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.

 

 

 

 

admitting what's real just shoves us ahead

I've been touched by my truth, but in a good way.  After my guru post, I thought I had really unofficially ended my blogging career, such as it was, through an official crash and burn.   I really don't have a clue what I'm doing half the time (that's in general) and tend to follow my gut. Which can be good or bad, it just depends.  I really didn't mean to make that big a deal out of that post, but the harder I worked on it, the more I realized that something was amiss inside of me that needed clarity . The minute I hit "publish"  I almost regretted it, thinking, oh, that one's going to come back to bite me, not because what I said was something other than what I thought, but because I wrote exactly what I thought.  And doing that is always a risk. But in the end, I offer Jonathan Fields an olive branch.  Because it's not really about him, but so so much more.

(left, olive leaf serving plates, set of three, €60 plus shipping, contact me through the contact form on the blog to purchase)

 

That article received some of the most interesting comments I could have imagined, and led to Marcus Sheridan writing a blog post about my post/the subject of having a guru which in itself received a slew of comments.  My friend Michelle Fabio reposted the part of the post she thought was the most important, the actual one I had written as a guest post. I think there was something in the post that we can all relate to - thinking that others intrinsically know more than we do, and coming to terms with the fact that they really don't, no matter how they're packaged and sold.

But in reality, admitting what's real just shoves us ahead.  And brings all kinds of revelations. People get honest right back, which is cool.  Truth is, I'm not always comfortable with the way the Internet functions and the way we all "juggle" for some kind of position here.  Having said that, it's my media of choice for expressing myself.  And I've decided to take it as that, and nothing more.  Because when you get what doesn't work in your life out of your system, it makes room for other things.

Joy is your truth in practice.  Your fears and insecurities, your power, your hard earned experience, your determination and drive - those thing compose your truth, my friends.  If you can't do something, you can't do it.  If a direction doesn't work for you, change it.  Trust your instincts.  Admit who you are to yourself.  And love that person, because she's the one that's going to be holding your hand for the rest of your life.

Last week, after admitting my blazing insecurity to my little blogging world, amazing things happened.

First of all, Jane Barefoot Rochelle, a beautiful woman, artist and healer, performed a healing touch session for me.  She sensed, through that blog post, that a connection could help me right now.  Remember, she's in North Carolina and I'm here in Italy.  I can just say this about the session:  I'm still unpacking its message and will be for some time to come.  It was stunning and something that I will not forget.  This is one amazing woman who has a gift to give.

I made contact with a woman named Mary Shafer.  After finishing the edits to my upcoming novel, True Vines, I thought I had put it to rest for good, sending the final manuscript back to my editor with a prayer.  Shortly thereafter, through a series of clicks, I found out that Mary had written a book that documented the actually history of an event in one of the critical chapters of my book.  Did I say she documented it?  Mary Shafer wrote the quintessential documentary of the 1955 flood on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania spawned by Hurricane Diane. This horrific flood was the "first billion dollar flood" in the United States and took over 184 lives as it raced up the Delaware River to New England.  I could historically fact-check my writing and will be eternally grateful for Mary's contribution to my own book's accuracy.

And I realized something important. All I did by writing my mind was follow my own truth.  Funny, that.

When you follow your own truth, and let the chips fall where they may, how does it make you feel?  Free? Scared?  A bit lonely? Do you worry what people will think of you?

I would like to announce the winners of three copies of Your Truth from this post:

Adreana

Hannah

Francesca

All of your comments were wonderful (I swear I get the most beautiful comments on my blog) and I thank you all.

 

 

 

so. how are you, really?

Europeans.

It's come to my attention over the last eighteen years that we Americans over here are viewed with careful bemusement.  My hypothesis is that it stems from the multitudes of impressione that people from other countries get about us without having asked or really caring - from two rubbery all-beef patties to ridiculously large (they really are humongous) refrigerators to our compelling, obsessive, completely awkward need to know how everyone is. 

Or at least our apparently awkward need to ask how everyone is.  Because genuinely listening to  how someone answers the question is not on the top of the European paradigm about how Americans really are.  Americans, it seems, are friendly.  Genuine? Not so much.

Two stories.

When I first moved to Germany and started to learn the language, I'd greet everyone I met  with, "Hallo, wie geht's?"  Hi, how are you?  This is expat lingo, this tossing out of a typically American question without wanting or expecting any kind of real response - and doing it in a foreign language.  Germans really only greet people they know, and know pretty well, with the how are you question.  Everyone else?  They get a polite Guten Tag.  Because, honestly, Germans are down with the fact that no one really wants to know how everyone else is.  It's too much information.  And they're ok with that.

My asking my American question in German would lead to all kinds of crazy conversations.  Because guess what?  Given the chance, Germans really will tell you how they really feel. Everything from their foot bunions to problems with their boss to when their next Urlaub to the sea in summer was taking place would come pouring out on the corner by Aldi in the pouring rain. Just because I asked.

Yes I did.  But did I want to know?  No.  Not really.  For me, transplant that I was, the only acceptable answer to the  wie geht's question was fine or eh (or so-so, or well...).  As an American, if you get the eh answer, you have to make a choice - dig further or ignore by sighing, making a sad smile and looking away.  Either is fine.  But to ask the question and get the laundry list of an answer and then sometimes not even getting a wie geht's back (because they are really and truly ok with not wanting to know your s--t) was at times disconcerting, at other times enough to make me want to jump into the North Sea and swim to England.

They'd ask how I was there, I was sure. They understand us, those Brits.  And I'd answer FINE. And not a word more.  Ever. 

Story number two.  After I had lived in Germany for maybe half a decade, I flew back to the states.  Day two on the other side of the pond brings my bad readjustment day, where I'm all zingy and crunchy and can't really speak after three in the afternoon because for me it's after dinner time and I just want to go to bed.  That's when its the most important to stay awake, of course, and so on this particular trip I made myself walk to the Rite Aid in my home town of Milford to pick up one of those monstrous American bottles of hair conditioner that I can barely get my hand around and I know I'll drop in the shower.  On the way uptown (that's what we call the main corner in Milford, it's uptown, baby) , I walked by a half a dozen people or so, every one of them asking how I was.

Hihowyadoing

Hihowyadoinggreatdayisn'tit

Hi,how'sitgoing

Hey,howareyoufallisreallyherehuh?

I almost couldn't breathe.  I had  lost, over five years, the ability to respond to what is really and truly the most basic non-question question in my own native culture!  My mouth went  slack, my eyes crazed, with something like "eehehehahagood" coming out with every person that walked by.

How am I?  How am I?  Well, one way I am is that I apparently now *suck* at saying hi in American, that's for sure.  I'm as cool with not wanting to know how anyone is as the entire Bundesrepubilik Deutschland. I look the same, but deep inside, I'm thinking, why is everyone asking me this damn question, and then not even taking a second's pace off their stride to see if I'm going to answer?  

Now that that's clear and out of the way, let me ask you...

How are you, really?

I ask that with all of the intent of a good German friend who really wants to hear the answer, and all of the sparkly dazzle of an American for whom the words bubble out as naturally as gas ( you know what I mean). 

Because I want to know.  And because I want to know, I'm going to start by telling you how I am, so you understand how much I want to know how you really are.

I'm ready to start working the B&B at full capacity again starting on Friday.  It's fine, it's what I do, but I won't be able to write as much, and that makes me sad.  Because I am loving writing this blog right now.

We've had 60 days straight with temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and we are on drought watch.  It feels eerie, it's so dry.  I hope we get rain soon, and that you do too, if you have not had any lately. I have never looked so forward to fall in my entire life, and fall is my favorite season - so this year I will be really ready to put on that first sweater.

I'm happy that my book Your Truth is out there in the world and that you who have read it have found it worthwhile.  Thank you so much to everyone who has ordered it.  I've learned so much about the process of self publishing by putting this one out there, and I'll be working on a new ebook soon.

I am nervous, jittery, and adrenaline filled about the release of my new novel, True Vines, in October.  I've been working on the final edits; it's all polished up and gorgeous and now we're working on finalizing the cover.  It's all very exciting but I need to stay calm and focused, because before that happens, I have lots of guests to take good, loving care of and that is my priority for the next seven weeks.  But I really, really, really cannot believe that this book is almost out there.  It's crazy.  Just crazy.

I'm mentoring a few select people through some momentous change and loving every minute of it.  I'll be writing more and more about coaching after the book comes out and I free up my energy for the new.

I'm preparing an upcoming interview with Tammy Strobel about her upcoming book You Can Buy Happiness and It's Cheap:  How One Woman Radically Simplified her Life and How You Can Too.  I love Tammy.  She's frank, she's fun, and she lives in just about the cutest teeny tiny house you have EVER seen.

I'll be announcing the winners of three copies of my ebook on for commenting on this blog post on Friday, August 24th.  So get over there and comment now!!! 

 It's been unfortunately too hot to do too many ceramics this summer, but I've gotten a couple of kiln loads done with some fun, colorful results.  I love this direction!  It's very free and fun.  

 

 So now, it's your turn.  How are you, really?  How is the walk along your path?  Tell us about it, let us know.  Remember.  Your path is what this blog is all about.

 

 

cracking your beautiful, well honed surface

Your Beautiful Self.

You dream.  You function.  You do all the things that are expected.  Work things.  Home things.  Family things.  Somehow the days squeak by and you've held it together, again and again, in a way that your mother would be proud of.

Taking care of yourself means something different, though.

Your beauty, your radiant self becomes flattened and ground down as the micro fine sand of making it all work hits your surfaces, the rough edges and corners, the secret wishes and goals, the dark and the sacred until you are smooth, smooth as a stone and functioning like the machine you never really were.

Until something hits.  An illness.  A divorce.  A change.

A revelation.

And the surface cracks and underneath there are familiar shadows that reveal themselves, where all the corners and darkness and beauty have been laying in waiting for just this moment to explode through the well honed surface and remind you, once again,

who you really are.

The change may come from you or it might come through you.  But its job is always the same.

The purpose of change is to expose and reveal the essential.  The essential you.

entrepreneurial cojones: give me your best marketing idea and win a free copy of my ebook Your Truth

Entrepreneurial cojones. 

(please note lack of graphics since I couldn't think of an appropriate picture to post with this)

No matter how honest your work is, or how beautiful, or how pure, or how simple or true, the fact is, if you want to get the word about your work out to the world and separate yourself from the masses, you better have a pair.

Because as long as it's sitting on your hard drive, in  your art studio, in the back of your gorgeous mass of grey cerebral tissue that sits on your momentarily well-tanned shoulders, your work is very much NOT DONE.

Love Thyself, Market Thy Work

Producing work you love is the easy part.  Having the guts to take it to market and see it fly is quite another animal and doesn't always come naturally.  Because it means engaging in the time honored tradition of selling thyself.  The world needs to know about you and all you do!

It was not too long ago when I thought that I had no idea what this meant.  I was engaged in an online discussion and feeling very much like a pesce out of water because the subject was content marketing your small business through social media.

A couple of hours later, I thought, now wait a New York minute here:

Who's kidding who?  There's a  successful B&B in the middle of the Italian countryside where there was once a pile of rocks.  Oh.  And there's that thing hanging on my wall... what does it say when I read the fine print?  Right. Bachelor of  Science in Marketing. 

Turns out I do know something about this stuff, and I better start using rustling up everything I've got in my backpack, because to be honest I've got my hands in a plethora of creative projects right now, enough to keep me busy to my eyeballs. And every single one of them needs marketing attention. 

There's my novel, True Vines, published by Gemelli Press  that will be hitting bookstores and and online shops in late October.

There's my B&B, booked to the gills until the end of October.  (Oh, the end of October is going to be a crazy time.  I see it already.)

There's a new art charity donation project that I'm working on with some fellow artists.  It's all hush hush for now, but our goal will be to change the world in a small way with beautiful art.  Stay tuned.

I'm coaching clients on life change.  This is huge, and something that I've very quietly working on for a long time.  I've started with a very limited number for this summer and fall, and I'll be opening my coaching schedule in early 2013 and taking on new clients.

Last but not least, I've written and self-published Your Truth:  Changing the Path Back to Yourself, an ebook about having the courage and conviction to be who you really are and take on the work you were meant to do.   It's for sale here as a PDF and on Amazon.com in Kindle form. 

And that's just the start of the list. Hey, I'm a busy girl.  And it's not going to slow down anytime soon.

But enough about me. Let's talk marketing  strategy:

I am going to share with you one of my best marketing ideas to grow entrepreneurial cajones:

If you have work you want to market, I am going to assume you have a blog already. Go and visit blogs that say what you want to say, only to a larger audience.  Follow those blogs, read what those people write.  If there's a match between what you do and what they say, write to them. Make contact. Be nice.  Use good grammar.  Be helpful if you can.  Don't expect them  to do anything for you if they've never heard of you before.  The internet is all about relationship building.  Start stretching those networking muscles, as uncomfortable as it may feel at first.

After you've managed to establish contact, write up a guest post (and proof read it ten or twenty times) that directly relates to what the larger blogger is all about.  Send her/him the post.  It might get posted.  If it does, make sure that you have a stellar blog post up on your own blog that day to link back to and  show off the best of who you really are.  If they don't post it, offer it to another blog.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Make contact.  Your work is important, and people want to know about important work.

For those of you who come here for anything other than marketing advice, consider this:  we create.  We put ourselves out there and we risk so much just by being who we are.  Marketing our goods is just the next step in founding our path.  One foot in front of the other.  We can do it and be honest and true to ourselves.  We can stand up and say, this is what I do/make/have to offer.  And people can decide whether they want these things or not.  But they can't decide if they don't know about us in the first place.  So stand up for yourself and put yourself out there.  Don't be afraid.

Now it's your turn. Give us your best on-line and social media related marketing ideas.

I'm offering 3 free copies of my ebook  Your Truth for the three best online marketing ideas for entrepreneurs.  While I'll be the final judge, I'll probably be calling on marketing mentor guru hunk-types like Marcus Sheridan and John Falchetto  to help me decide.  These guys have hunky marketing grey matter on their tanned shoulders.   

Remember, your work is your work.  It's you in manifested energy form.  You're an artist, and you have something to give the world.  Oh, and one other thing.  Thanks, Marcus.  Your post today gave me the whole cojones visual to work with.  HA!! 

 

 

my garden of acceptance

A mini break!

After our guests checked out yesterday, we fell into a long, early summer slumber that took us most of the afternoon to wake up from.  A strong breeze was in the crisp, dry air.

I was too tired to think, to move, really.  All I could do was let the relaxation take over.

But deep inside I'm on the move, just about bubbling over with new ideas.  After my nap yesterday I outlined two potential books that I want to write (this is why napping is so important.  Let that brain rest a little and then watch out!), staked eighteen tomato plants, and sat in a field of clover. Yes, a field of clover. I planted one in the spring and it's beautiful and full. I sprinkled wildflower seeds all over it and now there are poppies and daisies and other things I can't identify coming up all over the place.  It's beautiful.

Being out in that field with my camera made me realize that living without  nature is out of the question for me.  Wherever we've lived, we've always had a bit of outside space, whether it was a postage-stamp balcony with four basil plants or a full yard with grass and shrubs.  But here, here in Italy, the connection with outside is so strong, so primordial, so basic.

My entire family came from Italy, and so many of them bought pieces of country land and now I completely understand why.  It's impossible to be Italian and not want to have your hands in the dirt and your face in the sun.

 

I have a vision of my grandfather, a large, boisterous Italian man who was quick to smile, tending his tomato plants on his balcony in Greenwich, Connecticut.  I wish I could tell him that I understand. I see my father, putting tubers of dahlias in every spring, dozens and dozens of them, because they were his favorite flower and in the late summer, passers-by would gasp in delight at the festival of color - the sunny faces in peach and magenta and yellow gracing the edge of his massive garden.

And I look up to the blue sky and tell my father yes, Daddy, I understand. I get it. I really do.

I used to be so frustrated with my gardening efforts.  It was never good enough, pretty enough.  Things never grew fast enough, in the right shape, and watering was just a drag at the end of a busy day.  But this year, all of that has changed radically. I've accepted that it doesn't all have to be perfect.  I've accepted that to enjoy my garden, I have to let it be however it's going to be. I can't believe the difference. I've cared for the garden, mind you, but more in a talking- loving - throw a little manure on the ground way rather than in a frustrated, angry, why-aren't-you-growing way.  I've also stopped using weed killer of any kind.  There are now green patches in the gravel. Why didn't I think of this earlier?  Pansy seeds took to the wind and came up where the cars should be parked.  In the vegetable patch, the cilantro, dill and parsley are exploding next to the romaine lettuce.

What's this shift all about? Why am I enjoying things that used to be a chore? Why am I simply letting nature take its course rather than trying to constrain it into some preconceived idea of pretty and acceptable? It seems to me that it's about accepting instead of  forcing things.  I keep getting that back when I ask for guidance.  Everything seems more beautiful, more heightened, more precious.

Can it be that the notion of acceptance shifts our consciousness closer to what we really want and who we really are?

PS: Don't forget to click and  subscribe here to download the free chapters of my upcoming Ebook, Your Truth - Changing the Path Back to Yourself, to be available July 15th- xoxo

your beautiful sacred voice

I have a sacred voice and so do you.

One of my favorite things about the beautiful, peaceful place I live is that in the mornings, I can wake up, walk outside while the sun's coming up, hear only birds singing, catch the dewy scent of the air and breath in.  The rest of humanity is busy elsewhere.  Here, it's like a small paradise, one that fills me up as I stretch my arms up to the sky and release.  After that, I'm ready to walk to the kitchen and start kneading the bread dough and slicing fruit.  Those few peaceful moments in the morning, when I'm alone, set my state of balance for the day.  I listen to myself during those moments, what my body is telling me, if I'll need to rest later on, if it might be a good day to write or make glazes or paint, or maybe handle the paperwork that tends to accumulate in a little basket next to my work table.

I love the peace so much that I put a chair in my kitchen garden where I can sit for short periods during the day and renew my energy.

I spent years, too many of them,  telling people what they wanted to hear and telling myself what I needed to be.  There's something very injuring, long term, about doing that.  Not understanding who we are or what we want and instead going along and taking on other people's ideas about us is like trying to fit into shoes that are a size too small. You can do it for awhile, but there'll come a point in time that you can't take one more step, no matter how much you want to or feel you have to.

Walking our own path is scary and full, FULL of resistance. Our heads are full of other people's voices, some well meaning, others not so much.  Even when we want to be creative and renewed, we hear all of those silly little scratches over and over.

Why would you want to do that?

Oh, heavens, everything's already been painted, sculpted, counter cross stitched, written.  Why bother?

Why would anyone ever want to have anything that you made anyway?

I'm here to say to you that you have a voice.  And that voice is clear, sacred and beautiful.  It's full of complex melodies, irony, sadness, hope, funniness, conflict and anger.  It's an individual rose so special and so unique that you are the only one that can give your voice the air it needs to be heard. Follow your voice, despite the fact that it's been drowned out by second guessing and other people's stuff.  It's your voice, after all, not theirs.

 my little house paintings with one of my french blue stoneware bowls

My voice has been telling me to rest.  I've worked hard the last few months, and I need to recuperate. Doing restoration work on the property, topped off with being fully booked for a straight month and finishing Your Truth, the Ebook have all taken their toll.   The need to rest comes at a time when I am full of ideas to the point of bursting.  But I know if I don't heed the voice, and step into a bit of relaxation,  I'll burn out.  And the cost of burning out creatively is way too high because it takes away from the future.

But I don't relax just by sitting in a chair in the garden, at least not always.  For me, painting has always been a tool of regeneration.  So last week, I started painting after taking a couple of years off from the craft.  I love to paint abstract images of houses - because home is one of the most important themes in my life.  Painting houses always leaves me feeling grounded, in a place where I can go deeper and explore my own sense of home and what it means to me personally.  I love to paint, and I forgot about that, until I listened to my own voice calling me away from my computer and into my studio.

My voice is always right. And so is yours.  We know everything we need to.  We just have to listen.

guidance: go f yourself

Hello, my friends.  What's growing in your garden this week?

Italy is a stellar place to take on all kinds of personal development.  I notice that when people arrive here, they'll dive into conversations about ten times deeper than the ones they might have elsewhere.  There's something about here that helps people let go. It's such a great thing to watch people let the worries of everyday life fall off their shoulders for a few days as they breathe in the air in the hills and let themselves relax, maybe for the first time in months, or even years.  It's quite a lovely thing to be the facilitator of relaxation, and to be able to give people that space.

I know that the sense of deep relaxation is something that comes from Italian energy, the Italian way of life. I once read that Italy is the land of old souls - that reincarnated souls come back here again and again to work in the vineyards, the connection with nature bringing the soul's development further each time. Life led us here to do this kind of work for a reason. The longing for Italy and its beautiful energy is something we see reflected in our guests' comments - and hearts - year after year.

At some point, I decided it was divine destiny that brought me here to cultivate this particular way of life.  For years, all I could see that we needed to work like dogs for years to get established and centered, and I couldn't even fathom why we needed to go through all of this - ahem- learning. But I've learned to view our work here as something greater than just having an inn and making breakfast.  It's really about the conversations, the interactions, the richness of what has been brought to us through having opened our home.

What a garden we've cultivated for ourselves.  I'm a very lucky girl.

We're guided toward a purpose.  That purpose is to  develop and take on change. This week has been one of going inside of myself and looking around a bit, at the same time reaching out to see where I want to go.  My garden's growing and growing - both my vegetable garden (full of baby tomatoes and basil and dill) and my soul-garden, where I take all the goodness that's bestowed on me by everyone I meet and try to understand what the guidance is behind the words I share with others.

We're receiving guidance all the time , as my friend Amy Oscar points out, we only have to look around and have an open mind and heart.  We are led spiritually into new ways of thinking, new ideas and new possibilities constantly.  There's nothing wrong and there's everything right with reaching out and pulling the guidance close to you so that you can come closer to yourself and what you are truly meant to do.

Guidance isn't based upon where you are professionally, or financially, but rather spiritually.  You don't need to build up walls of things around you and have your whole life in perfect order before you even start.  You just need one thing - a vision of where you want go.  And to get that vision, all you have to do is trust the guidance that you get, every moment of every day.  You know about listening to your gut, right?  It won't fail you.  You can get from here to wherever it is you want to be if you ask, listen, and do.   If you listen, you'll automatically be more connected to your guidance.

So, what I want to tell you this week, what I really want you to do, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, is I want you to listen to me and to go F yourself.  Really.  I do.

Go Free Yourself.  Make at least two pockets of time this week, a half hour each at least, to walk by yourself and free your mind from the tension that you carry around with you.  During your walk, keep your shoulders down and breathe from your stomach.  Don't think about anything but relaxing your neck, keeping your stomach in, your back straight and your shoulders down. And walk.  Alone.  Free your mind. Free yourself up to recognize guidance as it happens.

Go Flaunt Yourself.  Write down in  your journal (you have one of those, don't you?) ten things you do really really well.  And expand on them - go into detail.  Write what you like about each of those things.   Because if you do things well, it's because you love to do those things.  Take a look at your accomplishments, right there, in hard print, for you to look back to. Flaunt yourself so that you can be guided by your strengths rather than your fears.

Go Floralize Yourself.  It's the time of year when flowers are the least expensive. Buy a bunch of posies and put them in a place where YOU can see them (I like to keep mine on my desk next to my computer).  If you want, go into a field and pick flowers instead. Get some floral love going in your life.

Go Fragrance Yourself.  Wear your favorite scent every day, a little luxury that will make you feel lovely.

Go Fantasize Yourself.  Time to get out the journal again.  Draw either a verbal or decorative picture of how you would have your most perfect room. Get specific:  color, furnishings, lighting, views from the windows.  Understand your own space desires. Guidance works hard through our fantasies, and if we wake up to what we would love to have in our lives, we'll be guided on how to get the ideal space for ourselves.

Go Fortify Yourself.  With good food that works for your body and not against it.  With knowledge about the things you want to improve yourself in. With the words of supportive friends who exist in your life for the purpose of mutual enrichment. It's when you're rested and healthy that you are best able to put guidance into action.

Go Flourish Yourself.  Give your garden what it needs to grow and thrive. Listen for guidance, stay open, and trust your gut.

I wish you a beautiful, healthy, prosperous week cultivating your garden from Bella Piemonte.

diana

PS... Have you downloaded the free chapters yet?  Click here if you haven't.....

dive in

 

Life has so many opportunities that we can embrace.  They're hidden behind our interactions with people, in our daily routines, waiting for us to take notice.  To notice opportunities, we have to be aware of their existence, and be ready to embrace them. Embracing opportunities also means embracing change.  And change is the thing about opportunities that can redefine us as people.

Being in-between who you were and who you will become lies change.  Change that will move you, stretch you, ground you to a pulp at times but leave enough of you there that you will be resilient enough to pick up and keep going.  I've often thought of life change as having a backpack full of building blocks.  One day, you spill them out onto the floor and realize you don't even recognize the pieces.  But then you decide to pick them up, one by one and put them back in the backpack...until they are all in there... but in a different order than when you started.   We are a confused, muddled, exquisite puzzle, and we're left to our own devices to see exactly what it is we're capable of.

But we don't truly know until we dive in. 

When we do, when we stop planning and thinking and second guessing and just dive in to change, in whatever form it takes, we're hit with learning from the very first moment.  We realize how vulnerable we are, how much we define ourselves through things that don't matter like jobs and degrees and money and cars.  All of that washes away and we can see, maybe for the first time:  who are we?  What do we want?  What do we need?

Change, real meaningful change, simplifies our lives immensely because we learn, unequivocally, who we really are.  And who we're not.  We don't get to know those things without having dived into risk.  For some reason, the Universe has it set up that way.  She shake her cosmic finger in our face and says, "You really want to know what your life's all about?  Put yourself out on a limb.  Everything will become crystal clear."

My life is changing in oh, so many ways.  I'm swept up in the dance of Italian inn keeping, cooking up a storm, baking focaccia dredged in Umbrian olive oil for breakfast, teaching how to make cannelloni stuffed with spinach and pork,  washing sheets and welcoming new people every few days into our peaceful world on a Piemontese hill.  But I'm writing and learning new glaze formulas for plates and continuing to unravel the mystery of me.  New energy is blowing all around; new opportunities are in the air.  I can feel it as I breathe to stay open to whatever comes my way. Nothing is standing still.

How is your life changing?  What new processes are you embracing that are moving you forward in your unraveling?  Leave a comment and let us all hear what you have going on and how it's impacting your life...even if it's all still in the planning phase...

A thank you is overdue. 

For all of you who subscribed and downloaded the free chapters to my new ebook, YOUR TRUTH, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  To those of you who wrote me personal emails, I am touched beyond words.  I am trying to get back to each of you this week.  Thank you especially to those who took time to write out the typos to me (I MEAN IT, THANK YOU!!!).  All of your notes have been - um, noted and will be corrected for the epublication version.

Your kindness and patience is overwhelming and confirmed what I've known for a very long time.  I have some of the most wonderful people visiting my world here at A Certain Simplicity.

Writing this ebook has had a profound impact on me.  I'm much clearer since giving these ideas dimension on a page.  We're in the "fine tuning" phase of the re-write now and I can't wait to have this ready for you very soon.

And a word about design...

I'm taking a fresh approach here at ACS and am starting to make the blog look more how I feel it should look.  I hope you enjoy the changes (change IS good!)....

Wishing you joy,

Diana

 

 

the elements

Earth between my fingers, as I coax it to grow my precious seeds.  Earth in my wheel wells as spring rains softens the road in front of me.  Earth going round and round on a pottery wheel as I gaze into it, hoping for something magical, something practical, something beautiful and meaningful.

Water in my dreams, hoping that the season won't bring another break in the ancient main up the road, as I check to make sure the pressure is full every morning during the sweltering days. Water on my hill, threatening the back of my old stone house and washing away my new grass seed.  Water in the rain collector, feeding the pool and the garden, the old pump dropped in and shooting the precious liquid in every direction.  Water sprinkling from my fingers onto the earth on the pottery wheel, softening it, making it pliable and elastic and supple so that it can be a cup, or a bowl, or simply a vase for flowers.

Air through the window, signaling the oncoming storm, causing me to hope the agricoli won't have any hail this time around that can hurt the baby grapes. Air as the scirocco, blowing my papers all over the room, slamming the shutters and scaring the dog. Air in my lungs, as I expand to take in the extraordinary beauty of the place I find myself.  Air expanding the bread that sits in the warm window, preparing to take its place at the daily breakfast ritual. Air swooping in and sucking the water out of the earth, turning the pot from soft to hard as it sits and waits for its alchemy.

Fire on the hillside, as the excess vine branches turn to smoke in later winter.  Fire in my throat from a peperoncino too spicy to actually eat. Fire in my voice as I curse yet another mosquito bite on my leg, enviously looking over to my husband, who the mosquitos hate.  Fire in the kiln, hissing and melting and bending the earth into an object to serve and desire.

I sit and listen to what the elements have to teach me today.  I feel desperate from the rain;  I need to work in the garden - but maybe I don't.  Maybe I should be sitting here writing instead, as the water streams down my window pane and my tea cools unexpectedly on this unseasonably chilly day. One day soon,  the fire of the mid-day sun will tell me to stop hanging sheets and go find a chair in the shade and close my eyes.  I'll sit on my favorite wall - the little one, next to my barn, the one that gets the full impact of the sunset - and I'll breathe deeply, taking the air right down to my belly, telling myself that it's OK to just sit and do nothing even if it's just for a couple of minutes as my hand scrapes the Earth next to me, looking for flowers and ladybugs and a hint of cool moisture.

I carry the elements with me - more consciously today than ever before. They dictate my routine and my life in the unrelentingly harsh, magnificent Piemontese countryside. They tell me to accept when I want to resist, to realize that change is coming even when today just feels like a muddy mess, to revel in the magic of the alchemy that is this moment.

Here's a lovely piece of piano music called Delight by Michael Jones for you to enjoy, with love from my hill to you. 

This post is for Gloria, Rebecca, Melanie, Alexandra, and Jessica, the ladies of the Italy Blogging Roundtable.

your time

What do you do with your time?  Is there enough of it?  Do you feel like you need more time to do what it is you were truly meant to do, because commitments and work and family and friends and pets and just keeping up take up every single waking moment of your day?

 

So much is asked of us in the average day.  Not  just the tasking, but also the comprehending.  The amount of information available to us borders on infinite as we  cope with making sense of it.  We try not to overwhelm.  We do the best we can with the time we're given.  And at the end of the day, we see, with great clarity, all the things we've pushed off for another day.  Those things fall into a bucket - a bucket of things to do when we have time.  One day.

And we wonder, really wonder if there will be the time, or the resources, or the freedom and support from those around us to fly.  Ever.  

Because flying means taking steps and falling and recovering.  Can we really do that in between everything else we have to do?  Can we really try and allow ourselves the luxury of obstacles and failure and new starts that flying really requires, all the while keeping up the metronomic tact of our everyday existence?

Of course we can.  But it means looking at time in new ways, to try to get what we want out of it, instead of letting it get what it wants out of us.

Once we've decided that something is worth sacrifice, we have to sacrifice something.  Time online.  Television time.  Wine drinking time.  Pasting together pockets of time, small ones, to dedicate to something meaningful can change everything. Because once we dedicate ourselves to exploring our interests in a way that's unencumbered and free, we will be propelled forward until the entire activity starts to take on a life of its own.  I've seen it happen again and again.  It always amazes me, synchronicity, because it  incorporates a strong spiritual aspect, one where if we push ourselves in the right direction, we'll brought to a completely different place, through doors where the keys fit and unlock treasures without as much as a sound.  That kind of spirituality - the kind the moves us just because we're open to it  moving us.

I'm finishing up my ebook, Your Truth.  The first few chapters will be available soon here as a free download.  If you like it, the rest will be available for purchase on Amazon.  We're starting our B&B season shortly and are finishing major landscaping work.  And I'm working on the publicity plan for the release of my upcoming novel.  My pottery studio is full of pieces to glaze and finish in the next week or two. Overwhelm is hitting me in the night and the early hours of the morning.  But I look at all of these activities - every single one of them  - and I realize that they are a result of taking chances and flying.  So I'm accepting the overwhelm right now as a part of where I am.  I remember to step back and not think.  To allow my spirit to breathe and take in the moment as it presents itself.  It's not always easy to do this but I know I must.  And that every day is beautiful, even the ones fraught with challenge and trepidation.

That life is lovely.

Speaking of loveliness, if you would like to seek more treasures about your own life, your own time and how to get what you want from both, take a look at my friends Courtney Carver and Tammy Strobel's project, your lovely life.  They're offering the perfect online course for just this subject called your lovely lessons.   

For those of you who are not familiar with these two ladies, their blogs are a trove of inspiration about simple living and making time for what you really want.  They're two experts on the subject.  I've known them both for years, and return to their blogs again and again to center myself. They interviewed me recently for the Lovely Life project - it was an honor to be part of it.

our wandering paths

Northern Italy is a symphony in the spring.

  

The colors and textures change daily, making for a complete creative assault on my senses.  I discover elderly ladies in the lower fields of our property collecting mysterious wild greens.  They smile demurely and close their bags post-haste, not wanting to give up the secrets of the booty their mothers and grandmothers came here to pick over the last hundred years.  It used to salt me but good that they would come on my property to take something without asking, but the years in Italy have mellowed me. I want them to come, to hold on to the traditions, to bring their daughters and their granddaughters to do the same.  It's not really just my property at all, and the greens, by squatter's rights, are theirs.

Their path crosses mine in the lower fields.  I came to Italy to find myself;  their path was always here. They know who they are.  When I mention that we came here to put down down roots, no complicated words are necessary.  They understand almost immediately what I'm trying to say.  They cannot imagine a life without roots, firmly grafted to a specific place.

The change in season morphs our property from an ugly duckling of grey earth and soaked bare branches to an elegant swan of flowering trees and neon green grass. I want to grasp each day and not let any of them go.  Spring renews my sense of my own journey, fills me with purpose. Our hands are dried and split from too much time in the earth planting lavender and rosemary and not enough time at the salon.   But it doesn't matter.  It won't be completely done by the time the first cars full of guests come rumbling up the quarter mile drive, but it will be enough.  Enough for them to be able to shed their worries for a few days, pour themselves a glass of wine, and sit on the veranda to breathe.  Which is what's the most important, anyway.

 

 

The interactions, the ones with the ladies in the field or with the guests that drive up, feed my soul and give me new direction in my creative work. I'm amazed and awed by what we all go through to survive and thrive. People's stories, stories that at one time might have bored me or made me roll my eyes, fascinate me now. Each person with whom we cross paths has something to tell us, something to share. If we allow their field of energy to enter ours, we can't help but grow and change.  Because as much as our external path - the places we live, the things we do - tells of one part of our journey, it's our internal path - the one of self awareness - that leads us to the deepest sense of who we are.

I'm taking the colors around me and I'm going into the pottery studio to try and develop glazes that reflect nature.  Soft whites and creams, maybe a touch of green. My new pieces are more organic than ever, more natural.  I like this direction - it suits me on the path I find myself on presently. Here are some new pieces in the raw.

What path do you find yourself on?  What do you pick up on conversations with those around you that are signs as to how you should continue?  What is it that moves you as you remain open to events in your life?

I wish you peace on this beautiful spring day from the bel paese.

 

good news

 

 photo by turid emberland

Over the last year and a half,  I've been working on a project that has consumed me.  One January day  in 2011, as I walked through the vegetable aisle of the local supermarket eyeballing the fennel, I was hit with the premise for a story.  This could be a good one, I thought to myself, as I had in the past about other possible book premises, but for some reason, the thought stayed with me through the cheese aisle and all the way to laundry detergents.  I didn't have anything but my wallet with me, so I couldn't write the idea down.  I rushed out of the store, leaving the cart and my Euro deposit behind, and raced home, hoping I wouldn't forget the idea before getting there.  The fire was crackling away in our small office.  I buzzed in, ignoring my husband's inquiries about dinner, sat down at my trusty white Mac laptop, and  hammered out what was to eventually become Chapter Three of a story called True Vines.

It's a story that goes something like this:

Shortly after her magnanimous, strong-willed Italian husband suddenly dies, a heartbroken Meryl Kramer turns her back on the bel paese and Francesco’s loving family to return to her hometown in Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to heal and start over. Instead, she discovers that distance and misunderstanding have changed her relationship with her family, that she sacrificed important parts of herself through living her husband’s chosen dream and that consequences from past choices can’t be ignored. And that Italy, with its harsh, unforgiving beauty, will not allow itself to be forgotten.

I'm so thrilled to announce that I've signed a book publication deal with Gemelli Press, an independent publishing company out of Seattle, Washington and Calabria, Italy that specializes in literature of all types pertaining to Italy.  Many of you already know that my friend, fellow expat and attorney Michelle Fabio recently joined Gemelli as a Managing Editor.  Michelle played a key role in editing this book, and I never could have gotten to this point without her.

The publishing of  True Vines is a watershed of sorts.  I've been writing for years.  Half written manuscripts lay around on floppy disks, for heavens sake, still yet to be finished.  But there was something about the writing ritual for True Vines that was good for me at this point in time. In order to write this book, I not only needed to discipline myself, but I needed to find flow.  It required me finding a special spiritual place in order to be able to write.  In other words, I connected with myself for long stretches.  This was the exercise I needed at this point in life - the exercise of being present with my own Source.  From that perspective alone, it was worth every bit of energy and love it took to write it.

The book is due out in both print and Epub versions on Amazon and at retail locations in October of 2012.

 

 

get out of your own way

What is it you really want to do?  And what is it that you're doing to sabotage it? Because it's one thing to want it.  It's a whole other thing to get it, ascertain it, own it, rock it. I've sat politely, here on my hill, and listened to people tell me why they can't do what they want to do.  The reasons vary, but they  always the same group of things.  Money. Time. But I'm here to tell you what I won't tell my paying guests because I'm too busy being a polite hostess.  Outside of being physically unable to do something, there is no excuse for not moving in the direction of what you really want.

FEAR is the emotion that contracts us into cramped, judgmental shadows of who we really are - and all that judgement?  It's against ourselves, which is the most poisonous, illness-creating type of judgement that there is.  It's like taking life's potential, rolling it up into a ball, and hitting ourselves over the head with it until we can't stand anymore.

You may be accustomed to using fear as silly putty, molding into excuses like "I don't have time, plus I don't have the funds."  But if you've got time to twitter and Facebook for an hour, or look at those soaps or  if you have enough money to get your hair cut every month, you have time and money.  I'm sorry, but you do. You can get your hair cut every six months, or cut it yourself, if you want something bad enough. You can stop buying clothes for a whole year, maybe even more.  There are so many things you can do to scrape together what you need to move foreword in your life towards the goal that lies within who you really are. But first you have to get out of your own way.  You can simplify your eating habits, your TV habits, your expenditure habits. You have to stop listening to advertising and neighbors and well-meaning family and friends and spouses who validate choices that don't help you with your goals. You can believe your own voice before you believe anyone else's.  You can start realizing that you have what it takes to do that thing to which you're drawn.   Because you know everything already about who you really are if you'd only quiet down enough to listen. And when you've finally gotten out of your own way, you will find your soul poking out from behind all of that mental clutter, revealing to you every little thing you already know to be true.

Nothing's easy and everything's easy.

None of the change will get you what you want.  It will put you in the direction; it will start the Universe's scheming on your behalf. But it's not going to give you the thing that you want.  Because, see, it's never really about the end result.  It's about opening yourself up to possibilities. And you won't ever even see the possibilities while you're standing in your own way, blocking the light, the air, and the energy.  Allow yourself to experience the possible.  Walk towards that which you want - and you will walk toward a thousand doors ready to open on your behalf.  The goal may change.  In fact, you might forget, in the end, what the goal even was. And it doesn't matter.  Because the path is your saving grace; it's your hymn, your mantra.

Awakening the sound of your own soul will make everything easy, because you'll know what's right for you. Check your gut. Follow what you know to be your truth.  I promise you, you will never, ever go wrong. Ever.

 

 

 

let go

There are times when we feel the overwhelming need to break out of our current circumstance.  It's not about our circumstance; it's about ourselves and our place at the time. This leads to complications.  If we are unhappy, we can change our circumstance.  But more often than not, it won't make us any happier.  The thing we have to change is ourselves, and to do that, we have to come to grips with who we really are. People ask me all the time about starting over and change.  It's a topic that seems to capture everyone, as though change, in and of itself, was the means to an end. As though a goal that sits at the end of a long series of circumstantial changes will result in a burst of happiness and fulfillment.

I'm somewhat of an expert at circumstantial change, as I've lived in three countries and have moved thirteen times in thirty years.  I used to say I was something of a nomad, but I think it goes further than that.  The human energy required to reroot thirteen times explains a lot to me about who I am. There's been a great deal of searching going on. It wasn't, though, until I moved to Italy that I had the time to really process the whirlwind of my life. I've actually lived in this place longer than I've lived anywhere in my adult life.  In December, we will be here nine years.

We came here with almost a maniacal need to put down roots, and to build something meaningful and somewhat permanent that we could lean on to let us breathe.   We were willing to do whatever it took to make this project work.  But what it would really take, in retrospect, to succeed at this lifestyle, was something that I wasn't ready to reckon with.  I was willing to change my circumstance, my income level, the square footage of my residence, my car, my wardrobe, my diet.  I was flexible to the point of being self-defeating. Whatever it takes, I thought, through the blurred tears and aching bones.

People who knew me couldn't really understand why I was so fragile, scared and defeated.  After all I wanted all of this change.  We  brought it on ourselves.  What was the problem?

The problem was that I hadn't yet reckoned with the greatest change to be made of all. I was ready to change this place with the goal of making it the most beautiful little inn on a hill ever, no matter what it took for me to get there. But I was blinded to the fact that even if that grand goal were to happen, I would still be fragile and hurt and unhappy with all that I had accomplished. Because the real problem was that I could not see, through all of this, my own goodness.  I could not embrace the fact that everything I did, every day, was enough.  Everything was good. In fact, everything was better than good. If you would have heard the guests speak of our place, you would say, Diana, what on earth are you talking about?  The guests love your B&B.  But all I could see, all I ever could see, was what wasn't done. And I viewed each and every one of those undone things as a momentous personal failure.

This was nothing new. Being satisfied with accomplishments has always escaped me.  As I would tick off the things that I had managed to do or learn, I would immediately keep those things in check with the list of what I had left to learn, left to accomplish - a list that was always so much longer and more difficult.  On the days of my biggest accomplishments - landing the best job ever, getting a raise,  learning how to conjugate the past perfect in German, making the prettiest bowl I had ever made - I would crawl under the covers and cry because I would have to raise the stakes again.  Nothing was ever enough.

 

Looking back, all the need for circumstantial change was just my pushing my aching self further. I created new yardsticks with which to judge my accomplishments.  New languages, new professions, new creative ventures.  When I'd master one thing, I'd move on to the next, and then the one after that.  It's just now, now at this very critical time in my life, that I am becoming aware of something very important.

It's enough.

Whatever we put forth, however we do it, it's enough and it's good on its own.  We don't have to take what we've done and pulverize it by creating another new goal out of it. we can just let the good be there. There is no need, none whatsoever, to take all the good we do and  minimizing it by looking beyond it as soon as it's in the past.  We can expand into ourselves and take in the goodness of all we do.  We can enjoy and revel in our own amazingness.  We can relax.

We can let go.  Nothing bad is going to happen if we let go and allow ourselves the pleasure of just being.

 

*

I have had the most amazing week.

I communicated Amy Oscar about what's going on and just touching in the same vibration with her made me feel calmer. If you don't know who Amy is, then I urge you not only to visit her site, but to join Twitter on Sunday mornings at 10 am Eastern time under the hash tag #soulcall .  It has become a regular stop of spiritual awareness for me.  Also, you might want to download her book about angels. 

I caught up with simplicity expert Courtney Carver about what's happening and about the wonderful new project she is working on with the amazing  Tammy Strobel  called Your Lovely Life , a chapter by chapter course for finding the beauty in our lives. I'll be talking more about this in the next weeks.

Through my friend Cristina Colli, author of the clean, lovely, and soothing lifestyle blog Positively Beauty, I learned of  Anita Moorjani, an amazing woman who has written a book called Dying to be Me, a beautiful account of her near death experience at the final phase of Stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma and her choice to come back and live the life she was about to leave forever.

I went back and forth with my friend Gina DePalma, executive pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Restaurant in Manhattan.  She's in the throes of writing her next amazing cookbook after Dolce Italiano, and I am trying to see if I can possibly create a special plate in my kiln that can even begin to do her beautiful desserts justice.  It's a real challenge, but one that I love, because creating plates for special people and events is a labor of love.

I feel blessed and reassured that everything is exactly as it should be as I go into myself, let go of the doing and embrace the being.

I wish you, my trusted readers, a week full of promise and light.  Thank you for being there.