The Art of Loving Life

I wrote today’s post as part of the WOW-Women on Writing’s “The Art of Loving Your Life” Blanket Tour celebrating the release of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore by Barbara Conelli.

Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.

Her latest book, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore offers an intimate view into the unpredictable and extravagant city of Milan, its glamorous feminine secrets, the everyday magic of its dreamy streets, the passionate romance of its elegant hideaways, and the sweet Italian art of delightfully falling in love with your life wherever you go.

If you comment on today’s post on this blog or any of the others participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore!

 To read Barbara’s post about loving life and view a list of other blogs participating in The Art of Loving Your Life tour please visit The Muffin.



Today’s post is all about loving life and what makes life beautiful. Luckily, I have been keeping a Beauty Journal for the past two years. What is a Beauty Journal, you might ask? Well, it’s sort of a scrapbook, but for everything you might think of as beautiful, and it started as an assignment for a class I took in the spring of 2010, Beauty and the Body. The title of the class makes it sound more interesting than it was, but because of the journal we had to keep, I still got something out of the course.

The professor told us to keep a journal of anything and everything that we find beautiful. Sometimes he would give us particular assignments, like “list five things you think are beautiful” or “go to the sex shops and record what you think is beautiful in them” (we live in Reno, Nevada – we have well-known sex shops). But otherwise he just wanted us to pay attention when we pass by beauty. Not just stop and smell the roses, but stop and take pictures of the roses, paste the pictures into your journal, and reflect on what makes them beautiful to you.

And the thing is, you never notice how many millions of roses there are until you have to stop and take pictures, and paste pictures, and reflect on pictures, every single time you see them.

At first I was looking for things to put in my journal, but before long I didn’t have to look anymore. Beautiful things are everywhere! There are so many that I had a pile on top of my journal of all the things I still had to paste in: photographs and magazine cut-outs and tickets to plays and a cheap little valentine a kid I babysat gave me.

Needless to say, I continued keeping my Beauty Journal long after the semester ended. Here are some examples of its pages:

(This page is about Skyler, the baby of the family. I experienced something similar with Stefani years before I started this Beauty Journal. I was at that age when little kids are just annoying and you hate to be around them. And Stefani is eight years younger than me, so you can imagine our sisterly relationship at the time. Well, she got sick, and the doctor told us it was nothing to worry about and that she would get better on her own. Only it turned out she had a rare heart disease and if my parents hadn’t gotten a second opinion and taken her to the emergency room, she might have died. When I found out I didn’t know what to do with myself. She was a kid sister I didn’t want around half the time, but I couldn’t imagine life without her. It made me realize how beautiful she was to me.)

I’ve also dedicated pages to my writing.

Just the Way was the first of my writing to ever be published. And what could be more beautiful than the first time you see your name in the Table of Contents, your writing in print?

At the Black Rock Press I printed another short story of mine, What’s Love Goddess to do With It? I cut the pages, lined up the text, and bound the book myself. I even carved linoleum by hand to make the illustrations. It took hours of work in the press during class and on my own time. It was frustrating and grueling and for a while I thought the project would never be finished. But the result was eight beautiful, hand-made books, and one of them was put on display in the Church Fine Arts building at UNR:

(A couple of pages, including the title page shown here, were printed on paper that had actual flower petals pressed in.)

If you want to know how to love life, start a Beauty Journal. The point is not to write in it every day, or even every week. The point is to recognize beauty wherever it is. Having somewhere to put that random picture of beauty makes all the difference of whether you keep the picture or throw it out and never think about it again.

Give yourself permission to hang on to the beautiful things in your life. Once you start, you’ll see beauty everywhere until your journal is overflowing. You’ll notice those little moments that give you no choice but to love life. And then those little moments, the ones that might otherwise be forgotten, will instead be preserved forever.


Donating Hair!

So I have finally grown my hair out 10 inches and I am ready to donate it!

I’ve donated my hair a few times in the last five years, and I always go through a new organization. This year I’m going with Locks of Love.

They make children’s wigs because kids grow so fast that they need new wigs more often than adults.

(A couple other organizations that turn donated hair into a new opportunity for children and adults facing hair loss are Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids.)

A lot of people don’t know that it takes not one, but six hair donations before one wig can be made. This was the inspiration for my untitled novel I’m working on, which follows the six strangers who unknowingly come together to help create a wig for a seventh character, whom they will never meet. It’s amazing to me how much people touch the lives of others without ever realizing it or even seeing the face of the person whose life they’ve changed.

Anyway, I’m still researching the procedures of the organizations that take wig donations, but stay tuned for more info on my new novel!


In the meantime, how about I placate my readers with an excerpt from my written novel? I know you’re hungry for more!

I’ve discovered through my writing that I have kind of an odd fascination with hair. It will come out fully in my untitled novel, but even in Finding ‘Ohana hints can be found.

Before we get to the excerpts though, here’s a reference for what Cinnamin looked like throughout most of high school:


The first excerpt below is from Cinnamin’s first day of kindergarten, when she meets Lucas. Then we fast forward to a camping trip during Cinnamin’s senior year of high school.


I sat down to join him where he was building a tower out of blocks on the floor. His white-blonde hair was styled in a mushroom-cut, and he was already wearing Coke-bottle glasses, even at such a young age.

After a while, he said, “I’m Lucas. What’s your name?”

“Ethelfleda,” I said.

He scrunched up his face, but kept his gaze on the building blocks.

“You can call me Ethel if you want.” But I did not really like either option.

“Nah. You don’t seem like an Ethel.”

I could not disagree.

He finally looked up from the blocks and smiled. “I like your hair.”

I smiled back. My hair was down for the first day of school, and it already reached almost to my waist. “Thank you,” I said. It got in the way, being so long, but I loved the color. It was the one part of myself that I always thought was beautiful. (Until I met Naali and she helped me see that every part of me was beautiful.)

“It looks like cinnamon,” Lucas had said.

That morning, during recess, Lucas had called me Cinnamin on the playground. It felt more connected to me than Ethelfleda ever did.

A spark had landed in my hair. Lucas had tackled me to the ground before I had even felt the heat from the fire as it quickly spread closer to my face.

But I could not tell my parents that, because they did not know Lucas was on the camping trip. So I returned home, hair suddenly falling only a few inches past my chin (although the longest chunk reached as far down as my shoulder blades). My parents were furious. Especially because we still had to go to church. Mom did her best to tie it back, but I nonetheless earned plenty of pointed looks from the other members of the church. We went to a salon that afternoon so it would not look so ragged, and the stylists told us that it might never grow back. I found myself not being so upset by this information. All that hair was heavy, and it felt good not to have its weight on me anymore.

As the edges were cut away, an actual style began to take shape. I stared at the mirror as my face stopped being one of a pathetic, shy little girl, and turned into the face of a girl with attitude. Even wearing my most modest dress, I looked like a different person. I looked like a movie star.