My 90-Day Challenge

After watching a few videos and reading the books Your Path to Unshakable Happiness and Stepping Stones by Margaret Blaine, I was inspired to put this chanting practice to the test. Ms. Blaine suggests setting a lofty goal, writing it down and giving it 90 days to come into fruition. She stresses that one be specific in describing one’s goal, the more specific the better.

So that’s what I did.

Ms. Blaine gives several examples of this method working for people; sometimes in unexpected ways. She also has a YouTube channel where she gives advice and encouragement.

Chanting appears to be the vivacious, proactive sibling to prayer. I have been actively chanting now for 4 months but without a specific goal in mind other than general everyday health and happiness.

So now we wait.

90 days from today is January 25.

Stay tuned!

Spotlight on Judaism

jewstarJudaism, the parent religion of both Christianity and Islam, has about 14 million members in the world. My friend Faye, a Reform Jew, was kind enough to participate in my Spotlight on Spirituality series:
1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality?
There are multiple ways for me to answer this question.  I officially became a Jew 7 years this season.  I have been practicing Judaism seriously since marrying a Jewish man and raising my son Jewish 16 years ago. or I could also say, I’ve always felt Jewish but didn’t know I was. I am a member of a Reform synagogue.  There are many streams of Judaism (Orthodox, Ultra-Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist to name some, Judaism is not just one sect and there are levels of observation that are fluid through the streams.
2. What about it fulfills your spiritual needs?
So many things fulfill me with Judaism:
   A. Judaism is a religion of questioning, not just taking faith as a set in stone beliefs.  One of our main tests in Judaism is the Talmud, a book that continues to grow as more Jewish scholars have discussions with other scholars from throughout the ages.  This is where the rules that are followed by Jews come from.  The scholars look at the Tanakh (the 5 books of Moses, Psalms and the Prophets-The Jewish Bible) and interpret what is written there and argue subtle points.
   B. God is accessible to anyone.  There is no need for an intermediary (like a Rabbi, Priest or Saint) to “talk with God”  God and prayer are available for everyone.  You do not need a Rabbi or Cantor to conduct a Jewish service, only yourself and for certain prayers- a community of 10 Jews praying together (a minyan)
   C.  The community.  Jews are there for others, I know that if I have need of community, there are people around for me.  There are certain prayers that are only said in community because of the need to support each other.
   D. Traditions that are in place to help us through difficult times.  I am studying the traditions surrounding death and dying at the moment.  These traditions are meant to be a support and anchor while the family/loved ones are feeling adrift in grief.  Having these “rules” to guide one during a difficult time can be a comfort, there is no need to reinvent during a crisis.  Everyone knows what to expect and how to support those who are mourning.  But at the same time, it is OK to break the rules, if that makes you feel better too.
   E. Shabbat, a day of rest (the Sabbath) This is the beginning of the weekend, it was started very long ago  and is one of the 10 commandments brought down  by Moses.  Stating the weekend with joyous prayer and song with members of my community is amazing.  I personally don’t refrain from most practices during the rest of the weekend but I know that the tradition is there, and lately, I will refrain from the news for that 24 hour period.  The end of Shabbat is special too.  one of my favorite rituals is Havdalah (the ritual end of Shabbat)  It awakens your senses at the end of the rest (candles for sight, spices for smell, wine for taste and the sizzle of the candle being extinguished in the wine at the end; and for me the hot wax falling off the candle during the prayers-lol), it is very special.
   F. The tradition of social justice (Tikkun Olam-repair the world) We are taught that you must do something even though you may not be able to finish the repair.  Justice is very important as well as education.  So much of what I have found important throughout my life has deep roots in Judaism
3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life?
   A.  Not being Christian in this time is a challenge.  There are people with so much hate that have been allowed to show their hatred openly and violently.  It is deeply disturbing that people can hate others because they look at the world differently.  Going to services with bag checks, showing ID’s, police vehicles outside is sad.  My synagogue had anti-semetic graffiti scrawled on the walls in the same week as a shooting at another temple in another city happened.  This shook me.
   B. My religious holidays are not legal holidays like Christian holidays are.  People who are not familiar will sometimes schedule important meetings of gatherings on the major holidays and so you have to choose between your religion and other important aspects of your life.  I need to take vacation or personal days to celebrate major holidays but have off for Christian holidays (i.e. Christmas).  The minor Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, has been transformed into a Jewish Christmas (ironically, it is actually about Jews fighting to retain their own traditions).  Holidays start on the evening before, so I often need to leave work early the day before a major holiday to make it to a religious service.
4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up?
-Not all Jews are rich.  Many of us are middle class or just getting by. Because Jews are very philanthropic, those with money are visible in charity organizations.
-Jews are not all “Fiddler on the Roof” (different clothes and customs), we act/look like average people and you would be able to pick us out of a crowd.  There are Jews of Color as well.  Not all of us look Jewish.  Some of us follow dietary restrictions but not all and not all to the same extent.
-Women in many streams of Judaism have leadership roles and are equal to men in all aspects of life.  There are Rabbis and Cantors (the person who sings the prayers and chants from the Torah scroll) who are women in many streams of Judaism.  In my area, many of the Cantors and Rabbis are women.  My Temple has women in Lay leadership roles including president.
-Jews are in the forefront of Social Justice (charity, fighting for human rights and labor reform etc).

Spotlight on Wicca

wiccaContinuing with our Spotlight on Spirituality series, we have Wicca, one of the most misunderstood religions out there.

My sincerest thanks to Jennifer Windhorse for her participation! Blessed Be!

1. How long have you practiced this form of spirituality?

I’ve been practicing Wicca for 28 years.  For most of that time, I’ve been a solitary, but I was with a traditional coven for a number of years.

2. What about it fulfills your spiritual needs?

My connection to Nature and to animals and the emphasis on self-responsibility.

3. What challenges (if any) does being a (fill in the blank) pose in everyday life?

Being a Wiccan poses social challenges.  Wicca and Paganism in general is still very misunderstood by many problems.  I have had terrible things said to me, and I have been blatantly discriminated against due to my religion.

4. Are there any misconceptions people have about your belief system you’d like to clear up?

Wiccans—and indeed, Witches overall–are not Satanists.  Wicca has nothing to do with Christianity.  Satanism is associated with Christianity/Satan is a Christian concept.  Wicca and Paganism have nothing to do with Judeo Christian religion.  These traditions are based on far older religions.

When Some Are Not As Blessed

Admittedly, I have been fortunate to live a blessedly easy life. I truly cannot say I have known abuse or hardship.  For this, I am extremely grateful.

But I don’t get it.

What did I do to deserve such a happy existence? What did my neighbor down the street do to deserve the abusive, neglectful, unfaithful husband she is struggling to leave? Is it due to the accumulation/ dissipation of karma from countless past lives?

This morning, going through the collection of toiletries I’ve gathered for our local abused women’s shelter, CASA ( a project of my Red Hat chapter, the Sassie Lassies!), I was inspired to blog. I enjoy stockpiling goodies for such a worthy cause as CASA, but my heart aches when I think of the unknown recipient of our efforts. How crushed is her spirit? Will she ever fully recover? And what if the abused woman has children in tow; what of their damaged psyches? What did an innocent child do to deserve such an environment in which to grow?

During this time of year as the holidays approach we tend to count or blessings. I hope the recipients of the Sassie Lassie’s efforts are somewhat heartened by their care packages.

In a perfect world, there would be no need for such care packages. But there is, and sadly, there probably always will be.




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Photo by Kat Jayne on

Meet Author Christine Clemetson!

Christine Clemetson is another fantastic fellow author I met at a book-signing event a few years ago. Read her responses to her interview below and be sure to check out her great books!
1.     To date, how many novels have you written?

This week I just finished my seventh novel entitled Where Red Oaks Lie. I’ve also had short stories in a few anthologies.


2. Where can your novels be purchased? 
Bookstores and online. You can find links on my website, here: 
3: Do you currently have a Work In Progress? 
I’m gathering characters for a new psychological thriller. The setting and first scene have been percolating, but that’s all I know. I’ll uncover the rest as I go along. The surprise is my favorite part of writing a book!
4. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

Going to the beach or park, and reading! In between, you can find me at the library or local coffee place. 


5. What’s your best advice for aspiring authors?
Write down on a stickie note why you love to write and put it on your PC, bathroom mirror, wallet, wherever you’ll see it most. When you get a rejection? Have your faves on hand (mine are wine and M&M’s). And then get right back to it. You got this!

Meet Historical Fiction Author Elizabeth Chadwick!

elizabeth purple CM - Copy
Elizabeth Chadwick is an inspiration to me. She is the historical fiction writer I could only DREAM of being! Her books set in Medieval times (some featuring MY own ancestors like the great knight, William Marshall, and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine!).  Her books are many and wonderfully written. Check out her interview below;
1. How long have you been writing historical fiction? 
Answer:  Since I was 15 years old – I’m not going to tell you how old I am now but it’s many decades.  I have been a mainstream published author of historical fiction since the early 1990’s and I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry since then!

2.  what would you say is the ratio of fact vs. fiction in your books?

Answer: That’s a difficult one – I’ve never actually worked it out as such.  The moment I put words in a character’s mouth (unless they are mentioned in the record) or imagine how they are feeling, I am stepping into the world of fiction. However, I do research intensively and extensively and I have been doing it for all the above mentioned decades. I try to make my people of their time and not modern day characters wearing fancy dress. I always ask myself on a scale of 1-10 how likely a character would be to do such a thing.  Between an 8 and a 10 I will go with it. Less than that and I will rethink.  History should never be warped by the story, but at the same time, the story should be rivetting. That’s where the skill comes in for an author of historical fiction.
3 What are you currently working on?

Answer – An as yet untitled novel set in the 13th century and starring Joanna de Valence, a young woman who came unexpectedly into a great inheritance and married the King’s brother, only to find that such elevation brings its own set of troubles, not least jealous rivals who want everything she has got.  I have just published The Irish Princess – the story of Aoife (Ee-fa) daughter of the King of Leinster in Southern Ireland who makes a political marriage with an English warlord earl, catches the eye of King Henry II, and to survive must play the men at their own game and make it hers.

4 Where can people purchase your novels?
Answer – Hopefully in bookshops and at online retailers.