Thursday, May 29, 2014

Stephanie's Studio: Nominated for the Liebster Award

The word “liebster” is of German origins and it has several definitions: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, welcome, sweetheart and boyfriend, being among them. Some describe this award as a daisy chain. You get nominated for the award and if you choose to accept, you get to nominate additional bloggers for the award. You answer their questions, the new bloggers nominated answer yours, and so the chain of happiness continues to grow and expand.

I am so happy to announce that my blog has been nominated by two people for this wonderful award. The bloggers who nominated me are Chrys Fey and Fil Campbell. A heartfelt thanks to both!

So, what is this all about? You may be wondering what the Liebster Award is right about now. Here is a description:

The Liebster Award Official Rules 

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)
*Shared from the Wording Well Blog

My 15 year old son said this award sounds like the busy work he gets in school when a substitute comes in, LOL.

Here we go:

111  Questions asked of me by Chrys Fey:

1.      If you were allowed to read books by only one author, who would it be and why?
Edgar Allan Poe. I like the dark worlds that he creates and the rhythms he hits with his use of words is mesmerizing. It would take a long time to tire from his work.

2.      What is your favorite dessert?
Flour-less chocolate cake

3.      On a Friday night, what are you most likely to do?
Crash early from all the work I did Monday through Friday.

4.      If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
I would stop laboring over things and be more happy go lucky.

5.      Who is your favorite literary character?
My favorite literary character, the one who sticks with me to this day is Cellie from “The Color Purple.”

6.      What is your biggest dream?
To travel to France and then travel through it.

7.      What song could you listen to over and over again?
“At Last” Etta James

8.      If your house were burning down, what would you take and why?

My family, pets, and photographs because they all mean a lot to me.

9.      Who is your inspiration, your hero?
I am inspired by my ancestors. My heroes are my parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

10.  What advice would you give your teenage self?
Be more patient; good things come in time.

11.  If you were not in your current line of work, what would you be doing instead?
Teaching yoga.

And 11 questions for my lovely nominees from Fil
1.                  Do you have a ritual that you love?
Burning incense while invoking the goddesses and gods.
2.                  How does music influence you?
Music humbles me at times and it gives me inspiration as I write and paint.
3.                  Why did you start blogging?
I like expressing myself through words and sharing my thoughts with others.
4.                  How do you get your ideas for it?
They seem to come organically.
5.                  What do you love about blogging?
Getting interesting comments and matching up images of art and photography to my words.
6.                  And what do you not love about it?
Getting tapped out.
7.                  Where did you get the name for your blog?
It just came to me because of the theme of the blog.
8.                  Where is your favourite place when you need quiet time?
The library.
9.                  Do you connect with Nature and how?
Yes, especially the sea and mountains. I like to be still near both of them and get in touch with their energy and mine.
10.              Do you like social media and which is your favourite?
I like social media, especially Twitter.
11.              What are you reading at the minute?
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society”

And now, here are 11 Questions I am asking those bloggers I Nominated

1.    What is your favorite day of the year and why?
2.    What fairytale resonates with you the most?
3.    What is the most important thing for you to do daily?
4.    What do you wish you had more time to do?
5.    If money was no object what would you spend your time doing?
6.    If you could have one magical ability what would it be?
7.    With which animal do you feel those most affinity?
8.    Where do you go for inspiration for your blog?
9.    If you could have a one-on-one interview with any author, poet or artist, living or deceased, who would you interview?
10. What would you most like to try that you have never done before?
11. Pick one word that sums up your work?

Now, with mixed feelings I present 11 Random Facts about Me. This could possibly me TMI:

1.       I learned to drive in my early 30s.
2.       I failed my driver’s road test three times and thought I should rethink the driving thing so I almost never got my license.
3.       I am as happy on water as on land.
4.       I’m not so happy on airplanes.
5.       My favorite herb is lavender.
6.       I use to climb trees.
7.       I plant other things in my garden besides seeds, bulbs, trees, herbs and plants.
8.       I love juicy gossip.
9.       I idolized my grandma and grandpa.
10.   I am a Francophile.
11.   I collect/hoard books.

Drum Roll Please: The Blogs I am Nominating for the Liebster Award

These are the blogs I can’t stop thinking about. They interest and intrigue me. I look forward to seeing what each of these bloggers posts for different reasons. I will visit their site every day to find out what they blogged about. I enjoy our conversations. Some of them tickle me while others provoke deep thought and meditations on life. As you shall see, one celebrates music, another the writer’s life, and several others focus around arts and crafts. If you like my blog, these are a few more blogs, with relatively small followings, that you should not hesitate to check out, as soon as you can.

1.      Chrys Fey Write with Fey

2.      Susan Scott Garden of Eden Blog

3.      Sue Kuntz  Door 2 Lore: Power of Story Blog

4.      Fil Campbell  Fil's Place: Old Songs and Memories

6.      Conlee Riketts  The Brighter Side

7.      Vinodini Iyer  ifs buts ands etcs

8.      Summer Smith  Dreamspirations Gallery

9.      Renata Butera lilypadheart

Friday, May 23, 2014

Decisions, Decisions

For a while now, I have been blogging about voice. I recently shared a post here, called Speaking Your Truth. During the A to Z blogger's challenge I also wrote a post called Saying No to Being a Yes Woman. As a writer, I play around with POV (point of view) in my novels. There are many POV's in "No Barren Life" I am currently working with switching from the protagonist's voice to the antagonist's perspective in the novel about sirens and a blues singer called "Out of the Blue." Oh how I am struggling with that one. To go from a light, well meaning character to a very dark evil one, reflecting their intentions and voices with equal stature is very challenging. More on that as it develops.

Voice and making decisions plays a huge role in my daily life, as it does for just about everyone. In art, writing and daily life, I have a tendency to be very open. Sometimes I over reach set goals, in my desire for openness and experimentation. Openness includes embracing new ideas, concepts, ways of thinking and being in the world. It can sometimes leave too much room for ambiguity.

A while back I shared on this blog that I had gotten a book deal for "Mama Nature's Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss." I was excited about it, though as time passed a number of elements of the deal and style of the press did not bode well for the book's future. A few days ago, I decided that the book deal was not right for me or my book, so I did not sign the contract.

There were too many red flags. Red flags that I temporarily choose to ignore. I like stretching myself and changing up how I do things or think of them. Still, there were things about this approach to putting my book out into the world that didn't mesh with my vision or professional experience. My lawyer also found a lot of fault with the contract and many of those issues were left on the table in the end, unresolved in the way I or he would have liked.

Now, I am back to square one. I am taking my book back into the unknown stage of being a proposal, though it has reached its halfway mark as a manuscript, at nearly 33,000 words. I have a strong belief in "Mama Nature's Spiritual Guide to Weight Loss" its merits and purpose. I am certain there is great need for such a book that brings together earth veneration, the gods and goddesses, recipes, rituals, ceremonies, meditations, invocations and DIY art projects with the weight loss journey. I know some of you reading this right now will want to read it.

The book has given me strength. Just in the process of writing it and following my own advice I have lost 35 pounds. Reading it over, I notice there is a crystal clear voice and strong intention behind its words. In short, it has guts. Once again, I had to get in touch with my gut and listen to its wisdom. It said to walk away while I still could, and I listened.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sharing "No Barren Life"

Today, for the first time on this blog, I am sharing an excerpt from my novel, for which I am trying to gain support through Pubslush, called "No Barren Life." I hope you enjoy this piece, as it was one of my favorites to write. I also hope that you will become a supporter of my journey to publication.

Daisy, the Anangu woman we were sent to see by the River Bank, is the keeper of her people’s women’s business and secrets.  She is about five foot four inches and two hundred pounds.  Daisy wears a matronly bra that must have once been white, and an A-lined, faded green cotton skirt that grazes her ashy knees. Not alone, she is accompanied by a small group of women dressed in a similar way.
Here come the women, all of them use either walking or dancing sticks.  I see that some hold what I’ve been told is called a coolamon, a common sight, which I learned serves as a special wooden carrying dish to carry bush tucker, seeds and bush medicines, as well as babies.  Daisy is the leader and the fact that she is well respected by the other women is apparent. The women give her a wide birth and form a semi-circle behind her. They treat her with reverence and in turn she commands her space.  The women do a slow deliberate dance; delicate arm movements brushing the air, in contrast to the almost stamping movements of their solid, bare feet; they advance, feet keeping them from ascending.  Chanting ever so softly, I see each woman now has a dancing stick on hand.  I want to learn more about what they were doing and why, Damn, why can’t Uncle Raoul be here but refrain from asking questions.  They seem to be blessing the ground as they get closer, by throwing some type of seeds.
“Join us,” they beckon. 
I am unsure of what is going on but as a dancer I quickly learn to mimic their rhythm, flowing arm and staccato foot movements. We go to the most amazing water hole.
“You can call me Esther,” one of the taller women says, clearly more comfortable speaking the Anangu languages.  “It is sacred.” A pause as Esther searches for the right words in English. “This…a sacred billabong dreaming site.” 
Appearing out of nowhere in the barren landscape I say to Daisy, Esther and the other women, “Wow, it is as clear as it is deep.”  Into its narrow opening I go.
They wash me, some singing others chanting all the while.  Cleaned spiritually, I imagine, and to their liking, the women make a fire from gathered grasses and wood on the red dirt clearing. One of the women has a white enamel pot clutched to her chest and it reminds me of something in which Mama cooks vegetables. I notice, another healer has bush tea in her coolamon.  It doesn’t take long to brew our Billy Bush Tea, about fifteen minutes all told.  The brew made of gathered herbs from the bush is no ordinary tea.  It is a heady blend tasting of medicine; bitter even with the addition of the honey they had collected from a local grove of trees.  Honey ants, a local delicacy, which had been clinging to the honey, float free in my cup. I do not care for this concoction at all but drink it out of appreciation for their driving in all the way from Glen Helen Gorge.
Daisy looks anxious and distressed when she looks me over after I drink the bush tea but continues to sing the most haunting song. The song stirs the thing that lives deep within me. Esther feels my forehead and looks worried. With its kicking and lurching I am heating up.  The familiar itching has returned with violent movements in my belly.  Within a few moments I bring up the entire contents of my cup, vomiting the tea and my previous meal, surprising those that had gathered to support the healing. 
Knowing looks all around, Daisy says with crystal clear English, most likely learned at a Christian mission, “You will have to go back to Arnhem Land.  What you have can only be fought in that country…your country.  Go, be with your family.  Find a healer that knows about your moiety, totems and women’s business.  Hurry, you don’t have long.  Mimi’s aren’t evil but this one has taken things too far.  Soon this misguided Mimi spirit will consume you,” and with that ominous warning she was finished. We took the long walk back to the river bank where Uncle Raoul sits on the ground, chatting with men gathered around a smoldering campfire.

While not healed, I am buoyed by the bush tucker, teas and bathing in the sacred billabong, along with Uncle Raoul’s almost constant petitions to the orishas on my behalf. I spend another week in the desert town. I almost look normal.  Perhaps I had expelled some of the Mimi’s intent when I threw up, if not the creature itself.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Healing, Grounding and Centering

A while ago, I was carrying laundry, in a rush to the basement at about 6 a.m. and missed the second to the bottom step. You can probably imagine what happened next. I came tumbling down, dispersing dirty clothing everywhere. I landed on the top of my foot rather than the sole. Needless to say, I dislocated the ankle and fractured it in two places.

I remember Googling 'fractured ankle', trying to learn how long it would take to heal. The amount of weeks I saw that it would take was awe-inspiring. During that time I spent time in a wheel chair, on crutches, in a motorized cart while shopping and in a boot. I also had surgery, which was scary. For a former dancer and someone who loves yoga, this was a humbling experience.

As you know from reading this blog, I have been going to restorative yoga for healing my body and getting more in touch with it. One class I go to is strictly restorative in the best sense of the word. The other one calls itself restorative but includes standing poses, moderate abdominal exercises and balancing poses such as tree pose.

At first I was pretty pissed off that the teacher was not strictly restorative as advertised. I do believe in fate and suspected that there is a reason I was drawn to her class. After the many months that had elapsed since my ankle fracture, I still didn't have the bravery to stand on that foot alone without the support of my other leg. Tree pose forced me to do this. To accomplish what seemed like a great feat to me, I had to ground, center and focus. In some ways I came out of my body and got more in touch with spirit. Doing that pose, the last time I was in the "restorative yoga" class, was more healing than stretching or resting on bolsters. It renewed my faith in my self and the abilities of my mind and body.

There is something to be said for standing firmly on your own two feet or just one leg, and through it all, holding your space.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Separate but Equal

So, you might have read my previous post about visiting Michigan. Most of it was lovely, just as I blogged. Unfortunately, on Mother's Day there was a very dark comment made towards my family at a restaurant, while celebrating that holiday. We were having a lovely breakfast. The restaurant features a lot of organic and vegetarian foods, which I love. We had received our food and everyone was busy eating when I heard something so troubling--such a throw back to olden times that I couldn't quite believe my ears.

An older white man was saying something I couldn't quite make out. He couldn't have said what I thought he said, I thought. Then he stood up, ready to leave the restaurant in a huff, and repeated what I thought I might have heard. "That's why things should remain separate but equal," he proclaimed, looking directly at me. My family is interracial. Apparently either he didn't like that or he thought my son and I should not be allowed to eat in the restaurant where he was, also with his family. Maybe it was both.

That hateful comment was designed to hurt. After leaving the restaurant for hours I was fuming. I texted my children that weren't with me but who know the area well, what had been said, as well as a couple of friends. They were all incredulous. "I thought everyone that thought that way was dead," said one of my sons. I knew people with such sentiments were still around. After all, the town where I grew up was segregated well into the 80's--heck it might still be. I don't visit there much. There is too much pain there.

I hesitated about posting this because mentioning it further only re-opens the wound that ignorant man carved. Still, we should never forget this ugly past of America. We also should be reminded of all the sacrifices made during the Civil Rights Movement so that we could eat and sleep wherever we chose.

To summarize--all I can say is how unfortunate to carry around such ignorant, hateful thoughts. Carrying around daggers like that can only do damage to the soul. That sentiment should remain where it is held--in the history books for educational purposes and enlightenment.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Unplugging and Getting in the Flow

This weekend I had a wonderful time in nature and I got my mojo back. I had been feeling stuck with my new novel. Switching point-of-view from the protagonist's voice featured in Section I. to the antagonist's voice of Section II. proved to be more of a challenge that I had planned.

The key to getting this writer's mojo back and into the flow of writing was being submerged in nature. I went to Michigan, to a relatively isolated location with part of my family. There isn't an awful lot to do there because it is still out of season and too cold for out and out swimming in Lake Michigan. I found that the best thing to do was simply rest and relax, listening to the sounds of nature. I also did a lot of bird watching and what an array of birds live there. I saw some spectacular migrant birds and some of the types I don't see in my yard--actually many types I don't see here. We are mostly visited by sparrows, cardinals and robins with the occasional blue jay, starling or crow. I was especially taken with the songs I heard. In the morning there was a virtual chorus of melodic sounds.

Besides listening and watching I was unplugged. This was what they call in painting, a happy accident. My computer and charger were packed but were left at my writing desk, for some odd reason. I thought someone else had grabbed it but no one including me, did it. At first I was agitated by this oversight. Then I decided to make the most of it. My youngest son, who is also a novelist, and I set out for the pharmacy and bought writing pads and pens. We sat on the screened in porch, watching and listening to the birds, enjoying the bucolic scenery while writing.

I had the opportunity to do something called dream storming. Much like brain storming you visualize scenes and happenings in your book and then convey them in a sentence or two. I had done this previously but I had not looked over my work. Come to find out, I had virtually mapped out my entire book, from beginning to end, with just a few little gaps to fill in. I had used index cards for this, as directed by the teacher in my Novel in a Year course at Story Studio Chicago. Laying them out on a large glass table and then putting them in chronological order, according to how I wanted them to occur in the world of my novel, I soon discovered I had a real novel at my finger tips.

Today I put these cards in the form of a story map. I also wrote half of the second chapter of Section II. Whereas previously I had become distracted by the goings on of the internet's many lures, being unplugged afforded the opportunity to get back in the flow. With music being the only form of media to really engage my senses, quickly enough I was submerged into the world I had created on the index cards.

I went to the library to write in the Quiet Zone. I could not believe all that poured out and onto the page.At last, I think I have a new book on my hands!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Publishing My Debut Novel

After careful thought and a lot of deliberation, as well as conversation here in this blog space, I have decided to seek crowdfunding to publish my debut novel, "No Barren Life." As you know, it has had a difficult path to publication, as it is not an easy book to read. With an experimental style, it is a book that tackles head on, troubling topics such as child sexual, emotional and physical abuse. These are tough topics for anyone to face but they are also all too real.

The book isn't a downer though--far from it. Yolanda the main character, is gifted magically and assisted by an array of characters equally gifted, and able to traverse different worlds to change her troubling situation. These characters include her tree whispering and Hoodoo practicing Grandfather, her babalayo of Santeria Uncle, and a group of powerful women who are also Aboriginal healers that she meets in Australia. Ultimately this is a coming of age story about self-determination and transformation--in that way it is powerfully uplifting. The genre for the book is Young Adult Speculative Fiction.

Your support will go towards professional editing, marketing & publicity, a book launch and book tour. Rewards are offered for donors at various levels of giving starting at $5, around the price for a cup of latte.

I am so excited to have embarked on a proactive way of having "No Barren Life" in your hands in a matter of months. Thanks in advance for supporting my work, whether it is through simply coming here for a spell or by your support for my novel through Pubslush or at booksellers. Here is a link to the book's new page over at the crowdfunding site Pubslush: No Barren Life

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tears from the Heavens

Like most of you, I've been pinning away for spring. I've posted about it several times, wondering where it was and when would it arrive. Yesterday, it was the warmest day we've had this year. It was a balmy and humid 91 degrees. It takes the body, mind and spirit time to adjust to such drastic changes. The day before that I was wearing a sweater and wrapped in a blanket.

This morning when I went outside there was evidence it had rained overnight and it felt chillier but okay, considering the harsh winter that we'd just mustered through. Then on my way home from dropping my son off at school it started pouring. Traffic crawled. My morning that had started so promising, on the wings of yesterday, had suddenly taken a turn for the worse.

We talk about the weather so much because it is our common experience as humans. It is what makes up much of our outdoor environment and yes, it does color our mood.

In film and sometimes in books as well, when it rains or pours, I call it tears from the heavens. Typically, the story is taking a turn for the worse, something either poignant or sad is happening to one of the main characters.

As a child, most of the time, at least when it wasn't a thunder storm, rain held promise for fun. I loved making mud cakes in the yard after a good rain. The fish in the lake became more active and easier to see. I also loved playing in mud puddles.

Transitions have been a theme on this blog. I am going to use that energy that is quickly turning south, under grey skies and gloomy conditions, to focus in on having some fun. Shifting your perspective, welcoming, embracing and even celebrating changes, weather or otherwise, can't help but to be uplifting.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Crooked Path to Transformation

It has been a winding, crooked path to meet my goals for weight loss. As many of you who have been following this blog know, losing weight was one of my New Years Resolutions. I have much to be proud of. I have stayed on that path without deviating even once since taking on this challenge in January. My body, however, has different ideas. Those of you on this journey with me know all too well, the body will drop its weight in chunks, then hold off, sometimes for weeks until it stabilizes before it will drop any more. This happens though I consistently eat the same way.

Looking at this photograph of the pathway, it is easy to engage in the notion of journey. Yes, you can get to that destination promised in the picture but there is much to enjoy along the way to getting there. I have reached a major milestone. I am at the 30 pound mark, which means I am 1/3 of the way to meeting my goal. I get frustrated when I reach plateaus, such as where I am right now. Since my body is meandering, taking its sweet time to get where I want it to be, I have no choice except to meander with it, down the crooked path, enjoying the scenery along the way.

A very positive thing I did this week was to go shopping for my spring wardrobe. Let's face it, no one loves those three way mirrors and fluorescent lights in the dressing rooms. The whole situation seems to shine down, highlighting every imperfection. I have posted previously about mirrors and body image. I will even be doing workshops on the topic next year. Right now, I am still reconciling with the image in the mirror. During my transformation, it is an ever changing one.

Whereas before I didn't even think I could walk into a regular store and buy off the rack, unless they had plus sizes, this time I was free to look wherever I pleased and always found things in my new size that were appealing.

In one way, you could say, at 1/3 of my goal means I have 2/3's to go, which is quite a long way. In my mind's eye I am saying wow, you reached a major milestone. It's okay that your body wants to linger here for a bit. Relax and enjoy the journey!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Body Wisdom: Making Yourself Comfortable

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I was once again up during the late middle of the night. Something different happened for me this time though. My mind wondered off to yoga class--restorative yoga to be specific. 

Monday's restorative was very physical. It was more focused on the body than I am accustomed to. At first I didn't think I liked this different approach but then gradually it grew on me. Our instructor noticed the low energy in our group. Sometimes you just go to restorative yoga to relax and kick back. That is what most of us seemed to be doing. To remain in that state may well have caused our day to be static, low energy and to lack flow. Slowly but surely our teacher set about finding ways to energize us.

We got our blood flowing through flowing postures and moving meditations. I especially enjoyed eagle pose. It was a new challenge. Since I had broken my ankle I don't think I had stood on just that one repaired foot in ages. I felt accomplished.

What really resonated with me though was the wisdom within my body. Connecting my mind to my body to find out what my body wanted and what it needed brought about comfort. In restorative, often our teachers ask us to do what feels most comfortable. Sometimes that means bolstering ourselves with pillows, blocks and blankets but other times it means taking the postures deeper--challenging ourselves.

Last night when I had that trouble sleeping my mind immediately wondered back to Monday's yoga class. I checked in with my body to see what I could do to make it more comfortable. How should I lie down or did I indeed need to get up and walk around?

Listening to the subtle cues from my body I did get up and get the blood flowing well by walking around the house. I took an herbal supplement in the form of relaxing Valerian root, and then went back to bed. I focused in on how my legs touched one another and decided I needed to separate them at the knees with a pillow. I took mental inventory of how I was holding my hands, were my finger tips comfortable or were they in awkward postures that led to distress? How about my tongue and jaw? Were they holding stress from the day too? With the answer being yes to all of these questions, I set out to relax my jaw and tongue--taking it away from the roof of my mouth and creating a pocket of breathable space.

Immediately I began to yawn. In no time at all, I was returned to a very comfortable, deep and blissful sleep. Thanks to the lessons of the previous day's yoga practice I had licked insomnia and will continue to use those comforting practices, one day at a time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy Beltane Everyone!

Still a bit tired from the A to Z challenge. Hope you enjoyed my month of alphabetical inspirational posts. I certainly enjoyed taking on a new challenge, as well as, all the new activity from various challenge bloggers and your thoughtful comments. I am grateful to all that joined this site and followed me on Google+. I hope you will stop in often.

Today is a wonderful holiday for many of us. May 1st is Beltane. I thought today it would be nice to have you revisit my post from last year that shares information about this holiday. It is called: Beltane Blessings.

Enjoy, many blessings, and Happy Beltane!