Do you really want that?


I’m in a position in life right now in which I’m facing one obstacle after another. Just as soon as I climb one mountain, I get caught in a mud slide, I find myself on the other side, rock bottom, STUCK in a mess.

We are many things in this life–children, parents, siblings, lovers, enemies, friends, dreamers, realists, workers, writers, musicians, novelists, painters, inventors, etc. The list goes on forever.

But we can only live one moment at a time. Usually, we can only wear one hat at a time if we are to wear it well.

Life is never without conflict. Life is not pretty. Life has it’s magical moments, but most of the time, life is just one page in a book that turns to the next. We have to read the whole story to get the message.

Sometimes it’s easy to give up.

For example, I want to be a writer. But it’s difficult for me to FIND my writer hat when I’m trying to wear all of the others at the same time. Something constantly gets in my way.

I am a teacher, but I can’t do my job well after 3:15 when the last bell of the day rings to release teachers. (Yes, teachers have dismissal bells too. And yes, a teacher’s job does NOT stop at 3:15.) Right now I’ve been carrying around the same bag of essays to grade, but something, always SOMETHING, prevents me from finishing them. I’ve carried these essays and other papers like them to ball games, music practices, family events, Walmart, field trips. I have graded while eating supper. I have graded while riding shotgun on road trips. I’ve graded in places where NO ONE else needs to know where I’ve graded.

The task must be accomplished. I can’t give up.

It’s easier, sometimes, to do the things we HAVE to do, especially if those things are for OTHERS. It’s harder, I think, to do those things that are for US.

I have sat down to write at my house only to be interrupted by phone calls, visitors at the front door, children fighting and screaming, spouses fighting and screaming, and most of all, by my own feeling of despair.

I’m not a quitter by nature. I am, however, a runner. When things get too intense, I tend to run. A few years ago, I faced some rough times at my job. What’s the first thing I wanted to do? RUN.

There’s a grand difference between running away and walking away. Sometimes, in order to triumph over an obstacle, a person has to calmly change direction to find peace. If a job, for example, is creating health issues, I say pack up and move on. However, don’t run scared. Think it out. Use your brain. Make a plan. Never run blindly. You never know what you might run into, something perhaps worse than the previous situation.

Sometimes I’ve wanted to run away from writing.

I can hear myself now. “I give up. I quit. I can’t do this. Forget it. I’ll never be a writer. I’m destined to do for others the rest of my life. I’ll never have my heart’s desire.”

Have those words or thoughts ever crossed your mind?

Why do those words resonate? Because they echo what WE want.. Because we feel selfish for wanting anything for ourselves.

Life is very, very short. My father never wanted to do the job he did. He was a printer. It was a messy job with few perks and tremendous stress. His blood pressure skyrocketed because of the demands. He had to meet deadlines that depended on how other people performed their duties. (Hmmm. Sounds a lot like teaching.) My dad always wanted to own his own business, maybe a sporting goods store. He never truly entertained the idea. He thought it was impossible.

My dad raised somebody very much different than himself. He raised a dreamer, a people pleaser, but a dreamer nonetheless. I know, I know, I know what I want, what I need. But it won’t come easily to me, if it comes at all. Is taking a chance on a dream worth the risk?

Face it. Not getting what you want is equivalent to rejection. Is taking a chance worth the rejection?

By the time most writers have really bought into their dreams of publication, they have developed a sardonic sense of humor about their rejection letters. They file them. They categorize them. They write about them. They frame them and hang them on the wall. Most of them get excited just to GET a rejection–a rejection is better than nothing at all (which is what MOST of us get).

The dream doesn’t have to be about writing. You know what your dream is.

The point here is that WHEN we know, we know, we know, what we want, we usually find ourselves at a crossroads. Rarely, do we get what we want without a challenge. It is so very easy to give up. It’s easy to run. It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easier to substitute something else for what we really want. And we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we’re happy.

Rarely do we achieve our treasures without going on a quest. But first we have to decide, “Do I really want that? Really?”

It’s easy to talk a good talk. Action is a different story.

If we REALLY want something, we have to make clear, very clear, that we want it. The first person we have to convince is ourselves. Then we have to do what it takes to make the dream come true. We have to wrestle the key to the door between us and our treasure from whoever or whatever holds it (an editor, an employer, an agent, etc.)

Above all, we have to decide if getting what we want is worth the effort. Are we willing to shed a few tears, stay up late, struggle, risk rejection, fight fears, stand face to face with opposition?

The NaNo writing project is happening right now. I’m already behind. I’ll catch up. Sometimes we get sidetracked, but we can find our way back to our path.

Do you know what you want? Then do something about it! Maybe the only thing that has kept you from it is yourself.

What words of advice to you have for others who really, really want something but must overcome obstacles to achieve it? Were you ever a runner or a quitter? How did you overcome the problem? Have you ever had to walk away or to find a new direction to achieve your dream?

Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it.  I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.  ~ Charles F. Kettering

So often in time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. – The Eagles




Excuse me while I kiss the sky

It’s after midnight. I’m promised myself I’d hit the gym in the morning. I need a routine. I need to follow through. I’m stuck. I can’t move forward.

The thing is I can’t sleep. I have a mess of thoughts whipping around in my head like protons in an ion collider. Yeah, I bet you haven’t heard that analogy before. Me either. Funny what you’ll think of after midnight.

I’m going to the gym because I want to get back on track—literally. My goal is to try kickboxing again. If I can conquer kickboxing, I can conquer just about anything—my writing, my fitness, my fears.

But I’m not ready. Not yet. I need to build up my strength and endurance, starting with the track and then moving to the weights. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take my new iPod. Music is a great motivator, but you knew I’d
say that. How about a motivator you wouldn’t expect?

How about Facebook?

Not really. I personally believe Facebook is an evil monster that consumes precious time. It’s also a numbing drug that alleviates stress and boredom—to be used temporarily, mind you. It can be habit forming. But
occasionally something good pops up on Facebook’s Recent News. I’m talking about a link to one of my favorite blogs, Parkour Training Blog. The key word? Flow.

Flow is usually associated with Parkour. (If you don’t know what Parkour is, check out the Parkour Training Blog.) Flow, as the author Dan Dinu describes it, is the “harmony of moving fluently.” You see, for a traceur (a person who practices Parkour), moving through an environment from Point A to Point B can be kind of a creative expression all its own. It’s like a dance with life.

I like learning about Parkour because I frequently transfer the principles of Parkour to the principles of life. I’ve been a freelance journalist for a long time now, but the one element that is I hope is characteristic of my work is flow. When I write a story about a person, I like for the parts of the story to flow smoothly from one part to another. In terms of writing a novel, it would be like moving seamlessly from scene to scene.

I’ve had a very difficult time writing lately because I am still negotiating the stages of grief—and not so well mind you, but that’s another story. The words don’t flow. My thoughts don’t flow. My life is NOT flowing. When Dinu talks about flow, he illustrates his text with examples of tango and ballet, “precise and continuous gliding.” Yeah, that’s what I’m aiming for—in writing, in music, in life.

In order to achieve said state of flow in parkour, Dinu says “never train.” When I read this first tip, I knew immediately where he was going. He relates this point to artists like Picasso. People who create are not drained by their “practice.” They are rejuvenated, re-filled.

Let us not forget that when God gave us our talent and passion, he meant for us to enjoy it. It should be gift, not a burden. Wouldn’t it be great if we always considered every moment of life a gift, not a burden, regardless of the circumstance? Some people say just “go with the flow and be happy.” Christian call it joy.

When I pick up my guitar, I immediately know the difference between the two types of practicing. I am NOT a great guitar player. But I do know enough to say that if I have to force myself to play, I’m not playing the way I should. When I play the piece during this type of practice, the notes are stiff, mechanical. But when I “feel” the music, I I find myself on another level of playing. This is the type of practice that occurs when I’m totally focused, totally one with the music.

Dinu refers to the way guitar guru Jimi Hendrix let his feelings flow when he played. Exactly! Hendrix didn’t just play the notes; he felt them. (Good example. I can relate to Jimi’s purple haze. No, the song isn’t really about some pyschedelic drug-induced haze.)

Right now my biggest obstacle in writing (and life) is fear. Of what? I don’t know. Failure, maybe. Don’t we all? The publishing industry has a very narrow gate. Will I ever find myself moving through it? I’m not afraid to write. I’m afraid I’m not writing right. I’ll admit I pray about this problem almost without ceasing, but God doesn’t grant wishes like a genie. He has a purpose, and sometimes He lets us work our way to a solution so that we’ll grow stronger–and wiser.

Dinu says with Parkour, there is more than one way doing something. I have to remember that when I write and follow my gut instinct, I get better results. It’s kind of like playing music. Rather than playing a copy cat version of a song, the really good musicians will make it their own. After all, people are remembered only if they stand out in a crowd. For writers, this means finding their own voice and knowing the right time to break the right rules.

Dinu brings up other pointers too, like paying attention to obstacles and being yourself—knowing where you stand so not to lose your orientation and again, making the song your own, making your writing your own, making your life your own!

If I could offer readers, wannabe writers like myself, and dreamers at larger two bits of advice, I would say this—remember the flow and read, read, read anything and everything well written. You can glean something worthwhile from anything well written. Who would’ve thunk Parkour had anything to do with music or writing or especially life? But how well indeed it does.

As I read the article, my thought processes flowed freely and smoothly from one discipline to the other. I’m inspired. I want to inspire others too.

What is it that you want? Where are your feet? Did you pay attention to where they were so that you can see how you got where you are now ? And where do you need to place them so that you can get where you want to go?

My feet are going to hit the sheets. It’s after 2 a.m. I’ve got to be at the gym by 7:30.

(P.S. Happy birthday, Dan!)

Just go ahead and tattoo me

The clinical name is atychiphobia. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve got it—the fear of failing.

Psychologists tell us we develop atychiphobia due to a major embarrassment that occurs as the result of a minor failure. I can name a few. How about you?

People who develop a fear of failure become paralyzed. They may even sabotage their own success by coming up with excuses as to why they can’t do what’s expected of them. It’s not uncommon for people to fake an illness, to quit a job, to end a relationship just so they won’t have to face failure.

I see it quite often in my kiddos at school. Some of them are at the top of their class; some of them just struggle to get by.

The ones at the top take every honors class and work themselves into a frenzy to get an A. Yet they rarely take a risk. Isn’t that what honors classes are designed to do—provide opportunities for the brightest of the bright to explore new horizons and to think new thoughts? Who said every step had to be perfect? Whatever happened to trial and error?

The ones at the bottom, on the other hand, don’t try at all. It’s easier to save face just by saying, “I didn’t try.” It’s much harder to say, “I couldn’t do it.”

Oh, how I can relate.

I don’t remember the year, but I do remember the song. I was in music class, singing “Bingo” at the top of my lungs, loving every minute of me. My teacher reprimanded me in front of the whole class. To this day I won’t sing in front of anyone, not really.

Silly isn’t it? And scary too to think that we can affect other peoples’ lives with a few careless words. My teacher didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sure I was being too loud. She just didn’t realize the fragile being behind those loud notes.

I still remember my first grade teacher sending a note home on my report card because I cried if I missed anything—anything! How embarrassing.

My second grade teacher stopped my family in the local department store and replayed the time I became very upset because I misspelled clothes as close on a spelling test. Mind you this event occurred, what, 20 or 30 years ago. And she remembered it! Was I that bad?

My parents should have just tattooed my forehead with the letters NERD:  Needs Extreme Reassurance Daily.

I guess I was just destined to be a forever basket case.

But as with all of God’s plans, He can take a negative and turn it into a positive. Because I continue to struggle with the fear of failure, I try to be more sensitive to my students who have this fear.  I emphasize the word try because I know no matter how hard I try, sometimes my words come out wrong too. I hurt others even when I don’t mean to.

Simply put, I fail. And then I feel just terrible.

The last month or so God has been sending me through some rough waters. I’m reading for calm, but he’s making me fight to stay afloat. Nothing has been easy—teaching, parenting, managing a household, playing guitar.

Even writing this blog has been tough. The more I learn about writing, the more I realize that every word counts. So I measure every word. I aim for perfection. What if it’s not good enough?

Help! What are your ways of coping with the fear of failure?

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve got a goal for 2011, but you are afraid of the obstacles you’ll have to overcome to meet it. What are your fears?

It’s never easy, never easy. There will always be trials.

That’s life, a daily obstacle course. But I guess that’s how God grows us. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. And perfect people don’t need God.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Phillipians 4:13

Monday Mentor: TCup Grosch


Today’s Monday Mentor takes a different approach. As I was doing research for my manuscript, The Edge, I turned to TCup, who was kind enough to answer my basic questions about parkour. Like the main character in my book, he too is a traceur.

 In case you don’t know, a traceur refers to a guy who practices parkour. Parkour is a sport that involves using one’s body to get past obstacles, either mental or physical, by running, jumping, rolling, climbing, etc. As I learned more about parkour, I soon realized that the philosophy behind the sport is a philosophy that I could adapt toward life.

Parkour requires the athlete to train and to stay focused so that he or she can be prepared to deal with problems as they arise. Most athletes are fairly young because the sport requires a lot from the body. But anyone can benefit from even the basic concepts.

Writers are faced with “obstacles” with every plot turn. Sometimes we simply shut off the computer and grab chocolate instead of working our way over what’s in our path. Adopting a parkour philosophy can make us stronger, more creative writers.

And if you want to take it a step further, the parkour philopsphy can make us better disciples of Christ. The traceur’s motto is “Être fort pour être utile.” Translated, the motto says you have to be strong to be useful. I associate the principle with “I can do all things through Christ,” but that’s just my personal philosophy.

Many thanks go to TCup for helping my readers (and hopefully future readers) learn more about parkour.

 How were you introduced to parkour?

I was introduced to parkour as a sport a few years ago, when I saw an Internet video of a guy doing some crazy stunts off buildings. We later went to New Orleans on a mission trip, and my friends and I taught ourselves how to climb up onto the building where we were staying. We were able to make our way across the roof, jump off the building, and land without breaking anything. On a side note that was the best game of capture the flag ever!

But when I looked back even further, I realized that I had been doing these moves almost my whole life, not intentionally, but whenever I would bob or weave through a rail or hang out on the jungle gym as a kid.

 Are you saying many of the parkour moves are basically natural?

When you’re running and climbing on stuff, you get a feel for the basic move sets for parkour. I feel like it’s the same thing, just on a much bigger scale. Now I grab rails and jump off of things whenever I can, that is, unless there are masses of people around that would point and laugh if I messed up and hurt myself. (It happens… a lot.)

 Do parkour athletes train alone or in groups?

I tried to find a parkour clan near Nashville so that if I was going to run around and look like an idiot, at least I wouldn’t be alone. I’ve heard it’s better to run in small groups of 2-4 people anyway. You’re supposed to get a better feel for how you can overcome obstacles when you see other people doing it.  Then you can try it yourself. It makes sense, but I still haven’t heard back from any of the groups I tried to contact.

How is parkour different from other sports?

For people with a history in sports, it’s much, MUCH different than anything else out there. I can’t think of any other sport that uses the same skill sets as parkour. Although it helps a lot to be physically fit, you’ll still have to train your body through the steps of the moves.

 Is there an age limit for this sport?

While it does help to be in shape, I don’t think there is an “age limit” to free running. I mean if you feel that you’re up to it, then you probably are. Everyone should take it easy at first, to get a feel for it. During the introductory period, you could easily decide if want to keep learning or not.

What does parkour do for you?

Once I get really focused on running, the adrenaline kicks in, and the moves start coming more and more naturally I get a feeling that I wish everyone could feel at least once in their life. I can only describe this feeling as a euphoria, which is what really draws me to free running.  It’s when I feel like I’m in tune with everything around. me. (Typing this makes me realize I may be an adrenaline junkie.)

Do people have to change their lives to practice parkour?

Learning parkour isn’t what I would describe as life changing. Aside from having people stare at you when you jump off of something, it really doesn’t affect a person’s schedule or anything like that. Unless your planning on devoting masses of time to practice, or if a person was really good and went professional, it shouldn’t affect you that much. As for me, I don’t think it has at all, with the exception of practice time.

How can people learn more about parkour?

It isn’t as popular of a sport as is should be in my opinion, which means that there is only a very limited number of instructional videos and things like that, so my answer on where to learn things would be the Internet. I know it’s shallow, but Internet videos are usually accurate when it comes to that kind of thing. After that, the best thing to do would be just to get out and try stuff, whatever you think you can handle.

So you really think anyone can do something that involves the very basics of parkour?

Humans were built for this kind of thing. You just have to—I guess for lack of better terms__un-train yourself. (That makes it sound like we’re de-evolving or something.) Parkour has so many different levels from “professional” to all the way down to “that kid that jumps off the rail every day after school.”

So for beginners, it’s not like other sports where you’re trying to push your limits. It’s knowing your limits first and then expanding slowly. I know I sound like one of those lame instructional videos, but learning your abilities is the difference between doing an epic leap off of a building and showing up on the news as an idiot who tried a ridiculous stunt.

Personal note: Check out this site if you’d like a taste of what parkour is all about.