Saturday, 30 April 2011

Edit, Woman, Edit!

3 Reasons Why I Did Not Self-Publish
By Pandora Poikilos

Now there's a phrase I've been hearing and I'm bound to keep hearing more from my publisher in the near future as I work on my second novel, Frequent Traveler. Even if you have just joined Peace from Pieces, you already know that a lot has been happening. My first novel Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out has been on sale for more than 10 days and still there doesn't seem to be enough places to network and blab about it. There have been a lot of questions about how I got to this point and of course, the fervent debate of why I did not choose the route of self-publishing.

Honestly, I experimented with self-publishing when I first started Dora's Essentials back in November 2010. But the response was lukewarm, nothing like what other self-published authors were boasting about. Obviously enough I was doing something wrong or there was a missing ingredient in how I was doing things. Hence, I stayed adamant on the search for a publisher to spot me and who could guide me along the way. Thankfully enough, I have been blessed with someone who is ever patiently guiding me round the publishing world. I speak for myself but there is just one too many things to do when it comes to selling your writing. For instance ...

It's not how you see it
If you are very clear that you do not wish to self-publish and tirelessly keep writing to make sure a publisher spots you, be prepared. First with a manuscript and two for the response it will create and in some cases for the response it will not create. Along the way, you'll face at least two rejection slips or more and some of these will be very harsh, it'll even have you considering an alternative career. So, if you need to tape a stick under your chin as you work then so be it because there will be more than one time when you will have to chin up and move on to the next rejection slip. There are some publishers who will be kind enough to indicate how you can improve, others will send you a standard rejection slip while even others won't say anything at all. What does such rejection teach you? If someone has offered you pointers on how to improve your story or writing, digest it. Take a step back and dive in to see what others are seeing. Yes, your manuscript is complete. Yes, you've put in loads of time and effort. That's what you say. Someone who is going to pay you money for it might not share this opinion with you. You see the world your way and it's great, just don't expect everyone to be on the same page all the time.

Edit, Edit, Edit
I cannot say this enough (and neither can my publisher). You write. People read. People like. People pay. It's very simple. No grand theory attached to it. Just because you've written a book, it doesn't make you an English expert. Always check your language and it really wouldn't hurt to keep it simple. If you are not sure about whether what you are writing is getting through, get help. A friend, an online review buddy ... there's more than one way to do this. Myself, I have a very big problem with tenses and in my excitement of delivering my story, my characters tend to drift between past and present tense which can be very confusing to the reader. When putting the final touches to Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out I sat with five close friends whom I trusted enough to tear the story apart without tearing me to pieces. And even after that, it got churned and stirred by editor Sonia Rumzi and again by my publisher. Each was a different age, came from a different background resulting in some severe edits. Unless it is absolutely detrimental to the story or your identity as a writer that a section cannot be changed, listen. You write. They read. It must make sense to the reader.

Keep exploring
You've written a book. You want a publishing house to pick it up. There is more than one way to do this. Hence, don't stop learning. You've finished writing a book, it doesn't make you the next big thing to hit the publishing world BUT maybe it will. Explore as much as you can. The Internet has made this possible. Use it. Instead of moaning in 10 different emails about a how a publisher is yet to pick up your magnificent book, go to 10 different sites that will tell you how to get your work out in the open. Whichever route you pick, self-publishing or having a publisher, bear in mind that you will still have work to do. Just like the cast of Glee are at their filming set at 6am to practice dance routines so you too will have to work very hard beyond just writing. We live in changing times. People have more choices than they had before. Something new pops up everyday if not every hour. There's a lot of din you're going to have to get through to get to the people you want to get to. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? Not at all. Good luck!

This Is Good

Author Unknown

There is a story about a king in Africa who had a close friend that he grew up with. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) and remarking, "This is good!"

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king. The friend had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, for after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation the friend remarked as usual, "This is good!". To which the king replied, "No, this is not good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail.

About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took them to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to the stake.

As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone that was less than whole. So untying the king they sent him on his way.

As he returned home, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right" he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."

"No," his friend replied, "this is good!"

"What do you mean, 'this is good'! How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year."

"If I had not been in jail, I would have been with you."

Friday, 29 April 2011

Life Is About ...

Author Unknown

Life isn't about keeping score.
It's not about how many friends you have
Or how accepted you are.
Not about if you have plans this weekend or if you're alone.

It isn't about who you have kissed,
It isn't about who your family is or
how much money they have
Or what kind of car you drive.

Or where you are sent to school.
It's not about how beautiful or ugly you are.
Or what clothes you wear, what shoes you have on,
Or what kind of music you listen to.

It's not about if your hair is blonde, red, black, or brown,
Or if your skin is too light or too dark.
Not about what grades you get how smart you are, how smart
everybody else thinks you are, or how smart
standardized tests say you are.

Life just isn't.

Life is about who you love and who you hurt.
It's about who you make happy or unhappy purposely.
It's about keeping or betraying trust.
It's about friendship, used as a sanctity or as a weapon.

It's about what you say and mean, maybe hurtful, maybe heartening.
It's about starting rumors and contributing to petty gossip.
It's about what judgments you pass and why.
And who your judgments are spread to.

It's about who you've ignored with full control and intention.
It's about jealousy, fear, ignorance, and revenge.
It's about carrying inner hate and love,
letting it grow and spreading it.

But most of all, it's about using your life to touch or poison
other people's hearts in such a way that could have
never occurred alone.

Only you choose the way those hearts are affected, and those
choices are what life's all about.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Words Of Wisdom

Author Unknwon

1. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.

2. Dear God: I have a problem. Sometimes, it's me.

3. Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.

4. There is no key to happiness. The door is always open.

5. Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.

6. Do the math. Count your blessings.

7. Faith is the ability to not panic.

8. Laugh every day, it's like inner jogging.

9. If we worry, we probably didn't pray. If we pray, we probably don't worry.

10. As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day.

11. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

12. The most important things in our homes are the people.

13. When we get tangled up in our problems, be still. God wants us to be still so He can untangle the knots for us.

14. A grudge is a heavy thing to carry.

15. He who dies with the most toys is still dead. And who knows where he has gone?

16. We do not remember days, but moments. Life moves too fast, so enjoy your precious moments.

17. Nothing is real to you until we experience it, otherwise it's just hearsay.

18. It's all right to sit on our pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are done.

19. Surviving and living our life successfully requires courage. The goals and dreams we seek require courage and risk-taking. Learn from the turtle -- it only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.

20. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

A Beautiful Teacup

Author Unknown

One day, a couple shopping for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary came across a beautiful teacup. They said, "May we see that? We've never seen one quite so beautiful." As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke.

"You don't understand," it said. "I haven't always been a teacup. There was a time when I was red and I was clay." My master took me and rolled me and patted me over and over and I yelled out, "let me alone", but he only smiled, "Not yet."

"Then I was placed on a spinning wheel," the teacup said, "and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. Stop it! I'm getting dizzy!" I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, 'Not yet.".

Then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I wondered why he wanted to burn me, and I yelled and knocked at the door. I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as He shook his head, "Not yet."

Finally the door opened, he put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. "There, that's better," I said. And he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. "Stop it, stop it!" I cried. He only nodded, "Not yet."

Then suddenly he put me back into the oven, not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. All the time I could see him through the opening nodding his head saying, "Not yet."

Then I knew there wasn't any hope. I would never make it. I was ready to give up. But the door opened and he took me out and placed me on the shelf. One hour later he handed me a mirror and said, "Look at yourself." And I did. I said, "That's not me; that couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful."

"I want you to remember, then," he said, "I know it hurts to be rolled and patted, but if I had left you alone, you'd have dried up. I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled. I knew it hurt and was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked. I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened; you would not have had any color in your life. And if I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't survive for very long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. You are what I had in mind when I first began with you."

Moral of the story
God knows what He's doing (for all of us).
He is the Potter, and we are His clay.
He will mold us and make us,
So that we may be made into a flawless piece of work
To fulfill His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
And God is faithful; he will not tempt you beyond what you can bear.
(1 Corinthians 10:13)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Judge In NFL Dispute Orders Meditation

By Paula Renaye

I don’t even remember how the subject came up, I think my friend was looking at an online news page and just reading the headlines on her phone, but the title of this post is exactly what she read to me: Judge in NFL Dispute Orders Meditation.

Really? I asked. The judge ordered football players and team owners to meditate? Really?

She looked up at me and we both cracked up.

But, seriously, what a cool idea!

"And your sentence is…you are remanded to the custody of (name a holy person or institution of your choosing) for three years of meditation, and, of course, community service. During your time served, you will pray, discover that the world does not revolve around you, contemplate the real meaning of life, own your role as a responsible adult, discover your higher purpose and determine how you are going to contribute to the betterment of yourself and the world at large."

Just think how different that world would look! I love it!

Of course, the correct word in the news story was mediation, which is what we should all be doing on our own anyway instead of acting like spoiled three-year-olds throwing tantrums about not getting enough candy. I not talking about professional sports squabbles either—I'm talking about all of us.

It's time that each and every one of us start right where we are—in our own bodies and minds—and make the changes we think everyone else needs to. Because only then will our individual worlds become better—and that's how we make it better for everyone!

If we all say "be the change" enough, will we?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Loving Donna

By Ron Eggertsen

It has been said that love is not something you find; it's something you do. Loving Donna is the easiest thing I've ever done in my life.

We've been married to each other for twenty-one years, and we're still newlyweds, if you consider that marriage is supposed to be forever.A year ago, when the phone rang and I answered it, the voice said, "This is Doctor Freeman. Your wife has breast cancer." He spoke matter-of-factly, not mincing any words, although I could tell from his tone that he was not in a matter-of-fact frame of mind.

He is a warm, caring and kindly physician, and this was not an easy phone call to make. He talked to Donna for a few minutes, and when she hung up the phone, the color drained from her face, and we held each other and cried for about five minutes.

She sighed and said, "That's enough of that."

I looked at her. "Okay," I said. "We have cancer. We'll handle it."

In the twelve months since then, Donna has had chemotherapy, a mastectomy, a bone-marrow transplant and radiation. She lost her hair, she lost a breast, she lost her privacy, and she lost the comfort associated with the assumption that tomorrow always comes. Suddenly, all her tomorrows were put on hold, and doled out, piecemeal, until the supply could be reestablished. But she never lost her dignity or her faith. She never gave up, and she never gave in.

We put a small sign on the wall beside her bed. It said: "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms his child." The words of the small sign became our anthem.

The day she returned home after her mastectomy, she looked at herself in the mirror, carefully. Then she shrugged, said, "So that's what I look like," put on her pajamas and got into bed. She looked at herself and saw hope; I saw courage.

She was in the hospital for Easter, Mother's Day and a high school graduation. She missed a lot of other people's lives during an interminable list of medical procedures.
But she gained a lot, too.

She attended the wedding of one of our sons in a motorized wheelchair, wearing a wig and a padded bra, and, next to the bride, she was undoubtedly the most radiant woman there.

And she found out how much her extended family and her neighbors loved her, and how much she meant in the lives of all of us. We received notes and letters and phone calls and mysterious packages of homemade bread and cookies left on our doorstep. Donna said she didn't realize how many people cared about her.

One night, at the lowest point of her physical ordeal, I was in my usual chair in the quiet of her hospital room. She had finished four days of around-the-clock high-dose chemotherapy. Her immune system had been destroyed. Her head was shiny-bald, her eyes glassy, her body thirty pounds lighter and wracked with waves of nausea.

She woke up, and I reached over to touch her hand. I held it, gently, because her skin and veins and every part of her body were as fragile as the petals of a gardenia. If the bone marrow transplant didn't engraft, this was the beginning of the end. If the transplant worked, this was the bottom, and she could start climbing the steep road to recovery.

"Hi," I said. "I love you."

She laughed. "Yeah, sure you do. I'll bet you say that to all your girlfriends."

"Of course I do. Because you're all my girlfriends."

She smiled, the sedatives took over again, and she went back to sleep. Mercifully, she spent most of that week in a drug-induced mental twilight.

Ten days later, her bone marrow had engrafted, and her body was beginning to restore itself. A wonderful volunteer named Nancy came by Donna's room to teach her how to watercolor as part of her recovery therapy. I was in the room, and the lady handed me a brush and paper and paints with the simple command, "Paint something."

I have a great eye for beauty. I know it when I see it. But since elementary school, when I was young and innocent enough to believe that everything I painted was a work of art, I have learned that my hand-eye coordination is limited to the use of a computer keyboard and the TV remote control. I don't draw, and I don't paint.

So I dabbed some colors on the page, and I painted a bouquet of flowers that I pretended was something in the style that Picasso might have done and called "cubist" or Grandma Moses might have done and called "primitive." I was encouraged when Donna and Nancy both recognized them as daffodils, and that they could see seven of them, which is what I had intended.

I had remembered some lyrics from an old ballad that I'd heard more than forty years ago, so I wrote them on the bottom of the picture. I said:

I haven't any mansion;
I haven't any land.
Not one paper dollar to crinkle in my hand.
But I can show you mornings on a thousand hills,
And kiss you, and give you
Seven daffodils.

She put my picture on the wall in her room, and it was like seeing my childhood dreams stuck to the refrigerator door once again. Only this time, it was about life and death and love and hope. She's home now, and life goes on for us. Every day we laugh a little and sometimes we cry a little. And we love a lot.

I love her for all the best reasons that a man loves a woman. In the end, I love her because she makes more of my world and my life than I can make of them by myself.

She loves me for all the simple reasons that a woman loves a man. For quiet nights and sunny days. For shared laughter and common tears. For twenty-one years of dishes and diapers and going to work and coming home and seeing her own future when she looks into my eyes.

And for a picture of seven daffodils.

Never Been Poor, Again

Author Unknown

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month.

This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us baby sat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three potholders to sell for $1. We made $20 on potholders. That month was the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them.

We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be about 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering. The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.

That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes and felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope.

We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silver ware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night. We had two knives that we passed around to whom ever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed. I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time.We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to.

Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said,"Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?"

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."

We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary just said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur to Penang

By Rough Guy’d

By Thursday I had decided to try to go to the twin towers again. Though I had seen them previously from the outside, I knew you could go inside and take a tour of the place and even go on the bridge that links the two towers together. To go inside them didn’t cost you any money but you had to get a ticket anyway due to limited numbers being allowed inside. By the time I managed to get to the city centre with my uncle, it was 10am and I was unfortunately too late to get a ticket. I spent the rest of the day visiting a travel expo as I planned for the next part of my trip after Malaysia.

Seeing as it was the school holidays and the Transformers movie had just recently been released, I went out and bought some tickets for me and my young cousins to see the movie for the next night. The movie turned out to be just what I expected and we all thoroughly enjoyed it, both my cousins, the maid and myself. One thing I learned about life in Malaysia is that a maid is not that uncommon. Many well-off families and even quite a few not so well-off have a maid.

They live in the same house as the family with a separate bathroom and bedroom for their use and they look after all the needs of the family, including cooking, cleaning and looking after the children. The cost of this is not prohibitive either and families are just as likely to have a car as they are to have a maid. After the movie, the kids decided on Tony Romas for dinner, a more western-type cuisine with ribs, pasta and burgers filling us up.

By Saturday, I went up north to Penang with my other uncle. He works a gruelling schedule with half his time spent in Kuala Lumpur living and working by himself and the rest of the time spent at home in Penang with his family. My auntie that came with me to the museum also came along and we stopped at Ipoh along the way for a delicious lunch of local Chinese delicacies. Of all my relatives in Malaysia, this family in Penang are the ones I’m most close to. My mum had always had a very strong relation to my uncle and the feeling was reciprocated by both him and his family. As well as this, all three of my cousins here were much closer to my age and I had always felt close to them and we spent a great deal of time catching up.

The next day was spent at the Queensbay shopping mall. Through a chance glance at the newspaper, I discovered there was an exhibition at the mall and other than the agreeable price (free), it was an opportunity to see something of cultural worth, pop culture that is...

It was an exhibition of Transformers through the ages and while not really the type of culture that I came all this way to see, it was still something that I was keen to look at having grown up playing with Transformer toys. It ended up being a lot more interesting than I first expected with lots of nostalgia but also lots of newer items such as the motorbikes from the movie.

Monday, 25 April 2011

How Do You Juggle?

Author Unknown

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends and spirit and you're keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. How?

- Don't undermine your worth by comparing yourself with others. It is because we are different that each of us is special.

- Don't set your goals by what other people deem important. Only you know what is best for you.

- Don't take for granted the things closest to your heart. Cling to them as you would your life, for without them, life is meaningless.

- Don't let your life slip through your fingers by living in the past or for the future. By living your life one day at a time, you live ALL the days of your life.

- Don't give up when you still have something to give. Nothing is really over until the moment you stop trying.

- Don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. It is this fragile thread that binds us each together.

- Don't be afraid to encounter risks. It is by taking chances that we learn how to be brave.

- Don't shut love out of your life by saying it's impossible to find. The quickest way to receive love is to give; the fastest way to lose love is to hold it too tightly; and the best way to keep love is to give it wings.

- Don't run through life so fast that you forget not only where you've been, but also where you are going.

- Don't forget that a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

- Don't be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.

- Don't use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Birthday Blessings - Thank You!

By Pandora Poikilos

So, I turned another year older, my youth fading in numbers and yet growing in my heart. On the downside, I have yet another round of hospitals, needles and doctors for this week. On the upside, this is probably the last round for a long time to come.

And in receiving so many birthday blessings, it gives me joy to share some of the gifts with all of you. So here goes and in no particular order ...

Peas gave me two cards. He made me go weak in the knees with a custom made "peas and carrots" birthday card with the following quote from Henry Van Dyke, "Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Then, he melted my heart with an absolutely sweet congratulations card for getting published, Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out which incidentally was also released on my birthday.

Then there was the gift from Roy Durham when he tagged me as a Versatile Blogger, two times in less than a year, I was ecstatic!

I learnt to play the piano as a child. Unfortunately, I never let it grow into anything more than a childhood routine. So when I got this next gift, it was touching, reminiscent and oh so very soothing. Here's Awaken by Travis Von Hoopes.

To add to all of this, I was a featured blogger on Bloggers, tagged by a fellow blogger - Abhisek Panda, Peace from Pieces made it past 45,000 hits and I received loads of wishes from so many of you. Thank you, thank you for one of the bestest birthdays ever!

Friday, 22 April 2011

In Memoriam - Tim Hetherington & Chris Hondros

For all those who have taken on the underrated and often unrecognised task of being our eyes to the rest of the world, our prayers and thoughts are with you.

Sourced from msnbc

20 April 2011 - An Oscar-nominated war-film director and a second prize-winning photojournalist died covering a battle between rebels and Libyan government forces in the western city of Misrata on Wednesday.

Two other Western photographers apparently working alongside them were wounded.

British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the 2010 documentary "Restrepo" about U.S. soldiers on an outpost in Afghanistan, was killed, said his U.S.-based publicist, Johanna Ramos Boyer.

Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, died later Wednesday after suffering a serious head wound, according to Getty's director of photography, Pancho Bernasconi.
Neither of the men had protective gear with them, colleague Andre Liohn told The New York Times. The report said Liohn was at the triage center where medics treated the injured journalists after the attack.

Protective equipment has been difficult to bring into Libya from Egypt, The Times report said, as customs officials have thwarted the transport of equipment like helmets and flak jackets.

Doctors said two other photographers were treated for shrapnel wounds: Guy Martin, a Briton affiliated with the Panos photo agency, and Michael Christopher Brown, a New York-based photographer originally from Skagit Valley, Wash.

The bodies of Hetherington, 41, and Hondros, 41, were taken from Misrata to Benghazi on Thursday by the International Organization for Migration aboard the Ionian Spirit, which had been brought in to evacuate civilians from Misrata, according to a statement by Human Rights Watch.

Jeremy Haslam, a coordinator for the Geneva-based organization, said the boat had more than 1,000 evacuees, including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

Martin had shrapnel wounds and was undergoing surgery Wednesday night, The New York Times reported. Brown had shrapnel wounds but his life was reportedly not in danger.

The photographers were reporting from inside the only rebel-held city in western Libya, which has come under weeks of relentless shelling by government troops.

Hetherington tweeted Tuesday: "In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO."

The circumstances of the incident were unclear. Statements from Hetherington's family and from Peter N. Boukaert of Human Rights Watch in Geneva, said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Leila Fadel, a Washington Post reporter who was at the hospital, reported that Hetherington was rushed from the battle by ambulance along with rebel fighters. He was taken to a triage tent next to the hospital, she said, and appeared pale and was bleeding heavily. He was pronounced dead some 15 minutes after his arrival, according to her account in The Washington Post.

"Tim was in Libya to continue his ongoing multimedia project to highlight humanitarian issues during time of war and conflict," Hetherington's family said in a statement. "He will be forever missed."

Hetherington was best known as co-director of the documentary film "Restrepo" with Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm." The film tells the story of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company in the 173rd Airborne Combat Team on its deployment in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. The title refers to the platoon outpost, named after a popular soldier, Juan Restrepo, who was killed early in the fighting.

Hetherington's coverage of American soldiers in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan also won him the World Press Photo of the Year Award, one of three World Press prizes he has received.

"He was an amazing talent and special human being," Sundance Institute spokeswoman Brooks Addicott said of Hetherington, whose "Restrepo" won Sundance's top documentary award. "We send our sincere condolences to the Hetherington family, to Sebastian Junger and Daniela Petrova, and to Tim's many admirers all over the world."

Hetherington was born in Liverpool and studied literature and photojournalism at Oxford University. Known for his gutsy ability to capture conflict zones on film, his credits included working as a cameraman on the documentaries "Liberia: An Uncivil War" and "The Devil Came on Horseback." He also produced pieces for ABC News' "Nightline."

The White House in a prepared statement said it was "saddened" to learn of Hetherington's death.
"Journalists across the globe risk their lives each day to keep us informed, demand accountability from world leaders, and give a voice to those who would not otherwise be heard," the White House said. "The Libyan government and all governments across the world must take steps to protect journalists doing this vital work."

Hondros had covered wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has been widely published around the world. In 2003, Hondros made a picture of a Liberian government soldier with an RPG launcher that became one of the most iconic documents of that civil war.

In 2006, Hondros was awarded the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award by the Overseas Press Club for a series of images from Tal Afar, Iraq, in which U.S. soldiers mistakenly opened fire on an Iraqi family’s car. The next year, in a video interview with , Hondros said "I’m glad that those pictures exist, because it documents a circumstance that happens a lot there, and that people need to know about."

Hondros was born in New York City and moved to Fayetteville, N.C., as a child. He studied English literature at North Carolina State University and got a master's degree at Ohio University School of Visual Communication. He worked as a photographer for his hometown paper, the Fayetteville Observer and from there came to New York. He worked for the AP, freelanced and eventually became senior staff photographer at Getty.

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists in the Middle East and North Africa, told Reuters this week that the number of attacks on the media in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of the year was "unprecedented."

"This hasn't happened before, not with this intensity and not with this frequency," he said of the attacks.

Dayem said 14 journalists have been killed worldwide so far this year, with 10 of those deaths in the Middle East and North Africa. Hundreds of other attacks on the media in the region included detentions, destruction of equipment and death threats.

While the Committee to Protect Journalists said press freedom has improved in Egypt and Tunisia since protesters ousted the presidents of both countries this year, it described the situation as only graduating from "horrendous to bad."

Angel With An Attitude

By Susan Farr Fahncke

My sister, Angel, hated him when he first arrived. He was old, grouchy, and loud. He was not the cat she had wanted.

Angel was terminally ill, and longed for a "buddy" to keep her company. Cancer is a lonely disease, no matter how many people love and care for you, and I understood her need for a new pet.

At only 28, my baby sister didn't have much time left, and our family wanted to give her anything -- anything at all that she asked for. If there was even the most remote possibility it would put a smile on her sad and hopeless face, we would do it.

However, the cat my mother brought home for her was not a fluffy, adorable baby. He was huge. And he "argued" with everything - with the same ornery tone as Angel did.

Right away I figured them to be kindred spirits. It took Angel a little longer to make the connection. It also took "Oreo" a while.

The black and white "buddy" for Angel wanted nothing to do with her, nor she with him.

"Take him back, Mom!" she ordered after only a couple of days. "He hates me and he never shuts UP!"

Mom refused, and Oreo stayed, complaining loudly all the while. But he and Angel had no choice but to get used to one another. I think when you meet someone exactly like you, you either love them or you hate them.

I first began to notice a change a couple of weeks after Angel got Oreo. Coming in every morning to spend the day with Angel, I usually found him waiting at the door, bolting past me the instant the door opened wide enough. Tossing a cranky "Yow!" at me, I gathered he reciprocated Angel's feelings for him.

Until, the day she fell.

Her morning caregiver didn't show, and she was so happy to have some "alone time" that she didn't call me or anyone else to let us know. Because her brain tumor had paralyzed her entire right side, she often fell, so she could never be left alone.

I pulled up and noticed all the blinds were still shut and immediately knew something was wrong. Running to the door, heart racing, I unlocked it and the first thing I saw was the pool of blood by the door. Rushing to Angel's room, I found her unconscious, the right side of her face and head cut and swollen. Oreo was standing right on top of her, "yelling" at me as if to say, "WHERE have you been?" His back was arched, his face intently watching her as I stumbled through her door. He was rigid and protective, and if a cat can have a "worried" expression, this one did.

Angel was never the same after that fall and her time on Earth drew to an end only a couple of months later. But her guardian feline never left her side.

Whenever I was able to get Angel into the living room for some sunshine and a new view, Oreo followed us. The second I got her seated or lying down, he climbed gracefully to his place of guardianship - wrapped around her neck. With disdain, he would glare at anyone who tried to move him, including Angel, so she just got used to having an animal wrapped around her neck at all times. I don't think she envisioned a "buddy" as committed as this one, but I had to admit, the cat had tenacity.

As time went by, she became too weak to leave her bed. Oreo remained draped across her chest and neck, leaving only to eat and make brief visits outside. He slept continually in the same place, and we often had to shove him off Angel's face so she could breathe. They became bonded in an inexplicable magic that I can only call a miracle, guided by God's hand.

During Angel's last 24 hours on earth, Oreo didn't leave his "spot" on my sister once. He never ate, never went outside, never moved from his place. Somehow he knew her time was near and he was determined to be her protector until God took his place and brought her home.

Angel died surrounded by people who loved her, in my mother's home, overflowing with love and earthly angels seeing my sister off. And Oreo was with her to the last breath.

I miss my sister terribly, but know she is in good hands and I will see her again. I am not the only one. When I visit our mother, Oreo always seems to be restless, lost without Angel.

Angel and Oreo ended up being true kindred spirits. What at first came in a disappointing package, in the end, was a true-blue, fiercely loyal protector and guardian angel.

An angel with an attitude. A black and white angel named Oreo.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Best Things In Life

By Jennifer Oliver

"Steve, what am I going to do?" Mike bemoaned.

Our friend, Mike, was going to finally see his boys. Separated from his wife, who lived on an entirely different continent, it had been over a year since he'd seen his boys. They were flying in to spend one week with him.

The fear on his face was real. He was apparently not used to having them to himself. Especially for one whole week.

"I don't have the money to take them anywhere," he said. "I was hoping to go on down to that water park in New Braunfels."

"That place is expensive, Mike!" Stephen retorted. "You don't need to spend a lot of money to have fun! Take them to the springs. Fill up your gas tank and go find some historic sites. You can borrow my tent and go camping."

Judging from the distaste on our friend's face, none of those suggestions were worthy of consideration. Stubbornly ingrained in him was the idea that the amount of money splurged on his children equaled the amount of love he'd get in return.

"What do your boys like to do?" I ventured.

He shrugged, "I don't know."

"No, I mean, what are their hobbies?"

"I'm not sure."

My heart filled with compassion for his boys. And for their clueless father. They connected mainly through sporadic, expensive phone calls and through infrequent exchanges of snail mail. Mike wanted to make an impression on his boys. That he was successful here in the United States and could afford to take them anywhere they wanted.

He just didn't get it.

I remember as a child the things my family did that cost practically nothing at all. A spontaneous picnic under a generous oak, pulling off the beaten path to pursue a trail of signs that led us to a barn filled with dusty treasures. Taking walks around the block with my parents after dinner.

One Christmas stood out when, at a loss as to what to give his girls, my Dad presented each of us with a wrapped shoe box inside of which was a slip of paper that simply said, "I love you."

I can't even remember what else I opened that Christmas morning.

One Sunday afternoon, while on the freeway, Stephen veered off to revisit a small town we hadn't seen in a while and stopped at an empty city park. There, the boys gleefully sampled monkey bars and listless swings. We brushed a layer of leaves off the concrete picnic table and ate sandwiches we had brought from home. Afterwards, they strayed to the edge of a creek, pocketing unusual stones, and swirling patterns in the shallow water with sticks.

I remember with fondness the time when Stephen, an Eagle Scout, was anxious to instill a love for camping to the older boys, ages three and four at the time.

Across the street from our home, under a cluster of gnarled oak trees, Stephen spread out fake grass turf, erected a tent on it, and stuffed it with sleeping bags and blankets and pillows. He even placed a potty chair at the entrance of the tent.

It was unusual spring weather--chilly with light, misting rain. The boys each carried a battery-powered lantern with them to light their way to the tent.

In lawn chairs around a small campfire that Stephen had prepared, the boys roasted marshmallows for the first time on antique extendable forks we had collected over the years in anticipation of that very moment. Stephen pointed out constellations and identified a variety of nighttime sounds. We told stories and sang to an audience of trees. And for a while there, with the boys in our laps, we quietly gazed at the campfire's hypnotic dance, the crackling and smoke filling the silence.

Afterwards, we directed the boys to a small picnic table Stephen had fashioned out of tree stumps. They brushed their teeth there by lantern-light, removed their shoes, and squealed loudly when they entered the tent, jumping up and down. Stephen wasted no time joining their merrymaking.

It's a sight that will burn brightly in my memory for a long, long time.

Stephen liked to earn a little pocket change on occasion by delivering antiques for a dealer friend to various parts of Texas. He'd pack up all four kids and treat them to these road trips. Someone asked him why he didn't just stick the kids in daycare during those times.

His answer?

"Where else can a father spend quality time with his children and get paid for it?"

It's true what they say. Enjoy them while they're young. The years will zip by, and before you can say "knee replacement surgery," they're picking out a retirement home for you.

Our son, Cody, overheard Stephen make a comment about someone who "just needed to go out and get a life."

"What's a life, Dad?"

"It's when you take each day and make the most of it."

"Oh, I see!"

We don't know if he really saw. But we do know that time is the most important thing one can spend on a child.

Just don't spend it all in one place.

Life Is

By Mother Teresa

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

All The World's A Stage

By William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Just Say Thank You

By Paula Renaye

For a short time, while I was separated and coming to terms with the fact that I was going to be divorced, I did a little substitute teaching in high school. At that same time, I was working fast and furious on myself and my inner demons, and was quite immersed in Caroline Myss' audio program on self-esteem.

One day, I wound up in the home-ec class (no idea what it's called these days) and there was no lesson plan. So, I asked the teacher if I could share the self-esteem material I was working with. She was thrilled at the idea, so I launched into talking about the points that were really hitting home for me and that I had a fair grasp on at the time.

It was a big class, but the kids (girls and boys) became interested in the message really quickly—they really got into it. (I wish every high school made a self-esteem class mandatory!)

At one point, however, someone came into the room and delivered retake photos. Of course, those who got them, wanted to see them and they started talking. A girl near the front was looking at her photos and scowling, but her friends were saying how great they were. Every time a friend would give a compliment, the girl would explain how the friend was wrong and how the photos were really awful.

When I'd heard enough, I stopped them and gave a short lecture on arguing with someone who gives you a compliment. I explained that if someone says "that's a cute dress," you do not say "oh, this old thing." Nor do you launch into a dissertation on how you got it at the thrift store for 75 cents. No, you simply say "thank you."

I told them that by refusing to accept the compliment, not only were they minimizing themselves, they were devaluing the person giving it. "Furthermore," I said, "by refuting the statement, you're effectively saying that the person was stupid for suggesting that your cheap thrift store dress is nice. Stop it! Nobody asked where it came from or how much you paid for it. Your friend simply shared her spontaneous appreciation of something you selected—she liked it, she liked your choice—and you better not let your insecurities reject her kindness. You better be respectful and have the good manners to accept the compliment."

I was a little tough, sure, but I made my point, and I followed it up with an appropriate pep talk about loving yourself and such. They were highly attentive until the bell rang. As the class filed out, I don't know what was said, all I saw was one girl whack another on the shoulder and say, "Just say thank you." Yeah, I got a little choked up to realize that they really had heard what I'd said. Yes, it had mattered that I took the time to talk to them about these simple life matters.

So, when you have the chance to make a difference, take it.

When you think of something nice to say, say it.

And when somebody gives you a compliment…

Just say "thank you."

And live your joy!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

I Know The Shepherd

Author Unknown

There was once a Shakespearean actor who was known everywhere for his one-man shows of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a dramatic reading of Psalm 23.

Each night, without exception, as the actor began his recitation - "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want"..the crowd would listen attentively. And then, at the conclusion of the Psalm, they wold rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor's incredible ability to bring the verse to life.

But one night, just before the actor was to offer his customary recital of Psalm 23, a young man from the audience spoke up. "Sir, do you mind if tonight I recite Psalm 23?" The actor was quite taken back by this unusual request, but he allowed the young man to come forward and stand front and center on the stage to recite the Psalm, knowing that the ability of this unskilled youth would be no match for his own talent.

With a soft voice, the young man began to recite the words of the Psalm. When he was finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation as on other nights. All that could be heard was the sound of weeping. The audience had been so moved by the young man's recitation that every eye was full of tears.

Amazed by what he had heard, the actor said to the youth, "I don't understand. I have been performing Psalm 23 for years. I have a lifetime of experience and training - but I have never been able to move an audience as you have tonight. Tell me, what is your secret?" The young man quietly replied, "Well sir, you know the Psalm...I know the Shepherd."

Make Me A Paper Bag

Things You'll Need
Rubber Stamps
Acrylic Paints, Crayons
Wrapping Paper
Acrylic Paints, Acrylic Brushes
Pencils, Ink Pads, Markers, Crayons
Scrap Papers, White Or Brown Kraft Paper

What You'll Need To Do
1 - Cut a piece of heavy brown or white paper (craft paper or butcher paper) to 9 1/2 inches by 15 inches.

2 - Position the paper on a flat work surface (any patterned or decorated side should be facing down) so that the short edges are to your left and right. Fold the bottom edge up 2 inches and sharply crease the fold. Unfold.

3 - Use a ruler to find the center points of the top and bottom edges. Make two small pencil marks at the top edge of the paper, 1/2 inch to the left and 1/2 inch to the right of the center point. Repeat on the bottom edge. Turn the paper over and make the same marks on this side as well.

4 - Bring the right edge toward the center of the paper so that it lines up with the marks made to the left of the center point. Sharply crease the resulting right fold. Unfold the flap.

5 - Repeat step 4 for the left edge. Make sure that the left edge lines up with the marks made to the right of the center point. Turn the paper over.

6 - Bring the left and right edges to the same points as you did in steps 4 and 5. This time, however, glue the entire left edge to the right edge at the point where the edges overlap by an inch. Do not crease the edges. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

7 - Place the seamed side of the bag down. Push the left and right creases in about 1 1/2 inches so that they fold in toward the center. Lay the bag flat and crease the sides of the bag so that the folds are each sandwiched between the front and back of the bag.

8 - Locate the line of the crease made in step 2. This is the bottom of the bag. Fold the bottom edge of the bag up 4 inches and sharply crease. When you release the paper, the bottom edge of the bag should be slightly erect.

9 - Open up the bottom edges of the bag so that an upright, open-ended box is formed. The box should open up along the fold lines made in step 2 and this fold line should be touching the bag's surface. If you look down into the box, you should see two paper triangles facing each other.

10 - Push the side creases of the box inward and bring either free edge of the box down to lie flat. Bring the remaining free edge down on top of the other and glue it into place. Allow the glue to dry thoroughly and open the bag.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur City Centre

By Rough Guy’d

My first day in Kuala Lumpur by myself as my young cousins went to school and my uncle went to work so I took a ride with my uncle to the city centre and explored the KLCC. One thing that I noticed about the centre was the amount of dripping opulence that could be found here. While I look back fondly on my time in Malaysia with its tasty local food where a full meal costs less than a coffee at Starbucks, the area around KLCC was definitely not that.

Almost every large and over-priced brand from Dolce and Gabbana to Armani, this was not the type of place to be shopping for a young poor backpacker. On top of that, I was not particularly interested in buying things so it didn’t take me long to leave the area and go to the Chinatown area.

The Chinatown area I found much more interesting with interesting little stalls selling all manner of things and much more sights to see. I spent my time visiting the various mosques around the area and seeing some of the more famous landmarks such as Merdaka square.

The following day I decided to take it a bit more easier as following a thirteen hour walk in the hot tropical sun for most of it, I was a bit tired. As it was, I just took the time to walk to one of my auntie’s home who lived nearby.

On Wednesday, one of my aunties decided to join me and we went together to the Muzium Negara, or the national museum of Malaysia. While the museum was interesting, the thing I noticed the most was the distinct lean that the museum took on their history. This was something that I had picked up in Melaka as well and while I’m no historian, I could tell through their exhibits an underlying tone of racism or prejudice that extols the virtues of the native Malay to the exclusion of all others including Chinese and Indians and almost makes it seem like they are an unwelcome inclusion in this otherwise happy little slice of paradise.

This was not blatant in your face type of racism but from stories that I had heard from my own parents and their reasons for leaving Malaysian in the first place, I could tell what I was seeing. This is not to say that Malaysia is a terribly racist country or that it isn’t worth visiting, far from it, but this was something that I picked up. Going throughout Malaysia, I never had the sense of being an outsider (other than being a foreign tourist), with most of the prejudice aimed at their own people and mainly centred around their political freedom.

Coming back home early that day, we had hoped to go to the local night market. One thing I learned in Kuala Lumpur was that night markets were a nightly thing and massive but they moved around every night, with a big one in each area the same day every week.

This meant that if you lived nearby, you’d be able to plan to visit the local night market easily and if you lived really close to it and wanted to go out, then you’d be out of luck thanks to the heavy traffic. Unfortunately a heavy thunderstorm put paid to our plans and we ended up staying in instead.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Friend Or Acquaintance?

Author Unknown

There is a difference between being an acquaintance and being a friend. An acquaintance is someone whose name you know, who you see every now and then, who you probably have something in common with and who you feel comfortable around.

It's a person that you can invite to your home and share things with. But they are people who you don't share your life with, whose actions sometimes you don't understand because you don't know enough about them.

On the other hand, a friend is someone you love. Not that you are "in love" with them, but you care about them and you think about them when they are not there. The people you are reminded of when you see something they might like, and you know this because you know them so well. They are the people whose pictures you have and whose faces are in your head regardless.

Friends are the people you feel safe around because you know they care about you. They call just to see how you are doing, because a friend doesn't need an excuse. They tell you the truth, the first time, and you do the same. You know that if you have a problem, they are there to listen.

Friends are the people who won't laugh at you or hurt you, and if they do hurt you they try hard to make it up to you. They are the people you love, regardless of whether you realize it.

Friends are the people you cried with when you got rejected from colleges and during the last song at the prom and at graduation. They are the people that when you hug them, you don't think about how long to hug and who's going to be the first one to let go.

Maybe they are the people that hold the rings at your wedding, or maybe they are the people who give you away at your wedding, or maybe they are the people you marry. Maybe they are the people who cry at your wedding because they are happy or because they are proud.

They are the people who stop you from making mistakes and help you when you do. They are are the people whose hand you can hold, or you can hug or give them a kiss and not have it be awkward because they understand the things you do and they love you for them.

They stick with you and stand by you. They hold your hand. They watch you live and you watch them live and you learn from them. Your life is not the same without them.

I Love You

Author Unknown

They have been married for a long time. As usual they have their ups and downs. One day they had a big fight over his long working hours and things are falling apart. He was disappointed and she was angry.

After one week of silent treatment from his wife, he approached her with papers and pencils. He suggested that both of them sit down on the dining table and write down on paper what they are not happy about each other. They will then exchange the papers and discuss.

So the wife started to write without looking up because she has a lot to write about her frustration. The husband took a long look at the wife and he too started to write. After fifteen minutes of writing, they look at each other and exchange the papers.

The husband looked at the paper full of complaints. She was angry. When the wife looked at his paper, she was embarrassed and quickly tears away her own paper. On his paper, he wrote for two full pages:

"I love you, honey"

Think Before You Speak

Author Unknown

Today before you think of saying an unkind word
Think of someone who can't speak

Before you complain about the taste of your food
Think of someone who has nothing to eat

Before you complain about your husband or wife
Think of someone who's crying out to God for companion

Today before you complain about life
Think of someone who went too early to heaven

Before you complain about your children
Think of someone who desires children but they're barren

Before you argue about your dirty house didn't clean or sweep
Think of the people who are living in the streets

Before whining about the distance you drive
Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet

And when you are tired and complain about your job
Think of the unemployed, the disabled and those who wished they had your job

But before you think of pointing the finger or condemning another
Remember that not one of us are without sin and we all answer to one maker

And when depressing thoughts seem to get you down
Put a smile on your face and thank God you're alive and still around

Life is a gift Live it
Enjoy it
Celebrate it
And fulfill it.

And while you are at it give love to someone today
Love someone with what you do and the words you say
Love is not meant to be kept locked inside of us and hidden
So give it away "Give Love to someone today!"

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Great Expectations

3 Things You Must Expect, From Yourself
By Pandora Poikilos

Charles Dickens had one of the hardest childhoods any child would ever know. He worked long hours for very little money to help his family and very few people thought anything good would come from such a debt ridden family. And yet, centuries later, with his work still influencing so many of us, this is a fact one would find hard to believe. If anything, Great Expectations has taught us to believe that things aren't always what they seem and most times life will surely give you the expected in unexpected ways.

Years ago, when I had lost everything and left only with the clothes on my back because I had trusted the wrong people, a family member told me that once they had had a lot of hope for me. But crippled with so many failures, a rare medical condition which no one understood and not turning out the way they had wanted, I was now a failure. There was no more hope for me, she said. She then let out a series of dramatic sobs to the point one would have thought someone had died. I crumbled. Even if I hadn't felt like a failure before, her words crushed me to the point of insignificance. I sort solace with two of my oldest friends. Both have been around even before I was diagnosed with BIH, stayed on as the pieces fell apart and irrelevant of distance, time or issue, both offered hope. Every time we spoke, they would listen, they would comfort but two reminders were constantly drilled into my thick skull and depressed emotions. The first was "you do not give up on hope, ever". The second was "pick up a pen and write". Now, two days away from the launch of my very first novel, it still feels surreal and yet, it is happening.

I first wrote Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out as a blog post. The title seemed apt as I was on the brink of my shunt surgery. When I actually received comments, I thought, "impossible", people were actually reading my work and were asking for more, and so it bloomed. One article to my very first novel. I had been sending out Frequent Traveler (which will now be my second novel) for months and months, each time it was rejected with a politely worded letter that my work was suited for some other publishing house. Then I thought, instead of taking myself apart about the rejections, I would take the story apart and send out Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out, instead. A fellow writer said, keep writing out the chapters, someone would be bound to spot it. When my publisher first wrote in and indicated interest, I thought "no, I must be dreaming". I read the email at least three times, closed it and opened it again just to make sure I was reading it right. So, here's the second expectation you must have. Faith in God. Faith in yourself. You have a talent. If you haven't found it, keep searching but it's there and you're not that worthless, no matter what people say.

After a night out with the guys and as he sat chomping KFC, Peas blurted out "will you be my girl?" I laughed. I thought it was hogwash. I didn't trust him. More to the point, I didn't trust myself. What if I screw this up? What if I do something later on and he'll hate for me it? As it is, he knew bits of me, everything others had hated about me this person was sitting and saying, he wanted more of me. I didn't believe that I was capable of receiving love. I was wrong. We all need love. Be it the love that mends the broken bits of you, the kind that takes you back no matter how silly you've acted or the kind that reaches out to you when you fall, we all need it. It may not come from the people you expect and it most certainly won't come when you want it, but it'll be there when you need it. God knows how much to give you, when to give you. Trust in this. Expect love.

So, if there is one thing I can pass on from my humbling experiences in life, thus far, I will tell you this, the next time someone tells you "the absence of expectations is the absence of disappointment, do not listen. Have expectations. Keep them great. It'll be a very bumpy ride. You'll even get bruised, sometimes very badly. Sometimes, you'll come to an abrupt halt or even fall off your ride. But you'll grow. And if you do not grow, you do not live. Love and light.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Dancing Horses, Rocky Cliffs & Letting Go

By Paula Renaye

I spent some time in Peru a few months ago. I didn’t go there for a spiritual awakening, to “find myself" or as any form of a personal quest. No, I went there for my daughter’s wedding. However, messages come whether we go seeking them or not, and I definitely found plenty of opportunities for self-awareness and self-improvement—one on the back of a horse.

As a part of our Peruvian adventure, we all took a day long horseback ride through the Andes to see the sights. Now, I would never call myself an experienced horsewoman because that is laughable even to me, but I did have horses for many years and managed to ride around the mountains of Colorado near my home and not get killed, so I wasn’t a novice. However, it had been a few years since I’d been on a horse. Thus, I was alternately excited, scared and dreading the pain afterward—I hurt just thinking about it.

The first half of the day was pretty easy with only a few steep spots and two creek crossings—or, in my case, airborne leapings. As my new friend Machote and I got to know one another, we came to some general understandings about how things were going to be. For instance, while I might prefer to walk calmly on the inside of the trail against the mountain, Machote preferred to prance along the crumbling outer edge in a glorious dance of death. This made perfect sense, of course, since he’d been down this road before, and—as I learned later—it was really just a side job to his main career as a dancing horse. I learned this happy fact when we stopped for lunch at the old Spanish mission. I also learned that the rest of our trip was going to be downhill from there—down, down, down the other side of the mountain to the salt terraces—and it would get a “little" steep. Well, yay and double yay.

Machote, of course, didn’t share my concern about our plummeting to our deaths, and was more than eager to get to the end of the trail, dancing merrily over the cupped out places on the crumbling edge of the cliff. I was giving it my best to contain myself, but I was definitely being triggered by the whole thing, and not in a good way. I’d been on similar trails with one of my own horses, “Tuffy," who seriously wasn’t. He was a big, fast horse with clumsy feet, poor decision-making skills and the propensity to flee at the drop of a leaf—backward if necessary.

Granted, back then I rode him as my own form of defiance—to prove that I could control at least one uncontrollable thing in my life. I didn’t, of course, and our outings were more like potential assisted suicide missions than trail rides through the Rockies. I might have actively courted death then, but things had changed and I didn’t want my new lease on life to end at the bottom of a ravine in Peru, thank you very much.

Well, even though I was enjoying the ride, all of those underlying thoughts and fears and déjà vu moments were at play underneath—thoughts that had nothing at all to do with horses, really. I consciously willed myself to relax in the saddle—and felt that I was—but when I got off the horse at lunch, my body told a different story. My legs were shaking so badly from holding tension that I could hardly stand.

The good news is that once I realized what was going on, things got better. I was still a little scared in places—okay really scared in one—but I had fun and was really glad I did it. I tackled some fears I didn’t even realize I still had and let go of a lot of old stuff I’d brought with me.

By the end of the day, Machote decided I was okay and we came away friends. Not because I finally got him under control, but because I finally got myself under control. As any true horse person will tell you, your internal state is directly conveyed to the horse and affects his thinking. So it is with us and our world. Whether it is fear and pain, or inner peace and joy, what we radiate out is reflected back to us in our experiences.

What is your world reflecting to you? Do you have a dancing horse in your life that you’re trying to keep away from the cliff? If so, ask yourself what’s really going on. Make peace with it and enjoy the rest of the ride!

Live your joy!
Find more inspirational stories and learn how you can discover yourself at


Author Unknown

One day not too long ago the employees of a large company in St. Louis, Missouri returned from their lunch break and were greeted with a sign on the front door. The sign said: "Yesterday the person who has been hindering your growth in this company passed away. We invite you to join the funeral in the room that has been prepared in the gym."

At first everyone was sad to hear that one of their colleagues had died, but after a while they started getting curious about who this person might be. The excitement grew as the employees arrived at the gym to pay their last respects. Everyone wondered: "Who is this person who was hindering my progress? Well, at least he's no longer here!"

One by one the employees got closer to the coffin and when they looked inside it they suddenly became speechless. They stood over the coffin, shocked and in silence, as if someone had touched the deepest part of their soul.

There was a mirror inside the coffin: everyone who looked inside it could see himself.

There was also a sign next to the mirror that said:
"There is only one person who is capable to set limits to your growth: it is YOU."

You are the only person who can revolutionize your life.

You are the only person who can influence your happiness, your realization and your success.

You are the only person who can help yourself.

Your life does not change when your boss changes, when your friends change, when your parents change, when your partner changes, when your company changes.

Your life changes when YOU change, when you go beyond your limiting beliefs, when you realize that YOU ARE the only one responsible for your life.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Versatile Blogger Award 2

By Pandora Poikilos

The last time I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award, I had just come home from my VP Shunt surgery. The blog-sphere still seemed very new and I was thrilled to bits. Someone out there thought my blog was worth giving an award too.

Now, it's been seven months after my surgery, 11 months of meeting some very blog-a-licious people and I've got my second Versatile Blogger Award. I'm ecstatic! Who was this generous soul who made my day? It's Roy Durham. Thank you Roy!

I first met Roy when he started the Daisy Lemmas Riff, a group of bloggers coming together to continue a story. Different time zones, different backgrounds, different writing styles and still it bloomed.

What good is it to receive such joy and not share it, I'm selecting seven blogs (for now, there's just so many awesome blogs) to receive the Versatile Blogger Award too.

1. The lady with a wee voice but a very big heart voicing out topics that lack much needed attention - Life - Inspired By The Wee Man
2. The advice columnist that offers a much needed laugh and an even more clearer perspective with a tinge of sarcasm - Sonia Rumzi
3. Technology never felt so simple or rather you don't feel so stupid when reading humorous web anecdotes - HumorTech Blog
4. The ever unfolding love story filled with little specks of empathy and even more hope and lined with anticipation of better days to come - Dot
5. Her posts are centred on all things ... life. From random thoughts to parenthood and more, this is one writer you'll keep going back to for more - Sweepy Jean Explores The Webby World
6. If you ever feel a little short on faith, hope and love ... then this is one blog stop you must make. - Melinda Todd
7. The blog that teaches you about fighting with food, literally and it comes filled with loads of recipes for healthy, sensible food - Searching for Sustenance

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Teaspoon of Self Help From Paula Renaye

For those of you who follow the blog on a regular basis, you'll know that Wednesdays are one of my busiest days with Blog-A-Licious Wednesdays (750 blogs and counting, by the way).

So, while I go blog-hopping and meeting more great bloggers, here's to another blog-a-licious treat. Starting this Wednesday, 13 April Paula Renaye will be a guest blogger at Peace from Pieces.

Who is Paula Renaye? She is a certified professional coach, motivational speaker, regression hypnosis practitioner, award-winning author and consultant.

Her passion is helping people face reality in order to reclaim their own power and get what they really want. She provides individual and group coaching sessions and regression hypnosis by appointment.

Get to know more of Paula from her site, Hardline Self Help.

Welcome Paula and wishes for a great week to everyone!

Saturday, 9 April 2011


By Rich Barnes

It is time for bed... I need to get on my knees and thank the Lord above for another day. I humbly thank Him for being such a big part of my life and walking with me on my journey of self-exploration.

As I put my head on my pillow for another night's slumber, I ask myself... Did I do everything I could today, to make this day the best one yet?

Did I react to every opportunity to do a good deed, as to let someone go in traffic while others lay on their horn in disbelief that I should let the person take their left turn in front of me?

Did I act ethically in every aspect of life today? Did I help another human being with their taxing issue and put them in a better place?

Did I hold the door for the old man that was behind me and that had two boxes in his arms, right after the door was not held for me and literally slammed on my face?

Did I smile at the woman that cut me in line to get a carriage in the grocery store, who just spilled her pocketbook while looking for a pen to cross off the broccoli she just put in her carriage off of her list?

Did I offer to help her pick up her belongings or did fear of helping someone riddle my body? No, I helped her, because fear stops people right in their tracks and lives in people's minds... I do not let fear live in me.

Did I kiss my daughters goodnight and was I the best Daddy I can be to my children?

Ok, I think I can go to bed now because I answered, "yes" to all of my questions.


When I Am Old

Seventeenth Century Nun's Prayer
Author Unknown

Lord, You know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from the craving to straighten out everybody's affairs.

Make me thoughtful, but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but You know, Lord, I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the endless recital of details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening sureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally, I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with. But a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen

Strength Of A Man

By Betty King

Twisted, nude and soaking wet on the floor of the shower stall I sat. "Bill," I hollered, "Bill," I screamed!

Bill is hard hearing mind you, thus the reason for my bellowing.

"Yes," he said on hearing my scream. "What'd you want, Oh my goodness!" he exclaimed upon arriving in the bathroom and seeing my predicament. "Here let me get you up!"

"Bill you can't lift me."

"Yes I can!"

I began to laugh.

"Now here, let me get a hold of you."

Picture this, a 'well' past middle age woman, 'well' past her prime weight of 120 pounds, weakened from the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, sitting twisted on the floor of a small shower stall. It was not a pretty sight even with the 'largest' stretch of the imagination! The shower stall had sliding glass doors, which limited his access to the whole of my generous physique. With my weakened legs there was no way I could untwist myself and stand upright. I was stuck! He was frantic; I was calm.

"You can't get to me, even if you could, you couldn't lift me, just see if you can help me on my knees" I said.

"Ok, Ok," he said nervously.

Picture this if you can, a whale still wet from the ocean, dumped out on a newly waxed rowboat. Those uncooperative legs of mine could not be situated so as to get me on my knees, not on that wet floor, no matter how hard the both of us tried. He placed a towel under my legs and it too only slid out from under me. So here I was slip, sliding and slithering around, not exactly looking like a desirable mermaid. You get the picture?

"Come on, let me get a hold of you and get you up from there," he still was not going to give up, no matter the extreme impossibility of the situation. By this time though, the water logged, nautical, wayfaring sea monster that I was, began to dry out and become somewhat less slippery. My husband though was no less frantic in his pursuit to get his disabled wife out of these circumstances.

"Here put that towel down again and see if I can't crawl out of here," I instructed. My position and the whole picture of me kept playing over in my mind and the more it ran the funnier it got. I started giggling - laughing and my husband became nervously irritated. Here I was in all my generous glory slithering out of the shower stall, he trying to be my caregiver, becoming more irritated that I was not accepting his need to help.

My laughter was becoming hysterical. His frustration became aggravation and increased with intensity. The more upset he became the more I laughed, until finally after much effort - I was somehow out, on my feet and in his arms.

We all deal with our disabilities in different ways. He became annoyed at himself for his inability to help me and interpreted my laughter as making light of the situation. I on the other hand was flustered with my loss of capabilities; only my pride had been injured. I could cry or laugh at myself. With his arms around me I explained, "Honey if I don't laugh and see the comedy in this, I will cry, so I choose to laugh; don't be mad at me."

"I'm not mad at you," he soothingly reassured me, "I just worry about you, you could have hurt yourself really bad."

"I know, I know, but I'm all right. You must admit I was a funny sight."

It takes a special man to deal with the disabilities of the woman with whom he lives and loves. When he sees the disease take her from a vibrant, young, attractive female to an aging woman, fighting for whatever dignity she can pull from the vice-like grip of such a devastating disease.

It takes a strong man in character though not necessarily in strength. It takes a love that lies deeper than what is seen with the eyes. It takes gentleness and kindheartedness, patience and a man sure of his own masculinity.

It takes effort and labor with his hands, his head and his heart. It takes an extraordinary man, a superior breed not often found; their care giving comes from the heart and soul. They stay for the duration no matter the outcome.

"I love you," I told him.

"I love you too," he assured me.

In his arms I feel his strength when I am weak. There are moments I cry in pain or frustration and he holds me and I am renewed by his devotion. There are days I laugh and am like a young girl again and I see that far away look in his eyes.

Sometimes I struggle like in the shower and he gets irritated, concerned for my safety and I look in his heart and I see tears fall. Sometimes I laugh to keep from crying. Sometimes we laugh together to keep from crying and when we do; we are both strengthened for yet another day.
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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom



Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife


My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo



Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun


Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max

Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry


My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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