Failure is an event not a personality trait

failure1

We have to be willing to risk failure to truly live and give back to the world. If there was no risk of failure involved, then there was no challenge to begin with.

Everything I do, I do with all the fervor and passion I can muster. I give it all that I have, yes sometimes that means it comes out all wrong especially when I am first learning to do something. In fact, the worse it comes out, the better because then I’m able to see how much I improve along the way. Of course, I don’t think this at the time. Usually I tell myself how I will never learn it, there is too much to know, I don’t have time to learn it all. Eventually, I stop freaking out and apply myself.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly” G.K. Chesterton.

What does this mean? Why would we want to do something badly? we don’t really want to do things badly that’s not what Chesterton was trying to convey. It’s more like what I was saying above. If we do something badly, but we have put in our best effort, we are going to learn and improve. Failure is an excellent teacher.

When we fail at something, we beat ourselves up for hours and sometimes days. We make it into some huge self-defining moment and not in a good way.

Failure should never be used in reference to a person or a piece of art in any of its many forms. A failure is an event in a specific moment in time. What may be seen as a failure now could be a huge success in two weeks.

If we write a novel and it never sells to anyone but our parents, we just have to keep writing. We have to work hard to get better and produce better stories. Stories that touch the heart of readers. Not everyone is going to like what we produce, and that’s fine because we don’t write for everyone. We write for those who share our passion.

If you write trying to please everyone, you will fail because you are not going to say anything worth saying. You will shy away from anything that may offend the left side of society or the right. Writing isn’t about walking down the middle. It’s about jumping over the edge to reach the rest of the outcasts, your tribe.

cliff jumping

 

 

Define Yourself

girl with arms raised

Many people put their dreams and goals off for the right time.  You hear these and similar words all the time.

“I’ll do it when my kids are grown.”

“When I retire, I’ll have time to work on my dreams and goals.”

“Once I’m stable in my job, I’ll have time.”

Life won’t wait for you to decide your dreams and goals are important. It keeps right on going day in and day out, despite what you are doing. One day, it will be gone, and you will be left standing in the void wondering, what if..?

What if I broke my goal down into something I could do once a week or once a month to get me closer to achieving it?

What if I could find 15-20 minutes a day to work on my goal?

I’m asked all the time, how I am able to be a single mom, full-time attorney, ultrarunner, and writer.  Here’s my answer:  I can do it because it’s important to me. I can do it because everything else is dropped like a dirty diaper.

You have to be willing to sacrifice. You have to delve deep and find what is important to you and who you want to be for yourself and the world.

You have to leave behind people who don’t support your efforts at achieving your dreams. Sometimes that means cutting them off completely or regulating them to a small role in your life. Chasing your dreams is hard work. Don’t drag unnecessary weight with you.

It comes down to that question we all began to answer the moment we drew our first breath, who am I? We exerted our independence as toddlers and again as teenagers trying to define who we were separate from those around us.

As we become adults, we become caught up in society’s grey dream as automatons. We color within the lines laid before us by others. We paint by the numbers.  We wait for the right time and the right place to escape into our dream.  If you don’t work toward your dreams, you will be paid to work toward someone else’s. Why is theirs more important than yours?

It is not what we do that defines who we are. It is the why we do it that defines us. Decide your dream is achievable, conquer all obstacles, and jump through any hoop, even if it has burst into flames.

Cherishing a Short Life

baby in isoletteAlice Park Photography

On a weekly basis parent child relationships are forever severed by the law. I’ve seen it too many times to count. I don’t envy those responsible for supervising the goodbye visit between parent and child. The thought of looking either of my children in the face for the last time brings tears to my eyes. I know many substance abuse treatment programs require their parent participants to write goodbye letters to their children as a way of driving home, how their drug use has harmed their children.

Loss of this sort, is nearly a daily occurrence in my world. Despite its frequency, it never passes over me as freely as water does. It’s more like oil that takes good soap, hot water, and scrubbing to remove. Then you always find it someplace later and have to repeat the process.

This past week was much the same with an enduring difference, I was reminded of how quickly life can pass us by and to cherish all that I have, especially relationships with others because you never know when they will slip through your fingers. Even the relationships you believe will endure for a lifetime, such as your children.

I’ve become an expert at cherishing what I have even during the darkest times of my life because of the frequent reminders I receive, but this one has hung on with more persistence. A short life, which rippled through the world.

A woman with long auburn hair bends over the warm isolette watching her sleeping child through the clear glass. The baby girl’s tiny chest rises and falls, a comforting sight. She weighs a mere 3 lbs and 8 oz. Tubes run into the baby’s underdeveloped lungs through a tracheotomy and into the side of her abdomen, providing her with breath and nutrients to grow and get stronger.  The woman is able to hold her child for only a short time each day due to the child’s precarious hold on life.

Ava was born premature due to her mother’s drug use during pregnancy. Ava is not this woman’s first child and she probably will not be the last because the auburn hair falls on the shoulders of a twenty-year-old woman. Her slender build makes her appear more like a prepubescent female than other’s her age.  Like the baby in the isolette, the drugs have sapped all excess life from her body.  Her hair is dry and brittle. Her cheeks are sunken, and her skin has a grey pallor.

She has watched her child cling to life through the glass for four months. She visits when she can, about once a week. Doctors tell her that Ava, will not survive without the machines. She must decide how long Ava should be forced to remain here. The little blue eyes flutter open and she brushes the fine soft hair on Ava’s small head with her shaking fingers.

When asked why she doesn’t visit more, excuses and justification spill from her lips.

“No transportation to the hospital,” she said as her eyes flicker around the room, pupils the size of the abyss.

“What about the bus pass we gave you?” asks a nurse. They know she is high, but how do you approach that subject with a woman who is here to say goodbye to her baby forever.

“I can’t find it.” She looks at her black converse shoes with grey frayed laces tangling along the floor.

Ava’s father was allowed to leave the prison accompanied by two guards to help make the decision of when his daughter will be taken off life support. It is the first and last time he will be able to see her with his own eyes and hold her. He caresses her cheek, and places his finger in her tiny hand. He understands this loss more than the mother because he views it through a mind that has been forced sober by incarceration for the past six months.

His hazel eyes are rimmed in red and tears trickle down his face. His breath catches in his throat as it constricts with the ache twisting his heart and soul. Our poor choices eventually catch up to us. Sometimes we lose the most precious things in our lives when they do.

Once he’s released  from prison will he remember the short time he was able to cradle his daughter in his arms and make choices she would be proud of him for making?

Ava is given morphine and the machines are turned off and the tubes are removed.  Her breathing slows as her parents cradle her small body wanting to hold her for as long as they can.

Writing Space and First Drafts

I am Writing

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about making a space for me to write at home. Up until now, I have just sat at either the living room table or the kitchen table. This arrangement requires me to pack up all my writing gear and move it from place to place. It also means my writing doesn’t have a home.  In my home, I have a room called an office in the basement. No one uses the “office” for anything but a library. A library is important don’t get me wrong. In fact, it’s necessary at my home. There are bookshelves along each wall, and most of my books can be found there.

I’ve tried writing in the “office,” but it never works well. My dogs need in and out of the house to go see their friends, sniff the strange spots in the yard, feel the warmth of the sun on their fur, and all the other stuff dogs do. The coffee maker is upstairs. My children are upstairs. You would think that being downstairs away from the children would help me focus, but it doesn’t. They actually come and interrupt me more when I am downstairs where they can’t see what I am working on.

I realized that this had to change if I was going to make writing a priority. So, I created a space in my bedroom, which is on the main floor, where I can write. I have all of my books on the craft, pens, pencils, notebooks, laptop, children, dogs, and coffee within easy reach and supervision.  I can open the window allowing in the sun, birdsong, and the summer breeze.

Sky, my youngest son who is thirteen, came in and sat on my left while I wrote. He didn’t interrupt. He just watched. The dogs curled up with one another on blanket on my right. Jazz, my oldest son who is 17, popped in and asked questions and let me know what he was planning for the day.

My writing space is not fancy, but it’s mine and it communicates to me and everyone else that writing is important to me. Having a space also preps your brain to get into its creative mode. If you always sit in the same spot to write, when you sit down the creative juices start flowing. With children, my writing time is scattered between all my other responsibilities as a single mom. Having a space always ready and waiting is important because if I have to take the time to set up each time I have five minutes to write, the book will never get finished.

I finished the outline of my fantasy novel tentatively titled Syrain’s Marrow early last week, a whopping 33 pages. It took a few more days to cut and paste it all into yWriter. I had Thursday off work last week because in Utah, Thursday was a holiday, Pioneer Day, commemorating the day Utah decided being a state was more important than bigamy being an acceptable practice.

I took Friday off work to start my first draft and frankly, I needed a break after a busy on call week the week before. I was also able to spend some extra time with Sky.

So far, I have found my outline to be immensely helpful in maintaining my focus and keeping the words flowing. I believe the biggest complaint about outlining is that it is too restrictive. I haven’t found that to be the case.  Since I have scene after scene already outlined I see plot holes much easier. I also notice when I drop a character and never pick them back up again. It is easy to go back and find something I referenced in a prior scene because I can look at my outline and know, approximately, where it is. The outline also helps me maintain consistency with my details and the voices of my characters.

I have yet to become stuck wondering what should come next. The words just flow. I know it will still be a shity first draft, and they always are, but it will be a completed first draft, and that’s what matters.

The Death of a Dream

dream death

The death of a dream is the worst imaginable type of death. Death in any form is awful, but to watch someone’s dreams struggle for breath, fall to its knees clutching at its heart, to never rise again is the most traumatic experience this life has to offer.

Dreams are crushed everyday throughout the world. War, poverty, family violence, drugs, and many other more mild things you would not suspect gobble up dreams with careless abandon.

Dreams are precious. They are the essence of our soul. Without them, we are nothing. Our dreams define who we are and who we may become. If a person could trade in dreams, they would be the richest person in the world.

Dreams cannot be sheltered or hidden away, but they do have to be protected because they can be lost or stolen, and once gone fighting to get them back is a battle easily lost.

A dream can be lost when a person becomes caught up in the desire for money and power. They forget all about the thing that made their heart sing and dance. The forgotten dream lies upon the ground becoming buried beneath dirt, laundry, diapers, and bills.

A lost dream can be found. Once you realize you have misplaced your dream, an extensive search should begin immediately. The longer you are without your dream, the more soul will leak out of your body. Call upon friends and family, form a search party, and bring in the bloodhounds. Spare no expense. Without your dream, you will wither away.

A dream is stolen when a person perpetrates a trauma against another. The victim’s dreams are ripped out of their soul, and it leaves them consumed by pain and suffering.

A stolen dream can be reclaimed, but it leaves a gaping hole in the center of your chest. The separation is debilitating, and reinforcements are critical. Dust off the chainmail, and strap on the battle-axe. Call your dragon, Pegasus, phoenix, griffin or any other fantastical creature you rely upon during times of immense crisis.

A dream dies when it is forgotten or starved by its owner. Separation by loss or theft for an extended period of time will also result in death.

You can tell when someone’s dream has died. The glimmer of light in their eyes is gone. They walk in the dark going through the motions of their life. Nothing drives them. Nothing moves them to action. They resent others who have thriving dreams. It is difficult not to stop, stare, and try to help these empty vessels, but if you spend too much time with them, they often siphon your dream’s energy trying to resurrect their own. Dead is dead, and there ain’t no coming back.

Dreams feed on thoughts, beliefs, faith, and love. Never let your trough become empty and continuously fill the troughs of those around you. A waterfall fills the pools below it until they are overflowing, and then another waterfall is born to replenish yet another pool farther along the path.

The best protection for a dream is visibility and sharing. It is hard to forget what has been etched, into your skin and that is where you should wear your dream. Each morning we rise and wrap our bodies with clothing and each morning we should wrap our heart in our dream. When you share your dream with another, they may take it up as their own assisting you along the journey. Find a mentor who can be a mirror reflecting your dream back to you. If one cannot be found, find someone who will hold you accountable for progress toward achieving what feeds your soul.

Is there no hope for those who have buried their dead dreams? There is always hope. Roaming among the average and hidden by a veil of normalcy are dream architects. Like an underground spring that never runs dry, they pour forth the food of dreams. An architect will provide the plans for a dream, but the dreamer must gather the supplies and begin construction on their own.

Dream huge, without limit and restraint. Share your dreams with the world. Devise plans for the walking dead, just in case construction is ready to begin.

Death’s Gift

death

“Life is so short,” Jasper said. He stared off into the distance. Sage words from a seven-teen-year old boy, who has his whole life before him. He turned his steel blue eyes toward me. A longing sadness filled his eyes and clouded his expression.

“It is, but the fact that you realize that now rather than when you are fifty is an opportunity for you to make the most of what you have,” I said. He ran his hand through his short dark brown hair.

“Don’t leave things unsaid, set goals, and clarify your priorities. You’ll be all right,” I said.

This isn’t the first conversation we have had about the end of life, and I’m sure it will not be the last. At least, I hope it is not. Jasper often thinks about death. Some may believe he shouldn’t dwell on something so negative. I disagree. The sooner you realize that you don’t have all the time in the world, the more you will strive to be exceptional now.

Immortality is great as an idea. Immortal beings crop up in many fantasy novels and we love them. How wonderful would it be to have immeasurable time to accomplish all we desire?

How many of the things that we hold dear would lose their value because they and we are infinite? You could put off learning to play the piano, writing a novel, camping with your children, and fishing with your dad until there was nothing remaining.

There are those that find the shadowy specter of death hovering in the fog of the future terrifying instead of inspiring. Rather than allowing the end to scare them into taking full advantage of the beauty and happiness before them, they shut themselves off from the world. Not taking risks, not venturing out of their comfort zone, they sit wasting away. They lock up the little life that they have in a safety deposit box. In doing so, they have already breathed their last breath.

Death is a gift, it places immeasurable value on each and every moment you have. Make them count.

Flash Fiction Friday: Bad Parents

Flash Fiction Friday is a challenge offered by Author Chuck Wendig on his blog Terribleminds. Chuck throws out a random topic and you have until Friday at noon EST to write a fictional short story in 1000 words. This week’s challenge was near and dear to my heart, “Bad Parents.” In a sense my personal experiences probably limited my creativity since bad parenting is the crux of my day job.

Bad Parents

“Get out of my face you little bastard!” she screeched inches from Andy’s cherub cheeks, sprinkling them with her spit. With narrowed eyes, she pushed on his chest, and he plopped onto his behind. Tears spilled from his eyes and his bottom lip quivered. I glared at her and pulled him into the bathroom.

“Hurry up in there you little whore. He needs to be in bed before Steve and Dereck get here.” She slapped the door.

Letting out a held breath, I leaned against the door pressing it closed. I hated her. Yes, she was my mom, but I hated her. I felt bad about hating her, I mean, I should love her, right? What could I do at seven years old? I couldn’t leave or tell anyone. She said we would be in foster care, separated, and god knows what else. I wasn’t going to lose Andy. He needed me, and I needed him.

The running water drowned out mom’s continued raving about how worthless we were, and how she wouldn’t have to get high all the time if she didn’t have us. She told me she needed to escape her awful life. I lifted Andy into the warm water. A brown ring circled the tub. I scratched at it with my fingernail lost in my thoughts of how I could make mom’s life better.

“Sit down, so you don’t fall,” I told him. We pushed his rubber ducks around in the bubbles I had made with dish soap. Mom cries a lot, ever since we found dad hanging in the closet by a belt. I wish he were here. She didn’t get high so much then.

I pulled Andy out of the tub, dried him, and put a diaper on him.

Through the door, I heard Steven and Derek come into our one bedroom apartment. I opened the door just an inch. She snatched my shirt and yanked me toward her. My cheeks and forehead cracked against edge of the door and the doorframe.

“I don’t want to see your ugly face tonight,” she said through clenched teeth, pushing me back into the bathroom.

Mom and her friends were laughing and coughing out there while I read The Giving Tree to Andy in the corner of the bathroom. Heavy footsteps passed the door. Two more sets of steps followed a minute later. I stroked Andy’s hair and waited. No light came under the door. Their muffled voices came to my ears. I turned the doorknob and peeked out. Her door was closed.

Andy and I tiptoed down the hall to our mattress on the floor behind the couch. I cleared the old pizza box and McDonald’s wrappers off. A cloud of pee wafted through the air as Andy flopped onto our mattress splotched with yellow and black stains.

“You sing?” Andy asked.

“If you’re quiet, I’ll sing,” I told him. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was the only song that came to my mind.

Once Andy was asleep, I tiptoed down the hall. What are they doing in there? Their voices were getting louder. Mom was talking real fast. It was dark in the room, other than an occasional flicker of dancing light.

There was rustling on the other side of the door. I shuffled back down the hall tripping over a pile of clothes. Mom grabbed my arm and pressed her nails into my skin. I squeezed my eyes closed.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Trying to catch a peek of my man? You little slut,” Mom said, shaking my eyes open.

The fire in her eyes scared the heck out of me. That fire had burned me more than once.

“No mommy, I was going to the potty.” I looked at the floor. Her backhand caught me on the left side of my face and sent me crashing into the wall. I pulled my legs to my chest and tucked my chin into my knees. She kicked me in the ribs and slammed the door.

The sun rose casting a soft yellow glow through the front windows.

“Mommy, wake up,” Andy said, shaking mom’s bare shoulder. She didn’t stir. Her eyes didn’t flutter open sparkling with love. She didn’t even breathe anymore. I stood at the door of her bedroom. I knew before Andy touched her. Her lips were blue, and white powder dusted her nose. The oozing pus nodules ringed in red on her arms stared back at me like her red-rimmed eyes. Andy looked back at me, his diaper sagging between his knees.

“Come on Andy, she’s real tired. Let’s change you and go for a walk,” I said, waving him out of her room with my hand. He kissed her pale cold cheek. I pulled the door closed hoping the residual chemical smell wouldn’t follow us like the specter of my mother.

“Why won’t she wake?”

“She was up late last night little man.”

“With her friends?”

“Yeah,” I whispered wiping the tears from my face. I chipped dried oatmeal out of a bowl and set it on the table for Andy. I poured the last of the frosted flakes in the bowl.

As I turned the blue lid of the milk, a rotten stench ran into my face. I gagged and set it in the sink overflowing with dishes caked in week old rotting food.

“There’s no milk.” I handed him a blackened spoon. Mom used it to smoke a rock last night, but it was the cleanest spoon in the house.

Pulling out clothes from a knee-high pile of dirty laundry in the corner of the living room, I brought each piece to my nose. It’s all sour. All the socks are yellow and stiff. I tug one of mom’s t-shirts over Andy’s head and roll some socks over his toes.

“I need to call someone,” I said.  “Let’s go.”

Taking his hand in mine, we walked in the morning sun dragging his dingy blanket behind us.

 

What’s it all about?

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Fighting for a Chance to Dream is my life’s premise and theme. I began fighting for my chance to dream when I was seventeen years old. My archenemy was myself as is the case for many of us. My newborn son was the inciting event, which caused me to drastically change my life’s course from what you see above. That’s my brother and me. I’m 13 years old in that picture.

Homelessness, major depression, suicidal ideation, delusional, cults membership, a rape victim, a domestic violence victim, a drug addict, criminal, high school dropout, pregnant teen, and teen mom, all of these labels have hung from my neck. In the past, I have allowed other people’s beliefs and my experiences to define who I was and what my abilities were.

I chose to fight back once I realized that the sun still rose over the mountains despite my belief that I was not worthy to walk in its warmth. I decided that I didn’t want to be a victim anymore, especially the victim of myself.

My prior experiences still color who I am and the decisions I make. They always will, but they no longer define me. Rather than allowing them to weigh me down, I have climbed on top of them using them to reach for the sky. Currently, I am a single mom, attorney, ultrarunner, and writer.

True freedom is the combination of the ability to dream and the courage to fight for your dreams. Acceptance, belonging, and hope begin and end within yourself.

Here you will find posts containing my writing, writing tips, thoughts on children with mental health issues, parenting children with mental health issues, advocacy issues, and frustrations of mine with the world as a whole. You will also find inspiration and hope.

This blog will have no boundaries. It will contain all facets of me to some extent. However, my running advice, experience, and musings will be posted primarily on my blog Ultrarunningmom.com, but I’m sure some of it will leak into a few blogs here. So, if you only want to read about running you can go here.