Don’t play the victim


Maybe you have a passion, a dream, but you haven’t achieved your goal—yet.

Whose fault is that?

How you answer the question has a lot to do with who you are.

Here’s a little scenario.

Suppose you want to be a writer, a painter, a singer, or a musician? You set forth, carrying your dream in a knapsack. Along the way, you must travel through a dark forest. The path is, like the paths of most creative people, less traveled by, and you stumble over branches and stones. Briars snag you. The journey is longer than you expected, and your supplies are limited. You run out of nourishment. To make matters worse, thieves lurk in the shadows, and they take what little you have. Others have gone before you and made it to their destination, but you are caught in a deluge without shelter from the storm.

It’s not fair. The others didn’t have the same problems you did. They had support. Some of them didn’t have to travel by foot. They had wagons. Others had scouts to light their paths, and a few even had sentries to guard them from harm.

You are hurt. You are hungry. You are tired. You are beaten. You are robbed. You are alone.

Do you consider yourself a victim?

Please, friend, though you may have suffered horrible injustices that have left you physically or emotionally scarred, even to the point of disfigurement or PTSD, don’t allow yourself to become a victim.

Fight it with everything within your soul. Why?

  • Because if you are a victim, you may be tempted to curse those who are blessed.
  • Because if you are a victim, you blame others for your defeat even if you could make a come back.
  • Because if you are a victim, you may stop trying.
  • Because if you are a victim, you may lose hope.

Regardless of your situation, refuse the label of victim. Give no one, not even yourself, the satisfaction of holding you back.

“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”   ~ Byron Katie

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

I will stand back up / You’ll know just the moment when I’ve had enough / Sometimes I’m afraid, and I don’t feel that tough / But I’ll stand back up ~  “Stand Back Up” by Sugarland




How do I?


I have this idea for ____, but I don’t know how to get started.

Fill in the blank. What word comes to mind? Book? Story? Song? Magazine article?

I get this question all the time. As a people cheerleader, let me offer you a bit of advice. Realize you are not alone. Everyone who has ever felt the passion to create feels both the spark and the hesitation. It’s up to you, however, to decide how serious you are about your “idea.”

I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer—or could be a writer—until my college professor asked to publish one of my papers in a professional journal. Even then, it wasn’t until years later that I started pursuing writing. Even then, it wasn’t until NOW that I finally realized that, yes, that idea to write CAN become a reality.

But it won’t be easy. Then again, nobody ever said it would be easy.

If you are REALLY serious about idea, read the Ten Rules for Getting Started and FOLLOW them.

  1. Don’t dwell on things that are not meant to be. Why bother talking about your idea if you aren’t serious about pursuing it? Almost everyone has dreamed of getting  rich from writing the great American novel, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. This dream doesn’t come easy.
  2. Sacrifice is a real word, by the way.  We can all talk about writing, but bottom line, we have to do it. The task is not as easy as dreamers make it out to be. Only those who want it badly enough will finish what they start.
  3. Accept the fact that your first attempt is what it is—a first attempt. You may show potential, but still have a lot to learn. There is no room for arrogance for beginners. I have witnessed novices slam  seasoned writers for giving them an honest critique. Mission to write? Terminated. No one wants to help a know It all.
  4. Once you have accepted the fact you have a lot to learn, go learn! Start by reading EVERYTHING. Pay attention to the style. Don’t read for entertainment. Read to fill your mind with thoughts that may someday inspire you.
  5. Do not expect favors. Your chances of an editor handing you a publishing contract as a favor are about the same odds as Ellen or Oprah giving you a million bucks. Expect to pay your dues.
  6. Play up. When I played softball, I had the opportunity to play on the older girls’ team. What’s so important about that? I had to either keep up or sit on the bench. I certainly was not the star, but I had to opportunity to learn from people better than I was.
  7. Accept the fact that if you don’t write you will probably never be fully happy. Writers simply cannot NOT write. Recognize your passion and find ways to satisfy it.
  8. Start small. I hear many beginners complain about not getting paid. Again, expect to pay your dues before you can cash in on your talent. Your paycheck is called a BYLINE, your name in print by what you have written.
  9. Take it to the next level. There will come a time when, YES, you need to leave behind the free writing gigs. Otherwise, you will put all your time into efforts that will not pay off. Once you have a few clips (samples of your writing), you can move on to paying jobs.
  10. Pray. If it is meant to be, if it is your passion, if you cannot NOT do it, then God probably put the desire in your heart. Listen for answers, and then do what you have to do.

Be honest with yourself. If this idea is real, do something about it. If not, you don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices, move on to another hobby.

Follow your heart and raise your standards, or you’ll never get what you truly want or need.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.


So give it your best, and don’t worry about what some may say / Follow your dreams. It’s really all that you can do. / And give it your best and remember that life is what you choose / Go on, follow your dreams and do it, follow your dreams and do it. / Follow your dreams and do what you love to do.  ~  “Follow Your Dreams” by Poco




A Mother’s Day letter to my boys

crazy_mom_postcards-r9a9b9ade6fc949b88182745fd025d7a5_vgbaq_8byvr_512Just a little break from my new format in honor of Mother’s Day:

Dear Boys,

I’ve never tried writing a Mother’s Day letter. I thought about starting it like an acceptance speech:

I’d like to thank Joshua William and Michael Caleb, for if it weren’t for you two, I wouldn’t be the recipient of this award–I mean day.

I thought about writing an apology.

Truth be told, the weirdest traits you have, you got from me. Just be thankful I rebelled and didn’t let my parents raise me like a girly girl. They tried, but I pretty much peeked as a toddler, and it all went downhill from there. I won a baby show contest, but I absolutely HATED wearing the frilly dresses and sitting for hours with rollers in my hair. I hated smiling at the judges. As I grew older, I never won anything else anyway. I couldn’t wait to get rid of the dress and head to the horse barn so that I could ride the ponies at the county fair.

So, boys, despite all the quirkiness you got from me, it could have been worse. I traded my foo-foo for an adventurous spirit, and I think I passed a little of it on to you.

I can’t blame you for your quirkiness because I know you come by it honestly.

The day after I brought you home from the hospital you had already learned how to raise your head and were looking about the room. You’ve always been so curious. You still stay up through the night thinking. Your mind never stops. Your teachers labeled you gifted, and I always knew you didn’t think the way the other kids did. I always knew you were a writer. As a pre-schooler (before Michael came along), you introduced me to your imaginary siblings—Kinder, Mark, and Falla (and your uncle from England, who rode atop our car). You made me make you business cards so that you could create your own detective agency in first grade. You still create stories stories today and bring them to life through your videos.

When you were in elementary school, you told me that you were going to be a great adventurer and go off on safari to film documentaries for National Geographic. I never hassled you because you were too afraid to feed the dogs when the sun went down. That’s okay. We both know that the wild things come out after dark. I think you are pretty courageous going off to Nashville to make your own way in the entertainment industry.

Things have a way of working out the way they should. You were always incredibly fast and athletic in school, but I have to admit I’m kind of glad you never played football. I tried to teach you how to throw a football, but I hit you square in the face. You didn’t care too much for football after that. I didn’t know back then that your eyesight need correction and you couldn’t see the ball. But look at it this way. If our little football incident had not have happened, you might not be filming games for ESPN. Perhaps you were destined to look at the sport from a different perspective.

And you indulged my love of music, taking piano lessons with me. Maybe my love of music rubbed off on you, and that’s why you make music videos today.

I understand your spirit of competition. I know how it feels to be the little guy against the bigger. That’s why I didn’t punish you when you trapped your brother in the bathroom and charged the door with a wooden sword. But one of you two could have confessed to the hole. I have to give you kudos for keeping a secret so long.

You’ve always had a sense of justice. You have always been one to stand up for the weak. I remember the special little boy on your coach-pitch team who was being picked by the big boy on your team. The doctors said you were in the 1 percentile because of your height and weight. I worried you would never grow. But that didn’t stop you from telling the big guy to leave the little boy alone, and when he wouldn’t, you punched him in the nose. I will never, ever, ever condone violence, but I’m glad you aren’t afraid to fight for what is right.

Like me, you don’t open up to all people. Some people think you are very quiet. I laugh. When you let your true colors show, it’s hard to reel you in. When you are around people you like, you talk and talk and talk and talk. Your teachers have been very kind to shelter me from all the mischief you create, i.e. ninja crawling across the classroom. When you were born, it was you and me against the world. I coached your basketball team, your soccer team, your baseball team. Your Pa Bell was right there by your side too, and I tried to echo the words he taught me: Elbow up. Swing level. Watch your feet. Don’t push the ball. I put on the catcher’s gear.  I took you to every football practice before you hit middle school. And I raced you around the house. I’m so proud of the athlete you have become.

And like Josh, you indulged my love for music and took lessons with me, an experience that has changed my life forever. Whenever I see you play, my heart sings.

Final Thought

Boys, what I’m trying to say is I love you. I love everything you have given me. I love the fact that you accepted part of me to become part of you. I thank God for you EVERY DAY!

You are what makes Mother’s Day so special.

Love, Mom

Conundrum of creativity

creative life

A conundrum, dear friends, is a dilemma, or in more complicated terms, a “paradoxical insoluble,” a  “logical postulation that evades resolution.” I’ve been evading resolution as long as I can remember. A conundrum is what I am and a conundrum forever I shall be.

So may it be with you.

I can’t help but think of Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” when I think about my life. “Girl” is a very long monologue that is a very short story, and while it seems to be from the mother’s point of view, I can hear Girl’s voice, speaking the words like her mama and seeing herself as she thinks her mama sees her.

Do all people, especially creative people, in moments of doubt, see themselves like that? Like characters in somebody’s else’s story? Reading the prescribed script? Playing the expected role?

Like Girl, I know the rules, when to do what and where. But I don’t hear my voice. I hear somebody else’s monologue. Don’t sing benna. Don’t play like a boy. Don’t pick people’s flowers.

There’s a part of me that wants to push past my fears to break the rules and to spit into the wind. But my fears won’t let me. Thus, resolution I can never find.

When my daddy was a little boy, his dog, a family pet, turned on him. Turns out, the dog had rabies, and the little boy who became my father had to go through rounds of shots in his stomach. And because of that bad experience, both my daddy and my mama warned me about ALL the dangers in the world.

And I listened, taking every precaution to avoid ANYTHING that could cause me harm.

I continue to listen. I’m very, very cautious. But creative people have a spirit within them that’s like a tornado. How can you tell the wind not to roar? The sun not to shine? The flowers not to bloom?

I grew up on the outskirts of town near a stock market where animals were bought and sold. My greatest desire as a little kid was to own a horse, and when one escaped from the market, I believed destiny had brought it to my door, or in this case, my backyard.

I remember it so well. My mama was literally hiding behind a tarnished picket fence, holding back the neighbor boy she used to babysit, and screaming at me, “Get back! Stay away!” And I was trying to catch it. I saw no dangers, just a horse.

Even though they mean well, sometimes there are people in our lives who warn us to get back or to stay away from the very thing God made us to be. I’m not saying we should trust our impulses. I’m saying we needed to lean on our instincts and discernment.

So, dear creative people, especially those of you who have a heart that desperately desires to use your talents for a greater purpose, here are words of encouragement.YOU are a writer, a painter, a musician, or a poet, you CREATE. Put down the coloring book and connect the dots, and find yourself fresh canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or a new day, fresh with morning dew. Then do what you do. Don’t be afraid.

I am a teacher, and I am a learner. And I have spent most of my life learning the rules and following them. Here is what I know.

  • You have to know the rules and master them before you break them. That goes for writing fiction, non-fiction, or song. A novice who marches into the industry with a first-attempt “masterpiece” that breaks all the rules will get NOWHERE. Fact is, you have to pay your dues, earn some respect. Bottom line–leave the arrogance at the door and slip into your humility. You’re going to need it if you’re going to fulfill your heart’s desire.
  • Once you truly know your skill, then you can try something new. Then, and only then, should you attempt to color outside the lines or to change the rhyme scheme. Choose your own metaphor here. You’re the artist. You know what works for you.

Once you learn the skill and pay your dues, let go of your fear and try something new. This is the part where you have to hush the monologue in your mind so you can hear your own voice. You may fail miserably, but you may succeed.

Isn’t it worth taking a chance?

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.” ~ “I Hope You Dance,” recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers




Cleansing the toxins from our life


Garbage in. Garbage out.

This little axiom was all the rage when computers first became common place in the workplace and schools.

Our minds are like computers too. Just think about all the information we take in during a day. We sift through most of it, kind of like how we sift through our mail. We toss the junk, lay aside the bills and other things we have to deal with. But then there is the personal stuff we hold in our hands and ponder what we’ll do with it.

This personal “correspondence” is like the people we allow into our lives.

Of course, we can’t shun all the negative people in the world, but we don’t have to open the door and invite them in for an extended stay. Face it. Some people are TOXIC to our emotional well being. I’m not saying they are bad people. I’m just saying some people aren’t good for us. They’re like food we have to avoid.

Take peanut butter for example. Overall, it’s a pretty cool, nutritious food. But for some folks, it’s deadly.

Writers, you have to take care of your emotional health. You don’t just work with your hands; you work with your hearts and your minds. When your heart is troubled and your mind is cluttered, you have too much garbage going in. And then garbage comes out.

Sometimes, however, the garbage piles up and blocks the writer from allowing anything out.

Then it’s time for a cleansing.

My goal in my life is to be a very transparent person. Very few adults know the real me. I don’t trust them. I smile and keep to myself.

I let down my guard around most of my students because many of them feel the way I do. They are just as scared of failing or getting hurt as I am. I understand their fear, so I try to create the most relaxed, non-stressful environment as possible. I want them to let down their guard, so I let down mine.

Some people are quite the opposite of toxic. They’re like good medicine. I want to be good medicine.

How do you know the difference, whether a person is poison or good medicine? Look at the effect that person has on you.

  • Toxic people will rob you of your energy, your passion, your goals, your dreams, your joy, your happiness, your confidence, your love. They keep you from becoming the person you want to be.
  • People who are the good medicine in your life will fuel your flame, feed your passion, help you reach your goals, believe in your dreams, make you happy, boost your confidence, help you fight your fears, and fill you with love and compassion. Good medicine makes you stronger and helps you become the person you were meant to be.

Writers, painters, poets, and musicians, God gave you your talent. Polish it until it shines. Just keep in mind how difficult maintenance can be if your defenses are down.

God is love and wants us to love all people. But we have to learn how to love ourselves before we can love others.

Too often, when we don’t know how to love ourselves, we look to others for the love we need, and sometimes the “others” are the toxic people we should avoid.

To make matters worse, when we don’t know how to be confident in who we are, we SEEK approval from other people, even GOOD people, and, sadly, because we take more than we can give, we become the TOXIC people others must avoid.

Find good medicine and allow it to make you a better person. Be the good medicine, and be the positive difference in somebody else’s life.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ~ Marcel Proust

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

“So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”  ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”