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Author: Sheryl Steines

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My LIfe – Defining Moments Don’t Have to Define Your Life

Defining My Life

Defining my life fell into two separate and distinct periods of time; life before my daughter was born with a terminal disease and the path life took after. The single defining moment for me, was that second, that single moment before she was born (via C-section) and that long moment when I realized she wasn’t crying, that something was very wrong.

It sticks with you, these defining moments. Sometimes you can find yourself as a victim of the moment and let it drag you under, or you can use the moment to step forward and redefine your life and your dreams.

I fell somewhere in between. I found a way to move on, to raise my other daughter, have another child. While moving on, I seemingly found myself a victim of my circumstance, stagnating and letting that single moment define who I was.

Re Defining My Life

I read Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter. It did more than entertain; it woke up a passion in me that I hadn’t realized was there.

That, coupled with a meeting of a former classmate at a twentieth class reunion, forced me to look at my life and the choices I made and something inside of me changed. I no longer wanted to let life and the bad things define how I lived my life. It was time for me to take control.

I remembered for the first time in years, that I had a dream. One that I cultivated since I was seven years old. I wanted to be a writer.

Writing That First Book

I tried over the years to write a book. I stopped at chapter 1 or paragraph 1, never completely understanding how to craft that story. Never really understanding what it was that I even wanted to say.

But this time, the jealously that my classmate was a published author and my sadness that had accumulated over a lifetime, forced me to open the book and really think about what story I wanted to tell.

It wasn’t very good or very long and it took many attempts to reach the published versions I have online. I look back at the first time I typed “The End” on that very first draft and I can’t help but be proud, I can’t help but realize my life is no longer defined by one single event.

Now I’m Defined

Now I’m a writer, who is a mother, one who lost a child. I write about the loss and how it affects me, but not as a single defining moment. It happened and it makes me sad and it always will. But it won’t always make a victim of that circumstance. I finally found the confidence to truly move on and I now weave those emotions and memories into my writing to give it depth and meaning. I’m no longer defined by it, I define how I use it to motivate and move on.

 

 

 

 

Why Do You Write – Where Does the Passion Come From?

Why Do You Write – Where Does the Passion Come From?

Why do I write?

So why do I write? It’s an intriguing question; to ask someone why they do what they do. What brought them to their profession, hobby, fandom? I took to reading early, ravenously read through entire series. It didn’t matter if it was Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, Stephen King or Harry Potter. Always with each book, as I experienced all these adventures between the pages, what I really wanted to do was write my own story.

It is my passion.

I am a self-proclaimed introvert. Being the center of attention is uncomfortable, confining. But when I write, I am free of anxiety, of fear. It is on the paper that I can write and re-write to craft the words that express my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions.

To be a writer, is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. I have never wavered from my desire to create my own worlds, my own stories and characters. To create something lasting. When I can’t form the words with my mouth, I can always type them with my fingers.

I’ve always been able to write about anything. Though sometimes, I just don’t know what to write. But when I do, it gives me power, it gives me confidence.

I love finishing that first book, letting the story pour out of me. It gives me a great sense of pride with each draft when I see the story fill itself out, when I link each book to the other as I tell a complete story. I don’t feel as confident with anything else in my life as I do when I write.

And through the highs and lows in my life, to write it was keeps me sane. When I don’t write, heavy emotions can wear my down. Writing is my therapy. It is my strength.

Why Do I Write?

I write because simply, writing is a part of me. When darkness gathers and envelopes me, writing is my light. It is my fire. I was born to do nothing else.

Pass it On

I read a blog Tara M. Martin . It was there she answered the same question; why does she write? So I had this idea to share why I wrote. And then it occurred to me. I’m going to pass the question on. To all my writer friends, why do you write? To all my non-writer friends, what is your passion.

Life should not be passionless. We should dance, sing, write exercise, mediate; do something we are passionate about every day. Every day.

 

Strong Female Characters and Disappointment in the Man Who Created them

Strong Female Characters and Disappointment in the Man Who Created them

I’ve spent the afternoon wallowing in disappointment.

I left with a little disappointment floating around my head. It wasn’t what I had expected to be doing after a trip to Wizard World, one of the many comic cons that spring up every year. It could have been a totally cool conversation with a with an actress from a show that inspired my characters; the strong female character.

Meeting Cordelia Chase

I fell in love with Buffy. The characters, the story arcs, the development and most importantly, I was impressed by Joss Whedon and his ability to create these real women. Women who are strong, who fall and pick themselves up and write their own rules.

I explained to Charisma Carpenter, the actress who played Cordelia Chase, how much I loved the show, the female strong female characters. I proclaimed my admiration for their creator, Joss Whedon and how his characters were the blueprint for how I developed my own characters.

She expressed her congratulations on my writing my books but asked me what I thought about the Joss Whedon news that had recently come to light.

I had no idea.

Disappointment Sets In

Charisma shared the news that while Joss was married, it is alleged he had multiple affairs and asked about my thoughts on that. My first thought, I could separate the two. The man who was raised by a feminist. A man who was a self-proclaimed feminist, who won many awards for his work.

But can I really separate the two?

It was disappointing to say the least. I had admired him for so long. What I felt was his true work, spoke to me, inspired me as I wrote about Annie Pearce., developing her in a way that made her a real woman, a strong woman. Buffy Summers as my model. Was it all fake?

Grappling With My Thoughts

As I grapple with the meaning of this news, I still feel that how Joss Whedon wrote women, was spot on. They feel real, they are relatable, and beautiful and smart and they each have flaws and issues and problems they face. Just like me. Just like my characters. That for me is real.

Is he entitled to write them? Yes he is. Do I have to admire him? I can admire the work that he has done. The characters that mean so much to me, but I no longer admire the man the way that I once was. He isn’t perfect. But then, either am I. He doesn’t have to apologize to me and I can still watch and love the characters that were created. Maybe some day I’ll have different thoughts. For now, I’ll move on to what’s most important to me. Saying what I need to say about myself as a woman with dreams and goals. And maybe in the future, I should create my own blue print for the strong female character. I think I can do that.

 

 

 

 

Hope and the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon

Hope and the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon

Hope and the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon 

Comedian Jerry Lewis offered hope to families with relatives suffering from Muscular Dystrophy. He died Saturday at the age of 91. When I was younger, I watched the telethon with rapt attention; for whatever reason, I was drawn to it and the cause. At age 9, I held my own Muscular Dystrophy carnival. In high school we watched the local fundraiser live, in a mall. I went to a college that was handicapped accessible, and one of my classmates had MD. I even saw him on the telethon my junior year of college.

When it Hits Close to Home

When I gave birth to my twins in 1998, my daughter Stephanie was born with a neuromuscular disorder, similar to MD but not, there is still to this day, no diagnosis.

As we struggled to care for her deteriorating body, the telethon held a different meaning for me. This time what they did, the research and care of those afflicted, had relevance in my life. I will never forget the first time I called during the telethon to donate; I could barely speak to make my pledge.

It’s All About Hope

Though we didn’t have a diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy and was unable to utilize the facilities, I still donated, because I understood how difficult it was to care for someone whose body was dying. Physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, medicine, nursing care, hospice care. I would watch the telethon, as long as I could stand it, crying because it as so close, because I felt the hope, that some day, all these undiagnosed diseases would have a name. Because with a name, there was a gene and with a gene a treatment could be researched. Hope.

Some day other parents wouldn’t have to live through the pain, anger, sleepless nights, nursing shortages, as they watched their child suffer with breathing issues, oxygen shortages just before the weekend, or hospital stays.

Jerry Lewis Passes Away

Jerry was the spokesperson for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and no one knew the reason why he did this. Why he stayed up for three days over Labor Day weekend, every year. Only his first wife knew. It was a remarkable devotion to a cause and his death makes me sad. It’s a reminder of my daughter and her struggle, of all the times, I searched for resources to assist with finding medical equipment or nursing help. What the MDA does for so many is make it easier for families to care for their loved ones and most importantly it offers hope that one day a cure will be found. May he rest in peace. He will be missed.

To donate – MDA.org

 

 

 

Six Sins of the Writer – In Otherwords – Insecurity

Six Sins of the Writer – In Otherwords – Insecurity

We writers all do it, let our insecurity get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish. We let it hold us back. Something I’m finding as I take a very personal book and shop it to agents. After 9 query letters, I’ve received 9 No’s. It makes me want to stop, hide the book under my pillow and cry.

After spending the last 7 weeks healing from shoulder surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to re-assess and a lot of time to feel sorry for myself. I’m not where I want to be physically or professionally, I’m not this, I’m not where I should be. I started thinking about the Writer’s Deadly Sins.

The Insecurity of Fear –

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’m terrified to send the next letter, put myself out there, expose myself and a book that became something so personal it feels like each rejection is a rejection of myself and my person. It’s ridiculous, I know. And yet, I promised myself I’d sent out three query letters a night. After the 9th rejection, I haven’t sent out another. I will tonight, I swear it!

The Insecurity of Comparing Yourself to Other Writers –

Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine! Jennie Finch

This is my biggest fault as a writer. More so because I see others succeeding where all I feel I’m doing is spinning my wheels. I try this, I try that, and all I’m looking for is a simple boost, a simple jump from nothing to one, just to show I’m making progress. Sometimes I stop reading other’s posts on Facebook because I just can’t deal my own lack of confidence.

I’m me, however, once in a while the comparison might lead to something amazing. Like when I walked into my 20th class reunion. I’ve talked about speaking with a former classmate, Joy Meredith who I found out was a published author. The jealous, the anger at myself grew and pulsed until I finally sat down to write my first book.

Still, don’t compare yourself to other writers. It’s not apples to apples, it different genres, different stories. Just be you.

Not Giving Yourself a Break –

Women need to hear the words, ‘It’s okay if things don’t go exactly the way you want them to.’ Give yourself a break! Brooke Burke

To sell books you need to market them. That means social media, blogging, book fairs. There’s so many pieces in the overall scheme I get overwhelmed when I realize I’m not doing everything there is to do. I read The 30 Book Marketing Challenge, by Rachel Thompson, which was set up to be doing something everyday for a 30 day period. And I did. I was crazy with carving out the time to look at a new website, change-up a Facebook page, tweet something important. It made me nutty, depressed, jealous. Yes, I recognize I need to be doing most of the things she wrote about but realistically, I was not getting graded on my work, it will not make me a best seller after 30 days. What it will do is help. Rather than making myself nutty, I should have given myself a break, taken one action when I could and realize that it wasn’t going to change over night. I can only do what I can do; after all, I work full-time, write in my free time, raise two children and care for a house.

Insecurity makes you Forget to be Proud of Your Accomplishments –

You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment! Aly Raisman

I might not be where I want to be but I can’t forget that I’ve published three books and have written another three. That’s six books that I have fretted and stressed over, that I have passionately crafted. Not everyone can say they’ve written a book. I’ve written six and I need to remember that I have accomplished something. And if I want more, I will grab hold of the accomplishment and carry it around proudly.

Insecurity and Forgetting Your Passion –

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. Maya Angelou

Writing makes me happy. I find confidence when I craft a story and when the story works with the series. Sometimes I forget what I really need to do is write passionately.

My last writer’s sin…

…is to forgetting the seven-year old I was so many years ago. She’s the one who fell in love with Nancy Drew and the detective story and she’s the one who decided definitively that she wanted to be a writer.  I need to remember myself when I was her and honor the dream I came up with so long ago. I know what I want to do, now all I need is to take another step in that direction.

 

Gracie Madison Feels the World – Chapter 1

Gracie Madison Feels the World – Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Even though Mom and Dad no longer live in the same house or even the same state, they still can’t communicate with each other. Mom screams through the phone; her shrill voice vibrates through the vents. I don’t know if she realizes that even as she hides herself in the bathroom, cocooned by the shower and the walls and the doors, we can still hear her half of their latest argument. I can only imagine what Dad’s voice sounds like through the phone.
I take a deep breath and text my best friend, Molly Malone, even though it’s 10:30 p.m.
Dad must be mad and shouting back at Mom, because now I hear her sobbing. Screaming and sobbing. It’s not so different than when they were married. Only now we hear the one side, and the aftermath is cold and lonely.
When Mom and Dad divorced, Dad took a job in another state, found a new girlfriend, and moved in with her and her kids, leaving us behind to deal with his mess. I know it’s hard for Mom to raise us by herself; she’s often too exhausted to deal with us, with me. Much of her time she spends hiding in her room.
I hate when they do this.
Molly texts me back.
I’m so sorry sweetie, she writes.
My ten-year-old sister, Shay, is huddled in her room, rocking herself on her bed. The squeaky coils on her mattress are loud. I should go and see her, but I have my own way of dealing with Mom and Dad’s fights. And right now, I’m hiding under my covers behind my closed door, wishing the fight would just stop.
You can call me if you want, Molly writes without waiting for me to reply. I can barely speak; this fight is one of my parents’ most intense. At least it seems to be going on longer than normal.
Though these arguments and the tension never seem to bother my brother Jake, he’s up. Maybe he’s listening to music to drown out the phone call. I hear the pleather of his beanbag chair squish when he adjusts himself in his seat. He normally appears as though he can easily slip inside his oasis of dirty socks and wadded up garbage that never seems to make the waste basket when he takes a shot. He never seems to emerge from his room tired or even affected at all by the fight or the rant or a punishment.
I click on Molly’s phone number and listen to the phone ring and ring.
Maybe she fell asleep.
Whatever they were fighting about is nothing more than hiccoughs, sighs, and whispers through the wall right now. Anxious, I wait for the other shoe to fall. The finale of their fight always comes, and Mom is always frustrated in the morning, yelling at us as if this is our fault.
It probably is.
It comes in waves, the arguments they have. Mom complains and whines about something; Dad makes quips that piss her off. They push each other’s buttons. I have no idea why they even married or what drew them to each other in the first place. I can barely remember what it was like before the fighting.
“Hi,” Molly says when she finally answers the phone.
She’s groggy, I just woke her up, and now I feel guilty for bothering her.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have called,” I whisper.
Mom is quiet before the big finale, and my stomach roils in pain at the stress of it. I pull the covers up around my head. It’s hot and stuffy under the blankets, but at least I hear only whispers of the argument.
“No, Gracie. You can always call. I’m so sorry.”
Molly Malone, my best friend since second grade, always finds a way to be there, even when we should be sleeping. Sometimes her overbearing personality is annoying, but sometimes, I just need to reach out to her because she cares—and it sometimes feels that no one else does.
“Are you okay?” she yawns into the phone.
I shouldn’t have called.
“They’re fighting again.” I sniffle and choke. I didn’t want to cry in front of her. I can’t help it. This time is just too much, and lately this seems to be the only thing I can talk about.
Molly must hate when I bring it up.
A new wave of the argument starts. Mom is loud, confident, angry.
“I’m so sorry they do this to you. Doesn’t she know you can hear it when she hides in the bathroom? They’re not being good . . .” Molly’s now awake and indignant, but she refrains from finishing that sentence.
They’re not good parents.
She doesn’t want to say it, to make me feel worse then I already do. I can always count on her to be on my side.
“I should just tell her we hear everything.” I cry out. Across the hallway, Shay climbs off her bed.
“You need to speak up for yourself. Parents just don’t get it,” Molly says. I find it funny because Molly and her mom are close and always have been. Molly sometimes doesn’t get it. Tonight I don’t care.
“I try, but they don’t hear me. I have to do all this stuff, and they don’t listen. It’s not fair. I’m only fourteen. I shouldn’t have to do the dishes, cook dinner, do my homework—and when I’m trying to sleep, I get this!” My voice is whiny. I’m so tired. I’m so angry.
“Gracie. I’m so sorry. This really sucks,” she says. “We need to do a sleepover. You need to get out of there.” Molly’s voice is reassuring. Before the divorce, when it was still tense in the house, I would hide at her house whenever I could. Whenever I didn’t have to babysit. It was safe at Molly’s house.
My bedroom door squeaks open. I poke my head out of the blankets; my bedroom light blinds me. Moving over, I hold the blankets up and make room for my sister, who snuggles in beside me.
“Thanks, Molly, but I’ve gotta go. It’s late, and I’m so sorry for calling.”
“Call me any time. And get out of there. Come over this weekend.”
When we hang up, I toss my phone on the bedside table, switch off the light, and let Shay sleep beside me.
Sometimes I wish I were her age so I had someone that I could nestle up to when it got really bad. And I feel badly for her because all she has is me.
“Why do they fight?” Shay asks in her little-girl voice.
“They don’t live together anymore and don’t see each other, so I don’t know why,” I say because I really don’t have an answer. I used to think Dad hated Mom so much and that it was why he abandoned us. I never really connected with Mom.
She grew up pretty and popular, a cheerleader and good student. I’m just me, with no special interests or skills; we really have nothing in common. Dad always understood me, and he would talk to me. But now he’s no longer interested or he’s too busy with his new family. I no longer blame Mom.
“He doesn’t love us anymore,” she sighs. I wish I could tell her that isn’t true.
When I look up, Jake leans against my doorway, his shadow accentuated by the streetlamp outside my bedroom window. This time the fight affects him greatly; he too doesn’t want to be alone.
“You can sit here with us,” I say to him. I feel his skinny little thirteen-year-old-boy frame sit beside us; the mattress barely moves. All three of us haven’t been close in a very long time, but tonight we are equally paralyzed, sad, unable to do anything to make this fight stop. I recognize the look in his eyes. They’re the same as mine and as Shay’s. We do nothing more than stare at each other as the last of the fight rolls through the house.

****

EH . . . EH . . . EH . . .
The alarm clock buzzes, cutting through the darkness; I tremble from the intrusive noise waking me from a dream. My fist slams the off button, and I stay under the covers enjoying the last bit of silence before I realize that Shay must have left my room long ago.
Her footsteps pound down the hallway and the stairs, through the kitchen until I hear whistles blowing from the television in the den. The nautical tune wafts up to my bedroom through the air ducts—and just like that, Shay has started her day as if nothing had happened the night before.
Like clockwork, Mom enters her bathroom, and within minutes, the shower springs to life. Water crackles softly against the stone floor like a spring rain does against the roof. My eyes flutter closed. I have to force them awake as the shower shuts off.
Damn!
Knowing that I’m running late now, I throw off my blankets. Cold morning air nips at my exposed skin. Once I click on my bedside lamp, I jolt awake before I hide myself back under the covers and pretend this day hasn’t started yet.
I shuffle to my dresser and pull on the fake crystal handle, which comes off in my hand, when it pulls apart from the screw. Not in the mood to deal with the fourth broken handle this month, I toss the plastic bauble on my bed and shove my hand into the completely filled drawer.
I need to clean this out!
I tug and pull, loosening the items in the drawer and whipping them out until half of my belongings are strewn across the floor and bed. The jeans I want aren’t here.
They must be in the laundry!
I glance at the clock and panic. Running out of time, I throw on the next clean pair of jeans, a skinny pair that slips down around my hips. As I see myself in the mirror, I sigh. I hate this body. It’s too thin and bony, though according to Molly that’s a good problem to have, and I should be a model.
Ugh!!!
In another drawer, I find a clean yet slightly wrinkled T-shirt and stretch it over my head. My eye spies a stray thread, and of course I yank on it until most of the hem is gone.
“Crap!” I toss the string on the dresser, grab my favorite hoodie, and run to the bathroom.
My hand shakes as I pull the brush through my frizzy, unmanageable hair and frown at my pale, make-up-less face wishing I knew how to fix myself up. Even if I did, there’s no time this morning. Barely brushing my teeth, I find myself with just enough time to pull my mop into a ponytail. I grimace in my mirror; overnight, a new pimple broke out on the tip of my nose, and my hair is still a mess.
A model, right . . .
I sprint down the stairs.
“Hurry up!” Mom shouts from the kitchen, probably impatient from her lack of sleep. Sliding across the wood floor, I grab the breakfast bar she holds for me. She grimaces and sighs. The dark circles under her eyes make me think she didn’t sleep at all last night.
When her phone rings Mom glances at it and runs off to take the call. Her response is terse, the conversation quick. It’s probably the boss she hates, or maybe Dad is calling for a second round.
With breakfast hanging between my lips, I thrust books and last night’s homework into my backpack and zip it shut.
“I’m going to be late tonight,” Mom prattles on behind me. “You’ll need to make dinner.”
I always do! I scream in my head as Jake saunters in, his hair mussed perfectly, his white shirt untucked and slightly wrinkled, looking casual and easy.
“Why are you wearing that?” Mom asks.
“It’s clean.” He shrugs as the bus honks.
“Gracie, don’t forget dinner!” Mom calls after me as the three Madison children run for the school buses.
****
“Here.” Molly hands me a muffin. It’s misshapen, not like the ones you get at the grocery store all nice and packaged. This is homemade.
“Thanks,” I say and place it neatly in my backpack. We’re not allowed to eat in class. Molly sits beside me. Her mouth is tightly shut, and her jaw is clenched.
As Mrs. Fowler, our math teacher, writes out a new formula for us to remember and soon forget, Molly turns to me.
“Can you come tonight for dinner?” she whispers before she pulls away to take notes.
“I have to make dinner,” I say. I start to copy the new formula, but it’s confusing and fuzzy, so I take to doodling pictures instead.
She starts to say something. I know she wants to say, “What, again?” but she doesn’t because Mrs. Fowler turns around to watch the class—as if by studying our faces she can tell if we understand what she just said. Molly means well by offering support. She just doesn’t understand because her parents are married, and her mom works part time. I sigh and force my attention on Mrs. Fowler whose eyes meet mine. They warn me to pay attention. This material is important and on the test. When she turns back to the board, I glance at Molly. Her worry is palpable, especially around her mouth, which purses shut. I offer a wan smile before digging into the newest math.
****
Normally Molly and I eat lunch together, but today as I leave math class, Mrs. Fowler hands me a note strongly recommending I see her at lunch. My math grade is so bad that I’m not even failing math. I have something lower than an “F”—a “G,” maybe?
Starving, I munch on a candy bar and open the door to the math department office, a smallish space shared by six math teachers. Their desks, three in a row, face each other. It lacks privacy, it lacks intimacy, it’s a little depressing.
I’d hate to work here.
Mrs. Fowler sees me and smiles—not too big, not too small, just enough for me to see her perfectly white teeth. It’s a nice smile, and I’m less nervous when I sit down beside her.
“Hi, Gracie. Thanks for heeding my message. Is everything all right?” she asks when I place my bag at my feet.
“Yeah. Everything’s fine. Why?”
I know my teachers know about my parents’ divorce, whether they heard from me or my mom. I’ve never been asked about it before, though.
“I know it’s been hard, since . . . well, you know. I just want you to know we’re here for you. The teachers. We want to make sure you have what you need to succeed.” She pulls out the file—the real reason I’m here. I see my grade sheet. I was wrong. I have more than an “F,” but still, a “D” isn’t great either. She hands me the report. “Gracie, I know things have been rough at home. And sometimes freshman year is tough. So I recommend you come for tutoring. There’s still plenty of time to get your grade up. Sometimes it’s hard when things at home aren’t great. But you are smart. I’ve seen your other grades. They’re good grades. I know together we can do this!”
No we can’t! It sucks at home. I hate math! I don’t want to be here anymore!
I say nothing but nod my head as if I agree. I can’t handle the condescension, the pity. Parents get divorced all the time.
Isn’t it hard on all of us kids?
“I’ll study more,” I murmur and avert my eyes and I review the grade sheet. It hurts my head; my stomach tightens up.
“If you don’t, I will recommend summer school,” she says, matter of fact as if she hadn’t been so caring just five minutes ago. “You’re excused,” she finally finishes.
I trudge away, tired and hungry as I head out for my next class.
****
“I missed you at lunch. What did Mrs. Fowler want?” Molly asks over the phone when I am back at my house. I hear the paper wrapper of her Pop Tarts crinkle as she opens it up. Her mom bakes all the time, so I find it funny she likes the store-bought stuff. But that’s her act of rebellion, and it makes me chuckle.
“Summer school if I don’t get my grades up,” I reply and punch the temperature on the oven. At least Mom made it easy; all I have to do is heat dinner tonight.
“If you need help, get a tutor. You know, Adam’s really good at math,” she says. I hear her bite the tart, and my mouth waters. I’d love one right now.
“Ew. Ick. No,” I say. Molly and I might be best friends, but I don’t like Adam Striker. They’ve been friends longer than I’ve known Molly. We’ve been to her birthday parties together, and I’ve sulked through lunch with him, but I have never liked him. If you ask me why, I can only remember he said something to my brother Jake when Jake was six. It was just stupid, nothing that a seven-year-old should be so angry about. But it simmered and stewed for so long. Ever since that incident, all we manage to do is spar like it’s a sport. Either way, being tutored by Adam is just . . . Not. An. Option!
“Suit yourself. Summer’s school’s only six weeks long. That’s not much time.”
I grimace and shove in dinner, a frozen dish from the grocery store. “You’re very funny,” I say and close the door.
“Are you okay?” Molly asks when I sit down to start my homework.
I sigh because I’m sick of the question. It’s just easier to lie and ignore my feelings rather than to admit that I’m mad my parents are divorced and my dad doesn’t live here anymore.
“No, but I will be when I pass math,” I say. At least with Molly I can be glib. She really knows that I’m not okay. I push the math homework aside and opt for English because it’s my best subject and doesn’t hurt my head when I complete my assignment. “Call Adam,” she persists.
“No. I gotta go. We’re breaking up . . .” I pretend to make that warbled sound as if we’re driving through a tunnel. Molly starts laughing. I think that’s the only thing I offer to this friendship. Sometimes I’m funny.
“Call me. If you need to . . . you know, talk,” she offers one last time before hanging up.
I begin to read Shakespeare but stop short and glance at my math book before returning to Romeo and Juliet for some tragic fun.

Inspirational Guilty Pleasure – Thy Name is American Ninja Warrior

Inspirational Guilty Pleasure – Thy Name is American Ninja Warrior

Inspirational

I could have picked a more traditional guilty pleasure. Something like Dynasty of the 1980’s or the Kardashians today. But I didn’t. It’s hard to explain the draw for me, a non-athlete, a self-proclaimed television junkie. But there it is, a show, that is by its nature, is something inspirational to me and therefore, something I’m drawn to, something I can’t get enough of.

Yeah. It’s an obstacle course, one that looks impossible, one that makes me shake my head as to the level of difficulty because really who wants to roll dizzy across the water and try to climb another obstacle when you’re half crazed with dizziness? But it is awesome!

Inspirational in its story telling

The people who try the obstacles either want the money, or the challenge of making it through all courses, there are 6 of them. But there are those who have battled cancer and came back, or endured physical therapy after a car accident, or dealt with the death of a friend, parent or spouse, who are looking for something, something challenging, something beyond their everyday life.

It’s more than just an obstacle course. For them it is that thing that brought them back from the brink, something they must do. I find myself cheering for them, hoping they can make it up that final foot or last obstacle and I can imagine myself climbing up and breaking down those challenges.

Don’t make it easy, just give us a chance

Each year, more and more women participate and each year, they get faster and go farther than they ever have. They compete equally with the men and for me as I watch Kacy Catanzaro conquer the warped wall, or Jessie Graff make it farther than any other woman before her, I tear up. It reminds me, that a little hard work, a little determination and  accepting the opportunity when it’s presented, we can accomplish the goals we set.

I don’t ever think I’ll be strong enough or ambitious enough to actually make it on the show, but I do believe that I’m talented enough and determined enough to make my goals my reality. Every time I watch the participants on American Ninja Warrior, I feel the inspiration. It can be done.

And that is why I keep watching and that is why I keep writing. Because I can’t stop. Because, just one more chapter, one more sentence, one more word. And I’ll be ready when that opportunity knocks down my door.

American Ninja Warrior

Life – Writing Your Own Story, Literally and Figuratively

Life – Writing Your Own Story, Literally and Figuratively

My Life – A Raging Tornado

Life, my life has been a roller coaster, of highs and lows, some so low, I thought that there would never, ever be another problem to contend with for the rest of my life. I’ve struggled to get pregnant, I’ve gotten pregnant easily. I had a difficult pregnancy, I’ve had an easy one. I carried twins, I’ve carried a single baby. I’ve given birth to three children, one born with a genetic disability that took her life at 11 months old; I have a child with such severe anxiety, that it has been a struggle for her and the family to live something normal, and now I deal with a transgender child.

As soon as I think I’m coming to the end of the roller coaster, just as it’s ready to pull into the station, I instead, and catapulted back to the first loop d’loop to start the journey again.

My Life – Yes, Sometimes I feel Sorry for Myself

I could have become an alcoholic, or a drug addict or harmed myself, but I didn’t. I thought for a while I was handling the lows, coming through them and surviving. What I was doing was merely surviving, allowing myself to merely be a victim of my circumstances. And yes, in that I felt sorry for myself. Sometimes it’s hard not to do that. After all that I’ve seen, all that I’ve lived through, after life battering me, throwing me from one situation to another, I realized, it’s okay to feel this way. Sometimes you have to let it go and simply feel for the loss of what you thought life would be. But what’s not okay, is wallowing for too long in the low.

My Life – At the Edge of the Abyss

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the 19 years of parenting. It’s okay to not be perfect. And it’s okay to put yourself first. I’ve stood at the edge of the Abyss with the universe pushing me, pressing me against the edge, laughing as I slip on the weakened earth beneath my feet. And as it pushing me toward the deep end, the my bottom, I’ve learned one last thing about myself. I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I shouted at the universe “NO! You can’t have me!”

Writing is what saved me from losing my mind, from letting the weight of the problems overwhelm me and victimize me. Twice this week I’ve heard myself saying or thinking, “We write our own story. ” Literally and figuratively that is. Granted life has a funny way of shoving us down certain paths, but what we do with these changes, is up to us. We write our own story.

My Life – My Passion is the Written Word

I write. It is my priority. It is my love and it is my passion. Someday I hope to do this as my living, not my “hobby” as I learn how to find a fan base big enough to allow me to live my dream. And what I’ve learned about that is, “You must never give up.” It’s that drive, that desire that has kept me grounded, that has made me a better mom, a better person. It builds my confidence, it makes me whole. It is what keeps me from falling off the roller coaster when it whips me around.

This is my life for better or for worse. And I’ve made my choice on how I write it. The glass will always be half full as long as you have the confidence in yourself to make it so.

See the glass as half full and find me at the following book fairs, Summer, 2017.

Printer’s Row Lit Fest

Ann Arbor Book Festival 2017

 

 

 

The Little Chick Has Returned to the Nest – Anxiety and My First Born

The Little Chick Has Returned to the Nest – Anxiety and My First Born

Anxiety and the start of the school year.

We picked all these items before school started in hopes they would ease my daughter’s anxiety about going away to school. And now her dorm room full of crap sits in my dining room, scattered across the floor and table where it was carelessly placed after unloading the SUV. The piles of junk spilled into the living room, the final car load needed a place to be stored. A final piece never left the kitchen where it takes up valuable walking space between the island and the refrigerator. If I don’t break soon, it may stay there the entire summer. Probably not…but you never know.

I’ve raised a highly anxious child for 19 years. I’ve dealt with a child who was barely able to talk to her teachers, who suffered from ADD, who was severely fearful of the wind and felt anxiety that was blinding and debilitating. She’s endured therapists, bad teachers, social workers, psychiatrists, all in the attempt to help her achieve some sort of normalcy, so that she could at some point in her life, live as a functioning adult.

This year was a mixed bag.

Three weeks before school started, she endured wrist surgery, an injury sustained during Tae Kwon Do testing when she broke several boards at the same time. After x-rays and physical therapy, there was no relief and surgery was the next option. My daughter’s first test as a functioning adult would be physical therapy on her own while away at school.

I worried when the first night away ended with an upsetting text and a phone call with my child on the end of the phone line crying, already not liking college, and it was still only Freshman orientation. I could feel the anxiety through the phone.

She wasn’t talking to her group, she wasn’t speaking to her roommate.

I sighed. It would be soon. She’ll get the hang of it.

I helped her through her first physical therapy appointment and held my breath when she went on her own. And each time, it got easier, not just for her but for me as I slowly let go. It could only get better.

 

Thinking Positive

I could only hope with a little time, with a little patience and experience my daughter would realize how far she had come. She was for the most part, living on her own, she handled physical therapy like a pro, she even drove herself home on several occasions, making her way through unfamiliar territory. I was proud of the challenges she overcame  all the while, the anxiety still present and real. She couldn’t see past it.

But it didn’t last.

Her roommate was mean. Complained of a weird smell, blamed my child as if she wasn’t showering. My kid who took 30 minute showers on a regular basis, began to doubt herself. People would comment about her behind her back while she could hear. The roommate moved out.

It shattered my kid. She never ever had anything quite like this happen to her. My heart broke for her as she called me crying, others in the hallway were making nasty comments.

But she persisted, she didn’t give up and continued on with the second semester, reveled in good grades and was invited to the smart kids fraternity.

There was so much to be proud of.

But It’s Still Anxiety

She has severe anxiety and possibly OCD, issues that can hinder if you’re not willing to do something about them. She saw a therapist at school to help with the roommate issue, I reminded her several times how far she had come. And in the end, she was willing to make things better, try to overcome the OCD and ADD and make an effort. She joined several clubs and even forced herself to go to meetings.

She started to think about a major, a minor, a possible career. But she still has anxiety. And as much as I want to toss the little chick out of the nest, I can only do it in small increments. She’s just not quite ready.

And that’s my job. Continual support of my child as she continues to grow and change and adapt. She will always have a home to feel safe in. A place to hide from the world, to soak in as much love as she can in order to face the harsh realities outside the front door.

I have high hopes for next year. She has clubs to join and will be rooming with a good friend who will be attending the college with her in the fall.

It’s never easy, but each step is confirmation that we’re in the right direction and someday, the little chick will be tossed out without realizing she had been.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

Confidence: My name is Sheryl Steines and I’m a Local Author.

All it Takes is Confidence

Even social media is difficult for an introvert, who oftentimes lacks basic confidence. So what’s an inspiring author supposed to do when she needs to recruit strangers to help with a social media campaign?

You pretend you’re not shy, or an introvert and you fake yourself out, acting as though you really have no problem making conversation with totally random strangers.

But they weren’t so random, the locations were selected carefully. We wanted cool., comfortable, roomy enough to spread out our stuff; the camera equipment, the books, the giveaways, the props.

But I had to recruit, dig deep and walk up to the ones I wanted. The kids that looked like they might like an urban fantasy, who weren’t so engrossed in conversation it would be a complete intrusion.

And There Goes the Confidence

With a deep breath and a lot reserve, I introduced myself as if I owned it, as if I exuded confidence and asked for what I wanted. The first guy gracefully declined, he was meeting someone soon. I thanked him for his time and moved on.

It was a perfect location. a coffee shop. There were four of them, twenty something’s out on a Sunday afternoon. Some with backpacks and homework, all of them with their phones. I was surprised how willing they were to have their pictures taken. They graciously did as we asked as my friend and photographer Jim took their pictures.

In exchange, I gave them copies of book one, The Day of First Sun. I gave them some swag. They were nice and they seemed to enjoy the surprise in their day, something different, something unique.

Am I Really an Introvert?

The funny thing is, I always tell people I’m an introvert. Which I probably am, until I find myself in a perfectly comfortable situation. A happy place, where I do what I love, in a place where I’m passionate for what I do. Maybe all those times I thought I was shy and unable to do things is because I really didn’t find that thing I loved, or I forgot what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.

I seemed to have found my confidence, my strength. When I write, when I talk about my books, when I attend book fairs, those things I once thought were scary aren’t so much anymore. I’m drawn to the life of an author and I look forward to the experience that comes with it.

Come see me at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest on June 10th and 11th.

And for the first time I’ll be attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival on June 17th. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to share.

 

 

 

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