Friday, March 28, 2008

MindHabits - Need A Little Boost To Your Self Esteem?

I grew more and more intrigued as I listened to a Public Radio broadcast about the power of our subconscious mind. What we think and don't even realize we are thinking shapes how we see the world. My subconscious thought processes help me decide what kind of world I live in and how I think people see me. Is the world a happy or cruel place? Do people like me or am I always left out of the fun? Interesting stuff, the games our mind will play with us.

So let's play a game with it and train ourselves to think more clearly and respond quickly to positive social feedback instead of focusing on and expecting negative reactions. MindHabits is an online game you can play for free or download the full version for a small fee. In just five minutes a day you can retrain your mind to boost your self-esteem and lower your stress levels. The researchers say that this game has been shown to lower stress producing levels of cortisol in the players blood, thereby helping us feel better.

I've been playing for the past few days and I can see a difference. All you have to do is focus finding the smiling face in the crowd and click on it as quickly as you can. I've cut my time in half and I've noticed that I hardly even see the frowning faces any more. It's like they have less value to me. The first few times I played I grew frustrated because all I saw were unhappy people staring at me but that is changing. Now I think of the smiling faces as my friends and I kind of have a crush on the peaceful looking guy in the hat...big smile.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We Are Truly One - More Than The Sum Of Our Parts

While I was away on vacation something wonderful happened - America was reminded that we are a nation of people of all races, creeds, religions, and world view. We are a mixture of all of these. We, as a nation, are not black, white, red, yellow, green or blue. We are the most gorgeous hues of every color God created.

America was reminded that we do not all think alike and each school of thought has been labeled, boxed and sorted in an effort to keep America divided. But that's okay because under our box lids (in our hearts) we harbor the common goal of prosperity and fullness of life for all.

America was reminded that we are more alike that different, that we are all imperfect beings working for a more perfect union - a nation that reflects our goodness instead of our fears.

I listened to Barack Obama speak and read the full context of his speech with tears in my eyes. Never before have I been so touched by a politician's words. For so long I've railed against the smiling politicians who told me only what they thought I wanted to hear no matter their true convictions. For so long I've sneered at political figures as they spoke well crafted half truths as if they were afraid of and in love with everyone at the same time.

Today I am proud to be an American and look forward to the day when we have a president in office who speaks his/her mind with honesty and integrity, who tells me the hard truth in a gentle voice and who will mentally walk a mile in the other person's shoes instead of firing on them.

Even if Barack Obama does not make his way to the Oval Office in 2009 he has set the bar higher for the person who does. He's opened the door to an America I can wholeheartedly embrace. And now, no matter who our leadership, I recognize my power as a citizen. I live in a nation of beautiful people with love to give. I will not let go of that vision without a fight.

I heard my innermost thoughts spoken in Senator Obama's speech, thoughts that no one speaks outside of their close circle of friends but ideas that need so badly to be voiced. Here is the link to the full text of the speech. The networks are still playing clips but we, as Americans, owe it to ourselves to hear or read it in its entirety.

There are a few speeches and documents we should all be familiar with. I believe this is one of them. He is representative of our coming together as one people from many backgrounds and was uniquely positioned to lay out an extrodinary treatise on race. No matter the outcome of the upcoming election Senator Obama has found a place in history.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Will Bowen Wants A Complaint Free World

One day Will Bowen, the pastor of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, MO, decided it was time to do something about the negativity he saw around him. So, being a minister, he laid out the problem and his plan from the pulpit.

The problem - too much complaining. "Negative talk produces negative thoughts; negative thoughts produce negative results," he told them. We don't even realize how much we complain and the effect it has on our emotions and the well-being of the people around us. If thought truly does create reality and all we do is complain, well? - ouch - that's a tough one to swallow.

Pastor Bowen put a challenge to his congregation - stop complaining, start being grateful and seeing the results in your life that you want. As the phenomenal performer Melissa Etheridge says in one of my favorite songs, "Love is what you get when love is what you speak."

The congregation that accepted the challenge were given purple rubber bracelets as a reminder of their pledge to stop complaining for 21 days. Pastor Bowen instructed that every time the caught themselves in a complaint they were to move the bracelet to the other arm. The hardest part- they were to being the 21 day count all over.

It took everyone some time, even Will Bowen, who says he moved his bracelets many times before he made it the entire time. He was stunned at how much he actually complained.

Because of national media exposure and the positive results of this challenge in their lives, the church started A Complaint Free World and to date has sent almost 5,000,000 bracelets to 80 countries.

Here are some words from purple bracelet wearers from around globe:

"Since I learned to live a life without complaining, I no longer have migraines." -Tom Alyea

"But by far, the greatest gift I have received is the freedom from depression! "-Patricia Platt

"In Mostar, we are "famous" because of war. And my goal is that my family and I will live without complaining. We are trying to live like normal people from all around the world and be happy for every new day. We try to smile because we have many fine years in our lives. ' - Zeljka Rubinic and family Mostar Bosnia/Herzegovina

If a woman and her family living in a war torn country can do it, certainly I can. I don't have a purple bracelet yet but a simple rubber band will do. I'm wearing it now. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Favorville - Old Fashioned Community Values At Work On The Web

Need a favor? We used to run across the street to our friendly neighbor and ask for a hand. But many people live in communities where they don't even know their closets neighbors name and wouldn't dare to knock on their door to ask for an egg or to borrow a ladder. Twenty-somethings are much more comfortable building relationships with online social networking sites. But still, I don't think they'd ask one of their 500 MySpace acquaintances to come over and take a look at the lawn mower that mysteriously quit working in mid-mow.

And there in lies Favorville's niche. If there was a social networking site where you built friendships and community values would people use it? Favorville's Canadian developers said yes.

On Favorville you register as a community member then begin perusing the needs of other members in your city. You can post a need for a favor. Maybe you need help understanding a computer program or you have a broken vaccuum cleaner that just needs a new belt. You can offer a favor. You're a painter, or an electrician, or a landscaper with extra time and left over plants and your willing to offer your services to someone in need.

Favorville has over 3,000 members in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It's a highly active community that has grown substantially since the sites BETA launch a few years ago. Things have been slower to take off in the US. In my large city I found less then 20 members but cities like New York and Boston have over 100.

Sites like this rely on the trustworthiness and integrity of its members, even more so than most. It reminds me of but there it's just the exchange of a free item not the exchange of time, goodwill, and ideas - which is exactly what lies at the basis of friendship and community.

I applaud their efforts and hope that in this building of artificial communities something real emerges, like neighborhoods of friends interacting face-to-face jumping to help each other out in the simple and the tough times. A flashback to the 1970's neighborhood I grew up in with its neighborhood parties and mom's talking and kids playing in the yards. I can wish, can't I?

Take a look at Favorville and help them grow their membership. After today my city will have one more willing soul to count on in a pinch. So if you join and need a cup of sugar or a stick of by..I'll help you out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ode - If I'd Designed a Magazine This Would Be It

When I honed in on the concept for my blog I felt like I was casting my positive, little idea in to a sea of negativity. It wasn't long before I discovered other people who were diligently working to turn back the tide of "nay sayers".

Imagine my excitement when I discovered Ode, the magazine for intelligent optimists. Wow, all I can say is it makes me want freelance again. To write for such a publication would be an honor.

Let me quote from their masthead -

We are an independent international journal, without strings to the world of commerce and power. We believe in progress, ongoing opportunities and the creativity of mankind. We contribute to progress by publishing stories about the people and ideas that are making a difference.

Okay, let me stop here. Jurriaan Kamp, who founded Ode in 1995 must have been channeling the same energy I did when I wrote the opening statement for LifePrints. I am so happy to find such a quality magazine with a common purpose.

Now more from the masthead -

We publish stories that bridge the gap between thinking and doing, between rage and hope, and the painful gap between the rich and the poor. By doing so we hope to build peace and sustainability. We offer our readers a chance to link up with an international network of inspiration and cooperation, strengthening the forces devoted to respect, justice and equality.

Ode is published 10 times a year in English and Dutch. There is an abbreviated online version and Ode's website is packed with useful information, guest bloggers, and interactive groups. A magazine subscription is affordable. In the age of the Internet I still enjoy getting quality magazines in the mail and clipping out the articles that moved and inspired me. Ode is my favorite for unbiased reporting with a purpose I can believe in.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Quick Updates - WAKE and The Last Living WWI Soldier

Lisa McMann's book WAKE hit the shelves on March 5th. I went right out and bought my copy and bragged to the clerk at Border's Book Store that I was friends with the author. I don't know if he was impressed but it was certainly fun for me to say it.

I read WAKE in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. This is a rarity for me. I'm an avid reader but the context of my life makes it nearly impossible to sit for long stretches of time and read. The needs of a large family take first priority. But for WAKE everything stopped. It's a real page turner totally deserving of awards. Lisa has already received her first. WAKE was nominated for the Borders Original Voices Award for the month of May 08. I'm proud of my friend. If you are interested in dreams, mystery, romance, and the paranormal then go get her amazing book.


I am happy to say that President Bush met yesterday with Frank Buckles, the last surviving WWI US soldier. He was brought to the White House to honor his service to our country and to commemorate a series of event highlighting World War I.

Mr. Buckles memory is sharp and at 107 he is in relatively good health. During an interview with a television crew from the Veterans Affairs Administration, Buckles reeled off his military serial number and noted that he's still got his dog tags to remind him. He served before there were Social Security numbers.
I'm still hoping to hear the State Department announce that upon Mr. Buckles death he will be given a State funeral and be buried with the highest honors.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Repurposing At It's Purest - It's Swap-o-rama-rama

I love discovering creative people and what's even more exciting is discovering a creative soul who found a way to harness their talent for the good of all. That is Wendy Tremayne in a nutshell - artist, writer, organizer, free spirit. She left the hustle and bustle of New York to live in a small New Mexico town where she is involved in the building of an off-grid lodging and cultural center. Oh how I envy this woman. She's living a version of my dream life.

I discovered her through a little article in a Access Magazine. There, I found a blurb detailing a fun event called Swap-o-rama-rama, which is the coolest clothing repurposing project I've ever heard of.

For crafty types like me, Tremayne created the perfect day. I'm salivating now thinking about heading out to join 500 other creative souls. I'll take along a bag of clothes I don't want any more. I'll pay a small fee at the door to help recoup the cost of the non-profit clothes swap. Then I get to dive into the piles of clothes from the other participants, pick out what I want, take it to the sewing machines and go to town making a brand new gorgeous outfit designed by ME. I think this concept is pure genius.

At every Swap-o-rama-rama there are local designers and creative gurus to help with instructions and brain storming. I love the idea of the fashion show at the end of the day to show off what everyone has made with the throw away clothes. The storyteller in my is intrigued that people get up and tell the stories surrounding certain items of clothing they brought to donate.

These events are perfect for the environment and for promoting community in an isolated world. Repurposing our clothing cuts down on textile waste and carbon emissions from production. Swaps allow us to wear our own brands and designs and to avoid being a walking advertisement for out of control consumerism. The day brings people together from all walks of life and help to bind us through experience and fun.

How cool is that? I wish I'd thought of it. If you like this idea you can contact Wendy and plan an event in your town. She's ready and waiting to assist you and me, maybe!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Treehouses All Grown Up - Live Out A Childhood Fantasy

I wanted a tree house when I was a little girl. I wanted a big one with a real door and windows like the boy across the street had. On drippy summer afternoons all the neighborhood kids would gather in Tim's tree house. We'd play cards or Monopoly. We'd joke, argue and eventually one of us would stomp off down the ladder, swearing to never come back. But we always did.

Tree houses are part of the idyllic American childhood experience. I'd live in one now if I could but there aren't that many trees in the desert Southwest. Thanks to my husband's parents, my children have a huge wooden fort and swingset in our backyard, minus the tree. I've watched history repeat itself - the games, the arguments, the stomping into the house. I can't help but smile.

For those of us who never want to grow up there is an answer. Companies like TreeHouse Workshop of Seattle, Washington and others across the country are fulfilling our dreams.
All over the world, people are building functional treehouses for use as offices, studios, dens, guest rooms, and even vacation resorts.

Jake Jacob, owner of TreeHouse Workshops says that it all begins with choosing the right tree or group of trees. It's a must to have a tree that will continue to grow in a healthy manner with a tree house in its' branches. Each tree or group trees has within its' shape the perfect treehouse design that will fit safely and effectively. The fun for TreeHouse Workshops is to create a working design within those parameters that captures the dreams of the owner.

If you don't have the space or money to build your own tree house, don't worry. You can spend your vacation at Out 'n' About Treesort in Southern Oregon. They have an entire facility built around 18 different tree houses. There is an incredibly interesting story on their website about how the county tried to shut them down, saying that the tree houses were unsafe accommodations for guests. I love the owner's ingenuity and the way they got around the restrictions until they could make everything legal - it's truly a story of the determined 'can do' American spirit.

The rates at Out 'n' About are reasonable at $120 to $240 per night. All of the tree houses sleep at least two people. The largest sleeps four or more and has a complete kitchenette and fully equipped bathroom. I can just imagine my kids playing like a family of squirrels on the bridges, zip lines and ladders.

Our sense of wonder doesn't have to die just because we grow up. Keeping it alive keeps out spirit excited about each new day and the fun it promises. Reliving the childhood fascination with tree houses is a great way to feel alive.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wake by Lisa McMann

I want to introduce you to a great new author. Lisa McMann is a personal friend and on her way to author/stardom if there is such a thing.

She is a devoted mother and has worked so hard to perfect her craft. The result is WAKE, a young adult novel about a young woman who falls in and out of other people dreams.

I can't wait to read it. If you have a teen in your house, age 14 and up, get them a copy of WAKE. It just hit the stores. If they love it tell them not to worry, a sequel is on the way, titled FADE.

Lisa is an inspiration and deserves all the recognition coming her way. Writers, we should support each other in our efforts to reach the reading public. No one else understands how hard this career/life choice can be. Celebrate those who have made it and visualize when your turn will come...because with hard work and determination it will come.

Visit Lisa's website to learn more about the awesome writer and her work. I tried to post her book trailer from YouTube but it's not working. I'll keep trying.