One-Sided Competitions

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Have you ever had a friend, family member, or co-worker who was secretly in constant competition with you when you thought that you were both on the same team? This can be a frustrating relationship for both parties. However, it is the competitor that gives birth to the competing energy, and is also the one who usually – by means of conscious or subconscious – feeds into it, making the competition monster grow, often into toxic proportions. The fuel that feeds this dysfunction is often insecurity and jealousy.

If you are on the opposite end of the relationship, the one who prefers to be companions rather than rivals, you’re probably wishing that there is something that you can do to help diffuse the situation. The one thing you should never do – which I have found myself guilty of in the past – is to “dumb down” so the other person doesn’t feel threatened by whatever it is that the other person is competing over with you. Chances are, you love this friend/family member/co-worker, and don’t want them getting upset with you over . . . virtually nothing. But, toning down your outgoing personality, leaving your hair messy/face make-up free, and cutting back on your remarkable work performance shouldn’t be the solution. You’re only cheating yourself of who you really are, and in turn, cheating others who could also benefit from your assets. So, what’s a team member-minded person to do?

I think Steve Harvey said it best when he said, “You can’t share your big dreams with small-minded people.”

Steve, I couldn’t agree with you more. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that miserable people cannot stand a happy person. If you are a happy person, it may be natural for you to try to cheer on a miserable person and help to bring them up to your level. But beware, because the miserable person will do everything in their power to bring you down to their playing field.

So, if a person feels that your light is shining too brightly, and you have the ability to change the direction of your beam, make the switch and shine it upon someone who can appreciate its beauty instead of dimming it down. If a person feels that your light is shining too brightly, and you are not in a position where you can change the direction where it shines, do not dim your light down. Tell him or her to wear sunglasses. 😎

— Kelly O’Callan

Create The Life You Want . . . Maybe.

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Nowadays, it seems that anywhere I go am often told that I can create a better life for myself if I put in the time and effort to acquire it. Messages such as “Create the life you want,” “Live the life of your dreams”, “If you don’t like your life, change it,” and my personal favorite (a quote by the late, great Walt Disney) “If you can dream it, you can do it,” are blasted all over the t.v., radio, books, internet, and social media. The old adage that if you work for something hard enough, you can acquire it, is delivered via inspirational blogs and thought-provoking quotes that suck me in every time. Perhaps, it’s because I’m a prime target.

I once had the life I wanted, because I did work hard to create and achieve it, so I can’t argue that these sayings aren’t correct and spot on. However, that better life that I had created for myself, that I dreamed about and worked years to achieve, was taken away from me September 1, 2007, when a man collided with me in a high-speed, head-on automobile accident. Fortunately, my life was spared, but I was left with severe nerve damage in all four of my extremities. No longer able to work in my former profession as a cosmetologist, I became depressed . . . and financially broken. But, these particular mantras encouraged me to create a new life for myself. I could succeed again! My life could get better! All I would have to do is dream it, put in the effort, and it would become a reality!

Seven years have gone by since that accident, and I’ve dreamed many dreams, and made many efforts to make them realities. The biggest lesson that I learned through all of this is that sometime we can’t create the life we want, no matter how hard we try, when certain circumstances beyond our control will prevent us from doing so. This important lesson took me a long time to learn, and I’m glad that I finally did learn it, so I don’t keep feeling like I’m a failure for not being able to get to where I want to be.

I think Albert Einstein said it best when he stated, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” I think this will be my new focus because this is something that I can do!

Is it possible for me to create the life I want?

Maybe. 😉

— Kelly O’Callan

Make Time For Young & Old To Be Together

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Last week, I attended a party where I was in the company of four generations and I found it to be both fascinating and intoxicating. The topics of conversations and discussions about personal life experiences were as varied as the spices found in a chef’s pantry. What an interesting flavor we could become if we were all mixed together! Yet, like most get-togethers, the young stayed with the young, the old sat with the old, and the middle generation(s) mingled throughout, occasionally checking in on the wants and needs of the others.

Our youth and elders have the greatest differences in life and are rarely seen spending much time together. When newer family members are born, they are thrown into the arms of the eldest family members for fussing over and photos. As the child grows past the cutesy, innocent stage of toddlerhood, interest in one another seems to decrease, perhaps because of their life differences. Like opposite ends of a magnet, they naturally propel away from each other. But, if arranged in a certain way, they could actually grow closer and bond together.

Feeling that my 82 year-old father and elementary school-aged sons could learn a lot about life from one another, I arranged for them to spend an entire day together. To ensure no distractions, there were no TV, video games, computers, or any other members of their own generations present; a simple table and chairs were set up in a quiet room with a deck of cards. I asked my father to tell the boys stories from his own youth and what the world was like when he was young and I encouraged my sons to discuss what their childhood is like today with their grandfather. And they did just that while playing several games of Rummy.

My sons faces became frozen with astonishment as they listened to their grandfather tell them how he used to play with clothespins and a can of beans for toys, how he used to chase after the ice delivery man’s truck for a piece of ice, and that if he wanted ice-cream, he’d have to walk to the corner pharmacy with his own bowl in hand to get a scoop. I watched my father’s cocoa-brown eyes light up with surprise as the boys told him about their favorite TV shows, the calculated ways to win the battles on their video games, and the frustrating fact that they must do homework on the weekends and over summer vacation. As diverse as their childhoods were, these males did have a couple of classic similarities : baseball, superheroes, and checkers.

By day’s end, a unique bond had been created between the two opposite generations. Their affiliation with each other was no longer only having similar DNA in their blood, but having learned – by sharing with each other their own experience – about the evolution of man. What could be more interesting in life than that?

Have a youngster and an elder family member? Pick up the phone and arrange a time for them to be together without the distractions of modern day. They’ll thank you for it.

— Kelly O’Callan

Irony Is Both Frustrating and Funny. Oh, The Irony!

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I-ro-ny /noun/ – a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

– Last night, I received a nasty, one-star review on one of my novels, and sales are now skyrocketing this morning.

– When I go on a diet to lose weight, I always end up gaining more weight than when I started.

– I was diagnosed with skin cancer the same month that I was planning to move to Florida, “the sunshine state”.

– During the two week gap that my son had no medical coverage while switching insurance companies, he falls and breaks his arm . . . on the monkey bars . . . that he has been playing on for years.

– The day after I sign up to receive HBO, so I can watch the newest episodes of my favorite show, Boardwalk Empire, I learn that the series is ending.

Irony is such a fascinating phenomena, that it helped Alanis Morrisette score a chart-topping hit with her funny, yet frustrating lyrics in “Isn’t It Ironic?”. How rare that we endeavor something in life can make us laugh and want to pull our hair out at the same time. I just love and hate irony!

I’ve shared some examples of irony from my life. Have you got any that you’d like to share?

Gluttony Ate My Husband (Flash Fiction)

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I never knew what real frustration was until I married a glutton. Growing up, I was always told, “If you don’t have enough food to share with everyone else, then you don’t eat it.” I assumed everybody was taught this lesson as a child because every person I’ve dated or kept company with throughout my life followed this rule of etiquette . . . until I met Roy.

While Roy and I dated, he was a normal consumer of food. He ate a modest amount and offered to share anything on his plate, down to the last morsel, with me. But, after we got married and moved in together, Roy began to evolve into an ugly monster known to mankind as a glutton.

The first sign I noticed that Roy was turning into this god-awful piggish beast, appeared shortly after our honeymoon, during a friend’s party. After the hostess announced to her guests that the food was ready, the sweet as pecan pie woman approached me with a look of worry and shame embedded in her aqua-blue eyes. She placed her hand gently on my arm, leaned towards my ear, and said, “Janet, if you don’t mind, would you please have Roy go to the end of the buffet line? If he doesn’t, I’m afraid there will not be any food left for everyone else.”

Soon afterwards, there were my two back-to-back pregnancies. I was very sick and unable to eat most foods. My stomach was ridiculously fickle in what it would allow me to consume. I was very vocal to Roy about it, fearing he’d eat the food items I so desperately needed to keep on hand for myself and our unborn child. Despite my pleas, he ate my emergency food stashes – ALL of them – so I was only able to gain a mere eleven pounds for each of my deliveries! After the babies were born, and awakened for feedings in the middle of the night, Roy decided he would eat during the night as well; a habit he still has today . . . ten years after the birth of our last child!

Over the years, it has been nearly impossible keeping the refrigerator and pantry stocked. As soon as I bring in the bags from the grocery store, Roy races to rip the packages open, eating all he can get his hands on until there’s nothing left but wrappers and crumbs. I do my best to hide items that do not need refrigeration, but he has uncovered all the possible hiding spots in our modest 800 square-foot home; a tiny house I will probably be living in until the day I die since the high grocery bills kill any chance I have to save up for a larger home.

Family functions have become nightmares. Whenever we attend any get-togethers, he embarrasses me with all he consumes, not caring if anyone else gets a burger or spoonful of potato salad. When it’s our turn to host them, he humiliates me, not caring if anyone else gets a piece of chicken or sliver of birthday cake. And thanks to this piranha-mouthed creature, I’ll never make my highly-requested, world-famous lemon bars ever again because there were two times when he managed to vacuum the whole batch down his throat somewhere between loading the car and entering the front door at my friend’s cookouts!

I have tolerated my husband’s gluttony as best as I can over the years and the one and only thing that it has been good for is keeping my own weight under control. My friends ask me all the time, “How do you stay so skinny?” and I tell them that it is absolutely no work on my part. I adjusted and coped with Roy’s eating habits and didn’t think having a glutton in the house was too big of a problem until last year. That was when my children’s pediatrician informed me that my sons were severely malnourished and underweight. That was the last straw! I had to declare war against the glutton, whose selfish out of control eating habits would not cease even after being told our boys were scrawnier than twigs on a Japanese Maple tree. Even then, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep a gallon of milk in my house for more than three-and-a-half hours, a box of pop-tarts for more than two hours, or a rotisserie chicken for more than six minutes. My sons began to panic, and chose to fight fire with fire, eating as much as they could as fast as they could; they simply wanted to eat some of the food before it was gone. Now, I have three gluttons under my roof competing with one another, eating a week’s worth of groceries in under one day!

“Everything has escalated out of control and I don’t know what else I can do,” I confide to my kids’ pediatrician months later, who was now concerned that my children had become overweight.

“What foods do your husband and children enjoy the most?” he asks.

I wipe the newborn tear from my eye. “Usual stuff, you know. Pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, soups and stews for lunch, meat with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner, ice-cream and pudding for dessert. And it’s impossible for me to keep any milk or soda in the house.”

“Perfect,” he smiles, “I have the perfect antidote.”

 

Months have passed since my children’s last check-up and things have gotten much better with our household food crisis. I think I’ve finally won the war on gluttony since I’ve been secretly sprinkling fiber into my family’s food and drinks. Now, instead of fighting over the food, they’re fighting over the bathroom.

— Kelly O’Callan

Why Do We Enjoy Sad Stories?

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As I was scanning to check the stats on one of my novels, I came across a book in a similar category that caught my eye. It wasn’t the book title or cover that caused me to pause and drop my jaw, it was the five bright yellow stars, the average rating from an accumulated 267 reviews. My curiosity was immediately piqued and I had to investigate to learn what kind of magic this book contained to make its readers fall madly in love with it.

The book was titled Therapy by Kathryn Perez, and the common denominator that her fiction novel shared with mine was that both of our main characters were afflicted with borderline personality disorder. . . so I knew the content would be mentally heavy. As I peered through her numerous raving reviews, many of the same words popped out : “heartbreaking”, “gut-wrenching”, “roller-coaster of emotions”, “cried too many times to count”, “you will need therapy after reading this”. I then glanced at her negative reviews – a mere 1.5 % of the reviewers – and they stated that the book was “too depressing” “emotionally painful” and “you will need therapy after reading this”. I was fascinated that the reasons why 1.5 % of the reviewers disliked the booked matched the very reasons why the other 98.5% of the reviewers loved the book! This left me to wonder . . . why do we like to read about characters and stories that leave us feeling depressed or emotionally drained?

I believe the answer is two-fold. First, as humans, we were created to feel a wide range of emotions. During our daily lives, most of us are forced to keep our emotions in check while we are at work, out in public, and even at home – where many of us were taught as young children that we were not allowed to display our emotions, particularly the “ugly” or “negative” ones, because they were inappropriate or showed that we were weak and/or out of control. Perhaps we enjoy to tap into these “taboo” emotions when we read because it’s one of the few societal accepted means where we are allowed to unleash them!

Secondly, engaging in these particular emotions will leave us in a highly vulnerable state and open to getting hurt. But, when we are reading a sad story, we’re safe to exercise our vulnerability and be emotionally wide open because the characters in the book can’t hurt us like real people can!

So, as I download a copy of Therapy into my kindle, I do some emotional inventory of myself. Coming off a real-life emotional roller-coaster recently, I decide to save this read for a time when I need to flex my emotional muscle. For, I wouldn’t want to accidentally turn this magical 5-star book into a 1-star read. 😉

— Kelly O’Callan

My Character With Borderline Personality Disorder

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When I went to write my first novel and a character named “Ginny” magically appeared in my mind – as all my characters do – I sensed something very peculiar about her. Her emotions were fierce and intense, and she seemed to only be able to calm herself and keep those wild emotions under control by ice-skating or cutting herself with a razor blade. In an effort to understand Ginny better, I knew I needed to investigate the wide realm of mental illness to find a label in which she might fit.

Luckily, I came across a newspaper article one Sunday morning about a mental disorder known as Borderline Personality Disorder. It was an exact match for Ginny. So, what exactly is borderline personality disorder or bpd? 

“Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe mood disorder characterised by emotional instability, black and white thinking, issues with self-image, reckless and impulsive behaviour.” – source, Amanda Watson, clinical therapist.

Stuffed into a nutshell, it is a complete mental nightmare from which its victim suffers. Writing Ginny’s story in my soon-to-be-released novel, Other People, was quite the arduous task and most difficult writing for me to date. I did extensive research on the disorder to get into her head, and it terrified me. I was an intense, dramatic mess for the nine months it took me to write it. I was both exhausted and relieved when I had finished, but I know it will be worth it, as I feel it may help readers get better insight into the mindset of a person who suffers from this, and how difficult life can be for them. 

A preview of Other People is available on Createspace with the following link:https://www.createspace.com/Preview/…

It will be available in print and as an e-book for kindle on April 18, 2014.

 

— Kelly O’CallanImage

Writing Vs. Reading

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In a perfect world, I would be able to write my novels and read the works penned by others at the same time. My brain simply does not allow me to do both. So, I must always choose one over the other. I’ve often heard of authors who have the ability to combine the two activities – in fact, some claim reading while they are writing helps them to improve their craft. For me, reading during a writing period would serve only as a distraction, and leave me feeling annoyed and frustrated. But, how can this be? I LOVE reading. Could it be possible that I love writing more?
After releasing two novels back-to-back, I decided it was time to take a break from writing and get back to some reading. As I dove into my long-lost reader’s pool, I found the waters to be less stimulating in comparison to riding the on the high (and low)-crested waves of the writers’ ocean. I began to worry, and felt a swell of mourning churn inside me, as it seemed my love of reading had simply passed away.
As I was about to accept the death of one of my most cherished past-times, and fully surrender myself -again- to the pulsating realm of writing, Jodi Picoult’s “The Storyteller” came into my life. It fed me thought-provoking drama with a delicious writing style that was easy to digest. I couldn’t get enough of it, devouring page after page until there was nothing left. Feeling satisfied, and relieved that my love of reading was reborn, I felt it was time to return back to the magical world of writing, as it is simply something a true writer must do. And, as I write this now, I’m thinking Jodi has a dozen other novels I haven’t read yet, and I can’t help but wonder… hmmm, could it be possible I love reading more?

– Kelly O’Callan

New Release Jitters

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When the publication date arrives for one of my novels, I get a sickening urge to hide under my bed. I should be happy and proud of my accomplishment in achieving the goal I set for myself and in being able to share my stories with the rest of the world. Instead, I am left feeling naked and vulnerable, not sure how the endless days, weeks, months, or even years of my precious work will be accepted into the outside world.
I suppose it’s much like the day a mother sends her child to school for the first time. Her child is an entity she spent years molding and creating. When released to the world, she leaves the child open to various forms of criticism – positive, negative, and every combination in between. The mother can only hope and want to expect the former, but it is not for her decide. The power is now in the hands of the public.
So, in knowing I did the best to raise my child – err, book – to the best of its ability, I will go forth and release it to the world. It may make me hide under the bed for a day, but, knowing there is a lid for every pot, means there is also a reader for every writer.

— Kelly O’Callan

Pot of Gold at the End of a Writer’s Rainbow

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If one wonders what can be found on the top of a writer’s wish list, I’m sure there may be several different things listed. A better computer, more time to write, to finish projects that were started, financial success to be able to quit the day job, and making it to the best-sellers list would be many of the things we’d see. But, for me, the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow would be in getting to work with the correct editor. Notice that I did not state a “great” or “wonderful” editor, but the “correct” one.
During a group session in one of my writers’ clubs, I had six writers offer to edit the first three chapters of a novel I had written and I was more than happy to take them up on their offer. How wonderful to receive editing from one writer, and I was going to have editing work done by six! Surely, they would all find the same corrections needing to be applied and I would not have to second guess if they were right or wrong. I was WRONG. When I received back my six manuscript copies, I had six VERY different versions of editing, which read like six VERY different stories. None, which contained the vision or voice that matched the original.
So, you can imagine it felt much like winning the lottery when I met my current editor, Nina. Not only are her edits spot on, in my mind, but she is able to keep my vision and voice intact throughout, by her uncanny ability to adapt to my writing style. With Nina, as my editor, I’ve been granted relief from the burden of worrying about my chosen vision for the story being distorted, or told in another writer’s voice. The stories I write are truly as I meant for them to be, just the way I wanted them to be told. For this writer, that is, without a doubt, me finding my pot of gold.

— Kelly O’Callan