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.