Stop Making Excuses: The Time to Write is Now

Making excuses is my forte. I’m too busy. Life is too overwhelming. I’m the mom to a 12-year-old. I’m still in my first few years teaching, so I spend all of my creative energies on coming up with lesson plans. I’ve never written anything longer than a short story. I’ve only published in small, practically unknown places. I’m not good enough of a writer to do this. I’m only 26, so I’ve got time. I’ll do it later. I really want to watch that episode of The Crown on Netflix right now. I’m too busy reading. I need to exercise.

These are all excuses that I’ve made so that I didn’t have to write. It’s not that I dislike writing; I adore it. But it’s so easy to fall into the trap of saying that I’ll write later because… place any excuse on the face of this planet here. I know so many people that have said, “I want to write a book.” A very small percentage of those people actually ever do that. Just yesterday, I learned that my Grandpa always wanted to write a book. I never even knew that. I didn’t have any idea that he wrote at all. Perhaps that is because he never actually did it.

I look up to my Grandpa in a lot of other ways, but I don’t want my grandkids down the road not to know that I’m a writer. I want them to read the books that I wrote. I want them to understand that Nana Heather did what she loved: created stories. For that to happen, I have to stop making excuses, and write!

Also, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree with a composite major of English Education and Creative Writing, so you’d think that I would actually want to utilize what I learned during my time in college. I could let the creative writing part of my degree fall by the wayside because my “career” is teaching. I don’t want to do that. My life is busy, but here’s what I decided: Even though it’s easy to make those excuses, I needed to stop, and start writing NOW.

I made the goal to write 5 days a week back in January. Since then, I have come up with an idea for a novel that I’m stoked about. Today I just reached 20K words with that project. How did I do that? I started writing. Incredible what happens when you swat away those nasty excuses.  Sometimes I only write for 30 minutes, other times I am able to write for longer. The important thing I have learned is to just write. Some days it is easier than others, and I’ve definitely had to slap myself silly when those thoughts and excuses come to mind, because they still come.

It Was You Review- A Picturesque Love Story

You know that sensation of walking out of a chick-flick with your best friends, completely content and feeling all ooey-gooey inside? That is exactly how I felt when I finished reading It Was You by Cindy Rae Hale. It is just one of the eight romances found in You & Me Forever: A Sweet Romance Collection. This book is a perfect addition for anyone who needs that little pick me up, or serving of love.

Hale created believable, engaging characters from the very beginning. Her use of minute details drew me in, and brought them to life. As Aleyna and Carson developed their relationship, I was enchanted and giddy. It brought back all the feelings of my own romance that led to my marriage to the love of my life. I rooted for them, and mourned with them when things didn’t go so well.

I also admired the theme of the story. Especially for those young readers who need a boost of confidence. It is important to realize like Aleyna did, “It’s great if someone believes in you… but ultimately if we don’t work hard and do our part, those dreams are nothing but wishes, fantasy.” What beautiful, and true words!

I would recommend this story to anyone who is ready to be swept away by a magnificent love story.

 

P.S. More reviews of the other stories in the collection to come!

DeVos is Frightening – A Letter to my Senators

I don’t always get political online because of the bad dialogue and vibes it often creates, but Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is frightening. Here is a letter I wrote to my senators voicing my concern. It isn’t too late, if it concerns you as well, please contact your senators.

Dear Senator,

My name is Heather Gonzalez—I am a public school teacher, and a concerned citizen. I want to voice my apprehensions and ask you to vote no for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her lack of experience when it comes to public school is simply frightening. To become a certified teacher in the state of Utah, I had to attend a University for over four years, as well as pass a test. I had to prove that I was qualified so that I could be in charge of a classroom full of teenagers, and to teach them. I understand that DeVos has never attended a public school, her children never attended public school, and many of the people in her social circles have not attended public school either. If a teacher has to prove that they are capable to teach, shouldn’t the person who will be in charge of the entire educational system of the United States of America also prove that she is competent? As I watched portions of the Senate confirmation hearing this week, DeVos did not illustrate that she is knowledgeable about many facets of the education system.

When DeVos was asked a question about whether test scores should be used to measure proficiency or their growth, she was unaware of what this meant. She also did not show understanding when asked about Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). These issues are vital for the education system of the United States. DeVos should not be able to lead an administration when she doesn’t understand the basic difference between growth and proficiency, or IDEA because she, as Secretary of Education, would have to make important decisions about how to hold schools accountable. The person who holds that office needs to understand basic concepts about the education system.

We wouldn’t trust a doctor to operate on our children’s brains if they had not received the training. Why would we let someone who has no experience impact our children’s brains by leading the Department of Education of our nation? Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Our future is in the hands of the students, the students who are going to be affected by decisions made by the Secretary of Education. They will need that weapon of education so they can change the world in ways we can’t imagine. We need a candidate who has been in a classroom, who has experience to help them achieve that.

Additionally, the Secretary of Education is responsible for the student loan bank for higher education. During the hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren asked her about how she would handle the duty of the student loan bank, and prevent fraud from occurring. DeVos did not seem know that there are already laws in place to do so. She also would not commit to following the laws already in place. She only said that they would “review” them. Laws are in place to protect the citizens. I don’t think reviewing the laws will be harmful, but she did not say how she would make sure that the money from the federal government would not be used fraudulently.

Some of DeVos’s stances could be good for education. DeVos is a proponent for choice when it comes to education. She wants to loosen the grip of the federal government on education. She is a supporter of school vouchers and charter schools. That is wonderful. Citizens should be able to choose where their children go to school, whether it be a charter, public, or private school. The issue that comes in here is that she says that she “supports accountability” when it comes to schools who receive federal funding, but she would not answer Senator Tim Kaine’s question during the hearing about whether she would “insist on equal accountability for any K-12 program.” I worry that funds that should be reaching the students in the classrooms of public schools may be siphoned away into charter schools that are not providing sufficient education to their students.

I know that I am not the only one with these and other concerns when it comes to Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I speak with fellow educators and parents. Please consider the consequences for the education system if she holds this office. It could be detrimental to the entire educational system of the United States. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Heather Gonzalez

Looking Forward

Although nothing I can do in the present can take away the mistreatment of the past – the way I carry myself in the present determines how I carry forward the memories of those mistreatments.  – Anatomy of Peace.

“The past can hurt . . .but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” – The Lion King

Today we are in a world obsessed by the past – past hurts, past mistakes, past heartbreaks – I myself am often guilty of it.  Yet with all this obsession, we often become blind and forget one of the little miracles in life: the ability to change.

The other day I was on the phone with someone I care about deeply – and the conversation was in short – heartbreaking.  You see, this person has not been perfect, and has made many mistakes over the years  – some more drastic than others, and sometimes at the cost of family and friends.   Yet, if you were to take this person today and compare this person with who this person was even five years ago, there would be a huge difference.  The journey hasn’t been easy – and there were some hard lessons to be learned – but this is not who they used to be.

Back to the conversation –

Recently this person was visiting someone and I’m not really sure what happened, but they ended up being told by someone else – all the wrong they had committed over the years and how nothing has changed.

“I’m just paying for all the things I did wrong over the years.” was what this person told me and my heart broke for them.

The world can be oh so cruel – and full of lies.

One of the great and marvelous truths in this world is that people can change.  Nothing is every consistent – but we’re always in motion, moving along this thing called life.  And yet we often seem to keep re-crucifying others or reopening our wounds – refusing to let our hearts or even others heal and change.

Why is that?

 

 

An Apology to Myself

I was born to be great.

And I know because my parents told me so.

The world is my oyster and it is my choice to decide only in what way I wish to succeed gloriously. My parents filled my head and heart and hands with those timeless words that make every child look forward to the future and long for the day when they can look back and say their parents knew it: “One day you’ll be great.”

And I prepared for that.

Until today.

Today, I’m mediocre at best.

I look at my life and I see a list of all the things I haven’t done and a list of those I realize now I never will.

I haven’t done anything amazing with my artistic gifts that earn me a place at the Disney animator’s table in life’s cafeteria. I have stories I haven’t written with characters crowding my mind with their thoughts and pushing themselves out from the rocks and brambles all the way down to my finger-tips; but sometimes, I just don’t want to take the time or the risk.

I stay at my job not because I love it or even really like it, but because I have rent to pay and I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to be a job for more than a year where they like me and want me and see the potential for me to grow. What would a promotion feel like?

But then I remember that a weed is still a weed, no matter how tall. And I feel small.

My life ticks on and starts to form the prequel for the middle-aged sitcom character who spends the entire series looking back with “should-haves” and “could-haves” and “would-haves” but not a single “look what I accomplished!” And where those stories sit is just between backstory and boring and they’re far too outdated to make for stimulating conversation and they certainly don’t appease the little girl inside me crying out “what have you done with my dreams? I’m supposed to be great.”

I never thought I would be here: stuck somewhere I never wanted to be, somewhere I never sought. But what scares me more than that, what scares me more than I can express is the thought that this is all there will ever be for me, and that I grew up promising myself that I would be great only to turn out mediocre at best and I gave up on those dreams, and packed them away in a cold case file buried under responsibility and “well, it could be worse.”

I threw the word tomorrow at all my yesterdays and made promises I haven’t kept. I looked opportunities in the eye and because I couldn’t see the end from the beginning I didn’t take that step. And I tried new things and with every new path I took I said one day I’ll find my way. And today, I wondered if I passed the last fork and this is the rest of the way.

I powered my mind in the pursuit of that greatness I was born to and I actually believed.

But it wasn’t my successes I needed cheering for.

It was days like today where I’m mediocre, at best. Days where I wonder if it’s too late to try. Days where I can’t decide what I want anymore and all I can think of to do is drop everything with my name attached and run to the next anything going anywhere just to leave all these expectations behind me and see where my soul goes when it’s not bound by these walls and my name.

There is a child inside me crying. She trusted me with her dreams and she wants to know “where is my return? I invested my love in those dreams I’ve given you years to complete. What are you doing? What have you earned? Where are my dreams?”

And somewhere, numb, beyond what I can feel today, I know what my parents meant.

And maybe one day I’ll stand tall and face my five-year-old self or my ten-year-old self–the girl whittling away in her mind about the millions of ways she’ll succeed and achieve her dreams. And maybe then I’ll have the strength to tell her the truth I fear is little consolation today. But it’s the truth that will help me tomorrow:

 

I was born to be me and whatever that is, is great.

Conquer Thyself

Every once in a while, like everyone else I am sure, I get down and think my life sucks, or much more common lately, I kind of stink at this thing called life.

Things have just been piling up recently on top of each other and I find myself doing counseling for depression, anxiety, and basically learning to manage my emotional  health for the fourth or fifth time in the last three years. Sometimes I wonder if it will every get easier or if I will ever get this right? At times like these, it can feel like I am so far away from God or from who I really want to be and I get discouraged.

Recently, however, my husband showed me something he saw on Facebook that has given me a pause of sorts: A friend of ours who was in our single’s ward when we were dating is going through cancer yet again for the fourth time (I believe) and he is only in 23?

Yikes.

And I thought my life was hard.

As he has been going through these experiences however, he has kept up a blog (Life Without a Fibula) about his thoughts and experiences, along with a summary of his hardships and blessings. The thing that astounds me the most is his continual faith in God, and that no matter what happens, everything will work out.

“Faith and doubt cannot co-exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.” – Thomas S Monson.

Another amazing quality that is cool to see in Erik’s blog is his ability to find the blessings he has now. Reading about his blessings or the things he is grateful for has been a humble piece of pie for me.

I have a place that I call home.
I have a wonderful worthy man to call my husband, who is my biggest fan and supporter, and makes me laugh every day.
I am expecting my first child, and I really don’t have much to complain about with the pregnancy.
I have a job that I enjoy.
My husband and I are currently debt-free.
I have many friends and family who care about me.
Many of these friends and families have been little Angel’s from Heaven without truly knowing it.
I have had many many tender mercies from my Father in Heaven as little reminders that he is aware of me and my life.
I have the Gospel of Jesus Christ which makes me super happy.

When you look at that, what can I complain about?

As Erik quoted Buddha in one of his posts: “It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles…” And truly, that’s all that matter’s in this life: learning to conquer yourself, your weaknesses, and enjoy life and it’s many surprises and adventures.

Thoughts running through my head in no particular order

Taking three internet classes this summer is exhausting. Don’t do this again.

Can I just skip this next semester and go straight to student teaching? I really just want to get a job and move on in my life.

I packed myself a lunch. Yay for that! I don’t actually have any interest in eating what’s in my lunch box. Boo.

Can I just be done with today and go back to bed? I just want to sleep. (It’s not quite 11:30 am.)

I want to play games on my iPad. I think I’ll do that when I’m done writing this blog post.

Why do I like big band music so much? I have the weirdest musical taste that ranges from pop to big band to Queen to Imagine Dragons to Chopin to musicals. But I love it all. Oh well. More to enjoy, I suppose.

Politics are annoying and frustrating and part of me wishes that I didn’t have to be informed about them to be an active citizen. But I do (or at least I feel I do) and so I am. I’m really looking forward to the end of this presidential election though. I hope the next one is less insane.

How can I feel like I have so much to do and yet feel like I have nothing to do at the same time?

Some kids are peeking in trying to figure out if they can have some of the candy our office has set out. If you want some, come get some kids. This isn’t a creepy white van.

Expecting a baby? Expect some advice…

My husband and I are expecting our first child sometime around New Years Eve.  As we have been slowly announcing the news to family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, we have made one startling discovery: When you are expecting a baby, you better be expecting some advice…….. from all sources.

I don’t know why this shocks me so much, considering how much advice (especially from complete strangers or acquaintances) when we announced our marriage a couple years ago.  Yet still astounds me, and catches me off guard when someone bends over towards me and asks that question: “Can I give you some advice?”

Now, some advice is legit and very useful, some are just strange and weird, while others  are completely terrifying (and honestly serve no other purpose but help me wonder What was I thinking, getting pregnant?).

If you think I’m kidding, check out this video (albeit, it is highly fictionalized… but trust me, I have heard some of these already).

Now I’m sure that all these people are very well meaning in their intentions, and some of them really do care about me, my well-being, and the well-being of my baby.

So what to do with all this advice?  My friend’s (who is also expecting) mom gave her this sound advice that she passed on to me.

You could either go through life wrapped in bubble wrapped, constantly worrying… or you could take it all with a grain of salt and enjoy life like it was meant to be.

What is some crazy advice you have had about an upcoming baby, parenting, or getting married?

Taming of the Shrew: ‘Tis a very excellent piece of work.

My lifelong dream of attending Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was fulfilled this summer when I stood as a groundling watching the 2016 production of Taming of the Shrew. I was close enough to the stage that if I reached out, I could have touched it. As I stood there, standing as those of Shakespeare’s time would have, it felt surreal.

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I’ve always been drawn to the power of words. I believe that Shakespeare’s words are some of the most powerful that have been written, as they speak to human nature. After attending Southern Utah University (SUU), that is home to Utah Shakespeare Festival, my love and respect for Shakespeare’s works has only grown. I studied both English and Theater while at SUU. In that time, I realized that Shakespeare’s words are not meant to only be read, but to be performed. It is in the amalgamation of the different facets of theater that creates magic.

Standing in the crowd, I became lost in the early 1900s Irish world that Director Caroline Byrne created as a setting for this version of Shrew. I have seen productions of Taming of the Shrew previously. They were excellent productions, but this has been the best.

Aoife Duffin portrayed the most realistic Katherine I have ever had the opportunity to see. I believed the relationship between Kathrine and Bianca. Bianca was secretly just as horrible, or more horrible than Kathrine in this production. It was understandable why Kathrine treated her so terribly.

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Edward MacLiam exposed the violence and horror that Petruchio used to tame Kate, yet I could see his good intentions. I hated and loved him for it. Their relationship drew me in. One of the most powerful moments of the play was at the end, after Kathrine gives her speech about being tamed, Petruchio realizes what he has done, and kneels next to Kathrine.

The production utilized music in a powerful way. It showed deep sorrow, and overwhelming joy. It communicated to our souls in a way only music can. The musicians set the mood by coming out and playing some Irish music before the play started, as well as after intermission, which allowed us to be brought into the world of the play before the actors appeared on stage.

The costumes were exquisite, and captured the time period perfectly. Each character was dressed exactly as they should have been. The costumes were a visual representation of the oppression felt, especially by Kate. Before she has her wedding gown put on, a cage crinoline is put over her head, which represented the misogynistic society in which they lived, and of which Kate was a victim as she was forced to marry against her will. Near the end, she sheds that cage crinoline, and that revealed her freedom from oppression.

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I will always remember the experience of attending Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and watching Taming of the Shrew. They created magic on that stage. To all those involved in this production, I would say, “’Tis a very excellent piece of work” (I, I, 263).

Photo credits: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jun/06/the-taming-of-the-shrew-review-shakespeares-globe-london-feminism

Why Wanderlust?

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When I stopped in Calgary for my overnight layover, I went to church with some friends. One man stood and shared his gratitide to be a Canadian.  He said that he had no desire to see much of the world,  but that he was content staying within the borders of Alberta. He was an older man, with a greying beard, and a few wrinkles that framed his sparkling eyes. I couldn’t help but notice how different he and I were. I have always had a desire to go see new things, some may call it wanderlust, or a sense of adventure. The mere fact that I was present to hear him say those words manifests that difference.

In order to get to Europe on a budget, I booked a cheap flight, which had an overnight layover there in Calgary. An item on my bucket list has always been to travel to Europe. I dreamed of it for as long as I can remember. So, this summer I made it a reality. Luckily, I already had been saving money so that I could make the trip. I started talking with my sister a while ago because I knew that my husband wouldn’t want me to travel alone and that our budget wouldn’t allow us to both go. It was a bonus that my sister had already traveled in Europe. When we first started brainstorming where we wanted to go, the entirety of Europe was included in our itinerary. I wanted to do everything and see it all. My brain switched into adventure mode–it was wanderlust heaven.
Then reality hit us like a ton of bricks, shattering our plans. We did not have the time, money or resources to do it all. Slowly, but surely our plans shifted into a manageable and realistic trip. I would start in London in order to fulfill my dream of seeing a Shakespearean play performed in the Globe theater. Next came Geneva where we could paddleboard on the lake, and make our way to the Castle Chillon. Then we eould head to the majestic mountains to see the iconic Matterhorn. Following that we cross the border into Italy for some more lakeside adventures at Lake Como. Our trip would then lead us to the picturesque seaside towns of Cinque Terre. Then to the great Dolomite mountain range for some more adventures.
And so I go. As I write these words, I sit on the airplane that takes me to those places. It may not turn out exactly as we planned, but I am okay with that, because I am sure that I will have an adventure. And that is what I desire.
I don’t think I will ever understand the man from Calgary who felt content staying so close to home. I will always want to travel. Just because I won’t be going to those other places I dreamed of in my initial fantasty itinerary during this trip doesn’t mean that I will never make it in the future. My wanderlust and sense of advenute will continue, probably until the day I die. I love new settings, beautiful cultures, and fascinating people. And so I say… YES TO ADVENTURE!