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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Author Spotlight and Writing for Me

Some exciting news- I'm being featured in the "Local Author Spotlight" in my hometown's literary newsletter for this coming quarter!  The issue will be released in April and feature a photo of me, my bio, what inspires me to write, a description of my available works (The Secret Room, Shadows in the Window, and Silent Outbursts) as well as my upcoming releases!  I may even being doing "An Evening With The Author" at the library where people can come and ask me about my works, my process, and anything else they want.  I'll be the first self-published eBook author (there have been other self-published authors, but never for eBooks) and I'm sure people will be asking me about the process of publishing digitally.  They will also be featuring my book (in digital format) in the library and promoting my work.

This may not be so exciting to others, but I think it's pretty cool.  :)

My zombie novel is flowing very well, and I'm even surprising myself with some elements of the story.  I had anticipated it would be a short novel, around 30,000-35,000 words, but I'm already at 26,000 words and only about 25% through the story, so I think it's going to be a longer novel.  I'm aiming to keep it under 100,000 words or right around there because I don't want it to be too terribly long.  But when it comes down to it, I need to tell the story and tell it well, regardless of word count.

I'm getting a little nervous about releasing my zombie novel.  There's a lot of zombie stuff out there, and while mine doesn't redefine the genre, I think it's unique enough to stand out.  I just need to make sure I give ample time for editing- I'm planning to devote 80 hours myself, maybe more if I have the time, and recruit a few volunteers to read/review/point out mistakes before I publish it.

Based on reviews I've read of other zombie novels, I think people will generally either totally love or absolutely hate my work- not many seem to be in the middle when it comes to zombies.  Ultimately, though, I write for myself and those who love to read my stories, not the overbearingly harsh critics.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It Gets Better (a.k.a. Thou Shall Not Bully)

After reading Amanda Hocking's most recent blog post, I got to thinking about bullying again.  Even with all her success, she still gets people criticizing her and picking apart everything she does.  Sometimes she gets terrible reviews of her books, with words that can sting an author and seem rather personal.

With success comes criticism.  The more success (and widely-known) a person becomes, the more critics they will gain.  Some people will say and do things that seem incredibly personal or harsh, but that doesn't mean they are personal.  In fact, more often than not, it is not personal at all.

Bullies are petty and misguided.  There are very few cases in which a bully picks on someone for the pure sake of being mean or making the other person feel down; most of the time, the reason a bully picks on someone is internal.  They may not have confidence in themselves, they may be jealous, or they may just be afraid, and they express their internal insecurities by bringing down someone else.

A lot of times when a person is successful, others start to tell them they're doing it wrong or that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing.  People will try to bring your dreams down, mostly because they're too scared or lack confidence to pursue their own.  They will get angry at themselves because they're not living their dreams, and misery loves company- if they can't have it, they don't want you to have it either, so they do what they can to discourage and bring you down.  Don't ever give up, though- go for your dreams.  Let the harsh criticisms go out the window, and don't do what you want to do just to spite them, do it to make yourself happy!

By no means am I saying we should sympathize with bullies.  Bullying is wrong, for any reason.  If you or anyone you know is being bullied, get help: there's tons of bullying hotlines out there.  If you are bullying someone, STOP!!  Bullying may sometimes seem like harmless fun, but it can lead to serious damages and even suicide- would you want to be responsible for someone's death?  NO!

I was bullied.  Twice in life, actually.  The first was in elementary school- I was bullied when I returned to school after months of cancer treatment.  Kids would pick on me, call me mean names, and say terrible things to me because I had no hair.  It changed me- I became very shy and insecure.  It took me a long time to reverse the affects, and sometimes I'm not so sure I'm completely over it.

I was also bullied as an adult, by another adult.  He would send me messages and tell me hurtful and harsh things because he didn't agree with my chosen professions.  The words he said to me over the course of two years cut me deep, and I've learned that it's best to just keep my distance from him now.  I think it's because he never had the opportunity to have his own dreams, he just always did what was expected of him, and here I am doing what I love and being successful at it.  Still, it pains me whenever I think of some of those things he's said to me.

When I write my memoir, I'm going to include the detailed version of my experience being bullied.  It's shaped me a lot, and I can't wait to share that part with others.

If you're being bullied, keep going.  Send me an email, I'd  love to talk to you.  And it's been said before, but I'll say it again- it gets better, I promise.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On the Road

I'm writing this post from a hotel room in Liberal, Kansas, where I'm staying for the night after driving from Lincoln, Nebraska.  I flew in to Omaha, NE yesterday, and what a long trip- left home in California around 7am, plane left LAX around 11am, had a layover in Denver, CO, and landed in Omaha around 6pm yesterday.

I'm out here driving to Phoenix, Arizona, with my grandma.  My grandpa passed away on the 1st, and she was out there for the funeral and burial in Minnesota, where he was born and raised.  She drove up with one of his kids (from his first marriage) and I came to drive her home so she wouldn't have to do the whole trip alone.

This is my first time in this part of the country, and it's a very pretty place.  Not always a ton of things to see, but it's all green and gorgeous.  Being from the desert, it's great to look out and see lush trees and thick, green grass instead of dry brush and brown dirt.  We've been driving in the rain for a lot of the trip, but the overcast sky means no sun in the eyes.

Being on the road with my grandma has inspired a new story; loosely based on the idea of a granddaughter and grandmother traveling halfway across the country together, but not based on my grandma and I.  I like the story, but I'm not certain I'll write it because I always get worried that my family will think it's directly based on them or other relatives and become offended.  But then I think that there's tons of stories based on similar situations to what the author's experience in real life.

I'm exhausted.  Probably an early start tomorrow; the plan is to get to Phoenix by Saturday.  Another 8 hours of driving tomorrow.  So strange how driving can wear you out so much, even though you're just in the car.  I wonder how many calories switching back and forth from the gas and the break burns...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Take Care of Yourself

I've been going to dance class a lot these last two weeks, and I am feeling fantastic!  My strength is improving, I'm sleeping better (except for last night, which was filled with zombie nightmares, courtesy of last night's episode of The Walking Dead), and feel so much more mental clarity.

Since we only get one, we should do our best to take the greatest care of our bodies.  It's not always easy, and I haven't always taken the best care of mine, but it's worth it in the end.  Hard work pays off.

There's so much more to taking care of yourself than just looking good- you feel great, you're healthy, and you gain confidence.  When I go to dance class, I don't think of it as "working out" but instead I think of it as improving myself inside and out.

When it comes to taking care of yourself, we need to include mind and spirit.  Having a healthy body, mind, and spirit makes a world of difference in how we live our life.  We're happier, it seems.  When I dance, I feel more in tune with myself and my body, and it makes me feel so much more in tune with the world around me.  It's amazing, and I'm getting better with each class.

I'm off to work some more on the zombie novel before the Zumbia class I'm taking tonight.  :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Nurturing Our Nature

There's two sides to people (well, there's several layers, but let's look at these two sides specifically)- a selfish side and a selfless side.  I believe that we were born with both sides, though not all of us keep both.

Both sides have an equal chance when we start out in life, but in nearly everyone one side always becomes more dominant than the other.  Which side will win is ultimately up to us, though.

Whether we become more of a selfish person or a selfless person depends on which side gets nurtured more.  As time goes on, if we only nurture one side the other one tends to fade quickly.

I believe that everyone has selfishness and selflessness in them, and I believe that we need some of both.  I think the selfless side should be the dominant side, but there are times when we should put ourselves first.  Knowing when is an appropriate time to be selfish is hugely important.

Personally, I want to start nurturing my selfless side more.  Sometimes I don't always know how to help or contribute, but I try.  With time, I'll get better at recognizing when a person can use my help.  I think that being selfless more often than not is an important part to finding true, lasting success.  Giving kindness will only bring it back to you again and again.

Many of us say that we'll be more generous when we "get there" and have money to burn.  But if we can't give when we have a little, I don't think we'll want to give when we have a lot.  Giving doesn't have to be monetary- it can be time, items you already have, emotional support, or skills.  I think we need to start looking out more for each other.  If you give, you will receive.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Secret is No Secret

A friend of mine introduced me to something that I think is one of the most powerful ideas ever: It's not about willpower, it's about mindset.  This simple idea has changed my life in so many areas.

The Grandma who lives in Texas has reinforced this idea on an incredible level.  Currently, she's battling cancer.  In her mind, she's already conquered it; now she's just waiting for the cancer to realize it.  She's happy, eats a cancer-fighting diet with ease, and is enjoying her life.  Grandma never ceases to absolutely amaze me with her spirit, joy, and love.

Mindset is all about how you think, and what you think dictates what you do.

When it comes to writing, it can be hard to just sit down and write.  If I were to look at my task as "I must write xxx number of words today" it can seem a bit daunting.  When I set my mind to "I want to tell this part of the story" or "My characters are going to do this today" it becomes much easier to write and let the story flow.  Focusing on word count can actually slow me down more often than not, because I'm thinking about the quantity over the quality.  It becomes hurried, forced, and not so great. The same thing when I focus on how many copies I can sell- I get fixates on the numbers instead of worrying about my writing.  "Chase your passions and the money will chase you." I don't know who said it, but they were right: when I published The Secret Room, I was checking my numbers once or twice every hour, which is far too much.  When I stopped focusing on sales, I started writing again, and I wrote Shadows in the Window.  Once Shadows in the Window was up, The Secret Room started selling even more copies.

In my mind, I'm already a best-selling author, it's just a matter of waiting for everyone else to realize it.  With that in mind, it becomes much easier to write, to promote, and to learn what I need to do to actually get there.  I know I write well; I've received tons of positive feedback on my work and continue to sell my work at a steadily increasing rate.  It's not about being cocky, it's about being confident, which is a fine line to walk.  I've divulged my secret in this blog post, but I don't go around saying "Hey guys, have you heard of me?  I'm the best thing to happen to writing since the Gutenberg Printing Press!"  Mostly I don't say that because it isn't true- I've not reinvented writing or the genres in which I write, but I put my heart and soul into my stories and strive to make it the best it can be.  I've already noticed an improvement in my writing since publishing The Secret Room, and it continues to improve with each story, each page, and each paragraph as I write.  My mindset is that I am a great author, and I just have to allow myself to grow into that person.

It works the same way with weight loss.  When I tell myself that I am already at my ideal, healthy weight, I start to feel it- I treat food differently, I am more willing to exercise, and I walk and carry myself differently.  I tell myself that I'm already there, it's just a matter of letting my body catch up to it.  It sounds weird, but just changing my mindset makes it easier- I lost three pounds in a week without counting calories or timing my workouts (dance classes are just too much fun).  It's a mindset, saying "This is who I am, now I just have to let myself become it."

Everyone I know has heard about The Secret: it's the belief that if you believe something and tell it that it's a reality, then the universe will deliver it to you.  This is true, but not for the reasons many people believe it is.  When we believe something, we tend to work harder for it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No matter how much I tell myself that I'll have a brand-new car by this time next year, a new car is not going to just appear if I don't do anything to help it.  But keeping a goal in mind and treating that goal as a reality works as an almost subconscious motivating tool to make a person work toward what they want.  By this time next year, I'm going to buy a brand-new car; even though I wouldn't be able to right now, I'm telling myself that this is a fact.  I'm also telling myself that by mid-2013, my debt will be gone and I'll be making more money each month than I ever have before.

This may not work for everyone, but it's certainly worked for me.  Here's how I got myself into the mindset: First, I sat down and deleted all distractions for a while.  I went to a quiet place (namely my bedroom), put my cell phone on silent and out of view, and made sure the television, computer, and music were off.  For a while, I laid down on my bed and just allowed my thoughts to wander wherever they decided to go.  Then I started to focus- what did I want my future to look like?  Exactly how much money did I want to make?  What size is future-me?  What color is my brand-new car?  I envisioned every detail of this big picture.  I saw where I was, what I was doing, what I looked like, how I was doing it; I smelled every scent, pictured myself driving my brand-new car, and felt every feeling I imagined I would be having.

Once I saw future-me with total clarity, I started to rewind.  When had I decided I was ready to buy my new car?  How much money did I have in the bank before getting it?  How long had my debt been paid off?  How many books was I selling each month?  How many was I selling each day?  I completely envisioned this period just before I bought my brand-new car, and filled in  all the details on this point in my life, too.  I continued with this process until I had rewound to the point I'm at now.  Doing this, I now have a visual of the road I would take to get where I want to be in a year.

With this in mind, I work hard.  Every day I'm doing something to get me one step closer to that goal, even if it's just something small.  Small steps add up, and before you know it, you'll have walked a mile.  So what's the secret to "The Secret"?  There's no secret at all: just know what you want and keep working until you get it.

Can you see me in the front seat there?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Creating Opportunities

The other night, I was watching recorded episodes of "American Idol" and "The Voice."  When the contestants were being interviewed, I noticed that a lot of them kept saying that this was their "only opportunity to achieve [their] greatest dreams" and that if this didn't work out, they'd give up because then they'd know they weren't cut out for it.

That is complete bullshit.

When it comes down to it, WE decide how many opportunities we get to make our dreams come true.  Especially in the entertainment industries (music, movies, books, etc- all such different worlds), nothing worth doing is done easily.  If you are trying to achieve a career in any of those industries, you WILL be told no, probably often.  You will be told you don't have what it takes, you will be rejected, and you will be passed up.  But to give up on your dreams just because someone has told you that you're not "it" is ridiculous.

If one rejection makes you give up on your dreams, then they probably weren't really your dreams to begin with.  Whether it's one no or 1,000 no's, keep going.  Keep working, keep trying, keep finding and making opportunities to reach your goals.  The ones who never make it are the ones who stop trying, or worse, never really tried in the first place.  If you believe you only have one opportunity to make things happen, then you're not working hard enough.

In all of the entertainment industries, there is a countless number of people who want to "make it big."  In Hollywood alone, there's more than a million actors.  Of the 1,000,000 actors, only about 100,000 are working as actors.  Of those 100,000, there's only about 50-100 that are really considered to be "stars."  Even famous actors still need to get headshots, audition, network, and promote themselves in order to get work, but they keep getting work.  What separates those people from the others, in any entertainment industry?  Working hard and never giving up, creating your own opportunities, and believing in yourself are key to achieving your dreams, as well as practicing and developing your craft, talent, and skills to make them the absolute best they can be, and always aiming to be better.

There will be people, sometimes even close friends and family (unfortunately), who may say they don't think you can do it.  They might not believe in you, but there's only one person that matters, and that's you.  As long as YOU believe in yourself, it doesn't matter if anyone else does.  And no one else will believe in you if you don't believe in yourself first.

Some of the contestants had been working for years to try out for either one of these shows.  Some had been working in the industry before and wanted to achieve more, while others had been singing on the side and had never taken their talents outside the karaoke bar until now.  Both types said that this was their only chance to make it; of course, there were also some that said if this opportunity didn't work out, they would move on to the next one.  The latter is the type that will make it in their career, while the former will probably settle in to some job they happen to fall into and always wonder why it didn't work out in the talent industry.  Which one will you be?

Spare the time to watch this video, it's only ten minutes.  Save it to your favorites and come back and watch it whenever you need some motivation (that's what I do):

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Untitled Zombies Are Coming!!

Sometimes it feels like the more I need to write, the harder it is to get started.  Today, I'm aiming to do 1,800-2,000 words to make up for lost time.  (What am I doing on the Internet??  I should be writing!!)  I'm a week behind schedule, and I'm still aiming for release on April 1st.  If I have to, I'll push the release to April 7th because I don't want to put the novel out there if it's not ready.

The story itself and all the characters are done and hashed out, and the actual writing is coming along well (even though I'm behind schedule).  I'm aiming to be done by the 17th and allow two weeks for editing and proofreading.  I still need a cover and a title.  A few ideas have come about what to title my zombie novel, but none of them seem to fit yet.  I'm hoping it'll just come when it's ready to.  It's currently saved as "Untitled Zombie Apocalypse Novel" but I don't think that title is really catchy enough to use for the finished product.

I'm not re-inventing the zombie genre, but I do think that mine is better than 90% of the stuff already available.  There's so much zombie crap, really- stories with no action, no set "rules" of how the infection/undead mass acts, no realistic or relatable characters, and boring action sequences that seem entirely disconnected from the plot.  I know my novel won't be absolutely perfect, and I know not everyone will like it, but I like it and I hope that others out there will enjoy it, too.

There's two things that have really helped me with this novel (and two things I use for almost all my work):
1. Pages of Notes.  I have sections for characters, events, rules that must be followed (in this case, how the infection spreads, how it affects the body/mind, and how the undead act), things that I have mentioned that are important for continuity, specific pieces of dialogue I think of that I want to use at some point but not at the moment, town names, and anything else that I may need to quickly reference at any point in the writing process.  I keep it very organized so it's easy for me to use so I can find what I need rapidly and get back to writing.  This has helped tremendously on several occasions.  Sometimes when I am stuck on the part I'm writing, I'll pop over into my notes, read a bit, maybe write a few things in there, and usually it breaks the writer's block.
2. Flashcards.  I recently started doing this, but it's indescribably helpful!  I write the main points of the plot (and even minor events that I want to include, or specific character developments that need to occur) on their own card, then I lay out the flashcards on a table and look at everything that will be happening.  Then, I'll arrange the flashcards in the order that I think works best, read through them in that order, and see if it works.  If it doesn't, it's really easy to move around the flashcards again and try out different orders.  It's so interesting to see how just changing the order of things can affect the story so profoundly, and often the order of events affects character motivation for succeeding events.

Time to get back to writing- I'm off again to rendezvous with the undead.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger, Pt. 2- Hardships and Spirituality

Something that has always fascinated me is spiritual beliefs.  They can vary so much from person to person; even people belonging to the same religious* organization can have vastly dissimilar beliefs.  (I've heard non-denominational Christians criticize Mormons; Mormons criticize Catholics; Catholics criticize non-denominational Christians; but really, they're all technically followers of Christ, so it's a bit baffling to me that they can be so hard on each other.)

It is impossible to know and prove what the truth really is when it comes to spiritual beliefs and whether or not there is an omnipotent being and a great beyond, and yet there is nothing more true to the individual than their own spiritual beliefs and religion.

In my opinion, people don't choose what they do and do not believe (for the most part, at least); I think it comes from a multitude of attributing factors in their life.  Experience, what they've been taught by parents/others about spirituality/religion, personal logic and thought process, and observation all play key roles in determining a person's spiritual beliefs, and it's impossible to tell exactly what led a person to their beliefs.

One of the worst things a person can do when it comes to religion- whether they are monotheist, deist, polytheist, atheist, or any of the myriad of options in between- is to be a mindless follower.  So many people (of any of the aforementioned theist and non-theist sets) don't know whether or not they actually believe what they do, but are just regurgitating what they've been told.  I feel that questioning ones beliefs is not a negative thing- in fact, it should be encouraged, regardless of what the beliefs actually are.  Finding a personal truth is a very important thing, whether your religion has a god, is science, doesn't have a god but has an afterlife, or any combination thereof (and no, believing in a higher power and believing in science are not mutually exclusive fields).

Another thing that has always intrigued me is how tragedies and hardships affect people's spirituality so differently.  I've seen people who are devout atheist become true believers in a higher power when terrible events have afflicted their family; I've seen devoted Christians shun their life-long faith when faced with their own misfortunes and severe struggles.  In many instances of tragedy and hardship, people seem to either embrace and strengthen their religious beliefs or completely reject what they have been devoted to for so long.

Many are quick to criticize the beliefs of others that conflict with their own.  There are good, bad, immoral, and righteous people in all groups and walks of life.  But while no side really deserves persecution from the other, no side is completely innocent, either.  Many of the people who accuse others of being intolerant are themselves, often without realizing it, intolerant to a degree.  Without realizing, most people are actually saying "We need to be tolerant of all lifestyles, except those which conflict with what I believe."

Separation of Church and State is very important.  One of the most important foundations of our country was religious freedom, though many of the religious seem to believe that means that everyone has the freedom to be religious as long as the religion others adhere to coincides with their own.  Freedom of religion means being able to practice any faith you choose, or to walk away completely from faith altogether.  Freedom of religion does not mean that religious people have the right to shun the non-religious.  We all have the right to believe in what we find to be the Truth.

I heard this quote earlier:  "Telling someone else that what they do is wrong because it conflicts with your own religious beliefs is like getting mad at someone for eating a donut when you're on a diet."  Separation of Church and State is very important; freedom of religion was the main foundation for our country.  No one can try to force their own beliefs on others, and if they do, they shouldn't be surprised or get upset when others resist or push back.

But this isn't a post meant to bash religious or non-religious people.  It's an observation, a pondering of what drives a person to believe one thing or another.  My beliefs are something that I think about almost constantly, and over the years they have evolved and expanded as I go through life.  I know they will continue to change as long as I live.  What I believe now isn't what I believed ten years ago; my beliefs have even become more defined from just three days ago.  We constantly change, if we are open-minded, and I think it's a good thing.  If we didn't change, how could we grow?

What I also find a bit humorous is how so many people assume they know a person's beliefs just based on a few comments; sometimes those comments they base their judgement on have nothing to do with spiritual beliefs.  I've been jumped on from both sides.  People have criticized me for being a Christian and others (sometimes in the same conversation) have criticized me for being an atheist, while none of them bothered to actually ask me what my beliefs are.  Religion is a personal thing, but I think that it shouldn't be a taboo subject.  Learning about other people's beliefs can really help you reflect on your own, and may help to see whether those beliefs are your true beliefs or just a regurgitation you may think you're supposed to believe.

*throughout this post, the terms "religion" and "religious" are used to generally cover all belief systems and spiritualities- monotheist, polytheist, atheist, deist, pagan, and everything else that falls under spiritual beliefs that are not specifically mentioned.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger, Pt. 1- Deal and Heal

People are often underestimated.  A lot of the time, it seems that no one underestimates a person more than that specific person- I believe know from experience and observation that it is frequently quite surprising what we can handle.

We never really know what we will be able to handle or how we will handle something until it actually happens.  We can think about it, come up with a plan, and prepare ourselves as best we can, but until it really happens we won't know how we will feel about it.

All of us have a different tolerance level for pain, and I feel this applies just as much (if not more) emotionally as it does physically.  On the pain scale, one person's 10 may be another person's 3.  Some people can go through the most unimaginable tragedies and still pick themselves up and move on, while others may experience something that most people would consider "less tragic" and not be able to go on at all.  To the two varying individuals, two very different events may hold the same amount of tragedy- it's unique and personal how we feel different things.

But we really have no place to judge the scale of tragedy in another person's life, because we all feel and handle things so differently.  Even if it's the same event, in the same family, people handle it differently, and there's no right or wrong way.  Some people may begin healing after a few weeks, some may take decades before they feel they've "moved on" from the event.

Hardships and tragedies are a fact of life.  All us experience a multitude of them throughout our lives, and there's no real "rules" for dealing with them.  Society, in general, tells us that there is a right and wrong way of handling things, that there's a certain time allotment for grieving and healing, and that at some point we should go on and return to "normal."  But after tragedies and hardships, what once was "normal" will never be again.  We adapt and come to a new normal, and usually a little tougher and wiser from the experience, and there's no right or wrong way of dealing and healing.  What may work for one person may do nothing for another.  Few people will get to the point where they can act like their hardships never happened, and we shouldn't forget what we've gone through to get where we are now.

But even though we experience tragedy, our life does not have to completely become a tragedy.  We don't have to let the hardships we've survived through completely dictate and define us, nor do they have to become our sole identities.  Yes, they do become a part of who we are, but they don't have to take down the rest of our life.

Think of the phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  Is it true?  Yes and no.  I believe that whether we are strengthened or weakened by our hardships and tragedies is a choice we make.  It's harder for some people than others, but always possible.  Those hardships will never leave us, but we can turn the pain into power.  Open wounds turn into scabs.  Scabs will bleed when picked at and may even reopen, but eventually those scabs will turn into scars.  Those scars will probably be sore and huge for a while, but eventually they'll fade into our skin, where they will be a visual reminder of what we went through and survived.

We may never "get over" some tragedies, but we can learn to help them heal and learn to live with them.  Even if the pain never goes away, we can learn how to dull it.  We can make room for happiness again.

Check out this post.  I don't agree completely with all of it, but it's pretty interesting and insightful: "I will gladly deny myself unnecessary suffering, so I can avoid the greater tragedy of living in denial of joy."

Monday, March 5, 2012

As one life ends, so another begins...

About an hour after I posted that most recent entry, my Grandpa Dick passed away.  He was an amazing, loving man who will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.

Friday morning, my parents, sister, Danny, my aunt Jo, and my cousin Adam all got in a rental van and drove out to Arizona, where Grandpa Dick and Grandma Anne live.  It was a seven-hour drive, including stops.  When we got there, we got to see most of Grandpa Dick's children whom we hadn't seen since Grandma Anne and Grandpa Dick got married 24 years ago.  (He was my Grandma Anne's second husband, so technically step-Grandfather, but I never thought of him as anything other than grandpa; I knew him much more than I knew my biological paternal grandfather.)  The service was on Saturday, and it was a very nice Catholic mass honoring Grandpa Dick.

About five hours after Grandpa Dick passed, my nephew was born.  Solomon Michael DiSalvo came into the world at 8:26pm on March 1st.  Danny and I got to go see him Friday morning before we left for Arizona, and I'm already in love with that kid.

Thursday was quite an emotional day.  At some points, I didn't know how to feel- so very sad to lose my grandpa, but incredibly elated that my nephew had finally arrived.  I wish I could put the myriad of mixed emotions into words- it's like a swirlled finger painting of drastically different colors.

Life is precious- never forget that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Tonight we are young, so let's set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun."

Yesterday I spent the entire day in Labor and Delivery, but my nephew still has not yet made his grand appearance into the world.  He'll be here soon, though, and I can't wait to meet him!  I'm so excited because I'm also expecting a niece this month, too!  She should be here within a week, and I am incredibly anxious to meet her, too!  It'll bring the count up to five nieces and two nephews, and I love being an aunt.  <3

Yesterday, Davy Jones died.  I was saddened, but pleasantly surprised that so many people my age knew who he was.  But while sitting in L&D and hearing about Jones's passing, it got me thinking about the circle of life (cue Lion King theme, please).

 Go ahead, turn your volume all the way up because I KNOW you're going to sing along.

Anyway, now that we've watched that video, back on topic...  No matter what happens, life goes on.  We are born, get older, we grow, we change, we experience, and eventually, our time runs out.  There's a Garth Brooks song with some of the best lyrics I've ever heard.  It goes:
"There's two dates in time that they'll carve on your stone
And everyone knows what they mean,
But what's more important is the time that is known
As that little dash there in between."
I've said it before, but time goes quickly.  Things happened before we were born, and after we die, things will continue to happen.  The world will go on- we're really just here to visit.  Our job is to make the best of the time we have, to live in each day as though it were a grand adventure, because in truth, life really is the greatest adventure there is.  There's no script, no set outcome, nothing written in stone, no way to predict what will happen.  Life is what you make it: good or bad, blissful or miserable.  I know that when I die, the sun will rise again; laughter will continue, joy will continue, and people will keep growing and experiencing.  My children and grandchildren (if I'm blessed enough to have them) will carry on, as it's supposed to be.

I don't want this post to sound morbid, because it isn't.  Life is a glorious and gorgeous thing, precious in every way, and positively astounding.  We shouldn't live in fear of death, because there are things far worse than death- like an unlived life.

Think about what people wish for when they're on their deathbeds- it's not more money, more things, a better job, or fame; they wish for more time, more memories, more opportunities to tell those in their lives how much they love them.  What are the most valuable things in life?  They're the things that can't be bought or sold, thing that no price tag will ever fit on.  For me, the most beautiful things are the unadulterated sand on the beach coupled with the cool feeling of the frigid waves on my bare feet, sharing a joke with friends, my one-year-old niece's laughter, the smiles on my family's faces, hearing a good song for the first time (or the millionth time), Christmas breakfast where we're all still in our pajamas and enjoying one another's company, playing board games, running around with the dogs, and so many other little thing you'd never be able to put in a store window.  Those are the most amazing things in life, and I know when I'm old and senile and can't remember whether or not I'm wearing underwear, those "little" things are the ones that will shine biggest in my memory and in my heart.

So thanks for reading, but now, I think you should get off the computer for a little bit- go and enjoy something special about life.  Take a deep breath outside and enjoy the fresh air (offer void in the cities of Los Angeles and New York) and take in a little wonder.

Love the song, but I don't know how I feel about the video- is it supposed to be a bar fight or just goofing around?

P.S.- I'm loving how my zombie novel   
is coming out.  I can't wait for everyone 
to be able to read it! I hope you'll like it!