Celebrating Women: Reminder!

March was National Women’s History Month and I was fortunate enough to be able to share with you interviews from four incredible women. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, please do. I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed sharing!

Renee. Here she shares with you her incredible weight loss journey as well as advantages and pitfalls of weight loss surgery. Side note: Congratulations, Renee on your marriage to Dave!

Heather. A Wife, Mom, Christian and incredible Artist! Read her story about developing her talent, career, work/life balance and starting her own business.

Janni. What a warrior! Her story is one of survival. PTSD, an abusive marriage, health issues…she openly discusses her struggles as well as her victories. She’s an amazing author, too!

Katrina. Spiritual mystic and (my) life-saver, Katrina shares her story of spirituality, her thoughts on the importance of meditation, advice on traveling a spiritual journey as well as advice on Tarot readings.

If you missed it, you can read my blog on empowering women here.

Enjoy your week!

Celebrating Women: Katrina Marie

Our last interview in this month of Celebrating Women is with my soul sister, Katrina Marie. In more ways than one, she has saved my life.

As with Janni, I also met Katrina years ago when I first began blogging. Her blog spoke to me in so many ways and I feel incredibly blessed that she is part of my life.

Her gifts are unique. Her words are powerful. She has given me so many valuable tools to help me learn and embrace my true self. She is genuine, honest, and insightful. She will ask hard questions that you’ll be shockingly relieved to answer. My advice: if you need Spiritual counseling/guidance, please reach out to her. I 100% promise you will not regret it.

Thank you for being such an amazing you, Katrina! I love you!

Tell us about your history. Has Spirituality always been an important part of your life?

Yes, Spirituality has always been a part of me. Who we are and our life are two different things.  My parents were very religious, but not spiritual. They were afraid of my gifts because the church didn’t approve and my parents were afraid if people knew I had spiritual gifts I could be put in a mental hospital. This was a real fear in the 1960s and 70s in Appalachian West Virginia. However, my Mom’s parents were Appalachian Granny Witches. For the readers that don’t know what that is, I invite you to research them. When I was home with my parents, I was lectured that just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should do it. If God wants me to have something, he will give it to me. I was even made to recite and memorize scriptures because my Dad said it was good for me. In the following questions I will explain the effects this has on everyone.  When I was on the farm with my Mom’s parents, life was very different. I was allowed to be myself. I played in the woods sometimes with my grandfather sometimes alone. I learned how to live by the phases of the moon, how to communicate with animals, how to embrace each season and have fun with just being. So, yes, Spirituality has been part of me since birth.

How have the women in your life impacted your beliefs?

Growing up the women in my life were sadly not that helpful. The only spiritual woman I had around me was my maternal Grandmother. Everyone else in the family made fun of her because she bragged about her gifts, said she was a witch and refused to give in to societal norms. Fun side note, she and my maternal Grandfather were also school teachers. Well loved by their students and respected by their professional peers. The woman who has had and continues to have the biggest spiritual influence on me is my Daughter. She is as spiritually gifted as I am in somewhat different ways. But she gets me. She supports me. And she calls me when something spiritual is going on that she needs help with.

What about relationships? Has your belief system affected relationships in your life?

My spiritual gifts made all relationships nearly impossible in West Virginia. Don’t get me wrong, I love West Virginia and those good ‘ole country people. But even in current times, I have managed to scare off every man I dated. And it has affected female relationships also. I have had one true friend in my life that accepted me as me. But I am now married to an amazing Native American man who understands being spiritual, encourages me to be Me, and helps me with spiritual issues when I need him.

How have you dealt with negativity/criticisms towards your beliefs?

I hate to admit this but I didn’t deal with the negativity toward my beliefs until I was in my late 30s – early 40s. Before then I shoved my gifts, talents and beliefs down under my soul and they fermented into shadows of shame, guilt, embarrassment and feeling like I had to be a people pleaser to get and keep friends, relationships even drama free family. This happens to most people who ignore or deny their spiritual gifts. This is where the feeling of not fitting in, also thinking you’re dorky, or clumsy, not classy or socially acceptable. These are just a few of the issues that people deal with when they are not empowered to live the truth of who and what they are. This is what I base my services on. Helping people overcome religiously induced trauma and helping them come out of their spiritual closet.

Do you feel there is a difference between religion and Spirituality? If so, what are those differences?

There is a big difference between religion and Spirituality. Basically, to use metaphors, sitting in church thinking about fishing is religion. Sitting on the lake fishing and talking to whatever deity you believe in is Spirituality. Anthropologically, religion developed over time because people needed to feel safe with events they didn’t understand and/or that frightened them. They accomplished this by developing the belief system of higher powers. Spirituality has been around just as long, but it developed from a connection to the earth, and accepting gifts and talents as unique to each person and not something to fear.

What advice do you share with those you counsel who are on their own spiritual journeys?

Each person’s spiritual journey is unique to them. In sessions, my advice is based on their questions, fears, ailments, life views and goals. But one thing I tell every client is that peace, courage, and happiness comes when they decide they love themselves more than anyone who told them to be anything other than their natural, unique selves. True authenticity is where every person’s spiritual nature hides. The great spiritual journey can be whatever makes you happy. The people who do what they love in life are on a spiritual journey. The man who invented Sam Adams beer is on a spiritual journey because he loves what he does. Ozzy is on a spiritual journey because he loves what he does and he is true to himself. He has never let anyone tell him how to be Ozzy.

You’ve done Tarot readings for some time and I can certainly attest to their accuracy. Would you say readings are a learned ability? A spiritual connection? Both?

The spiritual gifts choose you. Your connection powers the gifts. And your gifts change over time. My Daughter can read Tarot but overtime she has developed an intuition that does not require the cards for her to read people. To segue into the next question, you need more than an interest in Tarot to be a spiritually connected Tarot reader.

Not all who offer Tarot readings are legitimate. What are red flags/warnings in which we should be aware?

What I look for in deciding if any spiritual guru, psychic, Tarot reader, etc. is legit is: they will not come to you, if they are sending messages, emails, etc. that you have to contact them right away or something bad will happen or you’ll miss  a big opportunity that might never come along again, my advice is to steer clear of them. Fear tactics are not conducive to a good Tarot reading or any type of psychic reading. Check with other people who have received readings from them. And ask them questions about themselves, their beliefs, how they feel when doing a reading, etc. If they’re legit, they welcome the questions.

Let’s talk about meditation. You are a big believer in meditation and its ability to de-stress, clear the mind, and bring peace. Are there other benefits? How does one who is new to the practice of meditation start?

This is a huge issue for me. I know people that use drugs to reach meditative states. In my opinion this is counter-intuitive to what you are trying to achieve with meditation. I think the first thing to understand about meditation is that just like everything we do, there is no right or wrong way. It’s what works for the individual. Sitting in a yoga pose eyes closed listening to my own breathing has never worked for me. I prefer to listen to calming music (whatever that is, even Ozzy, lol) and letting your mind relax until you realize you’re no longer thinking. I have also achieved great meditative states laying on the back of a horse (my first experiences with mediation happened this way when I was a child). I’ve meditated while floating in a pool, river, etc. I’ve meditated while sitting on my patio watching rabbits play in the yard. The goal with meditation is to stop consciously thinking about anything and allowing your mind to relax to the point your body also relaxes. The relaxation is important because it keeps energy from becoming stuck in your body. Stuck energy can cause illness, propensity for injuries and accidents, or just extreme fatigue.

I know you’ve been working on furthering your education and building a new and improved business. What can we look forward to in the future from you? How can our readers contact you?

Yes, I’m continuing my education for my own validation. My parents also thought it wasn’t necessary for women to have formal educations, lol. I’m so over that! I previously studied counseling, cross-cultural communications and comparative religions. But I wanted more. I recently finished a certification in Spiritual Life Coaching. I was just accepted into the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists. By the end of April, I will have completed 150 hours in Neuro-linguistic programming and an additional 150 hours in Energy Anatomy. I have applied to be a member of the Complimentary Medical Association, as well.

I am revamping my website. By mid-April I will have a new email address. For now, please feel free to check out my website with the understanding it is a work in progress. This is the link: https://katrinamarieslc.wixsite.com/katrina-marie. The email address to reach me is freefullife@gmail.com. I welcome all questions and am happy to provide more information about myself and my services.

In the first question/answer, Katrina suggested researching Appalachian Granny Witches so I did. I was only a bit familiar and found some fascinating information. If you’d like to read more about these wonderful women, here are resources:

Got Mountain Life

Appalachian Ink – Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

Celebrating Women: Janni

In continuing our Celebration of Women, I’d like to introduce Janni. When I first began blogging many years ago, she was one of the first bloggers I met online. I am so grateful that I met her.

When I say she is a survivor, I mean that sincerely. She has overcome an abusive marriage, suffers from PTSD and copes like a warrior all while dealing with some serious health issues as well as the many stresses life can throw at us. She has through it all maintained her dignity and grace, a wonderful sense of humor and is truly one of the sweetest souls I have ever known.

Before we get to the interview, I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom from Janni. I asked her to give me her favorites. They are:

“What goes out always returns, remember to be kind to yourself.” ~ Janni Styles

“Assuming is always wrong and asking questions is always right.” ~ Janni Styles

“Peace is not found by seeking it but in simply letting it be.” ~ Janni Styles

Be sure to read until the end for links on how to learn more about her and how to get her books!

Thank you for being part of this celebration, Janni! Much love to you!

You have for years amazed and inspired me on at least 1,000 different levels. It’s hard to know where to start! How about we begin with the many different roles you’ve had in your life. Share a bit about your background.

First of all, you flatter me so. But I love it, haha. So glad we met those many moons ago, your kindness and wisdom saw me through a nightmare few years I am just becoming strong enough to actually write coherently about. Hmmmm. My roles in life. They began as a big sister who is credited with half raising some younger siblings who sent Mother’s Day cards, Mother Birthday Cards and Mother Christmas cards to me for years. Apart from starting out in life as a caregiver helper who at age 9 made “Easter” for the little ones (when they arrived home later that day our parents brought us chocolate bars and we were happy), I went on to work in what else, childcare and am a very loved, appreciated and honoured “auntie” to this day to a family of three – two girls and a boy who might not appreciate me sharing that I potty trained them all lol. They are all in their thirties and potty training and raising their own babes now. Just as these “kids” do, their parents include me in everything to this day and are family to me with their mom often jesting, “I knew I couldn’t stay home with you guys, that’s why I had Janice.” I was a wife for 32 years but I never had a “husband.” My value as a wife was only in relation to what served his orbit. Scratch that. I was a damn good wife who not only worked part time 27 years for his business but singlehandedly ran the home, worked full time in highly responsible positions from social services to government and bought us recreation property which I carried the mortgage on all by myself in addition to shouldering parts of the mortgages on the four homes we owned together. Working for years in the justice system with victims of violence had me believing I wasn’t one of them. I was. Violence is as much about invisible bruises as tangible evidence. That’s another book though for another day (laughs).

What was your least favorite role? What was your favorite?

My least favorite role was being a “false wife.” Not that I was false but the whole marriage was false because addictions and the lies that go with those rendered me a “storefront” wife. That was a façade I tried fruitlessly to alter but never could because, as with all addictions, only one person is the power holder. Maybe it’s just as well because my life is in such a place of peace now. My favorite role in life is “friend” largely because it isn’t really a role at all but a way of life that means whether you are related or not, whether you have a long history or not, you can build and maintain loyal, loving meaningful relationships of magnificent layers and depth with every single human in your life. If you want to, that is (smiles).

You’ve had a successful blog, you are a creative writer and you’re a published author. Is writing something you have always enjoyed? When did you begin writing?

As soon as I was introduced to the world of reading and the magic of books I was hooked. So hooked was I that I told my First-Grade teacher, “I want to make books when I grow up!” Writing came naturally to me. Not writing well, still working on that as we writers are wont to do all of our days but writing in all forms, typewriter, cursive handwriting, couldn’t stop myself from writing as soon as I learned to print or rather, write. (smiles) This lovely interview with you is providing the catalyst for possibly reopening my blog. Last year I closed it temporarily but am thinking sharing your interview may be a good way for me to get back in that loop. Writing is when I feel most “me” doing what I was put on Earth for, it is like an inborn need. I suppose all artists feel this way or there would be no art or literature in the world at all.

What part of the publishing process was most difficult? What part of the process did you enjoy most?

The most difficult part of the independent publishing process was technology itself. Technology and I do not blend (haha). Luckily, I had the good fortune of support through the process from people who know a heck of a lot more about it than I do. My favorite part of the publishing process was choosing the book covers, the layout and fonts. I love all things pretty and tried to keep them attractive. PTSD saw me initially make some odd cover choices even I don’t understand now but professional friend’s eyes saved me from myself on that one.

What advice would you give writers who want to get published?

Advice for writers who want to get published, hmmmm. I think probably the best advice is don’t give up. Just keep working at it and don’t give up. Today there are many ways to publish. When I was a younger writer the self-publishing option was almost unheard of. Of course there are still big publishing houses requiring agented works but, as we all know, getting picked up by one of those big publishers is not always possible. I think the advent of the internet is both helpful and harmful. On one hand, we can get anything we write “published” pronto which, in my mind, can also be a detriment to publishing house interest. Already published works are just not attractive to most publishers. Finally, I would say enter contests. Reputable, long standing writing contests are the best leg up in an industry overwhelmed with talent. The awards I won for fiction, poetry and non-fiction not only boosted my writing profile but provided wonderful encouragement to continue doing what I love best. A side story here is I know of a well published author whose first book was snapped up by an agent who advised the writer to enter contests before the agent pitched the book to publishers. It worked, the book was published by a well known publisher the next year. Proof that placing first in writing contests can really help if you are trying to get your work published.

In the past you have spoken openly and honestly about your marriage and divorce. Would you share with our readers what you endured?

I am frank about my marriage because I hope to spare others the pain and because it is the truth. There is power in truth. I know the weakness of living the lie too well, always trying to tell yourself you are not hard done by, others have it worse, you never know what goes on behind closed doors, etc. The power of truth is so strong it will repel people. Those are not the right people anyway. Truth requires an honour those types will never comprehend. My addictions riddled ex could keep a good “front” going because he was very educated, mannerly and likeable. While I may not have appeared so, I was a nervous wreck internally from constantly dealing with the consequences of his choices. His mother said I was his anchor and I was for 32 years. It nearly cost me my own life in more ways than one. When they thought I had cancer in 2007 that was the final death knell, I knew I just could not die there. Owning four homes and having good paying jobs meant nothing. Gone. All gone in a heartbeat and it really can happen to anyone. The blame was the worst, to constantly be blamed for his ill choices because I grew up being blamed for “the way the little ones are” and “it’s your fault your father left us.” I share this not to tattle on my mother in any way but to show that our patterns really do form who we are drawn to later in life. If anyone blames you for anything you feel is not your doing, seek help immediately. If younger, there are school counselors and help lines to get you through it without shouldering blame that is not yours and winding up in similar situations in future just because it is, sadly, “familiar.” I heard it all for over thirty years, “it’s your fault I drink, I have to ___”, “look what I am married to!” and even keeping me up all night yelling because he had “nobody to talk to.”He used to say, “I own you, you are mine.” Though I never believed that. Some days I am surprised I am as intact a human being as I am. The advent of the internet brought a very vile new addiction into the mix which was, I was told repeatedly, also my fault. There is more that I endured but that’s another book. Or two or three, realisticallly. In 2009, I left him. My mother was ill and it was a rough year because she died the next year. I left him with over a hundred thousand equity in the last home we owned together, RRSP’s, almost all of the furniture, no debt and a brand-new truck. He threatened war and by then I was just so exhausted I only wanted my freedom. I thought my nightmares were all behind me. The ultimate nightmare had just begun because a long-time bestie of approximately two decades had taken my place in my marriage bed unbeknownst to me. For two years after I left him, she feigned friendship, studying me, buying  things for my former marriage home that I had bought for my suite, visiting me often, even staying overnight with me. It was him who finally told me. He owed me nothing. She owed me loyalty and common decency. Instead she physically assaulted me into PTSD when I refused to accept her cries of “you don’t know what true love is” and “I love you!” Befriending people who do not deserve our friendship and loving people who do not deserve our love is a very common human folly, I have come to learn. Add to that two of your sisters and their adult children siding against you with him and her, defending them both, and you realize how utterly cold humans can be. The thing is, they didn’t even have the full backstory, there is so much more than I have even shared here that they never knew until after I was assaulted and yet they chose not to believe those facts. I had tried to exit neatly, cleanly and only shared the “behind the scenes” facts with a select few. The physical assault that left my bladder with issues for two years after and with PTSD meant I owed nothing to anyone anymore. Truth became my strength. This is why I say people should never judge because what you think you see is never what you think you see. Oh dear. I did a mini novel for you, haha. A psychic once told me I had a very, very hard life and would continue to have a very hard life until after I was sixty. So far, she was right and let’s hope the after sixty part materializes soon because I sure don’t relish the thought of waiting till my next life for it, haha

The title of this post is “Celebrating Women: Janni – A Survivor” for good reason. You are a survivor! You have suffered and continue to suffer from PTSD caused by your ex-husband. What are triggers you deal with and how do you cope with them?

Thank you for celebrating survivors. Not all of us do survive. A friend’s sister was shot to death by her narcissistic abuser husband. Kim (my friend) writes of this on her blog My Inner Chick and every time I read about her dear sister Kay, I am reminded that I am one of the lucky ones. PTSD is so complex. Some professionals believe I had PTSD in the marriage from all the shocks I endured. A lot of people who survived childhood trauma can get PTSD later in life and I certainly had that but that’s another book for another day. After he and my former friend thrust me into PTSD, I was incapable of speaking, just stammered and stuttered. She, who in her former work successfully spoke to large groups of people in related fields. I was incapable of digesting or processing information. She who won awards and accolades for research and writing in jobs held and personal writing challenges. For two years after the assault I would awaken sobbing, sometimes screaming and have massive scars on both shoulders from clawing myself awake out of nightmares. She who seldom had nightmares was now living them both awake and asleep. Triggers are different for everyone as I learned in two years of trauma classes, workshops for survivors and trauma counselling. For six months the trauma counselor asked every week: what one thing makes you want to get up in the morning? Nothing, I would say every week. Then six months in, approximately a year after the assault because I was on a long wait list for counseling, I woke up one day wanting to write. Thus, a book of mostly bleak poetry and a collection of already written stories are both out there now with the love and guidance of internet angels who helped me get those two books out there. This was very healing for me. I may have PTSD the rest of my days and can still be triggered but the nightmares only rear up under high stress now. Recently under high stress, I started clawing my shoulders open again but it seems to be settling now, thank goodness. My own personal triggers are mean people, rude people, cruel people, unfair people, too much noise for too long, high stress, aggressive driving (not my way but not a good passenger with aggressors who take chances I never would), being startled especially from behind. Shock is the worst for me as in the recent shock of unfair eviction in year five from landlord who was only interested in money while fixing nothing (hand wrung every second load of laundry last 3 years there) and disobeying Residential Tenancy Laws at every turn including living without a fire alarm for the past year and a half. Couldn’t even reason with him, he would not listen or hear me in any way, even brushed off my years of impeccable tenancy for his almighty greed. Though long time professional friends believe there may be cultural issues in terms of attitudes toward women and his overly prideful erroneous thinking that home ownership deems him ‘King of Everything’ which is just not so here in Canada. His threat of eviction three months prior if I didn’t pay what he wanted (all without proper paperwork or legal increase amounts) meant, they said, I would likely win because that crime ridden area is also known for landlords doing this and they are really clamping down on them. I could have been awarded a year’s worth of rent because I have proof and a witness to the fact that he threatened eviction over the increase he wanted three months before following through on that threat. My failing health meant no stamina to see the case through, fortunately for him. I could re-open it but have no desire to even though he basically let it slip just days ago he is not using my old suite for the purpose he claimed in the eviction notice. Eyes may be on him now but no longer mine. I was also advised to never go into a basement suite again because this treatment by “little” landlords is so rampant in that area, was told apartments are best where they don’t “micro manage” 1 or 2 tenants and everything is legal at all times. The thing is it was very hard to live there, living there also frequently triggered my PTSD.  It is a terrible area worsening daily, couldn’t even go out by myself when I wanted or needed to, crackheads freaking on our very street, hookers and drug dealers, frequent shootings with at least one innocent bystander per year in the past three years dying of a stray bullet. The suite was 15 steps down into the ground “bunker” with no real day light and your only view a solid concrete “prison” wall, no stereo/radio reception and no cell phone reception no matter the provider. It actually made me very sick physically to live there and I know this because I am finally starting to feel a bit better each day in my new home.  Life ironies abound in this story because living there made me so ill I was too ill to proceed with the much deserved eviction appeal.  Angels also abound in this story because I am ‘serendipitously’ back in my seaside community in a beautiful apartment building with pretty views, see the ocean every single day, walk every day, can walk to my doctor, dentist, services and many friends I have sorely missed. So, my PTSD is currently in check. If it is triggered, I try to cope by using basic techniques of breathing, counting objects in a room, decompress to some beautiful comforting music and if I can’t cope, I know to see my doctor as soon as possible. There are help lines people can call, too, both in the U.S. and here in Canada, I just don’t know what they are off the top of my head.

Having known you for so long, I know you have a really great on-line support system with friends. How valuable do you feel an online support system is?

An online support system is of immeasurable value. I am in Fibromyalgia Groups (yes, I have that, too, along with many other chronic health conditions), suicide support groups and I have connected with many beautiful hearts over the years including yours. I truly believe I would not even be here if compassionate voices like yours had not steered me through some of the blackest roads of my life. My personal friends and loved ones are brilliant, too, but not always available. Online there is always someone able to chat or just listen. As a long-time curser of all things internet because of the divisiveness I see occurring between humans, I have had to eat my words many, many times. It is a lifesaving tool for many who cannot get out or who may not have any other resources available to them. It saves lives. It really does.

You’ve also dealt with cruel/negative comments. How have you dealt with the negativity?

Dealing with negativity and cruelty is something many of us must do. Whether online or not, I have found it exists everywhere. I was dogged on my blog and called swear words by adult nieces that left a cousin in tears after reading a single message of many written to me. Nobody seemed to see the wrongness of this ugly behavior from grown adults and many still don’t. Go figure. It finally ceased when I threatened police involvement. I was also repeatedly lectured on the use of Facebook until I dared answer back and was promptly blocked. Go figure. I really wish people would not swallow fabricated agenda driven garbage and take the time to truly get to know who someone really is as a human being before “deciding” who they are. The world can be unfair but we don’t have to be. My main way of dealing with the cruelty and negativity is to distance myself. Or avoid those “gang think” mentality types. My theory is if you need any validation from even one other “gang think” type, you already know you are wrong. However, if the negative comments provide a teaching opportunity for a better way to be in the world, I will use that opening as I see many on and offline do, to try to impart some wisdom about being better and doing better. One small thing, one person at a time and voila, positive change instead of total dead ends as happens all too often when some are overly invested only in being right instead of being human.

What advice would you give those suffering from PTSD?

Not a fan of giving advice unless asked for so because you asked, here you go (smiles). For anyone who has PTSD know there is help, know you can get through to the other side and use whatever resources are available in your area. PTSD is cruel enough to contend with, don’t be shy about reaching for help from online support groups to phone helplines to the medical system or even by letting those close to you know what being triggered looks like for you and the little things they can do to help you through it. Ironically when I was in the depths of despair with PTSD and suicidal thoughts, the people I thought loved me most would be there for me but they weren’t. I don’t think they were being cruel to me at all, I just think they have such high needs issues themselves they were simply incapable of supporting me through my PTSD crisis. Keep reaching is what I learned. There will be someone or many someone’s who will reach back. Just don’t stop reaching. People I least expected or could not have foreseen proved my touchstones for healing. Without them I am certain I wouldn’t even be here. Wherever I felt safety and comfort, I stayed with that on my journey and am now doing much better than those initial two years after getting PTSD. It is one disorder that affects everyone differently. Yes, there are some commonalities including a high startle response but not all PTSD survivors are the same. Figuring out what helps us is challenging but don’t give up. I know I may never be fully healed from PTSD but I am able to lead a calmer life thanks to learning what works for me. The final message I would like to impart is that the world really is becoming much more knowledgeable about PTSD and as this knowledge continues to grow, more help and resources are being made available. Not long ago not everyone knew what PTSD even was. Now, in just the seven years since getting PTSD myself, I see so many more understand it better and that can only be a good thing for those of us living with it. As with all things, I believe raising awareness by using our voices and sharing our experiences will continue to improve everything for all of us.

If you or someone you know is suffering with PTSD, please visit the PTSD Alliance or https://cmha.ca/documents/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd for valuable resources.

In addition, if you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, visit The National Domestic Abuse Hotline or http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/ In any situation where you or someone is in immediate danger, contact your local law enforcement.

From Janni…

Thank you so much for this interview, dear Lisa. I just want you to know that I have been unable to write much for a very long time and you just started my writing engines again. I appreciate all your time and effort and now that you have me wanting to open my blog again, I will be sharing this interview there as well. Thanks again from my heart to yours.

Though I don’t use any online sites with any regularity anymore, here are some links to my books and soon to be running again blog:

Books and author interview link:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/475450

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/475640

https://www.smashwords.com/interview/JanniS

Janni on Social Media:

Twitter

Blog (Coming soon, please check back)

Goodreads

Wix

Celebrating Women: Heather – The Life of an Artist

Continuing with our March Celebration of Women, I’m honored to introduce Heather. I have been in awe of her artistic skill for some time and I’m so glad she’s part of our celebration!

What I love most about this interview, aside from getting to know Heather better, is how her passion for art, life and God absolutely shine through. She is so genuine and her responses so heartfelt. She’s got a great sense of humor, too! Such a joy! Thank you so much, Heather!

Before we get to the interview, I’d like to share these encouraging words from Heather:

“You didn’t ask, but I’d like to share that I have no degree, and only about 6 months of college. When it’s your thing and you’re passionate about it, you can find someone to teach you or some way to learn. I’ve had a few people I’ve worked with be snotty about that, but then I’d be mad if I had their student loans too. College is awesome and if you can go, go. But just because you can’t, doesn’t mean you’re less of a person, stupid or not worthy of career greatness.”

Talk a bit about your background. Have you always been interested in art? Was there a specific moment you decided art would be your career?

My mother gave me a pilgrim and his turkey that I drew when I was three. To be fair, the turkey looks like a turtle with dinosaur spikes on his back, but you can tell I was working through how to make what was in my head get onto paper. The pilgrim resembles those entertainers that paint a face on their belly and wear giant hats over their shoulders. I’ve always drawn. My mother kept a sketchbook, her and my father both work with wood and leather, and my mother was also a mechanic. My maternal grandmother was a bead and sewing crafter. I’ve just always been surrounded by makers. So, I think I always said I wanted to be an artist, except maybe for that brief minute in 5th grade when archeology stole my heart and then again in 7th grade when I thought a missionary was my calling. But those didn’t stick the way my art did.

How did your first job as an artist come about? What lessons did you learn during your first job as an artist that you’ve carried with you as you pursued your career goals?

My first real job as an artist came when I’d just come home from my first semester of college in Savannah at School of Visual Arts and was trying to change to an Atlanta art school. I had a weekend job at a bank, but my mother was not happy with that so she told me that I must have a job for the rest of the week, Monday through Friday or get out. I was not about to settle for the vision I had for my life. Rather than going to the closest McDonalds as she wanted me to do, I went into the closest sign shop in the area, off of Main Street in Forest Park (located in Georgia), and asked if they were hiring and they were! This was my first experience learning sign making and really having daily use of computer designing. Of course, I was a smart-ass teen so I went by Zesto’s on the way home and brought in Gyros for my mother and I announced I had a job. She got a huge smile and said, “At Zesto’s?” I smiled back and said, “No ma’am, at a sign shop.” I was proud and she was annoyed that I wasn’t grunting in something I hated. This is just where we were then. The biggest thing I learned at that job was not to settle. If I wanted to be an artist, there’s always something I could be doing to make money and use my skills.

You are a wife and mom who has worked full-time as an artist. How have you managed all of your responsibilities? Any time management and/or organization tips you’d like to share?

I honestly have a lot of regret on this subject. The first five years with babies I just did design work at the company I worked for and didn’t really do much art at home…maybe a painting a year. Then I was struck with an uncontrollable urge to create and honestly, I haven’t stopped since. I really would like to tell you that I just worked on art once the kids were asleep or when they played, but it was just all the time with them at my feet or playing around me or sitting next to me. I wish I had taken more breaks to play with them, it goes so fast. Now I beg them for time, and they haven’t got it to spare. Word to the wise – it really does happen in the blink of an eye. I do have a tip for people who want to make art but are always on the go. I carry a field sketch mixed media sketchbook, water color paint, and a water brush pen in my purse at all times. When I’m in the car rider line, in a waiting room waiting on the doctor, auto repair shop… whatever, I have my paints and it’s easy to use. It’s great to get ideas out and capture moments. My house is never the neatest in the neighborhood. I’d rather paint. And I’m the queen of frozen dinners!

You seem to have an incredibly solid faith. How has your faith impacted your life as an artist?

This is possibly the easiest thing to answer that you’ve given me. When I was in my young and stupid teens doing everything I could to find myself and was as far from God and what he wanted for my life as I could get, the art didn’t come. I was blank. The little that I got out was just a cheap imitation of what was influencing me, not even a good representation. It’s unfortunate, it was the true jumping off point, when you want to get those scholarships and opportunities and nothing. I did some art, sold some art. But it was just not what I have flowing through me when I’m close with God. Once I came back to him, the flood gates opened. And so did the opportunities. I got my job designing in the Coca-Cola Company HQ for a contracted company through a prayer list. I started designing for Shane’s Rib Shack because someone asked a friend of mine from church if they knew a designer… all from God. I learned the method of stroke by stroke classes from a dear friend and mentor (spiritual, artistically and maternal) that God put in my life when I was a teen and who I reconnected with as an adult. When you know the source of your gifts, it’s easier to harness them.

You have started your own business as a graphic design artist. What led you to decide to start your business?

First, my husband’s support and encouragement. Without that I wouldn’t have attempted this! He’s kind of my manager, my chauffeur, counselor, etc. I was tired of being used up and then being put out to pasture. The first time I was told there would be no more raises ever, no matter inflation, etc…forget that! I was out of there within a month. The pay wasn’t up to par as it was. The second was after 13 plus years for the company that contracted with Coke. Coke did a series of layoffs each time business got slower, until finally the last layoff took our big clients. Then I was laid off by the contract company. After seeing how well my contract work was going and that these companies really valued what I had to offer, I took the leap. Well, actually I was shoved…you know with the layoff. And the Lord’s made sure the clients and projects have come on a regular basis so Praise God for that!

Have you faced any obstacles while starting your business? How did you handle them?

Fear. Luckily my husband is great at calming those and again encouraging me. Forgiveness. It’s something I had to work on. But if you don’t get that straight, you’ll poison everything you do. Those lost years that ended up flickering out at other companies did grow me, and sure not everything is fair, but I can’t get anywhere holding a grudge. Also, self-employed taxes. Can I just be frank? They suck. After I pay the man and then the bills, there ain’t much left. But I only started this working for myself thing in June and the bills are being paid. Some companies take a long time to get there, so I’m very grateful. I’m grateful that now, when I’m starting my business, we have the leader we have in Washington. He has a heart for American businesses and small business, and it’s been a relief tax wise.

Who and/or what sparks your creativity? Are there artists who inspire you?

That’s a great question! So very many things inspire me. Little day trips to small towns with my husband, remembering my grandmothers, a good sermon, my own emotions (Lord help me and those around me), trying new foods, a good documentary or movie. A trip to Disney fills my creativity tank for a good year plus! I take in the foods, the gift shops, merch, the atmosphere… it’s seriously a creative recharge. Covington Square (located in Georgia, east of Atlanta) was the initial shock to the system when my oldest was five that started me painting again. I was so inspired by the shops and atmosphere that I went home and painted for a year straight. My hands hurt that year! Oh, new art supplies are a great boost to creativity too.

What does your art mean to you?

Breathing. Creating art is not a choice, it’s a must. It’s involuntary at times. Sometimes it’s very planned and other times it’s a huge vomit of emotions at a canvas before my head explodes with hurt, anger or joy. Plus, I just always see pictures in my head.

What is your favorite artwork that you have created? Why is this your favorite work?

This is so tough. They are all my babies. I’d have to say it was one of these two. I keep both by my bed side. So that while I drift off to sleep, I can see my favorite place (on earth that is, Heaven’s gonna rock!)

What advice would you give aspiring artists and anyone interested in starting their own business?

You simply have to do because you love it. It’s just not something you do to get rich. Not to say there aren’t rich artist out there, and sure there are times of great influx of funds, but there are also the other times, so you’ve got to love it. I’d do this whether I was making money or not. I just wouldn’t get to do it as much if I wasn’t making money with it. Be persistent. Look for ways to make money with your gifts.

Tell everyone you meet what you do and ask if they need your services/art. I literally go door to door, town to town like an old encyclopedia salesman to see what shops need design help. I’ve had one or two be rude, but I’ve had so many thank me and say that they’d been praying for help and that I was an answered prayer. That really feels amazing.

Most of all, read anything you can get your hands on by Dan Miller. Especially an old copy of No More Mondays or 48 Days to the Work You Love. He has a free weekly podcast and walks people through how to do what you love for a living. He believes that it’s insane to think that you could make more money doing something you hate than something you love and are therefore more passionate about. I listened to him for years before I began this adventure and I really feel he prepared me for where I am.

For more information on the skills and talent Heather has to offer, please visit her website.

If you are interested in researching Dan Miller and the books/podcasts Heather recommended, please visit his site.

Empowering Women

***DISCLAIMER: If you are a feminist this post may piss you off. You might want to not read it.***

Let me begin by being honest with you. I am not a feminist. I believe that men and women are relatively equal and the only thing I can’t do is become a penis model. I’ve never had a man tell me I can’t or shouldn’t pursue a goal. Furthermore, if a man had ever said those things to me I’d laugh and then ignore. I can’t recall ever being a victim of “The Man.” If you’re a feminist then more power to you! It’s just not a “me” thing. I am, however, a woman who believes there is a need for women to empower other women.

It boggles my mind to see how women can tear each other down. Women often get labeled as “catty” or “crazy.” There is a reason for that. I’ve seen Ms. Catty and Ms. Crazy in action. Goodness. Please. Stop it. Really. Just stop. Must we rip each other to shreds? Is it really necessary to be mean to one another? The answer you are looking for is no.

Show love to the women in your life. Encourage them. Build them up. Compliment them. It is so easy to do and costs nothing but a few seconds of your time. See a women on the street and like her hair style or maybe her shoes? Tell her. Smile at her. Say hello. Be friendly. It’s okay. It doesn’t hurt. I promise.

Some women feel compelled to see themselves in competition with other women. I don’t view life that way and I certainly don’t feel as if I’m competing with other women. I’ve started writing two books, haven’t yet finished either but I know women authors who are published. Do I envy them? Do I secretly hate them? Nope. I see them as inspiration. Actually, I see them as much needed inspiration. No bitterness allowed!

It is my belief that female friendships are powerful. If you have in your tribe a group of women who are confident, possess a positive outlook on life and are supportive then you’ve got it made.

Celebrating Women: Renee – A Weight Loss Journey

March is about celebrating women and the is the first interview of four remarkable women that I’ll share with you this month.

Meet Renee and get a glimpse into her weight loss journey. Here she shares personal details of what she has gone through and her story is inspiring! While gastric bypass surgery isn’t for everyone, Renee has had a great experience with greater results.

Tell us about your background. Has weight always been an issue for you?

Weight has been an issue for me as long as I can remember. I was the chubby kid as a little girl and as I got older I was always the big girl. I think I was one of the lucky ones even though most people made fun of me. I had good friends that loved me for me and didn’t care about my weight.

Did your weight cause you to deal with any limitations? If so, what were they?

Limitations yes of course. I couldn’t keep up with the others when I was young so that left me alone a lot. It limited me in the men that were interested in me so more often than naught I was the third wheel.

At what point did you decide enough is enough? Was there a specific turning point for you?

Let’s see, enough was enough when my health started going bad and fast. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure put on two different medications. My legs were swollen terribly to the point I was put on another medication. I was pre-diabetic could barely walk to the end of the driveway and honestly wasn’t sure how long I would have and for the first time in my life I wanted to live. I had a future to look forward to not just exist.

You chose surgery to help with your weight loss. What led you to this decision? We’re there obstacles to overcome before surgery?

The decision to have surgery was actually an easy one. I had been researching surgery for 5 years or so and when all the health issues started my primary care provider recommended it. When I checked with my insurance it was covered…okay, decision made. But obstacles were not that bad. The worst was the waiting and the insecurity if I could actually do it. I had failed at weight loss so many times I was sure I would do something wrong to mess this up also.

Some people feel weight loss surgery is unnecessary and all one needs to do is eat healthy and exercise to lose weight. What is your response to those who criticize weight loss surgery?

I won’t lie, I was definitely not eating right or exercising but I had done that year after year with the same results. I would lose 30-40 pounds and then gain it right back. I couldn’t seem to be able to do it alone. I needed help and the surgery was the tool I needed. And that’s what it is. It’s a tool. If I don’t use it correctly, I don’t lose. It’s not a quick fix or an easy way out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it has worked. All those medical conditions and medications are gone. I’m slowly building my stamina and can walk 20 minutes and still breathe. Best thing I ever did.

Talk about your recovery from surgery. Was healing difficult? Did you experience restrictions during recovery?

I took three weeks off for recovery and probably could have used another. Healing was painful as you have 5 incision sites in your abdomen and of course no matter how you move you are pulling one of them. It was a good week and a half before I even felt like moving much but we are told to at least walk a couple of times a day. That first week and a half I got to the end of the driveway and barely made it back inside to sit down. After that it got easier. I was making two laps and losing weight very fast. But getting very tired. The first week you only eat about a medicine cup full of liquid 3-4 times an hour. Second and third week you add in baby food and pureed foods but still no more than a few bites. By the fourth week you are slowly adding in soft food eggs and cream of wheat and corn beef were my go-tos but I couldn’t eat a whole egg. I couldn’t even eat the baby serving for cream of wheat.

How have your diet and eating habits changed since surgery?

Well I kinda started on this one in 6 but after the restrictions were lifted my habits changed in amount mostly. I never know if what I’m about to eat will settle well or not. One day I may be able to eat half a grilled chicken breast the next the same thing may make me sick. In the six months since surgery I have learned to replace potatoes and pasta with green beans and zucchini. I’m still not perfect and do have meals that I have the potatoes but I’m trying more and more to replace with the better choices. A typical meal now consists of 3-5 ounces of meat/protein 1-2 tbsp of veggies or potatoes or pasta or some combination of the veggies and carbs. A meal before consisted of 3-4 times the amount of all of that plus dessert. I can’t believe the amount of food that I used to eat.

To date, how much weight have you lost?

Since 8/28/18, I have lost 73.8 pounds. I have gone from a 26-28 size pantsand  3-4x shirt to a 16-18 size pants and a large -xl shirt.

Fashion Alert! I’m guessing you’ve shopped for new clothes, yes? That must be a blast! How did you feel trying on new clothes?

I actually only went shopping recently after I was given such a hard time about nothing fitting. I couldn’t believe I was in an 18. I had not been there in 15 plus years. And when I went to buy my wedding dress, the one we picked out the sales clerk said I don’t think this one will fit but we can get an idea. The feeling of that dress zipping all the way up is indescribable. I have never felt more beautiful and can’t wait to wear it at the end of the month.

Renee with her fiance, David.

Lastly, what advice would you give anyone considering weight loss surgery?

Advice that’s easy. Don’t wait. The one thing I regret is not doing it sooner. I feel better than I have in years. I have more energy and I’m enjoying life so much. Don’t let anyone talk you out of surgery. This is a very personal and difficult decision and one only you can make. Be strong and don’t give up it will all be worth it.

If you are interested in gastric bypass surgery, please visit WebMD for more information.