Saturday, June 1, 2013

Friendship (Life Lessons with Izzy)

   As a precursor I feel I must mention that this is not the original post I had planned to put up on friendship.  In fact, I had written an entirely different sort of post and felt it to be completely disingenuous.  I was doing my best to avoid some personally painful memories, but in doing so I failed to truly express what friendship means to me.  This post is a bit heavy in places, but I assure you that it is not intended to garner sympathy or get you to buy balloons for my pity party.  I am quite overwhelmingly happy in my life.  I did, however, feel that I needed to be honest.

  I have led a wonderful life.  My parents love me unconditionally and I have never once doubted they were there for me.  But a parents love can not counteract one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with.  Depression.  It started out small in high school, back before I even knew what depression was, then built into a fever pitch later in life.  There was no real reason for me to be depressed.  My life was great, I had the love of family, I made good grades, I had friends.  But sometimes depression makes absolutely no sense.  Sometimes it rolls in like a fog and settles in for a good long while.

  What does this have to do with friendship you might ask, well we are getting there.  I have had three very close friends since I was in high school.  I am still extremely close to them in fact.  If I were asked to define friendship I would just give their names.  They pulled me out of the darkness when I could not help myself.  I went through something extremely difficult about five years ago.  It is not something I talk about often, and it is not something that I let define my entire life.  But with my predisposition for depression, it quite possibly could have pulled me completely under.  If it weren't for my friends, I am certain it would have.  About five years ago I miscarried.

   Like always in a military relationship, my husband was gone at the time doing a training exercise.  He and I could talk on the phone and we had finally both dealt with the holy crap I am pregnant issues when it happened.  I lost the baby.  I was at breakfast with one of my best friends when I realized it was happening.  That day is a blur of tears and doctor visits but the thing I remember most is my friends.  They were there for me.  They showed up in force and sat out in the waiting room with my mom.  They came to my apartment and packed up all of the things that we had started collecting for the baby and safely stored them for a later time.  They quietly stayed by me and let me mourn.  They gave me space to be sad, they gave me space to grieve that loss that I felt so keenly.

   They allowed me to bask in the sadness but only for a while.  Before I knew it, they were taking me to the movies, or planning shopping trips.  My empty schedule was suddenly filled with days with my friends.  We spent nights trying to make lists of all of the people we have kissed while reminiscing over years of ridiculousness.  Without ever knowing what they had done, I was brought back to myself.  I look back now and I realize it could have gone very differently.  These girls, well they saved my life.

   I won't end the friendship story on such a heavy note though.  I have met some incredible people along the way.  While my three best friends from high school remain and are still just as important to me, I have also been blessed enough to add to them.  I have friends to drink wine with and laugh over ridiculous things from True Blood viewing nights to burlesque shows.  I have friends that always come through for me in a last minute pinch.  Though our lives as Army wives are transient I know that no matter the distance I will always have them in my life.  (Whether they like it or not).

   Then there are the friends that might be just as important to you dear reader.  Without a certain group of friends I would never have had the courage to continue writing the story.  There very well may not even have been a second book if it weren't for them.  So to the women that have listened to me endlessly and obnoxiously prattle away about fictional characters, to the women that read my completely unedited mess of a story, and to the women that were honest when I needed it, THANK YOU!  I am so indebted to you.  You know who you are, and you know I will never forget you.  (Regina... ehem.)

  To the group of women that have endlessly supported me so far on this journey, you have made a HUGE difference in my life.  I love all of your faces!  Seriously, this is a scary and uncertain journey, without ya'll I know I probably would have given up a long time ago.  Between my author friends, my blogger friends, and my fun fb group friends I feel almost invincible.

   So, what is the life lesson here, well friendship can change a life, it might even save one.  I hope that I did not get too heavy.

Sometimes Izzy needs a heavy handed reminder to pull herself together as well.  That is where Ian comes in.  He is the friend she never knew she needed.  Enjoy the excerpt from See How She Runs.

“I don’t know how.”  I admitted weakly.  It felt strange admitting to Ian something I could not even tell Kennan.  I was struck with the rightness of my mother sending him once more.  She might have not been a fighter, but her love shaped me even now.
            “Yeah you do.  Don’t get all emo baby on me.  Suck it up, set an objective and figure your shit out.  No one can do it for you.”  Ian said with finality.  How about that for a vote of confidence?  But I knew he was right.  I had to stop worrying about how to do it and just start working at it.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Love (Life Lessons with Izzy)

    Love, it is inexplicable.  It can build us up when it is returned and it can break us down when it is not.  To love someone is to open yourself up completely and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  It is quite possibly the most frightening thing that we do.  In love there are no guarantees, there is only hope.  Hope that the person you open yourself up to is worthy of you.  Hope that you will have that love returned.

   Aside from romantic love, there are so many other sorts out there.  Self love, the love of a friend, familial love.  All of them are as important as the romantic sort, yet somehow they often get overlooked.  So, in a rare fit of transparency, I am going to take you all on an adventure through my love ups and downs.   Here is hoping some of my hard learned lessons might help someone else out there.

   My first hard lesson in love was the self love sort.  I suffered from low self esteem as a young teen.  It is a common thing what with the influx of crazy hormones and the constant barrage of images on television of what it is to be beautiful.  I was awkward and strange and I never quite fit in, but I really did not want to change myself either.  It wasn't until I got to high school that I made big strides in this department and that is all thanks to a guy named Brandon.  "How can you expect anyone to love you if  you don't love yourself?"  He posed this question to me and left me reeling at the truth.

   I could not possibly expect someone to love me if I did not love who I was.  So I set about making peace with my weirdness.  I embraced all that made me different from my triangular frizzy hair down to my bizarre sense of humor and fashion.  They were all parts of me and I learned to love it all.  It was miraculous what a difference it made.  Now, don't get me wrong, like all angsty teens I still had my issues.  I still felt less than worthy some days, but overall I was happy with the person I was.  I made peace with myself.

  The next two sorts, friendship and familial, well I have been more than lucky in that department.  I am blessed to have one of the most supportive and loving groups of friends in the world.  But more will be noted on them in the friendship life lesson.  Just know that I am overwhelming blessed with friend love!

  Familial love, well that one I am extremely thankful for.  I come from a large extended family that has always been a chaotic ball of love.  I have an amazing sister and my parents, well they have been married over thirty years.  They have showered me with love my entire life.  I never grew up thinking that I needed to be anyone other than myself.  My parents have always embraced my weird and encouraged it.  They encouraged me to pursue studio art in college and even now encourage me in my writing endeavor.  Perhaps the most important thing they have done is shown me what true love looks like.  Sometimes it takes work, sometimes you have to go through some really hard bits before you get to the easy stuff, but in the end it is ABSOLUTELY worth all of the work.

  The last sort, the romantic bit well, that one has been a very rocky road for me.  I allowed myself to get swept up in the notion of love at a young age.  I thought that I knew exactly what I wanted but found myself constantly changing who I was for a guy.  I would end up with guys that liked the idea of a quirky arty girl, but not the reality.  Once I was with them, they would try and change me.  I don't know if they ever really even knew they were doing it, but alas I would lose myself every time.

  It was not until I hit the very rock bottom, when my standards had all gone to crap, that I realized the perfect man for me had been there for three years patiently waiting.  My husband pursued me.  He knew he loved me well before I knew what kind of man I really needed.  I kept him in the friend category far longer than I should have.  He was my best friend and I knew if we ended up together I would either lose him or it would be forever.  It scared me to death.  But like the good friends they are, my three best friends told me constantly that he was the one to just suck it up and accept it.

  The best day of my life was the day I finally said yes to him.  Now, I am surrounded by a love that is real.  He knows me and loves me just the way I am.  There are no conditions.  He takes me to the ER and sits with me for hours even though he is on leave.  He makes me laugh even when I feel like crying.  He is the very best part of me.  I love him in a way that makes every other time I thought I was in love seem ridiculous.  I know for a fact that I am loved.  And the best part, well he gave me someone else to love.  Our daughter Alex.  And that, the love of a mother for a daughter, well there are no words to explain that love.

   So here is a little snippet of Izzy.  She has had a hard go of it in her life.  She never gave up on love though.  In fact, it is her love that makes her able to overcome some serious adversity.  I hope you enjoy!

“I’m just so tired Kennan.  I am tired of fighting.  I am tired of being strong.  I tried to be for you.  I did, but I don’t think I can anymore.” 
            “Well then I will be strong enough for both of us.”  His gravelly voice was like a balm to my soul. 
            He forced me to meet his eyes once more and just looked at me.  A thousand emotions played behind his eyes.  Regret, fear, anger, compassion, and most of all love swirled in their depth.  I stared back as the tears streamed down my cheeks. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Struggles (Life Lessons with Izzy)

     Some days, when I am writing about Izzy's life, I lose myself in sadness. Yes, I know she is a fictional character.  Yes, I know that her struggles are not real.  Some of them, however, are things that loads of people deal with.  The loss of her parents, her loss of direction, her inability to see what the outcome of her life will be.  All of these things plague our everyday lives.

    Then I stop and remember (or the fictional Izzy that lives in my head reminds me) that it is all part of our makeup.  I, myself, would not be who I am today if it weren't for the struggles life has brought me. Through heartache and disappointments I have found myself and my place in this world.  Every single struggle and triumph has led me to be the exact person I am today. Had one thing gone differently it could have changed my whole life.
    I am reminded of something a friend used to tell me back in college.  I am sure he got it from somewhere, but I am not sure where. "Without the bitter,the sweet would not be as sweet."  Now, when I am faced with a difficult situation I try and remember that.  I try and remember that moments are all fleeting and I will survive.  I strive to live my life not reflecting on the bad, but being in awe of the big picture.

   Had one small thing gone differently in my life I might not have the wonderful and supportive husband I have today.  I would not have my amazing and energetic daughter.  I would not be in a position in my life that I felt confident enough to share my stories with the world.

   I know there will still be days ahead where I feel overwhelmed with life.  Where I feel as though the walls are crashing in. I hope that in those times I can be like Izzy and look for the positive and be grateful for the hardships.  

Excerpt #1 from See How She Runs-

   "I don’t want to be defined by the events of my life Kennan.  I can’t walk through life a sad sack of memories.  I have days ahead of me, and I don’t know how many.  I refuse to live those days drug down by the horrible things of my past.  I will enjoy the small moments I am given."   -Izzy


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Music is my Muse

    I am an avid reader.  Some (the husband) might even say I have an addiction to books.  I can safely say that I have read thousands of them.  I just can't seem to get enough.  I love everything from the classics to contemporary romance.  I love to be swept away into another world.  I love being able to live a thousand lives all while living my own.  It is the most exciting thing in the world.
    I have recently noticed a trend where authors post their playlists in the back of the book.  I always go and check out what the author was listening to as he/she wrote their story.  I find it interesting how some of the songs might have shaped certain portions of the story.  It wasn't until I set out on my own writing adventure that I truly understood how much music can shape and mold a story.

   It became quite the task to find the perfect music to inspire my writing.  Some parts of the book needed upbeat music, while a great deal of the book needed slow melodic tunes.
  As a homage to my book, I thought I might share my playlist with all of you here.  I hope that it might give a little insight into how my crazy mind works.  Enjoy, who knows, maybe you just might find something new!

Lindsey Stirling-  Okay, let's just get serious.  She is EPIC.  How could I not be inspired her awesomeness. Check out her self-titled album or this snippet to see what I am talking about.


Christina Perri-  There is something so beautiful and soothing about her voice.  It alleviated a lot of the angst I experienced while writing.  Her songs are like stories in and of themselves. She helped me to dig deeper and find beautiful ways to phrase ordinary things.


Florence and the Machine-    Alright ya'll, let's get serious.  She is just WOW.  Her songs have been featured in a ton of movies for a reason.  She inspired me to dig deep and get gritty.  I think my favorite has to be Seven Devils.


The XX-       I listened to their entire Coexist album working on the first half of the book.  It is so mellow and it just made finding the sweet spot easy.  The husband kept asking me how I was able to stay awake listening to them.  Apparently the album triggers sleepy time for him.


We Were Promised Jetpacks-  This song has been on my playlist for the past few years.  I can't seem to get enough of it.  I can see it playing out like a movie in my head.  Then I heard it again while writing and was floored.  It was on repeat quite a bit.


   Then of course there were a smattering of other artists I had mixed in.  Alabama Shakes, Metric, Of Monsters and Men, Sia, and so many more.  The ones listed above are where the big stuff happened.  Hearing the songs now makes me immediately think of my characters and their journey.  I can't wait for all of you to read the book and maybe you will come back and listen to the songs in the process.