Saturday, January 31, 2015

#BraveWriting - Brave Writing Things in 2015

Okay, the brave writing thing all got started on Twitter this past week when my friend and editor
Ev Bishop tweeted this:

Please note she tagged me.

*slaps forehead*




















Why did she tag me? Because this happened:



*BIG sigh* Damn you, Liz Schulte. You knew I couldn't ignore this type of challenge.

So then this:

And then I was involved, committed even, at least in my mind, but nothing's for sure until the first shot is fired. *swallows* I am loading the musket and am about to fire off one scary brave writing task each week and I've decided to take YOU along for the ride...because I don't want to do it alone.

Because I'm scared. *hides under desk*

Side note: While I was cleaning off said desk (an annual event whether it needs it or not) I found my first published piece from waaaaaaay back in the stone ages--coincidentally, I think Beck's song "Loser" released that year--and I took it as a sign. 

As my first #bravewriting act, should I post it? I seriously have wondered over the years if my professor chose it for publication so it could be ridiculed and torn apart or did she really like it? Maybe both? 

*cringes* 

Comment with a "Yea" or "Nay" and I'll tally up the votes and act accordingly.

You can follow the hashtag #bravewriting on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc. etc. 



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wedding Bands by Ev Bishop is here!

I truly loved Ev Bishop's book, Bigger Things, and can't wait to dig into her latest novel, Wedding Bands.

Wedding Bands, Book 1 in the River's Sigh B & B series.
Ditched by her high school sweetheart, Callum Archer, on the night they’re supposed to elope, Jo Kendall casts out on her own, brokenhearted. Over the years, Jo reels in a life she loves, centered on the outdoors, fishing (favoring a lucky wedding band lure), and her fine dining restaurant—a life that crashes away when her husband and business partner cheats her, leaving her bankrupt and alone. Then her uncle dies, bequeathing Jo and her sister, Samantha, his rural property. Jo returns to Greenridge, determined to build a new business and permanent home—without the help of a man. Unfortunately Samantha wants her inheritance in cold, hard cash and hires a lawyer to get it for her, a lawyer who turns out to be none other than Jo’s long-lost love, Callum. Jo’s fledgling plans—and her heart—are at risk once more. If Jo can fight her insecurities, she might end up with a wedding band that doesn’t come with a sharp hook. But should she risk everything she’s worked for, yet again? Before she can decide, she needs to know: can a lost love truly be reclaimed?
You can buy Wedding Bands in eBook here: Amazon.com ~ Amazon.ca ~ Amazon.co.uk   KOBO ~ For your NOOK at Barnes & Noble ~ Apple/iBooks ~ Page Foundry ~ Scribd

 Don't have an eReader and/or prefer print books? Wedding Bands will be out in paperback at the end of the month, available for order at your favorite brick and mortar bookstore.

 A bit about Ev Bishop . . . She's a longtime columnist with the Terrace Standard, and her other non-fiction articles and essays have been published across North America. Her true love, however, is fiction, and she writes in a variety of lengths and genres. If you’re a short story lover or read other genres alongside Romance, visit www.evbishop.com to learn more.

 Some short story publications include: “Not All Magic is Nice,” Pulp Literature (forthcoming), “The Picture Book,” Every Day Fiction Magazine, “Riddles,” 100 Stories for Queensland, “On the Wall,” Every Day Fiction Magazine, “My Mom is a Freak,” Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, “HVS,” “Red Bird,” and “Wishful,” (available through Ether Books).

Women’s Fiction novels include Bigger Things (Winding Path Books 2014), which is available in digital or paperback wherever books are sold, and Mosaic (forthcoming). She also writes romance under the pen name Toni Sheridan (The Present, Pelican Book Group, 2012, and Drummer Boy, Pelican Book Group, 2014). 

 Ev loves to connect with other readers and writers, so please consider subscribing to her newsletter and/or visiting her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Weight Loss Journey: One Step at a Time

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Do you know what it really takes to not only lose that weight, but keep it off? 

Surprisingly, I’ve discovered that most of us don’t have a clue that weight loss/maintenance is a life-long journey, that requires focused attention to one measured step at a time...for the rest of our lives.

I was contemplating this and the practice of making New Year’s resolutions, as I mentioned in Sunday’s post, wondering how best to explain that there is NO quick fix. I hesitate to attempt to explain sometimes because I'm uncertain folks are ready to hear it. What I have to say is not what they want to hear, that's for sure.

I also hesitate because it's damn hard to describe what it takes to live well, as opposed to attaining short-lived, temporarily gratifying weight loss. That’s why I started squealing my head off when I read my friend Bridget's post the other day on Facebook. Seriously, ask my kids. She very succinctly and clearly described the reality of weight loss, and I could not have written it better myself. 

Bridget Scarbrough is a certified personal trainer and fitness coach, who has been working in fitness for the past 10 years. So I asked if she'd share her insights with us here and she said absolutely! Yay for us!

So without further ado, heeeeere's Bridget! 

                                                                                                                                 

It is no secret that the fitness/weight loss industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Everyone is looking for the quickest, easiest, and most pleasurable way to lose weight. The unfortunate reality is that the road to weight loss and better health is full of detours, construction delays, and other drivers who are determined to undermine you reaching your destination.....not to mention your own confusion and uncertainty.

If we take an all or nothing approach to better health we often find that we cannot maintain the standards that we have set for ourselves. "Cold Turkey" elimination, daily hour long workouts, and deprivation will most likely result in burn out, injury, and self- sabotage.

Greater success and long term change come from setting small but attainable goals. Starting out with a walking program of just 10-20 minutes 5 days a week and slowly adding more time will help you feel successful and give you more energy. It will also strengthen your cardiovascular and muscular systems. You do not have to work out for 60 minutes to get measurable and noticeable changes.

Nutritionally, try not to focus so much on low fat/fat free products and caloric restriction but instead lower your intake of sugar, processed foods, fast foods and beverages. Make a deal with yourself to trade out one thing every day for a healthier alternative. For example, a reduction of even one soda per day will save you thousands of calories per year. Most of us live in a state of perpetual dehydration and we don't even know it. Headaches, lethargy, cramping, and nausea can all be signs of dehydration. Your urine should be a very pale yellow. Be aware of flavored waters with added sugars, artificial colors, and flavorings.

Use the following SMART method when setting goals for yourself:

SPECIFIC
Make sure that you are SPECIFIC with your goal. For example, if you want to lose weight be specific about the amount of weight you want to lose. If you want to reduce stress, be specific about which stressor you want to focus on first. The more specific you can be the better chance for success.

MEASURABLE
Make sure that your goal is MEASURABLE. Using stress reduction as our example again, you may decide that you will measure your reduction of stress by how many coping skills you can incorporate into your daily routine. Or you could focus on reducing the instances of one or more of the following effects of stress: lack of sleep, short temper, anxiety, and food consumption.

ATTAINABLE
Ensure your goal is truly ATTAINABLE based on your current schedule, level of commitment, and emotional/physical abilities.

REALISTIC
Give yourself some time to decide if the goal is REALISTIC. Ask yourself if you are setting your goal too high for your current situation. Or are you short changing yourself?

TIME
Finally, give yourself a TIME frame to reach your goal. Using small goals in shorter periods of time will help you gain confidence and self-efficacy.

There is so much information to be learned and it can be overwhelming, conflicting, and confusing to say the least. You will stumble along the way and feel frustrated at certain points, but consistency is the key. Don't give up. Keep moving, give your body nutritious food that it will recognize (and you can pronounce), avoid deprivation, reward yourself (preferably without food), and find things that you enjoy to help keep you motivated and focused.
There are plenty of qualified trainers/coaches in most areas that can help you reach your goals, teach you proper movement patterns, and give you the tools to overcome the barriers that keep you from finding the best you that you can be.
Good health and a stronger body are possible

~ It's Up to You.

This week's Living Well article is brought to you by It’s Up To You fitness and it’s founder, Bridget Scarbrough. A passionate educator, Bridget herself lost 45 pounds and continues the journey of a healthy lifestyle each and every day. She's an incredible trainer and coach, as well as an awesome friend.

Ready to start your own journey? If you're lucky enough to live in the Culpeper County area, contact Bridget. Everyone needs someone to walk beside them.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Year's Resolutions: So You Want to be Happy and Healthy, do you?

It’s the new year, 2015, folks, and everyone I talk to is discussing their goals or resolutions. I don’t make resolutions, but I definitely use this time to re-evaluate my goals, set new ones for the new year, and make a new plan. A lot of us write “happy” and “healthy” at the top of our goals list. But what does that mean, really? And how do you achieve being happy? Or healthy, for that matter?

Everywhere I look, there is something on sale with the promise to make us happy and/or healthy. If the ads I’ve seen recently are to be believed, then: 
  • tissues will make us appreciate the special moments in our lives,
  • almond milk will make us want to skip happily through a meadow,
  • and, apparently, Herpes medication will make us enjoy white water rafting.
Who would have thunk it?

All kidding aside, I believe there are plenty of folks who really, truly want to help. Through hard work, they have found a formula for their own health and happiness and want to share it with us. That’s amazing and wonderful and thank the Universe for them.

I also believe some folks want to sell us something. Period. That’s fine, for the most part. I consider myself a capitalist, but I’m also a realist.

The truth is, we ALL would love a quick fix for ALL of our problems. Wave a magic wand and the house is organized and sparkling (woo hoo! I’d buy that magic wand). Take a pill and all those nasty health problems disappear. Follow this easy three-step plan and all your problems will go away.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how this happy and healthy thing actually works. First and foremost, our health and our happiness is up to us, period. No one can give us health, and nothing can make us happy. Also, we need to be aware of our limits. Sometimes, health issues spring up that we have NO control over. Genetics does play a part and anyone who tells us that we can overcome all genetic predispositions with their magic slime is…uh…well, I’ll let you decide.

There is not a thing on this earth that can GIVE us health or happiness. Period. Only we can gift that magic to ourselves.

Now, wait a minute, I hear you saying. What about that great feeling when we buy something new?

I get what you’re saying, believe me. I had to buy a new MacBook recently and I’m still riding the giddy high every time I turn it on. But answer me this: how long does that “great” feeling last?

 I submit we are experiencing an endorphin rush, not real happiness, that will fade with time.

Like when we take a drug? Or eat Thanksgiving dinner? Or drink wine? Or bungee jump? Or fall in love? Hey, no judgement. We all have different addictions.

And THAT is what produces that endorphin rush. A new “drug” of choice. AND it is what makes the rush go away after awhile. We get used to the high and it takes more and more of the stuff until we become frustrated or depressed and look for something NEW to get us high…I mean make us happy.

Being high is NOT happiness, no matter what our addled brains might try to tell us.

So what is the answer? How can we make ourselves healthy and happy? Well, that depends. 

There are some basic steps we can take, I believe, but there are no guarantees. Also, you’re path is YOURS, not mine, and I cannot tell you exactly what you need to do. All I can do is share what is working for me. Keep in mind, I am NOT happy all the time. I am NOT sitting in complete peace every moment of every day. I am, my friends, much like you…I am constantly searching, tweaking, trying, exploring….hmmmm…maybe too much. But that’s another topic for another day.

What I do know is this:

I’ve been on the wellness journey long enough to be able to say I have not found a magic pill, a special shake, or a secret diet that will make us healthy or happy. Believe me, I’ve looked. Everywhere.

I also have discovered that focusing on the DESIRE to be happy a.k.a. “I just want to be happy” is the kiss of  death. Desiring something almost guarantees a plaintive, unfulfilled state of mind. Not at all what you’re looking for when you’re talking “happiness”. So what should we be focusing on? Happiness. Not the desire, but the thing. Try it.

And last, take care of your physical health if you want to be mentally happy. I kid you not. The journey of becoming “well” and then maintaining that wellness is fraught with emotional pitfalls and physical struggles, BUT it is the constant companion to a state of happiness. I don’t mean you have to BE fit to be happy. I mean you have to be walking the path of wellness. Different thing.

What do you think it takes to be happy and healthy? I love to hear from you so please leave a comment.



Much love and light, y’all.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tarot Tip #2: The Positive Transfer Technique

So I've set this goal to be able to read the Tarot cards like a pro by the end of 2015. In order to
achieve that goal, I've committed to a year of Tarot, starting with a Card of the Day study and a 31 day self-study course. I plan to follow that up with two online study courses AND apply to work with online tarot reading services so I can practice doing readings as much as possible and with as many different people as I can.

I've also decided that I'm insane and a glutton for punishment, because my other goals for 2015 include releasing the last four novellas in my Little Flame series, writing and releasing two new novels, and maintaining a steady blog-posting schedule, as well as a weekly newsletter. 

Ahahahahahhahaha! 

And did I mention my plans to systematically declutter and re-organize my entire house AND my yoga studio, as well as maintain my regular exercise and yoga practice? 

*laughing so hard falls on floor gasping for breath*

Ahahahaha....gulp. Yeah. smh 

Okay, so how in the hell do I expect to take my Tarot readings to the next level when I have so much on my plate? Seriously, I've been tempted to set this goal aside because I do have other priorities that need my attention, but damn it, I'm not getting any younger. And I really really want this.

I've been forging ahead, despite my doubts, because, well, that's what I do. I have yet to set a worthwhile goal that didn't involve second guessing myself. Then, this happened today:

I was reading up on today's Card of the Day: the 4 of Swords and it dawned on me that the fairy in the picture looks like she's relaxing in savasana, corpse pose. And considering the image on the Ryder-Waite deck also looks like a sarcophagus, the meaning of the card suddenly made so much sense to me! 

OMG! *jumping up and down*

 I think I just discovered how I'm not only going to achieve my tarot pro goal, but also knock this bad boy way WAY out of the park! I am SOOOOOO going to kick ass as a Tarot reader.

In learning theory it's referred to as Positive Transfer (thank you, Penn State, for my BS in Education). 

Don't know what that is? Okay, okay, check this out. Yoga may be the extra help I need to understanding the tarot. Get it? Savasana? Corpse pose? The Knight is dead?  Still don't follow? You will be the end of this:

The four of Swords is all about retreating, relaxing, or taking time to be quiet and calm after a challenge. Savasana is the complete relaxation we practice at the end of a yoga session. 

The four of Swords reminds us that we need to retreat from the external world temporarily in order to recharge our batteries. Savasana gives us the opportunity to rest after yoga practice and focus inward in order to discover the calm inside us before we must tackle our every day life once again.

The four of Swords tells us it is a time to quiet the mind, to stop the hectic activity in order to re-ground ourselves, so that our base is secure for when we re-engage with our challenges. Svasana is the practice of allowing the mind to become quiet so that we may become completely aware of our inner peace, and become awake to every nuance so we may head back out into the every day with a cleansed perspective. We can then operate from a base of clarity and stillness.

The four of Swords speaks of pausing in order to practice one of life's greatest challenges: resting and doing nothing. Savasana is the practice of pausing, resting, and doing nothing.

Do you see why I'm so excited over this??!! It means I can use my extensive yoga practice to assist me in learning the Tarot! Brilliant! I think maybe this schedule I've created for myself is actually more doable than I thought. But isn't this how we learn anything new? Bringing what we already know to a new topic in order to process it easier? Positive Transfer!

Grant it, there's always Negative Transfer of training, the challenge of not letting old information interfere with absorbing the new information, but that's just part of the process, right?

I am so loving bringing these two passions together! Yoga and Tarot. I can't wait to see how my yoga practice will help me learn, deeply, the meaning of the Tarot cards, as well as become a proficient reader.

That's what's going on in my life right now. What about you? I love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts on learning new things and how you're doing. 


Much love and light!

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Tarot Tip #1: Keeping it Clean

For years I have been playing with the Tarot cards. I have several decks and I love to drag them along on conferences, vacations, weekend get aways, etc. While I have been reading the tarot for over a decade, I'm embarrassed to say I still have to use references to sort out some of the card meanings. *hides under the desk*

So this year I've committed myself to taking my Tarot knowledge and reading skills to the next level. I've signed up for an online course that claims it will take me there and I'm seriously jazzed about it. Why? Well, why not? I've loved the Tarot and been fascinated with it for as long as I can remember.

I have these cloudy memories of my mom shuffling the cards when I was quite small, and I took that same deck of cards with me to college. The feel of the glossy card-stock, the intricate and even stylized images of some decks intrigue me. The symbolism shakes something awake in me. Maybe it's the universal archetypes tapping me on the mental and emotional shoulders.

Maybe it's the mysticism, the occult, the magic...the ooooOOOooooo factor.

Whatever it is, it calls to me and I've started my old practice of a daily reading and Tarot journaling. And because it's been a few weeks since I've played with my decks, I decided they needed a good energetic cleansing.

Cleansing or clearing the energy of your deck keeps your readings imbued with positive energy and dissipates any negativity that may be clinging to the cards. It's also a great little ritual to help you create and maintain a connection with the deck.

There are many ways to cleanse a Tarot deck, but here is my favorite:

1) Sort your deck in order. Start with the Major arcana, then the suits. This also gives you a chance to see if any cards are missing. You don't want to do a reading without a full deck. ;-)

2) Once sorted, shuffle the deck seven times. There are many dos and don'ts out there about how to shuffle a Tarot deck, but I suggest you go with whatever shuffling method works best for you.

3) Once shuffled, smudge the deck with sage. Don't know what I mean by "smudge"? Burn some sage, sweet grass, or rosemary and pass the deck through the smoke. You can buy smudge sticks all over the web or any dried sage or rosemary will do.

That's it! Any questions or concerns? Leave them in the comments. I love hearing from y'all so comment away.

Namaste.