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Review of The World’s Emergency Room by Michael VanRooyen

The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers by Michael VanRooyen

 

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A review by Jennie and Roger Sherwin

In 1945 when Allied troops liberated The Netherlands, an unlikely warrior accompanied them. American pediatrician Clement Smith flew into Amsterdam and then The Hague to study the effects of history’s first and only clearly delineated famine—in terms of its start and finish—on children born to Dutch women who were pregnant during the “Hongerwinter” of 1944. Following D-Day in May 1944, the exiled Dutch government called for a strike of the national railways to impede the German occupiers of The Netherlands, a call that was answered beginning in September 1944. The Germans retaliated by blocking all food transports into the western areas. Food, already scarce because most of the agricultural land had been destroyed during the war, began to run out. When the Germans finally relented, the severe winter weather, which had frozen the canals, along with the German destruction of roads and bridges to slow the advancing Allies, made overland and water transport of food impossible. From the fall of 1944 to May of 1945, the Dutch people in the affected areas endured a famine, which killed—according to some estimates—up to 22,000, mostly the elderly, and had lasting generational effects.

When news of the famine came to the attention of the exiled Dutch government in London, Queen Wilhelmina petitioned Winston Churchill to broker relief for the Dutch people. An agreement between the Allies and Germany allowed an airlift of food by the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the American Air Force. Called Operation Manna and Operation Chowhound, bombers laden with food supplies were allowed to fly in low, unmolested by German gunners, to drop their life-saving cargoes. The starving Dutch spelled out “Many Thanks” in tulips for the bomber crews to read. Although these crews did not think of themselves as humanitarian workers but as men in service to their respective countries, in effect they were doing the work of humanitarian outreach to a population affected by war, displacement, and starvation.

Clement Smith, whose research would show the famine had a major effect on birthweight but only if the famine coincided with the last trimester of growth, as well as other effects, would go on to become a founding father of neonatology and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard University. Decades later, the son of a Dutch resistance fighter whose life had been turned upside down by the war and the mass starvation, would co-found the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative with the mission of conducting research to improve humanitarian response to crises, embedding the principles of human rights into these responses, and educating the next generation of humanitarian leaders.

In The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers, Michael VanRooyen, co-founder and director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University, professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the chairman of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, gives us an up-close look at the humanitarian crises of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Written from a very personal yet historically comprehensive perspective, the narrative provides an intimate portrait of the making of a dedicated emergency medicine physician and humanitarian as well as a series of harrowing tales of his and others’ provision of emergency life-saving procedures under threat from warring factions in troubled areas of the world.

What makes people dedicate their lives to helping others, especially under life-threatening circumstances? VanRooyen points to his father’s wartime experiences as the catalyst for his desire to devote himself to helping other people. Michael’s father, Johannes (Joe) VanRooyen, was a teenager when the Nazi Army invaded The Netherlands. At age seventeen he joined the Dutch resistance and helped Jews to hide and eventually to flee to England and to Spain. In 1943 he was caught and sent to Bergen-Belsen, where he was tattooed and put to work in a steel factory. Periodically, he was taken to Berlin and interrogated by the Gestapo. VanRooyen’s description of his father’s torture by the Nazis is not sensational in the least, yet it will nevertheless horrify those of us who have yet to become inured to the scenes of war and refugee crises that have been flashing across our television screens in the United States and around the world as technology has advanced to connect humanity globally. Returning home weighing all of seventy-eight pounds (on a five-foot, eight-inch frame), Joe found his country and its economy in ruins and his hometown deeply affected by the mass starvation. He met and married a young woman from Haarlem, Gertrude Breed. Together, they decided to emigrate to the United States for the chance of a new life.

And a new chance is exactly what these refugees from war were afforded in the United States of the 1950s. Working hard, they soon owned their own home and had two sons. Yet, personal tragedy would dog this young family even in their new country. Gertrude VanRooyen developed metastatic melanoma in her late thirties and died at the age of thirty-nine when the author was eight years old. Although at this young age he could not articulate the effect of this loss on his life, later he would cite it, along with his father’s stories of imprisonment, his religious upbringing, a roadside rescue he witnessed, and his medical training in inner-city Detroit as the seminal events in his life that led to his career as a humanitarian physician

He was clearly drawn to a life of service to others with a wish to provide this service through the field of medicine. Finding a specialty that would most prepare him to do so was the focus of his exploration in medical school. His search led him to the work of Charles Clements, a Quaker and a humanitarian physician who had served in El Salvador, providing medical treatment to the victims of the civil war between rebel forces and the government. In Clements’ example VanRooyen found the combination of humanitarian outreach and provision of emergency medical services that would define his career.

For anyone who likes delving into the motivations that lead people to do what they do, this is a book that will hold great appeal. VanRooyen gives us an intimate look at the defining moments in his life, including his relationship with and marriage to fellow physician, Julie VanRooyen, who shared his vision of bringing emergency care to victims of conflicts and disasters. For those who are concerned about the global humanitarian crises humanity is now facing, VanRooyen outlines in painstaking detail the circumstances that led to each of the major crises in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, describing the actors and movements that led to their explosions on the world scene, as well as the main responders who brought aid to the affected populations.

Along the way he provides a history of humanitarian aid and the evolution of humanitarian aid workers from being seen as neutral and protected from the conflicts into which they bravely entered to being thought of instead as pawns of opposing governments and open targets. He doesn’t shirk from discussing the inadequacies or inefficiencies of humanitarian aid efforts and the lack of coordinated approaches to some of the worst humanitarian crises in our time. Nor does he fail to focus on the consequences of starvation and the brutalization of those most vulnerable in the populations affected by war—women and children.

One vignette from the narrative, in particular, will serve to illustrate the effects of war, displacement, and starvation on the vulnerable, resilient but not infallible, women caught in conflict. VanRooyen describes meeting a woman in a camp in Mogadishu who would illustrate these effects without speaking. He and his team were screening children between the ages of one and five for malnutrition when they discovered a child named Fatima with symptoms of kwashiorkor, a condition recognized and so named by speakers of the Ga language, living in what was then the Gold Coast. Cecily Williams, an Oxford-educated physician of British extraction born in Jamaica who studied famine in seventy different countries, first determined that this condition was due to protein deficiency and distinguished it from marasmus, an overall caloric deficiency. Williams translated kwashiorkor loosely to “disease of the deposed child,” such deposition taking place after the birth of the next sibling. Since the mother would no longer be able to nurse the previously born child, he or she would be weaned and thus become vulnerable to protein deficiency.

After VanRooyen and his team examined Fatima, VanRooyen asked through an interpreter for the child’s mother. There was no response. The question “Who takes care of her?” was then posed. Again, there was no response. Obviously, Fatima’s mother had perished or been abducted during the conflict. Finally, a woman motioned to VanRooyen to come with her. They walked silently through the camp to a crude plastic shelter, and she pulled back the flap. There on the dirt floor sat three small children, a small bag of rice, and a pot. When VanRooyen looked again at the woman, she turned up the palms of her hands to indicate her inability to help. Fatima was a victim of the conflict, but so too was this woman, who was helpless in the face of another starving child. VanRooyen’s comment at the end of this vignette, which reflects his combined background in emergency medicine in hospitals in U.S. inner cities and his experience in the field of humanitarian outreach, is worth repeating here:

“The suffering of a malnourished refugee in the squalor of a camp is an affront to human dignity. That dignity is something we all possess and must fight to preserve. Perhaps now I also could better understand my patients in inner-city Detroit or Chicago, where the oppression of poverty and culture of violence drives them to helplessness. The struggle to promote human dignity was not only to be fought in Somalia, but also closer to home.”

VanRooyen has served as a humanitarian physician in more than thirty countries, including Bosnia, Chad, Darfur-Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, North Korea, and Somalia. He brings an insider’s knowledge and perspective to the reporting of the conflicts and natural disasters that have led to the urgent need for humane and compassionate responses to the millions of refugees now knocking on the doors of conflict-free countries in Europe as well as the United States seeking asylum. Will the world tell them there is “no room at the inn,” or will it find its way to a compassionate solution that raises the dignity of all of humanity?

 

The World’s Emergency Room: The Growing Threat to Doctors, Nurses, and Humanitarian Workers is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Michael VanRooyen is also the co-author of Code Blue: The Making of an Emergency Physician (John Hanc and Michael VanRooyen) and Emergent Field Medicine (Michael VanRooyen, Thomas Kirsch, Kathleen Clem, and James Holliman).

Disclosures:  We have never met Michael VanRooyen, although Roger corresponded with him several years ago through letters of recommendation for two researchers then being considered for appointments to Harvard University faculty and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI): Phuong Pham, PhD, MPH, now Director, Program on Evaluation and Implementation Science, HHI, and Patrick Vinck, PhD, now Director, Program on Peace and Human Rights Data, HHI. Roger knew them when he was the Joseph S. Copes Chair and Professor of Epidemiology at Tulane University. Jennie also knew Phuong in New Orleans and later met Patrick in Santa Fe. We consider them close friends. (They are mentioned in VanRooyen’s book). Finally, we have provided editorial services for online and print publications written and produced by researchers within the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

 

 

Rave Reviews Book Club’s Spotlight Author: Maureen K. Howard

As the Rave Reviews Book Club’s very first Spotlight Author, I really love hosting for the blog tours of the Spotlight Authors. It gives me a way of paying back for the wonderful support I received when I was the lucky author and still receive today as a member of RRBC. Today, I host Maureen Kovach and Brigette Howard, a mother and daughter writing team, also known as Maureen K. Howard. Wait until you dig in to the first book in their Lake Erie Mysteries series! Looking for another great summer read? Look no further than this link to Sunny Side Up. To get things started, the authors have for you today an “interview” with their main character, Francine Orsini Egge. Then, have fun reading an excerpt from Chapter Two of Sunny Side Up.

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Character Interview

~by Brigette Howard

Host: Welcome! Let’s get the easiest and most obvious question out of the way first. Who are we talking to today?

Francie: My name is Francesca Orsini Egge. Notice that my last name rhymes with ledge and not leg. People get that wrong all the time, but you can just call me Francie.

Host: Okay, Francie. Would you tell us a little bit about your family?

Francie: I have been married for twenty years to my wonderful husband Hammond. He is a lawyer and a really stand up kind of guy. We have two children, Beth and Ben; they are twins. They both moved off to college this year, so I’m suffering a little bit of empty nest syndrome.

Host: Is that why you spend so much time with your friend June?

Francie: I guess I never thought of that. I suppose I do like being around June and all of her shenanigans because it keeps my mind off of worrying about my kids.

Host: Speaking of shenanigans, tell us more about June.

Francie: June is my best friend, if people in their forties are still allowed to have best friends. We met while I was working as an intern to the Cleveland prosecuting attorney, and she was just starting her career as an investigative reporter for WCLV. Our paths seemed to keep crossing, and in no time we were socializing out on the town and living it up as two single career women would do. That’s also just about the time I met Hamm, and the rest is history so to speak. Look at us now. Still best friends, but with very different careers and lives than we set out for.

Host: How did you switch gears from a budding career in law enforcement to eventually heading the local college drama department?

Francie: After the twins were born, I loved being a stay at home mom spending my days with Beth and Ben when they were babies and then sharing in their youthful adventures, but I realized that I still needed something for me. I was endlessly directing impromptu plays the kids put on with their friends in the neighborhood, so I thought, why not try my hand at theater for adults. It started with just a few classes here and there when I could squeeze them in, but resulted in a degree in theater and a very fulfilling career as the drama department head in the same college where I had started out my classes.

Host: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Francie: I love to spend summers at my “Happy Place.” Hamm and I have a condo and a boat in Marblehead on Lake Erie. We spend our weekends there as often as possible. We enjoy taking the boat for short trips to some of the nearby islands. There are some great shopping destinations and really delicious food. Not to mention a wide variety of tempting adult beverages.

Host: Do you have a favorite food or drink that you would like to share?

Francie: Cheese for sure! It can be on food, in food, or just by itself, but everything is better with a little cheese. And of course, a nice glass of Pinot Noir also goes nicely with a cheese plate.

Host: I think that about wraps things up. And I’m getting a little cheese craving of my own right now. Thank you for stopping by to chat Francie.

Francie: It was my pleasure. Until next time, remember my favorite motto, “keep a drink in one hand, credit card in the other, and everything else will sort itself out.”

Author Bio:

Maureen K. Howard is the pen name of mother/daughter writing partners, Maureen Kovach and Brigette Howard. They both live in Findlay, Ohio. Maureen recently retired from a long career as a high school English teacher and now focuses her time on spoiling her three granddaughters, spending long weekends at the lake with her husband and their golden doodle, and making friends with fellow mystery writers and readers across the globe via social media. Oh yeah, she also writes books. Brigette works full time managing multiple national restaurant franchises. She enjoys taking her charcoal lab on running adventures and spends her free time reading, gardening with her husband, cooking, and planning the perfect murder.

Maureen Online:

Twitter: @mhowardbooks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maureenhowardauthor Website http://mhowardbooks.wix.com/lake-erie-mysteries

Book Links:

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.com/Sunny-Side-Lake-Erie-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00Q79DB90/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434554136&sr=1-2&keywords=sunny+side+up B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sunny-side-up-maureen-k-howard/1121262131?ean=9781634432887

SunnySideUpCover CHAPTER TWO

Did I leave my vibrator on? Oh wait, I don’t own a vibrator, so what was causing the riotous pile of clothes on my bedroom floor to buzz with such urgency? The mundane truth was that I’d switched my cell phone ringer off so I wouldn’t lose focus while trying to assemble my weekend wardrobe. Obviously that wasn’t working out so well for me.

I located the gyrating devil under some discarded tank tops and swiped the answer button on the screen just before the call was switched over to voicemail.  “Hello?”

“Francie! Is it a go? Did you get the hubby to agree to run us over to the island in the boat this weekend?”

“It’s good to hear from you, too, June. And no, I haven’t even gotten around to asking him yet. He’s downstairs whipping up one of his gourmet meals, and I sure don’t want to distract him from that. I was trying to figure out what I should pack. How do you prepare for freezing cold mornings, balmy afternoons, torrential downpours and high winds—and fit everything into one suitcase? At least I don’t have to worry about bathing suits. After the winter we’ve just had, the lake probably won’t warm up until August.”

“Sorry. I’m just anxious to get to the island. My editor is jumping down my throat to get this story in before the official start of the season.”

June’s passion was hard to resist. She was like that about everything she did—she took off running and didn’t look back. I could feel myself being lured in to the promise of fun and adventure. It wouldn’t be the first time.

My best friend was a freelance writer. She worked for a consortium of specialty magazines running the gamut from Fruit Aficionado to The Neighborhood Cigar, to my favorite, Lady Sings the Tools. Two years ago she gave up her high-profile job as an investigative reporter for WCLV, the major network news channel in Cleveland. After her divorce, she bagged up all her corporate outfits, chopped off her hair, and set off on a new career path that didn’t hamper her free spirit. Her new job now requires her to spend time with all kinds of interesting people from every walk of life instead of digging up dirt on the lowest of low-life criminals.

Recently, I even got to meet Christie Browne, the beautiful model, while June was working on a story about the latest beauty product the star was endorsing. In our enthusiasm to prove our support for the much-touted self-tanning lotion, we doubled the recommended amount as well as the recommended usage time. Our skin turned a frightening shade of burnt pumpkin, and wouldn’t you know it, I had to accompany Hammond to a formal dinner party given by his firm that same evening. June, on the other hand, was able to postpone her face-to-face interview, and by the time we met Christie, we both looked sweetly sun-kissed.  She got rave reviews on her piece. I got put on a prayer list.

“I get that you’re under a deadline, but if I don’t approach Hamm in just the right way, I’m fried. Let me call you back in a little while.”

“Okay, but let me know soon. If I don’t take this assignment, I’ll be stuck documenting the mating behaviors of ferrets for the next two weeks.”

Rave Reviews Book Club’s “Pay It Forward” Week: Promoting Author John Howell

It is my pleasure to participate in the second Rave Reviews Book Club’s “Pay It Forward” week. This is a wonderful program conceived by Nonnie Jules, president and founder of the RRBC. On three days of this week participating author members do not promote themselves. Instead, they promote a fellow RRBC member or members. This week I am promoting John Howell, an RRBC member I first “met” through RRBC tweets. John is a great promoter and supporter of other members, and I am thrilled to be able to do for him what he does for fellow RRBC members. Let’s support John by visiting his website and his Facebook page as well as tweeting about his books. You can read the first chapter of My GRL  by clicking on the book’s cover at John’s website. I guarantee that you will be hooked. Then visit his Amazon page to purchase this engaging thriller. Here is John as he describes himself.

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John’s main interests are reading and writing. He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business. John writes thriller fiction novels and short stories. His story Cold Night Out won honorable mention in a Writers Digest Popular Fiction contest this year. He also won first place in the Kurt Vonnegut Kilgore Trout novel contest, celebrating Kurt Vonnegut as an author. His short story “Never Give Inn” was selected to be published in the Miracle E-zine fifth issue published in April.

John lives on Mustang Island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife, Molly, and their spoiled rescue pets.

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John’s debut novel, My GRL, was published by Martin Sisters Publishing (www.martinsisterspublishing.com). It is currently available on Amazon. Be sure to visit John’s author page. Here is a blurb from the back cover:

John J. Cannon, successful San Francisco lawyer, takes a leave of absence from the firm and buys a boat he names My GRL. He is unaware that his newly purchased boat had already been targeted by a terrorist group. John’s first inkling of a problem is when he wakes up in the hospital where he learns he was found unconscious next to the dead body of the young woman who sold him the boat in the first place. Further, John now stands between the terrorists and the success of their mission.

 

Kathryn Hemmann’s Review of Second Quest, A Graphic Novel Based on the Legend of Zelda

Kathryn Hemmann, who teaches classes on Japanese literature, cinema, and popular culture at George Mason University, recently reviewed Second Quest, a graphic novel by David Hellman and Tevis Thompson based on the legend of Zelda, which has a loyal following among video gamers, and published by Fangamer in 2015. David is the son of Debbie and Jesse Hellman, friends and neighbors of ours in Baltimore. Given my age (I am of the Baby Boomer generation), you will not be surprised to learn that I am new to the world of video gaming and graphic novels. The only other graphic novel I’ve read was one that appeared in the New Yorker magazine, and truth be told, it didn’t appeal to me because the story line made no sense to me. Hemmann’s review of Second Quest, however, presents it as a nuanced exposition of a world that to me mirrors our own, albeit evolving, world, in which one’s personal quest for growth can be shackled by society’s expectations. Add to this, protagonist Azalea’s plight as a woman exploring places forbidden to females and you have a story that goes right to the heart of gender politics both in our real world and in the world of video gaming, which has focused on a young male audience to the exclusion of young females looking for strong role models. Hemmann also strongly endorses the artistic approach of David Hellman, but I’m not going to give too much away here. Read the review below and decide for yourself. As for this Baby Boomer, I am ordering Second Quest as soon as I finish writing this introduction.

Contemporary Japanese Literature

Second Quest

Title: Second Quest
Artist: David Hellman
Author: Tevis Thompson
Publication Year: 2015
Publisher: Fangamer
Pages: 120

Second Quest is a beautifully drawn comic that reimagines the Zelda mythos and explores just how bizarre it is that the Hylians consider themselves to be “the chosen people” who need to be “protected” from other races. What was Ganon really trying to do? Did Zelda really need to be rescued? Why is Link valorized for running around with a sword and smashing everything he encounters? What sort of cultural legacy does this create, and who suffers when outsiders are removed from historical narratives?

Of course, The Legend of Zelda is a keystone franchise of the global game industry, and licensing it is not cheap or easy, so all of the serial numbers have been filed off in David Hellman and Tevis Thompson’s interpretation. What this means is that Second Quest is accessible to…

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In Loving Memory of Kathryn Chastain Treat

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Kathryn C. Treat passed away on Sunday, December 21, 2014, at 2:20 a.m. (California time).  On Friday, December 19, after having a wonderful time at the Rave Reviews Book Club’s virtual Christmas party, in a virtual chat room with her fellow RRBC VIP Lounge members, Kathryn said that she was not feeling well and was going to leave.  Shortly thereafter, she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and then lapsed into a coma.

Kathryn was an honorary board member of the Rave Reviews Book Club, where she served as Membership Director from December 2013 until September 2014.  Kathryn is the author of ALLERGIC TO LIFE:  MY BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL, COURAGE AND HOPE  She inspired and encouraged many with this book, so if you have not had the pleasure of reading it, please head to Amazon and get your copy.

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Kathryn was a dedicated member of RRBC until her passing, and she was one of the most supportive members the club had…not just to one, but to all.  Kathryn leaves to mourn her husband, her mother, her sister, her two daughters, a son-in-law and three grandkids (whom she adored more than life), as well as her entire RRBC family.

Let us remember Kathryn and honor her memory by always being kind to one another and by always offering our support to another.  It’s what she did.  It’s how she lived.  It’s who she was.  In honor, many blogs across the world are memorializing Kathryn today with the same post that you see here.  If Kathryn touched your life in any way, please share your memories and comments below.  Since everyone who knew Kathryn may not yet know of her home-going, we ask that you also share this page on all your social media forums.

We have erected a memorial page on the Rave Reviews Book Club site that will remain.  Please stop by to leave your comments and memories of Kathryn, so that her family will get a sense of just how loved she was by so many.

THANK YOU!

PS:  As a member of the Rave Reviews Book Club and someone whose life was touched by Kathy, I am participating in the worldwide blog today as Kathy is laid to rest. My thoughts are with her family, and I send them love. In an earlier post I wrote about Kathy and her courageous fight both to educate others about multiple chemical sensitivity and to survive a workplace mold exposure that had turned her life upside down. You can access it here: Click.

 

Breathe! Inspiration from Arianna Huffington’s Book Thrive

41y2X6GOT8L._AA160_[1]I recently began reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. The book was a Christmas gift from my future daughter-in-law, Colleen Leddy, who had attended a Thrive workshop earlier in the year. She had texted me about her wonderful experience, and I made a mental note to buy a copy of Huffington’s book. One thing led to another, and I never placed that order. Consequently, I was really pleased when I opened the gift box and found Thrive. Since I was right in the middle of reading London by Edward Rutherfurd, a book I highly recommend to both seasoned and aspiring writers for a study of Rutherfurd’s approach to historical fiction, I couldn’t start Huffington’s book when it arrived.

Over the past three days, however, I’ve read about 150 pages of Thrive, but I’ve already found so much to recommend that I thought I’d take this moment to reach out to all of you who are celebrating the beginning of the new year. For many of us the end of one year and the beginning of another is a time for reflection on what has gone before as well as what is to come in our lives. Not exactly resolution making, reflection is a way to take stock and to dream or plan. I was thinking as I read those first 150 pages that part of Huffington’s message speaks to reflection in our daily lives through the mindfulness practice she recommends.

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The training I received at A Healing Place in Richardson, Texas, led me to incorporate mindfulness in my daily life through the practice of meditation. Living on a mountain, isolated at 8,000 feet, for nearly nine years after my introduction to mindfulness, or awareness, made that incorporation easy. Those of you who have read my book, Intentional Healing…or have been following my blog for a while know that I attribute my full recovery from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) not only to treatment at Dr. William J. Rea’s clinic in Dallas but also to the spiritual healing I received from energy medicine practitioners, Navajo medicine men, and the self-care awareness and energy balancing exercises I was taught at A Healing Place.

Obviously, my own experience with the health-enhancing benefits of mindfulness made me receptive to Huffington’s message that a successful life needs to be redefined from the current metric of working to career achievement through sleep deprivation and exhaustion to, instead, in the words of her subtitle, “creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.” And to make this point, Huffington backs up her recommendations with a great deal of research supporting the benefits of mindfulness, not just to us but to the organizations, businesses, and institutions for which we work. The data are convincing. I highly recommend you read Thrive.

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What is mindfulness? If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness, you can think of it as paying attention to who you are and how you feel in the moment. It is as simple as paying attention to what you are eating and how you are eating it. A friend of mine attended a Natalie Goldberg writing workshop in France this past summer, where mindfulness was incorporated into every activity and task during the program. Eating in silence with mindfulness, paying attention to the scents of the foods, noticing how they felt on several levels as they chewed, allowed the writer participants to open their focus and their ability to write about the experience. Did I mention that they also had to be unplugged from social media—no smart phones, tablets, or computers except for a brief window each day? Something Huffington would have applauded.

Deborah Singleton, founder of A Healing Place, taught me that breath and thought are the two most important tools to enhance wellness in the bodymindspirit. Huffington has incorporated both of these tools in her approach to a successful life, one that is balanced between the planning and execution of tasks in the workplace and at home with living in the moment, which is what mindfulness is all about.

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You can take the first step toward cultivating mindfulness by focusing on your breath. As I was taught at A Healing Place, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Think of letting go of all that does not serve you. And relax. Feel into every part of you—head, mouth, nose, throat, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, legs, and feet— as you sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Focus on your feet. Think: I let it all go. This is something you can do in the middle of your work day right at your desk. Even one minute in this focus will enhance health and improve concentration.

If you’re fortunate to be working at one of the companies mentioned in Thrive that provides meditation classes or quiet rooms for mindfulness, then spend a few minutes bringing yourself into balance by de-stressing through breathing. Enter the quiet room. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in one of your favorite places. Is it in a garden? At the seashore? By a lake? On a mountain top? Notice your surroundings in your sacred space. Feel a soft breeze on your face. Experience the warmth of the sun.

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Take a deep breath in through your nose and gently blow it out through your mouth. Feel your breath move from the top of your head through your body and into your feet. Send your breath from your feet into the floor below and down into the earth. Don’t worry about what floor you are on. Just see and feel your breath moving through those floors and into the earth. Feel your connection with the earth.

Notice areas of tension in your body. Breathe through those parts of you and think: I let all tension go. Feel it move into your feet and down into the earth. When you feel relaxed, gently bring your focus back to your breath as you leave your visit to your favorite place. Within yourself, express gratitude for your moment in your sacred space. Remember that you can return there whenever you want.

When you are ready, open your eyes. Nurture your body with a cool glass of water and a healthful snack such as fruit or nuts. You will return to your tasks refreshed.

Every day take a few minutes to be in the moment, noticing how you feel and relaxing the tension in your body through breathing. Over time, this refreshing break will develop into an automatic reflex that kicks in when you are feeling stressed. As you continue to practice mindfulness, your awareness of who you are in any moment will enhance your health and allow you to see other people in a more compassionate light. The benefits for you, your employer, and the world at large will grow and grow.

Blessings to all!

My thanks to Google Free Images for the wonderful visuals in this post.

Rave Reviews Book Club’s “SPOTLIGHT” Author, Rochelle Carter!!

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As the very first Spotlight author of the Rave Reviews Book Club, it always gives me great pleasure to host a new Spotlight author. The current Spotlight author Rochelle Carter shares her thoughts about the benefits of outlining, a technique I once taught and promoted as a teacher of English and still recommend to writers today. After you’ve absorbed the wisdom of Rochelle’s advice, show her a little love by supporting her on the social media she lists below. And don’t forget to check out her book on Amazon. Better yet, join the group that promotes established, new, or aspiring writers. Stop by the website of Rave Reviews Book Club and say that Rochelle sent you.

Spotlight Author Rochelle Carter

Spotlight Author Rochelle Carter

How I juggle writing with a screaming toddler

We’ve all got conflicting priorities to juggle; here’s why outlining your book should make you more efficient

Even as I type this blog, my 18 month old is screaming in my face from my lap. She’s tired and teething, and overall not happy with life right now. I’m still typing however, because I have a plan for my writing, and estimated word count I will hit and then I will be all hers again- if she’s not asleep. That’s because I live for outlining my work. Having an outline provides three major benefits:

  1. Helps you stay focused- even while multi-tasking, having an outline and a general premise for what you are trying to convey will allow you to drop off and pick up as needed.
  2. Allows you to develop your writing strategy– if you know the end goal for each section in your outline, you are less likely to go off on a tangent and wonder how you got there.
  3. Makes it easier to get help if necessary– for nonfiction books especially, outlining will allow you to work more effectively with editors. They will be able to see the overall arc of your book and provide directed input, rather than just going with the flow of your writing.

I know as authors we get told repeatedly to write an outline, and yet so many of us forego this simple tool for the sake of the long, treacherous, and blind journey to manuscript completion. After years of starting various books, I finally went back to basics and completed my first book- The Seven Step Guide to Authorpreneurship. I may not be selling millions, but I’ve certainly made the Amazon bestseller lists and won a couple of awards this year. I am a good student, so for my next book I have already started working on my outline… even while the kids run and scream!

Book Cover 12 16 2014

Follow Rochelle online! Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Website Amazon

Rave Reviews Spotlight Author Ronesa Aveela

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As the very first Rave Reviews Spotlight Author, it is always a pleasure for me to host a new Spotlight Author. Today the spotlight is on Ronesa Aveela, author of  Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey. For all of you history lovers out there, now is your chance to learn a little more about a people who were contemporaries of the Ancient Greeks. And if you haven’t heard about the Rave Reviews Book Club, then mosy on over to the site to check out the club that supports, promotes, and propels members. Tell them that Ronesa sent you. Here she is in her own words.

MysticalEmona_BookCover

The Thracians

We knew little about the Thracians when we started to work on “Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey.” When people mention Thrace, the only heroes who readily come to mind are Hercules, Orpheus, and Spartacus – if even those. But Thrace has a vast history beyond its mythology or the conflict with Rome. We enthusiastically rolled up our sleeves and researched their culture, religion, and customs. Our efforts were reward with a delightful review: “I love that there is a little bit of historical elements in this book, namely the stuff set in ancient Thrace. A history buff myself, it isn’t often I get the chance to read things about Thrace that don’t involve Spartacus. Major props to the writer for creating this wonderful tale.”

Quite often now when we mention the book, people ask, “Where is Thrace?” or “Who were the Thracians? Is that a country?”

So, let’s start with the easy question: “Where is Thrace?” The Thracians lived in southeastern Europe along the Black Sea, in the region that is now modern-day Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.

Map

“Who were the Thracians” poses a more difficult question. What we can tell you is that they have been around for a long time. Since the people themselves did not have a written language, everything that is known about them comes from other sources. The first historical reference to them was in Homer’s “Iliad,” where it was mentioned that they were allies to the Trojans. But evidence of them as a distinct people exists as far back as 1500 BC.

They were a warlike tribal nation, living in mountains and valleys. But they were also great artisans, finely crafting delicate golden objects and painting beautiful murals.

A polytheistic people, they worshiped the Sun and Moon, both. Bendis, called the Great Goddess, was one of their primary deities. Better known, however, is Dionysus, the god of wine, whom the Greeks incorporated into their religion. It is through the story of Orpheus (you remember him; he went to Hades to retrieve his wife Eurydice) that the tale of this drunken god is probably best known. The story did not end well for Orpheus. The Maenads, followers of Dionysus, tore him apart. Yup, gruesome.

Even today, Bulgaria is known for its wine. Many myths and legends mention Thracian wine. Homer says the most popular wine, one with the best aroma and body, came from the Thracian city of Maroneia. Odysseus also used Thracian wine to put the Cyclops Polyphemus to sleep before he struck the beast in the eye with his spear.

When Christianity crept into the region, the Dionysian cult faded away. But even today the feast of Saint Trifon is celebrated, and the festivities trace back to the cult of Dionysus (for example, pouring wine and electing a king). But, that could be the topic of another entire blog.

“Mystical Emona” was highlighted on October 9 at Boston University during an event called “Bulgarian Voices: Love, Light and Rituals.” It is also available on Amazon US and UK. In addition, we are working on a non-fiction book that will describe many of these Bulgarian customs and others in more detail, as well as their Thracian origins. Look for it in December.

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Book available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mystical-Emona-Souls-Journey-Volume/dp/1500616974

Website: http://mysticalemona.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MysticalEmona

Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBQ7FJtb9vY

Pinterest—Rebecca: http://www.pinterest.com/tacrafts/

Twitter: @RebeccaCarter_E

Rave Reviews Spotlight Author Traci Sanders

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As the first Spotlight Author of the Rave Reviews Book Club, I warmly welcome the authors who enjoy their time in the spotlight. Today it is my pleasure to host Traci Sanders, an award-winning teacher and child advocate, who is also an accomplished author. You can visit with Traci on the Rave Reviews Book Club website. If you haven’t yet become a member of the club, which is open to both authors and readers, stop by to join and say Traci sent you. Here is Traci in her own words.

Traci Sanders

I doubt she even realizes it, but my mother has always been a huge inspiration for my writing. As a young girl, I watched her play the piano and write songs for church. Sometimes I would find her journal and read some of her songs and become inspired to write my own. I would also write poetry and short stories. Writing was my gift, and I realized this at an early age. As I got older, I began writing and singing songs in church. People told me I had an “anointing” from God, a power to heal with my words and my voice. That was a pretty powerful thing to hear at my age so I took it seriously.

 

cover Darkness 3D 

 

“When Darkness Breaks”

Local news anchor, Amber Woods, seemed to have it all – a thriving career, two beautiful children, and a doting husband named Drake. Life was perfect…until her world was turned upside down in one fateful night. While the incident causes Amber to renew her priorities; unable to deal with what happened, Drake begins sinking into a deep depression laced with infidelity and alcohol. Hoping a change of scenery will salvage her quickly deteriorating marriage, Amber agrees that a move to New York may be just what they need. Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that you can’t outrun your problems and the past is not always left in the past. Can Amber save her marriage without losing herself along the way? What will she do when darkness breaks her will to keep trying?

 

www.amazon.com/dp/B00MONNXSC

 

About the Author

 

Traci Sanders

Traci Sanders

 

Author and mother of three, Traci Sanders has been composing poetry, songs, and children’s stories since the young age of ten. In 2003, she opened her home to young children in her community offering “beyond the basics” teachings. In 2008, she was recognized by the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency as Family Childcare Provider of the Year and was featured in two local newspapers. In 2010, she furthered her education by earning her Child Development Associates degree and was a recipient of the FIRST (First Incentive for Raising Standards among Teachers) Award presented by the Child Care Commissioner of her state. She continues to shape the young minds of the future through her home-based childcare program. Her daily interactions with these children provide constant inspiration for her writing and she plans to continue on this path until her story has reached “The End.”

Her first book was published in January 2013 titled Welcome to Poop Camp “The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth about Potty Training.” She released her first children’s book about family child care in May 2013. To date, she has published five books including her first novella When Darkness Breaks.

 

Twitter – https://twitter.com/TLCKids4915

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TLCKidsPublishing

Website – http://www.tlckidspublishing.com/

Book Release: Elemental Earth by Harmony Kent

Harmony Kent has just released her third novel. Her life, as she describes it here sounds fascinating despite her surgical injury. Here is a soul, who is not only courageous enough to live in solitude for years as a Buddhist monk/nun but is also brave enough to return to the world to forge a new life. Bravo, Harmony!

Nicholas C. Rossis

Book Release: Elemental Earth by Harmony KentJoin us for an exciting week, celebrating the Release of YA Fantasy Fiction Novel “ELEMENTAL EARTH” by Author Harmony Kent.

Let’s hear about it in her own words…

Harmony Kent

I just published my third Novel, and what a whirlwind ride it’s been! A couple of years ago, I couldn’t have seen myself writing at all. Which just goes to show, none of us know what’s around the corner. How did I end up here?

My life began (again) at forty. What a scary time that was. Nevertheless, so worth it. I would like to take you on my journey with me, so you can see how I got to where I am today.

I’ve always wanted to write, but didn’t always have the confidence or know how. I remember the first ‘long’ story I wrote; I was eleven. School had run a writing competition and I filled a whole…

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