Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Motherly Advice...

Me: 15
He: 16
Mother: You're too young to go with boys who drive.

Me: 19
He: 21
Mother: And just what exactly are you gonna be doin' while he's out at the bar or club with his buddies?! No daughter of mine waits by the phone for some knucklehead to call!

Me: 25
He: 37
Mother: Are you sure? Men that age are usually ready for more, and want something different out of life...

Me: 35
Mother: You need someone around 50, these men your age today act like overgrown children, they'll never be enough "man" for you.

*sigh*


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#BoycottZara

Image: courtesy of AdamJK
ZARA, the world's largest apparel retailer, and notorious 'fast-fashion' copycat brand, is at it again this summer ripping off popular independent artists around the globe and selling their poorly-fabricated, illegal / unauthorized reproductions across their main, and subsidiary companies.  When confronted they clapped back at one LA-based, indie artist, Tuesday Bassen, with a very neaner-neaner we're more popular than you, so we can steal your work kind of response.  Which, I'm sure she was thrilled to receive after dropping 2k on a professionally drafted Cease & Desist letter to the company informing them of their misstep.

If Zara thinks acting like a stuck-up prom queen after being called out on their theft is winning them any popularity contests, they are mistaken.  It's very disappointing when the largest apparel, and accessories retail chain founded by Amancio Ortega (the second richest man in the world, and richest in Europe) has to steal from independent artists and sell ripped-off designs when there are much smaller businesses out there contracting with these same artists following all appropriate legal channels to bring lesser known or underground trends to larger audiences.  If these businesses can accomplish this task, I'm sure Ortega and his ilk can figure it out as well ... if they want to.

Original artists listed left to right:
Tuesday Bassen
Juliette Mallete
Adam J. Kurtz
Georgia Perry
Maria Inges Gul
Big Bud Press
Ivonna Buenrostro
Strawberry Moth
Gabriella Sanchez
Explorer's Press
Mokuyobi Threads
Anna Santaguida

The list just seems to keep growing ... At last count it appears ZARA has lifted 42 separate works from other artists and reproduced them.  For a frequently updated running list please visit ShopArtTheft.com, and support the original artists.

For your reading pleasure:
Shop ZARA's Art Theft Collection
(Adam J. Kurtz)
An Independent Artist Has Accused Zara Of Stealing Her Designs
(Buzzfeed)
(Co.Create)
Artist Claims Zara Doesn’t Care About Stealing Her Designs Because She Isn’t Popular Enough
(Complex)   
Zara Makes a New Enemy, Steals Tuesday Bassen’s Designs
(College Candy)
Zara copied an indie artist's designs but said it’s NBD ‘cause she’s not famous
(Cosmopolitan)
Indie designer accuses Zara of stealing work, Zara says artist's work isn't 'distinctive'
(The Daily Dot)
(Daily Mail)
(DAZED)
12 Artists Are Accusing Zara of Stealing Their Designs
(Fortune)
(The Guardian)
(The Huffington Post)
(Metro)

Friday, July 1, 2016

She Loves in Color

She Loves in Color - Acrylic on Canvas

                                "She sees
                                 in black and white
                                 thinks in greys
                                 but loves in color"
                                                      -JmStorm

Waiting to see if my submission for the 2nd annual Michaels Art Challenge has made it into the *top ten* is excrutiating ... I'm not exactly holding my breath, but waiting isn't something I'm particularly good at, and an extra vibe or bit of luck thrown my way wouldn't go unappreciated!  A jury of 5 art experts has the laborious task of narrowing down the thousands of submissions (I think last year's contest brought in 11k) to just ten semifinalists based on overall creativity, technique, subject, and individuality, that will then be released to the public to vote for the winner beginning July 5, 2016.  Frankly, at this point I don't know if I've hit any of those marks, but I did walk away with a painting that I'm not totally ashamed to hang on my wall so, in that regard it's been fun to play, and see this little project come to completion.

Browse all submissions here (you really should take a peek, there's some great stuff happening over there, I've already got several favorites!).

***

Well, I didn't make the cut, but no one ever wins the game by warming the bench.  At least I got up and ran around on the field, so to speak, whether they wanted me there or not ... Does that make me the streaker of the art world, because I'm totally okay with that!

Voting is live until July 19, 2016 so, if you're interested in helping any of these artists win a trip to London here's your chance.  The page is now showing only 8 of the 10 initially chosen finalists ... One was disqualified in the first 12 hours for an alleged copyright violation, which seems odd to me in the first place since the jury of 5 had two weeks to narrow down the selection and vet each piece before voting was opened to the public, add to that the piece in question was never replaced by an alternate because of "unfairness" even though this entire leg of the competition is based on how hard you can rally on social media to get votes so, a 12 hour delay really isn't that big of deal when the entire voting span is 14 days.  The second has vanished for some unknown-to-me-reason.  Frankly, this entire contest looks like it's unraveling at the seams.  No sour grapes, just plain observation.  Maybe they'll have all the kinks worked out by next year, but it's not looking entirely hopeful based on how this has been handled.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Breaking The Cycle Of Peddling The Pill

Since its inception, the Pill (oral hormonal contraception) has been almost synonymous with freedom, and a huge player in the women's equality movement, so much so, that now to come out as a woman and renounce this form of birth control (or hormone "balancing / regulating" agent as it's prescribed for some) is to be labelled "anti-feminist" or seen as someone fighting against the hard earned rights of women to look after ourselves as we see fit, and the necessary access to what we need in order to accomplish that.  Ok, ok some of our sisters are fighting on the wrong side, I'll give you that.  We see it everyday on the news, especially in an election year; women keeping other women down because ... well, I don't exactly know why, and I'd wager neither do they.
There is, however, another completely different anti-Pill (or more accurately anti-hormonal contraception) movement that's been rumbling for decades but is recently getting a little more recognition thanks to women voicing their concerns about the ravaging effects hormonal contraception (and other hormone based medical treatments) is having on women's bodies, and it has absolutely nothing to do with taking choices, or rights away from any of us.  Quite the opposite, actually, it's about empowering us to make healthy decisions for ourselves instead of relying on governments worldwide that could NOT care less about a single one of us (says the disgruntled ex-PoliSci major ... Just ask Flint, MI), a misogynistic, not to mention corrupt, medical system (especially in America, think AMA the Rockefeller Drug Empire, et al) that still seems to be thoroughly befuddled by female anatomy, and its intricate functions even in 2016 where we continue to be treated as hysterical little girls, and "prescribed" marriage and babies to fix us. Really?  When's the last time a man went to the doctor for a real physical problem, and was told to go have a baby? This is real.  This is the nonsense women have to deal with just trying to get legitimate medical help ... still.  Partner this with a wildly out of control pharmaceutical mafia that really doesn't care if each of us sprouted two tails as side-effects from the poison they fence just so long as they'll be allowed to create and manufacture a new medication to make it fall off, and then another after that to help us grieve the loss of the tails their side-effects created, and I think anyone could begin to see why women white-knuckle their freedom to choose the Pill as a form of contraception so ferociously even if it's probably not the safest, healthiest, and most accurate choice for hormone management, family planning, and cycle correction available to us.

Do I sound a little biased?  I admittedly am.  I have very strong opinions on not just this topic, but the entirety of the cut-now-ask-later, pill popping madness that is Western medicine, however, more than this I believe it is for every woman to decide what is right for her own health and well being, and to follow the correct path for her life, not mine.  We've all got our own walk to walk.  I don't want what I write here to be read as if I'm shaming anyone for choices, or decisions that need to be made, my purpose is to share what I know to be true in my own life, what I've found during my personal research, and to simply add my voice to this growing conversation in the event that a randomly googling woman facing a turning point with a head full of questions can find an answer here that she needed to find at this point in her life, like I (and many others) have had to do when we were unable to find the help we needed down traditional avenues.  I am by no stretch of the imagination, a medical professional, physician, or practitioner of any sort, nor do I pretend to be, I am, however, annoyed that women's wisdom has gone from being this sacred and celebrated knowledge to considered nothing more than wives tales and cockamamie nonsense.  With that said, what I write here will not be medical advice, it will be information, and lists of resources ready to be utilized by anyone interested in furthering their understanding.  

So, why this sudden attack on hormonal contraception?  First of all it's not exactly sudden, co-founder of the National Women's Health Network, author, journalist, and activist Barbara Seaman's book The Doctor's Case Against the Pill first hit shelves in 1969 where she questioned the use of high doses of estrogen coming at us in the form of a daily medication, and the potential for very serious, if not fatal, health risks.  Thirty-four years later she penned The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women: Exploding the Estrogen Myth where we see that she wasn't so wrong to be waving red flags the first time around.  I mean, we're talking about a drug where the side effects include:
Abdominal / stomach / chest pain including shortness of breath
Severe headaches, and migraines
Severe mood-swings, rage, depression, and anxiety
Blurred or loss of vision Swollen, aching, or throbbing legs (which can be a sign of Erythema Nodosum) Increased blood pressure
Gall bladder disease
Benign liver tumors
Increased cervical, and breast cancer risk
Heart attack, stroke, and blood clots
Deep vein thrombosis
Pulmonary embolism
Infertility
All of this can be mine for the low, low price of a monthly co-pay just because I don't want a baby right now?  Sign me up for some liver tumors, and a heart attack, please!  This sounds like utter madness to me, why are we accepting this?  I think part of the reason is because many women are straight up lied to in the doctor's office, I've had several friends (and strangers for that matter) tell me, "The doctor told me there were NO side-effects connected with the birth control pills I was being prescribed."  No ... None ... ZERO.  Has this physician just come back from a parallel universe where this is actually true?  For the record, right here and now there is absolutely NO birth control pill that is absolutely side-effect free.  For the rest of us, I believe the side-effects are majorly downplayed (many of which are only discussed if other risk factors are involved such as smoking, drinking, or obesity) and even then the words "slightly increase your risk" are used in a way that I feel offers a very false sense of comfort, and safety to the patient.  If your doctor, or healthcare practitioner HAS extensively discussed side-effects, and possible dangers with you count yourself lucky for finding a responsible, and well-informed provider, but know that this is not the norm for everyone, it is still a massive struggle for many women to get crucial, and accurate information during office visits.  Another reason I think we accept this dangerous drug into our daily lives, aside from sheer convenience, is that the list of side-effects is so abstract to young women today, kind of how the death, destruction, and absolute horror of foreign war is so incomprehensible to most spoiled Americans (myself included!) that we'll probably never fully wrap our heads around it until our peaceful and idyllic neighborhoods are reduced to rubble, or we're the ones suddenly, and inexplicably (to us) dealing with terrifying adverse health concerns because of some tiny tablet we were told was safe.  This is not a slight to all our little sisters out there, I was the same way.  Strokes, as far as I was concerned, weren't something young, healthy people had to worry or even think about until my thirty-six year old sister (THIRTY-SIX!) ended up in a hospital bed rendered unable to speak or move her body because of a left-brain stroke in the same week she was given a full, and complete "clean bill of health" (her doctor's words, not mine!) by her GP at her annual check-up.  At the time this was beyond shocking ... Now?  Knowing what I know about the healthcare and insurance industries as a whole, and the rampant gross negligence of both, I'm not surprised by what happened to her.  The point being, however, that this was my (possibly my entire family's) personal crash course in blood clots leading to stroke in young people, which like most pharmaceutical side-effects' severity it had all been too intangible for me to really grasp in my daily life.  This event in my sister's life had once, and for all made these things real, and visceral, and frankly terrifying to the degree that it forever changed how I viewed my health, physical body, and how I would be caring for it moving forward.  This is not to say that all of my decisions have now become fear-based, not at all in fact, I believe my decisions have become even more information-based, and that the well I draw from has just become larger in order to include true, first-hand health, and wellness accounts from regular people who have lived what they are telling, as I am no longer comfortable placing my trust solely with a dangerously inadequate medical system.

What's a young woman in a committed relationship, and in the prime of her reproductive years to do then, if not go the route of hormonal birth control?  Perhaps, implant a device (that comes in both hormonal, and non-hormonal options) that up until recently wasn't even recommended in the States for women who've never carried a pregnancy full-term, and can tear through her uterine wall, cause excessive pain, cramping, miserable sex, decreased libido, heavier and longer periods, infections, blockages, scar tissue, damage to other organs, the inevitable copper-poisoning, and unplanned pregnancy like our old friend the IUD, or "coil" as some people call it?  Jeepers, what a generous offer!  Thanks, but no.

I, like many women, don't think it's fair for it to even be an option to risk our own health and very lives just because we want to time our family planning around what works for us, and our relationships.  Put the pitchforks, and torches down ... This isn't some subversive call to action.  I'm not suggesting that we pull all options from the shelves that may pose health risks; some people are fine with that trade-off.  All I'm asking is why hasn't anything better ever been created for us?  Why did doctors, scientists, pharmaceutical reps, and everyone else in the chain stop with a job half done after developing such mediocre products?  If this were happening in a classroom it would be C- work, at best, and yet we're out here singing praises, and chanting "freedom" over things that simply don't deserve it.  Meanwhile, "new" and "improved" models of the same, dusty, old hormone based contraceptives are paraded around in front of us as if it's some how less of a pig because it's wearing lipstick now.  That's not to say advances in this area have all been an enormous waste of time, I think all study in this field have been a step in the right direction, but we're hardly at the goal line, and at this rate we'll never get there without scrutinizing potentially dangerous methods of birth control with valuable critical analysis methods.  An examination of what's working, and what isn't, is not a step backwards, in fact, it's the only way to move forward.

"Liberty is about our rights to question everything."
                  -Ai Weiwei 

And that's exactly what the people at German born Valley Electronics GmbH and sister company Valley Electronics AG (the makers of Lady-Comp®, Baby-Comp®, Pearly®, and Daysy® [daily synchronization]) have done for the last 25 years, and are continuing to do -- ask questions about birth control, and rethink our approach to it.  For so long we've talked about cycle tracking and the Fertility Awareness Method as a means to have a baby, but couldn't the same body literacy, and information be used to not have a baby as well?  The short answer: Absolutely!  Frankly, that's all I needed to hear to spark my own research into this world that reaches beyond natural contraception, and dives deep into the whole Pro-Period movement where women are discarding the shame and stigma surrounding our reproductive organs and menstruation, and embracing once again the wisdom, and knowledge we've become so removed from concerning women's health, and vitality.

My first step was connecting with other pro-natural-health women whose expertise ranged from skincare, to film making, to authorship, gynecology, holistic health coaching, and more to see if I could glean anything from their expertise that surpassed information that my 9th grade Phys. Ed. teacher relayed to us in a borrowed classroom whilst boys giggled every time a female body part was mentioned ... And I did.  So, maybe I wasn't exactly bowled over by new information, but I was impressed with the frankness with which it's shared, the lack of ego, and embarrassment during discussion, and the coming together of like-minded sisters looking for answers and to help one another find theirs as well. Grown folks having open, and honest dialogue that hasn't been bought and paid for by some entity with an agenda of its own, maybe that's what I found so wildly refreshing on this expedition for truth.

My next step was actually ordering the Daysy® fertility calculator, learning how to use it, syncing with the DaysyView app, and letting it get to know me (I will be one month into it by tomorrow, and according to the website, it takes about three full months for the device to really understand your body fluctuations, rhythms, and cycles covered in their extensive FAQ section).  Once it has familiarized itself with your personal cycle it can determine your fertility any day of the month with an accuracy of 99.3% using the same algorithm as the Lady-Comp® device which falls on the Pearl Index at 0.7 ranking it better than cervical caps, condoms, certain contraception patches, and even above NuvaRing, and birth control pill failure rates.  So, I can plan or prevent a pregnancy without harming my body, and with a failure rate less than some of our current most popular and trusted methods, and all it takes is a 30 second temperature reading per day?  Why isn't this being screamed from mountaintops?  I guess it's starting to, and that's a large part of the reason I'm adding my voice to the conversation -- This deserves our attention.  Women, and their partners need to know what's available to them in order to make informed, and healthy decisions for their own lives.

Now down to the brass tacks ...
How much does a Daysy® fertility calculator cost?  The Daysy® is currently retailing for $330.00 USD and is covered by many insurance companies using CODE: A9279 (note that you may need a letter from your doctor saying that you need or want the device), you may also shop THIS LINK (shameless plug) and for a limited time receive a $30.00 reimbursement on your purchase by joining the Daysy® referral program as well as receiving an additional $20.00 USD referral commission on each device purchased through your own unique link like mine above.  Ok, so now you might be thinking "Girl, get real!  You want me to drop that kind of cash on a thermometer so you can get a kickback? Nice try!" 

No.  I don't care where you shop for this device.  I ordered mine, and joined the referral program in order to obtain first-hand experience, and understanding about the product myself to find out if I even like it let alone if I'd ever consider recommending it to anyone.  It turns out that I love it, the referral program works, I've already got a redemption pending, and I was able to score a coupon code from the ladies at The Fifth Vital Sign (which may still be available!) for an additional amount off, just find them on Instagram and ask for it, they'll fork it over if it's still live.  If you're still not sure you can swing it, contact Daysy® in the US & Canada at info@usa.daysy.me and ask about payment plans (for Europe: info@eu.daysy.me, and Switzerland: info@ch.daysy.me).

But it doesn't protect against STIs / STDs!!!  No, no it doesn't, and neither does the pill, patch, ring, shot, implant, IUD, caps, or countless other contraception options that have been trumpeted for years.  This device will help you plan or prevent pregnancies, and familiarize you with your cycle and more fully understand your body. That's it.  This is a device for women in situations they are comfortable not using barrier methods, it is not pretending to be something that it isn't.

So, it's basically just the Rhythm Method?   No.  The Rhythm Method (along with many period tracking apps available today) base their fertility predictions on a lot of assumptions when a woman documents her menstruation data, one being that every woman's cycle is the same length every month (28 - 30 days), and that ovulation always falls at the midway point.  This, as you can imagine, is not true for all women.  The Daysy® device is much more sophisticated than jotting down stop and start days, and guessing somewhere between a stop & start is a fertile window.  Read more here: The Problem With Period Trackers - Holly Grigg-Spall

I have painful, or heavy periods, acne, PCOS, migraines, endometriosis, etc.  Do I need to stay on birth control pills?  Not necessarily.  There are a few resources for you to check out if you have non-pregnancy reasons for using birth control pills, and you may be able to leave them behind for good if you've become unhappy with them and their effects on your body or mood, and mental health.

Christiane Northrup M.D. - What Are The Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?
Holly Grigg-Spall - Author of Sweetening The Pill here, and here.
Jill Strom - The Basics of Birth Control 
Laura Briden - Author of Period Repair Manual - find her here
Nicole Jardim - Fix Your Period Quickstart Kit
Organic Olivia here, and here.

Further Reading:
Alanis.com
Jessa Blades
Lisa Lister - Author of Code Red & Love Your Lady Landscape
Ricki & Abby

Above all else, be your own guru.  Do not take my word for it, research, read, listen to your body, follow the signs you've been given to realize your goal of optimal health in all areas of your life.  

xoxo 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Raindrops on Roses

Is there anything more beautiful than a cool summer morning?  I seriously doubt it.  I love a good break in the heat when everything seems to exhale, and recharge itself.  Things feel fresh again, and it seems as though all the cares that clung to you in the rising temperatures have all been washed away.  Ok, ok so it may have taken a thunder and lightning storm that lasted hours into the pre-dawn morning, and sent shock waves through the very marrow of my bones, and left me with a splitting headache (as all electrical storms do for some reason), but like all others before, it too passed, and left everything / one waking with a new, and much needed sense of calm this morning, I think -- I mean, I can't speak for every living thing in the entire Universe but, for me it was a welcome interruption to the sweltering stagnation of late.

So today, I will say goodbye to an old friend that tugged on my heart for many years, taught me more than he probably ever imagined he had, and who was desperate to convert me into a cultural anthropologist.  The sky has already opened up and released passionately, and more eloquently everything I could've possibly said.  Bon voyage, my darling ... Maybe I'll catch you at a Yuwipi ceremony sometime, and who knows?  You may just find me in the ethnography and ethnology publishing business in the future, and thanks to you I'll know the difference.

xoxo
William Willard 1926 - 2016

"The trouble is, you think you have time"
-Buddha

A lesson I'm surprised I'm still learning...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Calling All Geeks!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/geeks-doing-good-2016#/It's that time again ... (my favorite) Author, Pat Rothfuss, and crew are at it again.  They're celebrating his birthday today by kicking off a week long charity fundraiser through Worldbuilders over here.  We all remember coming together last Christmas to raise over a million dollars, and where I *won* this little gem out of the lottery, right?  

Well, if you're bummed out you missed the last go 'round of this, and the opportunity to help people dig themselves out of crippling poverty, now's your chance!  Hop over to Pat's blog to read more about how you can help out while getting your paws on some super-duper swag, and wish him a happy birthday if you want to.


xoxo 




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I Leek You A Lot

My gorgeous, although, non prize-winning Musselburgh Leeks
I was fussing with my family tree a few years ago (yup, genealogy nerd too!) around the time I was planning my first solo-garden, and while I sat dreaming of my heirloom seed wishlist I came up with the idea of growing vegetables that my ancestors would've harvested for their dinner tables, or varieties that either originated in or were popular near locations my ancestors inhabited; a few of my favorites have been my Jaune Paille Des Vertus Onions, Weathersfield Red Onions, and since I have both Dutch, and Scottish ancestry I found the Giant Musselburgh Leeks to be totally appropriate.  As it turns out, they're also some of the easiest things I've ever grown in my entire life aside from weeds, and just when I thought my leeks were really cool I googled around a little bit and stumbled upon competition growers *sigh* ... But really, who needs a 20 lb. leek anyway?  I mean, once you're outside of the "Goldilocks Zone" taste really goes downhill on most fruits and vegetables like my Tyrannosaurus Zucchini that's basically only good for grating up for bread recipes, so why bother?  The bragging rights can't be that satisfying can they?  Maybe they can, I've never grown the biggest leek in the county, state, country, world ... So, I wouldn't exactly know, but I happen to grow tasty leeks, and that's all I do need to know!

Ok, so I've got my Giant Musselburgh Leeks, now what?  Did I mention I didn't grow up eating leeks, and had literally no idea what to do with them (if you're like me, you'll probably have to learn how to clean them as well)?  As it turns out, the heavens opened up, and gifted me this recipe for a leek gratin with coconut milk created by Sophie from A Squirrel in the Kitchen.  And yes, in case you are wondering, it did in fact answer all of my leek-related prayers.  Seriously, try it.

Bon app├ętit!

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 were 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!

xoxo

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,
'Yes.'

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.

xoxo


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...