Posted in Life stuff

Father, mine and someone’s

Today, six years after losing my dad, I’m sharing my coming out story again. This is also a reminder that we can make connections that take us back to these special moments. I danced with a gentleman several months ago who was too young to be my dad but reminded me of my father in many ways. I hope his children know how awesome their dad is.

Stella Samuel - Author

He wouldn’t have danced with me, my father. The day he gave me away, I told him we were only having dinner, not a full reception. Ours wasn’t a traditional wedding anyway, so skipping the father-daughter dance wasn’t a big deal to me.

Dancing wasn’t the only thing he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t have read my screenplays, but he’d happily watch the movies once some Hollywood director ripped apart my words until the idea behind them was all that remained. He would laugh though. No matter what we were doing so long as it wasn’t dancing, he’d laugh with me. A quiet all-knowing laugh that would leave me wondering if my laugh didn’t quite hit the rhythm of the joke. And he’d talk with me.

He’d ask questions, wonder where my life was, where it’s going, and what I needed from him to reach my dreams. He’d listen to my…

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Posted in Life stuff

It does get easier…I think

I was told yesterday as we sat outside with our toes in the sand and tacos and beer between us, the sense of loss I feel all the time doesn’t usually bubble up until today.

So, we were a day early yesterday hosting our annual celebration of life lunch. I woke this morning, and it hasn’t hit me yet. Not like a ton of bricks anyway. It’s there though. Almost like a cloud over my head. Eeyore’s voice saying he’s okay when everyone really knows he’s not. The images are still there. The moments. The tears. The long talk before his final breath. The Temptations song on the radio – the one I can’t place anymore. It’s all there.

And there is another sense of loss too. The idea that someone alive is also gone. Dead. Out of reach. That’s there too. This is why I gather friends each year to celebrate life instead of sitting and mourning. Because I have so much good in my world right now, so much I wish I could share with my dad. But he’s not here.

I reached out to a good friend yesterday and started the conversation off with, ‘This is a problem I’d normally ask my dad about before anyone. I called my mom, and she was helpful. But I need to ask you too.’

You see, we can still live. We can carry on. And we can recognize where we are when we are there and what kind of support we need, even when our support is gone.

In the six years since losing my dad, my little redhead has grown to a smart, curious, eager young man who still has my father’s grin and hair. My youngest daughter shares her deepest secrets with me, and it’s this kind of communication that took me years to accomplish with my father, but it’s also the kind of communication we had all through my adult years. My oldest is now a teenager in high school – with a boyfriend. My world has been turned upside down and is starting to settle, but these past two years, I needed my dad more than ever. The fact that I am still here and still thriving, still striving to be the best I can tells me my dad did a good job. He raised me with integrity. With respect. With kindness.

He’s not here today. But he – and my mother, but she’s here and I still lean on her – set me up to live. To live beyond their influence, beyond their lives, beyond his last breath.

Six years after telling him I will be okay, and he could go, I can say with all honesty, I am okay.

I miss him with everything I am. But I give him credit he deserves because I am okay.

I am okay.

We all suffer great losses. Death. Divorce. Empty Nest. Sobriety.

A new life.

A new life is on the other side.

If you’re like me, often in a dark place, often missing what you once had, missing someone, wondering what could have been, wishing someone could see you now, wondering how to carry on after this huge change, just move. Just move. Forward. Sideways. Up and down. Move. Each day. Every day. Move.

This is life.

We live. We lose. But while we are still here, we can carry on. And we can do it with an intensity we’ve never had before.

 

 

 

Posted in Life stuff

Tuesday Morning

Yes, of course, I remember. But instead of the usual where were you on that fateful day post, I’d like to share some things I remember about the days following September 11, 2001.

I remember kindness. I remember patience. I remember people all around me in grocery stores, on the road, at the mall pausing to smile, to connect.

I remember being American.

I was recovering from a breakup…it had been a while, but we talked often. We’d healed. She’d moved on. We stayed friends because I wanted her in my world. After a few hours at work, I called her, and we headed to downtown Denver and sat in a bar across the street from the World Trade Center which was decorated in a huge pink bow because the walk for cancer was coming up, and Denver turned everything pink in preparation for October each year.

Everything was quiet. She talked about the potential of being recalled into the Air Force where she’d spent eight years. But more than our experience together, we were with community. People in the apartments nearby hung American flags from their balconies, something their building probably didn’t allow on a normal Tuesday. The bar was pretty close to empty, but the few of us there talked. We tried to smile. We didn’t ask what one another did for a living. We didn’t care about which neighborhood we all lived. No one seemed to notice the two lesbians sitting with them. There was no judgment on the beer we ordered. No small talk. It was calm, quiet. But more than that, everyone was respectful.

You see, in moments duress, sadness, in moments of attack, we are all connected.

We paused to recognize our own humanity, our commonality. We don’t do this every day. We are all too busy. Some of us feel a sense of entitlement. We honk horns at lights while a mom in front of us is trying to reach a sippy cup for her crying toddler in the safest moment she can find on the road. We complain if the cashier at the grocery store talks too long to the customer in front of us because we are in a hurry to move on to the next task. We are impatient. We are sometimes cruel. We taunt and tease. We poke fun at the expense of others.

We are human.

In those days following September 11, 2001, we weren’t all that different at all. We were human. We were patient. We were kind. We took the time to compliment one another, to recognize something good in each other. We were humans – together.

Each year, I look for that again.

I see it sometimes. I see in where I live. But sometimes we fall off this wagon of commonality and forget to pause and reflect. Sometimes we forget we are all in this together. Sure, we don’t all share connected lives. But we all live. And we all die. While we’re here, we love, we hurt, we anger, we laugh. We smile. We feel. We want, desire, and yearn for various things, and though those things may differ, we all know that feeling of passion and desire.

We win. We lose. We try. We bother.

And sometimes we don’t.

This week and into the next, and if you’re up for a challenge, the weeks to follow too, try to get back to this place. If not every moment of every day, at least one moment each day, do something kind. Make a difference. Show some patience. Share a smile. Tell a joke and make someone laugh.

Remember.

Remember we are on this rock together. We won’t all agree. But we can try to find a commonality each day. Each day, let’s try.

Every year I remember all the lives lost. All the nationalities. All the Americans. All the people left behind.

Today, I share this song by Melissa Etheridge about Mark Bingham, one of the many heroes on Flight 93.

Things have changed since Mark and Todd and others forced Flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania rather than into its target. Mark could marry who he loved today. He’d probably have a hugely successful business and a proud mother today. It took him years to come out and years to be open…today I bet he’d be a happy advocate.

Instead, he and the others on that plane will forever be heroes.

 

Posted in Life stuff

It’s Okay, I’m Okay…

As authors and writers, we are used to rejection. It’s part of the gig. But each submission that comes back with a we read your piece and though it’s lovely, we won’t be using it message, does send some of down a path of self-mutilation.

No, not really mutilating ourselves, but our minds and sometimes our work. I’ve had pieces rejected by one place only to have those same pieces picked up by another place soon after. I have the same piece rejected over and over while only giving rights to publish an accepted piece once. I know I am not the only writer to look at my work after feedback and say, well, of course, it was rejected. It’s shit. Utter shit. Was I drunk and desperate when I hit the submit button?  And I’ve had good pieces that for the life of me I can’t figure out why I’m stuck reading others’ utter shit while mine is sitting in some recycle bin.

The reality is the grass is often greener after some time and space from a piece of creative work. I submitted to an anthology a few months ago. I disliked my piece, didn’t have the time to work on it as I should have, and even more, I knew all of this when I turned it in but still took a chance. While rolling that dice and calling on red, it feels so good…the risk, the chance, the wondering what could happen. And then when you hit the wrong color and the wrong number, you lose. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Loser.

For this particular submission, there were about a thousand entries, and remember, I knew mine needed work. I didn’t even like the title. But when the announcement of winners came back and I wasn’t on it, it was sad. Even though I knew all I knew, I was disappointed.

Just that. Disappointed.

You see, it doesn’t matter if we expect it coming, rejection isn’t fun no matter how you roll the dice.

So, I’m here to lift you up and to remind myself: It’s Okay, I’m Okay.

Rejection from a person, from a spouse, from a lover, from a co-worker, from a boss, from a friend who chose to do something besides hanging with you, from anyone judging your creative work sucks. But it’s okay.

You’re okay.

I’ve been learning a lot about control lately and how our emotions control us instead of us controlling our emotions. Don’t assume you are not of value because someone said no to you. And ask yourself, if that same no keeps happening, is this someone you want in your life anyway? If I keep submitting the same piece to the same editor, should I expect a different response one day? If we keep asking the same friend for a cup of coffee at the same shop feeling rejected each time, should we be looking into asking someone else or asking if coffee is not what our friend enjoys?

Rejection doesn’t always mean we are horrible at what we do. Sometimes it just means we are not a good fit for what we want to give. Learn to be a better fit. And never give up on your dreams. It’s Okay. I’m Okay. You’re Okay. We are all Okay.

Keep believing and understand if you have heard no recently, it’s okay. If you’ve said no recently, it’s okay. Really, it’s okay.

 

 

Posted in Life stuff

When Life Happens

Last week I bought a planner. And 36 colorful pens!

I don’t think I’ve had a planner since 1998 when it was cool to walk around with a large leather-bound object looking important as if you had so many things to do you had to carry a tome with you from place to place. Remember those days? We’d open our planner in front of a client or even a friend and push it to the edge of a desk because the 8×11 paper inside the 11×15 book was too large to spread out on one desk. God forbid your counterpart was looking at their planner at the same time, right?

Twenty years later, planners in the face of cell phones and digital calendars and task lists or Post Its we can digitally place on any screen are becoming a thing again. And they are smaller. Not cell phone small, but not desk size either. And they are filled with ‘You can do it’ messages. The first forty pages of my new planner are all about how planning my life can help me to reach my goals and realize my dreams. My potential comes out of prioritizing my tasks. The last ten pages of my new planner are instructions on how to use the planner.

I hate to say it, but I don’t have time to read fifty pages of how to be motivated through the use of planning and how to use a book with a calendar and task list. My biggest issue in my life is I have too much on my plate. On all of them. And I have too many plates spinning above my head. Sometimes they fall, and I get a headache because let’s face it, a porcelain plate hitting my head doesn’t feel good.

But I’m using my new planner. This was my first week. And I’ve decided I can spend a few minutes each day reading the fifty pages of planning-know-how over time. I’ll even plan it by putting it in my calendar.

With that said, this week I have learned I tend to prioritize a certain way. Tasks I consider small and less time consuming come first. Last Wednesday, I scheduled thirty minutes to call Apple to figure out why my book is still not on iTunes. An hour and a half later, I was stressed because I have every minute planned and I’d lost an hour. This happens daily.

So, in my first week of planning and prioritizing, I’ve managed to get a lot of little stuff done. But the three things which take the longest, the three things I devoted hours to each day, aren’t getting done. I’m behind. I’ve set goals, but I’m not meeting them.

I’m sure the first forty pages of my new planner addresses this, but I’m not reading it yet because I have yet to find that spare moment. So, next week I’ll plan differently. The little stuff matters, right. Yes, but not at the expense of the big stuff. I’ve written a lot this week. A lot of little stuff. Some blogs to schedule. Some ideas. Some emails. Some short stories. Some essays. But the big thing I wanted to do was to finish my next novel. In order to do that, I need to change the way I am thinking about writing and editing this big thing.

It must make it to the planner, and I must also do the work too.

So, just how does one catch up enough to get the little things done with enough time to tackle the big things too?

I don’t have the answer yet, but I can say with my new planner, I am looking more into my days and how I manage them. And even though I’m not yet accomplished, I am learning about myself and how well I manage – well, me.

Peace, Love, and Planning

~Stella

 

Posted in Life stuff

Be an Architect in Your Life

I am my architect, are you?

I don’t often post motivational blogs, but in an effort to post more and with a better schedule, I’m starting this week off with a #MondayBlogs #MotivationalMonday post.

Really, this is the result of much self discovery and a snapshot of battles we all struggle through. Some of us survive while others do not. I have two friends who divorced and are mending. I am so in love with the idea of them and have muddled through the swamp with them to find they aren’t muddy at all. They are discovering themselves again and opening to loving again because they have decided to be their own architects. For them, this means they will control how they communicate, the love and the anger they put out there for the other to receive, and how they want their new world with one another again to look and feel.

I am the architect in my world.

I create what I would like to have in my life and I control who I allow to live in it with me.

It’s funny to think how much I have changed, how much I am the person I used to be, and how much I was willing to tolerate because as my world changed and evolved around me, I became more and more unaware of my own surroundings, and that changed me.

One of my children spoke to me about negativity in their world earlier this week. We face it so often. Anger on the road. Frustration with those around us. Impatience in the grocery store line. People in our world who don’t know how to communicate effectively all project negativity onto our path.

How do we stop them?

                                   How do we build our own world without these things?

The answer I gave my daughter was kindness.

Kindness is the path to greatness.

But it’s not all that simple. And it’s not easy.

“I used to love her, but I had to kill her.”

Those were the words I heard once when I called my lover’s phone by accident.

My lover.

My support. My rock. My I do.

‘I used to love her, but I had to kill her’ is the title lyric from a Guns and Roses song. I remember the song. I used to jam to it when it first came out. The line ends with something about putting her six feet under and still hearing her complain.

This is not the world in which I wanted to live.

“This is my love song to you…” these are the words which start a different song I hear often. When we argue. When I’m upset. When she’s upset. When we question the world around us. When we wonder if we’ll make it. When she wants me to know I am her lover. I matter. I am important. I am loved and wanted.

We get to build our own world. Build one you want to be in. Build one you want to live in. Build one where you will thrive. Build your world where you are loved, supported, accepted, and able to be who you are.

It took a lot of building to create a new world where I am comfortable not only with myself but with those I allow inside. Be your own architect. Don’t fear letting go because once you do, amazing things open on the other side.

 

So, I’m not really motivating here, in my motivational post, but I wanted to share because I am still hit with negativity every day. And I put a wall up to it. We will always have those in our loves who bring us down, those who want nothing for us but to bring us down, but it’s how we build our worlds and support systems that will make the biggest difference in how we handle that negativity.

I have days I don’t know how I am going to make it. I have days I want to curl up and cry all alone because no one could possibly understand. But I know you do. You get it. Because you have those days too.

It’s not always easy to get up once we are down.

Building a world which can carry the weight of negativity and the power of grief is the key to surviving the times when we are so far down it’s difficult to get back up. Creating a support group, or a tribe as I call those, those people who are there to lift you up and hold you until you are steady, brings us up to a place where we can not only survive but thrive as well.

Getting out of survival mode is fucking hard.

Yes. It is. I said for many years I was in survival mode week in and week out. I had a small tribe. Those I called when my migraines were so bad I couldn’t stand in the kitchen long enough to cook macaroni and cheese for my children, but I never leaned on them for much else. I never told them about the song my lover had as a ringtone for my phone about loving me one time and then killing me another.

Breathing day to day is tough, breathing moment to moment is tough when you are only surviving. We go from task to task, day to day, week to week, waiting for something new, a change, hope, or the one thing our world truly lacks.

Reach out

Building a new world and being your own architect includes building a tribe. We need infrastructure and a team who will carry the weight we cannot when times are tough. Find those people for your personal tribe. And invite yourself to be in theirs as well.

Be an architect in your world. Plan your world out so you are loved. Plan your world so you are free. We are out here to support you and hold you up. Just come find us.

Peace, Love, and Life.

~Stella

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life stuff

In the mind of Stella…

So I help my partner by running her social media, blogs, and calendar when I can because she’s out of the house working much of the time.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, a mile south of the sun, we’ve had more dust than fresh air lately. She runs a pool business, and pools are wrecked every day, then cleaned just in time for the dust to roll in again. It’s amazing to watch. Check out this photo from Jerry Ferguson, a local news helicopter photographer from just last week. He’s also responsible for the microburst photo from 2016. Coolest storm ever! Check him out here.

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Anyway….see? This is how my mind works.

This morning started with an effort to show my partner how to create ads on Facebook so we could promote the last blog I wrote for her site. This is how it went:

Stella Mind: Welcome to Thursday, Stella. You have no appointments and you could write all day if you’d like. How would you like to start?

Stella: Oh, I don’t know. How about I steal Jessica’s business page from her and see how that goes?

Stella Mind: Well, that doesn’t sound productive. You have hours and hours to write. Maybe you should start there.

Stella: Yep. But, first, let me steal her business page. It’ll be quick and painless. And she doesn’t have any appointments this morning so we can spend some quality time together. It’ll be like Battleship or Strategy. Fun stuff.

Stella Mind: You have a book to finish.

Stella: Yep. I need to kill someone today. It’ll be a sad day. I should take over the world first.

Stella Mind: The world is a big place.

Stella: Which is why I will just take over Jessica’s business page. Funny, when it said Page Owner is Stella Samuel, while she was cooking me breakfast, I did laugh a little.

Stella Mind: So you did it? Now you can write?

Stella: Yep. I did it. I own her page. But that didn’t make her happy. And really, all I wanted to do was show her how to make an ad not just boost a post.

Stella Mind: And you took over her whole page.

Stella: Yep. But then I had her delete me from it altogether so I was no longer owner and also no longer an admin. That might have stung a little bit.

Stella Mind: As much as it stung her when you stole her business from her?

Stella: Probably not.

Stella Mind: So it’s all fixed now, and you can go write?

Stella: Well, she kept me off as admin for a while so we could try to figure out other things. Each time I went to her page to make a change, I was only able to look at it.

Stella Mind: How did that make you feel?

Stella: Like we broke up.
Well, really, like standing outside on a cool windy day…one of those fall days that smell like pumpkin spice and hot coffee…in front of a candy shop and looking into the crisp, clear window filled with chocolates, lollipops too big to ever consume without getting dirt or dog hair on them, and one of those taffy pulling machines and no money in my pocket…after we broke up. Because really, it’s her candy shop…I want her candy…but I can’t get in.

Stella Mind: You really should be writing, you know. You just set the scene…well, you know what you just did.

Stella: I will go write. I must. I know.

Stella Mind: So, her business page is hers again?

Stella: Yes.

Stella Mind: And you got her ads all set up for her or at least with her?

Stella:

Stella Mind: Ads? For Heath Family Pool Service? Are they done?

Stella: No.

Stella Mind: Did you do anything?

Stella: I ate breakfast with a beautiful woman.

Stella Mind: Chocolate and lollipops?

Stella: Where were you when she was cutting up peppers and putting them into eggs?

Stella Mind: I’m always here. I was trying to get you to write.

Stella: I will….go write, I mean. But I should create an ad for Jessica.

Stella Mind: Maybe Jessica should do that.

Stella: She has to go. She has afternoon appointments. But we got to spend the morning together.

Stella Mind: Yes, you did. Because you stole her business from her while she was cooking you breakfast.

Stella: Do we have to talk about that again? I. Got. To. Spend. The. Morning. With. Her.

Stella Mind: So, go do that ad for her business. Then go kill someone.

Stella: #Goals
Coffee first…
Wait…do you know where my pen is?

Posted in Fiction, Life stuff

Why, Stella

I tried to convey some of this in my live video while revealing my new cover for 34 Seconds, but there were technical issues because me and technology…well, that’s all, just me and technology.

I’ve been asked several times why 34 Seconds has a new cover, and why I keep saying I’m relaunching my brand. Those of you who know me or have followed me for the past several years may know I have undergone some of the big life changes in recent years.

I released 34 Seconds, my debut novel, in 2015. It was the start of a new school year and the second year I spent more time researching different schools and districts, including those out of my home state of Colorado, than writing.

After yet another year of incessant teasing and bullying, including being pushed down stairs and into tables and lockers by kids we knew, I pushed for a move for my daughter. I’d always said she won’t see the age of sixteen unless she has wings to fly and be her own person. The high school she was slated to join had lost several kids to suicide. It took the entire school year and into the summer to make the move, but in mid-2016, my family and I moved to Arizona. I could get into how much happier I am, but that doesn’t matter. I could even get into how well my daughter is doing though I am convinced she has pain I may never understand, but that, too, doesn’t matter to the story of 34 Seconds.

Before the school year was too far underway, I discovered something about myself and about what I needed in my world. For the first time in years, I had a support team. Not just a friend or two who listened and advised or nodded heads in an understanding of parental difficulties, but a real team. People who surrounded me, lifted me up, loved me, told me day in and day out that I am worthy. I had been bullied almost as much as my daughter had been. By teachers, by schools, by the people I thought loved me most. I had been told over and over I am wrong, not worthy, and useless. It didn’t take long for me to grasp the good in my world, hold my breath and fall off a cliff into a realm I knew little about.

My family fell apart.

My world spun out of control.

I stared at divorce papers through tears wondering if I’d ever believe the things I’d heard in my new world.

In the two years since the move the Arizona and the six months before, my debut novel didn’t get any love. I couldn’t publish my other work. I couldn’t promote my one novel. So, it sat. Unloved. Unattended.  Unwanted.

A burden.

Like me.

There’s a funny thing about life’s challenges. If we push ourselves, if we build a team around us to hold us up when we are weak, if we allow ourselves to feel every horrible emotion settled into our stomachs, we can come out not just alive and surviving, but better than before.

I can’t say I’m there yet.

But I believe Stella is worth it. I believe my work is worth it. And I believe I am worthy.

And those things are a big change from where I was two years ago.

So, when the time came to allow myself to publish again, I ran 34 Seconds through more edits, more Beta readers, and found a fabulous designer to make a new cover.

And it’s here. Like me. Much the same, but new again. Renewed. Worthy of being out in the world. It’s not the writing I do today. If I were to rewrite this whole book today, I’d probably change quite a bit. Nikki would be stronger. Maybe Will would respect her and not just think he did. Maybe Chris would be the partner a strong Nikki deserves.

But I didn’t change much. This book is already a few years old now. But it’s a story that is so close to my heart, I had to make it worth getting back out into the world.

I will be publishing more again. Just Jules should be ready for beta readers soon. My artist is waiting on cover ideas, so he can get to work. And if you’ve followed me for the past few years, you may know Finding Her and What May Come will follow in the next year to two. I’m also working on a middle school adventure, and I’m excited to bring Zane into my writing world. I haven’t decided what I will do with the LGBT stories I have, but I will share when they are ready.

If you take anything from this, know you are worthy. And stop letting people tell you otherwise.

You know, I’d truly appreciate sharing with your friends and grabbing your copy, so I’m tossing some links in below so you can easily find 34 Seconds. Grab a bottle of wine and some tissues while you’re shopping.

Amazon Print and Kindle

 

Also here if you are a B&N shopper

Barnes and Noble 34 Seconds

 

Stay real and spread love like glitter,

~ Stella