The Gratitude Jar

November 22, 2015 § 2 Comments

The other day I was inches away from getting creamed while driving through a green light. Another driver came whizzing through a red light at the exact time I was crossing. (Insert: life flashes before eyes.) Shock and impulse took over as I slammed on the brakes. Had l arrived at that spot just a second earlier, I’d not be writing this. It was way too close a call, and once my heart rate went back down, I was thanking my Angels and feeling overcome with gratitude for both the timing and my car’s brakes. (It also reminded me that we should always be a little more cautious on the road than we might think we need to be.) And I thought, well, this’ll be an easy one for my gratitude jar – which, I then realized, I’d neglected for a while.

It began a few years ago – although I’m sure some of you had the idea before I did – the filling of a jar with slips of paper on which we’d scribble the things we were grateful for. (If you haven’t done it, I’ll tell you that just the act of writing down what you’re grateful for feels good.) It can be a daily exercise or as the spirit moves. Sometimes they pile up in one sitting. Anyway, we’d start on New Year’s Day, then empty the jar and read all our notes the following New Year’s Day – and smile a lot – then start again.

This year I thought I’d start a jar for the holiday season – a time we expect to feel gratitude, but in reality can feel exceptionally stressed. It also feels like a particularly murky time out there in the world; people often pick up on that vibe (consciously or unconsciously), making us feel even more ornery. Actively “being grateful” can do wonders to help. It takes just a few minutes and costs nothing, but the benefits are strong, well-researched and well-documented, including things (you may already know) like improved physical, mental and psychological health, higher self-esteem, better sleep and better relationships. All good stuff. Funny how we so easily forget this simple but powerful tool.

With Thanksgiving this week, the timing seems ideal to start fresh. And this time, I’m inviting you to join me – by doing your own, or by helping to fill a virtual gratitude jar. I’ll be opening it up to the public on my facebook pages*, now through January 1, and who knows, maybe there’ll be a great response and a wave of human gratitude can spread far and wide, rippling farther and wider again and again. And wouldn’t that be something to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for today? There’s always something. Grab it, jot it down, try to make it a habit. Feel free to share. Let’s do this.

Oh, and thank you. :)



Art and Tragedy: 11 Art Works from 9/11

November 19, 2015 § 7 Comments

Recent global events have been a harsh reminder of the savagery that exists in our world and how that brutality can, and does, infiltrate our daily lives. It is far-reaching and unfathomable; its senseless wreaking of horror and devastation is wearisome.

Our hearts ache, we mourn deeply. We are sickened. And yet, we have no choice but to carry on with our lives – life, by nature, urges life – and for us mere mortals, our battle cry might even be to “carry on”, to refuse to live in a state of fear. But we really don’t stop grieving for today’s, yesterday’s, or any tomorrow’s that may carry this awful weight of sorrow, anger and frustration.

And we don’t forget. It’s like a hard line drawn in time: Before and After. Here at home, every time an act of terror succeeds in killing, events from 9/11 come roaring back into our minds, like an unwanted but necessarily indelible imprint.

As such, I’m also reminded how the artists of our time process these events – and I’m particularly reminded of the 9/11 ten-year-anniversay retrospective exhibit I was honored to share with some remarkable artists on September 11, 2011; each artist contributing their awareness of the time as well as contributing to a broader, long-term healing.

Some of the art lifts us, inspires us. Some carries deep symbolism. Some fearlessly ensures we don’t forget. Some recounts and catalogues. Some of the artists are quite well-known, some are not. All are gifted statements and expressions from the heart.

A friend recently suggested I post some of that art again. I can’t say exactly why, but it seemed a good idea. I chose 11 pieces, simply because the number feels right, to honor the artists, and in some way the victims, and all who care to make a difference in this world of ours. (For all artists’ works from the 9/11 retrospective and full descriptions, you can view the online catalogue, here,).

And I say yet another prayer. That good wins. That love wins.























Prayers for Paris

November 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

Prayers for Paris – and all the world. For the madness to end. For good over evil, for light over dark, love over fear. For peace and compassion to dwell in the hearts of humanity.

Life is precious. Terror needs to stop.

A Plethora of P’s / #88, 89, 90, 91 & 92

October 18, 2015 § 1 Comment

proactively punctuating life with the plausible, powerful possibilities of positive thought presented through a plethora of “P’s”.

– ♥ –

#88: Plucky

saxton.P_pluckyPlucky. Such a lively little word. Even better, it means something pretty good: it’s about showing courage in the face of difficulties or danger.

Sometimes it’s okay, and even necessary, to let someone else be brave. But sometimes we need to don our own capes and be our own source of courage.

– ♥ –

#89: Penmanship


The physical, pen-in-hand act of writing is not only a form of communication, it’s a form of self-expression; another window into the soul. There’s also the value of hand-eye coordination, thinking patterns, and better comprehension when writing things down “painstakingly” by hand (not to mention knowing how to spell and use proper grammar and punctuation without spell-check tools). Doctor’s aside (why is this?), developing good penmanship is a plus any way you look at it.

I wrote an essay on the subject of cursive writing earlier this year, prompted by news stories that penmanship may be (or already has been) eliminated from childhood school curriculums. I feel pretty strongly. If interested, you can read that here. Meanwhile, please, write on.

– ♥ –

#90: Pets


Cats and dogs are probably the most common pets in any family, and with good reason. They provide companionship and are scientifically proven to increase our well-being. They love us, they teach us. And they make us better people by caring for something besides ourselves!

– ♥ –

#91: Pyramids


With three equal sides, the pyramid, or triangle, is the most stable form in our world. (Example: A three-legged stool is much harder to knock over then a four-legged one) In sacred geometry*, the triad symbolizes the trinity of life, of substance, intellect, and the force that drives it; it’s the point where matter, and consciousness connect with the higher realms. And according to Plato, triangles form the basic building block of the entire universe. That’s some pretty impressive stuff about the humble pyramid shape.

And then there’s the math: There are 5 types of triangles: right triangle, equilateral triangle, isosceles triangle, obtuse triangle and acute triangle – but no matter their shape or dimensions, the sum of all three angles always adds up to 180 degrees. Nice.

*Sacred Geometry is a term used to describe patterns, shapes and forms that are part of the make up of all living things and that regularly occur in nature. It is system of universal design in which the energy of creation organizes itself into form.

– ♥ –

#92: Pickles


When I hear the word pickle, I can’t help but think of Arlo Guthrie. (“I don’t want a pickle/ Just wanna ride on my motor-cickle…”) Now that I’ve dated myself, let’s move on.

Pickles are a flavorful, low-calorie vegetable high in vitamin K. This is good news for all the people who adore pickles, and too bad for me, as I’m only an occasional fan of pickles. The conditions have to be just right. My grandmother made her own pickles. Sweet pickles, they were called, and they were well-loved. Still, while I loved my grandmother’s home-made bread and just about everything else she made, I slithered away when the pickles were served. Same goes for pickled this and that. Pickling is clearly not my favorite flavor. It placed me in a bit of pickle to admit I didn’t like pickles. Maybe no one noticed.



Only 8 more Positive P’s to go!

(until next time, you can see the ongoing Plethora of P’s here)

Outrageous Happiness #19: Friendship, Magic and Clark Kent

October 12, 2015 § 1 Comment


Whether it makes me lucky or unlucky, strange or strangely interesting, I’m one of those people who can go for days at a time without interacting a whole lot with other people. (Okay, even I think it’s kinda strange sometimes.) Maybe as an artist it simply comes with the territory; where swaths of solitude are a necessity. Who knows. But for whatever reason, I ended up a decent dose of the “I’m okay being by myself” gene. I’m a quality over quantity kind of person, and fairly choosy about how and with whom I spend time. Admittedly, there are times when I wish I were a more social animal; but at some point you just accept how you’re wired.

That all said, people matter. There are people I absolutely treasure. People I’ve known for eons, people I’ve known for just a few years, even some special people I’ve just met. There’s something remarkable that happens when the connectivity ions are in sync. They’re all a little bit different, of course, with varying depths and points of connection, but they matter, tremendously. And because they matter, they deserve nurturing.

We ‘ve all probably experienced friendships where we may not see or speak to one another for years, yet when we finally do, the years dissolve and the connection is as real and true as ever. And those are pretty darn great. But it’s not enough to count on that. For one thing, pardon the morbid truth, they may not be there any more. For another, different people love us and teach us and learn from us and help us grow in all sorts of ways. Their value is often immeasurable. (And vice versa.) But most of the time none of these happen of their own accord. You have to cultivate them, feed them, water them. Pay attention. Be present. Write the note. Make the call.

And sometimes, when you nurture, when you do your part, you even find magic. And magical = happiness. Magical lights you up. The air feels electric, your energy is high, the weights of the world are somehow lifted for a time.

I was blessed to experience this twice in the last month. Once with a beautiful family who came to visit from Austin, Texas. It involved a serendipitous introduction by a mutual friend, a little girl who loves fairies, and a very real feeling of being surrounded by angels. Another was just the other day, with a few friends whose paths didn’t cross until years after having been, unknowingly, in the same place. It was like we’d known each other forever. (And there I am, looking a little like Lois Lane with Clark Kent. How fun is that?)

Both instances were joyful, and pure, and magical. Both also came about because along the way, other friendships were nurtured. And both gave me a sense of deep happiness, because it feels pretty wonderful to know those connections exist in this life.

And they exist because we take the time to give them some of our heart.

People matter. (Even for those who might prefer a night in with their paints and pencils to a night out.) And a lot of the time, they’re even responsible for some pretty outrageous happiness.

Nurture, my friends, nurture. Nurture the people who matter to you.

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?



New Season, New Shoes and Life on Mars

September 30, 2015 § 3 Comments

There may be life on Mars, have you heard? While we’re pondering that, there’ve been visits from the Pope, world leaders convening, and rare lunar eclipses eclipsing. Big stuff.


And somehow in between all that, seemingly small by comparison, our own lives happen. Everyday lives stitched together with various versions of joy and struggle. An ever-changing tapestry of our individual here and nows, hopes and dreams, fears and glories.

Life happens in moments, in thoughts, in conversations (and if you’re Italian it also happens in meals). It happens while your house needs painting and your front walk needs paving and your faucet needs fixing and your clients need tending. It happens while holding the hands of your spiritual sisters during hard, mind-boggling times. It happens while sharing stories with old friends and recognizing a kindred soul in the eyes of someone new. It comes as a hug from a child, a butterfly landing on your hand, a laugh, or a cry. When you read, go for a walk, talk to your pets. It happens when you’re alone. It happens when you’re not. It happens when we do things with love. There’s nothing small about any of that.

And I had no idea I’d be going in that direction ^ when I started writing this post. I’d meant to point out the changing of seasons, tie that in with both the evolution of my next book and the fact that the shoemaker – me – finally made her own new shoes –new website (well there, I just mentioned it), and how so much can transpire in a month’s time, even while you’re immersed, head down, in dragonry and a whole bunch of design and wondering how and when you’re going to deal with your crumbling walkway.

I guess the point is to embrace your here and now. Do your best. Stitch well. Pay attention to your heart. And, yes, believe in magic.

PS: For the record, I have no interest in visiting Mars any time soon. There’s plenty of life right here.



A Cupcake For You

September 1, 2015 § 7 Comments


Because it’s my birthday – a cupcake for you, and wishes too: That thought by thought, and action by action, this nutty, misguided, confusing, troubled, hopeful, amazing, strange and beautiful world may become a better place for our dreams to thrive. That we all choose to participate in the unfolding of what brings us our own individual peace. That we take a bite of something good and make a delicious offering of that something to ourselves, our friends, families, neighbors, co-workers, and those we pass on the street. That we uplift and respect and care and appreciate. That we smile on one another more.  That we experience more of whatever brings more joy and more peace, more often, into our lives.

A Day with the Dalai Lama

July 12, 2015 § 3 Comments

Because it’s not every day one gets to sit in the presence of the Dalai Lama, I thought I’d share some of my experience doing just that. Somehow it didn’t matter that I shared him with 18,000 other people who no doubt felt the same way ~ that it was an honor and a privilege and truly lovely to feel some of his sweetness and magnificence, live and in person. For that, I am fairly wowed.

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

One week ago today, three friends and I had prime seating at Anaheim’s Honda Center, host to a 3-day Global Compassion Summit organized by the Friends of the Dalai Lama. The theme for our day was to be “The Transformative Power of Art and Creativity” (how perfect is that?) as well as a special day of celebration for His Holiness’ 80th birthday.

His birthday wish? The well-being of others. “If humanity is happy, then I’ll be happy, because each of us is dependent on others.”

The Dalai Lama has dedicated his life to the well-being of others; to inner peace as a means to outer peace; to forgiveness; to gratitude; to acts of kindness. He is a force for good, with a message that consistently reminds us to be more compassionate in all we do; with others, with ourselves, and with our planet. It’s a beautiful message. A necessary message. A message that requires action. And in this, His Holiness is exemplary; the very essence of love and compassion. And joy. (Have you heard his laughter? It’s infectious, sheer delight.)

And so we gathered in Anaheim expecting to be graced by not only his presence, but by an event appropriately reverent and reflective of his spirit and his life’s work. As event host Ann Curry told us, because the Dalai Lama always gives so much to others, it was a day to give to the Dalai Lama.

I imagined Tibetan monks, perhaps some chanting. Tibetan music. Dance. Art. (Remember the theme?) Perhaps a prayer or meditation at the beginning or end, or interspersed between speakers and entertainers and birthday cake. I expected stimulating discussions. Something inspiring, uplifting. Something with heart. And with joy.

Instead, we were barraged by two-plus hours of an odd mix of environmental scientists, a few nobel peace laureates, and several second-tier celebrities giving generally self-important speeches around and about the value of compassion. Naturally some were better than others, and while it doesn’t really matter if I recognized them or not, some of those I did recognize had me shaking my head (M.C. Hammer?) There were videos with birthday wishes for His Holiness from people who couldn’t attend the event ~ there again, with the exception of Desmond Tutu and his wife, I’m not sure the significance or value of the chosen set of well-wishers. There was also a big push for people to tweet about compassion. (How very 2015.) So people could feel good about themselves without having to do anything? (Excuse my cynicism. I do understand the idea that at least, even for a 140-character moment, it puts compassion in mind. Spread the word. Jump on the bandwagon. Use social media, I get that. The thing is, compassion is an act, not a promise of one. Okay, rant over.)

There were some high moments ~ particularly when children were involved, the Dalai Lama positively glowed. We were moved by Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden’s words (Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Founder and Chair of the independent, non-profit Friends of the Dalai Lama), and I particularly liked the fact that artists were adding finishing touches to the murals stage right and left. (I had hoped that that “interactive” element would have been carried through, but it was not.) When His Holiness spoke (yes, he did finally get a chance), we hung on every word. And he showed his marvelous humor at times, even suggesting that we in the audience “imagine we are enjoying a piece of the cake he was about to eat”.

Yes, there was cake. It was bigger than life and looked rather like gold-painted plastic. There was also a horrendous “gift” at the end with a dancer inside a lotus contraption with space-age music playing and I literally could not conjure a connection to the Dalai Lama, his life or his message in any way, shape or form (except for the symbolism of the lotus itself). This was the big reveal, so to speak. Really? And he would think this was neat, why?

I actually came away feeling embarrassed ~ was this the best we could do with the rare and high honor of celebrating this great man’s 80th birthday? There was a lot of fluff and a lot of ego and a general lacking of soul. Unbefitting.

And yet, there he was, the Dalai Lama, the picture of grace and patience and I would assume detached appreciation.

One has to wonder though, as one of the world’s great spiritual leaders, as someone who’s experienced enormous strife and lived a non-materialistic life devoted to genuine care for humanity ~ and simply as a human being himself! ~ how this largely superficial spectacle came across. Of course, well practiced in the art of inner peace, he was probably fine.

But, oh, what this event could have been.

And that all said… despite my reaction to the whole ~ the good, the bad, and even the ugly ~ I’m still wildly glad I had this very special opportunity to be there. It was an honor. He is that wonderful. And I hope his wish will come true one day soon.

artist applying finishing touches to mural, stage right and left

artist applying finishing touches to mural, stage right and left


photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

My favorite moment: the Dalai Lama thanking the children's Agape Choir. (photo courtesy of

My favorite moment: the Dalai Lama thanking the children’s Agape Choir. (photo courtesy of

Outrageous Happiness #18: Do Stuff

July 9, 2015 § 3 Comments


Accept invitations. Go places. Be spontaneous. Break routine, crack your shell, burst your seams a bit! Say “yes” to adventure. Do stuff you haven’t done before.

For someone whose nose is usually found inches from the grindstone, I do love a good adventure. I’ve been known to “up and go places” (mostly pre-motherhood, I will admit, but that will change…) – occasionally up-and-staying longer than expected. Two weeks in the Greek Islands turned into four. A week in Sedona turned into nearly 6 months. Africa called, I answered; hippos and lions growling in the night, guards with spears outside my door (trusting they knew how to use them), hot-air ballooning over the Maasai Mara, dining on a long red cloth sprawled out on the plains.

Granted, there are some adventures I’ll never take. Climbing Mt. Everest? I’ll gladly leave that to those who like to dangle from high ledges and don’t mind cold-to-the-bone. And while a stone’s throw away, I’ve managed to skip New Year’s Eve in Times Square. (Something about crowds and – yes – cold, again.)

But an outdoor summer concert in the rain, complete with impromptu slip’n slide tarps? Sure! A whirlwind trip to southern California to be part of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday bash? Absolutely! A chance to meet friends I’ve never met? Big yes.

Memories made. Bonds of friendship strengthened. Things to gripe about (after all they’re part of the experience too, like air travel… ) but mostly, Things to rejoice (did I mention the Dalai Lama? :) ). Sharing time with wonderful people; excellent. Making a scene of hugs and laughter and non-stop talking in Santa Monica with friends-I’d-not-yet-met but feel I’ve known for lifetimes; priceless. Gratitude. Gratitude. For the opportunities, the generosity and kindnesses, the fun, the enrichment.

I could have easily not gone. I have too much work; too little time. I have too much responsibility and not enough money. I’m tired. What if this, what if that. But sometimes you really just need to say “yes”. Because what if it’s wonderful?

Caveat: Saying yes to adventure doesn’t have to be Africa or half a year on an unplanned artistic sabbatical, or a good seat for the Dalai Lama. Truth be told, there have been times when a trip to the grocery store felt like an adventure. Reading a fabulous book can be a marvelously grand adventure. Calling someone you haven’t seen in ages; an impromptu outing to a local watering hole; a bike ride with no plan; walking the unbeaten path through the woods; choosing the road less traveled; wearing the purple hat; taking those singing lessons, volunteering at an old folk’s home, reaching out about something you’ve thought of doing but never knew how to start. No matter how large or small, it’s taking steps into the unknown, uncharted, unpredictable.

Adventure is a thing of spirit that beckons us to leap and stretch our wings. It can fill our hearts with gladness, our stomachs with butterflies, our eyes with wonder – or simply shift the mood of a day, a week, a year. It’s an unleashing. A chance to breathe new life into our veins. A chance to feel outrageously happy.

In our busy, overly compressed lives, adventure is throwing caution to the wind for a little while. But even just a little while can be like ripples in a pond, the effects reaching farther and deeper than we imagined. Planned or unplanned, we grow. We won’t be the same. And that’s called living.


How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?


Stars & Stripes: A Visual Tribute to the American Flag

July 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

In May 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag. A year later, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act, establishing an official flag for the new nation:

“Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

However, between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several legislations that changed the shape, design and arrangement of elements on the flag, eventually settling on extra stars and stripes to reflect each new state. This broad span of time without specific guidelines resulted in many design interpretations – which, in a way, also reflects the deeply rooted sense of freedom so cherished by Americans. The expressions were rich and proud, eventually evolving into the flag we pledge allegiance to today.

Carrying that theme of evolvement forward, in 1986 I discovered a beautiful book by Kit Hinrichs, called “Stars and Stripes” – a compilation of exceptionally creative American Flag images created by some of the finest graphic artists of our time. I found it absolutely delightful, and a great tribute to the creativity and talent that abounds amongst us – and the creative freedom we’re able to enjoy in this great land of the free and home of the brave.

Below are just 13 samples of the many ingenious designs from that book honoring our American flag.  Enjoy, and Happy Birthday USA!






all images copyright of creator


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