Outrageous Happiness #20: Happiness vs. Bill-Paying

October 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

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This morning I came across a wonderfully written, though somewhat sarcastic (if not scathing), article about the apparently very American pursuit of “being happy”. Of course I felt immediately stung, almost guilt-ridden for not only participating in that pursuit but dedicating a whole section on my blog to “Outrageous Happiness”. Indeed, in my sensitivity, I felt the finger pointing. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the piece, filled as it was with sharp wit.

It was written by a Brit, who proudly claims to possess a certain genetic cynicism – which, whether by nature or my own DNA steeped in British realms, I really do “get”. Even as a born optimist, my inner cynic is very much alive at times – except I like to think of it as healthy skepticism rather than gloom (which seems an appropriate opposite of happiness), and it definitely doesn’t include a distaste for happiness, nor for anyone’s interest in attaining that lovely state of being. Because it is lovely.

Have you ever met someone who exudes a kind of contented joy just for being alive? That person who knows how to not take things too seriously, who, without effort, seems to embody an easy, uplifting attitude? In truth, I think these individuals are quite rare, but what a gift they are. They don’t intrude or demand, they just, very simply, brighten life. Whether a stranger or someone you know, that they exist at all is an inspiring thing.

The Dalai Lama is, to me, one of those people. And his mantra – that we’re here to experience joy – is a pretty exciting concept. Impossible and possible. Makes perfect sense and makes no sense. But it feels really, really good to consider, and terribly worthwhile to at least try to infuse joy into our own lives.

And yes, it must be said that there are times when happiness has nothing to do with anything. Your car breaks down, you can get mad all you want but in the end you get under the hood and fix it. Or a baby’s diaper needs changing. Or a light bulb. It’s not whether you’re happy or unhappy about it, it’s just something to be done. There are also people for whom the whole idea of happiness feels completely out reach, and many of us have experienced periods or events in our lives when a heartfelt “look at the bright side!” just. does. not. work (and may raise your shackles quite a bit more than your spirits). Even for those who have been blessed with a happy disposition, it’s not a 24/7 deal. It just isn’t.

Point being – for the record – that no one should feel in any way at fault, less than, or stressed out if they aren’t feeling the glow of positive vibes all day every day. In fact that would be pretty strange, especially when you consider how volatile life can be – from a pot boiling over in your kitchen to, please, any number of things out there in the big wide uncontrollable world. Our equilibrium can shift in an instant through no fault of our own.

And all that said, I can see where the author of the article concluded that our pursuit of happiness was creating more anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. It’s a matter of perspective.

“Happiness” is not, and never should be, a test you pass or fail. It’s something that’s very hard to measure – some days we fly, some days we fall, some days we want to stay in pjs all day, other days we want to conquer a mountain. Sometimes life is just hard. But I hope we never give up, because it sure beats the whole “pay bills and die” outlook, and for that alone, happiness is absolutely worth pursuing.

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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

September 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

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My father blamed our year in Germany for my wanderlust. We lived in Karlsruhe, where each weekday morning I walked a tree-lined, cobblestoned path with my brothers and sister to meet our school bus. I was in kindergarten, which meant I got out early, so my Mom would take me exploring after school, often having me translate (because as a kid you pick up languages really fast, especially if you want Sabina, Helga and Petra to like you), and often involving ice cream or Toblerone bars. Towards the end of our stay, we traveled to I don’t know how many countries (I got a doll in each one, and the collection was fairly substantial), and I relished every minute. At 5 years old, the world was my oyster – and indeed, that whole experience may have set me on an irreversible path of desire to see as much of the world as possible.

Since then, I’ve come eye to eye with an elephant in Kenya, gotten sick on the Nile, slept in hammocks in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle, Greek Island hopped, was reprimanded at St. Peter’s cathedral for my too-short skirt, reveled in Venice’s waterways, swam in pristine natural pools under hidden waterfalls and lots more. Here at home I’ve gotten a taste of the my own country’s north, south, east and west. And there’s SO MUCH more to see. Oh the places I still hope to go…!

That said, just recently I got to visit the great country state of Texas, where everything is bigger. I loved Austin’s Tuscany-like hills and funky shops, and San Antonio’s rich history housed in limestone architecture. I did not buy new cowboy boots, but did see lots of little lizards, was treated to Texas barbecue ( a “must” I was told), ate lots of fajitas (my favorites were at Austin’s Güero’s on South Congress), enjoyed graffiti walls and art spaces, and had an absolutely fantastic time with my Texan friends.

All of which was in somewhat stark contrast to another recent trip, where I’d gone north to the Finger Lakes region of New York State – where everything gets cold and very snowy in winter – and fell a little in love with a small town on a crystal clear lake, surrounded by farms, vineyards and well-kept, New-England-ish homes. Oh so lush and pretty.

I don’t know what’s next, but for now it’s time to hunker down again at home, where there are designs to be designed and books to be written and paintings to paint. Oh, and bills to pay and rooms to keep clean.

But here’s the best part – I can still go places even when I’m sitting still. Places of the mind, places ignited by ideas and imagination. Places conjured by thought, or a view, a conversation or a moment. A dash of color, the way a leaf is lit by the setting sun. A song, a train whistle, children laughing, crickets chirping. The scent of rain, or a flower, or dinner roasting. Something in a dream, something in a story. The tumbling of ocean waves.

You go don’t have to be someplace grand. Granted, I’ll be the first to say “I want to go there!”– but the places your imagination can take you can be equally grand. Places your mind can take you by learning new things can be equally priceless. Places your feet can take you can be equally inspiring. Just by being present, observant; experiencing the world around you, listening to the world within you, stretching your senses – oh the places you’ll go! And isn’t life richer when you do.

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

 

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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How’s your Outrageous Happiness going?

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 #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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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

 

Dragons Be Here!

April 10, 2016 § 2 Comments

It takes a long time to make a book. Particularly challenging when your models have very large claws and tend to breathe fire. But the work is done; the wait is over – the restless beasts (and restless author/illustrator) are thrilled that their book is now out into the world.

With great pleasure I bring to you “Book of Dragons” – the third book in what has become my trilogy, of sorts, of mystical creatures. (Mermaids, then Fairies, now Dragons.) Along the way I came to know a few dragons quite well, and learned a lot from them. (They really like classical music, for one thing – who knew?) I hope you and the children you know will enjoy learning about them, too!

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I’ll keep you posted about upcoming book signings and/or events. In the meantime, you can head on over to Amazon and pick up a copy!

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