:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You've got to move it move it (Holly)

Is it the antithesis of creativity to structure my blog?? I have too many things floating around in the noggin to not do this, so forgive me if it seems a little....um...German. My current plan is to have the following headings be a staple in my blogs as they're all (mostly) part of the 12 week course I'm embarking on.

Morning Pages (mp's):  So, just to back up a minute. Morning pages are "non-negotiable" in the 12 week course the "Artist's Way".  Three pages of handwritten, stream of conscienceness writing should occur first thing in the morning.  In the last 10 days, I have only missed them on Thanksgiving day.  (And, even then, I did try to do a page when I finally got home that night-not pretty, let me tell you!) Oh, and yesterday....and today. But today I'm writing a blog at 5:30 am! That should count for something, right??? Anyway...I LOVE LOVE the morning pages.  I hope that I can keep them up after my 12-week course.  It is such an effective way of clearing your head before the day starts (therapy! yup).  I have been able to focus better at work and feel a lot more grounded with a more realistic outlook on life when I do them consistently.  Now, if I combined regular exercise with consistent morning pages! Whoa! Watch out Des Moines! If I combined those two with a wholesome, well-rounded diet! Whoa! Watch out Iowa!

I've actually been doing mp's since late September when I first attempted to do Artist's Way (AW).  I stopped for a couple weeks for some reason, and missed them! They're a lot like exercise in that when stopping you can really feel the negative effects in your life - if you're listening.

Artist's Date:   The Artist's Date is the other non-negotiable in the AW.  One hour per week when you take yourself out on a little creativity adventure.  No guests. No children. Doesn't have to be complicated, but it is a "must". Ok, well this is much more challenging for me.  Not necessarily with coming up with things to do, but actually scheduling them, and then following through.  My idea for the artist date in week 1 was to go to the Holiday thing in the East Village.  It started at 5pm, all the shops were open, and fireworks at 6:15pm. Perfect! I met a friend for a cocktail at 4pm in the Village, and then at 5pm decided I was too lonely, grouchy, and had bad shoes on, so NOT GOING! Week 2 I didn't actually get scheduled but am going to say my date was cooking alone on a Friday morning.  I made a recipe out of Food Network magazine.  It's potentially a little bit of a cop-out, but I do find cooking soothing and creative when done in a fun, non-rushed, non-obligatory way. 

My dates were better when for attempt 1.  My first date was to West End Salvage.  COOL!! I had never been there and loved looking at all of the items. I loved dreaming of ways I could make my home more creative.  In the end, I bought two old Iowa licence plates-one from 1968 and one from 1971. Mine and my brother's birth years. I save the licence plates from my first Iowa car as well as my Colorado plates. I have visions of doing something creative with them all. Something about a big ol piece of wood and the downstairs family room. Hhhmmmm…..

The other date I took myself on was to the East Village Bizarre the weekend of World Food fest.  It was definitely thought provoking to see all the creative peeps with booths. I even bought a really cool, kinda retro long jacket for 10 smackers. I've gotten lots of compliments on it.  I may even feel very creative when wearing said jacket!!

Extra Credit: The extra credit section is where I will report to you on the "other" activities that the author suggests for the week.  So far, I'm complete crap at these and it's the reason I wanted to do this course over 24 weeks instead of 12.  I just can't get to them.  Ok, well, I kind of did 3 this week.  One was a balance wheel, mandala-esque, if I may.  Draw a circle, divide in 6, label with exercise, play, spirituality, romance/adventure, friends, and work. Then plot out how fulfilled you are in each area (or time spent or something like that).  Essentially, this is about BALANCE in life.  Achieve balance, you achieve peace, right? Well, as you can imagine, I'm off balance, but actually, not as bad as I thought I was.

Another task that I was pretty successful at was re-reading the "Basic Principals" on page 3 every morning and night.  Sure I missed a couple, but for the most part, thumbs up.  What are the Basic Principals you ask? How about we do another category and I'll do one each time?? What a great segue, thank you.

Basic Principals:   There are ten that the author lists.  The first: Creativity is the natural order of life.  Life is energy: pure creative energy. I love the quote on this page and think it goes well with number one:  Creativity is harnessing universality and making it flow through your eyes. Peter Koestenbaum
Pondering these two thoughts definitely helps to silence my "Who the hell do you think you are trying to be creative!?!? " curmudgeon.  More on curmudgeons later......

Rules of the Road:  These are in Chapter 2 and when talking to my partner in creativity crime (Joe the bro) he kept saying, well, you should be reading and re-reading these everyday too!! I'll get back to #1 next week, but wanted to share #2: Fill the well by caring for my artist.  This rule of the road is important at anytime, but I would argue, uber important for me, now.  I am nearing the end of one of the worst years I've ever had.  Surviving non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma is just one in the "Axis of Evil".  Ooohh,....I like that. I just thought of calling the events of the last year the axis of evil. Yup, works.  Anyway....I have been attempting to fill my well.  Doing this project is one very, very important way I'm doing that.  In the last 10 days I also went and got a FABULOUS massage using a gift certificate.  And.....I'm starting to exercise again.  Man, I was in the best shape of my life in June when I got diagnosed with cancer.  Why, oh why, couldn't I have AT LEAST done more walking during the 4-5 months of chemo!??? I'm starting over from square one.  I can't run as long as I used to, I'm gaining weight, and I nearly killed myself by doing Kickboxing on Saturday morning.  It's Tuesday and I will still be taking Advil today.  Perhaps I can actually make it downstairs and pick stuff up off the floor today, but I'm not holding my breath. 

Anyway.....regular exercise is a must for me and I can't wait to get back to my old self.  I could probably drop the AW blog and just write about that challenge!

My curmudgeons:   In the last 10 days, the curmudgeon screaming at me went something like this- What are you doing? Why are you spending all this time on AW?? You're not an artist!! You're only mildly creative, and then only sometimes! And, anyway....you'll never be any good, only mediocre, at anything you create.  So many people are so so so talented, and you are not one of them!!
A little intense, you think?

Not to cheat by jumping ahead, but the #10 Rule of the Road has helped a bit with this.  Great creator, I will take care of the quantity.  You take care of the quality.

I still am not sure of my ultimate goal in doing this course, but I know that I MUST do it.

Random Thoughts:  I like emoticons for communicating via text.  I would find it very helpful to have these emoticons added to the menu: Shower, Driving, Wine glass, and Clapping hands.  Yes, I know you're not supposed to text and drive, but a quick little emoticon indicating that's why you're not texting back could save lives! And, fyi, there is a coffee mug emoticon and a beer mug emoticon. 

I'm thinking of adding two more categories for next time.  Ok, I was going to add them this time, but I really must go to work now, and I think it best to just get this puppy posted.  Anyway.....first one is "Chapters" wherein I'll talk about what I've learned from the weekly chapter readings.  There's a theme per chapter (duh) and they're very good and thought provoking (duh).

The other heading was a suggestion from a friend. What do you guys think? Life after death. Thoughts and musings re: surviving two near death experiences.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A few words of THANKS…… (Stephany)

It’s the day after Thanksgiving (which is one day after I was supposed to post – guilty as charged). I’m sitting in a not-so-comfy chair in an office in the hospital in my hometown. I’m here for a couple of reasons. First, my mom works here and asked for my help with a project, so I came into town to see what I could do to assist. Second, the Web really isn’t worldwide. Most people can communicate with people in the far reaches of the world, but my folks live in an area where it’s dial-up only if you want to access the Web. NO THANKS. Call me crazy or spoiled, but I like Web access to take less than 10 minutes! And there’s WIFI here at the hospital. (Thanks, hospital!) Third, I think I really need to write today. I really do. Is that odd?
I’ve thought a lot about what to say in this post. A LOT. I keep coming back to the fact that even though I’m tackling some big projects right now, maybe it’s important to do more than look at and celebrate those. Maybe it’s time to look BACK a bit, for some healthy and sincere reflecting, to gain some perspective, to appreciate some things that deserve some appreciation…
It’s been quite a year. It’s been difficult. It’s been frustrating. It’s been liberating. It’s been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. I finished my first full year of teaching. I had my first summer “off” with my kids. I learned so much about myself. I got in shape and started a book project. I filed for divorce. I took some big chances. I was more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. I was more tired than I have ever been in my life. I was more honest than I’ve ever been in my life. I was (oddly???) happier than I’ve ever been in my life. What a year, indeed.
Despite the magnitude of the changes that took place this past year, I believe that it’s absolutely unnecessary and completely unhealthy to dwell or focus on the tough stuff. I’ll never forget (or allow myself to forget) how hard the year was. Never. It would be completely foolish of me to forget. From the difficulties, tears, fear, frustrations, pain, and all the rest, I found and grabbed hold of some really GOOD “stuff.” I think that’s the stuff that needs shared today, so here it is:
1. My family is unbelievable. Sincerely. Completely. My parents and my brother have been rocks for me. They’ve allowed me to vent, to cry, to be angry, to voice my fears, to grow… They’ve listened, hung out with the kids, poured me drinks (I know, right? The BEST!), dried tears, helped financially, and been steady and solid. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for any of them to stand by and watch me fall apart, which is basically what I did. They didn’t exactly stand by, I guess; but they did allow me to go through what I needed to go through, and I can’t put into words how grateful I am for that. It probably would have been easier for them to jump in and “fix” things, (kick some ass or something!) and I think at one point I’d have preferred that myself. They didn’t do that, though, and that support is…. well, there aren’t words. It’s cherished and appreciated beyond words. Truly.
2. My kids are so special. I always knew this; but if I’m completely honest, I have to admit that, since their dad and I separated, my relationships with them have changed. I can’t quite explain how; they’re just different. I love them no less, only more, and it’s almost like there’s this new layer of survivorship that we share. They’re not happy with me about our situation, by any means, but they’ve been troopers. They’re kids, and their worlds were rocked, altered, changed forever in the last year. Some changes haven’t been so big, but there’s legitimate loss and pain in the KNOWING that things are never going to be the same. To watch them experience this loss is almost more than I can bear at times. I wish I could make things easier for them, and I’d do it if I could. However, I’ve realized all over again that they should be the focus, now more than they ever have been, and I think that’s going to be a very good thing!
3. My job is amazing! I’m employed, which is more than so many can say, and I get to say that I work with superb people for the most part. We are all crazed in many ways (I think you have to be crazed on some level to surround yourself with 1200 teenagers every single day!), but I think we all genuinely care about those 1200 kids and want to make a real and profound impact. Teaching is a joy, and I’m thankful I get to do this job with the people I do it with; I truly am.
4. My friends are the bee’s knees, to borrow one of Little P’s cutest sayings. For real. I’ve historically been a selfish and poopy (another COFFEE word I’ve come to enjoy using – ha!) friend, but boy did I choose good friends. They’ve hung by me in spite of everything. And I have reconnected with some old friends, a couple of whom are part of our COFFEE family. I’ve also been blessed with a few very special new friends that I so look forward to learning about via time spent, posts read, coffee ingested, comments shared, and more! I can’t even tell you how much I look forward to sharing and doing life with all of these people from here on out! How awesome!
5. My heart is healing… I’m so thankful for this. For a while there, I didn’t know if it ever would. I really didn’t. I can attribute much of this to the love and care of my folks and friends. I can attribute the rest of this to me finally caring enough about myself to allow it to heal. It’s pretty awesome to accept yourself where you are, at least most of the time, and to know you deserve good stuff. And I’m enjoying some really GOOD STUFF for the first time since I can’t remember when…
6. My future is wide open… well, in all the right ways it is… I have some stuff locked down (thanks, KBC! FO SHO!), and I know who my real peeps are. I have plans, many of which have been outlined here in COFFEE-Land. Others, I’m still playing close to the vest. Either way, I’m excited about life and really living life for the first time in ages, and I love that!
I guess maybe this turned into a Thanksgiving sermon… if it sounds that way, I guess that’s okay. It’s fun to count blessings; it’s important to count blessings; it’s ESSENTIAL to count blessings. Blessings are the GOOD STUFF of life, and life is pretty doggone GOOD if we just take the time to SEE that it is! Yes, Sir, Life is GUUUUD (I’m hearing Jim Carrey & Morgan Freeman from Bruce Almighty in my head right now- hahaha!)… and today, it’s my most sincere hope that your lives are all equally full of and that you take a moment or two to recognize all that GOOD STUFF!

What I Have Learned from the Quantum Wellness Cleanse (a Community guest post from Angie)

A guest post from Angie at Angie's List...
So, I just finished my first attempt at Kathy Freston’s Quantum Wellness Cleanse. In a nutshell, if you follow the cleanse perfectly, you go 21 days with no caffeine, alcohol, animal products, wheat gluten or refined sugar. I didn’t end up following it to the letter.  But I did pretty well, considering that in real life I am a foodie/hedonist/life-is-too-short kinda gal.
Here are some of the things I learned during the past 21 days:
  • Barring any serious motivators (such as pregnancy, serious illness or strong meds) I am not capable of going 21 days without wine. If I had any French ancestors, I am sure they’d be proud.
  • While I can’t resist wine, I CAN resist Halloween candy and Caramacs. Booyah! (Caramacs, for those of you who haven’t had them, are a satanically delicious Hawaiian candy. It is literally not possible to eat just one. Or just five.)
  • Quitting caffeine cold turkey is not fun. It is the opposite of fun.
  • Once you get past the caffeine withdrawal, you sleep really, really well at night.
  • There is no such thing as soy cheese. There is a sad product that calls itself that, which resembles cheese the same way My Little Pony resembles Seabiscuit.
  • I have more willpower than I thought I did.
  • I have less willpower than I wish I did.
  • Certain foods that sound gross in theory are actually quite delicious. Such as raw sprouted buckwheat granola, plain soy yogurt, hemp drink and agave nectar.
  • Vegan, gluten free pizza is disgusting. I am pretty sure that’s what they serve for dinner in hell.
Will I do the cleanse again? I think I will. Maybe I’ll muster a little more willpower next time, too. But as for now, I have a hot date with a cheeseburger tomorrow night. And, I am making pie AND cupcakes for Thanksgiving dinner. Chew on that, Kathy Freston!
Angie is a member of the COFFEE Satellite Community of free-range non-chickens. You can visit her at: http://angiebandy.wordpress.com.
If you would like to join our satellite community of brave bloggers, just pick your challenge project, start your blog, and leave us a comment telling us so. We'll post a link to your blog in our COFFEE COMMUNITY section and send readers to visit you as a feature in a regular community update. We'll likely even ask you to be a guest blogger.  And remember, although we all happen to be women here, you don't have to be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

High fiving myself for nothin'. (Amy)

It's almost 10 PM, Monday night (I'm writing this Monday night 11/22, almost a full week before this post is officially due) as I type this. We'll be traveling back from St. Louis when this goes up, and I will have had no access to internet/computers for the last 5 days, so I'm pre-scheduling my schedule. It's a convoluted story as to why, but just know: right now, as you read this, I am in a car somewhere on an interstate in the south eastern part of America and I'm either: really very relaxed, reading a good book, and thinking about how much simpler life was pre-Microsoft and the internet/blogs/facebook/ipad/iphone explosion....or I'm biting all my acrylic fingernails off, wondering what types of intrigue and drama I've missed on the internets--five days off the internet is like being Tom Hanks' character in CASTAWAY: you come back, and everything is weird and strange and whole lives have ended and begun without you.

So. Let me get into my Jackie Warner/You're so FAT! progress thus far: I've been "on program" for about 6 days now. I've consumed an entire carton of eggs (hard-boiled), taken multivitamins + an Omega-3 vitamin (and can I just say: even if you get the one that promises "No Fishy After Taste!!" on the label, prepare for the sardine-flavored repeats. I mean, I'm one of sushi's biggest fans...but not at frickin' 8 every morning). I have eaten 1 cup of tasteless, organic oatmeal each day, made valiant efforts to get in all 3 vegetables (fabulous progress on the 2 fruits/day), and I have desperately gulped down a whey protein shake (not as tasty as it smells) once per day. I have drunk (mostly) water, I have worked out at least every other day really hard, and I have eaten really, really healthy (for me). All good accomplishments.

Which is why I want everyone to know I'm giving myself a big high five on everything I've accomplished, even if on Friday I did have a rather large-ish piece of "Thanks for all you do!" carrot cake provided by school administration. And, later, after enjoying my cake, I made a Kindergartner cry big, pitiful tears (because he was being disrespectful and has been since showing up in my class on Day One, and so I had to throw away his special turkey treat in front of God and everyone because before starting this fun edible art project we did discuss (with me repeatedly and pointedly looking directly at him) how disrespectful, obnoxious punk-type people do not get to partake in Ms. S's fun edible art projects. This made me feel really horrible and crappy, but also like: Welcome to Life 101, kid. (These are the emotions that drive me to get into all kinds of shenanigans with my M&M friends after school.)

And don't even get me started on the stuff that went down at home; we'll be here all day. I will say that I've been on a hormonal roller coaster for quite some time (it's the Mirena's fault, and I think a side COFFEE project should be for me to just have a doctor yank that thing out--it's convenient, but it's also giving me weird migraine-like headaches, bizarre hormonal surges, odd hot flashes, and bad bouts of fatigue) (for more TMI, click HERE), and this always leads me to make very lame decisions which I tend to regret in huge, awful flashbacks for WEEKS later.

In the face of aaaaall of this, I battled through these dark forests, fought the T-Rex-like fire breathing dragons that lurk within. High five, Amy S.! Gooo ME!

...Until Saturday when I caved and ate way too much stuffing and potatoes and pumpkin pie at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's. And today, when I had a quarter pounder and fries for lunch. And pizza for dinner. And drank 3 diet cokes. In ONE day. (I'm drinking one now, as a matter of fact.)

We're meeting a friend for dinner tomorrow night, and I am not even going to lie: there will be something unhealthy on my plate that would make Jackie W. so very frown-y. I've had quite the week (stupid weAk! as Tanya would say), and Jackie and I aren't on speaking terms at the moment because I don't want to hear it; I have no patience for her pep talks right now. I just want some raw chocolate chip cookie dough and a really big double malt chocolate milkshake. And NO I don't want to do an extra 45 minutes on the stair climber, Jackie. I just want to drink my double chocolate malt milkshake and eat my raw cookie dough and watch back-to-back reruns of House Hunters and Ghost Hunters International while lurking on some of the more dysfunctional message boards at ivillage.com. OKAY, Jackie? Okay??

However! I will note that I have not given in to my bad crowd of friends' (the M&M's) urgings, and have resisted going on shenanigan-like milkshake/raw cookie dough binges. I've been culling it for the most part, and this is new for me. Like, before I began this challenge, I would go off my new lifestyle plans and just wallow in my old ways, like a pig (a lucky pig living happily on a small and sustainable preferably locally-owned farm) wallows in the mud on a hot summer day.

This is very, very important: I had the carrot cake which was the size of my head...but I did NOT head back at the end of the day to also have a head-sized piece of German chocolate cake, and some cookies, and some cheesecake...and they begged us (begged us) to do this over the intercom during end-of-day announcements on the account of they had exactly 10 tons of sweet indulgences left over; but I was all: hells no, people. Stop rewarding people with sugar-laden hormone-messing-up junk food. And I had the pumpkin pie at my mom's, but not 3/4 of the entire pie...4 weeks ago, I would have been unable to only eat a sliver-sized slice.

And I ate the fries and burger and pizza today, but I also had a sensible breakfast, limited the amount of pizza and put a salad with it, AND I worked my pooper off cleaning, doing laundry, and hauling butt up and down precarious attic steps to bring down very heavy boxes of Christmas decorations (seriously, January 2010 Amy, did you actually think trying to maneuver yourself and twenty 50 lb boxes of decorations down flimsy wooden steps while leaf blowing neighbors eyed you curiously would be the best fun for November 2010 Amy??).

Which is how I knew I worked my body really hard today: because I reeked just like I'd been walking up a 15.0 incline at a 5.0 pace on a gym treadmill for 60 minutes when I picked Melissa up from daycare. (Christmas blessings to you, Ms. Sarah, for not backing up 10 feet from me when I entered your olfactory zone this afternoon.) (I suppose working with twelve or more still-in-poopy-diapers toddlers all day does tend to desensitize a nose.)

And tomorrow? I will eat crap for dinner, but I will force myself to visit the gym for a hard workout beforehand.

In other words, I got nothin' for this post. I was going to wax poetic about school lunches and how we feed our children vs. how we feed ourselves and also try to figure out a way to plug Jamie Oliver who I think is really cute with his slight lisp, even if he did bite off way more than he can chew (heh) when he decided he was going to revamp all of America's school lunch programs like he did England's. (Quite frankly, I think Jamie should just focus on Texas. Texas always seems to need so much help.)

But I have to pack still and visit a friend and her new baby tomorrow and fix my messed up pedicure (the perils of walking/running workouts) and find my inner Zen, because I'm about to get into a car for a 9+ hour drive with a 2 year old who says everything exactly 20 times ("I want juice I want juice
I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice I want juice." Seriously, everybody. NINE hours of this).

And then I have to drive through all those scary, windy mountainous parts of Tennessee (seriously, Wendy, what the poop?). And then I have to fight off my strong urge to shovel (literally: shovel) all types of sugar and other process-y foods into my face on Thanksgiving. But! I have work out clothes ready to go into my suitcase. And I will take Jackie's book (and spirit) along for moral support. And my journal (which I haven't updated since, oh, Wednesday--I'll spend some Thanksgiving vacation updating/working on that). And I have water bottles, with lemon added. And healthy car ride snacks. And a portable DVD player and about 20 different Dora the Explorer DVDs. And headphones that fit a 2 year old's head perfectly.

We did pack juice in the travel cooler, in case you were concerned.

Up next time: I plan to split my grocery store run between Whole Foods and my usual Kroger, and write about it. "It" includes everything from the experience itself to the quality of the foods I buy to the people who are shopping around me (which, quite frankly, is the only reason I ever even leave my house: because there will be other people to watch and wonder about).

Friday, November 26, 2010

tryptophan success (tanya banana)

Well well well, wellwellwellwell…………. I don’t have a ton of superstardom to report so this will be vertically challenged and sweet. In fact, once this post actually goes to delivery live zone, I will probably still be snoozing away still in my jammies, hung-over from the massive amount of the turkey’s tryptophan I’ve inhaled, topped off by hopefully some delicious cabernet and several pieces of fruit pie. So yeah, this is where my brain is currently functioning right-at-this-moment….. HOLLA TO THE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY! High Five Pilgrims! And thanks, Abe, for the time off work. :)

So with that little tiny clarification and weaseling out of any humongo or life changing expectations, here is what I have noticed and what I am proud to report to my ultra coolio hipster COFFEE chickadees:

I have continued to give more wholly (or holy if you're into puns) in the offering at church, with one tiny itsy bitsy slip up. I actually thought I gave my fullest (i.e. what funds I show up with on my person) last Saturday evening, and it was not easy for the record. I hemmed and hawed about how I needed to minimally keep some moolah to pay my nine year old neighbor / dog sitter on Tuesday because I wasn’t sure I could swing the time to stop off anywhere to get some nominal cashola. Well, here’s what actually happened however. So after all of my hemming and hawing, getting the money out, putting some back in my wallet, getting it out again, I gave the wad (ha ha, “wad” is all about interpretation!!), and I made my peace and smiled about it. Well then, Monday night rolls around, I’m doing bills online, reconciling my checkbook (yes I am old school, and I still do this) and totaling up all of my millions of receipts jammed in my wallet, and right there falls out a $20 bill. I don’t know whether this was God’s little gift to me or if it was a bit of a Freudian slip. But, I will do better next time. I promise I will.

So the smiling thing. YES! I have so been doing this. I have smiled my little heart out all over the Kansas City metro, and I plan to do it all over Nebraska starting tonight (which is actually Wednesday, 11/24/10) through the weekend. The greatest part about this is that I’ve also noticed so many other souls also smiling their little-big hearts out! The other day I was checking out in Hy-Vee Grocery Store in a total hurry, grabbing a quick (delicious) sandwich to run back to work when I got (“of course”) behind the lady who needed a manager to come by and give her a refund for the turkey that the cashier forgot to ring the coupon. I took a silent invisible breath, smiled, and I decided to just stay put in my line anyway. I did have the option of just moving over to the next lane, but I thought, oh c’mon, not that biggie of a deal. By staying, this gave me like 2.7 minutes to actually get back to work and eat my sandwich before I had to see my next client, but I chose to just be patient and smile and experience the moment. This gave me ample opportunity to check out my surroundings and assess my company of Hy-Vee-ers. EVERYBODY was smiling. I totally swear I had been taken back in time to Hollywood and was a character in It’s a Wonderful Life……. “Well whaddya know about that!” Ha! It was a really cool little diddy of a moment, and I was honored to be behind Turkey Lady, who eventually got $11 off her turkey with the manager’s code, took her time paying with a check, needed help with her groceries to the car, and obviously had a lot of cooking to do to celebrate with her people. And, I have also smiled at / with approximately 10 (bordering on 11.5) other people that I did not feel like initially smiling at / with, and I am certain they did not initially feel compelled to smile at / with me.

My list continues onward, and I am giving it good solid college level thought. More to come there, I very much promise. I have to admit, some of it is so hard..... very very hard. Like hard to the point I get grouchy and glad I'm not being filmed on a reality show. But anyway, smiling.......

Oh, and I did some initial research on jumping out of that airplane. I can have the whole experience documented with pictures and video, and it’s gonna be a hoot!

That’s all I got for today. Rock on hot COFFEEs.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chris Says. (Patresa)

Guitar practice time. = 4 hours with a BUT. It is 7:40 p.m. Tuesday night. Although at this exact moment, I have only practiced 4 hours, I will practice at least another 30 minutes tonight before I go to bed. So… by the time you read this, I will have fallen only 30 minutes shy of my 5 hour goal. I'm good with that. 

Of the 10 days since my last post, I have spent 5 on the road. In fact, I just got home from two days out. I actually considered taking my guitar with me, but... Tooling around Iowa in a state-marked vehicle with my guitar sticking up in the backseat? No… the governor would get calls. (The governor already gets calls when state-marked vehicles are parked at malls.)

I've been doing my soul-sucking drills. (I think my soul is still okay. I've been keeping track.) I do feel a little difference even just after 2 weeks. They still frustrate me. It takes 20 minutes to get through all the variations. And when I bobble the notes, I want to throw objects at other objects. I have very low tolerance for frustration. Very low. But Chris says (all my posts will now be re-titled "Chris Says -1," "Chris Says-2," "Chris Says-3"…) that after another couple of weeks of this round of drills, he'll show me a new set. Chris Says… "You have to walk before you run, Grasshopper." Whatever. Eye roll.

Narrative evidence of progress: I just deleted the rabbit ears I put around the word progress. I'm not going to take a poop on it. It really was progress, although I got pretty frustrated this week. Here is why:

a. I broke a string for the very first time. I've been playing the guitar for the past 8 years. But I played it sheepishly and quietly and with little commitment. I think it took me 8 years to bust my first string because I played too hesitantly. I'm playing with a little more oomph now. So… I decided the busted string was progress, and I felt pretty badass about it.

b. But then I had to restring my guitar. Chris taught me a long time ago. (Chris Says) I'd done it a few times, but the last few years, I've always managed to get Chris to do it for me. I mean, people PAY him to set up their guitars; why would I not have him do mine? Now that I've decided to stop being a giant pansy, I figure I should do this myself. So I did. It was frustrating. Slow. Clumsy. It took me an hour and a half. I swore a lot, and I drew blood when I pinched my hand with the wire cutters. Then… I started to tune and realized I had put on the wrong strings. THE WRONG STRINGS, for crying out loud! I'd grabbed a set of "mistake" strings--leftovers from an accidental purchase (I accidentally bought 12-string guitar strings a while back.). I admit: I cried. I cry when I'm tired and frustrated. Terribly embarrassing. Chris stifled his laughter and then offered to restring it. But… I refused on account of my pride.

I took a break. I went out and got a haircut and confessed to Rona, Hair Goddess, that I really hoped by the time I got home, Chris would have restrung it for me out of pity. He did not. (Damn you, Chris, for not being an enabler!) So, I restrung my guitar AGAIN and with the correct strings. It's all better. Progress.

Scheduled free time: You know what? Screw this. I mean, really. What was I thinking? It's f-ing free time, P. FREE.

New Song Development: One morning I found a really cool vocal line to go with some scratchy lyrics of one of my new songs. I played it through a few times and was really excited about it. Then I had to go to work. 8.5 hours later I returned home and could not for the life of me recall the rhythm or vocal line. This burned my buns. (Damn you, State of Iowa!)

Cover Song Development: My goal was to pick one and get started. I had 4 in mind:

1. The Passenger by Iggy Pop, 
2. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) -- Nancy Sinatra's (I don't remember who did it originally.),
3. No One is to Blame by Howard Jones, and
4. …. I dont remember the 4th, but it may have been from the Indigo Girls (predictably).

I picked No One is to Blame. I think this is such a cool song. It's piano-driven, but I can hear a really cool acoustic guitar version in my head. The problem, as I'm finding it, is that I can't get what I hear in my head to come out through my fingers. Chris could do it in 5 minutes (Chris Says), but I should be able to do this myself, so I'm not asking him for help. I worked on it one night and wanted to punch somebody in the face. If I were at the piano, I could do it fairly easily. The piano makes sense to me; it's linear; I know what I'm playing; I can hear something in my head, and I know where to find it in the keys. The guitar doesn't make sense to me. It's too layered, and the intervals seem inconsistent. I don't understand what I'm doing. I don't know where the sounds are. It makes me really mad, and then I swear, beat on my strings, and say horribly degrading things to myself. Really, the things I say to myself… I would never in a million years say them to another living soul. (We really must be kinder to the people we see in our mirrors. They are such good, well-meaning people.)

Goals for the next 10 days:

1. Log another 5 hours of practice time.

2. Scratch out a better vocal line for an original.

3. Figure out at least the verse for No One is to Blame.

4. Create new swear words to replace the ones I've been overusing this week.

Now, I will go practice. While I'm doing that, here's Howard Jones. You should consider his haircut.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Progress Schmogress (Wendy)

I'm not gonna lie. I almost forgot that it was my turn to post. In fact, I have had family in town, from Iowa, for the past 5 days and have nary spent any time visiting our beloved world wide web, let alone reading the clever posts by my COFFEE sisters (sorry about that, guys). And so, my Call Bill project has been put on hold.

It seems like this doubt-infused phase is a common thing, though... Jumping into a project with the fervor of a thousand hungry elephants only for the slithery snake of fear to creep back in... Then the feet start dragging, the palms start sweating, the brain starts going counter-clockwise - with thoughts like "That was kind of a stupid idea"..."Why bother?"..."Put down the crackpipe and be reasonable"... and before you know it, you've got a full-on case of the Negative Ninnies invading the pretty space you so idealistically created.

I'm definitely not speaking for all of the COFFEE chicks, particularly because you all seem to be blowing me out of the water in terms of tangible strides, but I do notice that everyone seems to struggle with this phenomenon at least to an extent.

I have to admit that lately, I've been thinking about some of the Bills on my list and having doubts like "...he really doesn't give a crud about you anyway... You're just being overly sentimental...You're setting yourself up". Fortunately, ever since I read The Artist's Way, I do recognize these voices as the imposter, and a natural part of the process.

But regardless, that's where I'm at. Minor setback as of late. But, I will resume activity. I have dipped a foot into the water and I'm fixin' to wade to my knees with the help of the super rad COFFEE chicks to inspire me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

COFFEE Project Post Three: Small Steps (Tawni)

For my third COFFEE Project post, I am going to tell you all about the massive amounts of progress I’ve made in pursuing my goal of expressing myself creatively more often.

You will be amazed to find out that I’ve written not one, but two entire books in the last week, and recorded that acoustic solo album I’ve always wanted to make.

Bored from all of the accomplishments, I decided to take up painting, and discovered that despite my previous works of art that look like a mentally-challenged, drunken elephant created them, it turns out that as I have aged, I have become a surprisingly exceptional, almost magically talented artist.

Yes, friends, not only was I the fiery ball of motivation headed straight for the planet of my laziness that I promised you I’d be, I was a Big Bang of determination that created a brand new galaxy of productivity. And baby, is there ever some life on this planet.

So… are you buying any of this? Yeah. I didn’t think you were.


Can’t blame a girl for trying, right?

“As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The truth is that my life got in the way a little this week, and I got in my own way a little too.

I had a few moments of freezing up in fear that psyched me out. Self-hugs and self-ass kicks were delivered to the brain gears, and that seemed to get the mechanics moving again. (Oh, good. We’ve moved from my last post’s predator/prey analogies into some sort of “my brain as a machine” theme. This should be great.)

But I did stick to my new writing schedule.

Okay, almost.

(Get out of my way, Me!)

In my last post, I established that I would write on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

When Tuesday rolled around, I was so amped up to tackle this mental roadblock that I sat down ready for battle, and started writing an hour early, at 10 a.m.

“HA! Take that, chicken-sloth! I will defeat you! Go lay your eggs of sluggishness somewhere else, because This Girl feels like EATING an OMELETTE today,” I shouted triumphantly, aggressively pointing both thumbs at myself. (And then I cocked my head sideways like a perplexed dog, wondering exactly what I meant by that, shrugged, and resumed typing.)

I worked on my little book idea for hours, and only stopped once when my husband called from work. At that point I realized it was almost 1 p.m. and I hadn’t yet eaten anything that day, so I took a break to eat, and then got back on the computer to wrap up what I’d been writing.

I am not planning to hold myself to any sort of word count, because my goal is mainly to get the stream of creativity flowing again, but I checked out of curiosity, and had taken the novel idea from 8000-ish to 11,000-ish words. That’s productive, right?

“Every artist was first an amateur.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another thing I have discovered about working on the novel is that if I write it broken up into pieces, into chapters, it seems much less insurmountable.

I’m trying to view them as little linear blogs on intersecting subjects, rather than as A BOOK.

I have written eleventy-gazillion blogs. Blogs don’t scare me. Blog is a ridiculous little word… who could be scared to write something called a blog? “Blog” sounds like something you might cough out of your lungs in the throes of a respiratory infection.

But writing A BOOK sounds scary, like something I could never do. “I could never write A BOOK,” shivers my insecure inner naysayer.

Yet I have discovered that I can write chapters, and it’s much less intimidating. So I’m approaching it that way. I’m tricking my insecure inner naysayer. And it’s working. This just goes to show how stupid that insecure inner naysayer was in the first place.

Honestly, that insecure inner naysayer just needs to go away, because she’s pointless, and I’m really getting too old for her shit.

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So Tuesday, I was good. I did what I said I would, and worked toward my goal of more writing time and creativity.

But Tuesday night, I woke up at 2 a.m. Just wide awake, like, “Oh! It must be morning because I feel so refreshed and awake!” awake. No! And I could not get back to sleep until 5, which would be fine, except that the husband and son wake up before 6, so that was the end of my too-short game of sleep catch-up.

I dragged ass all Wednesday and ended up going to bed really early that night because I was so tired. And hey, guess what happens when I do that? I wake up at 2 a.m. again. Wide awake. Duh. Only this time I was lying in bed, thinking, “No, Tawni! Go to sleep! You have to write today! You’re going to be too exhausted to write, damn it,” because you know that stress and pressure always help us go back to sleep. In fact, I think most sleep experts recommend staring at the ceiling in the dark for hours, broken out in a cold, terrified sweat as we ponder our unmet accomplishments, failed goals and impending mortality, don’t they?

Before my tales from an insomniac ironically bore you to sleep, let me long-story-short this ramble by saying that nope, I didn’t write on Thursday. I took a nap. Because I was blearily, eye-burningly exhausted, and the very last thing I felt like doing was writing.

But I guilt-tripped myself into writing on Friday for two hours to make up for it.

I also wrote a blog for my personal website this week.

I even grabbed my guitar a few times, to play and sing songs for an hour or so each time. I think the decision to be more creative and write more inspired me in other ways.

I decided that playing guitar and singing counts as much as writing, because my main goal is to make more time for creativity. I even started writing a new song, which I haven’t done in a long, long time. That was very exciting for me.

Simply writing down that I want to make more time for creative endeavors has helped me remember to focus my energy in that direction. It was really beneficial just to put it out there.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

So I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m moving in a forward direction again. I can see my path. There it is! Yeah! I’m taking steps back onto the creative road I used to travel. This makes my heart so happy.

Yes, I could be moving faster, but I’m still moving, and that’s the important part. I’m going to give my drill sergeant ego some time off, and just be okay with forward movement right now. I don’t need to be the first car at the finish line; I just need to be a part of the race. (Annnnnd… there it is. Today’s weird mechanical/machine theme. I knew I wouldn’t disappoint.)

I am leaving town to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and will be away from my computer and life for a week, so I don’t anticipate much progress before the next post. But when I return, I am going to get right back to my Tuesday/Thursday writing schedule, and work toward adding another weekday to it in December. I promise you. I promise me.

I’m also researching digital 16-track recording devices, so I can hopefully get back into writing and recording songs again.

The most important next goal is to work up to four days of writing a week by the end of December. And I think in January I will start my perfectionist-horrifying no-edit blog, Literary Lampshade. (Thank you for naming it, Patresa.)

That seems like a good way to start off the New Year: scaring the feathers off of my inner chicken. This cage could definitely use some rattling. Oh wait. I decided on a mechanical theme for this post’s cheesy metaphors, didn’t I? I meant to say: This engine could really use some tuning. Vroom! Vroom! (No? Too much? Sorry. I’ll workshop it and get back to you.)

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Bock-bock!” ~Last Words of Tawni’s Inner Chicken

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Random Thoughts by Becky

So, I’ve been a big blob of inaction. BIG BLOB. I’ve made very little progress on nanowrimo. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything for it that I don’t even remember if it was before or after my last post. I’m still perseverating about the things that I wish I would do, but that I can’t find the motivation for. We’ve already established that I wish I would write more. Here’s a short list of some other things about me that annoy me.
  1. I hit the snooze on my alarm for. . . oh . . . I don’t know . . . . about an hour! Every morning! Pathetic. Get up and get going!
  2. I haven’t posted one comment on the fabulous writings of the COFFEE chicks. I read them, I love them, I admire them. I’m impressed and awed and moved by them. But for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve got nothing to say.
  3. I’m incredibly unorganized. In fact, I was voted Least Organized, Boone High School, Class of 1990.This has worked well for me for 37 of my 38 years. But it seems to have either taken a turn for the worse or it has suddenly become problematic. I think my mind is more fragmented, scattered lately, thus it can no longer keep up with my organizational “system” or lack thereof.
  4. I seem to spend a lot of time waiting for something to happen. Not sure what. If I know what I want to happen, I’m usually pretty good at making it happen, but I currently am just not all that excited about anything. So I wait . . . .
On the flip side, there are some things I do that make me feel good.
  1. I swam 2.4 miles this morning. I hooked up with this group of swimmers at the Y who are training for 100 100’s on 100 seconds on New Year’s Eve Day. In other words, 100 yards every minute and 40 seconds, 100 times. I started swimming with them last week. Today we did 48 and will add more each Sunday. My lane alternated 75’s and 100’s for 4200 yards or 2.4 miles. Whew. Great workout. I may even go for the 100 100’s on Dec 31.
  2. I have posted 3 coffee blogs! I was really, really tempted to blow blogging off today, but I didn’t, and for that I’m proud. The fact that I’m doing this at all is kinda scary. I mean, anybody can read what I’m writing. I usually keep these random thoughts pretty close to the vest.
I’m sensing the common thread or motivator on list #2 is a sense of community. Since my self-motivation seems to be on sabbatical, I need to rely on others for a little mojo. I would never swim that far or long by myself, but time goes pretty fast with a group of swimmers (even when your arms suddenly weight 100 pounds each). And you see how well nanowrimo is going left to my own devices. But it’s the COFFEE community that got me writing this blog today, even though I could have easily taken a nap or watched Glee (while commiserating about why I have no musical talent).

So I’m going to cut myself a break on nanowrimo and concentrate on interacting with my community and finding new ways to overcome my current “life-is-a-crapshoot-philosophy .” I will post comments to the COFFEE chicks. I will engage and fully participate. And I will also work on finding a new focus for my COFFEE project. Because I know this whining about my mid-life crisis (?) is going to get really old, really fast.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Better Late Than Never (Holly)

My apologies, ladies, for my delay in participating.  When describing my life as it is right now to a dear friend and mentor, he says that clearly I am in the "cauldron" right now.  My life as I knew it just a mere year ago is barely visible.  So, then, what to do with that? Dive in deeper into the cauldron.  That's what. Find out what is hiding deep deep within.  Is there somebody creative down there? Or am I just a shadow artist? An appreciator of art.  

I chose to do the Artist's Way project for this group.  Then, I got overwhelmed and quit.  Well, kind-of quit. I kept doing my morning pages, most of the time.  But I hadn't figured out how to do the rest of the projects and assignments.  As I mentioned, part of the challenge is rearranging my life.  How will it look? What will stay the same? What needs to change? Am I really creative or is it a bunch of bullshit?  Is this the right project, cuz why would I be "afraid" of the Artist's Way? Certainly, it's a challenge, but, afraid?  Well, I have come to the conclusion that yes, I am afraid of the Artist's Way and I am afraid of posting about my journey through the Artist's Way.  

Week 1 of the Artist's Way has the reader identify "your enemy within: core negative beliefs".  Here are mine:

I can't be a successful, prolific, creative artist because: 
1. I'm too old, 
2. I'm not smart enough, 
3. my productions will be TOO cheesy, 
4. I don't have enough time or energy to FOCUS!, 
5. artist's are born, not made.

I chose eight affirmations to counter these curmudgeons! They are:
1. My creativity heals myself and others;
2. I am allowed to nurture my artist;
3. Through the use of a few simple tools, my creativity will flourish;
4. My creativity leads me to forgiveness and self-forgiveness;
5. As I listen to the creator within, I am led.
6. My creativity always leads me to truth and love;
7. I am willing to learn to let myself create;
8. I am willing to experience my creative energy.

In addition, I have latched on to a poem by Hafiz called "To Build a Swing".  It reminds me of this group and gives me strength.  It is here:

You carry
All the ingredients
to turn your life into a nightmare-
don't mix them!!

You have all the genius
To build a swing in your backyard
For god.

That sounds 
Like a hell of a lot more fun.
Let's start laughing, drawing blueprints,
Gathering our talented friends.

I will help you
with my divine lyre and drum.

will sing a thousand words
You can take into your hands,
Like golden saws,
Silver hammers.

Polished teak wood,
Strong silk rope.

You can carry all the ingredients,
To turn your existence into joy.

Mix them, mix them!!!

So, in the end....I'm starting the Artist's Way over.  My brother is doing it with me this time and we will do it in the 12 weeks that it suggests.  (I was thinking of doing it in 24) He has been an amazing support so far and I can't wait to go on this journey with him and the ladies of COFFEE!!