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Consequences, Secrets, and Being Ceaseless

There are times in life when you have no choice but to own up to the mistakes you’ve made and deal with the repercussions. I say this as I am going through that exact scenario as we speak. What I’m about to share is something that few outside my immediate family know about. It’s not something I’m proud of and I’m not particularly chewing at the bit to tell the world, but I think it’s important to share, nonetheless.

At the age of eleven, a kid in my class called me “Thunder Thighs”. I was in the early days of puberty and quickly surpassed the other girls in my class in the development stage. My hips grew as did my boobs…and boy, did they grow, making me an easy target for every kid in my class. Being the first girl to have them in my grade made me extremely self-conscious and self-aware, and as the months passed the name-calling grew increasingly more common. “Hippo Hips” and “Barbie Cow” appeared to be the favorites among the eleven to twelve-year-old-male pre-pubescent crowd, none of which did anything for my self-esteem.

As time passed, I began to obsess over my weight, worried that the names were accurate and not necessarily meant as a way to get a laugh from those around me. The more I obsessed, the more weight I gained…almost as if my own body was plotting against me. Looking back, I was in no way overly overweight but instead merely curvy for my age. But I couldn’t see the forest through the trees back then. In my own eyes, I was fat.

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So, at the age of twelve, I began to exercise excessively. I spent most nights in our empty living room listening to the Pointer Sisters, dancing and doing Jazzercise, in an on-going effort to get down to a smaller size like the popular girls in my class. In my mind, I thought, if I could just lose the weight, I would be accepted and no longer teased for the few extra pounds I was carrying.

But the weight didn’t come off.

Why? Because I enjoyed food far too much, and not to mention I grew up in a household where you were expected to finish all the food on your plate whether you were full or not. And I’d like to say I had the support of friends and family, telling me I wasn’t fat and that a few extra pounds wasn’t something to obsess about…but I’d be lying.

My minor excess weight appeared to be of great concern to some which only led to me feeling badly about myself. Depression came next, making me feel as though I would never be good enough or accepted by those around me.

Graduation

The cycle was maddening, and to a pre-teen if felt like the end of the world. I couldn’t control my eating, I couldn’t control my weight, and I couldn’t control the teasing and weight-shaming that was aimed at me. The more I worried about gaining weight, the more weight I gained. The more weight I gained, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I became, the more weight I gained.

So, I finally took control.

And that is where this particular story truly begins.

For thirty years, I secretly struggled with bulimia. It isn’t something I’m proud of. In fact, it’s a part of my history that I wish I could forget. Over the years, I lived in constant fear of people discovering my secret. I was afraid of how people would look at me or react if they found out. But over the past decade, I’ve had to come to terms with the consequences of that condition…both mentally and physically.

Mentally, I still struggle with it all…almost daily. I liken it to being an alcoholic. Even if you manage to quit drinking and go into recovery, you are always an alcoholic…you fight it for the rest of your life. It’s the same with eating disorders. It isn’t something you just get over and move on from. For me, it is something I will have to fight until the day I die. And physically, I’ve found myself dealing with terrible acid reflux, stomach pains, and other issues related to the binging that occurred off and on over the years.

So, you may be wondering why I’ve decided to come clean after all these years. Why tell one of my deepest, darkest secrets to you now?

There are people out there who fight this same battle every day. They feel as though they’re alone and that no one could possibly understand their struggle. If you’re one of those people, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. There are people who have overcome this disorder with the help of family, friends, professionals, and even prayer…including myself.

I know for a fact that the fear of being found out…even by total strangers in the medical field…can make someone even more secretive. It’s a cycle of fear that never stops. I myself lived in complete denial: lying to friends, family, dentists, doctors, and psychologists. I felt it was no one’s business, and I certainly didn’t need anyone telling me what I already knew.

That I was slowly killing myself.

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Without treatment, mirasol.net says that up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders will die. For people with bulimia, it’s said that 3.9% will die. But these statistics can’t measure the impact these disorders can have on a person’s mental well-being.

Many believe that people with an eating disorder are strictly obsessed with being thin. That is partly true. Some have an ideal image in their mind of how they should look or how they believe society wants them to look. As for me, it took many years of soul-searching and coming to terms with the real reason behind my own battle. I knew part of it certainly had to do with body image and my lack of self-esteem; however, with the help of a therapist, years of reflection, and my husband’s love and understanding, I discovered that the root of my disorder had to do with something else altogether.

During my pre-teen and teen years, I felt helpless to control the world around me, which wasn’t unusual for kids that age. But unlike my friends, I couldn’t seem to handle that reality. Most of the time, it felt as though my life was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t control the rocky relationship I had with my parents. I didn’t feel I had control of my emotions or my actions. I was unable to control the way my teachers viewed me…as a nuisance and obnoxious. And I certainly didn’t have any control over the bullies who spent the greater part of my youth teasing me about anything and everything.

At least that’s what I believed.

And as I got older, it only seemed to get worse. I couldn’t control the downward spiral of my first marriage. I was unable to control my debt, my career choices, my friendships, and because of my lack of a college degree I couldn’t control what job opportunities were available to me.

At least that’s what I believed.

But there was one thing I could control.

My bulimia.

I know what you’re probably thinking, and I agree. Now that I’ve said it, it sounds incredibly ridiculous and makes zero sense. But at the time…for a span of thirty years…it made perfect sense.

Thirty years I will never get back.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog post. I am now dealing with the consequences of my bulimia. Back in 2011, I underwent oral surgery and lost 2 permanent teeth. Thankfully (if there’s any bright side to this particular story), they were in the back of my mouth and not as noticeable as they could have been; however, six years later I’m going through it again. I am about to lose 2 more permanent back teeth, and it’s all because of the stomach acids that gradually destroyed my mouth. So, now I’m dealing with the fact that I did this all to myself. I have no one to blame but me, myself, and I.

untitledBut, there is a moral to this story and quite possibly a lesson to be learned…and a reason behind why I’m sharing this all with you.

I eventually decided to take control of my life. I discovered my inner strength and my ceaseless spirit. It took thirty years, but in the end I learned a valuable lesson. There were a lot more things I could control than I thought. And while I can’t control everything in my life, what I can control is how I react to things and situations. I no longer need to feel sorry for myself for every misstep or awful thing that happens to me. The desire to roll over and throw a pity party is now gone. Instead, I can look at my life differently and realize that every situation is a potential lesson learned and gets me one step closer to where I want to be in life.

A few years ago, I began a health journey that started with removing soda from my diet. Then I started to do light cardio. I watched my food intake, and as the weeks passed, the weight came off. The more that came off, the harder I worked. The harder I worked, the better I felt. I grew stronger, both physically and mentally. And as the weeks turned to months, I found myself more confident.

Now before someone jumps all over me for saying you must be thin to be confident, that’s not at all what I’m saying. My confidence didn’t come from a smaller pant size…it came from my ability to believe in myself. And not just in believing I could lose the weight. I started to believe I could do anything…ANYTHING…that I put my mind to. Losing weight was just the first step.

I gradually made different choices in life. I stopped being a doormat for people who had always put me down or walked all over me. I believed in a future that was filled with writing my books full time and becoming a public speaker. I believed in my ability to make a difference in the lives of those around me. And I believed in working hard to be the role model my children needed me to be.

Eventually, I came to the realization that I was worthy of any good things that the universe or God wanted to send my way. Because while I always believed good things could happen to me, I didn’t always think I was worthy of them.

And in the end, I think that’s what holds many of us back in life. We are taught to believe we should show humility and be humble in everything we do…that we shouldn’t want for things and instead be happy with what we have. But in doing so, many people hold themselves back and never find their true potential or that one thing that makes them shine. How many artists, musicians, or writers aren’t living the life they were destined because they weren’t taught to believe in themselves? Growing up, I was led to believe that it is arrogant to want greatness or praise and that being practical is sensible and Godly.

But that isn’t the case. At all. Whatsoever. Seriously. Not even kidding.

Being open to the possibility of positive things happening in your life isn’t an arrogant act. It’s merely a different way to view your relationship with the world around you. If you go through life thinking you don’t deserve happiness, you will find yourself living an unhappy life. But if you go through life believing good things can and will happen to you, then they will.

Sound a little too new-agey to you?

So what if it does? But perhaps you’d feel better knowing it actually has a basis in science…far more than any new age movement. Quantum physics’ law of attraction states, in short, that your thoughts can alter the universe on a particle-by-particle basis to fashion your own personal life. The universe is fluid and is continuously in flux through the use of our individual and collective thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Google it.

Look. What it comes down to is this…you must own the decisions you’ve made in life. Good or bad, those decisions are a part of who you are and made you the person you are today. A lot of them weren’t great decisions and resulted in consequences that you still have to deal with now. For me, it’s about learning from those consequences, taking responsibility, and using my experiences to help others who may not be ready to help themselves. But once you’ve owned your mistakes, you must make peace with it all and move on. Otherwise, the past will hold you back.

Bulimia no longer owns me, and I no longer allow bulimia to control my life. And while I am still a control freak, I handle things much differently these days. For years, I saw myself as a loser and was my own worst enemy. But the moment I began to see myself as a winner and someone who was capable of being anyone or anything, the control I thought had eluded me for years was there for the taking.

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Be Ceaseless – The Blog Series

Ceaseless. The dictionary loosely defines it as “without pause or stop; unending”; however, I define it as “a person who is unstoppable; a way of being; the attitude a person takes when they do not allow people or circumstances to stop them from achieving their full potential”. It’s a word that defines who I am to the core of my being. I can’t go anywhere without being identified as “that ceaseless author”, a moniker I wear with pride.

But I have gone beyond that. Ceaseless is tattooed on my forearm for all the world to see – a constant reminder of how my children see me and a way to remind myself just how strong I truly am. Over time, it’s evolved into the hashtag #BeCeaseless – encouraging others to view their own circumstances in a different way. BeCeaseless is on t-shirts, bracelets, and even has its own Facebook page. It’s taken on a life of its own, and I’m proud to say that my own failures gave birth to this movement.

Yep. Failures.

For me, being ceaseless is a state of mind. A few years ago, I finally realized I was far stronger than I’d ever given myself credit for, and without that sudden clarity I hate to think where I’d be right now. My only regret in life is that I didn’t realize it all sooner. The fact that I was 43-years-old before I saw myself through my children’s eyes…as someone who is relentless…pushes me to do better and be better every single day. But I’m not doing it for them per say. While I want to set a good example, and be a role model to my kids, I’ve had to learn it’s okay to be a bit selfish about my own wellbeing and my life’s goals. No one is going to hand me the success I want out of life. I have to work hard and earn it. And now more than I ever, I know it’s within my grasp simply because I believe it.

That may seem like hokum and new-age thinking. But even quantum physics has a theory about the law of attraction. By thinking positively and expecting good things to happen, positive and good things will happen. Perhaps that is oversimplifying its definition, but you get the gist of it.

I wasted far too many years on self-pity parties, pessimism, and blaming others for my problems. Everyone has their own demons – a past they’d like to forget and an uncertain future that seems doomed for failure. Skeletons hang in closets like neatly organized bedlam where we hope they’ll stay hidden from the curious eyes of society. I planned to keep my own skeletons hidden from everyone I knew for fear of being judged. But I recently discovered that by keeping my struggles buried, embarrassed to let others discover my failures and pain, no one would ever know the real me or why I am who I am.

There are incidents from my past I wish I could forget, but every traumatic event shaped the person I was to become. Through the tears, the hardships, and the pain, I am now someone that my younger self would be proud to know. Toxic people, fear, blame, and self-loathing will only stand in the way of letting you become the person you always thought you could be. Happiness is up to you. No one, not even me, can motivate you to become who you were always meant to be. That, my dear, is entirely up to you.

This is the first of many blog posts – a series that will ultimately make you see you’re not alone. My ultimate goal is to make you understand just how strong you are. Life is hard, yet you are made of harder stuff…but only if you believe it. As the days, weeks, and months go by, you will discover how broken I once was and how I was able to fight my way back to become the person I am today. I’m not perfect, and I am nowhere close to where I want to be in life…yet. But the point is this…through self-belief, ambition, perseverance, optimism, and planning, I know without a doubt one day I will succeed in everything I want to achieve because I am allowing it to happen.

You can achieve anything.

My hope for this blog series is this: that you discover the hero inside yourself. By figuring out how to let go of the past and embrace your future, you will find that you are free to become the champion of your own story.

As for me…I am ceaseless. I am strong. I am the she I always meant to be.

Who are you?

Going Home Again

Author Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” But Thomas Wolfe didn’t grow up in Northwest Iowa.

Earlier this week, I traveled back to Sioux Center, Iowa for an author panel and book signing. It’s a place I know well. I grew up on a farm outside of Sioux Center and Hull, and if you’ve read my trilogy, The Dusty Chronicles, these places will probably sound familiar. The main character, Dusty Vermeer, begins to experience supernatural phenomena as she tries to balance out her feelings for her boyfriend and a spirit she’s never met. She goes to Boyden-Hull High School, attends a Reformed Church in town, checks out books at the local libraries, and goes on dates to the local Pizza Ranch and movie theater. The characters all call Northwest Iowa home: Dusty, Mark, Sadie, Kris, Sadie…to them it’s an amazing place to exist.

There are many locations I could have based my series, but Stephen King says one should write what you know. So, there’s a reason I chose to set my first book series in my hometown.

The people.

While I was only in town for a day and a half, I’d never felt more welcome anywhere in my life. I haven’t lived there in 30 years, but the folks are still as warm and friendly as ever. Everywhere I went, I was met with a smile and a “So happy to meet you!” People I had never met were friendly and welcoming. And, many members of my extended family still live there as well as quite a few of my childhood friends. They came out in droves to see me and support my career on Tuesday night.

 

While the whole reason I went back was to be a part of the Dessert with the Authors event at the public library in town, I was also determined to make the most of the short time I had there. I wanted to check out the areas that had influenced me when I was young – the same places that influenced many of the locations in my books. The first place I went was Casey’s Bakery at the mall just off of Main Street. Uncles, aunts, and cousins showed up to see me. As we all had coffee and breakfast together, I heard, “We’re so glad you’re here!” and “You’re far too skinny!” Both comments were good for my ego.

If you’ve read Imprint, you’ll remember a scene between Dusty and Sadie that takes place at Casey’s Bakery. Not only can you get cakes and donuts from there, but they also have traditional Dutch items such as almond patties and windmill cookies. After all, in a community that is primarily Dutch, it just wouldn’t be right without the Dutch baked goods. They also have an area where they serve hot breakfast items and have possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had…and as an author, I’ve had lots of coffee in my lifetime.

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Casey’s Bakery in Sioux Center, Iowa

Later, I went back to the old homestead…the place that inspired Dusty’s farm and where she met Jack, her soulmate.

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Remember that scene with  Dusty and Jack in the hay mow? Well, there you go.

My house still looks pretty much the same. The window in the upper left was my room (the same as Dusty’s) and the upper right was my brother’s growing up. And the doorway and stairwell that leads from the kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs hasn’t changed at all: the same door, the same wood paneling, and the same carpet on the stairs. It brought back a lot of memories of sneaking downstairs as a kid and trying to listen in on conversations between my parents and older brother. As the current owner walked me through the old house, I pointed out corners and rooms where major plots took place throughout the series. It was surreal to be back, walking through a home that had given me so many memories.

Later that day, I had lunch at the Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center. That restaurant and the mall in town all played a part in my trilogy. I didn’t manage to make it to Hull’s Pizza Ranch where Dusty and Mark had their first date, but I’m hoping to make it there during my next visit.

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Mark and Dusty had a date night here. It’s also the same place that Dusty and all of her friends ate after a night at the indoor pool.

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The parking lot where it all went down in book 3. Mark – 1, Austin – 0.

In the early afternoon, a reporter from the Hull Index came to interview me at the Pizza Ranch. To be interviewed by my hometown newspaper was exciting and a bit frightening. The reporter, June, was wonderful and easy to talk to. I just kept telling myself not to let my “awkward” show too much because…well…I’m awkward.

The time finally came for the signing at the Sioux Center Public Library.

It wasn’t the same library where I’d spent hours upon hours as a child. Sadly, the building is long gone due to a fire. But upon walking inside this new library, the feeling was the same. And seeing my book on display as you walk through the front doors…it was a moment I will never forget. After all, the Sioux Center Library was where it all began for me. It’s truly where I discovered my love of books, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

During the event that night, I talked about my publishing journey, my books, and why I write young adult. I even talked about my #beceaseless campaign and how it came about. Friends and family showed up to support me as well as the other authors in attendance. I’m hoping to come back later this year and give a creative writing workshop to local teens. I may need to lure them in with pizza, but then who can say no to pizza?

IMG_20160413_104848It was wonderful being home again. In fact, it even got me wondering if I should move back there one day. Only time will. But I learned something this week. I discovered that you can go home again. Especially if your hometown is anything like mine.

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

Do You Have a Tribe?

Hanging out with my tribe in Nashville. June, UtopYA2015

Hanging out with my tribe in Nashville.
June, UtopYA2015

When you think of the word “tribe”, you probably think of native people living together in groups, living off the land. But it can also have another meaning. A tribe can be those with like minds and similar interests that support one another, and in my world it’s a community of authors, bloggers, and other bookish types with like goals that aspire to lift as they climb. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

Everyone needs a tribe. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, PTSD survivor, recovering alcoholic – we all need people in our lives who make us strive to be more…do more. For many years, I kept to myself believing that I didn’t need anyone. I’d been burned by friends in the past and decided that it was better to be alone than deal with the heartbreak that others can bring you. For years, I floated in a sea of anonymity, content to live out my life struggling to figure out the book world on my own. I was stubborn like that. I liked my bubble – my space.

At least I thought I did.

Two years ago, I staggered into my very first book convention, UtopYA in Nashville, TN. I was anxious and did my best to blend in all while trying to be invisible at the same time. Trust me…that’s not an easy task. I desperately wanted to be a part of that world, learn from those who came before me, hang out with like-minded creative types while at the same time not draw attention to myself. I mean, these people could have cared less about a new face, right? And some of those people were intimidating as heck, each rock stars in their own right. NY Times bestselling authors, bloggers, super fans…I felt as if I was out of my league.

But they didn’t allow me to feel that way for long. Over the course of the past few years, these people…my people…took me in and made me feel welcome. They encouraged me, gave me advice, and showed me that it was okay to need people. And over time, I began to show other the same thing. My people lift as they climb. They are my tribe. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So, if you don’t have a tribe…find one.
If you can’t find one…create one.
You are special and belong somewhere. Don’t forget that.

Lift as you climb. The mantra of my tribe.

Lift as you climb. The mantra of my tribe.

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.