22 January 2015

#TBT: Finding Peace - One Year Later

Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.
~ Cormac McCarthy

Posts on La Belle are written with Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, and Edwardian.  For best viewing, download these fonts.

t's Throwback Thursday ~ a day when people usually post pictures of themselves in diapers.  And those are just the college photos!

ENFPs aren’t known for following the rules ~ we like structure, we just like to bend it.  So I usually post videos or links to classic songs (rock and otherwise).  

And today, Kimberly over at Being A Wordsmith reminded me that #TBT can be used to share old posts.

Find Peace Amoung the Pieces was written in August 2013.  It was real.  It was raw.  And it was heartbreaking to re-read.  I remember well the feelings I talked about.  The need to escape.  Standing at the edge of despair.  And then ~ I noticed the date.

August 30. 

One year later to the day, I sat in the bow of a fishing boat, headed toward the adventure of a lifetime.  An adventure I couldn't have dreamed of when I wrote that post a year ago.  An adventure that changed my heart.
Image: © bogdanwanko (123rf.com)
Change isn't always a bright, showy spectacle.  It seeps gently, quietly into the blood.  Or burrows deep in the soil of thought and reflection.  Sometimes, you don't see the flowers or the fruit until much, much later.

And in August 2013, I couldn’t know it, but I planted the seeds.  For months, nothing happened.  Or rather, it seemed like nothing happened.  But those seeds were trying hard to germinate.  It’s just that they needed the salt spray of Kodiak, Alaska to finally take root.  And five months later, they're still growing.

I can't wait to see what blooms next.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What seeds are you cultivating for a later harvest?

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16 January 2015

Writing Isn't Work Because It Isn't Difficult

Writing is a relationship that you choose to have. Commit to being loyal, devoted, and faithful to it. Give it your attention.
~ The Write Life

Posts on La Belle are written with Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, and Edwardian.  For best viewing, download these fonts.

h! You’re a writer?  That’s not hard work ~ I could do that!  It’s not like you’re working in a mine on a 12 hour shift.”

I often hear some variation of this statement.  So often, that a little piece of the typewriter inside me breaks each time.  So often, I wonder why I write at all.  So often, that I begin to believe the lie.

And for a writer, that spells doom.

Yes, there are moments ~ sometimes whole days of them ~ when writing feels effortless.  As if I can just speak a Potteresque “I solemnly swear I am a writer” and the words magically appear on the page. When ideas flow over me like rapids in a river.  And affirmations and comments pop up like dandelions on my blog.

But if I believe that writing (or any of the arts, really) is always effortless, the moment it ceases to be and becomes arduous and monotonous and boring, I quit.  I feel sad, discouraged.  Or restless and uneasy.  Like an addict, I rush to fill that gnawing ache in my gut with minutes on Twitter, hours on Facebook, and days on Pinterest.

Yet no matter how many times I tweet, update my status, or pin images of wise sayings ~ that gaping hole inside never gets filled.

This cycle of starts and stops, excitement and discouragement has been my life for as long as I can remember.  I felt powerless to change it, sometimes not even aware the cycle was repeating until my pens and paper had long collected dust.  

No matter how many times my friends would tell me I needed to write. No matter how many writing courses I took.  No matter how many articles on writing and being a better writer I read.  Nothing pierced the thick walls of doubt and discouragement.  Nothing convinced me that I had a gift, much less one worth sharing.

Until Harvester Island.

At the Wilderness Writing Workshop, I was surrounded by loving, accepting, talented writers.  Writers who read my work, showed me where it needed improvement, and declared it a gift worth sharing.  A gift worth honing. 

A gift worth the hard work and commitment.

In the ensuing weeks after my return home, I rode a high, cocooned in a writerly honeymoon stage.  The writing was copious, effortless, easy.  Not hard work at all.  But as time wore on, and outside influences ~ negative influences ~ pressed in, I forgot.  Forgot that love ~ of any kind ~ demands commitment, patience, and work.

It wasn’t long before the ink dried up, the words disappeared, and my heart shut down.

I tried to ignore it, that ache.  Filled my time with social media and throwaway books.  Sometimes, this would backfire.  I would read something and think, That position is outrageous!  I need to write an article about that.  Or a thought would come to me, I’d talk it out in my head and think,  When I get to my desk, I need to write this down.

But it never happened.  I never wrote those articles or jotted down my thoughts and reflections.  Because who was I kidding?  No one wants to hear what I have to say.  And even if they did, nothing I write comes out perfect.  My first drafts are terrible ~ rambling, emotional, boring.

Despite this inner angsty whirlpool, I managed to write pieces here and there.  Usually completed a couple of days before my monthly writers’ group at Water Street Studio.  Except I went to the last meeting empty handed.  I had a piece at home, a first draft so bad even I was bored and disgusted with it.  So I didn’t share it.  And that night, warmth and love broke through the negativity.  Again.

But that’s what this group is for!  To share our works in progress, to bounce ideas off each other, and work on our writing, no matter how crappy our first drafts. You're in a safe place.

I almost cried with gratitude and relief.  It was as if I needed permission to write crap.  Permission to work hard, to write and rewrite and rewrite again.  To have first and second and third drafts that even a gossip rag wouldn’t print.  Because that’s what a writer does: she sits in a chair even when she doesn’t want to and wrestles with words and ideas.

You could even say, she mines for them.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
Are you committed to your art?

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05 January 2015

2015: The Adventure Begins

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
~ Rudyard Kipling

Posts on La Belle are written with Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, and Edwardian.  For best viewing, download these fonts.

ne Word to rule them all,
One Word to find them,
One Word to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them….

Or, something like that.

For several years now, I’ve begun the new year with one word ~ a word that I hope will influence, change, and inform the year it’s given to. 

A word that I hope will influence, change, and inform  me as well. 

Some years have been better than others.  Usually, however, I get caught up in the daily nothings of life and forget to mediate on the word and reflect on whether I’m living it.  Or forget to do a monthly check-in and reflection.

But whether I follow through or not, I chose a new word every January 1.

This year, I was a little late thinking about which word I would choose.  Late as in I-just-picked-it-last-week late.  I looked through hundreds of words.  Bright words.  Strong words.  Inspiring words.  Startling words.

But none of them claimed my heart.

All I could think of was Kodiak and how pivotal that week was. (Sick of hearing about it yet?)  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a Word for the Year shouldn’t be randomly chosen.  It shouldn’t be completely disengaged from either your life or the word from the last year.

In the past, I’ve chosen a word based on something ~ some virtue I wanted to attain, some flaw I wanted to overcome, some habit I wanted to kick (or begin.)  But although the words weren’t necessarily opposed to the others, they didn’t support each other either. 

And that week in Kodiak was an adventure that is carved into the marrow of my bones. 

I had never done anything like it. Had never let go enough to consider it.  Yet, in the end, I went and was forever changed.  And I wanted to build on that experience. Draw it out.  Savor it.  Repeat it ~ if in smaller ways.  So when I thought about what word I wanted to inform 2015, a word that spoke to my newly opened and slightly less fearful heart, it became as clear as the sky on a winter sky.

Iceland Waterfall (Seljalandsfoss)
Image: © Tomas1111

Not just travel (although I plan on doing that.)  Not just attempt something new (although I plan on doing that as well.)  Adventure also applies to life.

Actively living it.
Devouring it.
Draining it.
Embracing it.

Adventure means exploring ~ new places, new things, new activities.  Exploring also means  going deeper into my heart ~ excavating past hurts, learning more about why I do the things I do.  It means rooting out fears and taking risks and letting go and reaching out.

It means living life with abandon.

So for the next twelve months, I’m going to live the “Adventure” and let it inform the year.  And here at La Belle, when I talk about Art or Writing or Hospitality or Mental Health ~ I’m going to keep “Adventure” in mind.  I'm confident it’ll be epic.

May your new year be one big adventure.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
What is your word for 2015?

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01 January 2015

Happy New Year!

And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy New Year! 

Oremus pro invicem,

~ Mikaela

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31 December 2014

The Measure of Years: Reflections on Turning 40

It’s this freedom that’s the key to becoming visible again. Not caring what others think is freeing. Expressing yourself any way you want is freeing. Having opinions, emotional wisdom, spiritual understanding…these things free you. And in freedom, we find power.
~ Jane Tara, The Happy Endings Book Club

 his December I turned 40.

Forty.  A supposedly significant number, but what exactly is it supposed to signify?

In a society that values money, production, , utility, doing and acting, it is easy to look at the past forty years and wonder, What have I done with my life so far?

If I use society’s rule book and compare myself to others, I come up with a depressing list of did nots and do nots:

I don’t earn a six digit income.
I didn’t get a promotion.
I don’t own a company.
I’ve never lived out of my home state.
I don’t have a Masters, much less a PhD.
I don’t own a fancy car.
I don’t own any designer clothes.
I didn’t publish a book.
I didn’t consistently write 500 words a day.
I didn’t publish as many blog posts as I planned.

But as an Idealist (INFP) and an Inspirer (ENFP), these particular "failures" didn’t bother me for long (except the writing, but we’ll get to that later).  That means I value being over doing, reflecting over acting, creating over producing, and relationships over money.

It doesn’t mean I sat and dreamt my dreams and then did nothing to realize them.  Just that my dreams differ greatly from the majority of society.

You matter....embrace and express yourself!
Image: © Sergey Nivens
Some dreams you don’t know you have until you have a chance to live them.  My week long trip to Kodiak, Alaska in September 2014 was a dream; one I walked away from inexplicably changed.  On the surface, you wouldn’t know it.  

But inside….the interior landscape of my soul and my psyche were drastically altered. And that trip allowed me to give the proverbial finger to society’s (and familial) expectations and judgments of where I should be at forty.  

So now my list looks like this:

I have a decent paying job.
My position is low-stress.
I have money and time to support other small business owners.
I read voraciously and care more about learning than earning letters after my name.
I have a car that runs and gets me from point A to point B.
I have more clothes than I actually wear. (And I do own designer, vintage hats!)
I may live in my childhood home, but I have visited Alaska twice and stood six and half feet from a Kodiak grizzly.

Most importantly, I learned to let go of a couple of my most damaging fears.

But I’m human.  And I suffer from depression.  So I’m not going to clean this post up and tell you that everything was peachy keen and I triumphed glamorously through adversity and lived a positive, healthy life the rest of the year.

I made a lot of mistakes and I failed a lot ~ sometimes spectacularly.  The temptation to give up, to despair, to wallow was overwhelming at times and I gave in more than I care to admit.  And I’m still struggling.  To listen to the supportive, loving voices and to ignore and block out the judgmental, critical ones.  To embrace both my light and my dark side.  To regain lost ground.

Especially when it comes to following my passion for the written word. 

There’s no way around that one.  I failed consistently at being consistent with my writing.  And as writers know, the most important aspect of being a writer is to show up, sit down, and put words on a page.  My failure to do this is directly tied to both my depression and a deep-rooted fear of rejection and indifference.  And both of those fears are directly tied to family of origin issues.  Not an excuse, just something I need to stay aware of.

Which means there is no easy solution, no magic potion, no “just do it” way to overcome it.  I do have excellent help and loving support, and a firm belief that healing is possible and attainable.  Still, it's going to take more hard work, openness, and suffering.  Something that I need to allow to bleed onto the page.

That's raw.  That's real.  That's honest.  That’s life.

That’s a significant forty years.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How do you measure the worth of your years? 

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30 December 2014

Resolution Fail: 10 Insane Home Organization Assumptions

Learn from the puppies: don't clutter where you live.
~ James L. Papandrea

is the end of December, and you know what that means - Pinterest is brimming with a million ways to organize your home, office, and life!

Perhaps it’s because we need something to do post-holiday binge.  Perhaps it’s because we now have even more redundant, unnecessary stuff and need to get rid of last year’s redundant, unnecessary stuff.

Whatever the reason, the explosion of articles, pictures, and ideas provides some much needed comic relief.  And since de-cluttering and organizing is only a rapturous joy for a very few sad people, and an overwhelming chore and quickly abandoned resolution for the rest of us, might as well laugh about it.
Image: Google search

Perusing the various boards on Pinterest, I’ve notived ten things that professional organizers assume:

1) You have nothing else to do. 
Making pen holders out of cereal boxes and toilet paper roll holders?  Really?    

2) You are a hoarder.
Why do you even have those toilet paper rolls lying around to be made into insane pen holders?!?

3) You have no social life. 
Ain’t nobody got time for that! You're busy wrapping toilet paper holders with fabric, old wrapping paper, and wallpaper!

4) You have either no interest in alcohol or plebeian tastes.
Seriously, a counter-top wine rack?!  What happened to clearing the counter of all clutter?!  Uh, hello?  Not to mention, those big blocky things only hold 6 to 8 bottles of wine.  Who only has 6 to 8 bottles of wine at a time? 

5) Your laundry room is the size of a small, rich country. 
Dude, if my laundry was THAT big, I wouldn't have so much trouble keeping it organized!  Heck, I could probably afford a maid to do it!

6) Your family shares 3 coats.
Standing coat racks aren’t just impractical, they’re mistaken for the Bogey Man when you come downstairs for a 2 AM glass of wine from your in-the-way counter-top wine rack.

Or you’re single, in which case, the Bogey Man scenario is even worse.

7) You don’t own enough redundant, unnecessary stuff.
Because that tree branch/old leather purse strap office supply holder may look chic, but the sheer amount of office supplies and pens that I own would break that twig in half.

8) You have no friends.  Or never have them over.
A blanket chest to replace under the bed bins – ha!  I like to keep my guests comfy, thank you.  One large blanket would fill that – again, pretty but impractical – chest, forget about the four other queen sized blankets.  Plus, you just told me to pack away seasonal items!

9) You bathe once a week.
Rolling up bath towels is just weird.  And time consuming.  And frustrating.  Did I mention weird?  If you have no friends, no social life, and do nothing else all day but make pen holders out of toilet paper rolls, you might have time to roll up your two or three towels and store them in a dust-collecting basket. But it’s weird.

Unless you live in a beautiful and remote area (like Alaska for instance) and really do bathe just once a week.  That would be perfectly acceptable - except that they think it's weird too.

10) You never actually DO anything in your house - you just sleep there.
A long commute to work does make this seem true.  But that just means you don’t need to look at the clutter! 

Happy New Year!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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04 November 2014

Writer or Me Monster: Why the About Page is Important to Readers

Everything tells me that I am about to make a wrong decision, but making mistakes is just part of life. What does the world want of me? Does it want me to take no risks, to go back to where I came from because I didn't have the courage to say "yes" to life?
~ Paulo Coelho

November 1 marked the beginning of that madcap dash into the world of words and word counts: National Novel Writing Month – affectionately known as NaNo.  I didn’t sign up this year, but throughout the month of November, I’ll be highlighting authors, their books, and the writing process.

ay be a day (or more) and a dollar short, but I’ve joined Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging Challenge.

Being the daydreaming writer that I am *cough* procrastinating *cough*, I find that I need to sign up for at least two to four writing challenges a year.  Deadlines combined with being part of a group of writers forces me to write a substantial word count every day.

At least every day of the challenge.

A couple of weeks ago I got together with a fellow writer and blogger to talk a bit about the challenge and do some free-writing on the dreaded Day One topic (cue Darth Vader theme):

Writing the About Me Page.

Relationship not Narcissism
Contrary to most people’s first impressions (usually garnered at a social event where I’m being, well, social!), I am a very private person.  I guard my boundaries like Cerebus guards Hades’ lair.

Minus the hellacious breath and acid drool.

Cerebus and Hades, 6th century
Yes, I have a blog.  Yes, I write about some personal things sometimes.  I also write under a nom de plume.  This is mainly to protect my Styx-like privacy.  

It is also so some well-meaning (or smug and purposefully hateful) friend of the family (aka pot-stirrer) happens upon my blog and informs my mother, “I didn’t know you were certifiably nuts!  This explains so much!”

Ahh, the perils of memoirists. 

In addition, some people might associate my ability to talk the leg off a brass chamber pot (I’m so getting one of those after Kodiak), to a narcissistic addiction to talking about myself.  

When they spend one on one time with me, they find that I actually don’t like to talk about myself.  This goes hand in hand with my Cerebus-guarded Styx-like privacy.  And it becomes painfully obvious when you see my About page ~ it's sad.

Like, puppy-hit-by-a car sad.

A great About Me Page should invite you in, give you a better idea of who I am both as a writer and as a person ~ because who wants to read the scribblings of a faceless person with the personality of a blank canvas stuck in your grandparents attic? 

Okay, maybe that's going too far, but you get the picture.  

What and Why I Write
Another thing the About Me page should do, is tell you about the blog itself, what I write about, and why.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pounding the keys, ripping out my heart, and sharing it with y’all for almost ten years (La Belle’s ninth birthday was on Halloween in fact) and throughout this wild , crazy, colourful, and literary ride, I’ve been asked: “So what is your blog about?”  My usual response?

Cue zombie impression.  Uh – art?  Um - food?  I really like people and…I dunno.  I just write. 

So I looked though old posts, made a list, and realized that if I flesh out those answers, I get that I like to talk and write about is art and hospitality and writing and mental health.

Wait just a minute….that sounds like it might be what this blog is actually about!

Aha!  So those four things I mentioned above?  Those are what bloggers call categories and they serve as the bones of the blog.  The blog posts make up the skin and blood and organs and brain.   The heart is made up of you, my readers.  What about the soul?

Most writers ~ especially fiction writers ~ will tell you that once they begin writing, the book takes on a life of its own.  Sometimes the characters won’t grow or act like you want them to ~ they become almost sentient.

A blog is no different.  Mine most definitely has a soul, a personality.  And it just so happens to mirror mine. As E(I)NFPs place a high priority and value on relationships, so does my blog.  Whether the topic has to do with art, writing, hospitality, or mental health, the theme of relationships is interwoven throughout.  Sometimes it’s more subtle than others, but it’s always there.

And in that case, I’m not quite sure where this particular relationship is going.  But I know where I’d like it to head.  But more about that in my About Page.

Which you can read as soon as I write it.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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