The Seduction

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reading

You simply must meet her. Paige is mystifying. Infuriating. Bewildering. She’s also the protagonist in Mandi Castle’s debut novel, Dear Stephanie. You’ll want to resist her allure. You’ll want to hate her. But be warned, your resistance is futile. Prepare to be seduced.

How often have you looked at someone in envy. Someone who seems to “have it all.” Their life seems to be a seamless string of perfection. Maybe it’s the celebrity who’s gorgeous and talented. Maybe it’s the person you see in your day to day life, the one who’s always smiling their mega-watt smile and effortlessly gliding through their day.

Maybe you even know one of these people, on a personal level. They keep you at an arms length, beguiling you with their wit. But there’s never that moment. You know, the moment where you relate. Where you see the human behind the face.

So you go on thinking they have it all together. And that’s what they want. Because pain and suffering and depression and mental illness like to lurk in the dark. That’s where those beasts grow and flourish. Hidden and cloaked in shame, they only show you what you want to see. What’s acceptable. Comfortable. Because light exposes weakness and exposing weakness means admitting and dealing with and confronting. And if you are weighted down by depression that’s the last thing you’re looking to do.

And so it begins with Paige. She has it all and she doesn’t mind telling you so. She flaunts her perfection. She revels in the distant adulation. She goes to great pains to make you think that there is no crack in the foundation. That her world is flawless. She will distract you with steamy and heated scenarios. She will have you breathing heavy and sweating. She will lure you with her innuendo. She will be blunt. She will ensnare you. In spite of yourself. Because she represents shallow and vain, and those aren’t attractive qualities. But she will prevail. You are now enthralled.

And this is when it gets real.

Layer by layer she is revealed to you. So subtly you barely realize it’s happening. You come-to from your reader’s trance and realize that you have connected with this character that you started out loathing. When did that happen? How was I duped?

Don’t bother questioning it. You’ve been seduced.

You find yourself deeper into the psyche of this mysterious character. Only to realize there’s so much more. You begin to relate. You start to see the hows and the whys and the who’s. And it all makes sense. It’s all so tragic.

And it’s all so brilliant.

Because this book takes you on the journey, the arc that so many who come across a Paige in their real life, know all too well. The facade. The seduction. The bravado. But then, once a tiny fracture appears, the real. The pain. The sorrow. The suffering. The hidden truths that lie within a broken person.

And once you get past the lure of the glamour and the hedonism, you start to see the things that make up this person. And that’s when you really become invested.

That is when Dear Stephanie takes hold and grips you. That’s when you find yourself sucking in air and trying to control you emotions and waving off anyone who dares interrupt your immersion into Paige’s world. That’s when you find your emotions churning and rising and falling with each turn of the page. That’s when you begin reading furiously, devouring the last few chapters, eager for answers.

And as abruptly as it started, the seduction is over. But isn’t that the way with an enticing frolic? The allure pulls you in and before you know it you’re left looking around trying to figure out what just happened.

And so it ends with Dear Stephanie.

Dear Stephanie is available on Amazon now! Click here to buy/download.

 

 

DearStephaniePaige Preston wants to end her life. After an unsuccessful attempt, she lands herself in mandatory therapy with a sexy psychiatrist. When he and an even more alluring friend begin to help her break down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Paige begins to see something bigger than herself. Is it enough to pull her out of her dark world and help her finally feel like a human? Or will letting someone in be the final step toward her demise? 

Dear Stephanie is a sinfully addictive walk through a world of beauty, affluence, and incidental love that effortlessly moves the reader between laughter, tears, heartache, and hope with the turn of every “Paige.”

 

Author PicMandi Castle is a daydreaming stay at home mom of two who spends most her time reading and writing. She loves watching football, is obsessed with music, and has a serious addiction to smart funny people. She can often be caught having dance parties in her kitchen in Dallas, Texas. To connect more visit her at mandicastle.com

 

 

 

A Love Letter To All Of You

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Lately my heart has been hurting for some people I love. I see so much pain that runs so deep. And over at SisterWives I see brave writers baring their souls and bleeding on the page. And in doing so they find healing and comfort and sometimes even a little closure. So I decided to write a letter to my friends in pain, to the writers I’ve met and befriended, and to you. To all of you…

We’re All A Little Broken…

 

Can’t We All Be Keith Richards?

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“I can’t get no satisfaction

Cause I try, and I try, and I try…”

-The Rolling Stones, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Raise your hands if you’ve ever felt like quitting.

Ever felt like you were a fraud.

Like maybe you were good… once. But whatever it was is gone.

A fluke.

If you’ve ever felt like abandoning the need that burns within you to create…

I get it.

I think we all get it.

Anyone who sets out to make art, anyone who’s existence feeds on creativity and the need to put themselves “out there” in the form of pictures, words, music, gets it.

Because sometimes being an artist/musician/writer/creator just sucks. It is walking around naked, baring your soul and serving it up for public consumption. It is wanting to have people respond and connect to it, yet wanting to crawl under a blanket of anonymity when they do.

And sometimes it is nothing. A parched and desolate landscape of empty thoughts and hollow ideas.

This is when it hurts the most. You twist and turn in frustration. You snarl at those who have the misfortune of being in your presence. You question your worth or your talent. You feel the stinging burn of tears as you allow those bastards known as Fear and Doubt, creep in to your mind. You worry that it’s all dried up, the well of creativity is empty.

Yet we keep doing it. We keep trying to do the thing we love.

But maybe… maybe we don’t have to continue this torturous cycle of elation, doubt, fear, despair. Maybe…  maybe we can all be like Keith Richards.

Yes. Keith Richards. He is one of the hardest working musicians and songwriters in rock history. He was known to practice for hours upon hours each day. He poured himself into writing melodies when the record company was demanding new hit singles every 12 weeks. Hard work. Putting in the hours. We’ve all heard that the key to any creative endeavor is exercising the muscle, showing up, doing the unglamorous work.

But there’s more to it than that. You see, Keith knew that inspiration could come at any moment, so he never travelled without his guitar and he slept with a tape recorder next to his bed. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Keith getting up in the middle of the night, picking up his guitar and playing a riff and mumbling something about “satisfaction.” He had no recollection of doing this, but the next morning he listened to hours of static until he got to the part with the seed for what would become the Rolling Stone’s biggest hit.

He wrote one of the world’s most famous guitar riffs in his sleep.

Effortless. Guided by the guitar gods. The mark of a true musical genius.

But what if it wasn’t genius or divine intervention?

What if it was simply that his mind was at rest and it was that stillness that allowed the creativity within him to come to the surface?

What if we could all do that?

What if we could all be Keith Richards?

What if we could all have the thing within us flow effortlessly and without the tug and pull that we engage in every day? What if we could tap into the reservoir of ideas that’s hidden beneath all of the noise? Beneath the hustle and the chaos and the alerts and pings and beckonings of life.

Because it’s there. We all have something that’s lying in wait. Waiting for a moment of quiet to peek it’s shy tender head through and be recognized. While you’re pounding away in frustration it is sitting patiently, waiting for you to take a breath and listen.

And this is the hardest thing to do. The desire to create something takes over logic and we drown it with our relentlessness.

Eventually we’re caught up in this frustrating place of toiling and sweating and trying and what we’re trying to get is just out of reach. Eventually we burn out.

But we don’t have to. Art doesn’t have to be suffering. Not if we respect it. Not if we nurture ourselves and nurture our art. But this, too, takes effort. We have to take time. We have to give ourselves a chance to listen to what’s beneath. Pause. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Watch a sunrise. Sit in silence. Take a walk. Go for a run. Sleep. Dream. Do whatever allows your mind to roam.

It’s no coincidence that inspiration often comes during the quiet moments. That while you’re standing naked in the shower, while you’re driving in your car with the windows rolled down, while you’re sweating in the yard under a warm sun, that these are the moments when you feel the ideas coming forward.

Find whatever gives your mind space to breath, and do it more. Whatever task or activity brings forth ideas that send you scurrying for a pen and paper? Do more of that. And if that’s not practical or possible on a regular basis? Then meditate. Just breathe and sit in stillness. The bottom line is the things that you’re trying to do, that you do not do for fame or fortune but simply for the fact that they sustain you and make you feel whole, you need to give them the courtesy of time and you need to open the door to allow them to come out.

You need to nurture them.

Respect the creativity within you. Instead of battling and fighting and trying to summon by sheer force of will… Instead of battling for the thoughts to come, instead of trying to tease out the next sentence, breathe.

I want to sink into it and get lost in the flow. I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the elation as it happens effortlessly. That is what we keep chasing, isn’t it? The sweet spot of creativity and productivity.

Like being in a dream, yet awake. Like playing a song in your sleep. Magic.

It’s there. We can all tap into it if we pause. If we stop beating it up and treating it like an obedient dog that will come when beckoned.

If we take the time to take care of it. Take care of ourselves. We can see what is in there waiting to emerge.

So don’t give up. You’re not a fluke or a fraud. You have beauty and art within you. Kick fear and doubt’s ass to the curb.

Take care of yourself. Be gentle with your creative spirit. Allow it the oxygen it needs to grow and make itself known.

Let’s all be Keith Richards.

 

This is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion project. This month’s them is “nurturing.” If you’d like to join, add you blog post to this link:


You can also join 1000Speak on Facebook and follow our blog.  

Let’s Take “Beliefs” Out Of the Discussion

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“My place is of the sun and

this place is of the dark. I do not feel the romance,

I do not catch the spark.”

-Indigo Girls, Prince of Darkness

Eddie Outlaw

Right now everyone’s talking about beliefs. Beliefs that prompted the now infamous Religious Freedom Act in Indiana – and other similar initiatives that are peppering the country in a manic rush to cut the legs off of an impending Supreme Court decision.

It’s supposedly all about beliefs. A conversation that has echoes of the not too distant path. Beliefs that are being recycled but not repurposed. A hand me down with historical context.

Beliefs are being held up and declared all while clutched in sweaty, angry fists. Beliefs are being trotted out like a prize pig at a State Fair.

So much talk of beliefs. And we all know that talk is the cheapest currency.

All of this talk is treading on some sacred ground. Beliefs (especially the religious kind) are for most of us a taboo subject. We don’t discuss them, we don’t engage in debate about them. Just try to bring it up on FaceBook and watch the insults fly and the defriending begin. No, we prefer to leave others to their beliefs and quietly go about living our lives guided by our own.

Most of us, that is.

Others? Well, they like to scream their beliefs in the faces of those who dare stand up to bigotry. Spittle forming in their taut mouth as they spout their reasons for the taking away of rights from others.

So what’s a respectful equality loving person to do when we see beliefs being molded into a vehicle for injustice and discrimination? What do we do when we see someone using their beliefs to leave people out, to treat them differently? When it’s affecting people’s rights to rent an apartment or a home? People’s rights to access to anything and everything that most of us take for granted. People’s rights to patronize a business? Sound familiar?

Do we sit quietly out of politeness and deference to said beliefs?

I have been struggling with this. I don’t want to step on anyone’s faith or beliefs. It’s not my way, it’s not my aim. But this conversation needs to happen and it doesn’t have to turn into debates over beliefs.

I don’t care about your beliefs.

I’m not here to trample your beliefs. I’m not here to comment on anyone’s beliefs.

I don’t feel like your beliefs are any of my business.

I don’t feel the need to say that I respect your beliefs.

It’s not my place to evaluate or determine whether your beliefs are worthy of respect.

Because I don’t care about your beliefs.

I care about your actions.

I care about how you treat the people you come in contact with every day.

I care about how you treat people you may not agree with.

Your beliefs? Who am I to judge them? They are for you to wrestle with and to determine.

If you are my neighbor, my friend, my boss, my congressman? I don’t care if you’re Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Atheist. Your beliefs are not my business nor my concern.

Beliefs are something that may guide you to live life with integrity and compassion. Or beliefs can be something you can carry around in your back pocket and pull out at any moment to justify actions. The difference boils down to character.

I’m interested in the fairness and compassion and empathy you do or do not express to your brothers and sisters of all faiths, all sexes, all races, all sexual orientations.

If you have to justify your behavior with your beliefs? That I can’t respect. Your beliefs are inconsequential. Your actions are the mark of your character. Making excuses or justification is just a lazy way to explain bad behavior. To pat yourself on the back as you step on the backs of others. If that’s your standard operating procedure, then I don’t respect you.

If you think you are better than others because of your beliefs? Then I can’t respect you. If you judge the lifestyle of other good people just trying to make it in this harsh world? Then I can’t respect you. If you cloak your compassion in judgmental pity? Then I can’t respect you. If you only lend a helping hand to others under the condition that they have to listen to your beliefs and subscribe to them? Then I can’t respect you.

If you are using beliefs to justify inequality? Then maybe you should check your beliefs. Because this is an old song and most of us are tired of hearing the tune. There was a time when beliefs were used as justification for unequal and in-humane and degrading treatment of black people in our country. Looking back I think we can all agree that it was a perversion of the beliefs that were held up as testimony. I think we can all agree that the beliefs that were co-opted and intertwined with vitriol were being abused and used as a cover for fear and hate.

Using beliefs to take away rights? Using beliefs to make a group of people less than? That’s ideology cloaked in fear and hate’s clothing. And it has the faint smell of disingenuousness. Don’t hide behind the safe and untouchable veil of your beliefs. Own your actions. Don’t pass the buck or the blame on to something you claim you hold sacred.

Here’s a little of what I believe.

I believe that equality is equality is equality.

No prerequisites. No conditions. No parameters.

I believe that compassion and caring and empathy for people who are not like you is one of the most important elements of our character.

I believe that actions speak louder than beliefs.

Equality.

It’s really not that complicated.

I believe the loving people in this world far outnumber the fearful and hateful people.

I think most of us want to live peacefully and harmoniously with our brothers and sisters who are just trying to make it in this harsh world.

I do not buy into the politicization of beliefs. The co-opting and the twisting of ideals. The cult of fear and judgement.

If you look upon everyone who is different from you with contempt and fear and condemnation? Then you are going to be spending a lot more time in a dark place my friend. Because our world is becoming smaller. We are connected and exposed in ways never before possible. Thanks to our digital age, we hear from and see and meet people from all over.

Along with this connectedness comes lots of new. New ideas, new lifestyles, new perspectives, new experiences. There’s no turning back from the world we now inhabit, one that is becoming increasingly… one. So maybe now is a good time to open our minds and open our hearts. To accept all the differences that come with living amongst other people.

Maybe now is a good time to embrace the differences and learn to adapt to our changing world. Maybe now is a good time to operate with an open mind. To realize that your way may not always be the best way. That change is not always bad.

Maybe now is the time to stop using your beliefs as a shield against all that you fear. Maybe now is the time to realize that your beliefs belong to you. No one can take them from you. The lifestyle of others does not impact or change your beliefs. If someone else’s way of living affects your beliefs? Maybe now is the time to check the shaky ground upon which your beliefs are tenuously perched.

Maybe you will find that your beliefs shouldn’t cause you to mistreat or discriminate.

Maybe you will come to the conclusion that no good ever comes from taking away rights.

Maybe you’ll see that it’s not even about your beliefs.

It’s about your actions.

Maybe you’ll realize that it’s time to leave beliefs out of the equation.

Maybe we’ll all be better off for it.

 

Warning: May Offend

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Hello lovelies. Today I’m over at my other home, The Sisterwives. On Monday Briton, aka Punk Rock Papa, wrote a hilarious post about inappropriate humor. Today, it’s my turn. I’m not the funniest person in the room, never will be. But I’m a real good side kick. I can run with your jokes and play off of them and I can laugh until I’m wheezing like the Marlboro man.

Join me, will you? Come read all about my neurotic tendencies and my love for dark humor and my fear of cursing. It may offend you. If so, well… I’m sorry. Wait, no I’m not. Well, kind of. Oh, hell, just go read it. (I love you guys, srsly.)

I’m Offended That You’re Offended…. (warning: may offend)

#1000Speak: Building From Bullying

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Last month we had our first #1000Speak For Compassion event. It was pretty huge. Well over 1000 people participated. It was everywhere.

And we’re not done.

This month our theme is “Building From Bullying.”

And as this post by Lizzi so beautifully says,

“In a culture where fear is prevalent, it is easy to act divisively; gathering ourselves into packs and declaring our separate-ness from those we find less palatable, and to an extent this is based on a survival tactic because it brings together a group who can help to protect one another, should the need arise.

But when we decry other people for their characteristics rather than their poor behaviour; when we use shame, humiliation or holding someone up for others to point and laugh at, it’s unkind, and it contributes to the bully culture by generating a power-pyramid. At the top, there are the stronger people, who decide which person is next in line to be condemned. At the bottom are the weaker, who must either participate, or remain silent hoping that their abstinence will be sufficient to mark their distaste.”

So, let’s do this.

Let’s continue to build the village.

Participation is open to anyone and everyone who wants to take part.

Click on this link and add your post. (PLEASE put your post in the link. This is the only archive of all of the #1000Speak posts.) Then Tweet it Share it, and include #1000Speak. Tweet and Share the posts that others have contributed. The more we write, the more we Tweet, the more we Share, the more we are heard.

Link up will be open until Noon GMT on Sunday March 21 (or 8am EST)


The Problem With Girls In Math And Science

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Last year I went to a Parent-Teacher conference with my daughter’s G.T. (Gifted and Talented) teacher. She sang my daughter’s praises. I basked in her glowing words and swelled with pride. Until she said this:

“She’s really good in math. Probably one of my best math students. Even better than the boys in the class.” – said by a real, live teacher. One that teaches kids.

Cue record screech. I immediately snapped to. I wish I could tell you that I questioned this teacher’s perceptions. I wish I could tell you that I pointed out to her that the very statement she meant as a huge compliment was in itself sexist. But I didn’t. I muttered something along the lines of “She’s always been a natural at math,” and something about “number sense.”

My daughter doesn’t think she’s good at math. She thinks it’s her worst subject.

We’ve tried to remedy this. We’ve tried to give her confidence in all areas and avoid the trap of focusing primarily on her beauty. We try to shine a light on her strengths as much as we can.

But I worry it’s not enough.

I worry it’s not enough because in spite of what we might say or the encouragement we might offer, she’s receiving a message from all around her that is much larger. She’s absorbing the myth.

The myth that boys are better at math and science. The myth that her brain is not built for science or technology or engineering or math (STEM).

It’s an idea that has been around for centuries. That nature (gender) determines a person’s cognitive strengths or weaknesses. That girls are better at reading and writing. Boys are naturally better at math and science.

Wrong.

Researchers are speaking up and coming out against these misguided ideas. Scientists have refuted what they are referring to as junk science or the  psuedeo-science of neuro-sexism.

There is no difference between the brains of girls and boys. There is only individual differences. These are not based on gender. Or race. Or social class.

Signs are pointing to nurture playing a bigger role in girls’ attitudes towards STEM.

Girls often start off liking math and science. In elementary school 66% of girls say they are good in math. By high school that number drops to 18%. Girls are not showing up in STEM in high school and college.

And that is a problem.

According to recent studies, confidence is key when it comes to girls pursuing math and science.

Some factors that affect girls’ confidence in these subjects:

The soft-sexism of low expectations: The attitudes and assumptions of parents. Of teachers. Without even realizing it we are perpetuating the false notion of girls’ weakness in these subjects. It’s in the things we say to girls (as evidenced by my daughter’s well-meaning teacher). It’s pervasive.

In studies, teachers have shown a bias in how they grade students in math based on gender. When asked to indicate their gender on tests, girls are shown to score 20% lower. Teachers have been shown to discourage girls from pursuing higher levels of math and science while encouraging boys. When girls’ grades are lower they conclude that they are not smart. And what people think, especially people that girls look up to, influences the way girls perceive themselves.

STEMStereotypes

 

(My daughter’s school inexplicably took Science out of the GT program and replaced it with Language Arts. Baffling considering that STEM job growth is outpacing the rest of the economy by 300%).

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The Politeness Trap. Girls are taught first and foremost to be good. To be polite. And yes, boys are often taught these lessons. But there is a premium on politeness in girls and being sweet and “lady-like” that teaches them to lower their voice, to not interrupt, to defer when someone else is talking. “Boys will be boys” is often cited as an excuse for behavior that would not be excused so easily for girls. Boys are taught to be bold, assertive, independent. If at times they are loud and interrupt, so be it. The result is girls being silenced or not heard. In the classroom especially.

Perfectionism. Girls in our society are raised to be pleasers. Our society has always looked to the women to be the nurturers. They will be the caretakers. Then there’s the pressure to look a certain way. How you dress matters. Looking cute matters. There is infinitely more pressure on girls in this area than boys. Boys don’t have to sit still to have their hair braided. Boys don’t have to worry about dirtying their cute outfit or losing their hair bow. This is so much a part of our culture that we don’t even realize that these things are being absorbed and registered by girls at a very young age. It is imprinting on their brains. It is affecting their sense of self.

Perfect has no place in math and science. Hand writing can be perfect. Speech and reading can be perfect. But math and science rely on failure. Trial and error. If a child is under pressure in so many other areas it is logical that the idea of “freedom to fail” is contradictory to everything else they learn. The “error” portion of trial and error or developing a hypothesis that may be proven wrong are antithetical to so many things that girls are taught.

(This video powerfully illustrates how we are doing a disservice to our girls every day.)

All of these things add up to girls hearing the message loud and clear. Science and math are not their “natural” habitat. All of these things should make you angry. We have been boxing our daughters into a corner of limited options by our willingness to buy into these prejudices. By our ignorance and obliviousness to all of the things we say and do, all of the things they see and hear, all around them, from the day they are born. This makes me angry. Angry at myself for not realizing it sooner. Angry that I have been unknowingly guilty of buying into an ignorant and outdated mindset. Angry that our society still operates under archaic assumptions.

It’s time to un-learn what we’ve been told. It’s time to pay attention to the messages we’re sending. We need to take the pressure off of girls to be “perfect” and “polite” and “nice.” We have to stop quibbling over whether “bossy” is a bad word and simply allow girls to express themselves loudly and boldly and without apology.

Attempts are being made to bring more girls to STEM. There are initiatives and campaigns directed at motivating girls and encouraging them. But I worry that this will be a whisper under the roar of long held ideas about gender and socialization. Confidence is key. The question is how do we unlock it? 

What obstacles do you think stand in the way of girls pursuing STEM subjects and careers? What are your personal experiences with science and math? What do you think can be done to change this trend?

 

All the Stuff… I Forget What Number This Is (and who’s counting anyways?)

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All The Stuff

There’s so much to tell you guys and catch you up on. I’m going to get right to it.

This year is the year I decided to focus on writing my book*. I have written a little here and there over the last few years and have maybe six (very) rough chapters. I recently made the difficult decision to say “No” to some things that would take up time and take me away from my goal of finishing the book.

But… blogging. It has become more involved and much much busier. And I haven’t found much time to squeeze in the actual writing of the book. I am trying to trust where this is all taking me. As flaky as it sounds, I have always believed in the flow of the universe and trusting it to guide me. (Actually, writing it sounds even flakier than how it sounded in my head. Oh well. I’m a flake.) The things that are going on with blogging are so exciting and important enough to me to focus on them and see where they go.

First, the Feminist Friday ebook. I can’t say how grateful I am that I met Gene’O and Diana and that we started a discussion that led to our Feminist Friday project. (Thank you Gene’O for your dogged determination and supreme organization and brilliant strategizing.) We’ve been doing it for a year and fellow FF collaborator, Natacha, had the amazing idea to make it into a free ebook. She took on the nuts and bolts of it (since she’s experienced and a real life author and all). And it turned out wonderfully and I’m so excited about it! And here it is! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524073

Second, I was invited to be a part of The Sisterwives blog. There are so many reasons I was ecstatic when they asked me. Aside from the fact that these ladies are all crazy talented, the whole purpose of the blog they created is beautiful:

“This is a place to seek out silver linings.

Darkness into light.

Adversity into strength.

Friendship into sisterhood. 

Alone we are enough; together we are STRONGER.”

And THIRD, in all caps because it’s huge is #1000Speak. It’s (over) 1000 bloggers coming together to speak about compassion. I won’t go into all the details of the hows and the whys because I’ve already written about it. But on February 20th it happened and it was huge. Scores of posts that were part of this project were on Huffington Post. One on Elephant Journal (which made me squeal ’cause that’s one of my favorite places on the internet) and it was just everywhere. Tweets. Facebook. Google+. StumbleUpon. And we’re not done. We have plans to keep it going, to keep it growing. We are not satisfied with one day, we’re going to DO something with this. Keep watching. Or better yet, be a part of it. It is the most uplifting beautiful thing I’ve ever been a part of and a lot of beautiful people are involved.

Sigh… so you see. I couldn’t NOT do any of these things. And all of these are long-term commitments. And I couldn’t be happier or more excited or feel more grateful to be a part of all of it.

And, of course, I have to share some of the stuff I’ve read recently that really made an impact on me.

Diana’s #1000Speak post. There are so many amazing ones to choose from, but this one I can’t get out of my head. The best posts inspire us and I know there’s something about this that makes me want to write. I just haven’t figured it out yet. https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/1000speak-body-image-body-compassion-and-choosing-myself/

PunkRockPapa wrote this poem and I almost stood on top of my desk to shout “Hell yeah!” http://punkrockpapa.com/?p=231 I don’t really look like a rebel (other than the fact that I’m 42 years old and wear ripped jeans and concert tees) but this is so what I feel, what I believe.

I’m leaving you with just those two. And that’s really hard for me because there’s been so much that I’ve read lately that has been so so good.

In the real life, busy. My girl is taking art classes downtown and I love to see her talent blossom. My boy is finishing up basketball and still doing his swim team. The little one is progressing in swim lessons and hopefully will be swimming by this summer. And this has been the year of perpetual illness in this house. But hey, it’s mostly good stuff and even the illnesses have been your run of the mill viruses so I’m not complaining. It’s been a good kind of busy.

What else?

I’m trying to not go into full concert withdrawal. We have NO tickets to any shows for this year. None. After an amazing concert season last year I’m feeling a little anxious about this year’s prospects. I need to smell the sweat of the crowd and feel the music pulsing through my chest and I need to go to sleep with my ears ringing. I need to dance with a thousand strangers and lose myself in the music and the mood and the vibe of the crowd. Sigh… in the meantime we’re trying to see some smaller acts at some of the smaller venues in town.

This weekend, more busy. A party in the ‘hood with friends, fun.

Drinking microbrews and craft beers at our annual neighborhood Beertopia festival tomorrow, more fun… we go to this festival every year and it’s always a good time. Last year it got a little crazy, so…

Cheers! to my liver surviving this fun weekend!

And Cheers! to all of you, I hope you have a great weekend!

Tell me what’s going on in your world. What are you excited about right now? What things are you looking forward to? What was the last live show you went to? Tell me everything…. 

*ahem… so, I mention the book but I’m not ready to really explain it yet. Not for any big dramatic reason. Let’s just put it this way, if you ask, I’ll stutter and stammer and sound like a fool. So please spare me the embarrassment and I’ll fill you guys in when I get a few things with it sorted out.

The Book Hangover: Order Of Seven

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You know how you’re reading a book and the characters become real and you feel like you know them? And you get sucked into the story and time seems to stand still while you’re reading? And you find yourself choked up and holding back tears… and then your palms are sweating with nervous anticipation as your eyes scan each word hungrily? And you finish the book with a sigh. You’re on a little bit of a high. You’re spent, yet twitchy. Twitchy because you want more. 

Book hangover. 

That is what happened to me when I finished Order Of Seven by Beth Teliho. And the coolest part? I got to interview her…

 

Writer-ly Questions:

Do you have a writing routine? Do you have a way of getting into the “headspace” you need before sitting down to write? 

I don’t have a routine, but I probably need one. When I wrote Order of Seven, I wasn’t blogging or involved in any social media. Now? Writing is an entirely different animal. I have to force myself to stay away from Facebook, emails, and the blog until I’ve written for my second novel. This is so much harder than it sounds! So for now, my routine is constantly changing and evolving. Some days I fail miserably. Some days I rock out 2,500 words. Just depends.

What was the hardest part of writing the book? 

The sheer tenacity it takes to muscle through to the end. You crawl and scrape through self-doubt, distractions out the wazoo, and days when you lack inspiration. It takes mule-like stubbornness and enormous belief in your story to make it happen. And then you have to edit it. << IN.SANE.

Do you work with structure or outline? Or do you wing it and go with the flow then organize after the fact? 

I call myself a “burst writer”. I stew with an idea in my head for weeks or sometimes even months – I call this the percolation period – during which I scribble endless notes (in brand new notebooks because… office supplies) about characters, scenes, and details. I try to have the conflict and purpose worked out before writing, because without them you don’t have a story. Then BAM, I’m at the computer day and night until I have a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a hideous monstrosity at this point (the original draft of Oo7 was near double what it is now), but I have a story to whittle and shape.

Questions about the book, Order Of Seven:

What sparked your interest in the paranormal?

It’s always been fascinating to me. I’m the (weirdo) curled up on the couch on a Friday night watching Ancient Aliens, A Haunting, Ghost Hunters, Paranormal Children, Long Island Medium, etc. I love those shows. I’ve always been a little offended I wasn’t born with a paranormal gift.  I feel like I should have one. Can you do anything about that, Gretchen?

*author’s note* Beth, if I had the power to grant paranormal gifts, I would totally hook you up. Telekinesis? E.S.P.? What’s your flavor? Also, Ghost Hunters! I love that show. 

How long was this story (or the idea of it) in your head before you started writing it?

Some of the characters from Oo7 were in my head for years before I began writing the novel. I still have a notebook from 2004 with the names Devi and Nodin scribbled in the margins. I didn’t write seriously until years (and two kids) later, but when I did, I began what was supposed to be a short story, but turned into what I’d started years earlier in that notebook. It amazes me to think how it’s come full circle.

This book feels very connected to nature and the spirituality of the natural world. What is the significance of nature to you and/or to this book.

EVERYTHING. It’s probably no surprise that this book is incredibly personal to me. Probably more so than any novel I’ll write in the future. I’ve been asked which character in Oo7 is me, and my answer is simply: all of them. I’m Devi, Joe, Nodin, Ben, Baron…these are all pieces of me, and woven through them and in the message of the book are my philosophies, doubts, fears, inspirations and hopes.

Questionable questions:

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love?

Use all my available credit to book an impromptu trip to Mexico. I was waitressing and had zero savings, but I was in love. I married him so I got my money back eventually. haha

Do you ever write naked? (This is for our dear friend Lizzi)

Only while texting Lizzi. Otherwise I have a strict dress code of cowboy boots and a tutu.

Tattoos. Do you have one? Do you plan on getting one (or more)?

I have three and plan on getting several more. It’s been two decades since I’ve been inked, but it’s high time I get back under the needle. I’ve been waiting for the right time and the right inspiration.

What is it with guys and tattoos that is so hot?

I DON’T KNOW BUT I’M UNDER THEIR SPELL AND DON’T WANT TO LEAVE

***

About Order Of Seven:

Eighteen-year-old Devi Bennett is surrounded by mysteries: her unknown heritage, a recurring dream about an African tribal ceremony, an inexplicable attachment to a certain tree and a psychic ability she’ll never understand—unless she finds her biological parents.

Things take a shocking turn when she meets Baron, an intense and alluring energy healer who receives prophetic dreams which all seem connected to her. Devi must rely on an empath, a seer, and Baron to help research her roots to discover who she is and what she is capable of. But when Baron’s visions lead to an ancient legend which may link to her birthright, Devi learns her gift is more imperative than she thought imaginable.

Equal parts suspenseful and sexy, philosophical and adventurous, Order of Seven delivers a story that will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about the hands that carry fate.

 

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BETH TELIHO is a writer, artist and tree hugger who lives in Texas with her husband and two adventurous sons. Restless in the mundane, she writes about the abnormal, paranormal and otherwise fantastical because that’s what quickens her heartbeat. She laughs at inappropriate jokes, and prefers spicy food and margaritas to almost anything. One day, she hopes to live in a treehouse, where she can be an eccentric introvert with at least seven cats.

 

 

Amazon pre-order: http://www.amazon.com/ORDER-SEVEN-Beth-Teliho-ebook/dp/B00U2VX80Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425150180&sr=8-1&keywords=order+of+seven%2C+beth+teliho

Visit the author at her website: www.bethteliho.me

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/writerbisme

Twitterverse: @beth_teliho

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/bethteliho

Goodreads giveaway, running Feb 23 – March 23: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24994112-order-of-seven

Isn’t Beth the coolest person ever? Are you dying to read this book? Do you think she should show us a picture of her in the tutu and cowboy boots? Talk to me!

 

 

 

 

Now’s the Time. Do Something. #1000Speak

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“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I wanted to do something. I felt helpless as I sat in the backseat. My legs couldn’t yet reach the floor board, my pockets were empty of all but a scuffed up Hot Wheel toy car. But I wanted to do something.

It was the first time I’d seen someone begging for food.

The seconds ticked by while we sat at the stop light. I studied him and wondered what it must be like to be him. I saw tattered clothes, I saw a worn face. I watched as he stared straight ahead, meeting no one’s eyes. Letting his roughly scrawled sign do all the talking.

And suddenly we were off, on our way. Off to do some destination so inconsequential I can’t remember it.

But I remember him.

I remember feeling the unfairness of it all.

I remember feeling incredibly sad.

Concerned.

Pity.

Shame.

I was young but I knew enough. I knew a little of hunger. Of shoes too small. I knew a little of the struggle to make it to payday.

But my hunger was always fed eventually. My toes were only pinched for a short time until we received hand me downs from family friends. My mom shielded us with stretched out cans of Beenie Weenies and a funny story or a silly face. Her casual manner hid the stress of trying to survive one more day.

But I didn’t know what it was like to be him.

“I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Life goes on. We see people barely hanging on to life, clinging to shreds of dignity.

You can’t really ignore it. It’s on the street corner. It’s huddled under the overpass. It’s on the t.v. It’s in the news.

All around us people are in pain or in fear or destitute.

It’s hard to ignore.

Yet somehow we do.

It’s survival. It’s not letting ourselves get washed away in the abyss of despair when you look at the suffering. When you feel hopeless in the face of tragedy. When you feel angry at ongoing injustices. We can’t let ourselves drown in it all. We have to take care of our lives, our kids, our families. That’s self preservation.

And we have to preserve ourselves.

“I don’t know why nobody told you

How to unfold your love.

I don’t know how someone controlled you

They bought and sold you”

Sometimes we insulate ourselves because of our own hurts and our own struggles that bearing the pain of another person’s suffering is just too much.

That’s ok. As long as when you’re better you take off the blinders and take part. As long as you don’t let your head stay nestled comfortably in the sand long after it’s due for an appearance above ground.

“I look at the world and I notice it’s turning

While my guitar gently weeps.

With every mistake we must surely be learning

Still my guitar gently weeps.”

Because there’s much to do my friends. Every great change that has ever taken place has required masses of people to take notice, to stand up, to participate.

There are so many things, so many ways to give. There’s causes to join. Movements to start. It’s little every day things and big grand gestures.

As long as it’s something. Because not doing something leaves you feeling much more helpless. Because not doing something leads to more of the same.

I look around and I see the world in pain. I see fear pulsating. I see children hungry. I see humans sold. I see divisions over arbitrary lines in the sand and borders that were decided ages ago. I see religions of love and peace tear each other apart. I see black men being shot. I see children being abused. I see people dying from diseases that don’t carry a big enough payout for a cure. I see people slipping through the cracks we all blithely step over every day.

And I remember him.

I remember the disappointment of driving away. Of wanting to run back and do something. But instead turning around to look out the back window. Watching as he faded from view.

“I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

Atrocities and injustices of the past tug on the back of our conscious. We struggle to comprehend the brutality of the past. How did people allow these things to happen? Why was there hatred over superficial and trumped up differences? Why did they allow needless suffering? Why didn’t they do something?

These things are viewed through the lens of present day.

How many things are we allowing to happen? How many things will our children, our grandchildren look back upon and wonder, Why didn’t someone stop it? Why didn’t people stand up? Why did’t they push back?

“Look at you all

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Now’s our chance to do something.

I know it’s there, in you. In me. In all of us.

The part of that cares.

The part that cries when we hear of pain and suffering.

The part that hurts when we see injustice.

The part that breaks when we see hate and anger.

The part that wants to do something.

Meet anger with softness.

Meet hatred with love.

Meet judgement with acceptance.

Meet ignorance with knowledge.

Meet apathy with urgency.

Meet hunger with food.

Meet cold with warmth.

Meet disregard with a mirror.

Indifference with compassion.

I have hope. I have overwhelming optimism and hope. Because,

Look at you all. 

#1000Speak

1000 Voices for Compassion

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