27 March 2015

The Art of Poetry: A Blended Art Show

One ought, every day at least,
to hear a little song,
read a good poem,
see a fine picture,
and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 44,891

pril is National Poetry Month and one week from today (April 3), yours truly will be one of the poets featured in a blended art show at Water Street Studio!

Wait….blended art....what? 

A picture is worth a thousand words (see what I did there?):

Image © fffranz

An art show that combines visual art with written art held during National Poetry Month?  What a novel idea!

I would love to see you if you’re in the area and I know you will love the art and the poetry that will be on display from local artists and poets.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are you doing for National Poetry Month?

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

Image: © ffranz

19 March 2015

I Would Pull Down Heaven: A Review of The Secret: The Irin Chronicles Book Three

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain.
It's the loneliness of it.
Memories need to be shared.
~ Lois Lowry, The Giver

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 38,796

s it still love if you can’t remember your lover? 

If every meeting, every conversation, every smile, every little thing that pulled you in and made you hers is just…

Always just out of reach.

Is it still love if your lover returns to you a different man, with no memory 

Of the first time he saw you.
Of the first time you made him laugh.
Of the first time he kissed you.
Of the first time he made your soul sing.

How do you cope with the crippling fear that his return is a dream and you’ll wake only to lose him all over again?

The Last Chapter
A good writer pulls us out of our world and entertains us, taking the edge off a weary reality.

A great writer pulls us into our soul, showing us that we are not alone.  That pain and joy and love and loss are universal. 

She does this discreetly, weaving an entertaining and moving tale that not only takes that edge off, it helps us cope when we are forced to return to it.

Elizabeth Hunter is one of those great writers. 

Since I discovered the
Elemental Mysteries Series, I have yet to read a book that hasn’t led me to a deeper level of self-awareness while it soaks off the day to day stress.  Every story is well written, meticulously researched, psychologically accurate, and balances entertaining dialogue with a believable, dramatic love story.

The Secret is no exception. 

In fact, it may be her best story so far (no worries, Gio ~ you’re still my #1 book boyfriend).  If you aren’t familiar with
The Irin Chronicles, stop reading this right now, go buy all three books (The Secret is live today), cancel any appointments and Read. It.  With a large box of tissues beside you. 

If you have been following
Malachi and Ava’s story, then you know this last chapter is their most crucial.  That this is no ordinary love story.   It is real.  It is complicated.  Because when is love ever simple?

Malachi has yet to remember much if any of his past, including Ava.  And his talesm are slow to return.  Meanwhile, Ava still doesn’t know where her power comes from and she lives in fear of losing her reshon again.  

Have they healed enough to learn the secret the archangels have been hiding for millennia? A secret that could change the Irin forever?

To Know Her is to Love Her
The Singer dealt with loss and grief and the desire to give up when it feels like your soul has been shredded.  The Secret also involves loss ~ but it is the loss of memories and the seeming loss of a loved one who is physically present, yet no longer remembers you or why and how he fell in love with you. 

Loss that is real for those whose loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps because my own parents are aging, or perhaps because I’m constantly searching for the why in everything, The Secret made me wonder: if love is defined by knowledge of the other, a knowledge gathered over time in shared moments, goals, purpose, and mutual respect, trust, and commitment ~ is it still love if all of that is erased?

We don’t love ~ truly love ~ a person until we know them.  It’s why I love the Biblical translation of sexual love as knowing.  My deepest desire is for my truest self to be fully known…and unconditionally accepted.  Because that is in part what healthy, interdependent love looks like.

So what does it mean to suddenly be unknown again?  To love someone who no longer seems to be the person they were when we first loved them?  And what does it mean to suddenly un-know?  To be told that you have a life, a shared history with someone that you can’t remember?

Pulling Down Heaven
Because Ava isn’t the only one suffering from loss.  In losing his memories, Malachi has lost a vital part of himself.  This causes him pain, not just for himself, but because this loss pains his mate.

Then comes a moment where a memory returns to him…a memory of where he was after he had been taken from her.  A place of “Perfect love.  He cries with joy because he is home….He is surrounded by love.  Complete. Replete.  He needs nothing.”  But he hears her voice and makes a choice.  A choice he does not regret.  A choice that is bittersweet.  A choice that hurts in the remembering.

Because although he regains Ava, he loses being in the presence of Perfect Peace.

Gifts given freely are more precious.
Barak, The Secret: The Irin Chronicles Book Three

Yet it is a choice Malachi made freely and one he would make again. 

Even if his memories never return. 
Even if he only has one year to spend with Ava.
Even if the pain of loss never completely goes away.

Because love is defined not just by fully knowing or being known by your beloved.  Nor is it defined solely by the presence of either joy or pain or the lack of them.  Love is always a choice.  A choice freely made.  A gift freely given.  Love is still love even if the particular memories of it are gone. 

Because love is always a choice.
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What did you think of the end of Ava and Malachi’s story?

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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.

My Irin Chronicles Playlist: 
Irin Chronicles by Mikaela D'Eigh on Grooveshark

07 March 2015

Death By A Thousand Cuts: Can You Avoid Divorce?

So often the end of a love affair is death by a thousand cuts, 
so often its survival is life by a thousand stitches.  
~ Robert Brault

In 2015, I’m participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words Challenge: writing at least 500 words a day for a year!  So dearest blog, although I’ve neglected you of late, I have never ceased writing!  YTD Word Count: 36,171

ometimes, the first step in making a positive change, is knowing what not to do.

Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family, and in order to begin the healing process, I needed to see and acknowledge two fundamental truths:

1. Not all families live the way we did.
2. Without outside help, I could not learn new ways of living.

Brittany Wong’s article in the Huffington Post on Friday seems to agree.

She talked to divorce experts (including one divorcee) and came away with a list of eleven behaviours that can lead to the death of a marriage.  Not surprisingly, many of these “marriage mistakes” were familiar to me, as I’ve watched my parents make them over and over.  (The fact that they are still married is a miracle and a discussion for a separate post.)

Although Wong doesn’t go into detail here, knowing these eleven toxic behaviours and examining your own relationship is the first step to making a change that might save your marriage or prevent it from souring.

Each of the eleven mistakes listed can be discussed and unpacked on a deeper level.  However, for this post, I wanted to talk a little more about Laura Wasser’s (the divorce lawyer), advice on unrealistic expectations ~ something all relationships suffer from at one time or another. 

As a close friend and psychologist put it, “the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment. Part of having realistic expectations is unconditional acceptance.  Wasser touches on this when she says, “Failure to accept the person you are married to, yourself or the relationship for what it really is” is a less apparent behavior that she has seen lead to divorce.

What Unconditional Acceptance Is and Is Not
Unconditional acceptance does not mean I accept
·        Comments that belittle my intelligence, my feelings, my opinions, or my physical appearance
·        Being treated as less equal
·        Drug or alcohol abuse or a po*n or sex addiction that goes without treatment
·        Comments that belittle my friends and/or encourage me to get rid of them
·        Attempts to control or dictate what I eat, what I wear, what I say, where I go, etc.
·        Being blamed for everything wrong that happens to you

This is not an exhaustive list, but they are the main red flags that indicate an unhealthy relationship.  Not all people will exhibit every single trait, but if they do, you are not just in an unhealthy relationship - you are in an abusive one.
© Le Moal Olivier

Unconditional acceptance does mean I accept
·        Your different personality type
·        Your different love languages
·        Your different, but equally valid, needs
·        Your right to your opinions, even if I disagree with them
·        Your right to have space and alone time
·        Your right to have friends outside of our family

So what does this look like in real life?  Something like this:

Jane comes home from a stressful job where she’s had to be “on” all day.  She’s looking forward to some quiet time, being with James, holding each other and just taking it easy.   

All day, James has been anticipating Jane’s joyful reaction to the news that he was just named manager of an exciting new project at work – with a raise!  This means he can buy her a new tablet to replace her old laptop.  She’s going to love it!

James’ chatter and constant walking in and out of the kitchen and the living room starts to get on Jane’s already strained nerves; plus, all that walking and talking means hugging is impossible.  Jane feels hurt and invalidated that he isn’t just chilling next to her, holding her and letting her decompress.

Equally hurt and confused by Jane’s silence and lack of reaction to his gift, James’ enthusiasm deflates and his resentment grows. Why isn’t she listening to him and telling him how proud she is that his boss trusts him enough to take the lead on this incredible project!?

“…if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
Albert Einstein

Jane is an Introvert – she recharges her energy by being alone and silent, although she doesn’t mind recharging with James (usually). Her love languages are Presence and Physical Affection.

James is an Extrovert – he recharges his energy by being around people and talking.  His love languages are Words of Affirmation and Gift Giving.

Sadly, neither Jane and James know that there are different love languages and at least one of them dismisses the importance of knowing and understanding personality types.  But the longer they live in ignorance, the more invalidated and valued each will feel in the relationships  and the more resentment and hurt will grow.

This story doesn’t explore contributing factors like psychological wounds, family history, past abuse, needs and desires, etc.  But it does illustrate what I’m talking about when it comes to unconditional acceptance in regards to two vital areas: how we recharge and how we express love.  
The great thing is, today we have more tools to help wounded and dying relationships and they apply not just to spouses, but to any relationship.  

We just have to be open and willing to learn, to change, and to work a little harder at understanding each other.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

What are some other ways to keep a marriage healthy?

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

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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