Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ask the Angels

On my birthday this year, I received a pack of angel cards from a dear family member of mine. The box prompts you to choose a card on your birthday. The word on the card will overlight your year. 

I thought about it a moment, surrounded by family and friends and laughter and warmth, chose a card in the middle of the deck, and pulled out the word love. I felt a chord strike in my heart.

Very recently, exes and past lovers have been coming out of the woodwork. Boys I never thought I would hear from again, telling me things I desperately wanted to hear when our relationships ended. Now, the words ring like tin in my ears and taste like pennies in my mouth. Am I suspicious of these boys and their motives? Am I doubtful of their words? Am I convinced I am undeserving?

I am not any of these things. I am someone learning the hard lesson of loving themselves, of learning that acceptance and balance doesn't come from outside, but within. I spoke before of the catalyst that would make everything right in the world, and how it does not exist. The rhythms that move the world move me with them, and I am a different person than I was when I was in these relationships. I choose to not let my suspicion and doubt get the best of me. I choose to accept these sentiments with grace, even if I can't reciprocate, and I choose to let go. I trust that the person or persons I'm supposed to grow with will appear, seemingly out of thin air, like they always do.

So for the year, I wish for myself and all of you, that love infuse your life. There are many shades of love, and I hope all of them refuse to dim as the seasons pass. If you believe in angels, I wish for them to bring you your chosen vision of love. Here is to peace, health and light in the new year.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

And We Can Act Like We Come From Out of This World

I've been going to a 60's Northern soul dance party once a month in Seattle for almost four years now. My first night, I was nervous and didn't know quite what to do with my arms. I felt the music run through my body, shooting through my limbs like lightning, and I fell into the rhythm, my shoulders moving in time with my feet and my hands occasionally moving the hair out of my face. Every time I return, the dance feels natural and joyous. I get lost in the moment of sweet sweat and electric endorphins. 

A photo of me in reverie next to one of my best sister friends appeared in an alternative weekly recently. I think it captures exactly what I feel on the dance floor. Wrapped up in the moment like a cocoon, a smile creeping up the sides of my mouth, trying to catch the lights on my skin and take them with me. 

I recently discovered a new love: square dancing! Every two weeks in the neighborhood I live in, a bar hosts a square dancing night. A live band plays straw bale rhythms and a caller lilts out the directions. People are incredibly forgiving when you mess up, and it is the only time I've seen adult strangers grab each other's hands and laugh and spin, unabashedly happy. As I was swung by my partners, I felt like I was flying.

This is my love letter to dancing: the physical expression of joy, the slick sweat, the crush of bodies, the heartbeat bass, the way I feel when I spin fast and can feel the world spinning with me. Thank you. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Quite the Opposite?

Those who live within their means suffer from a lack of imagination – Oscar Wilde 

I don't mean to tarnish the memory of Mr. Wilde, (I've paid my respects), but when I saw this quote, I couldn't help but disagree strongly. Yes, things were much, much different in his time, but I saw this quote on a bottle of fragrance sticks in a bathroom in my office building, so the sentiment must still ring true for some people. 

I would say, were I a wild author, that those who live within their means are masters of their imagination and know how to craft and create in ways that respect, nourish, and hearten. It is so easy to live outside our means. Most of us carry a small piece of plastic that grants us access to things we can't afford and lifestyles too big and fast to keep up with.  As we move into an economy that forces us to make choices and possibly go without that third flat screen for the basement, we are re-learning how to live within the small window of universe we were blessed with. 

This doesn't mean embellishment doesn't have a place in the window, but those embellishments are starting to look different. Homemade, handcrafted, presented with intention and love. And those elements require some degree of imagination, don't they? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Little Corners of my New World

Moving has certainly made it difficult to post regularly, but I am now settling into a routine and able to carve out a little time to write and respond. There are still boxes everywhere, and we're waiting on our dinner table made from the gym floor of a local high school, but this place already feels warm and inviting. I love coming home to people, sharing our days, sharing meals, or sharing the quiet. It feels like  a simple pairing of comfort and consistency as I seep my spirit into the corners of my new world. 

And I've had this song stuck in my head for days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Everyday Phenomenon

Once, when I was walking to work and talking to my mother on the phone, I looked up in the sky and saw this:

It was a strange beam of light that wasn't moving. I said, "Hold on, Mom, it looks like the sky has a hole in it." 

I stood and stared for bit, wondering what it could possibly be. A falling satellite? A rocket shooting into space so far away it appeared to be still? I couldn't for the life of me figure it out. I let it sit in my mind as a strange phenomenon, a crazy coincidence of light and sky that created that magic just for me. 

I walked ahead a few blocks and looked up again. It turns out it was the morning sun reflecting off a building behind a thick curtain of fog. The fog had cleared and the reflection was now blinding. I looked back down to the concrete sidewalk stretched out in front of me. 

While the strange bolt in the sky didn't turn out to be aurora borealis or frozen lightning, it reminded me that we can experience wonderful, ethereal and breath-snatching things in the everyday, if we just look up once in a while. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How Do You Feel the Fear?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. – Almost every woman in my family at one point or another

Today I am moving from my tiny, one-person studio in a conveniently located part of town to a four-bedroom farm house with three other people in a much more residential neighborhood. I feel a lot of anxiety and fear around the move. I am afraid of letting go of the conveniences around me (close co-op grocery store, quick bus ride to work). I am afraid of being uncomfortable living with other people. I am afraid of not everyone being happy all the time and feeling (imagined) pressure to fix it. I am afraid I am making a mistake. 

I was speaking to a friend about the move, sharing my fears of not being able to walk to a grocery store in two minutes if I forget an ingredient for dinner, and co-habitating with people who may not like me. He told me that, right out of high school, the band he played with moved into "the band house." They turned the living room into a soundproof studio, instruments and equipment spilling over into the kitchen and hallways. It had been their dream: state-of-the-art equipment available 24/7 to make music and do what they loved best. But he found that suddenly, the appeal was gone. What was once something so rare and precious ("We have an hour before my mom gets home to make all the noise we can!") had lost its sheen. He found his love for music again once he moved out of the house. You've probably heard him here, here and here

I know I will be letting go of a lot of convenience when I leave this apartment, and what I am feeling now is a fear of the unknown. But, I have made a choice to be more intentional. This move forces me to be more deliberate, more conscious, and is a step towards crafting the life that I want: one forged from my hands and heart. So the things I used to do regularly out of convenience will require more preparation and thought. And that is more than okay. It is brilliantly good. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cantor and Choir

There's something exciting about so many people being quiet all at once. You can quote me on that. –Compline Companion  

Sunday evening, I attended Compline service for the first time. We entered into the cavernous cathedral, the steady quiet pressing on our ears, and took our seats on the outer wall. People filled the pews, sat leaning against that skyscraper columns, and laid down on the floor on blankets and pillows. It was not an uncomfortable silence—there was a wholeness to it. 

When the men in the Compline Choir started singing, I felt their voices gently vibrate my spine and I was moved to tears. The sound was so much bigger than me, than all all the people, than the cathedral. I felt small and connected, grateful for the sounds enveloping me. It was a really great way to start my week, reminding me that, despite potential challenges ahead, there is something moving above and beyond me, willing me back to its open arms when I stray too far and and get lost in my head.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is It Instinct?

Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity. – Coco Chanel 

Once, when I was in a visioning group for a client of mine, working with them to determine a vision for the organization's future, a participant said, "What has come out of the recession is a yearning for the authentic, the real. People are wary of investing time and money into the typical. They want something human." 

This comment struck a chord with me and made my mind rapid fire. It is a trend I recognized but had not articulated. Because we don't have a massive amount of imaginary capital, we have to be smarter about our choices to as to not waste resources. We are finite, yet our actions have infinite implications. When we follow our desire for authenticity, we reap the benefits of more human connection, less bullshit to wade through,  and a knowledge that our actions made a difference. If it isn't instinct telling us to be more human, what is it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Can Create Our Own Sunshine

I had the great pleasure of spending an afternoon with one Miss Erin Dooley, coworker, friend, and bright sprite of a woman. She and I have been working together for a year and a half now, and having shared many lunchtime conversations about food and happiness, we decided to make a meal together.

First, a tour of her lovely apartment. I am moving to a new house soon, so I took note of her impeccable abode, and marveled at her pretty cool view.

We went to the market to pick up ingredients for red lentil dahl soup. This is Erin's standby recipe:

2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp tumeric 
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 ilb 4 oz canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
1 cup red lentils
2tsp lemon juice
2 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper
chopped coriander (cilantro) and lemon slices, to garnish 

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan and saute and the garlic and onion to 2–3 minutes, stirring. Add the spices and cook for further 30 seconds. 

2. Stir in the tomatoes, red lentils, lemon juice, vegetable stock and coconut milk and bring to a broil. 

3. Reduce heat and simmer for 25–30 minutes until lentils are tender and cooked. 

4. Season to taste and garnish. 

The dahl soup warmed us down to our toes and tasted like what I imagine the sun in India tastes like: heavy, hot and tinged with silky sweet. Eating the meal, sitting on the floor and listening to the tinkling of gamelan music, was as much of a joy as preparing the meal. Thank you thank you, Erin, for sharing your space and talents with me! Check out Erin's clothing line, Unity People, a company aimed to "provide you with clothing that represents cultural unity." Love all around. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Which Words Will You Use?

One kind word can warm up three winter months. – Japanese proverb 

It is not yet winter, but I feel the descending darkness weighing heavy on my mind. Winters in the Northwest didn't used to be hard. I was too consumed by school work and part time jobs to even notice. But now I can freely admit that the weather affects me. 

I received a card the other day from a friend who moved away recently. He said, "Sometimes I wonder at what luck earned me your friendship. Whatever the source, I certainly cherish it." Those words struck me in a way I hadn't felt in a while, the way I can only describe as hot tea melting into my chest, filling me with warmth until my cheeks glow. He and I have shared countless cups of tea and coffee, and I am grateful for these words that will certainly help carry me through the winter months. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Liberating the World from Bad Music!

When I'm at a concert, preferably in a crush of people and usually with my eyes closed, I like to think the bass line is echoing my heartbeat. Music has soundtracked my life, and I had the great privilege of being raised by two people who spent their formative years surrounding themselves by great music in the heart of the rock scene in Los Angeles, and who educated my brother and I from an early age. (Example:  Buddy Holly is the true king of rock and roll, never go to a Rolling Stones concert unless it's a free ticket, and Jethro Tull showed the world that the flute could really rock.) Music has the power to transform moments into miracles, connect us in ways that we didn't ponder possible. It really does change lives. 

I have the great pleasure of working closely with KEXP, a public radio station on the dial in Seattle and around the world at, whose mission is to champion music and discovery. A local filmmaker recently directed a short documentary about the Seattle music scene titled "Something in the Water," to accompany the premier of Cameron Crowe's "Pearl Jam 20" on PBS. The doc features KEXP, along with other local institutions Experience Music Project and Sub Pop, and the music of Shabazz Palaces, Pickwick, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and the Head and the Heart. Check out the trailer below, and watch the entire thing here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

But What Is Success?

A path to success is not paved with good intentions, but with good intentions that are carried out.

I used to think success was finding that one thing that would be the catalyst for all other things in my life to fall into place—the perfect partner, the dream job, the stellar apartment. But there is no snake oil fix for the unpredictability of life. There cannot be one single thing that will make breath in and say, "Ah, there it is, the life I've been searching for," because there are always variables.

Instead, I want to look at the path as a series of adventures, lessons to be learned, experience to dive into head first with eyes wide open. Can't success be the toe-curling, arms-to-the-sky, full-throated rebel yell celebration of the path itself?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

So When the Sun Starts Rising and the City's Awake

Legend has it that the founding members of Houses, Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina, were fired from and quit their jobs at a large corporate chain store in Chicago, moved to Hawaii where they lived with little electricity and running water, and made music. What resulted is an anthem for experiential living—a call to pause and soak it all in, backed by ethereal beats and what sounds like echoing tennis balls. Their first full-length album, All Night, was released a year ago October 19 and is still going strong. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This Must Be the Place

How did I get here? It all started when I was I gnashing on and on about my life to my cousin—the long hours at my job, the lack of motivation I felt for everyday tasks, the steady march towards death with the promise of a modest 401k. Her response was, “There’s always the farm.”

I thought she was suggesting sending me to a farm where I could run free with other burnt out young professionals, like the fabled family dog. But she was in fact referring to a farm in Northern California where her daughter was living and working. She suggested I take some time off and visit. Her daughter was more than welcome to the idea, and after an airplane flight and stop at the thrift store to pick up work clothes, I found myself in a place where the heat hugged instead of smothered and I was surrounded by evergreen soldiers for miles.

For almost a week, myself and seven others lived in the rhythm with the earth. We woke with the sun, rested with the animals, and worked with the crops to harvest and plant. I was most often barefoot in the kitchen, preparing meals with ingredients that came within a few acres of the house. Butternut squash and granny smith apple soup, tomatillo sauce and potato enchiladas with handmade tortillas, lacto-fermented jalapeƱos using the whey from the goat cheese I had made earlier. Mealtime was a chorus of thank you’s back and forth. Sometimes, if it was early enough, after dinner we’d go back out to the acres and tend to the crops.

As I came down off the mountain, I tried to gather all of my memories and lessons in my head. I’ve crumpled back into my city life in the Northwest and my shoulders tighten when I think of my habits—mindless consumption, convenience, isolation. We live in a world of boundless imagination, creativity, purpose, and potential. Why was I not partaking? Why was I not contributing? What was my intention?

Mindfulness and communion take time and energy, things I was convinced I did not have enough of. In reality, I was making choices that limited my time and energy, and therefore my happiness and satisfaction. For example, two things I enjoy immensely are singing and cooking. By choosing to snap shut in my iPod isolation on the rushed bus ride home, pick up a frozen pizza at the grocery store (from the natural food section, but still), and cook and eat it while refreshing Facebook, I’ve limited my chances to savor and enjoy anything. Instead, I make the choice to walk home and spend some time in unfiltered air, stop at the co-op to see and talk with the familiar faces of the cashiers and pick up ingredients, take everything to my tiny kitchen, put on some music and sing while I prepare myself a meal made from whole foods. The meal is a joy to make, a treat to eat, and the energy I get from the locally sourced, organic produce is beyond anything that comes wrapped in cardboard and plastic. I feel satisfied and motivated to do it all again the next day.

The choices I make are not novel, they’re natural. And people all over the world are making the same choices. This blog is a series of meditations and interviews on intentional living and creative consumption. There is a spirit that is driving us to be active and conscious, to connect with each other and ask questions. Recent fiscal years have taught us that the status quo isn’t working, and only a select few win if you play the game right. What are the alternatives, and why do they have to be considered “alternative”?

Do you have ideas? Stories? Questions? Email me and let's talk. I have no answers, only habits I am trying to get into to make my eco footprint a little smaller, my life a little richer. Let's work together if you're doing the same.

With love,