Outrageous Happiness #4: Being Fabulous

September 18, 2016 § 2 Comments

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No, really.

When life is annoying, it’s good to remember how fabulous you are. You know, like when there’s the guy on the highway who thinks he’s in a bat-mobile, weaving in and out of cars at top speed, or when your laptop freezes, or when people talk during the show in a movie theater.

Or maybe your friends are too busy, it’s rained for ten days straight, the afghan you made is lopsided, and the clerk at the store is rude. And that person who thinks everyone wants to hear the music in their car from 5 blocks away? That neighbor who practices dixieland songs on his trumpet at 10PM? Loud and clear, roger that.

Your car won’t start. Your phone battery dies. Politicians sap your faith in humankind. Your head hurts. You’re out of milk. Your toast burned. Your clients are late to pay. Ketchup spills on your white shirt. You get all the red lights. Your flight is cancelled. You manage to pick the slowest grocery check-out line, and they were out of your favorite ice cream.

But YOU are fabulous. To quote the marvelous Dr. Seuss: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

Go with it. Embrace your inner fabulousness. Practice some self-love. It’s great revenge for life’s disappointments.

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my favorite keychain

How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

September 11: Hope and Remembrance

September 11, 2016 § 2 Comments

At 9:00 a.m. on 9/11/01, I’d just come back from dropping my daughter at kindergarten. The sky was robin-egg blue, the air a perfect September calm. A neighbor screamed to me from her car, and the rest of the day was sheer horror.

Forty minutes away. Too close. Much too close.

That night we all gathered on my front lawn, a circle of candles and hearts and prayers.

You just don’t forget.

If anything good came from that awful day, it was that for at least a brief time we were one United States of America. All Americans. We all felt a pain in the pits of our stomachs, the lurching of our hearts, the constriction in our throats and tears in our eyes. We loved our neighbor, near and far, from cities to remote little towns, black, brown, white, yellow, red, gay, straight, male, female. We were family, wounded, and we grieved as one under our red, white and blue. We were proud, we were strong, we were honoring the brave and the lost and the taken. They were us, we were them. All across the country we were united by a devastation that reminded us that love, life, freedom – and each other – are valued beyond measure.

Our hearts softened towards each other – but I also think how sad that we couldn’t sustain that sense of camaraderie and pride when things calmed down. Routines reestablished. By necessity and will, we carried on. Yet within that carrying on, even while terror continues to loom like a disturbing alternative universe normal, we seemed to shift away from commonality and towards pockets of we are not them, they are not us. As if we can’t sustain loving our neighbor without sweeping tragedy to bring it about. (Weddings and funerals come to mind. Drama brings people together. Human nature?)

We argue on our right and left. We suffer politicians. I hear a lot of talk that doesn’t walk. I hear each news cycle replacing the last – yesterday’s shocking unanswered wrong overrun by today’s, and today’s by tomorrow’s. We numb. We medicate on electronics. Opinions aren’t debated, they’re spewed. We don’t listen. We don’t really see. The world is in shambles.  We seem very divided. Something is wrong here.

But for one day, maybe just an hour, maybe only 10 minutes ~ we’ll remember 9/11 and that flood of love and hope and “don’t you dare” will fill us up. We’ll be a united family for 10 minutes. We’ll remember why we love this place and the people in it. And maybe, just maybe, we can nurture that love and hope and integrity a little longer? Might the foundational idea that we are a free people nourish and inspire us just a little longer? That it’s worth fighting for?

Can we recognize that there is goodness here and that yes, there’s also some very ugly, very dark scary shit in the world and it’s up to each one of us to know the difference and take up the torch right where we are with a battle cry to spread a little more light, a little more love, a little more courage?

There are some amazing people in this world, and I’m lucky to know several who take up that torch every day with all their hearts. We all know them. They are sincere. Let’s all be more sincere. Let’s honor the brave, the lost and taken with some blessings. Be the blessing in someone’s day. Be present. Be good.

And I had no idea this piece of writing was going to go the way it did, but I hope we can use this memory to remember that at the end of every day we’re all in this together. At the base of the fallen towers let’s continue to plant hope, and water it well.

Outrageous Happiness #3: O-Bla-Di, O-Bla-Da

September 5, 2016 § 1 Comment

It’s been days. I can’t get this song out of my head. Granted, I haven’t given it a big shove, but thought that by now it’d at least be quieter. But no. Not so. So I’m going with it.

The point could be, after all, that if you want some fun, say o bla di bla da. The point is that life goes on. The point is that when things feel too heavy, you just might need to lighten up. Maybe even veer towards the silly. Maybe, just maybe, head towards outrageous happiness. And there you have it.

But there could even be a little more to it.

I went for a bike ride this morning. It’s been a few years, I will admit – the reason being that each year I found that my tires were flat, and with the best of intentions I’d get the bike a tune-up, but then I’d opt for a swim or a run or a game of tennis. I don’t know why; I used to bike all day long when I was a kid. And sure, I’m not a kid anymore, but the truth is I probably wasn’t as interested as I once was. But this year, I was determined.

You see, I’d fractured my spine a few years ago and it took several months before I even felt ready to get back to my lap swims. Now that it’s summer, I want to run. I see others running and think, “I’ll go for a run, too!” But something tells me that would be a huge mistake… same for tennis. So (mini lightbulb moment) I brought out the bike, got a tune-up and rode it. And I’ll ride again. You can’t keep a good girl down, or something like that.

So I’m pedaling along, enjoying the sun, the summer breeze, feeling the burn (having not ridden in a while!), when all of a sudden, I’m aware of the song playing merrily in my head – yet again.  “Happy ever after in the market place, Desmond lets the children lend a hand…” Seriously? You’re still here?

But I thought, you know, this is good. It’s reminding me that you do what you can. I can’t run but I can bike. I can do that swervy thing with the handle bars and wheels, and I can coast down a hill, and go off road. I could even sing at the top of my lungs if I wanted to, all at the same time….la la how the life goes on.

Outrageous? Not quite. But sometimes we all need a little ob-la-di ob-la-da. Some simple. Some silly. A little bit of “hey I can do this, so I will!” That’s all I’m saying. And I hope you enjoy some for yourself, because, well … la la how the life goes on. ♫♪♩

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

Outrageous Happiness #2: Super Powers

August 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

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As if on cue, life decided to throw some curve balls ~ or, because it’s not uncommon for life to do that, maybe I’m just aware of them in a slightly different way. That doesn’t make them any more fun, but now that I’m consciously armed with an unrelenting turn-lemons-into-lemonade approach, I’m thinking I might be handling them with less angst. And less angst = more happy.

And yet, when staring down a sidetrack that clearly did not feed my happiness quotient, I almost went off course. I felt somehow responsible, put myself down, and got a little stuck there. Life lessons, all that. But I rallied. Because rallying is better than being miserable.

In fact, just this morning, I felt my super powers kicking in. And man, do I love them! (You have them too. It’s where you’re strongest, and truest. Where you’re lifted up.)

Here’s the thing though, before they kicked in, I sat down and had a serious conversation with the Universe. And I made sure to not just talk, but listen.

You might talk to God, you might talk to Divine Intelligence, or to Angels, or your Higher Self, your Spirit Guides, your mother or father, sister or brother, a trusted friend, a counselor. Guidance is available in many forms, and none of us, no matter how wise or experienced or content, is outside the realm of needing some now and then. It might be brief, or it might take a few goes, but in the process it’s key that you listen – you have to hear not only what you’re saying and thinking, but what you’re hearing in reply. Then, listen to your heart and find what’s true.

And then, by all means, gather your super powers and don your cape!

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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.

 

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