Monthly Archives: June 2012

Wishcasting Wednesday

image from jamie’s post

What do you wish for this summer?

My biggest wish for this summer is that the High Park Fire will be 100% contained, controlled, stopped, extinguished. That the fire fighters will stay safe, that no more homes will burn, no more harm will be done, and no more fires will start this summer.

That Eric and I and our two boys have a safe trip to Oregon, and then back to Colorado. That our drive is smooth, easy, and without issue or complication, that the dogs stay cool and comfortable, and we arrive in Oregon (and then Colorado) with little effort or suffering. And that our Big Rig functions as a vehicle of love and light that protects everyone we pass or follow or meet along the way. That anyone else traveling in this same time frame is also safe.

driftwood beach, where we’ll be walking in just a few days

That I practice mindfulness and gratitude, experience rest and play and joy while we are in Oregon. I need the rest, and I want to connect wholeheartedly to the joy of the present moment and sink into it fully.

hiking two years ago at cape perpetua, on the oregon coast

That I have a good experience at the World Domination Summit. That I don’t freak out, I don’t push or bully myself to do too much, I don’t try too hard, don’t sink into feeling unworthy or afraid that I’m missing something, that I remain safe and well, and that I get to, in a kind and gentle way, meet the people on the list I carry in my heart and tell them to their faces “thank you and I adore you.” That I can have confidence, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment” (Susan Piver).

Happy, comfortable, safe beach dogs.

Naps, eating seafood, reading, writing, yoga, meditation, walks on the beach, hiking, meeting new friends, long conversations about nothing and everything, laughter, love, love, love.

where the forest meets the sea

And this, from Mary Oliver (shared here this morning), this is what I wish, not just for summer, but for my life. And for you as well, kind and gentle reader. Happy first day of summer and much love to you. May you have everything you wish for this summer as well.

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Three Truths and One Wish

Affirmations are like screaming that you’re okay in order to overcome this whisper that you’re not. That’s a big contrast to actually uncovering the whisper, realizing that it’s passing memory and moving closer to all those fears and all those edgy feelings that maybe you’re not okay. Well, no big deal. None of us is okay and all of us are fine. ~Pema Chödrön

1. Truth: We all make mistakes. We harm, hurt, mess up, maim, wreck, break, smash, and ruin. We hurt ourselves, each other, our environment and everything in it. Nothing is safe from us. Even when we don’t plan or intend to, even when we don’t realize we are–we ALL make mistakes and do damage.

2. Truth: We are doing the best we can. In terms of being able to manifest wisdom and compassion, we are where we are. Some are trapped in complete ignorance, delusion, and confusion. Some are caught in aggression or attachment. Some are aware of their faulty behavior, their habitual patterns and discursive thinking, but are unable to stop, to interrupt themselves. Others do pretty good most of the time, but when they are tired or sick or distracted by strong emotions, even they falter. Some of us swing wildly between all of these experiences, within a single day, one hour, one single moment even. But whatever happens, whatever we do, it’s the best we could manage at the time.

3. Truth: We can forgive ourselves and others. We always have the opportunity to accept rather than reject what is happening, to let go and start over. We don’t have to remain locked in a battle over what was, what can’t be changed. We don’t have to struggle against who we are, reject and abandon ourselves. We can be gentle and come back, start over, begin again. We don’t have to give up, we can keep trying. We can approach every moment as an entirely new moment, a fresh start. We can keep practicing, and “when we know better, we’ll do better,” (Oprah said something like that once, and who are we to argue with Oprah?).

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~Pema Chödrön

One wish: That we can be gentle with ourselves and each other, that we can relax into things as they are, and generate compassion and forgiveness for how messy, confused, brilliant, and precious we all are, and know that it is all workable and we are fundamentally sane.

Something Good

It’s a shorter list this week, and clearly I had a limited number of things on my mind: the High Park Fire, the World Domination Summit, taking pictures, making choices about what stuff to buy or keep or take with us on our upcoming trip, and writing.

take me for a walk…

1. Instagram. I have been dreaming about, coveting, longing for this app for a really long time, but I’m not an iPerson and I like my phones dumb, (at least dumber than me). I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and bought an iTouch so I can play too. For now, since we only have a few days before we leave for Oregon, my strategy is to “keep calm and carry on,” because if I don’t watch it, I will burn up these few remaining days wandering around taking pictures–which most of the time would be okay, but I need to clean and pack and organize and all the other stuff you must do before a long trip. So far, I’ve only taken pictures of the dogs and one self-portrait, (in which my forehead and front teeth seem abnormally large).

2. I’m Fine, Thanks, a documentary. There are still four days left to pledge their Kickstarter campaign, even though they reached their goal sometime in the last few days. I get to see it when I’m at the World Domination Summit in a few weeks, and it looks to me like a story that needs to be told.

3. My 100 Things Challenge on Be More With Less. This is one of those things I want to do, at the same time it scares me silly. Courtney Carver is a badass.

4. An Evening with Ray Bradbury, 2001, “Telling the Truth,” the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. I don’t agree with everything Mr. Bradbury has to say here (like “only the classics are any good, everything new is crap”), but there were lots of things I wrote down, stopped and thought about, and he’s so endearing and inspiring. Most of all, he reminds me that the childhood dream of being a writer wasn’t, isn’t crazy or impossible, and that we should all follow what brings us joy.

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

5. Terrible Minds. I love Chuck Wendig, am inspired by him time and time again. Lately, it was 25 Reasons This Is The Best Time To Be A Storyteller, 25 Realizations Writers Need To Have, and The Secret to Writing, which is essentially this:

6. This quote from Anne Frank, which I share in honor of the fire fighters and other good people working kindly and so diligently during this High Park Fire:

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness. I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us, too. I can feel the suffering of millions – and yet, if I look to the heavens, I think it will come out all right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

7. Happiness Is Simple: Why Too Many Choices Make Us Miserable & 5 Ways To Improve Your Life! by Gala Darling.

8. The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do from McSweeney’s. This is good.

9. Necessary advice from the trustworthy, brilliant Jamie Ridler, and a whole host of other luminaries. How to Get the Most Out of a Conference When You’re an Introvert or HSP (highly sensitive person) Part I and Part II. I will be taking a close look at this over the next few weeks.

10. Summer Reading List from Brain Pickings. In the introduction for the first book on the list, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, Tom Bissell says “To create anything — whether a short story or a magazine profile or a film or a sitcom — is to believe, if only momentarily, you are capable of magic.”

11. And finally, this quote, with a picture offered as proof: If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change, (Buddha).

Day of Rest

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I learned from my dad is photography. I learned how to love the process, to enjoy looking for things to capture and figuring out how to frame them, how to notice things. In honor of him, of this gift, and of Father’s Day, here are a few pictures I took this weekend.

this is what happiness looks like, sam running in the dog park

purple thistle in the green

heart-shaped petal with a heart-shaped hole

lone songbird

stormy sky

accidental magic

What I Learned from My Dad

As I mentioned in my post on Mother’s Day, in so many ways, I am my father’s daughter. Stubborn, strong, creative, sensitive, intelligent, introverted, pensive, easily irritated and hurt, critical, and funny, (at times, what some might call a “smart ass”). Again, I offer you these two pictures as some measure of proof.

Dad, being a Christmas Ham

me, being a thanksgiving turkey

But there’s so much more to it than that. I think my Dad would agree that over the years our relationship has been complicated, but that’s because we are complicated people. Sometimes we drive each other nuts, make each other angry even, but we love each other like crazy (at times, heavy on the crazy).

What I’ve Learned from My Dad:

  1. How to figure things out. Being smart is something I inherited from both my parents, but what I got specifically from my dad is a mix of curiosity and intelligence and patience (which might look like stubbornness) that enables me to learn and understand things, fairly quickly and profoundly. My dad is wicked smart, is the kind of person who knows how to fix just about anything, can listen to a car running and know almost immediately what might be wrong with it, is interested in how things work, and why things are the way they are. He knows immediately when the logic of an argument or position isn’t working, when there is a fundamental flaw or someone is lying or there’s simply no common sense at work. He made his living as a mechanic, but I think if he’d been born during my generation, he would have been a computer person, an IT Specialist or a Computer Scientist, or at the very least a web designer like me. We both have the necessary tenacity and interest to allow us to stay with a problem until we can figure out the fix, the solution, the answer.

    dad in his favorite chair at our old house

  2. A sense of rightness and fairness. I admit, this sometimes can get me in trouble, him too. I am so certain of what is right or fair, that I get very upset, bothered, irritated in situations where people misbehave. And yet, in circumstances that allow me to affect change, my sense of justice gives me power, makes me brave. I won’t let someone be bullied or cheated if I can help it, and I won’t behave badly myself either. I learned a solid sense of morality from my dad, how to be someone that can be trusted, to do what’s right because it’s right.

    me and dad, both much younger

  3. How to take a joke.  I am able to laugh at myself, to make fun, to kid around and not take myself so seriously because of my dad.

    dance party on the shag carpet

  4. A strong work ethic. Yes, work might be hard, you might hate it, but it’s what you do to take care of yourself and your family, and that is more important. It’s also important to pitch in and help if you can, even if technically your work is already finished.
  5. To have a kind, tender heart while still being a badass. My dad is a tough guy, but he has a soft heart. Some of my most vivid memories as a kid are of him sitting next to my bed and rubbing my back while I cried, or carrying me back to my bed after an episode of sleep walking…while I cried. But, he also didn’t let me get away with any crap, which led to me becoming a capable, strong grown-up. He’s not afraid to tell someone when they are being a jerk, and does not back down from a confrontation, (even though at times, he may have wished he had).

    me, dad, and cookie monster at grandma’s house

  6. To eat right and exercise. Again, this is another place where my mom certainly helped, but there was something extra about my dad’s influence. Back when it wasn’t normal or trendy or popular, he ate really healthy and worked out. It had a lot to do with me joining a gym at 16 when that was not what girls did, and being one of the first girls to take a weight training class at my high school, and is why I have always valued my physical health.

    my dad did not eat any of this cake

  7. To love science fiction, or a good scary story. Growing up, we watched the Twilight Zone and Star Trek together, shared a love of Stephen King novels. I still love these things, and they always remind me of my dad.
  8. A love of reading and music. I learned this from both my parents, although their tastes were slightly different. One thing my dad and I both enjoyed reading was what you might call “self-help,” books that we’d critique, but also glean for whatever wisdom we might find and be able to apply to our lives.
  9. A love for photography. Another profession my dad might have successfully pursued had his circumstances been different is photography. Now that I find myself taking more pictures, I remember him always with a camera slung around his neck, telling me to stay still while he took my picture, capturing the world around him as he saw it.

    one of my favorite pictures he took of me, of course I was reading

  10. And most importantly, to do and be exactly what I wanted. My dad wasn’t one of those old style dads who tried to steer me in the direction of things appropriate for a girl, or to limit my possibility in any other way. He told me, time and time again, to never let anyone tell me what to do or what to think or who to be. He always told me I could do or be whatever I wanted, and more importantly, he totally believed it, believed in me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! And thank you. I miss and love you, and will see you soon!

An open love letter to Laurie Wagner and Telling True Stories

Certain people that you encounter in your life will change you, alter the way you experience the world in significant and long lasting ways. The impact of their light, their nakedness, their wild love continues to ripple and shiver and quake all corners of your life, sending out aftershocks that continue long after your focused time together, making things forever different, illuminated. Laurie Wagner is one of those people.

image from Laurie’s website

I first heard of Laurie Wagner in the same way I heard about every other good and precious thing I’ve discovered in the past year, on Andrea Scher’s Superhero Journal, this post to be exact. Rachel Cole was also talking about her, how Laurie is an amazing teacher and writing mentor. That was all the proof, the second opinion, the encouragement and nudge I needed (I’m no dummy), so I signed up for Laurie’s Telling True Stories ecourse, the very first run of it.

Holy wow.

Holy crap.

The structure of the class is simple enough: “a 5-week writing course with 3 weekly lessons, writing assignments, and deadlines. Writers will share their work with the community, giving and getting feedback.” Laurie also set up a private Facebook group for those of us who wanted to play. As in every other ecourse I’ve taken, it’s really up to you how much to participate. Some of us posted something every week and shared feedback and chatted on Facebook, others never said a word–you can do as little or as much as you can, be involved or not, to whatever degree you like.

image from Laurie’s website

Even though this is an online course, Laurie’s energy is radiant, vibrant and raw, lighting up and electrifying the space, however virtual it might be. She is at once your favorite grade school teacher, most popular camp counselor, beloved childhood friend (the one who climbed trees and loved books), best girlfriend, and precious mother. She also is the most skilled and kind doula, every piece I wrote for class felt like I’d given birth to something magic and wild. The class wrung me out, wrecked me, in the best possible way. In a Well-Fed Woman interview with Laurie, Rachel Cole says “I know her teachings and how they can crack you open.”

Yes, crack you open and let the light in.

Laurie says in one of her latest blog posts, “If I’m about anything, it’s authenticity. That’s what I teach, that’s the edge I consistently lean into. It’s what I encourage my students to do – to trust that showing up as their natural, vulnerable, imperfect, Words With Friends playing, gorgeous bed-head, didn’t-have-time-to-brush-their-teeth-selves is all we want. In fact that’s WHAT we want!”

image by andrea scher

I’ve signed up to take Laurie’s “Straw Into Gold” in the fall, but in so many ways, I feel like I’m still in a class with her. Most certainly, her teaching hasn’t stopped. When I sit at my writing desk or stand at my computer, afraid to say what I really want to say, I think of Laurie, her support and her strength, and it gives me the encouragement I need to get real, be messy, tell the truth. Just this week, she posted “10 Tips for Telling the Truth” and #1 was “Ask yourself what you’re afraid to write about. Bingo. Write this.” See, still teaching me.

What my writing needs, adores, desires: space and time, gentleness, kindness, nature, joy, my Pentel Clarius medium point black ink pen, my blog, my copies of Writing Down the Bones and Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s Facebook status updates, my dogs, my yoga and meditation practices, quotes from Pema Chödrön, dharma talks by Susan Piver, Mary Oliver poems, friendship, a camera, music, long walks, enough sleep, and now, the beacon of Laurie Wagner’s wild love, her insistence that I show up as I am and speak my truth.

If you are someone considering taking Laurie’s upcoming Telling True Stories, let me tell you, first hand: take this course, do not hesitate, run don’t walk, just do it–you will not regret it. Rachel Cole said it perfectly, about how Laurie and her teachings can “crack you open.” And yet, you will feel utterly safe and protected reaching down into the darkest, most raw place and be willing to roar like a lion about what you find there, will discover a wild power that you didn’t even know was there. Life altering…no kidding.

An open love letter to Andrea Scher

Photo by Mara

I’ll admit, kind and gentle reader, I am afraid to write this post. I have avoided it for months, while at the same time silently writing and rewriting it in my heart, longing to say it out loud, to tell her. But what do you say to someone who has given you so much, altered your experience so completely? How can you ever possibly thank them? See…I’m right to be afraid, because every time I think about it, about how much I adore her and how grateful I am, I start to cry (now, for example).

Andrea Scher has been the sun at the center of a universe of amazement and goodness, the shiny middle that all the other bright and precious things orbit around.

self-portrait by andrea scher

Here is just a short list of what she’s given me, what she’s introduced me to: Boho Girl, Susannah Conway, Kelly Rae Roberts, Brene’ Brown (!!!), Jen Lemen, Flora Bowley and the wonder of painting, Laurie Wagner, Rachel Cole, Mondo Beyondo thinking, and the joy of photography.

I’ve taken two of Andrea’s classes, Mondo Beyondo (which she taught with Jen Lemen) and Superhero Photo, and on Monday, June 18th, I’ll be starting Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab.

Horse or Dog?

horse or dog? picture I took of sam during superhero photo

Superhero Photo altered how I saw the world. I got down on the ground, climbed on chairs and tables, went out in all colors and weights of light, looked close and far away, and went on treasure hunts. I took some of the most magical pictures I ever had, and I haven’t stopped taking them.

Mondo Beyondo fundamentally shifted the way I approached my life, the way I saw myself. In this post, (which Andrea wrote when she first introduced the course in 2009), she describes the concept of a Mondo Beyondo list, what that approach looks like and means. She says,

I had been making these kinds of lists for years but had never had a name for it, or ever formalized my mental list by writing it down. My Mondo Beyondo. I liked the sound of it. I also loved the idea of stretching yourself into this world of the outrageous. If your imagination could reach a bit farther with this exercise, then you were giving yourself a powerful gift: expanding your idea of what is possible.

image by jen gray

Here’s the list of what I’ve done because of Andrea Scher, things I can cross off my Mondo Beyondo List:

  1. Started writing this blog
  2. Bought a ticket to World Domination Summit (WDS, just a few weeks away!)
  3. Took a few classes with Susannah Conway, got a signed copy of her book (sent by her!), am taking a writing workshop with her at WDS, and attending an event on her book tour at Kelly Rae Robert’s studio (!)
  4. Met Brene’ Brown (holy crap, I even talked to her!), took a two-day workshop with her
  5. Signed up to take a yoga class with Marianne Elliott at WDS
  6. Went to a Fearless Creativity writing and meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center with Susan Piver (oh how I adore that woman!)
  7. Hosted a Well-Fed Woman Mini Retreatshop led by Rachel Cole
  8. Started writing a book

Maybe for some people, this list wouldn’t seem that astonishing, but we are talking about me here: INFJ, introvert, highly sensitive person who suffered from depression, anxiety, and writer’s block for 25+ years, (maybe longer?). This list is huge, ginormous, crazy wild amazing.

andrea scher, taken by laurie wagner

I found Andrea Scher’s blog, Superhero Journal, at a time when I was so brokenhearted, such a mess, so stuck, so tired. I didn’t know how to keep going, where to even start. I was searching, my view clouded by grief, knew that I had abandoned myself and my dreams, but didn’t know how to find my way back.

The person I am today: writer, artist, warrior, brave, open-hearted, funny, strong, joyful, sane, is possible in part because of Andrea Scher. She invited me to expand my idea of what was possible. She encouraged me, was kind and honest. She was constantly admitting the things that are hard and messy, while still pointing out what’s beautiful and precious. She reminds me of this quote from Muriel Rukeyser, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Split open, and through the cracks, the light would get in (or maybe get out?).

Thank you, Andrea. I adore you and am so grateful for your work, your truth and your light, which have been of such great benefit to me as I stumble along.