Love is in the air!

Winter is a time of blustery winds, warm blankets, and book friends to fill your heart.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Journal of Leah MacKinnon Walker

Today is release day for The Journal of Leah MacKinnon Walker. Leah came to me when I was in a class with Dr. Grace Fraser as my mentor.

The class was amazing it was called Women's Stories of the Westward Movement.

It's a shortie and a western, but I think you will like it. (At least I hope so.)

The Journal of Leah MacKinnon Walker
a short story by Liberty Blake

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Giving Season

Once again it is the season where every charity is looking to you for a donation. 

It's easy to toss some money into a bucket next to a bell ringer or to click a button to send money to another organization.

It's a little more difficult to pick out toys for the Toys for Tots boxes because you walk through the toy aisles searching for the right toys, and having to decide for what age group you are buying the toy for. (May I suggest something for a tween or teen, they are the forgotten children.)

I knit and crochet garments for the knitting box at AC Moore, and hats for the homeless and working poor which I give to a local church that ministers to the physical needs of the needy.)

Soup kitchens are always glad to welcome volunteers and it is something you can do all year long. (It's a good experience to take your teens to help out. It's a great time to bond.)

Donating to a food pantry isn't as much fun as picking out toys for tots, but the items handed out there are desperately needed and might ensure one family doesn't have to go to bed hungry for one night. Think beyond the usual jars of peanut butter, boxes of mac and cheese, and cans of tuna fish. They are welcome, but there is so much more that is needed such as feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, diapers, shampoo, soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, laundry detergent, dish soap, socks, underwear, baby food.

My inbox is filled with every organization under the sun looking for money. "Give now and your donation will be matched by an anonymous donor." Great plan, but how much of that money trickles down to the needy in your community?

The holiday season isn't defined by what you call a decorated tree or if a store clerk wishes you a "Merry Christmas" or a "Happy Holiday". The season is defined by what is in your heart.

Give from the heart.

Give local! 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Yesterday Was Veterans Day

In the United States we celebrate military veterans on November 11th.

Some towns hold small parades and have a bugler play taps at the town's war memorial. 

Old men sell paper poppies outside of box stores. Once upon a time people proudly wore them on their lapels, but lapels are no longer common wear on Veterans Day, because Veterans Day is a day off from work for many, with the exception of food service workers, retailers, and car salesmen, and lapels are no longer in fashion on non-work days.

On FaceBook people proudly display pictures of their veterans in uniform and we all thank them for their service.

We all acknowledge they are heroes.

However, in America we have many forgotten heroes. The ones we walk around in the parks, step over in the early morning hours when they are still sleeping in doorways or under store awnings in large cities, or avoid their encampments when they are camping out in a local park or copse of woods.

They are the lost.

They are the forgotten.

They are the homeless.

Not all homeless people are veterans, but many of the homeless are.

Years ago when I used to go into Boston I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my bag, and anyone who approached me looking for a handout received a sandwich, and if they were lucky a juice box. 

But I don't go into Boston often anymore and when I do carrying a large bag filled with sandwiches and juice boxes doesn't work well with my walking staff.

Me and my stick with cover model and friend Vikkas Bhardwaj.

I spent yesterday making hats for the homeless. On Tuesday, November 22nd I am going out with a group called Project Do Something Boston (a grassroots action group). It is a group of people who have gathered together to feed the people living on the streets of Boston, many of whom are veterans.

I am making dozens and dozens of hard boiled eggs to add to the food to be handed out, plus I am bringing the hats that I made yesterday and in the past few weeks.

My hats are simple and similar, with nothing to fancy them up. Pompoms or tassels are a waste of yarn that can be used in another hat. No yarn is wasted. When a ball gets too small to make a hat, I use it to make stripes in another hat. No yarn goes to waste.

Two weeks ago I mailed out fifty (50) hats to agencies that will distribute them in one of the poorest communities in the United States. I wish I could have sent more, but I ran out of postage money.

Since then I have been dedicating the hats I am making to the local homeless.

I am almost out of yarn and I am out of money for more yarn.

Please keep your fingers crossed that I have enough hats for all the people I meet on the 22nd. In the meantime, my fingers are working away on more hats.

I used Stitch Studio by Nicole Chateau yarn.
Super bulky (6) 

If you would like to help Project Do Something Boston here is the link to their wish list.

I know with the holiday season quickly approaching there are dozens of charities begging for your donation, but there are none as needy as the homeless and considering that so many of them that are homeless are veterans, they have earned our help.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Personal Truth

For weeks on end I stayed on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching IDTV.

In case you have never heard of IDTV it has shows such as "Wives With Knives", "Unusual Suspects", and my personal favorite "Homicide Hunter". (I love Lt. Joe Kendra!)

Why would I, a romance writer, spend so much time watching the antithesis of what I write?


That's right, I spelled it in all caps. We're not talking about a boo hoo, my boyfriend didn't call me all day, or I broke a nail, or I just watched "Old Yeller" type of drama depression. No adolescent doldrums for me.

I get full blown depression. Sometimes it might be triggered by something, but most of the time it is something that just jumps out of the mists of my mind and knocks me for a loop.

Despite all the lovely drug commercials on television, antidepressants have the opposite reaction on me, so I don't use medication. Fortunately, I am not suicidal, so that is not an issue, I'm just not someone you want to spend a lot of time around.

The last time I was in a depression I was beginning month three when I realized I had missed a deadline for an article three days earlier. I had mentioned it to my daughter the day it was due that I had to write it and send it out. However, once I returned home, I never thought of it again, until that night three days later. I then tossed around in bed mentally composing a letter to the editor to explain what had happened. 

But nothing had happened other than I had forgotten. For three days!

As the sun peeked over the horizon it dawned on me . . . I was in a depression.

Yes, it is that insidious. I had thought I was just tired. Maybe lazy. It was a great revelation to me to realize my old friend had decided to visit. But not to my children. When I told daughter #3 later that day that I had realized I was in a depression, she laughed at me!

Yes, she heartlessly laughed at me as she told me she had known that for months.

But the realization of that fact got me into a cold shower, I started watching "Bewitched" at noontime instead of "See No Evil", I picked up my knitting, turned on my computer, and got back to work.

I have lived with depression my entire life. I have learned coping skills, but I am not "over" it.

The worse thing you can say to someone in a depression is "get over it" or "snap out of it".

Many people who suffer from depression are suicidal. If you know someone you think is depressed get them to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Medication works for many, but not all. A GP (general practitioner) can prescribe antidepressants, but they shouldn't. The side effects, many of which are not even listed, can be devastating. A person on antidepressants should be monitored by someone who knows and understands this and know what to watch for.

I am not going to drop any famous names, their personal truths belong to them and I'm sure you can think of a few on your own. This is about me, an average woman, and my own personal dilemma.

I have never publicly spoken about this before. In fact, I haven't even told my friends. It's a matter or pride, I didn't want anyone to view me as weak. No matter how bad I feel, I greet everyone with a smile. But a chemical imbalance doesn't make you weak or vulnerable, it just makes you human.

Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain. 
  • Warning signs of suicide include:

    • Talking about killing or harming one’s self
    • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
    • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
    • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
    • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
    • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
    • Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
    • A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy
I did not come out of my latest depression just with the realization that I was depressed, but being aware helped me to mentally gear myself up to work against it.

It didn't disappear overnight, it is still hanging on at the edge and "Evil Lives Here" is coming on IDTV in ten minutes. So I am going to say toddles for now.

If you want to talk about this more, I am only a keystroke away. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Snow Days

As a child I loved snow days, especially if I had a test or I hadn't completed my homework. I would go to bed and pray intensely for half the night hoping for a major blizzard. I was overjoyed on the few times my prayers were answered, and devastated the multitude of times they were not.

When I was a working, single mother with three young children and a grandmother to support, I worked nights, which didn't leave me as much time with the children as I would have liked. I loved snow days. I could let the children sleep late, we would go out and build snowmen and have snowball fights, go back in and have hot chocolate with marshmallow thick and goopy melting over the edge of the mug.

There was also the time when we lived on a mountain and the school bus had to travel on a ledge along the deep side of the lake and up a mountain road that had cliffs. The road was not a priority road with the Road Department, the Superintendent of Schools hadn't canceled school in spite of the three inches of snow that had already fallen. I made the decision to keep the children home that day. Even though I kept them home for weather reasons and it wasn't supposed to count as an absence, it kept daughter #3 from getting an award for perfect attendance. 

Why am I bringing up past history?

In the past two years the schools in Massachusetts have canceled schools before a single flake of snow has fallen. They have based the closures on weather reports, most of which have been accurate. However, this has not gone over well with some parents and their employers.

We have to find a way to help working parents when schools are closed. The schools have been right to close, because they are looking out for the safety of the students, teachers, bus drivers, etc.

Parents should be able to enjoy snow days too, but for the ones who have to work anyway, we need to find a way to keep their children safe.

Everyone should be able to enjoy snow days.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

National Jigsaw Puzzle Month

January is National Jigsaw Puzzle Month. 

Why January you ask?

Because in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, it is the month we spend more time at home, in the house.

According to Barnes & Noble January is the biggest month for sales of jigsaw puzzles, although I would have thought it would be December since so many grannies like to give them for Christmas presents.

We have bad weather, school closings, and power outages. (Because of this, I tend to keep my electronics fully charged when I hear we are going to have high winds or active weather. I don't run out for milk, bread, or batteries because we already have whatever we need, and I have a deep supply of candles.)

However, jigsaw puzzles are fun and relaxing. Unlike reading, you can be in a room with other people and carry on conversations at the same time as you are trying to find that last water piece. Jigsaw puzzles can be a group activity or a solitary pursuit.

It is a major milestone in a toddlers development when he or she learns how to do puzzles.

When is the last time you sat down to put together a jigsaw puzzle.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mea Culpa

Once again I have come to visit the Spellroom and find I have been AWOL for nine months!!! 

But I shouldn't be surprised, I went to see one of my specialists yesterday. I thought I was a year and a half late for my six month follow-up visit. When I arrived I was surprised to see that the office had moved to another floor. I commented on the nice new digs to the nurse who gave me a strange look and said they've been in them for over five years.

Five Years!!!

So now I have to see him next month and the month after. (Good thing he is a silver fox.)

But I have digressed.

Back in the Spellroom . . . over the months I have thought of many things to write about. I have jotted notes, I have composed articles in my mind, but shame on me, I have not come here to write them.

I have been busy with the two babies-turned-toddlers, putting out two new books, and knitting seven sweaters and dozens of mittens, but that doesn't excuse my neglect of the blog.

Barnes & Noble:

So here I am, begging anyone kind enough to read my ramblings to forgive me and hang in there. I will try to hang onto time's tail feathers while I write my books, knit, and write blog posts. 

Wish me luck, my friends.