Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #31: WooHOO!

This cheeky self-portrat my husband took during our recent holiday in Germany somehow encapsulates how I'm feeling today.

Or, in other words: wooHOO!

We did it, my friends! We made it to day 31 of Blogtoberfest12. All 334 of us!

And, yes, that means YOU. You who blogged every single day. You who blogged once on 1 October and never made it back to your computer. You who started off with the best of intentions but then life got in your way. You who blogged intermittently, when life got out of your way. You who started a blog just so you could participate. You who tweeted and retweeted, and posted the occasional photo on instagram.

You made the experience what it was and I am quite honestly grateful for every single one you.

Thank YOU. For your enthusiasm, for your faith, for your willingness to show up and try something different and not do it perfectly. This, for me, is what Blogtoberfest is all about.

I could not have done any of this without Cam, whose beautiful blog button somehow encapsulates the whole Blogtoberfest12 experience for me: bright and moving. Thank you also for setting up the sign-up linky and providing a home base for 55 gorgeous giveaways.

I am also indebted to my 12 guest posters: Cherie, Paula, Alana, Fiona, Samara, Julie, Lee, Jennifer, Car, Monica, Anthea and Cathy. Thank you all so much for making Blogtoberfest12 a more global event (spanning five countries and three continents!) and bringing a whole lot of inspiration and insight to our community.

At some point very soon, I will be compiling all the posts that appeared on this blog during the month of Blogtober into a list with links, so that you can revisit the Blogtoberfest12 experience at any time.

So at this point you may be wondering: what's next?

Well, after you have given yourself permission to take a well-earned blogging break (and see if you can include a cup of tea, a great novel, a bubble bath, some dark chocolate and a massage/facial/mani/pedi in there!!) then there are a couple of opportunities coming up to reconnect.

Tomorrow on 1 November, my creative coach and Blogtoberfest12 guest blogger, Fiona (along with her husband Kaspalita) is hosting the inaugural Mindful Writing Day. All you need to do to be a part of it is blog, tweet or post to facebook a "small stone". Be sure to check out the sign-up details here. I know I'll be there, and look forward to sharing my small stone with you as well as savouring yours.

I will also be hosting #reverb here in December 2012. Like Blogtoberfest, #reverb invites you to blog every day, but the experience is a little gentler and more introspective. I'll be updating the details during the next few weeks, and will be sure to stop by the blogs of everyone who participated in Blogtoberfest12 to invite them personally to participate.

Until then, I am signing out and logging off and diving back in to my deranged de-cluttering project! Is is just me or does it really feel like it is the end of an era: that important things are coming to and end, and it's time to make way and open up for new things to begin?

Bisous to you during this powerful and poignant time.

Kat xx

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #30: Cathy invites you to let down your guard and let the light shine in

It's only fitting that today's guest post, the last guest prompt for Blogtoberfest12, should come from Cathy. As almost all of you will know, Cathy aka {tinniegirl} brought Blogtoberfest to life way back in 2008. Anyone who knows Cathy will know her as a talented artist, a wholehearted story teller and a brave dreamer. For me, she is also a mentor and inspiration.

I am still blown away in the trust and faith she showed in me in asking me to host Blogtoberfest in 2012. And I love the way she is -- in typically courageous Cathy style -- sharing with us here what led to her making that decision, and some of the unexpected benefits.

Since Kat asked me to write a guest post I’ve been pondering exactly what I might want to say as Blogtoberfest comes to a close for another year. And friendship is the topic that kept coming back to mind. In recent months I’ve learned a lot about friendship.

Like most of us, I am always juggling a million competing priorities and I want to be able to do it all. I never want to let anyone down and I find it so hard to withdraw from any commitment I make. In truth I have ridiculously high expectations of myself and I see any lapse in keeping all my balls in the air as a complete failure. It’s exhausting and this year, after five pretty full on years, the signs of burn-out have been ever present.

I hit September this year feeling absolutely exhausted and uninspired. Blogtoberfest was just around the corner. I kept trying to rally my passion. I knew that lots of people were looking forward to it and that I’d disappoint them if I didn’t make it happen. And so I kept trying to talk myself into it.

But in the end I couldn’t.

I sent Kat an email wondering if she might like to host it this year. She’d already offered to help out and I thought perhaps she might be willing to actually take the reigns completely. And luckily for all of us she said a great big YES.

It’s been an absolute gift to have Kat host Blogtoberfest this year. Not only has she done an absolutely amazing job, she’s given me the gift of knowing that I don’t have to do it all on my own.

It’s got me thinking about how I can do this more. In what other parts of my life can I acknowledge when I’m struggling and ask for help? How much do people assume that I’ve got it all sorted and I don’t need any help?

I’ve been practising with a couple of challenging situations that I’ve had to deal with lately, and I’ve been amazed at the response. I have good people in my life and if I’m willing to express my vulnerability and ask for help it’s very likely that I might get it, in abundance.

My invitation to you is to ask yourself what image do you project to the outside world, even your nearest and dearest? Could you perhaps let your guard down a little sometime and ask for help? Like me you might find that you receive the ultimate affirmation of friendship and love, and that it completely changes everything.

Thank you so much, as always Cathy, for your wise and generous insight. These are possibly THE most important questions we may ever have to ask ourselves. They present us with some tough truths about our own vulnerability, but pave the way for real and enduring connection.

I know I am not the only one who looks forward to being a part of Blogtoberfest in 2013. It's been an amazing ride in 2012 and it will be a privilege to stay connected, share the load and help to shine the light on this lovely community.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #29: Have you heard your word?

Did you choose a word for 2012? By that I mean, at the end of last year, did you alight on a word that would guide you through the new year? Perhaps the word would be something that you wanted to achieve, explore or invite more of into your life. Or perhaps it would be something to guide, inspire or fortify you. Or maybe it would just be a pleasant travelling companion, benign and reassuring that you're generally on the right track.

In 2011, my word for the year was "worthy". And it whupped my hide! I knew at the end of 2010 that the year ahead was going to require me to dig deep and face some painful truths. I also had an inkling that the challenge of stepping up to my own worthiness would be tougher than I cared to admit.

In 2012, my word was "savour". After a year of slog and struggle, I wanted to slow down and breathe. I wanted to really witness the fruits of my labour. I wanted to be more present, more open to emotions (both delicious and frightening), and wanted to spend more intentional time with my family.

I had the opportunity to connect more deeply with my word by making a vision board during a workshop guided by my dear friend Cathy. This vision board has sat on the windowsill of my study/studio ever since and I have looked at it every single day. It still gives me a great sense of pride and wonder, and more than a little excitement, in a way that only collage can. (A collage resonates for me in a way that is so much more than the sum of its parts.)

But I think that the vision board is a good way of thinking through what a word can do. I wouldn't say that I have mastered the art of savouring. In fact, I can easily point to at least a dozen points in any given day when I do the exact opposite of savouring. But "to savour" is not a goal, an end point, a To Do list. I haven't manifested every item that appears on my vision board, either.

That's the beauty of it.

By inviting a word to travel with you for a year -- and by going a step further and representing it visually -- I think that what you are really doing is giving yourself permission to explore something. It's a way of surrendering up to the universe something that you do not fully understand but intuitively know will yield something important and meaningful to you. It's a new lens through which to view your daily life, a private prayer, a fresh muscle to exercise, a secret reminder that there is so much more to you than meets the eye.

As our Blogtoberfest12 journey draws to a close, I am encouraging you to plant a seed. Looking back on the intention you set, all those moons ago on the first of this month, may help you to get a sense of what you're seeking. Like that intention, the beauty of this process is that does not lend itself to becoming a rod you can whup yourself with. I repeat: it's not a goal, an end point, a To Do list.

It's a path, a conversation, an opening, an opportunity.

Today, plant that seed in the greenhouse in the back of your mind. It might bloom straight away. Or it might take a while to receive the nourishment it needs to emerge.

What word word will choose you in 2013?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #28: Sunday Snippets

Each Sunday, I participate in Sunday Snippets, hosted by the lovely {tinniegirl}.  The beauty of this challenge is that it’s all images: no words required. And, as with yesterday’s gratitude practice, it's a wonderful way to ensure that I keep my eyes peeled for the tiny moments that make memories.


 All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

[P.S. Forgive me for posting such uninspiring photos and a day late, at that! I've been off the grid, knee-deep in dust in the name of de-cluttering, and discovering that it's a slippery slope from off the grid to off my rocker. That said, the power of deep excavation is not to be underestimated... watch this space!]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #27: Saturday is for savouring

Each Saturday, I play along with 52 weeks of grateful, hosted by my marvellous friend Maxabella. I consider this my weekly gratitude practice and love the way it entices me to keep my eyes open all week for clues as to what really makes me come alive. 

All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

This week, I have been grateful for:

1. My little 'un's exuberance in the midst of crazy unpredictable weather (and squelchy wet socks!).

2. This gorgeous shining example of marching to the beat of your own drum by the always-delightful Kirsty aka kootoyoo (via Ms Magnificent Maxabella).

3. My sister's recipe for mango, fetta and avocado salad, with a drizzle of olive oil, lime juice and zest, with pumpkin & sunflower seeds. Heaven! And so addictive.

4. Making a start on a massive de-cluttering project, including the purchase of over twenty clear storage boxes!! Committing to pacing myself, but vowing to leave not a single stone unturned. Anything without practical purpose or sentimental value will be finding a new home... clearing space for a fresh creative outlook in the new year.

5. Terrific time management strategies, courtesy of Kate Swoboda aka Kate Courageous.

6. Booking a ticket to see Beach House in the new year. Gorgeous, huh?!

7. The goodwill and flexibility of a range of people in my life in accommodating new working arrangements that will make my life so much easier.

8. The succulent sounds of this tribute to Philip Glass, courtesy of the inimitable Brain Picker.

9. Finishing a massive, high-stakes review report at work. It's practically all I have been working on since the end of April and it's taken a lot of my intuitive ingenuity, writing talent, organisational prowess and negotiation skills to get it done... making me question whether this is really where I want to expend my creative energies. (A good question to be asking at this stage in my life.)

10. An inkling of what my word for 2013 might be.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #26: A Spoonful of sweetness and an invitation to get personal

Today's guest post is a real treat: some insider tips from Anthea, the founder and editor of Spoonful zine! Spoonful is a tiny tome that punches way above its weight in terms of quality writing, sumptuous design, inspiring projects and heartfelt sentiment. I have been a huge fan ever since first issue, am a proud subscriber, and was privileged to have my words appear in Issue Seven.

As we are nearing the end of Blogtoberfest12 (and the incentive that the blogging festival "structure" provides will disappear), I asked Anthea to share with us how she keeps going on her blog, and what draws her back to her favourite blogs.

Well, I always think it's good to think of it from a reader's perspective and be consistent. Hilarious that this is my advice, as I've been very naughty this year, due to travels and illness, however, one can aim high! :) 

When I visit a blog it's frustrating to get there and find nothing has changed... again. I love for it to be consistent whether it's always updated on a Tuesday, a Friday, every two days or every day. It's a good practice to get into for a blogger, to have a structure to adhere to. Plus it's a pleasure reading a blogger who's always there when they say they're going to be.

Of course it's not always possible -- my year has been a perfect example of how "not" to blog -- but if it is, then that should be the aim!

There are so many of us blogging out there, which is fantastic! But I find there's loads of repetition too. I love the blogs that show me more of their writer's inner-workings or thoughts or projects or selves. 

At Spoonful, how we do this is by getting each of our bloggers to write about subjects they're passionate about. For example, our poet Hannah Stephenson loves to sing and create music, so she has a regular post about music and her experiences of it. 

As I create Spoonful issues, I come across topics and ideas that intrigue me and so I write about those. Sure it won't be for everybody: when it's personal like this, some will love it and others hate it. But at the end of the day, it won't be the same image going around. We're writing to share something we're interested in or passionate about. Usually when I read a blogger that does this, it's far more intriguing to me.

So: consistency and making it personal. Those would be my blogging tips :)

Thanks for having me here: I look forward to reading everyone's perspective.

Thanks, Thea! You must have to read a lot of blogs, so we appreciate your perspective! [PS How cute are you in the photo above?!]

I am very interested that Thea mentions her penchant for the personal perspective. I write a fair bit of personal stuff on my blog, but I know some people don't like writing or reading personal stuff. Some of my blogging friends work very hard to keep it "sunny side up" but then notice what an incredible response they get when they open up about something they've found challenging.

Not that all personal blogging has to be negative but I think we do carry assumptions that if we tell the truth then people will say, "Get over yourself, sad sack, and stop whinging! Can't you see all you have to be grateful for?". But that's usually just our own inner critics working on overdrive.

So today, you are warmly invited to consider: how could you infuse your blog with more of your magnificent self?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #25: Monica invites your creative beast out to play

Today's guest post is very close to my heart, as it was written by the very first person ever to discover my blog and comment on my fourth ever post! Monica, aka The Creative Beast, has since become a dear friend and someone I often turn to for support and inspiration, especially when it comes to the joys and challenges of living the life creative.

It was actually Monica who introduced me to Cathy, aka {tinniegirl}, who started Blogtoberfest and who invited me to host it this year. Monica had emailed me to say that she was about to attend a retreat in California with an artist who also lived in Melbourne, and duly put us in touch: the irony being that Cathy lived less than three kilometres from my home! So if it wasn't for Monica all the way over in LA, I would never have known that there was a kindred living a stone's throw away... and you wouldn't be reading this!

Thanks you Monica, for everything, but especially for these inspiring words:

The postcard above is one of several that make up my collection of graphic art promo postcards, which I began to collect back in the 1990s. I loved this image and the quote that were put together: something about it really stuck in my mind at the time and it was a manifesto of sorts for a number of years. Over time, though, it eventually moved to the back burner of my memory.

Until recently, when Kat asked me to contribute a guest post for Blogtoberfest.

I remembered this postcard, the image and the quote it held. This postcard still holds a great deal of meaning for me and I want to share it with you today.

I was always struck by the image of the clown in a straight-jacket. I was also struck by the look on his face. Despite the colorful makeup and a painted smile, this clown always looked rather sad to me. The underlying message always seemed to say that if you DON'T play it safe on the "sanity playground" (i.e. "play by the rules") with everyone else, you will be punished and indeed this message is a subtle and often insidious one for artists.

And yet, time and again, I constantly come across stories of people who were miserable and unhappy until they finally allowed the creative joy of ART and the making of it into their lives.

It seems to me that SANITY (playing safe) actually brings on misery and unhappiness!

I say the antidote is to bring more PLAYFULNESS, ART and CREATIVITY into our lives, as so many people are finally learning for themselves.

Ever since I discovered this old postcard, so many years ago, I have tried everyday to have some creative activity or sense of play in my life one way or another. It has brought wonderful and varied experiences such as working for amazing companies as Jim Henson Creature Shop and Disney Imagineering; writing and performing my own stories onstage; learning book binding; learning various techniques in mixed media and collage; learning advanced and unique jewelry techniques from amazing artists, discovering the world of art journaling, and finally gaining courage to begin and continue with my own blog, which has brought so many wonderful creative artists from different corners of the planet into my life (such as Kat!).

It has taken me many, MANY years to be able to claim to the world at large that I am indeed an Artist, but I have always known in my heart of hearts, since childhood, that I am an Artist. Whether or not I will be successful earning my living as an Artist is still a work in progress, but living my life as an Artist, as a CREATIVE BEAST, is something that I will do until my dying day.

I simply can not imagine living a life without ART, CREATIVITY and PLAYFULNESS in it.

Can you??

Today, inspired my Monica's marvellous example, how could you invite more art, creativity and -- perhaps most importantly -- play into your life?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #24: Worthiness Wednesday #77 It would be a privilege to assist you (and don't you forget it)

I've been struggling to work out what my "superpower" is. Other people seem to have nailed this, even to the point of distilling them down to pithy one-liners. But, despite ongoing efforts, I don't feel any closer to being able to answer the question: What do you do? with any great succinctness. Even in my day job, when I am in a senior specialist role for which I am credentialed out the wazoo.

Last year, I purchased a splendid workbook called Operation: Creative Career Cheer. I had a terrific time working through the exercises and learnt a lot about myself along the way.

Until I got to one of the tasks, that required consulting two trusted pals for perspective. I tentatively emailed the two gals closest to me in my life, asking them to answer the handful of questions about me. Things like: What do I rock at? How do I inspire you? And so on.

They never replied.

Which is OK. I mean, they were busy and one confided that she didn't feel she was in the right headspace to respond at the time I sent the email. I get that.

A few months ago, I had a wonderful skype session with my creative coach, Fiona. I was telling her about how I was in the process of organising a meeting with a publisher and how I was hoping to convince her to add me to "the books" i.e. the team of writers she calls upon when a title or series needs commissioning.

Fiona listened patiently, then shared that she had been "watching the shapes my face made" as I recounted my story. I knew exactly what she meant: that self-deprecating schtick I do when I am trying to downplay my offerings, protect myself from rejection. She noted, "It seems to do your work a disservice. It would be a privilege to publish your work, and to work with you."

This got me thinking.

When I sent out that email to my two gal pals, I probably didn't really show how keenly I wanted their insights. It was only me, only a silly request, it wasn't a priority, and it didn't matter if they responded, right? I'm not sure why I was surprised at the outcome.

This week, I invite you to think about the help you have been asking for. See if you can reframe it, so that it's clear exactly why you need that help and why it is so important that you receive it. And before you pick up that phone or press send on the email/SMS/tweet/blog post, take a deep breath and remind yourself: you are worthy of assistance.

You know that if it were the other way around, you would jump to assist. And the people you're asking know it too. Step in and step up to this. You are equal to all. You are perfectly entitled to assistance, safe in the knowledge you are asking with love in your heart.

And it would be truly a privilege to assist you in bringing that love out into the world.

Those of you playing along with Blogtoberfest12 might be new to Worthiness Wednesday. Don't be shy! Basically, it's a weekly prompt where I share my musings about the word "worthy" and my journey to understand what self-worth means to me. You are most welcome to respond on your own blog, share your thoughts in the comments below, or just let the prompt marinate in your mind for a wee while.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #23: Car's blogging passion

Today's guest post comes from the lovely Car, who blogs at Carrose Creations and has been participating in Blogtoberfest since its inception in 2008. I couldn't go past the opportunity to ask Car how she keeps her blogging mojo up, with over five years and almost 1,000 posts under her belt!

When Kat asked if I wanted to do a guest post, I jumped at the chance. I then sat and stared at a blank screen that mocked me. Blog posts and words flow freely when it comes to my own little corner of the blogosphere but doing something to feature on someone else's blog… oh my... I started to quake in my boots!

What could I write about that would be remotely interesting? Then I remembered I was nearing that magic 1,000 figure (if all goes well.. I will be hitting publish on that post early NEXT week) and I thought I could share with you why I blog. What keeps me going after 1,000 blog posts. How I continue to find topics to post about. How I managed to already draft potential blog posts for Blogtober and now have more than enough without life providing more blog-fodder!

Back in 2007 after keeping an online journal on a baby website I realised that my family who live a fair distance weren't getting to see me each week as my belly progressively grew bigger. Blogging seemed to be the perfect option to keep everyone in the loop and keep me busy after I quit my full time job to become a stay at home mum.

Somewhere along the way I discovered a love of quilting and crafts, and created my crafty blog. At first I blogged mainly about my somewhat dubious creations. And it evolved from there. These days with more time on my hands to craft, I write about anything that seems remotely interesting to me. Some days you will find (obligatory) pictures of my coffee. Others I will be sharing my drawings. Art journalling, sewing, quilting and writing.

I would suggest to anyone wanting to start and maintain a blog, to write about their passion. 

Write what interests you. If you and blogging are meant to be, it will become a part of your being and it won't be a chore. It will become something you WANT to do. Something you NEED to do. And the beauty of that is you will find the time to do it. 

My blog is my own little happy, fluffy place in the world. There have been times in the past that my life wasn't all picture perfect, but I did what any good blogger does: I went and started another blog! 

Thanks, Car for this wonderful advice! I love the way you use blogging as incentive to "keep your eyes open", and am always delighted to come across another crafty coffee-loving mama! (Especially love your crochet blankie, pictured above.)

Friends, as we embark on the home stretch and our last seven days of blogging together, you are invited to think about the role of blogging in your life, going forward. What are the gifts it brings? What are the things you find yourself drawn to say? How does it represent the parts of you that are truly you?

And if you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, frustrated at the limited time you have at your disposal to blog, or prohibited by the availability of particular software/hardware/internet access, or just at a point where you are wondering why you blog at all... then you also have permission and a safe space to allow it to unravel and see what's holding you back.

Wherever you find yourself, Car's words are an important reminder that it is your space, you make the rules and it needs to work for you! And if all else fails, you are allowed to start over.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #22: Know that you are connected to everything

As those of you who witnessed my contribution to yesterday's Sunday Snippets may have gathered, I did not make it out of my jammies all weekend. I had all good intentions: there was a party to attend, errands to run, things to do, sunshine to be savoured, calls to be made.

Tummy cramps were a pretty good incentive to stay snuggled in with a hot water bottle, a cup of tea and a great book. But some weekends are just like that, so I decided to go with it and gave myself permission to pike out of pretty much everything except for hanging with my husband and daughter.

I read Lilly Brett's Lola Bensky in practically one sitting. I'm not sure I could write a review that would do the book justice, but I wanted to share that passages like this made me cry:

"What do you mope about?" said Lola.

"A feeling of emptiness, a feeling of loneliness, a feeling that I'm not good enough," Janis Joplin.

"Not good enough at what?" said Lola.

"Not good enough at anything," said Janis Joplin.

Lola felt sad. She recognised something about the sadness that Janis Joplin was talking about, the loneliness Janis Joplin was talking about. It would take Lola decades to feel her own loneliness. She didn't know she was lonely. Se knew she was fat. And she knew she was hungry.

Lilly Brett really was a music journalist in London and New York in the late 1960s. The extent to which Lola's experiences matched Lilly's actual encounters is probably not the point: they feel real. Sure, they closely match what has been documented elsewhere about the offstage personalities of Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, Sonny and Cher, and Janis Joplin (among others). But they also take on a special poignance when viewed through the lens of a shy, serious girl who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

The Holocaust stories, the burdens of those who survived, make for heavy going.

But it was the inner struggles of the woman narrating that struck the deepest chord with me. The insecure, intense girl who: interviewed Jimi Hendrix whilst mentally calculated how many calories she'd eaten that day; competed with Mama Cass for the cruellest comments about her weight inflicted by her parents; invited Janis Joplin to share a moment unmasked.

I was a beautiful reminder that whoever we are and wherever we've been -- whether we've been brutalised by humanity, or witnessed artists in their ascendancy -- we're not all that far apart.

Today, as you're going about your everyday business, I invite you to take a moment to stop, breathe and really feel where you are. And know that your struggles (however small or huge or idiosyncratic or unbelievable), as well as your joys (however crazy or fleeting or majestic or domestic), are universal and eternal.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #21: Sunday Snippets

Each Sunday, I participate in Sunday Snippets, hosted by the lovely {tinniegirl}.  The beauty of this challenge is that it’s all images: no words required. And, as with yesterday’s gratitude practice, it's a wonderful way to ensure that I keep my eyes peeled for the tiny moments that make memories.

All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #20: Saturday is for savouring

Each Saturday, I play along with 52 weeks of grateful, hosted by my marvellous friend Maxabella. I consider this my weekly gratitude practice and love the way it entices me to keep my eyes open all week for clues as to what really makes me come alive. 

All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

This week, I have been grateful for:

1. Signing up for Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar program for the eight weeks before Christmas. At the same time, being urged to test my intentions by the sagely sound Kate Swoboda. Knowing that I am in a good place with this: open to the challenge, stepping into the learning, but not trying to "fix" myself.

2.  This marvellous horoscope from Ron Brezsny:

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): If you asked me to be your personal advisor, I would prescribe supplements and herbs to build up your immune system. I'd insist that you eat nothing but healthy food and get at least eight hours of sleep every night. I'd suggest that you meditate daily on images that symbolize your most inspiring desires. For fun, I might even advise you to do a ritual in which you create a big circle around yourself using violet yarn and then do a series of playful acts to pump up your freedom, like dancing as wildly as you know how and chanting "love is my creator". Finally, Gemini, if you sought my counsel, I'd urge you to use your exuberant imagination in concert with your disciplined intellect as you design a long-term plan to charge up your well-being.

3. Staring to open up about my plans for next year, as I gently put things into place in order to realise a long-held dream. Tapping in to incredible resources, including an almost-two-hour skype with my pal Philippa in the UK. Fortified by signs from the Universe, like the one above. Yeah!

4. My little sister's beautiful blog post about big sisters! Love.

5. Having a little adventure with my little 'un one afternoon. Catching the bus to our favourite independent bookstore, so that we could buy her a copy of "Pippa Legstocking" (!!). Loving how she entertained herself with the wooden train set while I browsed the shelves.

6. Savouring the new sounds of my favourite women artists: Lisa Mitchell, Martha Wainwright, Cat Power, Antony Hergarty.

7. Splurging on a very special -- completely breathtaking -- book: Oscar Wilde's The Nightingale and The Rose, illustrated by Del Kathryn Barton. I will be savouring this for life. And I have just discovered that there will soon be a short exhibition of the paintings from this book at Heide, which presents the perfect excuse for me to visit (can't believe I've never been!).

8. Identifying a moment during the week, a tipping point, where my confidence evaporated and the familiar glumness started to kick in. Deciding to be honest and share this with my beloved, even if it didn't make full sense to either of us (and even if I wasn't brave enough to share the full extent of my vulnerability). It felt like a start. And the fog started to clear almost right away.

9. Yoga and tarot? Yes please!

10. My little 'un closing the door of my study/studio just now, so I could have some "quiet time". She's the best, honestly.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #19: Jennifer spies the sacred in the everyday

Today's guest prompt comes from artist, poet and dear dear friend Jennifer Valentine. Jennifer makes the most exquisite jewellery and whimsical assemblages from found treasures, available through her online shoppe so fittingly called Sacred Cake.

I love how Jennifer's post reminds us that a camera lens can give us a whole new perspective on our everyday world and invite us to slow down and notice the beauty that is always there:

When I am having a rough day, sometimes use my camera lens as a way to focus my mind on the things around me that are simple and beautiful. I become mindful of what is around me which brings me out of myself, as I seek the sacred in the ordinary things that become elevated to sacredness through my lens. 

There is no need for a fancy camera. I use an old point and shoot!

I find my joy, wherever it is that day: in the dancing shadows of leaves on old plates on the dining room wall; in a favorite song or album played over and over for a little while; writing a quick postcard to someone I'm thinking of; even ironing vintage linens.

And in the joy of creating just a little something that day... even if it is just a made bed!

Reading this last line, makes me want to jump up and down shouting, YES! We are all artists of our lives... even if all we manage to "make" in a given day is our bed.

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for the beauty and wisdom you share every day.

Friends, where is the sacred nestled in amongst your every day, just waiting for you to notice?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #18: Lee's rocking chair memories

Today's guest prompt comes from Lee, a lovely lass I met in Mondo Beyondo so many moons ago, who blogs at sleepeybear's spot. I love reading Lee's gratitude lists, and glimpsing her scrapbooking creations... and was delighted to see recently that she succumbed to temptation to play in a Smash Journal (how addictive and fun are they?)!

Lee's post today reminds us how seemingly everyday objects can become imbued with memories of special times and people so dear to us... and how spending time with these objects can give rise to very powerful stories:

In the Charlotte (North Carolina, USA) airport, there are these delightful white rocking chairs gathered in small seating areas throughout the terminals. Occasionally, I even have the chance to sit and relax in one for a little while. 

But beyond serving as fun seating, those rocking chairs always make me think of friendship – because if I’m in CLT, I am most likely on my way to see one or more friends.

More recently, they remind me of this time a year ago, when my three dearest friends planned a surprise girls’ weekend for me. 

En route from her home in North Carolina to our gathering spot in Ohio, my friend "Baker Blonde" got to sit in one of the rocking chairs while she waited at CLT for her connecting flight. Since she knew I liked rocking chairs, her first thought when she sat down was to text me and gloat about sitting in one – until she realized that would give away the surprise.

So now, what looks like a plain ol’ rocking chair to most people is, for me, a lovely reminder of how dear my friends are and how blessed I am to have the ability to visit with them from time to time, no matter the distance.

What item that most people consider normal or everyday has special significance for you?

I look forward to hearing your versions of rocking chair memories. In the meantime, I am marvelling that there's an airport somewhere that is thoughtful enough to provide rocking chairs to soothe the souls of weary travellers!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #17: Worthiness Wednesday #76 What I want to tell you

I really want to tell you why I'm later than usual in posting this prompt. I really want to tell you but, in truth, there's no especially good reason. Today, life just overtook me.

I really want to tell you how amazed I am by the [almost] 330 bloggers who have signed up for Blogtoberfest12. I am still working my way through the list, committed to visiting every participant at least once during the course of the month. I really want to tell you how humbled I am by everyone's efforts, especially those of you who are not doing it perfectly -- because life just overtakes us all from time to time -- but you are showing up anyway.

I really want to tell you that this saying of Mary Anne Radmacher's is ringing in my ears right now:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow'.”

I really want to tell you that I have been thinking a lot about last week's Worthiness Wednesday post and suspecting that I got a little too caught up in my own rhetoric. I know this partly comes from growing up in a cultured, academic household and the love of beautiful words that has been so deeply instilled in me. But I am learning to see how this also places a distance, a filter between that finely crafted abstract concept and the less neat, unpretty and somewhat complex truth that is nestled deep in my heart.

I really want to tell you that this week I have been very hungry. And I really want to tell you that this week I have been eating a lot. Even though I know that I am not hungry for food. And even though I know that physical hunger does not mean I am being punished or rejected, even though somewhere along the line, my wires got crossed and this seems to be how my brain interprets growling signals from my stomach.

I really want to tell you that I saw Antony & the Johnsons perform Swanlights last week and it was one of the holiest things I have ever experienced. Halfway through the show, I found myself rummaging through my bag, in a desperate search for tissues, tears streaming down my cheeks.

I really want to tell you that a douchebag sitting three seats along from me was recording the show on his camera, despite being politely but firmly instructed to stop (twice!) by the usher. It pains me to say it, but it was all  could do to stop myself from punching his swanlights out.

I really want to tell you that Antony's song Rapture may have changed me forever. I really want to tell you that I now understand how exquisite grief can be, and how the entire universe exists in a single drop of rain, and how the world is pregnant and mysterious and endlessly delightful.

I really want to tell you that I have always known that I only inhabit the "real world" of others on the margins. And this suits me perfectly, when I have such a lush and inviting inner world.

I really want to tell you that, sometimes, the dance on the periphery is joyful and spacious and maybe a little defiant. And that, ironically, these are the times when I interact most healthily and authentically with other people's worlds (no matter how counterintuitive that sounds).

I don't think I need to tell you that this dance can be lonely. And confusing. And it's times like these that I forget, and assume my feelings mean that I am lost and I need to find my way back to some kind of cardboard cutout of what my life is supposed to look like.

I really want to tell you that my space -- physical and psychical -- feels overwhelmingly cluttered.

I really want to tell you that Julie's post from yesterday really got me thinking about how I could really connect to my true self. I really want to tell you that an hour, an Osho zen tarot reading, a string of mala beads, a moment to photograph the roses in my front garden, a candle, all windows wide open and inviting the breeze, one exquisite song, some furious scribbling in my journal, a lot of sweet salty tears, and a trip to my favourite bookstore was all I really needed.

My friends, wherever you are -- and especially if you inhabit the margins -- please know that there are times when your footing will be a little wobbly. And there are times when your hungers may totally overtake you. These two things are likely connected.

I really want to tell you that it is possible to (re)connect to yourself in the most profound way, just by doing the simplest things. Even Especially if these things don't make any sense to other people.

And, if you're anything like me and forget who you are and what you love in that precise moment of wobbliness -- and it can take a while for the resulting fog to lift -- then what I really REALLY want to tell you is that you really can just show up. And try again tomorrow.

This post was inspired by a writing exercise shared by Laurie Wagner in the Re:connect e-course. Powerful stuff, and highly recommended (both the exercise and the course!).

Those of you playing along with Blogtoberfest might be new to Worthiness Wednesday. Don't be shy! Basically, it's a weekly prompt where I share my musings about the word "worthy" and my journey to understand what self-worth means to me. You are most welcome to respond on your own blogs, share your thoughts in the comments below, or just let the prompt marinate in your mind for a wee while.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #16: Julie invites you to unleash your true self

Today's guest prompt comes from mixed media artist Julie Gibbons, who lives in Scotland. I first came across Julie's powerful and mesmerising work via instagram, and was totally intrigued by her philosophy and process.

We are so lucky to have Julie share her secret to connecting to her true self today, as her wild woman definitely shines through her art journals.

If you were to write down your daily activities, how many of those would be categorised “being my true self”?

I don’t know how it is in your corner of the world, but I feel like each day I’m fighting obligations and expectations to carve out time for me to spend time with the wild woman I know myself to be.

So today, I wanted to get in touch with her before I tackled my daily to-do’s. To give my true self a chance to appear before the day chased her away.

1. I practised a short yoga nidra before I’d even got out of bed.
2. I ate my breakfast whilst listening to a CD of Rumi’s love poems set to music (I may have danced a little, too.)
3. I took half an hour to read some of the book I keep meaning to read at bedtime but don’t manage because I fall asleep too quickly.

Quite small steps in the grand scheme of things, but it is precisely these wee things that can add up to a more significant unleashing. And it is precisely these wee things that we so often overlook as we go about our daily business.

What three steps could you take today to get in touch with your true self? (If you’ve no problem unleashing yourself on a daily basis, can you think of three new steps you can take today to shake things up a little?)

Thank you, Julie!

Friends, how could you coax out your wild woman to play today? For more inspiration, be sure to check out Julie's vlog at Kind Over Matter. Yum!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #15: Manifest the season

In her marvellous book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in her entry for 1 September:

It seems to me that January resolutions are about will; September resolutions are about authentic wants.

What do you want more or less of in your life, so that you can love the life you're leading? It could be as simple as seeing friends more often, setting aside time to have adventures with your children while they still want your companionship, calling a solitary hour a day your own, or just taking more walks in the dazzling sunshine.

The beauty of autumnal resolutions is that no one else knows we're making them. Autumnal resolutions don't require horns, confetti, and champagne. September resolutions ask only that we be open to positive change.

I can try to do that. So can you.

Regardless of the hemisphere you're in, I suspect you'd agree that it's a slippery slope to the holiday season from here. The rest of 2012 is about to disappear into a whirlpool of end-of-year concerts, final reports, gift buying and family politics (er, I mean, "quality time").

Whether you are sinking into the rhythms of Autumn or emerging into the fragranced light of Spring, now is a wonderful time to think about what you would like to invite into your life as the calendar year draws to a close.

As Sarah so wisely reminds us, it doesn't have to be (in fact, it shouldn't be) a To Do list, or a string of aspirations you are likely to punish yourself for not achieving. It's about listening to the whispers of your heart, the yearnings of your soul, and the true needs of your body, and pondering ways you could be open to these.

At the beginning of September this year, I compiled my own Spring Manifesto. It is pictured above, and you can read the words here. I actually slapped this collage together on the kitchen bench while my daughter -- who was unwell at the time -- enjoyed a snack and some "down time" in front of a DVD. I did it with little thought or premeditation, but with a gentle prayer that permeated every cell in my body.

I wanted to invite a sense of ease into my life. I wanted wellness. And I wanted FUN.

I have to say, it is working for me beautifully. I have managed to incorporate most of the things into my life, because I actually really want to. I feel good every time I look at this little inspiration board, and I think that has as much to do with the spaciousness of its intent as the aesthetic. It is not so much about what I want To Do as how I want To Feel.

How do you want to feel, as you slide into the silly season? What feelings would you like to invite into your life? How could you honour these feelings, in your journal, in some fun slap-dash art, in your crafting?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and witnessing your feelings.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #14: Sunday Snippets (and Pram Cam's return!)

Each Sunday, I participate in Sunday Snippets, hosted by the lovely {tinniegirl}.  The beauty of this challenge is that it’s all images: no words required. And, as with yesterday’s gratitude practice, is a wonderful way to ensure that you keep your eyes peeled during the week for the tiny moments that make memories.

All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

PS [Breaking the "no words" rule again, sorry!] This week, I'd encourage you to switch things up a bit, especially if you are feeling like you always take photos of the same things or want to give yourself an extra challenge. I found that by handing my camera over to my three-and-a-half year old during a recent holiday, I was gifted with a whole new perspective on our world.

Who knew that such interesting stuff happened at hip height?!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #13: Savour your Saturday

Each Saturday, I play along with 52 weeks of grateful, hosted by my marvellous friend Maxabella. I consider this my weekly gratitude practice and love the way it entices me to keep my eyes open all week for clues as to what really makes me come alive. 

All Blogtoberfest12 participants are warmly invited to join in and link up!

This week, I have been grateful for:

1. Great reads! I have a zillion books on the go at the moment, but the main three are: Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home; Pamela Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation; and Brené Brown's Daring Greatly. Savouring every morsel of these terrific books (though looking forward to diving into a novel when these are done...!).

2. This beautiful interview with songstress Clare Bowditch on happiness.

3. Realising that I have been waiting for validation and permission to put a plan into action... when, really, the only person who can authorise me is me. Scary and exciting and liberating all at once!

4. My little 'un having a sleep over at my parents' place, to her (and their) delight. The added bonus of a date night with good food and great conversation, and time to myself to catch up and plan (and play!) the next morning.

5. Fairy lights! Giving our hearth a warm, festive, slightly magical glow.

6. My creative coach Fiona has, with her husband, edited and published an anthology of "small stones". So beautiful, it will make you weep! And it will actually be available free during Mindful Writing Day on 1 November (how delicious does that sound?)!

7. This heavenly small film on glassblowing in Brooklyn via the ever-inspiring Brainpicker.

8. Vitamins and happy herbs, courtesy of my wonderful Naturopath. Feeling good.

9. Reading about the INFJ profile and seeing myself, completely. And finding myself in good company (hello, Oprah!).

10. Discovering a group of Australian teenage girls who are blogging with such courage and creativity. Reading their words and savouring their art journals gives me such hope for the future of this country, and the world. (I would love to link to them here, so you could all witness their magnificence, but I don't have their permission and would not wish to violate their privacy. But just wanted you to know that it's happening out there, and it is so beautiful. Sigh.)

What are you grateful for this week?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #12: Samara's photo challenge

Today's guest post is something a little different: a 14 day photo challenge! Samara is a sister Blogtoberfest participant who blogs at Maddabling and who also took the beautiful photo above.

Here is what she has to say about her wonderful event:

The Maddabling Blogtoberfest 14 Day Photo Challenge starts on Saturday 13 October (tomorrow!).

It combines a love of blogging, photography and music, based on album titles from the Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time as compiled by Triple J radio station. 

The only rule is all photos must be taken on the day (i.e. no holiday pics from a couple of years ago!)/ The challenge is in the immediacy and working with what you've got!

If you wish to participate, you will be required to post your photo or a public link to your photo each day on the Maddabling facebook page. Samara willl then put each day's photos up on the Maddabling blog.

Here's a list of the photo challenge for each day:

Thanks Samara! What a fantastic idea for a challenge and a great way for folks to keep their blogging mojo up. Have fun happy snapping!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #11: Fiona's dive into nature

Today's guest post comes courtesy of my creative coach Fiona Robyn. Fiona lives in Malvern in the UK and is a writer, a psychotherapist, a coach and a committed and practicing Buddhist.

Recently, I participated in one of Fiona's Creative Intensives, which included a daily email, a small closed community forum and a suite of coaching calls via skype. I can highly recommend this e-course if you need help, like I did, focusing your creative energies and getting a special project started (or finished!).

Fiona kindly gave me permission to share one of my favourite prompts from the Creative Intensives below:

How often do you manage to connect with nature?

I’m counting the care you give your pot plants, and your walk to work where you notice the pink flowers in the cracks in the pavement. I’m counting when you gaze through the window at the sky.

Notice nature around you as you go through your day today.

Approach scraps of nature (or treat yourself to a walk in the woods or a swim in the sea) with as much "depth" as you can.

Thanks Fiona! As we progress through our blogging intensive, one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is log off and go outside, particularly if we're feeling stuck or stale. A short walk outside (or even a few moments with a house plant!) can yield a myriad of inspirations.

Looking forward to seeing how spending time in nature enriched your writing today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blogtoberfest Day #10: Worthiness Wednesday #75 Feed your soul hunger

I have a sweet tooth.

I am the girl that can inhale her body weight in chocolate. I am greedy, can't control myself, am not to be trusted around sweet treats. I am the girl with the perennially podgy tummy.

Well, that's always been my story.

Particularly once I started living on my own, enjoying a regular income, with a lot of spare time on my hands. Suddenly, I had unfettered access to all the sweet treats my heart desired. And I learnt that the ache of loneliness, stress and overwhelm could be numbed with M&Ms and salt & vinegar crisps, washed down with red wine and episode after episode of Law & Order.

Unsurprisingly, that's when the battle between body and brain began in earnest. The need for comfort versus the need to be thin/accepted/loveable.

The vicious cycle that so many women know.

After nigh on two years of therapy, I am at a body weight I am quite happy with. In fact, I don't really know how much I weigh. I just know my clothes aren't too tight and I don't feel so sluggish. I am not thin by any stretch of the imagination and that tummy of mine will always be on the podgy side.

And, of course, I still crave sweet treats from time to time (some times stronger than others).

But do you know what made the difference?

Realising that craving sweet treats was not actually hunger for junk food. It was hunger for something else: connection. Connection to my self. Connection to the things that make my heart sing.

Soul hunger.

Once I started feeding this -- with writing and journalling and music and artmaking and walking and yoga and guided meditations and theatre and brave discussions with loved ones and giving myself permission to be wherever I was -- then I realised that no amount of chocolate would ever heal that wound. (The one that Anne Lamott so brilliantly called her "God-shaped hole".)

And it seems counter-intuitive, but I also saw that once I started really connecting to my self, it was much easier to truly connect with others.

But you know what, I also realised that this new knowledge -- about where my need for comfort food had come from and why -- could be used as an ally rather than an enemy.

Recently, I found myself in a high-adrenaline frenzy, psyching myself up for an unpleasant encounter. With a tremendous amount of effort, I worked my way towards the date and time of the confrontation, activating all the self-care mechanisms I had at my disposal.

That morning, I did not eat breakfast. Knowing that a sweet treat would trigger those old numbing feelings, I held off until I got to work then bought myself an almond croissant and coffee. Then I sat at my desk and savoured every single crispy crumb. It felt like a reward. It was relief. I was heavenly.

I'm not going to do this every day. And I don't think the croissant would have meant much had I not worked so hard to ensure that I had other support mechanisms in place (in the form of supportive friends, powerful mantras and carefully chosen talismans).

But that day I realised that some of the habits I had long been ashamed of and tried so hard to stamp out may in fact be assets in times of need.

So, this week, I invite you to consider: what are you truly hungry for? And, when you do find yourself on the starving side of life, how could you use the things that have traditionally brought you comfort (be it food, mindlessly trawling the internet, impulse shopping, whatever) in a strategic and mindful and guilt-free way?

Because if there's one thing I now know, it's that you sure deserve comfort... deep in your soul.

Those of you playing along with Blogtoberfest might be new to Worthiness Wednesday. Don't be shy! Basically, it's a weekly prompt where I share my musings about the word "worthy" and my journey to understand what self-worth means to me. You are most welcome to respond on your own blogs, share your thoughts in the comments below, or just let the prompt marinate in your mind for a wee while.