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Let’s Welcome Janelle Jalbert, RRBC’s Spotlight Author

As the very first Spotlight Author of the Rave Reviews Book Club, and yes, my fellow RRBCers, I will continue to remind you of that singular honor, I take great pleasure in hosting a Spotlight Author. If you’re not familiar with the benefits of membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club, then head on over to the website. Stay awhile and surf the menu. RRBC is a home away from home for a great group of congenial writers who help beginning writers as well as established writers to promote their work and have a good time while doing so. Today, Janelle Jalbert is in the spotlight, so if you decide to join this great group, say that Janelle sent you! Here she is in her own words.

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Birth of a Wingdog

Often, authors refer to their books as “book babies”, and I tend to be one of them. Each book is a special gift, at least for me, and has its own unique life beyond the covers. WINGDOG: Soul Pup continues that trend for me. It wasn’t started as a book. I had no illusions about being a memoirist. It started as a coping mechanism that blossomed into more than I originally ever thought possible.

The story behind WINGDOG started sometime in 2009. Have you ever gone through a period in life where everything seems to be touched by magic…where doors open to possibilities you couldn’t have imagined, and it seems as if you were given life’s golden ticket simply for waking up in the morning? That is where WINGDOG started.

I was transitioning out of the traditional classroom into online teaching and also working on a doctoral program in education while writing for an online startup. I’ve always had a wide range of interests and hobbies, including auto racing. In fact I used to get teased by my students for my motorsports enthusiasm.

By 2010, I was working two posts as a motorsports reporter/photographer in addition to my teaching career. Ninety days after covering a race weekend in Martinsville, Virginia, I signed a lease for an apartment in Charlotte, since my reporting was leading to more travel to the area. A month later, I officially moved from Southern California to North Carolina.

I didn’t have any personal ties to the area at the time. It was a leap of faith in many ways. A few months after I settled in, I began having problems with some neighbors and a couple of events had me thinking that I made a disastrous mistake. Still, I am not one to cower in the face of adversity, and my dog lover side made the solution easy. A pup would help me deal with the situation as well as be a much needed form of companionship in the aftermath of my move.

Little did I know the miracle that would arrive on an October afternoon.  I opened an email and was introduced to a pup with one brown eye and one blue eye. I fell in love instantly. By that evening, my wingdog, Goose, and I were a fresh little family. Goose not only worked his magic on me but also touched lives across the country.

A year later, I began writing the “Goose Tales” as a kind of writing therapy. My life had done a severe one-eighty, and I was struggling after my return to Southern California. It started as a series of vignettes to help me smile when I thought the proverbial bottom had fallen out from under me.

It took more than four years and several stops and starts to see WINGDOG: Soul Pup completed. What began as writing therapy, to help process the events of a remarkable time in my life, slowly shifted. I learned one of the major differences between fiction writing and memoir writing in the process. There’s therapeutic value in getting a story told, but sometimes it takes time for the full impact of a cycle of events to emerge. Time may heal all wounds, but it is also true that the unfolding of subsequent life events change the story behind the story. It was the permission to let the story emerge over time that was the key to WINGDOG: Soul Pup being more than just another canine-centric story.

WINGDOG: Soul Pup is subtitled ‘A Magical Mutt Memoir’ because what started out as a personal coping strategy developed into a celebration of life and love. The magic in life is not about spells, potions and other wizardly or witchy things. The magical side of life is about experiencing all that life has to offer; celebrating companionship in all its forms; seeing the love and humor in the everyday moments; experiencing the gifts of serendipity and synchronicity; and understanding that the present of life is often more than we can grasp in the present moment.

Wingdog Soul PUP ebook cover FINAL 300 dpi.jpg


Excerpt from Wingdog Soul Pup

First Date

Yes, I slept with him on our first date. It felt so good to have his warm body against mine. He was gorgeous and sweet as slumber set in, and I couldn’t help but curl up closer. We were already doing our own version of spooning, just hours after meeting. Everything was once again right with the world thanks to his warmth by my side. It was a case of love at first sight that grew deeper in the darkness of the bedroom around us.

I couldn’t help but run my fingers through his fur as his brindled coat rose and fell with deep, sleep-filled breathing. His fur was the perfect texture, not too course but without fluff. The hairs behind his bouncy ears were already my favorite, so silky fine. He sighed as I continued rubbing up and down his side before once more scratching behind his ear. With the ear rubs, he pushed closer into me. His sixteen pound body firmly tucked at my hip.

Ah, I’m home.

I wasn’t sure if it was my thought because it could have easily come from the pup at my side. For the first time in weeks, I began to doze off, peaceful and content. The neighbor problems that plagued my previous weeks faded away with his comforting presence.

Sometimes it does all work out. Bad things can lead to great opportunities.

The stress of moving from California to North Carolina evaporated. The distress that plagued me eased. It was what I’d been craving: a chance to forget and to enjoy life again. It was what my soul needed. I sighed and let go. All was good, at last.

The day started like most of late when I got sidetracked by my inbox after clicking on the message. A small, brown puppy snuggled face-to-face with a tabby kitten appeared. The expression in the picture wasn’t curiosity. It was more like a big brother protecting a younger sibling. The other picture was of the same puppy looking up at the camera. His brown ears were as big as his head. The look in his eyes was that of questioning intelligence, and only the slightest hint of his blue left eye opposite the brown one showed. He seemed to know it was not simply a picture being taken.

It took less than thirty seconds. I was in love.

Immediately, I hit reply. He’s adorable. I’d love to meet him!

With that, a flurry of emails was exchanged. I rushed out into the silvery, fall day, filled with clouds. I stopped at the ATM before getting on the highway for the trip down to Rock Hill from Charlotte. It felt odd to pull money out to buy a dog. Granted, I rescued pups before, but this felt different. Then, it hit me. There’s something not all together right about exchanging money for a living creature’s spirit, and that thought caught me off guard.

“What’s that all about?” I muttered as I turned down the onramp to Highway 85, heading south. I shook off the feeling with the thought that it helped pay for his care rather than buying him per say.

As I made the transition to the 77 near uptown Charlotte, I started thinking of names for the pup. Angie named him ‘Ace of Spades’ or Ace for ease, but that wasn’t right. I knew that instantly. My dogs have always named themselves. He’ll let me know. I thought, but still names flitted through my mind.

What do I want from all this? That made me laugh. It’s a dog adoption, not a marriage. The truth was already apparent. This was going to be bigger than a simple custody transfer. The anxiety over recent events with neighbors at my apartment complex threatened to rear up again. I needed someone…something…to help watch my back. I wanted a right-hand man…a wingman…or, in this case, a ‘wingdog’.

That’s it! Goose. Like the wingman in Top Gun, he’d be my extra pair of eyes and ears. I loved it immediately and settled on it before remembering that the dog does the choosing.

“Okay, just keep it in mind,” I mumbled as I got off the highway and made a convoluted trip to the apartment. I texted Angie from the parking lot because I couldn’t make sense of the numbers in the complex, so she agreed to bring him down to meet me. I waited in the car for a few minutes, laughing at myself for having a bit of ‘first date’ jitters about meeting a puppy.

They seemed to appear out of nowhere and stopped at the end of the walkway.

I got out, and as soon as I cleared the bumper, he spotted me. It was magic – a connection in an instant – as he leapt towards me despite his leash. His eyes lit up like I’m sure mine did. With a big smile and open arms, I walked up to him at Angie’s side and said hello. He barely reached my kneecap, but his eyes were wide and bright. I dropped to my knee. Given my earlier thoughts about marriage, I chuckled and shook my head to clear the whole proposal analogy from my head. He nuzzled into me immediately and toppled me onto my rear.

Who are YOU? I haven’t seen you before. He did a once over with his nose. Yep, you smell nice. You’re a good one. How ya doin’?

I smiled ear to ear as I situated myself, sitting cross-legged so the little guy could sniff away at will. If that isn’t an enthusiastic yes, I don’t know what is. My heart swelled as his furry little body shivered with excitement. His wild tail matched the leaping in my chest. I looked into his wide, trusting eyes: one brown, the other blue. It was a match. You choose me too! I thought as I wrapped my arms around the brindled bundle showering me in warm wet pup kisses.

“We found him on the highway. He was in bad shape, but we nursed him back to health. He’s been dewormed too.”

He sat listening to the conversation like he would chime in at any time, sneaking glances at me as Angie debriefed me about his circumstances.

How could someone be so evil to such an adorable boy?

“Several people have come to look at him, but the brindle coloring gives the impression of a pit bull.” Angie sighed. “He’s incredibly friendly, but the people who’ve come to see him have scared him as well as my husband and me. It’s like he knows they’re not right. My husband and I figured they were looking for fighting dogs, or even bait dogs, when they start asking about his bloodlines.”

A chill traveled down my spine at the thought of people looking to sacrifice a loving creature for a blood sport.

Angie continued, “That’s why we’ve been saying that he’s a Jack Russell mix. We’re not sure though, and we can’t keep him anyway.” Angie went on to explain about their impending move as Goose scanned the yard of the apartment complex.

Hold on. His name isn’t Goose yet. I thought as my mind and heart made the leap. He gets a vote. Remember?

“He’s big into sticks,” Angie stated as she reached up into the branches of a small, almost bare tree near us and broke off a branch for Goose. He immediately plopped down to tackle his new toy. “I was going to name him Lucky, but that’s too common. So, I thought that the Ace of Spades is a lucky card. That’s how he got his name.”

I noticed that he wasn’t too fond of the name either, since he didn’t even twitch when he heard her say it. Good boy! You’re definitely a smart one. I thought. I could tell Angie was stalling a bit with her continued chatting.

“He’s still damp. I was cleaning the bird cage in the bathtub, and he jumped right in too. He loves water.”

“Perfect! I’m a surfer girl who needs to be around water all the time.” I said with a laugh and smile. “Yeah, I know Charlotte’s not near the ocean, but we’ll be at the lake a lot.” I felt like I was selling myself to win favor.

“He loves going for rides too. My husband has to take him every time he goes to the store or wherever.”

“That works out perfectly too. Though I am teaching online classes fulltime, I’m a bit of a road warrior right now with a side gig as a motorsports reporter. That’s what brought me to NC. We’ll be going to California in a couple of weeks for the Phoenix race, Thanksgiving, and Champ Week. He’ll get the ride of his puppy life.”

Angie’s shoulders slumped as we transferred his things to the car, and I handed Angie a hundred dollars for both the pup and all of her supplies. There wasn’t much: a used cat collar, a small leash, some food and a bowl, but it was a start. The supermarket dog food was going to be replaced immediately.

You’ll be eating way better than that. I vowed silently. I could tell that Angie was both happy and sad. I passed the test. He was going to a good home, but it meant that he was leaving her.

Whether it was Angie’s demeanor or plain puppy energy, he grew restless, starting to explore the yard as much as he could while still on a leash. After Angie ran out of things to chit-chat about, I opened the passenger’s side door and cradled him in my arms. His warmth traveled to my core as the soft bundle of brown, black and white fur rested close to my heart. A sigh escaped as I held him to my chest before placing him on the seat.

Shotgun! He perked up and sniffed the interior, which was already filling with the smell of kibble.

His investigation stopped abruptly and he stared at Angie and me. He knew something was different. This wasn’t a casual, meet-someone-on-a-walk encounter anymore. It was a strange new car. He looked at Angie. Thank you. I’m happy. She’s a good one.

Angie sighed. “Bye, Ace. You’re a good boy.”

He seemed to smile as he stretched, puffing out his puppy chest. Then he got distracted by the straw to my iced coffee. He was at ease, and inside of two hours, I became a pup mom. Life wasn’t going to be the same again.


Amazon Author Page:

Twitter handle: @JustJJWriting


WINGDOG: Soul Pup will be released on Amazon, March 7, with full release across most major retailers in June 2016


Quote for the Day – Ellen DeGeneres

A beautiful soul thought by Ellen De Generes from the blog of Natasha Guyot advises us to be who we really are–a soul on the earth for growth. Thank you to Ellen and Natasha.

Natacha Guyot

EllenDeGeneresQuoteHave a lovely weekend!

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The Authentic Self: Developing Awareness

shutterstock_1660252 How many times a day do you catch yourself talking to yourself? None, you say? Then here’s a little test. The next time you are in the shower, bring your attention to your feet and hold your focus there. How long can you do it before your thoughts intrude? I really need to give Mom a call. We haven’t spoken since last Wednesday, and she’ll think I don’t love her….Why did Frank ask me to stop at the cleaners after work? Doesn’t he remember Dale’s soccer game starts at five? I’ll barely make it there as it is….I hope the boss is in a better mood today. He was really out of it yesterday….I have a paper due tomorrow. Why did I put off working on it? And the guys are getting together tonight to watch the game.  I really need the extra credit. If I don’t turn that paper in on time, I’m screwed. If you are not talking to yourself, who is talking to you?

When meditation was suggested to me several years ago as a way of helping my body to heal while I was in treatment for exposure to toxic chemicals, I had only a foggy notion of what meditation is. Coming of age in the 60s and 70s, I recalled reading about college students who smoked pot or ingested LSD and claimed to meditate, thus linking meditation for me with the use of a mind-altering substance. Faced, however, with the bizarre symptoms brought on by toxic exposure, I was ready to try anything.

I started my meditation practice in the environmentally safe apartment I occupied while I was in treatment. I had been advised to sit quietly in the early morning hours and still my mind. How hard could that be? you might think. What if I told you it was next to impossible? I would sit there in silence, and within seconds the internal chatter would start. Who is in control here? I remember thinking. It isn’t I. That’s for sure. I’m sitting here listening to all this internal chatter while all I wanted was to be quiet. Totally frustrating!

It took months of frustration to understand that I had taken the first step toward discovering my authentic or higher self through these early attempts at meditation. Coupled with the energy balancing treatments I was receiving, meditation was teaching me to observe myself from a new perspective, the perspective of a conscious being in a flesh and blood body. In addition to being crucial in helping my body to heal, not only from the toxic exposure but also from the many chronic illnesses that had made life difficult for me, that change in perception altered how I see the world and everything on it and in it. It led me down a path of ever expanding consciousness that changed me forever.

Who has time for meditation? If you think you need to climb to the top of a mountain and seek solitude to meditate, think again. Meditation can be as simple as taking a deep breath and, when you exhale, sending your breath to your feet.

Let’s learn a few basics. We inhabit bodies that are animated by energies within us and around us. Those energies respond to metabolic changes as well as, for instance, emotional states, food, drink, prescription or other drugs, exercise, thoughts, and breathing. The simple act of taking a deep breath with the intention to clear your mind and be aware of your body is a powerful tool for change.


 The energies within and around us form the human energy system. The major components of the energy system include vortices of energy called “chakras,” a Sanskrit word for “spinning wheel.” The major chakras that we generally teach include the root or base (first chakra, dominant color: red), the sacrum (second chakra, dominant color: orange), the solar plexus (third, dominant color: yellow), the heart chakra (fourth chakra, dominant color: green), throat chakra (fifth chakra, dominant color: sky blue), third eye (sixth chakra, dominant color: indigo), and crown (seventh, dominant color: transparent white or lavender). Minor vortices dot the body and number twenty-one.

Energy flows through and around the body in major and minor pathways. The flow that is usually learned first is the simplest. It begins just above your head, flows through the head, down the spine, and exits through the perineum and into the earth. When I first learned to use this flow, I think of it as the primary flow, to ground or “earth” myself, I felt tingling in my feet. That is desirable because, in fact, this major flow moves also through the legs and feet.

Now that you know the basics, let’s try a twenty-second awareness meditation. Visualize, or imagine, the primary flow in your body. Picture the light above your head. As you inhale, see the light move into and through your head and down your spine. As you exhale, see the light move into the earth and send it down deeply. You may feel tingling in your feet, or you may feel nothing at all. Either way, stay in the moment briefly and then let it go. You have just grounded your energies, the first step in supporting the health of your bodymindspirit. Bring your attention back to what you were doing before you started and go on with your day.

You can practice these twenty-second meditations until you are drawn to a longer session. Then, at home or in another comfortable environment, instead of jumping into a more difficult stillness meditation, try this visualization exercise. Sit comfortably in a chair. Remove your shoes. Wiggle your toes and feel the bottoms of your feet. Ground yourself, as described above, that is, complete a twenty-second meditation. Next, set the intention to be peaceful and relaxed. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. With your eyes closed think of a place that appeals to you—a mountain top, a garden, a path in the woods, a beach. See yourself there and allow the scene to unfold in your imagination. For example, if you chose a mountain top, you can begin by hiking a path to the top. Observe what you see during the hike. Animals, birds of a certain size and color, plants or flowers, waterfalls, any or all of these might come into view. Choose an animal, bird, plant or flower to bring to the mountain top. Sit down and allow your companion to communicate with you. You may see images or experience certain feelings. Don’t analyze. Just experience. When you are ready, make your way back to the bottom of the mountain. Return your breathing to normal. Wiggle your toes. Allow impressions of your experience to come forward. Did a certain color dominate? If red was dominant, you may need to strengthen your root chakra. If yellow, then your solar plexus may need support. Were there feelings you need to explore? The best way to explore these feelings is with a counselor, preferably a holistic counselor, who will see you in wholeness.

If you are curious about the intersection between developing awareness and higher consciousness, then check back for future visualizations and meditations. To learn more about the voice that talks to you, I recommend you read the untethered soul: the journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer. You will not be disappointed. It is the best discussion of levels of consciousness I have ever read.

Disclaimer: All healing paths, while they share certain things in common, are unique to the individual. Nothing I write in my blogs should be construed as medical advice. All decisions about physical and mental health should be made in consultation with your physician or other licensed or certified health care practitioner.


The Latest News on Smoking from Jane Brody

For today’s blog, I copied Jane Brody’s latest article from the New  York Times online on the recent Surgeon General’s report of smoking and the way it harms the body. If you know anyone who still smokes, pass this along. Jane Brody has been a health writer for the New York Times for many years. Her reporting is first-rate because it is based on extensive research and in-depth interviews.

Coming a Long Way on Smoking, With a Way to Go


Personal Health
Personal Health

Jane Brody on health and aging.

Stuart Bradford

Fifty years ago this month, Dr. Luther L. Terry issued the first “Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health,” which cited smoking as a cause of lung cancer in men. The hefty report landed like a bombshell on a complacent public, bombarded daily by tobacco advertising and surrounded at work, home and play by people who smoked.

On Friday, Dr. Boris D. Lushniak, the acting surgeon general, issued the 32nd edition, applauding a half-century of progress during which smoking rates have fallen by more than half. Still, he lamented that “smoking remains the leading preventable cause of premature disease and death in the United States.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, noted in a statement that “this year alone, nearly one-half million adults will still die prematurely because of smoking.”

The new report greatly expands the list of disorders now known to be casually linked to smoking to include age-related macular degeneration, diabetes, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, cleft palate, ectopic pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and impaired immune function. Exposure to secondhand smoke is now deemed a cause of stroke.

In 1964, smoking seemed like the thing to do, socially and legally accepted nearly everywhere. If you were not around back then, you’d be shocked by what it was like. Every car was a smoking car. On flights, passengers inhaled recirculated smoke-filled air. The aroma of exquisite restaurant meals were tainted by tobacco smoke.

Hospital visitors smoked in patients’ rooms, as did many patients themselves. Movies were watched through a smoky haze. Cigarette samples were widely distributed on college campuses, and students smoked freely in their dorms.

Young people associated smoking with glamour and sophistication. I tried it in college myself, but quickly gave it up, deterred by the odor, the eye irritation and the nagging worry that my mother’s fatal ovarian cancer might have been related to this terrible habit.

Although the surgeon general’s report prompted Congress in 1965 to pass a cigarette labeling and advertising law, it took six years for that famous warning — “The Surgeon General Has Determined That Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Your Health” — to appear on packs. Cigarette advertising was banned on radio and television, whereupon the ads moved to magazines.

I was a cub reporter at The Minneapolis Tribune when the historic report landed in the newsroom. I was assigned to interview the smoking “man in the street,” to assess his reaction to the news that what many nonsmokers viewed as a noxious habit was actually a killer.

Several told me they’d cut back, and a few thought they would try to quit. But the overwhelming majority defended their right and intent to continue smoking. As more than one put it, “By the time I get lung cancer, they’ll know how to cure it.”

Well, a half-century later, we still don’t know how to cure lung cancer, and we may still not know in another 50 years. Furthermore, in the decades since the 1964 report, damning evidence for the health hazards of smoking has continued to mount. The consequences include damage to nearly every organ in the body; one in three cancer deaths; risk to the health and lives of unborn babies; and disease and death among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.

Smoking causes one in five deaths in the United States, more than 440,000 each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tobacco is in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of ways it kills and maims people,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the C.D.C. director, wrote in JAMA.

And as millions of women came “a long way, baby” — egged on by this slogan for Virginia Slims and a desire to control their weight and achieve gender equity— smoking-related risks caught up to them. More women now die each year from lung cancer than breast cancer — about 28,000 more, though annual walks, runs or ribbons devoted to conquering this runaway killer are lacking.

Many women were misled by a prevailing belief that they were somehow protected from smoking’s health effects. In fact, the risk of death for women who smoke parallels that of male smokers and “is 50 percent higher than the estimates reported in the 1980s,” Dr. Steven A. Schroeder wrote last January in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The good news is that we’ve made dramatic progress in curbing this huge contributor to disease, disability and death and in reducing billions of dollars in health care expenditures and lost productivity from smoking.

Smoking prevalence is down to 18 percent today from 43 percent of adults 50 years ago. Smoking is banned in public buildings; on public airplanes, trains and buses; inside restaurants, hospitals and most workplaces; and even banished from most private homes.

From 1964 to 2012, “eight million premature deaths have been prevented because of tobacco control measures,” Theodore R. Holford, a Yale statistician, and his co-authors reported in JAMA. They attributed about one-third of the gains in life expectancy since 1964 to the decline in smoking.

Still, the industry spends billions of dollars each year — nearly $23 million a day — to keep smokers at it and entice new ones to start. Although manufacturers say they do nothing to attract young smokers, they have managed to infiltrate smoking into movies popular among teens, subliminally suggesting that this is socially desirable behavior.

While teen smoking has declined, still nearly one in five teens is a regular smoker. Feeling invulnerable, teens often ignore warnings about health risks, wrinkles and premature death decades in the offing. And though told repeatedly that smoking is addictive, many still believe they can quit whenever they want.

Of the nearly 42 million Americans still hooked on cigarettes, about 70 percent have said they want to quit. Many have tried quitting one or more times without success. Some experts believe that those who still smoke represent a particularly challenging group of committed smokers.

But I’ve known several hardcore smokers who have quit in spite of themselves. My husband, Richard, was one. He smoked for 50 years, starting at age 11, and repeatedly insisted that he couldn’t quit. (Happily, he persuaded our sons never to start.)

Even after a two-week hiatus following a cardiac scare, Richard resumed smoking. He finally quit once and for all at age 61, after one session with a hypnotist and a few sticks of nicotine gum. He then became an ardent proselytizer, chastising every teenager he saw with a cigarette about having a death wish.

Although Richard succumbed to a smoking-induced lung cancer 15 years later, statistics suggest that quitting when he did gave him four extra years to enjoy life and our four darling grandsons.