Thursday, October 22, 2015


here is a great word, just in from an alert reader, that can help prepare us for winter!  it's "hygge" and is danish for an overall sense of well-being.

more specifically, it has to do with a mindset of coziness, of being together.  danes are known as the happiest people on the planet and much of that comes with their collective practice of not rushing, of lighting candles and knowing how to really be together as friends and family.

hyggeligt can be an adjective or a noun, as in a place that is known for stopping and resting.  i don't know about you, but this word helps me look forward to the colder months!  what are some ways you can hygge and join the happiest country on earth?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

sesame + lilies

one of my favorite stores at cannon beach is sesame + lilies.  they have everything from french antiques and leather goods to fine perfumes and linens. 

the other day i happened upon a book of essays and opened it to discover that their store had the same name as some writings of john ruskin.  he wrote "sesame and lilies" about the treasuries of kings and beauty of queens.

ruskin (1819-1900), an english art critic during the victorian era, was a prolific author.  he wrote on a vast array of subjects including geology, architecture, botany and economics.  he himself was a patron of the arts as well as a watercolor artist and philanthropist. 

the owners of sesame + lilies were featured in a recent cannon beach travel magazine and so i emailed them about the connection between their store and john ruskin.  sure enough, the naming was as intentional as their merchandising choices and lovely home on the oregon coast.

to learn more about their store, you can visit sesame + lilies

Thursday, October 15, 2015

more design thinking for your day

while i do enjoy making things i have a certain level of skill in, i learn so much more when i create in a foreign medium!

like the time i took a welding lesson from a friend of mine who is a master.  every step was a huge learning curve for me.  he is a great teacher and even found good things to say about my "finished product" which was too kind for what i ended up with.

or the time i learned to drill candle-sized holes in wood for christmas gifts.  a different, but again very patient teacher.  he got an ice pack for me when i thought i had nearly cut my thumb off.  (turns out, i just badly bruised the nail).  

creative thinking says "take up an interest in something you know nothing about".  so in the spirit of that, i signed up for a glass fusing class.  i'll let you know how it goes!  

what is outside your realm of expertise that you've been wanting to try?  go for it and tell us the story...

Monday, October 12, 2015

another day

being human, we hold this tension:  being at once amazing one-of-a-kind creatures of inestimable value with flashes of eternity inside our bones AND living daily life shared with billions of others just like us on the planet.

we walk this line between living each moment and appreciating it as if it were our last AND the routine of living and knowing we'll probably keep right on eating, sleeping, shopping, driving, cleaning and cooking (and doing all those things that are never done and come back around again and again) for hopefully a very long and enjoyable time here.  i thought about all of this in early morning while pruning back the old raspberry canes for fall to make room for the new shoots.

for example, there was this amazing sunset last night and, when i was out and about, i looked over to see what i thought was a lady capturing it with her camera.  this gave a feeling of universal kinship with nature until, upon closer inspection, i noticed she was actually taking a selfie with her phone while smoking a cigarette in front of a thrift store.  it didn't make the sunset any less amazing, i just wish she would have noticed it because i think it might have made her feel happy and connected.

mary oliver, a living poet with whom i do feel a kinship with nature, writes, "Lord, when i sleep, i feel You near.  when i wake, and You are already wiping the stars away, i rise quickly, hoping to be like Your wild child the rose, the honey-maker the honey-vine; a bird shouting its joy as it floats through the gift you have given us:  another day."

and so i agree, thank you for the stuff of stars in our skin and breath, the holiness in our chores and the feathers in our plodding; the incredible lightness of being that comes with being tethered here awhile.  and so this wild child greets another day!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

flash fiction

if it's my lucky day, i run into one of my favorite college literature professors in the aisles of our local grocery store.  i start smiling when i see his signature bandana and wire-rimmed glasses seconds before he waves me over for a warm hug and eager book banter.

last time, in the dairy aisle as it happened, he told me about a genre that was new to me called "flash fiction" so i checked a book of it out from the library.

flash fiction, or wei xing xiao shuo in chinese, is truncated short stories, anywhere from half a page to two pages maximum.  some would think it is easier to write.  i, however, think that it takes extreme skill and economy of language to craft a compelling tale in so little space.  here's what authors have to say:

"the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."  mark twain

"every sentence, every phrase, every word has to fight for its life."  crawford kilian

"the letter i have written today is longer than usual because i lacked the time to make it shorter."  blaise pascal

"the soul's distinct connection with immortality is best disclosed by danger or quick calamity--as lightning on a landscape exhibits sheets of place--not yet suspected, but for flash, and click and suddenness."  emily dickinson

if you think you don't have room in your busy schedule to read, pick up a book of short stories or flash fiction tales!  you'll have already read several in the time it takes you to warm up your coffee.


"after the rain"
adults:  take a lesson from the kids in your life and remember to play! 

(this week, for example, i let my art students have 45 minutes to design by arranging geometric blocks, puzzles and shape toys in order to help with their logo project).

realizing my own brain had been very adult and very efficient for several weeks and in need of rest, i decided play would be a good idea for me too.  so i got together with a friend yesterday to create just for fun and this was the result!

good things can happen when we don't take life too seriously...

Friday, October 9, 2015

design thinking for your day

creative thinkers know that it's not WHAT happens to us that matters as much as HOW we think about what happens.

and researchers know that our brains are flexible enough to move from fixed mindsets (that will never work...) to growth mindsets (i wonder how i might...)

routine elements + radical thinking = innovation

everything from your morning commute and cup of coffee to leftovers in the fridge and every day challenges are opportunities for creativity and invention.

just for today, take something that happened and reframe it.  for example, "there was a traffic accident on the way to work that slowed me down" into "it was nice to be able to have the time to look around and watch the sunrise."

you're still in touch with reality (the accident) but more likely to attach a positive emotion to the memory (the sunrise)!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Saturday, October 3, 2015

what i do is me

i have to say i'm really savoring the results of my leap to work 4 days a week!  it was scary at first, filled with "shoulds" and "oughts" that have given way to "musts" and "enjoys".  counter-intuitively, by following my passions, i am actually making more income and have more time than before to devote to my values without having to sacrifice one important thing for another.

on paper i didn't think i could afford to work less.  my inner compulsion spoke truth to me, however, that i couldn't afford NOT to.  the difference being i wasn't willing to sacrifice precious time on the planet:  THIS IS YOUR LIFE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE kept speaking up until i listened and took action.

it was scary and took time.  my heart nearly pounded out of my chest when i approached my boss with the proposal last year.  and i haven't regretted it since.  in fact, i thought, "why didn't i do this sooner?"

for example, i have time to:  try a new yoga class, cook healthy colorful meals, meet people for coffee, sketch, see my family, kayak, play, write cards & letters, discover new markets, run my miniature household and budget efficiently, pray, read, write, think, create, rest AND work.  i find that not only am i more energetic at my day job, but i am more productive and creative, taking my whole self to work and home again without feeling splintered apart.

gerard manley hopkins said it first in poem form, "what i do IS me, for that i came", making no distinction between what we do flowing out of a whole sense of personhood.

the book pile that is currently contributing to better and more creative ways of thinking for me?  "the crossroads of should and must" by elle luna and "creative confidence" by tom and david kelley.

a just-for-fun read that i highly recommend:  "the jm barrie ladies' swimming society" by barbara j. zitwar who put a lot of herself into the novel for five years, basing it also on the author of peter pan.  she weaves the power of girlfriends, architecture and a love story together in such a gracious way i wanted to see it turned into a movie!

what "should" can you cross off your list to make room for a passionate "must" in your life & where might that sweet spot take you?