Sunday, September 30, 2012

Church People Watching & PTSD

Welcome Shaunna Gonzales

Shaunna Gonzales has toyed with writing since her teenage years but has only written in earnest since 2005. In an effort to give Dark Days of Promise an authentic feel she endeavored to include some experiences of veterans she knows and could often be found discussing the realities of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in their lives and how it could honestly be shared in this project.
On the evening of this books first promotion, she realized that the scope of PTSD reaches deep into the core of our society and includes infants, children, housewives, the working and unemployed as well as veterans; in short, all of us. In an effort to treat this subject fairly, Ms. Gonzales has altered her writing course from "romance with a twist" to helping our society, sufferers and innocents alike to becoming aware. It is more than those who experience the violence, more than the victims who experience this debilitating disease that are affected. It is their families, the bystander of violent crime and all of us who dare to care for and love them.
Shaunna currently resides in the Seattle, Washington area, with her husband, and their younger children.

Visit Shaunna at

Church, People Watching and PTSD
      My family and I sit in the same place every Sunday morning and no, the pew isn't assigned or paid for. We just get there early and that is where we sit. Members of our congregation are in their Sunday best, men in white shirts and ties, some in suits and the women in modest dresses and usually high heels.
     So one non-descript Sunday, I'm people watching. "Friend A" suffers from PTSD. He's a Vietnam Veteran. I've visited with this gentleman at great lengths in doing research for Dark Days of Promise. I know some of the things that trigger his socially unexpected and potentially violent PTSD symptoms.
     "Friend B" has attended this particular congregation a lot longer than my family has. This morning she is wearing a tight skirt. You would think that having witnessed "Friend A's" reactions on previous occasions, she would be aware. But noooo.
     During the adult Sunday school class, the roll is passed from the back, where I'm sitting to the front. The pews are not full as families have left and I watch "Friend B" stand, the roll in her hand. She advances to offer the clipboard, over the shoulder as she would any other Sunday, but this day is different, the gentleman she will be passing the roll to is my "Friend A".
     In my mind's eye "Friend B" touches his shoulder quite innocently and unexpectedly does the most amazing assisted mid-air somersault ever preformed in such an austere setting. While she is doing this astonishing feat, "Friend A" has jumped to his full 6'3" with a shocking war cry. I cringe and suck at the air in horror expecting a rather nasty landing.
     That is where my mind screeches to a blinding halt. "Focus," I tell myself. I watch intently. "Friend B" touches "Friend A's" shoulder. He flinches and instead of what I know would happen on any other day in any other place, he gathers himself, the muscles tensing. His shoulders rise and settle in the same instant he jerks around to accept the clipboard.
     I release my held breath and the incident goes relatively unnoticed by most of the people present. Not so for those of us that paid attention and are aware. The group gathers after meetings, the veterans and myself, collectively heaving a sigh of relief.
     People, please be more aware.

Thirty-four year old Vicki Laramie must learn to trust before she can love, but she might die trying.
While Vicki’s children grapple with the death of their father -- a man whom she’s successfully fabricated as loving, a lie her rebellious teenager recognizes -- she must find a way to support her family and find a role model for her boys. She never intends to fall for Staff Sergeant Chase, her best friend’s son, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’d much rather choose a safer man to love, but her children have a voice in the decision she makes. With two deaths to deal with, a suitor after her money, a rebellious son, and Sergeant Chase’s repeated attacks, she can only hope to survive the danger she faces. If she doesn’t, her children will be left without either parent.
ISBN: 978-1-61252-218-0

Enjoy the following Excerpt

Why him? I needed help; I even needed a rescuer, but not him. I found myself welcoming his presence in spite of the clenching fear in my stomach. My mind spiraled around the possibilities. Would I freeze to death? Would he attack me? Would I survive? I must get home to my children.
"Kelly! What're you doing out here?" My breathing came out hard.
"I don't know," he drawled. His words formed ghostly shapes in the freezing night air. "Do you want a ride or do you really plan to run home?"
I looked down the road in both directions hoping for a second pair of headlights. I found none.
The fact of my standing on ice and snow escaped me for the moment. I anchored my foot for take-off and slipped, going to my knees. Kelly moved fast, I didn't see him open the Jeep's door before he grasped my arm, lifting me to my feet.
"You okay? You went down pretty hard." He propelled me to the passenger's side. Numb feet measured each jarring step around the front of the Jeep. Why had he come looking for me? The possibility of his not looking for me in particular, but anyone -- anyone alone, screamed across my thoughts.
Afraid of a cold death at the side of the road, my thoughts stalled. He'd proven himself faster than I. I shook his hand off to climb in and settled myself as close to the door as possible. He walked around the front of the Jeep, his footsteps sure on the icy surface.
"Have to admire your spunk," he said climbing in.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Traveling Memories -- Eeww de Toilet

It always fun to travel. You learn so much, get to see how people live in other parts of the country, and the world. Traveling can be very exciting, informative and sometimes frustrating

As a child I traveled overseas with my parents to place like Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Belgium, and Turkey to name a few.

Perceptions of what we'd find were sometimes comical.

Take moving to Germany while my father served in the Air Force.

We packed up our household goods, sorting some to take overseas and some to move to storage. For a family of seven there was quite a bit to go through. We were allowed to pick a few special things and some clothes then sent the rest away in boxes we wouldn't unpack until years later.

 My parents also made sure that the family truck and camper were sent out by ship. I figured we were heading for a place where people lived in tents or something. I was going to miss all my things, but thank heaven we would have our truck to live in.

Then I began to think of how crowded that would be for the time we had to live in Germany. At least our camper had a bath and shower. A tiny bath and shower, but we'd stay clean. I wondered if we'd live at a campground.

Imagine my surprise and relief when we arrived in Germany and had a home complete with walls, bedrooms, a bath and a toilet.

Years ago, toilets were not available at every store you visited, nor were they open to the public if they were. There was usually one bathroom at the gas stations (sometimes one for men and one for women, not always) and you had to get the key, or wait in the line. When our family stopped (all seven of us) there was always a line. You learned to hold on.

In some places you prayed you would. We had our camper with the bathroom to travel around Europe, for all the good it did. We didn't get to use it. And my father never stopped, we were certain he had an iron bladder or something.

When my father was stationed in Turkey a few years later, we again had indoor plumbing, but it went out it in the building every afternoon for a few hours, so we had to keep the bathtub full of water so the plumbing would work. We also had to boil our water and use drops of clorox to clean it before we drank. They said the sewer leaked into the fresh water pipes quite often.

Public bathrooms in some areas were a lesson unto themselves. There were seats, no toilet paper and no doors. Instead there were two well places metal foot pads on the floor over a hole, a tin, a bit of magazine and a faucet. Usually, one of us would or two would hold up a blanket over the area where the missing door should go while the other took care of business. Squatting beside the road took on a whole new meaning... We remembered to carry toilet paper or kleenex.

I think men had far easier than women.

Then again, when I think of another trip my husband and I took with two of our boys, (one 2 1/2 the other 1 yr)  I might have to reconsider.

We were traveling to North Dakota along vast stretches of wheat fields and very few roadside stops. Our eldest decided he had to go. So we stopped on the side and with the door to one side and mommy to the other, tried to get him to go. He couldn't everyone was watching, all the cars and people in them would see him. Mind you there was very little traffic.  He said he could wait, so we packed him back in the car and headed down the road again.

Shortly, he said he had to go really bad. So we stopped and tried the side of the road again. Once again,    he couldn't do. Once his bum flashed in the breeze he freaked out and said he could hold it.

So back in the car we went.

Luckily, we found a little store and were able to stop. I picked up my son and jogged inside only to find that there was no bathroom.

I asked if they had one and they pointed to a little reddish-brown wooden building. I jogged my son there and opened the door, trying to plug my nose while assuring him that if he sat on the hole in the seat it wasn't going to eat him, nor would spiders bite his rear.  No coaxing could change his mind.

I swiped my watering eyes and moved my son and I outside before I barfed. After clearing my mind with fresh air, I took my son behind the outhouse and he was finally able to take care of business in full view of the road, with cars driving by.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Imagining My Garden

With a writer's imagination, I've written several books. Boy do I wish that imagination would work in my garden.

Because there… I seem to wield the gardener's black thumb of death.

It wasn't always this way. In Colorado, I grew blackberries and pears and apples. I’d get squash, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, okra and more. I would can and freeze these fruits of my labor for use over the long winter months.

Then I moved to Arizona. So far, my gardener's green-thumb has gone as dormant as the nutrients in my sun-bleached soil.


I made raised beds, put in a mixture of soil like the man at the garden shop said, and went to get my plants; peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, okra, brussel sprouts, squash, mint, basil, sweet mint, parsley, and oregano. The man at the garden shop said anything will grow here. The plants looked so healthy at the garden shop.

I planted my garden, talking nicely to my plants as I tucked them in their beds, so they'd know what they meant to me. Then I sat back with a basket to gather all the fruits that would soon be falling off my vines. Ha.

It was as if the plants were dormant themselves. They certainly get the message that everything grows in Arizona. I got a couple of little tomatoes and watched a squash flower bloom and saw it begin to grow. I cheered it on like an Olympic coach. I got some clippings from my herbs that I could dry and use fresh in meals. Yum.

But soon, things began to shrivel. The herbs, which I sat inside, were the first to go. I deep sixed them saving any leaves I could, bought new ones, and planted them. Same scenario. I saw more squash blooms, more shady leaves of green, but no squash. No tomatoes. Nothing.

Then came June and the plants managed to eke out more tomatoes and a couple of peppers. I grew enough for jars full in Colorado. At this rate I'd get a can over six months.

My okra was blooming full force. I expected the stalk to shoot up and give me a bounty.

Again, Ha

Shortly into June came the 110+ days and dust storms. I had planted in a place where there wasn't full sun but… but that didn't stop the wind. I watered faithfully so my plants wouldn't scorch, but I could almost hear the moisture being sucked out of them. It was amazing, my plants wouldn't grow, but the weeds would.

For all my toiling, I ended up with two tomatoes, no squash, a couple okra, a few peppers and a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes and a touch of herbs.

I was so frustrated, I yanked the tomatoes and squash out. The strawberries had long since given up the ghost, as had the Brussel Sprouts.

I'm babying some peppers and okra, in 113 heat. It doesn't look good for them.

Too bad I can't just grow a garden with my imagination.