Archive | July 2014

#AmReading Summer 2014


I love to read. Always have, as long as they make glasses strong enough to correct my vision, I expect I always will. At the beginning of each summer I go on a book spree. I pick a book store, or book section of a store I frequent (Target is a favorite), and buy every single book I find interesting. Or at least the top 10 or so. I try to stay away from books I’ve heard much about, tend to allow the titles, cover graphics, and back blurbs draw me in.

Once I get my purchase home, I’m like a kid at Christmas – sorting the books by size, re-reading the jacket cover blurbs, prioritizing the order in which I will read the new stack. This is how I discovered Shelter Me, by Juliette Fay. The story was refreshing. Janie became a real person within the first few pages. A widow, a mother, and eventually a woman finding her next chapter – this was someone I could identify with. I was impressed with the way Juliette incorporated the children into the story. They were not simply there to fill space. They were part of Janie, infiltrated into every aspect of her life. Real. I enjoyed the story and was sorry when it ended.

Jump to a month ago, BookQuest 2014. My intention was slightly different this year.  In the midst of writing my own first novel, I am hungry to read more of what has inspired me thus far. Looking back at my favorites from last year, I searched for anything new from Amy Sue Nathan (The Glass Wives), Kimberley Freeman (Wildflower Hill), Juliette Fay (Shelter Me), Vanessa Diffenbaugh (The Language of Flowers), or Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters).

I was thrilled to find Deep Down True and The Shortest Way Home, both by Juliette Fay. So they are not brand new, better I find these late than never. Partially through Deep Down True, I have not been disappointed. I’m again impressed with the use of the children to bring the story to life. ‘Dana’ just wouldn’t be a real person if not fully developed as a mother. Another trend I notice in Juliette’s writing style is her use of plot twists. There are many instances I find myself holding my breath, expecting to have the rug pulled out from under the latest revealed truth. But the twist ends up being that there is no twist, face value is true. When so many novels these days appear to be written simply to incorporate as many plot twists as the author can squeeze in, whether they advance the story or not, I appreciate this straight forward style.  I look forward to diving into The Shortest Way Home as well, although I’m sure I’ll need a few extra days to let go of Dana and her crew once I reach the end of her story.

I have this crazy habit of extrapolating a particularly good book – allowing the characters to live on for a while after I finish the last page. Imagining what happened after the last word was written, was it really happily ever after, etc. Do you ever do this?

I have a question thought, for anyone else who may have read Deep Down True. There is one sentence in chapter 23 that is bugging me. Completely no big deal, but it keeps coming back to me. Dana and Tina are wrapping up a very uncomfortable phone conversation when Tina says, “The nurse is waiting. Bye.” …and the call ended. What nurse?? What did I miss? Any insight? Please clue me in!

What are you reading this summer? Do your reading tastes change with the season? Leave comments, let me know!

 

 

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That Last Day


I have thought about that day a lot lately. I don’t remember much. I got up, went to work at a job I loved, in a new city I had worked long and hard to get to. Did my work, drove home. I probably had dinner and went to sleep. I wish I could remember more about it, but I don’t think there is much more to know.

The memorable thing happened the next day. The morning I woke up doubled over in pain, could not stand up straight, hemorrhaging, was diagnosed with cancer. There are details of that day I cannot stomach to recall. And many of the days to follow were worse. I am still standing four years later, but my body, and life, has been irreparably damaged. I will never return to that, or any job. I had to leave the city I loved so much, with its warm climate and white beaches. I will forever more have to search for a new, altered, sense of normal.

But I do not want to think about that day. I want to think about the day before. I the last day I had…. the last day I had. I want to think about the drive into work that morning. Was the sun rising over the cityscape as it often did? Were there dolphins in the bay? What did I have for lunch? Who did I chat with? Did I make any significant decisions on the job that day? Was there traffic on the way home? Did I leave my coffee cup on my desk? Did I rinse it? What did I have for dinner? Watch on TV? Read?

Why didn’t I pay attention to any of these things?

What would I have done differently if I had known what was coming the next day? Stayed an hour later at work? Called in sick and sat in my house memorizing everything as it was? Spent the evening sitting on the beach, watch the sun set one last time? What would I have done to soak up that last second of regular out of my life? Could I have appreciated the minutes ticking by?

If you knew this was the last day of your life as you know it, that everything in your world would change tomorrow, how would you spend today?

Fair Trade Friday…Please Check This Out!


Fair Trade Friday Club

Fair Trade Friday Club

We live in an age of information overload. No denying that. The world wide web has placed the global neighborhood at our fingertips, 24/7. With so much information coming at us in such a rapid-fire manor, and so much of it negative, it is easy to become completely jaded and cynical. This happens as a type of defense mechanism, protecting us from emotional overload.

I make this statement assuming it happens to all of us. I certainly have noticed this unsavory trend in myself.

So when something does reach off the page and grab my attention, and my heart, I pay attention. That’s how I came upon Fair Trade Friday. An email notification of a new post to another blog I follow (WeAreThatFamily) led me to a link to a story about empowering women around the world to earn an income for their family by providing a platform to sell their unique hand crafted items. I love this concept! I followed the link and read the story, and became more excited the more I learned. Additional sources of information on this wonderful idea can be found at FairTradeFridayClub, and via Twitter @FTFClub.

So what is it all about? Once you subscribe, you will receive a box in the mail each month, containing three to four hand crafted products. Imagine jewelry, scarves, purses and totes – just to name a few. You can purchase one box, just to give it a try, there is an option to prepay several months in advance, or you can join the monthly club and be billed each month… for as long as you care to continue to receive these wonderful handcrafted items.

Each time you use or wear one of these items, you will know you have allowed a mother to take care of her family. Isn’t that all we all really want to do? To take care of our families?

Many folks have strong feelings about assisting our global neighbors when there is so much need here at home. I will save that conversation for another post, but ask you to just check this out. From there, follow your heart!

Writing My First Novel, Characters Come To Life


I am writing my first novel. Everything I read says your first novel is your throw away. That it will be no good but must be written to clear the way for future quality books.

If nine out of ten published authors say this is true, it likely is true. I am sure every new author thinks he or she will be the exception to that rule. But gosh, I hope I’m the exception to that rule!

I really like my story. I’ve had this story in my head for some time. I hope others will have the opportunity to read it and enjoy it, but most importantly, I need to write it. It simply won’t leave me alone until I do.

I’m early in the process of getting the first draft on paper, just recently hitting the milestone of the first 10,000 words, but have noticed a phenomenon that is just so much fun! When I sit down to write each day I usually have a particular scene in mind, some part of scenario or dialog already in my head. I begin writing with the purpose of bringing the story from the current point A to the next point B.

But as I am beginning to know my characters very well, they seem to be taking control, directing the story on their own. At times I feel as though I am simply following them around, transcribing their every action and word onto the paper. This is creating more work for me since I sometimes have to go back and adjust previous scenes and back stories to make the current events work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My characters seem to have come to life, and have grown into folks I really like, or really like to dislike! This is making this process so enjoyable, many days I just can’t wait to sit down to the keyboard to find out what happens next. Hopefully one day readers will feel the same way!

The Four Agreements


This post is originally from the blog ‘365 Days of Thank You’. I love this book and think it’s something everyone should read, at least once. Thanks for writing this and allowing me to repost and share. Thanks Kelly!

365 Days of Thank You

When I was going through training to become a certified empowerment coach we had a whole host of required reading to do.  One of the books that I found most memorable and practical was The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Each of the four agreements on its own seems like good, common sense advice for anyone.  I’m sure that the trainers working with us chose this book for something far more than common sense.  For me it’s something that I go back to regularly, especially when I struggle to make sense of things in my workplace.

Today I want to thank my coach trainers for the choices they made to prepare us to be effective life coaches.  If you haven’t read the book, give it try!

four agreements

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Healing Power of Meditation


 

Visual Aid for Meditation

The Healing Power of Meditation With Visualization

 

This picture jumped off the page and spoke to me as I was scanning through a page of ‘inspirational pictures’ (thanks Pinterest!) The first things I noticed, or felt, as I looked at this picture was the calm and peace of the natural setting. As that feeling settled in, a sense of awe began to grow at the ability of nature to create such a beautiful place. As I continued to look at this picture, I began to feel the power behind it. The raw force simmering just under the surface, just beyond reach.

All of these thoughts and feelings rolled through me quickly, all within seconds of seeing the photo for the first time. I immediately knew this would be the visual aid I would use for healing meditation, until the next inspiring picture took its place.

How To Use A Visual Aid in Meditation for Healing

As with all forms of meditation, remove your shoes. Make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes, preferably something loose, non-binding. Lie down on the bed or floor, or sit in a comfortable but secure chair. Your goal is to be comfortable, to sit or lay straight and tall, allowing you to gently expand your core (trunk, torso, chest and abdomen, whatever you want to call that part of your body.)

Place the photo on a table, tray, stack of books, whatever is needed to bring it into your field of vision when resting comfortably in your normal meditation posture. If you lay down to meditate, you may consider having the picture blown up and taping it to the ceiling so you can easily view it while lying on your back.

Begin your breathing exercise. Once in a gentle, regulated rhythm, shift your focus to the photo. Allow the feelings the picture first evoked to begin to wash over you. Feel the calm. Feel the strength and power. If stray thoughts begin to creep into your mind, close your eyes for a moment and concentrate on your breathing again. Once your mind is again still and quiet, open your eyes and allow yourself to feel the emotion of the photo. Allow the feeling to wash over you. Imagine it as a tingling warm sensation, glowing gently in your center. Envision it slowly growing, spreading to your arms and legs, rolling gently until it reaches your finger tips and toes.

Next, focus on the area of your body in need of healing. Someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis might envision the warmth entering the effected joints, imagine the power of it healing the joint, reducing the swelling, restoring range of motion, straightening the bones. If you are seeking relief from depression you might visualize the energy rising to your head, gently rolling around in your brain like a thick fog then slowly turning to a white vapor, then disappearing all together – taking the feelings of depression with it. When I do this exercise, I imagine the energy attacking cancerous tumors. I picture it working like a laser, blasting each bad cell. I can almost feel the pop and sizzle as each diseased cell is destroyed.

Focus the energy on whatever needs healing. Don’t think about it too much, don’t pre-plan the scenario. Just let it play out once the process has begun.

You will know when the session is over. Slowly pull yourself back to the present. Gently stretch each limb and take your time rising from your meditation position. Last thing you want to do is rise too quickly and take a tumble.

Healing meditation should not take the place of your normal meditation routine, nor should it replace any medical treatment from your doctor. This should be added to enhance the wellness practices you already have in place.

As with all meditation, the goal is to reach a state of relaxation to allow a significant mind/body connection. There is no absolute right or wrong way to do any of this, so feel free to adapt the process to whatever best meets your needs.

Happy meditating!

Ten Items to Include in Your Hurricane Preparedness Kit


The Atlantic Hurricane season officially starts June 1st of each year and runs through November 30th. But that does not mean that one cannot surprise us and form prior to June 1st. Do not wait until the last minute to prepare. Living the majority of my life on the coast of either the Chesapeake Bay or Atlantic Ocean, I have finally perfected my Hurricane Preparedness Kit, mostly by trial and error, but also with input from the Red Cross. Please use the guidelines below to create your own kit.

Before we begin, please know…

The MOST important item in your Hurricane Preparedness Kit is a good evacuation plan!!!

Having made that clear, your Preparedness Kit will be necessary to take with you if you do need to evacuate, or to keep you and your family comfortably at home if conditions cause you to be without power or water for a period of time.

To construct your preparedness kit, start by selecting a proper container. It should be water tight, large enough to hold all items, but lightweight enough that you can move or carry it if necessary. Next, create an inventory card. This should be laminated or kept in a zip lock plastic baggy. Your Inventory Card should be kept visible at all times and should list all items in the kit.

Your Hurricane Preparedness Kit must contain:

1. Evacuation Plan. This includes a map with multiple routes highlighted, a full tank of gas, and cash. (the gasoline will obviously be in your vehicle gas tank, not in your preparedness kit!) If power is out, ATMs, gas pumps, or any other ‘check out’ device that would normally scan your card will also be down. In an emergency, cash is king.

2. First Aid Kit. This should include absorbent compress dressings/4×4 gauze squares, assorted band aids, cloth tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes/alcohol pads, Tylenol, breathing barrier, instant cold pack, non-latex rubber gloves, hydrocortisone ointment, scissors, three elastic bandages of assorted sizes, oral thermometer, two triangular bandages/slings, tweezers, and a First Aid instruction book.

3. Water. A good rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, and to keep at least a seven day supply on hand. Don’t forget to include pets in the count.

4. Food. Include items that have a long shelf life and are easily prepared/can be eaten without cooking. Remember to look for pop-tops on canned food or to include a hand turned can opener. Also include pet food.

5. Medications. This should be a seven day supply of any prescription and/or over the counter drugs taken regularly.

6. Battery operated radio and flashlights, and extra batteries.

7. Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, female products, diapers and wipes for babies, etc.)

8. Copies of personal documents sealed in a zip lock bag, inside two to be safe. This should include birth certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses, and/or other ID cards, health insurance cards, life insurance papers, lease or mortgage papers, medication list, pertinent medical information and doctor contact list, proof of address, etc.).

9. Cell phones and chargers.

10. Bedding and clothing. A pillow, blanket, and two changes of clothes for each family member. Space Bags are great for storing these. Place all items inside bag, zip closed and remove excess air with your household vacuum. The bag will now lay nearly flat and can be placed in the bottom of your preparedness kit.

Now that you have gathered your supplies and created your preparedness kit, it is important to get in the habit of reviewing the contents a couple times a year (going down your inventory card will be helpful) and rotating the supplies as needed. Remember to change out water, make sure food items are still good and in good condition, clothes still fit, and so on.

Notes:

1) This list contains the absolute basic necessities. Please add anything additional needed by you or your family members.

2) Although we are labeling this a ‘Hurricane’ preparedness kit for the purpose of this article, this is a basic survival kit and should be kept on hand by every household, regardless of location. Rename it your Blizzard Survival Kit, or your Blackout Preparedness kit, or whatever may best fit the unforeseen situations that are possible where you live. The important thing is to be prepared.

3) I have recently added two blue plastic tarps and several rolls of duct tape, and a hammer and several assorted screwdrivers and pliers to my personal kit.