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Creative Gifts for Your Holiday List


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How to Tell A Story by Daniel Nayeri

When I opened up the mail and saw a copy of How to Tell A Story, I got excited. I have been writing stories since I was a kid. My fourth grader has just started to learn the conventions of writing in school. I ‘may’ have been eagerly anticipating all the stories we can write together.

The beautiful 144-page book contains 20 six-sided storytelling cubes, perfect for little hands too. The book is a guide in principles to creative storytelling. It covers elements like conflict, characters, motivation, dialogue, theme, and climax. You learn the mechanics of what it takes to make a story.

Of course, the book can be a starting guide. Roll the blocks to discover the magic for yourself. Stretch your creative muscles to make stories together.

This is a must for the artistic person on your list of all ages.


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The Steal Like An Artist Journal by Austin Kleon

Do you like to doodle? Do you like to journal? Do you know someone who does?

The Steal Like An Artist Journal is a one-stop creative place to get the juices flowing. There are lists to fill, challenges to take, places to illustrate, and much more to keep you inspired.

The extra treat in this journal is the ‘Swipe File’ to store all the sticky notes, the backs of envelopes, and crayon bits of inspiration in one spot.

This is a great gift for the budding artist on your list this season.


Trigger Points Anthology: A Review

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Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book for an honest review

My journey this year has re-opened a lot of closed doors from my past. I suppressed a lot of hidden memories, which came to surface in an non-stop rollercoaster ride.

My triggers surprised me. They were sneaky in the whispers of the day. When I had the opportunity to read Triggers Points Anthology for an honest review, I took it.

I settled myself to go on a path through other survivor stories. They gripped me from essay to essay. When the tears flowed down my face while reading them, a sense of relief washed over me.

I wasn’t alone.

Editors Joyelle Brandt and Dawn Daum worked hard to collect the essays from survivors who are working hard to break the abuse cycle within their own families.

“ There are flashbacks and triggers everywhere, and most parents are completely blindsided by them because no one tells us that this can happen.”

What made this anthology stand out that it is solely from those who experienced it. Professionals in the field can learn by the honestly raw childhood stories and help struggling families.

The journal prompts listed throughout the book gently guides you to open yourself to your page, in the comfort of your own personal space.

One thing that stuck with me was the common thread weaved in many of the stories – that the abuse was when the people were 10 years old, like me. The co-editors also share their own stories of childhood abuse. Their missions to help adults like me take back ownership of your own bodies.

Book is available in print and Kindle on Amazon November 18th.


Trigger Points Anthology


Here Comes Christmas! A Review and Interview with Greg Page.

Here Comes Christmas Cover Art 72 dpiThe Wiggles music has been on constant loop in our household for the past 9 years. We had the pleasure of meeting them for the first time during The Celebration Tour, the one where Jeff, Murray, and Greg were departing The Wiggles.

Greg Page, the original Yellow Wiggle, has returned to entertaining with Here Comes Christmas. It is filled with traditional and original holiday songs, including 4 bonus tracks from his new DVD, Butterscotch’s Playground.

Here Comes Christmas is available November 24th. As a parent, I love how seamless Greg took his passion for educating children as the Yellow Wiggle and continues to entertain kids. Never preaching to children is one of the many things I adore about him. You will find yourself humming and dancing along to the tunes, even if the kids aren’t around.

After reviewing the upbeat album, I had an opportunity to ask Greg a few questions.


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After getting your health in order, when did you begin writing the songs?   Alec Miller and I have been collaborating on a few projects since about 2012.  We started writing the original songs that appear on Here Comes Christmas last year.  The title track was our first one we wrote, and then the other two came next – “It’s Christmas!” and “Christmas Bells”.  The rest of the album was recorded over a six week period with files being transferred over the internet between Indiana, Chicago and Sydney.  With the wonders of modern technology, we’ve been able to do a Christmas album that I’ve wanted to do for a long time – I just needed Alec to get me into gear!

Could definitely hear the glimmer of Dean Martin and Perry Como in the album. Who were your biggest musical influences growing up? Growing up I loved listening to John Denver.  Then when I was in the Wiggles, Anthony Field used to listen to a lot of crooner-style music such as Perry and Dean.  That’s what got me hooked – particularly on Perry, and he has done an incredible Christmas album which I love listening to. I wanted to pay tribute to that style of Christmas music with some of the tracks on this album.  The rich sounds of an orchestral arrangement provide such great stimulus for children’s aural skills.

What was the key moment that you knew you wanted to be an entertainer? I don’t recall a defining moment.  I think it’s just something that has always been in me.  For as long as I can remember, I would put on shows for my family members – singing songs, doing dances, performing magic tricks.  And now my own son, Cameron who’s four, is doing the same thing.  For the past year or so, he’s been singing songs and putting on shows of all kinds – he just loves performing too.  It must be genetic!

Can you tell me more about The Greg Page Fund? The Greg Page Fund is based in Melbourne, Australia, and is operated by the internationally renowned Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Research Centre.  Their team of specialists conduct research into numerous heart conditions, and even though orthostatic intolerance is not generally thought of as being a cardio-vascular condition, the heart and the vascular system are affected by it, Their team do some great work to research the causes of it and how it affects people.  They were instrumental in helping me understand the condition, and I have been a long-time supporter of their work both financially and with my time to help raise vital funds to ensure that the research continues.

What is your all-time favourite Christmas song, and why?  Hmm, that’s a tough one – there are so many!  I think one of my favourites would have to be “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – I think that feeling of expectation created by the song, together with the melody, combine to capture the magic of Christmas from a child’s point of view.

Thank you Greg for your time and for making our newest favourite Christmas album! We loved your rendition of Jingle Bell Rock! Get Down Low and Go! Go! Go! is still in my head!

In November 2006, Greg retired from The Wiggles due to a condition known as orthostatic intolerance, a form of dysautonomia.  This condition affects the autonomic nervous system and manifests in ways such as dizziness, tremulousness, blurred vision, and fatigue. Greg is now doing well, managing the condition through understanding its cause and its symptoms’ precipitating factors. In conjunction with Baker IDI in Melbourne, a world leader in dysautonomia research, he has established The Greg Page Fund to raise awareness and funds for research into orthostatic intolerance.

Greg Page has been awarded the Order of Australia (knighthood) for his services to the arts, in particular to children’s entertainment.  He has received an Australian Record Industry Hall of Fame Award, an Australian Record Industry Outstanding Achievement Award, and seven ARIA (Australian Grammy) Awards.

Here Comes Christmas! will be available from iTunes and the Butterscotch TV website, HEREGreg Page’s Butterscotch’s Playground DVD is also available from iTunes and the Butterscotch TV website.

Find Greg online: HERE and HEREGreg Page on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of the album in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

If Mom Didn’t

I hate her. There, I said it, or at least in my head. She was supposed to come home today. All those medical talking heads said August 15 would be the date. Adults are liars, even grandma and grandpa. They say we get extra time at their house. Are you serious? I’m supposed to be at home in my own bed tonight!

Grandma has to stop for groceries on the way back to Vancouver, where we spent most of our summer. This is not fair! Stupidest summer ever. We are told we can wash up and get ready for dinner when we arrive. Grandma opens the door, my nose wants to throw up and never smell again. It’s Grandma’s rubbery ham. I walk into their kitchen and see the pale pink blob in the oven. The frame of pumpkin colored carrots and translucent potatoes highlight the big. After I put my napkin over the pink flesh and a mix of white potatoes and the radioactive carrots, Grandpa tells me that we are going to his sister’s house tomorrow. I tell him we need back-to-school clothes still. I am rebuffed.

We have to play cards at my great aunt’s tomorrow. Cards are as fun as it sounds for any 10-year-old. The tea in the fancy cups is cool, along with the tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off. I just suck at old lady games. The day passed into a blur of old people stuff. Finally it is time for me to plan the perfect pre-night braces meal.

I wonder if I should call dad to see if he can pick me up to take me to Big Scoop. Both mom and dad promised me I could have whatever I wanted the last meal before I got braces. I can picture the three-scoop ice cream sundae covered with hot fudge sauce and lots and lots of nuts. Maybe I can ask if they could put extra whip cream on because of the occasion.

By noon I wonder if I should call dad or mention it to Grandpa that I need to go for my ice cream dinner. After I help Grandma with the lunch dishes, the phone in the hallway rings. She ends up closing the door to the hallway after she answers the call. I don’t think anything of it and just go to the TV Room to read my book. I hear Grandma and Grandpa talking at the front of the house. I take a book break and ask what is going on. They say mom is coming home today. So we will be going home tomorrow morning. I stutter but.. but… but in my head. I find my voice.

“But I’m supposed to go for my big sundae. I’m getting braces tomorrow. They promised me a good size treat!”

Grandma and Grandpa look at each other and said maybe there will be time to go out for ice cream after dinner. I feel like my head is going to explode with all the blood rushing up to it. I race upstairs to the room I use. I can’t believe it. I scream into the pillow. I hate this house. I want my own house!

I should runaway. I should’ve demanded to talk to dad. I wait upstairs for as long as I can until I’m told I have to help with dinner. We’re having roast beef. Gross. I think when I grow up I want to be a vegetarian. I push around the food as much as I can and ask to be excused. I hide my food under the napkin and dump it in the garbage right away. Grandpa says hurry up so we can go out and get a scoop of vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s. So, not the same. I know he’s trying. They always forget about me. Like, did she have to come home today? I despise her. I know I’m not supposed to hate, but this has been the stupidest, dumbest summer ever.

We go out for ice cream anyways. When we get back to the house I ask if I can go to bed early. I pack up what I can so that way we can be ready in the morning. My head hits the pillow. Before I know it, the sun is already creeping out from the blinds. I don’t even know what to think, will I be here again or get to home. I give up hoping. I hear grandma’s voice calling up that it’s time for breakfast, and then we have to go. I am actually going home.

It turns out that we won’t be going home before my braces appointment. Dad is meeting us there. I don’t know if I even want to talk to mom anymore. I probably won’t be able to talk later because of a mouthful metal. But, at least I get to go home today. My own bed. My own clothes. My own records. Maybe back to skating?

The appointment took a long time. But at least I got to look out at my hometown through the office window. Dad picks me up. He tells me we have to go home really quietly as mom is already sleeping. Our dog is napping when we walk through the door. I can barely talk, so I don’t even bother. I keep mopping up the drool from having my mouth open for so long.

She sleeps so long that I go to bed before she wakes up. For the first time in almost 2 months, all four of us are actually under the same roof. But it’s like she hasn’t come home yet.

It is a week later and school has already started. Nothing has changed at home. I still take care of my sister. I continue to have no life. I didn’t want to get braces, but at least the kids were kind about it. I can’t eat a lot of the gross meaty things now so that’s good. No more celery or broccoli, or it has to be complete mush.

In two weeks time I have the first skating performance of the season. I wonder if mom will be well enough to come see it or help me with my costume. Dad doesn’t know how to sew and neither do I. But mom at least could patch things up. She continues to be in her room a lot. Sometimes I hear the TV. Sometimes I was allowed to go in and say hi. She’s a quarter of the mom she used to be. I hate cancer. I really hate it.

On the day of the performance, I get everything ready and I sneak into mom’s room to grab her pretty sparkling little purse that she lets me use sometimes for special occasions. I want to look good. Plus it matches my costume. Mom is sleeping. I quietly go in and get it. I’ll tell her later that I took it.

I say goodbye to my sister and dad. Of course mom didn’t make it. But apparently we’re going to pick her up afterwards. Dad says he’s going to take everybody out for McDonald’s after the performance. He brought his cameras to take a lot of pictures. I go off to the dressing room to meet with my coach. There’s one thing I really love, and that is to skate. When I’m on the ice is just me and the music. No cancer, no mom problems, or sister problems. Just the ice and my body. There is nothing else like it. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be allowed to skate. I know it’s expensive. Plus, Grade 6 homework comes home every day.

I begin to stretch and warm up in the dressing room before it’s my turn to skate. I’m feeling pretty good now. Then I feel a rip in my arm. Somehow I managed to rip the armhole on my right side of my costume. It looks awful. Then I get angry all over again. Mom should’ve been here. Mom should’ve been here with the sewing kit. Only moms are allowed in the dressing rooms with us. No males.

”You need help?” An angelic voice interrupts my anger. I look over. It is my skating club friend and her mom shadowing over me under the fluorescent dressing room light. Jean’s mom had a sewing kit and stitched me up while I was stood in front of her. Done. She takes my hand and whirls me around in a slow dance. I hug her my thanks.

My name is called. I feel excited again and at the same time calm. I slip off my pink skate guards and place them under my cubby. I will be awesome. I can do this. Somehow my legs take me to my mark on the ice. The arena is silent. And I’m off.

I blink and we are in the car on the way home. My cheek still feels the burn from the cold ice, rosy with happiness. I knew I wouldn’t win. Mom taught me that it’s about the journey not the ending.

It is months later from that beautiful skate. School is going great. Skating will end for the season soon. I’m allowed to go to the mall with friends. The dismissal bell rings. I grab my backpack from the locker and head home. It is a short walk. I put the key in the front door and let myself in. Not everyone has a key for their house at my age. Mom still naps a lot so I could be waiting a long time for her to open the door. I listen if the house is quiet. I slip off my shoes, skip up the steps, and I drop my backpack on the living room floor. I tiptoe into the kitchen. I open the fridge and grab the orange juice container, place it on the counter, and get a glass from the dish strainer. I guess dad was able to wash the breakfast dishes this morning. Cool. It was my turn.

“Where is my silver purse?” I almost drop the glass. My mom is in the doorway wrapped in her red robe. She’s looking at me funny.

“Mom, you scared me. How are you today?” She tells me to find it now tone of voice I’ve never heard before. She turns and goes back into her room. The door slam that followed shook the entire house. I leave my juice to tiptoe to my room. I trash my room looking for it. Crap.

I lost it. I can’t even leave this room again. I wipe my tears and put on my headphones. I turn on my record player and grab my journal. I need to remember how to breathe again. My inner Harriet the Spy finds the answer to my turmoil. I turn up the music, grab a pen with my journal, and go in my closet to sit on the floor to write. This is my safe place. Closing the door is the most magical thing. I am alone.

The door opens. Without looking up I scream, “Go away.” The light from my room reveals my skating friend standing high above me. In her right hand is my mom’s purse. The one I lost.

It is like being stuck in a traffic jam and all of a sudden the road is clear, and I am all alone. I can’t get up. The room is spinning. I’m not 10 years old anymore. I am 15. My skating friend is not my friend, she’s my stepsister. Her mom is my stepmom. My Mom didn’t come home on August 15. She never came home at all. She was supposed to be here.

The purse is one of the few things I have of hers. If mom didn’t die I would have gotten to have that argument with her.

I miss her.

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After You: Why to Read Books in Order

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 7.23.30 PMI can’t believe it is over. In After You, for pages I followed Louisa’s new reality proceeding after Will’s death. Grief is so different for everyone. Sometimes you turn to destructive behavior to just forget, wear an article of clothing of the departed to try and recall their smell, or you just can’t get out of bed for days. For anyone who has walked the dark days after a loved one is gone, you may relate to her path.

Then, a stranger showed up at her door that changed it all.

Me Before You is where we first met Louisa and Will, as employee and employer. Their story deepened, as did their relationship, through pure joy to utter heartbreak. I was left devastated at the end of Me Before You. Because of that, I was eager to read the long-awaited sequel to find out if Louisa kept her promise to Will.

I won’t giveaway any more spoilers to this exquisite follow-up. I strongly recommend reading Me Before You before this one. You will not regret it.

Both books are available at your favorite bookstore.

Thank you Jojo Moyes for reminding us that there is life After You.

You can find out more about her at:

Or follow her on Twitter: @jojomoyes.

Will I Blog Again?

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This year has been filled with obstacles left, right, and center. From the surgery, the constant medical tests, the diagnosis, the waiting for results, and the persistent worry if history will repeat itself. Did I overstay my welcome here on Earth?

While some drifted away when the tough was going on, I wouldn’t have gotten through it without a few things along the way.

My Village Grew

It felt odd to be reliant on others. Yet, it was necessary. I am so grateful for all the messages, care packages and love and support I received during this challenging time. It helped in ways that I never truly expected.

Never Stopped Writing

I pre-scheduled my blog before school let out. I stayed offline, as recommended by my therapist. I cut the digital noise down. Yet, I still scribbled down random thoughts. I filled up a journal that became one of my lifeboats. I couldn’t seem to formulate thoughts for the next book. I couldn’t find my words to structure a simple blog post. My brain and keyboard weren’t connecting.

Will I?

I stare at my blog on my iPad screen. I used to post and write several times a week without a struggle. As each month passes I drift farther away from my prSAe-diagnosis self, and more toward the new me.

In the meanwhile, how are you?

Happy Reads #amreading

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The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction.

By Linda Gray.

Growing up I longed for Friday nights. It was the one night my mom would let me stay up late to watch Dallas with her. It was our special time together. Whenever I miss her I pop on a Dallas DVD, and the opening theme song transports me back to those nights with affection.

When the opportunity to review Linda Gray’s book, The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction, I’ve began it immediately. To celebrate her 75th birthday, Linda shares her tips, life lessons, and personal stories. I never knew what she went through till she became Sue Ellen Ewing. From getting polio as a young kid, to raising her younger sister when her alcoholic mom couldn’t and her emotionally abusive marriage, it’s inspiring as what she has overcome.

Life is about making choices. To be unafraid and authentic. Face your fears, because fear ages you. She keeps a rejection letter from Glamour magazine in 1960 framed on her desk for motivation.

Linda dishes on her lifestyle, career, sex and offers sound mom advice. Her writing style made me feel like she was telling me the stories over a dinner party.

Be sure to always toot your own horn. Never stop being grateful and treat yourself with kindness.

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This is Happy.

By Camilla Gibb

As I’m finding a new path this year, books have become essential for my education. Sure, there are the how-to-books by experts. However, I prefer to learn from those who have lived it.

This is Happy by Camilla Gibb is an honestly raw memoir. She lays her heart among the pages about her childhood that was filled with grief. Camilla uses her powerful writer’s voice as she goes through college, travels, gets married, motherhood and more.

“Our blind spots are of our own making.”

As she fights through her way to build a family of her own, she teaches me there is much power in a notebook and a pen to finding answers within the warm moments of the day.

I Like Being Motherless

Mother Holding Child's HandI can’t move. I came back from serving my girls their breakfast. We are having a great chat when I went to put the milk away. The fridge handle feels hot under my right hand and my left is cold by the half-full milk jug.

I almost forgot what today is. Stunned, I can’t believe it has been 31 years ago today that my mom died. For the first time in all those anniversaries, today is the first time I didn’t wake up crying.

I always hated the term ‘motherless’ ever since I saw Bambi’s mother got shot in the first minutes of the film. It reminds me of what I’ve been missing since I was 10 years old. My childhood ended the day my mom died of breast cancer at 38 years old.

Two weeks after she died, school started. As we walked to class it felt like there was an arrow sign above our heads announcing ‘Motherless Kids Coming Through.’ Kids would stop talking when I would get to my desk, to the library and to play at recess. I felt like a circus act. Friends would corner me in the playground going on and on about how they felt and how they would hate to lose their moms.

Over the next few years were dark, going through the beginning of teenage hood, I always wondered what mom would have told me.

When I got married, being motherless had grown into a thorn in my heart. I also had endometriosis, which meant I couldn’t have conceived naturally. After all the heartbreak, I didn’t want to have kids anyways. My two girls changed that plan.

The minute the doctor confirm my pregnancy, my first, I was wrapped in fear. I didn’t know what else to do to care for my baby, other than the books I devoured. When my first baby arrived the motherless grief return instantly. I had trouble breast-feeding. The baby would cry and cry. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t hear my mother’s voice anymore.

I became what is known as a helicopter parent before it was a label. I focused every ounce of energy I had for my baby. I am all too aware how painful it is to want your mom.

On the good days, I do not hate being motherless anymore, I am going to do what Bambi did and move forward. But if I had that other life, one with her in it, would have I have met my children, I wonder.

“MOM!!!” My thoughts are interrupted by my seven-year-old beauty is yelling from the kitchen table.

I jumped out of my thoughts and answered, “What is up?” My heart starts beating again. The feeling of my legs and voice returns.

She is looking at me with a look of curiosity in her smile. “Close the fridge. You are wasting energy, remember?” I nod as I close the door with a smile on my face.

I know that my mom was there for me for as long as she could. There is one exemption; I haven’t let my kids see Bambi, yet. All this time I worried about being a mom when the whole time I already had the best mom to model by.

I hug my girls with the familiar arms that I once craved. I will always miss my mom. I didn’t need a parenting book to rely on after all. I have my children’s hugs to remind me of what I can do.

Being motherless does suck and that is okay to say. Motherless may be what got me here now, but it doesn’t define who I am today.