My Word for the Year: 2017

Bamboo Forest Illumination in Kyoto, Japan

It’s a new year, My Lovelies, and you know what that means.  Time to pick a new word to represent 2017.  This time, I had a little trouble choosing.  A lot of words hold special meaning for me these days, some of them challenging, others encouraging.  But ultimately, I realized I needed something dynamic and fun.  Something that would get me excited to jump out of bed every morning and start the day.  Something that would give me hope in a very complex world.

So without further ado, my word for the year is…

MAGIC

 

And here are some quotes to express exactly what magic means to me.

“You can’t tame the spirit of someone who has magic in their veins.” –unknown

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” –Roald Dahl

“Magic is believing in yourself.  If you can do that, you can make anything happen.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing and even today words retain much of their magical power.” –Sigmund Freud

“Love is the closest thing we have to magic.” — from Aquamarine (movie)

“It’s important to remember that we all have magic inside us.” — J. K. Rowling

“Magic is something you make.” –unknown

“Look for magic in daily routine.”  –Lou Barlow

“By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go.”  –Emmanuel Dagher

I hope you will find ways in the coming year to invite magic into your life.  And don’t forget to come up with your own word for the year!

Check out the list of my past words here.

Chaos and Courage


Yokohama

Hi my dear readers,

Sorry to have been away so long.  It’s been a crazy, busy, challenging year.  A roller coaster ride if you will.  I just returned from a trip to Japan.  My sixth visit.  I never imagined ten years ago that I would be saying that!  But my life has changed in amazing, unexpected, and positive ways by embracing this new life of adventure that comes along with marrying someone who is a different background than mine.  I wouldn’t change it for anything.

At the close of this year 2016, there is a lot to think about.  Big changes for this country and the world.  What can we do about it but embrace it?  Dive into the unknown and hope things continue to progress and change for the better.  Continue to stand up and fight for the things we believe in.  Hope in our future.  If there is one constant in life, it’s change.  We can expect it just like taxes.  And when we begin to ride the tide of it, we see some amazing sights and begin to transform in unimaginable ways.

It is hard to let go of all the things we hold dear.  The safe and familiar.  For me, flying halfway across the world, living in a time zone completely opposite of ours, is always an adjustment.  Japan in some ways is the complete polar opposite of the U.S.  Their culture is polite, quiet, and small compared to our freestyle lifestyle, chatter, and super-sizing.  But sometimes there’s a beauty in living a life different from your own.  Like the city mouse and country mouse switching places for a day.  You see the world through new eyes.  You find out the way you always do things is not “The Way” but simply the way you always do things.  You learn to adapt and find new things to treasure.  You also better appreciate the familiarities of home.

On this particular trip, I embraced both flying alone and getting around Yokohama for three days by myself while my husband finished up his business trip.  With the jet lag, feeling under the weather, and not knowing the language very well, I wasn’t sure if I could manage.  But I took up the challenge anyway, even knowing how directionally challenged I am.  I managed to ride the subway a few times, explore the city, shop, and eat out at restaurants.  Sometimes not being able to talk was a welcome blessing.  A quiet I don’t often experience at home.  Other times, especially because I’m a Gemini and love to talk, not being able to communicate was frustrating, lonely, and even a little terrifying.  But luckily, it’s very safe to walk around Japan alone as a foreigner.  And if you’re lost or confused, someone will undoubtedly come to your rescue and try to help, even without knowing much English.  As it turns out, I found many ways to connect with others.  Laugher being one of the best universally shared experiences.

So I challenge each of you dear readers to end the year by stepping out of your comfort zone.  Don’t wait until 2017.  Do it now.  Take that first step toward your dream.  Meet someone new.  Go somewhere foreign.  Experience a different culture.  Learn a new language.  Talk to someone of a different background or faith and really get to know them.  And if things become awkward at any moment, don’t walk away, embrace the moment, and simply LAUGH.  Imagine the kind of world we would live in, if we all laughed just a little bit more.  Feared a little less.  Life is chaos, but we can all join in the dance.

“We live in a rainbow of chaos.”- Paul Cezanne

Paying It Forward with Birthday Acts of Kindness

Greetings,  Dear Readers!  For my birthday this year, I decided to do something special.  Instead of simply focusing on me, I decided to do something nice for others.  I read about this concept of “birthday acts of kindness” on a blog called ScaleSimple last year and couldn’t wait to try it out myself.

After purchasing two bouquets of flowers and ten lottery tickets, I headed to the park.  And oh what a beautiful day it was!  A bit hot, but who is complaining when you live in Michigan.  We’ll take what we can get 😉  My good friend agreed to meet me for the inaugural event.  We set off immediately, with only an hour to spare, since she was on her lunch break from work.

I immediately realized we had no plan, so I just jumped right in and started handing random people either a flower or a ticket.  Often we chose flowers for ladies and lotto tickets for guys, but not always.  We quickly got in the groove, often telling people it was their lucky day as we handed them a ticket or wishing them a nice day with a flower.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the blogger mentioned getting mixed responses from people.  But truly, about 90% of people were very happy to receive the free gift 🙂  Only a few turned down the offer, mostly because they were in a hurry or had their hands full.  One guy was actually allergic to flowers, but very apologetic.  We even visited a retirement home briefly, which seemed to brighten the mood there.  A mother and her young daughter accepted the flowers like a treasure.

Before we knew it, we’d passed everything out, and by then, we were in such a groove that we wished we had even more to share!  I’d love to do this again and extend it even further.

If you’d like to try your own service project, here are some possible acts of kindness:

  • pass out flowers
  • give away lotto tickets
  • recycle
  • donate old clothing and other used items
  • pay for people’s parking meters
  • pay for someone’s coffee or lunch at the drive-thru
  • pick up litter in the area (We did a bit of that at the end!)

The list goes on and on!  I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, giving to others and seeing their happy faces was the best gift I could give myself on my birthday 🙂

“You may be only one person in this world, but to one person at one time, you are the world.” –Anonymous

 

Notan: Harmonizing Darks and Lights

I’ve been taking some art classes this week.  While studying composition, I came across the Japanese term, “notan” which literally means “dark-light.”  It’s a fascinating design concept centered around the idea of creating harmony in a drawing through value contrast.  When darks and lights are dynamically balanced, the result is a more pleasing work of art.

More specifically, dark shapes are placed against light shapes and light shapes are placed against dark shapes.  Relationships are formed through this interaction of dark and light.  Neither white nor black dominates.  Consider a portrait drawing done in grayscale.  Notice how the effect of the drawing improves when a dark background surrounds the lit part of the face and a light background surrounds the shadowed part of the face.

According to Dorr Bothwell’s book, Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design, the way that positive and negative space interact has meaning.  Both shape and background have equal importance.

This design principle can be used for all types of artwork including painting, pottery, and photography.  One of the simplest and most well-known representations of the concept of notan is the yin-yang symbol, which depicts the dual nature of the world and literally means, “dark-bright.”

Imagine your life in terms of notan.  How might you see the world differently?  Notice how the stars stand out in the night sky or how your shadow stands out on the wall.  The beauty of dark and light is all around us.  As artists, we must have the courage to draw it.  And in life, we must be willing to see it.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”   — Anne Frank

 

To learn more about the Japanese concept of white space, termed “yohaku,” see my post here.

 

My Word for the Year: 2016

Happy new year!  It’s that time again.  No, not resolutions.  We have enough of those to keep us occupied and sometimes frazzled and guilt-ridden.  What I’m talking about is something that sets the tone for your year.  One word to inspire, motivate, and sometimes even surprise you.

Here’s a list of my past words:

2013: possibilities

2014: confidence

2015: change

It’s amazing how a single word can create an entire mindset for the year. I started out with something really open and positive and then moved towards words that would challenge me and help me grow, sometimes in ways that were not always comfortable.

My husband has also enjoyed choosing a word for himself each year.  Since he just graduated with two master’s degrees while working full-time, he decided his word for this year should be: reignite.  As in, he wants to reignite his hobbies, exercise routine, and friendships.  Sounds perfect!

As for me, I’m taking a different track this year.  My word is…

Miracles

To get me started, I’m going to focus on some mantras related to this word.  Two of them come from one of my favorite meditation CDs, Meditation Moment.

“I open myself up to miracles both large and small.”

“Miracles happen every day.”

The third mantra is from SARK and can be used when you find you need a little help from the universe.  Fill in the blank below with whatever you need.  I especially like to use this one when I’m trying to find a good parking spot 😉

“________ miracle find me now.”

(i.e. Parking miracle find me now.)

You’ll be amazed at the results of inviting miracles into your life.

But don’t stop there!  Come up with your own unique word for the year.  Something to excite you and get you all fired up.  A word that not only defines your entire year, but also each moment of each new day.

Go for it!

 

 

Above Your Nerve

Emerald Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

I recently blogged about the movie “Wild” featuring Reese Witherspoon, based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  There are some great quotes in there.  Today I’d like to highlight one from an Emily Dickinson poem.

“If your Nerve, deny you
Go above your Nerve”

Talk about nerves.  My husband and I decided to hike the Rockies just after Memorial Weekend, May 31.  We thought we’d see 3 or 4 pretty lakes, each about a half mile apart, and be done in about an hour or 2.  Little did we know the park just opened the path after the holiday because of snowfall.  Thankfully we had recently purchased our first pair of hiking boots, and they were waterproof.  We must have changed our clothes every 20 minutes.  From tank top to long sleeve to breathable jacket to rain jacket to light down jacket and sometimes back off again at intervals.  It was actually pretty warm until the wind came.  Until the rain came.  Until the sleet and hailstorm that rangers never warned us about.  Luckily we found shelter under a rock slab…sort of.  But that was at the top.  First we had to get there.  And that involved climbing snow and ice-covered paths steadily inclining.  We had no idea each lake required a hike in elevation.  But we followed the others, hoping they knew what they were doing…where they were going–some of them slipping around in street shoes and wearing nothing more than a t-shirt and jeans.  I secretly wanted to quit a few times all while having the time of my life.  I love to hike, but my nerves get me every time, especially with looming heights, steep cliffs, and now icy paths.  My mind is always thinking about what might go wrong.  I used to hush that inner voice, try to turn it off, even curse at it.  But that never worked.  The best thing to do is let it talk.  Acknowledge it like an old friend.  Let it chatter on in the background.  But meanwhile get to work.  Get moving.  Start climbing.  And when it gets to that point where you think you want to stop and turn back, that’s when you must go above the nerve.

Good luck to you on all your journeys.  Safe travels and take care.  But don’t let a little thing like fear stop you.  It’s only the background music for your adventure.  And when you make it back, that same voice will say, “I knew you could.”

 

 

Weekly Quote: Power

Arizona Trip 2010

Last night I watched the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon.  I highly recommend it for anyone with a wandering spirit searching for something inside themselves.

There were so many great takeaways.  I especially liked the references to famous poets.

One quote particularly caught my attention.  Poet Adrienne Rich references Marie Curie in her poem “Power.”  Here is the last line:

“Her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

It’s a powerful statement.  How often do our dreams bring us both joy and pain?  But I think there’s hope.  My artist friend and neighbor once shared a concept with me that I really liked: the depths you are willing to go reflect the heights you want to reach.  How many times are writers told to dig deeper?  But how much is too much?

In the case of Marie Curie, she sacrificed her life for her work.  But her memory lives on because of it.

On the flip side, it might just be our wounds that lead us to greatness.

Either way, there is no denying the life-force that exists inside us.   We may not have the power to make our dreams come true, but if we search our deepest wounds, we might find the power to save ourselves.

 

 

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