Guest Blog Post: Discovery and Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri


Exciting books — thoughtful stories — across land and time, into ourselves and others, they take us everywhere!

Author/blogger Maria Alfieri, who lives in Sussex, England, is on a mission. She’s out to create peer support and community when it comes to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Her most powerful tools are reading and writing…

“Freedom.” Photo of Maria Alfieri by Flora Westbrook.

How I Rediscovered Myself through Reading and Writing by Maria Alfieri

I came to collate The Silent Scream Anthology based on my own experiences of struggling silently in dealing with my childhood sexual abuse. I developed anorexia aged 11, for which I was eventually hospitalised aged 12-13. Anorexia was a physical demonstration of a trauma I could not vocalise. I spent many years starving myself and self-harming. My anorexia developed into bulimia. All my reckless and self- destructive behaviours were a way of me yelling to the world ‘I am not okay!”

Despite gaining some control over my eating disorders, I still struggled, sometimes daily, with that inner dialogue, which told me that I wasn’t worthy. That I needed to harm myself. My mind would sometimes take me to dark places, and I would have to talk myself back from the edge.

I found a way to heal through reading, as this was the first step on the ladder to connection with others — something I’d run away from for most of my life. I’d self-isolated much of my life, as many of us do when struggling emotionally. Mostly because of a deep sense of shame and a belief that I was unworthy of belonging. But reading stories similar to mine made me realise that I wasn’t broken and that I wasn’t ‘the only one’ feeling this way. Through stories, either fiction or non-fiction, we share empathetic connections, reaffirming our humanity. They remind us that we are part of a collective. Through reading, and then writing, I came to understand myself better.

Reading and writing are part of the process of connection; firstly, connection with ourselves, and then connection with others. And connection is vital for healing, growth, and change. Writing about my past, in particular, was an extremely cathartic process. Ultimately for me, reading and writing were the tools through which I recovered the person I want to be.

They brought me into this shared community that we created through The Silent Scream Anthology — a community of courageous and inspirational people who empowered me in many ways and helped me to unravel further the depths of my own unhelpful conditioning. It is my greatest wish that The Silent Scream Anthology is the passing of the torch for its readers — the light which sparks hope in moments of darkness and a stepping stone on the path of connection, healing, growth, and change.

As a collection of raw, honest and inspirational memoirs, anecdotes, poems, and artworks about a variety of mental health topics, The Silent Scream Anthology is aimed at anyone who has ever struggled silently, felt trapped by shame and felt alone in their experiences, no matter what those experiences are.

Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,” by Maria Alfieri.

Prior to collating The Silent Scream Anthology, I qualified as a teacher and taught English across secondary schools before having my four children. Stories have always been an important part of my life, and today I make it my mission to promote the power of connection through empathetic literature.

More about Maria Alfieri here. Her “The Silent Scream Anthology” is available in hardback here and here, in paperback here, and in both here.

What book or story has made the most impact on you?

Happy 200, Anne Brontë!


“Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read,” as quoted from Anne Brontë.

Novel writing is daunting — at least it is for me. If, like Anne Brontë, I’d been born youngest into a dynasty of superstar writers, would I have begun the two novels I’m currently working on? Hmmm… Do you have ultra-successful family members, and if so, how do they influence your work?

The Brontë Sisters (l-r: Anne Brontë, Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë) circa 1834, oil on canvas by their brother, Patrick Branwell Brontë. On display at the National Portrait Gallery.

To celebrate Anne’s 200th birthday here’s “The Brilliant Bronte Sisters,” a documentary about all the sisters…

https://youtu.be/dLI1Bm6rNuc

To further honor Anne, here’s a post by blogger/artist/poet/author DM Denton, who’s published, “Without the Veil Between: Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit”…

bardessdmdenton - author- artist

If she were more perfect, she would be less interesting

Finally

it’s Anne’s own Brontë200:

Today is the 200th Anniversary
of Anne Brontë’s birth, January 17, 1820!

A very special day as

she is subject of my novel …

Above all, through the well-measured words of Denton, a young Anne emerges more and more. She frees from the web of religiosity with which she traditionally is painted, [and] tries to leave something good in the world through her measured but deliberately targeted writing. A different Anne at the beginning of the book, timidly in love; then resigned to accept her own death with dignity and fortitude. A meaningful homage to the memory of Anne Brontë.

~ Maddalena De Leo, Italian Representative of The Bronte Society

STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving) by Bronte, Charlotte (1816-55) (after) engraving Private Collection The Stapleton Collection English, out of copyright STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving)…

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Guest Blog Post: A true elfin story by Stella, oh, Stella


Visiting Birgit’s blog feels like a vacation, a respite from my crowded urban Los Angeles. If you’ve followed my site for a while, you first met Birgit at Happiness Between Tails here.

Evidence that tiny folk live in Birgit’s garden.

On her own site, sometimes she takes us with her when she travels. A native of Germany, she often invites us into her home in Denmark. If she’s cooking something delicious and healthy, she makes sure we’re there. When she and her husband make music, she lets us see them perform on a video. We’re invited to peer over her shoulder as she coaxes her flower garden to thrive in heat and frost. On some days, we bicycle beside her and her husband to glory in rolling green hills and rustic scenery populated with charming farm animals. Rain or shine, we can join her in strolls along beaches and marinas.

Do little folk live in your garden? In this short story, she describes some unique guests on the other side of her computer…

Stella, oh, Stella

So, that’s it, I cannot do anything else for now. I will have to continue in spring.

The beginning is done: the fireplace, the ladder, the tiled path, the area for gatherings … the rest will have to wait. A pile of firewood is also ready …

What I am talking about is, of course, the elfin dwelling place in the birch stump. I have marked the places for the entrance door and the windows, but it is getting too cold to accomplish artistic wood carvings.

————

The following winter is comparatively mild, but grey, rainy, stormy, in short: not cosy at all! The spring bulbs are slowly coming our with their first green.

At the beginning of May, my husbands enters the kitchen and says enthousiastically that the door, which I have carved into the birch stump looks incredibly real, the windows as well. I rush into the garden…

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Banana Blueberry Frozen Delight by Khashayar Parsi


Frozen yogurt made by my honey makes me smile!

(Hi friends, this is da-AL — Khashayar’s post follows the next photo.)

Cool, cold, freezing! Yes! All those sound absolutely refreshing now that summer’s kicked in here in Los Angeles. What does hot weather make you feel like doing?

For me, the heat makes me want to dip my toes in a whispering mossy stream. It makes me want to nap. And it makes me want to sip iced coffee by the shore. Alas, real life beckons.

Enter ice cream! Better yet, frozen yogurt, because more people can tolerate it. Moreover, yogurt’s healthy probiotics withstand freezing. Here’ my sweeter-than-frozen-yogurt husband’s version of sheer indulgence (photos and captions are by me)…

From any angle, this scoop grins for you!

* * * Banana * Blueberry * Frozen * Delight * by * Khashayar * Parsi * * * 

* European style yogurt, plain full fat, 32 oz.

* Honey, 1.5 cups

* Banana, 1 large and ripe

* Blueberries, frozen, half a bag

* Butter, half a bar

1. Use cheesecloth to line a strainer that’s the size of the type used to drain pasta, and pour yogurt into it. Insert strainer over a bowl to collect the water from yogurt. Place in the fridge for 12 hours.

Step 1: Save the resulting fabulous liquid, a.k.a. whey, to later enhance everything from drinks and smoothies to soups and bread making.

2. Cook the berries on low heat to reduce the juice out of the fruit for about thirty minutes.

Step 2: Frozen berries are picked at the height of their season.

3. In a large bowl, use a hand blender to mix the banana, honey, and butter. Add in the thick yogurt and fruit and mix.

Step 3A: Ingredients other than yogurt and berries.
Step 3b: A blend of all but berries and yogurt.
Step 3c: Super dynamite yogurt meets blended tasty fruit and stuff.
Step 3d: Everything stirred together, except the berries. Sorry, I forgot to get a photo of the last step of combining berries into everything.

4. Leave in freezer for 24 hours and serve.

Step 4: Use the yogurt container to freeze the total mix in. In my humble opinion, it tastes amazing even at room temperature!!!

Authors! Novelists can be anyone we want to be! by da-AL


Novelists can imagine ourselves into whatever characters we choose! Ones who’ve already published, like Valeska Réon, from Germany (given that I’m the soon-to-be self-published author of the upcoming “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) inspire to me to no end! I found this photo of her while I was searching for something else (isn’t this always the case?) — and love it so much that I’m sharing it in the hopes that it’ll inspire you too!…

Image by Valeska Réon from Pixabay

I don’t understand German, but I love how boldly she assumes identities on her video channel. In addition to a host of careers she’s had and currently pursues, she loves dogs — she often features them on her Instagram!

Even Valeska Réon’s dog gets in on her act!
Valeska Réon and her dog indulge in a black and white moment.

Who do you imagine yourself as?…

Video: Craters of the Moon, New Zealand by da-AL


Crater at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Nowhere is it more evident that New Zealand owes its geography to tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions than at any of its geothermal parks. Our visit there began with Auckland and Rotorua, then the Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. (Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Steaming burbling craters galore behind Khashayar and da-AL at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Along our drive to Taupo, (before we’d view the Waitomo Glowworms Caves) we stopped at the aptly named Craters of the Moon.

Straying from the path isn’t advised at Craters of the Moon, Taupo, New Zealand.

Heat and steam from below percolate up to uncork land, leaving behind jagged craters, some of them huge. Visitors are told, not asked, to keep to the trails, lest they become boiled and billowed…

Do you have craters near you?

Video: Huka Falls, New Zealand’s Longest Falls by da-AL


Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Green, lush, and filled with surprises. Everywhere we went, New Zealand amazed us! From Auckland, we drove to Rotorua and then hiked the Redwoods. (Later we’d visit Craters of the Moon and the Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Today, we visited Huka Falls, where water waits for no one!

Up to 220,000 liters (just under 5,300 gallons) of water rush down the series of falls per second. They begin at New Zealand’s longest river (Waikato River) and drain the country’s largest lake (Lake Taupo).

Panoramic of Huka Falls bridge, New Zealand by Khashayar Parsi.

Have you visited any waterfalls?

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul


I admit it. I’m a terrible friend to you. I’m sharing the following sample of London-based blogger Jean-Paul so that you’ll be snared like I am. Experience the same one-two-punch love-hate I have with his site. #1) I love that he’s so talented!!! (though I am jealous!), and #2) I hate that every time I visit, I can’t resist spending way more time there than I plan for — even his friends who comment are clever!! Read on, my forewarned friend…

Photo by blogger Jean-Paul of “myhusband&i: two guys making out & trying to make it”

“Who are you calling stupid?” by Jean-Paul

When it comes to math, I’ll admit I’m a complete dummy. At school, I understood a lot, but arithmetic? It was all mental to me. My husband, on the other hand, has a brain like a push button calculator.

“You’re not stupid,” said Guido after dinner last night, “you just need some math practice with imagination. I have an idea,” he said, “sit back right this second and imagine yourself in a farmyard.”

As you can see, we really do need to get out more.

This was worrying. I had a sneaking feeling I was going to be asked to talk algebra to a chicken. I’ve only ever visited a farm once in my entire life, and I seem to recall a pungent odour. It was strong enough to make me squeeze my nostrils all day long.

“Okay,” I said involuntarily pinching my nose, “what’s next?”

There was a pause.

“What are you doing?” Guido asked, eyebrow raised.

“I just think it’s important that I embrace this part of the exercise before we move on to any complex multiplications or differential equations. Though I’ll admit, I’m becoming anxious about whether I should go put on rubber boots?”

Take it from me, this was a totally bona fide concern. If you’ve ever walked around a farmyard, then you’ll know there are some big brown stinky things you really don’t want to stand in. Did I mention the flies?

“Don’t worry about that. This is the cleanest farm ever.”

This was reassuring, but I held onto my nostrils just in case of an unexpected whiff of ammonia. I couldn’t see any flies though.  Which was even more re-assuring on account of my limited one arm swatting abilities.

“Now imagine there are 13 animal heads and 40 legs in front of you,” said Guido.

One moment I’m in a loft apartment eating a perfectly adequate mid-week lasagna and the next I’ve suddenly been put out to pasture herding a bunch of unidentifiable livestock. As you can tell, I like to take my visualisation pretty seriously. Which is more than I can say about the math. I mean, where was the straw?

“Now tell me,” said Guido, “how many sheep and how many ducks can you count?”

I closed my eyes. I could actually see the sheep just standing there staring at me. They seemed pretty friendly with only the occasional baa. The ducks, on the other hand, were all over the place quack quack quacking and waving their wings about. Anyone would think they’d just been told the hunting season had started.

There was another short pause.

“Well?” asked Guido.

“Hang on,” I said, “I’ve counted the sheep, but the ducks are proving problematic. Have you got any stale bread I could feed them?”

It was, I think, at that point, Guido began to understand the challenges my teachers had all those years ago.

“Hmm, I think we’ll leave this lesson for now,” said Guido wisely pouring me a glass of wine.

Back from the country, safely at our kitchen table, I let go of my nose. In the end, I couldn’t teach Guido that much about the sheep but what I did tell him was if something walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it’s usually a duck. And there’s nothing stupid about that.

Happy Sounds Video, New Zealand Redwoods and Corrugated Pets by da-AL


Turn your sound up high to listen to the ASMR happy sounds of redwood trees creaking in the wind, sounding like old-fashioned rocking chairs…

Most people know of the redwoods of California, where trees are so awe-inspiring that they’ve got names and their Avenue of the Giants. But did you know that New Zealand has its own redwood forest? For our New Zealand vacation, we’d seen a bit of Auckland, then Rotorua, later Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia and Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family and birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Now we got out of our car and hiked up, up, up…

da-AL strolls up to New Zealand’s redwood forest.

Back in the early 1900s, New Zealand officials admired our redwoods — and then planted some of their own! — resulting in the Redwoods Forest of Whakarewarewa. New Zealand soil is so dense with nutrients that the trees grew faster there than they do in the U.S. Like California’s, New Zealand’s big trees provide homes to an abundance of wildlife, including endangered creatures.

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Trees actually talk to each other, creating an ecosystem among themselves that feeds everything from below their roots to far into the air! Redwoods can live for thousands of years — unless humans cut them down or pollute them to death. Alas, the largest was felled around 1945. The most massive tree on earth now is the General Sherman, at 83.8 meters (275 ft) high by 7.7 m (25 ft) wide. The world’s oldest tree lives in California too — a bristlecone pine that’s 5,068 years old. Let’s hope we don’t kill them or their kin.

A little further along, we stopped to pet corrugated animals in the city of Tirau!…

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What’s the biggest tree you’ve ever seen?

Rousing Rotorua, NZ by da-AL


We landed at Auckland Airport early, rented a car — and learned how to drive on the ‘wrong’ (har-har-har) side of the road. A quick look around and lunch later, we headed south for Rotorua (after that we had a great time at the Redwoods and Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited familyand birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, and then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there, and enjoyed Sydney this much and that much, as well as the purring there!

Rotorua is lovely, including its historic district.

Breath in! That rousing scent, which is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e (even where no water is visible), is that of healing minerals permeating the air! In unscientific terms, New Zealand is the result of volcanic activity. Hence, the region teams with gurgling springs from where steam plumes and billows. Some are pleasingly warm to soak one’s body in, others are hot enough to cook in.

During the late 1800s, officials saw tourism money in those spas. They erected buildings, planted gardens, smoothed out sports greens, and more — all with the intent of creating a resort destination.

Here’s the historic district built in the late 1800s/early 1900s, which still attracts busloads of visitors…

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Part of the historic area pays respect to the indigenous Māori (who, by the way, fought valiantly in World War II)…

Elsewhere in Rotorua is a marae, a Māori meeting grounds complex set within a residential neighborhood. If you ever find yourself at one, remember that visitors must be formally invited inside.

A Māori meeting house in Rotorua.

Rotorua’s current mayor is Steve Chadwick, a long-time politician born Stephanie Anne Frizzell, was into her 60s when she was elected into office.

Who are the indigenous people where you live?