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Monday, August 22, 2016

Music Mantra Monday ~ Good Deeds

For today\s Music Mantra, I wanted to do a special tribute.

It took me hours to come up with the song to put with this post but I thought this was most suitable.

As many of our followers know, this song holds many special points for my family. Now, I thought it holds even moreso.

Yesterday, my husband and I went out to the grocery store to get a few essentials for our house. We can't afford a lot right now with him being injured, and this being a slow time for my work but you gotta do what ya gotta do, right?

As we were pulling out, we saw a man who had two handfuls of groceries struggling to walk down the sidewalk. We watched him for a few seconds, noticing that he not only struggled with holding his bags, but with walking...even having to stop every few steps to rest. Most people would have passed the man off as someone who was drunk or on drugs, but we had a feeling it was something more. My husband asked if I'd go talk to him to see if he needed help. I was reluctant at first because I know what it's like to be offered help when you didn't ask for it...but I did.

It was a gut instinct.

We pulled up around the corner from where he was walking, and I got out of the car and approached him.

"Hi there," I said, going slowly.

He paused, staring at me and didn't say anything at first.

"Um, look I noticed you are struggling a bit with your groceries and we have room in our car. I don't want to be intrusive, but would you like a ride?"

The man stared at me for a few seconds, then said, "Thank you. I would appreciate that."

I took a couple of his bags and walked with him to our vehicle, then helped him in.

During our car ride to the Alexandra Hospital, where he lives, he shared with us that he suffers from both Hodgkinson disease as well as Parkinson's. This is a man that used to work in the same industry as my husband. Yes, he did Scaffolding and other areas but they could relate to being strong-minded, strong people who aren't able to do what they used to be able to anymore. And it's no fault of his own,

This man goes from the hospital he lives in on a 1/2 hour train ride to our end of town to get his groceries. And he doesn't have to. He does it because he wants to stay active and be an active part of our society. He gets judged for how he walks, speaks and acts because most people assume something totally negative, rather than being human enough to figure out how things really are.

He appreciated that we looked beyond that.

He told us stories about what he had done in his life and a bit about what he's going through and all we did was listen and understand.

As we pulled up in front of the hospital doors, I got out to help him. He fist-bumped my husband then turned to me and hugged me. Normally, I don't usually let people hug...I need to initiate...but for some reason it seemed so appropriate. As he hugged me, he thanked me and said, "You remind me of my granddaughter. There aren't a lot of people who'd give someone like me a chance. Thank you."

As we drove away, I cried. This man will be in that hospital until his last day and yet he gets up every day to get his groceries across town to keep moving forward and prove that he can. How inspirational IS that?

Let's just say with things going on around here right now, I took it as a sign.

Be strong, embrace what and who you have in your life, and keep moving forward.

And God Bless that man.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Special Sunday Post: A Tribute to Breast Cancer Survivors


It is an ugly word and scary to deal with, but it is a reality. It doesn't realize we are stronger than it is, even if it doesn't think so.

We. Are. Stronger.

Today, I usually get my kids to post what is on their minds but today we are sharing a special post. I dedicate this to my grandmother, who was a two-time breast cancer survivor, and to all of you out there going through, fighting or have survived cancer.

My Grandma was the 'glue' of my mom's side of the family. She kept us talking, kept us together and made sure that no matter what we we were going through, we fought through it.

When I was asked to contribute to an anthology dedicated to cancer survivors, I dug up this story and submitted it. I'm not sure how my grandmother would feel about me sharing my story, but I do know she would have been proud.

This is the unedited version, so excuse any typos, but this is for all of you out there.


Be strong.

And never give up.


Battlescars (A Tribute to Grandma)

My grandmother was a stubborn, feisty woman who was as fiercely protective of her family as a mother bear is with her cubs. I believe these characteristics fueled her strength to fight and survive breast cancer—twice. And she went through it in the 1950’s. A time when the survival rate wasn’t as high as it is today. Oddly, it was something our family never talked about.
Even as a child I knew something was different. When Grandma got dressed up, she had a womanly figure. But when we she was at home in her casual clothes, her shirts would hang flat. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to notice. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to ask questions. But one day Grandma and I found ourselves in an awkward position where we had to talk about it.
It was the summer I turned thirteen. I loved staying with my grandparents, but it was a distressing time in my young life. All my friends started showing the beginning signs of womanhood while I still looked like a boy with long hair.
“It’ll happen soon enough,” Grandma told me. “Don’t be in such a rush to grow up, Dumplin’. Besides, breasts are just an accessory. Being a woman goes far deeper than what is on the outside. Some day, I’ll tell you about it.”
That day came sooner than both of us expected when I rushed into her bedroom one morning to grab Grandpa’s house keys and surprised Grandma while she was getting dressed.
“Oh…dear…I’m so sorry…,” I started to say.
I wasn’t ready for what I saw.
Grandma stood there, her house dress open to her waist. Her fingertips held the zipper—frozen in their position. For the first time in my life, I understood why everyone always made sure Grandma’s door was shut while she dressed.
“It’s alright, child,” Grandma said softly. “I left the door open. Didn’t think anyone was still in the house. Please…come in.”
I didn’t want to. I felt embarrassed, for her and for me. Grandma removed her hand from her zipper and brought it to her side. My eyes stationed on her chest. In the space where her breasts were supposed to have been were two large dents. The skin was discolored and there were purple lines that extended out, like lines on a map. Some of them were swollen. Some lay flat and disappeared under her house dress towards her armpits. I’d always known something had happened. I’d always wanted to ask but was never brave enough to.
My eyes flooded with tears as I tried to find the right words.
“Oh, Dumplin’,” Grandma said. “Don’t be frightened. Grandma is just fine. I’m glad you came in. Grandpa always shuts the door because he doesn’t want to have to talk about it. He’s still scared, I guess.”
I finally found my voice. “What…what happened?”
Grandma zipped up her house dress and motioned me to sit with her on the bed. “Many years ago, I got sick. Very sick. When they couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t able to shake what I thought was the flu, they ran some tests and found some lumps in my left breast. Well after a lot of other tests, they found out it was cancer. Back in those days, they just removed the breast then gave you lots of medicine. But they didn’t get it all and Grandma had to go back. They took the right breast and some of the tissue under my arms called lymph nodes.”
Lymph nodes? I put my hands in my armpits and hugged myself tight.
“Oh, now, don’t you go worrying about things,” Grandma said, stroking my hair. “It happened a long time ago. I’m not ashamed of it.”
I kept my hands in my armpits.“Will it come back, Grandma? Will you get sick again?” 
Grandma tilted her head at me like she always did when I asked something she needed to think about before she could answer me. “I don’t know. I hope not. But I can’t worry about it. These things happen, you know?”
“Is that why you told me ‘breasts are just an accessory’?”
Grandma laughed. “Yes, that’s right. Breasts may make you look like a woman but I don’t feel any less of a woman than I did with them. Maybe I’m even more so because I didn’t truly understand what it was to be one until my breasts were taken away. Doesn’t change who you are, child. Just your form. Women are strong. We’re fighters and still the head of the family, even without our breasts.” She winked at me.
She pointed to her chest and continued, “These are my battlescars, Dumplin’. They are there to remind me I won the battle and I’ll win the war.”
I hugged Grandma hard. It didn’t seem to matter anymore when I finally developed breasts. After our talk, my grandparents’ bedroom door wasn’t shut tight anymore, unless Grandpa was getting dressed.
Even though she’s been gone for over twenty years now, Grandma’s words still sing in my ears whenever I put my hand over the little pink ribbon I proudly wear on my shirt  (over my size AA breasts). Being a woman does go far deeper than what is on the outside.
And, someday, we will win this war.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Music Mantra Monday: Happiness ~ Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video)


We all define it in our own ways. And there is no way to judge another for what they turn to for that happiness. As long as it is healthy, brings the best out in you and emits that happiness from you, it is good.

We've had a very rough week around here...mostly health-wise. It has been very important for me, more than ever, to stay positive and turn to the happiness I have in my life. If I don't, I know I can slip into complete negativity and that is not a place to be.

Happiness to me is: my children, my husband, my writing, every day I wake up to face a new day, that one thing I can get done during the day even with all four kids and my husband home, laughing at least a few times a day, flowers, water, waterfalls and the smell of rain.


Surround yourself with yours. It is vital to your survival. It's human to feel down and out. It is strength to pull yourself out of that and move forward.

Happy Monday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Talk About It Tuesday: Motivation


Each of us has different resources we draw from to maintain it. And you aren't born with it. It must be learned, instilled and nurtured. Trust me when I say that when there are things around you that take away from that motivation, it can hurt.

Losing your motivation can beat you down because you not only lose sight of what's most important to you, but you also become trapped in negativity. And you don't want to get stuck in that, 'I can't' mode.

We are all human and have been in that place at one time or another.

Life is hard. It wasn't meant to be easy. What would be the point in trying harder, and pushing forward, if it was? It's all in how you choose to deal with what road bumps and crap that's thrown at you.

Here's what I've learned:

~ Constantly challenge yourself. Never be still. Once your still, the negativity can sneak in there and tell you, 'you can't'. Do something you've never done before. Try to write that novel or short story and get it out there. Keep going.

~ Always stay focused on what motivates you the most. For me, it's my kids. I need to keep moving forward for them. Whenever I feel low, I remind myself they need me so I pick myself up and do what I have to do.

~ Make sure you have the right support. That means, surround yourself with those you aspire you to be who you want to be. That's imperative. Once you surround yourself with those who are negative and see the world like everyone is against them, it can be contagious. And it's a hard place to get out of.

~ Have small daily goals, as well as weekly/monthly/yearly ones. Doing this keeps you on track and constantly moving towards where you want to be. Small daily goals are awesome because then you can say, 'Okay. I did this, this and this today. I accomplished something.' It helps keep you positive.

~ Always focus on the things you can do and be determined enough to achieve those things. (That's where surrounding yourself with the right people helps).

~ Rest when you need to, and do what you can when you can. If you push yourself too hard, all that can end up happening is you become overwhelmed and not feel you can do anything. (That was a hard one for me...and still is.)


Stay strong, be who you're meant to be and do what you can. You're no hero if you give up.

You're a hero if you try.

Happy Tuesday.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Writing Sample Saturday: Kids Amaze Me

I thought I'd go back a bit for today's Saturday Sample, because I've gotten to spend more time with my oldest, Jaimie, which I haven't gotten to for a while.

As many of you know, Jaimie has Asperger's and SPD. She has had a tremendous amount of therapy to be who she has become and I am so proud.

The girl that refused to speak until she was three, is now volunteering to be the Master of Ceremonies. The girl that was afraid to even allow people to touch her, is giving hugs. The girl that didn't know how to interact with other kids, or even was interested in having friends, is a social butterfly. The girl I had to cut tags out of all her clothes and wouldn't even wear things that didn't 'feel right', is trying new stuff.

I am so proud of her.

Today, I am sharing the awarding-winning, short story called 'Kids Amaze Me', that was actually included in a book from Chicken Soup For the Soul (for Special Needs). And it inspired the books I've written about her experiences (I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD and Not Just Spirited).

This story always brings tears to my eyes because it reminds me how far she's come. Without the understanding, therapy and love she's received, she wouldn't be who she is today.

Thank you to all of you for your support all of these years.

Happy Saturday.

Baby mine, don’t you cry; baby mine, close your eyes; lay your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine. – Baby of Mine from Disney’s Dumbo

My daughter, Jaimie, was my miracle girl. She reminded me of one of those little babies you see in photos from the early 1900s: big blue wondering eyes, poker straight strawberry blonde hair, and creamy porcelain doll skin. Looking down on her each night as I watched her sleep, my heart filled with pure love I didn’t know existed before she did.

She’s perfect.

But as she grew, she became increasingly more introverted and scared of her surroundings. Something was terribly wrong with my sweet angel. After two-and-a-half years of her behaviour getting worse, we had her assessed and she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Although not a life-threatening disorder, it causes her tremendous anxiety and frustration. Essentially, SPD is a dysfunction of the nervous system where information received from the environment isn’t processed properly in Jaimie’s brain. She has no “filtering out” capability, causing her to get smells, sights, noises or tactile (touch) signals all at the same time. It would be comparable to a crowd of people coming at you all at once each demanding a different sort of attention, which can be both scary and overwhelming. Needless to say, her SPD can alienate her from other children as they’re unsure how to approach her.

We live in a townhouse complex where the homes are lined up around a winding road. It’s nice because the homes block out sound from the street, but it makes noise within the complex quite audible.

One day Jaimie was in the front yard running and spinning in circles...two things she finds comfort in doing. As Jaimie spun, her strawberry blonde hair spread out around her like a parachute coming in for a landing. She stopped only when things were spinning without her and she fell into a pile of giggles on the prickly grass.

As I laughed with Jaimie I heard a young, but husky, voice from my right ask, “What’s wrong with her?”

Surprised by the sudden intrusion, I turned to see a young blonde girl, her pigtails sticking out Pippy Longstockings-style from under her bike helmet.

“What do you mean,” I asked calmly.

I knew what she meant. I’d heard her comments about Jaimie when we’d seen her at the park.

“She’s always spinning around, talkin’ to herself. I tried to talk to her at the park but she just ran away screamin. I didn’t even do anything to her. She’s always got a soother in her mouth and she’s not even a baby. Her bike has three wheels, but she’s big. Why is she so weird?”

I smiled. Ah, the honesty of little ones.

She wasn’t asking to be mean. She simply wanted to know why this other girl was so…different from her and her friends.

I crouched down and put my hand on Jaimie’s chest while she stared up at the clouds. She seemed oblivious to the other girl beside me. The young, inquisitive girl stood astride her bike staring down at me waiting for her answer.

Finally, after finding the right words for the girl to understand, I started by asking her, “Tell me something, dear. Have you ever tried really hard to do something but it was really hard for you?”

“Oh yeah, lotsa times,” she nodded.

“And what happened when you tried to do something hard and you couldn’t do it right away? How did it make you feel?”

She scrunched up her face, as though it helped to remember. “I remember learning to ride this bike with no extra wheels and I kept falling off. I hurt myself a lot. I didn’t want to do it anymore cuz every time I tried I fell. It made me very mad and I cried” she said all in one breath. “My dad and mom told me to keep tryin’ and then I could do it. Then one day, I did!”

“That’s wonderful,” I smiled. “Those mad feelings you felt…where you cried…those didn’t feel very good did they?”

“No. I didn’t like that.” She looked down.

“That’s how Jaimie feels every single day. The hard part is what hurts her isn’t always something we can see.”

“You mean something invisible is makin’ her like that?” she asked, her emerald eyes widening.

“I guess you could say that,” I laughed. “You see, Jaimie feels things differently than you or I do. Hey! Have you ever been at the park when it’s really busy and loud?”

“Oh yes. It’s like that everyday at recess” she said.

“Right! Okay, well it can get pretty busy there, right? So busy you can’t always concentrate on one thing.”

“Yeah. Like if I’m tryin’ to talk to my friends but everyone is runnin’ around and screamin’”.

Exactly. It may be hard for you to understand this, sweetie, but that’s how Jaimie feels all the time. Like there are lots of sounds, things to see, smells or people trying to touch her and she gets scared. She doesn’t know how to ignore stuff so she can listen to one noise or see one thing. She gets very scared and she runs or she stands there and screams.”

The little girl stared at me for a good minute then looked down at Jaimie. Her eyes rimmed with tears.

“Is that why she ran away from us at the playground,” she asked, her voice shaking.

“Yes. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to play with you. There was just too much going on for her to feel comfortable enough to talk to you. That’s all. Jaimie has special needs but she’s still a wonderful girl to know. You just have to be patient with her until she feels safe enough with you.”

The young girl wiped her nose on her arm, then got back on her bike. “I get scared too sometimes. That’s not so weird.”

“No, that’s not so weird.”

Jaimie got up and started spinning again. The young girl rode back over to her friends who asked her why she was talking to “the weird girl”. As I walked back to the stairs to sit down I heard the young girl’s voice echo around our complex:

Hey! She’s not weird. Her name is Jaimie and she’s special. And I’m going to be friends with her.” 

With that, she dropped her bike and ran back over to our front lawn and spun with Jaimie.

“See, Jaimie? There’s nothin’ wrong with bein’ scared. I’ll spin with you ‘til you want a friend.”

Kids amaze me.

Video trailer for BLACKBIRD FLIES!

Video Trailor for JUST SHUT UP and DRIVE