Starcat’s Favorites: Kitty Snuggles

As you probably know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, late winter is NOT my favorite. I keep getting emails and seeing memes on social media with messages like “it’s almost spring!” I delete them immediately, as in Maine…it’s not even close.

Our monthly family potluck was supposed to be this Sunday, with a tropical theme to get us through the tail end of winter. Um, yeah. We had to postpone it because we’ll be having sleet, slush, freezing rain, and other forms of precipitation that no one wants to drive in. Old Man Winter is laughing at us, I’m sure. (I’m trying not to even think about a year ago today, when Quester called me from an icy trail, lying on the ground with his ankle broken).

But this post is supposed to be about things that ARE my favorites. So, among the things that help me through the its-still-winter-but-its-already-spring-elsewhere months: kitty snuggles, fuzzy PJ pants, soft blankets, lots of good books, chai tea with almond milk and honey, and (as always) cool stuff I find on the web and want to share with you.

Here goes:

Have a challenging time being still for meditation? Try mala beads.

I don’t have teen kids anymore (I KNOW – my baby turned 20 last month!), but I loved this interview.

Speaking of kids growing up – are you feeling kinda peri-menopausal, ladies? Take this hilarious quiz.

The original “work smarter, not harder” guru: Thoreau.

I feel so lucky and blessed to know my soul’s callings. If you’re not quite sure about yours, this article can help. (Maybe it’s writing! Is it writing? Read this).

Looking for some good news for a change? I got this awesome link from astrologer Rob Brezsny.

Have an awesome weekend – and if you live near me, stay dry and cozy!

Why All the Struggling? (A Rant)

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a writer. I was drawn to the magick of stories almost as soon as I arrived on the planet. I started reading at age four, and became a voracious bookworm. I took a notebook and pen everywhere I went. I loved to study and learn.

It’s pretty clear, from my current vantage point, that this was (and is) my calling.

And yet…

As I grew, I was told by well-meaning adults that “writer” was not a valid career path. “You can’t make a living at it,” I heard many times. In my AP English class, we studied classic authors who were brilliant…and who were also addicted to alcohol or drugs, or had been confined in a mental institution, or had committed suicide.

Writing came easily to me, and the ideas flowed forth like a fountain, but I discounted my efforts, and listened to those who urged me to instead focus on “the real world.”

As high school came to an end, I shifted my focus to journalism.

In college, I soon found that my temperament wasn’t suited to a career as a journalist. Deadlines are stressful, and stress and my body don’t do well together. So I adjusted again, and studied broadcasting. I took a creative writing class on the side, and the professor’s self-proclaimed “tough” critiquing style turned me away from writing fiction for a couple of decades. Clearly I sucked at this writing thing, after all.

I ended up with a perfectly fine career in public radio. But it wasn’t my calling. 

It took me until my early 40s to become a published author. I’m now almost 50, and I’m just beginning to make a living through my passion for words. Even setting aside that “making a living” part, when I re-dedicated myself to my calling, it brought a profound shift in my life.

What I discovered is that – for me – writing, reading, and studying is amazingly joyful work. It’s fulfilling. I get up each day eager to do my work in the world. Creativity is FUN.

My young child self knew this decades ago, but was vulnerable to the beliefs of the mainstream culture.

I know my story isn’t uncommon. It isn’t just writers – many of us who are creative and drawn to the arts are discouraged from pursuing our passions. It’s not just about the money, either. We’re fed a constant litany of stories about how freaking hard it is to create. How the creative process will destroy your life and your sanity. How it’s not “normal” to live the life of the imagination. How artists toil away in self-imposed solitary confinement, miserable and hungry.

Just try to be like everyone else, already, those voices whisper. Forget creating. Go shopping or something.

I call bullshit.

Sure, there are times when writing (or creating) is hard – in the way that any pursuit can be, on some days. But a good creative challenge is also fulfilling, uplifting, and fun.

Why do we make it harder? Why hold our fellow human beings back from indulging in the creative passions that light them up? Why the emphasis on struggle?

As a culture, we idolize those who have achieved success in the arts, particularly actors and musicians. Yet we discourage our children from bringing forth their creative talents. We cut funding for arts education. We build a solid wall between work and play.

We encourage one another to “keep the day job,” to spend our leisure time on superficial pursuits, and to ignore the whispers of the muses. As adults, we “don’t have time” to create, because we’re too busy with “more important” tasks.

It’s stupid. Let’s give it up.

Thanks for reading my rant. Next time, I’ll talk about how to go from struggling to thriving.

Do you have a book idea that’s been haunting your dreams? Want some tips for how to get that book written – without all the struggle? Sign up for my newsletter over at my website.

Water Priestess in Winter

First let me say that I love living in Maine. I adore the summer, the beaches, the lakes, the forests, the autumn, the mountains, cool people, spring flowers, and yes, even the snow. Mostly.

As a Pagan priestess and a hippie chick, Earth-based spirituality is the way I live. I enjoy the turn of the seasons, the phases of the moon, and living in harmony with those energy tides.

Until late February, when I start to hear and read “spring is coming!” Um, no. Not here. Not yet.

We’ve had Spring Equinox circles where the kids made benches around the fire pit from the four feet of snow piled up in the backyard. It is rare when we don’t get at least one snowstorm in April, let alone March. Late winter in my state is full of mud and ice and cold winds.

So, right about now, I’m dreaming of warm sand beaches and turquoise waters. Not that I’ve actually been to the tropics…yet.

Over the past few years, it’s been made clear to me that I’m a water priestess. I’ve embraced the calling. I’m doing research for a book (working title: Water Wisdom) about this experience, and the value of water (literal and metaphorical) in our lives. My writing retreats are all going to happen by the sea. My philanthropic plans include helping clean up the oceans.

I love being a water priestess, but this year in particular, it seems to make the winter even longer. Longer until I can plunge into those heavenly waters under the open sky. Pools just aren’t the same. I’m stuck in the waiting place.

Unless, of course, I can manifest my dreams of visiting the Caribbean and swimming in the warm sea. Hey, it would count as research for my book and the search for retreat venues, right?

In the meantime, I’m dreaming of swimming in the sea and reading on the beach under the sun.

3 Tips for Loving What You Do

One of the best gifts I’ve given myself in my adult life is to do what I love, and love what I do. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has completely changed my life, in so many positive ways.

It’s especially vital for creative types, and those drawn to spiritual matters – yeah, I’m talking to you! It’s time to destroy the stereotype of the Starving Artist (I have a whole rant on that topic, which I’ll save for another post) once and for all. Now is the perfect time to expand into doing what you love as a full-on career path.

I’m not saying to quit your day job tomorrow. It’s taken me about a decade to fully transition into a place where I’m making a living doing what I love – and I’m still building pieces of it!

Here are three key ways to build your dream career.

  1. DO what you love. You might need to find out what that is first, or maybe you already know. But no matter what it is, build time into your life to actually DO it. Even if you’re currently in a soul-sucking 9-to-5 job, or you have little kids, or you care for elderly parents – maybe it’s all of the above! No matter what your current life looks like, you can take an hour during the week to do something that lights you up. Build a habit. The more you do it, the more it will expand into the rest of your life.
  2. LOVE what you do. Even the aforementioned soul-sucking day job? Yes! Even that. Change your attitude. Up your game. Switch jobs, if it’s possible. Look at it as a temporary gig, a “bridge job” to what you’d rather be doing. Learn to love the perennial housework – when I decided to let go of resentment about household chores, I discovered that doing dishes or folding laundry is the perfect time to daydream new book ideas! The more joy you allow into your daily experience, the more opportunities will appear before you. It’s a matter of tuning in to outside-the-box ideas that were there all along – you just couldn’t see them through your fog of grumpiness and boredom.
  3. Get some SUPPORT. I struggled along, trying to DIY my business for several years. Then I hired a biz coach – one who I resonated with. She has tattoos and rescues pit bulls, and is delightfully witchy. I adore her. Find someone cool who knows a ton about what you’re trying to do and hire them. Use that old reliable bridge job to fund the building of something better. Leveraging your success by hiring someone amazing will save you a lot of struggle, confusion, and frustration.

In order to thrive, you need – and deserve – to do what you love. We’ve been collectively sold a whole crappy philosophy about work being a drag and creativity not being profitable. There’s no need to suffer.

Step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Take that first step on the path to doing what you love, and learn to love everything you do along the way. 

(Is writing one of your secret loves? Want some support in making it part of your everyday life? Join my e-newsletter list at the website).

Starcat’s Ten Best Books of 2018

Hey there, bibliophiles! Before January is over (how did this month fly by so fast?!), it’s time to share my ten favorite reads from last year. In preparing this post, I noticed that I apparently didn’t create a “best books” post last January. Huh. I know I read some great books in 2017. Maybe I should go back through my journals and see if there are any gems I just have to suggest.

Meanwhile, onward and upward with my recommendations for great reads from 2018. As always, please note that these aren’t necessarily books that came out in 2018. They’re just my top favorites of the 42 books I read during the year.

Here’s my list:

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. This luscious novel is a prequel to Hoffman’s classic Practical Magic. I’d read that book many years ago, but this new novel swept me effortlessly into the story, and carried me along like a powerful current. This is masterful writing.

The Transformational Power of Dreaming: Discovering the Wishes of the Soul by Stephen Larsen and Tom Verner. On the subject of dreams, my all-time favorite author is Robert Moss, and this book ranks right up there with his best works. The authors offer many entry points into exploring your dreams, and they sprinkle the book with stories that connect and inspire. If you’re at all drawn to working with your dreamscape, you’ll want to read this.

Art & Soul, Reloaded by Pam Grout. I’ve put this book on the list because it provides a perfect entry point for those wishing to expand their creativity. I didn’t go through the week-by-week program she offers, because I feel like I’ve already done this work on my own. But if you’re looking to include more deliberate creative time in your daily life, this book is an excellent guide. I love her playful, sassy writing style.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. This is the first book in a series, and it’s wonderful. I love writing that feels like a faery tale, and this one definitely qualifies.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain. I came across this fantasy novel, another first book in a series, last summer, and immediately wondered why I hadn’t heard of the author before. The world-building is great, and Britain puts her own spin on the “heroine’s first adventure” thing. I plan to read more.

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero. I absolutely LOVE this book. Why? So many reasons, including Sincero’s philosophy, her humor, her badass self… It really resonated with me, big-time. I read it as part of my self-designed curriculum for upgrading my beliefs and actions around prosperity. I worked through all of the exercises and found them very helpful – and this book was never boring, which, face it, some books on money can be. I highly recommend it!

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. Because I loved her money book so much, I read her previous book, too. Super good. You’ll love it.

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll. I’ve been bullet journaling for just over two years now, and I love it. Reading the how-to manual from the inventor of the method seemed like a no-brainer. I’m so glad I did – I learned a ton! If you’re a bullet journaler or if you’re intrigued by it, get this book.

The Martian by Andy Weir. Between seeing the movie, which was great, and the book making the PBS Great American Read list, I decided to check it out. It’s even better (of course) than the movie, and I couldn’t put it down.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown. I read this book on the recommendation of a colleague, and now I want to read all of Brown’s books. Her work is revolutionary. I hope these ideas spread far and wide. Just…wow.

White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path From One Seeker to Another by Danielle LaPorte. This book made me laugh out loud, a lot. It also made me think, deeply. What more could you want? Plus, it’s Danielle LaPorte. She’s freaking amazing.

I also finished reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson) in 2018. I loved the ending! These books got better and better all the way through the series. If you love fantasy and haven’t read them, they’re a classic and a must.

What gems have you been reading lately?

Starcat’s Favorites: Transformation

We’re already almost finished with the first month of 2019, but I’m finding that I’m still processing 2018. Can you relate?

It was a hugely transformational year for me and my family.

We became empty-nesters. Quester broke his ankle, badly, and had to have (not one but two) surgeries. BlackLion got a new job outside the home. I’ve been up-leveling my business, my prosperity, and my writing in expansive new ways. I traveled to Denver and New York City for vacations. I’ve been the recipient of some exciting Big Visions, centering around my career and callings (I got professional photos done, even!). I’ve discovered some new friendships and nurtured some old ones.

Yeah. That’s a lot – and it isn’t even everything!

How about you? How was your 2018? How is your 2019 shaping up so far?

No matter what happens in my life, reading is still one of my favorite things. Here are some of my favorite reads from the autumn and early winter. I hope they inspire and enrich you!

This is the year I turn 50! I’m actually super excited and happy about it. Here’s a cool idea to celebrate a half-century.

Making some changes for the new year? Hang in there – it will get easier!

I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Marie Kondo’s new show. I also want to read her book; it’s in my virtual “to read” pile on my Kindle.

Bullet journaling? Why yes, I’m still enjoying it. Mine isn’t as fancy as this author’s, but it helps me keep myself organized.

Did anyone else do NaNoWriMo back in November? Here’s how to reward yourself. Also, a deep and insightful article on writing empathy.

Science is (slowly) exploring the existence of magick. I haven’t read the book discussed in this article yet, but it’s on my list.

Feeling weird about wanting to hire household help? Don’t!

I love this story! Synchronicity rocks.

After successfully raising two unschooled kids to adulthood, this post made me go “aww!” So sweet.

Winter pleasures: hot cocoa that’s good for you, new episodes of Dr. Who (note, this article does have a spoiler alert if you haven’t watched yet!), and nurturing yoga classes.

Enjoy the weekend!

An EASE-Filled 2019

This year’s word of the year was an easy choice – yeah, I confess, that’s a pun, but an incidental one.

You see, my word for 2019 is EASE. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’ve been working with the concept of ease & connection for several months now.

In a July post, I promised to let you know how it’s going. I’m delighted to report that my practice of ease & connection has been rocking my world! I’ve been letting go of old beliefs around money, work, and self-worth. Those beliefs had me buying into the false notion that anything worthwhile must include struggle and strife. It’s taken a while, but through practice, I’ve come to see that my work is much more productive and valuable when I approach it from a place of ease.

The same holds true for life as a whole. Even the tough parts are better approached with ease than with tension.

That doesn’t mean that work – or life – is always “easy,” but it does mean that when I’m in a place of struggle or angst, I pause. I use my tools to get centered before moving forward again. It involves processing and releasing stress, and then approaching any given situation from a grounded and connected place.

Contrary to what we’ve been taught, it really works!

Thus, I’m continuing this practice into 2019, and I’ve chosen EASE as my word for the year.

If you take a peek at my vision board, you might notice that travel is something I’m planning to do more of this year. I’ve discovered that, while I’d make a horrible nomad (I love my home and recharge here), I do really enjoy exploring the world. When I travel, I bring back loads of inspiration for my writing and my work. 

So, my Big Vision for 2019 and beyond is to offer luxury writing retreats 4 or 5 times per year. Some will be here in lovely Maine, and others in various places around the world. When I’m not leading retreats, I’ll be writing. I’m currently working on three books – yeah, at once – with more in the queue.

I’ve already signed the contract on a retreat venue for July 2019, in mid-coast Maine, on the ocean My first transformational luxury writing retreat is happening this year! I’m so thrilled. I love how ease and connection – and the support of my amazing biz coach and her community of inspiring women – have already allowed me to step into my callings in a more powerful way.

Here’s to EASE, connection, and inspiration in 2019!

I Am Hiding In My Tower

I Am Hiding In My Tower: A Prose Poem (for my Shadow)

I’m really good at being unseen.
I can walk down the street in broad daylight and not be noticed, if I want to.
I can slip through a crowd with barely a ripple.
I am the observer, and I see all that goes on, but I don’t make any waves.
I don’t make a sound.
If they don’t see me, they can’t hurt me.
They can’t bully me or pick on me.
I’m just another middle-aged hippie in a state of live-and-let-live, down to Earth people.
I don’t have to pay a bunch of taxes.
I can do what I want and get away with it.
I drive exactly five miles over the speed limit, and never ever get stopped by the cops.
I go with the flow.
I don’t bitch or complain.
I don’t send the food back if it’s cold or wrong.
I don’t want to make a fuss.
When things go wrong, I go to my room – my sacred space, my tower – and deal with my shit.
I don’t call a friend, even when I want a sympathetic ear, because, well, they’re all busy with their own stuff, and I’ll get over it soon.
I have tools.
I’ve got this.
I don’t make waves.
I want praise, not blame.
I’m a Good Girl. Right?
I do want to share my wisdom.
I want people to read my books.
But I hate asking them.
They should just be able to find it on Amazon or something.
I would rather clean up cat hurl than go ask bookstore owners to carry my books.
That feels like a unique form of torture.
If you can’t see me, you can’t tell me NO.
I can’t be rejected if I don’t ask.
I don’t want to bug you for help – even when I’ve paid in advance for the support.
You must be busy with other clients, who need you more than I do. Right?
If I deserve the readers, the clients, the support, or a friend’s listening ear, why then, the Universe will send them to my door.
Never mind that my place is hidden behind that invisibility spell, obscured by trees, guarded by a pittie mutt and two fierce cats and a houseful of tall strong men.
You can’t reach me in my tower.
But hey, where are you?
It’s kinda lonely up here.

Fun With Fitness

Writing, as I’ve mentioned before, is a pretty sedentary career. I know, because I’ve gained some weight over the past few years, as I focus more on my writing and book midwife work.

So for my birthday in September, I told my son I was interested in getting a fitness tracker, and he gifted me one. You know, the watch-like devices you see people wearing on their wrists?

I’m enjoying it so far. Especially while I was on vacation.

While we were in Colorado visiting ElvenTiger, we did a LOT of walking. The standard goal for these types of trackers is to hit 10,000 steps per day. That was easy to do out there. Some days we accomplished 17,000 or more without thinking about it.

Coming back home and back to my work, it’s been a bit harder. 10K steps takes some time – like, a couple of hours of walking! That’s a chunk out of the day, particularly on weekdays, when I’m trying to get work done.

I’m also not much for exercise for its own sake. In the suburbs and city of Denver, there were so many places to walk to and so many sights to see. Out here in rural Maine, there aren’t really that many destinations within walking distance, and although the area is undeniably pretty, well, I grew up here, so I’m kind of used to it.

Also, winter is coming. Yes, really. And I don’t like to be cold. Or wet and cold, especially. Bleah.

So my challenge for myself is to fit more walking into my everyday life. We have a treadmill in the basement, and I plan to avail myself of it in cold and icy weather. The cool thing about using the treadmill is that I can multitask. I can listen to podcasts while I walk, and accomplish some learning as well as exercise. That’ll hopefully keep my interest.

Also, enlisting other friends and family members (four-legged as well as humans) to walk with me makes things more fun. Aine dog and I took a lovely long walk this week.

I need to manage my time more carefully, so I can get plenty of movement in each day.

I’m loving having this new tool – the fitness tracker itself – to help me stay on target with my exercise goals. We’ll see how it goes in the months to come. Wish me luck!

It’s All One Thing

Lately I keep dreaming of girl babies. In the first dream, my daughter was a tiny child, and she was upset and crying. Most of the dream was about trying to find out what was wrong, and to soothe her. (I called my daughter the next day, just in case, and she’s fine).

In the next dream, I was taking care of a fussy baby (I don’t think she was mine), and in order to get her to sleep, I fell asleep with her. I woke up (within the dream) to discover that the baby was gone!

I was very upset, and kept finding random kittens curled up in the blankets as I searched – but no baby.

In the third dream, I was once again taking care of someone’s baby, trying to get her to calm down. I was in a conference or retreat setting, and we were trying to get the baby to settle before our next group meeting. I was confident that I could help. I did all the usual things one does – rocking, singing, feeding, checking the diaper – but to no avail. Toward the end of the dream, another woman offered to try, so I handed the baby off to her.

Between the dreams, I’ve been trying to figure out what they might mean. I came up with a few ideas, but since the theme has continued, I’m not sure any of them fit just right.

I even looked up the topic in a dream dictionary, which I normally avoid as too generic. The suggestions I received there were things like not wanting people to see my vulnerability or weaknesses, a reminder to reconnect with a forgotten aspect of myself, and hearing from a part of my psyche that feels deprived of attention.

My own ponderings include the baby being my relatively new book midwife business, which I’ve been quite focused on this year. It could be one of my books – I have a few in the beginning stages. Or perhaps it’s my new status as a Mom with adult kids who have grown up and flown the nest.

After talking about it with a wise friend, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just one aspect of my life that’s showing up as a baby in my dreams. My mantra all summer has been “ease and connection.” In other words, no matter what I’m doing, my intention is to approach it with these qualities.

It’s one of those things that sounds simple, but takes a bit of practice to actually do.

Now I’m thinking that maybe my Younger Self, the baby in my dreams, is reacting to this new facet of my inner work.

She’s showing me the places in my psyche where I’m not yet at ease, the ones (like the dream dictionary suggested) that need more attention.

As much as we like to divide up the areas of our lives into work, family, self-care, and so on, it’s really all US. It’s all one thing.

Your life is your ultimate creation, a work of art that you’re always crafting. As we learn and grow, we continue to refine our creation. Our dreams, intuitions, and the clues life leaves in our path can help us to see the big picture, when we pay attention to them.

I’m listening, baby girl. I’ve got your back.