Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 365: The final day of this project

Drag racing at Slinky Mountain.

It's December 31st, which is technically the final day of my project. To recap, my project was to write morning pages daily (as created by Julia Cameron's The Artists Way) and to blog about the experience. I figured if my life could change inside the 12 weeks of doing The Artists Way, how could my life change if I did the course for a year? My plan was to find my true artistic calling.

Final tally:
  • I wrote about 345 morning pages.
  • I wrote 302 blog entries. 
Not too shabby. I didn't commit to blogging daily, but I did alright on that count.

And how did my life change as a result of doing this project?
  • I found my true artistic calling (Read about the discover here.)
  • I quit my job as a copywriter in an ad agency. Actually, I quit being a copywriter all together.
  • I decided to travel for a very, very long time, starting sometime in early 2011
  • I made a commitment to keep this blog up in 2011 (cheers hear throughout the world)
Not too shabby either.

Now I wonder, like many of us, what to do with 2011. This blog project started as a New Year's resolution. What is my 2011 New Year's resolution?
  • Improving my score? To write morning pages and a blog entry for 365 days. But what's the end result? Perfection? What's the point in that? I don't want to make this drudgery.
  • Make my blog bigger? Figure out ways to have a bigger audience, have a sharp curve up in my Google Analytics... become a BLOGGING SUPERSTAR. But then the small voice inside said, "I just want to write my blog because it's fun, not because of what it can become. 
  • Just do more sit ups? No. Thanks.
A friend of mine and I once discussed the true meaning of success. We agreed that if we could measure success by the amount of laughs we had in a day rather than our bank balance or pants size, we'd be the most successful people ever. We were very good at amusing ourselves.

That got me thinking about definitions of success. How can I have a successful 2011? By measuring the amount of countries I visit? By the friends I make? By the relationships I maintain? By the love life I create? Children I create? A house in the Hamptons? (That last one definitely won't happen. And the one before that... um, that would depend on the one before that and the one before that, which depends on the one before that... though I wonder if that one depends on the one before that.)

That sentence was exhausting. 

I'm somewhat perplexed about how to proceed in 2011, so I'm asking for your help. Dear reader, what is your resolution? And how do you plan on making 2011 a success?

Good question.

Ooh, maybe I'll measure the success of 2011 by the amount of blog comments I get. Oh how I love your blog comments.

That's all a bit much. 

Ya, no pressure. Anyway, happy new year. We've had a good run in 2010. And we're just getting started.

Janice

P.S. If one of your goals for 2011 involves earning a degree, which is always a good thing, here

is a great place to start!

P.P.S. If you need an end-of-the-year donation, might I recommend my fave Architecture for Humanity. Or pick from your favorite charities in Ed Norton's Crowdrise.com. As they say, "Crowdrise is about raising money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it." Fun? Yes, please.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 361: My birthday is pretty much the best day ever

December 27 is the best day ever. Why? Because on this day your favorite bloggess was born.

I don't understand why people hide their birthday or get mad when someone doesn't remember. Be the purveyor of your own life, I say. Give yourself the gift of reminding people that it's your birthday so that they can give you birthday wishes galore.

Facebook is very good about this.

What did we do before Facebook remembered the birthday of you and 527 of your closest friends?

All day long, I've clicked on Facebook to read well wishes... including a wish all the way from ROME. Facebook birthday wishes made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside all day long.

You know what else made me happy? The gifts I got from people.

I never said I wasn't into pressies.

Now, if you've been following along, you'll know that I quit my job and plan on getting my worldly possessions down to one suitcase so I can travel. Those who opted to give me gifts also gave me the gift of knowing that I'm getting rid of mostly everything. Good peeps.


Top 10 gifts I received for my birthday:

1. A song from iTunes called Love Love Love by the Mountain Goats. Lyrics include "Some things you do for money and some you do for Love Love Love." Like travel the world.

2. A card from the niece. She's 5 years old. She wrote out all the letters of the alphabet, then recited them to me. "A, ah, apple. B, buh, ball..."

3. A hike from the brother-in-law. To a new trail with all my favorite hiking requirements: A view, uphill, ample parking at the trail head. Yes, yes and yes.

4. Personalized stationery created by the sister so I can send notes from abroad from me.

5. Peet's coffee cards... that I'll use up before the end of the week.

6. My favorite chocolate cake... that I ate up before the end of the night.

7. A movie date from a friend. Complete with popcorn and movie of my choosing.

8. A small journal from my cousin so I could jot down notes here and there on my travels.

9. A call from a friend that was once a good friend, then regressed to a mere Facebook friend but is now BACK ON as a good friend.

10. An appearance at my birthday party from another friend who I've been on the outs with lately. That came over WITH stickers for the niece AND a coffee card AND hug for ME.

Best. Pressies. Ever.

Best. Birthday. Ever. 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 360: Songlines and sunshine in Santa Monica

"It is good to collect things, but it is better to go on walks." --Anatole France
I've spent the last few days with family... it being Christmas and all. This is the first Christmas that I haven't gone back to Canada. Usually, I pack up the gifts and my Lululemon yoga pants and brave the elements north of the border.

(And by elements, I mean the airports and questions from the rellies about who I'm dating and why I live so far away.)

But this year, some of the family came to me. The rest we met on video chat on Christmas morning.

We've spent time sitting in the sun...

... looking for the corkscrew...

...and playing with toys....
The niece is very serious about Strawberry Shortcake.

I received some lovely gifts, but the best part of the holidays has been going for walks. The ability to walk outside without bundling up is one of the best gifts of being in Santa Monica in December. We walk. We stop for coffee. We walk some more. We stop at the playground. We walk some more.

In that spirit, I've been reading The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, as shown with help from the niece.
"WHY?! Why must you read, Auntie Jan, when there are so many toys to play with?"

The book is about Songlines of the Indigenous people of Australia. Wikipedia says, "By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, Indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior."

A map made of song!

How lovely is THAT?! 

Wikipedia goes on to say that these fancy sing-song nomads can "navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena."

We, in my five person troupe made of three adults and two children, have a sing-songy way about us as we navigate our way around Santa Monica. The lead singer, the five-year-old, is accompanied by the backup singer in the stroller and the three adults following behind.

I think all this singing and walking is good practice for my 2011 nomadic adventure.

Where will I start my nomadic adventure? I have two optional starting lines for my songlines. Can you guess what they are, dear reader?

Clue number one: THIS blog entry.
Clue number deux: THIS clue.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 355: Top 5 things I learned about writing morning pages

I love when someone is inspired to write morning pages after hearing about my project of writing morning pages each day for a year and blogging about it.

For instance, my niece saw me writing my pages today and decided to write her own.
I love how emotions carry through penmanship.

Now that it's near the end of the year and near the end of this project (though the blog will live on), I figure I should report on the experience of writing daily morning pages.

For those not in the know about morning pages: They came from Julia Cameron's book, The Artists Way, which is a 12-week course to help you unleash your creativity. In the book, you are tasked with writing three pages in your journal every single day. You write whatever you want but it must be three pages a day for the full 12 weeks.

When I did this course, my life changed in big ways. I figured if my life changed a lot in 12 weeks, what would it be like in a year? (Read the archive on the right for the long version of how my life has changed... skip to December for the gist.)

I figure, of the last 355 days, I've missed about 20 days of writing morning pages. Sometimes I got busy. Sometimes I just plain forgot. And sometimes I got sick of the project. But in all that writing, I learned a thing or five about writing these pages...

Top 5 things I learned about writing morning pages:
  1. It doesn't get any easier. That third page is just as hard now as it was in January.

  2. We've become friends. Sometimes the pages are a confidant, someone with whom I can share my true thoughts. It's a sweet relief to have this in my life, especially when my actual friends are tired of hearing me drone on... or if what I have to say is so mean that I wouldn't want to share it with my friends. Sometimes venom is best left for the privacy of morning pages.

  3. I can't hid my issues. I can't just write about the mundane in my morning pages. And if I do, the issues end up spewing out by the third page anyway. The pages show me what I could work on.

  4. Big projects get daily face time. Like quitting my job or deciding to travel around the world. None of the decisions I made this year were on a whim. They were painstakingly evaluated and planned out in my pages. Every stinking day. Except for 20.

  5. Morning page don't need to get done in the morning. Julia Cameron and I will have to agree to disagree. She says it's best to do them early for a myriad of reasons. Whatevs Julia. What. Evs. I've learned that sometimes our best spiritual and artistic work gets onto those pages right after a really bad moment at the office, or when we find ourselves with a free half hour and a free window seat at a coffee shop, or at night when we can best evaluate the pluses and minuses of the day.

    Plus, morning is for hitting the snooze button, sipping coffee and hauling our asses where they need to go. Writing morning pages in the morning is a high expectation that can quickly lead to failure. I can't believe I'm still doing my 2010 New Year's resolution. And it would have ended by the third week in January if I only did these pages in the morning. Correction: Third day in January.
So, dear reader, I hope my wee project has inspired you to write a little more in your journal... or even just buy a pretty journal... or a pen with nice flow... or even just think about maybe possibly writing more someday.

Morning pages create a space to write the best story ever told.

Your own.
"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." --Oscar Wilde.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 354: Holiday gift to self

Confession: I have a mad crush on Charlie Boorman.
Ewan McGregor ain't bad either.

You may have heard of their two motorcycle odysseys. First, there was Long Way Round, when they went from London to New York east on their motorcycles.
 Hot stuff.

Second, there was Long Way Down, when they went from John O'Groats in Scotland south to Cape Town in South Africa.
Yumbo.

But what really solidified my mad crush on Charlie was Race To Dakar, where he raced in the 2006 Dakar Rally, the most challenging and dangerous motorcycle race in the world.
Heart wrenching. 
Tear jerking. 
Adrenaline rushing. 
Bi-polarizing. 
Mad-crush forming.

When I watched Race to Dakar, I was was all a kerfuffle, wondering if these guys were going to finish the race alive. People die in this race. DIE! If my Charlie were to have kicked it in this race, I would have shut off my TV, crawled into bed to waited for the end of time because there would be no point to go on.

Dramatic much?

Perhaps I am being slightly over the top. These guys have to first raise money for the race, train for months and prep like crazy. Then come race time, they race all day, fix bikes all night, travel through the desert in crazy hot conditions with cars whizzing by all day long.

It's all a bit much.

It's more stressful than watching 24.

Charley raced with Simon Pavey in the Dakar Rally. This year, Simon is racing again. The costs of this race are astronomical. Lucky for us, we can donate at his site.

Now I know there are a lot of worthwhile places to donate your cash this holiday season. There are people starving, poor children that could use a gift, and people in Haiti, the Gulf Coast and a thousand other places on earth that could use your help.

But let us not forget to donate to help those trying achieve their dreams. Because those are worthwhile causes, too. So this year, in addition to donating to those in need, I gave a little something extra to Simon to help him to the finish line. Why? Because it made me feel good, as selfish as that may seem to some. And I consider it an early birthday gift to self.

FYI, my birthday is December 27. Mark it on your calendar, dear reader.

The campaigning begins.

No need to give me gifts.

Good. Wasn't gonna.

Can't fit it in my suitcase for my trip around the world anyway. But, if you're feeling inclined to give to worthwhile causes, might I suggest giving both to people in need and also to people who are the the midst of achieving their dreams.

People like Simon.

It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Trust me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 352: Wrung out like an overused dish towel

It's raining.

I'm sitting in my big brown chair beside the window. My tea sits on the window ledge. I'm surrounded by books, Christmas cards and mail.

The last few days have been a sumptuous solitude.
"Language... has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone." -- Paul Tillich
Remember in my last post when I said relaxing felt like a cold?

Well, it appears that a cold also feels like a cold.

Over the last few days, every toxin that I've held in my body has released itself in the form of some unholy mucus that has spewed out of my nose. I must have blown my nose ten thousand times. Days later, my nose is raw and my sinuses feel like they've been wrung out like an overused dish towel.

But I feel empty and that's a good thing.

While I've been detoxing, I've been reading Life is Verb: 37 days to wake up, be mindful and live intentionally by Patti Digh.

Read this book with lots of tea.

In it, she tells charming little stories about how to live each day with a little more gusto.

The back cover of the book reads:
"The death of her stepfather just 37 days after being diagnosed with cancer woke Patti Digh up, scared her, and made her examine her own life. She realized that living your best life doesn't mean ditching your job and sailing around the world—it means living each individual, glorious, simple day with more intention."
Funny. I didn't read that until after I ditched my job and intend to zip around the world. 

But before I go, I'm going to sit in my window, sip my tea and watch the rain.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 347: My new daily status

This is what someone looks like when they know they've done the right thing by quitting their job.

The day I quit: Tired

The day after I quit: Shocked but delighted

The day after the day after I quit: Just delighted

It's currently 9:27 a.m. on Monday. The time that my daily status meeting ends at the office.

But since I quit my job last week, instead of walking out of the meeting with status sheets in my hand, I'm sitting on my chaise lounge chair, draped in an afghan with a coffee in my hand.

Best. Moment. Ever.

I thought that after I did it, after I left the job, that I'd be visited by my inner Mr. Panic Head. He wears a suit and is so high strung that he makes coffee nervous. He runs around in circles and starts every sentence with "What if..."

But, no sign of him so far.

I've only noticed a deep fatigue, coupled with feelings of relief and happiness. I'm tired but I'm happy. Like a mom who just gave birth and is holding her baby.

My baby is time. Wonderful, beautiful, perfect time.

I think this is what relaxing feels like. I just haven't felt relaxed in so long that I don't recognize it.

It feels a bit like a cold. 

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Day 244: My Shawshank Redemption

    I didn't do it on a whim. The whole quitting my job thing.

    It took planning, strategizing and a whole lot of fantasizing to make it happen. But mostly it took saving. It costs many dollars to go off and quit your job, folks. The last thing I wanted to do was quit my job and head straight into Fretsville. No no. That's not my style.

    I didn't do it by offloading sand out of my trousers for 20 years, but it was kind of like a Shawshank prison escape. So, for all you youngin's out there, here's how I saved up enough dough to quit my job and go romp around the world.


    My Shawshank Redemption

    1. Got a number. I sat around at lunch with my coworkers and asked how much money one should save to quit a job. We all agreed on a number.

    2. Calculate time and money. I calculated how long it would take me to reach that number doing what I was doing now with my current salary.

    3. Realized it would take forever. I started thinking of ways to bring in that money sooner. I bought stocks and sold paintings. I had a yard sale and accepted friends staying at my place. I didn't charge them anything, but they took me for meals and bought groceries here and there.

    4. Got cozy. I stayed home more. I painted and used up art supplies I bought three years ago, read books I bought five years, I bound books with a kit I bought six years ago. 

    5. Gave the stuff I made as gifts. It's more meaningful to the receiver, it's a great creative outlet and it's a chance to use up art supplies I already purchased.

    6. Sold what wouldn't fit my nomadic lifestyle. Like when I sold my big laptop and bought a small laptop.

    7. I said Absolutely No to things I didn't want to do. When a friend asked me to go to dinner or the movies, I suggested a walk instead. Or, I suggested a movie at home on the couch instead. That way we both saved money, bonded and did things I'd rather do anyway. Win win.

    8. Became vegan. Okay, so this one is more hardcore. Look at your grocery bill. The most expensive items are meats, cheeses and other non-vegan items. Being vegan makes my pocketbook fat and makes me thin. The cows and chickens like it, too. Win, win, win.

    9. Had a Come-to-Jesus about what makes me happy. Experiences make me happy. Material things do not. I can't believe it never occurred to me when I was buying and bringing stuff into my apartment that I'd have to deal with it all one day. Now when I see something I like, I wonder if I will sell it at a yard sale, give it to a thrift store or cherish it always. Lose, lose, win.

    10. Became generous. Tithing is this weird law of the universe. When I leave big tips and donate more, I am gifted with people buying my art, my books and my crafts. I can't explain it but I get back ten times what I put out. 
    And I did all this for awhile until boom! I met my financial goal. And get this: Saving money was easier than I thought. I think Step 9 was what helped me along the fastest. Shopping became lame. Having stuff mucked with my mind space. Once I got rid of a lot of stuff in my apartment, I had breathing room. Breathing room is good.

    So reader, what's your Shawshank Redemption Plan?

      Thursday, December 9, 2010

      Day 343: My Leo Burnett apple pin

      This is my Leo Burnett apple pin.

      My first advertising job was at Leo Burnett Advertising. Everyone who works at all the Leo Burnett offices around the world gets an apple pin. We all wear it. It's a pretty cool pin that represents membership in a pretty cool club.

      When Leo Burnett created his advertising agency during the Great Depression, he had a bowl of apples in his lobby for employees and visitors. Naysayers said that opening an advertising agency in the middle of the depression was a bad idea. They said he's soon be selling those apples on the street.

      Today, Leo Burnett is the 10th largest advertising agency in the world and every Leo Burnett office in the world offers apples at reception. Employees, clients, the FedEx guy, the UPS guy, everyone grabs an apple on their way in or out of the office. Everyone loves free apples.

      I ate a lot of apples when I worked at Leo Burnett.

      And I really loved being a copywriter. I wore my apple pin with pride.

      Since my first apple at Leo Burnett, I've done a lot of copywriting. A dozen years, thousands of campaigns, millions of words.

      But somewhere along the line, in all the agencies I've worked at, except for Leo Burnett, something has changed. They've become More More More factories. More ads, more versions, more emails, more mail. More more more. With less budget and less time.

      And without adequate recovery time between churning out these ads, my work/life balance went severely off kilter. Monday through Friday became a flurry of work. Saturday became a rest day. Sunday became the weekend. Year after year of this... well, that's no way to live.

      So today, I quit my job.

      (The sound of applause heard around the world.)

      It's not that I just quit my job. I quit advertising.

      (I love saying "quit" rather than "resign." It's so much more balls to the walls.) 

      In the middle of the depression, Leo Burnett started his dream of becoming a copywriter.

      In the middle of a recession, I am starting my dream of a life beyond being a copywriter.

      It's not just my experience with my latest agency that has led to this decision. In fact, they gave me everything they could. But what I wanted was work/life balance. And that, in some warped accounting way, is problematic for the bottom line of corporate America.

      Other people can do it. They even like it. I'm just not these people. I'm not even from the same planet as these people.

      So now, after a rest, I will travel the world and write about it. And I will take nothing with me from my former copywriting life except for one thing: My Leo Burnett pin.

      It will remind me to be grateful for what my copywriting career gave me for this next leg of my journey: writing skills and cash.

      I'm grateful for all the friends I've made, the writing skills I've developed, and the checks that always cleared.

      I'm grateful.

      But I'm done.


      Wednesday, December 8, 2010

      Day 342: Deliberate pause

      ... for dramatic effect.

      Stay tuned. It's about to get very good.

      Good like Santa when you're five.
      Good like lemonade on the pier.
      Good like the first kiss.
      Good like a ride when you're feet are tired.
      Good like the blue of a glacier lake.
      Good like a free coffee.
      Good like Christmas cards.
      Good like tomato soup and grilled cheese.
      Good like Tom Jones singing Pussy Cat.
      Good like a new blog post from your favorite blogger.

      It's THAT good.

      Tune in tomorrow.



      Monday, December 6, 2010

      Day 341: Holiday mayhem has begun

      This weekend in Santa Monica was full of holiday street festivals. All the shops stayed open late for people to get a head start on holiday shopping. There were twinkle lights a plenty and even a few carolers.

      It was all very charming until the free food came out.

      People barreled through stores trying to get to the free wine and grub in the back. No one seemed to care about shopping. They just loitered around the shops sheepishly looking for the cookies. People seem to have no problem cutting in front of mothers with strollers just to get their hands on a cheese cube.

      I love how I use the word "they," as if my saintly self had nothing to do with it.

      But it was Jack cheddar with jalapenos and it tasted great.

      "Hey honey, now that our dishwasher gives us more free time, let's go out and trample our neighbors for free food."

      All this holiday spirit reminds me of one of my favorite holiday books. No, it's not Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
      I'll have a double.



      Wednesday, December 1, 2010

      Day 331: It's time to dance

      Dancing with pal extraordinaire SuperKev.

      It's time to dance

      I'm acting scared because I think I should
      I'm not scared
      I'm sitting on my couch
      In front of my fireplace
      Wrapped in a blanket
      I couldn't be less scared

      I'm thinking of making a move
      And I'm waiting for the emotions
      Because I think I should
      Stress, overwhelm and fear
      Strangely, this trifecta is absent

      Where to?
      I'll figure it out when I get there
      I know this
      So why am I being sheepish?
      I'm here now
      Going there
      Or wherever
      Somewhere cool

      I've got the cash
      And I'll figure out the furniture
      All this furniture is made of paper
      Folded paper with little flaps
      To go with the folded flap little me
      That I thought I wanted to be
      And I was
      And it was great
      And now I'm different
      And it will be great again

      I'm just acting scared because I think I should
      But I'm not scared
      I'm not sad for those I'll wave to bravely
      This is the dance of my life
      It's arranged in my honor
      It's time to go
      It's time to dance


      Day 330: A bitter cold poem for December

      A dreary day. Perfect for my poetic nastiness.
      "Have you ever become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the hateful things... your spite, your arrogance, your condescension has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and walking away... you zing them. 'Hello it's Mr Nasty.'" -- Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

      This quote reminds me of this poem I wrote awhile ago when I was super annoyed with someone. I know. Shocker. Someone made assumptions that were just so basic and wrong but they believe them so strongly. Then I felt put in a corner, which made me feel like scratching their face off. Not my most shining moment. Because I didn't scratch their face off.

      I think we've all been there. Caught in a bitter stew of projection, history, confusion and just plain ol' venom. Anyway, that's where I was coming from when I wrote this.

      You don't know me

      You don't know me
      You have pieced together a story
      Out of all the stories I've told
      You latched onto a tale or two
      And fill in the rest

      You don't know me
      Perhaps I'm to blame
      I didn't know full disclosure was required
      I shared fragile little bird tales
      But failed to mention how they made me soar

      If you knew me
      You'd know that my childhood
      Though influential to a point
      Had an expiration date that was met
      A long time ago

      If you knew me
      You'd know that I'm currently wondering
      Why I'm friends with you
      You who uses intellect
      Not instinct

      You who judges and defines
      Who puts baby in a corner
      If you knew me
      You'd know
      I'm nothing like you

      After writing this poem, I was spent and wanted only to lay in Rumi's field where none of this matters. Where nothing was right or wrong. In that field, I would be immune to sweeping generalizations, evaluations and judgments. Where I wouldn't despise. Where the place where this poem came from was a vague memory of a dream I once had.
      "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
      and rightdoing there is a field.
      I'll meet you there." -- Rumi



      Monday, November 29, 2010

      Day 329: A Canadian American Thanksgiving

      Mr. Devrient, my History teacher in high school, once advised me to travel my own country before travelling others.

      I didn't listen, which probably makes me a bad Canadian.

      I spent all my free time in Ontario (where I'm from) trying to get a job in California. Then when I moved to California, I spent all my free time heading back to Ontario for weddings, baptisms, holidays and the like.

      But this past weekend, I finally made it to Vancouver. I went to visit my friend, the great and wonderful documentary film maker, Pete McCormack, who I gush about here, and his super talented partner in crime Sam, who created a company called Echo Memoirs, which "transforms memories and photographs into stunning coffee-table books that leave a meaningful legacy for generations to come." They create seriously beautiful books, which make for better heirlooms than Aunt Bessies old spoon collection. Hint: They make a great gift.

      Sam is so peaceful and lovely that she looks like she's meditating even when she's just looking at a menu.
      See what I mean.

      I also met one of my new favorite people, and by new I mean he's fresh out of the oven. A mere 3 months old:
      His name is Booker and he's telling me funny jokes. 

      They had an American Thanksgiving dinner party, which Pete writes about here. I was the token American, which is funny because I'm Canadian, but I think because I live in LA, that was enough of an excuse to make cranberries, stuffing and yams. 

      We talked into the night about what we are grateful for and how we plan on using our talents to better our lives and our worlds. To describe this vastly talented group of people is beyond my skill set. But I can say that they are the living embodiment of these two quotes: 
      "Be faithful to that which exists within yourself." -- Andre Gide
      "God calls us to the place where our deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." -- Frederick Buechner
      This group of people are really living their dreams, or at least are well on their way to figuring out a how to live happier lives. If they aren't living harmoniously off the grid, they are signing robust book contracts or teaching at universities about being ecological kind. And they do it with glee and optimism.

      The rest of the weekend was spent talking, walking, eating and napping. I've had a lot of mulling going on in my noggin' and it was nice to bounce my ideas off my two insightful advisors while I bounced the third on my knee. 

      I came away from the weekend with clarity, direction and a bit of a Buddha belly.

      I didn't see much of Vancouver though. We were busy chatting. On the way to the airport they gave me a quick scenic tour of the city.

      Sorry Mr. Devrient. Maybe next time.


      Friday, November 26, 2010

      Day 328: Celebrity look alikes

      Juliette Binoche

      Your favorite bloggess

      I can see it.

      Who is your celebrity look alike, dear reader?


      Wednesday, November 24, 2010

      Day 327: On nearly being smooshed to smithereens on the freeway

      St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel.

      Remember yesterday when I wrote about death being one less headache? And that Lorenzo Lamas made life worth living?

      Well, you know what else makes life worth living? Not being smooshed to smithereens on the freeway. Because last night, I nearly got smooshed to smithereens on the freeway.

      My car died going up the mountain during an extremely rushed rush hour on the freeway. It was dark. I pulled over to the shoulder BUT THERE WAS NO SHOULDER because there was construction. There was a temporary cement wall where the shoulder should have been. I was stuck in a lane. Cars were whizzing by, going around as best they could and scaring the bageezus out of me.

      I picked up the phone and dialed 911. This was, in fact, an emergency situation. If my car died on a side street, I wouldn't be calling 911. But I was on the super speedy 405 freeway just after a bend in the road. It was more than just problematic. It was actually life threatening. So I called 911 and didn't get a busy signal. That was the first sign that an angel was on the job. Then more angels appeared...

      The first angel was one of the construction guys who ran over and told me to get out of the car on the passenger side and climb over the wall because it was safer than being a sitting duck in traffic. Normally you stay in the car because it's safer, but in this case, it wasn't safer. He helped me over the wall and stayed with me until the second angel arrived...

      A policeman came and stopped all traffic on the freeway to help out the third angel who arrived at the same time...

      The AAA guy, my highway hero, quickly hauled my car up on his flatbed and helped me back over the cement wall. Then we drove off with nary a scratch to meet up with my fourth angel...

      My friend who said I could borrow his extra car for the next few days while mine was in the shop.

      Then my other friend, the fifth angel, sent me to his super great mechanic who is fair and good.

      Angels rock.

      Thinking back to that moment on the freeway, I can't remember being more scared then I was in those few minutes. And inside those few minutes, I was met with a congregation of angels.

      Honestly... I could have died. 

      And I'm not even being overly dramatic. 

      To have died coming home from work?!?!? That would have been tragic. I mean, dying itself is tragic but dying coming home from Office Town is extra tragic. Exponentially tragic. 

      Upon reflection, I think it was God telling me to take care of the business I'd been putting off. I had meant to take my car in and had delayed the task for one reason or another. Now it's sitting in the shop being souped up for the next leg of my journey. Speaking of...

      I've also been meaning to take care of a few other big things, which you'll read all about soon enough. Stay tuned.

      The message was clear: Take care of it sooner rather than later.

      In the meantime, just to be safe, I'm wearing both my St. Christopher's medals.


      Monday, November 22, 2010

      Day 325: Death and the sexiest men alive


      "Death is one less fucking headache if you ask me."

      A writer friend of mine sent me a few samples of his work. He's a cheery guy when I talk to him so it's a bit of a disconnect to read his raw, angry writing. The above quote was taken from one of his stories. I didn't add his name because I suspect he'd have to deal with a lot of raised eyebrows and questions.

      When I read the quote posted above I paused and thought... been there.

      Who hasn't been there? Where it would just be easier to be done with it all.

      I'm not saying I'm suicidal, but there are times when I, too, have thought that death would be one less fucking headache. The thing is, I've thought these thoughts at random not-so-dramatic times. I've thought it:
      • In a quiet moments while I'm waiting to get my oil changed and the sun is too bright.
      • When I'm in line to get a coffee and the person ahead of me orders beans, which always takes longer. 
      • When I wake up and think it's Thursday but it's only Tuesday. 
      • In the last hour before the plane lands. But because I'm on a plane, I push the thought away because that's no way to go.
      • When I'm packing and feeling indecisive.
      • Waiting for the waitress. 
      • At Target.
      • In the Whole Foods parking lot. There are a lot of angry yogis out there. 
      This list makes it sound like I think this thought all the time. I don't. In fact, when I do think this thought, it usually comes out of left field because I'm not actually in a bad mood, not depressed and not even unhappy. Perhaps I'm a bit impatient.

      Perhaps?

      Okay, probably more than just a little impatient.

      But then there are the small random moments that make life worth living. Like today, for instance. I was eating lunch with my coworkers. People's Sexiest Man Alive magazine issue just came out, which probably made sexy men the topic of discussion. (BTW, this year Ryan Reynolds is the sexiest man alive. I didn't see that coming, but that's only because he's Canadian and us Canadians never see that coming.)

      The web guy stopped eating his spicy thai dish, looked up and said, "You know who is a handsome man? Lorenzo Lamas."

      Hi there Lorenzo Lamas you hottie, you.

      Where did that come from? When did Lorenzo Lamas become top of mind? The randomness made me feel joy at the cellular level. Lorenzo Lamas is in fact a handsome man, but the randomness of this statement has kept me giggling for hours.

      It's a small thing, and I never thought I'd say it, but Lorenzo Lamas sure makes life worth living.


      Sunday, November 21, 2010

      Day 324: The T in Jack Canfield

      When people meet my friend and co-author Marni, they think she's alright. She's fine. She's a nice enough girl. Cute. Friendly. Fine.

      What they don't know is that when she's alone with me, she's a freaking genius. The way her mind works is astounding. She floors me. And sometimes she has me rolling on it because I'm laughing so hard.

      Think about it, I wouldn't have co-authored two books with just anyone. You have to be pretty amazing for me to want to write not just one but two books with you.

      But you don't see her pure genius because when she's out with our peeps, she keeps it under wraps.

      Until now.

      Just like in Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, I captured some rare footage of Marni being amazing in her natural habitat:




      Day 323: How to support your favorite author after buying her books

      My first born book was endorsed by Iyanla Vanzant, her unofficial Godmother.

      By now, you either:

      a) know I co-authored a book called The Breakup Repair Kit
      b) know I co-authored a book called The Dating Repair Kit
      c) purchased one book
      d) purchased both books
      e) all of the above

      If you've chosen "e" then I thank you very much. Email me your address and I'll send you something pretty. Did you know that there is one more thing you can do to help out your favorite author and bloggess (that's me)?

      I bring you option f)





      Thursday, November 18, 2010

      Day 322: The best hair barrette ever


      This hair barrette was given to me by my friend Roxanne 15 years ago. She bought it at the One Of A Kind Show in Toronto. If you click on the image, you'll see that there are little kitties engraved on it. Cute.

      She probably doesn't even remember this barrette. And she has no clue that I've had this hair barrette in my hair four days a week since the day she gave it to me. I'm constantly scrounging around for this simplest of hair accessories. It may not look like much to you but it is the most perfect accessory to me. It lays flat, the clip works well, I can hide it under my bun, and if I show it off, it matches everything. It's perfect.

      And best of all, it reminds me of Roxanne. We don't talk so much these days but I know she reads this blog. And now she knows I think of her every time I put my hair up, which is most of the time.

      This barrette has been through every advertising agency with me. It's been witness to many hairy moments, like when I wanted to pull it out over frustrations with "the process," inept account people and impossible client comments. Like today.

      At the beginning of my career, when a project wasn't going my way, I'd take my hair out of my barrette, scratch my head, rub my eyes and take a few breaths. Then I'd pick up the barrette and proceed to put myself back together again, starting with my hair.

      Not much as changed. Except that when I was younger, after the redo of the hairdo, I would stomp around and go to the Creative Director to demand retribution. I'd cry. Now, my eyes are a bit tired, my skin is a bit thicker and my spirit is a bit drained. These days, I put my hair back up and take the "water off a duck's back" approach. Though I still cry sometimes. Like today.

      And all through that I've held it together with my hair barrette. And with the knowledge of the girl who gave it to me all those years ago. Roxanne and I have known each other since kindergarten. When I pull out the barrette, I am reminded that she is alive and well and living through her joys and frustrations, too. She's trying to hold it all together in her way just as I am in my way.

      Though I have some extra help. I have the barrette.


      Wednesday, November 17, 2010

      Day 321: It's a fine dread

       Another fine lunch in Office Town.

      Another morose little poem by your cheery bloggess. I'm not so much of a rhyming kind of girl but this is what came out one night when I was arrived at a bar early to wait for friends and was hanging with my beer and morning pages. Maybe it was the beer talking.

      It's a fine dread

      The alarm clock startles me awake
      How many snooze buttons does it take?
      I'm getting out of bed
      But it's a fine dread

      The coffee line is way too long
      But I need to take my fix along
      I sip in traffic to calm my head
      But it's a fine dread

      One day I'll walk the road
      And lighten this heavy load
      Right now it's all in my head
      But it's a fine dread


      Tuesday, November 16, 2010

      Day 320: The art of the silent treatment

      Silence somewhere between the casino and a gas station. 
      Palm Springs, California

      I'm currently involved in a silent treatment. There was a fight. It happened fast, like the other day when I turned a corner and a gust of wind whipped at me with such force that I lost my breath and felt slapped in the face.

      I left hurt. He left hurt. And now, we sit among our friends at the coffee shop. I observe that he's well-versed at the silent treatment. Conversing casually with everyone else, not rousing suspicion that he is deliberately not talking to me. I stare at him astounded that we are here.

      How did we get here?

      The content of the fight is largely blocked from memory. That's what happens with me. Trauma begets amnesia, which makes it rather difficult to work things through once the dust has settled. I recall that there was his frustration at me not opening up and my frustration at feeling pressured. I probably shouldn't have mentioned the part about me not being emotionally slutty, which probably implied that he was.

      And the truth is that I did imply it.

      Not my most stellar moment.

      My sister told me once that if she were to give me a silent treatment, she'd call me up right away and we'd talk about it until the silent treatment was over. In that vein, I reached out with a quick little text. A shy move, I realize. But I'm scared he'll yell again and if that happens, I will react in one of two ways:
      1. My inner mother will remove me from the situation. This is what happened the other day when I hung up on him.

      2. My inner mountain lion will reveal herself, reveal her sharp teeth and claws and pounce with the intent to kill. She's fierce, powerful and cold-blooded.
      My text was met with more silence.

      So now I sit with the silence, searching for the gift. I send him love. I forgive him. I forgive me. I let us both off the hook. I catch up on Netflix. I make soup because chopping vegetables helps. And I remind myself that people do what they do based on who they are with the information they have at the time.

      I honor that there is a part of him that hurts and sit with the part of me that hurts. I reach for the celery.

      I have also come to the conclusion that he and I may be in the winter of our friendship. That we are divine beings currently engaged in the human experience of ending something. That we will gain skills from this that we can use later. And then we'll be grateful for the training. That this is an opportunity for growth, as all situations like this seem to be.

      This silent treatment could be his soul opening an exit door for me and it could be my time to walk through.


      Monday, November 15, 2010

      Day 319: My favorite mistakes

      Malibu, California @ Cross Creek

      I took this photo on my way back from a party in Malibu on the weekend. How great is the moment when something beyond yourself happens and a perfect artistic opportunity presents itself. I also love that this Shell station is in Malibu, considered by many to be the paradise of the California coast.

      I spent much of the weekend pondering and mixing metaphors, as you'll see in this little poem I wrote:


      Mistakes
       
      I've been pondering a lot lately.
      Not able to put into words
      Exactly what I'm pondering.
      Plans, I guess.
      The next steps.
      What to do with my life.
      What to quit
      And what to begin.

      All this pondering
      Can make a girl weary
      And bleary
      And teary

      All this pondering
      Can turn into decisions
      That turn into mistakes
      And the prospect of mistakes
      Leads to more pondering

      I must remind myself
      That had I not made the mistake
      Of falling for what turned out to be
      My first mistake
      I would not have arrived in this moment
      Where I have the luxury
      To ponder a few costly future errors of my way
      Before I crash into them.
      Full throttle.

      I suppose I would have had other experiences
      On a flatter plain
      Had I not made my first mistake
      But I can't begin to believe
      To conceive
      That those were better
      Than what I got

      So I sit with all this
      And ponder longer
      I deal out my future mistakes
      Like a game of solitaire
      Do I play this card
      Or this card?

      All this time knowing
      That I can put the cards away
      And stay perfectly still
      Stay safe and small
      And that would be perfectly fine
      But that wouldn't make me less weary
      And bleary
      And teary

      It's an interesting vantage point
      To see a handful of mistakes before me
      And to see how they could easily converge
      Into a giant 52-card pickup clusterfuck.

      But to be faced with not making those mistakes?
      By not playing those cards?
      By not making a risky move or two?
      That seems like a perfect trifecta
      of preposterous, ludicrous and ridiculous
      And that's no way to live.

      I must remember
      When I get scared
      Like the squirrel
      Who runs three quarters of the way
      Then scurries back
      That mistakes are beautiful
      Mistakes are part of the fun


      Thursday, November 11, 2010

      Day 314: Top 10 Hair Band Ballads

      Clearly, I'm going through a weird phase. Maybe it's because my friend Joe transitioned out of this place and into something more ethereal. Maybe it's because the ides of November have turned gloomy. Maybe it's because it's Thursday.

      But I am listening to the greatest hair band ballads of all time. We're talking drama. Songs that are all about how life is soooo over after we breakup. How it's soooo amazing after we fall in love. How it's sooooo much better with an epic guitar solo and a giant hairdo.

      It's very juicy stuff.

      And they all seemed so into their craft, not realizing that the songs were so over the top that they bordered on ridiculous. Which makes Spinal Tap still the best movie ever. 

      So now, I give you my Top 10 Hair Band Ballads. You're welcome.
      1. Wind of change, Scorpions
      2. When I see you smile, Bad English
      3. Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, Cinderella
      4. High enough, Damn Yankees
      5. To be with you, Mr. Big
      6. Something to believe in, Poison
      7. Is this love, Whitesnake
      8. Heaven in your eyes, Loverboy (for the Canadian contingent)
      9. I saw red, Warrant
      10. November rain, Guns N' Roses
      Guns N Roses even had the balls to come out with a video that is 9.08 minutes long. Amazing!



      Monday, November 8, 2010

      Day 312: My dear friend Joe Potter

      You can be moving right along, eating ice cream, singing songs and making sweet love to your man.

      Then your friend Joe Potter moves on in a permanent way. And you wonder why. And how. And why again.

      Joe graduated with me when we got our Master's degrees at the University of Santa Monica (USM). He was the kind of guy that smiled with his whole face. He was an intense hugger. He listened with a focus that made me feel heard. And his default was love.

      He moved on from this world on his own accord the other day. Since then, I've found myself listening to people but only hearing Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe. People have asked how I am and the first thing I want to say is Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe. And as I walk around town, I rest on more steps along the way to wait for the Joe Joe Joe Joe Joe drum roll to subside.

      This is one of those moments in life when time takes over. When we must rely on time to do what it will because we can't figure it out on our own in the moment. That said, all the Whys and What Fors are inane questions that can never really be answered now or ever anyway. But at least with time, we'll stop asking so often.

      See you again someday, Joe. 


      Courtesy of the generous Dror Amir.

      Details of his memorial service, courtesy of USM:

      A Memorial Service will be held at the University at 2101 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica on Thursday, November 11 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. All are welcome to come together in Loving and in celebration of Joe's life. Parking is available at the Union Bank Parking Garage (2001 Wilshire Blvd.) beginning at 6:15 p.m. for $3.

      A fund in Joe's memory has been established at USM. All donations made to this fund will go towards the Tuition Assistance Loan Program, with the vision of collecting a minimum $5,000, which will provide for a heart in Joe's name on the USM Lobby Donor wall. Graduates, students, or friends of USM who would like to make a donation to this fund can send it to the University of Santa Monica, Attn: Joe Potter Memorial Fund.

      For more information, please contact:
      University of Santa Monica | 2107 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403
      (310) 829-7402 | www.UniversityofSantaMonica.edu


      Day 311: Top 8 to 11 reasons to write morning pages

      Since this entire blog is based in the experience of writing morning pages everyday for an entire year, I figure I should actually talk about that experience once in awhile.

      For newbies to my blog, morning pages are one of the two basic tools introduced by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. The second is a weekly artist date, where you head out in the world to gain experiences that fill your creative pool.

      My most recent artist date was a trip to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) where they had fancy art exhibits and my favorite, free potato kabobs!
      I love me a good potato kabob.

      Did the kabob inspire me? Not really. But it sure tasted great.

      Back to the morning pages. I found this article by Laura Biering that listed these as 11 good reasons for writing morning pages:
      1. To achieve healthy, constructive expression of emotions;
      2. To attain greater clarity of thought and ease with prioritization;
      3. To augment brainstorming abilities;
      4. To develop a deeper spiritual life;
      5. To enhance mood and outlook on life;
      6. To have accurate documentation of life experiences;
      7. To heighten problem-solving skills;
      8. To improved performance of daily activities;
      9. To increase levels of self-awareness;
      10. To manage stress and obtain other health benefits; and
      11. To stimulate a healthier mind. 
      Snore.

      Here are my 11 good reasons for writing morning pages:
      1. To bitch about my job
      2. To play with my  journal and pens
      3. To obsess about boys
      4. To write endless lists
      5. To discover blog material (like this here post)
      6. To bitch about people that bug
      7. To write hearts in the margins
      8. To make evil plans
      9. To ... well, I guess there is only 8.
      Whatever your reasons might be, writing morning pages is still a good idea.


      Day 310: An important blog announcement

      I haven't blogged in a few days.

      You may have noticed.

      You may not have noticed. 

      Whatev. I'm not attached.

      Lies.

      Ya. You caught me.

      Anyway, I forgot my laptop power cord at the office, which meant I had about 2.5 minutes of juice for the weekend. I do, after all, have a Mac. Even on the best days, the power lasts for a good 3 minutes at most.

      It's nice that Mac people can make fun of themselves. Our smartphone iPhones are geniusphones except when making calls. Then they are idiotphones. Our headphones blow out so often that they might as well sell packs of three. And our laptop battery life is a joke.

      And yet, we're all willing to throw down big bucks to have that royal apple logo within arms reach of wherever we happen to be in the world.

      Can you get to the point of this post?

      Right.

      Without my laptop, I couldn't post and without being able to post, I missed it. Usually when I don't post, I feel kinda guilty. But now, without being able to post, I didn't like not being able to. I didn't like it at all.

      Not one bit.

      What are you saying?

      I'm saying that if I don't like not posting now, I sure as shit am not going to like not posting after this project is done on December 31, 2010. 

      So...

      So, dear reader, I'm going to keep doing this blog for as long as you'll have me. Well beyond this 2010 project.

      YAYAYAYAYAYA!

      And if you think that's shocking... here's a boob shot.


      Oh my.


      Wednesday, November 3, 2010

      Day 306: The passions of Janice MacLeod


      The origin of the word Passion means suffering. The most famous example of the original meaning of the word is the Passion of the Christ, which all about that big ol' walk to Calvary.

      We all have our passion walks.

      One of mine happened today, though it wasn't quite as dramatic as JCs.

      But I'll get back to that in a second.

      The first passion walk I had was in Waterloo, Ontario. I was interning at an advertising agency. It was winter and I had waited for a bus that decided to not come. I started walking across town to the agency. I remember slush, wet boots and a panic at being late. As I approached the front door, I said very clearly No.

      Soon after, I moved to Toronto, which ended up being more my kind of town.

      Another passion walk happened in Santa Monica, California. I was walking up Wilshire and came across one of my print ads all wadded up in the gutter. Ugh. I walked in the door of the crap agency I was working at and said very clearly No.

      Luckily, I got laid off soon thereafter and ended up in a better place.


      The final passion walk happened today in Woodland friggin' Hills, California. I was walking through the behemoth Rite Aid parking lot. The heat of the valley was beating down on my head and wafting up from the cement. Mr. Heroin asked me for spare change. I declined with a smile. He said I was very beautiful as he stared at my boobs. I had to jump over a stream of God-knows-what liquid to get to my car. I started up the car and sat in traffic inside the parking lot. Finally, I walked in the door of Office Town and said very clearly...

      Not yet.

      Not today. But one day. 
      A vocabulary list from my Italian language text book. Beautiful.


      Monday, November 1, 2010

      Day 305: Top 10 ways to survive the Hollywood Halloween parade

      Did you know that the biggest Halloween parade in the world is in West Hollywood?

      It is and it's awesome.

      Top 10 ways to survive and thrive at the Halloween Parade in West Hollywood

      1. Honor the gays. This is West Hollywood so it's imperative to honor the beautiful gay men that created this event. My disco monster friend is appreciating the very tall, hairy and muscly musical sensation ABBA.

      2. Be sure to get photos with thematically-appropriate friends. That's me on the end.


      3. Get many thematically-appropriate shots...



      4. It's important to converse with those that are just amazing.


      5. Pay respects to the recently deceased undead. If they ask you to dance, be prepared to boogie.

      6. Seek out the best dressed couple. This werewolf and mermaid celebrated the birth of their weremaid (or merewolf?) love child.

      7. Get photos of scantily clad perfection like this...

      And this...

      7. Document costume ideas for next year. For example, these guys had fake legs on the go-carts and zoomed around the parade all night with their real legs hidden under the carts. My personal favorite costume...


      8. Be aware of costumes that make walking around difficult. My witch hat was too wide and kept bumping into people and falling off. I can just imagine how this guy felt. It must have been challenging to get through doors but he's flat screen so that helps...

      9. Don't forget your designer bag. It really sets off your costume.

      10. Take rests when you can because there is a lot of walking.


      Good times.


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