Your Stories

Finding Inspiration ~ Author Roberta Gately - DreamsCo

When I ask people about their dreams many times they've been caught up their daily lives and haven't found the time to think about anything more than getting through the day. Many have hidden passions stuffed behind to-do lists and tasks for others. But what is life without dreams or inspiration?The amazing author Roberta Gately shares today where and how she found inspiration in what many would regard as the last place on earth to find beauty or dreams.

Read her post about finding inspiration and then realize that you have the chance to begin writing your story with Roberta at our Dreams Tasting Event January 30, 2015 in Cambridge MA sponsored space by NGIN workspace. Come learn from this amazing woman and begin writing your own inspirational story. Click Attend Meetups on our home page to learn more. Buy Tickets

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INSPIRATION…

 

Inspiration – that elusive gem, that idea that transforms our thoughts and our maybes into the essential themes of our stories. But, from what magical place does that indefinable pearl emerge?   For me, as a nurse and humanitarian aid worker, I find inspiration everywhere. I stand in line at the bank and watch as a woman peers into a glass shelf, and seeing her own reflection, preens with undisguised admiration. I write furiously. I want to capture the set of her eyes, the slight grin as she realizes how much she likes her own image.   Everywhere I look there is inspiration and, eager to record it all, I am never without a pen and paper.

When I first went to Afghanistan, I knew at once that everything there was inspirational, not just the people, but the rugged landscape, the steaming green tea, all of it sustenance for this writer’s soul.   Afghanistan is a place bursting with inspiring people and inspiring stories at every turn, and my first novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan, was written not just to share my images of that land, but to help dispel the ceaseless illusion that the people of Afghanistan are either terrorists or wild eyed peasants. While Afghanistan’s ethnic and border wars have long shaped its violent and stubborn history, it has unfairly colored the world’s view of its citizens as well. But the reality is that the Afghans I know are at once both resilient and graceful, and it was those diverse, dissimilar and ultimately inspiring qualities I hoped to bring to my story.

Until 9/11, Afghanistan was essentially off the world’s radar screen.   People knew little and cared less about a land that seemed so alien and so far away. All of that changed of course after 9/11, and as the world’s attention finally focused on that destitute and long neglected corner of the world, the devastating truth of the Taliban rule began to emerge; torture, murder and unspeakable crimes against these people. It was worse than any of us who knew the country well had imagined.

In the spring of 2002, I volunteered with a French aid group and was posted to a remote region of Afghanistan, and I was struck, not for the first time, by the wretched reality of daily life for Afghan women. While they have quite literally woven and then held together the fabric and traditions of their families and country, they have often been invisible – the last ones fed, the last ones heard, the last ones to really matter. They suffered at every level, and under the Taliban, access to healthcare for women had been severely restricted. As a result, Afghanistan had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. UNICEF recently reported that an Afghan woman dies of complications related to childbirth or pregnancy-related complications every twenty minutes, a fact that still my makes my heart ache.

And yet, despite it all, these are women who inspire with every breath they take, for instead of living with bubbling hostility, the women of Afghanistan choose to live with a quiet grace and a hardiness of spirit that takes my own breath away. And even with their countless recent miseries, the women of Afghanistan are nothing if not resilient, and that is especially evident in the long-standing myth of the lady rebel.   The lady rebel is revered - a warrior for goodness, they say, and her exploits are legendary, her reputation for courage boundless. To hear the stories of this remarkable warrior is to believe. Even now, I can almost see her as she flies on horseback across the top of a distant mountain range, her plaited hair flying out behind her, a bandolier strung across her chest, a gleam of determination in her eyes as she saves her countrymen from one calamity or another.

That intriguing legend was the seed, the beginning of my idea for Lipstick in Afghanistan, but the lady rebel was only one of many inspirational characters I encountered there.   I often spied a tiny young girl as she trudged along the village pathways and fields. This young girl, who was destined to live a life of drudgery, of endless chores and arranged marriage, never missed an opportunity to pummel whatever local boy crossed her path. For a female who was surely destined for a life of never-ending work, it seemed to me that she was releasing a lifetime of power in the short time she had to be free, really free.   She had a mischievous, engaging spirit that gave me hope for Afghanistan’s future, and gave me yet another seed for my novel.

But there is inspiration here as well. I find it in my patients struggling to get well, or the fretful refugees I know. I find it too in rush hour traffic and lines at the bank. The world is filled with miracles, and I hope that everyone, especially writers, finds their own and shares them with the rest of us.

 

Roberta Gately

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Author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet (Simon & Schuster/gallery)

www.robertagately.com

I'm a Mom and I Have a Bucket-List I'm Pursuing - DreamsCo

I've heard many women say that it's simply too hard when you have a family to make your dreams a priority. There's barely any time in the day as it is how are they going to pursue their dreams? These are things I can't speak on so I've turned to an expert on the subject Lara Krupicka, who has three children and a bucket-list of dreams she's pursuing. I thought I'd have her share her insights on today's blog.

I'm a Mom. And I Have a List.

by Lara Krupicka

I’m a mom. I have a husband, three daughters, a dog… and a bucket list.

Because bucket lists are for moms. And dads. They’re for gradeschoolers, tweens, and teens. Really, a bucket list works for anyone who is living, right?

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A bucket list about what you want to do before you die. But it’s more than that. It’s about making the most of what time you have. It is about giving your best and becoming your best for the world around you.

Yes, life as a mom can be pretty demanding. And it doesn’t leave a lot of room for mom-centered activities or adventures. But if something is worth putting on a list to do in your lifetime, it is worth being creative about fulfilling. It’s worth being patient for.

Admittedly, bucket list living looks a lot different for me than it does for others. I came home from my first spa day to greet my children as they arrived in the door from school. And then I started preparing dinner. And finished folding the laundry. Thank goodness for no-chip manicures!

But I also took my first ride on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty with three young ladies crowded around me. I had the double joy of observing the Statue up close for myself, and seeing it reflected through the eyes of the next generation. I experienced the perplexity that is tweens and teens in the city – the waffling between “grown-up” non-chalance and wide-eyed wonder. New York City with them became new all over again.

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You see, having children does not subtract from my bucket list experiences. Instead it adds to them in ways I could never have imagined.

So let me ask you this: if you’re a mom (or one day plan to become a mom), where better to nurture your love for adventure than alongside your kids?

Which means it has to start with you. And so I often ask moms, ‘do you have a bucket list? What have you always wanted to try or see or learn?’

Too often I hear the answer, ‘I don’t know.’

And that’s okay.

But I think the real answer is, ‘I forgot.’ Because every mom I know was a little girl once. A little girl with dreams. A little girl with hopes for the future. A little girl who maybe longed to one day become a mommy… and so much more.

Because bucket lists are for everyone, even moms.

Click Here For Lara's Website and More About How She Balances The Bucket-List Family Life along with her job as a speaker and author.

The Determination to Make Your Dreams Come True ~ Kirsty TV - DreamsCo

I love this story your about to read. It's about an amazing woman, Kirsty Spraggon who gave up her very successful career and flew half way around the world to pursue her dream of becoming a talk show host. She didn't have a job with any of the networks, or a high paying salary to fall back on. But she had the gumption to follow what many would say was an impossible dream. I'll let her tell you the rest in her own words, but realize she's living proof that dreams come true when you take the leap. At the end of her story follow the links to watch her doing what she does best - bringing great stories to the world. IMG_8397WEBFILE-Edit

Sometimes I reflect on where I’m at in my life and I find myself shaking my head and quietly laughing. What in the world am I doing?! I ask myself and in the next moment, I know; I’m listening to my soul and making a way to realize what my core is telling me. I’m one of those “crazy” people who has an outrageous dream.  Mine is to become a talk show host. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but that’s the main idea. For real insight into my dream, think–an Australian Oprah. Did your eyes widen at the audacity of my goal?

The great thing about being a dreamer who shoots for the stars, is that I know I’m not alone! Most of us will admit that we have a dream. Somewhere along the line, I grew to feel that “boldness” is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s key to getting what you want. It’s part of the recipe that gives me fuel to drive forward. It’s 1/3 of my mantra: a pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity and a shot of courage. I believe those three ingredients are what it takes to commit to your dream and be effective. I’ve even engraved it on a bracelet I wear as a reminder to take a dose when my faith is running low. I’m sharing it with you now because it’s working for me.

It’s been a year since I sold everything I owned, at the height of my career in Australia and moved across the planet with 2 suitcases to Los Angeles, or “Lala Land” as some like to call it. Deciding to change my life didn’t happen in the most dramatic leap, there were two parts. The first change came when I was at the top of my game in sales, ranked in the 1 per cent of RE/MAX’s global network of 121,000 sales agents. Something was nagging at me though; I wanted something more and new I wasn’t living my purpose. I wanted to become a speaker & to help others to find success. So, I went to every speaker seminar I could find and got to it I called it my year of speaker university. The best lessons I learned during my time as a speaker, were the power of words and connecting with people. I watch the best speakers make individuals feel like they were the only person in the room of thousands. And eventually, I learned how to connect with people too. It was exhilarating and mutually fulfilling. Something magical happens when people share thier stories and truly connect. I wanted to hone in on that part! That feeling lead to part two of my decision to take the biggest leap of faith in myself, of my life.

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The self help guide, ‘So You Want To Be a Talk Show Host,’ was a life saver. Kidding! I don’t even know if there is such a book out there. And my inbox wasn’t full of invitations to host a show, so I did what I always do when I want something badly enough. I do it. I wish that sentence was longer, more profound and not as easy for people to throw away because that cliche is gold! Please keep in mind that I am not super human and building a show without any experience as a host, or interviewer and no camera training whatsoever, has left me paralyzed with fear at times. If I were to sum up my toughest times, I would say that Sir Edmund Hillary said it best, “It’s not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”  It really has been about conquering myself emotionally and mentally.

What keeps me going at even the most challenging of times is a ‘knowing’ that this is what I am supposed to do, an inner guidance that keeps pushing me forwards.

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Here we are today and Kirsty TV is a real online show with incredible guests, amazing stories and a real audience. I’ve received videos and messages from people across the world telling me that what I’m doing is important and that they are watching. I am connecting with people indirectly and directly! I can’t put into words what it’s like to sit with someone as they share their story and let you into their vulnerability. I’m truly honored to be an outlet for these people to share their message with the world.

So what do I know for sure a year into the journey? I know that I could have lived with loosing it all and having to go home and live with my parents but I could never have lived with the not knowing or the not giving it a go.

This journey has been my biggest learning. I have grown, stretched and become someone I wasn’t 12 months ago. The lessons you get when you put yourself into such an uncomfortable situation are profound, they make or break you.

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So there it is. Whatever your dream may be, make your way to it. See yourself as what you will become, especially when everyone else may think you are delusional. Be bold, be persistent, make it happen and ask for what you want. In the beginning, you may be perceived as a ‘nobody’, but you must have the audacity of a ‘somebody’. Audacity gives you the ability to fake it till you make it. Above all, you need courage, as without this I don’t know how you would survive the dream crushers and naysayers. You need the courage of a lion to stand strong in the most uncomfortable of situations, to keep moving forward, to keep getting back up when you fall, pushing onwards and upwards.

I hope you find your own recipe for success but in the meantime feel free to borrow mine, all you need is ‘a pinch of delusion, a dash of audacity and a shot of courage’.

KX

Check out Kirsty's Show:

 

If you missed me on The Today Show click here to watch.

www.kirstytv.com

www.kirstyspraggon.com

You can help spread the message of healing by sharing any of the guest stories on KirstyTV that you find inspiring.

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A Mother's Dream ~ Meg Munson - DreamsCo

I met today's guest at Chick Lit Central. (I love the woman over at Chick Lit Central's website and Facebook Page who tirelessly champion for women writers and fabulous books so please check them out!) On the day of my guest blog they asked their readers to post their biggest dreams in the comments. I loved reading the comments and seeing so many women doing fabulous things in their lives. When I came across Meg's dream I had to contact her. Meg Munson wrote that her dream was to become a stay-at-home mom and she did it. What was once considered normal and expected of women, today is a very tough dream to realize. Most households need the double income to survive, but Meg had a dream and she found a way to do it.

Sometimes I believe there's a battle woman have whether they're stay-at-homers or working-moms that causes them to feel the pressure to stand-up for their choice. I think every woman should be supported in whatever choice she makes and I love that Meg fully embraces her dream.

Before I give you Meg in her own words, as many woman feel, Meg didn't want to self-promote so I'm going to do a little raving for her. You have to check out her website and all her talents and the amazing things she does. www.megmunson.com.

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Photo by Stacey Colton Photography

 

My name is Meg Munson and I am honored to be your guest blogger.  I am a mom to two beautiful girls ages 9 and 7 and I also have a very athletic stepson age 13.  I have been married to my husband for 10 years and I am lucky enough to be a stay at home mom.  When my husband and I got married and decided to start a family, it was my dream to stay at home with our daughters. I did not want someone else to raise them.  My days are now filled with delight in watching each new accomplishment my daughters make.  I can't imagine missing their first smile, first step, first word or first day of school every year.  Being a mom has brought me so much joy and I am extremely grateful for finding a company that has allowed me to be at home with my family everyday.

After my first daughter was born, I started researching home-based businesses.  While on one of my favorite mom sites I came across a great article written by another stay at home mom.  It was all about these great gourmet candles and amazing all natural products.  I did a lot of research on the company and loved what I found. The best part about this company is they offered more than one way to make money. They offered retail, wholesale, and fundraising opportunities as well as building my own team.  There were no monthly quotas or commitments to join. I figured if this other mom could do it, than I could give it a try too. I love our products and they practically sell themselves. (I mean who hasn’t burned a candle before? LOL)  I have helped many other women and men start their own home business.  I have been with my company for almost nine years and have met the most amazing people and have found lots of joy in helping others achieve their dreams.

Don’t get me wrong there have been some bad days and struggles along the way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We have had to keep a tight budget and not go on as many vacations as other families, but we make it work.  My days don’t always go as planned, but that is the great thing about working at home. I can make my own schedule and work around my kid’s activities. (Boy do they have a lot and my first job is really a chauffeur!)  I know many women out there don’t think they can work at home with small children, but it can be done. Knowing what your schedule is like daily and writing it all down helps you plan out when you have free time.  Believe it or not there is free time!  I use this time to blog, make connections with new people, call leads or update my website.  I may only have an hour of free time during the day, but I am a night person and accomplish most of my work after the girls go to bed.  It is all a balancing act and knowing what is right for you.  If being a stay at home mom is one of your dreams, I am here to tell you it can be a reality.  The smiles I see on my girls’ faces are my reward and I can’t imagine anything better!!!

The Dream That Saved Leslie Lehr's Life - DreamsCo

I can't quite remember when Leslie and I became friends. Our friendship was so quick, open, and supportive that I felt she'd been in my life for more than just a few months. Every picture I saw of her was stunning and I kept thinking how I'd love to have her style. Then I found out that Leslie was somehow doing everything she was accomplishing, and the list is long, while battling cancer.

I've come to know Leslie as having incredible courage, strength and the biggest heart. She's fighting breast cancer with such style and grace and the stories she's shared through her fight have come straight from the deepest part of her relationships and being. I know her story will make you think deeper about life, dreams, and living to the maximum. I encourage you to buy her novel, What a Mother Knowsand get swept up in the beautiful talent that this woman holds. Now, I give you Leslie Lehr in her own words.

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You know how people’s lives flash before their eyes when they are dying? At the moment I realized I could die, it wasn’t my life that flashed, but my dreams.

I greeted my cancer diagnosis in August with a great deal of denial. I was a healthy, active woman when the lump was detected by a mammogram. What A Mother Knows, the novel I’d been working on for years, had just sold. I had editing to do, classes to teach, and a family to manage. There was no time to be sick.

Besides, I knew I would be fine. My world-renowned surgeon said so. After two successful surgeries, I was excited to go to my final post-op appointment. My book release was confirmed for May and I wanted to share the news. But when my doctor came into the examination room with my pathology results, he had other news. The good news was that there’s a 90% cure for my kind of cancer; the bad news was that it involved chemo.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You’re going to lose your beautiful hair.”

That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t fine. It was only hair, after all, but it was my hair. Before, the C word felt random. Now, it felt personal. I began to cry.

My doctor held me while I sobbed, leaking mascara on his clean collar. Then he pulled his cellphone from his pocket, dialed an oncologist, and handed me his phone to make an appointment.

That’s when my life flashed before me. Not the struggles, but the good parts. I’d married Mr. Right, I lived near the beach, my daughters knew that I loved them, and I had a voice in the world through writing. My sixth book would be out in the spring. Then I wondered: What if it was my last?

I’d begun What A Mother Knows years earlier during a difficult divorce. I put it aside when inspired to write Wife Goes On, then wrote the TV movie to match. But I dreamed of seeing What A Mother Knows in print - I had to make it work. Everything I believed important was in this love story between mothers and daughters, wrapped up with mystery and music and magical places. And I believed that ‘a goal is a dream with deadlines.’ So, I rewrote it until I knew it was my best work. But would it be enough to account for my life? Would I be proud to have the title on my tombstone?

The answer was yes. I stopped crying.

Other survivors said cancer would be a wake up call, that I’d appreciate each moment more. But I already sighed at the sight of a blue sky and stopped to smell every rose. I already appreciated my life – and I wanted to keep going. So, during those hellish months of chemo and radiation when the fog lifted for even an hour, I squinted through the chemo tears and let my numb fingers bleed on the keyboard as I put the final touches on my novel. What A Mother Knows was the dream that kept me going in the dark of night.

Treatment is ongoing, but so is life. And the day I pulled on a wig and posed with my book in front of my picture in the bookstore window, my dream came true.

I could die happy now, but I won’t. I’ll just be happy.

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BIO

Leslie Lehr is the prizewinning author of the novels, What A Mother Knows, 66 Laps and Wife Goes On, plus three nonfiction books, including Welcome to Club Mom. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, Huffington Post and anthologies such as Mommy Wars, The Honeymoon's Over, and On Becoming Fearless. She was the screenwriter of the romantic thriller, "Heartless" and wrote "Club Divorce" for Lifetime. Leslie has a BA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, an MFA from Antioch, and teaches in the world renowned Writers Program.

 

PUBLISHER’S SYNOPSIS

How far will a mother go to protect her child?

An unsettling, emotional and suspenseful novel of the unshakable bonds of motherhood, in which Michelle Mason not only loses her memory after a deadly car crash, but can't find her 16-year-old daughter, the one person who may know what happened that day. But the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of everyone, even herself. A dramatic portrayal of the fragile skin of memory, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free.

 

 

Becoming the Writer No One Thought I Could Ever Be - Caroline Leavitt - DreamsCo

The first time I met Caroline Leavitt was by reading her New York Times Bestselling Novel Pictures of YouHer beautiful book has been kept in a special place - in the short stack of novels that inspire me to be a better writer. Since publishing The Lake HouseI've gotten the chance to meet Caroline through an online writer's group. She's a warm, caring, and humble person who comes straight from the heart. I'm so honored that she's taken the time to write about what it took for her to pursue the dream everyone said was impossible.

I hope her words help you to find the inspiration to continue to pursue your dreams no matter how many times you're told "no." We all hear about instant success when we see someone accomplished, but so often there's a long struggle behind it. I give you the amazing Caroline Leavitt.

 

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The first word I heard, about my writing, was “no.” I was a little girl, eight-years-old and sickly with asthma, and I spent most of my time writing stories in the library while my friends were outside in the damp or the rain or the humid heat playing.  While they romped around, I imagined I was a ballerina in Spain or a doctor in Africa, or sometimes, an asthmatic little girl who was a famous writer. But when I told my mother that what I was going to be when I grew up was a writer, she shook her head. “Be a teacher,” she advised. “Or how about a nurse? You can help people that way. Stories are just a waste of time.”

Being stubborn, I didn’t listen. All though school, if I could write a story, I would. I never wrote a real book report, but instead, made up the books and then wrote reports on them, and I wasn’t discovered until my senior year of high school, when the teacher went to find the book and discovered it didn’t exist. When I had to go see my guidance counselor about college, I told her I was going to be a writer. She blinked at me. “Pardon me,” she said. “But I see no evidence that you could ever be a writer.”

I was seventeen when I began sending out my stories, packing them in those big brown self addressed stamped envelopes and sending them off to magazines. They always came back with form letters. “You’re wasting postage,” my father said, but I kept sending them out, anyway.

In college, I got into a creative writing class, one of 15 terrified kids under the scrutiny of a then famous writer. The first time he talked about my story, he held it up at the edges. “Let’s be frank,” he said. “This is totally crap.” I felt the tears streak my cheeks as he talked about how my lack of characterization, my lame plot, the deadening affect of my prose, but I didn’t leave. The next day, when I came back, he raised one brow at me. “Back again for more punishment?” he said.

“I’m here to learn.”

And learn I did. Every night, when the other kids were at parties or in the city, I was in my tiny dorm room, scratching out stories, working to make them right, sending them off, and always, always, getting those big brown envelopes back again.teenCaroline

When I graduated college, I had to have a job, but to my parents’ shock, instead of going for teaching jobs or nursing, I took low level terrible jobs so I could write. “Where’s your future?” my parents cried. I was fired from my job at an answering service, when I kept giving the emergency messages to Dr. Foot the obstetrician to Dr. Foot the podiatrist. I was fired from a job at a puzzle factory when I was too frightened of the glue press. And I was fired from my job typing because this was before computers and spell check , and I just made too many mistakes. I came home, discouraged, and when I did, there, in the mail, was a big brown self addressed stamped envelope. Disheartened, I ripped it up, scattering the pieces on the porch. I was about to walk inside when I happened to look down and then I saw it. One word.

Congratulations.

Swooping down, I frantically put all the pieces together. I had won the Redbook Young Writers Contest. Seven thousand dollars and publication.  An agent. A book deal.

“I’m finally a writer!” I told my friends.  But really, when you think about it, wasn’t I always a writer?  If you put your whole heart and soul into something each and every day, if you are on the journey, isn’t that as important as the destination? I was a writer--my dream--the first time I picked up a number 2 pencil and wrote, “once upon a time” when I was eight. And the dream’s never over. Every day now, I sit at my computer and there isn’t a moment I don’t feel lucky and blessed. Not a moment I don’t also think that the best way to make dreams come true is to never stop dreaming.ITT

 

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You, which was one of the Best Books of 2011 from the San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. Her new novel, Is This Tomorrow, is a May Indie Pick, and a San Francisco Chronicle Editors Choice. Visit her at www.carolineleavitt.com

A Mother Makes Her Dreams Come True - Becoming A Book Reviewer And Finding Your Voice - A Novel Review - DreamsCo

Today I'd like to introduce Laura Kay. I met Laura when she friended me on Goodreads, which caused me to look at her lovely review site, A Novel Review. Over the last two months, I've gotten to know a little about Laura through emails and her blog. Laura's wonderful energy makes me want to sit on a front porch with her and a pitcher of lemonade and chat away a summer day. I asked her to guest blog on 101 Dreams because I love how she made her dream come true while raising kids. So many women put off their desires until their children are fully grown, but Laura is proof that it can be done. Just because you're a mother, giving everything you have to others, it doesn't mean you don't have the right to what you need in your life and to find your voice. Thank you Laura for everything you do to keep people reading and supporting authors.

And now, I give you Laura Kay in her own words.

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There was nothing more fun than going to a school book fair. Walking up and down the rows filled with new books hoping one could be mine. “Laura, I have enough money for you to get one book,” which book would I pick, what if this book would be better than that book.  Walking out of the school gym clutching my new book to my chest, racing to the car, so I could enter the new world in my hands.

Reading books has always been a huge part of my life. Going to the library and to the bookstore have always been a family outing with the kids. My normal reading pattern would be to find an author I enjoyed and devour everything she’d written. Then I had my third and my fourth child. My time for reading slowed down. Oh I’ll be honest it became non-existent. I missed the escape it offered me. When my daughter started sleeping through the night and my little man went to preschool, I finally found moments of free time. I knew I wanted to start writing, but felt as if I didn’t have a voice. I had worn a label describing who I was for most of my life; wife, mother, daughter, employee. I was nobody special, who cares what I have to say. I began reading about books about writing. Nothing was speaking to me. One common theme was telling me to start a blog. I knew what a blog was, but what could I blog about. I decided to put writing on a back burner and go back to my love of reading. Reading was always my safe place. I began searching the internet for contemporary women authors to see what books were popular. What I found were book review blogs. And a little light bulb went off.

Putting a blog online was fairly simple. When I started a Facebook page I began making friend requests to authors, I was shocked by how many accepted me. I mean authors are my rock stars! Soon enough I was chatting with authors, getting emails requesting me to review their books, them telling me how much they enjoyed reading my reviews. A Novel Review was me, my voice telling people what I thought about a book, sharing my thoughts about a book, spreading the word about a good book and letting others know enough if a book may or may not fit their taste. Then I began to hear the voices of my blog followers or checking my stats on amazon and seeing how many people saying “yes” this review was helpful.

I’ve always been a bit of a wallflower type. Felt as if nobody really cared what I had to say about anything. A Novel Review has allowed me to find my voice.

 

Please visit Laura at her blog A Novel Review, on Facebook, and on Twitter

 

 

Sharon Short Talks About Little Girl Dreams Becoming Reality - DreamsCo

Whenever I speak about going after your dreams I make people close their eyes and remember what it was like to be a little kid and answer the question, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" I love this story by Sharon Short about how she took her childhood dreams and made them reality. Sharon Short Author Photo

My little-girl dream was the same as my grown-woman dream now: create stories that move readers, that make them laugh, and cry, and want to read more.

Of course, I didn’t articulate it that way when I was six. All I really knew then was that I loved to read. Reading a story, even a simple picture-book, was akin to falling down the rabbit hole, into another world, escaping away from the chaos of my family’s home life and into some other wondrous world. Reading seemed like a natural extension of the stories I made up in my head, and very quickly, writing stories seemed a natural extension of reading.

My first book was called The Fireman, and it was about, well, a fireman, saving a girl’s kitten from… a fire. (Hey, I was six.) I wrote and illustrated the book on school wide-rule paper, bound it with red construction paper and staples, gave it a price of 1 cent (dutifully written in the upper right corner of the cover), and proclaimed it, on the inside front cover, as having been published by Little Golden Books since all my books, in fact, were. I then promptly sold out the entire print run (of one) to my aunt, who proclaimed it wonderful. Not bad for a first book—sold out, and to a rave review!

Frankly, though, I forgot about that until after my first grown up book was published, a mystery novel called Angel’s Bidding in 1993. (That one was not such an easy sell.) By then, my aunt had died, and my uncle remarried. His new wife found The Fireman mixed in a box of cards my aunt had kept, and she returned the little book to me. I was, of course, touched by my aunt having kept my little book all those years, and also surprised, bemused and enchanted by it. Seeing it, holding it, brought back the memories of ‘publishing’ it and ‘selling’ it, and reaffirmed how much my dream of creating stories meant to me.

Since 1993, I’ve had eight other mysteries published (in two series); after the last series wrapped up, I was in search of another project. Nothing seemed to feel quite right, until along came the idea for My One Square Inch of Alaska.

I attended a book club gathering several years ago, and during the chit-chat before the book discussion, one of the women asked if anyone remembered the deeds to one square inch of Alaska that used to come in cereal boxes in the 1950s. (The question wasn’t related to the book we were discussing.)MyOneSquareInchAlaskaCover

The 1950s were before I was born, but my imagination was immediately taken with this compelling concept… the desire for a deed to one tiny bit of land in a vast frontier, and what that could symbolize. As I worked on the novel that grew from this concept, I realized (several drafts later, mind you) that my novel was really about the power of dreams: why we need them—real ones, that is, ones from our innermost selves and hearts; why it’s important to embrace and pursue them; why it’s just as important to encourage others along the way; and even the consequences of denying them, or pursuing dreams that are really illusions (for example, status for its own sake, or a lover who we see as a ‘type’ rather than as a real person.)

I think, in many ways, this was the novel I needed to write because it was the story I needed to hear. Sure, I’d published novels before this one, fulfilling my little-girl desire to tell stories, but I think I needed to remind myself, through telling this story, how important this dream still is to me: creating stories that move readers, that make them laugh, and cry, and want to read more.

It may sound funny, but with this novel, I feel more committed than ever to my writing dream. But what’s fun is that writing it, and hearing from readers now that it’s out in the world, has awakened me to other dreams I’d like to pursue with baby steps.

For example, I love to hike on nature trails. Now, most people who know me would chuckle at that, and for good reason. I’m rarely to be found on nature trails. I always seem to be busy with work or a social obligation; I tell myself that I’m not fit/athletic enough to really spend time walking/hiking nature trails on a regular basis. I seem to keep finding reasons to deny myself this pleasure.

But… when I do spend time walking nature trails, I find such peace and joy in it. It’s starting to feel more than just a little silly to keep putting off this simple dream… walking/hiking nature trails on a regular basis. And then, maybe, someday taking an extended multi-day hike on the rails-to-trails paths we have in abundance here in my home state of Ohio, or even on a portion of the Appalachian trail.

So, for my birthday this year, I bought myself a gift—hiking boots.Hiking Boots

And I’m slowly, intermittently, starting to give myself permission and time to actually use them!

It may be awhile before I’m a regular hiker or ready to start training to hike for a few days, but that’s OK. Dreams—writing and otherwise—as I seemed to intuitively know as a little girl (as perhaps all children know) begin coming true with the courage of a few, first small steps.

For more information on Sharon and her novel visit her website SharonShort.com

Returning to Ballet in Your Fifties Dream Come True - DreamsCo

I'm happy to introduce a new phase to 101 Dreams Come True - sharing other people's stories of completing items on their life-lists. Every other Thursday I'll be featuring people who have dared to go after their dreams. I would love to hear your stories and share them with the world so please contact me. I'm proud to introduce you to an amazing woman Yona McDonough who not only writes fiction and has completed many novels and children's books, but also returned to ballet after years of leaving behind her dream of becoming a ballerina. I hope you find her story as inspirational as I have. Remember you're never to old to follow your dreams. photo

 

Once upon a time, I was part of a small army. The army was not made of soldiers, it was more like a children’s crusade, a throng of aspiring young ballet dancers that marched up and down New York City’s long avenues—Broadway, Seventh, Eighth—that were dotted, in those years, with so many studios.  The School of American Ballet, feeder for the New York City Ballet, was the most famous, but there were others too and it was at John Barker’s studio on West 56th Street that I took classes six days a week for most of my high school life.

Weekdays, class was from 4:30 to 6:00; Saturdays, it was at 11:00 a.m.   The studio itself was unremarkable: ruined wooden floor, bleached and pocked by the amber nuggets of rosin ground into its surface, long barres that lined three of the walls and full-length mirrors that lined the fourth. We spent about forty-five minutes at one of those barres, perfecting a series of exercises that had been born in the court of France and refined in the glistening winters of Imperial Russia.  Pliés, tendus, and  rond du jambs,  all executed to the strains of Chopin. The barre was followed by work in the center: an adagio, and petit allegro. Then there were the big jumps, like grand jetés, and some point work, which allowed us the giddy sensation of rising up on our toes, defying nature, gravity, and even, for a moment, mortality itself.  Finally, there was the obligatory reverence, in which we curtseyed to our supremely difficult and demanding teacher.

After that we were free—until the next day, when the ritual began all over again. For it was a ritual, and, as such, had its sacred preparations.  The brushing and winding of our hair into the tight bun, the sewing of ribbons on our ballet shoes, the donning of the requisite pink tights and black leotards were acts performed with both sanctity and love.

The studying of ballet creates its own kind of religious order, and the girls who do it are akin to eager novitiates, fired by their all consuming faith and their utter willingness to undergo daily mortification of the flesh. And as with religion, the ballet hierarchy decreed that there was an established scheme of things and that a young dancer could have a secure and known place within it.photo

When class was over, I once more joined the swarm of girls with turned-out walks and bony shoulder blades, girls who paraded down the street wearing the marks of their collective discipline: the buns, still wound painfully tight, the big, punishing bags weighed down with their heavy loads. We knew we were of a different tribe—recognizable and unique—and it filled us with pride. We were purified by our discipline, etherealized by our shining goal.

I loved being part of this elite. High school was a vague scrim; I had few friends, and no time for team sports (my brief experience of field hockey was like a tour in hell) dances, parties and the like. Instead, I fraternized with the other dance students; my best friend in those years was a girl who lived in the Bronx, the other end of New York, and went to a different school.  But joined by the blood ritual of our shared dance experience, she was my soul mate, my sister under the skin.

Still, my own vision of a future in dance was somewhat fuzzy. I knew my strengths: I was musical, I had a strong jump and my point work was crisp. But I could not turn worth a damn, and I lacked both extension and a certain vital ferocity of attack.  I was content to live in the daily-ness of it all—that was for the moment sufficient.

Yet after years of single-minded study, I abandoned the ranks of the ballet girls quite abruptly.  No one was more surprised by this turn of events than I was. It happened like this: after twenty-four years of marriage, my father left my mother for another woman. Worse—much worse—was that I had changed, overnight it seemed, from a girl who continually found favor in her father’s adoring eyes to a young woman who would never find it again.

The initial shock of his desertion was like a tidal wave; I gasped and sputtered in the cold shock and grief of it.   I impulsively decided that I could not tolerate one more day in the difficult and often abusive presence of Mr. Barker, and wrote him a letter to tell him I would not be coming to class any more. I wept all the way to the mailbox, but I did not turn back.  I put that life behind me, and focused instead on getting into college—I was a senior in high school at the time—and carving out a new identity for myself.

In retrospect, it seems to me that by wrenching myself away from something I had loved so deeply, I was both inflicting a kind of self-punishment as well as unconsciously imitating my father’s rejecting behavior. But at the time, I knew only that dancing belonged to the past, and the past was a country from which I desperately longed to escape.

For many years, I succeeded.  I locked the ballet girl I once was in a closet and never let her out.  I cultivated another self—one who attended college and graduate school, held jobs, went on dates and kissed scads of frogs before stumbling on a prince.  I found a vocation—writer—and turned it into a deeply gratifying career.  I married (the aforementioned prince), had children, bought a house in Brooklyn. But all that time, the ballet girl remained—mute, neglected and sad.  I could not afford to let her out; her presence was too painful to me, too much a reminder of who I had been and what, despite everything I now had, I had lost.

But even though she was in serious lockdown, this ballet girl grew restive and balked at her exile.  She did not want to be locked away; she demanded to be acknowledged.  Alarmingly, she was even able to crack the door a little bit; I could hear her voice and even though I still could not bring myself to let her out, I began to listen to it.

She told me a story about a ferocious young ballerina named Ginny Valentine and soon Ginny’s story became part of The Four Temperaments, a novel I began writing in the late 1990s.  In order to complete this book, I needed to start attending ballet performances again; I had not seen live dance in years.  So I returned to the theaters where I had once been a regular: City Center, the New York State Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera House. Most evenings, my eyes filled with tears as soon as the curtain rose.

The Four Temperaments turned out to be a waiting vessel; into it, I could pour so much of what I thought, felt and remembered from those years. It also was a kind of joyful revision of the past: my character succeeded as a dancer in a way that I had not.  It was a both a gift and privilege to write it and when it was published in 2002, I felt a kind of peace—even a sense of redemption—that went bone deep.4TSCOVER

Although the ballet girl was no longer locked away, I was not on the most intimate of terms with her; I still felt the need to keep her at some remove. But when I hit fifty, something shifted; I could feel the tectonic plates of self rumbling and rearranging inside. And even though I could not be that ballet girl ever again, I decided that for the first time in more than thirty years, I wanted to put on a pair of ballet shoes and resume my place in front of the mirror.

Yet I was not entirely ready to confront the “now,” and find it so sadly wanting when compared with the “then.” I had to live with the idea for a while, hoarding it like a delectable bit of candy that I had stolen: delicious, yet laced with both danger and shame.  Desire turned out to be stronger than fear, and on a bright September morning a few years ago, I showed up for a ballet class with four other women—all middle-aged moms like myself, nary a swan among us. My hair was short; no bun required. And the pink and black combo I remembered seemed to have gone the way of rotary dial, so my yoga pants and white T shirt fit right in, as did my black ballet slippers.photo

I was nervous after a hiatus of more than three decades.  But I was in some deeper way ready too, for I realized, if not now, when? Or more aptly, if not now, never.  At first, I was saddened by how much my body had forgotten: feet that no longer would point in a high clear arch, the arabesque that wobbled and quivered when I tried to hold it.  But I kept on, week after week, and was cautiously heartened by how much my mind had retained.  I still knew the names of all the steps. I remembered how to hold my head and my arms, to turn toward the barre, and not away from it, after the completion of an exercise.  And the joy I took in those small accomplishments outweighed the sorrow engendered by the losses.

True, I could no more return to the time I had been young and in full possession of whatever physical gifts I possessed, any more than I could soften my father’s implacable heart and bask in his love once again.  But I no longer had to banish the ballet girl to the closet or even keep her safely across the room. Instead, I could welcome her into my life, let her take me by the hand, and lead me take her hand and let her lead me back to the barre.  Back, in some true and everlasting sense, home.

I have been taking ballet classes since that September day, and with each class, I feel as if I am slipping, like Alice through the looking glass, past a membrane that is not impervious but gauze-like and permeable.  Behind it is the realm of girlhood. I no longer have that girl’s lithe, unmarked body, nor her hopeful innocence; what I have instead are the talismans of youth that I can see and touch, and the graceful geometry of the exercises and steps, precious in their eternal familiarity, humbling in their eternal novelty.  And I can immerse myself again in the loving austerity of the rigorous, yet generous discipline that once shaped and governed my days.

For more information on Yona McDonough or her books click the images below.WeddingInGreatNeckhighres4TSCOVER

 Click Here Buy the Book

 To Find Out More about Yona go to her website : www.yonazeldismcdonough.com

Getting Out of Debt: The Power of Focus - DreamsCo

48 Dreams Left on the Way to Making 101 Dreams Come Truewww.101dreamscometrue.com

Today's blog is about a friend who has made a radical change in her life. For privacy purposes I will call her Sheila.

When Sheila was in her early twenties she lost both her parents: her mother to breast cancer, her father to a heart attack. Her brother took over the family home, but when he moved to Florida Sheila bought her parent's home. She worked hard as a retail manager and as a graphic designer to make ends meet. Having no immediate family in the area, she found friends who welcomed her into their lives as sister and daughter. For years, she tried to keep up with the massive repairs on the older home, but as a single person working sometimes two jobs, it became harder to keep up.

About five years ago, in the mortgage upswing, she refinanced her home to pay off bills, make repairs on her house and truck, and to get a better rate. The mortgage company wasn't a large institution but one of those companies you hear about in the news. About a year after she refinanced, the company was sold and her loan changed. Suddenly she had to come up with large sums of money to keep her home. She lived in constant stress as the house fell into disrepair. I watched my friend desperately trying to make it all work. She continually said, "I make enough money to pay the mortgage. It's cheaper than rent would be, but the mortgage company keeps side-swiping me. I can't lose my parents home."

Two years ago, she had to walk away. Many people have done the same, having gotten into loans bigger than they could handle or from job loss, but this wasn't her case. Saying goodbye to her family's home hurt her to the core of her being.

But Sheila's the type of person who keeps going. Always willing to help a friend, she keeps a smile on her face for the world to see. I knew she was battling to pay down her debt, but I had no idea how deep the house had taken her until she said, "In one year, I've paid off $35,000 of my debt and I only have a few thousand left. I brought my credit score up over two hundred points."

I almost cried as I asked her, "How did you do it?"

"I just decided to I focus on myself instead of all the drama around me. I worked really hard, cut my expenses, and only went out to eat on really special occasions. I still did the things I loved, but instead of doing them six times a month I did them once."

As I go after my list of 101 dreams come true, I hear people say that they can't go after their dreams because of their impossible financial situation. I hear the excuse that the economy is bad and that it isn't the right time. Sheila not only paid off her debt, but became a Special Olympics coach and local board member. This year, she traveled the country cheering on her athletes. She's also started her own business. She not only paid off her debt, but she made her life bigger than before.

When you think your dreams are impossible, realize that there's always a way.  My friend works two jobs, and doesn't make anywhere close to six figures per year and yet she did this. The next time you don't think you can change your life, I hope you remember her story. When you focus your mind, anything is possible. I know her story inspired me.