Let the Good Times Roll

Happy Fat Tuesday! Laissez les bons temps rouler! Let the debauchery begin.

I originally posted this blog 2 years ago¬†and had such fun writing it, I thought I’d share it again!

I LOVE Mardi Gras. My mom grew up in New Orleans and my grandparents lived there all throughout my childhood so I had the wonderful opportunity to spend my spring breaks in N’awlins every year.

For those who may not know, the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans lasts several weeks. There are balls, parades, and parties but all the festivities culminate on Fat Tuesday. It’s the last big blowout before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The entire city of New Orleans shuts down and everyone ventures out into the streets, dressed in costume with drink in hand, for one big party.

When I was four I attended my first Mardi Gras parade. Sitting atop my grandpa’s shoulders, arms outstretched and collecting a bucket load of beads, I thought this was the coolest thing ever. Topless women aren’t the only ones racking up beads on Bourbon Street. The paraders have a soft spot in their hearts for kids too ūüėČ

So when I recently reflected on these precious memories, it dawned on me:

Mardi Gras is analogous to monogamous relationships.

How, you say?

Party Time

In the beginning of any new relationship, everything is AWESOME! There’s lots of shiny! You’re engulfed with passion, hanging on to each word they say, every atom in your body feels 100 times its normal size.

You feel like you’re drunk. You can’t think straight. Every moment without them, even taking out the garbage and cleaning the litter box, is a welcome activity because it brings you closer to the hour when you’ll see them next.

You’re seeing life through rose-colored glasses. It’s the honeymoon period. It’s the stage that inspires sonnets, song, and art of all kinds. Even The Seven Wonders of the World like the Taj Mahal. Feelings are high. We’re invincible. It’s like one big party.

Then reality sets in…

The Lenten Season

This is when we realize that, if we want to be in this commitment for the long-haul, there’s going to be sacrifice involved. Compromising schedules, desires, and holidays. In the case of marriage, avoiding temptation and committing to one bed-mate and tube of toothpaste till death do you part. Consulting your other half before major decisions and realizing, you’re not always going to get your way.

In short, it’s not just about you anymore.

This isn’t the funnest part necessarily, but it’s still vitally important. The issues that get worked out here are the meat and potatoes of any relationship. This is the make-or-break-it stage which sets the foundation of union or tears it apart.

But successful navigation through the Party Time and Lenten Season leads to…

A New Life

Babies, bunnies, and eggs galore!

Ever wonder why bunnies abound at Easter time? Well, what are rabbits so good at? Propagating new rabbits. I mean, life.

Yes, babies are often the result of married couples or other committed unions but new life is more than just the literal flesh and blood. Once we make the commitment, whether it be a heart or legal agreement, a new life has begun. And as research shows, a far better one than staying single.

Happy couples benefit from lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, longer life expectancy, and the comfort and joy of life-time companionship, to name a few.

Click here to read more about the benefits of love and relationships.

Finding the Balance

This is key. Some relationships explode because it’s all party and no substance. Others slowly fizzle out because of the lack of fun and spontaneity. In order to continually reap the rewards of marriage and other committed unions, we must find the balance between work and play. Sacrifice and spontaneity. To keep the love alive.

Each couple has their own unique balance. Some may place more emphasis on play than others.

There is no right or wrong, only that the balance is agreed upon by both parties. This agreement helps create harmony within the relationship which is always a good thing.

So how about you? Have you been guilty of too much Mardi Gras and not enough Lent in your relationship? Or do you need to learn how to lighten up a little and earn some beads? Surely someone out there has mastered the balance. Care to share your tips on a happy union?

To learn more about Mardi Gras, like why they throw beads or bake babies in king cakes, click here.

Photos courtesy of dreamsunlimitedtravel.com & cajunchefryan.rymocs.com

The True Beauty of a Woman

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The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides. The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.

¬†– Sam Levenson, excerpt from “The Beauty of a Woman”

Beauty consumes a lot of time and energy for most modern-day women. Whether it be shopping for makeup, trying to lose weight, primping before a hot date, fretting over a pimple that shows up the morning of an important meeting, researching and finding the skin care system that’s actually going to work, spending a fortune on anti-aging cremes and visits to the dermatologist… maintaining our appearance is a lot of work!

But what if the one thing we needed to enhance our beauty to its utmost was absolutely free? What if it was something we already possess? Right here, right now.

Because it absolutely is.

Outer beauty is a reflection of our inner experience.

At the tail end of my marriage, I remember looking through photos from my father’s surprise birthday party and noticing for the first time what seemed to be a permanent frown on my face.¬†You know… ¬†those candid shots where people catch you off-guard? When you’re relaxed, not “putting” on a smile? Just being you?

Yeah… that’s when it really hit. That’s when I witnessed that the misery I’d be experiencing inside was starting to show up on the outside.

Up until this point, I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of hiding how I felt. But I was wrong.¬†My deep unhappiness was written all over my face.

Staring at the photos that day was my ah ha moment. That was when I realized things had to change. And as soon we decided to set each other free and part ways, you better believe that frown turned upside down.

No doubt outer beauty is either magnified or diminished depending on what’s going on inside of us.

And what is the magic ingredient for magnifying our inner beauty, which then translates to our outer beauty?

One word: Joy.

And how do we find that joy and inner radiance?

By being true to ourselves. By being authentic. By going after what it is we want in life. And never apologizing for who we are but rather embracing every part of us. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Realizing that to be human, is to be imperfect.

The funny thing is, once we stop covering up or hiding the things we feel are imperfect, that’s when our true beauty starts to shine. Because true beauty is all about just being YOU. The wonderful, fabulous, imperfect being that you are.

If you take a moment, you’ll notice who around you is in touch with their inner joy.¬†It¬†can be seen in the sparkle of ¬†someone’s eyes. The lift in their step. The glow¬†of their skin that no amount of makeup or creme could ever replicate.

These are the people we feel drawn to. No matter the measure of physical attributes, it’s that¬†je ne sais quoi¬†that sparks our interest when we meet someone. It’s intangible yet undeniably powerful.

That is the type of beauty that never fades. It’s timeless and readily accessible at any time.

No one and no thing can give us lasting joy. We have to create it for ourselves. Then, once we find it, find what makes us tick, we can share that joy with others.

For the more joy we have, the more beauty we exude on all levels of our life. Which creates more beautiful things in and around us that makes life worth living.

So how about you? How do you define beauty? When do you feel your MOST beautiful? What brings you joy? What turns you on inside and brings you to LIFE?

Today’s blog is part of¬†August McLaughlin’s¬†Beauty of a Woman Blogfest
(#BOAW3)¬†to which I’m a proud contributor for the third year in a row!
Head on over between now and March 2nd to read the other submissions
and for a chance to win a prize!

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Full Speed Ahead

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Today we ring in the Chinese New Year. Which I’ve always preferred to our traditional calendar New Year.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel this pressure around the holidays to get it together and then bam. New Year’s Day hits and there’s this air of expectation to launch into the New Year with resolutions in tow, ready to start afresh with new and improved habits. Which is great for getting us motivated and envisioning our future goals!

But by now, the excitement of the first of the year has worn off and we’re now settled into our routines. The resolutions either stuck or they didn’t. For many, there’s always that let down of slipping back into old habits. And around about now, there’s this lull.

That’s when the Chinese New Year comes in to remind of us again of the potential of new beginnings.

This year’s symbol of the Wooden Horse is all about charging into the future we’ve envisioned and unabashedly pursuing our dreams. Through this inspiration, I’m launching a new direction with my blog.

Well, not really a new direction. The whole intention of my blog has been to inspire us all to live life to the fullest. But now I want to focus primarily on our callings as individuals.

Some of us know what we were put on this earth to do and are doing it. Some of us know why we’re here, but haven’t yet stepped out in that direction. And some of us are still searching.

Having been on the journey of losing then finding my path, I am now deeply passionate about helping others find their purpose in life. And once found, provide the support and inspiration to believe and trust in their new-found way.

If this interests you in any way, then stay tuned! I’ll be bringing you stories of inspiration, articles, and guides to help you on your journey. The journey, I feel, that’s the most important one we could ever embark on. Because once we find our purpose and lock into that, it’s full speed ahead to all the greatness that life has to offer.

So where are you at on your journey? Have you found your calling? Are you still searching? What tools do you feel you could most use at this point in time? Also, if you want to read a wonderful article about the Year of the Horse, click¬†here. Happy New Year! ūüôā

Purposeful Giving for Greater Fulfillment

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In Susan Dominus’ New York Times article featuring Adam Grant, the 31-year old Wharton School professor of organizational psychology, she poses the question: “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”¬†Not really a fan of the message that the title conveys (giving to get) but I am a huge fan of Grant and the example he sets for us all.

The bulk of the article focuses on the sheer amount of giving that Grant integrates into his daily life. Mainly with his students but really to anyone who comes along asking for help, whether he knows them or not.

In addition to his regular work load, he often responds to more than 200 emails a day, writes over 100 letters of recommendation a year, and sets aside four-hour blocks of time each week to counsel any student who may need help. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Giving, it seems, is Grant’s purpose.

What makes him different from most of us? He never says no to a request for help. Ever. It seems there is no end to his giving.

If this were any other professional, it may not have piqued my interest quite as much. But because Grant’s field of expertise is¬†the study of efficiency and productivity in the workplace, one naturally takes a closer look at how he structures his own life.

For Grant, helping is not the enemy of productivity, a time-sapping diversion from the actual work at hand; it is the mother lode, the motivator that spurs increased productivity and creativity… The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people‚Äôs lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.

I just love this because it shows that one of the best things we can do is help one another. Which should be obvious, right? But how many of us feel we don’t have time? How many of us are already overwhelmed with all our duties?¬†Working, taking care of our families, being a good friend, a good spouse or partner, exercising, maintaining a household, paying bills, and somewhere in there, factoring in a little fun. But this article proves that incorporating time for service actually enhances all the other facets of our lives and it’s worth taking the time to do so.

That’s what I think Dominus meant with the title of this article. Correlating giving with levels of success.

Every time we give, we receive. But I think we can all agree it’s best to give without the expectation of receiving. To give from the heart. Which is really all Grant is doing. Giving in the way he feels called.

I especially love the¬†study he did as a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s¬†fund-raising call center. The failure rate for callers was around 93% and morale was very¬†low because of the amount of rejection the employees endured. Well, Grant had the idea of bringing in scholarship recipients to speak with the callers to show them the results of their efforts.

A month after the testimonial, the workers were spending 142 percent more time on the phone and bringing in 171 percent more revenue, even though they were using the same script. In a subsequent study, the revenues soared by more than 400 percent. Even simply showing the callers letters from grateful recipients was found to increase their fund-raising draws.

Simply put, when we connect giving with a sense of purpose, we deepen our sense of fulfillment and increase our productivity. Hence, becoming more successful in every sense of the word.

As we enter this season of giving, what are some ways in which you feel called to give? How can you take that spirit of giving into the new year? What are some ways you’re already giving to those around you? If you read the full article, what was your takeaway? Would love to hear your thoughts so do share. ūüôā

Photo courtesy of http://www.wma.us

The Simplicity of Discovering Our Purpose

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In one of my recent blogs, I brought up the topic of purpose and doing what you MUST do with your life. Not what you feel you “should.” And I received a really interesting comment which inspired me to explore this topic a little more deeply.

Julia noted that the business of “pursuing your passion” or finding your calling has become a billion dollar industry. And commented on how she sees it producing anxiety in people around her because they haven’t yet found “it”. Their dream. What they’re destined to do. And how sad it is to see them so miserable.

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And it is. For those who don’t have a clear purpose, or passion as Julia has called it, it can be overwhelming and seem very elusive. And since I’ve been on both sides of the fence- having been out of touch with my purpose and then finding it and living it- I want to attempt to alleviate some of this pressure from those on the search.

We all acknowledge that there’s two types of people. Those like Beatrice Rana who found their calling from a very young age and those who find their passion and purpose later in life.

If you are still trying to figure out what to do with your life right now, what your purpose is, try this on for size.

Forget about purpose for a minute. Forget about having to HAVE some vision for your life.

What is it you feel compelled to do right now? Today?

What do you WANT to do today?

If your day job isn’t doing it for you, is there something that’s been in the back of your mind for a while that you’ve just been ignoring?

If you don’t know, just be patient. It’ll come to you.

And if you consistently act upon things you honestly feel COMPELLED to do (not things you feel you should do) guaranteed that will lead you to a purposeful life which is essentially, living and acting upon your truth.

I think where many of us get caught up is trying to figure it all out. What that big picture is supposed to look like. And that creates the pressure that Julia mentioned. And especially if we expect to make money right away from what we find to be our purpose.

But it’s really quite simple. Visions and dreams are great for those who have them but if you don’t, don’t fret. You’re not alone. And if you really have a passion for finding your purpose, you can make it just this simple.

That’s what I did, and it worked for me. ūüôā

So how bout you? If you found your purpose later in life, how did you find it? What advice would you give others? If you’re searching for purpose, does this make sense? If not, let’s discuss. This is a subject I’m passionate about and I’d love to hear your thoughts. ūüôā

An Attitude of Gratitude Can Save You

Just by being grateful for what we already have, our perspective on life can turn around in an instant.¬†And Neil Pasricha does a great job of reminding us of this in his TED Talk,¬†The 3 A’s of Awesome.

Several years ago, he went through really hard times. First, divorce and then the sudden death of his best friend. So he turned to blogging as an outlet and created the site, 1000 Awesome Things, to remind himself about all the simple pleasures in life we often take for granted in order to boost his own moral. And it worked.

Not only did it work but it got him a publishing contract and a new, fulfilling career of inspiring others.

Neil does a¬†beautiful job in this video of getting us to see the beauty that is our life. And that if we’re going through hard times or merely frustrated at not “being” where we want to be in our life, that an attitude of gratitude can save us.

Not only that, but it can usher in all the things you’re wanting that much quicker. For as the saying goes,¬†appreciate what you have now and more good things will come.

We’re constantly waiting for the big things to happen. The promotion at work, the marriage, our dream home. Whatever it is… it seems that most of us in today’s world are so caught up in the attitude of consumption, we forget to appreciate what we already have.

Wanting more is not a bad thing. That’s what motivates us to get up in the morning, go after our goals and reach for the life we dream of. I once heard a theorist explain that without desire, there’s really no need to live. And it’s true if you think about it.

So no guilt at all in wanting more. But as Neil reminds us, it’s important to be grateful for what we have right now because you never know what the future holds.

So what are 10 things you can be grateful for TODAY? What most struck you about Neil’s talk? Can you honestly say you’re appreciating the things you already have in your life right now? Do share… would love to hear your thoughts ūüôā

What MUST You Do With Your Life?

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Last week I talked about my sleepless nights and how it turned out to be¬†a sign¬†that I needed to write. And although it’s never fun to run on low sleep, it’s such a beautiful thing to realize that your calling is so strong that it literally won’t let you rest until you fulfill it. Or at least work your best on any given day toward that dream.

That’s when you know it’s real.

The fact that I MUST write is the answer to what Ranier Marie Rilke asks of a budding writer in Letters to a Young Poet when he comes to Rilke for advice with his writing career.

Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all– ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?

Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative… then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

This passage is what Diana Castle, my acting teacher in LA, would often repeat to us. She would tell us that 95% of her job was just getting people to COMMIT to being an actor. Once that happened, the work took care of itself. But the resistance people displayed in not fully owning their dreams, fully believing in them, was what held most people back.

And every time, it came down to the simple fact of whether or not acting was really in them. How badly a person wanted it.

So she’d pose the above question for us to ponder: must I act? Recognizing Rilke’s advice to a young writer can be easily translated to any person with a dream.

Must I do ______________ (fill in the blank)?

So if you’re experiencing resistance in your life with whatever passion you’re pursuing, if you just don’t seem to be making headway, or if the field itself is driving you bananas and making you miserable, be honest with yourself. And ask: must I do this?

Once you know the answer, it makes life a whole lot easier. Either you free yourself from something that’s really not in you anyway and allow yourself to move on to something that is or, enduring the difficulties of the journey toward that dream become that much easier.¬†Knowing that you must.

So how bout you? What MUST you do with your life? If you’re pursuing your true calling, what was the moment that made you realize this was it for you? If you’ve been resisting your call, but know you must, what’s one action you can take today?

Sleepless Nights

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So I’m gonna share a little somethin’ with y’all. I just got back from a week-long vacation and dove into a week of chaos. Between manditory overtime at work, tech week for my show with Contemporary Dance Fort Worth, the show itself, and all kinds of other things that popped up,¬†I was on overload. And of course, had no time to write.

So in kicked insomnia. Well, each night last week I’d try a barrage of things to get to sleep. You name it, I tried it. Including 5 mg of melatonin which usually knocks most people out for a good day! Me– nothin’.

Finally at my wit’s end one night I sat and said, “Okay, if I’m not gonna sleep, I might as well get some work done!”

And I did. I started writing and lo and behold, I fell sound asleep within an hour and¬†found the cure for my insomnia —

Create.

Write.

How simple was that?

What I learned through this experience is that although they (the experts) tell us that we should get 8 hours of sleep at night or should go to bed by 10pm, each one of us requires something different. That should go without saying with all areas of our life but I was so scope-locked on the idea that I should have been sleeping at midnight, not working. That to be balanced I needed to be asleep and getting rested for the next day.

But that’s not the clock I’m on right now. Especially since I’m moonlighting, having a real day-job and doing my passion work of writing at night. SO, my body was actually smarter than me. It was trying to tell me I had unfinished business for the day. Which is a beautiful thing.

So next time you have a sleepless night, ask yourself, what did I not get to today? Sometimes it may not be so obvious. It may be something that seems insignificant but run the list through your mind and see if you can pin point it before reaching for outside aides. Peace of mind always makes for the best sleep. In my opinion anyway. And you don’t wake up with a Nyquil hangover. ūüėČ

So how bout you? What must you do everyday to have peace of mind and restful sleep? If you’re a creative like me, are you as bothered as I am when you don’t get to create? I’m curious so do share. ūüôā

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough

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Our job as artists is to follow our muse. But I’m willing to bet at some point or another, many of us question whether or not we should put something out there in fear that it might offend someone. Or be rejected. Or face harsh criticism. Or perhaps our muse is guiding us in a direction that makes us feel uncomfortable and that’s the point at which we must decide– to stay true to our art OR compromise to save face and dilute our message.

Pretty sure almost every artist deals with this dilemma at one point or another.

But heeding the call of the muse is something Tomi Ungerer has never had issue with. In fact, he’s pushed his muse beyond the limits of most any artist I’ve come across. And for that, he provides a wealth of inspiration.

Originally from France, Tomi came to New York as a young man in 1956. He quickly carved a career for himself as an award-winning illustrator and author, publishing more than 140 books.

His work ranges from children’s books to his controversial adult work that ultimately got him banned from school libraries and prompted his exile from the United States. He’s also well known for his political satires around the Vietnam War, civil rights, and other hot topics.

Something not seen so much today in our politically correct, litigious society.

Clearly, many were offended by Tomi. But at the end of the day, my hat’s off to the man. For the simple fact that he’s always stayed true to himself and his art. Allowed his message to come through as clear and unfiltered as he received it. And never allowed societal conventions to sway him whatsoever.

That, in my opinion, is the mark of a great artist.

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to which I was fortunate enough to attend, documents 70 years of this artist’s life.¬†It just premiered in LA and New York (as well as other select cities) and if you’re in those areas, I HIGHLY recommend you go see it. For artists and non-artists alike. It will make you rethink how far you wanna stretch the limits in your own life and inspire you to break out of your self-imposed box.

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After the premier, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Tomi in Toronto and let me just tell you. This guy at 81 is more alive than people half his age. He is fascinating. Irreverent but fascinating.

And proves, on a broader level, that so long as we stay true to ourselves, we will maintain a vibrancy and youth well into our later years.

Movie listings by city

Tomi’s Website

Tomi’s Museum¬†(Yes. He has his very own museum)

So how bout you? How often do you push the limits in your own work? Stretch out of your comfort zone personally and professionally? If you’ve seen the film, what did you think?

Lesson from a Legend

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When I miss class for one day, I know it. When I miss class for  two days, my teacher knows it.
When I miss class for three days, the  audience knows it.
~Rudolf Nureyev, legendary 20th century ballet dancer

Who better to look to for an example of focus and discipline than a dancer?

Having been raised by two professional ballet dancers as parents, I was unknowingly surrounded by this mentality since the day I was born. Now, when I left ballet, it took me awhile to realize what ballet had taught me outside of the physicality aspect but now I realize what a gift it was.

No matter what our prior experience, there’s always a gift that can be applied to today.

And what Nureyev is reminding us of is the importance of a DAILY practice. It takes that¬†daily effort,¬†focus, and determination to become great at anything. And ultimately, it’s really up to us. To how great we want to become at whatever we pursue.

So how bout you? How many days does it take you to “know it”? Are you able to take daily action toward your goals? If not, what’s getting in¬†your way?

Today’s quote is courtesy of my dear mother that has proven she’s more tech savvy than me at times. ūüôā

Photo courtesy of Michael Peto