Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 211: Coffee with Sabrina Ward Harrison

Oh Sabrina Ward Harrison. 
How I love what you do.

You may have forgotten, but I am still giving away my books... one a week to be exact... until the end of the year to you, my dear reader. All you need to do is email me your mailing address and I'll throw your name in a fishbowl and draw out a lucky winner each week BINGO-style.

Last month I gave away all my Julia Cameron books. One winner wrote about it in her blog, which was really quite lovely of her. She's pretty much freaked out about it. Read her post here. 

This month, I'm giving away my Sabrina Ward Harrison collection of books:
  • Spilling Open
  • Brave On the Rocks
  • Messy Thrilling Life
Before I give these books away, I took some time to revisit them. I traipsed off to my local haunt that serves up legal addictive stimulants and flipped through Spilling Open. 

I first came across this book back in Toronto. I was at the bookstore near the advertising agency I worked at as a Junior Copywriter (my beloved Leo Burnett). I ran into two Senior Copywriters who were god-like in my eyes. They had made it. And all I wanted at the time was to make it in advertising. I had no idea what making it entailed. Now I'm very aware of the sleepless nights, pressure and tears it takes. Anyway, I didn't know any of that then. All I knew was these two Senior Copywriters had done it and that was good enough for me. One of them handed me a copy of Spilling Open and said "Read this. It's so good it hurts."

I bought it like a good little girl and read it. She was right. Spilling Open was so good it hurt.

It's raw, lonesome, beautiful and honest.

There is a madness there, too.

When my mom looked at the book she was confused and concerned for the state of the author's penmanship. But there is a glorious genius to it, too. Here are a few shots I took of the pages:

Sabrina was kind enough to endorse our book The Breakup Repair Kit. She also asked to be my friend on Facebook, which was pretty darn cool of her. And she sells her paintings on Etsy (and hers sell faster than mine but I'm pretty darn cool with that). I'm also a proud owner of two of those paintings.

So you could say I'm a fan.

Still, the books have to go. They don't fit in my One Suitcase Lifestyle anymore. And if someday I decide to commit to a bookshelf of books again, I'll procure another set of these beauties because they are so good it hurts.

In the meantime, enter the drawing to procure them for yourself. Email me your mailing address. 

Day 210: You know what's awesome?

Sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

This may seem obvious to you. It's a rarity for me. But, there I was (above) waking up and realizing it was 9:12 a.m. Usually I get the call at 7:31 from Jim who is waiting with the crew at Peets who are all wondering where I am.

I usually leap out of bed, slip into my yoga gear, brush my teeth, head out the door, jump in the car, locate a rogue lip balm between the seats, apply and zip off to my neighborhood coffee shop. I waltz in the door Kramer-style at 7:38 and they throw up their arms hollering, "You're late!"

Only half way through my coffee do I wake up and think, "Did I even brush my hair?"

But this morning, I let all that go. I slept in and brushed my hair before meandering my way via the Heel Toe Express to the coffee shop later where, as luck would have it, I found some familiar faces I hadn't seen in awhile. I procured a place between my two favorites and sipped my coffee. I turned to the right to hear one telling me of stocks, then to the left to hear one talking of QuickBooks.


The content of the conversation wasn't there but the love was and I was still groggy so it was nice have them rattle on and do most of the talking about stuff I don't really understand or have the capacity to grasp in this moment. What I could grasp in this moment was that as I sat between these two people, there was no where else in the world I wanted to be and that I was happy and content.

It made me glad I had slept in.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 209: On being crude and unrefined

I'm so sweet. If you ever met me, you'd think so, too. Everyone does. I'm nice and sweet and cute and loving. I'm nurturing  and funny and agreeable and kind. So you may be shocked to get a glimpse of what is really going on in my noggin.

Top 5 crass things I've written in my journal in July: 
  1. "I wish he would get here already and save me from this moment with this Bob jackass so I'm not in the fucking line of fire. No I don't want to give you my number. How old are you? How old do you think I am?!"
         -- at the cafĂ© waiting for a friend

  2. "The trick with the stock market is to pull out before they take anything. This is also true in the bedroom."

  3. "How will I prepare for meeting up with him? Why did I ever even agree to meet him? Aren't we done? ... I'll just be the light. I'll radiate the light. I'll be the most fucking radiant thing he's ever seen... And be effing done with it."
         -- on meeting up with a fling that didn't ever really make it beyond fling status.

  4. "I have to deal with the collection of crap under my bed. Find whatever I can to sell at this yard sale. Making money is dirty business."

  5. He emails me. I email him back. He texts me. I text him back. He emails me again... fuck dude, take your balls out of your purse, strap them on and ask me out fer fuck sakes.
Clearly, it's time for me to take a chill pill. To chillax. To be chillin' like Dylan. When this happens, I watch movie trailers on YouTube:

Sundance Kid: Hey, what are you doin'?
Butch Cassidy: Stealin' your woman.
Sundance Kid: [pause] Take her.

So good.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 208: On being untethered

This is one of the art pieces I salvaged from a book writing attempt I made last year.

Clearly, it's about how I've always felt different from my sisters. Funny thing, they each probably feel they are the different one. 

I was the one who sat on the edge of a room not saying much. Who checked out during dinner conversations. I was the one who had to study more because school didn't come as easily. I was the one who took off for a life of grandeur in California. I was the one who found herself taking the corporate route. The one who hasn't married yet and who doesn't live in the same area code as our parents. The one who is constantly taking a class. The one who can't seem to sit still long enough to let her fingernails dry. The one who questions religion religiously. All that. That's me.

Truth is, I wanted to follow the example of my sisters. I wish I could cook and bake as well as they can. To be crafty with yarn and popsicle sticks. To have time to do all that stuff. To somehow manage to marry. To have kids. To stay put.

It just hasn't worked out that way and the more it hasn't worked out, the less "put" I seem to stay. I feel myself creating a life for myself, then unraveling and reinventing. Setting down roots and picking back up again. Going here and going there. Remaining untethered.

The result is a beautiful but unsettled life. Then again, maybe my sisters have beautiful but unsettled lives, too, just in their own unique ways.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 207: Top 7 ways to get your book published

"The odds of publishing a novel are a hell of a lot higher if you've written a novel."
                       -- Julia Cameron

Oh Julia, you're so right!

As someone who has had two books published and has contributed to others, I get asked a lot about how to get a book published. If you have dreams of being the next big literary thing, read this first. 

Top 7 ways to get a book published:
  1. Write it. Writing is a verb. Being a writer is being a person who writes. Write. A lot. Usually this piece of advice is enough to keep people busy for awhile and not even need the next 6 tips.

  2. Be willing to live with what you write. We all have to live with our hits. After The Breakup Repair Kit was published, I heard thousands of breakup stories. It didn't occur to me that I would. I just figured I'd write this book, collect my money and go on to live my life. Carrie Fisher once said of Star Wars, "It... never... ends." If you publish a book it... never.... ends.

  3. Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. Often, people get an idea then want to figure out how to protect it before they even get it on the page. If you have an idea, write it down. Keep writing to figure out if it's a good idea. And the less you talk about it, the less chance someone will steal it.

  4. STFU about your ideas to everyone. First, no one gives a rats ass about your book idea. Second, talking about the idea burns out the energy of the idea. When people ask Marni and I about our books, we tell them we are writing a book about creativity. We aren't. But it's a vague enough answer to keep people off our backs. Stop talking about it and start writing about it.

  5. Be willing to kill your babies. I have two books that sit in a drawer. They are more likely to find their way into the recycling bin than onto the New York Times Bestseller list. I'm cool with this because I lost my enthusiasm for them. I think that the writing of them was for my own healing at the time. They weren't necessarily for the world to read. But people hold onto their dusty manuscripts for years and hold onto the idea that they'll be published. But first, they need to edit them and haven't found the time... whatever. If you don't want to read your manuscript, neither does anyone else. I love reading my blog entries. I go back, I correct errors, I add photos, links and tags. I do it because I believe in #6 below...

  6. Follow your enthusiasm. Writing on a topic you don't care enough about but you think is a good idea that will sell is like having a one-way ticket to Hell. Don't write it. You'll just make yourself miserable. And if your book idea does get picked up, you'll feel like a dirty whore. Write it because you love it. Your happiness is more important. If you're not mostly happy writing, then go out for a beer instead. This tip is actually more of a tip on life. Always follow your enthusiasm. Try not wake up too many mornings in a row dissatisfied with what you're going to do that day. That just makes life suck and writing a book on a topic you don't like isn't going to make it better.

  7. Having a good book title is not the same as having a good book. I come up with a great book titles every other day. Seriously. I do. Here is one I wrote today:
  8. But if there isn't enough content and if I don't want to live with having people all around the world email me about their sucky day jobs, then maybe it's not the book for me. I haven't figured it out yet. But if you want to steal my idea and write your own book, I dare you to beat me to it, especially if you have a lot of enthusiasm for it. If you want to steal the idea just to steal the idea, then I'll come over to your house and wallop you hockey-style, dig?
P.S. To all my American friends, this commercial is so true it hurts.

Day 206: Playing it by ear

If you're in my daily life, you may have noticed my absence from yours.

Don't take it personally. It's not you. It's me.

Lately, I've found it difficult to keep up a conversation. Perhaps it's because I have new Italian words in my head and some English words had to be removed to make room.

As a result, I've been doing what my friend Sharon calls, "playing it by ear." Here's how it works:
"Want to go to the movies?"

"Um, I'm going to play it by ear."

"How about dinner?"

"Sounds great, but let's play it by ear."

"Okay, what about a walk?"

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to play it by ear."
When she can't find it in herself to say no, she "plays it by ear." We're all onto her. We know what she means. It seems to work for her, so for the last few days, I've been practicing "playing it by ear." Already, there are side effects:
  • Texts that read, "You just don't seem to want to hang out with me."
  • Emails that read, "I haven't seen you in so long. When are we hanging out?"
  • Voice mails that say, "Are you depressed or something? Let me come over and cheer you up."
People in all their loving, do not seem to take "play it by ear" for an answer. I could just say no. But playing it by ear sounds softer. It also isn't as effective. It instigates whining and nagging, which makes me want to hang out with them less.

Rest and time are the cures for what ails me, but they think it's dinner and movies and walks and talks and coffees and visits and hang outs and parties and things that they want to do but I don't want to do.

When I've played it by ear, I've discovered that I can:
  • Do what I want to do whenever I want to do it
  • Be open to spontaneous activities because my schedule is open
  • Have a greater faith in living in the moment
This last one, the greater faith, was something I didn't expect. When I open up my schedule, the universe rushes in with all kinds of fun things for me to do.

The other day, for instance, I got the notion to go for a walk with a friend. I didn't plan ahead. I just texted. It worked out. There is something wonderful about flitting about all spontaneous like.

Yours truly flitting about.

So instead of overbooking myself, I'm going to play it by ear for awhile. It seems to be working out for me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 205: How to discover your true artistic calling

The Great Culling Experiment continued this weekend.

I cleaned out more of my closets in an effort to get my worldly possessions down to one suitcase and become more nimble so I can stay open to opportunities that come my way.

In the middle of all that mess, I found this photo:

Yes, that is really Fabio. 
Don't we look great together? So happy.

Okay, back to me. No wait. Back to Fabio...

As cheesy as he may seem, he's actually pretty fun. 

This week I worked on my closet of art supplies. What a freaking disaster zone.

When I started this Artist's Way project, I did it to discover my art calling. What is life like after I finish a 12-week Artist's Way course? What then? I keep doing morning pages. I keep taking myself on artist's dates. I keep creating art in order to discover my artistic calling, right? Isn't that how it goes? 

And that process, I discovered, takes a shit load of art supplies.

Love it when you swear.

Along the way, I've tried doing fancy art journals like Sabrina Ward Harrison or SARK. I've tried calligraphy and drawing with pastels. Then I tried watercolors and even Paint-by-Numbers. Acrylics on canvas soon followed. There was a coloring book phase (a nod to my inner child) and a collage phase.

I've had a lot of phases and they all take their own collection of art supplies. In the end, I had this:
  • 3 bags for the trash
  • 2 boxes for Goodwill
  • 1 artistic calling
Yes. I actually discovered my true artistic calling.

It's this.

This what? 

This blog.

This little online space I created is where I find my true artistic bliss. I write in my journal to figure out what to write here. I take photos to post here. I create videos to share them here. I find links and YouTube bits and pieces to add color to my posts.

In my year-long project to discover my calling and blog about it, it's the blog that became my calling.

I love it because it's writing and I love turning a phrase that makes my teeth tingle.

I love it because it's clean and I don't like the messy clean up of other art.

I love it because it's portable, which is really good when you dream of a life in Rome.

I love it because it includes YOU!

I can keep you, dear reader, updated on my life, amuse you and hopefully inspire you along the way. One blog post at a time. And you keep me updated on your life, amused and inspired by posting comments and sending me emails. You pretty much rock my world.

This is me thinking of what to write to you in my next blog post:

And me doing a cleavage check:
It's a process keeping these suckers contained.

Did she just write that?

She did.

Oh my.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 204: Tapping out of daily life

A close friend of mine recently went through something tragic and severe. And it's probably worse than whatever thought popped in your head right now.

After the event, he sort of tapped out of our daily life together. I tried not to take it personally. The only way I was able to do this was knowing that it wasn't just me. It was all of us.

So, I sent him texts. We all did. We did it out of love. We did it to be life rafts for him. When he didn't reply, I had to accept that he may not want a life raft at the moment and he might not want anyone nagging him into getting on board. Perhaps he needed some time to go under.

In Spiritual Psychology, taught at the University of Santa Monica (USM), we learn that we all have the inner resources we need to effectively deal with our situations.

Trusting this USM wisdom, I had to accept that he knew what he was doing. I could continue to send life rafts in the form of texts and invitations to get together, knowing all the while that they were likely to be responded to with dead air. He really does have all the inner resources he needs to effectively deal with this situation.

It's hard to release. It's hard to accept. And yes, at times I still take it personally. All I can do is keep letting him know that I'm here for when he wakes up from this nightmare. And to know that when he wakes up, he'll have a permanent, heavy, itchy coat of grief that he'll have to learn to live with.

But, there is a silver lining here.

I ran into him at our coffee shop today. He sat with me. I wrote my morning pages. He worked on his laptop. We sat mostly in silence. At one point, I instinctively picked up my phone to text him. A habit. Because I always text him at the coffee shop. I told him this and he said quietly,

"Thanks for not giving up on me."

Best. Day. Ever.

Even seeing our cars next to each other in the parking lot makes me happy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 203: How to deal with Depression

I was rolling right along today until Depression tracked me down.

He jumped me in the parking lot between my car and the office. He held me tight, leaned in and said, "Hey, remember me? I'm the one your therapist warned you about."

Ya, I remember you. You're the reason I can't get out of bed in the morning.

"Don't think you can get away from me so easily this time. I'll be like your shadow."

I don't understand. There is no reason for you to be here. Nothing happened to instigate a visit from you.

"Ah," he said. "You're thinking of my cousin Sadness. Sadness comes around for life events. New Year's Eve malaise, bad breakups and scraped knees. I'm different. I'm like a tsunami. You can't see me coming. You can be walking around living your life, then whoosh! There I am ready to swallow you up."

I remember what you're like. I don't need reminding. What do you want with me now?

"To see what you do with me."

Ah, yes. Well, come along then. I've got a status meeting at 9:00 in the conference room.

Depression followed me to the status meeting and hung around most of the day. He sat on my desk on top my pile of folders. He kept closing the door to my office, too. People would knock hesitantly and ask, "Who is this guy?"

No one special, I'd reply. Just ignore him.

He also stood over me as I wrote my morning pages, urging me to complain and write how I felt sorry for myself. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction so I wrote a list of things to do this weekend, I calculated my finances and I wrote a future fantasy about how I want my life to be in a year.

"That'll never happen," he said.

Just watch me. I'll show you, I said.

"When you go on and do those things that you think will make you happy, do you really think I won't come around? Do you honestly think that you can whip up an amazing life and not have me to deal with? Is that your plan?"

Ignoring you is pretty much the plan. 

"Oh. I see. Hmmm. You've never done that before. You used to let me hold you while you cried in my arms. I thought we had a real connection."

Here's what I'm thinking, I said. You've come and gone whenever you damn well pleased. That's fine. I figure you're just one of those unwelcome visitors, like coworkers who show up in my office and talk too much about themselves. I've managed to put up with them. I can manage to put up with you, too. Eventually they go away and eventually so will you. In the meantime, hand me a folder. I've got work to do.

Then Depression jumped off the pile of folder and sulked in the corner for awhile. Eventually, he hopped out the window and I got back to work.

MADMEN premieres July 25th

Also, I entered the MADMEN casting call. Vote for me so I'll get a walk-on role plus a $1,000 Banana Republic gift card. It's gonna be great. So far I'm around page 21 or 22 of a gazillion pages. Look me up by my super secret name: Janice MacLeod

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 202: How a breakup can improve office life

I fancy myself a breakup expert. After all, I did write the book...

Shameless plug.
Buy it here

So when I read this article on, How to Work With Someone After a Breakup by Helen Coster, I felt I had a few things to add. Coster says to keep your emotions compartmentalized, to not give your colleagues anything to gossip about and to praise your ex in public. "It will help you behave and feel better around him or her, and it will put other people at ease."

But, I think we're missing out on some gains here. I think office life for your coworkers can be improved from 9 to 5 because of your failed after-hours rendezvous. 

How to improve office life after your failed office romance:
  1. Kiss other coworkers in high-traffic areas like the kitchen, elevator and lobby. Everyone knows you're single now and kissing is proven to raise serotonin levels.
  2. Write scathing emails on company time to your friends and your ex. Nothing is sacred in the office, especially emails. The IT guys get bored and having something fun to read will entertain them in the office. A satisfied IT professional is less likely to move onto another company. High turnover rates cost companies thousands, making a severe impact on the bottom line.You don't want that to happen all because of your failed relationship, do you?
  3. Go out of your way to work on projects with your ex. Be especially condescending in meetings. Tears help, too. With reality show addiction on the rise, your coworkers need a fix between episodes to stay relaxed and keep concentration at optimal levels in the office. 
To all the CEOs out there, you're welcome. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 201: I'm taking a smoke break

This sign pretty much sums up why I have, at times, complained bitterly about work life. Lately, the moment I get one job completed, another one arrives in my office. Sometimes within seconds. Often these jobs "Have to get out by the end of the day. They just have to." Really? Why? Because someone sat on it for a long time and now that it's come to a head I have fix it? Is that why?

Seems I never have time to do anything. Time to get done the writing on my advertising jobs. Time to get done writing in this blog. Time to get writing done in my morning pages. Time to practice guitar. Time to paint... you get the idea.

Lately, I've been fantasizing about throwing it all away and running off to Europe for awhile. A friend of mine asked me what it is about Europe that is so appealing (besides Claudio, of course). I wrote down a list in my morning pages:
  • Time to write big projects
  • Time to update my blog
  • Time to see beautiful sites
  • Time to go for long walks
  • Time to practice my guitar
  • Space to think
Notice a pattern here? 

So underneath wanting to run away is the root issue, which is about wanting more time. If I figured out how to get more time or to manage my time more effectively (thank you Rotation and Balance for noticing this on Day 191), I wouldn't need to haul myself anywhere. (Very Wizard of Oz of me.)

As if to prove my point, I came across this longish quote from Letters to an Artist by Julia Cameron:
"It is remarkable how much we can get done once we get rid of the fantasy of time. We will never have unlimited time in which to make art. Our time will always be limited and sometimes severely; by accepting that unpleasant given, we get a great deal accomplished. The year that I wrote my best-selling book, I was teaching full-time on two separate faculties and I was deeply involved with my family. My daughter was having a "bumpy" year, and that took a lot of time and attention to try to straighten out. In order to write my book I set aside fifteen minutes a day, hoped to stretch it to forty-five, and aimed at the rough draft of one short chapter per week. Instead of making my work fragmented, this system seemed to make it cohesive. I probably wrote better in that period than I have in many others, and it was all because I resolved to use well the little time I had."
It's that last line... because I resolved to use well the little time I had... ya, that's the one I've got to work on. So as of today, I've incorporated a few smoke breaks in my day. I don't smoke, but giving myself a few minutes here and there to begin carving out the time I crave might give me a little taste of Europe in my own backyard.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 200: Top 10 posts of the last 100 days

Three things:
  1. Wish me Happy 200th day!
  2. Check out my sweet new header.
  3. Read the Top 10 posts of the last 100 days
These were the posts that got the most fanfare, comments and that moved you—and me—most of all. 

Top 10 posts of the last 100 days:
  1. Day 190: Designated Facebook Crush
  2. Day 195: Can I admit something to you?
  3. Day 180: People who turn your life upside down
  4. Day 172: The office spouse
  5. Day 163: Flirting is my best medium
  6. Day 159: Religion, gelato and a coin in a fountain
  7. Day 155: A saint, the mafia and a bowl of cherries
  8. Day 151: Romans vs. Italians
  9. Day 147: I was very naughty at the Vatican
  10. Day 136: Screen door slams, Mary's dress waves
As for writing the morning pages, I've managed to write them nearly daily. Missed 5 days so far. Still don't have the discipline to write them in the morning but I do have the discipline to write them daily. And I've managed to write 200 posts in 200 days. Not bad for a little girl from Clear Creek, Ontario, Canada. 

Has progress been made?
How has this project of writing morning pages daily changed my life? Well, I've made my way to Maui and Italy. I've made new friends and enhanced friendships through blog comments (which I live for so keep them coming). And most of all, writing morning pages has given me the confidence to dream a bigger dreams for myself. Right now, I'm living the dream I imagined for myself a few years ago. I did alright. I did the best I could with what I had where I was. But now I know more about where I want to be. And how do I know? Because we have to write to learn what we know and I've written a lot in the last 200 days. Day by day, I'm writing down the plans for the next dream life. You'll hear all about it over the next 165 days of 2010.

Thanks for hanging in there.

Day 199: I'm not bulletproof

One of the major benefits of headphones is that no one else can hear just how many times you listen to a song.

I listened to Bulletproof by Blue Rodeo on a loop for most of the afternoon at work while I doled out the world's finest copy lines for the world's most brilliant advertising.

Bulletproof makes you sad even when you're not sad. But it's the juicy kind of sad that you want to lean into. The kind of melancholy that makes you sigh and think about that certain someone that hurt you in some way a long time ago. And after all is said and done, there is still a lingering ache that swims around your system during this song.

I spoke with my friend Bryce recently about a girl who once had a crush on him. I met him when he was 8 and now he's 17 and has a rock band that plays at The Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard. How amazing is that? He's brilliant. He, in all his wisdom, looked down at me (because he's very tall now), looked straight into my eyes and said calmly, "Time takes care of these things." Sometimes I think Bryce is older than me.

Whatever time doesn't take care of, Bulletproof will, but in a satisfying "picking at a scab" kind of way.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 198: Overeager bloggers

I grabbed this image from one of my favorite bloggers, Rotation and Balance.

View his specific post here.

He writes about how he kind of expects his friends to drop whatever they are doing and to read his blog whenever he posts something new. When they say "I'll take a look at it later..." well,  you know how that goes.

I have the same expectation. I'm constantly telling people to "read more about it in my blog." And when they ask what I've been up to lately I start with, "Well, there is this blog I'm writing." I even have blog business cards that I hand out to friends. "Read Day 142. It's just what you need right now." Like my post is some prescription for healing the masses.

They take my card and politely put it in their wallet. And if they are like me, they take the card out of their wallets at the end of the evening, throw it on the table and will likely toss it in a few days.

I get it.

And yet, I still get so excited about my blog. I feel like I'm writing something. Writing is a verb. At first I thought I'd write just about my progress with writing morning pages, but who wants to read for 365 days? Even I only visit my favorite posts... hmmm, that's an idea. A post about my favorite posts. It's like the multi-layered Inception. Okay, so it's not exactly like Inception. It's starring me and not Leonardo DiCaprio. Small difference.

Anyway, I know you, dear reader, are a busy person. You're a joker, a smoker, a midnight toker. You've got places to be, other blogs to visit. So I appreciate you hanging around. I'm actually writing this post on the real Day 200. I'm a few days behind in posting and I know you've noticed because you check back here daily right? Right??

And you've read all 198 posts right? Right??! 

Day 197: Artist Date: A trifecta of films

I was so wiped out from the yard sale yesterday that I spent much of Sunday in my pajamas dragging myself around my apartment. I told myself I should get out there and go on an Artist Date but then my soul cried out, I just want to stay hooooooommmmmmmeeeee. So, I stayed in, made popcorn and watched two movies...
 From the official site:
"Charlyne Yi does not believe in love. Or so she says. Well, at the very least, she doesn't believe in fairy-tale love or the Hollywood mythology of love, and her own experiences have turned her into another modern-day skeptic. PAPER HEART follows Charlyne as she embarks on a quest across America to make a documentary about the one subject she doesn't fully understand."
A sweet little film about love. I got all hopeful about love until I watched this movie...
Since I was confused by how we procreate at all after watching The Ugly Truth, I figured I'd add to the confusion by going out and seeing this movie...
I liked Inception. I had to think so much during the film just to follow what was happening that it undid all the mixed up emotions I had after watching the first two films. For this, it deserves an Oscar. (It also deserves an Oscar for Sound, Special Effects and Editing... holy crap!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 196: Yard Sale-erama

It is so very satisfying to carry your boxes of yard sale doo-dads to your car. The boxes are heavy and yet, you smile. They have to be packed in the car with astronautical precision to get to the yard sale site in one trip and yet, you smile. Your arms hurt and your back aches as you unload your items at the yard and yet, you smile.

You smile because you'll never ever have to have these items in your house—or in your life—ever again.

Yours truly still smiling after hours of wheelin' and dealin'.

Wheeler and dealer in training.

The Yamamoto Bobsy Twins wheelin' and dealin' their wares.

This little girl wanted this flower for her hair "MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD."

"Fine. A dollar."

Fluffer, the official mascot of the Wheelin' and Dealin' Games.

When the crowds died down, we did our best to amuse ourselves.

Practicing ventriloquism.

Taking photos of ourselves.

Taking photos of the items for sale.

Taking photos of ourselves taking photos of the items for sale.

Then there is this photo. 

This is one of those photos you look at years later and think, ya, that was a good day. My friends... oh my friends. How they make me smile. Then you think, I collected a strippers worth of dollar bills that day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 195: Can I admit something to you?

Of course I can. It's my blog. I can do anything I want.

Well you don't have to be snooty about it.

Sorry 'bout that. What I would like to admit to you is that sometimes I channel on my commute.

You what?

I channel a higher being. On my commute. To work.

Well that's not so shocking. You're creating a conversation between yourself and me, your reader, right here right now in italics. It's not exactly a stretch of the imagination to believe that you create other conversations with other beings in your head.

Whew. Glad to hear that. Because I thought I was off my rocker.

I didn't say you weren't nuts.

Right. Anyway, he looks like this:
... except without the chopsticks.

Today I was stressing about getting rid of all the stuff I have in my house in order to become nimble and open to new possibilities. I am learning that it's a big job it is to sort through it and either use it, sell it, donate it or toss it. So I asked Mr. Miyagi about it.

In my mind's eye, I saw Mr. Miyagi take all my old journals that are only half filled and throw them in recycling.

I spoke back, They have blank pages?! That is soooo wasteful.

He looked at me and shrugged. Cluttering your house with them is better? 

Good point.

He's right though. I can't give my half-filled journals away with half the pages ripped out. But I can ignore my Waste-Not-Want-Not who cluttered up my apartment in the first place and just get rid of these journals, which will bring me one step closer to a freer, more nimble existence. Oh it just kills me to be wasteful. But, it kills me more to live with what I no longer need.

Then he showed me my favorite journal:
I have a whole box of these super sweet journals. I ordered them online. I love them. I. LOVE. THEM. They are my go-to journal. I will never, for as long as I live, have to search for the perfect journal because I have found it and this is it. How sweet it is.

Then he said, When you find what you're looking for, you can let the rest go.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 194: If it's hysterical, it's historical

When I love my iPhone, I looooooove it.

When I hate my iPhone, I haaaaaaaate it.

Today is the day I haaaaaaaate it. Software needs updating, it says no SIM card installed even though it is, I can make a call one minute and not the next. My pits are sweaty, my ears are itchy and I'm feeling compelled to eat all the candy out of the candy jar at reception. 

I wonder if there is a lesson here. They say if you're hysterical, it's historical. I do know that I feel like a whining dumb dumb right now. I feel vulnerable, stupid and silly each time I show up with either of the  two IT professionals that are assisting me with this process. How do they put up with me? I'm such a freakazoid when it comes to technology hiccups.

I guess that's the hysterical of the historical that I get to work on with self today. Life lessons... fun.
The calm, cool and collected Oscar deals with my iPhone. 
Clearly, he is not hysterical. Unlike self.

Day 193: One suitcase

Culling: tr.v., culled, cull·ing, culls.

1. To pick out from others; select.
2. To gather; collect.
3. To remove rejected members or parts from (a herd, for example).

n. Something picked out from others, especially something rejected because of inferior quality.

Since I returned from Rome, I've been culling. I've picked out, gathered, collected and removed rejected items from my apartment. I'd like to eventually ratchet down my items to a carry-on knapsack, one suitcase for clothes and one suitcase for mementos—for the items in life that define who I am, the things I just can't give away. Thus far, I've got:
Not a bad start.

If you're in Los Angeles, feel free to stop by the mother of all yard sales this Saturday at 3541 Redwood Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90066. Buy my board:

I haven't got too many grand plans on where my suitcases will take me, but my intuition is telling me to get ready for when I go... wherever and whenever that may be.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 191: Becoming reacquainted with self

I was laying on the couch last night in the 10 minutes before my friend was to arrive for a late night walk around Santa Monica. I had returned home 5 minutes before, changed into my workout clothes and wolfed down a piece of cake for dinner.

Inside that 10 minutes, I wondered why I only have 10 minutes. I wondered why I overbook appointments to the point of exhaustion.

It's a nice problem to have. To accept enough invitations that I create a life where I'm so in demand. I realize this. I'm lucky.

But it's wearing me down. Yet, I can't help myself. It's fun to go for a walk with my friend. It's fun to meet another for a meal. It's fun to go to birthday parties and engagement parties and concerts. It's fun to get together to watch a TV series every week. It's so fun it's hard to resist.



Yet is a very important word.

Yet I'm running myself ragged and starting to miss me.

I miss alone time with self. Self is a fascinating person. I miss listening to the rambling thought stream in my head. It's hard to listen to your own rambling thought stream when you're busy listening to other people's ramblings.

My brief thought stream on the couch led to the question, What do I really want in this life?

Instant fatigue. That question is too big. So I backed up. What do I really want this week?

Self said quite calmly and forcefully I want alone time. 

I spend so much of my energy managing my appointments that my life becomes a long list of things to do, which isn't much fun at all, even if the appointments themselves are fun in nature. The result is pure exhaustion so that all I end up wanting in life is a long nap.

So this week, I'm canceling, rescheduling and attempting to not be apologetic about it. Perhaps I'll go on a few silent walks. Perhaps I'll play with my new iPhone (arriving soon!!!). Perhaps I'll become reacquainted with self.

Self is super excited. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 190: Designated Facebook Crush

You know you have one.

The designated Facebook crush is the one person whose name you scour in the Top News on your Facebook page daily. The one whose profile you visit more often than you would ever admit. The one who you wish would "Poke" you.

You salivate when you see he's posted photos. You see that he put a Baby Manatee up for adoption in Happy Aquarium. You see that he offed a family of five in Mafia Wars. You delight to discover he is the mayor of Whole Foods on Rose & Lincoln in Four Square. How wonderful and satisfying it is to see these rather banal glimpses into the life of your designated Facebook crush.

Then there is the person who posts too many YouTube videos on the wall of your designated Facebook crush. You start to wonder who this person is that also happens to leave too many comments. You find this mysterious person a bit too enthusiastic. You, yourself, are an occasional commenter. Enough to be top of mind but not enough to arouse suspicion that you are the Facebook stalker that you actually are.

The designated Facebook crush relationship is innocent enough. This person is simply your daily candy. It's harmless really. After all, this is a public forum and this person did accept your friendship request, which happened to be (unbeknownst to them) the best day of your life.

Facebook makes Internet stalking so much easier. You are saved from having to scour through 36 pages of Google search results. Thanks Facebook. You're a real time saver.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 189: Scrapbooks as crapbooks

Why did I ever think making scrapbooks was a good use of my time.

In my Great Culling Experiment, where I will be releasing crap from my apartment from now until the end of the year, I've rediscovered my super lame scrapbooks.

I spent afternoons gluing letters and photos in these tomes? What for? So that I could review them later and reminisce about the good ol' days? News flash: The good ol' days weren't that good.

Oh and the cost involved with buying scrapbook material from that idiot store Michael's Arts & Crafts, I sure wish I had that cash back. I'd use it to buy an iPad, a lightweight device that can hold many more memories than those lame scrapbooks.

Sometimes I'm struck by the idiocy of my youth. Really. I think I'm a pretty smart cookie, but when I see these scrapbooks I want to shake my younger self and say...

Sabrina Ward Harrison, my scrapbooking idol, is doing a workshop in Positano, Italy, in September. If you recall, I was in Positano on Day 155 of this blog. Here is the poster of her workshop:

When I was creating my scrapbooks, I thought I'd be the next Sabrina Ward Harrison, whose art makes my teeth tingle. Her scrapbooks are beautiful. So beautiful that I have, at times, become enraged at my own lack of talent. Oh how I wished I could create art pieces like her. Another news flash: I can't.

The truth is that we have to follow our enthusiasm. My enthusiasm is with words and typing and keeping my hands clean. It's not in mucking about with scraps of paper. We have to accept where our enthusiasm takes us. For me, it took me to this beautiful blog that I love writing. I do enjoy entertaining you, dear reader. 

Ya, it's a nice way to get through a cup of coffee.

Aw shucks. Best. Compliment. Ever. 

So I will toss my scrapbooks in recycling. Perhaps as recycled toilet paper, they will be useful to someone. While I'm at it, I'll release my dreams of being the next Sabrina Ward Harrison. She's already got the slot filled anyway and she's much better at being her than I am at being her.

I'm going to concentrate instead at being a better me.

Ugh... that just sounded like a Public Service Ad.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 188: On learning Italian

The Italian language is like Italian food. A feast for the tongue.

Every word, a spicy meatball. Every intonation, a perfectly prepared noodle. Every expression, a full flavored sauce.

I love the Italian language for the sake of it. It won't get me anywhere. It's not required of my job. It won't get me a raise. It won't help me explain how to clean bedsheets without bleaching the shit out of them to my housekeeper. It won't get me anywhere in any place but Italy.

But I don't care because I love it unconditionally. I love it because it's so easy to love.

Except for when I'm trying to learn it. Then my feelings are less like love and more like complete and utter frustration, like when you have a baby you love so much but the kid won't effing sleep and it's 4 am and still screaming it's head off and you've already fed it, burped it, changed it and held it.


I'm in the car every morning listening to Italian language CDs, trying to wrap my tongue around new words as I wind my way down canyon roads to work. I imagine people who see me at the stoplight. What the heck is she saying? I'm sure I look confused.

My current collection is a 10 CD set. I'm on CD 5. I listen to each CD twice. The first time through I want to cry. I just don't understand anything. The second time through I start to get the hang of it, which encourages me to move onto the next CD, which I listen to and go back to not understanding anything again.

It's a vicious little cycle.

Oh how I wish the language would open up to me. Like one morning I'd wake up and start speaking Italian and know all the words and how they are all put together. I'd walk into my coffee shop and order with confidence, "Cappuccino!"

For now, I drive with a furrowed brow and make funny faces as I try to pronounce the multisyllabic words.

Every time I want to give up, I think of my niece Grace. She is 4 years old. She is learning all the time. Just the other day, she learned new words, how to run the DVD player and how to take photos with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. And there are a lot of filters with that app! And that was just one day. I can't even cobble a sentence together with confidence in Italian yet. 



Yet. It's a very important word. 

I haven't given up. I'm getting back in the car and taking another spin with my beloved Italian. Why? Because Italy makes me glow:

 Rome and I look so good together.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day 187: A tour around my office space

I know I complain bitterly sometimes.

But office life is actually what you make of it. Here are a few items I've incorporated into my 9-6 M-F gig to make myself smile:

My pushpin collection  

Random bottle cap left by mysterious coworker

Diorama of fisherman having a good time

Quote from Bob Dylan for inspiration 


We all do what we can with what we have where we are.

Day 186: The soundtrack of morning pages

I like to imagine you imagining me writing my morning pages.

You probably think I'm sitting at my little breakfast nook with a fresh coffee and my journal. I lean over and smell the fresh bouquet of flowers. I gaze out the window to the garden of blooming roses. My husband walks over and kisses me on my forehead as he heads into the kitchen to make toast.

Wait... I think that's a Folgers commercial.

The truth is that none of that happens. I shove writing morning pages in the nooks and crannies of my day. Today, I wrote my pages at the 76 station down the road while getting an oil change. Cars screech by, horns honk, the incessant freeway roars and the car wash swooshes and beeps. That's the soundtrack of morning pages.

Sigh... I'd rather be in the Folgers commercial.

But, the challenge is to be content where we're at.
"Love the truth of a moment more than anything you might wish would be there."
                      -- Elia Wise
I looked up that Folgers commercial and couldn't find it but I found this one. It must have had a huge media buy because this one is tattooed on my brain:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Day 185: Playground paranoia

"Well, I haven't met a new friend yet."
This is what my niece Grace said after spending 15 minutes with me at the playground. The playground didn't have many children due to inclement weather so the pickin's were slim, but she was still confident that she'd meet a new friend to play with shortly.

I watched her approach children. She seems slightly shy, then she says anything she can to start up a conversation. If a kid fell, she'd help him up. If another kid has a shovel, she offers to help make a sand castle—anything to get the party started. Soon they were off and running as if they've known each other all along.

When I was a little girl, playgrounds terrified me. I didn't know how to make friends or know what to say when children approached me. The whole playground friend making affair was FAIL FAIL FAIL time and time again. I usually ended up lagging behind my sister and her friends, or I played on the slide or swing, both of which are solitary games by nature. As long as I stayed on the slide or the swing, it was okay that I was alone.

My niece amazes me in her friend making ability. I found myself studying her for tips. How does she approach other children so she doesn't appear weird? How do the other children respond? How is she not afraid?

Now don't get the wrong idea. I actually do have friends. How they appeared in my life is a bit of a mystery to me but it probably included armpit sweat and a few nervous laughs on my part and some extroverted efforts on their parts.

Watching Grace make her moves at the playground got me thinking that it's always good to have more friends, especially if I decide to travel around the world on my own one day. I'm gonna need peeps.

She also took this photo of herself with my iPhone. She's both advanced and super cute.

Day 184: I'm officially over half way done!

It's true. Day 182.5 was the half way mark. Today, I'm beyond half way done this year long project of writing my morning pages daily (3 pages) and blogging about it.

This brings to mind Plastiki, a boat made out of water bottles that set sail on Day 79 of this blog. For more details on Plastiki, read my post about it here and visit the Plastiki site to track their voyage from San Francisco to Sydney here. It's fun to watch them slowly meander toward another continent.

All this time, while the crew of Plastiki have been gazing out at a seemingly endless horizon line, I've went to Maui, Rome, the Amalfi coast, work, church, out for coffee, swimming and done about a thousand other things. The crew of the Plastiki haven't done any of these things except maybe swimming. It's a long time to be out on the water just to make a point.

Their point, in a nutshell, is to stop drinking from plastic bottles, which is super wasteful, and start looking at our waste stream as a resource stream. Cradle to cradle production instead of cradle to grave... or more specifically, cradle to our landfills and oceans.

All this time, while Plastiki has been making a point, what have I been doing? What noble thing have I been up to? Inspiring people to write in their journals? Seems a bit flimsy compared to saving the earth.

But perhaps I'm assisting people with saving themselves in some way. I know for certain that I'm doing this project to save my own life. To walk toward my own super dreamy life. A life that I marvel at with glee and exclaim, "Holy Hannah! This is my life?!?! This is GREAT!"

This is what I have learned from the first 183 days of writing my morning pages:

When I did Julia Cameron's 12-week course, The Artist Way, twice before, my life changed in magical ways. The first time, I moved from Toronto to Los Angeles and completely changed my life. The second time, I healed a broken heart, grew the hell up and became me. This third time, I'm learning that in my morning pages, I'm dreaming up an even better life than I dreamed up the first two times. I'm telling myself a story over and over again as I write each day. I keep improving the tale as I go. It keeps getting juicier. Eventually, it's become story I've started believing in, a story I am convincing myself that I want more than anything. Now I'm psyching myself up in my pages and starting to do the tasks that bring me closer to this amazing story so that one day I'll be living it.

I used to think it was a magical formula that Julia Cameron had thought up. But no, it's just me. Well, me and some divine intervention. God is involved. One of my sister's best friends says to the Jehovah's Witness that come to her door, "No thanks, I already have a God I don't believe in."  Now I don't care what you do or do not believe in, but I know for certain that inside my pages, there is a witness reading along and figuring out how it can help me achieve what I write in my pages.

This time around, this new life I'm creating in my pages is going to take a year. Keep reading, dear reader. I have a great story to show you.

Bring it, girl!

Oh, I'm bringing it. If the first half of the year seemed quiet, it's because I'm like a tiger ready to pounce. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 183: The importance of 131 days

This post-it note hangs in my office. It represents how many days this year that I won't be in the office. That I will, in fact, be OOTO. I look at this post-it daily and see that for a third of the year, I'm not here. That's a big chunk of time to get done what I want to get done. This post-it gives me hope.

It keeps me from grumbling.

Day 182: OOTO fantasies and status meetings

OOTO is shorthand for Out Of The Office.

This is a commonly used terms in company emails to let everyone know that you will be out of the office.

Today is a big OOTO day since it's the day before a long weekend here in the United States of America.

I am not OOTO. I'm very much ITO—In The Office.

This is what my office day was like today.

First, Status Meeting 9:00 am

We have a status meeting every day at 9:00 a.m. I don’t know why this is. Not much changes day-to-day but we still have to be there. The hardest part of this status meeting is being on time. The second hardest part is listening. It’s easy to drift.

Where was I?

We rush to be there on time. I imagine the hell other status attendees face from 8:55 to 9:00 every morning. Careening around corners, rushing to make elevators, forgoing stops for coffee, all to make it to a status meeting where the status doesn’t change much. I wonder if theirs is the same hell I go through, except my hell happens from 8:58 to 9:03. I’m late because I resent having to attend. I know this about myself. I’m aware. I don’t change my ways. It’s a passive aggressive thing. I know this.

I’m not much use when I’m there, but my job title corresponds to some process invented by someone a long time ago to attempt to make work flow more effective.

Sanjay unabashedly plays games on his phone during the status meeting. That is, when he makes it to the meeting at all.

Squealing Liam is always in attendance. In fact, he is always early for status and always tattles on those who are late. He’s the nice kid on the playground that even the nerds hated.

Head Mistress, the Project Manager, is akin to a bossy babysitter. She’s on task. She’s on time. She’s professional. I bet if she could do anything OOTO, she’d go grocery shopping or organize things or boss other people around.

If I didn’t have to be in the status meeting, I bet I would be on time for work. I bet I’d be a model employee. I might even be a bit early.

After the status meeting I check my email. Inevitably I get a few OOTO emails. People that will be out of the office because they are sick/meeting with the client/conference/vacation/etc. Everyone seems to explain why they are OOTO. I sigh when I read these emails. Then I start having OOTO fantasies. What would I like to do if I were OOTO?

First thing: Nap.

Out of all the good things I could do in life, I’d get to them all after a good long nap.

If I were OOTO, I would take my sweet time. I would not hurry at the grocery store or through my workouts or in conversations or showers. I would not race to a status meeting that makes corporate big wigs very rich and me very drained. Or fill out time sheets. Or go to stupid surprise birthday parties in the conference room.

I realize I’ve been whining. I know this. I’m aware. I also realize that my OOTO fantasy sounds a lot like retirement.

The world is currently experiencing a recession. Layoffs are everywhere. Factories are closing down. People are afraid. Whining doesn’t help matters. In fact, thanks to this recession, I have to be grateful for my job. It is hard enough to just show up mostly on time, but now I have to be grateful to have a job to go to.

Then there is the small fact that I get paid. That’s why I keep showing up for the status meeting, keep reading OOTO emails, keep being pleasant and keep exchanging the daily pleasantries required of office life.

“Hey, how are you?”
“Great. You.”

Great. Friggin' great.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 181: Grumbling toward ecstasy

Since I started my hard core grumbling about life, I've had a slew feedback from y'all.

Seems I'm not the only one out there who is grumbling and trying to dream her dream life into being. Seems I'm not the only one that is teetering between wanting for more and beating myself up for not being as grateful as I think I should be for what I have.

Why all the grumbling?

Is grumbling about my life better than failing at my dream?

Ugh, that's a scary thought.

No. I shake my head no. Absolutely not.

When I'm flustered and can't figure something out, I pull out the big guns. I write myself a letter from....

God Himself.

Yep. In my morning pages, I write:


Then I hover my pen over the page wait for a response. A voice that is my voice but not my voice comes through. The voice is always calm, wise and loving. Today's the voice was no different. I was explained in a calm handwriting that when I was in Rome, I had asked for the best version of my life. Now I'm back to my regularly scheduled life that isn't, in fact, the best version of my life. If it was the best version of my life, I wouldn't be asking for it, would I? Now that I've had glimpses of what the best version of my life can be, I can make arrangements to make it happen.

Then the letter ended with "Let yourself go!" 

God. He really knows what he's doing.  I highly recommend letting Him write some of your morning pages. He's good.

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