Vote + Books + Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock + Podcast Audio Version

Titles with book covers and photo of author Suzanne Craig-Whytock.
Photo of author Suzanne Craig-Whytock.

Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Pronouns #Gender #Individuality #Writing #Grammar What’s your pronoun? Canadian author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock, who uses she and her, discusses pronouns from the standpoint of someone who is smart and funny, as well as who earned an Honours B.A. in English Language and Literature, and worked as an English teacher for almost 25 years. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee at http://buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Canadian author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock and her books. Another guest post she did for Happiness Between Tails. Rick Steves’ book, “Travel as a Political Act.” This link and this one to documentaries I’ve produced. Another post where I wrote a bit about pronouns. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author/blogger Suzanne Craig-Whytock. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of the blog post below.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and apple music and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is here.

Have you voted yet? If not, mark your calendar and tell your like-minded friends…

A great book to get you into the groove is How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. He also published How to Raise an Antiracist, discussed in an earlier post. Here’s my review of it for amazon and goodreads:

“Highly educated and wonderfully humble, Kendi details his own early prejudices and steps us through the United States’ history of racism. Bigotry harms everyone and anyone can be a bigot. Antiracism, fortunately, is the antidote that everyone can learn.”

Cover of How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

Another informative read is Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. This is my review of it on amazon and goodreads:

Race is about skin. Class is about external things one might be able to hide. Caste goes down to the bones. Bigotry in the United States — our inequities on all levels — boils down to caste. It’s why some people who’re victimized will trod upon others. Wilkerson explains all this and the context of our shameful history of slavery and discrimination. Did you know that we got so good at teaching people to stomach slavery that Hitler sought to learn from us?”

Cover of Caste by Isabel Wilkerson.

Language… and labeling… and gender… and pronouns… Authors can be extra picky about language, as I am with the novels I’m working on.

Any serious writer knows there’s more to communication than vocabulary and grammar. Language is about how people think.

Civil rights movements in the United States really took flight in the 60s and 70s — and labels played a major role in creating positive change. When Gloria Steinem named her feminist magazine “Ms.,” many family dinners became hot debates over whether women should use Ms. instead of Miss and Mrs.

Then came arguments over switching “mailman” to “postal carrier,” and “stewardess” to “flight attendant.” The next slog was weeding out racial slurs. To this day, there are people who enunciate the phrase “political correctness“ as if they’re cussing.

For most good ideas, the masses regard those first to propose them as nuts and worse. Eventually, a grudging acceptance sets in. Finally, it’s like the entire world acquires amnesia, and believes they were born thinking that way.

Make no mistake, I am no angel. In my case, I have to slap my forehead at how difficult (long ago, for whatever it’s worth) it was for me to transition from something as basic as calling a friend Jim instead of Jimmy when he turned eighteen!

People spend entire careers studying the way people from all parts of the world communicate. Some countries designate genders to everything from rocks to the sky.

When my husband speaks English, he occasionally confuses genders because in Iran, where he was born, Farsi doesn’t employ words for it. Which gets me meandering into recommending Rick Steves’ book, “Travel as a Political Act,” where he explains how we all need to travel more so we can get our ostrich heads out of the sand. Part of why it can be harder to learn a language when we’re older is if we insist that there is only one “best” way for things like language to operate.

From as far back as when I was a kid, I questioned not pronouns, but gender roles. Back then, people sought to inspire me with their ideas about how wonderful it was that only women could bear children and be truly nurturing, but not anything else. From what “little me” saw and heard, “womanhood” amounted to life as a vessel and a slave. No, thank you.

Later, when I co-produced documentaries like this and this one, everyone assumed my male business partner was the boss. Except, that is, when we videotaped at a school for developmentally disabled adults. Wait, tell me again, who are we labeling “disabled”?

Thank you, everyone who works toward changing oppression. That includes anyone who wants to challenge how we think of pronouns. I wrote a bit about that H-E-R-E

Adopting new behaviors can be a challenge. It’s fine to express frustration, but remember that how we express ourselves matters. The worst thing we can do is add fuel to the raging fire of bigotry.

Canadian author/blogger (mydangblog) Suzanne Craig-Whytock (she/her) is here to discuss pronouns from the standpoint of someone who is smart and funny, as well as who earned an Honours B.A. in English Language and Literature, and who worked as an English teacher for almost 25 years. See the books and stories she’s published.

She’s been a guest at Happiness Between Tails here too…

Let’s Talk About Pronouns by Suzanne Craig-Whytock

Note: Once you finish reading and listening here, be sure to check out Suzanne’s site for her clever riposte to this post.

Words are letters strung together to make sounds and are used to identify something. Seems very straightforward, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s always astonishing to me how upset people get about certain words, especially the ones in the English language that are literally the shortest words we have. Yes, I’m talking about pronouns. So what exactly is a pronoun? Grammatically speaking, a pronoun is a word that replaces a noun—for example: I, he, she, we, they, and it. There are plenty of others depending on the case, like possessive pronouns such as mine, yours, his, hers, and theirs…you get the idea. But why all the consternation about pronouns? I mean, there are some people who get outraged if you tell them your pronouns, or lose their minds if a person chooses to go by “they” instead of the binary “he” or “she”. And if someone decides to change their pronouns, all hell might break loose. (Notice that I used the plural determiner “their” for the singular “someone” in the previous sentence and that’s just fine; in fact, the use of the singular “they” can be found in the English Language as early as the year 1375.)

But why do some folks get so up-in-arms about how other people choose their own pronouns? It’s personally baffling to me. I have a degree in English Language and Literature and I taught high school English for almost twenty-five years, but I never got my knickers in a knot about pronouns—if you tell me you’re “he”, that’s what I call you. If it’s “she”, fine by me. “They”? Absolutely not an issue. Unfortunately, not everyone is as accepting, and maybe that’s just borne out of a lack of understanding.  So as someone with a certain expertise in English grammar, I’m happy to answer your questions about pronouns.

1) “Why are pronouns so important to some people? I never even think about mine.”

Exactly. You don’t have to think about yours, because you’ve never questioned or struggled with your own identity. But other people’s lives aren’t as simple, and the pronouns they ultimately choose, whether it’s he, she, or they, help them validate themselves to the world. 

2) “But boys are he and girls are she, and that’s all there is to it. If a person doesn’t use “he” or “she”, how will we all know what sex the person is?” 

First, what difference does it make to you? Why are you so worried about other people’s genitals? Because that’s how sex is assigned at birth, by someone doing a visual check and making an announcement about it. Second, birth-assigned sex is not binary. Sure, there’s male and female, but there’s also intersex. And if you’re that fixated on knowing someone’s sexual identity based on binary pronouns, it’s a good job you don’t speak Finnish or Chinese, because neither of those languages (and quite a few others) have gendered pronouns. 

3) “But people shouldn’t be able to just change their pronouns, should they?”

Of course, they should. And if you’re having trouble with the concept, consider this example: You find a caterpillar in your backyard. “Hey, little caterpillar,” you say, and that’s what you call it all summer. But when the caterpillar emerges from its cocoon and it’s transformed into a butterfly, do you still call it a caterpillar? Of course not. It’s the same with people. If a person has made a transition from one gender to another, why wouldn’t they change their pronouns to match their new identity and why wouldn’t you respect that? And if they decide that they’re somewhere in between the two genders, they can use the non-binary “they”. It’s fine—even the Oxford English Dictionary says so. 

4) “Non-binary?! But there are only two genders and you can’t switch the one you were born with!”

Sorry, wrong. Gender is a very fluid spectrum and there are many places along it. Also, gender is a social construct. Most of our ideas about gender and gender expression are based on current social behaviours and attitudes, and those are also fluid. For example, in the 1700s, men wore wigs, ruffles, face powder, and high heels. It was considered appropriate for their gender. In the Victorian period, if a woman wore pants, it was scandalous, but I’m currently sitting here typing this while wearing jeans and no one even bats an eye. And the whole idea that only girls can wear pink? That’s an eccentric, late 20th century fad. Colours are part of another spectrum, one of light that our eyes perceive, and they have no gender; in fact, it was perfectly normal for men to wear pink right up until the 1940s. Everything changes over time, and the way we use language in terms of gender is no different.

5) “But language never changes! The English we speak now is the English people have always spoken, right?”

If you really believe that, then I have only one thing to say: 

Nū scylun hergan     hefaenrīcaes Uard,
metudæs maecti     end his mōdgidanc…

Oh, you don’t understand what I said? But it’s English—in fact, it’s from one of the earliest known English poems, called Caedmon’s Hymn. Wait, let me try again:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…

Still having trouble? But that’s from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century. In English. See, the English that you speak now has changed a lot. Did you also know that there used to be more than one word for “you”? If you were speaking to or about one person you knew quite well, you referred to them as “thou” or “thee” depending on the grammatical case. If you were speaking or referring to a group of people or someone you weren’t as familiar with, you used “you”. But around the end of the 1600s, using two different ways to refer to someone started to fall out of favour, and by the 1800s, no one used “thou”, “thee” and all its other derivatives anymore. And I’m sure there was a small faction of people back then who were just as incensed: “How will we ever be able to distinguish between a single person we know and a crowd of people we don’t?! It’s outrageous!” Well, we all got over it. And now there’s only one word for “you”, which simplifies things. 

And speaking of simple, here’s the simple truth. If you’re bothered by someone putting pronouns in their bio, or you refuse to accept it when someone you know has requested that you refer to them as “he” instead of “she”, or “they” instead of “he”, or you get irrationally upset that someone you don’t even know has transitioned from one gender to another, the problem is thou, not them.

What book inspires you to do better? (And what do you think of this new blog theme I switched to since my old one became obsolete?)

Nude Talk + Book n Vid Inspo + Abortion + Podcast: K. Rooney’s Mojo

Headline over photo of audio booth in my closet.
Recording an audio book at home rocks! And it’s hot…

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Writing #Aging #Fiction #Women Do walk for fun? In author Kathleen Rooney’s novel, 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish sets out to stroll alone, in the middle of the night, over 10-miles across New York City! Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Follow Kathleen: @KathleenMRooney All of Kathleen’s related links. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of author Kathleen Rooney. Margaret Fishback’s actual papers. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of Novelist Kathleen Rooney’s post here, “The Margaret Fishback Papers.” (The novel stars an 85-year-old woman walking across NYC in the middle of the night — in book-tastic 1984, no less!)

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Releasing my novel is taking longer than I’d like (understatement). At this stage, I’m recording an audiobook version of the first section, which is truly fun!

The audio booth I fashioned within our petite guest-bedroom walk-in closet is soundproofed with a mishmash of bedding held together with clothespins. Photos of me using it must wait for cooler temps. Without air conditioning, I recorded in my birthday suit, standing on a towel to sop up dripping sweat.

Once voicing and editing of the first chapter are done, the audio will become a promotion tool. The book version (yay! yay! yay! is finished!) needs a cover image and formatting. I’ll try again for a great traditional agent before I self-publish.

All this makes me stress that I’ll never finish — which is why I take great pleasure in discovering people who accomplished great things later in life, whether they’re real life or fiction.

Art goddess Beatrice Wood learned pottery throwing after age 40, then she really hit her stride many years later. A friend of hers was so touched by her that she photographed her for a book of her wisdom as she turned 100 in 1993! By the way, Wood penned her autobiography at 95. My review of the book below for Amazon and Goodreads: “Spectacular & Inspiring — absolutely wonderful in every way!”…

Cover of book: Playing Chess With Heart: Beatrice Wood at 100 Hardcover – February 1, 1994 by Beatrice Wood  (Author), Marlene Wallace (Photographer)

Here’s just one of many wonderful and timely quotes from within its pages, this one about abortion…

“Let us face it, it is not a question of whether the law is right or wrong where abortion is concerned. Any woman desperate enough will go to an abortionist regardless of whether there is a law against it. To speak of saving a fetus is to ignore the dangers facing a woman having an illegal abortion — which could mean the loss of two lives.” from the book, “Beatrice Wood at 100.”

Regarding wisdom gained through experience, I urge you to check out and share blogger Equinoxio21’s (who’s guested here before) post at his site, where he discusses abortion

Continuing on the subject of treating each other decently, I recently much enjoyed Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist.” My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads: “Complete candor about a subject that’s scary to talk about. Kendi writes with needed honesty about how difficult raising an antiracist child is, but how essential it is.” …

 

Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Raise an Antiracist."

Back to “never stop reaching” inspo — here’s the trailer to “Poms,” a lighthearted yet profound movie. Starring Diane Keaton alongside an equally fabulous cast, it’s about a group of retired girlfriends who dare to dream, as well as to live…

Men must dream too! Art Carney well earned the Oscars he won starring alongside an orange stripey cat in the uber-inspiring and entertaining “Harry and Tonto.”

Today’s guest blog post is by Aithal, who’s guested here before. He’s published six books, the first book set in India. His latest is a USA-to-India thriller. Here’s his advice for novelists…

So You Think You Can Write by Aithal

So you want to be an author, huh? Join the queue. Millions of dreamers want to be one, and they are very talented writers with a repertoire of fancy and obscure words that are seldom used. Their grammar is perfect, and their statement construction is flawless. So it should be a no-brainer for them to write great books everyone wants to read. Right? Wrong.

Many elements make up a good book. The most critical aspect (at least in my opinion) is that the story should come from the heart. When I started to write my first book in January of 2010, it took me less than a week to pour my initial thoughts down. However, to expand on the idea, to read over and over again for typos, tighten the storyline, etc. — took me about fifteen months. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a journey down memory lane that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you decide to write a book, don’t hurry. I know you must think, “it’s easy for you to say.” But believe me, it’s worth it. I, too, was very impatient in the beginning as I was very eager to have my “masterpiece” out.

My thinking was straightforward. To make people read my book and let them decide if it was worth their time. Unlike seeing a movie (where one spends only 2–3 hours of their time), reading a book is at least a week of their time. So it better be worth it. Spend time upfront, and you’ll reap the rewards. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be in a hurry to reach your destination.

Kirkus Reviews aren’t free, but are highly effective. I recently got my last book reviewed on Kirkus Reviews. They are well-respected in the publishing industry. Your book will get more eyeballs where they matter…like bookstores, publishers, agents, librarians, etc.

What bolsters your confidence when your goals seem beyond reach?… 

Abortion: P. Lazos + Privilege + Podcast: Blog Tips + Loan Words

Blog post title over photo of a woman holding a sign that reads, "Mandatory Vasectomies: Life Begins at Ejaculation."

27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL Happiness Between Tails

#Blogging #Writing #SocialMedia #WordPress #Marketing #BorrowedWords #Covid #Hair What tips do you know about blogging? Tips for blogging success and you may know more languages than you think. Here I share some that I’ve learned, along with some word fun. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL My questions for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. My Facebook page. Video of Wayne Newton singing Schadenfreude, Darling, Schadenfreude" in 1963. The Hill post: "Hurricane Laura topples Confederate monument town had voted to keep". Grammarly Elle and Company Design's list of image dimensiions for posts. Canva My HBT post for still using WordPress Classic. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: One of me and one of a friend sporting our Covid-induced mustaches. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s show is the audio version of 27 Blog Tips + Borrowed Words by da-AL.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. Check out the full list of 50+ places.

While fooling around — erhem, doing research — for my novels, I wandered across findings that conclude many well-off white guys want equality and equity for all. The problem is, since they don’t see it regarding them, their time is all full up with making and enjoying their inherent privileges.

“Humans are rational; we rationalize whatever we want,” or something to that effect, is how noted historian Howard Zinn summed it up.

What sound sleep such people must enjoy! No sweating over transgressions. No tossing over un-involvement with non-blood relatives, people different from them, or who don’t live right next door and aren’t knocking.

To further rile me the other day, when the subject of abortion came up within a group, someone asked whether others cared. To them, it was understandable that anyone who’s had all their kids, better still if they bore only sons and they were post-menopausal, not concern themselves.

Make no mistake, I don’t pretend to be a heroine who devotes every waking moment to bettering the world — but how do people justify take, take, taking, and never lifting a finger?

A breath of fresh air, blogger/novelist/environmental lawyer Pam Lazos is not a “don’t even try” sort. Visit her blog for info on her eco thriller, novellas, beekeeping, and daily laughter practice. Here she describes how, for her, abortion rights are personal…

Evolve or Revolve by Pam Lazos

Let me start by saying this is not my fight in the sense that I, personally, have something at stake.  I am past child-bearing years so the overturning of Roe v. Wade and all the restrictions on a woman’s reproductive system that come with it will not effect me, but if you are like me, let’s not make the mistake of thinking this mess is not going to impact our lives because failure to fight such moral turpitude is complacent, and complacency is how the world goes dark.  If history has taught us anything, complacent people get kicked to the curb because they don’t think the world is coming for them until it’s too late.  Just ask any one of the 6.6 million people living in refugee camps.  

Barring divine intervention — like Zechariah getting the nod from Archangel Gabriel about his elderly wife, Elizabeth, and her pregnancy with John the Baptist — that ship has sailed for me, but not for my daughters, and for them, and every other woman I love, I can never stop fighting until, and this is the tricky part, we EVOLVE into the amazing race of humans we were destined to be, not this crazy, tribal, hunkered-down caricature version of ourselves we have become.  

Imagine living in Texas right now, having a miscarriage, and being too afraid to tell anyone because you think they might arrest you and send you to jail, leaving the kids you have at home to grow up motherless.  Under the Texas abortion ban laws, you experience one of the most crushing moments of your life and rather than being able to look to your friends and community for support in dealing with such an unmooring personal tragedy, you are forced to hide your pain or risk the tragedy becoming public and you being incarcerated.  Don’t think this is just conjecture.  As Brian Stevenson chronicled in Just Mercy, Marsha Colbey spent five years in prison after the state of Alabama determined she was liable for her stillborn child’s death.  With that in mind, the overturning of Roe v. Wade feels like a witch trial where the rules are rigged from the start (ever watch Monty Python’s idea of the “scientific method”?).   

I had two miscarriages as a married woman after trying for years to have a baby.  If I had those miscarriages today, living in Texas, I may have ended up in jail.  So I ask all the whack-a-mole legislators in all the states that wrote such disgusting, anti-woman, anti-family, anti-society laws, why do you hate women, and why is your most fervent desire to see us fail?  Why do you want to see us busted, broke, and broken, without choice, but for those you make for us; pathless, but for those you set our feet upon; and penniless, but for those few coins you’ll throw our way for household items (and then complain because too much money is being spent on household items).  Are we destined to go back to the early 20th century, or will this time around be more insidiously like The Handmaid’s Tale?  Another thing:  once you’re done legislating what we can and can’t do with our bodies, do you think any one of us will want to have anything to do with any one of you?

Photo of Pam Lazos, blogger/author/activist/environmental lawyer.
Photo of Pam Lazos, blogger/author/activist/environmental lawyer.

Why is it only the men who get to exercise their free will?  How about all you chivalrous dudes who seem to think women need champions (we do, but not in the way you think); protectors (we do, but not in the way you think); and role models (we do, but boy, are there too few of those around); how about you take the hit on this?  If life starts at conception and you are so hell-bent on saving every last zygote — it takes until approximately the 11th week of pregnancy to become a fetus — let’s solve the problem by assuring those little eggs do not get fertilized until everyone is in agreement about having a live baby.  You can get a fully reversible vasectomy while we’ll enjoy a brief respite from our birth control dilemma that is never 100% effective — another bonus provided by vasectomies!

You squeamish?  Try walking a hot minute in our shoes.  Do you think anyone who has actually had to get an abortion wants it?  No. Nadie.  I’d wager in 99% of cases, a woman would have preferred avoiding it altogether (using 99% to account for statistical anomalies).  Further, it’s inconceivable to me that there is not one, but two potential sexual predators sitting on the Supreme Court right now, and until Biden was elected president, we had one in the White House, too. Imagine our joy!  And while the MINORITY of ultra conservatives are all high-fiving each other over Alito’s successful, strident, downright diabolical ruling, God is shedding ginormous tears at how satanic you all look to him right now.  The Supreme Court has decided to shove conservatism and Christianity down America’s throat while not one thing they’ve done in the last month looks like anything Jesus would do.  Paid parental leave?  Nah.  Post-natal and educational services for the child?  Fogetaboutit.  Worker training for the mother.  What are you nuts? 

The most vexing thing to me:  why, when we are on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction, are we bringing more babies into the world?  You would think tapping the brakes on overpopulation is a good thing, possibly buying us a few more decades until we sort this climate change mess out — something we’ve only recently decided to take seriously.  While you were busy thinking about how to unravel 50 years of stare decisis, Supreme Court, Mother Nature has been busy plotting her revenge and no amount of judicial reasoning or false piety will save you when the real apocalypse arrives so if you were thinking you could hide behind the robes, think again.

I don’t want to be the last generation on a dying planet, I want to be the first generation on an enlightened one.  How I long for this fight to be over, yet, I think it’s barely started.  So many of my perceived longings are because I think, “when I have xx, I will be happy,” when the truth is, I don’t even know if I want xx anymore, or if I even ever wanted it, I just want to be happy.  Most others want the same, but no one can be happy if everyone else is telling them what to do with their bodies — NO ONE — not even the ones doing the telling.  In order to be happy, we must go directly to the source of light.  Reflections of someone else’s light don’t count, and legislation which curtails a woman’s light, by curtailing her right, is the worst kind of reflection because it reflects someone else views onto us, leaving our own somewhere around our feet, or shoved into a closet with the stuff we don’t want anymore but don’t have the heart to throw away.

It’s the 4th of July, a holiday to celebrate independence, but in America today, independence is now only afforded to the the pale, male, stale variety who mostly write the laws.  To be fair, I know plenty of men who are not of this variety, and to them I say, THANK YOU.  We women need you in this fight and it is the one small ray of light that has sprung from all this chaos:  women and their men are coming together in droves to SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER, something that doesn’t happen too often in America these days.

There are a few things too important to leave to the states:  the environment, civil rights, education, and a woman’s reproductive rights, to name a few, and we all — at least the ones of us who are still thinking clearly — need to get in there and make sure we keep those rights.

Today I feel worse about our country than I have ever felt in my adult life. I don’t know how we get back to center where most of us thrive other than for women of all walks and stripes to get out there and not just vote, but run, RUN, for local, state and federal legislative and executive positions, heck, you can run for dog catcher if it’s going to make all our lives better.  We need our voices to be heard and the time has passed to let the men do it for us.  It’s not going to be easy, and it will take heart and strength and courage, but we can do it — together.  

Remember:  no man has ever experienced the pain of childbirth so they have no idea what we are capable of withstanding.  And for all those men who think women should be relegated to the back of the bus, just wait until we find our voices — the concussive effect will be staggering.  If we stand together, we can not only find our way back to the reflection of our own pure light, we can be unstoppable.

Time to show them, Ladies.

Trick question: Do abortion rights involve you?

It’s OK 2 Say Nope 2 Holidays + Podcast: Dog Days + L. Brummet’s Leeks

extreme close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Cooking #Veggies #Photography #Gardening #Pets #Dogs #MonarchButterflies #Butterflies #Recipes Hungry? Backyard fruits and veggies are the best. Lillian Brummet, a blogger from Canada who’s written many books, says hot weather means leek season. Here’s her recipe for “Leek n’ Mushroom Bundles.” What are you hungry for these days? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 2:05 Lillian Brummet’s “Leek n’ Onion Bundles” recipe 4:18 My question for you 6:28 HBT outro Photos available at the blog version (H-E-R-E) of this show: Serendipitous photos of shadows and beautiful Los Angeles blue sky. Closeup of green onion flower. Lillian and Dave Brummet Links referred to in this episode: About the novels I'm writing. Video of K-D dog serenading. About monarch butterflies. A wild PBS video about monarch butterflies. Recipes by Khashayar for Happiness Between Tails: a great hot soup, a crunchy salad, a fruity dessert and a carrot cake, an entree, and this appetizer and this one. Lillian Brummet's site with info about her, including her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Video: Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotifyand Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Wish the holidays would just go away? It’s okay to tell them to go away.

Holidays can be nice — and terrible! Family can bring us to our knees — both to swoon and to cringe. Romance can make our hearts flutter or seize.

From Halloween to New Year’s, at least here in the United States, we’re inundated 24/7 with messages of how this is the time for families and lovers. We’re instructed to either kiss, or to kiss and make up.

fullsizerender-5Sometimes none of that is possible or isn’t in our best interest.

Traditional or sacred, I invite you to join me in acknowledging that ignoring any special day is perfectly acceptable. Never, sometimes, always; we can give any number of them a rest, whenever we please.

What matters is that we do everything to get through them as best we can — whatever it takes to mark time, to survive, to thrive through and into gentle holiday-free January.

Do you ever prefer to ignore holidays?

Please Snail-Mail a Recruit + Willow Croft on Writing and Animals

Photo of Rebekah Hyde.
Postcards and letters are much appreciated by any recruit.

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

Yay!!!! Since this was first published, Rebekah has earned her way through bootcamp is a happy camper (I couldn’t resist the pun) as a bona fide Marine!!! Read on and instead, redirect your postcards and letters to anyone else you know who’s in the service. H-e-r-e’s a link for how to write to other members of the armed forces who would appreciate your correspondence. Also, check out the podcast audio version of Willow’s portion of this post right below here…

Willow Croft on Writing and Animals Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Writing #Authors Poet/blogger/speculative and horror fiction author Willow Croft tells how her writing and love of animals merge. How do animals figure into your love of reading and/or writing? Record your thoughts on my podcast page on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy Me a Coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Visit this show’s original blog post for links and photos of Willow Croft’s book and cat. Time Stamps (where segments begin): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s guest 2:00 Willow Croft on writing and animals 2:20 A question for you 14:00 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Today’s post begins with hefty justice — a letter to you from Patricia Hyde, my friend whose daughter, Rebekah, is determined to do justice for her country by serving in the Marines. Rebekah needs our encouragement while she mends from injuries sustained during military training so she can jump back in where she left off. The week before she began training, she got married. With luck, she’ll finish and see her husband next February, a year later.

Of all the military branches, Marine boot camp is the longest and probably most rugged. While healing, Rebekah still works, doing less taxing activities. Recruits are restricted from the outside world. They are obliged only snail-mail and one phone call a week. That’s it.

Should you find it in your heart to write to her, I doubt you’ll find anyone as grateful to receive your postcard or letter. 

After Patricia’s letter here to us, continue on for speculative fiction/horror author Willow Croft’s guest post regarding how she came to be published and her love of animals…

Patricia’s Letter to Us About her Daughter’s Service as a Marine Recruit

Note: info within parenthesis added by da-AL

Dear Reader,

This story is about my daughter, Rebekah Hyde, age 22. She tried out for the US Marine Band after she finished high school. Alas, she wasn’t selected, so she applied again after graduating from California State University Long Beach. After four years of college, paid for by working at Jersey Mike’s (a sandwich chain) and as a piano teacher, she was accepted into the USMC band. However, she must first get through boot camp.

Her adventure began February 8, 2021. After a two-week quarantine, she was shipped with other recruits to Parris Island, South Carolina.

Two months later, I received a fateful call. My daughter was seriously injured while carrying her 65-pound backpack. She suffered a stress fracture of her pelvis, both sides of her groin were pulled, and one of her fingers was broken. Nothing, though, can make her quit her dream.

Presently assigned to a medical platoon, she is coming along, healing and feeling less and less pain. In a few weeks, Rebekah will be placed in an active platoon to finish boot camp where she left off.

Rebekah is my only child. Strong and courageous, she will not give up her dream of joining the “President’s Own” and traveling with the US President.

When Rebekah was eight, she begin her music career playing the piano. In the sixth grade, she picked up the flute and immediately fell in love with it. She participated in marching band all four years of high school and also traveled with independent bands like “Impulse,” competing and showcasing her skills with the flute, cymbals, and synthesizer keyboard. Throughout it all, I was by her side as a “Booster Mom.”

I’d appreciate your letters and postcards to Rebekah, to encourage and motivate her through “The Crucible.” Prayers are also welcome.

Please write to Rebekah at: (Note from da-AL — address deleted here from the original post, since Rebekah completed boot camp safe and sound, and is now a full-fledged Marine!)

God bless you and your family. Thank You!

Willow Croft's book of poetry, "Quantum Singularity."

“Writing, Publishing, and My Love for Animals” by Willow Croft

About Me

I acquired a degree in writing and literature from Goddard College (Vermont) back in 1998-2001 but I didn’t actually start writing in hopes of getting published until about the mid- to late 2010s. When I was growing up, creativity was only something you did on the side (if ever!) once you found a job and were a fully functioning and conformist member of society. Only then was it okay to express your creativity, and only if it never took the place of “real” work. And it was because of my 30-plus quest for “real” work that I not only acquired significant physical limitations, I was in a place of mental and emotional desperation. I was living in increasingly conservative, intolerant Florida, I couldn’t find any sort of work, I had been threatened by one of a group of those rabidly conservative types my home state was notorious for, and I had just gotten my master’s degree in a (futile) hope of expanding my hire-ability, with no luck. Although I had started my own freelance business, I was still having problems earning enough income to be independent, and I was just living under so much fear and sadness and stress that I allowed myself to turn to writing, because I just didn’t know what else to do any more. I mean, it was to the point where I was like “I’m almost middle-aged, and I’m still living way below poverty level, I have nothing to show for my efforts to conform to the system just to ‘get a job’ and I have very limited options, so why not write just to keep yourself sane?” And, amazingly, I started to get published in magazines and in anthologies. Granted, there was an immense amount of hard work and dedication involved, but I was actually seeing a return on that, as opposed to anything else I had attempted to achieve over the span of my lifetime. I could spin out so many cliched terms about what getting published meant (and continues to mean), but they are all sincere: a lifeline, a light in the darkness, a refuge, a sanctuary… the list goes on.

So, that’s my main issue with standardized education (and standardized employment, for you grownups out there!). Why force kids to live up to a standard and regimen that many adults (including me!) would have difficulty managing? (I mean, come on, schools; by the time pencils are sharpened, supplies and materials organized, fidgets and energy calmed, and brains drifting into the task ahead, then  —BAM! — it’s time to go to the next period or switch to the next educational subject area and OMG I’M THE TEACHER and I’ve just gotten into the zone and HOLY COW it’s already time for the SWITCH?!??!?! And all I can hope for at that point is that I’ve at least provided the kids some levity in their otherwise dull, rote-learning educational experience by watching their substitute teacher’s brain implode.)

I mean, come on, what’s wrong with making education dynamic and fun and intuitive and stress/pressure-free and exploration-based? When did we stop making space for kids to be kids (and not mini-adults) in schools?

So, even though I’m not currently teaching, I still daydream about this amazingly interactive, pod-based learning environment for the school system that allows children to immerse themselves for a week or two in diverse and wide-ranging areas of interest of their choice, while teachers and guest teachers can weave in essentials, like reading, math, etc., as seamless parts of each pod. And utilize them to build up skill zones like critical thinking, creative nurturing, curiosity-fueled engagement, and more.

And, in the end, the school system could actually not only prepare kids for the changing world (of which, I firmly believe, the standardized school system is outdated, inefficient, and impractical, and well in need of not just an update, but a complete overhaul.)

And, in the best part of all, give kids a chance to explore all aspects of their potential, while they have a safe, judgement-free, supportive environment to do so, instead of having to play self-discovery catch-up as best you can at an older age. I mean, I look back now, and I know that tendencies of mine that had been criticized and considered a detriment, would have been an asset in the careers I had wanted to explore.

But I’ve tried to make up for lost time. As you can see from my “Tips” list, below, I’ve had the opportunity as an adult to explore things, and causes — namely animals, and the environment — that interest me. I may never be able to be the marine biologist or live the purely artistic lifestyle I dreamed of as a child, but at least I can reconnect with my innate interests and passions as best I can, with the time I have left. Why can’t kids have that, with all the time they have ahead of them? I don’t think it’s fair, to strip them of their potential, while we, as adults, want to make them fit into confining little boxes just because we had to/have to.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box, and into the tips I learned from my explorations as an adult (where nobody could deter me from getting involved in causes like this!).

About My Love of Animals

Anyone who knows my blog knows I love animals. And if you don’t… well, guess what? I am very passionate about animals and animal welfare. And I don’t just blog about animal welfare causes, like in my fixed post, “The Real-Life Horror of Pet Overpopulation.” I have been very involved in animal rescue causes… everything from cleaning out kennels to assisting on a cat hoarding investigation (and the cats’ subsequent relocation) to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. I’ve even attended greyhound racing protests. I often have a wonderful rapport with my animal friends, especially cats, chipmunks, and…skunks!

So, even when I’m writing horror, I often include animals in my short stories and other written material. I especially like to include shelter animals and also try to give animals the agency and empowerment they often lack in the real world.

Here are a few examples (links) to stories (in anthologies) that include animals:

Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Magic

EconoClash Review #7

The Hollow: Where All Evil Things Lie Vol. 3

Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown

So, for this guest blog post, I’d thought I’d share some tips learned from my years in animal rescue and wildlife rescue/rehab.

On Wildlife

  • Can be a hard thing to resist. Even I, a former, longtime, wildlife rehabber who absolutely knows better, sometimes feel the compulsion to feed my wild animal friends (which I don’t give into). But it can do more harm than good. Like with dogs, people food is not good for animals. So, the next time you’re tempted to feed ducks, turtles (or, heaven forbid, raccoons!), or any other kind of wild animal, please try not to give in to the urge. It may seem like a small act, but it can be a matter of life or death for the wild creature.
  • It should go without saying, right? If you find an injured wildlife, immediately contact your local wildlife center or wildlife rescue group for advice, and the most current information regarding the proper rescue of the animal. Be hesitant about handling injured wildlife, as to avoid injury to yourself from a scared or stressed animal. Also, wildlife rescue organizations always need volunteers, and that can be the best way to learn how to safely handle wildlife, and perhaps even assist on wildlife rescues and releases out in the field.
  • Instead of an environmentally detrimental turf lawn, consider a landscape design that provides food, shelter, and a more natural ecosystem for animals, birds, insects/bugs, and other critters. If you put out water for wildlife and/or birds, make sure it’s flowing and not stagnant. Standing water cannot only play host to harmful bacteria that can sicken wildlife, it can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consult with the Parks Department or the Extension Service in your area for more expert advice on supporting the local wildlife in your region. Bat houses, birdhouses, and bee houses can be fun additions to your wildlife-friendly zone!

On Adopting Pets

Again, do I even need to say it? Okay, if you insist. “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” Spay/neuter your pets to prevent shelter overcrowding and pet overpopulation. Don’t buy breed or purchase any animals from puppy and cat mills. I worked for a number of years (and plan to, again, when I get settled) in animal rescue and in animal shelters, both as a volunteer and as a paid employee. I even worked on a hoarding case, once. It’s fulfilling work, but also heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for so many different reasons. Mainly, there are too many animals and not enough homes. So, here’s some basics for navigating the pet adoption realm.

  • Give older cats and dogs a chance. For some reason, people seem to think any animal that’s not a kitten or a puppy as “old”. To put this in perspective, my own two cats (both adopted from a shelter) lived to be twenty and twenty-one, respectively. Cats over five years old are a lot more mellow and are often a better companion for families with kids, especially smaller kids. Teach kids (and, yes, even other adults) to be respectful of the cat’s boundaries, and provide spaces for the cat to get away from visitors, household residents, and the like. Adding vertical spaces to your home (cat towers, cat-friendly shelving, etc) can help the cat adjust and minimize stress and behavior issues. I’m not as much as an expert on dogs as I am on cats, but investing in proper training can be a life saver. Literally, in the case of the dog.
  • Keep cats indoors. I admit, I grew up in a household that let cats be indoor/outdoor, and I made the mistake of allowing my first cat be indoor/outdoor, and he developed so many behavior problems as a result. Everybody’s divided on this issue, but I am adamantly, fiercely entrenched on the side of keeping cats strictly indoors. It makes it easy to relocate, plus it saves on having to take the cat to the vet every other week for some abscessed wound after it tangled with a raccoon. Not to mention it’s so much less stress when you’re not worried every time the cat disappears that it’s been run over, or poisoned either accidentally, or on purpose by an angry neighbor because cats consistently ignore property lines. Plus, indoors, they’re not wreaking havoc on an already embattled ecosystem. Cats are opportunistic hunters and have a detrimental impact on local birds and wildlife. Now, here’s the worst parts to letting cats run free, and leaving dogs unattended in the yard: they are vulnerable to theft. And by theft, I don’t mean by people like me who might see a loose animal and think it’s a stray (Joking! Well, sort of.). I mean people who cruise neighbourhoods and steal pets in order to use them for bait animals in dog fighting or to sell them to laboratories for animal testing. Urban myth, right? Nope. Every few months, there would be a flood of lost pet posters in my (former) neighbourhood in Florida. I learned what was most likely happening to the animals from an animal rescue worker who’d been volunteering for about twenty years.
  • “Cute” pets like rabbits do not make good pets for kids. Which is a shame, because rescued rabbits need homes too, as they are often acquired as gifts and then discarded like so many other pet animals once the novelty wears off. I always make the joke “Unless your kid is 4-H experienced…” because rabbits require so much finicky care and handling. If rabbits are held the wrong way, they can kick and break their backs. They need so much specialized care, and unless the parent or guardian is prepared to take on that care, I wouldn’t recommend it. And, hopefully this goes without saying… get the rabbit spayed/neutered! Because rabbits really do breed like, well, rabbits! Or save yourself a lot of headache and stress, and turn the kid onto herpetology (from a licensed breeder that only sells captive bred reptiles, etc.).

Still have questions? Need advice on the weird and wacky things cats do? I’m always willing to talk animals. Visit me on my blog.

Do you know someone who could use a snail-mail letter or postcard? And have you rescued any animals?

Scams: 8 Steps to Protect Yourself and Others with Videos

Graphic of flames under "Scam Protection and Videos"

“This is Alex, calling you from the refunds department…”

“This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You must call us back…”

“This is the Internal Revenue Service. You must call us back…”

“Your computer is dead. You must telephone us to fix it and recover your info…”

Ever receive such a message or one pop up on your screen? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?

A computer engineer based out of Ireland who goes by an alias, Jim Browning is a true hero. When he learned someone close to him was swindled out of money, he got curious. The next time scammers called him, warned him that his money and his computer were in danger, he turned the tables on the thugs!

First he got into their computers. Then he took control of their office cameras. He continues to record of their actions, online and physically. When he can, he warns their prey before they lose their life savings.

This post is a departure from my usual bookish, artsy, cooking, travel, pet-loving type. When I read of this information in AARP Bulletin, I wanted you to know about it — and to pass it along to everyone you know who might be vulnerable to scammers or who knows others who could fall victim. Those over 60-years-old are five times more likely to be hit. Here the New York Times also covered these types of crimes in depth.

DIY: Protect Yourself & Others

If anyone calls to say you — or anyone else is — in grave danger unless you mail cash or gift cards (and most likely even instructs you to not discuss it with anyone):

  1. Hang up on them. If they left a message, erase it.
  2. Definitely don’t call them back.
  3. Never, under any circumstance, mail cash or gift cards.
  4. If there’s some remote chance you believe they might be legit, ask them to first mail something to you.
  5. Never deal with people who want your money and prohibit you from telling your bank, your store, or anyone you know.

If your computer flashes alarm lights, locks up, or beeps at you while a message urges you to telephone a number:

  1. Don’t touch your phone!
  2. Instead, turn off your computer, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on.
  3. If it isn’t as good as new, take it to a reputable repair place such as a computer store.

Below, in four video segments, Jim shares what he learned. For more on him and his findings, check out his YouTube channel.

 

 

 

What do you know about scammers? Have you been scammed or know someone who has?

DIY Heaven by da-AL

Photo of my Cousin Ana's new rooster.
Cousin Ana’s Roco: Ro + Co = “rojo” (Spanish for “red”) + “colorado” (Spanish for “colored red”).

What if, despite what some writers and books tell us, there’s no afterlife? But there’s still a heaven, yet it’s one we make right here, right now. Better yet, what if it doesn’t take much to create? If easy micro-kindnesses wend far and meander back to us?

The holidays are upon us. It’s definitely not my favorite season. Not at all. It’s contrived; there’s so much expectation, manipulation…

Yet this last week turned me mushy. Not in the faux sentimental way depicted on TV and billboards targeting us to spend, spend, spend. It’s not by chance that Xmas decorations look sad in daylight. Ugh, these two months can really get on my nerves.

Back to mushiness. Years ago, when a sweet friend was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, another great friend and I pledged to do a walkathon for MS. One of those where we collected donations in advance of all the miles we planned to walk.

Walkathon day came… and… what can I say other than, the truth is not pretty? It was hot and crowded and yucky, and that was while we searched for parking. The two of us ate our sandwiches in the car and promptly drove home. Sans walking, we mailed in the monies. In my case, I’d amassed a few hundred dollars over just an hour or so of cubicle-hopping around the ad agency I temped for.

What’s stayed with me is how out of the thirty or so people I begged (please don’t ask me to attempt math here), most gave anywhere from a few to twenty dollars. A little pitched in by each person within a bunch added up very quickly!

Another personal story of how one small gesture can ripple wide, this one recent

Last April, a friend mentioned she’d begun foster parenting. It was the start of Los Angeles’ quarantine, and Covid-19 was creating a worse need than ever for people to take care of kids. (Note to self: when I am Goddess of the Universe in my next life, foster parents automatically get express tickets to heaven.) For anyone who isn’t aware, the 24/7/365 job requires half a year to get certified and pays heck, as this foster parent reveals.

My friend is Wonder Woman when it comes to embracing all that life presents. A devoted mother, wife, business owner, daughter, and more, she and her husband are now fostering an adorable baby girl with health issues and a super charming little boy with challenges too. When I mentioned to my husband what she was doing, he decided to knock on the doors of several of our neighbors who have kids. He requested whatever hand-me-downs they could spare and Voila! Over two weeks, even the friends’ friends contributed to what became quite a heap of helpful kid things!

Further confirmation that our little gestures can create a positive groundswell was in my local newspaper a couple of days ago

(And by the way, this also shows why local news is a necessity, not a luxury. Every city would benefit greatly to have a news outlet of its own.) Turns out the good deeds of a man living on the street have given rise to much more goodness. As you’ll see in this article about him, as well as this one that includes a video link, generosity small and large boomerangs all over the place and continues to add up to a whole lot of fabulous! The comments on the GoFundMe page that Bruce De Mille put together are beyond heart-melting.

All this leads me to explain these delightful pictures

Any little stray dog or innocent chick who meets my Cousin Ana has hit the sweetness jackpot! Her house is t-h-e place to go to be safe, sound, and never eaten…

Cousin Ana's chicken, Pepa, was 11 when she passed away not too long ago...
Cousin Ana’s chicken, Pepa, is 11 years young…

 

When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster...
When Pepa was gone, Cousin Ana got 5 baby chicks. Here they are, 3 months old now! Surprise, one is another rooster…

 

Cousin Ana's is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here's Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.
Cousin Ana’s is heaven for needy little dogs! (L-R) Here’s Tiky, Albert, Bella, Nike, Beethoven, Charlie. The last ones are brothers and sister.

 

Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.
Beethoven loves modeling whatever Cousin Ana knits.

 

Here's Cousin Ana's Albert, on his way home from the groomer's.
Here’s Cousin Ana’s Albert, on his way home from the groomer’s.

When I try to be kind or when I see others being nice, I feel safer and happier — like heaven is here, right now.

How do you create your own heaven?

Pandemic Anxiety by da-AL + Panic Attack Rescue by Caz

As the Covid epidemic drags on and on and on, for what seems like forever, the challenge of keeping socially distanced is easier for some of us. For me, working on my novels (about the books I’m working on H-E-R-E), teaches me the importance of being okay with keeping my own company. Of course, I’m beyond fortunate that my friends and family are doing well physically, emotionally, and financially. That includes my dear dog, K-D. She breaks up the surrealism of these weird times by staying close while I do ZOOM yoga and pilates.

Make no mistake, Covid is horrendous in every way. Who among us hasn’t been freaked out by it? My husband and I got sick with it just before the vaccines came out. We were lucky to survive, fortunate to have gotten medical attention. That said, I’m still dealing with Covid-related health problems.

Video exercise helps me, especially with my friend by my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took COVID for me to succumb to the very thing I was too snooty to try.
Zoom exercise helps me, especially with my furry girl at my side to break up the surrealism. So does acquiring new blogger gadgets like a selfie stick — gawd! it took Covid for me to succumb to the very thing that before, I was too snooty to try.

Whatever might stress you out, whether it’s Covid or otherwise, meet Caz, a London blogger with kindness so immense that she blogs her experiences into healing wisdom. She worked in mental health, and you can reach her at her site, Mental Health 360 dot U K, no spaces. These are her best tips for keeping our heads when anxiety threatens to do us in…

How to manage panic attacks by Caz

As someone who’s experienced severe panic attacks, I understand just how frightening and debilitating they are. I never want to experience another one and if this is you too, let’s look at how to prevent them. First tho’, in order to overcome panic attacks, you’ll need to understand what they are.

What is a panic attack or panic disorder?

We’ve all had feelings of anxiety — it’s our body’s natural response to stress, and it’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come. For example, you may feel anxious about a job interview. During times like this, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal, but some people find it harder to control their anxieties. The most severe form of anxiety can trigger panic attacks.

We have panic attacks and panic disorder; one episode is a panic attack, which might occur following the death of someone close or another stressful situation. Panic disorder is when you experience regular and subsequent attacks. It’s a common yet very misunderstood illness and lots of people with this disorder won’t ever seek help due to fear and stigma.

The attacks can occur often and at any time, seemingly for no apparent reason. It feels like a sudden, unexpected rush of intense fear and anxiety along with a flood of frightening thoughts and physical sensations — so, panic attacks are not merely psychological.

What you should know about panic disorder

  • Many of the symptoms of panic attack are similar to some physical illnesses i.e. heart attack or over-active thyroid.
  • It’s a chronic condition and can lead to changes in behaviour like avoiding situations or events.
  • People dread the onset of another attack, and the fear of having one is just as debilitating as the attacks themselves.
  • Panic disorder knows no boundaries as it affects people of all socio-economic groups and races. It’s more common in women than men. It can also affect children and the elderly.
  • Although the exact causes are unclear, panic disorders can run in families.
  • While many attacks are triggered by stressful life events, they can also occur ‘out of the blue’.
  • Be aware — anti-malaria medication, cold and flu medications, appetite suppressants and even too much caffeine can trigger panic attacks in some people.

If you experience panic attacks, you might then begin to avoid events or situations because you’re afraid of another attack. However, avoidance can create a cycle of living in “fear of the fear”, which adds to your sense of panic. This can cause you to have more panic attacks, leading to diagnosis of panic disorder

What are the symptoms of Panic?

If we encounter a situation that threatens our safety, we’ll experience a series of reactions known as the ‘fight or flight’ response — triggered by the release of chemicals that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to flee to safety.

During a panic attack, we’ll experience similar symptoms, even when there’s no real threat involved. A panic attack might happen in response to situations that others find harmless. Symptoms include physical and physiological symptoms, such as these ten:

  1. Racing heartbeat, palpitations
  2. Dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea
  3. Difficulty breathing, like you can’t get enough air
  4. Dry mouth and unable to swallow — if you do need fluids, just take smalls sips to avoid choking
  5. Shaking, trembling
  6. Sweating and hot flushes or sudden chills
  7. Sudden need to go to the toilet, the body needs to lighten to fight or flee
  8. Numbness or tingling sensations, initially in your fingers and toes
  9. Your face, feet and hands might go white (as with the tingling, this is the blood leaving your extremities to rush to where it’s needed most i.e. heart and muscles)
  10. Chest pains — you might think you’re having a heart attack — one way to tell is — if your fingers and toes are tingling, you’re more likely to be having a panic attack. However, if you’re afraid always dial 999, or whatever your country’s emergency phone number is, to check

You might experience negative thoughts…

  • “I’m so embarrassed, everyone can see me panicking.”
  • “I feel like I’m dying” or “I’m dying”, or “I’m having a heart attack.”
  • “I can’t cope with this!”

…and feelings of…

  • You’re going mad or crazy.
  • Being out of physical or emotional control.
  • Unreality/detachment from yourself or your surroundings.
  • Heightened sound and visual awareness, and hypervigilance (for flight or flee you need to hear and see clearly and be vigilant).

A panic attack generally lasts between four and twenty minutes, although it often feels a lot longer. However, they have been known to last an hour. I had them one after another, and all night for around three months and it felt like torture.

What to do if you’re having a panic attack

  1. Breathe as slowly and deeply as possible, exhaling firstly through your mouth — slowly for a count of 8-10 seconds, then in through your nose slowly and so on.
  2. Recognise that this is a panic attack and tell yourself that it will pass, because it will.
  3. Try to get to a quiet space and sit down if necessary and continue with the breathing.
  4. If you’re at work or outside, ask for help, I know this might feel a little embarrassing, but do ask if you need to.
  5. Count backwards slowly from 100 or…
  6. …look around for 5 things that you can see and name them out loud i.e. “I can see a truck,” etc. You can go onto things you can hear, smell, taste, or touch in the same way — until the panic subsides. This technique will help you stay in the present and grounded by using your five senses.
  7. Use muscle relaxation techniques — try slumping your shoulders, letting them drop down from your ears, give your jaw a little wiggle then let it relax, uncross your legs, unclench your fists and lay the palms of your hands lightly on your thighs (remind yourself that your body cannot be relaxed and tense at the same time).
  8. Put a few drops of lavender (known to ease anxiety) on a tissue, exhale then breathe it in slowly.
  9. Dial 999 if the symptoms continue or get worse.

What to do if someone else is having a panic attack

  • Ask the person if they’ve had a panic attack before, and what they think might help them or has helped them in the past.
  • Encourage them (or tell them quite firmly if they’re confused and unable to follow directions) to breathe (as above). Do this with them if necessary, as often they think they can’t breathe and won’t be able to do this alone.
  • Follow the above steps and call 999 if necessary.

Self-help to combat panic attacks

  1. Listen (regularly) to free mental wellbeing audio guides online.
  2. Search and download relaxation and mindfulness apps or online community apps.
  3. Learn other skills like visualisation to help you relax and practice them often.
  4. Notice when your body is tense i.e. when your shoulders are up round your ears or your fists are clenched and let them relax. When your body is constantly tensed up, it’s effectively telling your brain you’re on alert, tensed and ready to fight or flee.
  5. Ask your close friends or family members to support you by gently pointing out when you’re all hunched up and tense. Even better, perhaps they’ll give you a light head massage, or lightly rub your arms and hands in a soothing way.
  6. Practice the breathing exercises often so that you’ll be able to use them easily when needed.
  7. Try mixing lavender oil with other aromatherapy oils like geranium to produce your own stress reliever.

I can’t stress enough the need to practice the coping techniques. You know you wouldn’t be able to drive say on a motorway after having just one lesson. It takes practice!

Treatment for Panic attacks

Treatment aims to reduce the number of panic attacks you have and ease your symptoms.

  • Psychological (talking) therapies and medicine are the main treatments for panic disorder
  • Depending on your symptoms, you may need either of these treatments, or a combination of both

When to get help

  • If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please seek professional help. Or talk to someone close.
  • See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder. Regardless of how long you’ve had the symptoms, if panic attacks are interfering with your life, work, or relationships you should seek professional help.
  • Although panic disorder is a medical condition in its own right, there can sometimes be a physical reason for your symptoms — and treating it can bring the anxious feelings to an end. See your GP to rule out any other causes and don’t self-diagnose.

Over to you

The above lists are not exhaustive, and you may have other tips for readers, which you can leave in the comment section below. Please feel free to make any other comments and ask any questions.

Have you or anyone you know experienced anxiety or panic? What helped you or them?

Videos plus Happy Un-Father’s Day by da-AL

Screenshot of Josh's video from No Dad? No Problem! shoutout for me!No Dad? No Problem!‘s” shoutout for me — get yours too!

Whenever a holiday looms, my first reaction is to gag at all the goopy generalities that pop up more vigorously than do the weeds in my lawn. At least those I can pull up. But what do I do with celebrations that dictate only one way to feel?

Take, for instance, Father’s Day. Everywhere, right about this time of year, are messages of how wonderful dads are. Okay, let’s say that some fathers are. And a bunch aren’t, right? The same goes for Mother’s Day and “blessed is the family” designated events such as Xmas, Thanksgiving (and don’t get me started on other sundry celebrations).

Back to Father’s Day. No matter how relentlessly someone tries to gaslight me into their parallel universe, the fact remains tht mine wasn’t “nice,” to use a shorthand for all the ways he was relentlessly “awful” (an understatement). Writers who go into detail about stuff like that deserve the utmost respect. But if I elaborate further now, my loved ones will be stuck with a glum me for the rest of the day.

Besides, my purpose here is to, a) remind you that it’s okay to not get warm fuzzies over any kin-dedicated day — and, b) to let you know about a way to enjoy an avatar father! A do-over of the very best kind!

Some people are scared of strangers. From childhood on, they were most comforted “in the bosom of family” (a term that for me conjures only snarky innuendos). My growing up was the other way around. I love strangers. Some could be dangerous, but ditto for relatives. Better still, with strangers, there are no expectations. Moreover, they don’t have to be in my home.

Any nicety from a new person warms my heart better than finding treasure on the sands of a long-deserted beach. Ta dah! Enter Virtual Dad!

During my ongoing education that’s poised toward a future podcast of my novels, I googled some things about microphones. After bumbling upon Josh’s Youtube channel and thanking him for the info, I saw his offer to record personalized fatherly praise.

Cynic that I can be, I almost didn’t ask, figured nothing (or worse) would come of it. Then, to prove my own point to myself, I typed in a request…

Waddya know?! — within a matter of days, he answered with this. Basically, all I’d said was that I was working to publish my first podcast episode. Clearly, he researched my blog so he could get the shoutout just right. Plus he pronounced my name perfectly…

…and wouldn’t you know it, I surprised myself by how it bowled me over! He doesn’t ask for cash, he doesn’t proselytize, and thank goddess he’s neither racist nor bigoted — he’s just — dare I type this? — a decent person.

His Youtube “about” page tells how he — wait for it — basically wants to be a good father to his own four kids and to help others along the way. He describes everything from how to shave and how to avoid scammers, to the three best ways for young people to succeed in life and how to whip up easy eats like a grilled cheese sandwich golden and crispy enough to smell through the screen.

To be clear, dear readers, I’m not into guns whatsoever. In your interest, I watched his episode on them. Hallelujah, he wasn’t promoting gun ownership and he prefaced his talk with extensive stats on how truly dangerous they are and seriously they must be taken. Having served in the United States Air Force for twenty years, some of his duty in Afghanistan, and losing many friends, his weapons experience is vastly different from mine.

In addition, despite that I’m a vegetarian, for your sakes I sat through his chicken grilling DIY. His interspersed recount of a near-killing incident was in no way self-aggrandizing, was totally sober and compassionate. He’s obviously from a different culture than I was raised in and definitely overly young to be a real dad to me — but that’s just fine. I don’t ache for a father, not in the least. That said, the aforementioned sincere kindness of strangers has always served me well.

Essense of dad? Eau de dad? Dad-ness? It’s all good. Maybe it will be for you too?

If you’re not into father stuff, but appreciate something vaguely in the same vast range, here’s this…

There you go, friend. For anyone anywhere yearning for kind words from a father-ish nice adult any time of the year, and for whom Opie’s dad character on the Andy Griffith TV shows isn’t interactive enough, consider a virtual alternative.

Have you ever felt Happy Un-Father’s Day-ish? If you know of anyone or want someone to understand, please share this post. Maybe they’ll find comfort in that Un-Father’s Day, any day of the year, is okay.

Tao of Relationship by Bryan Wagner

Communication is not easy. Whether I’m listening, reading, looking… all my interactions are colored by my perspective that’s shaped by my present and past. Sometimes my simplest, most straight-forward conversations are with my dear doggie.

Who do you interact with most easily? Blogger/writer Bryan Wagner presents workshops on Zen, Tao, and Shamanism. Here’s his take on relationships…

Bryan Wagner and a friend spending quality time together.

The Tao of Relationship” by Bryan Wagner

Communion is creating and embracing an emotional, spiritual, sharing of each other.

We can enter a state of communion if we are present and each of us has the desire, openness, and willingness to remain so. 

We can also use that willingness of communication to build a more intimate exchange that leaves traces of each participant within the other. That is the act of communion. Communion is not just language and sharing. Communion is a process further than language, it is the art of complete communication in the moment. Genuine communion happens when things move between those in relationship that is grounded in the awareness of the moment.

I believe that the sharing of emotional content is important to the state of being in communion. That means to express emotional, non-verbal content, and then allow the receiver to process it in whatever form that action takes.

Communion happens inter-species because spoken language is only a very small part of communion. Some of my happiest moments are in communion with animals. I think in part because they are aware and painfully honest in how they respond. Being with animals has the effect of clearing the detritus and fog from my thinking and reference frame on life. I engage in the state of love so readily with animals!

I honor and value those that I commune with and actively seek out building those relationships that offer that place of intimacy. I encourage people to embrace the idea of communing with others and seek those relationships out in their own lives.

Today I will spend some time communing with Spike and P’nut and a horse named Anastasia. I can’t think of a better way to share life. – Bryan Wagner

Who do you interact with most easily?