Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tickled pink. My best Craigslist find ever and my new living room tour.

Hello friends! It's been awhile since I invited you into my home and shared some pictures, but today is a special day. Yep, I'm beaming through my computer screen in case you can't tell because you'll never believe it.

But I hit the jackpot on Craigslist.

And the first thing I wanted to do was write this post to encourage anyone else out there who might be currently and faithfully checking Craigslist for that ONE piece of high-end furniture that you really-really want. 
You know, one of those great finds that you know is so improbable that you give up checking for months because the chances are so low that you'll find the right thing in the right size and in the right color. 

 Don't give up, it can happen.

In my case I was looking for a neutral colored Lee Industries sectional that would fit in our living room.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but I had finally agreed with the men in my life that when it comes to sheer comfort and space, we are truly a sectional family.
(Honestly? They hated the RH down couch I got at their outlet store)
The problem was that I didn't want to pay the price tag for the brands I wanted.

So I started looking on Craigslist several months ago for fun, typing in words like Lee Industries, Barclay Butera, William Sonoma, Mitchell Gold, etc..  

Eventually, I stopped after seeing gazillions of sectionals that would never work.

Until last Friday.

When I absently typed in "Lee Industries" into my phone and a very blurry picture of a sectional covered in clear wrapping popped up. For a ridiculously low price.

Turns out a young nanny was selling some furniture for her boss and when I met her at the storage unit and she opened it, I was stunned to see high-quality furnishings stacked to the ceiling. 
I bought my Lee Industries Sectional without even taking all the wrapping off, I was so incredulous that the measurements were perfect. 
Apparently this sectional had been in an extra house purchased solely for the English mother-in-law whenever she came to visit the States.

Mostly it sat unused in a beautiful Newport Beach home.

I really love the coziness of a sectional.

Even though I think of our home as a beach cottage, I've discovered that I gravitate more toward warm neutrals rather than blues.
These pin stripes are a more practical choice for our family  than white. We do have a white couch in the other room and while I love the look, I'll need to eventually get slipcovers made for it, it's just too hard to keep it clean.

There it is, the coveted sectional 'corner' loved by all.

The old gallery wall is gone for now, part of my need for uncluttering. But I've got a new DIY project to show you soon. Another place for my old oil paintings.

I decided to keep the chairs in white canvas slipcovers, and I have the fabric to re-cover these whenever I get the motivation to unroll all that fabric and pre-wash it.

What's your opinion?
Are you a sectional person or couch person?


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Friday, January 12, 2018

Have you ever opened your heart to someone and felt worse? Read this.

It was an experiment I never forgot.

The psych professor gave us the simplest instructions, then he split our tiny class into two halves, lined each student directly across from the room from another classmate and blew his whistle. With each whistle we took a step toward the person directly across from us. We were instructed to keep stepping forward until we got close enough to this classmate to ‘feel’ like our physical space was being invaded.

It was a visceral lesson about recognizing our physical boundaries. Those invisible lines around our bodies that help us define 'where I end, and you begin.' 

And for most of us, our physical boundaries are no brainers. We instantly feel the discomfort when someone invades our physical space, when a stranger suddenly moves nose-to-nose with us to ask an innocuous question. Unless we’ve been the victim of sexual abuse, our bodies will naturally react to these kinds of bodily intrusions.

But recognizing our emotional boundaries is much more complicated; there is no solid body to brush up against and delineate clear lines when it comes to defining our healthy emotional space.

Instead, we do this with our senses. Like a blind traveler we must turn our awareness inward and with astute ears, detect the rumblings within that warn us when we’re bumping into those emotional boundaries, the ones that give us that confident clarity of, "This-is-Me."

What makes this dynamic process tougher is that we live in a world that has been permanently altered by the values of social media. Whatever platform we’re on—whether we blog, engage on Instagram, or Facebook, the emphasis on fresh content with the incessant drumbeat to share- share- share is powerful.

It’s always in the air, this urgent momentum to offer up the most intimate details of our lives--even while it’s happening— or risk missing the chance to keep our followers interested.
Coupled with the values of a reality TV culture, our natural instincts get blurred.

We feel unsure.

  • How much to share?
  • How will I feel if I share?
  • What kind of personal details are off-limits to the world?
Lately it’s a topic that’s on my mind because of my current writing project. 

For those of you who read about it-- yes, I am still writing daily. However, I’ve changed my original plans to publish everything on my post. (You probably noticed)


Well, I’ve discovered that not everything I write should necessarily be propelled into cyberspace as a forever snapshot of my life, at least not without the necessary pause to consider how it aligns with my comfort zone. Especially since I’m writing memoir that’s littered with personal details, emotional angst and people’s names, it falls into that questionable zone between private and public.
Suddenly as I grapple with these questions... my old classroom experiment seems more relevant than ever.

Let me explain it with a story. 

When our boundaries get blurry

I once had a neighbor that I knew in a cursory, “kids-on-the-same-team” kind of way. One sunny afternoon I ran into her on the bike trail with her newborn baby in the stroller. And before I could finish my “Hi, how are you,” she was off and running, unloading the most achingly private details that were happening in her life at that moment.

Clearly, she was in so much distress it didn’t matter that we were mere acquaintances. And in the short time we spoke I ended up knowing about her possible bi-polar diagnosis, her lack of interest in sex, and her worries about her marriage. As I listened to the raw emotions pour from her— and my heart went out to her— I could feel my old professional identity come alive.
So this is what I did.

Instead of nodding and encouraging more intimate information, I turned my attention on slowing her down. At that moment I didn’t know if she was suffering from postpartum depression (highly likely) or some variation of bi-polar diagnosis, but my over-riding concern was how she would feel long after our meeting on the street; and the last thing I wanted was for her to be overcome with regret and shame later.

I’m telling you this story because it’s a clear example of how fluid our emotional boundaries can be, especially when we’re in crisis.

Before you share your own intimate details with someone—whether it’s face-to-face or in your online world, you should have an awareness of the following:

Two kinds of sharing
Vertical & Horizontal

When I used to lead small therapy groups, Irvin D. Yalom was my rock star. In the nerd world of group psychotherapy, this Stanford clinician made me feel like a starry-eyed groupie at a rock concert.
His clinical work felt alive and relevant even outside the session room, so I'm going to share something right now. Stay with me, I promise it's not psych0-mumbo-jumbo.

According to Yalom, there two ways we can share ourselves with someone and each way can have a powerful effect on how we feel afterwards.

1. First, there is the kind of sharing that he refers to as, vertical sharing.

This is what my distressed neighbor was in the process of doing, sharing one intimate detail that unleashed another one and another one and so on, hence the visual image of going deeper into that Pandora’s box of distress, in other words, vertical sharing.

In the right setting and with the right person and with enough time, this can be one pathway for deep, authentic healing.
But vertical sharing is also characteristic of those with poor emotional boundaries. If someone has sexual abuse in their background, or if they are the midst of a crisis, or if they have self-esteem struggles, they can have problems recognizing those emotional boundaries that keep them feeling whole and intake; I’m talking about psychological boundaries that separate you from others and unlike our solid, clear body boundaries, these can feel fluid and muddled, depending on our emotional state.

Why should you care about this?
We’ve all had an experience like the one I had on the street. Maybe with someone in crisis like my neighbor. Or possibly it was with someone you cared deeply about. And you might have been confused about what to do, maybe even overwhelmed by their neediness and so it ended poorly. For you and for them.

But chances are it's you who can relate to my neighbor; maybe you remember a time when you were emotionally raw from prolonged stress or grief and you felt your typical ‘privacy’ boundaries crumbling, so you surprised yourself by opening up to a friend and it resulted in a great memory, cathartic and positive.

Or worse yet, maybe you felt bad afterwards and now you're afraid to open up again.

2. This is where the idea of horizontal sharing is important to understand.

Kardashian style vs Oprah style

Let's pretend you're the listener. Instead of viewing one’s fragile feelings like a broken water sprout and allowing intimate details to flow freely, it can be more compassionate to help that person contain their spillage. Instead of nodding and encouraging new details it's helpful to guide someone overwhelmed by their emotions, to what Irvin Yalom refers to as a “horizontal” kind of sharing.
Horizontal sharing is focused on process rather than the content. It’s focused on you, the WHOLE person—and specifically on how you’re feeling after your private words are out in the open.

It's as simple as, "Wow, you've just shared something really painful, how are you doing right now?" or a truthful, "I really want to support you right now and I'm not quite sure how to do that."

Horizontal sharing like its visual image, is about staying right where you are emotionally, and becoming aware of the effects on the sharer-- and the listener, before you tread any deeper.

Think of it this way. If vertical sharing is characterized by a Kardashian-style conversation with its focus on titillating details, horizontal sharing resembles an Oprah-style conversation, with slower dialogue, eye-contact, and a warm touch of the hand. And more importantly, the concern about the entire person rather than just 'the juicy details.' 

 Have you ever poured out your heart to someone and felt worse later?

If you’ve ever shared vulnerable details with someone and later felt red-faced regret, most likely this kind of horizontal sharing was the vital piece missing. Leaving you feeling raw and exposed.
And that can feel worse than opening up.

The take-away

The bottom line for you to take away from this post is that like me with my memoir writing, there are times in our daily life when we need to pause and listen to our instincts.

Know yourself.

In a world that has normalized voyeurism with a booming reality show industry, and saturates us daily with the most lurid, sensational headlines of a 24-hour news cycle—it’s not hard to see how our definition of ‘healthy boundaries” can get blurred.
As you navigate your way through your relationships—whether face-to-face or in the online world-- remember that your innermost feelings and private struggles deserve to be acknowledged in a way that makes you feel valued and understood. Especially when you're feeling vulnerable. 

But don’t confuse mere “vertical sharing”—pouring out your deepest feelings—to be the end-all. Yes, it can be cathartic. And a worthy risk.

But here’s the game-changer: the key to making it an uplifting experience is the response on the other end.
Value yourself enough to keep healthy emotional boundaries. And realize it's these clear boundaries that will help you choose the ‘right’ setting and listener--who will give you the kind of support you truly deserve.

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* Dear Friends, I apologize for the weird fonts and spaces you see, I'm having real issues with Blogger.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Something I learned in my twenties (on changing your life)

Years ago, when I was a twenty-seven-year-old grad student I found myself completely paralyzed.
No, I’m not talking about physical paralysis. I’m talking about a mental one, I’m talking about having a burning desire to tackle something that felt incredibly challenging, even downright scary, and I couldn’t do it. Only it wasn’t exactly optional, it was something required of me at my job, a task I was completely capable of performing, and I found myself stricken by stuck-ness. 
I simply couldn’t ‘see’ myself doing it. In other words, it was my own view of myself that was holding me back.

As you enter into this new year and you begin your list of new goals or resolutions, it’s easy to become myopic, to focus your energies into defining WHAT your goals will be and the logistics of your new schedule, rather than spending more time on the WHY question.

Why am I not doing those things I say I want to do?
Because at the heart of any real, enduring changes to your life, is You, and all that invisible emotional baggage you carry around with you. After all, it will be your consistent actions and follow-through each day that determine whether your dream becomes a living, breathing reality. And this is where the insight about your own self-image, those old beliefs and feelings you have about yourself will begin to surface

What happens if you don’t feel completely ready for aspects of your new undertaking?

What if you’re walking around with an outdated image of yourself that undermines your self-confidence?

What if underneath all your excitement about your latest goal, you can’t actually see yourself  completing it?

If you’re like me, there will be times when you will need to simply ‘act-as if,"  while you persevere through those times of struggle.
In a world where only eight percent of people succeed at their New Year’s resolutions, I think this little lesson from my twenties can be a game-changer.

Let me explain.

When I was a grad student, my first real job included keeping a specialty Eating Disorder Unit in a Southern California hospital filled with patients; this meant being the face of the unit in the bustling professional LA therapy community. Only at this point in my life I was still suffering with what I refer to as the “imposter” hang-up, based partly on fact.  I had stretched my way into a dream job above my experience level, and without anyone to train me, I found myself immersed in a fake-it-till-you make-it situation.”

For anyone with a modicum of self-confidence this would have been fine, however I was plop in the middle of my clinical program, and raw from my on-going personal therapy (required for degree) and every day I was struggling to be successful at new job on which every EDU employee’s work hours depended on--- to say I felt like I was walking a thin tightrope is an understatement. I was completely in touch with all my insecurities. Which at this point included my lack of a Master’s degree.
Funny the things we give symbolic meaning to; I was surrounded by fellow staff members all with Masters degrees, PhDs and MDs and back then that felt like a metaphor for my life. 
Fortunately, all my neurotic performance worries manifested in a type A achievement on the job, which meant at least outwardly, I appeared perfectly comfortable most of the time.

Except for this one situation.
It was to be my job to get up in front of a community of professionals who were coming to see our charismatic Medical Director, Manohar Shinde lead a teaching seminar in our hospital boardroom, and it was turning into a jam-packed event filled with clinicians, --that little old grad student Me,—had admired from afar.

“What?!  Can’t someone else please do this?” I asked the Nursing Director, a woman who became a female mentor for me. “Pat-can’t-you-do-it, please?”
Of course not.
This was my job and when I wasn’t standing in front of a podium shaking, I was efficient at it.

On the afternoon before this dreaded event—which had now taken on ridiculous importance in my head—cementing my imposter status to the world—Dr. Shinde surprised me by stopping by my office and asking me to lunch.

A private lunch with our Medical Director was rare and I knew why.
Over our lunch—while he ate quickly and I picked at my salad-- he listened with keen ears while I  blurted out my litany of self-doubts about this situation, after which I was sure he would relieve me of this duty. Instead he gave me a bizarre response.

He said, “Yes, I think you will need to act as-if.”

I was confused. WTF?  Was he telling me to pretend? Did this esteemed psychoanalyst and my personal role model whose daily focus was on uncovering one’s most authentic feelings and encouraging truth-telling, advising me to…fake it?!
“But… that’s not how I feel!!!” I blurted out. “I don’t feel like that person you’re asking me to be.”
Remember, I was practically living on a psych unit, this was the way staff talked.

And his answer was basically yes. He encouraged me to think of it this way. No psych-mumbo-jumbo, just this simple one-liner. Basically, there are times we must do things without that feeling of emotional readiness. But with our actions, often the (desired) emotions will follow.

I remember feeling stunned. Everything I was learning in my therapy and witnessing on the Eating Disorder Unit was focused on the principle of honoring our feelings. Exploring them. Working through them. Nowhere did it imply ignoring them.

I was acutely aware that if I listened to my feelings right then, they were telling me this task was completely premature for my comfort level. I wasn’t ready. I was simply too insecure.

He wiped his mouth with a white paper napkin and hurried away after he patted my hand.

“I know you’ll be fine.” He smiled.

Well, I don’t need to tell you the end of this story.
You probably figured out I did my job and it went fine; and for a short time, I stood up and acted like the confident person I hoped to be someday, feeling ever the faker, but once I got over the shock of having a fairly successful experience, I felt different.

Today I understand. Although my insecurities of those days have become duller, I never forgot THAT CERTAIN FEELING I had afterwards. It was jolting and indisputable, an electrical charge wiring me for the future.

It was that feeling of, “Yes! I can do this.”

I realize now I would have been deprived of this transformative experience if I wasn’t forced to plow through my most primal fears and get to the other side.

To “Act As-If” means acting before we’re officially feeling ready. It means honoring our feelings, but not being restrained by them. It means that you might be the smartest person in the room with the best intellectual grasp of your dream, and you’ll need to be aware that those same cognitive machinations can contribute to your decision to wait. And think about it some more.
When it comes to our dreams or goals, beware of what I call, analysis-paralysis.

I know from first-hand experience. Which is why you’re reading these words right now.

Action will be the game-changer in your life.  And thankfully, it’s your actions—whether they begin as New Year’s resolutions or simple habits—that will begin to change the way you view yourself.

In the words of Oprah, “You get the life you have the courage to ask for.”  Well, I’ve been a slow learner of this ‘asking part.’ But I’m getting braver.

Are you feeling immobilized by those nagging self-doubts? Are you stuck waiting for that perfect moment to embark on your private dream?  

Getting emotionally unstuck requires intentional action. Get moving, start small. Every day do one little thing toward your goal.

And remember.

Sometimes you just have to jump out into the

air and grow wings on the way down.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Thank you Thank you Thank you

photo: tifforelie

I was sitting in a fluorescent lit conference room behind a long table watching the Director of our hospice program laugh out loud. Every so often you meet a person who captivates you by the simple fact of their oddity. Our director is an enigma to me, a strange combination of a comedic Jackie Chan and the gentle Dali Lama.
Tall and lean with a little boy hair-cut, he talks fast with a distinct accent and instantly puts people at ease with his jokes about his love of desserts. In a world that is dominated by death, he is a walking advertisement for joy.

On this day he was describing the process of dying at a monthly seminar and despite the ominous white board at the front of the room, filled with the hand-drawn graphs signaling the direction of each of our future deaths, his delivery was one of exuberance.

Honestly, who does this? Who laughs and blurts out things like, “What’s wrong with talking about death?!’
“We should ALLLLL be talking about it!”

And it’s not just his delivery, the guy believes this, in fact, he lives it. He has probably presided at more death beds in his life than I could possibly imagine and on this day, he is explaining the intricate signs that we volunteers should recognize during our visits with our hospice patients.
Since I have already had two patients die I am utterly fascinated by this lecture and yes, there is even a pang of disappointment.

To be completely honest, I had these wonderful visions of helping dying people write their enlightened good-byes when I signed up for this gig. I expected to be a helpful story-teller, to be welcomed by wise old souls who wanted to use me as a vessel to carry their messages.

I was going to be that person who helped them share their poignant last words with family and friends. WRONG.

So far, I had experienced nothing close.

Instead, I had been shocked by the prevalence of dementia I had seen and the absolute inability or desire of any dying patient so far to tell their personal story, or contemplate the saying of real good-byes, despite their physical deterioration.

As I gazed over the four graphs of the death process I felt deflated, even dumb.
“Generally, people die the way they lived,” our Director was saying in response to my question about death bed enlightenment.

He was smiling with twinkling eye as he continued,

“All those dramatic death bed scenes showing people delivering last minute words they never said before, the stuff we see in the movies?  Nah, that’s Hollywood! Most people remain pretty much who they were in their life. Angry in life? Angry at the end. No big changes on the death bed. Not usually.”
I continued to listen and let his words sink in when suddenly I got my answer.

The real reason I went to this lecture on this day.

From the front of the conference room the Director is animated and happily launching into one of his stories. He is talking in a loud, energetic voice about a recent conversation he had with his high school son who is also one of the program volunteers.

His son was complaining about his patient assignment, a patient I assumed from his description might be in the throes of dementia.

“Dad,” he says to our Director. “It’s the same thing every week. I’m doing absolutely nothing for her, all she does the whole hour is say, Thank you Thank you Thank you.

And the Director—his Dad- responds back,

“What-ya-mean you’re not doing anything?! You’re giving her someone to say, ‘Thank you’ to!”

And laughter fills the room and the last words I really remember were ones about the dignity of each person no matter how they might appear to us, and no matter what our judgments might be about them.
For a second I felt my face flush, jolted by Life’s prim reminder that “Hey—it’s not always about you, ya know.”
And then the nagging thought that, sigh, I know nothing.

Which isn’t bad. Having one of those ‘I know nothing’ moments actually feels refreshing, a reminder to keep my beginner’s mind; and I like to think it's the universe nudging me to beware of that cushy, old self-importance that occasionally sneaks up on me.
I don’t know what you’ll make of all this.

But for me, this felt like an eye-blinking peek at the truth. An afternoon which left me with the idea that maybe life isn’t so complicated after all. In the end –no matter how educated or successful or talented or fancy-pants-important we think we are, and no matter how lofty our life lessons we want to impart on others might be, maybe the truth is as simple as this:
In the end it’s our kindness that really matters.

Day 2 -my one little thing project

I'm happy to share with these friends:
The Scoop #307
Inspire Me Tuesday

Monday, January 1, 2018

Finding your One Little Thing

A few days ago, a yoga friend on my IG shared a provocative little idea about changing your life in the new year.

Her yoga teacher recently wished all of her students the chance to make NEW mistakes in their upcoming year and ever since I heard those words I’ve been smitten. Totally head-over-heels-in-love with this idea. But did you catch that little distinction? It’s not about REPEATING old mistakes. The idea is to make new mistakes because we all know that when we’re making new mistakes we’re treading outside our comfort zone. We’re daring to enter into new—and challenging—territory and inviting struggle and maybe some failure.
Heck yeah, let’s push ourselves toward some new mistakes. How does that sound to you?
Because that’s the part that’s calling my name.

Consider this question, “What’s your one big dream, something you’ll always regret if you never do it?”

My youngest son recently asked me those exact words and I was surprised at how self-conscious I got. His blunt question caught me off guard and I found myself fumbling my answer.

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably write that book I wanna write.”

And then he called me out on it. He followed up by asking me how much time I’m working on it every day. And honestly? I felt sheepish when I heard myself rattling off all the other priorities that were taking up my valuable time each day. Only it’s not that these other priorities were optional.
But do you want to know the truth?  No one person or priority has been keeping me from writing my book.
Not really, I am the one in charge of how I allocate my time.

And this is what I do know. Our daily habits tell the world about our values, what we care about, and the direction of our life. And on any given day it’s our own actions—not our words- showing us what we are choosing to prioritize. I’m talking about once our life obligations are taken care of. What are we doing with our time? Really?
Because we all know people that accomplish big goals while they juggle a complex job and a web of responsibilities. They do it by getting up an hour early, or staying up extra late after the kids are in bed, but somehow, they choose to create that chunk of time in their life because it’s worth it to them. They have found a passion or dream and they have the willingness to work hard to achieve it.

This topic of time management has been on my mind lately and it’s why I jokingly said to my husband that my new mantra is going to be, “no more words—only action.”  

For me this means, no more talk and wispy dreams and vague ideas about writing.
It means start writing now. Write something today and every single day to become a better writer and eventually gain the confidence to write that book.

Why might this be my new mistake?
Well, to be perfectly honest writing is not an easy process for me; I am not a smooth, proficient writer in fact, I’m a terribly slow writer. It takes me forever to get a post out whether it’s a creative design post accompanied with photos, or me simply writing on one of my random topics. Either way I’m slow. Not to mention my own worst critic.

So, the idea of writing every day isn’t a problem if it’s just me journaling, however, committing myself to posting one little thing each day feels like the equivalent of standing at the bottom of Mount Everest and looking up. I literally cannot imagine being able to do that. Blame my perfection. Blame my annoying habit of constant re-writes. Blame my fear of failure. Who knows.
I’ve never even tried this before. Writing one little thing each day… ? Yet for me, thinking of it as something little each day feels more accessible and habit forming than a lot of grand resolutions. And posting it for the world to see?

…that sounds like I may be heading into “new mistake” territory, with a public humiliation to boot, which will certainly not be a boring repetition of same-ness right?

In order to make this new habit more successful for me –especially with my new work schedule--I've decided to lower my expectations, and this means setting clear parameters for myself.
Because adding original photos to any post adds so much more time I will make this writing project a photo-optional one. Some days there might be an accompanied picture, some days not, no pressure.
Also, as grateful as I am for the dialogue that happens via the comments, I'm aware that responding to comments adds an extraordinary amount of extra time (I’m such a slow composer of my thoughts) and since comments also have a subtle way of making me self-conscious about how I’m writing, I think it will be easier for me to view this project as an open-one-way journal. My goal is to practice my writing, hone my writing voice, and most importantly, deal with that nagging Little Miss Perfect whisper in my head that never wants to hit the publish button until everything feels “just right.”

Hitting the publish button is a way to keep me accountable.
So here’s a summation of what I plan to do.

Write One Little Thing Every Day Project:

No limitation on topics

It should be unedited version of my thoughts

Photos are optional

Response to comments optional

Well that’s it friends.

I plan on counting my regular posts as a writing day to keep it simple. And I'll re-evaluate this after each month.

But wait---before you go, this entire post is supposed to get you thinking too.

Consider this question:

What is your one little thing you can do every day that could change the direction of your life?

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