Mindful Mondays – Week 62 – How Does Reading Make Us Mindful?

Reading. We all read. Whether it is emails, text messages, or my favorite, actual physical, paper-bound books. Reading at its heart is a skill that is meant to allow us to communicate with each other. For the most part, those of us who have mastered the skill, take reading for granted.

We read traffic signs, shop windows, and more everyday. Reading allows us to navigate both the community we live in and the world at large. How then, can reading make us more mindful?

Mindful Benefit #1

I read A LOT of historical fiction. As a historical fiction author, part of what I enjoy most about this genre is the research that must go into a story in order to capture a reader’s attention. If I find myself immersed in a time and place far removed from where I physically exist, then the writer has done their job of transporting me. In its truest form, historical fiction allows me to communicate with the past.

Reading historical fiction not only teaches me about true events while providing insight into the past, it also teaches me to be more mindful of my actions today. For the past several years, I have read many World War II era stories. These stories have given me a glimpse into what life could be like during war time.

Last night, I had a dream. Or rather a nightmare. I woke startled and worried for my family. I had dreamed that we were immersed in a war, not unlike the last world war. The enemy was faceless but the threat felt very real. I began to wonder how individuals today would react to this kind of threat should it occur. Is history meant to repeat itself? Would some of us stand up, willing to end our own lives in the face of a bully? Would we run and hide? How could we alter the course of such heinous acts? Or rather, with these thoughts in mind, how can we prevent such an atrocity from happening to begin with?

Mindful Benefit #2

Reading allows us to escape into another character’s life. Even contemporary stories allow the reader to leave their own day behind and dive into someone else’s experience. We read, I think, not only to expand our mind but also to escape it. Immersing oneself into another person’s journey through life allows us the chance to take a break from our own.

This break from our own reality is like a mini vacation. Taking a step back from our own day to day life also allows us the opportunity to solve problems that may exist in our own experience. The number one greatest way to solve a problem is to take a step away from it and let the mind work on solving it in the background. In the end, this creates a much more mindful existence.

How does reading make us mindful?

Mindful Benefit #3

Reading allows us to be emotional. Everyone needs a good cry from time to time. Though you may feel a little sheepish as tears stream down your face while reading an immersive book, crying is a release. Would you rather have to live through a painful situation so you have the benefit of release in the form of a good cry? I am guessing, you would much rather read someone else’s experience, cry, and then be able to move on with your life. Changed, yet not beaten down.

Humans are emotional beings and as such, we need to feel for both ourselves and others. Reading gives us the opportunity to try on a multitude of emotions and in doing so, allows us to be more mindful about our own experiences. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 61 – Gearing Up for Another Book Launch

Book launches are very much like welcoming a newborn into your life. I have created, nurtured, and loved my story through the months. The physical discomforts of editing are very real. The story has stretched my mind in ways I hadn’t considered prior to this point. Yet as the time nears to present the book to the world, the worry of how it will be perceived begins to percolate in the far corners of my brain.

Excitement is the dominate emotion cursing through my veins but fear exists there too. What if this book is different from the first one? Hint, hint, it most certainly is. What if readers of Becoming Mrs. Smith, those who fell in love with Violet and her struggle, despise Bernice? What if the words I’ve written don’t move you as they did me while writing it?

Much of what I fret about comes down to an individual reader’s personal preference. I have absolutely no control over whether you lap up every word of Stealing Mr. Smith or whether you wish to toss it across the room. A book is both an expression of what an author wants to say as well as a creation all its own. The writing process is co-creative with the characters, the setting, and more, that the end result is not always what the author had in mind in the first place.

As I begin to contemplate and prepare for the interview questions that are sure to come my way once Stealing Mr. Smith launches, I am taken back in time to the beginning. Why did I want to write this story? What is the character’s motive? What is the thread of consciousness as a writer, I want the reader to sense? Good questions, every single one of them. Questions, none-the-less, I will need to dig deep into the quiet of my own heart in order to grasp the answers firmly before launch day.

So with all the excitement, emotions, and seeking going on in my own brain, here are the real, tangible things I am working on as we near closer to the launch of Stealing Mr. Smith.

Book Launch Task Number One:

Readers really do judge a book by its cover. The cover of a book tells a story of what the reader can expect. Specific genres of books have a certain look to them. If a book cover is done well, the reader automatically knows what genre the book fits into without having to read any further.

The cover for Stealing Mr. Smith is undergoing a few tweaks. I have zero ability to draw, paint, or create visually, so while I stick to writing, my trusted cover designer is hard at work creating something spectacular for the next title.

Book Launch Task Number Two:

Writing the back cover copy or the blurb as it is referred to in the industry. When a reader picks up a copy of a book, it is most likely first due to the cover design. But as soon as that image has made an imprint on the reader’s mind, without much fanfare, the reader flips the book over to the back cover to read the “blurb”.

Writing the book blurb is by far the most difficult aspect of writing the entire book. As silly as it seems, condensing a story down to elicit an “I want to read more” response is beyond painful. As the author, I know the entirety of the story. In fact, I know the background, the reasons why the character chooses this or that. I posses almost too much information and thus writing a brief overview without giving anything away is the one task I tend to dawdle around. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 60 – Life Begins

Life begins, not merely the day you are born into this world, but at many junctures along the way too. As graduates of high school and university know all too well, their mark of achievement is equal to life beginning anew. It may mean a relocation to a new city or the initial strike of independence as they leave the family home for one of their own. Either way, the freshness of a life ready and waiting exists within their grasp.

The opportunity for life to begin again is in the eye of the beholder. For some it is a New Year’s Eve celebration. For others it may come in the shape of a milestone birthday. Those intent to live in the moment, may experience a new life beginning each and every morning when they rise.

Life Begins

So, here I sit, contemplating what life looks like for me as my son graduates high school and morphs into adulthood. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am proud of the young man he is becoming. The path of playing a smaller role in his everyday life all the while enjoying the view from the sidelines though new, is one I look forward to experiencing. I am excited too, about the time I will have for my own passion projects.

Yet to me, it is life beginning again in some respects. It is me, learning how to navigate this new and somewhat unfamiliar road. Not at all unlike other life terrains, just as I was getting the hang of it, the road signs have changed. Here are the 5 things I will strive to keep in mind as I step into the beginning of this stage of life.

Number One:

Trust where you’ve been. Nobody goes through life unscathed. My plan is to trust the lessons that have gotten me this far. There is plenty more to learn along the way, but no experience is in vain. At the very least, I will trust the process and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 59 – The Graduation Toast!

A couple weeks ago, I posted about my son’s graduation and how I was preparing to give a toast to the graduating class of 2018. Today, I am sharing my toast with you. The future is bright for many and I am very proud of my son for his accomplishments throughout the past twelve years. So this post is to commemorate his achievements and act as a reminder that life is not a linear path, but a unique and winding one instead. It is what we do with the path before us that matters most.

Class of 2018

To the Earl Marriott Secondary graduating class of 2018:

Thirty one. Thirty eight. Fifty one and Ninety six. Numbers, I’m sure you had hoped to leave in Ms. Liang’s math class. But these numbers matter because they demonstrate just how near you are to the cusp of a journey. Your journey.

J.K. Rowling was 31 years old, struggling, and rejected by dozens of publishing houses when she found success with her first Harry Potter book. Despite her dire financial situation, she poured herself into a story she loved. The result as we all know was not simply a brighter future for her, but a revolution in literacy that touched the world deeply. She taught us perseverance.

Stan Lee was 38 when he achieved recognition for his first hit comic title, The Fantastic Four. A few short years later, the Marvel metropolis was born. Mr. Lee showed us what it means to follow your own instincts.

Samuel L. Jackson was 43 years old when his career took an upward turn with his first award winning role in Jungle Fever. The reason for his opportunity was a friendship he had nurtured with Spike Lee, a then unknown film maker just starting out. Samuel is living proof that treating others with kindness goes far beyond being a decent human being, as kindness is a gift shared between two people.

Abraham Lincoln, after being defeated famously in several elections, became President of the United States at the age of 51. His politics change the course of many lives and in doing so altered the path of historic events. President Lincoln demonstrated a determination so fierce that even when all hope was lost, he refused to give up.

Harry Bernstein published his first novel, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers, at the age of 96. Though his success in the literary world at his ripe age is impressive on its own, his title is a memoir of his early life which even the author has stated that the further he wanted to get away from his past, the more it consumed his present. Mr. Bernstein teaches us that every stage of life has value. Every stage of life has purpose. And every stage of life has the ability to offer us amazing experiences if we simply just open our eyes to them,

You are at the beginning of your very own unique journey. Though the pressures of the future may loom over your head, I encourage you to live each moment. Age, graduation, the passing of time has no set clock on when you will find what it is you are passionate about. There is no expiry date on success. The only real thing you have to do in this life is be the be possible you, that you can be. And you are already there. So dream big, work hard, and follow your heart. It knows exactly where it is going.

As parents, it has been a privilege to watch you grow and learn. Your struggles have been our struggles, but your successes, those are yours alone. We couldn’t be more proud of you.

Congratulations class of 2018!

Mindful Mondays – Week 58 – The Garden of Life

My Garden. My little plot of containers and wood boxes is ever present once again in my mind as the weather warms. As I went about the business of trimming the tomatoes back this morning, I thought about how much life is like a garden.

A garden requires daily attention. Water and sunshine in the correct amounts make the difference between a healthy crop and a meager one. Fertilizer, the super power of the garden, gives us strong, vibrant plants. But it is the time it takes to let a garden grow that is a crucial element to its success.

The Garden of Life

Consider your life. When we are aware enough, we nourish our bodies daily with good food and clean water. We know we are supposed to exercise to keep our bones and muscles strong. Some of us meditate with a focus on obtaining balance. We breathe in deeply and exhale any stress. Life requires us to be nimble and responsive to its ebbs and flows.

Though we understand the processes it takes to have a healthy life, there is often one element that we give little credence to. Time. Just like our bodies won’t build desirable, shapely muscles with two days of strength training, our lives require us the time it takes to reach the goals we are aiming for.

Tips for Embracing Time: Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 57 – The Graduation Toast!

Graduation for my son’s class of 2018 is right around the corner. We are a mere two weeks away from celebrating their high school achievement with an all day, all night great big bash of a succession of events.

For the past several months, I have been heavily involved in organizing the dry grad event (the after prom party). Dry grad was initially created several years ago as alternative for a safe drug and alcohol free graduation experience. It is an event that hosts games, amusement park themed activities, performers, prizes and generally ends in the wee hours of the morning with a pancake breakfast.

Last Friday, as our Vice Principal and I mapped out the series of graduation events on the white board, he casually mentioned the toast. “I’m sorry, what toast?” I asked. “The toast that you and another parent will give at the first event of the evening.” He smiled sheepishly and asked, “didn’t I tell you about the toast to the grads?”

The Graduation Toast

Now, I am a writer. I like to work in my little bubble of a work space with my writing sweater over my shoulders and my cup of tea ready at my right hand. My imagination is one of my greatest companions and though I am not afraid of mingling with people of the real world, I am not a huge fan of speaking to hundreds of them all at once.

“You don’t like public speaking?” The Vice Principal asked. “I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of girl.” I responded. “I enjoy speaking with groups…about the size of a book club”. So, off I went to the weekend to contemplate my fate of having to speak in front of 350 grads, their parents, grandparents, siblings, and such.

To say I was a little concerned about this upcoming graduation toast is an understatement. I quickly connected with the other parent and was relieved to learn that she actually loves giving speeches. Really? I thought. People actually enjoy doing that kind of thing. Between us, we decided that I would write the toast and she would deliver it. I merely have to stand by her side while she speaks with grace and eloquence and addresses the hundreds of eyeballs who will have nothing to do but stare at us. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 56 – 3 Steps to Eliminate Feeling Overwhelmed

Overwhelmed? Stressed? Struggling to keep your head above water? All these states have us ready to pull out our own hair as we stifle an urge to scream. We’ve all been there and likely we will find ourselves overwhelmed again in our future. So what can we do to move past this predominantly flight or fight response to situations beyond our control? 3 Steps to Eliminate Feeling Overwhelmed

Step 1:

Increase the number of times you sigh in an hour. A sigh is an extended, deep breath that upon it’s release offers the individual a bit of stress reduction. Did you know that humans aren’t the only ones who sigh in response to stress? Perhaps you’ve even seen your faithful four legged companion sigh.

Sighing isn’t restricted to times of stress, it is also the body’s modality for getting more air into the lungs. Sighing can also indicate a state of sadness or even exhaustion. Not unlike deep breathing, sighing is the body’s way of instilling a piece of calm to an otherwise overwhelmed state of mind.

When stress enters our lives, our body naturally lends itself to restoring the balance and one of the ways it does this is by inducing frequent sighs. Using a little reverse awareness may also help us manage the stress in our lives. For example, now that you are aware that you will naturally sign when under stress, perhaps taking note of an increase in sighing is another way to acknowledge the stress and take action to reduce it. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 55 – A Lifetime of Learning

Learning. That never ending sometimes joyful, sometimes grueling sidekick to our daily life. In the province of British Columbia (farthest province to the west in Canada for those of you unfamiliar with the region), we have a staggered licensing system for new drivers. New drivers begin the learning process by taking a written test. Once passed, they receive a red magnetic “L” to be placed on the rear of the vehicle they are driving. The “L” licensed driver must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times. This process allows them to gain both confidence and knowledge with regards to driving.

There are of course many rules and regulations that go with this coveted “L”. Drivers begin to navigate their way through learning how to control a vehicle in a safe and somewhat restrictive manner. Once a driver has held an “L” license for some time, they are permitted to take a driving test to obtain their green “N” car magnet. The green “N” allows the driver to operate a vehicle without a fully licensed driver in the passenger seat. Different restrictions exist for “N” drivers. A limit of one person who is not a relative is permitted to ride with an “N” driver. Again, this is another step in gaining confidence.

In preparation for testing for the “N”, some new drivers choose to take drivers ed which is a classroom and real road driving learning environment. Others negotiate with their parents to take them to the local parking lot on Sunday mornings. Either way, the goal is clear. Spend time getting to know the environment of a vehicle from the new perspective of being behind the wheel.

Finally, after another significant amount of time has passed, “N” drivers are permitted to take yet another test. This test is a driving road test that will allow them to receive their class 5 license. The class 5 license is the permit most adults have that allows them to drive a regular vehicle. Once passed, the driver is permitted to drive without the “N” and without restrictions placed upon them.

A Lifetime of Learning

So, here is the thing. When we see a red “L” or a green “N”, as drivers, we take extra caution. We give them a little more leeway. We have more patience with their learning process. In general, we have an understanding that new drivers may require more time to process their thoughts and actions as they learn how to operate a vehicle.

Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 54 – Happy Victoria Day!

Victoria Day. May Day. Canada’s unofficial kick off to the summer season. Whatever name you call it, today is a Canadian holiday and with that a little break from my traditional Mindful Monday blog post as well.

Happy Victoria Day

Facts about Victoria Day:

  • Each year, Canadians celebrate May day on the last Monday prior to May 25th.
  • The celebration is a tip of the hat to Queen Victoria’s birthday.
  • Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819.
  • Canada was previously a British Colony. Though there are no longer any political ties to Britain, Canada continues to honor the Queen as a figurehead.

How do Canadians celebrate Victoria Day?

  • May day Parades
  • Mayflower poles complete with dancing girls in flowing dresses
  • Carnivals
  • BBQ’s
  • Fireworks
  • Family gatherings
  • Camping

The holiday as a passage of time:

  • Canadians use the dateline of the May long weekend as an indicator that it is safe to plant gardens for the summer season.
  • Typically frost after May day is unlikely in our northern region.
  • Those with summer homes like to take advantage of the May long weekend to open them up in preparation for the warmer weather.
  • Amusement parks and summer festivals use this weekend to begin operations.

No matter how you plan to spend your May long weekend, I wish you the joy of good times with those you love.

Happy Victoria Day!

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Mindful Mondays – Week 53 – The Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering has been a part of my life for a very long time now. The level at which I volunteer has changed vastly throughout the years. However, no matter the volunteer role I take on, the benefits I gain from volunteering far out weight the cost of my time.

Volunteering doesn’t mean you have to pick up the neighborhood garbage or drive a small child enrolled in the local elementary school to the pumpkin patch. Volunteering is about giving back to your community in a way that best suits your schedule and your unique compilation of talents.

The Benefits of Volunteering

Roles for volunteering:

  • Do you excel at filing, secretarial tasks, talking to people on the phone? Almost every organization requires volunteers to assist with the daily operations of an office.
  • Do you have access to a pick up truck and can help with the heavy lifting when needed? You are needed everywhere from school events, community markets, church fundraisers and more.
  • Are you a former manager and have the skills to motivate and organize large groups of people? Every community organization needs an inspirational leader who can learn the lay of the land and guide others to get the job done.
  • If you are reading this, then it is safe to assume that you quite likely have a plentiful supply of blood running through your veins. Giving blood is a tremendous way to support others in your community. Having once been the recipient of donated blood, I can tell you from experience that I have never forgotten the gift others gave to me when I was in dire need of it.
  • If you can smile, you can volunteer. A friendly face is all that is needed to get started in a volunteer position.

Where to volunteer:

Continue reading