Aya Walksfar, Author

Hard hitting, in-the-news murder mysteries

9 Symbols of Christmas

A SEA OF XMAS LITES JULIA

9 Symbols of Christmas

Yule–now known as Christmas–once designated a specific period of time, about two months long, from December to January. This period was a time for important feasts, such as the Winter Solstice Festivals. Eventually Yule came to designate a pagan feast lasting twelve days in mid-winter around the time of the Winter Solstice.

The time of Yule historically marked the sun’s rebirth when the longest night of the year (Winter Solstice) gave birth to the beginning of longer days. Norse people considered the sun a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from earth then at Winter Solstice the sun began rolling back closer to earth again. One of the traditions–originally a Nordic tradition–linked to this time period was the yule log.

The yule log symbolized the fire and the light of the sun.  Some people thought that the ashes of the yule log would make a home immune to evil spirits and lightning strikes. The logs could be decorated with evergreen–sacred to the Celts as the tree did not “die” and represented the Eternal aspect of the Divine; and dusted with flour to signify triumph, light and life.

–The yule log was actually an entire tree. The tree was chosen and brought into the house with ceremony. Tradition decreed that the log/tree must be harvested from the householder’s land or given as a gift.

–The large end was put in the fireplace with the rest of the tree sticking out into the house. Some people used a log instead of the entire tree. A bit of last year’s tree–having been carefully stored–was used to get the present yule log to burn.

–Different countries used different types of trees for the yule log.

England: oak                      Scotland: birch

France: cherry                   Devon and Somerset, UK: large bunch of Ash twigs instead of log

Some parts of Ireland: large candle instead of a log and it’s only lit on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night.

In present day: a yule log can be a chocolate sponge cake rolled and layered with cream; chocolate icing and sometimes decorated to look like a bark-covered log.

Or, a piece of log/wood that is planed flat on the bottom and has three holes drilled in it for three candles.

The Norse celebrate the return of the sun–a male deity–with the yule log. Other traditions, such as the Balts, celebrate the return of the sun–a female deity–with many traditions similar to the Norse and involving fire.

According to the Journal of Baltic Tradition, 1994, Winter Solstice celebrations marked the rebirth of the Great Goddess Saule (SOW-lay). Saule means the sun itself. The Great Goddess Saule was regarded as Queen of Heaven and Earth and the Matriarch of the Cosmos.

The Yule Log is not the only tradition to be handed down to modern Christians via pagan rituals.

–During Winter Solstice the Norse Goddess Freya sits at her spinning wheel weaving the fates. The Wheel of Fate symbolizes the cycle of the seasons, the continuity of life–birth, life, death, and rebirth. The wreath once symbolized the Wheel of Fate.

–Trees (now Christmas trees) were brought in to attract and honor tree spirits. The hope was that during the coming warm time the trees would thrive and produce food. Part of attracting these spirits was to sing as a group to guide them to the homes where various foods decorated the tree for them.

–Foods (now Christmas ornaments) decorating indoor trees also symbolized the abundance to come when the sun shed warmth again.  blue xmas ornament

–The five pointed star was put on the tree to symbolize the five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and spirit.

–Bells were rung to drive away the demons that surfaced during the dark and cold time of the year.

–Candles symbolized fire and the light of the sun.

candle in dark

–Evergreens held power over death and held the power to defeat winter demons and had enough tenacity to urge the coming of the sun.

xmas tree star

–Legend says the snowflake was formed from Demeter’s tears when Persephone descended to the Underworld. The flakes have six sides representing the months of her time in the Underworld. Six is also the numerological digit associated with affection. For pagans, snowflakes are the winter symbol for love.

Were you aware of the origins of some of these symbols of Christmas? Do you know any myths attributing different origins to these symbols of Christmas? (Please share!) Be sure to leave a comment.

Photo credits: all-free-downloads.com   Candle: geralt  Ornament: Hans  Tree with star: Paul Barrows    Sea of Christmas lights: Julia

Don’t miss the next post. ENTER your EMAIL and FOLLOW

Want to receive monthly special offers, announcements, stories, and other great content as well as a special bonus just for opting-in? Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, Just For You (please be aware that blog follow and email newsletter are two different sign ups)

Join the conversation on facebook: http://facebook.com/ayawalksfar

Check out the latest about my books: http://facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor

References:  Wikipedia    Blog.dictionary.com     Shootingforthemoon.com/yuletraditionsandsymbols

Dictionary.com       Journal of Baltic Tradition, issue #2, 1994

Whychristmas.com/customs/yulelog.shtml           Religionfacts.com/neopaganism

Share

THE GIFT (A #CHRISTMAS STORY)

old dog

THE GIFT

By Aya Walksfar

Sixty-eight-year old Marybelle Brown pushed the rattling grocery cart filled with plastic bags of aluminum cans through the square next to the #Seattle Aquarium. That summer vendors had hawked sparkling necklaces and handmade toys and flamboyant scarves. Now it lay beneath the full moon, deserted except for a few pigeons huddled on a low wall near the water. Moving slowly so she wouldn’t disturb their rest, she made her way over and leaned against the cold concrete. She’d always loved Puget Sound. The gentle lap of the waves soothed her.

After a few minutes, she turned her cart and headed across the empty space. In the center stood a twelve-foot tall #Christmas tree. Red and green lights twinkled amid the plastic ornaments and glittering tinsel. Marybelle gazed up at it, at the star blazing white on the top. At last, she sighed in contentment and moved on.

fuzzy xmas tree

Today had been a wonderful Christmas Eve. She’d found three partially eaten cheeseburgers in one of McDonald’s trashcans. They were stashed in the ragged canvas shoulder bag along with French fries from a dumpster and two, whole pieces of cod from Ivar’s trash. A smile sat lightly on her cracked and chapped lips. Tonight she would feast! She patted the side of the shoulder bag and felt the bottle of Starbucks mocha and the bottle of Arrowhead water that a kind man had given to her with a smile and a Merry Christmas. Yes, tonight she would feast.

She bent her head back and gazed upward. Stars flung across the black heavens. Some people likened the stars to diamonds on black velvet, but she knew better. The stars were all the souls who had gone ahead, smiling down on those they’d left behind. Someday when it was time for her to leave this bent and painful body, she’d fly up there and be with them. Her momma and granny would be waiting. She wondered if the critters she had nursed would be there. Of course, they would! Her granny had told her that the souls of animals always went to the Bright Place because they lived as God intended.

She shuffled along. Time to get to her spot under the viaduct. Thick blackberry bushes hid the hole she’d dug out up against where the concrete met the earth. It had taken her a long time to make a roomy depression in that hard ground with a broken shovel. Hidden at the far back of the hole were all of her most precious belongings, safe from discovery by others, safe from the rain.

She crossed the quiet street and the cart jarred over the trolley tracks. Where cars parked during the day was mostly deserted now and filled with deeper shadows. The fat round concrete pillars that held up the overhead roadway too often hid bad things. She veered away, cornering her eye so she could keep watch while she passed.

As Marybelle came abreast of one spot of darkness a darker shadow moved within it. Her heart leaped into her throat. Her chest constricted with panic and squeezed the breath from her lungs. There! Who’s there? Her feet froze as her mind shouted, “Run!”

Just as her feet started to move, a whimper floated out of that darkness. The loneliness in that small sound dragged at her heart. “Leave, Marybelle. You can’t help whoever it is.”

In spite of herself, her hands left the cart and her feet shuffled toward the darkness. Her heart galloped like a crazed horse. “ Oh, Lord, I feel like my heart’s gonna bust.”

As she drew closer, a stray beam of moonlight shone against the pillar. Crumpled at the base of that cylinder of concrete lay a black dog. It lifted forlorn eyes to her face. The very tip of its tail tapped the ground twice then stopped like that was all the energy the poor thing had.

In her mind the years fell away and she once again saw her momma open the door of their tiny apartment. “Oh, Marybelle, you can’t help every critter you see,” her momma’s gentle hands tending to Marybelle’s latest rescue belied her words. Momma and granny had always tried to save the animals she dragged home–starved and beaten and broken.

She edged closer and the dog cringed, trying to melt into the ground. She knew the feeling. Carefully, she lowered herself to her achy knees. Never looking directly at the dog, she held out a hand. “It’s alright. I know just how you feel.” The dog’s body relaxed and it stretched its black nose toward her hand. “That’s it, little one. Come on over to Marybelle.”

She slid her shoulder bag to the ground then dug around until her hand touched the wrapping of one of the half-eaten burgers. Eyes still averted, she held a small bite on the palm of her outstretched hand. The dog sniffed the air and gave an anxious whine. “I know. It’s scary, but honestly, this is for you.”

The cold seeped through the three pairs of thin pants and chilled her arthritic knees. Still, she knelt there, hand out in offering. The dog stretched its neck toward the food. It crept one step, two steps. Now Marybelle could see the ribs jutting out under the patchy hide.

“Poor thing,” she crooned.

The dog trembled as it came close enough to snatch the food. It took the rest of the burger for the poor thing to creep close enough for Marybelle to put her arms around it. The dog was big, bigger than her German Shepherd had been. She felt the resistance of its stiff body, but kept humming and stroking one hand down its thin side. At last, the tension drained from it and it nestled against her chest.

After a while, she gave its sharp nose a kiss. “Gotta git up, little girl. My knees don’t like this kneeling.” She pulled a ragged wool scarf from around her neck and made the dog a soft collar and leash.

At her hideaway, Marybelle laid out the sleeping bag that a young, white girl had given her that past fall. She never carried this precious gift for fear of it being taken from her. But every night since early fall she’d blessed that child, and wished her well as she fell asleep. The dog immediately curled up on one side, the shivers wracking its body subsiding.

She sat next to the dog and lit the stub of a candle she’d found and saved for a special occasion. This surely was a most special occasion. “We’re safe here, Dog. With all the blackberry bushes around us and being way up under here, no one wants to crawl this far back.” She draped the two blankets she had scrounged from a Goodwill donation box around her shoulders and over Dog’s back.

From her handbag, she took the food and set it on the sleeping bag in front of them. She filled her dented quart pot with the bottled water and set it in front of Dog. She raised her head and drank deeply as Marybelle opened the bottle of Starbucks Mocha Coffee drink. She tapped the bottle against the pot rim. “Here’s to our friendship, Dog.”

Carefully, she divided the hamburgers, the fries, the fish: half for her, half for dog. Dog quickly ate her half, but sat politely, not begging for Marybelle’s food. She took all but one piece of the fish and laid it in front of the gray muzzle. “Merry Christmas, Dog.”

Dog cocked her head and fixed her clouded eyes on the old woman. “Go on, Dog. An old woman like me don’t need so much food. Probably would make me sick to eat all of that. This piece of fish’ll do me just fine.”

Feast over she stuffed the trash in the paper bag and set it to one side. She lay down and Dog cuddled against her chest. With the blankets spread over the two of them and the sleeping bag zipped she draped a sleep heavy arm over the old dog’s side. “This has been a lovely Christmas Eve, Dog. Thank you.”

Singing woke Marybelle. Beautiful singing that called to her. She opened her eyes and got to her feet. Dog leaned her head against Marybelle’s leg. A bridge lay before them. Dog looked up with cataract whitened eyes and whined. She took a step toward the bridge and twisted her gray muzzle over her shoulder as if to say, “Come on.”

The bridge shone like a golden light lit it from within. Marybelle shivered. Fear rose up and wrapped chains around her legs. Dog padded back to her side. She pushed her cold black nose against the palm of Marybelle’s hand and gazed up at her. “Oh, Dog, I know you wanna go that way, but I…I can’t.”

Dog sat next to Marybelle’s leg and sighed. She rubbed the old dog’s grizzled fur and knelt in front of her. Staring into the dog’s dimmed eyes, she cradled the gray muzzle between her knarled and arthritis twisted hands. “I know you want to go that way. And…and it’s probably a good place, Dog. But, I…” she inhaled a deep breath and let it ease from her. “I know it’s a good place, Dog. I can feel it; like I know you can, too. But, I don’t deserve to go there.”

Dog flicked out a warm wet tongue and licked the tears that traced the lines of Marybelle’s weathered face. She pressed her face against Dog’s then kissed her muzzle and stood up. She took a half step away from Dog.

Courage gathered like a tattered garment, she looked into Dog’s eyes. “I can’t go there, Dog. I haven’t been a good person. There’s things…” she glanced away and swallowed the lump in her throat. When she looked back, she blinked away the tears. “There’s things I’ve done; things I’ve said that were wrong. I’ve…I’ve hurt people. Over there,” she raised a thin arm and waved toward the shining bridge. “Over there is for good people, people like you, Dog. Go on. You deserve to be there.” She turned and moved away from the dog.

She’d only gone a few steps before she felt the cold nose against her dangling hand. She squatted next to the dog. “Oh, Dog.” She buried her face in the brittle black fur. When she lifted her face, she hugged the dog and stood. “Looks like you aren’t going to go, if I don’t.” Heart pounding, she gave a slight nod as if confirming her own decision. “I’ll go with you, Dog, because you deserve to be over there.”

Dog pressed tight against her leg as they walked onto the glowing bridge. The golden light enveloped them, warmed them.

Halfway across the bridge Marybelle stopped and gazed over the railing. Below, a broad, placid river flowed. As they drew nearer to the far side, a beautiful meadow ablaze with blue and yellow and orange flowers rolled out as far as she could see. Her eyes rounded.

When they reached the end of the bridge, a melodic voice spoke. “I see you’ve helped her to Cross, Dog. I knew you could. Well done.”

Marybelle raised her eyes and gazed into the milk chocolate face and dark chocolate eyes. “Momma?”

The woman spread her arms and Marybelle ran into them.

The End

If you enjoyed this story, ENTER YOUR EMAIL to follow this blog and never miss any of the great content.

Don’t forget to SIGN UP for the MONTHLY e-newsletter and receive special offers, announcements, short stories, inspirational quotes and much more. Just enter your email in the box for JUST FOR YOU newsletter and follow the steps.

Drop by facebook and join the conversation! http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar  FRIEND me so we can stay in touch!

Check out what’s new and upcoming on http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor  Don’t forget to LIKE my page.

PHOTO CREDITS: Old dog–Anne Lowe    Christmas tree–Anna Langova  (all-free-download.com)

Share

COPS STEALING FROM MOTORISTS!

Gangs and criminals are no longer the biggest worry for innocent travelers. It’s the #cops.

During research for Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team series I needed to find out under what conditions police could confiscate money from people. I discovered a series of investigative articles published September 2014 by The #WashingtonPost. Scary stuff!

In an effort to kept the integrity of the articles I will only quote small sections from them and provide links to the full articles.

(Washington Post Article) “Written by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Steven Rich

Published on September 6, 2014

After the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the government called on police to become the eyes and ears of homeland security on America’s highways.

Local officers, county deputies and state troopers were encouraged to act more aggressively in searching for suspicious people, drugs and other contraband. The departments of Homeland Security and Justice spent millions on police training.

The effort succeeded, but it had an impact that has been largely hidden from public view: the spread of an aggressive brand of policing that has spurred the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes, a Washington Post investigation found. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back.

Behind the rise in seizures is a little-known cottage industry of private police-training firms that teach the techniques of “highway interdiction” to departments across the country.”

(Aya) According to the investigation by the Washington Post, a private firm is currently running an intelligence network known as Black Asphalt Electronic Networking and Notification System. They are gathering data on Americans even though state and federal authorities have warned them that their actions could constitute violation of privacy and constitutional protections.

Stealing from motorists is such a good gig that some police are using it to raise funds. There  are also chat rooms where police compare how much money they have stolen from motorists.

Two unfortunate motorists are Mandrel Stuart, a restaurant owner, who had $17,550 confiscated without ever being charged with a crime; and, Matt Lee, a 31-year-old college graduate in Michigan who had $2400 his father gave him to help him travel to California for a job interview confiscated by police.

You can read Mandrel Stuart’s and Matt Lee’s stories printed by The Washington Post on September 8, 2014 and written by Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Michael Sallah at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/08/they-fought-the-law-who-won/ 

You can read how this literal highway robbery got started in an article written by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Sr. and Steven Rich on September 6, 2014 and printed in The Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/

This is an overview of the subjects of this series of articles published by The Washington Post:

Stop and Seize: In recent years, thousands of people have had cash confiscated by police without being charged with crimes. The Post looks at the police culture behind the seizures and the people who were forced to fight the government to get their money back.
Part 1: After Sept. 11, 2001, a cottage industry of private police trainers emerged to teach aggressive techniques of highway interdiction to thousands of local and state police.
Part 2: One training firm started a private intelligence-sharing network and helped shape law enforcement nationwide.
Part 4: Police agencies nationwide routinely buy vehicles and weapons with money and property seized under federal civil forfeiture law from people who were not charged with a crime.
Part 5: Highway seizure in Iowa fuels debate about asset-forfeiture laws.
Part 6: D.C. police plan for future seizure proceeds years in advance in city budget documents.
Chat transcript​: The reporters behind “Stop and Seize” answered readers’ questions about the investigative series.

(Aya) If you thought this blog was interesting, don’t miss future ones. ENTER YOUR EMAIL AND FOLLOW!

If you would like to receive a monthly newsletter full of special offers, inspirational quotes, short stories and other great content, JUST FOR YOU, be sure to subscribe at the top right side of this blog. Just put in your email and be sure to confirm when you receive the confirmation link and a free gift. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Be aware that if you want to follow my blog and receive the newsletter, you will have to enter your email in both spots.

Be sure to drop by on facebook and chat! http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar  I post some awesome content on my facebook page!

LIKE my facebook author’s page and hear about upcoming books! http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor

Backlash, Book 4, Special Crimes Team is due out Spring, 2015!

 

Share

5 THINGS I NEED TO SAY TO YOU

Thanksgiving

I have something important to say to you. Even though, it is three-thirty on Thanksgiving Day morning and I have been racing around getting everything ready for our guests. I can’t go to bed until I get this out; it’s too important to leave until ‘another time’.

–You are important. You are unique and wonderful just as you are.

–You have given me so much just by being a part of my life.

–I may not recognize your face on the street, but I recognize your heart. You are one of the good folks, the kind who stops and lends a hand. I met many of you during the Highway 530 Mudslide. You made me a better person.

–You are my inspiration; you encourage me every day to be the best that I can be; to write the best novels I can write; to make those words mean something. You bring me happiness when you take the time to stop and chat.

–Thank you. You are one of the blessings in my life. Thank you. On this day may your plate be full and your heart fuller. Love and blessings on you and yours.

Aya Walksfar, Author. Holiday bazaar 009

Share

JUST FOR YOU!

I love to read. Of course I would love to read…after all, I am a writer. What I love even more than reading is to share stories.

Give you a little background:

Both my mother and grandmother were oral storytellers. I spent hours at their feet listening as they transported all of us to another time and place.

At age fourteen, I had my first brush with being published. A well-respected newspaper in my area accepted my heavily researched, five part series on racism in America. At age eighteen, a different well-respected newspaper published my researched, six part series on the child welfare system.

Since then I have written articles, short stories, poems, non-fiction self-help manuals, an award-winning literary novel (Good Intentions), and two internationally-selling crime fiction books (Sketch of a Murder and Street Harvest).

What does this have to do with you?

December 1 I will launch a brand new enterprise: a monthly newsletter. In this newsletter I will share special offers, announcements of upcoming events and books, inspirational images; and stories, poetry, character back stories, the motivation behind writing some of my novels, and glimpses into my personal journey as a writer.

I invite you to share in this new enterprise. Simply go to the book image beneath the heading JUST FOR YOU NEWSLETTER and click. Enter your email address and follow the steps to opt-in to my newsletter. Once you’ve signed up, you will receive a PDF of Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team series. This offer is only good from NOW through the month of December! Sign up now and get your FREE PDF of Sketch of a Murder!

Opt-in and enjoy the benefits of JUST FOR YOU NEWSLETTER.  Remember, you have to enter your email address for the newsletter. Entering your email address to follow my blog will not put you on the newsletter mailing list.

If you already follow my blog, be sure to get on the mailing list for JUST FOR YOU NEWSLETTER! I don’t want you to miss out on some good deals and wonderful content.

If you haven’t already joined my blog, NOW would be a great time to do so! Just CLICK and FOLLOW!

To see all my books, go to http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

To learn more about my characters, check out Pinterest.  http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar

Share

Grandma’s Lessons

Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving draws closer, I am even more than normally aware of those things for which I am grateful. One of them was, and still is, my grandmother. Grandma had a third grade education which allowed her limited reading and writing skills. Today we’d call her semi-literate or functionally illiterate due to the limitations. She was one of the people responsible for my love of learning, of reading and writing. She was also one of my greatest teachers.

Mom finally moved all of us out of the poor part of the city and out to the country. For me this was great, but with Mom working full time Grandma had to walk to work in whatever weather Pennsylvania threw her way. The restaurant where she worked as a dishwasher for ten plus hours every evening was two miles from her home. She walked both to and from her job.

My grandmother wasn’t a saint, though. One time her boss Big Gary, the owner of the restaurant where she worked, came into the kitchen on a real tear. He’d lost quite a sum of money at a poker game in the backroom. His son Little Gary, the cook, got a verbal blast first, then the waitresses who were gathering up the plates to serve were cursed. He swung his angry red face toward Grandma.

At the time, Grandma was in her late sixties while Big Gary wasn’t far on the down side of forty. When the first words out of his mouth were abusive, Grandma turned to the sink, picked up an iron skillet–big iron skillet–and brandished it as she walked with slow intent toward her boss. In a calm voice she said, “You will not speak to me in such a manner. You will leave this kitchen right now.”

Big Gary paled a bit, but tried to bluff. “You wouldn’t dare hit me.”

Grandma walked another step toward him. “I never threaten.”

Whatever he saw in Grandma’s black-brown eyes caused him to whirl around and hurry from the kitchen. Not one person moved during this entire exchange. When he disappeared through the swinging doors, they turned and stared at Grandma, waiting. Perhaps, they thought she’d break down in tears of remorse, or fear for her job.

Grandma quietly removed the apron from around her waist. “Little Gary, please inform your father that I quit.” She picked up her coat and purse and left.

She was about a half mile down the dark, rural road when Little Gary idled up next to her. “Please, let me take you home.”

She bent down and leaned on the sill of the open window. “You don’t need to do that.”

“Please, Dad said to take you home. And… and I’d like to.”

She pursed her lips and gave a brusque downward jerk of her chin and climbed into the car.

The next day, Big Gary sent a dozen red roses and a card with an apology. “Please, come back to work.”

Grandma tossed the card in the trash, but saw no reason not to enjoy the roses.

The following day, Big Gary’s wife arrived in the afternoon with a box of expensive chocolates and more roses–yellow this time. Grandma invited her in for coffee and they chatted, mostly about interior decorating–one of Grandma’s passions. Big Gary’s wife loved Grandma’s ideas and asked her, “When all this hoopla is over, may I send a car and have you brought to my home? I’d like to hire you for a consultation.”

Grandma said, “There is no hoopla. I quit. I will not be spoken to or treated in such a manner. And, yes, we can arrange a time for me to look at your home.”

“I want to apologize for what happened…” Big Gary’s wife started to say.

Grandma interrupted, “You have no reason to apologize. You have done nothing wrong. It is your husband who wronged me.”

The following day, Big Gary arrived. Box of chocolates, another dozen roses–pink– and a bonus check in an envelope. He apologized and arranged for his son to pick up my grandmother for work and to bring her home at night.

And, so until Grandma retired from the restaurant, she had a ride to and from work and Big Gary had learned a valuable lesson. He never arrived in the kitchen when Grandma was present to yell at anyone.

One of the things I am most grateful for are the lessons–such as the ones I learned from this incident–that Grandma taught me. She never preached at me; it was the way she lived that taught the lessons.

What are you grateful for? Please, share!

Don’t miss future posts. CLICK and FOLLOW!

Want to receive special offers, announcements, short stories, inspirational quotes and other great stuff? Sign up for my monthly newsletter!

Drop by for a chat on facebook! http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar

Or visit my fan page at http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor

Share

5 WAYS TO OVERCOME #HOLIDAY BLAHS

5 WAYS TO OVERCOME HOLIDAY BLAHS

christmas_tree_and_fireplace

Holidays are difficult–whether you celebrate them or choose to ignore them; whether you love them or dread them.  Stress is high, fuses are short, and even the happy anticipation of seeing those you love can feel overwhelming. And, of course, there are people coming and going and traffic snarls and …. you understand because you’ve felt it, too.

Here are five ways to beat the blahs:

  1. That good book you’ve been wanting to read? Give yourself permission to take 15 minutes every day and simply sit somewhere quiet and enjoy your reading time. You’ll feel refreshed and better able to tackle all the holiday rush. Hey, have a cup of tea, hot chocolate or coffee while you read.

  2. Some feelings just can’t be shared, not even with our bestie. Journal! You can use an ordinary tablet, a journal complete with fancy cover, or your laptop. Take fifteen minutes every evening and get all those feelings of frustration, worry, and excitement down on paper. Or on the screen. These jottings are only for your eyes. Do not share them or you will become self-conscious and journaling will lose its effectiveness for you.

  3. Tension gathers in our muscles and in our stomachs. It creates aches and pains, and upset GI tracks. Exercise. Oh, I know… exercise is what you beat yourself into. Me, too. However, not this time. Let the exercise be any physical activity that makes you feel relaxed. This can be stretches, treadmills, slow walks, jogging around the neighborhood, getting all those old weed stalks out of the flower beds, or power walking around the mall. You don’t have to assign a great deal of time; fifteen minutes will do at whatever time of day works best for you.

  4. Take Vitamin B Complex. Stress, both good and bad, can use up Vitamin B Complex in your system. Vitamin B Complex helps battle stress. That’s why it gets used up, but we usually don’t get enough through our diets to make up for the extra needs around the holidays. You don’t even need fifteen minutes to do this one! (ONLY do this if you have no allergies to Vitamin B or your doctor does not discourage the use of Vitamin B. This is a suggestion of what might work; not medical advice or diagnosis!)

  5. Every morning, or evening–your choice–write down five things you are grateful for. Try not to use the same five every day. You need to consider all the things that are positive in your life.

Some of the ones I am grateful for are: my health. I don’t have the absolute best health, but there are many who are much worse off than me. My work: My work is writing. It also happens to be my passion. For many years, responsibilities precluded me from concentrating on my writing. I am very grateful that I can spend time on it now. My dog: I am grateful for my dog. She brings a smile to my face and is there when I’m down. My home: I am grateful that I have a home and enough to eat. Some people don’t. My spouse: I am grateful that I have a spouse who encourages me in my endeavors. These are a few examples.

I am certain you have many things in your life for which to be grateful. Take those daily lists and put them in a manila envelope and put them somewhere safe. Whenever you’re feeling super stressed, cranky, or down, take them out and read them out loud to YOURSELF. It’ll give you a wonderful boost.

I chose fifteen minute increments of time to recommend as this is a chunk of time that is long enough to help, but short enough not to become impossible to set aside for just yourself.

Enjoy the holiday preparations and all the anticipation, but remember to take fifteen minutes every day to dedicate to you; to de-stressing. Remember, if you are stressed you cannot enjoy the moment. You deserve to take care of yourself.

Looking for a good read? Check out Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team

Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014 http://amzn.to/1yopc2k

Don’t miss new posts. CLICK and FOLLOW. Sign up for monthly  NEWSLETTER — EASY. Get all the latest, special offers, announcements, short stories, inspirational quotes and much more! And a FREE gift!

Share

4 IMPORTANT LESSONS

Three days ago, last Saturday, I participated in Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue’s Holiday Bazaar. I planned to dash off a quick blog post about the experience as soon as I could access my computer at home. After some thought, I decided I wanted to take time to think about the bazaar and to write something real about the experience. Today I sat down at my computer and wrote.

As a local author, I had rented vendor space and a table from Cross Creek Alpaca Rescue for their Holiday Bazaar on Saturday, October 25th. Since my wife, Deva, and I didn’t want to make the long trip from Darrington, Washington to Tenino, Washington on the day of the bazaar, we stayed overnight at the Motel 6 in Tumwater that allowed pets. Nothing fancy, but the young lady at the front desk was friendly and the room clean.

Our older German Shepherd dog, Katrina, has been afflicted with Sundowner’s–a symptom of dementia–for some months now which is why she couldn’t be boarded like our other three GSDs. The change in routine and being so near the freeway, kept her awake and anxious most of the night; Deva graciously took care of the dog while I slept. Pixie and Mindy slept well, except when Katrina’s panting woke them.

Saturday dawned with scattered clouds. After feeding the dogs, Deva and I loaded Mindy, Pixie and Katrina into the backseat of the truck and headed to Tenino for the CCR Holiday Bazaar. On the way, we looked for a restaurant for breakfast. Nothing turned up until we hit Tenino and found Scotty’s ‘50’s style diner. Holiday bazaar 007 The coffee was hot and plentiful, the water glasses stayed full and the food tasted great. Replete we made the last couple of miles to Cross Creek.

Weeks earlier, we had been involved in an alpaca rescue operation initiated by my 76-year-old sister, Lois. loisDeva had found CCR and Shari Bond and Jackie Glover had trailered to the rescue of 48 alpacas whose 84-year-old owner had died. Now, as we drove in we spied one of the alpacas, Leonardo, in the front paddock. The older male had been so starved down and loaded with parasites by the time Lois became involved in their care, that there had been talk of having to put him down. Shari and Jackie had worked a miracle. The poor old guy was walking without stiffness or pain; had put on a few pounds and seemed quite content. The four elderly female alpacas, Lady Jane among them, had settled into their forever home with CCR. They looked so content standing in the field with the other “girls”.

We parked and unloaded books and flyers. I set up my table–situated between Detricks’ Farm and Chicken Coop display of delicious and unique jams, jellies and pickles, Holiday bazaar 012and a table of beautiful handmade jewelry–while Deva made sure our dogs were comfortable.

A little later on, four spinners arrived, set up and began a spinning demonstration turning alpaca fiber into yarn. Holiday bazaar 015The wonderful smell of citrus and apples and cinnamon drifted through the building from the cider set to warming on the back table.

Throughout the day, people wandered in and meandered from table to table. I met and chatted with many readers. We talked about different authors, the different styles of writing and books we loved.

Dorothy Royce, a 90-year-old from California, visited with me for quite a while. What an interesting woman! When I learned she’d had a recent birthday, I autographed and gave her a copy of Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, of my Special Crimes Team series. Since she’d never had a Kindle, I fired mine up and showed her how to make the text bigger and some of the other features. The device was so lightweight that she had no problem holding it–she sometimes had trouble holding larger books while she read–and the built-in stand of my Kindle cover delighted her.

All day long, folks came by and talked for a while, tossed their name and addresses in the Giveaway jar for a chance to win my latest mystery, Run or Die, and purchased books.     Holiday bazaar 023  (Tracy Redmon and Aya)

Holiday bazaar 009  (Christine Rose and Aya)

About halfway through the day, Deva brought out our Papillons, Mindy and Pixie, who immediately became people-magnets, charming everyone who glanced their way.

It was nearly closing time for the bazaar when Diane Vasarkovy stopped to chat. We talked murder mysteries for a while then we segued into talking about her own writing project: the story of Wolf Haven International. Here is part of the introduction to the work-in-progress:  “We think it’s important to show how ordinary people, with a passion, even without knowledge or resources, can make a tremendous difference in the world.  Magic can happen to people who follow their inner knowing…..Canis Lupus (the wolf) and other wild canines are in crisis in North American wild lands. In competition for habitat with human encroachment, they are unfortunately still seen as vermin by resource hungry people who can’t see the larger picture of our total eco-system. We now have proof that wolves change eco-systems for the better….”

Diane left with the first two books of the Special Crimes Team series, and I was left with a deep respect for her project.

At the end of the day, we packed up the remaining books and flyers and put the dogs back in the truck. A light rain fell as we left CCR. For the next few days, I thought about what I had learned during the bazaar.

  1. I learned that readers are delighted to share ideas about the books they read and love; and it gave me new perspectives on books that I’d read.

  2. I learned that connecting with readers recharged my “creative batteries” and renewed my determination to write the very best books possible; to honor the unwritten contract between reader and author: to write an entertaining story.

  3. I learned how very interesting these readers are; how many are involved in important projects such as alpaca rescue and writing the history of Wolf Haven, International.

  4. I learned, once again, how honored I am that readers invite me into their homes, into their lives. When readers open my novels and enter the fictional worlds that I create, they give me the most precious thing they have: their time.

I have designated November as my Attitude of Gratitude Month to My Readers. Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team, EBOOK is FREE on AMAZON from NOVEMBER 1 through NOVEMBER 5.

Grab your free ebook copy of Sketch of a Murder. Go to: http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

Or use the Short link: amzn.to/1tBgqhx

Sketch of a Murderebook 7 30 2014

For my listeners, the first ten fans who agree to write reviews on Amazon and Audible will receive a FREE download of the audiobook Sketch of a Murder DURING the month of NOVEMBER. Get your coupon code now! Email Aya at ayawalksfar@gmail.com In the subject line write “Will review audiobook for free download”

ALL of my books are available as print books. http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

Want special offers, announcements, and freebies? Sign up for my monthly newsletter. Go to http://ayawalksfar.com  I will not sell, share, rent, give, or bargain your email address. I respect your privacy and I deeply appreciate the trust you are giving to me. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Don’t miss the latest posts. CLICK and FOLLOW Aya’s blog. http://ayawalksfar.com

 

Share

2 GREAT REASONS TO GET INVOLVED

2 GREAT REASONS TO GET INVOLVED

1.  Become part of something great that will last for decades and bring positive changes to thousands of lives.

2.  Do something that will make you feel great. There is nothing as good as feeling that I have participated in a project that will have positive ripple effects for many years to come.


Unity Church in Lynnwood DSC01692

It isn’t often that ordinary people have the opportunity to become part of something truly great. I was gifted such an opportunity this past Saturday.

Barb Keogan, the administrator of the Unity Church in Lynnwood, made me aware that Tanzania needs a children’s hospital. Now, most of the time when I hear something like that I know there is nothing I can do that will affect the situation. It’s too big; costs too much; is too far away. In short, it’s frustrating and depressing; however, in the same breath that Barb told me about the situation, she presented a way for me to make a difference.

The Unity Church in Lynnwood is holding an auction on October 25, 2014, at the church. The money raised will help them send a Humanitarian Outreach Team to Tanzania to labor (literally) in the building of a birthing center. They will partner with the International Health Partners of Tanzania headed by Mary Ellen Kitundu, President, Dr. Denny Lofstrom, Vice-President, and his wife, Paula Lofstrom.

If you would like to attend the auction purchase your tickets NOW! Tickets MUST be purchased by October 18, 2014! You can purchase the tickets by going to the Unity Church in Lynnwood 16727 Alderwood Mall Parkway or call 425-741-7172. Tickets cost $35. Silent Auction opens at 6 p.m. Live auction follows.

To learn more about this project go to   http://www.ihptz.org/Zinga_Project.htm

This project will eventually encompass a Maternity Complex and Hostel, an Orphanage (for children whose mothers die in childbirth–not uncommon in Tanzania), a Pediatric Ward, a Laboratory, a Birthing Center and Neonatal Nursery, an Xray, a Maternal Child Health Center and a Laundry.

For those of us in the United States, a laundry may seem rather mundane; however, in places such as Zinga, a laundry is essential! In the words of IHPTZ:  “No hospital can function without a Laundry. Lots of small hospitals or dispensaries wash clothes by hand on a cement slab outside. Some even hang the laundry on bushes or trees. We feel that a laundry with hot water and good facilities is essential for the prevention of the transferring of infections especially with newborns and children.”

For a variety of reasons, volunteering in #Tanzania is not an option for me, so I asked Barb if donating some autographed novels for the auction would be helpful. She said yes and so…..

We met at Barb’s house on Saturday afternoon for a lovely homemade meatloaf dinner. As we waited for dinner to finish cooking, we visited. I took the opportunity to ask Barb a few questions about her church.

I asked: “Why is your church doing this outreach work?”

Barb said: “Our philosophy behind outreach is to do something to help make someone else’s life better.”

I asked: “Do you do other outreach projects?”

Barb said: “We ‘adopted two schools’ in Everett, members of our church help at food banks, and volunteer at a number of other places.”

Always curious about motivations (after all I am a #crimefiction author!) I asked: “Does your church take these opportunities to evangelize?”

Barb said: “Our church respects other religions. Someone else’s religion is as important as ours. We don’t evangelize.”

After dinner, I sat down with Barb and autographed six #murder #mystery novels to donate to the auction on the 25th of October.

DSC01709

DSC01719

Though I cannot change the entire world, I cannot stop the crazy wars, I cannot rescue all the animals and people who need to be rescued—I CAN do this small thing. I can weigh in on the side of positive change. I can become a small part of a great vision. If every person did one small thing to make our world a better place for all people and all living creatures, how great would be the changes we would wrought!

Come and be a part of positive change! Join Barb and the Unity Church in Lynnwood in helping to build a Birthing Center in Zinga, Tanzania! Buy your tickets NOW at the Unity Church in Lynnwood 16727 Alderwood Mall Parkway or call 425-741-7172. Tickets cost $35.

If you can’t attend the auction, you can donate money to the Humanitarian Outreach Team. Call Barb at 425-741-7172 to find out how.

Don’t miss future posts. CLICK and FOLLOW!

To purchase your copy of the books I donated for the auction go to:  http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar

 

 

 

Share

2 INTERESTING #BOOKS ,REGARDLESS OF READER’S AGE

Books shaped my life, both as a child and now as an author. Girls have had to struggle with the restricted abilities and often uselessness of female characters–all too often Manic Pixie Dream Girls whose only function was to be there to help the boy achieve his destiny; the blonde bimbo to show how really smart the guy was; the damsel in distress so the hero could do his heroics.

This history is why I read YA novels, among many other kinds of genres. I search for novels that show women and girls as being the rescuers, the heros, the do-ers that change their worlds. I look for novels that young girls can read and come away from feeling good about themselves, having their imaginations fired up with all the things that girls CAN DO!

I am pleased to have found two more such books. These YA books are interesting reads regardless of the reader’s age.

Angelbound by Christina Bauer

http://www.amazon.com/Angelbound-Christina-Bauer-ebook/dp/B00EQGQ6OI

Myla Lewis, quasi-demon, has all the problems many eighteen-year-olds have: overprotective–single–mom, finish school, talk older friend into helping her sneak into the Arena. There’s a big difference though: she lives in Purgatory. She’s a gladiator–a woman who fights evil human souls to total destruction, hers or theirs. She has to win in order to stop evil human souls from transitioning into Heaven where they would do the King of Hell’s bidding and cause chaos.

The voice of Myla was well done and pulled me quickly into the story. I couldn’t help but cheer the little demon on. Right from the first, it was skillfully brought out that Myla’s mom was harboring secrets. Devastating secrets.

What could be worse than the chaos of Purgatory where the ghouls rule under the King of Hell’s banner and make life perilous for all other creatures? Myla is about to find out.

Don’t want to do a spoiler by accident, so suffice it to say this is a mystery with a bit of romance and a lot of fantasy.

Myla is definitely on my list of strong female characters. YA novel, but I rate this as suitable for plain vanilla adults. A four star read.

 

The Ghost Files by Apryl Baker

http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Files-Apryl-Baker-ebook/dp/B00EJ62OMS

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Hathaway, a foster child, has a slight problem: she sees ghosts. Not friendly Casper, but kids with bullet holes in their heads. Not even her best friend, Meg, realizes this. And, Mattie is determined that no one will know; after all, she feels enough like a weirdo as it is. She’s decided that ignoring the ghosts is the best way to force them to leave her alone.

She doesn’t know how wrong she is! When her foster sister, Sally, turns up dead with a bullet hole in the forehead, Mattie pushes aside her feelings about ghosts and opens herself to them. Can she find Sally’s body so that her foster sister can be laid to rest?

A read that quickly pulls you in and moves along. In the face of incredible odds, Mattie battles the hidden evil that is killing children. Will she win? Will she survive, or is she slated to be one of those children drifting around with a bullet hole in her head?

Mattie is a well-developed strong female character that is easy to like and to root for. YA novel but I rate this as suitable for plain vanilla adults, too. A four star read.

Share

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: