Mind and Body in Sync

Winter triggers more negative comments than any other season. People complain about the cold, the rain, the ice, the wind, the short days. But even with these challenges winter can be the perfect time to keep mind and body in sync.

Here are just a few things that make my winter more enjoyable and less stressful.

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READING

I’ve decided to limit my time on social media. Too much can be too much. I’ve always favored reading newspapers to watching the news on TV. Lucky me, my husband feels the same way. But I’ve also stopped reading every article. There is a limit to the information we really need.

All around me schools have started to celebrate kindness and friendship to honor Valentine’s Day. To match the mood I deliberately chose kindhearted books at the library this week.

I picked the picture book When an Elephant Falls in Love by Davide Cali and illustrated by Alice Lotti.

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The story depicts an elephant, doing all the weird, silly things that we all do when in love with someone who doesn’t know our feelings. Watching the elephant eat an entire cheesecake while he wants to be in the best shape for the elephant of his dreams is both funny and touching.

After reading Saving Red, I chose Girls Like Me by Lola St.Vil, another young adult novel in verse that weaves in emails and texts from the two main characters who have nothing in common and yet fall for each other. He is the gorgeous, popular guy (at least in appearance) and she is the girl considered too fat in their typical contemporary high school. She has no confidence (until she understands what really matters).

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These two books remind me that the most beautiful things in life involve love and also happen to those who wait.

WRITING

Always been my way to deal with the world around me. Over the last two weeks I wrote three new picture book manuscripts (now preparing them for submission). Through writing, I remain creative and also grounded.

photo(157)From last summer in Maine. 

MUSIC

Last week, I did a school visit. I included an American and a French songs to my PowerPoint presentation. War and Non, Non Rien N’a Changé are both about the Vietnam War and from 1971, the backdrop and time period of my novel. This is in fact the song War that planted the early seeds of my novel Chronicles From Château Moines. Listening to War reminded me of Non, Non Rien N’a Changé.

edwinstarrWar by Edwin Starr

poppysNon, Non Rien N’a Changé by Les Poppys

I’m happy to confirm that music is a great addition to a school visit. The eighth graders loved it.

photo-45They also loved my pre-Valentine’s day heart-shaped chocolates:)

Today, I selected a few more French and American songs for my upcoming presentations. They are all part of my novel. As I added them to my playlist, I found familiar old French songs that I knew when I was growing up. They have acquired this vintage status that should make me feel old but somehow soothes the world around me.

Music, perhaps even more than any other media, can really transform our mood and bring light when we feel stressed or a little gloomy in the middle of winter.

 

YOGA

I started yoga exactly a year ago. My daughters suggested it, and my husband offered me an eight-class package. I loved the first class so much that the sampling turned into a membership. Although I love challenging exercise, now that I’m the mom of four kids, no longer so little, I listen to the motto: It’s not because the body can that the body should. So I stick to mind body classes and yin yoga with an occasional power class. Where am I a year later?

Besides the expected benefits: more flexibility, lean muscles, balance, better posture, I’ve learned to stop my mind when it starts to wander and in the end gets overstimulated and overwhelmed.

At the beginning of class, most instructors ask us to find an intention and to return to this intention during class when we find ourselves reliving past events or anticipating future events. Staying in the moment, like young children, is the hardest part of being an adult. I always keep my intention very simple. I pick a verb such as FOCUS or LET GO or a word such as PEACE or JOY. Whenever I start to mentally jot down a to-do list, elaborate a plot twist for a story I’m writing, or agonize over my latest manuscript submissions I force my mind to go back to my intention and to breathe. I swear it works. Yoga, especially in the winter when it’s more challenging to hike or work in the yard is a perfect way to relax our body and mind.

photo148Testing yoga a year and a half ago before starting for good

MOVIES

I love going to the movies. It’s a whole different experience to watch a movie in a theater rather than at home. This moment connects us to other people, since we’ve all decided to watch the same movie at the same time at the same place.

La La Land is my number one pick to deflate bad vibes.

For once, this is an American movie with no gunshots and no violence. Just music. Jazz mostly, but also the music that plays between two people who dream big artistic dreams. My husband found the plot simple. He’s right. But the filming is not. The actors are terrific. Who wouldn’t tap dance with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone? The movie has been filmed in Los Angeles and close by, in Pasadena, a small architecturally interesting city that I know fairly well, now that my son studies in the vicinity. The ending is not a happy ending and yet it is a happy ending.

And there are these views from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, a place that I also got to enjoy, thanks to my son.

losangelesTaken when I visited the Observatory

SENSORY SURROUNDINGS

Weather permitting, I always take a morning walk in my neighborhood and often a shorter one at night.

In the winter, nature demands more of our attention to appreciate its beauty. I try to focus on the wind playing in my hair, the sun warming my neck, a drizzle kissing my face, a branch brushing my arm, the earth holding me, the air meeting my lungs. A deep gratitude for these natural elements fills me.

I read somewhere that all French women love champagne and chocolate. Truth is I’m not especially fond of them. But I love my perfume. However, this winter I’m using essential oils, too. Another suggestion from one of my daughters; her brother must have been nearby because he offered me an oil diffuser for Christmas. I use it in my small office. Since I’m new to essential oils and love anything lavender I’ve stuck to lavender. And found out that one single drop rubbed inside my wrist and a few poured in the diffuser are enough to trigger calmness. Also just a drop smells like taking a walk through a lavender field.

If you want to learn more about essential oils you should visit Isabelle (French native who also lives in the US) on her website Univers Aroma. So far the information is only available in French, but if you read French you’ll learn which essential oil is best for headaches, inflammation, loss of hair, cleaning your sink disposal, and easing stress. Lavender seems a good choice! But I feel like exploring many more.

 

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How do you keep your mind and body in sync during the winter season?

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From Maine to You

 

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Over the last months, many countries, including my native France, have been the target of particularly cruel violence. Whether the acts of radicalized Muslims blinded by the agenda of ISIS/Daech or unstable men, this violence triggers legitimate fear and more hatred. I’ve stopped reading about them, focusing instead on the simple joys of summer, especially short and hence precious here in Maine.

Before summer officially started, I was finished with the revisions I intended to complete on my new Young Adult novel. I have now started the long process of submission. Please, please, can you keep your fingers or whatever you want, crossed for me?

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While waiting for feedback, I’ve started a new story while another simmers at the edge of my mind. For the longest time, I rarely shared that I had too many stories on the stove. I thought it was the proof of an unfocused mind. Until I read that most writers had always several manuscripts on the back burner, too. Many of them renowned authors. But. They also know when to bring one of their simmering stews to the front burner. I’m undecided. Both of my new work-in-progress manuscripts are Middle Grade stories. Both are dealing with contemporary issues linked to economical and social inequality. While I’m covering pages with words and scenes, watching the lake already tipping into August, I leave you with a few photos from my July in Maine.

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Bear with me when I don’t comment on your blogs. I still think of you and wish you well. It’s just that my mind is churning ideas and trying to sort them.

Wherever you are, fill your days to the brim with the precious days of summer.

 

P.S. In my new YA novel tentatively called All the Mountains We Can Climb, there is food. A café. And three restaurants. And many meals around (or not) tables.

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This is our front lake family table in Maine. The table is my son’s age. We bought it so it could fit four children and their parents. I found a tablecloth with fish and I got the small water can at a school event. I love this table. As I love any table where so much happens besides eating.

The Sweetest Letter

One of my numerous aunts has sent me the sweetest letter. She lives, like my entire family, in France, minutes away from my parents so they meet often. And for the last two months they have seen each other even more.

You know, despite what we read and hear about the end of families and this and that, good things sometimes happen within families.

When my novel Trapped in Paris was released late fall, I sent a copy to my parents and one to my aunt. The rest of the family, very graciously, bought their own. My aunt taught English in middle school – college in France – her  entire life. When I was a little girl, most adults I knew were married and had children. My aunt married late so she appeared to me as a very modern woman – she traveled to London and other British locations regularly.

From her trips to the UK, she brought my sister and me small surprises. More than the traditional Big Ben or London bus souvenir, I loved the British food the most – I know British food in comparison to the French is bland but it was as exotic as could be to a ten year old. I ate my first Rice Crispies and After Eight chocolates thanks to my aunt. She also introduced me to the morning orange marmalade and lemon curd and made me my first cup of tea. The French aren’t very good at making breakfast.

Above all my aunt spoke English! It was my dream to speak English like a Brit. I managed to speak English like a Franco-American.

This is for this reason and all of the above that I sent my aunt a copy of my novel. When she received it she was very enthusiastic. I reminded her that I wrote the story for junior high kids, primarily boys, and not for adults, but she couldn’t wait to read it. Since neither my mother nor my father speaks English, my aunt suggested translating the book to my parents. Don’t you think I should have been thinking of my French readers?

In her sweetest letter, my aunt, of course, writes tons of good things about my book. Don’t you wish aunts should be allowed to write Amazon reviews?

But what I loved the most is when she wrote about her careful translating in order to maintain the suspense for my parents.

We all know how important it is for a writer to visualize a scene in order to provide as many sensory details as possible to the reader.

Now I have a good exercise for practice. I have an advantage. I already know the protagonists and the setting. But I still have the ambiance left to my imagination. And believe me, this is worth the try.

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