Monday, August 8, 2022

Today Motivation - Elon Musk

 "When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor." - Elon Musk

Riding a bicycle over 2300 miles in 22 days seems like an impossible task. There are a number of elite athletes who would be able to do it and at a rather quick pace. Those who compete in events like the Tour de France wouldn't blink an eye at this ride. But I am not one of them. This is a ride I could condition for over the course of several years and still wouldn't feel like I was ready. I train but I am sure it will not be enough no matter how much I do over the next couple of months. But that isn't going to stop me either.

I am unknown, and in average shape at best. I struggle emotionally because of my diagnosis with PTSD and that puts a horrible amount of self doubt in my mind regularly. All of these are reasons I want to do this ride. It would be a good cause if I were a top tier athlete and I would still want to do this but my being average, and having the struggles I do makes me closer to those I want to help. It is my goal to bring awareness to those struggling like me. Those that feel like just getting through the day is impossible sometimes and no matter what they do they feel like the world is overwhelming. When PTSD attacks you can feel alone even if you have a support system. That is exactly what this ride represents.

Route 66, depending on the stops is between 2300 and 2500 miles. I will not be following the path through Santa Fe, NM which makes it the shorter of the two versions but it is still an average of over 100 miles per day. No matter how difficult the physical side of it is though, getting out there to raise money and awareness for the organizations that do their best to help people like me. It doesn't matter how difficult the terrain, I will summon my reserve energy and use whatever assistance I need to cross the path. No matter how alone I feel I will know I have my chase car and team supporting me. Regardless of how tired I am I will simply think of the days where it felt impossible to get out of bed and remind myself of how far I have come. I am out there representing so many like myself and I want to give them someone to believe in and cheer on.

By pushing forward and remembering the people I will ride for each day and the charities I am trying to help, I will have the motivation to overcome obstacles that may feel too large to face. It is that important to me to step outside myself and put my own comfort and desires to the side in order to do something representing so many more who are fighting so hard just to make it through day to day. I feel them in my heart and I will find my strength through them as I pedal across the states. The name of the event is Ride 22 On 66 but the part that means the most to me is the secondary part. Pedaling Through, Strength Driven. I am sharing my determination with all who understand this fight and taking my strength from their perseverance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Preparation Nation

Nine weeks. That is all that stands between me and taking off on the ride. This time, nine weeks from now, I should be asleep getting a solid night of rest before I take off on the first day of my ride. In all honesty, I doubt I will be sleeping much that last night. I will be running through all the items I need to pack up, the route we will drive to the starting point, all the the rest stops and meal stops the next day, how long it will take to load, and of course I will be thinking obsessively about all the things that could go wrong. It is the last thing I want to focus on but human nature is to overthink all the bad while trying to think about the good.

I want to think about what it will feel like coming across the finish line that first day. I can't wait to take pictures at my rest stops and hopefully meet other cyclists and new friends along the journey. I plan to blog and share things as I travel but it will undoubtedly be a learning experience each and every day. 

Right now I am starting to make all my packing lists, practice loading and unloading everything, and going over everything adding and subtracting items as I think of what I need. I am thrilled that when I practiced loading the car we found I have more space than we originally thought I would so if there is anything I have forgotten currently I will have room to add it. I still need to run through the packing of my duffle bag with my clothes and go through my gear box to see what all I have, what needs to be restocked or purchased and then how best to put it in the container. 

I am beginning to schedule things like the bike tune up I will be having done a week or two before I leave as well as the physical checkup my driver insisted upon to make sure we are aware of any medical concerns I may face while out on the road. It feels like a lot because it is a lot but the biggest concern I have at the moment is simply raising money for the charities. I am hoping people will understand and relate to what I am doing, and more importantly, to why I am doing it. I hope they will visit my website www.writingforces.com to check out the Ride 22 On 66 page or the page on Facebook under the same name.

The organizations I am riding for and the people they support mean everything to me. It is groups like them that quite literally kept me alive during some of my darkest times with PTSD and it is my mission to help show just how grateful I, and people like me, are for what they do everyday.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Monday Motivation - Arthur Ashe

"Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

This quote has stuck with me for awhile. I first found it back in 2019 when the concept of the ride was born. For those who don't know, I came up with the idea originally while doing a camping road trip with my husband a few years ago. We stopped in Seligman, AZ and were eating at a cute place called Delgadillos. As we sat out under the awning I looked back and forth along the road and commented on how it would be a great place to ride your bike through. My husband looked at me and asked where on Earth I would be coming from or going to since Seligman is not close to any other town. I shrugged and said I didn't know but maybe if you were riding your bike across Arizona or maybe even along Route 66.

He laughed off the idea. It was way too much of an undertaking and I wasn't exactly in Tour de France condition. He was right but I couldn't let it go. As time went by I kept thinking about it and I was working on my Sharing Strength series at the same time. I wanted to do something big to celebrate the conclusion of the series and I couldn't shake the idea of the ride across Route 66.

After researching for several months I decided that no matter how difficult it seemed I had to try and make the ride happen. With the books all being connected to charity and the theme being PTSD I knew I wanted to incorporate that into the ride as well. One of the best known statistics about PTSD is that on average 22 veterans commit suicide everyday. That gave me the 22 day focus and I chose to create a single GoFundMe that will have the total split evenly among the five organizations. It has taken on change after change and I have had to work to keep learning each and everyday as this concept has come to life.

I began with just an idea. That connects to the "Start where you are" part of the quote. It was a crazy plan that I couldn't let go of as time progressed. The "use what you have" was the base but I have definitely had to add to that. When the idea first came about I had a decent road bike and a car that could follow me but I had almost no gear, my helmet was a cheap one from a big box store, my clothes were worn and not ready for any kind of weather other than simple and sunny. Everything I had was basic and a number of things were missing. Since then I have added rails to my car so I could add a cargo carrier and top bike rack, I got a better bike rack for the hitch, I have gone through a number of trips to the bike store for gear and even had to switch some of what I already had when I changed over to tubeless tires. I even purchased a steel frame touring bike with bags but after talking to some experts I learned I would be much better off with a lighter bike with a different kind of bags so I traded in the touring bike for the gravel bike I will be using for the trip.

The final part of the quote is the one I am working on the most. "Do what you can" is something I struggle with because there are a few ways to look at that. One is to think of it as doing what feels comfortable, accepting your limits, and not beating yourself up if it isn't what you hoped it would be. The other is to think of it as wringing out every ounce of energy you have and giving it everything you've got. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you accept your limits you lower risks but never grow beyond where you are. If you give it everything possible you will make it farther than you thought you could but it is very possible you will burn yourself out. This will be the battle I fight everyday on the ride. My intention is to give it all I have but I need to accept help when my body calls for it to sustain my health. Life is about learning and I am open to the lessons it has to teach me.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Charity Spotlight - Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 When I was fifteen years old I sat in the silence of my parent's dining room staring at a collection of pill bottles and a bottle of liquor I had swiped from their cabinet. The voice in my head, my ex's voice that still lives with me to this day, was screaming that I was a disappointment. I was a waste of time and space and no one cared about me. All I did was get in the way, cause problems, and the world would be a better and happier place if I wasn't in it. I was fully prepared to swallow ever single pill and wash it down with the alcohol until I wasn't a burden anymore. As I pulled the caps off the pill bottles I let a few tears fall but I was resigned to my fate.

Just as I shook out a handful of pills and pulled the top off the liquor I heard something else inside my head, laughing. His voice had driven me to wanting to take my own life, now it was mocking me for trying to do so. It told me what I fool I was for thinking I could successfully kill myself. It said I would mess up and end up a vegetable and people would be stuck taking care of me for the rest of my miserable and pointless life. I cried as it informed me how embarrassed everyone would be of and for me and what a joke I would be when I failed. I couldn't go through with it. The voice that nearly killed me, also saved my life. In the years since that event I have often wondered, and have tried to convince myself, that it was a tiny, stronger part of me that truly desired to live that was actually keeping me from going through with it but the fact is, I wasn't that strong and even now I barely have that kind of strength.

I never called anyone, I never even told anyone, that I nearly committed suicide, but I did. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I opened up and shared that story for the first time. It became a large part of the talks I did when the subject of PTSD and surviving my domestic abuse history came up. I wish I would have had the courage to make a call but I didn't. Now I fight for those that feel they have lost hope because I have been in their shoes. I was lucky enough to come out the other side but I have lost several friends because their battle was worse than mine. 

After I worked on Sharing Strength and reflected on my story I knew when I thought up my bike ride who the final charity organization should be. So many people who deal with this affliction consider, attempt, or sadly succeed with suicide. I chose the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their mission below I think demonstrates why I picked such a dedicated organization and my personal connection to the cause.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a weeks in the United States. We're committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional practices, and building awareness.

If you would like to learn more about this wonderful organization or support their cause, you can visit them at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Book Spotlight - Sharing Strength

 The last book in the series is actually the first one I wrote. Back in 2014 I was watching a very long documentary about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. After watching for close to three hours the only thing I had learned from it was that the opinion of the writers and producers was that only military members could have such an affliction. As someone who was diagnosed at the age of 22 and has never served a day in the military, I was deeply frustrated with that portrayal. Those who are or have served by far make up the largest and best known group but there are so many other ways to end up dealing with the issues and anxiety of this particular ailment.

Following the documentary I retaliated in the only way I know how, I started to write. I created a number of characters that were members of a support group. In the end there were six people in the group including the man who moderated but they each had their own personalities, background issues, and side effects of their diagnosis. When I first created the storyline I had no idea where it was going or how the characters would interact with each other. I wrote the first draft but it felt stiff and like a lot of things were missing. I just couldn't figure out what those things were. That was when I started writing the novellas.

I knew Jasmine's story since it was based on what happened to me as a teenager but the rest were complete fiction and I had to get to know the characters on a deeper level. I had no idea how difficult that would end up being for me. As I shared when spotlighting each of the other books, the research and / or connection to the characters was an emotional journey each time. It wasn't until I knew their stories and felt their feelings better that I realized just how much was missing in the original manuscript. There was so much more background I got to understand when writing the novellas. It was through that comprehension that I realized the original ending was wrong, the focus on one character as the main one was wrong, and my understanding of all the interactions was so far off it was like they were happening in a different book. It took over a month to go through the first draft and make notes and figure out the changes, then another two weeks to write out what became a 34 page detailed outline I used to write the final version.

My heart and soul is written across the pages of this book and, even though Survivor is based on my personal story, I feel more connected to Sharing Strength. This book ended up being so important to me that I even got a custom designed tattoo in honor of it and series. The colors of the awareness ribbon represent not only suicide prevention but PTSD awareness and domestic violence awareness as well. The name of the series is scrawled across the bottom and underlines the butterfly itself. The butterfly is a symbol of survivors as is the semicolon in the right wing. The lace design is meant to represent the delicate mental health of survivors as well as the fragility of life in general and the "rough and imperfect" look of the drawing demonstrates that life isn't pretty and perfect. 

I announced my bike ride at the launch for this book and cannot wait to bring further awareness to organizations that help people like the characters represented within the pages of Sharing Strength.






Thursday, April 21, 2022

Charity Spotlight - Mission 22

 Considering the name of my trip, Ride 22 On 66, I think it's clear why I chose this organization. They are a group that was founded by veterans and is dedicated to helping them and their families as they return to the world and face issues like PTSD. Their mission states, "Mission 22 provides support to Veterans and their families when they need it most: right now. Through a comprehensive approach of outreach, events, and programs, we're promoting long-term wellness and sustainable growth."

There can be no question why this is the charity I selected to connect with Combat. In a book about soldiers from the United States Army serving a deployment overseas and dealing with the trauma of war, I had to have an organization that was dedicated to helping people like that when they came home. They offer resources and support with a goal of helping to end veteran suicide and make life better for those who have served. I am beyond proud to work with them in any capacity. The number twenty two ties directly to them and shows their commitment to bringing awareness to this tragic epidemic. One of the men who spoke with me during my research for Combat had worked with Mission 22 at one point and said they provided help to his family when he had to leave and deal with some mental and emotional issues on his own.

He never considered suicide but he struggled and when facing his demons he had to be on his own. Then he had to find a way to bring his struggles and healing mechanisms back to his family and life and find a way to incorporate the new him into the old world. Mission 22 was there for him again as he made that transition. 

They offer a variety of programs and events aimed at supporting the veteran, their families, and others immediately connected to them. You can find out more by checking out their website at www.mission22.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Book Spotlight - Combat

 Combat is the book I wasn't sure I would be able to finish. When I wrote Survivor the struggle was being open enough to share my story, even a fictionalized version of it, with the world. Fish I worked on and it made me emotional because I felt so much for the young girl at the center of the conflicts within the book. Crash I shared last week was difficult because I saw the main character as a secondary and found it difficult to connect with him for a long time. But Combat was a different animal altogether.

When people discuss PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, most times they are referring to someone in the military. They are by far the largest group recognized with the symptoms of the syndrome and most statistics are from that group including the twenty two veterans per day on average that commit suicide because of PTSD. The problem with Combat was that I don't have any military experience or close connection in my life. Those who know me might question that because members of my family served and my husband in a veteran but my family never discussed anything and my husband doesn't suffer from PTSD nor did he serve in combat directly. He has shared the experiences he can but they aren't related to what happened in the book.

Instead I reached out to local groups and explained what I was working on and asked if anyone would be willing to talk to me about their experience and how it effected them. Understandably, not many took me up on it. There were a couple men who met me for coffee and talked about what they had seen and done. My goal was to make the book believable enough to have it make sense but not so realistic it would trigger someone. I ran the ideas and sections of the story by these men at every step and was able to take their feedback to find a balance that would work. I know there are so many elements I didn't include and a number of issues I did not address. It was hard working to tell a story I couldn't relate to and also trying to use research to do justice to what I learned from these brave men who were willing to open up about such painful memories in order to give me a tiny glance into their world.

I am grateful to those that helped and will always respect their request to stay anonymous. I wish I could publicly thank them and find a way to support them in their journeys as they work to recover and find where they fit into the world they now occupy. I hope I showed them the respect they deserve and represented their world in a way that may show others like me even the smallest glimpse of a world we are lucky to never experience for ourselves.