Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mojo Monday ~ Inspirational Odds & Ends

Breath of Fresh Air

Where do you look to for inspiration?  

Even if you are feeling blue or overwhelmed have you
identified beacons of light that can
brighten up your day or offer a breath of fresh air?  

Do you turn to nature, art, uplifting quotes and words,
music, writers, websites, or perhaps a combination of all of the above?  

Do you subscribe to any inspirational magazines, newsletters or video feeds? 

Share in the comments some of your inspirational touchstones.

Here is a list with links and notes 
of those things that have inspired me or 
perhaps provoked feelings and thoughts recently.


The course Hello Soul Hello Mantras by Kelly Rae Roberts.

Kelly Rae is an artist I have written about before
or mentioned in posts herehereherehere and also here
because I have felt a kinship with her social worker soul 
and her creative mixed media artistry.  Her class was something
I decided to treat myself too after simmering in the blues.
The on-line course kicked off on September 8th and I am feeling very inspired.

Are there any courses you are taking that you would recommend?

Love feather anahata katkin

The art and designs of PAPAYA! which predominantly
features the art of Anahata Katkin.  

I visited the flagship store in
Ashland, Oregon in July and again at the end of August. 
The store fills the senses with scents, colors, texture, 
deep dark chocolate and so much beauty.
While one won't get to taste the chocolate, feel the fabrics 
or smell the perfumes and lotions one can visit their
website to explore the hundreds of inspirational images.

Are there any particular artists that inspire you?

artist room

My own Artist Room

I recently did some late summer cleaning in my artist room.  
Partly in preparation for the Hello Soul Hello Mantras course.  
It felt good to dust and do a little rearranging and clearing out.
Having a beautiful-to-me inspirational sacred space is important to me.

Have you created or found an inspirational space for yourself?


I receive via email every single day an uplifting and positive article
from the good folk at Daily Good ~ News that Inspires

Some articles I read that very day.  Others I read at a later time.  
The team that gathers the articles from near and far, 
as well as research and writes about the 
wide variety of topics and people, do an amazing job.  
I am impressed that it all began with a single person.

"DailyGood was born in 1998, when one college student 
started sharing inspiration with a half a dozen of his friends 
by sending them an enriching quote every day.

Today, DailyGood leverages the internet to promote 
positive and uplifting news around the world to more than 
100,000 subscribers through the daily and weekly newsletters. 
Readers receive a news story, an inspiring quote, and a suggested action 
that each person can take to make a difference 
in their own lives and the world around them."

Do you subscribe to a regular newsletter 
or email subscription that inspires you?


If you have yet to check out TED Talks
I encourage you to do so.

I receive regular email updates for their latest videos.
This week I was particularly moved 
by the video by Zak Ebrahim entitled
I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I chose peace.

Are you already familiar with TED Talks?
If yes, do you have any favorites to recommend?


The last topic that has been on my mind has to do with the heart.

On Thursday I learned that one of my aunts was
to undergo heart surgery on Friday.
The good news is that the surgery appears to have been very successful
and she is recovering very well.
Then on Saturday I learned that a matriarch in my creative community
is also very unexpectedly scheduled to
undergo open heart surgery this week.
I have been sending prayers for healed hearts
and my inquisitive nature had me reading about the heart.

Did you know these very interesting facts about the heart?


Herat and Brain I and A

Inspiration is swirling all around us.  
Sometimes when I am blue I can get tunnel vision.
Reminding myself of all the beauty and wonder 
in our world brings me back into the light.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Mojo Monday ~ Friendship

Karin and Myself
 Photos above taken August 30, 2014 in Medford, Oregon ~ Friends in our forties.
Photos below taken about 1994 in Aix-en-Provence, France  ~ Friends in our twenties.


“friends: us. always. travels. stories told and a few kind lies.
lots of laughter and a little chocolate. secrets shared and tears shed.
kindness with time in between. dreams and awakenings.
long roads, healing and quiet comforts.
wicked mischief and wanton hilarity.
time and always us: friends. always.”
~ Mary Anne Radmacher

This past weekend I had my annual get together with my long time friend Karin.  We have met in a variety of places throughout the years, but for four years we have met in Oregon.  Back in 2010 we both drove six hours to meet in a coastal town called Florence.  But ever since I suggested we meet up in Ashland, Oregon in 2011 and Karin fell in love with this town, that I have long loved, it has become our meeting place. She flies down from Seattle and I drive up from California and pick her up at the airport in Medford.  We then hang out in Ashland and sometimes nearby Jacksonville, where the Britt theater offers up concerts and sometimes comedy.  This year we saw comedian Bill Maher perform Friday night, while divine timing made it possible for us to see my favorite band Gypsy Soul perform on Saturday evening at an intimate fan concert at the Eden Vale Winery.  It was a beautiful location and evening and such a small venue that we concert goers even had time to visit with the band.  

Photo collage featuring Cilette Swann and Roman Morykit from Gypsy Soul.
If you are not familiar with this band do yourself a favor and visit their web site
and listen to their music.  They are amazing and inspirational!
Gyspy Soul

As my friend Karin and I caught each up other on the happenings of our lives we reflected on the many years that have passed since we met back in 1993.  We were two young Americans studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and ended up in the same class.  We eventually became roommates for about half a year.  All these years later we are still in touch and making the time to get together. Months often pass without talking, emailing or texting, but the friendship is always alive and we pick up again easily when we do get in touch.  

She and her husband have been married 15 years; me and my husband 11 years.  She has two children, a son who is twelve and a daughter who is about to turn eight.  I also have two children, twin daughters who turned eight back in May.  In returning from our wonderful weekend get-away and visit I pulled up an old Mojo Monday post I shared back on July 19, 2010 that was about friendship and my visit with this same friend four years ago:

"I drove six hours north on Friday to meet with an old friend in Florence, Oregon. She drove six hours south from where she lives in Washington state. We spent two nights in a comfy cabin and had approximately 24 waking hours to talk and catch each other up on our lives and what is happening in our respective families and children, she has an 8-year-old son and a 3 1/2 year old daughter and I have 4-year-old twin daughters.
We have been friends since 1993 when we met in Aix-en-Provence, France. I was studying French as part of a University exchange program. Already fluent in Spanish, she was independently studying at the same institute to improve her French, as she was working for a British publisher there in France. We were in the same class and became friends. I had come with a large posse of Californian college students. She was there essentially on her own and while she originally came from Texas she had already lived in Mexico and Spain. I immediately admired her independence and her gift in speaking languages.

When I decided to extend my stay in France past the standard one-year commitment I had to find a new apartment and roommate and my friend Karin was also seeking a new place as she was staying on in France too. We became roommates and spent another half year living in France together. We witnessed one another’s falling in love, her with an Italian and myself with a Moroccan. She was incredibly supportive when my Moroccan fiance died in a car accident and I tried to be supportive when she and her Italian parted ways.

Our life journeys continued in other parts of the world. I returned to California and she moving to Baltimore, Maryland. She came to California to visit me and then entered an MBA program in Italy where she met her husband who is Colombian. She moved with him to Argentina and then to Miami after they married in 1999. I flew to visit them in Florida when she was pregnant with her first child. They moved to Tennessee and then eventually to the state of Washington. Both of us being on the west coast now has made it easier for us to see one another once a year these past three years.
This past weekend we talked about our friendship and reminded each other what we admire about one another. We are the same and yet different. We have shared international experiences and a love of travel. We have both dated foreign men. We are both now married and have had children. We have both had our struggles with adjusting to being a mommy and have supported each other with our understanding and supportive words and nods of knowing. We also share certain social values, views on parenting and life in general that continue to fill out the nuances of our friendship. We also always remember one another’s birthday, and the birthdays of one another's children."  

I smiled as I read through the account of our visit four years ago and felt happy from our recent reconnecting.  Time continues to roll along, changes happen, we grown older and perhaps a little wiser.   We witness for one another the various joys, celebrations, milestones, as well as challenges and hardships that may present themselves.  As we parted at the airport we agreed to try and touch base more regularly, though we are both understanding about the demands of our daily lives and know that even if aren't in touch all the time our friendship ties remain strong.

What are your thoughts on friendship?

Do you have a best friend or a close group of friends?

Have you ever experienced the painful loss of a friendship?

Do you have any tips on keeping a long-term friendship alive and well? 

Praise to the Women on My Journey

To the women on my journey

Who showed me the ways to go and ways not to go,

Whose strength and compassion held up a torch of light 
  And beckoned me to follow,

Whose weakness and ignorance darkened the path and 
  Encouraged me to turn another way,

To the women on my journey

Who showed me how to live and how not to live,

Whose grace, success and gratitude lifted me…

To the women on my journey
Who showed me what I am and what I am not,

Whose love, encouragement and confidence held me 
  Tenderly and nudged me gently

Whose judgment, disappointment and lack of faith called 
  Me to deeper levels of commitment and resolve.

To the women on my journey who taught me love by 
  Means of both darkness and light,

To these women I say bless you and thank you from the 
depths of my heart, for I have been healed and set free 
through your joy and through your sacrifice.

Rev. Melissa M. Bowers

Here are some interesting books that touch upon women’s friendships and relationships:

The 7 Aspects of Sisterhood by Debra J. Gawrych

Sacred Circles: A Guide to Creating Your Own Women’s Spirituality Group by Robin Deen Carnes and Sally Craig

Queen of Your Own Life: The Grown-Up Woman’s Guide to Claiming Happiness and Getting the Life You Deserve by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Breakup with Your Best Friend by Irene S. Levine, PhD

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mojo Monday ~ Your Fascination Advantages

Do personality assessments interest you?  Back in 2002 when I took the Myers & Briggs test my results were The Idealist Counselor (INFJ).  I loved reading all about it.  When I took the test in 2010 my results again came up the Idealist Counselor.  Upon taking the test today I was bewildered to discover that my results came out differently this time as a Guardian Protector (ISFJ).  I found it rather upsetting actually and contemplated how I have changed in the past several years.

Normally though taking such assessment is interesting and rather fun and there are many out there to explore.  A friend shared one with me just a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you. It is called Project Fascination.  You answer 28 questions in only 5 minutes and voila you get an interesting personality breakdown.

PF_28questions_Facebook.001 copy

I was identified as The Orchestrator.  This "title" was based on my Primary Advantage coming out as Passion and my Secondary Advantage result being Alert.  Words used to describe the Orchestrator are attentive, dedicated and efficient.  My Dormant Advantage is Power. I laughed when I read it because it really fit me.


The results went into greater details highlighting the characteristics of Passion and Alert.  Those with Passion were described as being Expressive, Intuitive and Engaging.  Those with Alert had strengths in being Proactive, Organized and Detailed. The description about my Dormant Advantage - Power seemed very fitting for me too: 
  • Your approach is obliging and flexible. You're typically not considered intimidating and tend to know how to adapt your message to the situation.
  • You want others to like you. With friends, you're a good listener; at work, you are helpful. You typically listen with an open mind, taking care not to force your opinions on others. People confide in you because you tend not to judge.
  • You allow others to make decisions and are comfortable letting others lead, unlike POWER personalities, who strive to occupy the alpha dog position in the group.
You are not a dominant personality and dislike controlling others. You don't want to be the bad cop. Avoid situations in which you must overtly command co-workers or clients. Instead, find ways to succeed with a more subtle style of engagement.
 When forced to use your dormant Advantage, it exhausts your energy and focus. Because this is your least natural mode of communication, it requires tremendous additional energy in order to relate to others in this way. It feels awkward and unnatural. It leaves you drained. 

My husband also took the assessment and his result was The Trendsetter with a Primary Advantage of Innovation and Secondary Advantage of Prestige.  Below is a large chart showing all the various combinations.  I find some of the titles especially intriguing such as The Veiled Strength, The Secret Weapon, The Maestro, The Provocateur and The Rockstar.  A few of the titles come across as less than flattering such as The Control Freak, The Aggressor and The Anarchy.  It would be fascinating to have everyone I know take the assessment and share their results. 
Thanks to my friend who took the assessment and then shared her code with me to take it.  After taking my own assessment I too was sent a code to share with 100 people so that they could take the test too.  So far I have only shared it with my husband so 99 more people should be able to use my special password. 

Here’s how Project Fascination Works:

You will take the assessment here and enter this code BL-Pokettiger 
Afterwards you will receive a code and you in turn can invite 100 people to the assessment for free. Share your code with your Twitter followers, Facebook friends, office buddies, social circle, sports team, book club, prospective clients, college class, or anyone else you want to inspire with a creative new personality assessment.

After your 100 people complete the assessment, they will receive 100 free assessments to give away themselves. Just remind them to go back to the Project Fascination sign up page to register for their own code.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We Are All Going to Die. Poetry Can Help.

Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine ~ Doc Martens and Motherhood

Come read my latest article called
We Are All Going to Die.  Poetry Can Help.
in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine

You can’t hide
You can’t hide
You can’t hide
Because you don’t know how
God’s got your number
And he knows where you live
Death’s got a warrant out for you
~ Lyrics to Death’s Got A Warrant by Patty Griffin
As I revealed in my previous article Naked Vulnerability, learning we would be writing about Taboo topics this year gave me pause.  This new agenda has me contemplating and sometimes wondering what I will write about.  I am used to writing about inspirational topics with encouraging phrases about letting your light shine. Writing about all things Taboo feels challenging.  It leads me to probe the shadows, the darker recesses, and the stories that are sometimes hard to talk about.  I have a handful of ideas and some really great titles rolling around in my head and I actually thought I would tackle an article about “Identity” first.   However, another topic came to the forefront recently, even though I originally thought it would be the last article I would write.  The topic of Death seemed like the perfect end piece to a series, but it appears my Muse has other ideas. 

My first wondering and pondering is: Why is the topic of death so taboo?  This led me to the interesting realization that the creation of life (aka sex) is also a taboo topic. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Mojo Monday ~ Gender Roles

Each of us were born into a gender, typically one gender, but some of us exhibit physical, genetic, or psychological traits of both genders. How do these gender characteristics affect us? Do they limit our freedom of choice? Or does our gender offer us unique perspectives unavailable to the other primary gender? Facebook users have recently offered some intriguing photos of transgender people, quite appealing in their new gender role, such as Balian Buschbaum who was born a woman (see more here). If the physical body is altered, how does this affect the mind? Or was the mind itself born to the wrong gender and now it has been returned to its proper state?

Gender Role Image
One more set of questions, then a few perspectives and maybe even some answers.  What about gender-specific groups? What strength is gained by restricting the group one gender and communicating in partial isolation of the other gender?

For the purposes of this article we are going to consider that for the most part humans are divided into two main genders. Clearly this is not true for all people, yet even for those who have traits of both genders, almost all chose to self-identify as either male or female.

Let’s begin with some conversations from the Indigo Society, “a forum for Spirituality, New Age, Lightworkers, and General Topics”. The “new age” perspective from these conversations among Indigos (a unique concept that you can explore with a quiz and more here) offers ideas such as, “The individual must decide when to realize that gender is a concept of a disadvantaged perspective on life. Though we are born onto a role that has been predetermined to receive us in shackles, we are challenged to free ourselves.” 
Certainly some people feel like their gender has them in chains, such as any woman who has sought to be president of the United States. If we look at the forty year period leading up to the Constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote, we certainly see a segment of a gender group seeking to free themselves, and we see this echoed in the 1960’s with burning bras and sexual freedom. Yet even as these groups eschewed the traditional roles and limitations of their gender, they found solace and solidarity by forming women’s groups. Could they have accomplished what they did in gender mixed groups, even with supportive men?

Let’s back up and examine some assumptions, beginning with the differences between male and female. How real are these differences? How much is cultural and how much is physical? How about spiritual? We may need to ask God why She made two genders (and a few in between). The easiest approach might be to allow science to inform us.

The most basic difference is invisible to us, sealed in the nucleus of every cell of our bodies: the 23rd pair of chromosomes that is either XX or XY (or the rare trisomies of XXY or XYY). The differing male Y chromosome is an odd little thing, twisted and truncated like a gnarled old man. It’s considered degenerate (have fun with that one) and it often mutates while in the sperm, making mistakes as it combines with the XX in the female egg that can result in birth defects.  The chromosomes themselves don’t make us female or male though; it is what our bodies do with the genes that matter. Specifically one gene on the Y chromosome makes a person male. That gene is called SRY (I could not make up stuff this good if I tried) and without it being flipped on no one could be male. Other genes are also involved, of course. These genes lead to the production of hormones that are essential in defining our gender, causing us to develop physically as male or female.

We have long wondered if we think alike, these genders from Mars and Venus. Are there actually physical brain differences? The short answer – and its becoming longer with exciting new research – is “yes”. The scope of this is too extensive for this article, but here is a list of differences
  • The corpus callosum -- the bridge of nerve tissue that connects the right and left sides of the brain -- had a thicker measurement in female fetuses than in male fetuses as early as 26 weeks in a fetus. Connecting the two sides of the brain is seen as a strength in inter-brain communication.
  • Females seem to have language functioning in both sides of the brain which may result in the strong language skills typically displayed by females.
  • Boys fall prey to learning disabilities more frequently than girls (well of course, with degenerate SRY genes attached to a chromosome that looks like a broken comma)
  • Boys generally demonstrate superiority over female peers in areas of the brain involved in math and geometry.
  • Females and males maintain unique brain characteristics throughout life. Male brains, for instance, are about 10% larger than female brains. But bigger doesn't necessarily mean smarter.
  • Male brains contain about 6.5 times more gray matter -- sometimes called 'thinking matter" -- than women. Female brains have more than 9.5 times as much white matter, the stuff that connects various parts of the brain, than male brains. Don’t jump to conclusions; these are complex structures.
  • The frontal area of the cortex and the temporal area of the cortex are more precisely organized in women, and are bigger in volume. Again, no leaping here, either.
  • Women are faster and more accurate at identifying emotions and may be better than men at controlling them.
  • Men and women do have lots of brain areas that are the same., Members of both sexes excel at skills that are commonly labeled gender specific. "All of these things have overlapping distributions. There are many women with better-than-average spatial skills, and men with good writing skills," Geary says.
While some might bristle at the suggestion that brains have different abilities based on gender, science and our own perceptions have supported this in a general way, though it doesn’t apply to specific individuals. Yet we have seen equally well that whatever limits we are born with due to our genes and development can be changed. Science offers this nugget, “Some researchers believe that nurturing one's brain can enhance what nature has provided.” This would appear to be an important element of brain research. We can change our brains because they are flexible adaptive structures. We can choose to enhance our gender-based strengths or to rob from the other gender what we naturally lack. "There's a lot of evidence that we build up our brain's representation of space by moving through it," says Martha Denckla of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. Learn more on WebMD here.

Dr. Denckla’s statement about space sounds more like something from the Indigo Society than from a doctor. We can find more of this way of thinking in another PhD, Dr. Felice Dunas who wrote the article, “Male and Female Differences and Strengths-The Yin Yang Perspective.” She suggests that the ancient Chinese philosophies that pre-date Western religions by thousands of years contain gender truths that cross from science into spirituality. She says, “Yin Yang theory works with the premise that all of life stems from a point of perfect balance,” which informs our understanding of male and female, X and Y chromosomes, and testosterone and estrogen. She states, “When a woman is spending most of her life force, her vitality and time, giving to others, she is going to end up sick, weak, unhappy and, eventually, unproductive.  Yin energy moves from the outside in towards the self.  Mothering, which takes up decades of our adult lives, is, in large part, about contribution.  It’s about giving in creative, structured ways. These are more Yang oriented activities.  They are not about receiving.  From my medical perspective, it is imperative that a woman put herself in situations that allow her to receive support from others during her mothering years.  She needs loving kindness, she needs others to do favors and tasks for her, and she needs to receive praise for what she does.  She needs to be taken care of if she is going to be good at taking care of others.” Regarding men, Dr. Dunas claims, “When a man is “self oriented” rather than “other oriented”, when he puts emphasis what is given to him rather than on what he contributes to others, when he is silent and avoiding of his woman’s aggressiveness, “wimping out”, so to speak, he is not utilizing his primary strength.  Yang energy moves from the self outward in direct, goal oriented ways.  When a man behaves in a childlike way, (women often call their husbands the “other” child) when he doesn’t take a stand for his creativity, his vision, his beliefs or his drives, he sacrifices his yang nature, his greatest truth.  Unfortunately, men are given very mixed messages by women who want both a strong hero and a girlfriend-like partner to chat and vent with.”

I would like to wrap this up with a confession that may not be a surprise to the regular readers of this column. I am not Michelle Fairchild. I am her husband, asked to bring my male perspective to her article this week. For the record I cook most of our meals, care equally for our twins (I will pit my diaper count against Michelle’s any day), and prefer chic flicks to action films. I’m more of the girlfriend-like partner than the male hero. Michelle mows our lawn each week and is an ass-kicking volleyball player. We both cry a fair bit and I would never dare state my mind had more gray matter than hers because she is, as her readers know, witty, logical, and wise. I have worked to achieve a yin-yang balance and have seen my Myers-Briggs scores contract toward the middle as I actively sought to balance many traits of both genders as well as non-gender specific traits. We can all choose how to engage our minds and bodies in activities that promote our goals and add richness to our life experience while enjoying the natural gifts of our gender. I leave you with this, ostensibly a love song that is perhaps a love song between genders, seeking the strengths of the other…

Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions
Oh let's go back to the start
Running in circles, coming in tails
Heads on a science apart

 The Scientist, by Coldplay

Nathan Fairchild taught science, math, and technology
for over 20 years in the classroom.
He has also worked in other science environments
such as national parks, residential science camps, and nature centers.
He has a Masters of Science in Science Education
and has been one of the California nominees for the
Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science twice.