Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 179: What I know for sure

My newish friend Alan said to me recently that the only thing he knows for sure is that he can be 100% sure of something today and know that this same thing could be 100% wrong another day.

This got me thinking.

When I was young and living in the backwoods of Canada, I was 100% sure that I wanted to move to Toronto. The moment I had my chance, I did it. When I was living in Toronto, I loved it. But, the day came where I started noticing the planes flying by and a small voice inside said, "I want to go where they are going."

That place, it turns out, was Los Angeles. Now I live here. I knew with 100% certainty that I wanted to live in Los Angeles. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the place for me.

Now there is a small voice talking in my head again saying things like, "I want the best version of my life."

Is working my tail off at a mid-size ad agency in the valley the best version of my life?

Is sitting in traffic the best version of my life?

Is having three waking hours in the evening to spend with my family who is visiting the best version of my life?

Is counting my accrued vacation days the best version of my life?

(A caveat for coworkers who read this blog: The office where I work is actually a good job. It's not the place that's the problem. As far as the office goes, it isn't you. It's me. Really.)

Not so long ago, the little voice in my head wanted to pay off debt and save up cash. That voice wanted a pretty commute to a nice office with nice people. That voice wanted a boss who was super cool and let me show off my shiny advertising skills. That voice wanted all this more than anything. That voice was 100% sure and that voice got what she wanted.

What I know for sure is that voice is scooching me forward to the best version of my life and turning my 100% sure to a 90% sure to a 50% sure... it's kind of like the stock market but instead of ruining everything, you actually get everything you've ever wanted.

This is me presenting creative to the client.

Day 178: Being cramped by too much stuff

I mailed off a few packages today for a few winners.


In releasing my library of books to lucky winners of my contest, I thought I'd release my postage stamps, too. Two birds, I say. I don't have the stamps people collect. I have the stamps that I forget I already bought.

These stamps are all scattered in one general area of my office. I scrounged and found them all. I had many many many dollars worth of stamps. Why have I collected all these stamps? So I could save time later. Of course, I still need to go to the post office to find out how much my packages cost to ship so I don't actually save time. Instead, I've tossed a small fortune into stamps so that I could have them laying around my office.

Because I'd rather have the stamp than the money?

The insanity doesn't end there. I have a closet full of art supplies, too. Not one journal, but 20. Not one box for shipping paintings I sell on Etsy but 5 or 6. Not 1 tube of glue but 2. Why? Because I might need it later and I'll be able to save time.

Here's a note to you, dear reader. None of this alleged time saving has saved me time. And it's cramped my life and cost me many dollars. Dollars that can go toward things that are more fun than stamps and tubes of glue.

Don't even get me started on my stationery collection.

I think I bought all this stuff out of boredom, a sense of lack or thinking I'd require a LOT of glue in one sitting.

I certainly won't be saving any time organizing my closet of art supplies. I certainly didn't save any time gathering up all my rogue stamps. And I certainly didn't save any time at the post office today. I still had to stand in line like everyone else.

This is just the type of thing about self that makes self crazy.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 177: Being a bad kitty

"Are you being like a bad kitty trying to get out of your box?"
This is what my sister said this morning to my 5-month-old niece who was clawing at the walls of her crib.

Remember having a litter of kittens when you were a kid? Back when you lived in the country? If you have, you remember watching them attempt to get out of the box you had them contained in so that they wouldn't scamper out to the road and into traffic or other troubles. Eventually they would learn how to leap and that would be the end of living in the box.

Found this image online. 
Google image searching "box of kittens" is fun. Try it.

What my sister said this morning got me thinking about me and my current 30-something crisis. Am I being like a bad kitty trying to get out of my box? Maybe the box is good for me. Perhaps it even serves me well. It could be here for my protection so that I don't tumble out into a world of traffic and trouble I can't quite handle yet.

Or maybe, just maybe, I've grown out of my box and am ready to take a big leap.

Day 176: 30-Something Crisis

Sometimes I think the whole point of writing morning pages is to get so sick of self and your current state of affairs that you'll take action just so you don't have to listen to self drone on.

That's what my morning pages have been like since I arrived back from Rome. You, dear reader, may have noticed that my posts haven't been as frequent.

Yeah, I noticed. I didn't want to say...

I've been trying to catch myself up on posts but it's hard to find something NEW to write about when EVERYTHING I write about in my morning pages is the same boring stuff.

Let me guess: You want to completely change your sweet and wonderful life and live in Rome.

Am I that obvious?

Need I remind you of your Post-Maui Blues

Oh ya. That.

Why do I even go on vacation when I come down so hard? Ugh, I can't shake it.

Perhaps I'm experiencing a 30-something crisis. Let us consult the little survey below, shall we?

Top 10 symptoms of a 30-something crisis
  1. General dissatisfaction: A desire to be anywhere I'm not doing anything other than what I'm doing.
  2. Vacation blues: Holidays becomes less about exploring a place and more about imagining  living there for reals.
  3. Anger: Getting angry about petty chores like filling out timesheets and running out of post-its.
  4. Releasing: Cleaning out closets like I'm looking for loot.
  5. Selling shares: Whew, I lucked out with liquidating the ol' assets before today's stock market fiasco.
  6. Ridiculous dreams: Today's dream is about working in a small shop in Rome selling... hell, who cares. Gelato, books, panty hose, Gobstoppers, anything. 
  7. Hopeless love: Now I just assume love won't work out, which is just as well because I won't want a long distance relationship in Rome.
  8. Wanting to move to Rome: Maui works, too.
  9. Getting waaaayyy too Zen about problems that arise.. though this could also be complacency. They feel about the same.
  10. Liquidating the library: Speaking of, congratulations so Sheila C from New Hampshire who won Walking in this World by Julia Cameron. This week I'm giving away The Vein of Gold, also by Julia Cameron. Details here. Enter now. 

If you've experiencing any of the symptoms above, contact me and tell me what to do about it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 175: Disney magic... it really does exist

If you've lived in California for any length of time as I have, you've been to Disney. It's as much apart of living here as earthquakes and smog checks. Today, I took my four-year-old niece.

Experiencing Disney from a four-year-old's point of view is amazing. Disney knows exactly how to make little girls feel like little princesses, which naturally makes me feel like the best aunt ever.

Upon meeting the various fairies and princesses, my niece was treated to as much time as she wanted to spend conversing. No princess was in any rush. They gave their undivided attention. These are not people dressed up in costumes. These are... well, they technically are people dressed up in costumes... but they take it to another level. They really want kids to believe that they are hanging out with the real deal. I was super impressed.

My niece did not enjoy Snow White's Scary Adventure. She felt it was too scary. The moment she met Snow White she said, "Hey, I went on your ride. It was scary. I won't ever go on that ride EVER AGAIN!" complete with finger pointing. Snow White apologized and soon got my niece giggling again.

Meeting the fairies and princesses was the highlight of her trip. Well, that and dancing with me during the parade. Why? Because along with wanting to take my niece to Disneyland, I also like to rock. 

Grace telling Tinkerbell how it is. 

Grace and Sleeping Beauty discussing some of the finer points of the plot.

Bonding with the big cheese herself, Cinderella.

Dancing with the cheesier Auntie Jan.

Day 174: Being like me

"I'll tell you one thing. Bedding down with real estate sure as shit ain't happening."

I opened my journal to a random page and read the above quote. Oh how it made me laugh. It's so like me. I love the expression "sure as shit." So crass. Not for public use. I'm usually so girly girly and polite. Beside the aforementioned quote was some rough money calculations. One number for what I have in the bank. Another number for how much I would need to have a down payment for a place in Santa Monica.

The numbers didn't match up. By a long shot.

So, the dream of buying real estate in this buyers market is dashed. Was it really a dream though? It seems so permanent. So much like settling down. So unlike me.

Sometimes it takes our morning pages to show us who we really are. I'm just not that girl who is going to throw her savings into a real estate venture when she could, instead, convert her savings into flights and hotels.

Clearly, God is keeping me untethered in this Santa Monica life. I really could take off and start a new life anywhere else. There is my day job, of course, that keeps me occupied and keeps the money rolling in. But when I look at those numbers, I feel like I'll have to work until I'm a 103 just to have enough to buy a tiny condo in "Santa Monica adjacent."

So what's stopping me from taking off and leaving it all behind?

Fear. Fear that I'll run out of money. Fear that I'll have to move back in with my mom in backwoods Canada. Then again, if my worst case scenario is living with my mom, she's a cool lady. I like her. We laugh a lot. And she has a pretty good life. So, if the worst case scenario is that I'll have a life like my mother's life, that's not so bad. She's doing it. She likes it.

But, is it me?

Ah, that is the question.

I think I have to write more in my morning pages to figure out who me really is.
  My sunglasses, Twin Ring journal and Uni-ball vision pen.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 173: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

I know you were worried about me when my iPhone died. It's tough to be without the world's finest technology in the palm of your hand. 

Because I live a charmed life, a newish friend of mine let me borrow his iPhone 3GS until my 4G arrives in July. This act of kindness will obviously turn him from a newish friend to a VIP status friend. I'm so happy to be back on. Back texting like a fiend, reading your blog comments on the fly and playing my BubbleWrap App. It's good to be back. This same friend led me to Steve Jobs' 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford.

In a nutshell: 
Steve says to follow your curiosity and intuition, to do what you love even if there is no hope of a practical application because it will lead you somewhere. He says that we can't connect the dots looking forward. We can only connect them looking backward and we have to trust that they will connect. Knowing this gives us confidence to follow our heart and intuition. They somehow already know what we truly want to become. He also explains a quote from The Whole Life Catalog from the 1970s, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." So good. So true. So inspiring.

Now give yourself the gift of watching the 15 minute video:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 172: The office spouse

My office spouse is on vacation pondering life for awhile.

She tells me it's good for her brain. Helps her see a bigger picture. At first, I had a tad bit of envy. Why does she take time off to think and I can't?

(We remember that we used our vacation time for Italy, as seen on Days 146-163 of this here blog.)

This pondering of hers got me pondering while I was writing my morning pages. Then I realized that my three pages of writing in my journal everyday is in fact pondering time. And I do it daily, so now I'm not envious.

I do miss my office spouse though. An office spouse is your best friend in the office. The one you go out with for lunch nearly everyday. The one you sit with to discuss work but also life. The one you'll follow to the kitchen to get a tea when you don't need tea but you go just because it's going to be fun.

The office spouse can tell when you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And she completely understand when you complain about a coworker, unlike a real spouse who probably listens politely but doesn't really understand. The office spouse gets it because she was there, right beside you, in the conference room listening to the aforementioned coworker you're currently complaining about.

The office spouse is the one you sit with in the car when you need to cry. She is the first to comment on your Facebook status and is likely the only coworker who reads your blog mostly everyday, not because she wants to, but because she knows you want her to. And because you'll say to her exasperatedly when you think she should already know something, "Didn't you read it in the blog? Geesh!"

I do things for my office spouse, too. I go surfing with her. Not because I want to go surfing but because when I see her in the water, she lights up like a 10-year-old and seeing her light up like that makes me happy.

Office spouses can be two girls, two guys, or a guy and a girl. Sexual orientation is not applicable. If one or both of you are married, it's good for the real spouses to know your office spouse and be cool with your relationship because it is a close one and you'll talk about this person a lot. When I've introduced my office spouse to my friends, they exclaim "Oh YOU! I've heard SO MUCH about YOU!" And they have. Because most of the day, I'm within a five foot radius of my office spouse.

The office spouse makes corporate life doable. Laughs come easily and inside jokes are aplenty.

With my office spouse out on vacation, I feel a bit lonesome. I get scared to ask people out for lunch because I'm so out of practice. I'll loiter outside someone's office and shyly mention that I happen to be going to Whole Foods at lunch. Then I wait, hoping they ask if they can come along. Last week I had first date nervousness and sweaty armpits asking someone to go to lunch. And sometimes I went to the gym instead because it was just easier. I even sat at lunch time writing my morning pages, I wish she/he would ask me to go for lunch.

I've had an office spouse at most of my major advertising agencies. I'm not exaggerating when I say they have changed my life and made it exponentially better. They have introduced me to a lifelong love of Bruce Springsteen and Lost (Jeff), photography and road trips (Bruce), and as for Sharon, my current office spouse, she has taught me to laugh at it all... the good, the bad and the ugly. It's all there as fodder for us to find jokes to make it easier to get through the daily grind of corporate life.

This is Sharon. 
I wonder what we were laughing about. 
Whatever it was, it sure was funny.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 171: Booky and my romance with Toronto

This is Booky:

Booky was my workbook/journal from when I lived in Toronto for a six-month freelance gig. It was six months of wintery bliss. I had a huge crush on a coworker. He had as much of a crush on me as he was capable. It wasn't enough. It seemed at the time that no crush was ever enough.

Regardless, we took our workbooks to the coffee shop day after day. We sipped coffee, pretended to work and laughed, laughed, laughed. We laughed our heads off. We laughed at the Holt Renfrew girls that sashayed by. We laughed at the ridiculousness of our clients and of our advertising careers. We laughed especially hard about our love lives. All over spilled Timothy's coffee and wobbly café tables. I spent a lot of money $1.10 at a time.

Spring blew in and the streets were warm again. People walked with their heads held high rather than baring down just to get in from the cold. I warmed to the streets, too. I thought I could live in Toronto again. I fantasized about my future apartment in High Park. About blossoming trees in my yard. About roots.

You know what they say. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. In the end, Toronto and I were not meant to be, but oh what a time we had. Inspiration seeps through the cracks in the sidewalk. Street names slide of the tongue like romantic poems... Gerard, Adelaide, Queen, King, Spadina.

The Art Gallery of Ontario, the ethnic smells, the faces from around the globe and the pride of a blue maple leaf all remain a dear romance of ages ago. No I move on with an ember in my heart for my lost city.

How grand we were.

Day 170: The silent beauty of roadtrips

It's better that he drives
I'm a better passenger
Holding the map and reaching for snacks
That's more my thing

I gaze lazily over the steering wheel
He steers with his wrist
I take photos as we go
Documenting the passing outside
All the while knowing that the best of the trip
Happens inside

Everything gets ironed out between gas stations
Conversations about love
Questionable lyrics
Lost passion in careers
Cabin temperature

In the holy silences
We have conversations with those not in the car
Then he asks for the water
And I reach back for the bottle

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 169: A Confession

When writing a blog, one considers the balance between what is sharable and what is private.

Sometimes I'm not sure how far to push it. Should I tell them about this? Will so-and-so be upset? Do I have to ask permission to post this, that and the other? Is it a bit too revealing of self? I do have coworkers reading this. I have to be careful.

I've been wanting to share something in particular since my return from Rome but I've been too shy to mention it...

The experience of when I had in Confession at the Vatican.


I hinted at it in a post I wrote about sneaking around the Vatican, but I was too busy telling you about Claudio's little VIP tour.

Dreamy Claudio. 

So here I am, all exposed-like, about to tell you about my Confession at the Vatican.

My pits are sweaty.

When I was a kid, my class was forced to go to Confession twice a year. We'd traipse over to the church and discuss what to say. What sins do you really have when you're 8 years old? The priest would sit in the confessional and I'd recite my list of bad things.
Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been 6 months since my last confession. Since then I've swore, fought with my sisters, disobeyed my mother and... ummmm.... uhhh... and forgive me foranythingelseican'tremember. 
The priest, in his kindness, would absolve me of all my dreadful sins and send me off with a couple Hail Mary's and Our Fathers to recite in the pew.

This time at the Vatican, when it seems to count for more because it's at the freaking Vatican, I didn't have too many sins to confess. I didn't want to confess sins I knew I'd happily commit again. That's hardly asking forgiveness.

So I sat there in the confessional with the priest and began:
Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been 8 years since my last confession... Since then, I've.... ummmm.... uhhhh... The truth is, Father, that I'm just really mad at God.
I went on to talk about how my life isn't where I wished it were and why is God doing this to me and why can't I get what I want and what am I doing wrong and why is this happening to me and why on earth would He do this to me???

Then I took a deep breath.

Then the priest said I all the things I didn't know I needed to hear. He said there is a plan and if I had what I thought I wanted, there could be problems. He said to trust. He said to be grateful for both what I do have and what I don't. If I don't have it, I don't need it.

Now I know this mostly. But, my faith get shaky sometimes. This priest was super insightful. He got right to the heart of it. This insight surprised me. I used to think that only other religions had insights. Really, as silly as that sounds, it's true. But this guy at the Vatican... he had skills. 

At the end of our conversation, I added, "Oh, and forgive me foranythingelseican'tremember" just to cover my bases. He absolved me of all my sins and sent me off to recite a few Hail Mary's and Our Father's. Soon after, I skipped off for gelato with Aine and Claudio.

Dreamy gelato. 

Since then, I've been kind of floating. I haven't found myself falling into stress or overwhelm or drama. I actually have a calm demeanor and have been told I've got a bit of a glow happening. My friend Allan thinks that it's because of going to Confession. That it really took. I think he's right. It did take.

Check out my rad halo.

My pits aren't sweaty anymore. Whew. I'm glad I shared.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 168: Peet's coffee shop love affair

Congratulations to David C. who won The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron!

Next week, I'm giving away Walking in this World by Julia Cameron:
 Email me your mailing address for your chance to win!

Now, back to me.

Every morning I get up and head to my favorite place: Peet's coffee shop.
I started going to Peet's 10 years ago. I was going through a bout of insomnia after a breakup and found myself awake every morning at 5 a.m. So, I'd traipse off to the coffee shop to write my morning pages and what was to become my first published book, The Breakup Repair Kit.

For awhile, I sat alone in the corner sipping my super strong Peet's coffee. I often sat with this guy named Travis. He always had a table and he always brought his own books with him to read, which was perfect because I didn't want to talk to anyone.

Jim sat at the table behind Travis. He had a newspaper, which was perfect because, as I said, Travis and I didn't want to talk to anyone.
  Jim and his paper.

But time changed all that. Somewhere along the line, Jim turned around to talk to Travis and somehow I got weaved into the conversation. Then David from a few tables down piped in, and Andre and Bruce, Blaine, Joe, Carol, Claire and Kirk did, too. Then Scott and Spiros and Aaron threw in their two cents and so did Dale and Emily.
 Dale and his perfect hair.

Is that Michael Moore behind me?

Ten years later our little coffee shop has a Facebook page called ENJOY YOUR COFFEE. It's for people who enjoy their coffee. Go figure. It has 189 members so far. I looked at the member list. I didn't recognize the names but I did see a few familiar faces.

Some of my closest friends are from my little coffee shop. Like these two rascals, Justin and David, who make sure to put a smile on my face before I get in my car to head to the office.
Justin arrives after his ride, I arrive before my commute and David arrives before his spinning class... We never plan to meet up. We always seem to arrive at the perfect time. And we usually ask each other the same questions: What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What are you doing tomorrow?

Those three questions have led to some pretty big moments in our lives. I've become a God mother to a child whose mother I met at Peet's, I've attended weddings, baptisms and yes, even funerals, of people I've known at Peet's.

This morning, I was heading out of the coffee shop with my coffee and I stopped off for a little birthday party someone was having at a table outside. As I ate my birthday cake on the way to the car, I was wondering what I would do without my little coffee shop. I'm not sure I'd like to find out.

Day 167: Food Poisoning

First my iPhone died.

Now I got food poisoning.

I was severely ill for 16 hours, then my sickness instantly vanished. Now I'm as good as new.

Well, I'll be at full capacity once my new iPhone arrives.

The last time I was this sick was in San Francisco. Some people say they left their heart in San Francisco. I left my breakfast, lunch, dinner and all my snacks. Even now when I visit, I have this faint nausea. This could explain why my long distance romances with San Franciscans never worked out. It's not you, it's me. Really. It's just that visiting you makes me physically ill.

While in the throws of excruciating physical pain, I thought, "God, either fix this or kill me now. Right now, I don't care which way it goes. Just end this." I fell asleep and woke up better, so I suppose God chose the former rather than the latter, which, now that I'm better, suits me just fine.

I'll admit, I did not do my morning pages today. I tried but looking at the lines on the page made the room spin so that was the end of that.

I find it interesting that I've had some silent time because of the death of my iPhone, and then I had silent time due to food poisoning. Is someone trying to tell me something? Perhaps this is a time to reign in my energy, to ponder life, to make my evil plans...

I'll let you in on them when I figure out what they are.
"Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?" 
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 166: A funeral for my iPhone

Generally speaking, I'm not really into material things.

I have a sweet little Honda Civic that I've zipped around town in for the last ten years and I'm hoping to get another ten out of it. I don't have many clothes and many of the clothes I have were procured at thrift stores. When I go shopping with friends, I spend most of my time outside the stores on the park benches with all the old men who are waiting for their wives who are shopping with my friends inside the stores.

I believe in one-downmanship and that less is the new black. It's a stylish act of rebellion against consumerism.

But all these beliefs are tossed aside when it comes to Apple products.

I love my iPhone like I love my friends. Always there. Always amazing me. Always fun.

Until today when I dropped it and killed it.

I didn't know what to do, how to fix it. I shook it as if it was a drown victim. Move! Turn on! Go! Show me there is some life left in you!!!

I freaking flipped out.

After that, I looked for Oscar, the super wonderful IT professional at my office, to request assistance. Then I followed him all over the office like a puppy dog until he took my phone and tried to fix it.

The prognosis was that the sucker had seen it's day.

This was what I looked like when he told me that my relationship with my current iPhone was over:

I was one sad puppy.

Luckily, because Oscar is, as stated, the super wonderful IT professional at my office, he had a spare Motorola phone that will get me through until my new iPhone 4G arrives. He did the SIM card switcheroo and I'm up and running again.

 Oscar loves burritos. I love burritos, too.

After he left, I held this ancient piece of machinery in my hands. 

Am I going to have to text the old fashioned way?

Am I going to have to key in phone numbers the old fashioned way? (The address book didn't carry over on the SIM card.)

Am I going to have to plug this phone into a socket to charge it? A socket?!?! I can't even plug this phone into my computer?

I can't take photos with this phone, I can't listen to music on this phone, and worst of all, I can't grab my phone and check my email in the morning before I even get out of bed. 

I can, however, make calls, which was never the iPhone's forté. 

The iPhone has turned me into a desperate housewife. A materialistic spoiled brat with high expectation.

But the technology is soooooo great. It really has changed everything. Again.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 165: Today is Day 165? Only 200 more to go.

Enough about Rome.

18 posts about the most beautiful city on earth is enough.

I've become like those ladies who are super cool, then they have kids, lose their personalities and constantly go on about the children. Except in my case, I go on about Rome.

I've become Kathy Lee Gifford.


So today is Day 165 of this project. With 365 days in the year, I have 200 more days to go. (I'm pretty much a math genius.)

I'm nearly half way.

Let's recap the project: I had set out to do the Artist's Way course by Julia Cameron for a full year. In particular, I had set out to write my morning pages everyday, go on artist dates and blog about the experience. When I had done the course in the past, my life changed in big ways. This blog was created so that we could all watch how my life changes over the year as I do the Artist's Way.

So far, my life is pretty much the same. Same job, same apartment, same friends, same routine, same everything. But, what has changed is that I have this big online life where I write to you and you write to me. I can't imagine going back to a life without this blog, without readers, without your super wonderful comments that add so much fuel to this project.

And because of all that, I want to give you an incredible story. I want you to be inspired by what becomes of my life in this year. But first I have to live it.

I imagine you sitting with your friends at cafés all over the world saying, "... and she wrote all about it. I tell you, it was great to watch her life unfold before her—and our—eyes. Post after post. Day after day. She started with an okay life and it turned into this incredible adventure. I'm so inspired to live the best version of my life and let it be magical. Why not? If she did it, so can I."

Let's get this party started.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 164: The great fishbowl giveaway REVIVED!

They say that after a big life experience, you shouldn't do anything drastic with your life for two weeks.

My Roman holiday qualifies as a big life experience but I'm not waiting two weeks before doing anything drastic.

I'm making The Great Fishbowl Giveaway BIGGER!

Okay, that didn't seem very exciting when I wrote it.

Here's the deal, email me your MAILING ADDRESS and I'll put your name in my fishbowl:

Every week I'll draw a winner who will be mailed the prize. In the past, I did this once a month but that's a heck of a long time to wait so I'm revamping.

I'm giving away a book every week until the end of 2010.

That's right. I have a library of the best books about creativity and I'm releasing a book each week to you, my dear readers.

All you need to do is email me your MAILING ADDRESS. Somehow, people just send me their email address, which makes it hard to mail them a package when they win. A simple instruction. That's all I ask. Include your mailing address. Geesh.

For the next 5 weeks, I'm giving away a book by Julia Cameron, starting with the book that started it all, The Artist's Way.

This sweet read started me on the creative path and you, you lucky winner, you (whoever you are) will get your very own copy of this super wonderful book. All you have to do is email me to be entered to win.

Next month, I'm giving away SARK books.

 The month after that, Sabrina Ward Harrison books.

The month after that, Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance books:

If you've already given me your mailing address, you're already entered. If you're like my sister Julie who thinks she entered but really she didn't, then email me just to be sure. Your entry into the contest is valid for the whole year, which means you could win a bunch of times just by emailing me once.

Why? Because I said so. My contest. My rules. And my rules rule. 

Day 163: Flirting is my best medium

I think flirting might be my best medium.

For my friend Jeff, instant messaging is his best medium. Same with my friend Bruce. They are both fast typers that can zing witty retorts in seconds.

My sister Julie, her best medium is cooking.

My sister Carla, hers is baking.

My friend Sharon, it's texting. She's excelled at this since the advent of the iPhone. 

My friend Cooper, online photo albums. His captions are even better than the photos.

Me? You put me in a room of men and I will be the mayor of that room's ass in mere minutes. I will have them drooling and laughing and fantasizing. They will be trying to get their hands all over me and I will have them eating out of the palm of mine. Literally if I want.

Which begs the question, "Janice, why are you still single?"

I really don't know. I guess because I'm so good at it.

My mother says it's because I'm picky. I'm really not. I've dated a few nimrods in my time.

I think I'm single because with time and luck and hopefully some divine intervention, it will all come together somehow. Whatever it is, I'm  not too stressed about it at the moment... probably because I've just been fed a buffet of Italians.  

I bring this up because in Rome, flirting is as ingrained in the culture as gelato and the Catholic church. It's just how it is. Men live for the back and forth witty chit chat. And ya, they live for a little innuendo here and there. It doesn't have to be real, it just has to be fun. They are all about a good laugh. Nothing is forever. Everything is fleeting. It's all about a good time in the moment.

Coming back to Los Angeles, I'm left with a few lingering bits of eye contact and shy smiles from my suitors. I feel like shaking them and saying, "Is that all you've got? C'mon! Give me something to work with here!"

Naturally, I now want to move to Rome.

When I told my mom I had fun in Rome she said, "Well I suppose you want to move there now, too, just like when you wanted to move to Maui."

She's not wrong. It's true. I did want to move to Maui after my vacation there this spring. And I wanted to move to Paris after my vacation last spring. So could Rome be just another fantasy?

I don't think so. I don't think so because Rome and I share the same word.

Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Eat Pray Love, explains that each city in the world has a word that defines it. Our job is match ourselves up with the city that has the same word as ourselves and then live in that city. For example, she explains, New York is Achieve while Los Angeles is Succeed. Similar but quite different, too. I think Toronto is Scholastic because everyone is into reading and being intellectual. Berkeley is probably Activism... I've never been so scared as the day I went to a peace rally in Berkeley. Peace rally participants are an angry bunch.

Gilbert states that Rome's word is Sex. I beg to differ. I think it's Flirt. They are, after all, Catholic and many of them still live with their mommas so the sex isn't as easy or as regular as flirting. And my waiters weren't going to have sex with me, but they sure wanted to flirt with me... even the 70-year-old waiter who gave me a big smooch on the cheek outside the bathroom at the back of the restaurant. Flirt. That's Rome's word.

Flirt might be my word, too, which means Rome and I were meant for each other.

The mayor of this town's ass.

Hey reader.


Ya you.

What's your word?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 162: Back on terra firma in Los Angeles

The best way to get back in the swing of thing is to avoid reality altogether.

Now that I'm back from Italy, I don't want to return phone calls or emails. I just want to stay quiet and create an album of my photos on Facebook, then sit back and watch the comments roll in. Oh how I live for comments. Comments on Facebook, comments on my blog... emails from my new Roman friends that make my heart beat... 

I send you a kiss on a whisper... when I hold you I smell your skin and close my eyes... I want the flavor of your skin.

Seriously. I'm not even making that up. Roman boys rock.

I must admit, being back online also pretty much rocks. That's about the best part of my return. But the rest of the time, I feel a little lost.

This is what I look like when I'm lost in Rome:

I'd rather be lost in Rome.

Day 161: Plentitudes of gratitudes

When I look back on my Italian adventure, I am amazed at how many people appeared to make us happy.

We were given extra morsels of food, compliments of various chefs, shots of grappa from an old man on the beach who recited with gusto an Italian novella for us by Antonio de Curtis. 

To Aldo, his companion, who translated it stanza by stanza.

To Enrico who escorted us through the maze of streets in Positano to Aldo's house for a dinner party.

To all their friends who kept the prosecco poured.

And Enrico again for presenting us with platters of cherries.

To Raphaelo, our sea captain, who, upon hearing us laugh loudly when our boat bounced in the waves, sped up the ride to make us laugh more.

To the waiters to invited us out to the disco.

To Salvatore, the 17-year-old boy, who rented us our beach chairs everyday. He practiced English with us and we practiced Italian with him.

Aine, Salvatore and me.

To Sandro and Marco who took us to dinner, walked us around Rome all night long and introduced us to the Colosseum.

To Claudio, for the private tour of the Vatican and for walking us around Rome on crutches.

Where else in the world can one be treated so kindly? The Italians exuded enthusiasm. Their faces lit up when ours lit up. Then they did more things so our faces would light up more, which in turn made their faces light up more, which resulted in a slew of shiny happy people gawking at each other. They made us feel like we were all old friends, that we were always there and would always will be.

I wonder now if they live their lives entertaining people that come and go. Do they think of us or miss us? Or are they onto a new set of new faces to light up? It doesn't matter. If that's how they live life, then that is indeed la dolce vita.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 160: The plane ride back to Los Angeles

I'm back on the plane unraveling my headphones.

You'd think Apple, with it's superior technology, could create better headphones. I sigh. So much of my life in Los Angeles is paused by unraveling my headphones.

I just returned from a meltdown in the bathroom. I saw myself in the mirror and burst into tears. What am I doing? Turn this plane around! Rome is where I belong. What. Am. I. Doing?!?!

(I'm ignoring the fact that I felt the same way about Maui.)

Rome has expanded my ability to see that there could be another version of my life. Up until now, I have worked very hard to live a good life in California. And I have succeeded what with the books published, the highfalutin advertising career and the apartment in Santa Monica with TWO parking spots.

But that was before I met Rome.

I have to get back to Rome. I have to get there, enroll in an Italian language school and practice, practice, practice. I have to find a Roman man, a manly man who can embrace me so that I feel both secure and adored. I have to win the affection of his mamma. I must learn which team to cheer for. I have to practice my guitar so I can play love songs on Sunday afternoons for the family to win their affection—my humble apology for not being born Roman. I'm gonna be the Canadian version of Penelope freaking Cruise for these people. I will make them love me.

I have to liquidate my assets and sell my paintings. I have to decide who and what to keep. I have to give away my plants. I have to make a plan.

I have to get back to Rome.

Day 159: Religion, gelato and a coin in a fountain

Leaving the Amalfi Coast is a pain in the ass.

I had to get on that dreadful bus again. This time I didn't eat beforehand, which made the ride less nauseating. The curves in the road are too hard for this cat to handle.

After our bus ride, there was a long Metro ride, followed by a train ride, followed by another Metro ride, which ended in a long walk to our hotel with our bags. It was a trial but I didn't even care.

I was back in Rome.

Rome Rome Rome! Oh how I love you, Rome.

If Rome were a man, I'd give him a big wet one right on the lips. I was so glad to be back.

Our final day in Rome was spent wandering through the streets. Piazzas, gelato, pasta, wine, waiters, ruins and churches. I was in Heaven.

In fact, I'm kinda hoping Heaven is Rome.

Speaking of Heaven, I'm gonna get a bit Catholic on you right now, so you might as well decide how offended you're going to get.

We stopped in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where you get three Caravaggio paintings for free with the Matthew trilogy, including  “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” “St. Matthew and the Angels” and “The Matrydom of Saint Matthew.”

This was going to be my last church in Rome so I had to make it count. I loved the churches of Rome. Aine loved the shoes, we both loved the dresses and I loved the churches. I like soaking up the vibe of these holy places... and they are holy. Holy Moses are they holy.

I sat to say a little prayer about not wanting to want. My wantings have led to misery and discontentedness and I wish I'd just get over it already and be grateful for what I have. So there I sat asking God to protect me from what I want.

My friend Eva. Coolest cat ever.

My prayer went something like this:
 "God, either give me everything or help me not want it. I've got a pretty serious gelato addiction happening, plus a mean crush on Rome. Please free me from wanting this so I'm not entirely miserable when I leave."
Then God answered back in a voice that was my own voice, but was more loving, calm and wise. It recited a prayer:
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He leads me to green pastures. Goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord."
Amazing the lessons we learn in Catechism classes all those years ago come back to help in times of need.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, meaning, the Lord knows what I need and what I don't need so if I ain't got it, just as well. I don't need it. When I fully know this, only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, meaning, when I release fully from wanting what I don't have I'll be at peace. When I'm at peace, goodness and kindness prevails. And I will live in the house of the Lord... I really hope that's Rome.

Basically, God knows what I need. He's the shepherd for heavensakes. He's got it covered.

But just so my bases are covered, I'm going to have another gelato and throw another coin in Trevi Fountain. There is only one wish when you throw your coin in for Trevi Fountain: That you will soon return to Rome.

Roma, Promettimi che ritournerò. 
Rome, Promise me I will return to you. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day 158: Janice & Aine's annual egg toss

An annual ritual of making dreams come true... or sort of.

Day 157: Prancing around Positano

Alright. Maybe the Amalfi Coast isn't so bad.

It may in fact be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

It's not Rome. It's not Maui. But it's nice. After Capri we meandered through Positano.

I wonder if people read captions.
Or do they just scroll through photos.

This area is famous for painted dishes. 
I don't know if they are ceramics or what.
(This inattention to detail has always kept me from becoming a travel writer.)

Over years, this is what happens to the pots.



Also trouble.

While I was out looking for trouble, Aine was writing postcards. 
FYI, this blog is your postcard. Ya you. You who is reading this right now.


Ya you.
I feel so exposed. 

Day 156: The island of Capri

The best part of Capri is the boat ride out to the island.

The island of Capri is like Beverly Hills except with boatloads of tourists... literally. All the cruise ships drop off their passengers and they tour the island like slow moving amoebas. Aine and I were nearly pummeled by these masses of people who mostly spoke, I'm sorry to say, English.

We hightailed it out of there as fast as we could... well, first we picked up some gelato. Then we hightailed it out of there.

Day 155: A saint, the mafia and a bowl of cherries

Priano, the town where I'm staying on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, has a patron saint called San Luca Evangelista, protector of the artists:

San Luca Evangelista

Well that's good to know. This year of doing a blog about the artistic life could use a little spiritual boost. So, I decided to zip into a church and say a few prayers. (Plus, I had to do my penance from my confession at the Vatican... I didn't get around to it because I was busy sneaking around the Vatican with Claudio.) 

While I was in church praying, Aine was making friends with a local lad named Giovanni.* He had asked her to meet him and his friends for drinks that night.

Positano was the meeting place. First, Aine and I went for dinner at Buca di Bacco on the beach of Positano. Here's a travel tip: If you like a restaurant in Italy, go twice. The first time you're treated nicely. The second time you really are treated like family, just like they say in Olive Garden commercials.

The chef, we learned, was one of the most celebrated chefs of the region. He... well, I can't even begin... everything was... incredible isn't even a good enough word. Stupendous doesn't begin to describe it. His food tasted like... like the entire Italian language... a feast for the tongue.

Photo courtesy of the site.

On our second trip to the restaurant, the waiters swarmed us and invited us to meet the chef, which of course, we did. Then they invited us out for drinks later, but we had to inform them that we were meeting another group at the bar below the restaurant.


We weren't sure what that meant, but we were soon to find out.

We met up with our group of new friends at the bar below. Now, here's what I noticed: I believe this group of Italian boys had harvested English girls throughout the day (of which Aine and I were two) to go out with at night. We didn't mind though. It was nice to meet the other English girls. The presecco was flowing and there were English and Italian words bouncing all over the place. When the restaurant above closed, the chef and waitstaff came down to meet us. (Hence the perfetto!) It seems all the people in the town know each other and appear to be wise to this harvesting of ladies ritual.

Each boy appeared to pair himself off with a girl. The boy who chose me was Enrico.* (I must note, this harvesting and choosing of ladies was all quite fluid. I only became wise to this days later. In the moment, it was just fun good times with the locals.) I suspect this ritual happens every week with a new set of English girls, but with us they were fiercely loyal—at least for the evening. I felt like my Italian stallion had eyes for no other girl. And I felt like the prettiest girl in the room.

At one point, a boy brought over a martini glass of maraschino cherries for one of the girls. Enrico asked if I would like some. I told him I don't like maraschino cherries. I prefer fresh cherries.


In moments I had a platter of fresh cherries before me.

"For you."

Aw shucks. Then he proceeded to hand me cherry after cherry and watch me eat my cherries with such intensity that I felt like a porn star.

The guys at the table kept calling him the Fruit Mafia. Later, I asked him why this was. He said he was a fruit distributor for the Amalfi Coast. Then he became dead serious, looked straight into my eyes and said, "Mafia are good people. They take care of their family."

Oooookeeeyyyy doooookkkeeeyyyy.

I'm not sure who I'm dealing with here but whatever, I'm having fun.

Over the course of the next few days, whenever  I was with Enrico, he presented a platter of fresh picked cherries, always with...

"For you."

Kinda sexy, erotic and sweet all at the same time. And a little bit scary because as I observed him and his friend talk about their Ferraris, motorcycles and lavish lifestyles, I don't think they were joking about the mafia thing.

One night after yet another platter of cherries, he whispered to me, "You come back in September. You don't have to do anything... but you have to be my woman."

Sheesh! We just met. How much are these cherries?

That could be both a lavish and scary possibility. He pays for everything, I write my books and blogs, I am surrounded with fruit... and guns.

I'm afraid I won't be dropping my life for platters of cherries just yet. I mean, we aren't even Facebook friends.

On our final night together, he put Aine and I in a taxi to head back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel, our driver informed us that we would not be paying.

"Enrico's girls don't pay."

Ah shucks. Thanks Enrico. In my mind, I heard him say...

"For you."

*Names changed. We do not want to ever have to enter the Witness Protection Program.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 154: My visit with Miss Malcontent

Now I remember why I don't like to relax. Because when I do, I start thinking. And that thinking leads to brooding. And that brooding leads to a visit by Miss Malcontent.

Miss Malcontent shows up to let me know that wherever I am is not as good as where I could be. She reminds me that I could live in a better town, have a better job, blog, pants size, etc. Today, she tells me that I could be in a better place: Rome.

But when I was in Rome yesterday, I thought it would be good to get to the coast. To give my feet a rest. Now that I'm here I want to turn back around. If I were in Rome, would I wish I was at the sea?

Is this a pattern? Wanting to be somewhere I'm not? Wanting to be someone I'm not?

When I met Claudio, I saw a man who is:
  1. Catholic
  2. Roman
  3. A Vatican policeman. 
This guy will likely be all these things 20 years from now. He has no interest in being other than who he is right now.

In Rome, I am:
  1. Catholic 
  2. Canadian 
  3. Carnivore 
But in LA, I am:
  1. "spiritual but not religious," 
  2. Canadian but act American so they stop saying, "You said a-boot! Ha ha ha!" 
  3. Vegan
Talk about an identity crisis.

Today, I'm not sure what I am besides:
  1. Discontent
  2. Disillusioned
  3. Distant from Rome
Oh why can't I decide where I'd like to be? Claudio figured it out. Why can't I? I've worked so hard and have jumped through so many loops to make a good (and legal) life for myself in Los Angeles. In Italy, I see people who don't work much (and resent the work they have to do) and they have a good life... I dare say a better life than my traffic-filled, deadline-laden life in LA. They earn what they need to have a good time. How nice is that? Plus, they love naps, gelato and flirting. My people.

Settling down, it seems, my not be in the cards for me. Perhaps this is my cross to bear.

What I do know about myself is that I am:
  1. A writer

At least it's a start.

I'm glad I don't have to make any decisions about what gelato to choose. I can have them all. And when I'm eating gelato, Miss Malcontent evaporates into thin air.

Day 153: I miss Rome

I woke up this morning to this beautiful, breathtaking, spectacular view of the Amalfi Coast.

And I had two thoughts:
  1. What the fuck am I going to do here for 4 days?
  2. I miss Rome. 
I miss the streets and the fountains of Rome. I miss the piazzas, pizzas, pastas and even the museums and streets I have yet to explore.

I miss Rome.

I miss Romans. 

I look out over my beautiful view and I'm cranky and bored. I turn to Aine and say, "Aine, what are we going to do here?"

"We are going to relax, Janice."


Instant panic.

Relaxing isn't exactly my forté. I am, as Elizabeth Gilbert describes in Eat Pray Love:
"the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax."
I miss Rome, but I'll give this relaxing a try.

This isn't Rome.

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