Insignificant

There are moments when you realize that, in the grand scheme of things, you are quite insignificant. I feel insignificant. It’s not to say I’m incapable of being significant; it’s to say that I often feel insignificant.

So blessed.

Yet, so insignificant.

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When I began writing, my goal was to use my writing to fund charity work, to use my God-given talent to make a difference in this world, to leave a mark, to leave it a little better than when I arrived. I was young, ambitious, wide-eyed and hopeful. Despite all I’d endured in life, I still had hope.

These days, it feels like I’m fighting a losing battle.

There are days where I am frozen in place, staring at my children with a helpless ache in my chest.

How do you help a world that doesn’t want to help itself?

Most of us – myself included – have the ability to do more, to be more.

Yet we aren’t. Yet we don’t.

And today I realized why.

FEAR.

I am so afraid of losing all I have, but, the hard truth is, we all lose it eventually.

I am so afraid of my children losing their stability, but, the hard truth is, they’ve already lost it.

My life has been ever-changing these last few months. One change after another has been happening, has been forced upon us, which has planted this seed in me, which has shaken me to the core and filled me with a new need, with a new desire that runs soul deep. It has me thinking of doing something drastic. It has me fired up and ready to do what I’ve been so afraid to do: to take a major leap of faith.

If there is anything I am overtly aware of these days, it is that: life is almost always shorter than we expect it to be. My mother died at 27. My father died at 30. My grandfather died at 55. My children’s grandmother died at 57. Marilyn Monroe died at 36. James Dean died at 24. Elvis Presley died at 42. Today, Joanne Borgella died at 32.

I’m 28.

Whether I have a few years remaining or half a century remaining, I will truly be insignificant if I don’t take risks, if I don’t make the most of every breath, if I don’t do what I set out to do originally, if I don’t fulfill my purpose. Writing was always meant to be the means. Art was always meant to be the expression. Giving was always what fulfilled me; doing was always what fulfilled me. We never gain by being selfish, and we never lose by giving it all we have.

We weren’t given eyes to see and not appreciate.

We weren’t given ears to hear and not listen.

We weren’t given a voice to speak and not advocate.

We weren’t given limbs to move and not do.

We weren’t given talents to possess and not use.

To this day, Gandhi said it best:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Am I narcissistic enough to believe that I alone can change my children’s lives, and the lives of their future generations? No. Am I narcissistic enough to believe that I can have a significant impact on the world at large and end some world problem? No.

To the world I am insignificant, but to one person, I can be significant.

To the world, I probably always will be insignificant, but to a community, I could be significant.

It’s all about what we choose to do versus what we choose not to do (in fear). We all have the choice to act or to watch other people act. It’s always been a choice, and it always will be.

What I’ve learned over the past few months is that we will always be lacking something. There are some things you can survive without, and some things you can’t. I can survive with a lot less than I realized…and I don’t miss it. I do feel like I will miss my window, miss my opportunity if I don’t take some hard leaps of faith right now, though.

So, I’m going for it. Because I can. Because I want to. Because I’m ready.

I’m ready to stop being insignificant.

Update: Body Love

It’s been a long summer, and not the kind full of happy memories by the lake or long weekends at the beach. I contemplated for some time what to share with you all and how much to share; while I am open, there is quite a bit that I hold back and barricade with me.

I haven’t written or worked on anything in two weeks now. For anyone that knows me, they know that I’ve always strived to write something every day, even if it was just a few lines. Progress is progress, no matter how small.

1. My daughter was in summer school, and whether she will progress to the next grade is still unknown. Any parent knows the anxiety this might cause. We are waiting on a single reply that will determine much of my child’s future.

2. My youngest son, Roman, has full-blown autism. (My oldest son has Aspergers.) I drove down to South Florida on June 20th to discover this. We have a lot of follow-up appointments and more assessments to complete, which, without insurance, are financially taxing. There are moments I feel like a failure because I can’t afford anything close to what I need to be able to, yet I’m above the poverty line and don’t qualify for government aid. Social Security Disability takes a while, and even once approved – if we’re approved – nothing will be in effect immediately. This runs through my head every single night.

3. Most recently, my children’s grandmother passed away. Three weeks prior, the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do and called in Hospice. Wednesday, she dropped my oldest son off to me with her husband and seemed fine, if a bit drowsy from the medicine she had been taking. Thursday, she was okay, but sounded closer to loopy. She was present, but struggled with cognizance at times. Friday was the day she dropped off drastically. She could no longer walk, could hardly move, and had so few moments of clarity I feared no one would be able to say a proper good-bye. For the next three days, I was with her every minute I could be for over 15 hours a day…until she passed away on Monday. It was time though. I laid in bed with her all day Monday, singing to her, rubbing her head and talking to her about the kids, assuring her everyone would be okay. She moaned in pain all day though, despite my efforts. It wasn’t until about an hour before she passed away, after they had pumped an extremely high amount of meds into her, that she finally calmed down. I saw her take her last breath and I was the last to kiss her cold head for a final good-bye.

Friday to Monday was all the time we were given to process this, to get everyone there to say good-bye. It happened so fast. She was given a 6-month timeframe by the doctors, and it ended up being 3-weeks from start to finish. What they don’t tell you, though, is, once they pass, there is a ton of stuff to do. You aren’t given the proper chance to grieve for a while. There are closets and drawers to clean out, funeral arrangements to make, a massive stack of paperwork to do all while you’re attempting to console everyone around you, all while your phone continuously goes off because concerned friends want to check on you, all while you’re still in shock, merely going through the tiresome motions.

At her service, a video of photos was displayed. I saw her so often and spent so much time with her, I didn’t notice how much she had changed physically. I saw her losing weight, and found myself buying her smaller sized clothes, and of course she lost her hair, but I didn’t realize how much life had been zapped from her figure, from her features, until I looked back. And that had me thinking hard about:

We spend so much time hating our bodies, trying to hide it, feeling ashamed of it, picking out its flaws and comparing it to worldly standards…until one day, it’s ravaged with disease, and the body we once loathed becomes the one we are fighting to reclaim. I don’t care whether you are 98 lbs, 198 lbs, 298 lbs or 398 lbs, I don’t care whether you are boyish and flat or extra curvy and wider than most chairs accommodate, we are all beautifully and wonderfully made, and we need to spend less time focusing on what’s wrong with our bodies and more time doing all that we can, in the time that we’re given, with our bodies. Do you realize how many memories we miss out on, how much of our life, of our happiness, we give up because we’re afraid of what someone else thinks, because we’re worried about how we’ll look doing something rather than just doing it?

My children’s grandmother never liked pictures of herself. Thankfully, she still took them, but when she saw them, she usually made a negative comment. She never wore a bathing suit, never showed her legs because they were “pins” and she was always fussing with her hair. Looking back at it all though, I saw nothing but beauty. With age, she became a little thicker in the middle, but she was never considered plus size. Those skinny legs she hated (oddly because they weren’t fuller and more shapely like mine) are the legs of Jessica Simpson, the legs celebrities bust their tails to have and display in short shorts. Her round face kept her youthful and young, even though she was in her late forties at the time. She struggled to see her beauty, to appreciate her own beauty for what is was, until it was too late.

It happens all the time though. We miss out on so much because we have this fear about our bodies that literally keeps us frozen in place. We’re afraid of what others will say or think, until we realize anyone with anything negative to say isn’t a friend and isn’t anyone we should allow to govern the joy in our life. We’re afraid of how bad we’ll look in photos, until one day, we find ourselves looking back on those photos with longing. We’re afraid of being happy, until we reflect and realize that we closed the door on a slew of opportunities. We hold ourselves back. It’s easy to blame life, to blame our situations, to blame circumstances, and when it comes to the larger things, like finances, that is true to a degree, but for the smaller things like emotion, we are the gatekeepers, we are the supervisors, we are the responsible ones.

Stop being afraid of your body. Stop being ashamed of a body that is probably working close to perfect today. Stop robbing yourself and your family of memories that they will need later, that you all will cherish later. Disease doesn’t discriminate. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. (Blunt moments ahead!) You could develop it tomorrow, and then the body you were hating on today would be the very body you would have to fight hard to reclaim, with no guarantee of ever reclaiming it. There are no exclusions when it comes to this disease. Children get it. High school students get it. Young adults get it. New parents get it. Aging parents get it. Senior citizens get it. You can’t protect yourself from it the way you can many other diseases. It’s one of the few diseases that both carnivores and vegans get in kind, that both health nuts and lazy Janes get in kind, that both the overly conscious and the naively unaware get in kind.

Embrace the body you have today. Appreciate the body you have today. It may not be perfect when checked against society’s standards, but if you’re healthy enough to read this, then your body is doing better than you’re probably giving it credit for. She couldn’t read at the end. She could barely eat, could barely take her medicine and I had to hoist, support, and move every pound of her. You don’t know shame until your body can no longer do what it was designed to do. You don’t know fear until death is knocking at your door and no matter how hard you fight, you can’t elude it. You don’t know opportunity until you consider chemo and radiation as opportunities to regain a portion of the life you once lived. You don’t know figure flaws until you have a breast hacked off, until you have ports protruding in various locations, until your flesh is discolored from treatment after treatment.

Love the body you have today, no matter its weight, no matter its shape, no matter its size. Love the body that has gotten you to this point in life without failing, without being seized and overrun. Love this imperfectly perfect body while you can, every day that you can. In high school, I thought I was fat. I hid behind large clothes and shame. Looking back, I was far from. I was plus size at a size 14/16, but I wasn’t any of the things I thought I was. Neither was my children’s grandmother. The problem is, we can’t keep looking back in longing, only appreciating our bodies in reverse. We need to act now. We need to appreciate what we have now, not from a hospital bed weak and withered, not from your own bed frail and faint.

Never be afraid of your body. We are all beautifully and wonderfully made. Beyond that, you never know when disease may ravage that body. Love it while you can, every day that you can. You will never regret loving yourself. You will regret the opportunities you passed up because you were uncomfortable and ashamed of yourself. I really can’t impress this upon you enough.

You never know when you will go from this:

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To this:

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From this:

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To this:

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Love yourself while you can, every day that you can. Embrace every curve, every edge, every imperfection as perfection.

Love the body you have today, not the one you’ll have x amount of pounds from now. Love your body for all it is today, not x amount of years from now when you’re staring in disbelief at a photo you once loathed of yourself. Love your body unconditionally, because, for x amount of years, it’s done its job; it’s protected you from disease, it’s kept you going and it’s given you every minute you’ve wasted. It’s ensured you could take every breath, consume every meal, get out of bed every morning and climb into bed each night. And for all of that, for all its years of service, doesn’t it deserve your appreciation, your love?

Final thought.

How many of you would continue to give your very best to a company, to a boss, that didn’t appreciate you, that didn’t like you and that constantly diminished your worth every single day?

Now realize, you’re the boss of your own body. You can choose to love it or loathe it, to embrace it or rebuke it. But it will always be yours.

My advice? Love it while you can, every day that you can.

– Christin

Thank you!

To be honest, I didn’t write my New Years post with any expectations. I wanted desperately for the unkind words to stop and was doing what I thought I needed, hoping that by making it public I would achieve that. I was truly humbled by the outpour I received. Thank you to each and every one of you! I appreciate all of your love and support like you couldn’t imagine!

Shortly after I went public, I was shocked to discover many other authors going through the exact same thing as me. I was dumbfounded. The writing community is surprisingly very supportive. Yes, we all can be a little competitive, but we are typically genuinely happy when a fellow author achieves success. It gives us all renewed hope and encourages us to keep pressing onwards. It is the same with the reading community. Reading groups introduce each other to their favorite authors, and, even if they don’t always agree, they support the common bond of reading as a whole unit. Reviewers are that unique in-between group. They are the link between reader and author a lot of times, but, again, despite being a tad competitive, they are all genuinely happy for their fellow reviewers when they receive a new badge on Amazon or gain access to a Publisher’s list. My point? Each group individually is supportive and encouraging, for the most part, yet, for some reason or another, that doesn’t always translate outside the group.

Kendall Grey was the first author I came across. I’m not certain of the extent the harassment she receives goes, but it was enough for her to pull the plug on social media. Here is what she ended up posting on Facebook.

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Maya Banks, an author I absolutely adore, has dealt with an outpour of many disappointed readers. Please know, we really truly do not set out to upset you all. Most of us genuinely have the best interest of the characters at heart. We pour blood, sweat and tears into each title for an extended period of time, no matter the length. We want you to love it.

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And the lovely Molly McAdams, well, she just has a ring-dinger if I ever saw one…

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I suppose more than anything, my question is, what do you gain as a reader by (re)acting this way? It is one thing to express your opinion. Like Maya Banks stated, you are entitled to your opinion, and you are entitled to share it. My Aunt Deborah always said, “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.” You can get your point across without bashing.

Growing up, I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but then I discovered that I enjoyed putting my own opinion in things way too often. Journalists are supposed to remain neutral. They are to deliver the facts, perhaps a few thoughts to consider, and nothing more. They are to give the readers the information they need to form their own opinions. What I’ve learned since? I could be a journalist, if I edit the heck out of each piece I write. But, more so, I’ve discovered that there is a time and a place with journalism. There are times, particularly when discussing a hot topic, where it is better to simply state your beliefs, explain why you believe it, and shut up. For example, I could state that I supported gay marriage, give reasons why and leave it at that. I would have gotten my point across, left food for thought without cutting into anyone who supports the opposite.

I feel that most (professional) reviewers have an excellent handle on this. They do not always enjoy a book, but most are great at stating what they did and didn’t like with reasons. They don’t tear apart the author in the process. They state what they believe, what they perceived, and move on.

I wish everyone was like that. I’ve scratched my head several times. Apparently many don’t understand that the more you say, sometimes the less people hear. Tone is always louder than words. It’s like with a dog. They know they are in trouble by your tone, not because they understand every word you spew at them. Reversely, they know they are being praised by your tone, not because they understand every word you say.

I think something that would greatly help close the gap between reader and writer is for the reader to understand the publishing industry/process more. It’s a complicated business. Sometimes, we want to work on a book, but are obligated to complete another first. For instance, I cannot work on another book now until I finish writing a Valentines Day title that has a hard release date of January 18th. (Cutting it SO close!) There are also some titles that require far more work, marketing and networking than others. The Christmas Anthology I was a part of required a lot more time surrounding promotions than I initially anticipated. Maya Banks again addresses readers concerns with a post explaining some of this. (below) Also, I have explained quite a bit on my publishing page. (click here)

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It’s all about respect. We each have a different process. The same as no two people are exactly alike, no two minds are exactly alike. We all have a different learning style, writing style, even teaching style. We express things differently. We are all unique, and I, for one, cannot wait for the day when we don’t point out each other’s differences and use them as weapons. You can stereotype, you can hate, you can rip those around you apart piece by piece, but it will never change what is. The books published are published; rarely are they re-written. Your opinion of the book is set in stone; rarely do people change their minds about a title. But that doesn’t mean we as authors have to tear you apart for not liking our book, the same as you don’t have to tear us apart for our book.

So now, authors, readers and reviewers, please gather round the campfire, join hands and sing Cumbayah 🙂

Update on my work load:

This next week, my head will be buried in a notebook writing. I have a new VDay book to write, edit, send to my beta etc, with a hard release date of January 18th. For this book’s title, cover and blurb, please go to http://www.facebook.com/redhotvalentine on January 16th. (Please note that this is an adult title.) Please also know that this title is part of an author group release and will require extra time with marketing and promotions in the coming weeks.

Once I finish writing the VDay book, I can then begin typing up book 2 of the Snowy Mountain Wolves. Yup! It’s officially fully written…but will take a bit to publish. Here is the aftermath of this:

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These pages are front and back and don’t even include what I’ve already typed. I absolutely love how the book came out and could not be happier for these characters! (Please note that this too is an adult title.) Depending on the amount of time it takes me to finish the VDay book, I will be posting a hard release date for this book this week.

This is more of an exciting announcement, but Amazon will be releasing a print version of Two Times the Charm! Their awesome team is working on a mock-up as we speak. I will be announcing a release date for the print version of this title soon.

Okay, I am going to hobble to the kitchen and get a cup of coffee before getting back to work. Yeah, that’s the other bit of fun I’ve had. I took a hard fall on wet tile New Years Day and messed up my left knee pretty bad. I’ve been on bedrest ever since. And who knew it could be so difficult to write with a knee elevated? Also, since I’m used to being busy all the time, I’ve been going stir crazy! I’ve managed to hobble around the last few days. They do say that slow and steady wins the race. I think I’ve found my bedrest writing groove though 🙂

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Have a great day everyone! I’ll be posting again much sooner this time. – Christin

A Heavy Heart on New Years Eve

Where do I begin? I’m broken hearted that it’s reached this point, that it’s hit this level. I’m warning you ahead of time that this post will be a bit lengthy…

It’s come to my attention that many readers do not understand the amount of work it takes to be a writer. As with many careers, there are a lot of details that aren’t often associated with the title. I wear a lot of hats. I don’t just write, I edit and proofread – along with an editor and beta reader. I’m a “cover artist,” marketer, campaigner, promotions extraordinaire…err…sort of. I have to keep up with my publishing contracts, do quarterly taxes, account for all of my expenses related to my books and writing regularly. I am a social media expert…well, kinda…responsible for keeping all of my information up-to-date while pushing across all platforms. I have to routinely deal with back office issues with distributors and business concerns with publishers. I’ve been dealing with an issue spread across 5 titles with Amazon for more than 2.5 months now. I have 7 distributors/publishers that I must review monthly reports with, and this is on top of blog tours, book review requests, writing etc. And all of this is compounded on top of taking care of my family.

For those who don’t know, I am the sole breadwinner in my family. I have 3 children, one of whom is special needs with another at a 90% likeliness of having developmental issues as well. My children’s grandmother is still battling stage 4 cancer and I am responsible for taking her to some of her appointments. My sister is pregnant, her husband works on the road, and she does not have a car, so I am also responsible for taking her to some appointments. My car has broken down 3 times in the past 2 months and is still having issues, yet I have to keep it going. There is a large pool of people who rely on me, and I’m not ignorant to the fact that you, the readers, are included in that pot. I’m also very well aware that I am blessed. My situation could be far worse. It has been in the past. I am doing my very best to juggle everything, to balance the sick baby with writing, to rearrange my day and promotion schedule around doctor appointments, school plays and finding time to finally clean the house. Some of you may understand the stress of being the “responsible one.” Others, perhaps not.

I’m not making excuses, I’m explaining the situation in hopes that the harassment will stop.

I’ve posted this information in several places over the past couple months, but it seems many of you have not read it. I am the first to admit that I am behind on my website comments, e-mails etc. I have promised to get back to each and every one of you and I still promise that I will, with the exception of a growing lot. Admittedly, I have tried to avoid this website’s comments over the past month especially. Admittedly, I have tried to avoid checking my Facebook pages. Not because I don’t want to interact with you all, not because I want to cut you off, but because I’ve had many rude, harassing, and even a few threatening messages, comments and posts delivered, all regarding the final book in the Vamp Chronicles series.

Contrary to what one reader accused me of, I don’t sit on my bum all day doing nothing, nor do I enjoy pissing off my readers. This past month-and-a-half, I have been required to do a lot of heavy promotion and marketing for a Christmas anthology I was a part of. I also ended my contract with a publisher and had to deal with rights and legalities while continuing to work with Amazon execs on another ongoing issue. This was while dealing with all the regular stuff listed above and the holiday rush etc. We all know how crazy it can be for us this time of year. I like to believe that I’m the energizer bunny, but, the truth is, I can only do so much in a day.

I’m going to speak strictly from a business perspective right now. I make far more money with my adult books than my young adult books. I enjoy writing both genres. I enjoy reading both genres and most of their subcategories. But, hands down, adult books are what pay the majority of my bills, some of my family member’s bills, and all the items my children need, including doctors and therapies. Please do not mix my words and suggest that I write with greed, as another reader suggested. (I paraphrased a bit. She stated, “Youve made us wait all this f****** time on purpose probly. I bet youre gonna drive up the price too. Im so over you. You are the worst author. I hate how inconsiderate some of you are. You hook us and then treat us like s***. You write with greedy fingerz.” – And yes, she left out the apostrophes, misspelled ‘probably’ and typed fingers with a ‘z.’) To clarify, I write what comes when it comes. I don’t purposefully write any one book. I don’t purposefully avoid writing any book or category. In truth, I enjoy writing period, so I will continue to write this way. I won’t force anything. I will never stop myself from writing a young adult title next because I’m likely to earn less money with it. Reversely, I will never avoid writing a young adult next to force an adult title that is likely to earn me more, even at the same price point. I’m not driven by money. It’s a necessity in life, but it’s not what my world revolves around. I have morals and ethics that I would never sacrifice for it. I have quality and personal standards that I would never sacrifice for it.

I bring this up so you have a three-dimensional image in your head. Readers are harassing me, threatening me, for a specific release date, slaying me for not rushing, for not releasing a book in the series that earns me the least amount of money per title than any of my others.

I’ve attempted to erase, block and delete as many as possible, but, to be honest, that’s not how I want to spend my weekends. I don’t want to have to cipher through this level of negativity, having my character be challenged every step of the way. Perhaps you feel entitled. Perhaps you are entitled. But in the South, we have a saying: you catch more bees with honey. My FAQs page has been updated to answer this question for a while now. The book’s page has been updated recently to answer this question. I’m also linking two posts from November that touched on this question. I am always open and honest with you all. I am constantly aware of my responsibilities every second of every day. I can assure you that I don’t do these things on purpose, that I don’t enjoy pissing people off, and that I don’t just sit on my bum all day.

I’ve contemplated blocking the ability to comment on this website. I’ve contemplated shutting down my Facebook pages, removing my contact information etc. But I don’t want to snub you. I don’t want to be that elusive, unreachable writer giving off the impression that I’m better than anyone. Because I’m not. I’m eternally grateful for all of you, even those who have treated me so unkind, because you’ve made it possible for me to do what I love. I love to write. (I love to read too, but I haven’t had time to do it lately.) The truth is, I wish there were another 24 hours in a day… or, better yet, I wish I didn’t need sleep, then I could get far more done. I could stretch myself thinner, write more, do more, be more along the lines of what so many expect me to be: superwoman. But, alas, there aren’t, and I’m not. I’m human. I make mistakes. I miss deadlines. My laundry piles up for days sometimes. I feed my children boxed dinners some nights so I can work longer, do more, be more. I’ve struggled to juggle it all.

I’m sorry if I’ve let you down. I’m sorry if I have not met your expectations. But I will never apologize for refusing to sacrifice quality. I will never own up to being lazy, because I’m not. And I’m sorry for anyone this might affect, but I will shut down website comments and all of my social media if derogatory comments, statements and threats continue to fly my way. I’m human, just like you. Treat others the way you want to be treated is the golden rule for a reason, and I’m not asking for anything that every other human doesn’t deserve as well: to be treated with kindness.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year. I’m going to spend the last ten minutes counting down with my children. I’ve been working all day long writing, promoting, assisting another author and, now, writing this. My children deserve ten minutes of my day, at the very least. – Christin

…the answer to your question is in all of these links.

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Battle Scars

They say life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but in the number of moments that take your breath away. What they fail to recognize is that both good and bad, positive and negative, can steal your breath; amazing beauty and devastating pain can equally claim your air, crush your lungs.

Some of you may have noticed that my book schedule has been steadily broadened, my releases pushed further and further apart. The simple response would be to say that life is getting in the way, but the truth is far more disturbing. While I easily admit my faults, while I crack open my shell and reveal personal facts on occasion, the reality is far more than I’ve been able to bare, more than I’m able to bear.

As a mother, you’re supposed to be a role model for your children. You strive for perfection because you want to offer them perfection. Ideally, they would have everything you didn’t growing up. In a perfect world, they would have no battle scars; in a perfect world, you can protect them from the harsh licks of life.

Regardless of your expertise, there are two things you can’t protect your children from: death and heartache.

My mother died when I was eight, the same age my daughter is now. The woman who stepped in and filled that maternal role in my life over ten years ago, my daughter’s grandmother, is losing her battle with cancer. She’s fought so hard over these past two years. She is the perfect role model for my children. She embodies strength. Her courage is medal worthy. Her positive persistence, her determined attitude to conquer everything thrown at her is eye opening, it’s sobering. She makes you realize how great you have it, yet she doesn’t complain about her lot. She simply accepts the new challenge for what it is: another chance to prove herself, to demonstrate what a powerful woman she is.

Admittedly, I don’t remember many details about my biological mother, but I remember everything about this woman. The similarities between the two though, run straight to my heart. I watched my own mother go from an independent, healthy woman to a harrowing skeleton. It’s been difficult seeing and conceding the parallels along the way with my daughter’s grandmother. It’s heartbreaking; it’s crushing to realize that there is nothing you can do. It’s humbling to realize that nothing you do will change fate.

All three of my children adore this woman. They have an undeniable, indescribable bond with her. In fact, they call her Mom 1, and I’m Mom 2, because she was born first. I can’t help but break down at the reality that the same heartache I experienced at my daughter’s exact age will likely be experienced by her. I can’t protect her from it.

It’s devastating to realize you can’t protect them. It’s heart wrenching, soul defeating to know you can’t stop the inevitable…

Holding tight to my own personal experiences, I’ve vowed to be a pillar of strength for my children. I cry in silence, in the darkness of night, so they never feel that they are burdening me or upsetting me by sharing their feelings, so I can be their fortress rather than a flimsy cover that lacks support and stability.

This is especially important with my oldest boy. Kaleb is autistic. I don’t like labels. To me, Kaleb is Kaleb; he is who he is, who he was meant to be. He’s so smart too. He sees so much. He is always the first to notice new scars and bruises on her. He was the first to announce that her hair and eyebrows were growing back after her brain radiation. He was so excited for her. He loved seeing her recover; he celebrated every milestone with her as if this was what you were naturally supposed to do, as if we all were supposed to do this. How do you explain to him that her hair isn’t coming back this time? How do you break his heart, muddle his brain with the idea that she is never coming back again potentially? With great difficulty is the answer, with a heavy heart is the reality.

And my youngest? He won’t even remember her. She will be but a faint shadow in his memories. He’ll only ever know what we tell him, what little photos convey. He probably won’t remember the way she hugged him, the way she cried when he was born because he came right at the moment that all this came. And that will be the association as my youngest ages: his life began when war was declared on hers.

Few recognize the strain the threat of loss puts on relationships. Few acknowledge the burden you accept to remain by someone’s side. Admittedly, many relationships in my life have been rocked and shaken. Openly, I’m failing in so many parts of my life right now. I’ve been rocked and shaken to the core by more than merely unavoidable fate.

I’ve been on an emotional, mental journey all my own throughout these last two years. I’ve had my ups and downs, my highs and lows. Some changes are harder to accept than others. Some fates are harder to accept than others. Some deaths, some illnesses, are harder to deal with than others.

We all experience weakness, but that doesn’t make us a weak person. We all experience pain, but that doesn’t mean we’re living in agony. We all experience loss, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing left.

Despite all I’ve gone through in life, despite my personal challenges and the fresh obstacles regularly presenting themselves, I’m incredibly blessed.

In the midst of all this, I can’t even begin to explain how much you, my readers, have meant to me. Because you bought my books, I was able to make all her dreams come true, before it was too late. Because you bought my books, I’ve been given invaluable time, priceless flexibility during such an unstable time.

I’ll be relying on you all now more than ever though. As of Wednesday, she will be doing two different chemos, with different injection sites, varying strengths, twice a week with the chance of radiation as well. Friday, I receive the results of my own tests.  Regardless of what the doctor tells me, it will be nothing compared to the harrowing diagnosis I received with her this past Friday. And that’s just it, as bad as we think we have it sometimes, there is always someone who has it worse. As hard as my life has been, it’s nothing compared to the life I could have been forced to live.

Knowing all too well how precious time is, being all too aware of the support my children will need as they watch what I did at their age, I am stepping away from work for a bit. I’m not saying I won’t write, because honestly, reading and writing are my salvation; they’re my spot of sunshine in the midst of the storm. Rather, what I’m doing is stepping away from expectations. I’m taking a step back from writing commitments.

Release dates? I couldn’t give you a solid answer for any title. Even if I spewed something out, who’s to say it wouldn’t change. While you all offer me a lot of stability that I’m ever so grateful for, there are too many variables, too many possibilities still right now. In the myriad of emotions that are passing through me, the last one I want to invite is disappointment. So please, don’t ask me for a release date. I’m overjoyed that you are anxious for a release. It means I did something right in the midst of pure chaos. But, the truth is, things have been far too much for me to bare, far too much for me to bear. There is so much more of me in my books than you realize. There is so much more going on than we ever truly share, and I’m no exception.

I will continue to keep you all updated on my writing progress. I promise to provide release dates as soon as I can. I promise to return and be the proper author that I ought to be as soon as I can. 

Thanks for everything.
~ Christin

Give A Little

“We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else.” 
― Elie Wiesel

More this year than any before has the two words “I want” been used. In the stores, I watch parents field those words repeatedly from their children. Growing up, I can’t recall using those two words often, yet lately, they’re all I hear around me.

Christmas will never be the season for receiving for me. It will always be a season for giving. What so many fail to realize is GIVING IS RECEIVING.

We all have a purpose in this world, but no one’s purpose revolves around receiving. We were put here to have impact, to create change, to leave footprints; we’re here to do more than we see, to give more than we receive, to influence more than we’re influenced.

“I want you to understand that your first duty is to humanity. I want others to look at us and see that we care not just about ourselves but about others.”
― Madam C.J. Walker

I know there are people who will read this that are not religious or merely believe differently than I, and I apologize if I offend you, as this reflects my personal beliefs.

When I was younger, I never could decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. One day I planned to be a teacher, the next a lawyer, a week later I was checking out requirements to own a non-profit organization. I was all over the place. The one common thread was that I wanted to do something that allowed me to give back.

“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

It was about three years ago that I became serious about creating the change I wanted to see in the world I live in. Coincidentally, it was also the year that I began focusing on writing. I didn’t quite understand then how God would use a career in writing to make a difference though.

It started with the Vamp Chronicles. Anyone who has read the series knows that I cover quite a few hot topics, social, political and personal issues, for a young adult series. It was the series that opened the door for me though. Those books taught me the power words carry. I’ve received more e-mails and messages relaying how those books impacted readers than any other. It is truly a humbling experience to know that you’ve been able to leave a footprint on the lives of those you’ve never met.

But it didn’t stop there.

My dream has always been to volunteer in Africa, do something to help HIV/AIDS victims there. I wasn’t prepared for the cost to volunteer in a foreign country though.

I was forced to take a step back and re-evaluate my dream. In doing so, I realized I could have a greater impact at home, in my own community.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” 
― Charles Dickens

While I’m a Christian, I do believe in Karma, appreciate Buddhist Proverbs, love Wiccan’s spiritual kinship to nature and recognize certain Islamic laws that mirror the Bible’s book of Romans. If we were to look at religions around the world, they have far more similarities than many would like to admit. Many common threads between them surround their definition of love, of respect and kindness, but beyond that, their emphasis on giving to receive.

In the Bible, God has asked us to give ten percent of our earnings as a tithe to our church. The problem that I have with that is so often that money is misdirected, is eaten by the wants in the world rather than the needs. Rather than tithe to church, I have steadily relied on God, on friends and family, and most recently, on 2hands.org to lead me to those in need.

“Give yourself entirely to those around you. Be generous with your blessings. A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
― Steve Maraboli

This has been a year of growth for me, personally, spiritually, emotionally, and, the greatest, financially. This is the year that I finally understood God’s purpose for me at the ground level. I’ve been blessed with the ability to not only do something that I love, a career that allows me to be a teacher one day and a lawyer the next if I want, but also to recognize my dream of having a greater impact in the lives of others beyond my words.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” 
― Winston S. Churchill

And all of that would not be possible without each and every one of you!

Whether you realized it or not, in purchasing one of my books this year, you have been giving back to someone in need every single month of 2012.

There is a big difference between want and need. I’m not rich. I don’t live a lavish lifestyle. I don’t own a designer handbag. I have three children yet live in a three-bedroom house. My “office” is the master bedroom’s closet. I drive an older car, own one pair of jeans, and survive off coupons and the clearance rack.

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” 
― Ben Carson

This is a lifestyle I learned in my own struggle years ago. There have been times when I didn’t know how the light bill was going to get paid. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for a new pair of shoes for one of my kids or buy school supplies for them. I’ve been through the tough times that so many are facing right now. Having been there has helped me recognize that if I maintain the lifestyle of have, as my income (hopefully) continues to increase, so can my efforts. The more I make, as long as my lifestyle remains the same, the more I can give back.

“I must be willing to give whatever it takes to do good to others. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me, and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.” 
― Mother Teresa

I didn’t realize just how much I could give back until this Christmas season. Through friends and 2hands.org, I have been blessed with the privilege of meeting and helping so many families in need this season…but there are so many more.

There are so many who would be grateful for one gift for their child that costs the same as that fancy cup of coffee so many of us purchase.

There are so many with children who need shoes and clothes more than the newest iPod nano selling out in stores.

There are so many who will be waking up on Christmas with no electricity, with no shelter, with no food.

This season, in the season of giving, I’m asking you to reach out.

We have approximately eight days left until Christmas. That means we have eight days left to change a child’s Christmas, to impact a family’s enjoyment of the holiday. We have eight days to replace tears at an empty tree with smiles at something peaking from beneath. We have the power to change the life of another every day.

“Give freely to the world these gifts of love and compassion. Do not concern yourself with how much you receive in return, just know in your heart it will be returned.” 
― Steve Maraboli

There is a song by Luminate that I have been listening to on repeat as I write lately: This Is Love. The chorus has really hit home for me…

‘Cause this is love, keeping me awake tonight
This is love, I can’t free you from my mind
‘Cause I’ve never felt a part
Of something greater than myself
Until now
I’m waking up
‘Cause this is love

I read so many stories this season, stories that stuck with me. I’ve gone to sleep wishing I could do more than I have. This entire year came together for me this Christmas season; the experience summed up my year and helped me realize my dream for next year: to double my efforts every single month.

Writing is just my means. Giving is my purpose.

“God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”
― Randy Alcorn

I’ve never felt a part of something greater than myself until this year.

Seeing a parent’s face light up when you deliver a car of gifts and supplies is unforgettable.

Waking up on Christmas morning and watching as your children open their gifts is heartwarming; knowing that you made it possible for another mother to do the same is priceless.

I won’t miss that cup of coffee, but a child will miss the absence of a gift beneath the tree while many more are missing the tree itself.

I’m not telling you what to do, how to live your life. I’m sharing my story, my experience, my beliefs. This is the life I’ve chosen to live, and I know it’s not for everyone. I do know that greediness has never delivered eternal happiness to anyone though.

Those of you who are open, who are able and willing, I invite you to please visit 2hands.org. One visit to their forum will, at the least, help you appreciate all you have, and, at the most, connect you with a family who will never forget you, connect you with a family you’re likely to never forget either.

Thank you once again to everyone who has purchased one of my books in 2012. I look forward to releasing many more books in 2013 and helping many more families.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.
~ Christin

“Giving of any kind… taking an action… begins the process of change, and moves us to remember that we are part of a much greater universe.” 
― Mbali Creazzo

World AIDS Day – Turn your world RED today.

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There are 365 days in a typical year. For the majority of society, their birthday or a holiday is the day they look forward to the most.

Not for me.

Every year, I look forward to World AIDS Day. 

For me, it’s a day of remembrance. Better yet, it’s a day of HOPE.

I’ve come across plenty of people in my life who are unaware of the harrowing affect AIDS can have on a person and a family. Unfortunately though, I know it firsthand.

My parents died of AIDS.

It’s a cause that is extremely close to my heart.

This isn’t a disease that is stuck on the plains of Africa. This isn’t an illness that you’re immune to… …yet.

Growing up, I watched my mother go from a healthy and vital young woman to a withered and weary shell. I watched her suffer. I still vividly remember nights at the kitchen table where she would chew and chew, but was unable to swallow her food. I still vividly remember the harsh outline of her collarbone, the old age wrinkles on her twenty-something hands and the continual bruising beneath her eyes. I remember.

AIDS back in the nineties was worse than cancer. AIDS destroyed her immune system and made her susceptible to the cancer that wracked her. AIDS stole everything from her, including her future.

Each year, as December 1st arrives, my hope grows a bit stronger. They’ve made amazing strides in wiping out the disease. Modern medicine has breathed an extended life into HIV/AIDS patients today who can gain access to it. From the time my mother was diagnosed to the day she died was 5 years. Now, people ravaged with HIV/AIDS are living 10, 15, 20, even 25 years with the disease.

There is hope. After all these years, there is hope.

The goal is to have an AIDS free generation by 2015.

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I’m counting down the days until then. I’m counting down the days until no one has to suffer like my mother and father did. I’m counting down the days until no one is born HIV positive like my innocent baby sister was. I’m counting down the days until AIDS is merely history, a disease of the past like small pox, the bubonic plague, polio and leprosy.

I’m waiting.

With baited breathe and high hopes.

No child should have to watch their parent dwindle into a frail, tender remnant of their former self.

No innocent child should ever be born into a disease that will slowly kill them before they’ve even begun to live.

No children should ever be orphaned because education and prevention didn’t exist.

No one should ever suffer because they’re poor or unable to access medicine.

No one should ever be fated with a slow death that steals a little more of you as each day passes.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who believes that.

Today, I remember. Today, I have hope. And today, I am humbled.

Around the world today, landmarks will be lit RED in honor of World AIDS Day, as a remembrance to those who have lost their battle, as a luminance of hope to those still fighting, and as a beacon for the future, urging our current generation to stand up, to take notice, and to help create change.

Here are a few…

San Francisco- CityHallSan Francisco’s City Hall

(RED) London EyeThe London Eye

ESBThe Empire State Building

Don’t think that you aren’t strong enough, big enough, wealthy enough to make a difference!

Every little bit counts.

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The purchase of the above dance album on iTunes for $7.99 can make a difference. ALL proceeds go directly to where it’s needed: Making 2015 not just a goal, but an achievement.

The DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES compilation album presented by Tiësto is AVAILABLE on iTunes – http://bit.ly/UmEao2 – ALL proceeds go to fight AIDS. Buy the album & DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES with us on World AIDS Day.

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Even better? Tiësto will match the first $100,000 donated on (RED)’s Crowdrise page dollar for dollar! http://bit.ly/V9XukP Please share!

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Like coffee? Well, today, Starbucks will donate 5 cents for every beverage purchase. Think that’s not much?

Think again.

MILLIONS of people will purchase a coffee drink today. Make Starbucks your choice and help make a difference.

Enough pennies will eventually provide enough dollars.

Today’s World AIDS Day & Starbucks is giving 5 cents on EVERY handcrafted beverage you buy! What are you drinking today?http://bit.ly/UhalmF

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So many people talk about change: wanting it, needing it… but few actually CREATE change.

You, yes, YOU, have the ability to change your generation. YOU can CHOOSE whether or not you are going to be a part of a movement. You have SO much more power than you believe!

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have made it my goal, my personal mission to help rid the world of this disease. I have two milestones in my life noted on the calendar:

January 13th, 2014: The year I turn 28… The year I will have officially outlived my mother.

December 1st, 2015: The year I hope to be celebrating the end of AIDS… The year I hope December 1st merely becomes a day of honor and remembrance, like Veteran’s Day.

Think you’d be fighting alone? NOPE! Even the White House is committed to creating an AIDS Free Generation!

One of my favorite quotes is…

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Change doesn’t just happen. CHANGE IS CREATED!

Change is a choice!

Where do you want your generation to end up? Where do you want your children’s generation to begin or end?

Please don’t be narrow minded enough to believe that you have no impact. Everyone leaves a footprint, but, like feet, some are bigger than others.

We are the movers and shakers of the world. We are the ones with the power, believe it or not. If enough of us band together for a common cause, for a common goal: 2015, we CAN make it happen!

Let’s make it happen.

tattoos

Years ago, I got a tattoo: the AIDS ribbon in the shape of a heart. It was in honor of my parents. Shortly after, I realized the best way to honor them was to help erase a disease that eradicated them. So, I got a tattoo on my other wrist, a treble clef with the word ‘hope‘ written within it to symbolize voice of hope. These tattoos align perfectly when I press my wrists together, loudly and proudly announcing my AIDS activism.

I’ve learned that change requires boldness.

Change requires proclamation, dedication and action!

I’ve declared, I’m committed, and with OR without you, I am going to help make this happen.

But as my readers, as people I truly cherish and appreciate, I would LOVE for you to be with me on this one.

There are plenty of ways to make a difference in the fight against AIDS, not just in your town or city, but WORLD WIDE. They don’t all require money. They don’t all require a major sacrifice. They just require your interest.

Google ways to contribute in the fight against AIDS. Never underestimate the power of unity. Something as simple as passing out pamphlets at a community center can have an impact, can make all the difference in a person’s life. It could save a life.

For more on the powerful (RED) campaign, visit their website or their facebook page.

And remember, as you go about the rest of your day, you have the power to create change!

It starts with one: one person, one decision, one action.
~ Christin