I have always been a foodie. even before it became a thing. As a child, I preferred blue cheese to American, spinach to watermelon, liver & onions to pizza, and I still do. Now my tastes have developed to include a wide variety of unusual and ethnic foods as well. What does food have to do with a writing blog? Bear with me and you'll see.
Among my many culinary discoveries are a few surprises that opened up a whole new area of obsession - food as medicine. This idea is nothing new. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates certainly had it right. But there are some things even Hippocrates didn't know about.
For instance, my new favorite morning beverage is chaga tea. Brewed from chunks of a blackish fungus that grows only in certain birch trees, this powerful antioxidant stimulates and regulates the immune system, reduces inflammation, helps with ulcers and gastritis, normalizes cholesterol and blood pressure levels, slows aging, and improves skin. Since Chaga grows wild only in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern areas of the United States and in Canada, it is doubtful the Father of Modern Medicine ever heard of it.
Chaga has been referred to as the King of Mushrooms, and for good reason. But lately, I've become even more fascinated with a flavorful, fermented beverage called kombucha. This healthy brew dates as far back as 2000 years ago in ancient China, where it was consumed regularly to combat inflammation and ward off cancers. Despite it's vinegary fizz, many today consider it a refreshing alternative to less healthy sugary or diet sodas, and drink it for taste as well as its probiotic qualities. I find kombucha (along with yogurt and home-cured sauerkraut) to be incredibly yummy, and excellent for promoting healthy gut flora. My first home brewed batch is fermenting on my kitchen counter as I write this, and I can hardly wait to try it!
We all know the world is a better place because of mold, at least, the penicillin and cheese producing varieties. (Just imagine if Dr. Alexander Flemming had come back from vacation and thrown out all of those moldy petri dishes he found in his lab!) Composting experts confirm that a little bit of rot works wonders for the garden. Bacteria and fungus are responsible for fine wines and gastronomic wonders, not to mention they are nature's clean-up crew. We would be lost without them. It only follows then that, as a writer, I have great appreciation for literary decomposition.
The simplest things make the most sense.
When I first sat down to write about the world I'd been mulling over for decades, I began with the most basic of elements; a name. My main character, named for a drawing I had done, was Aryelle - no matter how much I tried to think of her as someone else. Breaking that name down into syllables, I came up with a meaning for it. That led to a history, genealogy, and eventually an entire language, which included references to ancient wisdom revered by her race of empaths, as recorded in the Book of Illumination. Those adages became the basis for numerous side plots, bringing to life not only new characters, but entire races of people. What had started as the simplest of elements mushroomed into the rich soil of Emrysia, now three books strong, with a prequel and sequel well underway.
Decomposition, at its finest, always leads to growth.
The characters coming to life now in the prequel are Ladhonna, Leandra and Kayanna - The Daughters of Ka'Dharron. This trio's sibling relationship will determine who they become as adults, and the roles each of them will play in Aryelle's life. As author, it's fascinating to see these characters grow and develop; the why and how lies in the sum of experience. Since this book is all about construction through deconstruction, it is my kombucha moment - a little sweet, a little tart, and full of good, healing things. I hope you as a reader will enjoy it, too, but you have to want the healing to happen. You have to look for it. Otherwise, all you may taste is vinegar.
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
People will tell you to write what you know, what you love. It's advice worth listening to...
For years now, in addition to my novels and poetry, I have been blogging. While this site is mostly about writing and becoming your best self, earlier blogs were all about family life and the foibles of being a Momster. (Check out imustbeoffmyrocker.blogspot.com/) It was cheaper than therapy, and killed more than the proverbial two birds with each post: I got to stay home with my kids, exercise my creative muscles, grow my tech skills, and help other moms know they weren't alone in their struggles. It was, and still is, a way to impact the world while bettering myself. Parenting is kinda the same.
I love my kids. They are amazing people despite the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing half of the time as a mother. Dwelling on all the mistakes I've made along the way, I sometimes get overwhelmed - with guilt, with regret... and with a longing to do better. It's that last one that matters most. No one is perfect, but acknowledging our flaws and moving forward from there is the only way to improve. Every. Single. Time. I may stumble more often than I'd like, but eventually, if my goal is the mountaintop, I will get there only by continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It's important to remember that - not just as a writer and parent, but as a human being - and to keep trying. We are all works in progress.
There are times within a family that it's members are like sandpaper, rubbing each other the wrong way. That friction is what smooths out our rough edges, and polishes us for our role in the world - a place just chock-a-block full of grit. (The world takes its polishing seriously!) Similarly, in a novel there is always conflict. How the characters push through it is what makes up a good story. Show me a life without conflict, and I'll show you a story that is going nowhere.
"A flat road won't take you up the mountain."
I think that might be my best quote yet. As someone who seeks to continually learn and better herself, it gives me the proper perspective for my climb. Here's to your journey and mine; may it be filled with just enough grit and stumbling blocks to make it interesting.
If you liked this post feel free to share. Photo credits to K. M. D. in this shot of her sister, J.E.D.
In a few short days we will take our fourth child off to college. In fact, in the same trip we will be delivering two daughters to their respective places of higher learning. That will leave only our bonus baby - now nearing double digits - at home. It feels bittersweet.
I'm not gonna lie, there have been times when parenting a whole handful of kids has been almost more than I could handle. But for the most part, it has been a blessing. We've watched them grow into caring, mostly responsible adults with aspirations to make the world a better place. Now, we're back to the waiting and wondering stage...
What will they be?
Where will they live?
Who will they love?
Will they forget everything we taught them?
When will they be back?
Why did we worry so much?
Time will tell.
I commemorate this new stage of "almost empty nestdom" with a poem. I hope you like it. And, if you see one of my kids being their awesome selves out in the world, tell 'em their momma misses them.
I Loved You, First
I loved you,
first with hungry heart waiting,
worried you would arrive with too few fingers or toes,
or that I, in my own imperfection, would somehow fail you.
I loved you then -
shaken by the ferocity of feelings your squirming, six-pound frame evoked -
with a heart so full of pride it must burst.
I watched you crawl, then walk, then run
and knew there would be no holding you back
when the time came for you to fly.
Year after year,
pouring out my love
my heart grew inexplicably more full,
expanding to envelop your siblingssometimesrivals
like some mad sci-fi monster, never sated
and spiraling to ruin
...because by then, you see,
I had realized that,
I would love you all
with a heart broken only by my own fragile expectations.
One by one you leave the nest,
ready to conquer the world,
and my heart is still full -
full of awestruck, fearsome powerful love,
finely tempered by these hollowed, mother bird’s bones
which still, and forever, remember
that was mine
Dear readers: I hope you all had relaxing summers, and that this next season finds you supercharged for whatever challenges lay ahead. Keep writing, keep reading, and keep your chin up! We can make a difference in this world by daring to be our best selves!
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You've heard it a thousand times: If something isn't working right, unplug and give it a minute - including yourself.
This is really great advice, but for some reason, hard to get through my thick skull. Fortunately, at least once a year - whether I want to or not - I have to unplug . It's called Family Camping Reunion.
Each summer I spend about three weeks preparing for our 16 hour road trip (one way, give or take) and camping extravaganza. This includes extensive list-making, fine-tuning all of the necessary arrangements for our house and critters while we're away, organizing and packing not only clothing, but everything required to provide a relatively comfortable home-away-from-home stay in as little (and probably damp) space possible, and then rethinking it all at night instead of sleeping. While I love seeing our extended family, I gotta confess that on more than one occasion, I have dreaded the whole affair with the air of one being led to the guillotine. Cramped pop-ups or tents do not always happy campers make - especially those who are just slightly OCD and more than a little resentful picking up after everyone! Give me a beach in Bali with a swim-up bar and no responsibility, and I'll show you one relaxed momma, but a sand-filled sleeping bag and cooking over an open flame without the aid of my normal kitchen equipment is not what I call a "real" vacation...
...until this year.
The first thing I unplugged was my attitude; not an easy feat for this compulsive whiner. It's amazing how much difference letting go of expectations makes - not to mention how much easier it is on the ears! I tried to go into this year's trip with the thought that any change would be a good one. What with writer's block and feeling depressed a large chunk of the time, I wasn't doing so hot with all of the standard creature comforts, so really, why let impending discomfort take the blame for what I was slowly recognizing as an internal deficiency?
Next, I let go of perfection (or what passes for it around here) and went with the bare bones. Since only three members of our household were making the trip this year, we downsized everything including our mode of transportation. Want a puzzle? Try fitting a cooler, suitcases, tent, cots, sleeping bags and various other necessary camping accoutrements into a tiny Suzuki with enough room left over for passenger comfort. I did it, but only with a lot of creative crevice filling, and ditching whatever we could survive without.
The trip out was actually quite pleasant. Hubby had burned CD's with each of our top ten favorites, and with fewer souls to wrangle, pit-stops were shorter and less frequent. We arrived already ahead of the game, and fair weather lasted all week. With hubby's help, I unplugged my pride and, to the best of my ability, my mom-guilt. When he offered to cook not once, but twice, I let him, and did not even care that my daughter ate little more than hotdogs and chicken all week; at least she was fed. And, whenever I could, I let myself relax into the upsides of camping: later bed times, morning walks on the beach, no make-up, and most of all, no tech! Facetime takes on a whole new meaning when the person you're chatting with is sitting around the campfire with you. I didn't take a single picture, make a single call (other than to check in at home), tweet, check Facebook or gmail. I didn't market my books, not even once, and I for sure didn't miss it!
We're back home now, and soon I'll be just as "connected" as I was before we left. But, maybe with a few modifications. My batteries have a little more charge now, and I'm seeing things with new perspective. I have rebooted. I must have. I'm already looking forward to camping again next year.
Photo credit - Ron DeKett
My hubby and I have a fun new habit. Every day he emails and asks me to tell him a story about some specific part of my life, which I do, and then I ask for one in return. His intent when he began this was increased connectivity, and possibly a history of sorts to pass along to our kids. You see, neither of us knows much about our own parents' growing up years, other than a few oft-repeated tales that will forever live in the annals of family lore. Some are detailed enough to make you feel like you could have been there, but a mere handful of anecdotes does not a lifetime make. There are many things we would like to know, things we wish we had asked. With both his parents gone now, he'll never have the chance. Next week, when we visit my mother several states away, I'm looking forward to sitting down with her and trying to get a few more stories to add to the family collection. And, just maybe, we'll create some new ones together.
I hope your summer is going swimmingly, and that it is full of stories worth remembering. Don't forget to share them with the ones you love!
How can a writer floundering through an existential crisis inspire herself to keep writing, let alone encourage you, the reader? You got me.
Let's get real. I'm tired. I've been at this game a while now, and at my "real" job of raising a family a whole lot longer. Most of it is hard work. Much of it I love, and some really sucks. Several tasks have gotten easier with time, but just when I get the knack and think I've finally mastered either writing or life, the rules change. It seems like I'm forever playing catch up; on sleep, on marketing, on word counts, and always on being a good mom/human. I'm hard on myself, yeah, but I'm hard on everyone else too, so it's only fair, I guess.
Self-pity makes me teary. I don't like wallowing despite the depth of my current state of self-loathing, but time and again, I crawl back into this dreaded pit that takes me twice as long to tunnel my way out of. (Yes, I know I ended that sentence in a preposition; I don't care!) I have enough mom guilt for a dozen moms, and writer's block on top of that. When you add the age factor, outside commitments, the stress of trying to put kids through college (and parenting young adults- yikes!), and me still not making a dent in the family finances except to deplete them, it all adds up to more than I can shoulder. Today, anyhow.
So, how does this whine-fest help anyone? Why would I bother to blog when all I can do is moan?
Sometimes all we need to hear is that we're not alone, that someone else understands. That they've been where we are, and believe things will get better. Your story might be different, but "the pits" are common territory. Whatever put you down here, please know that you have company. You may not have anyone reaching down to pull you up. You may have to get up under your own power. I write this from our shared pit to bolster you, both of us struggling, because I know - if I choose to - I will get back to where the sun shines again. I want to see you there.
Let's dig our way out together.
Yep, this is just about how my lawn looks, and guess what? I don't care! Soon as I finish this post, I'm headed out to the pool again with my youngest, and letting the weeds live to see another day. Summer in new England is just too short to waste.
Don't get me wrong, I love the way the yard looks (and smells!) freshly mown. Our little, rural slice of heaven can be quite stunning despite dilapidated out-buildings, a perpetually overgrown perennial garden (I haven't thinned it in years) and random divots scratched out by chickens enjoying their dust baths. But... a beautifully manicured lawn isn't as high on the priority list as a little rest and relaxation time with family. In fact, the mom in me takes family over manicured anything. I can't tell you the last time I had my nails painted. I can, however, recall the sound of my daughter's delighted laughter over the giant air bubble that got trapped in in my bathing suit and made me look like I was wearing an inner-tube earlier today.
Part of me is a little sad over lost writing time now that school is out. Let's face it, a busy household is not the best place to concentrate on developing plot lines. But, in the greater scheme of things, I would rather be present as my own story unfolds. I'm reminded of a quote - Don't get so busy chasing dreams that you lose sight of reality. The weeds are real, but so are the children who are growing up just as fast. Thank goodness I have summertime to slow down and enjoy them.