Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Reflections

Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
After watching Charles Dickens 1938 rendition of A Christmas Carol, I wondered: What would the spirits show me?

If you have never seen any version of A Christmas Carol then you should definitely check it out, whether it is the newest version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey (2009), The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), or one of my favorites Scrooged (1988). It's not too late, rent it, watch it, and let it touch your soul.

The story follows Ebeneezer Scrooge, a filthy rich old man who has made his money by greed. He treats his employee, Bob Cratchit horribly. Scrooge, while he never married, his only remaining relative is his nephew. In the opening sequence you will get the picture of how Scrooge alienates himself and doesn't want to be bothered by people. Until... he's visited Christmas Eve night by his old business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley's ghost presents himself as a warning to Scrooge. But, Scrooge scoffs at Marley and does not heed his warnings. This is when Marley tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits. Those spirits are Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future.

Now that we've had the refresher - back to what I was originally contemplating: What would the spirits show me?

Scenes from Christmas Past

Looking back on my past Christmases they have always been filled with family and loved ones. I know I am blessed with those memories. My mother went out of her way to make sure that my sister and I had an enjoyable Christmas morning, filled with tearing of Christmas paper, holiday tunes filled the air, and my parent's always sat on the couch together looking like they had partied the night before. 

Another Christmas tradition that I remember growing up with was that at every family Christmas dinner my uncle would make his rounds video recording all the Aunts, Uncles and cousins that were there. Around this time of year I always think of those times and how wonderful it would be if we could watch the video's. Especially now since all of the children within those old movies are now grown, most of them having families of their own now.

Kaleb with his stocking - Christmas 2011
Last Christmas I have wonderful memories of my son Kaleb, smiling while we assisted him with opening his gifts, and trying to makes sure he experienced the holiday's too. He never really was into opening gifts, probably due to his sensory issues or his inability to manipulate his arms or hands to tear through the gifts. But, I think he just loved the Spirit of Christmas and sharing the quality of times together. Now, we placed a swag and Christmas decorations upon his grave site. At least we have the memories...

What Comes of Christmas Present

Cookie Baking 2013
This year, while it has been difficult since I lost my son this past October, I have tremendous support through family and friends. Like the crooner Bing Crosby says in White Christmas (1954), I'm counting my blessings instead of sheep. I remember growing up Christmas was such a magical time of year, while this charm wore off as I matured, I still feel the tingling of remembrance of that child-within's enthusiasm. While I may not have children of my own now to celebrate the season with, I have been blessed to spend a lot of time with my two nieces. 

This year, the day before Christmas Eve we worked hard baking cookies so that we have our family's favorite - sugar cookies - for Christmas dinner. I had seen them the night before too for another tradition of driving around looking at Christmas lights. Being around children this time of year always warms my heart. My heart is still healing from our loss but the band-aide holding it together is love.

Projections for Christmas Future

While I do not know, nor will I pretend to understand God's will, for my future. I can only put-out-there and project what I could foresee for my Christmas future. Whatever it may be, I sincerely pray that I continue to be blessed with family and great, loving, and filled with laughter - cherished times and memories. Since this past year was such a difficult one, I pray that by next Christmas I can regain what has been lost. I know life is not about material things - but they're still nice to have; such as a home and a car.

Every Christmas, one of my favorite things to do is to Christmas shop. I know that this really stresses some people out, I look forward to finding gifts for the important people in my life. I think a gift should be the demonstration that you have been listening and you do understand that relationship, to the effect that the gift is a demonstration of friendship. Not that gifts are necessarily needed - but, if you do exchange, then they should mean more than just picking something up at the store.

The True Meaning of Christmas

Of course the meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with gifts - it is the proverbial gift of giving yourself. The true meaning of Christmas is found within the innocence of a baby in a manger. That God loved each and every single person on this earth so much, that he sacrificed his only Son, Jesus, so that we can live. This may not be your belief - but, it is mine. The meaning of Christmas to me is representative of God's love. In this divine love, we share each other and cherish His gifts within our lives.

Some people argue that Christmas was strategically calculated during this time of year in order to extinguish the pagan winter solstice. Easter we celebrate the birth of Jesus and Christmas is a reminder of God's continued love through out the year and years to come. Whatever your religion or belief may be - from my family to yours - we wish you the happiest of holiday's!

Other Links to Check-Out

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Testimony In Life: Family First

What happened to the morals within American Traditions? 

It truly frightens me that we as a society keep a blind eye to what is happening around us. We relish in our ignorance of what is going on around us. We have fallen into the indifferent and lethargic pit of going along with the crowd. Mind you, the crowd is in line, the line leading to slaughter.

Have you ever thought or considered why this is?

Society is a strategic process of control in place to manipulate every one of us to comply and to follow the rules. Who makes those rules? Oh, that's right - the politicians. Politicians that are more harmful as human beings than the individuals who are locked away in jail cells, who have been tried and committed of crimes. Politicians definitely commit crimes daily, they're just not tried for them. You know, like the adultery laws... they're there, just not implemented. Why is that? Because the people writing those laws and enforcing those laws would have to live by those laws. 

My point being - it is really upsetting me how strategically Thanksgiving has become a time within this continent that we don the title "Black" to represent sales and Thanksgiving is left at the table side - cold. No! Thanksgiving is a time that you spend with loved ones. It is a day out of the 365 days of the year that we sit down and talk about, share, and learn about Thanksgiving. It is how we teach and pass on to traditions to the younger generations.

Now - we teach them that the importance is not in cherishing and spending time with family - but to be selfish and go in a desperate search for the better deal. No wonder past generations are turning into more selfish, more money hungry, more greedy human beings. I get that people want to save money, but at what cost?

When did Black Friday become Black Thanksgiving Thursday?

Retailers have happily opened their doors to let the stupid and ridiculous in. It's more money in their already fat pockets. Meanwhile and ironically, you are there to save money, while the person working is sacrificing to make money. It's a vicious cycle that must stop. I understand wanting to give your family that special item. Isn't that why Black Friday was originally started? It was the day after the holiday when you could go and start your Christmas shopping. I know growing up I went without. My parents gave us what they could and we grew up understanding the importance of earning what we wanted. If we teach our children how to respect life and earn things, they understand the importance of hard work and dedication. If we give them everything then what are they learning? That they should be given everything, then it becomes expected.

Enough Serious - We Need A Laugh

(Thank you for the images Google search)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Testimony In Life

Drowning In Despair

This past month has been the hardest in my life, and I've been through some pretty hard times. As I've posted before I am a survivor of NF (Necrotizing Fasciitis http://nnff.org/), and I thought I has survived hell. Then, through certain circumstances, I lost my home that I had lived in for the past 6 years. And now, I am left to walk this earth and bare the heart ache of loosing my only child.

When I was in the hospital, after having delivered my son via emergency (traumatic) c-section, was told that he might not make it himself, and he was flown to a different hospital. This was, I had thought, the darkest hour.

Then, a few days later I was rushed back into the hospital after being discharged (having a temperature which they could not locate the source of, but - yeah - why not, discharge her so we can't be held accountable) and was being told that I was going to die. This was, I had though, the darkest hour.

When my son Kaleb, was nearly 2 years old I had awoken to the night nurse not caring for my son properly (he was laying in his own feces) - long story short, when we rushed him to the hospital he had a temperature of 106 degrees (F) even though the doctor assured us Kaleb would be fine, he was in a coma. He started having seizures, which he had never had before. When he awoke he was a different child, where there was joyous life before now was a constricted, frustrated, uncomfortable child. This was, I thought, the darkest hour.

Three years later, my marriage was full of a depressed misery. I was the primary caregiver of our severely handicapped son, and my husband at the time was "working" constantly to make ends meet. Then the walls of this world we had built came tumbling down. The vows we had spoken, the coven that we entered into with God was broken, along with my heart... it was the first he spoke of his infidelity. Our marriage was over, he wanted out. Through the separation and divorce I stayed in His light, never did I falter or belittle the lives involved to get the results that I wanted. I stayed humble in the eyes of the Lord. I can't say that for the other parties involved. That night though, when he told me he had sex with someone else - I thought my heart was going to burst from the pain. This was, I thought, the darkest hour.

Last year when the despair had taken it's toll and this world blinded me from any hope and I had to be hospitalized. Life seemed to be spinning out of control, I had lost my means of transportation (couldn't afford car insurance and had to sell the vehicle to pay the fines through the MVA) and now I faced loosing my home as well (in the divorce agreement it stated that Kaleb's father was to pay the home mortgage in lieu of child support - his failure to do so resulted in the mortgage defaulting. The reason his father could not make the payments was that he was forced to resign from the county job, due to his failure of a drug test. He did not attempt to reinstate any form of payments once he started working again.)  When I was in the hospital program, it was a challenging time in my life. This was, I thought, the darkest hour.

Then, my ex decided to claim bankruptcy (why should he have to be held accountable - right? If you couldn't read the sarcasm there **re-read with extreme sarcasm**). In doing so he put the house his son and I had been living in on the fast track for foreclosure. The next several months I spent on the phone trying to figure out ways that we could keep the house. Unfortunately, my boyfriend (who agreed to help) and I could not find a way to obtain the funding required to keep the home. I tried applying for state help, but to no avail. The bank bought our home back for nearly half of what the original cost was. Reading the letters that the home was now bank owned and that we faced eviction was a difficult time. The blessing was that my parents have been so supportive, they agreed to let us move in with them (saints they are!). My boyfriend rented a dumpster, watching the past six years and items that I had collected through out my life (including my childhood Christmas ornaments and decorations) being thrown away (trying to converge two homes into one is never an easy process) was very difficult for me. My depression increased as the dumpster increased with the contents of my life. This was, I thought, the darkest hour.

Nothing would prepare me for the early morning hours of October 6th, 2013. My boyfriend and I were asleep in the basement (that's where we're living), my dad's unsure voice was informing me that there were police officers here to speak with me. Dazed and confused I threw on my house rob and went upstairs. The light was hard for my sleepy eyes to adjust to the scene and I do not recall what the gentlemen looked like, I can only remember their uniforms. They verified who I was then asked me to have a seat...

"We're sorry to inform you that your son passed away at his father's house earlier this morning."

I knew what they had said - but, I couldn't believe it. When his father had picked him up just two days ago for his every-other-weekend visitation, Kaleb was the vision of happiness. He was smiling and letting me tickle him and enjoying life! How could he be dead? He had just been to the doctor's for his yearly physical, his doctor couldn't believe how well he was doing! How could he be dead? I had to ask the officer, "what?" They said that Kaleb's father had tried calling me (my cell phone was always by my head in case of emergencies, there had been no call - as of the time I was awoken by my father). Then he repeated how sorry they were of our loss and that we should go to his father's house. 
     I went back downstairs and had to tell my boyfriend +Justin Barnhill the news. We dressed and made our way to Kaleb's father's house. The scene upon arrival was a little shocking, like hearing of my son's death wasn't shocking enough. I know I talked to a detective, but I cannot really recall the details. As my family huddled out front in sorrow, the night nurse that had been with Kaleb came up to me and explained, his perspective, of the events leading up to Kaleb's death.
     The fight was over ~ Kaleb wasn't suppose to live to see 3, was the diagnosis I was given once when Kaleb was fighting through being sick in the hospital (which was always ten times harder for him and us all). Here he was, nearly 11. His father's family had celebrated their birthday party for him the night prior to his death. We had been planning a party for the 27th (Kaleb's birth date was 10/28/02). But now, my baby was gone. His suffering ended, he was now with God in heaven. This was my only comfort during this unreal time. 
     A sickness enveloped over me when I learned of Kaleb's death that was suffocating and that I am still riddled with today. My baby was gone. This is, by far, the darkest hour.

Kaleb Campbell Townsend 10/28/02 - 10/06/13
When I visit his grave now, I say that I'm going to see Kaleb. I miss him every day and the pain doesn't go away. The first visit to his grave site alone was the hardest. I cried and prayed, asking for guidance. My faith has been tested time and time again, the flesh wants to scream out "WHY!", but my faith tells me God has a plan. The peace settles in saying that Kaleb is no longer suffering, your tears are of fleshly things. Kaleb is now in heaven and enjoying in His eternal promises.

One Day At A Time...

Originally, I had created his Facebook page (when he was still alive) so that I could keep Kaleb's updates and my personal life separate. Because there were times when I would comment about his father, but not necessarily want everyone to know (I have a conscious and didn't want to hurt his family members that might not know everything). I actually did have someone that I use to converse with that I knew through my ex-husbands family de-friend me because they didn't know and couldn't or wouldn't accept the truth. My thoughts: whatever! I shake my heels (meaning I kick up the dust as I walk away) never to look back. Granted - I know there are two sides to every story - but, I don't deter from the truth, plain and simple.

Each day on Kaleb's Facebook page I have been posting different memories and pictures. This helps me to hold on to those good memories that fills your heart and Spirit up to continue on through the pain. It also helps knowing that there are people out there that Kaleb's life touched and they contact me, they may like the posts, or leave memorial comments. This supports me though the days, like today, that seem to be more difficult.

Kaleb would have been 11 this past October 28th. My family and I still rallied together for his birthday. We celebrated with ice cream cake, cupcakes, and balloons. Kaleb's condition wouldn't allow him to eat, but once a year for his birthday he was allowed to taste his ice cream cake, which he loved. He would smack his lips and anticipate more! This year though, we indulged on his behalf.
     We also went and purchased helium balloons (in his favorite color of course - red). It was so hard for me, containing and trying to keep composure. Why? I don't know - it was family, if anything I was surrounded by those that loved me the most. But, it was more likely because my nieces were there. They're having a hard time through this too and I guess I just wanted to be 'strong', but there are strength in tears too. However, we all wrote our messages to Kaleb on the balloons, walked them outside and set them free!
     Bubbles were also playfully prancing around in the air during this time. For Kaleb's funeral, I had the little party favor bubbles that I had for his birthday party, so we incorporated them for his funeral instead. My sister was the genius that decorated them with white and red ribbon and attached paper that read "messages to Kaleb". The kids were blowing bubbles as Kaleb's casket was lowered into the ground.
     So, it seemed only right to have bubbles being blown to continue the 'messages to Kaleb'. I even have a big container that I take with me to the grave site and blow bubbles for him. He loved bubbles, he thought it was hilarious when they would land on his skin and POP! He might now have been able to run and play with on earth, but when the bubbles blow now I imagine him running, laughing, and playing with them.

Like Kaleb On Facebook To Follow His Legacy 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Weird Dream

During an unintentional slip into a coma (nap time, my body shuts down) today, I had the weirdest dream. I was secure on a ride, not a roller coaster, but still had the chest bars holding me in. It wasn't doing any loops, but it would rise up and down, pressing the weight of the other people in the same cart upon me, and at times I felt like I was being choked. The ride continued, and it made a couple quick turns, a couple lifts when the weight was pressing down on me. I don't remember anything else about the ride in particular, just wishing it would be over. Then, when I got off, the people I was with went in different directions. I lost my boyfriend +Justin Barnhill in the process and started walking around looking for something I wasn't sure about. I could hear someone say "where are they?" I just kept walking forward, then I noticed that I was completely barefoot on the cold surface that I was walking on. When I entered into a huge gallery, it had interesting aquatic pieces and different things. When I looked to my left I saw my boyfriends parents and they waved me over. So I went over to them, I checked out some pretty interesting things on the way, they seemed like they were magnified. I know we conversed, but I can't recall what was said.  The next thing I knew we were in a different house and I felt like we were getting ready for a party or something. A friend of the family came in, that I wasn't expecting, and then she said "hold on, I have something for you". When she walked back in she slammed down a box that was full of my book that I self-published and she said "here ya' go!" I was excited, we hugged and I thanked her. I was trying to talk to someone, but then I woke up.

Dissecting The Dream

By definition a dream is a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep.  All of the key points in the dream are represented by different aspects within my life, things that are happening right now, or have happened. Right now, I'm trying to deal with a lot of stress, and this was probably my minds way of sorting through some of the haze in there. The ride is representative of the highs and lows in life. I had just written for the Insecure Writing Support Group how my experience in self-publishing has been like riding a roller coaster; so I'm sure that had something to do with it. I had just been on vacation to Florida with my boyfriend and his family, so I think this is why they were involved. The crushing weight while on the ride depicts how everything is really weighing on me and the choking sensation is like I am drowning, which I had just had a phone conversation with someone and I had verbally said I felt like I was drowning. 
Why I feel like I'm drowning? There is just too much going on! This Friday my house is being auctioned, because my ex-husband failed to pay the mortgage, which he was suppose to do in lieu of child support (dead-beat-dad alert!) Through my great support network (family and friends) I have filed paperwork with the Child Support Enforcement agency and the last phone conversation I had with the representative and coordinator was that they will be filing against my ex and we will be going to court. Another stress factor, not having food in the house. I had been receiving food stamps (which I know a lot of people have their opinions about it). I went this route for assistance while trying to file for disability. I failed to fill out more of their endless paperwork, so it sort of relapsed and I had to start the process all over again (for food stamps), so that's in the works, which I think it might have been closed because I wasn't able to get them certain documents in time. Which, I am only mad at myself for; one, because I should have submitted the right stubs in the first place, I was just in a rush to get them in and second, for not having a fax or a means of getting the needed documentation in within the time they requested. Now that I have been denied for a third time by the Social Security Administration for disability, I will begin to seek a job that I can do. I am the primary caregiver to my son who is severely handicapped (which if you don't understand, then you wouldn't know what is involved). I also have physical limitations, this has been problematic at my previous attempts. Either way, since the Social Security said that I am too young and that my diagnosis isn't severe enough (the first time I was denied, they stated that my diagnosis was unknown). So now, through peer pressure, I have been sternly informed that I should seek legal council, which I have already... 

Have you ever had a dream you could dissect with the events that were surrounding you?

I have been a fan of the dreaming world for a long time now, ever since I was a young lady. I really enjoy reading about how certain things within a dream could actually mean something totally different as well. There are many online dream dictionaries that you can use as a resource. The main reason I decided to write a book was because I had a repetitive dream, so to clear my head, I started writing the dream out and went from there. That's what lead me to write "Going off Dreams" (http://goingoffdreams.blogspot.com, http://www.goingoffdreams.com).

Have you ever had a dream that you couldn't explain?

As my weird dream progresses, we finally are released and freed from the crippling ride. We disperse, I think this was a subconscious of the trip we had just taken. I am not particularly fond of roller coaster rides, so I sit them out. There was a night when I did get separated from the group, but we were in Disney, so it's not like it was a terrible thing. I think, within my dream, why I saw my boyfriends parents, because they were so generous during the trip and they really took care of me. Why I was barefoot - that could still be a mystery. Could be that I prefer to be barefoot anyway, could have been because my tennis shoes that I had taken gave me such blisters and pain that I would have rather walked barefoot, or maybe it was a form of feeling vulnerable.  Why the dream switched-up to an event like getting ready for a party, is because this weekend I am hosting a Pampered Chef party. It just sort of sneaked up on me and I was stressing a little over it today before my unintentional short slumber. The friend of the family that was in the dream had just had a Pampered Chef party and maybe that is why she was associated, the box of my books - that's a mystery to me. As much as some of my family have been so supportive, I have this deep pain that more of them haven't been as supportive as I had thought they would be. But, whatever, it is what it is.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Life's Learning Chronicles

To give you a little back-story here: I have been divorced for a couple years now. The same month of our divorce, my ex-husband remarried. The divorce wasn't easy - what divorce is? During this period he attempted to use people against me, even went to the extent of drawing up an affidavit stating that I was not mentally fit to care for our son! Just because I was not bending to his work schedule. Why should I have to bend? The divorce was his doing - his actions - he's the one that destroyed a marriage by his adulterous behavior. But! The silver lining - he actually did me a huge favor! I have been a much happier person without him. I never knew how much he actually drained from me. I was the sole caregiver to our severely handicapped son and was too supportive of his needs, and not receiving the support I needed from him and I had forgotten my own, I had forgotten myself.

Top 5 Things You Should Remember When Going Through a Divorce:
5. Don't let your soon-to-be ex-significant other use your children as pawns in their manipulative mind games. I was told that the majority of the time, men will resort to using their children to get what they want. I didn't understand this concept and it was explained to me that women carry their children and have that protective instinct, a close bond; where men are more detached (or detachable). I don't know if this is true for everyone - but, it has proven true from my experience.
4. Don't be the martyr. It gets you no-where. The one thing I regret looking back now, was being so submissive. I should not have let my ex bully me into certain things. Like getting a job. I knew I couldn't work and I could have gone to the doctors and have proven it all - and I should have. It is definitely not easy! But - do what you have to do - don't live in anymore regret than we already do.
3. Seek counseling - a lot of people refer to their friends, and I think that's great. But, I still think a person going through this experience needs professional direction. It is so easy to get swept away and damage ourselves, especially the cognitive behavioral distortions in our thought processes. For instance, because my ex cheated on me, I thought I wasn't "worth it" - because of his actions. This isn't the case at all - I can't be held accountable for what he did - it was his mistake, not mine. I had thought since we were in a marriage that I had to take some blame in the failure, but this isn't the case either. Definitely look into CBT (Cognital Behavior Therapy).
2. You are worth it! Fight for yourself - you deserve better! Don't let the actions of your ex keep you from opening yourself up for love and happiness. Going through this left a huge, deep-deep pain, and I don't know yet if it every really leaves. You may think that life will never be as good as you thought it was with your ex - and you would be right - but, the point is - it could be better
1. Put your children first - fight for their advocacy. I think the worst struggle has been dealing with child support and working out schedules. The more I talk to people, the more it is the mother that continues to have to sacrifice. I have only met one father that is dealing with a dead-beat mother; mostly it is dead-beat fathers.

In our divorce, in lieu of child support he was to continue to pay the house mortgage so our son and I would have a roof over our heads. I had a plan in place, I thought. I was going to college (on-line) trying to get a degree so that I could support my family (at that time it was just me and my son). I did get my Associates of Arts degree, unfortunately, this year was the breaking point and I had to make hard decisions. The first one, as always, I put my son first - I decided, yet again, to put what I want aside and stay home to take care of my son. His health was more important to me (after spending New Years in the hospital with him). I can't seem to find that balance of working and taking care of my son. His care requires so much, I couldn't give him what he needed while I was working too.
Last summer (2012) my ex-husband was forced to resign from his position with the state, because he failed a certain... (insert patronizing cough) requirement. He was unemployed for a couple months. Instead of collecting unemployment to meet his obligations with child support, he didn't make the mortgage payments. Then, my home went into default. Even when he went to a different county and was rehired, he did not make any attempts to continue paying child support in any spectrum. Then, he claims bankruptcy and includes my home in his case. I guess the loop hole here is, since he was still paying the mortgage, his name is on the deed, so he could include it in his bankruptcy - screwing me yet again.
Meanwhile, I have been applying everywhere I can for assistance and help. I am trying desperately to keep the home my son knows. I understand though, if it is not God's plan, then my battles are in vain. In this case, I pray for understanding and peace. Until then, I continue to fight through the pain and tears to hold fast to what little bit' of dignity I can grasp. This past fall I did have a nervous break-down, and a very wise person told me that I was fighting too hard, that maybe it was time to let something go. I knew what she meant, I was fighting too hard to continue to work and take care of my son and his needs. I feel this same gut-wrenching, horrific, succubus feeling now. Maybe I'm fighting too hard to keep the house?

In The Wake of Wickedness

Last night my ex-step-mother-in-law text me to inform me that it was in the local paper that my house is set to go to auction. After the dizziness subsided, and a lot of support from my mother, family and friends. I could think clearly, pulled up my big girl panties, and first thing this morning, got to work! 
If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?

Holding onto my faith, I told God that he needs to step-up. I'm tired of being the door mat - I definitely deserve better! This morning, I know He is with me - even my mom commented to me that He is giving me the strength to power through this. I have the clarity and peace I need to keep motoring on. Even if I do loose the house - oh well, as many great memories are here, there are more not so great memories. A fresh start could be on the horizon. I've always said, out of something bad comes something good. How do I know this isn't God's plan?
What is sick and twisted to me, is when individuals are not happy in their lives, and want to drag other's down with them? I've never understood this. Even when I am miserable, when other's around me have exciting news, I fight to put that genuine smile on my face and to truly be happy for them and their happiness.
For instance - if you see your ex happy - do you consciously create drama, because you are not happy and if your not happy, then no one should be happy?
This, to me, is disgusting! Don't send me a text "call me" or try to call and make me think there is an emergency, when you know something horrible is going on. You can create a BS reason to call - but you can't call me to let me know our son was in the hospital while I was on vacation? I wonder if he even realizes how idiotic his actions are? Just because he is a moron, he doesn't think others can't put the pieces together.
He tried to tell me that he never had anything to do with the affidavit against me... oh yeah, that's why the person when to his lawyer to file the affidavit stating their 'professional' opinion was that I wasn't mentally fit to care for our son? I'm not an idiot. I know he did this to 'put the squeeze on me' because he was acting like a spoiled brat and was throwing a tantrum to get what he wanted. He used the only pawn he had - our son. 
He hasn't paid any form of child support for the past year - when I asked him what he wanted to do about it, he actually said that I would have to take him to court. He is by definition a dead-beat dad. I use to think he was a great father, a great father would be paying child support and taking care of his obligations. Not willingly and knowingly let the mortgage go to foreclosure and then added into his second bankruptcy claim. He didn't have money for child support - but, apparently he had money for a wedding, vacations, vehicles... and God knows what else.

The Silver Lining

Something I have learned is to count my blessings. Deal with what needs to be dealt with, but don't dwell on them that they weigh us down in a negative way. Replace the negative with positive. Negativity only creates more negativity. I am so grateful and thankful for the wonderful people in my life. My parents, my son, my boyfriend and his family. We had an amazing vacation! And I am NOT letting this upset me or ruin the wake of goodness either. 
I was upset at first - but I believe the Holy Spirit has given me this peace and understanding. There are much worse things in life. We are strong, we have survived much worse! We will conquer this as well - it might not be what we want - but, it might be what we need!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Benefits of Cucumbers


Spice up your 8 glasses per day of water with a slice or two of cucumber. It's wonderfully refreshing, but there are amazing benefits to cucumber as well. Cucumbers are cooler than you think ...

1. Fat busting: Do you ever wonder why women put cucumbers on their eyes to relieve puffiness? The photochemical in cucumbers makes the collagen in your skin tighten, thus the lack of puffiness. Did you know that you can rub a cucumber on a problematic spot of cellulite anywhere on your body to lessen the visibility of it? Did you also know that it has the same effect on wrinkles? Wow, it makes purchasing those fifty dollar creams seem a little silly, doesn’t it? You can also rub a little bit under your kiddo’s eyes after a long bout of crying to avoid that puffy ‘I cried for an hour straight’ look.

2. Defogger: Do you get annoyed when you get out of the shower and you have to fight the fog on the mirror? Who has time for that when the kids will be awake at any moment? Try rubbing a slice of cucumber on the mirror before you hop in and not only will you get a fog-free mirror, but you’ll have a nice smell that will boost your mood.

3. Headaches: If you suffer from headaches from chasing your babies all day (or pets or your husband), or had a little too much wine with dinner and want to avoid a hangover, eat half of a cucumber before bed. Cucumbers are high in B vitamins, sugar, and electrolytes, and they replenish the nutrients missing in your body to help you avoid a hang over or to beat that headache that’s been threatening to take over.

4. WD-40 replacement: Did you know you can get rid of a squeak by rubbing a cucumber on the hinge? Wow, now you don’t have to tear your garage apart looking for that little can with the red straw, and the baby won’t wake up when you slowly open the nursery door to check on him.

5. Crayon on the walls: Take an unpeeled cucumber and rub the crayon off of the walls in the event that your kiddo left you some art. You can also use this technique to erase a pen mistake.

6. Halitosis killer: Take a slice of cucumber and put it on the roof of your mouth. Hold it there with your tongue for 30 seconds. The photochemical that you love for cellulite and puff reduction will also kill the bacteria that is causing your bad breath.

7. Tarnish remover: If you’re finding tarnish on your stainless steel kitchen faucets and appliances? Rub it off with a cucumber slice. Not only will it remove years of tarnish, it will leave it streak free and your hands will thank you, and your kids won’t be put at risk from a dangerous chemical.

8. Energy booster: If you’re feeling tired in the afternoon, don’t give Starbucks your five bucks. Instead, grab a cucumber. There are just enough carbohydrates and B vitamins to give you a longer-lasting and healthier boost of energy than soda, coffee, or those health hazard energy drinks.

9. Munchy madness: Did you know that European trappers ate cucumbers for energy and to keep from starving to death? If those big burly manly men can eat a cucumber to keep from starving, you can eat one as a healthy choice when the munchies hit. Slice some up and take them in a small plastic container to the movies if your theater doesn’t offer healthy alternatives to munching on butter soaked popcorn.

10. Frugal facial: Slice up a cucumber and boil it in a pot of water. The chemicals inside of the cucumber will mix with the steam. Remove the pot from heat and lean over it, letting the steam hit you. Your skin will be more radiant and healthy, and you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated.

11. Shoe polish: Cut a slice off of your cucumber and rub it on your shoe. It will not only shine it up, but it will repel water.

12. Pest control: Put three or four slices of cucumber in a small pie tin and place them in your garden. The chemicals in the cucumber have a reaction that pests hate. You won’t smell it, but it will drive them from your garden all year long. Replace them periodically.

13. Sunburn: Sometimes sun block doesn’t always protect your little ones from sunburn. If you have burnt little kiddos you don’t have any aloe, rub some cucumber on them. Many doctors even use cucumber to treat patients with irritated skin and sunburns.

14. Blood pressure: Cucumber has been long used to treat high blood pressure. If you have it, add cucumbers to your daily diet. There is also ongoing research into the use of cucumbers for lowering cholesterol.

15. Constipation remedy: The seeds of a cucumber are a diuretic. If you’re constipated, try eating a cucumber. If you suffer from chronic constipation, add cucumber to your daily diet

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Hot Topic: Racism

With the recent Media Explosion and exploitation of the Martin - Zimmerman trial, there have been so many threads about the different aspects of this case. The majority - race. It is so aggravating to read comments being made about race. Most irritating are the ignorant abbreviations. Maybe it is just the writer in me, but typing "C" instead of "see" or "U" instead of "you" is a disgrace to the English written word.  Ok, now that I have that out of my system - back to the topic.

Ignorance Within Our Own Society Awareness

You would think that this day and age that society, as a whole, would have a better grip on race. So my skin is white, so yours is brown, and your is a honey color, and theirs is a caramel color - so what. The problem lies in our history. Yes, there have been slaves from the beginning of time, people have been mistreated. Through our perseverance we have survived, learned from it, and built our society to grow from it and move on. However, I am having a hard time seeing this in our society, in our day and age. 
When we broke the chains of slavery, as a nation to rectify the wrong, it became socially acceptable for different nationalities (excluding Caucasians) to have their own ethnicity promoted proudly. In the form of schools, specific months in celebratory, and different organizations. How is it not racist to have an all (one ethnicity) college? How is it not racist to have an entire organization that will whore your issue out to the media, crying out racism, and demanding ramifications because of the ill fated race cards being thrown around?
Should the media have highlighted race as a contributing factor when reporting the case?
What I don't understand are the blind-leading-the-blind. For instance, without knowing anything about the case, for individuals that hear the whisper of racism (particularly an African American as the victim) people jump on the bandwagon without knowing anything else about the case and start "hoodie-marches" and such. Yet, what is being done for the thousands of other victims out there (of any race)?

With That Being Said...

I do feel for the Martin family. I can't imagine loosing a young family member, and in such a way. I grew up with strong family morals, I couldn't imagine the pain and suffrage. I pray that they find peace and understanding. I'm sure the acquittal left Treyvon's family without the closure and justice that they feel they need. Of course, I do not want to speak for them, I do not know them and will not pretend to know what they are going through. Merely, that I feel for them and keep them in my prayers.  
We build our opinions off of what we hear, what we are told, and what we read. Unless we were there, we really do not know what happened. From what I have read, Zimmerman was performing a neighborhood watch for a gated community. Martin (a guest of a resident in the community) was walking around during a rainy night. Zimmerman reportedly called 911 and informed officers of Martin's appearance and his concern of the apparent trespasser.   
Many believe that this should have been the end of Zimmerman's actions. Zimmerman was to only 'watch' what was going on. People have question why Zimmerman was armed as well as the Florida laws that permitted Zimmerman taking actions into his own hands. However, when I read that Martin had head wounds prior to the (point-blank) shooting, and seeing the pictures of Zimmerman, you can obviously draw a conclusion that there was a struggle. Do I know this for a fact? No, but you can put two and two together, could be ignorant of the truth, but by definition would also constitute as evidence.
What was the conversation between Zimmerman and Martin that provoked the altercation?
As much as it is painful to think of a young man killed at such an age, we shouldn't be fooled either. Was Martin so innocent? As much as parents, family members, and friends want a good memory of the victim, who exactly was Treyvon Martin? We all want to believe our children are innocent.  Something that I discuss with my family and friends all the time is the differences in generations. How blatantly disrespectful they are becoming. We usually chuck it up to our increased age and consider how our elders thought us to be disrespectful when we were younger. But, something needs to change. Young men wearing their pants down below their butt cheeks, exposing their underwear should not be tolerated; don't they know that was originated in prisons and the reason behind it? In the same token, young ladies should dress appropriately too. They need to know that they have to respect themselves, then others will respect them too. Am I wrong?
Media Manipulation 1: painting a troubled youth

Media Manipulation 2: Good vs. Bad

How the media should have reported the facts:
two individuals that experienced tragedy
Martin, a young man that lost his life way too young
Zimmerman, the defendant who thought he was doing the right thing

What Now?

Does this mean that we will be put on trial if our self-defense ends in a fatal blow? 
Will this give more ammunition for authoritative figures to fire upon the innocent?

Please take into account that I have written this, not to provoke altercations or arguments. This is my opinion, if you do not agree with it, my apologies. I am only interested in adult-civil conversations. But, ignorant comments or blatant disrespect will be deleted. Keep it clean, keep it respectful. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

GWR: Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law Excerpt


"Her father was still fussing angrily as he reached across her to
slam open and shut the glove compartment as he tossed in the ticket.
The police car had disappeared behind them, leaving them in the dark
by the side of the road. Her father threw himself back in his
seat and sat there, his arms dropping from the steering wheel. He
made no move to restart the car.
“It’s too bad,” said Cordelia soothingly, “but it can’t be helped
now. Let’s go on.”
But her father had become curiously silent.
“Tato?” asked Cordelia, suddenly worried. “Are you all right?
Her father’s hand had come up to his heart.
“Are you all right?” She asked again urgently.
He turned his head slightly towards her and shook it, ever so
“Your medicine! Where’s your medicine?”
He didn’t answer her, but closed his eyes as she sought quickly
and awkwardly through the pockets of his blazer, through the glove
compartment. No medicine; he must have forgotten it.
“An ambulance, Cordelia,” her father murmured.
An ambulance? But how would she call one, here on the deserted
highway? Oh, a car was coming, its lights cutting the darkness ahead.
The driver would have a cell phone – everyone did. She struggled from
the car, the beginnings of panic making her more than usually clumsy,
and rushed into the middle of the highway, holding up a shaking hand
to the car.
The car slowed, she could see a man and his wife looking her
over as the headlights caught her. She was standing in the middle of
the lane, waving her crutch. But as the car came to a near standstill
and she headed towards the passenger window, the driver suddenly
stepped on the gas again and departed at full speed.
“Stop,” she cried after it “Stop! Stop! Please! We need an
ambulance!” But the car didn’t stop. She knew they were afraid of a
trap, she knew it was reasonable, and she cursed them from the
bottom of her heart, her breath coming in a sob.
What to do now? She looked up and down the highway, but there
were no signs of light anywhere – not another car coming or a house
light or anything. She turned back to her father.
The door on her father’s side was open and a dark shape was
kneeling there; it rose. She stifled a scream."

About The Author
Michelle Granas was born in Alaska; but currently divides her time between Oregon and Poland. She has degrees in philosophy and comparative literature, but now works s a translator. Over the past dozen years she has translated for many of Poland's major politicians and writers, including short pieces for the Nobel Prize winner Lech Walesa and Nobel Prize nominee Ryszard Kapuscinski.

About The Book

In Warsaw, a shy and high-minded polio victim lives a life of seclusion caring for her odd family until a chance encounter plunges her into the intrigues of dirty politics; Zaremba, a wealthy businessman, is about to be arrested on trumped-up charges and only she can save him. Swept along by events, Cordelia finds her feelings increasingly involved with a stranger for whom she is both rescuer and victim. When Zaremba disappears, Cordelia must overcome surveillance, corruption, the media, and mounting humiliations and difficulties to learn the truth.
Although set in Poland, this is a story that could happen anywhere, as young democracies struggle against the temptations of covert operations and older democracies sometimes lead them astray.


Buy The Book

Enter The Giveaway

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

GWR: Bloggers Wanted

Bloggers Wanted: Zaremba Book Blast - July 10

Bloggers are wanted for a book blast on July 10

Participants will have the choice of 6 excerpts to post on their blog.

Prize: Paperback of Zaremba, or Love and the Rule of Law (international giveaway)

In Warsaw, a shy and high-minded polio victim lives a life of seclusion caring for her odd family until a chance encounter plunges her into the intrigues of dirty politics; Zaremba, a wealthy businessman, is about to be arrested on trumped-up charges and only she can save him. Swept along by events, Cordelia finds her feelings increasingly involved with a stranger for whom she is both rescuer and victim. When Zaremba disappears, Cordelia must overcome surveillance, corruption, the media, and mounting humiliations and difficulties to learn the truth. 

Although set in Poland, this is a story that could happen anywhere, as young democracies struggle against the temptations of covert operations and older democracies sometimes lead them astray.

A GWR Publicity promotional event paid for by the author.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Author Stacey Rourke Takes On Infertility

According to CDC, infertility effects 11% of women in the US. Author Stacey Rourke shares her own journey in her new book:
Basal body temperatures. Hormone injections. Invasive procedures - that leave no room for modesty. Tips on “effective positions” from well-meaning grandparents. 
When the natural way fails to work these are all added to the so called “fun” process of making a baby. Walk this rocky path to motherhood with author Stacey Rourke as she openly and honestly shares every good, bad, and awkward step of her three-year long journey. Using humor to break through the perils of infertility, she gives the lowdown on all the strange, embarrassing, and heartbreaking aspects. Stacey guides us through an unforgettable path that ends with a kid on each hip and hope for all those suffering with infertility. 
BONUS MATERIAL: “Morsels of Hope”
Success Stories from Infertility Survivors
Buy I'm Not Crazy, I'm on Lupron: A Journey Through Infertility at Amazon and B&N
If you are facing your own struggles, Stacey wants you to know you aren't alone.
Chat with Stacey Rourke
Wednesday, July 3 at 11:00 am eastern
Twitter: #Infertility
Enter the giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For more information about infertility visit these sites:
Resolve: The National Infertility Association - www.resolve.org
International Council on Infertility Information – www.inciid.org
American Fertility Assoc. -  www.theafa.org
Disclosure: A GWR Publicity event paid for by Anchor Group Publishing. Giveaway is sponsored by the author who is responsible for the delivery of prizes. YOUR BLOG NAME received no compensation for this post.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Enough Is Enough

How Does One Acquire The Title "Deadbeat Dad"?

This is something that truly tears my heart apart. Not only because it is very personal to me, but because so many woman and children are affected. And I know it isn't just Deadbeat Dad's, that there are Deadbeat Mom's too. Either way, I am only going to write about my experience here. I can't and will not speak for anyone else besides my son and myself. But, feel free to add your perspective below - I am interested in hearing what you have to say.
Ten years ago I married the person I had thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. He was someone I had known since childhood, and didn't think that such a betrayal would ever enter into our lives. Especially since we had experienced so much trauma in our early relationship. Naive as I may have been, I had the fairytale disease, where I thought love could conquer all. 
To lay it out on the line, basically we got married because I was pregnant. We had been living together (house sitting), when we found out we were expecting, I didn't want to move back home preggers, and his stipulation was that he didn't want to live together unless we were married. Unromantic as it was, it's life. 
Three months later and nearly two months early, my water broke. Our son was extracted a week later. The birth was very traumatic, and it wasn't over yet. Our son would undergo numerous surgeries in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I was fighting for my life as well, having contracted Necrotizing Fascitis I was given a 50/50 chance of survival (rather, the doctor's gave my family the states - they talked through me if you know what I mean).
Statistically, marriages with special needs children are at high risk of divorce. There is not enough help, and there is too much strain on the relationship. However, what broke my marriage to my son's father was his infidelity. He wanted out of the marriage and took the cowardly approach. We separated before our seventh or eighth anniversary. Don't feel bad for him though, he remarried (the same month we were divorced) and he now has 'the perfect family' that he wanted. I guess you could say he's living his 'happily ever after'.
Deadbeat Dad Defined
According to Princeton.edu web definition, it is 
"a father who willfully defaults on his obligation 
to provide financial support for his offspring."
Keyword = willfully defaults. If you are a spiritual person, you can understand the ethics behind this statement and how it relates to sin in the Bible. To know what is right from wrong, but then willfully and purposefully do wrong, is a disgrace to the person that should know better and chooses to continue their sinful ways. According to scripture, you should enjoy your life now, because you might not have much to look forward too after you perish from this earth (if you know what I mean). Someone once told me, in a more harsh term "it's o.k., let them (cheaters) enjoy their life now, once they die they have to answer to God". Which, is a time to fear God, in the Bible he compares liars to murderers. You entered into a covenant with the LORD, when you took your marriage vows. You not only cheated on your wife, you hurt Him as well. And, as if this wasn't bad enough, the ignorance and shame continues when they do not live up to their obligations.
If only there was an official authoritative person that
would issue "deadbeat dickhead" citations...
During our separation and divorce, there were many hoops and hurdles, but finally a year and a half later, we were divorced. In the decree it was agreed upon that (my now EX-husband) he was to pay child support in the form of continuing to make the mortgage payments. There was a term and stipulations. Such as, if I was unable to take over the payments by a certain date, then the house would be listed and sold. Until this date, my ex-husband was to pay the mortgage as child support and alimony. 
Through his bad choices, he was forced to retire, leaving him without a job for a number of months.
During this time, he was unable to pay the mortgage payments... he stopped paying the mortgage (a.k.a child support) and never paid a penny more, even when he did acquire a source of income. This was a year ago now. Tonight, after trying to discuss options, I was told that "they (him and his 'new' family) were going to bed" and if I wanted to talk about this I would have to contact him after 5 and before 9. 
What started the open dialog this evening was, that I inquired if upon the start of school for our son, if we could return to week-on/week-off schedules, since right now I am technically the primary physical custodial parent (since my son is with me for at least 80% of his time during the month).
Having a special needs child with severe disabilities is not easy, you have to make a lot of difficult choices. At one time we were considering placing our son in an assistant living facility. However, until he meets their age requirements, the only option for my son is to go and live with someone else, in a strange house. It would also require that we, as his parent's sign him over to the state. Which will never happen as long as I have breath entering and exiting my lungs. To even contemplate this concept is sickening and I become physically sick and overwhelmed.
Now, since he has not been making the home mortgage payments, as he was suppose to do, the house in in foreclosure. My stress levels are all jacked up, I can't uproot my son again - he had an excellent year and he needs his home, this home, for stability. As I couldn't live with knowing that my son was living in some strangers home, it will tear me apart from the inside out, if we have to uproot yet again. I am working with a Home Partnership program, in a hail-Mary attempt to keep our home. This is my son's home, with his disabilities (he is legally blind and deaf) having the regularity, the routines, helps him to better appreciate and get-around in the world.
As much as the financial neglect is upsetting, what is more upsetting is his willful default. One of my favorite songs, by Evanescence is about how you saw this person you loved with resonating light and after you learned who they really are, the light fades and the darkness consumes. This song has more lyrics that are more truthful to the situation:

So, Now What?

This is when you have to pull up your big girl panties and go to war. Nothing in life is free, and no one is going to do it for you. So, what I had to do was to contact Child Enforcement Services, I had explain to them the down'lo. They sent me a stack of papers that I had to read through and fill out. Where I am in the process, they need a copy of my divorce decree for further investigation and for their records.
Before I had sent the papers in, I contacted my son's father and made sure that this was the avenue that was before us, if he continued to willfully default from his obligations. He agreed to the legal process, even after I explained to him that he possibly could face jail time. So, I submitted the paperwork. I just have to get the copy of the divorce in, and then hopefully this matter will be resolved. 
From here, as long as everything is in order, we will start receiving child support payments and they will be garnished from his wadges.
I have never proclaimed that my son's father was anything less than caring of our son. He is a master of his super power. I didn't want to think about this for a long time, but it was pointed out to me that his form of manipulation, he doesn't want anyone to think any less of him. This drives him to 'put on a good show'. While he might do this while our son is in his care, I have to believe that he is a good father. If I had any doubt, then I would not be so calm while he was with his biological father.
Please - keep us in your prayers ~ 
Until next time or the next....... dream.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Socially Prejudicial Double Standard

Jamie Foxx vs. Paula Deen - Prejudice Unchained

Recently in the news Mrs. Deen has been nearly crucified for her statement how she had used a racial slur over 30 years ago. While Mr. Foxx jokes about his racial comment he made about a movie he was in Django Unchained (2012). Paula was released from the Food Network for being honest, where Jamie had no repercussions for his statements and states "people need to stop trippin'
How can we as a society persecute prejudice if there are double standards?
Basically we are teaching our children and future generations that if you are 'white' and prejudice you could loose your job and much more. If you are 'black' and prejudice, it is no big deal, heck - basically it is socially acceptable. How can we tolerate this? There are prejudices everywhere - we are raised to judge and we are judged all the time. While I believe racial slurs should not be tolerated, everyone makes mistakes. It's a shame, to me, that someone has worked so hard in their career, and something like this becomes like a raging fire that erases all the good. Why do we as a society focus so much on the negativity?
Furthermore, Foxx claims he is a comedian and it was a 'joke' about how he 'gets to kill all the white people". Do you really think that if Deen claims her statement was a 'joke' that it would blow over like Foxx's actions? 
Don't throw rocks in a glass house ya'all!!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Girl Who Reads: Night Chill Tour Kick Off

Girl Who Reads: Night Chill Tour Kick Off: From the author of middle grades spine-chilling horror series The Templar Chronicles comes a supernatural thriller for his adult fans ...

Night Chill Tour Kick Off

From the author of middle grades spine-chilling horror series The Templar Chronicles comes a supernatural thriller for his adult fans

"Gunhus delivers a taut supernatural thriller...all the chops of an action-packed horror tale." Kirkus Reviews

Emotionally scarred from a car accident in which a little girl was killed, Jack Tremont moves his family from Southern California to Prescott City in the quiet mountains of Western Maryland. At first, the small town appears to be the perfect place to reconnect with his family and to cure his troubled conscience, but Jack soon discovers he has left one nightmare only to walk into another. When a stranger who has been struck by lightning dies in Jack's arms, a child's voice comes from the man's smoldering body to issue a warning:  
They're coming for your little girl, Jack. . . you better run. Take your family and run. 

The warning turns prophetic when a local cult targets Jack's five year-old daughter Sarah and Jack finds himself in a fight against dark, supernatural forces that he cannot begin to understand. With the help of a mysterious Native American, Jack uncovers more than just a conspiracy that extends into the small community, but an ancient mystery larger than anything he could have imagined. Suddenly, he's not only fighting for his family, but also to stop a devastating evil from escaping into the world. Above all, he must rush against the clock to save his little girl.

Learn more at JeffGunhus.com

Buy the book at Amazon!

Night Chill

June 4 Tyrneathem Excerpt
June 5 The avid Reader Top Ten List
June 6 Rayborn Rambles Review
June 7 Girl Who Reads Friday Fun
June 8 Cu's e-Book Giveaways  Top Ten List
June 9 Drue's Random Chatter  Review
June 10 Lubs Book Chatter  Review & Author Interview

June 12 The Ginger Nuts of Horror Excerpt
June 13 I'm Shelf-ish Top Ten List
June 14 Paperback Princess Interview
June 15 Share My Destiny  Top Ten List
June 16 From the Bootheel Cotton Patch  Excerpt
June 17 Off the Page  Middle Grades vs Adult writing
June 18 The Geekdom Of Gore  Top Ten List
June 19 Books Direct  Review & Interview
June 20 Ali's Bookshelf  Top Ten List
Cabin Goddess  Review & Excerpt
June 21 Wag the Fox  Top Ten List
June 22 Mom With A Kindle  Excerpt

Enter the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card & Signed Paperback

A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. Giveaway is sponsored by the author. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link.