Musing

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Introduction

Introduction

Since I was born I have died twice, lived three lives, fell in love with four men, and am known by five different names. I’ve danced the halls of a Spanish hacienda, and shivered in the dark corner of a run-down shack, hung every holiday decoration in American suburbia, and been so hungry I couldn’t eat. I’ve protested for peace and marched for war, rescued sex slaves, and fed the poor. I’m famous to some and a nobody to others. I’m greatly loved and easily forgotten. I’ve been praised by thousands, but damned by even more. But who cares about all that? I was born alone in this world, and alone I’ll leave it. I’ve come to realize that I live or die in every moment. Let’s just say I’ve had a few moments. Hell, at times I’ve done both simultaneously, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This particular story, my story, begins on a hot July afternoon in a southern hotbed filled with hippies handing out flowers of free love, or embittered in a battle of protests for everything from women’s liberation, to civil rights, to war and draft-dodging. Indian Reservation by the Raiders played constantly on the radio, and President Richard Nixon was neck-deep in the Vietnam conflict. In the maternity ward of the Dekalb Medical Center in Atlanta, a young couple was heard screaming at each other down the hallway, fighting over what to name the quiet sleeping baby girl being carried in the arms of an elderly white-haired lady to the nurses’ station.

“Damn it, I’ve already told you, woman, her name’s going to be Rebekah Lynn!’ shouted the red-hair, freckled-face blind man at the young woman lying in the hospital bed. In one hand, he held tightly to the reigns of German shepherd service dog, whose silvered tags glinted with the name Fritz, and in the other clung tightly to a little boy with bright copper-red hair.

The young mother, no more than sixteen, started crying. “But, I want to name her Laura Lynn after Laura Ingalls Wilder, my favorite character from that book I read to you.”

The two continued to argue over the name, their voices filling the hall where the little old woman finally made her way to the counter at the nurses’ station. She looked down at the young, black nurse busily scribbling on her clipboard. “You were in there when my granddaughter was born, weren’t you, child?”

The nurse looked up, glanced down the hall toward the yelling couple’s room, and then smiled at the white-haired lady. “Yes, ma’am, I believe I was.”

“What’s your name, honey?” The old woman rocked the baby girl in her arms.

The nurse pinched her brows together, but finally answered after a few seconds, “My name’s Tonya.”

The little old lady quickly slapped the paper on the counter and started scribbling on it with one hand while she held the sleeping baby girl in the other. After a few seconds she waved it to the nurse. “Now you just go right on ahead and submit that information now before those two get finished.”

The young nurse took the paper and looked down at it. It was the little girl’s birth certificate, and hand-written on the first line was the name Tonya Lynnette.

The nurse smiled up at the little old lady and then stamped the certificate with the notary seal, and that was how I got my first name, Tonya.

It’s ironic. My parents were fighting over the names of a Jewish matriarch and an author of a book, and my grandmother named me after a nurse, a care-taker, someone that helps and nurtures others. All three fit. They sort of define me in many ways. Sadly, my family never called me by my given name, and most of my relatives don’t even know my real name, nor did the grandmother who gave it to me. Tonya means “priceless, without praise.” That too is prophetic and quite ironic.

I wish I could tell you that day was a day for celebration and marked the beginning of a wonderful life, that it was a beautiful, loving, bright story, full of inspiration and love, but it only marked the first of many dark days. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting tale; a roller-coast ride filled with many hills and valleys, twists and turns. You might want to grab hold of the safety bar before we get started. There will be moments that will surprise you, cause your stomach to ache, and have you feeling scared, even perhaps terrified; disbelieving the world can be so cruel. But there are other moments that will take you to the top of the world and have your heart soaring as your hair flaps in the various winds of love, hope, and joy. That’s life, real life. It’s not always a happy story, and not everyone gets a happy ending. It’s messy, complicated, and filled with real moments of good and bad. You can’t really appreciate one without the other. So, let’s go. I’m inviting you into my story. You’re not going to like everything, but my greatest hope when you reach the end (that is… if I can make it to the end), is that you find a little bit of understanding, that your perception of the world and the people in it change just a little. There’s evil in the world, real evil. There is also pain, real pain. But, there’s also good out there, and love, real love. So, come on, let’s go.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Motherhood – A Story Born in Violence

Motherhood.  What does it mean to be a mother? In the coming days, I’m going to explore motherhood from the only view I can – my own.  It’s not going to be the same as everyone else, but it’s my view, my version, and I’m the only one that can tell it.

I had a beautiful Mother’s Day this weekend, surrounded by people I love, and by people who love me.  I love them so much.  It’s odd how and who comes into our lives. I still cried Sunday evening because I miss my own children who are grown and don’t need me anymore. I tried to be a good mother to them, show them I love them, to protect them the best I could from a world I knew as violent and dangerous.  It sometimes meant they were angry at me when I had to tell them no, hated me when I had to intervene when they were making decisions that would lead to danger or mistakes, and have them think I was the meanest person on the planet because I wouldn’t let them have or do what they wanted.  But, I never thought they’d just forget me altogether.

It hurts to know that I meant nothing, that I’m so forgettable and expendable.  But, I’m no stranger to being rejected and unloved by those meant to love me most.  Yet, I’m still blessed and thank God for His love and mercy.  I love my children, all of them, even the ones I didn’t give birth, even the first children I raised, my brothers.  I was born a mother.  I was forced to be a mother; a protector.  I just never could get the whole nurturing thing down.  For an artist, a writer, I had a hard time expressing my affection. I’m much better at it now, but that’s forty years of working on it.  For many, many years I could never even allow anyone to touch me, and I NEVER said the words, “I Love You.”  Those were the words I didn’t trust, and I suppose I still don’t.

My story starts with a violent beginning.  But, it’s my beginning.  In order to understand my point of view, you’re going to understand that there is an evil world out there.  A world filled with violence, real violence, not something only in movies or on tv.  I’ve seen it. I can still remember the sound of a hollow ring and the smell of sulfuric gunfire mixed with the coagulated pools and metallic smell of blood, the screams of violence, the whimpers of pain in the dark, and the growl of hate behind a set of gnashing teeth. I’ve felt the blows of anger, I carry the scars of degradation, and I remember staring into a pair of defeated eyes of a broken spirit and crushed will. I have seen the devil. He has seen me. Evil is real and I wanted more than anything to protect those I love from it, but I have failed. I have failed so many times.

This is where my story begins… this is my story of motherhood and it’s a story born in the middle of violence.  But, that is not where it will end. I’ve tried to tell this story many times, and I’m not going to promise I’ll be able to tell it now, but I’m going to try.  Stay tuned.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, family, friends, Musing, Spiritual | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting… Our Resources

Budgeting

We should always count the costs before we do anything. Once we’ve made a decision of what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, what goal we want to achieve, we need to count the costs, the true costs – the money, the time, the devotion, the requirements. This requires taking a good, hard, honest look, and then set realistic expectations of what it’s going to take to accomplish what we want to do. Can we afford it? We have to be able to budget our resources or we will find ourselves building a house with no nails, no hammers, and no blueprint. Good intentions never built anything, but have been the root and path to much destruction. Ever heard the phrase the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

In order to create a good budget, we have to take an assessment of what resources are assured, what resources are needed, and then what we are capable of covering. We can’t budget on possibilities. We have to budget on certainties. We can’t buy groceries with hope, promises, or luck. We can only purchase real food with real money.

Let’s get to the foundation. We can’t build the roof of our dreams, hopes, wants or desires, before we’ve set the foundation. This is the hard part. THIS is the part where the budget falls apart for most people. We have to ask ourselves, and then be honest about it, what do we really have to work with? Not what we expect – but the lowest, the base, the minimum of what resources we have. We can’t budget of what we hope we will have. If we work a job that we ‘sometimes’ work overtime, get bonuses, dividends, we CANNOT set our budget on that part of our income. Our budget must be set on our concrete “hard” income based on 40 hours a week NET pay. The MINIMUM of what we bring home every week, two-weeks, month, or year. If we budget on fluid “soft” income, we will find ourselves underwater. Life will make sure of it. If we make $15 and hour, based on 40-hours a week, our gross pay is $600, and our net pay after deductions is about $450.00, our budget isn’t based on $600, but $450.00 – set as the cap, the maximum. NOT the minimum. Live within our means, what we have, not what we expect or hope to have. Don’t spend money we don’t have. Don’t use credit cards. If we can’t pay for it, we don’t need it. Learn to say NO.

So many times I’ve tried to help people write and set budgets, only to see them determined to set a budget on money they expected, but couldn’t guarantee. And, I’ve watched them fail time and time again. I’ve done it. It doesn’t work. SOMETHING or someone will always come in to eat that seed right out of our hands. That’s life, that’s what happens. We have to be smart and cover the basics, and then allow room for flexibility, because life happens. Our car will break down, someone will get sick, lightning will strike the tree that falls on our house, a power surge will fry our computer, our kids decide to play the guitar instead of the triangle, we get a flat, we fall and twist our ankle, our kids come home from school with lice and we have to fumigate the whole house, life happens… shit happens. And we have to have some flexibility in our budget to be able to absorb life. When we don’t, we fall, because life is still going to happen whether we set a proper budget or not. How we budget determines how we face that life. If we live from paycheck to paycheck, we’re not living, we’re surviving and life controls and dictates to us what we can and can’t do because we are being reactive instead of proactive.

I have this saying I tell people sometimes: I plan my spontaneity. I schedule my freedom. What I mean is this. I love to be spontaneous, just have a whim to want to do something and then just go and do it, because I felt like it. However, I can’t LIVE like that. I have to buckle down during the week, make a schedule, make a plan, and stick to that plan – I work, workout, take my lunch every day to work, do my laundry, chores, my grocery shopping, schedule my time to get as much productivity done during the work week. It’s hard, it requires a LOT of discipline, devotion, and dedication, and the ability to say no, because life will send things my way in order to disrupt that schedule. I get tired, want to be lazy, and tempted to get off my schedule from family and friends. BUT, keeping to and being faithful to that budgeted schedule gets the things I need done so that when my weekend comes, I am FREE to do what I want, I have the opportunity to be spontaneous, not filled with a bunch of responsibilities I let go during the week. Because I budgeted my time, my money, and my goals to do what was required during the week, I have the resources to do what I want on my weekends. I planned my spontaneity. I scheduled my freedom. With my base pay I schedule to take care of my base needs, so that any bonus or overtime I get, I freely use to spend on my wants and desires.

Let’s take dieting as an example. Everybody’s body is different and requires a different amount of effort and energy to be successful. Some people have good DNA and don’t have to do much in order to stay in shape and filled with the energy they need to live a lifestyle they desire. The majority of us have to work hard in order to maintain a healthy body to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. That’s not fair. But, suck it up buttercup. Life has NEVER been fair. It doesn’t matter what the requirements are for someone else. Throw that shit of your head. Look at yourself, your life, your requirements, your need, and then make budget for YOU. Or don’t.

Listen. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life to MY standards. I’m trying to help you. This budgeting series is for me, to remind me of the goals, plans and dreams I’ve made for myself. It’s reminding me that nothing comes without a cost, that nothing good comes easy. If you listen to what I’m trying to stay, it can help you. But, WE are ultimately the only one that can help us gain the success we want to achieve. We’ve got to want it. We’ve got to be honest with our self about where we are, what we have, what we need, and what we need to do to get where we want to be. Our biggest obstacle is that person staring back us in the mirror. We’ve got to love ourselves enough to do the hard stuff, to say no, to dig in, to do what is necessary to protect and budget our time, our goals, and resources.
If necessary, we have to tell some of our friends to go away and leave us alone because they’re vampires that suck the lifeblood out of us – they waste our time, detour our goals, and consume our resources. They depress us with all their woes and problems. They take, but never give. Their lives are ALWAYS filled with drama and one disaster after another. Those are not real friends; they’re opportunists with sad stories and trails of chaos. Good friends know the plans and dreams we’ve made for ourselves. They recognize our needs without having to tell them. They become a support, a cheerleader, a coach, and a guard to help us see the truth of our circumstances, assist us in fulfilling our needs, and being an inspiration for us to achieve our dreams. THAT’s a friend. A friend tells us the truth, even if it hurts our pride, and loves us just as we are, but doesn’t put up with our excuses or bullshit. A real friend isn’t afraid of telling us the hard stuff. They don’t eat our groceries when they see our refrigerator is empty. They don’t use our electricity, or take advantage of our hospitality, while sitting by watching us go without a phone or internet.  They don’t invite us to stay out all night on one of their adventures knowing we have to work the next day, yet make no time to join us in our adventures on our time.

And true friendship requires us being able to be and do the same support for them. Do we encourage our friends and family, or make fun of them every time they try to do something? Do we give them hope, or talk down to them and try to talk them out of the dreams they have? Are we a pessimist and point out the negative to everything, only the negative come out of our mouths even in joking? Or are we an optimist and see the potential in ourselves and our friends and family? Do we think the world is just full of bad people, misery, hate, selfishness, judgment, etc.? Or do we see opportunity, potential, even when we recognize the bad, but also see a way to turn it around for good? Cut the negative bullshit excuses and people out of our lives. They’re toxic to us, to our budgets, to our dreams, to our hopes, and to our success. If we don’t cut this bullshit out of our lives, we can only blame ourselves for our failure.

Tomorrow is the last day of my budget series. I didn’t plan this series out, it’s just happens to be where I am in my own journey at this time. I hope I can tie all these different budgets together had have been able to create a clear path, a clear picture, and inspiration that will help any who read it.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Life, love, memes, Muses, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting… Our Goals

Budgeting

As with anything we do, we need to set some realistic and obtainable goals.  Not a comfortable goal. On the contrary, our goals and plans should always be a little more, a little harder, and a little higher than our present comfort level.  We should always strive to do ‘more’ than our current level or else we are just treading water and getting nowhere. That’s not a way to find success. That’s simply surviving.

One of the keys to success is to always be rising, gaining, and moving toward the end of our agenda. We have to set our eyes on the finish line, the pinnacle of what we want to achieve, and then be able to see, understand, and recognize the path to get to that line.  This is where we often mess up and stumble, leading to our failure in reaching the goals we set for ourselves.

In no way am I saying NOT to dream big. On the contrary… dream big; dream really big.  Write those dreams down, even the ones that everyone says are impossible.  Even the ones we think are impossible or not for us. We can’t run a race without knowing what kind of race we’re in, or where the finish line is, otherwise we’re just running wild with no direction. We have to know where we are going in order to know if we’re traveling in the right direction.

Once we’ve written our list of dreams, we now need to take a step back, remove the emotion from those dreams, and start setting realistic, obtainable goals.  We have to take the big dream and identify step A and step Z. Those are the two hardest steps to identify – A. What is it and where does it begin?  Z. What does it become and where does it end? We can’t set all the goals between A and Z without FIRST identifying those two components.  Those are the base to our equation for success. Equally, this same equation can be used for every area of our lives.

Who am I?   –  Who do I want to be?

What do I weigh?  – What do I want to weigh?

What can I do?  – What do I want to be able to do?

Where am I?  – Where do I want to be?

How much do I have? – How much do I want to have?

How do I feel? – How do I want to feel?

Where have I been? – Where do I want to go?

What position do I hold? – What position do I want to hold?

 

You see what I’m trying to convey?  We have to first identify the truth of our present state and then set the goal of the state we want to achieve. But, we can’t lie to ourselves or else the goals we set will unravel.  They won’t hold when the pressure comes, when temptation comes, when the truth reveals itself.  The number one failure to any goal we set for ourselves is self-deception and dishonesty. We lie to ourselves more than anyone else lies to us, or even the lies we tell to others.

One of the keys of success for making a change to any of our bad habits and behaviors, failures and weaknesses, including taking responsibility for who we are, is being able to recognize the truth about ourselves.  We have to accept that truth in order to make a decision to change it. In order to enter the race to achieve any particular goal in our life, we have to first understand where we are, who we are, and what state we are in – and then recognize the goal of where we want to go, what we want to do, and what we want to achieve.  It has to be done in honesty.

Goals are all about change; changing our present state, our present atmosphere, our present company, to a different state in order to achieve a different result. Change can’t happen without honesty. Change can’t happen without recognizing the truth. But once we face the truth, once we accept it, and we’ve recognized our A and Z components, NOW we are capable of setting our budget of goals.  As with any budget we can over budget or under budget.  If we over-budget, we set impossible and unrealistic goals, and are not going to be able to meet those goals and setting ourselves up to fail.  If we under-budget and set too easy of goals, then it won’t be a challenge and we’re not really changing anything; only running in a circle of what we already have. This is the cycle that many of us often fall into – and if you take an honest look at your past behaviors these are the type of goals that leads to those spherical habits – what’s often known as yo-yo diets or insanity – doing the same things over and over and over and yet expecting different results, so we keep making the same mistakes and we keep failing.  It’s why we can’t beat our addictions or overcome our weaknesses. It’s why we can’t change our lives or circumstances because we can’t change our environment, change who or what we hang out with, whom or what we allow in our lives, who or what we allow to influence us and speak into our lives.

I.e. – if we want to be successful and responsible, we have to stop hanging out with unsuccessful and irresponsible people, or making unsuccessful decisions. If we want to be healthy and fit, we can’t surround ourselves with lazy, unfit people or regularly visit the fast food restaurants, stock our fridges and pantry with junk food, or eat out all the time. If we want to be kind and generous, we can’t hang out with selfish and hateful people.  If we want to be happy and faithful, we have to stop hanging out with unhappy cheaters.  If we don’t want drama in our lives, we have to stop inviting it into our homes. We are what we do, what we eat, who we hang out with, and what we spend our time and money on.

Once we face our truth, and recognize our A and Z, we need to set our budget – break down all the steps between A and Z (B-Y) into progressive, obtainable mini-goals.  First break them in half (B-M), then break those sections in half (C-G), then those in half (D & E), doing the same for the other side, and so on and so forth until you have a clear path filled with plans and goals that will help you reach success. If we don’t like any part of who we are, where we are, or what state we are in, then change it. Recognize our A and Z, make our goals, and then set a realistic budget to meet all the internal steps until we find success.

Here’s an example:

Face the Truth: Always dreamed of writing a novel, but after starting a dozen stories, never seem to finish them. Life always gets in the way, and nothing ever gets completed.

Dream: Finish a 50,000 word novel.

A – Start Writing Novel – “Once Upon a Time”.  Z – Complete Writing Novel – “The End”

B-M – Break the novel down into increments and chapters so that M= 25,000 words (half our novel) (averaging 2000 words per chapter for 12 chapters) and then set our budget to achieve a chapter a day, or a chapter a week.  Outline those chapters of what we want to achieve by that part of the story, and set our goals for each chapter.  Then, do the same for the other half of the novel, so that we have a complete outline of mini-goals we want to achieve from A to Z.

Then COMMIT to those obtainable, reachable goals we have set, create an atmosphere to fulfill those goals, budget the equipment and material we need to achieve them, and make the time and room to get them done. Without commitment, we WILL fail. Kismet, Murphy, life, God, the supernatural, and everything and everyone will present obstacles and temptations to get us off our goals, detour us from our path, lead us astray, or get us to give up.  Nothing good comes easy or without effort. We MUST have commitment or we have already failed.  Budget our goals. They’re important. We are important. Our dreams are important.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Dream, Dreams, Fairy Tale, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Life, memes, Muses, Musing, Philosophy, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Budgeting… Our Time

Budgeting

Most often when we talk about budgeting we are referring to our money.  That is important and I will get to that later this week.  But, right now I want to focus on budgeting our time.  This will help us with our money and everything else. Time is the thing we lose more than anything. It keeps moving no matter what’s going on in our lives. It never stops.  Most of all, it never gives us back what time we’ve lost.  As the song states, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.”

Time is also something we are only given a certain amount.  Some of us are given a little more than others, but essentially we all are given less than 100 years, or 1200 months, or 36,500 days, or 876,000 hours, or 52,560,000 minutes. Regardless of the overall amount we each have, we all have the same 24 hours in a day.  None of us get more or less than anyone else.  Our choices are what differ.  24 hours a day, every day.  That’s it, folks.  There are no do-overs, there are no second chances, and there is no re-start button – at least not with THIS life.  Time is also not guaranteed.  Our time could be up today, tomorrow, or at any moment.  I have suddenly lost people in my life, and their absence leaves a deep hole inside my soul. I one day will be absent and leave this world.  BUT, while I’m here, I want to make the most of the time I have, and in order to make the most of it, I have to budget and protect my time, just like I do my money.

Not knowing exactly how much time we have makes budgeting complicated. However, that shouldn’t stop us from planning, using estimated and approximated time in order to utilize it the best we can.  Time is a thief, it steals moments and opportunities when we allow it control of our decisions.  When we just ‘wing it’, we miss a lot of opportunity.  Though it’s been said opportunity falls into our laps, that’s not been the experience I’ve known.  While opportunities present themselves throughout our lives, we have to choose to seize them or lose them, and our lives will become a string of regret.

This is very important. We have to protect our time.  We have to be picky about who and what we allow into our lives. There are people and substances (substance abuse, addictions and distractions (yes, this also includes video games) that will steal our attention, distract our focus, waste our time, and destroy our opportunities. Misery loves company.  Laziness loves excuses. Train wrecks love to cause other train wrecks. Users seek to use up our opportunities and resources, and then move onto their next victim, leaving us empty. Addicts need other addicts. Losers make other losers. You are as successful as the company you keep.  You are who you hang with. If you’re surrounded by a bunch of losers, addicts, lazy-ass mother fuckers, cheaters, liars, thieves, thugs, selfish, self-centered narcissists … get the picture?  Surround yourself with people who are successful, driven, focused, giving, optimistic, wise, intelligent, and kind.  Make a plan for YOURSELF, and then stand back and watch to see who or what comes in to derail or support those plans.  While we would love to blame THEM or THAT, they’re not the ones responsible for stealing our time or destroying the budget or plans we’ve made with that time. WE ARE. We are the guardians and managers of ourselves, our time, our budget, our resources, our company, our friends, our drive and determination, and everything else we have and want.

If we want to get ahead, enjoy success, fulfill our dreams, reach our goals, and live a life full of experience and adventures, then we must take a realistic look at how we spend our time, make the necessary and honest (often hard) adjustments, and then budget our time to meet those goals and dreams.  It can be done. I’ve done it several times now and I’m doing it again. I hope you come along with me. If not, then good luck to you, because I’m not going to stick around and allow you steal my time or derail my dreams. I love myself enough to cut you out of my time budget.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, blogging, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, gaming, Health & Fitness, Hope, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, memes, Musing, Philosophy, respect, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Budgeting

Budgeting

Unless you make a shit ton of money, have a wealthy uncle or heritage, most of us have to live within a budget.  We have to take note of what is coming in and what is going out or else we’ll find ourselves reactive, chasing one problem after another, instead of being proactive to prevent more problems.  Remember this: Reactive = chaos. Proactive=control.  I think this is one of the issues that plague our country, and even the world, more than anything else – irresponsibility of not realizing what our true means are and living within those means, or making a plan to increase or decrease those means.

I’ve experienced just about every aspect and level of lifestyle. I’ve been so low and have tasted being homeless living in my car and rest stops for a time, to a one room shack with no electricity or running water, onto trailer parks with holes in the floor fighting rats for my space, expanding to several different levels of apartments, moving into suburban America with a 4-bedroom home and two car garage,  rental properties,  enjoying a condo on the beach, and a hacienda complete with guards, servants and two toilets in a single restroom. I’ve experienced true hunger and have also gorged on extravagance; both just as depraved, and neither the key to true, lasting happiness.

As with any other goal in our life, we must take an honest look of where we are, what he contribute, what we owe, where we want to go, and where we need to be in order to make the appropriate plans to get there. Go ahead and keep believing your dreams and fantasies are going to take care of all your needs and solve all your problems. Let me know how that turns out.  However, if you truly want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and live a good, balanced life, then you need to start being honest with yourself and circumstances, and then set your budget.

All of life is about a budget. We not only need to budget our money, but our time, our affection, and our dreams.  The most detrimental thing that happens to me is when I allow others, bad decisions, and unexpected circumstances to rob me of my peace and balance in life.  All the success I’ve enjoyed throughout my life has resulted from when I made an honest assessment, developed a plan, and then activated that plan – EVERY SINGLE SUCCESS.  If I look back, the majority of my failures have resulted from times when I’ve lied to myself, reacted spontaneously without counting the costs, or allowed others and their needs to come before myself.

So, this week I’m going to talk about budgeting. So stay tuned.  Hopefully something in these blog posts will open your mind, click within your soul, and set you on a path to success. That’s what I’m hoping for myself. This is all part of my latest journey.  If you want to come along, buckle up – it’s going to be an awesome, yet bumpy, ride.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Musing, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Body, Mind and Soul… Day Two

Body, Mind and Soul - Day Two

Okay, this is now day 2, and I promised I’d get to the mind and soul part of this blog. I’m conflicted on which to write first.  During meditation this morning I was really focused on the soul part, but then had electronic issues that pissed me off, so now I’m on the mind. Let’s just see where my fingers take me.

I suppose this part is both mind and soul.  There’s a rule in life that I’ve learned over the years. It’s one that’s help me realize many goals and dreams.  I’ve accomplish most of what I’ve set my mind on accomplishing. The rule is this, which is actually from the Word: Don’t start what you don’t plan to finish, and count the true cost before you make the first move. Then commit to it. Then jump. When I make a decision, I then make a plan, visualize the steps I need to reach the end result (write my vision upon the walls), and then settle it in my heart and mind to do what is required and necessary to achieve those goals (they will test resolve and require sacrifice), and then act.

Listen, this is important: Having a good idea never got anyone anywhere.  Action and dedication are required. But, that’s not all.  Action only gets the plan moving.  Do you know how many great plans have failed because when the planner took the first few steps, things got tough and they gave up or changed course?  I bet if you looked back you can see a long trail of unfinished plans and dreams.  Those didn’t fail on accident. They failed by choice. It may have been an easy or hard choice, but it was still a choice. You chose to quit, you chose to give up, and you chose to let it go.  There may have been good excuses, great reasons, or magnanimous consequences, but it was still a choice.  The ONLY way to make a plan succeed is by making the choice to fulfill it.

One of our biggest problems when we make a plan is that we make plans where we don’t possess the tools, determination, understanding, or skills in order to fulfill them.  This is a little complicated.  On one hand, we should always strive to reach beyond ourselves, outside our capabilities, and above our limitations, but at the same time we have to be reasonable and practical.  Dream. Oh, God, dream big! But then break that dream down into obtainable, sensible, practical steps.  If you can’t see the path to the dream, you’ll get lost, detoured, distracted, and discouraged.  Don’t be afraid to take risks, but be practical and honest about the true cost of those risks. Don’t lie to yourself. Be willing to pay those costs, or get off the pot and go back to half-ass your way through life. NOTHING good has ever been without sacrifice. NOTHING.

I once made a vow, just like King David, that I would not give to my God, or myself, that which costs me nothing.  I would not be like Cain and give the least of what I had to fulfill a requirement, but to always give my best and with my whole heart – at work, at play, at love, and at life. That promise is not for anyone but me, for the sole purpose of being able to stand in front of the mirror and face that woman who has been through hell and back, and know that I’ve done my best. Whether I succeed or fail, fly or fall on my face. SHE deserves my best. I value my dreams and goals, and THEY deserve my best.

So for the sole purpose of reaching my life goals and dreams, I have to set my mind on what I want to achieve. I have to focus, fill my thoughts with the things that will help me succeed.  I need to protect my mind and soul from people or things that will steal, detour, or destroy the plans I make.  Not everyone in our lives is good for us, some will not only destroy the plans we make by messing with our minds, but they will also seek to destroy our souls.  That’s what I’d like to blog about tomorrow – our souls.

Until next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, blogging, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, Quotes, relationship, Relationships, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Body, Mind and Soul… Let’s Go

Body, Mind and Soul

Well, it’s a new day and I’ve got a lot of things bubbling up inside and I’m ready to start working on them. Last night I went on a date, and I think that will be my last first date for a while. It really confirmed to me what I want in this life and that I no longer have the patience or tolerance for anything that will distract me from that goal. I had a pleasant time, but I couldn’t wait for the date to be over. I don’t want to play anymore. I don’t want to keep getting disappointed when others don’t or can’t meet my expectations. I didn’t quite realize what those expectations were until this weekend. They’re quite high. I’m tired of being hurt or let down. I’m tired of putting my heart out there, when others are unwilling to put their own. I’m a risk taker. I’m an adventurer. I’m not lazy in anything, and that includes love.

So, what’s on the agenda? Well, that included a LOT of things: I’m working on body, mind and spirit. I’m going to really sharpen my focus on my physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Let’s start with the physical: I’m healthy and active. I’m not skinny, but I’m not obese. I work out so that I will be able to participate in the activities I enjoy. Being single I am WELL AWARE of how important the physical body is when it comes to attractiveness. I don’t have an issue with it. I personally would never date someone extremely obese because it’s unattractive, unhealthy, and detrimental to my own healthy lifestyle; however I think a few extra pounds on a man looks good, healthy, and not so vainly arrogant. I do have a stereotypical reaction to men who are what I call ‘gym rats’ and I know it’s not fair. I’ll stop thinking they’re overcompensating for either a lack of intelligence or penis size if they will actually try to see a woman beyond the first two layers of make-up and skin. Don’t get me wrong, I love being sexy, I love men being attracted to me, and inside a relationship I love to have lots and lots of sex (I mean, really a lot of sex). But, I don’t fall in love with someone based on their sexual appeal. I fall in love with souls, not faces. I have loved some really plain faces that had such beautiful souls. Anyway, my physical health is very important to me and it’s time I amp up my workouts and start focusing on setting and meeting some physical goals for myself.

  1. Body Boarding – I got to experience it for the first time on Easter, and I love it. I want to do more and do it often. During the experience I realized I need to focus on my upper and lower body strength because trying to get passed the breakers required a lot of energy. It’s the hardest part of the whole process. So, now that it’s getting warmer, I’m planning on spending more time at the beach working on my upper and lower body strength, simply swimming passed those breakers. I also want to start working at the gym/home with strength conditioning – using weights, yoga, and workout routines centered on strength training.
  2. Bike Riding – I plan on doing a lot more bike riding around my town. Not only is it great exercise, but you get to see and experience the world around you with an open view. I see so much more when I’m riding my bike. I feel so much freer. I’d love to have a riding partner, but I’m determined to go alone because riding my bike also gives me time to think. With my job and all the other things I’m doing, I really don’t have a lot of time to think anymore. Everything is rush, rush, rush, rush. I’ve sometimes considered getting a physical labor job, because when my hands are busy my mind is free, but then I think about the heat or the toilets and change my mind. Maybe with a little more bike riding I’ll be able to figure out the perfect job for me.
  3. Swimming – Because I do live near the ocean and have daily access to a pool, I want to become a really strong swimmer again. I used to be one, even competed for a time, but these last few experiences have shown me that I’m not that strong of a swimmer any more. Also, swimming is great physical exercise. So, I plan on doing a lot more swimming. Also, being in the water is really helping this white girl get a beautiful golden tan. I just hope I don’t get that dark leathery skin that makes you look old. I look so much younger than I am because of my porcelain skin.

So my new workout routine will involve:

  • Monday – Friday: Early Morning Yoga, Afternoons – 500 Stairs, 30-min swimming, 3 miles on the treadmill, and strength training on the machines – targeting legs and arms. (12,000 min on FitBit)
  • Saturdays: Bike Ride & Beach
  • Sundays: Lazy Day – Off (Video Games/Writing/Binge-watching)

My new diet will include:

  • M-F Mornings: Grapefruit/Cheese/Coffee/Water
  • M-F Mid-Morning Snack: String Cheese/Trail Mix
  • M-F Lunch: Smart Ones – 3 Cheese Ziti & Water
  • M-F Late-Afternoon Snack: Cottage Doubles/Pineapple
  • M-F Dinner: Lean Meat/Green Vegetable/Starch/Tea (Less than 1000 cal)
  • NO EVENING SNACKS
  • Weekend Morning: Bagel w/cream cheese, bacon
  • Weekend Lunch: FREE – whatever I want
  • Weekend Dinner: FREE – whatever I want

I’ll blog tomorrow about my mind and my soul.

Until next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Dream, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, Musing, relationship, Relationships, Spiritual, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Victim: Made or Chosen

 

Victim

Shit happens, and most of the time shit happens to us beyond our control. If you’re a human being and have meet another human being, then shit at one time or another has happened to you. You’re not special. You’re not unique in THIS aspect. We don’t always see what someone else has endured, but EVERYONE has had shit happen to them. No matter how cushioned or sheltered or privilege of a life they live, or how depraved, everyone has experienced pain, disappointment, abuse, neglect – shit. Everyone. Every – one. Understand that? I know some of you right now are thinking about someone who you think has had a perfect, sheltered, and uncomplicated life, but you’re wrong.

What makes us different is how we individually process the shit that’s happened to us, and how we allow it to affect us. Some of us have endured horrors unimaginable, yet are mentally and emotionally amazingly strong. The strongest are the ones that refuse to allow the shit that’s happened to them break them or repeat the cycle of abuse to those around them. When you can take a person that has been abused, neglected, and beat down, and they spend their life and make it their mission to encourage, help, and love a hateful world… that is a true hero, a beautiful soul. They are not victims, they are victors, survivors, over-comers. On the flip side of that is a weak person that has allowed their souls to be filled with all the shit that’s been piled onto them to consume them and transform them into the monsters that tormented them, and now torment others. They are the new monsters, predators, abusers. Then there are those that dwell somewhere in the middle – strong in some areas, and weak in others. This is where much of society lives. This is also where victims dwell. 

I believe with all my heart that victimization is a mindset, and one that is chosen. I can feel the excuses dwelling up inside your mind right now. There is ALWAYS an excuse, always a reason, always a diagnosis for the victimization. I’m not disputing that. SHIT happens. Things happen to us beyond our control, at the decision of someone else, and it’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s painful, and it causes damage. I have endured unimaginable shit.  But HOW we respond to the shit that happens to us is OUR decision and completely in our control and up to us. How we allow this shit to affect us, to guide us, to destroy us, etc., is also up to us. We choose to become heroes, or monsters, or victims. We choose to fight with a will of steel or a pill, with a determination or an excuse.

Sometimes laziness is because we’re simply fucking lazy and have a weak will, not because we can’t face or handle the shit that was thrown at us or that covers us. Laziness is a CHOICE. Laziness is weakness, and a state victims choose because doing what needs to be done is hard. Cleaning up the shit in our lives is hard. But if we want to live a clean, victorious, strong life, then we must be willing to do the hard work to make it happen. All by ourselves! Because WE choose it. We don’t need a pill. We don’t need a diagnosis to tell us it’s okay. We don’t need someone else to tell us we can. We must face the facts of who we are, where we are, and then make a fucking choice. When WE don’t work on cleaning up the shit in our lives, because we choose to be victims, then what we are really doing is being lazy and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. Guess what, victims… you’re becoming the shit-slingers now, throwing your shit around for someone else to clean up. You become the burden to those who love and care about you. YOU are creating more victims. Many of you reading this right now just shut that thought down because you don’t’ like to face the truth, you’d rather hide in your corner and wear your victim cape. You can’t make a change until you face the truth. Life isn’t fair. It never has been and never will be. Get over it.

What I’m talking about is changing a mindset. STOP thinking you’re a victim. No, changing your mind to become a victor, an over-comer doesn’t mean that the shit will stop flying and your life will become perfect. There is ALWAYS shit flying. ALWAYS. What changes is YOU and who YOU choose to be, and how YOU effect the world around you and the people you love and who loves you. You can’t save the world, but you can choose to save yourself. Victims whine and complain about how they were treated, and how unfair the world is to them, but do they think about how THEY treat the other people in their lives with their victimhood?

Changing your mindset will change how you respond to the world around you. It will change how you respond to everything in your life. Being healthy, be energetic, being successful, being focused, being compassionate, making a difference in your body, your mind, your heart, and your world. It will change how you love, how you forgive, what kind of person you are at home, at work, at play. You don’t be like everyone else around you. You will destroy all the boxes, be an outsider, not be understood, and most often unaccepted.  But you will be AMAZING, inspirational, and be something good in this shitty world.

The choice is yours. There are no made victims, only chosen ones. There are no made victors, only chosen ones. There are no made monsters, only chosen ones. Choose.

 

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

 

Categories: Blog Post, Faith, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Life, love, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bad Company Corrupts Good Character

1 Corinthians 15;33 – “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”

Life is good at times, and very hard at others.  There are always things, experiences, and people that come in into our lives that enrich us, bring us happiness and joy, and at the worst moments test us, push us to our limits, and some even break us.  Being broken hurts. But it’s often the bad decisions and mistakes we make that we learn from most.  But the consequences of those mistakes and bad decisions don’t ever leave.  Sometimes we deal with them for the rest of our lives.  Sometimes the pain or the love never fades.

I’ve lost a good friend lately, or at least I thought they were my friend.  I’ve also been reunited with some distant friends, and have met some new ones.  These encounters are highlighting the meaning of friendship to me as well as showing me how important the people we allow to surround us or come into our lives effect everything, color our vision, pour into our lives or suck the life out of us. We have to be careful, because our own souls are at stake.  Bad company corrupts good character. We are who we surround ourselves.

Be careful who you surround yourself.  Cut out toxic people, because you can’t help them. People must want to help themselves.  You want to really know a person, look at their friends, look how they spend their time, look at their priorities.  People lie to themselves.  They tell themselves they’re a good person, just trying to help, just trying to make good out of a bad situation, but what do they do?  Do they drown their feelings? Do they ignore their responsibilities, lock themselves away and shut themselves off from the positive people in their lives?  Look at person’s friends and you’ll see their ambition, their hopes, and their priorities.  Look at the trail they leave behind them.  Is it a road of destruction, drama, chaos, or love, ambition, etc?  Look at their direction they’re headed.  Do they have dreams, or are they just existing from one chaotic moment to the next in survival mode? What of their families? What of their character?  Do they put aside their own selfish wants to make sure they provide the right kind of influence and atmosphere for those they love?

Humanity needs a purpose, we need a vision, we need something to hope for, else we become lost, our souls wander aimlessly waiting for the next predator to swoop in at opportune moments. Low, selfish people want to tear down everyone around them, to feel something for themselves.  Real friends want to build up those they care for, open opportunity, and not be afraid to dig in, dig out, and pull up.

Realizing that someone you loved very much, slap you in the face and choose a path of destruction, cuts deep. Sometimes we need to feel that pain to remove the rose-colored glasses from our eyes and take a good assessment of what is truth.  When someone is on a path of self-destruction, nothing you can do will help them because they’re not listening and they don’t want help. The best thing you can do is let them fall, because they HAVE to WANT to help themselves or nothing will ever change.  You can help them a million times, and they’ll come back a million more with their hands out.  In truth, you’re not helping, you’re enabling. Trying to really help them – they will cut you out, because they don’t want to be helped, and they sure as hell don’t want to hear the truth. They will surround themselves with others on that same path and level of destruction. They can lie to themselves about who they are, their character, their motives and their what path they’re on, but look at who they surround themselves and you’ll see a person’s true path, no matter the lies they tell you or themselves.

On the flip side, those who want to change their stars will surround themselves with people that encourage, that inspire, and that love.  You want to be loving, surround yourself with loving people.  You want to be happy, surround yourself with happy people. You want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.  You want to get healthy, surround yourself with people that have a healthy lifestyle or healthy habits.  You want to succeed, surround yourself with others that strive for success.  You want to fall in love, surround yourself with others who are in love or also want to fall in love.  Don’t ask a broke man for financial advice.  Don’t ask a whore for advice on love. Don’t ask an addict about self-control.  Don’t ask a liar about respect.

Protect your circle of family and friends.  We might not think that bringing a toxic person into our lives and around our families isn’t dangerous, but every action, reaction, response, comment, and non-comment that toxic person makes effects those around them. Those around us are either building or tearing us down. 

We are all human, and all have times of doubt, depression, and fights with our demons.  But those times are temporary in a good, kind, and loving person.  But toxicity from a vampire isn’t temporary, it’s a deep poison that comes out in every pore, and its fragrance is pungent and poisonous to everyone around them. Cutting them out and telling them no, and walking away doesn’t make you a bad person.  I have a huge heart and have tried to help anyone I see in need. I’ve sacrificed so much in my life for the people I love, for humanity in general.  I’ve brought strangers home to put a roof over their head, fed the hungry for more than 20 years, visited the elderly listening to their stories, visited the imprisoned and helped them envision a brighter future, write resumes, and give hope they have the power to change their stars. I’ve spent the majority of my life doing volunteer work because I have a bleeding heart and I hate, HATE, hate to see the pain and oppression in this dying world.  I have walked in picket lines, in demonstrations for equality for women and minorities, I have prayed with the dying, I have worked with animals that have been abused, and I have stood outside the back door of an abortion clinic to offer open arms instead of judgement and condemnation. I’ve went without food to make sure someone else ate. I’ve spent time with wounded soldiers, written letters, and held them tight.  I have helped build water wells and schools for children in third-world oppressed countries. I’ve supported programs that help rescue young women from human trafficking.  I am a survivor of every kind of abuse you can imagine and have seen the true ugliness of humanity, yet I still hope, I still believe, I still fight like hell to protect those I love, protect those who can’t protect themselves.  I love children so much, and am a natural mother to all kids.  You should see my gaming clan – it’s filled with kids from 6 to 12, 14, 15, 19, 21 year-olds. I mother them all. Yet, I’ve endured one of my own children run away, another battle with drugs, and another disappear into obscurity.  I’m divorced. I’ve lost someone I loved to war.  I was abandoned by my family and rejected by another. Yet, I still believe in love, in family, in friends.

That is the woman I choose to be.  Yes, I’ve been successful in many areas of my life. I’ve got an MBA, I’m a published author that’s been nominated for many awards, I’ve owned my own successful business, I’ve ministered in front of thousands, many of my friends include celebrities and people in the top of their field, I’ve cooked some spectacular gourmet meals. My resume is amazing.  I’ve done some AMAZING things, I’ve jumped out of an airplane, zipped down the tallest tree-top zip line in the world, rode the white rapids, climbed a mountain, and hiked some amazing trails.  Yet, for a while I’ve forgotten about this woman.  I allowed toxicity into my life. Not anymore. I’ve learned to say no.  It is not cruel to wear garlic and ward off the vampires.  It’s an act of compassion. I have fallen on my face more times that I can count, yet I get back up.  I’ve recently found myself once more with my soul crushed on the ground, but I’m getting back up. I’m surrounding myself with people who encourage me, support me, and are a positive influence in my life.

It’s not my job to save the world. Someone else already did that. It’s time for the world to save itself.  If we climb out of our holes of disparity, by our own determination, grabbing hold of the arms willing to reach out to help, we now have an arm to offer someone else what WANTS to climb out.  But how can we offer help to someone that’s in the same hole?  The only way out is to climb on their shoulders or else have them climb out on ours, and that might not even be enough. You want to get out of your own darkness, then call on true friends already above ground, surround yourself with others that want to see you succeed, that inspire you, that encourage you, that focus on the positive and quit the blaming the world and everyone else for their situation. I’m drawing people into my life that don’t push me away or shut me out, but let me be the cheerleader that I am, that lets me encourage them, help them, and inspire them, because doing these things for others helps me be me, helps me remember the woman I am, strengthens me by their love, their support and their encouragement.  They’re not sucking the life out of me, but pouring life into me.  These are my true friends. 

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

 

Proverbs 12:26 “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

Proverbs 13:20 – “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.”

Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9 -10 – “Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work.  When one falls, the other can help his friend get up.  But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls.  There is no one to help him get up.”

Proverbs 18:24 – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Proverbs 27:6 – “You can trust what your friend says, even when it hurts.  But your enemies want to hurt you, even when they act nice.”

Proverbs 16:29 – “A violent person entices their neighbors and leads them down a path that is not good.”

Proverbs 22:24-25 – “Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper (or bad character), and never keep company with a hothead, or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself.”

John 15:13 – “No one has a greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friend.”

 

Categories: author T.L. Gray, blogging, Faith, family, friends, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, relationship, Relationships, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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