Links I Love

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Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank.

What can I say about these past two weeks except “I NEED A VACATION!!!” OK, deep breath and moving on…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas! I plan to enjoy the day out away from kids and chores, and not being a taxi service. Alan and I are going to take a picnic lunch (he’s making me sushi!) with us and stop at a few wineries for tastings and to enjoy the views of whatever lakes we end up at.

So, what have I found interesting and inspiring this week? Several great podcast episodes, plus one new-to-me podcast.

First, here is a podcast that I love because it gives me ideas and inspiration for my self-care and home decor Etsy shop and local business, Delicata House. Etsy Success Podcast features a different successful Etsy shop owner each episode who presents solutions and ideas and shares her or his own story.

One of my favorite episodes from a few months back featured the owner of Betsy Farmer Designs, a jewelry shop, sharing her tips on excellent customer service. Check it out on SoundCloud or iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Second, Anne Bogel had a super fun episode of What Should I Read Next where she interviewed a young woman from New Zealand who now lives in Bath in the UK. Since I want to visit both New Zealand and the UK, I was thoroughly absorbed in their conversation. And the books they discussed had me breaking my “read ten, buy one” rule and adding to my TBR list.

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Third, also through Anne Bogel’s podcast, I was introduced to another podcast which I am thrilled to have connected to. It’s called Reading Women and the two young women who host it are committed to interviewing authors who are women and discussing books written by women. One of the latest episodes is an interview with Chibundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos: A Novel. This was a fascinating, intelligent, and upbeat conversation that left me wondering why I haven’t already read this novel and the others she’s written. (Sad fact: I hadn’t heard of her until now. Happy fact: the whole reason this podcast exists.) I’m now in the middle of the episode with Maggie O’ Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death and This Must Be the Place: A novel which I’m loving as well.

And, finally, since my last post focused on inspiration, it’s a subject that is staying with me this week, so here is a post on living inspired on Medium. Look for the great Jack London quote about not waiting to be inspired.

OK, cheers to the weekend and to all the mothers in our world!

 

Input Equals Inspiration

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Last week I felt like my brain had abandoned me, taking all ideas for writing along with it. Each day blurred into the next and consisted of appointments, meetings, and short car drives to pick up or drop off kids. (If you happen to have school-age kids then you know what I’m talking about.)

To deal with the stress and frustration of not getting any significant amount of work done, whenever I was driving or cooking or doing chores, I just listened to a mystery on Audible. It’s a book from a favorite mystery author and I’m loving it.

Nothing whatsoever is wrong with listening to audiobooks for entertainment! The only problem was, I allowed it to chew up time that I could’ve been receiving food for thought, a challenge, or a kick in the pants through reading books and blog posts or listening to podcasts. When the ideas stop flowing in, I stagnate mentally.

As an introvert, I thrive on this style of learning, as opposed to learning in a group setting. Absorbing the advice and wisdom of smart, successful, innovative, and creative people through reading and listening sets my own wheels turning creatively and gets me thinking from different viewpoints. Suddenly I can approach a problem from another angle and consider another possibility that I didn’t see previously.

That said, on occasion I will take a class and push myself to learn in a group setting. It is completely unnerving–terrifying even–but can be a positive way to make new connections and learn. Like the Cob Therapy workshop I participated in back in June 2016 at Hawk Meadow Farm. That was definitely super scary to begin with, being an introvert and knowing nothing about building anything. But by the end of the four days, I made new friends, had a basic understanding of cob oven building and the satisfaction of having helped to build a beautiful and useful oven with twelve other people.

 

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Next week, I signed up for a Sustainability Forum in our village. I’ll probably feel nervous beforehand, but I’m pushing through because I’m hoping to learn a lot and connect with people in our community. If you live in Seneca County, you should sign up too!

So, how do you learn best? On your own or in a group? How long does it take you to realize you’re stagnating mentally and get back on the learning track? I’d love to hear how you learn and are inspired.

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Links I Love

Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank. Happy weekend!

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Srini Rao’s The Unmistakable Creative Podcast is definitely on the top of my new favorites. (It’s not a new podcast, but one I just started listening to.) I’ve been inspired to think differently and encouraged on my nontraditional path of living creatively.

The first one I listened to is with Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful and The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever, both which I ordered second-hand copies of as soon as I finished listening. Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever isn’t really about spending, but it is about investing, about taking a risk and being willing to live differently in order to have a meaningful life. I sent this one to my son, an Uber-creative person in the hope that he listens too.

The second one is with Kate Swoboda: The Courage Habit. She is the author of a book by that title as well as a life coach who has a training program for other life coaches. In this podcast, Kate talks with Srini about facing our fears and acknowledging they exist, but not letting them run our lives. You need to hear this! I can’t wait to read her book.

In honor of National Poetry Day, here are two blogs that are pure poetry:

Caliath.com is poetry blog from a fellow WordPresser. I’m so glad I found it! This poem is a lovely pick.

David Whyte just released a new collection of poetry: The Bell and the BlackbirdI can’t wait until my copy arrives! Also, view David’s TED talk here.

And lastly, two posts on the importance of poetry: Why Poetry is Necessary by Elizabeth Alexander and How Poetry Can Change Lives by John Burnside.

 

Leaning Toward the Light

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I stood at the kitchen sink one cold morning a couple of weeks ago, washing out my coffee cup, when I focused on the tulip in the mini Mason jar on the window sill. It was decidedly leaning toward the sunshine sparkling our way.  Just the night before, its slender stem had rested upright in the jar’s water, its petals pulled close together and it hadn’t been leaning in any particular direction. Immediately, I grabbed my phone and googled this phenomenon.

I knew that tulips open and close in response to variable light throughout the day, (photonastic), but I guess I’d never realized they followed the sun, (heliotropic), even after they were cut. According to this article, tulips are both heliotropic and photonastic. They twist and stretch toward the light, continue to grow after they’re in a vase, which is why they tend to droop after a few days.

This little flower, whose days were numbered, was orienting itself toward the light: spending its time in the most life-giving activity possible. Tulips need light to survive, to thrive, to live the life that it was designed to live. Even after being cut! That’s what got me. It’s not sitting in the vase waiting to die, it’s living fully–moving, growing, twisting, and cheering everyone whose eyes alight on it. If tulips had hearts, I’d say it lived wholeheartedly.

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Of course, I made the connection to my own life and asked myself: in what ways am I following the light, leaning toward it, growing and moving with grace and beauty within the constraints of my particular “vase” or circumstances? Where are sources of light and life for me?

Believing in God’s love and care for me and the rest of humanity is probably at the top of my list. Reading poetry, books on spirituality, quality fiction and biographical stories of people who have overcome major obstacles to reach their goals is also important for me. Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones, family and friends, is vital for all of us. Travel–seeing new places–is extremely uplifting and fills me with appreciation both for where I live and for the beauty of the earth. Finally, writing, singing, and making things–creative endeavors–bring me much joy and satisfaction. If I had no creative outlets, it would be like only seeing in black and white instead of full color. Creating keeps me sane.

Tulips will always thrill me with their stunning colors and elegant shapes, but now that I know that they are lovely little miracles following light, growing and twisting and stretching toward the sun, I will revere them and be ever grateful for their presence in the world, in my garden and on my window sill.

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Day 30: Find Your Gumption Button

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Did this Monday find you with its cold, windy, cloudy song? I got up later than I wanted to because it was darker than I expected. Then, the sound of the recycling truck whizzing by and honking made me bolt up from slumber, remembering that we forgot to take the recycling bins to the road last night. Sigh. I had such good intentions before I fell asleep last night, too. I planned to wake early, go to the gym, and be at my desk by 9. There’s a little thing called an alarm on my phone that I forgot to set though, so that’s the story.

What I do with the rest of my day will be where the real tale lies.

Last Friday, while eating lunch, Alan and I talked about motivation and how some of us have more than others. People like Seth Godin seem to never run low, but perhaps it’s because he practices daily; he is self-disciplined and drives himself to produce and ship. Whether he feels ready or not. That’s one of Seth’s messages.

There are high-profile people in the music, visual art and writing fields that we know or know of who continually produce and ship. They are on Instagram multiple times per day showing us their quality work. We admire them. We wonder what their secrets are.

As far as I can tell, though, it’s up to each person to find their gumption button, to pull up their boot straps and get to work. You can only talk and think about it for so long and then you need to just do the work.

We have all kinds of excuses–not good enough, lots of people do it better, I’m not creative enough, no one will read, see or hear it–and what you mean is, you’re afraid. That’s ok. We are all afraid. But we have to tell Fear where to sit, as Elizabeth Gilbert says. Fear can’t be in the front of the room or in the driver’s seat. Fear can take a back seat or sit in the corner. You can recognize it and acknowledge it, but you are in charge. You. And nothing is stopping you. Not really.

Here are three yellow books I am reading that are kicking me in the pants, feeding me knowledge, and showing me there is another way of seeing. If you need encouragement to get your priorities back where you want them,  to do work you’ll be proud of, read these books.

Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time? by Seth Godin. I read this one before, but am reading it again. Short blurbs or passages with on-point messages are presented in Seth’s one-of-a-kind style. You can’t help but wake up and realize your goals are within reach and the time is now. Here’s an excerpt from pages 24-25,

“The relentless brainwashing of our fading industrial economy has created an expensive misunderstanding. Creative people or those with something to say believe that they have to wait to be chosen…’pick me, pick me’ acknowledges the power of the system and passes responsibility to someone else to initiate. Even better, ‘pick me, pick me’ moves the blame from you to them. If you don’t get picked it’s their fault not yours. If you do get picked, well, they said you were good, right? Not your fault anymore. Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.”

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. I heard about this author and this book on Modern Mrs Darcy. Since I was actually at the library in Ithaca yesterday, I grabbed this and one of her other books. In the introduction and first two chapters, she destroys the common belief that the modern person tells themselves: we don’t have enough time. We do, she insists, and she has science and our own schedules to prove us wrong. What an uplifting and life-giving idea. We can do what we want to do, what we dream of doing. We have all the time we need.

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. I’m only in the third chapter of this one, but can tell it’s going to rock me. This was one of Todd Henry’s recommended reads at the beginning of 2017. They bring up the concept of scarcity-thinking and talk about how it’s shaped our culture to think in terms of limited resources, shrinking reserves and other people as competitors. And how the world of measurement has framed our thinking. Then they use the terms “generative” and “the universe of possibility” and ask us to step outside of those frameworks and consider that anything is possible.

 

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Day 29: Soul Sustenance

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I haven’t been “to church” in over a year. Long story, but after my whole life, I needed a break.* Sunday mornings are no longer a mad dash to arrive on time. I get up when I feel rested. Eat gluten free pancakes or French toast with Alan and the boys, go to the gym, plan my menu, make a new “weekly” page in my bullet journal, write, read, and work on projects. Occasionally, I feel heaps of guilt for not being involved and serving the way I was raised to. There was a security in doing the same thing each Sunday, to knowing I was serving God and the church community, and in receiving approval from the circle I was in.

After major life changes in the past two years, including leaving the church I was involved in and getting a divorce, I’ve been finding new ways to relate to God and think about spiritual matters. This can make me feel unsure of myself as a spiritual person, as a believer, as I explore outside of the familiar framework I’ve leaned on since childhood. Will I return to a local expression of faith some day? Perhaps I will. I like to think I will.

For now, I’m looking for God everywhere I am, as I always have. I am retaining my relationships with friends who believe. We share thoughts and ideas, holding real and honest conversations about church and faith. After leaving the community I came from and spending this past year asking myself what I believe and what do I identify with, I sense a close connection with Celtic Spirituality or Celtic Christianity. 

What mattered to the ancient Celtic believers resonates with me: having a hope-filled outlook, caring for our environment, appreciating art and music and using them as an expression of worship, being hospitable and open to change, etc. Like the Celtic Christians, I use imagination as a way to connect to and understand the divine. Although these characteristics can be found in other faiths and indeed, in other forms of Christianity, this is where I feel most at home. It’s interesting, because as a young adult of eighteen or nineteen, I felt drawn to this way, and here I am again. As T.S. Eliot said,

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

As I always have, I enjoy finding resources to enrich and develop my spiritual understanding.

Here is one tool I use to dig deep: it employs the practice of a weekly and one yearly examen, or reflection of my days in these seven areas: spirit, mind, body, work, home, relationships, and resource stewardship. There is also a moving forward or “reset” for the week ahead. Included is spaced to develop something called a “Rule of Life” that one can develop as a way to be intentional about personal priorities for daily living. Check it out:

Sacred Ordinary Days Liturgical Planner

The next three books enrich my spiritual journey. Maybe they would do the same for you.

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donahue would make a lovely gift to another or oneself. I received my copy as a gift. The contents are grouped by “Beginnings”, “Desires”, “Thresholds”, “Homecomings”, “States of Heart”, “Callings”, and “Beyond Endings”. No one wrote quite like him. The grace and musicality of his words, poetry or prose, speak and reach into the dark and confused places, as well as the light and clear ones. Here is an excerpt from the poem “For The Interim Time

You cannot lay claim to anything:                                                                                                    In this place of dusk,                                                                                                                         Your eyes are blurred;                                                                                                                     And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart                                                                                  And you can see nowhere to put your trust;                                                                              You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.                                                                                      Do not allow your confusion to squander                                                                                   This call which is loosening                                                                                                            Your roots in false ground,                                                                                                                That you might come free                                                                                                                From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,                                                                            And it is more difficult and slow to become new.                                                                     The more faithfully you can endure here,                                                                                  The more refined your heart can become                                                                                       For your arrival in the new dawn.

The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner. I’ve only just begun reading and savoring the content in this book, exploring the practices and engaging in the artistic reflections. Week Three, for example, “Sacred Tools and Sacred Spaces“, discusses the sacraments of daily life, the sacred art of living and then engages the reader with contemplative practices–lectio divina, reflection questions, visual art exploration, and poetry exploration. It’s deep, but has fun hands-on ways to explore and express.

The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom by Henri Nouwen, I’ve already mentioned this week, but here it is again. This was his personal journal from a very dark, anxious and fearful season in his life–his journey through. A friend of mine gave it to me at the start of a dark, fearful season of my own.

So here is a glimpse into my own story of faith. I’d love to hear from you–what’s encouraging you today?

(Disclaimer: I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church or local expression of faith. There is plenty of life, growth, encouragement and goodness to be found in thriving faith communities the world over. If you have found such a place, I hope you can stay, call it home and become one of the family.)

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Day 28: Saturday Meanderings

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This hilltop home is being buffeted by the wind AGAIN. If we have one day per week when it’s still, that is something to remark upon. When my son was leaving Wednesday night, we stepped out into the evening and everything was still.

No crickets or frogs. No bird singing itself to sleep. Not even a jet or a truck. Just the lights twinkling across the lake, the stars winking at us overheard and quiet. “You’re in the middle of nowhere,” my son stated as he got into his car.

Yes, and the middle of nowhere has its advantages and disadvantages. On the pro side, we can play music as loud as we want, keep the property as neat or unkempt as we want and no one approves or complains. We can absorb the tranquility and beauty of nature from our windows and certainly from a walk around the yard or down the road. Lake, fields, hills, valley, farms, and big sky everywhere we look.

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On the con side, you have to drive a long while to get anywhere. Like to Ithaca for groceries or a concert or to a restaurant for dinner. And people don’t always want to come out to visit because it’s a bit of a hike. If they do venture this far, I hope they feel the rewards are many: the view, it goes without saying, and good food and conversation.

This is where I wanted to be when I was six years old living with my parents and siblings in a third-story apartment in Brooklyn. I hoped and prayed for this opportunity. So you could say, I’m living my dream.

Every summer which my mother, siblings and I would spend with my grandparents, flew by with a speed that was stunning and sad. I loved every minute of each day we were given here in Interlaken and every aspect of my grandparents’ home and lifestyle. Although, they were far from wealthy, there was a comfort and solace from the cold, tough and dangerous hustle of city life that I couldn’t wait to run to.

The walks with my grandmother down the lane, into and through the woods are some of my favorite memories of my childhood summers. The sound of my grandparents starting their day in the kitchen, making coffee and eggs, the smell of kerosene when the heaters were lit during cold spells, the feeling of gratitude at twilight as I sat on the tree swing and swayed as the wind pushed me–I hold these dear.

I’m thankful I can go back there and relive those good, wholesome moments and that I had them to begin with. And I’m thankful to be telling my story in the place where my happiest moments live.

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