Life Lessons in Losing and Loss

Steps

Losing and Loss. Both can teach such strong lessons. But what we learn is entirely up to us. How we choose to view these potentially defining moments.

For example, Derek Redmond, a runner in the Barcelona Olympics was supposed to be a shoe in to win the gold, but the unexpected happened….

Imagine training your whole life for this one moment, and then something like that. I remember the first time I saw this… I knew it was a hammy. I’m pretty sure he did, too.

But he also knew he had a choice. What would you have done?

What he did blew my mind and had me in tears, applauding his courage.

His father ran out to him. (Yeah, that was his dad…who, in today’s world would’ve probably landed himself in jail at the very least for interrupting a sporting event.) He asked him what he wanted to do. At that point, there would’ve been no shame in giving up. But he didn’t come to the Olympics to give up! He may not have won, but he finished. And he had his father, who held off all the officials who tried to stop him, and the crowd supporting him.

In my book, that choice he made in what had to be one of the most devastating moments of his life, made him a winner. And someone to look up to.

And when it comes to loss, we have choices, too. Nothing has brought that home, lately,¬†quite the way the attacks on Paris have. And yet, through the fear and terror…people reached out. Despite the danger, people reached out via Twitter to let others who were stranded and with nowhere to go where they could find a safe place, an open door.

The rest of us watched in both horror and heartache, offering what comfort we could by letting Paris know, much like they’ve supported us through some of our hardest times in history, that our hearts and thoughts were with them. We put up pictures and banners on Facebook, hoping to let them know we stood by them.

There was courage and friendship and unity. In that moment, it was all about love and support…as it should have been. (Unfortunately, that didn’t last, but that’s all about hate and politics, which I choose not to give a foot hold on my blog.)

I think we were all praying this sort of prayer for those stranded…. (I thought it appropriate to select a song from Les Miserables).

And in honor of all our French friends and allies… How awesome that this scene in Casablanca was already there for them when we needed a reminder that freedom requires folks to stand up and protect it?

So that’s what’s been on my mind lately… What about you?

B is for Booktastic Brilliance

Book LoversA while back I wrote a post sharing the books that influenced my youth…

Now I’d like to honor some of my favorite MUST READ authors and why I absolutely adore them. To be fair, I won’t spend a ton of time talking about J.K. Rowling (mostly because everyone already knows her and gets her appeal). The ones I’d like to honor are the ones who haven’t yet had their books turned into movies. ūüėČ

First, I’d like to recognize Lexi Blake/Sophie Oak.

Her Lexi Blake persona writes fabulously exciting spy BDSM romances and caused me to fall madly in love with one of my all time favorite book boyfriends, Ian “Big Tag” Taggart. Her heroines are feisty and smart. The heroes are snarky, sarcastic in the best possible way, and loyal to a fault.

Then there’s her Sophie Oak side. Ooh-la-la! In this universe, being quirky and different is embraced. M√©nages of two guys and a girl (one series is bisexual males and their woman, the other is more best friends/brothers and¬†their lady love) are considered normal and traditional, as is the D/s lifestyle. In the Bliss series, the womenfolk get to join the “I Killed A Son of a Bitch” club (the SOB’s are bad guys). Yeah. I want one of those t-shirts.

Bliss

The one common thread she has through all of her books is the humor, sarcasm, and pure unabashed sense of fun! The dialogue will get you laughing out loud. And the heat level is scorch-your-undies HOT!

Next is Terry Goodkind. I fell in love with his books and characters when I discovered The Sword of Truth series. His wizards are so far removed from Harry, Ron, and Hermione that it would be impossible to compare them. They’re badass, fight with swords, and the women? Take your pick of powerhouses who can fight, steal your magic, take control of your mind, body, and soul, work their own magic, or see your future. Sorceresses, Mord Sith, Confessors….

His message through the whole series? There’s definitely good and evil in the world, but evil acts don’t always make evil people. Kindness and compassion can go a long way to changing a person’s heart and soul if they’re open and willing to make a change. And finally, don’t let the bad things that happen in your life change who you are at the core. It’s truly the only way evil can gain a foothold and win. I actually believe that to be true about everyday life, as well.

Have you ever heard of Cherise Sinclair? She writes about the most amazing BDSM clubs. The Shadowlands (owned by Master Z, and based in Tampa) and Dark Haven (owned and run in San Francisco by My Liege aka Xavier Leduc). To be clear, those places are fantasy, not real world…but she sure does a great job making you wish they existed. She also writes some awesome shifter erotic romances.

What I love about her writing is the conscious effort she makes to educate about the many different aspects of the BDSM lifestyle, both safe and unsafe. The importance of education, safe words, trust….all without being preachy. And you can sense in the way that she writes, the immense respect she has for the honesty, vulnerability, and strength it takes to be a submissive. Her Doms don’t like wimps. They prefer real¬†individuals of character who are willing to give up the reins to Alphas like them who cherish their gift, admire their strength, and seek to build them up and empower them. And hey, the fact that the subs have a smart, bratty streak every now and again is just icing on the cake!

These are all terrific authors with fabulous books to share…. But as I got to thinking, the book that’s impacted my adult life most (besides The Bible, of course) is a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog. This book has given me a ton of tips that I use daily to maximize my productivity, to manage my time, and ways to help other people around me become more efficient as well!

So what about you? Who are your must buy authors of your adulthood? Why do they appeal to you? What book has most impacted your adult life (either personally or professionally)? I’d love to hear what revs your engine!

Heroes, Mentors and Making Things Happen

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” ~ Dr. Albert Schweitzer

I’m not sure exactly when the realization dawned; that heroes and mentors were different entities. Not that they can’t co-exist. They can. But they can also be entirely separate of one another.

Me and my hero

Me and my hero

For example, if you were to ask me who my hero was growing up, my answer would have been my mom. In fact, if you were to ask me today, my answer would still be the same. But do I consider her a mentor? No. I look up to her. I love the values she believes in. I hope to be as firm in my faith as she has always been. She’s been through some of the toughest things you can imagine and kept her belief, her joy, and her family together. I hope I inherited her strength.

Of course, being who I am, I looked up the definitions and here’s what Merriam-Webster had to say:

Hero-

: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities

: a person who is greatly admired

: the chief male character in a story, play, movie, etc.

Mentor-

: someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person

Strange as it sounds, despite the definition, my teachers were never people I considered to be mentors, either. Although they taught me and I respected them, it was more clinical. Not bone deep…pushing me to grow, encouraging me, and driving me to be more.

Maybe it’s because I was a girl with whom knowledge came easily, but it wasn’t until my late 20’s that I’d ever truly felt challenged…in a good way. I skated my way through most things based on natural ability, charm, a lot of common sense¬†and my own driven nature. Then things changed and I discovered my first mentor.

No longer happy with the career path I’d had for the first 10 years of my working life, I decided to shift from medically related to retail sales. As a sales rep and eventually supervisor, my natural love of and ability to read people made me highly effective. I was quickly promoted up through the ranks into a single location manager role.

Then I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I had a specialty, you see. I was great at networking and being able to build mutually beneficial relationships in a shared partnership environment. So when my company decided to create a manager position that encompassed 4-5 smaller scale locations (much like a mini-district manager), my boss considered the position designed for me, and a no-brainer. The problem was that there were no guidelines, boundaries or examples because the role was literally just created. It would be a trial and error situation where we figured things out along the way. In commissioned sales, this was definitely not the norm. For the first time, I struggled. My results were inconsistent.

Strangely, through this struggle, I discovered my first mentor. I already knew her. She was my boss. Her name was Ashley. When we sat down for my first performance appraisal I received my first less than stellar score. Frustrated, feeling like I was doing everything I possibly could, I asked her what I could do. She looked me in the eye and said, “I’d like you to work on one thing this year. Hold your team accountable. Don’t let them get away with excuses.” In fact, she took it one step further, and it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. She said, “I don’t accept excuses from you, so why are you allowing it from them? When you allow your team to get away with excuses you’re sending them a message. You’re letting them know you don’t believe they’re capable of anything more.”

She didn’t micro-manage me. She didn’t coddle me. She told me the biggest thing she thought would improve my business and let me sink or swim, but she was there to listen and give advice whenever I chose to reach out. In the past it was easy to sway my team to my point of view. I was beside them all day. In this role, my staff only saw me one day a week as I rotated locations. She was right. I couldn’t simply talk to them and be done with it. They needed to know that if they didn’t follow the action plans I rolled out, there would be consequences. I got very good at accountability. My team developed into her “go to” group whenever she needed strong business results regardless of where our company shifted their areas of importance. To this day I look up to her and hold her up as an example of an incredible leader.

Fast forward to today and why I’m telling you this story…..

As many of you know, a little over a year ago I decided to pursue writing seriously. Honestly, when I toyed with the idea in my mind, I had no idea if I had what it took to do this. For all I knew, publishing a book was a pipe dream. Shoot, I’d been writing most of my life but never pursued it because when I was growing up, the only option was New York and, for the most part, you had to know someone/have an ‘in’ to even be considered.

It meant the world to me that my sister and my best friend both told me, “I always thought you should’ve been a writer anyway.” But let’s face it. They loved me. They were biased.

But…a mutual friend was not. When I told her my dreams of writing, she asked what I wanted to write. I honestly don’t think she expected me to say erotica/erotic romance. She surprised me, though. She asked if I had a sample she could read… somewhere around 10,000 words. Suddenly I was terrified. Why? Because she’d already been successful in this field. She’d actually won the Maggie Award. Her name is Kaye Chambers.

Instead of laughing, she took me under her wing and taught me. Sure, sometimes it was the little things like how to properly format Word while writing. Other times it was to tell me that I needed to add more dialogue or that I could be awfully heavy handed when hammering a point home, and that I needed to use the subtlety techniques I used when writing poetry to allude to an idea rather than beat my readers over the head with a mallet.

Here I was, this random person who she barely knew when she reached out a helping hand…but that’s exactly what she did! The thing is, I’ve read her stuff. In fact, I LOVE the way she writes. She’s got savvy, sassy heroines and she writes these amazing opens (something I still struggle with). She creates these entire shifter universes that I think are beyond cool. It blows my mind! If you’ve never read her stuff…check out her girl Sasha, a cat shifter,¬†in Tiger By the Tail. Or read Blood and Destiny. Her book that won the Maggie was Angelic Avenger…also awesome, but very different from the other two. It’s amazing how, sometimes, what you’re looking for is much closer than you realize if you only have the courage to ask.

I reached out with a few questions and she gave me so much more than I ever imagined. She chose to mentor me. She held my hand through my fears. She pushed me to be better. She challenged me to give more than I ever thought I was capable of…

And when I finally pushed that button to publish my first piece, she cheered me on! Her words? “You did all the work. I just gave you a bit of direction and support. You should be very proud of yourself.” With the help and belief of my mentor and the folks who love me, I was able to make my own dream come true.

One day I hope that I can do justice to the faith that Kaye has shown in me, much the way I did for Ashley. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough, knowledgeable enough and with enough experience to be able to mentor someone else in this new, exciting world.

What about you? Do you think there’s a difference between a hero and mentor? Who have yours been?

Beauty Of The Earth

Happy Earth Day!

How often do we really take time to stop and look around at the natural beauty that surrounds us? Isn’t it funny that often, to see the beauty in nature, we must observe it elsewhere? Many people would tell me I live in paradise. Truthfully, until this last year, it would’ve taken a lot for me to even notice some of the natural beauty that surrounds me.

Scented Jasmine in my entryway

Scented Jasmine in my entryway

A year ago, I doubt that I would’ve noticed the lovely scents my jasmine blooms are releasing as I walk in and out of my house. Or that I finally got my first gardenia bloom of the season while I was in the Bahamas.

Jasmine climbing the post in front of my house

Jasmine climbing the post in front of my house

I would’ve failed to notice how such small, delicate flowers can create such a gorgeous fresh scent. I definitely would’ve missed the sunset on the beach that I posted months ago….and would probably not even have looked up to notice the Florida panther from a while back, either.

Why is that? Why would I have missed those joys, but caught the amazing color of the ocean while I was in the Bahamas? Or ignored the palm trees at home, only to be awed by the ones there?

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to look around us. It’s only when we disconnect from the world we’re used to that our eyes open to absorb the amazing every day beauty that surrounds us…and it’s not even OUR every day.

Maybe it’s everything that’s happening in the world lately that has me a little introspective. Who could blame me? This last year has been full of upheaval, both for me as a person…and for the world. There is so much ugly in the world…too much. But there’s some truly amazing beauty there, too. So what is it about human nature that has us focusing on all the negative stuff? The hurtful? The cruel? Why is the focus so rarely on the beautiful or inspirational? The joy?

To tell you the truth, I stopped watching the news years ago. I couldn’t stand all the negativity and hatefulness. I figured I’d probably hear what I needed to know on Facebook or Twitter¬†anyway. Plus, if I spent too much time watching all the atrocities on the news I may have found myself going the way of Emily Dickinson. It’s one of the reasons I can’t handle most reality TV. Does that mean I watch no reality shows? No. Because technically, shows like The Voice¬†or Dancing With The Stars (my guilty pleasure-Go Team Ingo!) are considered reality shows. The shows that make celebrities out of people for acting ridiculous or that seem to enjoy ridiculing others…? Not interested.

It’s odd, but the same reason I rarely watch horror or gratuitous violence movies has become the same reason I don’t watch the news and rarely read the paper. I don’t want that kind of negativity to have a foothold in my brain. Don’t misunderstand. I’m well aware that there are bad things in this world. You can’t live more than a couple years without being confronted by such hard truths. But like many other things, I’ve come to realize I have a choice: to let all the bad scar or scare me, to become indifferent to the hardships/suffering/pain of those around me, or to look for (and find) the best in people…and let go of the worst.

Why am I talking about people on Earth Day? Because we’re a big part of what makes the Earth beautiful. We’re also a big part of what tears it apart. I’m not exactly what anyone would call a “tree hugger” by any stretch of the imagination. My contributions are limited to cleaning up my own litter and recycling. Well, at least my physical contributions. The contributions I give through my heart and spirit…well, I’d like to think that’s completely different. “Control your controllables”. That was advice a former boss once gave me. She was right. The thing I can control the most? Me. So I choose to maintain a positive outlook. I choose to seek the best in people. I choose to see the love and kindness that were shown to strangers in Boston and in Texas. I choose to see the outpouring of support and friendship sent our way from all over the world.

People can call me foolish or na√Įve. I’d rather have hope and live with joy in my heart than the fear, bitterness and anger that they allow to take control of theirs… I’d ask if you guys think I’m foolish or crazy, but let’s be honest… even if you did, when it comes to this…I wouldn’t care. Plus, I know I’m not the only optimist…. I would love to know what you guys have been thinking about this last week, though.

It’s hard to believe that it was just a week ago today that I was preparing to board a plane from the Bahamas back to the states only to hear about the tragedy in Boston (and the everyday heroes who went out of their way to help their fellow man simply because they were in a position to do so). Maybe that’s the root of my introspection. Who knows… Either way, I leave you with this… Love life. Love each other. It’s just one more way to love the earth.¬† It’s our sacred duty…which is why I selected the song at the top. For those of you who’d never heard it before, it’s John Rutter’s “For The Beauty Of The Earth”.

 

TGIF: Thank God It’s Football!

I absolutely love football.¬† There is something about the crunching sound of man hitting man that satisfies the bloodthirsty wench in me.¬† In fact, when I was younger, while my girl friends were playing with their¬†Barbies, I was in the yard playing tackle with the neighbor boys!¬† I like a bit of violent physical contact in my sports. ¬†So it’s no surprise that my first boyfriends were football players. ¬†I find the mental game of the territory battle, one side working to maintain their place and gain more, while the other side defends their ground.¬† Really, football is a form of war game.

Then there are the men that fight this battle.¬† They¬†are¬†usually in great¬†physical condition.¬† They have a take no prisoners mentality when they’re on the football field.¬† They’re competitive.¬† They don’t like to lose.¬† And sometimes, if we’re lucky, they look like Jason Taylor or Joe Montana.

For me, though, it’s the unlikely heroes that make me drool.¬† Guys like Miles Austin or Tony Romo who came into the NFL as undrafted free agents.¬† People who weren’t expected to amount to anything that suddenly found themselves responsible for their team’s winning season against all odds!¬† Or guys like Keith Brooking and Charles Haley who people said were washed up, and getting too old for this game, but became the heart and soul of their defense.¬† The ones who would fire their teams up!

Unexpected warriors who go beyond what people expect of them, who battle through insult and injury to become the difference makers.¬† People so passionate that they don’t care what the “experts” tell them they’re capable of.¬† They’ll forge their own way.¬† Yup!¬† I find that incredibly sexy.¬† The fact that they look great in their uniforms and are often bent over so I can appreciate their glutes…that’s just icing on the cake!¬† Okay, so a military man in¬†uniform fits this sexy description quite well, too.¬†¬†And then they go one step further and sacrifice their lives for our freedoms on a daily basis, asking for nothing in return.¬† Yeah, I’m attracted to alpha males, especially if they are leaders.¬† What do you find sexy?¬† When you close your eyes and see romantic¬†hero, who do you picture?

One of these days, I will probably tackle a blog post on some of the things commentators say that sound¬†racy while announcing a game.¬† But in the meantime, I’m just going to be thankful that my Cowboys are back on tv and see what the season brings.¬† I’m sure someone is going to inspire my imagination.¬† Someone always does.