Starcat’s Favorites: Gratitude

treeheartIn the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I participated in a “14 Days Glad” challenge that a friend created in a Facebook group I belong to. The idea was to post a list of ten things each day that you’re thankful for. I loved it so much!

It’s not like I’m a stranger to gratitude lists – I write ten things I’m thankful for each day in my own journal. But this group is full of creative, poetic, amazing people, which challenged me to up my game. Instead of just making a list of people, things, and experiences that I’m thankful for, I was called to dive in deep and really explore each item. It felt delightful. I want to keep it going.

So, I guess today I’m thankful for…gratitude itself, and the opportunity to share it. I’m also thankful for you, and how you’ve taken a bit of your time (a precious resource!) to read this post. Thank you so much!

Here are some links to explore as you relax and digest all those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers. Enjoy!

Speaking of food – weren’t we? – here are a couple of recipes I want to try. A pumpkin pie spice smoothie and a new tempeh dish. Both are from the delightful Kris Carr, and I also like her post about healthy eating tips for the holidays. She rocks!

This article about the pleasures of the night and the dark time of year is so lyrical and lovely.

I wouldn’t consider myself “mentally tough,” but I like how these habits can help me be more resilient.

Have you ever stopped to think about how your words create your experience? Especially with topics that are tricky for you.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, or somewhere in between, make sure you give yourself extra care during the holidays.

Happy Holidays!

Surviving the Holidays: A Guide for Misfits

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, that you’re a bit of a misfit. I don’t mean that in a bad way, not at all. It’s just that if you’re drawn to what I write about here, your interests and priorities are probably a bit different from that of mainstream society.

As a vegetarian, Pagan, unschooling, polyamorous, self-employed, environmentally-aware, creative, highly-sensitive hippie chick, I feel where you’re coming from.

This can make for interesting times at the holidays, when extended families get together and invitations to parties come flowing in. I’m blessed to have a very accepting extended family. Still, I’ve been in plenty of situations over the years when seemingly ordinary questions prove quite complicated. “What grades are your kids in?” “What do you do?” “White meat or dark?”

“Um, no thanks?”

The holidays can be a rather intense microcosm of life as a whole. We’re here on a planet of widely diverse beliefs, and it’s up to us how we get along with our fellow humans. Here are some tips I’ve found useful for having an enjoyable holiday season, even when you feel like the proverbial black sheep.

Avoid arguments. No matter how unpalatable you find someone else’s opinion, it’s just that – their opinion. You’re attending a family get-together, not rescuing the refugees or saving the planet. There’s no need to lie about your unusual ideas when asked, but you don’t have to engage in a heated debate, either. Be respectful yet firm. Take the higher ground, and let it go.

Kindness speaks volumes. What can you do when you’re feeling on the outside of a discussion of the football season or the half-price sale on purses? Offer to help in the kitchen. Play with the kids. Do the dishes. Your acts of kindness will endear you to the hosts. If you’re hosting the event, you’ll probably have plenty to do to stay busy. Accept offers of assistance, and let the conversation flow over and around you. Smile.

Bring your own food. If you’re vegetarian or have other special dietary needs, you might be the target of rolled eyes or pointed questions. Ignore all that, and be respectful. Avoid criticizing what other people choose to eat, even if you think it’s poison. Bring food that you’ll eat, with some to share. If you’re offered something you can’t or don’t wish to eat, decline politely.

Remember the “reason for the season.” No, I don’t mean the birth story of Jesus, unless that’s something you’re into. I’m talking about your reason. Why do you get together with family and friends? For me, it’s about spending time with people you care about, sharing laughter and good food, and celebrating life.

Find points of connection. No matter how different people are, you can often find at least one common interest. Look for clues, like books or pop culture references that come up – you and your uncle might both enjoy reading sci-fi or watching Dr. Who. Compliment your cousin’s handmade scarf and inquire about the pattern. Ask about an interesting-looking painting or curio, or the garden you can see from the window. If you’re an animal lover, make a happy fuss over the family pets.

Be an excellent listener. As a sensitive and sometimes shy person, I’ve learned that being a good listener helps me enjoy holiday gatherings. Most people love to talk about themselves. Ask thoughtful questions, and let them share. Often you’ll learn something new and interesting about a loved one.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Some family members like to tease, and being different in some way can make you a target. When Uncle Fred asks you what’s up with your purple hair, tell him you fell in a vat of blueberries. I’ve found that most often, when someone is teasing you, they’re really trying to engage your attention – whether negative or positive. Laughter is more fun than taking offense at every little thing. Assume good intent.

How about you? Do you have any additional tips for surviving the holidays as a misfit? I’d love to hear them. Share your stories in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

A New Book Baby

It seems strange to be posting here twice this week, after a long blogging dry spell. I think it’s because my third book is super close to done, and now I have more space for sharing. I’ve been working on it for several months now, and it’s been an idea that was a few years in the making. I’ve been doing a daily spiritual practice for nearly 20 years now (holy cats, time flies!) and I wanted to share how to do it. How to release stress and add more peace to your life. How to find the time, motivation, and energy to focus inward, even in the midst of very full days. How to practice even when you’re not feeling it, and reap the benefits. What to practice, how to learn more, how to garner support.

After a long labor, Centered In Spirit: Crafting Your Daily Practice is almost ready to share! I’m very excited! I have just a few more paragraphs to write, then I move on to editing and organizing the Resources section. After that it gets handed off to BlackLion for more editing then formatting. Next week we’ll be doing the photo shoot for the cover, with our beloved G.E. Nelson Photography. I’m so excited about that!

Here are some of the things that help me when I’m in my intensive writing phase.

  • imatreehuggerLentil stew, fruit smoothies, steamed broccoli, and other healthy foods.
  • Walks in the woods – although now that it’s November, which is hunting season, we need to wait until Sunday, when there are no hunters. I especially like hugging some of my favorite trees. Yeah, I know, a bit cliche. But it feels great!
  • Swimming in the solar-powered pool at the local fitness center. I received a membership as a thank you from some dear friends for officiating at their wedding this autumn. I love it! It’s good exercise and I also get my mermaid time even when it’s cold out.
  • Reading. Something lyrical, a good story, something to distract my surface mind and allow me to ponder about the next part of my own book in the background.
  • And of course, last but not least, my daily spiritual practice. Which involves meditation, affirmations, and gratitude. Ahhhh…..

I’m so thankful that I get to do my creative work on a regular basis. I can’t wait to share book three with you! Thanks so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate you. There’s no need for books without readers, and I’m happy to finally offer this particular book on spiritual practice. So many people have asked me about how I do it, and it’s such a foundational part of my life now, that it’s no wonder it’s taken a lot of focus to write about it. Thanks for your ongoing support!

In the meantime, what would you like to read about on this blog? Do you have any questions for me about personal spirituality, creativity, daily practice, unschooling, or self-love? Or any of a myriad of topics – what’s on your mind? Chime in down below in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Have a joyful day!

The Amazing Power of Wondering

Have you ever gotten so mired in routine that your body gets stiff and sore, and you feel all twitchy without knowing why? You could be stuck in a busy daily routine that doesn’t nurture your soul, a relationship that has gotten stagnant, a stressful job, or outdated old beliefs about yourself and your place in the world. It doesn’t matter what it is. You know the feeling I’m talking about – it’s like spiritual claustrophobia. Or as songwriter Mike Doughty puts it, “sometimes I feel like I’m looking at the world from the bottom of a well.”

If this rings true, I have two words of advice for you: embrace wonder.fd140716somessound

The word “wonder” has a couple of different meanings, both of which I’d like to explore here. It can mean an alert curiosity, as in, “I wonder what would happen if I accepted that new job offer.” It can also indicate awe and amazement, such as the wonder you feel when you gaze at the vast expanse of the ocean or a deep dark sky full of stars.

Wondering about your circumstances, and what might happen if you made a change, allows new energy to flow into your experience. It doesn’t even have to be a major change. Let yourself ponder your options. What would happen if you went for a walk this evening instead of settling onto the couch for some Netflix? What if you asked your partner to come home early and spend the afternoon with you? If you’re depressed or in a serious crisis, wonder about what might change if you made a couple of phone calls to therapists and set up an appointment.

Yes, musing about change feels much safer than actually acting, and its possible to get stuck here, too. But wondering is the first step. Once you’ve opened your mind and heart to new possibilities, they might not be quite so scary. Your situation might not seem quite so set in stone. Wondering is a good start.

Tapping into your sense of wonder is another useful tool for getting unstuck. Nature is an amazing healer. When you’re outside in a beautiful setting, your own problems will shrink, at least temporarily. Go to the shore, or the mountains, or for a walk in the forest. If you’re afraid to go alone, ask a trusted friend to accompany you. Make space for some silent time as part of your excursion.

Be quiet and let the power of nature affect you. Stop and gaze at the world around you. Wonder at the forces that brought about this gorgeous planet of ours. Let the sense of wonder that you had as a young child seep back into your heart. Breathe deeply, drawing the fresh air down into your lungs.

Repeat these two steps several times – wonder about your circumstances, and get outdoors regularly. Journal about your experience. Allow wonder to be your companion, inviting it in for tea. Very slowly, start to take steps toward change. You’ll be surprised at the gentle power of these seemingly simple techniques.

Starcat’s Favorites: A Full Fall

autumnwalkThis fall has proven to be a very full one for me thus far. How about you?

I’ve been working on finishing up my book draft, and I’m finally nearing the end of the process. While I’d wanted to be finished by now, I’m delighted to say that just this week I (with help from BlackLion) came up with the title: Centered In Spirit: Crafting Your Daily Practice. Our plan is to have it available early next month. I can’t wait to share it with you! I’ve been doing daily spiritual practice for nearly 20 years now, and I can’t imagine life without it. I’m so excited to help readers custom-design a practice that works in your schedule and helps you live a more joyful and meaningful life!

I’ve also been very involved in my business coaching program, and attended a fantastic two-day retreat with a tribe of amazing women entrepreneurs. This is so much more than a business program – I feel like I’m studying at Hogwarts! It’s really terrific. My coach is helping me plan some exciting new offerings for 2016.

Between the book and my homework, blogging seems to have fallen off the radar a bit. I look forward to finishing up the draft and then getting back to a regular presence here. In the meantime, here are some recent favorites for your weekend.

My Word of the Year for 2015 is GRACE. I love these musings on grace.

I’m so thrilled that the new 2016 Leonie Dawson planners are now available for purchase! The 2015 version played a huge part in my transformation this year, in life and in business. This is an affiliate link – I’m so impressed with the planners that I signed on as one of her worldwide ambassadors.

This post is called “You’ll Either Love or Hate This.” Obviously I loved it.

My daughter and I bond over our love of Indian food. We made this recipe for chana masala recently – super delicious!

Do you ever work with mantras or affirmations? Here’s an article on what mantras are and how they work, and another one that includes some modern ways to use ancient mantras.

Looking for affordable ways to stay healthy and well? Here are some ideas. One of the things she mentions is guided meditations – here are some of ours to check out if you’re interested.

Have a terrific week!

Starcat’s Favorites: Autumn’s Beauty

I wanted to share an inspiring post with you today about my experience at the Life Without Instructions (LWI) unschooling conference in New Jersey. It will be full of photos of people of all ages enjoying their freedom and joy, with quotes and bits of wisdom that I gleaned from my experience there. It will tie in unschooling, freedom, creativity, and spirituality. It’ll be awesome.

BlackLion took this photo on one of our recent walks.

BlackLion took this photo on one of our recent walks.

Alas, I haven’t had the chance to finish that post just yet. I’ve been recovering from travel and catching up with a bunch of work and household stuff. I’ve also been taking walks and enjoying the beauty of autumn. What a lovely season.

So instead of that post, I’ll share some of my favorite links from the past few weeks – and schedule in some more time to write about LWI soon.

Being your true self isn’t always easy, but it’s so worth it!

Do you have a morning ritual? Something uplifting that you do each morning, just for you? Try it.

Looking for happiness? This episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour will help with some clues. Also, I highly recommend watching the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness. Laugh and learn.

I guess I’m all about the audio this week. Here’s another terrific public radio program, this one on creativity.

The truth is, being a Mom is hard sometimes. Especially when they’re little. Leonie speaks it out loud.

Have a delightful weekend!


Patience & Perseverance – A Pep Talk

sunflower.jpgHow is it possible that we’ve already reached the end of September? Is it just me, or has this entire month just flown right by?

Also, is anyone else being tossed around by the waves of cosmic energies lately? (Check out the dance of the stars and planets here and here). The super full moon eclipse, Mercury retrograde, and all sorts of conjunction-junctions feel to me like a stormy ride on a choppy sea. Hang on!

Meanwhile, I’ve been hard at work on a couple of big projects. Despite Mercury retrograde’s best attempts to slow me down – my laptop has been out of commission for a couple of weeks and is now in for repairs – I’m nearing completion of the first draft of my third book. It’s all about creating a custom-tailored daily spiritual practice, something I’ve been doing for years and wanted to share with the world. I’ve also been taking an online coaching course for women entrepreneurs with heart-centered businesses. It’s absolutely fantastic, and just what I needed. I’ve also been performing, celebrating birthdays, helping some friends, and more. It’s been two years now since my dear friend Jenn passed away, and I’ve been thinking of her a lot and musing on life and death and what’s beyond.

This has been such a year of transformation for me. How about you?

I arrived at the end of summer feeling like I was firmly grounded in my new sparkling reality – and while that’s true, I’ve been discovering this month how much I still have to learn. The coaching course has helped me to uncover even more old beliefs, resistance, and fears, that I’m now working on letting go. Layers and layers…

There are some significant changes in my family’s life, too, that are really good, but still require some adjustment. My son has started college, and while he’s still living at home for now, he’s become much more self-sufficient and autonomous. I’m so proud of him. My daughter continues to grow, learn, and follow her passions. For the first time in several years, we won’t be attending the weekly EarthSchool homeschooling co-op. She’s grown out of it, and while I’m glad to free up some time each week, I’m going to miss seeing the awesome families there on a regular basis.

Don’t tell anyone, but I even kind of miss soccer. I was a reluctant soccer mom, but it somehow doesn’t seem like fall without it. My son offered to attend a game with me, but it’s just not the same when he’s not out there on the field.

Change is challenging, but it’s how we grow. I’m thankful that my son asks for my help with proof-reading his college papers. My daughter and I are cooking up some fun plans for this year’s unschooling. She and BlackLion and I will be attending the Life Without Instructions conference in just a few days! I’m also really excited about expanding Feline Dreamers, using the new techniques I’m learning from my coach.

As far as riding the waves of the stormy patches, I think what’s helping me most is patience and perseverance. If I have a less-than-productive day, I chalk it up to needing a break, and get back to my writing the next day. When my emotions are all over the place, I do some extra meditation and write it all out in my journal. I let go of guilt and give myself a little pep talk.

It’s up to us to remember, again and again, that we’re not just worthy because of what we do. We are already eternal beings, worthy of love and blessings just by virtue of our existence.

Go forth from that space of self-love and self-acceptance, and follow the sparks of inspiration wherever they take you. Be patient with yourself. Keep trying. Follow your dreams, yes, but also go with the flow, letting your intuition guide you.

Life is an amazing journey, and while it’s often full of unexpected twists and turns, you learn more and more each day.

Stick with it. You’ve got this.

Starcat’s Favorites: Back to It

Don’t you just love September? After the crazy social whirlwind that is August for my family, I really relish that “back to school” vibe, the motivation to get organized and focused on what’s most important. Although I haven’t attended school for many years, and my unschoolers have never been at all, I always love the fresh start, the inspiring creative energies of this time of year.

This year, though, my son is actually going to school for the first time (not back to it). He started at the local community college last week. He’ll be living at home for now. I love seeing him getting into the swing of things and enjoying his new schedule.

I’m in the process of taking a business coaching program, which is something that is very new to me. I absolutely adore it so far! I’m so excited to learn new things and ramp up my heart-centered work in the world, from writing to Reiki to Feline Dreamers.

It’s a long weekend (here in the U.S. anyway), so take some extra chill time just for you and enjoy these links! I’ll be hitting the hammock with my Kindle this weekend, for sure.

WP_20150718_050This article about getting back on track this autumn is just the thing. Right on.

I’ve finally arrived at this point, where my own heart’s callings are more important than what others think of me (which feels like a huge sigh of relief!). If you haven’t quite gotten there yet, here’s your permission slip!

On following your own map through life…

YES to this post! Please do, share away!

It’s so interesting to me, all the ways people find to make a living without working a traditional 9-5 job. Here are a couple of good articles on unjobbing and being a jack (or jill) of all trades.

Reading before bed is one of my favorite parts of the day. Are you a fan of fantasy series, like me? Watch out, this list will add a bunch of titles to your to-read list…

Feeling a bit low as the seasons begin to change? Here are some tips to use to cheer yourself up.

Enjoy the remaining days of summer and best wishes for a fun and productive autumn!

Caskets and Comfort Zones

“A comfort zone is just another word for a casket.” – Quester

Quester came up with that quote about seven years ago, when we were going through a lot of big changes in our lives. The biggest change was that I was quitting my full-time job to stay home with the kids and jump-start my writing career, while he entered the workforce again after being a full-time Dad for more than a decade. These were things that we both agreed we wanted, and yet at the same time, creating big change can be uncomfortable and scary.

The point, though, is that if you’re staying stuck in the same-old, same-old, status quo, just for the sake of being comfortable, you’re not really living. And if you don’t create change on your own terms, eventually the Universe will shake things up, perhaps not in the way you’d hoped.

There’s a woman in my community who seems really devoted to her own comfort zone. She has a job she likes well enough, friends and family she spends time with, and a cozy home with familiar routines she enjoys. Though she’s very kind and seems mostly content, I was kind of shocked to learn that she doesn’t really have any personal goals. She’s just not the type of person who deliberately focuses on how she can grow and learn and become more.

Which is fine, of course. We each live our lives in our own way.

The thing is, though, that the Universe keeps shaking things up for my friend. Over the past few years she’s had health issues, challenges at work, several friends in crisis, and even some trouble with the physical structure of her home. I can’t help but thinking that if she stepped outside of her comfort zone on her own, just a bit, just once in a while, she’d discover that change doesn’t always have to be negative or disruptive. I feel like she’d be a happier person.

The changes we welcome into our lives on purpose can be so much more meaningful than those that happen in order to shake us out of our inertia.

These days, Quester is working with a good friend, doing stone-masonry and landscaping, and is enjoying the work he does. I’ve published two books so far, and I’m working on my third. One of our kids is starting college next week (gulp!) and our other one is enjoying her life as an unschooler, pursuing her passions on her own terms (she would be a junior if she were in high school). No, life hasn’t been without challenges, but by surfing the waves of change on a regular basis, we become more flexible and adaptable.

Even though we’re working for ourselves, setting our own schedules and so forth, it’s still possible to get stuck in that comfort zone. BlackLion and I face that in our business, Feline Dreamers. What we’re doing in a particular area might not be working the way we wish, but it’s familiar, and it’s hard to know what to do instead. So we just keep going.

This fall, I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone once again. I’ve signed up for a business coaching program. It’s my first time investing in myself and my business this way. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. But writing great books and creating interesting content isn’t enough. We want to share our insights and wisdom with lots of people, and that means learning how to do more effective marketing – in an ethical way that doesn’t feel icky.

Fall always feels like a fresh, clean slate to me. It’s that “back to school” feeling, but in a good way, because I’m designing my own curriculum. I feel like pushing myself a bit will help me to be more inspired on many different levels.

What about you? How are you pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone? What goals and aspirations are you ready to pursue?

If you’re ready to create powerful positive change in your life, delving deep into your core beliefs can be a good place to start. Check out our Alchemy of Core Beliefs course, starting September 1st.

Starcat’s Favorites: Creative Abundance

augustflowersHave I mentioned how much I love this time of year? The gardens, yards, and farms are all abundant with fruits, veggies, and flowers. My creativity, too, is in abundance mode.

While being busy with presentations and performances at various summer events, I’m also in the midst of working on my third book, preparing to offer next month’s The Alchemy of Core Beliefs online course, and much more. How about you? Is your creativity going wild as we move into late summer?

Here are some good reads and helpful links to inspire your weekend!

Getting outdoors more often has amazing health benefits – and summer is the perfect time to go “forest bathing.”

When was the last time you used a coloring book? It’s a great way to meditate…

Have you powered through your summer reading list already? Here are some great sci-fi books to check out.

I found this article very interesting. Which Buddhist personality type are you? I think I’m greedy…

If you want to ramp up your creative flow with writing prompts, here’s a wonderful collection.

Late last month, the music director of Dark Follies, Stephen Carpenter, was hit by a car and badly injured while he was out running. We’re taking part in a benefit concert and silent auction next week to help him with medical expenses and lost wages. There’s also a GoFundMe page if you’re not able to attend. Please help support this wonderful man as he recovers and returns to drumming and performing!

Looking to expand your personal creativity and have more fun in  your daily life? Download my free e-book, Open Your Creative Portals, and soak in the inspiration!