Poetry Tuesday – Good Morning

Dawn’s soft light

Moves across the room,

Melting away the night’s shadows

On her sleeping face.

The beams cascade

Their cleansing warmth

Upon her scented skin,

Rejuvenating  the senses beneath.

One slow, steady intake

Of precious air

And then exhale.

As the wind blows gently

Through the half-open window,

Playing melodies with her free hair,

Her placid form shifts,

A slight movement to the right.

Her lips part first

Before she opens her eyes

To the beginning of a new day,

And she whispers,

“Good morning.”

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What’s Holding You Back from Your Dreams?

Everyone has dreams, and I don’t mean the kind you have at night when your mind slips into an unconscious state.

When you’re asked what your dreams are, what do you say? Do you freeze up, unable to articulate your dreams because you claim you aren’t sure? I’m not a betting person, but I’m willing to bet the uncertainty that plagues you is fear.

Maybe you won’t even name your dreams or dare to dream because of fear.  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, low self-esteem, a negative self-image, and caring too much that others think or say (which is mostly in your mind, anyway) are all factors of not daring to dream in the first place.  

I have been following a vlogger on YouTube for years now who I think is beautiful (inside and out), talented, adorable in her antics, inspiring, and a fighter.  She admits often that the persona she portrays to the world in her videos is much more confident than she really is.

I used to be shy, but now I am able to talk and usually joke around with just about anyone. I can laugh about life when I’m in a group, even the things that bother me. Put me alone with my thoughts, and I am not that outgoing, confident person.

I get what this vlogger is saying. We can put on a smile on the stage. As I wrote in one of my novels, a smile can cover a lot of pain. Laugh enough and it doesn’t hurt so much, right? Yeah, something like that.

I look at this lovely young woman who I know only through the Internet and marvel. She has enormous support, but with any sort of fame come those who are all too happy to belittle, threaten, and hurt. Funny how 99 people can compliment you, but it only takes that one person to tear you down. What do we focus on? The negative.

Like this vlogger I follow and think the world of, many people suffer inwardly. She admits to turning down several opportunities because she doesn’t feel worthy. She has wonderful dreams, but her low self-confidence gets in the way. That is what holds her back from her dreams. She knows that.

For years, I said I wanted to be a published author. That was my dream, at least one of them. Yet for years, I did very little to make my dreams a reality. I had ideas for my first novel (based off my late grandma’s life, who I loved dearly). You can read more about the inspiration behind my first book here.

I managed a few pithy chapters. I read my grandma’s diary and a few pages she had written about her life while growing up. I jotted down several notes. This was between October 2006 and January 2009. I then left the book sitting on my hard drive. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but whenever I thought about sitting down at the keyboard and writing, I faltered. Overwhelmed at the prospect of writing an original story, I let fear dictate my actions and reasons.

Fear wasn’t the only culprit. It was easy to find excuses, a hundred other things that needed my daily attention. Many of those things were legitimate, like caring for my young kids and the house, but I believe if you really want something, you will do whatever you need (within reason) to attain it.

If I wanted to work out more, I would get to the gym more often. If I wanted to eat healthier, I wouldn’t buy chocolate or go through the McDonald’s drive thru. If I wanted to save more money, I would stop buying unnecessary items.

Sure, I want these things, but how much do I want them? Not enough, apparently.

pablo (25)I came to the hard realization that even though part of me wanted better or more, I must not have wanted those things badly enough.

I have written about having no regrets in a previous blog post. This one ties into that. Both topics involve fear of failure.

I believe the only way to fail is to do nothing.

In March 2015, I finally make a life-altering decision: I would write every day on my original story, even if I never published it, even if no one ever read it. Tired of traipsing through the lands of other authors and their characters in the world of fan fiction for 20 years, I knew that if I was to take myself as a writer seriously, I NEEDED to write every day, even if only for ten minutes.

Ten minutes. That’s all I told myself. It was a realistic goal.

To reach your dreams, you must set realistic, attainable, often short-term goals. Setting the goal of writing a whole book could have been too much. It was for me for years. As I said, overwhelming. I had already committed to exercising at least three days a week and had been doing it for three years at that point. If I could do that, I could write for ten minutes a day. Besides, I loved writing. I believe and have always believed that writing is in my blood, my fourth child (I have three actual ones), and was one of my purposes in life.

Your life purpose is what drives your desire to have dreams, but getting there is the intimidating and often difficult part. Goals at the stepping stones, every inch of pavement poured to create the road you travel from purpose to dreams. Day by day, little goal by little goal, you get there.

I finished my first draft of my first novel ten months after seriously sitting down to write it. I published it seven months after that. Once I got going, I couldn’t stop. I now have published a second novel, completed two more, and am nearing completion on my fifth.

Besides all this? I have joined a writers group at my local library, which you can read more about here. I have made invaluable friendships with several of these wonderful people who are like-minded. They are writers. They understand my raison-d’etre. I get them.

I have days when I question my ability to write, but they are fleeting. Our days are numbered in a fleeting life, so why do anything other than go for your dreams? If I hadn’t overcome my fears, I would have never gotten where I am today. I wouldn’t have shared my stories. I wouldn’t be spending time doing what I love daily.  I wouldn’t have met so many lovely friends.

Speaking of friends, a long-time and dear friend of mine has written extensively on the topics of life purpose, goals, and dreams on her blog. I highly recommend you check her blog out if you would like to seriously pursue these topics further.

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It’s funny that I had this blog idea for months and how its placement at the beginning of February coincided with my friend’s recent blog posts about the same topics. Fortuitous? Meant to be? I would like to think so.

Keeping dreaming, my friends, but if you’re serious about making your dreams a reality, you have to do the work. Pave your road with goals, not good intentions. Build your life with action, not ideas.

As any good writer knows, a story is driven by action. Ideas are good and all, but a good idea doesn’t necessarily make for a good story. You have one life. Make it a good story, even a great one.

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My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

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No Regrets in Life

You’ve heard it said before: have no regrets.

You’ve probably also found yourself alone with your maddening thoughts, maddening both as in crazy and provoking anger. Your lovely mind has this magical ability to conjure out of nowhere every past fault, failure, and fracture. But such thoughts do have a hiding place. They lurk in the deepest recesses of your mind. You know, those places you put memories you wish you could forget.

But you don’t. Or can’t. Or maybe the masochistic face of you doesn’t want to.

Misery loves company, after all.

I can remember getting ready for work when I was in my 20s. Ah, such was the decade where I was caught between responsible adult and kid. My husband was already at work. I had the house to myself and a tendency to not want to get up in mornings. I hated mornings. While mornings and I still aren’t buds, we can tolerate each other now, but I digress.

I was often tired and cranky while getting ready for work because I stayed up too late. I guess you could say I regretted staying up late come morning–ha! But seriously, because of my already compromised state of mind, I would find myself ruminating on certain people in my life, both past and present, who I felt had let me down. I’d grow increasingly mad, to the point sometimes that I wondered why I had wasted precious hours, days, and years of my life with some of these fine folks. I’d have regrets for even knowing them, for letting them get to me, and for letting they still live rent-free in my mind.

Although it wasn’t really rent-free. I wasted countless energy and time over past hurts, over regrets, over things that couldn’t be changed.

I could go further–regrets over things I didn’t do, should have said, or a path I took. Could have. Should have. Would have.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that I never go to those ugly places, those closets filled with boxes labeled “regret.”

If anything now, I regret having regrets–ha!

pablo (22)I’m not entirely sure how, or when, or even why, but somewhere along the road of my 30s, I came to understand a deeper truth: I can’t change the past or my circumstances, but I can change how I look at them.

I have no control over other people or what goes on in the world. The forces of nature are beyond me. The thoughts and actions of other individuals are the result of their free will.

At the end of the day or my life, the only thing I should have to regret, if anything, is my outlook on life. I have a choice every day to make: be bitter or be content. Contentment, I believe, goes beyond momentary happiness. Feelings are as fleeting as leaves blowing by on a windy day. To have inner peace, a resolve to keep going, to say I’m going to stand and not fall, that is true contentment.

Instead of looking at a failed relationship as a waste of your time and being angry at the other person and yourself, look at it as an opportunity to learn something. I believe everyone who comes in and out of your life can teach you something, even if it’s what not to do.

These are the words I etch on my heart and stamp on my brain. I hope they go deeper and imprint on my soul, that eternal part that is who I really am. I hope, at the end of the day and my life, that I have no regrets because of choosing to rise above.

There is no new wisdom in these words, but just a simple reminder I think we all need from time to time. Friend, if you’re filled with regrets, make a choice right now to let those ugly boxes of junk go. Fill your mental storage with memories boxes of love.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Nothing worthwhile is easy, I believe.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

 

 

Small Group Friendships

If the title of this blog reminds you of cliques from when you were in school, stop right there.  While I can feel that vibe, this is about the opposite.  This, my friends, is a blog not just about friendship but about small group friendships.

What do I mean by that?  My definition of small group friendship is based on a cluster of people who come together regularly because they have a common purpose, goal, or interest, and they continue to meet often over the course of several weeks, months, or years, getting to know each other more deeply than just by the initial thing that brought them together.  In time, these people become true friends, and while members of the group may get together one-on-one, the group as a whole gets along so well that they love spending time all together.  These groups can become accountability groups, groups that hold you up through hard times, groups that pray for or with you, groups that go out for a drink with you or a good time.  

I have a few of these groups, and I’m going to write about my experiences with them and how these groups of amazing individuals have enriched my life.  I hope you have at least one group like this in your life, and if you don’t, I encourage you to find or create one.

The first of such groups I am a part of is a group of women from church who have been meeting regularly since early 2011.  We get together most Mondays (with summers off) in a room at church and do different faith-based book or video studies together.  The discussion these studies generate often leads to pondering some deep life questions, to pulling at a few heartstrings, and to exploring our connection with God and each other.  These ladies have become like sisters to me.  While people have come and gone over the years, there is a core group.  We have hosted luncheons at our houses.  We have done outreach and small missions.  We have shared laughter and tears.  It’s the place that feels like coming home, you know?  It’s definitely a heart group more than a mind group, and that’s what we love about it.  We can be authentic, vulnerable, and open without feeling judged. Sometimes these ladies are like therapists to me! When we haven’t met in a while, I feel that gaping hole in my life. Going to this group feeds my soul.pablo (9)

The next group that comes to mind is also connected to church, although the dynamic has changed over the years. Back in 2008, a few other young married couples joined our church. (We are not so young now–haha!) Only one of the couples had a kid. Since then, we have all had kids. (The kids now outnumber us!) We began meeting for adult Sunday school, having formed a group for people our age. At the time, there was a need for a group like that. Circumstances have made it next to impossible to meet for Sunday school any longer, but we still do things socially about every other month. It’s often the case that the guys do their own thing and the girls theirs. As couples, we try to do something annually, but getting sitters is a challenge. The girls always go out for our birthdays, even if it’s just for ice cream. (And who needs an excuse to eat ice cream?) As moms of young kids, we often talk about our woes, worries, and joys of motherhood. We get it. I am grateful to have this group of other moms who are at the same life stage as me, and that despite the craziness of our lives, we have stayed friends.

While there are other groups in my life that are important (MOPs–Mothers of Preschoolers, a Thursday morning Bible study, a special needs parents group, etc.), I won’t go into all of them.  Some groups are still fairly new to me, so I don’t feel I’ve developed a deep connection with them yet, even though those groups serve their purposes and are wonderful in their own ways.  Some groups don’t meet often enough for me to really feel a huge connection.  Other groups have come and gone (another moms group I was in at church for years, a short-term special needs Bible study, a Saturday evening church group, etc.).  While I am a stay-at-home mom, I am still quite busy with running the house, cleaning, cooking, shopping, taking care of three kids, managing expenses, and more.  I am not just a weekly blogger, but I am an author and a writer.

Which brings me to the final group I would like to mention: my writers group.  Of my groups, this is the newest.  I’ve been attending a writers group at the local library for just a little over a year.  We meet every other Saturday afternoon for a few hours.  We read and critique each other’s stuff, chapter by chapter.  This might not sound like a lot of fun to some of you, especially if you don’t enjoy reading.  But writers are also readers.  We are like-minded people, and I have developed friendships with most of the people from the group.  Like my other groups, people have come and gone, but there is definitely a core.  The ladies from the group have recently started meeting for lunch.  I’m getting to know one of the girls who’s my age on a one-on-one basis as well.  This group is awesome, and as a writer, this group is immensely important to me.  These people who “get it” in terms of writing have helped me become a better writer.  It’s thanks to them that my whole second book was edited and able to be recently published in the fixed up format it’s in.  More than their writing and editing abilities, however, is the value of their friendship.  I love this group and wrote about the benefits of joining a writers group here.

So, there you have it.  I’ve shared examples of my small group friendships with you and why they are vital to enriching my life.  Are you part of at least one small group?  If not, I encourage you to find one.  Churches can provide a great source of support groups.  Libraries often have book clubs and other groups.  There are national groups like MOPs for moms.  

If you don’t have the time, ask yourself why and try to make the time.  I believe we make time for what matters.  Maybe you aren’t comfortable walking into a group of strangers.  Get a few of your good friends together and form a group.  Make it about something you share in common and make it a point to meet regularly.  Hold each other accountable to that.  We all have busy schedules and can come up with a million excuses for why we haven’t gotten together with our friends.  At the end of your life, you won’t be regretting that you didn’t work enough, keep your house clean enough, or make enough money.  But you might regret not spending enough quality time with people.  People matter.  Small group friendships are just one way to keep that bond going.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday and a book review the second Friday.

My new novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My first novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful,  is available for $3.99 here.

 

Keeping the Perspective

It’s hard sometimes when in the midst of a problem to see past it.  Everything looks blurry.  The road ahead is unclear.

It’s easy to let emotions take control during these trying times, and next thing you know, you’re blowing up a balloon meant for a birthday party into a hot air balloon — yes, lots of hot air and a balloon not meant for flying, so it pops.

This is when you and I need to stop.  Just stop.  Seriously.

Take a deep breath.  Several if you must.  Close your eyes.  Count to ten.  Or one hundred.  Whatever it takes to calm down.

My latest frustration — well, one of them — has been educating myself on how to market better.  I am a writer, not a marketer.  I do not have a business degree in marketing.  I am no expert.  Neither am I foolish enough to think that the stuff I write is just going to sell itself.  Something like 1000 books are published every day.  That’s 30,000 books a month!  

It doesn’t take long to get up to my eyeballs in terms like “author platform,” “branding,” and “target audience.”  Say what?

Okay, so I’m a newbie at this marketing stuff.  I don’t know heads from tails, really.  I’ve been reading daily for two meager weeks about marketing, but I am learning.  I highly recommend Rachel Thompson’s book, BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month.  It’s somewhere to start.  I’ve learned to use Twitter more.  I’m creating simple, hopefully eye-catching graphics using Pablo at Buffer.com — free and easy to use.  I’m using Buffer.com to regularly post things daily across my social media platforms.

The posting has been going for about a month, and I have to be honest — it’s not generating the “likes” I was hoping for.  Then again, what did I honestly expect?  These things don’t just happen overnight.

So, this whole marketing thing has gotten to me.  It’s easy and tempting to want to whine about it and think that I’m just being ignored.  Oh, poor me.  Pity party city.

To which the grown up side of me says, “Grow a pair, Cynthia.”  Seriously.

This is where I need to stop.  Take a deep breath.  

Let’s talk about keeping the perspective.pablo (12)

I’ve only been writing original works of fiction for a little over two years.  In the sea of authors, that’s dipping a toe in the Pacific Ocean.  I have self-published one book to little success, but I have gotten a handful of reviews.  I have gotten people outside of my circle of family and friends to read it.  That’s a start.

Three years ago: I wasn’t writing anything original.  My first book idea was stuck at four chapters I’d written more than five years earlier.

Two years ago: I was just starting out on my journey as a writer of original stories.  I had no idea if I was even going to finish my first book, but for the first time in my life, I was committed to sitting down every day and writing, even if it was only for ten minutes.

One year ago: I had finished my first draft in ten months.  It had subsequently gone through four months of edits by friends.  I was querying agents, not really having any idea what I was doing.  I had just started (and I mean just) writing my second and third stories.

Now: I have finished books two and three in their first drafts.  Book two is nearly done going through edits.  Book three is about to enter the editing phase.  I am writing books four and five.  I have ideas for six and seven.  I am blogging regularly on a site that has a domain name.  I am active on social media.  I am beginning to market.

Whoa.

And that’s not even to mention all the amazing people I’ve met along the way!  If it hadn’t been for writing, I would have never met most of my online friends years and years ago.  Long before writing original stuff, I was hanging out in the realm of fan fiction.  I made lots of good friends and have years of fond memories because of it.  I have met many of these folks in person.  I have hugged them.  We’ve laughed and cried together.

More recently, I have met and become friends with several people from a writers group that meets regularly at my local library.  We have the commonality of being writers, but when we meet, we bare our hearts and souls at times.  After all, as writers, we often pour our deepest selves into our writing.

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It’s the people who are the greatest blessing from all of this.  And I’m writing, doing what I love.  Yes, even in the midst of learning how to market.

One step at a time.  

When you’re overwhelmed by whatever problem is trying to eat you, eat it instead by remembering how far you’ve already come.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  That only brings misery.  The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.  

You got this.  Keep going.  It’s worth it.

Like what you’ve read?  Thanks for reading my mini-blog!  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog at the end of every month and a book review blog the 15th of every month.

Please note: I’m posting this in place of my usual character profile on Friday.

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Seeking Contentment in Life

I am putting this up front as a disclaimer: I’m 36 years old and certainly don’t feel like “I’ve figured life out” yet. In fact, I think if we ever reach the point where we think we’ve figured “it” all out, that’s when we’re in trouble, for in that moment, we’ve stopped learning. We can always strive to do better; that whole journey versus the destination thing.
So, below are just a few thoughts I’ve come to the conclusion to over the years as to what leads to a content life, at least for me. I can only speak for myself, after all, and my journey. I just thought I’d share them with you.
(And trust me, I often don’t follow my own advice!)
1. Lower your expectations, both of yourself and of others.
Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted to in a day. We often have unrealistic expectations of what we can accomplish in a day, but perhaps underestimate just how much we do, in fact, accomplish in a lifetime. Accomplishment is not measured by the huge successes that draw in everyone’s attention. It’s often the little moments that add up to meaning much more.
The expectations you hold of yourself you will often hold on others, but this is ridiculous to do when you really stop and think about it. Not everyone is like you. Everyone has their own unique talents and gifts to bring to the world. Not expecting much from others can, in turn, lead to some really pleasant surprises when someone does do something you weren’t expecting!
2. Let go of bitterness, anger, worry, or any type of negativity.
It will eat you alive if you let it. That’s the key: You are letting it. You are choosing to allow negativity to live rent free in your head. Worrying about something doesn’t change it. Choosing to focus on everything that’s going wrong forces you to miss many things that are going right.
3. Don’t live your life trying to please others or trying to get them to like you.
Simple fact: Not everyone will like you, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t please everyone. You can choose to surround yourself with people who will lift you up, instead of tear you down. The sooner you realize that you cannot please everyone, the better. Getting angry and holding onto it because you feel someone has wronged you does not allow you to move on. Be yourself, and if someone really loves you, they will love you for who you are, not who you pretend to be. Fake people have fake relationships.contentment
4. Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is the source of so much unhappiness. There is nothing to be gained from this and only so much to lose. Ask yourself what you’re doing with what you already have, instead of trying to acquire more.
5. Pray.
Have a relationship with a Higher Power. You don’t have to be religious, but I do believe that faith battles fear.
6. Create your own family with who you choose to be friends with.
If you’re blessed with a wonderful family, consider that a bonus, but not everyone has this. Your close friends can be your family you weren’t born into, if nothing else. You don’t get to choose your family, but do can choose your friends. Make them good ones.
7. Have an open mind in regards to those who are different from you.
Much animosity between people comes from not truly understanding the other party. Try to learn why they believe differently, and even if you can’t agree, realize that there is never a need for hatred. Wish them well on their way and in life. Choose to live your life by your standards and try not to judge someone who may choose to live differently. We don’t all find meaning in the same things, and I believe God has the power to use what’s given to each person in a unique way for the greater good.
8. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Choose kindness whenever you can and keep your mouth shut. Criticize and nagging only tears down. You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life, and often those who shut others out the most are the ones who need a friend the most.
9. Forgive.
Do this for your benefit as much as for the other person.
10. Laugh and have a sense of humor.
Don’t take life too seriously, and never lose the child within you. Things don’t have to be perfect, but they can be wonderful.
11. Look at every opportunity as a chance to learn something.
Even the bad experiences can teach us something, even if it’s not to make the same mistake!
12. Love.
It speaks for itself. True love is unselfish, unconditional, and from God. Strive for that.

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Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only 99 cents on Amazon: https://read.amazon.com/kp/card?asin=B01KR99KQS&asin=B01KR99KQS&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_GvVXxbR1DHMCD

#contentment #happiness #seeking #life