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Proof that Perseverance Pays Off

Have you ever given up on pursuing a dream because it seemed unattainable?  Or worse, quit because someone told you your dream was unrealistic?

Take a lesson from my friend, Jaclyn:  don’t give up and don’t quit.  On April 1st, and at age 83, Jaclyn is going to see her first romance novel published.  Talk about perseverance!

I first met Jaclyn  in 1989 when I joined Romance Writers of America.  She and I served on the board of directors for the New England Chapter of RWA from 1990 to 1994 and, for years, supported each other by critiquing each other’s work.  I’m SO proud of her and her accomplishments:  she’s won numerous awards for her writing and never gave up.

Her time travel romance, The Ring, will be released by Desert Breeze Publishing on 04/01/2013; here’s more info:

 

 

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How to Protect Yourself from Violence

Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, may just be the single most important book I’ve ever read.  The sub-title of the book is “and other survival signals that protect us from violence.”

My biggest takeaway from reading the book is confirmation and validation of something I’ve always believed … but didn’t always know how spot on the belief was and didn’t always practice.  Here’s the takeaway:  our instincts are always right.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, if your instincts, guts, inner voice–whatever it is you want to call it–tell you something’s wrong, something’s wrong!

Contrary to what many will try to tell you, what de Becker calls instinct isn’t a 6th sense.  It’s not something woo-woo, it’s not clairvoyance, it’s not ESP.  Actually, it’s way more logical than that.  In fact, it’s precisely like the processing of a computer.  For example, I’m 56 years old.  I’ve lived on this earth for 56 years and have experienced 56 years’ worth of interactions with other people.  Every single moment of my life was recorded by the computer inside my head.  And, like a computer, my brain processed those sights, sounds, smells, and stored them away for future use.  My instincts are the embodied in the future.  When my instincts tell me something’s wrong, something’s wrong.   I may not know exactly what’s wrong, or why, but I can take the warning to the bank because the processor in my brain has evaluated all the facts and has spotted something out of kilter.

de Becker talks about pre-incident indicators, what he calls PINs.  No one is ever violent without first giving clues to the impending violence.  And, the majority of violence can be avoided if we pay attention to our surroundings and the people in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  The PINs are always there.  He also proves that fear, when respected, is not only a survival instinct, it’s your friend.

I read The Gift of Fear on the heels of reading Fight Like a Girl … and Win by Lori Hartman Gervasi.  Although Fight Like a Girl is  touted as a self-defense book (the sub-title is Defense Decisions for Women), it’s more a how-to about how to prevent putting ourselves in situations that are threatening or violent than it is about how to physically defend ourselves.  It’s practical and after reading it, I picked up dozens of tips about how to keep myself safe.  I especially liked Gervasi’s advice about how all sorts of everyday household contents have the potential to be serious weapons in the event an unwanted person (read:  man) enters your home, threatens you, and you need to defend yourself.

You can’t go wrong reading this books.  In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you do so.  Especially if you read them in the order I did:  Gervasi’s book first, from a woman’s perspective, which views all the potential violence that’s out there and then de Becker’s book, from a man’s perspective, which is also that of a person who lived with violence as a child and grew up to be the premier security expert in the world.

P.S.  Many thanks to Alain Burrese, for recommending Gervasi’s book when he helped me with some research I was doing, and to both Alain and Gervasi for recommending The Gift of Fear.

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Are You a Middle Child?

A lot of people have griped about being a middle child.  I’ve heard that Mom and Dad trust the oldest more and let the youngest do more.  What say you about being a middle child?

If you’re a middle child, I’d love to receive your input for some  research I’m doing.

Feel free to make a comment here OR copy and paste the following questions into an email and send your responses to me at linda@lindfaulkner.com:

  1. As a child, did you resent your older or younger siblings?  If yes, whom did you resent the most … and why/why not?
  2. As an adult, do you still resent those siblings .. and why/why not?
  3. What are the advantages of being a middle child?
  4. What are the disadvantages of being a middle child?
  5. Do you think you’re more, or less, well-adjusted than children with a different birth order (i.e., firstborn, lastborn, or only)?
  6. In an emotional sense, which sibling are you the closest to … and why?
  7. Provide me with the birth order of you and your sibs, including only gender and age and where you fit into the sequence.  For example, I’m the oldest of four, so I’d say:  Me/Female; brother/2 years younger; brother/4 years younger; sister/8.5 years younger.
  8. Volunteer one or two other highlights (or lowlights) of being a middle child.

I will conduct a drawing of all the people who respond to my shout out.  If you’re the winner, here’s how you’ll contribute to the first book in my new series–the one with the middle child as the protagonist/lead character:

  • You’ll be able to name one of the characters, AND
  • You can choose one of the personality traits of the lead character.

 Thanks!

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What’s Your Birth Order?

I’m preparing to begin writing the first book in a series that revolves around a family:  two parents and four children.  I’ve researched birth order in the past and agreed a great deal with the opinions of Dr. Kevin Leman, who wrote The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.  I’m using the information gleaned from his book, and other sources, as I create my characters and–more importantly–their motivations.

Although I’m a firstborn, I admire the traits of the middleborn the most but get along better with lastborns.  Why do you think that is? 

Well, according to Dr. Leman (who’s a psychologist) people get along best with others who are opposites–personality-wise.  He claims  the majority of married couples he’s counseled during the past 30 years have been firstborns, onlies, or a combination of the two.  (I surely fit that demographic!)

Anyway, here are a few of the things Dr. Leman has to say, followed by brief descriptions of traits that are universally accepted to belong to certain birth orders (by people who agree with the concept, of course!).

  • In a family, each child is most directly affected by the next oldest child.
  • Each child typically behaves opposite the next oldest child. However, if he believes he can compete successfully with the next oldest child (and “overthrow” that child), role reversal takes place.
  • All children want attention from their parents and begin seeking it in infancy; if they don’t get it, they seek either power or revenge–in that order.

Firstborn traits:  Goal-oriented, seek control and approval; aggressive; type-A personality; responsible; conservative; organized; serious; self-sacrificing; puts self and others under stress and pressure; perfectionist

Middleborn traits:  Peacemaker; easy-going; peer-oriented rather than family-oriented; excellent people skills; adaptable; agreeable; may feel overlooked, unheard, ignored; compromising; loyal to friends; secretive; risk-taker; may be cynical or suspicious

Lastborn traits:  Creative; charming; manipulative; identifies with underdog; can be too dependent upon others; risk-taker; spoiled; lazy; temperamental; clown or comedian; entertainer; fun-loving; affectionate; reads people well

Only child traits:  (Very similar to firstborn):  Struggles with parental expectations; perfectionist; doesn’t handle criticism well; critical of self and others; confident; doesn’t relate well to peers when a child; self-motivated; fearful and/or cautions; self-centered

So, what say you?

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Karma … and Perspective

Do you believe in Fate?  Or What goes around comes around?  Or any of the other phrases and cliches that address the vagaries in life?

I surely do.  I recently spent twelve tortuous days that were an illustration by God:  somewhere, sometime, I did a very bad something.  And He remembered.

On the other hand, if I look that those days from a different perspective:  the fact that they weren’t worse–and didn’t involve a couple of circumstances that surely should have happened–given Mother Nature and the law of averages–I was clearly rewarded for being a saint.

I started out believing Karma had it in for me … and ended being grateful for my wonderful good luck.  As the famous Donald McHenry is quoted in Taking the Mystery Out of Business:  9 Fundamentals for Professional Success:

“Why is it that successful people seem to have a lot of good luck?  Successful people make their own luck by putting themselves in so many good situations good luck seems to follow them.  Ergo: the harder you work, the luckier you are.”

These days, I work real hard at maintaining a positive attitude.  And I’m lucky–it’s working for me.

How’s Karma treating you lately?

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A Couple of Characters…

My friend, Lois McElravy, is a national speaker who uses humor to motivate and inspire.  The survivor of a serious brain injury, Lois knows all about challenges and hardships.  She sometimes uses a character, Louis, to help make her points when she tours the country talking to business men and women, brain injury survivors, and a host of other audiences.

I thought I’d share an article Lois co-wrote with fellow speaker, Steve Weber, not only because it’s interesting but also to illustrate that if you think it’s tough speaking in public as yourself, imagine what it would be like to be Louis or Forrest Gump!  Here’s the link to the article they co-wrote for the national magazine, Speaker Article.

Feel free to share your thoughts about public speaking…

And remember that true friends are just as important on Valentine’s Day as our other loved ones!  I love you, Lois!

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My 4th (and probably final) Wagon Train

Have you ever driven cross-country?  Neither have I.  But I have driven 75% of the way across the country … four times!

In October 2003, I moved to Montana where I lived until last February, and it’s a 2,700-mile drive from Attleboro to Evaro, the tiny town 20 miles north of Missoula where I settled in the mountains on 10 acres of forested land.  (I was born in New York City and moved to Massachusetts when I was 11 years old; I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts.)

Yes, the picture appearing at the top of this post is what I saw when I stood on the front porch of my Montana house and looked north.  It’s pretty much what I saw when I looked south, east, and west as well–although only between the months of November and April!  A few of my favorite Montana pics, taken by yours truly, pepper this post.

When you head west by car, you can literally feel things calm down:  the frenetic pace of motorists disappears, speech patterns slow, and people become more warm and open.  The landscape, as you’d imagine, changes too.  The rolling hills of New England and Pennsylvania turn flat as you drive between endless cornfields, silver silos, and big, red barns.  Fog embraces you when you skirt Lake Michigan, obscuring the skyline of Chicago, and the wind nearly blows you off the arrow-straight highway as you make your way across the badlands of South Dakota.

When you head east on the way back, the scenery is even more beautiful.  There’s nothing quite like looking down as you drive through  a mountain pass over the Continental Divide at an elevation of 6,300 feet.  The stark beauty of the Crow Indian Reservation reminds you about the history of the wild west and prepares you to drive through the towns of Sundance and Buffalo in Wyoming and Spearfish and Deadwood in South Dakota.

In addition to the awe-inspiring views, the variety of wildlife takes your breath away:  the enormous bald eagle standing right beside the highway, trying to figure a way to chase off the three turkey vultures munching on a carcass.  White-tail deer, mule deer, elks, antelope, coyotes, hawks, marmots, muskrats, raccoons–you name it, we saw it.

I didn’t take any pictures as I completed this fourth, and probably final, trip between Attleboro and Evaro.  I want to remember all the joy I experienced in Montana–not the sadness of leaving it.  They say people are the same everywhere but I don’t believe it.  The people in Montana were the warmest, most welcoming people I ever met.  (Click here for my magazine article, I’m Home, which was published in Three Rivers Lifestyle magazine in 2006.)

My family, however, is here in Masschusetts and they hold a bigger piece of my heart than Montana does.  Which is as it should be.  My family taught me about love, and about following my heart wherever it leads me.  I’m a richer, happier person for having lived in Montana and experienced the last best place.  I’m richer still as I surround myself with my father, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Home isn’t a place.  It’s a safe haven wrapped in the arms of people who love you.

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People Who Change Your Life

I just had an email conversation with my 7th grade English teacher.  She’s the person who convinced me, 43 years ago, that I could become published if I kept working at it.

I was 12 years old when she explained what I needed to do to contact the publishers of magazines to submit my work for consideration.  No one was interested in buying stories about the adventures of Throckmorton the frog, but the experience of submitting my work–and receiving rejections–stayed with me for years.  In a good sense.  I felt important because the publishers actually responded to my submissions!  You see, my family didn’t think it was possible for a kid to get published.

Fast forward 34 years to the event of the publication of my first newspaper column.  During the next 7 years I published numerous magazine articles, insurance education books and courses, and my first novel.  During a radio interview about the upcoming release of my mystery Second Time Around,  the interviewer asked me what motivated me to be a published writer.

I immediately thought of two women:  my mother–who told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and Pat Goldman–who showed me how to do what I’d set my mind to.

My life wouldn’t be the same without those two women and their support … and belief in me.

Who changed YOUR life?

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Attainable New Year’s Resolutions

We all know about New Year’s resolutions … about how we always make them and never seem to accomplish them.

Well, I’ve managed to accomplish my last two New Year’s resolutions.  Of course, they were rather vague and not very specific.  For that reason, however, they allowed some flexibility and managed to be not only reasonable but also attainable.

For many years, I actually quit making New Year’s resolutions because I always failed to lose weight or acquire large sums of money.  Our of sheer desperation one year, I decided I really needed to take care of myself … instead of everyone else: family, clients, even strangers in line at the grocery store who had far fewer items to check out and were really in a hurry.

Why do so many of us actually believe other people are busier than we are,  live more stressful lives, and face more challenges?  Well, I got over that.  We all have 24 hours in our days.  Most of us have parents, siblings, children, co-workers, bosses, employees, friends, neighbors, strangers, etc. who bring joy to our lives and/or manage to seriously mess with them.

Two years ago, my New Year’s resolution was to take better care of myself–as in, every single day I thought of something I could do to take care of myself.  I accomplished that goal by putting a sticky note on the bathroom mirror (Take care of yourself today!).  I accomplished a lot more thinking about taking care of myself than actually doing it, but the point is I truly thought about my own well-being each and every day.  And managed to take better care of myself in 2010 than in previous years.

I began 2011 with the goal:  Be Selfish.  This was the result of 2010’s goal being too vague.  Being selfish is a lot more specific.  Or so I thought.  About a month into the year, I realized selfish was too harsh a word.  (Of course, I should have looked it up in the dictionary before making my resolution.)  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, selfish means “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”  Since I’m a writer, I decided to take poetic license with the definition and, for my purposes, simply eliminated the “without regard for others.”  It worked for me and I did a terrific job.  Resolution accomplished.

So, there I was on December 31, 2011, and I still hadn’t come up with a New Year’s resolution.  I admit it’s tough coming up with one that beats those of the last previous years.  And, being the over-achiever I am, I really do prefer to keep beating past records.  Instead, I decided to pitch my competitiveness (even with myself) and go a little deeper with my goal of taking care of myself.

So, here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2012:  Do something for myself each and every day that improves my personal well-being.

Yes, it’s posted where I can read it every day–although not on my bathroom mirror.  And I’m more than happy to share it with you.  Feel free to take it for yourself.

If you have one, what’s YOUR New Year’s resolution?  How did you arrive at it.  If you don’t have one, why not?

Regardless, here’s wishing you good health, weight loss (if you want it), large sums of money (if you get them and don’t want them, feel free to donate to the Linda Fund), and much happiness in 2012.

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Dreams

When we’re little, most of us want to grow up to be someone wonderful and/or famous: a brain surgeon, an astronaut, a professional athlete, an Oscar-winning movie star, a chart-topping singer, a bestselling author … and the list goes on.

Somewhere along the line, however, most of us begin to believe our dreams are not only far-fetched but unattainable. According to Webster, a dream is a ”strongly desired goal or purpose.” But our parents, or brothers and sisters, or teachers, or friends tell us we’re nuts to think we’ll ever hit number one on the country charts … or the New York Times bestseller list. They lay out the odds, in explicit detail, against us becoming the first-string quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

We buy into all the ”good advice” about how we’re being unrealistic and immature and selfish when we plan to skip college to join a rock ‘n’ roll band or submit our applications to NASA.

My job here today is to tell you that all that “good advice” is bullshit. And those people don’t know what they’re talking about.

How do I know? Because I began living my dream on 11/11/11–which would have been my mother’s 78th birthday if she were still alive. Which is ironic, since she was one of the biggest supporters of my dream … while also being one of those people who nagged me to put my dream on hold while I attended to the responsibilities of living in the “real world.”

I always wanted to be a published writer. As in: a writer who supports herself with her writing. Yes, part of that dream was being a bestselling author of fiction–which hasn’t happened yet. But I am supporting myself with my writing. Exclusively.

Am I doing it exactly as I’d dreamed? No. Am I doing it as quickly as I’d dreamed. Hell, no. But am I doing it? Yes. Imagine how quickly I could have done it if I hadn’t allowed myself to believe all the garbage…

Then again, maybe this is exactly the way it was supposed to be. Maybe the lessons I learned along the way– and the patience I acquired and the flexibility and adaptability that are so much a part of my professional repertoire–were an essential part of the journey.

Here’s the lesson: don’t give up on your dreams. Even if you have to put them on hold while you live your life in the “real world,” take them out and examine them on a regular basis. Do what you have to do to fulfill those dreams. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. Because if you do, your dreams will come true.