Guest Post by Kim W.
In June, I went to France and I didn't eat very much cheese. This is ridiculous because within the geographical borders of France you will find a high concentration of the things I hold most dear:
- Wine. The national motto is Liberté, Egalité, Drunkité
- Language. A beautiful language that I hack to bits with my wicked Franglais. (NB: "Drunkité" is not a word.)
- Food. Cheese, chocolate, pastries, bread, truffles, more cheese.
I went to France with the express goal of eating my face off, but I didn't. It was really hard to undo years of turning down dessert and making 'sensible eating choices'. I couldn't shake the rules I'd created for myself.
Too many pit stops at the office candy bowl? No problem. Candy bowl entirely off limits.
Caloric intake too high? Only coffee at coffee shops, nothing else. Stop drinking calories (alcohol excluded, of course). Don't go shopping without a list of things you actually need. Don't even step foot into a store you can't afford. Don't sing and/or dance unless everyone else is also singing and/or dancing.
It's easier to walk the straight and narrow with a few little boundaries. Don't do this, don't do that. Just some bumpers to keep me from throwing a gutter ball every time.
But the innocent guidelines start to add up to something not so helpful. In his description of Netflix culture, CEO Reed Hastings says that any successful company must avoid "barnacles" that can slow down a fast-moving business. It should also make tough decisions without agonizing, and focus on great results rather than the process.
I've been collecting barnacles, collecting process. Agonizing over whether or not to eat the cheese.
I've even collected barnacles when it comes to writing. I already wrote this post once, actually. It fell into the exact same format as all my posts for TGL. Notice the seemingly unrelated anecdote at the top, followed quickly by a bulleted list? (Throw in a teensy joke in a parenthesis.) And let's not forget the overall cautious tone, because God knows who's reading this, and I don't want to offend anyone, and things on the internets last forever. It's hard to escape your habits.
In "Several Short Sentences About Writing", Verlyn Klinkenborg doles out a hit parade of advice that ostensibly relates to prose, but easily doubles as advice on living life:
Writers at every level of skill experience the tyranny of what exists.
I scrapped the post and started over. Well, scrapped the last half, at least. I really do love bulleted lists.
Then, I went to a concert. Even though I don't normally go to concerts because they're loud, scary places where the appropriate level of singing and/or dancing isn't immediately clear. But it was one of my favorite bands, complete with a tiny, adorable, French female vocalist. Towards the end of the show she did something pretty standard for a concert - asking for audience participation. She asked everyone to close their eyes and feel the beat. I expected her to end with an imperative like, "Dance!" or "Jump!", but instead, she encouraged everyone to, "Close your eyes... feel the beat... now do whatever you want!"
So I did. I danced like an idiot, came home, ate some dessert, and wrote about shedding barnacles.
Trish and I were chatting the other day about how stressful packing for vacation can be. I always seem to go overboard on clothes that I don't even touch, or worse, I don't have what I need. So we decided to team up for her upcoming vacation. Trish emailed me the itinerary for her trip, I checked the weather, and started digging through her closet. Trish had just purchased a few pieces from my store - Heritage Row, that she wanted to bring on her trip, and the rest was sitting in her closet!
With lots of walking, and potential coo coo temperature changes, Trish had a few outfit requests:
I would love to answer any of your style questions or even help you pack! Check out Heritage Row's Facebook page for your style inspiration!
I used to say that expression to my elementary school aged YMCA summer-campers when they would inevitably drop half of their pb&j's, Popsicles, goldfish, etc on the dirt inside our picnic tents. The point was to make them giggle in the midst of their disappointment, which they almost always did, before popping said dirt-covered treat in their mouths. Although, I probably shouldn't be too smug about my giggle producing capabilities, considering this was a crowd that also got a rise out of my announcing "Arts & Crafts" time as "Farts and Crafts" time...but I digress.
A few weeks ago I spent a sunny afternoon helping my coworker pick out and re-pot a handful of window-box friendly plants. It was so lovely...calming, even...having my hands in the dirt, gently placing tiny, green (and sometimes spikey! succulents are the new, hip houseplants, ya'll) treasures into his various planters. I am grateful he requested my assistance and flattered he trusted my nature-in-the-home knowledge with the task.
Allow me to humble brag about my green thumb: Once, in elementary school, our class planted corn seeds in Dixie cups as part of a science unit. Most of the kids threw their cups away at the end of that lesson, tiny green sprouts of life and all, but I decided to take mine home to re-plant in the family garden. It's not often that you'll find just one standing alone, but wouldn't you know that single stalk of corn grew up to my 2nd story bedroom window and ended up yielding 2 ears of edible corn cobs! They weren't the prettiest, juiciest or most flavorful corn cobs in Jersey...but they were a much loved product of my youthful care. I was (am!) so proud of that gardening feat.
The point of all this succulent/corn/God made dirt talk is that I think sometimes city living has a way of distancing us...me, specifically...from the earth in a way that is a bit sad; trading in an actual jungle (hell, even just a basic backyard) for a concrete one, if you will, certainly has its disadvantages. Cities are, from top to bottom, made by man. And man has a way of being immensely ego driven, superficial, controlling and afraid. The natural world, however, is the realest of real in its purest form. Which means it is not only perfect exactly the way it is--intuitive, intelligent and authentic to its core, but it is accepting of what it is. It evolves as it needs to. It adapts. It goes with an actual flow of life and it is free. Oh my gosh. It is so, so free.
But man is as much a part of the Universe and this Earth as the plants, animals and ecosystems in the deepest of jungles (and the smallest of window boxes), and I think it would benefit our world to never forget that. To trust our instincts, to trust the process; to take care of one another and this planet, tune into our spirits (pipe down, ego!) and be who we are in our purest forms. To live simply, but deliberately. And to be free.
I'm not exactly suggesting you make dirt the latest topping of choice on your snacks and I'm certainly not looking down on those of us who dwell within a bustling city vs. a farm full of corn (I LOVE SF), but I am hoping we'll each remember to tune into that side of our beings that really thrives in its connection to Mama Earth from time to time. I'm hoping we'll remember how good it feels to be outside, hands in the soil, feet in the water, face to the sun (wearing SPF, of course). I'm hoping we will do this for ourselves because God made dirt and darlings, dirt don't hurt.
love and light,
My favorite thing about writing on The Grateful Life is how it has allowed me to connect with folks around the world on some of my favorite topics; love, life, relationships, faith, kindness and of course, gratitude.
When Heather reached out to me asking for tips on how to get her Kickstarter project of creating a children's book on gratitude off the ground, I immediately pitched in to help make this great idea happen. Kids + reading + gratitude education? Seriously, no brainer. Count me in!
Heather shares a bit of her story, here:
"A year ago I was inspired to change my life.
Before last year I had never heard of cultivating gratitude, having an attitude of gratitude, or keeping a gratitude journal. Positive Psychology was a new idea for me, but instantly I wanted to live a life focused on the positive. I wanted to be a more grateful person.
I started My Gratitude Journals because I wanted a keepsake gratitude journal for my daughter. I felt that we were spending a lot of quality time talking and writing about gratitude and I wanted to treasure her entries in a cute journal just for her grateful moments.
My daughter is five and she loves drawing in her keepsake gratitude journal. She looks forward to the time we spend writing in our journals and reflecting on blessings.
To help my daughter learn more about being grateful I created a lift-the-flap board book called “My Grateful Day”. I was inspired by UC Davis Professor Robert Emmons book, “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier”, where he suggested looking at life through a lens of gifts and giftedness.
I believe my daughter is becoming more aware of what others are doing for her and I think that by practicing gratitude together and reading books about being grateful together has made our time together so much more meaningful.
I am thankful for Tricia sharing her gratitude in this blog and I appreciate her years of dedication to storing up such positive moments."
Congrats, Heather, on publishing your first children's book!! Your message is so lovely and authentic--your children are lucky to have a Mama like you who helps them learn to cultivate gratitude every day. There is hope for our future generations, yet!
I think I speak for all Grateful Lifers in saying we wish you and your family all the best!
love and light,
After I played "butter" in our hundredth game of Words With Friends, I received the following message from B:
...any guy who can (and will) quote Mean Girls to me instantly gets I-have-a-crush-on-you bonus points.
Awesome vegan and gluten free chocolate cake-brownies courtesy of my Pal(trow?), Gwyenth's recipe book. I was super surprised at how well these turned out considering I can barely bake box-mix brownies. Hooray for another successful It's All Good cooking session!
Confession: I am a bit of a hoarder.
Except, I like to think of myself as more a sentimental saver who struggles with parting from even the smallest items tied to a person, place, or memory. Hoarder just sounds so...disturbing. And I mean if you've ever seen an actual episode of A&E's "Hoarders", I am practically a minimalist (this logic helps me sleep at night, so we'll go with it).
What started out as just a casual lady date with Kim (I adore the happy salad photo of her you see to the left; it's like she's praying for veggies and voila! manifesting mama.) turned into a major closet(s) over-haul that left me feeling cleaner, neater, more organized and lighter. Freer, even. And free is always my most desired state of being.
Let me summarize how it all played out:
* Ran into the always lovely and luminous Jan, recruited (read: suckered) her into hanging out (read: cleaning).
* Let's just do my Christmas stuff today, I said. This step alone will help me.
* Realized I had...no joke...9 Christmas stockings (one for each of Santa's reindeer, maybe?).
* Upon horrifying stocking realization, caved to the ladies firm but loving encouragement to dig deeper into my closets.
* And dig deeper we did.
While it turned out to be quite the giggle filled process (me wearing my First Holy Communion veil the whole time and trying to "gift" things to Jan and Kim...aka pawn clothes, jewels, stationary, etc off on them...for example), it also was a bit revealing. Much of the clutter came from sentimental items that weren't actually as sentimental as I once believed them to be--things from people who no longer played a positive role in my life, or from periods of my 29 years that frankly were serving as a reminder of unhappiness more than anything else. As each cardboard box was opened, the "keep" pile being neatly placed in new, plastic storage bins and the "please-don't-keep-no-seriously-why-god-do-you-have-this" into Goodwill bags, I couldn't help but wonder why I had been holding on to so much unnecessary stuff...most of which I didn't even realize was still living at the bottom of these boxes. Am I slightly masochistic? Do I struggle with letting go? Am I hiding away discomfort to "not have to deal with it" right now? Do I harbor guilt in giving away old gifts or items I fear I'll need someday? WHAT IF THE PERSON WHO GAVE ME THIS 8 YEARS AGO ASKS TO SEE IT (in a hushed voice: even though I haven't seen them in 6)?!
The answer is probably a mix of yes's to these questions and others.
But that's not really what I want to make a point of in this post. What I really want to say is that my favorite part of this process was spending the whole afternoon with Kim and Jan. Like two little mamas, they each patiently listened, efficiently re-folding t-shirts and re-bubble wrapping ornaments, as I told the stories that came up for me (both joyful and not so joyful) as each new storage bin was filled and sealed. They teased me for having an envelope labeled "calculator batteries", but not having a calculator (I know. I don't know.). They didn't make me feel badly for wanting to keep certain things (this is my Disney princess coloring book I use to de-stress therefore hush and put it in the craft bin) and they celebrated when I released others. They grouped and labeled and laughed with me.
I felt supported. I felt encouraged. I felt loved--All things I have made a point to seek out in my relationships here in California, to feel worthy of, and to hopefully give back in exchange.
So I've got double the closet space now, thanks to these two little mamas with the big hearts. I've got double the ability to welcome in the new, double the breathing room and double the sense of freedom from clutter because of their supremely kind efforts.
I've still got 4 Christmas stockings....
...but I've got double the reasons to continue feeling grateful for the SF family I've built for myself; for the little mamas who lift my spirits and, on a random Saturday, will help me get my apartment's shit together.
love and light,
Lovely 4th of July spent with my friend and favorite yoga teacher (or sensei, as B likes to call her)...she was a good sport about our attempt to "prom pose" in front of the Bay Bridge ;) "Sheryl Sandberg says to lean in, Lindsay! So just let it happen!". Hope you all had happy and safe celebrations, too!