The Natural History of this Page and other Wonders
I would like to thank all of the web site judges who have honored me with these wonderful awards. They are extremely priceless to me beyond measure. All I can offer to you is my sincerest thanks for your generosity to take the time to review this site and honor it with an award. My humble thanks to all of you.
When I first got the idea to do this web site I had absolutely no idea what kind of roads it would lead me down. Completing this web site has been a learning experience for me on many levels for myself.
The first lesson this site has taught me is to learn to patiently endure all suffering. Many people fear suffering because of the hardship it brings. But although the suffering in and of itself is painful, the fruits that arise from the suffering, along with the lessons are indeed invaluable.
I have endured much suffering in my own life. But seeing women like Alice Walker who have continued to produce their artwork and follow their bliss in spite of hardship and suffering has taught me that you can handle suffering of two ways. You can harp and complain about the hardships you are going through. You can give up on yourself and on living and make excuses for why you are not following your dream or your goal...or you can endure. And not only endure, but thrive and flourish.
Women Alice Walker, Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston as well as many of the African-American writers who have produced art throughout America in spite of hardship. They used their suffering as a impetus to drive themselves further to accomplish greater expression and protest.
Her story and those of countless numbers of women have reminded me to be courageous. It has reminded me to keep my eyes focused on my goals and to work toward accomplishing them no matter what your critics say. You can go on to lead a meaningful life in spite of it all. All you need to accomplish your dreams is faith, hard work, determination, spirit and God. With those things you can overcome all things other men and women thought were impossible. It will help you to overcome almost anything.
My Fantastic Life Story
The idea of where this web site came from is a long one. (Smile!) I had little direction in my life toward the end of last year. I was working at a job that I disliked and my life had taken a steady downhill turn because of how I perceived the negative experiences that took place in my life.
For over four years I was at the mercy of what I perceived to be negative experiences in my life. In essence, I felt totally sorry for myself. And once you give into the mind set that you are helpless and that there is nothing that you can do about your own situation in life, then you become weighed down by it. People can tell you how gifted you are. They can see what you are capable of accomplishing. But if you are unhappy with your own life all you can see is the negative. All you can hear is the naysayers who believe you to be and perceive you to be negative. And if you are not careful, their view of you can slowly turn out to be your reality.
I lived in this mindset for the last twelve years of my life, especially after the sudden passing of my mother from metastic breast cancer in 1987. I took what the naysayers said to heart as being the truth. I took the negative experiences and situations that happened in my life as some indication that I was a bad person. This was not the case, but I was too naive to know it at the time. Because I was overly-critical of my life and I was grieving the death of my mother whom I was particularly close to, I began to slip into a deep depression. I dealt with my depression by supressing my emotions and criticizing myself when things did not go my way. This slowly but surely turned into a battle with panic attacks.
For nearly the past five years I have struggled with panic attacks. Last year, through diligence and hard work, I have successfully been able to overcome the symptoms of "panic attacks." I have discovered that it mainly had to do with my negative outlook on life and feeling of helplessness. I also began to look at the "naysayers" who were criticizing me and slowly but surely, I have found out they are as riddled with faults as I am. In other words, no person is perfect. We're all human. It took a lot of prayer for my panic attacks and my mind set to change. But with work and God's help, it was done.
Well, it was just about the time when I was finally getting my act together that I asked God for a new direction in my life. This happened around the close of last year.
Lots of people had been encouraging me to pursue the direction of art school, my father and step mother included. But even though I loved to draw and I knew that I could make plenty of money through art, there was something that I always wanted to do since childhood and that was to write.
I first wanted to write when I would watch my mother in our old house in Denver typing in her upstairs bedroom. My parents did not have the money to send me to pre-school back then and since she was a teacher, she taught me at home. My mother taught me how to read and write. She would send me back to my bedroom to take a nap, but I would never fall asleep and play paper dolls instead. It was during those times I would hear a faint metallic noise in the distance.
It got me curious. One day, when she went downstairs to do her chores, I snuck outside of my bedroom to go to hers. There I saw a typewriter sitting on a stand with a huge pile of paper. It was then I knew what I wanted to do. It came to me like a sudden spark of inspiration. I wanted to write. I was only three years old at the time.
I taught myself how to draw around the age of five or six. But the bug for writing never left me. Since my mother was a writer too, she would look over the manuscripts I would complete and give me pointers. I loved to write because it gave me a chance to write about the stories I always wanted to see in print but no one had written.
But people would only see the most visual aspects. And all they saw was that I drew a lot. I drew at work when I was bored. And I drew every chance I could get. I drew much more than I wrote! And still do, whenever I feel bored or particularly anxious. Soon since I got more praise for my art work rather than for writing I began to think that maybe everyone else in my life was right. That I should pursue the path of art school. And when my mother died without finishing up any of her novels, I felt intensely guilty that I was alive and I had the chance to write about my stories, while hers died with her in the grave. But no matter what, every second of the day, every hour that would pass when I wasn't in front of the typewriter I felt that I was ignoring the calling that God gave me to pursue. Writing was and still is like a narcotic for me. I am addicted. When I am not doing it, I am suffering from withdrawl.
The vocation of writing is a sacred calling for all writers. Those of us who are called must continue to pursue it, or else literally risk madness. Beside prayer, which has considerably helped me with my panic attacks, writing was also fundamental for me to getting back on track with my life. Writing has literally saved my life. It's been a life saver.
Strange But True...Blessed Origins for this Web Site!
Well, as I was saying before, I prayed to God for a direction in my life. At the beginning of this year in January, one night I fell asleep in my bed. That night, I had the most magnificent dream. I was meeting a doppleganger of myself in my dream. In my dream this double of myself told me that I was going to go to graduate school. It even told me the name of the graduate school I would attend. The next morning I woke up with a start! I had no direction in my life at the time, but I was willing to take the dream on faith. I would be going to graduate school.
I had no idea what I would study in graduate school. But inside, it came to me. I thought about pursuing art. But no, I knew deep in my heart that I always wanted to write. So that was what I was going to pursue.
I tried to get recommendations from my old professors. But, none of them answered any of my letters. I was again, up the creek without a paddle. I had doubt that I would even get into graduate school. So, I decided to get down upon my knees one afternoon after my work at the library and pray to God.
I asked God why He would send me a dream about going to graduate school with no means of accomplishing it. All of the recommendation I had tried for had fallen through the cracks. I started to pray the rosary. It was during this prayer, that I had a little flash of insight. I used to be one of those people who didn't believe those who claimed to hear the voice of God speaking to them during their prayers. But I heard a soft and feminine voice gently suggest something I would have never even thought of. Build a web site.
Build a web site? I thought to myself. I had taken an HTML course in November, that I had taught to myself. But I had forgotten everything I had learned in the course of the three or four months. It was February during this time. I did the unthinkable. I procrastinated. And waited. It was mid March before I even thought of putting the web site on line. It was then that I discovered that my applications were due earlier than I thought they were due. At the beginning of April. That meant I had exactly two weeks to complete my site myself.
I tried the quick homepage builder, but the finished work looked tacky. So I spent one weekend mapping out an outline. It took me approximately a week to write the biography. It took another week to come up with the concept of how to put the whole thing on line. I studied other pages and copied down codes I liked that worked on other pages. It took me two weeks tops to complete the whole thing on line. I sent in the rough draft of my web site along with my applications to my graduate school. It took another week of mining through my web site to catch the mistakes (sorry there are still some there..but I am still working out the knick-knacks!)
When I first started this site, I knew very little HTML and absolutely nothing about building, creating and constructing a web site from scratch. I tried the HTML Editors and found that they did not allow me to build the kind of pages that I wanted to build. So, I decided to sit down from scratch and build the kind of page I wanted to build. I was very frightened, but I envisioned what I wanted to do with my page and was determined to make it happen. In other words, this whole web site is a miracle!!!
Even though it is near finished, even now, it is still a work in progress. But I am very proud of it. This is my very first web site and it took me approximately two and a half weeks to write and build completely from scratch. I was afraid that I would fail, but thank God, I had God as my co-partner.
I'm still waiting on word whether I got into school or not. I have now been made a contributing writer to another web site, Voice From the Gaps. I thank Toni McNaron for her graciousness for adding a link to my site on her page and asking me to contribute. I am also on work on my first children's book now and I am in the process of building a store and getting this page, Living By Grace copyrighted! See what miracles a little faith can do. I didn't know that believe literally in a dream could lead to such marvelous results (smirk)!
Thanks Go out to...
I would like to thank my family for support me through some of the hardest times, but I would especially like to thank my youngest sister, Mary Frances for supporting me through the hardest of times and knocking some sense into my head when the need came to! Thank you dear sister for being my cheerleader and believing in me when no one else did! Your support of me truly was and is truly invaluable to me. I just want to take this opportunity to tell you how completely grateful I am to you. I will never be able to repay you or thank you ever in this life time. This kitty salute is dedicated just for you! Every human being should be blessed enough to have a Mary in their lives! Thanks Mary! I love you.
Origins of the Name of the Site Along with Heavenly Thanks...
The idea for the name of the site was two-fold. The first part came from the name of one of Alice Walker's book of essays, "Living By The Word." The second-half literally came from a song. I was listening to one of my favorite musicians, Jeff Buckley while constructing this web site on the computer. . Jeff Buckley died two years ago in a drowning accident and I (along with all of his fans. have been mourning him ever since. Well when I was trying to come up with aname for a web site...I knew that the "Living" part was a must. But what about the next half of the title. One of my favorite songs by him, "Grace," from his title LP came on.
The song "Grace," sung by Jeff Buckley and about his worry about not being able share his gift with others before he'd die. In other words, taking his talents to the grave with him. I think that this is a primal fear that all human beings share, not to be able to share the gifts that God has given to each of us. I know of this first- hand for I have lived with this fear as an artist.
But Jeff continued to write and live, making music up until the very end. He gave the fullest of himself through his songs and his voice. He did this in spite of his critics saying that he was "using too much of his voice" because he knew he could sing like a nightengale. But he continued to sing. And thank God. His voice was my pillow during the making of this page. His songs helped me to keep moving forward when I thought the end was not in sight. Thank you Dream Brother with all of my heart.
Alice Walker is the same kind of woman. She continued to write and to share all of herself through her writing. Her writings were my pillows in college, giving me the tools to see my world differently. If she had stopped writing, where would all of us who have been inspired by her be. Through her writings I learned of women like Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen and other African-American and other women writers. Her writings urged me to find out more. Because she wrote prolifically and shared her voice throughout her mother's sickness and death and her own illness. She wrote despite and in spite of what others might say. In other words, she followed her bliss. Alice Walker encouraged me to "be bold" in my own writing.
The title just fit. "Living By Grace." Grace is granted to all of us by God and to the Universe, but not all of us are courageous enough to take the challenge and live with it. So many of us bow to the pressures of the outside world to become what they think we should be and what we should do with our gifts and our lives instead of deciding against all odds to stick to our guns and to be happy with ourselves.
When the saints and sages were talking about "grace" too many of us mix this up with something that is easily acquired and obtained. The sages knew that "grace" was not something simple to obtain. When we watch something that possess "grace," let us take for example a ballerina or even something in nature such as a gazelle, we think to ourselves how beautiful and how wonderful the time and the pain that went into that object in order to make that "simplicity" and beauty seem simple. The hours of hard work and dedication and fierce practice. The hours lived from day to day just to survive. The times when you have to ignore the pressures of the outside world's belief of the definition of whom and what you should be and defining yourself and being that person you believe God has meant you to be to the fullest extent of yourself and with all the love you can manage. So many people will tell you are otherwise or will tell you what they think you deserve. You must ignore them all to obtain grace. Even though these things are the most difficult things in the world they are well worth it. And not all of us are brave enough to take on the challenge.
Even though graceful things are seeming the most simple-looking things in the world, they are the most difficult things in the world to obtain. They are the most wonderful things and in the end, the most beautiful at the source. We all have to be brave enough to take on the cross that comes with living with grace. Each person's definition of their own living grace differs, but we all recognize when we see it. It is anything but easy however, we must take on our challenges with all of our strength and face them if we are to live the lives we are truly meant to live. We have to share what we have and all of what we have in spite of the difficulties, inspite of our fear and inspite of ourselves.
To me, Alice Walker and Jeff Buckley are the heros and heroines of the world. Alice's and Jeff's life have inspired me to do my best, hope for the best and try for the best in spite of it all. Both of their shining examples of what is possible when you give your best and ignore your critics. They encouraged me to push onward in spite of fear.
To my Dream Brother, Jeff Buckley, whose beautiful voice went beyond all earthly origins to the genuine spirit. Your songs were the pillows keeping my head up during some the darkest moments of my life and the pillars to keep me strong. Your songs were like shoulders when I needed someone to comfort me, letting me know that I wasn't alone. They were my lamplight during my darkest hour. May you rest in peace past the sound within the sound, the voice within the voice. Inshalla. Thank you, Jeff.
To the woman who inspired me to follow the path of the difficult, to dream and think of things in new and different ways, thank you Alice.
I'd also like to thank my Maker and the Spirit for blessing me with the idea for this web site and helping me to complete it in such a short amount of time. It all goes to prove that anything can be accomplished when you have enough faith in your dreams and faith in your Maker.