My Thankful Thursday List

I tried to post my “Thankful Thursday” post last night, but I was exhausted. It’s been a long week and last night, it all caught up with me.

Without further adieu, here is my “Thankful Thursday” post.

The first person I’m thankful for is Jennifer Hudock, someone I now consider to be one of my best friends. I had the privilege of working with Jenny at Mahalo towards the end of 2008. During that time, she and I developed a friendship that forever altered my life. (Yes, that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.) Since leaving Mahalo, our friendship has continued to flourish.

Jenny has inspired me in many ways. She is an extremely talented author and poet. Since becoming friends, I’ve had many opportunities to read her work and she’s never failed to amaze me. She has one of the most brilliant and creative minds that I’ve ever seen.

One of the greatest things about Jenny is her ability to make me believe that I can follow my dreams and succeed. Had I not met her when I did, I know I would not be where I am today. I would have kept telling myself that one day I’d write an article, or one day I’d write a short story. Jenny never accepted that excuse from me. She did not let me wait for ‘one day.’ Because of her, I’m achieving things that I hoped would one day happen, but wasn’t sure ever would.

If you have the chance, please stop by Jenny’s blog. I can guarantee you will enjoy reading her posts. And who knows, you might just make a friend for life.

Another person that I’m extremely thankful for is my best friend, Jackie. She and I met years ago after she had given birth to her second daughter, Kailey. From the very first moment we began talking, I knew I had found someone that would be in my life forever. Before her, I had never really had a friend that knew the real me. Jackie took the time to look past all of my insecurities and faults and see inside of me to the person that I truly am.

Jackie has become a sister to me even though we don’t share blood. She’s someone I love and depend on. She’s someone that I would defend and stand beside if the need arose.

Another person that I’m thankful for is my former boss and co-worker Jonathan Harris. Jonathan helped me to become a better writer. He showed me a great amount of patience and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

Jonathan and I have both moved onto bigger and better things, but I will always look back on our Mahalo days fondly. He’s an extremely talented and smart, young man, who has a great life and career ahead of him.

Interested in Knowing How to Become a Freelance Writer?

Just last week, eMuse published an article that I wrote for their March 2009 issue. It’s titled Beginner’s Guide to Online Freelance Writing.

If you’d like to read it, please visit the eMuse website and check it out. While there, please take a minute to read my good friend Jennifer’s short story Black Velventeen. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. She’s one very talented lady.

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement. All of my successes are due in part to all of you that have helped me hone my skills and become a more confident writer.

Things That Make Me Smile and Laugh

The stress level in our country seems to be at an all time high as of late. With the economy on a roller coaster ride that isn’t fun for anyone, we are all faced with the possibility that our way of life as we know it is about to change, whether we;re ready for it or not.

Many of us read the news reports on the economy every day, praying that a glimmer of hope is on the horizon. There of those of us, myself included, who are not taking the situation with the economy lightly. We are trying to prepare as much as possible for the worst-case scenario.

We are stockpiling food. We’re stockpiling the essentials, like toilet paper, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc. We are trying to set money aside to cover house payments and other bills. We’re making plans to plant a garden. We’re raising chickens for meat and eggs. We’re gathering recipes that can be made with food on hand. We’re making lists of canning supplies needed to can the food we grow. Our every waking moment seems to be filled with preparations for what tomorrow may bring.

By focusing so much attention on preparations, some of us start to lose sight of the things in life that make us happy, that make us smile and laugh. If we stop paying attention to those things, then we start to lose our hope. We start to see only the negatives.

Yes, no matter what the economy dishes out to us, our lives are forever changed, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying the simplest things around us that bring us joy. In fact, it’s more important now than ever before to focus on those positive things. By doing so, you can give yourself the extra push to make it through the hard times.

For me, there’s several things that put a smile on my face and make me ‘bust a gut’ laughing. Here they are:

1- Without a doubt, my kids are at the top of the list for the things that can make me smile or laugh. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, they can put a smile on this face of mine. They can make my heart swell with love. They can make me laugh like no one else can.

2- My friends and family are also on this list. I know there’s always something that we can talk about that will make me chuckle and think about fun times that we’ve shared.

3- There are two radio stations that I listen to that ALWAYS make me laugh. The Q Morning Show, on Q 97.9, and Matty in the Morning, on KISS 108 FM, are always saying something that sends me into a fit of laughs. Each station has a playful banter that is funny and heartwarming, because you get the feeling, when listening to them, that they honestly like each other. I also feel these two stations have a strong appreciation for their listeners, unlike some other stations I know of.

4- Bob Marley is one of the funniest men in the comedy industry next to Jeff Dunham. Both of these men can make me laugh to the point I almost cry. Bob Marley is a native Mainer, so there’s a devotion I have for him that I have for no other comedian. I can listen to his CDs and relate to most of what he says. When I hear him talk, I think of my dad. Neither my dad or I have escaped the Maine accent. To hear Bob speak with it makes us smile and realize we’re aren’t alone in our quirkiness.

5- Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the best comedy movies of all time. It’s one of my go-to movies when I need a laugh. In fact, as a child, my brother and I use to run around the house, clicking my mom’s craft boxes together like King Arthur and his crew did with the coconuts.

6- If I need a quick pick me up, music always helps. When I need that reprieve, I play songs that inspire me and give me hope that a brighter tomorrow is still possible.

7- Spring is another smile-maker. When I see a blue sky, hear birds chirping outside and smell the newly grown flowers, I feel a sense of peace and a oneness with nature. It helps to clear my head of any negativity that might be holding my hostage. I take a deep breath and it all seems to just fade away.

These are just a few of the things that help me get through the tough times. What are yours?

For those that have never seen the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail that I spoke of, here you go.

Listening to the Voices Inside

On February 23, my good friend wrote a blog post called When the Universe Speaks. In the post, she encouraged each of us to take 20 minutes and watch the video below. So I did. I was absolutely blown away by the words that Elizabeth Gilbert spoke.

When I write, I often feel as though I’m not in control of what is being written, like someone else has the reigns and I’m just conduit for the words that flow from my fingertips. To those that don’t write, this is a hard concept to understand. More often than not, if you tell someone, “Oh, I just had an argument with my character,” they’re going to think you are crazy and try to find the nearest psychiatric hospital to admit you to. For those of us who understand that concept, Elizabeth Gilbert’s words make perfect sense. They vocalize what many of us feel on a day-to-day basis.

There have been nights when I’m exhausted and I just want to sleep and I’m woken up at 1:00 in the morning because my characters want to have a heart-to-heart. Now don’t get me wrong, when I’m well-rested, I love talking to them and hashing out an idea that sounds interesting. But when you have a 17-month-old baby who gets up three to four times a night, a gab session in the wee hours of the morning is not the most appealing thing. However, when my characters want to talk, there’s no dissuading them. They will continue to nag me, making me toss and turn until it’s time to get up.

I’ve had people in my life that don’t understand that I can’t turn off my creative process. I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop seeing these ideas in my head. I have to write. If I don’t, I have all of these images bouncing around inside there. There have been times I’ve gotten headaches because I’m thinking too much about these ideas. During some of those moments, I sat down and wrote and before I knew it, my headache was gone. You can call me crazy if you want to, but it’s true.

Now I encourage those of you who read my post to please spend 20 minutes watching the video below. I’m sure you’ll find it as inspiring and thought provoking as I and many others did.

Don’t Pretend You Know Me

I wrote this poem almost two years ago. It’s been posted on one of my MySpaces since then. I thought it would be nice to add it here as well.

Don’t pretend you know me.

Don’t try to understand.
You can never grasp the truth,
Of this person that I am.

I’m a more then just a girl.
See this smile on my face?
I’ve finally found happiness.
My heart’s in the right place.

I’ve struggled for years with uncertainty
Over a past I cannot change,
But in the past five years
It’s my thoughts I’ve rearranged.

I’ve gone from being someone
Who was unsure of life,
But with the miracle of birth of my daughter
I’m no longer filled with spite.

Some say I’ve made mistakes
And if I hadn’t I’d be better,
But who are they to judge?
I know myself to the letter.

You can sit and judge me
And talk about my choices,
But I’ve got the upper hand
I don’t listen to your petty voices.

©Nicole Normandeau-Ireland

Are You Going to Finish Strong?

My aunt sent me the link to this Nick Vujicic video this morning and I am not ashamed to say, as I watched it, I cried. This guy is inspiring. Wow! What a great message to send to people.

Keep a tissue handy. You might need it.

If you’d like to learn more about Nick, then visit his site Life Without Limbs

Why Following Your Dream is Okay

When you were a child, did you ever have a dream for yourself? I did. I think most people do. I may have shied away from the truth of my dream for a very long time, but no matter where my life took me, and the circumstances I faced, my dream burned deep within me. It was just waiting for the right moment to burst forth and take shape and burn bright. I had no control over when that would happen though.

Unlike many of my peers, I chose a different path to take with my life. At sixteen, I was not out partying, doing drugs, getting drunk. I had a few boyfriends, but nothing serious. I was depressed though and became very sick. I fell behind in school. When I was able to go back, I just didn’t care to. I had been through so much at the hands of my fellow classmates that I just wanted to escape it all. I wanted to put that part of my life behind me and face forward. I didn’t want the burden of that time in my life to rest on my shoulders anymore. I knew if I stuck it out, there was a very good chance that I would not make it.

With the love and support of my parents, I withdrew myself from high school with the promise that I would get my GED, keep my job and get my license. All of which I did. Deep down in their hearts, they knew my decision was the best one that I could make for me. Yes, some people criticized them for allowing me to withdraw, I’m sure, but when it came down to it, keeping their daughter alive was their goal, not getting the approval of other parents.

I met the man that I would marry at fourteen for a brief five minutes, but it wasn’t until I was seventeen that we started talking. Shortly after the New Year, in 2002, I gave birth to my daughter, Mikala. My life changed profoundly from the moment I found out I was pregnant with her and it has continued to since her birth.

Many people assume that once you become a parent, your right to follow any dreams that you have becomes null and void. Because of the actions of some parents, who forget they have a responsibility to their children, other parents that want to be successful and be somebody face judgment and ridicule that is often unfair.

Over the past few seasons of American Idol, I’ve seen more and more parents audition and make it through. To me, that is inspiring. They don’t seem like bad parents. They seem like parents that want to make a better life for their children, to give them all that they can in life. Are they wrong for choosing this path? No, I don’t believe so.

I believe each of these contestants is setting an example for generations to come. I believe they are showing that it’s okay to dream. It is okay to chase after what you want in life as long as you don’t forget your children, as long as you continue to be responsible for them.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to see my dream begin to grow and become a fire burning inside of me. I can feel the heat of that dream every day. It doesn’t dissipate when I go to sleep at night. It doesn’t dissipate no matter what I do. My mind is always searching for food for that dream, for that fire. Water does not douse it. Nothing does. If someone implies my dream won’t come true, the fire surges forth and grows in intensity.

Had I not had certain inspirations in my life at certain times, I don’t believe that fire would have grown when it did. It took precise moments in time to influence me. Those moments will forever be etched in my mind. To those that gave me inspiration, I’m forever grateful.

I’ve been able to see my dream come intro fruition. It has been a stressful road at times, but one that I would not change for anything. I believe everything that has happened, has happened at the exact moment it was supposed to. As I sit here, I’ve had some unique experiences with my writing. I’ve seen articles published. I’ve had friends ask me to write things for their sites. I’ve liveblogged a television show that ultimately played a huge factor in achieving my dream.

Yes, I’m a mom of two, beautiful children, but I’m not going to turn my back on my dream. I’m going to keep working at it. I’m going to continue to better myself. I’m going to set a positive example for my children that with a lot of hard work, dedication and tenacity, they can achieve their dreams too.

I want my children to see me as not only their mom, but as a role model, someone to look up to and aspire to be like. I don’t want them to be afraid of following their heart. As long as they aren’t hurting me, our family or others, then I want them to be confident and believe in themselves and reach for the stars.

If you are a parent, and have a dream burning inside of you, you need to listen to it. At the same time though, you need to remember your kids. You can’t forget the role they have in your life and the role you have in theirs. Being successful at your dream does not mean you are a bad parent. You can make things happen if you want them to. Don’t let others beat you down and make you feel like you are making a bad choice. Stay true to yourself and always believe.

I’m Not a Failure, I’m a Success!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.-Mark Twain

When you have a dream, one of the most discouraging things that you can face is that your loved ones, the people closest to you, don’t believe in the dreams that you have. Instead, they try and convince you that they know what is best for you, when in reality they haven’t really taken the time to see the person you’ve become and the things in life that you actually need.

When you ask for the support of those you care about, it can be hard for them to accept the things you feel you need to do with your life. Oftentimes, their fears are projected on to you. I’ve chosen not to let the fears of others deter me from the course my life has taken. It’s a scary ride, and I have no idea where it will turn out, but I’m enjoying the journey.

Some people may sit back and judge me because I dropped out of school. (I did pass my GED test with some of the highest scores in the state and I wrote an amazing essay that garnered me some recognition, but these seem to be things that others overlook.

People may think my leaving school was a cop out, when in reality I was preserving myself for things yet to come. I wanted to live, and in order to do that, I needed to move my life towards a different direction, a course less-traveled and often more uncertain than the ones we are told take while in school. Even so, after I took that initial step, I didn’t look back. I kept moving forward to a destination that I didn’t know of, but looked forward to.

As a teenager, I faced many obstacles and experiences, some of which could have destroyed me. Instead, I found strength within myself to let those obstacles empower me. I didn’t sit back on the sidelines and let my life leave me behind. I took hold of the reins and directed my life in the direction that I wanted it to go.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve used my writing as a way to express things that I’m feeling inside, things that hurt me and need to be set free. During my turbulent teenage years, my writing was often dark and void of happiness. Now, things I write are filled with love, warmth and joy. I’ve learned how to appreciate everything around me no matter insignificant it may seem to others. These discoveries are reflected in everything that I write.

Even though writing was a huge part of my life, it took giving birth to my daughter to really push me towards a career that involved sharing my thoughts, feelings and experiences with others. When I finally realized where my life was headed, I was filled with excitement. Before then, my dream of writing was nothing more than a dream. It was something that I never thought I’d succeed at. Now, I feel that it’s attainable. It’s within my reach.

Aside from my dream of writing, another dream I had was to be able to work from home. Those that choose to work from home face many misconceptions about what that means. Some people look at my choice to as a sign of weakness that I’m afraid to be around others. Yes, I’ve been burned by co-workers, but my decision to work from home was based on entirely different reasons. Just because I’ve chosen a less conventional way of living doesn’t mean that I’m any less successful than those around me.

Even knowing the things I do, I still wish that people could see that the decisions I’ve made have not been out of weakness, but have been out of strength and a belief in myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to.

I am not a weak. I am strong. I don’t let the hard times in life keep me down for long. I regroup, stand back up and face another day.

I am not a coward. Yes, I may be scared of the uncertainties in my life, but I don’t let it stop me from reaching for what I want.

I do have self-confidence. It is quiet, but is there. I believe in my talents and in me.

I’m not a bad mom. I may not be perfect, but I never claimed I was. My kids have food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads and parents that love them.

You don’t have to be proud of me, but I wish you would be because I’m proud of myself and all that I’ve done with my life. I’m proud that I believe in myself and my talent so much that I will reach for it, even though they are no guarantees in life. I’m proud of the person I’ve become. I’m happy. My life is not perfect, but whose is? I don’t need you to tell me how to live my life. I need you to support the decisions that I make. I need you to believe that I’m smart enough to know what is good for me and my family. I want you to know that any decision I make is also made in hopes of giving my children a better life.

I will not stop dreaming. I will not give up, so believe in my dream like I do. I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder why I didn’t do more with it. I want to know that I gave it everything I could. I want to know that if things don’t turn out the way I want, that at least I didn’t let fears hold me back. I want to set an example for my kids. I want them to see that their mother believed in herself and reached for dreams. I want my kids to do the same thing.

See me as the woman I’ve become and not as the girl I once was. I’m not a failure. I’m a success. Had I not made the choices that I did in my life, I would not be able to write these words and stand fast in my belief that I can do anything.

Child Abuse is WRONG!!

Yesterday, I heard about a man in the town near mine that broke his 15-month-old son’s legs. The father told his son’s mother that the baby fell. He also tried covering up what happened by giving the baby pain killers. What a dumbass!! You can’t snap a baby’s legs and think it will all be better if you give it pain killers. Not only did he break his son’s legs, he could have killed him by doing something so stupid.

The sad part is, this P.O.S. was let out on $500 bail. He hurt an innocent human being and they let him out?

It seems like each time I turn on the television, I hear some new story about a parent harming their child. What the hell is wrong with these people? Why do they think it is okay to do that to someone?

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I know it sounds extreme, but I think people that do these sorts of things should NEVER be allowed to have another kid. History tends to repeat itself. I know I may get flack for it, but these people should be fixed so they are never allowed to procreate again. You can think I’m wrong all you want, but picture this:

Picture being this father, your little boy is upset and crying, and you decide that the best way to get him to stop is to bend his legs outward until you hear them snap. As you do it, this innocent little baby is staring at you, pleading with you with his eyes to stop hurting him. All he knows is the man that he loves is making him hurt. He doesn’t understand. He’s scared and yet you continue to do it, not caring that you are causing harm to this child.

Seriously picture what I wrote because that is what happened to that little boy.

I know the look my son gets when I tell him no he can’t do something. His eyes well up with tears and he gets this frown on his face. Picture that magnified by an act of violence. That’s what that little baby felt. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO DO THAT TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING!!

Every time I think about this little guy, and what his father did to him, I cry. My stomach knots up and I end up sick. Why aren’t these children being watched out for? What did they do to deserve that kind of treatment? All they want is to be loved. That’s not asking too much.

I’m sorry for my emotional tirade, but I’m really upset by this story, by any story like this. More so lately.

Difficult Decision Made

There comes a time in all of our lives when we are forced to make a difficult decision. At those times, you have to weigh both sides of the issue. A rash decision cannot be made. You have to reflect on the things that are bothering you in order to make the best possible informed decision.

I know some people are concerned about me and how I’m going to help my family get by now that I’ve resigned from my previous place of employment. Well, with the pay issues that I was experiencing, my resignation has no effect on the family, at least not yet. I know in a month, it could be a different story, but right now, the only thing that has changed is that I’m not getting up in the morning and working.

It’s a shame that I had to do what I did because I really enjoyed my work. I took pride in it. Even so, just because you like the work you do, and you’re good at it, it doesn’t always mean that the company is the best place for you to be. Sometimes that can be a very difficult distinction to make, but one that is necessary in order to remain true to your self and your family.

My decision truly was not an easy one. In fact, one of the hardest parts was telling two people that I answered to that I was done. I didn’t want to make their lives more difficult. I didn’t want to create more stress for them. It upset me a great deal to tell them I could no longer work with them. Believe me, I tossed and turned the entire night before. My mind kept playing over everything that I’ve seen, heard and experienced. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn my brain off.

A few of you know that the past two and a half months have been rough for me. I’ve had to go to the emergency room three different times because of one thing or another. I’ve been really sick. The last time was the worst. I ended up dehydrated and on an IV because I could not keep one thing down. I’d lost weight, which isn’t entirely a bad thing, but the way it happened was.

In addition to my health issues, I had the stress of the holidays and not having enough money to give my kids the type of Christmas I wanted them to have. I had to worry about not being paid on time. I had to worry about missing time from work because of a power outage. (I was without power for six days.)

Last week was the hardest time of all over the past two and a half months. My husband’s Grammie was killed when she was struck by a logging truck while on her way to check her mail. It wasn’t the driver’s fault. John’s Grammie didn’t hear him or see him when she stepped into the road. He did all he could to stop. None of us in the family blame him for what happened. We know he did all that he could for her. We also know that he has to live with the things that he saw for the rest of his life. That’s not something anyone should have to live with. Even so, we are heartbroken that we had to lose such an amazing woman in such a tragic way.

John’s Grammie was very special to so many people, me included. She had, I believe, 6 children, 19 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. You add in all the spouses and that’s one big group of people that cared about her. Through all of us, her legacy will on.

Part of her legacy was teaching all of us to never give up, to live our lives as best that we can, to make the most out of hard situations, to appreciate every moment that we are given on this Earth and to tell those around us that we love them.

Because of the lessons she taught us, I realized that decisions had to be made regarding my job. Last week I had not made any final decisions, but the thoughts were in the back of my mind. Things this week just clenched the idea for me. It was not a spur of the moment decision, but one that was weighed carefully.

My decision was partially based on the stress that I’ve been under because I couldn’t pay my bills on time. My stress was also partially due to the fact that our cupboards were near empty. I kept feeling like I was failing my family because I wasn’t bringing in the money that I was supposed to in order to help provide for the things in life that we need.

When I get stressed, I get moody, which in turn effects my family. That’s not fair to them. Why should they have to be subjected to that? They shouldn’t. It’s my fault for allowing my self to be that way. The best way to cut out that stress was to remove myself from the situation that was causing it.

Another reason for the decision I made was that I was losing all of my self-respect. I felt like a doormat. I don’t like being walked on. I knew the situation would not change though, so I had to change my involvement in it.

One thing I want to say is this. I will miss working with all of you. (You know who you are.) I’ve met some truly talented people and made some great friends. I’ve honed my writing skills. (They aren’t perfect, but they are a lot better than they were.) I loved the team atmosphere that we had. I loved knowing we were all working towards a common goal. I won’t soon forget any of it.

I do not look at my situation as the end of something. I look at it as the beginning of something new. I look at it as the next chapter in the book of my life. I look at it as taking a new fork in the road. I look at it as a necessary move that I had to make. Sure, it would be easy for me to let my anger and disappointment consume me, but I won’t. I’ve decided to take the high road, the one less traveled by some people.

As far as future employment goes, I still have my work at a pizza dough production company that I’ve been with since 2003. Among my duties there, I maintain our HACCP program, which I created several years ago. I know the work I do there is appreciated. It’s not overlooked and I’m always paid every Tuesday, without fail, sometimes earlier if it falls on a holiday.

I also have applications in to several places. Right now, it’s just a waiting game to hear back from them. I have no doubt that I will find other jobs to fill the void. I’m confident that my family will make it through this.