Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Story That Started It All ...

Those of you who have been following me for any length of time know all about my love for selkies. This mythical creature of ancient Celtic folklore has fascinated me for years, and so it only seemed natural to me that if I were to ever write a fantasy, they would be the creatures I chose to weave my story around.

In the fall of 2012, my mother was going through a cancer scare. She had already collected a series of serious diagnoses over the years, and still had lots of unexplained health problems. She was just barely in her fifties, and I was facing the idea of losing a mother who was already too sick to battle something as scary as cancer. She had to go through a bunch of testing, including a PET scan, and each new step was terrifying for her, for me, and for our family.

It was around that same time that I was exchanging life stories and writing ideas with a friend of mine. She was a phenomenal writer, and I'd been pushing her for some time to take her writing to the next level, but she was very introverted and preferred to keep her writing as something just done for pleasure, though she did tell me once how she longed to see her writing on a bookshelf.

Anyway, we had a conversation one day about taking the old stories and remaking them - the fairy tales, I mean. I tossed this idea around in my head for a while; I thought about what I might be able to do with Cinderella, or Hansel & Gretel. I thought quite a bit about taking one of those old tales and giving it a more modern twist (which is now being done often, actually). I'm not sure I even remember now how I made the journey from Cinderella to selkies ... maybe it was somewhere along the route of fairy tales to Disney movies, which would have taken me to the Little Mermaid, which perhaps took me on to the Celtic selkie, which I had heard of many times and always felt a particular attraction to. Either way, once I stumbled on that idea, I was off like a rocket, and I spent every spare moment that I had forming that story.

It was in the time of writing that adventure that I climbed out of the proverbial box I had always lived in. I always knew I was a writer, and I always knew I wanted to be an author. But I was a romance reader, and I wanted to be a romance author. "Write what you know," right? And after all, how could a straight-laced girl like me be a fantasy writer anyway? I haven't even seen Star Wars! And I don't like Star Trek. I wasn't that crazy about Lord of the Rings, either (although I did like those a bit). See, I'm really just a girl with a soft heart who loves a good love story.

But then I thought of another similar creature, one that I also love - the werewolf.

Dogs are my spirit animal, and there's no friend quite like a dog, so I can relate to the recent fascination in the book world with creatures that are so dog-like, even if they are often the wildest version of "dog-like" that we can imagine. And really, what is a seal, if not the dog of the sea? It is only fitting then, that when asked what a selkie is, I just grin and say, "The ocean version of a werewolf."

I think when I sat down with that idea and let it take over my world in the way that it did, I was running emotionally, from the prospect of losing my mother. We've never been close - many of you know that her second marriage was an abusive one and that my witnessing of her marriage is a large part of what led me (later on) to write Fighting For Freedom. Her marriage has had a lasting impact on our entire family, on who we are and how we relate to each other, as well as how our bodies and minds changed in response to our experiences. I was very young at that time, and very strongly impacted by the things I saw and experienced - and I think for a long time, a part of me took my mother's marriage personally. I harbored a lot of resentment for her choices for a long time, and I was angry that she didn't (or couldn't) protect my brother and I. But close or not, she is my mother, and she's the only one I'm ever going to get.

It was in the days of the cancer scare that my relationship with my mother began to lose some of its strife, and we learned a new way to interact and relate to each other - and since then, I have had my mother for four more years. Not that it's always peaceful, mind you, and I'm still watching her health fail at a dizzying speed - just in these last few years, she's broken her arm, her ribs, her collarbone, her hip, all due to complications of congestive heart failure. But despite those things and the stress of her circumstances, we work now in a way that we never did before.

Back then though, before we reached the point we're at now, I needed nothing so much as I needed an escape. Everything was changing, and not for the better - and I needed a place to let those things rest for a while, because they had begun to occupy my every waking thought.

Meeting Annie Jacobs, the heroine of the Selkie Trilogy, changed me forever. She changed my entire life, the path I was on, and the places I could see myself in. She gave me a career I never imagined actually having, and a sense of personal independence that I hadn't had before she came along. She gave me pride and vision and inspiration. She gave me courage and power to change the way I saw myself and the way I saw the people around me.

To Love A Selkie was my first novel, and I cried when I held it in my hands for the first time, hiding in the kitchen of the little apartment we lived in so that my family wouldn't see my emotion and tease me over it. But the emotion was there, welling up inside me in a way that could no longer be held back. To Love A Selkie was a first for me, the first completed work. That book was the solid, tangible proof that I could do it. That I could accomplish a goal as lofty as writing a whole novel. That I could live my dream. And that in watching me do it, my children would learn that they could dream too, under the belief that dreams are not only dreams.

November 1, 2016, the story continues, and with it, this dream that I've been living for nearly four years. November 1, 2016, Annie's story continues, and I hope that her story will continue to enrich mine. November 1, 2016 ... Selkie II goes live.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Anthem

With so much talk lately revolving around various American athletes refusing to stand during the American National Anthem, I thought I'd get on here to talk about that topic.

What is an anthem, really? And why the heck is this whole thing so polarizing?

I've seen dozens of Facebook posts about it - some with memes, some without. Some were lengthy missives about the value of patriotism, loyalty, and respect. Many have been laced with offended and - some might say - righteous anger. Others were equally lengthy, but were more focused on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, including the right to protest and speak out against the issues we as Americans disagree with.

The thing is, both points are right. We do have a right as Americans to speak out against the issues we disagree with. Our military has always been in place specifically to fight for and protect our freedoms, which include the right to express our opinions and views without fear of repercussion. But we also stand under the obligation to protect and respect the country that allows us those rights, and I personally feel that there are better ways to protest and exact change than to refuse respect for those who fight and die for this country.

But then ...

Protesting by not standing during the National Anthem isn't the same as outright disrespect or disregard for our veterans and our country, is it? I don't know the political/patriotic views of the athletes currently in protest, and I won't pretend to - even while I openly disagree with their methods.

Still, I do disagree with their methods because for me, it matters. For me, it's so much more than "just a song." The National Anthem isn't just a song for me. It's not just pretty words strung together. A song, any song, is a certain magic; this song in particular is a celebration of the power of this country and the people who built it. It is, like the flag, a symbol of the gratitude and respect we owe to those who came before us, to those who stand between us and the dangers of the world outside our country. It's a symbol of the blood spilled and the lives willingly sacrificed so that American women could vote and American people could hope to learn to look past racial and cultural difference. And no, I know we aren't there yet. But the blood this country is built on deserves that moment of respect, and the servicemen and women who stand for the continuation of that progress deserve to be honored. It means so much more than words and music and a powerful voice. It's a simple matter of acknowledging the truth in the fact that we are "the land of the free" because "of the brave." It's so much more than just a song.

At least, it is to me.

But you know what? I think there are a lot of people who don't really get that, who don't understand the magical power woven into a song like that - and for me, it's not even just that song. Music means so much to me - over the years it has become almost like a drug. I have to have it.

My first bluetooth wasn't so that I could talk hands-free on the phone. I didn't get it so that I could wash dishes while talking, or drive, or whatever. I wanted it so that I could carry music with me at all times. I wake up with it, I go to sleep with it. I write with it, shower with it. Pray with it. I love music from most genres, ranging from country to pop, to rock, to alternative, to rap, even a little metal now and again. I like classical music, too, just to soak myself in the joy of beautiful sound, with or without vocal accompaniment.



Recently, I discovered a song that spoke life right into the very deepest parts of my soul. My personal anthem, if you will. My personal life lately has been full of revelation, full of powerful realizations that have changed me as a woman in ways I can never go back from. I've looked upon certain people in my life with sudden understanding, knowing them for what they truly are apart from the outward image they present, and I've looked with heartbroken honesty on how my own identity is and has been impacted by the people I chose to allow into my life. Some of these, I look on with patience, or even gratitude, others I look on with shame and regret.

All of it, I look on with a heavy dose of brokenness, a sense of loss for what could have been, and a sense of sadness for what I can never get back.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at an online playlist, and while most of the songs didn't speak to me in the way I had hoped they would, one did. I've listened to it every day since then, sometimes more than once, and it still hasn't lost its power over me. I can listen to it when I need encouragement, when I need someone to hold my hand on the hard days and no one is there. I can listen to it when I need to talk but I don't have words even if someone were to listen. I can listen to it when I'm feeling powerful or triumphant, and it feeds me because I am a survivor of so many things.

I use music in my books too. In Fat Chance, Cass has what I think of as a power playlist, a list of songs she kept on a CD in her car, and she used them to remind herself of her own personal power, both in general as a human, and more specifically as a woman. They were songs meant to inspire strength and confidence, meant to give encouragement and power.

They were all pulled directly from my personal power playlist, and they are all songs that have touched me deeply over the years.

But they all paled instantly when I heard this one, this song of standing up and moving on, this song of living through the pain and holding a forward momentum despite the chaos you strive to put behind you.

Like the National Anthem holds a certain power for American patriots, even if not for the athletes that sometimes take their daily freedoms for granted, my personal anthem is a song that holds power for anyone who has ever felt victimized and found the strength to go on, for anyone who ever needed someone to come alongside them and say, "Yes, I've been there. You aren't alone."

It's part of why Cass finally had to stand up to Rick before she was free to love Drew (Fat Chance). It's part of why Cameron had to change that tattoo to reclaim her body and her life before she could move on with Mac (Prescription For Love). It's part of why Harmony had to push Xander away before she could let him in (Wrestling Harmony). It's part of why Michael couldn't see what was right in front of him with Renee, and part of why he was so afraid to push forward until after he'd cleared the air with Nicolette (More Than Friends). It's part of why Allie didn't tell Jason who she was (Courageous). It's part of why Annie had to run to Bar Harbor after her divorce (Selkie). And it's every single word behind what makes Christine strong enough to stand up and become what she will become (Fighting For Freedom).

It's part of why I'm still here today, despite a childhood of abject poverty rife with domestic violence and emotional abuse. It's part of why I'm still standing despite my own experience with domestic violence. It's part of why I can still hold my head up after falling prey to narcissistic abuse. It's part of why it shattered my heart to realize that "what's wrong with me" is the symptom pattern of untreated complex PTSD. It's part of why I am determined to move forward, why I am determined to succeed, why I am so open about what I've been through.

Because I'm a different kind of warrior - but I am one nonetheless, and I hold that title with pride.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Best And Worst Things About Life As A Mompreneur

"mompreneur"
/mom-pruh-nur/
noun (North American) slang

  • a female business owner who is actively balancing the role of mom and the role of entrepreneur (wikipedia.org)
  • a slang term describing women who run their own businesses while also acting as a full-time parent (investopedia.com)
  • a multi-tasking woman who can balance both the stresses of running a business as an entrepreneur, and the time-consuming duties of motherhood at the same time (themompreneur.com)
Yeah, that's fine, right? But what does it mean?

We talk about stay at home mothers a lot in our society, often with the general assumption that because they don't have to work outside their homes, stay at home moms have life easier than most other people. Many people think that stay home mom's lives are nothing but luxury and relaxation, mixed in with playtime with the kids, peaceful bubble baths alone, and quiet time spent not working. Often, these women are seen as lazy gold-diggers who just want to be supported because they can't fathom going to a "real" job.

It doesn't take much research to shut this idea down though - you have only to take a realistic look at what it truly means to be a stay home mom, always at the beck-and-call of your offspring and your home, which admittedly has a long list of both benefits and drawbacks.

  • Sure, you get to see to your child's raising personally, but you have to see to your child's raising, personally - and often without much help.
  • Yes, you get to see them all the time ... but you have to see them All. The. Time. - and often without any real breaks.
  • Yes, you get to lay around if you want to and you won't get fired - technically - but you still pay a sacrifice in the lost income, sense of daily accomplishment, and often, your confidence in yourself.
Stay at home moms don't go to an office job everyday, that's true, and they don't earn a paycheck with their name on it. But they're still working hard at something almost every day just like anyone else, and they're still making sacrifices that allow them to live the life they want just like everyone else. Still, there is a somewhat general agreement among stay-home moms that this is the very epitome of self-sacrifice, and that it is always a worthy achievement in the end.

But then there's the polar opposite, right? The working mom. The career mom. The mom who gets up every day just in time to wake her child and send him to school, then comes home each night just in time to check his homework, stuff him with dinner, and send him to bed. Some people think these moms are taking an easier route in not being at home, that they somehow have abandoned their children to the world of daycare and babysitters. We look down on working moms as career-driven and cash-obsessed.

But again, it only takes a bit of research to silence this argument - most work at home moms are doing it because they feel that for one reason or another, they have to. Sometimes this is because they're single moms and it's the only way they have to support their kids. Some do it because in our modern society, one income is often not enough to live on, and the mother has to work to help her husband/partner support the household. Sometimes, they just do it because it feels good to earn your own money and know that you're contributing in that way.

There's another kind of mom though, right in the middle of that spectrum. The mompreneur, the work-at-home mom. The one who works right there out of her home so that she can taste the best (and the worst) of both worlds. The mompreneur juggles both business and household (similar to the working mom) but does it on her own time, with no "boss" to work under (similar to the stay-home mom).

But just like the life of a stay-home mom and the life of a working mom, it's a delicate balance, a juggling act, an overwhelming list of never-ending and always-cycling responsibility ... a miracle of self-discipline and determination. So today, I thought I'd share a few of the best - and worst - parts of life as a mompreneur.

The Good:
01.) "Working from bed. In pajamas. Or naked. Whatever." Being your own boss means there's no uniform. There's no one to tell you you can't wear those yoga pants - or that you have to wear pants at all. Which I personally find to be lovely - although I'm pretty strict so I do almost always make myself wear pants to work. Despite this bit of discipline, I still generally think I'm a great boss, so that's always good.

02.) "You can drink on the job." It's a joke among many of the authors I know that we live on coffee, but there is one other substance that we all seem to generally appreciate, and that's alcohol - usually in the form of a nice glass of wine. It helps us relax our minds so that we can exercise our creativity. It helps us deal when we have to kill a character we love, it helps us feel more strongly as we try to evoke emotion in our readers, and it helps to lower our inhibitions so that maybe we can finally write scenes some of us would never actually have the courage or desire to live out.

03.) "You make your own schedule." This is a great thing, because as a mompreneur, you don't live in fear of losing your job because you got snowed in and couldn't leave the house, or because your kid got sick and had to come home early from school, or because your dog ate a sock and had to have emergency surgery. Vacation time doesn't need to be pre-approved, mental health days are easy to come by, as you can work as little or as much as you want - while working around the burdens and responsibilities of your family/home life.

04.) "You still get the confidence boost of a career-driven, self-sufficient earner of an independent income." There's nothing like an income of your own, regardless of how large or small it is. It just feels good to make your own money, to feel like you've accomplished something at the end of the day. It feels good to find your niche, to find your people - and to feel appreciated in whatever field you've chosen to work in. This sense of being appreciated and respected is often sorely lacking in the life of a stay home mom, so it's great to have as a mompreneur.

05.) "You still get to see your kids every day, know where they are and what they're doing, and experience the benefits and beautiful perks of life as a stay-at-home mom." Most nights, my kids eat because I cooked for them. They wear clean clothes because I have time to wash them. And yes, sometimes I do spend an afternoon just relaxing with my kids, playing around. Other times, I do take time to myself, and I spend that time in a long bath. Why? Because now that my kids are twelve and seven (and mostly, because they go to school and aren't home), I can finally do that, and after years of only wishing that I had time for that, I appreciate that development more deeply than words can express.

***

The Bad:
01.) "Working from bed. In pajamas. Or naked. Whatever." Being your own boss means that no one is there to make you get up and get dressed, or work at a desk, or brush your hair. As a writer who almost always works from directly inside the home, this is not always helpful. If I don't feel like wearing pants, I don't have to. However, I can testify personally to how much more productive I am if I get up and get dressed, brush my hair and teeth, and throw on some lipstick ... before going back to bed to write.

02.) "You can drink on the job." There's a reason most workplaces don't allow you to drink on the job. It's because it makes you loosen up, it makes you a little uninhibited, and sometimes, it makes you just a little (or a lot) cocky. You start thinking crazy things like, "I can do that tomorrow," and "It doesn't matter right now," and "It's okay if I write a blog post the whole world might see, bashing my readers/customers/followers." Sometimes drinking on the job can lead to you not doing your job as well as you could have.

03.) "You make your own schedule." This is a terrible thing, because as a mompreneur, you don't live in fear of losing your job if you don't show up. Who's going to know anyway, right? There's no boss, and it's easy to get lost in that sense of freedom - until your lack of work ethic shows up in your lack of income. For some mompreneurs, that's okay because their income isn't necessarily necessary for supporting the household - but for most of us, the loss of that income represents the loss of other important things like gas and food and electricity. Discipline is key in this, but for many people, this is a skill that takes a lot of practice to acquire.

04.) "You still get the downcast eyes and sense of mom-failure that often comes along with working away from your children." As a work-from-home mom, you're still a working mom, and if you want your business to succeed, that means treating your work-at-home job just like any other job. That means giving it a place of priority, and sometimes that means telling your kids that you can't spend the afternoon at the park today because you really, really need to meet this deadline. Sometimes it means missing karate practice because you have a meeting you can't reschedule, and sometimes it means having other people look down on you because you showed up to karate practice so that you could watch your kid succeed - but you brought your work with you so that you could succeed, too.

05.) "You still get the downcast eyes and sense of mom-failure that often comes from not having a 'real job.'" Starting and building a business is hard, and it often takes more time than you expected it to. Many mompreneurs joke that their business-babies took much longer to gestate than their actual human-babies. It takes time and effort, it takes grit and determination, it eats money, and sometimes it takes a strong mix of heartache. In the meantime, you're only working from home, so most people still think you're at their disposal. They'll call when you need to be working, and get upset when you don't answer. They'll expect you blow off your work to meet their time/emotional/whatever needs, and then look down on you when your income doesn't pick up faster. They'll downright insult and discourage you over spending the time it takes to grow a business. They assume you're doing nothing all day, and they don't see how emotionally and physically exhausting it can be to simply sit down and keep trying.

***

What a list, right? But in the end, it truly is all worth it. There is a sense of satisfaction at the end of a successful day, and a sense of meaning in every single action - especially if you can find a balance between the good side of life as a mompreneur, and the bad. The thing is, we all know that balance may be hard to achieve, but the truth of the matter is that balance is a hard thing to find regardless of what you're doing in life - because in the end, no matter what path you choose to walk in life, you're still just a clown, juggling countless balls and hoping like hell that you don't drop any.

Sometimes we all feel like we've dropped one ball or another, and that's okay. You forget an appointment, you didn't check your oil before that trip. You missed a meeting - or a deadline.

Now and then you might even feel like you drop every ball no matter hard hard you're trying, and other times you need to step back and let them fall because you just can't juggle them for One. More. Second. And that's okay. Let them fall, recharge your soul. Take a mental health day and a bubble bath. Give yourself compassion and forgive yourself for being human. Then get out, towel off, finish your wine, and gather those balls back up again so that you can keep going. Like a Boss.

Until next week,
Happy Reading,
B.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Head In The Clouds ...

When I was a little girl, I liked to write. I was a creative kid and I loved books. I loved reading, and music, and poetry. I loved movies. Still do.

I love words, you know? The nuances of language and the power of the human ability to be vocal. I love the way we say "I love you," and the way we say "Good job." I even love the powerful words we use to express less pleasant things like "I hate that," or "I loathe you." I love the way words have the power to go into our ears, soak into our minds, and sink right down into our hearts. I love the way words can inspire or destroy. The way they make us feel.

I love words. I've been that way all my life, right from the beginning. During the day, I made plans (yes, even as a child) to go to school to become a lawyer. I wanted to use words to protect the innocent, to bring the hand of justice down on the guilty - because I had seen, even at such a young age, what it looks like when justice is not served, and the innocent are not as safe as they should be. I wanted to argue my case, and I wanted a chance, finally, to win it. I wanted to use words as a tool, to make a living on what I would say in that closing argument, what I would ask as I questioned a criminal. I wanted to see them break under my words, I wanted to see that breaking rebuild the spirit of the injured. I wanted to create magic with words, to create bars around the monsters of the world, to create wings under the fallen. During the day, I wanted to use words as my strength, because I hadn't ever felt heard. I wanted to use words as my power, because I hadn't ever had any.

But in the night (yes, even as a child) I wanted to explore love and sexuality and the powerful emotions that flow through the human heart as one human connects to another. In the most girly little-princess places of my heart, my favorite songs were always love songs, and my most favorite movies were almost always romantic comedies. I loved the witty banter, the power of the woman, and that moment where the man realizes he needs her.

I love the way words are art, and they evoke feeling in the exact same way as a painting or a sculpture. I love that I can take words and mold them, craft them, use them to create something from me that does something in you.

My first romance read was called Love Only Once, by Johanna Lindsey. My father bought it for me - I think I was in fourth grade. I'm sure he didn't know what was in it - my mom isn't all that much of a reader, and while my father would read to learn, I never saw him read for fun. Certainly, he wasn't reading enough to know what was between the covers of the book he bought me.

I read that book in one day, two sittings. I spent the afternoon reading it, falling in love with a headstrong young girl named Regina. She had a strong family that loved each other, a good support system, and she knew she mattered to the people around her. She had an uncle who adored her. She had cousins that she loved, who loved her. But she met a man (of course), a troublemaker (aren't they all), and he changed the entire course of her life by complete and utter accident. He was headstrong too, but had his own sense of dignity and strength that made him unbelievably attractive to me. Maybe as my first romance hero, he was supposed to be the character that made me fall in love with the "bad boy," but he didn't. He made me understand that every bad boy, no matter how bad he is, has a good side somewhere inside him. He made me see the other side of what makes people "bad" in the first place, and his vulnerability made me love him. His name was Nick.

At one point in the book, Regina was furious with him, and she called him a Bastard. Well, the book was a historical romance ... and he was a Bastard, a fatherless boy, a man without the leading example of a good father to teach him well. And it hurt him, but I felt it.

There was so much more to that book though, so much depth of feeling, so many pretty flowery words. I love the old language, the way people tended to say and express everyday things in beautiful ways. I fell in love with words while I read that book, in a much deeper way than I already had - and that book made me want to write my own stories.

I got my head in the clouds. I dreamed of a book cover with my name on it, a story that I had made up, characters that I had brought to life. I dreamed of seeing my book in a store, seeing someone pick it up and read the back, maybe frowning slightly as they read. I dreamed of smiling silently to myself as I watched them decide, as I watched them pay for the words I had crafted. I didn't need to know that they would see me and know me, that they would exclaim over me or recognize me. I just needed that dream, that feeling of knowing that my words, however few, might mean something to someone in a way that they never had before.

I read that book countless times, and so many others. By fifth grade, I was enrolled in a mail-order book box club from Harlequin, a gift subscription from my mother. They'd send me four books a month, usually with some sort of wine glass or other trinket, and I treasured those books almost more than anything else I owned. I'd read them over and over, organize and reorganize them.

I didn't know then how far gone I was, how hard I'd been bitten by the "writing bug." I mean, I'd write sometimes, a poem, or a bit of a song, or twenty pages or so of one novel or other that never got finished (I still have some of them, the pages printed in bold black comic sans). I'm not even sure I was old enough or mature enough to mean anything by it yet, not even when I pridefully insisted to Cornell Tulloch in fifth grade at Woodward Elementary School that I would be a famous writer by the time sixth grade started up in the fall. But I'd been bitten, and man, was my head in the clouds - and I'm sure a part of me did mean it, too, because it stuck with me.

By sixth grade we didn't know each other so well anymore and had drifted into different crowds. He only spoke to me once in middle school, to remind me that I hadn't done it and that I owed him for the lost bet between us. I told him I needed more time, and that just because I hadn't done it yet, that didn't mean I wasn't going to do it. When I found out a few years ago that Cornell had passed away, I cried for the boy I knew, and I smiled at the memory of the $10 bet I never got to pay up on. By then, I had written my first book, and my second, and they were both selling well - but we hadn't been in touch in many years, and I hadn't thought of him in a long time. Still, there was his name on a news website - two words. Cornell Tulloch. And my heart ached.

My head is still in the clouds, although now there's so much more to it than that. Do y'all remember that scene in Mary Poppins, the one where the old man was laughing so hard he floated up to the ceiling and he couldn't get down unless he thought of something sad? I have always been deeply touched by the poetic symbolism in that scene. Happy = high, and sad = low. I like to think that these days, I'm floating somewhere in between, too much of a dreamer to have my feet too firmly on the ground, but much too realistic now to be completely in the clouds. I want my writing to succeed now, not because I need to prove something to the world, or because I want to be rich and famous and live in a mansion. It isn't because I need recognition or acceptance, and it's not because I need to be heard. Not anymore.

It's to create a future my children can believe in. To pay the rent (or the mortgage), to buy my daughter her first clunker. To send her to college if she wants to go, or to help her set up her first apartment if she chooses another career path. To buy her prom dress without skipping the phone bill, to take her on vacation to celebrate her high school graduation. I'd like to be able to do those things with both of my daughters - because I'm a mother now, and I want to see them well provided for. But it's deeper than money, too ... so much deeper.

My daughters are dreamers like their mother, and one of them has this quiet little fantasy of a career that'll let her travel the world, that'll let her see and explore and take note of this beautiful planet we live on. She wants a camera in one hand and a plane ticket in the other. And I want her to believe that her dreams are possible, even as I encourage her to have a backup plan.

I don't want to just tell my children that the sky is the limit, and that they can be whatever they want to be. I don't want to feed them meaningless encouragement that we both know neither of us believe in. No, I want to show them that it's possible, to show them I believe - not just in me, but in them. I want to show them that hard work leads to success, and I want to show them that no door is closed to them. I want them to believe me, because they see me. I want them to be proud of the mother who attempts every day to lead them by example. And when I speak to them, I want my words to have power over them, to inspire them to create dreams of their own, to motivate them to work hard toward those dreams, to help them feel confident and capable of achieving their own version of success.

And I still want that for myself, too. So I'll keep my head in the clouds, and I won't ever come all the way down. I'll dream, and I'll encourage my children to dream with me. I'll press on, and I'll continue to believe. And I'll write. Because above it all, aside from the rent and the college tuition and the cars and the cameras, there are the words. And whatever they bring me, I'll love them always.

Until next week,
Happy Reading,
B.
REAL CHARACTERS. HONEST LOVE. BRANDI KENNEDY BOOKS.