Cover Reveal: “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Jessica Scott

I am pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Jessica Scott’s upcoming release on November 5, 2013. I’ll Be Home For Christmas is Vic Carponti’s Christmas novella. For those of you who have read Because of You and Anything For You, I am sure that like me, you found Carponti’s wit and humor irresistible and perhaps had you begging (or stalking) Jessica Scott for his own story. 😉

I'll be home for christmas_final

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/14B1EbK
If you have not read anything by Jessica Scott, I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is her contemporary romance steamy but her non-fiction writings are profound. For more information, see her website.

Dogs in the Summer

There are two issues involving dogs that make me a little crazy in the summer. The first is seeing a dog locked in a car without air conditioning running and perhaps only windows cracked open. The temperature inside a car, even with windows cracked is ALWAYS MUCH warmer than the outside temperature. Unfortunately, many dogs suffer heatstroke and even death from being locked in a car for a period of time.

This link provides data about the temperature differences and elapsed time: VetStreet: Preventing Heat Stress and Injury in Pets

The second issue involves fireworks.

As I sit here typing, my neighbors are firing off fireworks and my two dogs are freaking out. Fireworks are illegal where I live yet when I call the police, while the responding officers are very nice, the dispatcher gives me a hard time. In the town I used to live in, I never used to have an issue when I called the police, but in this new town, the dispatcher seems unsympathetic, even last year when there was a no burn order in the area and debris was landing in a field near my house. I am not optimistic about calling this year.

I used to work as a vet tech and also a dog trainer, so I do have some advice to offer. Not all methods work for all dogs. I’ve seen dogs that have jumped out of windows and run through plate glass windows due to anxiety from fireworks. Sadly, July 5th is known as one of the busiest days of the year at animal shelters with how many dogs run off and go missing. July 4th is my favorite holiday. I am a proud supporter of our military and the sacrifices that our brave men and women have made and continue to make to ensure our freedom. However, I partially dread the holiday because of the fireworks and my dogs. I cannot even imagine the anxiety level of dogs in war and conflict areas.

One of the first things that dog owners want to do when they spot their dog showing signs of anxiety to thunderstorms and fireworks is to ask for tranquilizers for their dog. Here’s the issue with the use of tranquilizers. While it may calm your dog, it will also impede your dog’s ability to monitor his/her core temperature and thus a dog may become very overheated to the point of injury or even death because they will not pant. Panting is the only way that a dog can release the excess heat from his/her body. At the practice that I worked at as a vet tech, we would always educate owners as to behavioral solutions and only if at last resort, go to tranquilizers and that is only after a comprehensive physical exam including complete blood panels.

You should ALWAYS consult your Veterinarian BEFORE administering any medications or herbs to your dog. There are many, many common substances and foods that humans may safely consume but are fatally toxic to dogs even in small amounts.

I am including some links to sites with advice to pet owners but here are some quick tips as well:

During thunderstorms and fireworks, you should try to act as normal as possible. While we may feel that we should coo at our dogs and cuddle them, this actually reinforces the anxious behavior and makes it worse. Try to act like nothing is amiss.

Make sure that you have a place in your home that your dog feels secure and allow access to that site.

Try to mask the noise by turning on the radio or television. They may still hear the fireworks and thunder, however, it is not as disrupting when it is in the background of other noise compared to silence and then a large, unexpected BOOM.

When you take your dog outside, even if you have a securely fenced in yard and an extremely obedient dog, walk your dog on a leash. Make sure that you have appropriate contact information and identification on your dog’s collar and that their collar and/or harness are properly fitted.

Take a picture of your dog when you are aware of an impending storm or fireworks so that you have a recent picture to use if necessary. Ideally, your dog should have a microchip AND you should have registered your information with the appropriate microchip company. Many shelters encounter pets with microchips but because the owner never registered the microchip, there is no way to find the owner.

A new product that has hit the market is what is called a “Thunder shirt.” This is meant to keep your dog calm, however, if not introduced to your dog properly, you may find it ineffective. You should put the shirt on your dog when your dog is calm and relaxed first. Do this frequently BEFORE using during a storm or fireworks. This brings a positive association with the shirt. Once you have established this positive association, you may then use the shirt during a storm or fireworks. For more information, please see this video by Cesar Millan: http://www.cesarsway.com/dogtraining/thebasics/Do-Thundershirts-Work-for-Dogs

If your dog does get lost, put out flyers and contact local veterinary offices, including emergency clinics, local law enforcement, and local animal shelters. Because of how busy July 5th is, you may find it more helpful to go to the shelters and look for your dog. Some shelters are so overwhelmed with admissions that your dog may be there but the information has not yet made it to the person fielding the phone inquiries.

While your frustration may grow with the helplessness you may feel as a dog owner watching your beloved dog freak out over fireworks, it is important to try to remain as calm as possible. Your dog will feed off of your energy. If you are nervous and edgy, he/she will be nervous and edgy.

Below are some links to web sites that you may find helpful.

Noise Anxiety and Safety

Tranquilizers and Fearful Dogs

Pet Safety Tips for July 4th

Cesar’s Way Fireworks

Victoria Stilwell Fireworks and Storm Anxiety

Dog-Appeasing pheromone scientific article

Dog-Appeasing pheromone general information

Heat Safety Tips

The Humane Society Heat Safety

ASPCA Heat Safety

American Red Cross Heat Safety

Obsessed with Fictional Characters

Have you ever read a book that just speaks to you? What about characters that keep coming to mind in your everyday life? I run into these problems on a fairly regular basis. At times, I find myself looking up movies or television shows or even books mentioned by characters in other books. Those who have watched the 2007 film, “The Jane Austen Book Club” know what I am talking about. Some characters just latch on in my psyche and don’t let go. I recently found myself watching the television show, “Storage Wars,” because it was mentioned repeatedly in a book I recently finished reading and I’ve added “Summer Nights” by Van Halen to my summer playlist on my IPod after it was noted in another recently finished book. But there are some books and some characters that I cannot get enough of nor seem to get enough of re-reading their stories.

My recent obsession has been with Pamela Clare’s “Breaking Point” novel, part of the I-Team series. It is the story of U.S. Chief Deputy Marshal, former Navy SEAL, and Medal of Honor recipient, Zach McBride and Investigative journalist Natalie Benoit. I absolutely love the heroes of the I-Team series but Zach has truly become my absolute favorite. As far as heroines go, Natalie is at the top as well. Their love story is one that pulls at my heart strings. I have re-read this book dozens and dozens of times (I am not exaggerating here at all) and I have the audiobook downloaded on my IPod so I can listen to Kaleo Griffith tell their story while I work around the house, painting, cutting the grass, etc. This is truly my favorite romance novel of all time; so far, the next I-Team book is set to be released in November 2013.

I find that reading “Breaking Point,” while it resets my book hangover, also serves as a great palate cleanser after reading one or more mediocre or disappointing books. I find it helpful after reading a lot of intense theoretical or biographical nonfiction as well.

There are some characters that appear in multiple books within a series that continue to cross my mind as well, namely Vic Carponti of Jessica Scott’s “Because of You” and “Anything For You” novels. Keep in mind, Carponti is a secondary character in all of these stories but he will be getting his own novella this Christmas and I cannot wait! Carponti has the best sense of humor and I have a lot of his dialogue bookmarked on my kindle to look at when I need a little cheering up.

When I look at the range of fictional characters that call me back to their stories, some of the traits that they share include their protective nature, courage, they tend to be wounded in some way, physically or emotionally, and finally they are very passionate about their work, their love interest, their hobbies, etc. I also like intense heroes, which is why Shane Garrison from “Because of You” and “Anything for You” by Jessica Scott is also among my favorite heroes. As far as wounded souls are concerned, Kayne Dobrescu of “Razing Kayne” by Julieanne Reeves tops the list. In addition to Pamela Clare’s I-Team series, there are series that have so many amazing heroes that it becomes difficult for me to rate them although I do tend to revisit them on occasion, including Julie Ann Walker’s BKI series, Lori Foster’s Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor and Love Undercover series, and Maya Banks’ KGI series. [By the way on the Favorites page of this site, I have hyperlinks to the author pages of the authors I have mentioned here]

What about you? What books or characters do you find yourself re-reading or thinking about? What characteristics draw these characters to you?

Memorial Day

As Memorial Day approaches, we are all reminded of the sacrifice that so many of the men and women of our armed forces make and the real cost of the freedom that we enjoy. Well, at least I hope that is the message being received. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is placed on consumerism and having a day off from work (unless you work in the retail or food service industry, among others).

In my humble opinion, I think Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day, and Independence Day should be celebrated every day. I don’t mean with sales and fireworks, rather in the fact that we cherish the freedom that we often take for granted. We should truly support our troops and veterans and by support I mean beyond putting a sticker on your car and pressing like on facebook. Make a difference in the lives of those who sacrifice so much. Thank them for their service and sincerely mean it. Our military are not looking for charity or celebration rather they deserve the just gratitude from those who are unable or choose not to fight and defend our country.  Let them know that their sacrifice matters, that they are not simply a number in a uniform, a faceless soldier.

So as politicians, news media talking heads, and others contemplate and support a rush to violent action, remember the cost that moving forward with that decision has. It is not only a financial consideration although that seems to be the main point that is brought up when the debate arises. It is the human cost: the loss of life, the loss of peace of mind, the loss of sobriety, the loss of family unity, the loss of national pride, and the loss of innocence. When we send our soldiers to war or any violent conflict, remember that the cost is so high. Regardless of your thoughts of the reasons our soldiers are sent to battle, they do one of the most difficult jobs there is and pay a price that so many are unwilling to pay.

We must never forget the sacrifice that our troops offer and that our veterans, alive and dead have given.

I feel like I can never thank our troops and veterans enough. My thanks whether in terms of volunteerism, monetary, or verbal seem insufficient. I appreciate my freedom ever single moment of every day. I take time every day to think of the human cost of war. I just wish our politicians, news media talking heads, and others did as well.

Thank you to our troops and veterans. Thank you to the families that support and have sacrificed their loved ones in the protection of our freedom and pursuit of human rights and justice. Thank you to the many organizations out there that support our troops, veterans, and military families.

For those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, if you monitor from beyond, please know that your sacrifice was not in vain, that your courage is to be revered. You are not forgotten and will never be forgotten.

 

Hopping on the bandwagon of Mother’s Day posts

My Mom and I have had a complicated relationship my whole life. She fell while pregnant with me and freely admits to dropping me on my head as a baby (which she says explains a lot about me). 🙂 Anyway, like most teenagers, life was difficult between us and only improved when I moved away to college. We’ve had our ups and downs since but are pretty close now. She can still get me with her passive aggressive, Catholic guilt which she has honed to perfection, but she can also be my biggest supporter when I need it.  She is a morning person, I am a night owl. She likes sunshine, I like darkness. She very social and talkative, I prefer solitude. She likes to go out shopping, I can barely imagine a more effective torture technique for me. She gladly speaks to strangers, I scowl at anyone who gets in my way. We are opposites, that is for sure, but we are both very loyal to those we love and care about and that is the bond that keeps us together. We both love our dogs although she does not like my answer to her repeated suggestions about me “finding a man and giving her some grandchildren” (my reply is that I have given her two grandsons, even if they are furry with four legs). When she suggested I freeze my eggs as I age, I told her she was out of her mind. Not everyone is meant to be a mom and I am very content with my decision not to be a parent. Parenting is a huge responsibility and the most important job there is and one that I would never enter into lightly, unlike so many people out there. It breaks my heart to hear about child abuse and neglect.

I’ve always been exceptionally close to my Mom’s mom who died five years ago this past February 18. Her birthday is May 25 and thus between Mother’s day and my Grandma’s birthday, May has become a difficult month for my family for the past five years. I miss my Grandma every single day. She used to dance around the house singing “All of Me” every night when I’d stay with them on vacation. She was my constant sounding board when my Mom and I had difficulties and was a source of strength for me during my dark times.

So this Mother’s Day, like the past 4, my Mom and I will spend together in tears and laughter as we reminisce about the amazing woman that my Grandma was and all of the great times we had together. So to end this post, I will share one of my favorite vacation moments.

It was the summer of 1989 and we had rented the usual two neighboring cabins on the edges of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Mercer, WI. As I did every year, I drove up with my grandparents in one car and my brother drove with our parents in another car, hauling our fishing boat. I stayed with my grandparents and planned to spend the week fishing with my Brother, Father, and Grandfather and avoiding the garage sale and shopping trips that my Grandma and Mom would try to drag me along to. I didn’t always win these debates and on the one day of the week that I was left behind to spend the day with my Grandma and Mom, we had some excitement in our cabin. There was a screened-in front porch on the cabin my Grandparents and I were staying in. I was in the cabin with my Mom and my Grandma entered the outer door of the screen porch and then screamed. She had let a chipmunk into the screen porch. She opened the door and tried to get it to stay open so the chipmunk would leave when a garter snake slithered in. That was it. She screamed and ran into the main cabin with my Mom and me. I kept offering to go out there and open the door to let the critters out, but Mom and Grandma (now standing on the couch together screaming) told me not to do it. I might end up letting the critters into the main cabin. Rolling my eyes, I had to keep watch at one of the windows so I could alert my Grandfather when he returned from fishing so he could catch and release the critters, which after he returned several hours later, he did. My nerves were fried from dealing with two very hysterical women who would not get off the couch which just fed my aggravation from being forced to go to garage sales and “be nice.” I laugh about it to this day because only my Grandma could keep a door open long enough to let a snake slither in to join the freaked out chipmunk.

On that note, Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mom’s out there, whether their children have two legs or four.  🙂

Mental Health Awareness Month

Compared to other countries, the U.S. is definitely more accepting of mental health issues however, there remains a strong negative stigma associated with mental health issues. For anyone who has ever been treated for anxiety, depression, even flying phobias, your medical records will indicate that you were treated for a mental illness and thus labeled as uninsurable according to the health insurance companies. Health care is not considered a human right in the U.S., the land of the free.  I will table my tirade and comments on the U.S. health care system for another time. It is these types of obstacles that feed into the negative stigma of mental illness and further dissuade people from seeking help.

For some reason, it is seen as a sign of weakness to seek help for a wide number of things from help with parenting, relationship issues, depression, job issues, etc.  And that is just naming a very limited few of the issues that civilians may battle. How about individuals who work in high-stress jobs or jobs that may require the taking of another life or exposure to the absolute worst examples of humanity – i.e. air traffic controllers, police officers, firefighters, nurse, doctors, paramedics, and of course, our soldiers? If an individual who works as an administrative assistant views seeking counseling for anxiety as a sign of weakness, what about the individual who is expected to be the brave ones, the first responders, the defenders of freedom, the life savers? We need to eliminate this stigma.

Some may argue that they see no problem. It is up to an individual to take care of himself/herself. I disagree. This stigma has resulted in high unemployment for groups of individuals who may be viewed as mentally ill or unstable, which leads to high poverty rates and homelessness for these individuals (as a result of joblessness and inability to obtain health insurance to cover medical care and possible medications), and in a small number of cases, individuals may resort to violence. Unfortunately, the media plays a terrible role in all of this. By sensationalizing the small number of incidents of violence perpetrated by someone who may be suffering from a mental health issue, the media has stoked the fire of fear in our society against those who are suffering from mental health issues, even though most of them are non-violent. Further, by portraying only the violent symptoms that some (not all) soldiers, veterans, first responders, and others who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), these men and women often find themselves discriminated against in anything from finding a job to adopting a child.

Some politicians have called for legislation to be passed that restricts the rights of individuals who suffer from mental illness. What they do not seem to understand is that mental illness is not a fixed, static category of disorders and conditions. The official classification system is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. Since its first publication in 1952, it has undergone several updates and revisions. Over the years, conditions have been added and removed from the classification system of mental illness. For example, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder until it was officially removed from the classification in 1986. Another example is with ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) which officially appeared in 1980 but partially appeared in 1968 under a different designation (hyperkinetic reaction of childhood). The next DSM will be released this month with several changes including the addition of gambling disorder and changes in the definition of PTSD. See the American Psychiatric Association website for more information.

The bottom line is that mental illness is viewed as a sign of weakness, a form of deviance from social norms, and treated with fear and avoidance. There is no shame in asking for help. The world has changed dramatically and even civilians may experience traumatic events that may forever change their outlook and mental health. Do we punish those who witness acts of violence? In theory, no, in practice yes and it is done through the continued discrimination and negative portrayal of mental illness. This needs to stop and the sooner the better. If the media insist on sensationalizing mental illness, they MUST get their facts straight and present all of the information, not just what will attract the most viewers and be considered the most scintillating. Society must be shown and educated about mental health issues. We need to spread the news about how inaccurate the media’s portrayal and resulting societal treatment of the mentally ill is damaging our society, not only socially, but within the judicial, economic, and education institutions among others. We need to promote tolerance and respect not fear and ignorance.  And for those battling with what may be considered mental health issues, remember that you are not alone.

Here are some links that may be of interest:

Bryan A. Wood “Sometimes The Hardest Part to Going to War is Coming Home”

Myke Cole “What PTSD Is”

Kate Holt “The ‘Dangerous’ Veteran: An Inaccurate Media Narrative Takes Hold”

Veterans Crisis Line

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Finding Help for Mental Illness

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Mental Health

Mental Health Help Hotlines

The Blame Game

The explosions at the Boston Marathon today were an act of cowardice. It is truly horrible that we live in a world where congregating in groups makes you a target for terrorists. But sadly, this is the world we live in. We need to stay vigilant and not get so bent out of shape over security measures aimed at keeping people safe. Inconvenient? Maybe but in the end, if it ensures safety, I’d opt for that inconvenience. When I was in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I saw first hand the security measures in place to help deter attacks and protect civilians. When it came time for me to leave, upon entering the airport, I was met in a large room that only had one empty table and 4 fully armed British soldiers, all aiming their automatic weapons at me as I was frisked and my bags emptied and examined. While I was not exceptionally pleased at looking down the barrel of 3 automatic rifles while the 4th soldier examined my luggage, I must say that once I was allowed to continue into the airport, I felt more secure than I have felt walking down the streets of Chicago. Bottom line is that these security protocols are suggested and implemented to ensure safety so instead of arguing with those that are doing their jobs and putting their lives at risk to protect the civilians, we should thank them for their vigilance.

As I watched on television the coverage of the aftermath of the explosions in Boston today, I was struck by a few things. The first and most notable was the dozens of people who ran towards the blasts to offer help. These are true heroes to join our first responders at a time of uncertainty and chaos. While I find so many daily examples of incidents that make me weep for humanity, watching those brave people give me hope for the future. Maybe there are more heroes out there than we know. Maybe we are personally capable of doing more than we think we would. I should stop here but I feel it is necessary for me to address the parts that do make me weep for humanity.

Several news stations continually ran photographic and video footage of the explosions and the areas after the explosions on loops for hours. If the reporters had pointed out the people running to assist the wounded, I may not have been so cranky about this but I did not hear a single mention of that. Instead, our attention was repeatedly drawn to the wounded themselves as well as the blasts. Next come the talking heads discussion who is to blame and attacking the vocabulary used by government officials in this aftermath. I hope that we elect officials who we feel are competent in their jobs and as leaders, it is essential to remain calm in the face of chaos and disorder. It is essential for our sanity to not jump to conclusions and speak on official terms as to what you may personally be thinking is happening within minutes and even hours after chaotic events. We want answers, I know, but how many times do we go after officials months, even years later as to how they reported inaccurate and untrue information following tragedy? Too many. In the interest of spreading truthful information, it is best not to jump to conclusions. Finally, this is not a time to jump on some political bandwagon to get your agenda sponsored. I was immediately greeted with several graphics and statements about how gun control contributed to the events at the Boston marathon. Any soldier in the military knows that a gun does not protect you from a bomb that you are unaware of. I mean, really, there are many more important items to report on and pay attention to rather than try to use such a tragedy as the groundwork for any political platform, liberal or conservative.

So stop your hate-mongering and let’s come together in support of those whose lives have been altered by the events of today. Let’s focus on the heroes of today and not the race, ethnicity, religion, or nationality of the unknown perpetrators. I have confidence that the individual or individuals will be brought to justice.

So it is with sadness that I must share the following links with you once again as our nation struggles in the aftermath of tragedy. Please be cognizant of who is watching this news footage and take the time to talk to and have a true, conversation with your children about these events.

Here are links for parents and teachers to help with talking to children of all ages about such tragic events as well as for those who may find these events and their coverage to trigger emotional distress. There is no shame in seeking help.

Talking With Kids About News

Helping Students Navigate a Violent World by Sean McCollum

Listen, Protect and Connect: Psychological First Aid for Teachers and Schools (www.ready.gov)

American Psychological Association “Talking to Your Children About the Recent Spate of School Shootings”

National Association of School Psychologists Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Coping with Stress”

SAMHSA Coping After Traumatic Events Helpline 1-800-985-5990

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families of the victims and survivors as they cope with this tragic event. My thanks go out to all of the first responders who risk their lives every day and face the horrors that some members of society insist on perpetrating on the innocent. Thank you to the good Samaritans who ran towards the blasts to help the victims. And finally, my most humblest thank you and appreciation to the men and women of of armed forces, whether active duty or veteran. Your sacrifice is not in vain. I appreciate the risks you take not only physically but psychologically in doing what so many others lack the fortitude to do. Thank you and stay safe.