Is That Fa Shizzle?

Sometimes I just really love a good quote.  When I see a quote I like, I usually copy it and put it into my quotes database, and then the quotes in that database show up randomly in the right side-bar of my blog.  I love this feature!  I also love my huge collection of quotes.

Recently I saw this quote on Pinterest, which linked to a store on Etsy, where someone sells quotes typed with an old typewriter on nice paper.  I bought it immediately and favorited the shop.

Quote from Catcher in the RyeIsn’t that awesome?  It’s from The Catcher in the Rye, the best book I ever read in high school.  I can’t wait for my kids to read that book.  Anyway…

Usually when I see a quote, I take it at face value that the quote is correct and attributed to the right person, but I think that more often than I realize, the quote is not represented as it was originally said, or has been altered through translation, or completely mis-attributed.  Sometimes I don’t care too much because sometimes the quote isn’t too off, or the words are still meaningful.  Sometimes I think it’s weird.

Like that commencement speech about wearing sunscreen that went viral several years back.  Remember that one?  (You can listen to it or read it here if you don’t.)  It was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut as being given at MIT in 1997.  It’s really great, but how funny that at some point it was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut and went viral.  Who made that happen?

A while ago I wrote a post about the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” which is attributed to Ghandi.  While I love this quote, and it’s a great mantra, that’s not what he actually said.  He said a whole bunch more than that, with different words in a different language, not that portable little snippet.  But I like that it got boiled down to something simpler.  It’s useful to me that way.

Recently a friend gave me the “Dalai Lama’s 18 Rules for Living” which I immediately hung up on my inspiration board.

Those are some pretty good rules aren’t they?  But do they sound like the Dalai Lama?  I wasn’t sure, so I turned to snopes.com and found out that this was also a fake.  But it’s still on my inspiration board.

I guess it’s not too surprising that this type of thing happens all the time, and probably has since the beginning of time.   And I don’t think it’s a terribly bad thing either, because obviously these words are touching people enough that they get shared a billion times over.  Although it does seems unfair to the true author.

I  myself will continue collecting quotes and posting them on my blog, doing my best to make sure they’re attributed to the right person, but posting them none-the-less because they inspire me.  There are also plenty of anonymous quotes out there that aren’t attributed to anyone, that I think are fantastic.  Like this one that appeared in a recent Design Within Reach catalog that I would love to have in my living room:

When was the last time your own possibilities gave you goosepimples?

And then there’s this one that appears in the lobby at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs:

Every 12 seconds someone remembers that we’re all in this together.

Aren’t those great?  Who cares who said them!  They make me smile.

If those “18 Rules for Living” were anonymous and not attributed to the Dalai Lama, would I still have put them on my bulletin board?  I don’t know.  I think so.  I like things that are short and sweet, or laid out nicely in a list like that.

Here are some words from the 14th Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness that I believe are actually his:

“Sometimes when I meet old friends, it reminds me how quickly time passes. And it makes me wonder if we’ve utilized our time properly or not. Proper utilization of time is so important. While we have this body, and especially this amazing human brain, I think every minute is something precious. Our day-to-day existence is very much alive with hope, although there is no guarantee of our future. There is no guarantee that tomorrow at this time we will be here. But we are working for that purely on the basis of hope. So, we need to make the best use of our time. I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.

So, let us reflect what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.”

I love this!  However it’s too long to add to my quotes database, and it probably won’t get turned into an email chain-letter either.  But it sounds more like the Dalai Lama, doesn’t it?  It sure sounds fa shizzle to me.  But what do I know?  I’m not even sure I’m using the term ‘fa shizzle’ right.  I just think it sounds super cool…

How to Get Anything You Want in Life

stepsWhen we were mushroom hunting last month, my friend Chris started telling me about this guy Tai Lopez, and his 67-step program.  I was totally intrigued, so when I got home I went to tailopez.com and signed up, and now I’m in love with Tai Lopez.  I mean, I’ve never met the guy personally, but I love his message and how he’s delivering it.  For the past 18 days, every morning when I get up, I’ve been watching/listening to his on-line videos on how to live the good life, or, how he puts it, “How to get anything you want in life:  health, wealth, love, and happiness.”

Here’s how it works:  After signing up and paying $5 for the “free book” that comes with the program, I get access to a lesson a day, which is a video or audio podcast by Tai, about one topic.  They’re kind of crazy topics, like The Billionaire’s Brain and Jennifer Lopez’s Voice, but that lesson is actually about deserving what you want in life.  And it’s awesome!  His premise is that it takes 67 days to reprogram your mind, so every day one lesson is unlocked, a link is emailed to me, then I listen to it for about 30-60 minutes.  He ends the lesson with a question, which I then write about in my journal.  I’m keeping mine on Evernote.

The 6th lesson, entitled Sculpture vs. The Lottery & The Anthropic Media Bias, is all about getting over the idea that there’s any way to get rich quick, or a magic diet pill, like the media would lead you to believe.  Instead you must slowly chip away at your rock, your goal, your ideal you, and create the sculpture of your life.  In this lesson he mentions a quote by Chief Tecumseh which I thought was really cool.  So I Googled Chief Tecumseh and wow, what an amazing man.

The quote he references in the lesson is actually a line from a larger poem, and I loved it so much I decided to post it today:

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

- Chief Tecumseh (Poem from Act of Valor)

Isn’t that great?  I’m so glad I found out about it.  The line Tai quoted was:  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  I just love it!

I’m so glad that I was introduced to Tai Lopez, my new virtual boyfriend (but not in a romantic way, of course!)  I think that what he is offering is so generous, so packed with wisdom, and I’m very thankful to spend some time with him every morning, kicking off my day with new ideas and inspiration.

Is it a Calling or a Mission?

Lately I’ve been thinking about what my life was like when I started this blog and how it is now.  When I first created the blog, I chose to it describe it as A journal of my life and inspirations as I jump out of the corporate world and try to find my calling. And be a mom.  It’s been over two years since I quit my corporate job and started blogging, and a lot has happened since then.  But have I found my calling yet?  Not quite.  Is it hidden out there somewhere?  Behind a tree? Just waiting for me to find it and say, “Oh there you are you silly thing.  I’ve been looking all over for you!”  Probably not.

Then the other day I came across this quote from the playwright George Bernard Shaw:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

and it made me think that a “calling” isn’t something you find either; it’s something you create.  And it’s something your create continually, your whole life.

So I decided to look up the definition of “calling” and here’s what Google gave me:

While the first definition may seem appropriate, especially the example, please look at the second one.  I love the words:  “A strong urge toward a particular way of life.”  That’s it!  The perfect way to describe my desire to find a calling.  It is so much better than defining it as just a “profession” or “occupation.”  It implies something so much bigger, so much more all-encompassing.  It’s not about me trying to figure out the perfect job, it’s about me trying to figure out the perfect lifestyle.

So, what is the way of life I’m urging for?  I decided it was time to articulate that.  I decided it was time for me to write my mission statement, just like we used to do in the corporate world.  Here’s what I came up with:

It is my mission is to live a balanced life, by doing work that I love, that makes the world a better place, while raising great kids, having fun, and staying healthy.

What do you think?  Yes, I know it is a little vague – especially the generic statement “doing work I love” (which implies making money too) but leaving it generic leaves room for change, for growth, to fill in the blanks, to try new things, to expand over time.

Which leads me back to where I was when I first quit my job and started this blog versus where I am now.  On the outside you may not see much difference – I still look basically the same, so does my house, my friends, and what I do for fun.  But so much has changed!  My relationship with my husband and kids is so much better, so much more peaceful.  I am personally so much more peaceful as I slowly, and patiently, keep figuring out how to build and live an integrated life that works best for me and my family.

What I know for sure is that it is important for me to be in charge of me, to be in charge of my own time, to be able to integrate my work, family, friends, and other activities in ways that aren’t easily done by having a typical salaried job.  I need my freedom.  I need to be creative.  I need to make “enough” money, but I also need to feel like what I am working on is somehow making the world better – not in some grandiose way, but in a way that is right for me, that reflects who I am.

Right now that includes: building websites, making pillows, facilitating Krypton, bookkeeping for Todd, blogging, being there for my kids, and spending time with people I love.  Right now I want to build well-designed websites that help my clients get their message out; make pillows that are beautiful and inspirational; help each member of my Krypton group to succeed by learning together and supporting each other; help Todd have a successful ironwork business; and write in my blog regularly to keep up my momentum, to share ideas, and to work on my writing skills.  I especially want to be with my kids as much as possible and be a good role model for them.  I want them to see and understand the things I’m doing, the choices I’m making, and be part of this journey.  Because most of all I want my kids to be happy, and amazing, and able to make the world a better place in their own unique way.

So I’ve changed the description of my blog to reflect my new mission statement.  It only took two years to figure it out.  Ha!  I’ve also added some new tabs in my menu bar – links to my other endeavors.  I’ve decided it’s time to integrate it all.  I’ve been putting it off, thinking those areas weren’t good enough or developed enough yet, which they might not be.  They certainly aren’t perfect.  But as Seth Godin says, “Perfect is the enemy of good” and this feels good.

When I quit my job it was a scary leap into the unknown, but I could no longer remain in a corporate culture that felt so stifling.  I still have so much to figure out, especially financially, but I love my new life, and I’m excited about the future.

A friend of mine recently sent me this poem by Wendell Berry which I adore, and which I think really puts this journey of mine into perspective:

The Real Work:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Love Where Your Feet Are

I just decided that there is no need for me to ever buy lottery tickets, because I’m pretty sure there’s no chance of hitting the jackpot more than once.  And I’ve already won it.  But my jackpot isn’t a big bag of money, it’s my family.  I have amazing parents.  I also have amazing sisters, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends we’ve adopted as family.  There are a lot of us, and last weekend, as we all gathered in Austin, Texas to honor and celebrate the life of my sister Maureen, it became even more evident just how incredible my family is, and how lucky I’ve been and am.

My older sister passed away on Tuesday, October 21st, and we all scrambled to get ourselves to Austin as quickly as possible.  By Friday everyone had arrived, a large house where everyone could stay had been rented, and for three days twenty-five or so of us texted, planned, organized, drove, shuttled, shopped, congregated, paid our respects, eulogized, prayed, sang, ate, drank, cried, laughed, and laughed, all because we loved Maureen, and the life we shared with her, so much.

The night before I flew out my younger sister texted me and asked me if I’d like to say something at the service on Saturday. I nervously replied “yes” knowing I would regret it if I didn’t, but also worried that I might get up there and start blubbering, then throw up in a heap of tears and snot.  Oh well, I figured, if that happens then it happens, and it would certainly be a memorial service people remembered.

Luckily at the service, when it was my turn to speak, I wasn’t nervous at all.  Instead I felt a calm and quiet strength that I’m pretty sure was a gift from Maureen.  I got up in front of that church packed with a few hundred people, said my words, even got a few laughs, and then sat back down with my family.  And it felt good.

I was the first to speak, followed by friends and family who said such beautiful things about my sister.  One friend said that Maureen told her that even though her family lived far away, and she didn’t get to see them nearly enough, that you have to love where your feet are.  As soon as she said it I realized how big that statement was, and that those would be words I’d hold onto.

Love where your feet are.

All I have to do is look down at my feet to remember them, those five simple words, that for me are loaded with meaning. Those words will remind me that wherever my feet are planted, and in every moment, I need to approach things with love.  They are also going to remind me that I need to make the effort to put my feet in the places that mean the most to me and near the people I care most about, friends and family near and far.  That as I move forward with my life, trying to accomplish the many things I want to, that I need to keep my feet firmly planted in the realities of each day, as I move towards fulfilling my dreams and aspirations.

My sister Maureen had breast cancer for eleven years, and I lived in hope/denial that we wouldn’t lose her so soon.  But I take solace in knowing that her struggle has ended.  Her pain is gone.  I think about how incredibly strong and brave she was to hold on for so long and to endure so much.  But in her passing, I believe that she has released that strength and bravery, fueled by love, and passed it onto us; to draw upon as we move forward, helping each other through this, moving ahead with our lives and dreams, while remembering to always love where our feet are.

Thanks Maureen.

My feet, at Greenlake, on October 21, 2014

 

Until Now, I Never Did One New Thing, Every Day, for 365 Days

Summer Velvet PaintingOn August 16th, 2013 I went to a party in a long black velvet dress.  I was a curious sight in this outfit, as it was a casual summer potluck.  When people asked me “Why so formal?”  I replied, “Oh, this is just my summer velvet dress.”  One of my friends started calling me “Summer Velvet” which I liked very much.  But this party had a ‘maker’ theme, and my dress was actually part of that theme.  Some people had brought games they had made, like Giant Jenga, but I decided to bring my dress, some neon paints, and some brushes, and finally I got up the nerve (with a friend’s help of course) to spread out the paints and brushes and encourage people to paint me.  The kids at the party jumped right in, some adults too, and before I knew it, I was transformed into a beautiful velvet painting.

That was the beginning of my ‘I Never’ project, although at the time I didn’t know it.  Back then I thought I’d try to do something new every day for a week, but then I got hooked.  I didn’t want to stop at a week.  So I continued for a month, and then another month.  I wrote everything down, modified my blog to track it all, and decided to challenge myself to do it for an entire year.  And on August 15th, 2014 I celebrated my 365th ‘I Never’ with dinner and drinks, with Todd and friends, on the top of the Space Needle.  It was the perfect way top off my year of ‘I Nevers’ and my friend Sonya made me a beautiful encaustic piece as a commemoration, which I will treasure.  To me it’s a work of art and a trophy.

Suzanne Jumps Encaustic

So, how hard was this project?  Not hard at all.  Usually.  Actually, doing things I’d never done before every day was probably easier than writing about them.  It’s taken me a while to catch up with posting each one on my I Never Log, but I finally did it.  So now it’s time to reflect.  And as I do, the first thing that comes to mind is how much I loved this project and how happy I am that I did it.

Frenchman FingerNot only did I love doing something new every day, I loved writing about it, and I loved posting pictures to go with it.  Mostly I loved the unexpected things that happened along the way.  I loved that every day my son Miles was really interested in what my ‘I Never’ for the day would be, and would offer suggestions, like “Let’s make Frenchman Fingers!”  I loved that Nadine, on the first day of summer, made a list of all things she wanted to do this summer that she’d never done before:  Swim across Greenlake, Bleach My Hair, Go to Wild Waves, etc.  I loved that it inspired other people to embrace the ‘I Never’ mentality and to start doing more things they’d never done before.  I was surprised at how often the words “I’ve never done that before” came out of my mouth, and as soon as I heard them, I knew I had my ‘I Never’ for the day.

But while these are excellent side-effects of the project, did the project itself change me?  Did it cause me to move into a new and better place?  Where would I be today if I hadn’t embarked on this project?  Is that possible to even know?  Maybe not, but I do know that the more you push against your boundaries, the more you put yourself into slightly uncomfortable places, the better you get at it.  I’m not saying you won’t feel scared or self-conscience; you’ll just get better at moving through that fear, and the icky feeling that comes with it.  For me, having the ‘I Never’ project really helped me with that, especially since I could justify that what I was doing was part of the project.

I also became very aware of how easily I said ‘no’ to things, and that my immediate jump to ‘no’ was usually out of fear.  Like taking the kids to sell lemonade at Greenlake.  I wanted to say ‘no’ because I thought we might get in trouble.  But then I thought, Well, this can be my ‘I Never’ for today, and what’s the worse that could happen?

So when the kids asked, “Can you jump with us at the trampoline place?” or “Will you play this video game with me?” or “Will you read this awesome book on my Kindle?” I started saying “yes”.  Even though I thought that if I jumped on the trampoline I would pee my pants, I did it anyway.  I didn’t drink a lot of water, went to the bathroom before jumping, and eventually got brave enough to do a front flip.  Plus, I had a blast.

I do not like video games and would never chose to spend my time playing them, but wow, they’ve come a long way since I used to play Super Mario Bothers at my friend Nick’s house twenty years ago.  So I was pretty surprised at not only at how much fun I had, but at how good the kids were at quickly figuring them out and getting good at them.  I’m terrible.

And I love books.  Adult books.  Not kids books so much, and not on a Kindle.  But the Percy Jackson series is really clever, has sparked the kids’ interest in Greek mythology, and so I promised Nadine I would read them on her Kindle.  I had no idea how easy, practical, and inexpensive it was to check out ebooks from the library, or download them from Amazon.  Brilliant.  But I still have a huge pile of books next to my bed.

As I look back on my long list of ‘I Nevers’ they actually look quite boring and mundane to me.  But it’s the mundane ones, I think, that had the biggest impact.  Like I wear braids all the time now.  I never did it before because I thought I was too old.  Who cares?  It’s just so comfortable.  Nobody spends nearly as much time judging me as I think they do.  It’s not like I’m in People Magazine.  Although I don’t recommend sporting a uni-brow.  That one made the moms at the playground quite uncomfortable.  “Please wipe that thing off!” one of them begged me.

As I look back, I think my ‘I Nevers’ fall into one of three categories:

  1. Doing something new, like trying something, making something, going somewhere, or learning something, or
  2. Depriving myself of something, or
  3. Letting go, and trusting the kids, and others.

I think each of these categories are equally important in terms of growth, but when I first thought of doing this project, I thought mostly in terms of the first category.  Isn’t that how people grow, get smarter, evolve?  By doing new things?  I used to think so.  Now I think it’s the second category too.

I think that not doing things opened my mind and helped me to think differently.  Eating glutten-free, not talking, not using my right hand, fasting, not looking in the mirror, not looking at a clock, not eating sugar – I wish I had done more of these.  When you stop doing something, you really have to change your habits, and rethink old patterns, which are so embedded into your subconscious it makes it nearly impossible.  Stop looking at the clock and suddenly you realize how often you look at the clock, and base your whole day around it.  Stop looking in the mirror and you realize that you subconsciously look at your reflection all of the time.  Fast for twenty-four hours and you realize that after the first few hours go by it gets much easier.  Not doing something for a while also puts you in others shoes.  You think about the people who fast regularly, or who can’t talk.  You think about what it might have been like in a time before people had mirrors or clocks.  It’s really very very cool.  I especially loved not eating sugar for a month.  I loved saying no to sugar and having a reason to say no.  I said no to sugary treats and birthday cakes and ate practically nothing that came in a package.  It was easy to do, made me much more conscious about how much sugar is in the food we buy, and I certainly wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for this project.

The third category, letting go, might have been the hardest.  When is the right time to let your children stay home alone?  Get dropped off at the movie theaterMake dinner?  Hell if I know!  I’m sure mine were ready long before I started this project, but now I’m comfortable with it.  Yet there are certain things I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let go of.  Like not rearranging the dishwasher after Todd has loaded it.  Or not calling him when he’s running late.

365 I NeversWhen I started out, I wondered if I would be able to pull off 365 ‘I Nevers’ but I also thought that blogging about it would make it more probable.  And now that it’s over, I miss it.  The kids still sometimes suggest ‘I Nevers’ for me, and there are so many ‘I Nevers’ I still want to do.  I thought I’d get a tattoo but never did.  I never got my palm read, or went to a heavy metal show, or went vegan for a week, or turned off the internet for a weekend.  I still want to do those things, although getting a tattoo seems really scary.  How can I continue with my ‘I Never’ project?  I’m not sure, but I’ll figure something out.  Or maybe it’s time for a new project?

For my 365th ‘I Never’ celebration at the Space Needle we were joking that maybe now I should start an ‘I Always’ project, and start tracking those:  “I always fall asleep watching movies” and “I always make coffee the night before” and “I always call Todd ‘Toddweena’” and “I always reorganize the dishwasher after Todd has loaded it.”  No, I don’t think so.

Towards the end of my ‘I Never’ project my friend Sonya, who made me the “Suzanne Jumps” plaque, told me that she’d been driving her elderly neighbor to the hospital every day, to visit her husband who was very ill with pneumonia.  Her neighbor was, of course, very sad and afraid of losing her husband, and of being alone.  Sonya told her about my ‘I Never’ project and so she decided to try it herself, but she decided to call it “One New Thing”.  So every day she did one new thing that her husband normally did, like change the printer paper, kill a fly, open the windows.  I know those sound like such simple things, but isn’t it the little things that really make the biggest difference?  It made me so happy to know my project inspired her, and that she gave it such a sweet and simple name:  One New Thing.

Try it.

The Wild Life

The other night, as I was reading in bed, the bug bites on my ankle were driving me completely crazy.  I had over-scratched them already so I decided to try a hot compress instead, hoping that would relieve the itch.  I went into the bathroom, got the water super hot, then put a hot wash cloth on my ankle for a bit.  Ahhhh.  It totally worked.

When I was done, I went to hang up the washcloth, glanced into the shower, and screamed.  Holy cow!  There, on the edge of the shower, was an itty-bitty baby bird, staring up at me with its big black eyes.  I ran out of the bathroom and Todd asked, “Is there a spider in there?”  No, of course not, I am not at all afraid of spiders.  “A snake?”  “No,” I told him, “please just go in and look.”  So he walked in and said, “Oh wow, it’s that same baby bird.”   Yep.  We had rescued him just two days ago.  And I didn’t scream because I was afraid of him.  I screamed because I was so startled that this little guy had been staring up at me the whole time I had the hot washcloth on my ankle.  Anyway, Todd put on some garden gloves, put him back in his box, took him outside, and placed him on the roof over the deck.

The first time we met this baby bird was last Sunday morning.  I was working on my computer in the basement when I heard some birds making a crazy ruckus outside, so I decided to go check it out. When I walked out on the deck, sitting on the wire that crosses our backyard was a hummingbird, next to him was a finch-type bird, and two other hummingbirds were madly swirling around in the air.  Also, two large robins, presumably a mama and a papa, were swooping out of the sky chirping frantically, and in the middle of our yard in the grass there was a baby robin, also chirping frantically.

Baby_Robin_by_Monique_Haen

Miles came out and I showed him the baby bird and said, “What do you think we should do?”  He said we should put him in the tree.  But I didn’t think the baby bird could fly, so instead I gave Miles some gardening gloves and asked him to gently pick up the bird while I lined a box with an old t-shirt, then Miles put the bird into the box.  We put the box on the deck, but when Todd came out he put the box on the deck roof.  Very smart.  Up there he would be in the shade and away from the cat.  Then we all got in the car to go to Vashon Island to pick Nadine up from camp.

When we got back several hours later, there was still a lot of chirping going on.  I went out back and saw that the baby bird had hopped out the box and was standing at the very edge of the roof, right next to a tree.  When I checked on him a while later, he was gone, and the chirping had stopped.  Oh good, the family has been reunited, I optimistically imagined.  But early the next morning I heard more frantic chirping and when I went outside and located the source, it was our little baby bird again, at the tippy-top of the spruce tree.  Wow, how did he get way up there?  And that was the last I saw of him.  Until last night.

I’m not sure when he came into the house, but I do know who brought him in.  Maybe he fell out the tree again, I don’t know, but obviously the cat got a hold of him, brought him in through the cat door (ouch!) and released his little present in our bathroom, where he remained until I got my late-night fright.  When we checked on him in the morning he was gone and again I convinced myself that the family had reunited and that all was well with our baby bird.

I’ve been thinking about that little bird a lot lately.  As fragile as he seemed, he was really one tough bird.  Somehow he landed in the middle of my back yard and then (with a little help) made it to the top of a 30 foot tree, only to be captured by my cat two days later, and re-rescued by us.  Talk about the will to survive!  But he didn’t do it on his own.  His bird community (what was up with the hummingbirds being there?) got in on the action and all of that ruckus caused Miles and I to get involved and move him to safety.  Now that’s teamwork!

The baby bird incident isn’t my only recent run-in with the local wildlife.  Just two days prior I was woken up at 3:00 am by the sound of scratching on the window next to my bed.  I thought it was the cat asking to be let in, so I got up and lifted the shade.  It took a while for my eyes to adjust, but I could immediately see it wasn’t the cat.  It looked like the biggest rat I’d ever seen.  Oh no, it wasn’t a rat, it was a young opossum stuck in the window well, trying desperately to scratch his way out.

opossumTodd was out of town and I was on my own with this conundrum.  Ugh.  So I got up and headed to the back yard to find some sticks.  I thought maybe I could kind of chop-stick him out of the window well.  The first piece of wood I saw was a long flat board and when my sleepy brain started to work a little better I realized that all I needed to do was put a plank in the window well and the opossum could walk out himself.  It took some time, but it worked.  Thank God!

Funny thing is, the very next night, as I was driving down our alley, a little opossum crossed right in front of me, and I’m positive it was him again.  And as gross as you might think opossums are, I was so happy to see him alive and doing well.

Why am I writing about all of this?  I guess because it’s summer-time and summer-time means it’s also nature-time.  Starting with our trip to Glacier and Banff we were thrilled to see so many animals – bear, moose, big-horn sheep.  Then at the beach in Alabama it was the dolphin, sting ray, and crabs, and on our other camping trips we ran into deer, otters, seals, and loads of chipmunks.  And check out Miles and toad:

These run-ins with our animal neighbors are always so exciting, and so important.  Why?  Well I guess it’s because they remind us that we’re not alone, and that we need to accept, appreciate, and respect this fact.  I think Chief Seattle put it most eloquently:

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

I am a firm believer that in the end, it’s not a competition.  We’re all in this together, so we might as well be helping each other out the best we can, and that doesn’t just apply to our human friends.  Chief Seattle also wisely said this:

What is man without the beasts? For if all the beast were gone, man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit.

I first came across that quote on a bottle of beer I ordered when traveling years ago in Africa.  It really stuck with me, because what a weird synchronicity, having traveled from Seattle to the middle of nowhere, then finding this quote on a bottle of African beer.  Funny.  But also profound.

So Long Kryotonites!

Lex_LuthorLast Thursday was our last Krypton meeting.  Not forever, just for the summer.  And I have to say, I’m really going to miss seeing everyone.  It’s been such a great experience; I had no idea how much I would love it.  But summer is too crazy to keep meeting, so we’ll start up again in the fall, and it will be interesting to see where Krypton takes us next year.  Krypton started in October as an experiment.  I was nervous about organizing it, but I thought what the heck, it’s just a four week class.  Little did I know what it would become.  “Kyrpton Community College” was conceived by Seth Godin (read more here) with the idea that we learn better when we learn together, and the first course offered was  Go: How to Overcome Fear, Pick Yourself, & Start a Project that Matters.  It was a course I thought so many people (especially me) really needed.

Our first Krypton class started off a little shaky.  I was nervous and we all didn’t know each other very well, but each time we met we got more comfortable with each-other, everyone embraced the material, and pretty quickly we had a nice cohesive group vibe going on.  When we got to the fourth week and completed the course material, we all agreed that we weren’t done.  We each hadn’t fully presented our project ideas, or “Ship-It Journals” as Seth calls them, and some people still didn’t even think they had a project.  So we decided to continue.

For the past nine months we’ve been meeting every other week at noon, for two hours, presenting, developing, and discussing our projects.  Over time every single member of the group has presented a project, and every single member of the group has been invaluable in contributing their feedback and knowledge to each project.  Each time we meet we also give updates on our projects, which really keeps the momentum of our projects going.  And each time our meeting is over, I feel exhilarated.  Happy because it’s fun, satisfied because I’ve learned so much, and excited to keep working on my project.

It’s hard to explain, but watching how each person brings their own personality, approach, and expertise to the group is amazing.  Everyone seems to be truly overcoming their fears not just for getting a project started, but for expressing themselves in a completely genuine way.  I love it.  There are ten of us in Krypton and we have business backgrounds, technical backgrounds, creative, financial, etc.  We have parents and non-parents.  We have people who work full-time, part-time, and not at all.  And it’s amazing when you pair an expert with a non-expert.  It reminds me of a quote from the TEDx conference I went to:  “Believe in the creativity of non-experts.“  It’s so different than the meetings I had at work, because people seem to be speaking up from a truly authentic place.  No one is being political or saying things just to be heard or saying what they think someone wants to hear.  We all truly want to help each other and see each other succeed.

My Ship-It Journal project is to craft and sell pillows, as a way to explore textile design.  My bigger project (and the whole reason I’m writing this blog) is to figure out how to do work I love, make money, and be a mom who is available to her kids after school and in the summer.  Todd’s project is on improving efficiencies with his business and embracing technology, tools, and processes that might help him with that.  So for the past several weeks he’s been going to a Quickbooks + Accounting class (that he doesn’t love) so that he can get better at the accounting aspects of his business.  I don’t feel right sharing the other group member’s projects on my blog, but let’s just say that every Krytpon member has an excellent project that I feel so excited to see unfold.

After we had all taken our turns presenting our Ship-It journals, we decided to continue with the coursework offered by Krypton, and so we started the second class entitled: Milton Gladwell and the Sociology of Success The material was interesting, but quite different than the first class, and much more theoretical than the first course on overcoming fear.  At our first meeting to discuss the material one of the members of the group said, “This is all really interesting, but what am I supposed to do with this information?”  I hadn’t considered that and I didn’t have an answer.  But we still had a very lively discussion about whether or not parents matter, going to an ivy league school versus just getting into one, what impact the neighborhood you live in has on your future, and the role luck plays in what privileges you receive.  Since most of us have kids we talked a lot about how the material relates to parenting.  But what we really wanted was to keep moving forward with our projects, and it wasn’t clear that this material was going to help with that.  So we only went half-way with the coursework and decided to finish the coursework on our own, take a break for the summer, and start up in the fall with the next course offered by Krypton which is based on Gretchin Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project” which I think will be excellent.

We also decided that instead of me organizing and leading each meeting, we’d take turns, which I’m really excited about.  Not because I want to unload the job, but because I want everyone to get a chance to lead the class in their own way.  And if we aren’t doing the coursework, each person can bring to the table something they would like to teach, share, or learn.  We may even bring in guest experts.  We also want to help each other out not just by talking about stuff, but by physically helping each other – like building a work-space, cleaning out a garage, or setting up a display for a craft-fair.

So that was our last meeting and a great way to end for the summer.  Our homework for the summer is to to read “The Happiness Project” and get started on the coursework so we can jump right in in the fall.  We also are going to bring a project to the group that we would like help with.  Ironically, a couple of days after the meeting, I received an blog post in my inbox from Seth Godin/Krtypon Community College, entitled:  Looking Back on the Krytpon Project explaining that they would not be continuing with new course material, and that we should create our own.  Which is pretty much our plan.  He ends the post by saying:  “Go learn something,” is a good thing to say during graduation season. Even better, “go teach something!”  We intend to continue doing both.

I had breakfast with a friend from our Krypton group yesterday, and she said that she’s continued with the Milton Gladwell material, and that it is helping her with a problem she is having with her daughter.  I asked her how the two were related, and she said they weren’t, but that Milton Gladwell’s ideas are making her think about things in a new way.  That she is learning to release her old patterns and opening up to new ways of approaching her life.  And so while our Krypton group may not have been able to find practical applications for Gladwell’s material, I think it is equally important to be exposed new ideas that make us think differently about how we approach our work, our lives, and our happiness.

I have continued with Gladwell’s material as well, and I asked everyone in our Krytpon group to, at the very least, watch this video included in the homework for week three of the class, about the man who wore a sanitary napkin.  Check it out:

Even though the temperature is only in the 60s these days (Seattle’s “June gloom” I’ve heard it called), the kids get out of school today and the first day of summer is on Saturday.  This is a crazy time of year, with all of the end-of-school activities, plus I’m wrapping up two web-sites that I’ve been working on, and consequently I have been neglecting my pillow-making project.  And while we have camping trips and vacations planned, my goal for the summer is to start selling some pillows.  So hopefully when we start Krytpon up in the fall, I’ll have some progress to report.  I also want to spend some time this summer thinking of ways to spread the magic of Krypton.  It seems like every day I talk to someone who wants to embark on something new.  It seems like so many people out there could benefit from a group like ours.  We should all have a Krypton group to help each other out, to get over our fears, and to think in new ways.  We should all be teachers and we should all be students and we should all be learning together.

I’ve been maintaining a web-site to track some of stuff that has been brought up in our meeting which you can check out here if you’re interested:  http://seattlekryptonites.weebly.com/

Happy Summer!!!!

A Picture a Day

At the beginning of the year I wrote a post about my intentions for 2014, and mentioned that I was going to incorporate three daily practices:  One, I would de-clutter by getting rid of one thing per day.  Two, I would find and save a daily piece of inspiration.  Three, I would draw a picture every day.  And while I have been pretty good at doing one and two, I seem to do those more on a weekly basis.  Once a week I get rid of a bunch of clothes, or clean out the shed, or my desk, etc.  About once a week I also go on Pinterest and pin things I like, or read through magazines and rip out pages for my notebook.  But I have been really good about doing number three, drawing a picture every day, and I have to say, I love this practice.  Here’s why:

  1. I love to draw.  I always have.  And once I get started, it’s hard to stop.  I never took lessons or anything – I draw in a very simple cartoon style- and I think I probably haven’t progressed much since I was in elementary school, when I drew all the time with my friends.
  2. I love to color.  All of my drawings are done with a fine-tipped black pen – no pencil, no erasing, no crossing anything out – those are the rules.  And often when I’m done I don’t like my pictures much.  So I get out the colored pencils or gel pens and spend some time coloring them in (often while watching Project Runway with Nadine) and that usually makes them better.
  3. Drummer HoffFireside Book of Childrens SongsI can see my style emerging.  Mostly I draw faces and flowers, and use lots of bright colors.  I love the groovy super-colorful cartoon style from my childhood.  I love vintage mod illustrations.   So I’ve found some books with those types of illustrations and I’ve been copying them.  Like Drummer Hoff by Barbara and Ed Emberley and The Fireside Book of Children’s Songs illustrated by John Alcorn.  I love copying these illustrations and have realized that while they may look simple, they are not simple to draw.
  4. I am facing my fears and letting go of expectations.  I know that may seem silly.  It’s just a picture after all.  But I definitely have a fear of creating a bad picture.  Sometimes I won’t even put my pen on the paper until I have a solid idea and feel confident about what I’m about to draw.  But lately I’m trying to let the pen take me where it will.  I’m trying to be okay with bad pictures in my notebook.  And looking back at some of the pictures I thought were terrible, a lot of them aren’t so bad.  Usually after some time has passed I’ve totally forgotten about what I was trying to draw or copy, and can see the picture for what it is – my version of the thing.
  5. My kids draw with me.  Since I’ve started doing this Miles has asked to draw in my book (and I’ve let him) and Nadine gets out her own notebook out and draws with me.  So the other day when I was at the art store getting silk-screens, I decided to get notebooks and pens like mine for the rest of the family, so that we can all draw together.  I looked at Todd’s pictures the other day, and he is such a good artist.  He can draw anything, and doesn’t have to copy like I do.
  6. Drawing is like meditation.  It’s relaxing.  It calms my mind and opens me up to new ways of looking at things.
  7. I use my drawings.  I’ve incorporated them into my blog and printed them on fabric.  Yesterday I took some of the pictures I drew of men with mustaches and used them for a fabric design contest I entered on Spoonflower.  Today I could see that several people voted for me, and a couple of them commented that they liked the pictures and the colors.  It totally made my day!

Here’s some of what’s in my notebook…

First, the bad stuff.  Here I tried to draw Darth Vader from Miles’s Star Wars Encyclopedia book.  Wow, could he look any less evil?  I guess it’s hard for me to not draw cute stuff.

Darth Vader Jr

Darth Vader Jr?

I also tried to draw Oscar, our cat.  This picture isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just that it looks like an angry brillo-pad cat, and not our cute and fluffy little guy.

Angry Oscar

Our cat isn’t angry or blue.

And there’s some way more terrible stuff in my notebook.  But I won’t bore you with that.  On to the fun stuff!  I adore the book Drummer Hoff and remember loving it when I was a kid, and now I love copying pictures out of that book, like these:

Copying from Drummer Hoff

I also adore John Alcorn’s work, which is very hard for me to copy.  But drawing and coloring these groovy girls was pretty fun:

John Alcorn GirlsI tried to copy the movie poster for Jaws, and at first I thought this was terrible, but now I like it.

JawsIt’s also really fun to copy old images I’ve found on the New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery site.  Like these fish:

Old FishBack when I was working full time, sitting in loads of boring meetings, my doodle of choice was flowers.  Sometimes I’d have pages covered with little daisy-type flowers.  So I guess it’s no surprise that some of the pages in my notebook look like this:

Flowers!And finally, here is a page with some of the mustache men that I turned into a fabric design for the contest on Spoonflower:

Mustache Drawings"The Mustache Men" fabricOkay, that’s enough showing off for today.  But I hope I’ve convinced you to get yourself a notebook and some pens out and start drawing.  And coloring!

Mother’s Day

Mother's Day Card from MilesYesterday was Mother’s Day, and I woke up to the sound of pots and pans banging around in the kitchen, and Miles saying to Nadine, “If you cook the butter too long you’ll get black and grey spots like that.”  Hmmm.  Eventually they both came into our bedroom with a tray full of food (and a beautifully placed flower) for both Todd and me.  I got a very well-cooked omelet, toast with peanut butter and jam, yogurt with Grape Nuts, a banana, and a very very full glass of water.  Todd got an omelet and some jalapeno potato chips.  I wasn’t at all hungry, and what I really wanted was a cup of coffee, but they were so darn cute that I ate as much as I could.  Then they showered me with cards and gifts:  a decoupaged vase, a framed picture, and some bath balms.  What an amazing way to start the morning!

Then Miles didn’t want to go to his soccer game.  He said he was too tired.  I coaxed him upstairs to get ready, but when I checked in on him, he was laying in his bed, not at all interested in getting into his soccer clothes.  Good grief.  So I tried to talk to him about how he had committed to playing this game, and that he shouldn’t let his team down, and blah blah blah.  Not working.  Why was this so hard?  Why didn’t he get it?  The little voice inside of me said,  This is what being a mom is – figuring out how to steer a kid in the right direction when you really don’t know for sure.  It’s frustrating and challenging and it’s why we get Mother’s Day.  Isn’t it?  I’m not sure…

I spent a good portion of my 30s not getting pregnant and resenting Mother’s Day.  I have a good friend who hates Mother’s Day ever since her mom died.  I think about Nadine’s birth mom on Mother’s Day and I cry.  And what about the adorable families at my kids’ school with two dads and no mom?  Do they ignore this holiday and doubly whoop it up on Father’s day?  And what about all of the Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles raising kids?  And then there are so many women and men I know who don’t have kids, either by choice or circumstance, but still have an amazing impact on the children in their lives.

Mother's Day Card from NadineOf course now that I do get to celebrate Mother’s Day, I eat it up.  Yesterday I worked in the garden while Todd dealt with the kids, and made both his mom and me amazing margaritas and dinner on the deck.  I also sat in my swing chair in the sun, margarita in hand, and caught up with my mom over the phone.  I texted with my sisters and my friends who are also moms, wishing them a happy Mother’s Day.  Maybe it seems like an old-fashioned, overly commercial, “Hallmark” holiday (Mother’s Day was actually made an official holiday in 1914 by Woodrow Wilson), but how can expressing your love and gratitude ever be a bad thing?

So yesterday, as I was happily gardening and playing in the dirt, imaging how my garden might look mid-summer, I started to think about Mother’s Day.  I thought about Seth Godin’s blog post from a few days ago, announcing the new book he just published which is a poem by Sarah Kay.  She is a spoken word poet who did one of my most favorite TED Talks ever.  The book is called “B“, and the poem is the one she performed in that TED Talk.  It starts out like this:

“If I should have a daughter
instead of mom, she’s going to call me point B.
Because that way she knows that no matter what happens,
at least she can always find her way to me.

It goes on from there and keeps getting better, and I’m tempted to buy the book.  I probably will.  But watching Sarah perform this poem just blows me away.  I’ve watched it many times and I’m sure I’ll watch it many more.  So today I am going to post it here, to plant the seed, that maybe we should start celebrating “B Day.”  That way we can include all of the amazing people out there who’ve raised us, steered us in the right direction, and given us confidence just by knowing that we’ve got a point B.  Here it is.  Enjoy…

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Tin Man in the Wizard of OzLately I’ve been thinking a lot about The Wizard of Oz.  It all started in February when I went to the Brick Lego event at the EMP Museum with Miles and friends.  There were tons of people there and Miles was a maniac running around with his buddies, but as the evening was winding down I panicked.  Slightly.  I couldn’t find Miles anywhere.  He wasn’t with any of his friends and the museum was emptying out.  So I took a deep breath and thought, “If I were Miles, where would I be?”  Of course!  In the gift shop…

So I made my way over there, and there he was, all excited about the Star Wars stuff they had for sale, asking me to buy him all sorts of things.  “No, no, no, and please don’t ask me again!”  Then I started browsing.  A t-shirt caught my eye.  It was light grey and had a picture of the Tin Man on it, with a big pink heart.  I loved it, and it was on sale for $10, but it was a kid’s shirt.  I rummaged through the stack looking for an adult size, but the best I could find was a Youth XL.  Good enough I thought, so I bought it quickly and stuffed it into my jacket, not wanting Miles to see it and use it as leverage. ( “How come you can get something and I can’t?”)

tin man t-shirt

My t-shirt

I wore it the next day, and started thinking about the Wizard of Oz:  How the Tin Man wanted a heart, the Scarecrow wanted a brain, the Lion wanted courage, and Dorothy wanted to go home.  Was there deeper meaning to this?  Was there some message about following your heart, using your brain, and being courageous that I never knew about?  What was the meaning behind Dorothy wanting to go home?  Following the Yellow Brick Road?  The fake wizard?  Hmmmm…

So of course I turned to the internet to find out, and wow, there’s a heck of a lot of information out there about this topic.  Sometimes it’s hard to discern if they’re talking about the movie or the book.  There are actually quite a lot of differences between the two.  Did you know that in the book Dorothy’s shoes are silver, and not ruby slippers?  That in the book everyone has to wear green glasses in the Emerald City?  That the book is called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” while this movie is called “The Wizard of Oz”?  Those are just a few of the many many differences.  And there are lots of theories out there about the meaning behind both the book and the movie.

cowardly lionOne popular theory is that the story is about politics and the Populist movement predominant in the 1890s.  This theory suggests that Dorothy represents the average citizen, the Tin Man represents industry, the Scare Crow represents agriculture, the Lion represents politics, the yellow brick road represents the gold standard and the silver shoes represent the desire to move to a silver and gold standard.

This theory was made popular by Henry Littlefield, a high-school teacher who wrote an essay for his students about his ideas which was published in the American Quarterly in 1964.  (You can read it here.)  He also thought that Oz was the abbreviation for ounce – the standard for measuring gold, the Wicked Witch of the East represented bankers, and the Wicked Witch of the West, who gets killed by water, was drought.  Not bad.  But I also read that when someone asked Frank Baum how he came up with the name Oz he said that when he was thinking of a name he looked at his filing cabinet and it said O-Z.

I also read about religious theories, and about atheist theories.  Does the wizard represent following a false god?  Are citizens of Oz forced to wear green glasses to make them believe the city is emerald, just like religion is way of fooling the masses?  Does the yellow brick road represent the path to enlightenment?  Or is this a classic story about the battle between good and evil?  Reading about these theories is a lot of fun, but what I love about them the most is that they demonstrate the power of this book.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a great story despite whatever meaning might be behind it.  But the fact that so many people looked for meaning in it, and came up with elaborate theories to support their beliefs, is really incredible.  How many books do you know that have done that?

So after buying the t-shirt and doing my research, I decided it was time for me to read the actual book.  I had watched the movie a hundred times, but never even thought to read the book.  So I bought the 100th year anniversary edition from Amazon.com and read it in a few days.  Now I could put my own spin on it, and develop my own theory.  I think the message is pretty straight forward, and not religious, or political.  It’s just some basic life lessons.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Book Cover

The Tin Man thought he needed a heart because he thought that would bring him love.  He tells the Scarecrow that he would rather have a heart than brains because “brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”  The Scarecrow thought he needed a brain, and the wizard reluctantly says he’ll give him one, but tells him that to get more knowledge what he really needs is experience.  The Lion said he wanted courage.  The wizard tells him that everyone experiences fear, but that courage is the ability to face those fears.  Dorothy, in my opinion, got randomly thrown into this situation, so she makes the best of it, is kind to everyone, and becomes a natural leader.  She follows the path in front of her, and is happy to help others along.  Going it alone is harder anyway – there is strength in numbers.  So, to boil it all down to it’s simplest level, this is what I think the Wonderful Wizard of Oz is about:

  • Follow your heart.
  • Your experiences will make you smarter.
  • Be courageous and face your fears.
  • Support each other down life’s path, because we’re all in this together.

What do you think?  I like it.  I like it so much I feel the need to do something with it.

It was some time before the cowardly lion awakenedWhile I was doing my research I found out that the words and images from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are all in the public domain and can be used for free.  How cool is that?  The images in the book are fantastic.  Not only are they great because they help you visualize all of the crazy characters and places in the book, but they are so typical of that era, and are incorporated so nicely into the book.  Text doesn’t wrap around the pictures, it works together with them, hugging and overlapping the pictures in such a beautiful way.

So now I’m trying to think of how I might use these images and ideas in a fabric or pillow design.  Hopefully I’ll have more to share on this sometime soon.  In the meantime I will leave you with some quotes from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others”

“Can’t you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow.
“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.”

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.

“My world, my world… How can such a good little girl like you destroy all of my beautiful wickedness.

I highly recommend that you read the book.  You’ll love it.

The Scarecrow