Foundations

Every chance I get, I tell people of the foundation of faith, family, and love on which my parents built their lives. That, in turn, set such a wonderful example for their children and from there, their grandchildren.

I went to stay with them for a couple of weeks a while back as my dad was preparing to begin his journey of treatment for stomach cancer. That treatment consisted of rigorous and brutal chemotherapy, a total gastrectomy (stomach removal), followed by more chemotherapy.

The evening before surgery as I was going to bed, I walked past their room and this is what I saw. Each knelt by the side of their bed, heads bowed in prayer. Prayer has always been an important part of their lives, but this picture, this moment, caused me to pause and catch my breath. And it’s forever etched in my memory.

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Today my dad is cancer free. Their prayer life is every bit as important now as it ever has been. The difference their example has made to their family as well as friends, is without borders.

My question for all of us is what are we doing to make a positive difference in the lives of others–family, friends, and others looking on that we’re unaware of.

My challenge for all of us is this: If you can’t think of anything, why not start now? It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

A person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear r

How do You Define Success?

Success

Writers are generally an insecure group of people. We have something we want to say and feel compelled to write, and yet fear lies beneath the surface every time we put our words out there for the world to read. Not every writer, maybe, but all I’ve spoken with. Even those I’ve read about, those who have “made it.”

Joanna Penn, in her book Successful Author Mindset, talks about comparisonitis. We compare our writing to other authors, we compare our sales to other authors, we even compare our writing life to other authors. Each of these things are individual and there is not one-size-fits-all, and yet we compare. Not only do we compare ourselves to our peers, but we compare ourselves to other authors who have completely different lifestyles and opportunities than we do. Those who are on a completely different level.

To help prevent comparisonitis, take some time to define what success means to you. If we as authors don’t know what success means to us, separate from how others view success, we will constantly be chasing our tails trying to achieve something we don’t even know we’re trying to achieve.

So, what is your definition of success? Is it:

  • Freedom?
  • Sales?
  • Control of your work?
  • Number of books sold?
  • A traditional publishing contract?

It’s all too easy for the fragile ego to get hung up on statistics, number of likes, reviews, etc. I’m happiest when I set my definition of success as simply writing on a regular basis, doing the best that I can do, comparing my writing only to writing I’ve done at an earlier time, to measure my growth.

I also try, hard as it can be, not to allow other’s opinions to determine whether I’m good at what I do or not. While it’s nice when others like what you write and give you a good review, a bad review doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad.

Opinions are purely subjective.

Really get to the bottom of what your definition is of success. Re-evaluate your definition at regular intervals. Don’t let others’ definitions define yours.

Happy writing!

I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. 
― Herbert Bayard Swope

If you must walk in someone’s shadow make sure it’s your own.
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

What may appear to be a small difference between two things can lead to a significant difference in the ultimate enjoyment of something.

Examples that immediately come to mind include:

  • While a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a cup of Folgers are both coffee, there is a distinct difference between the two.
  • Nikon and Canon cameras both have obvious similarities, yet each has characteristics unique to each.
  • A Kindle and a Nook are both e-readers, but each has their distinct differences.
  • Liking what you choose to do vs. choosing to do what you like.

When I was a new mom I signed up to take an online journalism/short story writing course. I absolutely loved every moment of that course and should have kept my love for that in mind as I traveled blindly on the highway of life over the next couple of decades. However, since I already had my cosmetology license, it was more practical to find work in a salon and make instant money as I raised my children. Since money is an obvious necessity, especially while raising children, making instant money made sense and was the responsible thing to do.

As life passed by and the needs of my family changed, my boys’ dad worked, earning enough money to support our family.  I was able to stay home with my boys and provided daycare for a few children to supplement that income. While the children napped or during quiet times, when I could have been writing, I found myself whiling away the time by doing other things like cleaning up after a house full of children. Necessary? Yes. But I could have squeezed in a few minutes of writing throughout the day or after my children were tucked in for the night. Instead, I only thought about it.

As my children grew, I changed jobs to best accommodate their schedules. Never did I think to practice my writing skills by actually writing. Rather, I spent that time with even more dreaming of the day that I could write again.

As my children continued to grow, I survived through a divorce by working where I needed to in order to best accommodate my children’s schedules and to make instant money. It never occurred to me to actually write simply because I enjoyed it. Once again, I pushed that dream to the back of my mind for a later date when I would have the time.
That “time” never appeared as I continued my education for things that were more practical. Things I had a tendency at which to excel.  I took a medical transcription class not because I  loved to transcribe medical terminology, but because my typing skills were fast and accurate and because I wanted to work out of my home. That worked until life circumstances pushed me to get a job outside of my home.

When I landed a job in the legal profession and learned I had the capacity to do well at that, I decided to go back to school to receive my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. It was a wonderful opportunity that made sense, because my job provided a  tuition reimbursement program, which meant as long as I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire program was paid for with the exception of books. So, essentially, I received a free degree. It was something I did because I could. Not because it was my dream. And while that education is something no one can ever take away from me and something I can always use, it wasn’t what I loved. I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

Since then, I work at a job that does not require that degree. A job that I truly like, nonetheless, but it’s a job that I chose, not a job that chose me.

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The difference is, in addition to my paying job, I now choose to write, the one thing that truly brings me joy. It’s something I’ve done–or dreamed of doing–throughout my entire life. Something that breathes air into my lungs and gives me life. Not something that takes my energy away, but something that gives me energy. And that, in turn, has breathed life into the job I do by day. And, hey, now that I’ve pursued my passion of writing, I even make money at doing what I love. Bonus!

It’s important to like what you do, but it’s critical to do what you love.

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The Present of Presence

Being Present

The best lessons come from the most difficult trials, the most significant growth from when we’re at our lowest.

When we’re filled with pride, the inevitable fall is hard. And so painful. But with humility comes peace. Yet It never ceases to amaze me that like the monster it is, pride rears its ugly head time and time again.

I have found the one surefire way to stay humble is to be grateful. One cannot be grateful and filled with pride at the same time. It’s like being angry and laughing at the same time. They cannot coexist. The next time you’re angry about something, smile, even if you have to fake it, and see if it doesn’t change your perspective at that exact moment.

When I talk about being grateful, I don’t just mean about the big things that happen during the day. The in-your-face-can’t-miss-it blessings. I’m referring to the little, seemingly insignificant things that oftentimes go unnoticed unless we’re consciously aware of our surroundings. The hundreds of presents given to us daily waiting to be unwrapped, graciously accepted, and savored. All of the ordinary moments that collectively make the day extraordinary.

  • The birth of a new day.
  • That deep, long inhale, followed by a long cleansing exhale, feeling every muscle relax in the process.
  • The sound of laughter.
  • That smile from a stranger at that exact moment you needed a smile. And when you didn’t even realize you needed one until you received it.
  • A child’s belly laugh.
  • That one line in a book that speaks directly to your heart.
  • A vibrant red umbrella on a gray, rainy day.

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  • That magical “I love you” from a loved one.
  • That out-of-blue phone call from an old friend, just calling to see how you’ve been.
  • The smell of a freshly opened box of crayons.
  • The feel of fresh, crisp sheets after a long day.
  • The soft hum of the furnace on a cold day.
  • Bright stars twinkling in a black velvet sky.

Stars

  • The comfort of slipping into yoga pants and a sweatshirt after a long day at work.
  • Kindness from a stranger.
  • That out-of-the-blue scent that transports me back in time to one of my very favorite moments, like the smell of Chantilly that brings my grandmother close again.
  • The scent of a balsam pine candle.
  • Sea salt caramel gelato.
  • Letters written in silver script.
  • The warmth of the clothes as they’re pulled from the dryer.

Presents given endlessly, waiting to be discovered. And we can only receive them if we’re present in the moment. Presence. It’s the best present we can give ourselves.

Food Detoxing

Medication and illness don_t own me anymore. I own my life. And my life is spectacular!

This week’s post is kind of off topic from what I usually post about, which is either the writing life or striving to live a life of love and grace. But it’s a topic that has made such an enormous difference in my life that I have to share.

Feed Detoxing.

From as far back as I can remember—from the time I was 23-years-old, to be exact, but we won’t say how many years ago that was—I’ve battled anxiety and panic attacks after a traumatic event. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, living daily with pain. Some days were much better than others. I was on a number of SSRI’s throughout the years, discovering that they were also prescribed for fibromyalgia, exchanging the side effects for being able to live a functional life. I was also on a pain medication for “my” fibromyalgia.

As the years progressed, I also battled hypoglycemia, sometimes having spells so severe I was near fainting. Add to that IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), typical of someone with anxiety and/or fibromyalgia, and I was living a cautious life of what I could and couldn’t do, where I could and couldn’t go.

Finally, I got fed up with the pharmaceutical industry and my need for a drug to help me live this gift of a life I’ve been given. I wanted to live it fully and completely, without abandon, without worry, which you can imagine is difficult when you have GAD. (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)

Just another label I was determined to kick to the curb.

No Labels!I’d decided to no longer own these diagnoses by calling them my anxiety, my fibromyalgia, my IBS, etc. They weren’t mine at all, and I was done telling myself they were or allowing the medical profession to lead me to believe this.

Please note, I’m not saying medication for illnesses, mental or physical, is a bad thing. Sometimes medication is necessary. But I think it has become a crutch, a way of making life easier rather than better. Easier and better are not synonymous.

I’d done some research on nutrition and made the decision to use food as medicine.  Two 90-minute sessions with a nutritionist changed my life in unimaginable ways. She taught me what foods aggravate the conditions that plagued me and which helped. She looked at my blood panel and showed me what supplements my body was lacking, further aggravating the conditions.

For three weeks I was to cut out all gluten, all dairy, all processed foods, all sugar, and coffee, eating only clean, whole foods. It was a complete change from the way I’d been eating and took some getting used to. Sugar was by far the most difficult. It felt like I was an addict craving my fix. Sadly, that wasn’t far from the truth.

I was given a specific regime of supplements to take, among them magnesium citrate, 3000 mg daily of fish oil, 5HTP, zinc, methylated B-12, L-Glutamine, and digestive enzymes. Since I’m not a big meat eater, she suggested a plant-based protein drink as well, since dairy was out.

Fully committed, I stopped off at the health food store on my way home from the first session and purchased what I needed to get started. (I had already begun weaning myself off of my pain medication and SSRI weeks in advance.) During those three weeks of abstinence from all of the possible trigger foods,  the pain and anxiety all but disappeared.

I’d never felt better in my life!

After three weeks was up, I began re-introducing each of the potential trigger foods I cut out at the beginning of this plan, one at a time, to see which affected the symptoms of each condition. It took one day to see that dairy was a culprit. Pain took up residence once again. During this process of reintroducing each of the foods, I found gluten to be another culprit. I found too much sugar to just make me sluggish and not operate at my best capacity, which seemed to instigate pain.

With my new way of eating, no dairy or gluten and limited sugar, and taking my supplements, I’ve been completely off of all medication and have never felt better. I live the life I’ve always dreamed of, and since I sleep better than I have in a very long time, I now have energy that had been lacking for years. I go where I want to go, when I want to go there, and do what I want to do.

Sunrise

Another bonus? I no longer use food for comfort. When I eat, I pay attention to what each food item I’m eating is doing for my body and how it’s helping me. It’s changed my attitude about food from that of comfort to sustenance and nutrition.

Medication and illness don’t own me anymore. I own my life. And my life is spectacular!

 

The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of The Golden Rule:
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While the idea is good to shoot for, it may not be good enough.

Simply stated, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else is. We’re often our own worst enemy, constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, where we fail. This, in turn, can cause us to be more intolerant of other’s shortcomings, because we expect from others what we, ourselves, cannot even do to our own standards. And yet, ironically, we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

  • Thin people sometimes see someone overweight looking back at them in the mirror.
  • We’re not smart enough or pretty enough. We don’t do enough or have enough. We’re simply not enough.
  • We say things we wish we wouldn’t have, do things we wish we could erase, and beat ourselves up when we can’t.
  • We feel we don’t deserve happiness, forgiveness, or peace, because of what we’ve done in the past.

The other day when I was driving home from work there was car in front of me going sooooo sllooowww. Not only was this person driving slowly, s/he stopped for yellow lights, then allowed not one car from an incoming street to go in front of him/her, but two. Impatient to get home, to put the work day behind me, I was having all kinds of negative conversations with myself about the driver of this vehicle.

When I was finally able to pull into the next lane, I drove up next to the car, wanting to see the driver, sure s/he was talking on a cell phone rather than pay attention to the road. To my surprise, it was an elderly woman. A slightly confused elderly woman. Thankfully, she was oblivious to my impatience.

I felt oh, so small. I would be heartbroken if that woman had been my mother and someone else was as impatient and intolerant as I had been. God taught me a lesson in judging and patience that day.

On another occasion this past week, a young man called me at work. He was confused about his legal situation and I had to repeat three times the process of what he needed to do. I found myself getting impatient, but God’s voice spoke above my impatience. A little voice in my head asked, “What if this was your son calling, needing help with a process that’s confusing to someone not in the justice system, even if he needed to hear it three times?” My heart softened and I found patience I didn’t know I had, as I had to repeat the process yet another two times, wanting to be sure he understood completely before we disconnected.

How people treat me doesn’t affect me as much as how they treat my loved ones. I want my loved ones treated with love, with respect, with patience. In fact, when I’m mistreated I get over it. But seeing my loved ones mistreated? Well, that breaks my heart in two.

God spoke to me in a way I could hear loud and clear.

The Golden Rule I now strive to live by has changed a bit. e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-your-loved-ones-e2809d.png

The Joy is in the Journey

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We as a whole are a results-driven society.

  • We work so we have financial freedom, success, recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.
  • We raise our children with the goal of creating loving, responsible, productive people.
  • We create a date night with our spouse to keep the spark alive in the midst of daily chaos.
  • As writers, we write a set number of words (or minutes/hours/paragraphs, etc) to produce the finished product.
  • When reading a book, we often rush through it to get to the end in anticipation of what happens to the good guy/gal—or the bad guy/gal. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
  • We diet to reach a desired goal.

I could go on indefinitely.

While striving for our desired results isn’t a bad thing, if that’s our focus, we’re missing out on the process.

The process is where the gold is discovered. It’s in the process that we’re refined and made stronger.

It’s the process of achieving results that’s the teacher, showing us how to get from point A to point B while revealing the necessary seemingly little steps that eventually lead to the final result.

It’s in the process that we learn patience, perseverance, and self-control. When things aren’t going the way we’d planned, we learn to pivot as needed, taking the longer route if necessary, learning that our way isn’t the only way. It opens us up to bigger, broader horizons if our eyes aren’t stuck on the goal.

It’s in the process that holds the joy. Detours are often more scenic, more relaxed and enjoyable. We can either get to where we’re going by hurrying, scarfing down meals on the go, potty breaks only as needed, or we can sit back and enjoy the ride, take the time to taste exquisite cuisine, wander a bit in nature, getting to the same destination but with more to show for it.

Results are out of our control. Joy is not. Set your sights on the process and get to where you’re going joyfully.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness