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In April, I quit the awesome new job I started at the beginning of the year. I had really wanted the job and I was happy to have it right up until the day I sat down in the office and suddenly everything inside me revolted. In a move that baffled even myself, I resigned on the spot without offering advanced notice. That was weird. But it happened. Then I spent several weeks feeling like Alice, wandering about in the wood, growing my right size again, and finding my way back to the garden.

My own garden is usually started in March, but I was too busy helping other people do their work in March that I neglected doing my own stuff. To make up for lost time, I spent much of May sitting in piles of dirt, alternately feeding and slapping mosquitos, tickling worms, scaring spiders, and wishing the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended. The best laid plans went completely unmade. Still, I awoke with the birds and followed a Cheshire Cat’s advice; letting my need guide my behavior, I did whatever seemed like the right gardenly thing to do at the time. At the end of each day, I wrote it all down in the month’s goal-tracker.

And the lovely garden unfurls its splendor day by day.

“The first thing I’ve got to do,” said Alice to herself, as she wandered about in the wood “is to grow my right size again; and the second thing is to find my way into that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I woke up in a “six impossible things before breakfast” sort of mood today,

managing her flamingo

so I took myself on a playdate

to the Memphis Botanic Gardens to chase wonder.

oh my ears and whiskers

She wasn’t hard to catch.

I should like to be a queen best

I wrote this post almost 10 years ago. Today I stumbled across it while looking for something else and had a weird moment with myself – a sense of younger me telling older me what I really needed to remember. Reposting to stay reminded.

My Little Spacebook

“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions…live  your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

~~*~~

Last year Parker Palmer shined my teacher’s heart when it when was tarnished.  His book The Courage to Teach got me through a teacher’s heart crisis and showed me how to teach (and live) with greater integrity.

Though untarnished this year at semester’s end I figured the teacher’s heart was due for routine maintenance, so I picked up a copy of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to RenewalPhysicist Arthur Zajonc joins Palmer to bring educators back to the big questions underlying what we do.  In this work lives the question: “How do we promote educational efforts that address the whole human being (mind, heart, and spirit) in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet?”

This and other questions posed in…

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When pandemia became all the rage on Planet Earth in 2020, I took stock and decided I didn’t really need to be around for most of it, so I saddled up the unicorn and trotted off to the Land of Make Believe.

Joe Abercrombie kept me enthralled for many moons of the journey. I’m not sure how I have lived this long without knowing about his First Law Series. There are three books in the series, and I’ll be honest, I don’t recall what exactly happened in which book of the series, so lucky you, I won’t bore you with ALL the details –just the ones I think are important.

The Blade Itself (Book 1)

Abercrombie lifted the title of the first book of the series, The Blade Itself, from a line in Homer’s Odyssey:

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.

As you might guess, the whole series has a lot of dudes in it and if they aren’t having skirmishes, battles, epic battles, sieges, or wars, then they are either preparing to fight or trying to figure out who they can get away with killing next. Ordinarily, this sort of thing reads like a bunch of “blah-blah-blah” to me, but Abercrombie writes fight scenes with a choreographer’s sense of body awareness that appeals to the dancer in me. Movement details are vividly described, remarkably entertaining, and often hilarious.

Under questionable authority figures, soldiers in the series are as likely to go bumbling and clanging about with “dirty faces, but clean armor” as they are to actually engage in serious combat. Their leaders also tend to be incompetent, often entrapped idiots, who suffer from a range of issues: excessive drinking, lack of authority, plain old heartburn, and poor fashion choices. It makes you wonder what kind of man would go to war dressed “not a uniform, but bedwear with a military motiff”? and also…”if the measure of a man was the size of his hat, then these were great men indeed.” Rest assured, it’s not all fashion faux pas, there are also intense fight scenes that are every bit as disgusting and gory as one might expect. Abercrombie’s world is as brutal as the second book’s title suggests, coming from a quote by Heinrich Heine:

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

Before They Are Hanged (Book 2)

Personally, I did not come here for the fighting, but for the fun stuff — the magic, drinking, gambling, revelry, and story people! While the characters are somewhat stereotypical (there’s an ancient, enigmatic wizard of course, and his apprentice, a bunch of inquisitors, a former slave warrior woman with devil-blood, and a sorceress), they come alive through the dialogue, action, and description. The Northman, Logen Ninefingers, was one of the most endearing. He’s a big, bad-ass berserker and battle-hardened member of the Bloody-Nine. He speaks with these little primal spirits, which admittedly sounds pretty lame, if not emasculating, as I write about it now, but somehow Abercrombie makes it all seem like a super cool and perfectly manly thing to do. There is also Major Collem West, in the Union Army who “sometimes felt as if he was the only man in the union seriously preparing for a war, and he had to organize the entire business on his own, right down to counting the number of nails that would hold the horse’s shoes on.” Major West is a bit too full of his own importance to make him likeable, but he has a sister Artee, who is lots of fun with all her sass. She is the kind of woman who gets sloppy drunk at 10 a.m., just because she’s bored and then she reads novels full of “knights with mighty swords and ladies with mightier bosoms.”

Last Argument of Kings (Book 3)

Social commentary is scattered throughout the pages, much of it as relevant and applicable to the mundane world I was attempting to escape as it was to the story’s action. That is just civilization, as Ninefingers muses, “…people with nothing to do, dreaming up ways to make easy things difficult.”

The last thing I have to say about it all is that I experience the series via audiobook. Steven Pacey is the narrator. His wonderfully rich, deep voice and English accent is the sort one may sit and listen to contently for hours. I did, for 71 hours and 58 minutes to be precise, though not all in one sitting, of course. When the series was over, I knew I immediately had to get another book by Joe Abercrombie, which I did. But that’s a different post for another day.

“By opening the door to the shadow realm a little, and letting out various elements a few at a time, relating to them, finding use for them, negotiating, we can reduce being surprised by shadow sneak attacks and unexpected explosions.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

On a sleepless night earlier this week, I used the gift of extra time and energy to do some reading that has been neglected on my nightstand for far too long. Since then, a particular passage in the book The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York, has been tapping at my mental chamber door all week. Author Jacquelin Cangro, recounted a scene that unfolded during her subway commute: a little girl got onboard the train with her father and soon after erupted into a spontaneous twirling dance accompanied only by the music inside her own mind. The author watched with amusement tinged by a wistful yearning for the sort freedom of expression that comes with being four years old.

I sympathize with the author — oh to be free from the trappings of adulthood — from the notions of decency and decorum, from responsibility and respectability, from the ‘shoulds’ and ‘Thou Shalt Nots,’ from the veils and gilded cages.

A tiny dancer still lives inside of these subways, chambers, shadows, and longings…

If we cracked the door open just a little bit, what would we see…?

I started thinking about this list while reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of MyLittleSpacebook. Now that I have the list compiled, I realize the lessons I’ve learned from several of the books below have formed much of the basis of my own entrepreneurial toolkit. If that’s your jam, maybe there’s something in here for you too. Without further ado, here we go:

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation ~ Parker Palmer

It’s astonishing how huge an impact such a small book has had on my life. I was introduced to Parker Palmer’s work as an assistant professor/researcher trying to find myself as an educator. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach helped me discover what was in my teacher’s heart. His Healing the Heart of Democracy helped me better understand the notion of civil discourse in the face of seemingly unresolvable conflict. But, it was Let Your Life Speak that ultimately helped me realize what my work was NOT, which was a painful, but necessary step in finding out what my work is. At the time I read it, I was being carried along, almost imperceptibly, on a strong current powered by other people’s expectations and long-standing institutional traditions. Academia can be like that. Reading the book made me ask myself hard questions about the work life I was living, which I discovered was not at all the same thing as the life’s work that was living inside me. The book gave me the courage to jump ship and to begin charting my own course towards my life’s authentic work, which is an ongoing adventure, both terrifying and delighting!

The 4-Hour Work Week ~ Tim Ferris

Ferris’s book introduced me to the idea of lifestyle design. He generously shares all sorts of ideas on how to be awesome and get more done in less time.

Tribe of Mentors ~Tim Ferris

Ferris assembled an elite and successful crowd from which to source even more ideas on how to be awesome. The reading list alone is worth the price of admission!

The Happiness Project ~ Gretchen Rubin

My time-logging and goal-tracking systems were inspired by Rubin’s account of Ben Franklin’s systems as described in his autobiography. These practices have been effective in keeping me focused and helping me understand where my time goes so I can manage it better. Also, Rubin wrote about commonplace books, which I’ve also started keeping.

The Artist’s Way ~ Julia Cameron

Thanks to Julia Cameron I have been writing daily morning pages faithfully since December 21, 2019. While I have been journaling for years and years, I’ve never done so in such a purposeful and disciplined way as I have since starting The Artist’s Way. This book is a game-changer!

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains ~ Nicholas G. Carr

This book was not my idea. A client wanted us to read it together, and so we did. It expanded my understanding of the relationship between technology and thought. It also made me more aware of the tools I use and how they may impact and use me.

Meditations from the Mat ~ Rolf Gates

This book inspired a trip to a yoga conference in Washington, D.C., to practice with this master in person. The practice he led was absolutely beautiful – one of my all time favorite yoga classes ever. His workshop at the conference was informative, and I learned a lot I needed to know about how to start a business and how to sustain it at that conference. It also inspired me to dive deeper into my own practice and to embark on a 300-hour teacher training.

Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner

Nothing about this book makes logical sense. It’s all magical heart song. Not even how I got it makes sense – we were on a road trip and there was the necessity of a bathroom break that somehow wound up happening at a Cherokee Museum and none of us were even planning to go through the museum, but there was a half-naked guy in a magnificent feathered headdress and as if that wasn’t confusing enough I was in the giftshop instead of the bathroom, and the book was calling and in my hand, but another of us was ready to go, so I put it down, and then third member of our party got confused about what we were even doing there and bought a ticket to the museum and before we could even figure out entirely what was happening, we wound up doing the museum tour. If it sounds like drugs were involved, I assure you, they weren’t, though it’s possible they should have been. After all that happened the book was still waiting and calling so I got it and no plant has ever been safe or the same since. Anytime this book gets opened something for-sure crazy is about to go down and I’m not even kidding.

Blink ~ Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell taught me the science behind thin-slicing, which neatly explains a lot of things attributed to intuition.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life ~ Twyla Tharp

I love Twyla Tharp’s writing style. It’s so simple and elegant. From her I learned the creative habit and that in itself was life-changing.

So that’s my list!

How about you? What books have changed your life?

Look about you at the little things that run the earth.

~E.O. Wilson

 

Tiger Swallowtail

I just finished reading Wendy Williams’ The Language of Butterflies and I have a new appreciation for these beautiful and diverse insects.  I highly recommend it!

 

Writing Spider

 

bullet journal goal tracker

In honor of My Little Spacebook’s 10th anniversary, for the next thirty-days I plan to be around here a bit more digging in to old posts, sifting through the dirt, studying the worms, planting seeds, and waiting to see what, if anything, sprouts.

Today’s dig turned over a quote I shared last fall in October Magic: Dream. Create. Inspire. Share:

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers, and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” 

–Amy Poehler, Smart Girls: Ask Amy

These words continue to inspire me to be more mindful about what I am creating on a daily basis and to be more open to putting myself out there. On that note, today I’m sharing a bit of whimsy I added to my life this year.  It combines the idea of giving yourself gold stars (from Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance) with the idea of  tracking progress on your goals daily (from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project).   Add a bullet journal and some washi tape to the mix and Voila!

magic and mayhem

I might have gotten a little carried away with the washi tape.

Dot journal - bubble gum

My pages are presently star-studded, memory-filled, and happy-making.

 

Dear People of the Web,

I’m falling into my hibernation period and snuffling around for something new to keep myself occupied in the cave until the world thaws and the crocus sprouts.  So I’m wondering, how do you do Christmas? If you would be so kind, please pick a question or two and share your answer in the comments below:

What holiday songs do you have on repeat?

What Christmas movies are you binge-watching?

Are there fattening recipes you’re making that we need to know about?

What wish-list books are you gifting or re-reading or hoping Santa brings?

 

 

Δ My Answers Δ

Δ Music Δ

As for songs, I can’t help but love The Murdering Crow’s version of the Snow Miser Song:

Δ

Δ Movies Δ

I haven’t made it through the movie The Year without a Santa Clause yet.  Maybe this is the year.

The Nightmare before Christmas gets played nearly every year. Lines are quoted; songs are sung.  “There Goes Christmas” is what we tend to say around here in a cartoonish voice at the slightest disappointment or provocation. It never loses its funny.  I’ve also been known to mechanically chant, “Making Christmas. Making Christmas. Making Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas….” with a blank stare while wrapping presents.

Δ

Δ Food Δ

I don’t cook as a general rule, but when I get a wild hair around this time of year I make my Kiki’s banana bread.  When inspiration really strikes there could be pumpkin pie or banana pudding.

Δ

Δ Books Δ

“It makes one’s mouth hurt to speak with such forced merriment.

–David Sedaris

David Sedaris’ Crumpet the Elf from Santaland Diaries is fun and available on NPR.

Last December, my near-and-dear read me nightly bedtime stories from one of his childhood books, The Animals’ Merry Christmas.  Published in 1972, its pages had a rich and musty scent and were embellished with drawings, dialogue, and musical notes from his 7-year-old hand. The Animals Merry Christmas.jpg

My favorite character was Pussy Cat Smart.

Come here Lion

It was a super sweet gift.

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