It’s a writer’s journey from book conception, to editing and rewriting, through the process of trying to sell your books. Here’s my recent entrée into my up and down journey.
Of Life, Loss and Finding Joy
That Moment in Time – When it felt time to have my first child, I knew it, and approached it as inevitable. But my next steps in life didn’t follow a straight path, it jerked sideways and turned out nothing like I imagined it would. For more about my article about the loss of my daughter Stephanie Paige check out Modernmom.com or Besteveryou.com
I’ve been very luck the last two weeks. I’ve had some amazing book reviews about Black Market, the second book in the Wizard Hall Chronicles. It’s amazing to see how others view the story and the themes and in honor of the End of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share the book reviews about Black Market and how Annie Pearce embodies female empowerment. Check them out on the following website.
I’ve been around for seven years, tirelessly working to bring my books to the public, share the stories I love so much. Find a platform that inspires others and garner a bit of publicity.
As I worked with a publicist to bring my new book to market, she became aware of a new angle to find an audience. I had an opportunity to write an article about one of the most difficult times in my life; the death of my daughter. It is an emotional experience that I’m willing to share with others, because I have a unique insight. It’s also a form of publicity, one in which I benefit in unexpected ways.
The article really wrote itself. Words flew from my brain and out my finger tips and on to the screen. I was nervous to open up and put it all out there, but I did it and it reminded me of the struggles, of the love and of the loss.
This is about turning tragedy in light and love. I put it all out there and opened myself up, freeing myself.
I had no idea in my quest to get noticed, would be helped by writing what I knew. Faced with my past and the memories that linger was a welcome pit stop on my quest to write books for a living. I got something so much more.
It was a story that needed to be told. Memories, feelings, scents, so vivid when I retell the story. I needed to finally stand up and speak out and tell the story.
Lessons in Life
There’s so much more out there, and not so much time. But on the anniversary of my daughter’s death looming closely, I realize that I shouldn’t hide what had happened, I should embrace this as part of my life, and yes, even use what I’ve experienced to help sell books.
It is what shaped me and makes me who I am. All I can do is open up and let it all hang out.
We are wives, mothers, single women, human beings. We go to college, work full-time, play sports. We’re artists, CEOs, writers, maids, data entry clerks, stay at home moms. We are caring, we are strong, we are relentless, we are tough, we are soft. We are all these things because once upon a time there were others like us who could not be.
There was a time, when it was expected that we would become wives and mothers, unable to own property or get credit, or work outside the home.
But today, my friends varied in their interests. We are teachers, body guards, office workers, writers, social workers, architects, planners, thinkers. Most have children, some have chosen not to; others could not.
I’ve met women survivors of rape and incest, mothers who buried their children, women who rush through life involved in the constant care of children with physical limitations or mental disabilities, and women who give up everything to care for loved ones hundreds of miles away from their home and life.
Women matter, for all the contributions and sacrifices to those we love. We matter for the choices we’ve made and for the choices that will still need to made. Women’s history month reminds us that we as a collective have power, we as individuals have strength. We have come a long way from a time when we couldn’t own property, vote, get credit, go to college or play sports.
This is my remembrance of those who came before me, who fought for my right to my health, to my career. To the artists, writers, suffragettes, ordinary women who took a stand, were beaten for their beliefs, tossed in jail as punishment for speaking out. Susan B. Anthony, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, Lucille Ball, Rosa Parks, Margaret Mead, Serena Williams, Judy Blume. So many I have no more room.
For more inspirational women see he National Women’s Hall of Fame: http://www.nndb.com/honors/867/000046729/
And lastly, this is a love letter to my girlfriends. We share our struggles, we support each other, we celebrate and cry together. For without all of my lady friends and not so lady, very salty friends. My shy gals and outgoing leaders, remembering women of the past and speaking up for the future is important to us and legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren.
I hadn’t realized there was a month dedicated to understanding and celebrating the contributions of women over the course of history. March is Women’s History Month. It’s a big undertaking, to remember the women who fought for the right to vote, or to go to school, play sports, become scientists and doctors.
Keenly aware of the women who stood up for their belief’s and affected change, I feel as though I’m the recipient of their beatings, their jail time, I don’t take for granted that their struggles have allowed me to work for a living, or be a stay at home mom, or try my hand at being writer.
We Share the Struggles
Women, share many of the same struggles. And yet, we can be critical, and judgmental, as we take sides between differing philosophies. What we should be doing is embracing the choices. Because not every mom breast feeds or stays at home with their children. Whichever choice we make, should not leave us guilt ridden or ashamed.
I’ve been on both sides of varying issues and in the end, my choices reflected my family condition, the needs we had at that moment in time. I need not feel guilty over the choices because they came from a place of love, concern, need and desire.
Where I fit In
I’m taking the time during Women’s History Month to learn a little something about the contributions of the women who came before me. They strived for a better life, a thoughtful, learned life; a life of strength in competitiveness, a life in love. I can honor them by leaving my own mark. Making my own contributions, to humankind and I do so, by sharing my experiences as a mom and woman. By sharing my struggles and my successes, I might become a sign of hope for others in their time of need. We can accomplish so much more when we come at it with love and support. My legacy is in my books, and in my blog. If it inspires one person, I’ll be happy with my contributions, big or small.
On March 29, 1999, I watched my daughter Stephanie Paige Steines take her last breath. She was born with a neuromuscular disease of unknown origin. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, only time makes it hurt less; I no longer cry starting a month before her death, and that day, sometimes it passes without recognition. I always remember though.
While her health deteriorated, her muscles became weak, her breathing difficult, her eating nearly impossible, I had a weird dichotomy of experiencing the other side, the wonder of her twin, my daughter Kayla, as she grew stronger, hit her milestones, thrive.
But with each milestone achieved, there was something not completely right, there should have been two reaching these ‘normal’ goals.
After Stephi died, there was always a whisper of sadness through everything that Kayla did and though I promised myself that Kayla would never have to live her life because her sister died, she’d only have to live her life because Kayla was, the whisper, the hint, a piece of the whole was always there.
I hadn’t realized Kayla experienced that emptiness until almost 17 years later. Seeing other twins at school hurt, she wanted to scream out, “I’m a twin too!” I will never forget the time I was in a room with four other adults, and three of us gave birth to twins. As the two moms spoke of their twin issues, I wanted more than anything to chime in. But to talk of the loss carries a dark cloud over the conversation and it’s not always the right time or place.
The loss is not just my loss, it’s also Kayla’s. Even though she were 11 months old when Stephanie died, we both feel it especially during great achievements, a great moving forward, always knowing, someone else should be there too.
I feel it now as Kayla is ready to graduate high school, as she’s ready to enter college. I’m not just sad because my baby is all grown up. I’m sad because we are missing someone.
There is so much pride for all Kayla has been able to accomplish. Overcoming crippling anxiety, scoliosis, ADHD. She’s graduating with amazing grades, a high ACT score and was accepted into three colleges. She’ll be attending this fall on her way to full adulthood.
Time makes it less difficult and there are less tears, but it can never wipe away the sadness. I only hope I can make through graduation without the ugly cry.
The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.
The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept.
WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines
I’ve been afraid of deep water, (I’m 5’3″ so it doesn’t take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.
Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.
I’ve taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I’ve given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.
I’ve been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that’s pure emotion as I discuss the life I’ve led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I’m in a large body of water.
JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn’t write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.
Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.
Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.
I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.
Meditation. There’s no secret to practicing, you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to participate. It’s not magic, and most likely it’s something you’ve done without realizing you’re doing it.
Have you ever been so stressed that you take a moment to take a slow, deep breath and equally slow release of the breath? A moment to slow down, to be in the present. This is meditation.
Life is stressful. Full time job, over scheduling ourselves and our children, sometimes our lives feel as though they’re imploding in on itself. I feel it too.
I’ve been on a quest the last year, to remake myself. Find my inner happiness as I try to accomplish a goal I set for myself when I was seven years old. To be a writer. But as we all know, sometimes life gets derailed. Careers, a terminally ill baby, an anxious child, a transgender child.
Stress builds up to the point you feel as if you are ready to explode and as I work toward my goals, and try not to let myself get derailed, I came up with a plan to remake myself. I call it Becoming Lola after I made a joke that I wanted to dye my hair red and change my name.
To deal with the stress, I took a meditation seminar at my yoga studio. The goal to open our chakras, let our natural energy flow freely instead of bottle up. Regardless of what you think about this, doesn’t matter for the moment. What I discovered through the guided meditation, through listening to the doctor’s voice, by paying attention to my body, and imagining these centers opening up, I walked out of there with a quiet mind and an open heart.
My recent introduced me to Buddhist Monk Bhante Sujatha, practicing for over thirty years. He travels the world guiding others to the practice of meditation and when he’s home at the monastery he founded, he guides practitioners in how to begin and continue with the practice. When he’s not doing that, he raises money for incubators, used in impoverished countries.
I told Bhante my story. How one hour-long session, affected me so much. He told me I had the Buddhist light within me and encouraged me to continue practicing.
It takes only five minutes of time. Five minutes to breathe in, let the air fill your lungs and release it. Five minutes to simply be in the moment with no thoughts, no lists, not responsibilities except to listen to your body and quiet the mind.
I made a pledge to be open to all sorts of healing, to ease the pain in my body and in my mind, to give myself much-needed rest. It cost nothing and takes little time to heal yourself if your open to the possibility.
I’ve never thought of myself as pretty. I just wasn’t one of THOSE girls when I was a kid.
Okay. It’s never really been an issue until after having kids. The body changes, the extra weight. And recently gained weight due to some heavy stress, I’ve feel very uncomfortable in my own skin.
I want more for myself and my children, than the constantly being down on myself because the days are long, the years are short and we should spend those short years with the people, things and events that make us happy. Whether that’s time with friends and family, sometimes, just taking are of yourself, reminding yourself that your more than a wife, mother, writer, friend is something you need to do. And taking yourself out of your comfort zone, finding new challenges, reinventing yourself, that might be just the thing you need.
Being part of a photo shoot might not be considered fun for people, or useful or have enough substance, but I like to dress up. I like shoes, purses, and makeup. I don’t apologize for being a girly girl. That’s who I am. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to do something a little different. Honestly, I hate taking selfies and I don’t put myself in front of cameras often because I’m overly critical of how I look, but this intrigued me. This was different.
I found Bomber Betty Makeup, the way other people get recommendations. I asked my friends on Facebook for a recommendation for a makeup artist. I needed a headshot for the Wizard World Website and that’s when I met Jessica Sawicki.
After explaining my needs, we set an appointment time and she came to my house. I’ve never had my make up done, not like this. It was custom, all for me, and I looked great, if I do say so myself. I loved the make up so much, I’ve been buying it since 2o10.
One day I received an email about a vintage photo shoots. I was intrigued by the glamorous clothing, fun vignettes, and best of all, hair, make up and me time.
I borrowed a dress, circa 1960 and that led to the hairstyle and makeup looks.
I was hesitant when I first saw the hair. Without make up I felt a little school marmish and even considered taking it down. Rather than freaking out, I gave myself time in the make up chair and let Jessica fuss and dab and powder and perfect my face. As the look came together, I saw the vision and frankly, I couldn’t stop looking at myself. I’m not generally vain like that. But my skin was clear, the circles under my eyes gone. I no longer looked stressed or felt rushed and the colors were where colors should be. I smiled and felt good, I felt beautiful and even after the photo shoot, I couldn’t stop looking at myself. It was weird, it was a strange feeling to look in the mirror and see such a different me. Shall I say confident?
A do realize we shouldn’t need a full face of make up and fancy clothes to feel pretty. But what that day did for me was remind me that I’m kinda special and I deserve some quality time alone with me. I’m good, I’m smart and I’m capable. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.
I will say, the below picture. The toughest, most uncomfortable shot for me. Either I never knew how to flirt, or I simply forgot how.
Below photos with vintage beauty products. I’m actually sitting on a old hair dryer chair.
I’m writing my memoir, sort of. It’s not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It’s a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.
That’s not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I’ve been terrified of the water.
I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn’t see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.
I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can’t teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that’s not a waste of time.
As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.
“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”
“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”
“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”
I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.
The water doesn’t just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed.
This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.