Wednesday, July 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—212: Blank Page

"Creativity is always a leap of faith. You're faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage."—Julia Cameron

 My cursor is blinking and I'm staring at the blank page. I'm not sure what will come out. I'm on 212 inspirations. Sometimes the posts flow out of me with ease and other days I stare at the white space and wonder how the words will appear.

A blank page is my inspiration today because this empty space contains so much possibility.

Right now I'm enjoying the empty, white space.

Perhaps I need more empty spaces in my life and

more pauses,


moments of nothingness.

I don't know why we are afraid of empty space.

When speaking to others, there is this need to fill the empty space between two people.

Is it fear?

Tonight I'm okay with the blank page. There's so much that I could do with this page, but I'm going to let it be.

Do you ever feel the need to fill empty space with words or are you okay with the silence and blank pages of your life?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—211: Celebrate Life

"A real celebrity is a person who celebrates life."—Seong Yoon Lee

Today, as I was walking around Greenlake with my husband, the words above sprang from his lips and they struck me and made me say, "Yes!"

The sun was sparkling on the lake, there was a slight breeze, people were out and about on rollerblades, skateboards, bicycles, boats, and feet. It seemed like everyone was out celebrating the day. It made me think: Look at all these celebrities!

We spend so much time focusing on celebrities (the other ones) and what they are doing, who they married, what their children look like, who said this and who said that, etc. that we forget to be celebrities ourselves. We forget to celebrate the life we have right in front of us.

Forget the news. Is it really so important to know about the every move of the Prince and Princess of Wales and their new baby? Do we really need to read about another mass murderer? 

I say, "Celebrate this very life you have right in front of you. You are a celebrity worthy of celebration."

Celebrate the small things: the sun, a nice lunch, a roof over you head, a friend, a loved one, air to breathe.

And celebrate the BIG things: a marriage, a new baby, a new job, a car, a trip....whatever it is!

Today I celebrated life with a walk around Greenlake with my husband and lunch out at a Mexican restaurant. I was celebrating the fact that I just received copies of the Croatian edition of my book from my agent!

Croatian edition of my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married
Tonight I'm going to celebrate more. A friend who plays violin in the orchestra gave me two free tickets to see the opera Siegfried. I'm bringing another friend who has never been to the opera before. Celebrate life and don't forget to share it too!

Do you take time to celebrate life and share it with others too?

Monday, July 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—210: Synchronicity

"Whatever you focus on becomes your life and it creates the reality that you are living right now. What you choose to see depends on you."—Katherine Jenkins

There's a book called Synchronicity: The Art of Coincidence, Choice and Unlocking Your Mind sitting on my desk in my office next to my painting of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes. Also on my desk are a tiki statue, a bronze turtle, a crystal from China and a fortune that reads:

 "Inspiration from within is waiting for you. It's time to go deep."

These various symbols of meaning change from time to time depending on where I am and what I am doing in my life. The book is one that my husband recently picked up from the library.

To say that I believe in synchronicity is not quite right. I feel like I live in sychronicity or more simply in sync.

I don't believe synchronicity is something out of the ordinary. I believe, in fact, that it is very ordinary and can be a part of anyone's life if one chooses to believe it.

Synchronicity is about choice. I believe we all have a choice of how we want to live, but certain patterns and habits make us believe that nothing is changing or that we are stuck in the same old rut.

In fact, things are changing all the time and we actually CAN choose a different way or a new direction or a new way of seeing things.

Whatever you focus on becomes your life and it creates the reality that you are living right now. What you choose to see depends on you.

When I decide on a direction in life, I try to work in that direction. I see things, call them synchronistic events if you will, that support where I am going. Any thought, image, or idea that does not support this direction does not show up on my radar. I'm actually choosing my thoughts and what I see on the inside as well as the outside. In fact everything manifests from the inside out.

Sometimes, when I get lazy, I tune into things that don't support my direction. These may be negative emotions or beliefs, bad news on the radio, gossip, etc. When I do this, I tend to move away from my core and into another reality that does not support who I am.

Lately I've been tuning more and more into my surroundings and actually choosing my thoughts about those surroudings. This makes such a difference in my life.

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe the thoughts I'm choosing to have or the images I'm choosing to see in my internal and external reality. I think old habits and thoughts try to come in and block this new way of thinking. As long as I keep coming back to my core, I'm able to move in the right direction.

I think this is the basis for meditation. We go inward and are able to create from that space outward. So much of life is based on the external and very little attention is given to what is happening on the inside, but that's where every single thought, idea, feeling, impulse and vision originates. Everything inside colors our reality outside and creates synchronic events in our lives.

Do you feel a lot of synchronicity in your life? Is your life moving in the direction you'd like it to go? What is blocking you from living the life you are meant to live?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—209: Keep Writing

"When asked, 'How do you write?'
I invariably answer, 'one word at a time.'”—Stephen King

Today I finished my second book proposal and sent it off to my agent. Phew! That felt good. It was finished weeks ago, but I kept procrastinating and trying to fine tune it and finally I just sent the thing off.

Sometimes you just have to do it. You just have to push that send button and let it go!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I'm trying to keep in the flow of things and not get caught up in any ONE thing. If things aren't flowing, I let go for a while and come back later.

This blog has been a journey into "flow" for me.

I think our very first thoughts are so important and tend to contain the most energy. If we work our writing too much, it loses its flavor.

I'm a big fan of intuitive or free writing and my best work has come by simply showing up to write and letting the process take me wherever it wants to go.

The idea is to keep writing. It's important to let go of the inner critic that blocks one from the process. Writing is a process. To be a good writer it's important to keep writing and keep showing up.

Do you write everyday or do you have a practice of writing? Does your inner critic get in your way?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—208: The Opera

"Music conveys moods and images. Even in opera, where plots deal with the structure of destiny, it's music, not words, that provides power.”—Marcel Marceau 

Besides this evening, I've only been to the opera two times in my life and both times were in Korea. One of my co-workers loved opera and always asked if I wanted to come along. Always up for  an adventure, I did just that! I saw The Three Tenors and Tosca. I have to admit, I didn't really follow Tosca because it was in Italian with Korean subtitles and, even though I can read Korean, I don't always know the meaning of what I'm reading.

Tonight's performance was called Der Ring Des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs). It was a German Opera performed at McCaw Hall in downtown Seattle. One of Yoon's yoga students gave us free tickets because she plays in the orchestra.

It was fun to get dressed up and go downtown for a show. The traffic was pretty bad both ways, but the performance was worth it.

The opening scene was amazing. There were sea nymphs who were suspended from the stage by wires in a make-believe underwater sea garden. They spun, flipped, dove and swam all while singing opera.

I really enjoyed the performance and we took a number of photos in and around McCaw Hall downtown. Yoon brought 20 bright orange roses for his student who was performing that night.

It was definitely a night I will not forget.

Have you ever been to the opera? Which performance did you see?

Friday, July 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—207: Foraging Blackberries in Summer

"Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot."—Seamus Heaney

When I was young, there were certain things we always did in summer in Washington State. One of them was to always pick wild blackberries and make a cobbler or pie. Another thing I did quite often was to swim in Lake Washington and jump from the diving board or high dive at one of the various swimming holes along the lake. Finally, it was common to buy a popsicle from the popsicle man who frequents beaches and parks in the summer.

We did all three of those things today. My best friend from elementary school tipped us off on a great blackberry foraging spot in Seattle at Magnuson Park. We got a huge container of fresh berries there for free. Blackberries grow all over Washington State and are often considered an evasive plant that has to be cut back or it with take over. It's easy to find great blackberry picking spots in parking lots, parks, behind churches and in back alleys.

We used to have a bunch in our back yard when I was growing up.

This was my husband Yoon's first full container of blackberries,

his first jump off the high dive at Lake Washington,

 and his first fudgesicle from the popsicle man.

It was a day of firsts.

After he headed off to teach his last yoga class for the evening, I got to work and made a blackberry pie!'s delicious and perfect warmed up with vanilla ice cream.

Blackberries go for an expensive price in the grocery store, but who would buy them here in Washington State when there's an abundance of them everywhere!

Are there wild berries or other fruits that you pick in the summer where you live? What are they?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

365 Inspirations—206: We are All in This Together

Celebrate the Differences!
"We all have to live together, so we might as well live together happily."—Dalai Lama

I think it's easy to get caught up, through the internet and what not, in all that we may not have.

Maybe you look over the fence and find that you don't have what your neighbor has. Maybe you don't have a fence. The grass is always greener on the other side, so they say.

But is it really?

We are only looking at another person's reality through our own eyes. It is our perception of that person's reality. We can't possibly know the struggles or difficulties another faces by merely observing a situation externally.

It's helpful, maybe, to realize that no one has a perfect life. We are all in this together. Some struggle more than others or find themselves in more trying situations than we might currently be in, but it doesn't make us exempt from experiencing trials and struggles and similar experiences.

Today two smiling Jehovah Witnesses came to my door. An elderly African American woman had such a twinkle in her eye, that even though I don't usually take solicitations, I decided to hear her out.

She said, "What's the one tragedy or difficulty in the world that you'd like to see taken away if it were possible?" I said that I didn't know, there are so many.

She continued, "If all pain, suffering and even death could be taken away, how would you feel?"

I thought about people who are in pain in hospitals or who have lost a family member and I said, "That would be beautiful." I didn't think too much about it, but I thought that would be nice.

She read a few passages from the bible, but she did not preach to me. She just left me with those questions to ponder, gave me a pamphlet and then she smiled and turned away with her friend and told me that she came because we are all neighbors and she said, "Have a wonderful day."

I liked that she said, "We are all neighbors." It made we think of how we are all in this boat together, this world together, no matter what we may be going through, what we believe or how we live.

It made me appreciate my life and made me want to share what I have with others. Understanding that we are all neighbors made me think of how much easier it would be to appreciate and even celebrate the successes of others and to really reach out to those that are struggling too.

In September I'm going to Peru with my husband and a bunch of yoga students. I'm also going there to do book research. The woman who owns the house we will be staying at in Sacred Valley sent me a book when she heard I'd be writing one about the area. It's called Pachamama's Children. Pachamama means 'mother earth' in Quechua and they believe that all of us are children of this earth. One of the most beautiful things I read about in the book is called ayni.

Ayni means "today for you, tomorrow for me." The Quechua believe in the idea of reciprocity. It's the idea that everything is shared and that I'm not separate from you. Everything from farming to rearing children to cooking food is shared. On my very first trip to Peru, almost 20 years ago, I witnessed this hospitality. I was frequently invited to eat food and stay with the locals and they kindly gave me all that they had, even though it was very little.

I can't forget this. Anytime I catch myself wondering why I may not have something that someone else has, I try to remind myself that we are all humans sharing this world. Nothing really belongs to us and we can't take anything with us when we go.

I try and appreciate the beauty I have right in front of me for the offering. It may be a tree or a flower or the sun on my face or the light of the moon that streamed through my bedroom blinds last night, beckoning me to come to the window and look out at it. What I realized, while standing there staring,  was this: It doesn't matter where we live, who we love, or what we believe—we all get to see the very same moon and enjoy its beauty.

Do you appreciate the beauty in life and do you share it with others, even if their thoughts, beliefs and ideas may be different from you own?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

365 Inspirations—205: Sitting in the Front Yard

"I was in my yard and thought that the tree was a living being. We take trees for granted. We don't believe they are as much alive as we are."—Ziggy Marley

 I teach English as a Second Language at a local community college on Monday and Wednesday evenings in the summer. I had a lot to do this morning, but now I'm sitting outside in the front yard with my husband enjoying the cool breeze in the shade on a hot day!

The crows are cawing and the wind is rustling through the trees in the front yard. Every now and then a white butterfly flutters into the yard and lands on one of the daisies that we have in a circle garden in the front.

My husband has a temple bell from Korea hanging from our fence and when the wind blows stronger it starts to ring. We also have a wind chime by the front door that is playing a melody softly in the background.

Perfect, gentle, quiet afternoon before class.

Do you have a yard? Do you like to sit in it?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—204: Humility

"Enter the ruins of your heart, and learn the meaning of humility. Close both eyes and see the mysteries of your inner eye."—Rumi

Humility is a trait I admire and it's one I wish I had more of. In a world of Facebook and Twitter and blogs and instant communication, it's a hard trait to find.

I wonder if humility is going extinct.

Instant status updates at the click of a button is a way of letting everyone know what we are doing. This information used to be reserved just for close friends and family. I am not exempt from these updates. I do them too.

In a way, I think maybe something is getting lost. Instead of connecting, maybe there is a disconnect. Maybe we are forgetting how to simply be, how to develop our own merits silently and quietly without the world knowing every twist and turn we take.

Not too long ago, before Facebook and other social media platforms, I think humility was a good friend of mine. When I lived overseas, the blogosphere hadn't even been thought of yet. I lived alone in a tiny apartment in Japan and taught English. At times I felt so isolated and extremely lonely. I felt like I'd fallen off the map. I had to pinch myself on several occasions to make sure I still existed.

With the invention of the internet and social media, I was able to connect with so many people. It's been amazing and the positive side of it all is that I was able to meet many, many more people than I would have ever been able to before. Some of the people I've met via internet, through my blog and other platforms, I've had the opportunity to also meet in person. I'd never trade this for anything in the world.

But lately I've felt like disconnecting again. I've felt like closing my Facebook account, discontinuing Twitter, letting my fanpage go and packing up this here blog.

What is that all about?

I don't really know actually. It's something I need to explore, I guess.

Part of me fears what will happen if I close up shop and disconnect. Will I disappear? Will I fall off the map never to be heard from again?

I really don't know.

To tell you truthfully, when I start something, I usually try and finish it. I am committed to this blog and I've committed myself to writing 365 Inspirations this year.

So chances are, I won't close up shop. But I do hope to find my old friend humility again. I really miss her. Here are some words I like about humility by Krishnamurti:

"To learn about oneself one needs a great deal of humility. If you start by saying, “I know myself”, you’ve already stopped learning about yourself. Or if you say, “There is nothing much to learn about myself because I know what I am—I’m a bundle of memories, ideas, experiences, tradition, a conditioned entity with innumerable contradictory reactions”—you’ve stopped learning about yourself. To learn about oneself requires considerable humility, never assuming that you know anything: that is, learning about oneself from the beginning and never accumulating. The moment you accumulate knowledge about yourself through your own discovery, that becomes the platform from which you begin to examine, learn, and therefore what you learn is merely further addition to what you already know. Humility is a state of mind that never acquires, never says, “I know”."—Krishnamurti

 Do you feel that social media and blogging has perhaps made the world less humble? Do you think there is a lack of humility as a result of these outlets?

Monday, July 22, 2013

365 Inspirations—203: The Color Purple

"Purple is sometimes associated with spirituality. This is because purple, or violet, is at the top of the color spectrum. Of the colors in the visible spectrum, it is the one that vibrates at the highest frequency."—

While my favorite color is blue, I seem to have a lot of purple around. I'm very attracted to this color and I like to wear purple. There is something very soothing about purple. It's a combination of hot red and cool blue which, together, creates the perfect balance.

I started looking around my house and taking notice of the purple all around me.

On my dresser I have a purple crystal that I got near Mt. Fuji and the purple mala (pictured above with the crystal) was a gift from a friend who traveled to sacred places in the Himalayas.

I wear the purple beads often.

In my car, I have a car charm, with a crystal and purple amethyst stones, that dangles from my rear-view mirror. I got this charm from East West Bookshop in Seattle.

This particular piece represents the third-eye chakra, according to the information that came with it. It is used to awaken psychic and intuitive abilities. It makes me feel very calm when I am driving and when the sun catches it in the right way, it casts small rainbow dots all over my car.

And I seem to have a lot of purple clothes for every season. I'm wearing this purple shirt today, but the picture was taken a few years ago. I wore these purple rhinestone earrings in my wedding in Washington State over 10 years ago.

And here's a winter outfit I like to wear. This vest is more of an orchid purple, which I also love.

I believe in color therapy. Some colors are just so soothing and can instantly trigger a certain mood or feeling. Purple is a spiritual color for me. It reminds me of all my inner qualities that I want to bring forth. I am an outgoing and social person, but there's a depth to me that I sometimes hide. Purple reminds me to shine and not be afraid of who I really am.

Is there a color that you are drawn to?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

365 Inspirations—202: Kalbi Barbecue at Home with Friends

Yoon barbecuing Korean kalbi for friends
"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all."—Harriet Van Horne

We have this nice gas barbecue that my parents gave us when they moved. It's their old one, but it's new for us. For several summers it's just been sitting on the side of our house with an empty propane tank below it. It gathered leaves and dirt and spiders and other critters. I wasn't even sure the thing worked.

We had planned to have a dinner party with a couple friends and the weather has been so nice, I wanted to barbecue kalbi, a Korean specialty. I've never cooked kalbi on the barbecue and I've never used a gas barbecue at any place I've ever lived.

Yet, I was determined today. I googled where to fill my propane tank and found that a U-Haul up the street had a refilling station. On the way to the station, I stopped by the Korean supermarket and picked up kalbi, Korean potato salad, chap chae (Korean noodle dish) and kimchi. What's a Korean dinner without kimchi? I also bought lettuce and garlic to make kalbi wraps.

When I got home, Yoon hooked up the grill to the propane and we crossed our fingers to see if it would actually start. It did and I was so excited. Not only were we going to have our very first gas barbecue meal at home, but we were cooking Korean food for friends. This was a real treat!

I'm happy that I didn't just decide to bake something instead. A little effort went a long way and we had a very memorable dinner with friends!

Do you like to barbecue in the summer for friends?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—201: Dinner on the Dock

"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky."—Rabindranath Tagore

Our spontaneous trip to the lake is almost over. We leave early tomorrow morning! The weather has been perfect and I haven't felt like being inside, so I'm typing this post late at night.

We had a barbecue in the afternoon with our friend and then she had to leave for a concert in the city. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, swimming and floating on the lake.

To end our evening, we had dinner on the dock.

It was the perfect ending to a spontaneous getaway. We sat out there for a very long time and watched as the sun slowly sank behind the trees and the sky changed to deeper colors of pink and crimson.

Sparrows glided along the surface on of the lake and every now and then would dip down for a little drink or to catch insects. We watched them for a good hour. Now the moon and stars are out on the dock, so it's time to go out once again.

How's the weather in your part of the world? Have you enjoyed the summer?

Friday, July 19, 2013

365 Inspirations—200: A Spontaneous Trip

Our ferry approaching dock
"Courage and willingness to just go for it, whether it is a conversation or a spontaneous trip or trying new things that are scary - it is a really attractive quality."—Alanis Morissette

The weather has been so nice, so I invited a friend to come with Yoon and me on a spontaneous trip to our family lake house. It's nice to get away from the city. We got in late, so this post is going to be rather short.

After getting a bite to eat at Ivars on the pier, we boarded the ferry at 9:00pm. It was so beautiful because the sun had just set and the city view was picturesque.

View of Seattle from Puget Sound

More soon about our spontaneous trip to the lake.....

Good night friends!

Have you ever taken a spontaneous trip anywhere?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

365 Inspirations—199: Exciting News

Friends on Kehena Black Sand Beach, Big Island, HI 

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”—Henry David Thoreau

I'm not very good at hiding exciting news. I was going to wait, but why?

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of valuing yourself and I also wrote about how each of us gets to choose how we define ourselves. You can call yourself a painter, a blogger, a basket weaver, a candlestick maker, a parent, a doctor, a community organizer, a bird lover, a friend, a fellow human being or whatever you wish.

Today I'm going to call myself a soon-to-be artist-in-residence! I received an e-mail from Kalani, a  retreat center on the Big Island of Hawaii, inviting me to be an artist-in-residence and a featured writing workshop leader at the Hawaii Yoga Festival in November.

Kalani is the largest retreat center in Hawaii and will be the host of the Hawaii Yoga Festival.

I'm honored to be invited to participate in this amazing event and to offer writing classes in November. I'll also be using some of the time to write/research a book I'm working on.

How did I find this lovely retreat center tucked away on the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawaii? By sheer luck!

Yoon conducted a yoga retreat on the Big Island in the Pahoa area last March. We had heard about a famous black sand beach where you could swim with dolphins and woke up early one morning to do just that. When we arrived, lots of people were on the beach doing yoga. I found this very interesting because we were also on a yoga retreat.

While I was floating out in the waves, people began pointing in my direction from the shore. Right then and there, a spinner dolphin put on a huge show inches from where I was floating. Then pods of them came in and we were swimming with them. I even got to see them up close under the water with a mask.

My husband Yoon making a whale tail on Kehena Beach

It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Afterwards, we were driving home and saw what looked like a shop or restaurant on the left hand side of the street. We walked in to the shop and were greeted with warm smiles. We ordered lunch and sat outside near what turned out to be the yoga studio. That's when we realized that this peaceful place was Kalani!

Having lunch at Kalani with friends on our yoga retreat
Afterwards, I researched Kalani and now I'm going back to this magical corner of the world once again as an artist-in-residence. We just never know what we might discover on this journey called life and where those discoveries will take us next! 

Are you good at hiding exciting news or do you share it right away?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

365 Inspirations—198: Valuing Yourself: Getting Paid for What You Love To Do

Signing Books at Edmond's Bookstore in WA State
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”—Goethe

 Writing is my passion and teaching and sharing are also my passions. I've been teaching ESL for years and it's been such a joy, but writing has always been something I've done on the side—until now.

I have closets full of journals that date back to my childhood. They've been locked away and have never seen the light of day until recently.

It was this blog that I started years ago that gave me the courage to pull my writing out from the closet and to start valuing myself as a writer. 

Now my writing and classes related to writing have taken center stage in my life. Just a few days ago I received a check from my agent for the Chinese translation of my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married and we are gearing up for another yoga/writing retreat at the Yoga Lodge in August. It will be our third annual retreat!

It was a long road to becoming confident enough to share my writing with the public. It took so much courage and still takes courage to "put it out there," but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Each and every time I take a step towards putting my writing, classes and my work out there, I'm facing my old fears and each time I do this it becomes easier to face them.

Every single one of us has these fears and old voices inside of us that try to tell us why we can't do what we love and be paid for it. These may be voices we heard when growing up that we made our own or they may come from the fears of others on the outside who have not been able to live their own dreams.

Whatever you dream of doing, start it. Do you want to be a potter and be paid for it? Start making pottery and start selling at fairs and boutique shops. Every penny you make towards doing what you love is important because that penny becomes a nickel becomes a dollar and so on. Before you know it, you will call yourself a potter and everyone else will start to refer to you as The Potter. And this becomes your life.

Remember, you can define yourself in anyway you choose. You don't have to define yourself by your day job unless you absolutely love your day job. Call yourself a painter or a cartoonist or a card maker or a builder. Whatever suits you. You get to decide. The more you place importance on what you love to do, the more others will recognize you for it. Before you know it, you WILL be paid for doing what you love, it's a natural progression.

Just remember to put your ear plugs in when the nay-sayers come out to destroy your plans and ideas. They will come. Usually these are people whose dreams were not realized and they are frustrated and disgruntled because of it. Don't let them rain on your parade. Keep positive and encouraging people close to you. This is very important.

Most of all, value yourself. You are the only one who can do this completely and YOU are worth it. If you value you, others will value you too and will compensate you for your work. 

Are you doing what you love and being compensated for it?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

365 Inspirations—197: Living Creatively

Collages created at our Yoga/Writing Retreat at the Yoga Lodge
"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things."—Ray Bradbury

I don't know if I could live without creativity. After all, we as humans are creations. Creativity is part of our nature.

I've been teaching classes about intuitive or direct writing at some of our writing/yoga retreats. Believe it or not, this is a class that came to me "inuitively" and I've gotten great feedback from it. Creativity can come in many forms. In fact, even if you don't think you are creative or live a creative life, you probably do.

Have you ever dreamed up something to cook for dinner with what you have on hand? You are being creative! Have you ever gone to a beach or park on a whim? Decided to rearrange your furniture? Bought new, colorful sheets? Took a different way home from work? All of these activities require creativity.

Anytime you deviate from what you normally do, you are being creative.

How much creativity you allow in your life depends on you.

In my writing retreats, I try to get people to free write without editing or censoring. The idea is to keep the pen moving across the page with whatever comes to mind. Later, when people go back and read these, they are often surprised by what they have written. It is often even more surprising if you put these spontaneous pieces of writing away for a few months before you read them again. Many things I've written or collaged about have actually come true for me in real life. It took the act of creatively writing or doing art for me to see what was probably already there.

We often are our own biggest obstacles to living a life we want, creatively or otherwise. It is the self talk we do that blocks us from our own potential.

Creating space for creativity is very important. Otherwise, how will you be able to hear yourself and what your heart is calling you to do when there is so much outside noise?

In the beginning, it may feel strange to have creative space to yourself. You may feel like you are wasting your time. Give yourself some time. Before you know it, you will be creating all kinds of things and you'll be living a creative life.

Are you living a creative life? In what ways are you in tune with your creativity?

Monday, July 15, 2013

365 Inspirations—196: Art Ambush Project: Bringing Free Art to the People

Art by Lisa Brandel
“The world is not interested in what we do for a living. What they are interested in is what we have to offer freely—hope, strength, love and the power to make a difference! ”—Sasha Azevedo

Long, long ago, when I first started blogging, I met Lisa Brandel, who was a blogger at The Widow Lady, but who has since stopped blogging there and instead maintains a Widow Lady Facebook Page.

Her page is full of inspiration and Lisa is always doing new and exciting things. I recently found out, through Facebook, that she started an organization called Art Ambush Project. Here she is to tell you about it:

Katherine asked me to tell you all a little about this project for her blog. It’s taken me some time to do it, but I think I’ve finally found the words to express what Art Ambush project.

We are a micro-movement of people, from all different backgrounds, faiths, paths, disciplines of art who have banded together to give the unsung heroes, the everyday people doing extraordinary things, a piece of beauty. No strings attached. Nothing but love and thank you for being you.

We began this grass roots movement a mere seven months ago with four artists, including the founders, and as of this date we have over 25 artists, several coming from across the sea, and have gifted over 350 people pieces of art and supplies for art. We’ve ambushed hospice houses, chemotherapy wards (nurses and patients), doctors, survivors, people who have been through loss, people making a difference for homeless and forgotten animals, people making a difference for homeless people, people fighting for equal rights, and the list grows all the time.

This is one of the pieces given to a burn victim made by Anna Gruszka of Heart to Art Jewelry Designz
We are being the change we want to see in the world. We want more love, so we give more love. Many of our artists, including myself, know loss in our lives so we reach out and give the hand up we have either gotten or would have liked to have gotten.

I’d like you to imagine something for me. You are coming home from work, living your life, going through a rough patch, and when you get to your door you find a box. You think, “I didn’t order anything.” You take it in, and as you open it you discover a beautiful piece of jewelry, or a blown glass globe, a painting, or some handmade item. You are confused, but then you see a card. It tells you that someone noticed that you are beautiful, helpful, that you are doing all you can, and they wanted to give you something because you are. They don’t want anything from you, they just want to say “Thank you.” 

It’s a stranger. Someone you don’t know, or don’t know well. But, whoever it is took the time not only to think of you, but to send something of themselves to you.

That is the art ambush project.

No artist asks what color, age, religion, or other label the ambushee carries. They simply know it’s a soul. They take it and the story we are given and create something to give. We are the change we want to see. We are the love we want to receive, and in giving have received it.

Sometimes we receive a thank you on our facebook page, and many times the person tells us, “It arrived at the exact perfect time.” 
So, this writing for Katherine is my mini-ambush to you all. When you think the world is divided and has lost their collective heart remember. There is a movement, not about money, not about fame. It’s about giving people recognition, love, and a little beauty as a reminder life is good.

With love, Namaste,
Lisa Brandel, The Widow Lady and Art Ambush founder.

Have you ever made art and given it away for free?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

365 Inspirations—195: Life of a Snowbird

“The birds fly south for the winter not because it’s cold, but because they have wings."—Jarod Kintz

I found Linda's blog, Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting, quite a while ago and was intrigued that she was a) from Washington State and b) was headed to Arizona to live as a snowbird.

While the summer has been so lovely here and I can't imagine living anywhere else right now, the rainy cold days of winter are not always easy to get through. During that time, I have entertained the thought of moving and/or traveling to a warmer climate during the winter months.

Well, Linda did just that! Not only that, but I recently discovered that she also traveled to Kenya. Another warm place. It sounds like Linda is having lots of fun in her retirement, so I decided to catch up with her for an interview. Here she is:

And here's my interview with her:

What inspired you to move down to Arizona for the winter? 

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I love it there. But I have Seasonal Affective Disorder – the winter blues – from November until about April, because of the relatively few hours of daylight and even fewer hours of sun. Once we were no longer working, we tried multiple short vacations in sunny places; the year before last we spent two weeks in Hawaii, two weeks in Sedona, and three weeks in Ecuador. That kept us in the sun, but it was three trips—three flights, three sets of packing, etc. We decided to try staying in just one place for two months, and that worked out better. I like Arizona in the winter, especially Tucson. And we have old friends who have been snowbirds for several years, and they invited us to come visit them last year when we were in Sedona. We liked what we saw and decided to do it ourselves.

Where did you live? How did you spend your days as a snowbird? 

We lived at the Voyager RV Resort. It’s a 55-plus community in south Tucson. We rented a park model with an “Arizona room," so we had about 650 square feet of living space, which was enough for the time we were there. There was lots to do. We learned how to line dance and do the Texas two step (we’d rarely danced together before, in 20 years). We joined a current events discussion group and a Great Decisions group. I played handbells for the first time in nearly 30 years. I went to water aerobics three times a week. We went to dances with friends. It’s not about the warmth, though. I like cold weather. It’s about the light.

How long did you stay there? 

We arrived on January 4 and left on February 28, with a weeklong extension in Sedona and an eight-day road trip home.

I saw on your blog that you were in Kenya. What inspired your trip there? 

Well, it wasn’t on our bucket list! We had some houseguests last summer who’d been to Kenya the year before, and they said it was a life-changing experience. They referred me to their friend who had taken them there, and he referred me to an outfitter in Nairobi. It was the most expensive trip we’d ever planned, and I was a little concerned we’d be the only people on our tour, but it turned out to be just right.

Tell me about your trip to Kenya. What were the highlights? 

The animals on our game drives (a lion kill, a pair of giraffes courting, a newborn gazelle and a newborn hippo), the people (our very knowledgeable guide, women in a village who’d left their homes because of abuse, a chief in a village, a third-generation British Kenyan, a conversation with the wife of the CEO of a major corporation, talks with our tent stewards and servers and other camp staff.

Have you been reflecting much on your trip since you arrived home? What experiences have changed you or made you think differently about life?

Are you doing more traveling since you’ve retired? Do you have any other big trips planned?

We traveled as often as we could when we were still working. But since June 25, 2010 when I quit my job, we’ve taken 29 trips of varying lengths. We’ll be going to Hawaii for two weeks in December and back to Tucson for three months next winter. Others we have in mind are New Zealand/Australia, Antarctica (just me, probably), and we’re dreaming of a Road Scholar trip on the Trans Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Moscow. But we really like road trips within the US, and we’ll be doing more of those. Next up in that mode are Colorado and the Ohio/Illinois/Missouri area, for family research.

Wow! That's a lot of trips! What has been the best part about being retired? 

The freedom to choose how I spend my time. I became a certified mediator through my local Dispute Resolution Center, and that is very rewarding. My husband and I wrote and published a book about a trip we took to Vietnam in 2005. I am getting more exercise than I used to as well.

Thanks so much for being on my blog Linda. It sounds like you have lots of adventures ahead of you!

A question for the readers here: Are you retired or do you know anyone who is? How do you (or they) spend the time?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

365 Inspirations—194: LONG Summer Days

Sailboat on Puget Sound today
“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”—John Keats

I am just now getting on the computer. The weather has been so nice in Seattle, I haven't wanted to be online. This weekend, Yoon and I have made it a point to be outside as much as possible.

It doesn't get dark out until almost 10PM here! I absolutely love it. Last night, we walked around Greenlake at 9PM and saw the sunset on the lake.

It was so peaceful. People were sitting on the lake's edge staring at the crescent moon.

Today I cleaned house in the morning and then when Yoon finished with his yoga classes, we headed to Carkeek Park on Puget Sound with our lawn chairs and books. We found a perfect spot in the sand and set ourselves up.

The water was sparkling and the temperature was perfect. Families mingled along the water's edge. Some waded out to their waists. Cruise ships heading to Alaska passed by. It was a day for boats and water toys. We saw paragliders, sailboats, canoes, rafts, motor boats, and other floatables.

When we got home, I cooked salmon, corn on the cob, green beans and garlic toast and we ate dinner out in the garden. It's now 9:22PM and the sky in pink still from the sunset.

I'm going to go and enjoy the rest of the evening while it's still light out.

How are you spending your long summer days?

Friday, July 12, 2013

365 Inspirations—193: Returning to Peru After Almost 20 Years

Backpacking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
“No matter the deviation, all things come full circle. You begin and end your journey in the same place, but with a different set of eyes."—Jennifer DeLucy

Lots of things are coming full circle for me. I traveled a lot in my early 20s. In fact, I never really stopped traveling. I feel life is a journey and we never really stop moving and experiencing.

My husband is taking a group of yogis to Peru in September. I debated and debated whether or not to go, and now it's sort of happening on it's own. I'm going!

One of my hesitations in returning to Peru was that I was young and dumb and it was not an easy trip for me. I was 24 or so and I was alone backpacking through Peru and Bolivia. I had been teaching English in Mexico and had to decide whether or not I should return home or continue traveling. The thing is, I had very little money to travel. I had just enough for the plane ticket from Mexico to Peru and a few hundred dollars for traveling.

I speak a little Spanish, so I lived off the generosity of locals many times. I just read through my diaries and lots of memories of that time are coming back. I had really bad dysentery and slept in places that were run down. I was sick and I sometimes put myself in dangerous situations.

The other side of the coin was that I experienced amazing beauty and adventure. I let go and let the wind and road be my guide. I traveled across Lake Titicaca all the way to La Paz, Bolivia.  I kept crossing paths with many fellow travelers and locals in the oddest of places and they were like guardian angels to me. They led me to my next destination and I saw things I couldn't believe—Machu Picchu, floating grass islands, Quechua Indians dancing around the lake in colorful clothing, a half dozen condors soaring above Colca Canyon, penguins on Islas Ballestas, mysterious lines in the sand.

A lone llama at Machu Picchu

I know there is a reason I'm returning. It has to do with that book I've been telling you about. Lots of things are coming full circle. I know we will be traveling differently this time. We'll be staying in clean, nice places and traveling with a driver. We will be taking a guided trek to Machu Picchu.

But I have a feeling my view of things will be different. I feel a calling to return. I have purpose in my life now and while I still love to be spontaneous and go with the wind, I'm wiser now about my decisions and my direction. I still live in the mystery of it all, but I see it now in a much bigger picture that becomes clearer everyday.

Did you ever feel called to return to a particular place?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

365 Inspirations—192: Winds of Change

Blue Moon

“You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?”—George Bernard Shaw

The wind is whirling in my world.

Winds of change have come, but I'm still working out the details. I'm still just getting little pieces. It's like a gigantic puzzle I'm putting together, but I have no idea what it will look like in the end.

So for now, it's just flashes and images. Last night I had a dream I was on a huge wide river on a raft drifting. Then the current picked up and I was going over rapids. I couldn't see where I was going, but I did not feel scared. I trusted that I would be led to the right place.

I got off at a rocky shore and started to climb huge boulders up the side of a mountain. It was so steep and jagged. The view below me was amazing and scary at the same time. I had almost made it to the top when a hawk circled around and landed almost on me thinking I was food. I shooed him away. Then I scrambled up a few more rocks.

Inches from the top,  a bald eagle was peering down at me from a nearby tree branch. We were looking straight into each others eyes. I was not his prey, I was him and he was me.

Beyond the eagle, I could see berries in a tree. There were three kinds of berries growing off one branch and they looked enticing, but I did not want to disturb the eagle's turf any longer and slowly made my way back down.

Lots of these kinds of dreams about nature, the earth and animals have been coming to me. A new book is forming. I want to tell you about it. But right now I'm just flowing with these winds of change and it's so exciting.

Did you ever have a very vivid dream that you remembered? Did it have any significance for you in your life?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

365 Inspirations—191: Summer Weather

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."—John Lubbock 

 Summer is the best season in Washington State. It's not too hot and it's not too cold. For the last couple of weeks we've had very little rain and it's been between 70-80 degrees everyday. For Seattlelites, seeing that shiny, yellow thing in the sky for days on end is really a treat that we may now be taking for granted.

Washington State tends to have a lot of rain in other months, so we really need to make good use of our summers. Our state has beautiful mountains and hiking trails everywhere. We've got the Olympic Mountains on one side and the Cascade Mountains on the other. On a beautiful day, the view is spectacular.

I try and get a walk in or sit out in the sun a little bit everyday! Gardening is another great pastime in the summer.

Today I went to yoga class again. I'm trying to get in the habit of going regularly. But today, after I type this post, I'm going to get ready or class and sit in my garden and do some lesson planning. I teach ESL on Mondays and Wednesdays in the summer, so today is my Friday! I chose to only teach two days a week in the evenings in the summer because I want to enjoy the days and the weather outside!

How's the summer in your part of the world? Is it the best season where you live?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

365 Inspirations—190: Gentle Yoga Class

Yoon talking to students at Yoon's Yoga Bliss
"You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state."—Sharon Gannon

Yoon's Yoga Bliss is 5 minutes from my house, yet I can come up with all kinds of excuses as to why I can't go. Isn't it funny how the things that make us feel sooo good—like healthy food, exercise, yoga, walking, hiking, etc.—are sometimes hard to get to due to our own minds?

Once I'm on the yoga mat, I never, ever think, "Oh gee, why did I come to yoga?" I'm ALWAYS sooo grateful. It's the getting there that becomes the obstacle.

Today I told my excuses to take a hike and headed to a gentle/meditative yoga class. I usually go for the more active class, but I'm trying other classes these days.

We started out lying down and moving in and out of postures very slowly. This was so good. It brought me out of the mind and into the body.

At the end, we all rested in shavasana pose and I felt so alert, yet relaxed.

Relaxing at Yoon's Yoga Bliss

My body felt alive again and I could feel a tingling sensation in all parts of my body. I even worked out the kinks in my neck and back due to not going to yoga for about a week! Yikes!

Finally, we sat in a little circle and Yoon played a gong and we did a little chanting. We repeated "om mani padme hum" and then sat in silence for some time.

It was a wonderful class and I'm so glad I went. I now feel very peaceful and my body is also awake again. I feel like all my muscles have been lengthened and my posture is much better. Amazing what just ONE gentle yoga class can do. I think I'll go again tomorrow morning! No excuses :)

Do you ever talk yourself out of doing something that you know will be so good for you?

Monday, July 8, 2013

365 Inspirations—189: Purple Clematis

 "In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars."—Oscar Wilde

The clematis vine on my fence gave birth to a purple bloom yesterday. We planted it a few years ago, but it really took off this year. The vines run along our fence arbor all the way to the top. There are buds just waiting to burst out in purple, but this one was the first to make its move.

There always has to be a first. I sat there touching its velvety petals of deep purple and stared at the intricate mandala of colors in this beauty's center. I was lost in the world of this flower for a few minutes. 

My favorite color is blue, but purple is a color I'm spiritually drawn to and often wear. It's a majestic color which combines fiery red with cool blue. It's also a very tranquil color.

Clematis, in Russia and Bulgaria, is known as the "traveling flower" because it travels and moves in many directions before it starts to bloom. I love this.

Purple Clematis growing on our the arbor of our fence
The two together combined symbolize to me the majestic traveler. There's mystery and intrigue behind this beauty. I'm about to set off on many mysterious adventures. You'll hear more about that here on this blog in the months to come.

I've seen many white and pink clematis adorning fences and trellises, but I have yet to see one in purple.

It's unique, this flower. And today I'm going to celebrate its beauty and what it symbolizes. Can't wait to see the trellis explode in purple. That is coming soon....

What is your favorite flower and what does it symbolize to you?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

365 Inspirations—188: grady bleu Clothing Designer, Kathleen O'Grady

"Have humility—it will take you a long way. Value your work and your worth. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Work on your own personal growth and your art and life will become better for it."—Kathleen O'Grady

I still remember sitting in P.F. Changs in Alderwood Mall with my friend Kathleen after her hair appointment. We were having fusion Chinese food and discussing dreams. I know she received a really good fortune that day in her cookie! I wish I could remember it. She told me of her plan to start her own clothing line. This was back in 2009 or 2010. Several years later she’s living that dream with her own line of clothing called grady bleu and I’m so inspired by what she has created. Here she is to talk about how it all came to be.

Thanks for being here Kathleen!

 How did you come up with the idea for the grady bleu line? When did it all first take seed?

It probably started in Japan when I lived there in the mid-eighties. I fell in love with garments dyed with indigo blue. The name for the company took seed in 2003 in Seattle. I like the lower case and the name because it has a bit of grit to it and includes the French word ‘bleu’ which adds a certain caché. 

Why blue? What is special about the color blue?

I am inspired by the history and tradition of blue, particularly how it was originally produced by using the indigo plant. The process by which the color blue is produced from indigo is special because of the labor-intensive process and because of the magical way the fabric turns blue – the fabric is green until you take it out of the dye vat and it turns blue when it comes in contact with the oxygen in the air. Blue, with its roots in indigo, dates back centuries and represents for me antiquity, history, and a certain quality of endurance. 

My line is founded on a core color palette of blues, browns, whites, beiges, blacks and greys.  In addition to this core palette, I create small exclusive lines integrating fabrics from around the world and I’ll be incorporating more and more indigo fabric into the garments.

On your website, you say, “We have lost the feeling of our relationship to clothes.” What do you mean by that?

For the most part, people have lost the knowledge and appreciation of good fabrics and quality design. In our world of speed and mass marketing clothing has been reduced to disposable items. How does one value their clothing – or anything for that matter, if it can be purchased so cheaply? Fast fashion has really degraded fashion and the value associated with the labor-intensive work that is involved in producing a garment; from the whole cycle of raw materials, to the labor involved in sewing it. And then of course there is Bangladesh and all the other “Bangladesh’s” that aren’t reported.  Then to have the garment be disposed of so easily….something is wrong with this picture. I think we (collectively) lament the poor labor conditions “over there”, but we all want the $4 T-shirt. 

You create clothes that are timeless, functional and elegant. Where do you get your design ideas from?

My design inspiration comes from a number of places and is often inspired by old-world cultures. When you learn about clothing you learn about a culture and what that culture values. These old-world artisan approaches are becoming lost more and more with globalization. It’s really a shame. 

I like Asian garments with wrap closures, vintage 1930’s lingerie and almost anything with pleats. My designs don’t follow trends. They are classic and timeless as well as fun and I think that is what people love about them.

What kind of fabrics do you use for your line and where are these fabrics from?

I like to use natural fabrics such as linen, wool, silk and cotton. I also like to incorporate ‘found pieces’ of fabric that tell a story in the garment. I have quite a trove of fabric from India, Nigeria, Thailand and Laos that I will be using in my designs.

Where can a person purchase your clothing? Do you have a catalog or is there a store or online website?

Currently, I am in two stores in Canada since retuning 4 years ago. I do pop-up shows but will be looking into setting up an Etsy store until I obtain my own design shop. 

Do you make all the clothing by hand? If so, how long does it take you for each piece?

Since returning to Canada, it’s been a challenge to find sewers. Sewing is a dying art in North America. As author Elizabeth Cline says in her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion,“...within the course of a generation, we have lost the knowledge of sewing.” Imagine. 

I do all the sewing for now. What often isn’t thought about is the added time it takes to lay out the pattern, ensure it is placed correctly on the fabric, pin it down, cut it and then sew it. It’s a bit like a puzzle. 

 Recently I saw you on a Canadian TV show talking about your line. How does it feel to watch your dream become a reality?

I’ve been designing for about 30 years, including when I lived in Seattle and before that in Vancouver. It feels great that it’s coming together. I’m passionate about what I do and want more people to enjoy my designs. What is that quote: “Overnight success takes about 15 years”? (30 years in my case!)

Do you have any words of wisdom for the readers here about making ones dream become a reality?

Have humility—it will take you a long way. Value your work and your worth. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Work on your own personal growth and your art and life will become better for it. Be genuine. Know you are a good person and have many gifts to offer the world. 

Thanks so much for being here today Kathleen!

To find out more about Kathleen and her work, go to

See below for Kathleen's spot on a Saskatoon TV show:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

365 Inspirations—187: Take Rest

"The body says what words cannot." – Martha Graham

I'm feeling under the weather today....I rarely get sick, but I am. Going to get some rest.  My inspiration today is "take rest." Sorry it's so short today. Right now hot tea, a hot bath, hot soup and lots of liquids are my friends. Very strange to feel like this in the summer. Life is telling me to sloooowwwww down and rest. Good night friends...

What do you do when you are feeling under the weather?