I wonder how it would feel if I had to sit my children down and explain to them that even though we live in the United States of America, a country founded on freedoms, that they are not afforded these freedoms.
That because their skin was not the same color as our founding fathers, because of the horrendous blot on our history that is slavery, and because of the deeply seated racism that to this day floats just below the surface (if we are lucky) they are not truly free citizens.
I wonder how it would feel to have to look into their sweet faces and explain the double standard that exists in this country today…in what will soon be 2016.
How do you tell your child that they are not safe to be free in their homeland and that they do not possess the same rights of their lighter skinned friends?
I wonder how it would feel to watch them leave to school, to practice, to church, to scouts, to work, or just outside to play and have no other choice other than to worry about what would be said to them: what insults would they have to endure, what slurs they have to pretend not to hear, what slights would they bear.
Or worse…to worry every single second they weren’t in my sight that they weren’t going to make it home because a neighbor mistook them for a “thug” or an officer “felt threatened” and shot my child.
I don’t have to have this conversation with my children. For no other reason than the color of their skin, I will never be subjected to this scenario.
But there are millions of my fellow citizens in these United States who have no other choice, who for the protection of the very lives of their children, must look into those sweet faces that they love with all their hearts and souls and explain that in a free country they are not really free.
I’m not fast on my feet and confrontation is not my strong suit, so I tend to keep my opinions mostly to myself. However, this situation has reached a point where I’m no longer afforded the luxury of standing in my white privilege hoping and praying that people will pull their heads out of the sand and realize that we are all in this together.
Really, we are all in this together.
So, as a person who believes in these United States and in the freedoms on which this country was founded, I will, in the most loving way I can, say something to you if I believe you are in any way violating the rights of a fellow human because of the color of their skin.
I am choosing to be okay if you are offended or angered by my questions or comments. I will no longer hide or bite my tongue.
We either stand together as one nation or we will fall apart. It’s that simple.Read More
“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Vincent Van Gogh
I have friends, many friends to be precise, who annually choose a word to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how they want to live for the year. Over the years, I’ve marveled at the wonderful words they’ve chosen to guide their lives. I love the simplicity and beauty of having just one word to keep in check and stay on track.
For the past several years, as the year’s end approaches, I’ve watched as one friend and then another announces their annual word. I too have searched for the perfect word to guide my year. Instead, I struggle and in the end am unable to come up with single word for myself.
So while my friends sashayed into each new years with words like “curiosity” and “freedom” and “purpose” and “wonder” and “fierce” attached to them, I trudged along behind them wordless.
It was disheartening to say the least.
A couple of months ago, I was docenting a group of high school students through the art at the High Museum. They were researching a writing project for school and the information I provided would figure into the final assignment. Concerned that I had covered the topic adaquately, I checked with one of the teachers to make sure I had hit all the required points. She reassured me that I had and then added, “I really enjoyed your tour today. You’re so passionate about art.”
I appreciated the compliment, and I really loved that she recognized how much I love sharing art with people. It’s true. I am passionate about art.
Over the next several weeks this word “passion” kept coming up. A friend comment on my “passion” regarding a topic we were discussing. An acquaintance noted my “passion” on a particular subject. People began to say things to me like, “wow, you’re really passionate about that” or “I love your passion.” I found the frequency the word was being attached to me…curious.
I ruminated on the word “passion” for a bit. I turned it over in my mind many times. Finally, I came to this conclusion.
I like feeling excited about the people and things which I surround myself. I want to have an “intense desire and enthusiasm” for my life. When I love open heartedly, when I live my life with intensity, when I throw myself body, mind, and soul into what I’m doing, I find it exhilarating even though this level of intensity can be more than a little intimidating.
I placed the “word” on the back burner because “passion” is kind of a big “word” and I’m not one of those people who has a “word,” and I began making plans for 2015. Without giving it any thought, as I contemplated the projects I would take on this upcoming year, I found myself asking the following questions:
Am I truly, deeply passionate about this?
I had to consider that in spite of my resistance (or because of it) that maybe, just maybe “passion” is a good word for me to use as a touchstone or a reminder of how I want to live in 2015. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided “passion” it is and I immediately felt apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared.
Then I realized that this is just as it should be. If your touchstone, if your reminder for how you live is with “passion” then being apprehensive and excited and nervous and more than a little scared is probably about right. In any event, it defintly beats bored.Read More
I recently had the pleasure of being in Miami for nine days to experience for the second time what is known as Art Basel Week. Galleries from all over the world descend on this tropical paradise bringing with them the best works of art they have to offer. Between the weather and the art, it’s what I imagine heaven to be.
Last year, my son, Mac, who is an artist, and I visited as many fairs as we could in the three days we were in town. This year we decided to spend more time in Miami so we could attend more fairs, spend added time at the ones we liked, swing through galleries (Mac had friends having shows), and also visit several private collections opened to the public.
I invested a lot of time and had a calendar laid out before we left to guarantee we could see it all (my husband says I can turn anything into a military campaign). The first three days went as planned then, by perchance, Mac met an artist friend. He invited Mac to assist him and his collaborator on a mural they were doing the next day.
As Mac went happily off to paint, I went happily off to the art fairs. It was a long day of painting as they had to finish, and I ended up wandering through the streets of Wynwood, a warehouse area in Miami that has been transformed into a community art gallery by artists from around the world who’ve graced it’s walls with murals.
There were a lot of artists out painting and it was fun to watch their visions take shape. Most of the time, when I passed, they were “in their zone,” and I was able to admire their work unobserved. Occasionally, if they needed a break; they’d pop out earbuds and engage me in a lovely conversation about their work.
During this time, I happened to chat with a gentleman who owned a building in Wynwood. Half joking and half serious, I told him that he should let my son paint on his building. He said no. I told him I was going to show him my son’s paintings (sue me, I’m a mom) and then he could tell me no again.
I showed him one photo that was a detail of a painting Mac had done. The owner glanced at the photo and without a second of hesitation said yes, Mac could paint a wall on his building. Still in shock, I was escorted by the owner to a wall that was, approximately sixty feet long and eighteen feet high. That’s a big wall.
After Mac wrapped work on his friends’ mural, he went by the wall. Other than a couple of markers, he had no supplies with him, we still had a lot of art to see, he really didn’t want to paint over the mural that was already there, and, like I said, the wall was big. The owner said that the mural on the wall had been up long enough. He said that either Mac could take the wall or he’d eventually give it to another artist. Mac contemplated the task ahead and finally decided to do it.
As Mac began to paint the next day, area artists began to stop by. One, needing a break from the tedium of his own project, helped paint for a bit. Another, discovering Mac had no ladders, offered up the ones he had used as he had finished his mural and no longer needed them. They chased off taggers after we left for the night and even buffed over tags. An artist from Atlanta who was in town for the fairs, spent half a day painting with Mac. They shared their work, admired his, shook hands, gave hugs and encouragement, and made sure Mac knew they had his back.
Each artist was as different and unique as their artwork. Some were quiet and reserved while others were boisterous and fun loving. Some wore clothes splattered with paint while others were crisp and paint free. While they came in all shapes and all sizes, I started to notice they had a few things in common.
They all had an intense love and respect not only for art, but also for the artist that created the work even if that work was unlike their own. They believed deeply in their artistic vision, in the work they were doing, and were proud of what they’d accomplished. In spite of this, they were incredibly and amazingly humble. Most importantly they were all about the work. They were in Miami to make art and before the fairs, the shows, the galleries, or the parties and fun happened they made sure they got the work done. They left no doubt that the work was their priority.
Others stopped by as well. There was the little French girl who theatrically threw up her arms loudly complaining for half a day that that she should have been the one painting the wall instead. There was the guy who periodically walked by and glared at Mac before returning to his mural. There were the people who roved the neighborhood with spray cans painting on and over any and everything they saw with no regard for property or the art that was already there. There were those that stopped by, telling Mac about all the parties they had attended, who they had met, and how hungover they were.
And as I watched all of this unfold, I realized there are artists and then there are assholes and it became crystal clear to me which camp I prefer.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against putting on a cute dress, eating nice food, and hanging out with interesting people. I’ve done it before and will do it again. When it’s all said and done, I hope that I’m remembered for more than just that.
I’m not an artist. But like the artists I met, I hope that I’m remembered for the love and passion I share, for the work I do, and for being the type of person who supports others on my path.
We planned that our time in Miami would be steeped in art work. Instead we spent our time steeped in artists. Steeped in the love and beauty and joy and support and respect that true artists have for themselves, their work, and others. For those of you who were part of our Miami experience, thank for reminding me what art and life are really all about. You remain in my heart.Read More
Lately my life has been full.
My oldest is home with all his worldly possessions after serving five years in the Marines. My middle has taken over the entire basement with his art studio. My youngest, who is wrapping up her last year of high school, is barely contained in her girly suite.
We have four cars with a fifth one in the plans and a two car garage. Getting in and out requires a game of musical cars from time to time. My and my husband’s home offices are buzzing with activity. Then there’s the holidays with extra food, decorations, and gifts being tucked away in every available crevice and corner.
I find myself holding onto things I normally don’t hold onto. Larger boxes to wrap Christmas presents, the set of dishes I haven’t used in several years, towels, pots and pans, and random glasses and bowls. I keep the two benches that don’t have a purpose, chairs that don’t match, a side table I no longer need, and picture frames, lots of picture frames. There’s a tangle of Christmas lights in a box and cache of gift wrap in the upstairs closet.
And I feel full, almost stuffed to uncomfortable. I itch to load it up and haul it away. To clear the rooms. To make space.
Then I remember.
The holidays will come and go and the larger boxes and extra food and gift wrap and tangle of lights will be put to good use. They will induce smiles and laughter. They will bring us together in ways we can’t yet imagine and in their wake create memories we will hold onto forever.
The oldest is making plans to go to college and get a house. He’ll leave taking all his worldly possessions plus one of the cars plus some of the towels and pots and pans and random chairs and picture frames. I hope he finds a need for a bench or two and will be grateful to see things I no longer need put to good use as he starts his new life in his new home.
The middle will move and the art studio that hums along with his creativity will once again become any empty labyrinth of rooms that I won’t traverse. He’ll take a car and a bed and a couch and a television. He’ll take the shelves that hold his cans of paint and the paint covered tables on which he works. The hum in the basement, the artistic energy, will dissipate leaving a void in it’s wake.
The youngest has college in her sites and will be moving into a dorm next fall. She’ll take a car, her clothes, and the futon from the basement. I anticipate that she’ll keep her room here, at least for another year or two, but the stuff she uses everyday will go with her and the room will be a place she visits on occasion and no longer a place that she lives.
And the rest? The things they don’t take? All that remains?
I will load it up and haul it away. I will clear the rooms. I will make space.
It will feel good and a little lonely and somewhat sad.
Full will not last forever.
So, I decide that today I going to overlook the clutter, I won’t worry over items crammed into crevices and corners, and I’m choosing to ignore the things that have not yet been put to good use. Today I’m playing musical cars with a smile as I walk past the shelves that are over flowing. Today I’m enjoying full.Read More
This post is really only for the person who finds themselves being swallowed by their possessions and who sincerely want to change their situation. If you’re happy just the way you are, by all means, carry on.
The first step to decluttering is to stop buying new stuff.
If we really want to get a handle on the stuff we have, we first have to stop adding to it. We have to commit for a month, a week, a day, that before purchasing anything new we will make sure that 1. we don’t already have one, that 2. we don’t have something else that can get the job done just as well, that 3. we can’t wait and make the purchase later, or that 4. we maybe, just maybe, can get by without the item.
Not buying stuff is challenging. Not running to the store to get that thing-we-are-convinced-will-make-our-lives-oh-so-much-better is a difficult habit to break. Making due is not always fun. Not distracting ourselves from the grind of our lives with a trip to the mall to look at pretty stuff and letting go of the high we get from the purchase isn’t easy. None of this is easy. I know first hand.
So, why should we stop buying new stuff?
We stop for the peace and clarity of mind that comes from knowing how much stuff we have and being able to find it when we need it. We stop because having less stuff means we have more money and more time to invest in the people and things in which we truly care. We stop because we want to live lives that are focused on people and experiences, not things.
Easier said than done? Always. A constant practice? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.Read More
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu
My daughter finally chose her dress for prom. A lovely black and gold number that I’m sure she’ll look stunning wearing. As she finalized the order, she realized she would need new shoes. She has a pair of strappy, silver heels, but they would clash with her dress.
It occurred to me that I might have exactly what she needed. Excitedly, I hurried to my closet and pulled two plastic shoe boxes down from the top shelf. Each box held one pair of shoes. These were my fancy shoes. Since we wear the same shoe size, one or the other should be perfect.
As she tried on the beautiful, beaded sandals, I had to agree, they would clash with her gown. She dubbed the black pointy-toed pumps “ugly,” She was right. They were ugly and not in the style of the minute.
Shoe shopping trip planned, I placed my fancy shoes back in their plastic boxes and tucked them neatly on the top shelf of my closet. Over the next few days, even though they were out of site, I couldn’t keep them out of mind. I questioned myself as to why I was holding onto these two pairs of shoes.
I couldn’t honestly remember the last time I had worn either pair, and even after careful thought, I had no idea where I had bought them or how long I had owned them. I tried on both pairs again and teetered around the house to my husband’s amusement. Neither pair was the least bit comfortable.
Since they were in good repair and I have the space to store them, I argued (with myself) that I should hold onto them just in case something comes up. Every girl needs a pair or two of fancy shoes, right? Finally, I had to admit that in reality if something did come up, I would probably go out and just buy a new pair of shoes.
I’m a professional organizer, and while I’m sentimental, I’ve never even come close to being a hoarder. I throw things that are damaged or stained in the trash. I happily give away items that others can use. I’m on a first name basis with the employees at my favorite donation center. I encourage my clients to do the same.
In the past six months, I’ve redone every closet in my house, my pantry, and the garage carefully scrutinizing every item in each of these places. Tools, hardware, linens, kitchen ware, clothes, pictures, and decor were sorted through and those items we no longer needed were donated, sold, or trashed.
So, as I contemplated my fancy shoes, the ones that made the cut just a few months before, I had to ask myself why I held onto them. Even though they were in perfect shape and even though I had space, there really was no reason.
Then, it occurred to me that if I let them go, I would have extra space in my closet. An entire eight inches of emptiness. Excited, I racked my brain trying to think of what I could put there in place of the shoes, but nothing came to mind.
I realized that I would have to leave the space empty and that is when a deep, deep discomfort swept over my entire body and a knot slowly began to form in my stomach.
I know that in order to bring new, better, and right into your life you have to let go of old, lessor, and wrong. My mantra for the past five years has been “letting go…embracing change.” Yet, here I was with a death grip on two pairs of fancy shoes terrified of the eight measly inches of empty space on the top shelf of my closet that I couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to immediately fill.
I breathed deep. I settled into the discomfort. I stayed with it until it passed.
The next day, I tried on each pair of shoes one last time to confirm that they were indeed uncomfortable and out of date. Then I walked them to the dining room table and placed them there to donate.
I wondered what other things I had overlooked in my recent purge. As I poked through closets and cupboards, more and more items were added. The nearly new red shoes that I promise are filled with invisible razors and make me cry in pain at the very thought of even putting them on for one second, the plastic cup from the car dealership that nobody in my family will ever use, and several pillow cases, their mates lost long ago.
As I pulled each unneeded item, I made an empty space, and each time I felt the discomfort rise in my body, I breathed through it.
I keep going because I know that it is only in the empty space, in the quiet silent moments, in the free fall that begins the minute we let go of old things, old feelings, old thoughts, and old ideas that change can happen.
I’m making space and holding the emptiness sacred and waiting patiently for the change.
– Want to join in? We’d love to have you. Use #making_space and post photos of what you’re letting go of. If you want to see what else I get rid of, please feel free to follow me on Instagram or Facebook. If you’d like to receive updates in your inbox, you can subscribe using the box on your right. –
“All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation only good will come. I am safe.” – Louise Hay
Yesterday, I woke up early and I sat in the pre-dawn hours, cup of turmeric tea close at hand, working on my May calendar. This monthly calendar ritual has become a favorite of mine. Frustrated with the limitations of every “time-keeping organizations” system on the market, I eschewed them all and created my own.
It’s a time consuming task, but I love it. Using a Moleskin, I carefully write each day and date on the top of each right hand page. Then on the top left side of every single page I write a daily affirmation. Finally, I fill in appointments I’ve already confirmed for the month leaving a space to list my accomplishments for that day.
I also have a monthly calendar pages for appointments and to help with long range planing. I tuck both into a leather portfolio given to me many years ago by a mentor. The the smell of the leather, the sound of the pen scratching out the details of my life, and the turning of each page filled with promise for the future centers me.
The night before my husband and I had a long talk. He has lovingly supported and encouraged me to find my path. I’ve been searching for my direction, but after several false starts (via career paths that were not good fits for me), it would be fair to say I’m a bit cautious. I don’t want to end up investing time and energy into something else that in the end does not ring true.
So for the past few years, I’ve treaded lightly. I’ve looked, listened, and contemplated. I’d like to be able to say that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt where I’ll end up, but I can’t. Not, yet. But things are getting clearer. I’m beginning to own my truth.
In addition, we’ve been able to set things up at home so that I can guiltlessly take more time to delve into these interests I’m pursuing. My responsibility gene is large. It’s difficult for me to pull away from that which I think I need to do and focus on that which I was put here to do. My husband was adament, “if not now, then when?”
I knew he was right.
So, I gave myself permission to lean in a bit. I decided I would take the time and invest. I made appointments with myself to learn and explore. It was scary but exhilarating, and as I finished planning out the month it felt right…very, very, right.
Literally at the moment I closed my May Moleskin feeling braver and more convicted then I ever had, my phone rang. It was my husband. One of key pieces we had in place allowing me to guiltlessly take more time to delve into these interests I’m pursuing had fallen away.
I tried to stay in gratitude, but I was livid. At the exact moment that I leaned in, the bottom fell out. I spent a most of the day racking my mind for a back-up plan, that is when I wasn’t fighting back tears or ranting about the unfairness of it all.
It was not some of my finest moments.
I capped the day with a bit of bad TV, then crawled into bed exhausted. I woke up this morning still angry. Normally I meditate first. Today, I checked my email and popped onto Facebook for a few minutes to make sure everyone was safe and sound.
Then I meditated.
I could hear my dogs, who are always close, breathing gently. I could feel the warmth of their bodies. I allowed all the thoughts, all the feelings, all the hurt and anger and confusion to drain from my body and as I sat, empty, I realized that key piece in place or not, nothing had really changed.
There’s always going to be a bump or a wrinkle to work around. Life is in flux. Life is always in flux. Always.
I just have to stay my course. I have to stay in gratitude. I have to accept what is. I have to keep moving forward in spite of the fear…that’s called brave.
So, that’s the plan. Whether the bottom is there or not, it doesn’t matter. The details always work themselves out. I’m staying focused. I’m moving forward.Read More
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther
Lately, I find myself faced with an endless to-do list that in spite of my best efforts just keeps growing. It’s all good stuff. First world problem kind of stuff. It’s just that there’s a lot of it and for every thing I’m able to cross off, I end up adding two or seven or ten new things. We all have busier times. I assumed that after a week or two, things would ease up. Sadly, they haven’t and weeks later this list of things I need to take care of just keeps getting bigger.
I’ve tried breaking tasks down into smaller chunks. I’ve tried scheduling tasks to a specific date and time. I’ve tried making a master to-do list. I’ve even tried delegating. While each of these strategies has it’s merit and some items were completed, many more are still left undone.
The worst part of all this is how I feel. I feel guilty that I can’t seem manage it all. I feel stressed about the magnitude of what I’m facing. I really want to schedule these appointments and run these errands and make the calls. I really want to finish my docent tour and gallery talk for the art museum and wrap up my EFT certification. I really want to join the class and paint the bookshelf and have lunch with my friend and write. No matter how hard I work, how much I do, there’s just more at the end of each day and I end up feeling like some incompetent looser.
I wasn’t surprised when the crash came. The alarm went off that morning and I just crawled back into bed. I couldn’t do it. Not that day. I stared at the bare branches outside. I contemplated the quagmire in which I found myself. I asked for guidance.
Then I got up and did some laundry. I cleaned my son’s room, hung a rack in my daughter’s closet, and fed the dogs. I sorted through items in the garage and changed the cat liter. I had tea with a friend and chatted with another online. I watched a movie and a television show. I waited for divine intervention.
Finally, it came.
And I realized that I really just needed to let it all go. The answer is not in doing more. It’s in focusing on doing more of the right things. I realized then and there that I needed to redouble my efforts with the important, if I was to have any chance at getting a grip on this crazy making to-do list.
So, I decided that instead of thinking about what I was grateful for, I would write it down. Instead of meditating once a day, I would do it twice. I committed to walking an hour instead of my normal thirty minutes and doubling my time on the yoga mat as well. I promised that every single time I felt the least bit of stress or overwhelm, I would stop and tap. I decided I’d continue to focus on family and friends. I vowed to pray for guidance and pay attention to the signs instead of going it alone.
I realized for me, the best strategy to get a grasp on the overwhelm is to dedicate myself to those practices that strengthen my connection with spirit and honor this earthly existence. A to-do list has it’s place, and I need to keep mine in it’s proper place. I need to remember and focus on what’s most important. I’m trusting if I can do that, everything else will fall into place.Read More