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Intentionalist, not Minimalist

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Clean Kitchen!I recently rediscovered a post about intentionalism by Shanna Trenholm. She says that she prefers to label herself an Intentionalist rather than a Minimalist.

I resonate with her choice of labels. When people start getting rid of things and COUNTING how many things they have left, letting go becomes a contest and a push.

I get rid of things slowly and gently, so that I can have more ease in my life, and more room for the people who are the gems in my world. How about you?

An Example
This holiday week, I took a day to whisk two teens out of town. I took them to the Ann Arbor Art Museum and Zingerman’s Deli, about an hour away. It was an amazing day… They are good friends but had never been together for that many hours at one time before.

While I was gone, Brian took a ride with a bunch of his bicycle friends. At the end of the ride, they all came over to our home for an impromptu warm up and chat.

How things have Changed
Now, in past years, if Brian expected company I would freak out if I didn’t have several days’ notice to tidy up. I had piles on every flat surface, storage boxes out, in corners, and under the tables; and yarn, paper and other creative projects everywhere. It made things pretty hard to just sit down and chat without a frenzy of activity first.

But this week? They popped in without any notice. And I was out of town. And… not only was the house tidy enough to function, tidy enough to have 3 guys sit at the kitchen table with a clear spot in front of them… but I had baked the night before. Brian served them homemade baked goods with their tea or coffee. Score!

(The above photo is our kitchen on a normal morning these days. It has stuff on the counter which belongs there, but no dirty dishes. I took the photo not having planned a photo shoot. Amazing!)

Gratitude
I truly can’t believe how my life has changed. It fills me with gratitude and relief.

In just a few years my life has become transformed. It started maybe 6 years ago, certain moments made some purges necessary (the big one being my food allergies requiring a huge letting go in the kitchen). The little pebbles have become an avalanche of goodness, and my life is now functional and lovely.

The Turning Point: a Community
Three years ago, I realized that I was not making things happen as quickly as I wished. As a People Person, it became obvious that I needed peers on my journey of tossing things out. I started a Facebook group to find others on the same path.

(If you feel like letting go gently, you can  join my public Facebook group, Toss-It Tuesdays, here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tossittuesdays/ )

Eyes on the Prize?
I will never have a House Beautiful because I no longer want one. I want to be able to find things when I need them. I need to find things without flipping out and tossing one mess on top of another while calling myself stupid.

And most of all, I want to open my door to loved ones and valued acquaintances, any time they show up at my door. I don’t want to feel ashamed.

Tea Table

An Open Door
About two years ago I decided to open the door even if I didn’t like what my guest would see. I started to live as I professed: That people are/were more important than my lack of housekeeping pride. At first, I would just clear the table while they watched.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of friends over for a cup o’tea. It has been wonderful.

And this week? When Brian told me of his impromptu gathering, I was joyous! This is something I have believed could happen for years but never accomplished.

Still on a Journey
Now, don’t think I’m finished. Our attic, garage and basement are still in need of tossing. But community started things rolling for me, and I’m grateful.

Toss it Team, in the Works
I’m currently preparing a website for a private community of tossers, where members can chat using nicknames and know that snoopy outsiders or employers can’t see their activity. This evolved from requests I got, from friends who play it quiet on Facebook or who don’t go there at all. It will have a very small membership fee to support it, but not so high that it will keep people out who wish to participate.

That site isn’t ready yet, but if you go to www.TossItTeam.com you can read about it and sign up for an email notice when it is up and operating. I’m in a testing phase right now.

My Wish for You
May you find ways to live your own dreams, whatever they be. They can happen, one at a time, one day/step at a time. I believe we all can do it!

Believe… in Others, in Yourself!

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

A friend and I had a great but short chat the other day about believing we can do things that have been hard for us previously. Once we can picture a clean room, we are able to start by picking up the first thing. We must believe we can do what has been difficult or impossible before. It starts with SEEING something better inside our minds, so we can pursue it.

I just watched a 4 minute video that talks about this in a larger sense. Dr. Viktor Frankl (who survived a Nazi death camp) talks about wanting meaning in our lives more than material/ financial things. Please take the time to watch it. You may come away with a new intent to see the best, if not in yourself then maybe in your hall closet or the kitchen cupboards.

This brought me to tears.

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

A Gut Reaction

I could talk about how I was an insecure young person… and think I’m talking about my unique characteristics. For the record, I have never looked insecure on the outside because I talk a lot, which looks like confidence.

Yet a few years ago I got clear that even people who look like they have always belonged… even those people can feel like they don’t fit in. A friend who lives a house she likes, a neighborhood or two from where she grew up, who in her 50’s does the work she trained to do in her teens, who married her high school sweetheart and is still happily married? She commented to me once about “those of us who are creative” (implying that we don’t fit in the norm).

Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project (his podcast is wonderful… check it out) says that in the midst of people we often feel alone and lonely. It can be so very true!

It’s a sad truth that we humans need to belong and yet we feel like we don’t belong more often than not. And when we feel insecure, the first thing we tend do fuss with is our appearance. We worry about our weight, our skin/zits, our weight, our hair cuts, our clothing, where we live, what we drive… and more.

Where We Least Expect It

Even in an environment of general support we can feel off center at times. Once I complained that a group of women in my dance troupe were all expected to wear the same type of costume for a dance.

My intent was to support those who would feel/look more beautiful in a different silhouette. The look on one dancer’s face told me that what she heard was that I thought she wasn’t beautiful enough in the chosen costume. My opinion that another costume would be better means that I didn’t think they looked good in the required costume. Ouch. (I’m still squirming about that misstep.)

I picked up a copy of O magazine (by Oprah Winfrey’s organization) last spring. There was an article on decluttering which interested me. I love some of her regular columnists including Brené Brown. Yet the front cover of that magazine had an article titled “Diet or Exercise: The real key to weight loss, once and for all.” And inside? Advertising all over selling products to slow down or eliminate aging, or cover flaws. Flaws?

My Obvious Flaw that Some Don’t Notice

I tell you what… Once I made friends with a lovely 5-year old on a day-long train ride to Montreal When we said goodbye she asked… “do you have a pink tooth?” I said yes, that it was an “owie” a long time ago but it doesn’t hurt now.

yarnbomblynn192x191I have a damaged front tooth because of an ill-fitting orthodontic retainer when I was about 16 years old. It shows up on photographs. I figure that some day I’ll get the veneer that would make it less noticeable in photos. I almost did it ten years ago and decided against it for a number of reasons.

However, I smile a full-tooth smile every day. I laugh every day. And the people I’m close to don’t even notice that tooth until I mention it. They see the real me, which comes through very strongly above how my tooth looks.

That tooth is a reminder that things went permanently wrong when I obeyed blindly even when things didn’t feel right (“don’t take off the retainer no matter what…” and thus even when it hurt unmercifully I didn’t take it off and it killed a nerve). So the flaw, if there is any, is in my teen self being a good girl and following orders even when my gut told me that something was wrong.

My Story: Young Adult Insecurity

When I was younger, my tendency to worry about being accepted came out in an  impulse to buy things that would make me feel more acceptable. If I was being interviewed for a job, I bought a whole new fancy suit and raincoat rather than perhaps standing tall in something I already owned or that was less pricey but that was just fine. If I was having company over, I would buy new towels and throw pillows and serving dishes, as well as buying food that was more pricey than really fit into my cash flow.

I spent much of my entertainment hours reading catalogs planning to shop, or meeting friends at a mall for a full day of shopping. The debt wasn’t the core issue. What I bought wasn’t even the issue. The issue was feeling that I wasn’t OK and maybe that one next purchase might make me more acceptable.

I got into unmanageable debt (the numbers mean less than whether I could manage the debt at the time). In 1990 I finally gave up unsecured debt… credit cards, professional services received but not paid immediately, and personal/ signature loans (there were no payday loans back then and I’m grateful).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that younger me. I call her Cookie, which was a nickname that never stuck but that I liked.  She had many of my current good attributes, including loyalty and valuing loved ones. She wore black most of the time to feel sophisticated(yes, really… there are folks in my life now who can vouch for that). The black was a good background for her (important-looking) artsy jewelry. She bought stuff hoping that it would make her belong.

The Song which Brought Me to Tears

I was driving the other day, changing radio stations as I drove. This practice exposes me to musical styles I would not otherwise hear. I heard this song… which has a repeating line “you don’t have to change a single thing.” And I cried. I cried for that young me. For Cookie who felt unacceptable even though her energy attracted friends who appreciated that energy.

Please listen. It may not be your normal style, but it’s worth listening to as a poem of encouragement set to music. One voice and a lean musical accompaniment.

For the record, while looking for the video I found an angry column in ChicagoNow which focuses on the makeup-wearing message in the song (while I responded to “…max your credit card… buy it all, so they like you…“). And the columnist points out that sometimes women choose to wear makeup within the constraints of a real world which expects them to look a certain way. But then she says:

Am I the world’s greatest beauty? Of course not, but I have commandeered survival of the fittest. Brains over brawn. I figured out the rules of society and used them to my advantage…

…What of this lyric, “you don’t have to try” which is possibly even more problematic? Suuuuuure we don’t have to try. This irritates me because it places the blame on women for living inside society’s norms instead of on the media and current attitudes that put that norm in place. Just love yourself! …You know what the truth is? The more standard a lady looks and the more forgettable her looks are, the easier her life is. There are exceptions for daunting beauties, but the rest of us are just trying to get by….

…It seems girls will be shamed no matter what. If you rock your natural skin and hair, you get called a lesbian/chubby/weird. If you learn the unspoken rules of society and conform to them to give yourself the best advantage in life, you’re just a superficial, poser fake-face who shouldn’t “try so hard”. Only true natural beauties deserve any attention, okay?…

Strong feelings, there. And she’s seeing totally different parts of the song. And her filter through which she’s viewing the lyrics is very different than mine. I’ll be fascinated to hear how it lands on you.

In an article I read about the video on Today.com, I found a link to a place more in sync with my take on things… RAW Beauty Talks. On their page they say:

In my view, if anyone male or female wants to wear makeup as personal expression or self-decorating I’m behind it 100%. If someone wears makeup on stage or on camera because the lights obscure their features, that is logical. If they choose to dress/present themselves in a certain way to belong to a specific environment… well, cool.

I just hope that you don’t feel you *need* makeup on your days off or with your friends. Once I watched an Oprah show where there were 3 women on a challenge to live without makeup for a week. One of the women’s husbands had never seen her without makeup. When she was pregnant, she’d put on makeup before bed in case she had to go to the hospital quickly.

Then again, decorative things can feel like luxuries at times. You and some friends might go get a manicure together to feel pampered. One of my best friends can’t wear makeup or dress up at work so she rocks the girly stuff on her days off for fun. That all fits in a self-acceptance place.

You Belong! Yes. You belong.

The song says “…when you’re all alone, do you like you?” I like where she’s going with that. I wonder, though, why it’s so lonely finding our way getting to that point.

Why do we all feel alone next to each other? Why do we feel that freckles are awful on us and cute on someone else? Why does everyone like everyone else’s hair but not their own? Why do we think that a blemish makes our heart less whole? Why is it so universal to feel this way and go through such an insecure time?

I’m empathizing with those who are twisting themselves into something they don’t like in order to fit with people they don’t really want to fit with. If you feel (as young Cookie/Lynn did) you need to buy stuff to be accepted/ avoid criticism… to protect yourself against feeling unacceptable to others? Well, that sad insecurity I lived with is what this song touches in me. Because, as I discovered, even people who look comfortable from the outside looking in, on the inside don’t always feel like they belong.

And with that, I’ll quote the song.

You don’t have to change a single thing…

…’cause I like you.

Do you feel pressure to live BIG?

Monday, October 27th, 2014

A friend asked on Facebook…

Do you feel pressure to play it big?

My Reply

Here is what I wrote to that friend’s prompt:

Nope, not now. I want to be kind, be a good friend, and help my right people feel more confident about whatever it is that I’m teaching.

Family Portrait, Circa 1972My daddy died at 40. I was 14. My 20’s were a whirlwind, trying-to-fit-a-whole-life-into-a-short-decade. In my 30’s I went through profound inner change involving more than can fit in this post.

When I hit 40, I figured “the rest of my life is gravy.” Daddy influenced many others in his short life and I was given more time than he.

So I focus on being real, honest, kind (not nice/wimpy like “good girl” often means), truly helpful and authentic.

Community is My Everything

I can’t go out in my city or at a fiber-arts/knitting event or ukulele festival without being recognized. Last night attending a concert, a woman stopped to thank me for an excellent socknitting class years ago.

Last week at Walgreens a young woman stopped me. I taught her to knit in her elementary school years. She’s 21 now and a mother. She thanked me. She still knits regularly. Here she is at right,  many years ago, having knit a frog from a kit one of my ColorJoy readers sent. It was really heartwarming to see her again.

Youngster Showing Frog she Knit HerselfWhat would a huge income do for me? I wish to have a tombstone that says “She was a good friend.” Some people have fame and respect but nobody wants to hug them, or be their friend who can take a call at 4 o’clock. Later for that sort of “big.” I’ll take small and gentle any day.

Surprise, Surprise!

I’ll keep striving, in part because nobody really expected me to have a good, happy life. (They’d say “you have so much potential.”) I worked my emotional butt off to get here. As long as I can teach and encourage, I am content. It’s OK for people to pay me for the encouragement… But I fortunately prefer serving groups rather than individuals. I can price a group experience so that more people can take advantage of the offering.

It was a deep question. Excuse the long answer. Fewer words would not answer properly.

===

Beyond My Initial Take, if I Want to be Honest

The truth is, I do want some parts of my life to be BIG. I want a big heart, I want to help others make their lives more content.

No matter what I’ve done professionally, I’ve always been the “explainer” of the office. I was the unofficial trainer and the problem-solver long before I ever had an official teaching position. If I understand it, I can teach it. It’s a joy and a gift to see someone’s face light up in understanding!

slow and steady

If I thought my calling was “teaching” I might end up a full-time schoolteacher like so many people in my family. If I thought my calling was “art” I might try to sit in a studio alone cranking out product to sell at the next art fair. If I thought my calling was “encouragement” I might be a coach or a therapist. All of those things are part of what matters to me, but the intersection of them brings me to life and makes me the best I can offer to the world.

(Side note… I used to work in a finance department. I used to be a legal secretary. I used to be a purchasing officer. I used to teach DOS batch programming and other computer skills. I used to be a data entry operator. I used to be a Y2K consultant. I did all of those well enough to make a living. Some were even fun, and a few were life changing.)

Slow is the Way to Go

The longer I live, the more I find that real progress happens when I do small things consistently over time. If I choose to walk around the block every morning as water boils for tea, I will become “someone who walks daily” and I’m more likely to go on a longer bone-strengthening walk, more often.

Autumn Colors in my Neighborhood

If I choose to first eat a piece of fresh fruit (and make sure there is some in the house) when I crave sugary treats, then I may find I don’t want more… or that a smaller portion of the treat will satisfy me later. If I decide that my keys MUST go in my purse and the purse goes near the door, then I will have less chaos every day. Small stuff adds up.

Where Does this Hit You Right Now?

So… what about you? What are the true treasures and gifts in your life? What matters most of all? Do you feel like YOU need to play it big? Are you OK with small steps? I sure would have answered this differently a few decades ago… I’d love to hear your input.

Maybe That’s not Love

Friday, October 10th, 2014

This video has been making the rounds of the internet, and maybe you have already seen it. However, it echos my earlier posts on body acceptance and standing tall. It’s not long, and her attitude is fun and even silly, not preachy.

“People have always said they cannot get my songs out of their heads. I heard that so often, I took responsibility for what I wanted to put in there! The answer is joy. The answer is love. The answer is worthiness and celebration. That’s what I want for myself and everyone on this planet.”

–Donna Lou Stevens

“I was a butterfly all along and thought I was a worm. I believe everybody has wings and most everyone has just forgotten like I did. My job as a performer and musician is to remind people of that fact.”

–Donna Lou Stevens

Kirsty Hall’s 9/11-Honoring Artpiece

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Thanks to friend LaVonne Ellis, I found Kirsty Hall, an artist in the UK. She did a piece called “Requiem” where she burned over 3,000 matches (one for each person lost in the 9/11 events). How appropriate that I discovered this wonderful piece today, of all days.

I lost my father when I was 14… and I learned then that any day may be the last day you see a loved one. Remember to always be kind and don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them.

http://kirstyhall.co.uk/art/requiem/

Kirsty Hall - Requiem

Snap Your Joy… Here is a Smile

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

I’m not a fan of TV or movies… especially when they are doing storytelling with conflict inside. My gut feels like any conflict outside me is actually inside me as well.

However, since we got a faster internet connection early this year, I’ve enjoyed finding uplifting YouTube videos… short and sweet and day-changing. One favorite source is a “channel” called Soul Pancake.

Here is a goodie. Only 2 minutes and 41 seconds… if you have a decent connection, it is worth the time. I think you are guaranteed a smile.

Enjoy!

Yarn Bombing Elderly Instruments

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Look what we did on our lunch hour this Wednesday!

20140725-020611-7571065.jpg

My weekly lunch date, Cynthia, works at Elderly Instruments (a very fine music store, where Brian also works). For years, at the corner of Elderly’s front lawn was a huge, overgrown evergreen bush. It blocked part of the sidewalk and also the view of the front door.

A week or two ago, the bulk of the bush was taken down. In the near future, we hear that a sign will be placed here. Meanwhile, it’s looking a bit unfinished!

Last week as Cynthia and I walked past, I mentioned that its raggedy look would be improved by a yarn bomb. She agreed.

So this week, we spent our lunch date yarn bombing. Some of the scarves were used originally at the MSU Horticulture Yarn bOMb project. They were sun faded, but we turned the brighter side out and got double duty from them!

We have casually talked about yarn bombing the yarn shop Sticks and Strings literally across the street from Elderly. We have said we would do it for a couple of years. I guess it helps to have a deadline!

Now that we know how much we can do in a lunch period, perhaps we need to get ON with it, yes? I must go dig out more recyclable scarves from MSU, perhaps.

Meanwhile, Cynthia has had a lot of good feedback on the project. The point is to give people something to smile about. I think it worked !

Be the Rainbow in Someone Else’s Cloud

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Dr. Maya Angelou, Poet Laureate, speaker, world citizen/elder, lover of life and Phenomenal Woman,* died today. I’m crushed.

I saw her twice and both times she rocked my world. I tend to love moments and then forget the specifics, but points she made have stayed with me years afterward.

The second time I heard her, she had a crowd of mostly students (at Michigan State University). She referenced a 19th-century black song with a lyric “…when it looked like the sun wa’nt gonna shine any more, God put a rainbow in the clouds.”

Here is a powerful 4-minute video of Dr. Angelou. It includes a reference to that song and how we can aim to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.

Listen. Hearing her may change your day. In my case, it changed my life.
Be the Rainbow… Like Maya Angelou.

20140529-004629-2789117.jpg
*Phenomenal Woman
By Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me. 

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

___
Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise.
Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Publisher – Random House, Inc.

Help from Strangers… NOT on News at 10

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Snow!

It has been a bear of a winter here in Mid-Michigan!

A few days before Christmas, we had the biggest ice storm in recorded history. 40% of the city was without electricity and there were some folks who were out of power for over a week.

Trees were down everywhere. Many roads were un-driveable because of branches and power lines in the streets.

After that we have had periods of deep snow, and extreme cold. We are all done with winter around here.

20140126-013048.jpg

Today ‘s Adventure
I was afraid driving from Lansing to Owosso today. Merely 25 mph seemed unsafe at first (6:00am on a Saturday). It was good that there were very few drivers on the road!

Generally, I opt out of travel in difficult weather these days. I have finally given into the fact that I am human, and this is Earth. Nature is bigger than I am.

However, a friend’s car is in the shop, and her child needed to go to a standardized college-admissions test. I chose to make sure the kid stayed on track, and that’s how I found myself driving in drifting snow.

I love to drive, and drive a LOT (my JoyBug turned over 200,000 miles today. I have a better than average skill at handling my vehicle. I was still concerned enough to not feel safe sipping my hot cup of tea until I arrived an hour and a half later (it usually takes less than 45 minutes).

Short-Term Drama
Near my destination, I did get pulled into a drift on a back road (no ditch, thank goodness… A drift in the middle of a flat road). I had taken a good shovel with me and un-beached the bug. That was ONE way to wake up quickly!

Four men passing by this country road (in big vehicles) stopped to push me out. Three guys wasn’t enough… but that 4th guy was the charm. I’m so grateful!

Again, it is proven… Most people are good. They just don ‘t make the news.

20140126-011939.jpg

Make mistakes.

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Author Neil Gaiman on creating:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

“Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

“So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes.Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

“Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.”

Watch his whole 17 minute speech here. Wonderful. Inspiring.

Read more here if you enjoyed that.

…not quite knowing what you are doing.

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Be brave enough to live life creatively

The creative is the place where
no one else has ever been.
You have to leave the city of
your comfort and go into
the wilderness of your intuition.
You can’t get there by bus,
only by hard work and risk,
and by not quite knowing what you are doing.
What you will discover will be
wonderful.
What you discover will be
yourself.
– Alan Alda 

Oh, Yeah! You are Beautiful!

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

I’ve been talking a lot with local friends and some internet friends, about how mean women are to themselves about their bodies. How they really do believe there is a perfect shape and they aren’t it. Unfortunately, some also criticize others as well.

There are magazine articles about “downplaying your flaws” and more nonsense of that sort. How about “show off/be proud of your favorite features!!!” ???? How about that?

Correct Your Flaws?

I heard a radio advertisement this week, offering plastic surgery to “help you correct your faults.” To give you a better shape.

UGH. Big UGH. What a horrible business to be in. Cutting people up to make them look different. (I’m all for plastic surgery to help put people back together after accidents and the like… this is not what I’m upset about.)

I am the same age as Michael Jackson… who looked fine as he was born… and had HOW many surgeries to look different? I ache for him that he couldn’t just be happy as himself… with the amazing talent he had.

Plastic surgery is elective, which means a doctor gets paid directly by the patient rather than going through insurance. It’s a BUSINESS. I’d invest in good therapy to help me develop boundaries and confidence, over surgery, any day! Therapy is cheaper and so helpful!

Go On, Find Something to Love!

Which parts of your body do you like? Have you ever thought about it? If not, it’s time to consider loving that pretty knee or your laugh, your freckles, your curly hair that has a strong personality and which other people envy even on humid days.

My friend J has beautiful, small, tapered fingers. Although she wore a bigger dress size than me, she wore a full size smaller wedding ring, a size I wear on my pinky finger.

J also has a beautiful back… smooth, pale skin and a straight posture. She never knew her back was an asset. Once when we were in our young 20’s, I sewed her two dresses that showed off her back and pretty hands (back “cleavage” and tapered sleeves)… one pink crepe satin for dress and one blue knit for work. She looked SO beautiful in those dresses. She didn’t think of herself as beautiful, but I surely did.

I know I have beautiful long hair. I have had this hair since I was a teenager, except for 9 years while I was a young businesswoman trying to look old enough to work. No matter what my weight, my hair is pretty. My legs have always been lovely. Mom says I have the “Carvey calves” which come down many generations of my matriarchy.

My weight has fluctuated from a little high in high school, to a member of Weight Watchers (I weighed more than my man who was 8 inches taller than me), to a healthy normal weight, to a too-thin person for whom most food caused me uncomfortable reactions such as hives, to a menopausal woman for whom food is finally friendly but whose body is now trying to protect her inner organs by making a small tummy fortress around her abdomen.

Take a good look at the photos here. The women I dance with have a rainbow of differing features. They are all BEAUTIFUL. Beautiful. So are you.

Keep Lovin’… or Find Lovin’ for the First Time

It’s important as we see our bodies change while we live our lives, to see that we have those pretty hands, eyes, hair, feet… at least let someone else tell us how beautiful our back is (in J’s case), or to let my friend A tell me how beautiful my curves are while she’s helping me pick out clothing for my slowly-rounding 55-year-old figure.

You may have an amazing smile, a soothing voice, expressive eyebrows, the best tush the world ever saw (my friend W), the loveliest round female tummy of all (my friend M, here she is below… gorgeous and confident, with roundness that some women would wish to dissolve… yet my, she is pretty).


Curves mean we are mature. The Hollywood ideal is very close to pre-puberty, and I see this as hurtful to each of us as well as our society. We can look good at all ages.

Your Differences are your Good Parts

The very things that make it hard for you to fit into “normal” clothing may be your best asset! Those are the things where you are different and noticeable.

Don’t cover up… instead find a way to celebrate. Delicate hands deserve bracelets. Eyebrows want lovely eyeglasses over which to peek, or perhaps bangs that let them take center stage. Strong shoulders are queenly and elegant, and beautiful in a halter top or drapey shawl.

Beautiful “grrl” curves beg for a scooped neck or v-neck. Hips love a good shirred wrap to make them more shapely and alive. Don’t hide your special features!

Take a Deep Breath of Kindness for Yourself

It is the holiday season. We can spend it enjoying company of friends or worrying about our weight and whether it’s OK to eat that hand-made gingerbread cookie. Balance and proper portions will make us feel healthier, but guilt for enjoying special treats need not be part of our six-week holiday experience. Be kind to yourself, OK?

ALL OF US ARE BEAUTIFUL. I love you. Consider loving yourself, too. Please.

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

Keep Walking

Monday, November 18th, 2013

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I love to walk and I love our earth. (I don’t love camping… so my walks are relatively short, but frequent.)

I just found an eloquently-written story at National Geographic. This man is starting a 7-year walk in Ethiopia. (I visited Ethiopia during holidays 2004-05, which makes this extra fascinating. I took the above photo in northern Ethiopia while I was there.)

An Afar proverb: It is best, when you are lost or thirsty, to keep walking under the sun, because eventually someone will see you. To be tempted into shade, to drop under one of 10,000 thornbushes, means death: No one will find you.

Keep walking. This is a metaphor for many inner journeys as well.

I loved reading this short story. I wonder how he can write like this in the middle of a powerful journey. When I’m traveling, I tend to get sucked into the moment. I’m glad he can write for us.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/out-of-eden/salopek-text