Outrageous Happiness #1: The Kick-Off

August 25, 2016 § 6 Comments

Back by popular demand….. whether it’s new or a “refresher”, let’s do this.

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Everybody’s doing it. Consciously or not ~ we’re all trying to be happy. 

Joy. Delight. Contentment. Love, peace and harmony. It’s a basic urge, in varying degrees of intensity depending on our genetic makeup, manifesting in different ways, but it’s there. Elusive. Sneaky. Not completely reliable.

So, this is a test. I’m calling it the “Outrageous Happiness Experiment”.

It started after a friend gave me a book. (Ah, the power of the written word in action, yet again!) It’s the true and rather amazing account of the extraordinary life of Tracy Evans*, a physician’s assistant who decides to follow God wherever He leads; Tracy calls it “radical faith”.

Towards the end of this adventurous read, feeling both uplifted and somewhat inadequate, I had an inspiration; something I could apply to my own life: why not radical happiness? Kind of like positive thinking on steroids. Because at the root of positive thought lies a certain amount of faith, and trust, and hope. And if you know anything about me by now (whether you know me personally, or have read my posts for a while), it’s that I’m a staunch optimist and a huge, huge, believer in the power of thought to shape both ourselves and our world.

Just to be clear, though, being a staunch optimist doesn’t necessarily mean wearing rose-colored glasses – I’m a pretty even-keel person, but I admit to the stray string of curses when a driver cuts someone off, or the random rage about the digitally over-stimulated age we live in. I also confess that after watching half an hour of the news, the cynic in me can come roaring to the surface, feeling helplessly disturbed by the nature of the human beast. There are times that stir my blood to boiling – with nowhere to flow to. So, yes, even with the best of intentions, challenges to our happiness quotient, our “positive thinking” efforts and our spiritual well-being can pop up like militant weeds after a spring rain, threatening to overrun our mind’s well-tended garden.

It’s then that I go back, as I always must do, to what I can do in my world, and what each of us can do for our little corners of the planet, period. If everyone paid attention to honoring positive values by living them, what a better place the world would be. (Reminiscent of my 52 Weeks of Peace message.)

Because in the face of the madness of the world at large, throwing bucketloads of good stuff at it can seem the only sane route – not to mention, a pretty potent force.

So that’s where I go. I bring out the pen, the paper, or play a tune on the piano to bring the boiling blood back to normal temps. Tend some flowers. Slow down. Spontaneously do something nice for someone. Practice what I preach. Watch my thoughts. Bend my mind to the sun, open my heart to light and more light.

No one said life would be easy. There’s lots of shifting going on in people’s lives, seemingly at an accelerated rate. I know that for me there are times I feel absolutely certain I’m supposed to toss up my hands and say, “Okay Universe, have at it. Whatever it is you have planned for me here, I’ll try to get out of the way so you can do your wonderful thing.”

That said, since I figure I have a long time before my number is up, I want to live life well – and I figure a lot of that is up to me. It suppose it could be in the stars. It might already be planned out, pre-destined. Heck, it could be luck of the draw. But on the chance I have some say in all this, I might as well take the reins in whatever way I feel I can.

So who’s in? For a year, I’ll give it my best shot, and invite you to do the same. I’m going to give my positive thinking practice a hefty dose of adrenalin, each and every morning. Supplements throughout the day as needed. No matter what. The key here is going overboard. Crazy optimism. Being outrageously positive.

An aside: Just this morning I was put to the test. You know, kinda like when your happy place plummets from a 9 to a 2 in under a minute. I thought, oh the hell with it. Who am I kidding with this “Outrageous Happiness” idea. Isn’t it enough just managing daily life sometimes? How will I sustain a radical level of positivity?

Then I thought, well isn’t this just perfect? Any time is perfect. And at any time we might trip up. It’s (of course) what we do with that stumble. The point isn’t to walk around with a smile plastered to your face or pretend bad things don’t happen, or that as a human being, you don’t have ups and downs and a whole array of complex emotions at any given time.

The point is to observe, and find a point of light to move forward from.

Can’t say I know how everything will play out, but approaching things with a ridiculously happy intention seems like a good idea. When life feels messy and uncertain, what better time to shake things up with some unexpected happy? If you want to try an “outrageous happiness” commitment in your life, too, I’d love to have you join me. How amazing can we be?!

Stay tuned. Positive, possibly outrageous, updates to follow

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Wishes

July 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

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It’s my little girl’s 20th birthday today, and I’m feeling reminiscent. Looking at pictures of when she was small, her bright-eyed, sweet and sassy, smart little self, her wonderful little-kid drawings and well put-together stories. Years of joys and stumbles, laughter and tears – all those things that make life both challenging and rich.

And I think about the world she’s grown up in. How different from my own. Today there’s reality tv and technology-for-all and instant this and that. A world where you can be immediately connected and yet feel terribly alone. A world grown smaller and more aware and in many ways more caring – but also a world with news cycles as fast as your next breath, riddled with violence and distrust coming at a much more steady pace than the world I knew – and all of this, I stop to think, is “normal” to her generation. I wonder; how that plays itself out.

It makes me want to show her a simpler time – but that was then, and this is her time, so I hold on to the faith that I’ve always had – that she’s going to be just fine. Better than fine. And as we’ve done through the ages, we’ll all keep trying to make to make the world a better place. I haven’t lost faith in that either.

I still have some wishes, though … and while written with my girl in mind, they could be for almost anyone, so I share:

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For my daughter

I hope you’ll always be able to look up and marvel at the bigness of a bright blue sky, and to wonder at the sheer magnitude of billions of twinkling stars in an unfathomable universe. I hope you’ll always be awed by the mystery and power of the sea; find magic in a sunrise; hear whispers of angels on the breeze. I hope you’ll know the majesty of a mountaintop and the magnificence of a flower. I hope you’ll know the joy of traveling inside pages that feed your spirit and take you to amazing places made with words – and I hope you’ll know the joy of traveling to faraway lands, to walk down wide boulevards and small, quirky streets and talk with people who speak other languages and gaze at ancient temples and grand cathedrals and giant forests and tiny fossils from the beginning of time and buy trinkets and hear music you’ve never heard before and return home with tales to tell and inspiration alive in your veins. I hope you’ll be touched by a painting and moved by a poem. I hope you’ll know the soothing stillness of peace, and invigorating, blood-pumping exhilaration. I hope you’ll see goodness in the hearts of others, and hold dear the beauty and honor of your own. I hope you’ll believe in your dreams, and have the courage to sing the songs your soul wants to sing. I hope you’ll experience miracles. I hope you’ll feel grateful for small things, and always stand up straight and tall. And I hope you’ll know laughter and love and friendship for all of your days.  Love, always and ever – Mom

 

Tend Your Dreams

July 17, 2016 § 3 Comments

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There will be days you feel discouraged. Days you think, “Why bother?” Days when some inner voice may even mock you. Trust me on this. There will be days your sparkle dims, your enthusiasm stumbles. Maybe you fall into a pit or two.

But if you have a dream, if you have a passion, a yearning in your soul, deep and present that makes you feel vibrant and alive, it’s not put there to toss aside, or succumb to “why bother’s” and bury in the far recesses of some imaginary drawer – it’s there because it’s part of what you’re here for. It’s part of what you’re meant to do. It’s part of what you’re meant to give. And it won’t be ignored.

So when those uncomfortable, doubtful days arise, walk through them. Observe them. Say, “Look at that. I see you’re having a bad patch.” – and move along. Maybe today isn’t the day. But the day will come and you’ll be glad you kept going. The craziest, best part, is that others will be glad too.

I believe in my heart of hearts that we’re given these seeds of dreams and gifts and yearnings to nurture, make real and share into the world. Big or small, loud or quiet, one step at a time or taken in big leaps – your dreams are worthy of tending; in fact, they’re demanding that you do

Happy Birthday, America!

July 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

Peace is liberty. And today we honor the liberty of the United States of America.

We honor our founders ~ their courage, their foresight and their brave ideals. We honor our collective, indomitable, independent spirit; our community of souls originating from all over the world who have made this the land of the free and home of the brave. And as night skies across America burst with color, rumble and crack with cannon-like blasts, we’re reminded of all those who’ve fought for our freedoms and fought for peace, who have dreamed and toiled for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In that celebratory spirit, here’s a small collection of some designs I’ve created over the years, wishing a Happy Birthday to America!

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Things My Father Taught Me

June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Arthur L. Saxton / 1918-2012

Arthur L. Saxton / 1918-2012

How to change a tire. How to balance a checkbook. How to pack a suitcase efficiently. That at one time a slide rule could solve almost any problem.

He taught me that weeds are best pulled close to the ground when the soil is damp and the moon is waning. Almost anything can be recycled and remade. Material things are overrated. Contribute something positive. Leave the world a better place for your having been there. Nothing is more meaningful than family and nothing more beautiful than the earth.

My father showed me practicality, patience and perseverance. He showed me modesty and humility. Loyalty. Honesty. Steadily standing for what you believe in.

He gave me his long legs and his sensible disposition. He gave me a weakness for potatoes, and all things fresh from the garden. He did not, however, give me his creative math genius, nor his pension for saving old nails ~ but he gave, by example, the meaning of the word “integrity”, and for that alone I am eternally grateful.

Here’s to you, Dad, and all the fathers who teach even half this stuff. The world is a better place because of you.

 

Tim Cantor: Amazing

June 17, 2016 § 2 Comments

Tim Cantor is ridiculously talented. (I’m pretty sure if you look up the word “amazing” in the dictionary, his picture would be there.) With a brand new exhibit (on both coasts) and a beautifully produced 333-page hard cover coffee-table book showcasing his extraordinary art and poignant writings, he’s a shining star and rightly so. (Oh, and did I mention that one of his paintings inspired an original dress design? I don’t recall who designed the dress – apologies! – but did have fun seeing it.)

Last night I had the opportunity to meet Tim and his incredibly sweet, gracious wife, Amy, at the opening of his show in SOHO at the AFA Gallery. Props to my friend Roxanne for the introduction, and thanks to the weather for making it a perfect evening to stroll through the city. Then, of course, was the phenomenal art, admired with a glass of champagne in hand.

And, there was a dragon! A marvelous dragon, and another point of connection between two artists finding a few moments amidst the flurry of an opening reception to chat about how our minds work and how we don’t really go to many art shows and never wanted to be influenced by other artists so kind of kept our heads down, eyes on the canvas, brushes ready for the whichever inspiration would win out over another. (I don’t think you realize missing other people “getting” that sort of thing until you stop working long enough to rub shoulders.)

Tim, though, unlike myself, has made his fine art into a hugely successful full-time endeavor – and with his mastery, it would be a crime if he didn’t.

His demeanor is gentle and genuine, and his work – even if you didn’t know that he’s considered an artistic “rock star”, or that his art was introduced into the permanent art collection of the White House at age 15, or that his paintings hang in numerous celebrities’ homes (Robert DeNiro, Robert Redford, for example), have been exhibited around the globe and garnered wildly impressive media recognition – is truly exceptional. Seeing his surreal pieces in living color in the relatively intimate, high-ceilinged well-lit space of AFA was a delight.

The exhibit is up all summer at 54 Greene Street New York, NY 10013. Details here.

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All art created in oils, © Tim Cantor. See more of Tim’s work at timcantor.com.

 

Light Over Dark

June 13, 2016 § 1 Comment

This morning as the events in Orlando lay fresh and heavy on my mind, I was keenly aware of the particular beauty of the dawning day; as if everything were the same as before darkness struck.

The birds trilled boldly and sweetly; a robin strolled where the sun, brilliant and soft, cast a lush, velvet tone across the grass; the air was clear, the breeze refreshing; squirrels scampered, flowers bloomed – a perfect day unfolding, as if mocking our collective sorrow.

Or, I thought, perhaps – perhaps –  it was reminding us to never lose hope, never give up; that light fuels life; that yes, even while terrible pain and suffering exist, unfathomable acts occur at the hand of a few, that light is more powerful than darkness. I have to believe this. I have to believe we can do better.

Birds sing
As souls weep;
The sun rises,
Defying the weight
Pressing hard
On our hearts,
Of death and loss
Of decency
Of goodness.

So we pray, we grieve,
We pledge to love more.
And we silently rage
While seeking
Desperately
For light
For blame
For solutions
For justice
For peace.

Disillusioned and
Mournful
For a humanity
Violently twisted,
Our compassion
Elevated and tested
Yet still resolved
To sing
To fight
To mend
To rise –
Because
Darkness cannot win.

– Patricia Saxton

 

Magic, Captured

June 6, 2016 § 7 Comments

“I don’t get it,” the little boy said.

He was looking at my Book of Fairies. Assuming he was astounded by my artwork, his mother began explaining how I made the pictures for my books – how I drew them by hand, using a pencil to sketch and then add more detail; how I used pens and paints for color.

“But I don’t get it,” he repeated. And his mother said “I know, it’s pretty amazing right?”

“No”, the little boy said, shaking his head and scrunching his nose. “I don’t get magic.”

Then he thought a little more and added “I don’t get magic. I only believe in ninjas.”

Yet there we were, sitting at my kitchen table, the air thick with that very thing, that elusive stuff called magic.

Not the hocus pocus kind. No card tricks or rabbits emerging from empty hats. But moments when you can’t help but feel the stir and sweet bristle of magic in the air – which is the best way I can describe my meeting with this little boy’s family last September. (And I realize this could be a “you had to be there” kind of story, but I’ll tell it anyway, because it’s a sweet story – and because sometimes the stars align, and when they do, I tend to pause and take note.)

It had ordinary beginnings. A friend introducing one friend to another on facebook. My initial reluctance (how many facebook friends does one need?), then giving in. New friend sharing pictures from her daughter’s fairy-themed birthday party, my Book of Fairies as centerpiece. (Hearing that people may do this is one thing; seeing it – gorgeous photos of the book surrounded by fairy decor and childhood joy – is quite another. My heart was full.) Notes shared back and forth. Connection and friendship blossoming. A few months later, “…we’ll be in your area, my daughter would love to meet you and have the book signed?”

It’s a beautiful day when they stop by. And there it is – that unexpected stir and bristle in the air. We smile and hug as if we’ve known each other for eons. We do ordinary things like chat and look at art and drink tea and eat the brownies I’d prepared – but nothing feels ordinary. The light is crisp and clear, the mood exceptionally easy. A veil lifted. And somewhere in there the children steal my heart.

We get around to signing the book. Sitting on my front stoop, a white butterfly lands on my writing hand. It stays while we talk and stays while I sign the book and stays while we talk some more. It stays and stays, and stays until we question whether it’s indeed alive (although I would swear I felt little feet moving on my skin). Eventually my new young fan gently nudged her fingers under its wings and turned to a nearby plant where our butterfly friend floated a few wing beats to land on a leaf. (So, yes, it’s quite alive.) And as if watching over us, it stays there for the rest of our time. I don’t know about you, but butterflies I’ve known don’t generally attach themselves to people.

The air was bright with magic that otherwise simple afternoon. You could almost see it. We all felt it. For all I know there might have been ninjas there too.

Here’s a little bit of it captured. (With gratitude for the universe conspiring to bring us together.)
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All photos © Lacey Marie Photography

 

Honoring Mom

May 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Carolyn Naught Saxton / 1920 - 1980

Carolyn Naught Saxton / 1920 – 1980

[Yes, two Mother’s Day posts today! Because it’s become a bit of tradition, I share this one as I have in years past.]

When I was a little girl, my mother was “my world”. She did all the things you’d expect a mother might do, like hold your hand, read you a story, fix meals, teach manners, dry tears, cheer you up and on. She also loved to laugh. She loved to give. She loved life, and tried to worry only on Tuesdays.

And while she left this world too soon, she left gifts. Cherished, timeless words; gifts from the heart, mind and spirit.

So on this day reserved for mothers, I’d like to share some of those words, from one of her books of poetry, The Pine and The Power. I share them with love, in honor and life-giving celebration of mothers near and far, here or remembered.

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God help our children to transcend the dark

And walk the earth with dignity and cheer;

God help them seek the mountains, persevere

The road that twists through thorn and tanglebark,

Ascending finally where eagles mark

Their point of vision. Help our children find

Two masters ~ one the spirit, one the mind ~

And rediscover constancy of heart.

Help us to find cathedrals in the skies,

A will to walk the long uncharted mile;

(The will to find in winter’s legacy

The ochre sands from which the lime trees rise!)

Help us to know the measure of the child ~

To live in time and in eternity.

© Carolyn Naught Saxton

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Call Your Mom

May 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

She’s a champion. A warrior. A magician. She’s tender, she’s tough, she’s imperfect and wise. She loves you when you’re winning, she loves you when you’re losing. She loves you whether you’re muddy or clean, too skinny or too fat, whether you’re cranky or witty or dull or smart.

She’ll hold you tight and dry your tears, cheer you on, teach you right from wrong, suffer your eye-rollings, worry and pray, and burst at the seams with pride.

And when it’s time to fly with your own shiny wings, she’ll hold you in her heart, forever and ever. (She’ll also still cheer you on and worry and pray, so don’t forget to call her. Often.😉 )

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Happy Mother’s Day! And remember: “If at first you don’t succeed, do it like your mother told you.”  – Author Unknown

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