Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Wanna play?

Meet Bruce, a Rhodesian Ridgeback also known as an African Lion hound.

Bruce is special because, even though he is a purebred, he has no ridge. He has outbursts of energy where he likes to play and run (as fast as 55 km/hr!) but he’s often pretty lazy.

You can usually find him cuddled up on the couch or laying in his little dirt patch that he created for shade.

Bruce is a big boy (as tall as some adults when he’s on his hind legs!) and has a giant heart to match his size. If he sees a packed overnight bag, he knows someone is leaving and gets sad.

From Bruce’s parents Kyle Farrell and Gracie Macdonald, myself, and, of course, Bruce, have a Furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me. I have many more great pets in store in the coming weeks!

Posted in writing

I don’t know what I’m doing- and I love it!

-Photo credit Jack Moreh, freerangestock.com

Seems like a strange thing to say, and admit, doesn’t it? But yet, it’s true. 

A couple of weeks ago, I didn’t really even know what a blog was. I had a vague idea, but if I would have been pressed for answer, I would have stammered, “Uh, well, you write what you want, I guess? For free. So, I don’t really get the point.”

Fast forward two weeks and that’s probably still my answer! I’m still learning and much like when I was writing my cozy mystery series, I have no plot outline. I fly by the seat of my pants, to use an old saying. I’m showing my age by even using that saying, and you know what? I don’t even care. 

There’s a certain beauty in no longer caring and embracing uncertainty. It makes you feel so free! I don’t mean not caring about things that matter, don’t get me wrong.  I am an Empath, therefore I am an extremely, over-the-top, caring person, to the point where it can affect my health without me even realizing it.  

I never knew this about myself until the past year or so of my life; suddenly, so much makes sense.  But that’s another story, for another time.

When I talk about not caring, I mean about superficial things.  My age.  If my silver streak at the front of my head is showing.  Is the nail polish on my toes chipped? Whether or not my hair is done or if I have make-up on. The fact that I live in yoga clothes or bathing suits (during those few warm months here).  Planning everything to the smallest detail; always having a plan for everything.

Nope! That’s the old me. These were the superficial things that bogged me down and that I know bog down many others.

The only thing that I never really planned out was my writing. It was the one aspect of my life where I was free. I just did it. I’d sit down and let the fingers loose on the keyboard and magic happened.  The murder mysteries I wrote were a mystery even to me.

-Photo credit Kaboompics at freerangestock.com

I don’t have a formal background in this field.  In college, I studied retail management and while I always had a knack for writing, I never took any extra courses in how to actually write; I was afraid it would change my style and make everything more structured.  It wouldn’t be “me” anymore. Mistakes and all, I had to feel authentic to myself. 

I’ll admit, I sometimes even forget the proper use of apostrophe’s.  Did I use that one correctly? I’m not sure, nor do I care to google it.  I won’t get hung up about it. And the feels great.

Did I plan out in great detail what my blog would be about? Hell, no.  I had some vague midnight scratchings on several post-it notes. Trust me, they are scratchings; my hand writing is horrible.  

-Photo credit Jack Moreh, freerangestock.com

I knew, to a degree, that I needed a new platform to promote my existing novels.  My old website was onerous to program, required energy and patience that I no longer have, and simply wasn’t fun. I’m not sure how many years I have left in me, so what I do have in my life, I have to enjoy.  

I have a wonderful first chapter written for a new cozy mystery series.  I know it would be as light-hearted and funny as my first series was.  But if I’m being honest with myself, I also know how much it took out of me to write it.  By the end, it wasn’t fun any more.

This? This is fun.  It’s short and sweet, it changes weekly depending on my mood and what strikes a chord with me. I have some loose ideas on a somewhat general direction I’d like to see it go. I retain my identity as a writer. Most importantly, I get to continue writing and to try to amuse people.  Yes, it’s free, but maybe, just maybe, along the way, something I say might positively influence someone. 

So, while I do have some hazy thoughts about this blog thing, no, I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing. And yes, I love it! It’s an adventure. It’s a mystery unfolding before me , and I feel so free.

Let your life be an adventure

In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Refuse to entertain old pain.” -Mary Manin Morrissey

What have you let go that doesn’t serve you anymore? Feel free to comment and share.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Yumm, good stuff!

Meet Chippy, one of the many chipmunks we feed.

I’m not sure which one this is… we have named some of them, the ones that are very distinct. This might be Earl, but I’d need to see his right side to confirm it. We live on what used to be an apple orchard and with many apple trees still on the property, our place is a crowd favourite for wildlife.

The chipmunks actually line up throughout the day at feeding time. I kid you not! Some wait patiently for the guy ahead to finish and leave, whereas others flex their furry little muscles and pounce. By the end of every summer, we usually have a few of them that trust us enough to eat out of our hands.

Meet “Zen”!

From all my chippies and I, have a Furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me.

Posted in yoga and meditation

Where’s your Happy Place?

My happy place

Do you have a happy place? A physical place that you can retreat to every day that grounds you and makes you feel peaceful?

In today’s ever-hectic, plugged in, I’m always connected world, what do you do to find balance?

I’ve had people tell me they don’t have an extra room or space, but guess what?It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as rolling out a yoga mat in a quiet corner of a room, sitting on the floor on a soft, comfy cushion or blanket, or lounging in a favourite chair. You can even just escape to your bedroom for time alone with a nice candle and gentle music, sit on your bed, close your eyes and just breathe.

Happy corner of a room…no makeup, glasses, bad hair, no care

Here’s the thing; closing your eyes doesn’t mean that you have to meditate. While I, personally, am into that and highly recommend it, if you’re ready for it, you’ll find it in your own good time.  I’m not going to be the meditation “pusher”!  (“Pssst, wanna meditate?!”)

But, in the meantime, you can just close your eyes and be “present”. 

What does that mean? I speak from experience, you know.  I was the go, go, go type, look at me, I’m multi-tasking and so in control and blah blah blah, yeah, I’m balanced.  I’m superfu**ing woman.

I’d close my eyes and what would I do? Go over everything that transpired that day, or days before, think about the next day, mentally compose my to-do list, or compose entire email responses in my head, then open my eyes and…and what? And nothing, really. Why? Because I was not present in that moment.

I was reliving the past or trying to plan the future.

So what does it mean to be present? I’m sure if you google it, you’ll find a plethora of information. Hey, let’s do it, for fun. Bam, done. In mere seconds, I found over 2.3 billion posts using just the words “be present”.  So this present stuff must really be something, right?

It is, once you get the hang of it. It took me several tries to find what worked for me and what did it was my birds. Yes, mine.  I feed them, talk to them, fill their bird bath with water, therefore they are mine. They are free to come and go, but they choose to stay. Mine.  

One of my happy places is pictured above.  It’s not a professional photo, maybe it’s even a bit blurry. That’s okay, my life isn’t, nor will it ever be, picture-perfect. I love to sit outside in this spot and just listen to my birds. That’s how it really started for me, before I even started meditating.

Just. Listen.

That’s all.  Take in the sounds around you.  The chirping, that one, crazy bird that’s always off key, the wind chimes jangling, traffic from the near-by highway 401, geese squawking as they fly overhead…they all blend together in a wonderful symphony. 

Be present.  It means not thinking of yesterday or even of a few minutes ago, or tomorrow and beyond.  Notice the colours playing behind your eyelids, your breath, even the sound of someone coughing close by. Acknowledge the sounds, let them go, just sit quietly and observe. Let it all come and go, like waves gentling rippling along the shoreline. Let your mind and body recharge, your heart rate slow down. 

Just enjoy that moment. Nothing more. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

Coffee/tea Meditation

Not your thing but you feel you need something? Try this easy coffee/tea “meditation” that you can even take a few minutes for at work. Bonus tip: it even helps clear blocked sinuses a bit by inhaling the steam.

Go ahead and make whatever you normally make- see how simple that is? You start with what you’re already doing.  Whether you’re sitting at home with it, or at work, just close your eyes before you even take that first delicious sip.  

Hold the cup under your nose like a mini steam bath for your nasal passages. Inhale deeply, expand you lungs, take in that wonderful aroma. You might even feel your mouth water. Your tongue is practically trying to escape your mouth so that your taste buds can have their fix. Hold on.  Exhale, deeply. More. Gently let all the air out of your lungs. Pause. Hold the breath for a heartbeat, then inhale the aroma again, deeply.

Do this about three times, just enjoying the scent, the heat, those few precious moments that you have. Then, finally, have your first sip.  Savour it. Keep those eyes closed! Another deep breath, another deep exhale, another long sip.  Relax with the steam, savour the flavour, notice your breath.

Guess what? You were in the moment. You were present. I hate to tell you this….but you even just kind of meditated. 

Namaste, enjoy the day, cheers, my friends.

What’s your happy place? Please share and tell us what works for you.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

I heard you say “Friday”…

Meet Bart, our rescue cat. Actually, I think we rescued each other.

He’s two years old and we think he’s an American Bombay. Bart is extremely friendly and enjoys yoga and meditation (you’ll see him in a lot of future posts), chasing mice, and watching the birds and chipmunks. We’re a lot alike- except I don’t chase mice. In his spare time, he likes to sleep on my feet, or in a cardboard box.

From Bart and I, have a Furtastic Friday!

*Photo courtesy Gracie MacDonald

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me.

Posted in empowerment

Find your Voice

This post did not turn out as I planned.

Once my fingers start typing, what unfolds surprises even me at times. It’s simultaneously cathartic, invigorating and exhausting. I think it’s wonderful! How great is it, when we can surprise ourselves?

I wanted to write about how I had retired from writing. I did, you know, for a few months. But, I still had books to promote, and a  toilsome website that I felt I had outgrown.  The person that created that site years earlier is not who I am today. I wanted a fresh, uncomplicated start, but I was still undecided if a blog was the way to go. Truth be told, I wasn’t really sure what a blog was.

 Then, I listened to a webcast by singer/certified Kundalini and Naad Yoga Instructor Simrit. There’s two simple things she said that resonated with me; it was about finding and empowering your voice and owning your vibe.

Simple, right?

It should be, but yet, so many struggle with these two things. People are afraid to speak up, or haven’t developed their own voice, their own vibe,  afraid to be thought of as the weird one, the one who’s different. What if my ideas suck, or I sound or look stupid, or I fail, right? Does this sound familiar? 

Then there’s those that don’t feel comfortable in their own skin because they’re so engulfed with trying to emulate someone else and  “keeping up” with all the latest trends.

Hopefully along the way, these people stumble onto something that grounds them, opens their eyes and makes them see life with new eyes and experience it with a new mindset. Something that makes them see their true self. 

How many people can say they know their own voice and vibe? How many have taken the time, effort, guts and raw emotions needed to strip away all the false, outer layers and confront who they really are?

It’s not always nice. We have this image sometimes of who we’d like to be, and maybe we’ve even convinced ourselves that we’re like that. When you take the time for some introspection, you have the opportunity to marry reality with self-perception. You might identify some areas that could use an overhaul, and you can take that empowering decision to make those changes. 

I’ve had ample opportunity over the past two years to dig deep (we’re talking rock bottom) into the cob-webbed recesses of my mind to explore who I am- who I really am. I’m not perfect. I never will be, nor do I strive to be, but I’ve always thought of myself as a kind person. 

Regardless of my vast professions over the years, I always aimed to be kind. My work may not have always allowed that aspect to shine brightly, but at my core, if nothing else, I knew I was kind and I strove to surround myself with like-minded people. 

Re-invent

I’ve had to re-invent myself. Many of us have been there before, or will be at some point, to some degree.  That’s life, folks. Some of us are faced with having almost everything stripped away from us, having to dig way down within to find who we really are- our voice, our vibe- and rebuild from there. 

I was a manager, an author, a wife and mother. I was dressing sharp (ish), trying to find time to exercise, stay on top of work and housework. With whatever time was left, I would snag a couple of guilt-ridden hours to write, and try to carve out  time to keep in touch with extended family and friends. 

I was one of the few, or perhaps the only, managers at work who did not handle work emails or matters after I left the office. In addition, I usually left at my designated quitting time.   In my mind, I told myself this was work/life balance.  I was on the right track, but it was hardly balanced. I was headed for a burn-out and knew it, but was powerless to prevent it.

“In my mind, I told myself this was work/life balance”

While I was teetering on the brink,  I went from feeling physically great, to being constipated, to then noticing some lumps in my abdomen all in a four month span. 

After a series of doctor visits and diagnostic scans, it was confirmed that my kidney had moved down into my stomach due to the size of the tumour that was attached to it. I was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. I was 47 years old. 

I lost my right kidney. Four little tumours that had spread to my lungs remained- and still remain- in my body. I had an ugly scar right down the middle, and I was the weakest that I’d ever been. I was on disability leave from work, and I was living an hour or more away from my son and friends and other family. In my heart, I knew I’d be unable to ever return to work. The only part of my identity that I thought I had left was being an author, but I was uninspired. 

So, what else was there?

I was still a kind person. Despite the anger, bitterness, sadness, anxiety and the “why me’s”, I was still a kind person. 

Let’s fast forward a little. We’ll save the details of those gruelling two years for another time, perhaps. I will never say that cancer was a blessing in disguise, but it has given me the opportunity to discover meditation, and in the process, myself. Once I was strong enough, I branched out into the physical aspects of yoga, and I continue my journey of rebuilding a better, stronger and kinder ME. 

For this reason, I will still write. I have found my voice and my vibe and I hope to somehow touch the lives of others, through writing, to help them find theirs. What’s on your mind? Share you voice, share your stories. THIS. This is why I chose to start a blog. My voice. Your voice. 

So, no. This is not what I thought I’d write about. But I love it.

Cheers, my friends.

If you’d like to share your personal journey, please contact me.

Posted in books, writing

Whine & Cheese Bistro Mystery Book 4!

Book 4 is now out! Order your copy today. Here’s a few links as suggestions. First, my publishers site, Open Books:

http://www.open-bks.com/library/moderns/swiss-cheese-and-sibling-rivalry/order.html

Or you can order it on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.ca/Swiss-Cheese-Sibling-Rivalry-Volhart/dp/1948598167/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_2?keywords=Judy+volhart&qid=1557405373&s=gateway&sr=8-2-fkmrnull

And here:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/swiss-cheese-and-sibling-rivalry-judy-volhart/1131427693?ean=9781948598163

Plus, there’s Smashwords and Kobo, just to name a couple more. Check it out today. It’s the last in the series- I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Quadrilogy