Heart of a Lion


This maybe one of the most personal posts I’ve ever written but this week, someone said something to me and I felt so ashamed and unworthy of her comments that I almost wanted to cry, but they were the most sincere heartfelt comments I’ve heard anyone tell me in a while…

Wednesday, I went to a Toys for Tots benefit being held at a local restaurant. There weren’t a lot of people there, but from the minute I walked in, I could feel the Christmas spirit and the love that filled the place… Coincidentally, the restaurant’s name is The Place, but that’s another story…

I’d been there a few minutes and at first I felt completely out of place, sitting off by myself by the dance floor like I always do, looking for the right opportunity to take a few pictures… A couple US Marines were there helping with the benefit and they posed for a couple pictures, when a waitress friend of mine walked over and wanted to have her picture taken with me. Well, next thing I knew, I was the man of the hour, for the next couple hours….

Anyway, while I was handing the camera to somebody to take our picture, I noticed a woman standing off to the side and I motioned for her to jump in the picture with us… My waitress friend and the other woman knelt down, and I noticed the woman I asked to join us had put her hand over my heart… I didn’t think much of it at the time until we started talking.

After we took the picture, the waitress went to check on a few other customers and the my new friend and I started talking… She said she could feel my spirit and that she knew I was going to soar with eagles one day and that I had the heart of a lion. She said she could feel it while we were taking the picture. Now understand, I’d barely known the woman five minutes, and to have her say I had the heart of a lion? Come on… I’m just an ordinary guy, trying my best to fit into society.

IMG_7738She said that my heartbeat was so strong and that I had touched her heart that night. I told her thanks, but that I wasn’t anything special… I told her I just do the best I can with what life gives me and try to make a difference in the world. She said I could do anything I set my mind to and while we were talking, she kind of brushed my face and touched my forehead and my heart and mentioned that I have a good mind and a good heart and to never give up.

Later that night, when I got ready to leave I told her goodbye and asked if she wanted to dance with me before I left. She asked me how, and I kind of pulled her in close and showed her that even a guy in a wheelchair knows how to slow dance… Well, she and I kind of stole the spotlight for a few minutes, and except for the time I spend with my best friend Rebecca, they were the most precious moments I’ve had in a while.

While we were dancing, we talked again about how I had the heart of a lion and would soar with eagles, but all I could think about was how unworthy I am of being someone with the heart of a lion. Lions to me are some of the most dangerous predators in the world and I’m just a lost lamb looking for my place in the world. To even be considered as someone with that kind of influence is totally inspiring to me… The woman said I had really touched her heart and again she placed her hand over mine to feel my heartbeat and said it was beating strong and loud (I was probably nervous getting all the attention. I’d glanced around and every eye in the place was looking at us…). When I turned my eyes back to meet her’s she kind of grabbed my hands and placed them over her heart to let me feel how I’d touched her that night. Right then, I almost started crying because except for a couple people, I’ve never been told what a difference I had made in someone’s life.

IMG_4622To be honest, for a while now, I’ve been wondering where I fit into society and whether I mattered to someone. My best friend Rebecca has told me on several occasions how much I’ve impacted her and has even let me share some of my personal story with her about my disability… But I can honestly say that after those precious moments the other night, there is not a doubt in my mind that I belong in the world… It would just be nice to hear it from someone other than friends, coworkers or someone I just met.

This Christmas, if you have a spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, child or grandparent who has a disability or is suffering from a disease or has cancer, I hope that you would let them know how much they mean to your life and let them know how they’ve made a difference in your life. Those few words of encouragement would mean so much to them and let them know that they do matter to someone. You have no idea how much you will change their perspective on life and perhaps save them from making a life or death decision that neither of you can ever take back.

Three Simple Words


I know I’ve been away from the blog a lot recently, but I’ve been working a lot and been doing a lot of thinking about my grandfather, my friends and family but really about life in general. One of the things I’ve been really thinking a lot about is how truly blessed I am to live in a country where I am free to live my dreams and not worry about what other people think of me. For the longest time growing up, in elementary school especially, I was stared at a lot, and that really made me sad thinking other kids saw me as a monster or somebody not worthy of their friendship.

Some days I would get home from school, go into my room after getting a snack mom made me, do my homework and wonder if I’d ever have any friends at all. Now, granted, the teachers and a few kids were nice to me, and I’ll never forget how much my teachers and friends back then meant to me, but there were some kids who walked around with their nose in the air like they were God’s gift to society. Nothing made me more frustrated than seeing somebody walk down the hall and not give two hoots about me, no matter how nice I tried to be to them.

IMG_2477Later on as I got older, I started coming out of my shell more and started telling people about my disability and my testimony, but I still couldn’t help feeling like the last kid picked for a game of basketball, only about ten times smaller than he or she was. Only until recently, in the last four or five years, have I started to notice that it’s not what’s outside, but what is on the inside of a person that really counts. I love talking to people now and have even started getting back in church, thanks to a beautiful, amazing friend who invited me for Easter Sunday. She and I met at a restaurant she works at, and everytime I see her, she always comes over and says “Give me some loving” and just totally makes me forget about my disability. I wish the world had more people like my best friend Rebecca because she has the most amazing heart of anyone I’ve ever met. The fact that she has the prettiest, most mezmerizing blue eyes doesn’t hurt matters either 😉

Anyway, got off in left field there for a minute… back to the title of this post, “Three Simple Words.” You’re probably asking yourself what this means. Well, sit down in your favorite recliner, grab a glass of lemonade and I’ll tell you.

All my life I’ve struggled to fit into society, no matter if I was going to school, at a local restaurant or one of my favorite bookstores, and some days I wish I could just crawl into a deep dark hole and go to sleep forever. But whenever I hear someone say “I love you, Jason” or “I’m proud of you, Jason” that means more to me than all the money in the world. You see, that’s all I think anybody wants or could ask for, especially if you have a disability, is to have somebody to be proud of you and to love you unconditionally.

My best friend Rebecca is one of those people, who looks beyond my disability and will help anybody she can. I remember a couple months ago, the lift in my van broke down and I had to call my dad to come help me… I started to feel really lonely and a little sad because bad things always seem to happen to me, but something inside told me to text Rebecca. A few minutes later she texted back and said, “You are an amazing person. You are not a quitter.” Those few words gave me more courage and strength than anything I could possibly imagine, and every IMG_4622time she sees me she always tells me she loves me. When I hear those words, I realize that yes I do matter to someone and I will always have someone I can depend on when I have a problem or just feel like giving up because of my disability. Rebecca has truly blessed my life in ways that she will never understand, and I just hope she understands how much I admire and respect her.

In a way, Rebecca has made so many of my dreams come true and has made some of my biggest fears disappear, just by her amazing friendship and the way she supports me whenever I see her. I’d have never dreamed I’d be back in church or feel as confident as I do about conquering my disability every day. Now every day when I wake up, even if I feel like I got run over by a Mack truck, I just think of Rebecca’s beautiful blue eyes, imagine her sweet voice saying “I love you” and I know everything will be okay.

As a final thought, next time you see a friend or a loved one, tell them the magic words and see if their face doesn’t light up like a Christmas tree. And if you think you don’t matter, just wait until you’re at your favorite restaurant and your favorite waitress steals a French fry or two, then you’ll know!!! 😉

Rebecca, I love you!!!

Author’s Roundtable: Maggie Thom


How long have you been writing?

Pretty much my whole life. I know as a young child I used to like to write. When I was about nine I wrote my first “novel.” It was a one-inch by one-inch size book that was about forty pages long, with maybe ten words per page. You get the picture… not much of a story. And from there I wrote off and on over the years.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes. I absolutely love writing. I think I might have been born with a pen in my hand. 🙂
 
What books or stories have you written? Published?

I have two published novels – Captured Lies and Tainted Waters.
 
Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

CapturedLies - FINALCaptured Lies

She was kidnapped not once but twice and now someone wants her dead because of it….

Her life was a lie!

Bailey knew her upbringing wasn’t normal but she’s worked hard to stabilize her life. At 29, she finally has a good business, a stable home; her life is miles from that of her childhood. Then suddenly her mother dies, leaving a gaping hole and a discovery that they may not even be related. If Guy, the private investigator is to be believed, her life is a lie. Using the skills she learned on the streets, Bailey travels back through a sketchy and dangerous past to find answers. Dodging bullets, staying ahead of those who want her dead and convincing Guy she can do it alone are making it difficult to discover not only the secrets of her mother’s past, but that of a family claiming she is their’s.

Everyone seems to have a story… but who’s telling the truth? And who wants her dead? Is Guy part of the solution? Or part of the problem? To discover the facts, she’ll have to untangle a web of deceit, lies and secrets, dating back more than thirty years.

But can she do it in time…

Tainted Waters

He didn’t commit suicide but who’s going to believe her…

TaintedWaters800x1200Frustrated at being fired from her latest job and overwhelmed by her consolatory family, Sam decides to move to the family’s cabin at the lake. A place she hasn’t been since her dad committed suicide there twenty years before. Or did he? Snooping is something she’s good at but someone seems to be taking offense to her looking too closely at what has been happening at the lake. What she discovers is shocking. Now she must uncover what’s real and what’s not. All that she learned growing up may be false. Keegan, who has recently moved to the area to finish his latest book, is also trying to find out if his grandfather, who’d passed away ten years before, died of natural causes or was murdered? The descendants of the four families, who own the land around the lagoon, are dying off. Since Sam and Keegan are the only ones questioning the deaths, they find themselves working together to seek the truth. Are people being murdered? Who would benefit from their deaths? Why would there be barricades and armed guards at the north end of the lake? To stay alive, Sam and Keegan must find the answers and convince others, before more people are killed… including them.

“This is a book that will have you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think the story is over, think again.” Read Your Writes Book Reviews

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

The ideas for the books were things that just happened when several things came together at the right time. I love writing about family secrets and lies and what are the extremes of that. I like pushing the boundaries, and I love putting in twists and surprises.

Captured Lies – A plane flew low over us, and I wondered what if it crashed. I flew three times in three months (very different for me as I fly about once a year), and I watched a show about kids being kidnapped by their families. And I just started to play “what if.”

Tainted Waters – I have always been fascinated by people who have a cabin at the lake. And we had gone camping at a secluded, slough-like lake where we discovered big trucks drove by all night long, heading to a plant only a few miles away. And I just started to play “what if.”

Are the books based on personal experiences?

No. They for sure aren’t. However there are some real situations that led to the creating of them.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Write. Write. Write. And write some more. And at some point take the leap. Ask others what they think of the story. Plot is the most important – grammar, punctuation can all be fixed but you need to have a compelling storyline from start to finish.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Editing is so important. You really need to make sure that not only do you go through your manuscript several times but that you get others to go through it as well. No matter what you are writing you need someone else looking it over who can catch all the spelling, the grammar, the punctuation.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Myself. I loved writing. I loved creating stories but I was always too worried about what others would think about what I wrote. Finally I realized that was what was holding me back. It wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good enough, it was that I was worried about being judged. So I took the leap. I’m learning as I go.

How do you find time to write your books?

I have always written whenever I could find five minutes. Now I try to write during the day when my family isn’t home. But I try to balance that with marketing my books. Sadly sometimes writing loses out.
 
Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

It is definitely therapeutic. Often, it helps me work through issues, sometimes I’m aware of those issues and sometimes I’m not until I’ve written something about it. As for it being relaxing… sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. I think the act of writing is relaxing but when I get into my stories, and I have the characters going through a lot of stuff, I too tend to go through it. I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry, I jump when something scary happens. I love writing because it takes me on an adventure that I’m never really sure where that is going. I love it. It’s almost as exciting as reading a good novel.

Has writing made you a better person?

Interesting question. Not sure but I’m not sure who I’d be without it. And it for sure helps me work through issues and see things differently. I know it has awakened me to a whole new world. I am finding the confidence of being an author.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read. I always have one, two or three books on the go. I just don’t always have the time to read them when I’d like to. I read all genres but I prefer suspense, thriller, fantasy, mysteries… I love the puzzle, the “who done it.” I like twists and turns in a story. I like surprises, never really knowing where this journey is going to take me.
 
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are how we get found, get noticed in this sea of writers and authors. Reviews are really a word of mouth that shouts out to the world about our work, our books, our stories. I’ll admit that before I became a published author I never did a review on the Internet. I didn’t think anyone would care what I thought. And I had no idea what to say. Now I realize how important they are. I just state what I feel about the book. I never write disparaging or “put-down” reviews. If I don’t like something I just state it wasn’t for me but I always try to put some positive. The author worked hard on that story and should be recognized for that. I make a point of writing reviews and helping out other authors any way I can. There are many people who do reviews and I am forever grateful for those who do take the time to do so. Not only do reviews make a difference in being found but it really helps an author understand how their work is being received. I always use reviews as a learning tool. 

Would you mind sharing an excerpt from your book?

Since Tainted Waters is on a Book Review Tour this week (June 27 to June 21), I’ll share an excerpt from it.

“Hello, George.”

“Hello, Harry. Did anyone see you come in?”

“No, I was careful but even if they did I could say I was doing a story on this funeral or something.”

George stared at the man he’d personally groomed. This alliance served him well. Or it had. He smiled. “Can I offer you something to drink?” He moved over to what looked like an elaborate and intricately designed and carved feature wall. With a quick press on an obscure point, a panel swung down, exposing a myriad of liquor and mixes.

“Scotch, if you have it please.” Harry walked over the plush, leather sofa and eased himself down, only to find himself plopping backwards. “Couch is damn low, George.”

“Sorry. You’re right. I really should replace it. I just don’t seem to have time to do anything about it.”

Harry waved it off like he was swatting a fly. Keeping his back to him, he poured the drink, while allowing a momentary reaction of clenching his teeth as his whole body stiffened. His eyes darkened. Turning, he put on an amicable smile as he walked across the plush black carpet, which muted the sound of his steps.

After handing the drink to him, he stepped back and leaned against his oak desk. “What can I do for you? It’s kind of a busy day for me.”

He took several gulps before answering. “Yeah. Well… I seem to have a bit of a problem.”

“Oh?”

Harry looked around suspiciously before moving forward, which was really just leaning his head forward, his bulk didn’t bend. He spoke in a hushed tone. “I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this but…”

“What is it? You sound really stressed, what’s going on?”

He finished off his glass of scotch. “It would seem that Mr. Ozz isn’t happy with me.”

George’s eyes widened. “Oh. What did you do?”

“I didn’t do a damn thing. That little bitch you had me hire is who did something. She has caused me nothing but grief.”

“You mean, Sam? I’m so sorry, Harry. I was just doing a favor for an old friend. I didn’t think it would be that big a deal.”

“Well, it damn well is. I fired her ass a few days ago but it would seem that wasn’t enough for him. I need you to talk to him.”

“Oh no. I can’t. I really don’t want to get involved.”

He waved his empty glass indicating he wanted another one. George immediately complied. “Well you damn well are involved. It’s your fault she turned out to be such a busy-body and stuck her nose where it doesn’t belong. You need to get me back into his good books.”

“I don’t know why you think I could do that.”

“When he hired me and set me up as CEO to the newspaper, he got you to show me the ropes – how to look like I was born for that role, how to act sophisticated, how to handle myself with dignity and confidence. You made sure that everything worked out. I know you have connections and are well liked in this town. You are a respected businessman. You make things happen.” He held out his glass for a refill. “I need you to fix this problem. He makes things…” Harry leaned forward or as much as his bulk would let him and whispered, “go away. And I don’t want to be one of those things.”

Anything else you’d like to share that I didn’t ask?

Thank you to everyone who reads my books and keeps coming back for more. You are why I keep writing. 🙂 My third novel, Deceitful Truths, the companion novel to Captured Lies, will be out late 2013. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and/or Goodreads.

Maggie 3 - 337 x 431About Maggie Thom

Maggie Thom took the challenge and leapt off, leaving a full-time twenty-year career in management, to write full-time. After her initial panic that she might need a straight jacket, she published her first book Captured Lies in October 2012. And now is excited to release her second novel, Tainted Waters in April 2013. Her third book, Deceitful Truths (sequel to Captured Lies) will be available this fall. An avid reader and writer her whole life, she decided to break the monotony of wishing to be an author by making it happen. Married to her best friend, she is learning that humor, love and patience help her navigate her way through her twins’ teen years. Her motto: Escape to read and read to escape. Maggie Thom writes a fast paced thriller laced with romance that keeps the reader interested and on edge!” InDtale Magazine

Check out Maggie’s website, become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, check out her Goodreads author page, check her out on Google Plus and find out what piques her interest on Pinterest

Buy Tainted Waters on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and Diesel

Buy Captured Lies on amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.uk, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony e-reader store and Diesel.

Everyday Hero, Doing My Best


One of the things I get asked most often, especially if I am out taking pictures and writing an article for work about the local Veteran’s Day or Fourth of July parades on the Square is if I am a veteran. Most of the people who ask me are veterans themselves, currently on active duty overseas or having served in Korea, World War II or Vietnam. Now I can totally understand why they would ask… I’m in a wheelchair and could have suffered an injury fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Jason BourneI really hate to “burst their bubble” and tell them that I’m not a veteran (in the most-common sense of the word), but after talking with several veterans the past five or six years, I’ve come to understand that, in truth, I really am a veteran of a much bigger war. The war of everyday life. Let me explain because I know you have that “deer in the headlight” look right about now, thinking “What is this guy talking about?”

As most of you who’ve followed my journey may know, and for those who just joined the journey, I was born with spina bifida and have been in a wheelchair for more than 25 years. Every day when I get out of bed, I’m fighting some kind of battle, whether it be an aching back, not getting enough sleep, a stomach ache that never stops or seemingly trying to play catch up with the ever-changing pace of society and their attitudes toward people with special needs. No matter how much I get done at work, it seems like I’m always running on empty when I get home and just want to crawl in bed and go to sleep for eight solid hours. But I think I do have one thing in common with the U.S. military, and that is my work ethic and my determination to never give up and keep fighting because I know I’d be letting a lot of people down, epsecially my friends, family and co-workers.

I really hate to put my name in the same sentence with the U.S. military because nobody can compare to the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform, but some days I feel like a soldier in the infantry on the front lines near Baghdad. I may just be “infantry” but I know the man right beside me, or the person in the next cubicle, is depending on me to get the job done and do it right. Sure I may make mistakes, but that’s one of the best things about being a team, whether in the desert of Iraq or at the office working the daily grind of a nine-to-five shift. A team sticks together and helps each other be the best they can possibly be, and God knows I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of my co-workers and friends. I’d probably be sitting at home, looking through the want ads for another job or out picking up trash on the side of the road, and definitely would not be living my dream and having the best job in the world.

In my line of work, I meet a lot of co-workers, in different departments, and have developed what I think are great relationships and friendships with most of them. Like I’ve said previously I’m out on the streets a lot, or in other departments, talking to people about what’s going on in the city where I work, and apparently from the e-mails and feedback I receive from co-workers, I must be doing something right. Here are several e-mails from friends and co-workers I’ve received the past couple years.

IMG_2477Heroes come from all walks of life and are heroes because someone thinks they are. We all think you are.

I know you’re a fighter.

Keep smiling. Don’t let the energy vampires sap your strength!!! They are everywhere, and positive people are their enemy. Fight on! 🙂

All your efforts are greatly appreciated, Jason.

A couple months ago, I went to an event celebrating Gone With the Wind, and met an author whose aunt worked as technical adviser on the movie back in 1939. She said I am a real hero. I don’t mind sitting here today and saying that I felt almost ashamed when she called me a hero. I haven’t done anything special. I am just living life and trying to beat spina bifida any way I know how. You have no idea how unworthy I am of being called a hero. Every day, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the military put their lives on the line to keep our cities, counties and nation safe.

I’m sure everybody remembers the tragic events the past few months in Oklahoma, Texas and Boston. The men and women who saved countless lives after these tragic events are the REAL heroes and deserve so much more respect than I do. I’m just a man, doing the best I can with what God gave me. Sometimes it feels like I can do so much more, and sometimes I just want to go up to a soldier or a police officer and thank them for everything they do to protect the freedom I love so much. Next time you see a soldier, police officer, firefighter or paramedic, take a few minutes and thank them for everything they do every day. Most of them hardly see their families, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a family to sit and worry whether their loved one is coming home.

I remember a couple days after I talked to my author friend at the GWTW event, I e-mailed a co-worker for something and told her what the author called me. A few minutes later, my co-worker wrote back and said, “You are a hero and I applaud her for recognizing that!! With all the challenges you face each day, you still get up each morning, come to work, do an outstanding job and all with a cheerful, helpful, positive attitude. Do you have any idea how many people NEVER do that? You are a hero to me, too!”

I felt so humbled and honored that people do actually see me as a hero, but please understand something… I don’t do what I do for recognition or praise or awards. I don’t go out every day, beating my chest saying, “Hmm, I wonder who’s hero I can be today?” And I sure as hell wouldn’t put myself in the same category as the U.S. military or law enforcement. My accomplishments pale in comparison to what these people do for each and every one of us every day. I will say it again. I just take it one day, one step at a time and try to do the best I can despite the obstacles that are thrown in my way. I genuinely love helping people and if I can offer a hug, a word of encouragement, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen, then that’s what I’m going to do.

IMG_4622One thing I’ve learned the past few years is that a little pat on the back, a word of thanks, a hug or someone saying I’m proud of you can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially if that person has special needs. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to get an e-mail from a co-worker, a text from a friend or a thank you from someone I come across in the community. If you have a family member or a friend with special needs, please, please take the time to tell them how much they mean to your life, even if it’s just “Hey, thank you for coming to eat with us today. We’re really glad to see you.” Or “Hey, great job on that project at work. I know how hard you worked on it, and you’ve really done a great job. Keep it up!!” You’ll never know how big these seemingly small words can be to a person struggling to face their challenges every day.

As I close, I want to dedicate this post to anyone who has a disability or knows someone whose life has been impacted by a disability or cancer. You can do anything you set your mind to. Sure we may look a little different, or talk a little bit different, but one thing I can guarantee. We’re doing alright for the shape we’re in!!!

Do yourself a favor and connect with me on Twitter or send me an e-mail letting me know what you thought about this post. I’d love to hear from you 😉

Heartbroken and Confused


I’d really planned to have a tribute to mothers everywhere today, in honor of Mother’s Day, but when I got to my grandparents’ house after church, my heart broke and it’ll take years to put the pieces back together. My mom, dad and sisters came out to get me, and they told me that my grandfather had passed away. I’ve been numb and in a daze all day, and want this damn nightmare to end and my grandfather to call me and tell me he loves me.

Of course, I know he’s in a better place and isn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s disease anymore. But that can never take the pain away. I’ll be away from the blog for a few days, I need to take care of family first… But I wanted to re-post something I wrote a couple years ago. It sums up everything I’m feeling and so much more. I can just see my grandfather now, on his green John Deere tractor, plowing God’s back forty.

I love you grandpa and miss you so much. Have a bowl of peach ice cream for me in Heaven with Andy and Barney, would you?

The last week, and the past few years, have been really tough on our family, and if you’ve been following the blog, you probably know what I’m talking about. My grandfather has Alzheimers, and it’s really hit me hard personally especially since I saw him on Thanksgiving, and I just wanted to share with all of you what’s been on my heart lately…

We had Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ (mom’s parents) house this year, like we normally do, and I had a great time seeing my aunts, uncles, granny and grandpa, but I noticed that my grandpa wasn’t acting right when we got ready to eat because he said he wasn’t hungry. It turns out that he wasn’t feeling good, and after everything he has been through the past few years I really can’t blame him. When we got ready to leave later Thursday evening, I went over to where grandpa was relaxing in his recliner and just held him for a few minutes. I sat there talking to him and told him how much I loved him, and if he needed anything to call us. While I was sitting there holding him and talking to him, the emotions just took over, and I started crying my eyes out and told my grandfather I loved him and didn’t want him to die. He said he didn’t want to say goodbye or have to make “a call.”

When he told me that, I started crying even more because I knew exactly what he meant. He doesn’t want to leave his family behind and have to say a final “goodbye” or have my grandmother make the most horrible phone call I think she ever will have to make. I thought about my grandfather all the way home and all that night. The next morning, I was talking to mom and I started crying AGAIN because I was telling her what my grandfather said. Then later Friday, or it might’ve been Saturday, my sisters were talking about Christmas and asked me when I was going to go shopping with them. Then I just broke down and lost all control…

I forget exactly what I said, but I remember I said something like, “Can’t we just skip shopping this year? Can’t we just go over and spend some time with grandpa and enjoy this Christmas? Doesn’t ANYBODY care about what I want???” Keep in mind I was frustrated and fighting back tears while saying this because I was and still AM heartbroken that my grandfather is slowly dying, and I’m having to just sit on the sidelines and watch.

Before I go any further, I want to back track and mention that I have always believed in God, and He has always, and I do mean ALWAYS, been there for me through a lot of sad times and a lot of great times. God has really lifted my family up the past few years, especially my mom’s family, having to deal with my granny’s diabetes and my grandpa’s Alzheimer’s, but lately I think my faith has been lacking in God’s ability to shelter us from Satan’s blows and attacks.

You see, sometimes I really have no idea what to pray for, or for that matter HOW to pray, and I just do not want to seem foolish or stupid to God. But yesterday morning, thanks to my very best friend and a dear co-worker, I now know I am never foolish in God’s eyes because He created me and He knew me before I was even born. I know my grandpa is going to heaven one sweet day to live side-by-side with our Heavenly Father, but lately I’ve been so caught up in my grandpa slowly dying that that’s all I can think about… Maybe I’m being selfish because I don’t want my grandpa to die and leave ME and his family, but I need to shift my focus to what waits for my grandpa on the other side. I know God already has a place for him in the middle of a beautiful meadow overlooking a valley or lake, with a new house where he will never be in any pain, won’t have to face the horrors and torment of a cruel world and can live forever rejoicing that he can remember who he is and who his family is. As I close, I am reminded of what Charles and Caroline Ingalls said when they found out their newborn son had just passed away….

Psalm 23

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

And Vince Gill’s moving tribute to his brother, which is a great reminder to all of us who’ve lost a loved one that they have gone to heaven “a-shouting, love for the Father and the Son.”

Or Brooks and Dunn’s amazing reminder that “There’s more to life than just what I can see.”

Or Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill’s powerful, heart-warming proclamation: “My God, How GREAT Thou Art.”

An Open Letter to the Power of a Tribe


Two years ago today I was depressed, critically underweight, heavily drugged and utterly hopeless.

Two years ago today I was lying in a bed in a Swiss psych ward. 

Two years ago today I’d have given anything not wake up in the morning.

And my wish almost became a reality.

Fourteen years of hell were finally getting to me and I didn’t have any energy left, no more power to fight, no more willingness to move on, no more strength to be happy and hopeful.

I was empty and I couldn’t keep on doing what I had been doing for so very long.

Today, everything’s different. Today, I love my life. Today, I am free. Today, I am happy.

Today, I’m traveling all over the world. I’m privileged to work with women who struggle with themselves, their bodies and their lives. Today, I’m of service to the world and I love every minute of it.

More than that, today I’m living proof that hope is real.

The last two years have been more than I could’ve ever wished for. Yes, they have been marked by super low lows. But they have also been marked by extremely high highs.

DarlingHarborI was on my knees, powerless, helpless, scared and lost.

I wanted to give up more than once, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

There was this one stream of hope in my life that just wouldn’t let me go. There was my army of angels, my community of friends and family who would not let me fail. People, who wrote to me, called me, visited me, prayed for me, held me, cheered me on and gave me the occasional kick in the butt. People who reminded me I belonged, I mattered and I was loved.

I’ve learned a lot during those hard times and the one thing that I now know for sure is that life without a community of friends, without a solid tribe is no life at all.

I always thought that I was destined to live life alone. I always believed that I liked being on my own, doing what I do. Oh, how wrong I was; how very, very wrong I was.

The more I retreated from friends the sicker I got. The less I engaged with other people the louder my voices inside my head became, the more scared of life I got and the less fun I had.

Now, I’m not saying that being on your own doesn’t have its benefits, it certainly does. There are many occasions when being alone is the best thing for you and there’s a certain clarity you often have when you’re by yourself. But once being alone becomes a regular “thing” or even your entire life, something’s gone very wrong.

You see, there’s a big difference between being independent and being lonely. There’s a difference between enjoying your own company and being terrified of people. There’s a difference between fighting your fights alone or doing so with an army of angels who support your every move.

Today, if you feel like life is not worth living, if you feel that there is no hope, no light, no love, then hear this message and know that there is hope. There is a way out of your heartache, your pain and your hopeless situation. There is a life of happiness waiting for you.

And it all begins by reaching out to others.

happy3How about you? Have you ever experienced the power of a strong tribe? Have you ever lost hope but felt encourage and taken care of by others? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Anne-Sophie Reinhardt is a body-confidence expert, self-love advocate and the author of The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image. Join her newsletter and receive your free three-part video series empowering you to accept yourself wholeheartedly.

Reading: It’s As Easy As A, B, C . . .


I agonised over what to write for this guest post for Jason’s blog, and by agonised I mean that for at least ten days I sat looking at a blank Word document because I had absolutely no ideas what-so-ever. I picked the brains of some friends for ideas. Hell, I even got to the point of having tears well in my eyes from the frustration of not having a single, solitary, good idea to write about. I don’t know whether I’d classify this period as writer’s block, or if it was simply the fact that I had such a huge choice of topics that I could cover but had no interesting place to start from. Either way, I was ridiculously frustrated about the post.

KathrynFox3As I mentioned, I spent days looking at the screen without the hint of an idea. It seemed to me that the longer I sat staring at the Word document, the more it appeared that the damn page was mocking me, taunting me, laughing at the fact that I was out and out stuck for a post. I would flip between the blank page and my various social media platforms, desperately hoping that a topic would leap from one of the timelines or feeds and inspire me. It didn’t. Then the social media became a distraction: if I couldn’t write a post, then I’d futilely creep profiles, like updates and photos, pimp my own blog, anything that would take my mind off the inevitable . . . the unwritten blog post. Still no ideas.

I’m not sure how I finally came upon the topic, but when it arrived, it came guns a-blazing and thwacked me right between the eyes. Okay, so maybe not literally, but it did hit hard enough for me to have one of those a-ha moments. It’s something that I like doing, something that everybody really would benefit from being able to do, and something that seems to me to be a dying art: reading. Yes indeedy, I was going to write a post about reading, and ta-da, here it is.

In my day job, I deal with booger eaters (kids, for those of you who might not have heard the term before), and many of those booger eaters have difficulty reading. If I’m brutally honest, many of those booger eaters can’t read at all. That’s right, I wrote at all, and I’d imagine that if I extrapolated the data globally, it’s more of a widespread issue than most people would realise. Take a moment to fully digest that information. Many of today’s children can. Not. Read. Scary, isn’t it? The future leaders and decision makers of our society are unable to pick up a book, turn to a random page and read the words written on that page.

Why is this the case? I mean I live in a world (real life and online) where I deal with people who are authors, writers, poets, and educators . . . and who love reading and writing. So, why are the booger eaters of today bordering on the illiterate? Maybe “illiterate” is too harsh a term to have used, but in my school days if someone couldn’t read and struggled to write – which yes, do go very much hand in hand – then illiterate is the word used to explain their lack of ability. And maybe, yes, it’s wrong to categorise and label these booger eaters, but I think we tend to err on the side of political correctness too often, and we fail to address the issues head on for fear of offending someone. However, the thing is, an inability to read is one of the education problems that the younger generations are facing so, in this instance, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to call it as I see it: illiteracy is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit.

I wanted to avoid a “point the finger and lay blame” kind of post because that won’t get us anywhere. I will, however, go as far as to say that everyone involved in the education of booger eaters is, in part, responsible for the fact that the ability to read is going down the toilet: teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, educational theorists, and yes, the booger eaters themselves. Everyone plays an equal role here . . . or rather, everyone fails to adequately play his or her role. No one is completely to blame for this decline because everyone has a role to play here.

Me in MelbourneTeachers have over-sized classes and therefore can’t spend enough time with each booger eaters. They have curriculums to teach, and the emphasis of those curriculums might not be heavy on the reading side of education. Parents are busy running households, raising children, working to pay the mortgage, working to earn money to live, trying to find time to spend with their brood . . . day to day, important things that matter in family life. Administrators are focused on successfully steering their schools in the right direction, working towards raising always needed funding, dealing with behavioural issues, new enrollments, battling against school districts and other upper-echelon administrators and bean counters, running the school. Politicians will tell you that they’re doing everything that they possibly can to make sure that your children have the best possible education. This is highly debated amongst educators and parents alike. Educational theorists are doing what they can to justify their existence . . . I mean, investigate the next best educational theory that is going to be the best thing since sliced bread and will ensure that your booger eater is at the top of his/her education game.

And the booger eaters? Most of them just aren’t interested in reading. They’d prefer to play whatever gaming console they have, or sit at the computer and play games or Skype or Facebook. Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, these are real excuses for not reading that booger eaters tell me on a daily basis. I’m not making this stuff up. But to get the full effect of how these booger eaters feel about reading, imagine them moaning one of the above excuses and then add in to that image the “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re going to make me read” eye roll.

Now, I’m not saying that every booger eaters feels this way about reading. As with anything, there are exceptions, and there are a number of them who greatly enjoy the activity. In fact, I know booger eaters who’d prefer to sit undercover and away from other booger eaters and read, instead of going out at lunch break and playing. Granted, these booger eaters are few and far between, and I might find one of two per educational institution that I visit, but they are out there if you know where to look . . . sort of like the mythical fairies at the bottom of the garden, or the last of the unicorns. If you believe hard enough, you may just see them here and there . . . if you squint your eyes and lean your head slightly to one side.

I mentioned to a colleague a few weeks ago how I noticed that many, many booger eaters couldn’t read, unlike our cohort when we were at school, and her response was: “Yeah, but the times have changed and they’re so much better with computers and the Internet than we were at their age.” Aside from the fact that the Internet practically hadn’t been invented when we were at school, her reply baffled me. Let me get this straight, as educators, we’re trading off reading ability with computer skills? Hang on a minute, you still need to be able to read in order to navigate the Internet, and you still need to be able to read in order to use those computer skills to your advantage . . . don’t you? At least I thought you did. Maybe I’ve been approaching this whole computer/Internet thing the wrong way? Maybe I was banging my head against a brick wall with my colleague?

The thing is, these booger eaters may very well be computer geniuses but, and it’s an important but, along with the fact that many can’t read, is the fact that many of them also don’t know and can’t recite the alphabet. Yep, you read that one correctly too. A large proportion of booger eaters that I deal with absolutely, categorically cannot recite the alphabet, and God forbid you give them the task of putting words in alphabetical order. And so I say again, these are our future leaders and decision makers. Our society rests in the hands of people who can’t, don’t, and have no interest in reading.

100_0905The educational theory pendulum swings in both directions, often in the extreme. We’ve gone through the “boys in education” fad, the “girls in education” counter-fad, this fad, that fad, all, it seems to me, ad infinitum. As educators, we spend a few years focusing on this particular problem to the detriment of other areas, then we’re told that there’s a new area of concern and education swings towards that problem again, to the detriment of all other areas. It’s in this process of educational to-ing and fro-ing that we’ve lost sight of making sure that future generations have basic skills such as those required in reading, writing and arithmetic. We need to get back to these basics and stop namby pamby teaching, stop falsely praising booger eaters for every tiny achievement, go back to correcting them when they are wrong because that’s part of learning lessons. If booger eaters are afraid to fail, just as with adults, they will cease to try things. If booger eaters are constantly praised for the smallest thing that is done well, as with adults, we cultivate a false sense of achievement, abilities, and effort in them, just as it occurs in adults.

I know that I will have offended a number of parties involved in education with this post, I do. But at some point, we must stop jerking around and solve the problem of why our booger eaters don’t like and can’t read, and we won’t do that by walking on eggshells. Let me conclude by saying two things:

  1. I am not an education expert. I am simply commenting on what I have experienced across a number of educational institutions.
  2. If booger eaters don’t experience significant people in their lives reading, and enjoying reading, then they can’t learn from their environment. If teachers don’t enjoy reading, if parents don’t enjoy reading, if their role models don’t demonstrate enjoyment associated with reading, then you can’t expect that the booger eaters themselves will harbour the desire to read, let alone enjoy reading.

Reading: it’s as easy as A, B, C . . . providing you actually know the alphabet.

Instagram MeAbout Danielle Monique

Danielle writes stories that may be considered to be a little twisted, and sometimes she does write opiniony, ranty pieces that she calls her armchair philosophy. Currently unpublished, she harbours a desire to become one of the lucky writers who manages to wrangle a publishing contract. Until then, Danielle’s stuck with working a day job in education and messing around with her social media profiles. On the positive side of the day job, she has been fortuntate enough to teach some really lovely young people who have excelled in their chosen fields.

Check out Danielle’s blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook and get connected on Google Plus.