Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potatoes & Busting through Fear, Italian-Style

My aunt Peggy used to say, “Are you a ghost?” every time one of us stood in front of the big wooden television at my Pop Pop’s house. And then she’d say, “because I can’t see through you.”

And now my nine-year-old says it to me.

It’s got me thinking about all the things we pass down, like Aunt Peggy’s sweet potato recipe.*

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For my readers who want the bottom line(s), I include great books throughout this post as well as the following:

  1. Steps to get clear on your life purpose – why are you here?
  2. Identifying the two kinds of fear  – the one that is imagined and the one that lets you know you’re on to something big…maybe even connected to your life purpose.
  3. Major plans for the Sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship.
  4. The most inspiring cookbook called The Tiny Mess which is a great last minute gift for someone who loves photography, food and adventure. There’s only 4 days left to support the Kickstarter campaign.
  5. The Miracle Angle: How a tiny miracle named Jaxon turns three and the Alabama Prayer Warriors tipped the scales; how to turn your own tough experiences into skill sets.

I. LIFE PURPOSE

Whether you have children or not, do you think about what you want to pass on to others? Prized family recipes? Modeling kindness? How about living your best life possible? How about demonstrating how to dream and DO?

Recently, one of the people I love most in the world spent his birthday thanking me for all that I’ve been for him. He gave me a gift: it was a belief that in choosing my happiness, I was showing him how to do the same. This is in sharp contrast to the pangs of guilt I felt in the past over creating this happy life. And also, with the way I’ve worked hard at it (in the face of some internal and external demons), I embodied possibility. That’s helping him hold on to some of his dreams.

So in the video below, I’m showing up. I’m sharing a dream I have…related to staying in beautiful Italy! There’s a backstory to how I got there in my post on the book, The Four Desires. Author Rod Stryker provides an overview of the book here and which includes a short meditation at the end.

I’m reading Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead by Tara Mohr which is a game-changer for me. And I also started Steven Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life which breaks down the Bhagavad Gita (a 2,000 year old spiritual text) while illuminating the stories of regular people and famous ones like Harriet Tubman, Mohandas Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau and Jane Goodall.  These authors offer different views of the same story: what do you want to do with this life? It doesn’t have to involve things that are so big that you have to risk it all. All three books help illuminate how to suss out the small and big steps to stay connected to what truly lights you up.

Truth-telling moment: It has taken me a month to share this video because I’ve been too scared of my own dream. I’ve hesitated and hemmed and hawed and discussed with friends. I’ve experienced self-doubt. I’ve quite simply been afraid. But I learned in Playing Big that there are two biblical Hebrew words for fear according to Rabbi Alan Lew: Pachad and Yirah. (I love sharing this on the first night of Hanukkah!)

II. TWO KINDS OF FEAR

Here’s an excerpt from an article by Mohr explaining the difference between the two types of fear titled, “What You Need to Know About Fear” explaining the difference:

Pachad is “projected or imagined fear,” the “fear whose objects are imagined.” In contemporary terms, that is what we might think of as overreactive, irrational, lizard-brain fear: the fear of horrible rejection that will destroy us or the fear that we will simply combust if we step out of our comfort zones.

There is a second Hebrew word for fear, yirah. Rabbi Lew describes yirah as “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting.” It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.

If you’ve felt a calling in your heart, or uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt a mysterious sense of inner inspiration around a project or idea, you recognize this description.

We often conflate or confuse the two types of fear and simply call what we are experiencing “fear.” But we can discern them more closely, and in doing so, more effectively manage fear so it doesn’t get in our way.

III. THE SEQUEL

How I’m Geeking Out over the Sequel to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón

So guess what!?! I’m practicing my Italian with the Duo Lingo app for free. I’ve told everyone I know that we’re planning a trip to Italy. As a result, I’ve studied the fascinating Slow Food movement which began in Rome. You can read about how the movement started and “How Grandma’s Pasta Changed the World” here. Yesterday while buying some gorgeous bread (the sliced one) and these delicious oranges from our local Farm Cart Organics, Jason told me all about Italy’s amazing organic farming techniques. And I started researching agroturismo in Italy (tourism on farms where you learn, work and eat fresh food.) And this morning at 6:10am, I finally figured out why Selma is going to Italy. It’s connected to what I’ve been uncovering about Slow Food Presidium foods like the pearl white corn at Ca’ de Memi.

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IV. THE TINY MESS

Oh and from the Farm Cart’s Instagram Account, I also found out about this amazing cookbook called The Tiny Mess. I can’t wait to get mine! These local adventurers have traveled up and down the west coast of the U.S. cooking and visiting with people living in small spaces like campers with tiny kitchens making delicious fresh and gorgeous food. And the photography is breathtaking! There’s only four days left to support their Kickstarter account and get yours. Check out their Intsagram pics and this video — they will strum at your hungry heartstrings!

Please #TellTwo 

A big giant THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me through another year of sharing my novel with the world. As I mentioned in the video, if you feel so moved, please help spread the word about The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food & Friendship

Many of you have already done me the favor of telling two friends how you’ve enjoyed the book. Or maybe you’ll get a chance to read it over the holidays and share it on social media. Here’s a handy short link: http://bit.ly/BuySelma

And check out this cool graphic we used in the Chicago Latino Network’s newsletter:

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There are a bunch of 5-star reviews here. The Huffington Post article is here.If you want to share more about the book, here’s the link to my website and includes links to all the different ways folks can buy it. Also, 5% of net proceeds go to Teaching For Change. And if you’re looking for inspiration and with a nice dose of vulnerability, here’s the video interview I did with yogini Carrie Hensley last year.

My novel is also on page 11 of Lindsay Pera’s Mystic Gift Guide in case you’re looking for some cool gifts for some of the magical folks in your life. You can also email me at rebeccainspiresnow@gmail.com if you would like to order signed copies for $12 each plus shipping.

V. THE MIRACLE ANGLE

Well, I’ve taken you through life purpose, fear, food, magic and my own dreams of taking Selma and my family to Italy. What’s left on Christmas Eve and the first night of the Festival of Lights? I’d say: A Miracle! The Miracle Angle links back to The Four Desires.

In the article titled, “Let Go and Find Your Miracle Angle,” Stryker shares an overview of this concept which is highlighted in the book:

History is full of remarkable individuals who — although they endured extremely hurtful and potentially debilitating things like the loss of loved ones, war, prejudice, abuse, disease and severe poverty — did not allow circumstance to prevent them from living inspiring and even extraordinary lives. The lives of Anne Frank, Victor Frankel, and Nelson Mandela, for example, remind us that we are each capable of creating productive and even glorious lives despite having to live through dire events.

Everyone who has ever overcome hardship or adversity has done so in large part because he or she has chosen, consciously or unconsciously, to “let go” of their past hardship and pain by embracing, what I call, a Miracle Angle — a way of seeing their circumstances that allowed them to transform their circumstances into a spark for positive change.

How is this possible? How, for example, was Nelson Mandela able to transcend apartheid and three decades of imprisonment when some of us struggle to forgive someone who cut us off in traffic?

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I have shared personal challenges whether from childhood, or facing postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome or my most recent (as Brené Brown calls it) breakdown/breakthrough. What you know is that I believe that with faith (in yourself, in God, in any approach that fits you) + action, you can live an amazing life. What you may not know, is that when one of my loved ones had three consecutive operations, we had people all over praying for us. One group of prayer warriors based in Alabama have always had my back. And I, in turn, have always offered up my prayers for those in need–most of whom I do not know. Well, let me introduce you to Jaxon, who in January will be 3 years old. It was touch and go when Jaxon was born. I do know his grandmother. Just imagine a premature baby with all of the requisite tubes and the fear of the unknown. I’m sharing his picture as a big ray of hope to serve as a visual anchor. When you are swimming in doubt, depression, despair or a simple sadness, think of little Jaxon. We all had faith that he could make it.  And I’d dare say his parents and grandparents learned a lot about how to turn those terrible moments into gifts, that’s the Miracle Angle.

Because just like my obstacles have helped me to anticipate and scenario plan–like figuring out the logistics of how to move my family to California, how to project plan at my job and how to chunk out this enormously long blog post, your struggles can be the source of your greatest gifts including the compassion and joy of living in this very moment.

Thank you, my dear amazing open-hearted readers for reading and listening and believing in me!*

I believe in you.

Do you?

With peace, big-hearted love and Aunt Peggy’s sweet potatoes**,

Rebecca

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*This post is dedicated to my Selma readers and to Carrie Hensley and the members of my Sacred Sangha for believing in me every single day.

**Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potatoes Recipe: Boil, then peel sweet potatoes. Use an electric mixer and add a stick of butter, orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon, then bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is browned. The top of course is covered in globs of butter and brown sugar.

 

 

Wine, Women and Divine Noticing

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This red dress fits like a glove. And these shoes are so comfortable. I feel fantastic. I am in awe. It’s like I’m floating. Wait, guess what, there’s no red dress, no shoes–but there may be flying.

As I was just driving to the grocery store, I was figuring out how to understand my own spiritual transformation so that I could sit down and write to you about it.

I don’t know how to explain how good I feel, how in awe I am of what it’s been to let go and trust. I came up with the red dress analogy. You know when you are confident, in your zone, dressed to the nines, healthy and on your game? Or say you are about to step on the field or the court and everything flows. You are in perfect symmetry with your teammates. I feel that way in my spirit now.

For the purposes of this post, I may use the word God. You can substitute that with Spirit, Universe, Buddha, Yemaya, Penelope or Fred, whatever works for you.

I’ve been in a state of seeking that’s been confusing lately. I was raised [not strict] Catholic, studied Buddhism, was educated by Quakers, schooled by Jews and befriended by Muslims and Christians. It’s been stimulating, exciting and distracting.

Recently, I went to my first ever Georgetown University alumni event (was shocked to realize I’m nearing my 25th reunion) called “Wine and Women, Reflections on Life and Faith.” I took the bus far north on a very dark and freezing Thursday night to listen to Jesuit Father Brian Paulson talk about faith. Father Paulson was forthcoming about his own fallibility as a human being. This made for a collective sigh of relief in the room. You could feel the overachievers (myself included) relax. His talk really hinged on the art of noticing. The main goal is to be in a divine state of noticing little things all of the time. That, in many ways, is prayer.

Here are a few highlights:

  1. Take a question to the pool, the garden, the car, or in my case, the kitchen. We can be in conversation with God anywhere. Father Paulson, an avid swimmer, takes a question to the pool and converses with God lap after lap. I often feel that magic while cooking. Lots of folks do it while driving. He even urged people to just sit in the silence without music during a drive. Sometimes, though, music can lift you to a place of higher spirit whether it’s Israel and the New Breed, Pink, Grandmaster Flash or in my case on the bus ride home that evening, George Winston. I listened to his December album and remembered being eighteen years old at the Kennedy Center and sneaking back stage after the concert. Mr. Winston played for about twelve of us until almost 1:00am. The music brought me back to 1987. When a young woman was ready to invent a spy story to sneak back and be a little closer to a man whose music had brought her so much peace and solace. Revisiting that moment, while flying down Lake Shore on the the #147, brought me closer to God.
  1. Work the Triangle. There are three places where we meet God: in written form (as a Catholic, I’m less familiar with the Bible than many other religions, he suggested spending time with the Psalms); in prayer (swimming, gardening, driving, etc.); and communal prayer. This is Church. Now as I indicated in an earlier blog post titled, Faith, Boredom and Desire, I’m not always the best at going to church. Last weekend, I thought of Father Brian and went by myself, late and hit it just in time for the homily when the priest basically gives a summary of what’s been read and links it to life, global and historical events. We happen to have a rockin’ cool and self-aware priest named Father Jerry Boland. He was connecting Harriet Tubman’s journey with the creation of the Underground Railroad and her signature lantern, to finding light on your journey. Luckily, I was sitting towards the back and for the rest of the mass where on and off, I felt overwrought with joy. I was crying quietly into my handkerchief (yes, I carry one) and was wondering why it smelled like soft pretzels. I realized there were so many salty tears pouring out of me. I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was confused. Was I crying because I was so happy or because I was lifting up premature baby Jaxon in prayer? Because I was remembering Jaxon’s grandmother and her prayer warriors who had prayed for my son through three operations when he was a toddler? Those women, whom I don’t know, held me up in their hands, hearts and souls. They prayed for guidance for the medical professionals helping my son. They prayed for my sanity. Or was it because I was carrying the joy of the sister of my heart who had lost so many loved ones that she is finding it hard to carry her own joy right now? I was keeping the joy for her, carrying it until she could open her eyes again and see the sun. Or was it the giant light burning inside of me that I felt worthy to carry every single day? A fellow parishioner came to see me while I was crying and I told her, “I’m okay, I’m just releasing.” And she understood.  So work that triangle baby, in solitude, with written inspiration and in communion with others, in whatever way works for you.
  1. Deal with your appetites. Catholics don’t have a monopoly on guilt, but we are so good at it. Father Brian talked about his love of golf. And how if he played golf as much as he wanted to, he would not do funerals and weddings and that would make him a bad priest. It seems obvious that I cannot stay home and paint, write and create all day…for now. I have to go to work, help at home, raise my child, nurture my marriage. I can however, still indulge in those appetites and being the boisterous, spontaneous and energetic person that I am…get this, I need to indulge in moderation. Extreme fun and extreme art can still be had. And I can still do the laundry, the dishes and pay the bills. The latter may not whet my appetites but they keep systems in place so that I can indulge in the appetites that I so enjoy.

Father Brian and the women with whom I spoke after the event, made me feel like I belonged to another tribe. Another circle to connect to my evolving venn diagram of relationships and support. I am so grateful to my alma mater for inviting me. And to spirit for plucking something in me to attend. Before I end this post, I want to thank you for reading, listening and responding. In the poem in the previous post, I wrote “your mind knows not\let your soul tell it so.” This poem came to me at the edge of sleep in the morning because I’ve been wrestling with understanding intellectually how I can feel so at peace. You, dear readers, have been a part of my spiritual transformation just by reading. It helps me to show up and unravel and figure things out. And also, to stop figuring things out in the mind, and let my soul tell me what’s what. Thank you!

There’s more to share my friends, but for now, I’m leaving you with those three ponderings.  And wishing that you embrace the divine in yourself, find that place of quiet conversation, a community that embraces you and some words to wrap your soul in the light of that perfect moment. From my lit-up heart to yours, I send you love and moments of divine noticing.

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With gratitude to artist Meriah Jacobs-Frost for the inspiring photo above where she wrote “No matter what you perceive as ‘god’, even if it’s ‘just’ that divine within you, I believe this so SO much. Let your light shine!”

A Girl Undone by Firelight

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A girl undone by firelight

walks to the edge of the floor

Reading verse of a faith so pious

prayers sweat blood from her pores

cerebellum searching

answers

explanations

a man called Ignatius

Why does this red dress feel so good?

This hat measure 22 3/4?

When did I learn flamenco?

Flying was a dream along the shoreline

racing seagulls in miniature

Baby Jaxon hears me sing this little light of mine

Sister sees healing in the alphabet

sent through Dixie cups

a string

rhythm flows

from the edge of sleep

your mind knows not

let your soul tell it so

Faith, Boredom and Desire

El YunqueI’m having an ecstatic moment right now. It’s been swirling since 4:00am or maybe since I went to sleep. Really it started yesterday with this conversation.  (I am the mom.)

Son: I’m so excited that tomorrow is Christmas Eve!

Mom: I know! Me too! Remember, tomorrow we go to church in the evening.

Son: I don’t want to go to church.  Church is boring.

Mom: It is. I know. I like the people and the music and Father Jerry. I also like when the boring parts let me think about the things I want to think about.

Two things happened here. I am very conscious of telling the truth as I partner in raising this six-year-old human being.  (You can call me out on that when I talk about a couple of our magical rituals that bend traditional definitions of truth—the Tooth Fairy, who came to our house last night, for example.) So when my son has feelings or thoughts, I acknowledge them. It would be easy to deny his feelings and say, “It’s not boring. There are interesting things to learn if you just listen.” Or, “How can you be bored? I let you play with cars and coloring books at church.” I will leave my son’s spiritual development for another post since he has already taught me so much from his pure approach to faith.

The second thing that happened is that the conversation set off a path to a moment of clarity which is keeping me awake and which I am sharing with you right now. The truth is that I’ve spent my life on and off, bored at church. And I’ve had periods of not going at all.

When I go back to my faith community, for real, here’s what I find:

  1. Fleeting and sometimes binding instances of clarity
  2. An exalted spirit lifted by music
  3. A relaxation of my soul in the rituals I know
  4. A connection to a community of people lifting up the same prayers of hope that I hold in my heart, but can’t always name
  5. Moments of joy, grief, sorrow, love, laughter, a-ha knowledge

I am writing this to share my faith and boredom and desire. My desire is to create light in the world. Your path to light may be different than mine. I have faith that your path is right for you. I encourage you to find it. Seek it out. And give some of the traditions that you do know, some of the religions that you do know, a chance again.

Why?

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddist monk told me (when I read his book), that I can embrace Buddhism and not chuck (my words) my own religious traditions. I had never thought about it that way. I have called myself a cafeteria Catholic because I pick and choose what works for me. I openly disagree with certain tenets of the Church. I spent six excellent years at a Quaker school going to weekly Meeting for Worship and sitting in silence until spirit urged me to speak. What if I took the good of my experience with religions for me and for my family and shared that? What if I took my faith to a new level? I didn’t know how to do that. So unconsciously, here’s what I did:

The Search for Clues 

I began studying. Not just books, but through conversations with people of different religious traditions and no religious traditions. And I chose to just pay attention to life and my inner voice. Is that God? My desire? Magical powers? Intuition? Do I have to name it? [Note: I called the examples below, “case studies” just for formatting purposes. I was not actually studying these folks, more loving them and looking to understand their way in the world.]  I have lots of friends who “do” lots of things.

Case Study #1: Buddhist Mama When I met her, she did not celebrate Christmas. I was told it was because she grew up in the Bible belt of the South and was turned off by her experience. She has since deeply explored (joined?) a Buddhist community. She has also become a mother and sent me photos of her children standing inside giant Christmas stockings.

Case Study #2: The I Love Almost Everything Jewish Mom She gets most of her Jewish culture from her mother who converted to Judaism in order to marry her father. She also celebrates nature, supports a belief in fairies, teaches her children about native American spirits and Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and has had African naming ceremonies for her children in lieu of traditional baptisms.

Case #3: The Athletic Activist She isn’t down with the whole Catholic thing. But she volunteers like a daemon at a community center. And I venture to say that there are only eight weeks (or less) of the year when she is not playing a sport with some of the coolest women out there. So she’s intensely part of a community. So maybe she’d be called SBNR. What’s that you say? You don’t know that acronym? I didn’t either until I read it in my book, but it stands for “Spiritual But Not Religious.” I’d venture to call her softball and football regimens religious. I’d also say that the way she has helped this community center with fervor points to a faith that is not anchored by ceremony, but in her very simple beginnings.

Case Study #4: The Holy Smokes I Never Knew Grace Like This Catholic She has been an incredible spiritual anchor through conversations and texts teaching me about discernment, grace and faith through recent periods of grief, fear and exaltation in my life. She has become obsessed with Pope Francis. She also sent me the book, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, by James Martin, SJ.

The Written and Spoken Word

I have been reading the Jesuit book, with audio downloads of Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map and incessantly reading young adult novels from the 39 Clues series to Chronicles of the Red King. So this morning, I decided, when I couldn’t sleep, that I needed to pull the Jesuit book. If you don’t know about Jesuits, they are the more liberal order within the Catholic Church who have a commitment not to advance to high political levels, but instead, to work for social justice and the poor. When I read the book this morning, low and behold, there’s a chapter on Desire. I couldn’t even finish it because I had to write to you right now.

I have to tell you something: Believe. 

Believe in something. In someone. In the Universe. In whatever you want. Just know that it doesn’t have to be one thing, one path. You may want to join a community.

I am only on page 63 of 414 pages of the Jesuit book, but there are two key takeaways I’m swimming with right now.

An Adult Exploration of Faith

An adult life requires an adult faith. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t consider yourself equipped to face life with a third grader’s understanding of math. Yet people often expect the religious instruction they had in grammar school to sustain them in the adult world.”

Lots of us had a childhood experience of God as follows: “Please God. Tell Santa to bring me the red bike.” Or, “Please God, don’t let my mom die of cancer.” God was seen as a problem solver. And when God fails to deliver the bike or save a life, do we give up? Take our marbles and go home? What if grace, faith, spirit, God—whatever you want to call it—was not there solely as an anchor in times of crisis or morality?

Faith as Desire

Desire is a key part of Ignatian spirituality because desire is a key way that God’s voice is heard in our lives. And ultimately, our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for God.”

Case Study #5: Caregivers too Busy to Pick Passions I know several people in their 40s who say that they don’t have a passion outside of what they do for work or their families. They have been so lost in the busyness of life and commitments, that they say they don’t need their own passions or couldn’t find them if they tried. If this resonates with you, check out The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte. If you want a community, worldwide book clubs are being launched on January 7. Don’t worry, I’m sure they will continue in waves, if that timing doesn’t work for you. This book and the optional audio components are not religious, but they do help you get to an ecstatic point of desire. I know to some, that may sound scary. Just imagine, though, that if you became clear on your desired feelings for your regular every day life, how much easier it would be to make decisions about family, work, relationships, money and faith.

So light your candles, your incense. Do your trance dance. Genuflect. Move that Elf on the Shelf. Lift your glass.

There is light in this world. And it resides in you.

Shine on, my love, shine on.

Desire at the Atlantic

Dreams for Sale: Meet Fay and Katherine

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I  recently finished 21 days of Chopra Center meditation on Desire and Destiny. This is my 3rd round of 21-day meditations in 2013. The last day focused on this: Your destiny is joy. If your destiny is joy, then how do you live your life every day to get there? Well, maybe you are there. And if you are not, what intentions and actions can you take to get there?

Something clicked for me during this last time. I realized that I’m there every day. Even as I look (with unabashed fear and excitement that sometimes makes my shoulder blades ache) at the summer 2014 publication of my novel, I know that right now, writing to you is my joy. Over the last 21 days, I realized that I’m doing what I love. My day job focuses on volunteering and education, my life focuses on love, family, friends, health, writing and faith. And lots of fun and laughter.

I’m sharing the story of two dreamers, who took intention and action as well as two tools to help you follow your own passions and take your joy to the next level. I’m going to use them this year.  What if we used these tools together?

I met Fay Shaw and Katherine Carey through Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brainers in Business Video Summit.  (I won a scholarship to participate in it last year.)  I’ve never met them in person, but through facebook, I have watched these two women create businesses I love, admire and support.

FAY SHAW, Bitwise E-Textiles Fay makes soft things light up. She is an engineer and crafter who has found e-textiles to be the perfect intersection of her passions.  She likes to build things with Arduinos and on the crafting side, she likes to knit, spin, and sew. (Yes, I had to look up “Arduinos” too, that’s why it’s hyperlinked.)  She sells craft kits: you can make bracelets, or two of my favorites, a jellyfish or a firefly. I asked Fay three simple questions about her journey:

1. How does it feel to be the inventor of bitwise E-textiles running your own business? It feels really empowering to think of ideas and then bring them to life. I never imagined that I would run my own business and it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. What keeps me going is feeling a responsibility to educate people. There are so many ways to learn science and engineering; using art is one of them.

2. What brought you here? One year, I had taught friends how to make LED Christmas ornaments. They suggested I try to teach e-textiles workshops regularly. So I started to think of an interactive project and the light-sensitive firefly was born.  It has a light sensor in its nose and turns on in the dark.  All of the components are sewn together using conductive thread. I taught a few workshops and decided to make it into a kit and sell it on Etsy.

3. What keeps you pursuing your dream(s)? My greatest joy is when people work on their project and are delighted with how it works!  I also love when students have come back to me with their own projects based on what I taught them. A woman came to a show with an LED bracelet she had created for her running group who ran an all-night race. A 7-year old, who had taken my class, brought in a dragon she made with a recycled sweater, LED eyes, and fiber optic whiskers!  It feels really good to see people create something new from something I taught them.

Using art to learn science? Wow! My childhood experience with science could have taken a completely different direction! Fay regularly checks-in with a committed group of Washington-state entrepreneurs who met through the Right-Brainers in Business Group. What has struck me over the last several months of reading her check-ins (I’m an honorary member since I love Washington state), is that she shows up. She does the work that she loves.  She takes ACTION. I invite you to take action and during this holiday season, consider purchasing one of her kits for yourself, families or friends. What a productive and fun way to spend time! Consider subscribing to her newsletter for updates on kits and workshops. Here’s where you find her: bitwiseetextiles.com and bitwiseetextiles.etsy.com.

KATHERINE CAREY, Katherine Carey Millinery Katherine is another passionate soul. She is a milliner creating the most gorgeous hats, for women and now, she’s working on her men’s line too. A native of Maui, she came to New York City to pursue her dream. While caregiving for her father, she began making hats by his bedside. Like a lot of artists and entrepreneurs, she has been pursing her dreams for some time while working another job. During the last two weeks, she took the final leap and launched her business full-time. I’ve watched her journey to Paris and create a board game in which each hat sold gets her closer to her dreams (and to paying her bills). Most of all, I have witnessed her faith. Katherine regularly asks people to send her love and prayers because she openly declares her passions, her courage and her fears. I have a special affection for milliners because my grandmother had her own shop. Katherine has so much love for what she does (and for her gorgeous cat, Pinto), that “big” success for her is inevitable.  I’d venture to say, though, that she has created success and certainly joy, already. She is doing what she loves.  Personally I’m in love with the Hudson Cloche below. Here are the best ways to explore Katherine’s world and to purchase her breathtaking pieces of art for your head and the heads of your loved ones: www.katherinecarey.com and https://www.facebook.com/kcmillinery.

So, perhaps now that you’ve read about Fay and Katherine, you say, wow, amazing people! They are so talented! Next, I invite you to declare, “So am I!” You are full of passions and talents. If you know it and embrace them, hooray for you! If you are getting that slight twist in the tummy, shoulder blade ache, want to stop reading because their passions make you anxious, I have a solution! I have two solutions!  December is a great time for reflection. (If you are a regular reader, you know that I will find a reason to tell you that anytime is a great time for reflection.) Let’s focus on two easy ways you can get involved with your own life on a new level and elevate your game, your heart and your soul.  Many of these resources are free.

THE TOOLS

Life Reimagined Have you visited www.lifereimagined.org?  It’s a movement you can join for free that’s dedicated to helping people find and pursue their purpose in life. You can participate in a calling card exercise that helps you narrow down your passions. You can read about other people who have had their “life reimagined moments” and decided things like working for 30 years in a civil service job wasn’t their passion and now, they pursue marathon running or they open a pizzeria or sell the house and travel the world. Sometimes the transitions don’t have to be so dramatic. If you like what you see, consider reading the new book Life Reimagined, Discovering Your New Possibilities. The authors know their stuff. Richard Leider was named one of the top five most respected executive coaches in the world by Forbes and Alan Webber is founder of Fast Company magazine and former editor of the Harvard Business Review. I’ve met Richard and he is grounded in reality, simplicity and a passion for people finding their purpose. The book walks you through six practices: Reflect, Connect, Explore, Choose, Repack and Act. It’s quite logical.

The Desire Map just re-launched on December 3rd on a whole new level. It’s a completely inverted approach to goal-setting. It’s a show up in the world, take your time to choose your core desired feelings and let those feelings guide you through your life, your work, your love, every single day. It’s the birthing of a great heart idea by Danielle LaPorte. Here’s what others say about her:

“Danielle’s passion leaps off the page, and reading a few chapters of this book will ignite you into action.”–Gretchen Rubin The Happiness Project

“Danielle LaPorte is scary smart, yet so kind and practical that she kindles the fire in you without causing you to feel consumed by the flames…. Lean in and listen close. What she has to say is what our spirits need to hear.”–Martha Beck Steering By Starlight

I have used the Franklin Covey planning system for a decade. The Desire Map is my new guide. Danielle has launched a book, day planner, audio downloads, you name it. And if you are not ready to take the plunge, just sign up for her daily truthbombs, weekly newsletter or monthly digest. Here’s where you can learn more: bit.ly/desiremap.

Want to meet Danielle? Marie Forleo interviews her here calling it “Four Steps to Set Goals with Soul.”

I thank you, my friends, for reading about Fay, Katherine, Richard and Alan and Danielle. I thank you for celebrating passion, action and commitment. I invite you to step into your own light with a toe, then your foot, your leg, just hokey pokey yourself on over, dreaming is the gateway to joy. Live it every single day.

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How did you get here?

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Did you ever stop at a high point or low point in your life and ask, “How did I get here?” How did I end up living in this town? In this house? Wearing these clothes? In this job? Unemployed? Married to this person? Single?

I remember being 28 years old and standing in the middle of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda staring into the eyes of this mountain gorilla and wondering that very thing.  How did a girl from Philly end up looking at one of the last 620 mountain gorillas in the world? How did she even know how many there were? Wasn’t she just seven years old, running barefoot, playing wall ball with her cousins?

That moment in Uganda was a high point. And I have asked myself the same question at what I thought were the low points.  No matter where you feel you are in life, remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be at this moment.  Everything has brought you here.  Even as you read these words, you are supposed to be reading them at this moment.

So now I’m going to tell you a secret formula:

E + R = O

Event + Reaction = Outcome

Hubba-wha?

So, it’s not a secret formula. It’s Jack Canfield’s formula.  He’s the author of The Success Principles.  The idea is this: events happen.  You usually cannot control those events.  So what can you control? Your reaction. Your reaction to any event impacts the outcome. Try it in the small moments and in the “big decision” moments. Pay attention.

And here’s another gift: I learned about this formula from Kristi Daniels. She’s an expert in the field of human potential and she’s a light in this busy, hectic world. Take a moment to sign up for her Reinvention Teleseries at www.reinventionseries.com and you’ll get access to her amazing resources and a chance to hear from her live next week.  Even if your schedule doesn’t suit this opportunity, you can listen to the recordings. These gifts of learning rain down on me a lot. I receive as many as I can with open arms.  That’s my reaction. That’s how I help impact the outcome. That’s how I create. I invite you: be a creator!