Guest Posts

Making the Most of Snow Days (and why they are good for the soul)


If you haven’t stumbled upon QuietKeepers as yet…you will thank me for sharing this recent post with you today.

Everything that author Judy Roberts has expressed about snow days…I’ve been experiencing (and feeling.)

Snow Days — they do force us to take a deeper look inside.

And that is always good for our souls!

The joy of the first snowfall of the season is a distant and slightly unreal memory these days as our corner of the world universally acknowledges it is tired of winter and dreaming of spring.

We are weary of record snowfalls and cold temperatures that have brought us a season of altered plans, closed schools, stranded travelers, and indoor confinement. We have been inconvenienced, rescheduled, whipped about by the winds, and mesmerized by the crawl on our television screens alerting us to road conditions and cancellations.

Winter has its beauties, to be sure, but it sometimes has been a challenge to bring them into focus while digging our way out of the aftermath of the latest storm.

Still, as the snow has piled up, I have been conscious of a kind of acceptance that has settled in. Perhaps it is the fruit of living a little closer to nature as I have done since moving to “the country” 20 or so years ago. It’s as if the price of enjoying the beauty the natural world bestows on me is a humble bow to its inconveniences and a nod to its superiority.

Like everyone else, I am tired of the snow and the cold, but amid it all, I have found myself taking time to enjoy the season’s pleasures by looking out the window at a winged visitor resting on the edge of the bird bath, the rich colors unfolding in a sunrise or a sunset, or the pattern of shadows the trees cast on the snow.

In winter’s confinement and seclusion, I have not only seized these opportunities to pause and gaze outside, but to glance inward. Bereft of external distractions and supports like social gatherings or even a daily walk, it has been tempting to turn on the radio or TV, check email, or look up something online. Not giving in to those distractions, though, forces me to do what most of us hate – stopping to face whatever is simmering under our cherished and blessedly diverting activity. Maybe that’s why everyone loves a snow day, but just one.

After a day, not being able to get out and do what we normally do is no longer a novelty. It’s a nuisance. Stopping and being still means we have to think about what lies beneath. And most of us would rather not look. It’s as if we open the door of a closet we know needs cleaning and shut it quickly, dreading the very appearance of all that stuff that has to be sorted, disposed of, and reorganized.

Winter invites us to be quiet and still in a way that we simply cannot be during other seasons. If we accept the invitation, we may not like the look of all that stuff in the closet, but there may be a treasure in there somewhere, if only we will open the door and start sorting. We still have a month of winter left. Go ahead. Clean the closet.

Guest Posts

Guest Post by Jim Lange – Calming the Storm Within

calmingthestormwithinAuthor Jim Lange offers a timely lesson from his newest book release, Calming the Storm Within. Enjoy!

A Lesson Learned From My Own Writing

I am humbled. Let me explain why.

For a 30 month period, ending in December of last year, I had been working on my latest book, Calming the Storm Within: How to Find Peace in This Chaotic World(released in December, 2012). The two weeks leading up to the launch were a whirlwind with me trying to get a lot of stuff completed. I admit it…I didn’t have a lot of peace. Though I explain in the book that one of the main reasons I wrote this was because of my struggle with attaining peace, I am still humbled by this. Me, the author of a book on peace, struggling with finding it…go figure.

As I was perusing the text of the book, I came to the realization that I had been trying to control the process. I was not relinquishing control to God. And thus, I had no peace. Here is the excerpt from the book–about a time a little over two years ago–that really caught my attention:

As I write this chapter, it is late February. I am looking out the window of my home office and the scene is quite breathtaking. It seems that every tree branch in sight is glistening because of last night’s ice storm. To my left is one of the several birch trees in our yard. It is approximately 30 feet tall and quite beautiful. Currently the top of the tree is resting on the ground, yet the tree is not broken…it looks like a big catapult.

Earlier today, I ran a quick errand and I noticed the wreckage all around our community. Many, many trees were destroyed from the weight of the ice. I saw some in which every branch of the tree was broken off and the only thing left was a short, stubby and lonely trunk. Many yards had branches littered about. Even some streets were temporarily closed because of the limbs in the road.

This left me wondering why some trees, like our birches, seemed to have survived the storm while others were killed or permanently scarred. I have noticed over the years that birch trees are very flexible. They sway with the wind and the storms. Other trees tend to be much more rigid and inflexible. It is those rigid trees whose branches were broken off in this storm. The birch and other flexible trees simply bent with the storm and will eventually return to their original condition, stronger for the experience.

The same is true in your life. If you are rigid and desirous of control, you, too, might have branches broken off which can leave painful scars, or worse. However, if you let go of your desire to control and let God have His way in your life, you can also be restored, a stronger person for the experience. Remember, God is working on your behalf. In all things, He is working FOR you (see Romans 8:28).

A lack of peace may occur in your heart when you try to take control of something in which you do not have control. This often happens because of the underlying fear that you may have in your heart…a fear that God is not going to provide or protect. This fear can then lead to worry and anxiety.

I have realized that I have been acting like these rigid trees…and have been experiencing the pain of my branches being snapped off. This has been a great reminder for me to release my desire for control.

God used my own writing to convict me…incredible! He is amazing and He does have a great sense of humor!

Jim Lange lives in Lambertville, MI and is the president of Five Feet Twenty (, an organization that coaches leaders and helps them to be all God made them to be. His latest book, Calming the Storm Within can be found at

Guest Posts

Guest Post by Diane Markins – Women In High Def

A few months’ back my good friend, Diane Markins, asked me to read her new book and endorse it. What a privilege!

I “met” Diane about two years ago on FB when she generously offered to show me the ropes on book promoting via social media. Thank you, Diane!

This then “new friend” saved me countless hours and lots of missteps I would have had to endure during my social media learning curve.

How do you spell gratitude?

Because I am.

Grateful for Diane.
Grateful for her work.
Grateful for her approach to challenging women to be their best by embracing the “grace and grit” of life.

Grateful for FB too…never, ever, thought I’d say that!

Here’s what I wrote for an endorsement of her new book, Women in High Def: Boldly Living Your Purposes with Vibrant Clarity.”

Ever felt like your life has gone off course, out of focus, and watered down by mediocrity and apathy? I know I have. Which is why I am so grateful for Diane Markins’ new book, “Women in High Def” which addresses each of these pivotal life junctures with powerful reminders of how combining “grace and grit” makes all the difference. These two ingredients, “grace and grit” which are characteristic of Diane’s dynamic lifestyle of faith, will most certainly bring “higher definition and greater clarity” to everything you set your heart and mind toward achieving. Read it, reflect upon it, and be transformed.

I meant every word…but please don’t take my word for it…go to Amazon and order your own copy today.

Articles · Guest Posts

Guest Post by Lisa Grey — Pink Kitchen Books

In late 2011, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer and for the first time in my life, “breast cancer” became personal to me.

My friend Denise decided to share her journey with others and as she does so, this brave and remarkable woman imparts lots of encouragement and practical information along the way.

I never realized (or took the time to consider) how much information a woman fighting breast cancer has to digest…too much.

Still, Denise makes it palatable because she’s smart and funny and honest about the stuggle…and who couldn’t use more of these attributes?

As I read Denise’s work and started getting educated on the ins/outs of breast cancer, one aspect of fighting this disease kept popping up…nutrition.

Denise has talked about it, written about it, and found ways to ensure her diet fights her cancer. All of a sudden, eating well isn’t just a choice…it becomes one of the weapons to overcome a dangerous opponent.

On this note, I was delighted to read and review breast cancer survivor, Lisa Grey’s book on cooking up delicious and highly nutritious meals. Lisa’s story is below and you can find her books on her website.

Lisa created the Pink Kitchen for herself and for every other woman in the battle. I like what I read…and I think you will too.

Many people believe that being healthy takes too much time, talent, or money. The thought of all that extra effort is particularly overwhelming to a person who has battled cancer or another disease.

Lisa Grey knows a thing or two about nutrition. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lisa used nutritious foods and herbs to help her attack the disease. Her goal was to do whatever she could to destroy the cancer and keep it away.

When her tumor shrank in size just a few weeks later, doctors told her that ‘sometimes these things just can’t be explained.’ But Lisa believes that the explanation is good nutrition!

Since then, Lisa has had a passion for sharing simple, quick, and delicious ways to eat nutritiously…not only for breast cancer survivors, but for anyone overwhelmed with the prospect of healthy eating. Out of this passion, Pink Kitchen was born.

Whether you are a breast cancer survivor or not, it’s time to step into Pink Kitchen – where healthy cooking is delicious, affordable, and easy…even if you think you have absolutely no talent for cooking. So pour a cup of your favorite beverage and join us. There’s a kitchen stool here with your name on it!

Guest Posts

Guest Post by Alison Ross of Ali Anne Photography

As a self-taught photographer and owner of Ali Anne Photography, I have spent a considerable amount of time reading and learning from other professionals as well as training my eye to take quality photos.

When I am not carrying around my professional camera, here are three basic tips/tricks that I frequently keep in mind when taking photos with a point and shoot camera, phone or tablet:

1) Lighting is the key. Are you taking a photo outside? If so, direct sunlight can cause your subjects to squint and be uncomfortable. Try for complete shade or early morning/early afternoon when the sun is less harsh. For photos inside a dimly lit room or restaurant, turn off the flash. The last thing you want is more squinting, blinking, or “ghost face” from being overexposed from the flash with a completely black background. Your camera or device may have a setting for indoor use or low light that may be helpful, just be sure to steady the camera so the shutter can open long enough to properly capture the image.

2) The more natural, the better. Avoid the “Awkward Family Photos” posing or strange surroundings. When people think of you, how do you want to be remembered? People remember you happy, laughing, in motion and full of life, not stiff and uncomfortable. Tell your subjects a joke or have them tickle each other, dance with each other or share a memorable experience they have together. Try to capture the sparkle in their eyes.

3) Composition. When you look at a photo you like, take a moment to figure out why. Oftentimes the subject in many photos isn’t in the exact center of the photograph. Sometimes the subject isn’t looking directly at the camera. Pay attention to what is going on behind your subject also, as it can be hard to ignore random people in the background. When taking photos of children or pets, don’t be afraid to get down at eye level instead of the typical view from up high.

Think outside the box before you hit that button.

To see more of Ali’s work, check out her website at: Ali Anne Photography, and smile pretty. 🙂

Articles · Guest Posts

Guest Post by Denise4Health — After Mastectomy

To follow Denise4Health click this link.

Read Denise’s latest update on her breast cancer journey below.

So here I am one week post mastectomy. My surgery consisted of Modified Radical Mastectomy of the left breast and lymph node dissection of 14 lymph nodes. One week post surgery I am feeling far better physically and emotionally than I ever dreamed I would!

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder all of this. The reason it has been far easier is the preparation I did before surgery. I suppose it depends on the person as well. Quiz time: are you a person who just jumps into the pool without even feeling the water temperature or do you put your toe in first and gradually, slowly and methodically get used to the water? It takes me about 15 minutes to finally get under in a pool or lake.

Moving toward Mastectomy has been like slowly getting into a frigid lake. And as a result of my planning and preparation, my physical recovery has been much faster because I was emotionally prepared and the frigid lake doesn’t feel quite so cold. My surgeon’s office offered me a surgery date 24 days sooner than the actual surgery date. When they called me about the hurried date, I immediately started to cry, my intuition yelled “NO” and I had the courage to say, “I am not ready yet.” The nurse scheduler wisely said, “Then wait. We treat your whole person, not just the tumor.” So I then took the later date and am so grateful I did. I am not recommending you put off surgery indefinitely. But if you have a choice, give yourself some time to grieve prior to mastectomy if your surgeon will allow it. I did alot of grieving and crying before surgery over the loss of my breast. I am grateful I had that time to grieve. It was a great gift to myself.

If you are one of the 78,000 women per year in the United States who needs a Mastectomy, it seems so overwhelming, you can’t imagine what to do first. I am going to give you some tips that will definitely help you.

1) Recuperation Clothing – Clothing is important to us women! Be prepared to have the right kind of clothing when you leave the hospital for recuperation purposes. My wisest purchase was a button up the front cotton tunic 2 sizes larger than I wear and very long. It also had a pleated front to cover bandages and compression bands. My lopsided breasts were not so apparent in this blouse. I’ve lived in this blouse between washings! I wish I would have purchased two of them.

2) Mastectomy Camisole – this has been so helpful as it gives you a place to hold the drains, it acts as a bra if you have a remaining breast, and comes with soft breast forms for either a single or bilateral mastectomy. The breast forms are so soft, they can be worn home from the hospital. Being able to insert your new “breast”, is a real comfort! Looking good is feeling good. Many hospitals provide these and insurance companies pay for them. Check before you purchase one.

3) Vest – I purchased a fleece vest in a size larger than I wear from K Mart for $11.99! This inexpensive purchase has been extremely useful as I placed it over my blouse or pajamas. It has inside and outside pockets to carry cell phones and other small items, and if you get visitors, it is a great shield. The vest makes you feel protected and less vulnerable. This vest has proven to be much better than a cumbersome robe!

4) Mastectomy Pictures – Look at pictures on the internet of mastectomies and reconstructive surgery to help mentally prepare. I could not do this alone. My sister and niece had to help me with this. Ask for help from a trusted friend or family member.

5) Recuperation and Healing Space – Prepare your recuperation space. For me, it has been a Recliner–waking, sleeping, and eating. It has been so much easier to sleep in the Recliner because of pain. Have what you need by your space before you leave for the hospital. Make it a pretty space, a healing space, a loving place with plenty of small tables around and places to grab things easily. If you share your home with family members, find a corner of your home just for your healing space.

6) Travel Pillows – Three or 4 travel pillows. I purchased mine at a discount store for $2.49 each. These have been an ENORMOUS help!! First, coming home from the hospital was an hour car ride. These smaller pillows can be placed over surgery area for seat belts, stuffed by your back, or held to comfort you. Since I had a lymph node dissection, I use these pillows to prop my arm and shoulder area, put them on my lap to rest my laptop on, and many other uses!!

7)Exercises – You will most likely be assigned post-surgery exercises to regain your mobility in your arm and shoulder areas. I asked a trusted friend who also is faithful to exercise, to assist me. She has been invaluable. There was so much information, I couldn’t handle one more thing. My friend came before surgery to review the exercises with me, then made an appointment with me the day after I got home from the hospital. This gave me a purpose to feel better and an incentive to do the exercises. She visited several more times until I got the routine on my own. It was like having a Physical Therapist!

8) Incision – A few hours after surgery, my surgeon came in to check the incisions. She asked me if I wanted to look. I did. I would encourage you to do so. It helps looking with your surgeon. Somehow I was able to separate from my missing breast and look at it as an incision I would have to care for and clean.

9) Mirrors – Before surgery, cover the bottom portion of your mirrors at home. I knew I would not be ready to look at a full frontal view of myself. Looking down is one thing. Looking in a mirror takes alot more courage. I taped fabric over all of my mirrors so I can only see my face. This has been an enormous help!! It gives you control. On my largest mirror, I left a space open off to the side so I could peak when I was ready.

I finally looked in the mirror briefly on Day 7 after surgery. It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. God’s grace meets preparation. My soul feels the same. I’m still me. In fact, I think I am more beautiful now. Before, like most American women, I was always comparing my faults and how my body didn’t match up to the women in magazines and on television. Now that definition of beauty has been stripped from me. But there is a freedom in that difference.

10) Pain Medicine – I asked my surgeon’s office if they would give me my prescriptions a couple of days before surgery, which they did. This was so helpful as the pain meds were ready for me upon my arrival at home. I didn’t have to send someone to the pharmacy and wait for them to arrive. And speaking of pain medicine, take it! My surgeon explained to me if your body uses the energy to fight pain, it takes longer to heal. Once this was explained to me, it made sense and took away my fear of pain medicines . Also, be sure to purchase a stool softener like Collace or Dulcolax when you purchase the pain meds to avoid constipation. They really work! Also, have high fiber foods at home ready for you like oatmeal and granola.

These 10 things have made my recuperation and healing so much easier! It was a lot of work before surgery, but it kept my mind busy. Also, if you are having financial challenges as Breast Cancer is expensive, when one of your friends or family ask, “what can I do for you?”, tell them you need travel pillows, a cotton blouse, or a fleece vest. Your friends and family want to help. Why not ask them to purchase something you need that will assist you in your recovery?

Please feel free to contact me with any other questions! I will be happy to answer any questions and provide a listening ear.

Guest Posts

Guest Post by Patricia Smith — Compassion Fatigue and the Female Caregiver

Compassion Fatigue and the Female Caregiver

By Patricia Smith, Author of To Weep for a Stranger

Founder, Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project

We female caregivers are more likely than our male counterparts to suffer the negative effects of caregiving. Our penchant for caregiving is wrapped up in our survival as a species and most likely in our DNA. If we don’t nourish and protect our young they can die, and continuation of our species would be in grave danger.

While caregiving brings great joy and satisfaction to most of us, this predisposition to caregiving has a down side. We are more prone to place the needs of others before our own needs. If not balanced with authentic, sustainable self-care practices daily, this behavior leads to stress, burnout and possibly compassion fatigue. Stress is all about too much – too much work, too much activity, too much stimulus. Burnout is about too little – too little time, too little interest, too little energy.

Compassion fatigue is a set of symptoms, when left unmanaged, can devastate the life of a female caregiver.

Compassion fatigue takes hold when we experience secondary traumatic stress due to witnessing another’s story of physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Simply put, we strongly relate to that pain and begin to take on another’s suffering as our own. Since relating to others is often valued by females, chances for high levels of compassion fatigue are prevalent among our ranks.

Specific symptoms associated with compassion fatigue are:

· Isolation
· Bottled up emotions
· Persistent sadness and apathy
· Voicing excessive complaints about co-workers and management
· Lack of interest in self-care practices
· Recurring nightmares, flashbacks
· Persistent ailments such as allergies, colds, gastrointestinal problems

The first step in avoiding compassion fatigue is awareness. It is vitally important we know and understand the symptoms are real and, while they never disappear, can be managed when healing occurs. Many of us grew up in the role of family caregiver. Since our formation years were spent on caring for others, we never mastered life skills to protect our own resources – time, energy, finances, etc.

Many of us gave until there was nothing left to give- and then we gave more. The premise of healthy caregiving is this: Fill up, empty out. Fill up, empty out. Those of us at risk for compassion fatigue empty out, empty out, empty out. We never learned to fill up so we have something to give. In the end, we experience depletion of body, mind and spirit.

The art of “filling up” is finding what brings us peace, wholeness and a sense of belonging. This can be something as simple as running, walking in nature, knitting, or riding a bicycle. Whatever it is that we choose to do must be authentic to us – not anyone else. Often it takes work for a lifelong caregiver to figure out her passion.

Step One in rediscovering the authentic self is to practice personal boundaries- when to say yes and when to say no. We must reclaim our resources so we have time to fill ourselves up. Depending on how long we have denied our own needs, this journey can be arduous and difficult. Saying no doesn’t come easy to those of us who value helping others.

One last note: I hear from caregivers worldwide who ask about breaking free of their addiction to technology. Because we love our iPhones, Blackberries, iPads, and pagers, we are now “on call” 24/7, leaving no time to fill up and restore our sanity. Setting boundaries helps. Check email at 9 am, noon and 6 pm only. Limit how much time to spend on your cell phone. Take a complete break from technology on weekends. Find what works for you and practice it regularly. This is our best assurance against stress, burnout and compassion fatigue. By achieving daily authentic, sustainable self-care, we learn that it is possible to provide quality, compassionate care to others while applying quality, compassionate care to ourselves.