Becoming Lola – What Do You Like

Why did I decide to reinvent myself and call myself Lola? My wheels have been spinning for years, never getting closer to finding THE job or figuring out how to sell more books. It felt as though I was I was taking two steps back for every step I took forward. I decided it was time to regenerate myself and my life.

This became an exercise in figuring out who I really was, what I enjoyed doing and trying things that might not have been in my comfort zone. I’ve had a photo shoot, learned about meditation, had an enlightening conversation with a Buddhist monk, changed my hair color, spent time with my friends and tried to stay optimistic about accepting new and different experiences.

I’m working on something new. What is it that I really like to do? What makes me happy? What puts a smile on my face when I do it, when I talk about it? What can’t I wait to do when it’s in the schedule?

The ocean. I love walking along the coast, any coast. I like the sound of water as it crashes against the shore. I love shelling, and shells, finding different shapes, different colors. It’s like a treasure hunt for me. Though I’m terrified of deep water, I love being near the water, dipping my toes in the water and mostly I love looking into the infinity of the ocean, seeing the curve of the world and seeing nothing on the other side. It represents no boundaries, that the world offers endless possibility if you open yourself up to them.

Writing makes me happy. Creating actually is what I love. It’s why I love painting, drawing, interior design. I love fabrics, colors, and making things pretty. When I was six, I bought a pin cushion, not because I sewed, but because it had three coordinating fabrics, in varying shades of pink. I liked it.

The two questions you might be asking, why don’t I already know what I like to do and why is it important? I don’t know anymore what makes me happy after life threw me several curve balls. I’ve been so preoccupied with a kid with anxiety, a kid who cut themselves because they were uncomfortable in their own skin, with things that pulled me so far from my original goals, I had to take a step back and figure out what I really wanted, what would make me happy.

It’s important because we shouldn’t wait to ask permission to do the things we like, and no matter how crazy hectic our lives can be, we should always carve out time for ourselves doing the things that we enjoy. So for me that means a walk along the beach searching for hidden treasures and a camera to feed my creative side. I won’t ever let myself forget again, to but myself first once and awhile.

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A Book Fair Absolutely Makes Me Cry

20160513_083143I remember attending school book fairs, as a child, filling out my order form for the newest Judy Blume. Today, as an adult, as a writer trying to gain traction, they bring me to tears as I walked into the building, up the stairs and into the ginormous hall that would be home for the next four days.

Sometimes it feels like a step forward is the most important step you can make and everything, I mean EVERYTHING rides on that event. It’s how I attended the Book Expo America Book Fair last week.

I had to do well and overcome my introversion, speak to everyone who passed within earshot of my booth and meet that one person. Only that would make this worthwhile, nothing short of meeting THAT person would do.

Sometimes we have predetermined expectations or hopes for an event. It doesn’t always work out as we plan. Though I met several small publishers, publicists and bloggers, it wasn’t what I hoped for. It was something worthwhile.

When you see inside the industry up close and personal, you can see your faults and stifle the tears, or you can see your strengths and walk with your head held high. It was an emotional whirlpool that made me want to keep pushing forward or quit all within a matter of minutes.

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What I did instead of let the fear and loathing bring me down, I spoke with other writers, shared information and experiences, encouraged others and took A LOT of notes.

It wasn’t what I expected when I signed up, but the experience left me with a sense that the future is still within my reach, I just need to stretch a little longer.

In the Chicago area, come find me at the Printer’s Row Lit Fest, June 11-12.

 

 

 

Bittersweet is Life

On March 29, 1999, I watched my daughter Stephanie Paige Steines take her last breath. She was born with a neuromuscular disease of unknown origin. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, only time makes it hurt less; I no longer cry starting a month before her death, and that day, sometimes it passes without recognition. I always remember though.

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While her health deteriorated, her muscles became weak, her breathing difficult, her eating nearly impossible, I had a weird dichotomy of experiencing the other side, the wonder of her twin, my daughter Kayla, as she grew stronger, hit her milestones, thrive.

But with each milestone achieved, there was something not completely right, there should have been two reaching these ‘normal’ goals.

After Stephi died, there was always a whisper of sadness through everything that Kayla did and though I promised myself that Kayla would never have to live her life because her sister died, she’d only have to live her life because Kayla was, the whisper, the hint, a piece of the whole was always there.

I hadn’t realized Kayla experienced that emptiness until almost 17 years later. Seeing other twins at school hurt, she wanted to scream out, “I’m a twin too!” I will never forget the time I was in a room with four other adults, and three of us gave birth to twins. As the two moms spoke of their twin issues, I wanted more than anything to chime in. But to talk of the loss carries a dark cloud over the conversation and it’s not always the right time or place.

The loss is not just my loss, it’s also Kayla’s. Even though she were 11 months old when Stephanie died, we both feel it especially during great achievements, a great moving forward, always knowing, someone else should be there too.

I feel it now as Kayla is ready to graduate high school, as she’s ready to enter college. I’m not just sad because my baby is all grown up. I’m sad because we are missing someone.

There is so much pride for all Kayla has been able to accomplish. Overcoming crippling anxiety, scoliosis, ADHD. She’s graduating with amazing grades, a high ACT score and was accepted into three colleges. She’ll be attending this fall on her way to full adulthood.

Time makes it less difficult and there are less tears, but it can never wipe away the sadness. I only hope I can make through graduation without the ugly cry.

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Becoming Lola – It’s Good Enough

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve come across the idea of good enough. Good enough, a cop out,  a means of settling, taking the first and easy way. It’s really not so.

In yoga, there’s a thought process that as beginners, you use props like a block or a strap because you aren’t able to bend or stretch as far as someone who has done it for years. When you’ve practiced for awhile, you stop using the props because you can bed and touch the ground without bending your legs. The final stage is the practiced yogi who’s been doing yoga for decades, who returns to the use of the block and strap because they understand that it’s not about touching the ground, it’s about the pose and the stretch that the pose brings. In other words, it’s about the journey.

With so much stress in my life, I ache from my back, feet, hands, shoulders. What I understand about the practice of yoga is simple, modification. I know what hurts, I also know what the purpose of the stretches are and I make modifications to the poses in order to not injure myself, worse than I already am. It’s not about bending farther than the person next to me, or not using the block because the person three mats down is capable of entering the triangle pose without a prop, or bend without the assistance of the strap.

I modify so that I can also feel my muscles engage, feel the burn as it were, as I hold a pose.

It’s good enough. It’s about the journey into the pose not the difficulty of the pose itself.

The idea of good enough isn’t weak. It’s understanding that everyday is a different day. As in yoga, one side of your body might be more open and easily bends to our will while the other side is tight and yields with difficulty and on the next day, it’s the opposite.

Why can’t we accept ourselves for who and what we are rather than compare ourselves to each other? We don’t know what someone else feels or what difficulties they experience that day. Today accept yourself for the day, and tomorrow accept the changes or the difference. Use the props, they stabilize you even after you grow stronger.

It’s all in perspective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Things

You may or may not remember the television show “Ed.” A quirky little show from the early 2000’s; a NY City lawyer who divorces his wife and moves back to his home town, a small town in Ohio. He spends most of his time when not lawyering (his office is in the bowling alley he purchased in episode 1), pursuing the girl of his dreams, Carol Vessey, high school teacher, who went away and returned home.

The show’s been a great easy watch, enjoyable and fun. That is until today’s episode called the “The Proposal.” As you’d expect, Ed, the bowling alley attorney, proposes to Carol, after four seasons of back and forth. She says yes and that’s not the point. What struck me in this episode is in his quest to create the perfect proposal, he finds a list his bride-to-be wrote when she was 16 years old; a list of her favorite things.

I’ve been trying for the last year to reinvent myself. Let all the difficulties of my life wash away, rediscover myself, who I am, what I like. And as I watched this episode, as Ed gave Carol her twenty-five favorite things, I wondered to myself, “What are my favorite things? What do I like?”

In no particular order:

  1. I love shoveling the snow. Forget the great workout or the drudgery. When it’s snowing those big, fluffy, white flakes and its warm out, without the bitter strong winds, I love going outside and shoveling the snow. But only the first snow fall. After that forget it. I’d rather stay inside and watch a movie on the couch under a warm blanket, or see number two.
  2. After the first snow fall and I’m sick of the snow and the cold, I love taking a vacation somewhere warm. What I love is that first step outside the plane and into the heat. It feels so…there are no words for that hot blast of heat.
  3. Spending time by the ocean, lake or river. Stop laughing. I know I’m afraid of water. What I’m really afraid of is being IN the water, not on the water. Having said that, I love boat rides, walking along the edge of the water collecting shells, watching the dolphins swim, or eating at a restaurant that’s right on the water. I love the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. Sitting along the shoreline of the ocean, where the world feels so big, the possibilities are endless.    holland michigan 2
  4. Musicals, concerts, operas. I love live music, beautiful costumes, the voice of a really great singer, a well written song. I wish I could sing, alas, I sound like a dying cat.
  5. Reading a book that makes me laugh, or cry, one that I can’t put down and wish it never ended. One that inspires.
  6. The first bite into a chocolate covered strawberry, when it drips all over you.
  7. Really great barbecue. Brisket, ribs, pork, it doesn’t matter.
  8. Homemade chicken soup. My soup. Yummmm…..
  9. Coloring  I’ve had adult coloring books long before they became the new thing. It’s mindless, it’s colorful and relaxing.
  10. I’ve always loved fabrics. I love the color, the mix and match of patterns. When I was 9, I bought a pin cushion at a garage sale. It had three different coordinating fabrics. I didn’t sew but that round pin cushion just pleased me.
  11. Yoga and meditation. I love the traditional music, the soft lighting, the quiet inside my head. And for the hour and 10 minutes, it’s all about me.
  12. Fresh flowers. My favorite flower is the Shasta daisies. I love lacy flowers that grow on the side of the road, or wildflower/butterfly gardens. Their free and wild.
  13. Apple picking and all things associated with it including apple cider donuts and apple pie, drinking warm apple cider and eating freshly picked apples on a clear fall day.apples
  14. Eating my way through summertime fairs. Who doesn’t love funnel cakes, corn dogs, and well, just any fried food.
  15. I love listening to the rain fall in the early morning when it’s still dark outside. If that doesn’t work, listening to the shower in the dark is about the same.
  16. Sitting in my aunt’s lanai (screened in patio) and reading, sleeping or watching the alligator in the pond, sun itself. There’s something about the heat, the breeze and the sun. It’s like vacation.
  17. Antiquing. I love strolling the booths and finding that one item that I’ve been looking for, for years. I love the hunt, the history, the remembrance and finding really cool old things. Once when Pluto was still considered a planet, I found an astronomy book from 1898 and guess who wasn’t discovered yet.
  18. Eating fresh baked bread, cookies and brownies right out of the oven. Sweet, gooey and yummy.  Actually, eating raw batter is pretty fabulous too.
  19. Strolling through independent bookstores. My favorite sections, are occult, mythology and philosophy. I’d also stroll new book stores and libraries. It’s like the world is at your finger tips, sometimes the casual stroll is far more preferable to the click of the internet.
  20. Chicago – I love walking along Lake Shore Drive, taking a bus or boat tour, walking through Chinatown, watching the fireworks from the top of the John Hancock building and eating some favorite Chicago foods. You know, deep dish pizza and Chicago style hot dogs.
  21. Sparkly things. My phone case has rhinestones. I was asked once if I was a 12 year old girl. Yes. Yes I am…
  22. A dam hike. Moraine State Park is about a half hour from my house. We walk from the parking lot to the dam, hang out, and eat ice cream before taking the hike back. It’s about four miles and a beautiful little walk. Actually I really like hiking. One time we hiked through Zion National Park, stopped at the river, took off our shoes and waded through the river. You never know what will happen until you just move.
  23. Traveling. Did you read all the stuff about the beach? I like traveling, meeting new people. In a small town in Austria while eating dinner, we were asked if another couple could join us because the restaurant was out of tables. We said yes and had a great conversation with a couple from England. One of my favorite things to do when I’m out of the country is go into a local grocery store. You learn so much about a culture in a grocery store. And you learn that in this country, we have choices. Lots of them.
  24. Watching the television show Outlander. The character in full dress, Jamie Frazier is the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.   jamie frazier
  25. Writing, creating. And when the story comes together, it’s the greatest feeling when it works out.

Up at Night

Up at night
Thoughts are filled with you
Turmoil, fear and worry

Love is pain
Dark black whirlpools squeeze and suffocate me

No rest through the worry
No joy on this journey

I can no longer remember you before
Your face has changed
Your words are strong, defiant
I have a difficult time recalling you

A piece of me is lost in a turbulent sea
And forever, nothing will be the same

I lie awake at night
New worries, anxiety creeps and crawls inside
Trepidation on this new path
It’s chocked and tangled with weeks
This direction is new, foreign, scary

It doesn’t always turn out as we plan

Battered and Bruised by the Water

The high cliff overlooks a river that snakes through the countryside. It’s nestled into the valley, covered in trees and the water, it beats roughly against the rocky coast. I stand on the highest hill, a silent observer to the water as it splashes and swirls before dropping several feet into that whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall.

The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever. Mom she’s gone. I hear myself say that over and over again in my head, on a loop that I can’t shut off. My voice lacks all feeling, a reflection of my true self, because it was one more piece of news than I can’t absorb, interpret or accept. 

WIP 2016, Sheryl Steines

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I’ve been afraid of deep water, (I’m 5’3″ so it doesn’t take much), since I was six years old. Before six, I had no issue with the water, stick me in a blow up ring and let me float on by. At six, I took swim lessons, in a lake. I will never forget the day we jumped from the floating dock into the water, water that was definitely deeper than the top of my head.

Not the first one in; I watched others jump in; it seemed that the others before me, were immediately lifted out of the water to sun dry on the wooden dock. When it was my turn, I jumped and stared up and through the greenish, cloudy lake water, I could see the sun in the sky and I remember thinking, “When am I going to be lifted out of the water?” I panicked, the panic seeped inside and from that time, water was the enemy.

I’ve taken swim lessons at an adult, trying to allay those fears, not wanting to pass them to my children, but the fear and anxiety is so deep within me, I’ve given up hope that I will ever enjoy the water.

I’ve been writing poetry and essays of late, writing my memoirs in a way that’s pure emotion as I discuss the life I’ve led so far and why it might be important to another person. My theme for the bad times seems to be the churning water. How it pulses, undulates and suffocates, much like I feel when I’m in a large body of water.

JK Rowling wrote about her depression in Harry Potter through the dementors, the life sucking creatures that ate your souls and left you as merely a shell, much like depression does in real life. She didn’t write a literal interpretation, choosing instead to give you the image, in a beautiful, grotesque way.

Water, for me, is the perfect representation for the emotions that envelope me through several past life experiences. It swirls and comes alive and batters me against the edge of the lake.

Eventually the water will flow down river into a quiet pond, but right now, it undulates, rumbles and terrorizes.

I work on my autobiography because I hope, someday, somewhere, someone will read it and gain perspective and a sense that in the end, it will get better. The river eventually ends.

Becoming Lola – Five Minutes to Quiet the Mind and Open the Heart

mediation Meditation. There’s no secret to practicing, you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to participate. It’s not magic, and most likely it’s something you’ve done without realizing you’re doing it.

Have you ever been so stressed that you take a moment to take a slow, deep breath and equally slow release of the breath? A moment to slow down, to be in the present. This is meditation.

Life is stressful. Full time job, over scheduling ourselves and our children, sometimes our lives feel as though they’re imploding in on itself. I feel it too.

I’ve been on a quest the last year, to remake myself. Find my inner happiness as I try to accomplish a goal I set for myself when I was seven years old. To be a writer.  But as we all know, sometimes life gets derailed. Careers, a terminally ill baby, an anxious child, a transgender child.

Stress builds up to the point you feel as if you are ready to explode and as I work toward my goals, and try not to let myself get derailed, I came up with a plan to remake myself. I call it Becoming Lola after I made a joke that I wanted to dye my hair red and change my name.

To deal with the stress, I took a meditation seminar at my yoga studio. The goal to open our chakras, let our natural energy flow freely instead of bottle up. Regardless of what you think about this, doesn’t matter for the moment.  What I discovered through the guided meditation, through listening to the doctor’s voice, by paying attention to my body, and imagining these centers opening up, I walked out of there with a quiet mind and an open heart.

My recent introduced me to Buddhist Monk Bhante Sujatha, practicing for over thirty years. He travels the world guiding others to the practice of meditation and when he’s home at the monastery he founded, he guides practitioners in how to begin and continue with the practice. When he’s not doing that, he raises money for incubators, used in impoverished countries.

I told Bhante my story. How one hour-long session, affected me so much. He told me I had the Buddhist light within me and encouraged me to continue practicing.

It takes only five minutes of time. Five minutes to breathe in, let the air fill your lungs and release it. Five minutes to simply be in the moment with no thoughts, no lists, not responsibilities except to listen to your body and quiet the mind.

I made a pledge to be open to all sorts of healing, to ease the pain in my body and in my mind, to give myself much-needed rest. It cost nothing and takes little time to heal yourself if your open to the possibility.

 

 

 

 

 

Gracie Madison – I Think I Can Fly

graciemadisonfeelstheworld3DCold air, chills me, I reach for my blanket but I’m not on my bed.

Where am I?

I know where I am.

Cautious and careful, I take a step across the rough stone floor, my bare feet scrape against the uneven stones. I clip and cut my big toe on a sliver of rock.

“Damn it!” Sticky and wet, I leave a trail of blood behind me as I take another step in the darkness, darkness that envelopes me. It’s not wonderful in this nothingness. I’m afraid of the unknown.

A breeze through my hair, a creak, a groan. I hear each and every sound, feel the fluctuation of the air as it moves. I jump.

Footsteps, distant off in the never where, click against the stone, slow and deliberate. They follow me, the owner of those footsteps observes me, even as I hide in the shadows. I quicken my pace, my toe stings, I stumble against the stone wall.

Curiosity steels through me. I glance in the darkness behind me, the urge is too strong to not know who’s chasing me. My eyes play tricks on me because I think I see a figure floating between the dark spaces.

What is that?

Whatever it is it observes me without hiding from me. His gaze bores through me leaving me empty.
My fingers find the wall and graze the uneven, chipped stones. It’s how I see in the penetrating darkness when my eyes fail me. I feel the edge of the wall and turn right like I’ve done before. I know this hallway.

I feel for the door, for the cool steel against my fingers. It’s closer than it was before. I found the door.

“Gracie, you’re an empath,” Alden sneers.

A white mist drifts up covering me, smothering me. “You’re special, Gracie. Your mom will be so proud. Jake and Shay will have to respect you…” the voice hisses in my ear.

The fog undulates and dances, twirling around me. He knows about Jake and Shay. He knows when mom gets home. I drown in his mist and my head spins as it wraps and squeezes me. I need to get away from him, before he hurts me.

“Gracie help me!” The girl’s scream pierces the darkness; I feel her fear, her stress and her pain. The mist constricts me; I can’t breathe. “Gracie, please help me!” Her small scared voice sears my brain, but I have to get away from him.

“NO!” I scream and wiggle from the mist, before it swallows me. I run! I run as though I’m running forever, before I jump into nothingness. But I don’t fall. I’m not sucked into oblivion. I fly.

Excerpt from Gracie Madison Feels the World by Sheryl Steines, coming Summer, 2016

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Go Get ‘Em Girl – Lorelei Gilmore

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Art imitates life. As I work towards obtaining my goal of writing for a living, publishing and selling my books, I found myself flocking to television shows that reflected my current journey.

I’ve been obsessed with shows before. It started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I probably watched the entire show from pilot to finale three times, before I could no longer watch anymore. Leaving me to watch only the episodes that I truly love. I did it with Charmed and Supernatural too.

So as I searched for my newest obsession, I rediscovered Gilmore Girls. I’d already seen the entire series, but this time, there was something else. Lorelei Gilmore was opening her dream, The Dragonfly Inn.

I know this is only a television show. I know she’s not real and The Dragonfly Inn is a fake set in California, but I relate to the sentiment.

I’ve said it here many times. I knew at the age of 7, I wanted to be a writer. I started crafting my own stories, modeled after the Nancy Drew book series. I created characters, dropped them into adventures and most importantly turned my day dreams into living, breathing stories.

And then life comes in and drags you down several paths, some your choice, others outside forces pull you somewhere else. After many years, I finally got a chance to go back to my dream, much like Lorelei. We both stepped off that cliff, took a chance. She opened her own inn, I published a book. I re-watch the episodes with a new point of view. I get emotional, it inspires me, I dream big. I can do this too. Yes I can.

My brain never shuts down. Stories and characters scream in my head, begging to be let out. I can’t write fast enough to get all the ideas out on paper. I get anxious the closer I move toward publishing my book, to selling at Comic Con, to finding a publisher. And watching this amazing, strong, ambitious, character in Lorelei, achieve her dream, makes me laugh and cry, sometimes in that ugly cry sorta way.

Go get ’em Lorelei Gilmore, because if there’s a dream, there’s a way.

To order my dream, The Day of First Sun check out Amazon.com.

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