20 October 2016

Ch-Ch-Changes: Saying Goodbye to La Belle. . . .

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be.
There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it….I hope you have the courage to start all over again.
~ Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay

hange.  More often than not, I have viewed change as a dirty word.


Tradition, on the other hand, was always viewed as sacred.


You find more of this lopsided outlook in families where there is emotional or mental instability, I would wager.  I certainly grew up waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It’s only natural then that for many years, I viewed change as something to be avoided at all costs.

After I turned forty, I began to see change as cleansing.  Always slightly chaotic at first, but with the potential to grow into something quite necessary and beautiful.

Not all traditions are worth keeping. 
Not all changes are worth accepting.
But both are worth exploring.

When I began this blog in October 2005, I had no idea what I was doing.  I had the desire and the need to write and share my thoughts, but no clear direction.  I wrote whatever I felt like writing about, hit publish, and went on to the next topic.  And while the pieces of all my true passions are still here, the overall picture they form isn’t as coherent as I’d like it to be.

© lilkar_123rf.com
Still, I struggled with guilt and doubt.  

Was I failure because I no longer wanted to keep writing on this platform?  Is this just my ADD talking and will I regret starting something new somewhere else?

I suppose I could simply do another re-vamp of the site like I did a few years ago.  But the canvas doesn’t feel like the right size anymore.  I feel like using different paints and techniques this time around.  And I really want to start from scratch and build something new.

So I won’t be updating this blog anymore (big shocker, I know).  I don’t know when the new one will be up and public, but I will post one last time here to let you know.

It has been an incredible learning and growing experience here at La Belle these past eleven years and I'm so grateful for each of reader and friend that has accompanied me on this journey.  
I hope you will be with me as I begin the next phase of my writing adventure.

See y’all on the other side!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

26 July 2016

The Un-Contained Garden

Comparison is the death of joy.
~ Mark Twain

interest is an enabler. 

Every time I go on there, I am reminded of how messy and imperfect my life is.

A couple of weekends ago, some friends and I sat and re-wrote and discussed our writing projects under the shade of an apple tree. And we declared it good. Then I looked up gardens and entertaining in the garden and drooled over pictures and photographs of pristine English gardens.  And I declared my back yard a disaster. 

Standing several feet from my garden last weekend, it was undeniable.

Because the grass was so high after days of rain, that I was forced to stand several feet away or risk getting attacked by ticks or the very remote possibility of stepping on a copperhead.  (Haven’t seen one in years but it would just be my luck.)

I quickly became morose.  How was I ever going to make my ratty backyard look like something out of Downtown Abbey?  It would take a landscape designer, a mason, a construction crew, and a mountain of dirt and crushed gravel to make it happen.  Not to mention since we try to live as organically sustainable as possible, I would have to hunt down organic flower growers.

My vegetable garden | © Mikaela D’Eigh
And then the rain stopped, the lawn was mowed, and I was able to spend time digging in my gardens, weeding, transplanting, and getting dirt under my manicured nails. (Who says you can’t look pretty while getting down and dirty?) 

And standing on the freshly swept patio, looking at my herb garden and the orchard beyond, it struck me like the scent of a hay field after a storm: this is the view my heart needs.  

A proper English garden is lovely, yes.  But the confinement, and the straight lines, and trimmed hedges don’t fit my personality.  I’m all about curves mixed in with straight lines.  

And when my straight lines meander carelessly, I let them.

My patio would lose the open view of the side yard and orchard if I put up trellises and walls.  The view from the picture window in the kitchen would feel dark and dreary if we added a covering.  And paths are well and good, but what mysteries and views would I lose if I allowed a path to force me in a certain direction?

In that moment, I fell in love with my gardens and my yard for the first time all over again.  My beautiful land, with her lush curves and soft edges, is more French Impressionism then English River School. 

And that suits my un-contained heart just fine.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

12 July 2016

Reading Can Be Detrimental

If I waited until I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.
~  Anne Tyler

ometimes reading can be detrimental to your health.  Your creative health, that is.

Take this blog for instance.  There are just two posts for 2016 and although I have been writing off and on for the past six months, I have not been sharing any of my thoughts or musings except with a small circle of writers.

And I think one of the reasons is because I read too much.

The majority of writers ~ most certainly all the writers I know personally or have interviewed ~ write because they cannot help themselves.  To put pen to paper or fingertips to the keyboard is to breathe fresh air.  If we do not write, something precious inside withers away.  Of course, as with any passionate pursuit, there are days when writing is more of a chore, when no word seems right, when the ideas and thoughts flow like a mud-swollen creek.  Yet even then, if I do not write something, I go to bed feeling incomplete.

Yet even on those days when the words simply won’t dance in unison for me, even when writing is something I have to force myself to do in the moment, the joy I experience when I write is still there.  Because once the words are being written, joy kicks in. 

Image: © Luisa Vallon Fumi
Not so much with publishing my writing.  And that is because I have read and taken to heart too many articles about writing and publishing and blogging.  The authors of these articles are writerly vampires, sucking the joy completely out of the creative act of writing.  Their intentions are good, but for them, it is all about clicks and likes and views and “quit your job and make $$ writing!”  

Writing then becomes the platform or stage where I perform rather than the writing itself taking the spotlight. 

So I became obsessed with publishing only those pieces that were “relevant” and would “get the most likes.”  But because I’m an intuitive feeler, that translated into “nothing I write is relevant or good enough and no one is listening anyway.”  Well, Mikaela, maybe people have stopped listening because you never hit the publish button anymore.

I think that the more we try to be ‘relevant” the more our art suffers.  And this applies whether we express ourselves via the written word, on canvas, in clay, on the dance floor, or in the recording studio.  Honestly, have you ever seen or heard a work of art and thought, “Wow, that piece of art is so relevant right now!”  Of course not!  We experience art and take it in and say things like, “That painting speaks to my heart in some way,” or “His music moved me to tears,” or “I was mesmerized by her book and couldn’t put it down!”

Something I say will move you or touch you or enrage you or calm you or make you cry.  But that is immaterial to the creative act itself.  I hope my words elicit those reactions, but I would still write even if I were the last rational being on the planet.

Because I write for the sheer joy that the dance and play of words brings me.

And that joy packs its little bags and goes on vacation if I’m too caught up in clicks and likes and number of views.  For a while that meant that I wrote sporadically and only my writing group saw my work.  For the past month, I’ve been writing daily and still my writing group has only seen the results.  But that re-discovered daily writing habit opened my eyes to what I’d been missing ~ the joy.  And suddenly, I don’t care if I hit publish and still no one reads my words.  I don’t care if what I write and publish here will only get five or six likes ~ all from my writing group. 

The most important thing I can do here is simply share the joy of my art.  And hope that by sharing it, I inspire that joy in someone else.  But if not, the Muse will not leave me because no one reads what I have written.  The Muse only grows sad and leaves when I cease to create and share the joy.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

13 January 2016

Good Enough is Great: One Word for 2016

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
~ T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

link.  Blink. Blink

The cursor pulsates.  Steady.  Measuring.  Judging. It waits for my Muse to say something.  Anything.

I want this year to be different.  I want to end every day with at least five hundred words on the page. I want to be pain free and overflowing with energy.  I want this year to be perfect.

I want the impossible.

Oh, five hundred words a day is doable.  Pain-free is attainable if I avoid inflammatory foods.  But perfect? Not so much.

My clay dragon was doing so well...
Usually by now I have a word picked out for the year.  Last year it was Adventure.  Although I kicked my writerly Muse to the curb around mid-May and stopped journaling, I did at least try to find adventure throughout 2015.  In August, I took up kayaking – dragged into it moaning and complaining, and then promptly falling madly in love with the river. 

In October, I went to a writers’ conference in Wisconsin, where I managed to kayak the swells of Lake Michigan.  It wasn’t a conference in a remote part of Alaska, of course.  But I still managed to have an adventure of the heart there.  And I rediscovered my passion for writing.

So did I live out Adventure to the fullest?

Only I can determine that and I am my own worst critic.  Some inner demon – installed on my hard drive in childhood – keeps pulling me back three steps for each one I take forward.  It’s exhausting and discouraging.  And such weekly or daily battles drain me.  Make it difficult to even hear the Muse, much less live out what she says. 

L.M. Montgomery once said, “Despair is a free man, but hope is a slave.”  Sounds cynical but it’s true.  Hope may keep you going, yes, but it also keeps you tied – and when that something isn’t healthy or sane or doesn’t give you joy or add to your life in some way, then you have become a slave to anticipation.

It is, however, a new year and there’s something to be said for setting realistic expectations.  For too long, I’ve set them high -- too high for anyone to reach – yet I expected to reach them.  And fell into despair and stagnation when I failed.

Good Enough…is Great!
....and then he just fell apart. :(
Whether or not 2016 is “epic” (as I hoped 2015 would be), is no longer the measure of whether December will find me a better person or a more prolific writer.  This year, I’ve set goals with my ADD, depression, work schedule, and health in mind.  And that means setting my expectations to Good Enough

Not in the sense that I don’t put forth my best effort.  Rather, I will work to silence that inner demon that demands perfection from every single thing I undertake by doing the task and allowing the result to be good enough.  Even becoming comfortable with failure. 

Write every day
Kayak as often as I can
Visit old friends
Follow the Paleo lifestyle to heal my body
Continue making pottery
Send one card or letter a month

If I can do these things and learn to allow myself to be good enough, then 2016 just might end up an epic adventure after all.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

23 November 2015

Losing Sight of the Shore: Kayaking Lake Michigan

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
~ William G.T. Shedd

he kayak leaned drunkenly to the right. I braced my legs against the sides as a small swell raced towards the hull.  My paddling grew fast and sloppy, as if I could hear the sound of banjos and I angled the kayak to avoid getting side-swiped.  The small swell rose up and lifted me about two feet above the shoreline before dropping me like a roller coaster. 

My mouth became a desert and my muscles ached with near panic.  Those two exhilarating hours spent with Johnny Wolfe on the glassy Rappahannock a couple of weeks ago seemed a lifetime ago; as the next wave battered my boat, I wished that I’d asked him to teach me how to roll back upright. But I’d sworn to everyone that it was a skill I wouldn’t need -- river paddling didn’t seem to call for it, I’d never seek out white water and I assumed this trip would be along the same lines. 

Now I was being bested by a lake.  A lake!

Granted, a lake that is 118 miles across and 307 miles long and with riptides strong enough to pull ships down 923 feet to its murky bottom.  6,000 ships to be exact – many of them the tall, masted ships of the 18th century and 19th century. Superior’s got nothing on this freshwater sister. 

Lake Michigan never gives up her dead either.

I wasn’t stupid – I had watched the ocean-like waves pound the beach all week, stood knee deep in the shallows every other day for the sheer thrill of feeling the frigidity, and listened to my Wisconsin hostess and friend tell tales of tourists whose kayaks had been swept out far from shore, their bodies resting undiscovered hundreds of feet below the surface.  I had the utmost respect and awe for Lady Lake Michigan and treated her like the siren of the deep she is.

But even crashing waves and angry, rainy skies couldn’t dampen the hunger to get out on the water.

My friend Diane was with me at the writers’ retreat by the lake and had river kayaked as well.  Although not quite as keen as I was, she was game to go out on the water once the waves died down to a whisper.  And at first, it looked like it would be a good trip for both of us. 

Diane’s kayak was a sit-on-top that lay flat on the water and had self-bailing scupper holes in the top to aid in stability.  Mine was a long, sleek sit-inside ocean craft, designed to cut through waves and go a long distance on the open water.  Usually, one would wear an attachable skirt in this type of kayak. I did not.  So it was my own miscalculation that kept filling it up with lake water every time a wave hit it.  As it continued to rock from side to side and the swells got higher and stronger, my shocked brain could only repeat two mantras:

I don’t know how to roll back up and I cannot lose sight of the shore.

Being denied air as I panic and hyperventilate is one of my greatest fears.  Now I could add drowning in the middle of a gigantic body of water surrounded by a blank horizon to that list.  But panicking would only increase my chances of rolling. So I forced myself to breathe deep.  In. Out.  In. Out.  And I began talking myself off the ledge.

Hey, a year ago, you swore you would never ride in a plane smaller than a 737, and you rode in two bush planes and a float plane.  And you never pictured yourself walking in hip waders through shallow rivers to stand six and half feet from a several pound grizzly bear yet you did just that.  And then just a few months ago, you swore you would never kayak and then you swore you would never kayak alone, but you’ve done all of that. You can do this.  You have on your life jacket.  You know the basics. You aren’t going to drown.

The wind.  The waves.  The adrenaline.  It all faded as I concentrated on using the skills Johnny had taught me.  But learning to angle over waves caused by the wake of a speedboat are a far cry from waves caused by fierce north winds sweeping across the lake face and building riptides.

But I was not about to become a jewel in Davy Jones’ locker.

There are so many stories of whales and sharks getting stranded on beaches, unable to get back in the water; trust me, they would have no trouble getting off the beaches of Lake Michigan.  I paddled my way up on to the sand, began to climb out and another strong wave crashed into me, soaking me and sucking me back in to the lake.  Maybe the Lady of the Lake just really liked me and didn’t want me to leave.  Diane finally had to come over and hold the kayak on the beach so I could get out without risking a runaway boat.

It was the shortest kayak trip ever and a part of me regrets not having the courage to lose sight of the shore. 

As we walked both kayaks back to the cottage, I realized my error.  By staying so close to the beach, I trapped myself on the wrong side of a sand bar – a sand bar which made the waves higher and stronger.  If I had forced myself out past them, I would likely have discovered a calmer ride and we could have stayed out longer.  But I don’t regret knowing my limits and following my gut.

And I walked away from the world’s most oceanic lake with a new goal: to stretch myself once again.  Once warmer weather returns, you will find me back out on the river learning to roll. 

River water never looked so good.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

18 November 2015

Writing Under the Influence

Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk.
But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian,
or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.
~ Peter De Vries, Reuben, Reuben



eter De Vries (not Papa Hemingway as many mistakenly believe) was wrong.  Maybe he could write drunk, but I can say from recent personal experience that being zoned out on heavy pain meds does not a brilliant author make. 

Which is why you haven’t heard a peep from me since May ~ when the first of seven kidney stone attacks ruined all my grand summer plans.
Although, to be fair, it wasn’t entirely the kidney stone’s fault. 
At the same time I was writhing around in pain, I decided to quit my anti-depressant meds cold turkey because my new batch was coated in red dye.  While there are studies suggesting that synthetic dyes pose serious side effects, quitting any medication, but especially antidepressants ~ without telling either my naturopathic doctor or my therapist ~ tops the list of Things No Thinking Person Should Ever Do.
But that’s just the point: I wasn’t thinking clearly.  I was in almost constant pain (when I wasn’t sleepy or zoned out from the pain medication) and when I’m in pain, I forget my own name, let alone remember smart and healthy protocols when it comes to medications.
Why else would anyone quit taking medicine that helps you cope and live normally?

Don’t Know Whatcha Ya Got

In my defense, I had lived without anti-depressant medication for the majority of my life.  So I didn’t realize how much my meds helped my brain function as if it were healthy and well-balanced.  Until five days after I stopped and it left my system completely. 
I felt like I was on the set of a Sigourney Weaver film, with this dark mass of nastiness crawling out of my chest.  All the progress I had made in the year since I took my first dose was washed overboard in a storm of anxiety, extreme fatigue, insomnia, loss of focus, loss of balance, mood swings, and of course, a threefold return of my depression.
But when my depression returned, it brought along a new friend: social anxiety bordering on phobia. 

Plans eagerly made were then hastily cancelled, often at the last possible minute, in a haze of fear.  Then I would stew in a muck of guilt and shame and hopelessness.  What in the world was wrong with me?!  I had been coached to stop, review my surroundings, review my feelings, and basically talk myself down from the ledge.  But I was too bewildered by the onslaught caused by my brain’s return to a chemical imbalance; I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so wretched.  Conveniently, I blamed it on all the kidney pain and the subsequent pain medications.   

But it wasn’t until I finally reached out to my therapist that we discovered the source of the maelstrom.

Nothing! No incidents of eviscerating criticism and verbal abuse.  No disappointments.  Apart from the kidney stones and their debilitating effect on my social life, everything’s fine!

Oh. Wait.  I did stop taking my antidepressants suddenly. 

His text telling me to call my primary doctor immediately didn’t need a face-palm emoji to get his disbelief across. 

Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia

I fell victim to one of the classic blunders ~ never stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first!  And never stop taking it all at once ~ your body needs to be weaned off of it to avoid the more debilitating effects of withdrawal.   

My issue may have been the dye on the pills.  But I have friends who stop taking their antidepressants (or antipsychotics) because they feel better.  And that’s the other classic blunder: believing that the medication is a cure.  That once you start taking them, they will “fix” whatever is missing or off in your neurological chemistry.   

Taking medication for depression or an Axis II personality disorder is like putting oil in a car.  You don’t pour in one quart and expect the engine to run smoothly for the next 100,000 miles without needing to add more oil or change it.  Medication needs to be taken all the time (and sometimes changed) in order to keep the car of my body and my mind running smoothly.  This, in addition to the gasoline that is therapy, helps me reach my destination ~ a whole and healthy life. 

Since the particular medication I take no longer comes in an uncoated form, I decided that the pros of being depression-free outweighed the cons of red dye side effects.  Even so, it was tough waiting for the meds to take effect ~ a pit of despair I’m not anxious to visit anytime soon.

Happily Ever After…for Now

It took me at least until the end of July to feel fully human again ~ no more aliens living in my chest.  But the damage to both my system and my Muse had already been done.  My meds had to be adjusted to a higher dose and switched to the brand name instead of the generic (surprise!  They aren’t always the same) and my writing Muse had gone into hiding and refused to come out. 

The thought of coming clean about my mistake was too terrifying, and my psyche had too much time crouched there in the dark.  The old records were playing again: you aren’t a writer and no one wants to read what you write. No one cares what you have to say.  But go ahead and write your pathetic scribblings.  No one is listening.

It took me a total of five and half months, plus a healthy dose of a new outdoor obsession and one powerful and healing writers’ retreat to silence those voices.  And only by continuing to take the medication, and stay in touch with my fellow writers who believe so strongly in me and my writing will I be able to silence them forever.

Only then, can I stay drunk on writing.

Oremus pro invicem,

~ Mikaela


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Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.

07 July 2015

Pride and Forgiveness in Elizabeth Hunter's The Scarlet Deep: A Review

I betrayed the woman I loved because of pride…I broke her trust. 
I might have lost her forever, if she wasn’t so forgiving. 
Pride is…seductive.  Addictive. 
And a harder habit to break than any drug.
~ Elizabeth Hunter,  The Scarlet Deep

July is National Anti-Boredom Month.  It should be Writers Block month. 

hen she dreamed, she dreamed of death and madness.  Of the deep and of forgotten things.  The moon shone full through the water, and the drifting weeds surrounded her as she stared into the night sky….She sank past the touch of moonlight, where the chill of the water crept into her bones and settled her soul.” (Prologue, The Scarlet Deep)

The narrator’s voice fades, along with the spotlight and the curtain rises on Patrick Murphy, a familiar figure for Elemental World readers.

That is how a novel should begin.  I was immediately lifted out of reality and ordinary life and dropped into another world, my curiosity aroused:  Who is this woman?  Why is she dreaming of death and madness?  And how is she connected to the most powerful vampire in Ireland?

From the Pen of a Master Storyteller
Publishers and readers alike tend to dismiss the Romance genre as pulp fiction/fluff writing.  And I have come across my fair share of authors (Romance or otherwise) who give the genre a bad name.

But a romance has the potential to not only take you away from the real world, it also has the power to inform and transform you. If it’s well written and the pen has been wielded by a master.

And when you find a master storyteller, you don’t let go. 

You buy every book she has written.  You pre-order the ones she’s still working.  Because you know she won’t let you down.  Her imagination is rich and deep; an eternal well of plots, themes, and witty repartee.

Image © Elizabeth Hunter
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Hunter. I own (and have read several times) every book she’s written.  They are well written and remain as fresh as the first time I read them.

Ms. Hunter’s latest creation, The Scarlet Deep went live today and for fans of the Elemental Mysteries Series, it fills the emptiness left behind when we finished The Secret in March.  And once again, she does not disappoint in giving us more than “just” a romance.

Pride, Grace, and Redemption
The Scarlet Deep takes us back into the Elemental World and while it can be read as a stand-alone, IMHO, it is even better when read after the Elemental Mysteries series and the other books in the Elemental World series.  Characters who had starring roles in the other books return as supporting actors.

At the center of it all is Patrick and Aìne, who love each other but have let past mistakes – mistakes that were a betrayal of trust – and pride come between them.  But with the deadly Elixir still in production and killing both mortal and immortal alike, they will have to get over their past and join forces (and fangs) in order to find – and stop – the person responsible.

This book touched me deeply, because I too have had my trust betrayed.  Like Aìne, I have longed to bury myself in isolation to escape the pain and to deny the part that I played in allowing those betrayals to dictate my path. 

And as Aìne stubbornly refuses Patrick’s blood - essentially starving herself - my own fears and pride prevent me from seeking the help and connection I need.
Life is one long series of making mistakes and seeking grace.
Carwyn, The Scarlet Deep

We all make mistakes – sometimes really big ones!  So we are in need of forgiveness and grace.  Does that mean that everyone deserves to have access to our heart and soul?  Of course not.  Some people have truly toxic behaviours and for our own health, we need to limit our interactions with them or forego them altogether.

Forgiveness isn’t about forgetting. It’s about letting go of the past, trying again in the present, and taking back control of the future.

And you don’t have to be a vampire to take that lesson to heart.
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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I received this book as an ARC from the author.  I have not been paid for this review.

Posts on La Belle are written with the following fonts: Georgia, Times New Roman, Vivaldi, Edwardian, and occasionally Baroque Script.