I Don’t Want to Die Before I Do This

I dared to dream. You may have seen my posts on Facebook about my trip to Austin, Texas, for a writing retreat. I packed my bags, took a leap, and dug into my story with twenty other writers and four members of the Author Accelerator team.

On the last day of the retreat, Jennie, the chief creative officer of Author Accelerator, gathered all the attendees into the upstairs room of the old house with cool light fixtures and gave us some final advice. She described her advice as three arguments that writers signing on with Author Accelerator consistently provide for wanting to write a book.

The first argument is the desire to raise their voice. In many cases, these writers have felt silenced by society or various individuals in their lives. But they have something to say that matters and a book is their way to get their message out into the world.

The second argument is the desire to make an impact. They want to affect readers on a deep gut level. Whether it’s to educate, entertain, inspire hope or faith, or provide an escape, these writers want to make a connection with someone else in the world.

And the third argument Jennie Nash and her Author Accelerator team have heard from writers over the years is that they don’t want to die before they do this.

This third argument was the crescendo in Jennie’s speech. It stuck to the back of my throat in the form of a gripping, emotional knot. This argument was bold. It was courageous. It was a writer’s personal stake in the ground that said, I want to be who I want to be in the world while I still can.

This argument is the pinnacle to me. This is where a writer rises up and confronts the vulnerability—the resistance—she must continually fight in the writing process. She claims the unrest as part of her day-to-day walk in the conquest of her dream: it’s not going to be easy and it’s a long road full of no guarantees and very few accolades, but I am going to see it through to the end.

This argument is where the writer takes the leap and goes all in to stand up to the truth of who she really is wholeheartedly.

I felt challenged, inspired, and empowered all at the same time. Could I do that? Could I go all in? Could I shed the cloak of vulnerability and allow myself to fully proclaim my passion, living as if I only had a short while to do it and thereby forcing myself to share my voice?

Then Jennie took me from the top of the proverbial mountain to the depths of the valley that lies in the peak’s shadow: “And now I offer you the invitation to walk away.”

Walk away from the book.

Walk away from all of the work.

Walk away from the grim odds of being in the 1% of writers that get that amazing deal with one of The Big 5 Publishers.

The room fell silent, and Jennie allowed time for reality to settle in. I imagine the same internal battle rising up within me was swelling within my new friends: we could either go all in and audaciously and unapologetically proclaim our stories, or we could lay down our pens and walk away from the struggle and the work of excavating who we are.

The choice and the power was ours.

Jennie scanned the room and said, “Or choose to stay.”

But, if we chose to stay, we had to boldly proclaim that we were not walking away.

I can proudly say I took the challenge (even putting on the socks Jennie gifted all of us) and vowed to never walk away from only God knows how much more work, to write even when I don’t feel like it, to share my voice even in the face of doubt and possible mockery. I am here for the long haul, and the process of defining and redefining who I am.


Mom: More Than Just The Woman Who Birthed Us

Courtesy of iStock/damircudic

Today we celebrate moms: biological moms, stepmoms, adoptive moms, grandmoms, our best friend’s mom that also became our mom, single-dad moms, teacher moms, mentor moms … ALL. THE. MOMS.

This special day gives me a chance to pause and think about motherhood. What does it mean to be a mom? Is it something as simple and instantaneous as birthing a child, or is it something deeper?

One of the most important people in anyone’s life is their mom. We often associate the push and pull of life that began in the womb with our biological mom. But the concept of motherhood is so much bigger than biology. It encompasses wisdom, helping us process life’s ups and downs, and a connection that lasts beyond a mother’s Earthly days.

I’ve experienced many sides of motherhood. I’m a daughter, and a biological mom to three beautiful children. I’ve also enjoyed being a teacher-mom, friend-mom, and mentor-mom. Becoming any type of mom is a gift. It is a treasured role in another human being’s life, one which requires love and compassion toward someone in a vulnerable state. Someone you yearn to nurture to independence in the world by equipping them with the knowledge you fought to earn—so that your child, student, friend, mentee can rise to the next level and journey to the place in life you wish you had found a little sooner.

I saw a dear friend (I’ll call her L) the other day. L was kind and told me I looked like a young woman. I accepted the compliment, but proceeded to point out the increasing number of grey hairs on my head, fine lines on my face, and gravity-affected body parts on my chest. L responded with some motherly wisdom imparted to her by her grandmother, whom she lovingly called Ma.

On this occasion, L and her cousin were bathing Ma. This bathing was a humbling experience for all three women, and as sometimes happens during awkward life moments, L and her cousin got tickled as they lifted and washed underneath their grandmother’s breasts. It was in the midst of this moment, when life had stripped away the layers of a hardworking 90-year-old woman who had raised her own food, canned her own vegetables, and killed her own hogs, cows, and chickens, that Ma laughed and said the words that stuck with L and now stick with me: “Girls, these titties ain’t worth nothing.”

I laughed out loud as I pictured this precious moment between Ma and her grandchildren, who needed those words that day to get through an uncomfortable but real place in life, and as I realized that I need Ma’s words for the aging process at work in my life.

The bare threads of Ma’s soul revealed to me what it truly means to be a mom: Being a mom is more than just an act of birthing a child and taking part in raising them. Being a mom is having a never-ending relationship with your child—one that your children and grandchildren will recount and share with others well beyond your Earthly years.

I reached out to L as I was working on this post to ask her what she thought Ma was really telling her and her cousin that day. L told me, “I believe she meant that we should not be as concerned with what we look like as with who we are. With age comes wisdom. Beauty is worth giving up in exchange for the wisdom of old age.”

And my favorite part was this: “She was truly one of a kind. Young at heart until her last breath. As a matter of fact, we were getting her bathed and dressed for a date at a Tavern for pizza and beer!”

In this experience, one amazing woman’s legacy continued to mother others, even someone who had never met her. Reflecting on this brings me back to the concept motherhood is much bigger than birth or direct parenting. It encompasses all the nurturing, patience, and presence we give to one another.

On this Mother’s Day, let us spend time with all the moms, listening as they impart words of wisdom to help us stay young at heart as we grow old.

Happy Mother’s Day, my friends!

It’s Not About The Goal, It’s About The Experience

Courtesy of iStock/Matt_Gibson

In 2018, I challenged myself with a goal to read 30 books. I fell short at 28½ books, but surprisingly, my competitive spirit is not bothered by my book-and-a-half defeat. I mean, I technically could have made my goal. I could have picked up two easy reads and charged through, claiming my victory. But I didn’t, because the number of books wasn’t really my goal.

I read books for multiple reasons: to escape (typically fiction), to learn (some fiction, but mostly self-help and spiritual), and to feel and fall in love again and again (definitely fiction). Last year, I spent most of my time on “learning” books; 16 of the 28½ books were self-help or spiritual books. Books in this category tend to take longer for me to digest because I try to absorb the details and apply the information to my life. Sometimes the absorbing and applying can be a hard task. So it’s not worrisome to me that I came up short on my numerical goal.

The numerical goal was just an outward goalpost for an inward experience.

The experience waiting for me inside a book’s pages is my real goal. I open novels hoping to get lost in a fictional world and its characters’ problems. I want to ride the tide of emotions as I lose myself inside a book’s pages. I want to fall in love with a character, feel upset with that character, and overcome some obstacle with that character. The lure of self-help and spiritual books is very similar, but the character experiencing the emotions and overcoming some obstacle is myself.

My 30-book goal is a worthy goal and one I am aiming for again in 2019, but not because I want to show you my tally marks and tout how many books I read as my success. No, my true success is when I can share a book with you that captivated me and held me hostage for days. My true success is when some character or author’s experience makes me look deeper into my own. And my true success is when I read something that passionately impacts this journey I’m on.

I didn’t miss my goal last year. I crushed it—numerous times. And I’m hoping to do it again this year. You can join me on my reading journey as I continue to share books with you that steal my attention and keep me captivated for days (and sometimes even in the months after I finished them) on my What I’m Reading Page.