Friday, September 6, 2013

Wholeness



This quote was on the internet recently, and after reading it I realized it made me feel calmer. It eloquently says exactly how I feel, and what I have written about on this blog once before. Our society is too happiness-driven.

Of course happiness is great, but why do we have to imply that someone is a failure if they’re not perfectly happy? Pressured by questions such as “does my job make me happy,” “am I doing what I love,” “how often do I feel joy,” and constant lessons from Oprah for Living My Best Life, it seems that we are supposed to make constant happiness our primary objective.

I often think back to issues from my childhood and early adulthood – incidents that make me cringe in embarrassment or regret – and focus on trying to heal or forget them. I want to forget the bad times and move on and become fulfilled and get to a happy place in life. The above quote helps me do that.

Instead of forgetting the bad and trying to leave behind the person I used to be, the idea of embracing those times, and that person – accepting those negative things that make me who I now am – comforts me more than the search for happiness ever could.

Trying to be constantly blissfully happy seems trivial, while encompassing the idea of wholeness gives me a mental picture of taking a big breath and relaxing. Wholeness is a deeper state of being.

So stop trying to be so happy! Are you whole? Relax and let it be.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Little Crazy


I went a little crazy for my son’s birthday party this year. But anyone who knows me knows to expect that. If I have the motivation and the energy, I will go all out.

We used to be a fairly social couple and liked to have people over for dinner now and then. But ever since our son entered the picture, we’ve just been too tired! Now, if people come over we usually order pizza or just talk while we sprawl exhausted on the couch.

So my son’s birthday is the perfect excuse to go all out one time a year. We invite everyone we know and use his special day as a way to see all the people we now don’t see as often.  

Last year’s theme was ducks; this year’s was Farm. And my new favorite thing is foam core. I painted farm animals on it and cut them out and hung them around the room. I cut out animal noise quotes to put above the seating in the room (see above photo), which made me laugh out loud when I got the idea, and even made a playhouse-sized barn out of it for the backyard. (This foam core came in 4’x8’ sheets and was free and leftover from one of the local convention centers. It was used for signage but was blank on the back; they would throw it away if I didn’t take it!) The food was themed, too, as well as the wine we offered – Dancing Bull, Lucky Duck, Three Horse Ranch, and Rex Goliath.

Jude loved his party. I wasn’t sure how he’d react after his nap when he found the house full of people, but he just stood around for a while, watching everyone, and whenever anyone laughed he would laugh loudly and jump up and down in excitement.

The best part was the rain, which poured down for much of the party. Remember, this is the desert, so rain is exciting! We stood under the patio and watched it fill up the yard, and Jude ran out into it and had to change clothes twice.

That night after everyone was gone, he took one of his new trucks up to bed with him. We tucked it in under a blanket and told it “night night.”  

I’m already dreaming up themes for next year’s party!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Live and Learn


My favorite spot to view the keynote speakers - on the floor in the back where I could spread out.


After this weekend’s conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators in Los Angeles, I am super inspired to get cracking on my book ideas in that genre. My weekend was spent meeting other writers, attending lectures, and getting autographs of authors. 

More than anything, I spent the weekend getting inspired to make the time to write – to work on those projects that are almost complete and just need a kick-in-the-pants to finish. At the conference were 1200 writers anxious to get their first, or their next, book in print. Writers anxious to have just one editor or agent respond to their query letter with an “I’m interested. Let’s talk.”

Sitting in the airport on the way back to Vegas, I remembered a time twenty years ago when I could have started my writing career and could have been twenty years ahead of where I am now.

I had just taken my first job as a professional dancer in Branson, MO, and because I always looked for new possibilities and always had new ideas, I bought a book about how to submit an idea to a publisher. I was working in the glitzy entertainment business exactly when Branson was a super hot tourist destination, and I thought a Branson guidebook with the spin of having insider secrets would be great.

I followed the directions of the How To book as best as I could, and I mailed a Book Proposal to three publishers. A few weeks later, I received a letter in return that said he liked my idea and would like me to send a book proposal next.

A book proposal?  That’s what I thought I already sent! Obviously I hadn’t included enough information.
Embarrassed, the letter went into a stack of papers and was forgotten.  Until now.

I had gotten a letter of interest from a publisher!!! Now I see how incredible that was and wish so much that I’d had the guidance or someone as a mentor or the internet, which did not yet exist, to guide me through the process and take advantage of that opportunity. I know I could have written that guidebook back then, and it would have been good.

So, live and learn. Twenty years later, I’m hoping again for a positive letter in the mail. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 5, 2013

This Is Not a Craft Blog...

...but it could be. If I were so motivated, I could show you interesting ideas for wall treatments, how to make a crazy quilt out of old t-shirts and sweatshirts, how to make your own painting to hang out on your patio, tie-dyed shirts, handmade original gifts, Halloween costumes, and so much more. After all, I am from a family of creative types – artists and musicians – and I’ve made my living in the Arts, so you could say it’s in my blood.

In fact, the photo above is an outfit I made for my son recently. I still have many of the dresses my Mom made for me when I was little, so of course I had to make something for him, too. It’s my duty as a mom in this family. And I like the way it came out. Of course it’s a little big, and I didn’t do it exactly as the pattern dictated, but it’s done, and he wore it, and it’s cute. Success!

Much of my childhood was spent impatiently standing next to my Mom’s sewing machine as she held a crinkly paper pattern up to me to check the sizing. She made dresses and shirts and nightgowns and anything I needed. In high school she made costumes for my high school musicals and dance recitals. Whenever we went shopping and I saw an item of clothing I liked, she would quickly do the math in her head and then declare, “I could make this for less.” So we would head to the store for fabric and a pattern.

Now that it’s even cheaper to buy clothing, the reasons to make clothes are getting fewer, unless I’m feeling creative. I’m not much of a seamstress but I get by. To this day I still don’t know how to change a pattern to adjust for size, so I just make it and then try it on and hope it fits! And if I don’t understand how to do things the correct way, I just do it somehow and make it work. A real seamstress would cringe, but I don’t care. It’s not about perfection.

So this could be a craft blog, but I'd rather keep the pressure off my creations. The idea of documenting every little step and remembering to take photos and declare myself to be an expert would take the fun out of it. It's the same way I sometimes feel when I'm on vacation with my camera, trying to take gorgeous shots worthy of a future expensive photo book. The camera separates me from the moment; sometimes it's better to just set it down and let the images remain only in my mind.

But back to sewing, a skill that fewer people are learning over time, I’m afraid. I hope those who still know how to sew will pass on its value – its connection to a simpler time, and its loving process that is put into each stitch. My son will know how to sew on a button, and if I show him how to make a Superman cape or Star Wars costume, I bet he just might learn how to use the machine. There is value in that knowledge – it opens a whole world of creativity.



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I am a descendant of King Tut.

This pic is of Husband and me in 2009 when asked to perform as backup dancers, recreating Steve Martin's King Tut number at the Luxor. (I'm not sure why Hubby's head was cut off!)


“I am a descendant of King Tut.”
Sounds impressive, huh? I certainly thought so at age eight when I told my cousin Shawn the news.
“See this birthmark?” I asked, pointing to the perfect triangle on my upper arm that had been there all my life. “It means I am related to him.”
It sounded plausible, didn’t it? How many people are born with a pyramid on their arm? But I carried the story even further.
“Years ago, King Tut and his people traveled right through this area,” I said, gesturing to the Southern Indiana farmland around us. “Maybe if we go out in the garden and dig, we might find something that he dropped here years and years ago.”
So we got out our child-sized garden shovels and rakes and headed out to the garden that had been freshly tilled for planting. I let Shawn dig a bit while I waited in anticipation.
Of course she found artifacts, because I had put them there earlier that morning before Shawn arrived.
I don’t remember if she was amazed or impressed or skeptical. I don’t remember what exactly I put there that I thought could pass for ancient artifacts. Gold plastic rings? Army men? Beads? Jacks?
What I do remember is how fun it was to do this for her. I wasn’t trying to mislead her or play her for a fool. Instead, it was just a good story that I wanted to share. Treasure hunts were fun, right? 
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about make believe, because my son will soon be the age to start learning about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and God – all things we teach our kids are real that they cannot see. Online I see cute ideas for Fairy Doors in the walls, Elves that hide and create mischief during the Holidays, and dinosaurs that walked through the living room during the night and left tracks behind. These are all such fun ideas, but as an adult I have to admit that I feel a little dishonest when imagining “selling” these things to my son.
But I know I have to get over this idea. I never felt anger toward my mom for pretending. Instead, it was a fun game we played. I don’t even remember learning the truth – after I did, I still pretended because it was more fun that way. Why state the truth out loud and lose the magic?
So, soon I will jump enthusiastically into the world of make believe. And maybe one day Jude will also see how fun it can be, and he will also regale stories of his great Egyptian lineage.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Have a Nice Life

Relaxing at Starbucks last year

Jude fell asleep this morning in the car, so I went through the drive-through at Starbucks instead of going in and letting him run around and rearrange the merchandise displays. After I handed her my money, the woman at the window leaned out to look at him sleeping in back, and then said, “This may be the last time I see you. I gave my two-week notice today.”

We are virtually strangers, yet have been a familiar part of each other’s day for a while now. She took my drink order when I was alone every day and sat to write on my computer at the corner table. She oohed and aahed the first time I walked in with Jude in his little carrier and then marveled at how fast he grew. And she knows if George is with me we need a tall water with no ice.

I don’t even know her name, but I always appreciated her remembering mine. And now she is retiring and I will probably never see her again. Not a momentous thing, just interesting. There are so many people who pass in and out of our lives, some in good ways, some in bad, each impacting us in their own ways and marking a phase of our lives with their presence.

Her final words to me were, “Well, have a nice life!” Such a profound wish, honestly said. It’s not every day that you say goodbye to someone forever. I am honored that she felt the need to say goodbye. I hope she has a nice life, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Exposed

It’s very hard to be sneaky on my way to work. I’m trying to cut back on my daily Starbucks habit, and my husband knows this. And when we say goodbye in the morning and drive off in our separate directions, you would think I could stop at Starbucks and he would never know.

But we live in the desert. Where you can see for miles in every direction. So I nonchalantly pull up to the intersection before Starbucks and glance over my shoulder to the next street over, across a deserted lot of cacti and tumbleweeds. And there in the line of traffic I can see my husband’s Jeep. And I know he can see my orange car that glares in the sunlight.

My light turns green before his, so I know he sees me turn into the Starbucks parking lot. And I know he’ll give me grief about it later. But I can’t pass up my morning iced venti light ice chai!

The wide open desert spaces can give picturesque vistas and wide open gorgeous sunsets, but it also is exposing and revealing and harsh. The rural Midwestern landscape of my childhood was more comforting, surrounded by trees and hills that protected.

Now, I look across the Vegas valley and can recognize certain roads and landmarks across the city, even though they are 30 miles away. It’s strange that if you put my home county in the Vegas valley – just picked it up and plunked it down right here - I could stand in my hometown and see straight across, way past Bedford where we used to drive every week to my dance lessons. I thought that was such a long drive, such a long way between our two towns. And now I look across the valley and can see in one glance even farther. Can look at a city of nearly two million people that I can stare at and cover up with my thumb.

Vegas can even look like a quaint little town when viewed from afar. Nestled between mountains. Near a huge glistening lake. Surrounded by wildlife with coyotes, roadrunners, and jackrabbits. Too bad it won't help me get to Starbucks.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Motivate: My Word for the Year


There are many sources of inspiration on the internet right now that will help you get motivated to tackle your New Year’s resolutions. I’ve enjoyed reading Lemon & Raspberry’s “DO: Productivity in 2013” free mini online workshop, and Smile and Wave’s description of getting motivated to do the Mile a Day challenge that many have done lately. I also toyed with the idea of signing up for the One Little Word workshop but decided I would instead just be inspired by the idea and save the $36.

This year, instead of writing a list of resolutions that I will follow for all of January and then gradually forget, I found something that is working much better. Instead of a to-do list of resolutions, I sat down and thought about the person I want to be, from normal ideas such as someone who takes her vitamins and reads books and keeps the house clean and hikes and paints, to more ambitious ideas such as someone who travels the world, has written and published books, and runs several miles a day. My overall ideal self includes a huge list of lofty ambitions.

To try to be that ideal person I want to be, I am “checking in” at the end of each day to see if I have been that person. I bought a Smash book and use it to catalog what I do. For example, one day I listed: Took my vitamins, started reading a classic novel, played outside with Jude and George, played the piano, exercised, drank green tea, searched for a better job, tackled my to-do list, and kept the TV off. I want to be an educated, creative, active person, and it helps motivate me to see that I am indeed doing these things. If one day I find my list is short, I don’t fret because I can focus on the important things the next day.

Also in my book are quotes that motivate me, a list of big things I’ve accomplished that will show me I CAN do big things, and plenty of space to doodle or add photos or things make me linger in the book and get in the mood to DO things. Every night I get on track and think about how tomorrow can be better.

My word for the year is “motivate.” I only have one life and I need to live the life I want, NOW. I want to be the person I want to be. And maybe in the end, I will find I already am. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Desert Winters

I miss living somewhere with snow right now; I’ve been reading too many blogs that tell about the snowy view out their windows, or their view of the woods where in winter afternoons they go on hikes through the trees and then come home to hot chocolate by the wood fire. Here we have winter views of neighbor’s houses that are now visible through the trees that lost their leaves, and we come home from the cold to gas fireplaces with fake logs.

In Las Vegas in the winter months, things get colder and indicate a change of season, but there aren’t as many notable changes that make it a time to celebrate the season. But because I try to be optimistic and see things in a more positive light, I will try to paint an accurate picture of desert winters - or Las Vegas winters - through rose-colored glasses that I will now put on.

As I type here at the wooden kitchen table next to a pile of papers, unopened mail, and the bottle of wine we won at a friend’s party last night, the light from outside is dark blue-grey as the evening approaches. There are a few fat sparrows at the bird feeder – they’re probably finches but it’s hard to tell in the dim light – and the water in the bird bath is frozen solid although the temp today may have reached into the low 50’s.

The neighbors houses are close, but they seem to be good neighbors – quiet people who have pets and kids – but we haven’t met all of them. The main tree I see from my chair is an Australian Bottle Tree, and I wonder how it likes our cold winters. So far it has taken the cold wind, and even the flurries we got a few weeks ago, with solumn courage.

Vegas skies can be gorgeous, especially when they get some variety instead of the clear blue skies of summer. All day today it was overcast, making it feel cozy to be inside with a cup of tea under a down blanket. Right now, the western sky’s blue is reflected in the patio furniture and the bricks of the patio, making the backyard monochromatic. The sky to the East is striped with long dark clouds.

George is sprawled across the back of the couch but I’m sure he wishes he were at Floyd Lamb Park right now. We went there today, even though it was super cold, to watch the ducks and peacocks and the blue heron who is often next to the main lake. Today a flock of Canadian geese filled a meadow that we passed, and we played chicken with a few who met us on the path. Some of the ponds were frozen, and the ice was covered with rocks and pinecones that people had thrown out to test its strength. The woods might not be right outside our door, but they are close. And we can come home to hot chocolate and get cozy in our warm house. If we were brave, we could light up a real fire in the fire pit outside.

In the winter, the mountains that surround Las Vegas become covered with snow, and the highest one (Mt. Charleston) stays snow-covered all season long, reminding us that it is winter even if a few days are unseasonably warm. We wear winter sweaters and scarves but don't have to bundle up quite as thoroughly as the rest of the country. And even though we could see snow flurries or occasional snow that sticks to the ground, we can just as easily see a stray hummingbird or butterfly. In fact, during Christmas week I opened the door to greet a friend and was surprised to see probably 15 butterflies fly up around us.

As I finish writing, I can no longer see the bird feeder; only the sky is visible above the dark silhouette of the surrounding houses and bare trees. White Christmas lights are reflected in the glass of our window, because I haven’t yet taken down the lights in the kitchen because Jude likes to point at them and smile.

There is laundry to do, and dishes to wash, and dinner to prepare, but instead I’ll sit for a bit longer and enjoy Jude’s nap and the chill in the room. It’s winter in Las Vegas, and I will sit here and redefine, or at least begin to accept, my new definition of winter.