ISO: ARC Reviewers

Hey everyone!

With the release of A Book About Life coming up in just 4 months, I’m putting out feelers for ARC Reviewers.

Interested?

This book is inspired by real events, LGBT protagonist, Jane Austen feel, low-concept (character driven), contains mental health topics and even a HEA (happily ever after). New Adult Fiction, romance subplots.

What I’m looking for in an ARC Reviewer:
-likes to read
-will leave a review (when the book is up for sale) on Amazon/GoodReads/iTunes/etc

Optional things:
-put up a blog post about thoughts (or I’ll come around and we can chat!)

What you’d get:
-PDF version of A Book About Life for FREE!
-This would be sometime around November

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, let’s chat! Inexperience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I haven’t determined how many ARCs will go out, but I’m thinking about 12 tops, so let me know!

Coming up soon: Cover reveal and dare I say it…GIVEAWAY! (And here you thought November was only good for pie!)

-M

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Carry Me Down

This past week I had the discomfort of making space for my grief. It was Semik on Thursday and that’s gonna take a minute to unpack. So let’s dig in, shall we? This story is one that I have never told in its entirety before, and may not ever do so again.

Semik is a Slavic tradition of memorial and rituals for the dead who were taken before their time. Think of it much like the Slavic version of Dia de los Muertos or All Hallows. Add in some ritual fasting and fertility festival and you have yourself one exhausted grad student.

I lost a friend to suicide a year ago this week. On the day of Semik, actually. Which made this year all the more potent. I had to sit with my grief and go through the process. And let me tell you-holding space for your grief is not only exhausting, it’s the only way to go.

Instead of my normally bubbly self, my field instructor mentioned my reserved silence. I told her what was going on and she checked in with me a couple times again after that. I gave my clients all I could and I went to work and survived. I made peace with my pain. I gave myself permission to cry. And that was the only thing I could do.

So why am I talking about it now?

Because I am human. And no matter what exactly that means, grief is a tie that binds. Everyone will experience it in their own time and manner. And being less than a year from my licensure as a LMSW, I know that if I can’t make space for authenticity, I can’t do my job.

So if you’re feeling broken. If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re struggling with your grief, your sadness, your fear. You aren’t alone in these. You are surviving and thriving-whether it looks like it or not.

Grief can come down on you like a wave while you’re drowning in an ocean. It can crush you into nonexistence and bring you to your knees. It will grind you down.

I read once that grief is just love with nowhere to go. I’d add regret to that as well. And guilt.

It was June 13 of last year and I couldn’t sleep. I had tried everything but I couldn’t settle my thoughts. I decided to pull up some guided meditations to “force reset” my brain. I listened to a couple without much luck and then settled on a shamanic drumming meditation. I’d never done one before but figured I had nothing to lose.

In the course of this 30 minute meditation, I felt myself relax and begin drifting. I was coming to the end of the meditation and was somewhere between awake and asleep-that place where you know you’re not quite either but you’re closer to sleep than awake. And as I began preparing for the end of the recording I heard the words “Come find me.”

I ripped the headphones out of my ears and tossed my iPad across the bed. Instead of being in the place of tranquility, as I had been moments before, my heart was racing, my body surging with adrenaline. What had that been? Was it part of the recording? (I went back and checked much later-it wasn’t.) It took ages to fall asleep after that.

The next morning I had a message from a friend asking if I’d heard about a mutual friend. I said I had just talked to her, that we’d been discussing a new student group she wanted to start. He asked if I had checked my email. I said I hadn’t. So I logged in.

And there it was. A death notice. The night before, around the time of my meditation, our mutual friend had died by suicide.

If I could accurately describe the way the world moved from under me, I would. It was like the universe shifted a fraction of an inch and I had stayed still. I became nauseous and despondent.

Come find me.

Had it been her? Did I believe that? What if I did? What did that mean?

In the days coming I became so overwhelmed with the need to protect myself from further destruction that I hid every sharp object. I talked to every friend I had ever had a mental health conversation with. I made preparations for my own safety and sanity. I was terrified that this was something that would come down on me if I didn’t protect myself in every way possible.

And on the morning of her funeral, I couldn’t find it in me to go. I got a text from someone who had promised to be my moral support asking where I was. I said I was running late and would be there soon.

“You weren’t there for her in life, so you might as well be there for her funeral.” I said to myself. I got in the car and sped the whole way there. It was the first Catholic funeral I had ever been to.

I carried that guilt with me for a year. And this week, I passed it into the universe. I made peace with my grief and let go.

Tonight there was a lightning storm where I live. The first I’ve seen since I moved from Ohio.

Do I understand this as a sign? Sure I do. Because that’s who I am -the pagan girl who thrives in the storms, who is called She Who Guides the Water. Do I miss her? Of course I do. The third person in my life taken by suicide. The third too many.

Hold space for your grief. Give it a place to go. Don’t let it consume you.

We are all in this together, folks. Tomorrow is a brighter day. We just have to make it there.

When Life Gives You Citrus

If I said I hadn’t gotten behind in life, I would be lying.

I’m one month away from finishing my generalist practicum-which means from here on out, it’s Chaos City. Client sessions that need terminated, logs to fill out, papers to write, and a book to finalize (I’m in the final stages of edits and I am SO thankful for that!).

As I’m wrapping up my practicum, I was asked to reflect a bit and I wanted to talk through that with you lovely folks.

Stress levels are a funny thing. I always thought of them as something you could just feel. Physical symptoms that let you know about your mental wellbeing. But as I’ve come to understand, stress doesn’t always look like one thing. Sometimes it’s getting to the end of your shift and realizing you’ve had your shoulders clenched for 8 hours. Sometimes it’s being fine all day and then as someone else comes in, you bolt out the door because you need some air. Sometimes it’s the knotted stomach too. But nihilism is a really comforting thing if you think about it. Everything ends eventually. As for coping strategies, well, I’ve outgrown a couple, reintroduced a few and discovered the difference between routine maintenance and self-care. I spend every weekend doing a face mask and meal prepping because it makes me better. That’s routine maintenance. I take breaks in my day and color or take pictures of beautiful things or work magic or do social activities or work out. That’s self-care. I tell my clients that they have to allow themselves to be human. Strong emotions aren’t bad emotions. They are deserving of being felt and acknowledged. If I need to cry, I do so. If I need to scream, I do that too. I keep a journal, I listen to what my body needs. And that is something I’ve never done before, but will continue to do. 

I took a partial shift at one night and in the span of 3 hours, I had to deal with 4 crises. I kept waiting for the moment I could catch my breath but it didn’t come. Each crisis was interrupted by another one. And I kept wondering if I was cut out for that. But at the end of the shift, I couldn’t help but smile because I’d knocked it out of the park. Had I made some mistakes? Absolutely. Did I do my job? Sure did. And that’s when I realized just how much I’d changed. I mean, last year I was just coming out of law school and I had no confidence in myself whatsoever. I thought I was going to ruin people’s lives and that I couldn’t possibly handle things by myself. And here I was, rocking a crisis cycle like an old pro.

I start my clinical year in just 2 months. And I know that’s when I start my specialization (and career goals). I go into it ready (which is SO nice).

Coming up for me this summer:
Finishing my generalist
Finishing Summer Classes
Moving
Family visits
Clinical Orientation
Clinical Year
Finishing my novel edits (and then its time to get hyped!)
Bringing y’all some sweet previews and spoilers for that novel

I’m still here. And great things are coming.

A Little Perspective

This week has been hell, folks.

I’m talking the worst, most stressful week of my life. Every day was a new shit show, with another round of “What in the world is going on?”

But in times of great stress and trials, I’ve discovered my corrective nature.

Each day I woke up wondering what other shoe would drop, each night I went to bed defeated.

Until.

I woke up and made fresh coffee, some espresso with creamer and instead of drinking the whole thing down, I poured some into the cup I use for ancestor offerings. I begged for safety and happiness and success.

The next day, I did the same with drip-pot coffee, black. Then hot tea.

I remembered what Brene Brown said in her Netflix special: If you’re in the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked.

I thought about all the things I learned as an MSW student. All the things I learned about how to deal with crises. About life. And I started putting those to use. Breathing techniques, meditations, anxiety work. I worked the program, my friends. I learned to trust and accept and validate my emotions, without letting them beat me down. I let myself cry, and worked through it. I gave myself room to be.

I went to supervision and reframed my situation. How lucky am I that I have options to stress over. To have the knowledge about what to do. To only experience one week of crisis-as opposed to one lifetime.

And I stopped waiting for the shoes to fall. I stopped expecting the world to crumble around me.

Instead, I gave myself permission to be human. I asked for help, I apologized for slacking in a spiritual way. I hoped for better things. I focused on finding the balance between the negative and positive, the dark and the light. And while I tried to allow myself to thrive, I found I wasn’t as preoccupied with the stressful terrors that plagued my days.

Slowly-and we’re talking snail pace-I reframed my experience to create a more objective picture. I let my reactions be reactions-not reality. I let go. I learned how to exist in the stress, to fight in the arena.

And yes, I got my ass kicked. But sometimes the lesson you need to learn has to come when you have been stripped of all your reservations.

I can’t neglect parts of myself just because I think I know better. Putting coffee out for the ancestors and the spirits in the good times is great, but brushing them off in the bad times is arrogant. Make space and time for your spirituality, your mental well-being. Make space for your emotions. Make space for yourself. You deserve to live your life. And that life may be hard at times. But you can make it through. You have to step back and believe. Then get back in the arena and keep fighting.

My People! An Announcement!

Long time no speak!

It’s time for our monthly update, I think, and that means I need to bring some good news to the table!

Mark your calendars now, because a fresh new take from me is coming to an online retailer near you! I get to announce that my book, A Book About Life, will be published later this winter!

I’ve been away from the blogaverse because I’ve been deep in an editing phase, and that’s been delight (what with finals and internship and classes and work) but that means I’m doing everything I can to make my work as good as it can be.

So what even is A Book About Life?

Well, think about Pride and Prejudice. Think about survivor tales. Think about New Girl. Think about social work.

And there you have it! But in case you want more, here’s my blurb about what you can expect.

Alicia Whittemore graduated college with three things: a master’s in clinical social work, a quarter of a million dollars in student loans and the hope of saving the world. All her studying seemed to pay off when she landed a job at St. Vincent Memorial, but her troubles were only beginning. When a tempestuous board member and a heart-breaking patient emergency prove to be too much for Alicia, she must come to the realization that there’s so much more to life-and love-than settling for stability.

A Book About Life centers around a millennial trying to find her way though the world after college. She’s a hospital social worker who chooses routine over anything adventurous.

Millennial main character? Check (she’s in her upper 20s)

LGBTQ main character? Check (She’s ACE!)

Ride or die best friend? Check (they met doing a play)

Mr. Darcy character? Check (he means well, but yeesh)

Honest portrayals of mental health? Check (it gets heavy sometimes)

A Book About Life is a tale inspired by my love of Jane Austen, and my work as an MSW student. Each character is based on someone I know, someone I care about. Each situation is discussed with honesty and with respect, but with the depth that I kept completely real. This book contains empowerment after sexual assault, after domestic violence and after self-harm.

I took what I know-working with survivors of intimate partner violence-and I showed how those things play into the life of a very new, very conflicted working millennial. Based on truth, wrapped in emotion, it’s a book that shows the caffeine addicted, trauma informed career that I’ve inserted myself into.

A Book About Life, the New Adult Fiction book about, well, life, comes out this winter!

Communication

Past me had a very smart idea, that I think I need to keep coming back to.

I know a bunch of people believe that Mercury Retrograde is a bunch of hooey, and that’s fine. This post is for me. I don’t think of it as a cosmic scapegoat that you can blame when you’re being less than optimal. I view it as light shining through the cracks in your life, in the various aspects that need work.

For me, this has been communication (as is rightly so) but communication with not only other people, but myself as well.

Lately my life has played out like the theme song from FRIENDS:

So no one told you life was gonna be this way.
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke,
Your love life’s DOA.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear.
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month
Or even your year…

I keep circling back tot he negative. The things that don’t work, won’t work, can’t seem to go right. And I think that’s super human to be that way sometimes. You can only see so far into the tunnel and you have to keep trying to move forward even when that’s the last thing you want to do.

I made a decision that has long term consequences this week. I was miserable-the kind that comes from pushing way beyond what you can handle. Every little stressor was getting to me, every moment too much to handle. By the time I’d had my third panic attack of the week, I knew I was in over my head. So I looked at my arm, where my tattoo waits faithfully and I made a choice.

I wish for this.

Image result for i wish for this

It wasn’t something I could say honestly at the time and I promised myself that I would make changes when I couldn’t say it and mean it. So I did. I got out of the crappy situation. I chose my health and happiness over everything else.

Because sometimes self-care feels like the most selfish thing you can do-but you need to do it anyway.

So I’m back to the beginning. I’m ready to try a new path. I know I will be facing a lot of uphill battles, but that’s okay.

Image result for it is possible to commit no mistakes
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” -Captain Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation

This quote came back into my life recently and I’ve relied on it as much as I have my tattoo. Because this life, it’s not fair. It’s not something that you reach a level of “better” and everything works out, smooth and good. It’s messy. It’s painful. It’s confusing and frustrating and beautiful and glorious. But you only get this one life.

Image result for you only get one life and it's your duty to live

So my challenge to the world, to myself, this week (and beyond) is to find the thing that makes you unhappy: your job, your major, your self-care habits, your wardrobe, whatever it is. And make a change. Yes, it’s scary. It’s hard. It’s brutal sometimes. But this is life. And if you only get one, would you rather spend it miserable or would you rather take chances that makes you happier?

In Five Years

Five years ago, I opened this blog. I took a chance on letting the world see my inner thoughts. From there, it became a place to rant, to escape, to process. I changed majors, graduated college, moved across the country, began and ended law school, started a masters degree and have made some beautiful memories.

I wanted to do a little “back in the day”, just to see how different things really are.

Big Things in 2014:
Top Movies: American Sniper, Maleficent, Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Top Songs: Happy, Dark Horse, All About that Bass, Blank Space
Culture Phenomenon: The Ice Bucket Challenge
Oldest Human: 111 year old Alexander Imich (who survived the Holocaust and Soviet gulags)
Internet: Bots outnumbered humans for the first time (this would be relevant in 2016)
Time’s Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

I feel like the fact that this was only 5 years ago blows my mind. So much has changed since then-far beyond the top entertainment. Who knew that in just a handful of years, I’d be politically savvy, I’d be trauma-informed and interning as a master’s student?

The journey has been wild, folks. But that’s how you know it’s gonna be a good story.