01 November 2013

Hello, NaNoWriMo….

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The goal? 50,000 words in 30 days.

Am I crazy for doing this? Abso-freaking-lutely. And yet, every year, I willingly and intentionally subject myself to the insanity. It's time to dive in again, people. It might even get a little ugly.

Why, yes. This is a lovely NaNo badge, is it not?

Clearly, blogging and I have taken some time apart after the A to Z Challenge. Maybe documenting my NaNo experiences will help me get back on track? We'll see…

Here are two links about keeping yourself on track, if you decide you want to venture into the wild realm of NaNo:

Abby Annis wrote a great article and is sharing an awesome spreadsheet.
Over at The Writing Cafe, discussion is about avoiding some of those distractions, like the internet.

Happy writing!

01 October 2013

Book Release: Dakota Captive

Today is a very exciting day for author Alythia Brown. Her new book, Dakota Captive, is being released. I had the pleasure (although she may tell a different story, ha) of working with her as her editor for this book. In other words, yes. I am totally biased about how awesome this book is. (Hey, at least I'm honest about it!)

Dakota Captive is the first book in a trilogy. To give you an idea about the storyline, read the blurb below. In the meantime, allow me to explain to you why this is such an awesome story and why you need to go buy it as soon as you're done reading this blog. The story line is rich with vivid descriptions of both people and places. From the moment you first meet the Earth Spirits, you're captivated by who they are - their distinct personalities find a place within your heart quickly. Charli is thrown one curve after another and she handles each one with the combination of vulnerability and strength that comes from being a strong-willed and independent teenager. When she finds herself falling for the one man she shouldn't after trying to nurse a broken heart from the ex-boyfriend who just won't quite give up the fight for her, she does the only thing she can: survive all the chaos and find her way.

The process of working with Alythia to uncover the polish and shine of this amazing gem was truly enjoyable. She was enthusiastic, receptive to observations and suggestions, and most importantly, determined to present this book in the greatest shape she could. Go. Buy. This. Book.

Book Blurb
When the evil spirit of Jumlin returns with his army of Offspring, the Earth Spirits are summoned to protect the Lakota. Unbeknownst to Charli, these Earth Spirits are a sacred secret. So she probably shouldn’t have spied from behind a rock when they shifted from their animal forms, she shouldn’t have taken pictures, and she definitely shouldn’t have gotten caught. Now a hostile prisoner, Charli is forced to walk a long journey to reach the one man who can erase the knowledge of the Earth Spirits' existence from her mind.

Naturally, Charli thinks all she needs to do is keep her big mouth shut, get her memory erased, and go home. But Jumlin’s Offspring are stalking her. Since no one can explain this unusual behavior, it becomes imperative to enter the Other World--a place where the Lakota have lived traditionally and without foreign oppression (but not without menacing dragons). Aside from being kidnapped, whisked away to a foreign world, hunted, and forced to live amongst strangers, Charli must come to terms with a new nuisance: she's falling for one of her abductors.

Meet the Author
Alythia Brown was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she now lives with her husband and their three small children. She found her inspiration to write Dakota Captive after traveling to North Dakota to return an authentic peace pipe to the Lakota Natives. The artifact had been picked up after the Massacre of Wounded Knee in 1890, and eventually ended up in the hands of one of her ancestors—who, in turn, told everyone it was a wagon spoke. Alythia is the author of two short stories, published in the Mertales anthology, and she aspires to publish many more books for children, teens, and young adults.

You can find Alythia at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@alyconnorbrown). If you'd like to learn more about her other books, you can go here.

Finally, here is the link to the first stop in her book release blog tour. Go check it out!

30 September 2013

Mindfulness Monday: 7 Pillars of Mindfulness

Today's Mindfulness topic is the 7 Pillars of Mindfulness.

In his book, Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn introduces us to the 7 Pillars of Mindfulness, which are foundations of a sort for developing a mindful practice. Some people refer to them as the 7 Attitudinal Factors for a Mindfulness Practice.

The Pillars are:
1. Non-judgment                              2. Patience                              3. Beginner's mind
4. Trust                                           5. Non-striving                         6. Acceptance
7. Letting go

The first, non-judgment, is (in my opinion) the biggest hurdle for most people. The idea behind non-judgment is to be impartial to your own thoughts and feelings. It's hard! Our minds are so used to categorizing and labeling and judging (good, bad, blah, etc.) that it feels almost impossible to be impartial. In mindfulness, the goal is to observe the thoughts without judging them or acting on them, and then return our focus to our breath.

Patience is mostly understanding that we can't rush things. Some things have to unfold in their own way and in their own time. Sometimes we just have to wait. In an age of instant gratification, most of you are thinking, "Seriously? I don't have time to wait....!" Take a breath, and allow things to play out.

Beginner's mind is actually one of my favorite pillars. We get into trouble when we allow our thoughts and beliefs about what "we know" to prevent us from seeing fresh options and possibilities. I bet most of you can think of a time when you took a harder road than maybe you needed to, all because you couldn't see that shortcut right in front of you. With beginner's mind, you try to see things as if you were seeing them for the first time, fresh and shiny and new. It means letting go of expectations created by past experiences.

With the pillar of trust, we're allowing ourselves to trust who we are, our experiences, our feelings, and our intuition. We've all had that little voice that said, ummmm, maybe I shouldn't do this... and then we do it anyway. And we regret it! Honor that little voice, especially if it's telling you to think something through before doing it.

Non-striving is an interesting pillar, especially for those of us raised in a Western society. We're always working towards the next thing, right? Well, in mindfulness, especially mindfulness meditation, we're not doing anything but paying attention to the experience. With non-striving, we're not forcing or pushing for a result. Non-striving allows us to enjoy the moment to moment.

Acceptance. The best summation for this one is the saying, "It is what it is." Acceptance means seeing and coming to terms with things as they are right now, in this moment. Mindfulness says that suffering is when we fight the things we cannot change; we waste a lot of time and energy fighting and denying facts, by trying to make things be the way we want them to be. Acceptance gives us the chance to be open to what we're thinking, feelng, or seeing, and accepting that experience because it's what is happening right now.

The final pillar is letting go. The idea behind this one is that we tend to hold on to the things we like or are pleasant while rejecting the things we don't like. Instead, the aim of this pillar is to try to neither hold onto nor reject our experiences; we should just acknowledge them.

05 July 2013

FAF: Traveling again!

I'm sitting at gate B-70 at Dulles International Airport, waiting for time to speed up so I can board my flight.

Today, I am *that* passenger. You know the one - sniffly, coughing, the "oh please don't get me sick" passenger. I am not contagious. That was days ago. No, I am in the lingering phase of mild congestion and coughing that just will not go away. I have done Zicam, water, tissues, echinacea, cold medicine, steam, and sleep. Still it lingers!

I suddenly have such sympathy for past *those* passengers. Perhaps I could have been more compassionate? Perhaps I could have suppressed the murderous glares? Now I am receiving them.

It's truly a pity that we aren't able to extend greater kindnesses to our fellow traveling companions. We don't know their stories - hell, that's half the fun (cause then you can make up stories in your head about the people sitting around you). Would it kill us to spare a little goodwill?

I won't get you sick, fellow passengers, I assure you. So stop looking at me like that, I can't help the cough.

03 July 2013

Writing Wednesday: Commas

Commas seem to be horribly misunderstood, overused, underused, and/or outright ignored. This is mostly a tragedy because the comma, when properly used, does wonders!

Commas separate the elements in a series of things (when the series includes three or more items), including the last two. Ex: I bought eggs, milk, bread, and cheese at the store today.

A comma combined with a little conjunction (and, but, or, for, so, yet, nor) will connect two independent clauses (that is a lesson for another day). Ex: I brought a notebook for class, but I left my highlighter at home.

A comma can be used between two adjectives when the conjunction "and" could be used between them. Ex: My cat has a shiny, black coat.       You would not use it here: She bought an expensive cotton yarn.  (You wouldn't say she bought an expensive and cotton yarn, because you're conveying that that cotton yarn that was purchased was expensive. Make sense?)

These are just a three comma rules. There are more (of course there are) and there are great grammar websites out there that you can reference if you aren't sure. Some of the ones I check (yes, even I double check myself) are:

The Writing Center
Grammar Book
Guide to Grammar and Writing

Now, go and use commas properly!

01 July 2013

Magickal Monday: Litha

We haven't had a Magickal Monday yet, so hurrah! First Magical Monday is about Litha!

Litha is better known as the Summer Solstice. Some call it Midsummer, which is (in my opinion) a wholly ridiculous name since the Solstice marks the start of summer, not its middle. Anyway.

Litha marks the longest day of the year, when the sun shines the most for the whole year. It is directly across from Yule on the Wheel of the Year. It's the celebration of the union of the God and Goddess (and why June is *the* wedding month) and, in some Celtic traditions, it is the other time of the year when the Oak and Holly Kings battle for the throne. At Litha, the Oak King falls and it is the Holly King who reigns.

We celebrate fertility, life, fulfillment at Litha. It is a time of joy and celebration as we bask in the longest day of sunlight, the light of the Lord. It is also the last day of this before the gradual darkening as we move to fall and then winter.

Litha is also a time to honor the faerie folk. If it is your preference to work with these fine folk, Litha is the best time to honor them. You could set up an altar dedicated especially for them, with flowers and colorful, shiny things. Just remember that faerie folk are to be respected; they have a power all their own and shouldn't be taken lightly.

28 June 2013

FAF: Mercury Retrograde

Let us speak for a moment about Mercury Retrograde, shall we? Mercury went into retrograde on Wednesday, 26 June 2013. What does that mean? Rather than totally type it all out again, I refer you to John Marani's first post on the topic back in 2011. Suffice it to say, all kinds of communication goes sideways. Things do not happen as planned. People get screwed. Electronics die. It blows.

My brother John eloquently described Mercury Retrograde and its fuckery thus far, or at least how it has impacted him, J Sunny, and their beautiful Momo.

Allow me to share some of my joyful experiences. First, let me say that I was born with Mercury in retrograde in my natal chart. This means, typically, that I am not quite as impacted by the hell that is Mercury in retrograde. Typically.

Let me be clear. Mercury rules the sign of Gemini (my sign). I have the utmost respect and affection for Mercury. He can kick some serious ass when He goes into retrograde. You can't *not* respect that. Day one of Mercury Retrograde was not pretty. It was especially not pretty because I spent it at work, where we do nothing but communicate all. freaking. day. Half the staff couldn't access Outlook, which isn't good because we do a lot of coordinating with outside treatment providers via email. Phone calls got disconnected, group was chaotic, and staff ran around like chickens with our heads cut off as we tried to figure out WHAT THE FUCK was going on.

First we're scrambling to get a refill of a medication. We ask the treating psychiatrist to fax prescriptions to the pharmacy. Excellent, got that done. The pharmacy calls to get the insurance info. Fantastic, check that off. Then the client comes and says that she doesn't want the medication filled at our pharmacy, because she doesn't like the medication that comes from our pharmacy, because it doesn't work.

I'm sorry, say what now?

Yes, we actually had to call and have the refills cancelled. Then we had to call the psychiatrist back and explain the situation, so that the psychiatrist could call the refills in to the client's preferred pharmacy. That was like an hour of telephone tag and voice mails and cursing at the sound of the call being dropped.

Day one, people. Day one.


26 June 2013

Writing Wednesday: Moon


silvery white
      spilling over
blanket on the lawn

air fresh
       sweetened by earlier rain
tugs the few loose curls
dances over the skin

maiden moon

reigning over
          songs and revelry

21 June 2013

Free for All Friday: Birthdays, Sabbats, and more

Blessed Litha to you all! May this longest day illuminate the important things in your life and help you see where changes must occur.

So, as I mentioned in Wednesday's Writing post, it was also my birthday. YAY!

However, being the do-what-I-want-for-the-most-part kind of person I am, I have been celebrating more or less all week. Yup, a week long birthday celebration. Gotta love it.

Tuesday was the awesome Melissa Etheridge concert.

Wednesday was my actual birthday; I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and then enjoyed the Litha Ritual at 13 Magickal Moons.

Yesterday, I got to hang out with my sister, Riz, for a good chunk of the afternoon and then I had dinner with my mom at Travinia. That was a very yummy place.

Today, I am chillaxin' because it's Litha. I am enjoying the Lord's day and the sunshine and blue skies.

Tomorrow, friends are coming over for food and festivities to celebrate my birthday.

Not bad, I know!

All in all, 32 is looking to be a great year!

19 June 2013

Writing Wednesday: 4th Street Feeling

Today is my birthday!!! Last night, I went to Wolf Trap to see the always amazing Melissa Etheridge on concert. It was spectacular and I had a blast, but it definitely inspired some poetry. So here's a little taste of last night for you, titled after the song that inspired it.

4th Street Feeling
   the vibrations

in the ground
in the air
in my body

the thump
       resonating in
             my soul

the night sky
       open and wide
above my head

...eyes closed, head back
the sweet smell of summer….

sprawled on the blanket
     forgotten glass of wine
            to my right

eyes closed

lost in the music

10 June 2013

Mental Health Monday: Expressive Therapies

Today I want to talk about expressive therapies.

Some examples of expressive therapies are art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, and sand tray. However, pretty much any expressive activity can be used  - by a trained professional - in a therapeutic manner.

Art therapy can take the form of drawing, painting, creating collages, and working with clay. A subset might be arts and crafts (beading, knitting, painting bird houses, coloring pages, etc). Now, I'm not going to look at someone's drawing and say, "Oh, you used red, which symbolizes ______, so you must be feeling ______." Instead, I'd ask about the colors a person used and what they mean to the person. The whole point is for the person to get something out in a way that doesn't necessarily involve a lot of words.

Music therapy can be a lot of fun. I've done groups where we listen to a song and then talk about how it made people feel and what it brought up for them. 

Pretty much the only limit is a therapist's imagination. See? Therapy isn't necessarily all talking!

07 June 2013

Free for All Friday: Vanity

During the A to Z Challenge, I shared with you all my feelings about jewelry.

Mostly I think I expressed my affection for shiny things. Which is totally true, because I am almost as bad as a racoon or a magpie. Ooooh shiny. (An expression I loved in Firefly, by the way).

In order to really grasp the extent of my jewerly addiction and how vain I am, allow me to paint you a picture.

It's a nice, quiet evening at home. You've had your dinner, you've brushed your teeth. Tomorrow you return to work. Most people have a "night before work" routine - packing lunch, picking out clothes, grabbing a book for the commute. My mother, for example, still irons her clothes as part of her routine. Then she does something critical - she picks the jewelry that will go with her outfit.

Being me, I must be contrary. I pick my jewelry first. That's right, I go pawing through my drawers of jewelry until I find a set that I have decided MUST BE WORN. MUST, I tell you. Now that I've found THE SET for the next day, I start shoving hangers around in my closet until I find something that will work with it. Assbackwards, but it's my method. Besides, it ensures that I look fabulous(!) and it shows my excellent taste in bling.

What's your routine? 

05 June 2013

Writing Wednesday: Homonyms

Let's have a chat about homonyms, shall we?

According to Merriam-Webster, a homonym is:
                a : homophone [1: one of two or more words pronounced alike
                      but different in meaning or derivation or spelling (as the words to,
                      too, and two); 2: a character or group of characters pronounced the
                      same as another character or group]
                b : homograph [one of two or more words spelled alike but different in
                      meaning or derivation or pronunciation (as the bow of a ship, a bow
                      and arrow)]

                c : one of two or more words spelled and pronounced alike
                      but different in meaning (as the noun quail and the verb quail)
                   : namesake [one that has the same name as another; especially : one who
                     is named after another or for whom another is named]
                   : a taxonomic designation rejected as invalid because the identical
                     term has been used to designate another group of the same rank —
                     compare synonym
Allow us to focus on that first definition for a moment. Most people tend to struggle with the homophones, like:
            - bald vs balled vs bawled                                        - its vs it's
            - to vs two vs too                                                      - your vs you're
            - there vs their vs they're                                         - peak vs peek vs pique
There are all kinds of lists out there on the internet, people. Find them. Bookmark them. They are your friend. Love them. They will save you. They will also save your editor from smashing his/her head into his/her desk repeatedly out of frustration.

03 June 2013

Magickal Monday: The Broom Closet

So, Friday I talked about an interaction I had with someone whose response to my openness about being a witch was, well, less than stellar.

I genuinely do not expect everyone I meet to agree with me or like my path. I do believe, however, that they should respect that it's my choice, MY path. Sometimes they find out because they ask. I feel like you shouldn't ask the question if you may not like the answer, because I have better things to do with my time than be bombarded with someone else's negativity over disagreeing with my spiritual path. At the same time, I recognize that a lot of those gut, negative reactions are a product of a media that's portrayed witchcraft and witches with a lot of misconceptions (hello, The Witches, for starters. Which I loved, but that's besides the point.) So, this could be my opportunity to provide some education and clear up some of those... misunderstandings. Like, I really don't eat babies.

Too gristly and not enough flavor.

All joking aside, I am proud to be out of the broom closet.

The only place I am not out is work, whichis a function more of the psychotic processes of some of the clients than anything else. Sometimes it's just easier to change the topic than try to battle an entrenched delusional system. Just saying.

My path works for me. I don't ask you to walk it with me, but I do ask that you respect that it's my choice to walk it. Whatever path you are walking, if it's working for you, that's awesome! If it's not, I hope you find what you're seeking. We all deserve to find the path that brings us peace and contentment, that fulfills us.

Coming out of the broom closet is a big decision. Before taking the leap, take a look at your motivations for sharing. If it's about getting the annoying person to leave you alone or about the shock value, reconsider your choice. Those situations don't usually end well... On the other hand, if you have friends or family who are supportive or at least open to having a dialogue, fantastic! Be honest, but don't bash other religions as you're sharing why this path is right for you.

Some folks never really leave the closet. This is true for more reasons than I can list here, but the bottom line is that it's a personal decision that shouldn't be made lightly.

Bright blessings!

31 May 2013

Free for All Friday

Can we just have a WTF moment, please?

I joined some coworkers and friends for a happy hour to celebrate a coworker's promotion to another program. We go to this great place called San Antonio's (go, if you've never been cause it's tasty, tasty food).

We're having a great time, socializing and laughing. We talked about traveling abroad, dream travel destinations, and how sad we were that the coworker is leaving us. SNIFFLE!!!!

At some point, the conversation turned to astrology - my sign means this; oh, you're a this so you must be like this; that kind of thing. I mentioned that astrology is more than one's sun sign, that you have to take into consideration the rising sign, the moon sign, and the relationship among the planets and their position in the stars (see, John, I can talk mildly intelligently about the topic now!) and all that jazz.

A friend of the coworker's, whom I met for the first time last night, asked me if I was "into all that astrology stuff." I told her I like to learn, that I've learned a lot from my dear friend and brother who has studied astrology for nigh on forever and has been a tarot reader for 20 years. She had an odd expression on her face and just said "Oh." Then it came up that I am a practicing witch.

I kid you not, she put her hands up and said, "Oh, that's too much for me. No thanks."

Crazy stupid woman say what?

I let it go, because it was clearly not worth a discussion. Her nonverbals were SCREAMING "OMG OMG I'M AFEARED NOW." Yes, I just used "afeared." Deal.

It does sometimes still astonish me how closed-minded and reactive people can be about this topic. This was a fairly well educated person. And yet...

Like I said, a WTF moment.

Happy Friday?

WIP IT GOOD Blogfest

So, DL Hammons and Elise Fallson are co-hosting this particular blog hop adventure. The WIP IT GOOD Blogfest was inspired by Hammons' love for Devo and the classic 1980s hit, Whip it Good. In the case of the blogfest, however, it's WIP, as in Work In Progress. See? So clever!

Anyway, the idea is that all of us aspiring writers can band together and share our current WIPs with the blogosphere. Maybe, if we're lucky, we'll find a Critique Partner (partners who exchange material for detail critiques, usually chapter by chapter) or Beta Readers (test readers who read entire manuscripts and offer broad opinions).

So. Here goes nothing!

WIP Title: "Book" I know, that's pathetic. I'm horrible with titles, though. I didn't even name Pieces of the Soul, someone else did!

Word Count (projected/actual so far): 35,000 (so far), projected: ballpark of 75K-80K

Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal/Light Romance

How long have you been working on it?: Almost two years. I keep putting it aside and coming back to it.

Elevator Pitch (if you came across an agent in an elevator ride, what couple of lines would you use to summarize your book): A witch and former FBI agent comes home to start fresh only to find that her last case isn't done with her.

Brief Synopsis (250 words or less): Aradia is smart, and an extraordinarily gifted witch. She's returned home, to a town that was never all that welcoming to her unusual talents, after burning herself out at the FBI - and trusting her heart to the wrong man. Now, it looks like her last case has come back to haunt her. Her abilities are changing in unpredictable ways and the spark she's denied having for the sheriff could either break her or make her twice as strong. She has to rely on her witch's intuition, strong investigative skills, and the bond with her sisters to prove herself to the town, save her family, and save herself.

Are you looking for a Critique Partner?: Yes

Are you looking for a Beta Reader?: Yes

27 May 2013

Mental Health Monday: Boundaries, Relationships, and Loss

Today's topic is a Mental Health Monday topic.

Therapists are taught the importance of boundaries when we develop therapeutic relationships. A therapeutic relationships is not like any other. We share in the joys and sorrows of the individuals with whom we work, but it's fairly one-sided. Our role is to reflect empathy and provide an environment of validation and provide a framework within which the person is able to build on his or her own strengths. Typically, that means very little of our own experiences are shared with these individuals, unless it provides a therapeutic benefit.

Having said all of that, we become attached to these individuals. We are gifted with the opportunity to see them grow - through their own strength and choices - and we are fortunate enough to support them in these endeavors. So when one of these individuals passes, we mourn.

Last week, an individual with whom I was fortunate to work, over the course of multiple stays over many years, passed away. She had a sweet disposition, a quiet smile, and a strong love for animals. She was tormented by her illness, but had a good support network. Her primary treatment team had worked for a very long time to get her into a group home and, after a week there, she passed away from medical complications.

We grieve when one of these individuals, who has left their own indelible stamp on our lives and experiences, leaves this world. Whether by natural causes or by an individual's choice, the passing of a former client leaves a different kind of mark. There is a sadness that we won't see them again, hear how they've accomplished something else or tried something new. There's, in some cases, a sense of quiet acceptance or even relief that the individual is no longer in pain (whether physical, emotional, or mental, or some combination of the three). And there's a reflection on the gifts that the individual gave us through the therapeutic relationship, which we'll cherish always.

I hope you find peace. I hope there was little pain. I hope you know that your loved ones will be supported. I hope you know that you will be missed. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. Bright Blessings.

22 May 2013

Writing Wednesday

Well, today was a bust.

I've decided I do not like the schedule function. My posts either don't post at all or they post on the wrong day. Or they just outright disappear, as in, no posting or saving.

The latter is responsible for today's lack of post. I think I'm going to have to go back to saving as a draft and going into blogger myself to post it. Grr.

Today's topic was, of course, beautifully written and deep. After an adventure filled day at the full time job, I got nothing for you people. Nada.

Instead, I leave you with this thought:

dappled, dancing
filtering through
     leaves fluttering
warm and golden
without the edge of
     noontime;'s glare
fading, softening
     end of the day

almost time to go home

20 May 2013

Mindfulness Monday

So, I did talk about Mindfulness a little bit during the A to Z Challenge, but I'm going to go in a little more detail today.

Mindfulness is, simply put, paying attention in a particular way. You're paying attention with intention, in the here-and-now, and without judgements. It's practical and it helps us notice what we're thinking, how we're feeling, or anything else that we might not normally clue into in our day to day lives. It sounds easy, right? It is. It's just that it's such a different way for our minds to process, that it takes practice to get the hang of it. Usually, we're too busy lamenting trouble in the past or borrowing trouble in the future to really be mindful.

Here's another way to explain it: the antithesis of mindfulness is automatic pilot. You know what I'm talking about - when you get to your destination and realize you weren't really paying attention to where you were going and have somehow 'lost' that trip. You do a task that is so routine to you, that you're doing eight hundred other things at the same time. Well, mindfulness says stop. Focus on the one activity with the whole of your being.

One of the examples in a handout I'll give residents involves washing the dishes. THIS is how it could be a mindful activity, according to Carol Vivyan: "Washing up or another routine activity can become a routine (practice of) mindful activity for us. We might notice the temperature of the water and how it feels on the skin, the texture of the bubbles on the skin, and yes, we might hear the bubbles as they softly pop. The sounds of the water as we take out and put dishes into the water. The smoothness of the plates, and the texture of the sponge. Just noticing what we might not normally notice."

Here is a simple grounding exercise that is mindful, in that it forces you to focus on the sensations of right now:
- What do you hear? Is the AC on? Can you hear your neighbor’s tv? Is there a dog barking? Is it quiet?
- What do you see? Is it light in the room? Is it dark? Are there posters or pictures hanging on the walls? What kind of furniture is in the room?
- What do you smell? Can you smell food? Is there perfume or another fragrance?
- What do you feel? Are you sitting? Are you standing? Are your clothes soft? Is the chair you’re sitting in comfortable? Are you cool? Warm?
- What do you taste? Can you taste your toothpaste? Did lunch leave an aftertaste in your mouth? Do you not taste anything at the moment?

Focus on your senses for several minutes until you begin to feel more calm and relaxed.

13 May 2013

Mental Health Monday

Today's Mental Health Monday post is about getting help if you need it. Often, people find themselves in a crisis and they don't know where to start. There are tons of resources out there for finding treatment providers, or just finding someone to talk to about what's going on in your life.

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a national agency whose purpose is to "target effectively substance abuse and mental health services to the people most in need and to translate research in these areas more effectively and more rapidly into the general health care system. Over the years SAMHSA has demonstrated that - prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover from mental and substance use disorders. Behavioral health services improve health status and reduce health care and other costs to society. Continued improvement in the delivery and financing of prevention, treatment and recovery support services provides a cost effective opportunity to advance and protect the Nation's health." (SAMHSA website)

SAMHSA has several tools to help individuals in need. One is their Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. This website's sole function is to help a person find mental health or substance abuse treatment programs throughout the country. SAMHSA also has a toll-free, confidential Treatment Finder hotline, available 24/7 in English and Spanish: 1-800-662-HELP (4357), 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).

Another tool is their Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990. You can also reach them via SMS by texting 'TalkWithUs' to 66746. This hotline provides 24/7, multilingual crisis counseling and intervention for individuals who have experienced a disaster (think Hurricane Sandy). Know someone who has been impacted by a disaster? There's a great list of warning signs that the person may need some extra support.

Well, that's all the SAMHSA links.

Next up is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (see the badge over on the right?) This is another 24/7, toll-free, and confidential helpline. You call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) and you are connected to the nearest crisis call center in their network (which spans more than 150 centers). This hotline provides crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

For the Northern Virginia area, there's the more local Crisis Link (which is our regional provider for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). Their number is (703) 527-4077. Crisis Link started as a teen hotline and quickly expanded the services it provides. They have a great flyer for how to help someone in a suicidal crisis and another one about suicide warning signs.

Need support? NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness often has lists of support groups in your area. This agency is a huge advocate for individuals experiencing mental illness. There's also DBSA, the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance. They run support groups all over the country. Having a substance abuse crisis? You can try to find an AA meeting close to you, you can call the Coalition against Drug Abuse's hotline at 1-800-943-0566, or you can look into SMART Recovery (866-951-5357).

Hopefully these links will help you, or someone you know, get the help that you or they need. The hardest part is asking for help!

10 May 2013

Free for All Friday: Moving and Cleaning

Also known as "I love my sister but I must be crazy."

So welcome to the new schedule of posts here at Lyre's Musings! In honor of our first Free for All Friday, I have a fantastic rant for you.

Last weekend I helped one of my sisters move. Now, I've been helping her off and on over the last month with packing in preparation of said move. I didn't think we'd survive. :-) She got a late start and, boy, I thought there'd be packing right up until the last minute. By some miracle, she got most of the packing done in advance. Her husband, well. I love my brother-in-law, but woah. He has many, many talents. Packing is not one of them.

So, Saturday is "U-haul brings belongings from townhouse in Pville to apt in Woodbridge" day. Being the good sister I am, I managed to be available (with some help from my supervisor who needed someone to switch from Sat night to Tues day for coverage and asked me first). The plan, according to my brother-in-law, was for my sister and I to stay inside the apartment and direct incoming boxes/items and/or move boxes/items to their designated places. This is one of many reasons I absolutely love my brother-in-law. Allow me to delegate and NOT have to lug boxes out of the U-haul and up the stairs? HELL YES. No prob, Bob.

Things are plugging along fairly nicely and then it's after 7pm and the U-Haul is empty. My sister needs to take my brother-in-law's nephews back to Pville. Ugh. She also has to return the U-haul. Double Ugh. Plus, her cats (my fur nieces and nephews) are still in Pville and she really wants to bring them back to the apt. She's been up and moving since 7am. Does she need sleep? Desperately. But she goes and does all of that, leaving me to help unpack.

Love is letting your sister set up your altar for you so it's done. Love is also using that trust to set up the altar in a way that your sister will be happy. Needless to say, it took me an hour to unpack all the altar supplies and another 30 minutes to set it up in a way that would make her happy. Then I started unpacking the bedroom stuff, so that her room was more the master bedroom and less of a room with a ton of shit in it. As a military brat, I have moved more times than I care to remember. Bedrooms and kitchen were always the first to be unpacked. In that order. She came back, cats in tow, and we set them free in the apartment to explore.

She cried when she saw her bedroom. Boy, did I have moment of "Crap! She doesn't like something! I can fix it, I can fix it!" Fortunately, it was a good kind of cry.

The next two days were clean the townhouse so that they'd get the security deposit back.  Want good exercise? Scrub the hell out of a townhouse - kitchens, bathrooms. My arms ached for days afterwards. Good workout, though, I guess.

The most important thing is that my sister (and brother-in-law and fur nieces and nephew) are back in Woodbridge and I don't have to drive over an hour to see them. :-)

Happy Friday!

08 May 2013

A to Z Challenge Reflection

First and foremost, allow me a moment of pure, unadultered glee.


Ahem. Thanks. :-)

I didn't think I would enjoy this as much as I did. Don't get me wrong, I struggled a lot of days (even having planned ahead for almost all of my topics). I was inspired by the themes that people created to keep A to Z interesting. I may... maybe... try a theme next year. If I am crazy enough to do this (shush). A poetry theme? A photo/poetry theme? Oh, a photo that inspires a poem? Meh. I'll ponder some more.

The biggest issue, however, was time constraints. April turned into a rather hectic month, with my sisterm oving, extra shifts at work, and just general chaos. There was some days I might have read one or two other blogs, and other days where I was not only reading that day's posts, but also the last day (or sometimes two days) of posts. The last five days? Forget it. Between work and helping my sister move (wait for that post in a few days!), I got to read NO ONE's posts and was barely able to get my own posts up. Time management is clearly going to be a priority if I do this again next year.

Yes... the big consideration that I'm still mulling over: repeating this wild adventure next year. Mostly, I think I'd like to do it. Maybe I'll be able to use the time to come up with better "x" and "z" posts. Then I think of the time crunch and waffle. If we're rating here, I'm about 65% sure I'll do it next year. Ask me again in a month, when there's a bit of haze over the experience and I've romanticized it because the chaos of A to Z is way easier than the chaos of my job.

Looking back over the posts last month, I don't know if I could pick a favorite. Maybe F? No, C. Well, S. No, F. Definitely F. Maybe. I am so indecisive about this!

06 May 2013

Book Birthday Bash: Medusa, A Love Story

Welcome to today's stop on the Birthday Bash Blog Extravaganza! We're celebrating the birthday of the first book in Sasha Summers' Loves of Olympus series Medusa, A Love Story.

About the Book
It's said love can change a person. Medusa wasn't always a monster…

Medusa is ruled by duty, to her Titan father and the Goddess Athena. She's no room for the tenderness her warrior guard, Ariston, stirs. When Olympus frees her from service, her heart leads her into the arms of the guard she loves... and curses her as the creature with serpent locks.

Ariston goes to war with a full heart... and dreadful foreboding. He learns too late of the danger Medusa faces, alone, and a Persian blade sends him into the Underworld. But death, curses, nor the wrath of the Gods will keep him from returning to her.

Poseidon will use Greece's war to get what he wants: Medusa. He does not care that she belongs to another. He does not care that she will be damned. He is a God, an Olympian, and she will be his.

Holy moly, people. If you have any love for, interest in, or curiosity about the Greek pantheon at all, GET. THIS. BOOK. There are multiple links below to help you acquire this gem of a story.

First, what a unique and truly beautiful slant on the story of Medusa. We have this character who we all more or less know - or so we think. Ms. Summers has opened a door to a whole new view of Medusa as a woman and as a pawn of the gods. There are moments where you ache with her and for her as she tries to find her way, when so many others have laid claim to her future.

Ariston - could someone please deliver me my own? I'd like one posthaste. He is the epitome of honor, valor, and what a man should be. The depth of his love, the lengths he will go… I am not one to swoon, but allow me this once, m'kay?

As for Poseidon, well. Capricious, arrogant, wild as the seas that he rules. Ms. Summers has brought to life the very turbulent and demanding god of the ocean in a way that makes him so very real. I definitely caught a little tug on my heart strings for him at one point.

I didn't see the ending coming and it was beautifully done. This was a novel that not only kept a good pace, I couldn't put it down. I read it during an overnight shift because I just couldn't stop! This is one that I could read over and over, and never tire of it. I can't wait to read the next one!

About the Author

Sasha is part gypsy. Born June 9, 1974, stories have always played an important role in her life. Her passions have always been storytelling, Hollywood, history, and travel. It’s no surprise that her books include a little of each. Her first play, ‘Greek Gods and Goddesses’ was written for her Girl Scout troupe. She’s been writing ever since. She loves getting lost in the worlds and characters she creates; even if she frequently forgets to run the dishwasher or wash socks when she’s doing so. Luckily, her four brilliant children and hero-inspiring hubby are super understanding and supportive.

Here are some of the places you can find Sasha!
Website/Blog                               Twitter                           FB Author Page
Goodreads                                   Pinterest                         YouTube

Ready to get your own copy of Medusa, A Love Story? Here are a few places you can find it.
B&N                         Amazon                      Kobo                            All romance ebooks

You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here. Make sure you hit all the stops along the way to increase your chances of winning the following prizes: 

  • Autographed copy of Medusa, A Love Story (Loves of Olympus Series, Bk #1)
  • Autographed copy of For the Love of Hades (Loves of Olympus Series, Bk #2
  • Thea (owl) Necklace
  • "Medusa" car charm
  • Series Swag

30 April 2013

Z is for...

Today is day twenty-six of the A to Z Challenge. It's our last day of this adventure!

Zephyrus is our topic for our last day together of the challenge.

Zephyrus is one of the Anemoi, or the Greek gods of the winds. Zephyrus ruled the west winds. He was considered the gentlest of the winds, bringing in the first breath of spring. As such, he was also considered the god of spring. Different stories have him with different wives; some stories say the rainbow goddess Iris is his wife. Others say the goddess Chloris (whose domain was flowers) is his wife and with her, he fathered Carpus. In yet another story, he fathered Achilles' horses (Xanthus and Balius) with the harpy Podarge.

I'm thinking that Zephyrus could bring a little more of the pretty spring, because the weather is rainy and dismal today. And it's making me sleepy and lethargic.

29 April 2013

Y is for...

Today is day twenty-five of the A to Z Challenge!
We're almost there. :-)

Today's topic is Yule, or the Winter Solstice. This is the second Sabbat of the Wheel of the Year (the first was Samhain).

Yule is the celebration of the rebirth of the God, who as I mentioned in the Samhain post, died at Samhain. It's the longest night of the year, but it is the joyful celebration of the light's return. Many of today's modern Christmas decorations and symbols do harken to the time of this pagan holiday: evergreen boughs (the Druids believed they symbolized immortality), candles (the return of light and the Sun), the Yule Log, the decorated evergreen tree.

For me, Yule is a time of celebrating what I have and the promise of a new start. It's the opportunity to thank the God and Goddess for shining Their light into my life. It is joy and laughter and music with the people who mean the most to me, my family. Yes, it is also a time of gift-giving, but it's important to remember that the gift we are giving symbolizes the gift of life of the God. By giving a gift, we are honoring the person who is receiving it, because they are important to us, and we are honoring the Divine.

27 April 2013

X is for...

Welcome to day twenty-four of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is xylophone.

I was ten when we left Berlin and moved to Misawa Air Force Base in Japan. I was not thrilled with Mom's new assignment, because I got to experience an earthquake and a typhoon in my first week. I was more than ready for this particular tour of duty to be over.

I was in this music class with a teacher whose name I can no longer recall at my elementary school and we got to play with all these instruments to try to play a song. I got to play the xylophone. I loved it. I loved its sound. It kind of reminder me of this album Daddy used to play called Tubular Bells. So awesome.

Anyway, my love of music found a new outlet that day. I went from there to singing in the choir. Ah, the good old days. I sang in choir from 8th grade on (7th grade wasn't allowed in the choir, so I played the oboe in band that year). My poor parents went to choir concert after choir concert.

Do you have a fondness for an instrument or book or film that ignited a passion?

26 April 2013

W is for...

Today is day twenty-three of the A to Z Challenge.

Today's topic is wonder.

I don't mean wonder in the sense if questioning or being curious. I mean the other sense of wonder. Being in awe of someone or something. Being dazzled by a sunset. Seeing the magic in the technology we have when compared to the past.

There isn't enough wonder in our world, in our lives.

I find wonder in so many simple moments. Sometimes I get giddy, because I get wrapped up in the our awesome world. Awesome in the original sense of the word, not the modern, "wicked awesome" sense.

Where do you find wonder? In a well crafted poem? The reflection of a mountain in a clear lake? The stars in the sky?

25 April 2013

V is for...

It's day twenty-two of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is vehemence. Or rather, that's the title of the poem I'm sharing today. This poem is from Pieces of the Soul, so you're getting a rare glimpse inside the book today.

there aredays
i just want to roll back over
submerge into fantasy
forgetting the banality
of day to day existence

my life isn't horror
it's not even all that interesting
most days

it's the scary little dark part
deep in me
that i wish to avoid
that makes me huddle
small and childlike
the mask, the defense,
the armor that kept me safe
through the early years
the tumultuous years

the fiery, raging fury
which swept over all
and left naught in its wake -
not even ashes -
for it was so hot and bright

that sword, still sharp,
still gleaming bright
has been sheathed.
i havelittle need for
it now           

from time to time
it comes, unbidden,
a habit, an addiction
a double edged sword that
scars us both, victim and me

it's part of me

but it frightens me all the same

24 April 2013

U is for...

It's day twenty-one of the A to Z Challenge.

I'm going to talk about Unicorns today. Originating in European folklore, the unicorn is a mythical creature, often described as a white horse with a spiral horn emanting from its forehead. Some stories described it as having a goat's beard, cloven hooves, and a lion's tail.

The unicorn gained popularity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was believed to be a fiercely wild, graceful and pure beast, unable to be tamed save by a virgin. The alicorn, or the horn of the unicorn, possessed magical properties to heal sickness and cure any poison.

In many pagan traditions, the unicorn is a symbol of purity and innocence. It may represent the innocent joy of childhood, for example. As their horns were believed to have healing properties, you could invoke a unicorn for healing.

Interesting fact: the horn of the narwhal was often ground and sold as a ground alicorn.

So, touching back on the innocence of youth part... :-)

When I was little and we were stationed in West Berlin, I read every book in my school library. One of my all time favorites was The Unicorn Treasury by Bruce Coville. It's an anthology of poems, short stories, and book excerpts whose subject matter is unicorns. I could not get enough of this book as a child. I checked it out over and over. As an adult, it's one of a very select number of childrens' books that I sought out and bought. Thank goodness for Amazon, who had it!

Do you have any interesting unicorn stories, dreams, or memories? Or do you prefer a different mythological beast?

23 April 2013

T is for...

It's day twenty of the A to Z Challenge. :-)

Today's topic is Tubing.

When I was little, we moved a lot because my mom was in the Air Force. The only place in my world that was constant was Grandma G's, out in the country.  She lived about 20 minutes outside of Covington and just below Gathright Dam and Lake Moomaw.

In the summers, which were hot, we'd cool off by playing in the Jackson River, which flowed through her backyard. We'd splash and look for fun stones to skip. Mostly, though, we'd climb into big inner tubes and float down the river. There was this one access point where someone had tied a rope to a tree. We'd reach the access point, climb out of the water with our tubes, leave tubes on the shore, and then swing out and SPLASH into the river at a deep spot.
Jackson River Access Point
Isn't that just inviting? Don't you just want to jump in and cool off? Okay, maybe not yet, but come back and look at this picture in the middle of the sweltering summer. Yeah, it'll be inviting.
Anyway. Once we'd finished with the swinging out on the rope and swimming back to shore a bunch of times, we'd hoist up our tubes and walk up the Access Point road (I use the word road loosely, it was just gravel) until we got back to Natural Well Rd and then went up to the spring.


If this image seems familiar, it should. It's the cover to Pieces of the Soul. This place was such an intergral part of my life, it was only natural that I used it for my book cover.

So, we'd walk to the spring, tubes on our shoulders or balancing on our heads (I was a kid, remember?), and we'd gulp the fresh spring water. Oh, it was nice and cold and it hit the spot! The spring is just off the road, in this well shaded area. It's cool and inviting. That old cooler you see in the picture, you can actually step into it, if you're brave enough to submerge your feet in the FREEZING cold water.

After drinking our fill, we'd walk back to Grandma G's and start all over again. It was the best way to spend a summer day at her house.

Do you have any places that tug, not just on your heart strings, but on your soul? Tell me about them!

22 April 2013

S is for...

It's day nineteen of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is Samhain. In my household, Samhain has two meanings.

First, it's the first Sabbat in the Wheel of the Year. It's considered the pagan new year. Samhain falls on 31 October, when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and when the Lord dies so he will be reborn at Yule. Samhain is a very reflective and personal holiday. It's a time when we examine ourselves as honestly as possible and decide what the things are that we need to release or shed. It's when our old self dies so that our new self can progress. It is also a time of sacrifice, because the Lord sacrifices himself so that his rebirth can occur. Sometimes, in order for us to move forward, we have to sacrifice something - a long-held habit, an old belief, a relationship that once brought joy and now only brings sorrow. I mentioned the veil between worlds being at its thinnest? Well, Samhain is a great time for divinatory work because of that thinness. Set a place at your table to honor your ancestors, those who have already crossed to Summerland, and ask for their guidance for the coming year.

The other meaning is my baby girl, Samhain.
Damn adorable, isn't she?
My Samhain came to me by pure happenstance. She was found in Occoquan and rescued by 13 Magickal Moons. I was taking classes at the time and got to meet her. I thought she was darling, but I had lost my Sheltie earlier that year and I'd always believed myself to be more of a dog person than a cat person.

 My Gaia Athena was a beautiful girl. I loved her fiercely for 10 wonderful years. She was loyal and playful and a little weird. So, a perfect fit for me. I miss her every day.

Well, Samhain was having none of my "I'm not a cat person" rhetoric. She would sleep on my purse until it was time for me to leave. She would climb in my lab while I was sitting and talking with Samantha and the other store owners. The final straw, though, happened one afternoon, around Samhain (the holiday). One of the old store owners was holding her; the woman came over to talk to me and, while we talked, Samhain climbed out of the woman's arms and into mine. She looked up at me with her pretty little panther face and pretty eyes and, for a moment, I saw my Gaia baby. I knew that I was not only meant to bring this little black ball of fur home, but that Gaia was okay with it.
If you're read Pieces of the Soul, you know I grieved hard. You also know that I love my Samhain just as fiercely.

Every Samhain in my house is a little extra special, because it's when I honor the memory of Gaia and I honor that Samhain came into my life.