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Archive for the ‘The Past’ Category

Any Dream Will Do

As I type this post tears are streaming down my face so please bear with any typos you might find.

I just finished a new release by Debbie Macomber called Any Dream Will Do and for the first time in many months I’m moved to write and share with my readers a piece of myself.

I am a convicted felon.

This is not something I share with everyone usually, nor is it something I’m proud of, but it is a fact.

In 2007 I was charged with and convicted of embezzlement. As a result of this I lost many friends, most of my family, custody of my precious daughter, and all my hopes for my future. For ten years I’ve lived with the horrible choices I made and felt that each day was just the bridge to the next day since all my dreams of a future for myself, a career, and a family were forever lost. Most days I feel utterly and completely hopeless.

As a person who has battled depression and anxiety from a young age the added hopelessness occasionally pounds down around me like a blackness threatening to overtake me entirely. I try very hard everyday to remind myself I am exactly where I put myself and don’t wallow in the self-pity; some days I give in to it.

The hardest part of living with a felony is knowing who you can trust not to judge you for the mistakes you made. In my experience there aren’t very many people who fall into that category. I’ve been lucky to find a handful of new friends over the last decade that have embraced me and the history I bring with me with loving, non-judgemental arms. They have allowed me to show them who I am today without unpacking all the baggage I carry around. I’m also lucky to have just a couple of friends who have looked past my transgressions and have remained, unwaveringly, loyal and loving before, during, and following the worst years of my life. For all those people I am and forever will be eternally grateful.

However, there have been so many more, from lovers to friends, who have refused to see me as anything more than the mistakes I have made. The hardest of those who judge are definitely potential employers. As a convicted felon any job I am qualified for and more than capable of doing and succeeding at comes with a background check that I cannot pass. If you tell an employer up front that there’s a felony charge in your history you will never get a foot in the door. I’ve learned this repeatedly over the last decade. It doesn’t matter what your experience is, your level of intelligence, or your skill set. Employers are unforgiving of money based crimes and will not give you the opportunity to show your value as a potential team member. I wish this weren’t true, but I have yet to experience anything else.

In Any Dream Will Do, Shay Benson finds a program that not only teaches her to stop being so angry about her past, but also teaches her to dream again for her future when, like myself, she feels her hopes and dreams are gone. She makes a series of connections that give her the opportunities to prove her worth both to them and to herself. She finds love and forgiveness in friends and a man she cares for. Drew Douglas shows her that she can trust her heart to someone who won’t always jump to the wrong conclusions about her because “once a thief…..”

I almost feel foolish in letting this book give me a renewed spark of hope, but it has. These types of programs don’t exist where I live, and I am not a religious person as Drew is, but somehow this story touched a piece of my heart that has been closed up for a long time; the part of my heart that holds my dreams.

I am not a young woman, nor am I in any of the same types of circumstances or community that Shay was in, but this book has reignited some hope. I can’t even begin to explain how that feels. For now it’s enough just to reconnect to that feeling.

Thank you, Debbie Macomber for writing Any Dream Will Do and for reminding me you have to dream something, anything, or it will never have the chance to come true.

Monique Pearson

 

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Going After Your Dreams

Chase Your Dreams!

When I was about 10 I fell in love with reading. I started out like most kids with Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. Seriously, who didn’t love Ramona Quimby or Superfudge? I was going through these books so fast that I was quickly running out of “appropriate” things to read. By age 12 I was reading Sweet Valley High romances and started writing my own version of those when I couldn’t get my hands on new ones in the series. By 13 I’d discovered my mother’s secret stash of historical romances.
Like many latchkey kids, I was bored and nosy. I found a shelf in my mother’s closet that contained rows and rows of these thick books featuring women in amazing gowns and men with lots of muscles and long gorgeous hair. The titles were even exotic. Savage Thunder, Defy Not The Heart, and The Fires of Winter.  Certainly not the kinds of titles you’d find on a teen romance. I would occasionally flip through them but was daunted by their length. One day I discovered one of the books not only had a character with my name, but it was about a third smaller than all the others. That was enough for me to give it a chance.
I opened the book, right there in the closet, and began reading. 4 hours later when my mother came home I was still sitting in the closet and was almost finished with the book. That was it. I was hooked. The sex didn’t concern me. It wasn’t actually graphic, just passionate. I’d seen much worse on cable TV. My mother wasn’t mad, except for the fact my chores hadn’t gotten done and I was sitting in her closet (which actually confused her more than anything I think).
I started going through my mother’s collection of romances one by one for the next 3 years. What hooked me was the unlikely pairings, the “I’d die for you” devotion, and the fact that no matter what they faced somehow they came together in the end to be together.

Happily Ever After.

Who doesn’t want that?
I’ve heard parents blame a young girl’s unrealistic expectations of love and romance on Disney and their multiple princes who always save the day for their true love. Disney had nothing to do with creating the hopeless romantic in me. It was Penelope Neri, Johanna Lindsay, and Julie Garwood. Even though these stories were set mostly in other countries and all in another time I came to love escaping into the lives of the heroines who tested the boundaries of society, pushed the limits of ladylike behavior, and always found their happy ending in the arms of true love. From Indian maidens to viking princesses to duchesses of grand estates, they all had one thing in common; a happy ending.
Early on I started imagining how I wanted the book to end before I ever got to the ending. Sometimes I was right in line with the author, sometimes their ending was much more intricate than I could have imagined, and sometimes I really believed my ending would have made the book better. I was feeding my imagination and building stories in my head before I was even fully aware of what love and romance were all about.
I didn’t have a traditional English or Grammar teacher. Mrs. Cook was more concerned with teaching mythology, Shakespeare, and all the manias and phobias. I still don’t know how to diagram a sentence and I couldn’t tell you what a split infinitive is, but I can tell you how the Goddess, Athena, was born and draw you a pretty accurate depiction of an Elizabethan theater. The rules for commas are lost to me, just ask my friend the editor, and my ability to stay in the same tense comes and goes.
Then came my Junior year of high school with American Literature followed by a Senior year with World Literature. From Dante’s Inferno to Pride and Prejudice to The Raven to Canterbury Tales. I LOVED IT ALL. In college I read W.E.B. DuBois, Flannery O’Connor, Sylvia Plath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This list goes on and on and there were so few that didn’t fascinate me.
I took every writing class I could get into and found that after years of reading my imagination was endless. My technique definitely not comparable to the greats, but I was a bottomless well of ideas. I could pick and emotion and write a story that would make my teacher feel it. I could pick a life and convince the reader I’d lived it.

I’d found my passion.

Many people go through life never finding what it is they are passionate about. I KNEW I wanted to be a writer. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was meant to write. I had no idea what I wanted to write but I knew I had to tell stories.
Like most people life went on and I got busy just making a living and my dream was put on the back burner, ignored, and almost forgotten. I was still reading anytime I could, but I’d stopped writing.

The Book That Changed Everything

In 2011 a phenomenon happened when a previously unpublished writer self-published and self-promoted a trilogy of romances set in a fictional world of billionaires and BDSM. It took off like no other adult book I’ve ever seen. The sex scenes made those historical romances seem innocent. The main character of Christian Grey was suddenly creating a frenzy of women who coined the term “Book Boyfriend.” He was sexy, rich, mysterious, a little dangerous, and would do anything to keep his woman. Without the half naked people on the covers moms everywhere were able to put these books in their purse without fear of being caught with their smutty, romantic reads. Finally giving into the trend I read the trilogy, in less than a week, and then craved more. I quickly found authors with similar works featuring alpha men and luxurious lifestyles where possibilities were endless and creative sexuality was encouraged. All that had been “taboo” was no longer. I fell in love with other authors like Julie Kenner, Maya Banks, and Tara Sue Me.
Now a woman in my late 30s and early 40s my imagination was sparked in new ways and I began to write again. Short stories. Snippets of scenes. Nothing extensive. Thanks to social media I was able to follow and actually interact with authors I was reading. One of the best days of my life was when Julie Kenner sent me a friend request on Facebook then just a few months later another author idol of mine, Lauren Blakely, saw a post I’d written mentioning her and she also sent me a friend request. These are women selling millions of books to millions of fans and I can now interact with them directly. I found indie authors of every sub-genre of romance and through social media interaction started actually building friendships and have extensive conversations with these women. Through these authors I’ve discovered other authors who I not only like as people but love as authors. My book collection, both paperback and e-book, is massive. I’ve become engrossed in the world of romance and writers.

BUT…

The more I read the more I doubt I have any place among these amazing writers. Some offer to read what I’ve written and many encourage me to just write until I get more comfortable with my skill level and improve naturally with time and practice. Fear has a way of making a person immobile. Fear of not being good enough and of being a small fish lost in a giant ocean kept me from even trying. I kept making excuses to keep my dream just that, a dream.
I started this blog to give me an outlet to write whatever I wanted without fear of success or failure. It’s for me. It’s nice that others have read it and enjoyed it when I’ve written, but that wasn’t the point. I would never have guessed that this one thing I did just for me would lead to all the crazy things happening just over the last several months.
First, I received and email from and unknown sender. I actually opened it simply because of the subject. Smut For Charity. Wouldn’t you open it?  It was an offer for previously unpublished bloggers of romance to submit their own short story for publication in an anthology. I read that email probably 10 times and kept finding excuses not to reply. I didn’t have time, I didn’t have the energy, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have any fresh ideas, etc, etc. Then my daughter came to visit me. After listening to all the “practical” reasons she was putting aside her dream of art school and seeing her enthusiasm for art dwindling because she believes that her dreams are always going to be out of reach I was heartbroken for her. A parent never wants to see their child settle for less than their greatest potential no matter how impractical or impossible it might seem. But here I was doing the same thing I didn’t want her to do. I had all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t be the writer I always dreamed of being.
So I answered the email. I kept putting off writing my story because I didn’t think it would come out as well as the ideas that were forming in my head. Finally I made a promise to one of the ladies putting together the anthology of a day I would submit my story by. Someone was counting on me to follow through. I wrote my story in less than two days and sent it in.  There’s things I’d change now if I could since I’ve reread it probably 100 times but it’s my first time and you learn as you go. The people who have read my story have given me a lot of great feedback. So much that I decided that this year I would face another fear and take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, which is November, and meeting a goal of 50,000 words written. I’m not at my goal yet, but I’m well on my way. In the meantime the anthology is being put together as I write this and is due to release on November 29th. My story is not only the first one in the book, but also an excerpt from the book I’m writing for NaNoWriMo will be in the back of the book. We have several prominent authors supporting us and promoting the anthology. Even Ms. Julie Kenner has offered to promote the release, among other super supportive author friends I’ve made.
As an unpublished writer I’m learning the cost of things like editors and formatters and cover art. I have an amazing author friend who offered to edit my first work for me when I’m ready, which is a HUGE chunk of the cost, and so many ready to support and share my solo book when it comes out and my short story isn’t even out yet. I’m facing these fears reluctantly but every step of the way I keep reminding myself that I want to show my daughter that if you want it you have to go for it. You can’t give up before you’ve even tried. You can’t make excuses and expect any results. I’ve already invested in cover art for two books and have the support and push from those who won’t let me turn back.

Every day I write a little. Some days I write a lot. What matters is at the end of the day, before you close your eyes, ask yourself this question; what did I do today to get one step closer to making my dreams a reality? It doesn’t matter how small it is, do something, EVERY SINGLE DAY and don’t settle until you’ve exhausted every possibility. You can’t be the best if you don’t try. You can’t grab the trophy if you don’t show up.

Reading romances taught me if you want it bad enough you make it happen. Never give up hope until you find your Happily Ever After.

Monique P.

chances

ub

 

 

Remembering The OKC Bombing

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April 19, 1995

Those born on April 19, 1995 are celebrating their 21st birthday today. For many Oklahomans it’s the 21st anniversary of the day their home was attacked and their loved ones were murdered by deranged individuals seeking revenge on a government they disagreed with.

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On April 19, 1995 at 9:01 am Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was having a day like any other. People were arriving to work, babies were being held at daycare, phone calls were being made, kids were sitting in classes. It took 1 minute and 1 individual full of anger and hate to end the lives of 168 Americans and change the lives of thousands more forever. By 9:03 am we were a wounded city, state and nation. All over the world people mourned and prayed for Oklahoma. All that pain and devastation because someone hated choices made by individuals in our government trying to protect others.

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Our government makes mistakes and sometimes we greatly disagree with their choices and decisions but we, Americans, also take for granted all the things our government has given us and how much better off we are than so many other nations. Can our government be better? Absolutely! But attacking one another and creating more hate and anger towards each other only creates more of these horrible events. Hate fuels the fire within people who don’t understand reason, compassion, or acceptance. We CAN NOT be a nation that stands behind any person or group that supports division instead of unification. Do not give your votes to people who spew hate and disrespect of other individuals, groups or agencies. We can disagree with each other’s choices and still embrace our diversity and accept that we are different and show respect for one another.

Any individual or group who supports hating or creating fear among any part of our population is creating more homeland terrorism. More events like the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building are inevitable when people become irrational with hate and fear. Our basic rights are not being attacked by our government or any other power because laws are created trying, sometimes fruitlessly, to keep us from continually harming one another. Those who encourage such thinking are inciting anger and fear unnecessarily.

Today and everyday I ask you to remember the Pledge of Allegiance we recited as children all over this country. Let those last five words, “liberty and justice for all.”, mean something to you as you go through your daily life in an amazingly diverse world full of all kinds of people with all kinds of lives. Liberty and justice FOR ALL; not just the white, straight, christian, American born.

Let the lights of the OKC Bombing Memorial be a reminder of what hate and fear can do.

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Embrace diversity. Embrace change.

“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” ~Noam Chomsky

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All Photo Credits by Chrissy Justice

As an Oklahoman who cried 21 years ago and every time I look back on the devastation caused by one irrationally fearful and hate-filled man (and those who followed him) I worry those with big voices are encouraging this kind of event to happen again. The only thing more powerful than fear and hate is love. Love one another because of our differences, not despite them.

Monique P

Treasures of Olde

My spine has been broken
My cover is now torn
I’m not quite as perfect
As the day I was born
But lifted from my shelf
And taken for a ride
You might just be surprised
By the brilliant voice inside
They call me a classic
But I’m often overlooked
Scholars they will tell you
I’m more than just a book
My ideas were the beginning
The very first of their kind
Though many more have followed
They’re only copies of my mind

Monique P.

The Disappearance of History

Lately I’ve done a lot of thinking about history. World and American history precisely. There have been a number of things prompting these musings including the recent debate over the confederate flag, my current reading material (Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee), some random comments I’ve read on a local community Facebook page and a movie called The Giver.

As a child in Oklahoma one of the class requirements was Oklahoma History. In Oklahoma we learn some about the Trail of Tears. What I remember learning was the government, wanting the Indian lands for themselves, forced “The Five Civilized Tribes” out of their homelands, primarily on foot, west to the other side of the Mississippi river. I learned that thousands died of famine and disease before they made it safely to Oklahoma Territory. Skipped in our history lesson was the tribes were living peacefully in their homelands in the southeastern part of the U.S. which were also the slave-owning states. Because of the widespread use of slaves the cotton industry was expanding. Southern states wanted Indian lands for their cotton fields. Essentially, it was greed that caused the Indian Removal Act and others like it to pass and allow the government to displace an entire culture of people, treat them as lesser beings and cause a near extinction of a race who lived in the U.S. well before white southerners.

As an adult who devours history much more than I ever did as a student I am finding more and more that the ugliest parts of our history have been skimmed over presumably to avoid the embarrassment of our ancestors’ ignorance. It is my opinion that this is the worst thing you can do to the future of our country and our citizens.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Other facts that were skated over in my history lessons were both The Holocaust and America’s entry into World War II. It failed to connect with me as a high school student and even as an honors history student in college the overlap of these two major events in history. Regarding The Holocaust I was taught that Hitler was an evil man who didn’t like anyone who wasn’t “white” by his definition. He sent Jewish, gay and other minority groups he felt lesser than himself to concentration camps where they were abused, starved and murdered. Hitler’s German troops began their part of WWII in September of 1939. Lives were being lost rapidly. The United States knew of this. For many years I was under the assumption that WWII began because of the attack on Pearl Harbor on that infamous day in December of 1941. The fact that much of the world was ALREADY at war before we joined forces against the “bullies” was never really impressed upon us. The fact that millions were losing their lives because of the rule of a tyrant before the U.S. felt a need to aid these people was never mentioned. The fact that the U.S. didn’t even enter the war in order to stop this massacre was left out of our education entirely. The end of the Holocaust was merely a side effect, not a well planned out success. These huge parts of history were treated as separate events that, though overlapped in time, didn’t have effect on one another. The U.S. simply responded to a threat on our home soil. We did not join the war because our allies needed our help or because it was the right thing to do. I’ve heard so much about the credit taken by the U.S. for the end of WWII, but the U.S. certainly doesn’t mention that millions of lives were unnecessarily lost and another entire culture of people were nearly extinguished before we bothered to help them. Approximately 6 million lives were lost by order of Adolf Hitler. How many history books have failed to mention the number that could have been saved if the U.S. had joined the war sooner?

I must mention that I am not a fan of military force or war. I do not believe that the U.S. needs to get involved in every dispute between countries. However I do believe that as a civilized nation we CANNOT EVER be a spectator when genocide is happening.

Then there’s the big gaping wound that much of America likes to sweep under the rug. The biggest embarrassment to me, as an American, about my country. Slavery. History class taught us that black men, women and children were brought by boat from Africa and sold to white southerners as field hands and house workers. History taught us that the northern states, though still prejudice against black people in many ways, tried to force the south to treat their slaves as hired hands instead of owned property giving their slaves the right to choose to find a different path for their lives or better themselves. The Civil War occurred and again too many lives were lost. The north wanting to force the south to work as one unit under one government which would also make it illegal in all the southern states to own slaves. The south fought, as I’ve heard many times even lately, to preserve the southern way of life. The way of life they were wanting to preserve was their “right” to own slaves. To OWN black people and treat them as they wished. This included selling off their children. They would pay one price for a slave and have that slave as a laborer without pay for their rest of their lives. Cotton, which was the largest industry in the south, was hard on the hands and backs. To bring in crops took long hot hours and many bloody fingers and slaves were used as free labor after their initial purchase. The south didn’t want to give up their money, their massive plantation houses and status that may have been hurt by having to actually pay workers for bringing in their cotton crops. Millions of lives lost because of greed and disrespect of an entire race of people.

I have learned so much about slavery since my early days as a history student. I’ve learned of the beatings that either left a person dead or wishing for death. I’ve learned of the hangings that were witnessed by (and even enjoyed by the white) children in the south. I’ve learned about the rape and torture of women and children and the husbands and sons unable to save those they loved from such atrocities. Many slaves had a deep belief in a god that had a plan for them and would help them carry the burden of their existence. Music was a huge part of the culture. Spiritual and work songs were a part of daily life. Sadly the church in the south was one of the biggest supporters of slavery, finding biblical passages to condone the ownership of what they saw as a lesser being. As average high school history students it was never impressed upon us the amount of resilience and fortitude many slaves managed to find in the face of such ignorance and brutality. We were taught about this scar on our history as if it were a small hiccup in our growth as a country.

Even though slaves were eventually freed prejudice and segregation was still the norm. History students learn names like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and their part in moving toward the end of segregation. However what did we learn about the Ku Klux Klan lynchings and bombings? Many members of the KKK were respected members of society and church elders upholding what they believed to be christian values. How much were we taught about the brave Freedom Riders? How many of us knew about the number of rapes of black women because the law didn’t recognize it as rape unless it was a white woman? This part of American history causes me to feel a need to apologize for my ancestors’ ignorance, but none of this embarrassment was brought on by anything I was taught in my history classes.

I believe at this point in our society we are too many generations past some of the most horrific parts of history to truly understand what we did wrong and many people wish to keep it that way.

Even as a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma I had no idea that in 1921 Tulsa had its own race riot. An estimated 300 people died and 800 injured because of an ASSUMPTION that was made by a “witness” when a black man and a white woman had been in an elevator together. There is no way to know to this day what actually happened between the two people, but 10,000 black people from 35 blocks in Tulsa were left homeless because over 1200 houses were burned down in what was then one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in America. Not once was this mentioned in Oklahoma History class.

History is amazing and it is also ugly. It’s filled with pain and growth and destruction and discovery. History, as it really was, is easily accessible if you want to know it, but it is not readily passed out to us when it can impact our growing minds the most. We are raising children that have no idea what Ms. Parks endured simply by refusing to give up her seat on a bus. We are raising young women who take for granted their reproductive rights, right to vote and seeing women in positions of power. They do not know about glass ceilings, deaths from illegal abortions, legal rape and life in “a man’s world.” We are seeing people who “dress up” as Native Americans for fun without any idea how close we came to not even having that culture among us. We are handing our nation over to an entire generation that has no idea how far we have come and how far we have left to go.

The recent passing of the ban on gay marriage is a huge stepping stone to many of us, but I have heard more than one young person shrug it off with, “I don’t know why it’s such a big deal.”

Our history is disappearing. The lives of Harriet Tubman, Matthew Shepard, Anne Frank, Susan B. Anthony, Harvey Milk, Hedy Epstein, Frederick Douglass, Tom Hayden and Gloria Steinem are fading into obscurity. Sadly, we are letting it happen.
We MUST encourage our education systems to teach the harsh truths along with the victories. Instead of making U.S. History about memorizing names, dates and places teach the kids how far we have come and how anyone who decided to make a difference left their mark on history so they too may want to leave their mark for the next generation. Stop skimming over the parts that show ignorance and intolerance. Show our youth a clear picture of what life was like 30, 60, 100 and more years ago so hopefully they will appreciate the world they live in today. Show them how much more we need to change and encourage them to make a difference in their own way.

We must, as parents and members of the generations who still remember some of these heartbreaking events, teach the children the meaning of doing the right thing even when it’s the hard thing. We need to encourage our children to study history, not just the glorified and glamorized version that Hollywood hands to us, but from the words written by the men, women and children who lived it. This is just another reason to encourage children to read. Encourage children to seek truth instead of one side of a story.

Let’s not let our history disappear. Let’s not let our children and grandchildren live in a world ignorant of our struggles and growth thus facilitating the act of repeating the mistakes in our history. Lets keep history alive in the minds of all generations so that we will continue to move forward.

I fear for the world my daughter will be handed in adulthood. I fear for generations of people who have had the horrors of ignorance left out of their education. It’s not pretty or nice or pleasant to hear about or see pictures of, but it is essential that history not be white washed. People lost lives, families, jobs and so much more fighting to make sure we have the freedoms we have now. Freedom wasn’t only fought for on battlefields but also in our backyards and courtrooms.

We must not forget.

We must not let our history disappear.

Monique P.

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