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Bewitched by October

Autumnal sunshine tempts me into the garden, my bare feet soaking in the long, dewy grass. Blueberries, purple and plump, hang in cascades from the crimson-leaved branches, urging me to pluck them. I have watched them grow all Summer, and now they’re ready to harvest. And me? Have I grown all Summer? Is there anything to harvest? Plenty, it would seem. Inner work isn’t often obvious to the untrained eye.

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The afternoon grows lazy, wood smoke hangs in the air, and geese give a cursory nod as they head south. Against the apricot-hued skyline, apples cling to the trees. Don’t they know? This is the season for letting go.

The tenth month has rolled in like the thick fog girdled around my cosy cottage. “Gather in,” October whispers to me.

 

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By the hearth, I snuggle beneath a woolly blanket, sipping spicy Chai tea. Day’s end brings me here. The woodstove, containing an orchestra of spit, crackle, hiss and sizzle, is an inviting touchstone as the nights draw in.

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Little altars around our home become a focus for this colourful season: maple leaves, burgundy rosehips, marmalade-coloured pumpkins, hand-carved wooden bowls of lush blueberries, and shiny conkers.

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With wind in our hair, and a chill against our skin, October shows us that the Libran scales of justice stand firm. Truth will win. But before the month is over, Scorpio, zodiac sign of decay, letting go, and transformation will bring new lessons.

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It is interesting to me that this season of letting go is generally the most colourful one. Could it be, like human life, that it is at ‘harvest time’ that we become our most colourful, vibrant and dynamic?

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Inspired: the art of channelling life

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”

Kahlil Gibran

Yesterday I asked myself: “Who is the most spiritual person you know?” I was rather surprised when no obvious person came to me, but had to laugh out loud when I saw Azaria’s face. For those of you who don’t know Azaria, she’s the main character in my novel, Sisters of the Silver Moon.

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I modelled Azaria’s physical characteristics on this lovely Danish hairdresser. I adore her open face.

I pondered our cultural notion of spirituality, and also why I’ve heard from women who say they want ‘to be like Azaria’. I was intrigued, but not surprised, that a fictional character was held up as an archetype of  ‘spirituality in action’.

As a writer, I adored watching Azaria unfold. She’s 56 years old, and has four adult daughters. Her husband died some years ago in a storm. She lives in an old homestead in the mountains of Colorado, and spends her days tending her beehives and growing/harvesting herbs. Without doubt, she’s well-loved and respected in her community. But she’s not perfect, and that’s part of her charm.

The more I think about this character (and certainly where she’s heading in the sequel, Behind Closed Doors) I can understand her magnetism. Although she’s a fictional character, she does represent something to which we can aspire. And isn’t it interesting, when you look at the Latin roots of words, to see aspire and spiritual both containing ‘spir’? As a metaphysician, I also see it as ‘to breathe in life’. Indeed, to breathe in the Divine.

Perhaps you or someone you know meditates regularly or goes to church. Maybe they or someone else burns incense or keeps a gratitude journal. Maybe their temple is Mother Nature herself. Perhaps they’re avid readers of spiritual or person-growth books or the Bible. Maybe they regularly consult divination cards? Do these things make us spiritual? No, no more than hitting a piano key makes you a pianist. All these things, and more, may well be integral to our daily practice, but spirituality is about the outer experiences of our life reflecting and being congruent with our inner values.

So if we breathe in the Divine, then surely we must breathe out the Divine, too?

What are our values? Examples include: independence, adventure, family, beauty, kindness, justice, love, wisdom, truth, compassion, trust, fidelity, power, healing, leadership, knowledge, intimacy, integrity, growth, humility, dignity, food, friendship, community, creativity, etc.

Do our interactions with friends, family, colleagues and strangers mirror our inner values?

 

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The character Azaria shows us that everyday we are learning, and every day of our lives is an opportunity to be congruent. When our outer life truly reflects our inner values, then life has a way of flowing harmoniously. And when Fate brings unexpected life-changing events our way, we do have the spiritual tools within to ‘breathe in the Divine’. More than anything, I believe she teaches us that when we love and accept ourselves, then loving others is easy. And isn’t that at the heart of spirituality? To recognise that we are all one? All drops of the same ocean?

What does spirituality mean to you?

Love, Veronika xxxx

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Around The Table

I guess our dining table is more than 100 years old. How many meals families have eaten around it, and how many celebrations they shared, I’ll never know.

The wood is old and worn, and the way it feels under my hands satisfies my sensual self. I know my mother, who loves tablecloths, would want to cover it in fabric. I prefer to see the wood, and to connect with the history of this antique piece of furniture.

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In my home, and in my heart, I consider the dining table to be a sacred space designed for flowers, candles and meals made with love.

It’s also a place we can gather, at the end of the school day, with a cup of tea while we chat and catch up.

Indeed, the dining table is a ceremonial space, not just for birthdays or Christmas, but for every meal. As with other ceremonies, I light a beeswax or plant-based candle, play music, and express gratitude. Doing this changes a meal from being a source of fuel to something sacrosanct. It takes little extra time, but it does take a change of attitude to bring consciousness to each meal.

 

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Love From My Kitchen: kale and polenta fingers. Photograph by Veronika Robinson

This morning as we sat together, enjoying breakfast in each other’s company, we talked of ethics and philosophy; about fate, free will and determinism. Conversation included past lives and dreams. Taking time in our busy lives, to ‘break bread’ with our loved ones, is one of the most important rituals we can have as a family. It slows us down. It encourages us to take notice. It says ‘I’m showing up for me, and I’m showing up for you’.

 

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Love From My Kitchen: peppers stuffed with ragout. Photograph by Veronika Robinson

As a family, there can’t be many topics we’ve not discussed in one form or another over the years. What I truly value about a dining table is that each person gets to face another. There can be real heart-to-heart connections, even when you eat in silence. It brings a family together, and when we recognise each meal as a gift, a celebration, and the opportunity to commune with our loved ones, the dining table takes on hallowed significance. Indeed, for me, it is one of the most important pieces of furniture in our home.

 

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Love From My Kitchen: courgette and cranberry cake (gluten free). Photograph by Veronika Robinson

From when my daughters were born, they joined as at the dining table; long before they ate solid foods. They grew up learning the ways of this family, and what values we held. Gratitude for our food was as much a part of a meal as was the eating.

Our prayer was:

Earth which gives us this food
Sun which makes it ripe and good
Dear Earth, Dear Sun, by you we live
Our loving thanks to you we give.

 

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In more recent times, we’ve included another prayer of gratitude.

Thank you for the food before us
Thank you for the family (and friends) beside us
Thank you for the love around us

Yesterday I was writing a scene in my novel, Behind Closed Doors, whereby the family gathered to share a meal. I felt right at home around that old farmhouse kitchen table, listening to the laughter, enjoying the meal. I hope that my passion for such a daily ritual is reflected in the way the characters share their stories. How different an experience to share our days in this way than eating on the run, or standing at the kitchen counter because you don’t have time to eat. Don’t you think?

Tell me about your dining table? What family rituals do you have around meal times?

Love, Veronika xxx

PS Do sign up to my mailing list if you wish to be notified of when Love From My Kitchen (my next recipe book) is published.

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The Stories We Tell

On Friday, 18th September at 3.49am UK time, Saturn will ingress into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius. It’s an interesting mix, as Saturn is all about structure, responsibility, karma, legacy, discipline, restriction, hard work, focus, and doing things properly.

 

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Sagittarius is the philosopher (at best), and at worst, it exaggerates. It’s the most expansive sign of the zodiac, that’s for sure. It is all about freedom, exploration, seeking new shores, and having ‘as much of everything’ as possible. Sagittarius is optimistic and sees the bigger picture.

 

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What this means for us culturally, and individually, is that for the next two or so years, as Saturn works its way through this sign, we will have to take responsibility for all things that carry the Sagittarian theme. Obviously, this will show up in different ways for different people. It could manifest in landing that publishing deal you’ve always wanted, or buying a horse stud or competing professionally in horse events. Maybe archery will feature in the news. You might become a university lecturer, or a travel agent helping others to discover foreign shores.

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These are just a few examples. Sagittarian ruled people (those that carry this sign on their ascendant, or have Jupiter there, for example) tend to carry weight. This transit might finally give them the discipline they need to shift unnecessary pounds.

When Saturn navigated Scorpio, a lot of stories of sexual abuse by famous men came out of the woodwork (Scorpio rules sex, amongst other things). Saturn asked us, collectively and for those involved, individually, to take responsibility for our past actions.

As Saturn ingresses Sagittarius, we will look at the stories we tell ourselves (and others). As this sign rules foreign affairs and foreign cultures, I suspect that we’ve only just seen the tip of the ‘refugee crisis’ iceberg. When we look at those desperate souls seeking a new, safe life in other countries, we must look at the whole story: these people have been displaced by war. Wars that we have been involved in because of the people we have elected to power.
We, as a culture, must ask ourselves why we don’t want them here. What are we really scared of? Why isn’t it possible for us to put ourselves in their shoes?

Rather than thinking of karma as good or bad, we will need to reframe it as: taking responsibility for our actions.

But how about on a personal level? Every moment of the day we tell ourselves (and our life broadcasts it to others) stories. The thoughts we think. The beliefs we hold. The worries we harbour. The joys which fill us to bursting. We are walking books!

Saturn will ask us to examine what goes on behind our tongue. Where do those stories come from? Is that what you really believe, or are you just regurgitating something you learnt from school, church, your parents or government?

What stories are you sharing with your children? These are all important questions that we will be forced to confront in one way or another.

 

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At the heart of well-functioning Sagittarius energy we find strong ethics. Saturn will examine what this means for us. Perhaps there’ll be new scientific discoveries and experiments that will leave us questioning (as did the stem-cell, cloning and test tube eras) just how far we can play God.

We may find ourselves asking ‘why is it ethical to kill someone in war, but not in our own backyard?’

 

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We may question why more refugees go to other countries, such as Germany, but are strictly held back in the UK.

The next couple of years are a time for asking: is that my belief, or is that yours?

The beauty and blessing of this important transit is that we get the opportunity to really ask of ourselves and others if we value the stories we hear. Saturn will show us that we will need maturity and responsibility to stop the script; and that we can do so at any time, and write a new one.

Can you sense areas in your life where the script needs rewriting? Why is that? What would it take to change it?

https://www.veronikarobinson.com/astrologer/index.shtml

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Naked

Each night, when my body is fast asleep, there’s a whole cinematic thing going on in my head. Sometimes I swear I’m busier at night than I am in the entire day. One of last night’s dreams really spoke to me, though it clearly didn’t feel comfortable at the time.

I was somewhere between Cumbria and Yorkshire, standing in a small village, and I was completely naked. I had no idea how I got there, and I didn’t know where my husband was. I had no phone to make contact with him to bring me clothing.

People were looking at me, and men were grabbing my breasts. Even the women were looking me up and down. I asked around for some clothing to wrap around me. Eventually I had a small tablecloth that I could stretch around my waist. It was a little wider than Eve’s fig leaf!

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Nakedness is interesting, on many levels. It’s a taboo in our culture, unless of course you’re some scantily clad thing on a trashy tabloid newspaper whose thong choice leaves little to the imagination.

Clothing separates us from others. It may be used for fashion, though in my case it’s nearly always used for warmth!

As a cook, I adore naked food: produce fresh from the garden. Meals made from scratch. I can’t abide soup from a tin, for example. In my food choices, I seek out ‘real’. I want to know every last ingredient in the meals I eat.

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My dream clarified something for me: that as much as I walk a path with the goal of being authentic (naked), there will always be those who will try to cover up people like me. Why? Because our nakedness causes others to question their coverings. In fact, cover up actually means ‘shut up’. We do this with clothing, but we also do it to babies every time we shove a dummy in their mouths. We don’t want to hear them.

I mean, imagine this: you’re in town, doing your shopping, and you see Jane Smith. She comes wandering out of a shop wearing…well, nothing. Starkers, she is.

 

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And you? You’re in your knee-high black boots, and that gorgeous cashmere cardigan. Jane is delighted to see you and starts to chat. But where do you look? At the sky? At the brass band busking over by the delicatessen? You can’t look at her waist, or between her legs. Jeez, of course not! And what about her breasts? That would be a bit, well, creepy, right? Breasts are only for selling cars, real estate, coffee, shopping malls, and diamonds.

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The truth is, you’re both coming from a different place. Can you, in all honesty, look at Jane—look at all of Jane—and be comfortable? It’s highly unlikely (apart from the small detail that someone would have had her arrested before you came along). Ours is a culture of shame, blame, fear, dishonesty.

I watch Jeremy Corbyn take centre stage in British politics right now and want to yell: “LOVE YOUR NAKEDNESS, JEREMY!”

He’s being authentic. He’s speaking his truth. Interesting how quickly MPs scuttled away when his voice was starting to really be heard. They didn’t want to be associated with that naked man! And how fascinating is it to see the ‘true colours’ of politicians like David Cameron become almost neon-like as they flash their distaste.

 

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The truth is we’re unlikely to become a culture that gives people the right to be naked. But what about the other ways in which we can be naked? We don’t need culture’s approval to be authentic. We might be shamed, or legally bullied, into wearing clothes, but no one can force us to cover our true nature.

 

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When we come to love who we are, and to value our place on this earth, then we won’t even bother with a fig leaf; not for ourselves, and not to protect others.

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Our values, our beliefs, our passions ~ they don’t need hiding. They do, however, need honouring. I read a lovely quote the other day. It was something like ‘self-esteem is the reputation you have of yourself’. Wow! What does this say about the majority of people? Few people have a healthy self-esteem (please don’t confuse someone’s arrogance or bullish behaviour as high self-esteem; it’s quite the opposite).

If you had a great reputation (of yourself), you would have no need to ‘dress’.

We wear ‘psychological’ garments every time we hide our truth, regardless of whether it’s over a small issue or something that’s hugely important to us. Living a life of compromise means that we start to have ‘emotional’ leakages somewhere. Generally, such leakages end up causing disease as the physical body tries to process what the mind and emotions have been denied. A really good example of this is when someone we love dies. Our culture is not set up for grief. Yes, you can have a few days off work, but by heck when you get back for God’s sake don’t cry in front of anyone. The grief of losing someone can take years to process. Imagine what it does to us when we’re forced to contain that pain so we don’t upset others (with our nakedness). Our body pays the price.

In what ways are you covering up? Do you keep a fig leaf (or banana leaf) nearby so that others don’t have to see who you really are?

#my500words

 

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The Blessings of Mercury Retrograde September 17th to October 9th

There was a time in my life I’d go into hiding when Mercury retrograde came to town. That was before I understood his vital message: chill out!

Ah yes, that trickster of a planet seemed to trigger all sorts of annoying things: computer breakdowns, loss of data, car repairs, miscommunications, emails sent to/received from the wrong person, identity theft, stolen bank cards, just to name a few things!

I have come to see that these few times a year when Mercury slows down, stations, and appears retrograde for a few weeks before going direct again, as a gift from the heavens. Sometimes gifts are wrapped in newspaper so we don’t recognise them straight away.

In mythology, Mercury is the Winged Messenger. Mercury rules communication, contracts, short journeys, vehicles, siblings, information, writing, speaking, books, and other ways in which we learn and share information.

Given the nature of the culture we’ve created: where we can literally be awake 24/7, and there’s always something to do or rolling news, it’s no surprise that the Messenger slowing down might energetically cause a bit of havoc! We’re not designed to live such hectic lives. It’s not natural. Mercury slowing down is a bit like a Pendolino train suddenly braking. All the passengers move forward with a hell of a jolt. People scramble all over the place, disoriented. When eventually the train slowly moves forward, and then finally gets back to full speed, things are never the same as they were before.

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Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo. When it runs amok during a retrograde you can almost bet it will display the ‘two-faced’ energy (twins) of Gemini. This is NOT a time to sign contracts. You will not be in full receipt of the information needed to make an informed decision. Be aware of fraudsters. I also recommend not buying a car, laptop or other piece of electrical equipment at this time. Some see this time as a ‘communication crisis’, and it can indeed feel like it. Dot your Is. Cross your Ts. Double check where your email is going. Be mindful of how you speak to others.

Back up your computers. Charge your phones. Read everything carefully. Leave the signing of important documents until Mercury is direct and out of its shadow phase.

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What I can recommend is that you make the most of the approximately three weeks to utilise the Virgoan energy of Mercury: revise, review, recycle, revision. Edit. That’s a key word for Virgo. Virgoans are masters of picking poppy seeds from the soil. So, rather than start any new projects at this time, go over what you have already done. Take the time to really study things in detail.

Our car has decided, in true Merc. X style, to need major mechanical work. (I always feel the energy of a retrograde at least a week before it stations.) I could have raised my hands to the heavens cursing this unnecessary expense, but while we wait for this job to be done and I’m ‘housebound’, I am making the most of ‘going over things’. I am writing, editing my book, and checking over paperwork. My stationary car, annoying as it is to be stranded when you live eight miles from town, is gifting me with the opportunity of having time where I’m not running around trying to fit too many things into my day. Apart from feeding my family, and the cat, my only other ‘job’ is to write. I’ll take my blessings where I can.

This upcoming Mercury retrograde is in the social sign of Libra. This sign is known as the ‘charmer’ of the zodiac, and we associate its energy with peace, love, harmony, beauty, refinement and mediation. Beware, though, as Libra is the only sign of the zodiac which is represented by an inanimate object: the scales of justice. It can bring fairness, but we have to remember it rules the mind, not the heart.

Mercury transiting Libra may shine energy on legal issues, as well as relationships. Use this time to seek out peaceful resolution or mediation. While Mercury is on sabbatical, we would be best to ask ourselves how our relationships, intimate or otherwise, reflect who we are. What does the ‘other’ show us about ourselves?

If ever there’s a time to realise you can’t control how others behave, it’s during Merc x. Remember, though, that this is an outer manifestation. There is nothing to stop you, or me, being fully conscious of what is going on in our inner terrain. And really, that’s the point of this cycle. I believe, particularly with this retro being in Libra, we need to look at the relationship we have with ourselves. Do we really know who we are? Are we willing to be emotionally intimate and honest with our inner self?

What I love most about the study of astrology is summed up best with: as above, so below.

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You see, the planets don’t control us or ‘make’ things happen. They emit energies that we tune into, individually and consciously. The best advice for Mercury retrograde is to go within. Get to know who you really are. Your relationships and the way you communicate with others can only improve as a result.

Mercury also rules the nervous system, so tend to it with B12 or magnesium if you need to stop those eyes twitching, sleep better at night, stop restless legs, or want to feel more zen.

Let me know how you experience this Mercury retrograde. Love, Veronika x

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Living With Purpose

Hello to you on this beautiful Autumnal evening. I trust your day has been loving, gentle and beautiful.

 

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Do you go through life wondering what this human existence is all about? Do you feel out of place in this world? Sometimes I’m sure I must have arrived from some other planet. It’s one of the reasons I love being a writer. I can create worlds that I’d love to live in.

I have a beautiful life, and am grateful for the kind and wonderful souls who are part of it, whether they live close by or far away. They give me a sense of being part of this world in a way I might not if I didn’t know them.

This afternoon I said to my husband that when I wake up in the morning I have this inbuilt expectation that something wonderful is going to happen in the day. Perhaps I take being an optimist to the extreme, but I’d certainly rather live this way than wake up with low-grade anxiety or a feeling of dread. Before I step out of my cosy bed, I give thanks for my life. I then say quiet, gentle words such as “I Create My Day”. There’s no fanfare or drama. It’s a statement of fact. I think through the things I may have planned, or what I’d like to accomplish, and imagine them going smoothly and easily. We may not be able to control life but we can certainly put ourselves in the right mindset to expect the best.

I saw a beautiful postcard once which had the words: The meaning of life is…

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The final word or words were covered by a flowering bush. It frustrated me for years! I know now, though, without doubt, that the meaning of life is…whatever meaning we give it.

The values we hold as important are with us night and day. They shine through us and are what draw (or repel) people around us.

To live a purposeful life is based on awareness, listening to ourselves, and finding pleasure in our passions. There is more to life than going out and getting a job to pay the bills. Our lives are precious, and when we really understand what that means then we make changes (first to our belief system) to create days which mirror what is in our heart.

Too often we put up roadblocks to our joy, success, curiosity and love. Perhaps we live in fear about what other people might think of our choices. Those people don’t have to walk in your shoes. You do. If you find the shoes uncomfortable, or you don’t like the view on your journey, then you know what? Ditch the shoes. You can change direction. You can step off the path. You don’t even have to wait for a crossroads. Get out your scythe and determine the life you want to live. You don’t need anyone’s permission. You will never have this day again. Don’t waste it.

Living a life of purpose means we awaken to our sacred origin: that of being a creator. There is no creation quite as unique as handcrafting the life you choose to live, and the choices you make. Isn’t that one of the most exciting things about being human? Nothing is set in stone. Whatever challenge is before us, we can choose to see it differently. We choose. No one can make us feel anything unless we give them permission. But isn’t it easy to get cross and blame others when things aren’t going the way we want? We don’t have to let others steal our joy.

And this is at the heart of what it means to live on purpose. We become so attuned with who we are, and what our needs are, that we don’t become tainted with the toxicity of others in the same way we might have done in the past.

Today I purposefully gathered herbs from the garden to put into the soup I was making, and gave thanks for the handsome bunch of bay leaves my friend Denise had given me a couple of weeks ago. A gorgeous gift straight from her garden. I imagined her standing in the kitchen with me, us both laughing so hard we couldn’t stand up straight.

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Around the 100-year-old dining table, I took time to savour the black bean minestrone. With my husband and our younger daughter beside me, I gave thanks for this precious family time.

In the course of my day, I tended to my work: writing my novel. I’ve spent time in South Carolina at a remote lighthouse, and then drove towards Tennessee. Juice from a plump ripe peach dripped down my chin (well, my character’s chin). I’ve heard frogs sing, and eaten corn chowder. In my writing life I have many wonderful experiences, but the truth is that my ‘real’ life is no less pleasurable. The sensations I have when I witness the first sunflower come into bloom or taste a perfectly ripe tomato with red onion and fresh basil leaves or watch the full Moon rise over the hills are just as enlivening as when I have a book published. One experience isn’t ‘better’ than the other. To live on purpose means every experience is deeply meaningful and enriching.

Today I spent time outside and enjoyed sunshine. The cat and I had a deep and meaningful conversation.

Last night I dreamt about someone I’ve not seen for a few months, and then today he was at my front door. I do believe that when we live on purpose our dream life and/intuition become finely honed.

Throughout the day I’ve enjoyed hugs with my husband. There’s always that moment when, with my head resting against his shoulder, I get to smell his skin. Every single time, I come alive. Without doubt, it’s one of my favourite places to hang out! I wouldn’t trade that for all the fame and fortune in the world. Ever.

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I have come to understand the true meaning of what money can’t buy, and that clarity of purpose refines our values every single day.

Living a life of purpose isn’t necessarily about doing something big and grand in the world for millions of people to notice. For me, as a writer, it’s not where my book is ranked on Amazon or how many retweets I get or likes on Facebook. It’s about the small things. Does my work having meaning? Am I passionate about writing? Do my words change lives? Have I helped just one person see their life differently?

The ordinary things become extraordinary simply because we have taken the time to notice them. When we live, move and have our being in gratitude then we do indeed live purposefully. It’s impossible not to. A purposeful life is one where we don’t apologise for who we are and the space we take up on this planet.

In what ways are you living a life of purpose? What has the most meaning to you? Love, Veronika x

#my500words

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What I learnt from reading and writing romance novels

A few years ago I had a strong desire to leave the life I’d known as a magazine editor and become a romance novelist. It made sense. I have a deeply felt need to bring more love to the world, and I love writing. Why not combine the two?

I spent my teenage years immersed in romance novels. They provided just the antidote to boring school days and tedious exams. Instead of doing homework, I was being romanced by tall, dark, fictional men…that is, until I could hear my mother walking up the hallway to my bedroom. And then, my secret lover was shoved beneath the textbooks while I pretended to studiously examine the theory of how to dissect a frog. Talk about going from princes to frogs!

I was thrown out of biology class for drawing hearts. Love hearts!

I met my husband Paul―a prince, not a frog―when living in New Zealand, and we moved in together the day after our first date. It was ‘I’ve known you forever’ at first sight. We’re happily in love, two decades later. I still get butterflies when I see him smile, or watch him walking towards me. He makes me laugh like no one else can. I can feel the privilege of those oft-said words: till death do us part; and I know that it means our love will carry us through and beyond that day.

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Our love story is a rom-com; I’m the rom, he’s the com. In the roughly ten years I spent as a single woman, I kissed more than a few of those proverbial toads. Often it’s only in hindsight that we see the blessings of poor relationship choices and lost loves. Those toads—every single one of them—showed me what I didn’t want in a relationship. And so I went on kissing toads in the hope that there was a fairytale ending for me. Those toads may have worn different costumes, and had different names or jobs, but in the end a toad is a toad is a toad. Would I ever meet my handsome prince? Perhaps I’d read far too many Mills & Boon romance novels! Nevertheless, they gave me hope.

 

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Despite the heartache, the betrayal, the lack of emotional intelligence or ability to give more openheartedly by some of the above said toads, I never really stopped believing in love. It took me about ten years of kissing toads to realise I wasn’t a toad, and that’s why those relationships didn’t fit right.

I trained to become a marriage celebrant. Even if I wasn’t married, I could at least celebrate other people’s happy unions. As it turned out, by the time I officiated my first ceremony in 1995 I had a beautiful baby girl growing inside me. Yes, I’d found my prince! Or had he found me?

Several years ago, I became rather ill with what I later discovered was adrenal fatigue. I ended up in bed for weeks, so exhausted I could barely move. My daughters, bless them, remembered my teenage addiction to romance novels and scoured the local charity shops buying me dozens of novels from their pocket money. I’d not read romance novels in years. At first, I was somewhat amused that I’d ever found them interesting. After all, aren’t they all the same? That’s what everyone thinks, right? Boy meets girl. Boy is a prat. Girl can’t bear the sight of him. Well, she can really, because, frankly, he’s so hot he’s capable of melting an ice cream from five metres away. Is it lust? Is it…oh my, it’s love. And, darn it, turns out they’ve always loved each other and can’t possibly be apart.

Whatever the storyline, those novels helped me heal. Each day I found myself getting stronger as I read more stories of romance. I’m a fast reader, and generally get through a Mills and Boon novel in two hours.

Then, a few summers ago, I decided to write a romance novel. That summer, getting up before sunrise each day, I wrote five romance novels. Finally, I’d come full circle. All those years of reading about romance, and now I was writing stories about love. But was I?

My novels Mosaic, Bluey’s Café and Sisters of the Silver Moon are not romance novels, but they all feature love stories. What I learnt from writing these novels and writing those five romance manuscripts is that I actually find it hard to follow the formula of ‘boy meets girl and now we have to throw lots of obstacles in their way before they can be together’. Although I have quite the backlog of toads to my name, when I met ‘the one’ our path was smooth. Instant. And in my heart, that is what I wish for other women. I hope that one day they look up and ‘he’ is standing there before them, smiling, and ready to open his heart. I hope he won’t be all ego, arrogance and too macho to communicate his feelings.

 

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The alpha men of romance novels might be drop-dead gorgeous, but I want women to do better than that. I wish for them men who make you come ALIVE with their gorgeousness. You know, those men who aren’t just eye candy but are nourishing soul food. Men who are your equal, and don’t treat you as if you’re anything less than royalty. How do we know if someone is right for us? The best way is to close our eyes. How do they feel? What energy emanates from them? Because, it isn’t their dashing looks which will sustain your relationship through the years, but their kindness, respect, integrity, honesty and ability to be emotionally intimate and vulnerable.

I am grateful for every Mills and Boon book (and other publishers, too) I’ve ever read. And I’m so pleased I never gave up on finding true love. Like childbirth, I don’t believe it has to be a painful experience. I also don’t subscribe to the common beliefs:

Every marriage has its difficult times
Every couple fights.

It’s time people started creating their own love stories. Ones that aren’t perpetuating conflict, drama, power games, disrespect or arrogance. Because, you know what? Love isn’t any of those things. Love is accepting, honest, open, kind, encouraging, supportive, respectful, forgiving, compromising, and fair. Love is loving. And yes, even though most of us are dysfunctional in one way or another, and we all have a needy ‘inner child’, so too are we adults capable of making adult choices. Every moment of our relationship interaction is a choice.

 

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As a writer, I have come to accept that I may never have what it takes to be a romance novelist. I can, however, always write about love. For love, true love, is something I know well.

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The Gathering In

I had that pathetic look on my face this morning. That same one I get each year about this time when I look up at my husband, and say: “I’m not going to be able to cope. I won’t get through another Winter!”

And bless him, he does his annual reply: “Yes, you will. You say it every year, and every year you survive”.

Whether it’s my underactive thyroid or the fact I’m an Aussie girl and would choose 40C over 15C, or worse: freezing, any day of the year, I simply can’t bear being cold. It hurts. I want to cry with the pain.

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Our 300-year-old cottage in Winter

 

And so here we are again. About to step into the long abyss known as Winter. Frankly, I’m still waiting for Summer so I can’t understand how this can possibly be. Wait a minute! Somebody stop this from happening. I haven’t even harvested my courgettes! And my sunflowers aren’t even close to being in bloom. Don’t cheat me!

The nights are drawing in. I wake to thick mists hanging about in my garden as if they own the damn place. Every inch of my being tries to fight the inevitable. I will no longer be able to spend hours outdoors, trying to soak up feeble English rays of sunshine. Within weeks, my favourite chore: hanging washing on the line, will come to an end. My barefoot forays into the garden will become like a long-forgotten dream.

 

 

It is, indeed, a time for gathering in. For these past few months I’ve had the pleasure of having my daughters home. My elder daughter is about to start her second year of university (studying music), and my younger daughter has only one year left before leaving for uni. As they prepare to go back out into the world this week to continue with their chosen education paths, I am mentally and physically preparing myself for the deep, dark days ahead.

What gets me through the damp, dreary, endless grey and ice cold? Being a writer! As a writer, I get to romanticise the Winter. Waking in the dark, I quietly step outside to the porch and gather armfuls of wood to light the woodstove. I set the scene for the writing day. Incense burns, and still dressed in my fleecy pyjamas, I tumble headlong into a world of love, loss, transformation, hope and whatever else my characters have planned.

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My writing room

In my writing life, Winter brings me endless hot drinks (oh wait, that’s my husband!). Thick woolly socks comfort my toes, while I tap at the keyboard willing my cold fingers to thaw out.

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Gifts of Autumn

 

At some point in the day, I go to the gym—fighting the elements that keep me a slave to the indoors—so I can give respite to my chair-bound body. But even then, the writer in me will find something romantic about it.

These seasons for ‘gathering in’ have a purpose. It’s a time to go within ourselves and review our life, our journey, our relationships, and our dreams. We actually need to pull back from the hectic busyness of modern life, and although we can still live 24/7 lives due to electricity, I do believe for many people there is something about the dark time of the year which causes them to slow down (even if only a little).

There is romance to be had when I am snuggled up on the sofa beneath a blanket, hot water bottle in my lap, woodstove roaring, reading by candlelight.

The writer in me creates stories with every apricot-hued sunset and frosty leaf. As I gather in, I gather in Nature too. She continues to feed my soul and my imagination even when to the average eye it might seem that all the world is bare and empty. I am fed by fallow fields and trees bereft of leaves. Red-breasted robins amuse me while I wash the dishes.

I dream of owning a big-arse Aga that keeps every inch of my home warm and toasty. Alas, I’m not likely to own one any time soon. What to do? Give my main character the Aga of my dreams. Given how much time I spend in her kitchen anyway, I am content to keep warm at her expense.

 

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As I gather in my energy, I am so grateful for my imagination and that it is my greatest tool for sustaining me through another British Winter. I also use that same imagination to dream of when I return to Australia for my brother’s wedding in 2017. I can already feel that 40C warming every single cell of my body. In my mind, I gather that heat inside me and use it to warm my heart. My husband is right: I will get through another Winter.

 

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Straddling two worlds: fiction and non-fiction

I never imagined (ha!) that I could be a fiction writer. With a background in journalism, and a dozen or so (I keep losing count) non-fiction books under my publishing belt, I was clear that, as a writer, my work was always going to stay that way.

And then I wrote my first novel, Mosaic. It was an amazing experience for me to create worlds where previously unknown characters came to life and had stories to tell. After I wrote it, I was sure: there were no more fiction books inside me. Back to my non-fiction world I went.

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One evening as I was cooking dinner, the entirety of my second novel, Bluey’s Café, came to me in the space of half an hour. It was like the Universe downloaded it into my brain while I was cooking. I spent the next five days typing it up like a crazy woman. A woman who neglected her family, her home, and every other aspect of her life. And even after that book, I was clear: no more fiction books inside me.

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A couple of summers ago, I wrote five romance novels in the space of that one season. I don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day but what they did do was show me how much I loved the realm of the imagination. From that Summer with ridiculously early morning writing stints, came the growing realisation that I wanted—needed, in fact—to be a fiction writer. Crap! What would this mean? I had spent the best part of twelve years working as a magazine editor, and writing non-fiction parenting and holistic living books alongside that job as well as a being a mother to two home-educated daughters. And now all I wanted to do was write fiction?

I turned life as I knew it upside down to make this dream come true. Unlike non-fiction, I require a completely different writing space and working environment for writing novels. My main requirement is perfect quiet. No husband chatting about sport. No children asking ‘what’s for dinner?’ a few minutes after we’ve had breakfast. And no cat. Although I’m a cat person, I can’t bear the cat being in the room when I write. All that snoring and dreaming of mice just unsettles me.

So, now I’ve created a life where I can write fiction to my heart’s content, and lo and bloody behold, there are non-fiction books screaming to come out. What’s my lesson? I’m a writer, and it is best not to categorise myself too rigidly. Of course, it’s a pain in the butt when it comes to marketing one’s self. Am I novelist? Er, yes. Am I a recipe-book writer? Yes. Do I write books for holistic parents? Yes. Do I write astrology articles? Yes.
I’m a straddler!

 

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As I straddle the worlds of information and pleasure, I trust that the loyal readership I built up through years of my non-fiction work will be just as happy to straddle over to my fiction books and enjoy what I have to offer. And likewise, those readers who have discovered me through my novels, I trust will take a peek at my non-fiction world and try my other books out.

 

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It is my nature to communicate and impart information. As long as non-fiction books ‘ask’ to come out of me, I shall write them. I have, however, found my spiritual home writing novels.

 

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