Bites of Inspiration

   

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In Italy, food is transformative.  It moves from simple nutrition to becoming the essence of life itself.   During our Beautiful Truth Retreat, we had the chance to  cook with one of my most lovely friends, Carla, who, together with her husband has one of the most lovely restaurants here in Acqui Terme. She taught us so much, she made us laugh, and gifted us moments we'll never forget.

 

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There are more beautiful bites this week:

I am honored to be featured as part of a free interview series called Inspiration Bites, the brain child of the wonderful life coach Alison Ottaway.  The series is completely free, you just need to go and sign up.  There will be an interview recording from international life and change experts every day for two weeks, Monday through Friday.    It starts tomorrow, so don't delay!

your creative calling: what would you do if you weren't worried about being judged?

pursue some path

 

Your idea is your capital.

I don't mean that in strictly a financial sense (although, yeah, that too..).  I'm talking about the capital on which you can focus your energy and open doors to your authentic path.  Your idea is your soul capital. 

Coming to your specific idea of how you would like your future to look professionally and personally feels really complicated and fraught with obstacles.  We don't just block the idea;  we block the manifestation of the idea.

No money.

No time.

Too many other commitments.

I'm not selfish enough to want to live my own idea. 

My partner won't agree.

My friends/family will think I'm crazy.

I won't be able to do it perfectly. I'm not so good at it. 

Look, here's the bottom line.  You  have no idea what will happen if you manifest your ideas and call the forth.  You can't know the lessons that you will learn, the people you will attract, alienate, piss off or laugh with, you have no idea what kind of personal development is in store for you.

You don't know how it will go.

So if you judge your idea as not worth pursuing before you even explore it fully, you've closed the door.  Locked it.  Thrown away the key.  Is that what you want?

It really doesn't have to be that complicated if we lay to the side our self doubts.  And if we stop judging how we're going to be judged for going after our idea.

Often we don't manifest ideas into action because of judgment.  Not strictly the fear of how others will think about us, but the fear of how we will react to people judging us.  Our judgment of judgment.  What we think of what people think of us.

Because judgment will always be there.

It's what we do with judgment that will determine our path.

It's that inner voice that keeps us locked in place, that convinces us the risks are too great, we aren't that good, we don't have a chance, we won't follow through, we just shouldn't bother.

We need to shut her up, that inner voice, because she's so busy judging the judgment of others that she couldn't care less about our authentic selves.

We are the shamans of our own energy, the creators of our own light.  We ourselves determine the doors that open for us.

How do we start?  How can we open our hearts and minds to our best idea?

Enter Wendi Knox.  

Wendi is a magical doctor/artist of authenticity, a magnetic energy medium, a colorful, authentic beauty who has reinvented not only her path, but the paths of women everywhere.   Here's what she has to say about this very subject.

 

I'm working with several women on bringing their idea to cohesive fruition.  I am absolutely and whole heartedly committed to this work.  Do you have an idea you'd like to develop but don't quite know where to start?  I'm here to help you do your best work.  

I cannot believe that Di Mackey and my  Your Beautiful Truth Retreat is less than three weeks away!  Energy will be flying on our little hill in the Italian country side.

And last but not least, I'm scheming with my beautiful friend Barrie Davenport on a new course and on-line workshop about this very subject - calling forth your creative idea and manifesting it into your work.  The launch will be spring 2014.

So now it's over to you:

What would you do if you weren't worried about being judged?  What is your idea?  If you felt free from your inner Edna, as Wendi calls her, what would you do?

 

one small, serendipitous moment

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Even the Dalmation, auspiciously named Joy, embraced the mood in the Piazza.
 

If someone had told me twenty years ago, that one day I'd be sitting in the most beautiful Italian piazza on a sultry summer evening, reading to a group of people from a book that I wrote and had been published, I would have just shaken my  head and walked away.  

 

Twenty years ago I was working hard at a job I wasn't cut out to do, pushing hard towards mid-thirties mid-management burn out, wondering if there would ever be time to do the things in life I could only dream of. But that's why it's always a mistake to underestimate life and where it can lead us.

I've had some amazing doors open in my life since then.  Moving abroad, starting my own businesses, learning languages, learning an artisan craft, becoming first a cross cultural and language coach, then a change coach, and becoming a writer.  All of those creative adventures have led here, to now.   So many moments.  Moments like last weekend are the jewels, though, when everything comes together in a perfect blend of gratitude and joy that are meant to be savored.  We send our energy and work out into the world and we don't know where it will lead.  Mine lead me here, to this place, on this beautiful July evening, surrounded by a small group of friends and interested readers, where I could actually sit in my own seat of life's purpose, the one I had created, and be completely present, reading passages about beautiful Piedmont and love from my novel, True Vines.

I felt balance. I felt kindness and good will. I felt love.

All of these wonderful feelings have culminated as a result of hard work and dedication, no doubt.  But there is also a presence of Spirit that leads us on when we do the hard work we know is right for us.  We're granted a fortuitous sense of peace when we're able to let our fear-driven egos take a back seat and  step into our soul-driven life purpose.  There are moments of  great solace and comfort that come from allowing our work to happen.

I want to share with you that in the last few weeks I have had the most heart-warming experiences through coaching.   Every single session has been such a pleasure and has given me more than I ever imagined.  I am talking to the most wise and brave people, ones who understand that they have a sense of purpose to fulfill.  I feel honored to support them and to open new channels of thought to allow energy to flow in a direction that will bring them further into their own purpose.

All of this, all of this wonderful goodness with which I have been blessed - our B&B, my books, coaching, mentoring, art - are a direct result of walking into risk by leaving a predetermined path and crafting an individual one.   I can promise you, it has not always been easy.  There are days when the push back is harsh and I wonder if I'll have the strength to get back up.  But easy isn't what this process is all about.  In reality, everything's easy at soul level. <- click to tweet  It's when our egos get involved, when fear and self doubt creep into the equation that it feels like a monstrous struggle just to move one tiny step.  We feel like we're walking in molasses.  But when we understand our purpose, and choose to walk in the direction that our souls know is right for us, the molasses melts into sweet water and we are free to swim in our own sense of meaning.

When I first wrote the book Your Truth back in 2012, it came from a deep rooted sense that we are all capable of assessing our own needs, wants and desires, manifesting change and coping with the related challenges of embracing risk.  I feel more strongly about this today than ever.

When we make our intentions clear, when we give ourselves over to those intentions, things will happen to move us, shift us and change us.  I know this to be true.  I have experienced it unrelentingly for the last ten years.  Some days it's been amazing.  Some days it's been hard graft.

But last Saturday evening, in Piazza Bollente in Acqui Terme, Italy, it was magic.  And I realized, for one small, serendipitous moment, that it was all for this.

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Photos © Chris Salvo, Salvo Photo (Thank you, Chris) 

from fear to creative explosion in one giant leap

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 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson

I've been thinking about  fear.  A lot.  When I get this on my mind, it's usually because something has triggered my own anxiety.  Does it matter what it is, the trigger?  Not really.  Suffice it to say I have triggers.  You have triggers.  And unless we are living in a bubble where nothing changes, we'll always have them.

That's the good news.

What?

Yeah. Because fear is the fuel of creativity, if you choose to use it that way. <- click to tweet

How can that be?

If there's something inside telling you to sit down and do nothing, then there's also something inside of you what knows it's absolutely essential to get up and moving.   If something's telling you to contract, then there's also something telling you to open your arms wide and move towards what you know to be your path.

We know we're powerful.  That's why we're fearful.  Fear is the yin to power's yang.  Once we have grappled with the essence of our fear and walked, step by step, in the direction of our power, we know what we have.

I swear, I've looked at fear from so many sides now, and when it comes to roost inside of me, I know as God is my witness that I need to move towards something big.

You want to know what fear looks like?

Fear looks like inertia.  Starting a big project that you always wanted to do and not bringing it to the point where it has a chance for success.  Pushing big rocks uphill is not always fun, or easy, but sometimes you reach the top and that baby flies down the other side, you know?

Fear looks like self-sabotage.Who me?  I couldn't do that. You do it.  I couldn't.   Yeah, you could.  Very much definitely.  You could.

Fear looks like jealousy.  Everyone else's life looking great right now?  Might want to look a little deeper into those feelings.

Fear looks like chaos. Don't take a look at my closet when anxiety hits.  Just don't. I don't know who gets in there and knots up all those leggings, but it must be my slightly agoraphobic alter ego trying to have a go with me.

Fear looks like every person who ever told you you couldn't do something.  All of those people.  You know what you need to do with them? Have a little fantasy, turn them into ants with funny faces, and put them in a jar.  With no holes in the lid.  Let them scream at you from in there until the oxygen runs out.  It won't make you a bad person.  It's just metaphoric.  You can still love them in real life.  Kind of. If you really want to.

See why fear means something big is happening?  Let me tell you what's happening when fear hits.  Something so big that it makes you want to become inert, not admit you can do it , get jealous because you know people who could do it.  It' something so big that it will turn your desk into a chaotic mess and make you believe  all those people who told you you couldn't.

It's that big, the thing you're moving towards.  It's big and it's shiny and it is going to require that you take responsibility for yourself and for it.

It's yours.

So cast of the fear, my love.  Cast of the doubt that you can't move into the flow.  Stop thinking  you're too tired or to busy or just not good enough.  You have the power of the Universe in that talented hand of yours.

Embrace it!

 

creative release

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I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it  - Pablo PicassoI've been screaming inside.

For calm,  for a rock on the head,  for anything to move me out of a sense of superficial frantic activity coupled with spiritual and creative inertia.

I know something new is coming out of a sense of WE. 

It started two weeks ago with a 20 pound block of porcelain clay, a clay I never worked with.  I cleaned my studio and opened the sack - and started to work with it.  At first - frustration.  Turned to anger- almost tears. Because it was different than anything I ever did before with clay. And my ego was such that I thought I could work with porcelain without even thinking about it.  Ten pieces ended up on a blob on the middle of my work table before I really thought about what the problem was.  The problem was how I as approaching the process. I stopped - worked my way through the complexity of my own reaction. And started again.

"Have fun with it," I said to myself.  "Stop taking this so seriously."

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These pieces are different than anything I've ever made. I posted a couple of shots on Facebook and the reaction was immediate.  People reacted to these raw, just thrown forms straight from their emotional center.  That reaction broke loose something inside of me that made me want to create.  Sculpt. Write.  Bring my work to the next level - and share all of it with you.

Gather your thoughts.

Look at how you live. Your sense of self expands into all that you touch.  Loving that with which you are surrounded will expand your capacity to grow.  Your life is yours to curate and manifest.  The more you dream about what can be, the more you are able to call those dreams forth into your daily life and try new things that can bring you joy.  The Universe will put things in your path to help the trip. But you have to put in the work.  You have to try what you don't know, what you're not sure of.  You have to be willing to be bad at it before you get good at it, and bless the bad stuff as being a beautiful part of the process.

The Universe will give you a green light and let you walk across your own path.  

 

let go of suffering

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 What's making you suffer right now?

 

 

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Is it your situation?  Or is it your narrative?

Because your situation might be what it is because of the narrative you're telling yourself.  And that might be what's causing you to suffer.

Suffering, unless you have a serious or life threatening illness, is mostly self induced.  I know it hurts to hear this.  It hurts me particularly this week because I have been doing some pretty intense suffering of my own, but if I am completely honest here, I brought a lot of it on myself. Ok. No.  I brought it all on myself.  I have a million good excuses that I could roll out right here  and now for having put myself through some pretty tortuous mental gymnastics that have gotten me absolutely nowhere except sleepless.

But instead of beating myself up about it, I'm dissecting it - and turning it around. What if the situation that I was in was happening to my best friend instead of to me?  How would I react then? I know exactly what I would do.

I'd tell her that objectively speaking, her situation is just not that bad.  That there are a lot of people who would just love to be in her position, even though it's stressful right now.  And that she's got the strength and ability to change things up and make herself feel better.  That she's strong.  That she's got a lion's heart and that she is courageous.  Then I decided it's time to be my own best friend. Because those are the things I need to hear right now about myself.  That I have the power to change the things that are not working about my own situation.

This doesn't just work for me, by the way.  I'm not the only one holding on to things that hurt me.  What about you?  What can you let go of today that is going to help you change your narrative about your situation?

Let go of trying to be perfect.  You know this.  I don't have to repeat it.  Do I?

Let go of judging people.  Even the ones you think you know especially well.  Don't judge anyone.  Everyone has the chance to learn new things, to change and to grow and be different than how you perceive him or her to be.

Let go of thinking you can't change.  What you believed yesterday or ten years ago might not hold water any more.  Shed the ideas and notions you have that no longer work.

Let go of resisting. When resistance comes to visit, know that you feel it the most when you need it the least.

Let go of the past. The past counts, but not nearly as much as you think.  And it does not in any way predict what you're capable of in the future.

Let go of trying to be fabulous at the things you suck at.   <- click to tweet  If you blast through life riding the tide of your strengths, you will have a blast.  If you struggle through life trying to be masterfully good at things you don't like doing, you will suffer - and that is completely self induced suffering.  Don't like accounting?  Get an accountant. Let her explain what you need to know, and let her do her job.

Let go of telling yourself you don't need any help. 

Let go of believing that other people are making you miserable.    You can feel anything you want.  Just know that your feeling world is about you and not about anyone making you feel anything.  It can also be divorced from reality - feelings often are.  If you are feeling sad and anxious, it's very likely got more to do with your perception of your situation than the situation itself.

Let go of haters.  

Let go of the idea that past traumas keep us from moving forward.  Our stories effect who we are.  But the upshot of this is that these stories, however they happened to us and worked through us, are there to help us understand ourselves.  When something moves us, it's like a crack appears, and through that crack glows a warm light, and that light propels us forward into a new understanding. Let your past move you forward.  Your stories are your wisdom.

What do you want to let go of today that would make your life joyful?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

intrepid grace

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I've come back to beautiful Italy from a two week visit to the United States.

I had so many wonderful and deeply emotional moments on this trip; it was packed with loving and meaningful encounters.  I visited with people who had been through so much suffering and change.  I saw old friends and new ones, got to speak to people who came to hear me read from my book, and  talked for hours with loved ones.  It was a trip to savor and to reflect upon; so much of what I experienced confirmed that stepping in to love is the only thing to do.

So many of those I saw on this trip have been through journeys of illness, pain, anxiety and struggle, in situations that were or continue to be incomprehensibly sad and difficult.  In each of the interactions I had, I came away astounded by the human ability to demonstrate grace at the darkest moments.  I was filled with gratitude and respect for the human spirit in the face of seemingly impossible odds.  The grace seemed tenacious to me.  Gripping.

So I named it intrepid grace.  It's that thing that keeps us human when we are battered by inhumanity.  It's the grace that propels us forward, helps us focus, and lets us know at an existential level that all is truly well.

And to experience it in such a personal way was deeply moving.

Now back in Italy, we're only four weeks out from opening the B&B for the season. That might seem like a lot of time, but it's a flash, considering there's still snow on the ground in spots!   There will be major cleaning, planting and cooking taking place over the next month.   The yang of the season is calling, pulling me out of the retrospective winter into movement and activity.  I'll step into the flow, and see where it takes me.  Big change is in the air.  Just around the bend.  I can feel it.  I'll do my best to meet it with intrepid grace.

book signing one - diana

move forward. stop resisting.

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last bit of winter
last bit of winter

This picture is the last winter photo of the season, taken during a hike in my home town of Milford, PA while here for a book signing event.

I love doing my work.  I often find myself surrounded by the most interesting, multi-faceted people, and because flow happens when we least resist it, doors open.   Nothing happens unintentionally.  It's how we step forward, heart first, into our work, that sets the tone of what happens next.

This doesn't mean it's always easy.  There's a skill to not resisting and moving forward at the same time.

Often, we want to move forward out of a desire to control the outcome. Which almost always means resisting real events.  Because events can never mirror what we hold in our imagination to be the way things should go.  So walking forward and accepting,  walking forward and surrendering, is an acquired skill.  A muscle to develop.

Years ago, when we first moved to Italy, I had a very strong idea of how things would be, and how I'd "manage" events.   I had a vision, a solid one. But problems started to occur almost the minute we landed on the ground.  We were confronted with so many traumatic things, none of which were on our radar screen at all:

An unprecedented and unpredicted drop in the Dollar against the Euro meant a completely unplanned-for evaporation of our working capital in the first two years.

We grossly underestimated the cost of renovation.  We had bad advice from dishonest people. And we were just naive enough to believe them for a little too long.

We didn't have the proper equipment. We lacked, and still lack, a 4x4 or pick-up truck.

We had no idea what it meant to have a house carved into a mountainside, how water runs down, how it effects foundations and structures, how it finds a way into everything when you don't want it to.

We didn't know how hard it would be to clear woodland.  We lost over 30 trees in our first snowfall nine years back and didn't either own or know how to use a chain saw.

Every job that we thought should have taken a week took a month, and the tougher jobs took years.  I, in particular, worried endlessly about money, our health, the future, and what we had gotten ourselves into.

In short, we moved forward every single day.  But I personally put up so much resistance, every moment comparing the way I thought things "should be" with the vastly different reality that I ended up drained, injured and sick. For several years.

Now juxtapose that against the fact that within a very short time, we had managed to open what is a successful B&B and all the people who came to us just loved it, despite the fact that it wasn't perfect or even close.   Everyone could see the blood, sweat and tears.  But the only one who could not really enjoy a single second of it?

Yours truly.

I couldn't see how taking on this seemingly impossible project under difficult circumstances has forced me to grown in ways I had never anticipated.  I couldn't appreciate what my situation was teaching me.  All I could feel was pain - intense pain - because my reality wasn't matching up to the thought of how I felt things should be.

One day, in a session with my coach Amy Oscar, she said to me, "You know, I've never had an inanimate object try to speak through me.  But I think your house is trying to tell you something.  It's trying to tell you that it's OK."  My house would let me have my pain, let me beat against its stone walls as it had done for generations of women before me, and would let me stand up, get my bearings, and move forward.  If I could only accept its lessons and not fight them continuously.

If I could only stop crying and start understanding what the real message was of why I had come to Italy in the first place.

If I could only stop resisting. 

I am in America right now, where I gave my first book reading, where Amy and so many other of my loved ones were in the audience, and I realized something:  This house in Italy - it gave me this moment.  This moment filled with love and gratification, with so many beautiful people in my private and professional circle.  This house helped me retouch with people from the past, and led me to shake hands with my future mentors and friends and partners.  This house, this impossible, beautiful place on a hill in Italy turned out to be my salvation.

You don't need a house in Italy to stop resisting while continuing down your path.  It is possible for you to move forward and to stop resisting at the same time.  My dream upon coming to Italy is vastly different than how it's turned out.  In many ways, it's a far deeper and more meaningful experience than I ever could have imagined.  I know more now.  I trust my instincts more than ever.  I can sense people's pain and blocks and reach out to them and help them understand their own knots, and untie them.  Before I came to Italy, I was so knotted up myself I could barely even stand up straight.  But I didn't know that then.  I needed to drop myself into a nearly impossible situation and find my way back to myself.

Your goals are your goals.  They are good. But they are not necessarily going to be the result of your work.The result might look completely and totally different to what you have in mind at the outset.  This is a good thing, my friends.  A very good thing.  Because if you move forward, listen, accept, surrender to what is, and keep moving forward despite the difficulties and the obstacles, you will end up with a level of personal success that is beyond what you are even capable of dreaming right now.

Remember who you are as you move forward. 

Remember to listen carefully, not only to what people are telling you, but what your inner voice is trying desperately to communicate to you.

Remember to put love forward, including loving yourself, as you move along.  Taking care of yourself as you move into new things will keep you well during what might be frighteningly uncertain times.

Remember that you can do many things, but you can't force anything.  Take reality at its word, absorb its lessons, and adjust your plan.

In the end, you'll find yourself exactly where you are meant to be.

****

This past week in America has been an emotional roller coaster.  I had the most amazing book signing with over 60 people in attendance.  My cousin Lisa Rolleri of Domestic Diva made the Italian cookies, most of them gluten free, family & friends came from far and wide, and we raised money for the Pike County Public Library.  It was a fantastic event, the first of what I hope will be many.

After that, my mother and I travelled to visit an ill family member.  It was an emotional reunion, and one that brought many feelings of both love and sadness.  On the heels of the book signing, I was reminded of the fragility of this time we have and how important it is to project love as often and as much as possible.

I look forward to returning to Italy to exorcise winter out of the house, and to prepare, once again, for visitors from far and wide.

I wish you all, my dearest readers, a wonderful week, whatever your goals, and wherever you are.

your own sun, moon, sky. yourself.

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The more you gravitate toward doing your own work, the more life will test you. This is a good thing.  It might not feel good at the moment, but it's a good thing.  Because as you gravitate towards the things that move you and that mean something to you, you'll bounce against your own personal limits.

Think of yourself as living inside of a balloon  - a really big one.  It's translucent but not transparent.  But you know, because you've concentrated really hard, that the real joy, the real love, your real story is outside of the balloon.  You can see the way the light prisms out there, and it's glowing at you, through the skin of the balloon.

But the balloon keeps you safe, and as long as you accept its limitations, you can walk around inside of it unimpeded.  The balloon is your safety zone that cuts you off from your truth.

The balloon has had its benefits, but it's served its purpose.

So you start taking a running jump, and bashing into the side of the balloon.  And it stops you. Hard.

It's resistance.  It's self doubt.  It's holding on to how others think about you too tightly. It's judging others and allowing them to judge you.  It's bad boundaries, and it's not being able to say no when you really want to.  All of those things have formed this micro-thin fiber that's tightly woven and creating the inner surface of your balloon.  And seemingly impossible to break, since you're thrashing around in the darn thing trying to get out so hard.

Until on day you realize that it's not about bashing through your comfort zone.  It's about loving your way through it.

You want to try new things that are outside your comfort zone? Try compassion, patience and love.  Towards yourself.

Take steps carefully, prudently, but determinedly.  Do your homework.  Take care of yourself.  But keep moving.  Take pushback as learning and find another way.  Allow yourself to fall, and to get back up.

You know what's going to happen?  All those hard fibers of resistance?  They'll start to dissolve.

And suddenly, that balloon that kept you closed up inside becomes something else.  It becomes the stage that introduces you to the world.  It becomes the steps that you climb.  It becomes the story that is under your feet and reminds you of how far you've come.

And you are the glittering light that you viewed at from inside.  You are the glow.  You are your own sun, moon and sky.

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winter5

 

 

 

love is intentional

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deb digs

 

 

When you move forward with your energy, you are filling the space with intention.  Intention works like ripples of you that move things.  When things go in another direction than you thought they should, it's because they need to do exactly what they're doing. You'll learn something other than you thought you would.  But it's your intention, the push behind the movement, that moves you to where you need to be, regardless of the outcome.

Which is why the best intention of all is love.

When you fill your space with the intention of love, then you become the loving force yourself.  Expansive.  Forgiving. Strong and yielding, wise yet always the student.   When your intention from the outset is love, you  pour that into all of your interactions.

Isn't that nice?

Just think of it from the other side.  Suppose all the people you know, even the ones who have a disagreement with you, put forward the intention of love when they spoke and interacted with you.  How would that make you feel?    Cared about?  Joyous?

 Maybe a little buoyant?

Putting forward an intention that promotes buoyancy of the human spirit.  Now, there's a concept we can get behind, right?

We can change the world with intention, one loving interaction at a time.  We don't have to think badly of each other, even when we don't agree.  We don't have to sit in a corner of hurt over unintentional slights, or even intentional ones.

We can choose differently.  We can react with a deep, caring love that reaches beyond the hurt.  We can't be everything to everyone, but we can sure be loving towards everyone.  Even people who don't make it easy.  We can love them too.

Be generous with your "I love you"s.  Don't be scared it won't come back to you.  The more you put out there, the more it will come back to you, in abundance, with multitude.

Give the gift of buoyancy today.

Intend love.

 

 

the lion's heart of a graceful giver

Mocha

I want to tell you about my friend Jane.

Art is an amazing communicative tool.  It bridges people from all sorts of diverse lifestyles and mentalities, and gives them common ground.  In the hands of my friend Jane Barefoot Rochelle, it's so much more.

First, there's what she creates.  She takes things from your life - photos, words, ticket stubs and turns them, through the art of collage, into a meaningful, dynamically powerful piece of art for your home.  The more you look at her collages, the more you see.  Layers.  Just like the layers of time, some of them onion-skin thin, over other layers of time, all balanced to create, with incredible clarity, an image.  The image is simple and complex, and stands as the unifying message for all of the layers.

This is soul art.  Of the highest form.

Jane grew up in a loving family.  Her parents, having grown up themselves in poverty, were resourceful at repurposing everything they had, and provided her with a wonderful childhood.  Her playground was the woods where she wandered and dreamed with her siblings. She always felt the call of the creative arts. Jane became a teacher of children, and was deeply effected when she saw young spirits being crushed by careless remarks and  blanket dismissal of creativity.  While she never had formal art education, her path led her to several mentors. Jonas Gerard, Brenda Seright WilliamsStuart Cubley, and then finally to the creative collagist Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson - each experience and teacher giving Jane a new layer to the creative work she had set out to do from the day she was born.

Jane and I had often exchanged emails and thoughts.  She is a certified  Healing Touch practitioner.  I love her energy, her spirit.  But there's something more about Jane.  When it comes to giving love to other people, she has a lion's heart.  And when she puts her creative energy, her love and her giving nature in a chosen direction, she creates magic.

Like what she did with my Max here.  This collage brings me joy every single day.  

When I think of my own journey, and the people that have crossed my path, I am constantly reminded of the givers.  The people who give their time, their thoughtfulness, their energy to others.  The ones who serve.  The kind of person that takes your breath away.  Jane is one of those people.  I remember my Healing Touch Session with her. It was during my season, and we communicated about it via email.  I was tired, anxious and overworked.  But I laid down on the sofa, as Jane had instructed me to do, and with a very short time I was in an alpha state.  I received a very clear voice message, sung by a distant choir.

You and I must make each night a prayer.

Every day a beginning.

 

I came back into the room about a half hour later from this semi-dream state feeling clear.  I didn't completely understand what happened, but then again,  I decided I didn't have to.  I had put myself in Jane's hands, thousands of miles away, and had felt reassured and calm.

Jane reminds me, with her gentle presence in my life, that giving is the most exciting, important thing we can do in life.  Be Santa's elf.  Be the one who buys a cup of coffee for the person next to you in the cafe.

Be that person.

Be the good in someone's encounter with you.  Assume they can use the kindness and will pass it on in their own way.  Don't be a cynic.  It's just better that way.

Jane's moving on and deepening her artistic journey.  Her next step is to open an art gallery, Barefoot Studios, for all the people she knows that create beautiful things and have the souls of givers. The opening is only a few weeks away.  I know she'll be amazing at it.  She's got that lion's heart.

 

Contact Jane at her website and have her turn your journey, your memories, and your dreams into a piece of art to treasure forever.  

 

the life of the creative, curious person

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I received the most amazing message the other day from a friend with whom I attended college over 35 years ago.  This is a woman with whom I lost touch almost immediately after graduation but never forgot.  She was this beautiful natural redhead with depth and aura.  I often wondered what happened to her. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, we rediscovered each other and, since she's a kindred spirit, we took up where we left off, not having to communicate with great regularity, but with the knowledge that whenever we would communicate, it would always be the same, wondrous, easy dialog we've always enjoyed.  These types of connections are real, powerful and prove that we are energy - and that as such, we connect at levels so much deeper than we are aware of at the surface.

Her message had to do with the issues we face as artists and creatives - the most notable, being understood by those around us.  My friend contends, in her message to me, that the reason creatives sometimes feel like fish out of water has to do with...

"...A very fundamental difference in how we see the world, and what’s important to us."

This different way of seeing the world alters our perceptions, and makes us vulnerable in ways that are difficult to articulate.  There are not many creative people I know that have not experienced some sense of sitting on the outside.  As if being creatively individualistic is sometimes too much of a challenge for group think, and therefore isn't always appreciated. Creative people are often seen as demanding, because of the desire to be understood.

Creativity is a burden and  a gift.  It can make life difficult; it can challenge relationships between ourselves and others but at the same time it gives us tremendous opportunity.

It's as if the lens of the creative person focuses on things that don't even seem to be there at first glance, and then tortures itself to bring those things into focus, obliterating the obvious,  exalting the subtle.  The creative person digs, sometimes with great fury, to uncover the greatness in the ordinary, the meaning in the forgotten.  And she does this because she can't not do it.  Because to not do it means to die inside.

Because the creative person is nothing if not curious. And curiosity brings with with it, by its very nature, change.  Development.  Growth.  Casting away of one school of thought, opening to another.  And that brings with it humility, vulnerability and sometimes pain.

Each of us, at our core, is creative.  Curiosity is something with we humans are each born.  We can take that curiosity and bury it.  We can think of life as boring and dull, and make our own existence living proof that it is so.  Or we can honor our own creativity, allowing it to blossom in which ever way seems the best for our nature.  Creativity is not limited to art and music.  It encompasses everything from math to Mozart.  From chemistry to Cézanne.  There is creativity in how we live, what we wear, how we express ourselves.

But creativity does not stand a chance if there is no curiosity behind it.  And curiosity, by its very nature, comes with a life long question mark.

What can you do?

What can you reach for?

How far can you go?

There is power in the knowledge that the answer to all of these questions will always be more questions.  We're not really here at all to get answers, because there aren't any, not really.  Which is why curiosity is so important.  Our wisdom comes from the path, from the trying, from being open and humble, not from having the answers. 

There are no final answers.  There are only more questions. So you can roll up and die of boredom right this very minute or you can choose the other option.

Ask your questions. Work for the response, and discover the new questions buried within the answer.  

Such is the life of a creative, curious person.

 

 

 

year end gratitude

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My dear friends,

I am sitting here at my desk, the wood burning stove roaring beside me, icy fog right outside the window.  I struggle to find the right words, the appropriate tone for this year end post - because 2012 has been a convoluted, mysterious concoction, and I don't really know where to begin.

This was the year that calamity and catastrophe made me realize once more how important it is to follow our hearts and do our work.

So many lost so much in the last couple of months.  The devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused on the area of the country closest to my heart was terrifying to watch from the distance.  The slaughter of babies in Newtown was close to unbearable to process, made worse by the rhetoric that has made my beautiful country one of the most dangerous places to have a school aged child in the developed world.  In all of the grief, anguish and paralysis, a voice returned to me over and over.  Do your work.  Do your work. Don't you see?  You're healthy and have all you need.  Now do your work. 

I'm forging ahead, making notes and setting my sails.  I'm listening to what my heart is saying. I have so much to do in 2013.  There's a third book to be finished, a mentoring business to develop and pottery to be made.  A B&B to be opened, once again, and guests to be cared for.  All of those people who are suffering?  I want to help. And this year I am going to figure out how to do it.  It wasn't for nothing that two days ago, the universe brought me this message from James Doty, MD.  Take a half hour and listen to this man. I want some more of those good endorphins that come with giving.  I've donated money and some art to different causes but this year I want to do more.  I started collecting ideas last summer to create an artists' website for special causes but got sidelined by my book's editing and the  B&B.  So 2013 will be the year.  I want to do my work and bless all the gifts I've been giving in abundance.

This was the year I met on line friends in person.

There are so many connections on line, and so many limitations as well.  It's a genre that I don't yet fully understand.  But as I venture further and further into communicating this way (in 2013 it will be 7 years since I started my first blog about life in Piemonte!), I am learning more about myself and accepting, as gracefully as I can, the responsibility of sharing what I know about change, about empathy, compassion and vulnerability.  I often read in your comments what amounts to a reflection of what I feel, and that sense of solidarity between people that have never met in this media that continues to push (and sometimes intimidate) me.

In 2012 I had the rare fortune to meet several long term online friends in person.  These are people from around the globe who had brought decency and kindness and warmth into my life in a virtual sense, and are now part of my real life group of people who I am privileged to know.

Photographer and life philosopher Di Mackey came into my online several years ago.  Her blog, named People Become Stories and Stories Become Understanding was a peaceful, thoughtful place.  Di's love affair with Genova brought her here in November.  I took part in her photography workshop, Camera Journeys, where I met incredible women and realized, well, people become stories and stories DO become understanding.  There will be much more on that in the future, but suffice it to say that it was a weekend of women and stories that I will never forget. Oh, and I learned all about shutter speed and aperture, too!

Coach/writer/entrepreneur Barrie Davenport and writer/director Katie Tallo, talented women who I met in 2010 online through blogging, came to visit us this year at our B&B.  It was a wholly amazing, loving time, full of gut laughing and serious conversation.  It made me realize, once again, that the internet is really perfect for picking up vibes between like-minded people and providing a platform for really getting to know one another, if we choose it.

In November I received a call that a Facebook friend was in Acqui Terme.  Corinna Tonti, who owns and operates San Ponente Agriturismo in Umbria, was right down the road!  We put on some clean clothes and went into town and had an impromptu lunch with Corinna and her husband Ivan.  It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons we've had and left us wanting more.  Ahhh, the wonders of Facebook!

Artist, actress, and creative soul Lucinda Keller came to Italy last week on a solo trip and made the journey to Acqui Terme to visit me.  We've known each other for years online, and our conversations were fiercely deep as we tried to pack as much as we could into a 24 hour visit.

To find out more about these amazing women, their art and writing and lives, please visit their websites.

This was the year I became a published author.

I self published one book and had another published in the USA.  It's been quite a journey to accepting the title of "author" but here I am.  The support of both books has been wonderful and I will be finally touring a bit in February and March to promote True Vines.  Looking back, the learning curve on writing and publishing has been monstrous and I've learned a whole new profession.   As the reviews come in of True Vines on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes&Noble Online, one of the most notable came from an Italian:

"What I liked most is that the Italians portrayed in this novel are real life people. Good and bad people with their problems and insecurities like everybody else in the world. Not the cute-but-dumb peasants or clever thieves often favored by expat circles. I liked it that there (are) no winners or losers "by nationality" in this story. There's people and their stories, no matter what their passports say."

This was the year my heart became full through your words.

Thank you to each and every one of you, for coming here, for sharing the most beautiful, personal, and heart felt comments.

I don't know if I can convey to you what an honor it is to write for such insightful, empathetic people, people who want to understand, grow, change, and accept.  Sometimes I feel that you are way ahead of me, and you pull me along, me spitting out the words that you  have encouraged me to share, by nature of your being in this space with me.

And it's you, my readers, that I wish the warmth of this wood burning stove, the loving company of family and friends, the serenity of good health, the wisdom that it all can change on a dime, the fortitude to forge ahead, the strength to understand your own truth and to live it fully as we march bravely and gingerly into 2013. 

 

 

 

 

 

create. here's why you should do it.

a heart on a wall in Genova.  taken during an amazing photography course with Camera Journeys 

 

You need to create. 

Do it for all the ones who came before and couldn't because their lives were tied up in keeping children warm and fed .

Do it for the times your heart bled with pain from being misunderstood and powerless.

Do it as a prayer, or as an answer to your own prayers.

Do it because by doing it you can never be a small person.  Creating expands you.

Do it because you'll get feedback, and feedback will make you better.

Do it so you see how hard it is.  You'll never judge anyone again.

Do it so that those who've judged you can see how wrong they are.

Do it so the ones who love you unconditionally can see how right they are.

Do it because in doing it there's honor and justice and just the process of doing it makes the world a better, more wholesome, more healing place.

Do it because if you don't, it will never get done no matter how many times people tell you there's nothing new in this world.

Do it because people will see who you really are.  Your truth shines through in your art more than it does in anything else.

Do it because you might inspire another.  You might mentor  a broken heart with words, soothe a broken spirit with painting, give a broken life a reason to try once more.   You have the power to do that.

Do it because putting yourself on the line and letting the chips fall speaks volumes to your character as a human being on this planet.

Do it because doing it makes you vulnerable and whole and accepting of the efforts and foibles of others.

Do it to make yourself happy.

Do it because creating is energy, and energy begets energy and energy is the Eternal Spirit.

Do it because by not doing it, you are not honoring your true purpose.

Do it because, well, just do it and find out your own reasons to add to this list.

 

What I'm creating:

I got my Etsy shop up and running.  (I hate that things cost so much to ship to the USA.)

I'm grateful as can be to Lori at Tiny Buddha for allowing me to guest post on her beautiful blog... and I welcome all the new readers that have come here as a result, have bought my ebook Your Truth (now at a reduced price of 2.99!!), and have commented.

I'm loving Tammy Strobel's wonderful audio blog about my book, True Vines, and  Karol Gajda's new app project - it's all about gratitude and love.

I also feel very grateful for all the amazing reviews I have gotten on AmazonBarnes and Noble and Goodreads about True Vines.  Watching this book take flight is amazing.  I'm planning my postponed trip to the states to indie bookstores - I'll be heading out at the end of February, and hope to meet some of you in person.

I'm working hard on my Mentoring program for 2013.  I've received many requests for coaching and mentor services for the upcoming year and I'll be sending out information in  January.

We're preparing for visitors during the holiday season and looking forward to long evenings chatting, eating and drinking wine in front of the woodburning stove.

I'm awaiting the winter solstice of 2012 with a full and grateful heart.  Thank you, my friends.  Your love has helped make the year a very special one for me.

 

 

 

women's stories: the heart of wisdom

We women know stories.  

Stories that hum in our minds as our days pass in a myriad of tasks and chores.  Stories that fall into each other like cascading water into the next lower pool. Sometimes they seem they'll all converge and erupt into our consciousness and show on our faces and in our mannerisms. We think, what is this?  Is this hurt?  Wisdom?  Fear?  Why do I feel like everyone can see these things when all they see is me smiling and trying to keep the peace in some form or another?  We look for the bigger meanings, and sometimes there are none to be found so we just put the stories aside and keep moving.  Dishes get washed.  Bills get paid, children get taught, staffs get directed.  We stretch our necks and tired backs at the end of the day to release something  - a sigh.

Women sigh.  Alot. We sigh with satisfaction, with resignation, with exhaustion.  But when we lay our heads down at the end of the day, they're still there.  The stories.  Cascading.  Moving.

Beckoning.

Our hurts.  Our fears.  Our knowledge and experiences.  Our interior lives - the part we live as observers of our own fate, our own decisions.  If we get around other women who give us emotional permission to share, the stories come out, gushing at first, slowing to a comfortable flow after a while, and our stories intertwine with those of women who have gone before, or have come after, creating yet another tapestry of awareness,individuality, and hope.

Women do this naturally, if we allow ourselves.  If we can trust that the stories will be honored.  If we know we won't be cut off or thought of as too intense or demanding. Because often, as soon as we sense that we are being too demanding by asking to be heard, we make ourselves small so as not to be a bother. We give other people's perceived discomfort with who we really are a higher importance level than being on the level with our own truth.

We need to first tell our stories to people that we trust, and who are capable of sharing their stories with us as well. With practice, we can own our truth, and there is no reason, ever again, to make ourselves small.

 Women's stories are at the heart of the hearth.  We are the sisters, the partners, the mothers, the daughters.  We absorb all of what is around us. We process change so that those around us can be more comfortable.  We worry about the people we love and those people become part of our story.  Our stories, our mothers' stories, our aunts' stories - these are the fiber that support creation.  The stories give us hope; they make us brave. They let us know that those who have gone before have suffered and sacrificed so we can have the enviable task of passing wisdom on to the next in line.

The stories are about wisdom.  

As a writer, I am magnetically drawn to other women's stories.  They resonate with me and often reaffirm what I already know to be true, even if I may want to resist my own truth.  I rarely find other women's stories too much to handle.  Rather, I find myself in stories of trauma and growth.  Because there is joy there, right along side the hurt.  There is happiness to be lived on the moments of pain.

As I research and refine my change mentoring practice for spring 2013,  I am finding the wisdom I need from the most bountiful source - other women.  In talking out what I see I can do for others, I see what resonates with women I respect, giving me clues to the framework I will use.  There is honor in exchange, in placing your story in the hands of another woman and saying, "Here.  Please look at this.  Tell me what you see."

There is great power in femininity.  But we should claim it, step into it, refuse to make ourselves small because of it.  Because our stories are for the ones that come after us.  It's those women that owe our stories to; the world is a place in need of wisdom passed down through the generations.

 

What I've been doing  

I took a weekend photography and video workshop with Camera Journeys in the Italian port city of Genoa.  I'll be sharing new work and talking in detail about this cathartic and healing weekend.

What I'm reading

I've just ordered a copy of Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise Deslavo.

Poet (and activist and teacher and guide and much more)  Ren Powell's blog. 

What I'll be doing this week

I'll be nurturing my novel True Vines as it continues to make its way into the wider world, finishing some new ceramic pieces and playing with my trusty old Nikon D70 while I practice all that I've learned about photography over the past weekend.  More photos to follow!

I'll also be working on my change mentoring practice, walking my dog and focusing on releasing and accepting everything.

... and I'll be randomly choosing the winner of an autographed copy of True Vines! To be eligible, be sure to comment on this post.

 

 

 

meaning and purpose

This morning I woke to perfect quiet.  

The B&B season is over. The golden tinge of the distant fields revealed itself as the morning mist was driven away by an ever descending sun.  I made my way, coffee in hand, to my pottery studio, where a greenware  platter awaited me. I'm trying something different this time - a traditional piece.  It's not in my normal repertoire, but I'm doing it for three reasons.

First:  discipline.  These classic pieces, well ornamented, require dedication and patience.

Second:  improvement.  I want to improve my skill level, and there is no better way to do that than by focusing on the technical skills of a craft.

Third:  this piece uses a material called copper carbonate.  Copper carbonate is a raw material that farmers use in the Piedmontese country side for a variety of purposes. Mixed with water, they spray crystalline copper carbonate on vines to keep fungus growth from multiplying.  The local contadini also make a paint from copper carbonate, chalk and linseed oil that is used to paint wood.  This mixture creates a paint of a sea green color and protects the wood from wood worms over generations.

The technique used on this piece is the traditional European art of sgraffito. I've painted something called an engobe (which is a mixture of clay, water, quartz and colorant - in this case, copper carbonate) onto a hand built 15 inch platter, and then I've literally scratched away the excess, leaving a slightly raised design in the leather-hard clay.    Once it's dried, it will be bisque fired, and then I will glaze it with a tin-rich glaze (this helps copper to develop into a green color), and fire to 1240 degrees C.  This high temperature causes the glass in the clay to vitrify with the glass in the glaze, forming a chip-proof bond - the essential characteristic of stoneware.  Here's a more contemporary sgraffito piece that I made a few years ago:

In keeping with this tradition, the internationally acclaimed artist Alzek Misheff  and his wife, architect Eleonora Ricci have created a project entitled La Corte del Verderame (the Court of Green Copper).  They are in the process of restoring an ancient cascina outside of Acqui Terme using natural materials such as limestone and copper.  The cascina will be used for major artist events and installations.  I sat down recently with Alzek and Eleanora and discussed the project - and am now working to create ceramics that celebrate the use of copper.

With La Corte del Verderame, Alzek and Eleonora are providing the chance to participate in an artistic movement that is based on values I hold dear:  reusing existing materials, connecting with the fundamental goodness of the zone which I call home, restoring derelict buildings using low carbon impact materials and techniques, and creating beauty that is at once simple and meaningful.

This is good. It's really, really good. I find it impossible to dismiss that since the day I opened my pottery studio in Hamburg in 2000, copper carbonate has been the single most important coloring agent I've used in pots.  Anyone who knows my work knows how many acqua, turquoise and soft green pots I create.  Almost of those are created using copper carbonate.  And now, I've run with my arms wide open in to a project put together by international artists in my own home town of Acqui Terme who consider this material to be so important that they've designed an entire creative movement around it?

I move lightly in this world, amazed at what I've uncovered, and how things ultimately join forces to move me forward. I'm humbled by the events I experience.

When I feel so tired that I don't think I can go on, my words are on the verge of being published, of being released internationally, and I don't even really completely understand how that happened.

When all I can think about is laying my head down and closing my eyes, I experience one of the most satisfying and beautiful season of guests that this bed and breakfast has ever seen.

And now, when I just want to relax an aching back, I open myself up to a creative movement that speaks to everything I believe in as an artist and a woman on this planet.

These things remind me that this short existence can be packed with meaning and purpose.  And every day that we wake up, regardless what we wake up to, is another chance to manifest that meaning and purpose.

What I'm reading this week:

 Satya Colombo's amazingly timely post about having changed perspective through travel and discovering what's crucial - and worth fighting for. 

What I'm listening to this week:

Buddha Bar 5

What I'm doing this week:

Guest blogging for my new book True Vines, working in the pottery studio, walking in the vineyards with Micha and Max, cooking fall foods like pumpkin soup, lentil stew, and polenta.

passion, creativity, illumination and getting published

pottery will always be my refuge, as long as my hands can move

(Photo of my hands courtesy of Julia Russell)

Passion effects who we are.  

When we open ourselves to our own pulsing, pumping, inexhaustible passion, things start to change.  Our hearts twist our mindsets, and our mindsets get wrenched out of the comfortable paradigms where they've been festering and attaching themselves to judgement and doubt.  I can't do this suddenly becomes well, I can at least try.... and when you try, your mindset gets kicked around even more.  More changes happen and your preconceptions about yourself get blown into the wind like petals on a fruit tree in May.

And you're left naked in your own discomfort, shoved head first out to where you were always meant to be.

Sometimes passion is borne of tremendous, overwhelming pain, as if trauma finally makes us snap to and say it's now or never.  Sometimes it's borne of a dead, aching heart that realizes mediocrity and settling for what works and nothing more could possibly be the worst prison of all.

However it comes, whatever the catalyst, the first few steps require bravery.  Our feet shake and our minds scream to run for cover. But if we can hang tough and not let the headwind blow us back into never trying, the path twists and what seemed like the loneliest walk ever becomes illuminated.

Illuminated by others who honor your journey and believe you.

Illuminated by others who will help you and guide you.

Illuminated by a spirit so strong that suddenly you understand there is no going back.  The comfort zone is the dead zone.  This new thing is the land of the living.  And then there, in front of you, in a haze, is your passion, waiting for you to come and take its hand and walk on.

If playing it safe is the thing you feel compelled to do, ask yourself this:  twenty years from now, if you're fortunate enough to live that long, how will you feel about having played it safe?  Will there be lingering doubt or regret for not having taken the less travelled road?  Maybe it's tough to project out that far.  But only you know what secret dreams rest inside.  And only you know what sacrifices you might have to personally make to get yourself on the path to realizing your dreams.

Vine Sketch - Sue Pownall

I've stepped out into the frosty cold a few times now.   My latest venture, a novel called True Vines, hits the market on November 1st.  I started writing True Vines after a life season of great personal distress, as if getting the words of this novel out of myself would bring me to a deeper understanding of my own sense of confusion.  That's exactly what happened;  in seeing the story that my own hands wrote, I could grasp more of my own - leading me to learn that we are capable of being our own healers.

True Vines is a story of rebuilding life at a fundamental level. Part of change is letting go of worry about the result.  This book, a teacher for me, is now ready to make its way into the world and whatever happens from this point forward, it's mine to accept. The cover is full of meaning.  The painting in the background is one that I did several years ago while trying to capture the beauty and isolation of where I live.   I live in a house on a hill.  It protects me and challenges me at the same time.  Superimposed over the painting is a beautiful illustration of vines by my friend and fellow artist Sue Pownall.  The vines are the connection, the object that moves everything forward - they produce the grapes that turn into wine that connect this little house with the outside world.

You can pre-order True Vines by clicking on the cover photo above.  It's a wonderful holiday gift for yourself and the women in your life.

 

Here's a short trailer to give you a feel for the book.

surrender to what is

With the second half of our B&B season in full tilt, it's amazing how many people have come up our driveway in the last thirty-four days alone.  We've had only one night in that time with no guests; other than that, it's been a plethora of baking bread, washing sheets, and dusting behind the pictures and on top of the mirrors.  The weather has gone from scathing heat to cool dampness;  morning mist has replaced relentless sun.  The entire atmosphere of where we live changes once again.  Gone are the sticky flower surfaces and sap-coated country streets.  Here are the the drying rose hips and heavy vines.  Tractors, loaded to the gills with grappoli so beautiful that they make you want to weep, putter slowly to the cantine where they unload into the monstrous presses that release the first juice to make the mosto. Italy is at her most beautiful this time of year.  And I am at my most retrospective.

I feel the changes consciously and palpably this year, as emails fly back and forth between my editors, graphic designer and myself as to how the final cover of my upcoming novel will look.  I google "indie bookstores", trying to assemble a list of just the right shops to visit on my trip to the states to read and sign my book. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington.  Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Pasadena.  Maybe San Francisco?   I hold my breath as I read through the final copy, praying that every error has been discovered and corrected.

 

Oh, the cover of  True Vines is going to be beautiful. So beautiful.  I can't wait to show it to you. Somehow, it incorporates everything that's important to me.  I don't know how that happened exactly, but it has.

All this as the bread dough rises every morning and I turn pan after pan of sautéed fruits with peperoncino and rosemary onto plates with goat cheese and pick the last of the heirloom yellow tomatoes to sprinkle with salt and Umbrian olive oil.  I try to keep perspective and to live in the moment. All this as I collect sheets from the line and prepare everything and await, with a smile, the new guests driving up my hill. I'm starting to feel the tiredness in my bones.

In between I'm waking in the night.  I fret about italics and where to use them in foreign language quotes.  I wonder if people will read the book. I remember that my work is to put the book out there, and let go wherever it is it is meant to go. And that my real work right now is to make the beds.  Wash the towels.  Explain where the pretty places are. I appeal to Spirit to calm my nerves and help me drift off again so that morning won't come quite so quickly and no one will see the circles under my eyes.

This novel.  It's come to mean more to me than I ever thought it could.  What started out as a story that thrust itself out of my gut is now walking its own path, and I want it to fly high and far. I think that it's because with it, I'm striving, as a storyteller,  to reach people who have chosen change and are coping with its aftermath, and others for whom change has been trust upon them.

True Vines speaks to both.  To moving on.  To the fragility of our existence and to grasping, with everything we are made of, each and every moment.  To squandering none of them - not a precious, single one.

I write what I know, and I try to live what I write.

But right now it feels like there are so many balls in the air and my arms are very short.  I can't catch them all.

There is honor in fragility and tiredness. There is real meaning in reaching and stretching and sometimes falling short out of exhaustion.  Depletion, when it arrives at our doorstep, deserves to be recognized.  It's here for a reason.  That reason is to protect us.

My life is filled with beautiful things.  A bed and breakfast in the wine country in the fall.  A novel in its final stages of editing.  Pots in different stages of completion, waiting glazing or firing.  A coaching business and a charity art website on the verge of new beginnings.  But all grouped together, it feels huge, too huge, and I relinquish myself to the confines of my room to meditate, to breathe.

Hiro Boga reminds us in this amazing post that when we surrender to the flow it carries us to where we are meant to be.

I say out loud, "Surrender."  I surrender and know, with the sounds of my own vocal cords meeting the air, that my vulnerability, my fragility, and even my tiredness are my strength.  They mean that I'm giving all that I can to the things I believe in the most, and that following this path will lead me to exactly where I am meant to be.

Have an inspired week, wherever you are, whatever you do.

 

 

 

 

 

you can buy happiness: the book!

 People, I've seen the future, and it's really small.

I adore Tammy Strobel.  Years ago, my path to find a simpler life took me to the New York Times Online, where I read this article about how Tammy and her husband had moved from conspicuous consumption to calculated consumption - meaning they had complete awareness over everything they purchased. At that point they had moved into a studio apartment.  But things would get even smaller for Tammy and Logan.  They eventually designed and moved into a 128 square foot mini home (take a look at the next parking space you see.  Their home fits into it comfortably).  It's absolutely adorable, extremely well-built and was created with their specific needs in mind.

But back to Tammy.  When I found her, I was on my own journey.  I knew I had to find simpler, clearer ways of living and thinking.  I also knew I had the potential to both clarify my own goals and align my daily activities with the natural frugality that Italy had brought me in the first place.  I was still, however, a jumble of confusion.  Meeting Tammy online opened a shiny new door for me to a path from which I've never looked back.

And after reading a million and one blogs and articles about how to simplify my life and clarify my own goals, no one's words have ever spoken to me as clearly as Tammy's.  I think it's because she's a natural communicator, a non-judgmental person, and is truly and honestly committed to the life she has chosen for herself.  Reading what she and Logan did by giving up their possessions is but one part of her incredible story.

The how of it.... that's what has always fascinated me.  And now, she's written a book - a wonderful, crystal clear synopsis of her process and about what I call the psychology of stuff, how it effect us, how it controls us, called You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap!)  The best part of this book, in my opinion? It doesn't tell you what you have to do, but rather gives you the freedom to determine your own goals and work toward them.  You may not be ready to live in a tiny house, but you might be more that ready to clean out all the excess clutter from your house, your office.  You might be ready to get rid of cable, or be open to the idea of cutting back consumer spending AND the hours you work.  These are the kinds of thought processes that Tammy talks about in this book.

I absolutely love this book and recommend it to everyone interested in clearing through clutter and simplifying without being preached to.  It's wonderful, uplifting, and smartly written.

I recently had the chance to ask Tammy a few questions.  Enjoy the interview.  And BUY THE BOOK!!! You'll love it!

Tammy, I have to tell you a story. When I told my husband about your tiny house, his eyes rolled so high that all I could see were the whites. A short list of one liners ensued (“So what happens when you go in the front door? Don't tell me. You step into the back yard, right?” “It's great 'till she tries to open her lap top and the living room disappears.” You get the picture). Then I showed him the photo gallery of your gorgeous tiny house on Rowdy Kittens. Copious amounts of very impressed back peddling ensued. He couldn't believe how cool it was. How do you find people reacting now that you guys have been in the new digs for awhile?

Typically, we get a couple of reactions. Some folks react, like your husband did, by making fun of us in a good-natured way. But when they see the house, their tune usually changes. The house’s rustic cabin aesthetic and well-designed proportions tend to engage people.

Then there are the folks who visit our home and want to build a little house of their own. I think tiny houses appeal to people because they are cute and inexpensive. I also believe that people associate freedom with little homes. For example, living small has given me the freedom to change careers and move easily. Plus, it’s paid off so I don’t have to worry about paying a big mortgage every month. Being debt-free gives me the freedom to focus on doing work I love and spending time with people I care about.

Your amazing  journey towards simple living is years in the making now. How would you characterize the easiest transitions you've made? What's been tough for you?

The easiest transition? Once I jumped on the simplicity bandwagon, I was ready to let go of belongings I no longer needed. I donated a lot of stuff to charity and gave away things to friends in need. The process of sorting through my stuff wasn’t easy, but giving it away made me feel good. I was able to help others and my home wasn’t as cluttered! It felt great.

The toughest transition? I’m a people pleaser at heart and I have a tendency to say yes to everything. However, I’ve learned to say no to writing projects, party invites, and other commitments that I know I won’t enjoy. It’s been a tough process to step away from the expectations of others, but it’s helped me find more happiness in my day-to-day life.

Your new book, You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap) is hitting the market on September 18, 2012). Tell us a little about the book, what brought you to write it, and what do you hope to tell the world with it.

“You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap)” is all about happiness and living simply. In the book, I combine the newest research on well-being with real world stories to offer readers practical inspiration to simplify their lives and find new wealth in the form of relationships.

A very fortunate event brought me to write the book. A few years ago, our downsizing story was featured in a New York Times article called “But will it make you happy?”. The article went viral and as a result, over a dozen literary agents and a few publishers contacted me about writing a book. I ended up signing with David Fugate —  my literary agent — and with his help I crafted a book proposal which we sold it to New World Library (my publisher).

I hope the book will inspire people to rethink many aspects of their lives, from their careers to personal relationships. In short, I want readers to pay attention to what makes them feel happy and fulfilled.

 Here at DBDC our tag line is “Mastering Change for a Beautiful Life”. I'm fascinated when people put their resources, hearts, souls and brains toward a lifestyle and type of work that is authentic to them. Tell us what wisdom you've learned from embracing the change of moving toward the life that works for you.

I spent years chasing after impressive stuff, a high paying job, and a big house. I learned that status doesn’t matter. Instead, I’ve discovered that strong relationships have brought joy and happiness into my life. Decluttering my life helped a great deal too. I cleared away all of the things I no longer valued and that made me happier.

 How does your professional life work? Do you have a set schedule that you try to keep? How much time do you spend working versus playing versus doing things that are important to you but not income producing?

Every morning I get up, around 6 a.m., and make coffee with Logan. I sip my coffee, talk with Logan, and play with the kittens. Sometimes we’ll listen to NPR in the morning or I’ll do free-writing in my journal. Normally, Logan pedals off to work at 8:00 a.m. and I start writing or editing. At some point during the day I venture out into the world for some exercise. To give you a better idea of what my “typical day” looks like, here’s a snapshot of my Thursday last week:

7:30 − 8:00 a.m. > Responded to email & posted a quotes to social networking sites.

8:00 − 10:30 a.m > Lots of editing, interspersed with yoga stretches.

10:30 − Noon > Rode my bike into downtown Portland and sat in the sauna at LA Fitness.

Noon  − 1.00 p.m.  > Lunch time

1:00 − 3:00 p.m. > Wrote in my journal, responded to more emails and typed my journal notes.

3:00 − 6:00 p.m. > Took a photo walk, jotted down article ideas in my journal, and read.

6:00 p.m. - Onward > Made dinner with Logan and read.

11:00 p.m. > Bedtime!

My typical day isn’t very sexy, but it’s consistent. I’ve created specific rituals in my daily schedule because it’s the only way I can get my work done. I need time and space to write, edit, and think. If my days are packed with coffee dates and meetings, that doesn’t happen. Interestingly, studies show that routines and rituals are good for people’s well-being because they make life seem predictable, meaningful, and they provide cohesiveness to family life, too.

I see my work as a form of play. I don’t clock my hours, so some of my activities don’t produce income. My photo walk on Thursday wasn’t income producing. But I had a lot of great ideas for articles during the walk. So in a lot of ways playing enhances my productivity and ability to make money to pay my bills.

What’s next for Tammy? 

I’ll be running another session of my writing course, in the fall. It starts on October 1 and people can register on September 17th. Also, I’m developing a photography ecourse. In addition, I’m working on a new book idea. Tentatively, the book is going to be about grief and self-care. The idea is still a work in progress. I’m hoping to finish up my proposal by the end of the year.

(full disclosure:  Tammy's book is on my amazon affiliate list!  If you have a blog, put her book on yours and let your readers know about this fantastic life guide!)

 

Introspection

It's the busy time.

My life is busy, full and active.  Guests come, savor, move on.  Wine flows, breads pop in and out of the oven in a flash.  The weather turns on a dime, leaving mist in the morning's unseasonable heat, giving the wasps and the hornets pause as they spiral around.  I ask if someone would like a touch of garden peperoncino in the frittata this morning, or if just a poached egg will do with the last of the sliced tomatoes.

I try to stay focused, calm.  Sometimes I succeed, other times, I fail, relinquishing myself to ten minutes alone to calm frazzled nerves or unsure feelings.  Did I tell our guests to turn right instead of left?  Sometimes I make that mistake - often, in fact. Did the restaurant at which I made reservations do the description justice, or is the chef not feeling up to par tonight?  I try not to take things too personally but when you want someone's first holiday in Northwestern Italy to be perfect, worry is part of the day.  And night.

In the end, we wave good bye, Max's paw raised in tradition, and we run to strip sheets, polish and clean and rest a bit so that when the next guests try to negotiate the curves of our driveway we are fresh and renewed and it feels to them like it's the first time we've been hosts.

All the while, the scent of burning wood is clearer each morning and the humming strands of winter's approach cause me to straighten my backbone in preparation for what is to come:  wood by the cord, dampness driven away by the warmth of the fire, and entire vineyards turning russet and yellow and ochre.

And with that as the background music, I rush to open email after email as my novel reaches its final stages cover design and detail, making sure that every word on every page is perfect and thought through and right.  No one can prepare you for what it takes to have a book published.  Mindfulness is required at every single step. A soon as we pack the last sheets away for the season - ironed with lavender in between each - I'll be booking flights to Rome and New York as my words are released to the world and I let them take the path they were always meant to have.

But I won't rush the process. No.  I will take today for what it is, an extension of summer's hazy arch, and stretch the sheets from branch to branch, dip my toes into the ever-cooler pool, thank Spirit that we have found this place, this time, this amazing home to share and to grow.