Failing At Life

Last year, Hubs and I went on a vacation to Mexico. We try to do vacations on our own at least once a year. I’m a travel fiend, and I also think it’s good for a marriage to have time to reconnect with each other without children being present.

We drove to a Cenote one day to rappel into (scariest but most amazing day of my life), and on the way back to the resort we drove through some small Mexican villages.

Descending into the Cenote

Our tour guide said, “I know you look at this and see poverty. I know you look at this and feel sorry for these people. Please don’t. This is the way they live. They have a simple way of life, and they are happy. They have everything they need: food, shelter, water, and love.” In essence, those people who look to us like they have nothing actually have their priorities straight.

We have gotten a lot of things wrong in the United States over the last few decades. We have also gotten a lot of things right. I love our country but sometimes I think we tend to focus on the unimportant things. To feel fulfilled and nurtured, we need social connection.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been failing at life. But, honestly, I think it’s our way of life that is failing me. It’s not meeting my needs. It’s making me feel far away from people. It’s literally making me lonely. I think we all need to step back and take a good, hard look at our lives and realize what’s really important in the end: love and family. Because we shouldn’t only feel connected to one another on vacation.

iPhones were invented as a way to help people connect socially, but they achieved the exact opposite. Now, we use our iPhones to shut one another out. How many people do you see every day walking around staring at a screen instead of what’s around them? I do this too. I come home from work every day, and my children are glued to their screens. We make them put them down for dinner, and lately, only because I needed and wanted a change in our family dynamic I’ve been doing other things with them at night to show them my love. Children thrive off of attention. When they don’t get it, they turn to electronics thinking it will feed their deep biological need for love and nurturing BUT IT DOESN’T!  Our families feel further apart than ever as we partake in technology, loving our electronics more than the living breathing people who should feel like they are the most important part of our lives.

And schedules. Work has become the driving force of America. That’s what happens in a capitalist economy where everything revolves around how many THINGS one person can buy. No thing will make you happy. People, with their cellphones, can now be reached 24 hours a day. They don’t know how to put their work away and truly relax. They are always available. This creates needless stress to them and to their families. Because while they might be available to work they are not emotionally available at home. It’s very hard to maintain a true presence while having one foot in the work-world and one foot in the domestic-world. Neither gets your full attention. Mistakes are made at work, and at home families suffer from lack of enough quality time with one another.

Parents, including me, over-schedule their kids and run ourselves ragged trying to get them everywhere, even as they juggle a job and their own social life.

Yesterday, I took Darling Daughter to OT at 2 PM (feeling bad I was missing work–trapped between two worlds that demand so much of me), came home for about an hour, did homework with the kids, took Son Number One to tutoring, and then met Hubby at the soccer field to pick up Son Number Two and Darling Daughter so we could eat and see a friend play. I didn’t get home until 9 PM, and by that time I was so riled up that I’d made myself angry. I shouted at my Hubby because I over-scheduled my day and felt worn ragged.

I wonder what kind of effect our always-on-the-go-no-down-time lifestyle is having on our kids. There’s no time to sit and reflect on life. Kids are bored without electronics. They need to be constantly entertained and so many of them don’t know how to have a real-life conversation unless they’re doing it through FaceTime. It’s no wonder people feel isolated and alone. It’s no wonder mental illness is on the rise.

We can learn something from that small Mexican village. What’s most important in life is meeting basic needs and LOVE. We are social creatures, and we thrive off of interaction with each other. Babies have failure to thrive if they are not treated with love, touched, hugged, and cared for. Why is it so hard for us to understand this lesson and bring it into our Western way of life?

Lauren and Hubs Ek Balam

Hubs and me at Ek Balam

When was the last time you stopped and enjoyed the little things? When was the last time you looked up from your phone to experience a moment of awe (the sun rising, the moon glowing, the waves crashing on the beach?)? When was the last time you sat down with your family, put away all the electronics, and really enjoyed one another? 

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Disney World Vacation

I’ve been missing the last week, because my family went to Disney World!

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What a magical place. Honestly, before I left to go to Disney I dreaded it. I dreaded the crowds, waiting in line for rides, and screaming children. But, while there something wonderful happened. I enjoyed myself. I felt like a kid again. I saw the magic light up in my kids’ eyes as they imagined they were a princess and Jedis.

At the Disney princess breakfast in the Cinderella castle, Snow White told the girls to make a wish on their star. She told them to close their eyes tight and wish as hard as they could, and Hailey pressed her fingers against her eyes and squeezed them and murmured, “I want long hair.” I feel her pain.

Caden loved the rollercoasters, all of them, and Liam came alive most in Hollywood Studios on the Star Wars ride and during Star Wars training.

So here are a few things I learned out Disney, which might benefit you if you’re thinking about taking a trip anytime soon.

  1. Meal Plan is TOTALLY worth it! Food at Disney is expensive, and when you have a meal plan you’re provided one snack, one table service, and one quick service every day (they have different levels of the plan–this was ours). We ate a lot on this meal. If you don’t have the meal plan, you’re going to put down a lot of money just to eat for the week.
  2. If you are staying in a resort in the park, the cup you receive can only be refilled at resorts. It can’t be refilled in the park, unless you fill it up in the water fountain. We didn’t know this beforehand.
  3. We walked about 11 miles a day. Bring a good pair of tennis shoes, and a stroller if you have young kiddos. Make sure to park in stroller parking, because if you don’t your stroller will be moved.
  4. For us,the park hopper was totally worth it. We spent time in all parks, and we hopped most days. We liked the food best in Epcot, and ended up there a lot of nights to eat.
  5. If you’re going during a busy time and staying at a resort on property, make use of the Extra Magic Hours. We rode a lot of high profile rides during the Magic Hours.
  6. Plan your fast passes as soon as you can after you book. We were able to get on a lot of rides that people were waiting 180 minutes for, because we had planned our fast passes early.
  7. Carry your poncho and/or umbrella. Afternoon rainstorms happen often.
  8. If you have girls who like princesses, plan to drop extra money. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is fun but EXPENSIVE.
  9. If you do the Jedi Training, arrive at Hollywood Studios early in the morning, and look for the guy holding the Jedi Training sign. You can go in the park early to sign up. This is one of the only ways you can get a slot to the Jedi Training.
  10. Have fun. Feel the magic!

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Break From Reality

Last week, Hubby and I had a break from reality. It was much needed, and even more than I needed it to be. Despite the timing of The Devil Withinonce we were away we let everything go. In my writing journey, over the last few years, I’ve become a social media guru. You pretty much have to in this day and age (yeah–I sound like a grandparent). I use twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, etc. to promote myself as an author and promote my work. The nicest part of the vacation was our decision not to use technology while we were there, except to Facetime or message the kids.

Our eldest told us he wouldn’t miss us. Because he’s ten and all. But he did. He tried to Facetime me a lot and then if I mentioned him missing us he’d say, “No, not really.” When we pulled into our garage a week later, he was the first one through the garage door and he flung himself into my arms. It’s nice to be missed.

I recommend a get away like this for anyone who hasn’t done it. I came back refreshed and ready to write again. Now I’m focusing on editing Little Birdhouses and promoting The Devil Within. Fairly soon, I’ll have some swag to give to you. It’s getting real, y’all!

And don’t forget. If you sign up for my newsletter at http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win a free signed copy of The Devil WithinThe winner will be announced in the July 31st edition of the newsletter.

Here are some photos from our trip, just because I think everyone should go to Punta Cana. The Dominican Republic is the sixth largest exporter of cocoa in the world. And their chocolate is wonderful, and their people are amazing, and if you haven’t been to a third world country and left the resort you should. It’s an eye opener, and it makes you grateful for everything you have.

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Where Have I Been?

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Excuse the cellphone quality photo. I haven’t quite downloaded the camera photos yet. When you come back from Paradise, where you lived for six days without children, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things. We stayed at Paradisus Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and my hubby and I had some much needed alone time. Rekindling, if you will? We also met some great people who seemed more like characters in a book, but as we all know “Characters are only works of fiction, any resemblance to someone in real life is purely coincidental.”

Originally, when we planned this trip I thought The Devil Within would already be out. I anticipated having it published in April or May, but we all know how seldom things go as planned. That’s the fun of life. I was pleasantly surprised to know the paperback came out the day before we left, and guess what? Now the kindle edition is out. For some reason they’re two different links and the Kindle link is hard to find. I’m hoping Amazon gets that sorted out. I’m sure they will.

Click the book below for the link to the Kindle edition:

The Devil Within Cover

So let me tell you, the absolute best way to make a book a raging success is to fly to the Dominican Republic for a week the day it comes out. No, I’m kidding. I really wanted to bomb the market with this book. I wanted it to have a fantastic first day out, because I feel like this book is special. And I don’t know if thousands of authors say that. Oh, look at me, I wrote a book. But I didn’t think I would ever publish this book. I wrote it more for myself, the inspiration plucked from the sky somewhere. Writing it took me on an emotional journey through the doorways of youth, religion, hate and love. In this book, William experiences suffering that no small child should feel, but the truth is every day in the “real world” children are coping with the harsh realities of what William’s fictional life: being hurt by the person who is supposed to care for them the most.

When you are young, the world seems so big. Sometimes it seems magical. And other times it’s terrifying. As I wrote The Devil Within I felt horrified for William. My heart tugged for him, and I longed to help him escape. I longed to give him a chance. And so, this book is personal to me because it tells a tale of survival and that’s what we’re all trying to do in this amazing unrelenting world of ours.

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Monday again?

Monday always seems to come too quickly, and my to-do list from the weekend is not finished! A heads up, over the next week or so there will be two guests posts on this blog. I’m taking a little vacation, but don’t worry, in the words of the Terminator “I’ll be back!”

Yesterday The Devil Within was sent off for publishing. I’m not sure how long it takes from this point to come out on Amazon, but I’ll keep you all informed as now my second release date has come and gone. I’m sure you read my blog post entitled Things Don’t Always Go As Planned. This week is take two on that blog post. Apparently pinning down a date when a book will be out is nearly impossible. Next time, I’ll put a date out about a month after the anticipated publication date, and then I’ll upgrade it if necessary.

All I can say is the publication process has taught me a couple of things: a) patience and b) everyone in the world procrastinates. I do know that many of the people working on my book at Booktrope are slammed with other processes. I don’t hold that against them. Plus, the layout took exactly 4 weeks, and then there are items to be finalized. Patience is not a skill I’m adept at exercising, but I’m getting better at it. I always tell my kids, if you can’t change the outcome then what good does getting mad do? A complete waste of energy.

Anyway! In other news, my first newsletter The Greene Pen is coming out tomorrow. I’ve worked on it all weekend and I’m finalizing it tonight so it can be in your inboxes like a Christmas present tomorrow! Subscribe by clicking this link (http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP) and entering your information, and you could receive a signed copy of The Devil Within. 

In the meantime, enjoy your week!

Have you seen my first book on Amazon? Check out No Turning Back today.