About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#Grief and the Holidays

Christmases with my deceased husband weren't always the best. I remember that last Christmas before he died when the kids and I ate McDonalds' at the Sheraton because he'd come home drunk off his ass and we'd needed to flee on Christmas Eve. The bed had been lopsided and the pool had been closed, but the kids had been little and we'd had a "party"--just the three of us--while I muttered to them about "it's all going to be okay."

How many times have I said that to them?

One Christmas to the next, some better than others, with one constant--me promising that everything will be okay.

But sometimes they aren't okay, no matter how bright the Christmas lights or how many presents are piled beneath the tree.

This year there are no presents beneath the tree and they're old enough to question my promises of "it's all going to be okay." My health is the worst it's been and my own mortality is at the forefront of my brain while I plaster on the smile and tell them and everyone that "it's all going to be okay."

Grief is always challenging, but when the holidays creep up, the pressure to be "fine" is amplified. Perhaps there is an ornament that brings back a special memory, a stocking with a name on it that you debate about hanging on the mantel until--finally--you put it back in the box, an empty chair at the dinner table, a gift you find that would be perfect for the one who's gone, a song that makes you smile with a tear in your eye, or a story you'd like to share with that person who is no longer here...or maybe it's just that you feel extra alone.

As the years pass, people forget about those of us who have lost a loved one. Society always has a timetable and, in my situation, the time is up! No one even thinks of us anymore--too much time has passed and our loss is no longer mentioned. The first year after a loss is filled with concerned people, but as the years pass, we find ourselves more alone than ever. It's still just us three--but we didn't "move on" per society's expectations so we've been abandoned.

I haven't remarried.

I haven't relocated.

And, oh yeah, my husband killed himself and I'm still alone so there must be something really wrong with me, right?

It's my fault...my fault...all of it...even then...should have done this, said that, done more...Society is right, there must be something wrong with me for still caring, still missing him... The whispers of guilt dance beneath the festive songs and linger on the winter wind.

Why should I miss someone who was so lost that his own family had to flee on Christmas Eve? Well, I don't miss that person...the addict...I miss the man I loved before it all went to hell. I miss the promise of us, of an ideal. I miss the security that once was long ago. No, I don't miss the addict, but now that's it's Christmas Eve, I remember that last one with such clarity that I can smell the french fries in that lonely hotel room and it makes me sad.

Grief is not only about death...it's about loss of trust and loss of innocence, too. Grief is complicated and layered and tricky and messy.

Many people out in the world aren't fine. They may be hiding behind a smile and pretending that they've moved on so that you feel comfortable, but more than likely, they're thinking of broken promises and dreams, of what-ifs and never-mores.

Yes, it's the season of miracles and compassion. So if you know someone who's lost someone--even if it's been several years--let them know you care with a text or a simple email. One word of love can reassure someone that "it's all going to be okay" and that they're not alone.

Hope is in the air. It always is when we choose to feel it, but sometimes it's lost beneath the sorrow.

***Amber Lea Easton is the author of the inspirational memoir, Free Fall, that has been named 4th on the "10 Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list.  Her intention with discussing issues of addiction, grief and suicide are simply to make the topics less taboo so that those who have survived similar circumstances never need to feel isolated. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

There Comes a Time #Inspiration #life

There comes a time...

to stop pretending to be fine

to say what you really feel

to reject conformity

to question everything

to embrace your power

to confront the bullies

to take a risk

to take a stand

to let go of the past

to forgive

to love again

to be fearless

to kiss

to kick ass

to dance

to nap

to shout

to sing at the top of your lungs

to demand respect

to say screw it and screw you

There comes a time to break free and be true to your soul. 

Can you feel it sleeping through your fingers like tiny grains of sand?  

AL Easton
The Movie Viewers, 1952--Photograph by J.R. Eyerman

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Free Fall, 4 of "10 Most Inspiring True Stories" #Inspiration #AmReading

I'm proud to announce that my nonfiction book, Free Fall, has been named 4th on the "10 Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list (http://goo.gl/r14kgv). It's shocking for me, and I mean that honestly, to receive not only such high praise from industry professionals, but to receive emails from all over the world thanking me for sharing this story. All of it exceeds my expectations. 

When I sat down to write this book--when I opened up tear-stained journals written during the worst time of my life and cried all over again at the sheer pain in those pages--I asked myself an important question...why do I want to do this? 

Why open up those wounds? 

Why expose my life to the world?

One answer came to me time and time again: I wanted to share my story so that no one else would ever feel as alone as I did during the darkest journey I'd ever undertaken. 

Suicide is a word that most people feel uncomfortable talking about. They want to change the subject or skim over it with statements that may seem 'polite' but are often hurtful. This book is not only for those who have experienced a loss of this nature, but also for everyone to gain a better understanding of what it's truly like to walk that lonely path. 

People from around the world now share their stories with me and thank me for opening my heart to them. I feel honored and humbled when I read their words and realize that I fulfilled my intention. My why served its purpose...and perhaps my pain did as well. 

Free Fall's blurb...

"Understanding suffering always helps the energy of compassion to be born." 
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

In an instant my husband stripped away my identity as wife, stay-at-home mom, and best friend. With his suicide, our world changed forever. He'd been the center of our universe, but then he was gone. 

Grief is a dark journey, one often tainted with judgment and false perceptions. Add the word 'suicide' to the mix and more complications arise. This memoir, Free Fall, is intended for those who may be facing their own tragedy and feeling alone, hopeless, confused, scared, and misunderstood.

Free Fall is the journey of piecing our lives back together—overcoming children's anxiety as we traversed the brutal grief and trauma process, learning to say the words 'widow' and 'single mom' without cringing, surviving the fall out with friends and family who simply couldn't understand our healing process, triumphing over the stigma of 'suicide', forgiving my husband, and finding peace after chaos.

Free Fall is for widows, widowers, parents, survivors of suicide, family members or friends of one who mourns. This story is for anyone who needs encouragement that there is another side to grief. There is. We're there now. We're looking back and holding our hands out to you saying, "hang in there, you're not alone, and you'll get here, too."

An excerpt...
“I wore your promise on my finger for one year
I'll wear your name on my heart til I die
Because you were my boy, you were my only boy forever.”

Chapter Five
It's the day of the funeral. I didn't sleep at all last night. The kids won't let me out of their sight so they slept in my bed, which is fine.  I stayed up writing all night, trying to get my eulogy right. I must protect Sean, that's all I can think. Everyone has their ideas of him and his death, I've already heard the claims. "How selfish of him, how cowardly."  Well, today is not a day for that. I won't have it.  I'm determined to stick up for him. That's my job as his wife, his widow. I must protect him...like I did in life, I suppose. I can't help feeling like I failed at that given where I am at the moment.  
I crumble to my knees in my closet, the same place he died.  I hold my black dress to my body. Despair ravages through me. Raw. Unyielding. 
"How could you leave me?" I ask the place on the tile where I'd given him CPR. "How could you leave us? I don't know what to do or what to say or where to begin or how to do any of this alone. I am so mad at you, do you hear me?"
I curl up with my dress in my arms and sob. I want him back. I want this all to be a nightmare. Silent, body curling sobs roll through me. 
"I love you so much," I manage to say against my fist. "I'm so sorry I didn't save you." 
Jo appears out of nowhere and grabs my shoulders, "It's going to be okay. You can do this."
"I don't know how to do this."
"You do. Come on. You can do this." She pulls me up. "One day you'll realize that you're better off."
No one knows what to say to me. No one knows the right words. 
I get dressed like a zombie, not caring about how I look. 
The funeral home is on the phone, my mom says. I need to pull it together, handle things.  
"Your father-in-law is requesting half of Sean's ashes," the woman on the phone tells me.  
Half of what? My hands shake on the phone. The idea of splitting Sean's body up like that even more...the fact that the man hadn't had the respect of asking me directly or even to give me his condolences the other day...and there's that bit about him not speaking to his son for the past three years.  
"He has no right to them," the woman continues when I remain silent. "You're the widow, you paid for this service. He has no right to them unless you give me permission."
"No," I say.  
CrazyLand, USA, I swear.  
The term "stranger than fiction" enters my mind while I convey the story to my family as we get ready to leave for the church. I'm scared of going to the church, actually. I don't expect anyone to be there. Sean and I were each other's best friends so our social circle was limited.  We did everything together.  It's the last day of school so I don't expect any of the soccer parents to be there. What a shame, an empty church for a wonderful man. 
But people are at the church. Jo and my family had put together a picture collage of Sean. One of the photos had been taken exactly one week ago while we'd been snorkeling in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, as a family of four.  I squeeze the kids' hands a bit tighter and we walk to the front pew. I don't want to greet people or talk yet, not until I give the eulogy. My entire body is shaking. I don't want to be here. I want to be back in Mexico with my gorgeous husband walking on the sand.  
The music, the hymns that I chose, all are happening around me. I go through the motions. Sit. Stand. Sing. 
Then it's time for me to talk about him—my moment to make sure everyone knows he is more than a man who committed suicide.  That's when I look up and see the people who've shown up for us. The entire back two pews are full of men who worked for Sean—they're crying. I see my cousins, my brother, and my parents, all who've traveled a great distance to be here. I see friends. I see Sean's side of the family; his mother bent over in tears, his stepfather and biological father, relatives from California.  All are looking at me.  
I don't know if I have the strength to speak. What was I thinking? I glance at my pastor who has tears in her eyes. 
Then I feel as if I'm being held up—I feel a presence at my side, holding my arm, keeping me from falling.  I look at my two little kids and speak.  
I tell the room of a man who dragged us outside in the middle of the night to watch meteor showers, who loved the ocean and mountains, who loved his family, who enjoyed his job working outside every day. I tell them all how he taught his daughter to boogie board, both kids to ski before they could walk, and how he taught me to push past my comfort zone.  I speak only of the man I loved. 
I never take my gaze from my kids' faces. I do this for them. I want them to remember my words. I want them to remember their father for who he was, not how he died.  


5 stars via Author Susan Hawthorne:Have you ever wondered what you should say... or not say... or were afraid to say anything at all, read this. The insights are deep and true.
I'd recommend this book to everyone. We all suffer loss at some point and this book lights the path. (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

5 stars via ChristophFischerBooks:
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. From the moment Easton finds her husband, to the humiliating and insensitive behaviour of the emergency and police services on the scene, to family and friends unable to provide appropriate help to dealing with the long term consequences of bereavement this book is an emotional tour de force that will stay with me for a long time.
A remarkable woman, an inspiring book, outstandingly told and indispensable on the self-help / inspirational publishing market. Tragic, raw, without make-up but with a message of hope and encouragement for others. (see full review here: http://ow.ly/pYhQq 

5 stars via Pastor Jennifer Swier: Free Fall is a helpful and encouraging look into one family's journey with the pain and healing of losing someone deeply loved through suicide. Her sharing is warm, loving, encouraging, and thoughtful. I found I couldn't put it down once I began. Amber's writing is compelling and will connect with all who share the journey with a family member or friend who is healing following the tragic death of the person they love: that we may begin to imagine what they are going through only because we hear the story they share.  (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

5 stars via linz: 
This book has helped me with my own grief. I would recommend this book to anyone. But more to those who don't understand losing someone to suicide.
She is very honest in laying out her and her family's experience. It's refreshing to read true experience rather than text book advise. (see full review here: http://amzn.to/15PXtsu)

Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
OmniLit (all ebook formats): http://goo.gl/QFZa7G
iTunes  http://goo.gl/d5COKx    

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We all have twisted branches #life #inspiration

I walked through my yard today, which happens to be a forest. As I looked up at the towering pines, I noticed how some of the branches were extremely twisted and a few trunks tilted sideways. All of these trees stand at least five stories tall. They're majestic despite their imperfections.
Their trunks had curved on this north facing slope so that they could survive. Their branches had twisted around other tree's limbs in search of sunlight. Roots hold them firmly in the earth, unable to alter where Fate grounded them on this dark facing slope, yet they strive upward and do what they need to do to seek the light.
I related to these twisted trees because I feel like my imperfections add to my character rather than subtract from it. I sometimes feel weighted down by the elements with my branches drooping from the weight of life's snow. I adapt. Bend. Twist. Like the trees whose crowns sway in the wind far above me, not breaking but yielding to the pressure of the moment, I continue to strive upward toward the light.

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Navigating the Darkness #SuicideAwareness #life

I often receive questions about why or how I forgive my late husband for committing suicide and leaving us alone. I forgive because I understand the depth of despair he must have felt and, although I still have moments of anger at him for leaving us, I hope he has found his peace.

I also hope he didn't feel as alone as I do now at times. I feel as if I've been in constant "flight or fight" mode since I found him hanging. Survival instinct took over nine years ago and it's burning me out now. I've fought for my kids to turn out well--which they have--and I've fought to keep the house that is falling apart around me as I type. Fight, fight, fight. 

I'm tired of the fight.

Was he tired of the fight, too? Was he worn out from battling an addiction that had him in and out of rehab? Was he tired of pretending to be okay for his wife and family? Was he tired of trying to maintain a lifestyle that maybe he didn't really want but thought I did?

I understand the darkness he felt because I feel it now. Despite working seven days a week and approximately sixteen hours a day, I'm broke. I've gone from being a well-off woman to one who has $18 in her purse---only $18. And I'm damned grateful for it!

Life as a single mom isn't easy and it isn't something I chose or envisioned for myself. Every day is a scramble and I still come up short. It's frustrating to look into my kids' faces--children who have already been denied a father and the secure life we once led--and see disappointment time and time again.

I'm scared to even talk about 'what-ifs' with my kids around because I've started feeling like a delusional fool. We once took fabulous vacations, now we can't go to a movie. What-ifs and talk about anything new now seem like false promises.

I'm an educated woman with a strong work ethic, yet I can't make ends meet. Just today I crumbled onto the ground in a heap of despair and wondered why I even try. I cursed Sean for leaving us at one point, but more so I chastise myself for not doing 'enough' even though I'm burning myself out doing too much.

Sometimes I find myself thinking Sean took the easy way out--and I envy it. No, I'm not advocating suicide! Not in any way! I wish he would have fought harder to stay here, but in this dark place I'm in with the constant struggle and despair, I understand him better than I ever did. I say easy way out because he never had to deal with kids' hormones or tantrums. He never had to deal with bills being overdue. He never had to deal with being shunned by a community of married people who needed to blame a surviving spouse for the death of the other. He never had to deal with not knowing what to do to earn a living when hard work and talent weren't enough. But then I remember that he had his own battles--things he kept hidden to protect his family--and forgive him his despair.

I think about how sad he must have felt--the aloneness, the sense of helplessness, the frustration at being unable to kick his addictions--and am overcome with compassion. I relate to him now on a different level...the lowest one...in the dark, on the floor, raging against the sadness. I never witnessed him doing that, but know that he did from notes I found following his death. If I had seen my strong husband falling to his knees overcome with sorrow like I did this morning at the realization that my loosely tied together life is unraveling, what would I have done?

Would I have shown him compassion? Would I have hugged him and told him how much I loved him? Or would I have scoffed at the weakness and been afraid of what that meant? I hate to say it probably would have been the latter.

There are friends of mine now that have no idea how scared I am or how alone I feel. I smile because I hear their comments about people who don't have money "at this age" or who have "drama" in their lives "at this age." I see their posts about avoiding toxic people full of negativity and think--is my real life situation of fearing losing my home being negative? Is my burn out from working nonstop and still not earning enough being a 'downer'? So I fake being okay and remain silent about my struggle. 

Sean faked it. He took his family on a vacation, went body surfing with his daughter, danced with me...all the while knowing he intended to kill himself days later when he returned home.

I once could not understand that. I beat myself up for not knowing, but now I understand because I'm putting on that face, too. I'm pretending all is well despite being on the precipice of losing it all. I smile while inside I am silently screaming. I tell people I'm cool with being alone despite crying over pictures of all those who've disappeared from my life over silly misunderstandings or lack of compassion. Why? Because my friends don't want to know my darkness.

But I keep getting up from that floor, sitting back down at the computer, working until the wee hours, sacrificing everything for a career that has yet to deliver, questioning if I've lost my mind along the way...Yes, here I am. Trying. Crying. Refusing to give up despite the darkness creeping into my heart.

I knew Sean's darkness, but only on a superficial level. I knew his mood swings scared me. I knew he battled with sobriety. I knew he worked his ass off night and day. I knew he loved the kids and me. I knew he tried really, really hard to be the kind of husband he thought I wanted. I only knew what he allowed me to see--and perhaps I didn't dare look deeper for fear of what I'd find.

Do we all do that? Do we all hide from the deep darkness because we may see ourselves reflected back?

I forgive Sean because I love him. More than that, I forgive him because I finally "get it."

The real question is, can I forgive myself for stumbling and unraveling? I'm not sure yet. I'm here. Trying. Crying. Refusing to give up. That's all I know for now.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rejecting Limits #creativelife #amwriting #life

"The author shouldn't have gone there."---a recent comment from a reader of mine about a controversial storyline. Hey, whatever. It's not your cup of tea, fine. I honestly don't care. I'm not one of those authors who obsesses over reviews. Love me or hate me, it's your prerogative. Seriously. But the term "shouldn't have gone there" resonated me for other reasons. I mean...who are you to tell me how far I should go? I will go where I choose in both life and work because I am first and foremost a creative person.

Even as a kid, I'd be the one who found out what the rules were so that I could break a few. If you tell me I can't do something, I will go out of my way to do it. Am I a brat? Probably. 

But because I push the boundaries, I live a nonconformist life. I don't work in a cubicle or keep 'normal' 9 to 5 hours. I take risks that sometimes end up as failures, but I never regret them because I can say I tried my best. 

Don't go there? I'm a writer, it's my job to go there. It's my job to delve into the darkness of the human heart and the shadowy parts of life to illuminate them in a way that makes people pay attention. I write romantic thrillers so some think that the word 'romance' means lighthearted glee. Well, not in my stories, although I do try to temper the drama with humor here and there--and a lot of sex. I mean, the characters need to blow off some steam after all that suspense, right? But I'm more than willing to push the boundaries of the genre. I explore the mind of stalkers, human traffickers, murderers, wounded Marines with PTSD, drug addiction, dangers of being locked up abroad where torture happens, witness protection, kidnappers, co-dependency...you get the idea. I'm not afraid of the dark side of human nature. I definitely go there and I do so without apology. 

Here's what I say to people who keep trying to put limits on others: Stop trying to infringe your narrow world view on those who dare to put themselves on the line. This isn't just about writing, but in regards to all things. Simply because you're afraid to take a risk, doesn't mean that those who are out there risking it all are wrong. 

Each of us is different. We all have lives that have shaped our fears and dreams. When we start respecting those differences rather than criticizing them, that's when true magic happens. That's when we realize how fascinating we all are because of the various experiences we bring to the conversation. When we stop fearing and start accepting, we become better human beings who might learn something if we take the stick out of our asses long enough to sit down and listen. 

I admit that I've become intolerant of being censored--professionally, yes, but especially personally. Guess what? I go there all the time. If I have an opinion, I express it. But here's the thing...I welcome yours. I want you to go there, too. It makes you much more interesting in my eyes if you're not afraid to be your irreverent, sassy, kind-hearted, genuine, outrageous self. 

History is filled with individuals who broke a few rules, who busted free of the status-quo, who went boldly over those lines people like to cling to for their own safety, and who gave the finger to anyone who tried to hold them back. 

So as for the reader who thinks I went too far...and my personal critics who attempt to reign me in...I probably haven't gone far enough and, if given the chance, I'll blow your fucking mind with how far I'm willing to go. 

Go ahead...say it...tell me what I can't do...try to put a limit on my imagination or my potential...I dare you. 

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cost of Being the Boss of Your Life #inspiration #relationships

BB King used the phrase, "cost of being the boss." I now realize what that means. When everything in your life--house, family, career, budget--is riding 100% on your shoulders, sacrifices need to be made.

I've taken a hiatus from this blog for the past few months, mainly because life has been hectic. My daughter has moved off to the university, I've had several new releases with more pending, my son's been going through some physical challenges after a lacrosse injury, I have a 10 month old unruly puppy I'm attempting to train (she's the joy in my day), money has gotten even more tight with all of these changes, and I've been dealing with some health issues that I've kept private. It's life, and to be honest, if it weren't chaotic, I'd probably be bored. But I've needed to focus on keeping everything functioning rather than spending time socializing and this has had some fallout.

I love my job and am happy to be in demand. I prefer writing over almost anything else. Aside from the pressure, there are a lot of perks to being my own boss and I embrace them all.

My friends are mostly used to my independence, but some are critical of it--more so lately. I've been reprimanded for not asking for help or remaining aloof, yet the past has told me that confiding in people usually leads to judgment on their end. It's the one thing that's been truly consistent in my life--being judged for who I am, or in some cases, being misjudged for things I would never dream of doing.

Not to sound callous, but when my career is at this phase of taking off and there's more projects than not, I'd be a fool to slow it down to spend time with anyone who criticizes, misjudges, or nit-picks me to death.

Life is too short to spend it with people who bring you down or trivialize you in any way. So why do it? Just to be nice? Because they've been in your life for a long time? That's silly.

I'm a best selling author and a single mom who has succeeded despite the odds against me. My kids are excelling. Despite this, I have people who treat me like my opinions and experiences are irrelevant. I'm dismissed as a joke at times. Why? I don't know. Maybe because I always show up smiling and try to keep things light-hearted. Perhaps because I'm a pretty blonde who still enjoys getting wild and flirting. Maybe because I'm a writer and that always seems to freak people out. Or maybe because they see my success and resent it. Whatever the reason, I'm not putting up with it. I am simply saying, "no."

No more tolerating people judging anything about me. I don't deliberately hurt people. Never have, never will. Anyone who feels that I've sabotaged them is delusional about their own significance to my life. (Refer to the top paragraph--I've got my own stuff going on.) Live and let live, I always say. I don't judge anyone for how they live their life, who they vote for (so sick of this one), or spend their time. I expect to be treated the same way.

No more wasting time doing things I really don't want to do. Here's the thing: my time is precious. So is yours. If I take time away from my work, my family, my puppy, or whatever else I enjoy to spend time with someone, I want to laugh and enjoy every second of it. If I'm uncomfortable or bored or being cast into the role of court jester, I'm leaving. I deserve better. So does everyone. Social situations should lift us UP, not bring us down.

No more listening to people's opinions of what I should do or should not do. Listen, if I want a sounding board, I'll ask for an opinion. I actively seek feedback from trusted counsel--if you haven't been asked, you're probably not it. However, if I'm enjoying a cocktail and a friend decides to jump in with all of the things I should be doing or the people I should be socializing with, I don't care.  I don't even tell my kids what they should or should not be doing. We discuss options and I ask them what they think would be best--we work it out that way rather than me shoving my ideas down their throats. Surprisingly, they usually make good choices. If they don't, life lesson learned. I don't expect 'reprimands' from my friends. I expect acceptance.

No more allowing disrespect. This happens to me more than I'd like to admit. I'm polite, too much so in certain circumstances. Some people openly mock my career to my face: You're a writer? Really? Do you actually make money from that? Oh, you write romance novels? *snort*  Or they mock my daughter's college because it is only 45 minutes from home and despite the fact that it is the 3rd hardest university to get into in Colorado: Wouldn't you let her go out of state? Couldn't she get into Boulder? It's all bullshit! I would never--repeat never--do any of things to anyone else. They don't even enter my mind. Why do they do this? I have no idea, but for too long I've ignored it for the sake of avoiding confrontation. Sometimes, especially when you're being disrespected, it's not only okay to get defensive, it's HEALTHY. Stand up for yourself and let the other person know they've crossed that line.

I'm moving in two years after my son graduates high school and both kids will be in college. I know where I am going. I have already decided and am making plans. Am I going to tell anyone? No, not until the boxes are packed and arrangements finalized. Why not? Because they'll tell me it's unrealistic or impossible or God only knows what. Hmm...I think I heard those things before I published my first novel, yet hear I am looking at book ten releasing in a month.

The cost of being the boss of your own life is that some people need to be let go--just like in a business. If they're not contributing to your well-being and happiness, then step away. You deserve only the best that this life has to offer. You deserve to surround yourself with people who allow you to relax, accept the differences between you, give you the benefit of the doubt, and love it when you're your unfiltered fabulous self. Don't settle for less.

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Seizing the Day! #CarpeDiem #inspiration #suicideprevention

Today I'm doing something different by writing about conformity as a tribute to one of the most brilliant artists of our time, Robin Williams, a man who truly walked his own path.

Conformity is the death of creativity. It kills passion and suffocates individuality. Perhaps it is one reason why people fall into the "land of the living dead," merely existing day-to-day and settling for less than extraordinary.

 ...settle for the guy who doesn't respect us because it beats being alone...
 ...settle for the job that we know is slowly killing our souls because it is the safest path..
 ...settle for a life of hiding our brilliant light because it may make us stand out too much...
 ...settle for a boring sex life because we don't want to appear to wanton...
...settle for the status quo because going our own way is just too damn scary...

 Well, to hell with that! Shake off those cobwebs of mediocrity and embrace the magic of the world around you before it's too late.

 ...embrace the moment of watching a butterfly flit through the air without worrying about time... ...embrace all that makes you unique without once thinking about what someone will think... ...embrace the quirks about your lover that you fell in love with and overlook the small stuff... ...embrace today because tomorrow is not guaranteed...
 ...embrace those dreams you've brushed aside...

Reject conformity and find your own niche.

Before writing today's post, I thought about the word "Muse" in connection with Robin Williams. The man always seemed fueled by a higher power, an energy outside of himself that moved at the speed of light and drove him to create characters that will live in our hearts forever. He didn't conform to any stereotype and that freedom made magic.

Depression is insidious, however. It shows no mercy or discrimination. It hides behind the most brilliant smiles and the sheen of success. It is a disease that exists behind closed doors and silence. I hold out hope for a world that shows more compassion toward one another and less judgment, a world where it's okay to not be perfect, and a world where we practice acceptance of one another's imperfections rather than rejection for not fitting a certain mold. Yes, I truly hold out hope, yet sometimes it feels like I'm holding a candle in a hurricane.

Rest in peace, Oh Captain, My Captain! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us.
Amber Lea Easton

Friday, August 8, 2014

Competing with a Ghost #Grief #Widows #Parenting

Competing with a Ghost

"Dad would have done it this way..."

"Dad would have let me..."

Here's the thing: dad isn't here and I am. One of the most difficult thing of being an only parent is the comparison game. I know divorced parents deal with this too, but on a different level. They sometimes get played against one another...and so do we widows only our competition is a ghost.

It's easy to idealize those who've passed on. I'm guilty of it myself. There are moments I catch myself thinking about Sean and only remembering the good things. I forget his addiction...the insanity of it...the hallucinations and paranoia...the fear. It's easier to remember the good looking man with the smile who could ski and build anything. So it's no wonder that my kids, who were very young when they died, idealize a father they wish they'd gotten to know.

But as the one who's here putting up the good fight every day just to make ends meet and who's dealing with all of the challenges of only parenthood, competing with an idealized version of a man long gone is beyond frustrating. It's downright infuriating.

I lost my temper about this last week. I've been under a lot of stress working non-stop seven days a week and preparing for my daughter to leave for college. My son started talking about how "if only dad were here, things would be different and he'd be happier...He'd be able to go skiing as much as he wanted and he'd be able to get the skis he wanted because dad would be 'into' it."

I'm a downer, you see.

I'm the one who is here, the one who needs to be both mom and dad. I'm the one who needs to say 'no.' I'm the one who pays the bills and manages the budget. I'm the one who makes--and enforces--rules. I'm the one who 'used to be fun' but now works all of the time.

My late husband took the easy way out that day he hung himself. I have forgiven him--mostly--but there are times like these when I get pissed off. He left us. He left his two beautiful little kids who needed him to be here to take them skiing and every other thing he could have shown them. He abandoned his wife who once had a good and thriving career, but chose to stay home with the kids as part of our 'deal' as a married couple. Starting over sucks...especially over the age of 40 and especially when the bigger than life memory of the man we all loved looms over us.

I lost my temper with my son last week. I started yelling because his comments struck a chord of insecurity within me at the exact right time. I told him, "If you're looking for a hero, you're looking at her. I'm the hero. I'm the one who hasn't given up even though it's been damn hard. I'm the one who stays no matter what. I'm your fucking hero." Imagine that being screamed at the top of my lungs while waving a doggie toy around like a crazy woman. Yeah, I lost it.

Sometimes we need to lose it, just let it all out rather than trying to hold it all together. No one got hurt,  not even the dog toy. My son looked shocked and just blinked at me from where he sat on the sofa, but he shut up about the blissful life he'd have if only dad were here. He's 16, by the way. He can handle the truth.

What-ifs and if-onlys serve no good purpose. All they do is make us believe in a fantasy that will never come true and make us question a reality that is actually pretty damn good.

I don't blame my son. I had a momentary blow up from stress and my feelings of losing time with my daughter (I'll write more about that next week). I have done the comparison game when talking to new men I meet. I hold them up to all the good qualities that Sean possessed and try not to remember the bad. Perhaps because he died I feel a need to honor the man I loved without tainting his image, but that's not okay. Not really. I honor him by remembering him as he really was, with all of his flaws, because I loved him so much that I still ache for him. He wasn't perfect, neither am I. No one is. I honor him best by remembering his human nature rather than an ideal I created from loneliness or longing. I have been guilty of holding new men up to an ideal that is truly unrealistic and unfair.

My son has done the same with me by comparing me to a parent he doesn't actually remember. He looks at photos and hears stories and conjures up a fantasy of the father he missed out on knowing. I can't compete with a fantasy. I'm too real, too flawed, too in-your-face to be mistaken for an ideal.

If I can't compete with a ghost, then it's not okay for me to ask others to do so either. Those of us who are alive, who are flawed, who 'stay' to fight the good fight every day, we are the heroes and, in real life, heroes are never perfect.

Peace to you.
Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
OmniLit (all ebook formats): http://goo.gl/QFZa7G

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Breaking Free of the Shame Cage! #suicide #widows #grief

Who do you think you are? You should be ashamed of yourself! Have you ever heard or said these things? Shame. It's a brutal feeling and one I've felt over the years; but I'm finally learning to reject the notion. It is a concept designed to keep us in a cage and I'm rattling the bars to break free.
Photo by thunderscry.deviantart.com 

Last week, I had an interview regarding my memoir, Free Fall, where the interviewer asked me if I felt I could have done anything to prevent Sean's suicide. (Obviously, she hadn't read my book or she would have known better than to ask me that!) I said, "No, I won't go there. I reject that idea. I've spent 9 years working through my survivor's guilt and processing all the what-if scenarios, and I won't entertain the idea of blame or shame."

But I didn't always feel that way...and still struggle with shame in other areas of my life. As a single mom and only parent with a daughter about to go off to college, I struggle with the idea that I wasn't "enough" for her. We've lived on a tight budget. I've had to say no to things other kids get to do. I haven't been able to give them as much I'd wanted when they were born. I've had my brother yell at me that I don't care enough about money and am letting the kids down--which adds to the whole I'm-not-enough struggle. Shame--she's a bitch.

I can rebound, tell myself I'm working hard, remind myself how much I've done; but there's always some measuring stick out there reminding me I'm falling short. So I'm breaking that damn stick in two and telling anyone who wants to judge me where I'd like to stick those pieces.

No matter how positive we are or how much faith we have, shame whispers its lies when we're at our most vulnerable. We all carry shame over something that limits us in the here and now. Perhaps we don't articulate it because that would mean being vulnerable, which is scary. It doesn't need to be as traumatic as surviving the suicide of a loved one or any other type of trauma. It can be shame over our appearance, our financial status, our marital status, our employment history, our parenting abilities...it can stem from just about anything, but it's limiting us from achieving our highest potential.

I've worked hard as a parent never to say the phrase, "you should be ashamed of yourself" to my kids. Instilling this notion of shame or guilt is wrong and we need to stop doing it to ourselves and to others.

How did I shake the shame over Sean's suicide, people ask, because that's a biggie. It wasn't easy. It took a lot of soul searching, some ranting, and forgiveness. Not only did I forgive him for his last act in life, but I forgave myself for taking him for granted among other things. You see, we both did the best we could given our ages and our life experience at the time.

I'm forgiving myself now, too, for not living up to those big dreams I had when the kids were born. I've done my best in a situation I neither expected nor deserved. Hey, she graduated and is a good kid--in today's world with all the temptations out there--I've done a pretty damn good job as a mom, even with all my screw ups.

I have someone close to me whose daughter is a heroin addict and she's playing the blame game about all the things she could have done differently as a parent. The truth is--she and her husband are great parents, put their child through college, and have been staunch advocates for their daughter. Shame whispers to them that they didn't do "enough".

What exactly is enough and who decides the criteria? I will no longer be a slave to feelings of inadequacy or the "I'm not enough" cycle. This is my life--the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful--it's all mine. I'm the only one who knows the reality of my situation; therefore, I'm the only one entitled to have an opinion on it.

Forgiveness always defeats shame, that's the secret. Whatever it is you may be ashamed of deep down--whether it's your appearance, an addiction, dreams you never pursued, promises broken or whatever it is for you--forgive yourself.

All the traumas in my life have given me insight...and writing material. They were painful. People can be mean. Life can beat a person up. It can also be full of wonder, compassionate human beings, and happiness. Yeah, life is complicated...so why make it more so by adding shame into the mix?

Forgiveness and gratitude are powerful forces that defeat the shame and "not good enough" mentality. As Maya Angelo wrote, "you alone are enough." You are. I am. Break free of that shame cage, spread your wings, and soar above all the lies that have held you back.

Be good to yourself!

Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/H0QBCr
OmniLit (all ebook formats): http://goo.gl/QFZa7G

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to be Twittertastic! #marketing #writing #writetip

One of my favorite authors and one of the nicest people I've met in this business, Jo Linsdell,  is stopping by on her virtual book tour. She's an expert in book marketing as well as an extremely talented author. Please welcome Jo Linsdell! 

Welcome, Jo! Can you tell us about your latest book? 
How to be Twittertastic is a writers and authors guide to the social media site Twitter. It covers a bit of everything from how to set up your account and personalise your profile to third party apps and getting the most leverage out of your tweets. It's also packed full of useful resources to help you make the most out of time and marketing efforts.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the book?
I got the idea for the Writers and Authors Guide to Social Media series a while ago but as I was working on illustrating some children's picture books for clients and was also busy publishing a children's picture story book of my own (The Box) and so I didn't have time to develop the idea right away.
A couple of months ago I decided that Twitter would be the topic of the first book in the series as it's the site I use that gains the best results. As soon as I had some free time I started brainstorming and plotting out a rough table of contents. It didn't take me long to know what I wanted to write.

What inspired you to write this particular book?
I'm a real social media junky and often get asked by other authors for tips on how to market their books online and build their author brand. When you have a passion that also happens to be in high demand it makes it easy to get inspired.
This whole series is designed around the idea of making social media easy for authors to understand and to supply them with information and tips to help them get the most out of their time and efforts.
Social media is used by billions of people worldwide on a daily basis. Our audience is online and can be reached free of charge without us even having to leave our homes. Authors need to be taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with their readers and build their fan base. A lot of authors aren't using it because they don't know where to start. Others are using it but not making the most of it. I hope this series will help them build their online presence and give them some ideas for what and how to post.

How long did it take you to write your book?
A couple of weeks. The book is a quick read. I didn't want to keep repeating the same things over and over (I've seen others do that to bulk out a book and found it very annoying) and to be honest, there is only so much you can write about Twitter. The site is designed around the idea of clutter free, to the point, content. I wanted the book to be the same.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)
I researched online using Twitter search to find examples to use in the book, and Google to find statistics, etc... As social media is one of my hobbies as well as a tool I use daily for marketing, I was already quite up to date on most of the details. I've also done several webinars on the topic and so already had a lot of notes to work from.

Who designed the cover?
I designed and made it myself using Adobe Illustrator.

Where is the book available to purchase?
How to be Twittertastic is currently available in kindle format on all Amazon sites and will be out in print later this month.

What genres do you write?
My main genres are children's picture books and non-fiction marketing guides for authors. I've also written poetry and have several novels of various types that I'm working on. I don't like to limit myself and love experimenting with new projects to see where they take me.

Do you have a saying or motto for your life/or as a writer?
Yes. "Don't just dream it, do it." I apply it to every aspect of my life and my writing.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?
At my website www.JoLinsdell.com

What was your first job?
My first job was working as a Saturday girl in a small hairdressers when I was about 13. I had to wash clients hair, sweep the floors, tidy the stock room, and get everyone coffee. I didn't stay there very long but I learnt a lot whilst I was there and will always remember it as my first job.

What's your favourite colour?
My favourite colour has always been blue. I love every shade of blue, from the pale pastels to deep navy. It's calm and peaceful but can also be full of energy.

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
Probably when I left England to go to Rome back in 2001. Two weeks prior I'd opened an atlas, closed my eyes, and pointed at the map. It was on Italy. The next day I quit my job and booked my one way flight ticket to Rome. I'd only planned on staying for 3 days initially but I'm still here and with no plans on leaving anytime soon (that however is another story). I remember when I was on the plan having an overwhelming feeling of "am I brave or just plain stupid". I was completely on my own, didn't know of word of Italian, and had no real plan of action for when I arrived. All I had was my backpack. It was both the best and scariest thing I think I've ever done.

What do you like to read?
I have quite varied tastes and will read most genres. My favourites are crime and mysteries, easy read chick-lit, and non-fiction books about marketing (I'm always on the look out for new inspiration ;)).

What was the first book to have a big impact on you?

The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it in school, and several times since. She was such an inspiring person and the book is so powerful. It really gets under your skin.
About the book...

Are you ready to be Twittertastic?

Twitter is the most immediate of all social media and allows you to connect with readers and others from the literary industry from all over the world. The fastest growing network with a 44% growth from 2012-2013 Twitter now boosts 255 million monthly active users.

How to be Twittertastic teaches you what Twitter is and how to use it to build your author brand, connect with readers, and sell more books.

Learn strategies and tips that will help you leverage your Twitter presence and get the most out of your tweets.

What's covered:
  • How to set up your profile and personalise it
  • Creating your network
  • Ideas for making the most out of the new features
  • Tweets- Types of content you can share
  • Retweets, hashtags, and other Twitter terminology made simple
  • Twitter etiquette- Dos and Don'ts of the Twitterverse
  • Time savers

and more...

How to be Twittertastic is the first book in the Writers and Authors Guide to Social Media series.

Product Details: Kindle

File Size: 2191 KB
Print Length: 94 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

More about Jo…

Purchasing links:

Jo Linsdell is  a best selling author and illustrator and internationally recognized marketing expert. She is also the founder and organizer of the annual online event "Promo Day" (www.PromoDay.info) and the Writers and Authors blog (http://WritersAndAuthors.blogspot.com). To find out more about Jo and her projects visit her website www.JoLinsdell.com.

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