Romantic Dinner Playlist

You and your sweetheart (or just you, if you’re having an evening for Self Care!) are invited for a romantic walk along the streets of Paris, Milan, and Buenos Aires with a few surprises here and there.

I just wanted to share a playlist inspired by our romantic meals together, when we get to sit just us and enjoy home-cooked meals (he’s quite a chef!) and just being grateful to be together.

This is a nice long playlist, so you have plenty of time to get that table set, light a candle or two, and set the mood with a playlist that Eugene and I curated ourselves. May you have a lovely evening cherishing the people who are important to you, or just cherishing yourself. Partner or not, slow dancing is encouraged.


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My Missions

I am friends with some really smart women.

We recently got together over a coffee and the poor baristas probably thought they had somehow been trapped in an hours-long blogging/philosophy/therapy conference.

Was it worth it? YES.

I am lucky enough to call these women my friends, and if you want to check out what they have to say about things:

Annie Glenn shares the ins and outs of her daily adventures as a mom, a Catholic woman, and a professional organizer/makeup artist/actual artist-artist. Basically, she can take anything and show you where there’s beauty in it. Plus, she reads some truly interesting books!

No Body But Yours
Deanna Barnes is a novelist and Catholic convert who explores themes of physical spiritual health and holiness. A professional Caretaker, Deanna knows exactly how it feels to keep compassion, hope, faith, and goodness alive for the sake of our bodies and souls–especially when the going gets tough.

And then there’s me.

That’s one big niche, you got there…

My friends asked me recently what my mission was for this blog, and I had no answer. It wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to say; rather, I had about 20 different possible missions I could give them!

There are so many things I’m passionate about sharing with you: Living well, my joy and dedication to my upcoming marriage and my family, feeling Catholic joy, being curious about books, going on adventures, developing a love of livelong learning, talking about my journey as an educator,…..oh, so many things. I couldn’t choose one. I was bummed.

And all the while, every single blogging advice forum/book/youtube video repeats: “Find your niche, find your niche…..”

What if life is my niche? That makes it kind of hard to narrow things down!! Unfortunately, it also means I can’t write posts because I wind up with several hundred ideas, all wanting to pour out at the same time.

I can’t tell you how much I have ruminated and puzzled ’till my puzzler was sore.

To be honest, I’m still not sure if I could tell you my “mission” per se, but I can tell you who I am and what I know for sure:


I know contemporary culture depicts a violent, competitive, petty, corrupt, dysfunctional world.
But that’s not the world, friends; that’s just society.

The WORLD is big! And good! And fascinating! Seriously: I still marvel over the fact that some weird tree-lookin’ thing grows out of the ground, and it’s free and it’s perfectly made, and if I eat it, it literally keeps me alive! I’m talking about broccoli. Doesn’t that fascinate you? Doesn’t that excite you? It excites me! I geek out over vegetables and tons of other things too, because everywhere you look, there are just more interesting, beautiful things to see.

Let’s get curious!

There are tons more things to explore, so many stories to tell, so many things to share with each other, and it belongs to all of us. That’s why I stand so firmly on the fact that:


Can you believe we live in a country that has adults whom have never gotten to learn to read? Can you believe that?

Can you believe there are people in our country who have been so spurned by systems that they believe learning is only for one type of person, for only one gender, for only one race, for only one socioeconomic group?

I’m not talking about education in terms of a diploma from somewhere–we already know that those things don’t necessarily mean an education as much as they mean an exchange of a lot of money. Plus, I believe that some people have a talent for trades. We need people doing things, learning things. I don’t care where you get an education from, be it university or trade school or seminary or working in a business from entry-level on up to management, starting a business yourself, or just spending your days in the library. Wherever you get your education from, I want you to get it. And I’m going to help you get it, if I can.


We are a family of humanity, with stories to tell. We are individuals who are all learning, and who all have to come to terms with our relationships with God. We are curiously and wonderfully made. We are not meant to be superheroes, and we are not garbage. We are human. And we are together. So let’s be together, let’s spend some time together, and tell each other what we know.


I guess my mission is to show you that life is worth living, and also to invite you to come and get curious about this amazing world with me!

Will you join me?

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Finding Your Blue Flame

Does anyone remember the early 2000’s when everyone was all about the film The Secret? Oh my goodness, it was manifest-mayhem. People were out manifesting their destinies all over the place.

Hats, t-shirts, socks, pashminas everywhere, all engraved with the Super Secret motto of “follow your bliss.” I can even hear the creepy whisper from the film, supposed to be your Best Self telling you from the future the things you already carry in your heart from a universal knowledge held firmly within Source and delivered to you via the umbilical energy of using affirmations to train the subconscious to live your Best Life.

Now, I know that sounds a little bit critical, and maybe that’s a good thing. I’m always in favor of weighing and measuring the logic of stuff, mostly because that’s what I personally need to do, otherwise I’ll wind up cooking up some kooky/ridiculous life plan that always gets me into trouble. Seriously, when The Secret came out, I probably watched it a hundred times, and if you knew the absolutely ridiculous mistakes and mis-steps I made during that time period in my life, you’d be totally on board with me taking an extra moment or two to question my current buffoonery levels.

Image from Pexels

All tone of criticisms aside, I actually like the term “Blue Flame.” It makes an abstract concept a whole lot easier to talk about! Here’s the meaning behind the symbol:

The Blue Flame

The idea of a Blue Flame calls to mind an ordinary flame, like the one on a candle. The hottest part of the flame is not red, or orange, or yellow. The area that is the hottest part of the flame is actually blue.

Therefore, your “Blue Flame” is that thing, that mission, that purpose that totally ignites the spirit within you. You’re the whole candle in this scenario, in case you couldn’t tell.

If you’re Catholic (and even if you’re not), you can think of it as that thing that God put you here to do. Your life purpose! In Secret terms, it’s your bliss, and you’ll simply not be happy or satisfied with what you are doing with you time until you follow that bliss wherever it may lead you. Commit! Or forever know you’ve missed the opportunity and you’ll be a sad candle for all of your days!

But, here’s the thing:

You are not a machine.

You are a person, and YES it is true that God put you here in these days, on this planet, during these times. YES, it is true that you are here for a reason.

You’re not junk. You are not worthless. You are not some cosmic twist of fate of atoms colliding, or whatever the Atheists are saying, I have no idea.

You are not just some meaty animal.

You have a soul.

You have a soul! You have a soul that was given to you by a Creator who loves you.

And you are here for A purpose, but I don’t want you to feel that you are here for only ONE purpose, not the way we humans think of it, anyway. You are not an order number in some catalogue of humanity, meant for others to push some button and receive one talent from you, like you’re some sort of vending machine. That’s consumerist thinking. We don’t consume people, it’s just bad manners, not to mention nutritionally unbalanced.

…bet you never thought you’d get your daily motivation from someone who talks about life purpose and cannibalism in the same post, DID YOU?

You were meant to be a celebrity life coach……

Sincerely, -your Best Self telling you from the future the things you already carry in your heart from a universal knowledge held firmly within Source and delivered to you via the umbilical energy of using affirmations to train the subconscious to live your Best Life


I mention this because there are TONS of people who have zero idea what their Blue Flame could be. Or worse: they have 8,000 different ideas of what their Blue Flames could be! Now that’s much worse–now we have people running around distracted, trying to hit marks in all 8,000 different categories because they just don’t know which one is going to be a spark that catches fire and darn sparkly blue flames distracting us everywhere and Katniss Everdeen!!!!

It’s chaos, people!

PANIC! At a Blue Flame Disco Ball

Image from Pexels

I have had a fascination with words my whole life, but I still can’t find any that could describe what God sounds like.

But I know what God does NOT sound like….God does NOT sound chaotic. Ever. Chaos, separation, distraction, those are things that are not of God. If you are searching for your Blue Flame, and you are spinning around in circles, stop a minute.

Seriously, just hold still for one second. Read my proposal here:

What if you do have a Blue Flame, BUT ALSO
What if you’re meant to have several Blue Flames over the course of your life?

What if all you can do is live in the present moment, where you are in your life, today, right now?

Maybe you’re not meant to know what your Blue Flame is for the whole course of your life. Maybe God knows that you are a mere mortal (perhaps because God made you that way) and that you are meant to grow and change in this life, in preparation for becoming more holy on your way to Heaven. Maybe your mission is one thing today, and it’ll be an entirely different thing in 5 years. What if you’ll need lessons from this mission in order to complete your next one?

One little light at a time

Image from Pexels

When you get a quiet moment, just sit and enjoy for a second. Seriously, be comfortable. I want you to actually get to experience feeling grateful to be alive in this moment, right now. Just for this moment, you’re not going to worry about the past. Just for this moment, you’re not going to worry about the future. You don’t have to be an overachiever right now.

In this peaceful state, think: What is it in my life that could be A (meaning ONE) Blue Flame? I don’t have to think about all my Blue Flames right now. If a friend were to ask what they were, if I were to make a list, what is ONE of them that I would tell my friend?

List one. STOP AT ONE.

Hey, maybe you have more flames inside you. I hope so! After all, like I said, you are not some product in a predatory world, meant to be consumed in one particular way. You are multi-faceted! AND, you are only human.

(I KNOW–so intricately made AND a mere mortal? How could those things possibly go together? Well, as we Catholics say: I dunno! It’s a mystery!)

Work on one flame. Work on what you’re supposed to be doing right now.

Do it with your heart, do it with your soul. Really have the bravery to decide to care about it, make changes in your life to nurture it, fall in love with it, cherish it. It doesn’t have to be your whole identity, and then you’ll somehow whither away when it’s done. You’re not the boss over when your life ends, or why, so stop trying to be. Just do the one thing right now. It’s enough.

What is ONE FLAME I can nourish and keep burning in this current time in my life, today, right now?

You’re enough. You’re worthy. You’re growing. And you’re loved.

Sweet Freedom

The best part about letting go in this way is that now you are actually able to give yourself permission to bump into other talents you may have along the way, and to actually get to enjoy them without feeling guilt. It’s a wonderful life!

Love, Margaret.

Want more?

The following recommendations utilize affiliate links, which means if you buy any of these things, I’ll get a few pennies from them from Amazon! Thank you in advance for shopping these links, and subsequently supporting me and my writing shenanigans.

Recommended Reading

Hildegard von Bingen: Entire works.
You can’t really go wrong with anything from her. Talk about having a Blue Flame–friends, Hilde Von B was the whole birthday cake. Seriously! Author, apothecary, abbess (like a Mother Superior big boss lady), traveller, visionary, musical composer, speaker…all of these things are impressive enough, now add the fact that she did it all as a woman in the Medieval era, and it’s hard not to start bust out singing some Aretha Franklin. Make sure something of hers winds up in the stockings of all of your feminist friends this holiday season.

Jennifer Fulwiler: One Beautiful Dream
Ok, Ok, it’s certainly convenient to me to mention her, since any way you slice it, she’s trending. But I’m very glad she is. Here’s a woman who really had to find her Blue Flame, and she talks about it often with humor that many of us can enjoy. People can sometimes think one little sign is now the prescription for their whole lives–women especially, thinking “Oh, I had a child, so motherhood is obviously my ONLY BLUE FLAME!” but then they write something that, turns out, is meaningful and benefits lots of people, so they think “Oh NO I did another good thing; how could God give me another talent, since developing this talent that God literally gave me would be CHEATING ON MY BLUE FLAME oh noooooo!” Jennifer Fulwiler shares her insights on how to do what God put us here to do without ruining our lives trying to be control freaks over the whole shebang.

St. John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul
Of course, if you’ve already gotten to the point where you have tried to become a super control freak over the whole shebang of your life, you’ll probably really feel it when I say that you’ve likely left yourself unsatisfied…dare I say it, disappointed. Disillusioned. St. John of the Cross uses more complicated language, but it’s still worth a read for anyone who has encountered pride, and has gone-th they way pride goes….bang. This is a great book to read little bits of at a time, savoring and ruminating, and eventually coming back to a place of peace and relaxation in God’s presence.

Mother Angelica: Practical Holiness
Here’s a different perspective on what we’re meant to be up to. According to Mother Angelica, our one and only job–the one thing we are meant to do with our lifetime–is to learn to be holy, and to prepare ourselves to be reunited with God in Heaven. Don’t worry–she’s got ideas, tips, advice, and tons of comfort to offer in this book that anyone can follow, at every stage of life.

And of course,

Margaret Nelson (Yours truly!): The Ten Minute Quit
This book was written for folks who are recovering from smoking nicotine like I did. However, the methods I used sent me on TONS of discoveries about who I really am, my natural skills and talents, and the passions in my heart that were waiting, buried under hurts and issues I had been using cigarettes to cope with.

Thanks again for shopping these affiliate links and supporting this blog!

More Recommendations

A dose of positivity to your day, Pollyannie shares her discoveries exploring her God-given talents in her blog, as well as shares the surprise adventures that God sends her on. Find her at:

Mother Angelica
Yes, yes, I know: MORE Mother Angelica?! I just love her. I’m so grateful for her work, and for recording so many of her talks so that I could enjoy watching her get off topic for a joke, tell her renditions of what may have happened during Biblical times, and quoting Scripture in-between sips from her mustache cup–which she needed because her nose was too long to avoid the ice cubes in her water! She was a great teacher who taught me about the faith, while also teaching me not to take myself so seriously. Worth a watch, or in my case, a few dozen watches.

Got a book, blog, product, or idea that would fit into this discussion? Email me at OR
I’ll review things weekly, and if I like ’em, I’ll put links up on my blog

If you have any comics or illustrations that would fit in this post, I would love to post them and promote your work!

SHARE WITH ME: Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter if you want to share your Blue Flame adventures (or misadventures). I would love to support and encourage you on social media! Just look for me at maggieothevalley

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Biphasic Sleep Patterns

For good mental health, thou shall tackle thy bedtime.

What is biphasic sleep?

Biphasic sleep refers to portioning a day to include two segments of sleep instead of one. Most folks I know only do one.

Why choose biphasic sleep?

For starters, without going into too much detail, I can say that I am entering into an incredibly stress-heavy period of life at the moment. Experiencing symptoms of general “blah” feeling, perhaps even a little depression, have prompted me to pay some extra attention to my current state of mental health.

Biphasic sleep is a term I encountered when researching the biopsychology and behavioral science of leisure, learning, and brain health. I do plan to make my discoveries a part of my Masters program; but in the meantime, I could certainly see the benefit for my personal life first.

Biphasic sleep is a sleep pattern that was common to most people before the Industrial age. Folks who did not have electric lights in the home (aka most everyone) followed the patterns of the sun for their day-to-day activities. This meant they would naturally go to bed when the sun went down, and would also naturally wake with the dawn, without the use of alarms or artificial light to help them get going.

In other words, for thousands of years, humans went to sleep this way. It’s only in the past sneeze of the human timeline that people have been going to bed when they say so, forcing themselves to wake by literally surprising themselves with blaring alarms and lights.

From what I’ve read, there would also be naturally-occurring times of wakefulness during the night. How wonderful this information would be to an “insomniac”–to know that may be it’s actually ok, and even good, to wake up in the middle of the night?! People used to use this time to write, meditate, pray, spend time being intimate with their spouses, reading if they were educated, or simply looking out at the stars. And since children and teens naturally need more sleep and would likely sleep through the whole night, the adults experiencing these adult sleep patterns had natural times of quiet and parental “downtime” built into each and every day.

Don’t get me wrong; I never thought biphasic sleep would be a cure-all for all my problems. Still, when endeavoring for health, wellness, and healing, it never hurts to stack the deck in our favor, right? So I figured I would give it a try.

Trying it for a week

I wanted to know if my life would improve in these areas:

  • Sleeping through the night
  • Enough energy for daily demands
  • Extra energy for working out and/or tackling projects
  • Relief from depression-like symptoms
  • Appetite (not over- or under-eating)
  • Naturally-occurring pattern of two phases of sleep per day
  • Peaceful time of wakefulness during the night where I could spend time in prayer and meditation without distraction
  • Productivity; in other words, the amount of work I am able to accomplish every day
  • Memory; the amount of information I am able to retain
  • Synthesis; the quality of my ability to think about what I am learning in school, and to synthesize ideas and discussions from it

I’ll definitely post a follow-up as I continue to learn about this pattern of sleep. It definitely feels counter-cultural, which is so interesting since this used to the the normal way people ran their lives. Maybe there are important things we can learn from the past!

Until next time!



Margaret Nelson is the founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, now available on Amazon!

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March: Thank you Readers!

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Howdy neighbors!

I’ve gotten a few new readers this month, and I wanted to create a post as a kind of welcome.

Now that you’re here, I wanted to thank you personally for buying my book. It was a joy to discover the materials I wrote about, and an absolute honor to write from start to finish.

It’s my very first book ever! Eugene and I laugh because I had to write, edit, preview, and format it all myself. He and I designed the cover together, and he actually generated it for me because he’s awesome. Anyway, it was definitely a DIY endeavor. We still joke about the fact that we couldn’t hire someone to format this for me–we laugh about how I literally couldn’t even afford page numbers, HA!

It was challenging, but it was so worth it. Know why? Because of you. I told my best friend during the time of the final edits that all the effort would be worth it if the book helps just one person let go of unhealthy feelings of guilt or shame.

It’s worth it if one person can actually imagine a life of freedom for the very first time.

It’s worth it if just one person starts to hope for the future.

It’s worth it if just one person has the thought of: “I think I can actually do this!”

If just one person looks around and sees that life is worth living…

If just one person starts to get the idea that they are worth loving..

Then it’s worth it. It’s all been worth it, and will always be. And the best part is, whatever benefits you might gain from exploring my book belong to you, 100%. I’m just a friendly voice of encouragement to walk with you through this transition, so that you know without a doubt that you aren’t alone.

So thank you. Thanks for letting me walk with you. Thanks for reading my story, and trying some of these things out yourself. Thanks for your feedback–it makes me a better writer every day. And thanks for following along with me. It makes me a better human every day.



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