea that happiness still exists. When we're in the midst of dealing with one set of problems and another issue, seemingly unrelated, crops up, it can cause us to question the first set of problems. Yet, we don't live in a world that allows us to compartmentalize the parts of our lives. Everything affects everything.

And, so when life hurts and then deals us another blow, we may find it impossible to hold on to our optimism. In those moments, all we can do is breathe through the moments until we figure out how to see the path clearly again. Sometimes we have to embrace how we feel even if the feeling is foreign to us, and we'd rather not feel it. We may even feel like we're suffocating in that moment. Once we allow ourselves to feel it, we can begin to come out of it. The longer we fight the undesirable feeling, the harder it is to move through it. Once we embrace it without wallowing, okay it may feel like wallowing for a bit, we begin to see what we need to see. We begin to find our way through the haze of our issues. We begin to understand the lesson we need to learn. We face the guilt over the undesirable feelings. We face the possibilities and how the seemingly unrelated news affects the problems at hand. We face the fact that there's only so much we can control. The rest we have to trust will work out the way it's destined.

In that moment, our optimism finds a foothold in our lives again. While it may not be ready to take up residence, it is ready to visit again. And, sometimes that's the best we can hope for. But when we know optimism isn't lost forever, we can keep going through the moments when it feels as if it has abandoned us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Special

FREE Kindle download of Love in Silhouette: Poems all day February 14th and February 15th, 2012. Download yours today!! Invite a little poetry into your life!! Enjoy!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day - Must I Really? (Again)

Some of you may recognize this post from last year... As I pondered what to write for Valentine's Day this year, I decided to revisit my post from last year just to refresh my memory. As I did, I realized I don't really have anything different to say in regards to Valentine's Day.  I took some flack for this post last year, so I'd love to say I had some life epiphany or reason to change my mind, but well, I didn't, so I stand behind what I said last year. Oh, one small update. It's now twenty years of marriage instead of nineteen - It has been a year after all. :-)

The post below orignally appeared on February 14, 2011.

Confession time: I hate Valentine’s Day. I have for… well, as long as I can remember. Oh, yeah, when I was younger I played along, but I never really liked it. Okay, hate might be too strong a word, but it’s the word that came to mind…

If you love me on February 13 and you’ll still love me on February 15, why do I need you to make a bigger deal out of it on Valentine’s Day? Sorry, but the whole thing just plain escapes me. Some might say that I feel this way because I’ve been married for nineteen years, but that’s not it. As I said before, I’ve never really understood it. I tried to. I really did. After all, I’m a woman, these kind of days are supposed to be important to me. Maybe it’s maturity, but I can finally admit that I really just don’t care about Valentine’s Day without caring if people judge me.

Maybe I’m just not the “romantic” type.

I don’t get all excited by receiving flowers. The truth is while flowers are beautiful, they just die. They begin dying the minute they’re cut. Actually, they begin dying the minute they bloom…  Not that I would turn them away or not appreciate the sentiment behind them…

I don’t get all mushy over candlelit dinners. I prefer to see what I’m eating. Thank you very much.

Okay, I do like love songs, love poems, romantic movies sometimes - well, I’m actually pretty picky about those, chocolates, and sparkling wine, but I don’t have to have any of those just because it’s Valentine’s Day. And, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for me to enjoy any of the above.

Give me any of these things in the middle of September or July and it’ll mean as much, probably more, than if you give it to me on Valentine’s Day. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Give it to me on Valentine’s Day, and I’m likely to accuse you of giving in to social convention - of it not really being from the heart. Okay, maybe not out loud, but the thought will cross my mind. I was raised with manners, so I would likely just thank you and smile.

Before someone feels compelled to point it out, yes, I got married on Valentine’s Day. When people hear this, they always say “how romantic” with such sweetness in their voices I feel compelled to point out that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was Valentine’s Day while struggling not to roll my eyes. Honestly, I would probably purposely pick a different day if I had it to do over, but that’s life. We live with the decisions we make. It was simply the first day Loay and I could both get off work (Technically, I worked until eight o’clock that morning (night shift), then went to get married.) and have a few days following it to spend together.  Now, how romantic is that?

My wedding took place in a lawyer’s office. He happened to be a justice of the peace. There were five people present: Loay, my now husband of nineteen years, Todd, his best friend, Lori, my best friend, me, the bride, and the lawyer who married us. We were required to have two witnesses hence the inclusion of Todd and Lori. I wasn’t interested in all the pomp generally associated with weddings. I wanted the wedding over with, so I could get on with life. Again, how romantic is that?

The idea of romance is sweet, but I think it creates way too many expectations and tends to let people down more often than not. People get so caught up in the idea of what romance is they lose sight of what love is. They’re not the same thing. Really, truly they’re not.

Romance is when you you’re blinded by hearts and flowers. Romance is when you overlook those things you don’t like because you’ve convinced yourself the person will change because now you’re in his/her life. Romance is when you show your best self always. Romance is when you work to make someone like you. Romance is doing things you don’t like to do to make the other person happy and pretending like you enjoy it. Romance is looking for that special someone who will save you from... whatever it is you feel you need to be saved from. Romance is reciting vows at your wedding you don’t believe because it’s expected and it sounds good. Romance is tearing up as you make promises without any idea what they really mean. Romance, in many ways, is akin to manipulation - sweet manipulation but manipulation nonetheless. Romance starts to feel false, contrived, and like a chore as time goes on. Then it either gives way to genuine love or it dissipates. Romance is at best a stepping stone to something better.

Love is when you see reality - the hard work that is a relationship - and you don’t run away. Love is when you accept the things you don’t like. Love is when you support someone as they grow but you don’t try to force your expectations on them. Love is when you relax enough to truly be yourself and neither person runs away. Love is when two people see each other’s imperfections and alternately laugh and fight about them. Love is when you can fight vehemently but know with confidence you won’t lose the other person over an argument. I’m not talking about violence. Violence is NEVER love. Love is when you stay when the fun, newness and excitement of beginnings gives way to the mundaneness of every day life.  Love is knowing that no matter whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, exciting or boring, you will be there for one another. Love is that moment when you really see one another for all you are worth - the good and the bad - and you still decide staying together is worth the work it will take. Sometimes love is walking away when you know that’s what’s best for the other party involved. That’s the hardest kind of love, but it can often be the most real.

Romance is always temporary, but love is enduring and everchanging. Romance loses its strength in the face of adversity, but love grows stronger when it survives adversity. Romance can be shaken right off its foundation with the slightest quake, but love grabs hold and shores up its foundation when troubles appear. Romance is easy to recognize, but love is often disguised to the outsider and sometimes even to those involved.

As we grow throughout life, we come to recognize that our very definition of love changes  - sometimes almost on a daily basis. We come to accept that that’s okay, sometimes even desirable.

I’m not saying all romance needs to be discarded because romance plays its role in bringing people together and helping people get to know one another. Give me a choice though and I’ll choose real love over romance any time, any place.

Perhaps that’s why the romance of Valentine’s Day just doesn’t hold any allure for me.

Perhaps it’s also why I don’t write romances…

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Letting Your Past Go Doesn't Actually Change Anything

I'm seriously bothered by this quote I keep seeing posted on Facebook. "Your past doesn't define you. Let it go." Did I mention that it seriously bothers me?

It's not that I entirely disagree with the concept behind it. It's that I find it disempowering when its intention is to be empowering. It's a message about moving forward, or so one would think; however, when we disavow our pasts, we devalue our experiences and therefore our selves. When we don't value our selves, we can't actually move forward.

What happened in your past, happened. Nothing is going to change that. What you did yesterday, you did. Nothing is going to change that. Who you were yesterday is who you were. Nothing is going to change that.

Letting the past go doesn't honor it. Regretting it doesn't honor it either. Dwelling on it doesn't honor it either.

I'm not saying we can't change. I'm not saying who we were has to be who we are. I'm not saying we're doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over and over. I'm not saying we can't change our present and our future. We can.

Let me reword that. We can change our present and our future.

We don't change by letting the past go. We change by embracing what happened in the past and who we were in the past. We change by honoring what we learned from the experiences of the past. We change by acknowledging what worked and what didn't work. We change by incorporating what worked into our lives and finding new solutions for what didn't work. Letting the past go as a whole is not a solution to anything, and it is definitely not the path to change.

We change, and that change is based on our experiences. Our experiences make up our pasts. None of us like to be judged for what we did in our pasts, but if we own our pasts we take away other people's power to pass judgment. When we own our pasts, other people's judgment about our pasts ceases to matter. We can simply say "Yes, I did that. And here's what I learned from it..."

My past is my past. I learned from it, and I evolved.

But that's just me....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pointing Forward

"Pike would not back away. His arrows pointed forward, not back." from page 94 of The Sentry by Robert Crais.

Disclaimer: I am a little enamored with Joe Pike. There I said it... He grabbed my heart from his first appearance in The Monkey's Raincoat and took up permanent residence when I read L.A. Requiem (Elvis Cole Novels). No worries, my sanity is intact. I know he's a fictional character.

The above sentences leaped off the page when I read them and left my heart pounding. I grabbed my laptop and started a new blog post at one o'clock in the morning - the rough draft anyway - thanks to those two sentences.

Sometimes we move forward without resolving what needs resolved because momentum propels us forward. We find it easier to keep that "move forward" attitude in tact even if it means leaving behind people we cherish and things that are important. We let little things slide until they become issues that didn't need to become issues. Barriers are erected where none are necessary. We end up moving forward without thinking or feeling.

I know. I've been there. Maybe I need to have red arrows tattooed on my arms (yes, Joe's are red for those of you who don't know).... but I digress.

When we ignore what's in front of us in order to maintain our forward motion, eventually the past begins to collide in our heads. It creates chaos. It burdens us with regret and longing. To truly deal with it we have to be completely honest, we have to reveal things we don't want to reveal, we have to face things we want to pretend never happened. We stare in the mirror and want to just skip the part that's difficult. We want to move straight into fun and laughter and release, but we know that's not reality. That's just more pretense and more barrier building.

I know. I'm there right now. Still, if I had red arrows on my arms... but I digress.

Forward motion is important, but we mustn't use it to avoid today's issues. Forward motion is impossible to stop, but we mustn't forget from whence we came. Forward motion is always better than being stuck. Forward motion drags us along whether we want to go or not. When we move forward from a place that is healthy and balanced, life works. When we move forward just because it's easier than dealing with reality, we create a false forward momentum that keeps us stuck in what hurt.

Still, if my arms only had red arrows pointing forward tattoed on them...

My book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette: Poems, is all about getting stuck, looking backward, and moving forward. It is about the struggle to accept one for one's self and allow one to grow through the pain. Poems, Willful Blindness, Distract Me, and Known and Unknown among others explore both the need to move forward and the struggle moving forward can be.

Perhaps red arrows pointing forward are just what I need...

Well, to be perfectly honest, it wouldn't make a bit of difference. I would still be me. I wouldn't suddenly become Joe Pike-esque. I would still have to find my own way to move forward from where I currently stand while dealing with the baggage I packed away and tried to forget existed.

Besides red arrows on my skinny arms would probably look ridiculous....

Monday, February 6, 2012

Urban Fiction Unleashed: Book Review***Book Review***Book Review

Ray Ellis reviewed Reflections in Silhouette, over on his blog, Urban Fiction Unleashed! Check it out!

Urban Fiction Unleashed: Book Review***Book Review***Book Review: Book Review: Reflections in Silhouette: Poems by T.L. Cooper The last time I read poetry Ronald Regan was still in his first term as ...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Teddy: My First Fan, My Constant Companion

I'm not Linus. I don't carry a security blanket, but I do keep a brown teddy bear that I've had since infancy. I love this teddy bear. His name is Teddy. Okay, I wasn't particulary original with that one, but, hey, he's been with me since before I was born... It's not like my naming skills were at the top of their game when he entered my life!

A family friend, Jean Wright, bought Teddy for me before I was born. I slept with Teddy. I played with him. I tossed him in a toy box. I ignored him. Eventually, somone in my family, probably Mom, stored him in the attic in a box with a bunch of other stuffed animals and dolls. I remember when I found him as a teenager. He'd been in the attic for years. I almost cried as I hugged him to me. I felt like a little girl. I didn't understand why he evoked that emotion in me, and I still don't. Perhaps it was because I loved Jean so much. She was a wonderful, kind, sweet, loving soul who always treated me like I was special. Maybe some of that infiltrated her gift to me...

Over the years, I cried into Teddy's fur, snuggled him close to me, slept with him, buried my head in his belly, and danced with him. I told him stories before I could write. I sang him songs I made up. I read him my poetry and my stories. Though he couldn't reply. I like to think he was my first fan. After all, he never criticized my efforts. But then again he never complained about my singing either, and I really can't sing. Forget waterboarding, just have me sing, they'll talk. Yes, I sing that badly.

Teddy & Me 1990 Combs Hall,
Eastern Kentucky University
 Teddy accompanied me to college. He sat on my bed or sometimes in a small wooden child's chair. His outstretched arms always looked ready to give a hug. He watched as I made friends and lost friends. He sat silently while I studied and wrote papers. He never judged when I partied too hard, drank too much, laughed too loud, or played too late. He never demanded any attention when I needed to concentrate. He listened to my dreams no matter how outrageous. He watched me give my heart away and get it returned shattered.  He listened I broke a heart or two and then buried my face in a pillow and sobbed. He stared straight ahead as I suffered the worst betrayal of my life. He probably wished he could close his eyes that time. I know I wish he could've. But he never left. Okay, you're right, he's a stuffed animal, he didn't have a choice, but I don't care. He's been a constant my entire life.

He may not have fought off the boogie-man or kept me safe from the monsters, but he was there. He never blamed me, scolded me, or told me I wasn't enough. He never betrayed me. He never minded when I ignored him in pursuit of ambition or even dreams. He never got jealous of my other relationships. He never complained that I squeezed him too tight or made him too hot. He never pushed me away. He never turned his back on me. He never got mad when I pushed him out of the bed. He laid right there when I had nightmares that left me shaking so hard I thought I might come apart.When I cried tears into his soft belly night after night, he soaked up those tears allowing me to face the next day with confidence.

He stayed with me through those college years and joined me when I got married. My husband complained that I sometimes brought him into our bed when I was hurting or scared. But he didn't get it. Teddy was a constant. He grounded me to the girl I once was - innocent and carefree and capable of laughter. Teddy held all my tears inside him. He never broke a confidence. He never told me I was stupid for feeling the way I did. He never told me to grow up. He never questioned my needs or my love. He simply sat there with his brown eyes staring straight ahead and arms stretched out inviting a hug. We fought over Teddy. I won.

Teddy Today
 Or rather, I compromised. I rarely sleep with Teddy these days. He lived under my bed for a while. His chair went to charity, so some other child could enjoy it. Teddy now sits in my laundry room where he makes me smile every day. He always looks ready to give a hug. I love that he sits with his arms outstretched though come to think of it, they must get incredibly tired.

When Jean died a couple of years ago, I sat in the floor of my laundry room, held Teddy, and cried into his fur. He once again absorbed my tears, so I could let go of the pain in my heart. Yet he didn't give empty platitudes or question my grief. He just absorbed it into his soft, furry body.

Teddy makes me smile. He reminds me of all I can be. He reminds me of all I've survived. He reminds me of my dreams, my friends, my family, my self. He asks nothing from me as he sits there awaiting the next time I come to him for a hug.

So, I don't care if I am an adult. Teddy stays. Teddy lives where I live. I don't give up people or things that make me smile these days. Not that anyone would dare suggest it...