Monday, May 23, 2016

You Gotta Have a Gimmick

"When deep space exploration ramps up, it will be corporations that name everything: The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Microsoft Galaxy. Planet Starbucks." 
-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Brand (noun)
1.  Kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like:
the best brand of coffee.

2.  A mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
the letter M was branded on each animal 

"What's your brand?  What's your brand?  Yeah, but what's your brand?!?  You gotta have a brand!"

I keep hearing this barked as if it really means something beyond a new catchphrase to spew, kind of like "Actionable (and literally ANY word you put after it)." Everybody's got to have a brand these days, it seems, if not BE a brand.  Even not having an overt "brand story" can be in and of itself part of your brand-identity.  Can this get any more annoying?  Only if it comes with a new and improved Kung Fu grip, which I'm sure it does ... somewhere.

Every time I hear the latest wunderkind spouting endless silliness about brands as if they've just re-invented marketing altogether, I feel myself glazing over while this plays in my head ... (you can uh, you can uh, you can uh, uh, uh!)

... Of course, before slipping into a Sad Affleck in order to cope with the barrage of nonsense these people so dearly believe in.  That's not to say marketing isn't an integral part of business, and an incredibly useful tool, because it obviously is, I just think we're getting a little carried away with it.  Truthfully, this isn't about marketing at all, it's about our latest obsession with branding everything under the sun including humans and the lives we live.  Personally, I believe it's a gross misuse of time to be devaluing the human experience down to a product (which in certain circles is blasphemous, I know).

***Devaluing?! But I'm making my life look so awesome across all social media platforms that everyone wants to be me, and buy, and do all the things that it takes to project this shallow existence and live like me, Me, ME!!!  Surely I'm creating value!***

I guess that depends entirely on what an individual values in the first place.  I will say, I know a lot of people drowning in popularity, with products flying off shelves, and many thousands of followers who are wildly unhappy people, so really we owe it to ourselves to get clear about what's actually valuable and what's not.  No judgement here.  All I'm saying is, if what you're doing, selling, making, living, saying, being, or breathing is decreasing the happiness in your personal or business life, you owe it to yourself above all else to figure out what's not working, and make the necessary changes.  For some of us those changes include taking a step back and realizing that this branding mania we're being fed is more than just a bit ridiculous.

We are living in a time when our reputations are being twisted into "personal brands" (whether we're the ones doing the twisting or not), rather than simply being the esteem in which others hold us, and not only are we buying into it, we're glad it's happening, as we further blur the lines between what's personal and what's business, especially for those of us on the smaller end of the business spectrum.  While I do believe that a good, or professional reputation is indispensable because "Business," as Leonie Dawson puts it, "Is really just one person offering their gifts to those souls who need them," and find that this is what prompts a lot of people to go into business for themselves, or become freelancers, or embrace the whole "soulpreneur" ideology in the first place; wanting to bring the human element back into business whilst building a career that is soul-driven, or just plain feels good to do, I find that rather than doing just that -- bringing the human element back into business -- it is pulling us in a direction that removes us even further from soulful work, and puts us back into an ego-driven world of meaningless slogans, and snappy one-liners sure to get our product on the "tips of everyone's tongues!" -- all by taking that first step of becoming our brand ourselves, because we're told it's not enough to just be the person behind the brand.  We believe in it; that this is the correct move to make because we feel that if something sounds deeply personal, then it has to be deeply personal, talent-based, or representative of oneness, or honest, or any other meaningful interpretation you want to include here.  Sadly, this is often untrue.  You can learn the lingo, and still get it wrong in practice especially when the same terms used by those trying to spearhead a new standard of business are appropriated, and bastardized by industries thriving on, and run by vanity, superficiality, and are dependent upon people's insecurities (those of both the entrepreneur and consumer).  Because of this we run the risk of slipping right back into patterns many of us are trying to escape by creating our own businesses in the first place.

I 'm not suggesting that we eschew it altogether (branding, marketing, etc.), just that we need to be acutely aware of what we're doing or being asked to do.  Is it necessary to prostitute ourselves and our private lives, and even become caricatures of ourselves in order to peddle goods and services?  I, personally, find it dehumanizing to diminish everything that a human life is down to a single blurb or press-kit in order to be pimped across a multitude of platforms in the name of authenticity.  Authenticity isn't just a matter of  "letting it all hang out," and then shaping what's hanging into an over exaggerated, hyper-reality that looks so super-duper-exciting that everyone has to enlist RIGHT NOW in order to participate and gain all of the additional bonuses of living in your world.  Authenticity, to me, is making the conscious effort to keep what you're putting out there about yourself, brand, product, or service genuine and true, and that it is not coming from a place of greed, desperation, or a hunger for elevated status. 

They say we should let fame, notoriety, and recognition be the by-products of hard work, passion, and a job well done, and not something we actively pursue.  I agree, yet so often see exactly the opposite not only happening, but encouraged; make yourself famous (or infamous) first because everyone needs a ready-made, built-in audience, then get a product (or better yet, someone else's product to put your name on), punt it off onto all of your worshipers followers and move on to the next product before they find out the first one is actually junk (and typically something they don't need anyway), wash, rinse, repeat ... Put your feet up and congratulate yourself on all your "hustle" skills.

Is this what it looks like to sell one's soul?  Is the brand going to be the actual mark of the beast we we all warned about in Sunday School as little'uns; the identifier that we let our un-quenched desire for more pull us further, and further from our true selves and what really matters, where we become a bunch of soulless mouthpieces endlessly chattering on about this product and that product unable to differentiate if we ARE the product or not, completely removed from what each of us truly is, and happy to be there?  Will we be diving like Sneetches into star-affixing machines, or off cliffs like lemmings? Where will it end?

I think it ends the moment we wake up from the illusion that's been created to distract us, and decide to stay awake.  Does this mean we won't get pulled off-track now and again?  No.  It's probably a little inevitable that we will, but I think if we allow ourselves breathing room we will allow ourselves a way to always come back to center.  To keep myself on task there are three things I always ask myself:
-Is this the correct direction?
-Does this feel good?
-Am I contributing in an important or helpful way?
And, one thing I always remind myself:
I. Am. Not. A. Brand. 
I'm a human being.  You can take that even further if you like -- I'm a spiritual being having a human experience. Words do not define me.  Catchphrases do not describe me.  I am not a commodity.  I do not fit into a tidy soundbite, and neither do you.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Dig It?

Cultivating my green thumb
This week I was finally able to get my garden planted ... I feel a little late to the game, but it seems whenever I try to jump the gun in the PNW, there's always a late frost waiting to put me right back into my place.  So, I opted for "fashionably late" to the seed planting party this year.  Though, I won't be totally cheating like someone (pictured to the left) who will be growing from starts this year instead of seeds, news of which I'm positive has several generations of gardeners rolling in graves as I type this!  I can't blame him though, I've learned everything garden-wise that I know from him (spending much of my youth hopping from boot-print to boot-print to keep the deep soil from cascading over the tops of my tiny rubber boots behind him as he tilled 36' x 72' garden plots season after season with my coat pockets jammed full of seed packets), and he travels a lot without much time to get settled in and prepared for the growing season ... or he's just not as bored as I am, either way I suppose I'll give him a break for it, after all, my parents are the ones who inspired me to start growing my own garden after the overwhelming disdain of buying sickly looking produce from local grocery stores just became too much for me with words close to, "Girl, you know better.  Get to work!"

This year I went with my great-grandfather's recipe of planting according to the phases of the moon by syncing my Lunar Energy Chart from The Darling Tree (if you want one, scroll all the way to the bottom & sign up for her mailing list to get the free file sent to your inbox), with the Farmers' Almanac to produce the ultimate seed planting guide for 2016 that I can print out and keep in my All Things Gardening 3-ring binder.  Oh, didn't you know?  I'm a complete nerd, and this seeps into my gardening life as well (and by "seeps" I mean, flows like a mighty river).

If you're interested in trying to grow your own food, my go-to online heirloom seed stores are: The Garden Hoard & Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Give it a whirl, and see what happens!


Friday, April 29, 2016

The Invitation

"It doesn't interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments."

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Friday, April 22, 2016

"I Am #Transformed."

1958 - 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Day The Major Arcana Was Turned Up To 11

We all knew when Priscilla Frank dropped this blurb about Ariel Hart's Lisa Frank inspired (free to the masses) tarot deck on The Huffington Post that this was going to happen, right?

While I was never the biggest fan of Lisa Frank products growing up (I was more of a Mead Supershades girl, myself, later graduating to Yikes!® everything), I am a fan of the parody accounts Nihilisa Frank, and Feminist Lisa Frank floating around the interwebs these days, plus there's something about the mishmash of candy-colored nonsense on a deck of tarot cards, and the humor Ariel brings to the project that I find irresistible.  So, it really was only a matter of finding the right print shop to handle the job!  I ended up using San Francisco based Printer's Studio for this undertaking.  I loved that they had no minimum orders, complete customization, essentially no limit to the number of designs in a deck (up to 170 cards), and their drag & drop uploading system that literally could not get any easier to use.  The entire process was beyond user-friendly, and when I signed up to create my account I received a coupon code for something like ten dollars off my first order, taking the price down to $1.20 for two decks of cards, plus shipping.

I'm totally impressed with the quality, I can't say enough about how great these cards are, but I'll spare you!  I'll just say, I'm so stoked I want to go into the playing card biz now ... stay tuned.

I know others went with Make Playing Cards as their printer, and were just as thrilled with the results.  As pleased as I am with what I got from Printer's Studio, I always encourage people to shop around to find exactly who or what can fulfill their needs so, I had to throw MPC into the mix.  I understand how overwhelming it can be trying to find the right company for the appropriate job, and I highly recommend both of these studios.


Friday, April 8, 2016

Sing Me a Song of a Lass That is Gone

We are moments away from the official end of Droughtlander, almost an entire year after the air date of the final episode of Outlander's premier season (which was necessary to bring us the BEST version of this costume drama possible so, I can't complain!), and in celebration I thought I'd post my essay entry to a "contest" created March 14, 2015 by Costume Designer Extraordinaire, and all around cool chick, Terry Dresbach (these are the kinds of things that come up on misty spring mornings with a bunch of costume & apparel geeks - turned fan girls playing on twitter together) because the conversation had cropped up about how the men of the series sometimes get the lion's share of attention from a largely female audience when there's a really awesome heroine (who has carried the series into it's 9th book, due out in the near-ish future) to celebrate.  So, in honor of Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser Grey (erm) Fraser (again) we were each to submit a formal essay just showing some good old fashioned love to a lead female character.

Without further ado...

Claire Beauchamp: An Eighteenth Century Riot Grrrl

Claire Beauchamp was born a wild woman; intimately connected to her sacred untamed nature from the start, vividly illustrated by the failed attempt at enrolling her in boarding school. Not even Uncle Lamb, and his unconventional child rearing methods can take credit for the ferocity of the ancient feminine burning within our young heroine. Orphaned, underestimated, and unexpected to have any sense of agency over her own person, this child quickly becomes her own advocate by demanding better, and more for herself, her life, and her future taking, quite possibly, her first step toward becoming the accidental feminist she spends the rest of her life being. Following no one else’s guidelines or framework for how a “liberated” woman is supposed to be, she however, observes, and sources from the lives around her in order to create the woman she is continually becoming, always incorporating the new material with who, and what she already, naturally, is. It is when she is faced with the input of others, or criticized that we see her internally question herself, and struggle to reconcile who she is with who others think she should be, and see her trying on different roles both in her present time, and her eighteenth century life when it is suggested that her approach to life or a certain circumstance is incorrect leaving us to witness a woman slowly suffocating beneath the socially acceptable mask of “propriety” culminating in an extreme, or desperate action to breathe again (shattered wine bottles, and ruined dinner parties come to mind), but always the return to center — her most inherent self is the conclusion.

Through Claire we learn that authenticity is not a glamorous or tidy business, and can only be dressed up in a package that meets societal expectations when society itself is no longer determined to deny its dire importance. Women are neither served, nor serve well whilst striving to attain a standard not created by any consensus of their own by altering themselves in order to be *nice, likable, or neutral. Claire may keep quiet to save herself, and those around her from dangerous situations (and sometimes even that’s a task!), but she’s never going to “shut-up” or play herself down in order to make other people more comfortable with themselves, meanwhile demonstrating an inclusion that is rare in female sisterhood even today. Claire is a spectacular contradiction; a one woman revolution coupled with Caitriona Balfe who comes across both personally, and on screen as someone as effortlessly unapologetically herself as the character she is portraying, I am reminded of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s words: Well behaved women seldom make history. Claire Beauchamp isn’t making history, she’s reinventing it.

*"Nice" to be read as what a patriarchal society determines a nice woman to be ie: docile, subordinate, pretty window dressing, not to be confused with good manners every human should posses and afford one another male or female.

 Incidentally a Top Five was never chosen because, "There are too many great ones. Too many styles. Some are very beautiful, written by people with degrees in literature and english, some by those who don’t really speak english [sic] at all. Some long, some very short. But what they all share is beauty, passion and love. And after all isn’t that exactly the point? What I asked for?? All equally wonderful, and I refuse to choose between them." From the mouth of T.D. herself ... so, I guess we all won? Admittedly, mine is a little clunky in parts ... I haven't done this in eons, but yay, us!  I'm not sure what we won, perhaps just the pleasure of "winning" itself, but really who needs a prize when this feast of imagination, and costume ecstacy hits our screens?  Yeah, no one.  It's that good.

Monday, March 28, 2016

One of Those Days

So much for my promising career in camera repair...
This month is wrapping up with a rather explosive energy after starting the new year with an oddly productive air as if being shoved from behind by an invisible, overly-excited stage mother, everything came to an abrupt halt recently, punctuated with a hot water tank that had finally had enough of this life, but refused to go without one last battle (I almost admired it for that).  After tricking me into thinking the rather loud, hissing sound emanating from my utility closet was that of a gas-leaking furnace (who has been little else than a headache the entire time I've known it!), and getting me to run out of the house (grabbing essentials along the way: warm coat, lip balm, bottle of water, and phone) thinking I'm about to be vaporized like the family I had just seen on the evening news only days before, hitting every button on my phone until finding a suitable number to call to inform the person through wheezes of hyperventilation as I hunker down in the spider-factory formerly known as a garden shed, also the only cover I could duck into at the furthest point from my house making mental notes such as, "If I live through this, find out where the %$^;*@#! gas line shut-off valve is!" not only did it NOT, in fact, blow up my house (making me look like a raving lunatic in the process), it mocked me by spewing water into my living room.

She fights dirty.

Well played.

It could've been worse.  And that's the thing really, it can ALWAYS be, or get worse ... I'll take soggy carpet over this any day of my life, that's for sure!  Besides, that's what shop-vacs and towels were made for, right?  I mean, things wear out or break, they end, and that's okay.  All we can do is be as prepared as possible, and when that falls short, hope like hell we remembered to do our stretches and are flexible enough to bend when necessary.  Me?  I'm not so bendy, and Life isn't waiting around for me to perfect my "full wheel pose" in order to roll with it either, it's reminding me of what needs, or deserves just as much attention as everything else on my radar right now, and that things are moving forward with or without me.

I could've really done without the fuss, and the clean-up for that matter, but I DO know where the gas line shut-off valve is now...

Sunday, February 14, 2016


"Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true.  Loneliness hurts.  Rejection hurts.  Losing someone hurts.  Envy hurts.  Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.  Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt."  
 -Liam Neeson 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bonne Année, Bonne Santé!

My word for 2016: Resilience.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Everybody's Singing...

This guy is my spirit animal. Sissy that walk, Santa!

 All the bells are ringing out, and it's Christmas all over again!

However you're spending your time today, and whoever you're choosing to spend it with, I hope you're taking time to create magic in all that you do.  Oh yeah, and spread a little love while you're at it, it really does go a long way.

Merry Christmas, Season's greetings, God Jul, Joyeux Noël, Happy Winter Solstice ... And everything else!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Cranberry Saw Us

1-handed OJ action shot ... My talent knows no bounds!
Each year when the pages of my calendar dwindle down to the last few, I've got one thing on my mind, aside from that lump of coal I earned from Santa, and that is ... Cranberry sauce!  Members of my family have a longstanding tradition with gelatinous goo that holds the shape of the can after being released from its confines, but when I was forced to give up all things processed, and eat like a homesteader things got a little complicated, especially the part about no refined white sugar, and I had to let go of such time honored treasures as these.  However, with a little research I was able to put together an incredibly simple, and successful recipe sure to cause riots with all your guests at your next gathering.      

The Gang's all here!
Here's what you need:
  • 24 oz Fresh Cranberries
  • 1 Orange - Juice & Zest
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Pure Organic Maple Syrup
Here's what you do:
Wash fruit, and combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring contents to a boil, turn temperature to Med-Low, cover, and let reduce for about 15-45 minutes, checking the mixture for your desired consistency every 15 minutes, and giving it the occasional stir. Let cool, remove cinnamon stick, chill in fridge before serving, and ... That's it!

Makes 4 cups (1 Litre).

What was I saying about complicated?  The most complicated part about learning to cook and bake without refined white sugar is digging up, and converting, or inventing the recipes in a sugar cane dominated world, but once you've done the groundwork, the actual recipes are a cinch!  Remember, you can always use honey in the place of maple syrup in my recipes, if you're into that sort of thing, but for my bee-sting allergy people out there (like me!), maple syrup works like an absolute dream.  Happy holidays & enjoy!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Original Boss Babe

 1990 Holiday Barbie in damaged box: $6.50

Trip to the beauty shop before she meets your 5 year old niece: Free

Kickin' it with your Homegirl 25 years later: Priceless


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Here We Go!

Patrick Rothfuss' Worldbuilders are at it again with their fundraising efforts barreling down the track of another record-breaking year on behalf of Heifer International.  Every year his assembled team of world-building minions roll up their sleeves to bring Geeks from all walks of life together for the greater good of humanity by raising money for people experiencing crippling poverty around the world.  How much money, you ask?  Last year brought in over $880,000.00 USD, an amount they're looking to beat this year, with 14 days to go and a total at $681,441.00 USD, and ***ALL DONATIONS MADE TODAY BEING MATCHED*** I think this will definitely be a bar-raising year!

How can you join the fundraising mayhem?  Several ways, actually!  From online auctions, to buying things from Pat's store, The Tinker's Packs (where all proceeds go to charity all year long, every single purchase), or just by straight-up donating on the Worldbuilders page, where each donation of ten dollars gets you an entry into the massive lottery of donated books, games, and deliciously dorky miscellany.  Get to clickin' if you want to get your hands on some swag whilst helping people feed themselves, their families, and rescue their village's economy.  Even though sales through Pat's website are constantly put toward charity, this particular event ends December 14, 2015 11:59 PM UTC-11 so, go (!) and donate now if you don't want to miss out, especially if you want your charitable gift to be doubled (ends today!).


DEADLINE EXTENDED!!! New deadline now December 18, 2015 11:59 PM UTC-11.
An opportunity to match donations up to another $200,000.00 was announced in the wee hours this morning, causing Rothfuss to sound the rallying cry to #BilboItUp for one last major push.  With the total now blown past ONE MILLION USD, this is yet another record breaking CRUSHING year for Worldbuilders, and Heifer International AND it's not too late for you to join the madness!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November's Sky is Chill and Drear, November's Leaf is Red and Sear

Where has this month gone?!  Am I the only one who felt like I went to sleep October 31st, and woke up November 29th (mind you, with extremely vivid dreams of turkey, and cranberry sauce!) as if coming out of a NyQuil coma?  Or maybe it was that I was too busy enjoying it to count the days as they passed, and didn't realize just how late in the year it was getting until I woke up this weekend to frosty 28º mornings ... a rather sharp realization to drag me out of my harvest haze, if you ask me!
Illustration: John Rae

Here I am nonetheless, staring into the face of December elbow deep in drying herbs, flowers, and garden seeds cleaning, organizing, and preparing for the next planting season already. Thanks for the heads-up Aesop, baby!  You won't catch me out in the cold with nothing to gnaw on but a frozen fiddle (barring unavoidable disaster, of course).  At any rate, it won't be because I spent all summer singing, and dancing ... although, that doesn't sound like an entirely bad way to spend a summer ... balance in all things, yes?  

One of the things I'm living for right now is the Glass Gem Corn I grew from seed thanks to Garden Hoard -- a two person, organic, heirloom seed, Midwestern enterprise -- that I'm in LOVE with!  Katie, the owner, is an awesome woman with a wealth of knowledge to share, and a love for plants who wants to feed the world ... what's not to like?  Besides, I love smart chicks, and I'll take any opportunity to support her "fempire" when I can.  Anyway, back to the corn, it's decorative, it's edible, it's grind-able, it's poppable, and it's GORGEOUS!  Each ear is a complete surprise, even when plucking from the same stalk ... which totally tickled my colorholic tendencies.  

Keep in mind when growing, these are not the ears you get from a packet of hybrid seeds or what you find plumped up at the supermarket, Glass Gem Corn ears are much more elegantly sized.  Heirloom produce is typically not what our supersized-society (with exceptions, of course) is used to seeing or eating, however you do get the added bonus of unparalleled flavor, and a pretty high guarantee that any seeds collected will perform in your garden next season, and thus, you can create your own seed home-library without having to run to the store every year to replenish your seed stash.  If you're looking for new-to-you or unusual varieties of fruits and veggies to add to your garden, or you're brand new to this garden-gig, and just starting out pop over, and check out Katie & Christian's operation.  For a two person show, they've got a good selection, surprisingly great customer service and availability (I honestly don't know how they have the time!), and they hook their customers up with extra goodies every order.  

Happy planning & planting!