The Voice That Made All The Difference. Thank You, Mom.

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None of us get through life unscathed. We all have things that caused pain or fear or rejection or shame. Sometimes I look back and I marvel at where I am. I feel incredibly lucky that the hurtful and the shameful and the painful didn’t define me. They are there, but they didn’t win. They were overshadowed and overcome and drowned out by one voice.

It was the voice of encouragement and love and wisdom.

It was always there, always available, always ready.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you for being the voice that made all the difference.

Thank you for being the constant listener. For never tiring of the endless chatter of a little girl full of questions and observations and random thoughts.

Thank you for not laughing or minimizing my fears or my dreams.

Thank you for bringing a little laughter and silliness to late night car rides to the grocery store on pay day. Our tummies rumbling in hunger momentarily forgotten by your outlandish stories and made up songs.

Thank you for fighting to survive when a lot of women would have given up. Divorced with two little girls, no job, no car. Thank you for reinventing yourself from, the timid small town girl too scared to drive, to the independent working woman respected by her peers.

Thank you for giving us a Christmas even when you couldn’t afford to buy gifts. For making a game of giving each other imaginary gifts, pictures cut out of magazines of the things we would give each other if…

Thank you for quietly not eating so you’d have enough food for us.

Thank you for putting up with my endless performances and jokes and precocious antics without ever showing annoyance.

Thank you for encouraging my dreams. For making me believe I could be an actress on Broadway one day. For never shooting down a little girl’s pipe dreams.

Thank you for always talking to me like I was a person. For always valuing my opinions and thoughts. Even when they may have been immature or misguided.

Thank you for making me feel like I had a voice. And that it mattered.

Thank you for giving me a beautiful sister and precious brother who became my best friends.

Thank you for walking with me through a painful back surgery and months of wearing an embarrassing brace and body cast. For being sensitive to my struggle but not letting me wallow in self pity.

Thank you for talking me through my first heartbreak. For not hesitating to come get me when I called you sobbing from the school pay phone. For taking me to lunch and letting me talk about it. For telling me that I deserved better. That I would take that heartbreak and I would be stronger. And that I would NEVER let anyone hurt me like that again.

Thank you for letting me sit in on the adult discussions about life and politics. For letting me chime in on occasion and insisting that others listen to what I had to say.

Thank you for making me feel special when I felt stupid or ugly or unlikeable.

Thank you for exposing me to art, to theatre, to Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire and Joel Gray and Debbie Reynolds. And to jazz. And for taking me to see Fame and Ghandi even though they were rated “R.” For watching A Chorus Line with me over and over because Broadway.

Thank you for marrying a great man who loved us and took care of us. And whose deep appreciation and knowledge of all things rock and roll gave me an education and a passion for a music that influences almost everything I say and do.

Thank you for teaching me about working hard and toughing it out and treating every job as if it were the most important job in the world.

Thank you for listening when I called you from my apartment in Atlanta. Not sure if I should walk out on a long term relationship that I’d thought was my future. For telling me that I would never settle. That I would find that amazing love that is written about in great novels.

Thank you for not laughing or questioning me when I called you after the first date to tell you that I’d met the man I was going to marry.

Thank you for taking care of my brother. For being his nurse and his mom and his friend. And for taking hit after hit during a brutal 18 months and standing with him as he stared Cancer in the face and said “I don’t have time for you. I’ve still got a lot of living to do.” For being steady when your legs were shaking in fear.

For not giving up on life when Cancer won. Even though you wanted to.

Thank you for showing up at my wedding ten days after the worst heartbreak any mother could face. For showing up and smiling and laughing and dancing. For allowing all of us to have a few moments from the grief… to do what he would have wanted us to do.

Thank you for still talking about him. For letting me talk about him. For making sure he is still a part of everything we do. For listening to me when I’m struggling and in pain and missing him so much I don’t think I can breathe. Even though you’re struggling more. For putting your pain on hold to be there for me.

Thank you for still walking through life 15 years later. When I know sometimes each step is just as painful as it was in those darkest days.

Thank you for always being a fighter. For showing me what strength is. For being an example of persevering and not giving up and for being real while doing it.

Thank you for helping me breathe in moments where I felt like I couldn’t.

Thank you for showing me how to be a mother and a friend. And how the two can come together to be a beautiful thing.

Thank you for being a mom and a grandmother who will stop whatever she’s doing to be there for any one of us.

Thank you for being that strong voice for you grandsons and granddaughters too.

Thank you for having a louder voice than any of the bad. For speaking to me over the negative. For giving me the confidence and the optimism that the negative tries so hard to steal.

Because of your voice I was able to grow. To love. To dream. To learn.

Thank you, Mom.

Mom and Todd. One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Mom and Todd. One of my favorite pictures of all time.

 

You Know You Want To…

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C’mon. You know you want to hop on over to the SisterWives and see what I’ve cooked up!

I love the inter webs. The new vocabulary, the memes, the judgement cast about in passive aggressive terms. It’s a wild world of anything goes and sometimes it makes for great blog fodder. And sometimes we have a little fun with it. Come read all about RDF and the issue confronting all men. Even if they never realized it.

Click on this link: Your “Resting Dick Face” Is A Problem and I’ll see you there!

Hey School, We Need To Talk

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Ahhhh, that new school smell. It’s the smell of fresh starts, new beginnings and a few precious hours a day without someone needing something from us.

Don’t get me wrong. I love summer and having my three kids home with me. But in some ways I feel like I’ve been on a three month bender and now I’ve sobered up. My house looks like Miley Cyrus and Lindsey Lohan invited John Belushi over to party. My head feels foggy and I feel a little disoriented. I’m ready to shake off the fog and get back to a routine, back to being productive.

Hahahahaha. That’s funny isn’t it? The idea that school starts and we have all this time to do… whatever it is we all need to/want to/have to do. We fool ourselves every summer into thinking that life will feel normal again once school starts.

It’s funny/not funny because we forget that school can be a demanding and manipulative time suck.

School’s going to start emailing you. And robo-calling you. And sending letters home with your kids. They will ask you for things. Request your presence. They will teach your kids how to lay a guilt trip on you that would make a Catholic school nun blush. They will be relentless. School’s going to start looking like that college boyfriend that needed a restraining order.

I think it’s time to have a little talk with school. I think we can resolve this peacefully. We just need to clear a few things up and come to some kind of understanding. There are a few things that can be tweaked to make all of our lives a little bit easier…

The School Supply Lists

The list. How can I say this nicely… the school supply list has become an uptight, entitled snob who suffers from O.C.D. Damn. I don’t think I did that right. OK. Let’s try this again. The list is an asshole.

It gets a little worse each year. From specific colors of folders to name brand pencils and erasers. Did you know that there are brand name erasers? Yeah, me neither. Hey school, if you’re that anal retentive about erasers, you may want to get some help for that. *gives elementary school the side eye*

The Fund Raisers

I get it. Budgets being cut and all. Schools need more funds. I’m totally down with that. I’ll write a check. But the fundraisers? Some of them really crawl under my skin.

Our school outsources fundraising to a corporation. Under the guise of “character development” and “health and fitness” this company sends teams of annoyingly perky “athletes” to your school to conduct pep rallies and “classes.” Part of the character education apparently involves pressuring kids with the lure of classroom ice cream parties and bribing them with cheap plastic toys. Meanwhile, the parents are supposed to let the kids hit up Grandma’s pension fund so that almost half of her donation can feed the pockets of this corporation. Nuh-uh. Not happening. When I tell my kids that no, we aren’t soliciting our loved ones, they look at me in horror. You would think I had just told them that Santa killed the Easter Bunny and ate his liver with a nice Chianti.

I’ll write a check. But it won’t be to the jackhole who tried to turn my kid into a multilevel marketer.

My Attendance Is Not Required

Why is it necessary to request my presence at least once a month for some “event.” I’m with my kids all the time. They don’t need me to come to school to cheerlead for them every time they do something not extraordinary. In fact, they’d be a lot better off if they didn’t see mommy popping up at school, waving and beaming from the crowd. They aren’t Beyonce and JayZ at the Grammy’s. They are kids. In school. It’s pretty ordinary. So let’s chill on the obligatory parent fan club, ok?

My mom never had to come up to school during the day. There was no “Helicopter Parenting.” We managed to eat lunch, even on our birthdays, without our parents showing up. We can celebrate birthdays at home and the kids can tell us about their day over the dinner table. I don’t have to actually see and witness every thing they do. There’s a reason we took a blunt nosed scissor to the umbilical chord.

The Neverending Requests

There’s so much stuff. There’s always little items to send in for events and parties and theme weeks. The calendar the teachers send home reads more like an errand list. What to wear, what to bring in. Is all this “stuff”really necessary for learning? I’m all for making a lesson fun. I just don’t think you need “stuff” in order to do that. And let’s chill on all the celebrations. Hey, school, maybe if we didn’t have a party every month you could bring back music class?

All of this is kind of a pain in the ass for all the parents. But do you want to know why it really gets me worked up?

All of this smacks of privilege.

This is beyond a first world problem. This is a problem of privilege.

These things aren’t an issue at schools in poor neighborhoods. Teachers at Title I schools aren’t holding parties and asking parents for “stuff.” They have to worry about tired kids falling asleep during class because their belly is empty or their home life is too stressful for a good night’s sleep. Requests for 100 pretzels for the 100th day? Sounds a little ridiculous doesn’t it?

And what about the kids that go to school in an affluent neighborhood but are on free or reduced lunch? How do you think they feel watching their classmates get applauded for raising money and rewarded because they have people in their lives who can donate? They have to sit through the sales pitches and the promises of rewards knowing that they can’t contribute. It makes me sick.

What about the parents who are busting their ass at work and can’t make it to the mid-day craft event in their kid’s classroom? Why should they have to try to juggle work and parenting in the middle of the school day?

Let’s Just Stop With All the Extras

For the teachers who just want to teach.

For the parents who have too much already on their plates.

For the kids who are always left feeling different because their parent can’t come to the event or their family can’t afford to buy extra items.

For the kids who are privileged. We aren’t doing them any favors by showing up and cheering them on for every little thing or by teaching them that a trip to the store is essential to learning. We aren’t helping any of the kids when the entitled continue to be coddled and applauded while the kids who have less continue to feel less than.

Let’s cut out all the B.S. and focus on the important things.

Let’s put the fundraising on the districts and the whole community, not the kids.

Let’s show the kids that they can be independent and thrive with their peers and their teachers. Show them that they don’t need mommy or daddy to make school a warm and nurturing environment.

I’ll send my kids to school ready to learn. You teach them. Simple as that.

 

To All My Friends: I’m Sorry.

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I used to be a good friend. I was the friend you could call if you needed to vent. I was the friend who would drive for hours in the car smoking cigarettes and listening to music while you mended your broken heart. I was the friend who would stay up all night laughing and talking about nothing and everything.

I was the friend who knew the ins and outs of your life and knew when you needed to talk even before you knew you needed it. I was in tune and in touch. Available.

That friend is gone. And I am so, so sorry. She didn’t leave because she values your friendship any less. She didn’t disappear because she couldn’t be bothered.

She’s gone because I refuse to be busy.

I needed to step back from the chaos that took over my life. She was busy. No busier than you. But busy. Frantically, perpetually busy.

I’m no longer busy.

I was exhausted and burned out and I decided that something had to give.

I found myself on the hamster wheel and it was all my doing. I was giving it all away and watching life happen all around me. I was running a house, raising three kids, being a wife and a daughter and a sister and an aunt and a friend. I was volunteering for a charity I am passionate about. I was working out and planning holidays and hosting dinners. I was squeezing in everything in a mad dash to get it all done and to make a beautiful and meaningful life. And it was glorious. I am not complaining about any of it.

And I started to write again. And I found myself wanting to write more. And more. The flood gates opened and my only problem was trying to squeeze writing into my already crazy life.

But there’s only so long you can juggle while running at full speed when all the things that you are juggling are too precious to drop. I knew I couldn’t sustain. I was multitasking my life away. I started thinking about what this would look like in hindsight. Would I remember the moments? Or would I remember the phone in my ear while I cooked dinner and helped my kid with her homework while texting about the swim carpool, all while cleaning up the dog pee? I was a traffic cop at rush hour in the middle of a four way stop. The frenzy and the crazy became the norm and I saw myself not absorbing and not focusing and not fully engaging any where.

So I made the decision to refuse to be busy.

I stepped back from some commitments. I set up a loose schedule for my writing. I vowed to spend certain hours of a few days a week focusing on my writing. I have things I want to do that will never happen if I don’t protect the time it takes to do them.

It’s not that I don’t care about connecting with my friends. I really care. I miss my friends. I miss long conversations on the phone. I miss the serious talks and the laughs and the support and the whole connection in a way that let me be a very current part of their lives.

I miss it but I’m not willing to be busy for it.

We are all busy. Our culture glorifies busy. We are all running in frantic directions every day just trying to keep up. It doesn’t matter whether I work or stay home. It doesn’t matter that I have more kids than the next person or less kids than the next. There’s always someone with more to juggle and someone with less on their plate. It’s all relative and I refuse to beat myself up because I should be able to make it work when the Bento Box Pinterest Mom has more kids and a full time job and a spotless house and 3 dogs and 2 cats and a high maintenance guinea pig.

It doesn’t matter. I refuse to be busy. I am trying desperately to simplify my days. To stop multi tasking my life away. I’m trying to dial down the frenzy. I don’t want my life to be a blur of stuff and obligations and squeezing ins. I want it to be savoring and relishing and languishing and satisfying.

But this all means something’s gotta give, so my friendships are taking the heat. And that breaks my heart but I don’t know how to do it any other way.

I love my friends. I love them fiercely and I will drop whatever I’m doing the second any one of them needs me. I will drive to see them, fly to see them, go out for dinner or drinks. I will hug them when I see them and I will tell them I love them. I will laugh at their stories and cry with them when the hurt they are feeling seeps into me. I will fight for them, go to battle against their enemies or be their biggest cheerleader when they accomplish amazing things. The women I consider friends are some of my real life heroes.

I will do anything for them.

But I won’t answer my phone if I’m cuddling on the couch with my daughter. I won’t answer the phone if my son just got home from school and is telling me about his day. I won’t pick up if I’m helping one of the kids with homework or eating dinner or driving with the kids in the car or enjoying some quality time with my husband. And I won’t answer my phone if I’m writing.

Unless you need me. In which case, you’ll need to send and SOS or a 911 or a simple “I need to talk.” Then I will tell my kids they will have to wait or I will get up from the dinner table or shut my laptop. I will stop whatever it is that I’m doing if you need me.

I haven’t perfected my life of not busy. I’m still figuring out how to balance it all and how to still try to be a better friend. And I’m still available for casual conversations and catching ups. Just not as frequently as before. Some of my friends and I have started meeting once a month for lunch. Some of us have planned weekend trips together. Some of us keep up in group text chats. Some of us connect in private FaceBook groups.

What I’ve discovered is that most of my friends feel the same way I do. Most of us have transitioned into the third phase of parenting. Older kids, different kind of busy. Our lives have become the lives of uber drivers for the tween set and new careers and busier activity/sport schedules that come with older kids. Most of them are feeling the same hamster wheel juggling act that is impossible to do unless you’re a Cirque de Solei acrobat. And most of them don’t have time for me either.

I’m sorry that that friend is gone, the one who used to make you mixed tapes to help pump you up after a broken heart or a lost job. She loved curling up on the couch on Sunday morning to hear about every minute detail of your date the night before. She loved talking on the phone with you for hours as our babies slept and hearing every moment and milestone you and your baby reached together. She loved the hours standing in the driveway talking while our kids ran around and wore themselves out before dinner time. She misses that.

I miss all that.

But now is good too.

Why Boys Need Feminism

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“Boy… You’re going to carry that weight,

Carry that weight a long time…”

-The Beatles, Carry That Weight

You realize a few things when you bring a baby boy into the world. Your mind swirls with emotion and awe and fear and joy. You start to dream immediately of the kind of life your son will have.

And somewhere in the midst of the love and elation and the dreams there are a few wishes. Please let him be healthy. Please let him have a happy life. Please let me be a good parent. Please let him always feel safe and loved. And also… please let him be tall and strong and bold and athletic. You don’t really say any of this out loud. In fact the last part is said quickly in your head as you rush to tick off the superficial qualities that you only care about because society cares. Because possessing these qualities will make his life a little easier… actually, a lot easier. It will afford him more respect and privilege. It will give him a leg up and an advantage on the playing field of life.

Yes, many of these traits were at one time vital to survival. They used to be desirable in searching for a mate who could provide food and protect the family in a world of man against beast. But now? They are just superficial.

Society still cares. Society still deems these as qualities that all boys and men should strive for. Society still rewards height with higher pay and more leadership positions. Society and the media still perpetuates the idea of men settling deputes with violence. Society still gives a side eye to the man who takes a different path than the traditional “Honey, I’m home” role.

Our world has evolved. But we as a whole are still stuck in Neanderthal times.

I think it’s time for us to grow up.

I think it’s time to talk about boys and men and feminism.

Because boys are a victim of the same system (culture, mindset, tradition) that denies rights to women and the LGBT community, and tries to strip away their value and their worth. Because underneath the blatant misogyny in this system?

The boys and men are losing out.

They are being mislead and mistreated.

They are being told that they have to be tough. That they have to be big and tall and strong. They are told that their job in life is to have a job. They are being taught that their role in parenting is secondary.

They are being boxed in. Into a standard, a stereo type. They are being taught to stuff down feelings and to squash emotion. Unless it’s anger. They are being told that to fight is to prove your manliness. To dominate, to be aggressive, to be tough is the epitome of masculinity.

And it’s all bullshit.

It serves no one.

Not the shy little boy who doesn’t want to fight.

Not the stay at home dad who wants to raise his children and still be respected by his friends and his community.

Not the women or men who fall in love with and share a life with and raise children with these men.

We don’t talk about it much. And it’s understandable. Men make more money than women. They are afforded certain privileges, especially and primarily if they are white straight men. They are almost always the ones in positions of power. But that doesn’t minimize or negate the impact that our culture and society – and in fact most of the whole damn world – has on them.

It shapes their concept of who they should be. It puts undue and unnecessary pressure on them. They are being taught to conform and to look and act and feel a certain hyper masculine way. But rarely do we think about how the system affects men. And that is exactly why I think it needs to be said:

Feminism is for boys too.

Beyond #HeForShe, beyond the battle cry for men to join the movement. Feminism is for boys and men too. To benefit them. To lift the burden they carry from the moment they are photographed in their first “Lil Slugger” outfit.

What if we took these expectations off of boys and just let them grow and evolve organically. No preconceived ideas about who they should be or how they should play or how they should feel. What if we decided that whatever lies within them will lead them exactly where they are supposed to be one day. What if we didn’t have to worry about society bumping up against them violently for not adhering to the plan? Antagonizing them with jeers of being left out or left behind or left hooked?

What if… what if we took the gender ideals – from what colors boys are allowed to like to what types of activities they are expected to engage in – and threw them out with with the grunts and the knuckle dragging.

What if…

What if we stopped expecting or encouraging or allowing boys to settle disputes with violence?

What if we stopped belittling or laughing at tears or emotions when they ripple across a boy’s face.

What if we valued sensitivity in a boy as much as we value a good arm or fast feet?

What if we allowed and encouraged men to talk about and deal with and get help for depression, anxiety, PTSD and any and all emotional and psychological ailments without shaming them or making them feel less than masculine?

What if we took the rape and sexual assault of boys and girls more seriously? What if we took the shame out of it for all victims?

What if we (in the U.S.) gave men paid paternity leave and put changing tables in men’s  rooms and treated dads as vital and crucial in their role of parenting as we do moms. What if being a Stay At Home Dad was just another job?

What if we accepted that our boys might not like sports. That they might like to dance or draw or act or write or cook. What if we took the pressure to fit into one lonely little athletic box -that can’t possibly hold all the boys anyways- off their shoulders?

What if it didn’t matter how tall a man was? That his height was as inconsequential as a woman’s thigh gap or lack thereof.

What if we took pressure off of men to be the sole and/or primary breadwinners in a family? What if we accepted and respected that there is no shame in their wife or significant other making more money?

What if we eliminated the false notion that boys are inherently more violent. What if we realized that nurture (by way of a society that expects it of them) has led us to this false belief?

What if we stopped expecting boys and men to dominate women, to rack up the conquests? What if we allowed and encouraged men to focus on the romance and the emotional connection and appreciate true intimacy?

What if we let boys be whoever the hell they are and didn’t require anything of them other than to grow and learn and to be a good person? What if we did this for all kids?

What if we stopped assuming that men are not able to control their lustful urges and must be protected by covering the female body in school or in the science lab or on the street?

What if we stopped reducing men to bumbling idiots with no self control?

What if we gave boys and men a little more credit?

What if while fighting the good fight for women’s equality and LGBT equality we also acknowledged and focused on how the system affects the mentality of a young boy and consequently shapes the mind of the man? What if we recognized that these very issues that boys deal with as they grow into men are intertwined with the very things that Feminists are trying to achieve?

What if we were all in it together and fought the system together?

What if one thing lead to helping the other. The vicious cycle of misogyny and hyper masculinity ground to a halt by the refusal of men and women to participate in the perpetuation of an ancient myth for one second longer?

What if we eliminated this pressure and instead created a place where boys could express emotion. Could cry. Could deal with anger or fear or sadness without embarrassment. And could grow and mature in a world where they could be their authentic self. What if this trickled down to less violence in our world?

What if it is that simple?

What if inclusivity is truly all encompassing? Women, Men, Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders… all doing it together to just be who we are. Without expectations and parameters and shame and judgement.

What if changing our mindset and calling out pressure and expectations and bullshit for everyone was the thing that finally took down the system.

Maybe there’d be a little less anger in this world. A little less confusion. A little less hate. Maybe there’d be a little more understanding. A little more acceptance.

Maybe boys need to be a part of the feminist cause too.

Tell me what you think. Do you think that changing our cultural mindset about boys and men will have an affect on other feminist causes? Do you think that men are tired of the pressure they feel to fit into these roles at a young age? Or do you think this is a non-issue? 

 

Singularity: Cover Reveal and Book Trailer

Singularity 6 x 9 coverThe time has come.

The time is now.

Singularity is the new novel from Helena Hann-Basquiat, with Sara Litchfield, Sandy Ramsey, Lizzi Rogers and Hannah Sears.

Singularity is the sequel to last year’s JESSICA — a metafictional look into Jessica’s possible pasts.

Singularity is coming August 1, 2015

Singularity is its own novel, and can be enjoyed all on its own, but if you haven’t read JESSICA, GO HERE to read the first chapter or GO HERE to purchase a copy in paperback or e-book.

 

 

To My Son, On Graduating From Middle School

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Today I watched you grow up a little bit more. That’s how it seems to happen. Not in gradual ways that seem to slowly evolve, but in quick and sudden bursts. Shocking me each time you enter a room and seem completely different from the boy who walked out of the room moments earlier.

Today I watched you walk across a stage and say good bye to Middle School. They said your entire name with emphasis on each word. Giving me a little shiver as I thought of your uncle Todd who is your namesake. I watched you accept your certificate with a firm handshake, the handshake of a confident man. And you sauntered back to your seat with a quiet and easy smile on your face. Your gold tassle honor roll chord draped around your neck. My heart was full of pride and my eyes were full of tears as I swallowed nervously and tried to keep my emotions in check.

In the past year I’ve watched you grow roughly five inches in height and miles in maturity. I’ve seen you develop close friendships with some really nice kids. I’ve watched you shrug off the trappings of popularity in exchange for real friends. I’ve seen you offer to help around the house and help take care of your little sister. I’ve watched you take responsibility and ownership of your school work. The honor roll tassle you wore on graduation day was earned all on your own.

I’ve seen glimpses of the man you’ll be.

And he’s amazing and beautiful and good.

I’ve watched you get angry at the injustices that flash across the evening news. I’ve seen you question things that are happening in the world. I’ve seen you take an interest in things well beyond the little bubble you’ve been so fortunate to inhabit all these years. I’ve answered your thoughtful questions about these things. Questions that speak to your depth of understanding and your concerns. I’ve seen you care about things and people you’ve never met and who are different and far removed from your world.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

But I’m also scared. In a few short months you will be taking a huge step to more independence and autonomy. You will be walking through the halls of high school for the first time. You will getting your driver’s permit. You will be starting to plan for college and life beyond that.

And you will be coming up against some pretty big road blocks. Temptations. Peer pressures. Stress of tests that carry more weight than ever before. Girls. Love. Heartbreak. All of these will be distractions from everything you’re working towards. Some of them are worthwhile distractions. You should have fun with your friends. You should start to flirt a little with romance and love. You should push the boundaries a little. Just a little.

As you start to move a little more away from your dad and me, as you start to become a more independent person making decisions big and small, I’d like to share a few things with you. Before you shut out my advice and my words, please listen to a mother’s desperate attempt to squeeze all the wisdom and love and fear and happiness she is overwhelmed with, into a few words.

Remember what matters. You are the only one who can decide what matters to you. And once you do, don’t let anything get it the way of that.

Listen to your gut. It will never lead you astray. If you can tune in to what it’s trying to tell you, even in the noise of life and temptations and pressures, you will find a built in compass that you can rely on for the rest of your life.

Know when to make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe. But also learn when it’s a waste of energy and time.

Always open doors for others and give up your seat for others. 

Don’t be afraid to feel. Life will hurt sometimes. But don’t let that be a reason to go numb or shut down. That never works and it will come back to you sideways and cause more pain. Feel all the stuff and let it happen and move on lighter and happier for it.

Being vulnerable is ok. In fact, it’s good. But only when it’s with the people you trust. Sharing your thoughts and your pain and your fears with the people who love you will ease your burden and allow people to be closer to you. It will be the greatest gift of intimacy you will someday give the person you spend your life with.

Work hard. But work smart. Quantity of time working doesn’t always equal quality. Figure out what methods work for you and employ them. This will serve you well in life and work.

Be a good friend.

Let go of perfection. Perfection is boring. Mistakes will happen. Twisting and turning in an attempt to avoid mistakes is futile. Do your best and accept the mistakes as lessons and grow from them.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ll experience. It will sometimes bring incredible pain but you will get through that. It is worth it and life without it will be less rich.

Be patient with a mom who struggles with the emotions of watching her little boy grow into a man.

Find your passion. It may be your career. It may be a hobby or another enterprise. But find it and find a way to nurture it.

Work for money and for joy. Find a job you love. Find something that doesn’t make you dread Monday. But also find something that gives you some comfort and stability in life. Find the balance of the two and live there. Money doesn’t buy happiness but a life of poverty and hardship is not an easy road.

Don’t text and drive.

Know that confidence will come and go. It will sometimes be out of your grasp. This is normal. No one feels confident and self assured all the time. Some of us are just good at faking it. 

Be aware of toxic people and learn how to spot them. Don’t let them infiltrate your life and corrupt you or suck out all the life and joy. Darkness is a hungry beast and toxic people will try to bring you into their disfunction. Don’t let them.

Remember that you have an army of people who are rooting for you to win, who are here for you, who love you. Your dad and me, your siblings, your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. You will have this core group of people in your corner for life. That is a gift and a blessing and it will never fail you.

Give your mom a hug once in a while.

Treat the women you will one day let into your life with respect and honor. Don’t ever minimize their feelings or their voice. 

Remember that your dad and me will be here for you for anything and everything. There’s nothing you can’t tell us and there’s nothing that will ever make us turn our back on you. There’s nothing that will ever take away our love. Ever.

Enjoy the ride. The ups will be amazing and the downs will be hard but it’s a beautiful and glorious ride.

I’m so proud of you. I know you will do right. I know you will do good.

And if you remember nothing else, remember this…

Take care of yourself. And have fun.

 

 

 

 

The Seduction

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You simply must meet her. Paige is mystifying. Infuriating. Bewildering. She’s also the protagonist in Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie. You’ll want to resist her allure. You’ll want to hate her. But be warned, your resistance is futile. Prepare to be seduced.

How often have you looked at someone in envy. Someone who seems to “have it all.” Their life seems to be a seamless string of perfection. Maybe it’s the celebrity who’s gorgeous and talented. Maybe it’s the person you see in your day to day life, the one who’s always smiling their mega-watt smile and effortlessly gliding through their day.

Maybe you even know one of these people, on a personal level. They keep you at an arms length, beguiling you with their wit. But there’s never that moment. You know, the moment where you relate. Where you see the human behind the face.

So you go on thinking they have it all together. And that’s what they want. Because pain and suffering and depression and mental illness like to lurk in the dark. That’s where those beasts grow and flourish. Hidden and cloaked in shame, they only show you what you want to see. What’s acceptable. Comfortable. Because light exposes weakness and exposing weakness means admitting and dealing with and confronting. And if you are weighted down by depression that’s the last thing you’re looking to do.

And so it begins with Paige. She has it all and she doesn’t mind telling you so. She flaunts her perfection. She revels in the distant adulation. She goes to great pains to make you think that there is no crack in the foundation. That her world is flawless. She will distract you with steamy and heated scenarios. She will have you breathing heavy and sweating. She will lure you with her innuendo. She will be blunt. She will ensnare you. In spite of yourself. Because she represents shallow and vain, and those aren’t attractive qualities. But she will prevail. You are now enthralled.

And this is when it gets real.

Layer by layer she is revealed to you. So subtly you barely realize it’s happening. You come-to from your reader’s trance and realize that you have connected with this character that you started out loathing. When did that happen? How was I duped?

Don’t bother questioning it. You’ve been seduced.

You find yourself deeper into the psyche of this mysterious character. Only to realize there’s so much more. You begin to relate. You start to see the hows and the whys and the who’s. And it all makes sense. It’s all so tragic.

And it’s all so brilliant.

Because this book takes you on the journey, the arc that so many who come across a Paige in their real life, know all too well. The facade. The seduction. The bravado. But then, once a tiny fracture appears, the real. The pain. The sorrow. The suffering. The hidden truths that lie within a broken person.

And once you get past the lure of the glamour and the hedonism, you start to see the things that make up this person. And that’s when you really become invested.

That is when Dear Stephanie takes hold and grips you. That’s when you find yourself sucking in air and trying to control you emotions and waving off anyone who dares interrupt your immersion into Paige’s world. That’s when you find your emotions churning and rising and falling with each turn of the page. That’s when you begin reading furiously, devouring the last few chapters, eager for answers.

And as abruptly as it started, the seduction is over. But isn’t that the way with an enticing frolic? The allure pulls you in and before you know it you’re left looking around trying to figure out what just happened.

And so it ends with Dear Stephanie.

Dear Stephanie is available on Amazon now! Click here to buy/download.

 

 

DearStephaniePaige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise? 

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

 

Author PicMandi Castle is a daydreaming stay at home mom of two who spends most her time reading and writing. She loves watching football, is obsessed with music, and has a serious addiction to smart funny people. She can often be caught having dance parties in her kitchen in Dallas, Texas. To connect more visit her at mandicastle.com

 

 

 

A Love Letter To All Of You

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Lately my heart has been hurting for some people I love. I see so much pain that runs so deep. And over at SisterWives I see brave writers baring their souls and bleeding on the page. And in doing so they find healing and comfort and sometimes even a little closure. So I decided to write a letter to my friends in pain, to the writers I’ve met and befriended, and to you. To all of you…

We’re All A Little Broken…

 

Can’t We All Be Keith Richards?

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 keith-richards-1969

“I can’t get no satisfaction

Cause I try, and I try, and I try…”

-The Rolling Stones, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt like quitting.

Ever felt like you were a fraud.

Like maybe you were good… once. But whatever it was is gone.

A fluke.

If you’ve ever felt like abandoning the need that burns within you to create…

I get it.

I think we all get it.

Anyone who sets out to make art, anyone who’s existence feeds on creativity and the need to put themselves “out there” in the form of pictures, words, music, gets it.

Because sometimes being an artist/musician/writer/creator just sucks. It is walking around naked, baring your soul and serving it up for public consumption. It is wanting to have people respond and connect to it, yet wanting to crawl under a blanket of anonymity when they do.

And sometimes it is nothing. A parched and desolate landscape of empty thoughts and hollow ideas.

This is when it hurts the most. You twist and turn in frustration. You snarl at those who have the misfortune of being in your presence. You question your worth or your talent. You feel the stinging burn of tears as you allow those bastards known as Fear and Doubt, creep in to your mind. You worry that it’s all dried up, the well of creativity is empty.

Yet we keep doing it. We keep trying to do the thing we love.

But maybe… maybe we don’t have to continue this torturous cycle of elation, doubt, fear, despair. Maybe…  maybe we can all be like Keith Richards.

Yes. Keith Richards. He is one of the hardest working musicians and songwriters in rock history. He was known to practice for hours upon hours each day. He poured himself into writing melodies when the record company was demanding new hit singles every 12 weeks. Hard work. Putting in the hours. We’ve all heard that the key to any creative endeavor is exercising the muscle, showing up, doing the unglamorous work.

But there’s more to it than that. You see, Keith knew that inspiration could come at any moment, so he never travelled without his guitar and he slept with a tape recorder next to his bed. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Keith getting up in the middle of the night, picking up his guitar and playing a riff and mumbling something about “satisfaction.” He had no recollection of doing this, but the next morning he listened to hours of static until he got to the part with the seed for what would become the Rolling Stone’s biggest hit.

He wrote one of the world’s most famous guitar riffs in his sleep.

Effortless. Guided by the guitar gods. The mark of a true musical genius.

But what if it wasn’t genius or divine intervention?

What if it was simply that his mind was at rest and it was that stillness that allowed the creativity within him to come to the surface?

What if we could all do that?

What if we could all be Keith Richards?

What if we could all have the thing within us flow effortlessly and without the tug and pull that we engage in every day? What if we could tap into the reservoir of ideas that’s hidden beneath all of the noise? Beneath the hustle and the chaos and the alerts and pings and beckonings of life.

Because it’s there. We all have something that’s lying in wait. Waiting for a moment of quiet to peek it’s shy tender head through and be recognized. While you’re pounding away in frustration it is sitting patiently, waiting for you to take a breath and listen.

And this is the hardest thing to do. The desire to create something takes over logic and we drown it with our relentlessness.

Eventually we’re caught up in this frustrating place of toiling and sweating and trying and what we’re trying to get is just out of reach. Eventually we burn out.

But we don’t have to. Art doesn’t have to be suffering. Not if we respect it. Not if we nurture ourselves and nurture our art. But this, too, takes effort. We have to take time. We have to give ourselves a chance to listen to what’s beneath. Pause. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Watch a sunrise. Sit in silence. Take a walk. Go for a run. Sleep. Dream. Do whatever allows your mind to roam.

It’s no coincidence that inspiration often comes during the quiet moments. That while you’re standing naked in the shower, while you’re driving in your car with the windows rolled down, while you’re sweating in the yard under a warm sun, that these are the moments when you feel the ideas coming forward.

Find whatever gives your mind space to breath, and do it more. Whatever task or activity brings forth ideas that send you scurrying for a pen and paper? Do more of that. And if that’s not practical or possible on a regular basis? Then meditate. Just breathe and sit in stillness. The bottom line is the things that you’re trying to do, that you do not do for fame or fortune but simply for the fact that they sustain you and make you feel whole, you need to give them the courtesy of time and you need to open the door to allow them to come out.

You need to nurture them.

Respect the creativity within you. Instead of battling and fighting and trying to summon by sheer force of will… Instead of battling for the thoughts to come, instead of trying to tease out the next sentence, breathe.

I want to sink into it and get lost in the flow. I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the elation as it happens effortlessly. That is what we keep chasing, isn’t it? The sweet spot of creativity and productivity.

Like being in a dream, yet awake. Like playing a song in your sleep. Magic.

It’s there. We can all tap into it if we pause. If we stop beating it up and treating it like an obedient dog that will come when beckoned.

If we take the time to take care of it. Take care of ourselves. We can see what is in there waiting to emerge.

So don’t give up. You’re not a fluke or a fraud. You have beauty and art within you. Kick fear and doubt’s ass to the curb.

Take care of yourself. Be gentle with your creative spirit. Allow it the oxygen it needs to grow and make itself known.

Let’s all be Keith Richards.

 

This is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion project. This month’s them is “nurturing.” If you’d like to join, add you blog post to this link:


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