A Tragedy

I'm stunned, shocked, and I don't know how to say this.

My wonderful sister-in-law, Aimee Rhoads, died on Sunday in a terrible boating accident. We were in the Florida Keys, vacationing as a family to celebrate Christmas and to commemorate the passing of my father-in-law who passed away last year on December 19th.

And now, we have to mourn Aimee's death as well.

On Sunday afternoon, Aimee and I went scuba diving together off the coast of Key Largo. My husband and I have been diving for over a year, and Aimee told us how she has always wanted to try it. And so, she signed up for a discovery scuba course and I tagged along with her to keep her company.

After our first dive, we returned to the boat to change our tanks and take a short break. But before we could start our second dive, our boat started filling with water and we capsized quickly thereafter. Six of us managed to get out, but Aimee was trapped inside and the crew was unable to rescue her in time.

Justin's family is reeling. Aimee leaves behind her husband, Pat Rhoads, and her three-year-old daughter, Rowan. We are all currently in Seattle, where Aimee resided, to make funeral arrangements and to grieve together as a family.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season. And please hold your own family close. Love them. Hug them. Spend time with them. Life can be so tragically short and we are heartbroken that we have lost Aimee. She was the best of all of us.


If you are interested, Aimee's husband has started a blog to commemorate her life. You can access it here.

Friday Five

A thousand apologies for being such a horrible blogger this past month! Between Justin coming home from Afghanistan, a Thanksgiving trip to Shenandoah, and now a quick trip to North Carolina, I've barely had time to breathe!

Right now, we're in the very military town of Fayetteville, NC where Justin is giving a presentation at Fort Bragg. We lived here for three years while Justin was in the Army and I, um, was very grateful when we moved away. Hahaha. What can I say? I'm just not that into pawn shops and gun stores!

Traveling has made me a terrible blogger but it has given me some time to catch up on reading! A few books I've read in the past few weeks:

All great reads! The writing in Magic Under Glass was simply lovely. There were so many passages that made me sigh and wish I could write as beautifully as Jaclyn Dolamore. The Art of Racing in the Rain had a terrific voice---the book is told from the POV of a dog!---and it could have been gimmicky but it wasn't. I also enjoyed The Future of Us (I sped through it in one afternoon) and all of the references to the 90s was a great blast from the past.

Also, it made me feel old... Discmans? Caller ID? American Online? Um yeah, those were my teen years!

Speaking of traveling (ha!), Justin and I are leaving on Monday for the Florida Keys! We're celebrating Christmas early with his family and I've already stocked up on a few books from the library to keep me company.

I've already started Blood Red Road (isn't that cover awesome?) and, while it takes a bit of time to get used to that slang, it's a fantastically written novel so far.

Lastly, it's my birthday tomorrow! Egads, I'm becoming an old woman and I'm not exactly looking forward to turning a year older. But! I was able to treat myself to a few things from Anthropologie, thanks to Justin and an Anthro b-day coupon. Yay, coupons and nice husbands! Boo, getting older!

On the left, I bought myself a cute blouse since I'm a sucker for lace. And on the right, I also got an owl candle that was 30% off! Whenever I get myself my own desk, he's going to keep me company. What should I name him?

So what are all of your plans for this weekend? Anything fun? Staying warm?

The Question Is...Are You Tough Enough?

This post has been percolating in my brain for a few weeks so I apologize if it's a bit disjointed and overly long.

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I've always wanted to be a writer--I've known it in my bones since I was a wee little thing writing stories on wide-ruled paper--but my sensibilities told me I should choose Something Practical. And so, in college, I decided to become a history professor because I loved history and I adored my classes and I was getting pretty darn good at cranking out research papers. 

One day, I was talking to my favorite professor, Professor Murdock, about graduate school and especially about my anxieties concerning it. Were my grades up to par? Was I smart enough? Good enough? Ready enough? 

Professor Murdock, who was very wise and very honest, sat back in his chair and said to me, "You know, when I was getting my Ph.D, I noticed something interesting. My incoming class had a good number of students but over half of them dropped out before they finished the program."

"Oh," I said, feeling a little queasy.

"And you know what?" Professor Murdock continued. "A lot of the people who dropped out were some of the brightest students in our class. So, at the end of the day, getting a Ph.D isn't about being the smartest. It isn't about being the best. It's about being the toughest." 

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A couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through an issue of Entertainment Weekly and I read an article about actor Jeremy Renner. This portion of the article really stuck out to me:
Back in 2001, things couldn't get any worse for Jeremy Renner. The out-of-work actor had just turned 30 and was living with his French bulldog, Simon, in a tiny Hollywood apartment with no power. 
"I ate on $5 a week," says Renner, now 40. "Top Ramen, McDonald's, and YumYum doughnuts, which had 14 doughnut holes for 99 cents." During the worst of it, Renner recalls looking at Simon and saying, "We're gonna look back on this one day, and it'll be awesome!" 
Of course, things turned out pretty awesomely for Renner. In 2009, he won an Oscar for Best Actor in the film, The Hurt Locker; and he will soon star in the latest Mission: Impossible movie, Ghost Protocol. 

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YA author Robin Mellom wrote six manuscripts before landing a book deal for Ditched. 

YA author S.J. Kincaid wrote seven manuscripts before she found a publisher for Insignia. 

YA author Beth Revis wrote for ten years before selling her book, Across the Universe. 
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Admittedly, I have been besieged by the Doubt Monsters of late. Editing my WIP has been a struggle, a constant battering of doubt-filled questions. Is this book any good? Can it sell? Will my agent hate it? It's a strange thing to look at a manuscript that I once loved, that I used to get simply giddy over, and to have so many concerns about it now. 

Sometimes I want to delete the whole mess and start a new project. And sometimes, admittedly, I've thought about giving up this whole writing thing entirely. It's hard. It's draining. It's damned heart-shattering at times.

But it's my dream, it's my passion, so what do you do?

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Just a few closing thoughts in bulleted form:

1.) Writing is hard. Acting is hard. Pursuing a creative life is very, very hard. The rejection. The heart-hurt. The constant doubting. There's no shame in giving it your all and then deciding that you want to pursue something else. There's nothing wrong with that; there's nothing wrong with changing your mind.

2.) It's okay, too, if you dream shifts. Maybe you started out this whole writing journey with the dream of landing a deal with a Big Six publisher and seeing your book at Barnes & Noble. But maybe now you've decided to go with an independent publisher or you decide to try an e-publisher or maybe you want to give self-publishing a shot. Dreams shift. And that's okay. 

3.) Like Professor Murdock said, it's not about being the best or the brightest or the smartest. It's about being the toughest. So shield your heart. Grow an armor of thick skin. Bat those rejections away and keep on trying. 

It's not about whether or not you're good enough. It's about how tough you are. 

I hope I can be that tough.