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Posts from the ‘Good Reads’ Category

A Dying Mother’s Letter to Her Daughters

What would you tell your young children if you knew you were dying? What would you want them to know? For Julie Yip-Williams, the answer is funny, tender, and astonishing…it brought tears to my eyes.

Julie was born blind in Vietnam. She narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, fled political upheaval with her family to Hong Kong, and then came to America, where a surgeon gave her partial sight. Working to create a happy ending, she became a Harvard-educated lawyer, married a wonderful man and had two little girls. Then, at age 37, she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer. In her memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle, Julie tells the incredible story of her life, and writes this final letter to her two beloved daughters.

Dear Mia and Isabelle,

I have solved all the logistical problems resulting from my death that I can think of — I am hiring a very reasonably priced cook for you and Daddy; I have left a list of instructions about who your dentist is and when your school tuition needs to be paid and when to renew the violin rental contract and the identity of the piano tuner. In the coming days, I will make videos about all the ins and outs of the apartment, so that everyone knows where the air filters are and what kind of dog food Chipper eats. But I realized that these things are the low-hanging fruit, the easy-to-solve but relatively unimportant problems of the oh so mundane.

I realized that I would have failed you greatly as your mother if I did not try to ease your pain from my loss, if I didn’t at least attempt to address what will likely be the greatest question of your young lives. You will forever be the kids whose mother died of cancer, have people looking at you with some combination of sympathy and pity (which you will no doubt resent, even if everyone means well). That fact of your mother dying will weave into the fabric of your lives like a glaring stain on an otherwise pristine tableau. You will ask as you look around at all the other people who still have their parents, Why did my mother have to get sick and die? It isn’t fair, you will cry. And you will want so painfully for me to be there to hug you when your friend is mean to you, to look on as your ears are being pierced, to sit in the front row clapping loudly at your music recitals, to be that annoying parent insisting on another photo with the college graduate, to help you get dressed on your wedding day, to take your newborn babe from your arms so you can sleep. And every time you yearn for me, it will hurt all over again and you will wonder why.

I don’t know if my words could ever ease your pain. But I would be remiss if I did not try.

My seventh-grade history teacher, Mrs. Olson, a batty eccentric but a phenomenal teacher, used to rebut our teenage protestations of “That’s not fair!” (for example, when she sprang a pop quiz on us or when we played what was called the “Unfair” trivia game) with “Life is not fair. Get used to it!” Somehow, we grow up thinking that there should be fairness, that people should be treated fairly, that there should be equality of treatment as well as opportunity. That expectation must be derived from growing up in a rich country where the rule of law is so firmly entrenched. Even at the tender age of five, both of you were screaming about fairness as if it were some fundamental right (as in it wasn’t fair that Belle got to go to see a movie when Mia did not). So perhaps those expectations of fairness and equity are also hardwired into the human psyche and our moral compass. I’m not sure.

What I do know for sure is that Mrs. Olson was right. Life is not fair. You would be foolish to expect fairness, at least when it comes to matters of life and death, matters outside the scope of the law, matters that cannot be engineered or manipulated by human effort, matters that are distinctly the domain of God or luck or fate or some other unknowable, incomprehensible force.

Although I did not grow up motherless, I suffered in a different way and understood at an age younger than yours that life is not fair. I looked at all the other kids who could drive and play tennis and who didn’t have to use a magnifying glass to read, and it pained me in a way that maybe you can understand now. People looked at me with pity, too, which I loathed. I was denied opportunities, too; I was always the scorekeeper and never played in the games during PE. My mother didn’t think it worthwhile to have me study Chinese after English school, as my siblings did, because she assumed I wouldn’t be able to see the characters. (Of course, later on, I would study Chinese throughout college and study abroad and my Chinese would surpass my siblings’.) For a child, there is nothing worse than being different, in that negative, pitiful way. I was sad a lot. I cried in my lonely anger. Like you, I had my own loss, the loss of vision, which involved the loss of so much more. I grieved. I asked why. I hated the unfairness of it all.

My sweet babies, I do not have the answer to the question of why, at least not now and not in this life. But I do know that there is incredible value in pain and suffering, if you allow yourself to experience it, to cry, to feel sorrow and grief, to hurt. Walk through the fire and you will emerge on the other end, whole and stronger. I promise. You will ultimately find truth and beauty and wisdom and peace. You will understand that nothing lasts forever, not pain, or joy. You will understand that joy cannot exist without sadness. Relief cannot exist without pain. Compassion cannot exist without cruelty. Courage cannot exist without fear. Hope cannot exist without despair. Wisdom cannot exist without suffering. Gratitude cannot exist without deprivation. Paradoxes abound in this life. Living is an exercise in navigating within them.

I was deprived of sight. And yet, that single unfortunate physical condition changed me for the better. Instead of leaving me wallowing in self-pity, it made me more ambitious. It made me more resourceful. It made me smarter. It taught me to ask for help, to not be ashamed of my physical shortcoming. It forced me to be honest with myself and my limitations, and eventually to be honest with others. It taught me strength and resilience.

You will be deprived of a mother. As your mother, I wish I could protect you from the pain. But also as your mother, I want you to feel the pain, to live it, embrace it, and then learn from it. Be stronger people because of it, for you will know that you carry my strength within you. Be more compassionate people because of it; empathize with those who suffer in their own ways. Rejoice in life and all its beauty because of it; live with special zest and zeal for me. Be grateful in a way that only someone who lost her mother so early can, in your understanding of the precariousness and preciousness of life. This is my challenge to you, my sweet girls, to take an ugly tragedy and transform it into a source of beauty, love, strength, courage, and wisdom.

Many may disagree, but I have always believed, always, even when I was a precocious little girl crying alone in my bed, that our purpose in this life is to experience everything we possibly can, to understand as much of the human condition as we can squeeze into one lifetime, however long or short that may be. We are here to feel the complex range of emotions that come with being human. And from those experiences, our souls expand and grow and learn and change, and we understand a little more about what it really means to be human. I call it the evolution of the soul. Know that your mother lived an incredible life that was filled with more than her “fair” share of pain and suffering, first with her blindness and then with cancer. And I allowed that pain and suffering to define me, to change me, but for the better.

In the years since my diagnosis, I have known love and compassion that I never knew possible; I have witnessed and experienced for myself the deepest levels of human caring, which humbled me to my core and compelled me to be a better person. I have known a mortal fear that was crushing, and yet I overcame that fear and found courage. The lessons that blindness and then cancer have taught me are too many for me to recount here, but I hope, when you read what follows, you will understand how it is possible to be changed in a positive way by tragedy and you will learn the true value of suffering. The worth of a person’s life lies not in the number of years lived; rather it rests on how well that person has absorbed the lessons of that life, how well that person has come to understand and distill the multiple, messy aspects of the human experience. While I would have chosen to stay with you for much longer had the choice been mine, if you can learn from my death, if you accepted my challenge to be better people because of my death, then that would bring my spirit inordinate joy and peace.

You will feel alone and lonely, and yet, understand that you are not alone. It is true that we walk this life alone, because we feel what we feel singularly and each of us makes our own choices. But it is possible to reach out and find those like you, and in so doing you will feel not so lonely. This is another one of life’s paradoxes that you will learn to navigate. First and foremost, you have each other to lean on. You are sisters, and that gives you a bond of blood and common experiences that is like no other. Find solace in one another. Always forgive and love one another. Then there’s Daddy. Then there are Titi and Uncle Mau and Aunt Nancy and Aunt Caroline and Aunt Sue and so many dear friends, all of whom knew and loved me so well — who think of you and pray for you and worry about you. All of these people’s loving energy surrounds you so that you will not feel so alone.

And last, wherever I may go, a part of me will always be with you. My blood flows within you. You have inherited the best parts of me. Even though I won’t physically be here, I will be watching over you.

Sometimes, when you practice your instruments, I close my eyes so I can hear better. And when I do, I am often overcome with this absolute knowing that whenever you play the violin or the piano, when you play it with passion and commitment, the music with its special power will beckon me and I will be there. I will be sitting right there, pushing you to do it again and again and again, to count, to adjust your elbow, to sit properly. And then I will hug you and tell you how you did a great job and how very proud I am of you. I promise. Even long after you have chosen to stop playing, I will still come to you in those extraordinary and ordinary moments in life when you live with a complete passion and commitment. It might be while you’re standing atop a mountain, marveling at exceptional beauty and filled with pride in your ability to reach the summit, or when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time or when you are crying because someone or something has broken your tender heart or maybe when you’re miserably pulling an all-nighter for school or work. Know that your mother once felt as you feel and that I am there hugging you and urging you on. I promise.

I have often dreamed that when I die, I will finally know what it would be like to see the world without visual impairment, to see far into the distance, to see the minute details of a bird, to drive a car. Oh, how I long to have perfect vision, even after all these years without. I long for death to make me whole, to give me what was denied me in this life. I believe this dream will come true. Similarly, when your time comes, I will be there waiting for you, so that you, too, will be given what was lost to you. I promise. But in the meantime, live, my darling babies. Live a life worth living. Live thoroughly and completely, thoughtfully, gratefully, courageously, and wisely. Live!

I love you both forever and ever, to infinity, through space and time. Never ever forget that.


Good Read: Rest


Recently between feedings, naps, and reading before bed, when I can, I recently finished reading, Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.  It was a good read and also enlightening and insightful, especially entering this year, 2019, where I hope to make more time for rest, despite having a baby, where things always seem quite busy.  The premise of the book is how rest and work are integrally connected and that you actually can be more creative and efficient when one gets proper rest.  I highly recommend it, for all, especially creative persons!  It certainly changed my perspective on rest, work, and creativity.  I think dogs have a great perspective on rest that we can learn from as well!  Some favorite quotes from this book are shown below!

“…it is not constant effort that delivers results but a kind of constant, patient, unhurried focus that organizes the investigator’s attention when at work and is present but watchful during periods of ease.  Devoting yourself only to the first and neglecting the second might make you more productive in the short run but will make your work less profound in the long run.”

“Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost super human capacity to focus.  Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work.  The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.  Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil.  Their touring creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

“We think of routine as the opposite of creativity: things done by routine require little thought and leave no room for creative interpretation of flexibility.  In reality, German sociologists Sandra Ohly, Sabine Sonnentag, and Franziska Pluntke argue, routines can enhance creativity.”

“A combination of routine and freedom, a world laid out to support creative work while reducing unnecessary distractions and peripheral decisions, nicely describes the world that focused moorings and routines make.  And if creativity is supported by routine, rest is absolutely dependent on it.”

“In order to keep rest from being invaded by work or crowded our of your day by a long to-do list, you need to use your routine like a fortification to protect your time.  That same routine also lets you get more done and makes you more creative.  It’s another example of how work and rest are subtly connected and mutually reinforcing.”

“Naps can provide an opportunity to have new ideas.  The studies show that you can learn to time your nap to increase the creative boost that it provides, make it more physically restorative, or probe the traffic between the conscious mind and unconscious mind.  Napping, in other words, turns out to be a skill.”

“Frank Lloyd Wright likewise advised architecture students that in the afternoon ‘a short nap was a must,’ as it ‘divided one day into two and helped to refuel the creative spirit.'”

“Dalí argues that the real work of painting happens while the artist sleeps, particularly in the nights before starting a new painting.  He urges readers not to regard this sleep as a period of ‘inactivity and indifference.’  To the contrary: ‘It’s precisely during this sleep,’ he says, ‘that you will secretly in the very depths of your spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving.’  It is in the dream that ‘the principal part — that is to say the sleep — of the work is already done.'”

“Naps are powerful tools for recovering our energy and focus.  We can even learn to tailor them to give us more of a creative boost, or provide more physical benefit, or explore the ideas that emerge at the boundary between consciousness and sleep.”

“The deliberate stop also makes you more productive over the long run.  Many writers start their careers believing that the best work is done in bursts of inspiration only to discover that they do higher-quality work and get more done if they pace themselves.”

“Creative work is a marathon, not a sprint, as writer (and marathoner) Haruki Murakami put it.  In both running and writing, ‘once you set the pace, the rest will follow,’ Murakami says.  ‘The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed — and get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”‘

“Whether they’ve looked at memories of creative people or measured the effectiveness of breaks on performance on divergence tests, they’ve found that breaks provide a fairly consistent boost to creative thinking.”

“But you don’t do great work by sprinting to the finish; you’re more likely to accomplish great things by stopping at a strategic point and continuing the next day.”

“Sleep turns out to be important for the maintenance of the brain’s physical health and the growth of new brain cells.  It’s essential for the consolidation of memories and processing of new skills, and for the interpretation of experiences.”

“Sabbaticals give creative people a chance to reanimate their creative lives, explore new interests, and make life-changing breakthroughs.  Together, they help intelligent, ambitious people stay curious, engaged, and productive, and help them lead long creative lives.”

“At first, researchers mainly investigated the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, but studies now show that for people of any age, gender, or athletic ability, exercise can increase brain power, boost intelligence, and provide the stamina and psychological resilience necessary to do creative work.”

“Exercise generally has indirect but positive effects on creativity.”

“Workaholics are more likely than other people to feel anxiety about work when they’re out of the office, and exercise provides an outlet for nervous energy and a different focus for mental energy.”

“We shouldn’t be surprised that people manage to be physically active and do world-class work.  We should recognize that they do world-class work because they are physically active.”

“Because play is voluntary, intrinsically rewarding, mentally and physically engaging, and imaginative, it’s often absorbing and effortless; even when it’s physically challenging or uncomfortable, it’s not difficult in the same way a hard day at work is.”

“Deep play is a critical form of deliberate rest and an essential part of the lives of creative people.  It provides a way to unify what might otherwise be disparate and scattered activities into a unified whole, a life that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“For creative and prolific people, seeing outside activities as expressions of the same interests that guide their professional lives builds a bridge between the worlds of work and rest and help turn these activities into deep play.”

“Deep play is also striking because even if it speaks to the same profound interests and uses common skills, it also establishes clear boundaries between work and play.”

“Sabbaticals can also play a critical but easily overlooked role in one’s intellectual development.  These don’t have to be the scheduled well-organized sabbaticals that are a prized feature of academic life.  Some of the most powerful life-changing sabbaticals are relatively short.”

“The most fruitful sabbaticals, like other forms of deliberate rest, are active.”

“Yet a weeklong sabbatical can be restorative when done skillfully, and even a monthlong sabbatical can be life-changing.”

“A life that takes rest seriously is not only a more creative life.  When we take the right to rest, when we make rest fulfilling, and when we practice rest through our days and years, we also make our lives richer and more fulfilling.”

“Taking rest seriously requires recognizing its importance, claiming our right to rest, and carving out and defending space for rest in our daily lives.”

“Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence work or something that we hope to get sometime.  It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.”

“Deliberate rest help organize your life.  It also helps calm your life.”

“Deliberate rest helps cultivate calm.  It deepens your capacity to focus, which helps you complete urgent tasks while driving off anxiety.  It encourages you to work steadily rather than wait for a burst of inspiration.”

“Deliberate rest also gives you more time.  At an everyday level, deliberate rest helps you work more effectively.  It frees time in your calendar by helping you maintain stricter boundaries between work and rest time, and use your leisure time in more fulfilling ways.  By helping you find forms of rest that don’t compete with work, deep play and deliberate rest reduces your sense of time pressure.”

“Finally, deliberate rest helps you live a good life.”

“Rest is not idleness.  When we treat rest as work’s equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and we see it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time, and help us achieve more while working less.”

The Wisdom of Sundays



Have you heard about the new book, The Wisdom of Sundays, by Oprah, which shares excerpts and quotes from her Super Soul Sunday interviews over the years?  I received this book a few weeks ago, and it is really good.  Below I am sharing some of my favorite quotes from this book.

“We have this immense interior life inside of us.  We can call it the life of the soul.  Poets and mystics and people have been trying to figure out what two call this for a long time.  But there is an inner silence in it.  And there is an incredible mystery floating in it.  This is where the divine lives in us.”  — Sue Monk Kidd

“‘Am I living the life that I can admire?  Am I going to leave this earth a place where it’s a little more than just what it was?’  Those are my values.  And never giving up.  And finding a way through obstacles.  And finding grit and will.  Those are what I value.”  — Diana Nyad

“The best way to be in the present moment is to be aware that you’re not in the moment.  As soon as you’re aware that you’re not in the moment, you’re in the moment.”  — Deepak Chopra

“All you have to do is breathe mindfully and recognize the feeling.  You recognize the situation and help yourself not be overwhelmed by the negative feeling like fear and anxiety.”  — Thich Nhat Hanh

“You will forgive because you love yourself so much that you don’t want to keep hurting yourself for whatever happened.  Whatever happened is done and cannot be changed.  And we have to accept that and keep going with our life.”  — Don Miguel Ruiz

“In the depth of loss, I found out who I really was.  I began to trust who I was.  I began to find a genuine me that could withstand anything.  And if we fight those times and fight the bud opening, we live half a life.  But when we open into our brokenness. that’s when we blossom.”  — Elizabeth Lesser

“Sometimes when we wake up to spirituality, and you’ve seen it everywhere, the you-know-what hits the fan.  And everything falls apart.  Those are the moments when we get to work. These are not the moments when we drink.  Those are not the moments when we go back to the addiction.  Those are the moments that we get to work.  Because those moments are showing up to help you show up.  Pay attention to the assignments that are coming to you, and show up for them!  Everything comes up so it can be healed.”  — Gabrielle Bernstein

“Acceptance.  Accept the fact of the hour.  The fact of the mile.  The fact of the summer.  The facts of my life.  And over and over again, I found that if I could do that, everything else sort of gave way.  And it led me into the next step, the next thing that was going to reveal itself.  And I think that is such a powerful and important thing.”  — Cheryl Strayed

“Begin to notice what you have in your life that you are grateful for and what you look at life through the lens of gratitude, you don’t see as many obstacles and hindrances.  You see potential, you see possibilities.  Then you become an open vehicle for more inspiration, more wisdom, more guidance, coming from the spiritual part of your being.”  — Michael Bernard Beckwith

“Many of us think that in order to find our passion, we have to look outside of ourselves.  But I’ve learned that the secret, ironically, to finding your passion is to start by bringing passion to everything you do.  And I do mean everything.  So no matter what ask is in front of you, bring as much enthusiasm and energy to it as you possibly can.”  — Marie Forleo

“Everybody has a calling.  Your real job in life is to figure out why you are here and get about the business of doing it.”  — Oprah

“The soul is your mother ship.  So when you’re sailing in the same direction that it wants to go, your life fills with meaning and purpose.  And when you sail in another direction, it empties of meaning and purpose.”  — Gary Zukav

“The will is so undefinable and can push you so far beyond.  I’ve has sports scientists, the best of them, write me and say, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, this is humanity impossible.’  And I write back to them, ‘You have no idea then.  You’re just doing your little studies on what the heart can do, and what the lungs can do.  I’m talking to you about what the spirit can do, and that’s not measurable.’  The spirit is larger than the body.  Find a way.”  — Diana Nyad

“I believe we all have unlimited possibilities to become pretty much anything we want because I believe you’re not given a dream unless you have the capacity to fulfill it.”  — Jack Canfield

“We are busier than any other generation we have seen in the last three to four hundred years.  We are so busy.  And we think because we’re busy, we’re effective.  But I want you to challenge your schedule for a minute and ask yourself, are you really being effective, or is your life cluttered with all kinds of stuff that demands you, and drains you, and taxes you, and stops you from being are you substituting busyness and all the chaos that goes along with busyness for being effective?”  — Bishop T.D. Jakes

“Intelligence counts for only 25 percent of our job success; 75 percent of our successes in life — and not just about jobs but within the working world — 75 percent of what causes our kids to be successful, causes us to be successful, is not about our intelligence and technical skills.  It’s how we process the world.  It’s our optimism.  Like the belief that our behavior really matters.”  — Shawn Achor

“When I was a kid, my father used to say to me all the time, ‘The only limit to your success is your own imagination.’  And I took that as not just being financial success or work success.  I took that as being every kind of success — love and family and emotional and everything.  The only limit to your success is your own imagination.  Whatever your can imagine is possible.”  — Shondra Rhimes

“Nobody but nobody makes it out here alone.  What really matters now is love.  I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise.  Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, that is really what matters.  There has always been evil and there will always be evil.  But there has always been good, and there is good now.”  — Dr. Maya Angelou

“The secret to long marriage is she was the right person.  And we decided fairly early in our life to give each other plenty of space.  Rosalynn has her own ideas, her own ambitions, her own goals in life, which, in some ways, are different from mine.  I let her do her thing.  She lets me do my thing.  And we try to resolve our inevitable and fairly frequent differences before we go to bed at night.”  — President Jimmy Carter

“If you’re going to love somebody, you have to learn to be patient with their strengths and with their weaknesses.  Love is when you choose to be at your best when the other person is not at their best.”  — Pastor Wintley Phipps

“Whatever you do in life . . . remember . . . think higher, and feel deeper.  Life is not a fist.  Life is an open hand waiting for some other hand to enter it in friendship.  Ultimately, the answers are so simple.  Not simplistic, but so simple.”  — Elie Wiesel

Good Read: The Alchemist


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Have you read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho?  It is a really great read that my dear friend recommended, which I finished reading recently.  I highly recommend this book to all!  This book traces the spiritual path and of a young shepherd boy who is compelled to follow his dream of finding a hidden treasure in Egypt.  To do so, he must leave the comfort zone of home, learn to trust the “Soul of the World,” and believe that there are forces in the universe that want us to be happy.  In order to find happiness, however, the boy must first discover his “Personal Legend”— that is to say, he must to discover what he is meant to do in the world.  Fortunately, the boy soon takes the first step in his acquisition of happiness — he listens to his heart and overcomes fear.  As the boy continues his sometimes painful journey, he discovers that one cannot be dissuaded from pursuing a “Personal Legend,” even if the choices seem impossible to bear.  The end result for anyone who does so, Coelho assures his readers, is physical and spiritual reward.

Some of my favorite quotes from this book are shown below.

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

“All things are one.”

“Never stop dreaming.”

“Follow the omens.”

“Making a decision was only the beginning of things.  When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

“If I could, I’d write a huge encyclopedia just about the words luck and coincidence.  It’s with those words the universal language is written.”

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it’s all written there.”

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future, I’m only interested in the present.  If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.  You’ll see that there is life win the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesman fight because they are part of the human race.  Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

“Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected, and we are able to know everything, because it is all written there.”

“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future.  I’m interested only in the present.  If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.”

“The most important part of the language that all the world spoke — the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart — it was love.”

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person realize his dream.”

“Don’t think about what you’ve left behind…Everything is written in the Soul of the World, and there it will stay forever.”

“Wherever your heart is that is where you’ll find your treasure.”

“You will never be able to escape from your heart.  So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.  That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.”

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for to achieve.”

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck.  And every search ends with the victors being severely tested.”

“Don’t give into your fears…If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”

“When we strive to be better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”


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Good Read: Inspirational Books

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I thought that I would share some inspirational books!

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna NiequistSavor contains 365 daily readings, plus there are great recipes included throughout the book.  Each daily reading is short and poignant, and designed to help you pause in your day, to consider your everyday life, to slow down, and notice the beauty right where you are.  Each reading ends with a question or statement to ponder throughout your day.  Below is an excerpt from this book.

“I want to arrive.  I want to get to wherever I’m going and stay there.  That’s why I used to be such a ferocious planner of my life.  But I’ve learned to just keep moving, keep walking, keep taking teeny tiny steps.  In those teeny tiny steps and moments I become who I am.  We don’t arrive.  But we can become.  And that’s the most hopeful thing I can think of.  In the passing moments of our lives, in the small steps we take, we are shaped into who we are becoming.  What small steps have you taken recently?  How have they shaped you?  Who are you becoming?” –Shauna Niequist

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed: I love quotes, and this book is a collection of quotes and nuggets of advice and inspirational wisdom.  This book makes a great gift for women.  Below is one of my favorite quotes.

“The thing about rising is we have to continue upward; the thing about going beyond is we have to keep going.” — Cheryl Strayed

Outrageous Openness: Let the Divine Take the Lead by Tosha Silver: This book is about opening up to life, intuition, and divine guidance.  Each chapter contains pearls of playful wisdom.  Silver urges one to be open and provides examples of what happens when we practice from that place.  This book focuses on putting one’s faith in the divine/Universe/God/life to bring us what we need, while bringing an attitude of curiosity, acceptance, and generosity towards ourselves and others.

A Year Without Fear by Tama Kieves: I first read this book, a collection of daily inspirational wisdom, last year, and I am rereading this book again this year.  Each day’s reading provides inspiration.  Below is one of my favorite quotes.

“Trust each moment to take you where you need to go.  You won’t always have the same feelings or thoughts or perspective.  One day you wake up and new opportunities become available.  Opportunities are like a carousel ride with colorful horses that sail around and around.  When it’s your time, you’ll see your horse.  You’ll jump and fly through the air like a natural.  You’re always a natural in the right time.  Today I remember that in the right time, I’ll see my opportunity.”  –Tama Kieves

Good Read: BIG MAGIC!

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I recently finished reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert!  It is a fantastic read for everyone, as everyone is humans and inherently creative.  As you can see from the image above, I have earmarked the entire book!  Big Magic at its core is a celebration of a creative life.  Big Magic is broken into six sections: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity.  This is one of those books that I have on my desk, that I know I will go back and reference time and time again.  I am truly inspired after reading Big Magic.

The question: “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

Some of my favorite quotes from Big Magic appear below.

“And while the paths and outcomes of creative living will vary widely from person to person, I can guarantee you this: A creative life is an amplified life.  It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.  Living in this manner — continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you — is a fine art, in and of itself.”

“Because creative living is a path for the brave.  We all know this.  And we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it.  We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.  This is common knowledge; sometimes we just don’t know what to do about it.”

“Your fear will always be triggered by your creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome, and fear hates an uncertain outcome.”

“It seems to me that my fear and my creativity are basically conjoined twins — as evidenced by the fact that creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside of it.”

“And you have treasures hidden within you — extraordinary treasures — and so do I, and so does everyone around us.  And bringing those treasures to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think so small.”

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Good Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I recently finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Japanese tidiness and organizing expert, Kondo, believes that decluttering your home can truly change your life.  Kondo has a waiting list for her services, and apparently, she does not have repeat customers as her “KonMari Method” really works.  Kondo firmly believes that serious tidying up cannot be done in baby steps of fifteen minutes daily or throwing out a few things every day.  Her philosophy is to do it all at once.

Kondo focuses on the relationship between three things: “In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.”  She believes that the art of de-cluttering is “a special send-off for those things that will be departing,” and part of the process should be “a ceremony to launch them on a new journey.”

I do not like clutter and this book provided great suggestions for de-cluttering, which is really freeing.  Some of my favorite quotes from this book are shown below.

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask” ‘Does this spark joy?’  If it does, keep it.  If not, dispose of it.  This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.  As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart.  Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.  By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

“Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever.”

“Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong.  Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”

“I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.”

This book inspired me to go through my closet and attic and get rid of items that do not bring me/us joy!  If you are looking for help getting your house in order, I recommend this helpful book!


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Good Read: The Power of Starting Something Stupid

I recently finished reading the book entitled, The Power of Starting Something Stupid by Richie Norton.  This was a good read. This book is full of helpful information, while providing a new perspective.  Richie illustrates how stupid is the New Smart—the key for success, creativity, and innovation.

What if the key to success, creativity, and fulfillment in your life lies in the potential of those stupid ideas?  This inspiring book will teach you:

-How to crush fear, make dreams happen, and live without regret;

-How to overcome obstacles such as lack of time, lack of education, or lack of money; and

-The five actions of the ‘New Smart’ to achieve authentic success.

One of the best takeaways for me came towards the end of the book.  In the conversations Richie had with older people near the end of their lives, their greatest lament didn’t have to do with failure, but with regret.  Therefore, if you have a wild idea that everyone says or thinks is ‘stupid’ — don’t discount it.  There is great value in those ‘stupid ideas’ that are actually not ‘stupid’ — instead, they are very insightful — and you should give them more attention and thought.

Have a great weekend!


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Helpful Books for Forging a Creative Path

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I have shared some ‘Good Reads’ on the blog in the past.  However, I thought it would be helpful and useful to share the books, along with a brief synopsis and thoughts for each book, that have been especially helpful to me in pursuing a creative path.


Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland

I first read Art & Fear during college and I have read it many times since.  This is one of my favorite books.  It explores the way art gets made, why it often does not get made, and the difficulties that arise along the way.  Most of all, this book helps to reshape your perspective and overcome your fear and attain your goals.


Ways of Seeing by John Berger

I also first read Ways of Seeing during college and I have read several times since.  Ways of Seeing is a collection of seven essays.  Three are pictorial; four are textual.  All essays are about art; how art is seen; how it is valued; how it is used; and what we can learn from looking at art.  I found this book very informative.


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I have read The War of Art several times and this book is a practical guide for thriving in the creative world.  This is another one of my favorite books.  The wisdom in The War of Art can be used to help you accomplish any goal you set for yourself.  The key is beating resistance, a force that keeps one from living up to his/her potential.


This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love by Tama Kieves

I read This Time I Dance several years ago for the first time.  Tam Kieves is a former attorney who chose to leave practicing law and follow her true calling, writing.  Her story, which she shares in this book, about her career transition, is very inspiring and insightful.


The Power of Patience by M.J. Ryan

The Power of Patience offers many different ways of looking at patience and practicing patience each day.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found this book easy to read and filled with helpful information and various perspectives concerning patience.  Being creative, I have learned, requires a significant amount of patience and fortitude.

The portion of this book that resonated with me discussed patience in relation to receptivity.  Here is a quote from this book.  “However, the receptive energy of patience is real work!  It takes an effort to not simply run off and do something for the sake of doing it, to live in the unknown for as long as it takes without becoming angry, bitter, or depressed.  It may look like nothing on the surface.  But underneath, within ourselves, we’re lifting some heavy timber.”


Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Johnathan Fields

I enjoyed reading Uncertainty.  In a nutshell, this book is about managing the creative process, particularly with regard to entrepreneurial pursuits.  In this book, Jonathan Fields draws on his own experience of success, transformation, effort, and uncertainty and provides guidance on how to face our fears and use them to propel us forward, rather than hold us paralyzed.  Not only is this book motivational, inspiring you to take courageous decisions, it also provides practical advice on how to deal with the fear and take steps to avoid disaster.


Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown presents her findings on the concepts of shame, weakness, and vulnerability.  Defining vulnerability “as exposure, uncertainty, and emotional risk,” Brene Brown has stated that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”  Brene Brown maintains that this feeling is the crux of most of our meaningful experiences.  Ultimately, she writes, it is not a weakness; everyone is vulnerable, we all need support via friends and family.  Trust and vulnerability go hand in hand.  Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice,” she writes, “we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen.  This is vulnerability.  This is daring greatly.”   When we choose to dare greatly, the rewards are vast: We feel more loved and are more loving, we feel worthy of that love, we choose our path and commit to it with daily practice, and we live with courage, engagement and a clear sense of purpose.


Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamontt

I read this book again last year while on vacation.  This is one of my favorite books chalked full of wisdom.  Below are a few of my favorite quotes from this book.

“You may need someone else to bounce your material off of, probably a friend or a mate, someone who can tell you if the seams show, or if you’ve lurched off track, or even that it is not as bad as you thought … But by all means let someone else take a look at your work.  It’s too hard always to have to be the executioner.”

“And I don’t think you have that kind of time either.  I don’t think you have the time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it, and I don’t think you have time to waste on someone who does not respond to you with kindness and respect.”

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madam or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work.”


Inspired and Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! by Tama Kieves

I read Inspired and Unstoppable last year, which is a follow-up book to This Time I Dance!  Tama Kieves contemplates in this book that the way to success is an ‘inspired path,’ not a linear one.  In this book, she brings her ideas and actions together to help others choose to follow an ‘inspired path.’  I found the sentiments in this book insightful and helpful.


Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon

Art Inc. offers a concise guide for anyone seeking to start or enhance their career in art, with actionable tasks and helpful tools.  Lisa Congdon’s writing is clear, easy to understand, and inspiring.  I especially enjoyed the interviews with other artists that appeared throughout the book.  I also enjoyed reading the information relating to exhibitions and gallery representation.  Overall, the information contained in this book was very helpful and informative.

Good Read: Sashi, the Scared Little Sheltie

I recently was given the book entitled, Sashi, the Scared Little Sheltie!  This book is a good read, especially if you enjoy illustration and a book about a rescue sheltie friend!

Sashi, the Scared Little Sheltie, is the true story about a little dog who loses her home.  Sashi does not understand why she was left at an animal shelter, and because she cowered in a corner of her cage, potential adopters passed her by.  However, the Sheltie Rescue helps Sashi; and ultimately, Sahi is adopted into a home where she blossoms into the dog she was meant to be!  This story reminds me very much of our experience with Biscuit and Victory.

Importantly, this book was made possible via crowd funding via Kickstarter!

This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone who is a sheltie lover and/or anyone who supports dog rescue!


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