Hurricane Season

Can you relate? I sure could over the holidays! There I was happily waddling along with all my ducks in a row when BAM! Holidays.

Each little duckling here represents some aspect of my life that was out of control: the kidlings hopped up on christmas wishes and sugar cookies; my vicious cycle of comfort food/guilt/more comfort food; no time for writing or reading (this alone can send small children and animals running for cover in our house). Well…you get the picture.

Things are calming down now. The whirlwind is over and sanity can resume (as soon as the Christmas and New Years Eve decorations come down). I really need some prevention tips, though.

How do you all keep your sanity during the holidays? Do all the festivities energize you or drain you?

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Dear Abby…

Happy Monday! The day I get to do more than roll over and sneak on the couch…I get to answer your questions! Woof!

Our guests today are the fantasy and sci-fi writer Samantha Warren and her furry friend, Bunny Boop. Samantha likes socks and I like socks, so I like Samantha. Woof! Here’s her bunny’s question:

“Dear Abbey, I’ve recently discovered how much fun it is to chase cats. If they get too close, all I have to do is run right at them and they race out of the room. The silly things are so… scared of me, it’s great. Do you have any advice for a budding cat-chaser, maybe how to get around that big box my mommy put in the doorway so I can’t chase the cats all over the house? Yours truly, Bunny Boop”

Abbey says: You are the first bunny I’ve ever seen. I had to ask mom some questions about you. She said that like me, bunny’s are pack animals and need to know who’s in charge of the pack. Apparently in your house, you are! Cats are built differently and don’t care who’s top dog…or, er, top bunny. So, snuggle, chase, hop and sniff your little heart out. Oh, and about the big box…use your teeth. I’ve chewed through tougher barriers…but you didn’t hear that from me.

Mom says: This is inspiring. If predator and prey can live together in peace, maybe there’s hope for us humans! Do you agree?

(*If you’d like to ask “Dear Abbey” a question, please send it to my mom: soespo (at) gmail.com with a picture of your pet.)

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Rules That Shape Us

Society has rules to keep order. Rules for our kids and pets are there to keep them safe and help integrate them into society. But what about in our own private world? Yep, even there, we have rules, boundaries we put in place to define who we are to ourselves and the world. Even if we don’t have them hanging on our refrigerator, they’re there.

Here are the top ten rules I try to live by:

1) Pay attention to the reoccurring themes in your life. These are quiet lessons being whispered to us every day in the form of an overheard conversation, a book flipped open to the right page, a photo on a passing bus. Tiny messages that accumulate like snow flakes until they are big enough to get our attention.

2) Accept change. It is part of the natural cycle, the ebb and flow of life. Sorrow will follow joy, but joy will also follow sorrow. The only thing we can control is our reaction to change.

3) Don’t lose your inner child. Allow yourself to be silly, ride roller coasters, make snow angels, chase fireflies and invisible dragons, build sandcastles, play dress-up, spin until you fall to the ground and watch the clouds whirl above you. Of course, it helps if you have an actual child doing these things with you. Do everything you can to not take life or yourself quite so seriously.

4)Widen your view of the world. It is much more expansive, far- reaching and deeper than the space we occupy. There are so many cultures, philosophies and places to explore, experience and love and–so little time.

5)Remember how to breathe. As children we breathe deeply into our bellies. As adults we breath shallow into our chest. Be conscious of your breath, use it to fill your belly, calm your emotions, quiet your mind.

6) Live well. This is not as easy as it sounds. Letting yourself rest when needed, saying no when you are overwhelmed, exercising, fueling your body’s furnace with healthy foods, creating, meditating, worshiping, laughing, learning, connecting. There is so much to taking care of your mind, body and spirit but it’s worth the investment. Give yourself a chance to reach your full potential in life.

7) If you’re going to bother doing something don’t do it half way. Delve into it, immerse yourself in the whole experience. Don’t just taste the wine– learn how to swirl, close your eyes and separate the fruit from the oak from the earth. Life will be richer and full of color.

8)  Friendships are vital. It’s the space in between people where things happen. Pay attention to this space, this is love.

9) Hold on to hope. Hope is our greatest weapon against cause and effect, against knowing what the future can and will bring, and against ourselves when we feel like giving up and giving in.

10) Live free. Not free of responsibility or relationships, but free of fear, guilt, judgment and boundaries. Let yourself off the hook and off the leash.

What about you? What rules do you use to shape your life?

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Dear Abbey…

It’s Monday! That means time for another question answered by moi, Abbey (see pic above, I think my mom captured my smart side)

Today’s question comes to us from Maggie and her human Diane Capri.  Diane is a best selling author with a license to thrill! (That must look pretty snazzy on your collar, Miss Diane!)

Maggie says:

“Dear Abbey, I hesitate to write to you because the object of my question is a pesky Yorkie named Abby. She’s coming to visit soon and she’ll stay six weeks. During that time, she wants to play with my toys and sleep in my bed and mostly, take all the attention. How can I get rid of her?”

Here’s a pic of Abby:

Abbey (moi) says: Hmmm. I’m not sure what weeks are but that sounds like a long time to have to share your toys, bed and human! Woof! I think you’re going to have to pull out all the stops. (You don’t know how to operate one of those car things do you? I once knew a dog who went “for a ride” and never came back!) No? Okay then.

I see that you’re holding up your paw. This is actually a very good trick to use to get your human’s attention. When you walk around, hold up that paw and look at your human with very sad eyes and if you can–throw in little whimpers. She’ll be sayin’ “Abby who?” in no time! (She does have a cool name, though. Maybe she’s not so bad if you give her a chance.)

If that doesn’t work…I know a cat who may be able to help you!

What about you? Have you had house guests that brought pets along? Share your tails..er…tales with us!

(*If you’d like to ask “Dear Abbey” a question, please send it to my mom: soespo (at) gmail.com with a picture of your pet.)

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Finding Zen at Disney

We took our five year old twin boys to Disney two weeks ago and on the our third  boat ride through It’s A Small World, I had an epiphany. Okay, here, I’ll set the scene for you:

You know the ride, right? Harmonic child voices sing…La La La La LA La La (until you’re la-la-lulled into forgetting you just stood in line for forty-five minutes) while the tiny boat glides through crystal clear water; carrying you from one magical scene of moving, dancing, twirling, hang-gliding animatronic children and animals from foriegn lands to another. By the third turn, you really forget you’re in Orlando.

Er. Full Stop.

By the third turn you really should have forgotten you’re in Orlando.

While all this magical stuff was happening around me and my boys were oooing and aaaaahing over all the magical stuff, here’s what was going through my mind:

“Wow, this is a lot of stuff to keep dusted.”

“I wonder what the electric bill runs for this ride alone? Guess I shouldn’t complain about my hubby’s Christmas light obsession.”

“Oh…there’s an emergency exit! It might be important that I noticed that if we get stuck in here or if terrorists hit Disney or…what if there really will be a zombie apocolypse?”

Seriously!

So, the epiphany hit me around the North American room. This ride was a miniturized version of my life! I am going through my days like each of those amazing rooms, not really paying attention to the experience but instead worrying about the dust.

And the bad part is, I know better. I’ve read all the zen books, the live-in-the-moment books, the breathe-and-shut-up-your-monkey-mind books. But in all those hours of pouring over books, I missed the whole point somehow. (I’m giggling to myself right now) The point is just to be. Just to experience it…this mysterious thing called life. Just to enjoy the small, make-believe drummers without wondering if one of those sticks could possibly fly loose and poke my child’s eye out.

And I suddenly understood (not with my head but with my heart) what this wize woman  means when she says, “My life is my practice.”

And so, I have been practicing. It’s tricky though. I have to catch myself. There are more and more moments when I truly am there, fully present in my own life. Moments when I’m watching my five year old struggle to read a new word and I’m not thinking about the fact I forgot to let the dog out; moments when we’re playing Go Fish as a family and I fight to keep my attention on the smiles and giggles instead of the pile of dishes from dinner.

Will the stuggle to stay present get easier? I’ll have to let you know. But I can tell you one thing…

Life is much less stressful when you don’t dwell on the dust!

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Dear Abbey…

Greeting humans! I’m Abbey and my mom says I’m so smart I should have my own guest blog to answer questions from you or your pets! First a bit about me:

My family rescued me when I was only 5 weeks old. I have two human brothers who like to wrestle on the floor, one canine sister (who gets a bit grumpy with all my puppy energy), a dad who is the head of the pack and a mom who lets me sneak on the couch when he’s not home. Now back to you!

Our first question is asked by Gia. Gia’s human is the lovely Ginger Calem. You can visit her HERE.

“Gia would like to ask Abbey if this vest makes her butt look big?”

Abbey says: Woof! Hey, mom…this screen isn’t scratch and sniff?? (Mom says: No!) Well, Gia, I think your butt looks mucho inviting.  I’d sniff it any day. (That’s how we find out about each other’s temperament to see if we can be friends, ya know.  A much easier technique than all that yappin’ humans do.) I think you look positively woofy but, my mom says she wouldn’t be caught dead with flower patterns on her hieny at the dog park. (My mom needs to share those treats she eats in front of me at night.)  Anyway, humans think we’re color blind but we’re not. The scoop is we just see two primary colors (blue & yellow) instead of three (red, blue & yellow).

So, there you have it, Gia! I give your butt five woofs!

What was the silliest thing you’ve ever dressed your pet up in? How did they react?

(*If you’d like to ask “Dear Abbey” a question, please send it to my mom: soespo (at) gmail.com with a picture of your pet.)

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Author Interview: Kimberly Mullican

I’m so excited to have author Kimberly Mullican visiting today! Here’s a little bit about Kim:

Her journey began when she discovered that like most parents, hers happen to also be compulsive liars.  Since discovering that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were fictitious characters, she found it difficult to believe her parents when they told her “there is no such thing as ghosts.”  Hiding under the blankets, jumping at things that go bump in the night led her mind to wandering through the mysteries the world keeps locked away.  Surely, if there are ghosts, other things exist as well.

Kim worked in sales for many years before losing her sanity and transitioning to writing full time. Now working on her third novel, Kim has decided to dive head first into the literary world with her breakout novel, TAKING CONTROL.

SE: Welcome, Kim!

KM: Thank you Shannon for inviting me to your blog!

SE: So, let’s talk about this book. I love the fact that it has a little bit for everyone. What inspired you to write it? Did you create the character first or the plot first?

KM: You’re not going to believe how this all came together. I had a terribly overwritten vampire book (Don’t we all? 🙂 …and it’s good, just horribly overwritten. After every single agent said, “no thanks” or nothing at all I started looking at what they WERE looking for. Strong female MC – check; gay/lesbian overtones – check; paranormal – check; Romance – well there is a little romance and sex, best of both worlds. (Don’t gasp – we all love sex, it’s okay.) The whole story started to form as I was reading what agents were looking for. The funny part is – I decided to go the Indie route instead. Who cares what the agents want really? I’m not looking for an agent. Not now anyway.

SE:  Is this the first book of a planned series?

KM: Well, when I originally wrote the book and purchased the ISBN, I did not label it as a series.  However, I have had emails from fans that asked when to expect the sequel. It may grow into a series, butI did not have that intention at the start. I have so many stories swimming around in my head that sometimes it is difficult to land on just one.

SE: Is this book set in the future where genetic engineering is the norm?

KM:  The government tried it and for the most part it was a failure.  Kat (and her twin sister) were anomalies.  Of course, they had to be special, right?

SE: How did Kat meet Grant?

KM: Grant was sent to her when she was born (left that part vague – I smell a sequel, or maybe that’s the dog???) (SE: sorry, sent her from the room)

SE: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

KM: Proud moment for me here . . . I was a successful compulsive liar as a child, so I would gather that I started writing/creating when I was very young.  I vaguely remember getting a kick out of seeing that people were believing my stories. Thankfully, I found a more productive outlet that lacks the jail time I could have otherwise been facing. (SE: Ah, you used your imagination for good not evil!)

SE:  Do you have any advice for other writers?

KM: Buy stock in your favorite alcohol! (SE: noted!)

Seriously, I think the first thing a writer needs is very thick skin.  Having someone give you a bad critique is a tough pill to swallow.  Assuming you make it through critting and editing, then you have to put yourself out there.  I haven’t received a bad review yet, but it is coming.  How do I know?  Because you can be the most delicious green apple in the world, but not everyone loves green apples.  There will be a crappy review eventually, andI’ll have to accept that.

The other thing you need is a strong belief in yourself and your ability.  There is a lot of competition out there.  Don’t expect to write one book and get rich overnight.  There are only a few Rowlings out there, and it didn’t happen overnight for her either.

Edit, edit, edit again and again.  Get as many pairs of eyes on your work as possible pre-publishing.  Do your research on what the market is doing.  This is a business, not show and tell.  You must remember at all times what you’re trying to accomplish.  I get a bit racy online sometimes.  But I don’t write children’s books, so that is okay. But that’s my personality as well. I’ll never write YA – so it’s okay for me to address an older audience –as an adult.

The last bit – be yourself.  The public can smell a fake a mile away. (SE: not the dog this time!)  Be open, assist your writing community.
Thanks again for having me Shannon and good luck with KARMA’S A BITCH.  I still love that title!

SE: Thanks, Kim! Karma may be a bitch, but you most definitely are not!

Here’s where you can pick up your very own copy of TAKING CONTROL:

TAKING CONTROL – Nook

TAKING CONTROL – Smashwords

TAKING CONTROL – KINDLE  or Paperback on Amazon

TAKING CONTROL – PAPERBACK (CreateSpace)

Summary:

Kat Trueblood, genetically engineered medium and former CIA Agent, thought she had escaped the danger and drama of her previous life. She has a stable job as a paralegal, is dating her first girlfriend, and has plenty of time to spend with her best friend and guardian – a ghost named Grant.

In denial about missing the action of her former life, Kat’s thrust head first back into it when the Russian mafia – the same guys who raped and tortured her for two weeks during active duty – targets her and her family. The CIA forces her to choose between working with the FBI to catch a serial killer who is slaughtering area drag queens or leaving her family at risk.

Distracted by discovering Grant is in love with her and her girlfriend ending up on the suspect list, Kate finds herself as the hunted instead of the hunter. Captured by the killer, she must face her inner demons in order to survive and end the serial killer’s mayhem.

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