Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't Worry - Be Happy

Ever since I became a Christian almost 20-years ago I've been taught, told and preached the concept of "Don't Worry - Be Happy" as if it were a decision as easily made as choosing between a pair of identical socks.  But I find it a little more complicated to make that decision. I don't disagree with the concept, on the contrary I agree whole-heartily, I just have a difference of opinion when it comes to exercising the practice  in everyday decisions and practical matters.

 Sometimes I'll be going through my day, zipping through my responsibilities, fulfilling my obligations and not realize that I'm stressed from the burden of the panacea of things I'm worried about.  If you asked me right out if something was worrying me, I'd answer with an emphatic "No".  However, I'd be lying to myself - which is quite possible and often the culprit in 99% of the worry people carry.

What do I  worry about - whether consciously or subconsciously?  Let's see:
  • Education - With a daughter as a Junior in high school, this is the year for searching for grants, scholarships,  and deciding what type of college, how to pay for that extended education and try to draw up a plan and budget to begin the process of fulfilling those dreams (which can change at any moment and then you'd have to start all over).  I have a son about to enter the police academy, but first has to take a few courses at college to give him the best negotiating terms to obtain the desired position within the police force.  Of course - all of this is without a college fund - and we're expected not to worry about it - it's only our children's future we're talking about here. I find juggling the ideas of responsibility/faith/obligation gets a little tricky sometimes.  I'm a great debater and could possibly win on either term - but shouldn't they work together? God will make a way where there is no way.
  • Economy - With the downturn in the economy and unemployment at all time record highs, business opportunities are not as viable as they were five years ago.  The unemployment rate among teenagers is hovering at 95%, while college graduates are around 40%.  When the top 1% are closing businesses and not investing in new ventures and technology due to high taxes and an unstable market - that means middle class workers like myself and those in school like my daughter - don't have many options.  When business aren't hiring and laying off people, investors are tightening their belts and reluctant to part with their savings, and the political tensions and shallow promises are slung left and right blaming each other instead of coming up with solutions.  We're asked to Hope for Change, yet things stay just the same.  No matter how much I tell myself "don't worry", worry comes anyway. God is my provider.
  • Health - With the high cost of health insurance, increase in taxes  and the cost of living (groceries & gas) and decrease in pay - many of us have found ourselves between a rock and a hard place (too rich for Medicaid or free health care (unless illegal)/too poor for even your basic HMO) and have become uninsured.  Now unable to participate in 'preventive' health care like physicals and regular checkups, I sit by and hope and pray nothing serious happens health-wise  until I'm able to get back on my feet. Being over 40, I'm told how important it is to have a regular pap, physical and mammogram because the  best defense against most conditions that effect women my age is early detection.  Yet, I'm expected not to worry.  God is my healer.
These are just a few of the examples, there are many more.  I'm trying to follow my dream as a writer, knowing this is the gift I've been given in which I operate best.  Everyday I come against obstacles that want to crush that dream.  I have to fight against the 'practical' in order to fulfill the dream.  A war wages between Responsibility, Obligation and Desire.  Each have their own requirements for fulfillment, often sacrificing one another.

It's said worry can kill you.  I believe that.  With worry comes stress, anxiety, oppression, depression, ulcers, acid reflux, low immune system and easy susceptibility for disease.

So, what is the answer?  I wish there was an easy solution I could give you, but I can't.  Some things motivate some people, some things motivate others, but everything doesn't work on everybody the same.  We're unique individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses; we each have our own measure of faith.  But, without HOPE - there's nothing.  So, by FAITH, and the love I have for and through my Creator, I cling to that hope with all I possess - my God shall supply all my needs.  Doesn't mean I'll get everything I want.  My candidate may not win, my child may not get into the school of their choice, I may have do with just the basics for a time, my books may take a while before they hit the best sellers list - but I will prevail, I will overcome, I will succeed and I will rise again. I am happy right where I am - right in the middle of my little mess. THAT I don't worry about.  In the meantime, I'll keep trying to work on the other things.   

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hallmark Movies - Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship

Every year, starting the day after Thanksgiving (I refuse to watch a Christmas movie before that date), my husband and I begin watching Christmas movies, especially the feel-good Hallmark Originals.  Yeah, my husband loves them too and he's not ashamed to admit it (at least that's what he tells me).

I have a love/hate relationship with these movies.  I hate them on the one hand because they're so predictable.  Within the first five minutes while the opening scene tittles along, I've already figured out the major plot, know exactly what the turning point point will be, and the solution is clearly written in the snow flakes that are bound to fall during the Christmas Eve miracle scene.  However, I love them for those exact same reasons.  I know beyond all uncertainty EVERYTHING will work out in the end.  In a world full of chaos, disappointment, struggle and strife - my soul yearns to see miracles, to watch the sparkle of magic and to believe in the unbelievable.  That's a Hallmark movie wrapped in it's golden bow.

So, despite their predictability and lack of imagination, I recommend everyone to sit back, prop your feet up on a foot rest, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, fill a bowl full of popcorn, and sip on a large mug of hot chocolate as you sit back with your loved ones and watch a wholesome, magical, and inspiring Hallmark movie.  (No, I'm not a paid spokesperson for Hallmark.)

You never know what miracles you'll be inspired to believe when it's over.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writing - Why It's Better Than Sex

I must begin this blog by telling you I'm 40, not 20.  I'm not sure a 20-year old would understand half of what I'm about to say, so there's no sense for them to read past this sentence.  Now for the rest of us - let me try to briefly explain why I think writing is better than sex.

  1. Sex only provides a temporary sense of satisfaction, that is if it's done properly.  In order for it to be of use at a later point in time, it would have to be repeated.  Not so with writing.  A brief moment of brilliance can be recorded and revisited any time in the present or future.
  2. Sex requires the participation of two or (as in some cases)  more individuals. Masturbation doesn't count. Writing can be a collaborative effort, but it only requires one person, one mind, one idea and be equally, if not more, satisfying.
  3. Sex requires great physical exertion and writing only requires the minimum effort- mostly from the largest muscle in the body - the brain.  For those with physical disabilities, sex isn't an option.  With many of today's technological advances, even paraplegics and the severely handicapped are able to express their thoughts and ideas in written/electronic form. 
  4. Sex carries a risk of disease, unwanted pregnancy and physical harm.  Writing only carries the risk of a bad idea or carpel tunnel syndrome. 
  5. Sex confuses emotions.  Writing helps to sort them out.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop there.  I've heard, more times than I'd like to admit of people expressing the idea that they couldn't live without sex.  Of course, this is usually spouted from young people whose hormones are raging without much self control, or perverts who really need a lot of help.  I'm older now, a little bit more wiser and can see the world beyond physical satisfaction. I too once thought the world revolved around me, but my eyes have widened and I realize there's a whole world of people out there and we all are on the same rotating rock.   I too used to think 'sex' was the answer to a lot of things, but having been through many things I've learned sex only complicated matters, never solved them.

Emotions, physical or not, are most often misleading.  Our outbursts sometimes are not directly linked to the things we say with our mouths.  It's only a symptom of a much deeper issue - one we're usually trying to avoid. Sex often times is usually evoked to mask or ignore those symptoms in a hope of making them disappear.  Those stubborn issues don't go away until we face them, no matter how much sex we have.  Writing has been the avenue for me that brings those deep-seeded issues to the surface - forcing me to see them, face them and then act to deal with them.  Sex has never done that for me.

Now, I just want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOTHING against sex.  I like sex.  I'm just saying that in my experience with both sex and writing, I find writing the better of the two.

Now, for those whose cheeks are pink at the bluntness of this subject, surprised by my audacity to speak about such a taboo and dirty-little subject - you can go back into your little boxes.  I'm done for the day. I bet throughout this day or in the days to come, you too will come across another reason why writing is better than sex.  And for those of you who NEVER write - I want you to know I still believe in miracles. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, November 21, 2011


Our mindsets totally dictate to us how we think, how we act and most importantly how we react to every situation and circumstance in our life.  Those mindsets are formed through a compilation of thoughts and experiences we've accumulated throughout our existence since birth.  We can tell ourselves to exhaustion that they are of our own making and choosing, but that's just one of the dozens of lies we tell ourselves everyday.  We have this obsession to try and understand the world around us, but our efforts are in vain.   No matter how much we think we know - there's a large vastness of the things we don't know or understand. 

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday I've been thinking about those people who've been lucky enough to be "Thanksgiving-minded".  I'm not talking about being mindful of the holiday.  Most of us don't even give a second thought to the yearly event until the day after Halloween.  Much like I try not to even delay the concept of Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving (though that gets harder and harder to do when commercials, stores and businesses all around me start advertising, celebrating and reminding us earlier and earlier each year.)

Being Thanksgiving-minded is having a mindset and a spirit of being 'thankful' everyday.  Having grown up in a large family that never said the words "thank-you", either as a polite courtesy or attitude of gratitude, to one another or anyone else.  It took me a few years on my own as an adult to formulate the habit.  The words felt strange on my lips and often came as a gesture long after an appropriate action that granted its favor thereby never reaching it's intended target.   I've had many people comment to me in my past how 'ungrateful' they thought I was because I never said the words. 

I can understand their sentiment, though I disagree.  I've always been a very thankful and grateful person.  I'm a giver,  a helper, and have sacrificed my own wants and needs for others on countless occasions.  I just didn't know how to express myself through two simple words.  I don't say words just to say words.  I only say what I truly mean.  Often times it gets me into trouble because I'm not perfect and my speech reveals that imperfection.  I show my gratitude by my actions and my deeds. 

I'm learning to say thank-you more often. I say it when someone does something for me out of the goodness of their heart, or just out politeness.  I say it even when I'm the one who offers help.  I say it when someone has wronged me or set themselves to discredit or injure me - often reflecting blame of an indiscretion to preserve the peace over non-sensible issues.  I don't accept responsibility for things I'm not guilty, but when feelings are involved - I choose to keep the peace and apologize despite my innocence or guilt.  I say thank-you when a door is open for me or when I open one for someone else.  I say thank you for a word of encouragement or of rebuke.  Both are equally important and beneficial.  I say thank you to strangers, friends and family.  I say thank you to the cashier at the grocer store even though they're just doing their job.  I say thank you to the drive-through employee as they take my money and hand me my food.  I say thank you to the clerk at the tax office as I hand over my payment.  I say thank you to the parking attendant as I pay my fees.  I say thank you to the waiter who fills my drink.  I say thank you the husband who holds the umbrella over my head.  I say thank you to the daughter to who puts away the dishes.  I say thank you to the son who stopped by the store and grabbed a last minute item on his way home.  I say thank you to the writers club member who pointed out an error in my latest chapter.  I say thank you to the mother-in-law for their 10th reminder of upcoming holiday plans.  I say thank you to my God for all He has done for me.

I don't say thank you to receive one in kind, yet I hope that I can inspire the practice.  I've noticed that this world is getting more and more 'un-thankful' and turning to a  more "entitled-mindset".  I find that sad.  That makes me even more thankful that I'm not a part of it. 

Don't just let Thanksgiving be the only time you give thanks.  Let it be a time to celebrate that you're able to give thanks at all times.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm a Flashlight!

One of the greatest inventions of our modern times for me is the flashlight. We've humans have upgraded tremendously from torches, candles and lanterns in order to successfully navigate in the dark. We're a race dependent on our five senses - mostly on our sight - in order to make our way around this celestial orb.

I've learned something about the flashlight this morning that I didn't comprehend the day before. It's not like the information is new; only a new revelation to me.

It's not the casing of the flashlight that gives it its importance and purpose - though the outer shell is extremely important in its function to house the thing that makes it valuable and of use. It's the light that emits from the flashlight that gives it it's purpose.

Understanding the above statement has sparked an enlightened revelation that I had never been able to construct with words. I'm a flashlight!

Most of us go through this life with a hope of what the next life will bring; bearing the burdens of our world, braving the elements and holding tight to our faith and beliefs until the end of our days, most often in an expectation of a reward for our sacrifices; a utopian retirement in eternity filled with golden streets and peaceful jubilation.

Deep down inside I've always had a slight problem with this sentiment. Not that I wouldn't want a golden parachute at the end of my labors in reward for my all my toil, but I couldn't seem to find the motivation to modify my current behavior in a hope of a fantastical dream. I live with a hope of obtaining that utopian fantasy in THIS life.

I know the world is full of all kinds of hate, evil and chaos. On many occasions and through different experiences, I've been the victim/perpetrator at their dubious hands. However, I've also been the giver/recipient of love, good and order. Both exist at the same time, and both continue to flow through this universe even now. The only thing that has changed has been how I respond to each when I brush against them.

I've always been told that I'm a light in a dark world - meaning that I am to expose the darkness as I allow the light of my faith to shine. As I click this flashlight on and off, I realize it's function. It's not to expose the darkness - because the dark is already apparent. When the light comes on it causes the darkness to retreat and expose the truth of what's around me, lights my path so I can see where I'm going or where I've been, and even allows me to see myself when I was unable before. However, when I came into an already lighted room, the light from my flashlight exposed nothing that wasn't already exposed before - neither path nor direction. It became useless; just another object in the room. It no longer had a purpose. What good is a flashlight where there is no darkness?

Having a purpose and being used for that purpose is what drives me most; it is the single largest factor that shapes my decisions, actions and reactions. It's not fear from a lake of fire for my disobedience or the hope of a bright utopian eternity beyond this life. Whether or not those are the final consequences - really don't make a difference in the day to day decisions I face or make.

Everyday, due to the impact of my daily decisions, I'm either tormented or at peace. Right now I'm either suffering from a hell-on-earth or I'm filled with heavenly joy. I find the choice is really up to me no matter what's going on around me. In the middle of my turmoil, I find I can have peace. In the middle of my celebration, I find I can be in pain. I can't control what happens around me - prevent evil from touching my life - but I have complete control on how I respond to those events. The response determines my atmosphere.

Where my faith factors in all this is not about condemnation or salvation at the end of my days - but in each moment, each step, with each breath that testifies I'm not alone and I don't have to walk through this darkness alone. The answer to the test isn't that I finish having ran a good race, but that I find what I'm searching for AS I run the race; that I discover I'm a flashlight in a dark world - with a purpose while I'm in the darkness.

I don't mind being a flashlight. In fact - I'd like to be a lighthouse!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Milledgeville Misfit Book Trailer

I did it.  Here is my first attempt.


Book Trailers - I Want One

I just watched one of the best book trailers for a book called "Shatter Me".  Now, I WANT one.  I want to learn how to make one.  Part of me is dreading it, because I already have so many things I'm already doing; I've got more on my plate than I'll ever be able to eat, and I want more.  I'm a glutton.  When it comes to the writing universe, I can't get enough.

So, the biggest question - where do I start?  I don't know the first thing about making book trailers.  It seems I keep gravitating more and more to movies, mini-movies, trailers, screenplays.  Perhaps the printed page isn't my only niche.  I guess all my few remaining minutes of the day are going to be spent on researching, studying, seeking, reading, experimenting and learning how to make book trailers.

Anyone with any experience in this area... I'm begging for help.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inheritance - Christopher Paolini Review

***** (5-Stars)
I can't get this hard lump out of my throat. I'm equally happy and sad at the ending; probably because it is the end of a great epic tale. I think Paolini outdid himself. While I know not everyone will see the beauty of his choice of endings, I thought it was well-planned and a stroke of genius. It touched me deeply. Only a handful of stories have been able to do that.

If this is what he can accomplish as such a young age, I can't wait to see what he has next. I'm a fan for life. I see much of Eragon in him.

I can't give any higher praise than that. If I could, I would.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Milledgeville Misfit Cover

Here is the new cover for the upcoming release of my new novel "Milledgeville Misfit".

Fourteen-year old Juniper "Junebug" Summerville loses her parents and her ability to talk in a car accident.  Against her silent protests, she is sent to live in a remote swampland known for its ghosts, prisons and insane asylums.  

As Junebug struggles with her emotional scars, she begins to heal with help from six other orphans at Dearborn, a once famous southern plantation turned orphanage.  But on Halloween night, she finds herself in a fight for her sanity when she stumbles upon a tear in the fabric that separated the natural from the supernatural and allowed the dead to walk among the living.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating Giveaway


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating! by T. L. Gray



          Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating!


          by T. L. Gray


            Giveaway ends December 31, 2011.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

The subject of happiness has come up quite a bit in my life lately.  It seems everywhere I turn I find someone looking for it or showing an expression of it.  It's had me really asking myself, "Am I happy?"

Immediately the answer "Yes!" flashed through my mind, but then right behind it came this slow, uncertain question of "Really?".  It surprised me.  Only two seconds before I had been so sure and now I sat there wondering why I was questioning myself.  (Don't try to figure that out - you'll get a headache.)

I pondered.  If I was so happy what exactly was it that made me that way?  After several days of fleeting thoughts, a long hot bubble-bath, and nice warm cup of coffee I realized that my happiness can't be contributed to just ONE thing.  It's a compilation of many different things. Not all of them would be OBVIOUS things.  Simple things.

Here are few examples:

My cat Pip.  She's often a pain, getting into things she's  not supposed to, tearing up furniture with her claws, leaving her toys just laying around everywhere so you step on them in the dark type of stuff. I'm not even going to mention having to clean out the litter box.  It's also those very same things that make me happy.  She's a happy cat.  She's loving, she's not afraid of anything, she's spoiled, and she LOVES attention.  She's free because she's loved.  She's not afraid of her family.  She's not hungry or hurt.  She doesn't have a diamond collar and eat gormet cat food, but she's happy - and she makes me and the rest of the family happy.

My son Johnathan.  (BTW - these are in random order.  In no way do I imply that Pip is more important than Johnathan.)  My son is a bit on the lazy side and his drive for success is lack luster at best. I could focus on all his faults and constantly stay behind him and pressure him to move forward, but instead I've chosen another route.  My son in happy.  He's lazy because he loves being at home and he's comfortable there enough to let himself be who he really is.  He loves playing games with his family at dinner time, he loves fighting over pop corn, or trying to beat everyone on the video, card and board games.  He's a poor sport and horrible loser, but he loves playing.  He's 21 years old and would rather spend his weekends at home with his dad watching football or sitting at the kitchen table after work writing his first novel with me while I cook dinner.  He doesn't drive around in an expensive car, go to a fancy college or wear designer labels, but he's happy. He dates on occasion, but he's not out looking for someone in order to make feel complete or loved.  He loves his music and playing his drums.  He's learning to love himself.  

Everyday we live with goals and aspirations, reaching out to obtain those things we dream about.  But, I've learned that it's not in the achievement of those dreams that makes life worth living; the thing that makes us happy.  Those moments are just that... fleeting moments.  They're a great moment of exhilaration.  But if we live our life in a struggle everyday under oppression, stress and pressure in the pursuit of happiness - we'll miss the moments that truly grant them to us. 

I've got a lot of big dreams in front of me and I'm doing everything I can to reach those dreams.  In the meantime, I walk through my days with a song in my heart because I'm truly content and happy right where I am - right in the middle of my mess.  In fact - it's that happiness that fuels the energy I need in the pursuit of my dreams.  If I wasn't loved or love my self - I wouldn't make it through all of life's bumps, road blocks and sink holes. 

I thank my family for that.  I thank God.  I thank my friends. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray