Enchantment Learning & Living Blog

Welcome to Enchantment Learning & Living, inspirational blog about the simple pleasures, radical self-care, and everyday magic that make life delicious.

Join Me for #TarotTuesdays

This time last year, I was finishing the final manuscript (minus several rounds of edits) of Everyday Enchantments. It marked the beginning fo the end of what had become a six-year project. What followed was a year of editing, blogging, and dreaming about my next writing projects. I could finally return to fiction, my first love, and explore everyday magic in a whole new way. I could also experiment with new writing forms, like the 55-word story format that I'm using for my new EcoErotica series on Instagram, which I kicked off with the piece Seeds

My next project came to me at the end of the school year in a synchronous flash involving the tarot, 55-word stories, and a conversation with the universe.  I love the tarot and have often wanted to learn more about it. My own tarot practice is fairly simple--a basic question, a shuffle of the deck, and a card chosen from the pack. I don't do the elaborate readings or the layouts. As much as I appreciated them, I'd rather leave them to the professional mystics. 

Much of the work I do, on the other hand, is dependent on synchronicity--those meaningful coincidences--and the daily routine that speaks to me through the deck. I have to keep it simple, otherwise, the cards won't speak to me.  Not even my magic will speak to me if I make life too complicated. Believe me, it's an ongoing, ever-evolving art-form for me to learn how to keep things simple!

Another integral part of tarot to me is storytelling...which leads me to the second synchronous event that me to my latest writing project: #TarotTeuesdays on Instagram. I was at my favorite herb store, thinking about how much I wanted to learn more about the most famous tarot deck, the Rider-Waite, and remembering the centuries-old tarot cards I saw at the Morgan Library a few years back when I visited New York. Then I saw it: A Radiant Rider-Waite tarot deck sitting almost out of eyesight on the top of the bookshelf I was perusing. 

It was a sign. Time to learn more about the tarot.  I bought the deck, saged it when I got home and spent the next week getting to know it by repeatedly shuffling through it and examining each card. I decided that I would develop my emerging love of the 55-word story, a fun exercise I often work on with my creative writing students, into a 78-word story for each of the cards in the tarot deck. 78 words for the 78 cards that make up the tarot.

My plan is to draw a new card every Tuesday and write a 78-word story based on its meaning and the synchronicity inherent in each draw of a card.  Although there is no official tarot deck, I'm using the Rider-Waite edition because it is considered one of the oldest and most popular decks. I use another type for my own personal use, which I automatically knew I didn't want to use for this writing project because they are so sacred to me. So I needed a new deck just for the purposes of writing and exploring.  I love that this is the radiant edition because, well, so much of what I write about is bringing light to dark places and nourishing the synchronicities that illuminate our path. This is a cheerful deck, a hopeful collection of cards perfectly in line with the type of magic I seek to conjure.

In short, I'll be writing weekly 78-word stories based on the tarot. I draw a new card every week and let it tell me its story. Look for #TarotTuesdays on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to read them as they are posted each week.

Here's to new writing projects and the meaningful coniencedences that led me to them!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

Sustainability as Spiritual Practice

This year, I’m focusing on building a more sustainable lifestyle by using, wasting, and buying less.  That said, I’ve actually been working on a more eco-friendly path over the past few years and have had a few revelations in the process. As someone who practices a nature-based spirituality, in particular, a cultivation of the divine feminine in all of us, I’ve found that actively become more sustainable is essential to healing the relationship between mother nature and human beings—and our relationship to ourselves.

Think about it: if it’s bad for nature, it’s bad for us.  I’ve come to think of mindless consumption and waste as akin to eating fast food, a substance of little to no nutritional value and made from low quality, dubious ingredients (I’m looking at you, pink slime!). Why would we put something like this into our bodies? It certainly doesn’t nourish us. And if it doesn’t nourish our bodies, it certainly won’t fuel or minds or spirits, all of which are interconnected.  There’s no soul to the food, just like there is no soul to thoughtless waste.

I’ve also found that when I’m most disconnected from myself—overworked, stressed, or around toxic people—I’m equally disconnected from nature and my own natural rhythms. Numbness sets in.  I forget to be mindful. I look to external things for soothing and replenishment, rather than inward.  I spend more money on things I don’t need. I consume more unnecessary products or ignore the wasteful packaging on others because I “really” need something, like takeout or a one-use beauty product, to sooth.

In reality, what I need is to disconnect from the soulless fast-paced lifestyle I’d inadvertently plugged into and reconnect with myself.  When I slow down, I’m better able to care for myself, mind, body, soul—and earth. I can tend my garden and turn my compost. I can relish shopping at my local co-op or farmers market. I can enjoy a healthy home-cooked meal. I can see how my yoga practices return my natural vibrancy better than any store-bought beauty product.  I can dream and hear my own voice. I can speak to the earth and listen to her stories. 

I feel full. Abundant. At one with myself. At one with nature. The deeper I go on this path, the more I remember that the mother nature is infinite in her wisdom. She reminds us not to deplete our valuable resources, both of the land and of the spirit, to cultivate what is healthy, omit what is destructive, and to listen to the natural cycle of our daily lives. 

In short, I’ve found that being eco-conscious is about being conscious. Period.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

5 Ways to Quit Fast Fashion

As part of my year of buying, using, and wasting less, I've given up fast fashion, that seemingly harmless trend built on cheap, trendy clothing from places like H&M that change every season (I mean micro-season) and encourage mindless consumerism.  In truth, I've stopped shopping at those places some time ago because the reality of fast fashion is that the clothes don't last long. They aren't designed to. You're supposed to wear them for one season then throw them out...into landfills. I got tired of throwing away money on super trendy clothes that didn't feel right on my body and weren't truly my style. These things often got donated within the year. The items I kept around were higher quality from niche brands I'd purchased on sale that had a timeless look and made me feel both comfortable and beautiful, the mercurial balance we're forever searching for in our clothing.

So I gave up throwing away my money on clothes that didn't fit or feel right on me. Then I learned more about how truly terrible fast fashion is, and not just because so much of it ends up in landfills. Fash fashion wreaks havoc on the environment, creating terrible water waste (it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, for example). It also pollutes the earth with toxic chemicals used to make bright, colorful patterns. In fact, dyes are the second largest water polluter globally. And order to keep up with the demand of seasonal, disposable pieces, companies exploit cheap labor, so that the women working in these factories don't even earn a living wage.

Perhaps the scariest part of all this is the fact that we don't often see the devastating destruction of fast fashion; many of these factories are in China, Vietnam, and other countries.  If we don't see it, it somehow seems less real and we can pretend that our shopping spree is harmless fun. Naturally, once I learned all this, I lost my taste for retail therapy and just-for-fun shopping.

I'm still learning how to be responsible in my clothing choices, but the more I learn, the more I realize I made a good choice in becoming a green fashionista. It's not only good for the environment but also my wallet.  I've also found that I self-sooth in different ways. I'm no longer looking for the perfect purse to ease stress, but a long walk or good book instead. If you too are working towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe, check out my five tips for quitting fast fashion below.

1. Use what you have. This is the easy one. Too often we look in the closet and say, "I have nothing to wear!" In reality, our closets are stuffed with clothes we hardly wear. Get creative. Enjoy the things you've purchased. And be honest with yourself: If you've never worn that one dress you keep thinking you will one day like, donate it. Clean your closet of anything you haven't worn in a year and then DON'T BUY MORE CLOTHES. You'll be surprised how often we buy more things and really only wear a few staples.

2. Buy less, but better. Make it hurt a little.  When I do buy something new, I save up, aiming for quality over quantity. I want shoes and clothes that will last forever, or close to it, rather than things that will fall apart by the end of the season. I try to buy local, or USA-made, and sustainable when possible. I take all the money I would have spent of fast fashion splurges and set it aside for when I need to invest in a quality item. 

3. Shop vintage and secondhand stores.  There are still times when I do need to purchase a new something or other, so lately I've been going to vintage and second-hand stores.  I find cool pieces at great prices.  This also appeals to the fashionista in me who likes vintage-inspired styles and funky one-of-a-kind items. 

4. Take good care what you have.  I wash most of my clothes on the delicates cycle and either hang dry them or put them on little to no heat in the dryer. This extends the life of your clothes exponentially.  I also mend and repair my clothes and shoes.  I find that I truly love the staples I have and want to enjoy wearing them. 

5. Wait ten days...and then see if you still want that dress. I can't tell you how much this one rule has helped me curbed my impulses to stress shop. Retail therapy is real, and it feels good when you buy something that makes you feel pretty, polished, or playful...for about five minutes. Then you realize you didn't really need another dress and that you would have rather saved that money. Now I use the ten-day rule. If I spy something online or in a store and fall in love with it, I give it ten days before deciding to buy it. The truth is that in a few days, I'm no longer thinking about that outfit I had to have. In fact, I usually end up going home and seeing how many clothes I have in my closet and am grateful that I didn't buy another thing to get lost in there. Bonus: my wallet feels pretty happy too!

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

5 Easy Ways to Conserve Water

Water conservation is an important practice when it comes to fighting climate change. We can no longer deny that we waste a significant amount of this non-renewable resource, especially in light of the Cape Town water crisis.  So much of water waste stems from our mindless consumerism--we take what we want without any thought as to how it impacts the environment. 

We waste 1.7 trillion gallons of water every year simply because we don't treat it like the precious resource that it is. It seems ironic that we would waste so much water in light of the severe droughts much of the country is facing. Clearly, we need to rethink our relationship with our natural resources!

The good news is that with a little effort and more mindfulness, we can stop water waste and develop a more sustainable way of living. Below are five easy ways to conserve water.

1. Stop buying fast fashion. It not only takes a significant amount of water to produce cheap, disposable clothes but many of the toxic dyes used in their production go on to pollute our waters. Don't enable irresponsible environmental practices or the businesses that profit from them.

2. Reuse your water. I keep a large bowl in my sink to collect the water I used to rinse off my dishes and use it to water my plants. As an apartment dweller, it's an easy way to make sure I'm limiting water waste. If I had my own home, I'd set money aside to invest in one of the many increasingly affordable greywater systems that enable you to reuse "dirty" water from your kitchen, bathroom, and washing room, in your garden. While you wouldn't want to drink this water, it is perfect for nourishing your plants.

3. SImply use less.  Since I've become more eco-conscious, I've lost my love of a good long bubble bath. I still take them once in a while, usually on a cold wintery day, when I know I can really soak and enjoy it. But indulging regularly, particularly knowing that my native desert is suffering from a terrible drought, has lost its appeal and healing factor for me. I've found other ways to unwind at the end of the day, like tending my garden or doing yoga.  I also take shorter showers and turn the water off while I shave and soap down. Put in low-flow showerheads while you're at it and only use the washer when you have a full load of clothes. These are all easy ways to reduce our water consumption. All it takes is a little extra mindfulness and we can have a huge positive environmental impact. 

4. Fix house leaks and make sure all household appliances are water efficient. Again, a little leak is something that seems like no big deal, but in reality, you are wasting gallons of fresh water. Regularly check your faucets, pipes, and appliances to make sure they are in working order. It's a good idea to purchase only water-efficient appliances as well. As with all things eco-friendly, this helps not just the environment, but your bank account as well. 

5. Don't leave the water running! This is a super easy one, but one that is so often overlooked. Don't leave the faucet on while you brush your teeth or rinse the dishes. Wet your toothbrush, brush, and then quickly rinse.  The faucet doesn't need to be on while you care for your pearly whites. Same goes for dishwashing. I like to stack the ready-to-be-rinsed dishes on one side of the sink and quickly rinse them at one time with the faucet on low. You'd be surprised how much water this saves!

How do you conserve water?

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

Spring Clean Your Mind, Body, Soul

Spring is almost here. I can feel it in the way my skin itches to be kissed by the thin gold strands of sunlight or in the tightening excitement in the pit of my belly when I realize it is almost 7pm...and still light out. I might just get to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset on my patio. Most of all, however, I can feel spring in the way I seem to shake off my intense wintery introversion (most of it, anyway) like I would a fleece jacket. I find myself longing for adventures, new experiences, and friendly visits to old haunts. 

Spring ushers in its own invigorating and rejuvenating energy, and with that, a desire to clean. I am a big proponent of cleaning as a form of cleansing. Stressed? Scrub down your bathtub. Overworked? Do laundry. Seriously! It's a great way to practice self-care without having to think too hard about what you're doing. Unable to focus on that next page needing to be written? Dust--sweep--vacuum--hell, reorganize that junk drawer. Then the answers come. Cleaning, in other words, has become my oracle or crystal ball of wellness. Somewhere between hanging clothes to dry and washing those floors, wisdom is found. You're not thinking so hard so you can actually listen to yourself...which is all by way of saying that come spring, I am all about spring cleaning!

It's a great opportunity to dust off the cobwebs from your window sills and thoughts. Lately, I've been marinating on that old witchy-hippy-new-age adage, "as within, so without," which basically says what's going inside your mind, body, and soul, is mirrored in your day-to-day external life. While I believe in this concept on a number of levels, it seems particularly true when it comes to spring cleaning. If my house is messy, my mind is in disarray. If I don't have time to water my plants, my soul becomes parched. If I can't dance to salsa and merengue music while clearing out the dishwasher, my body aches.

So while you plan your own spring cleaning routine for your home, consider adding a little tune-up for your mind, body, and soul. We could all use a little a cleaning and rebooting at the start of each new season, most especially come spring, the time of renewal, rebirth, and new possibilities. 

Spring Cleaning the Mind

To spring clean your mind, first check in with your thoughts. What dust and debris have settled in the corners of your mind? 

Lately, I've become more aware of the old negative patterns I've allowed my mind to fall back into like stressing about things I have no control over in the middle of the night, operating from a flight-or-fight response in mundane happenings, or negative self-talk that can slip in when I'm overworked (overwork being a bad habit in and of itself, one I am still getting better at curbing).

These things serve no purpose. In fact, they are remnants of a time when I wasn't very good at taking care of myself, a time when I was strictly surviving rather than living. Still, I find I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that I am no longer the overworked graduate student (yes, even after five years of being on the other side of it all!), but an empowered writer and educator who has the time, resources, and intention to live well

Once you've found the old habits and dirty corners in your mind, clean them up, dust them off, and say goodbye to those worn and ugly things.

This spring, I'm making a point of letting these things go, both internally and externally. I'm making a conscious effort to stop negative thoughts before they fully manifest. I'm getting rid of old notebooks full of graduate school work I will never look at again and saying goodbye to the straight-laced clothes of a young woman desperate to keep her head above water and hold her own in her profession. I'm acknowledging unhealthy habits (constantly apologizing for no reason, for example) and decluttering my home of things that don't bring me joy. I'm allowing myself to be more. More of what, I can't yet say. All I know is that in decluttering my home of past selves and my mind of old habits, I create space for this new energy. I set my intention for a healthy way of thinking, being. I manifest positive energy.

How will you spring clean your mind?

Spring Cleaning Your Body

To spring clean your mind, listen to your body. Its aches and pains and the things that make it feel delicious.

I love being up before the sun, enjoying a few stolen hours of exercise, yoga, or mediation before the rest of the world is awake. I like time to see the morning stars before the sun eclipses their sparkle and time to kiss the moon goodnight before she descends into the mesa's embrace. 

Then winter hits. And it kinda hurts to be outside when it is so cold and dark out. And you're super tired because...life happened. We've all been there. In my case, quite recently. Sleeping in becomes routine, healthy habits slip away in favor of extra time hugging that pillow or flopping in front of the TV screen and mindlessly eating. Once you fall into this stasis it can be a habit that is So. Hard. To. Break.

But spring is the perfect time to revive your wellness practice. Clear your fridge and pantry of unhealthy tempting nibbles, reboot your healthy diet, and get back to the yoga mat, exercise regimen--all of it. 

Remind yourself that when your body feels good, so does everything else.

It sounds corny, but when I workout, do yoga and eat right, I'm happier, less stressed, and feel, for lack of a better word, juicy. My energy is clean and abundant, not thin and gray. So I'm starting slowly, getting back on track with simple goals like finding new fun and healthy recipes to cook, and upping my exercise a little each week to get back to my 5-6 days of exercise a week. I'm even working on being more active around the office, reviving my quick walks around the campus and stopping for energy-boosting tea breaks. I also make it a point not to beat up on myself if I slip up here and there (which goes back to letting go of negative self-talk for my mental spring cleaning). Life happens. What matters is that I'm taking care of myself and making progress. All these little baby steps are bringing me back to a feel-good body and a feel good-life.

How will you spring clean your body?

Spring Cleaning Your Soul

Collect, nourish, tend your soul seeds.

This is perhaps the most ephemeral aspect of the mind-body-soul wellness trifecta. After all, how do you explain the utter excitement of knowing you get to spend a quiet weekend at home after a week of intense extroversion?  How do you describe the little thrill you get when you settle in to start a new book or what a sweet soothing balm it is to see a bouquet of daffodils on your nightstand?

Nourishing your soul is as much about a solid wellness routine as it is about consciously removing toxicity from your life, be it in the form of people, old selves, or negative spaces. But once you've made the necessary changes to your lifestyle--welcoming in the abundant and letting go of the stifling--your next task is to discover what it means to greet the day with joy, with fullness in your heart, with the awareness that you are connected to your Eros Energy.

One easy way to do that? Treat simple pleasures as sacred. Seriously. The perfect cup of tea from your favorite mug isn't just an afternoon pick-me-up, it's a healing potion.  The beeswax candles you light at night aren't just a nice touch to the dinner table, but an expression of the luminous softness you hope to bring to the end of the day. So relish these moments, and be willing to discover new pleasures.

One of the things that can be most difficult when we spring clean our soul, is remembering to actively cultivate and seek out things that bring us bliss after we remove the stagnant energies that have built up over time...which brings us back to our soul seeds, those clear intentions for better living that we plant in the hopes of cultivating our private Edens. 

Maybe it's mediation. Maybe it's reading trashy novels. (For me, it's kind of both!) Or taking a long walk in nature. Or making homemade pasta on a Sunday night...or another of simple pleasure you have yet to taste. What matters is that you make a conscious effort to find and nourish what makes you happy. Stay playful and stay curious. You'll be surprised what delightful things come your way and how full your soul feels when you give it time to just be.

What are your sacred simple pleasures?

Happy spring cleaning!

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

Soul Seeds

While writing my past few blogs, I’ve found myself coming back to one phrase: soul seeds.

I have no idea where this phrase came from or when it first appeared on my blogs, let alone how long it has been secretly burrowed in my unconscious. It is safe to say, however, that this phrase—this seed—was ready to sprout, grow, bloom at the start of the year. I wrote about harvesting soul seeds in my post on Imbolc, speaking about the importance of collecting dreams, thoughts, hopes, and intentions as you would seeds to plant later in the spring. This term came up again in Welcoming in Eros Energy and was likewise used there to explore the intentions and inspirations we must cultivate in order to reignite our zest for life.

Hmmm….so soul seeds are kernels of wisdom and insights that help us grow, flourish, and tend our inner landscape. And with enough tending, that internal world will speak to us, as mine did when soul seeds popped into my vocabulary. 

And yet, haven’t I been talking about soul seeds all along, every time I mention seeds or thoughts? Every time I write of releasing negative energy and nourishing the transformative? Haven’t I once referred to myself as a seed or even full of seeds waiting to burst open and experience their potential? My blog and stories are pepped with the wisdom of growing things. Only now, I have a phrase for the exquisite experience of holding sheer possibility in your palm.

So here’s something to consider planting in fertile ground, as the sun warms the earth, and winter turns to spring: your soul seeds. Your whispers of inspiration. Your hopes for the future. The small daily changes that improve the quality of your life. The unvoiced longings and the spoken desires. Plant them in your heart. Plant them in your garden. Swallow them. Or cover them in soil. Water them or hold them in your belly.

Let them sprout when they are ready. Let them sing to you in their own time, there own way, and when you are open enough to listen. Let them surprise you with these morsels of insight. Let yourself hold these seeds and cast them to the wind and find a crack of concrete or a narrow gap in your ribcage to make their home in.

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

A Year of Using, Wasting, & Buying Less

Regular readers of my blog know that I actively work on making my life more eco-conscious.  Sustainability is an integral part of my self-care routine because let’s face it, if it’s bad for the earth, it’s bad for me and vice versa. I also find that I need the deep connection to nature in order to feel whole as a person in the same way I need my daily writing or yoga practice. 

This year, I feel an even greater urgency to fight climate change, especially in the face of threats to our national monuments, renewed fracking and offshore drilling, and other concerning news. If we continue taxing the earth’s resources, the cacao plant will be extinct in 40 years; the ocean will have more plastic in it than marine life by 2050; and, because of rising temperature, plant and animal species, and the delicate ecosystems in which they thrive, will be extinct. Worse still, the United States is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Why? Because we waste a significant amount of resources including energy and water in order to keep up with our mindless consumerism. 

However, there is a silver lining in all of this: We have the power to reverse climate change. That is why this year, my goal is to use, waste, and buy less in an effort to promote an actively sustainable lifestyle. And while many people think being sustainable is hard, it really isn’t. All it requires is a mentality shift away from what we consider to be the norm. Plastic bags at the grocery store can easily be reused for future trips or swapped out entirely with reusable produce and grocery bags. Plastic water bottles (one of the most wasteful products out there) can be replaced with a reusable bottle. Even curbing impulse purchases (hello retail therapy!) can become a way for us to save money and consider what we really need in life (hint: it’s not that one use item covered in plastic wrap).

In order to become more sustainable, I’ve had to be incredibly honest with myself about what I need, what I want (which might not always be healthy for me or the environment), and what I can do to more aggressively combat climate change. So far the results have been illuminating. My life is less cluttered, I enjoy what I have more, and I’m more thoughtful about where my money is going.

So how will I measure my success? Here’s my plan:

1. Use Less:  Everyday I make about four cups of coffee, but only ever drink two. Sure, I water my plants with the leftovers but soon realized it simply makes sense to just make less coffee. That basic principle behind using less extends to electricity, water, and other resources. A few years ago, I began using power strips for all my electronics and turning them off every time I wasn’t using said electronic. This prevents “vampire energy” or the sapping of energy that continues even when a device is off. It saves energy—and money—as does keep the heater a few degrees lower. These simple changes, among other things, help reduce the overall consumption of valuable resources and take very little time and attention to change. In short, I plan to be more thoughtful about what I can actually consume, from food to electricity and beyond, to limit waste. Which leads me to my second goal...

2. Waste Less: Regular readers of my blog know that I hate one-use items. They are costly to make and often end up in the trash which ends up in the landfill or worse. I also hate plastic. It is one of the primary products that harm the planet, especially the oceans where much of it ends up. My aim here is not just to recycle and compost, but to buy products with little to no packaging to begin with. I’ll also mend, repair and otherwise make-do with what I have rather than throwing things out and buying quickie replacements. This also means using the plastics I do have rather than throwing them out. The better care I take of the things I have, the longer they last and the less I throw out. The less trash and recycling I have, the better.  

3. Buy Less: One of the best ways to fight climate change is to not buy products in the first place. Mindless consumerism asks us to buy! buy! buy! often when we don’t really need a specific product. So for this goal, I’m going to reduce impulse purchases by waiting a few days before actually buying something I see and like. I’ve already started on this one and found that I almost never end up buying once coveted items after waiting a few days. When I do have to buy things, I want to strive to keep it local and, if that isn’t possible, as sustainable as possible. (There are, naturally, a few things I'm going to exclude from this buy-less agenda, namely ebooks, which, in themselves are more eco-friendly than their hardcopy counterparts. I can't live without stories!) As I’ve been practicing this buy-less mentality, I find it has transformed my life. I make an effort to go to the farmers market and my local co-op, buy any necessary clothes or furniture at second-hand and vintage stores, and, when I do want to treat myself, I invest in experiences rather than items. This has lead to a richer experience where I’ve gotten to know my community more and truly enjoy and use what I do purchase. 

So those are my goals for the year, along with continuing to educate myself and others on ways to fight climate change.  How do you fight climate change? 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

5 Things I Learned in My Year of Radical Self-Care

As I look back on my year of radical self-care, I find that I've learned several important things about taking care of myself. It wasn't always easy and, in truth, I wasn't consistently great about maintaining my radical self-care goals. Why? Life happened. Real talk here: thinking about self-care and actively, aggressively cultivating it in the midst of tending to work, family life, and the inevitable curve balls the universe sends your way are two VERY different things. All in all, I've found that it's worth putting in the time and effort to building a healthier lifestyle; and even when I'd gotten off track (hello overwork!), I learned more about the importance of setting boundaries and letting go of things that don't enhance my overall happiness.  Although my year of radical self-care is now at an end, I plan to take the following lessons into the new year so that I can continue to develop my wellness routine. 

1. Self-care is hard work. When we think of self-care, we think about lighting scented candles and wrapping ourselves in fuzzy blankets for an afternoon of relaxation. And yes, sometimes self-care does look like that.  But more often than not, self-care is hard work involving a lot of adulting.  It means getting up before the sun to workout because you know that is the only time you can reliably exercise.  It means eating more greens and limiting sugar and carbs.  Most of all, self-care is about putting yourself first in a world that romanticizes overwork and overextension: a difficult thing to learn how to do if you are used to people pleasing...which leads me to lesson number two:

2. No is a two-letter word for happiness. Seriously, I've had to learn to say no. A lot. It was hard at first because I didn't want to let people down and, frankly, I just get really excited about things and tend to overcommit.  Then I realize that I am no use to anyone when I'm overworked. Worse, my self-care routine goes out the window due to lack of sleep, time, energy--you name it.  It's hard to see the magic of everyday life when you're overextended.  So I started turning down projects I knew I didn't have time for.  I scaled back on social commitments to give myself more time to be quiet (a necessity for an introvert like me).  I even gave myself more writing breaks so I could replenish myself through reading and daydreaming.  I found, through all of this, that a part of me is addicted to being busy and I've had to learn what it means to enjoy a full, healthy life without inviting in the frantic energy synonymous with that four-letter B-word.

3. I can't do it alone.  I started the year strong.  I would come home from work and hit the yoga mat or take a long walk, determined to get back on a regular exercise routine.  Then midsemester hit.  The days got a little longer, just like the housekeeping to-do list that kept me from my afternoon workout.  I quickly realized that I needed a space to workout that was separate from office or home, a place to focus on my wellness journey and surround myself with people just as invested in their own health.  So I joined a boutique gym (Rebel Workout for those of you in Albuquerque).  It was life changing!  Exercising got easier when I had a place I looked forward to going to every morning to see people who were cultivating similar self-care routines.  I was meeting fitness goals at a better rate, healing old injuries, and enjoying being around positive people who supported one another's growth.  It made me realize how essential it is to be around like-minded wellness-conscious people.  

4. It's addictive.  I love exercising and eating well.  I love having quiet time at home to read by candlelight.  I love finishing my days with a few yoga poses.  I enjoy my life more and stress less about the little things.  I have more energy and a playful spirit.  I delight in my routine again.  It is no longer an endless to-do list, but a delicious ritual that keeps the magic flowing...as long as I stick to my self-care routine!

5. The definition of self-care is always evolving.  Part of keeping the magic flowing is growing into new ways of tending yourself and those you love.  The deeper I go into self-care, the more I let go of energies that no longer serve me and embrace the healthy things that do.  The more open I am to my self-care journey--and it is a journey, with many ups and downs--the more I am able to find a deeper way of living.

So that's what I learned this past year of radical self-care.  What have you learned about self-care?

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

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5 Ways to Make Self-Care a Priority During the Holidays

As I wrap up my year of radical self-care, I find myself needing to recommit to those important practices I started last new year.  In fact, it feels even more important to nurture wellness during the holiday season.  Let's face it, sometimes life gets busy and it is tempting to let self-care rituals get put on the back burner while we take care of business. The holidays can magnify this with the increased demands to socialize, consume, and otherwise do more. 

Don't get me wrong--I'm not a grinch! But I do think the dark side of the holidays is a sense of enforced cheer and manic consumerism. Think about all the times you are asked to buy more, commit to one more social activity, or overwork to get things done by the end of the year. Wouldn't it be great if we allowed ourselves to do less this season--and all year round?

And while things are merry and bright this time of year, there is also the shadow side of the solstice that asks us to turn inward and recharge for the new year: a facet of the holiday that often gets overlooked.  At its best, this time of year is about celebrating the abundance around us and celebrating the renewal of light on the darkest day of the year; at worst, it can numb us out with overstimulation.  By turning back to our self-care needs, we can better enjoy the season and all it has to offer.  In honor of this, I give you five ways to make-self-care a priority this month.

1. Buy less.  The holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, aren't about things or buying more stuff.  They are about enjoying time with the ones you love and appreciating the fruits of your labor.  My family and I decided a while ago not to stress about buying people gifts and instead often give homemade treats, thoughtful tokens, and generally focus on good food and good cheer. We also avoid going out on Black Friday aka Manic Consumerism Day and instead promote Buy Nothing Day

Buying less is not only more environmentally and economically friendly, but also a great way to remove yourself from the fray of frantic shoppers. Take time to make your own gifts, if you have a crafty side, or buy local to support small businesses. Your neighborhood shops will have unique gift options in a more relaxed atmosphere conducive to a low and slow weekend afternoon of gift hunting.  Any way you do it, give yourself permission to buy less and invest more time in relishing the simple pleasures of the season.  It's where the magic is at.

2. Embrace hygge.  This Danish word for coziness is the perfect term for this time of year.  Light candles.  Enjoy a quiet night by the fireside. Cook a hearty healthy meal. Remember that some of the most joyful times of the season are the quietest. My fondest solstice memories are those where I literally did nothing: gazed into the fire, sipped a cup of homemade holiday chai, took a nap on the couch.  It's rare that we get this kind of time to rest, so why not make it a priority this season?

3. Pencil in quiet time.  I love a good party and this season can make a get-together even more festive with glittery lights, fizzy drinks, and bright spirits all around. But I always make sure to leave some time for me.  A lot of time.  I need quiet as an introvert, time to unwind and space to lollygag, otherwise I never completely recharge.  This season, give yourself permission to say no to social engagements.  Block out an afternoon that's just for you.  Gift yourself an evening at home doing nothing in particular.  Give yourself lots of these things, often and with wild abandon.

4. Feel what you need to feel.  Let's be real: the holidays can be utterly and completely sentimental and the Norman Rockwellesque depictions of heavenly happiness can be overwhelming...especially if you don't enjoy the holidays much yourself or have bad holiday memories.  Even if you do enjoy the season, you don't have to be merry and bright 24/7. .Just be honest with yourself about what you are feeling.  The solstice is about honoring the sun on the darkest night of the year, embracing the shadows as well as the light.

5. Stick to your self-care routine...including working out and eating right.  This is perhaps the hardest, and most important, tip of all.  I'm not saying give up your holiday treats, just make sure you carve out time for healthy meals and solid exercise.  And don't get down on yourself for indulging, either.  Enjoy yourself!  But in a season that can feel overwhelming in its excess (more of that consumption for the sake of consumption), your self-care routine can be a delicious luxury that keeps you connected to yourself. It also prevents mindless overindulgence where you consume food and drink without thought or appreciation. Feast and be merry, then take a long walk in nature or sink into a quiet evening yoga with festive twinkle lights as a soothing background to your flow.

Remember that this season is about winter, about following the patterns of nature, including moving into a more introverted state while the land rests.  We can find joy in the simple delights of the season that help us tune into the everyday magic around us. So this year, instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of high consumerism, opt instead for a genuinely relaxing and festive holiday focused on renewal.

How do you make sure that you keep your self-care routine during this busy season?  However you do it, I hope your season is full of much rest, relaxation, and love. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

5 Ways to Nourish the Goddess Within

These past few weeks have been filled with a series of synchronicities that have reminded me of the importance of self-care.  The first thing that happened was that after an amazing (and incredibly busy) first week back teaching, I started the long weekend feeling under the weather.  I had every intention of doing all the things from attending wine festivals to dancing late into the night, to any other shenanigans that came my way.  But I had only just been saying, in light of my fuller-than-usual schedule this term, that I needed to be sure to make self-care a priority.  It seemed life took over so that I had to follow through with my statement.  There was no doubt about it--I felt a cold coming on and the only thing I could do was rest and relax until it went away.  I literally had no choice but to take care of myself!

So I rested.  And I took long naps and did gentle yogas and drank copious amounts of tea.  And it was...delicious.  It was three whole days of cooking healthy meals inspired by farmers' market finds and indulging in afternoons reading my trashy books.  It made me realize how little attention I had been paying to my internal life.  With all the excitement a new school year brings and the enjoyment of my extroverted new literacies I'd been cultivating, I'd neglected to nourish my yin energy.  

...and then the universe kept speaking to me in synchronous code. 

The first synchronous event came when I learned that the first Sunday of September was World Goddess Day.  Trust me.  It's a thing. The more I read about it, the more I loved the idea of devoting the day to goddess energy so as to cultivate it year round.  In such a male-centric society that values extroversion, logic, and concrete accomplishments, goddess energy reminds us of the equally important need to nourish introversion and tend our emotional and psychic lives.

The unfolding work weeks were spent in equal measures of sleep and homey nourishment simply because I had no energy for anything else.  During this dormant time, a funny thing started to happen.  I was seeing goddess wisdom everywhere.  In my newsfeed.  On TV.  In books.  Even in my tarot deck.  She was everywhere.  I began to think the universe was trying to tell me something.  I was being reminded of the power of the feminine, the power of quiet and simple pleasures, the power of home as medicine.  Such is the way of synchronicity.  

After I tuned back into my own magic, I realized that it is too easy to forget to care for ourselves, too easy to lose track of the big picture as we navigate our day to day, too easy to dismiss pleasurable things as unimportant.  We all have things we have to get done, after all.  But the Goddess Within reminds us that we can be a boss in our outer daily lives and still nourish our internal lives.  I needed tender things these past few weeks, gentle things and beautiful things to restore myself.  I needed to read fun books and lighten my energy.  And I needed to imbue my home with the delicious essence of divinely beautiful living.  

So who is the Goddess Within?  She is the one who rises above the daily debris that might weigh us down--she sees the big picture of life so we don't get stuck on the small mundanities. She is sensuous and beautiful, at home in her body. She loves to indulge in the pleasures of life. She doesn't hesitate to care for herself--as we so often can in the world that seems to demand more and more of us. She is at home with her emotions and the psychic world. In short, she is pure magic.

Now that I'm no longer sick, I want to maintain the blissful feelings of goddess-inspired self-care--minus the scratchy throat.  I've found that there are five easy ways to nourish the Goddess Within, even when life might seem hectic.  Find her and love her with these tips:

1. Invite the goddesses into your home.  As you know, I'm a huge proponent making a home a sanctuary, not just a place to crash at the end of the day.  One of my favorite decor books, The Goddess Home Style Guide, reminds us of the power of invoking the archetypal forces of goddesses like Aphrodite, Athena, and Demeter as you decorate your space.  Take Aphrodite's lead and make your bedroom a sensuous space for dreaming and delighting.  Make your bathroom reflect the sea-kissed shores she was birthed from.  Allow Demeter to fill your kitchen with the harvest's abundance, and Athena to make your writing desk a celebration of imagination and intellectual curiosity. The more you cultivate goddess wisdom within your space, the more you feel inspired to make each act within those spaces deliberate and joyful.

2. Love your body.  Each curve, each scar, each freckle.  Love it all.  And treat it right.  Exercise and do yoga and wear clothes that fit well.  Enjoy the sensuous pleasures of satin jammies. Slather it in body butter and soak your locks in honey. We are inundated with images of airbrushed bodies on magazines and other media about how to reshape ourselves into an ideal form of beauty; it's important to remember that healthy and happy override a certain dress size.  I mean look at Botticelli's Aphrodite: big hips, small breasts, round belly.  Hardly fulfilling today's beauty ideals, but she's THE GODDESS OF LOVE.  Take your cues from her and recognize that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes. 

3.  Protect your you time.  The Goddess Within is tender and playful, sure, but she's a warrior too. It can be hard to say no or be done working for the day.  We live in a culture that can slowly start demanding more and more of us.  As women especially, we can struggle to draw important boundaries that lead to a more balanced life.  So invoke the warrior!  Say no to things.  Carve out space for what brings you joy and get comfortable establishing limits.  Loving the Goddess Within doesn't mean your energy is limitless, it means that you know how to replenish yourself and create space for simply being.

4.  Stay connected to everyday magic. Okay, so this one is probably a no-brainer considering I pretty much write about everyday magic ALL THE TIME.  But even as I write about it and firmly believe in its power, I can still sometimes find myself disconnected from it.  And when I am, the world is a lot less wondrous, and a lot more gray.  The disconnection happens when I'm overly tired and get a little numb, hence the gray.  I've found that creating more space in my day to breathe and focus on being receptive to the beautiful things around me--like the synchronicities that lead me back to my magic--goes a long way to keeping my magic strong.  Remember there is more to this world than checklists and schedules. 

5.  Make every routine a ritual.  You're tired.  You want to put on some pajamas and veg out in front of the TV, but there's laundry to do and dinner to cook.  Celebrate those chores, rather than dread them by turning them into rituals that help you unplug from your workday and reconnect with yourself.  So I have to turn my compost--good.  Dirt in my fingernails grounds me and feeding the worms connects me to nature.  So I don't know what to cook for dinner--I'll start with sauteeing an onion and let my farm fresh ingredients speak to me.  Taking the extra time to cook a healthy meal allows me to nourish my whole being and enjoy the sensuousness of sauteeing vegetables.  It allows me to slow down and reconnect to the deliciousness that is life.  Throw in a jazz record and a glass of wine, and you've got the makings of a divine evening.

...and I'll leave you with one last bonus tip for nourishing the Goddess Within, she who is abundant and powerful and infinite in her joy: leave time to dream.  Dreams, after all, are seeds that eventually sprout.  

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday fantasy, and absolutely delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

A Summer of New Literacies

The glories of summer are fading into the delicious settledness of fall.  School is starting.  The harvest season is upon us.  A regular routine is taking the place of those seemingly long unstructured hours of summer (though granted, my summer hours were still fairly structured since I happily taught for most of it).  Yet I still feel pretty adventurous and ready to ease into a full course load while continuing to carve out time for fun, play, and the little things that make life, well, lively!

Why?  I'll let you in on a little secret: this summer was my summer of new literacies.  Spring was the season of epiphanies, as it so often is.  An extra-full workload made me realize that there is such a thing as loving your routine too much.  I know!  This coming from the woman who champions her routines as rituals, but hear me out.  

I had a short break from springs semester before diving into summer and in that space, I realized something: all the adventures I wanted to have and all the things I wanted to try ended up getting shoved aside in an attempt to get stuff done.  And when I did have down time, I devoted it to the introverted hobbies that nourished me--not a bad thing in and of itself, mind you, it's just that my comfort zone became...too, well, comfortable to the point of feeling suffocating.  I needed to dust off the stagnant energy and remember what it was like to play.

And so I played.  I was inspired by Shonda Rhimes's Year of Yes which tracks the year she said yes to everything that scared her.  I, too, took the summer to say yes to things outside my comfort zone, with one caveat: they had to bring me joy, pleasure, excitement--all the things we think of when we think of summer.  Now that didn't mean I wasn't afraid or nervous when I tried new things; it just meant that my interest in them outweighed my skittishness.  I also allowed myself to say no to things that did not inspire me.  I'm a woman who loves the power of her no as much as her yes.  Saying no to one thing allows you the space to say yes to another, often something you are far more excited about.  And if something didn't end up being as fun as I'd hoped, that was okay too.  What was important was that I tried something new and allowed myself to experience life outside of my work.

I'd come to think of this experiment as developing new literacies.  I was fluent in books and stories, family life and introvert life.  But what other languages might I learn?  What other ways to communicate?  It was hard at first. So. So. Hard.  Like trying to rebuild shoulder strength after an injury when you can barely remember you have shoulder muscles (this was part of my summer plan too: heal thy shoulder, heal thyself). Or like when I studied French and could never quite wrap my mouth around nasaly consonants and reedy vowels, let alone remember how to spell the words that didn't always pronounce certain letters.  But even in the midst of the struggle, I also found myself looking forward to saying yes and yes and yes to more and more things. 

The results: I found myself dreaming more and acting on those dreams.  I took different dance classes and tried new workouts, I went on weekly adventures and challenged myself to shake up my routine.  I took better care of myself and found that in making time for fun things, I felt happier, healthier, and surprisingly more productive when I wasn't just teaching and writing all the time.  An important revelation during my year of radical self-care.

I also had to become more aware of how I think of myself.  Let's face it: words are my safe space. I'm a writer and a teacher and an introvert, confident in those identities.  But who was I beyond that?  A dancer, as it turns out.  And a lover of cucumber beer after yoga with friends and a farmers' market lush who has to have her shot of freshly pressed wheatgrass before she can even think about filling her bag with produce.  I'd found I was someone who liked TRX (although, let's be real, is still very much learning how to do it!).  And I was someone who looked forward to dancing to the gods and goddesses in her Afro-Cuban Folkloric class and spending Sunday night at a baseball game.  

I even dusted off my bike--in storage for over ten years--and started riding it again.  It was like remembering an old part of myself, reviving that dormant piece, fearless in her joy, with a little bit of light and air and relaxation--and a super sore body after that first trip out!  I painted and drank wine.  I took mini road trips so that I could remember what it was like to cruise across open land. I allowed myself to take in theater performances and nourish the relationships that make my life richer.  I let myself relearn the pleasure of not being an expert, not know what I'm doing, letting go of the need to always be productive.

I even found grace and enjoyment from the uncertainty and inevitable social anxiety that comes from exposing yourself to new things.  It meant I was outside my comfort zone and that was a very, very good thing.  Most of all, I found how important it is for me to cultivate the daily adventures that shake up my routine and relish the company of other wild and wonderful dreamers, livers, and adventurers.  Now that the summer is almost over, I find I have developed a new literacy: bravery.  I am no longer afraid to taste new things, to learn new languages, to experience the world one yes at a time.  And the cucumber beer? Trust me.  It's a thing.  And it's delicious. 

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Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday fantasy, and absolutely delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

Want even more inspiration to make your dream life a reality?  Follow me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.  Thanks for following!

Reading Romances: 10 Life Lessons I've Learned from Reading Trashy Novels

Confession:  I am addicted--and I mean ADDICTED--to trashy book covers.  Vintage pulp.  Over-the-top fantasy.  Macho westerns.  And of course, most especially, romance novels.  Those covers are a particular weakness with their half-naked heroes with rock-hard abs and the heroines with uncooperative dresses that practically fall from their bodies.  The lusty gazes.  The idyllic background.  It all promises, well...you know.  And if there's a lusty pirate on the cover, I'm done for (what can I say? I love a good story about swash-buckling social transgression!).

I've been collecting trashy book covers for as long as I can remember.  But it hasn't been until recently that I've started reading romance books in earnest, thanks to my new addiction, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which has guided me through the delicious world of these novels.  Don't get me wrong, I've read plenty of paranormal stories, cozy mysteries, and fantasies with strong romantic elements, and studied courtship novels almost exclusively while earning my degree...but I'd never fully immersed myself in this genre.  

Sure I've read Nora Roberts here and there or thumbed through the books I'd bought for their covers, but I hadn't completely committed to the romance. One of the big reasons is that I found it so overwhelming!  There are so many books and so many authors, I didn't know where to start. And (she says shamefully), there was the whole romance novel stigma.  You know, the whole, "you read THAT?!"  Why yes, yes I do.

And love every minute of it.  I've become partial to historical romances.  They are, as Sara Wendell from Smart Bitches would say, my catnip.  One of the reasons I've fallen in love with the genre is that it is about hope and all the soft, gushy feelings our society doesn't value in the way it should. Naturally, I would turn to this genre during my year of radical self-care because it reminds me how powerful pleasure is.  

This is also a genre of reinvention (these stories have come so far from the early years of Fabio heroes foisting themselves upon virtuous maidens!).  It encourages us to sweep off the dust of experience, heal the scrapes inflicted by a hard world, and remember what it is like to feel hope and other giddy, luscious things.  And the heroines!   Let's just say each and every one of them is epic in her own way but they all teach you how to cultivate romance in your own life.  

When I say romance, sure, I mean chocolates and flowers and orgasms as that comes into your life; but I also mean remembering what it is like to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  To know yourself and what brings you joy.  To take pride in owning your capacity for pleasure in all things.  And to work hard for your happiness.  So without further ado, I offer you 10 life lessons I've learned from reading trashy novels.

1.  It's important to nourish--and value--your internal life.  We live in a world that values extroversion and concrete achievements, so much so that I often come home tired of this out-there energy and in desperate need of emotional sustenance, the kind that honors the rich nuances of the human spirit that goes beyond material accomplishments. What a treat it is then to crack open a book and read about the deep internal lives of fictional characters.  Romances are delicious character-driven stories.  They offer insight into how our thoughts and past experiences shape who we are now.  Most of all, they show us the often intangible, but no less important value of taking the time to process the world around us.  Sometimes the most profound changes and experiences are revelations that burst upon us when we create space to reflect.  

2. Happy endings are real.  Seriously, who doesn't need this reminder right now?  Not only are they real but you have the power to make them happen.  What you choose to give time and energy to can determine the quality of your life, so let go of toxic people and situations and thoughts.  So yeah, happy endings real, but it takes a lot of hard work to get there!  Which takes us to lesson number three...

3.  Happiness is hard work. The conflict resolution never falls into the heroine's lap and true love doesn't just happen to her--she works at it, to understand herself, to resolve her situation, and to open herself up to love (of life, of herself, of the hero(ione)).  Guess that whole stereotype of the hero fixing things for her is busted! In all the romance novels I've been gobbling up, never once do I see a fainting damsel in distress looking for a knight in shining armor to whisk her away from danger.  She always meets trouble head on and eventually enjoys the perks of a capable hero by her side (or under or on top of her...wink wink).  

4.  Hope can take you a long way.  Romances are about hope and letting go of a jaded worldview that limits your potential and capacity for happiness.  Hope is one of those soft, gushy feelings made out of rainbows and wishes.  Because it is light as a feather, it is often overlooked as unimportant or not as enlightening as darker emotions.  But these stories refresh and revive and inspire hope.  They remind us to dream and wonder and always, always look for the joy in the day.

5.  Pleasure is powerful.  Okay so I've been reading a lot about multiple orgasms and endless sweaty nights and more sexual positions than I can properly name, but...what's wrong with that? Again, just because it feels good doesn't mean we should dismiss it as not important or serious. In fact, pleasure in any form (not just the mattress-breaking kind) is one of the most profound ways we experience life and learn about the kind of life we want to cultivate. 

6. Leave plenty fo room for sexy times!  (See number 5.) Light beeswax candles.  Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful.  Cook a sumptuous dinner.  Kiss.  A lot.  Or enjoy some quality solo time (wink wink).  Watch the sun set.  Watch the sun rise.  Paint your nails.  Walk naked around the house (wait, you don't do that?).  Read a book.  Do anything and everything that makes you feel sexy and vibrant.  

7. A good heroine takes action. Every book I've read has a dynamic heroine who takes charge of her life.  Personal chef business failing?  Move to your hometown for the summer to figure out your next move.  Crushing on the rakish duke?  Seduce him at the masquerade.  Captured by pirates?  Join the crew!  Even if she starts out as a doormat, she grows into an empowered woman.  

8.  It's never too late to reinvent yourself.   This goes back to hope.  Sometimes we get stuck.  Sometimes we get a lot stuck. Sometimes we worry that we've gone so far down a road that we can't turn back, pull over, or blaze a new trail.  We become afraid. Our vision narrows.  We begin to resign ourselves to an unfulfilled life.  Trashy books tell us that is the exact moment when the universe needs to shake things up.  Get accidentally snowed in with an unrequited love (make sure there's plenty if mistletoe!) or win the lottery and finally live a life free from the social constraints of the marriage market. When the universe intervenes or you take matters into your own hand by quitting your terrible job to travel the world, these books remind us that we don't have to stay on the tracks we--or others--have laid out for us.  We can reinvent ourselves at any time.  

9. Emotions matter--trust your instincts.  Ahhhhh, the whole he-should-be-perfect-for-me-but-there's-no-spark plot.  Or the seems-like-a-good-guy-but-really-is-evil.  It's easy to succumb to social pressures or our own convoluted ideas about what might make us happy; but if we actually stop and listen to what will bring us joy, we will find it's often not in the generic socially acceptable picture-perfect version of our life we tell ourselves we want.  Real life is gritty (even in a romance novel); real life asks you to question the status quo; real life asks you to be true to yourself.  The only way to do that: be brutally honest about your feelings.  Not what logic tells you make sense.  Your feelings.  Those hard-to-quantify-oh-so-magical things that let you know when you're moving in the right direction (hint: it is towards the gentleman thief with a shadowy past and a mullet that would make any 80s rockstar envious...or whatever).

10.  Value yourself. This is another important lesson.  Either the heroine already understands the value of self-respect or she grows into it by the end of the story.  In either case, romance novels are powerful vehicles for showing that strong women--vulnerable, emotional, capable women--have to value themselves first and foremost.  Everything else comes out of this.

Bottom line: if reading romances is wrong, I don't want to be right!  (Cut to me sweeping out of the ballroom--bedroom?--in my disheveled fuschia regency gown and running after said pirate...book.) We could all use a little romance in our lives.  A little tenderness and hope.  And if my laptop background now features scantily-clad Victorian lovers mid-tryst or a Fabio-like hunk wrapped in pink satin sheets with a woman rocking 80s bed head, then so be it.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

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5 Things I've Learned about Writing from a Year of Blog Editing

Now that I've finished my year of editing--and had some time to relax--I've come to realize that editing has taught me a lot about the writing (and living!) process.  Sometimes it felt like my editing project would never end, mostly because I don't think it is a process that can truly end. You just have to decide that you're done.  At least for now.  It also gave me a chance to review all the wonderful experiences, insights, and recipes I've collected here over the past few years.  This adventure has left me with a new perspective on writing.  Although there are hundreds of things I've learned from a year of editing, I've narrowed it down to the top five. Each one reflects a morsel of wisdom I hope to take with me as I dive into new projects (and blogs!).

1.  If you want to be a writer, write.   It's as simple as that.  When I started this blog, I'd already been writing every day since I was a teenager and knew I wanted to become a writer.  It didn't matter what I wrote or how much, just that I kept at it.  That's also how I got this blog started. Rain or shine, whether I felt like it or not, I showed up to my writing desk every day and honed my craft.  I can see moments in past blogs where my voice began to blossom because I'd gained confidence and experience through regular practice.  

2.  Perfection is overrated.  Seriously.  This is a big one.  I've seen so many writers get stumped from the get-go because they want everything to be perfect.  I've certainly been guilty of this. And yet when I started blogging, I promised myself to stress less about perfection and focus my energy on learning my craft.  What a difference that made!  I simply allowed myself to experiment and learn from trial and error.  There was also something liberating about having this experimentation visible to my readers--once my writing was out there, I learned not to fret about mistake making.  It was all part of the process.  Bottom line: writing is messy and you have to be willing to take risks if you want to develop your voice and style.  Which leads me to number three...

3.  You can't fix a blank page.  Write something.  Anything.  You can always go back and edit it later.  But if you hem and haw over each potential word or phrase, you will never get anything done.  Some of my best work came from scribbling down bursts of insights without a filter, before overthinking set in.   

4.  Your work will never feel complete...just done for now.  I fussed over my edits, probably more than I should have, and finally came to the realization that my work will probably never feel quite finished.  That said, if I want to take on new projects, I have to let the old ones rest.  

5.  Writing is a form of conjuring.  Rereading old posts, I came to see how each one reflected the happy, healthy life I wanted to create for myself.  In fact, I started the blog as a way to find joy and balance at a time when I felt like I was still learning what those things meant.  Cut to me three years later, living an abundant, well-rounded life and indulging in the pleasures each day has to offer.  Each word I wrote became a seed that blossomed into the joy I now experience.  That is conjuring at its most basic--and magical!

All in all, I learned that life and writing are about creating beauty and meaning.  And while I might still find a typo or two lurking in the shadows of my posts, as Susanna J. Sturgis writes, "Typos are Coyote padding through language, grinning." 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is the everyday, subscribe here.

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Confessions of a Sin Eater

All it takes is one kiss.  Lip locked, you can suck out their sins and use the light inside your chest to burn them up.  You can almost taste the guilt and regret these people hold inside themselves like caged demons fighting to break free.  

This is your power.  

Just one kiss and they can know the peace of exorcism.  You've even acquired a taste for it, like bitter gin on your lips, though you can tell by your charred ribs how it costs you—and so you're careful, knowing full well the danger in the dark taste of others.  As careful as a sin eater can be, anyway.

Because this is yours to do.

There is the gristly piece of shame that you can't quite swallow--you can feel it stuck in your throat.  Whereas the little kinks and guilty pleasures slide down with ease like melted chocolate or red wine--not really sins at all unless you're of a more pious nature and then everything's a burden. A part of you relishes this glimpse into the internal lives of strangers. 

You come from a long line of Sin Eaters, most of whom are eventually devoured by the very phantoms they swallow.  Yours is not an easy path.  Like the broken promise that rests in your belly like a shard of glass, your lives are shaped by the sins you collect.  You are the sea creature eating up the trash and ephemera others carelessly toss into your clear waters.  

This is your legacy.  

They can't even look you in the eye.  They can only plead, sometimes without a voice, to absolve them...of too much to put into words.  You know the look well.  The pressure to swallow the pestilence painted across their broken brow that wants only the quick catharsis of confession. In this, you are not unlike the priest—without the pretense of a screen.  Only your magic works.  For a time.

They can feel the sweet relief of their souls scrubbed clean; they even go so far as to promise you and themselves that they will never, ever commit those sins again.  They might even be foolish enough to believe what they say--though you never will.

This is your gift.

Zero accountability.  Then you are cast aside like a used condom when the deed is done.  Afterward, they cannot look at you because you know them for what they are.  And they know what they have asked of you is unspeakable.   That is their ultimate sin: asking another to carry the burden of their own making.  They cannot see you.  You are not a person anymore.  They see only their greed and temptation and carousing look back at them from behind your tired, burning eyes. The light burns brightest when the fire is fed.

This is your place.

There they go and commit another one.  That's the thing about sins.  They taste so good.  And not just to you.   Take away that which they are most ashamed of, and they always look for a way to get it back.  Even if they are happy to be rid of these chains, they cannot stand to look at your sullied soul.  You are rejected time and again.  Not welcome in any home.  Never asked to stop in and share a morsel, unless—

—they invite you to eat the day old bread resting on a beloved's breastbone as if you didn't know the history and mold settling into the crusty morsel: a final offering from the dead.

You are paid well for your unspeakable service.  

With each swallowed sin, a little bit of your own light dies.  Your insides blacken and curl with smoke.  Your stomach roils with indigestion.  Sometimes you cannot tell the difference between yourself and the demons caged within—or which of these creatures belong to you and which have been collected along the way, like chicken bones and bloodied feathers.  Leftovers from your meal.  

Did they expect you to look monstrous?  Twisted and broken by the weight of your—their—sins? They are always surprised to see fair features and respectable attire.  You could be any of their daughters or sisters or wives.  Perhaps if you ate them more often, the barbed wire from where they have trespassed and the swollen bee stings from violating the natural order would mold your bones into the gnarled frame of a dying tree. 

That is your future.  

So they hope.  Committing your body and their sins to the grave so that they may never speak of them again.  

That was your legacy.

But you no longer have a taste for wickedness.  Not unless it’s of your own making.  So much more delicious to collect your own experiences like sea glass or cracked-open clam shells until you have shadowbox filled with once-ugly things made beautiful.  You need not go so far afield, either.  The rotted pumpkin becomes a home for the worms that make your garden thrive.  The ghost behind your shoulder is one of your own making.  He will leave you in time when you are both ready to be rid of each other.  Until then, you have one companion that isn’t afraid to look you in the eye.

This is your freedom.  

You could suck out the poison of each and every soul that knocks on your door.  Some may even call you a saint for doing so.  But you know the real work happens when a person wrestles with her sins, real or imagined, and sends them back to hell herself.  Everything else is just swallowed smoke and borrowed time.  You know this because you have made that journey yourself.  That scars along your rib cage--one for each layer—are proof of your hard-earned exorcism.  

That was a price you were willing to pay.

The journey was long. You climbed down all seven layers, releasing sins as you went.  You let your fire burn away each transgression as they burst from your lips.  Then when you reached rock bottom, you began the arduous task of pulling yourself out of the darkness.  The only sins—such as they could be called—that survived were yours and yours alone.  Selfish?  Perhaps. 

That was the gift you gave yourself: sins that make a woman.

Not a saint.  Not a sin eater.  A woman.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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Things I Want to Relearn

The curve of your own smile.  Sometimes you touch your fingers to the corners of your mouth just to feel the way they turn up when the sun kisses your lips.  You don't always believe that your body remembers how to express joy. 

Then there's the bliss--more a memory now--of abandoning yourself to the woods.  The city, a thing forgotten like an unremarkable story or adequate meal.  Where is that spontaneous wildling unafraid to go deeper?  The forest (be it in a book, heart, or landscape) is made up only of trees and dreams and roots and shadows, after all.  And they all want you there, going so far as to lay down a bed of fallen leaves to pad your steps and covering their rocks with moss so that you may rest your head in comfort.  It has been so long since you listened to their secrets.  So long since you told them yours.

And how did that game go, where you picked your way across the stream, searching for the next foothold on rocks smoothed over by the water's caress?  You weren't always thinking of snakes and eels hiding under them.  You weren't always worried about slipping.  There was only the cool, clean feel of the water lapping at your feet and rushing between your toes.  Feel it now and let the wet ripples carry away your worries.  

And you can't forget your hair, nor the times you wore it loose and wild (though some would call it a thorny thicket or a nest of copper wires--but those are voices best forgotten as you relish the way your curly auburn locks cascade down your naked back and fall around your open shoulders).  You must remember how to weave flowers into your long tresses and let the only chains you wear be made of daisies.

Next, find those delicious beats that pull you toward the dance floor.  Court your inner hedonist and let her play and laugh and move her body in the way that it was meant to be moved: in time to the heady heartbeat of congas and claves and vocal chords wrapped tight around a melody. This is you remembering that your natural state is joy--and that there's nothing wrong in sinking into a song's lusty embrace.

Perhaps by reclaiming these pieces of yourself--like stray strands of string and dandelion heads--you can begin to weave a new story unfettered by the dead-end plots that made you forget yourself in the first place. You never belonged at the bottom of a well or stuck under the heel of another's boot.

Weave together more forgotten things into this wild tapestry: scraps of bright ribbon and grapevines, bits of memory and the feathered corners of well-loved books.  Stitch it all together with those small pops of energy that tell you everything you need to know before logic tries to smother the sparks.  Then, when you have incorporated your last fingernail and sage leaf, finish it off with the whispers of the universe--here in a dream, there in the roadrunner crossing your path--that ask you to remember, relearn, truly understand that you are a daughter of the moon.  

That your life is in long fingers curling around tree bark, feet resting on fat branches, as you peer past the foliage into the endless horizon.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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Things I Want to Unlearn

They are like the tight laces of a corset, these lessons, cutting into your ribcage and squeezing the air from your lungs, taught to you by people and things that prefer you breathless—and so, unable to speak.  Each tug of the ribbon wraps steel and bone tighter around your frame.  Containing you.  Small sips of air sucked through half-open lips are the only sign your heart still beats.  Those and one delicious thought: a pair of scissors.  

You could use the ones you have set aside for your embroidery.  No bigger than the palm of your hand and engraved with bird’s wings.  Silver and sharp.  Stronger even than the metal jacket closing in on your pumping heart.

You give into your impulse.  Wrap your hands around the cool silver of the thin blades.  You are alone.  No one can stop you.  Slowly, carefully, you reach behind you for the knotted tongue at the base of your spine.  You almost can’t slip the thin blades under the satin; the laces are so tightly pulled together.  But you do it and feel the first lace pop loose of its eyelet.

There it goes—

—the temptation to search for the rotten fruit in a barrel full of blush stained snow apples.  All you need to know is that you have an abundant crop—and faith in your ability to pick the best jewels from the orchard.  You’ve been through enough harvests to know the difference between worm-softened cores and firm flesh.

Then another:

The flash of disappointment when you see your imperfect body, alone, at night, freed from the corset’s confines.  The puckered skin along your stomach—the shiny purplish lash along your arm—the bruised streaks where your ribcage pushed against the corset’s skeleton all day, every day—and others, so many others—aren’t scars.  They are life lessons tattooed on your skin.  Trophies from the risks you took, the jumps you made, even the moments when you knew it was best to retreat into yourself.  The times you dared to live beyond the narrow path someone else decided you should walk.

More air in your lungs.  You can feel your chest expand.  

Enough for you to reach higher and cut through another lace—

—and there goes the bricks and mortar you once used to make a fortress for yourself.  You called it a home, but the walls grew bigger and bigger until it felt like a tomb.  A place to bury the pages of your stories.  The ones that no one would read because they lacked the light that could spark them to life.

Let those bricks be reduced to rubble.  Let your stories breathe like you can now.  And find their own homes when you set them loose like birds to the sky.  In their own time.  In their own way.  And remember that your real home is never behind tightly-cinched cloth-wrapped whalebones or mortared stone.

How long did it take you to remember that your home is in the earth and the sky?  That the roots of trees and flowers will always be your welcome bed and the wind is there to sweep away the last cut ribbon from your cage.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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Honoring the White Rose: A Tribute to the 9/11 Memorial

Those of you following me on social media will have noticed that I did not post any photos of the 9/11 Memorial during my recent trip to New York.  It was, in fact, one of my first visits to the city and never have I been so moved or awed by melancholy as I was watching dark rivers of water cascade into and even darker, endless abyss that made up the tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

And yet the saddest thing to me was not the memorial itself, but the number of people taking selfies--complete with big smiles and thumbs up--using this place of tragedy as their backdrop. Don't get me wrong, I love a good selfie as much as the next person, along with the joys of documenting travels and adventures.  But all I could think when I saw throngs of people mindlessly snapping photos was that they have already forgotten the terror of that day.  They must have, or why would they so carelessly pollute this landmark with elbow-shoving and photo-snapping?  

This is a place where countless people lost their lives, a place where the American psyche has been irrevocably scarred.  There is no room for selfies here, only solemnity and gravitas for the fallen, as touchingly expressed by the single white rose left in one name inscribed into the dark marble of the memorial--one of many victims.  I later learned that survivors place these roses in victims' names on the day of what would have been their birthday. 

So I could not take a picture here (the one you see in this blog has been lifted from the 9/11 memorial website).  I could not devalue that pain and suffering this day caused, and continues to cause, for so many people.  To this day, the 9/11 Memorial will remain one of the most profound studies in grief for me and, likewise, one of the most touching memorials for this overwhelming loss--for those who took the time to truly engage with it.

I have clear memories of visiting the Twin Towers during my first visit to New York over fifteen years ago.  I was a teenager, happily playing hooky from school with my dad to visit my brother in this grand city.  We spent the evening walking through the financial district after dinner, seeing the famous bull of Wall Street, among other sights.  I recall clearly how my imprudent strappy high heels clacked on uneven streets; I was still under the illusion that women could somehow walk miles in strappy heels without pain or blisters.  We had gotten it into our heads to go for a nightcap at a restaurant located at the top of one of the towers.  It was when we entered the ground floor of one of the towers that I gave up on my dreams of effortless glamour and took off my high heels.  

I walked, at fifteen, still in braces and wearing a too-tight dress (I had yet to outgrow that conception of glamour), walked barefoot through the twin towers, my utterly gorgeous but impractical heels swinging from my crooked fingers.  We never got to the rooftop restaurant that night for one reason or another.  Next time, we said.

A year later, my brother called from a rooftop in Manhattan, saying planes were crashing into the towers.  My sisters and I were on our way to school.  We turned on the news.  We watched as the second one fell.  The rest of the year was spent in a stupor, worried for my brother's safety, crushed by the immensity of what had happened.  The was numbness.  There was crying.  There was scarring.  Terrible, terrible scarring.  And we were the least affected by this horrific tragedy. 

So no, I did not take a photo of this memorial.  I wouldn't smile for a selfie behind the white rose, a token that somebody with a still-beating heart mourns for another burried beneath this city.  I will honor the white rose and the souls, like each drop of water in the memorial, that forever fall into the abyss.  

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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What Love Looks Like

You find it in the small hand, no bigger than a silver dollar, pressed against your forearm as your niece finds her balance.  Each finger, barely larger than a thick blade of grass, has left its mark on your skin though nobody could tell by looking at it.  You find it too, in the fuchsia baby blanket that cannot possibly hold all the tenderness you feel for this little creature that has made her way into your life; this blanket gets bigger and bigger with each passing day so that you can loop happiness and abundance into each shelled stitch.  You want her to remember that her palms were once wrapped around your thick thumbs as she learned to hold herself upright--you want her to know that she has always been strong, always been eager to experience this world.  She only has to look at this blanket, or wrap it around her slight shoulders, to feel the support of her auntie and know that she, like her mother, is a force to be reckoned with.

This four letter word people bend into two kissing curves that pucker into a point looks nothing like a real heart.  A real heart is messy, made up of pumping blood and so many veins and memories that keep it going.  And something else that you cannot fully name but know it is sweeter, more life-affirming than the oxygen that this organ provides.  It is that moment (years ago now, a recollection tattooed into your artery walls) when you said everything was fine, and your parents knew what you really meant was that you were slowly being swallowed by fog, and so sent you a care package full of sunlight, red chile pods, and pinon coffee.  Yes, that kept your blood pumping and chased away the darkness.  You were not alone.

It is on the journey home with your older sister and the promises you made each other to live as extraordinary beings (and the bottles of wine and long conversations that prompted those promises, now like so many matches lit and thrown into your enteral fires).  Then when she found her roots and wings, you found another brother.  Here is the solid earth-forged spirit that grounds, ready to remind you that you don't need to carry so much weight on you shoulders--shouldn't.  But there is more.  You find this ephemeral warmth in the taste of kimchi and oysters on the half-shell chased down with a dirty martini.  This is always somehow accompanied by images of your brother arranging all your boxes, most of them books, into your travel pod so you could bring your life home.  Or of him and wife walking through the park that was once your refuge on their wedding day. There was so much sunlight that afternoon.

And still, you find this thing--this beating, pumping thing--woven into each breath.  You can't even look at the inside of an orange peel without thinking of long full fingers scraping away pith one orange quarter at a time to transform this fruity carcass into leathery hugs, a reminder that your younger sister is always close though an ocean separates you.  Close enough that you can never simply tear a banana open with a quick tug of its gnarled stem but must carefully slice the skin apart from stem to nubby bottom so as to better preserve that yellowed husk; she would know somehow if you took a shortcut.  And you think of the man that loves her.  Here you know a kindred spirit, one who understands instinctively that the internal life is just as important than the external one--perhaps more so. There is much to be found on the page and the inward-turning gaze.

You don't have to be anything other than yourself with these people; you can be the quiet wildling with bare feet and kinky hair happy to get lost (found?) in a book or a garden--or a kitchen.  And when you can't always give yourself permission to be this elusive creature, they remind you that your soul was forged from ink and summers playing outside with your siblings and always, always from feeding the wonder and delight that makes each day worth getting up for.

That's the day-in-day-out of it: the barely contained smile from your sisters because they know you are all thinking the same thing...and probably shouldn't say it out loud.  We are surrounded by strangers, after all, and the thought is not fit for polite company.  Even the frantic lick of puppy tongues on your hands and pawing of your furry charges when you haven't seen them for some time tells you that your life is full. Or the smell of green chile stew and the pure pleasure of a tortilla fresh from the griddle in the kitchen you grew up in that reminds you at the end of the week that you are surrounded by love.

That's it.  That's the word.  Such a small one for an awful lot of feeling.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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Writing is like Cooking

Writing is messy, messy work.  And the mess is half the fun.  

It's a lot like cooking that way. Think of it as this alchemical process of mixing ingredients (one-half cup of a dream, a fourth of cup of memories beginning to fade, a pinch of cheekiness, a tablespoon of sweat, and a rounded cup of time); spices (one saucy phrase, a heaping teaspoon of innuendo, a sprinkle of read-between-the-lines); equipment (saucepans and spatulas, fingers and keyboards); and of course, timing. You cannot make a respectable beef bourguignon in less than four hours, nor skip on the loving task of first searing your beef cubes and sautéing your mushrooms, carrots, celery, and onions before adding them to the stew.  

So too with writing.  Sure you can put words on paper. Many of them all at once.  But they do not come together to form a cohesive whole--that story come to life on the page--unless you have tenderly cared for them in batches and slowly added them to your alphabet soup.  

The spices are a different matter altogether--too much of one and you've lost your dish to the ever aggressive nutmeg or your prose to the temptation of alliteration.  Not enough spice and you have a meal as thin and unappetizing as gruel or underdeveloped backstories.  

This is nothing to say of the most potent and mercurial of ingredients: your energy.  The love and time and essence you pour into what you create.  There is no accounting for the tasteless feast you slaved over all day, following the recipe exactly, or the accidental perfection that comes from a few minutes of hastily throwing pantry odds and ends into a bowl.   Similarly, you can spend forever on a piece of work and it still feels as dry as burnt toast.  Or you can simply trust the hours you have lingered in the kitchen or at your writing desk and let the words come to you of their own accord, ready to make their mark on the page and produce nothing short of a miracle.

And like any dish, the final product (if such a thing exists) is built in layers, over time, and refined by practice (that word to encompass each and every kitchen disaster from the undercooked flan to the overcooked dhal).  Each limp string bean, a product of over-boiling, and each burnt salmon are lessons in balance as is each typo, each half-formed paragraph or each experimental tone that made it no farther than the compost.  Yet if we never risk a deflated soufflé or flaccid prose, we lose out on the potential for a perfectly risen confection of air, chocolate, and whimsy. The enthusiastic over-use of cumin and the semi-colon (or parenthetical asides) eventually lead to a healthy respect for using both in moderation.

All of this is by way of saying that writing is in the rewriting, just as knowing your way around the kitchen is cooking and recooking specific dishes and attempting new ones.  Once you have a recipe down, you must go back and refine it as you learn more about your ingredients and are yourself seasoned by life experience.  That is why this year, you'll find me marinating on the messiness--the beautiful, delightful, challenging messiness--of writing and rewriting my thoughts on the magic of everyday life. 

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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On Gratitude

Here is something no heavier than a feather, no larger than the minuscule crack in an acorn's shell through which where new life can seep. 

It offers only a memory of loving hands stitching two frayed ends back together where once there was just a hole in your coat pocket.  It produces nothing but a soft sigh after a long day as you settle in your favorite reading chair to savor the company of your books. And where others debate over the fullness of a glass, you see only that you have a cup the color of the sky on a clear day capable of holding anything.

That is the gift of gratitude.  You see everywhere signs of abundance rather than absence, wings rather than cages.  And finally, enjoyment in the way your feet always take you back to your own doorstep and the pleasure--deep and full like your first breath of the day--in knowing you are home.

Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you.  If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.

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