Ultimate Blog Challenge

28 Days of Heyku and Blogging

I know my posts have been quite sporadic and inconsistent. I’m planning on changing that with July and another round of The Ultimate Blog Challenge in conjunction with the accountability and commitment Facebook community group, hosted by Robert Kennedy III, 28 Days To A New Me.

In May I focused on creating a new habit of getting physically active. Since I could break a sweat and need to take a breather after doing something as fundamentally basic as taking a shower, needing to rest before even getting dressed on some days so that I wouldn’t pour sweat just from the action of drying my body with a towel, I had to start small.

No, I’m not exaggerating and, yes, it was that bad. I had allowed the physical symptoms of both the fibromyalgia and depression to rise to epic proportions and immobilize me physically. I had been doing a tremendous amount of mental, emotional, and spiritual work, from the confines of my tiny apartment and barely moved from the couch or bed. Constantly fatigued, achy, and with excruciating lower back and sciatic pain from a probable herniated disc from March 2012, I was beginning to resemble the thing I’d been teased about as a young tween – Jabba the Hut.

I weighed nearly 270 pounds and was starting to think I would outgrow my 3x wardrobe, what little there is of it. Poor Luna had to use the furniture as her playground and Jungle Gym to get her activity needs met, since the perception of pain and weakness in my left leg and knee was so intense, I was terrified to go down the stairs and knew I wasn’t physically capable of keeping her safe and protected if she got out of arm’s reach of me.

So, I committed to 15 minutes of physical activity a day, whatever that looked like. Some days it was merely cleaning the kitchen. Other days it was walking, swimming, or doing the elliptical. By the end of May I was walking over four miles at a time or lap swimming for an hour and a half.

This month, since I no longer had someone here every day to be with Luna as she slept in the mornings, I committed to continuing the exercising and increasing the commitment to an hour a day. I also made the primary commitment to log and track all of my food intake.

I designated both of these actions as part of my ongoing process of raising self-awareness and practicing presence.

What I’ve learned and become aware of through these activities and my participation in the Circle of Security therapeutic parenting class I just completed, is that I’m profoundly disconnected from my self – especially on emotional and physical levels.

I experienced a lot of conflict and crises this month. I also processed some pretty intense and traumatic realizations about myself and a major unresolved issue around growing up fatherless. I saw how connected my eating patterns and food choices were to the emotional and psychological experiences I was having. I also noticed that it was more difficult to make the exercise a priority in those moments.

However, I am pleased to report that physical activity is now my preferred “go to” action over eating when I’m feeling stressed.

One critical piece of my self-care, healing and recovery process is writing. Many of you who have been with me here for any length of time know this about me. This blog had been my primary DIY therapeutic tool. Since I haven’t been posting much, I suspect that was part of the reason why consistent action was more of a struggle this month.

Approximately two weeks ago I discovered the Heyku app. It is a writing tool that offers writing prompts in a guided and modified haiku or it can be written free verse style.

It’s almost like a mini mash up of Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress with the likes, commenting, and automated sharing whenever a Heyku is written. The editors are doing a fantastic job of connecting and promoting, as well as community building. Since June 14th I’ve composed 79 Heykus and seven of them have been chosen for The Editor’s Desk! A few of them have been fairly mundane and practical in nature, but the majority have been moments about time spent with Luna, creative prose about practicing presence, and me processing the things I alluded to earlier.

Therefore, I have decided to commit to this blog and my writing as part of my self-care process. I will share my Heykus here each day, at the very least, while continuing the activity and food logging commitments.

Here are the Heykus that erupted from my insomnia:

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Depression is like Meth Addiction

I don’t know this for a scientific fact. I don’t even necessarily know it from a first hand experience with Meth addiction. However, I am stating this because of a recent conversation I had with a loved one.

My heart is aching and breaking for this person. Bright. Beautiful (inside and out). Stronger than strong to have lived through what life has thrown her way and to have survived and made it through the choices and consequences of those choices. She is a miracle.

She used to be a scrapper. She used to do extreme things to feel alive and drown the pain. Self-harm, street life, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. A juvenile felony record. Injuries, homelessness, and bad relationships. She’s under 21.

Yet, she has now taken a vow against violence and daily tells me to remove the word hate from my vocabulary.

We had a conversation the other day where we were discussing some of the current events of her life and she said that when people come down on her for her use of marijuana her response is, “At least it’s not meth.”  This statement usually generates a laugh and, “That’s true.” As though she made a light-hearted joke in order to avoid dealing with the marijuana issue.

“Every single day, I want to use. I’m dead serious.”

She told me she makes choices every single day to deny the craving that never goes away. She chooses to fight for her dreams in spite of permanent concussion symptoms from being hit by a car a year ago. She is battling to change her future while navigating the consequences of her past. She fights to focus on happiness, peace, and forward momentum. Yet, she can’t hold the tears and the fears at bay all the time. She is human after all.

“People tell me they envy me, that they want my life. They don’t even know,” she says as she works to stave off the tears and prepare to put on her happy face, to chase her dreams.

She jokingly says I’m an emotional vampire because she always winds up crying around me. I suggest that maybe it’s because I recognize her battle and she’s safe to let go.

For days I’ve been thinking about her statement, “Every single day, I want to use.” Understanding the gnawing, almost undeniable craving.

I have mine too. Only it isn’t an external substance that can be tangibly put aside, avoided, or consumed.

Mine lives inside of my brain, it has shaped the grooves, distorted the receptors, and sheathed every thought and perception about myself and the world. It’s name is depression, it’s companion is anxiety. It has been part of who I am for close to 30 years.

I have gone through therapy of all kinds. I have sought spiritual healing through prayer, laying on of hands, Reiki, salvation, and full immersion baptism. Jesus is my Lord and Savior who understands my open minded skepticism and inability to fully attach and commit.

Capturing thoughts, replacing negative for positive, focusing on what’s right and true can be shifty and shaky propositions when the net is torn. the poles are reversed, and perception is wavy and distorted.

How do I think myself better? How does she? She self medicates with the herb that helps sooth the raw and exposed nerves and enables her to quiet the cravings in order to function and fight to pursue her dreams. She offers me some, knowing that with my fibromyalgia I could qualify for a medical card. I choose not to for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my parental responsibility to Luna.

Go get help, then. Go get the medication you need to manage the chemical imbalances that keep the poles reversed and perception distorted.

I can’t. I don’t have insurance. I don’t qualify for state medical. I’m too non-functional to hold down a job with benefits, if I were functional enough to find one and beat the competition to get the offer.

I appreciate the encouragement. I appreciate the well-intentioned advice. But please, don’t read what I write and tell me to think positively. I am doing the best I can with what I’ve got and to be able to get out of bed each day, write, and hold on by my fingernails to look Luna’s teachers and service providers in the eye and be honest with them about where I am at and the things that I am doing to ensure both of our well-being within the context of what IS in our lives, is all I can do.

I know that others have it worse. I understand that this level and depth I am at is not going to last forever. I’ve been here before, with less understanding, less capability to recognize it, and less inclination to do something about it. I am more than I ever have been, even when I appeared to be more in the eyes of the world.

Matthew 5 – The Beatitudes

“How blessed are the poor in spirit!
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

“How blessed are those who mourn!
    for they will be comforted.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved. Bible Gateway

I dare not ask how much more blessed can I be.

I am who I am

A few days ago a young Facebook friend of mine posted a link to this article: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person.

It was a difficult read for me, partially because of the language, I, personally, am no longer comfortable with the use of the F word as part of my regular vocabulary. When I was in my teens and twenties, I spouted it often, loudly, and proudly. These days, something about it jars my psyche. That’s just me and I work very hard to not judge or be overly distracted by how others use it, unless it’s within hearing of my four year old daughter. That being said, I don’t usually willingly choose to subject myself to movies, television, comedians, and entertainers who liberally use that and other curse words as part of natural dialogue. I guess I’ve gotten prudish in my old age. However, since I respect this young woman’s insight and intellect (I’ve known her since she was a young child) I decided to push through. If it was something she considered worthy of sharing, then the least I could do was make the effort to move beyond the unpleasant surface and delve deeper to understand what she found compelling about it.

The second reason I had difficulty reading it was because of its harsh and belittling tone. I could almost hear the brassy tones of Jillian Michaels’ no-nonsense, brusque, exasperated, and brash voice shouting the words I was reading. Don’t get me wrong, I actually have a lot of respect for her and what she does, after being an avid watcher of Biggest Loser off and on for years. However, perhaps it’s a sign of PTSD, when anyone’s voice is yelling around or at me, spouting of judgmental statements in ways that seem to dismiss and diminish the reality of another’s thoughts or feelings, I just flinch and shrink. A part of me starts shutting down inside. I sensed that trying to happen and a strong disinclination to read past the first paragraph or two of the article.

The actual message itself made me want to run and hide: The only thing that matters in this world and in this life is what you do and what other people get from you.

Ewww. Ouch. Seriously? That seemed quite the opposite of nearly everything I’ve been processing and working through. I felt myself figuratively curling up in the fetal position because of all the things I can’t or don’t do or the things that don’t get done well. Earning an income. Parenting. Keeping my home clean and sanitary. Cooking. You get the idea.

I kept on and finished reading it with mixed emotions and set it to simmer in the recesses of my mind.

On Sunday I attended a church service where the message was essentially: You’re a Christian? So, what are you DOING with that to benefit your fellow church members and the community. Whoa.

Again, this is a message I have heard numerous times and in various ways. My go to process is to list the obstacles to me DOING whatever it is I believe others expect me to be doing. That leads to me playing the inner recordings of, “blah, blah, blah, cry me a river, quitcherwhining, you useless sack of flesh,” statements that the internal, infernal liar tells me EVERYONE around me is thinking. This time, as I listened to the message and thought of the message and words in the article, I considered that, perhaps, God, the universe, whatever, was actually trying to get something through the dense matter in my skull.

I thought about this blog and the transitions it has taken from being my personal dumping ground of angst and drama and is now a place where I am helping others in different ways: Author Interviews, Bloggers for Peace, and Monthly Manic Mondays with Marisa, to name a few. My improving and developing relationships with some loved ones and friends also came to mind.

I took the message to heart and thought of ways to do more with my writing in the context of the church during the Annual Meeting after the service. Then because Luna, in her boisterous, social, and independent willed way, would not be stifled, I left the meeting, overwhelmed with frustration, anxiety, anger, and self-defeating thoughts of how bad a parent I was, that people were judging me, I was just taking up space and not contributing anything. Never mind the fruit salad I had shopped for the night before, prepared that morning and brought for the potluck. Never mind the fact that I was not just trying to occupy and monitor Luna, but also her other little friends who were in the meeting because a place for young children had not been provided.

Monday morning I sat in cat crap and completely lost my cool. The poor cat was almost toast, I was so overwrought. Luna looked me straight in the eye and said, “You hate that f*****g cat?” Obviously, I’m not completely opposed to using the word. *sigh* LaLa made an appearance while I was still winding down and reframing my thoughts and emotions. I snapped and snarled at her since I hadn’t completely transitioned. She accidentally stepped fully onto the arch of my foot, sending pain radiating throughout my body for hours. It just wasn’t a good mommy day for me. I tried to cancel our home visit with the Head Start lady, but she didn’t get the text. It was a good thing. I talked to another adult for a bit, but Luna being the focus and getting her attention and play needs met was the highlight. I got out of my head and engaged in play with them.

After that, I committed to the Blog for Mental Health 2013 project. Then I read It Is What It Is on Black Box Warnings and realized, I may be doing it imperfectly and inconsistently, but I’m living in acceptance of things as they are and doing what I am able, as I am able to be of value to myself and others in healthy and constructive ways. I am who I am, I am doing what I do, my life is what it is, and it’s all okay, even when it isn’t.

Blog for Mental Health 2013

Blog for Mental Health 2013

Blog for Mental Health 2013

Does it seem like I’m blogging for too many causes?

In November, it was Bloggers for Movember. Last week I learned about and joined Bloggers for Peace. Now, I’m also joining the Blog for Mental Health 2013 project.

It certainly wasn’t my intention to become an activist with my blogging. However, in light of the journey of growth, healing, and recovery that I am on and have been on for significant portions of the past twenty years in my own life, which began with a diagnosis of depression and suicidal ideation in my teens and twenties, all of these things tie in together.

Bloggers for Movember

Bloggers for Movember started as a movement to raise awareness for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer. Somewhere along the way it came to include raising awareness for Male Mental Health issues. There is almost a cone of silence around those issues in men. Many men who wind up in the penal system and/or homeless experience mental illness in one form or another. Many men who become domestic violence abusers, as well as substance abusers with destructive and compulsive behaviors have mental illness as a factor in their behavior. Yet, bringing the topic of Mental Illness into conversations regarding these things is often dismissed, ridiculed, and treated as a poor, pity me excuse for bad behavior and that bleeding hearts are making excuses for them. So, the ones experiencing the problems first hand self-medicate, act out, and operate in denial, while their symptoms and actions wreak havoc in their relationships and in the lives of the people around them. Because I have had many men in my life; family, friends, and acquaintances, who have dealt with (or not) these things I have been affected and witnessed the effects on others.

Click this badge to join

Click this badge to join

I see the Bloggers for Peace movement as an opportunity to work toward peace and reconciliation regarding the ostracization and stigma people who are labeled as different or other because of mental illness diagnoses and associated behaviors experience and suffer from at all levels and in various ways: personal, professional, educational, governmental, and societal. People who may have unrecognized or undiagnosed mental health issues often operate and function in ways that make them targets for bullying, hatred, intolerance, and diminished opportunities for self-realization and advancement. All of these things are disruptive to the most fundamental place where peace begins, in the inner self.

When I saw Cate’s post on her blog, Infinite Sadness or Hope, and read these words:

Being part of this project is important to me, because I know how hard it is to live in this society where mental illness is not seen as okay. I want to do my bit to spread the word that it is totally okay. I not only want to make life easier for other people who have mental illness, but I also want to contribute a message that prepares our world to be more accepting of mental illness in the future. May the next generation not have to fight with stigma. May they be able to find the acceptance and peace they deserve.

I knew I needed to be part of this project. It is important and it matters. It is an action toward peace. It is an action toward increasing awareness, which can and will lead to understanding and acceptance.

There are three steps to becoming a participant in the project:

1.) Take the pledge by copying and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2013″.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma. ~ I, Kina Diaz DeLeon, do so pledge.

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

I did this earlier when I referred to Cate’s post. You can consider this an open pledge, so feel free to link to Human in Recovery and this post!

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

I was first diagnosed with depression as a teenager. I had the not quite vague idea that depression ran in my family. At that time, it was believed that my mother had committed suicide, died of depression, when I was 12 years old. My legal guardian self medicated with marijuana and toxic relationships. My grandmother showed signs of dementia by the time I was in my early 20’s but no one recognized it. I thought she was a bitter, angry, paranoid, and unstable old woman. For the last 17 years I have been in a chaotic and toxic relationship with a man who I believe experiences undiagnosed and untreated Borderline Personality Disorder and possibly unrecongized and undiagnosed learning and developmental delays or disabilities. Other family members have dealt with depression, PTSD, substance addiction and abuse. Many friends and acquaintances have been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. I have worked in the Adult Foster Care system for behavioral and developmentally delayed persons who experienced multiple diagnoses and had been severely abused, neglected, and marginalized by their caregivers. There has never been a time in my life where the stigma, ignorance, and effects of mental illness did not affect or impact my life in one way or another. I’m pretty sure I am not alone, but it has almost always felt like I was alone, especially when surrounded by those who were unaware and dismissive of their own potential mental health issues. It has been devastating in so many ways.

However, I am finally seeing hope, healing, growth and progress. All since I began blogging in December 2011. This is why I am joining the Blog for Mental Health 2013 project.

Monthly Manic Monday with Marisa: Where to begin?

Welcome to the first installment of Monthly Manic Mondays with Marisa! This is a work in progress since I’ve never attempted anything like this before. So, hopefully this format keeps things easy to read and interesting. Marisa and I chatted over the weekend and checked in briefly today, to get the foundation laid. If anyone has anything they would like to ask Marisa, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll either address it in our next installment or we’ll get in touch via facebook or email.

 First question, as you know this blog is primarily about the process of healing and recovery, whatever that may look like for those on their own journeys of personal growth. Obviously, I want to highlight and feature the varied and inspiring things that you do, but I also want readers to understand how your own journey through the difficulties, challenges, and struggles in your life have informed the woman you are now and how you express yourself in all your creative ways. I also know you don’t like putting your woes on display or have it seem like you are seeking pity or sympathy, so, I’ll respect your boundaries in these areas. Will you let our readers know some of the kinds of things you have had to work through or still face daily as you move forward toward achieving your dreams?

  Sure! I don’t mind being open about my struggles, I just don’t want to sound like a whiner. 

 I don’t think anyone would ever accuse you of being a whiner. That was my nickname, Wendy Whiner. So, we’ll avoid whiny tones. So, let’s get the “whoa” list out of the way and then we’ll focus on how you work through them and get to the fun stuff.
  • Physical ailments: fibromyalgia (diagnosed a year ago but suffering for 10+)
  • PCOS (polycycstic ovarian syndrome) in addition to uterine fibroids, had a grapefruit sized one removed summer of 2011
  • Depression and
  • MAJOR anxiety
 I remember that [PCOS], lots of pain
 Yes.
 You have mentioned ADD to me, is that self-diagnosed or something else you have been diagnosed with as well?
 Hard to say, it was diagnosed by a counselor, he was a psychologist… does that count? but not totally diagnosed, we didn’t do any testing, but it fit and made a lot of sense for how my anxiety gets spiraled out of control. I think it was official but I didn’t want to take anything for it because it didn’t want it to stifle my creativity.
 I have heard that a lot about medications for ADD as well as for medications for depression and anxiety as well. Having gone through a period of over-medication for a variety of things, I can identify with this one.  Now that we have the list out of the way, I’m wondering what you think was the one thing that kept you fighting through all the symptoms and reasons that those things present which could have taken over your life?
 You’re asking someone with ADD to narrow down to ONE thing? Hahaha!
 Just answer to the best of your ability.
 I think my attitude that I can do anything, eventually. I believe that anything is possible if you work hard enough, regardless of your abilities and resources (or lack of either). I see life and its obstacles as a series of projects to coordinate and puzzles to solve.
 That’s a wonderful attitude and viewpoint. Is that something that has always been part of you or was it reinforced or taught by others as you were growing up?
 I’m not sure. I don’t think I thought that as a child, but I honestly don’t know when I started to live it, either. I think I believed it as early as elementary school; I wanted to be an astronaut. I believed that I could, but I decided it wasn’t worth all the school I would have to do to get there. Not because I thought I couldn’t DO all that education, but because I hated school so much at the time.
 LOL. That makes sense. Even then you were able to prioritize and weigh your options and opportunity costs, it seems.
 I started living it after a long-term relationship ended. There was zero reasons for me to NOT do anything! It was very freeing. Oh yes. I’ve always been extremely logical.

 Ah, I don’t know much about that relationship, but I understand he was going through some troubles of his own. How long did you know each other and how long did you date?
 We met my senior year in high school, and were involved on some level from fall of 1995 to summer of 2004. He has medical issues of his own. We officially dating starting in 1998 and were engaged briefly that year. We broke up too many times to count, once was in spring of 2000. I married someone else that December, which lasted a few months and then I got back together with my ex in spring 2001.
 Well, that is a significant period of time. It is incredibly challenging being in relationships in our late teens and early 20’s, from a purely developmental perspective, then add into the mix one person dealing with medical issues of their own, it had to have been full of peaks and valleys. Were you experiencing the Depression and Anxiety during that period?
 Yes, although for awhile they were kept at bay because I was completely wrapped up in HIS dramatic emotions! Toward to end of the relationship the anxiety really kicked in hard. After a dear friend in our circle died, I tried to hold that group of friends together and mother them all emotionally and finally just broke. My anxiety attacks aren’t just hyperventilating and chest pain, it’s vomiting AND diarrhea. Not pretty.

 
I can certainly identify with that. It really describes my relationship with Keith. When he was functional, I wasn’t and vice verse. The kids were really affected when we were both at barely functional points at the same time.

 I’ll bet.

 
That friend’s loss was deeply felt by so many. I sometimes think the ripples from that event are still moving through us all in one way or another.
 That would make sense. I started having anxiety attacks every weekend, and then Monday, at work, I would be ok. This lasted a month. The last weekend it didn’t stop for four days and I couldn’t even keep water in me. Had to go to the ER and have iv fluids and a Phenergan shot. I went to the counselor. Started taking Lexapro. Started taking care of ME first. Learned about my anxiety and my body and what the perfect storm to set it off looks like. I have to eat healthy, get enough sleep, stay hydrated. If any two of those are lacking and I have stress, I’m toast! I am taking Welbutrin now.I tried to go without an antidepressant/anti-anxiety med and can’t do it. The depression/fibro combo made me totally nonfunctional. Last year at this time it was miserable. Then we got Bento, I was diagnosed with fibro, and I started the Welbutrin. Thank God for all three!
 Bento is your Boxer? He’s the brunette, right?

 
Yes. Officially called reverse brindle. Which I’d never heard of until we got him.
 I have heard that pets can be very therapeutic. Reverse brindle? what exactly does that mean?
 Good question. Brindle is the coloring that can look almost tiger stripey?
 LOL
 Reverse is what they call it when there is so much dark color you can’t see the stripes. They’re not common. He looks black most o the time but he’s a deep brown with a little lighter shading on his shoulders and the white accents (called “flashing”).
 So, you have Bento. Who is Bento’s white companion?
 Rousey. She’s named for a female MMA fighter.
 Rousey. That’s cute. Oh, okay. Is she a sib or just a companion of the same breed?
 Not siblings. Both rescues from two different places. Got him feb 3, got her in June. Also might need to quit for the night, my shoulder is spasming up.
 No problem. I will let you rest. I’m distracted and awed by Mumford and Sons at the moment. I’m late to this party but Thistle & Weeds is AMAZING!
—-
 I’m sorry I’ve left you hanging all day. The day got away from me, Mondays you know? 
 No problem, I was out all day running errands. Two friends and I might rent a booth space in a local antique/consignment/boutique shop to sell my crafts. We went to check it out.
 That sounds like an excellent idea. It will be interesting to see the various creations showcased in one shop all together.
And that, dear friends, is all we have for today. Tune in next month. Maybe we’ll find out what the title to her new Christmas album is going to be. Feel free to offer suggestions. We are in the brainstorming phase.

Melissa Bowersock: Author Interview

Melissa Bowersock found me through WANATribe. She was one of the first author bloggers who joined the Bloggers Unite! tribe I established over the Summer. Truthfully speaking, I have not had much interaction with her because I have not been as active with the tribe as I had originally intended, for a variety of reasons and excuses. Thankfully, after I did the interview with Athena Brady in December 2012, I had the presence of mind to check in with my tribe members and let them know I’m doing the interviews now, and Melissa reached out to me. Connecting with her has been a beautiful experience.

She is an experienced and published author with ten books already circulating in a variety of genres. Her most recent book is a biography based on her aunt’s experiences in Bataan during World War II. It is compelling reading and an historical perspective we don’t generally have an opportunity to learn about and understand.

Melissa and I had an opportunity to speak on the phone and she was gracious, patient, understanding, and easy-going. I wanted to make sure she and I were on the same page regarding the intent and style of the interview. Engaging in that conversation with her enabled me to clarify and create the submission guidelines and firm up the format for these interviews. I am immensely grateful to her for her openness and patience with me during the entire process. She is a treasure.

Once again, the interview is a bit long, but well worth the read! So, if you don’t have time at this moment, bookmark it and come back when you have time to sit take in all she has to offer here. In the meantime, please visit her blog, Wordlovers, and find out more about her books at New Moon Rising.

Q: What genres and authors do you like and what do you like about them?

I read almost all genres (not into horror or zombies), but my favorite author is John Irving. He can run hot and cold, but A Prayer for Owen Meany is, in my opinion, the best book on the planet. John Irving has created the most unique and memorable cast of characters ever assembled, and the interactions and sequences of events are almost surrealistic, yet in the context of the book they seem completely appropriate, even “normal” in a weirdly outlandish way. If you’ve seen the movie Simon Birch, that’s based on the first half of the book, but until you’ve read the entire book, you’ve missed out on a lot. My second favorite book on the planet is Six of One by Rita Mae Brown. Some of her later books have been less than inspired, but this book has to be her best. Again, her characters are vivid, 3-dimensional and bursting with life, and the situations are such that you just shake your head and wonder, how does she think of this stuff? I re-read both books periodically and I still laugh out loud, still cry over each. Some of the scenes in each are the funniest things ever written.

Q: Have you always been a writer or known you wanted to be an author? When did you realize you had a book to share with the rest of us?

Always. I was writing stories of bunny rabbits when I was 5. I remember my mother asking me how I knew to put quote marks around dialog, and I just said that that’s how I had seen it done, so I just copied that. I wrote my first novel at 12 (I had graduated from bunny rabbits to horses by then). Not writing was never even a consideration, although for many years it languished after I got married and concentrated on work and family. Once the kids were most of the way through school, I went back to it and wrote my first adult novel. The next book was my first historic (western) romance. I wrote in longhand then, and had sent the manuscript to my mother to type up for me. Unbeknownst to me, she floated it to an agent she knew who agreed to represent me and we were off to the races. There was a huge amount of serendipity to it all, and I feel very fortunate to now have 10 books out there, but it also feels very natural, as if it couldn’t have gone any other way.

Q: What inspires you and influences what and how you write?

I get inspiration in a lot of very different ways, but I’m open to it in all its guises. I may see a homeless man on the street with a sign saying, “Homeless Vet,” and know there’s a story there that just needs to be teased out. Sometimes I am just struck by the bare kernel of a story—a half-breed woman trying to find her place in the west, a woman who tours a restored German work camp and has a spontaneous past-life regression, a man chasing horse thieves with a recalcitrant teenager for a partner. I got the idea to write my latest book, the biography of my aunt who was an Army nurse during World War II and a prisoner-of-war, just because I was thinking about her on Veteran’s Day. I actually dreamed the premise for my spiritual novel, Goddess Rising, and for days afterward, big chunks of full-fledged story and dialog would just drop into my brain. Because these ideas seem to flit through my head without warning, I’m always jotting notes on whatever scraps of paper I have at hand so as not to lose the essence. And, because I’m inspired by such varied thoughts and ideas, each story is markedly different than the last. I’ve written action/adventure, romance, fantasy, spiritual, satire and biography. I never want to tell the same story twice and I refuse to do sequels, even though kind readers have requested them.

Q: Is writing your only creative outlet or are there other creative endeavors or interests you pursue or practice?

I think creativity is a very plastic thing that tends to morph and grow as it’s exercised and validated. I love photography and get a huge sense of satisfaction from capturing that rare, really stunning shot. I found it great fun to create my own book trailers in PowerPoint using my photographs. My dad was an incredible artist and although I have done some drawing and painting, my work would never compare to his, nor do I seem to have his drive in those mediums. He also wrote, penning his autobiography over the last 20 years of his life, and my brother writes and does creative work in 3-D mediums and computer graphics, so it seems our family was blessed with a high degree of creativity in many different modes.

Q: How did the journey of writing and publishing this book grow or change you? Melissa Bowersock 1-Marciacover-front

My latest book, Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan, was a complete departure from my earlier novels. Because I was telling a true story, and a family story at that, I was intensely aware of being absolutely true to the story and not taking license with it as I might with a novel. I felt honor-bound to represent the story in the simplest, most honest way I could, neither downplaying aspects of it nor enhancing it. I fought with myself over parts of it, and had to make some tough decisions. At one point in her life, my aunt contemplated suicide, and I really wondered if it was necessary to include such an intimate low point in the book. I finally decided I had to tell the full story, regardless of how distasteful or upsetting it might be. This was her story, not a made-for-TV movie, and my greatest responsibility was to tell it honestly, warts and all. As I wrote, I imagined the ghosts of my aunt, my mother and my grandmother all peering over my shoulder, and I knew the book would not be done until I felt I could hand it to any of them without flinching. Luckily I did reach that point and I’m happy with the book, but for a novelist, it was a real challenge to be constrained by historical fact.

Q: How would you describe your life’s journey from a Healing and Recovery perspective?

I was the youngest of three children and four years younger than my sister, who was a bully. We shared a room, although I had no say in what furniture it contained, how it was arranged, what stuffed animals I could have on my bed, even what time the light went out at night. My parents were unequipped to deal with a bully and inadequate about protecting me. I learned early that if I told on my sister and my parents punished her, I’d get it worse next time we were alone, so I learned to keep silent and cope the best I could. It’s very possible that since I did not have a literal voice growing up, the words I wrote on paper became my true, authentic voice. When not writing fiction, keeping a journal was paramount to my understanding and coping with the world, and I would often tease out the solution to a problem by writing about it. In my 30’s, I was finally able to put a name to my self-denying coping behavior—co-dependency—and spent some time in therapy unlearning all the negative things I had been taught to believe in my childhood. In a couple of years, between therapy, going to AA and CODA meetings and reading every self-help book I could get my hands on, I emerged as a confident, grateful, fully-voiced human being. I can look back on my early life now and although it was difficult, I can be grateful for it because it made me the person that I am today, and I like the person that I am. I often say that although all the parts of my life are not perfect, my life is perfect.

Q: Where did you get your strength and encouragement from when going through the experiences that brought you to where you are today?

I am not entirely sure. I have always had a sense of the divine, although it’s always been very different and much more nebulous than mainstream religion. I don’t draw my strength from any community or any sense of perfection or salvation. For me, the connection to higher power has always been extremely personal and I have my own very individual and eclectic experience of god. My work as a hypnotherapist and past-life regressionist has helped me define that experience in a way that works for me. After reviewing over 20 of my past lives while under hypnosis, my sense is that we all carry the spark of god inside of us, we are all here to learn and grow through a multitude of lives and lessons. If we don’t learn all we need to in this life, we will come back and try again, so my thinking is why not do as much as we can to get it right this time? (But then, I’ve always been an over-achiever.) In my view, we’re here to learn and grow and to help those around us learn and grow as well. It’s as if we’re all in one big race, but no one wins unless and until everyone wins. While so many in our culture chase after money and power, I am content to live my life in my little corner, telling my stories and walking the path that brings me happiness and satisfaction.

Q: What do you want readers to take away with them from reading your words?

I would hope readers would come away from my books feeling entertained, perhaps enlightened and thoughtful about the adventure. Most of my books are about growth, and many of my protagonists travel a hero’s (or heroine’s) journey, leaving “home,” traveling into the unknown and returning home again, altered by the experience. I believe these journeys, whether traveling literally through space or metaphorically through time or emotion, are the basis for all human growth, and the more we stretch and experience, the more we grow toward our highest potential.

Q: What other projects can we expect to see from you in the future or are already out there?

Aside from the 10 books that have already been published, I’m always working on more. I’ve got three in the works presently, and I tend to jump back and forth between them. One is a contemporary ghost story, the second is about a past-life regression to a lifetime during the Holocaust, and one is a western action/adventure with a strong romance. As you can see, I never intend to get stuck in the rut of writing the same story over and over!

Now that you know a little bit about Melissa, watch this to find more about her Aunt, Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan.

Introducing: Monthly Manic Mondays with Marisa

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One of my goals this year is to be more intentional with my relationships and engaging more with people I have been drawn to, but veered away from over the years due to my deeply inherent feelings of inadequacy. Basically, I want to play with the cool kids! I’ve been doing better with that online, but it’s time to expand to people who have actually met me face to face. The ironic fact is that even my best friends and most supportive peeps who know me in person, most often only get contact with me through the virtual unreality that is only made possible through social media on the interwebs.

Like many girls, I grew up secretly aspiring to be a singer/dancer. I loved singing along with the music on the radio, trying to match my voice, pitch, and tone with the likes of Helen Reddy and Linda Ronstadt in the 70’s and graduated to striving to keep up with Pat Benatar, Blondie, and Madonna in the 80’s. Alannis’ Jagged Little Pill was my anthem album in the 90’s. I’ve lost touch with the music inside of me over the course of the past 15 years or so. However, one brand of music continues to call to me and remind me how my soul needs it, worship music. I don’t necessarily mean the grand, sweeping, cleanly produced Contemporary Christian music, although that works at times. I mean raw, real, worship music led and sung by those who are passionately immersed in the music flowing through them and the words streaming from their mouths as they move beyond performing on a stage and actually engage in worship at the deepest core of their being.

Marisa is one of those worshipping souls encased in flesh.

I first encountered her about the same time as I met Marc Schelske, whose Author Interview can be found here. They worked with the youth and on the worship team together. It turns out they used to be in a band together for a little while as well, Three Days Waking. They were definitely the cool kids I wanted to hang out with, but I was busy single-parenting my toddler daughter and her rambunctious pre-teen brother as they ran in opposite directions, leaving me wanting to scream and wish I had elastic arms. I spent a few years secretly yearning to have the availability, mobility, and confidence to risk trying to do more than admire their camaraderie and passion for worship from a silent distance.

My awe and admiration was cemented when she got up and provided the “special music” by belting out Susan Ashton’s, Crooked Man. I thought it took great confidence and risk to perform so passionately music that could be perceived as secular and irreverent by the staid and conservative denomination we were all part of at the time. A few years later, I saw more of her courage when she spoke up about a deeply personal challenge in her life. It made me reevaluate my assumptions about who I had built her up to be in my own mind. It made me think that, just maybe, even though our lives had nothing to connect us on the surface, that we were more alike than the differences I thought separated us. I barely acted on those thoughts, but I think I reached out a little and let her know her story had touched me.

To be perfectly honest, I think I’m a closet “ageist.” I’m not exactly sure why, but because I thought I was about 8-10 years older than her and because I was parenting the kids, I somehow believed she would find it awkward and weird if I tried to seek out her friendship. It turns out I’m only a few years older than her. Go figure.

In the intervening years as I’ve spun around in circles and cycles, in and out of the church community that rose out of the place we met, I would see her and maybe say hello, or not. Just enjoying the worship, losing myself in it the way those leading it seemed to. Then I disappeared into my chaos again. Then came the moment when I walked through the doors and the ones who remembered me being there from the beginning were fewer and farther between than those greeting me as a newcomer. Marisa had moved away and gotten married, visiting occasionally, which thankfully happened during one of my reappearances. I reached out and told her I’d missed her presence and we got connected on Facebook a couple of years ago.

Through the impersonal invasion of privacy that we voluntarily subject ourselves to, I discovered many more facets to her and she found out about my fibromyalgia, headaches, and other ailments, as well as the numerous updates and pictures of Luna. I learned more about some of her struggles and witnessed how indomitable her spirit is. She’s kind of become a bit of a role model for me in some ways. In other ways, I have opted to just accept that she is a phenomenon and appreciate what she has to offer the rest of us, while letting go of my strong sense of inadequacy because I can’t imagine ever being the dynamo she is while dealing with the different health issues she does.

She is a foodie and occasionally writes in her food blog. She puts together 60 guest luaus in her back yard complete with decorations and organizes gala events complete with intricate place settings and centerpieces. She upcycles what others consider junk and creates functional art. She makes her own designer dresses ;), does custom embroidery on Chucks, creates string art, is making lavender rice neck pillows and eye masks, and is in charge of the home-based boutique business of crafting organic hot sauces. On top of it all she is the furrever mama to a menagerie of furbabies including a descented skunk, a couple of boxers, and at least one cat.

She is also following her dream and will be releasing a Christmas album later this year.

She reached out and invited people to join her on her journey and be part of her creative team to support her in her efforts. I took the plunge and offered to host her here. What began as an idea to expand my Author Interview concept to an Artists Interview has morphed into Monthly Manic Mondays with Marisa. At least one Monday a month, I will have an update or feature on Marisa. Maybe I can get her to guest blog. Through sharing her story and escapades with you, I think you will be entertained and inspired by her the way I am.

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