After Formatting, After Editing, After Death

Tomorrow is the day.  The next book in the Cemetery Tours series, After Death, will be available!  To share a little secret with you, the Kindle eBook was available last night, but then I was told that there’d been a technical error with the file and I had to take it down.

Cue every author’s nightmare.

Any other day, if you asked me if there was anything I didn’t love about what I do, the answer would be no.  But there are moments, like last night and half of today, when the self-doubt and unforeseen glitches start getting the better of me.  This is a fun business and I love it so much and I love my books and characters, but the act of publishing itself can be very stressful.  There’s already pressure on authors to write books that people want to read, but formatting and making them look professional and seeing to it that there are no (or as few as possible) typos or uneven lines etc, etc…  It can be overwhelming.

I want to be an author.  I want to write stories for the rest of my life and I want readers to enjoy those stories.  I think that no matter what we pursue, there will always be a bit of stress, a bit of fear, especially if we really want everything to work out.  And hopefully, it’s worth the risk.  Risks have to be taken in life.  Otherwise, we’d never evolve.  I hope that I’m taking the right ones.  I like to think that I am.

That being said, I really hope that you all like After Death and that all of the issues have been taken care of.  I know no matter what that I’m going to keep writing.  I have to keep writing.  I truly believe than any author who puts their work out there, especially those of us who are independent, really don’t have a choice but to keep writing.  Let’s face it, I could be making a heck of a lot more money doing a heck of a lot less work.  But I love my books and I love my characters and most of all, I love my readers.  I hope this new book is everything you deserve and more.

On a totally unrelated note, here are some really pretty autumn pictures from my trip to the Arboretum last Friday.

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I also took pictures of my books.

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Jazzed About The Library

This last Saturday, I participated in my second Meet the Authors event at the Colony Library.  As always, it was a fun event.  The people at the library are all just so lovely, as are the authors who participate.  I came home with several new books I am itching to read.  Since After Death will be coming out in just a WEEK, I might actually have a little extra time to read soon!  Hooray!


I also participated in a new event this year called Jazzed About the Library, a dinner and fundraiser for the library.  It was quite the glamorous event with two live jazz bands, a photo booth, a wandering magician, and eight local authors (myself included).

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My favorite moment of the night, however, was near the very end when my new friend, Chase (author of the self-help book Have a Chase Day: IChase IDream), and I were packing up to leave.  We’d been talking to this one little girl and her brother all day.  She was a third grader, he was in Kindergarten.  This little girl is one of the brightest girls I’ve ever met.  She was happy talking to us for hours about animals, everything she learned in school, and our favorite Disney characters.  At the end of the night, Chase and I both told her that if she ever had any questions or if she’d ever thought about writing, to contact us.  It was then that her dad took her by the shoulders and said, “You see them?  You see how hard they’ve worked and what they’re doing with their lives?  That is what I want for you.”

That, my friends, is the best compliment I’ve ever received in my entire life.  I was so touched, I didn’t know what to say.  I know this little girl will go on to do whatever she sets her mind to.  She just has that spark.

As for me, my new goals for the year include reading and reviewing a stack of books (mostly published by fellow Indie Authors) that I’ve had sitting by my bed for forever.


I think that is a fairly attainable goal.

Happy Monday, y’all!

The Myth of Having It Together

I am twenty-seven years old.  By definition, I am a real life, fully grown, certified adult.  But if I’m being honest with you, most days, it doesn’t feel like it.  There are several reasons for this.  For one thing, I still really, really love Disney movies.  For another, I really have no idea how insurance works.  But I think the biggest obstacle standing between me and true adulthood is the ever-enduring myth of Having It Together.

I used to think I was the only person who felt this way.  But as it turns out, I think most adults out there, especially those of us in our twenties, are still trying to figure it all out.  I think there are a lot of misconceptions about adulthood, one being that adults never make mistakes.  They never get in over their heads.  They always have a solution.

This, my friends, is simply not true.

I feel like the older I get, the less I know for certain.  Maybe that’s part of growing up.  When you’re young, you think you know everything.  But as life progresses, you begin to realize just how ignorant you really are.  It’s frustrating, let me tell you.

I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but I was a really good student in high school and in college.  Reading, studying, getting my assignments turned in on time, all that just came naturally to me.  I was top ten percent of my class, made the Dean’s List multiple times, and graduated with honors.  But that’s kind of where the “Yeah, I’ve got this life thing down” ends.  Life in school is so simple.  Life outside of school, real life, is scary and confusing and intimidating.  And I think it’s because of the belief that once you reach a certain age, you HAVE to start living a certain way.

Well, you know what?  I’m trying my best.  But I am far from perfect.  I am far from society’s idea of a “real” adult.

I’m tempted to say that the pressure put on kids and young adults to be successful and live up to certain societal standards and expectations is a huge part of why so many young people today suffer from anxiety disorders.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage kids to want to succeed.  We definitely should.  But it should be for the right reasons.  It shouldn’t be because we feel like it’s what life demands of us.

This week, I made the mistake of believing that I did have it all together.  And for a while, it really seemed that I did.  The new Cemetery Tours book is almost ready to go.  I have a lot of events to look forward to.  And the new Cemetery Tours and Between Worlds book covers that I designed arrived today and they look incredible if I do say so myself.


I have to admit, my ego was doing pretty okay.

Then life caught on and decided I needed to be kicked down a notch or two.

I was supposed to be spending this evening in Denton at the North Texas Giving Day Event representing the North Texas Book Festival.  It was only a volunteer gig, but still, I was really looking forward to it.

I was all set and ready to make the hour-long drive up to Downtown Denton.  I grabbed my camera, my purse, and a stack of business cards, and walked out the door.  Without my keys.

Y’all, I have never done that before.  I have never forgotten my keys.  Maybe it’s because I switched purses.  Maybe it’s because I had about a zillion things going through my head at once.  But for whatever reason, I was locked out of both my car and my house for well over an hour.  Thankfully, my dear friend Kat has a spare key to my house and bless her heart, she drove over to save me.  But oh my goodness.  I still cannot believe that happened.  I’m so sad that I missed the event.  And not even for something unavoidable like illness or car problems.  Nope.  I simply locked myself out.  Smart.

The point of all this is if you’re an adult and you’re thinking, “Man, why don’t have Have It Together yet?” rest assured, you are not alone.  There are a lot of us out there who are right there with you.  Or at least I am.

Being Independent

Last night, I got to see two of my good friends whom I haven’t seen in ages.  They also happen to be independent artists.  We had a good long talk and several laughs about the self-employed life.  I realized that all the weird things I experience in my day-to-day life aren’t exclusive to authors.  All independent artists go through ups and downs on their way to establishing a career.

That conversation got me thinking, “Hey… I could write a blog post about this.”  So without further ado, here are the ten best and worst things about being an independent author/artist.

The Ten Best Things About Being An Independent Author/Artist

  1. You work for yourself! You get to work from home or wherever you want! You are your own boss! You make your own schedule! This is pretty much the best gig ever.
  2. You keep all creative and legal rights to your work.  Forever.  Done.
  3. No deadlines!  Okay, well, you need to make your own deadlines and it is VERY important that you keep them.  But still!  I’d rather set my own deadline than abide by someone else’s!
  4. You’re able to give every project the love and attention that it deserves.  This isn’t about the money for you.  You’re not looking at your manuscript and thinking, “Will this make me a lot of money?” You’re looking at it and thinking, “This is worth it no matter what, because it’s a great story.”
  5. You get the opportunity to learn a LOT.  I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be essentially running a business for myself.  I certainly never thought I’d be publishing books.  But I’ve learned and grown so much in the past two years and you know what?  I’m really proud of myself.  It’s a great feeling.
  6. Have I mentioned the royalties that you will be getting for the rest of your life?  Unlike in the traditional world, you don’t just get paid once for one book.  One book can make you money every month of every year.
  7. You get to write what you love.  You don’t have to wait for an agent’s or publisher’s approval.  If you know that you want to write a book, and you know that you can write it well, go for it.
  8. The independent community is WONDERFUL.  I’ve met so many amazing and supportive people through my career as an independent author.  You want to know these people.  And not just fellow authors.  I’ve made so many amazing friends all around the world who are book reviewers and they’re just the best.  Again, you would not believe the overwhelming love and support.
  9. You learn that nothing is impossible, that you are capable of so much more than you think you are.  Those barriers and obstacles that you think exist?  All in your mind.  Nothing is insurmountable if you set your mind to it.  Believe me.  I’ve been there.
  10. You are making your dreams come true.  And that’s incredible.

Now that I’ve made the life of an independent author seem like the bee’s knees, here are…

The Ten Worst Things About Being An Independent Author/Artist

  1. You work for yourself.  I know, that was a good thing too, but hear me out.  You have to have a LOT of self-discipline to make this work.  That’s something I’ve really struggled with.  I get distracted so easily.  I’m a procrastinator.  I can be incredibly lazy.  I get addicted to Netflix.  I’m the world’s easiest-going boss, because let’s face it, I’m not going to fire myself.  I can do whatever I want.  And that’s a really dangerous mindset to have when you’re in business for yourself, especially when you’re just starting out.
  2. The age old, “Oh, you didn’t want to go with a real publisher?” To which my response is this.
  3. Self-marketing.  I hate it.  It’s the worst.  Do I think everyone should read my books?  Of course I do.  Do I like telling people to do so?  No.  I really don’t.
  4. You wouldn’t believe how many people will come up to you and say, “I have this great idea for a book.  You should write it!”  That might not be an indie thing though.  That might just be a writer in general thing.
  5. Because you’re self-employed, you will meet people who think that you’re free all the time because “you don’t actually work.”  This is a hard one because yes, technically, you can take time off whenever you want, but you’re going to have to make the lost time up later.  Just because you work for yourself and work from home it doesn’t mean you’re not working.  In fact, you can be working all the time and you still probably wouldn’t get everything done that you wanted to.  Working for yourself is crazy hard because it’s just you.
  6. People will ask if they can buy your book at Barnes and Noble, to which the answer is, “No, but you can buy it on”  Hopefully, sometime in the near future, Barnes and Noble will stock independent books.  In fact, I think if you go through Lightning Source, they will.  But most indies are not in bookstores.  And that’s a bummer.
  7. Money.  I know I said that you’re not doing this for money, but the truth is going into business for yourself is an investment.  You need money.  I worked for two years in a dental office all the while trying to write and get my little company up and going.  And money will be tight.  For a LONG time.  I’m about to publish my fourth book and money is still tight.  But I’m hanging in there.  I’m saving and I’m investing.  Hopefully, in the long run, it will be worth it.  I think it will be.
  8. Self-Marketing gets another mention because I just really hate it.
  9. You know, I actually can’t think of anything else.
  10. Being an independent author/artist is awesome.

What do y’all think?  Did I leave anything out?

PS – Go read my books. Self-Marketing.  Blegh.

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Living in Dreams

On Saturday night, my sister and I attended one of the best concerts we will ever see.  Ed Sheeran came to Texas and we had floor tickets.  I’ve never had floor tickets before in my life, so I had no idea what to expect.

After spending more than seven hours on my feet in the stifling early September heat, I can tell you that I have mixed feelings on the whole floor crowd thing.

For one thing, like I said, it’s super hot.  Plus all the sweaty people literally surrounding you, running into you, and smelling like farm animals makes it like a million times worse.  I’m not sure if people in Texas smell like farm animals because… well… it’s TEXAS, but I swear, I smelled sheep and dogs and horses at that concert.  And pot.  There was definitely pot.

For another thing, people on the floor like to shove.  Everyone is vying for a better view.  I mean, I was too.  It’s very constrictive and if you have any sort of social anxiety or anxiety in general, I don’t recommend floor tickets.  There was also a lot of fainting due to heat and so many people.

Speaking from a perspective standpoint, however, floor tickets are AMAZING.  It was like being a part of the show itself.

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For those of you who’ve been to concerts, you’ll know that headliners often have opening acts.  Ed’s opening acts were a British guy whose name I didn’t catch but was very talented and… Christina Perri!

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Christina is a delight.  She is a great musical talent with a phenomenal voice and beautiful songs.  In between songs, she told us about her life spent singing songs and dreaming of performing and making music.  She spoke of the nay-sayers and the self-doubt and moments of feeling like she simply had nothing to write, nothing to sing about.  And yet, she fought through.

“You are living in my dream right now!” she exclaimed before diving into her hit song, Human.

Naturally, she ended her set with my absolute favorite of her songs: A Thousand Years.  And of course, as she sang and we all sang along, I couldn’t help but think of Twilight.  I know, I know, Twilight is lame, but hear me out.  When the books first came out, my sister and I read them all.  And I’ve got to be honest, I thought they were fun.  I thought they were kind of magical.  They were a great escape.

But you know, what I love about Twilight isn’t really the story or the characters.  It’s that it’s brought a lot of readers all over the world a lot of joy.  It isn’t a story that really makes you think or a great literary masterpiece by any means.  But it is a story that millions of readers all over the world love, and it inspired a beautiful, amazing, wonderful song.  I realized there, living inside Christina Perri’s dream, that that song inspired my dreams as well.  I would love to write the kind of stories that make readers happy, that connect and resonate with them.  I’ll never be a literary genius and my books are really just for fun.  They’re not very deep or profound.  They’re just fun.  I want my books to bring that same kind of joy.

Ed gave a similar performance of his song, I See Fire.  This is a song that has made me cry at least half a dozen times.  If Twilight is just a fun little escape, Middle Earth is a world that truly holds a special place in my heart.  It all began in middle school.  My friends and I were in love with the places and characters of Middle Earth.  Seeing it brought to life once again through The Hobbit movies was, in a way, like returning home.  Hearing Ed Sheeran sing his hit song live, however, with images of Smaug the Dragon flying and breathing fire in the background was nothing short of pure magic.  Music is powerful.  Books and stories are powerful.  They exist to transform and inspire.  They are proof that magic does exist.  That the human soul is something truly exquisite.  We are capable of creating these worlds and this music and… I just don’t even have words to describe how wonderful I think that is.

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I love you all.  Thank you for books.  Thank you for music.  Thank you for reading.

Being an Adult

As my friends and I get older, I’ve begun to notice a recurring theme in all of our lives: Being an adult sucks.

When we’re kids, we spend so much time dreaming about what life will be like when we grow.  We imagine driving cars, getting married, having our dream jobs, going on new, grown-up adventures.  The thing is, while we were busy dreaming about this fantastic adult world, real adults didn’t bother to mention all the other less fun stuff that comes with age.  Like debt.  Taxes.  Caffeine addiction.  Relationship turmoil.  Responsibility.


The older we get, the more nostalgic we become for our carefree days of youth.  But I’ve been thinking.  It’s true, some of those not-so-great adult things are unfortunately unavoidable.  Most of us will have debt.  We all have to pay taxes.  But I think there’s a misconception about responsibility, and about becoming “real” adults.

For some reason, we all have this idea that once we reach a certain age, once we’re “grown ups,” we have to start living life and behaving a certain way.  We’re supposed to be mature and get real people jobs and get married and have kids.  And none of those are BAD things.  Not at all.  But for some reason, we’ve begun to view them as obligations rather than things that are actually really positive.

If you get a job that you hate just because you have to get a job, you’re not going to be happy.  If you marry someone just for the sake of getting married, you’re probably going to be even less happy than you are with the job.  That’s the problem in our world today.  To live, to get by, just means going through the motions.  When you take a job, make sure it’s something you can be passionate about.  Make it an environment you enjoy, where you thrive.  When you get married, make sure it’s to your best friend, to someone you genuinely want to spend the rest of your life with.  Not someone you’re settling for because you’re at that age when you’re supposed to get married.

Don’t live because you have to.  Live because you want to.

I’m older.  I’m a so-called “real” adult.  Legally, I’ve been an adult for almost ten years now.  But I’ve tried to hold on to the things that brought me joy as a child.  I’ve also found new joy in my adult years.

Here’s the deal.  Do at least one thing a day that makes you happy.  For example, today, I lit a fall-scented candle.  It makes my whole day 150% better.  Listen to your favorite song on repeat just because you can.  Don’t fall into the routine of simply going through the motions.  Enrich your life, even if it’s by simply lighting a candle or eating an extra piece of candy.  It’s okay.  You’re allowed to be happy.  After all, we spend most of our lives as adults.  We might as well make it worth while.


What’s Inside

Today, it has been exactly one year since beloved actor, comedian, and Genie Robin Williams took his own life.  I’m still not entirely over it.  I realized that I haven’t watched one of my favorite Disney movies, Aladdin, in over a year because I’ve been afraid it would make me sad.

In the past year, my friends and I have opened up a lot to each other about our struggles with anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc…  Our discussions have lead me to look back on the lowest point in my battle with mental illness and to realize and be thankful for how far I’ve come.  But the thing is even though I’m being treated and doing 100% better than I was back in the darker days, it still hasn’t entirely gone away.  Most days I’m fine.  But I definitely still have moments of anxiety, of doubt, of fear.

I read an interesting quote the other day.

“You cannot always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

This might be true for the lucky ones out there, but it isn’t true for those battling mental illness.  It definitely isn’t true for me.  There was a time in my life when I could control it.  I could control everything.  That’s the way I like it.  I’ll be the first to admit I have major control issues (not when it comes to other people, but when it comes to my own life?  Oh boy…).  But try as you might, you can’t control the little voices in the back of your head telling you you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, something terrible is going to happen, no one wants you around, you’re just getting in the way, you’re annoying everyone you love, on and on and on…

It’s horrible.  It’s impossible to feel good when you have this constant nagging.  The worst part is you know that it’s irrational.  It makes no sense that you should feel that way.  But that doesn’t make it go away.  If anything, it makes you feel worse.

I know it sounds like i’m not better.  I promise you, I am.  We all have days.  I’ve had a few over the summer.  I’ve become more susceptible to social anxiety, which is more annoying than anything, but it’s something I’m trying to work through and understand.  But I’m much better than I was back in 2012, when I was at my absolute lowest.  I didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten until recently, when I went back and read a few journal entries that i’d written before I went to get help.


The low self esteem is back, and this time, it’s not going away.

I’m trying.  I’m really trying to make it go away.  I’m trying to be positive.  I’m trying to engage in things I love.  I’m trying to tell myself that one day, I’ll be exactly what I want to be.  A writer.  A traveller.  Independent.  Confident.  A girl worthy of love.  

But I don’t feel any of that.  I feel immature and scared and crippled.  I feel even worse because I’m reminded constantly that I have no reason to feel all these things, that I’m a grown up, twenty four years old.  I see people all around me confident and happy and able to be happy for other people.  When I realize that I’m not like that, it makes me feel even worse.  

I want to be happy with who I am.  I want to feel proud of myself.  I want to be happy to be me.  I want to be the person I dream of being.  But I’m a time-waster.  I’m selfish.  I wallow in self pity when I have no reason to, and being reminded that I have no reason to makes me feel so much worse.  I try to deny all these things, because I know it will upset people around me if I act on them.  I don’t want to hurt anyone.    

I’m scared because I’ve never thought I would be one for depression.  I wish I could just run away, take some time for myself, stand on my own two legs.  Take some time from everyone I’ve ever known, everything I’ve ever been and I’m expected to be. I don’t feel free.  I constantly have this voice in my head.  “Loser! Worthless! Never amount to anything! No one should love you!”

I wish I had someone I could talk to, who understands what I’m feeling.  I need to grow up.  I need to let go of everything holding me back.  I need to go out and have fun.  I think that’s what really hit me in the face.  That I actually have to be forced to go out and have fun.  Something’s not right. When I struggle to get out of bed every morning, when the thought of living my day to day routine brings tears to my eyes, it’s time to do something about it.  

I want to finish my novel.  I want to feel worthy of love.  I want to feel like the happy, carefree girl I once was.  I want to enjoy life.  I want to be optimistic.  I want to like people again.  I want to feel that life is always worth living.  I want to be genuinely happy for my friends and not always thinking about all the bad stuff that could happen.  I want to stop looking at the world subjectively.  I want to stop thinking I know best.  I want to learn to love myself again.

Okay, so again, this is from three years ago.  I’m a very different person now.  I’m happy now.  I am all the things I wanted to be and more.  I barely recognize the girl who wrote all of that.  But I’m sharing it because I think it needs to be shared.  If I can help one person who is feeling the same way but is afraid to get help, then it’s worth it.

Like I said, I still have my days.  I’ve recently opened myself up to something that I think (or I hope at least) will be a very good thing.  I’m very, very happy.  I’m also terrified.  I’m scared to death that I’ll do something wrong.  That I won’t amount.  That I’m not worthy of this good thing.  One of the my biggest obstacles in my fight against mental illness has been learning to trust.  To put my faith and hope and love in other people.  I can be guarded.  I put up defenses because I’m scared to death of being vulnerable.  But I think I’m getting there.

Living with mental illness, be it anxiety, depression, OCD, what have you, is difficult.  I don’t think anyone who’s been there will tell you otherwise.  It’s draining to constantly be in battle with your own mind.  But you can overcome it.  It’s possible.  Believe me, it’s possible.  And it’s worth it.  Life is good.  Life is so good that sometimes, it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  That sounds hokey, I know.  But it’s the truth.  Promise me you’ll never forget it.

Rest in Peace, Robin.  Your legacy lives on.  We love you.

Life in Slow Motion: A Guest Post by Katherine Smith

This past Friday, July 17, was the eight-year anniversary of my sister’s spinal implant surgery.  In 2007, she underwent an operation to fix her very advanced, very aggressive case of scoliosis.  Although she’ll never admit it, I actually think she’s a better writer than I am.  That’s why I asked her if she wanted to write a guest post for my blog about her experience and everything she learned from it. 


People always say that life moves too fast. I remember when I first started high school, my mom stated that the years would fly and, before I knew it, I would be a senior. I remember going on trips, and having people tell me to soak it all in and to make each experience fit into a pocket in the back of my mind. I remember running around in my backyard, the Texas humidity making my hair cling to my face as I ran after fireflies with my palms open to the night sky. These are the fleeting, beautiful, moments in life that we try and run after, hands always reaching for the heavens.

I remember all of this, and yet the day that still sticks out most in my mind was a day in April of 2007.  This seemingly harmless day started a phase in my life that I was not ever warned about. No one took my hands and sat me down, looking dead into my eyes as truths of the world spilled out. There was no warning sign for this day, or a lecture or a phrase that could comfort and ease my heart.

This was the day when my life in slow motion began.

Life in slow motion is a difficult, and indefinable, thing for some people. It is a span of days, or weeks, or months, that seem to be headed in a direction that has no clear destination. It can be a time of waiting – of being stagnant and wanting something wonderful in life to happen. It can be a time of heartbreak – of healing and hope that can be found around a corner that you just haven’t gotten around.

Or, in my case, it can be a time of fear.

After going shopping with my family, my mom had noticed that there was a slight hunch to my back. I remember looking in the dressing room mirror at Macy’s, and realizing that one of my shoulders rose closer to my ear than the other, and how my hips didn’t sit right above my legs. I felt that fear creep into my chest, and for a brief moment I was plagued by a collection of thoughts and worries: What if I was injured? What if I looked like this the rest of my life? What if it got worse? What was wrong with me?

I had been checked for scoliosis before, but after a recommendation from my pediatrician to get x-rays, it became clear that this condition was not something I was going to put in the back of my mind. In fact, it made a home in all of my thoughts, and throughout my entire body. During gym class at school I found myself getting progressively more and more out of breath, and I found myself on more than one occasion with my head against the wall, trying to control the air going out of my lungs as my friends ran past me with ease. Standing for long periods of time became a nightmare, and when I would walk to band class with my French horn case, I felt the weight of my world shooting all up and down my back. This was no way of living; amongst all of the worries that ran through my head, this was the only fact.

On a day in April, I went to Scottish Rite Hospital for Children and was officially diagnosed with an aggressive case of scoliosis. The only “cure” for this condition was not exercises, or even a brace, but spinal implant surgery. My curvature, which was around 79 degrees, would only be getting worse as time went on and I grew. My doctor looked me in the eyes and told me that if I did not have this surgery, it could take up to twenty years off of my life.

Scoliosis is perhaps one of the most common conditions that people have, specifically in young girls who are developing and going through puberty. Some cases of scoliosis relate to other medical problems or birth conditions, while others (like mine) are idiopathic. In layman’s terms, that meant that the doctors had no idea why my body decided to grow like that – it just did. As a twelve-year-old girl, I found that diagnosis to be extremely frustrating; I already had the self image issues that many young people suffer from, but to have it confirmed by doctors on that day? The fact that my body was deforming “just because” was proof that the universe was conspiring against me.

The whole summer (during which my life was in that same slow motion) seemed to drag, and I found going to sleep each night became more and more difficult as the date of my surgery in July seventeenth inched closer and closer. I’ll never forget the night before my surgery, I had an anxiety attack so horribly in the shower that I gave myself a nosebleed. I had to be medicated that night because of my own fear.

I’ll leave out all of the details of my surgery (mostly because I’m afraid I might make some scientific inaccuracy), but it was, by the doctor’s standard, a success. I was in the hospital for around a week, and then I had around a month long recovery period at home. I needed help anywhere around my house if I wanted to sit down, lay down, or stand up, and walking was a task in itself. As a twelve year old girl longing for the independence that comes with almost being a teenager, having to rely on everyone humiliated me.


I wish I could say I learned to appreciate my surgery experience during my actual operation and recovery, but nope. There were nights I would be so frustrated because I couldn’t move, and the pain in my back was so strong it kept me awake. Sometimes I would be completely envious of all of my friends who were enjoying their summer, and were able to swim and ride their bike with ease. What made it even worse was my own anger with myself, and how I felt fearful still of the healing process. Even though my body was healing and regaining strength, I wanted it to speed up. I was afraid I would never feel like my “old self” again.

But who was my “old self”? I’ll tell you who she was. Someone who was ashamed of her body and who was constantly in pain. Someone who lived her days in fear, and who thought she would never be better, or beautiful, or healthy. Definitely someone who never thought she would undergo a surgery and come out victorious. But, in the end, I had to thank my “old self” for all that she had done for me. I can look back on all of my “old selves” that have been angry and fearful and ugly and beautiful and happy because they have taught me who to be the person that is typing this right now. I can look back and see a difference in myself, and to learn from that.

I am reminded of the words of the Serenity Prayer by scholar Reinhold Niebuhr, which is a prayer I hold near and dear to my heart:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. 

What does it mean to truly know the difference though? By looking back on my surgery, I think it’s in knowing that you have to be somewhere before you can get somewhere else. Whether you are in a slow motion life, or a fast moving life, you will always wind up a different person – full of wisdom, and a story. The scars and heartbreak and lessons that we carry and bear are the inspirations for another day, and we should accept these gifts as wonderful paradoxes:

It’s okay to have times when we are weak, because in the end we learn to be strong.

It’s okay to not have all the answers, because from the unknown comes questions, and imagination, and adventure.

It’s okay to be absolutely terrified, because then we learn how to believe in hope.

And I truly hope that I, and you, whoever is reading this, will continue to not only know the difference – but to be it.

My Voices

Last night, I had a chat with the rational voice that lives inside my head.  I think she was surprised.  You see, I don’t consult her very often, mostly because she’s usually wrong.  How weird is that?  The voice that’s supposed to think clearly and look at all the facts is the one that usually ends up getting me in trouble or leading me to believe in something that simply isn’t true.  I guess she’s optimistic that way.  That, or she’s just not very smart.  At least she tries.

As writers, we constantly live with different worlds inside or minds.  It would only make sense, then, that there are several sides of all of us that contribute to these worlds.  I guess my problem is that I’ve never known which of these sides of myself is my true side, or which one I should be giving the most attention.

First of all, we’ll start with the Writer.  She’s the one that drives me.  She’s the one that’s won out after twenty-seven years of competing with all my other selves.  She often knows what I want to say before I know it myself.  She also gives my characters words and actions that I didn’t know I had in me.  I kind of love it when characters come to life like that and act in ways that I hadn’t planned.  Unfortunately, the Writer in me also sees everyday life, not as real life, but as a story being acted out.  She gives every person their own plot, their own motives, their own inner dialogues.  When life doesn’t work out like a storybook, it confuses her.  More often than not, however, it comes as a relief.  A lot of stories have tragedies.  No part of me likes tragedies.

Then we have the Outdoorsman.  This is the part of me that loves being outside and hiking and kayaking and getting dirty.  She loves nature and wants nothing more than to live in a cabin by the lake and become one with the trees.  She doesn’t care for the hustle and bustle of city life and more often than not, she dreams of simply running away and being free.  She also might be kind of a hippie.

The Photographer and the Outdoorsman go hand in hand, but unlike the Outdoorsman, the Photographer likes all kinds of settings, city life included.  She dreams of visiting places like New York and Colorado and Alaska and London.  In fact, she’ll go just about anywhere as long as there’s something cool to photograph, and trust me, she can always find something.  She loves seeing things and she loves capturing moments.  She also loves taking those moments and making them entirely her own.

Then there’s the Beachcomber.  This side of me wants nothing more than to be by the ocean 24/7.  She loves everything about the ocean, from the reflection of sunlight on its surface to the countless creatures that call it home.  She would give just about anything to be by the water constantly.

Next, there’s the Genealogist.  Technically, I guess she’s not so much of a genealogist as she is a wannabe historian, but for whatever reason, she’s obsessed with my family history.  She’s in love, not only with Scotland, but the idea of all of her homelands.  She has a huge desire to explore those historic lands where my ancestors once lived.

Those voices or sides or pieces of self are all well and good, but there are other voices, like the Neurotic Overreacter, that I could do without.  See, she’s the one that tries to convince me that I need to be worried about everything all the time.  Thankfully, she’s not the most prominent voice in the bunch, but she’s still there, and every once in a while, she manages to push her way through the rest of the voices and remind me that she’s still there.  And boy, do I hate her.  I guess I still need her, because in a way, she does contribute to ideas for stories, but as far as my life goes, I would love it if she just stayed the hell away.  She’s a control freak, she’s very demanding, and she bums me out.  A lot.

That’s where my Rational voice comes in.  She’s supposed to keep the Neurotic Overreacter in check, but she doesn’t do a very good job.  She’s kind of timid and doesn’t have a lot of confidence in herself, whereas N.O. is convinced that she’s right ALL the time.  It’s like, impossible to argue with her because she is SO convinced that she’s right.  My Rational voice tries really hard, I think, but she’s more often lost over the shrill chatter of all the other voices.

There are several other voices that I haven’t touched on: the Good Girl, the Ravenclaw, the Rebel, etc…  But I think you get the point.  The road to self-awareness is a long one, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get there.  I think there will always be something new to learn about yourself and how you fit into the world around you.  Sometimes, your inclinations contradict themselves.  I’m just trying to get by and find my place, and to live in a way that leaves me few regrets.  It’s difficult, but I think I’m learning.


It’s Okay to Have Fun

It’s good to be ambitious.  It’s good to have dreams.  It’s good to be productive.  It’s good to work, work, work.  In this life, you have to strive.  You have to push yourself.  You have to work harder than anyone else and want it more than anyone else if you want to get ahead.  Our American society is very much a work and toil and sacrifice-driven society.

Kids today are being prepped for college as early as elementary school.  College students are bending over backwards and stressed to the breaking point in order to make the grade.  Adults wander around like zombies, with dead eyes and listless spirits because they work so hard that it’s consumed their very being. It’s kind of scary.

It’s been engrained in our heads that if we don’t make the big money and have super successful careers then we don’t amount to anything in this world.  And okay, yes, I’ll admit that it is good to have a career and make money.  i’m not saying it isn’t.  Jobs are good.  They keep our world in balance.  We need people with jobs of all kinds.  But I feel like it needs to be said every now and then that it’s also okay to have fun.  Work and ambitions don’t need to control your life.  In fact, I don’t think they should.

Last night, I hung out with one of my best friends.  We both had stuff to talk about.  Somewhat heavy, but nothing too bad.  After we finished talking, we kicked off our shoes, poured ourselves some wine, and played Mario Kart.  That is not something I would normally be doing on a work night.  That’s usually when I do most of my writing.  But you know what?  It was great.  I loved just hanging out with her, laughing, and playing some good, old-fashioned Nintendo.

John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”  I love the extraordinary moments in life, seeing a new place or publishing a new book.  But those precious ordinary moments of fun and laughter and just being with the people you love, those are the moments that really make a life.  Please, goof off.  Have fun.  Be silly.  Remember to enjoy.  Life is worth it.