Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

7 Words

January 26th, 2010 by Jane

I mentioned last week that I was planning to do the “one little word” exercise that Brenè Brown and Ali Edwards wrote about on their respective blogs. Well, I worked on this for an hour or so the other day and I came up with a long list of words that I love. Words that have meaning and resonance for me. Words that seemed to define or illustrate my plans for the year.

I usually make a few resolutions each January, but felt overwhelmed by the idea this year. This exercise was just what I needed to put some direction and meaning into my new year.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised that I could not narrow it down to one word, but instead, have three little words that are my theme(s) for the year. Ali made a wonderful list of all the words that people sent in to her. Let me know if you try this, I would love to hear from you!

The above quote is from the fabulous brains over at Quotable Cards. I buy a half dozen of these at a time. Some I give to friends, and others I glue into my journals or put on my fridge. Instant wisdom and inspiration for the day!

Here are my seven favorite words from my original list of twenty-six. I have italicized my three words for the year.

1. Abundance

2. Aware

3. Blossoming

4. Becoming

5. Cherish

6. Prosperity

7. Content
I love that this word can mean “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting any more or any less” and “significance or profundity, …volume or substance contained” in a piece of work. Or a life. That’s what I’m hoping.

7 Things on My Mind

December 29th, 2009 by Jane

I’ve got a lot on my mind lately and not enough cubbies in my brain to organize all of the flying thoughts. One reason Amy and I started this blog was to give ourselves a place to dump our brain lint. Sometimes I find shiny bits that are keepers, but for the most part it is just so my cerebral cortex will not catch fire.  Take a look…

1. The Boss Gets His Props
Tonight on CBS, Bruce Springsteen, my personal poet, will be honored by the Kennedy Center. You know where I will be.  With popcorn.

2. My Sister’s Birthday
My baby sister is beginning her last year of her thirties today, so I am thinking about her and what a great sister she is to me.

3. The Middle
If I live until the age of ninety, then I officially just became middle-aged. Naming and claiming this gives me pause. I’m going to choose well for my crisis. My husband got an old Porsche he had been wanting, but I don’t think it will be that simple for me.

4. Feng Shui
At this time last year, I spent a few days cleaning out my closets, corners and cupboards. According to the practice of Feng Shui, we should all clean out areas of our homes that have dirt or clutter build-up because they cause stagnation. If you want to have a good year, with lots of positive energy, then get to sweeping and throwing out! Check out this site for more tips.

5. Movies
I could spend an entire day at the movie theater just going from one to another. Robert Downey, Jr. is calling my name, I am certain.

6. CDs
Should I go ahead and import all of my music to iTunes and sell the discs? Anyone got an opinion on this?

7. What Next?
I am still mulling over what to fold into my life next. I feel the need to do something more, but am not sure how to fit it all in. I am working on a few projects and I hope I can focus enough for them to come to fruition. I’ll keep you posted.

7 Raw Spots

November 13th, 2009 by Jane

My dog has a raw spot on his butt. We tried some home remedies, but we are going to have to take him to the vet. Of course, he will have to get moved to the top of the list above a host of other unexpected expenses we’ve had the last few months. Children who needed Tamiflu took precedent over a dog with a red heinie.

I started thinking about the word raw. The word even sounds raw and is not one of those words that feels good to say. Not a good mouthfeel, to use a food term. Raw. One meaning is “unnaturally, or painfully exposed,” according to Webster’s. Another is uncooked. Unaged or unprocessed. Crude. Inexperienced. Harsh or unfair. Nude. Uncultivated.

A lot of “un-ness” to the word. Seems like there has been a great amount of that going around of late. Raw.

1. Ft. Hood
I live in the Central Texas area and the impact of last week’s shootings will be felt around here for generations to come. Words fail. If you or anyone you know have been directly affected, please know that there are many people hoping that you soon can find comfort and peace.

2. Economic Survival
By most reports, Texas is managing the economic downturn better than other states. However, many people have had a hard year. I personally know several families who have had to close their businesses, change careers or the stay-at-home spouse returned to work before the family had planned. It seems there is pervasive weariness. Everyone I have talked to is optimistic that things will improve, but feel that the trick is to hold onto what they’ve got until that happens.

3. Raw Minerals
It seems that some celebrities are surviving the sour economy by hawking raw mineral make-up.

4. Raw Food
I know someone who is following a raw food eating program. This is a way of eating in which nothing is consumed that has been heated above 116ºF in order to preserve the natural enzymes in the food.  I like  cruditè any time, but I really, really like hot soup. My friend just completed a marathon in Spain, so maybe I should reconsider!

5. Raw Milk
There is a movement among natural food enthusiasts to drink unpasteurized, or “raw” milk. I need to do more research on this, because in general, I like to have as few germs as possible in my food. Does anyone out there drink only raw milk?

6. Growing Pains
My sweet nine-year old daughter is about to be a 10 year old. I took her to get her ears pierced a few weeks ago so that they would be healed in time for her birthday in December. She has waited a long time for this and I am glad that I stuck to my guns on this one because the minute the little gold studs punctured her ears, she looked like a twenty year old. Ugh. Need I say whose growing pains to which I am referring?

7. Stretch Marks
After delivering twins who weighed a sum total of 13 pounds, I have reached dètente with the web of silver lines which cover a lot of my torso. Now that the girls are kindergardeners, I find I am developing some stretch marks on my psyche and intellect.

I am no longer the person I was before I had three girls and my life is opening back up after the semi-claustrophobia of mothering tiny children. They are no longer so small and neither is my life apart from them. Now, the work is to find what to expand, what to explore and what to leave behind as I move into this new phase.

On some days, the choices seem endless and exciting. Others, it seem scary and overwhelming. On yucky days, I swing from one to the other with frustration and anxiety. I know I will find my path and all will be revealed in time.  My job now is to listen, work, think  and be open. If only someone made cocoa butter to rub on the psyche.

7 Things to Know When You Have a Baby

October 15th, 2009 by Jane

I have been reminiscing about early parenthood because an old friend just had his first child and my neighbor is due with a little girl any day now. My eldest daughter is nine, the twins are five and I don’t know how we got here so fast. People warned me of the speed with which the universe propels you through parenthood. I guess, in the early days when it seemed that the days were an endless loop of diapers, sleepless nights and breast milk-stained clothing, it didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t always be infants. Or that I would barely have time to enjoy it.

I think it takes an incredible amount of grace to be a baby born into this world. Think about it, what if we, as adults, were dropped somewhere that we didn’t know the language, we were forced to live with people we didn’t know and we depended on them for our every need. I believe this is why we do not remember our infant hood; it would just be too painful. And yet, each baby looks at her parent with utter trust and eventually unconditional love.

I certainly don’t have many answers, but I’ve learned a few things. I have assembled the seven best pieces of advice, in my opinion, for new parents.

1. Lower Your Standards
I ‘m not kidding. Do not expect to have a clean house, clean clothes on your body or your teeth brushed, for at least the first three months. Your life will be much more enjoyable if you consider these things to be more like delightful hobbies you will resume when the baby is older, say around fifteen.

2. Follow Your Instincts
Everyone has some sort of parenting instinct, even those who say they don’t. If it seems wrong to take your newborn to that family reunion-listen to that voice. Then do not apologize for it.

3. Honor Your Baby’s Birth Story
In current pregnancy books, women are encouraged to write a birth plan to give to their doctor or midwife. This is a fine idea, but save yourself some grief and be flexible. Babies do not take anyone’s plans seriously. Especially their parents. Babies get here however they can and I will pretty much guarantee you that there is not one on the planet that has arrived according to plan. The birth story of your baby is the first of many wonderful stories your child will give to you and should be honored, not lamented.

4. Pay Attention
Isn’t it interesting that the phrase we use is “pay” attention? You give something to get something. Paying attention costs you some time and probably some patience, but here is what you might get: noticing the exact moment the eyelashes on your baby become lush, learning what makes  your child’s eyes light up, watching your child discover her toes. In other words, the good stuff.

5. Find Friends Who Keep It Real
If all of your friends with children arrive at a play date with perfect hair and clothes on their person, as well as their children-keep an eye on them. It is entirely possible that they cannot be trusted to have a real relationship. If their homes are in the same state of constant perfection-run! These are not people with whom you can build a nurturing, supportive friendship and they will wear you out in the interim.

Instead, seek out the moms who have other interests outside of motherhood, the moms who tell you when things aren’t going perfectly, the ones who feel no shame in taking store-bought cupcakes to school. They will become your support system.

6. Make No Plans
After the twins were born, I was commenting to someone that every time I made a plan to go somewhere, someone in my house started throwing up. This woman, who happened to have a set of 30 year old twins, very gently put her hand upon my arm and said “Jane, stop making plans. You will get back to that one day, but not right now. You will feel better if you just take it one day at a time.” Her words were like an elixir for my battered being.

7. It Doesn’t Last Long
Each stage your child goes through seems like it might be endless. Colic. Teething. Potty-training. Learning to drive.  One of my favorite quotes about parenthood is “The days are long, but the years are short.” When I was able to step back and view my children’s stages in six month increments, I could look at all of those frustrating moments with perspective and grace.

My favorite aunt (also a mother of grown twins) once said to me after I recounted a terrible day with toddler twins,  ”Sweetie, I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but you will never again expend this much energy.” That gives me hope, how about you?

7 Scraps Of Praise For Messiness

October 8th, 2009 by Amy

Ever notice the fact that Jane and I have over a hundred entries in “Appreciating” and barely a dozen in “Organizing?”


That’s just the kind of gals we are.


Today I came across the book A Perfect Mess online and while I haven’t read it yet, I’m already in love.


Mostly because it seems like it will be validating.


Suddenly all this messiness on my desk and in my home has the potential to be recast as functional.




Here’s an unorganized collection of seven catchwords and sentences I found insanely uplifting from A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and on-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place:



1.  “Chemist Stephen Berry, a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant award, works among a landscape of 18-inch-high piles which have harbored individual documents for as long as two decades.”


2.  “beneficial mess”


3.  “In general, a messy desk tends to end up so that the more important, more urgent work stays close by and near the top of the clutter, while the safely ignorable stuff tends to get buried near the back–which makes perfect sense.”


4.  “A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system.”


5.  “Actually, messy homes can provide a far more inviting and nurturing environment than highly ordered ones.”


6.  “pointless home neatening”


7.  “A Perfect Mess shatters the myths and misunderstandings about messiness and disorder that have led to an often pointless, counterproductive and demoralizing bias toward neatness and organization in our society.”

7 Thoughts on Arts & Culture

October 6th, 2009 by Jane

This week, someone asked me if I thought a community could have too much art and culture. When I picked my jaw up off of the ground, I gave this matter some serious thought. My answer is no, a community cannot have too much art or culture. I have lived in places with innumerable opportunities to immerse oneself in the arts (Santa Fe, New Mexico and Houston, Texas) and I have lived in places (which shall remain nameless) that have been referred to as cultural wastelands. Believe me, the former is utterly preferable.

Having said that, I think it is crucial that you do not overburden a community with more non-profits than it can reasonably support. However, building infrastructure for arts organizations takes time, patience, planning and money. Making the effort to bring art and culture to a community is good for the citizens, as these programs bring a chance to see beauty, to experience something larger than oneself. as well as inspire interesting thoughts and dialogue. Art and culture are good for economic development because business leaders look at what communities can offer employees in terms of quality of life experiences before they develop a business in that city. And finally, art and cultural opportunities are imperative for the intellectual development of children. But we do not have to convince them of that, children already know. Ask a child you know to attend a play and see what she says.

Here are some further thoughts on the matter. Thanks to the Kennedy Center’s Artsedge for the great quotes.

The beautiful painting above, entitled The Road to Awe, is by my compadre Dan Zinno. Call him up and buy some art-you won’t be sorry.

1. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.
-Stella Adler

2. Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.
-Roy Adzak

3. Where words fail, music speaks.
-Hans Christian Andersen

4. Any museum can invite you to look. A great one changes the way you see.

5. There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.
-Vicki Baum

6. The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

7. In the end, art outlives politics.

7 Features Of Friendship

October 1st, 2009 by Amy

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours sitting around with some gal pals laughing and trying to keep from peeing my pants.


To the untrained eye it didn’t look like much – a little gaggle of 40-something moms lettin’ it all hang out – but if you looked closely, it was the of picture of friendship.


Seven Features of Friendship:


1.  Understanding

Appreciating complementary skill sets, realizing you have much to learn from one another, and brainstorming together are all hallmarks of a flourishing friendship.


2.  Self-disclosure

Give some, get some. Not necessarily secrets, but hopes, dreams, and opinions. Even if they differ, you’ve traded something important.


3.  Reciprocity

This give and take allows both friends to wear all the hats in the friendship. Sometimes you get to be the one scraping a friend off the ceiling and sometimes you are stuck there yourself. A good friend makes sure the mess-to-cleanup ratio doesn’t get skewed.


4.  Trust

The exchange of sympathy and empathy create trust … as does honesty.


5.  Social Identity Support

Sounds heady, but basically the best of friends are those who understand and support each other not just as individuals, but also understand and support each other’s role in society. Otherwise known as being a mom … to another mom.


6.  Interaction

Good friends write, call, email. No matter physical proximity, good friends take the time to catch up. Turns out that the content’s not important, it’s the act of communicating itself that creates the closeness.


7.  Pleasure

Sharing the ups and downs of life is what friends are for and In my book, keepin’ it real isn’t necessarily being negative. That said, the net gain from a relationship needs to be pleasure. While there may be little storms along the way, good friends ride it out together, trusting the clouds to clear and the sun to come out again.

7 National Parks to Visit

September 28th, 2009 by Jane

Did you see the new Ken Burns documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, on PBS last night? The brilliant Burns brings his passionate lens to our national parks systems. As with his previous films, there is much to learn about the subject he explores. But the gorgeous cinematography makes this film rise into the realm of spectacular. And spectacular is just what Burns wants you to think when you watch. After your first viewing of his documentary, you could  mute the sound and use this as a stress-relief video. Really.

When I was a child, our family vacations were spent at state parks. These were fun trips, but I have never been to any of the national parks in this film.  They are now on my to-do list. Especially with my children.

Take a look and fall in love with the natural beauty of our nation.

1. Yellowstone

Yosemite is the first national park in the world.

2. Yosemite
I did not know this park was so immense.

3. Mesa Verde
Cliff dwellings that look like elaborate sand castles.

4. Grand Canyon
Until I can get there, I think I will watch the movie again. It is one of my favorites.

5. Acadia
I did not even know about this park. How dumb am I? Don’t answer that.

6. Great Smoky Mountains
Someone I used to know loved the Smoky Mountains. She said that they are old, feminine mountains.

7. Kenai Fjords
Fjords! In America! Don’t you love to say “fjords?”

7 of My Favorite Blogs

September 16th, 2009 by Jane

I do not have much time to read other blogs, but I try to make a few minutes every day to visit at least one of my favorites. The following seven (in no particular order) are a mix of humor, inspiration, creativity and information-four of my top interests!

1. Ink on My fingers
This blog is new to me and I am pouring through the archives of Susannah Conway’s blog as fast as I can. She has had a tragic past and I am fascinated. She writes about grief and art and life in a poignant, breathtaking way. Cathartic and refreshing.

2. Soul of the Garden
Tom Spencer hosts a local gardening show on PBS called Texas Gardener. His blog, Soul of the Garden, is where he talks about gardening, spirituality, travel, good books, his cats and much more. If you need something beautiful to look at, click here!

3. Ordinary Courage
I had the pleasure of hearing Brene’ Brown speak in Houston this past March and many of her words resounded so much with me that I found myself wishing I could be friends with her. After reading her blog regularly, I feel that I am. She writes about perfectionism, shame, addiction and gratitude with intelligence, humor and insight.

4. Katherine Center
Katherine Center writes books about mamahood that are funny, full of truth and love, with interesting characters. Her blog is just a continuation of  her fiction, but it is about her life. You will love getting to know her.

5. Orangette
Molly Wizenberg is a great cook, but she is also charming and sweet and thoughtful. Read her blog for delicious recipes, the chronicles of becoming a new restaurant owner and a love story. Her new book will bring tears.

6.  SF Girl by the Bay
Does your house lack style? Well get a screenful of ideas on this lovely design blog. You will be inspired to rearrange  your furniture, at the very least. We share a crush on the fictional character of Don Draper on Mad Men, so we know she has great taste!

7. Art Biz Blog
Alyson Stanfield’s blog is a self-help tool for artists. She offers marketing advice, support and inspiration for visual artists. She aims to make the term “starving artist” a thing of the past!

7 Things I Am Looking For….

August 31st, 2009 by Jane

I have a good life, great in fact on most days. But, sometimes I feel as if U2 wrote this song for me-at least in certain areas. Let me know if you have any ideas/products/solutions to the following desires!

1. New Musicians to Follow
My iTunes list has been pretty stagnant lately. The last thing I downloaded was music for the yoga classes that I teach. Ommmmmmm!

2. Comfortable High Heels
Oxymoron? I refuse to believe it!

3. Swimsuit
This suit is the cutest I have seen in years. I have the perfect shades to wear with this, now I just need some kicky wedge sandals!

4. Generous Monetary Compensation for Living a Creative Life
I am sending my wish out into cyberspace and starting a movement! Who’s in?

5. A Good Stain Removal Technique that Works Every Time
I have found that OxiClean works on most things, but I am still looking for the miracle product.

6. Meaning in Chaos
When I remember, I tell myself that it is all about moving closer to love. On bad days, I wonder what I have stepped in.

7.  Balance
We all know what to do: exercise, eat right, volunteer, choose work you love, be happy in small ways, love the world as much as you can, see the big picture, surround yourself with people you love and respect. The conundrum we humans have is that we cannot remember to do this every minute. We let inconsequential things get traction, the day blows apart and we are back where we started. Sometimes, I mutter to myself the words of that great philosopher, Dory, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” It is the best I can do.

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