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.

20 April 2013

R is for...

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

On this eighteenth day of the challenge, our subject will be reiki.

Reiki is universal healing energy. One who had been trained, has received several attunements, and has mastered the symbols is called a Reiki Master.

Energy healing can take different forms. It can occur through raising energy (like in a drum circle) and then directing the energy towards a specific person or place (like the city of Boston). Energy healing can occur through the "laying on of hands," also this kind of energy healing involves directing one's own energy into a person or place for healing. As such, it's very draining.

Reiki, on the other hand, is tapping into the energy of the universe and then directing it for healing purposes. If you give reiki, you also get reiki (I love that part). It doesn't require physical contact. Meaning, reiki can be sent from a distance. This means I can send reiki to my sister, Lana, in Arizona AND to my sister, Nikki, in Myrtle Beach without getting tired and needing to recharge.

Do your homework. Meet with a reiki master and see how comfortable you are with them. If you aren't comfortable, move on to someone else. Reiki is like any other healing practice: boundaries should be well defined, expectations should be clear, and confidentiality paramount. It's also emotional, hence stressing being comfortable with the person sending/giving it.

Namaste and bright blessings in your healing journey!

19 April 2013

Q is for...

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

Q is for questions. I'm chock full of them. No, really. Ask anybody.

Perhaps it is my inquisitive, Gemini nature, but I love to learn. I love to read just about anything. I like facts, I like histories, I like to find out the why of what we do. It is one element of why my job is so appealing; I spend my time asking questions to help individuals figure out why they feel the way the feel so they can then decide what they want to do about it!

In my day to day life, asking questions about how a phrase came to be used or asking how a chain of events might have occurred to lead to a set tradition or pattern can provide my imagination an expansive playground. From there, I can dream up all kinds of possibilities - which can lead to some very creative (or in some cases, odd) story ideas.

I bet you were wondering where I was going with this whole questions thing. :-)

Writers can find inspiration for a new story or character in a myriad of ways. Do any of you other writers find that questions can open doors to exciting, creative fronts?

18 April 2013

P is for...

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

Today I expound upon the phoenix, the great mythological creature which also happens to be the symbol for my sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha.

The phoenix is a firebird found in the mythologies of many different ancient cultures - Persians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Chinese. A fire spirit whose color plumage varies depending on the legend (although most maintain that the primary colors are gold and scarlet), the phoenix lives anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years. Once it nears the end of its life cycle, the great bird builds a nest which it then ignites. Both the bird and the nest go up in flames and a new phoenix (either the offspring of the original or the same phoenix reborn, depending on sources) emerges from the ashes.

The phoenix is, then, a great symbol of rebirth and starting over. It is a reminder that change comes at a cost, but that we cannot have the change without paying the price. When we make significant changes in our lives, we are like the phoenix: our old self dies and our new self emerges, wings spread wide.

17 April 2013

O is for...

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

Today, I plan to bore you with the subject of occupations. As in jobs. As in, mine.

Yesterday, I gave you a glimpse into the night shift. I realize it was pretty vague, but I was trying to give you a snapshot of working overnight.

I am a mental health therapist (among the many other hats I wear in life). I work at a short-term residential program that provides crisis stabilization services. My program serves as an alternative to psychiatric hospitalization. Yeah, a lot of big jargon-y words, I know. Basically, we help people who are in extreme psychological distress. People are psychotic (hearing voices, hallucinating - and not because of drugs), suicidal, manic, in need of social detox (need to get clean from alcohol or drugs but don't need medical supervision to do so) and they come to the program to get better. We don't "fix" anything, but we do provide a safe environment and significant structure so that people can get a little more stable and be better equipped to cope with whatever brought them to the program. Sometimes that's achieved through medication, sometimes just with therapy, sometimes it's a combo deal.

We do groups, individual sessions (but no laying on a couch), supervise taking medication, teach skills, drive to appointments, do family meetings for discharge planning, get people connected to services. It's kind of a catchall place, in some ways. We do a lot of different things depending on the needs of the individual.

We use all kind of treatment models - again, depending on the needs of the individual seeking services. My coworkers and I run quite the gamut of ideology and perspectives, which typically benefits the individual because they get a lot of different references/ideas/things to consider. It can be chaotic, too, with so many cooks in the kitchen but we usually make it work.

Days, especially during the week, are whirlwinds of activity. We keep the day pretty structured, because that kind of structure is beneficial for someone in distress. We run groups throughout the day and residents are expected to attend, because the groups are part of what gets them well.

I have no idea if this is helpful for some of you who have been wondering what it is I do. Hopefully, this gives you a frame of reference when I start into my mental health jargon later on down the road. :-)

16 April 2013

N is for...

Hello, and welcome to day fourteen of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is Night Shifts. Specifically, 12.5 hour overnight shifts.

I work three 12.5 hour shifts a week at my job; the remaining 2.5 are filled by a *thrilling* staff meeting. One of my shifts spans the night. It's interesting, for several reasons.

First, night shifts start off hectic and frenetic and scrambling to get everything done that needs to get done in a four hour span from 7p to 11p. Of course, it really ends up being from 7:30p to 11p, because we're in shift change for the first 30 minutes. So, what happens in this incredibly small window of time? Group, snack, medications, individual sessions, sometimes transport to an AA meeting, an intake… That can be a lot.

Once the residents go to bed for the night, the program takes on this quiet, somber note. We do bed checks hourly, we do assorted administrative tasks, we prep the breakfast stuff and make coffee for the morning (for the residents). If it's a good, Q-U-I-E-T (SHHHHH DON'T SAY IT… Geez. You could be jinxing a night shift somewhere!) kind of night, then we can watch movies, read a book. I've been known to edit or knit on a night shift. We (the staff on shift) can also get into these really deep and philosophical discussions about the meaning of life and other stuff. Deep, I know.

Then there are those, other kind of nights. Multiple calls from Emergency Services, intakes galore. Residents who can't sleep and are up, roaming the building. Those nights, by the time the morning shift change is over, make you feel like you work twice as long as you actually did.

If you're lucky, you got a decent amount of sleep prior to working. I seem to be in the rare minority that can actually sleep during the day before to ensure I am rested and energized for my shift. If you're really lucky, you don't have a rapid turnaround for going from night to day. I am currently not so lucky there.

Working a night throws off all kinds of rhythms, circadian and otherwise. There are all kinds of health-related problems that are attributed to this kind of schedule. I do my best to combat it by getting plenty of sleep, exercising, and eating healthily.

What about the rest of you with night shift experience? What are some of your favorite parts? What do you struggle with most?

Also, I apologize for the last two posts going up so late. I promise we'll be back on an early schedule starting tomorrow! See you then!

15 April 2013

M is for...

It's day thirteen of the A to Z Challenge!
We've made it halfway!

Today's topic is Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the focus of awareness and attention, based on mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. D is for DBT post? Well, Mindfulness is one module in DBT. It's also a major component of Jon Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Essentially, he took research on the efficacy of mindfulness as a healing technique a step further. You can read more about Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction here.

Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, to live fully in the moment to have a higher quality of life. You can eat mindfully (by chewing each bite slowly and thoroughly before swallowing), clean mindfully (by focusing wholly on the task), or breathing mindfully.

Here's an easy, mindful breathing exercise you can try:

Sit comfortably, relaxing your posture. Take a deep breath, in through your nose and out of your mouth. Feel your belly expand as your breath expands your diaphragm.
Now, count as you slowly inhale: 1......2......3......4.......
Hold your breath for the same 4 count: 1......2......3......4.......
Exhale slowly, doing your 4 count: 1......2......3......4.......
Hold your breath again for a 4 count: 1......2......3......4.......

Repeat the pattern for 2-3 minutes.

This is a simple and easy way to start to develop a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness will relax the body, reduce stress, boost your immune system. You'll think more clearly and feel more present in your life.

Disclaimer: This is such a skimming of the surface of what mindfulness is and how it benefits. If it seems interesting to you, I strongly encourage you to read Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Book Release: Queen of Jastain

Today, as an extra special treat, I would like you to join me in celebrating the release of a fantastic book by an amazing and talented author.  Keep reading through and you'll be rewarded after the excerpt for a chance to win a $10 Gift Card and a charm. (Scroll down to see pictures of the prizes)

Queen of Jastain has a special place in my library because not only is it OH SO GOOD, I was the editor for it. I was privileged to work with Kary in polishing her shining gem and I'm beyond excited that it's (finally) available for the rest of the world!

The Light brought her to him, but does he have the faith to make her his queen?
For twenty years, Avant plotted revenge against the dark king, but when a mysterious woman suddenly appears, everything changes. Although his prophetic Gift reveals she's the Seed of Light chosen to restore the Crown, his overwhelming attraction to the women threatens his long-held plan for revenge and two decades of fidelity.

Abby Randall is inexplicably transported from Dallas to the medieval land of Jastain. There she meets Avant, who claims she's the foretold champion of his people. While the hot guy has her hormones pumping, his crazy talk of defeating an evil king leaves questions to his sanity. Through his supernatural Gift, Avant transplants his memories into her, but neither are prepared for how their hearts intertwine.

Together they embark on their quest, but when Abby and Avant come face to face with destiny, will they sacrifice what matters most to provide a happily-ever-after for the people of Jastain?

About the Author
Kary Rader is a part-time Twitter sage, stay-at-home mother of three, and slave to the characters and worlds inside her head. Always creative, she's drawn to stories with fantastical worlds and creatures. With a little bit of magic and divine guidance, there isn't anything that can't be accomplished with words. It's the power of words that creates and destroys. Vanquishing evil and injustice while finding eternal love in the process is all in a day's work. With the help of her critique partners and master cartographer imaginary places come to life.

Some of the fun places you can find the intrepid Kary (who, by the way, deserves a medal for surviving having me as her editor) are as follows:
Twitter: @KaryRader
Facebook: Kary Rader, Author
Want a taste of just how good this book is? Keep reading for an excerpt!

     When Avant climbed back to the cave, his hair was wet. He'd slicked it back from his face and tied it into a little ponytail with a leather string. The sexy shadow of a light beard softened his angular jaw, and the thick waves of his hair shined with chestnut highlights in the morning sun. It was a good look for him, but then again, what wasn’t? Abby ran her fingers through her own tangled tresses and pulled her hair back. What she wouldn't give for a hairclip.
     “Would you like a thong for your hair?”
     She giggled at the word thong, certain that what she pictured was not what he referenced. “Do you have an extra one? I’d like to get it out of my face, and I don’t have anything.” Actually she had her own thong, but she sure as hell wasn't putting it in her hair.
     He immediately unlaced the tie at the neck of his shirt and handed it to her.
     She gasped and put a hand to her face to hide the heat in her cheeks as his shirt fell open below his breast bone. “You don’t have to do that.”
     Her blood coursed wildly at the sight of the smooth muscles of his chest. A soft sprinkling of dark hair beckoned her fingers. She swallowed hard.
     “It’s all right. Please use it. It will be a hard day’s journey with hair in your face.” His words rang in her mind so sincerely she forgot her embarrassment, but her eyes kept flitting to his heavenly chest.
     “Thank you, Avant, and not only for the lace but for everything you're doing to help me.
     Holding her gaze, he nodded once, and her heart fluttered. Was it getting warm in the cave? She wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead.
      “It is time to be off if we are to make it to the next shelter before nightfall.” He picked up his pack and walked to the mouth of the cave. She grabbed her bag and followed.
     Climbing down proved to be more difficult than going up. The muscles required to lower herself from one level to the next worked her thighs and butt like no gym equipment she'd ever experienced. It was like doing hours of squats. She trudged down the mountain with the previous day's tumult weighting her down like the “freshman ten.” Avant helped her along on the steeper steps, but, for the most part, she made them on her own, clippity-clopping in those damned Docinis all the way.
     When he reached the bottom, he disappeared around an outcropping. Abby took the last little step to the base and hurried after him. As she turned the corner, Avant grabbed her arm and spun her around. Driving her back against the rock, he pressed the length of his rigid body against her. His face, barely three inches from hers, clenched in thin lines of stress. Her heart raced…with fear.
     She was pretty sure it was fear.

   Now, for your reward! Your opportunity to enter the giveaway to win a prize! Here are pictures of your prize:

Avant's Sword charm

                                                                                                   and the charm bracelet:

<a id="rc-b4c00018" class="rafl" href="http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b4c00018/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

<script src="//d12vno17mo87cx.cloudfront.net/embed/rafl/cptr.js"></script>

Don't forget to check the other stops on this blog tour!

13 April 2013

L is for...

Hello, and welcome to day twelve of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is Lughnasadh, or Lammas.

Well, that was the original plan for this post, anyway. Yesterday, I traveled to my alma mater, Roanoke College, for my ten year reunion. I didn't go to my ten year high school reunion; I didn't feel compelled to do so. Somehow, though, I found myself anxiously waiting to see who would be at 'dear old Roanoke,' who I might get to catch up with during the whirlwind of activities.

I spent the evening at FOTQ (Friday on the Quad, a cookout/picnic event with a band) and at my sorority house. Then I ate dinner with some good friends at my home away from dorm room, Macado's.

It left me thinking about the kinds of love we encounter in our lives: friends, sorority sisters (or, for some, fraternity brothers), family, spouses, nieces, nephews, children, and places. It's the latter that struck me the most today, seeing all the familiar haunts from four amazing years in my life.

So, I'll leave you with a moment from yesterday where I was reminded of the beauty of a place and the love it can hold.

standing on elizabeth campus feeling the warm breeze
a stillness
     not just deep within
     but carried on the wind

a peace
     so potent in the moment
     that all is right with the world and you

laughter and music drifting
lazily in the fading sunlight
scent of spring


with memories
     of other days just like this
so long ago

face turned
     catching the last rays of twilight
that glint off the windows
that once shielded you

looking in and seeing the past
     as the future looks backr

12 April 2013

K is for...

Hello, and welcome to day eleven of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is knitting.

Thus far in A to Z, we've covered a pretty eclectic sampling of interests in my spunky little corner of the world. Today, we're going to be exploring one of my creative outlets.

When I was little, I'd watch my mom make afghans for servicemen and women who served under her, primarily when they were expecting a child. It was soothing, watching her knit - the sound of the needles as they brushed against each other, seeing the individual skeins of yarn blend to create a new pattern of color.

It wasn't until I was in high school, she taught me to knit. I made my first blanket over a series of weeks. I even took it to school to work on after completing my midterms. I can remember sitting in my Biology class, waiting for everyone else to finish with the exam, and knitting.

I've since taught my sister the basics of knitting and she has long since surpassed me in skill. I've never made anything other than a blanket. One of these days, I might learn. Maybe. I still enjoy making blankets. I enjoy seeing the possibilities and picking the colors and then being either pleasantly surprised when it's better than I expected or, in two cases, horrified by how awful and frighteningly bad it can be.

My current project is an Elemental blanket for the element of Air. My sister, Riz, and I did some several years ago. The Earth blanket didn't turn out right; she and I disagreed on what colors to use in the Air blanket (she made it, so it was yellow and white). While Yellow is traditionally the color used to represent Air, that's never worked for me. The Spirit blanket was an in-reality-absolute-nightmare result, although the concept was good. Plus, she gave away the Water blanket (that's a whole, long drama that I'll spare you) despite it being PERFECT. I decided to recreate the Elemental blankets, starting with Air.

Yes, that is a huge knitting needle. It's a size 50.
I decided to start with Air because it's my primary element (Gemini is an Air sign). Plus, I wanted to prove to my sister that it would be as cool as I thought. Damn, if I wasn't right. She wants it now, ha! 
I'm about two-thirds done.
Color scheme is supposed to be like a stormy, cloudy sky...
 Next up will be either Earth or Water. I'm torn because I really want to see if the yarn I picked this time for Earth is better than the last one (the color scheme was like camo and I do not *do* camo). I also really want to see how Water turns out because it has blues and I think it's going to be really, really pretty. Well, we'll see.

Do you do crafty things with your hands (besides write, for all you writers out there)?

11 April 2013

J is for...

Hello, and welcome to day ten of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is jewelry. Shut up, John.

For those of you who don't know me, I am an accessory fiend. I love all things shiny, sparkly, glittery. I love necklaces, pendants, earrings, bracelets, rings. I love gemstone jewelry and sterling jewelry. Personally, I'm not one for yellow gold, bronze, or copper, but I can appreciate their beauty on others.
Mostly Dragonfly Design pieces in this one... I have 3 of these
boxes. Not all of the boxes have Dragonfly Design jewelry.

I'm not particular about where I get my jewelry either. If I like it, that's good enough for me. I've gotten pieces at craft fairs, gem shows, the silversmith in Colonial Williamsburg, 13 Magickal Moons, Charming Charlie, from Etsy, from Avon, and from my sister, Jennifer Wells.

I may even have a problem. My jewelry requires a fair amount of storage….
Center drawer with two levels

You can't tell, but there are 3 drawers.

This was my Mamaw's jewelry box

I really need a nicer way to store my collection than in plastic bins, don't you think? Suggestions? Any other jewelry fans out there?

10 April 2013

I is for...

Hello, and welcome to day nine of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is Imbolc. Imbolc is one of the eight solar holidays, or Sabbats, that witches and Wiccans celebrate during the Wheel of the Year. In witchcraft, we honor the life cycles of the Goddess through the phases of the moon. We honor the cycles of the God through the Sabbats. Four fall on known solar holidays (Winter Solstice or Yule, Vernal Equinox or Ostara, Summer Solstice or Litha, and Autumnal Equinox or Mabon). The other four are sometimes referred to as the cross-quarters, and fall on specific dates: Samhain (31 October), Imbolc (2 February), Beltane (1 May), and Lughnasadh (sometimes called Lammas), on 2 August.

Imbolc is the first hint of spring, before the weather changes and after the days start to lengthen (this starts at Yule, or the Winter Solstice). Imbolc is a time of new beginnings, the first plantings of crops, and this makes it an ideal time for dedication or initiation.  The goddess mostly often associated with this holiday is Brighid (interesting, I know, given that it's supposed to be celebrating the life cycle of the  God, yes?) Witchcraft is about the balance between the two, the Lord and Lady, and you cannot honor one without honoring the other. While Brighid is the goddess often associated with this holiday (especially in historical contexts), we honor the God in his youthful or Wild One phase: freely playing, exploring, creating, and reveling in the magic of being.

For me, this Imbolc was an opportunity to rededicate myself not only to the Divine, but also to writing.

For you witches out there, what was meaningful about Imbolc for you? For you non-witches out there, did you learn something new today? :-)

09 April 2013

H is for...

Hello, and welcome to day eight of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is harmony.

I love all kinds of music. I love classical, pop, rock, alternative, metal, country (well, some), jazz, blues, swing, big band... I think you get the idea. I love solo artists with powerful voices and bands with amazing acoustics and rhythms. More, though, I love a group with really freakin' good harmony.

Some of my favorites include Boys II Men, Barlow Girl, Zac Brown Band, Celtic Woman, Pistol Annies, Rockapella, Indigo Girls, Antigone Rising, The Judds, Lady Antebellum, Wilson Phillips. No matter the genre, there is beauty and joy in a blending of voices that produces something sweeter than a simple melody. I think that's what I loved most about singing in choir and hearing other choirs sing. There is power in the sound of many voices that is very different from a lone voice. One is not better than the other, just perfectly different.

What about you? Any favorite duos, trios, or groups who harmonize that I haven't mentioned? Anyone you would recommend without hesitation?

08 April 2013

G is for....

Hello, and welcome to day seven of the A to Z Challenge!

Today's topic is grammar.

Oh, quit your bitching. It's not a grammer lesson, just some of *my* thoughts *about* grammar. Sheesh.

The English language is a complex, intricate thing. It's rules are contradictory and confusing. Writers are often left gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair, trying to simultaneously express a thought while also expressing it clearly.

One of the biggest challenges I face, not only as a writer but also as an editor, is the idea that not all fiction is "literary fiction." In other words, it doesn't matter (so much) if a comma is out of place or there are a ton of standalone dependent clauses; it's okay if commas are as frequently interspersed as glo sticks in a rave. Gerunds? Whatever!

I say why should a writer settle? So my genre is fantasy or horror or paranormal romance. This now means that, just because I didn't write "the great American novel," my writing should look like crap? I don't think so. What happened to pride in our work? What happened to being a crafter of words, when time was spent not just on what is said but also how it is said? I can write my story... no, I can craft my story as eloquently as any literary fiction author, whether my content is earth-shattering or simply a fantasy escape.

I see authors with great stories publishing through smaller companies and I wonder, where the hell was your editor? How on earth did she miss THAT? And that? And... seriously???? I wonder where the editor's passion went and why he or she doesn't take more pride in his/her work. For me, in my role as editor, I want to make sure that I have put my best effort forward with an author, to help her polish the work so it shines. Anything less than that is disrespectful of the effort she has poured into her novel.**

Where do you stand on the importance of grammar in your story? Should all fiction be a little more like "literary fiction"?

**Okay, so I got tired of he/she but I hope that you, my beloved reader, can understand that I do acknowledge that men are authors and editors, too.

06 April 2013

F is for...

Welcome to day six of the A to Z challenge!

Today's topic is one that is near and dear to my heart: family.

Family can be blood and genes: aunts, grandmothers, sisters, uncles, brothers, nephews, fathers. It's people that are bound to you, maybe whether you want them to be or not. They're the people you love no matter what they do, partially because you have to and partially because you just do. They know all the stories, all the tears, all the dreams, all the happy moments. They're the reminders of our own mortality and, sometimes, that insanity is only a breath away.

Family can also be created. It's the close friend we've had since high school, the roommate in college who came home with us on all our breaks, and the coworker that is your work spouse. The family we choose is so totally different from the family we're born into because we feel like they understand us better. Family of choice supports our decisions and ideas, mostly because their beliefs are similar to our own. Especially in cases where we feel singular or alone (due to religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or other lifestyle choices/experiences that cause us to feel socially isolated or separate), family of choice is a critical element to our emotional well-being.

I have both - family of origin and family of choice. I am an only child. No siblings. Yet, I have seven sisters and two brothers, all through my created family. Through my "siblings," I have six nieces and nephews. I love them all as if they were my own family. My siblings call my parents Mom and Dad. They know everything that's important in my life, because I couldn't imagine not sharing everything with them.

Do you have an 'extended' family? Where have you met some of yours?

05 April 2013

E is for...

Welcome to day five of the A to Z challenge!

Today's topic is exercise.

I know, how disappointing. Give me a chance, though. I might surprise you.

Exercise is the bane of my existence. I mean, we're talking about time that could be spent reading. READING! Or blogging, I guess. :-)  But still. Other tasks could be accomplished. Seriously.

Instead, I find myself spending 30 minutes on my TreadClimber, creating little competitions for myself to keep it interesting. Or, I am working with resistance bands for 30 minutes. Or doing a Yoga DVD. Or trying to learn Zumba on my Wii (that one's not going so well... I have no idea how I'm supposed to learn how to do the damn moves if the belt keeps pushing the button and advancing the training for the steps till I have no freakin' idea what's going on. ... ... ... I digress.)

I refuse to join a gym until I'm more fit. How sad is that? I won't go to a place that is designed for getting fit... until I'm more fit. Of course, I'm very self conscious about how not coordinated I am, which is a big part of that.

I do wish I had a pool. I'd be in that bad boy, swimming, all the damn time. Now that is fun. :-)

What about you? What's your favorite form of exercise? What could you totally do without? And am I alone in the "not joining a gym until I'm fit" thing?

04 April 2013

D is for...

Welcome to day four of the A to Z challenge!

Today's topic is DBT. DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It's a treatment modality used in counseling that was designed in the 80's by a psychologist named Marsha Linehan. She created DBT as a means to treat individuals diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Linehan was trying to help these individuals, who were often prone to dramatic mood swings, frequently viewed the world in a black and white fashion, and seemed to be experiencing either perpetual or a cycle of chronic crises; Linehan sought to provide these people with skills to better manage their own emotions and safety.

Today, DBT stands as one of the most prominent and popular evidenced-based practices in counseling.  Most community services boards offers their employees some kind of DBT training program to introduce them to the basics, so that they may begin to (with training and support) use this effective treatment method with consumers.

DBT has been found to be an effective treatment for not only Borderline Personality Disorder, but also for a multitude of other mental health or substance abuse needs - depression, bipolar, addiction. It's a complicated program, comprised for four modules (Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, Distress Tolerance, Effective Communication) that are reviewed in group format, with concurrent individual therapy and homework. Time and again I have seen its effectiveness in improving an individual's quality of life by giving them skills to manage their own world more effectively, communicate more effectively, and respond more effectively.

If you or a loved one are seeking mental health treatment and willing to work for change, ask your treatment provider about DBT. See if that is on the table for your treatment plan.