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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.

 

 

 

My Weirdly Profound Way to Find Confidence

My Weirdly Profound Way to Find Confidence

As a Television Junkie…

I’m a television junkie, who in what I choose to watch, oftentimes finds strength and confidence. My choices run in cycles. I can be hooked on re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed, only to grow restless for something different. There’s been cycles with the Big Bang Theory or MASH and recently Gilmore Girls. Always choosing shows that have a personal connection, whether it was to a storyline or to a character.

Confidence and Gilmore Girls

My cycle now is an attachment to shows in which the female lead is struggling through a life event or doggedly pursuing a life’s goal. As much as I watched Gilmore Girls, I came to realize that I didn’t need every episode to satisfy this weird need. Just a handful of episodes held personal meaning for me. Right now, storylines about Lorelei buying and running her very own country inn, in both the original and the reboot, grab my attention and hold on tightly.

I’ve re-watched the fourth season as if it were my blue print for becoming a successful author. I cry when Lorelei cries, or cheer her on as though I’m unaware of the outcome. In that experience, I gain an odd sense of strength and confidence.

My New Obsession

Grace and Frankie. Though I’m considerably younger than any of the main characters, and have nothing in common with them, I’m drawn to them and their struggles. It’s a familiar theme of surviving a difficult change in life; trying desperately to pick oneself up off the ground and move forward. I’m not divorced and/or in my 70s but I do understand how difficult it is to discover yourself and how to achieve a dream. This hilarious show, and even funnier season, I can’t stop watching the emotional roller coaster that comes with starting their own business. Yeah even selling vibrators come with unique challenges.

Choking back the tears, Grace and Frankie fight for their demographic, for their product with doubt and confidence at the same time. With each step they take forward, I can almost touch their goals too.

You Must Watch Gracie and Frankie Here

 

 

 

The Power of Words and How They Changed Me

The Power of Words and How They Changed Me

The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

In 1892, an author took on the attitudes toward women’s mental and physical health which diminished their power. The disease, nervous depression and slight hysterical tendency, A common malady in Victorian times.

The story with an unnamed heroine afflicted with this illness, was shipped to the country for fresh air, exercise and some peace. But the mansion her doctor husband rented for the summer, did little more than make her feel shut in, pushed aside. The more she protested the less heard she felt.

The longer she remained in the state of disconnection from herself, the more anxiety she felt and soon she began to see them; the other women.

Why at 18 did this story affect me so much?

I didn’t at the time, understand why I felt sadness, frustration at the words in the story. Why did the husband’s dismissive attitude toward  his wife and her needs churn in my stomach. I felt as though he was speaking to me. Feeling as I did, I rooted passionately for this woman as she struggled to release those other women who crept around the nursery. I cheered for their freedom.

When you are an introvert, a shy girl with low self-esteem, you don’t generally speak up, or speak out even though there is so much to say. I let the float around my brain, never harvesting them and only rarely, when they did come, they were merely a whisper, so softly I struggled to break free of the fear that bound me.

The Power of Women’s History Month

I find Women’s History Month fascinating. I’ve studied the stories of brave women who fought for their rights and the rights of the women who came after them. I don’t want to let my predecessors down. I want to find and utilize my voice, tap into my power. But until I wrote my first book, I never found my strength. Always feeling trapped in the yellow wallpaper, hoping for one woman to strip it from the walls and release me too.

It wasn’t until  remembered my dream. In awakening my passion, I discovered my voice,  my courage, my power. I had it in me all along, the ability to say something worthwhile, to shake it up and make someone listen to what I had to say.

I never would have thought I’d walk up to perfectly nice stranger and ask them to appear in a social media campaign. But I did it. Phone calls once stressed me out, because as an introvert, I rely on facial expressions, on visual cues to ease me through uncomfortable situations. Now, I do, because there are things that need to be done.

At 18 I felt Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s words. Transported to that room, the musty smell tickled my nose. The dingy wallpaper coated my fingertips. My own disconnection inhibited my speech.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a feminist who wanted to live life on her terms. To write and be heard.

It didn’t end well for her, but if it was any consolation her story affected me nearly 100 years after it was written. As a writer that’s all we can hope for.

For more about The Yellow Wallpaper, and other works by Charlotte Perkins Gilman:

http://www.biography.com/people/charlotte-perkins-gilman-9311669

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

Embrace Myself – I’m a Pantser and Proud to not Plot my Books

What’s a pantser you ask?

I  didn’t embrace myself when I started to write. I assumed I was doing something wrong until I met other authors. As I quickly found out, there are two types of authors. One like JK Rowling who meticulously plans out the story. I’m sure if you’re a fan you’ve seen the notes and graphs of her outlines. She is what’s known as a plotter.

The other side of this is the writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and sits in front of the computer screen and just writes. That would be Stephen King, He approaches his stories as if he’s discovered an artifact and as he writes, he carefully unearths the story. This is called a pantser.

And that is me.

Doing it wrong – embrace myself.

For the longest time I thought I was doing it wrong. The crafting of the story I thought might go smoother, easier if I could plan it out. Unfortunately for me, planning always goes off the rails and I end up writing by the seat of my pants anyway.

After reading On Writing, by Stephen King, I realized other authors write like me and I stopped fretting and worrying, and finally embraced my style, learned to work with the quirks rather than fitting my style into someone else’s.

But is this a good way to write?

Hell yes! As I write, I become kinda like the reader. I might have a direction in which I’m heading, but the story is slowly revealed to me and that includes twists and surprises. There have been times that the story unfolds and I will stare at the computer screen and think, “What the hell? I wasn’t expecting that!”

I enjoy the surprises, not knowing exactly what’s coming up for my characters. Though I must say, it can take more draft before the story is crafted the way that I like. But it is so worth the extra time. And I enjoy the surprises now that I embrace my process.

Lessons

Lesson in the first: Embrace yourself. Why fight your true nature. Learn to work within your quirks.

Lesson in the second: Know your limitations and find a work around. I know it will take me more than two drafts before I have a well crafted story. It’s just the way it is. I couldn’t be happier with how The Wizard Hall Chronicles are shaping up. It wouldn’t have been this good if I planned it.

Lesson in the third: Embrace who you are. When I stopped worrying about doing it like other authors and really looked at how I worked, whether it’s writing as a pantser or writing best between 1 and 7 in the afternoon, I worked better not harder.

Lesson in the fourth: I’m not a bad story teller and I have a good product. Be proud of your work, put the effort in and people will notice. I’ve been fortunate to have found some amazing fans. Now if I can only clone them and find more like them, it’ll be gravy.

So here’s to the writers who plan and plot and those of us who sit down and write and let the story unfold. We are who we are however we get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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