Gems and Birthstones

Gemstones fascinate me on many levels and are integral parts of my current manuscript.
Gems and crystals speak to me as grounding influences, vibrating with their own energy. Albert Einstein once said that ‘…everything in life is vibration.’
They also sparkle like stars and thus fulfil my sense of connection with the universe.  

gems and birthstones - the last krystallos

I love pretty things and stones of any kind have been a passion since I was small. My interest began when dad got a gemstone tumbler and with birthstone pendants and rings in the Argos catalogue, but I was disappointed when October’s birthstone was always downgraded to rose instead of opal. I desperately wanted an opal of my own.

Recently, my research into crystals has been extensive because of their use in The Seren Stone Chronicles, of which the three first drafts are now finished. I have a beautiful collection of stones and decided, being January, that it’d be fun to post about birthstones.

Birthstones are thought to originate from biblical and ancient uses. Twelve stones used in Aaron’s breastplate are considered to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Later, these twelve gems were linked with zodiac signs. Other ancient civilisations believed these stones had powers connected to luck, health, and power. Modern day lists differ from traditional lists, and some cultures have their own lists.  My list is based on the British more romanticised version.

January – Garnet

Garnet is a deep-red stone of health that enhances energy, passion, and pleasure. It is said that the only light on Noah’s Ark was provided by a Garnet stone. Garnet is a good stone to help with depression, as it brings joy and hope to the wearer and helps lessen the anger directed at oneself. It also cleanses the chakras of negative energy, re-energizing them in the process.

January - Garnet

January – Garnet © Lisa Shambrook

February – Amethyst

A very popular purple quartz ranging from the lightest lilac to deep-purple, the presence of maganese and iron changes clear quartz to amethyst. It has a reputation as a healing stone. It is a crystal of spiritual growth and protection. Ancient Greeks believed it would ward off drunkenness and for centuries, myths and legends have had strong religious and cultural connections with Amethyst.

February - Amethyst

February – Amethyst © Lisa Shambrook

March – Aquamarine

Aquamarine simply means seawater and it’s hues of pale blue conjure up coastal seas. It has been said to embody eternal life and is connected with youth and hope. It was the treasure of mermaids and used by sailors for protection. Aquamarine is a stone associated with the throat chakra and is a stone of cleansing and communication.

March - Aquamarine

March – Aquamarine © Lisa Shambrook

April – Diamond

Diamonds have been long associated with love and desire, known for their strength and value. It was once believed that diamonds were made when lightning hit rock, now we know they are made from carbon. Once known as the Stone of Invincibility due to its hardness crystallising deep underground under intense pressure. Diamonds are spiritual stones and are a symbol of wealth.

I own Herkimer Diamonds, named for the Herkimer mines in the US. They are double-terminated crystals often with inclusions of air bubbles or black carbon. I find them just as beautiful as traditional diamonds.

Diamond - April - Herkimer Diamond stone

Diamond – April – Herkimer Diamond stone © Lisa Shambrook

May – Emerald

Rich green gems known as symbols of love and rebirth. They are said to have been Cleopatra’s favourite stone, symbolising youth, eternal life, and friendship. Emeralds are amongst the rarest of gems, often found with inclusions which can enhance their worth, making them unique. It is a stone of wisdom, enhancing memory and increasing mental clarity.

May - Emerald

May – Emerald © Lisa Shambrook

June – Pearl

Both Pearl and Alexandrite are birthstones of June. Pearl has been much sought after through the ages. Myths in Persia called pearls the tears of the gods. Pearls are the only gemstone created by living creatures.  A pearl is formed when an irritant gets inside an oyster, or a mussel or clam shell, and it exudes fluid called nacre which coats the irritant in many layers eventually creating a pearl. Pearls can be cultured or freshwater and come in a range of colours from white to black.

Alexandrite is very rare and worth more than both rubies and diamonds. It’s a rare colour changing variety of chrysoberyl, changing colour from blue to green, and in artificial light red to pink. When they were first discovered the miners thought they’d found emerald only to bring them out and find by the camp fire they looked like rubies. It symbolises wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. A stone of positivity and self-confidence.

June - Pearl - Oyster

June – Pearl – Oyster © Lisa Shambrook

July – Ruby

Ruby is the most valuable of all gemstones depending on its colour. The most valuable rubies are deep red with a hint of blue. Ruby has always been a symbol of passion, protection, and prosperity. It was known as an inextinguishable flame. Ruby is red Corundum, which is an aluminium oxide mineral with chromium which causes its rich colour. It’s also known as an aphrodisiac.

When Ruby in zoisite was discovered in Tanzania in the 1950’s they thought they’d discovered huge deposits of ruby, but this gemstone a combination of ruby and zoisite crystals produced a more opaque ruby that was much more affordable.

July - Ruby - Ruby in Zoisite

July – Ruby – Ruby in Zoisite © Lisa Shambrook

August – Peridot

Peridot is the gem-quality stone of Olivine. Olivine in dust form has been found on the moon, and in comet dust brought back to earth on the Stardust robotic space probe in 2006. Like diamonds they are born of pressure in molten rock of the upper mantle beneath earthquakes and volcanoes. It’s associated with the sun and used to force back darkness. It has been valued for years as a healing stone of the heart chakra. Peridot is said to bring magic and healing powers to its wearer. It is also the stone connected to the Archangel Raphael.

Peridot is the backbone for my new series of books The Seren Stone Chronicles.

August - Peridot - Peridot on Basalt

August – Peridot – Peridot on Basalt © Lisa Shambrook

September – Sapphire

This is a gem known for loyalty and trust. It is a stone of wisdom and royalty steeped in history and lore and religion. The Ten Commandments given to Moses were said to have been engraved on tablets of sapphire. It is used within many religions and cultures as a stone of spiritual enlightenment, worship, and devotion. Its colour moves from royal blue to indigo and are much prized as a talisman of honesty and purity.

The stone I have is Water Sapphire, also known as iolite, dichroite, or cordierite.

September - Sapphire - Water Sapphire, or iolite

September – Sapphire – Water Sapphire, or iolite © Lisa Shambrook

October – Opal

October is known for two birthstones, Opal and Tourmaline. Opals are known for containing the colours of the rainbow and come in the palest form, almost white,  and as triplet with deep blues, green, and pinks. They can be translucent or as glittery as fire. Pliny, the Roman historian, described opal as a precious stone containing the fiery flame of the carbuncle (Garnet), the resplendent purple of the Amethyst, and the sea-green glory of the Emerald – all shining together in incredible union and exquisite pleasure. It’s been linked to superstitions and bad luck but has remained a favourite gem. The Andean Opal (the stone in my pictures) is considered to be a gift from Pachamama, the earliest Inca Goddess of Fruitfulness and Mother Earth. Opals are known for reflection and are emotional stones.

Tourmaline is found in black variety and pinks, blues, and greens. It combines more colours than any other crystal group. Black Tourmaline is a protection stone, and is grounding. It is also electrical in nature and provides connection between the earth and the human spirit.

Also pictured are opal rings and bracelet which match my birthstone. I finally bought my own opal ring from Castleton in Derbyshire in my teens, and received another from my husband just a few years ago.

October - Opla - Andean Opal

October – Opla – Andean Opal © Lisa Shambrook

November – Topaz

Topaz and Citrine are November’s birthstones. Topaz comes in many colours from clear silver topaz, to yellow, brown, blue, green, red, and pink. Blue used to be the rarest colour but now its colour can be enhanced and it has become the most popular. Natural blue topaz is very rare. Blue topaz draws inspiration from the sky and promotes truth, expression, and confidence. It’s soothing and calm. Silver topaz is attributed to the crown chakra and enhances your feeling of self. A stone of good fortune and love.

Citrine a beautiful golden-yellow quartz known for vitality and is said to be a healing crystal. It contains the power of the sun and is a stone of new beginnings. It never needs cleansing and is a stone of positivity. It’s name comes from the French word for lemon, citron.

November - Topaz - Silver Topaz and Blue Topaz

November – Topaz – Silver Topaz and Blue Topaz © Lisa Shambrook

December – Turquoise

Turquoise and Lapis Lazuli used to be the traditional birthstones of December, but modern calendars now include Tanzanite and Zircon. Turquoise is one of the oldest stones known to us, and was prized amongst Native Americans, Aztecs, Incas, Persians, Chinese, and Egyptians in particular. It is a sacred stone known for protection, healing, and wisdom. It can be robin’s egg blue or laced with spider web veins in cream or brown. It’s a stone of calm and wellbeing.

Tanzanite is a relatively new deep-blue stone with hues of purple, discovered only in the 1960’s in Tanzania. It’s a stone for spiritual exploration and is a soft stone, needing care when being worn.

Zircon comes from the Arabic words ‘zar’ (gold) and ‘gun’ (colour) and is often blue, but is found in clear forms and yellow to red. It should not be confused with cubic zirconia which is a lab made gem stone. It is supposed to be a pain reliever and to protect travellers.

December - Turquoise

December – Turquoise © Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and gems, whatever your belief, are beautiful and evocative, and make me happy.

What’s your birthstone?

The Journey to Becoming Who You Are…

Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience
Anna Quinlan
Discovering who you are is a journey and one that I don’t think has a final destination.
I am a contradiction, someone who hates change and yet, embraces it too…

The Journey to Becoming Who You Are... - The Last Krystallos
I recently posted a selfie on Instagram captioning it: Sometimes, I’m happy with who I am. Becoming who I’m meant to be. A lovely friend responded that I don’t need to change and become anything else, that I am great as I am.

This set me thinking. Self-acceptance has always been something I struggled with – I’ve always felt out of place, odd, different, and just not for this world. For years I felt lost, cast-aside, and solitary, but as I’ve got older I’ve learned to love myself, to embrace who I am and to continually search for my own truth.

To be nobody but yourself - ee cummings - the last krystallos- lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I don’t think this is a journey that has a final destination. We don’t stay the same, we don’t reach perfection, we don’t become someone and remain that person for the rest of our lives. We move on, we change, we learn, we grow, and we become who we’re meant to be at that moment in time.

I write a lot about being who you want to be, about self-acceptance and being yourself: Never Changing Who I Am, Who am I and Who are You, and Belonging, Being a Loner, and Finding your Tribe, are just a few posts.

We must never dilute who we are, because intrinsically, whatever it is that makes your heart sing is you… and that you is exactly who you’re meant to be.

I am so much more than what they see - Douglas Pagels quote - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

In Beneath the Distant Star, Jasmine is fighting to become herself. Jasmine lost her older sister, Freya, in the first book in the Surviving Hope series, but now, at fifteen-years-old, she can barely remember her sister and her frustrations grow as her mother doesn’t seem to accept her for who she is. Jasmine feels she’s always battling a ghost and losing.

In this excerpt Meg, who used to be Freya’s best friend, is offering advice to Jasmine:

Meg took a deep breath and touched Jasmine’s shoulder. “I’m myself, and only myself, no one else, just like you’re you and not Freya.” Jasmine nodded. “But, but, Jasmine, you don’t need to fight it, you don’t need to prove you’re not Freya, you just need to be yourself. Your natural self, not the self that needs to show she’s different, not someone who fights a ghost. Just be you.”

Meg smoothed a twig out of Jasmine’s dark hair. “You don’t need to dye your hair black and red, or even chop it off to avoid being Freya. You don’t need to do the opposite of what your mum wants just to be different.”

Jasmine dug the toe of her boot into the earth and shovelled dusty dirt. Meg took Jasmine’s chin in her hand and brought her face up to meet hers. Thomas drew a nervous breath, people didn’t touch Jasmine, she very often over reacted. Jasmine met Meg’s eyes. “How?” she whispered. “How?”

Knowing and becoming who you are isn’t always easy. I used to think once I’d got out of my teens it’d be easy to discover myself… Not strictly so, like I said, finding out who you are is a journey and as your life changes, so do you.

Goddess, wild child, fragile mess...

S. C. Lourie quote found online

It’s a long standing thing for us – as human beings – to want to better ourselves, and society is always telling us that if we were this or that we’d be better, or if we bought whatever (they’re probably selling) we’d be happy, but life is a rollercoaster, sometimes we’re better, stronger, more confident, and sometimes we’re weaker, less confident, and we struggle. That’s completely normal and exactly as life should be. We rise and fall with our circumstances.

Even when you’re strong, weakness can prevail, those are the times that others need to step in and help you on your journey.

I dislike change. I struggle without a prescriptive routine, and when things change my life melts down. To illustrate that, my favourite body lotion was recently discontinued. I even tweeted to confirm, then I panicked. My favourite toothpaste vanished a year or two ago and I’d been using that brand since I was about twelve. It took me weeks to choose another, just staring at the choice on the supermarket toothpaste shelf wondering if they’d taste okay, feel okay, and just be right for me was hell. Now it’s happening again. I just bought the last seven bottles of body lotion that I could find from several shops in town. I’m not neuro-typical, but that’s okay, that’s my journey.

But when it comes to being who I am, change is appropriate and I embrace it.

Lisa Shambrook 2018

© Lisa Shambrook

I’ve been dyeing my hair since my thirties; when that silver strand appeared and wouldn’t go away, I dyed it. Now, fifteen years later, I’m fed up with colouring my hair. I’m forty-seven and all about embracing myself, so I decided it was time to stop and see what hid beneath the dirty brown. Change is scary. Change can point you out as different, buck the trend, make you stand out. I found a supportive Instagram page: Grombre and I went for it. I stopped dyeing.

I used to look in the mirror as my white roots appeared and I believed I looked ten years older. I actually gazed at my face and it looked greyer and physically older. Turns out you can fool yourself. Now, silver highlights are appearing like glittered stars in my hair and I love it. I look in the mirror as my grey grows and I’m no different to who I was when I coloured my hair. There is no age difference, I look the same!

I can’t wait to discover what lies beneath, quite literally, and after a lifetime of dark hair, I will be able to play with colours, maybe I’ll have blue tips, or lilac hair, or maybe I’ll go dusky pink – whatever I choose it’ll be me for a while. I’ll embrace who I am at that moment in my life.

Brene Brown said: Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Brene Brown Quote true belonging when we're authentic and imperfect - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Accept who you are – right now.
Light up the world by being You. Be the star.
Dance until the stars fall from the sky and fill your hair with sparkle and light – (anon)
Never stop walking, dancing, running through this journey we call life,
discovering who you are today, and who you can be tomorrow…

0000. Divider

Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa ShambrookJasmine knows her very existence reminds her mother of something her sister will never have—life. Craving love and acceptance, Jasmine struggles to become her own person, and her fragile relationship with her mother shatters.

Beneath the Distant Star is published by BHC Press and is a novel that will enthral you.

“Jasmine can easily be related to and she pulls at your heart strings throughout the entire story.” — LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Beneath the Distant Star is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and other online outlets.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial

Try making this beautiful Button Christmas Tree ornament.
Simple and festive.

I made these last year after I’d seen them online so often but never got round to making them. I’m glad I did because they’re so cute!

Make yours in only ten easy steps…

Button Christmas Trees - The Last Krystallos

1. Collect an assortment of different sized green and brown buttons and some thin gauge craft wire.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

2. Jewellery odds and ends, tiny beads, or sequins make excellent decorations for the top of the tree.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

3. Arrange four small brown buttons for the trunk and about 9 green buttons for the tree. Cut a length of wire.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

4. Double over the wire and thread the trunk buttons first.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

5. Then thread the green tree buttons largest to smallest. Remember thread through holes opposite as shown not beside each other.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

6. Thread largest through to smallest buttons.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

7. Your basic Christmas tree....

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

8. Add a tiny bead or a sequin as a top of the tree decoration.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

9. Add a sequin, bead, old earring back, or odd piece of jewellery as a topper.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

10. Twist the ends of the wire together so you can hang the ornament.

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

11. Hang your Button Christmas Tree on your Christmas tree

Button Christmas Tree Tutorial © Lisa Shambrook

Have an amazing Christmas!

Somewhere Between Light and Dark – 2018 Tipsy Santa Blog Hop

Filtered Christmas Lights

© Lisa Shambrook

Somewhere Between Light and Dark

Birdsong filtered through the city noise and a breeze, as cold as the arctic, blustered through the trees. Kira let the chill dance about her feet and pulled her scarf tighter. She rested her hands on the park bench beside her. Frost still coated the wood like icing sugar and her finger tips traced gentle patterns.

She’d had a little tipple or two before leaving the house and a giggle left her lips. She felt deliciously naughty and not nice.

The birds still sang, but footsteps quietened them for a moment before they struck back up in a wintry chorus. Kira closed her eyes and listened to the beat of the shoe – heel, toe, heel, toe – until it faded in the distance.

The cold indicated snow would soon blanket the ground and the faint discord of Christmas music tickled her ears. She focussed on the music so intently that she missed the footsteps sauntering past, but her nose didn’t miss the scent that filled the air: salty, citrusy, and… sandalwood. Her cheeks flushed, but she didn’t move an inch.

Her attention leaped back to the footsteps and her eyes fluttered open again. The man sat down on the bench and Kira’s body tingled as the planks of wood sank adjusting to the weight of two. She was a little unsure if the cider she’d drunk at home caused the tilting warmth in her bones, or if it was something else.

He shifted his weight, somewhat uneasily, and the bench creaked. She splayed her fingers beside her on the wet wood, but they touched nothing. Her fingers retracted and her thighs tensed. His breath came light and shallow, and she imagined vapour like dragon’s smoke swirling before him.

“Hi.” His voice was soft, nervous, and gravelly.

He sounded like chocolate tasted, like coffee and vanilla, and Tia Maria, and she felt her heart skip. “Hi,” she responded, her own nerves tingling. It was a dangerous word, because maybe it wasn’t her he spoke to.

She felt the heat of his smile. “It’s cold, isn’t it?” he commented, staring ahead at the trees in front of them.

She nodded. “It is. Winter is definitely here.” She swallowed and bent her head a little.

He opened his mouth to speak again, but hesitated. Kira barely breathed, wondering if she should turn her head to him.

“I’ve seen you here loads before…” he began, then stopped abruptly, maybe worrying if he sounded like a stalker.

She smiled, recalling booted feet and aftershave. “I’ve noticed you too,” she said.

“You have?”

She nodded. “I know it probably doesn’t seem like I notice anything…”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” his voice betrayed anxiety.

“It’s okay.” She giggled, the cider giving her confidence. “I’m Kira.”

“Like Nerys?” he said quickly. “I’m sorry, that might be a bit too geeky! You might not have…”

“I have, and yes!” She grinned.

“Nick,” he said.

“Like Saint?”

He laughed. “Yep, just like him! But I don’t look a bit like him…” He paused and drew in a breath.

She laughed. “That’s okay, I’m not into the beardy type…” This time she hesitated. Maybe he had a beard.

“Good!” He said firmly, and she let out her breath. He moved a little closer on the bench and it rose and sank beneath his weight. “You’re not usually here alone,” he said.

Her mind whirled with danger, with attraction, and with a slightly tipsy sway. “I know, but I felt like getting out on my own.” She didn’t dare add it was because she knew he spent his lunch breaks in the park.

“Where is he?” he asked.

Kira reddened. He knew. She took a moment to compose herself. He was still talking to her, initiating conversation, even though he was perfectly aware of her situation. “He’s at home.”

“Do you often come out without him? I’ve never seen you alone before. I’d imagine he’s quite protective?”

She nodded. “He is, but I think he’ll like you.” She turned her head and bokeh from several points of light burst into her eyes. Even through a blur of light and dark, his silhouette was attentive and striking and she wanted to reach up and stroke his face. “You should meet him.”

“I’d like that,” he said and his hand moved across the bench to touch hers. “Would you like me to walk you home?”

She nodded. “I think Odin, my guide dog, will love you!”

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This is a Christmas tale for Ruth, Laura, and Cara‘s 2018 Tipsy Santa Blog Hop

750 words max on a tipsy Christmas theme. ‘Bring us your tales of drunken holiday mayhem (no Santa actually required, but the Tipsy part is highly encouraged).’

I’m feeling mellow this year, so not going full out drunk, just romantically tipsy…

Beneath the Distant Star – A tale of Love and Acceptance

Beneath the Distant Star is a story that takes resentment and rejection
and gives you what truly matters in a bittersweet tale of hope.

Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Distant Star © Lisa Shambrook

Jasmine knows her very existence reminds her mother of something her sister will never have—life. Craving love and acceptance, Jasmine struggles to become her own person, and her fragile relationship with her mother shatters.

Beneath the Distant Star is released through BHC Press on 11th December and is a novel that will completely enthral you.

Maybe You'd Love If I Was Dead - Beneath the Distant Star - Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Distant Star © Lisa Shambrook

“Jasmine can easily be related to and she pulls at your heart strings throughout the entire story.” — LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Discover what you already have - Beneath the Distant Star - Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Distant Star © Lisa Shambrook

“Jasmine has never felt good enough for her mother who is still clinging to the grief of losing her first daughter. The emotions Jasmine experiences and the antics she carries out to get attention are spot on for a confused teenager and I really sympathized with her throughout the story. The writing and imagery were beautiful and the story kept me turning the page.”
Riverside Reader on Amazon

Beneath the Distant Star is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, Google Play, Kobo, iTunes, and other online outlets.

Beneath the Distant Star by Lisa Shambrook published by BHCPress

Beneath the Distant Star is the third book in the Surviving Hope novels, following Beneath the Rainbow and Beneath the Old Oak both already available.

If you’ve already read any of this series and not left a review, please do, authors adore everyone who leaves a review and will sprinkle stardust over your lovely lives forever! Reviews can be left anywhere you buy the books online and particularly on Amazon, Goodreads, blog posts and your own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or blogs. Spread the word and make an author very happy!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens intro and The Tale of Mrs. Cratchit by Lisa Shambrook

And because it’s Christmas – here’s a gorgeous treat… Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol published by BHC Press. The treat is not only do you get Dickens’ wonderful timeless classic, but you get an introduction and an all-new story ‘The Tale of Mrs. Cratchit’ written by myself for this brand new special edition. Originally published in 1843, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is still considered one of the most beloved stories ever written. It has inspired countless films, book adaptations and most importantly, helped nurture the Christmas spirit each holiday season.

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Unconditional Love – Remembering Roxy

A dog is the only thing on earth
that loves you more than she loves herself.
Josh Billings

Learning about Unconditional Love - Remembering Roxy 2008 - 2018 Our German Shepherd - The Last Krystallos

In 2008, on my birthday, we got Roxy. She was eight weeks old and not suitable for the home she’d first gone to, so we bundled her up in Dan’s arms and took her home with us. Vince had always wanted a dog, and it felt like I was giving him a lifelong gift. What I didn’t know was how quickly I would fall in love with her.

Roxy 8 weeks, 2 years, 9 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: eight weeks, two years, and nine years © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a dog person, let’s rephrase that, I wasn’t a dog person, but two weeks later and I was. My children were eight, twelve, and fifteen and a puppy was the perfect addition to our family.

How do you summarise ten years of loving a pup?

Roxy 2, Dec 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: two years old © Lisa Shambrook

We started her with a teeny football and it graduated to her favourite toy a full size Welsh rugby ball.

Her ears grew like satellites, like Yoda even, and she never really grew into them!

Roxy 2008 8 - 14 weeks - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 8 wks with Dan, 12 wks centre bottom, 14 wks with football © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods became a favourite walk, long and short walks amid the bluebells in spring, trickling streams in summer, autumn leaves, and mud in the winter.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 left 10 months and 2 years - right 5 and 6 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 10 months top left, 2 yrs bottom left, 5 and 6 right © Lisa Shambrook

We took walks on the beach, racing through the waves, and chasing seagulls. The Black Mountain made us cherish the space, and there were so many local walks to Cwm Oernant reservoirs up at Tanerdy, behind Glangwili hospital, down to the museum and back again, down to Gwili River where her favourite things were splashing in the river and collecting rocks.

Cait 10, and Roxy 2, bubbles Aug 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 2 years old © Lisa Shambrook

Cait, who’d begun scared of dogs turned into a pup aficionado, and Roxy loved catching bubbles.

Roxy 2010 - 2012 2-4 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy playing Scrabble, walks and hugs: ages 2 – 4 years © Lisa Shambrook

Games, she even played Scrabble – as you can see…

Belly Rubs, the most perfect thing for dogs…

Family photos were a must with our most favourite family member. She loved walking down on Gwili Railway before the trains came back. The river was her favourite place to splash and chase pebbles. And our post-apocalyptic photo wouldn’t have been complete without our warrior pup.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2016 Family top 1, 2 and bottom 7 years - thelastkrystallos

Family photoshoots 2009, 2010 and 2016 © Lisa Shambrook

She gave us more love than we’d ever imagined possible. Cait fell completely in love with dogs. A pup offers you the most pure unconditional love you could ever find – the purest thing in the world.

Roxy 2015 - 2017 6 - 8 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy and Cait and pure love: 6 – 8 years © Lisa Shambrook

As she got older her enthusiasm never waned. She loved her walks, playing, gathering rocks from the river, and having cuddles. She was unadulterated joy. The bottom right picture was only two months ago as autumn kicked in, this is her ‘happy out in nature’ expression.

Roxy 2017 - 2018 8 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy home in the frost, Green Castle Woods, and hugs: 8 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

She carried on her ‘guard dog’ duties every day come rain or shine. No one, especially the postman, was going to catch her unawares!

Roxy 2018 9 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Guard Dog duty: 9 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

It was the beginning of November that we noticed her slowing down. Walks became shorter and stretching to get off her sofa took longer. She had several fevers but a blood test was clear. Her walks got even shorter and the vet told us she had arthritis, expected in German Shepherds, but we had no idea what was lurking. Over one weekend she went off her food, looked exhausted, and felt miserable. After a ten minute Sunday walk she struggled and her breathing got progressively worse. It was off to the vet first thing Monday.

The results were completely unexpected. Aggressive metastatic cancer had begun in her belly, spread through her kidneys and had filled her lungs. We had twenty-four hours.

We weren’t even sure she’d make it through the night, but she held on with Vince (the person she loved the most in the world) sitting by her side.

Roxy Nov 2018 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Last few days: age 10 years and 4 months © Lisa Shambrook

Tuesday 27th November 2018 was the most heartbreaking day of our lives and we lost her.

Anyone who’s been owned by a beloved dog will agree that the grief is all consuming as you’re losing a member of your family. Someone who loved you like no one else ever will, someone who trusted you beyond anything, who would have fought for you, someone who gave you loyalty, friendship, and the most unconditional love you’ll ever find.

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader.
She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.
You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.
Agnes Repplier

Roxy, 9, March 2018 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: age 9 years © Lisa Shambrook

Roxy – Our German Shepherd – 10th August 2008 – 27th November 2018

An Ode to November in Silver and Gold

Loosely using the word ode, but I want to celebrate November.
It’s a month that often gets lost between the beginning of autumn
September, October, and the festivities of December.
So, let’s love November…

An Ode to November in Silver and Gold - The Last Krystallos

I set my latest manuscript in the first week of November, and while writing during August, September, and October I worried I’d got it wrong. But November and the dates I was describing came around and it was perfect!

Silver Lining November - The Last Krystallos

Silver Lining November © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite month is October, which is full of moss and lichen, leaves turning, late warmth, and Halloween. Then comes November, and we usually hurry through it complaining about the cold and rushing about organising Christmas!

Leaves and Hot Chocolate November - The Last Krystallos

Leaves and Hot Chocolate November © Lisa Shambrook

November is beautiful. I think I might be Elsa, as the cold doesn’t bother me anyway, but this month it’s been warm and the chill of winter has only just begun to bite. I love the clocks going back, I love the drawn in nights, the cosy darkness cuddling into the sofa with a hot chocolate and furry blanket.

Silver and Gold November - The Last Krystallos

Silver and Gold November © Lisa Shambrook

I don’t mind turning the heating on. I am Scrooge with it, but the heating helps me check my privilege. I have it, some don’t, and sometimes we all need to be reminded of what we have versus what we don’t.

Misty November - The Last Krystallos

Misty November © Lisa Shambrook

I love the mist and fog, the ethereal beauty of the end of autumn. The silver mist and the gold leaf of forests full of copper, bronze, and gold. My manuscript contains forests of beech and oak and November is the month they gild our countryside.

Gold Leaf November - The Last Krystallos

Gold Leaf November © Lisa Shambrook

We’re about to enter the glitz and bling of Winter – but I think autumn
with its earthy colours and metallic sheen is my most favourite.

What about you?

 

How to Live with Panic Attacks

I’ve suffered panic attacks since I was very young
and it’s taken society a long time to understand them.
How do you deal with panic and acute anxiety?

How to live with Panic Attacks - The Last Krystallos

I wrote a status the other day, on FB, which described a burgeoning panic attack . Sometimes someone’s description can be an ideal opportunity to learn about panic and how it affects our lives.

Panic attacks are violent, and often out of character, reactions to stress and anxiety, sometimes they’re triggered and sometimes they appear out of the blue and for no reason at all. It’s a fear response that our bodies exaggerate when it’s unnecessary.

The physical symptoms can be so bad people can believe they’re having a heart attack. Your heart races, your breathing becomes shallow, you feel faint, shaky, sweaty, fearful, anxious, dizzy, light-headed, sick and nauseous. You can get cramps, abdominal pain, chest pain, and you can become totally dissociative or disconnected. Things around you become unreal.

Your flight, fight, or freeze response kicks in and – boom – you’re in the middle of a panic attack. They can last anywhere from five minutes to up to an hour. The residue from the attack can last all day, or all week, and it can trigger further attacks. You might only have one every now and then or they can be regular.

Learning to live with them or with someone who suffers from them can be difficult, but as always with mental health issues – education, understanding, and compassion are crucial. Once you have discovered the best way to deal with them life can return to something similar to normal.

Meg turned the tables to comfort her mother, something she was becoming far too familiar with. - Beneath the Old Oak - Lisa Shambrook

Excerpt from Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

In Beneath the Old Oak I cover anxiety, depression, and panic. Meg suffers chronic anxiety and at only fourteen she has to deal with the erratic behaviour of her mother – which includes panic attacks and disturbing moods.  

In this excerpt Meg is reluctantly out shoe shopping with her mother and a brewing panic attack (you’ll notice cues for her rising panic like shredding the receipt in her fingers as she waits, how hot she feels, her impatience, and tears):

““Excuse me?” Meg’s mum waved the black trainer at the sales-boy over the child’s head. “Could we please try these in a four?”

He nodded, adding the trainer to his teetering pile of boxes. As he disappeared Mum glared at the whining child as his mother tried to prise the football boot from his grasp. Mum glanced at her watch and pulled an old receipt out of her pocket. She stared in the direction of the stockroom and began tearing the receipt into thin strips.

Meg sidled up to her mother as the boy’s mum finally wrested the boot from him, returned it to the shelf and dragged him away, his complaints still echoing. Mum ignored her daughter’s grin. “He’s going to be a real brat one day. Ah, here are yours.”

Meg noted the single trainer in the sale-boy’s hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, “only got these in a three and then a seven, sold out.”

“That’s a vast difference in sizes, no others in stock? This is a shoe shop isn’t it?” The receipt in Mum’s hand turned into confetti.

“It’s okay Mum. I like these too…” Meg grabbed two random trainers off the wall. “Can I try these instead? Size four.”

He nodded and disappeared.

“It’s hot in here.” Mum unbuttoned her coat.

“Mum…” Meg gently tugged her elbow.

“What?” Mum sounded annoyed then realised two lads were trying to get past. She stepped back and knocked into a tall pile of shoe-boxes. Meg just managed to grab the top one as it toppled and stopped the rest from slipping. “And there’s no space!”

“Mum, why don’t you sit down?”

“That’s for people trying on shoes. How long is he going to be? I told you it would be busy.”

Meg hoped he would be quick.

He returned with two boxes. “These are a five, haven’t got a four, but these are fours.”

Meg took the boxes. “I’ll try them, thanks.”

Another customer grabbed the sales-boy as Meg tried the trainers.

“So?” asked her mother.

“Too big, they’re slipping.” Meg handed her the trainers.

“Stupid boxes…” Mum groaned as she tried to fit the bulky shoes into the tight box.

“Here, like this.” Meg replaced them and slipped her feet into the other pair.

“The right size?”

“Maybe…”

“Try walking in them.”

“I am.” Meg walked up and down the narrow path through mountains of boxes and footwear. Meg frowned, deciding whether to choose a pair she didn’t like just to get Mum out of the shop. “No, they’re pinching my little toes.” She was the one who’d be stuck wearing them.

Mum sighed. “Okay.”

“Let’s leave it, come back another day?” suggested Meg.

“No, you need trainers, we’re getting trainers.”

Meg’s sigh matched her mother’s as she pulled off the shoes. She left her mum to pack them away and moved, in her socked feet, back to the display. Not a moment later she heard a frustrated grunt and a trainer flew past her ear. It rebounded on the wall and knocked three shoes to the ground. Meg ducked and twirled round. Her mother stood, red-faced and furious.

“Damn shoe boxes!” she cried. “Nothing fits in them!”

Shocked, Meg picked up the offending shoe, moved back to her mum and put her hand on her arm. Her mother flipped her hand away. “Just leave them and I’ll do it. It’s fine!” Meg knelt and put the shoes in the box. She glanced up at Mum. Fire flashed and irritation simmered and she was oblivious to the stares from other customers.

“And it’s too hot! We come in wearing coats, because it’s winter, why do they make it so hot?” Mum trembled, her fists clenching and unclenching at her side.

Meg barely zipped up her own boots before ushering her mother out of the store.

“But you need shoes!”

“Not this much!” Meg shook her head. “Dad can drop me down later.”

She took her mum’s arm and led her to the car.

“I’ve let you down! I’m useless. I promised I’d never let you down…” wailed Mum.

“It doesn’t matter,” insisted Meg.

“It does! I promised I’d never let you down, because my mum always let me down!” Within moments Mum’s aggressive stance switched to the frustration of a child, and tears streamed down her cheeks. Meg, on the other hand, turned the tables to comfort her mother, something she was becoming far too familiar with.”

Panic attacks can often be misconstrued for aggression, shyness, anxiety, arrogance, and much more. Meg learns to deal with her mother’s panic as her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. It’s difficult to live with panic and with someone else who suffers from a panic disorder.

Green Castle Woods Old Oak Nov 2016 - lisa shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I know I’ve often felt guilty for having a panic disorder as it’s not something you want your children to have to deal with. The above scenario at the shoe shop is one my children can relate to. I can easily tell you that shopping for shoes is one of my least favourite activities I ever had to do with my children. Shoes are expensive, they wear out fast, feet grow too fast, and children are both indecisive and picky. My youngest, in particular, would um and ah, and be unable to choose a suitable shoe. It’s a stressful enough activity for a parent with social inhibitions let alone with three children in tow.

We arrived at Clarks, the final shoe shop in town, as a last resort, due to their expensive shoes and how busy they always were. The ‘take a ticket’ queue system in a stuffy, upstairs shop was challenging enough, as were the price tickets. Finally, after waiting for what seemed like forever we were trying on shoes. I had an on sale shoe in mind, my child did not… and I felt my body prickle and electricity charged the air. I knew what was happening and my priority was to make a sale and get out of the shop as soon as possible.

The shoe we wanted was not the exact shoe size for which the assistant had measured my child, half a size bigger, but cheap and on sale. When I said we’d buy them anyway she gave me one of those patronising looks that stoke the fires of hell in those it’s aimed at. Panic surged, I shook, I sweated, my vision blurred, and I knew tears were stinging. At the cash desk she primly told me that unless I bought insoles too then if I got home and decided to return the wrong size shoes they’d be unable to take them back.

I had no intention of either buying insoles or taking them back. But that statement to someone in the throes of a panic attack was too much. I burst into tears. Not just one or two, but floods – and noisy too. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t move. I knew the whole shop was staring at me. I knew my children were scared and probably embarrassed, but nothing would stop. I threw money at the till and ran with the shoes, my children hurrying after me in shock.

I don’t think I ever went back.

Meg kept her head down - everywhere - Beneath the Old Oak - Lisa Shambrook

Excerpt from Beneath the Old Oak © Lisa Shambrook

Symptoms of panic attacks are sometimes difficult to hide. My family all know if one is brewing. I get agitated, lost, I shake, and I attack myself – biting my nails or pulling at my skin, scratching, or digging fingernails in deep. When you’ve experienced them you recognise them. I know them in my daughters too.

There are ways to stave off a panic attack, but you have to learn what works for you, and you have to be in a situation to do what you need to. I have to remove myself physically and fast. I also use Calm Harm a phone app with a breathing exercise on it that helps to bring my breathing back down and in time. I carry a stim to hold and ground myself with – an acorn cup. You can meditate, or use Mindfulness. I can be held close, but only by family, if anyone else tries that they’ll be physically attacked. I can be talked down, again usually only by family.

I also take medication. Propranolol, a beta blocker, works for me. It slows down my heart rate and biologically removes the panic from my system.

What works for you?

My Facebook status described a panic attack as it rose and it helped people to understand what happens when an attack hits. I took a tablet and this one faded away.

Facebook status describing a panic attack © Lisa Shambrook

Facebook status describing a panic attack © Lisa Shambrook

If you suffer, know that there are many of us who deal with this on a daily basis,
you are not alone.

Do you live with someone who suffers from a Panic Disorder,
how do you and they cope?

What works best for you?

These pages from the Mental Health charity Mind are very insightful if you need help with understanding and coping with Panic Attacks. Please go and visit your GP if you need help. Counselling and medication are available.

0000. Divider

Beneath_the_Old_Oak_L_Shambrook_WEBMeg’s mother is having a breakdown, and Meg can’t cope. Seeking to escape bullies and overwhelming anxiety, she discovers an old oak tree whose revelations begin to change her life.

Beneath the Old Oak is published by BHC Press and is a novel that will completely move you.

“A brave book that tackles serious issues for a younger audience in a mature and sensitive way.” —LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Beneath the Old Oak is now available in eBook and paperback (choose your format) at:
Amazon UKAmazon US, and your local Amazon. Barnes and NobleWaterstonesGoogle PlayKoboiTunes, and other online outlets.

 

Magical Colours of Autumn

You all know Autumn is my favourite season.
Here’s why…

Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos
Let’s start with the coloursOrange and Black.  Now, strangely, I’m not a fan of orange, but I adore russet, bronze, copper, and flame. It’s all in the tone and the name! And black is a classic – the colour of night, the dark, and magic.
Orange is the sky before dusk, dragon flames, squirrels on mugs of hot chocolate, pumpkins, and homemade soup. Black is the colour of the sky behind a full moon, Raven cat, and dark gemstones.

Orange and Black - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then it’s leaves – every shade of russet and bronze, red, brown, yellow, olive, crimson, scarlet, and copper. As the tree turns passion burns…
I become a squirrel hunting for conkers, acorns, chestnuts, and acorn cups.

Leaves - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

My jewellery box opens with autumn gems and jewelsAmber glows like fire, Trollbead bracelets glimmer with stones and glass, and smoky quartz smoulders. Rose gold, copper, and bronze brighten the crisp mornings, and berries glisten like jewels in the garden. Gems of fire like citrine, amber, quartz, and petrified wood glow with autumn passion, and squirrels and foxes accompany me out.

Gems and Jewels - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

And then we’re out and about – with woollies and jumpers on dog walks. I’ll be back in my long, black Docs stopping off for hot chocolate and woodland picnics. Home in time for a good book, cuddled up on the sofa, and ready for midnight jaunts to stare up at the stars…

Out and About - Magical Colours of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do you spend autumn?

🦇🎃 Happy Halloween! 🍁🖤

Monster Mash 2018 – Spellbound

She’d been an easy baby, sleeping through the night since birth, and an even easier child, generous, benevolent, sweet – even. But the teens! The Teens. She kicked, bit, fought, and battled her way through and there was no way I could just stand on the side-lines.

I sometimes got those looks parents despair of. The side-eyes, the wry smiles, frowns of judgment that sort of thing, but none of that bothered me. I’d had those all my life. And my teens hadn’t been a walk in the park either.

They hadn’t liked the nails in my ears, yep, I do mean nails, real ones, curved into a loop, or my Docs, or the leather. But I did and that’s what mattered.

I was a bit of a conundrum.

Ravel’s Bolero echoed through my headphones, and its crescendo would catch me closing my eyes to conduct an invisible orchestra as I sunk into oblivion of ecstasy. I helped old ladies and walked the neighbour’s dog, and no one in the suburbs knew quite how to take me.

I fell for the boy next door and giggled in his arms as he snapped a selfie and promptly uploaded it. The comments, none of them hidden, crushed me; and the photo – proof that I’d briefly been his – left me glaringly vulnerable despite my studs and tattoos. I fell and he was never going to catch me.

It was anger and retribution that issued forth my vengeance. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, but if you mix anger and humiliation, and candles and chalk shapes, and incantations you summon up something, or someone, quite explosive.

I don’t think I actually meant it either, invoking blood and guts and gore wasn’t really my thing. The flames of hell enveloped him and that photo of us became the least of his concerns. There were more photos, but they were of incineration and loss. His house had a wiring fault, but there might have been more to it.

I, however, gave and lost myself within the strong demonic arms I’d conjured of fire and hell and passion…

Then one day with eyes tightly closed whilst adrift with Jupiter resounding inside my head, my hands holding earphones tight, I collided.

They welcomed me into the hereafter with open arms – dying amid the swelling bars of Holst was an honourable way to go – and it was only there that my condition became apparent.

You thought there were no babies in heaven? Wrong – where else would the idea of cherubs come from?

Like I said, she’d been an easy baby, a cute toddler, and an adorable child. But when her downy white juvenile feathers dropped, no one had been prepared for what sprouted in their place. At first the little nubs, barely visible on her forehead, looked endearing – and maybe they’d hold her crooked halo a little more securely.

Her wings though, gave it away; black as the night and as dark as her soul. No feathers but sleek leather like a dragon or a bat. Puberty can be a tough time for angels.

spellbound - monster mash 2018

© Lisa Shambrook and Bekah Shambrook

Spellbound is a Halloween tale written for Laura, Cara, and Ruth‘s Monster Mash 2018. Check out the other dark stories in the links on GetWordy‘s blog. You won’t be sorry, spooked, but not sorry!

monster-mash-2018