Sep 272017
 

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I was watching the weather forecast on our local news recently. As usual, I was doing other things…working on my computer, chatting with the kids, making dinner. This time, among the temperature forecast and predicted night time lows, something different caught my attention. The weatherman said that you could see the International Space Station passing through the sky that night.

There was an instant tug from my heart. I wanted to see it.

Tuning into my intuition is something that I am very aware of. I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I have a sort of internal guidance system. Lately I have been working with it even more by focusing when I feel pulled toward something or someone, instead of ignoring the nudge because I don’t have the time or what I’m being called to do doesn’t make sense. There is always a reason why my life’s GPS system is telling me to go a certain way. It is always for my benefit. I’m learning to trust that. Because sometimes the things that my intuition pops into my brain out of nowhere seem absolutely crazy or unattainable. At other times the benefits of following my intuitive path aren’t immediately clear. Yet when I look back, I can see that everything worked out for the best.

When I decided to double-check the time that the space station would be in my little patch of sky, I was surprised to see that sighting it isn’t a rare event. It is actually visible almost every night right now for me, as long as there are clear skies. You can check when you might be able to see it on this NASA site: Spot the Station.

That night, as I watched the tiny dot that resembled a shooting star, I started sending a little beam of love and support from me to the people on the space station. The awe and wonder of what I was watching simply filled me with joy. I was looking at a station cooperatively constructed by many countries, including the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan, and European nations. Inside it, at that very moment, were some people who had learned how to trust a lot more than their intuition. They trust that they can ride a rocket into space, live on the station, then return home to earth and their families. They trust that their fellow astronauts, the station, and equipment will keep them alive. They trusted that their dreams of going into space would come true. Simply inspiring.

So now I have the space station tracker bookmarked on my computer. If the sky is clear, I try to step outside and send some good vibes toward the space station as it passes overhead. In return, I get to wonder at the amazing trust and bravery of the people who are flying around the earth at 17,150 miles per hour.

 

 September 27, 2017  Posted by  General, Inspiration, Updates Tags: ,  No Responses »
Sep 112017
 

Dragonfly Necklace

I have been fascinated with dragonflies for a long time. There is a pond in my backyard where I can often find some of the gorgeous, iridescent insects hanging out. When we owned a cabin up north, I would marvel at the ginormous ones that would hang out on the dock, getting so close that I could see every glorious detail. There’s just something magical to me about how they fly, hover, and naturally glitter in the sunshine. I really like glitter and sparkle.

One of the things that I often do when a creature shows up in my world, like a dragonfly landing next to me, is look up the symbolism and meaning. As a child I loved reading about Native American culture, so the idea of totem animals has been with me for most of my life. When I saw this pendant on Etsy, I had to have it – not only because I love them but because I now know what they symbolize.

A dragonfly is a reminder that your thoughts turn into reality. I wholeheartedly believe in this. If you focus on the bad or disappointing parts of your life, those heartbreaks will multiply. Whereas if you concentrate on the goodness and be grateful for what you have, you will attract more experiences that bring you joy. The dragonfly also represents good luck, harmony, and strength. It’s a wonderful totem animal to carry with me, especially when I want to connect with light and positive energy.

 

 

 September 11, 2017  Posted by  Inspiration, Symbolic Jewelry Tags: , ,  Comments Off on Symbolic Jewelry Part 3: Dragonfly Necklace
Sep 072017
 

Swirl Necklace

This is the second necklace I recently made that is filled with symbols and components that are meaningful to me. This bright and cheerful piece started with the metal spiral pendant, which I recently bought at my local new age store when I went there to experience a sound meditation event. The pendant is actually a tiny, screw-top container. It can be used to store tiny gemstone chips, a bit of perfume or essential oils, sand from a favorite beach, etc.

I intend to write down my goals and dreams on a small slip of paper and keep it inside. I believe in the power of writing down what we want to accomplish – instead of just thinking about it. Putting pen to paper ads some oomph to dreams by bringing them out of your head and into the physical world. Think of it as the first, baby step toward reaching a goal.

There were several different symbols etched on the canisters, from a goddess to this spiral. I chose the spiral because it represents the constant evolution that we all go through. Life is always changing and we grow steadily as we acquire more knowledge. Another classic meaning is that what is hidden is slowly revealed. A very appropriate symbol to adorn a container where I intend to place my dreams and desires.

While making the necklace, the first beads I picked out were the orange ones that are also spirals. To complete the color scheme I went with more citrusy colors – yellow and green. Then when it was finished, I thought of another symbolic connection that I had subconsciously used in the design. The necklace now holds even more meaning to me, even though I had chosen the beads with an aesthetic, instead of spiritual, intention.

The chakras are energy centers aligned along your spine that correspond to different things. The sacral chakra is associated with the color orange (like the spiral beads) and it contains the energy of emotions, desire, and creativity. Yellow corresponds to the solar plexus chakra which is about courage, intellect, and confidence. Green is for the heart chakra. Of course, that is all about love – of others and ourselves, plus compassion and integration.

Some really great color energies to tap into when working to fulfill a dream, don’t you think?

Sep 052017
 

Cicada Necklace

My kids are both back in school – one in college, the other in high school. This time of year always feels like a fresh start that is ripe with the potential of things to come. I bet there are a lot of people, like me, who get a burst of energy and creativity when school starts. Exciting, new projects…here I come! I have had a loooong, difficult end to the summer. My beloved Golden Retriever, Cooper, has had health issues. He’s on the mend now, but I’ve spent a lot of time at home – caring for him and trying to keep him quiet so that he can recover – over the last two months. Seeing his goofy, excited, happy personality return is a fresh start in its own way.

I’m getting ready to begin a juicy, new writing project. But over the holiday weekend a different creative outlet was the focus of my attention. Making jewelry. Once upon a time, when I designed beadwork patterns, I never made jewelry just for the fun of it. While I have some pretty and very interesting jewelry from that time, I was always focused on producing patterns that I could sell to beadwork magazines. I didn’t play with my beads for a long time when I switched to writing fiction. Now, I’m getting back to working with my gigantic stash of beads. Most importantly (to me) I’m making jewelry just for myself. Simply for me to wear and enjoy. What used to be a job, now is creative play. And I couldn’t be happier – especially with the necklaces I made over the Labor Day weekend. They all contain symbols that coincide with how I live my life now. I’ll be doing a three part blog series to highlight them all.

The pendant on the necklace in this post is a cicada. It isn’t a coincidence that over the last few summers I have found cicada exoskeletons on the trees in my backyard. “Hello? This is the Universe calling. Here’s a sign. Pay attention, please.”

Over and over I found the shells that a cicada left behind on its way to becoming bigger and bolder. The insects spend, depending on the variety, anywhere from 1 to 17 years of their lives underground before emerging. Then they come out of the dirt and transform.

For most of my life my motto was: Don’t rock the boat. I was quiet. Constantly trying to be “nice”. I hated conflict, so I would bite my tongue to avoid it. People could say or do anything…and I would just put up with it to avoid an uncomfortable argument or confrontation. I let other people shovel their issues onto me until I was buried and could barely move through my own life.

A few years ago, I took a look at how I was living and realized that I had become a human doormat that was covered in everybody else’s dirt and crap. Not okay!!

Since then I have broken through the muck, shed my confining beliefs, and I am not afraid to stand up for myself. I don’t tolerate bad behavior. In a social situation, I will move away from people who don’t resonate with me. I no longer feel the need to please everyone or be liked by all. I won’t spend my time and energy on drama that someone else manufactured to draw attention to themselves (that’s a HUGE thing for me). Plus, I’ve realized that I am nowhere near as introverted as I thought I was. I still like being alone, but I am also perfectly capable of talking to strangers and really enjoying the experience. I’ve faced the fact that saying that I’m an introvert has been more of an excuse for avoiding situations and people who make me uncomfortable.

I have changed in a way that is very similar to how a cicada lives its life – moving from being in the dark, confining dirt to making some noise. So that is why I made a necklace with a huge, kind of creepy, bug pendant. I love the cicada for all that it means to me and the woman who I have become.

 

Jun 142017
 

Nail Polish

I have decided that I shall wear glitter nail polish on a regular basis. I very rarely paint my nails, but I am going to start. And I will raid my teenage daughter’s massive polish collection and try ALL of the glitter ones.

Why? Because I like sparkle. My blonde hair has added sparkle now from all of the gray threading through it. So why can’t I add some twinkle to my fingers too?

It looks like magical fairy dust adorning my fingers…which type stories on my laptop. Creating people and places out of thin air, as a writer, is a special kind of magic, don’t you think? So isn’t it fitting that I pretend, just for the fun of it, that my fingernails are sprinkled with a bit of extra magic?

Is glitter nail polish appropriate for a woman who is closer to fifty than forty? Possibly not.

Do I care if the beauty industry might think I’m too old for sparkly nails? Absolutely not.

You see, for many years now, I have been receding into drabness. Neutral clothing colors, little makeup, no jewelry = a very bland look. Why? Because I have become plumper than I’d like. Because the gray hair, that I am determined to embrace, sticks up and corkscrews – making me look like a Dr. Seuss character. Because I have convinced myself that I am a shy introvert, when I’m really not. Because for most of my life I have had a deeply embedded limiting belief that calling attention to myself in any way is bad.

Over the last few years I have done a lot of work to discover who I really am, not who I think I should be. The real me doesn’t want to be a chameleon who disappears into the background. If I pretend to be invisible, I never meet new people and never have conversations that capture my attention. And if I don’t experience new things and meet new people, where do you think I’ll draw inspiration for my writing from? A boring, sedate life is counter-productive for me as a writer.

So…I will wear glitter nail polish (on my finger and toe nails), brightly colored clothes, bold jewelry, and lipstick (something else that I have never been fond of until recently). Why? Because I don’t want to become bland and boring. I don’t want my daughter to have that type of mother. Looking back now, I can see that I let the unpleasant things in my life drag me down to into the mundane muck. But not anymore. Glitter nail polish will be a life preserver – my personal touch of whimsy and a reminder that life is magical if I make an effort to find the magic.

 

Mar 062017
 

Sometimes you just need to retreat. As in heading to a wonderful, rejuvenating writer’s retreat! Last weekend I went to Chicago for the Windy City RWA Retreat. I am not a member of the RWA (Romance Writers of America), but I had to go because one of my favorite writers was the featured speaker.

I packed up my bags and journeyed from Michigan to Illinois. There I learned about reclaiming the magic of writing when the words don’t flow easily, and I honed my writing voice, which is as unique as a speaking voice, in a master class. Both workshops were taught by a woman who became one of my favorite authors many years ago when I began reading her women’s fiction books. They’re filled with lush descriptions, fascinating characters, and lots of food. What’s not to love about books like that?

Barbara O’Neal is the writer who I went to see. If you read romances you may know her as Barbara Samuel or Lark O’Neal if you enjoy new adult books. And if you’re a writer, I highly recommend her books The Care and Feeding of The Girls in The Basement and Celebration Book (A Writer’s Guide to Joy). They are some of the brightest gems in my rather massive collection of books about writing.

Whenever I read one of Barbara’s books I am inspired to be a better writer. I was very excited about taking the classes and having the chance to meet her at the retreat. So excited, in fact, that the experience brought out a teen fangirl side of me that hasn’t made an appearance since I got to go backstage to meet my favorite band when I was a teenager. Yes, there was squeeing and selfie taking involved. And yes, my forty-something self is rolling her eyes and asking, “Really??? You had to do that?”.  Despite my awkward geekiness, Barbara was gracious and lovely. The insights on writing and publishing that she shared during the master class still has my mind buzzing. To quote my fangirl self: She was awesome!

Barbara O'Neal and Janel Gradowski

Barbara and me

As you can tell, seeing Barbara was definitely a highlight of the retreat for me, but there’s more. For the first time I was able to meet, in person, several other authors who write for Gemma Halliday Publishing. It was so much fun to chat with my publishing “sisters” and give them a real hug, instead of a virtual one. As a writer, I tend to lead a pretty solitary life. Many of my social interactions are done online. It was a very welcome change to talk with the GHP authors, and many other writers, face-to-face.

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Leiren, Barb Valentin, Wendy Byrne, and me

Clockwise from top left: Nicole Leiren, Barbara Valentin, Wendy Byrne, and me

The past year brought many struggles to my writing life. The theme for this retreat was “Nourishing the Writer’s Soul”. It lived up to the expectations. Thanks to Windy City RWA for hosting the event. It certainly did wonders for my writer’s soul!

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Oct 262016
 

It’s a new school year for my kids–the time of year where many people, including me, are compelled to make fresh starts. And that is what I am doing. This past year I smacked into a mid-life “awakening” (we won’t call it a crisis – even though it has felt like that sometimes).

Do you know what I mean? That feeling that something with life isn’t quite right, but you’re not exactly sure what the problem is. That you need to change, but you don’t know how or even what to change.

I’ve read books and perused websites, even worked with a life coach. One thing that became very clear while I was doing research is that I’m not the only person who feels this way. A lot of people get the urge to move around the puzzle pieces of their life into a different configuration when they reach the middle of their life. The image above is the centerpiece of a vision board I did with my life coach, and it says a lot about how I feel right now.

I’ve been quiet on my website and social media over the summer as I’ve decided what, exactly, I want to do. Okay, I admit, that the plan is more fluid than exact, but you know what? That’s wonderful! When things are moving…they aren’t stuck. And who wants to feel like their life is stuck in a rut?

For quite a few years I have focused my social media and author platform toward my career as a culinary mystery writer. But there’s a lot more in my life than cooking and writing mysteries. So I’m going to start sharing more of my interests in the hope that maybe someone else will enjoy them too. A lot of things will be changing from the look of this website to the style of my newsletters. (Do you subscribe to my newsletter? I hope you do because the new format will be launching soon, and I can’t wait to share it with you!) I’m writing new books, but at a slower pace since I’m also focusing on my family, and uncovering tools to navigate through this mid-life reinvention.

Some of the things that I plan to share are on the new age-y side, or as I say…woo-woo. If that’s not your thing and you no longer want to follow my blog or get my newsletter, no big deal. Feel free to unsubscribe, because life is too short to spend time reading things that you don’t enjoy. If you stick around I hope you find something useful…or that makes you smile…or that gives you an aha moment. I’m taking the scenic route, instead of the freeway, through this part of my life. I can’t wait to share some of the stops with you!

 

 

 

Apr 082014
 

The last month has been very busy for me, between turning in a manuscript to my publisher, writing and editing a novelette and having some fun while my kids were on Spring Break. Lots of things going on, but I’ve still found the time to poke around the internet and find some things that help refill my creative well. I need lots of wood to keep the writing fire going! Here are some of the things that have caught my attention lately.

365 docobites – 365 documentaries in 365 days. Strangers’ short and shorter stories. Two film makers are traveling around the world, producing mini documentaries featuring interesting people they meet. The link takes you to the docobite about the Tandem Poetry writers, which is my favorite video so far.

Mindfulness Meditation: 8 Quick Exercises That Easily Fit Into Your Day – Getting your mind to slow down is a wonderful thing. These meditations aren’t the kind where you sit cross-legged and chant for an hour. Nope. These are easy ways to give your brain, which is thinking about 1,001 things, a break.

Karen Russell Donates Her Sleep – An interview with author Karen Russell where she talks about her new novella, Sleep Donation. I love seeing authors excited about shorter forms of fiction. Make sure to check out the website that accompanies the novella. What a fabulous way to give readers experiences beyond just reading the words in a book.

Have you found anything lately that stoked your creativity?

 April 8, 2014  Posted by  Inspiration Tags: , ,  1 Response »
Feb 062014
 

Most of my recent writing has had a definite foodie theme. When fictional characters cook they need fictional kitchens to cook in. So I spend quite a bit of time mentally planning out kitchens for my stories. I have to say, I wish I had the kitchen in the culinary mystery I am currently working on. It’s the big, bright and functional cooking space of my dreams. If I can’t have it, I may as well write about it, right?

All photos by Fawn Deviney for Boston magazine

There is always Pinterest for inspiration, but recently I found a magazine column that made me go “ooh”. Boston Magazine has a column written by Leah Mennies called Kitchen Spy. As you can imagine from the Spy moniker, the posts take a peek into kitchens, poking around refrigerators, pantries and bookshelves. These aren’t spotless, model home kitchens, though. The column lets you look into the kitchens of Boston area chefs.

As expected, chefs have some interesting culinary toys and pantry items. There are photos of everything from antique meat grinders to cheese boxes and muscat jelly. The accompanying interview always has explanations of many of the photographed items and gives a nice glimpse into the life of a chef. I can’t wait to see more entries in this magazine column. Each installment is a luscious bit of culinary eye candy.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

Sep 032013
 

This is how most dogs search for minnows and other underwater treasures.

This is how Cooper does it.

I always call Cooper my writing companion. Now I’m taking life cues from him. Sometimes you need to take a different approach.

Summer brought about the usual sporadic blogging and social media contact that I’ve come to expect from the season. I’m a mom and a writer, but the scale tips heavily toward the mom side when the kids are home 24/7, as it should. I didn’t write a lot of new material, but I read many books on writing with subjects ranging from how to plot a novel to handling negative reviews. As often happens, all of the new knowledge bits collided and mingled to form something different and exciting.

Today was the first day of school for my kids. My outlook is shiny and new too, just like the school year. I’m going to take Cooper’s lead and do things differently. How can you know what works best if you don’t try new things? Have you decided to try anything new recently?

 September 3, 2013  Posted by  Cooper, General, Writing Life Tags: ,  8 Responses »