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Grandmotherly Advice and Other Stuff for My Expectant Daughter

In 3 short months, I will become a grandmother. I find it funny how people congratulate me as if I had something to do with it. Other than giving birth to my daughter 22 years ago, my contribution ended there. But, I say thank-you nonetheless and smile. The important thing is this…I’m going to be a grandma…and an awesome one at that who will reach expert status in spoiling my new granddaughter. Yep…I have no shame.20160902_144333

But with my eldest having her first baby soon, I thought it would be good to dish out some grandmotherly advice to her in the only way I know how: In a blog post for everyone to see. After all, I’ve been a mom for 22 years. Surely I’ve learned something over the years. Right?

  1. Don’t be in a huge rush for big milestones. Things like rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, and talking are all wonderful things to experience and you should absolutely revel in each accomplishment. But don’t be in a hurry for any of it. Enjoy every moment of every day as it happens, because trust me when I say this: Before you know it, you’ll blink and your children will be grown and having babies of their own.
  2. You most definitely will be spending the first 2 years teaching your children to walk and talk and the next 16 to sit down and shut up.
  3. As your children enter their school years, you will inevitably want to step in and fight every single one of their battles for them against mean kids, teachers, and even their own friends. Don’t. They must…and I cannot emphasize this enough…MUST learn how to fight their own battles no matter how painful it is to watch. (As long as they aren’t being physically harmed. That’s another story. In those cases, you go full mom-mode and attack like a mama bear.) Otherwise, let them figure it out with a little guidance from you, of course.
  4. The more you use the word “no”, the more they’ll use it. Try to find a different way of saying it.
  5. Kids are messy. And they’re disgusting. And they one hundred percent don’t care that the couch in the family room is the first thing you and daddy bought together. Your child will ultimately spill milk on a cushion and you won’t know a thing about it until a week later when you’re trying to figure out where that awful smell is coming from. You will never have nice things as long as you have children living at home…whether they’re 6 months old, 6 years old, or 16 years old. Get over it.
  6. The first time your child uses a cuss word in front of you just to see your reaction, do not laugh or even smile. Not even a little bit. But you shouldn’t become overly angry and begin yelling, either. If you ignore it and act as though you didn’t hear it, they’ll stop. This is why your little sister only went through that phase for a week while a friend’s son never outgrew it. People may disagree with me on this one, but there’s something you should know about kids…they like attention…good or bad.
  7. Which brings me to number 7. It isn’t always easy, but praise the good and ignore the bad (to a point). Common sense is a given in certain scenarios, but let’s be honest. Our little angels don’t always act like little angels. Instead, they want to see just how far they can push mommy or daddy before the veins in our necks pop out and we lose our cool. They throw a tantrum at home, walk away. You walk away, you’ve taken away what they desire most. Your attention. But if they do something good, shower them with attention. Eventually, they’ll figure out that good attention is better than no attention at all.
  8. Manners are a lost art. Teach your children to say please and thank-you.
  9. For the love of all things holy, I’m begging you…if you’re out somewhere and your darling little angel begins to scream and throw a tantrum in public, do not just wander about the store and try to ignore it. One, it’s rude to the other people around you, but two…by ignoring this particular little gem, they’re trying to see how far they can push you. Now, I know I said you have to ignore the bad behavior, but I also said to use common sense. In situations like this, leave. Leave the store. I have literally left an entire grocery cart full of frozen items in the middle of an aisle and gone home ony to go back later…childless…and started my shopping all over again. In fact, I can think of 3 separate occasions where I’ve done this. None with you, of course. You were an angel. Your little sisters on the other hand…fb_img_1477098750909
  10. If you go to the store, never ever let your child wander from your sight. Not even for one second. This should go without saying. But I’ve worked retail during the course of my years and let me tell you something…it’s disheartening to see how many parents just let their children wander without thinking of the consequences.
  11. Yes. Stranger danger is a thing. Yes. You should teach them all about it. No. Don’t go so far as to terrify the crap out of them or you’ll never even be able to get them to go outside to get the mail from the mailbox. Trust me on this one.
  12. You will get a lot of advice about being a parent from people who have never been parents. Ignore that advice.
  13. You will get a lot of advice about being a parent from other parents who have read 30 books on the topic and believe that their way of parenting is the ONLY way to parent. Also ignore that advice.fb_img_1477098770567
  14. Don’t ever use the whole “counting to 3” trick. It rarely works and unless you’re willing to back up said threat of never allowing your sweet child to ever eat a cookie ever again (or other vain threats), getting all the way to 3 is just a waste of time.
  15. Life is what happens to you. Living is what you do as life happens. So make memories. Take lots of phots and print out those photos and put them in books. Go to the zoo. Go to a park. Go to the lake and swim. Make paper plate masks. Finger paint at the kitchen table. These are the things that your children will remember. Not the things you bought or the tangible things you gave them. It’s the things they learned and the moments they remember that will stick with them forever.
  16. From time to time, your kids will be mad at you. They’ll get over it.
  17. Read a book to your little one every night. Even when they’re only 6 months old. Read.
  18. Even if you can’t sing, sing to your little one every night. They don’t care if you’re on key or not.
  19. When they’re infants, if you’re cold, they’re cold. Bundle them up.
  20. When they’re infants, if you’re hot, they’re hot. Remove the blanket.
  21. As they get older, the same rules apply. But they will insist they’re not cold and will want to go outside without a coat when it’s 50 degrees. This is the time to go all “mom” on their butt and make them put one on…whether they like it or not.
  22. When your baby starts kindergarten, you will cry. Bring Kleenex.
  23. When your baby starts kindergarten, they will still let you kiss and hug them before getting out of the car.
  24. When your baby starts 1st grade, you are not allowed to kiss and hug them before getting out of the car. That’s for babies. But don’t get upset. You will still get plenty of hugs and kisses when they get home.
  25. When your baby starts junior high, you will cry.
  26. When your baby starts high school, you will cry.
  27. Never miss an opportunity to hold their hand, because one day they won’t let you.
  28. Never miss an opportunity to hug them and tell them you love them, because one day they’ll be a teenager and can’t be bothered.fb_img_1477098778046
  29. Never give your baby a bottle and then lie on the floor holding said baby straight up, tossing them in the air. God has a sense of humor and impeccable timing…and they will inevitably spit up inside your mouth. You’ve been warned.
  30. Think back really hard and remember all the times you thought you had pulled one over on your old mom. Guess what? You didn’t. And now there’s another you in the world. Let that sink in.
  31. Baby girls can pee for distance just like baby boys, so always keep a diaper under them when changing.
  32. When potty training, girls can projectile pee right over the seat just like a boy. Remember…butt back, lean forward. And if you forget, keep bleach wipes under the bathroom sink.
  33. Buy stock in Magic Eraser. It will clean just about anything that your child will try to destroy.
  34. Keep pens, pencils, colored pencils, markers, and crayons out of reach. Hence, the magic erasers.
  35. Give them lots of kisses.
  36. Don’t raise them, telling them how beautiful or handsome they are. Instead, tell them how they can do anything they put their mind to. Tell them to believe in themselves even when no one else will. Tell them to follow their dreams and not to let anyone…not even you…talk them out of it.
  37. When they’re teething, keep bibs on them all the time. It will keep them from drenching the front of their clothes all day long.
  38. Stepping on Legos barefoot in the middle of the night is payback for all the times your parents stepped on your Legos barefoot in the middle of the night.
  39. The “mother’s curse” has finally come true. Get ready for karma.
  40. Always allow him or her to express themselves. As long as they don’t get in trouble, get good grades, and are respectful, who cares how they wear their hair or how they dress? Remember your sister’s purple hair or that phase where you refused to comb your hair for 2 years and wore 20 rubber bracelets on each arm? You get the point.
  41. As your mother (and your baby’s grandmother), I will always…always…always be there to answer your questions and be a shoulder when the parenting thing gets rough.IMG_4977.JPG

 

An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 21st Birthday

Dear baby girl,

Happy birthday, my love. And congratulations on making it in one piece to this incredible milestone in your life. That’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps and potholes along the way, but then who in life can say they haven’t experienced the same? Now that you’re an adult, there are some words of wisdom I need to share. Much of it comes from my own experience. And some comes from just paying attention to the world around you. So pay attention.

  1. Your siblings are your lifeline. Friends will come and go, but your siblings are forever. Lean on one another during the hard times. Cry on each other’s shoulders for comfort. Call them first when good things happen. And never judge their choices, behavior, or decisions harshly, because one day you will need them to be just as non-judgmental when you do something questionable. Never ever take that bond you have for granted. It’s possibly one of the greatest gifts that we as parents can give you…a friend for life.
  2. I know that getting up every morning for work isn’t easy and that sometimes dealing with other people and their crappy personalities can be rough. Stress will become an everyday companion as you enter the adult world, but it doesn’t have to control you. Remember that your job is just that…your job. It isn’t your life. Leave work at the door.
  3. Do what you love. Love what you do. For goodness sakes…don’t work in a career field you hate for 40 years. Your sanity and happiness are worth more than money.
  4. Responsibility sucks. But so does living paycheck to paycheck. Never ever quit one job before having another lined up. Trust me. You’ll never find a new job as quickly as you think you can.
  5. Get rid of the toxic people in your life. Being an adult can be tricky, but having the right people at your side can make all the difference in the world. If there are people in your life sucking the happiness out of you, separate yourself from them. For good. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  6. Never rush into anything important. Rash decisions are usually a bad idea. Buying a home, buying a car, getting married, having children, choosing a daycare…..always take your time.
  7. Be spontaneous. I know, I know. I just contradicted myself. But hear me out. Go out for dinner at the last minute with the man you love, even if you aren’t wearing any makeup. Wake up on a Saturday morning and drive for 3 hours just to eat at a burger place in a different county. Have fun. You’re only young once.
  8. Find your tribe. A tribe is a group of people who like you and will support you no matter what. They will lift you up and encourage you at every turn. When you fall down and feel like you can’t get up, they’ll be there to help you get back on your feet. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is.
  9. Follow your dreams, whatever they are. My entire life was spent trying to fit into a mold of someone else’s design. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be so long as it was exactly what they wanted me to be. In the end, I spent the majority of my life trying to make other people happy while I was making myself miserable. And being miserable just made those close to me miserable as well. But once I surrounded myself with a supportive tribe of people who truly believed in me, and I started to live my dream, life began to fall into place. And I was happy.
  10. Never give up. When you fall down, get up. When you fall down again, get up again. Repeat as necessary. Eventually…you’ll stop falling.
  11. If you never try, you’ve already failed. So regardless of how afraid you are of something, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose.
  12. Fear is not your enemy. Complacency is.
  13. The older you get, the faster time flies. Trust me. One day, you’re minding your own business thinking how young you still are and suddenly you’ll look down and realize you have the hands of an old woman. It catches up to you fast. Don’t be in a such a hurry to get to Friday each week. Those Fridays add up. Don’t be in a such a hurry for your children to talk, walk, and start school, because one day you’ll look up and they’ve left the nest. Time is an unkind mistress. Make every day count.
  14. Be grateful for what you have and don’t pine for what you don’t. Let’s face facts. We can’t all be millionaires and live in giant home, drive fast cars, own registered horses, and go on expensive vacations. As much as we’d like to have those things in our lives, it isn’t realistic for 99% of us. Instead, be happy with what you have. And most of all, don’t go into debt trying to attain that perfect life. Perfect is a relative term.
  15. Never…and I can’t emphasize this enough…never ever compare yourself to anyone else. It’s exhausting. And the funny thing is this — while you’re comparing yourself to other people, wondering why you fall short of their perfection, someone is looking in your direction thinking they need to compare themselves to you.
  16. Figure out who you are and be that with everything you have. Never apologize for being you.
  17. When you find THE guy, make date night a priority. Even if it’s only once a month. Make the time to be a couple. Don’t get so consumed in your lives that you forget why you’re together in the first place.
  18. Life is full of pain. We all have it in one form or another. But it’s how you deal with that pain that will define you. If you focus on the pain and things that are completely out of your control, that’s all you’ll know. Instead, focus on the things you do have control over. Focus on the good. Place all your energy into making your life and the life of others better.
  19. Stay out of debt. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
  20. Trust your gut. As a woman, it will rarely fail you. But you have to listen to it.
  21. Write down your goals. Look at them often. Figure out how to achieve them.
  22. Never tell yourself you can’t. Always ask yourself how can you.
  23. If you’re rude to a server at a restaurant, just know they’re spitting in your food. Kindness begets kindness. Being a jackass has repercussions.
  24. A crockpot can be your best friend.
  25. Get a pet. Stop worrying about the hair. That’s why you own a vacuum. They’ll love you unconditionally. Trust me. After a bad day, they can make it all better.
  26. Take care of yourself. Take care of your teeth. Work out. Drink plenty of water. Use moisturizer. Take vitamins. Eat a balanced diet. I’m telling you…you don’t want to look back and wish you’d taken better care of yourself. By then, it’s too late.
  27. Never buy generic toilet paper.
  28. Always buy generic dry noodles.
  29. Target is the most addicting place to shop. Never ever think you can simply go in for one item and leave with just that one item. You’re just kidding yourself.
  30. Smile more
  31. Cry more
  32. Love more

My Tattoo

While tattoos today are more widely accepted than they used to be, I know that there are still some who find them tacky and pointless. My own parents believe that marking your body permanently in that way is ridiculous and stupid. For that reason, I’ve always fared on the side of caution and carefully placed my tattoos where they would remain out of sight. That way, there was never an argument or the inevitable eye rolling that would ultimately commence once my parents saw them. In fact, most people are shocked to discover that I have them at all. Apparently, I don’t look like the kind of person with tattoos.

I often laugh at this statement because, let’s face it, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

This past weekend I received some new ink. This one, however, is clearly visible. It was a deliberate and deeply personal choice to place it prominently on my forearm. It will not only be visible to others but, more importantly, it will also be visible to me.

ceaseless

It’s just one word – ceaseless. It’s a simple, innocuous word that rarely gets used in today’s conversations. Merriam-Webster defines it as “continuing without cease: seeming to never stop: continuous or constant”.

But it’s a word that has far greater meaning to me than just its definition.

It all began some months back when 2 of my daughters decided that it would be fun to come up with song titles that best described each other. They laughed and had fun with it, coming up with silly songs that emphasized personality traits, humorous shortcomings and unrequited loves. But when my youngest asked her older sister what song best represented “mom”, her answer was “Keep On Keeping On”.

I had never heard the song before and wondered what it was, so I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the video. By the end of the song, I was in tears and instantly became reflective of my past.

My kids’ childhoods were never easy. I married young and had 2 young daughters within the first 5 years. Then, 2 years later, I found myself a single mother who quickly had to figure out how to survive. I worked full-time during the week as a clerk and junior buyer at a large corporation. My weekends were spent waiting on tables, slinging alcoholic beverages in a sports bar. And throughout all of that, I was attending school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree. Sleep was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Money was tight, and there were times when my kids ate and I didn’t. Yet, somehow I managed to pay my bills, keep a roof over our heads, and food in their bellies.

Before long, I met a guy, fell in love, and became engaged. I began working at a new company. Later, we bought a small townhouse, just big enough for the 4 of us. But within a year, we welcomed daughter number 3 and the house became a little smaller. Not long after that, my husband joined the US Army Reserves and left for basic training.

Over time, the house grew smaller as the kids grew bigger. We knew we needed to sell it and find a larger home. Eventually, we found a large rental house to move into. Instead of selling our home, we made plans to rent it out to a woman I used to work with who had gone through some tough times. But after only a few months in, she and her kids packed up in the middle of the night and left us with both a mortgage payment and rent. We had to let our townhouse go and we thought the worst of it was over.

But it wasn’t.

And then I lost my job. Long story short, this began a spiral of ups and downs that, at times, I didn’t think I could recover from. We had a car repossessed, were close to living out of our van – twice. And there were a few Christmases that nearly didn’t happen.

We eventually dug our way out, but I always worried about the impact that all of it had on my girls throughout the years. Would they see me as a failure? Would they look back at their lives and wish that things had been better? Would they resent me for not being able to give them everything they wanted growing up?

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

The 3 best things that ever happened to me.

Fast forward to today. My middle daughter believes that the song “Keep On Keeping On” is indicative of who I am as a person. It speaks of having dreams, believing in yourself, working hard even if you keep losing, and one day realizing that all that hard work has paid off. In other words, it isn’t about how many times you get knocked down – it’s how often you bravely claw your way back up.

So, while I worried about leaving a legacy of failure behind for my children, without even realizing it I was leaving a legacy of perseverance instead. My apparent tenacity and courage, my ability to get back up whenever I was down, is what resonated with my daughters. I was leading by example.

So, as a constant (and permanent) reminder to never give up – no matter what – I had the word “ceaseless” tattooed on my forearm. It will serve as a reminder to lead by example and show my daughters how to face fear and defeat it head on.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Children learn not only from your successes but also from your failures. Never be afraid to fail.

Why I Write

Many people are under the impression that authors write because they want to be famous. This is true in some cases. However, that isn’t always the case. Some do it to supplement their income. Others do it just for the joy of writing. Many do it because they feel they have something to share. For me, the reason I write is personal.

Growing up, I was told I could do anything I set my mind to. But each time I made a decision on what kind of career to pursue, someone in my life told me why I shouldn’t.

“You can’t go to school for journalism. No daughter of mine is going to be a filthy liar for a living.”

“I think becoming a radio D.J. is a bad idea. There’s no future in it.”

“You’ll join the military over my dead body.”

“You want to go to school to study literature? There’s no money in that. You need to be more realistic in your goals. Dreams don’t pay the bills.”

You get the point.

So, for years I went along with all of it and did what was expected of me. I went back to college and earned a degree in business. Any love of writing that I had left in me went dormant. I went about raising my daughters and going through my 9 to 5 days as if nothing was amiss.

And then in 2009, something happened that changed my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the start of something amazing. Something big. Humongous.

I lost my job.

Yep.

So there I was. No job and no way to help support my family. I tried to find a new job, but it was tough out there. I became withdrawn thinking I had disappointed my children and my husband. I cried almost daily and couldn’t get out bed. But after a few months, I discovered something that consistently seemed to cheer me up.

At the time, the Harry Potter movies (at least the ones I owned up to that point on DVD) played 24/7 in my bedroom. I watched them over and over – and over and over and over. They made me smile. They gave me hope. And they gave me an idea.

I pulled out my husband’s old laptop and just began to type. I’m not sure where the words came from, or the story for that matter, but they started to flow nonetheless. It began to develop into a narrative about a girl who discovered an ancient secret that was handed down from mother to daughter. Her newfound powers were to be used to save the world and her family. And since my oldest daughter’s birthday was coming up, I decided that I would finish it and give to her as a birthday gift.

When I finished, I thought the story was brilliant.

Looking back, the story was crap.

But I wrote it. I wrote every single word. I poured my heart and soul into the story, and in the end I dusted away any of the cobwebs that had gathered in my brain throughout the years. My juices began to flow and I wrote another book. Then another, and another, and another.

And then those same people who discouraged my dreams early in life came back and said all the same things.

“You can’t make any money writing books.”

“So after you write this book and get it out of your system, are you going to quit writing and get a real job?”

“Don’t you think your time would be better served cleaning your messy house than writing books? It’s not like you’ll ever be famous.”

But this time, I didn’t listen. I smiled politely and walked away.

Why did I continue to write? It wasn’t necessarily to become famous, or make a lot of money, or even to get noticed – although those are all nice goals.

It was because I’m not just an author. I’m also a mother to three amazing young ladies. They look to me for guidance in life – a role model to show them how life should be lived. And what kind of role model would I be if I gave up on my dream?

“Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” I heard it a lot growing up – almost daily. But as the years passed, I realized that it was some of the worst advice anyone could have ever given me. Actions speak far louder than words. My daughters look to me to learn how to deal with life’s situations through my actions and reactions. Because – come on – let’s get real. How often do our kids really hear what we have to say?

I write because I want to show them that following your dreams isn’t folly. It’s important. It’s the dreamers in this world that have given us movies, books, music, television shows, new medicines, prosthetics, art, and a whole slew of other things that are important in this life. Einstein was a dreamer as was Edgar Allen Poe. They all dreamed of giving the world something we’d never seen before. Where would we be if they had given up?

My 2 oldest daughters

My 2 oldest daughters

My daughters need to know that failure happens. People fail every day. But if you get up each time, dust yourself off, and keep moving you haven’t truly failed. The only time you really fail is if you stop trying.

I have one daughter who dreams of one day working in TV, film, or Broadway as a make-up artist. I have another daughter who wants to become a pastry chef. Neither of these are “practical” goals. Some might even say they’re unrealistic or impractical. But why should that stop them from following their dreams?

My youngest daughter

My youngest daughter

So I continue to write – push ahead – improve my craft in an effort to make my children proud and show them how to succeed in life through example. I don’t need to be famous. I don’t need to make a million dollars. I only need to show them my resolve, and then maybe…just maybe…one day I can show them how that hard work pays off.

A Letter to an 18-Year-Old Me

Dear BJ,

The age of 18 is going to be a rough time for you. Life for any teenager can be hard, but only I can understand how out-of-place you feel in a world that sees you as someone that you’re not. People laugh at your pain and the constant cloud over your head. Unable to express how you truly feel to anyone, you are trapped inside your own mind while the real you is desperately trying to figure out how to exist in this crazy world.

18 years old. It's a big world out there.

18 years old. It’s a big world out there.

I promise you…one day you will find that place.

But until you do, you will fail many times in life. Against your better judgement, you will make countless mistakes and hurt people you love. But don’t let that define who you are. When someone pushes you down, get back up. When you feel self-doubt taking over your thoughts, push them away. When people around you tell you that you’re a failure, smile and walk away. But most of all, be confident in yourself and the abilities that God gave you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

People will try take advantage of your trusting nature and your desperate need to belong. It will send you down the wrong path more than once. And yet, you will turn yourself around and start over, because that’s what you do. You are an expert at starting over. It’s all right to feel bad, to cry and even be angry, but whatever you do…don’t blame others for your failure or the predicament you find yourself in. Take responsibility and own your mistakes. People will respect you for it.

You are much smarter than you think. Stop sabotaging yourself at every turn. Be of aware whom you share your aspirations with since most people don’t believe in dreams. And more times than not, you will find yourself being talked out of everything you want in life by people who claim to love you. Turn those people loose. Stop letting others dictate what you believe you can accomplish in life.

Later in life, people you love will hurt you deeply, but that is no excuse to push absolutely everyone away for fear of getting hurt. Life is lonely without good friends.

BJ...college bound.

BJ…college bound.

Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you’re not sure, don’t say it. If they seem fake, they are. A woman’s intuition is rarely wrong, and yours in particular is always spot on. Trust yourself.

Dream. Never stop dreaming. Dream bigger than you can imagine.

You know that desire you have to discover your ultimate purpose in life? You will find that purpose one day. You will become a mother, and it will be the most important task you ever take on in life. And as a mom, you will make mistakes…but your children will learn from you and those mistakes. They will go on to make you proud and will accomplish amazing things. One will influence and affect the lives of special children who will rely on her for her softness and kind heart. Another will one day influence the world with her words and her creativity and will carve out a niche of her own. And yet another will show the world what hard work and determination can do while making everyone around her smile. They will be your legacy, and they will always, always make you proud.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

But you have another purpose in this world as well. One day, life is going to kick you when you’re down. And just when you feel you’ll never get up again, you will find a way to climb out of that hole and discover a new lease on life. It will once again give you a reason to dream. Even when doubt sets in and you feel that what you’ve done is rubbish, push through and continue to believe in yourself. When people around you laugh and talk about it behind your back, walk away with your head held high. It’s those same people who try to discourage your dreams that are bitter about failing at their own.

Despite a life full of ups and downs, one day you will succeed. And in that moment, you will look at yourself in the mirror and declare that you have finally figured out who you are. But if I tell you who that is now, you will never get to experience the adventure that is about to be your life..the good and the bad. Because in the end, it’s the combination of joy and angst that ultimately makes you the person you will be become.

So, I leave you with this one piece of advice. Open your eyes wide, spread your wings and fly. You are a shooting star. Allow yourself to believe in your dreams. You won’t be disappointed.

Love,

You

How I Got Here (or How Twitter Changed my Life)

Edits are underway. The cover art should begin in approximately 4 weeks. There are book signings to schedule and gift baskets to organize for raffles. These and a hundred other things are all parading through my mind as I prepare for one of the most exciting moments of my life…the birth of my book, “Haunting”.

As I take a much needed break from reviewing edits from my incredibly brilliant editor, Jennifer, I look back at the last few years and remember how I got here.

The year 2009 was rough. But I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and began to do something I hadn’t done in years – write. The first book I wrote was for my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday called “Schuyler and the Saga of the Sages”. At the time, I thought it was a brilliant piece of work. Looking back at it now, I realize it was a great concept with wonderful possibilities…but was horribly written. Why?  I was out of practice. But writing that book gave me the opportunity to clear away the cobwebs in my mind and start all over again. It reminded me the importance of structure, dialogue and character building.

So, in 2010 I came up with the concept of “Haunting”. I didn’t outline it. In fact, I had no idea where the story was going until approximately the 3rd chapter. By then, the characters began to dictate where they wanted to go and how they wanted the story to develop. At that point, I was at their mercy. That may sound strange, but many authors will tell you the same thing. If you force your characters to do something they’re not meant to do, they just won’t cooperate on paper.

In May of 2011, I decided to enter my simple paranormal romance/thriller to Readers Favorite for their 2011 competition. If I’d been asked to put money down on my chances of making it to the top 100, I would have laughed in their face. Then came the email stating I was a finalist in one of the Young Adult categories. First, I questioned the validity of the contest. I mean, come on!  I’d just gone up against numerous other authors, many of whom already had books published…and I was a finalist? After the doubt came excitement. Then, finally, came the anxiety. I was a finalist! I began to daydream of winning and of the advantages it would give me in my search for a literary agent. Around this time, I opened up a Facebook fan account as a way to update all my friends and family on my progress. It was slow going getting people to “like” my page since I think most people thought the writing thing was just a phase.

The day I received the email with the final results was exhilarating. I clicked on the link and scrolled down the page to my category. Not expecting to see my name at all, I froze when I realized that my name was not only listed in the top 6 finalists, but I had been awarded the silver medal.  Second place…I had come in second place! Out of those six who placed in my category, I was the only one who wasn’t previously published. My lowly manuscript beat out numerous other books and authors. I was humbled beyond belief.2011-silver

That is when I began submitting queries to agents and waited for the offers to come rolling in. I received two requests for partials and one request for a full, but no offers of representation. After nearly 11 months, I began to wonder if I’d ever get published. In the meantime, I began to plan out and write the sequel to “Haunting”, tentatively titled “Imprint”.

Deciding it was time to take my future into my own hands, I set up a Twitter account in July 2012…something I swore I would never do. Then, in October of 2012, I was invited by someone with Wandering in the Words Press to submit my manuscript to them…and the rest is history.

Yep.  I got my publishing contract through Twitter.

So, now here I sit with a publishing date and looming deadlines. It’s all work and no play, but that’s okay. A woman my age doesn’t need that much sleep anyway, right? But all this work is going to be worth it in the end. The day I receive that  package in the mail with the first printed copy of “Haunting” and hold it in my hands, the smile on my face will take years to fade.

An Open Letter to my Daughter on her 18th Birthday

(The following is an open letter to my eldest daughter today on her 18th birthday. It is unedited and stands as is…a testament of a mother’s love for her child.)

Dear Sky,

Today, you turn 18 years old. You have reached a major pinnacle in your life, but it has only just begun. I eagerly wait with anticipation to see what your life has in store for you. Of all the things I am capable of giving you today, I feel my words are the most valuable.

These are exciting times for you: finishing high school, going to college, moving out on your own, starting a career, paying your own way, dating, marriage, having kids. The possibilities are endless. But, I’m not going to lie. At times, life is going to get rough. It’s inevitable; however, it’s all in how you handle the stress of life that determines whether or not you will succeed. Having a negative attitude toward the stress and being pessimistic will not, I promise you, resolve anything. Taking deep breaths, keeping an optimistic attitude and developing a character that doesn’t quit will take you much further in life than anyone tells you.

I remember back 18 years ago to the day you were born and smile as I recall my first words upon your arrival. “She’s beautiful! She looks like a troll doll!” (I blame the drugs, but who could blame with that little tuft of hair sticking straight up like that!) From that moment on, my life evolved around you. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you safe. I know I’ve told you this before, but being adopted myself I looked at you as my first real blood relative. That moment of your birth was the day I realized I wasn’t alone in the universe. I had you.

When I look at you, I see my own eyes looking back at me. They are thoughtful, ambitious, spontaneous and quick to find the good in others. I can only hope you learn to find the good in yourself. People will disappoint you. It’s in their nature. It’s the ones who disappoint you, own up to it, apologize and never do it again that are worth keeping around. At the same time, be careful with whom you choose to associate and don’t be so naïve to believe that you can trust just anyone. Make others prove their worthiness to be trusted as anyone of sound mind will ask of you. Be someone people can rely on, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of either. Stand up for yourself and for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Love yourself and don’t allow anyone to make you feel less of a person through their words or actions. You, and you alone, are in control of your emotions and well-being. By allowing someone else to taint your self-worth, you give them power over you.

Choose your battles. Life is too short to be arguing with someone all the time about everything. This goes for friends and family as well as any future romantic relationships. Be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. You will be rewarded in ways that you have yet to understand.

Don’t be a bystander…ever. Get involved.

A smile at the right time will always go a long way.

When you find the love of you life and eventually get married, let go of the little things. The toilet seat doesn’t matter. Who forgot to unload the dishwasher means nothing. Whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper isn’t worth the argument. Most things in life are “little things”. By learning to go with the flow and learning to laugh at the appropriate moments, your marriage will be successful.

You have potential for great things. Your love of children and kids with special needs is one of the things that make you amazing. Remembering that they are the reason you have a purpose in life will take you far…farther than I think you realize.

Marry your best friend. Don’t settle. He should make you laugh. Whatever you do, don’t allow him to place you on a pedestal to be worshipped, because when valuables fall, they break. Make sure he sees you as an equal and is willing to walk beside you and not force you to the rear. Make your marriage first and your children second. By doing so, your children will see what a real, loving marriage is and will be all the better for it.

If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you know it’s wrong, don’t go along with it.

Be a leader, not a follower.

Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Yes, you’re now officially an adult, but that definition goes far beyond just being a number. Being an adult means being responsible with all aspects of your life. There is plenty of time to move out and live on your own. Other than your current job after school, your only other job for the next few years should be discovering who you are as a person, going to school, and learning from the mistakes of the adults around you. There are many of us who came before you that have made plenty of mistakes, me included. Don’t make the same ones just because you want to be treated as an adult.

Think long-term and not short-term. The mistakes you make now can haunt you forever. You don’t want to live with that kind of guilt.

Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness…instead, it is a sign of maturity that shows you know the depth of your limitations.

If someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t assume they’re being critical. Take it for what it is and smile. It may be the best advice you ever receive.

Above all else, remember you are loved. Even though we can’t be together today, a huge milestone in your life, you are surrounded by people who would each give their own lives to protect you and keep you safe. None of us want to see you fall, fail or get hurt. Your family is forever.

Follow your dreams. Never give up on something you desperately want. Ever.

Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made in life.

You are my first-born. You are love and all things good in my heart. When you hurt, I hurt. When you have joy, I have joy.

Happy birthday baby. I love you…forever.

Mom