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It’s All In Your Mindset

Ever met a positive person who seems to find the silver lining in all situations, despite the adversity facing them? If you have, I bet you cling to them. I know I do. Why wouldn’t we, right?

I’m currently reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, which focuses on (in case you haven’t already guessed) happiness. In The Happiness Advantage, Achor discusses a great many things about how we can be happier individuals, but one tidbit that stood out for me was our mindset and facing adversity. We all have had trials and tribulations – some more tragic than others. How we deal with them is how we differ as human beings. If we look at the challenge we’re facing as an opportunity, we’re more likely to be happy. Simple, yes. But how many of us fall into that trap of the  “whoa is me” mindset when something isn’t going our way?

As I drove in my car the other day thinking about adversity and overcoming it, the first person who came to my mind was my father. His attitude toward life was always positive. He saw a rainbow when there was rain. The man appreciated life. Anyone who knew him can attest to his friendliness and zest for life.

Many, many years ago, Dad was a state trooper, protecting and serving the fine citizens of the Sunshine state. One fateful day, Dad had a near-tragic accident while in the line of duty. The accident left him in a coma for three months and with a brain injury. Doctors speculated he’d never walk or talk again. The outlook wasn’t optimistic. But they didn’t know my dad. They didn’t know that he was determined and saw it as a challenge he wanted to overcome.

He spent more than a year in rehabilitation, learning to walk again, to talk again, to do all of the daily things he needed to survive. These are things we don’t often think about because we have them within our grasp and take them for granted. But, unfortunately, when something of meaning to us is taken from us, our focus changes,  and we fully appreciate what it was to us and yearn for whatever was lost to come back.

My dad proved his doctors wrong. He walked and talked and did all of the things they said he wouldn’t ever do again. He was never completely whole again, but he never saw himself that way. None of us did. He saw it as a second chance. Think of all the people you know who have had near-death experiences, some of them might have a new, improved outlook on life. True story: our time here is limited and it’s up to us to live it to the fullest. We can either focus on what we don’t have or appreciate what we’ve been given. 

(This picture was taken about 15 years after my dad’s accident.)

I once asked my dad if he regretted the accident, and his response to me was, “I would have never met your mother and had you kids if I hadn’t had the accident.” (That’s another beautiful story to share at another time). His response to adversity: see it as an opportunity for something great to come. And with that attitude, he lived a full life the remaining years he was blessed to be on this planet.

Taking Chances

My husband and I recently purchased a record player. We’re feeling nostalgic these days; middle-age will do that to a person. It’ll make you crave some things from the past, remembering with rose-colored glasses. That’s the beauty of nostalgia – it’s always seen in a pleasant way. Owning a record player again has changed our lives. Okay, that sounds a bit dramatic, but it definitely has caused us to cut down on watching television, and instead, just chill and listen to music. There are so many things I love about having a record player again. Read more →

Life after Grief

It’s been over a year since I lost my mom and eight months since I lost my dad. Days pass and that longing ache of missing them never fades. They are with me forever.

I can tell you that the past year was a blur and that it took a very long time to truly come to terms with this significant loss in my life. I can only tell you that grief is a process and that each person handles it differently and at their own speed. Mine was dial-up. It took the understanding that I am not the only one in this world who has experienced such pain, and with this knowledge, I’ve learned to cope. I am not alone; we are all connected. We, all of us, have unfortunately experienced loss.

I am now beginning the next chapter in my life without their guidance – it’s an odd feeling to walk in this world without them nearby to catch me in case I fall. No matter what age you are, the comfort of your parents’ presence is like a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick. They are a roaring fire on a cold winter’s day. A ray of sunshine when there has been nothing but rain. But with their loss comes knowledge: I have learned more empathy for those who grieve. I have gained more compassion for others. I understand the undeniable and unconditional love parents feel for their children. These are gifts, and although these cherished attributes come at a price, I am thankful. Appreciative that I am a better person for having gone through what I have and for now having a better understanding of others. If you grieve, know that you will be blessed with gifts, as well.

Although your loved ones leave this world physically, parts of them will always remain. A smile. A laugh. A saying. These little aspects leave their lasting imprint. I was at the dentist recently (have you ever had a crown? ugh) and talked with the dental assistant about her grandmother who had meant so much to her. She said her mother often told her she was just like her grandmother and said things only her grandmother would have said. And I smiled at her, understanding her joy. A part of them never leaves you. You are a reflection of them.

There are times when I talk with my sister and I’ll think I’m talking to my mom. Or, times when my husband will say I sound or act just like my dad. There are times when I feel like my mom and I smile, knowing she’s with me. That my parents are with me forever in my heart. They’ve never left me.

If you have experienced loss, know that they will remain with you. That they will carry on through you. They are a part of you and you will keep their memory and who they were alive to share with others. That is a gift, indeed.

 

Unconditional Love

I have become a savant in the art of grieving. It’s not something I had hoped to excel in; it just happened.

This has been a year. (Sigh).

First I lost my mom; then I lost my dad. And now there is a void.

My sister aptly said to me, “Our parents were the people we knew would always love us no matter what we did.” Sure your siblings, your spouse, your close friends love you, but the love your parents have for you is purely unconditional. It’s a special kind of love.

It’s unfortunate I understand my parents completely now that they’ve passed. But sometimes it takes a tragedy to make one see things clearly. If I could, I’d call them up and say, “Hey, remember all those times I thought I knew better? Well, I was wrong!”

Hindsight is always 20/20 vision.

I could spend hours talking about Mom and Dad. I could tell you that my dad was a happy man, that he was gentle and beloved by many. I could tell you that my mom was strong, that she loved with all of her being, and that she made you feel like you were the most important person in the world. I could tell you how amazing my parents’ love was for each other. I could go on and on, singing their praises.

All of the sympathy cards talk about how the memories won’t die, etc., etc. It’s true; my memories of them will not fade, but you know what else lives on? Aspects of their personality, their values, who they were, these things, they live on through me. I am frugal like my dad. I am strong like my mom. My outlook on life is like my dad’s. I love like my mom. I have a sense of humor like my dad. I help others like my mom did. I believe in kindness and treating others like I want to be treated – which was a value my parents’ instilled in me.

I am currently writing a novel (which is therapeutic for grieving). I never planned to create characters like my parents, but as I write, I see minor aspects of them in my main characters. So, they live on through my word. That’s a powerful gift.

I’d like you to know that my mother and father were great people. They were honest and cared for others. They were kind-hearted and hardworking. And best of all, they loved without condition.

If your parents are still alive, call them and tell them you appreciate them. Hug them. Ask them to go out for lunch. Show them you love them. But most importantly, tell them what they mean to you.

If you’re grieving, I’m sorry. I know what you are feeling and it takes time to overcome such sorrow. Your heart will mend in time. Find what helps you cope. For me, it’s writing and helping others. Each person deals in their own way, just like our grieving process.

The photo below was the last photo I took of my parents and me. Little did I know that this would be the last time we’d go out together. I had such a special time with them on this day. We ate lunch, then ventured to get ice cream, and then hung out at their house. I cherish this memory and am thankful I had this time with them.

Time is precious. Treat it with care and appreciate each and every moment. Love with all that you have and remember, you are who you are because of who raised you. 

Deep Thoughts…. but not with Jack Handy.

I do a lot of thinking when I drive. Thankfully, I live in an area where there is not much traffic. God help me when the day comes where this changes. Anyway, this tranquility on the road offers me the ability to think, to come up with new ideas, to create, etc. That said, here are a few thoughts I had today while driving around town running errands.

  1. If you are at a fast food establishment and can walk, don’t go through Drive Thru. Get out of your car and place your order inside that restaurant. Your limbs and body will thank you in the long run.
  2. Smile at random strangers. You never know, one of them might be having a bad day and your simple gesture could make all the difference.
  3. Turn up the volume on your radio and sing at the top of your lungs. Pretend you’re in a rock band. It’s fun, trust me.
  4. If you’re angry about something, ask yourself why. You might discover it all has to do with you.
  5. Don’t have expectations because you’ll always be disappointed.
  6. Find a new recipe and cook that meal. Go outside of your comfort zone. Cook something difficult or try food from another culture.
  7. Don’t judge someone for what they believe. Just like you, they think they’re right.
  8. Hug your loved one. It’s good for your blood pressure.
  9. Try an activity you’ve always wanted to, whether it’s tap dancing, Yoga, ballet. It’s your life and a little self-challenge is always good for the soul.
  10. Be happy with who you are. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t like you.

Grief – an unfortunate part of life…

Grief. There’s nothing good about it, Charlie Brown. Death is a sad (heartbreaking) but true aspect of life. With life comes loss. With happiness comes sadness. Blah, blah, blah. Those Zen philosophical mantras aren’t comforting during the grieving process. It’s easier to say these things than to go through the experience. Words are just words, aren’t they? We all know that death is a part of life, yet when that moment happens, when the person we love passes, we find it’s pretty darn hard to cope. (Ask me how many times I’ve broken down into tears). We all cope differently. There’s those five stages everyone talks about, but things just don’t happen in life that way. Nope. I know I didn’t follow the rulebook on those stages. Matter of fact, I think I went from denial straight to anger then to bargaining, and then the ultimate sadness kicked in. It hit me: she was gone and wasn’t ever coming back. Read more →

Writing Tips

I’m not a planner. I like to go with the flow and see how things unroll. I am like that in life, and I’m like that with writing. I know many writers who outline their entire novel – chapter by chapter. The aspect of this terrifies me. Before I begin a novel, I have a general idea of what the novel is about and where it’s headed (beginning, middle, and ending) but the rest happens as I write. By the same token, I’m sure my method  would frighten the Type A’s out there. To each her own. What works for some won’t work for others. And my pantser style works for me.

On various occasions, I’ve been asked to speak to writers groups. This is one of those instances when I can say with all sincerity, “It’s an honor to be asked.” There are lots of writers out there, and to be chosen out of many to offer some advice, well, like I said, it’s a compliment. That said, I don’t plan what I’m going to say before I go. I’m not a list maker. I know what the crux of my statement will be, but beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll be speaking to a young writers group later this week, which got me thinking (insert lightbulb and angelic music) that I should have some tips for them to refer to if they need advice in case I forget to address it since I won’t be outlining my speech. Of course when I say “advice” all I can picture is Lucy from Peanuts in her cardboard booth offer Chuck advice for five cents. Geez, I hope my advice is worth more than that. With the invention of self-publishing tools such as Amazon, IBooks, Nook, Kobo, Wattpad, etc., the market has changed significantly, and stories which would have only been seen by a few set of eyes are now available to the masses. Potentially, these aspiring novelists I will be speaking to will become authors thanks to these outlets. How awesome! How exciting!

I’ve been an Indie author (sounds so rogue, doesn’t it) since 2012. These are some things I’ve either learned or observed the past five years. Take these tips and do as you wish.

1) If you plan to self-publish, hire an editor. Your friend of a friend who knows where to insert commas isn’t enough. Hire a professional. Before you hire them, do some research. Ask for a list of writers who have used their services. Ask for a sample of their work to see their editing process. Comparison shop. Just hire an editor.

2) Pay a graphic designer to design your book cover. Don’t think that taking one measly class in Adobe Photoshop is enough to make you a book cover designer. It’s not. A poorly designed book cover sends the wrong message. Your novel could be a work of art on the inside, but it won’t translate as such if the cover isn’t designed well.

3) Find beta readers who will offer you constructive feedback and won’t sugar coat things. These beta readers should read your genre. They should be readers who can offer you an honest opinion about your novel. They should want to help you not hurt you. There is a difference.

4) Don’t use social media as a tool for “Me! Me! Me!” There’s nothing more annoying than people who talk of nothing else but themselves. Socialize. It’s okay to tell others about your book, but don’t make it your only message. Share things about yourself other than your writing. Let people get to know you and get to know them, too. Think of it as a first date. Imagine if the other person was talking only about themselves and how great they were at writing the entire night and didn’t ask you one question. Annoying, right? Don’t be that person. Share the love. If you discover a great read, tell others about it. If you have an Indie author friend with a new book release, share that with others. Sharing is caring.

5) Make sure your inner-circle is supportive of your efforts. Writing is a lonely business. You need to be around people who will lift you up.

6) Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Do not compare yourself to others. So what if they’re getting more reviews or selling more books. It doesn’t matter what they do. What matters is what you do. Are you writing from your heart? Are you proud of your novel? Did you enjoy writing it?

7) Critics exist. Sometimes a critical review can make you a better writer. I’ve learned from a few. Sometimes you just have to let the criticism roll off of your shoulders. Never, and I mean this, never engage in dialogue with a reviewer. This is tacky and unprofessional. So they didn’t like your book, move on. It happens to the best of us:)

8) Trolls exist. Don’t let them get to you.

9) Appreciate your bloggers. Send them some love. Write them a thank you note. Send them a signed copy of your book. Bloggers receive countless review requests. The fact that they chose to review your book should make you feel special.

10) This is a personal decision, but I don’t negatively rate or write negative reviews for books I’ve read that I didn’t love. Just because a book wasn’t right for me doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for someone else. I realize the blood, sweat and tears the author put into their work and don’t want to diminish that. To me, it’s professional courtesy. But, like I said, this is a personal decision.

11) Do your research on self-publishing. Read! Read! Read! You can ask other Indie authors about their experiences, but make sure to do your own research.

12) Write and read all of the time. Even when you don’t feel like writing, write. Something. Anything. Just write. Read. Reading makes you a better writer. Read books by authors you admire. Read for fun. Read to learn. Just read.

I won’t have a 13th tip because I’m superstitious. I hope this advice helps. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions, and write on!

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

I recently emptied out the blessings jar my friend had given me last year. It was a thoughtful gesture on her part, but I’m not one for this kind of sentiment, so the things I was “thankful” for probably aren’t the norm. Here’s a prime example: “I’m glad I know to say specifically instead of pacifically.” Psst… that drives me crazy. Or: “Thankful I don’t work in a chicken plant.” So true. There is a plant about five miles up the road from where I live, and anytime I drive near it, I’m greeted with a pungent bouquet. Plus, I like meat and working there would most likely steer me in the direction of becoming a vegetarian, which wouldn’t be much fun since I live in BBQ country. I also delved into politics: “Thankful I don’t live in North Korea.” (I was obsessed with watching North Korea documentaries.) So, as you can see, I was a bit tongue in cheek. A few were more sentimental, but I won’t share those. They’re private.

2016 has come to an end. For many, it’s a time of celebration. From what I’ve read on social media, you’d think this was the worst year of many people’s lives. A year is a year is a year. Personally, celebrity deaths don’t affect me, and politics are politics. They’re never changing. Guess what? I don’t care where you stand politically, what your religious beliefs are, and what your personal sexual preference is, I still like you!

If I had to reflect on this year and say what I’m truly thankful for, it’d be that I live in a country where I have the freedom to write what I want to write. I love to write – it’s fulfilling, it’s cathartic, it’s something I need to do, not just want to do. Having people like you read my books and then share your love for them is what keeps me going. Writers write to be heard and to be read. Knowing that there are people like you who are reading the things I’ve written and have been touched by my words means so much to me.

Sometimes, we (all of us, pointing to you, too, don’t try and cower out of here) don’t take the time to sit back and think of our true blessings. I know I sure don’t. Just the other day, I was griping about there being nothing to eat in the house and my husband said, “We have money to buy all kinds of food at the grocery store and you’re complaining?” It was one of those aha moments, where you realize you’re being a jerk or a tool or some adjective in that category. He was right. How can I complain about not having any food to eat when there are so many who are starving? Rarely, do we look at what we have right in front of us.

This past summer, my husband and I fulfilled our long-time dream of going out west and seeing Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a trip of a lifetime, and one I’m truly thankful to have gone on. When I was in Yellowstone, I was deprived of the internet (which was surprisingly refreshing) and chai tea (which wasn’t so good – gotta have my caffeine). I didn’t have tea for days. Thankfully, while were traipsing around the park,  we found a restaurant (because there are several in the park, believe it or not) that served chai tea. Yes! That tea was one of the best cups I’ve had in my life. No joke. It’s because I’d been deprived of it and having it again made me truly appreciate its taste and flavor. I didn’t gulp it down. I took my time with it, truly relished in tasting nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and of course, honey. (Winnie the Pooh and I are besties. I love honey and tea isn’t tea without it). In a society where everything is “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and Instant, Instant, Instant!” it’s not often that we find ourselves unable to have something we want at our disposal. That was a teachable moment for me: stay present-minded and be thankful for what I have when I have it.

Okay, not trying to sound all Zen Guru on you. I am human and have lots of flaws. I guess I’m just hoping you’ll read this post and realize that you are blessed and have lots of things to be thankful for.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and blessed year to come!  Thanks for reading what I’ve written.

Coping with Grief

Our sweet angel passed away on September 26, 2015. Nothing, I mean nothing, can prepare you for that kind of heartache. She was an integral part of our lives for fourteen years. And even though she was old, her death was unexpected.

We could never see tomorrow, no one ever said a word about the sorrow.” The Bee Gees

There’s no easy answer for how to deal with grief. No magic pill. No special words. You just….cope. You drift, moving through your day, hoping today will be better than the day before. You try to stay busy, occupied, so that you don’t dwell. But sometimes all you can do is think about what you lost because it’s no longer within your grasp.

I’ve experienced loss in my life—losing beloved grandparents, acquaintances, and special friends. And those losses were hard. But this, this was and is…heartbreaking and utterly painful.

I still see her everywhere, yet she isn’t with us anymore. In spirit, in memory, she is there. Early in the morning, when I’d leave for work, I’d always say to her and my husband: “Bye. I love everybody in this household.” I’ve caught myself saying it now, only there isn’t an “everybody” in the house, it’s just my husband and me. The first time I let it slip, I winced, realizing the brutal truth that I wouldn’t leave the house and find her there when I came back. I can’t hug her, love on her, have her cuddle next to me. I can’t call her name or talk to her. I can’t be with her.

There are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I’m teetering between stages. One day I’m fine; the next day I’m a sobbing mess. The other night, my husband and I were at Fuddruckers (if we’re friends on Facebook you know this is my weekly ritual. I should own stock in this company). I started crying while I was eating dinner. Why? Because earlier that day on my travels home from work I saw a woman on a walk with her two dogs.

People ask me, “Are you going to get another dog?” I know that they mean well, and really, in my opinion, I don’t think they don’t know what else to say. Death is an awkward conversation topic. It’s uncomfortable, even though it’s part of life. To me, asking if I’m going to get another dog is like asking a widower if he’s going to get married again. “Gonna get in that dating pool again? I hear Match.com works.” Sorry to sound cynical. I realize for some that getting another dog immediately after the death of their dog is comforting, but not to me. My answer to them is always the same: “I need time. If I got another dog now, I’d just compare them to her, and that’s not fair to the new dog.” She’s not replaceable.

I’ve received an outpouring of sympathy, from fellow pet owners and friends, and strangers who love their pets. I’ve heard sad stories of losing beloved pets. Some more tragic than others. Some more devastating than mine. I’ve heard about cherished dogs and cats who made an imprint in their lives, who were part of the family, whose death brought emptiness. And I know that I’m not alone.

We all grieve. Maybe we all grieve differently, but we’ve all experienced loss, and it feels the same for all of us – like our hearts have been ripped out, like it seems as if the sun will never shine again. I know I will get through this. Because it is the truth that is a part of life. I can’t have happiness without sadness. I can’t have life without death. It just takes time. Like all things – it just takes time.

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

I lived thirty plus years in Florida and in the same city where I was born. I even went to college in Central Florida. It was all I ever knew. I figured that I’d grow old and die there, but then something happened. Something in me changed. Read more →