Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Day I Was A G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S Proxy!

Remember when I said I was on a secret mission? Finally, the story can be told! (Click here for FB post)

Each year, actor Misha Collins does something EPIC called GISHWHES. (Stands for Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen!) I've wanted to participate for the past 2 years now but have always been on a book deadline. DRATS!

This year, because I lived close-ish to one of the challenges, I was asked to be a GISHWHES proxy! And man, did I learn a lot as well as having an INSANE amount of fun.

What did I learn? Let me tell you how the day went ...

One of the challenges Misha set was for people to get a photo of one of James Turrell's projects and "celebrate the sky". Luckily, about an hour from Flagstaff, James purchased the property that has Roden Crater on it. Roden Crater is a cinder cone for an extinct volcano. Pretty cool huh?

So when I was asked if I could go there and act as proxy, I said NO WORRIES! Looking at my trusted Maps app, it was about 3 hours away ... easy peasy. <<< yes, I am the person who doesn't mind driving that long for someone.

Here's how it broke down ....

Everything was going well. The driving instructions were pretty basic and we were all in high spirits. My sweet hubby had no idea what was going on, other than I'd volunteered to go take a photo. My daughter had the day off and agreed to come along. Once we'd finished with Roden Crater, the plan was to drive over to Flagstaff to eat and check out bookstores.

It's always interesting when your Maps app tells you to turn right onto a highway that resembles the entrance to a private property. Yep, that should've been my first indication that things were about to get REAL.

No worries. After doing a U-turn because we totally missed it, we headed down the 7 miles of road ... if that's what you would call it. First, we had the 'washboard' ridges that almost rattled our car to pieces. Next came large rocks throughout the 'road'. Finally, I guess the road decided it wasn't fooling anyone and became a dirt road with a mud cracked surface. It was all good though because it wasn't too far to our destination.

I think I should explain now that in my mind, Roden Crater was this official site with a fancy sign and fence. My plan was to show up, take my photo with my props, and leave.

Let's return to the story ...

So we're heading down a CRAZY highway that really wasn't. All was fine until my Maps app stopped working and by stopped, I mean it kept rerouting! With the little info I could still see, Roden Crater was only 4 miles away but now it would take us AN HOUR to get there.

Did we give up? No. We kept going.

Now our internet service stopped. So much for 3G and 4G. We were in the middle of NOWHERE, no service, no reliable map, committed to the cause, and ... now I had to use the bathroom.


We finally pulled up to a big gash in the earth, or what people liked to call Grand Falls. Looking out over the surrounding area, all we could see was low scrub. No roads. No big neon flashing sign that said "HERE IS RODEN CRATER!"

Meanwhile, by an act of God, I managed to get a few messages Christina, the wonderful friend doing GISHWES. I can only imagine what she thought reading:

"Holy cow. We're lost."
"We're going to die!" <<< yep, probably not the best thing to joke about.
"Where the hell is this thing?"

Then I remembered the screen shot I had on my phone about Roden Crater and pulled it up. I'm not ashamed to admit that I stood there, going around in circles, trying to match it to the hills I saw around me.

Based on comparison, estimation of distance from my still not working Maps app, and sheer desperation, we were able to determine where Roden Crater was!! Move over Sherlock Holmes, my powers of deduction are MAGNIFICENT!

Attached are some of the photos we took, including my FAVORITE family photos EVER! I loved them so much I then went out and printed them. They're now hanging on my wall.

We finished taking our photos, again relying on every piece of good karma we'd accumulated, and checked to see whether they would do. They were perfect. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Level AWESOME achieved!

So, about that lesson. Did you catch it amongst my story?

So many times we focus on challenges and everything that goes wrong. We grumble over poorly paved roads. We panic when things don't work. We give up when we think we're lost.

At any time I could've turned around and apologized to my friend. I know she would've understood. I'm pretty sure Christina was wondering whether she'd sent me off to my doom. I could've given into doubts and defeat. I could've done A LOT of things - most reasonable given the situation.

But I didn't.

I did the best I could with a smile on my face. I chose to still have fun and laugh. I chose not to sweat the little stuff, trusting we would be okay because even though it felt a little scary, we really were safe.

I can't imagine how I'd feel if we'd just turned around when we first started down the path. What I do know is I would've missed out on THE BEST DAY me and my family have had in a while! We still joke and laugh about it and I now have cherished memories.

I learned that what may be an inconvenience to others, isn't for me. I'm perfectly fine being the friend who goes that extra mile. I like who I am and because of that, I did something I wouldn't have done.

I'm also a believer in the Law of Attraction - that I hold the power to create the kind of life I want. I don't always know HOW it will come, only that it WILL. For a while I've been saying I wanted to do fun road trips and take photos. VOILA! This is what happened!

And a side note, Misha wanted the photo to reflect celebrating the sky. For those of you who followed along with the Facebook album I uploaded, I pretty much did EXACTLY that. I took some of the most amazing sky photos ever! As a result, I'm considering submitting some to magazines.

So win/win for everyone!

Anywho, this was my secret mission, secret only because I couldn't speak up until after GISHWHES finished. To those who participated, I hope you had a BLAST! I had so much fun doing this that I'm determined to participate fully next year.


I can't wait to see what happens!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Insight Into A Selfie Junkie.

I guess before I start with the purpose of my post, I should offer up a little background about me.

  • Before I became an author, I worked in the Behavioral Health field as a Program Coordinator and Peer Support Specialist at a day program that catered to mental health and substance abuse clients. I created and taught groups, helped with life skills, and offered support as a peer. I held that job for about 3-4 years and was pretty good at it.
  • I attended college and earned my AA in Psychology. I was also taking online classes for Chemical Dependency.
  • I was a qualified class instructor for a few N.A.M.I (National Alliance of Mental Health) classes, trained to help provide support to not only those dealing with mental health diagnoses, but also to family members.
  • I have attended countless training sessions and work shops.
  • I have read a ton of articles for both education and work purposes.

But my experience doesn't end there.

  • I have been the recipient of mental health services, receiving my own personal list of diagnoses.
  • I have worked hard through YEARS of therapy.
  • I have attended countless support groups.
  • I have sat in meetings discussing care.
  • I have been prescribed medication after medication.
  • I've waged a war, faced personal demons, and WON.

So professionally and personally, I've been exposed to a particular book called the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental illnesses. I studied it in classes to help me for a future career in counseling. I looked through it to understand the labels I was given from doctors. I became familiar with the coding as I filled out daily paperwork for billing.

I think it's pretty safe to say I'm not a newbie when it comes to mental health and all it's intricacies. For the most part, the DSM in any version, was simply a book that offered information to help professionals categorize their clients. Find what label matches the symptoms and you were one step closer to understanding how best to support the person.

Or in my case, it was a pain in the ass definition that made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. Not everyone feels the same way - everyone experiences things differently. But I always saw it as evidence that I was broken. While it was merely a book of definitions and policy codes, I took it a step further.

It defined ME for years until finally I healed enough to place aside the labels and be me, again.

Anyway, I digress. Seriously, I'm getting to the point for this, I promise. Sometimes I like to ramble ... like now. Ha!

An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday that made me chuckle, cringe, and feel a little sad -- it looks like the DSM has had a new disorder added to the list ...


Like any inquisitive person, I instantly went to Google and did some research. Sure enough, I found a ton of links that said it was in fact a hoax, but still, it got me thinking.

I love taking selfies. If you took on my phone and looked in my photo gallery, you'd see a bunch. Most are of me either smiling or pulling some kind of face, but they're there.

And I'm not embarrassed to admit that.

While it might not actually be a real disorder, the act of taking selfies has definitely stirred up people's opinions. Some have no issue while others hate them ... and hate those who take and share them on social media. It's not uncommon for me to stumble across comments and posts about it, and for the most part, I scroll past. But it has made me ask myself what's so appealing about selfies.

I'm sure this isn't anything life altering and it won't solve any world problems, but just in case anyone's interested, or can relate to the following ... here's how I feel about it:

I'm not going to lie. There was a period last year where I turned to my hubby and asked him, "Am I vain? I swear I keep looking at my reflection!" Then he'd sit and watch me pull faces for my camera. I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd replied, "Ahhhh, yeah!" but he didn't. He understood.

For years, I quit acknowledging my reflection. I hated photos. I would avoid looking in mirrors and shiny surfaces. I seriously stopped registering what I looked like. Why? Because I HATED what I saw. Years of medication and eating my emotions had lead me to being over 350lbs. Whenever I DID see myself, it was instantly followed by a barrage of personal insults and derogatory comments. I was disgusted so I tuned myself out. While I healed from a lot of past trauma, my self image remained fractured.

Then two years ago, I made a life changing decision -- I had weight loss surgery. It wasn't a decision I made lightly, first trying diets, nutritionists, consistent exercise. But when I realized time was running out on getting pregnant and knowing my weight was a HUGE detriment, I opted to do something drastic.


Welcome back, my life. Oh how I missed you.

Want to know what happens after that kind of surgery? You lose A LOT of weight. 100+ lbs for me.

Want to know what happens to the girl who hated her reflection because she felt fat and gross ... but now looks different?

She doesn't stop looking at her reflection. Partly because I seriously couldn't believe it was ME. I became this whole new person and for the first time in a LONG time, I didn't cringe at what I saw. My confidence grew. My smiles grew. I ceased being this "thing" and became a person.

So you better believe I took more photos. And yes, that meant selfies. For a while there it seemed every selfie I took appeared different -- revealing pieces of myself. It was like being introduced for the first time.

"Wow, I have cheekbones."
"I lost five chins!"
"Damn, I can actually see the cords in my neck!!"

The most profound one for me? "Wow ... I'm a person!"

So while others may joke and be opinionated about how narcissistic people are who constantly take selfies, I focus on MY truth ... I worked DAMN HARD to get where I am today. If taking a selfie reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for, then watch me take a bunch! Whenever I feel myself slipping back into old negative self image patterns ... my selfies will be a powerful reminder of the sacrifices I've made.

I am ME.

If someone needs to judge that harshly, or heaven forbid, throw a diagnosis at me then so be it. They can place the label with my others ... they're over there, collecting dust, unimportant. They are what they are ... mere words.

Anywho, I just thought it might be interesting to get an insider's point of view. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things I've Learned From My Dad: Work Ethics

I came across an old photo of my dad just now that reminded me of what an amazing example he is of hard work. I've learned a lot from my father but something that really sticks out is his work ethics. For as long as I can remember, he's always encouraged me to work hard in everything I do and not be afraid to learn new things.

Years ago, I saw his work resume and was astounded! After moving to Australia from England, newly married to my mum, he worked in a prison as a guard. That was his ONLY job until he retired ... no hopping from career to career yet his resume was THICK. He started as a guard and finished an high level executive - his secret?

Make yourself indispensable. 
Don't settle for where you are.
Learn everything you can about your position.
Look for ways to improve. 
Be the first in line for training.
Ask for opportunities to grow and advance.
Don't be afraid to apply for things.

And finally,  be the kind of employee your boss NEEDS. 

I've tried to follow that advice all my life and it works! So thanks, Dad. It's been an invaluable lesson and one I've tried imparting to my girls!

P.S. My dad is the one crouching. This was taken in England before he moved - he helped build roads in County Durham.

#‎rolemodel #‎awesomedad #‎family #‎prouddaughter #‎workethics

Review: Lit-Cube Book Box - Insta Love YA

This is so freaking cool!

For those who've seen Lit Cube advertised by the amazing Peggy Sue Martinez and have wondered whether you should subscribe ... YES!! This is the first one I ordered, the theme INSTA-LOVE, and it is so awesome! 

This is what was included:

The Summer After You & Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

I LOVE the cover for this book. I would've bought it separately just so I could have the print copy on my shelves to stroke and love. Who doesn't like a new story to read? 

A "Old Books" Scented Candle by Frostbeard

Twue Wuv. Seriously ... that's the name given to the one in my box. Not only does it make me smile and think of the Princess Bride, but it's beyond cute. It smells pretty good so that's always a bonus.

Metallic Gel Smens by Scentco

Cool novelty pen that smells like blueberries. What more needs to be said?

Crossbody Bag

I LOVED the design on this small bag that fits a kindle or small book. Plus it's made from recycled materials so trendy AND environmentally awesome ... TWO THUMBS UP!

Love Letters Tricky Notebook

This made me super excited. It's something I would've bought myself had I seen in it the store. What makes it better is it fits in my cute new bag. SCORE!


So impressed!

What an amazing treat for readers! There's a book and incredible swag items included ... plus check out the way it comes packaged. I'm a 100% satisfied customer and can't wait for the next month!

To find more info:

#‎fangirl #‎amreading #‎lovethingslikethis #‎excited #‎booklove #‎awesomegift