Tea, tarot cards, magic, and new book announcements await over at my new home on the world wide web: http://denisedyoungbooks.com. I’ve decided to go self-hosted. A few things you’ll find over at the new site:
A blog filled with offerings on magic, including my upcoming Magic Mondays series, which will feature musings, spells, Pagan-focused DIYs, rituals and more to awaken your inner goddess and god, and Tarot Tuesdays, which will explore the spiritual wisdom and meanings of the tarot cards. I will continue to blog about finding authenticity and simplicity in this crazy modern world, of course.
I’m launching my indie author career with a four-book novella series. Follow the Willow Creek Coven witches as they find magic, romance, true love, and wisdom in this earthy, mystical, sensual series–launching May 2019.
More offerings are pending but include videos featuring Pagan poetry and guided meditations, free fiction, featured guest authors, and more!
I am so thankful to everyone for their support of this blog over the years. The magic is continuing, but in a beautiful new home. Please pour yourself a cup of tea and follow the URL breadcrumbs to a land of faerie delights. 🙂
The past few months have brought a great deal of change into my life. Where do I even start?
Townhouse renovations. Job hunting. Getting a job offer. Starting an awesome new job at a local library, which I am loving so far.
Dealing with a mystery illness for which doctors have yet to determine a cause, despite numerous appointments and tests. Battling joint pain, headaches, and sheer exhaustion.
Revising my novel Spellfire’s Kiss. I feel like this story is so close, and I’m getting ready to send it a fellow author who’s going to do some editing for me. The goal is to send the polished manuscript to her by October 1. The next goal is to start submitting it early next year, depending on the extent of changes based on her suggestions.
Where do simplicity and slowness fit into this? In the past few weeks, I’ve found a great deal of satisfaction in my new work environment, and continued making slow but steady progress on my writing, even with the frequent downtime and rest breaks required by whatever illness has got its hooks in me. Physically, I often feel worn down, and I’ve burned out before, so I’m trying to make time for myself.
So, how have I been keeping things simple and slow?
One: I try to wake up early enough before work (even though I am not a morning person) that I give myself time to sit with a cup of tea or coffee and just relax before I plunge into my day.
Two: Naps are my friend. If I come home from work and I need to rest, I give myself that time. Health is number one.
Three: I’m allowing myself time to adjust to this new schedule. Slowing down and cutting myself slack in other areas, thus allowing me to focus on my health and on adapting to my new life of library work and writing. And making time for all of those other things: playtime and snuggles with my animals. Quality time with my hubby. Spending time with friends. Reading and writing. Other things, such as trying new recipes and long walks in the woods, have fallen away since I’ve been sick, but I am hopeful that I can slowly add those things back into my routine soon.
I am trying to lead a slow, simple, purposeful life in the midst of a busy world. I believe things come into our lives when we’re ready for them. We have to work for them, of course, but we also can’t force things.
In my quest for simplicity, I’d like to add a few minutes of meditation into my daily routine. In search of simplicity, I am letting go of a quest for perfection. The house might be a little messy. Not every room is perfectly decluttered. Not every meal is homecooked from scratch.
Ultimately, I am learning that true simplicity lies not in living some picturesque life in which I rise early, bake bread, cook every meal from local ingredients, and live in a Pinterest-ready minimalist home. True simplicity is sipping tea and reading a good book. Keeping my possessions at a level that’s adequate without becoming overwhelming, and working, a little each day, toward my goals. Spinning and sharing stories that bring people joy and inspiration. Working toward a small, simple house filled with love, creativity, and whimsy. Maintaining my health. Staying close to my values and purpose.
I ask myself on a regular basis if something is in line with those values and that purpose. Writing books? Definitely. Working at a library? Solid yes. Saving up for a little cottage with a yard? Absolutely. Decluttering bit by bit? Yes.
But sometimes I fail. Eating take-out when I should be making a simple meal at home. Letting things slide until they become an overwhelming mess. Forgetting to let myself rest. Not doing yoga as regularly as I should.
When that happens, I’ve learned not to beat myself up. I simply regroup and make small course corrections. That’s the key. Tiny changes. Ten minutes of yoga or stretching. A little bit of money added to a savings account. Rising thirty minutes earlier to sip tea and be alone with my thoughts. Adding a new, healthy, easy recipe to my repertoire.
I have entered a season of change. But aren’t most seasons? Aren’t the seasons themselves a reminder of life’s constant state of change?
The key, I’m finding, is to find our true north. Call it purpose, principles, values, mission. The key is self-knowledge, and readjusting a little each day so we keep it always in our sights.
What about you? Have you had periods of intense change in your life? How did you stay grounded and focused on your values?
Today I’m turning the blog over to author Patricia Josephine, who’s discussing some of the real-life inspirations behind her new release, Tempting Friendship. Happy release day, Patricia!
Real Life Inspirations in Tempting Friendship
When it comes to my writing, I enjoy slipping little details from my real life into the story. It may be a name for a character mentioned in passing or somewhere the main character went that I’ve been to. They’re like little Easter eggs that people in my life may recognize. Here are seven that I slipped into Tempting Friendship.
Gerry the beer snob.
Okay, so my husband isn’t exactly a beer snob, but he likes to try different beers and judge them. He would get along with Gerry great because they could discuss the different flavors of beer and he could trust Gerry to give him a good recommendation. Also, it’s a joke between hubby and I that any spilled alcohol is alcohol abuse.
Grand Taqua Falls
GT Falls is a mash up of Grand Rapids, where I have family, and Tahquamenon Falls which is a huge waterfall and tourist trap near me. Other things in GT Falls that I pulled from real life is 28th Boulevard. There’s a street in Grand Rapids called 28th Street and it’s so busy that any construction has to be done at night. My grandma used to live on Hazel Street, and my last job was on Spruce Street.
The Crown’s Inn
The restaurant is based on one I worked at called Weber’s Rustic Inn, but Adira’s office is based on the office at my last job, Penny’s Kitchen. It was tiny and cramped with a filing cabinet that had stuff piled on it.
Rum and Light Coke
No, I’ve never heard of a customer saying this, but working in restaurants since I was 18 I have heard some pretty weird requests. Like the fish tastes to fishy. That did actually happen. Cajun spice is too spicy. A friend once asked for pasta primavera without the veggies. That’s the point of the dish. Otherwise, you’re just having alfredo. Then there’s the customers who order an item and when you bring it out say, “I didn’t order that.” That one happened a lot.
Quinn and Gerry wanting to kick customers out.
That happened to me a lot during summer time. Restaurants are crazy busy where I live then because of tourists, and after four hours of non-stop cooking, you just want them all to GO AWAY. More than once I begged waitresses to make it stop or to lock the door. If I was cranky, I’d swear about customers.
Keane not wanting to no-show.
You know what really sucks? When your coworker doesn’t show up for their freaking shift! Yeah, there’s a reason Keane doesn’t do it because I’ve had it happen to me countless times and would never dream of doing it to another person. You’d think this would just happen with slackers, but no, I once had a professionally trained chef no-show.
Quinn and Keane
I had real people in mind when I was imagining them. Youtubers, Liana Kerzer and Jeff Holiday where kind of who I pictured when writing. Of course, when it came to the cover, I couldn’t find a model with long dread locks and no shirt, so I had to make do.
Other Easter eggs are Geralt is a reference to The Witcher games, as is Witch Hunter 3, GTA, and Street Rage are references to real games.
I hoped you enjoyed learning about the Easter eggs I threw in the story.
About Tempting Friendship:
At first, Quinn isn’t impressed by Keane. He’s cocky and has sex on the brain. The polar opposite of her. Despite their differences, something blossoms between the two.
Never one to take things seriously, Keane is an incubus coasting through life without a care. When he meets Quinn, her lack of reaction to him piques his interest. No human has ever been able to resist him.
As Keane and Quinn struggle to understand what is going on between them, something sinister rocks their world. Young incubi are vanishing, and Keane’s friends go missing. Someone is after his kind. When Quinn is kidnapped, Keane must uncover who is behind the abductions and get to her before it’s too late.
Patricia never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can’t stop writing.
She writes New Adult under the name Patricia Josephine and Young Adult under the name Patricia Lynne.
Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.
So, I have to admit, I’m kind of obsessed with ice cream. It’s not that I eat it every day. I swear, I really am trying to avoid sugar. But a bit of ice cream as a treat is well, perfection.
Locally we don’t have any ice cream stands, but when I was growing up, we had this place called The Ranger (school mascot–don’t ask). People would line up to get their dripping, delicious cones. I always got a swirl cone with sprinkles because, well, let’s face it. Sprinkles make life a little more magical, a little more sparkly. And there’s nothing wrong with adding a bit more sparkle to your life.
But the lack of a local mom-and-pop ice cream stand doesn’t stop us from occasionally stopping for self-serve frozen yogurt or picking up various types of ice cream at the grocery store. I’m a mint chocolate chip girl myself. A magazine quiz once told me that this means I’m quirky and like adventure, which might be at least half true…
But I have so many wonderful memories tied up in ice cream. My grandparents loved ice cream, and we often ate it for dessert after one of my grandmother’s amazing home-cooked meals (seriously, I’m hungry just thinking about it). So, thinking about ice cream reminds me of grandparents I’ve lost, but I’m comforted by many wonderful memories and a deep, beautiful familial love.
And then there’s travel. Ice cream is huge in Germany, where one of my dearest friends lives, and I can’t think about ice cream without thinking about her and her family. When we met, I was starting college and she was in high school, an exchange student living with my family, and I recently attended her wedding on a ship in the Baltic Sea, and now she has three kids! Time flies!
Last year, we ate at an ice cream café with her, my parents, and two of her kids. We were curious about something called “spaghetti eis”—literally spaghetti ice cream. Being dumb Americans, we were naïve enough to think it was ice cream on top of spaghetti, but no. It’s so much cooler. It’s ice cream made to look like spaghetti. Maybe other people had heard of it, but I hadn’t. (Don’t laugh!)
They basically take vanilla ice cream and put it through this machine that shapes it into “spaghetti” noodles. Then they cover it in raspberry puree to mimic the sauce and top it off with white chocolate shavings for parmesan cheese. And wow, is it good.
And no, my friend didn’t laugh at us at all when we thought spaghetti eis contained actual spaghetti. She’s sweet like that. 😊
There you have it. One delicious treat. Infinite varieties. Countless memories.
And now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite memory related to ice cream? And, of course, what’s your favorite flavor? And if you can’t eat ice cream, what’s your favorite dessert and your dearest memory related to it?
July started off with a peaceful retreat in the nearby small town of Floyd, Virginia. Floyd is a small town that’s full of music and breweries.
We didn’t partake in the breweries during our stay, but we did stay at Hotel Floyd and eat some good food at nearby restaurants, including far more ice cream than was sensible at the Floyd Country Store. In evenings, music filled the streets, and we strolled along, dreaming the dreams that arise from days of quiet work and contemplation.
In case you’re wondering, hubby and I started the month off with a creative retreat. He’s working on game development now that his master’s work is completed, and I started draft seven (Seven! Squee!) of my novel Spellfire’s Kiss. I only managed to revise two chapters, but I went over those several times.
When we returned home, we dove straight into a major home renovation project: tearing out nasty old carpet in our living and dining rooms and replacing it with vinyl floor planks. Honestly, we’ve spent more time tearing out the carpet and leveling the floors than we have actually installing the new floors. I will share pictures when it’s finished, but so far, we’re please with the results. It’s just taking us DIYers forever!
And that, of course, brings me to the revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. Migraines and problems with my hands are slowing me down. I am having mysterious pains in both hands that make it hard to work for any length of time, so frequent breaks are required. But I am slowly, scene by scene, deepening this story.
I can see what this story was always meant to be. Not a sweeping epic fantasy, but a story about love, about loyalty, about family, about magic, about the battle between good and evil that is waged in each and every person.
I continue to “revise” my home, making it a place where my soul is refreshed and I can retreat, to create, love, laugh, honor, make magic, and enjoy life to the fullest, a place where animals can play, people can gather, and stories can be told.
I continue to revise Spellfire’s Kiss, making it the quiet, magical love story it was always meant to be.
And I continue to work toward improving my health. I had an MRI this week, which thankfully was normal. My doctor prescribed something to hopefully decrease the number of migraines I get, and I’m doing well limiting my sugar intake, though the remodel means I don’t currently have a place to practice yoga. Maybe a corner of the bedroom until the living room is available again?
I’ve been stalled on chapter three of Spellfire’s Kiss since our return from Floyd, but I just purchased a much-needed copy of GMC:Goal, Motivation, and Conflict and am hoping that book will help me figure out what exactly is going on.
And that goals list I posted last week? I’m thinking those aren’t just my goals for Round 3, but for Round 4 as well. But more on that later.
More than ever, I am working toward a life of connection—connection to community, both in person and online; connection to spirit and magic; connection to loved ones, both human and animals; connection to my characters and their stories; connection between mind, body, and spirit, and the nurturing of each one; and connection to my own dreams and visions for the future.
What about you? How are you nurturing yourself this week? If you’re participating in ROW80 (the writing challenge that knows you have a life), how has the first week gone for you?
When I first started my writing career, I was a starry-eyed graduate student with little more than a head full of dreams and a heart full of stories, clutching a copy of Writing Down the Bones to my chest. I wrote for the sheer joy of it, the exhilaration, the thrill. I didn’t care about business, and I didn’t even know what platform was.
That was ten years ago. In the years that followed, I realized that I needed more than the wispy qualities of my dreams if I wanted to be in this for the long haul. I realized that writing is art, it’s storytelling, it’s magic, but there’s also a business side.
But, unfortunately, I went too far to the other side of the spectrum and got stuck on the hamster wheel of word-count goals and metrics. I became obsessed with things like “how many projects can I draft this year?” or “how many words can I write today?” And the storytelling suffered. Sure, it was finished. But it didn’t often sparkle the way I wanted it to. I’d lost my heart. I’d lost touch with the magic.
I’d tried to turn myself into a storytelling factory, and do you know where it led me, that starry-eyed dreamer who wrote for the sheer love of it? Burnout. I realized that my approach wasn’t working. It wasn’t organic enough.
In the years that followed grad school, I worked multiple jobs—at one point, three at a time, started a blog, attended writing conferences, met amazing people who have supported me on my journey, quit jobs to focus on writing, learned countless ways to improve my craft, started many projects, tried and failed, battled chronic illnesses…
Yeah, it’s been a journey. And you know what? I’m still only beginning. That’s the beauty and the frustration.
I still have goals. We need goals. That’s why challenges like NaNoWriMo and ROW80 work—because they give us tangible deadlines, finite targets that take “I want to write a novel” to “I’m writing a novel” and, finally “I wrote a novel.”
But as much as we need goals, we need vision. Vision gives goals a context. Without a vision, we’re just churning away in a sea of words. Without vision we lose our heart.
I still write for the sheer magic of it. Yes, I recognize that it’s hard work; it’s constant growth and improvement. It’s learning new skills. It’s putting ourselves and our work out there despite a fear of vulnerability. But whoa, when the magic whispers…I’m transported. That’s what they call flow, the magic of the storyteller’s life.
So, yes. Let’s dream. Let’s set goals. Let’s strive to achieve them. Let’s devise a plan and follow through.
But let’s do these things in the context of our vision. Who are we as storytellers? What is our passion? What brings us to the page? What do we want or need to say, and why are we saying it?
Love. Magic. Adventure. To tell deceptively simple stories that help rekindle people’s belief in the power of magic and love. For me, it’s that simple—and that complicated.
If I keep that vision in my peripheral as I write, I can make the steady progress that moves me along the writer’s road. I can move forward on my journey. Lose it and I’m a rat in a wheel, lost in word-count goals and deadlines.
We need those things.
Let’s just give them context.
(The Insecure Writer’s Support Group helps writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement creates a community of support. Visit their website to learn more.)
If Round 2 was about cupping an ear and listening, about learning and intensive study, about thought and preparation, then Round 3 is the action stage.
In Round 2 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, I began my studies in aromatherapy, took a workshop on deep POV, and mostly researched, prepared, and planned.
Of course, the best laid plans go oft awry, which is why I try to remain flexible, even as I put plans into action.
My list for this round is extensive. I have two projects that are about 90 percent completed but need some polishing and deepening. Those need to be finished and sent out on submission, so they are top priorities. I have several other projects that are also calling to me, but I’m more flexible on those because they’re in the early stages.
I definitely want to get back into blogging and actively visiting others’ blogs. I’ve been having some mysterious health woes that are now affecting my hands, so I’m really hoping the weird sensations in my hands don’t interfere with this goal. Seriously ROWers—I miss you!
I also recognize that my health needs attention, and I have been chipping away at bad habits—such as a sweet tooth and tendency to be lazy when it comes to cooking from scratch. Health is foundational, so I will be easing into some yoga and stretching this round while moving away from sugary or processed foods toward a home-cooked, natural diet.
And, as hubby and I debate whether to stay in our cozy townhome and for how long, we’re fixing it up, though whether for ourselves or new occupants, we’re not yet sure. In any event, worn-out carpets are being torn out and replaced with durable vinyl plank flooring, warped countertops and leaky faucets shall be replaced with shinier new upgrades, and clutter is slowly falling away, room by room.
The plan is to write daily, Monday through Friday, from 4 to 5 p.m. No interruptions, no excuses. Of course, I want to write more than that, but I’m hoping starting with this small, manageable goal will give me momentum.
As Ursula K. Le Guin said, “The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny.”
As I delve deeper into my stories, I recognize that what has kept me from taking my stories to soaring heights and gut-wrenching depths is this deepening of character emotion. I’m shying away from the depths of despair, the terror of seeing your worst nightmare brought to life, the fear of repeating the past, the intense vulnerability of fledgling love.
And so, armed with new knowledge, I go forward. This round is all about crafting the stories that I so intensely want to tell—and moving forward on my storyteller’s path.
All that said, here are my goals for this round. They are extensive, but my plan is to only report on active goals.
Finish a draft of Spellfire’s Kiss; query.
Finish and resubmit Oak-Bound.
POTENTIAL WRITING GOALS: first draft of Wild Tarot; first draft of Silver’s Stray, a paranormal cozy mystery; fourth draft of Rose Petals and Dragon Scales; first draft of a nonfiction project.
Respond to blog comments and return visits to commenters’ blogs.
Regularly post ROW80 check-ins and keep up with commenting on other ROWers blogs.
Make and post one video per month.
Do yoga or gentle stretching daily.
Eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy whole foods and fewer processed foods. Also work on seriously minimizing the amount of sugar in my diet.
Try making my own bread, granola, etc.
Continue making my own cleaning and bath products.
Finish aromatherapy courses on Udemy.
HEARTH & HOME
Replace worn-out carpet in living/dining rooms with new flooring.
Remodel upstairs bathroom.
New kitchen countertops and sink.
Painting—neutral colors—where needed.
Hang all remaining artwork.
Organize office closet.
Clean out storage shed.
Decluttering—items to thrift store.
Wow! I have a busy few months ahead of me. What about you? As we sprint through summer, iced tea with lemon in hand, our skin sun-kissed (for those of us who dwell in the northern hemisphere), what plans do you have?
If the first half of 2018 had a theme for me, it would be deepening. I have embarked on a journey toward simplicity and intentional living. This goes beyond the act of physical decluttering to include thinking carefully about what I devote my time and energy to.
You may have noticed that I’m blogging less frequently, and that’s because I want to create more thoughtful posts instead of just saying, “Well, I haven’t posted on the blog this week” and feeling obligated to whip something up.
I’ve heard we’re supposed to blog as many as three times a week, and I just can’t do that. My energy level and the maintenance involved in several chronic medical conditions don’t mix well with maintaining that schedule—not if I want to devote myself to writing fiction and deepening my craft.
And just as I’ve been deepening other aspects of my life, I’ve embarked on the same journey with my fiction. I have several WIPs that are close, but I really need to deepen the emotions, to help readers connect with what the characters are feeling. In support of that, I’m taking a course on deep POV and reading books on that aspect of the craft.
I have slowed down. I’ve let go of word-count goals and am trying to allow each project to unfold in its own time. To do otherwise felt like trying to force the leaves to unfurl in the spring. Unnatural and troublesome to say the least.
And what this deepening has taught me most of all is a hidden patience I didn’t know I possessed. I’ve always been goal-driven, a go-go-go sort of person. And I’m still goal-driven, but I’m also allowing things to happen naturally, in their own time.
Truthfully, I still sometimes find myself glaring at my stories, shaking my fist and mentally shouting, “Why aren’t you working?”
But now I step back. I pour myself a glass of cold-brew coffee or brew some tea and I practice the art of staring. I ask the characters to whisper to me. One thing that emerged from the workshop on deep POV, for example, is that one of my WIPs lacks a sense of urgency. What’s the “so-what” of the story?
How have I spent five years working on the story and not seen that flaw? Because that’s half a decade spent with this story, off and on, and I love these characters, and my love for them means that them getting their favorite flavor of ice cream is a big enough so-what. That might be enough for the author, but it’s not enough for readers.
My husband suggested making it an epic fantasy—you know, baddy wants to take over the world or destroy it. Initially, I decided to run with that idea. But the more I thought about it, that didn’t fit in with the main theme of the story or the heroine’s character arc.
I sat. I waited. I sipped. And then the MC whispered. Eureka!
That is the power of patience. That is the power of persistence. That is the power of allowing life and art to unfold naturally.
When we slow down, we create space for the magic to happen.
Take, for example, another WIP, a novel in which I was racing toward the midpoint. And then something felt off. I could’ve pushed through, shoved my characters into a storyline that didn’t quite feel right.
Instead I stopped. I listened. I realized that, one, the storyline had veered off in the wrong direction. And, two, that I needed the hero’s POV as well as the heroine’s to ground the reader.
I’ve been reading Anne R. Allen’s blog, and she has written some lovely posts about the subject of slow writing, slow blogging, etc.
Our society wants fast. We’re trained to want everything now. No, not now. Yesterday.
And I’m just saying, it’s okay to take our time. I’m no longer racing through my goals, crossing WIPs off some master list like a one-woman story factory. My process is slower.
The day I threw away my busy badge, I became free. The day I gave myself permission to fail, I learned to fly. The day I released arbitrary, meaningless goals, I made space for real goals that are in line with my values.
And so, as the second round of ROW80 in 2018 draws to a close, what have I accomplished?
I’ve discovered Wild Tarot, the first in a trilogy about three women learning to embrace a magical destiny, and written 25K in my first attempt at that story.
I’m enrolled in a workshop on deep POV and completing assignments associated with that course. I’m also doing an intensive study of deep POV on my own and trying to master this aspect of the craft.
I’ve worked out some plot problems with two other WIPs as well and am preparing to revise those in round three.
What about you? Are there areas of your life in which you’ve slowed down? How have you learned to slow down and be patient yet persistent?
Those of you who practice yoga are likely familiar with tree pose. In it, you stand on one foot and slide your other foot up the inside of the opposing leg until it reaches your inner thigh. And here, you stand, rooted as firmly in your stance as an oak sinking its roots deep into the rich, dark earth.
Seasoned yogis make it look effortless. Their practiced focus never seems to waver, their stance as calm as the mighty oak itself.
And the rest of us? We waver. We falter. We lose our balance, arms windmilling as we try not to tumble sideways. And why do we falter? Not usually because of our bodies. We falter because we lose focus.
That’s life. One minute you’re writing the next great American novel, and the next you’re watching baby goats on YouTube. True story.
And, in real life, we’re not standing in a yoga studio filled with tealights glistening in Himalayan salt candle holders. Life outside our yoga practice is more like trying to do tree pose while a screaming toddler throws Little People at your head.
And no, I don’t have kids, but sometimes life itself feels like a screaming toddler. I want a cookie! Let’s go out for frozen yogurt! Why are you writing a novel? Didn’t you hear about the yogurt idea? Where are we at on that cookie?
Or it’s the rule-loving side of us that’s screaming. Pay the electric bill! What will the neighbors think if you don’t weed the flowerbeds?!
And sometimes it’s not our inner id or super ego that’s giving us the problems. Sometimes there are intense emotions that make balance seem elusive. Things like grief, sadness, uncertainty, fear, insecurity. And if you’re living with a mood disorder, not knowing what your misfiring synapses are going to throw at you next? Will it be the terror of a panic attack, the painful waves of despair, or the siren’s song of hypomania?
Sometimes modern life feels like one crisis after another. This year, for example, I literally spent part of New Year’s Day in the urgent care because of chest pains, that, thankfully, turned out to be a bad bout of esophagitis. My migraines have come back with a vengeance after years of being fairly well-managed, and in trying to improve my physical health, I injured my hip and spent weeks in physical therapy. On the homefront, our house seems to be falling apart. The washer went. The roof leaked, which broke the washer again. On and on. Nothing earth-shattering. Other people are dealing with far worse.
But each little thing chips away at our balance. So, what can we do?
First, we find our focus.
In balancing poses in yoga, when we lose our focus, we lose our balance. Practicing meditation and yoga are great for this because they train our mental focus muscles. And these skills require exercise, like any other. If you don’t run that mile, you lose the ability. Same with focus. If we don’t practice focus, we become scattered and focus becomes elusive.
It helps to have a list of values that guide us in life. For me, those are spirituality and magic, creativity and storytelling, and relationships and community. Refocusing on these core values allows me to let the little things slide right over me—given time. Sure, the roof is leaking, and that’s a big deal, but I still need to create a space to focus on creating art, living a magical life, and maintaining my relationships. So, I call my brother and chat for a while. I whip up a protection spell for the house. I write a chapter in my latest WIP. Anything to refocus on the bigger picture.
We have to remember that balance comes and goes. It’s not a destination.
Sometimes, we will be scattered. We can’t be this perfectly poised, grounded, centered person every moment of every day. Yes, that space exists inside of us even at our most frantic, but we will become disoriented from time to time. When we do, a simple centering exercise can help us reconnect.
Life has seasons—seasons of stillness, seasons of growth.
Growth can feel overwhelming, scary, and chaotic. Whether we’re growing our family or our business, we’re adding a lot more to our plates, and that’s overwhelming at times.
For example, I’ve entered a period where I really want to grow in several areas of my life. I’m studying aromatherapy, as I’m attempting to incorporate my own homemade essential-oil based goods into my life. Nature and magic infuse my life and my writing, and this is another outlet for my creativity. My life is awash in new ideas, new information, and new beginnings. Will I be any good at it? Can I create something useful? Can I master this new skill?
I am trying to go slowly, but also challenge myself. And writing remains my focus. I’m trying to master deep POV and get OAK-BOUND and SPELLFIRE’S KISS ready for submission later this summer or early fall, all while penning a first draft of WILD TAROT.
And as for my ROW80 goals, they are shifting in the midst of this quest for balance. I’m about 21K into WILD TAROT, and I’ve just sent OAK-BOUND off to a professional editor for her feedback. I’m also taking a monthlong workshop in deep POV to further strengthen this skill.
I’m tiptoeing into aromatherapy, taking two courses on Udemy as a starting point. I’m experimenting with perfume blends–Boho Soul turned out well, but the first attempt at Kitchen Witch was a bust. Now in the works: Awaken, a citrusy scent meant to help uplift the mood and focus mental energies. I don’t know if these will ever go anywhere outside of my own use or for family and friends, but it’s still a fun experiment.
Much progress has been made in terms of tending hearth and home, and the house is feeling much homier and more settled these days. I still have the attic and a couple closets to declutter and organize, but overall, we’ve drastically reduced the amount of stuff we own and everything has a place.
That’s balance. It comes and goes. As long as we know our core values, what we truly want our lives to look like, we can be assured that balance will return. In the midst of the mess and the magic that is life, balance, like all things, ebbs and flows.
What about you? How do you achieve balance in your life? Does it ever feel elusive? Do you have any practices for rebalancing?
We all have at least one area in our home that is an ongoing problem area. Some parts of our homes, once organized, require only minimal and routine maintenance. But others seem to grow clutter like kudzu. For my husband and me, that area is our mail, receipts, and action items. “Action items” are any papers that require an action to be taken—a doctor’s bill, for example, or a form to be filled out.
The problem grew worse, however, once we moved to the townhouse. I don’t really know why, but suddenly receipts were popping up like weeds in our living room, mail was scattered all over the entertainment center, and one of the pair of storage ottomans in our living room had gone from a place to rest your feet to a pile of “to-do’s.”
A living room is meant to be a room for relaxation. It’s the place where hubby and I sit and chat over coffee or tea, where we lounge and watch our favorite TV shows, where I curl up with a cup of tea and a good book, where I frequently have writing sessions.
In terms of feng shui, our living room encompasses our helpful people/travel area and our creativity area. For me, clutter is like a bucket of cold water dumped on the fire of creativity—and that is not the kind of energy I want in a space.
The most obvious solution was to create an organizational system in our home office, but it’s upstairs on the far end of the house—admittedly, it’s not a large house, but if you’re carrying in mail at the same time as groceries and dog food at the end of the work day, you don’t necessarily take the time to carry receipts and mail upstairs.
Enter our messaging center. It was a simple fix, really. A cheapo, wall-mounted file organizer from Target combined with some fun art—a Harry Potter themed “No post on Sundays” image that I made in Word and printed on some cardstock, and a little bit of magical flair add some visual interest to the space. Envelopes sort receipts into “shred,” “keep for 30 days,” and “file” categories (file would be for large items with warranties—a TV, for example). There’s also an envelope for coupons, and two sections, one for action items, another for incoming mail.
It doesn’t eliminate the need for maintenance, but it does eliminate the stress seeing mail, papers, and receipts strewn about the living room caused me. And really, such items didn’t belong in the living room anyway. Now I can sort through items once a week, and they’re all there waiting for me in one place.
I challenge you to find such an area in your home and brainstorm ways to corral the clutter. Of course, you will need a maintenance routine to keep things from piling up, but understanding which areas are problematic for you can go a long way to helping keep those areas manageable. Papers always have been a problem area for my husband and me, but some hard work at clearing paper clutter, followed by carefully designed storage is helping keep those areas much more manageable.
As for the creative aspect of my life, it seems to be thriving these days. I’m about 15K into the first draft of my novel Wild Tarot, the first in the Wild Fae Trilogy. I’ve been reading up a storm as well, including books on fairy witchcraft, deep point of view, and some lovely magical fiction reads, including Ellen Dugan’s Gypsy Chronicles and Kiss of the Silver Wolf by Sharon Buchbinder.
We’ve been tending hearth and home as well. I did a massive space clearing with some sage and rose incense on last week, after we thoroughly cleaned the house, and I ordered some sweetgrass so we can invite some good, magical spirits and energies into the house. We’re chipping away at clutter and planning out some major home renovation projects as well. The energy in the townhouse feels lovely and peaceful, and settled, which it didn’t for a while. It is becoming the tidy, cozy, whimsical home, a place for creativity and magic and love, that I always knew it could be.
And, of course, stories are unfolding. I hope someday soon to introduce you to Morgana, Rowena, and Sylvie, the three sisters in the Wild Fae trilogy.
Until then, may magic and light be with you!
Please share your comments below! What areas are problematic for you? Have you created a system for addressing these areas?