Monday, March 31, 2014

Stretched Beyond Your Comfort Zone

“I will not give that which costs me nothing,” ~King David.

“There can be no triumph without loss. No victory without suffering. No freedom without sacrifice.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ~Steve Jobs

When we set goals for ourselves, we are telling the universe that no matter what it plans for us, we are the captains of our lives and we determine the outcome. However, making that grand gesture is only the first step. Once we declare our intentions the universe conspires against us, pushes us to prove ourselves, tests our resolve, and stretches us beyond our comfort zones to see if we meant what we said or if we will falter. In our human frailty and weakness that is often what we do – fall. Yet, we are not failures - unless we give up. There’s no tally for how many times I’ve been knocked down and counted out, but I won’t give up. The universe may have given up on me, but I won’t give up on myself.

When we look around it ‘appears’ that others have it easier, but that’s because we’re often only looking at the things that give us the most difficulty. We ALL have struggles, but they may be in different areas. It seems my hardest struggles are in love and health, while others struggle with success and happiness, and others peace and addictions. The list goes on and on. We are individuals, unique, and precious. It would be great if we were all born to the same opportunities and face the same struggles.

It’s not fair.

Life isn’t fair.

We have to get this ‘fairness’ idea out of our heads and quit comparing ourselves to others. Face our troubles and realize we all struggle in one way or another. Not one of us is perfect or without hardship. Not one!

We need to help encourage one another. I can’t begin to express how much the love and encouragement from my closest friends has meant to me this past couple of years. There were days I felt lower than dirt, didn’t even want to live because the pain and heartache hurt so much. I still sometimes have those days. But all it took was a kind word, a simple expression of love, a bit of encouragement and not judgment from my friends to lift me out of those dark places. We all visit them from time to time. Not one of us has our ‘shit’ together all the time.

If we can clear up our thinking and start encouraging ourselves and one another, knowing that our journey will have some hard days, determine in our hearts that our dreams and hopes are worth the sacrifices they will require, and surround ourselves with people who will love and encourage us when we have dark days and not judge us, then we can begin to move those mountains.

I keep coming back to a Lucy Spraggan song called “Mountains” and there’s a line that tugs my heart every time – “I know what you’re scared of, I can feel it too. You’re not scared of climbing mountains; you’re scared you can’t make them move.”

God knows I’ve got huge mountains in front of me. We all do; I’m not alone in this venture. But, I do have something very precious …I have friends who truly love me. They don’t just tell me with their lips while judging me and reminding me of my faults. They love me in spite of them. I love them more than I can ever express. They’re not perfect, they have their own battles and weaknesses, but they’re perfect for me. They stretch me often beyond my comfort zone – pushing me forward when all I want to do is lie down and give up. It’s not all laughs and good times – more often its arguments and frustration – because they care enough to tell me the truth. They don’t give up on me, when I’m sure they feel like it …often, perhaps daily. They are more precious to me than any success, fame, recognition, money, or treasure. They are ‘love’. Sure, I want to be ‘in love’ and have a great romance, but the love I have for and from my friends… is so much more than a flight of fancy.

To my friends… you know who you are… I love you. Thank you for loving me.

So the next time you feel the pressure and the struggle of the goals you’ve set for yourself, remember you’re not alone, you’re a member of the human race. And if you don’t have a friend or two around you who will love you and stretch you beyond your comfort zone, start looking for them.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Being Free

For so many years I was counseled that I had to be an example because I stood in a place of leadership, repeatedly reminded that people were watching and looking up to me and therefore I had to make sure I set a good example so ‘they’ wouldn’t stumble.  In my strive for excellence and to fulfill the mandate set before me, and from a fear of letting the people I cared for most down by not being a failure, I worked hard at being that great example.  There’s nothing wrong in that in and of itself except somewhere along the way I got lost and started being what was expected of me. I lost my identity. I was someone’s mom, someone’s wife, member or associate of something… but not me.

These last couple of years I’ve been examining myself, but not in self-judgment as I had for the past fifteen years correcting and rebuking in an effort to be ‘good’. I’ve simply been asking who I am, what do I want, what makes me happy.  Sure I still want to be good, who doesn’t deep down in their heart, but I mostly want to be honest…and free.

The world is full of hypocrites, liars, and manipulators.  I’m not saying these things to be mean or negative, only that it is to ourselves we are most guilty.  Whenever we start being honest with ourselves and face the truth of who we really are and what we really want, the world starts pointing its fingers at us, accusing us of being selfish or narcissistic.  Well, I’m not for pleasing the world anymore, or even someone else.  My whole life I’ve been told, taught, and trained to please others.  I have a giving, caring, and supportive heart – except when it came to me.  Not anymore.

I celebrate me.  I love the woman I am.  I love the woman I’m discovering. I love my perfect imperfections. So, if you’re watching me – the only example I want to set now is that it’s okay to love and celebrate yourself.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Failures or Cowards?

What is a failure really?  Does not being able to complete a task that we dare to accomplish translate as a failure?  When a relationship breaks down and we separate is that also a failure? 

I have my different definition for failure, or else I still have yet to find the correct correlating word. Failure to me is simply being too afraid to try. Allowing an opportunity to pass, that’s failure. Having tried something and it fall apart or tear to pieces isn’t failure - that’s understanding and discovering how something doesn’t work.

When it comes to relationships I watch so many people build emotional walls because they’re afraid of failure. Having had a relationship that didn’t work, they believe themselves proverbial failures. But they’re not. They’re simply cowards. I don’t want to be a coward.

I know this fear because I face it every day. I don’t want to build the same walls. I do want to protect myself from the pain that comes from a broken relationship, but not at the cost of isolation.  I want to run. I want to hide. I want to believe I’m better off not loving in the first place than taking the risk of loving again and getting hurt even more than I am now. That’s the easy thing. It’s not what winners do, it’s what failures do.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve never failed. I’ve had things fall apart, situations cost me everything, relationships tear me to pieces, but I’ve always tried – again and again and again and again until I discover what works. I face things that scare me. I risk everything for my dreams. I don’t just talk about doing things… I do them. I may complain and whine and cry and pitch a fit in the middle of my fear, but I still jump, I still leap, and I still take the gamble. I may not be showered in riches or exude what the world defines as success, but I’m a winner because I have the courage to try – again and again and again.

E.E. Cummings says, “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”

John Wooden says, “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.”

Mark Twain says, “With courage, you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be passionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.”

Albert Einstein says, “You never fail until you stop trying.”

Cormac McCarthy says, “Long before the morning, I knew that what I was seeking to discover was a thing I’d always known, that all courage was a thing of constancy. That it is always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals comes easy.”

This quote moves me most, because I’ve seen it in action too many times. We often think our betrayals are of the other person, but what we don’t often realize is that we’ve first betrayed ourselves. The secrets, the lies, the guilt, the shame, it all comes after we’ve betrayed ourselves.  This is what I fear most, that I will betray ME, that I will let ME down, that I will fail ME, that I will allow a coward to come into my life and drag me down into failure. It is for this purpose I continue to try and have become particular who I allow into my life - because I deserve the best, I deserve success, I deserve love, and I deserve happiness. I deserve to be with a winner. As long as I keep seeking these things and never stop, I’m not a failure. Finding or not finding isn’t the prize, the measure of success, or where living is done – but life, character, courage and success are found in the process.

I’m not a coward; therefore I am not a failure.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Monday, March 24, 2014

New Things, New Friends, New Lease on Life

I can't stress enough how important it is to do and introduce new things into our lives. We humans are creatures of habit and it really takes a conscious effort to make changes and adjustments. It's in our nature to fight against them. We balk, rebuke, and put up thick walls to keep some semblance of an order to things. We select our favorites - foods, pastimes, hobbies, restaurants, music, books, activities, friends, vacation spots, and so on and so forth, and in doing so create daily habits. Depending on those habits, we then wonder why our lives have become stagnant and boring, why our bodies are unhealthy or unfit, or why our dreams continually remain in the dream phase and never turn into actualities. If you can't see these patterns in your life, record them in a daily log - write down all of your interactions (activities, food, thoughts, and recreation) throughout the day for a full month. Then review. You will be surprised at what you actually do, compared to what you think you do.

Most of us don't make decisions toward changes on our own, but are forced through circumstances beyond our control. This is reactionary and perhaps the largest cause of stress and anxiety in our lives. NO ONE likes to be forced to do anything. God doesn't even force His will upon us, but gives us free choice. However, every choice we make has a consequence attached to it. Those we don't like either.

I yo-yo dieted, joined gym after gym, spent tons of money on diet pills and quick weight loss solutions, writing programs, self-help books, motivational materials, and thousands of other 'temporary' fixes hoping to make some change in my life - without actually changing my life. I couldn't see where I was failing. I blamed the diet, the program, the doctors, the hormones, the job, the family, and my own lack of self-esteem or control. Without realizing it, I came to think of myself as weak and a failure and had no desire or will to fight anymore because no matter what I did, I couldn't win. It wasn't until I took inventory and actually logged my diet, my actions, and my choices on a daily basis - and was able to see the 'truth' of the matter, before I could take action. I had deceived myself, thinking I was giving it a good go, but when I looked at the facts in black ink I realized I was a liar, and had lied to myself almost on a daily basis. Once I saw the truth - I couldn't believe the lie anymore and knew I had to make a change.

Over the last couple of years, I've made a LOT of decisions, not just about health and fitness, but about every area in my life. I realized I neglected myself as a woman and as a person. I quit waiting for the magical solution - for SOMETHING to happen that would change my life - and realized that "I" was the change that needed to happen. I needed to love myself enough to believe I deserved better, I deserved to be healthy, I deserved to be active, I deserved to be beautiful, I deserved to loved, I deserved to wanted, I deserved to be desired, I deserved to be successful, I deserved to be respected, I deserved to published, I deserved to be friendly, I deserved to travel, I deserved to explore, I deserved to dream, and most of all... I deserved to be happy.

Once I believed it, I started making changes. I started cutting out old things, people, and habits that held me back or pressed me down and introduced "new" into my life almost on a daily basis. I QUIT all the habits I had before and started creating new ones. I regularly keep a journal of those activities, because as soon as they become habits I will introduce new things to mix them up. I don't diet - I changed the way I eat, why I eat, what I eat, and the how I eat. I didn't join a gym, I changed the way I viewed exercise, why I exercise, and how I exercise. I changed a lot of my friends - left those who judged, were negative, who only showed support with their lips but not their actions and surrounded myself with people who encourage me, tell me what I need to hear, and believe in me and my success.

This isn't a 10-step temporary program - this is a life change. It has to start on the inside. I quit trying to make my outside control how I felt on the inside and focused on healing the inside (how I felt about myself) and the outside has slowly changed to match the gigantic changes within. I've lost nearly 100 lbs and a 100 friends, I can now jog a mile without wanting to die, I look great, I feel great, I'm writing more, I'm happier, and I've been on more adventures in the past year than the last 20 combined. I'm a completely new and different person. I still have things to work out. My life isn't perfect. I still have struggles and fears and failures. I still have worries and concerns. I still have needs and wants. But on most days, I don't allow those things to beat me down. I embrace the changes, I look forward to the new things, new friends, and a new lease on life.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Good Morning, World

Sometimes I’m quite blown away by my morning musings – early thoughts as I’m between realms – half in dreams/half awake. I thought I’d share my musings and meditations over the past few weeks. Sometimes looking at them from a distance I can sometimes spot patterns. So, I’m probably most excited to see what I can … well, see about myself.

03/18/2014 – “Good morning, world. I have such lovely dreams. They're often enough to sustain me from day to day, providing me with enough inspiration to smile. But sometimes they're not enough. Sometimes, I need reality to be just as lovely to inspire my dreams.”

03/17/2014 – “Good morning world. Being lied to is the biggest form of disrespect. Accepting the lie is being disrespectful to your self. Both hurt. Sometimes we just can't face the truth. Sometimes we just don't want to.”

03/15/2014 – “Good morning, world. In our lives, we have many mountains to climb. Some will push us to our limits, others will test our faith. But the best mountains will be the ones we conquer with love.

Today, I hope to conquer three real mountains and the fulfillment of another dream.”

03/14/2014 – “I just wanted to tell everyone today how much I love and appreciate you... just in case I don't make it back tomorrow from the Monadnock Madness Climb 2014. I'm so excited. I'm climbing Stone Mountain, Arabia Mountain and Panola Mountain. Wish me luck... and you can be sure I'm going to take plenty of pictures.”

03/13/2014 – “Meditating by the lake. Enjoying the miracle and songs of nature. Feeling hopeful about the future. I am so blessed to be able to hear the music of my soul. I'm often so busy in life, I often can't hear the melody. I get so distracted I can't see the miraculous beauty. I get so lonely I become disconnected. I get so afraid it becomes noisy. But right now, I'm at peace and my soul is singing.”

03/12/2014 – “Good morning, world. Ever have moments when your heart and your head aren't on the same page? It causes war to rage inside. But when the two can come into agreement, you become amazing and unstoppable.”

03/11/2014 – “Good morning, world. Dreams and fantasies are fun and exciting, filled with all the magic and possibilities of the imagination. Make my reality even more exciting than my fantasies. Let me love, laugh, and live as vibrantly as my dreams.”

03/10/2014 – “Good morning, world. Why do the loving often go unloved, and the cold-hearted leave behind a trail of tears? Why do the honest often go hungry and the thief enjoy stolen fruit? I watch a man slowly kill himself by gluttonous eating trying to fill an emotional emptiness with food, and a woman slowly starve herself to present an outward beauty. It's all vanity, meaningless. It breaks my heart.”

03/09/2014 – “Good morning, world. I sometimes wonder how you really see me. I know how I see myself. I also know we're both wrong and the truth lay somewhere in the middle.”

03/08/2014 – “Good morning, world. There are moments I feel I cannot go on. I want to crawl beneath my covers, and enter into a permanent sleep, too exhausted to even lick my wounds. But just before my eyes close, there's an ember that stirs into a flame by a gentle wind. Though broken and bruised, I rise to fight again.”

03/07/2014 – “Good morning, world. There are moments I feel I cannot go on. I want to crawl beneath my covers, and enter into a permanent sleep, too exhausted to even lick my wounds. But just before my eyes close, there's an ember that stirs into a flame by a gentle wind. Though broken and bruised, I rise to fight again.”

03/06/2014 – “Good morning, world. Do you ever find yourself avoiding something that really isn't a big deal, but for no reason you keep putting it off until it becomes one? Why do we do things like this? We can be complicated creatures sometimes.”

03/05/2014 – “Good morning, world. We can't feel her moving, but the earth is spinning. She spun before we arrived, and will continue long after we're gone. Yet, we are fools to think we can control her, strive to dominate her, and continue to destroy her.”

03/04/2014 – “Good morning, world. We strive for many great things. Some of us are able to achieve pieces of those different elements of greatness and that sets us apart. What makes us the same is we all desire to be loved.”

03/03/2014 – “Good morning, world. As Winter takes its final bow and Spring bounces onto the scene, there seems to be an energy released into the universe. It inspires rebirth, rejuvenation, restoration. But part of me doesn't want to see some old things come back alive. I desire creation... the formation of something new. To get something I've never had, I'm going to have to do something I've never done.”

03/02/2014 – “Good morning, world. Conflict and difference are a part of life, and reason stands in the wings, waiting for honesty to bridge the gap.”

03/01/2014 – “Good morning, world. Boxes and walls. Why do we let them close us in? Why do we allow them to push others out? Why do we deceive ourselves and think they protect us, or that we need them? Yes, breaking them down can, and often, hurt. Having them at all hurts us most.”

What do these musings mean? I don’t know. I’ll need to think about them some more.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, March 17, 2014

T.L.'s Terrific Blog Hop

Thanks to my fellow Scribophile avatar battle nemesis, George Wells, I’ve been hopped upon… and now must return the favor as well as hop on a few other heads.  I have to admit I’m finding this quite entertaining.

Okay, the first part of this Hop is for me to answer three questions.  I’d rather make three wishes, but I guess I must answer questions instead.

Question #1 – What am I working on?  Well, what am I NOT working on would have been a more prudent question and a much easier one to answer.  Apart from reading query letters, social networking, promotion, and marketing, I work hard placing my writers into the hands of publishers at my literary agency (North Star Literary Agency).  I also keep my editors busy at North Star Editing Services. With my own writing, I stay busy crafting short stories, chapters on my novels Hunter & Chase and The Immortals, flash fiction, and poetry.  I also keep busy writing articles for the West Georgia Living Magazine and  Let’s not forget I try to post at least 3-5 times on my various blogs, including this one.  At this rate I can even write in the few hours of sleep I might steal every now and again. Besides sleep is overrated –who needs it?

Question #2 – How does my work differ from others in its genre? Well, I don’t really mean to be a smart-ass, but what makes my work different is the fact that I wrote it.  My work encompasses my passions, my sense of humor, and my quirky personality – which is something no one else could ever duplicate.  They can be similar, but never the same. 

Question #3 – Why do I write what I do?  Simple - because it’s what I like.  I once tried to write what I thought other people would be interested in, but in the process of trying to shove my big imagination and personality into something demure, I ended up wasting my time and misusing my talent.  I’m best at writing when I’m writing myself.

Well, that wasn’t so bad.  If you’ve got a lick of common sense, you should be able to get a good idea of the type of personality I possess.  And now, as much as I hate to share the limelight, I must shift the focus from me and shine it toward a few other writers who deserve at least a glance of your attention.  I completely love and respect these writers and would very much appreciate it if you would hop on over and visit their pages.

My first victim is Mark Lawrence, author of The Broken Empire series.  In my opinion he’s a modern-day philosopher, but the publishing industry insists on calling him a fiction novelist.  He does pretty well at writing a good book, but the wisdom, knowledge, and philosophy he peppers throughout the pages of his novels are out of this world.  This Brit’s blog can be found at:  so, hop on over there and give him a look-sy.

Mark Lawrence is married with four children, one of whom is severely disabled. His day job is as a research scientist focused on various rather intractable problems in the field of artificial intelligence. He has held secret level clearance with both US and UK governments. At one point he was qualified to say 'this isn't rocket science ... oh wait, it actually is'.

Between work and caring for his disabled child, Mark spends his time writing, playing computer games, tending an allotment, brewing beer, and avoiding DIY.
My next victim is writer Christian Fennell, author of the upcoming novel, Urram Hill. There are not many writers that move my soul the way this one does.  I’d place him right up there with Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Jeff Suwak, Mark Lawrence and Patrick Rothfuss.  This is one of those few authors I’d read over and over and over again. Like his mentor, Cormac McCarthy, Fennell likes to break the rules and think outside the box.  So, if you like boxes, you might want to skip this rebel.  But, if you’re up for a little excitement, hop on over to  and check out what he’s up to.

Christian Fennell is currently working on two books: a collection of short stories - On My Way to Sunday, and a novel - Urram Hill. When not writing fiction, he works as a freelance technical writer and editor. He's currently a contributing writer for The Prague Review.

My last victim is an up and becoming talent, R.M. James, author of Hear Me Scream, the first book in the Sorrows trilogy.  The first time I read this novel, I read it blind as I judged a writing contest, and had no idea about the author.  When I found out it was the ever so sweet and beautiful R.M. James, I couldn’t believe such a dark, detailed, post-apocalyptic, and violent story could came from the same person. I was literally floored at the writing talent of this young woman.  I have to admit, I was also a little jealous.  I can’t wait for her debut novel to sweep the country and make the rest of you fall in love with her as I have.  So, don’t hesitate any longer, hop on over to her blog and see what survival tips she has left for you at .

Living in the wild countryside serves R.M. James as an open casket bloated with story ideas. She perceives the strange in the mundane and the majestic in the ordinary. She loves writing. She loves reading. The two arts often collide in a struggle for supremacy that neither one ever loses. Victory comes in the form a good read in a brand new novel.

Okay, folks …that should be all of it. I hope you’ve enjoyed that little bit of hopping. I’m sure you all needed the exercise. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment – but make sure they’re pithy and make absolutely no sense. I’ve a low tolerance for sensible comments.

Till next time,
~T.L Gray

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jump! Another Blog Hop!

Check out this mini-interview and blog hop by fellow writer George Wells.

"Dude, where have you been?  Busy.  I’ve been busy.
Hey! Maybe a bloghop will light a fire under my ass. My friend Katie Stephens, made me do this.  It’s all her fault.

Q: What am I working on?
So many things that I’m getting nowhere on all of them.

First, there’s my dysfunctional family novel, which is taking a long time, since it’s multigenerational and I want to get all of the time frames right.  That means research, because I hate it when novels don’t get the details right.  Besides little things like knowing how long a car drive from point A to point B would be in California in the late ‘60s, for example, I’m learning a lot about mental illness, alcoholism, psychology, childbirth, etc.  So much work, but so fascinating.

Then, I’m working on a short story cycle around a small Mexican town called El Olvidado (The Forgotten).  It’s a terrible place and terrible things happen to its inhabitants, but I’m in love with those poor souls.  The first in that series, Patron Saint of the Lowlands, came out in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume II, another is looking for a home, five more are in the polishing stages, and the rest are still rattling around my noggin.

Finally, I’m venturing into poetry this year.  I hope to have good news on that front soon."

To read the rest of the interview... hop on over to :

Leave a comment and tell George how much you enjoyed his hop.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Crossing the Ocean

One of the many adventures I’ve taken in my life was when I spent eight months aboard a commercial fishing vessel in the Gulf of Mexico working as a navigator and deckhand.  It was a unique experience and I believe when I had my first encounter with God. 

Up until that point in my life I was an angry young woman, struggling to raise two babies on my own, practically a baby myself at just twenty-one years old. I was scared, but I didn’t have the luxury to be scared or lick my wounds, I had two lives dependent upon me.  I could no longer continue my education and found myself in a little fishing town with no decent prospects for sustainable employment, so I took a chance and turned to the water. 

I’d been on a few recreational boats by this time, living in a Florida beach town, but I’d never been on one that went so far out that the shoreline would disappear.  I can’t explain the feeling that consumed me as I stood on the stern of that boat watching the Panacea shoreline dip in the horizon with the sunset.  I knew my life was going to change, again, but I had no idea what sort of adventure or hardships lay ahead for me. The only thing I knew was that in order for me to break away from the life I had, I had to sail into the unknown.   

The unknown was much bigger than me, much bigger than anything I had planned, expected or imagined, much like the ocean.  We think we can understand the size and scope of it vastness, but that’s from the perspective of the shoreline.  Once you get out past where the land disappears, the ocean becomes bigger and you finally see yourself as the tiny drop of existence you truly are.  You also find out that you’re not in control of as much as you think.  

It’s a scary thing to face mortality.  But, in order to cross the ocean, to venture into the unknown, to experience what you’ve never experienced, you have to have the courage to lose sight of the shore.  “Come what may.”  You don’t know how many times I’ve said those words and had the strength to stand in the face of the unknown and the uncertain, with my shoulders squared and the wind in my face.  Here I am once again, staring out and an ocean of uncertainty watching the storm clouds and the swelling waves, but I’m not so sure I have the courage to say it one more time.   

Here I am twenty-one years later, once again scared and angry facing MORE uncertainty, and in desperate need for another encounter with God. I wonder where this hardship is going to take me and who I will be at the end of it.  Will this be the storm that finally capsizes me, or will my stabilizers keep me afloat one more time.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Never, Never, Never Give Up!

That’s easy to say, but so hard to do. It’s actually the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the thing I struggle with most every day.  It’s easy to give up, but it’s not in my character to do so.

I know I’m a fool when it comes to a lot of things.  I hope when there is no evidence of hope. I love when there is no evidence of love. I believe when I’ve been given nothing to believe in.  So, yes – that is the definition of a fool.  Even my nickname growing up was a synonym for ‘fool’ – a Sap; I’m a stubborn fool.

A very dear woman, one I love even more than my mother, gave me a silver bracelet with the following inscribed words of encouragement: You can do it. Have no fear. Live Life. Love Life, Honestly, Strong, It’s already in you. Love is power. Have Courage. Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up. You can do anything. Believe. Love Yourself. Achieve.  Be Yourself. Be Brave. Leap and the net will appear. Love Life.

I wear this bracelet quite often to remind me to never give up on my dreams.  No matter if anyone else believes in me, I have to believe in myself. A harsh truth when it comes to our dreams is that often no one else truly believes in us, and most often those who are closest to us are our biggest obstacles.  We don’t give up what is important to strangers or people who don’t care about us.  No, we’d fight hard against those enemies.  But, those we love and admire most often are the ones we allow to steal our dreams from us, usually bit piece by bit piece. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe these people purposefully become an obstacle for us, or that we consciously allow them to detour us.  But they are the birds that come and eat the seeds we plant before they’re able to take root.

As Journey says, “Don’t stop believing…” Surround yourself with people who believe in you.  Most of all, believe in yourself.  And – never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up!  As Lucy Spraggan says, “I know what you’re scared of. I can feel it too. You’re not scared of climbing mountains. You’re scared you can’t make them move. ”  Jesus says, “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”  Believe it, or don’t believe it.  It’s up to you. I choose to believe.  Yes, I’m scared, but I’m a stubborn fool who doesn’t know how to give up.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Monday, March 10, 2014

Make It Happen

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year pertained to a lot of hiking, enjoying the outdoors, and experiencing more of the things I love.  I’m happy to report I’m doing a really great job keeping those promises.

Being outdoors does something for me I can’t really explain.  When I’m in the woods I can step outside the four walls that close around me all the time.  On an emotional level, I’m able to disconnect from fears that pressure me. I can think more clearly among the birds, the trees, and the glorious sunshine. The wind speaks to me.  The colors paint me beautiful pictures.  The songs of nature sing me beautiful lullabies.  I feel human, a part of the earth, and connected with the universe when I’m in the woods.  I feel I belong - not alone, not unwanted, not unloved.

We all dream about doing things.  We probably suggest to ourselves a dozen times a day wonderful ideas of amazing adventures, yet we either talk ourselves out of those dreams and settle for a more practical solution, or just forget about them altogether.  I’m a pro.  For most of my life, I didn’t fight for the opportunities to do these things for myself.  I allowed the practical to rule the day.  Not anymore.

I have a journal I received at Christmas that has the words “Make It Happen” stamped across the front.  
This is my outdoor adventure journal, where I fill it with tokens, receipts, pamphlets, passes, and reminders of the excursions I take.  I know as I fill this journal, I’m not just filling dreams on a page, I’m LIVING these adventures.  I’m making it happen. 

I know how easy we can allow the practicality and hardships of life to steal these dreams from us.  But, I can’t express how much we need to protect them and do what we can to make them happen.  Life isn’t made up of those great moments, because great moments are far and few between.  What makes our lives worthwhile are what we decide to do in the simple every day moments. Don’t throw those little dreams away.  Instead, make them happen.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Lessons I Learned

Stepping out of my warm apartment this morning, ready to tackle another mile run in a fight to keep my body healthy, I groaned when I met dreary overcast skies and strong artic winds.  Where was my sunshine? After a shiver as the cold blasted me in the face, I stuck the buds in my ears, hit the play button on my iPod, and took off. 

It was a very difficult run this morning.  The winds were so strong I literally had to bend my head down and push hard just to get any forward motion.  Being really short, I already struggle with my speed.  It takes more of my short steps to reach the same distance as a taller person in the same amount of time.  When I’m running against 28mph wind gusts in 32 chilly degrees, I don’t get very far, very fast.  Needless to say, though I’m working twice as hard, I didn’t make any gains on my running goals.  I hate not making my goals.

As I ran and glanced into gray clouds, and watched swarms of leaves cascade across the ground in mighty waves, I wondered how many more days will be like this. I heard no answer.   I pushed forward with my lungs burning and my muscles aching and wondered how much longer I have to keep fighting.  The answer came instantly - always.  The fight never ends. So, I pushed a little harder and wondered what lesson I was supposed to have learned from all this adversity.  That I can take a good beating?  Guess what? I learned that lesson a long time ago.  That I can live in a world unloved and unwanted?  I’ve learned that lesson too.  That nothing is guaranteed, nothing is secure, nothing is forever?  Check, check, check. 

Well, by this time, warm tears spilled out of my eyes and turned ice cold before they reached my cheeks.  I looked up into those gray swirling clouds and inside my mind, above the noise of the music and beyond the buzz of the universe, my soul screamed, “I know that a sun sits above those clouds. I know behind this angry arctic blast is a warm whisper in the wind.  No matter how hard adversity comes against me, or how long reprieve remains silent, I will still hope, I will still believe, I will still fight, and I will still love.  And if I’m still here when the wind stops and the clouds part, I will be standing with my head held high. Do your worst.  Destroy me if you must. I will not give up.”

So, what lesson did I learn on my chilly run this morning? I’m stubborn, perhaps a big fool, and quite lonely.  It’s not good to be isolated in your own mind all the time.  I’m beginning to understand why friends are so important - they provide an opportunity to take the focus off ourselves for a few moments.  I also learned to take a jacket and wear a pair of gloves.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Never Satisfied

One of my good friends always complains to me that I’m never satisfied.  It hurts my heart they feel this way, because it often upsets them.  I’m sure it makes them feel like their efforts toward me, and the love they’ve invested in me, are being wasted.  I’m often at a loss for words when they express their frustration, because it’s hard to explain to them exactly how much their effort and love mean to me. 

They are right.  I’m not satisfied, and that’s a purposeful effort, and a hard one to maintain. 

When I was younger and filled with hope, despite how dark life was around me, I fought hard against accepting the life offered, and refused to be satisfied with the hopelessness I was being fed.  I knew I deserved a better life and wanted more, so I fought against prejudice, oppression, and abuse, seeking a better life, a life worth living for, a life of happiness, peace and respect.  I nearly killed myself in this pursuit, both physically and spiritually. 

Somewhere along the way I lost love for myself and zeal to fight. I began to die.  I forgot about that feisty little rebel and became a zombie – going through the motions but dead on the inside.  Thanks to a spark of life and the blossoming love I’m building for myself, and the love I’ve received from my dear friends, and the love I have for them, I’m being reborn.  I’m fighting for myself. I’m fighting for my future. I’m fighting for my dreams.

So, NO – I’m not satisfied.  I hope to always want more. I hope to always seek better. I will never get enough, because as soon as I receive some of the good, I’m going to want more. My friend gives me the good, beautiful things in life. How could I not want more? That doesn’t mean I don’t have the deepest of love and appreciation for what I’ve been given.  On the contrary - without their love, support, and belief in me I wouldn’t be growing and fighting as I am.  Their efforts mean the WORLD to me and I love them dearly for it.

I know I need to find a way to show that appreciation so my friends don’t feel my lack of satisfaction is some failure on their part.  They have not failed me, and I hope beyond hope not to fail them. Mostly, I don’t want to let them or myself down. I’m content with their love and friendship, but I’ll never be satisfied. I will always want more of them, their love, their efforts, their concern, their care, their dreams, their opinions, their advice, their comfort, their presence, and their laughter. They are good enough, more than good enough, they are excellence… and I still want more.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Monday, March 03, 2014

Author Interview - Jeff Suwak - Author Interview Corner
Here is the latest interview featuring North Star author Jeff Suwak at Author Interview Corner

Here is a snippet of the interview:

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. The first story I remember writing was when I was five years old. It was a horror story that included basically every monster ever included in a popular movie or book. There were werewolves rising out of the mud and vampires running from the forest… all for no discernible reason.

Check it out.

Being Comfortable in My Own Skin

Those who know me know I’ve never really been on my own.  I come from a large family, having five brothers which I helped raise, to starting my own family right out of high school.  I spent the next two and a half decades juggling family, college, church, and career.  Those were very important times in my life, and the experience of them shaped so many of my thoughts, values, likes, and dislikes. It completely dictated what I did and didn’t do.

I’m in a new time in my life, a single time, and most often an alone time.  I never had alone time before and it takes some getting used to – because now I have no distractions to keep me from focusing on my own needs, discovering my own wants, and exploring my own desires.  I’ve been a Martha for so long, I quite honestly don’t know how to be a good Mary. I am learning, though, and I have to admit, I really like what I’m discovering.  I’m finding out it’s not so bad being comfortable in my own skin.

So much has changed in my life over the last couple of years, and one of those things have been my groups of friends. I’ve learned that not everybody who told me they love me really did.  They loved the “idea” of loving me, but the execution wasn’t so simple. It’s not their fault either, I didn’t make it easy to love me, and I still don’t.  For many years, I didn’t love myself and no matter how much anyone else loved me, it didn’t help.  I really didn’t know what love was, not real love. I still don’t – really, other than the love I’ve developed for myself, my children, my God, and a few very special friends.

Friends are important.  I’m beginning to think they’re much more important than a lover, but let’s wait until I get a lover and see if my mind changes on that aspect.  Being able to share myself and things in common with people I care about is very important.  I’m a social being.  I’m not meant to be alone and isolated, none of us are.  We need each interaction, we need stimulation, and we need human contact.  But, I’m learning to appreciate solitude, being comfortable in doing things alone, because other people are not going to always be there.  People come and go in my life, and no matter how much I plan on their presence being there, nothing is guaranteed.  I’ve spent too much of my life ‘waiting’ on someone else and allowed too many of my dreams to slip through my fingers because I couldn’t get someone else to be with me, help me, or go with me.  No more. 

If I don’t have anyone to go with me to a place I desire to go, or to do something I desire to do, I’m okay being on my own. The times I have been alone felt a little strange at first, but I’ve come to enjoy them.  Yesterday, I spent the whole day alone - and I loved every minute of it.  It was nice that I didn’t need anyone else to have a good time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to become a hermit and isolate myself from humanity because I’ve learned I don’t need anyone.  It’s just nice to know I’m enough company for myself.  I still have wants and desires, and one of those desires is to share my life with someone special, to have a great romance, to be somebody’s bright spot, to have lots of wonderful, loving friends, and to live a life full of adventure.  Friends may come and go, a prince may never arrive on his white stallion and sweep me off my feet, or I may not accomplish everything I’ve set my mind to do – but at least it won’t be because I waited on someone else.  I’m not waiting on anyone anymore, except myself.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Saturday, March 01, 2014

I'm Hanging Up my Cape for a Compass

The world is a crazy place.  The earth is a beautiful wonder, a magical exclamation of awe and excellence. People inside it come in all shapes, sizes, and ideals.  I have to shake my head sometimes at the ignorance and intolerance that spreads like an incurable disease, but I refuse to let it destroy my view and make it an ugly place.  I’m weary from trying to save it, when I can’t even save myself.

I’ve allowed too many people to steal my dreams and crush my hopes, that I’ve become quite protective over them these days.  I no longer trust the words of “someday” or “tomorrow” because those never seem to come and end up being broken promises.  I am learning to live in the day.  I’m learning to be happy with me and do what I can to make my immediate world a better place - not by fighting some political, social, or spiritual war, but by loving myself and extending what love I can to those around me or who I might meet. 

Ask yourself…
  1.  Who are you?  Really, look deep inside and determine who you are – what you like, what moves you, what you dream, what you desire, what makes you happy.
  2. Where have you been? Have you been somewhere in your life you cherish and that made your soul sing?  If not, what keeps you from going out and exploring the world to find that place?  Are you afraid?  What excuses do you use to keep you where you are?  What about circumstances in life – are you where you want to be? 
  3. What have you done?  What have you done for yourself, for others, for the world?  What impact on this earth have you made?  What mark will you leave? 
We only get so many days on this earth, and we have no control when that last day will come, and it’s up to US – not someone else – to make the best of the days we have.  It’s the everyday, little decisions and moments that make up our lives, it’s where we do our living.  What do you fill your moments with?  What are the consequences for those little decisions?

I want to go, I want to do, I want to see, I want to experience, I want to explore, I want to know, I want to taste, and I want to feel – EVERYTHING.  I want to make wild, passionate love, I want to laugh, I want to dance, I want to sing, I want to be loved.

I’m making plans -  but I’m going even one step further than that because I’m not waiting on tomorrow and someday – and I’m doing.  You can either come along with me, or stay behind.  I can’t let anyone steal these things from me any longer or crush my hopes for them in my life.  Someone else can save the world.  I’m hanging up my cape for a compass.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray