How to fall in love with your life

Watching the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy (anyone else still tuning in religiously?), I teared up a little more than I’d like to admit + thought damn, I’m in love… with this little life of mine. I started calling to mind all the things that set my heart a-flutter, perfectly soapy television + beyond. So here’s a non-comprehensive list about getting what’s good :)

treasure your people

photo credit: John Fetherston

If you’re like me, you can get stuck in your head sometimes quite often, trying to stay above water + get shit done. When you’ve spent just a little too long in that place, take a step outside of yourself + fall in love with your loved ones all over again. You know who your people are. These are just a few of mine :)

meet your hero

photo credit: Mati McDonough

Have you done this? If not, let me tell you: it’s glorious. You look up to people for a reason: by doing awesome things in their lives, they show you what’s possible in yours. If you’re brave enough to initiate contact, reaching out + meeting your hero can change your life in big ways, both subtle + concrete. If you can develop a lasting relationship with one of your personal heroes, stop pinching yourself for five seconds + pay attention to how your hero navigates the rocky terrain of being human: how they share, how they learn, how they balance work + play, how they nurture their creativity, how they collaborate with others. This is invaluable intel that will make you feel well-equipped to pursue the life you love. Your hero (or heroes!) don’t have to be super famous or accomplished; they just need to inspire you in a BIG way. Mati, thank you.

do something magnificent

photo credit: Samantha Johnson

A few weeks back, some brave friends and I “ran” the Golden Gate Headlands Half Marathon. It’s a good thing we didn’t scope out the course ahead of time, because there’s a good chance we would’ve dropped out or switched to the shorter course. So when we showed up on race day, we realized we had signed up to run up a series of hills mountains. I reserve the right to call them mountains because I was there! The course was crazy steep, crazy challenging, and crazy awesome. It took our breath away, and not just because we were not properly conditioned for such a feat. It connected us — intimately and acutely — with the magnificence of being alive. Note to self: do more things like this!

make something delicious

I don’t just mean mac’n’cheese (though that’s always a great option). Make something that delights any or all of your five senses. Bake a pizza from scratch. Arrange fresh flowers. Take an actual bath for the first time in years. Be deliberate, focus on quality, savor the experience — especially the tangible, physical elements.

I simply CANNOT get enough of Tracy McMillan these days. Whenever you read something that speaks to you on a holy-shit-I’m-turning-back-to-page-one-and-reading-this-all-over-again level, your life gets fuller, brighter, and saner — i.e. way more lovable. And shhhh don’t tell anyone but Audible is a super solution to the “I never have time to read for fun” quandary.

go

Mile Rock Beach with Rachel; photo credit: Alicia Dinsmore

One of my favorite quotes comes from Sabrina Ward Harrison: If you don’t go, you don’t see. If you don’t get out into the world, you’ll never experience all it has to offer. You don’t have to venture far… just get out there!

no really go

Nano Cliffs with the PC gang; photo credit: Katy Todd; photo edits: Samantha McCullough

Pull the rug out from under your feet. Surprise yourself. Go somewhere so far-fetched that it makes you wonder “Could I really…?” Yes, you could.

love your dog

Or your cat, or your baby, or your potted basil plant. Love something or someone that depends on you for food + water + affection. This is the kind of love that both annoys the hell out of you and opens your heart with a power that just seems silly. That silly love is the gooood stuff, the midday-dessert, collapse-into-bed-after-the-longest-day, squeezing-you-tight nectar of life.

marry yourself

India.Arie said “Put your salt on the shelf, go on and love yourself, ’cause everything’s gonna be all right.” Don’t just love yourself… put a ring on it. Make the commitment to never let you go. You don’t have to have a big lavish ceremony (I think I’ll stick to a private party), but you could. If you need inspiration (or help writing your vows!), SARK is the queen of all things radical + self-loving.

dance it out

Somewhere in Nevada? photo credit: Erica Pederson

DO IT.

pass it on

photo credit: Elyse Stefaniak

See that sunny station wagon right there? That is Splash. Or at least that’s what I named him when I bought him outright at age 18; he looked like a big white beluga whale. Splash was my trusty vehicle all through my college years: he kept me company during 20-hour marathon drives from Arizona to Kansas and enthusiastically participated in my free-spirit phase (thus, the Art Car). Then it came time to skip town and move to Togo, so I had to let him go. Luckily for the both of us, one of my dear summer campers was ready to buy her first car… Splash to the rescue! I signed over the title to her parents and Splash was mine no longer. His new mama gave him a bright new coat of paint (above) and I felt a peaceful wave of satisfaction knowing that something that could no longer serve me could serve someone else. This was one of the times I learned that corny little lesson: Give away your joy and it will multiply.

How do you fall in love with your life?

Happy Sunday :) xoxo

Hope, perspective, and Play-Doh

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I’m gonna get you started with two stories that are utterly unrelated except for two things:

1. They both pack a major paradigm shift.

2. They’re both about hope.

Then, I’ll have a point. I promise. Just roll with it:

Story #1 was on Radiolab a couple weeks ago. Rather than setting up the premise myself, I’ll just quote the official website:

Lulu Miller, reporter at NPR and former Radiolab producer, tells us the story of how her entire world view flipped in one scary moment. It happened on a bike trip she took with her friend Soo. Lulu and Soo are, well … different. Lulu tends to be an optimist who sees the best in people, while Soo has always been a bit more of a pessimist about her fellow man. Not surprisingly, a bike trip across the country turned that charming difference into a friendship on the rocks. But then, an unexpected encounter in the wilds of Virginia left Lulu and Soo deeply confused about the right way to greet an imperfect world.

(Source: Radiolab)

Juicy, no? Give it a listen if you have a few. Anyway, through a series of uncomfortable interpersonal encounters, the self-identified “optimist” in the story gets slapped awake to a startling revelation: Being indiscriminately pleasant + tolerant towards people + circumstances is “happy hopelessness.” 

Whoa. As someone whose personal moral code is rooted in unconditional acceptance + joy, I had to really let that one sink in. Wait, what? Seeing the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt, cutting them a break when they’re acting a fool… those things are hopeless? Potentially harmful? 

Hope is really seeing someone, not just who you trust them to be. Hope is calling them out on their shit, not letting them suffocate in it. Hope is accompanying someone through their lived experiences, not your “optimistic” assessment thereof. Hope is caring enough about someone to allow productive “confrontation” or “conflict,” not flee to more pleasant territory because you can’t stomach the discomfort. Hope is helping a troubled person — or situation, or world — get better, not making them feel better about being stuck in a bad pattern.

At least that’s what this story would suggest. Hope is the thing with feathers, à la Emily Dickinson? Nah, hope is the thing with razors + spikes + a lotta tough love :) Still working through it, but simply having this alternate definition of hope on my radar is life-changing in a very concrete way. It’s a new perspective I could never see before. And now I have it there to help me navigate my personal relationships + professional future.

Story #2 was told by the succulent Alexandra Franzen last week. Sip it up for a short + sweet punch of perspective. To summarize, her scalp-soothing hairstylist makes her day… and it turns out that he received a legit Daymaker Award for making everybody’s day! As Alexandra reflects:

When you meet a true Daymaker, the soul-residue doesn’t wash off after a couple shampoos.

And that fateful haircut left me wondering about things. Big things. Deep things.

Like what if, maybe, we’re all wasting our time + spinning our wheels, agonizing over questions like:

“What is the secret to happiness + success + wealth + greatness + impact + legacy + leadership + innovation + how can I fulfill my highest purpose, every day?”

When really, all we oughta be asking is:

“How can I make someone’s day?”

(Source: Alexandra Franzen)

Talk about another life-changer. Now I have a whole new question to ask — a question that is in and of itself the answer to every existential question ever. What’s more hopeful than that? Thanks, Alexandra.

And here’s the point.

Perspective is a malleable thing, a funky blob shape-shifting between your palms like the multicolored Play-Doh that results from not putting the respective Play-Doh colors back in their correct containers. Doesn’t it just fill you up with hope to know that there’s so much you’ve yet to see or sense or learn? Your entire perspective on life could change today. Hey, I just had two game-changers hit me in one week!

And those paradigm shifts were a direct result of listening to someone else’s story. They told it, I heard it, I changed. Magic, no?

Sooo… tell your story. You never know whose paradigm you’ll shift, whose life you’ll change. Last year I wrote about storytelling, sincerity, and healing. We all too often succumb to that vulnerable moment of doubt when we question if our story really matters. Well, here’s your affirmation: It does. Always, always.

Have you heard (or told) any “aha!”-inducing stories lately? Share with us in the comments please!

Happy Friday :) xoxo

One more reason to screw around on the internet: Wonderstated is now on tumblr!

Oh hey! I’ve been trying to find the perfect way to share the provocative stuff I read on the internet without a.) flooding your Facebook feed or b.) taking the time to write it up here. So, modeling myself after this fine human, I started a tumblr site… DUH. I can’t believe I didn’t really know this existed before! Do you have a tumblr? Share it with the rest of us please! Or start one — it’s super easy.

The tumblr site will serve as a curated reading list featuring the [subjectively] coolest internet content on the following topics:

  • health + human rights (and everything encompassed therein)
  • neuroscience + psychology
  • occupational therapy + justice + disability rights
  • identity + inequality
  • pediatrics + neonatology
  • body positivity (to the max!)
  • radical self acceptance + self care
  • creativity
  • economic justice + wealth redistribution
  • powerful stories + fascinating people
  • FUN
  • etc. etc.

Here’s a little peek… yeeeah screen shot… or just go to the site

tumblr

Happy Friday xo :)

A love letter to your wounds

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All this time
all I ever wanted was for you to rest
and bend
and soften.

All I ever wanted was to hold you
and stroke you
and never let you go.

All this time
you were so beautiful
and so fragile
and ever so strong.

Your tenderness is the most precious thing in the universe.
(So it is for each of us, my dear.)

You are swollen with grief
and freedom
and hot stone massages.

I’ve never had a hot stone massage
and I’ve never actually had a mani-pedi — the horror!

But I have loved you all the way
down.

I have loved you
and loved you
and loved you more.

All this time
love was all there ever was.

Come close, dear one:
you can rest now.

Fred Ho: “Pain into Power”

pain into power

Do you know Fred Ho?

Me neither, until yesterday. Weekend Edition aired this powerful interview produced by the Code Switch team, and I was seized in an instant. I love me a good revolutionary, and Fred Ho is a great one. The above quote stopped me in my proverbial tracks (but thankfully had no affect on my driving): Turn pain into power. Never become a victim; become a revolutionary. Daaaaaamn that’s good.

Living with terminal stage IV colorectal cancer, Fred knows a great deal about pain. He also knows about telling the truth without apology or euphemism or general BS. He lets it all hang out — literally, in the case of his “Celestial Green Monster” album cover:

What are you waiting for?

Listen to the interview.

No really, DO IT. And then get on up + become a revolutionary in your own life.

Happy Sunday xoxo

Challenge: Can a budget be fun? (Part One)

Ohhhh man.

Money. 

Click play on the soundtrack now and sing the money blues with me.

I’m totally itching to unleash my usual rant: how I don’t understand money, how it’s not real, how violent it is, how an alternative medium for economic life is not only possible but preferable… BUT I’d rather not come off as the kooky radical today so I’ll stick to reality. Reality being:

Money rules our lives.

boo money

Don’t argue with me on this: it does. This fact is most apparent when money is less than abundant. And so, since this blog is in large part about creative living, I’d like to tackle the whole money thing. Choreographing your cash flow is one of the most creative parts of life, because it requires a lot of courage, imagination, and dedication.

Making do with what you got
is the bread + [vegan] butter of creativity.

Last month, I saw my expenses soar + income plummet. Yayyy. So, on February 1, I instituted my first “rule” of money management.

Rule #1: No eating out.

And by no eating out, I mean no eating out. No snacks, no Starbucks, nada.

Origin story: This rule arose out of necessity last year when I first moved to San Francisco. It was a grand success, not only empowering me to survive a precarious month of funemployment in the nation’s most expensive city but also reacquainting me with the joy of cooking.

Why a “rule”? I know rules don’t work for the rebellious among us; they are just begging to be broken, no? But I encourage you to think about rules in a new way, not as restriction but as liberation. A firm rule frees you from the anxiety of choice or the stress of willpower. It reinforces your personal intentions (not external pressures) + facilitates your goals. So when I pass a yummy (a.k.a. pricey) food spot on the street, I don’t have to decide in the moment whether or not I will go in. I don’t have to force myself to choose “no;” I don’t have to wrestle with guilt should I choose “yes.” My rule already made the decision for me, so I don’t even have to think about it. When a certain option is off the table, I can relax and proceed with the option that is.

However, there are 3 exceptions to this particular rule:

1. Someone else gets the check ;)
*You know who you are… thank you!!!

2. The cost of a meal eaten out is comparable in price to a meal eaten at home (a.k.a. under $4)
*I intend to keep these purchases to a minimum, or buy fewer groceries when I anticipate an abnormally frantic week with less time available for meal prep

3. I’m really, really desperate.
*Obviously I do everything I can to avoid this, but I believe in anticipating + allowing for the possibility of “slip-up’s” (I had my first + only one so far this past weekend: a burrito at a taqueria in Truckee. So worth it.)

So yeah, I’ve been doing really great so far otherwise! Along the way, I’ve discovered a few things that make a restaurant/cafe/drive-thru/Whole Foods salad bar-free life more satisfying and even FUN:

  • Get excited about your challenge. Turn it into a mental game: think of the dollar amount you’re saving every time you pack lunch, or even keep a running tally of these “points.” Some may call this mildly obsessive; I call it pretty darn fun.
  • Cement your rule + let your self-esteem bloom when you stick to it! It’s really empowering to do what you set out to do!
  • Carve out time for food prep. And really, it doesn’t require that much time. But if you don’t make the time, you won’t make the meal.IMG_3056Pumpkin chocolate chip oat bars with cashew agave glaze
    (inspired by this recipe) 45 min to bake = breakfast + snacks for days!
  • Buy groceries with pleasure in mind. Yes, pleasure! That’s mostly what we seek from a restaurant, so you need to satisfy that urge at home if you intend to sustainably avoid pricey meals out. It can be tempting to only buy “healthy” or “good” groceries — don’t do it! Take home a full range of foods to fit your every mood. That means salad mood and ice cream sundae mood. Stock up on chocolate. This will never prove to be a bad call.
  • Recreate the restaurant experience at home. Use fancy spices. Keep feel-good condiments in your fridge. Think of the one thing (or things) you will always order off a menu — mine are mac’n’cheese, pizza, burrito, chips + salsa/guac, and any version of a hummus plate. Then make sure you have the ingredients handy so you can make these things at home :)photo-5Mac’n’cheese (dairy-free) with sun dried tomatoes + kale… modeled after Homeroom
  • Two words: slow cooker.
  • One word: Tupperware.

Well, I’ve officially told you everything I know about eating in! What’s my bottom line, you ask?

Challenge results, 3 weeks in:  

Success!
Spending: According to my Wells Fargo spending report, I spent $258.83 at restaurants in January (pre-rule) + only $6.53 in February so far (that was the burrito). For the skeptics out there: NO, my grocery spending did not increase to compensate for this. In fact, it decreased… a lot (stay tuned for another post on that).
Eating: I’ve gotten back into the groove in my kitchen, and I’ve cooked some baller food. New fave food blogs: Oh She Glows + Budget Bytes.
Mindset: I pay more attention to my spending; this feels freeing + empowering, because I know I won’t have as many gut-wrenching reckonings with my bank statement at the end of the month.

creativity is abundance

Take-Aways:

1. At first, it was really scary to be conscious of my spending. When it comes to financial matters, ignorance really is bliss. Until you overdraw from your account, that is. If you have the courage to face your finances, you can heal your insecurity + transform your habits.

2. I may not be in control of how much money I make. I may not be in control of surprise expenses (e.g. emergency room bills, car repairs). But I am in control of my day-to-day spending habits!

3. Revelation: Creativity is abundance. When you dare to think about something (like money) differently, you create something that didn’t exist before. You get more than you started with, without earning a single penny more.

Stay tuned for more creative ways to live happier + freer + cheaper :)

xoxo

PS: I tentatively promise to take better pics of my food next time :P