Tuesday, October 9, 2012

For Adre...

Photo Courtesy of Tatiannna at Deviantart
Hello Jessica!
I'm Adre and we met on Saturday at the opening season workshop. I just wanted to say thank you! It was great meeting you on Saturday and I hope to see you soon. Also, I think it is very cool what you do for *****! Planning their events and things like that, so awesome! I'd think I'd like to do what you do "when I grow up." (Haha!) So yes, I also just wanted to tell you that you are an inspiration because what you do, I think, is really cool. If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it! 
Thank you so much Jessica!
I met Adre briefly over the weekend at Welcome Day. We had spoken while she waited to meet the executive director and as she was leaving, she asked if I would write down my email address in her new journal.  I was so overwhelmed when I received this email.  She thought I was inspiring?!?!  And that what I do is both cool and awesome!?!?  With all the planning for this upcoming season (partnerships, sponsors, negotiating venues for the workshops, planning fundraisers) I've felt far from cool and mostly just tired, overwhelmed and inevitably a bit stressed.  Her email reminded me of why I chose to work with an organization like *****.  I hit reply and typed the message below.  

What advice can I give you on what I do?  Gosh, I guess the thing I try to remind myself of daily is "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  In events, something always goes a little awry, but you really have to learn to roll with it and if everyone is safe and having a good time, then the rest will take care of itself.  The best way to get good at a thing is doing it, and if you are ever afraid of trying something because you might not get it "just right," hold your head up and do it anyway.  I've learned more from the things that didn't go as planned (not wrong, just un-planned) than anything else.

Play. Invite people over for no reason just to see what kind of furniture designs and impromptu event decor you can come up with from what you already own. Go to the flower mart downtown and see what the planet is growing. Try every food. Say yes to invitations.  And don't save your nice shoes, jewelry, dishes, dresses, whatever, for someday when things will be special.  Every day is worth celebrating.

As I typed it, I might as well have been writing it to myself.  We are so blessed to have opportunities to encourage others to live their best lives by doing that very act ourselves. What have you done to live your best life lately?  Remember, there's a good chance someone is watching you and being encouraged to do the same.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ouspensky's "The Fourth Way" and Negative Emotions

Recently, I read back over some of my favorite passages from "The Fourth Way" by P.D. Ouspensky, and there were several important points that he made in the book and in his later works on negative emotions, our attachments to them, and the way to move from our addiction to negative expression. Yes, many of us are addicted to negative emotions, in spite of all of our affirming that we want to be happy, positive people.

In his book, he notes that "there is not a single useful negative emotion, useful in any sense. Negative emotions are all a sign of weakness." Many will say that we need to be able to express when things are bad or dangerous or we are hurt, and in the moment, this is true. However, many of us dwell on the negative far past the time when it is relevant, allowing it to diminish the joy of the present. In politics, in jobs, in personal life, we take great liberties in imposing our negative emotions on others, and we often derive a great deal of pleasure from it. Ouspensky points out that "almost all of our personal negative emotions are based on accusations, somebody else is guilty," but if we realize "we are the cause of all that happens to us, that changes things..." He goes on to say that "You do not realize how much you lose by these spontaneous manifestations of negative character. They make so many things impossible."

Ouspensky suggests that one of the cures for negative emotions is to confront our struggle with identification. We like to think that there are circumstances that create negative emotions, when in reality, "all negative emotions are in us, inside us." We are so quick to proclaim that things are out of our control, but we are each given the freedom to decide if we will succumb to negativity when faced with adversity, or rise above it, staying present, and holding fast to what is in fact, our true positive reality. In the "Power of Now," Eckhart Tolle speaks of a mentor who would raise his index finger and ask "What, in this moment, is missing?" basically stating that "The past has no power over the present moment" unless we grant it to the power to do so.

The next time you feel compelled to sit down with a friend to languish over your trials, stop and think "What, in this moment, is missing? Am I identifying with circumstances that will manifest more negativity, rather than eradicating it?" As you see that kind face across from you, loving you, being there for you, reconsider whether remembering and reliving the negative is worthwhile, or if you can find the strength to let go of your need for negative expression and instead find positivity and bliss in each moment.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What does ladylike look like?

I've seen many women struggle with the idea that being lady-like looks like the picture above; passive, well-coiffed, well dressed, demure.  Being a woman who transcends just her gender identification and acquires the description of "a lady," should be based more on one's character than costume and good cosmetics.  In general, we have given too much weight to the appearance of refinement instead of the actual acknowledgement and valuation of behavior and lives that showcase good core values, manners, sound character and compassion. The traits and behaviors that we admire in a lady are just as admirable in a gentleman, and the sooner women embrace them, the sooner men will be encouraged to do the same.  So for fun, take a moment to determine whether the words of wisdom below are from a man or a women, and whether they are gender specific or not.

1. No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

2. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

3. In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.

4. All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.

5. A man's character is like his shadow, which sometimes follows and sometimes precedes him, and which is occasionally longer, occasionally shorter, than he is. 

6.  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

7. The more a man knows, the more he forgives.

8. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

9. The extent of your consciousness is limited only by your ability to love and to embrace with your love the space around you, and all it contains.

10. Disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction.


1. Aesop 2. George Washington 3. Marianne Williamson 4. Abraham Lincoln 5. Madame de la Rochejaquelein 6. Leo Buscaglia 7. Catherine the Great 8. Audrey Hepburn 9. Napoleon Bonaparte 10. Margaret Thatcher

I very much believe that women set the tone for the way that men and children think about and carry themselves as we have been given the gift of understanding how best to nurture one another as well as how to express love and compassion. When we falter in these modes, the others suffer and are not encouraged to rise to the greatest expression of themselves.  Don't worry about how to sit properly or wear pearls as much as finding ways, everyday, to enliven your highest self.

"Elevate the girls, and you elevate the world."   That's mine.  ;)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Instincts, Altruism and Selflessness

Yes, yes, I know I am supposed to share inspiring stories of women who are really being great role models, but I found this story so moving that I wanted to share it with you.

The rescued infant.
Photo by Ghana News Agency
In Ghana, a woman believed she had lost her dog and had a search party helping to track her beloved canine friend down through the nearby forest.  They searched and searched, and eventually found this now heroic farm dog, cuddled up against a two week old baby that had been abandoned under a bridge.  Keeping the child warm and safe from harm, the dog was able to nurture something unfamiliar and most likely saved the child's life. Amazing!

I'm not one to play at personification of animals.  I truly love and embrace the nature of dogs and cats and praying mantises and whatever else, but in this instant, there is truly something so inspiring in the dog's behavior that I felt compelled to write about it.  

Animals have been known to accept the young of other animals into their litters, raising them as their own and resulting in puppies that grow up to clean themselves like kittens or baby hippos that are convinced their mother is a 130 year old giant male tortoise.

Photo Credit: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters 
There have been studies conducted on Animal Altruism, or the sacrificing of oneself for the protection or betterment of another. These acts of protecting another have helped to improve and evolve the species over time by insuring that all members of a species are given the opportunity to live, thrive, feel protected and inherit the traits and behaviors that will protect future generations.

I know many of us are hesitant to leave our safe places and venture into the unfamiliar, which is a part of our instinctive call to self-preservation.  Helping a stranger, accepting a new or unknown person or pet into our care, going to a part of town that you've never been to to help people you've never met, all pushes us out of our comfort zone.  But the truth is, what you instill in yourself, the trait of selflessness and altruism, is something you may also pass down to your friends, your family, your community and those that you help.  That farm dog left his meal bowl and everything familiar because something told him that someone needed his help.  And right now, in this world, I know someone needs you.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dining in Style...

Things have been quite busy around here and with a very exciting event coming up at a gorgeous home in Los Angeles, I couldn't wait to put on my creative cap and design an inspiration board for their dinner party.  The home, built in the 1920s, has many of the Egyptian style touches that were so prominent during the era when King Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered and caused a style renaissance that is still visible in many of the older homes and theaters built during that decade.  To honor the era, I created an inspiration board built around the Hollywood Regency design with a bit of glamour, femininity and celebration.  The client wanted to avoid a lot of color, so I opted for subtle hints of yellow and candlelight to give that bit of warmth and luminosity without pulling too many hues. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Don't Invite Them to the Party

A few years ago, a movie came out called "Dinner With the Schmucks." I only saw the trailers but I chose not to see it as it seemed to revolve around inviting someone played by Steve Carrell, to attend parties and whose antics and misbehavior would make everyone feel uncomfortable. ***Whether this was the ultimate plot, I couldn't say, but that's how it was advertised to me.***

So why bring it up? Well, over the holiday I was chatting with my brother and brought up a topic that made me upset, and his retort, with a straight face was "You see what you did there? You invited them to the party." I stopped dead in my tracks. Yes, we were having a great time, I hadn't seen him in six months and I had let something that was unpleasant and negative "join" our party.

As an Event Planner, I have had to deal with my fair share of uninvited guests and party crashers that have made the mood unpleasant for others. We had one girl who like to hoard cocktail napkins and later set them over a candle. Instead of enjoying the rest of the wonderfully well-behaved guests, I was having to keep tabs on this girl the whole night to make sure she didn't cause a disturbance or a fire!

The same is true of inviting unwanted thoughts, conversations or topics into the time we spend with those we care about. We focus on the troublemakers rather than the gracious people that are around us, cheering us on, toasting life's accomplishments, dancing to the music.

So what better way to remind myself to not invite negative speak or stressful topics into my life then by "Not inviting them to the party?" This works for me!

But it might not work for everyone, so I am happy to share another suggestion from one of my colleagues:

He told me that every night when he arrives home, he pauses, places his hand over the numbers on his house, and that's where he checks all the stress of the day. (See all these great guys with such wonderful insight!) Whether it be work, traffic, whatever, he leaves it outside and enters his home with serenity and happiness. I'm honored to be a part of planning his wedding in just a little over a month, and feel like his bride-to-be is lucky to have a husband that sees the value of letting whatever stressful things may have happened in the day not interfere with their time together.

I think it's important for all of us to have that secret password or gesture that forbids all negative things from crossing the threshold in to our happiness, relationships and peace of mind. What have you found that works for you? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

Perhaps a little musical inspiration for kicking those party crashers out:

Ray Charles and British Schoolchildren singing "Hit the Road, Jack"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Post-It Flowers

If you've ever been in the awkward position of realizing you've forgotten to bring something for an office birthday party, here is a fun little project you can do with just a few of the items you might find around the office. Head to the supply closet, or reach into your side drawer, for a stack of sticky notes and some glue and follow along.
For this project, you will need five Post-Its or square pieces of paper per flower. Depending on whether you want to go really crazy and make a bouquet, you can create something quite lovely with a single stack, or a variety of colors to really make it pop.

1. Fold the paper on a diagonal, connecting one corner to another, so you have a right triangle. Turn the triangle so that right corner is facing away from you.

2. Fold both the left and right corners up to the right angled corner. (Using your geometry skills!) This should give you a near perfect square shape again, but not for long.

3. Using your finger, open up the folded corners so it's like a small cone. (Please note, if you're using Post-Its, the stickiness will make one side a bit difficult to open.)

4. Press down on the cone so that the crease you see in the paper runs down the middle.

5. Repeat this with the other fold. It should look like you have 3 lazy diamonds side-by-side.

6. Fold down the triangular tops of the outer diamond areas, so that they are level with the edges of the paper.

7. Where you see that crease down the middle of the diamond, fold each side in on itself.

8. Use a bit of glue on the outer part of the folded diamond, and bring both sides together to make a cone shape. This is the way to make one petal. You can squeeze as tight as you like as you can fluff them up a bit later. For now, just get them secure.

9. If you're in a rush or don't have glue, you can use a paper clip. Repeat with the rest of the Post-its or pieces of paper.

10. Once the petals are folded and dry, you can begin applying glue to the outer areas close to all of the folds, and pressing two petals together. Again, squeeze all you want, as they can be fluffed up later.

11. Repeat this with the petals until you have two stuck together, three, four and finally five. The more you puff them out, the easier they are to connect.

12. Present your masterpiece to your coworker, letting them know you didn't quite know what to get them, but you hope this will brighten their day. Add sheepish grin.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eighteen Days Without You

"Then I think of you in bed,
your tongue half chocolate, half ocean,
of the houses that you swing into,
of the steel wool hair on your head,
of your persistent hands and then
how we gnaw at the barrier because we are two."

I recently came across this jarring and lovely poem "Eighteen Days Without You" by Anne Sexton. I would transcribe it here, but instead, there is a page that has displayed them so perfectly and where you can read the whole work Eighteen Days Without You Her raw "confessional poet" style is sometimes disturbing, tantalizing, sometimes haunting and then beautiful.

As her teacher Robert Lowell once said of Sexton, “her gift was to grip, to give words to the drama of her personality.”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Swell Season

I heard this song today and was inspired to write a little story. Please click play then read along. I hope you enjoy!

It was the sort of place where people were hesitant to keep their heads up, preferring to avert their eyes, as fearful of the obstacles at their feet as the cold stares of their fellow man. She would take a straight path into town, her steps quick and steady, searching for the things that would keep her alive. Something to trade perhaps, for the small offerings her farm brought about; a piece of cloth to block out the biting, evening air, some simple tools to fix what was broken at home. She was so vulnerable wandering alone, but what choice did she have. She must survive. Her only solace was in the pieces of paper that the poor merchants would wrap around the scraps they sold her. She would carry them close to her body, held gingerly in her fingertips so as not to be stained by their contents.

Upon arriving home, she would unwrap the twine and remove the cheese or bread or bit of dried fish, and tuck them into the jars that had managed to stay in tact through so many ancestral hands. She would wipe the papers clean, and string them up beside her threadbare clothing that never seemed to dry. The glass of her one window was wiped clean daily, and through so many years, subtle transformations had thinned the upper pane and the bottom was ever so gently expanding to seal the chill out of the lower portion. In another fifty years, it would be weatherproof. By early afternoon, but everyday a little earlier, a ray of light would find its way through her window, and then she'd watch in wonder as before her eyes, the wrinkles of the papers were ironed out, the pulp and fibers would vibrate with warmth and strengthen, transforming into a fine piece of parchment for her words to fall upon. For one half hour per day, she'd sit at her worn wooden table, watching the sunlight turn her papers golden, enchanted.

There was much work to be done, and losing one's way in such silly pleasures would only lead to trouble. As the sun ebbed further along into the sky, she would take down her pages, their warmth fleeing fast, and tuck them under the large bible that her father had read to them in their youth. The passages and stories were etched into her mind; tales of lost souls, seekers, traitors, heroes, floating around her in her father's baritone. His warnings about straying from the path of righteousness had given her a fear of man, not of God, for such anger and punishment could not be inflicted by the same entity that created the beauty around her. For all the struggle of her life, there was still a thread of good that only seemed to hint at another world beyond this.

When the Summer came about, and the days grew longer, she would find the time to take her collection of pages to a place above the small village. There the terrain was not fit for farming, and was too open and exposed for hunting or game to venture there during the day. She would make her way on sturdy legs, feeling the pebbles pushing through the soles of her shoes, little birds in shrubs flitting nervously at her presence. She'd roll her foot slowly one past the other, trying to leave no trace of herself. The sagebrush and Indian ricegrass would release their seedlings into her hem, and she would carry them with her as far as she could.

The hill contained the remnants of one tree, one that she remembered gazing upon from time to time as a child, when she and her family would make their way into town. It gained strength from being so alone on the hill, nothing to compete with it for nutrients, but it was also the tallest point when a lightning storm came through. Its magnificent form was now splintered down the middle, its upper branches cascading down and creating a sort of shelter that she would now nestle under. It was the only thing that separated her from the expansive, unfettered heavens that spread out around her. In the twists of the gnarled roots, she found the clean smooth stones that she used to hold down her pages from blowing away, and set them down for safekeeping. She walked just above the level of the tree, and then a little higher, until she was for a few moments, the highest point of that which her eyes could behold. No doubt, taller mountains existed elsewhere, but here she was. The storm, if it came, would now strike her first. But it was a clear, cloudless sky. The air was warm and the walk had inspired great adventures in her mind, and she was eager to write herself into another world.