Year-End Top 15 Countdown

As we wrap up 2011, which was a helluva year for me personally, professionally and socially, I thought I’d take a look back at my blog and see what¬†my top 15 posts were, according to my readers. Why a Top 15 instead of a Top 10 or Top 20 countdown? Well, since I’ve always been considered a little “different” to some people who haven’t figured out I’m NORMAL, I thought, “What the hell, let’s do a Top 15 and really be different!!” To those who have believed in me and stuck by me since the first day I started the blog, one year ago today, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support, love and prayers because without you none of this would have been possible. As for those who never gave me a chance to prove how valuable I could be for your company (newspapers who turned me down, saying I needed three to five years experience), I think I’m going to have to quote a movie that won 10 Academy Awards in 1939: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I am having the time of my life working with the city of Marietta and would not want to work anywhere else. I have the best co-workers in the world, and we truly are a family. Thank you to everyone I work with for making the last four and a half years a great ride. Here’s to an amazing 2012!!!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s my honor to present to you my Top 15 posts from the past year, in no particular order… because that’s how I roll baby!!! ūüėČ

1. Seal Team Six

2. A Frontier Christmas

3. Only Two Defining Forces Have Died For You

4. Chasing the Egyptian Dream With Nadia

5. A Christmas Benediction

6. Ripples in a Pond

7. Forrest Gump in Heaven

8. Will You Give This To My Daddy?

9. God’s Whisper

10. Angel In the Classroom

11. A Black Hole

12. The Superhero Behind Isaiah Alonso Foundation

13. Everybody Has a Song To Sing!!

14. Human Trafficking in the U.S.

15. Flowers On the Bus


Love Big

What a beautiful time of year. When we embrace it, we reflect, appreciate and grow from the last 12 months.

For many there is grieving. The world turns its focus on family and giving, but what if we have no family and feel we have nothing to give? It can be a challenge to step outside of these feelings and maintain the true meanings that can bring us joy. What does this season mean to you?¬†For me, I find great comfort in all of the staples of the season.¬†The snow (even if just pictures), Christmas carols, and most of all, the lights of the Christmas tree.¬†It is a beautiful sight. I enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus with my family and seeing the wonder in children’s eyes when we talk about Santa Claus. There is beauty to be found amidst some tough times for all of us. The holidays don’t need to be a fairy-tale setting. Like any other time of year, we need to rise above what weighs us down and bring life to selflessness. In that basic act can be huge change.

It can be easy to fall prey to the focus on what we don’t have. The world is telling us what we “need” everyday. The spirit of the holiday and the meanings that are healthy to latch onto fall behind empty homes and shameful displays of holiday shoppers. Like everything else, there are many that ruin the true identity of what something should be. Even giving gets corrupted behind big box sales and “giving for show.” Where did the right reasons go?

This year I took time to be inspired by anonymous giving. Stories like this bring me joy and remind me that despite the tragedies people commit, there is beauty in abundance, and I just need to take a moment to see.

Here are some great stories that the Huffington Post put together of the Top 10 Secret Santas this 2011 holiday season.

Focusing on giving for the right reasons can help us combat some of the depressive emotions that can invade. Create new traditions and reach out for assistance if you need it.¬†It is okay to receive when ends can’t be met. Even when we are faced with the uncertain times and situations, you would be surprised how little acts of kindness can change our moods, and the best part is, it’s contagious.

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” ‚Äď Hafiz of Persia

Love big this holiday season. Look around and focus on the blessings that are begging to be recognized. Leave fear and judgement at the door and pick up the faith that has been knocking. You are stronger than you thought you were and the sun shines brighter than you realize.

Merry Christmas my friends.

Places to Give

About Jessica Kristie

“Poetry is my heart, anchors my soul and documents my journey.”
– Jessica Kristie

Jessica Kristie is the writing curator for ArtPlatform and the co-creator and contributor for the ArtPlatform book “Inspiration Speaks.”

Dreaming in Darkness” is her first volume of poetry that is nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and a current finalist in the Sharp Writ Awards. Jessica’s second book “Threads of Life” will be released in March 2012 through Winter Goose Publishing.

Jessica has been published in several online and print magazines such as Zouch, Muse, A Writer‚Äôs Point of View and TwitArt magazines.¬†You can find all of Jessica’s appearances under her Press Page at

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jessica Kristie discovered her passion for writing as a child. She expels emotion from her heart and mind, sometimes in structure and sometimes in free flow, as a way to heal and understand herself and those around her.

Drawing you close to her world through shared emotion, Jessica hopes to inspire you to heal, to love, and to find your own light while Dreaming in Darkness.

Follow Jessica

Jessica also does freelance editing, writing and design for several publishers, writers, poets and artists.

No Christmas Tree For Christmas

Editor’s Note: I realize that Christmas has come and gone, but some people, myself included, have overcome so much in our lives, whether it be addiction, cancer, depression, bipolar disorder, anorexia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or autism, and we have so much to be thankful for every day of our lives. So I’ve made it a point to celebrate CHRISTmas every day of the year because, without the love and grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ I would not be here today. Merry Christmas!!!

No Christmas Tree for Christmas

By Patti Murillo-Casa

Three years ago I was shocked beyond belief when my doctor gave me a cancer diagnosis.¬† That particular moment is vivid in my mind, but the moments after the words “You have stage IIB cervical cancer” are a blur.¬† It was mid November of 2008, right before the holidays, Thanksgiving,¬† Christmas and New Year’s.

Needless to say after receiving such a diagnosis, I wasn’t in the spirit for any of the holidays.¬†At the time everything went dark.¬†I thought, Thanksgiving??? What do I have to give thanks for? For having cancer?¬†I was forgetting the rest of the blessings around me.¬†I was only focused on the words that I had just heard.¬†I was giving up before I even started to fight back.¬†For me, it was the beginning of the end.

I went into a cocoon, asking myself over and over, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?”¬†I did not want to see anyone, no family, no friends.¬†That year there was no giving thanks for Thanksgiving, no Christmas tree or gifts for Christmas, no party or champagne cheers for the new year.¬†What was the sense of doing all that if I felt uncertain about my life.¬†I was facing my own mortality.

It took a while to gather my strength to get ready to fight back. I was fighting for my life.  It was a long and difficult journey, but I won the battle. God gave me a second shot at life. 

Now, I give thanks every day like if it was Thanksgiving, good or bad.¬†I celebrate and see every day as a gift giving to me like if it was Christmas, and I live every day like if it was a New Year’s day.¬†There is so much I want to do, and I don’t take anything for granted anymore.¬†I see life differently now, and what seemed like a big thing before is not so big now. Life is good!!

Wishing everyone a very healthy New Year!!

About Patti Murillo-Casa

Patti Murillo-Casa is a cervical cancer survivor, who was diagnosed with stage IIB cervical cancer in 2008 shortly after retiring from the NYPD. She uses her personal story in the hopes that other women will avoid what she had to endure and not become a statistic. Presently serving as president of the New York City Chapter of Tamika and Friends, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to HPV. Follow Patti on Twitter and Facebook. For more information about cervical cancer awareness and other women’s health issues, visit Patti’s blogs, A New Camino-A Latina’s Journey Back from Cervical Cancer and The Voices of Two Mujeres.

Author’s Roundtable: R.S. Guthrie

I heard you have a book coming out this week. What’s it called and what is it about?

It’s called LOST, and it is the second in my Denver mystery series featuring Detective Bobby Mac. In the first book, Mac discovered that it’s no matter of chance that he became a cop—he learned there is a deep family heritage of Scottish warriors, protectors…even a number of priests. In book two, Mac is asked to travel north to Idaho where his brother is the chief of police. A family has been murdered and a little girl abducted. Mac and his brother will discover there is more to the murder and abduction than it originally seemed.

How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I’ve been writing since college. Once I became a voracious reader and discovered I had some raw writing abilities, the next logical step was to start creating what I love! At this point, I can’t imagine not writing.

What other books have you written?

I mentioned the first book in the series, entitled Black Beast. In that one the reader first meets Detective Bobby Mac, so there is a fair amount of character development and, of course, the first case where he discovers his ancestry (as well as the dark forces that discover him). I am also working on my magnum opus—a contemporary western cop story set in a fictional Wyoming town that resembles the one in which I grew up. That one is entitled Dark Prairies and will hopefully be out before the summer in 2012.

I’d also like to add that I created a website called “Read a Book, Make a Difference” (RABMAD). We showcase authors who are giving back from the success of their work to causes. Currently, more than 40 authors have signed up.
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

These days, the biggest challenge is not getting published, it is finding a readership (and that’s for traditionally published writers as well as indies). What a lot of people don’t know—including writers—is that even if you are picked up by a traditional publishing house, there is about a 99 percent¬†likelihood that YOU will be expected to market and sell your books. What the writer soon discovers is that even if he or she has a truly great book, if they are lost in the wilderness where no readers can find them, they won’t sell a single copy.
Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Yes: start your marketing campaign NOW. Sign up for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., and start building relationships with other writers, finding your audience and just generally learning the lay of the land. Start a blog. Blog a LOT. Work on gaining a following. You cannot simply publish your book and wait for readers to find you. They never will. Have your marketing plan and platform set up BEFORE your book hits the streets!
How do you get inspiration for your books? Are there life lessons you have used as inspiration?

Absolutely. Everything I write comes from deep inside me and is totally influenced by the ups, downs, successes, challenges and failures I have experienced. I have said it a hundred times: If a writer is not writing from the soul, they are only words on the page. A core element of my books has to do with the challenges of keeping our faith. Life will never be an easy walk on a flat path. Even the most devout people have faced doubt. It’s very important to me that my characters reflect what we all go through. People want to relate to characters and cheer for them. That is what I believe in: character-driven stories.

I love to write and almost feel like writing gives me an escape from the “real world.” Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

There is no better way in my opinion to communicate with the world. However, a writer needs to be very, very careful. There are no physical expressions for the reader to see…no literal inflection of voice and tone. So the writer must convey these things with the written word. It is a huge challenge, but when you’ve been successful, there is no better feeling in the world.

Has writing made you a better person? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?

I think so. As we write—if we are writing from deep within—we can’t help but learn things about ourselves as people. And when we discover ways for our characters to overcome, to hang in there, to triumph…aren’t we really also discovering those things for ourselves, too? My wife and I lost our son to SIDS in 2008. He was born on Christmas Day in 2007. He was beautiful, healthy and perfect. We thought he was our miracle. A lot of what I write taps into the grief I have suffered as well as the triumph I’ve had in surviving such tragedy. It’s definitely helped me deal with our incredible loss.

About R.S. Guthrie

R.S. (Rob) Guthrie is a mystery/horror writer and author of Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel. Black Beast is the first in a series featuring Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay. The second book in the series, LOST, will be released on January 1, 2012. The author lives in Colorado with his wife, three Australian Shepherds and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40 lb. Aussie.

Keep Up With Rob


“Kudos to R.S. Guthrie!! I started reading Black Beast and from the first chapter
I couldn’t wait to find out where the story would lead — a real page-turner full of
suspense and intrigue.”

Becky Illson-Skinner, Mystery Writers Unite


“R.S. Guthrie is a marvelous storyteller…The development of his characters is awesome.
You feel you’ve known ‘Bobby Mac’ all your life.”

Kathleen Hagburg, co-author of Getting Into the Zone,
a Course and Workbook For The Mental Game.


“[Black Beast] establishes Guthrie as a bona fide talent.”

Beth Elisa Harris, author of the literary blockbuster Vision.


On the Road With Mary Sarah

1. How did your interest in music get started? Did you sing in church when you were younger? Did your family sing or play instruments?
I began singing at 10 with my piano instructor, who told me since I loved singing so much to sing at the upcoming recital.¬†I did and got a huge ovation singing “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”¬†¬†I then started singing with my dad in church, and my piano teacher recommended a vocal coach.

My dad is a musician by hobby who accompanies me and sings backup for me sometimes.¬†He played saxophone and sang in high school and college, and¬†four years ago started to play guitar.¬†I play guitar, piano and am learning fiddle/violin.¬†I’ve always been a singer first but LOVE guitar.

2. Have you recorded any albums? How many have you released?

Yes, I recorded¬†one full-length CD called “Crazy Good” when I was 14 and an EP of four songs I wrote when I was 12.¬†“Crazy Good” has¬†nine songs, five of¬†which I wrote, most with my sister Emilee who is an AMAZING piano player and few years older than me.
3. Can you talk a little bit about how your journey began and how it’s led you to where you are today?

At 12 I was selected to be a lead/ensemble performer for KidzBop World Tour, for a 40-city tour, which lasted¬†six months. We traveled and performed all over the upper Midwest and East Coast. I got hooked performing for big crowds and knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.¬†I did try L.A. for a while thinking it would be great to be a Disney kid, but I was too homesick.¬†I have been performing all over Texas in the local and regional Opry’s.¬†I’m writing, singing and recording new music.
4. As an artist, what are some of the things you’ve been able to do? (i.e. sing National Anthem at ball games, open for other artists, go on tour…)

The KidZBop World Tour, National Anthem for opening day of the Houston Astros, the College World Series and most recently the Houston Texans.¬†I’ve been helping homeless people, raising charity money for the American Red Cross and doing worship for my youth group and church.¬†I am currently working on a new project, which has put me with some really wonderful artists in Nashville‚Ķbut I can’t let too much out too soon!¬†Maybe the next interview…
5. Have you met any other artists in Nashville? Who’d you meet and what was the experience like?

I met Joe Bonsall and Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, and they actually asked me to sing a cappella at their concert in Galveston, Texas. It was incredible. I hope to do it again. I have met quite a few others, but I have to keep a lid on it until we finish the project…so sorry! I met Jimmy Wayne at the Grand Ole Opry and Jaci Velasquez at the Sound Kitchen.
6. What advice did they give you? If you could give an aspiring artist advice about the music industry, what would it be?

Most told me to always be true to yourself, write music from your heart and WATCH OUT for boys!¬†Jaci Velasquez said enjoy each day and have fun. The Oaks just love me and are like my uncles :). They said don’t be in a hurry!! ūüôā I think that’s good advice for everyone!

I think if I had to give advice, I would tell them what I live by, which is some basketball coaches inspired saying.¬†“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”¬†My mom and I figured out that everyone wants to be Cinderella, but not everyone wants to mop the floors or answer to wicked people‚Ķthey just want the glass slipper.¬†Be willing to work hard and the timing is not in your hands.
7. Did you have to overcome rejection while making the climb to Nashville? Did they make you a stronger person? In what ways?

Some yes. Some record people are like, “She’s too young” or “Wait¬†three years.” When I hear those things, I’m hurt a little at first but it always just makes me work even harder!¬†I have realized they are right¬†because I love being able to be a regular girl at my high school and performing on the weekends.¬†I did a couple contests when I was younger, and I won a few and lost a few.¬†It was hard to lose, but it was great experience.¬†I really have never had anything but constructive criticism on my voice or guitar‚ĶI have great teachers!

8. I can imagine that as an artist, you’re away from home a lot. How does being on the road affect your relationship with your family?

Some, but we always skype, and we try super hard to have everyone come visit when we are on the road. We are so close Рmy sis Emilee and I write music together, my brother Chris does my website stuff. Dad writes, plays guitar for me and does business and social media for me, and mom is the best mom ever with hugs!! And if we are traveling by van, she is the tour bus driver!

9. Now that the holidays are here, do you have any special holiday memories or traditions with your family?

We have gone skiing. We always go out on Christmas Eve, pool our money and totally bless a hardworking waiter or waitress with a HUGE tip! Mostly Christmas to us is about giving back to others for all the blessings we have had the previous year. We once totally helped a family that had nothing for Christmas by giving them everything. It was an amazing time!

10. How does being an artist affect the holiday season for you? Are you able to take time off to visit family and friends? What do the holidays mean to you?

We are traveling to Nashville the next week for some music meetings and to visit Dollywood, so I’m pretty excited.¬†The holidays are VERY special to me spiritually and for family stuff.¬†My parents used to pastor a church, where I sang a lot, and we had Christmas Eve services, so it is a very special time for us!

Inspirations by Janet: Christmas Traditions

Inspirations by Janet: Christmas Traditions

By Janet Izzo
And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?¬†It came without ribbons.¬†It came without tags.¬†It came without packages, boxes or bags.¬†And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.¬†Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?¬†What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more? ~ Dr. Seuss

I think the Grinch eventually got the right idea. Christmas is more than what is under the tree‚Ķit’s what’s in our hearts. As adults, we all know that.¬†But somehow, part of it has to include the look and excitement on our children’s faces as they unwrap their gifts.
It also has to include the joy of families and friends gathering together to laugh and eat and play games or tell stories.¬†It must include the entire spirit of Christmas‚Ķhowever we choose to celebrate it.¬†I am pretty sure that’s what the Savior of the world would have wanted as we celebrate his birth.¬†
And may I suggest writing down your Christmas traditions for posterity? Someday, perhaps a great, great grandchild would like to know what you did way back in 2010 to celebrate Christmas. Tell her (or him) exactly what Christmas means to you and what you did to celebrate the day. What are your family traditions? What is your all-time favorite story, favorite gift and favorite carol? 
Nurses, your personal story could possibly be one of the greatest gifts you could ever give!¬† And don’t be a Grinch‚Ķkeep on writing the events of your life!¬†There’s more than one and more than two, there’s maybe even three or four!¬†

About the Author

Janet Izzo is a registered nurse in the state of Minnesota and a member of the Minnesota Nurses Association. She is an inspirational speaker and author of “Hotel Hennepin,” which chronicles her experiences working in a large county hospital in the heart of Minneapolis. The stories Janet relates in “Hotel Hennepin” are poignant, sad and hysterically funny, but all are amazingly true! She is passionate about the nursing profession, and she now speaks to nurses and nursing students across the nation on the topic “Nurses Can Make the Difference.”

The True Story of Rudolph

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His four-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t mommy just like everybody else’s mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened, and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob.

Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings, and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined to make one – a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Ward went on to print, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Ward had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Ward to print an updated version of the book.

In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Ward returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed, and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there, either.

Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.¬†“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†