I had an interesting conversation with my mother this week regarding gratitude and the phrase “I want”, which immediately led me to 11:11 and making wishes as a child. For as long as I can remember, every time I had the opportunity to make a wish (birthday, dandelion, penny in the fountain, 11:11, etc.), I wished for the same thing – a puppy. On July 4th weekend following my 16th birthday, that wish finally came true, but what I’ll never forget was what happened the next time a chance to make a wish came my way – I drew a blank. I had spent over a decade focused on and wishing for the same thing, and now that I finally had it, I had no idea what else to wish for (I’m sure I came up with something eventually, but don’t remember what it was anymore).
At some point in my mid-twenties, something else my mother said to me struck a cord, and I changed my wish once again, and have spent another decade, once again, wishing for the same thing. Her comment – “What God wants for you is so much greater than anything you could ever imagine for yourself.” – my amended wish – “Dear God, I wish for my life to turn out exactly as you intend; please give me the patience to wait, the clarity to see it when it presents itself, the courage to go for it, and the strength to endure the journey.”
One of my greatest sources of inspiration has always been Maya Angelou. Every time I hear her speak she makes me want to be a better writer, and a better person. I’m still working on both, and as she said in an interview with Oprah at the age of eighty-five “I’m in route.” There was something else that came out of her two-part Super Soul Sunday interview that really struck a cord as I continue to build the courage to pursue my dreams (one hour would have never been enough, and I’m sure they could have easily talked for three). When Oprah asked her why she had written her latest book, Maya Angelou simply stated – “because I can write.” No attitude, no ego, she was simply telling the truth – her truth.
I truly believe that we all have a special gift that was bestowed upon us at our moment of creation. Our first challenge in life is to discover what it is. For some of us, it seems we were born knowing, while others may struggle along for years before finding our true calling. The second challenge is to accept this calling, and with this, unfortunately, often comes the need to convince those around us as well that it’s “really what we want to do with our lives.” Those who do not believe, are still lost themselves, or just plain don’t want to see you succeed will discourage you if you allow them to.
This is where the third challenge comes in. Once you have identified your special gift, and convinced yourself (and the world) that it is really what you were put on earth to do, you actually have to find a way to get out there and do it. For a small handful, this may be simple, but for most, it takes a great deal of courage to step out onto your own path – where you call the shots, you make the decisions, and you succeed or fail (which is more often than not based on your own faith in yourself).
No matter what path you choose, or how long it takes, in the end, we all have a “because I can …” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with standing in your own light. In fact, that is exactly what you were born to do, so stand up straight, hold your head high (but not too high) and do what you were sent here to do, because you can. You, and only you, can. We all deserve, at some point in our lifetime to utter those words, both with pride and humility – simply as our truth – “because I can …”
Aside from our God given talents, I believe we all also have “special gifts.” Mine include:
1. Being able to walk into any store and pick out the most expensive item without looking at the price tags.
2. Making a mean cup of juice (see recipe below and ask my brother).
3. Finding great first novels from up and coming authors (which I one day aspire to be) and then having to wait years for their next book.
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is my latest discovery. While some critics are calling it The Help meets To Kill A Mockingbird (both fabulous books), it truly stands just fine all on it’s own. Being a mutt myself, I’m always intrigued by the way authors handle the subject of inter-racial relationships (friendships included) and this book does a wonderful job right up to the very last page. So go make yourself a cup of juice, find a comfy chair and enjoy.
The Perfect Cup of Juice
– Glass full of Ice
– Ocean Spray Cran Apple Juice
– Vintage Mandarin Orange Seltzer Water
Fill the glass 2/3 of the way with seltzer water. Top with Cran Apple juice and enjoy.
*If you substitute the above brands I cannot guarantee the outcome.
With Memorial Day just a few short weeks away, and since I haven’t posted a recommended reading list lately, now feels like a good time. Thanks to my Kindle and Bookbub.com, I have been reading throughout various genres and below you will find a mix from middle grade to chick lit. Happy reading.
The Pre-Nup by Beth Kendrick – great book for on the beach
Just One Day and Just One Year by Gayle Forman – a YA that will make you wish you were young and in love all over again
Peak by Roland Smith – a great middle grade book about growing up set against an amazing yet ominous backdrop
Letters To My Wife by Terry Dean – keep the tissues handy for this one
The Giver by Lois Lowry – please read it before the movie comes out in August
Wonder by RJ Palacio – a middle grade, but a must read for all ages
Not Quite Series by Catherine Bybee – chick-lit trilogy great for reading by the pool or on a cool summer night
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – an absolute must read!!
The Fault In Our Stars – beautifully written YA, read before the movie comes out in June
She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell – fiction set in New York high society in the 1920’s
Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson – a gripping YA dealing with eating disorders, but extremely well written and worth the read
After spending the day at Random House, meeting some great authors, getting books signed and even having a picture snapped with Panache Desai (thanks to my iphone and a helpful RH intern), I realized that I have three new skills to master if I’m planning on becoming a published, and eventually, a well-known author worthy of speaking engagments and book signings.
1. I need to perfect my signature.
On an average day, my signature can be quite nice, but when I really want it to look it’s best, I always end up butchering it.
2. I need to come up with a great “go to phrase” to include along with my signature.
When referring to babies, Jenny McCarthy wrote, “Here’s to shits and giggles”. Panache Desai took the opposite approach with, “Be love” etched into the front of his new book about finding your true soul signature. Either way, looks like I have my work cut out for me.
3. Perfect my “camera ready at a moment’s notice” smile.
As a photographer myself, I’m not often the one in front of the lens, but when I do end up there I usually come across looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Now I feel silly for making fun of the girls on America’s Next Top model all those years ago, whom Tyra told to “practice in the mirror”. Looks like I have a different type of facetime in my immediate future.
And here I thought writing a book worthy of publishing was going to be the hardest part.
For those of you still waiting for the poem inspired by Alicia Keys, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a little longer. In the meantime, here’s one inspired shortly thereafter by the one and only Maya Angelou. Every time I hear her speak she is always spot on, and it makes me want to be a better person, and in this case it made me want to write. To paraphrase, in an interview with Oprah, when asked about where she feels the most at peace, her answer was “within myself”. She went on to say that sometimes faith trembles, and in those moments she realizes that she is in danger and she is also dangerous. However, being able to recognize this allows her to regain her center and find peace once again. So, Miss Maya, this one’s for you.
When Faith Trembles
(Inspired by Maya Angelou)
And in that moment
My tongue becomes a dagger
Stabbing innocent victims
With my cold and heartless words
It is fear speaking, not me
But once said
Words cannot be unspoken
And the damage cannot be undone
And in that moment
My mind betrays me
Convincing me that something
My heart knows is wrong
Is ok, just this once
And as if I have no choice
I step off of His path
And into the darkness
Alone and unarmed
And in that moment
The chaos of this crazy world
Quickly sucks me in
Losing my center, my balance
I don’t know up from down
Right from left
The truth from all of the shiny lures of the world
And in that moment
If I don’t catch myself
I could very easily lose my way
If I don’t stop and take a deep breathe
I could very easily say something I will later regret
If I don’t reconnect with that place deep within
I could very easily derail years of focus and hard work
But because faith sometimes trembles
I do my best to remember in those moments
That it is only my faith that ever trembles
While His faith in me remains unwavering for all eternity
I was feeling kind of bummed these past few days having not written a poem since the start of the New Year. After my holiday binge (I wrote four poems on Christmas Day alone – it was an emotional one for me), I think I was in writer’s withdrawal. Then, as I was scrolling along on Twitter, I came across a Tavis Smiley post congratulating Alicia Keys on winning a Grammy (DVRed them and haven’t made it to the end yet) along with a link to his last interview with her.
As a fan, I am always intriuged by what she has to say, so I clicked on the link, and when I noticed it was 26 minutes long I got comfortable. At some point about mid-way through he asked her about her trip to Egypt, and she proceeded to share how inspiring it was for her. She spoke about visiting the pyramids and the temples, and then about the process of rebuilding herself, and that’s when the lightbulb went off. “temple, rebuild…” I quickly picked up a pencil and my poetry notebook (yes, I have separate notebooks for separate genres) and the words began to flow.
While I know it’s much faster for me to type, especially when I’m really in the groove, there’s something about feeling the pencil glide across the paper, about being able to cross a word or two out and just keep going, or even squeeze in an extra line between two that have already been written, which can’t be easily accomplished on a keyboard. For me writing means writing, not typing, at least not the first draft. I’ll let the poem sit for a few days before inputing it into a word doc and tightening it up, but the bottom line is, in order to write anything (using whatever tools you prefer), first you need some inspiration. And the wonderful thing about inspiration it that it’s everywhere, we just have to slow down and tune in enough to hear it. So, thanks Alicia for hitting the right key and reverberating through me last night. When I’m happy with the final draft, I’ll be sure to share it.
So I started off the year with my first published piece (check out phillycurrent if you want to read it), and now I am officially declaring 2014 as the year I step out of my comfort zone and take my writing to the next level. So, consider this your first, last, and only warning.
To my family and friends – near and far; my co-workers – past and present; the colleagues and acquaintances I have made over my years in the painting industry; the guy in the Porsche driving 12 mph down Lancaster avenue (are you kidding me!!); the giggly teenage girl who checked me out at the grocery store last week; the impatient guy who actually cut in line in front of me at Abercrombie & Fitch over the holidays; and anyone else who has ever crossed my path (or crossed me) – you’re all fair game!
While I will not use anyone’s real name (without permission), or tell obvious stories that the world could easily figure out, as a writer, you are all my muses. May you inspire me to write silly stories, insightful articles, heartfelt poems, great fiction, and most importantly, sought after words that will pay the bills (just kidding). Truthfully, if something I write strikes a cord in someone else and leads to something good, then my work is done. Now, let the games begin.
So here’s the funny thing about being a writer … you actually have to write. I know that may sound obvious at first, and then you’ll move on to stupid (duh), before finally settling on insane (isn’t the whole point of being a writer to write?), but for all of us out there that do consider ourselves writers, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The truth is, there are easily 1001 things that can keep you from writing (may not be a bad idea for a book) and procrastination is the writers ultimate arch nemesis. We’ve been friends forever, but the battle wages on everyday to conquer and claim the throne. In the end, there can only be one winner, so some days you win, and some days you surrender to come back a fight another day.
Doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, catching up on my DVR, needing sleep, or just plain not being “in the mood to write” – to name just a few of the roadblocks I run into on a daily basis. But because I AM a writer, I put my butt in the chair anyway and pick up a pencil and a yellow legal pad (for notes and first pages) or pull up a blank word doc and watch the cursor blinking back at me, daring me to start typing. And without fail, every time I have the discipline to sit myself down, something amazing always happens – the words begin to flow.
Please note, I did not say that a masterpiece was created (almost every first draft is crap), I did not say that I finished the quintessential American novel in one sitting, I did not say that I got past page ten, or even past the first four lines of a silly children’s book that came to me in rhyme (happens more than you know). What I will say though, is that when I finally sit myself in the chair, something always springs forth. And this is where the first and foremost rule of being a writer comes into play – just get it on the page.
Thankfully, more often than not, whatever does end up on the page can be the start of something great, the start of something you didn’t even realize your subconscious had been thinking about all day, or the start of something you didn’t even know you wanted to write about. But whatever it is, it’s a start, and as writers, sometimes that’s all we’re really searching for.
P.S. – This post was yet another form of procrastination (just kidding).
Worth The Wait Wait for me, My love.
I know the days are long, And the nights are cold, But wait for me. I know it would be easy, To wrap yourself in another’s embrace, To fill the void of a now empty space, But wait for me. I know it seems like the day Our paths will cross again, May never come to pass, But have faith, my love, And wait for me. For every day that does pass by, Brings me one day closer to you, And as the saying goes, “The best things come to those who wait”, So be patient, my love, And wait for me. I promise it will be worth it, To feel my hand in your hand, The only perfect fit. To see your smile reflected back in my eyes, Right where it belongs. And to feel the soft and gentle tenderness of my kiss, That no other lips will ever be able to replicate. So wait for me my love, It won’t be much longer now, Please wait for me.