Look Up

Desert Botanical Gardens Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Desert Botanical Gardens
Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Someone yesterday told me that she feels lonely even when she’s around other people.  She then told me about a video she’d seen that described exactly how she feels.  Look Up is an incredibly powerful poem/ video about how we’ve allowed technology to isolate us.

About 6 months ago, I was out to dinner with my husband.  He was doing something on his phone, and I looked around at other couples in the restaurant.  They were sitting together and on their phones.  I go out to dinner with friends, and they say they want to see me, but then spend a lot of time checking their phones or checking in on Facebook or taking pictures of their dinner.

Technology was not meant to isolate us.  At its best, it’s a tool that can make all of our lives easier.  I have information at my fingertips.  I can carry photos with me without having those plastic things in my wallet.  (Side note: do kids exchange school pictures anymore, writing notes on the back?)

We don’t experience things firsthand anymore.  We experience them through a camera.  It’s as if things aren’t real until we check in on Facebook, tweet about it, or Instagram it. Facebook has become the new journal.  Instead of writing down private thoughts, we put everything out there.  The information is there, but it becomes virtually meaningless.  There’s no filter as to what’s important and what’s not.  It all takes on a false importance that renders everything unimportant.

Maybe I won’t remember every detail of my trip if I don’t use “social” media, but maybe I’ll enjoy it more.  Feel more about it.  Relax more.  Have private jokes to share with just one person.  We don’t connect with strangers in line anymore, because we’re too busy texting or checking Facebook.  Then, if we fall, we wonder why no stranger stops to help us up.  Why should they?  They haven’t connected with us, and it’s everyone’s fault.  Yours, mine, theirs.  If you feel lonely, and you’re on your phone or other device in public, I challenge you to put it down and smile at a stranger.  They might look away.  They might glare at you.  Because we don’t do that anymore.  But change doesn’t happen overnight, and if you want to see change in the world, IT HAS TO START WITH YOU.

So, if this video touched you or anything I’ve said strikes a chord with you, please be aware of how you’re using technology.  Look up from your phone or iPad and be in the world for a minute.  Don’t check in; don’t upload pictures of your food.  Have a journal or a notebook instead of a Facebook.  Just be in the moment.  And see what happens.

Feel Good Friday

I found some really good ones this week.  Take a minute and enjoy them.  Trust me, they’re worth taking the time to read and watch.

Lowe’s employees help a disabled vet.

Singer Colby Caillat is tired of being photoshopped.  This video really touched me.

Police officers buy groceries for a family in need.

Friskies releases “Cats of Summer,” a cute music video.  More importantly, they’ll donate food to homeless cats for every link click.

That’s all for this week.  Have a great weekend!

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
-Omar Khayyam


Open Letter to My Pets

IMG_1833Dear Furbabies,

I just read an article on Facebook that really hurt me.  It was about a dog who had been shot for no reason, by a stranger.  His parents took him to the vet, went outside to discuss the cost of surgery, and never returned.  I presume they couldn’t or didn’t want to afford the cost of surgery, but I just can’t imagine leaving any one of you to wonder if I were going to return.  I’d never do that.  When I bring you home, it’s forever, for better or worse, and I mean it 100%.

I know that I’m your whole world.  I know that because I see the way you look at me, the way you greet me at the door when I come home.  The way you snuggle against me, or nudge my hand when I’m not paying close enough attention to you.  I know that I’m your only source of food and water, but what you want from me more than those basics is my love and attention.  Sometimes I get busy or stressed and don’t think about it the way I should.  I’m sorry for that.  It doesn’t mean that I love you less; it just means that I’m human: selfish and flawed.

Even if I don’t always give you enough attention or playtime, I promise you that I love you and will never leave you behind.  I’d rather live with you in a cardboard box than alone in a mansion.  I’ll be with you until the end.  I’ll make the hard decisions when I have to, because that’s what I took on when I brought you home.  Whenever that time comes, I take comfort in knowing that you, and all the ones who’ve gone before, will be waiting at the Rainbow Bridge.

It doesn’t matter what happens: there will always be room for you in my life.  That’s a promise.


First Words

Phoenix Art Museum Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Phoenix Art Museum
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

As I was drifting on the edge of sleep last night, I had a random thought, as I sometimes do, and I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

In books and movies (good ones, at least), first words in a relationship are important.  They set the tone for the relationship going forward.  In Harry Potter, Hermione’s first words to Harry and Ron were, “Has anyone seen a toad?  Neville’s lost one.”  She sounded bossy, and was taking charge, even then.

But in real life, we don’t bookmark moments, and they often pass by with little notice.  I remember how I met my oldest friend; we were 6, and her finger was slammed in the desk by another girl.  I imagine my first words were something like, “Are you okay?”  I remember being attracted to my husband because he wanted “an interesting woman,” but I don’t remember how I decided he was interesting in those early days.  I remember that we talked for hours but don’t remember what either of us said.

But as to the rest of my friendships, I remember very little about their beginnings, because in early days, those relationships aren’t important, and by the time they are, those early days have become blurry.  The most important moments in life are usually only important in retrospect.

That’s probably why conversation is so hard to write; most conversations are nothing profound.  I’ve tried to listen to my conversations with others, but the problem is that if I’m listening to them, I’m not in them.  Conversation often blurs around the edges too, in retrospect.

In writing, it’s hard to make conversation sound real, because if it’s really realistic, then it’s pretty boring.  Think about it.  Most conversations are pretty boring.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green has some of the best conversations I’ve seen in any book, but I wouldn’t exactly call it realistic.  The teens are too witty and without the missteps and awkwardness of real conversations.

Lucky for me, I’m care more about entertaining and being entertained than I do about whether or not something is “realistic.”  Still, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could rewind life, not to change, but just to see?  “Oh yeah, I remember now!”

Letting Go

Mystery Castle, Phoenix AZ Photo Credit: RJS Photos

Mystery Castle, Phoenix AZ
Photo Credit: RJS Photos

I’m not very good at letting go when I don’t have to.  I’m good with action, and if I’m forced into a situation, I can get through it.  But if I don’t have to, it’s hard, and I don’t like it.

My husband got an awesome new job, which means in the next month and a half, I’m moving from Phoenix, Arizona, to Austin, Texas.  I’ve been to Austin exactly once now, in a whirlwind house hunting trip that mostly left me with the impression of a lot of green.  Before that, I’d never actually been to Austin, but people keep telling me it’s a great place to live.  I love the fact that the city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird!”  I’m not excited about the humidity.

The move is going to be good for both of us.  I’m a firm believer in the idea that life is a series of adventures, and this is a pretty cool one.  I have a lot of loss ahead of me.  I have to leave my awesomely cool backyard, my friends (though I’ll keep in touch with them), my job, restaurants I eat in and grocery stores I shop in.

When we moved here 7 years ago, we moved fast, and we brought with us a lot of things that we haven’t used since then.  I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t even finished unpacking everything.  So, in an effort to be more efficient this time around, I’ve been trying to get rid of a few things.  Like the Gamecube I haven’t touched in all that time, or the PS2 that’s been gathering dust.  I sold them on eBay, and as I’m packing them up, I’m sad to see them go.

I’m not sure why those things cause me to feel the tug of nostalgia.  I obviously didn’t think about them for long periods of time, but somehow they feel more important than they are. A lot of things in life are like that.  We have no use for them and don’t want them until we try to let them go.  Then suddenly, they become bigger than they are, and we feel as if we want and need them.

I feel better when I let go of the clutter in my life, when I rid myself of things I don’t need anymore.  I’m trying to make an effort to do more of it.

What clutter is holding you back in your life?

Groundhog Day

Yes, I realize that this isn’t seasonally appropriate, but deal with it.  And anyway, I’m talking about the movie, not the actual holiday.

I always liked the movie Groundhog Day.  I know that it would be torture for some people, but I like the idea of doing a day over and over again until you get it right.  You’d have lots of times to do things like read every book in the library, explore everything in the town, and get to know everybody.  It would almost be like narrating a book because I could eventually see everything from different angles.

Every day could be the weekend until I tired of that, and then days could be productive, until I tired of that.  I’d know the rhythm of the days, so I’d never get an unexpected flat tire, or a spider in my shoe.

What do you think about living one day over and over?

Things That Make Me Happy

Flowers!  I love flowers too!

Flowers! I love flowers too!

I’m a firm believer that the best things in life aren’t things, and the happiest people are the people who are happy for stuff other than things.  Things can’t make you happy long term.  Things break, get lost, don’t work as well as they used to, and aren’t the latest and greatest after a minute.  Things are not the key to happiness.  Being grateful for the little stuff is they key to happiness.

What makes me happy, in no particular order:

1.  Thunderstorms- I love the flash bang, and I love the sounds of rain.  One of my best memories is sitting on a porch in a rainstorm with my feet on the railing getting wet, and a laptop on my lap while I wrote a story.

2.  Music- Sometimes it’s Mogwai, sometimes it’s the Beatles or Enya or Tiffany.  But no matter what, I love surrounding myself with music.  I love creating playlists of all the random stuff I like for all different times.  I may not sing well, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know all the words.  Or that I don’t sing them.  Because if I have headphones on, I’m not the one that has to hear it, am I?

3.  My dogs- They’re always happy to see me and give unconditional love.  Without them, who would paint my laptop screen with nose smudges?

4.  Books-  Okay, yes, they’re things, but it’s not the books themselves that make me happy; it’s the stories.  I don’t go buying first edition hardbacks; I actually prefer used books, and if they have personality in the way of marks on pages or even better, something written in them, I’m thrilled.  Nothing I like better than finding a secret treasure in a book.  A receipt, a name, a message… it’s a link to someone else who loved that book too.

5.  My laptop- Another thing, yes.  But I hate hand writing things, primarily because my hands hurt when I write too much (like anything more than a sentence).  So I need my laptop so I can write.  Because I can’t be happy if I don’t tell stories.

6.  Friends- I have a few friends who I consider “lifetime” friends.  I think I’m lucky to have a small group of people who I can be my real self with, and who can be their real selves with me.

7.  Quotes!-  I love quotes!  I have a notebook full of them, and I keep as many of them in my brain as possible.  Maybe some people get sick of me quoting things, that that’s just too bad.  It’s my way of spreading love and joy.

8.  Windchimes and prisms-  Another thing, yes, and two things in fact.  But they go together so well.  I don’t love them because they’re stuff; I love them because they make rainbows and soft noises.  How can you not love things that jingle and make rainbows?

9.  Hiking-  When I was a kid, I used to just go walking in the woods behind my house.  Then I’d just find a clearing, put my back against a tree, and read or write.  These days, I still love walking through someplace that hasn’t been tamed yet.  The desert here in AZ, back to cliffs and forest when I move to TX.

10.  Skating- There’s nothing quite like the feeling of skating.  It’s almost like flying.  For me, in-lines almost feel like an extension of my feet.

The thing is… what makes you happy is up to you.  You can always wish for the newest, latest, greatest, shiniest, brightest, but when the shine fades and it’s not the newest anymore, the happiness wears off.  Happiness doesn’t wear off love or memories.    They may end up tempered with sadness or melancholy, but that doesn’t change what was.

“The best things in life aren’t things.”

— Art Buchwald

Feel Good Friday

Here’s to another great Friday!  Enjoy!

Teen boy pays off his father’s debt.

Disabled dog doesn’t give up.

LOVE signs popping up all over New Orleans.

Amy Adams gave up her first class seat to a serviceman.

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

~Author unknown, commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin

The Power of Travel

Tracy Arm Glacier

Tracy Arm Glacier

Not too long ago, I read an article about how a woman took a trip that changed her life.  I wish I had bookmarked the article, but I didn’t, so I unfortunately can’t share it with you.  However, it got me to thinking… I’ve never taken a life changing trip, but I have taken one life-affirming trip, and I hope to take more.

As a teen, I had an opportunity to travel a little.  I went to Germany because of my awesome uncle, and I went to Mexico on a school trip.  But I didn’t really appreciate either trip back then, and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I wasn’t much of an adventurer growing up, and I didn’t explore as much as I would have if I had gone now.Maybe because I’ve grown up around antiques, and it was never really about the story for me as a kid.  I respected them and liked them, but I never really appreciated them and wasn’t as interested in the stories as I would be now.

I have had that feeling in my gut, that awed, hushed, and creative feeling, a few times.  Not life changing, but definitely inspiring.  We went to an old cemetery in Pennsylvania one day.  I wanted to go to a graveyard, so my husband took me.  I also felt that way in Arlington National Cemetery.

The most life-affirming trip I’ve ever taken was when we went to Alaska last year.  Seeing the glacier, that intense, unreal blue, was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done.  Seeing the glacier calve was both a little sad, and also thrilling.  Life goes on and renews.  Glaciers fall into the ocean, and more snow falls forming more glaciers.  What I saw fall could have been millions of years old, and it will still be there long after I’m gone.

There are a lot of places I want to go, but I’m not sure if any of them would be life changing.  Part of me envies people who take off in their 20s and go backpacking in Europe.  Part of me knows that’s just not me.  Maybe I don’t have enough adventure in me for “life changing” travel.  I guess I don’t really feel like I need something life changing.  I like my life the way it is.

Have you ever taken a life changing or life affirming trip?

Words Matter

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

When I was a kid, I heard, “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”  I’ve even said that to kids a few times.

The fact of the matter is though, that it’s a complete lie.  Words do hurt, because words matter.  We try to pretend they don’t, and it’s easy to do until someone flings hurtful words at us.  Then we feel the sting, and if they’re hurtful enough, even bleed a little.

I’m reading a very interesting book right now, The Broom of the System, by David Foster Wallace.  In it, he talks about how words shape our reality, how words are reality.  It’s true.  Words carry weight and matter.  And as someone who loves words intensely, I think they should.

I encourage my group to build an intention and then say it out loud or write it down.  People are more likely to follow through if they do one of those two things instead of just thinking it.   Words said out loud or written down carry more weight than ones that rattle around in our brains.

People can be very careless about words they speak or write, as if words are just puffs of air that dissolve into nothingness.  They don’t though; they stick around, bouncing around inside another person’s head or heart.  If you write something down, you etched it somewhere permanently.  It can be shredded or burned, but those words are never really destroyed, because you can’t destroy something that was.  The essence remains, even if the object does not.

Because I can carefully craft my words, and it’s something I enjoy doing, I’m aware that my words have great power.  I can do great harm with words if I choose to.  I instead (mostly) choose to spread positivity, because in the same way that negative words have power, so do positive ones.

Listening, really listening, is the best gift you can give most anyone.  Most of us aren’t truly listened to.  And I believe that’s one of the greatest word powers; the gift of knowing when to say nothing and just be there.

Choose your words carefully today.

“A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles”
-Chinese Proverbs quotes