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?

 

 

 

Oct 292019
 

boxer dog faceUntil Alex came along, I’d never once had the urge to put a dog in a dress. It’s neither dignified nor necessary. Too anthropomorphic for me. And besides, for more than two decades I have lived in places that don’t have trick-or-treaters.

Last year was different but, then again, so is Alex. A mellow, white, deaf dog sandwiched between two intense German Shepherd ladies, he provides relief. He’s funny. And calm. We need him around here. And sometimes we underestimate his depth. Last Halloween was a case in point.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of bomb threats through the mail, a shooting at a supermarket, and a massacre in a temple while people worshipped. I can’t. It’s still beyond my ability to comprehend. Grief. Sadness. Rage. Helplessness. I didn’t know how to feel, never mind what to do.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of such overwhelming violence. I can’t. Click To Tweet

Frenzy in the News, Red Sox & a Dog in a Dress

The week wore on and the news had folks in a frenzy. Despite doing much of my work online, I minimized time on social media. The world was far too crazy and I was making my best effort to close it out. To read. To meditate. To think things through. As a lifelong New Englander the world series of baseball provided a welcome distraction.

Of course watching the news wasn’t a great idea, either. Sometimes I’m still naive enough to think that information aides in understanding. It often does. But this time the news — regardless of the leanings of the outlet — bordered on hysterical. More guns. Less guns. Armed guards. Arm the teachers. Don’t leave the house. Politicians can’t fix it. Politicians all lie. Love is the answer. Fight back. F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken for strangers. Worried about area first responders. Who’s got the answers?

For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress.

F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken. Who's got the answers? For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress. Click To Tweet

Honey I Lost the Dog

The dogs love it when Favorite Husband and I settle in for a movie or a ballgame. They snooze and cuddle and cruise for snack remnants on the floor. Alex, my goofy little boxer boy, usually cuddles up with my feet — it helps him know when I leave the room. So looking around and not white dog on back smilingfinding him was a bit unsettling. Unfortunately, finding him did little to put my anxiety to rest.

To enjoy the newly cooler weather we had been leaving the front door open to the screen. There he was: nose to screen, wagging his entire little butt end like crazy. He was watching our usually quiet street like a movie. There were fire engines and multi-jurisdictional police departments represented by cars that lined the streets flashing bright strobes of various colors. There may even have been an ambulance or two. I don’t know. I didn’t go out. The police vehicles carefully blocking each neighborhood driveway were a clear enough message: stay put.

It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn’t like it a bit.

Multi-jurisdictional police cars with their blinding strobes. It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn't like it a bit. Click To Tweet

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood, It’s Not Always Like This

I know most of my neighbors but there were a few recent arrivals. We knew there were little kids in the house diagonally across and that nobody seemed speak English. At first I didn’t understand the feeling of urgency  attached to my need to meet them but chaos around the country made me want to do something special. Something welcoming.

Sometimes the internet is wonderful.

Have you heard of “booing”? Apparently it’s a cross between Secret Santa and reverse trick-or-treating. And while much of our neighborhood was not ready for the full “boo” experience, Favorite Husband and I decided to try some creative outreach to our newcomers. While he went out to buy a plastic a plastic pumpkin head and some goodies, I dressed Alex the boxer in his Halloween finest: a tutu left over from a year or two before.

Boo, a tutu, and a fine how do you do... Click To Tweet

Boo, a Tutu and How Do You Do

dog with pink tutu around his neck

When we headed off to deliver the goods, he somehow knew it was different from a regular walk. There was no sniffing or wandering. In a delightful contrast to his froufrou, Alex strutted, with head up and chest out, down the middle of our rarely-traveled street. He was a dog on a mission.

And his bravado was well received. Two preschoolers, a young teen, an infant and their surprised mother got quiet for a moment as we turned up their driveway. Then came the giggles. And the smiles. Some Spanish. Some English. A plastic pumpkin head full of candy.

And the most special part of all: love from a dog in a dress.

Oct 262019
 

jock-o-lanternI am a displaced New Englander with a Halloween confession to make: I don’t get it. That’s right, when it comes to Halloween I don’t understand how it has become such a big deal. Of course my confusion may be abetted by the fact that, despite two moves of house, lots of willingness, and full preparation, I’ve not hosted a trick or treater in more than twenty years.

I love fall and, despite the less dramatic change of season in northeast Florida, there is a definite change here, too. The humidity decreases (hallelujah!) and the temperature drops a bit. Moving into the 70 degree temperature range (even a little bit) means that some of my southern neighbors will break out their boots and sweaters.

I have a Halloween confession to make: I don’t get it. That’s right, when it comes to Halloween I don’t understand how it has become such a big deal. Click To Tweet

Did You Know… Pumpkin is a Fruit

How did I manage not to notice that Halloween preparations now seem to start right after the new school year and continue until the Christmas “stuff” shows up a week or two before Thanksgiving. As with so may things I don’t understand, I turn to the internet and the hoards of humanity who know more than I do. There I learned that it’s considered good luck to see a spider on Halloween. No offense Halloween-lovers, but I think I’ll dig out my horse shoes and other non-arachnid good luck charms.

I was surprised to discover that Halloween is the second biggest consumer holiday in the US, second only to Christmas. How on earth do people manage to spend So much on pumpkins?  I’m no longer a big consumer of sugar but I know candy isn’t cheap: I learned that more than 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced here each year. I didn’t look for total October candy sales. When the chocolate and caramel are added in, that’s got to be a staggering number.

It’s considered good luck to see a spider on Halloween. No offense Halloween-lovers, but I think I’ll dig out my horse shoes and other non-arachnid good luck charms. Click To Tweet

 

Trick or Trivia: Houdini Died on Halloween

Unless you’re in farm country, corn stalks, hay bales, and pumpkins carry a decent price tag   — and my guess is that “pumpkin spice everything” is not included in the total holiday cost calculation. However Halloween aficionados know the real money goes for costumes. With Halloween having grown from an evening to a season that makes some sense.

Neighborhood parties. School parties. Rec center events. Fairs. Trunk or treats. Do the littles now wear a different outfit for each event? Or, are they still like my son and his friends were: madly in love with a costume that was worn on every opportunity they could create. Sometimes they even tried to sleep in them.

Hollywood Has a 24-Hour Ban on Silly String

Something about those costumes make sense to me. Creating dress-up boxes for the little kids in my life and putting together homemade costumes can be a lot of fun. ( I say “put together” as my sewing skills are, at best, minimal.) The one I remember most fondly is the fully-wrapped mummy. Superman was kind of fun, too.

Pretending to be someone else has value. It’s an interesting paradox, don’t you think? On the surface, a mask helps a person hide yet it seems to reveal as much as it hides. Click To Tweet

Pretending to be someone else has value. It’s an interesting paradox, don’t you think? On the surface, a mask helps a person hide yet it seems to reveal as much as it hides. Pretending opens doors.  Introverts find social energy. Writers develop new points of view. Little kids learn empathy. The ability to see things through another’s eyes is a very real super-power, is it not?

Here are some other thoughts on the subject.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~ Oscar Wilde

It’s the monsters that don’t wear costumes that scare me the most at Halloween. ~ Anthony T. Hincks

No one can long hide behind a mask; the pretense soon lapses into the true character. ~ Seneca The Younger

What are your thoughts on Halloween? Do you celebrate or not? Do kids come to your house for candy or are you in a trunk-or-treat zone? Please share your thoughts  in the comments below!