Author Archives: Lisa Shambrook

About Lisa Shambrook

An author and dreamer who loves dragons... Author and owner Amaranth Alchemy on Etsy

The Web – Mid-week Flash Challenge

© Ron Levy

It wasn’t just mycelium that connected the forest. Threads of fungus, microscopic silken filaments spread through the soil listening, sensing, and feeling every emotion that filtered through the woods. Carpets of ferny mosses blanketed the ground covering the feet of the trees and tapering out to the path. And tree roots stretched deep, down into the earth, connecting to the mycorrhizal network.

Not a thing, not even a moth, could enter the forest without being known.

So when Corinthian Taylor slipped into the woods unseen, he was not unknown.

He peeked out from behind pine branches in the shadows, gazing at the cottage in the clearing, just a stone’s throw from the trees. A lusty smirk spread across his thin features, and he leaned, out of sight, against the tree.

The tree shuddered and needles fell, but Corinthian noticed nothing. He was too busy staring up at the open window. The rising sun was in just the right place to glint against the glass as the woman behind it moved across the room. Corinthian released a frustrated throaty growl and blinked as the sun momentarily blinded him.

As blue spots danced across his vision he couldn’t focus on the woman behind the window, and he looked away, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. The window above slammed shut, and he froze for a moment, trying to blend with the Scots Pine. He relaxed sure he hadn’t been seen as he gazed at the house. His mind began playing scenarios, vibrant extracts of salacious desires. Blood pumped as he imagined entering the house and coming across the slight woman, and he pressed hard against the trunk.

The pine recoiled, resinous sap drained from its surface, and three pine cones dropped to the ground at Corinthian’s feet.

The back door opened and the woman stepped out into the morning. She smiled at the sun, took a sip from a glass of water, and smoothed her floaty petticoat as the gentle breeze teased the soft white muslin. She stretched her hand to smother a yawn and her slip lifted to reveal her thigh, and Corinthian could hardly contain himself as she moved forward into the glare of the sun. Against the light and beneath the thin gossamer material, her whole body revealed itself.

Almost out of his mind with longing the man grabbed at his crotch and tried not to groan. He already knew her next move. She would finish her water, place her glass on the windowsill, and dance into the forest to feel the moss beneath her bare feet.

It was her daily ritual, just as his routine was too.

Sometimes she danced alone in the forest, sometimes she met other men or women, sometimes she made love, and sometimes she fell asleep amongst the flora. He recalled watching her as she lay among wild garlic, the pungent scent tickling his nose so much he had to steal away before he woke her. Of all the people she met in the woods he had never been one of them.

This time as she danced, backlit by lemony morning rays, his resolve began to weaken, his sweat began to bead, and his trousers bulged.

It was with relief to him that she stepped into the shade and her shift covered her nakedness once more. She faded into the forest like a dragonfly. Corinthian girded himself and followed, leaving the Scots Pine and its disapproval behind him.

The woman slowed to gaze up at wildcats or red squirrels, pirouetting to drink in her surroundings. Corinthian sidestepped, with practiced ease, and leaned against an ancient tree. Not long before she’d pause, before she’d slip to the floor and spread herself across the moss. Corinthian knew that there would be no holding back and, as he adjusted his trousers, that today was the day.

Corinthian was right, there would be no holding back, and today was definitely the day.

Messages had been broadcasting through the soil, from roots to fungi strands, and mosses, brambles, and coiling ivy. The forest’s network had been communicating beneath Corinthian’s feet. Moss began to sink, to gurgle, and ivy fronds unfurled and curled around his ankles, and Corinthian had no time to think before he was deep beneath the compost, and the taste of foetid and festering mulch was the last thing to entertain his drowning senses.

The Scots Pine, by the house in the clearing, shook itself again and stood sentinel straight, its job done.

A good nine months since I last wrote a piece of Flash Fiction, but a photo of the forest taken by Ron Levy and chosen by Miranda, at Finding Clarity, for her Mid-Week Flash Challenge this week was perfect for me. The sheer magic of the forest…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph. I filled the brief with 747 words.

© Lisa Shambrook

Hysterectomy and Pelvic Floor Repair – From Discovery to Surgery – Prolapse

My experience of Pelvic Prolapse and the journey to fix it.

My surgery was Tuesday, exactly a week ago, and I’m day 8 post op, and ready to reflect. Pelvic Organ Prolapses are a common thing, more common than most people think. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 50% of those of us with a uterus suffer with some kind of pelvic prolapse, so it’s good to talk about it. Ranging from mild urinary incontinence, which we often joke about as we reach certain ages and realise going on a trampoline is now fully out of the question, to multiple pelvic organ prolapse.

Crystal Grid for Sacral Chakra © Lisa Shambrook

I first noticed my prolapse in 2019 when my GP surgery nurse confirmed something was starting during my routine cervical smear test. She referred me to NHS pelvic floor Physiotherapy. My pelvic floor was strong, but after physio she referred me to Gynaecology. Back then it was only six months to see a gynaecologist and I was diagnosed with a mild prolapse and small rectocele. That would be my uterus/womb dropping into my vagina, and the rectocele was my uterus pushing into the back wall of my vagina causing a mild lump in the rectal passage. She didn’t think much needed doing, but set an appointment to check again in four months.

Then the Covid Pandemic hit in 2020 and we were in lockdown. All non-urgent appointments were cancelled. My biggest problem was an aggressive reflux cough, as every coughing fit pulled on my body and worsened my prolapse. In the middle of 2020 I noticed I felt heavier down below, the rectocele was bigger, and when I coughed my cervix pushed down into my vaginal vault. It caused difficulty with a blockage in my rectum meaning I needed to digitally help each bowel movement to pass, and I’d need to push my cervix back up and into place inside my vagina. By the end of the year I’d developed a cystocele, where my bladder had also dropped pushing into the front wall of the vagina, meaning constant trips to the bathroom to pee, and getting up twice a night to empty my bladder. You know you have a bladder prolapse when you can feel, and see, a bulge (like a ball) at the entrance to your vagina. All of this happened during a time where no doctor appointments were available except via telephone.

Feminine form © Lisa Shambrook

I posted on Facebook about it, I’m an open book, and asked for people’s experiences, so I’d know what to expect. I got some lovely feedback, including a friend in the US who’d recently gone through the whole process of surgery for a three compartment prolapse, and was able to talk me through it. It’s so important to know you’re not the only one and that other people know what you’re going through. I then joined a message board for advice, and later found a Facebook group which was amazing. FPOPS UK(Female Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support for UK is a private group for those going through prolapse in the UK, and is incredibly supportive with personal stories, questions, and a hive of information and health advice. It has a fantastic document on the site with a walk through of what to expect after prolapse surgery and how to deal with it, absolutely invaluable!

I finally saw another Gynaecologist consultant in June 2021 who diagnosed a three compartment prolapse, uterine, rectocele, and cystocele. I was offered a pessary or surgery. I chose surgery, a vaginal hysterectomy leaving ovaries intact, and pelvic floor repair. I was told the waiting list was about six months. So I began to prepare myself, expecting surgery by the end of the year.

Vaginal Hysterectomy © Lisa Shambrook

Everything about a prolapse is undignified, humiliating, and frustrating. Incontinence, pain, constant heaviness in your pelvis, abdomen, and legs, digitally manipulating bowel movements, pushing  uterus back up inside vagina, needing to be close to bathroom facilities at all times, needing to wear pads or pessaries, some people can have pain and difficulty with intercourse, fatigue, and much more. The younger you are the more help you get, the older you get it appears the less important you are. I was lucky, being only 50 when they offered me surgery meant they took me seriously, and my consultant said “You shouldn’t have to be dealing with this at your age.”, but I’ve talked to people in their seventies for whom the only thing offered is a pessary. Uterine, reproductive, and pelvic degeneration of health can be overlooked as par for the course for those who’ve borne children and/or aged, and it shouldn’t be that way.

September 2022, a year later saw a letter from NHS saying no date available for surgery, so I got an appointment to have a ring pessary fitted, as the prolapse was doing nothing but get worse every day.

Ring Pessary © Lisa Shambrook

If you’ve never seen a Ring Pessary before, the first one is a shock. It looks like a big silicone curtain ring… I started with a size 74. That’s 74mm, which popped straight out again. I tried size 77, then 80, yes, 80mm, eight centimetres, almost the size of a baby’s head. It fitted okay, I could put it in and take it out no problem, and I felt more comfortable with it in, but bowel movements were impossible with it inserted.

Into hospital © Lisa Shambrook

My date for surgery was finally offered for 23rd May 2023 and I was flooded with relief. Pre-assessment was good, and I went in on the Tuesday morning for a vaginal hysterectomy and pelvic floor repair. I saw my anaesthetist, shared my concerns as I don’t come round well from general anaesthetics, and talked about the operation with my surgeon. I went up to surgery at 2.10pm. I was put at ease as they gave me the spinal anaesthetic, then we joked about how it felt like a gin and tonic as I started getting warm feet and feeling fizzy, and I told them I loved Hendricks as they put the gas mask over my face for the general anaesthetic, and then I was under.

They kept everything calm and quiet as I came round, which I’d asked them to do as I’m autistic, and I came round slowly from what I thought was a dream. I was fine and happy. Then the next thing I knew it was 4.10pm and I was back on the ward.

After surgery © Lisa Shambrook

I was immediately very sick, nauseous, and faint, due to the anaesthetic, and couldn’t eat anything when they offered me dinner. When the painkillers started wearing off I took paracetamol and started noticing how I felt. I had a catheter inserted and vaginal packing which was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt a strong urge to pee, which confused me with the catheter, but I was probably just feeling swollen. I had a couple of pieces of toast later in the evening from a lovely student nurse, who also French plaited my hair when I couldn’t reach to do it myself properly.

I was asleep by 9pm, and I slept well on the ward with two other patients, but was definitely glad I’d brought my silicone ear plugs. Obs (blood pressure, temperature, checking the surgical site, and offering pain killers) were every four hours, and by 5.30am, I was awake. The two nurses who looked after me on night shift were amazing, discreet, calm, and friendly, and happy to provide Oromorph when the pain got too intense.

Hospital wrist band © Lisa Shambrook

I couldn’t eat much all day, couldn’t face food at all, and couldn’t wait to have my catheter and packing removed. Once removed, I had the obligatory pee and was ready to go home. The NHS is wonderful and I was very grateful to everyone who had been part of my care.

The worst thing straight after surgery apart from the nausea, was feeling so uncomfortably full of gas. They pump your body with gas to be able to get to organs and perform surgery, but it doesn’t dissipate for a while. I found peppermint tea (as advised by a commenter on the Facebook Prolapse Group) really helped to release some of that gas! I still had barely any appetite and could only eat fruit and stay well hydrated. I lost half a stone in the first week from eating so little.

Blood thinners © Lisa Shambrook

I felt very weak, very faint at times, sleepy, and uncoordinated. It was enough to walk to the bathroom and back. I bled for three or four days, then very sporadically. I needed to inject myself in my tummy each day for a week, with pre-loaded syringes of blood thinners to prevent blood clots from a lack of movement after surgery. The best way is to sit on the edge of your bed, pinch a large amount of skin in the appropriate area, for me it was just below my tummy button in my abdomen, and inject slowly but firmly. I made the mistake of once trying to inject while standing up. That was a definite error as you don’t hold as much flab in your fingers when standing and not only did the needle hurt, but it bruised too. If you do it the way the nurse explains the needles are so teeny, you can’t even feel them when you inject.

The scariest thing was waiting for a bowel movement. There’s a terrifying thought of wrecking the whole repair job with one strain! Didn’t happen. I’ve been taking Laxido, a stool softener, for years to prevent strain, and I added a senna tablet or two. Now, they tell you that that first poo is like a cow pat. Best description ever, lol! It happened on day three, I got cramps and knew it was time. There’s no straining because you’re still so swollen the muscles to strain don’t even know they’re still there! I had no ability to push at all, so just sit and let it happen. If you’ve taken stool softener or laxatives you’ll be fine. I also don’t appear to have the rectal prolapse that had begun anymore either, which I’m over the moon about!

Resting © Lisa Shambrook

On day five post op, I took a look at myself for the first time. To be fair, there wasn’t much to see down below. Very mottled in colour, bruised, and battered, and I could see black stitches on the back wall of my vagina. Everything is going to be swollen for a few months, and I’ve been told it can take up to three or four months for the swelling to go down and up to four months for the stitches to dissolve. My belly was still distended, but the gas was reducing, I didn’t feel like there was a hedgehog stuffed up my vagina anymore either, which was so good! My appetite returned, but I still couldn’t face chocolate or sweet things for a while, which was strange!

All in all, a week after surgery, I know I need to keep taking it easy, and I will, but I feel much more myself already. Bearing in mind I’m still taking paracetamol so the residual pain is kept at bay. My husband and daughter have been looking after me, Lexi, our German Shepherd teenager is being relatively careful, and I’m enjoying reading and watching TV until I can’t keep my eyes open, which is often right now! I still feel weak and very tired, but will build up exercise cautiously. I’m doing foot stretches to help prevent blood clots too. No lifting of almost anything for six weeks, and even then I have to be careful not to lift heavy things in the future to avoid a further prolapse, but that’s common sense. There’s a 30% risk of anyone who’s had pelvic prolapse repair surgery of having a further prolapse in the future. I won’t restart doing pelvic floor exercises until after the go-ahead after my 6 week post op check-up, but then I’ll be working at them hard! Like I said, it’ll take a few months to get back to normal and see how my body feels without a prolapse… but I can’t wait!

Crystal Grid for Sacral Chakra © Lisa Shambrook

Losing my Religion and Finding Freedom

That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spot-light. Losing my religion – REM

I was born into a religion, a strict one that limited a lot, including me.

Caveat: This is my own experience, I don’t claim anyone else’s experience, but there are many like myself.
This is my story, it is not written to denigrate anyone else’s story or beliefs. We all have differing experiences and stories, just as we have different beliefs and morals. We own our own.
This blog post will include critical elements about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   
I don’t need anyone to bear me their testimony, or tell me I’m wrong. When it comes to religion and spirituality our choices, beliefs, and testimonies are personal and valid. No one is right or wrong.
This is also not an attack on Mormons. Most of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I know, are lovely people with incredibly good intentions.

I’ve had a few friends ask me about my current relationship with religion, but it’s too big a subject to answer in a quick note. Religion has been a major part of my life. But my views changed as I came to terms with the beliefs I’ve been brought up with and my authentic self, and I’m now more mentally and emotionally healthy with a real sense of freedom and joy.  

The Bible © Lisa Shambrook

My father was Catholic and my mother, Pentecostal. Mum’s dad was a preacher, and she was brought up with an overriding love and devotion to Christ. My dad’s family, stoic Catholics, had a Madonna Bleeding Heart statue in their home, that both fascinated me and weirded me out at the same time. In practise, both Christian religions were very different which left my parents looking for a way to consolidate the two, something to make life logistically easier. Not long before I was born, as the 1970’s began, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on their door, and they let them in.

Dad committed to stop drinking alcohol and smoking, which was a prerequisite to join the church. And he did, overnight, never to touch either again. Mum was more reserved in her reception, but as someone who barely ever drank and despised smoking, she was overjoyed at this change in her husband, who had had an issue with alcohol and smoking for most of his life. She rebutted the idea of the founder of the religion, Joseph Smith, for a long time. It disappointed her that this church spoke more of him at the time than of Jesus, and she struggled with new scripture, The Book of Mormon, but she came around, and along with Dad accepted the invitation to baptism.

Bible page © Lisa Shambrook

Mum mourned the loss of the joyful Pentecostal singing that she was used to, and she struggled with the reliance on new scripture in addition to the Bible. Dad slipped into their new church wholeheartedly never looking back after they joined, studying, accepting, and embracing everything and it brought him much happiness.

My parents became devout Mormons, and I was brought up in the religion from birth. As a family we attended church every Sunday, and lived its teachings to default. My older brother left when he was around seventeen. He chose to live a life where his ethos was that everyone should try everything at least once. He tried a lot! He never wanted to return to religion preferring philosophy and life. My other siblings also left the church in their late teens too when my parents moved away.

My baptism (excuse the 70’s wallpaper!)
© Lisa Shambrook

I was, however, the proverbial good girl, the one who tried to hold things together. The one who was terrified of guilt, of being alone, of being lost, even though I spent most of life feeling inherently lost. It should be pointed out that I am autistic. I did everything to fit in, to be good, to keep rules, routine, and order, and to believe what I was told by those older than me (That also lead to naivety and gullibility, and being assaulted, but that’s another story). I believed – I fervently believed what I was taught.

I was spiritual at a very emotional level. I got great joy out of reading about Christ’s life, loved moving into deep doctrine and philosophy, and I loved talking about theories, existential things, and beliefs. I’m an empath, I feel deeply, I feel others’ emotions, and the way this church, and many others, teach is emotion based.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints espouses itself as the one true church, with the only direct authority from God on this earth, and the only church with living prophets. It asks you to read The Book of Mormon in its entirety, then to pray about whether it’s true, and you base your testimony of the scripture and the church on that, on the emotions that you feel. I later learned about confirmation bias, conforming, indoctrination, conditioning, and moulding people then I understood how some religions operate. If you are brought up to fundamentally believe something is true then when you ask and pray about it, the odds are that you will get a good feeling, which is interpreted as a positive answer – a confirmation of truth.

Moroni 10:4 read and ask © Lisa Shambrook

The Mormon Church is exceptionally well organised. With teaching programs built by a church education board that begin at nursery age through childhood, then at twelve-years-old there are youth programs, separated into Young Women and Young Men until eighteen. Plus from the age of fourteen to eighteen teens go through seminary, four years of intensive scripture based study, after or before school, accompanying the years you are taking GCSE’s and A-Levels in the UK. I followed these scripture courses, studying the Old Testament, the New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, with Church History for four years, giving me an additional hour long class one evening a week and four hours more of homework, all on top of normal school. You are required to learn and quote scripture, and graduate at eighteen. Years later I sent my children to, and taught, early morning seminary four or five days a week. It’s a heavy responsibility and an incredible pressure on teenagers, and parents. I struggled through those years as a parent, and not sure my kids enjoyed it much either.

Me at 17 in front of Brighton Chapel
© Lisa Shambrook

I felt very isolated and misunderstood as a child and teen. Only a few of my classmates were openly religious or from religious backgrounds, which is alienating when your life is so different.

As a teenager it got harder. I was lucky I had a close group of church friends, who supported each other as much as we could. I also loved my school friends. The church restricted dating until we were sixteen, but I still had crushes, fell in love, felt everything, only forbidden to act upon it. The differences became more apparent as I got older and desperately tried to fit in. Clothing had to be morally acceptable – no strappy tops, no shoulders showing, no short skirts, and no tight jeans. No smoking, drinking, or tea or coffee, no sex before marriage, or any kind of sexual contact. It was difficult as a teen to fit into this life. As I reached sixteen and seventeen, I developed two lives, one in church and one outside. I could swear outside, but not at home, and I allowed my emotions to run wild, and be something of myself outside with friends, and ignore church doctrines and morality clauses altogether with those I fell in love with.

Myself at 17 wearing a ruby for virtue
© Lisa Shambrook

My boyfriend, when I was seventeen, was interested in my religious background, he even came to church with me once, and attempted lessons with the missionaries. Then one day John said something which I’d never considered. We sat on the beach and he took my face in his hands and said, “You only believe what you do, because you’ve never known anything different.”

It would be years before I truly understood what he’d said.

Our relationship slipped away, and broke my heart. At that point I threw myself into church life, trying to heal the hurt, church friendships grew and outside friends slipped, which I was always sad about. My mum went inactive at church at this point, which shocked me, and made my dad so sad. I took Dad to church and listened as he wept about her not coming with us. It impacted me greatly. I also fell in love again.

Vince and I wedding day © Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I met at church and married when I was a week off twenty-years-old. The church believes in marriage for all time and eternity, which was an idea I’d always embraced and loved, so I was excited to get sealed together in the church’s temple. We went through the endowment and marriage sealing a year after we were married, but I struggled greatly with the secret/sacred signs and rituals within the temple (much of which is pulled from Freemasonry which was a large part of Joseph Smith’s life),that I didn’t go back to the temple for over ten years.

London Temple © Lisa Shambrook

Vince became my everything, and as quite an obsessive person I threw everything into our marriage, and became very dependant. After we’d been married for two years, we moved away from our home town and took our three-month-old baby with us to Wales. We lived in a new town knowing no one and the only connections I made at the beginning were at church. For my entire twenties I lived and breathed religion, learning more, accepting callings to teach, and to lead, even with three small children. I made friends and fervently taught my young family all I was supposed to. My health, mental and physical suffered, but I was committed and dedicated to my religion.

Fear not I am with thee © Lisa Shambrook

I did everything the church asked. I worked hard and earnestly until I was forty, but my emotional and mental health was problematic. I had panic attacks regularly at church, and my anxiety on Sundays was sky high. I’d been diagnosed with chronic depression from the age of eighteen, and I’d been on and off antidepressants the whole time, with no recognition of my autism.

Misgivings and cracks © Lisa Shambrook

Just before forty, I took stock of my life. Things didn’t feel right. My oldest was reluctantly attending church after having had what we considered a rebellious stage. It was more than that, but we tried to ignore it and strongly encouraged them to find a testimony of the church. One of the intrinsic teachings was that families could be together forever, in the afterlife, but that blessing would only come to fruition if all the family members were worthy in the church. When a child left, members were often comforted with the reassurance that because they had been brought up with correct principles, they would ultimately return. I felt an enormous pressure to keep my children active. When my oldest was nineteen, they finally said they were going to stop going to church. Instead of being scared for them and their salvation, I was surprisingly relieved! I knew they hated it and it felt wrong to them. I saw how happy they became and wholeheartedly supported them. I didn’t want them to come back! I finally recognised that I’d been trying to hide my own doubts since I was thirty-five.

The Prayer of Serenity © Lisa Shambrook

I tried to ignore my own doubts, which was something the leaders of the church, from the top down, encouraged. Very quickly though, it became apparent that my youngest was also not interested, though she was only thirteen and I remember telling her she had to attend until she was eighteen before she could make her own choice. I’m really sad that I did that, pressuring my own children to attend something they didn’t want to. That wasn’t my place, especially as I was fighting my own questions too.

In my forties I accepted positions in leadership and teaching to try to suppress my own misgivings. I taught seminary for four years, rereading all the texts, and teaching two youth, including my youngest. It became more and more apparent as I studied again that my questions were growing, my doubts were pushing forward, and the things I was reading weren’t helping me.

Seminary © Lisa Shambrook

The Old Testament threw me with its violence, and a grudge holding, vengeful God. I’d been taught that the Old Testament God was Jesus Christ, and that temperament did not match the Jesus I knew. I found that I could not take the stories literally, and saw them as allegories, but often problematic ones. The New Testament did similar with its teaching beyond those of the first four gospels of Christ. The Book of Mormon was an interesting read, but threw up more questions, especially about racism, which as a seminary teacher we were encouraged not to give opinions about, but to say we didn’t know why the racism was there, only God would know why certain things were done, and it wasn’t our place to ask why. These issues were compounded intensely when I read The Doctrine and Covenants, which I found not only boring and repetitive, but also introduced further moral issues and teachings.

Searching © Lisa Shambrook

At this point I had to relinquish my callings, as I had no surety, and I had questions I wanted answers to. I couldn’t teach the church’s intrinsic homophobia to teenagers, or racism, or accept that women were not equal in the gospel. I tried to get an appointment to talk to my Bishop about my concerns, but none was forthcoming. I asked to talk to leaders, but no one offered. The Mormon Church prides itself on being open, or I thought it did, I was always taught that questions were healthy and encouraged. But it seemed only positive questions regarding joining the church or learning more were encouraged, anything about doubts were not. A church authority who I deeply respected, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, even quoted in a General Conference, ‘Doubt your doubts before your faith.’

Official © Lisa Shambrook

There were no answers. I tried to find my own, whilst I tried to doubt my doubts. I did what I was supposed to do – I went to the official church website to find answers. We were religiously (pun intended) taught not to search outside the church for answers, as we would find non-church safe answers…  So, I searched church archives. In 2013 the church published essays on several problematic church subjects. I read them, but instead of finding answers, I just discovered more and more uncertainties and questions.

Church Essays © Lisa Shambrook

I’d had a general dislike of the church’s history with polygamy, but it was an old practise and had no place in the present church. Now I learned how it came about and what it entailed – things we had never been taught – including the founder and first prophet Joseph Smith marrying fourteen-year-olds and other married women, and I felt even more uncomfortable. I learned, contrary to what I’d been taught, that most of his translation of The Book of Mormon was done letter by letter appearing on a seer stone, banded iron jasper, Joseph had dug up years before, while he peered at the stone inside a stove hat. I read about the papyruses that Joseph bought from a tradesman, and then purported them to be Abrahamic and from the life of the Old Testament Abraham. Facsimiles were printed in the church’s scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, of these papyruses after Joseph translated them at a time when no one could translate ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs. When the Rosetta Stone was discovered and people learned Egyptian Hieroglyphics, it was proven that these papyruses were actually ordinary funerary papers of ordinary Egyptians, nothing to do with biblical Abraham, and Church scholars have accepted this, yet still they are taught as canon and appear in sacred text. There were so many more issues, with DNA from the Book of Mormon people claims, the First Vision accounts, and much more.

Facsimile from Papyrus © Lisa Shambrook

It was that point that I left the official church site… there are plenty of places to find documentation and recorded history that perhaps the church chooses not to include in its teaching of church history. I learned that Joseph Smith had a recorded history as a con man (or juggler as was the term in those days) using seer stones in hats, and treasure seeking to raise money from unfortunates who believed he would dig out the treasure he told them about.

Treasure Seeker © Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t even need to read the CES Letter – I had enough misgivings from the church’s own information sites. So, when I finally did get to speak to the Stake President, the leader in charge of my wider area of the church, he had no answers either. It’s all about accepting and having faith, and in some instances hoping the church will alter its position on things like homophobia in the future.

It was then that I read about the Church finances, which was a recent story in most newspapers. A whistleblower revealed that the church had hidden reserves of money in slush funds. They were investigated by the US SES (Senior Executive Service, part of the Federal government), and in February 2023 fined $1m and the church financiers fined $4m for purposefully hiding $32bn in 13 different accounts. One reason given was that the church didn’t want members to know of this huge reserve of cash, because it might put members off paying tithes and offerings.

Tithing © Lisa Shambrook

I already had a major issue with the law of tithing, the church doesn’t need our money, and neither does God for that matter. They had already had way more than 10% of our time for decades. To be a worthy member the church requires 10% of all income. There are plenty of other financial outlays too. We used to travel 36 miles each Sunday to get to church each week, plus more for other meetings. Youth activities, camp, EFY etc cost a lot, and Missions are pushed hard to all youth these days, but are almost pushed as compulsory to boys. Two years away from home preaching as missionaries for the church, but self-financed, currently costing each missionary and their families around £8k. All this for a church estimated to be the wealthiest church in the world, worth over $100bn.

It was enough to push me away. I actually felt foolish for having believed so much of what seemed like a business, like a con. So I left and later resigned my membership. Immediately after I left I felt relaxed and comfortable. In the church one of the things you are taught is to stay away from places that make you feel uncomfortable… meaning bars, clubs, pubs etc, but for me I’d been uncomfortable at church for so long, and the relief at not having to go was considerable! That’s not to say it didn’t cause issues, church left me with a huge amount of ingrained guilt, or fear, and of gas-lighting which took several years to overcome.

You are safe – Elizabeth Gilbert
© Lisa Shambrook

Many people within religion find it hard to accept that people leave, and it’s been said that people only leave because they’re not strong enough to resist temptation, or to live the doctrines, or just want to go and sin… which isn’t true. The most common reasons for people leaving churches are apathy – just having no motivation to continue, conflict with doctrine – finding you cannot support a church that teaches homophobia for example, or conflict with the history of the religion – which leaves members feeling deflated and deceived. It’s incredibly difficult to leave a faith that you’ve been taught all your life. There’s a lot of grief, guilt, anger, and conflicting emotions as you adjust, find out who you are, and what you believe.

Walking away © Lisa Shambrook

After I discovered who I was, and that the church wasn’t for me then I found all the things I missed. And I found that life was much more relaxed and much more enjoyable. Now I can live my life as myself, as my authentic self. I can wear what I want, go where I want, drink, get tattoos, and have more than one set of earrings, lol… I can live with healthy boundaries and in the present, not worrying if what I do will affect what happens to me in the afterlife, if there is one. If there’s a God in Heaven, I’m pretty sure they still love me, and if there’s not then it doesn’t matter.

I’m still working out where I am on my spiritual journey. My sanctity has always been found in family and nature. One of the things that tied me to my religion was that it was touted as a family oriented faith, but the servitude, meetings, and callings of the religion took so much time out of our family. Having ordinary members, unqualified laypeople, run a religion is exhausting mentally and physically, and incredibly time consuming, and became something my children heavily resented. I have since found holiness in other ways.

My spiritual journey © Lisa Shambrook

I’ve always felt very spiritual, but my spirituality moves in a more natural pagan way – affirmations, mindfulness, feeling sand beneath my feet, walking through rippling waves on the edge of a beach, listening to the wind rustle through trees, staring up at the moon or myriad stars, kicking through fallen leaves, walking on soft bouncy moss, and seeing the sun throw its rays through tall trees to create a temple within the forest.

Celestial Light © Lisa Shambrook

The best Sunday morning worship for me is to walk through the forest and bathe in rays of celestial sun light, and listen to the hymns sung by the birds. The sacred nature of the earth, the strength of the rocks, the trickle of living water, air filling my lungs as I gaze up into the sky, and the fire of the sun, moon, and stars are the only church I need.

Salvation comes from living a good life, not a perfect one, but a life where we learn from our mistakes, and where we enjoy what we have. A life where we prioritise people, all people, no matter their creed, colour, ability, gender, or sexuality, and all have equal status and chance at redemption. I’m happy if people wish to live with a faith, sometimes that’s what people need to keep them inspired, but for me it’s all about the salvation of humanity by humanity. I want a world where compassion wins over duty, where equity victors over prejudice, and unconditional love defeats privilege and control.

The sort of world that should be the basis for all religions.

Not all who wander are lost
© Lisa Shambrook

My religion is nature.
That’s what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me.

– Oliver Sacks

A Year with Lexi – Chaos and Love

A dog wags its tail with its heart – Martin Buxbaum

Easter weekend 2022 rolled around on the calendar
and we jumped head first into a choice
that brought both chaos and love into our lives.

Six months earlier we’d lost Kira, our beautiful, fluffy, long-haired, rescue German Shepherd, and now Vince was looking at adverts for another dog. He found two that weekend; one was away for the week, and the other had reduced the price of their pup due to her being the last of the litter to go. Vince asked if we could go and see her, and I replied, “If we go to see her, you know we’ll be bringing her home.”

And so it was that when we pulled up to a farmhouse, the owner stood with a four-month-old puppy by its mother’s side.

The pup sat upright grinning at us with floppy ears, lolling tongue, and confidence oozing from every pore! “She looks like a Lexi!” I said, before we’d even got out of the car.

Lexi, 16 weeks – ready to cause chaos © Lisa Shambrook

And that was that, we became puppy owners again, and we could barely remember Roxy’s puppyhood fourteen years before! We threw ourselves right back into the deep end…

Lexi 4, 6, 9, and 12 months old © Lisa Shambrook

Lexi had only ever lived outside with her mum and siblings, and had spent the best part of a month on her own with mum after her litter mates had been sold. She had bags of confidence and energy outside, climbing all over us with bouncy fun, but was pretty anxious indoors. We didn’t have space to crate train a dog that would grow so fast, so planned to let her sleep in one of Kira’s old warm beds in the dining room with a non-carpeted floor. That first night I stayed up with her most of the night as she cried once left alone, then she settled and I went to bed. In the morning we discovered she could open doors already and was in the lounge when we got up. We needed to go back to basics, puppy proofing everything!

Lexi 4, 6, and 8 months – Little Wolf © Lisa Shambrook

Within days she was ruling the roost at only sixteen weeks old…

She was fully toilet trained within the first week, promptly and indignantly ripping up puppy pads if we dared put them down after that! She was a blank page, but one with a biting, chewing, and stealing habit. Everything was fair game. What she could reach was obviously hers. Blankets, jumpers, cardboard boxes, remote controls, mats, cushions, her bed… she was a mini demolition monster! We spent the first month chasing her around, prising things out of her jaws, trying to distract her, while she found everything that we’d missed during puppy proofing!

She loved walks, but carried her tornado of energy with her. She took the local museum grounds, Ferryside beach, Brechfa Forest, and bluebell-carpeted Green Castle Woods in her stride.

Lexi 16, 18, and 23 weeks – Green Castle Woods, Brechfa, Ferryside © Lisa Shambrook

A month later we started puppy classes. A small class with Lexi, who was already a large 44lbs (19.5kg) compared to the other puppies that were less than a quarter of her size: a teeny-tiny black spaniel pup, small border collie, two cockapoos, and a tiny golden Labrador. We were slightly terrified of Lexi playing loose with the puppies, part of play during training, I think we all thought she’d hurt them by mistake because she was so big, but she was so gentle and careful with them! The most important thing to work on was creating a strong bond with Lexi, getting her to check in with us as much as we could. She was so alert and keen on exploring it was difficult to keep her attention, made even harder because she wasn’t food or treat oriented. I took her on lots of short walks up and down our cul-de-sac, concentrating on keeping her attention and trying to tempt her by dropping small pieces of cheese in front of her, to keep her walking right by my side.

Lexi 5, 6, and 9 months tennis balls and toys © Lisa Shambrook

Then she started teething and losing her shark teeth… and we’re not joking, puppy teeth are like needles! We got stuck in with training, all the basics, sit, lay down, come, stay, and recall. She learned to go to bed in the dining room. She discovered she loved dumping her water bowl upside down, but even with a heavy bowl she still managed to regularly tip it up! She loved playing piggy-in-the-middle with her tennis ball! I constantly repaired her soft toys and beds as she attempted to destroy them. We searched for the holy grail of indestructible toys. We laughed at her mad zoomies, tried to distract her from things she shouldn’t have, and put up with constant puppy love bites!

We made sure to introduce Lexi to our postman when we first got her, and he became one of her favourite people! He always brought a dog treat with him when he had to knock on the door. Lexi would wait at the window when she expected him!

Lexi 5, and 13 months, waiting for the postman © Lisa Shambrook

At seven months we were watching her ears; one was up, the other still floppy. German Shepherds with floppy ears are the cutest thing!

The summer was so hot, reaching 40°C in parts of London, which is unbearable. Lexi’s walks were either early or late, to keep her safe during the heat. Her training was coming on so well. She enjoyed meeting her doggie friends at the museum, and loved people. The hardest thing that summer was leaving her in kennels while we went on holiday to Scotland. It wasn’t our usual kennels as they’d been booked up by the time we got Lexi. When we came home and collected her, we were wary. She was so excited to see us, which was to be expected, but she and her toys and blankets were soaked through. She stank, and we bathed her as soon as we got home.

The kennels hadn’t said there’d been any issues with her, but she was subdued and as soon as she met other dogs on her walks she was anxious and defensive. She was also scared of people for the first time. Lexi never knocked over her water bowl again though. We’ll never know what happened at the kennels, but we’d never had a dog come home from kennels as wet and dirty as she had, so next time, she’d go to kennels of our choice.

We were careful and she was soon happy with people again, but dogs still seemed to worry her. When we were alone with Lexi she was excited and happy. We had an amazing trip to a local castle, Llawhaden, where Lexi explored every inch of it, insisting on climbing up into the towers too!

Lexi 7, 7, and 15 months – Llawhaden Castle, Black Mountain River, Brechfa © Lisa Shambrook

At eight months she was still a puppy and acted as such, into everything. We came down one morning to a floor covered in milk from a stolen carton from the cupboard… but there’s no point crying over spilled milk! September, coming up to nine-months-old, Lexi went into her first season and we had to keep her at home for a month. She was agitated and frustrated, not helped by the late summer heat, and when she was allowed back out again, we had severe issues with her response to other dogs. She barked at dogs, even those who were her friends, and walking became more difficult. We got her on puppy training waiting lists, but they’d grown and it was going to be a long wait.

Lexi 8, 10, and 11 months – Spilled milk, Halloween, and ready to play © Lisa Shambrook

At Halloween we dressed Lexi as a pumpkin, and she stole a mini pumpkin as we attempted to try and take photos of her! As it got darker earlier Vince and I took Lexi on walks after Vince got home from work, as dusk fell. It was much easier with fewer people and dogs about. Lexi was still reactive and lunging, but we were concentrating on training her to walk by us, and not pull. We also trained her to sit on her place to keep her from under our feet in the kitchen.

Lexi, 11 months, with Flynn and Buzz, Dan and Lisa © Lisa Shambrook

Our son and daughter-in-law visited with their two dogs, Buzz, a tiny black pug, and Flynn, another GSD. We were concerned as to how Lexi would react to their dogs, but amazingly, she made friends quickly, but she was demanding with Flynn. She wanted to play with him and no one else and constantly barked in his face if he didn’t play with her. He rightly put her in her place a few times, but they did love playing rough together!

Winter saw a big drop in temperature and Lexi saw her first snow, and then her first birthday on Boxing Day!

Lexi 11 and 12 months – Snow and Christmas © Lisa Shambrook

For the last four months we’ve been seeing a behavioural trainer with Lexi, concentrating on distraction, attention gaining, bonding behaviour, and teaching her to go from excitable to calm quickly. She has a habit of attacking dogs on adverts on our TV… and barking at dogs walking by our house, so we’re training her to go to her place and settle when we tell her to. There are a lot of small treats and praise involved! Our trainer introduced us to a flirt pole to teach her to calm quickly. It’s a horse lunge whip with a squirrel toy (or any toy) tied to the end of it. We made our own, and we whip it around in an open space and Lexi chases the squirrel ’til she catches it. Then she has to drop it and sit and wait until we’re ready to let her play again, so she has to go from hyped to calm quickly. She loves the squirrel pole and has so much fun chasing and catching it!

It’s been a few weeks and we’re seeing positive changes in how many dogs she now attacks on television and how quickly she comes down from the window when we tell her to settle, so we’re getting there! The next part of training will involve dog walking with other dogs… and we hope that by the time she’s over her teenage months, she’ll be less reactive and better behaved!

Lexi 11, 14, and 15 months © Lisa Shambrook

All-in-all, Easter weekend has just gone and we’ve had Lexi for a year now. She’s filled that puppy-shaped gap in our hearts, and I imagine both Roxy and Kira are watching us with mirth, asking us what we think we’ve got ourselves into with Lexi! She’s exhausted and delighted us. She’s real pain in the arse at times, but when she gazes up at me with those huge brown puppy-dog eyes I melt. She cuddles close, gets excited and nibbles because she just has too much love to give. I don’t want a perfect pup… I’m very happy with our spirited, mischievous bundle of chaos!

Lexi 15 months © Lisa Shambrook

When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away,
then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad

– Kristan Higgins

Autistic and Unmasked

Being different is a good thing.
It means you’re brave enough to be yourself.
– Karen Salmansohn

When I was young I was painfully shy and shut myself away from people, lost in a world of reading, writing, and drawing. In nursery school I would head for the paint pots or book corner, or ride a tricycle around the playground. At home I’d swing as high as I could on our garden swing, listening to music on my personal stereo, as I disappeared into my own world in the clouds. I excelled in art and writing at school, but struggled with social situations. When things got too much, when I got overwhelmed or panicked, I ran away. I was trusting and naive which lead to a lot of being taken advantage of in various situations. I found I was able to fit in more as I got older, once I learned to be who people wanted me to be.

Lisa ages 3 and 10, and favourite childhood things – the piece of black fur was a stim © Lisa Shambrook

I learned to mask. Masking is a term used to describe how autistic people try to fit into a neurotypical society, by copying or mimicking behaviour to assimilate, supressing behaviour that might be considered odd, and developing methods to cope like creating scripts for situations, routines, and more. We change our natural responses to fit in.

Lisa ages 12, 13, and 16 © Lisa Shambrook

I’d never heard of autism when I was young. I had a long standing eating disorder controlling food intake and weight, self-harmed, had panic attacks, ran away from school, office, home multiple times, couldn’t say no, suffered crippling feelings of guilt and not being enough, and had major sensory sensitivities. I was misdiagnosed time and time again from the age of 18 upwards. I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS or Post Viral Fatigue or ME – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) at 19 when I began collapsing with exhaustion. Then I was diagnosed with chronic depression and put on a multitude of antidepressants that really didn’t work well over the next thirty years, and left to it.

Purple electricity – autistic brains are wired differently, anxiety, antidepressants © Lisa Shambrook

I married young and had three children. As Rayn, my oldest, grew up, they struggled a lot with fitting in, with behaviour, and school was a nightmare. In Junior school I got used to phone calls asking me to come and take Rayn home, to extricate them from the toilets where they’d hidden, to catch them on the school field where a teacher hadn’t been able to, to collect them after violent behaviour. As they moved into their teens we tried to get help. There wasn’t much available, and at first we looked into bipolar as a possible reason. My younger sister had been diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder as a child, and bipolar as an adult, and later autism. In the end, Rayn was dismissed by CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, as just a fifteen-year-old hormonal teen.

Lisa ages 19, also 19 at wedding, and 29 © Lisa Shambrook

Autism was looked at as a predominantly male condition, and girls and women were (and still are) often overlooked. Telling my child, to their face, that they were just a hormonal teen and needed to grow up was literally the worst thing they could have said. Rayn closed down, and it took another six years before they could begin to ask for help again. Rayn researched autism and after a few years finally got an assessment.

At the video assessment (during Covid) the assessor finished and immediately told Rayn that they were autistic. Usually you’d wait for the official diagnosis letter to come through before you knew, but the assessor said it was so obvious, and they were so sad that Rayn had been so badly let down before. Rayn and I cried with relief and validation. I wish we’d known when they were at school. As an adult there is no active support when you are diagnosed, but I believe as a child there are many accommodations you can ask for and get support at school. We can still ask for considerations and accommodations at work and for medical situations, but it’s more precarious.

Blue rain, school, Autism Passport © Lisa Shambrook

When Rayn had begun to research autism before assessment, we’d talked a lot and Rayn said I should get assessed too. I wasn’t sure, but the more I looked at it, the more I saw myself, so I got referred.

I still struggle with any social situation, with no idea how to make small talk, and not knowing when to speak, or to stop oversharing. I can’t deal with crowds, noise, changed plans, broken routines, and I often miss jokes or sarcasm. I hate change, I panic if my favourite toothpaste, or body lotion, or food is discontinued. I hate people visiting my house unless they’re family. I have misophonia sensitivity to noises and sounds, and misokinesia sensitivity to movement or things in my eye line. I’m also sensitive to materials, smells, and touch. I hate being hugged unless I initiate it or already know and like the person. I need meticulous order, plans, and routine. I can’t bear telephones or making phone calls. I’m obsessive, I catastrophise, and my imagination is far too big! I struggle to hear people, not because I can’t hear them, but because I have to process what people say as I hear it, and that takes time. I stim, stimming is repetitive self-stimulation regulatory behaviour, usually repetitive movements or noises in aid to calm or pacify. I related to being autistic so much.

Lisa ages 40, 43, and 48 © Lisa Shambrook

I was assessed eighteen months after Rayn, and after almost four years on the waiting list. On the second part of the assessment, my assessor wondered if my diagnosis’ of both CFS and depression was actually autistic burnout and overwhelm, that the sexual assaults I’d suffered could’ve been linked to misplaced trust, and was also the person who pointed out that my eating disorder was really ARFID Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder instead. As we talked my life suddenly made sense, and a few weeks later almost exactly on the 50th birthday I got my official autism diagnosis.

Again, so much validation, which is incredibly important, and it lead me to be able to understand myself so much more. It helped those around me to understand autism, and to see it unmasked as I began to relax and be my authentic self.

There’s a magic in being able to freely be who you are. The system is gradually catching up with autism in women, and more and more older women, who were missed when they were younger, have been receiving assessment and diagnosis.     

Lisa age 50 with Autism diagnosis © Lisa Shambrook

It was recently reported that over 122,000 people are currently waiting for autism assessment in England, with long waiting lists. I don’t know the figures in Wales, but more than 2,200 children are currently waiting in my local Hywel Dda Health Authority in Wales. More needs to done and understood to improve lives.

Trying to fit into a neurotypical society is tough for a person with neurodivergent mind. Autism is not a mental health illness, our brains are just wired differently, a neurological condition. It’s estimated that 15% of the UK population are neurodivergent and 15 – 20% of world population.

And there’s a very pertinent quote from Stephen Shore, an American Autistic professor of special education, If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism. Don’t compare one autistic person to another; every single one of us is different.

Autism Wheel by Autism Sketches, Sunflower lanyard, my tattoo and beads – the moon and beads are two of my special interests © Lisa Shambrook

Autism is a spectrum. Think of it like a wheel with different symptoms radiating out, any autistic person could be anywhere on that circle in a number of different places. Though some autistic people will need a lot more support than others, it is not a sliding scale of most affected to least affected. It’s much more varied than that. Regardless, understanding and compassion is paramount to acceptance as a society and for us to accept ourselves. Being different is hard for anyone, but we are just as important in society as anyone else.

It’s been a revelation to accept myself for who I am, and to understand who I am. I now know I don’t need to fit in, I don’t need to belong, because, in my own way, I already do.

The potential of those of us on the autism spectrum is
unlimited – just like with everyone elseDr Stephen Shore

Talking about Mental Health and How to Cope – World Mental Health Day 2022

I’m passionate about looking after your mental and emotional health
and today, October 10th 2022, is #WorldMentalHealthDay
and it’s important to talk about it.

I haven’t blogged for a while, I was busy writing, editing, procrastinating – a lot – and struggling with a both new meds, and a new puppy… the puppy is gorgeous and not really a struggle, but she is hard work, lol!

So, I thought I’d break cover and share what helps me look after my mental health.

I’m autistic and, along with many other physical health issues, I’ve suffered with anxiety and panic disorder, suicidal ideation, self-harm, ARFID, and intrusive thoughts. It feels vulnerable to list them like that, but removing the stigma of mental health issues and being able to talk about them is imperative.

I was misdiagnosed for decades, but also received some excellent counselling by some lovely counsellors, along with the odd iffy one.

I’ve gone through many medications, some that worked some that didn’t. Antidepressants were a first option for many GP’s, but most just masked my autistic burnout, which wasn’t diagnosed until I was fifty.

Medication and Disability Lanyard © Lisa Shambrook

Two that have and are working for me are Propranolol, a beta blocker, which helped prevent panic attacks and anxiety.

And Venlafaxine, an antidepressant which is geared towards anxiety. Venlafaxine has finally given me ease in my life and makes me feel more ‘normal’ than I have done in decades.

It’s important to accept that meds can really help mental health and can become a very effective treatment in your life, and there should be no shame in that. I’m happy to remain on Venlafaxine for the long term if I can.

Stroking a pet and Mental Health Aids © Lisa Shambrook

Other things that help me are in the photos… I carry acorn cups with me everywhere, they are in all my pockets and bags! I smooth my thumb inside them to keep me grounded and to help prevent overwhelm. I need the sensory interaction. I use lots of sensory aids, soft toys to hug and stroke, a wooden carved acorn, conkers, palm stones, and more to hold and smooth in my hands.

Stims and Acorn Cups © Lisa Shambrook

I wear a sunflower lanyard if I feel overwhelmed or panicky, on that lanyard I have a soft squirrel, my wooden acorn, a description of my issues, and my Loop ear plugs. Ear plugs are a huge help in public places where it’s too noisy and they help to prevent meltdowns.

Forests © Lisa Shambrook

Nature is a big help to me, getting outside into the forest or down by the sea can calm and ground me. Searching for acorns, conkers, leaves, shells, sea glass, and pebbles will always make me happy. Dog walking is a life saver!

Pets are a great influence, stroking an animal is known to reduce mental health issues and to help us feel happy. Looking into a dog’s eyes can give you the same feeling as falling in love!

Pets, Lexi, and the ocean © Lisa Shambrook

I also use writing, reading, painting, making crystal grids and other creative pursuits for time to escape reality, to meditate, and be mindful.

Crystal Grids, writing, and painting © Lisa Shambrook

And lastly, treat yourself… my go to treats are chocolate and hot chocolate… even when you don’t feel worth anything, a bar of chocolate, a box of chocolates, or a hot chocolate topped with cream can make you feel much better!

Hot Chocolate and Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

If you’re struggling, and many of us are right now, see your GP. I know how difficult it is. I know how it feels to not feel worthy to take up space on a waiting list for counselling, but do it. Mental health help is getting better, slowly, but it is. Understanding and compassion is getting better, and more people are accepting and working to understand how those with mental health issues feel. There may be a wait for help, but take that first step, you truly are worth it.

 Light and Magic – Mid-week Flash Challenge

Rowena gazed from one bottle to the other with an amused expression.

“Where did you get them?” she asked.

Alex grinned. “That would ruin the magic,” she told her.

Rowena picked up the closest bottle. The thick glass, worn and cloudy with age, held tiny golden grains that shone though the smudgy glass. She ran her finger across the label. “Sun dust,” she read and smirked.

“Don’t judge,” said Alex.

“I’m not judging–,”

“Yes, you are!”

“Sun dust?” Rowena raised an eyebrow at Alex as she picked up the second bottle. “And moonbeams? Really?”

“Read the rest,” prompted Alex.

Dutifully, Rowena held both bottles. “‘Sun dust, sprinkle anytime to add a little light to your life’, and ‘Moonbeams, scatter when needed to bring magic to your life’. Are you saying I need light and magic?”

“Don’t we all?” said Alex.

Rowena inspected the bottles again, tipping the sun grains so they sparkled in the evening sunshine radiating in through the bedroom window. Then she smiled and held the moonbeams, gently shaking the bottle so the tiny crystals shimmered. “It’s just sand and salt – rock crystal – or something like that.”

“You have no imagination, nothing!” Alex sighed.

“And you’re just an old romantic!”

“You wouldn’t have me any other way, Ro!”

Rowena grinned and placed the bottles back on the window sill then she gazed at Alex and sank down beside her on the bed. “I wouldn’t.” Her hand laced with Alex’s and she leaned in to kiss her gently on the cheek. “I wouldn’t change anything about you,” she said as she lost herself in Alex’s eager response.

An hour or two later Rowena woke, her hair mussed up and her mind fuzzy with romance. She glanced beside her but the bed was empty. Just a quickly scribbled note lay on the pillow and Rowena snatched it up. “‘Sprinkle and scatter… just do it’,” she read. She laughed and sat up, noticing that Alex had taken her coat and keys. Alex had a night shift at the veterinary practice. Rowena yawned and smoothed her hair.

The bottles still sat on the window sill. The sun had lowered in the sky and the day’s light was almost gone. The sun dust still glistened in the orange sunset, and the moonbeams turned silver as the sun faded and the moon rose. Rowena smiled as she removed the stopper from the first bottle and tipped a little sunlight into her hand. She giggled and threw it up into the air. She felt a little foolish as she caught her reflection in the mirror and sand landed in her hair, but she put the stopper back in the bottle and picked up the moonbeams. She spilled the glitter into her palm and again threw it up letting it settle in her locks.

“Light and Magic, I welcome you!” she chanted, then shook her head and watched the shimmering grains float about her.

She went to bed in the sheer romance of the moment, looking forward to Alex’s arrival home.

Rowena opened her eyes to a steaming mug of morning coffee and a kiss on her forehead. Nothing could possibly be more perfect. She reached out, but Alex stepped back with a grin on her face. “I see you invited, or invoked, light and magic then!” She chuckled as she brushed sand and glitter from Rowena’s pillow.

“I did, for all the good it’ll do me!” She reached out, picking up her coffee. “I wish I didn’t have to sleep alone so often though.”

Alex shrugged. “It’s part of the job, I’m afraid. Leave your coffee for a moment…”

Rowena put her mug down hopeful that Alex was about to join her in bed, but Alex picked up the mug and moved it out of her reach. Instead she moved to the bedroom door and pushed it wide open. In a single bound a large ball of fur launched across the floor and up onto the bed engulfing Rowena in a sloppy, furry kiss. A wet pink tongue licked Rowena and then fell back to sit on the bed panting, with a wide Golden Retriever smile across its face. Rowena squealed in delight as the ball of sunshine kissed her again. Rowena laughed and grinned at Alex then she crossed her hands across her heart as Alex lead a nervous, silver-haired German Shepherd into the room.

She sprang out of bed, followed by the excited Retriever, and knelt gently in front of the anxious dog, offering her hand to the timid creature. The Shepherd glanced at the Retriever and when the golden dog licked Rowena again, the pale Shepherd gently sniffed the outstretched hand and let Rowena softly stroke her head.

Alex spoke quietly, “They come together, the sun and the moon. Their owner died recently, with no family, and we won’t separate them. They’re like you and me, day and night. They belong with us now.”

Rowena nodded as she gazed at the two dogs, one as bright and as happy as the sunshine that streamed through the window, and the other as soft, mysterious, and gentle as night’s moonbeams, and her eyes filled with tears. “You’ve truly brought me both light and magic.”

I haven’t written or blogged for a while, but the Sun Dust photo Miranda, at Finding Clarity, chose for her Mid-Week Flash Challenge this week caught me. I love some light and magic…

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph. I overstepped the rules this week, though, ending up with 874 words, but hey, it’s a cute short story and I loved writing it!

The Seren Stone by Lisa Shambrook Release

When Loren and her siblings’ lives change in an instant,
and dragons fill the skies above,
they will need to face danger with courage, and a little cowardly lechrad…

The Seren Stone by Lisa Shambrook

Today, April 5th, sees the release of The Seren Stone, a fantasy tale that puts Loren in a time and place she knows she shouldn’t be with no way to get home. How would you feel?

This was never meant to be an epic adventure… all Loren did was try on a family heirloom pendant and then she and her younger brother and sister were vaulted into a future they couldn’t recognise – with dragons!

Imagine Loren’s fear and sense of responsibility as the decisions she takes throws them into a situation that puts her siblings into mortal danger

This book is a fast paced, descriptive journey into an unfamiliar world which suits readers of all ages, from children to adult. As an autistic author emotions are something I work with daily and that comes through in my writing. Courage and self-belief in the face of fear is also something I fight with, but Loren needs to face her crushing fears and with help from a few dragons and a little lechrad – she might just do that!

The Seren Stone, published by BHCPress, is available in all your favourite bookshops:

BHC Press – Amazon UK – Amazon US – Barnes & Noble – Waterstones –
Indigo – Kobo – Google Play – Apple

Available as ebook, paperback, and hardback as bookshops offer.

The Seren Stone will test your courage as you fly on dragon wings
 and fight for survival in an unfamiliar land…

The Seren Stone by Lisa Shambrook

The Seren Stone Cover Reveal and Pre-order

Welcome to The Seren Stone Chronicles.
The Seren Stone is a book for all those who

believe in magic and dragons and courage…
for all three will change you.

I am so excited to share this book with you, and I can now reveal my cover courtesy of BHCPress, And it’s now *available on pre-order!

Release Date: 5th April 2022

The Seren Stone – Lisa Shambrook

An epic fantasy adventure! When Loren places a family heirloom jewel around her neck – she, along with her brother and sister, Will and Cat, are hurled into a future they cannot recognise. Centuries beyond post-apocalyptic – the landscape of Wales has turned into a whole new country and the rumble of dragons has returned…

This book has a deep place in my heart, as I wrote it two decades ago for my children, then I hid it away until I was able to come back and rewrite it. The redraft ignited every flame in my soul as I captured gems and dragons, and sent Loren to try to right her wrongs. Danger dances, courage flirts with fear, a little cowardly lechrad tries to help, and nobody knows how to return them home

Back cover description – blurb – The Seren Stone

The Seren Stone is *available in all your favourite bookshops:

BHC PressAmazon UKAmazon USBarnes & NobleWaterstones
IndigoKoboGoogle PlayApple

*Check your preferred format availability when you order, ebooks available for preorder on all sites. Paperbacks and hardbacks available as bookshops offer or on 5th April 2022

The Seren Stone will test your courage as you fly on dragon wings
and fight for survival in an unfamiliar land…

The Seren Stone by Lisa Shambrook

Notes and maps The Seren Stone Chronicles © Lisa Shambrook

The Raven’s Call – Mid-week Flash Challenge

© Lisa Shambrook

The peridot-green tint of algae penetrated the wood, like it had been brushed on with a watercolour paint brush, like it was part of the mirror’s design. The wood, once damp, now flaky and dry in the barn, still sported delicate fretwork and inlays – though one touch and they’d crumble. And the glass, cloudy like a cataract, showed no reflection and mirrored nothing.

Rachel moved closer, her feet stumbling as she stepped over long abandoned debris and rubbish strewn across the floor of the barn. Chairs – covered in faded, torn damask, a tarnished bronze bedstead, garden tools with broken wooden handles, a pile of rusted metal-springs, coils, barbed wire, and myriad other lost items filled the space within the ramshackle walls. Rachel, however, noticed nothing but the mirror, as she shuffled forward.

Cobwebs floated to and fro in the light draught that drifted through the barn, as did the white hair framing her face, and she deftly brushed her errant tresses aside. Her flowing nightdress wrapped itself around her legs and she shivered. She smiled at the sensation the shiver sent through her. She didn’t think a shiver would have registered these days, she was so tired, so –

A bird flapped at the door, feathers rustling in the wind, and Rachel glanced back at it. A raven sat, perched with its head cocked on the splintered door. It watched for a moment as Rachel met its eyes then Rachel returned her gaze to the mirror.

She stood before the old looking glass, trying to see her face in its murky reflection, but only indistinct shadows stared back.

The raven cracked its wings in the silence and flew across the floor, this time landing noisily on the bedstead rail. Its feet clutched tight and Rachel watched its outline waver in the shadowy glass.

“Is it time?” she asked, her voice soft, and as quiet as the gentle spring breeze.

There was no reply, and she moved her hand to the decaying, rotting frame around the oval of glass. For a moment, as she touched it, the mirror was restored, a thing of simple beauty. She gazed into clear glass, her face surrounded by ebony hair, and her fingers young and slim. The wood – oak, warm, and delicately grained framed the mirror, and she was twenty-two, not eighty-two. The image faded, like the wood, and Rachel stood once more before the old mirror.

She smiled and nodded again. “It’s time,” she said, as the raven shifted behind her. She peered into the glass, and in it, or was it in her mind’s eye, she saw two people. The woman behind her, with raven black hair, like hers, wrapped her arms around Rachel, and Rachel let herself melt into the long missed and welcome embrace.

The mirror reflected nothing, as Rachel rested cold and unresponsive on the freezing floor. The raven, a ghostly shadow in the gloomy mirror, muttered and flew off soaring away into the cold, white morning sky.  

Miranda, at Finding Clarity, chose one of my own photographs for her Mid-Week Flash Challenge, and I’ve always wanted to write something for this picture that I took of an old crumbling mirror in my dad’s barn… so here we are.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.