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Inspiring Tidbits

Inspiring Tidbits, Monday Muse

Eyes Off You

Maya Angelou photographed by Taylor Jewell

Maya Angelou photographed by Taylor Jewell

I was not a fan of Maya Angelou when I first read her work as a persnickety pre-teen who had an inexplicable distaste for memoirs, but in the years since her words have often touched me in moments when I’ve been in need of inspiration and reassurance. Upon second reading, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings became one of my favorite books, and what woman amongst us has not somehow been moved by her poem Phenomenal Woman? Of the many Maya Angelou quotes filling the interwebs today, the one I find most moving right now is…

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”

-Maya Angelou

In fond (albeit sometimes fickle) remembrance, I am feeling very grateful for Maya Angelou’s turns of phrase on this day. I hope she inspires you in a similar way as well.

Image source: Pinterest.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Silence

"Shhh," says the ballerina.

“Shhh,” says the ballerina, “now get to work.”

Sorry for all the silence this past week, darlin’s! I’ve been up against a lot of deadlines, and apparently am nowhere near as good at budgeting my time as I like to think I am. After working rather long days, I’ve been unwinding by watching an episode of City Ballet every night before bed. Have you seen it? It is narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker and is really quite charming. Ever since watching the documentary “First Position” by Bess Kargman, I’ve felt a strong kinship with ballerinas and the level of dedication they pour into their craft. There was something about that documentary that quite simply touched me and made me feel inspired to try and emulate the work ethic/practice-makes-perfect mentality of a ballerina in my life as a writer. And so, as I burn the candle on both ends, I love being comforted and kept company by the aspiring dancers of New York City Ballet. These tutu-and-tights-clad companions are no substitute for you, however, dear readers… I so very much look forward to chatting with you on the flip side of all these due dates! Leave a comment.

Photo from Girl In A Tutu via Pinterest.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Thankfulness Phases

Count your blessings and accomplishments, and wear warm socks

Count your blessings and accomplishments, and wear warm socks.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking about the different kinds of thankfulness I’ve experienced throughout my life, and, as it turns out, it has really gone in phases. When I was a teenager, I engaged in a whole lot of “why me?” thinking, and as a result I had to look to my accomplishments and my hard work whenever I wanted to feel a sense of true gratitude. This is to say, my life felt like way too much of a mess for me to count my blessings, so I counted my persistence, lofty goals, and other traits within me as things I was thankful for instead of counting things in my external world.

That angst-riddled teenager grew up to be quite the self-critical adult, however, and I now realize it has been ages since I’ve listed one of my personal accomplishments as something I’m grateful for. Merely talking or thinking about something I’ve accomplished opens a jumbo can of worms and gets me dwelling on things I should have done differently, dreams I wish I’d achieved yesterday, etc., so counting my blessings is definitely the surest route to gratitude for the adult version of me. Lately, I find myself feeling grateful for things like: the roof over my head, my husband’s unparallelled ability to listen, the smell of currant-spice candles on cold nights, being able to afford fresh groceries and special meals out, our pup and all his antics, my good health, my loving family around the world, wool socks, and the lemons falling daily from our backyard trees. And, the list goes on.

While my current gratitude list sounds like something you’d more traditionally hear rattled off when counting one’s blessings at the Thanksgiving table (and it admittedly feels a bit less self-absorbed than my old way of giving thanks), I think finding things to be grateful for within ourselves is equally important. In fact, I’m pretty sure there will be points in the future when the world around me feels a little bleak and I’ll need to look inwards in order to find things to be thankful for. And, the more I think about it, I realize that these phasing forms of gratitude are actually quite healthy. The ability to feel grateful is so important to our appreciation of life and our sense of hope that I think we should all count our blessings wherever we can find them. When we’re going through phases of loving our world, they’re probably outside of us; when we’re not so hot on our world, these sources of gratitude are probably within us. Whatever other phases we’re going through, I hope you — dear reader — and I are always able to to seek out and celebrate the best parts of our lives, because finding the good in life keeps us going and makes the journey extra sweet…Has the way you experience thankfulness changed as you’ve grown and evolved? I would love to hear your take! Leave a comment.

Psst: In case you’re wondering, I made the above image using a lovely hand-drawn border I found on We Lived Happily Ever After.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Two Feet

Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1966

Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon in 1966

Forty seven years ago, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to complete the Boston Marathon. By taking those figurative and literal strides in a time when females were not yet allowed to officially race, Gibb not only helped change the rules of this famous sporting event, but she changed public perception about what women were capable of accomplishing with both their bodies and minds. She did this simply with her own two feet and a whole lot of determination, and she continued running even when marathon officials and protesters tried to stop her.

Growing up in Boston, it was this kind of story that always struck me with awe whenever the marathon rolled around each year. After all, the race has come to symbolize the fact that –no matter our skin color, nationality, gender, or religion– as humans, we have the power to go great distances by merely using our own two feet. Furthermore, the marathon shows us that if we don’t have the use of our own two feet we can cover great distances by using our arms to propel a wheelchair, and if we don’t have use of our arms the human spirit can propel us along in the form of a loved one running behind us and pushing our chairs. It was this celebration of humanity that brought me, my parents, siblings, and cousins to a street corner every marathon Monday of my childhood, and I daresay we partook in this event more religiously than we did any other holiday. No matter what personal dramas any of us were going through, we always made the time to go cheer on the runners, and I have such fond memories of holding out paper cups of water for the athletes, and of my aunt learning all the top-contenders’ names so she could call out personalized encouragements as they ran by.

For me, these memories will always be what the Boston Marathon is about: Dixie cups, and curbside lessons on the power of my own two feet. And today, as I breathe a sigh of relief that my family is all safe and sound back in Beantown, I invite anyone else reading this to bask in these kinds of fond memories with me and to celebrate the trailblazers of this world who make a difference with nothing more than determination and their own two feet. Leave a comment.

Image via Pinterest.

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Art and Architecture, Inspiring Tidbits

Just Because

"The best thing to hold onto in life is each other." -Audrey Hepburn

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” -Audrey Hepburn

Who doesn’t love a little street art to brighten the day? These murals sure put a smile on my face when I spotted them recently on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, so I figured I’d share…

American Spirit Street Art

Waifish girl smoking American Spirits

"People like pretty things they think are deep."

“People like pretty things they think are deep.” Yup, guilty.

Audrey and a glimpse of the Sunset Boulevard sign

Audrey and a glimpse of the Sunset Boulevard sign

Psst: I’ve mostly been plugging away at work over the past few months, so little splashes of paint on the side of the road like this always feel like breaths of fresh air…Any particular sightings or happenings that have been making you smile or breathe easier lately? Leave a comment.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Coffee Black, Paperwhite

Paperwhites in full bloom, which now fill our kitchen

Paperwhites in full bloom, which now fill our kitchen

Whenever I set goals or try to gain a fresh perspective on life, I find myself torn between comfortable routines and an itching desire to push myself outside this safe zone of “knowns.” I guess the key is simply finding a balance between the familiar and the foreign — establishing just enough creature comforts and stability in our lives to give us the strength we need to try new things and challenge ourselves. It is so hard to remember this, though, since I am someone who admittedly lives for extremes and absolutes, but it’s funny how much I notice the validity of this whole balance thang as my husband and I turn our house into a home. The more sweat-producing chores we tackle and the more I get into routines in my personal life, the better equipped I feel to face unpredictable work weeks or venture into horrifying traffic in unfamiliar parts of our new city. Perhaps our homes, routines and creature comforts are merely a foundation for the bold adventures we’re all destined for as humans, but one thing is certain: both the familiar and the foreign are very necessary parts of a fulfilled life.

One such comfort in my recent world is the smell of paperwhite blossoms that has filled our whole house for the past month (thanks to a little planning and planting back in December). The aroma of these bulb flowers reminds me so vividly of New England winters from my childhood, and — even though I was never a big fan of this plant’s strong smell — I now can’t help loving the scent and the way it makes my home of the present feel connected to the homes and snow days of the past, which are decades and continents away. This simple pleasure is so grounding, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to draw strength from things like it more often as I attempt to strike a balance between the bold and bitty — the black, white, and new…What has been comforting or challenging you lately? Leave a comment.

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Inspiring Tidbits, Movies and TV

Kubrick and the Craft

Stanley Kubrick's camera on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Stanley Kubrick’s camera on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Last week my husband arrived home from a lengthy Taiwan trip just in time for my birthday. We celebrated by playing hooky, eating ice cream along with all three meals, and attending the Stanley Kubrick exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibit was beautifully curated (complete with red-carpeted floors in the gallery room that was devoted to “The Shining”), and my favorite part was getting to glimpse some of Kubrick’s earliest works and influences. It was particularly inspiring to me to see snapshots from his early career as a photojournalist, and to learn about how admittedly embarrassed he was of his first films.

As someone who constantly worries that I’m taking the wrong approach to my writing career, it was nice to see the meandering-yet-passionate path Kubrick took as he honed his craft. Seeing his whole life’s works on display reminded me that creating art worth humanity’s attention involves a lot of missteps and constant readjustments; and, the important thing isn’t necessarily what perfectly calculated steps we’re taking in our careers, but rather the act of taking steps – any steps at all – and doing so with passion while working our asses off. Here are some images from the exhibit – may you find them just the teensiest bit inspiring…

Costumes of the creepy twin girls from "The Shining"

Costumes of the creepy twin girls from “The Shining”

The image of these girls loomed over the room devoted to "The Shining" (where there were also ominous axes in the wall)

The image of these girls loomed over the room devoted to “The Shining” (where there were also ominous axes in the wall)

You know what they say about all work and no play...

You know what they say about all work and no play…

Kubrick wanted every frame of "Barry Lyndon" to look like a classic painting, and these costumes certainly look like they're straight out of an old Dutch portrait

Kubrick wanted every frame of “Barry Lyndon” to look like a classic painting, and these costumes certainly look like they’re straight out of an old Dutch portrait

Ah, how iconic this costume from "A Clockwork Orange" became...

Ah, how iconic this costume from “A Clockwork Orange” became…

The gallery room for "A Clockwork Orange" was truly trippy, and featured two plaster-and-platinum sculptures like this

The gallery room for “A Clockwork Orange” was truly trippy, and featured two plaster-and-platinum sculptures like this

The infant from "2001: A Space Odyssey" encased in glass

The infant from “2001: A Space Odyssey” encased in glass

Script pages proving that - like any good creator - Kubrick edited until something was right

Script pages proving that – like any good creator – Kubrick edited until something was right

Posters of Kubrick's works - what a life.

Posters of Kubrick’s works – what a life.

Psst: Are you a fan of Kubrick’s films? If, by chance, you’re an Angeleno like me, have you had the opportunity to see this exhibit at the LACMA? Leave a comment.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Stay Tremendous, Little Passionate One

“Find Something You’re Passionate About” print by Lisa Congdon

Days and weeks keep skipping by, and I’ve been finding it increasingly challenging to steal away hours in which I can whisper little stories to you. Ah well, life and workflows come in cycles, and we’re just going to have to be content with sharing this small slice of our Friday morning together…In fact, I can think of no better company for a morning than you, darling readers, and the words of Julia Child. I came across this print last week (which would have been Julia’s 100th birthday), and I’ve been itching to share it with you ever since. The sentiment is simple and I know it’s something we’ve heard said a dozen times in a dozen different ways, but Julia’s turn of phrase really resonates with me: “Find something you’re passionate about and stay tremendously interested in it.” Seeking out new ways to stay interested in our passion projects truly is such a cool approach to keeping our work lives (and, heck, even our love lives) fresh. Can any of you dear, kindred spirits relate to this? Do you think staying “interested” is just as important as staying “passionate” when it comes to work and play? Leave a comment.

Print by Lisa Congdon via A Beautiful Mess.

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Inspiring Tidbits

Languid Language Loveliness

On a good day, writing feels as magical as screaming into a blasting fan on a sticky linoleum floor in the dead of summer

As I wade through a sea of deadlines, very little pay, and the labyrinthine bank of escalators that may or may not one day lead me to a successful career as a writer, I find it’s vital to take a step back every now and then to remind myself why it is I do what I do in the first place. It can be so easy to forget and to get caught up in the stresses (and, heck, even to toy with quitting because of those stresses), but when I give myself a moment’s pause I’m always reminded it’s love, innocence, and dreams that are at the core of what I do, not what’s waiting at the top of this pesky elevator bank. Since it’s such a good exercise to think about this kind of stuff, I figured I’d share just a few more of the reasons why I write…

To somehow live forever in a world that’s a cross between a secret garden and a giant library

To capture bizarre slices of life before they fade from my memory

To explain wonders of the world and invent my own mythology

To make even the very-adult and scientific workings of the world feel magical

To put dreams into words and transpose the hazy feeling of love into language

Psst: Sorry I’ve been so swamped with non-blog things and have been posting sporadically – I can’t wait to share my current projects with you sometime in the not-so-distant future. Until then, is this feeling of climbing a tangled bank of elevators relatable to you? Do you need to take a step back to gain perspective on your daily work? Or, the important question: why to you do what you do? Leave a comment.

Image sources: kid with fan, girl in library, circus seal, loch ness elephant, gears of the earth, sleep elevations by Maia Flore.

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Art and Architecture, Inspiring Tidbits

Detailed by Design

Paint-splattered Eames chairs at Metropolis Nick in Los Angeles, CA

“The details are not the details. They make the design.”

– Charles Eames

Since almost all my free hours have been spent working on house renovations of late, it should come as no shocker that I’ve had design on the brain. As such, I had the delightful experience of meandering across this Charles Eames quote a few days ago and the sentiment really stuck with me. I feel like this mid-century-modern furniture designer’s insight actually applies to any kind of creative endeavor: “The details are not the details. They make the design.” Perhaps I’m a tad biased because I’m such a detail-oriented person by nature, but I truly think the strength of any project (be it a house, a book, or a Power Point presentation) rests in the details. What details have been on your mind or made a difference in your life lately? Leave a comment.

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