Sunday, March 19, 2017

Finding Purpose

If you follow me on my personal Instagram or Twitter, or happen to view my posts via this blog, then you've seen a different kind of content lately.  You could say it's less racy and more grace-y? lol

In my last few blogs, I mentioned making this year different, getting back my motivation, cannon-balling into experiences, and tearing down walls and barriers to a happier path.  What I didn't realize in those previous weeks was the internal storm brewing.

In the month since my last post, it would be an understatement to say there have been a few changes.  Granted, by looking at me you wouldn't tell.  But I'm different.  I'm letting go of things and embracing others.  I'm lighting a candle in the darkness and the depression that has taken over so much of the last three years has backed off to a small shadow...and I know will be eradicated soon enough.

Why this change?  Could it be that getting up earlier each morning has helped me be more productive? Yeah, could be part of it.  Could it be talking to my counselor and working harder at letting things go? Sure, that would be it too.  Could it be that a higher power is working on me?  Yeah, that's more accurate.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying I am not trying to be preachy, nor do I think I'm all better because of a newfound love of God.  I'm human enough to know I will forever be flawed and stumbling in this world.

BUT - for some reason, my faith has come front and center.  I will say I have been blessed to never know a time without God.  With a grandfather for a preacher, a grandmother for a song leader, and growing up around church, God was ever present.  I know through the years on this blog I have said as much...or at least I think I have.

Three years ago when I started this last fight with depression, I began listening to contemporary christian music.  First just a little bit on the way to work, now it seems like any time I have the radio on that is what it is.  Those songs helped bring me peace in the storm, they gave me hope when I wanted to give up, they made my battered spirit believe in what was possible again.

About two years ago I started reading a book for women's bible study.  It was an 8 week course but took me 6 months.  But at least I finished.  Then I got another book to work on.  That one took closer to a year to get through (though again it was only a few week course).  My renewed walk with God wasn't a cannonball, but a gradual one foot in front of the other, sometimes even a slow crawl.

Fast-foward to about 6 weeks ago.  I took the leap then to go to church.  Up until that moment I hadn't been to a church service in over 12 years.  Not that I didn't commune with God.  If I needed to hear a sermon or have encouragement, I had a whole playlist of preachers available on YouTube or on various podcasts.  But something just felt like it was time.

So for 6 weeks I have gone and sat in the back row, usually no one talks to me and that is ok.  Last week I gained the courage to introduce myself to the pastor, today I reached out to someone I overheard having a hard time.  Each week I highlight the verses and write down in my notebook.  I take as much from the sermons as I can and then try to carry it with me the rest of the week.

I have known for a very long time that helping others was a path I needed to be on.  To stop focusing on the struggles I have been through and turn toward helping others make their way through those same times, to turn the bad experiences into good in helping others - especially women, moms, etc.

BIG NEWS ANNOUNCEMENT - I've only said this to my immediate family, but I guess I will share this here with you too....just over a week ago I applied to seminary school.  My course of study is women's ministry and I hope that if I am accepted, I can use that certification to go into churches or groups and help others by telling my story...or not so much MY story and more God's story and how his unconditional love has gotten me through everything - through 2 divorces, the loss of a child, abuse, self-loathing, relationships that should have never taken place at all.  Every twist and turn he was there, just waiting for me to really see him.

I've been struggling so much with wanting to do everything and be everything, but when that purpose (of helping others) became clear, I realized how much I could let down.  One of my big struggles has been my writing and the conflict of writing about sex....but when I really look at my stories, it isn't about the sex as much as it is about these women who are finding themselves and becoming secure in who they are and then finding a partner.  Maybe it's having my cake and wanting to eat it too...I'm still working through that.

So what does all this mean for my writing??  I don't know.  I know I have books to finish and I will be getting them out.  They may not be as graphic, but I don't think a lot of my readers will mind.  Romance novels aren't all about the sex...they are about the budding relationship between two people...but a steamy kiss doesn't hurt .lol

Whether I get accepted to seminary or not, I know that I will be pursuing my passion of writing and blending my faith into it.  I already decided to write a book about my experiences and how faith has helped me through....what I didn't realize until last week is I actually started to write the book over ten years ago.  I found 40+ handwritten pages in a notebook last weekend.  Just another sign that I am on the right track. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert would call this eerie coincidence no coincidence at all but BIG MAGIC!

I also want to become a speaker to share our (mine and God's) story.  I already have several programs I am looking at to help fine-tune my writing and speaking skills....to help me get my thoughts across in the best way to help people.  Even if my schedule is about to get busy with other things, I am at peace about it. I feel like by making this decision to live my faith, I have found a peace and confidence I forgot I had.

My hope is that some of my readers will embrace this other part of me.  In a few months there will be a new website for those endeavors where I will post my speaking events, information on any books I write about faith, and miscellaneous encouragement for women.  I will also still maintain this blog for my romance writing.  As many books as I have that I want to write (20 and counting) I know it may be a longer process to get them out with so much going on in other areas, but romance is still a passion of mine that I intend to pursue.

I guess the point of this blog is to let you know what is going on, where my head and heart are heading, and putting down the stress I give myself with trying to be so many things I'm not.  What has not changed, nor will ever change, is that I am a writer.  God gave me this gift and I intend to use it.  Whether through romance novels (though now more PG rated Ala Hallmark Movies) or through books that help other women know they are not alone in the trials they face, I will use the gift I have been given to my best abilities and be who I was created to be.

This year of the cannonball seems to be quite the ride and if things have changed and become this clear now, I am excited to see how the rest of the year unfolds.

In closing I say this - follow your heart, follow your passion.  Above all, follow the one who will never fail you. #godisonthemove

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tear it Down to Built it Up

It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best way to make progress is to dismantle what you have and try to reassemble the pieces to create something different.  By this point in my life, with all the false starts and do-overs I've had, I am a pro at this.  At least I'd like to think so.

The other day, while working on my current WIP, I came to the realization that I'm not very motivated to write their story at the moment because it feels flat.  Don't get me wrong, I love the story I have in store for them, but the sequence of events right now seem kind of blah.

This WIP is the second book in my Small Town Series, following Myra's best friend Lily, as she attempts to move past the friend-zone with Ty, one of Dane's best friends.  I love that though Lily is a mom to twin boys, she is still very much a girlie girl.  Even though she is a widow and raising the boys on her own, she is determined and not afraid to tackle what life brings, though she is soft she's never been a wilting flower.  I also love that though Ty had a rough start in life, it hasn't hardened his heart. I also love his loyalty, for better or worse, to his best friend (Lily's deceased husband).  I love the curve ball I throw in there, I love to rambunctiousness of the boys, I love watching the relationships all evolve to something deeper.

What don't I love - that I just feel meh about it right now.

Really it isn't the story's fault.  When I initially shelved this one, I began working on another book that was sexy and steamy and featured a hot mess trying to salvage her dignity when she has to move back home to a small town after shocking events lead her to flee Chicago.

To go from a 20 on the sex scale to a 6 has left a lot to be desired.  Realistically, relationships aren't always at 20, some never reach the 6, but it doesn't mean they aren't still great relationships.  Ty and Lily's relationship is one of trust, loyalty, and feeling truly loved.  Ty would move Heaven and Earth for Lily and the boys, he would never do anything to make her feel disrespected or degraded....he is good and wholesome and everything she thinks a man should be.  To her, his soft kisses are fire, to her his gentleness is intoxicating.

I guess in the end that is what matters, that the characters feel the connection and my job as the writer is to make sure the reader feels it too.  It's the challenge with writing romance.... people have different definitions of what it means.  Some think steam and sex, others think roses and candlelight, while others still think stability and friendship.

So the minute this blog finally posts, I will go back to the drawing board, read what I have so far, and try to see if I can reassemble it into something that feels natural and real. I owe it to Ty and Lily, I owe it to my readers who have been waiting for another book from me for over 3 years, and I owe it to myself as the creator!

I guess it is such a challenge for me to write because in reality I have struggled to find someone like Ty ... but those are my issues.

When you get to read the other WIP, with the hot mess of a woman, you will really be able to see into the kind of men I've given time too....I always warned them they would be in a romance novel, I guess I should have pointed out that it wouldn't necessarily be as the leading man, but as the bumps along the way.

I guess the point of this is to say that if you are in the middle of something and it just isn't working, you just don't feel it anymore, it's never to late to stop and take a different approach.  I've found in my life that it is in these moments that life has a way of pointing me in a better direction.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Year of the Cannonball

Back at the beginning of 2017, I posted about wanting to reset the year and talked briefly on some goals I've set for myself. Well we are a few weeks deeper into the year and I realize I need to really go deep...dive right into the deep end without overthinking or analyzing the death out of my choices...I need to hold my breath, cannonball right in, get my baring, and come to the surface....just to climb out and do it again and again.

I know, you were totally wondering what that whole blog title was about....cannonball? Say wha...?

But think about it - if life is about choices, it's even more so about living with the consequences.  Sometimes it's fun and carefree, like cannon-balling into a warm pool. Like Mary Catherine Gallagher just jumping right in because she's a born superstar?!!!

Then there are the other times it's a total nightmare f*&^fest of exploding mortars everywhere....I'm only talking metaphorically, though there are so many places in the world where that is the ever present reality.

I've lived too many years with those proverbial grenades, lost so much sleep, cried so many tears waiting for the heartbreak to end or appear because I just knew it would eventually. It's the waiting for the other shoe, to not only drop, but to be chucked at my head with laser-like accuracy at lighting-fast speed. If it comes to fight or flight, well I've been too stupid to run.  I've stressed myself, allowed my emotions and mental health to be battered and bruised, I've even so far all but stood right in front of a cannon while the fuse was being lit - determined to stop it, determined this time would be different.

For the love of cheese and lattes!  Those last few paragraphs were bleak ... but true interpretations to how I've seen life sometimes.  With more darkness then light, thought I was doing everything to be a light.  I see where I am today, see the woman in the mirror, and the damage is clear....the excess weight, the slouching shoulders of defeat....I am not who I thought I would be at this point.

So let me lob another cannon ball right through that and break this funk out of here.  Year of the Cannonball? Yes...year of the cannon ball indeed.  Because I'm not delusional enough to think I will totally succeed and transform into this mega awesome Super Amy in the next 365 days.  I know I will try and fail sometimes.  And sometimes it will feel like I'm failing all of the time...but really, as long as I am trying - is it really failing?

So what started this talk?  Shonda Rhimes and her Year of Yes.  It's all your fault Shonda!  For being honest and open and facing your fears and putting yourself out there to become even more than you could imagine....how dare you?!?!?!?! (in the off chance she reads this I totally kid....you are only guilty of writing a fabulously blatant book that I used to set a fire under my ass).

Click the link to get the book, get the audiobook, get the journal....get it all and listen, listen, listen to it over and over and over.  For realz, my copy of the Year of Yes Journal was just ordered and I can not wait to get it and turn the pages and write the possibilities into it and put them into action.  If you should surround yourself with good people, than I want Shonda to be my person (and yes I totally stole that from her Cristina!).

Therefore, I give to you my attempt at a year of yes in the form of the Year of the Cannonball.  And believe me, I am jumping right in. The journal should be here February 1st, just a week shy of my 39th birthday....that seems as good as a time than any to roll up my sleeves and really get to work on bringing out that Amy that I know is in there...the fearless, feisty, go-getter I was before divorce and debt and drama all brought me down....damn those Ds!!!

There are so many things I want to tackle this year in addition to what comes up, but I know if I try to do them all at once I will fail, give up, and stare longingly at a journal full of Yes until my mind decides to stop taking NO for an answer.

First things first....me and social media are going to be scaling back our quality time.  Just to think of the hours I waste scrolling, liking, sharing things (not all bad), when I could be writing, walking outside, spending time in actual conversation, or writing a real letter.....it's time to strip it down.  So as of Wednesday, I'm limiting my times on all platforms....don't worry - Sunday is still my day to write here (sorry I'm a day late).

I think two hours each Sunday to blog/social media blast for promotional purposes is sufficient.  And I'm giving myself 30 minutes a day.  I have it on my calendar and everything. Lunchtime is very limited, so it will be a perfect reason to not get engrossed in everything.  I'll say my happy birthdays, congrats on babies and such, give support where I can, but otherwise I won't be trolling.

One step at a time....or one cannon ball at a time.  I hope my friends and family understand if I seem distant, it isn't you, it's totally me...stuck in my head, trying to get out, trying to get back to who and what I want to be....because if you were honest with me, you know I'm right.  Not that I want to be right that I am fat and have become lazy or aloft....but in order to get to the truth you gotta say it plainly...so there ya have it.

I know cutting down on social media doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me it is.  As someone always fearful of disappointing others - it's actually a SUPER big deal.  "What if they realize I didn't like their post? Will they think I'm mad at them?" "If I don't share that video, will they think I'm being mean?" "If I don't join their book club/weight loss challenge/online mom group, will they think that I think I am too good for them???"

To release myself from those pressures (even if only in my head) frees up a lot of space for me....that's space I can fill with dialog and romance and scenes....for books of course, though I'll probably make time for the real thing too....it's all part of the yes...that cannon ball into the sky to see where it lands, how it lands, how good it feels when it hits.

Stay tuned!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wrestling with Motivation

For any parents out there - have you ever had your child be the one to teach you a lesson?  It's humbling. 

For me, the lesson is to not just say it, but to do it.  Let me explain....

I have talked about it several times, but for those who don't know, my son - Jake - is a wrestler.  He's 125lbs and a sophomore.  He started wrestling in 6th grade through the club wrestling program our school offers.  His first season he lost every match, most of which were pins.  His second year he won a few, but not until almost the end of the season.  His third year was better still.  Then he moved to his dad's house and by time he moved back he'd missed two seasons.  

So here he is this year, after a two year absence, and is stronger than ever.  He wins more than he loses and even from those losses, it goes more to points than pins.  He eats, sleeps, breathes, thinks - wrestling.  

He is so focused and motivated that I am in awe of him.  He has this passion and follows it without weaver.  He knows he was meant to be a wrestler.  And once his wrestling career comes to an end (whenever that may be), he will continue as a coach to motivate and inspire others.  He wants to be the best, he wants to be HIS best.  If he could win by heart alone he would be a gold medalist.

Now to the lesson....Jake asked me if I was really a writer, to which I said of course.  He returned with 'Are you sure? You don't write, you don't work at it every day, you don't do book shows anymore.  So are you really a writer?"

Reality face-palmed me then when he put it another way.  "Just because I say I'm a wrestler doesn't mean anything unless I get out there, learn the moves, build my strength, and get on the mat and put in the work.  Otherwise I'm a kid who likes to goof around, but that's not me.  I'm a wrestler."

By that point I was a little miffed to be called out by my teenager.  But he was so right.  And he loved telling me so.  "If you are a writer than get in that office and write.  Don't be on Facebook or Instagram. Don't be on YouTube or Pinterest. Write. Write. Write."

Jake loves sending me motivational videos.  Most are geared toward wrestlers, but really they can apply to anything.  Heck, after I hear them even I want to put on a singlet and get out there and sweat and work my butt off!  But they also make me want to hunker down, to dig deep and make writing a priority.

He doesn't focus on the losses in the past or taking two years off, he focuses on today and what practices he has, what amount of running he's gonna do, how many matches he has to train for.  It's awe-inspiring on so many levels.

So not just because he told me so, but because I owe it to myself, I write.  On Saturdays when I'm sitting in the stands for eight hours watching him do his thing, I am also reading through the printout of my newest WIP, seeing where I can fill in gaps, give more description, or set the scene even more.  I'm looking at how I can bring the best out of my writing.

At night, when I get home from work and after dinner is done, I take time, even just ten minutes, to put more words on the page.  Books are written one word at a time and sometimes it feels like it will be forever, but each day I work and progress....each day I reclaim the title of 'writer'.  
Leave it to our kids to show us what life is about....it's going after the things in life that give us joy - with no fear, no excuses, just passion and drive and a desire to want to give your best to the world.  




For any of you who have never seen a wrestling match (because before he got into it I thought WWE was real wrestling), check out my author's page on Facebook to see Jake's first match Saturday.  He went into OT!  I think actually this was his best so far.  On top of this, to know that just the night before he'd been told his father's parents are both in bad health (his Papa has a heart condition and needs a pacemaker and his Memaw's cancer has returned for a third time - they are giving her weeks life), to think that was on his heart and yet he still set it aside to go out there and give it his all just leaves me breathless.  By time they match was over I was shaking with pride and had goosebumps!!  (Jake is in the grey singlet).


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Find the Reset



I looked at the calendar today and realized we are already eight days into 2017.  What makes me so super sad about that is that these last eight days feel like just any other day of 2016, and that isn't how the new year is ever supposed to feel!  I'm making day 8 into day 0.  Time to reset....

I could blame this feeling on not setting any resolutions, on not promising to loss weight or bitch less.  I could blame it on missing the actual ball drop because we were too busy talking and the clocks were a minute or two off so by time we turned on the television they were already kissing!  Isn't that how it goes though...always feeling like you are a minute or two too late?

In the last week of December, I thought I was prepping at an all time stellar level.  I had my 2017 goals in place, I had my major expenses figured out, I had a plan to get back on track with the healthier lifestyle.  I was ready to make 2017 my bitch...

...And then the clock struck midnight without me knowing and life continued on the same path it always has.  In that moment, I realized I'd missed the magic of New Years, the unexplained feeling you get when you know you are able to start fresh again...though you really aren't doing that, you just tell yourself that.

I'm over a week into the year and I don't feel as hopeful or optimistic as I have at this time in all the 38 years before....ok 37 years, save that one year where I slept through the New Year because I didn't want to face the divorce I knew 2010 would bring...though that year did turn out to be pretty amazing all things considered.

So today I am resetting the year, and if necessary I will do it again tomorrow or next week or next month, because we really shouldn't wait 365 days to allow ourselves to start fresh.  We should feel that same hopefulness and giddiness every night, when that clock strikes midnight....RESET.

In that thought, there is renewal...I mean really - day is just crap, dogs puked in your shoe, boss is a dick, world looks like it's sewer deep in the crapper...close your eyes, take a beat, and mentally reset.  Because what are the odds of the dog puke two days in a row....I mean my other two examples could totally happen over and over, but maybe approach how you see it different on the new day.

I really don't know what I am trying to say today.  I feel like I need to do-over, I need to get rid and ignore the last 7 days I've wasted on not hitting my goals or doing the things I said I would to improve my life.

One month from today I turn 39 years old.  I will officially be in the last year of my 30s, and thus far I am not troubled by the thought of getting older.  Truth be told, the 30s were a major time of learning and failing and learning some more...I was much more aware and not as oblivious as I was in my 20s....hopefully the 40s are where I just embrace it all.

To squeeze as much life out of these next 13 months, I set 39 goals for the year...It was a happy coincidence on the number, but I'm taking it as a sign.  Some of the goals pertain to going deeper with my faith, some focus on my work life, others make me be less introverted, while there are those that just sound fun. One big goal is to say YES to life, to those adventures I usually shy away from, those times I fear stepping out of my comfort zone.

If life is what you make of it, I want 2017 to be happy, loving, kind, and with space enough to be at peace with these first 39 years of life thus far.

This next week, I will start breaking down the major goals into smaller check points to keep myself on track.  Being more consistent with the blog is a goal, building my social media following on all platforms is as well.  But my major writing goals for 2017 include releasing 2 books....one in the next 90 days!

I hope all of you are off to a better 2017 start than I am.  Things progress as they should, it's accepting where we are before we can make the changes to get us to where we need to be.

Until next week...set a few goals for these next 7 days, comment them below if you'd like...then work those booties off to hit them! But always remember to leave room for all those other moments, the ordinary ones, where most of life happens.


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