Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Emily- A story that will change your life

I wanted to read this book for a while.  I was afraid because I knew it would be very sad.  I got a sudden boost of courage one night, when I was having trouble sleeping. 
I started reading and I could not stop.  I was up until after 2:00 AM, when I finally finished the book.  I think I cried from the first chapter on.  Again the next day, whenever I thought about Emily and her family, more tears.

However, there was much more in this book.  It was not all sadness.  There was a wealth of goodness. 

There was strength and hope.
There was pure joy. 

There was love and sweetness. 

Emily was a delightful little girl.  She was full of love and kisses.  She displayed courage and perseverance well beyond her years.   An angel who came to earth for a short time, but touched countless lives. 

Matt shared his joy and his pain with such clarity you could feel it in your soul.  He was able to deepen his personal relationship with God and that gave him strength.  However, in the end, Emily was the one that gave him hope. 

There are several lessons in this story.  The first will dispel the myth that “a child born with Down syndrome has little hope for a meaningful life.”  The second is the inspiration for gratitude- something we all need in our lives.  The third is the reminder that you can turn to God for refuge in your time of need.  You alone construct that relationship, connecting the way that works for you.

Interview with Matt Patterson

K- How long was it, after losing Emily, before you started to write this book?

Would you believe almost 20 years?  It all started with a newspaper column at a small daily in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I covered the courts and crime beat. My weekly column was my escape from the straight news that came with sitting in court or dealing with law enforcement officers, lawyers and judges. I tried to relay to readers that I was more than the guy who covered preliminary hearings and other proceedings.  I wanted them to know I was a regular guy – a husband, a dad and a fella who possessed a small sense of humor.
On the week of Emily’s birthday I decided to write a column sharing Emily’s story and her influence on me and the many others who crossed her path. The response to the column was very positive and I received a few notes thanking me.  One writer on the staff told me that I should write a book.  I told her I thought that would be a great idea. The timing never seemed right, but about two years ago I was moved to give it a shot. And as they say, “the rest is history.”

K- I guess God and Emily must have decided that the time was right.  Did you ever feel like Emily was guiding you, while you wrote?

Absolutely!  There were particular moments, I feel, that she guided me as to what to write and how to share it. There were moments, especially when dealing with some specifics of her care and after she had passed away, that she was the one sharing and I was just the guy typing the words.

K- I was touched by the story of the charcoal portraits that you purchased as gifts.  The way you spotted that artist, on that day, enforces my belief in fate.  Do you believe in fate?

That’s actually a very good question.  Many people bring up that story, as well as the one with the birthstone rings as moments when they were particularly touched. Now, to answer your question, I have to say yes – yes, I believe in fate. I do, however, have to add I’m not a real big believer in luck.  Do I believe in coincidence? Not really. 

In regard to Emily, I DO NOT believe I got dealt a bad hand. Was it bad luck? Quite the opposite! If anything, I was “lucky” to have her!  Was it a painful time?  You bet!  However, I feel we were blessed with Emily – no doubt whatsoever. Was it fate? I feel it was our destiny to be her parents. We are such better people for having gone through this.  I consider myself fortunate to be able to share her story and perhaps touch a heart or two. It has given me such an opportunity to serve. Whether it’s sharing this story in cancer or grief support groups, with a friend or individual from our church or with someone on-line, I feel I so very blessed to be able to perhaps help in some small way.

K- It was inspiring the way you had nothing but good to say about the medical professionals.  I think many people would want to point the finger at someone.  To find some comfort in having someone to blame.  Was that a conscious decision or did you pray about it?

Great question!  I feel, at times, we live in a time that it’s quick and easy to blame someone.  That’s just not me.  I don’t believe it was a conscious decision to not lay blame or point a finger, but I can say that by praying for those who were caring for Emily, it was a whole lot easier to be grateful, as opposed to blaming someone.  

Everyone who played a part in Emily’s care remain very special to us. They did everything they could for her AND for us. To walk out of that ICU room minutes after Emily passed away and see the physicians gathered in a small circle with their arms folded and their heads down in disappointment and sadness.  Then, to see those from the pediatric unit lined up to say their last good-byes to Emily? How can I point a finger when I all I wanted to do was hug and thank them?

K- Your book will help so many people get through their grief.  Do you plan to write any other books?

M – Yes, I do!  I’m very excited about my next project which will be a companion to My Emily.  I really can’t give all the details because I don’t have it all sorted out quite yet, but I can say it will be an effort to help others, for sure.  I’m excited about its possibilities.

K- Thank you so much for this interview.  Moreover, thank you for sharing Emily with the world.  

M – You’re so very welcome, Kathleen.  I have to say thank YOU for being so generous with your words and actions in trying to share my little book with others.  This journey in sharing Emily’s story has gone far beyond what I would’ve ever expected.  I have truly been humbled and blessed by so many wonderful people in wanting to help share Emily’s legacy.  It’s been amazing thus far and I feel I still have a lot of work to do – and that’s exciting!

 K- I wish you and your family the very best health, happiness, and love.

Purchase the book here
Visit Matt Patterson's website here
Follow Matt Patterson on Twitter here 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two Graves- the serial killer was bullied- see what happens...

My personal note: The fact that the serial killer in this book was a victim of bullying caught my attention. I am an activist for anti-bullying.  This book illustrates just how deep the damage of bullying can cut. 

This was an incredibly well written novel.  Mr. Graystone, you are a talented writer.  Once I started reading- I was hooked.  The storyline is profound, with a captivating subplot. 

This book will keep you on your toes.  The tension builds from the first page. The depth of the characters deepens your experience.  The players are complex and may remind you of people that you actually know.

You will cringe as you live through the killer’s memories of torment and suffering. The abusive childhood created a rage so intense-it produced the serial killer. You may try to put yourself in his shoes.  You may try to understand the motivation.  But you may not like what you feel.

Your mind will race as the tension builds and the storylines meld.  What is the connection with the serial killer and the mafia? Is the Kesle Police Department tied up with the mafia? Corruption is in the air.  

How will it end?

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”  

Find D.A. Graystone books here
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spirituality could save your life

Spirituality is a term that is tossed around quite a bit these days.  Many people are not clear on the definition of spirituality.  Even if you check the Merriam-Webster dictionary you will find that there are a few different interpretations. The definition that makes the most sense to me is, "Joined in spirit".   There have been several studies that have proven both physical as well as mental benefits to including spirituality in your life.
Researchers at the University of Manitoba examined a link between religious attendance and attempted suicide.   This health survey was based on 37,000 respondents. Dan Rasic, the studies principal author found that, "Those who attended church at least once a year had decreased rates of suicide."   Some believe that the attendance of these services enable people to feel as though they are part of the community as less isolated.
Although people have found comfort in prayer and other spiritual for thousands of years, the scientific proof is relatively new.. Based on research dating back several years, it's been found that spirituality can give hope, act as an antidepressant and even help to cure serious illnesses like heart disease and cancer.   In fact, researchers have found that spirituality and the practice of religion may slow the ravages of Alzheimer's disease.  These findings were actually presented at The American Academy of Neurology 57th Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Florida back in April of 2005.
In May of 2004 the National Center for Health released findings of a survey involving 31,000 people using prayer and complementary and alternative therapies.  Prayer was the most popular of all the "therapies".  The results were astounding. Catherine Stoney, Ph.D, a Program Officer at the NCAAM noted, "There is already some preliminary evidence that religious affiliation and religious practices are associated with health and mortality- in other words, with better health and longer life."
Many researchers agree that there are strong connections between the mind, the spirit and the body.  Spirituality doesn't have to include going to a church or other houses of worship.  Spirituality can be found in many ways.  Some find spirituality in meditation, yoga or even a support group. 
Spirituality is a very individual, personal endeavor- but definitely one worth pursuing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Delphi Chronicle Book 1- this will make you wonder...




Russell Blake has a masterpiece here.  The book overflows with fear, mystery, murder- all eloquently put.  It is most definitely a page-turner.  Most importantly, it will make you stop and think.  Mr. Blake claims the book is fiction.  However, he readily admits that,

“It is almost impossible to verify with complete certainty what is fiction when examining the world of covert operations and intelligence agencies.”

An extremely conceivable conspiracy drives this story at a fast pace.  A mysterious manuscript contains dangerous information.  The ugly truth can change history and the world, as we know it today.  Our unlucky hero finds himself in the possession of this manuscript.  He is now the target of a powerful group that will not allow this to become public.  Innocent people die in the quest to retrieve this manuscript.  Will our hero make it out of this alive?

Interview with Russell Blake

K-You have stated that you believe the best fiction comes from a blend of fact and fantasy.  This book reads more like fact rather than fantasy.  Given your intimate knowledge of these entities may I ask if you have a military background?

R- I’ve never served in the armed forces.

K-Is there anything in your own life that inspired you to write the story? 

R-Well, there are some things that are similar, but I’d prefer not to go into detail as to what the similarities are. Let’s just say that there’s a little of me in all my protagonists.

K-As a writer, I admire other authors that are able to “open a new world for me”. You have a very descriptive style that allows the reader to feel and see the story.  Is this something that just flows from you? 

R-Yes. I’ve been told to dumb down my style, and to cut back on the exposition and narrative, but frankly I think that what you wind up with is writing that could be anyone’s at that point – sort of a bland, vanilla writing style I’m utterly uninterested in. If that’s what I needed to do to have people buy my books, I think I’d give up writing. No offense to the monosyllabic authors out there who have been successful, but I would like to take more of a note from Umberto Eco, Chuck P and David Foster Wallace than from James Patterson.  Although I’d love to have his income…

K-You and me both...Where is your favorite place to write? 

R-I’ve written all my books from the same desk, so that’s probably the place.

K- I was guessing that it was the beach.  

I love Mexico.  I usually vacation there at least once a year. What influenced your permanent move to Mexico?

R- I was looking to broaden my horizons, and had grown tired of the pressure cooker, consumer-driven lifestyle of the States. I wanted something relaxed, where it was warm, the beer cold, the water blue, and the native friendly. Mexico naturally beckoned, and I’ve never had a single regret moving here.

K-Getting back to the fact that the book is a little too real:   Is it true that you actually live on the West Coast of Mexico in a neighborhood surrounded by drug lords? 

R-Yes, and no. I mean, it’s not like they are surrounding my town or anything. But there are always plenty of bad guys in any area, and mine is not unlike the rest of the country in that respect. Although if you look at the murder rate, it’s actually lower here than in most similarly sized U.S. cities. That should tell you a lot. Not to discount the very real danger in some areas – anything near the border is ugly, as are some cartel towns and some resorts near Mexico City. But guess what? There are equally ugly areas of the U.S. I just prefer not to go to them, just as I didn’t go to the American ones when I was in the U.S.

I think the brush Mexico gets painted with involves a lot of hysteria and generalizations, some of which are deliberate – the U.S. has a large segment of the population that’s coming to retirement age, so if it doesn’t want to lose a whole lot of tax base and retirement funds to warmer, friendlier, cheaper countries, it has to make them seem as unappealing as possible. Otherwise why would anyone stay in the U.S., if you could live for half as much at a considerably higher quality level somewhere else? No, those places are dangerous and scary and, ugh, different, so best to spend your vacation money in Hawaii or Florida and keep paying twenty grand a year property tax for the privilege of being in the U.S. If that sounds cynical, it is. Which comes through loud and clear in many of my books.

K-Well, I see your point.  I would love to retire in Paradise.  You're in a beautiful place. 

I’d like to do a little exercise, if it's okay with you.  I’m going to provide a scene from a book and I would like for you to re-write it in your own style. 

R-All right, but I do go on, as you know from my books…

K- Okay, here it is:

Just do your work, Consuela.  Don't imagine things. You got a lot of shit to do today.
She was a small women and she was fast.  She would finish cleaning this house and then move on to the next.  The more houses she could clean, the more money she could send back home, to her family. Her children were still in Mexico with her parents. She was hoping to bring them to America one day.
Think about the kids and get your shit done.
Then she saw the bloody towel thrown in the hallway. Her heart was pounding so loud she could hear it. She noticed the bedroom door was closed.
Mr. Ryan never left that door closed.
Her legs were shaky as she slowly walked towards the door and opened it.
"Help me...please."
Then the screaming began.

A soft breeze stirred the jacaranda blossoms outside the open wooden windows of the old house, the air heavy with humidity, the uneasy remnant of a distant squall. Inside, the clamor of a bucket knocking against the scarred wooden banister announced that the cleaning girl had arrived to perform her grudging chores.  Leathery hands gnarled by a lifetime of manual labor were more expected on an elderly peasant woman than on a twenty-nine year old of diminutive stature, but Consuela couldn’t turn back time.  She’d had to do what she could to make ends meet, and in a harsh environment, that often meant backbreaking tasks nobody else wanted to do – strawberry picking for fourteen hours a day, working in the tomato fields the same hours, or scrubbing floors and toilets with corrosive chemicals that hardened her skin as much as they’d tarnished her soul. None of which her placid expression betrayed. Outwardly, she was inscrutable; invisible to the privileged for whom she worked.

The cleaning gig was better than some she’d had. At least it enabled her to care for her children in the only way she was able – monthly Western Union transfers to her parents, who were raising them while she paid their bills from afar. It wasn’t her first choice, but she’d gotten caught up in the business of living as barely more than a girl, and soon the adventure of forbidden midnight rides in musty cars with the dangerous love of her life had been replaced by the reality of an infant girl, with another on the way, the father long gone to greener pastures, leaving her with only regret and responsibility.

She hummed under her breath, a tune from home, from the fiestas that made Saturday nights in her rustic village near Veracruz bearable. On mornings like this, the dream of a small yellow clapboard house, with a little yard, perfectly manicured, on the outskirts of this town, in the impossibly prosperous U.S., her children playing safely in it, speaking English – the language of opportunity and of power, and wealth – was the only thing that got her through the day. Mornings after the big weekends were the worst. The clients always left a mess, knowing she, or someone like her, would clean up after them. Mondays were always the same, and she resigned herself to another long afternoon if she was going to clean two homes before nightfall.

Which she would do, even if it killed her.

Because she needed the money. It was always about the money.

Finished in the foyer, she moved towards the master suite, the heavy mahogany door with its ornately hand-carved panels a reminder of centuries past. As she rounded the corner into the hall, she hesitated, momentarily confused. Even as she registered something on the gleaming hardwood floor, her nose detected a distinctive metallic smell – the smell of fresh blood. At first she thought it was one of the cats, injured or killed by the damned dogs. Consuela hated the dogs, and was always relieved when they were elsewhere; she didn’t care where. They scared her, reminding her too much of the ugly angry men in her life. Dogs were always like their masters, she thought as she struggled to make out the form in the dim light.

She peered in the gloom, and abruptly realized it was one of the owner’s thick white terrycloth towels, soaked in blood, the jaunty teal thread of the embroidered R of his last name – Ryan; Senor, no, Meester Ryan –  standing out from the crimson stains, which were slowly turning rust-colored.

The silence of the empty house was fractured by an explosion as the metal bucket hit the floor with a crash, startling her into action, her fingers having reflexively dropped it. The ammonia in the water made her eyes tear, and she was about to curse when she heard it…faint at first, and then again, a little louder.

Scratching. At the door.

Consuela approached the battered pewter lever with a trembling outstretched hand, anxiety now in full bloom. Scratch. A tiny internal voice argued against proceeding any further, told her to turn, to run, to get away from this cursed place, the money be damned. Meester Ryan never closed this door, or any door, for that matter. She didn’t know what it meant that today it was shut, but she was sure that whatever the reason, it couldn’t be good.

The scratching continued, and her ears strained, catching something else. Something like an animal, wounded, caught in a trap, like she’d seen once as a child on a trip to her grandfather’s farm, when a hare had gotten snared and nearly torn its neck off trying to escape. Consuela had learned a terrible secret that day. She knew that rabbits could scream. The sound had never left her, and even now, as the hair on her arms stood up, she was reminded of that ugly sound, as she had been for months after in now-faded nightmares.

She hesitated, forcing down the fear that was blossoming inside her, and then swung the door open, mop clenched in her free hand like a puny club.

Her eyes widened even as she heard the gurgled plea from the thing on the bedroom floor. A thing that had once been…

“Help me…please.”

Outside, a covey of quail soared into the April sky from the field across the way, startled by the piercing shrieks echoing from the house. Screams that went on forever, unheard on the rural country road; screams of a horror that would never fade, and that promised the rabbits would have company in Consuela’s psyche for the rest of her life.

K- I love it!  You are a wonderful writer.  I will keep this close by for inspiration.

R-I try to open as many doors for the imagination as possible when I write, and am constantly torn between a Hemingway approach of only a few words, and a DFW approach of pages, enjoying the way words splash on the page for the sheer joy of the musicality to the cadence. Obviously I give in to the DFW more than the Hemingway.

K- It’s working for you.  Thank you so much for the interview.  I will definitely be reading the rest of your books.  I am hooked : )

Find Russell Blake's books here
Visit his website here
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's your Dosha?


Ayurveda believes that everything in this universe is made up of five great elements or building blocks. These are earth, water, fire, air, and ether.  

Then there are three different body types called Doshas. They are the Vata, Pitta and Kapha, and each is mainly a combination of two elements. 

  • Vata dosha is made up of space and air. 
  • Pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water. 
  • Kapha dosha is made up of water and earth. 
Each of these doshas is further divided into five sub-doshas. Together, the doshas orchestrate all the activities that occur within us.  Some people have equal parts of each dosha.  Some are primarily one dosha or maybe two. You can take a quiz here to find out which one fits your body.
If you feel that something is not right in your body, the following will give you some guidelines to discover which dosha is unbalanced. However, more than one dosha may be unbalanced, so please be aware.    

  • Vata is unbalanced when there is pain, spasms, cramps, chills or shakiness.
  • Pitta is unbalanced when there is inflammation, fever, excessive hunger and thirst, heart burn or hot flushes.
  • Kapha is unbalanced when there is congestion, mucous, discharges, heaviness, fluid retention, lethargy or over sleeping.
Likewise, Vata, Pitta and Kapha people are susceptible to different chronic diseases:
  • Vata types are prone to insomnia, chronic constipation, anxiety and depression, muscle spasms, cramps, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), irritable bowel, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
  • Pitta types are prone to rashes, acne, heart burn, and peptic ulcers, early balding and premature grey hair, poor eyesight, hostility, self-criticism and heart attacks related to stress.
  • Kapha types are prone to obesity, congested sinuses, chest colds, painful joints, asthma and/or allergies, depression, diabetes, higher cholesterol (and related heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and stroke), and chronic sluggishness in the morning.
These are broad guidelines, but you can learn more here.   
Your body type is a strong influence, but not a cause. Being a Vata does not mean you are sure to have arthritis just as being a Pitta or Kapha does not mean you will never have arthritis. Your body type determines what you are more likely to be susceptible to. The problems occur when your dosha or doshas are out of balance.  This can be addressed by changing your diet, exercise and lifestyle. 
Imbalance of doshas:  Usually imbalance is a result of not living in accordance with your body type and (or) external factors. The treatment is typically as follows:

1) Appropriate therapy for balancing the doshas. This can involve: a certain life-style, eating of adequate food, herbs, massage with different oils, purifying procedures, a clinical therapy by using energies opposite to imbalanced doshas, etc.
2) Some predominant methods used in ayurvedic therapy and yoga are asanas (yogic postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), mantras (sound vibrations), meditation, a balanced diet and life-style.
3) Softening, changing of karma.  This is basically you striving to be a better person; to gain a loving attitude toward the world. And also, to perform sacrifices.  That would be karma-yoga (unselfish activity).

These three treatments are usually used together to varying degrees, depending on the needs of an individual. On all levels the mind is the root psychological or emotional cause and factor of disease.

As you can see, these treatments are enriching for anyone.  They can only improve the quality of your life and make you a happier person.  There is nothing harmful in exploring your doshas or trying Ayurveda approach.  An Ayurveda doctor can prescribe medicine for your ailments- non-pharmaceutical of course.  This is a holistic approach to cure the illness, not to mask the symptoms as is the case many times in western medicine.  You can learn more details here.

So how are you?  Really- how do you feel?  How is your health?

Do you take any prescription drugs? Almost half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug on a daily basis.

The pill pushing climate that exists in the medical world today has caused a vicious circle of disease.  There is an overabundance of prescriptions being written to mask symptoms.  Rarely are today's medical doctors spending time getting to the root of the problem.  I’m not specifically blaming the doctors.  There are other evil forces behind this.  Greedy mega-hospital systems, health insurance companies, powerful pharmaceutical companies.  But- I digress- this is not a political statement.  

Please allow me to illustrate:

You start taking a prescription drug.  This drug causes side effects and/or another medical condition.  You may be given an additional prescription to address the newer condition.  That prescription will cause another side effect, and so on.   So, how safe are prescription drugs?  Well, to start with, numerous lawsuits are being filed against the manufacturers of dozens of drugs. Everything from antibiotics to antidepressants and statins. It is now proven that these drugs all have serious side effects that can cause heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, liver & kidney failure, tendon rupture, psychotic episodes, memory loss and a host of other diseases.

So, are you thinking that you’re better off with over the counter drugs?  More people die from over the counter & prescription drug use than cancer! Yes, it’s true, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil & Motrin cause more deaths annually than aids. That is 103,000 hospitalizations and more than 16,000 deaths per year in the US, according to a study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics.  New research shows that long-term use of acetaminophen -- sold under the brand name Tylenol causes kidney damage

 People are looking for alternative answers.  It's always good to keep an open mind & never stop learning- it could save your life.