Today.

img_3963

Today, I changed my profile picture on social media to a black square, symbolizing my grief.

Today, I went to yoga, allowing myself to be both grounded and lifted up by my practice and yoga community.

Today, I chose to not watch the inauguration.

Today, I wrote over 700 more words on my novel. Each day, I show up and add more words and they begin to add up to something substantial. They add up to scenes, to pages, to characters, to stories, eventually to a full novel.

In the days and years ahead of us, showing up each day to what is happening in our communities, states and country will be critical. Each action, no matter how small, adds up to something substantial.

Make that call to your representative voicing your concern about healthcare or education or the environment or whatever cause is dear to your heart.

Join a local political action group.

Write an Op-Ed.

Reach out to somebody in your community who feels afraid, disenfranchised.

Take radical care of yourself.

Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Today, as I grieve at what we’ve lost and are afraid of losing I am also looking at what we have gained.

We have gained an awakening.

People are waking up from complacency.

Waking up to the sobering responsibilities of being a citizen of the great country.

I see people waking up to support each other.

To lift each other up.

To standing up to bullies, misogyny, racism, xenophobia.

Standing up for progress.

Tomorrow I will join many of you as I attend a local progressive rally in my very conservative town before heading to our state capitol for the Sister March.

There will be excitement.

There will be passion.

There will be pussyhats and signs and lots and lots of energy.

But that is only the very first step in a very long journey.

So, yes, today a black square is representing my mourning.

Tomorrow, it will be replaced by my original picture with the words, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”

img_3517

Today, I mourn. Tomorrow I take the first of many, many steps to move mountains.

I hope you’ll join me.

Books Read September – December

sept-dec-books-read

“The Underground Railroad” a novel by Colson Whitehead

The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.

Well, Oprah was right to choose this for her book club. In this brilliant novel, the underground railroad is not a mere metaphor. It is a literal train that runs underground, helping to free slaves, specifically Cora and Caesar. Their story is mesmerizing while shining a light on a brutal history we all share. It’s not only the journey of Cora as she encounters different worlds at each stop along the way, but it’s the journey of an entire people and we are given a glimpse into the terrifying life they were forced into.

A sentence I love: George sawed with his fiddle, the notes swirling up into night like sparks gusted from a fire.

“Hungry Heart- Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing” by Jennifer Weiner

The other day, I was walking home from the hair salon to pick up my eight-year-old after school.

If you have followed me at all, you know that I am incredibly curious about other writers’ lives. So, when I saw this book I just had to read it. She covers her life from childhood through adulthood and everything along the way that made her a writer from a father who left her, to being a journalist. It was great to get an inside look at a life that partially has been played out in her books. The sister from “In her Shoes” has got to be modeled after her own sister. She doesn’t shy away from issues of weight and body image, in fact, she embraces them. Her storytelling keeps you hooked, her humor is quick and a sharp (her tweets about “The Bachelor” make we want to watch it just so I can be in on the jokes!) and I closed the book feeling I knew more about her as both a woman and a writer.

A sentence I love: Remember the way you lived in your body before you learned to see only the wrong in it.

 “The Alchemist” a novel by Paulo Coehlo

The boy’s name was Santiago.

I read this enchanting story years ago but after rereading it, this time after becoming a yoga teacher and living my yoga on and off the mat, it had a whole  new, deeper resonance. It really spoke to my heart, this whole idea of following your heart, following your intuition, which is what led me to become a yoga teacher, which has led me to create a class that combines the alchemy of both yoga and writing. In a world that often feels hopeless, this book shines a light on the very hope we need.

2 sentences I love:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

“Commonwealth” a novel by Ann Patchett

The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.

Indeed it did, and that turn sets the stage for a chance encounter that reverberates through two families over five decades.

When Franny begins an affair with a literary hero of hers, Leon Posen, she tells him intimate details of her childhood that become the basis for a best-selling book and eventually, movie. She has no idea that she has set in motion  a ripple that will force both families to deal with issues they have kept buried for many, many years. It’s a rich novel full of love and loss, guilt and loyalty, life and death.

Ann Patchett is masterful at creating complex characters with complex stories and I am just happy to be along for the ride.

Several sentences I love:

Life, Theresa knew by now, was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself.

“There’s no protecting anyone,” Fix said, and reached over from his wheelchair to put his hand on hers. “Keeping people safe is a story we tell ourselves.”

“Ongoingness- The End of a Diary” by Sarah Manguso

I started keeping a diary twenty-five years ago. It’s eight hundred thousand words long.

I literally just finished this book. Part of me thinks I should wait to reflect until I’ve had time to process it, perhaps after I’ve allowed myself the luxury of reading it again all through in one sitting. But another part of me wants to get my thoughts down before they evaporate. Which feels perfect for this book which is all about memory and time and trying not to forget and learning to remember and just being in the experience rather than chronicling it for a later date.

Each page had a sentence that just blew me away. The prose is sparse and powerful. Each page takes on an almost skeletal beauty, getting to the bare bones of who we are, who we think we are. It’s an elegant meditation on the brutal beauty of time and memory.

2 sentences I love (hard to pick just 2 but here you go):

The essential problem of ongoingness is that one must contemplate time as that very time, that very subject of one’s contemplation, disappears.

Perhaps all anxiety might derive from a fixation on moments—an inability to accept life as ongoing.

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Okoloma was one of my greatest childhood friends.

This is a modified version of a TEDTalk she gave in December of 2012. I read it and immediately bought two more to put in my daughters’ stocking this Christmas. It’s a book we all should read because we should all be feminists. It’s a book that reminds us that though we are all human beings “…there are particular things that happen to me in the world because I am a woman.” And those particular things need to be acknowledged, seen and heard so they can be changed.

A sentence I love: Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problems of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded.

“Mr. Ives’ Christmas” a novel by Oscar Hijuelos

Years ago, in the 1950s, as a young man working for a Madison Avenue advertising agency, Ives always looked forward to the holiday season and would head out during his lunch hours, visiting churches, to think and meditate, and, if he was lucky, to hear the choirs as they practiced their hymns and sacred songs.

A friend recommended this book years and years ago. I bought it back then and it has sat on my bookshelves until this holiday season when I found it and felt compelled to finally read it.

It was the perfect antidote to the stress I’ve been feeling over the state of the world. I was able to drop into another world each time I picked it up. Not that it was a thoroughly happy world. No, it was not at all. It is about life and death and loss and grief. But something about the writing, the story, the characters was a much needed balm to my battered soul. I found myself tearing up and feeling a particular reverence for the beauty of the world, no matter what state it is in.

A sentence I love: Then there were the swirls of green wire and Christmas lights, those that tipped over and bubbled, those whose glowing filaments pirouetted like ballerinas, those whose collars resembled cherry necklaces—those lights entangled or cleverly strung, adorning store windows, twinkling with benevolence, and, it seemed to Ives, nearly breathing, like everything else in the world.

“Love Warrior” a memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton

It’s almost time. My father and I stand at the edge of a long white carpet, laid just this morning over the freshly cut grass.

Maybe it was the holidays or end of the year emotions but these last two books I read this year, though totally different in tone and subject, really touched my heart. I felt incredibly moved by both stories, feeling more connected to the world that I had been hovering over since the election, distancing myself from it. Both of these stories show people who faced the unthinkable and came out the other side.

Melton’s memoir dives deep into the shadows of what it means to be human and flawed. She bravely peels back the layers of herself and her marriage. She is honest and raw and vulnerable and in doing so, she gives the reader lucky enough to read her words to believe it’s okay if they allow themselves to be honest, raw and vulnerable, too.

A sentence I love: At our cores, we are our tender selves peeking out at a world of shiny representatives, so shame has been layered on top of our pain. We’re suffocating beneath all the layers.

The Practice of Core Desired Feelings

cdf-2017

I am a huge fan of using Core Desired Feelings to set intentions for the new year rather than resolutions that are doomed to be broken within a month—if that. If you haven’t checked out “The Desire Map” by Danielle Laporte, I highly suggest you do. It’s a game changer.

This year my core desired feelings are: Awake, Vibrant and Courageous.

awaken

Awake: This is such a critical one for me that I will be doing a separate post about it soon. I will awaken to my strengths and weaknesses, to my light and my shadow.To what is happening in the world locally, statewide, nationwide and worldwide. No more looking the other way, assuming that I won’t be personally impacted in my own little privileged bubble. I will awaken too what is happening in my body,mind and emotional and energetic bodies at any given moment. I will awaken to what I desire, what I need, what I need to give and what I need to receive. No more walk-in around with my eyes closed, head turned or numbed out to my feeling say what Glennon Doyle Melton calls my “easy buttons.” For me that are wine, sugar, mindless social media, TV, shopping. Awaken to all of who I am, to all of the world has to offer.

Vibrant: Feeling healthy, energetic. Again, not hiding behind my easy buttons. Allowing myself to shine and sparkle and saying no to anything or anyone who tries to dim my brightness.

courage

Image found via Pinterest.

Courage: I love that courage has its root in the word for “heart.” To me, it mean living, acting and moving from the true space of my heart, Speaking up when I need to. Using my voice politically. Writing the truth as I know it, as I experience it. Being uncomfortable or afraid but staying present and taking action anyway—going to new places, making that phone call, having that difficult conversation with someone or myself. It means being what Brené Brown calls “wholehearted.”

I created the image at the top of my core desired feeling to remind me daily of how I want to feel, then every choice I make is filtered through those feelings. I put it as the screen saver on my phone, printed it out and hung it in my office, in my yoga room.

How do you enter the new year? How do you want to feel? Feel free to leave a comment or a link to your post.

Happy New Year!

happy-new-year

Image found via Pinterest.

#MonthofFaves2016 ~ Challenges {The Year End Updates on Reading Challenges, Personal Goals, Resolutions}

amonthoffaveshome

How did you do? Are you going to do more challenges next year?

I started the year with my own personal reading challenge—read five of my own books before I could buy or borrow a new one. It lasted maybe two months. Good intention to read my own damn books, poor follow through.

I ended the year with two other challenges. #MonthofFaves2016 has definitely revived my blog. I feel more connected to it again and I found strategies that will help in the new year which include writing and saving drafts of posts on the weekend to then post during the week. And using the weekend to visit other blogs and connect there.

Two Instagram challenges revived that platform as well. I did a personal Gratitude Challenge for the month of November and I am finishing the year with the “winterwondergram Book Challenge. It’s been been fun creating photos and meeting people this way.

All year I have doing my own version of “Don’t break the Chain.” I filled my dry erase board with 365 boxes and marked an “X” in one for each day that I wrote. I have yet to break the chain. Yay, me! I plan on continuing it into the new year, perhaps making myself a little more accountable by needing to produce 500 words on my current WIP to earn the “X” during the week.

For meditation, I use Insight Timer and it keeps track of the amount of days in a row that I meditate. It is incredibly motivating plus I get to see the thousands of others meditating with me around the world.

Challenges work for me. I like to see the days add up. I like to see the progress. I like to feel the changes manifest as I remain consistent and motivated.

Check out the challenge here. 

 

 

#AMonthofFaves2016  ~ I Love … December

Favorite holiday festivities, favorite ornaments, home decor, places to go, holiday drinks, holiday eats, holiday themed reads

I love to decorate for Christmas. Usually, I wait until after Thanksgiving (one holiday at a time). But this year I needed to bring a little joy into my life so everything was up before my daughters came home from college for Thanksgiving. I’ve been playing Christmas music in the car and in the house all day and night. Already watching some of our favorite Christmas movies. ere are some of my favorite things that bring  me a little more joy to the season:

Favorite Christmas movies:

elf

“I’m a cotton-headed ninny-muggins.”

the-family-stone

“You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.” 

a-christmas-story

“Fra-gee-lay..it must be Italian!”

Favorite Christmas decor:

treasure-box

This is the treasure box I remember from my childhood where I used to keep a picture of Randy Mantooth and other “valuables.” I love that is a family heirloom. It is out year-round but I fill it with ornaments at Christmas.

tryptic

This is something I bought this year because I just kept being drawn back to it in the store. I think I’ll put it in my yoga room after the holidays.

mantle

I love our fireplace mantel!

christmas-birds

These sweet little birds sit on a shelf in our guest bathroom and they make me smile each time I see them.

Favorite gift to give the neighbors:

potpourri

Instead of baking cookies or bread or giving fruit cake or bread, we make these each year. Making sure to save at least one for ourselves because it smells delicious.

Holiday Stove Top Potpourri

1 orange

3-4 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

sprinkle nutmeg

1 T cloves

Quarter the orange.

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan.

Fill pan with water.

Place on the stove on the smallest burner, on the lowest setting.

Refill water as needed.

Favorite Christmas album:

jewel-joy-a-holiday-collection

 

What are favorites things about the holidays? Please share in the comments or link to your post.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves 2016 ~ Keep It! 5 Purchases That Were Totally Worth It

#IRegretNothing  what did you buy this year – big or small – that you love, bought more of, got your monies worth

Well, we (and by “we” I mean my awesome husband) finally ripped up the cat-pee stained carpet in my office and put down dark wood laminate flooring. Best decision ever. We waited so long because it was so much work to take literally everything out of this room including 2 loaded bookcases. But it gave me a chance to thin my collection and now the room smells nice and is spacious and clutter free—leaving more room for all kinds of creativity to swirl around me.

cuisinart-immersion-blender

The second thing I bought is little but I love it. I finally bought an immersion blender and I use it often to make healthy, delicious pureed soups. Just sauté whatever veggies you like, add a combo of spices and some veggie stock/broth. Once the veggies are soft, use the immersion blender to puree it. So yummy!

Check out the challenge here. 

#MonthofFaves ~ 5 Must Haves for Winter Survival 

Shout out your favorite brand or stores or favorite items.

winter-scene

Image found via Pinterest.

My little space heaters are vital in the winter. This one corner of the house where my writing room is on the ground floor and my yoga room above it, are always so much colder than the rest of the house. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is turn on the one in my yoga room, head downstairs to feed our cat and dog, brew a cup of tea, sit in my nook to write my morning pages then head back upstairs to my now warm, cozy yoga room to practice and meditate. Same for my office where I write. I no longer have a laptop at the moment, so I must come in here to write. I light a candle, turn on the heater, have a cozy blanket draped over me and I’m all set.

Cozy blankets are another must-have all winter long. I have them in the family room where we watch TV, in the living room, in my office, in my yoga room.

My teapot gets a lot of use in the winter. Not only does it keep me warm but I find that I eat less junk if I have a cup of tea to sip instead.

I am making an effort to get outside more this winter. My natural inclination is to basically hibernate which just promotes a vicious cycle of lethargy. I bought a pair of thin thermal long underwear and top this year so hopefully that will allow me to venture out to the park near us more frequently. Actually, even once would be more frequent than usual. I also got a membership to Planet Fitness, my theory being that when it is too icy to walk at least I can out of the house and get some exercise.

my-cozy-nook

My nook by the fireplace is by far, the coziest spot in the house. I have a basket next it filled with books, notebooks, pens, mindful coloring books and colored pencils. Light a candle, brew some tea, (or pour a glass of wine) drape a blanket over me and I’m in for the night.

What are your winter must-haves? Please share in the comments or link to your post.

Check out the challenge here. 

#AMonthofFaves201 ~ Reading Outside My Comfort Zone

Surprise Find(s) This Year.

comfort-zone

So, here’s the thing I am realizing—I don’t often venture out of my reading comfort zone. I like the literary stories that I like, the authors I like, the inspiring spiritual stories I like, the memoirs I like, the books about writing that I like.

in 2017, I am going to expand my reading. I am going to venture out of the bubble of my comfort zone. Try genres I usually shy away from (maybe sci-fi, paranormal romance, historical non-fiction, classics) and find authors that aren’t on my amazon suggested list. It’s so easy to become isolated within the things we like, within a community that agrees with everything we believe. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we move beyond those spaces. Books are meant to crack open our world, expand our views but only if we let them, only if we invite them into our lives.

This coming year I am going to do just that.

Check out the challenge here. 

#MonthofFaves2016 ~ #WeekendReading {Picking Favorites} 

Let’s support each other by sharing your favorite post, book, or something else, mentioned on other #AMonthofFaves participant blogs.

~ Tamara of Traveling with T really piqued my interest with her reflection of “All is Not Forgotten” by Wendy Walker.

~ Love the inspiring changes Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves made this year! And I love the graphic in her header:)

~ I really like how Akilah of The Englishist gave herself specific categories of diverse books to read this winter. It’s making me want to get out of my reading comfort zone!

~ Kailana of The Written World motioned using a bullet journal as one of her favorite things. I have pinned some things on bullet journals but have yet to implement them. Maybe that will change in 2017…

~ I absolutely relate to Kristen’s (of We Be Reading) desire to seek solace and joy in books when we are in a difficult and challenging emotional space.

Check out the challenge here.