Apr 292020

There’s no denying that excessive use of plastic is catching up with us. Frontline photos from oceans and beaches around the world have brought that home, time and again. Floating islands of trash and fishing-line entangled shore birds can make the problem seem overwhelming, fostering helplessness and inaction.

According to the Pew Trust website the problem may be even bigger than initially suspected. “Of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic ever produced, approximately only 9% has been recycled and an estimated 60% has been discarded, with some ending up polluting our rivers and the ocean. The amount of plastic entering the ocean is projected to double in the next five years.”

While I admit to an occasional preference for the dramatic, I know that it’s more often small efforts repeated over time that add up to real progress. And while I don’t have any big answers for our global plastic problem, I’m happy to share some of the small, mundane changes my family has made in the recent past.

Powerful, Plastic-focused Words

Words have power. They often last far longer than expected. “Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever discarded is sitting in a landfill somewhere.” I’m sure the pile I pictured is larger than the one for which I’m personally responsible but it was significant. And when I added the cast-offs of immediate family members it was major.

When it comes to problem-solving it’s not always easy to sort through marketing hype and delivery methods to come up with a product that’s closer to environmentally neutral but bamboo toothbrushes seem to fit the bill. I like them a lot.

Starting with the toothbrushes may not have been an accident: I’ve always been a big coffee drinker. It’s my favorite vice. In fact, I have a travel profile that says, in part, that I’m in search of a cup of coffee that tastes as good as it smells. (I’ve come close but not quite hit the bullseye. Yet.) I’ve tried grinding my own beans, using a French press and a variety of drip pots and other systems. Needless to say, the convenience of individual coffee pods held some appeal but it was outweighed by the image of adding plastic pod rings to the landfill.

Good Coffee is an Added Bonus

I avoided all things k-cup for years. Happily, I’ve found a company that ships its compostable pods in environmentally-friendly plastic-free packaging. Both the shipping box and the pouches containing the coffee pods go right into our garden compost. An added bonus is that the coffee is good — and there are several different kinds. (Favorite Husband and I like the bold.)

While we’re hanging around in the kitchen, I should probably mention that I like to batch cook and freeze smaller portions of the entrees for future use. Uniformly-sized plastic containers are an easy solution but not one we wanted to continue to use. Home-recycling of glass containers works fairly well for soup — but the irregular sizes and shapes take a toll on freezer space. Eventually I found these great, rectangular glass food storage containers that remind me of Grandma’s fiesta ware. The only color on the these is on the tops, around the snap-on rims.

But Wait, There’s More

As I write this, I realize we’ve made lots of other earth-friendly choices but I’m starting to feel like an infomercial. Speaking of which, some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and while I posted them for your convenience, I need to tell you that I may earn a small commission on purchases that result from this post.

And although those online commissions are tiny they are mighty. That $0.27 would be cool —- it would tell me that somebody else has decided to take a step toward painlessly pooh-poohing some of that pesky plastic.

Feb 122020

Did You Love High School?

Valentine’s Day is a little unusual for me this year. The Amelia Island Book Festival chose The Inner Critic Advantage as a book for a large group of high school students this year — and I get to spend the day with them!

As I sit here making notes for that event, I feel full of gratitude and love for  200 high school first years I’ve not yet met. I wonder about how best to make meaningful connections and think back to some of the big groups I’ve worked with. Although high school was a very long time ago, I remember it as a very unsettled time with concerns ranging from boyfriends to big world issues, home room to hormones. Everything is up in the air. I want to be sure to acknowledge their concerns while sharing lots of love. It’s an opportunity to share love of literacy, love of kids, and, of course, strategies to love those inner critics.

Fun with First Years

The task is both humbling and exciting at the same time and I’m preparing with some reading. And I can’t go wrong by bringing along some candy hearts, can I?

As always, I’m sending lots of love your way.

No reason is needed for loving. - Paulo Cuelho Click To Tweet

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”― Elie Wiesel

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”― Paulo Coelho

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”– Elizabeth Gilbert

People Are Weird

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”– Maya Angelou

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.― Elie Wiesel Click To Tweet

“People are weird. When we find someone with weirdness that is compatible with ours, we team up and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” – Swedish proverb

“If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up, it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. It is about appreciation.” – Osho

What are your thoughts on love? On Valentine’s Day? On spending the day with teens you’ve not met before? Or anything else you care to share. (I think that at the end of a long day, I’m going to need your comments!)



Andrea Patten has managed to love her inner editor long enough to publish  The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head a little book full of big ideas about how — and why — you can learn to love “that voice.”   The Inner Critic Advantage is now available on Amazon.

Dec 292019

I’ve always enjoyed the excitement and anticipation that comes with a blank page. It speaks to me of hope and possibility, of space for the vision that will become a story. And although I rarely bring the clarity of 20/20 vision to that beginning, I trust my experience as I trust the process. I assume a satisfying and positive outcome. It’s an attitude I try to bring to anything new and a new year provides good practice.

As we all know, some years are easier to love than others: this one brought some great joys. It provided an abundance of soul-crushing moments as well. No, not “challenges” — real honest-to-Pete, street fight, jumped in a dark alley, ass-kicking, bone bruising days. Some have been mine while others have tried to take down the people I love, my community, and some beliefs I hold dear.

Some years are easier to love than others.This one brought great joy and some ass-kicking, bone bruising days. Click To Tweet

How Much Magical Optimism Juice?

There. I said it. I’ll be glad to see this one go. I struggle only with not sprinkling too much magical optimism juice on the one that’s waiting just around the corner, on the next page of my weekly calendar. It actually feels good to exhale and let a little bit of air out of the ugly party balloon in my chest. That’s the balloon with the words “what now” scrawled on it.

I habitually take a few days after Christmas to review the year that’s winding down and make adjustments to my expectations for the new year. I use a process that’s a lot like making a vision board except that I create pages. I have books full of them. This year I started early. Very early. It takes some time for the themes of the artwork to come into focus. One of themes from this year’s process is “vision.” And I’m noodling around the internet to see what others have to say on the topic.

It actually feels good to exhale and let a little bit of air out of the ugly party balloon in my chest. Click To Tweet

Is Vision in the Mind’s Eye?

If you don’t have a vision you’re going to be stuck in what you know.  And the only thing you know is what you’ve already seen. ~ Iyanla Vanzant

A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more. ~ Rosabeth Moss Kantor

In my mind’s eye, I visualize how a particular… sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice. ~ Ansel Adams

Artists, musicians, scientists – if you have any kind of visionary aptitude, it’s often something that you don’t have a choice in. You have to do it. ~ Patti Smith

Do You Have a Big Vision?

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. ~ Jonathan Swift

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. ~ Carl Jung

You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there. You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration. In the Internet industry, it’s not about grand innovation, it’s about a lot of little innovations: every day, every week, every month, making something a little bit better. ~ Jason Calacanis

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart... Click To Tweet

A Curtain Gives a Clear Vision

I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing. ~ Mary Oliver

The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world. ~ Malcolm Gladwell

I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at. My favorite example is the symphony orchestra. When I was growing up, there were no women in orchestras. Auditioners thought they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man. Some intelligent person devised a simple solution: Drop a curtain between the auditioners and the people trying out. And, lo and behold, women began to get jobs in symphony orchestras. ~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better. ~ J.K. Rowling

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already... Click To Tweet

Starry Eyed, Realistic & Visionary

When women reassert their relationship with the wildish nature, they are gifted with a permanent and internal watcher, a knower, a visionary, an oracle, an inspiratrice, an intuitive, a maker, a creator, an inventor, and a listener who guide, suggest, and urge vibrant life in the inner and outer world. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. ~ Cecil Beaton

To be realistic today is to be visionary. To be realistic is to be starry-eyed. ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

Nov 202019


Inspiration. What does it mean to live an inspired life? It’s a phrase that can bring to mind images of artists, monastics, and martyrs. It also makes me think of sweeping the floor and tending my weeds.

I think the phrase got stuck in my head the other day when one of my friends referred to another as an inspiration. Word nerd that I am, I was intrigued: my friend the inspiration has a serious breathing disorder and one of the definitions of “inspire” is “to breathe in.” In fact, the word dates back to about 1300 when it meant “to breathe upon or into” or simply “to breathe.” Today I am thinking about the relationship between inspiration and breath in our day to day lives.

She’s an Inspiration

What does it mean to live an inspired life? Click To Tweet

purple coffee cup in woman's hands

Spending time with other writers and artists, I hear a lot of talk about “inspiration.” It can sound magical and mystical; it can appear impossible to achieve. Sometimes we sound like we’re sitting around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick.

Hit by the Inspiration Stick

I don’t think I’m alone when I say my ability to produce quality work ebbs and flows. I’m not always happy enough with what I’m writing to share it with you — even here. I think that has more to do with my personal standards than a lack of inspiration.

I don't want to sit around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick! Click To Tweet

The other day a colleague told me she considered my first book  What Kids Need to Succeed  “inspirational.”

Apparently I was silent for too long.  She went on to explain that, although she thought the book contains good and useful information, she believes that its greatest value is to provide support and inspiration to parents… especially when they doubt or question themselves.

I was only quiet because I was moved.  Deeply moved.  Frankly, it’s hard to imagine something better than throwing a virtual life preserver to a drowning parent and helping them to shore.  (Except maybe for those parents to not to feel like they’re drowning in the first place.) Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment.

Speaking as both a formerly single parent and an author, I can’t think of a better compliment. Click To Tweet

Throwing a Virtual Life Preserver

Being a parent can bring us face-to-face with some of the most powerful versions of anything we feel:  love, pride, joy, fear, self doubt.   Many people are fortunate to have had great parents to show them the way.  Others have to work much harder to extract the value from some of their early lessons. Buttons get pushed.  People hurt.

But feelings aren’t facts.  They can be a valuable source of information. Sometimes we need help to translate our feelings to thoughts that can be more useful to us. By the way, a little reminder: one does not have to be a parent to feel overwhelmed in the face of a seemingly impossible task. It can happen to authors and artists, sales people, and those facing physical or medical challenges.

What if “I don’t feel like I can do this” means:

  • I need support
  • I don’t know how to ask for help
  • I’m taking on a big challenge
  • I’ve never done anything that matters more
  • I’m in pain
  • I need to improve my skills
  • I’m going to get more training
  • I’m looking for a mentor
  • I want to make sure I’m looking at (and compensating for) my “blind spots”

Sometimes We All Need Translation

But what if “I don’t think I can do this” means you’ve got the open-mindedness and willingness to be great? What if it means you have something inside of you that wants you to go beyond any of the pictures you currently have? What if you’re in the process of establishing a new normal?

What if “I don’t think I can do this” is a signal that there’s something inside, yearning for more? What if it has to do with being great? Click To Tweet


“Breathe in. Soften. Go a little deeper.” I’m new to yoga and fascinated by the various instructors’ descriptions of breath and the ways they coach us to be aware of it. Maybe that’s part of what has me thinking about inspired life.

the words namaste yall against a starry sky

My husband goes on silent meditation retreats. Silent meditation is another place where ‘breath’ takes center stage. I’m told that counting breath is a way to re-center, to come fully into the present, and to stop thinking.

Some of my friends paint. I write. And occasionally try my hand at other forms of art: redacted poetry, multi-media painting, landscape design. It all feels connected.

What’s Your Jam?

I also just finished reading Painting Life by my friend Carol Walsh. It’s a memoir about balancing her life as an artist with her life as a therapist. And about the endless process of reinventing the self. Her book made me wish I had known more about both self-care and reinvention when I was a young therapist and advocate. I burned the candle at both ends, pushing beyond comfortable limits both at work and at home. I rarely said “no.” It took time to see that I short-changed everyone — especially myself. Eventually, I learned to embrace both self-care and personal evolution. Maybe there is no “wrong.” Maybe there’s only “next.”

What if the fact we have breath means we are inspired? Click To Tweet

What if inspiration only meant “breath?” Does the fact that we have breath means we are already inspired? Could inspired living simply mean using our breath? Using our lives in the best way we know how? Is it really all that simple? How do we best use that precious gift?