Thank You to The Muses

Being unemployed can be incredibly discouraging — not only the main element of not having a job or income, but even the hopelessness of searching for jobs and not finding possibilities.  Or finding possibilities, and then facing the daunting and seemingly-unrewarding task of spending hours crafting a fitting resumé and cover letter, only to click submit and send both off into a black hole of nothingness.  The hours, days, weeks, and months upon end of not hearing any word or making any progress.  Rather than let myself be consumed by these circumstances, I made up my mind at the beginning of this journey that I would allow myself to honestly process these emotions, but I would not wallow in them.  I know and believe that there is a greater purpose to this season in my life — it even ran across my mind the other day, that like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”, I could be in my Italy right now – and totally miss it by looking in the wrong direction.  So, to gain the most from this time, I am determinedly making the most of each step of this journey, remaining hopeful, and pursuing those things that I love.

March has been a particularly inspiring month for me.  I finally started my blog, added more items to my Etsy shop, I have started walking AND jogging, and in the process of accomplishing all of these, I have done many of the things I love.  And I have done none of this alone.

Wikipedia defines “muse” as “the goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.”  Even though I am not living in Greek and Roman mythology, these goddesses or spirits remain ever-present.

I have the privilege of following in the footsteps of my muses – inspiring women, doing what they love, and making the history of tomorrow.  They are scattered around the nation, taking brave steps in unfamiliar territories, and encouraging others by their example — often unknowingly.  Many of these women I have not met in person, and most are not even aware of how they have energized me, but each in doing what she loves, leaves an innovative footprint in this world — pursuing her passions and doing so in a way that only she was uniquely gifted to do.  So, in celebration of the last day of Women’s History Month 2010, I want to take a moment to give a shout out to some of the women of tomorrow’s history.

Katherine Scoleri & Joelle Reed, founders of Moxie Design Studios, authors of "The IT Girl's Guide to Blogging"

The first two women I would like to acknowledge provided me with the tools to make my “ifshedidwhatsheloves” blog possible.  Since last summer I have had it on my mind and heart to begin a blog.  I have always loved writing; it’s incredibly therapeutic, and a tangible way to chronicle the history of the heart.  Many who are close to me have encouraged me in my writing, and especially in this challenging time, I have had this voice in the back of my mind saying, “Start your blog.  Start your blog.”  But it was the hot pink book, the catchy title of “The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging with Moxie“, and their uniquely-made-for-women style that got me started on my blogging path.  Katherine Scoleri and Joelle Reed are the two women of Moxie Design Studios.  The MoxieGirls have pursued their loves of Art, Web Design, blogging, and more.  The fruits of the labor have been spending time with family, sipping martinis, and working in their pajamas.

Joy, blogger of "Joy of Stamping", co-founder of Eclectic Paperie, co-designer/co-founder of Our Craft Lounge

Robyn, blogger of "My Pink Stamper", creator of online cardmaking video tutorials

As I have been delving deeper into the world of handmade cards, two women who have taken their art and skills to the worldwideweb have inspired me.  Joy from JoyofStamping and Robyn from My Pink Stamper.  Both women started off as sellers or demonstrators of rubber stamping products, and each then chose to take their interests to new levels.  Joy regularly shares her latest cardmaking creations through her blog, has co-founded her own cardmaking-supply business – Eclectic Paperie, and has started co-designing her own “Our Craft Lounge” line of stamps and products.  Robyn continues sharing the latest and greatest products and techniques through her blog and site, My Pink Stamper, by presenting online video demonstrations from her personal “Pink Loft” and answering questions or showcasing cardmaking supplies on her blog.

Karen, founder of kgarnerdesigns, creator of exquisite jewelry

For her exquisite jewelry designs and sharing her story as a “Quit Your Day Job” Etsian, I would like to acknowledge Karen of kgarnerdesigns.  Karen started off making jewelry for the creative release it provided, as well as for an intimate and less expensive way to dress up her bridesmaids.  When considering a way to stay at home with her son, she kept coming back to jewelry-making.  On a budget of $10 a week, Karen knew that if she wanted to keep her hobby, she needed to get something back for her time and investment.  The results — kgarnerdesigns — her Etsy shop.  In the vast world of Etsy shops, Karen distinguishes herself with her timeless designs, the classic metals she uses, and her wedding-day or everyday inspirations.

Heather, blogger of "Wanderlust"

In the world of health, fitness, and learning to love oneself, I would like to send a special shout to to Heather, otherwise known as MadTownMotzie, the author of “Wanderlust“, a blog about one individual’s journey to better health with the help of Weight Watchers, changing food choices, increased fitness, and frequent attitude checks.  Although Heather has been on her journey for life, and has been blogging since August 2009, I only stumbled across her blog last week.  In reading her older posts I have been particularly inspired by her ODB – Operation Disney Bod – in which Heather steps up the exercise, cuts back (but doesn’t cut out) holiday indulgences, and gives herself regular pep talks in order to reach a goal.  I especially appreciate the honest and oftentimes vulnerable way in which Heather invites readers along her journey.

Lisa See, author of "Shanghai Girls"

Most recently, I had the pleasure of joining a women’s book club through my church.  First of all, I want to thank this unique circle of women for hosting the book club because without them, I would not have read “Shanghai Girls” this month.  Moreover, I would not have come to be acquainted with Lisa See, its author.  Not only was I utterly entranced by See’s writing and brief windows into the histories of Shanghai, Angel Island, and Los Angeles in the 1930’s and onward, but I was also incredibly inspired by the manner in which Lisa See carries her love of what she does across all facets of her life.  I read that See has a special fondness for forgotten or untold stories.  By exploring her bio, I also learned that she helps resurrect these stories, not only through her writing, but also by participating in such projects as recording narratives for walking tours of Los Angeles, giving of her time as a guest curator of select Chinese-American museum collections, and serving as the Los Angeles City Commissioner on the “El Pueblo de Los Angeles” Monument Authority.

Linda, follower of dreams, stopped by nothing

Lastly, to a woman who worked as many jobs as she had to, who has made sacrifice after sacrifice, and who has consistently given generously of her heart — all in order to support and make a better life for herself and her family.  An inspiration for following her dreams and not letting things like age, convention, or the opinions of others stand in her way.  After spending 4 years in law school — while continuing in her full-time job, and more than 30 years as a primary school educator, she said “School’s Out Forever”, resigned from teaching, and has been working to following her interest in law.  Times have been tough, and opportunities are scarce, but she continues day in and day out to study for the Bar, bring in income, and keep herself busy with substitute teaching, and senior care-giving.  To the woman who has always been a great inspiration and source of knowledge in my life I say, “thank you” to my greatest Muse, my mother.

So, too all my Muses of March — in the words most famously sung by ABBA in “Thank You for the Music” and slightly tweaked by me……

So I say Thank you to The Muses, for loves pursuing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without them, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a craft or a story what are we?
So I say thank you to The Muses
For giving loves to me

I’ve been so lucky, I am the girl with Muses and Internet
I wanna shout it out to everybody
What a joy, what a life, what a chance!

So I say Thank you to The Muses, for loves pursuing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing

(and for those who are just dying to listen to the full, original song by “The ABBA Tribute Band” you can click here to listen via Deezer)

Lessons from the Pavement, Part V: Got keys?.!

Watching Friends is one of my guilty pleasures.  Not only do I have a fondness for each of their characters and their various quirks, but I love the situations in which they often find themselves, and their regular “this is life” exchanges of dialogue.  I remember one episode somewhat early in the show (I may be a fan of the show, but couldn’t tell you what events happened in what season or episode) when the crew is rushing out of Monica’s apartment to see something outside or on the roof, and Monica yells, “Got keys?”, which Rachel interprets as “Got keys.”  This morning, I had a particular connection with this episode.

Since last night it’s been on my mind that today would be day 1 of week 3 on the “Active” get-yourself-ready-for-a-5k plan, which means that instead of my intervals of 1-minute intervals of running and 2-minute intervals of walking, that I’d be stepping up the pace just a bit, and running 2-minute intervals.  Now to some (or many) this may not sound like a big deal, nor a big shift in pace, but in my “I’m not a runner” mindset an additional 60 seconds is a lot!  I have been determined to get up, get ready, and continue following the plan as best I can.  I woke up with an “I can do this” attitude, got dressed for the jaunt, got everything together, and set out with a ready spirit.  The moment I pulled the front door shut behind me I knew it!  I was on one side of the locked door and my keys were on the other.  Then the question was, “do I try to break in to my apartment now or wait til I get back?”  I waited, or rather, I walked and ran.

The push for the additional running time was definitely that – a push.  My body didn’t feel as graceful, and I think I paid less attention to the passing views than I did to my legs, my every intake of oxygen, and my time — frequent glances at the stopwatch, hawk-eyeing those seconds, and waiting for the two minutes to finish.   In trying to extend my route a little (to match the increase in time) I snaked my way to a yet-undiscovered-by-me park, a few extra twists and turns, but eventually ended up on my path.  The scenic route added an additional 15 minutes to my outing, but by the time I was cooling down with a walk, I didn’t mind one bit.

Once the workout was complete and I was back home, I set to breaking into my apartment.  I had eliminated the inaccessible or “too difficult to use” entry points and narrowed down to one of two remaining options.  Fortunately, a neighbor was home, so she helped provide the tools necessary — long fingernails, and a Ralph’s Club Card.  I pried, prodded, and poked — trying to convince the Club Card to do its work, while also trying to persuade Misty (my cat) to lend a helping paw from the inside — until finally I made my way in.  Victoriously, I climbed in, put things back in place, returned tools, and applauded myself, not only for completing my workout, but for the additional feat of successfully making my way indoors — without my keys.

Lesson for next time – be prepared with the following:

  • can-do attitude
  • comfortable workout clothes
  • invigorating music mix
  • sunglasses
  • chapstick
  • and…KEYS!

    Lessons from the Pavement, Part IV: Oh The Places They’ll Go

    Awhile back a friend told me about “Meetup” – if you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to check it out.  Being the lover of social gatherings, community activities, and pursuing different interests I browsed through Meetup upon Meetup to find the right one.  I came across one called “Healthy Streets”, which invites individuals to join various pedestrian adventures through the streets of local cities.

    On my first meetup outing I learned that our organizer has been without a car for a couple of years now.  While talking about her experience of transitioning from depending on the four wheels of her car to getting around by foot, bike, bus, train, and rental car she said something that stuck with me, “I see the communities around me so differently now that I travel without a car — being on foot really changes my perspective.”  As I have been incorporating spurts of walking and jogging into my exercise regimen I have to agree.

    I’ve been exploring different paths throughout the neighborhood, and as I’ve been doing so, I’ve been learning just how far and how quickly my feet can take me to the places I like to go.  7 minutes to the In N Out, 12 minutes to the nearby market and deli, 15 minutes to Smart N Final, 20 minutes to Target…with this new knowledge it’s as though the city is shrinking before my strides.  On the way home last night my husband noticed that from our most-used freeway interchange to our home exit it is a little less than 3 miles.  Now fear not, I am not planning to run on the freeway, however, in my head I was thinking, “I could totally do that”!  The loop around the Rose Bowl is just a little more than 3 miles, so if I was to walk the distance from our freeway interchange to home, I know I could do so in less than an hour (again not that I’m thinking of doing it) – neighborhood now made smaller, perspective changed, confidence boosted.  So in the words of the great Dr. Seuss

    “Congratulations!  Today is your day.  You’re off to Great Places!  You’re off and away!  You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy [or gal] who’ll decide where to go…Oh! The Places You’ll Go!  You’ll be on your way up!  You’ll be seeing great sights!  You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”

    Lessons from the Pavement, Part III: To Thine Own Self Be True

    I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this…I’m NOT a runner!  For me to get myself in exercise mode, put on those workout clothes, strap on the Nano, grab the stopwatch, and step outside and run — even in intervals — and to do this voluntarily — well I know this is big — for me.  It is not easy, it is not always fun, but I am doing it, and I am doing it for myself.

    At this point in time, I am not really caring about how fast I run, not caring about how graceful I look (or don’t – as long as my limbs and extremities stay safe), just caring that I am doing it, and that I am (for the most part) maintaining a positive attitude.  That inner voice continues loud and clear, “You can do this.  You are doing this.  Keep going.  Find your pace.  Keep your pace.  Thirty more seconds.  You can do this.”  So even when I don’t feel the same level of energy as the day before, or the crest of the mountainous hill seems impossible to reach, I continue.

    Today was definitely one of those days when I needed to listen closely to the inner voice, because otherwise the temptation to stop the music, stop the stopwatch, and stop running was too great.  As I was mentally applauding myself for completing another interval of running (while also recovering my breath), “ZHOOM” a blur of blue and white sailed past me…a fellow runner, but not just any runner, a pro-looking runner.  This guy had the running shorts, the bottle strapped to the back, the runner’s look — everything — and not to mention the fact that he just SAILED right past me.  Admittedly, lots of thoughts came to mind, “He’s cool because he has cool shorts.  Look how graceful he looks.  What great form he has!  I’ll never run like that [whine]!”  Then I had to stop myself.  Sure, maybe all those things were true – you know, the shorts, the look, the form, the speed, but were those my reasons for being out here? NO!  Back to the encouraging voice, “Look at you – you’re doing it.  You’re running — something you never thought you’d be doing, and you’re doing it!  Right now it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going, what you look like while doing it [thinking about Phoebe’s famous running form in Friends], or what you’re wearing — what matters is that you’re out here, you’re doing it, and you’re doing it your way!  Keep it up.  You can do this.”  I love that voice!  I love the reminder – and Shakespeare, thanks for the words from “Hamlet”.  [BTW – for more about this speech, check out this blog]

    “This above all: to thine own self be true,  And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.  Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!”

    The Grace Gap

    Whew!  Another month survived.

    In those early moments when I was beginning to decode the writing on the wall and realize that my job was coming to an end, I wasn’t thinking about my soon-to-be-unemployed situation, I wasn’t thinking about finances, nor was I was thinking about the impact this great change would have on my family — I was thinking about the other 70+ people who were also being laid-off and their circumstances.  This is not to say that I am a saintly lover of people, nor that I am so codependent that I’m unaware of my own needs, but I think I was just in shock.

    I’d never faced such a situation before, and it was wholly new to me; it all seemed incredibly surreal and I was sure it would be over in a matter of days, or at most — weeks.  As the news did begin to sink in and “back-up” jobs that I thought I’d be able to turn to, fell through, I was really wondering how my husband and I were going to make it.  I knew we had enough resources to get us through the first month and a half, maybe even two months, but after that? Then what?

    It’s now been eight months, and we are surviving.  I have to be honest — it is often scary.  At the beginning of each month as we’re reviewing our budget, we have our income, and we have our expenses.  Consistently, there is a gap — and not in the black, but in the red — this is what I like to call “The Grace Gap”.    We do lots of “finagling” to make sure we can meet our responsibilities, and continue to walk through each day with integrity.  We have gotten rid of things we don’t need, cut expenses where possible, changed our shopping habits, and looked seriously at what we “have to pay” and what “we can pay”.  Each time we look at the gap – whether large or small, we do all we humanly can to close it in, and at the end of each month, by the grace of God, the gap is filled.  Sometimes it has been filled by a chunk of savings that we had here, or a refund that was received there, and even by those unexpected “bonuses”.  This is unbelievable to me — and that’s not even the really hard-to-believe part.  I definitely feel the anxiety when the gap feels like it’s closing in around us, or when it feels like we just can’t make it, but at the same time I also feel an inexplicable sense of serenity and assurance — this is where faith comes in — totally beyond my logic and understanding, and something I can only know from the core of my being.

    Life over the past year has been far from where I imagined and hoped it would be.  Before completing my graduate program last May, my husband and I were excitedly beginning to think about life beyond the degree — I would be able to resume full-time work at a regular salary, we wouldn’t have to think about tuition payments anymore, we could be more generous in our savings, and begin to seriously consider the “BIG married people plans” like a house, family, etc.  How does that expression go, “even the best laid plans go awry” or as Robert Burns wrote in his poem To a Mouse, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”.  So things have not turned out as we imagined or hoped, but I believe, and I trust that beyond the current state of the economy and global finances, there is a reason for this season in our lives.  I scour several sites for job postings, apply for positions, put my all into the layout of my resumé or the crafting of my cover letters, and beyond that, I try to trust, try to live out my faith, try to learn what I can, and do what I love.

    Yes, our finances are sad, our fiscal belts are tighter, and we live day to day by our budget, but at the end of each month, not only do we make it, but we continue to have shelter over our heads, food in our bellies, and still partake of luxuries like a dinner out, or a movie night here and there.  I feel like not only are we surviving, but in many ways I still feel incredibly spoiled, full of hope, and absolutely blessed.

    Lessons from the Pavement, Part II: What a Tangled Web We Weave

    I have never claimed to be Ginger Rogers, my mother did not give me the middle name “Grace”, and it is not uncommon for me to stub my toes on the corners of the bed or the sofa.  HOWEVER, I do have the coordination skills necessary to ride a bike, walk and chew gum at the same time, AND jog.  Yet on my walk and jog days of my 8-week plan, I find that that the iPod headphone wires take on a life of their own and either threaten to ensnare my arm, unplug from the Nano and run away, or choke me — the nerve!

    I don’t go to the gym a lot, but I know I see lots of mp3 listening gadgets and lots of headphone cords.  I got to wondering – how do people do it?  How do they jog, lift weights, or do the ellipticals without those silly cords getting in the way?  I know I’m not the most graceful, but like I said, I’m not wholly without coordination either.

    I tried shifting my headphones to come around from the back, tried wrapping the cords a little bit, tried giving myself more slack — nothing was working.  I started thinking about wireless headphones (don’t even know if they exist, but imagine they must), but really didn’t want to go down that road — “there HAS to be a fix”!

    Perhaps this is the image I saw and just imagined how the cords run -- as I look now it seems as though cords run behind her back, but who knows -- I was inspired! -iSkin Duoband

    Honestly can’t remember what I was looking at or where I saw it — magazine article, something online, a scene somewhere — but I came across an image of a woman in her sporty clothes, with her mp3 player on her arm (much like mine with my iSkin duoband), and her headphone cords tucked into her shirt sleeve!  So, I tried it.  Today, I did everything as normal, but with one change; I plugged in my Nano, fed the cords up through my arm sleeve, brought the earpieces out through the neck hole, and tucked most of the cord back into my shirt.  The solution isn’t perfect — at times when I turn my head or run, I still feel a little tug, but nothing like before — there is definitely a lot more freedom in running, and I feel like some semblance of grace and dignity has been restored.

    To all the experienced fast-moving athletes out there — if you have other ideas or suggestions, please share them!  To fellow novice sportspersons out there, if your cords are giving you trouble, show them who’s boss, and try this out — let me know how it works for you.

    Slip me some Skin!

    My car bumper is naked, my laptop is sans stickers, the only décor on my iPod Nano is a removable silicone cover, and my cell phone has only the case with which it came — I am not, however, a Plain Jane.

    I love color, swirls, paisley, flowery vines, and intricately detailed designs — just not anything in permanent form.  This is probably why I will never get a tattoo.  Not only am I not crazy about the whole ink and needle thing in my skin, but more than that, to have to choose a design that will forever be on my body (not to mention that with Father Time and Mother Nature at work that design is sure to stretch it out from its original form) is too much pressure – my design/style tastes are way too fluid!  All this being said, when I have the opportunity to temporarily (i.e. can undo, revert, replace, substitute, change) dress things up — I’m all for it.

    So when I saw the words “Choose Your Persona” after my latest Firefox browser update, I was intrigued.  I clicked the link to the Persona Gallery and was treated to more than 30,000 custom-made themes to dress up my browser’s main window.  Anything from flowery vines to Animé to Disney/Pixar to sports stars to nature to the latest movie themes.  It is easy to preview most personas just by hovering over for a moment, and allowing the settings to update and temporarily display in your browser window.  I spent a good 5-10 minutes looking for one that jumped out at me aesthetically, and also provided the functionality of legible tabs (I’m not too keen on the shadow-blocked fonts), and eye-soothing color schemes.  For now I have chosen “Glitter 1”, designed by Guilherme Takahashi.  [For the Mac users out there, once you have installed a persona or theme you can easily find its name, designer, and even uninstall it by going to your Firefox preferences, choosing the “General” tab, clicking “Manage Add-Ons” and selecting “Themes”.]

    Although the silicone cover on my Nano can be removed, said silicone cover is adorned with a flowery vine and butterfly, and though my laptop is sans stickers, it has a lovely removable green acrylic case, AND while my browser incredibly functional, it now has a sassy, decorative, and glittery skin!