About Me

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Thanks for checking in. We all know life can be EXTREMELY complicated. I blog about recognizing and removing the barriers that sabotage our living well. 

- Nobody had perfect parents, so we all have issues.
- We struggle to keep up with work, personal goals, staying healthy, and all kinds of relationships.
- Our minds are busy, and they seem to often work against us.
- At the end of many days, we're disappointed about what didn't get done, how we failed, what we should have done.

So I blog about increasing personal awareness and finding balance so we can cut ourselves some slack. Let's stay grounded as we move forward in manageable steps. Perspective is everything, and I try to see around the corners so we can leverage what we've already got into more of what we want.

Follow me and give me feedback. You inspire me, and I'll try to inspire you. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Everything isn't for you: honing in on your own energy

I started this blog a couple of years ago because so many people seemed unhappy, stressed, nervous, and generally out of sorts. There's a lot of discontent these days, and there's also a sense of not knowing where to begin to make things better, different, more palatable. Not saying that I've got all my ducks in a row, but the thing about living a reflective life is that I'm always making adjustments to get grounded, back on track, calmer, etc.

So since this is the season of New Year's resolutions, I was reflecting on why stating resolutions seems to be merely a tradition that often falls by the wayside in a few days. These declarations don't ultimately address the underlying tension, stress, and anxiety that make pharmaceutical companies one of the most prosperous industries of our time. I believe this is because we get so much external input that we forget that we should be living from the inside out. I think we have to find ways to manage the amount of input that effects how we live our lives.

  • Just spend an hour on the Internet and it is unquestionably clear that there are unlimited options available to us.
  • If we're not tuned in to who we are at the core, way too many things seem like good ideas for us. This applies to everything from fashion to spiritual beliefs to diets to how we spend our down time.
  • All those options can be major stressors because they are really just pulling us in various directions all day, everyday. Being bombarded with ads and images about what to wear, where to go, what to eat, how to look, can throw us into overload without realizing it. I read an article that referred to an Eastern European model who came to the U.S. and was taken to a superstore. She was so overwhelmed by all the choices that she passed out.
  • Going in a number of random directions on a regular basis-- even if it's online, in stores, or in your mind, is wasting your energy and time. It also contributes to the feeling of dissatisfaction because we haven't used our time to do the things that are meaningful to us. 
  • One of the strange things about the prevalence of social media is witnessing what others are doing in their lives. If a person isn't grounded in his or her own energy, it can lead to wishing, coveting, envying, comparing and a host of other counterproductive emotional responses. 
I bring all this up because this year I used my energy in some very concrete ways that made a positive difference. I identified the things that enhance my lifestyle and my way of being in the world. I accomplished more than I have in long time. Here's what I learned:

- Buying fancy and elegant things for anything other than occasional special events is a waste of my money. I am most comfortable in cotton, corduroy and flannel. The rest mostly hangs in my closet until it goes out of style.
- I'm not a traveler. I'm quite happy exploring and vacationing in familiar and short distance territory. No need to try and wrap my mind around "If I had the money, I'd go to....." cause really I wouldn't. And if I did, I'd be counting the days till I could go home.
- I'm low brow. There's no getting around it. I don't judge anybody for dropping a few hundred bucks at a five-star restaurant. But the truth is, I'm thrilled with a plate of wings and a glass of cab. Thrilled! And sometimes I get a second order of wings because the first batch was that good.
- A lot of entertainment isn't that entertaining for me. I'm not into plays and the opera, cruises, or elaborate celebrations to commemorate milestones. I'm happiest when I have the option of keeping it simple.
- I need quiet time. If things have been hectic-- whether with work, readings, or family activities, I must choose to stay home alone and regroup.

Acknowledging these things as my sort of baseline for living empowered me. It took a bunch of options off the table. So I offer this as a strategy for starting the new year: Until we figure out our true likes, dislikes, values and preferences, we spend a lot of time desiring things that wouldn't be that satisfying if we had them. Knowing this helps in how we choose our mates, how we spend our money, how we make small and large decisions.
At some point we can stop trying on options and accept some basic facts about ourselves. We can stop chasing fantasies and focus on living according to our truths. In so doing, we find ourselves with more resources and power for engaging in the pursuit of meaningful goals and activities.  








This is entertainment for me!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Who's family, who's the enemy, and how can I tell the difference?

The holidays are a time for family. I spend a lot of time reflecting on family dynamics-- namely what's a "truth", what's an issue, and how I can be the healthiest I can be-- in spite of. I was raised in a pretty liberal fashion, in a rather communal setting. There were lots of complicated relationships. Although my parents' relationship ended when I was very young, my mother remained friends with his siblings and nieces. Because of this, I always had positive feelings about both sides of my family- even though I didn't know the vast majority of my paternal relations.  My favorite uncle is an ex in-law who, in spite of separation from my aunt, always visits us when we are in town; and likewise, we will drop by to see him if time is tight.

My own generation now has its share of complex relationships-- with exes and dramatic pasts and episodes. The kinds of situations where bad blood spills, and lines are drawn, and allegiances are formed. Until recently, I got a muddled, headachy feeling when I tried to sort things out logically. How close can I be to an ex-in law? What's betrayal? Who's off limits? But this year-- after so much introspection and the book talks, and sharing insights with a community of strangers, I have a new level of honesty working within myself. Insights assail me like shooting stars. They are beautiful and unexpected, and they have brought me peace. 

So these are the personal truths that now resonate with me when negotiating the complex family relationships that are so commonplace during these times. They are not for everyone, but they feel like a good fit for me and the culture in which I was raised.
  • Marriage does actually make someone a family member. Just because a divorce happens doesn't mean that all the relationships are severed. I have fallen in love with many of my in-laws, and I have been thrown for a loop when things didn't work out. Likewise, many of my relatives love my husband, and if I had issues with him, that wouldn't mean they don't love him any more.
  • Little children never know who is the blood relative and who is the relative by marriage. They have to be told who's who-- which says it all. 
  • Hearts can open wide enough to include everyone. Over time, I've seen that the happiest families are those that don't adhere to too many rules. My coworker recently went to the wedding of her brother's "baby mama" who was marrying a different man. At the wedding was the bride and her relatives, her new husband and his relatives, the "baby", the baby's father and his relatives.  My coworker travelled 500 miles to be there, and she said it was wonderful, and there was such a sense of family and happiness because the "baby" is surrounded by everybody who loves her. 
  • My heart does actually snap shut to exclude those who have been mean-spirited, violent, or harmful to the well-being of others. It's like an intuitive default mechanism. There are deal breakers.
  • My mother (I'm amazed by how often I mention her!!!?????) has always modeled acceptance and goodwill. She has only spoken of my father in complimentary terms. She has never exhibited any bitterness of any kind, and she sleeps better than anybody I know.
So when there are difficult family choices to make-- especially during the holiday season, take a minute to find the personal truths that really do rest in your own soul. Don't believe the hype. Don't let the emotions of others guide your thinking, and sit yourself in multiple seats and see life from different perspectives. That's the only way to live an authentic life. And it is only in living an authentic life that we bring peace to our hearts.



"This book will leave you wanting more! 
Tara  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement






Friday, November 29, 2013

From HATING the holidays to loving them!

What a great Thanksgiving! A few years ago, I HATED the holidays! I had a lot of emotional crap in my psyche that was unresolved, and that kept me from feeling integrated enough to get with this season of what seems like flying by the seat of my pants. Now I finally feel integrated, and I'm thrilled!

What do I mean exactly?

'Twas a time that I didn't see how the aspects of my life worked together. I tried to interpret what folks were feeling and thinking, to anticipate conflicts, to view my own life from the outside looking in, to interpret others' lives from the outside looking in, and so on. With all that mentalizing, I wasn't operating from my own core. Now I'm operating from my core, and I'm aware of certain things:

1) Even though it's sometimes inconvenient, family and traditions are very important to me.
2) There are no aspects of life that are perfect, so if that's what I'm waiting for, get over it.
3) Always know who I'm dealing with so I can stay present and self-supporting-- in spite of.
4) Take some space for myself before I need it-- even if it's just spending a little extra time in the bathroom.
5) I need comfortable clothes.
6) I can't change anybody, so breathe and let people have their own experience.
7) Writing a list and operating from it keeps me functioning and vibrating at a much higher level.
8) I have learned a lot from my mother, and despite any "issues," when I respect her wisdom and importance to our family, I am blissfully aware of being connected to something larger than myself.
9) I have to set the internal and external boundaries that maintain my mental and physical health.

So this is the first holiday in a long while (possibly ever) that all the stars seem aligned. I have surrendered to the notion that all the decisions I've made along the way make perfect sense from the vantage point from which I was operating:

1) When I was wild and crazy in my 20s, I was spending money AND saving money, stretching myself beyond the boundaries of my family and upbringing, and carving out an identity that was all my own. It got pretty ugly at times, but God did I learn a lot!
2) When I became a parent in my 30s, I had enough skills and resources to make dramatic changes in my lifestyle that made for a healthier experience for my daughter and me. I was stressed a LOT, but I'd gained enough courage in my 20s to cut my losses when I needed to and keep moving until I found myself in better places. I used a lot of money and appeared to be a mite unstable, but I had to find my place in the world because it wasn't finding me! I also learned to be self-conscious and conflicted-- because I had taken on the identity of "mother" which meant I was "supposed" to be a particular way.
3) In my forties, I carved out a niche that was so grounded in independence, spiritual practice, and personal study that I seemed to be unearthing all the dross and silt and was loosening stones and rocks that had obscured the deeper truths of my existence. There was a lot of uncertainty, but I learned to live with the "not knowing" long enough to evolve beyond the stuck places. I found myself sort of transformed-- sort of like rebirthing. I lived in the ethers, it seemed-- meditating and chanting and burning frankincense and myrrh, seeking a lasting peace in something more than the world offered externally.
4) And my 50s have granted me the opportunity to integrate all that I've learned on the paths I've travelled. I've finally lived long enough to distinguish between the voices that bring healing or dis-ease. That is a gift! Because people can and do act from agendas that can poison our peace--taking a tender moment and pulverizing it, or introducing their fears into our intentions until we forget where we were headed. So now I know how to keep my own intentions in the center of my life.

So I think I hated the holidays because when I was not strongly grounded and confident about my path, I could lose myself and question my choices, my safety, my sanity when bombarded with the energy of the folks around me! I didn't know how to bring the pieces of myself into the chaotic frenzy of family and expectations and overstimulation.

But today I am absolutely basking in happiness because I recognize the healing of many hurt places within me! I've learned how to ground myself in the things that bring more light into my life-- the thoughts, the people, the rituals. Because this is the life I've been given, that I've chosen, and for which only I am accountable.

I am having my holiday! And I invite you to do the same-- in whatever ways speak to the core of who you are! Make your own list of 1-9, so you can enjoy them on the terms that resonate with you.

...................................................................................................................................................................

Get your copy of my novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl! www.mainstreetrag.com
See the reviews on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sugar-Bowl-Angela-Belcher/product-reviews/1599484021/ref=pr_all_summary_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=byRankDescending












Saturday, November 23, 2013

Overcoming skittishness

Dogs who are kicked are often skittish. I was not kicked or hit or abused, but my family, God bless 'em, made me skittish because they had an opinion about EVERYTHING!

About things like:
- Don't eat while walking down the street.
- Don't comb your hair on the stoop.
- Don't go outside without combing your hair.
- Don't tell people your business.
- Don't ask questions that open cans of worms-- even if it's your own can, and you want to know what's in it.
- Don't leave the price tag on a gift for fear of being judged as either boastful or cheap.

Such a family can make you feel damned if you do and damned if you don't.  When the people raising you have a lot of shoulds that seem random and come out of nowhere, it makes you an introvert. (Not somebody who doesn't want to be around people. The kind who has to recharge by having some alone time.)

I didn't realize it till recently, but sometimes when I'm having a glorious time in my zone (thinking and cooking and writing and gardening), a nervous feeling runs through me. The peace is gone. My mind starts churning. This is because when you're raised with an onslaught of input, you expect interference. You expect that your zone is going to be infiltrated at any minute. So out of nowhere, my fight or flight response is activated.

I know it's all leftover crap from childhood. It's that feeling that people are watching and waiting to catch me or correct me or remind me or want me to do something else. A lot of shoulds embed the belief that People want me to be other than what I want to be and People want me to do other than what I want to do.

What does it mean?!

In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle shared an interpretation of families that promote a slew of shoulds. "My disapproval of you is intended to make you feel so guilty and uncomfortable that you finally conform to my wishes." This is probably why I have dubbed myself a warrior. Because I always felt I had to antagonize my way down the path of my choosing. I became fiercely independent early on, so I had the right to do what I wanted on my own terms. The Catch-22 is that such a person rarely feels supported. There's an underlying feeling that "they" are still invalidating "me," and that's what makes me a bit skittish. Without even realizing it, I can tighten up-- expecting negative judgment or subtle manipulation. At such times I feel my claws emerging.

Of course our families generally want us to do what they want us to because that's how we humans are. We think our way is the way. I'm guilty of it myself, but I'm getting better at that. Because as reasonable adults with minds of our own, we need to relax into our own way of being, and breathe life into our vision of ourselves. We can't live with the feeling that we're about to be caught doing something wrong when all we're doing is making choices about how to best live our own lives.

How?!

1) Release the emotions associated with other people's reactions to our harmless choices about our own lives.
2) Plant our feet and minds firmly in the activities of our choosing and enjoy the hell out of whatever they are.
3) Be brave enough to accept the consequences of our choices without whining.
4) Allow other people the right to do the same.

How does this get rid of skittishness?!

We can relax when we accept at the core of our very being that there is no right way to do life-- no matter what we've been taught. This applies to relationship choices, career choices, introversion, extroversion, fashion statements, whatever. If we're not hurting anybody, then we should just RELAX.

Acknowledging that I'm the expert when it comes to my wants and preferences and actions is grounding-- the exact opposite of skittish.

Get your copy of my novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl! www.mainstreetrag.com
See the reviews on Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sugar-Bowl-Angela-Belcher/product-reviews/1599484021/ref=pr_all_summary_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=byRankDescending



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Just because I shed a tear doesn't mean I need a hug....

My eyes well up with emotion more these days than they ever have. I've always been a crier. In elementary school, my teacher wrote on my report card: "Angela is a wonderful girl. She cries a bit too easily." I was soooo embarrassed. Recently I've noticed that I can be talking about something that seems inconsequential, but I'll feel my eyes getting hot and moist. I know my nose has turned red (I was called Rudolph during middle school because my nose goes crimson in a heartbeat!).

These are things that have made me well up recently:

1) Thanking my boss for assigning me to the position I wanted this year
2) Speaking to my colleagues about successes that typically difficult students have experienced
3) Telling my friends about the unexpected encounter that unearthed the source of my abandonment issues
4) Telling my daughter how offering a snack to a hysterical student calmed her down in ten seconds (the things we're most emotional about are often about the need for something totally different than we think)
5) Telling students how much they've improved in a specific area (I turn away when I feel my nose getting warm. They'll never see me cry-- except during a touching part of a movie-- when I'm simply showing my humanity)
6) Explaining to my husband how important school is to some students who suffer and act out because of the bad decisions made by their parents
7) Saying "Yes" when a student asks if we could play another round of Scattergories on game day (I soooooo want them to love game time!)

So the tears brim mostly when I am experiencing spontaneous gratitude for being fully engaged in a   lifestyle that fits who I am and incorporates things that I really care about. I am grateful because two decades ago I shed a lot of tears because of things that were not aligned in ways that made me happy.

So if you see a glint in my eye, I'm okay. I'll fight it off. Thank God nobody has picked up on my leaky state and tried to hug me yet, but I have a small fear that some might take it as a weak and needy moment. It isn't. It's just that I'm really feeling good about life right now.


One thing I'm grateful for is the great reception that Salt in the Sugar Bowl has received. This is what some readers have said on Amazon: 
5.0 out of 5 stars
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:  (0)
3 star:  (0)
2 star:  (0)
1 star:  (0)
 
 
 
Epps has the gift of writing fiction with a truth that makes it real. 
Faylene  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement
Salt in the Sugar bowl was a really, really great fictionbook. 
Wendy S. Elston Davis  |  1 reviewer made a similar statement
The verisimilitude made me forget the characters werefictitious. 
Evelyn Kelly  |  2 reviewers made a similar statement
Order your copy today from Main Street Rag: http://www.mainstreetrag.com/store/MSRFiction.php

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Live from the inside out, and not vice versa

A few months ago, a man asked me what it was like to be a writer and an academic married to a blue collar worker. I simply said, "I'm pretty blue collar myself." The colleague sitting next to me couldn't get over it. "Huh?" he said. "He can't be for real."

I laughed at the man's query because he obviously didn't know ME at all, and he made all kinds of faulty assumptions that showed how brainwashed he happens to be. Because we are not our jobs. If we are truly humans "being" in a variety of situations that we choose based on what resonates with our unique souls, then face it-- jobs will come and go. I think if we understand that, a lot of anxiety begins to roll off our backs-- because then we begin to live our lives based on something other than the status quo.

Some people have a tendency to paint themselves into boxes and corners that sometimes run counter to fully expressing who they are at the core. Then they wonder why they aren't happy, or why their kids aren't happy, or why life has so little meaning after working so hard for the things and accolades and positions.

The truth, as I see it, is that the limits and labels and qualifiers usually have less to do with the quality of our lives and much more to do with trying to get it right. NEWSFLASH! Trying to get it right will simply keep you trying to get it right. There is no right. That seems the bill of goods we've been sold-- whether by families, corporate leaders (who really stand to realize a great profit from convincing us that we are our jobs), media venues, etc. The message seems to be that if we take the right steps, and meet the right people, and go through the right doors, then ......... Well, that's not always so. There might just be another door, condition, connection, etc. and sometimes we don't know what we're getting into once we've gone through it!

So life is best lived with your whole self in mind-- regardless of your job or label. Sometimes it behooves us to turn off the television and plug up our ears, so we can hear something other than what's pushed into us by the powers without. Get in touch with your own values and your own voice. Live from the inside out, not vice versa.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There is no more time than the time we have...

It's been a solid month since I've blogged. Busy with a new position at school and life. Growth wise, I'm starting to understand at deeper and deeper levels how much responsibility we have to take for our own lives. There is no getting around these facts:

- If we overload our calendars, we get rundown, and things around us don't run as smoothly as we'd like.
- We have to bite the bullet and make time for the aspects of life that we say are important to us, and let the lesser things fall by the wayside.
- The more we do the things we love-- the things that our souls crave, the more satisfied and at peace we feel in all aspects of life.
- The more we look at ourselves through the eyes of other people and judge ourselves according to what they think-- whomever they may be, the further we get from our own happiness.
- There is no more time than the time we have, so we must be mindful about how we use it.

This is what I LONG to do when I have a block of free time in front of me. Pens, paper, and nothing going on is absolutely thrilling, blissful-- more so than a party or a gathering, or a shopping spree, or just about anything that folks call fun. It's my passion.
Student requesting a book in the library, 1964


Soooooo, for this month, I've done some real digging around in there. My cousin introduced me to this concept: "You've got to do you...." which is extremely important when it comes to making choices about how to use time. It might seem selfish sometimes, but the thing is, we spend a lot of time doing things that don't make any difference to anybody anyway. Our minds are filled with a load of shoulds that don't enhance anybody's life and actually harm ourselves.

So I'm not making any declarations, but I have been choosing to write more. I have also taken people out of my head-- those who I imagine might judge me, or get angry at me, or resent some aspect of my behavior. Why? Because I'm not in their heads, and I truly don't know what they're thinking.

All in all, this is making me feel freer and happier.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The unexpected realization about routines

I've been back at work for about a month, and this week I had a strange revelation. I feel better when I'm going to work. This surprised me because I had a home-based writing business for 10 years until I went back to teaching. And  teachers (at least most of us) really look forward to the summer break. We work hard, and it's no joke having to teach young people who are often only marginally interested in what we're bringing. So, we are ecstatic when we have a break from the grueling performances that we deliver for ten months out of the year. And God knows we need a rest.

So I had a busy summer-- lots of activity surrounding my book Salt in the Sugar Bowl. I had something of a schedule, but to be honest, there was an undertone of half-stepping. I now know that during long breaks, I can't seem to get as much momentum going, and I often asked myself where the time went at the end of the day. I made a habit of writing down on the calendar  what I did every day of vacation, so I wouldn't feel like my vacation was wasted. It worked. I did a LOT, but I didn't feel the sense of satisfaction I expected. I was actually satisfied with my two months away from work, and was ready to go back to school and dive into learning a new aspect of the job in a new position.

What I realized this week is that the routine of work makes my body happy. I have more energy, I feel stronger, and I have a sense of contentment at the end of the day. Strangely enough, I now realize that, as much as I dig vacation and being at home, I'm a worker bee. I like having my lunch packed up in my backpack, getting up and exercising, making my liquid meals and taking a fistful of supplements, and driving through the streets before the air stales. Huh! Who knew? This is some new factor thrown into the equation. My soul seems to love the discipline inherent in a routine. My body thrives on it!!!!

I am not saying that I wouldn't love to have the lifestyle of a full-time writer. I have a lot to say. I'd love nothing better than to spend hour after hour travelling into my psyche and expunging what-all my soul wants to get said. BUT strolling across the hall in my teeshirt and comfy pants doesn't actually cut it for me. I get a bit too loosey-goosey, too vegged out and foggy. Huh! So maybe my new fantasy will entail having my own office to drive to and write in everyday. But until that happens, I am happier than I realized with my juggling routine-- pushing myself to teach well, write often, cook healthily, exercise consistently, and do it all again the next day.


Remember to get your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl, a novella.
Find out why a mother leaves her six children and never looks back. How does such an event alter the lives of her adult children? Order today from www.mainstreetrag.com  or from www.amazon.com





Friday, September 6, 2013

Information that frees your soul

I might be redundant, but I'm getting happier. Writing the book and talking about some aspects of my life have made me more comfortable in the world. I'm coming to understand the kinds of things that are freeing me. These are some things I now understand:

- The things I'm afraid of usually aren't real. They are usually tied to some issue like abandonment or trust or questionable self esteem,
- The more you think of yourself, the more other people think of you because your energy is strong and clear, and the stronger and clearer you are, the less you drain others, so they like that feeling that you're not trying to suck anything from them.
- You don't have to be a team player. You just have to carve out a place for yourself that doesn't require a team. But you have to be proactive and find those places.
- Worry bogs you down and makes you old before your time.
- Being young isn't all it's cracked up to be.
- Being energetic, inspired, healthy and reasonably sure that you're on the right path is all that AND a bag a chips.

So, cheers! Go for it! Free yourself!

Remember to order your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl. Find out why a mother leaves six children, and how they fare as they try to live and love as adults-- after their hearts have been wounded beyond repair. www.mainstreetrag.com


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Showing one face

September is my spiritual birthday. I pretend it's my actual birthday. I set goals and make resolutions. Maybe it's because school starts, and I was always a school person. And I teach. 

So as I approach my spiritual birthday, I want to publicly declare that I am better off than I've ever been. I feel healthier, more grounded, less anxious, stronger, more myself. This past few months of talking about my book and exploring the many faces of abandonment issues have made me more self aware-- in a good way. A core component of abandonment issues is not feeling okay, not feeling things are quite right. It's the "when this gets resolved" syndrome. "This" can be a job, a relative's dilemma, relationship, money issues, an illness, whatever.

But this summer I was all over the place, and after all this public outrospection, I get it. In the words of Popeye, I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam. My skin has grown thicker from being out of my comfort zone for five straight months. I've had to talk to strangers and "sell" myself. I've shared details about my life that I never considered public knowledge. I learned stuff I didn't want to learn (tweeting), and I had to do everything without getting to complain about how uncomfortable I was-- because it is all related to what I say I want out of life.

 I think what has happened is that I've finally merged my inner and outer lives. Sometimes we hide parts of ourselves. We shrink from our potential in order to stay safe, and we create a "face" for the public-- also to protect ourselves. Without even knowing it, we have subtracted something from both our private and public selves. Once I got the courage to put one shaky foot in front of the other, one day I noticed the footing was firmer.

So this is my advice:

Get the hell out of your comfort zone by accepting yourself as whole right here and now-- warts and all. Do what you can do with what you have. Then go forward like you're the hero of your life-- even if your legs feel like spaghetti and your heart is jello.

Get your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl, a novella. Find out why Sophia Sawyer leaves her six children, and how those children fare as they try to live, love, and prosper as if their mother hadn't broken their hearts. Order today at www.mainstreetrag.com




Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Talk @ Barnes & Noble in Cary!

I'm excited to discuss Salt in the Sugar Bowl @ Barnes and Noble in Cary on Thursday, August 15th. The Sawyer family is a case study in abandonment issues! Their mother leaves her six children to be raised by their father. He's a hard-working man, but as the children grow up and begin their adult lives, they find they aren't as healed as they would like to believe.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What exactly does your mirror have to tell you?

You probably know I'm on this healing journey. I believe our childhood hurts and fears and pains live in our bodies like alien creatures. And like alien creatures, they must be dealt with; otherwise they take over your life and you wonder what the hell happened.

So I deal with issues by a) paying attention to my feelings when they creep out of bounds, and b) catching myself behaving in ways that go against my "personal philosophy." I then spend a bit of time figuring out what happened to pull me off balance. This works for me because: 1) it breaks the habit of having underlying feelings run my life, and 2) I get more insight about who I am at the core and why I do what I do.

Case in point....
I ran into a former student today. We hugged, and she smiled as students do when they meet their teachers in public. The onus is always on the teacher to ask questions and give feedback, etc. I LOVE meeting students in public, so we chatted on and on, then I went to back to my car. Before I pulled off, I caught myself looking in the mirror! Hmmmnnnnn. Then I think! AHA! A little remnant of my abandonment issue! Why? How?

Because abandonment issues (and probably a host of other issues) play out by making the irrelevant relevant. Instead of going with the flow and taking life as it comes, "abandonment survivors" (just coined this phrase) take stock a lot by

  • looking in the mirror to see if something's wrong, 
  • reviewing a conversation to determine whether we sounded like an idiot, and
  • coming up with what could've, should've, would've gone differently.
But my true self cares less than a cent about what I was about to see in the mirror after a random conversation. So I looked away from the mirror and didn't give another thought to what the student saw or what either of us said. 

Because this mental and physical scrutiny is all about that underlying feeling that something unexpected can blindside me and I wind up in an unpleasant place. Maybe I looked like a hoochie in my exercise clothes; maybe sweat had dried and I had eye boogers, etc. My instinct was an expectation of something being wrong, expecting to be judged harshly, or even to be judged favorably. I was about to relinquish my power and give it to somebody/anybody else-- and have her make a difference in my psyche. I mean, really?!

I'm a grown woman, and I have been living long enough to have conversations and interactions all day long without needing an assessment of how I'm doing!  

So this is going to be my homework for the week: Be present when I'm engaged with somebody, then move the heck on. Don't waste my time reflecting or going back over it unless it's for some clearly positive and healthy purpose. 

My AHA experience is this: Before you look in the mirror, ask yourself why you're going there. Most times, you'd be better off just going with the flow and putting yourself all the way into your agenda. Because the truth is that retouching the makeup, recombing that bang, or seeing if that pimple got bigger will not create the experiences you want in life. Trust me on that! 


Don't forget to order a copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl! See how abandonment issues run rampant as the adult Sawyer children deal with life and love after having being abandoned by their mother, Sophia.  http://www.mainstreetrag.com/store/MSRFiction.php 
$10, plus S&H

Salt in the Sugar Bowl by Angela Belcher Epps
"Just finished Salt in the Sugar Bowl. Read it slow to savor every word, every character. As I read from character to character, each became my favorite at the moment. Great story,  one that can be found in any big family. You are an incredible writer, a writer from the heart. Loved that you mentioned Brooklyn, Ft. Greene. Laughed, smiled, smirked in some parts. Can't wait for your next."     
 --Maria Villafane, New Yorker

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beast of the Southern Wild: Parenting 101

I just saw Beast of the Southern Wild last week. I fell in love with it. That only happens for me once in a blue moon.

Why did I love it so much?

Because I write about abandonment. And Hushpuppy was abandoned by her mother; and her father seems a kind of a mixed blessing of a father who, early in the film, is hard for me to bear. But over the course of the film, he became a sort of renegade hero for me because I believe in "tough." I believe there are circumstances that demand having a stiff enough spine to get through whatever the heck you have to get through. And at the end, (with the cutest little heroine on the planet) this movie showed how this seemingly psycho father had actually prepared his child for the life she was inheriting as his child.
Still of Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild


At the end of the day that's what I think decent parenting is about-- preparing kids. I think a lot of frustration felt by parents has to do with the feeling that their children aren't prepared for life or might never be what they need to be. But preparing children for life requires real reflection about what they really need at every stage in order to navigate the situations they will encounter without falling apart. They don't need warm and fuzzy all day, every day. They need some heavy doses of reality and honesty, and to know with certainty that they actually have spines-- just as we do.

We get stronger by being stronger. Character traits aren't developed by simply having pleasant conversations; we develop character through lessons learned in real time situations. Better that our kids take some chances and sink now and then while we're still close enough to them to give a little feedback, and help them make a few adjustments-- than to have them floundering around as weak as worms wondering what to do when the flood comes.


Do you have your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl yet? Find out why a mother walks out on her six children, and how, years later, the abandonment issues run rampant in the lives of those children.
Click here to order from Amazon! http://tinyurl.com/kky83bh


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Are abandonment issues sabotaging your present?

Abandonment infiltrates our psyches like parasites. It makes us feel less than.

How?

We want to make sure we do whatever it takes so people love us, want us, stay with us, think we're worthy, etc. We bend over backwards, make allowances for bad behavior, wear clothes that we don't really like because we think we'll get a particular reaction. We become more mindful of what others are thinking about us than of what we think of ourselves. We try to control how safe we feel by anticipating the thinking and actions of others. This is an impossibility! Sometimes people wind up alone because they're so afraid of being abandoned that they find ways to avoid committing.

Where does it come from?

I can't speak for everyone, but I didn't know my dad, and I spent a lot of my early years with my grandparents, then they died when I was still young. I, therefore, inherited a boat load of abandonment issues! They can also come from divorce, addiction, parental depression and mental illness.

What's my point?

It's really important to see when & where abandonment issues are operating in one's life. I learned that being healthy means having a very clear idea of who I am and what I like that has nothing to do with anybody else. If we are able to clarify that and have our own backs, then we are pretty much guaranteed to take good care of ourselves. When we get too caught up in attachment to others, we are often acting out of fear from our past, rather than having a healthy relationship in our present.

My novella is filled with the fallout of abandonment issues as Sophia Sawyer's six children try to live healthy adult lives after their mother left them behind and never looked back. Check it out! Salt in the Sugar Bowl: www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Harness your mind and take it where you want to go

This weekend I reflected a lot on the way my mind works. It seems that even though I focus a lot on positive thinking, sometimes I replay negative occurrences in my mind. Suddenly I remember when I blew up in anger about something that was none of my business. I remember when I left my journals behind and my ex- read every secret and horrible thing I had ever written about him (God almighty!). I think about how two of my aunts were my age when they died. I wish I'd visited my neighbor the week I intended to because she died before I got there. I think about how much more patience I wish I'd had when my daughter was young. And on and on.

It's weird the way our minds troll for things that bring us down or scare us when nothing good comes out of it. I already know better. I know what I won't do again. There's no need to beat up on myself. The lesson is already learned, or the opportunity was already missed. 

Today on the way home from a great weekend at the beach with my husband, I watched my mind try to take me out of my happy moment. I took control of my mind, and did not let it convince me that I am less happy, less worthy, less anything than I really am.

The Abraham-Hicks quote below says it all:
If all you did was just look for things to appreciate you would live a joyous, spectacular life. If there was nothing else that you ever came to understand other than just look for things to appreciate, it's the only tool you would ever need to predominantly hook you up with who you really are. That's all you'd need. 

My novella is now available! Order your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl:  www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pretense: a recipe for marital hell

There are many ways to set one's self up for a bad marriage. Pretending to be someone you're not is a prime example. This is an excerpt from Salt in the Sugar Bowl, and it shows how building a relationship based on pretense is a recipe for marital hell.

Sophia's mother, Devora, encouraged her only child to outdo herself-- to put on the best face she could possibly envision. She coaxed Sophia to spend entire paychecks on form-fitting dresses. And every Friday she handed Sophia a fistful of dollars from the petty cash to get her hair fixed. Devora passed off her kitchen skills as Sophia's. Devora’s steady doses of advice fell on deaf ears because Sophia never got the knack of any of it. She was clueless about the glitz. She was plain as paper. But Devora was determined to make all Sophia’s dates worthy of prom night.
Hunter Sawyer was blind-sided by the glamorized Sophia among the drab selection of women in their small town of Haden. In less than six months they were married at the Hope and Savior Baptist Church with a feast for seventy-five in the church dining room. Both Sophia and Devora were pleased at the good-looking, hard-working Hunter. But 19 year-old Sophia had not contemplated the consequences of their deception. She couldn’t match colors, or bake a chicken unassisted, or apply false eyelashes on her own.
In no time, Hunter was puzzling over why the meals all carried a strangling dose of vinegar when a short time ago he’d found pleasure in every forkful. Then when Sophia gave birth to their first child, and she had no paycheck coming in, Hunter looked sideways at how her hair always seemed to settle into something akin to a rooster’s comb. Then, shortly before the birth of her second grandchild, Sophia’s mother died from a massive, after dinner heart attack. Without Devora’s coaching, the baby weight clung to Sophia’s stomach and thighs. There were no form-fitting dresses to accentuate her new, maternal shape.

Hunter’s disappointment was palpable. No more long, sucking kisses. No unexpected grabbing and fondling in the kitchen. Sophia had no tricks up her sleeve, and no money for mirages. So Hunter had ultimately won himself a lesser prize than he’d expected. He had won the small prize on the middle shelf when he'd expected the large one at the top. Disappointment was a heavy weight to carry throughout a marriage of 17 years.

Order your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl:  www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reflecting on a Bob Marley truth...

“If she is amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy…truth is, everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” ~ Bob Marley

I love Bob Marley, and I credit him with being a real visionary. I choose to make the "she" in this quote "life". At the heart of this message, I do believe, is 1) having a life that is amazing won't be easy, and 2) you can take the easy route, but don't expect it to necessarily be satisfying. Then, as much as I hate to accept this as a truth, following your heart still has pain along the way. But, fortunately, along with the pain comes the bliss of running the race you want  toward a destination of your choice. A lot of the suffering, I believe though, is in getting in touch with what the heck we want, and once we know, figuring out how the heck to get it. I feel our lives are crammed with so much random and necessary stuff, that we must work to find the space and time to hear and understand what our real desires are. And once we get a clue, we're still left with this question: Where do we draw the line between following our dreams and common sense? 

(As an aside, notice how much my hair looks like Bob Marley's.....hmmmnnn)


My novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl, is available at www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html
$10, plus shipping and handling
When all the sweetness is gone from Sophia Sawyer's life, she leaves her husband and six children and never looks back. Find out how those children fared after their mother's abandonment.





Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Runaway Mothers

My novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl is about a mother who walks away from her six kids. This week, Dr. Phil featured Brenda Heist, a woman who left her two kids and husband 11 years ago and totally disappeared. Nobody expects that. In our culture, we make assumptions:
- if there's a divorce, Mom gets custody,
- if a child is sick, Mom does the doctoring,
- Mom is more nurturing and comforting,
- Mom has the child-rearing instincts
When a mom walks away, all kinds of questions surface. They usually have negative connotations: What was she thinking? Has she lost her mind? What the heck is wrong with her? Does she have a heart?

When a man leaves his family, again we make assumptions:
- He fell in love with someone else,
- He must have money, gambling, drug problems, or some dark secret, or
- He grew tired of the routine, rat race, etc.

A couple of the news items trace events leading up to Brenda Heist's departure, what she did while she was gone, and why she suddenly reentered the picture. But at the bottom of it all, is still the resounding question: What is it about a particular woman that enables her to leave her children behind?


Brenda Heist returned to her town after 11 years. She had already been declared dead.
http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/851840_Brenda-Heist-admits-trying-to-commit-suicide-three-days-before-turning-herself-in.html


Salt in the Sugar Bowl is available at www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html
When all the sweetness is gone from her life, Sophia Sawyer leaves her six children and never returns. What happened to those children. Order today and find out.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother Nature's daughters on Mother's Day

So Mom and I weren't always close. We've never been estranged, but there were years that I didn't think much of holidays and family gatherings. I was doing my thing and they had their own thing, and our things didn't seem to match all that well.

Time passes the way it does-- sometimes slow, and sometimes whizzing by. And I look up and Mom and I have things in common.

WE LOVE NATURE!

We are like twin nature nymphs. This morning we sat on my deck having coffee, and before you know it we were up on my hill pulling weeds and sawing down little trees. HAVING A BLAST!

Yesterday we went to visit my daughter in her new apartment, came home and made lunch, then spent four hours breaking up and moving parts of my HUGE cacti! We had a WONDERFUL time.

So I'm really grateful that we both love something that brings us together in a way that is magic. We get down and dirty, and we plant, saw, and dig, and then sit satisfied--bonded at the core by something that really means something to us. We, Odessa and I, are really Mother Nature's daughters.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kids and consistency

Recently my daughter and I were chatting, and she mentioned, offhandedly, that her childhood memories are happy ones. It wasn't a deep discussion or anything-- just a comment in passing. Today, I drove three hours (unnecessarily) to a meeting that will not actually occur for two more weeks! Hmmmnnnn. This shows where I am right now-- flying by the friggin' seat of my tight pants!

I've been here before: tight schedules, working till my brain aches, with my body buzzing with fatigue. I was often in that place when my daughter was growing up. So as I was whizzing down Highway 85 South this morning, my daughter's comment about happy memories ran through my mind. And that's when I realized how important consistency is to children.

I was often so overextended and stressed out that I would be burning incense, chanting, praying, writing affirmations all at the same time to get through tight grantwriting deadlines, motherhood demands, and having a personal life as a self-employed, single mother. I worried all the time about how in the world I could raise this child unscathed with such a life as I was living.

Now I realize that the things I prioritized as a mom actually worked:
- dinner every week night (mostly homemade-- because it was very comforting and grounding to have something simmering on the stove as I lost myself in writing),
- getting her to bed at the same time every night with a story and a tuck-in,
- never letting her know when I was short of cash,
- having a network of trustworthy babysitters who gave us both much-needed time away from each other, and
- although she certainly saw me get upset way more than I intended, I always gave her the message that life has it's really hard and bumpy places-- but none that I couldn't handle.

I was thrilled to hear her basically saying that those hard and bumpy places were eclipsed by the happy times. And as I think about it, there were absolutely plenty of happy times.

If your kids are grown, remember all the good stuff you did with and for them. If you're still parenting, take a tip from me-- consistency goes a long way towards making children feel secure-- even if you're flying by the seat of your pants wondering which end is up.

My novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl is now available at www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html
Order your copy today and find out how Sophia Sawyer's six children fared after she walked aways from them and never looked back.

Salt in the Sugar Bowl


a novella byAngela Belcher Epps

ISBN: 978-1-59948-402-0, 104 pages, $12 ($10 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My unsolicited review, in writing-- by a MAN no less!!!




I have to blog this because it made me so happy. This is what just popped up in my inbox: "We recently received your book  Salt in the Sugar Bowl:
 
One of the best books I've ever read.  I love the characters. Enjoyed the story line. I especially enjoyed the action. I even shed a tear at the end. I experienced a whole range of emotions."

That made my day! It's my first unsolicited review in writing. I have new-found confidence. I choose to believe him. 
Now I want everyone to buy a copy!

Order yours at www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html



Thursday, April 25, 2013

The big moments in life!

Salt in the Sugar Bowl is officially released! I'm really excited because I have always been the kind of person to minimize the importance of good things happening to and for me. It was almost like I was afraid to enjoy it. Or that I might not deserve it. So I'd downplay whatever it was and refuse to let it be a big deal.

Well, I guess I have grown quite a bit because I am going to enjoy this process. Already I have received some positive feedback. My colleague greated me Monday morning saying "I LOVED IT! I REALLY LOVED IT! and I LOVED hearing her say that, and I hope lots of people read it and enjoy it. I'm tickled to have a brand new book, and I'm thrilled that Main Street Rag thought enough of it to publish it!

So my thought on this beautiful spring evening is to encourage everybody to really acknowledge and enjoy the good things when they happen. The spiritual things I read allude to the fact that what we focus on increases. So when it's good, get into it, revel in it, let the joy of it run through you from hair to toenails! And hopefully that blissful gratitude will attract more of the same.


 So find out what happens when Sophia Sawyer walks away from her six children-- never to return. Order your copy of Salt in the Sugar Bowl today! www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tina Turner-- the queen of priorities


I just watched Tina Turner in concert on Palladium. She was about 70 at the time it was filmed, and she was dancing in high heels, and she literally walked out on a plank suspended over the audience. Anytime I see Tina Turner, I am moved to live to the fullest. No excuses. She obviously works out and eats right and manages stress and controls her energy. All the things I write about. I know she is a Buddhist, and in the past she has talked about chanting. She is an example of what you can do when you set priorities. She is the queen of priorities. We're not talking about face lifts here; we're talking about stamina and working it. No easy breezy faking it. She is the real deal. So I'm committing here and now to six days--count 'em six days, of working out- at least 20 minutes. I want to be Tina when I grow up!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

change is not always necessary



I love this because I need to enjoy some things just as they are. Some things don't need changing. Part of our stress comes from the need to change things all the time. Fashion changes. Makeup changes. Technology changes. Rules at our jobs change. Change is the constant. Sometimes we balk because things change for no apparent reason. I used to believe in the "if it's not broke, don't fix it," but that no longer applies in our society.

So this picture reminds me that just because change is almost always a focus of our lives, we can still accept some things as they are--raw and real and not reframed to fit somebody's imagination. Imagination is great, but we need the wild and untamed to remember that life is already beautiful and powerful-- without our interference.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I've been living

I'm on spring break, and I've been running like crazy since the end of January. What have I been doing?
  • proofed galleys for Salt in the Sugar Bowl
  • got a new crop of students who have worked me to the hilt (technology is the new pencil!)
  • learned to send text messages (on a phone without a keyboard, mind you)
  • learned to use an MP3 player (I'm not as old as I sound-, but 'til now I've gone down the techno hiway kickin' & screamin')
  • proofed videos that my cousin made to promote my book (and they are GREAT!)
  • jumped out of my comfort zone and interacted with a lot of people about promotion
  • bought a rockin' new pocketbook
  • went to the beach with my husband
  • started meditating daily (again)
  • read a lot of indie books (poetry and fiction) and have been taken aback by how many of the best things are often flying below the radar
  • attended the Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement and learned a lot of GOOD STUFF
  • started getting happier and happier-- day by day!
'nuff said.

Here's a picture I really like. I never know exactly why I like what I like. I wouldn't exactly want to be at that place, but I love nature, and I love adventure. But I'm rather like that armchair traveller that Anne Tyler wrote about in the Accidental Tourist.

Wild Spirit

--

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"To Do" List Overload! An existential crisis...

I slept for 11 hours and awakened feeling like I finally got the sleep I needed. Now it's late on a Sunday afternoon, and tasks loom before me like a mountain to be climbed. I am baffled by the amount of stuff I need to do:
  • send out announcements for my new novella
  • fold baskets of laundry and put it away
  • do more laundry
  • line up readings at local bookstores and libraries
  • prepare dinner
  • locate publishing possibilities for a new story
  • write new material for my new novel (which is HW for my novel writing group)
  • do vigorous lesson planning for my new classes-- while digesting new requirements for Common Core Standards
  • call my mother
There's more, but I'll stop there.

At this moment I am having an existential crisis. . Where is my maid? Where is my publicist? Why do I have so many clothes? Why can't I just rotate five outfits and be done with it all? Why do I have to comb my hair?  Why must I floss my teeth? Why am I trying to do so much in my life-- write a book, teach, eat healthy enough to hopefully live a long life? Why can't I retire like my cousin Betty? Why did I make all those career and lifestyle changes through the years? Why didn't I just stay with AT&T like everybody else?

My mind is reeling like this because all my body wants to do is lie in bed and read. Roll over and stretch like a cat. Usually my inner tyrant prods me forward, and once I'm up, I get some momentum.  But today, even the inner tyrant is on vacation. Maybe it's the wintry temperature, the calm after a frantic start of the new year. Or watching Contraband till 2:30 a.m. after attending a retirement party.  My crisis is almost over.... 

I can feel it. I'm beginning to see clearly.

This is what I will do... make a cup of tea, throw in a load of laundry, call my mother, saute a lot of garlic and throw in baby greens. Lie  on the floor, stretch like a cat and call it yoga.  Make a "To Do" list. Go to bed.
 
Tomorrow will reveal itself--task by task,  priority by priority.  This, my friends, is what life is all about. You do the best you can on any given day, then go to bed. Sometimes your best seems pretty pitiful. But if you're maxing out most of the time, you know when it's time to put the feet up. And this is definitely such a day for me.

Order my new novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl during the discounted preorder period! http://www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Next Best Thing Blog Hop


I am pleased to be a stop on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. This particular blog tour invites writers to answer ten questions about their current Work in Progress, or forthcoming project, then tag four to five different authors. I was tagged by Terri Kirby Erickson, author of In the Palms of Angels. I bought Palms of Angels after hearing Terri read. Her poems were filled with such vivid images that I read the book from cover to cover like a novel. Read more about In the Palms of Angels at http://terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com/

My answers to The Next Best Thing Blog Hop questions:

1. What is the working title of your book or project?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?
            A friend and I were in a pub talking about the origin of personal issues (not the news worthy issues, the psychological kind). I recalled a couple of stories I’d heard about mothers and fathers who simply walked or drove away from their families. After such an event, no matter how together a person might seem, trust, loyalty, and bonding in relationships would become major themes at some point. Such events are defining moments. Each child would process it differently—depending on age, gender, personality, etc., but I don’t think anyone would escape the trauma of it. I knew I wanted to write about what early trauma and disappointment look like years down the road.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any?
I believe it’s realistic fiction.
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl features a long list of characters because it tells a story about two parents and six children. Each chapter gives a snapshot of a pivotal crisis in one of their lives—so we have eight protagonists. I can imagine the roles played by Terrance Howard—as the patriarch, Hunter Sawyer. He has charm, but he also has that sort of lowdown quality exhibited in Howard’s role in Lackawanna Blues. The matriarch could be Taraji P. Henson because her beauty and potential can be eclipsed by a certain frazzled quality—which is Sophia Douglas Sawyer all day.
Hunter and Sophia’s offspring are adults or young adults—and a cast of characters might range from Willow Smith, to Alicia Keys, Mos Def, Keri Washington, Hill Harper, to Wood Harris.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?
When Sophia Sawyer disappears— leaving her six children to be raised by her husband, she considers everything except how her absence will color their lives as they attempt to live, love, trust and function as adults.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am grateful that Main Street Rag Publishing Company is releasing the novella in April 2013. It is currently available for preorder at a discount until April 6th. Visit: http://www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took a year and a few months. I worked on the chapters one at a time because each major character has a standalone episode. They all had to interconnect and share a common history, but their events didn’t happen simultaneously. The time-related details made me a little crazy. I’m all about the words—not the numbers.
8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?
            Though my content and style is not the same, I would point toward Girlchild byTupelo Hassman and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz because both books are very episodic. Neither of those have long, sweeping, complex, plot-driven narratives. They are character-driven works that expose events that either cut to the quick or shave off the protective layers we try to maintain. Also, whenever I read J. California Cooper, I am pulled into her “come on in and sit down while I tell you what happened” style. I aspire to have that kind of accessibility.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?
            I have lived a textured life. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. When I was about a year old, I began spending a large part of my time in the South with my grandparents and young aunts and uncle, and the rest of the time in Brooklyn with my mother. I was always missing whomever I had left behind. Then my grandparents died when I was still young—and grief became a huge part of my life. I acted out a lot during my adolescence, and I don’t think anybody even realized it as such, and never put two and two together. But years later, as I navigated love relationships and defined who I was within my family, emotions linked to my youth permeated my expectations, fears, and preferences.
            Once I recognized the impact of my past painful events on my adult relationships, I saw similar patterns in the lives of those around me. I noticed that most people weren’t attributing their unhappiness or chronic stress or low-grade depression to anything other than their current lack of or desire for something. They think the problem is an insensitive partner, poorly-behaved children, a cramped house, an incompatible job, etc. I believe the real culprits are the underlying “ideas” about life we learned from our experiences. Unless we are very introspective, we basically fall victim to a syndrome that I will call constructing an issue-driven life.
I decided to use Sophia’s abandonment of her children to illustrate how an event affects the choices and outlook of the adult children years later. We are on the outside looking in as they navigate their lives with a skewed psyche. I believe the characters embody guilt, fear, suspicion, martyrdom, vanity, and deception. Many readers will connect with these emotions. This is why I wrote the book—so readers see how problematic responses to situations and circumstances stem from places inside us. As we begin to see this, we connect with the level of control we actually have over our responses and well-being as life happens. We can start living more purposefully—instead of being on automatic.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?
            Life is complicated and sometimes hard, but we need to learn our lessons and keep moving. The dilemmas faced by characters in Salt in the Sugar Bowl suggest lessons that can be helpful for our own journeys—including:
q       Be yourself! If you want a life that actually works for you, you have to show up for that life as yourself. Forget the media images and think about what an authentic life looks like. Be who you are, right now.
q       Make choices you can live with! When you are lucky enough to have a choice, stay conscious as you make it. There are a limited number of choices you get to make in life. There are some decisions that anchor you so deeply into what you don’t want that there is nothing but hell to pay afterwards.
q       You are as prepared to survive hardships and emergencies as you believe you are!
q       Know that there is often a difference between the truth and what you’ve been taught to believe.
q       Take off the blinders of the past, and you will find more options than you ever imagined existed.

Order Salt in the Sugar Bowl during the preorder period! http://www.mainstreetrag.com/AEpps.html

Check out the following Next Best Thing authors on Wednesday, January 30th as they answer the 10 questions.

Raina Leon writes about Boogey Man Dawn coming in April from Salmon Poetry. Her poetry collection explores the impact of manipulation of children, the brutality of stifling innocence, with moments of hope for the future. www.rainaleon.blogspot.com

Nadira Angail answers questions about her book Still Learning that chronicles the lives of four Muslim American, twenty-something friends as they deal with trials of love and identity. www.nadirahangail.com

Silas Shah answers questions about Philosophy of Time: “…not a book about prison, because we’re all doing time.” www.silasshah.blogspot.com

I'm missing an author, but I will add one as soon as I find one!