Monday, July 14, 2014

Revving up for 35

I have 5 days until I turn 35, and like every birthday before it I cannot wait! I've always embraced getting older, and most days I actually look forward to it. I think it's because I've always associated age with experience and wisdom; so in theory, the older I get, the more I learn and the wiser I become. Well, hopefully anyway.

This year, I decided to take the reins and plan my own birthday party. In the past, I tended to rely on others to make suggestions or plans for me - yes, I'm a bit spoiled - but that doesn't really work past adolescence (believe me, I know). So, instead of wondering what everyone else wanted to do for my birthday, I decided to throw a party at a fun Mexican restaurant. It looks like I'll have a good turnout, and I know it's going to be a blast. And I'll be honest - it feels great to have a little more than just a say-so about what's going down on my big day.

I love birthdays, and not just my own. I love celebrating the birth of the people I love because it is the day they came into this world and changed it forever. Or at least that's how I look at it. So, as I look forward to 35 and all the promise this next year holds, I hope I am changing the world for the better.

Happy birthday to me and to everyone else celebrating a birthday this month!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry Project

I've written poetry since I was a little girl. I'd make up little poems for my mom and dad, write four-line poems on my homework and just play with words any chance I got. When I was nine, my fourth grade teacher, Toni Ramon, had our class write a poem for Halloween. I really got into it, and my poem was a hit. That's when I knew that I wanted to be a poet when I grew up.

Well, here I am 20+ years later and I am a poet. I'm a published poet in fact. I've had poems featured in a couple of newspapers, a couple of literary journals and two poetry anthologies. But I've never published a collection or really taken the time to put all of my poems in one place.

So, three years ago I started a poetry blog: My Life in Words. For the first year, I posted poetry I'd written for class assignments and even a couple of poems I'd written for friends or family. Each year since, I've used the blog as my primary writing space for my poetry. It's an easy way to share my work with the world, and it's free (another plus!).

Around the same time that I started the poetry blog, I also started writing my first novel. Now, I've written 3 novels and am at work on my fourth. I have not been published yet, but who knows what the future holds? In my latest novel, I have a character named Anneslee. She writes poetry as well, so I decided to write some poetry from her point-of-view. The interesting thing I learned from this project is that writing from another person's point-of-view, even a fictional person's perspective, is very liberating.

I found it so much easier to write out Anneslee's pain, anger and frustration in a poem than I have ever been able to for my own feelings. Maybe it's because I know my characters better than I sometimes know myself. I don't know. What I do know is that they are, in my opinion, some of the best poems I have ever written.

I've posted 14 of the Anneslee Poems on My Life in Words, and I hope you will take a few minutes to read them.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Door Closed, So I Opened a Window

Over the last couple of months I have focused on being more creative at work instead of just being creative off the clock. An opportunity came up, and I didn't hesitate to see where it could take me. I felt like a new door was opening up, and this was very exciting. I thought a lot about what life could be like if I was given the key to this door, and I knew what was ahead of me was a lot of hard work. I've never been one to shy away from a challenge, so I readied myself for what came next.

I gave it my all, but I very quickly learned it wasn't meant to be. Or, maybe this opportunity just wasn't meant for me

This now-closed door could've been something wonderful. I know I would've worked hard and learned whatever I had to in order to be successful. And I know I would've enjoyed it every step of the way. But I also know myself really well. My drive to achieve in the workplace is very strong, and I know I would've put aside my extracurricular creative pursuits to make this now-defunct opportunity as successful as possible. I'm an all-or-nothing person a lot of the time, and I would've given everything I could to show that I was the right person to pick. 

But the thing is, sometimes all-or-nothing isn't good, especially if it means giving up something you love just to prove others right. I didn't understand this ten years ago, but I do understand it now. And even though this door is closed, I've realized I have many windows of opportunities waiting for me. So, I opened one. I started my own book review blog, Book in Hand Reviews. It just makes sense. I love to read, I love to write and I love to promote the people and products I love. What better way to do that than a book review?

So, maybe one door closed and that door was a really lovely door. But, there is so much more to this world than work, and this window I've opened has a great view. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

There Is No Fault with The Fault in our Stars

I went to the movies this past weekend with my best friend, and we saw The Fault in our Stars. It was such a beautifully romantic film, and absolutely worth every dime I paid to see it. 

As someone who has seen the many faces of Cancer firsthand, it was definitely an emotional experience for me, especially the part where Hazel says, "There's no way of knowing that your last good day is Your Last Good Day. At the time, it is just another good day." The day before my mother died was one of the best days I'd ever had with my mother. I am grateful for it, but there is certainly something that lingers now that says, "If I only knew that was our last good day...". 

The beauty of The Fault in our Stars is how real it is. It doesn't hide the pain or the fear, but rather embraces it; after all, "That's the thing about pain. It demands to be felt."

Cancer isn't fair, and it doesn't discriminate against race, creed, gender or age. This book and this movie tread a delicate line by showing children with Cancer, but I think they also remind us all that children with Cancer are still children first. They want to grow up, fall in love, see and be seen, and have a happily ever after - or at least a happy for right now. 

And the thing is, even though the circumstances in #TFIOS are tragic in a way, they are also uplifting and joyful much like the young woman who inspired John Green - Esther Grace Earl. She lifted others up even when she couldn't leave her house. She reminded people to be awesome and lived every moment of her life until the very end. 

I hope a cure for all types of Cancer is found, but I hope even more that until that time that we all remember that people with Cancer are still people first. Thank you, John Green, for bringing humanity and love to such a difficult topic.

To learn more about Esther Grace Earl, visit

Sunday, March 30, 2014

National Poetry Month

For all of you poetry lovers out there, April is the National Poetry Month. It's a time to celebrate and remember notable poets of centuries past. I personally plan to celebrate National Poetry Month this year the same way I did last year: by committing to write one new poem each day of the month of April. I will publish said poem on my poetry blog,, and I would love it if you would take a minute to read them.

In the mean time, if you're looking for other ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, here are some ideas you could try:
  1. Read a book of Poetry. My personal favorite is Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, but I also love reading Dickinson, Frost and Plath in my free time. 
  2. Memorize a poem. Once you know a poem by heart, it can fill your heart with a different emotion. You don't have to memorize something epic by Homer, but I encourage you to try it and see how different of an experience a memorized poem can be from a read poem. 
  3. Revisit an old poem. Sometimes a poem you read in high school can have a whole new meaning after you've had different experiences. See what time has done for your favorite poem. 
  4. Write a poem for someone you love. It doesn't matter if it's a "Roses are Red..." poem or something far more complex. It doesn't matter if it rhymes or makes no sense. Just put pen to paper and see the smile it inspires. 
I plan to write 30 poems in 30 days, but I may end up writing more. I hope you'll check out my efforts and follow my work. 

So, now that you know what I'll be doing this April, how do you plan to celebrate National Poetry Month?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

In Loving Memory of My Mother

At some point in every day I think of my mother. She is with me no matter what I do or where I go. I don't mean that her spirit is with me per se, but everything she taught me and believed lingers like her Joy perfume in a room after she's left.

I still worry about making her proud. Every time I come to a crossroads, I yearn down to the marrow in my bones that she was still with me to help me make the right decision. I see her in my niece's big blue eyes. And I hear her hovering over me as I make her Pot Roast, Lasagna or Chicken Cacciatore. She lives in the colors and melodies of my memories, and there she is happy, beautiful and Cancer-free.

Five years seems like forever when I look forward, but it is such a quick breath of time when I look back. It is still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that on March 16th, my mother will have been physically absent from my life for five years. I miss her and many things about her - our shared love of music, her keen interest in everything her kids did, the sound of her voice - but I miss her guidance the most. She not only loved to talk, but she was also a great listener - two qualities most people do not possess simultaneously. She asked thought-provoking questions, gave advice that will never go out of style, and taught me the power of asking "why?".

I have experienced a lot in the 1,825 days since I lost my mother. I have grown and shrank and grown again. I have smiled, laughed, cried, frowned and everything in between since the day she left. I know now more than before that life goes on no matter how heartbroken, grief-stricken or angry you are. I also know how lucky I was to have her for almost thirty years of my life. I still need her and wish she was here with me, but I know she gave me so many tools and memories to help me move forward.

Thank you, Mama. I'll love and miss you forever.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

#EndItMovement - How You Can Help

Photo Courtesy of
Some people have asked me, "What's the deal with the red "X" hand pics?" Well, it's my way of supporting the #EndItMovement, and it's attempt to shine a light on modern slavery, which affects more than 27 million human beings around the world. 
How can you help?
  • Mark your hand with a red "X", take a photo and share it on social media to join the #EndItMovement. 
  • Donate time or money to those who are working tirelessly to end modern slavery like Not For Sale and the International Justice Mission.
  • Understand that modern slavery doesn't just happen in other countries - it happens right here in the United States as well. Human trafficking campaigns often target runaways and other vulnerable children for prostitution and sexual slavery. Even if you don't have time or money, don't hesitate to call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 if you see something suspicious in your town or city. 
  • And finally, be a conscientious consumer. Slavery around the world often includes forced laborers, who make everything from electronics to clothing to chocolate. Visit the Free2Work website, which grades major brands on their ethical supply chain practices on an A-F scale, to learn more.
Don't wait to get involved. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."