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Posts tagged ‘Education’

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

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Public Library: Use It or Lose It

I’m constantly hearing people say they don’t have time to use a library or it’s easier to just buy a book you want to read.
Here are a few things most people don’t realize about public libraries:
1: It’s free. Yes, you probably knew this part. Did you know that it’s not just books for free? Most libraries have books on C.D., movies (even new releases) magazines, and even Kindles.
2: With my library I have the option of going online and actually borrowing FOR FREE e-books to load directly onto my kindle to read. Many libraries have this available.  Your library staff are more than willing to help you set this up. Bonus: you can browse e-books and borrow them FROM HOME.
3: Online catalogs. Gone are the days of perusing giant wooden card catalogs and hoping the item is on the shelf once you track down the call number. This is done on a computer now. You can look items up on the catalog only computers in the library and usually you can look items up on your library’s website from home. There’s several benefits to doing this. You can see right away if it is actually AT your library branch. If your library is one branch of a library system you can actually “order” your item from another library and it will be sent to your branch. Some libraries will even order the item from outside their system. If there’s a book in a series you want to read and it’s not at your library just ask. They can probably get it for you! Another benefit of doing this online is the time saving aspect. If you place a hold on an item at your library a library staff member will find the item on the shelf or order it from another library and then contact you when it’s available to pick up, either by calling, texting or emailing. Go in, give them your library card, check out your item and *poof* you’re done! Easy peasy!
4: Computers! Almost every thing you do these days requires you to have an email contact but sadly not everyone can afford a computer. Filling out job applications, quick filing your taxes, even using a kindle to read on all require you to have Internet access. You can do this for free at your library. I have yet to see a public library not have computers for their patrons to use. Clueless about computers? No problem! Ask a library associate! That’s what they are there for! Some libraries even offer free classes on basic computer use if you wish to be a little more comfortable with them.
4. Entertainment! Don’t have the money to go out and buy your favorite movie or see the latest sequel to your comic book hero movie series? Don’t want to spend $15 on a new CD when you only know for sure you like one song? Go to the library! You may have to wait your turn to borrow it but you can borrow it for free. I put myself on the hold list for brand new releases all the time. When it’s my turn to get the new CD or the new movie my librarian sends me an email and I go pick it up. And unlike the $4 movie rental place that gives you 24 hours I get a full week to watch it. Some libraries give you 3 days, 10 days or 2 weeks. Ask your library staff or check your check out receipt for the due date to be sure.
5: Magazines. How many of us have magazine subscriptions that pile up because we don’t have the time to read them? Why are you paying for something you eventually realize you’re never going to have time to read and will just throw away? Go sit in your quiet library in one if their comfy seats, most have MANY, and peruse the magazine you wanted to read. Read the articles you want and don’t feel guilty about the ones you skip because you paid to read them. Many libraries even let you check out the magazines for a short period. See a recipe you want to make? Take it home and make the item! If it’s good write it down! Save a tree and your guilt for spending money and throwing it away.
6: Starting early getting your kids excited about library visits, reading “marathons,” summer reading programs, etc will begin creating a reader. The more your children read the better off they will be later on, not just in school but also jobs. Reading opens up new worlds, imaginations and, most importantly, encourages thinking. Take kids to the library. Read to them and with them. It can improve your own reading skills as well and creates great memories for your kids.

Libraries are publicly funded. If we don’t use these great resources we will lose them. Go get a library card today if you don’t have one. Check your local library branch for what ID is needed to get one and for what their hours are. Many offer extended and weekend hours for 9-5 workers and busy moms.
If you do use your library then I thank you!  Make sure you thank a librarian next time you’re there!

Lots of love and happy reading,
Monique P

When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.
–Rita Mae Brown

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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