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Monday, July 25, 2016

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



Happiness.

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.

Happiness.

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

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.)

Motivation.

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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Chynna's Kids Speak Out!: A Review of The Littlest Inventor

Usually, on Sundays we get the kids to blog about their thoughts. But today, I am reviewing a wonderful new sensory kids' book called, "The Littlest Inventor".

I loved this book. When I first wrote, "I'm Not Weird, I Have SPD", I was trying to give my Jaimie a tool to communicate with others of what she was going through on a daily basis. She didn't have the words because she couldn't speak, so I gave them to her. This book does the same thing.

I would gear this to younger readers, as it is rhyming and very understandable to younger readers. I loved it.

The illustrations do not take away from what the message is. The focus is on the child, which is so important. I can remember so many days when my Jaimie focused on what she couldn't do, rather than focus on what I was trying to teach her what she could.. That is a very important thing for SPD/Autistic children because what they learn to do as they develop, will help them grow into what they know they can do as adults.

We need to teach them these skills.

This is an amazing book that should be in libraries everywhere. It is an amazing teaching tool, even for those kids who don't have sensory issues. It gives the message that the power to be who we are is in our hands, and with the right tools, patience and energy, it can happen.

My Jaimie is a model for that.

Check it out. <3


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Writing Sample Saturday: Just Shut Up and Drive

Well, I'm in a sentimental mood today.

We've had to deal with a lot of things going on around here lately. Death of a loved one, health stuff, school being out and missing friends...just 'stuff'.

So, I thought, in light of that, I'd share a snippet from my novel, 'Just Shut Up and Drive', that depicts the importance of remembering the things we need to stay close to us in order to keep us focused on events, and people, that help to keep us grounded.

We can all become derailed at some point. And that's okay because we are human and none of us are perfect. No one is. But knowing we have those 'lights' in our lives to turn to during those hard times will help us pull through.

So, today I am sharing a snippet from my novel that makes that point.

Remember those who are important to you that you've lost. Keep those still with you close. Know that life isn't easy, and deal with it how you can. Teach the children in your life that life isn't easy, but give them the tools to get through it. Remember that we aren't immortal and we have to take care of the body you've been given.

Live.

Love.

Be the best you.

That's all you can do.

It isn't what you get, buy or hoard that matters. It's what you do while you're here that matters.

Enjoy and Happy Writing!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"C'mon, son," Gramps said, swatting Wil on the back as he walked past him on the way to the door. 

"Stop standing there lookin' so scornful or your face will stick that way."

Wil released a sharp breath. "Do you think, maybe, you could give me an order without having to beat me at the same time? That would be appreciated. By the time this journey ends, I'm going to be bruised head-to-toe."

"Well, if you didn't daydream so much I wouldn't have to keep shaking you awake."

"If you didn't talk so much, I wouldn't have a need to daydream," Wil said, closing the back door behind them.

Gramps grunted, then opened the unlocked gate to the cemetery. "Grab a handful of those flowers there, will ya? Those are her favorites."

Wil was about to ask who "her" was again but decided to shut it. He knew he wasn't going to get an answer anyway. He just assumed whoever she was, she had to be a resident of the cemetery. Or his grandfather was finally losing it.

He bent over to pick the flowers, careful not to pull them up by the roots, and slid through the gate. The cemetery was about the same size as two decent-sized backyards found in the upper class areas back in Winnipeg. It didn't look like a 'rich man's' cemetery since a lot of the headstones were quite small. Most graves were marked with simple nameplates or wooden crosses. It seemed to be well taken care of, though, judging by the lush green grass growing around each guest.

There was a gorgeous willow tree in the farthest left corner of the fence, its branches hanging protectively over the nameplates around its base. There were other smaller trees spread out around the area, all with new leaf blossoms. One of the smallest trees standing beside a worn, faded wooden cross actually had a little bird's nest in it. Wil shuddered with the profound realization that past lives rested there while new life still sprouted all around.

I think Gramps is getting to me, he thought, shaking his head.

He moved his eyes across the yard, stopping when he saw Gramps crouched down at a marker by the willow tree. He tiptoed over and around the path, silently apologizing to the names as he went, until he got to his grandfather. "Here you go…" Wil started, then stopped when he saw the name:

LILY-MAE CARTER (JOHANSSON)
Daughter, sister, wife, mother.
                Rest In Eternal Peace                  

Gramps took the flowers and laid them in front of the small headstone. Then he said, "See, Mommy? I told ya I'd bring him one day. This here is Wil. Wil, this is your Gran."

Wil frowned, his mouth agape. "Gramps, I…why wouldn't you have told me this was what we're doing? It would have been nice to prepare myself."

"Don't you disrespect your Gran," Gramps said, his eyes still on the headstone. "I just introduced you to a fine lady. Now mind your manners, get down here, and say hello. She's waiting."

Wil had heard many stories of his grandmother's loving nature, her wicked sense of humor, and her endless generosity. She was also one of the strongest women he'd heard of, having fought breast cancer, not once but twice, during a time when women weren't expected to live long after their diagnosis, no matter how hard they fought. She'd done all of that while raising five kids and taking care of the house while Gramps worked. She'd been the rock in their family and Gramps’ entire world. To that day, he talked about her like she was still with them and always called her “Mommy.”

Wil knelt down next to Gramps, giving him a quick glance. Then he cleared his throat and said, "Hi, Gran. It's nice to meet you."

The two men sat gazing at the headstone. A light breeze caught the branches of the willow tree, making one of the longer ones brush gently across Wil's cheek. Goosebumps exploded all over his body. He bit his lower lip in a lame attempt to stop tears from forming. He heard the tiny squeaks of the baby birds calling their mama from the nest a few feet behind them.

"We're just on a little road trip, Mommy," Gramps continued, his voice barely above a whisper. 

"Gotta teach this boy a thing or two. Just like I had to with Craig. You remember those days, right? Trust me, this boy is all sass just like his dad. But he's brains too so there's some hope." He coughed a weak laugh, then said, "Well, we have to go for now. But you know I'll see ya soon. I promise."
With that, Gramps kissed the palm of his hand, pressed it to Gran's name, adjusted the flowers for her, then pulled himself up. He pushed his glasses up, wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, readjusted his frames, and shuffled down the path back to the gate. Wil stood, never taking his eyes off the headstone. 

He'd never been to his parents' gravesite, and he didn't want to go. Somehow, the action of doing that would mean he accepted their death, and he didn't. He knew one day he'd need to, if for no other reason than to close the door on that chapter of his life. He wasn't ready for that yet, though. And no one pushed him on it.

But for some reason, visiting Gran was…okay. It was oddly comforting. It actually filled a tiny part of him that had been empty before he got there. It was hard for him to put into words, but the feeling was similar to the serene calmness that had enveloped him whenever his mom had hugged him after getting hurt or being scared. He smiled, shoved his hands deep in his front pockets, then followed Gramps.

They locked the gate and then went back into the church to return the key. Gramps started down the aisle toward the front doors of the church. Wil stopped and said, "Wait a sec. I have to do something before we go."

Gramps turned and waited as Wil lumbered over to the candle table. He lifted his eyes to the crucifix hanging on the wall above the candles. The smoke snaking up past Christ's face seemed to emphasize His anguished facial expression. Wil fought the urge to turn back around. He pulled his right hand out of his jeans pocket and picked up one of the long matches from the pile. He held it over the flame of the candle closest to him and, after a second, the end of the match sparked.
He moved his hand over to a thick, white candle that looked like it had never been lit, and touched the match to its wick. Once a small yellowish-orange glow grew, he pulled back the match and blew it out. He shoved his hand back into his pocket and stepped back from the table.

Take care, Gran, he thought. Maybe I'll come back to visit again soon too.

He walked backward toward the aisle between the pews where Gramps still waited, keeping his eyes on the crucifix. The smoke from the candle he'd lit weaved its way up to Christ's feet. A warm wave spread from the pit of his stomach out to the rest of his torso—not unlike the sensation of drinking hot soup on a cold day. Then he turned to face Gramps.

The two men locked eyes. A smile tugged up the corner of Wil's mouth, and he nodded. Gramps nodded, and led the way out of the church. The old man put the key in the mailbox then walked down the stairs as Wil walked over to the truck and unlocked it. 

They each got in, buckled up, and Wil started up the engine. They pulled out of the parking lot, drove back through downtown, and up to where the road met the highway. Then Wil leaned over the steering wheel. Both men stared out the windshield.

"Where to next?" Wil asked

"Portage. We'll stop there for lunch."

"You're the boss."

As Wil turned onto the highway, Gramps leaned over and switched the radio on. He flipped through the stations until the sounds of early jazz filled the car, then he slumped back into his seat. After ten minutes of crooning, trumpet playing, and big band, Wil broke the silence.

"Gramps?"

"What?"

"Thanks."

Keeping his eyes forward, Gramps reached over and squeezed Wil's knee, patted it twice, then curled up against his window.

"We should be in Portage la Prairie in about an hour," Wil said, but from the soft snoring coming from Gramps’ side of the car, he guessed the old man didn't hear him.

The yellow divider lines disappearing under the front of the truck were hypnotizing. The early afternoon sun shone right in Wil's face. He pulled the visor down then leaned back into his seat.

I wonder what Gramps has waiting for me at the next stop, he thought. He had a feeling that Gran's grave wasn't the only thing he was supposed to see on their trip. But he was ready for whatever was up Gramps’ sleeve.

I hope.

Video trailer for BLACKBIRD FLIES!


Video Trailor for JUST SHUT UP and DRIVE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRr-vJ8W7YA