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Hands

I love reading other people’s blogs. No matter what I’m reading, I always walk away knowing something (or thinking about something) I haven’t before. Or at least thinking about something I haven’t in awhile. So when I saw my friend Rachael Seda’s post, “11 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me“, I was reminded of how lovely it can be to share a piece of yourself with friends, family, and even complete strangers. There’s a special trust that comes with hitting the publish button. In the spirit of Rachael’s post, and Amber Naslund’s “What I Wish More People Knew About Me“, I’d like to share a bit of myself too.

So, here we go. Here’s something you didn’t know about me.

My favorite parts of my body are my hands.

My hands are very large, with long fingers and short nails. There’s a patch of rough skin that runs along the inside of my palm, right where it meets the base of my fingers. On my right hand there’s a hard callous on the side of my middle finger, just below the nail. It’s from gripping my pens and pencils too tightly when I write. I use my hands a lot for that. I’ve had that lump for as long as I can remember.

My hands are pale and pink. The lines in my palms are deep. Most of the time, they are just a smidge too dry. I get that from my Mom. She’s constantly searching for a lotion that will ease the cracking. Her secret solution for dry hands? Nipple cream. I’m serious.

My thumbs look exactly like my great grandfather’s thumbs. They’re not gnarled with arthritis or bespeckled with spots of age. The nails are the same shape. They bend at the very same angle. They’re tradition, I guess. I love them all the same.

When I was younger, my great grandmother would look at my hands and tell me that I had the hands of a piano player. Long fingers. Clumsy but graceful at the same time. I’ve never learned how to play piano, but I’ve always wanted to. Those long fingers are good at untying knots and typing blog posts.

My hands rarely wear rings. If they do, I usually take any rings off before I do anything. I’m curious to know whether or not I’ll feel the same way about a wedding ring one day. As for the pads of my fingers, they’re  lightly calloused too. Turning pages, high fives, handshakes, and back rubs can do that.

My knuckles crack often. It’s bad habit. Like my nail biting. I don’t bite my nails or crack my knuckles as often as I did in high school, when I was constantly a bundle of nerves. Now I let my hands relax. They’ve got a lot of typing to do at home, at work…really wherever I am, I’m using them.

On my right ring finger, near the top knuckle, there’s a thin white line. It’s a scar. I got it when I was working in the kitchen at a tea room. Accidental slice. But it was worth it in the end. Working there taught me the magic that happens when someone decides to combine butter, eggs, sugar, flour, milk, and cream. My love of baking started there.

I’ve always loved the rough line along my palms. I run my fingers over that patch and remember that I’ve worked hard. Broom handles, shovels, rakes, grocery bags, bookbags, serving trays, boxes, trash bags, popcorn scoops, knives, paper towels. They all add another layer.

The center of my palm is soft. It’s reserved for petting my cat, small animals, and handling the most precious of objects, like a baby or a freshly baked cupcake. The lines there are noticeable, but I’ve only ever had my palm read a handful of times. Each reading, a different result. I wonder what you would see if you looked.

The nails are clear and short. I like them that way. I don’t paint them because I’ve never liked the way nail polish felt on them. I keep them short because I hate not being able to pick things up. No snags, no worries. You’ll find half moons on the index fingers and thumbs only. If you look closely in the right light, you’ll see thin vertical lines along the nails. I read somewhere that those ridges mean that I worry a lot. How true. Also explains why my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother all have similar ridges.

They may just be my hands, but they say a lot about me. If you meet me, it’s likely that they’ll reach out to you and say, “Hello!” or “I’ve missed you”, or “Thank you.” My hands are friendly, but not too friendly. Don’t worry – I won’t let them get fresh.

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Creativity is a Spark

Tonight, I spent some time on TED, specifically with Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity.

While watching the video and reading the transcript, I started to think about writing a blog post. So I am. And if you watch Elizabeth’s speech, then you’ll know that I’m showing up for my job – waiting for its arrival.

Gilbert raises a lot of great points in this TED talk. She describes the unrealistic expectations we put on artists, and on ourselves as creative people.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll never be able to top that?

Aren’t you afraid you’re never going to have any success?

Her short answer is yes: she’s afraid of these things. These are real fears, but it’s not entirely our fault. She notes that we’ve become absorbed with the creativity as part of ourselves rather than something on loan to us. As a result, we’re harder on ourselves. We’re harder on each other. When she started talking about it, I was a little skeptical. How can creativity be something that ISN’T solely you?

But I loved what she had to say about fear and creativity and nurturing your genius as something that doesn’t reside within you – it passes through you. For awhile, it becomes part of you, but it continues on to another when it’s time for you to let go. In her speech, she asks the audience if it’s right to fear what one feels he or she is put on this Earth to do. For you, is it?

Is it worth sacrificing what you truly want in order to move ahead financially? Or geographically even?

Is it worth it to give up what makes you happy because you’re afraid of failure?

The Trust 30 challenge I completed this summer asked a lot of these questions. In fact, fear was one of the most popular subjects in the prompts. I liked that. Fear is something we all have; something we lean on as a crutch. When we take time to step back from our fears, recognize them, and then have the courage to at least challenge them…well…to me, that’s a huge step.

Conquering a fear is never easy. It’s hard. It’s a long road and it takes practice. Right now, I’m confronting a fear that I have. But like Gilbert, I need to let that pass through me. Creative people have a tendency to want to hold onto whatever spark we have. We get this feeling…if you’ve felt it before you know what I mean. It’s like you’re doing exactly what you should be doing, and as she notes in her speech, you light up. You ignite. You set the world on fire as St. Ignatius said. Fear and creativity are amazing things and it’s incredible to see what they can make us do. I realize this post might be a bit rambling, but it feels good to think out loud. To be doing exactly what I should be doing.

I’m not a huge fan of Gilbert’s writing. I wasn’t able to get into Eat Pray Love, but what she said in those 19 or so minutes meant a lot. It made sense to me. It made me want to give her book a second try because maybe, this time around, I would get it. If I do, great. If I don’t, it’s alright. I can still appreciate that she sparked and let something pass through her and because of that, she’s able to nurture her creativity.

So often, we punish ourselves. There’s this expectation that once you produce something great, you should produce all great things from now on. We do this with movie directors, actors, artists…hell, we do it with companies. As people, we have this expectation of excellence that’s unrealistic. Who could possibly get everything right all the time? When we don’t get it right every time, we ridicule. We approach the issue with criticism instead of new ideas. We become calloused. We hurt. That’s it. We hurt.

We hurt ourselves when we expect too much of ourselves and other people. There’s not one person on this Earth who hasn’t felt disappointment or been disappointed. It’s a crappy feeling. But like creativity, it’s not permanent. We get over it. We let it pass through us. Why can’t we extend the same courtesy to the creative sparks that keep us making things that are important to us? To each other?

After listening to Gilbert speak, I thought about my own relationship with creativity. The self-doubt, the criticism, the nervous excitement I experience every time I open up a new Word document. It’s all part of the process. Maybe it is healthier to take the burden off ourselves. Maybe I should try letting go to free myself of the hurt associated with the loss of that spark. It’s not a bad thing, you know, to remember that we’re human. We’re not as powerful as we think we are.

Sparks, as ideas, don’t ignite every time. But they can. And when they do, accept them. It’s a gift – not an expectation.

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When Things Get Tough

Sugar Plum Snowflake
Image by CaptPiper via Flickr

It’s difficult to keep up with things, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. In my case, November and December were overwhelming. Between finishing up my classes, handling a heavy workload, and still trying to keep my personal life alive, well, let’s just say that it wasn’t easy. I missed getting the chance to write things I actually wanted to write. I felt bad about not getting to update my blog. I felt frustrated with all of the stress because when I looked for a light at the end of the tunnel, I didn’t see any light. Just lots of tunnel. Lots and lots of tunnel.

I’m glad to say that it’s getting better though. I can’t wait for the start of the new year and the chance at something fresh. I suck at keeping resolutions, but I do find the allure of a fresh start appealing. There’s just something about walking out the door in the morning with a clean slate that makes you feel like you can do just about anything. The more time that goes on, the more I realize that I actually can do anything.

As of January 1, I’ll be starting full time at Solid Cactus (woo hoo!). I’ve also picked up an adjunct teaching position at my alma mater, Marywood University, where I’ll be the instructor for Advertising Principles & Practices. I’m really excited that both of these things happened and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Right now, I’m in a very good place in life. I don’t have to worry as much about making ends meet, although I’m still very much a poor post-college student :-D  Everything is just falling into place. I love that feeling. Falling, not forcing, into place.

When things get tough along the way, I try to remember that I have my whole life ahead of me and that there are plenty of little things that I can accomplish in the meantime. I have plenty of time to figure things out and the start making things I want a reality. I wanted a job.  I have one. I wanted the chance to teach. Now I can. It’s a good feeling achieving those goals. But it also feels good getting the dishes done and FINALLY get that oil change. Those little things add up to a whole lot of inner peace.

Happy holidays everyone and I’ll see you in 2011!

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Remember, Remember November

Keep Breathing

Photo is mine, but the words belong to Yoko Ono. When I took a trip to NYC with my friend Lauren, we found that she had written little quotes on the walls throughout MoMA.

After a majorly sucky October, I have to say that November looks pretty sweet.

In fact, it looks absodamnlutely awesome.

October was a month where my, oh how do you say, chutzpah got tested to the max. I was tested, and God, I hope I passed. Life tends to do that from time to time. It reminds you that you’re really a scared little kid with a spelling test you forgot to study for. Sorry, teach. I would rather watch movies all day.

October’s craziness is spilling a little into November, but you know what, that’s OK. It really is. I’ve got some great things on the horizon for November. There’s Thanksgiving, a trip to Gettysburg, visiting family, spending time with Brent, not being broke (thank you freelance gigs!), and the impending return of the Christmas radio station. *Le sigh* Can’t the rest of the year be this great to look forward to?

So, before I get crackalackin’ on some thoughtful blog posts having to do with communicating, I thought I’d take a little break from the madness to just reflect. Take a little breather. And maybe set a few goals for myself as I come closer to the holidays.

Quick recap. Here’s some things that I’ve accomplished since this glorious month began:

  • Finally went to the eye doctor’s to get a checkup. My eyes aren’t any worse. Awesome!
  • Got new glasses. They’re spiffy.
  • Finished two freelance writing projects. Boo-yah.
  • Watched Vertigo and  Northanger Abbey. Thank you, Alison!
  • Read lots of awesome blog posts.
  • Wrote some blog posts too!
  • Participated in my first webinar for Solid Cactus.
  • Started Christmas shopping.

Sounds pretty good, eh? All of these things, though little, made me feel a lot better about how crazy my life can be from time to time. Sometimes, getting those little nagging tasks out of the way just makes you feel brand new. Right now, I feel pretty shiny and I’m hoping this feeling lasts all month long. Let’s set some goals for the next few weeks:

  • Backup my hard drive. I really need to.
  • Get a haircut. My bangs are driving me nuts.
  • Buy a new ice scraper for my car.
  • Take our donations to the Salvation Army.
  • Have fun.
  • Relax a little. A LOT.
  • Eat gratuitous amounts of Brent’s Mom’s cooking.
  • Hugs.
  • Check off more of the to do list.
  • Sleep more.

Yep. I think that sounds ambitious enough :)

It’s on the table. Please remind me to stick to it!

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Blog Action Day 2010: Bringing Clean Water

Impact of a drop of water.
Image via Wikipedia

In 2008 around this time, I wasn’t thinking about the water I drank. In fact, like most people, I took it for granted.

Nearly a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. Yes, I said billion and unfortunately, that number isn’t getting smaller very quickly. One in eight of us doesn’t have the ability to drink or use water safely.  Plus, unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of diseases and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. It’s unbelievable to even think about. People around the world and even within the United States don’t have access to suce a basic need.

In July, to address this water crisis, the United Nations declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right, but that still doesn’t mean that we’re any closer to a solution. Water isn’t just a human rights issue. It’s also an environmental issue, animal welfare issue, sustainablity issue, and most importantly, a global issue. In 2008, I started to learn just how little I knew about the world going on around me.

As President of the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at Marywood, it was my responsibility to help organize a community service event each semester. It was around this time two years ago that our chapter decided to take on a more global issue and we chose the world water crisis. Having discussed this issue in a few classes before, many of us were aware that clean water was a problem, however, we didn’t quite know what the true scope of the issue was. So we did a little bit of research. It was shocking to say the least.

To us, water became so much more than just a cause to latch onto. It was something we decided to campaign for  fully through a campus-wide event called The Ripple Effect, which launched in April 2009. This event, which was held on Marywood’s campus, brought together students and members of the community to help spread the word about charity:water (we partnered with them through their Water for Schools program) and water advocacy. We had an art contest, information booths, and concrete ways to help solve the crisis. We had people write letters to Senators and sign petitions. We showed videos. We shared the facts. And we didn’t get a lot of peple to attend or raise a lot of money. It was disappointing, but I didn’t feel like our efforts were in vain.

We sent in our donation to charity:water and waited. The response we got…well, we couldn’t have asked for something more meaningful. We got a handwritten card that thanked us for our participation as well as some photos. Those photographs left an impression on me. I got to see the faces of those affected by the crisis.

It wasn’t just a billion people without water. It was a little boy with the widest smile I’ve ever seen. It was a woman with tired eyes. It was an entire village. That to me, really said something. This is not a crisis a world away. This is something happening in every country around the world.

Since then, I’ve donated to charity:water every year. Granted, I’m a student and have little cash to spare, but even a few dollars makes a difference. I subscribe to their emails and I spread the word about their cause when I can. And today, they need your help.

Today is Blog Action Day and I’m participating. Will you?
Learn more about the world water crisis and ways to help at Blog Action Day 2010.

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