Another Year In The Bag

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I have completed another revolution around the sun. And while I am fighting a head cold, I’m pretty happy.

Birthdays are a time of reflection, I’ve come to find out. Sometimes it’s New Year’s, but birthdays are more personal and conducive to looking behind to see where I am now. To see and appreciate the journey so far. Because life is all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. So far, it’s been a wild ride, and I don’t see that changing.

I never really had any idea of where my life would go. To be honest, the majority of it I’ve spent in survival mode, and it was all I could do to keep my head above water and just…well, survive. These days I’m looking to thrive. There’s a big difference, and thriving takes just as much effort, but with better returns. It can be difficult to change that mind-set, but I can tell you it’s worth it.

I was never able to imagine my life at this point, but now that I’m here, I can’t imagine it any other way.

This year, I turn eighteen with forty years experience. I still have a lot to learn, but this is what I’ve learned so far:

1. Listen to your head, but follow your heart. And when your gut speaks, it trumps all. LISTEN TO YOUR GUT.

2. Erase the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. If you want it bad enough, you can make anything happen. Even magic. ESPECIALLY magic.

3. “Failure” is not a dirty word. A mistake is not a failure. You will learn more from your failures and mistakes than you will from your successes. Embrace them for the valuable lessons and then move on.

4. If you think it sounds mean in your head, it will sound meaner if you say it out loud. Think long and hard, then err on the side of kindness. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing but meanness will extract an expensive toll. By the same token, if someone is mean to you, that’s their problem, not yours. Don’t take it personally. It says a lot more about their struggle and character than it does yours.

5. Self-care is not selfish. It is necessary. When you love yourself, it’s much easier to love other people, with all their faults and magnificent humanness. Still, don’t be afraid to walk away from toxic relationships. Yes, it includes family. Sometimes the only way to treat an infection is to cut and cauterize. This is part of self-care.

6. Depression lies. Fear lies. THEY ARE DIRTY LYING LIARS. Do not buy what they are selling. They are straw soldiers and you are a warrior.

7. Create, create, create! It is the heart of life, no matter what form it takes. It could be writing, painting, sculpting, coloring…it could be cooking, keeping house, anything.

8. If it doesn’t work out, your life wasn’t meant to go that way. Instead of focusing on what you haven’t achieved, train that focus on the opportunities ahead.

9. Don’t worry about what other people say or what other people think. It is none of your business, and you have better things to do. Do them.

10. Pay it forward, in any way you can. Even small deeds can make a big difference.

I’m ready for another year. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it.

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Off She Goes-Inspiration Monday

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This piece is very special to me, and so is this day. Today is my kid’s birthday, and a glorious day it was. I won’t bore you with the labor and delivery details; as a friend pointed out to me recently, “Labor stories are women’s versions of the walking to school stories old men tell. ‘When I was a boy, I had to walk seventeen miles uphill both ways in the snow during the summer just to get to school . . .'” and he might have a point. Like, the point of my foot up his ass. Regardless, this piece is special not only because of the subject matter, but because it was the first piece I ever sold. For money. To Sasee Magazine in their February/March 2004 issue. I still have the copy and I still have the check stub.

It was the beginning, but far from the end.

Happy birthday, Donna. You have been a gift to me and many people in more ways than you could ever count. Love you.

Off She Goes

My daughter is getting ready to go to college. How did that happen? The last thing I knew she was three years old with pigtails and rosy cheeks. When I wasn’t looking she turned into a poised young woman. I’m not even a poised young woman! Ok, I’m not young anymore and I must have missed the poised thing completely. You know what I mean.

I just can’t understand how the baby I gave birth to 18 years ago has turned into an adult whom I admire and respect. I want to be my daughter when I grow up. When people meet her and tell me what a good job I’ve done, I feel I cannot take the credit. If she is a good person it is because of her intrinsic values, not because of anything I did. The mistakes are mine; the successes are hers and hers alone.

It is not an easy world out there and very different from the one in which I was raised. She has managed to grow up with grace and dignity and with her values and morals intact. I am amazed!

She is a very special person and somehow over the last year she has become my best friend. Instead of looking at her as a child, I have come to know her as a person in her own right. That is hard to do when I have changed her diapers and wiped her nose; cut up her meat; washed the mashed peas out of her hair; rescued her from her brother and prevented her from killing her sister. That was not the hard part.

The hard part was watching her mourn when her cat Leo died; hearing her cry over disappointments and heartaches from people who professed to love her; watching her struggle against tremendous odds to do well in school for her own sake and no one else’s. The hard part was trying to explain why people are cruel and hurtful and where Leo went when he passed away. The hard part was wanting to take her pain upon myself and knowing that even if I could, it would be unfair. The only way we learn and grow and become better people is through the good and the bad. She has not only learned this but she has taught me much as well.

She has taught me that hope springs eternal in the goodness of people and not to lose hope. She has taught me a sense of humor is the best defense. She has taught me I do indeed have something to offer this world and that my life has not been in vain. That in spite of my mistakes, in spite of the hardships we have endured as a family, in spite of pain and suffering and struggling and disillusionment, cynicism is for the foolish and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I look at her and see that light shining brightly.

I will miss her but she is entering a challenging and stimulating time in her life. She has an opportunity I did not have and I am happy beyond words to know I have afforded her that chance to expand and grow into her full potential. She is my investment into the world, my hope, and my gift.

She is the reason I was born.

I will miss her belly laugh when we watch America’s Home Videos. I will miss her astute observations about people and life. I will miss her mature opinions about the world’s affairs and her unique view of this planet. She doesn’t leave until August and already I am crying and feeling sorry for myself. After all, I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this person and I know I am losing a part of her forever. There will be a big hole when she leaves, and I am being left behind as she moves forward, which is only right and natural. I am happy for her and heartbroken for me.

So off she goes with her Palm Pilot, her hopes, dreams, aspirations and goals. She takes with her that light but she leaves it with me too, and in doing so, it shines all the brighter. She takes with her a sense of humor, integrity and determination. She also takes a piece of my heart, and I am sure, my nagging voice in her ear.

Some things are too good to leave behind.

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Friday, You Arrived Too Fast

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Friday? AGAIN? Where the hell did the rest of the week go?

Busy is good, so a former boss used to say, but at this rate it will be ten years from now next week. No, don’t bother trying to figure it out. I’m confused, too.

I can blame some of it on having a birthday this week, causing a huge rift in the space-time continuum. Or maybe the fact I ate some of Paula Deen’s ooey-gooey butter cake and about passed out from a sugary carbohydrate overload. Damn, but that stuff is evil.

Seeing as it’s the 26th time I’ve turned 29, I think I’m getting good at this. It prompted me to write a short status on Facebook:

You know, one thing about a birthday, especially when you pass the halfway mark, it encourages you to take a good look at where you’ve been and where you are now.

I did that. And you know what? I have walked through fire. Several times. Been burnt to ash, at times with no hope of ever recovering. Of times wishing I wasn’t even here. And when I look at my life now, I am so, so grateful I didn’t quit. I never, never quit. I just kept on going and the result is, I have everything I could have ever hoped, wished, or dreamed of. Two daughters who are the light of my heart. A bubbe who is the joy of my soul. Friends who are the best people I’ve ever met and who are my family. A career that brings me more satisfaction, exhilaration, and challenges than I ever thought possible, a career I love with every last cell of my body.

When I look back, I can see how my journey took me into many dark places, but I can also see I couldn’t have arrived *here* if I hadn’t been *there*. As painful as it was; as close to the brink as I have been, it was all worth it. It was all worth it because today I am the happiest I have ever been.

I am a blessed and grateful woman. In spite of Paula Deen trying to kill my pancreas yesterday.

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I had an absolutely amazing birthday. We’ll put that in the WIN column.

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In addition to the birthday thing, there have been releases of new books, and I love that. I believe all links have been updated on my Editing Work page; feel free to check them out. Hunter of Demons by Jordan L. Hawk: Prolusio and Games of Fate by Kris Austen Radcliffe; Ashes and Ice by Rochelle Maya Callen.; Dark Promise by Patti Larsen. Amazing talents, and amazing stories. Proud of each and every one of them. There’s more coming, and I’ll post them as soon as they hit.

Also this week I started a class at Coursera and it’s been fabulous. Go ahead and take a look. Some interesting courses and subjects from universities all over the world–I have a feeling me and Coursera are going to have a long and fruitful relationship.

And last, but not least, I have discovered Windows Movie Maker and fun like this should be illegal. I actually made two book trailers and it was a blast.

All-in-all, it was a Very Good Week. Wrap it up, I’ll take it.

How did your week go?

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Read And Return–Guest Post

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Full disclosure: When I was setting my calendar for guest posts, I noticed this particular date. Not that I wanted to notice, because this date has come around a number of times I’d rather avoid counting. I almost skipped it entirely. But then, I thought, who better to post on this day than my own kid?

I should have known she was going to make me cry. Rotten kid.

Read and Return

Today just happens to be Annetta’s birthday. Shhhh, don’t tell her I’m the one who spilled the beans.

Of course, being her birthday made me think of gifts and gifts made me think of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received and that’s when I realized my Mom has given me everything. Absolutely everything.

When I was about ten years old, I remember Mom walking up to me and saying, “Follow me.” I asked where we were going, but I got no answer. She lead me up the stairs, all sixteen of them, into her bedroom and in front of her massively huge bookshelf without saying a single word. This bookshelf went from floor to ceiling and was as wide as half the wall. Every inch of the thing was covered in books. Double rows of hardcover books, stacks and stacks of paperbacks. To me, a mere girl at the time, it looked gargantuan and totally awesome. I remember thinking how lovely they smelled. The sun was shining in through the window and I saw little specks of dust floating on the air. But there was no dust on these books.

She looked at them for a moment, and then handed me a little yellow book called “The Faun and the Woodcutter’s Daughter” by B. L. Picard. Mom gave me instructions to read the book and return it to her when I was finished.

Faun and Woodcutter's Daughter

I followed her instructions, and I loved the book. It’s a collection of fairy tales that are unique and wonderful. When I was finished, I brought the book back to her and she said once again, “Follow me.” Upstairs we went, into her room, to the gigantic bookcase where she took the book from my hands and promptly placed another one in it. She gave me the same instructions–read and return.

I don’t remember how long that exchange went on before I started picking my own books, but since the day she handed me that first yellow book, I can not remember a single day where I’ve not been reading. That moment turned into a constant chain of books for me, one right after the other, and has continued for almost twenty years.

When I hear parents tell me they wish they could give their children everything, I tell them this story. You can give your children everything and so much more. The gift my mom gave me is endless, bottomless, boundless. There is no world I cannot explore, there is no character I cannot meet, there is no time period I cannot visit, there is no hope or dream or idea I can’t experience through the written word. She opened every door for me, and through that door is everything.

Do you want to give your children everything? Give your children books, people. Give them a love of reading. I can think of no better way to enrich their lives. And I know there is no other way to give them everything.

That day, which I still remember with such clearness, I was given a wonderful gift, a gift I hope to share with my son.

And I don’t even have to actually give him the book. My mom knew what she was doing.

Read and return.

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