Purposeful Living

As a life coach and co-leader in the online course, Write the Love Letter to your Teenage Daughter, I was sharing my values. I really want to pass on resilience, creativity, and kindness to my children.

Yesterday, I mentioned to CoCo, “See how lonely it is when one of you kids is gone?” (Her twin sister Cate is kayakying in Alaska.)

CoCo agreed.

“You kids are my purpose,” I said.

“How can kids be your purpose? What about people who don’t have kids? They have purpose too.”

“Right. Each person has her own purpose. And purpose — not things or achievements — provides meaning and joy.” I said. “But every one of us has to find her own journey and purpose.”

Am I too obsessed with my own kids? Am I a helicopter parent? It’s no secret I swamp my media channels with pictures of my kids. (And they are not always too happy about it.) I facebrag. I post their pics on Twitter and Instagram.

I can’t help it. I love them. My husband is challenging; my children are challenging — but they give back. Maybe this crazy family is the reason for all of my struggles.

But as my chicks fly the nest — in the coming months, the girls head off to nearly two months of summer camp and my son to college — What is my purpose then?

After my three kids, my purpose has always been my work. I have always been a writer and now am pursuing teaching. Have been having so much fun and meaning teaching at prep schools. I love the kids and the teachers.

Am also loving this recent editing work — connecting with writers, implementing a social justice vision for response magazine.

My main thing is — as my purpose and my focus may shift — I choose to remain intellectually curious, to be kind, to love without condition, and to come at life with a slant of creativity. (Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. – Love Emily Dickinson)

To persist. To pursue.

I guess all of this is why I chose the title, To Pursue Happiness for this blog. It is in the pursuit and not the attainment that we find our purpose. We find our way. (For more on why we choose our titles – check out All about me.)

BTW, happy Father’s Day, to all the dads and men who have mentored, loved, and parented. My husband is an amazing father — full of love.

And for you fathers, I bring you flowers from the Lyndhurst rose garden in Tarrytown, New York. For more flowers, visit my Pinterest Flower Board.

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Konmari Adventures

“My criterion for deciding to keep an item is that we should feel a thrill of joy when we touch it.” – Marie Kondo The life-changing magic of tidying up.

To be honest, only one or two items of my clothing sent a shiver of joy up my spine. Most of them sparked a memory, a regret, a story. (Poor Barbara had to to me listen to me travel down memory lane when she came over to help me declutter on Friday afternoon. Thanks, BW!) I like my stuff. I just don’t love it.

So the process is this: hold an item of clothing in your hands, ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” Yes? keep it. No? toss it.

So I gave or threw away about five or six garbage bags full of clothes. I have about one-quarter of the clothes I started with. image

This is before.

And this is after

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It took me two afternoons. I have several empty drawers now. (I have two dressers and I think I am going to get rid of one of them.) I am trying to love what I have.

This is such an awesome concept — Keep what you love. I love these housekeeping movements. I was a big fan of Flylady. Because of her, I keep my sink clean and shiny (her first rule).

I do believe our culture is too materialistic. We have too much. And we think accumulating more will solve our problems. But our stuff needs tending. We have stuff and we have to think about it. Our stuff swamps us — does not free us.

I learned about Marie Kondo’s book and movement from a NYTimes article and from a friend in a writing group. Konmarie-ing is becoming national obsession. So is minimalism. I wish I were a minimalist. I have noticed when traveling — like when we were in California at Christmas-time — the less I have, the less I worry about. And the more time I have to read a book, walk in the park or ride my bike. It is, after all, experiences that delight us, not things.

Less stuff means less housekeeping and more time for Facebook. There is a popular Konmarie FB page – and a Flylady friend and I started a Declutter FB group to post our goals.

Incidentally, my blogging has been sporadic in 2015. I have felt ambivalent about writing without pay, getting too personal, and besides, I have had so much work — teaching, editing, writing. But this summer, I am aiming to post every Sunday morning. I am rebooting my business and my home life. I am trying to keep what I love and discard the rest. I love blogging. It sparks joy.

Try Enthusiasm

When I am enthusiastic about a subject I’m teaching, my students are too. If I tell the little ones, “You’re going to like this drama game!” They do. It may be a drama game they’ve played before, like the mirror game. (The mirror game is when you stand across from a partner and mirror their movements. And then your partner mirrors yours.)

When my kids get fresh, I tell them, “Hey, your attitude is contagious. Try enthusiasm.”

We live in a snarky culture. For sure, I can be sarcastic. Because I’m witty. But sarcasm seems the opposite of enthusiasm. Sarcasm stands back in judgment. Enthusiasm jumps all-in, without a care for consequence.

Well, there is the consequence that you may be made fun of. As I am by my children. Regularly. (For my bike, zipcar, business, enthusiasm, whatever.) But then, they’re teens. I think sarcasm’s wired in teens.

I tell my kids, Most people are naturally shy. When you meet someone new, if you’re just a little bit out-going, you put people at ease. Enthusiasm is charismatic, fun and entertaining.

Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)
Me at the Climate March. (photo credz Pamela Cooper)

Here’s an enthusiastic picture of me. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic about the whole world.

On a side note, I like to think I came up with the hashtag #yellowpants Whenever I see someone wearing yellow pants, I think to myself “hashtag yellow pants.” I’m enthusiastic about my yellow pants. Because they were one of my last purchases at Loehmann’s. But that’s another story.

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” — Allen Ginsberg via the daily post  

Do you follow Ginsberg’s advice — in your writing and/or in your everyday life?

Body Pride

I have been tall and slim.

I have been dumpy and short. (The first stages of a twin pregnancy is not known for its svelte-ness. But something wonderful was cooking in me and that made me gorgeous.)

Recently a friend of mine visited the Fashion Boudoir Project in Seattle – a few sexy pics appeared on her Facebook stream. I wondered if I could do it – bare all or some?

Mom and I once went to a topless beach in Hawaii once. No biggie. (I did feel free.)

On Beauty

The most beautiful women I know have some beautiful physical unique style – my Great Aunt Marie had a big nose – my friend DeB is completely bald. It’s what’s cooking inside — intelligence, humor, kindness, creativity — that make us beautiful.

In the car, the other day my friend said, “The positive thing about Kim Kardashian is that she brings body pride to women with large booties.” (I did not know this.)

And I recently saw this way-cool Tweet from Lorde — she posted a pic of herself without the photoshop. Yup, still beautiful. (Amazing young woman!)

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(Lorde from her Twitter feed)

I stared a Pinterest board – “I Look Forward to Getting Old.” These women (and a few men) are uniquely beautiful.

One of my darlings saw my Pinterest pins and asked, “This is where you celebrate aging?”

Yup, that too!

Maya

Ah, Maya, I never knew you. But you knew me. You spoke to me and valued me. You valued us all, enough to invoke us to tell our stories. You held yourself so regally. You made it okay to be a performer, an artist, a writer, a teacher, a mother, a friend. To be creative and public in so many outlets.

At times, I have felt, I am too many things. I should be only one. But you showed me that we contain multitudes. Besides that, we shared the same birthday – April 4.

I felt in you, a kinship. Your words inspired me. Your poetry, essays and advice.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou

“I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind. I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it.”

“The best candy shop a child can be left alone in is the library.”

“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings.”

Shooting into the light at the end of the day ...
Shooting into the light at the end of the day #goldenhour #adirondacks #amwriting via mbcoudal

It is in this candy shop, in this exploration, that I have ventured forth, offering my writing, encouraging others to write. I only want to hear stories. And to tell stories. And to get at some truth.

I believe stories live on. That the story teller disappears but that the truths remain.

And when you die, somehow you are home. “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” (This was one of Angelou’s tweets — so awesome that she embraced twitter – a forum for poets or pundits, snarky or sincere.)

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Three Words

A couple of years ago, I spotted a sign in the trash. It was the same day I was thinking of making New Year’s resolutions. Maybe some wise people and shepherds see signs in the sky. I see them in the trash.

My sign read, “Become Your Dream.” And I have done this – by pursuing teaching, coaching, and writing work.

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I also have looked for and found signs on social media.

I love social media – I love the short expressive forms of WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook. Status updates guide and inspire me.

In 2012, social media marketing guru Chris Brogan chose three guiding words: Temple, Untangle, Practice.

He meant:

  1. Treat your body like a temple.
  2. Untangle yourself from distractions.
  3. Practice mindfulness.

I want to do those three things too.

And for this pre-Christian season I want these three words: Simplify, Joy, Kindness.

I want to:

  1. Simplify my holiday by focusing on the things and experiences I love, like light, music, creativity, and time with family. And jettison clutter and consumerism.
  2. Give and receive light and joy to and from everyone I meet. And let go of judging.
  3. Practice kindness. Know that the Christmas season is stressful and so I vow to perform daily acts of kindness.

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord will give you a sign.” Look for your sign. Look for your three words. They may be in the trash, the sky, or on Twitter. Let three simple words guide you through the holiday season and then through the New Year.

What are your three words?

I wrote this today for an upcoming Advent Devotional for the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church. 

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Happiness on Social Media

Life has been a bit of whirlwind. Only today does it feel like the the dust has settled. And it’s a rainy, dreary, depressing day.

After the kids’ and my spring break trip to Chris’s cousins in Boston and Nantucket, I led a blogging workshop at the Indiana Writers Center and a social media workshop at Religion Communicators Council, both in Indianapolis. Then I visited family in Chicago. It was all great.

I went solo on this recent trip to Indy and Chi-town. And the adage is true: you travel faster when you travel alone. But maybe fast is not always best.

Since taking this MOOC with MIT and last week’s keynote from Daniel Sieberg (I dig Bill Aiken’s summary of Sieberg’s Keynote), I’m asking myself these questions about my social media habit:

Is social media really making me more creative and connected?

Am I using social media only to market my stuff? Or do I really want to get to know you and your stuff too?

Am I oversharing with all my blogging, tweeting, Facebragging, instagramming?

See, I bumped into a friend on the street yesterday and she asked me how my spring cleaning was going. My first response was embarrassment. How did she know I was spring cleaning? But then I remembered my joke on my FB status. I’d updated, “While spring cleaning this morning, I found $3 – who says housework doesn’t pay?”

I felt a little flattered and a little naked. Truly, I write so people will read me.

So, on one hand, I worry if no one will read me, and then, on the other, I worry if people will read my stuff and react. (I write like I dance, like no one is watching me.)

In our last MOOC session on motivation and learning, Natalie Rusk mentioned that the keys to happiness are purpose and belonging. That these lead to personal growth. Maybe social media is for the social good when it encourages all of us to belong, to be purposeful, and to grow together.

Maybe when the rain stops and the dust settles some more, I’ll figure it all out.

Until then, here’s where I market my stuff on my social media — I’ve still got room in my Writing Retreat 4/25-4/28. And I need a few more good writers to make the weekend happen. We can discuss our digital diets over a nice long, leisurely dinner together.

One hour off technology

Writing and Mothering and Listen To Your Mother

pink buds blooming
Across from my apartment, things are starting to bloom.