How Much Energy Do We Have?

I nearly got an anxiety attack as I created this graphic. Some things on the graphic do not reflect my life, but I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible…just because I don’t pick up a hammer, doesn’t mean other mothers don’t (however, we do all have to deal with repair issues of different kinds). I’m sure there’s lots I’m missing too…the end result is the same: no wonder we’re exhausted!

Being on a journey to health, aka chemotherapy treatment, definitely forces a woman to take a good, honest look at her life. The past few months of self-isolation have been exacerbated by facing the long road to recovery from breast cancer. Hence, I’ve had oodles of time to pray, reflect, journal, meditate and try to come up with a plan so that This. Never. Happens. Again.

I can adapt and change my eating, exercise regimen, meditation practice. I can ask for more help from my husband and now that my children are getting older, they also are expected to participate in household chores. Nonetheless, isn’t it interesting that it falls on me? More women are reporting increased stress levels during Covid-19 due to increased demands at home…yet, haven’t we all been self-isolating?

The struggle to fulfill all the demands of modern-day life has left me bereft in the sense that I struggle with keeping up with said demands and fulfilling my own dreams and goals. And, as I read posts and articles about parenting and exhausted mothers, I realize that I’m not the only one.

I know my experience of Covid-19 would have been vastly different if I had been perfectly healthy without this stupid cancer. I would have been on Team Exhausted too.

I don’t have an answer for changing why family responsibilities mostly fall on women. I do know that the way we expend our energy needs to change.

I don’t know how to balance wanting to be an exceptional mom with keeping up with my goals and dreams. I do know I’m no good to my kids if I’m not true to myself.

I don’t know how to be an awesome wife and daughter and friend and teacher and yoga instructor all at once. I do know that when I give what I can, I am enough and the people I love accept it as enough.

I don’t know how all the things get done somedays. I do know that when they don’t everyone is still just peachy.

Perhaps, therein lies my answer.

We can’t be everything, for everyone, all the time. We can be true to ourselves, our needs, our energy and expend it from there in a way that doesn’t cross the line into impatience, irritation, annoyance and overwhelm. This is not an innate skill. It is learned behaviour. Just like we trained our families to expect us to be there whenever, we can also retrain ourselves and them to respect what we can give and when we can give it. They’re called boundaries. And, they’re beautiful.

Yes, this will become a challenge whenever “normal” life resumes and the calendar is bursting with practices, games, lessons, recitals on top of appointments, meetings, work engagements and the plethora of things we allow to consume our time and energy. EXCEPT, it is up to us to ultimately CHOOSE. We need to choose if that lesson, practice or meeting is vital to our survival or is conserving our energy and taking care of ourselves more precious on that particular day? Like I said, I don’t have the answer…I just read a lot on the subject and see how women everywhere are struggling. I relate to and identify with that struggle.

My hope is that in revealing that I too suffer from “feeling-the-need-to-do-it-all-and-be-everything-to-everyone” syndrome, I can create a space here where women feel safe to feel what they need to feel. I see you and I am you. I too am learning that caring for myself and my energy is the only way I can care for the things that matter.

Where do you lie in all of this? Are you in the fetal position with exhaustion? Are you like me, learning to care for your energy? Do you have a magic formula and have figured out a way to both conserve your energy and be for others without overwhelm? Would love to hear from all the moms on how you are coping and learning!

Reviews Are Fascinating!

Reviews are a great way to receive feedback on your writing and what you’re publishing. They also remind you to remain true to the vision you have for your characters and books, because you can’t please everyone and everyone will always have an opinion. There are reviews that show how your hard work has created a novel which resonates with readers:

And, there are reviews that show misunderstanding or misreading of your characters and latch on to the negative. How do you react? Do you let it pass and let the other 5-star reviews speak for your book? See examples below:

I enjoy writing about flawed characters whom struggle to find their Happily Ever After. I like to explore the ins and outs of characters whom are imperfect, and through their journey of self-discovery, they see where they’ve erred, they atone for their sins and they too can find happiness. My reviewer seemed to fail in noticing that Matthew was celibate for years because he discovered the emptiness of mindless sexual relationships. And, as for cheating husbands in my next book, they existed in the regency era (and, still do today)…but what happens when a marriage can be saved? How can it be saved and made better by growing and learning from past mistakes? This for me is far more interesting. But, I see it is not for everyone.

Then, there are the other reviews. Short, sweet and encouraging that not all of my readers are turned off by stories of the flawed.

All reviews help me to continue on my path as I strengthen my writing and create stories that both challenge and sweep readers off their feet. And, in the end, criticism is only meant to help us grow.

Image Courtesy of Calm App #DailyCalm

How do you take both the positive and not-so-positive reviews that come your way?

Friends to Lovers Regency Romance

When I started to write Charlotte’s story, I was certain she would be the peeress and the man she would find happily ever after with had to be someone for whom a title held little appeal. It was also known to me from the very beginning, that in order for her to trust, she would have to know the man for a long time – hence, the best friends to lovers trope. I have a few scenes from Charlotte and Matthew’s childhood adventures which didn’t make the book, but they really helped to give me a sense of how deep their friendship runs.

When I found this quote on-line and was taken to Seventeen magazine’s website for romantic Valentine’s Day sayings, I knew it described Charlotte and Matthew completely. What I love about the protagonists of Capturing a Countess’ Heart is that they can truly be themselves without any reservations or angst. Their primary goal isn’t love, it’s besting or beating each other, or simply being together. When the spark hits them, it gets confusing, but the knowledge that at the bottom of every flurry of emotion is true friendship gives them the edge and confidence they need to move forward. So much fun to write.

Whether Charlotte and Matthew are racing through their lands, helping Matthew navigate PTSD at a party, or dealing with a revenge-thirsty duke, they are happiest and most themselves when they are together. They are also stronger together.

How do you feel about the friends to lovers trope?

Write Everyday

Mid-week inspo to keep writing!

Regardless of what is happening around you or within you, make the time to write. We write because we have to. It is a calling from our soul to put words to the feelings, imaginings and stories bouncing around in our heads.

Hopefully this wonderful quote by Jodi Picoult will kick-start you back to the blank page and fill it with your creativity. Just write! Everything can be edited, changed and rearranged, once it’s on the page. And, just think of that amazing feeling of completion, of accomplishment when your writing piece is finally finished, just so.

Happy writing my dear friends!

Your Next Beach Read?

Here’s a tantalizing excerpt from Capturing a Countess’ Heart…when Charlotte and Matthew begin to realize their friendship is being challenged to become something more:

“They really missed you,” she said softly. And, after a beat, the words deep in her heart could no longer be contained, “we all did.”

Her voice was barely a whisper, but she knew it reached his ears and meandered its way deep inside him because he offered a small smile in return. Charlotte knew it was Matthew’s most honest of smiles without the intention of charming or eluding. It was a smile she had only ever seen when in private, and somehow knew, he reserved for her.

“Me too,” his blue eyes deepened, locking onto hers and her throat suddenly shrivelled. Her lips parted, and for the second time in one night, she lost the ability to form words.

“In any case,” he cleared his throat, “it’s nice to see you aren’t in need of my help at the present moment.” The cavalier attitude returned, brushing the fragile moment aside.

Charlotte squared her shoulders realizing he wasn’t ready for real honesty and was clearly evading becoming too sentimental. She hid her disappointment and played his game. “You’re the only one who ever thought I was in need of your help. I’ll have you know Mr. Harrington that I’m most capable.”

“And beautiful and graceful too,” he drawled provocatively.

Her stomach dropped to her feet. Why would he say such things in the middle of a ballroom? She suddenly realized that he felt different. Aside from the strange feelings surrounding her, there was something markedly different about him.

“Dance with me,” he raised a brow, laying the dare for her to accept or face endless mockery for cowardice. 

“No,” she stopped the game because he never flirted with her like she had seen him do with others. He had always patronized her like an older brother. She realized he wasn’t the same Matthew she had known growing up, and therefore she couldn’t trust him as she once had. At least not until she figured out what sort of game he was playing and decide whether or not the stakes for her were too high.

“No?”

“Not used to hearing that word, are you? You know why I’m here and you could ruin my chances with your attention. You’re also a renowned rake and charm oozes so easily from you many a lady has convinced herself of being desperately in-love with you. I’m happy you’ve returned unharmed, but I can’t disrupt my chances of an honorable proposal.”

“Honorable or lucrative?” His tone became slightly sardonic, but his eyes questioned her. He was unsure if she was looking for love or money, and she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of accurately assessing her situation.

“How easy it is to judge from where you stand,” Charlotte levelled him with her finest countess countenance. “I will marry honorably. Clearly, your compliment was nothing more than a wish to thoroughly annoy me.”

“Since my compliment meant nothing,” his brow raised for emphasis and his voice lowered dangerously, “then you shouldn’t fear dancing with me.”

She glared at him remembering all too well that besides offering comfort, camaraderie and competition, Matthew also knew interminable ways to irk her. And, it appeared, it was something he recalled far too well.

She clenched her jaw and saw the beginnings of a victorious smile lift the corners of his mouth. Within moments she was in his strong, yet gentle grip. She felt him hold her just a little bit closer than was proper, and his arms contracted as he tightened his grip ever so slightly. Her heartbeat a little faster and warmth spread through her cheeks. Her head spun with delight and annoyance as she realized it was the first time she was actually enjoying a waltz. 

She felt Matthew’s strength emanating through his precisely tailored evening dress. She winced realizing her gloved hand fit perfectly into his and their bodies moved harmoniously, effortlessly. His warmth enveloped her and his masculine scent invaded her senses. She whirled in his arms, feeling safe, protected as she always had. She also felt the flutter of a warning because her best friend could disrupt her plans to marry a rich peer.

The entire dance was maddening. Instructing herself to revel in every last second, because it would be their last, she forced herself to remember that Matthew had no interest in marriage. His sole intention was to live his life in as carefree a manner as possible. He had run away to the other side of the world after one brief kiss! Any ridiculous feeling about the perfection of their waltz had to be stamped out because he would never trade in his freedom for the chance to rebuild an ailing earldom.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” He taunted as he bowed at the conclusion of their waltz.

“Remember it well because that was our one and only this season,” she countered, and then added for good measure, “Probably even, ever.”

“Coward,” he said with a lopsided grin.

“I won’t let you ruin my chances of marrying well,” she said with an arrogant tilt to her head as she was led back to Mother.

“You don’t understand, do you?” Despite his easy manner, his voice was iron. “I have the fortune of finding you unmarried. Now, it’s my duty to make sure you marry someone worthy of you and I will stand in anyone’s way who dares to ask for the wrong reason.”

“What you don’t understand is that I’m a grown woman and I will marry who I think is best for Bentwick. You have no say whatsoever.”

He shrugged his shoulder casually and offered one last infuriatingly smug smile as they parted ways. “We shall see, Lady Bentwick.”

Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the novel and want more! Happy reading!

Available for purchase at Amazon, Amazon Canada and Kobo

Minor Characters

During my publishing journey, I discovered a divide between readers who like minor characters to have a more active role in the plot and those who don’t. Many times editors advised to decrease the page space given to said characters in favour of the protagonists; whereas readers expressed delight in the minor characters and their relationship to the protagonists.

Sometimes when reading a great romance, minor characters seem to get in the way. As a reader, we want to solely follow the hero and heroine because the story is so juicy! However, I notice that I tend to gravitate towards books that establish a world for the characters which includes other important people in their lives.

I thoroughly enjoy the relationships the main characters have with others. Siblings, parents, best friends all help me to perceive the main characters deeper – they don’t seem so one-dimensional. After all, no one exists in a vacuum. We all have people we interact with at different levels of intimacy and, in my opinion, showing a protagonist in the same light makes them more real.

Also, I find it difficult not to indulge particularly fun characters. Or, to set up their own stories for future books. It’s as if the protagonists of future stories reveal themselves slowly and it’s too much fun not to listen.

What side of the argument are you on as a reader of romance? Do you enjoy the development of minor characters and their use in adding context and texture to the story, or do you find them annoying and wish to solely focus on the hero and heroine when you’re reading?

Feel What You Need To Feel

It’s interesting all the things we do to run away from our feelings: shop, eat, gossip, binge watch, clean…avoid, avoid, avoid.

I know this because I do it. The surge of energy that comes from emotions we believe we can’t handle is too much to bear so we dive into something that’ll make it go away.

Except, our feelings don’t go away, do they? Whether we are concerned, worried, angry, in shame, whatever the wave…it doesn’t disappear because we’ve engaged our attention elsewhere. The feelings stay and direct us regardless of how in control we may feel.

A very wise reiki master and spiritual counsellor advised me to feel my feelings everyday before I started chemotherapy treatment. To sit on my meditation cushion and ask myself “how am I feeling today?” and simply, let the feelings come.

Sometimes, the feelings came in great waves of tears, sometimes they were gentle nudges of comfort, sometimes in body shaking rages. And, after each feeling passed, I was to ask myself…what are you trying to tell me? And normally the answer came…be softer, forgive, release the past…and a huge space would be created inside of me for feelings of light, joy and trust.

This is not easy work. It is, however, necessary work because it lightens us. This way, when we reach for the extra food, the remote to binge watch, or our phones to catch up on fun gossip…we do it from a place that isn’t soaked in guilt, avoidance and shame.

Feeling our feelings is the only way through and the way out of any kind of darkness. It is how we can come closer to our light.

Try this meditation to help you feel your feelings:

  1. Sit in a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Take five-ten slow inhales and exhales to deepen concentration
  3. Ask yourself “How am I feeling today? I am free to feel what I need to feel in this moment.”
  4. Let the feelings come up without judgment or fear – remind yourself, you are safe
  5. Ask the feelings what they want you to know.
  6. Feel. Breathe. for as along as you need to
  7. Release with deep inhales and exhales
  8. Give thanks for the courage to feel, for the insights you’ve gained
  9. Pick up your journal and write everything and anything that comes to mind – see what is revealed to you
  10. Say a short prayer in gratitude

My hope in sharing this with you is to give you a tool which has helped me to feel and release emotions that don’t serve me and perhaps, in this time of uncertainty, can help you.

Consider Donating

https://weebraveheart.com

From the About Page on the Website: The Wee Braveheart Foundation was conceived by a young woman by the name of Joanne Mitchell. Joanne was diagnosed with a serious form of cancer in the summer of 2013. While undergoing treatment, Joanne realized that there were not many charities designed to give directly to people going through treatment first hand. Through her own experiences on her journey as well as communication with others undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, she compiled a list of helpful everyday items that would benefit those in similar situations. These items were then placed into “Care Packs” and dispersed at random to those dealing with their cancer treatment.

All I can add is the Care Packs are truly special. Every single item will be used at some point during chemotherapy or radiation treatment. It is a care package put together by someone who actually experienced the many side-effects of this treatment and who wished to make a difference in the lives of those facing this diagnosis and treatment. The Care Pack feels special because everything in it is like a little bit of love and support as you live through a very difficult time in your life. Also, each time a new symptom pops up, you feel covered…“Oh, I’ve got something for that!”

I am eternally grateful for this Care Pack and the people who put it together. I know that right now is not the best time to be “asking for donations”…however, it may also be the perfect time. Cancer has not stopped because of Covid-19. We can continue to show our support for our loved ones whom are facing this illness and treatment alone because their immune systems are compromised by sending them a Care Pack. Or, consider donating to the non-profit so they can continue their loving work.

To donate, request a Care Pack or learn more, link to the organization’s website here or via the image above.

Surrender

I used to think surrendering meant giving up. It used to mean letting go in a negative way…you know, wave the white flag because you’ve lost the fight.

I’ve been challenged with the idea of surrender in my yoga practice. So much of yoga practice involves letting go, and because yoga began for me as a physical practice, I equated surrender to giving up on a pose or on a series or sequence of poses…so I would muscle my way through.

Well, the universe has its way of landing messages. I have been reluctant in stating online that I am in the midst of chemotherapy treatment for stage 2 breast cancer because I didn’t want to just say so for the sake of creating a story around it. My intention isn’t to inspire pity or fear because I know I heal from this dis-ease…it’s just a matter of time. I want to share this because the experience of cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been my principal lesson in surrender. Nothing yells surrender like chemo.

And, strangely enough, in this strange Covid-19 era, I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience true surrender.

For the first time in a very, very long time, I am listening to what my body needs…not what my head thinks it needs. I am fluid. I am water. I am embracing this intense moment of complete transformation and embracing life gently. And, it’s beautiful.

How I Have Surrendered:

  • Sleep when my body says sleep; rest when my body says rest
  • Let go of how or why my husband does the things he does…truly appreciate him and his efforts in keeping me healthy and safe
  • The structure of homeschool is gone…oh boy I would have thrived on a color-coded schedule for my kids! But, right now, we focus on reading, writing and math in whatever order, at whatever time. We do their projects together and I am surrendering to the idea that they are learning far more valuable lessons by being gentle with themselves than trying desperately to meet some standard – this is a huge leap for calendar-keeping, list-checking me.
  • I have surrendered my will to that of the universe – this is on-going. I thrive on control. So, every day, I show up on my meditation cushion and allow. Sometimes, I need to surrender multiple times throughout the day
  • I have surrendered the physicality of my yoga practice for a practice that truly meets the needs of my body and soul
  • I have surrendered all agendas around my writing

What I Have Learned

  • My body always knows what it needs – listen
  • My husband loves me so much and he shines when I release control
  • Children are resilient and incredible forces of love and light – I just have to love them and they really know what is best – this includes setting loving boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour
  • My angels are watching out for me, supporting me, revealing messages to me all day long – it truly is amazing to experience the divine when we let it come into our life
  • Yoga is magic. The poses I need come to me when I need them. The days that I feel strong, my body holds me without pressure. The days I require ease, my body melts into the poses without fear.
  • I love to write and always will. I journal. I blog. I create stories. It is my connection to my creative self which truly allows for all of the above to flourish and I believe will support me in my journey back to health

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with surrender. I hope the small peek into my own challenges with surrender might inspire you to try it and help bring more ease, faith and purpose into your life.

No Mud, No Lotus

Transformation cannot occur without suffering. This has been a difficult one for me. I am an eternal optimist, which means I also hide from dark, negative feelings for fear of what they might do to me.

Over the past several months, my physical body has forced me to dive into that fear. Illness. Diagnosis. Treatment in various forms which will take up the next year or so of my life. These are things I desperately tried to avoid, but somehow they caught up to me. I eat well, I exercise, I think I manage stress well…and still, my body said time to stop. Time to dive into your spirit.

There have been very dark days. And, to my surprise, days bursting with energy and love and gratitude for everything I do have. The darkness made the light so much brighter. Every single day since this started, I have meditated and prayed. I grew up Catholic, and still am, but my faith has always been a source of struggle for me. I find it very difficult sitting in a Church, run by an institution that is cloaked in mystery, that leaves me out, that for all the good it offers, there are so many shadows…

And, so, I have been challenged to find my own way to the Divine. It has been an incredible path which I will follow for the rest of my life.

This path has shown me that I don’t need to be afraid of suffering or darkness. Light, support, love are always there to catch us, to heal us, to transform us. Every. Single. Time.

I invite you to embrace your suffering – in whatever form that is taking at the present moment. See what it is trying teach you, learn from it and let it go. Sounds easy, right? It is. But, it won’t magically happen overnight…it hasn’t for me. Every day I pray for strength to endure what I must over the next year, and every day I receive the grace I need to carry on with love and joy. It is a daily practice and one that will hopefully transform your life for the better, too.

Like a lotus flower, we can bloom despite (or, maybe because of) the muddy waters. No mud, no lotus.

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