Download My Story for Free

My latest short story, A Cool Breeze on a Summer Day, is available for Free for the next three days on Amazon.com. If you haven’t downloaded my first short story, The Ghosts of Skeleton Canyon, it is available for free for the next three days, as well. Pick them up today. Write a review if you feel urged to do so.

Thanks!

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“I Can”

My dad used to tell us that our mindset was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever we think we can or can’t do is exactly what will happen. The hard part is that it is so much easier to say “I can’t”, than it is to say “I can”, or at least that’s what we think. As we get older, reality and responsibility sink in, and our dreams either take a very long sabbatical or get put into the storage shed with all those boxes that we’ll never open again, but we hang on to, just in case. As a kid, we rarely ever said or thought “I can’t” do something. So what happened to that die hard positive attitude of “I can do anything that I put my mind to”? Did experience and age slowly kill that belief system? Or did we wake up one day with bills to pay, mouths to feed, and a job to maintain, and realize that “I can do anything that I put my mind to” was naive at best, or likely just a lie. I believe it happens that first time we say “I can’t…: “I can’t chase that dream anymore because…”. We each finish that sentence differently, but with the same results. The first time, it’s difficult to say “I can’t”, but it gets easier each time, and pretty soon its a habit or just a way of life, and our dreams and goals are more like fairy tales than things we once said we would do in this lifetime. But it’s not true. We’ve only conditioned our minds to say, “I can’t do this…”, or “I can’t do that…”, for so long that it just seems to be an easier path. But it’s not an easier path. The path that leads toward achieving our goals is just as easy as the path toward failure. Our minds are powerful, probably the most powerful things on this planet, and they are capable of doing what we tell them to do.

When we tell ourselves that “we can’t” do something, our mind takes over in making sure that we can’t do that thing. Our mind starts coming up with excuses for not accomplishing that goal. “I can’t be a best-selling author because I don’t have the time…I don’t have the training…I don’t have imagination…I don’t have anyone to help me…I don’t know how to find a publisher…it’s too hard.” The excuses pour out like a waterfall and soon we rationalize those excuses into worthy causes for us to give up on those goals and dreams. We convince ourselves that giving up on those dreams is the right thing to do. “If I spent that much time writing, I couldn’t spend enough time with the kids…I couldn’t spend enough time with my wife…I couldn’t do my regular job well…I couldn’t maintain the lifestyle we are living…” So our mind tells us that we are doing a good thing by giving up. But our mind is smarter than that, so after giving up our dreams for altruistic reasons, it knows that we don’t like failure. Even though we have justified saying “I can’t”, we know that it is not in our nature to give up, so our mind leaves us a window of hope, so that we can cope with our acceptance of failure. “I’ll start writing again when I get more time…when the kids are a little older…when my first child goes to college…as soon as I get that raise and I can breathe a little easier…” We put it off for another time so that we can feel better about ourselves. And it works for a while. It can work forever if we let it, our minds are that strong and that convincing.

I want to tell you that it is just as easy to say “I can” to your dreams and goals. You see, when we tell ourselves “I can”, our mind goes to work the same way it did when we told ourselves “I can’t”. Only this time it starts finding a way to make it happen. No matter how difficult or unlikely the task or goal may seem, we start to plan and strategize. We start to devise a way for achieving our desired outcome. “I will find the time to write, and it will have a positive impact on my children, my wife, my job, and our lifestyle because I will be happier. And when I’m happy, it affects everything I do in a positive manner.” When we say “I can” enough, our mind starts to convince ourselves of this truth, and we are willing to follow this plan that we devise. We are willing to put in the extra hours and the extra effort because we start to see the outcome. We start to not just believe that it will happen, we start to know that it will happen. Our mind continues to devise, strategies and plan, and convince us that any time spent, anything sacrificed, anything lost is worth it because we know what lies ahead. Our mindset is changed. Our attitude is changed. Our energy level is changed. We don’t act the same around people because we have a different perspective about ourselves and life in general. We are willing to give everything we have toward achieving that dream or that goal because we know that it is only a matter of time before it becomes a reality. And as we chase that dream, we become better people along the journey.  Ultimately, isn’t that what we all want for ourselves? To be better husbands? To be better wives? To be better people? I am convinced that we are better people when we are happy, and we are happiest when we are chasing our dreams. If all you have is 15 minutes a day to pursue your dream, spend those 15 minutes completely engulfed in chasing your dream. It will make your day. God gave us a powerful mind that we can use in a positive manner or negative. It’s up to us to decide how we will use it.

So the next time we find ourselves saying “I can’t”, I want to encourage everyone to remember that it’s just as easy to say “I can”, and it makes life so much more enjoyable and exciting. Henry Ford hit the nail on the head when he said it this way: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t- you’re right.”

 

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My Second Short Story on Amazon: A Cool Breeze on a Summer Day

Hello Everyone,

I wanted to share with all of my blog readers that I have recently published my second short story on Amazon.com. It is titled: A Cool Breeze on a Summer Day. Just search Amazon.com under my name, Shane Valdez, or the title.

This story is about an ex-gang leader in prison that has had a conversion to Christianity. A few days before he is scheduled to be paroled, he is faced with a life threatening situation and his faith is put to the ultimate test.

I hope everyone that has followed my blog can enjoy my fictional writing, as well. I do plan on posting blogs on a more frequent basis. I know I’ve said that in the past, but I now have the time to make that desire a reality. I am currently working on a novel and hope to have it ready for publication this summer.

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My First Published Short Story-3 Days Left

There are three days left to download my published short story The Ghosts of Skeleton Canyon for free on Amazon.com . Just go to Amazon.com and search, Shane Valdez, or you can search, The Ghosts of Skeleton Canyon. Write a review should you feel compelled. Not sure what happened yesterday with my blog post. Somehow the post deleted and many of you that follow my blog could not open the link from your email. I apologize for that. Hope you will enjoy this story.

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My First Published Short Story

I just wanted to let everyone know that my first published short story is available on Amazon.com for free for the next 4 days. Search under: The Ghosts of Skeleton Canyon. Or you can search under: Shane Valdez. It would be great if you could write an Amazon Review should you feel compelled. Thank you all for your support. I hope you will enjoy this story. You will have to go to Amazon.com . I have not been able to link it successfully.

By the way, in case, anyone has been wondering, I have not fallen off of the face of the earth. Hopefully you should be hearing from me a little more often.

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Walking on Water

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Two weeks ago, at church, we talked about the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitudes with two fish and two loaves of bread that a young boy had brought with him. I had heard the story before, but the pastor made an interesting observation. Did the boy who had packed a small lunch for himself have any idea what Jesus had in store for him that day? Did he have any idea how Jesus would use his lunch to perform a miracle and feed thousands of people? “This morning,” he continued, “Expect God to do great things in your life. Go ahead, try it.”

“Okay,” I thought, “I will try it. I will expect God to do something great today.” It did not take me long to think of something that I could expect God to do. The afternoon prior, our dog, Cindy Lou, had disappeared from our property. Most of our Valentine’s Day had been spent bombarding the social media with pictures and notices of our little, white Maltipoo. We live on a sports ranch where there is a lot of traffic, and a healthy population of coyotes. I had already given up on any hope of finding her and accepted the fact that she was gone forever. Either a coyote had gotten her, or someone had stolen her while we were out. My focus had changed from trying to find Cindy, to trying to figure out how I would tell the kids, who had spent the weekend at grandma and grandpa’s,  that our beloved friend of 7 and half years, was no longer with us.

“Expect God to do something great today,” the preacher repeated.

And I could hear God speaking to me. “I walked on water, Shane. I healed the lame, and made blind men see. I turned water into wine and calmed raging storms. I died and rose again, and you doubt whether or not I can find your dog?”

“Okay,” was all I could muster. “I will expect great things today.”

So the story begins:

My wife, Robyn, got a message on her Facebook post that said that a dog that looked just like Cindy was brought in to All Pets Veterinary Hospital. It was Sunday, and the vet was closed, but we decided to go by there anyway, in case they had a picture of her on their door. Luckily, one of the volunteers happened to be there walking one of the dogs that had undergone surgery the day before.

“Oh, yes, yes…” the volunteer named Peter said with a smile as he looked at the picture of Cindy. My heart rate jumped a little. So far, this was pretty easy. I wasn’t even gonna have to tell my kids that their dog was ever missing. “Yes, this is definitely the dog that was brought in yesterday.”

“Great!” I exclaimed. “Can we get her?”

“Well, I wish you could, but we don’t have Cindy here.”

“Well, then where is she?”

“A lady brought her in yesterday. Said she found her wondering around 48th and Tecumseh Rd.”

“That’s around where we live,” I interjected, reaffirming that it was our dog.

“Well…we did not have any more room to board her. We were completely full, so I asked the lady if she could keep her for one or two nights and bring her back Monday. We would have some kennels open by then, but she said she could not keep her because they had strict ordinances where she lived. ‘Could you find maybe a friend to keep her for a night or two before you take her to the pound?’ I asked her, ‘This is not a common stray, this is a family dog. Someone is gonna be missing this little dog and come looking for her,’ I told her.”

My sudden joy faded quickly at the thought of Cindy being taken to the pound.

“She just said she could not, and left with your dog.” He paused a moment. Robyn and I stood silently, not sure if he had more to add to the story or if that was the end of it. “I did get her to leave her number though.” Both of us sighed, having unknowingly held our breath throughout the silence. “Yeah…I got it just before she walked out the door. Almost forgot. Here you go, she said her name was Paige.”

My wife grabbed the yellow sticky note with Paige’s number and headed to the car, while I thanked Peter for his help. Things were looking bright again.

“Anything?” I asked climbing into the car.

“No, just a voicemail.”

“Did you leave a message?”

“Of course, I did.” I could sense frustration in her tone. “I texted her, too. And no reply yet.”

“She is probably still in church. I am sure she will call first chance she gets.” My wife just grunted.

An hour later, Paige’s first text came in apologizing for not getting back sooner, but she was in church. And then came the rest of her text explaining that she had picked up Cindy wondering on 48th and Tecumseh (which is not quite a mile south from our house). She could not keep Cindy overnight, because of where she lived. So she returned to the area where she found her, and began looking for anyone wondering around searching for a lost dog. At this point, a random lady in a black SUV stopped and told her that she knew the owner of the dog and would return the dog to its owner.  She took your dog. “I am so sorry,” she texted, “I did not know that the lady was being dishonest. She headed south on 48th Ave (in the opposite direction of our house).

“Did you get a name, a telephone number, a license plate or anything?”

“No. I just did not think to ask.”

“Was the dog wearing a white collar with orange trim?”

No Answer.

“Was the lady in the black SUV hispanic?” (Robyn and the kids had seen a hispanic woman at the sports complex with two maltipoo’s of her own, and our daughter had actually seen Cindy jump into her black SUV on one occasion several week’s earlier. So it was a fair question).

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Can you describe the SUV?”

No Answer.

“Can you describe the lady?”

No Answer.

“Do you have any other information that might help us find our dog?”

No Answer.

The rest of the day was spent pinning up posters of Cindy Lou all over the sports complex and at the local gas stations and markets, telling people that Cindy was last seen being picked up by a lady in a black SUV. I contacted every coach that uses the facility and told them to tell their teams about Cindy and the black SUV. All of the coaches gladly agreed to help. Everyone that comes to the sports complex knows and loves Cindy, and all the kids love her, so I was hoping they would help spread the word and keep their eyes open. Robyn continued to try and contact Paige, but to no avail. Her phone suddenly went to voicemail and all of our text messages went unanswered. I have to admit, that at this point, I began to doubt again. In my simple mind, I could not figure out how we would ever see our little dog again, and I wondered how scared she must be, knowing that someone had suddenly ripped her away from her family and turned her world upside down.

Our children did not take the news of their missing dog very well. We did our best to reassure them that Cindy had not been eaten by a coyote. She was alive and we still had a good chance of finding her. I am not sure how convincing I was. I had already started to give up hope again. To help get our minds off of it, we decided to go rent a movie. It was already getting dark when we sat in the Hastings parking lot and Robyn decided to give Paige one last call, only to receive her voicemail again. “What kind of person stops responding to us, when they are the last one to have actually had hands on our dog?” I wondered.

“Can you please, please call me back. I need to get some more information about the lady in the black SUV. We think we know who has Cindy, and we think we can get her back, but we need to get a little more information from you. Can you please, please call me?” My wife could not hide the desperation in her plea.

Upon returning home, someone on Facebook suggested we try Find My Fido.com on Facebook. So she tried it. As she scrolled down, a picture caught my daughter’s eye.

“Stop, Mom! Scroll back up! That’s a picture of Cindy!”

It was hard to tell since the picture was taken so close to the dog’s face. But it did resemble Cindy with her long messy hair.

“I think it’s her,” I agreed, grabbing any hope that I could cling to. The poor dog looked sad and confused behind the bars of the kennel.

The caption read:

This Maltese mix is a female. Estimated at 2yrs. old. She was turned in to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter about an hour ago. For any information, please contact the OKC Animal Shelter.

Robyn called the shelter, but they were closed. The OKC Police dispatcher took her call and said that people claiming dogs have to come in at Noon the following day, no sooner. After a torturous night of sleep and a slow moving Monday morning, we made the drive to the Oklahoma City Shelter, despite the fact that we live in Norman, and have to drive through the City of Moore, in order to get to the OKC Shelter which is about 20 miles north of us, and the only shelter with an after hours night drop.

When the animal shelter says that you can claim a dog at 12 noon, they mean exactly 12 noon and not a minute earlier. Only one member of the family can go inside where the lost dogs are located, and they must be escorted by a security guard. Robyn volunteered to be that one person. Moments later, the kids and I rejoiced when we heard her scream echoing down the hall, “Cindy! It’s you! We found you, Cindy!” Tears of joy streamed down her cheeks as she carried Cindy toward us, and the kids jumped up and down, running to greet  our little Cindy Lou.

“Can I get the name of the person that turned in Cindy. If it is who I think it is, I would like to file a police report.”

“I cannot give that information out.”

“How about if I give you a name, and if it matches the one in your records? Cn you file a police report?”

“Let me pull up the report,” he said and began typing. “Your dog was brought in after hours at the night drop. Says she was found on 48th Ave. Says the man that brought her in walked out the door before the volunteer could ask him any more questions.”

I may never find out the whole story behind Cindy Lou’s little adventure or how close she really was to being gone forever, but I know that, now, Cindy Lou is a safe at home with her family that loves her dearly. She paws at my legs every time I walk in the door, and rolls on her back for me to scratch her belly when I bend down to pet her. She chases me all day long on the tractor when it is warm enough to work outside, and she sits on my lap when I take my breaks.

“Thank you, Jesus,” I say as I watch her chasing my children. “I can’t believe…”

“I walked on water, Shane.”

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Top 10 Moments at the 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships

The NCAA Wrestling Championship is a traveling Mecca for the followers of this great sport.  Every year thousands of wrestling fans make the journey from all across our nation to watch this pinnacle event that pits the best of the best against each other in a battle to earn the honor of being called an All-American, or even a National Champion. But for us fans, the NCAA Wrestling tournament is more than just a competition. It is a place and a time where the rest of the world is put on hold, and we gather to greet old friends, old team mates, and even old rivals. We tell stories of epic battles, great victories, and great defeats. Whether we wrestled in the tournament at one time, or just wrestled a few matches in little league, there is a common bond among the pilgrims of this great event, a shared passion for a sport that we love.

This year’s championship did not dissapoint. Like all the NCAA tournaments  in which I have attended or participated, it was filled with great moments. These are the the top ten moments for me. Feel free to agree, disagree, or even post some of your own favorite moments (I am sure I missed a few).

10.  USA vs. India. As I mentioned earlier, the NCAA’s is more than a tournament. During one of the intermissions, we were able to watch a free event held across the street at the Fanfest, between Team USA and Team India. What more can a wrestling fan ask for than to watch Olympic and World Team hopefuls wrestle in an international match. Also, Team USA came out victorious.

9.  California Boys. It is a special honor, not to mention a difficult task to make the championship finals. It was also quite special to those of us from California (even though we don’t all still live there) to watch two California natives battle it out for the 125 pound national title. Congrats to 2x national champion Jesse Delgado, University of Illinois by way of Gilroy, California. And 2x All-American, Nahshon Garrett of Cornell University by way of Chico, California. The most exciting part about this California match-up? They both return next year!

All California Final at 125lbs.

All California Final at 125lbs.

8. 7th time’s a charm. Although there were several amazing upsets in this tournament, being an alumni from the University of Oklahoma, I am little biased toward this young Sooner, especially since his upset victory came against an Oklahoma State Cowboy.  Thirteenth ranked 133 pounder, Cody Brewer of the Sooners, faced  fourth ranked Johnathan Morrison of the Cowboys in the second round of the tournament for the seventh time this season. In the six previous meetings, Morrison had handed Brewer six decisive losses. But in their seventh meeting, Cody Brewer would jump to a 6-3 lead before pinning Morrison in a cradle during the first period before thousands of cheering Sooner fans, and even more shocked Cowboy fans. When Brewer was asked what the difference was between this match and the previous six: “A slight change in attitude”.

7. Calvary Chapel High School Represented. In high school I was blessed with the opportunity to wrestle for a small Christian school known for their love of Christ and their dominance in the sport wrestling in Southern California. Midway through the semi-finals, during a commercial break (since the semi’s were covered live by ESPN for the first time in history), two of the four wrestlers bounced around in their t-shirts to try to stay warm until the start of their match. The Minnesota wrestler, Dylan Ness turned around and I noticed that he wore a shirt which read: “Calvary Chapel Wrestling Camp”. I texted my friend, who happens to be the current head coach at Calvary Chapel to confirm what I though I had seen. His response “Yes! #represented!” But that was not the only representation for my alma mater. Penn State 197 pounder, Morgan McIntosh, brought home All-American honors, placing seventh and becoming the first All-American from Calvary Chapel High School in over a decade.

6.  The Giant Upset. With the race for the team title still within reach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, they placed their most accomplished wrestler on the mat to defend his two national titles at Heavyweight. Senior Tony Nelson seemed to be a shoe-in to repeat as champion for an unprecedented third time. That is, to everyone except  Hwt. Sophomore, Nick Gwiazdowski, from North Carolina State University. With eleven seconds left in the match, Gwiazdowski got a takedown, sending Tony Nelson home with only his eighth loss of his collegiate career, and wiping away any lingering hopes that Minnesota would overtake Penn State in their run for a fourth consecutive team title.

The Giant Slayer

The Giant Slayer

5.  Fine Dining. It is a special feeling to sit next to your son while watching the NCAA Championships. The feeling you get as you listen to him yell and cheer for favorite wrestlers that he has picked out himself, for some reason or another, is quite joyful. (Even though he cheered plenty for the OU wrestlers, for the record, his favorite seemed to be 125 lb. champion Jesse Delgado). But, in case that experience alone was not enough, my eight year old son got the honor of joining Olympic Coach and Gold medalist, Brandon Slay, as well as Olympic hopefuls, Dustin Kilgore and John Reader for dinner. I am not so sure he comprehended the magnatude of this experience, but his dad sure did.

4. J’Den Cox. Only thirteen true freshman have ever won the NCAA Championship and J’Den Cox of Missouri is now the fourteenth. As rare as it is for a true freshman to win the NCAA championship, the weight class in which he did it, 197lbs., is usually reserved for upper classmen due to the fact that this weight boasts the strongest, most beastly of all the wrestlers. The majority of competitors in this weight category could have a second career in body building.  Looking at Cox, it is hard to believe this young man isn’t playing middle linebacker for Ohio State or Oklahoma, for that matter. In reality, he probably could have been. But the wrestling world is a better place because this young star chose to wrestle. In three years, look for him to join an even more exclusive group of wrestlers when goes for a fourth title.

J'Den Cox. Need I say more?

J’Den Cox. Need I say more?

3. Old Timer. I am ashamed that I cannot recall the name of this person. Maybe one of those wrestling guru’s can give me his name, since I have not had any luck with my research on the internet. The Most Outstanding Wrestler Award went to 165 champion, David Taylor of Penn State, as most people expected. But just as impressive as Taylor’s performance on the mat was the fact that the man that had walked onto the mat of his own accord to present him with the award  was the oldest living NCAA champion, a three-time champion, and ninety-seven years old. No, that is not a typo. Nothing like seeing two legends in their own right embracing at center mat.

2. All heart. A lot of NCAA wrestling championship matches are won in overtime. At every level of our wrestling training, our coaches yell at us to “dig deep” when it gets tough, when you’re tired. Training for overtime is common practice in the wrestling room, because winning in overtime is one of the greatest challenges a wrestler will ever face. Redshirt Freshman Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern University pulled off an overtime victory in the championship finals at 149 lbs. to defeat Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State. But the most impressive thing about this feat was the fact that he had overcome defending national champion, Kendric Maple, of Oklahoma, in overtime to make it out of the quarter finals and he had defeated top seeded Drake Houdashelt of Mizzou in overtime to get out of the semi-finals. Three wins in overtime at the NCAA championship, including the finals, shows me that this kid has heart.

Jason Tsirtsis after one of his overtime victories. It's a tough sport. Sometimes we bleed.

Jason Tsirtsis after one of his overtime victories. It’s a tough sport. Sometimes we bleed.

1.  #proveit. I’m sure most of you have seen the Coke Zero add on TV challenging people to prove that they are the “Ultimate fan”. The Coke Zero Twitter account boasts the hashtag #proveit and asks: “Are you a real fan and not just some bandwagoner? How will you prove it?” The site goes on to solicit pictures of people proving their worthiness of being named the “Ultimate Fan” and having their picture placed on the Coke Zero Facebook page. I don’t have a picture, Coke Zero, but I have your winner. About halfway through the championship finals, during a commercial break, Sandy Stevens, the voice of wrestling, wanted to honor the dedicated fans of wrestling. “If you have attended 25 or more NCAA Wrestling Championships,  I want to stand up so we can honor you,” she said. A decent amount of gray haired people stood up to the clapping of the crowd. “If you have been to 30 or more NCAA Wrestling Championships, please remain standing.” Several people sat down, yet several still remained. “If you have been to forty NCAA Wrestling Championships, please remain standing.” The numbers started to thin rapidly, but I was amazed that a handful of old men remained on their feet. “If you have been to forty-five NCAA wrestling Championships, please stand.” To my surprise about five men still stood proudly to the applause of their fellow fans. At fifty championships, only two-men stood before the crowd that started to hoot and holler. At fifty-five NCAA Championships, the little gray haired man sitting a few aisles down from me took a seat while those around him reached out to shake his hand. But on the giant display screen above the arena, the camera man had found that one man was still standing. The crowd roared as his image was displayed for all to see. “If you have attended Sixty NCAA Wrestling Championships, please remain standing.” The old man with a full head of gray hair and a thick grey mustache stayed upon his feet clutching his pencil in one hand and his tournament bracket in the other. The crowd roared, and I looked to the anouncer’s table to see the ESPN guy tapping Sandy Stevens on the shoulder impatiently alerting her that the TV timeout had long ended. But Sandy Stevens understood the gravity of the moment just as much as all of us 16,000 plus fans. “If you have attended 65 NCAA Wrestling Championships, please remain standing,” she asked yet again. Once more, the man remained upon his feet. Coke Zero, there’s your Ultimate Fan! #provedit.

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