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It’s what I keep telling myself, and it isn’t easy.

Unfortunately for some, life is not always beautiful, weighing you down like an anchor, leaving you “Desperately treading water to keep your head above it… terrified about what might be lurking below.

Life has always been a challenge for me, and I know I’m not alone.  Every morning when I wake, and look around me, and realize that this is real… this is my life, it takes everything I have sometimes, to motivate myself to get up out of bed and go on with my day. Thankfully, I’ve discovered that somewhere, deep down inside of me, I have the strength to look past the unbearable and see the beauty all around me.

I’m a country girl, and love the outdoors… The beautiful sunsets, the moon, and star-speckled skies, the mountains, the forests, the wildlife, and our magnificent oceans and waterways. I have always found solace on the lake in my kayak in the early morning fog, and at the summit of our surrounding mountains. I came to the realization that setting goals for myself when I was weighed down by grief and sadness, sometimes seemed to be my only lifeline.

One of my greatest goals was to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. I reached the summit on October 28th, 2013, a day I will never forget.

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

The dolphins were more playful than usual today. They performed acrobatics and played tag with me for what seemed like hours. The water was a very light shade of turquoise and crystal clear. The visibility was amazing, and I could see everything in this breathtaking underwater paradise. The coral reef in all its glory and all the different ocean species were picture-perfect. The warm water caressed my skin as I started slow dancing with my aquatic friends. Bodies intertwined as we weaved our way around the brightly-colored coral. A couple of sea horses joined in the celebration. The eels played hide and go seek between the sea grasses and algae. Schools of tiny, beautifully-colored fish played follow the leader as they darted in and out through the tentacles of this live coral maze. I stopped mid-twirl to take a closer look at a beautiful little starfish lying in the sand, and unintentionally disturbed a giant manta ray as it lay there camouflaged.

“Come back! Oh no! I’m sorry! Please don’t go!”

He swiftly flapped his large magnificent wings and gracefully took flight away from our watery playground. As I watched him fly overhead, I felt sorry that I made him flee his resting place. He had as much right to be there as we did.

As I looked up toward the heavens, I could see the rays of sunlight shimmering like diamonds on the surface of the water. It was almost hypnotic. I could watch them for hours. Time seemed to be non-existent during my adventures. Who knew there was such beauty beneath the surface of our vast waterways? Suddenly, bringing me back to reality, I was distracted by one of my little friends who gave me a nudge on the shoulder. I guess it was his way of asking me for the next dance. He must have thought I had given up on him or something; the party wasn’t over yet. I turned and grabbed onto his fin and off we went, twisting and turning, head over heels. Mr. Fred Astaire… I called him Fred for short. This guy really loved to groove. He also liked to show off in front of all the others. He was quite the acrobat. One more pass and then we headed straight up to the surface. I loved it when he did this. I enjoyed flying through the air with him and then splashing back down into the water. Just as we got to the surface, I lost my grip. Damn… I hated when that happened. It wasn’t a problem though because I knew that he would come right back around and check on me; he always did.

I stayed at the surface for a moment and looked around me, but it was not something I enjoyed very much. From above the water you don’t find the same sense of security. You don’t see the beauty below. You fear the unknown, desperately treading water to keep your head above it, terrified about what might be lurking below.

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I still don’t believe it… A big thank you to my family, and all my old friends and new ones, for voting, sharing and supporting me…

“My speech to the judges”

It’s silent; You can’t see it and you can’t touch it; Look around you.
The person right next to you could be suffering silently; It’s called Mental Illness.
My book is about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a woman’s struggle to put the missing pieces of her life back together as they come to her in nightmares and flashbacks.

Her story is not mine but is similar in many ways. I know that roller-coaster of emotions… the loss, fear, and betrayal.
The nightmares still haunt me, but this feeling I get when I share my story with the world is extraordinary. It’s called freedom; That scared little child inside of me is stepping out of that security bubble she has been hiding in all these years and opening herself up to the world.

My healing journey has begun, and I’m confident that sharing my book and story, will bring hope and courage to others who suffer silently. We can all find the strength to heal if we dig down deep enough inside ourselves.